Laramie Holds the Range

      by Frank H. Spearman / Western

Laramie Holds the Range
LARAMIE HOLDS THE RANGE

by

FRANK H. SPEARMAN

Illustrated by James Reynolds

[Frontispiece: ”Hold on, Doubleday,” Laramie said bluntly, . . .”You'll hear what I've got to say”]

New YorkCharles Scribner's Sons1921

Copyright, 1921, byCharles Scribner's Sons

Published August, 1921Reprinted September, 1921

Copyright, 1921, by Frank H. Spearman

TO MY SON

FRANK HAMILTON SPEARMAN, JR.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I SLEEPY CAT II THE CRAZY WOMAN III DOUBLEDAY'S IV AT THE EATING HOUSE V CROSS PURPOSES VI WHICH WINS? VII THE CLOSE OF THE DAY VIII THE HOME OF LARAMIE IX AT THE BAR X LARAMIE COUNTS FIVE XI A DUEL WITH KATE XII THE BARBECUE XIII AGAINST HIS RECORD XIV LEFEVER ASKS QUESTIONS XV THE RAID OF THE FALLING WALL XVI THE GO-DEVIL XVII VAN HORN TRAILS HAWK XVIII HAWK QUARRELS WITH LARAMIE XIX LEFEVER RECEIVES THE RAIDERS XX THE DOCTOR'S OFFICE XXI THE HIDING PLACE XXII STONE TRIES HIS HAND XXIII KATE RIDES XXIV NIGHT AND A HEADER XXV A GUEST FOR AN HOUR XXVI THE CRAZY WOMAN WINS XXVII KATE DEFIES XXVIII A DIFFICULT RESOLVE XXIX HORSEHEAD PASS XXX THE FUNERAL AND AFTER XXXI AN ENCOUNTER XXXII A MESSAGE FROM TENISON XXXIII THE CANYON OF THE FALLING WALL XXXIV KATE GETS A SHOCK XXXV AT KITCHEN'S BARN XXXVI MCALPIN AT BAY XXXVII KATE BURNS THE STEAK XXXVIII THE UNEXPECTED CALL XXXIX BARB MAKES A SURPRISING ALLIANCE XL BRADLEY RIDES HARD XLI THE FLIGHT OF THE SWALLOWS XLII WARNING XLIII THE LAST CALL XLIV TENISON SERVES BREAKFAST

ILLUSTRATIONS

”Hold on, Doubleday,” Laramie said bluntly, . . . ”You'll hear what I've got to say” . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

”And I thought I knew every drop of water in this country”

Knocked forward the next instant in his saddle, Laramie drooped over his pommel

”No,” said a man . . . as he pushed forward . . . ”He's not going to drink!”

LARAMIE HOLDS THE RANGE

CHAPTER I

SLEEPY CAT

All day the heavy train of sleepers had been climbing the long risefrom the river--a monotonous stretch of treeless, short-grass plainsreaching from the Missouri to the mountains. And now the train stoppedagain, almost noiselessly.

Kate, with the impatience of girlish spirits tried by a long andtedious car journey, left her Pullman window and its continuous,one-tone picture, and walking forward was glad to find the vestibuleopen. The porter, meditating alone, stood below, at the car step,looking ahead; Kate joined him.

The stop had been made at a lonely tank, for water. No humanhabitation was anywhere in sight. The sun had set. For miles in everydirection the seemingly level and open country spread around her. Shelooked back to the darkening east that she was leaving behind. Itsuggested nothing of interest beyond the vanishing perspective of along track tangent. Then to the north, whence blew a cool and gentlewind, but the landscape offered nothing attractive to her eyes; itsreceding horizon told no new story. Then she looked into the west.

They had told her she should not see the Rockies until morning. Butthe dying light in the west brought a moving surprise. In the dreamyafterglow of the evening sky there rose, far beyond the dusky plain,the faint but certain outline of distant mountain peaks.

Bathed in a soft unearthly light, like the purple of another world;touched here and there by a fairy gold; silent as dreams, majestic asvisions, overwhelming as reality itself, Kate gazed on them withbeating heart.

Something clutched at her breath: ”Are those the Rocky Mountains?” shesuddenly asked, appealing to the stolid porter. She told Belle longafterward, she knew her voice must have quivered.

”Ah'm sure, Ah c'dn't say, Miss. Ah s'pecs dey ah. Dis my first tripout here.”

”So it is mine!”

”Mah reg'lar run,” continued the porter, insensible to the glories ofthe distant sky, ”is f'm Chicago to Council Bluffs.”

A flagman hurried past. Kate courageously pointed: ”Are those theRocky Mountains, please?” He halted only to look at her inastonishment. ”Yes'm.” But she was bound he should not escape: ”Howfar are they?” she shot after him. He looked back startled: ”'Bout ahundred miles,” he snapped. Plainly there was no enthusiasm among thetrain crew over mountains.

When she was forced, reluctant, back into the sleeper, she announcedjoyfully to her berth neighbors that the Rocky Mountains were in sight.One regarded her stupidly, another coldly. Across the aisle the oldlady playing solitaire did not even look up. Kate subsided; but dullapathy could not rob her of that first wonderful vision of the strange,far-off region, perhaps to be her home.

Next day, from the car window it was all mountains--at least,everywhere on the horizon. But the train seemed to thread anillimitable desert--a poor exchange for the boundless plains, Katethought. But she grew to love the very dust of the desert.

The train was due at Sleepy Cat in the late afternoon. It met withdelays and night had fallen when Kate, after giving the porter too muchmoney, left her car, and suitcase in hand struggled, American fashion,up the long, dark platform toward the dimly lighted station. Men andwomen hastened here and there about her. The changing crews movedbriskly to and from the train. There was abundance of activity, butnone of it concerned Kate and her comfort. And there was no one, shefeared, to meet her.

Reaching the station, she set down her suitcase without a tremor, andthough she had never been more alone, she never felt less lonely. Theeating-house gong beat violently for supper. A woman dragging a littleboy almost fell over Kate's suitcase but did not pause to receive ortender apology. Men looking almost solemn under broad,straight-brimmed hats moved in and out of the station, but none ofthese saw Kate. Only one man striding past looked at her. He glared.And as he had but one eye, Kate deemed him, from his expression, awoman-hater.

Then a fat man under an immense hat, and wearing a very large ring onone hand, walked with a dapper step out of the telegraph office. Hedid see Kate. He checked his pace, coughed slightly and changed hiscourse, as if to hold himself open to inquiry. Kate without hesitationturned to him and explained she was for Doubleday's ranch. She askedwhether he knew the men from there and whether anyone was down.

John Lefever, for it was he whom she addressed, knew the men but he hadseen no one; could he do anything?

”I want very much to get out there tonight,” said Kate.

”Jingo,” exclaimed Lefever, ”not tonight!”

”Tonight,” returned Kate, looking out of dark eyes in pink and whiteappeal, ”if I can possibly make it.”

Lefever caught up her suitcase and set it down beside the waiting-roomdoor: ”Stay right here a minute,” he said.

He walked toward the baggage-room and before he reached it, stopped asecond large, heavy man, Henry Sawdy. Him he held in confab; Sawdylooking meantime quite unabashed toward the distant Kate. In the lightstreaming from the station windows her slender and slightly shrinkingfigure suggested young womanhood and her delicately fashioned features,half-hidden under her hat, pleasingly confirmed his impression of it.Kate, conscious of inspection, could only pretend not to see him. Andthe sole impression she could snatch in the light and shadow of theredoubtable Sawdy, was narrowed to a pair of sweeping mustaches and astern-looking hat. Lefever returned, his companion sauntering alongafter. Kate explained that she had telegraphed.

At that moment an odd-looking man, with a rapid, rolling, right andleft gait, ambled by and caught Kate's eye. Instead of the formidableStetson hat mostly in evidence, this man wore a baseball cap--of thesort usually given away with popular brands of flour--its peak cockedto its own apparent surprise over one ear. The man had sharp eyes anda long nose for news and proved it by halting within earshot of theconversation carried on between Kate and the two men. He looked soqueer, Kate wanted to laugh, but she was too far from home to dare. Hepresently put his head conveniently in between Sawdy and Lefever andoffered some news of his own: ”There's been a big electric storm in theup country, Sawdy; the telephones are on the bum.”

”How's she going to get to Doubleday's tonight, McAlpin?” asked Sawdyabruptly of the newcomer. McAlpin never, under any pressure, answereda question directly. Hence everything had to be explained to him allover again, he looking meantime more or less furtively at Kate. But hefound out, despite his seeming stupidity, a lot that it would havetaken the big men hours to learn.

”If you don't want to take a rig and driver,” announced McAlpin, afterall had been canvassed, ”there's the stage for the fort; they had towait for the mail. Bill Bradley is on tonight. I'm thinkin' he'll sety' over from the ford--it's only a matter o' two or three miles.”

”Are there any other passengers?” asked Kate doubtfully.

”Belle Shockley for the Reservation,” answered McAlpin, promptly,”if--she ain't changed her mind, it bein' so late.”

Sawdy put a brusque end to this uncertainty: ”She's down there at theMountain House waitin'--seen her myself not ten minutes ago.”

Scurrying away, McAlpin came back in a jiffy with the driver, Bradley.Thin, bent and grizzled though he was, Kate thought she saw under thebroad but shabby hat and behind the curtain of scraggly beard and deepwrinkles dependable eyes and felt reassured.

”How far is it to the ranch?” she asked of the queer-looking Bradley.

”Long ways, the way you go, ain't it, Bill?” McAlpin turned to the olddriver for confirmation.

”'Bout fourteen mile,” answered Bradley, ”to the ford.”

”What time should I get there?” asked Kate again.

Bradley stood pat.

”What time'll she get there, Bill?” demanded Lefever.

”Twelve o'clock,” hazarded Bradley tersely. ”Or,” he added, ”I'll stopwhen I pass the ranch 'n' tell 'em to send a rig down in the mornin'.”

”That would take you out of your way,” Kate objected.

”Not a great ways.”

A man that would go to this trouble in the middle of the night forsomeone he had never seen before, Kate deemed safe to trust. ”No,” shesaid, ”I'll go with you, if I may.”

The way in which she spoke, the sweetness and simplicity of her words,moved Sawdy and Lefever, the first a widower and the second a bachelor,and even stirred McAlpin, a married man. But they had no particulareffect on Bradley. The blandishments of young womanhood were past histime of day.

With Lefever carrying the suitcase and nearly everybody talking atonce, the party walked around to the rear door of the baggage-room.

The stage had been backed up, a hostler in the driver's seat, and themail and express were being loaded. Sawdy volunteered to save time byfetching Belle Shockley from the hotel, and while McAlpin and Lefeverinspected and discussed the horses--for the condition of which McAlpin,as foreman of Kitchen's barn, was responsible--Kate stood, listener andonlooker. Everything was new and interesting. Four horses champedimpatiently under the arc-light swinging in the street, and lookedquite fit. But the stage itself was a shock to her idea of a Westernstage. Instead of the old-fashioned swinging coach body, such as shehad wondered at in circus spectacles, she saw a very substantial,shabby-looking democrat wagon with a top, and with side curtains. Thecurtains were rolled up. But the oddest thing to Kate was thatwherever a particle could lodge, the whole stage was covered with aghostly, grayish-white dust. While the loading went on, Sawdy arrivedwith the second passenger, Belle Shockley. She had, fortunately forKate's apprehensions, _not_ changed her mind.

Belle herself was something of an added shock. She wore a long rubbercoat, in which the rubber was not in the least disguised. Her hair wasfrizzed about her face, and a small, brimless hat perched high, almoststartled, on her head. She was tall and angular, her features werelarge and her eyes questioning. Had she had Bradley's beard, she wouldhave passed with Kate for the stage driver. She was formidable, butyet a woman; and she scrutinized the slender whip of a girl before herwith feminine suspicion. Nor did she give Kate a chance to break theice of acquaintance before starting.

Under Lefever's chaperonage and with his gallant help, Kate took herseat where directed, just behind the driver, and her new companionpresently got up beside her.

The mail bags disposed of, Bradley climbed into place, gathered hislines, the hostler let go the leads and the stage was off. The horses,restive after their long wait, dashed down the main street of the town,whirling Kate, all eyes and ears, past the glaring saloons and darkenedstores to the extreme west end of Sleepy Cat. There, strikingnorthward, the stage headed smartly for the divide.

The night was clear, with the stars burning in the sky. From the rigidsilence of the driver and his two passengers, it might have beenthought that no one of them ever spoke. To Kate, who as an Easterngirl had never, it might be said, breathed pure air, the clear, highatmosphere of the mountain night was like sparkling wine. Her sensestingled with the strange stimulant.

To Belle, there was no novelty in any of this, and the strain ofsilence was correspondingly greater. It was she who gave in first:

”You from Medicine Bend?” she asked, as the four horses walked up along hill.

”Pittsburgh,” answered Kate.

”Pittsburgh!” echoed Belle, startled. ”Gee! some trip you've had.”

Belle, encouraged, then confessed that a cyclone had given her her ownfirst start West. She had been blown two blocks in one and had all ofher hair pulled out of her head.

”They said I'd have no chance to get married without any hair,” shecontinued, ”so I got a wig--never _could_ find my own hair--and comeWest for a chance. And they're here; if you're looking for a husbandyou've come to the right place.”

”I haven't the least idea of getting married,” protested Kate.

”They'll be after you,” declared Belle sententiously.

”Are you married?” ventured Kate.

”Not yet. But they're coming. I'm in no hurry.”

She talked freely about her own affairs. She had worked for Doubleday,for whose ranch Kate was bound. Doubleday had had a chain of eatinghouses on the line, as Belle termed the transcontinental railroad.They had all been taken over except the one where she worked--at SleepyCat Junction--and this would be taken soon, Belle thought.

”That's the trouble with Barb Doubleday,” she went on. ”He's got toomany irons in the fire--head over heels in debt. There's no moneynow-a-days in cattle, anyway. What are you going up to Doubleday'sfor?”

”He's my father.”

”Your father? Well! I never open my mouth without I put my foot init, anyway.”

”I've never seen him,” continued Kate.

Belle was all interest. She confided to Kate that she was now on herway, for a visit, to the Reservation where her cousin was teaching inan Indian school, and divided her time for the next hour betweengetting all she could of Kate's story and telling all of her own.

On Kate's part there was no end of questions to ask, about country andcustoms and people. When Belle could not answer, she appealed toBradley, who, if taciturn, was at least patient. Every time theconversation lulled and Kate looked out into the night, it seemed as ifthey were drawing closer and closer to the stars, the dark desert stillspreading in every direction and the black mountain ridges continuallyreceding.


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