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THE MAN WHO WENT BACK

(Continued from page 540)

"I reckon I was a coward to run," he muttered. "That only made it look like I was guilty. I've got to go back

and as he pondered another picture and show people I didn't kill McCarcame to him.

He saw a motley caravan of wag ons, buggies, saddle-horses, cattle, sheep, goats; men, women and children afoot, all leaving the smoking ruins of Lipan and moving to a new and more attractive location. He saw the refugees struggling against many hardships in order to build a new town, which they named Hope. And he saw Hope grow and prosper and become a thriving county seat, a village better in every way than Lipan had been.

With that picture before him, Blake thought of himself again. He suddenly felt ashamed; he felt like a coward, a quitter. Those people of Lipan, his old neighbors and friends, had been fighters, heroes. Even frail, delicate women had shown remarkable courage. Was he inferior to them? Should he give up like a weakling on account of a little misfortune?

The thought struck his sensitive pride with the sting of a whip lash. He made up his mind at once. He would fight. He would fight to the last ditch as long as there was a chance to win.

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roll, prove it to 'em. And I'm goin' to do it!"

He suddenly remembered that he and the stallion were very thirsty. “I know an old well here where we can find some good water, caballo. We'll get drink and rest up for a few hours. Then we'll go tackle the big job."

At nine o'clock that evening Blake swung himself out of the saddle, threw the reins over the stallion's head and entered the west gate of the Withers ranch. The long, low house was dark save for a single light in the living room. As Blake drew close, he observed a massive, powerful man seated in the shadows of the porch, silently smoking a cigarette.

"You're Mr. Withers, ain't you?" Blake asked.

"That's me," grunted the other, without rising.

"I wanted to talk to you about a little matter," Blake explained politely. "It won't take longer'n a few minutes."

Withers grunted again and nodded. towards a chair. Blake drew it close to the big man and sat down, careful to keep his face well concealed in the shadows.

"I reckon you heard a day or so ago," he began in a matter-of-fact tone, "that a convict escaped over at the penitentiary. He's still out, I understand. His name is Blake. He was sent up because they said he killed Homer McCarroll."

Blake suddenly lowered his voice, speaking more seriously:

"Well, there are some who doubt that Blake is guilty. They say another man shot McCarroll.”

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He paused. He thought he saw Withers' muscles stiffen. The giant, tense as a lion ready to spring, stared hard and expectantly at him.

The signs were sufficient. Blake was cool, determined, ready. He moved a little forward until his knees nearly touched the other man's. Then he thrust out his chin and exclaimed:

"You killed McCarroll and you've got to tell me why you did it!"

OR OR ALL his bulk, Withers was quick as a flash, but Blake was quicker. His hands, made strong as steel by years of prison toil, caught and gripped the giant's wrists before. Withers could get his revolver into action. The two figures leaped together into the middle of the porch, swayed desperately back and forth to the ground.

The big man struggled to his feet. Blake hanging to him tenaciously, still pinioning his arms. Withers fought furiously. He wrenched himself nearly free. He shoved his revolver forward to fire when Blake attacked him again with the ferocity of a wild

cat.

Back and forth the men struggled in the darkness, each calling forth his utmost strength. The giant's efforts began to tell on the smaller man. Blake felt his strength slipping away from him, but he clung on stubbornly, fighting with superhuman grit, telling himself again and again that he must win.

There was a sharp report. Withers, his great physical power suddenly gone, slumped down to the ground. The bullet intended for Blake had struck himself.

Several Mexicans came running from the barns. They picked up the heavy body, carried it into the house and laid it upon a bed.

Withers was dangerously wounded. in the lungs. Blake assisting, the Mexicans ripped off the big man's shirt, bathed the injured spot as carefully as they could and bandaged it crudely but well.

Withers suddenly opened his eyes. and a moment later he commanded huskily:

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threatenin' to kill me if I didn't return 'em. Well, I beat him to it—he might have known I would. He was always sorta close-lipped, and I reckon he never told anybody he suspected me or sent me that letter. When I seen you get into trouble, I couldn't do nothin' for fear of gettin' myself in a mess. I'd have been a fool to have opened my mouth."

He paused a moment; then he beckoned to the Mexican nearest him.

"Pedro, get my steel box in the other room and bring some fresh paper and a pen and ink.”

When the servant returned, Withers took from the small box a folded bit of cheap writing paper and handed it to Blake.

"That's McCarroll's letter. Now you take that clean sheet and write down what I jest told you about the killin'. I'll sign it and the boys will Don't waste no sign as witnesses. time 'cause I ain't gonna be here long. The two papers will clear you with the officers."

Blake followed instructions quickly and efficiently. The confession was read to Withers, signed by him and countersigned by the three Mexicans

and Blake.

The big man was breathing with greater difficulty now, and it was plain that he could live but a few minutes longer. He looked up at Blake.

"I got to hand it to you, boy. You had nerve to tackle me empty-handed that-a-way. Nobody else ever did it and got away with it. Good luck to you. So long."

Blake and two of the Mexicans, leaving Pedro at the bedside, stepped out of the room.

At daybreak he reached the summit of a long, low hill. He drew rein and stopped. Below him were the red, brown and grey roofs of the small houses of Hereford. In one of the simple frame homes-from the distance, he was not sure which was Helen.

In the east, beyond the town, he saw a crimson flush rise from below the horizon and spread high upward into the sky. The pale, chilly grey of early morning melted and disappeared before this daring attack of color. In a few minutes the whole east was aflame with brilliance.

He spurred the roan mare forward, his heart suddenly jumping to a faster beat. He felt as if it were his wedding day again. He would ride into town now and claim his bride.

THE FINAL TRUCE

(Continued from page 547)

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"Well, you have to admire the old boy, at that," said the assistant.

"It takes courage at eighty to do what we are careless of in our youth," mused the superintendent. And, oh, he had a heart, this superintendent of ours. "Why not? Why not go through with it, and neither of them need know. The only ones who will know are ourselves and the nurses and they can be kept quiet."

"You are right. Why not?" agreed the assistants.

"Who have you lined up in reality?" the superintendent asked the house physician after a pause.

"A husky in the laundry. He is a big fellow in perfect health and glad to give what blood this old fellow needs to prolong his life. He will know, of course, but I think he will keep quiet."

"All right," decided the superintendent. "You fix Clement up just as if it were real, and tell Carpenter, and then we will take both the old boys up and make them believe it. This husky can be in the dressing room and he can come in after they are all wrapped up and tucked away.".

him

Eighty-and-Three had been learning that his coming role of hero in an operation carried quite a glamour with the nurses, which pleased greatly. He was the subject of attentions and little ministrations and altogether was finding life better and fuller-even with the ban on chewing tobacco. But when the house doctor and the laboratory nurse came in and went to Eighty he aroused with a pang of jeaolusy. He watched with envy as blood samples were taken from Eighty, but missed the meaning glances which passed between the doctor and the Rebel. He was champing his jaws belligerently when the nurse left.

"All ready for tomorrow, Daddy?" asked the house doctor and EightyThree blinked and nodded.

"Didn't have time to tell you before, but we have arranged with a friend of yours to supply the blood. Thought you would rather have a friend than a stranger."

Eighty-and-Three nodded in confirmation and then asked: "Who is he?"

"Why, Daddy Clement here."

"Him!" ejaculated Eighty-andThree as he turned and raised himself up to look at his coming benefactor.

"He ain't got enough for himself. let alone helpin' me."

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"I have, too! I got more'n you got and you know it, too!"

"Ye ain't nothin' but skin and bones!"

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"Now, you know I'm younger'n you. You know it."

Eighty-and-Three was disposed to be just with matters that could not be denied. Besides he was not going

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"If I hain't been wounded I got all my blood, ain't I?"

"I suppose ye have-yes, I suppose ye have. I know at Antietam I must a lost a heap o' blood bein' out all that night."

"Then if I got all I ever had, I got

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more'n I need now, and I got enough for both of us, ain't I?"

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ter

After giving this aspect of the mat

due consideration Eighty-andThree felt that he must admit the justice of the contention. But he did not find agreeable the thought of sharing his operation and he believed that more argument was needed.

"Do ye think you're strong enough?" he ventured.

Eighty quivered with indignation and his voice almost rang with scorn.

"Strong? Strong? Why, dang you, wasn't I out all morning? Didn't I stay out in the hallway there talking to the doctor? Heh? Tell me! Wasn't I out all morning?"

"He certainly was," answered the doctor. "Now, Daddy, we have examined the blood and find everything will be best for you. You let us go ahead with Daddy Clement and tomorrow you will be wanting to run a foot race."

Eighty-and-Three jammed lip and nose closer together, and settled down deeper among his pillows. Obviously he was peeved; equally obviously he did not find the outlook pleasing, but so far no way out had presented itself.

"Daddy Carpenter, this is just a splendid chance," declared the floor nurse. "Just think what it means, Here is Daddy Clement who used to

be your enemy and while you two are quarreling all the time, we know you are the best of friends. Now in your old age, this old-time enemy of yours wants to give you back the blood you lost at Antietam (she restrained a smile) when you were fighting him. Why, it's perfectly wonderful and just goes to show what a magnificent country we have after all. We fight all we want among ourselves, but nothing else can jump in. Nothing! No, not even disease!"

"Never thought o' that afore now." admitted Eighty-and-Three.

"And it'll let me pay you back for them shoes!" was the last bait offered by Eighty.

"Ye ought to pay for them shoes. They was all I had."

"All settled, eh?" said the doctor. "Well, it is the right thing and we'll fix both of you in the morning." And after giving directions to the floor nurse concerning the coming operation he hurried about his business.

The quiet of apprehension settled over Ward 251 as two swathed figures were rolled out Wednesday morning. The quiet remained as the minds of the four waiting followed those white figures to the elevator and to the

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