Bruce of the Circle A

      by Harold Titus / Western

Bruce of the Circle A
Produced by Darleen Dove, Mary Meehan and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (Thisfile was produced from images generously made availableby The Internet Archive/American Libraries.)



BRUCE

OF THE CIRCLE A

BY HAROLD TITUS

Author of ”--I Conquered”

ILLUSTRATED

BOSTON SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY PUBLISHERS

Copyright, 1918 By SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY (INCORPORATED)

Except for the animal's breathing, the world was veryquiet.]

CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I. THE WOMAN 1

II. SOME MEN 7

III. THE LODGER NEXT DOOR 17

IV. A REVELATION 31

V. THE CLERGY OF YAVAPAI 46

VI. AT THE CIRCLE A 56

VII. TONGUES WAG 68

VIII. A HEART SPEAKS 84

IX. LYTTON'S NEMESIS 102

X. WHOM GOD HATH JOINED 119

XI. THE STORY OF ABE 131

XII. THE RUNAWAY 147

XIII. THE SCOURGING 163

XIV. THE WOMAN ON HORSEBACK 187

XV. HER LORD AND MASTER 204

XVI. THE MESSAGE ON THE SADDLE 223

XVII. THE END OF THE VIGIL 239

XVIII. THE FIGHT 255

XIX. THE TRAILS UNITE 278

BRUCE OF THE CIRCLE A

CHAPTER I

THE WOMAN

Daylight and the Prescott-Phoenix train were going from Yavapai. Fiftypaces from the box of a station a woman stood alone beside the track,bag in hand, watching the three red lights of the observation platformdwindle to a ruby unit far down the clicking ribbons of steel. As shewatched, she felt herself becoming lost in the spaciousness, the silenceof an Arizona evening.

Ann Lytton was a stranger in that strange land. Impressions pelted inupon her--the silhouetted range against the cerise flush of western sky;the valley sweeping outward in all other directions to lose itself inthe creeping blue-grays of night; droning voices of men from thestation; a sense of her own physical inconsequence; her loneliness ...and, as a background, the insistent vastness of the place.

Then, out of the silence from somewhere not far off, came a flat, deadcrash, the report of a firearm. The woman was acutely conscious that thevoices in the station had broken short with an abruptness which alarmedher. The other sound--the shot--had touched fear in her, too, and theknowledge that it had nipped the attention of the talking men sent acool thrill down her limbs.

A man emerged from the depot and his voice broke in,

”Wonder where that--”

He stopped short and the woman divined the reason. She strained to catchthe thrum of running hoofs, knowing intuitively that the man, also, hadceased speaking to listen. She was conscious that she trembled.

Another man stepped into the open and spoke, hurriedly, but so low thatAnn could not hear; the first replied in the same manner, giving a senseof stealth, of furtiveness that seemed to the woman portentous. She tooka step forward, frightened at she knew not what, wanting to run to themen just because she was afraid and they were human beings. She checkedherself, though, and forced reason.

This was nonsense! She laid it on her nerves. They were ragged after thesuspense and the long journey, the dread and hopes. A shot, a gallopinghorse, a suspected anxiety in the talk of the two men had combined toplay upon them in their overwrought condition.

Then, the first speaker's voice again, in normal tone,

”Trunk here, but I didn't see anybody get off.”

Ann wanted to laugh with relief. Just that one sentence linked her upwith everyday life again, took the shake from her knees and the accentedleap from her heart. She was impelled to run to him, and held herselfto a walk by effort.

”I beg your pardon. Can you tell me the name of the best hotel?” sheasked.

The man who had seized the trunk stopped rolling it toward the doorwayand turned quickly to look at the woman who stood there in the pallidglow from the one oil lamp. He saw a blue straw toque fitting tightlyover a compact mass of black hair; he saw blue eyes, earnest andtroubled; red lips, with the fullness of youth; flushed cheeks, a trim,small body clothed in a close fitting, dark suit.

”Yes, ma'am; it's th' Manzanita House. It's th' two-story buildin' upth' street. Is this your trunk?”

”Yes. May I leave it here until morning?”

The man nodded. ”Sure,” he answered.

”Thank you. Is there a carriage here?”

He set the trunk on end, wiped his palms on his hips and smiledslightly.

”No, ma'am. Yavapai ain't quite up to hacks an' things yet. We're young.You can walk it in two minutes.”

Ann hesitated.

”It's ... all right, is it?”

He did not comprehend.

”For me to walk, I mean. Just now.... It sounded as if some one shot, Ithought.”

He laughed.

”Oh, Yavapai's a safe place! Somebody just shot at somethin', I guess.But it's all right. We ain't got no hacks, but we don't have no killin'seither.”

”I'm glad of the one anyhow,” Ann smiled, and started away from him not,however, wholly reassured.

She walked toward the array of yellow lighted windows that showedthrough the deepening darkness, making her way over the hard ground,hurriedly, skirt lifted in the free hand. She had not inspected theshadowy town beyond glancing casually to register the ill-definedimpressions of scattered stock pens, sprawling buildings, a short stringof box-cars, a water-tank. The country, the location of the settlement,was the thing which had demanded her first attention, for it was allstrange, new, a bit terrifying in the twilight. Two men passed her,talking; their voices ceased and she knew that they turned to stare;then one spoke in a lowered tone ... and the night had them. A man onhorseback rode down the street at a slow trot. She wondered uneasily ifthat was the horse which had raced away at the sound of the shot. Fromthe most brilliantly lighted building the sound of a mechanical pianosuddenly burst, hammering out a blatant melody.

A thick sprinkling of stars had pricked through the darkening sky andAnn, as she walked along, scanned the outline that each structure madeagainst them. Once she laughed shortly to herself and thought,

”_The_ two-story building!”

And, almost with that thought, she stood before it. An oil lamp on anuncertain post was set close against the veranda and through an openwindow she saw a woman, bearing a tray, pause beside a table and depositsteaming dishes. She walked up the steps, opened the screen door, andentered an unlighted hall, barren, also, to judge from the sounds. Onone side was the dining room; on the other, a cramped office.

”This is the Manzanita House?” she asked a youth who, hat on the back ofhis head, read a newspaper which was spread over the top of a smallglass cigar case on the end of a narrow counter.

”Yes, ma'am”--evidently surprised.

He saw her bag, looked at her face again, took off his hat shyly andopened a ruled copybook to which a pencil was attached by a length ofgrimy cotton twine. He pushed it toward her, and the woman, as she drewoff her glove, saw that this was the hotel register.

In a bold, large hand she wrote:

”Ann Lytton, Portland, Maine.”

”I'd like a room for to-night,” she said, ”and to-morrow I'd like to getto the Sunset mine. Can you direct me?”

A faint suggestion of anxiety was in her query and on the question theyouth looked at her sharply, met her gaze and let his waver off. Heturned to put the register on the shelf behind him.

”Why, I can find out,” he answered, evasively. ”It's over thirty milesout there and th' road ain't so very good yet. You can get th'automobile to take you. It's out now--took the doctor out thisafternoon--and won't be back till late, prob'ly.”

He took the register from the shelf again and, on pretext of noting herroom number on the margin of the leaf, re-read her name and address,moving his lips in the soundless syllables.

”I'd ... I'd like to go to my room, if I may,” the woman said, and,picking up one of the two lighted lamps, the other led her into the halland up the narrow flight of stairs.

Ten minutes later, the young man stood in the hotel kitchen, the houseregister in his hands. Over his right shoulder the waitress peered andover his left, the cook breathed heavily, as became her weight.

”Just Ann. It don't say Miss or Missus,” the waitress said.

”I know, Nora, but somehow she don't look like _his_ Missus,” the boysaid, with a shake of his head.

”From what you say about her, she sure don't. Are you goin' to tell heranythin'? Are you goin' to try to find out?”

”Not me. I wouldn't tell her nothin'! Gee, I wouldn't have th' nerve.Not after knowin' him and then takin' a real good look at a face likehers.”

”If she is his, it's a dirty shame!” the girl declared, picking up hertray. She kicked open the swinging door and passed into the diningroom.


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