The Orphan

       B. M. Bower / Western
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The Orphan
Produced by Roger Frank and the Online DistributedProofreading Team at http://www.fadedpage.net

THE ORPHAN

”She unfastened the gold breast-pin which she wore at herthroat and pinned the bandage into place.” (_See page 95._)]

THE ORPHAN

By Clarence E. Mulford

Author of ”Bar-20”

With Four Illustrations in Colors

By ALLEN TRUE

A. L. BURT COMPANY

PUBLISHERS NEW YORK

Copyright, 1908, by

THE OUTING PUBLISHING COMPANY

Entered at Stationer's Hall, London, England

All Rights Reserved

THE ORPHAN

AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED TO

MY MOTHER

CONTENTS

I THE SHERIFF RIDES TO WAR 3 II CONCERNING AN ARROW 14 III THE SHERIFF FINDS THE ORPHAN 33 IV THE SECOND OFFENSE 45 V BILL JUSTIFIES HIS CREATION 60 VI THE ORPHAN OBEYS AN IMPULSE 80 VII THE OUTFIT HUNTS FOR STRAYS 104 VIII ”A TIMBER WOLF IN HIS OWN COUNTRY” 125 IX THE CROSS BAR-8 LOSES SLEEP 131 X THE ORPHAN PAYS TWO CALLS 147 XI A VOICE FROM THE GALLERY 173 XII A NEW DEAL ALL AROUND 193 XIII THE STAR C GIVES WELCOME 210 XIV THE SHERIFF STATES SOME FACTS 240 XV AN UNDERSTANDING 266 XVI THE FLYING-MARE 284 XVII THE FEAST 299 XVIII PREPARATION 325 XIX THE ORPHAN GOES TO THE A-Y 340 XX BILL ATTENDS THE PICNIC 352 XXI THE ANNOUNCEMENT 368 XXII TEX WILLIARD'S MISTAKE 375 XXIII THE GREAT HAPPINESS 392

ILLUSTRATIONS

”She unfastened the gold breast-pin which she wore at her throat and pinned the bandage into place” _Frontispiece_ ”'The less you count the longer you'll live!' said Shields” 192 The Orphan gives Blake Shields' note 214 ”The Orphan stepped back a pace and dropped the Colt into its holster” 390

THE ORPHAN

CHAPTER I

THE SHERIFF RIDES TO WAR

Many men swore that The Orphan was bad, and many swore profanely and withwonderful command of epithets because he was bad, but for obvious reasonsthat was as far as the majority went to show their displeasure. Those ofthe minority who had gone farther and who had shown their hatred by rashactions only proved their foolishness; for they had indeed gone far andwould return no more.

Tradition had it that The Orphan was a mongrel, a half-breed, assertingthat his mother had been a Sioux with negro blood in her veins. It alsoasserted that his father had been nominated and unanimously elected, by aposse, to an elevated position under a tree; and further, that The Orphanhimself had been born during a cloudburst at midnight on the thirteenthof the month. The latter was from the Mexicans, who found great delight inmaking such terrifying combinations of ill luck.

But tradition was strongly questioned as to his mother, for how couldthe son of such a mother be possessed of the dare-devil courage and gritwhich had made his name a synonym of terror? This contention was wellstated and is borne out, for it can be authoritatively said that themother of The Orphan was white, and had neither Indian nor negro bloodin her veins, but on the contrary came from a family of gentlefolk.Thus I start aright by refuting slander. The Orphan was white, hisprofanity blue, and his anger red, and having started aright, I willcontinue with the events which led to the discovery of his innate betterqualities and their final ascendency over the savagely hard naturewhich circumstances had bred in him. These events began on the daywhen James Shields, for reasons hereinafter set forth, became activelyinterested in his career.

Shields, by common consent Keeper of the Law over a territory as large asthe State of New Jersey and whom out of courtesy I will call sheriff,was no coward, and neither was he a fool; and when word came to himthat The Orphan had made a mess of two sheep herders near the U Bend ofthe Limping Water Creek, he did not forthwith pace the street andinform the citizens of Ford's Station that he was about to start on ajourney which had for its object the congratulation of The Orphan atlong range. Upon occasions his taciturnity became oppressive, especiallywhen grave dangers or tense situations demanded concentration of thought.The more he thought the less he talked, the one notable exceptionbeing when stirred to righteous anger by personal insults, in which casehis words flowed smoothly along one channel while his thoughts gripped asingle idea. To his acquaintances he varied as the mood directed, oftensaying practically nothing for hours, and at other times discoursingvolubly. One thing, a word of his, had become proverbial--when Shieldssaid ”Hell!” he was in no mood for pleasantries, and the third repetitionof the word meant red, red anger. He was a man of strong personality,who loved his friends in staunch, unswerving loyalty; and he toleratedhis enemies until the last ditch had been reached.

He, like The Orphan, was essentially a humorist in the finest definitionof the term, inasmuch as he could find humor in the worst possiblesituations. He was even now forcibly struck with the humor of hiscontemplated ride, for The Orphan would be so very much surprised to seehim. He could picture the expression of weary toleration which wouldgrace the outlaw's face over the sights, and he chuckled inwardly ashe thought of how The Orphan would swear. He did his shooting as anunavoidable duty, a business, a stern necessity; and he took greatdelight in its accuracy. When he shot at a man he did it with becominggravity, but nevertheless he radiated pride and cheerfulness when he hitthe man's nose or eye or Adam's apple at a hundred yards. All the timehe knew that the man ought to die, that it was a case of necessity, andthis explains why he was so pleased about the eye or nose or Adam's apple.

With The Orphan popular opinion said it was far different; that his humorwas ghastly, malevolent, murderous; that he shot to kill with thesame gravity, but that it was that of icy determination, chillingferocity. He was said to be methodical in the taking of innocent life,even more accurate than the sheriff, wily and shrewd as the leader ofa wolf-pack, and equally relentless. The Orphan was looked upon as anabnormal development of the idea of destruction; the sheriff, a correctiveforce, and almost as strong as the evil he would endeavor to overcome.The two came as near to the scientists' little joke of the irresistibleforce meeting the immovable body as can be found in human agents.

So Shields, upon hearing of The Orphan's latest manifestation of humor,appreciated the joke to the fullest extent and made up his mind to playa similar one on the frisky outlaw. He could not help but sympathizewith The Orphan, because every man knew what pests the sheepmen were,and Shields, at one time a cowman, was naturally prejudiced againstsheep. He was exceedingly weary of having to guard herds of bleatinggrass-shavers which so often passed across his domain, and he regardedthe sheep-raising industry as an unnecessary evil which should by allrights be deported. But he could not excuse The Orphan's crude and savageidea of deportation. The sheriff was really kind-hearted, and he becameangry when he thought of the outlaw driving two thousand sheep overthe steep bank of the Limping Water to a pitiful death by drowning; TheOrphan should have been satisfied in messing up the anatomy of theherders. He did not like a glutton, and he would tell the outlaw soin his own way.

He walked briskly through his yard and called to his wife as he passedthe house, telling her that he was going to be gone for an indefiniteperiod, not revealing the object of his journey, as he did not wishto worry her. Accustomed as she was to have him face danger, she had aloving wife's fear for his safety, and lost many hours' sleep while hewas away. He took his rifle from where it leaned against the porch andcontinued on his way to the small corral in the rear of the yard, wheretwo horses whisked flies and sought the shade. Leading one of themoutside, he deftly slung a saddle to its back, secured the cinchesand put on a light bridle. Dropping the Winchester into its saddleholster, he mounted and fought the animal for a few minutes just as healways had to fight it. He spun the cylinders of his .45 Colts and ran hisfingers along the under side of his belt for assurance as to ammunition.Seeing that the black leather case which was slung from the pommel ofthe saddle contained his field glass and that his canteen was full ofwater, he rode to the back door of his house, where his wife gave hima bag of food. Promising her that he would take good care of himselfand to return as speedily as possible, he cantered through the gateand down the street toward the ”Oasis,” the door of which was always open.Two dogs were stretched out in the doorway, lazily snapping at flies.As the sheriff drew rein he heard snores which wheezed from the barroom.

”Say, Dan!” he cried loudly. ”Dan!”

”Shout it out, Sheriff,” came the response from within the darkened room,and the bartender appeared at the door.

”If anybody wants me, they may find me at Brent's; I'm going out thatway,” the sheriff said, as he loosened the reins. ”Bite, d------n you,”he growled at his horse.

”All right, Jim,” sleepily replied the bartender, watching the peaceofficer as he cantered briskly down the street. He yawned, stretchedand returned to his chair, there to doze lightly as long as he might.

Shields usually left word at the Oasis as to where he might be found incase he should be badly needed, but in this instance he had left wordwhere he could not be found if needed. He cantered out of the town overthe trail which led to Brent's ranch and held to it until he had putgreat enough distance behind to assure him that he was out of sight of anycurious citizen of Ford's Station. Then he wheeled abruptly as he reachedthe bottom of an arroyo and swung sharply to the northeast at a rightangle to his former course and pushed his mount at a lope around thechaparrals and cacti, all the time riding more to the east and in thedirection of the U Bend of the Limping Water. He frowned slightly andgrumbled as he estimated that The Orphan would have nearly three hours'start of him by the time he reached his objective, which meant a longchase in the pursuit of such a man.

To a tenderfoot the heat would have been very oppressive, even dangerous,but the sheriff thought it an ideal temperature for hunting. He smiledpleasantly at his surroundings and was pleased by the playful vim ofhis belligerent pinto, whose actions were not in the least intended tobe playful. When the animal suddenly turned its head and nipped hard andquick at the sheriff's legs, getting a mouthful of nasty leather andseasoned ash for its reward, he gleefully kicked the pony in the eyewhen it let go, and then rowelled a streak of perforations in its uglyhide with his spurs as an encouragement. The ensuing bucking was joyto his heart, and he feared that he might eventually grow to like theanimal.

When he arrived at the U Bend he put in half an hour burying the humanbutts of The Orphan's joke, for the perpetrator liked to leave histrophies where they could be seen and appreciated. Shields looked sadlyat the dead sheep, said ”Hell” twice and forded the stream, picked up theoutlaw's trail on the further side and cantered along it. The trailwas very plain to him, straight as a chalk line, and it led towardthe northeast, which suited the sheriff, because there was a goodlysized water hole twenty miles further on in that direction. Perhaps hewould find The Orphan fortified there, for it would be just like thatperson to monopolize the only drinking water within twenty miles andforce his humorous adversary to either take the hole or go back to theLimping Water for a drink. Anyway, The Orphan would get awfully soiledwallowing about in the mud and water, and he would not hurt the watermuch unless he lacked the decency to bleed on the bank. Having decidedto take the hole in preference to riding back to the creek, the sheriffimmediately dismissed that phase of the game from his mind and fell tomusing about the rumors which had persistently reiterated that theApaches were out.

Practical joking with The Orphan and interfering with the traveling ofApache war parties were much the same in results, so the sheriff madeup his mind to attend to the lesser matter, if need be, after he hadquieted the man he was following. Everybody knew that Apaches were verybad, but that The Orphan was worse; and, besides, the latter would belaughing derisively about that matter concerning a drink. The sheriffgrinned and rode happily forward, taking pains, however, to circlearound all chaparrals and covers of every nature, for he did not know butthat his playful enemy might have tired of riding before the waterhole had been reached and decided to camp out under cover. While thesheriff was unafraid, he had befitting respect for the quality of TheOrphan's marksmanship, which was reputed as being above reproach; and hewas not expected to determine offhand whether the outlaw was above lyingin ambush. So he used his field glass constantly in sweeping covers androde forward toward the water hole.


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