Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Administered by Matthias Kaether and Roy Glashan
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.


ERNEST HAYCOX

DOLOROSA, HERE I COME

Cover Image

RGL e-Book Cover 2018


Ex Libris

First published in Collier's, 28 Feb 1931

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2018
Version Date: 2018-12-29
Produced by Colin Choat and Roy Glashan

Only the original raw text of this book is in the public domain.
All content added by RGL is proprietary and protected by copyright.

Click here for more books by this author


FIFTEEN men came to a swirling halt in the shadows just outside Dolorosa town, and as they paused a deeper breathing ran among them and an accumulating excitement stirred them uneasily in the saddles. Behind, under the silver-crusted night sky, lay the Running W herd, eight hundred miles out of mothering Texas and more than a thousand miles short of that strange Wyoming whither they were bound. But of the weary distances gone and yet to go this group had no present thought, for directly ahead lay Dolorosa's street, aglitter with light and emitting the melody and the discord of men in rough festival; a street beckoning to them with a spurious good will and a calculating hospitality. All this they knew. Dolorosa was a trail town, notorious along every baked and dusty league of the Chisholm. Dolorosa was a parasite squatting on the prairie with but one purpose, to prey upon passing cattlemen; it bred nothing but violence, nurtured only iniquity.

Yet to the reflecting fifteen neither violence nor iniquity appalled. Starved for pleasure, barbaric in health and supreme self-confidence, they lusted for that conviviality so long denied. And up from the party came the suppressed, eager murmur of one youth's voice:

"Dolorosa, here I come."

An older, wearier voice answered: "Don't calculate yo're goin' to create any permanent dent in it, Bill. It was borned of trouble and makes its meat thereof. And it's noted for its marshals. All killers. The present one is same."

"Who's that?" inquired the restive Bill.

"Lingersen."

The repute of the name put a sudden damper on the party. Somebody muttered, "Lingersen!" and swore halfheartedly. Talk sagged, to be taken up again by a rider at the head of the group whose torso cut a slim, straight silhouette against the town lights. A calm, level drawl seemed to reach out and steady the group: "Let's go. After eatin' dust for two months it is now our privilege to howl. Just use moderation and stick together. You're warned the liquor is diluted and the games crooked. But it's the only liquor and games we got, so make the best of it."

"Ditto, Mr. Dale."

"The statement of a true scholar, Danny," another added. "Bust 'er!"

The horses leaped forward. Two and two the men of Running W careened into Dolorosa's street, giving throat to a high rebel yell that rang trumpetlike between the building fronts and ricocheted back. The ebullient Bill yelled, "Dolorosa, here I come!" and punctuated the statement with a shot to the stars. Pedestrians sprang against the walls, away from the lurching ponies, away from the fifteen punchers who, reverting to temporary wildness, swayed like Comanches in the saddle and bayed as the wolf pack would bay. They swept on through the town, all guns cracking out.

The headlong Bill lowered his arm and shot the panes from a second-story window. Glass jangled down. A team bolted in front of them, the wagon grazed a hitching post and upset. Pandemonium reigned; standing ponies pitched away. The cavalcade, reaching the end of the street, piled up in hot confusion and swung back. Half through town the heady Danny Dale halted his bunch in front of a saloon rack with a lifted arm and a calm pronouncement: "We've had our parade. Pile off and pour in." There was need of no second urging. They dismounted, tramped through the swinging doors; and like a good shepherd Danny Dale came last, marshaled them to the bar and signaled for drinks.

Standing there in the full and gleaming radiance of the saloon he seemed but a boy and not one upon whom an owner would place the responsibility of taking four thousand cattle and a score of men nearly all of the breadth of the United States. He was slim, seeming a little gawky from the angularity of his body and features; a little diffident. Yet the first impression was not the true one. With the passing of the moments he gained strength by contrast. The others drank deep, flushed with the night's freedom and bent upon extracting from the alltoo-brief vacation each drop of sweetness and savor. They bawled and they jested; they smashed their glasses against the bar; and one by one they drifted down the great length of the warm, smoke-filled room to settle upon one or another of the gaming tables. Danny Dale still stood in his tracks, an arm hooked over the mahogany, grave-featured, his candid blue eyes watchfully following them. There was a gathering steadiness about him; and while the others lost themselves in play he stood aloof as a detached spectator, never losing awareness of what went on.

And it was this aloofness that presently made him aware of a mounting hostility within the saloon. The glow of the crystal chandeliers remained as bright, the hum and crackle of talk maintained its pitch; but his guarded glance discovered certain men casually posting themselves in convenient corners of the place.

He intercepted a covert signal being passed through the interior, in response to which there was a shifting of house men from the center of the floor. At the roulette wheel the wild-tempered Bill was crying: "Damn this rig, I'm about out of patience with it! Next time, mister, spin that ball harder, don't toss it!" Then the doors swung and a tall fellow entered casually and approached the bar.

Danny Dale had never seen him before, but nevertheless he knew the man's identity. The trademark of the killer's profession was too plain to be missed. This was Lingersen, town marshal. Lingersen was quite tall and quite thin. He had a pea-shaped head and a pair of small, flat ears. He was neatly dressed, he carried a brace of guns without swagger, and his glance through the room was casual, unmoved. But presently that glance, swinging around, fell upon Danny Dale like the shock of cold water. Lingersen's face was rather pale and a preternatural gravity was stamped on it as if the power to smile had atrophied. The lips were thin and drooped at the corners; the nose was narrow, the nostrils flared.

Even so, it was not these items that aroused Danny Dale; rather it was the eyes—slightly triangular, unwinking and possessing the impersonality of a feline's. The trail boss, instantly on his guard, found himself matching the expression with that flat and staring deadliness he once had seen in the eyes of a panther.

Lingersen approached Danny Dale, looked down from his greater height, and spoke with a soft, perfect courtesy: "Your boys?"

"Mine," agreed Danny Dale.

The marshal considered Danny Dale closely. "Young to be a trail boss," was his decision. "But I can see why you got the job."

"Thanks, kindly. Have a drink."

"My apologies," said Lingersen. "I never drink on duty. You will understand why."

Danny Dale told the barkeep to lay out a box of cigars.

The marshal accepted one and calmly bit off the end. "The smashed wagon we can rule out," said he. "Fault of the granger for not tyin' his team. But the windows your man shot out will have to be paid for."

"Agreeable," replied Danny Dale. "I'll leave two dollars with the barkeep. We aim to pay for our fun."

"Dolorosa," opined the marshal, "never objects to fun on a pay-as-you-go basis."

"I reckon its revenue is ample," stated Danny Dale with a touch of dryness.

The marshal watched him reflectively but said nothing. Over at the roulette wheel the headstrong Bill was cursing violently again. "If this cursed rig don't hit red in a minute I'm goin' to turn it over and find out why!" The marshal bowed to Danny Dale and left the room in long, unhurried strides. Danny Dale started forward in the direction of the roulette table, aware of the descending silence. Running W had gathered around that table, oblivious to the fact that in each of the corners along the walls were men watching with a slant-eyed expectancy. Bill yelled, "It's crooked as a dog's hind left laig!"

"Always the bellyache of a shorthorn sport," retorted the house man.

A crash and a clatter of falling chips followed the statement. Running W men sprang back, flinging chairs and tables out of their path. Danny Dale's glance played around the walls of the saloon again and he stopped dead to rip out an order: "Get away from there, boys! You've had yore fun! Hit for the street!" But the last of his talk was drowned in gun roar. Methodically he lifted his own weapon and shattered the lamp within the crystal chandelier, thus leaving only the bracket lights to illumine the crazy scene. "Back out of it!" he yelled and covered the nearest barkeep, whose hands had dropped from view. Running W swept toward the door, leaving the roulette table nothing but wreckage on the floor and the operator a still, grotesque figure beside it. The walls shivered under the impact of another shot echo and then the place was rioting in sound. Running W, replying in kind, retreated to the doors and backed through with Danny Dale still tarrying by the bar. When the last of his men was outside he sprang after them and threw himself into the saddle.

"Let's go back and wreck that joint!" yelled the uncontrollable Bill.

Danny Dale cursed him to silence. "Ain't you got a lick of sense in yore addled head? Yuh knew it was a crooked game, so why squawk? Come on—come on!"


They galloped down the street, barely clearing the front of the saloon when a burst of buckshot rattled against it like hail. The town shivered with a slashing, explosive fire as the men of Dolorosa stood sheltered in the black maw of this or that alley and cross-ripped the main thoroughfare with their lead; purple muzzle lights weirdly flickered, powder smell tainted the night air.

Danny Dale lagged a little to lay his quirt over the rump of a bucking, frantic pony, at the same time trying to head off the recalcitrant Bill, who, in the throes of unreasoning fury, jerked about and deliberately charged into one of the alleys. Danny Dale started to follow, but the rider on the crazed pony yelled: "Shot from under me!" and he turned to put an arm around the man and rescue him from a sinking saddle. There was no time now to go back after Bill. The street was filling with citizens bent on having their grim holiday. Dust rose in ribbonlike strips as the plunging bullets fell short. Wood splintered.

"Hang low and hit it!" yelled Danny Dale. Thigh and thigh the men of the crew fled from Dolorosa. The shelter of the deep shadows lay ahead. Danny Dale turned to get sight of Bill, but instead saw the puncher's horse stamping through the fire and away to the other end of town. Danny Dale cursed and straightened; and as he faced the front again his eyes passed across the window of a restaurant and he saw a woman's face, soft and sad, looking at him. Directly at him with a queer, tense expression. Then the outfit was beyond town and in the darkness.

They halted, ponies trembling and restless, men breathing hard. Firing ceased in the street and an exultant, ironic yell came after them. One of the crew let out a short, bitter oath.

"Where's Bill?"

"They'll bury him tomorrow," said the weary-voiced puncher. "That poker-faced marshal stood by the saloon door and knocked him flat. Let's surround this joint and let the air out of it!"

"We can't do it," said another. "They'd get us."

Talk died to a murmur of discouragement and discontent. Running W waited for a decision from Danny Dale, and presently it came: "You boys hit back to camp. I'm returnin' to town."

"Hell, that's foolish! You can't get the marshal on even ground."

"Not sure I want to," said Danny Dale. "Bill asked for it and he got it. But I'll have to see him decently buried. Abilene, take charge and move the cattle out in the mornin'. I'll catch up somewhere along the line."

"It ain't right," objected one of the hands. "Good or bad, Bill's got to have justice."

A definite edge crept into Danny Dale's words: "Ride on back."

There was a pause, broken by the creak of leather and moving of horses. The group got under way. Danny Dale called out casually: "In case I stub my toe, my personal belongin's go to you, Abilene." Then he turned back into Dolorosa and entered the light.

His destination was not the saloon, but the restaurant. Riding abreast of it, he dismounted and passed through the door. The place was quite empty, but as he sat up to the counter a girl came through from the kitchen—the same girl whose face he had seen looking so sadly at him through the window. Danny Dale removed his hat.

"Coffee and a bearpaw," said he, striving to conceal a rising excitement in him.

She was a fair girl, her features softly appealing under the glow of the lamp. As Danny sat there, utterly absorbed in the picture she made, he was astonished at his own audacity.

The gravity of her face was broken by creased worry. "I saw you ride away," said she, the tone of her voice like strange music to him, "and I heard the trouble. You are not wise to come back alone."

"Ma'am," said he, "it passes the boundary of reason to find a lady like you in a town like this."

She turned into the kitchen and presently returned with his coffee and bearpaw. "You are with a trail herd?"

"Running W, four thousand cattle and twenty men, Texas to the Big Horn, Wyomin'."

"And you're the trail boss?" murmured the girl.

There was a small silence. He emptied his cup and she refilled it. Presently she asked in a small voice: "What's your name?"

"Dalrymple Dale; Danny, for common."

"Mine is Gracie."

"Your folks run this restaurant, I would judge."

"It is mine. I run it alone and have for two years. I have no folks."

Danny Dale set his cup carefully down and stared. "None—alone?" he questioned, appalled by the fact. It defied all his set ideas. Women were made to shelter and support; that is, her kind of women.

"It isn't hard, really," said she with a lift of her shoulders. "I manage well enough."

"Think of that," muttered Danny Dale. He slid from the stool, carefully laid his money on the counter and reached for his hat. Something in the girl's eyes struck him as being tremendously sad.

"You'll be riding now—and tomorrow be on the trail again," said she.

Danny Dale paused in the doorway.

"We'ell," he drawled. "Not tonight. Business will keep me in Dolorosa tonight." Clapping on his hat he walked diagonally across the street and into the saloon where his men had suffered their defeat.

A bartender greeted him: "Yuh got nerve, brother."

"My outfit totes its bills," remarked Danny Dale. "What's the cost of the glassware busted?"

The barkeep lifted his chin in signal; and there came beside Danny Dale a man impeccably dressed in broadcloth, white shirt and string tie. He was thickset and dark, and one solid-black ringlet of hair escaped the brim of his hat to cover the upper half of a knife scar running down his temple. The barkeep grunted, almost derisively: "He wants to pay his bill, Lockhart."

Something near affability came over Lockhart's cheeks. "Pay? Forget it, brother. The little excitement was part of our profit and loss."

"Your roulette operator dead?" asked Danny Dale. Lockhart shrugged his shoulders and spread his palms upward. "Regrettable, but what of it?"

"I'm losin' no tears," Danny Dale hastened to explain. "Just wanted to know. That bein' the case I reckon the score is even. My puncher got him and they got my puncher."

Lockhart's eyes sharpened with interest. "Cool number, ain't you? Listen, the marshal got your man. He'll get you, too, if you stay here tonight."

"Thank you kindly for the tip," said Danny Dale. His candid eyes flicked Lockhart with a hard and sharp appraisal. Turning deliberately, he went from the place, paused in the shadows of the sidewalk and made himself a cigarette, meanwhile making silent observations. "We wreck his place and still he seems concerned about my safety. When an injured party turns humble, what's the answer?"


Out of a saloon across the street pitched a pair of men, brawling like dogs, passionately cursing. A shadow moved swiftly toward them. Lingersen's narrow and infinitely cold face appeared; his voice stopped the quarrel dead.

"I been watchin' you two till I'm sick of it. Get out of town in five minutes."

"So that's his manner of doin' business," reflected Danny Dale, and went along the street until he saw a sign which read, "Atlee Cargill, M.D., County Coroner, Undertaker." He entered here, made brief arrangements for the funeral of Bill on the morrow, and came to the street again. At that moment the lights of the restaurant died and Gracie stepped through the door, locking it. Danny Dale hurried over, lifting his hat and speaking with enormous formality:

"I would admire to have the pleasure of escortin' you home."

Her face tipped up to him, making a white oval in the shadows. Something like laughter broke through the slumbering gravity. "That," she murmured, "would be very nice." So, falling into step, they walked slowly on toward the end of town. Danny Dale spoke: "Dolorosa would be your home, ma'am?"

"My mother brought me here when I was ten. She opened the restaurant. I kept on with it when she died two years ago. Yes, I suppose it is home, though I was born somewhere in Texas."

"And your dad—"

"I never knew my father. He left my mother long ago. I don't know his name, for my mother never spoke it, and never took it for herself. She used her own, and that is the one I bear now."

Danny Dale clucked his tongue with an outraged compassion. "Think of that! Yeah, I know how it would seem. Me, I been an orphan since weanin'."

It was the girl's turn to express pity: "And you have fought for yourself all your life? Traveling from pillar to post, going into wild countries, as you are doing now?"

"Shucks," said Danny Dale, embarrassed, "it's nothin' for a man. Natural course of events. But, look here, Dolorosa ain't no place for a girl like you."

"I hate it," said the girl with a sudden strengthening of emotion. "I hate it with all my heart."

"You," went on Danny Dale, "ought to have a home. A nice home on a ranch."

"I have never really known a home," said the girl. "Never. Here is where I live."


They had stopped in front of a frame building quite at the end of the street. A beam of light came through an open door and the girl's straight, sure body came within its range. When she lifted her eyes to him, Danny Dale was shaken to the very roots of his being at sight of tears glistening against the sad, wistful glance. "You are through with your business, I suppose," she murmured. "And you'll ride away now."

Danny Dale expelled a great sigh. "No-o. I'll be here until tomorrow sometime."

She turned up the porch and through the door. A soft and melodious "Good night" floated back to Danny Dale, and rang in his ears like a tune as he walked toward the brighter part of Dolorosa. He was still hearing it when the tall, stiff body of a man cut across his path and stopped him immediately. Lingersen stood there, guarded and grim.

"I have been watching you," he said, "every minute since you came back."

"Your privilege, I'd essay to guess. Nothin' secret about my intentions. I'm buryin' Bill in the mornin'."

"All right," said Lingersen. "Nine o'clock is our buryin' hour around here. Attend to it, an' get out by ten sharp or expect to answer to me without recourse, explanation or further warnin'."

"Does the warnin' mean you'll reach for the hardware at ten sharp without added talk?"

Lingersen said: "I never warn twice and I never go back on my word."

"Just wanted to get it clear," mused Danny Dale. "I'm a great hand for havin' things straight."


Danny Dale refrained from going to breakfast until near nine o'clock, knowing the place would be quiet then. In fact there was but a single man eating when he entered. Gracie gave him a smile, took his order and later brought it to him. The other occupant finished and went out. Gracie's smile faded before a frown.

"I have heard about Lingersen's challenge. You will have to go."

"Bad as that?" inquired Danny Dale.

"You could never stand against him. Never. The man is a remorseless killer. He has been here only a year but in that time he has been like the terror. He has bullied and beaten and destroyed. Everybody hates him; nobody dares cross him. There never has been a kind word said of him. The stories of his past life are horrible. Once he was marshal of Abilene, then Dodge. Before that, nobody knows what he did, but even then he had a black reputation. Dolorosa asked him to come as marshal to keep some sort of order here. Now the town wishes he had never come. He keeps order, but he is worse than the wildest outlaw. Whoever protests, he kills. Danny Dale, you'll have to go before ten o'clock."

Danny Dale, eating with a gusto common to the range, finished his meal and pushed the dishes aside. Then he changed the subject of conversation so abruptly that his purpose was betrayed before he had said a dozen words:

"I've traveled considerable but it ain't worth the trouble. Man never gets nowhere doin' that. I'd like to settle down. Up at the end of the trail in Wyomin' there's plenty of land. Good country for a fellow to begin in. In the Runnin' W herd right now there's fifty head of my own private cattle and some horse stock. Wearin' my own D Bar D brand. I had sort of thought of findin' a piece of land suitable for my purpose. A stretch of meadow of wild hay, a creek runnin' through and some high country behind for summer grazin'."

The girl's head was tipped back, eyes fastened on him. "The house would be small, and made of logs. You couldn't afford to put much work on it to start with."

"It'd be nice and comfortable," said Danny Dale, venturing a glance at her. "I'd chink it solid. I'd run some sort of a trolley and pail to the creek from the house so there wouldn't be so much labor packin' water."

"It would be home," said the girl. The words took on a strange resonance. "A home of your own. No matter how small or remote, it would be your own."

"I'm no world beater," said Danny Dale with a touch of anxiety. "But I figure careful. I hold what I get."

"When I saw you last night," replied the girl, "I picked you out of the crowd for the leader. You'll always go ahead."

"It's kind of hard on women up there," persisted Danny Dale.

"Harder than running this restaurant?" asked the girl, and the next moment caught her lower lip between even, flashing teeth.

"Well, no," said Danny Dale, looking around him as if in critical appraisal. "And there'd be more shelter to it. Listen, you shouldn't be here."

"I have wanted to go away most of my life."

"A woman," mused Danny Dale, "takes an awful chance when she puts her trust in a man. All a man can do is try to be worth the chance."

There was no direct answer; only a returning glance that encompassed complete understanding. Danny Dale slid from his stool, emitting a gusty breath. "I'll be back in a little while," he said.

"Before ten?"

"I guess not. It would hurry me too much and put on me the suspicion of runnin' away."

"But, Danny—"

He could not shade his meanings or soften them. He didn't know how, never had learned. So he could only say in simplicity, "It wouldn't seem right," lift his hat and walk away. On the edge of town he turned as if to verify a fact he actually doubted; and when he saw her standing in the doorway of the restaurant watching him, one palm shading her eyes, he shook his head. "I never thought a thing like that could happen to a fellow like me."


The funeral party was standing in the cemetery. The coffin had been lowered, and the pastor was murmuring a few words as he tossed down a wisp of dirt to signify the union of dust and dust. It was soon over. A pair of men fell to with shovels and another picked up a fresh board headpiece and sought for a pencil.

"Name?"

"Bill," said Danny Dale. "Bill, of Runnin' W, Maverick County, Texas."

The man wrote it on the board. "Borned?"

"Don't know where or when," said Danny Dale. "That's a mighty flimsy way of fixin' a headpiece. The name will fade out in a month."

"It'll last just as long as the memory of him," observed the man. Soft sand rose over the coffin, a few desultory taps of the shovel affixed the headpiece, and Bill had been buried with neither pomp nor circumstance. Pastor arid workmen walked casually back to Dolorosa, leaving Danny Dale alone and staring at the disturbed earth.

The day brightened and grew hotter. Ten o'clock was not far removed.

"You was a great hand to get in jams, Bill," said Danny Dale at last, "but you never required proddin' to work. It takes twenty years to make a man and only one bullet to kill him. Sure a mortal world. So long, old man, I'll see you sometime."

With that, he turned back to Dolorosa's street, conscious that he had discharged a hard chore to the best of his ability.

He entered the stable—and was confronted by Lockhart, the saloon man.

"Been waitin' for you," said Lockhart. He reached for his watch. "Twenty minutes to ten. Yo're stayin' to brace Lingersen, then?"

Danny Dale considered the question thoughtfully and appeared to choose his words with care: "If he'd set the hour at eleven, I'd prob'ly have my business finished and be gone. But ten o'clock would push me considerable. I reckon I've got to see the gentleman's hand."

Lockhart returned the watch. "If it's to be a face-to-face matter," he said, "he's got you whipped. He moves like lightnin' greased to get somewhere."

"How else would I do it?"

"Spot him from behind."

"You don't like Lingersen, do you?"

Lockhart's eyes glowered. "A thousand dollars to you, my boy, if you turn the trick."

"I guess I'll have to play it out accordin' to my understandin', brother. But keep your thousand. I don't like blood money."

Lockhart ripped out a sudden question: "Where'll you be at ten?"

"Somewhere between here and the restaurant."

"He's in the jail office now. He'll walk out from there and turn this way. When you see him, keep over to the east side of the street. Pull him around a little to put the sun in his eyes. Wait for no words. Bust in."

"Thanks," said Danny Dale, trying to read behind the opaque pall of the man's eyes. But Lockhart turned and walked away.

The hostler ambled in from the street.

"I want a horse," said Danny Dale. "A horse for a lady to ride. And I want a saddle, a comfortable saddle for a lady to sit in. What've you got?"

Scarcely had Danny Dale entered the stable when the girl, who had seen him pass by, came out of her restaurant and ran diagonally across to the jail office. Lingersen was there, sitting in a chair and smoking his morning cigar.

"You've got to let him alone," said the girl. "What has he done to you?"

"Ma'am," said Lingersen, "you have never liked me."

"No," retorted the girl, gathering courage. "I despise you."

Lingersen laid the cigar on his desk. The tone of his voice was soft and slurring, and on that mask of a face, where the hardness and everlasting watchfulness of his life had etched ineradicable lines, there was something approaching gentleness. "It has been an endeavor of mine to find in you kindliness. I have never molested you. If I know about your affairs, say it is due to watchfulness on my part that no harm should ever come to you. Ma'am, I do not always kill. Sometimes I protect."

It made no impression on her, and he saw it.

"You like the man, Gracie?"

"Why should you want to hurt him?" demanded the girl.

Lingersen cut in curtly: "Did he send you here?"

She shook her head. Lingersen's thin lips pressed together, released again. "I warned him," said he. "And I can't go back on it. I want him out of here by ten o'clock. Tell him that, Gracie. Be sure and tell him that."

She had nothing more to say. White and drawn, she walked from his office and crossed the street. She knew she could not shake Danny Dale, and so, turning into the restaurant, she halted by the window. It was five minutes of ten.


Time dragged. A lone man hurried from saloon to saloon, ducking out of sight with a curious twist of his shoulders. Except for him, the street was deserted.

Then Lingersen walked from his office, reached the dusty strip of street and wheeled deliberately, facing the stable. Gracie, frozen still, saw him repeat those preliminary gestures that had become a legend in Dolorosa. She looked at the stable. Danny Dale had appeared!

He came forward without pause. Lingersen spoke coolly:

"I said I never warned twice—"

Danny Dale's arm dropped. The slap of Lingersen's palm against his gun butt cracked like a whip. Another man—Lockhart it was—sprang from a saloon door behind Danny Dale with a raised rifle. A pair of shots exploded together. Lockhart tripped, turned sidewise and fell. Danny Dale lunged aside, flashed a glance at the struck saloon man, and returned his attention to Lingersen. But he never fired again and the girl, wondering, looked around to find Lingersen lying in the dust with one hand pressed against his chest. Danny Dale ran forward and stood over Lingersen. She heard him speaking, crisp and clear:

"Lingersen, I knew nothin' about Lockhart comin' into this play. It ain't my style of doin' business—"

Lingersen snapped: "Get out of here while your health is good! Take the girl and travel!"

"My apologies," said Danny Dale. "I had nothin' against you." And he turned and walked straight into the restaurant.

"I've got two horses waitin' at the stable, Gracie," he said. "It's a long trip north and a hard one, but I'll try to make it easy. If we hurry we'll reach the outfit in time for a noon snack."

She pointed to a satchel lying on a stool. "I have had it packed since breakfast, Danny, hoping every minute since then we'd get away before ten."

Danny Dale took up the satchel. Together they went down the street and into the stable. When they came riding out they saw a crowd standing by the jail office and two men carrying Lingersen inside. "I never thought," said she, "I'd ever see you alive after that hour."

Danny Dale's philosophy covered the situation simply enough. "Things," said he, "have a way of comin' out right. Dolorosa, good-by."

"Dolorosa, good-by!"

And they cleared the drab fringes of town, heading north into the bright, clear future.


The mutter of the crowd came through the closed door of the jail. Inside was only Lingersen, lying on a cot, and the doctor who pressed his lips together and so pronounced the verdict. Lingersen's pallor deepened, his labored breathing increased. "I lived by the gun and I'm dyin' same. No regrets."

"You missed the kid entire," said the doctor.

"Never shot at him," muttered Lingersen. "There'd been no bullets at all if Lockhart hadn't forced the play. So I got him—and took Dale's lead without a reply. I was puffin' the boy under pressure. I wanted to see if he was like all the rest of the shifless fools that tried to interest Gracie, or if he was real leather and would stand up. Well, he stood up. He came out to meet me. And I was meanin' to tell him so and wish him well with the girl. But he'd been warned and he wasted no time."

The doctor showed puzzlement. "Why bother so much about that girl? It ain't your style to show much feelin', Lingers en."

Lingersen's reply was drowsy and increasingly faint: "I have made my mistakes and there ain't any way of remedyin' 'em. I came to Dolorosa at the end of a long hunt after a girl like her. I tried to make her like me—and failed. She's better off away from here, hooked up to a good man. Pull up the blanket and go tell that pack of mongrel curs I'm dead!" In the gloom of the jail office Lingersen's eyes flared with one last burst of feeling and grew dull.


THE END