||It was a rainy November night down on the Cottonwood. The wind complained in the pines outside the cabin and whispered under the eaves. A fine cold mist blew in the open chinks between the logs. But the ruddy cedar fire in the huge stone fireplace gave the interior of the cabin a comfortable aspect and shone brightly upon the inmates scattered around. A coffee-pot steamed on some coals; browned biscuits showed in an open iron oven; and thick slices of beef mingled a savoury odour with the smoke. The men, however, were busy on pipes and cigarettes, evidently having finished supper.
"Reckon this storm looks like an early winter," remarked Jed Stone, leader of the outfit. He stood to one side of the fire, a fine, lithe figure of a man, still a cowboy, despite his forty years and more of hard Arizona life. His profile, sharp in the fire glow, was strong and clean, in no way hinting of the evil repute that had long recorded him an outlaw. When he turned to pick up a burning ember for his pipe the bright blaze shone on light, rather scant hair, on light eyes, and a striking face devoid of beard.
"Wal, early or late, I never seen no bad weather down hyar," replied a man back in the shadow.
"Huh! Much you know about the Mogollans. I've seen a hell of a winter right here," spoke up another, in a deep chesty voice. "An' I'll be trackin' somethin' beside hoofs in a couple of days." This from the hunter Anderson, known to his comrades as Tracks, who had lived longer than any of the others in this wild section, seemed to strengthen Stone's intimation. Anderson was a serious man, long matured, as showed in the white in his black beard. He had big deep eyes which reflected the fire-light.
"I'll bet we don't get holed up yet awhile," interposed Carr, the gambler of the outfit. He was a grey-faced, grey-haired man of fifty. They called him Stoneface.