Rim o' the Worldby B. M. Bower / Western
Produced by Roger Frank and the Online DistributedProofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
Put up your hands a little higher, Mr. Man!]
RIM O' THE WORLD
B. M. BOWER
CHIP OF THE FLYING U, THE THUNDER BIRD, SKYRIDER, ETC.
ANTON OTTO FISCHER
GROSSET & DUNLAP
PUBLISHERS NEW YORK
Made in the United States of America
By Little, Brown, and Company.
All rights reserved
I THE RIM AND WHAT LAY BENEATH IT 1 II THE LORRIGAN TREE GROWS THRIFTILY 16 III MARY HOPE DOUGLAS APPEARS 30 IV A MATTER OF BRANDS 44 V THEY RIDE AND THEY DO NOT TELL WHERE 57 VI BELLE MEETS AN EMERGENCY IN HER OWN WAY 67 VII THE NAME 82 VIII THE GAME 90 IX A LITTLE SCOTCH 102 X THE LORRIGAN WAY 118 XI LANCE RIDES AHEAD 133 XII SHE WILL, AND SHE WON'T 145 XIII A WAY HE HAD WITH HIM 156 XIV IN WHICH LANCE FINISHES ONE JOB 172 XV HE TACKLES ANOTHER 180 XVI ABOUT A PIANO 192 XVII THE LORRIGAN VIEWPOINT 204 XVIII PEDDLED RUMORS 219 XIX MARY HOPE HAS MUCH TROUBLE 232 XX AS HE LIVED, SO HE DIED 250 XXI LANCE TRAILS A MYSTERY 258 XXII LANCE RIDES ANOTHER TRAIL 272 XXIII LANCE PLAYS THE GAME 283 XXIV WHEN A LORRIGAN LOVES 297 XXV BELLE LORRIGAN WINS 312 XVI THE DOPE 323 XXVII HOW ONE TRAIL ENDED 336 XXVIII THE MAKING OF NEW TRAILS 345
RIM O' THE WORLD
THE RIM AND WHAT LAY BENEATH IT
Not all of the West is tamed and trained to run smoothly on pneumatictires and to talk more enthusiastically of the different makes ofcars than of bits and saddles. There are still wide stretches unknownof tourists and movie men hunting locations for Western melodramawhere men live in the full flavor of adventure and romance and neverknow it, because they have never known any other way to live.
In the Black Rim country there is such a place,--a wide, rough,sage-grown expanse where cattle and horses and sheep scarce know thelook of barbed wire, and where brands are still the sole mark ofownership. Set down between high mountain ranges, remote, sufficientunto itself, rudely prosperous, the Black Rim country has yet to betamed.
Black Rim country is called bad. The men from Black Rim are eyedaskance when they burr their spur rowels down the plank sidewalks ofwhatever little town they may choose to visit. A town dweller will notquarrel with one of them. He will treat him politely, straightway seeksome acquaintance whom he wishes to impress, and jerk a thumb towardthe departing Black Rim man, and say importantly: See that feller Iwas talking with just now? That's one of them boys from the Black Rim.Man, he'd kill yuh quick as look at yuh! He's bad. Yep. You want towalk 'way round them birds from the Rim country. They're a hard-boiledbunch up that way. And he would be as nearly correct in his estimateas such men usually are.
Tom Lorrigan's father used to carry a rifle across his thighs when herode up the trail past Devil's Tooth Ridge to the benchland beyond,where his cattle fed on the sweet bunch grass. He never would sitclose to a camp-fire at night save when his back was against a hugeboulder and he could keep the glare of the fire from his eyes. Indianshe killed as he killed rattlers, on the range theory that if they didnot get him then they might some other time, and that every deadIndian counted one less to beware of. Tom Lorrigan's father was calleda bad man even in Black Rim country,--which meant a good deal.Hard-bitted men of the Black Rim chose their words wisely when theyspoke to Tom's father; chose wisely their words when they spoke ofhim, unless they had full faith in the listener's loyalty anddiscretion.
Tom Lorrigan's father lived to be sixty,--chiefly because he wasquick on the draw and because he never missed anything that he shotat. But at sixty, when he was still hated by many, loved by a very fewand feared by every one, he died,--crushed under his horse when itfell on the Devil's Tooth trail one sleety day in midwinter.
Young Tom Lorrigan learned to shoot when he learned to ride, and hewas riding pitching horses before he could be certain which was p andwhich was q in his dad's old spelling book. Which does not by anymeans prove that young Tom was an ignoramus. Tom once had threebrothers, but these were somehow unlucky and one by one they droppedout of the game of life. The oldest brother died with the smell ofburnt black powder in his nostrils, and Tom's father stood over thebody and called his dead son a fool for wearing his gun so it couldstick in the holster. If I ever ketch yuh doin' a trick like that,I'll thrash yuh till yuh can't stand, he admonished young Tomsternly. Young Tom always remembered how his dad had looked whenbrother Bill was shot.
The second brother was overtaken while riding a big sorrel horse thatdid not happen to carry the Lorrigan brand. So he too died with thesmell of powder smoke in his nostrils, taking three of his pursuerswith him into the Dark Land. Him Tom's father cursed for beingcaught.
So young Tom learned early two lessons of the Black Rim book ofwisdom: His gun must never stick in the holster; he must never getcaught by the law.
He was twenty when Brother Jim was drowned while trying to swim hishorse across the Snake in flood time on a dare. Young Tom raced alongthe bank, frantically trying to cast his forty-foot rope across sixtyfeet of rushing current that rolled Jim and his horse along to theboil of rapids below. Young Tom was a long, long while forgetting theterror in Jim's eyes, the helplessness of Jim's gloved hand which hethrew up to catch at the rope that never came within twenty feet ofhim, and at the last, the hopeless good-by wave he sent Tom when hewhirled into the moil that pulled him under and never let him go. Tomlearned on the bank of the Snake another lesson: He must never be soweak as to let another man badger him into doing something against hisown desires or judgment.
Jim's pitiful going left Tom in full possession of the Devil's Toothranch and the cattle and horses that fed on the open range of theBlack Rim country,--and they were many. Young Tom was lonely, but hisloneliness was smothered under a consuming desire to add to hispossessions and to avoid the mistakes of his brothers and of hisfather who had carelessly ridden where he should have walked.
Men of the Rim country frequently predicted that young Tom Lorriganwould die with his boots on; preferably in mid-air. They said he wasgoing to be like his dad in more than looks, and that times werechanging and a man couldn't steal cattle and kill off anybody thatargued with him, and get away with it as Tom's father had done. Theycomplained that the country was getting too damn Sunday school, andyoung Tom had better tame down a little before he got into trouble.
As Black Rim defines the word, Tom was quite as bad as they calledhim. A handsome young dare-devil he was, slanting his glancedownward when he looked into the eyes of a six-foot man,--andevery inch of him good healthy bone and muscle. Women eyed himpleasantly, wistful for his smile. Men spoke to him friendlywiseand consciously side-stepped his wrath. On the Black Rim range hisword was law, his law was made for himself and the wealth he hankeredfor. That wealth he named a million dollars, and he named it oftenbecause he liked the sound of the word. Without any ifs he declaredit. There was a million to be had in Idaho, was there not? Very well,he would have his million, and he would have it in cattle and horsesand land. He would not go mucking in the gold mines for it; hismillion should graze on the bunch grass. He wanted, he said, to see amillion dollars walking around. And since old Tom Lorrigan hadleft him a mere forty thousand--according to the appraisers of theDevil's Tooth estate--young Tom had a long way to go to see his dreama reality.
Men of the Black Rim hinted that young Tom rode with a long rope;meaning that his rope would reach the cattle of his neighbor cowmen ifthey came in his way. But they only hinted, for unless they couldprove beyond the doubt of any twelve men in the county that his brandwas burned on any cattle save his own, they had no wish to offend. Foryoung Tom had learned well his three lessons from the fate of histhree brothers; his gun never stuck in its holster; he was wily andnot to be caught; he could neither be harried nor coaxed into settingaside his own judgment while it seemed to him good.
You would think that young Tom would speedily find himself a mateamongst the girls of the Black Rim country,--though they were asscarce as princesses of the royal blood and choice was of necessityrestricted to a half-dozen or so. None of the girls he knew pleasedhis fancy, untrained though that fancy might be. Instinct told himthat they were too tame, too commonplace to hold his interest forlong. A breathless dance or two, a kiss stolen in a shadowy corner,and blushes and giggles and inane remonstrances that bored himbecause he knew they would come. Tom had reached the sere age oftwenty-two when he began to wonder if he must go beyond the Black Rimworld for his wife, or resign himself to the fate of an old bachelor.None of the Black Rim girls, he told himself grimly, should ever havea share in that million.
Then that purple-lidded, putty-face jade we call Fate whimsically senthim a mate; curious, I suppose, to see what would happen when the twowhose trails had lain so far apart should meet.
A girl from some far city she was; a small star that had twinkledbehind the footlights and had fled--or had fallen--to the Black Rimcountry. Like many another, she had gone as far as her money wouldtake her. That it took her to the end of the little branch railroadthat stopped abruptly with its nose against a mountain twenty milesfrom the Devil's Tooth ranch was a coincidence,--or the whim of Fate.There she was, as strange to the outland as young Tom would have beento the city whence she had come; thinking perhaps to start life afreshin some little Western town; with no money to carry her back to theoutskirts of civilization, and no town wherein she might win freshsuccesses. The train that had brought her panted upon a siding,deserted, its boiler cooling, its engineer, fireman, conductor andbrakeman leaning over a bar in the shack that called itself a saloon.To-morrow it would rattle back to the junction, if all went well andthe rails held fast to the ties, which was not certain.
The station's name was Jumpoff. The train's conductor, who had themisfortune to be considered a humorist, liked to say that Jumpoff wasa knot at the end of the road to keep the track from unraveling. Hehad told the girl that, on the long, jolty ride from the junction. Thegirl replied that at any rate she liked the name.
What really held Jumpoff on the time-table in those days before itbecame a real town were the stockyards, where the Black Rim cattlecame to start their journey to market. The trail over the mountains tothe main line was rough, with a two-day drive without water. Yet theBlack Rim country had many cattle, and a matter of a few tunnels and atrestle or two let the railroad in by a short cut which minimized thedistance to the main line. The branch line paid a fair interest on theinvestment,--but not with its passenger service.
The girl found herself stranded in a settlement whose business wasrepresented by one saloon, one section house, one stable, onetwelve-by-twelve depot and a store that was no more than an additionto the saloon, with the bartender officiating in both places ascustomers required his services. Times when cattle were being shipped,the store was closed and the saloon had no rival.
It was while the girl was hesitating half-way between the store-saloonand the section house, wondering which she would choose, that youngTom Lorrigan galloped up to the hitch rail, stopped his horse in twostiff-legged jumps, swung down and came toward her. Like a picture ona wall calendar she looked to young Tom, who had never seen her likein flesh and blood. He lifted his big, range hat, and she smiled athim,--though it must have been a stage smile, she had so little heartfor smiling then.
Tom blinked as though he had looked at the sun. Such a smile he hadnever seen in his life; nor such hair, like real, gold-colored silkall in curls around her face; nor such eyes, which were blue as thesky at twilight when the stars first begin to show.
Jumpoff is not much of a town, said the girl and laughed to hide howclose she was to tears.
Young Tom caught his breath. He had thought that women had only twoforms of laughter, the giggle of youth or the cackle of age. He hadnever dreamed that a woman could laugh like a mountain stream gurglingdown over the rocks. Immediately he visioned young ferns drippingdiamonds into a shadowed pool, though he did not attempt to formulatethe vision in words. His answer was obvious and had nothing to do withgurgling brooks, or with ferns and shadowed pools.
It sure ain't, Miss. Might you be looking for somebody in particular?
No-o--I'm just here. It would be a poor place to look for anybody,wouldn't it?
Sure would. Young Tom found his courage and smiled, and the girllooked at him again, as though she liked that white-toothed smile ofTom's.
Well, I started out to find the jumping-off place, and this soundedlike it on the railroad map. I guess it's It, all right; there'snothing to do but jump.
Young Tom pulled his black eyebrows together, studying her. By herspeech she was human; therefore, in spite of her beauty that dazzledhim, she was not to be feared.
You mean you ain't got any particular place to go from here?
The girl tilted her head and stared up the mountain's steep,pine-covered slope. She swung her head a little and looked at Tom. Shesmiled bravely still, but he thought her eyes looked sorry forsomething.
Is there any particular place to go from here? she asked himwistfully, keeping the smile on her lips as the world had taught herto do.
Not unless you went back.
She shook her head. No, she said, firmly, I'll climb that mountainand jump off the top before I'll go back.
Young Tom felt that she spoke in sober earnest in spite of her smile;which was strange. He had seen men smile in deadly earnest,--his dadhad smiled when he reached for his gun to kill Buck Sanderson. Butwomen cried.
Don't you know anybody at all, around here?
Not a soul--except you, and I don't know whether your name is Tom orBill.
My name's Tom--Tom Lorrigan. Say! If you ain't got any place togo--why--I've got a ranch and about twenty-five hundred head of cattleand some horses. If you didn't mind marrying me, I could take you outthere and give yuh a home. I'd be plumb good to you, if you're willingto take a chance.
The girl stood back and looked him over. Tall as Tom was she camealmost to his chin. He saw her eyes darken like the sky at dusk, andit seemed to him quite possible that stars could shine in them.
You'd be taking as great a chance as I would. I haven't any ranch orany cattle, or anything at all but myself and two trunks full ofclothes and some things in my life I want to forget. And I havesixty cents in my purse. I can't cook anything except to toastmarshmallows--
I've got a cook, put in young Tom quickly.
And the clothes I've got would be a joke out here. And the things Icame out here to forget I shall never tell you--
I ain't interested enough to ask, or to listen if you told me, saidTom.
And myself can sing to you and dance to you, and I'm twenty years oldby the family Bible--
I'm twenty-two--makes it about right, said Tom.
And if you should count fifty and ask me again--
Ten, twenty, thirty, forty-fifty, will you marry me? obeyed Tom withmuch alacrity.
You might call me Belle. Belle Delavan. Well, I came to Jumpoffbecause--I meant to jump. Yes, I'll marry you--and the Lord have mercyon you, Tom Lorrigan, if I live to regret it.
Amen. Same to you, grinned Tom. It's an even break, anyway. Theydon't claim I'm sprouting wings. They say I've got split hoofs in myboots instead of feet, and wear my ears pointed at the top. But--butno girl has got any loop on me. I've been straight, as far as womengoes. That's my record up to the present. If you can stand for alittle drinkin' and gamblin' and shootin'--
Belle waved aside his self-depreciation. Young Tom was a handsomedevil, and his eyes were keen and clear and looked right into her own,which was sufficient evidence of good faith for any woman with warmblood in her body.
Tom Lorrigan, I've eaten just three soda crackers, six marshmallowsand one orange since yesterday noon, said she irrelevantly. I can'tbe emotional when I'm half starved. Is there any place where I can geta piece of bread or something?
My Lord! Think of me standing here and not thinkin' whether you'd haddinner or not! Sure, you can have something to eat.
He took her by the arm, too penitent to be diffident over theunaccustomed gallantry, and hustled her toward the section house. Hismind registered the fact that the bartender, the fireman, the brakemanand the conductor would shortly apologize abjectly for standingoutside the saloon gawping at a lady, or they would need the immediateministrations of a doctor. He hoped the girl had not noticed them.
They'll throw some grub together quick, over here, he explained tothe girl. Everybody eats at the section house. It ain't much of aplace, but there ain't any other place. And while you're having dinnerI'll have the operator wire down to Lava for a marriage license to besent up on the next train. The saloon man is a justice of the peace,and he'll marry us right away, soon as you eat. And--
Without a license? I know it's always done that way on the stage,but--but this isn't going to be any stage marriage.
Well, but the license will be all made out and on the way, and he'lltake my word for it and go ahead with the ceremony. If I tell him to,he will. It will be all right; I'll _make_ it all right. And then Ican get a team from a ranch back here a ways, and take you right outto Devil's Tooth. It's the best way. This ain't any place for a ladyto stay. You'll be comfortable out at the Devil's Tooth--it's clean,anyway. He looked at her honest-eyed, and smiled again. Yuh needn'tbe afraid uh me. We're rough enough and tough enough, and we maybeshoot up each other now and again, but we ain't like city folks; wedon't double-cross women. Not ever.
She said nothing, and when they had walked four steps farther he addedwith a sincere wish to set her at ease: I could take you to someranch and leave you till the license comes, if you think it wouldn'tbe all right to get married now. But the womenfolks would talk yourarm off, and you wouldn't like it. And they'd talk about you when yourback was turned. But if Scotty goes ahead and married us, I don't seewhy--
Oh, I'm not worrying about that. It's just cutting a corner insteadof walking around. I was thinking, said Belle Delavan, while shedabbed at her lashes as though they were beaded with paint instead oftears and she must be careful not to smear them, I was just thinkinghow--how _good_ you are. My God, I never knew they grew men like you,outside of plays and poetry.
Good! echoed young Tom Lorrigan, feared of his kind for his badness.His tone was hushed with amazement, all aglow with pleasure._Good!_--my Lord!