In that moment, while he looked away toward Lost Valley, he sickened of the task that lay before him. What would she think of him if she knew?
Arlie, too, had been looking down the gulch toward the valley. Now her gaze came slowly round to him and caught the expression of his face.
“What’s the matter?” she cried.
“Nothing. Nothing at all. An old heart pain that caught me suddenly.”
“I’m sorry. We’ll soon be home now. We’ll travel slowly.”
Her voice was tender with sympathy; so, too, were her eyes when he met them.
He looked away again and groaned in his heart.
The warning of mantrap gulch
They followed the trail down into the cañon. As the ponies slowly picked their footing on the steep narrow path, he asked:
“Why do they call it Mantrap Gulch?”
“It got its name before my time in the days when outlaws hid here. A hunted man came to Lost Cañon, a murderer wanted by the law for more crimes than one. He was well treated by the settlers. They gave him shelter and work. He was safe, and he knew it. But he tried to make his peace with the law outside by breaking the law of the valley. He knew that two men were lying hid in a pocket gulch, opening from the valley— men who were wanted for train robbery. He wrote to the company offering to betray these men if they would pay him the reward and see that he was not punished for his crimes.
“It seems he was suspected. His letter was opened, and the exits from the valley were both guarded. Knowing he was discovered, he tried to slip out by the river way. He failed, sneaked through the settlement at night, and slipped into the cañon here. At this end of it he found armed men on guard. He ran back and found the entrance closed. He was in a trap. He tried to climb one of the walls. Do you see that point where the rock juts out?”
“About five hundred feet up? Yes.”
“He managed to climb that high. Nobody ever knows how he did it, but when morning broke there he was, like a fly on a wall. His hunters came and saw him. I suppose he could hear them laughing as their voices came echoing up to him. They shot above him, below him, on either side of him. He knew they were playing with him, and that they would finish him when they got ready. He must have been half crazy with fear. Anyhow, he lost his hold and fell. He was dead before they reached him. From that day this has been called Mantrap Gulch.”
The ranger looked up at the frowning walls which shut out the sunlight. His imagination pictured the drama— the hunted man’s wild flight up the gulch; his dreadful discovery that it was closed; his desperate attempt to climb by moonlight the impossible cliff, and the tragedy that overtook him.