Justin Wingate, Ranchman

      by John Harvey Whitson / Western

Justin Wingate, Ranchman
Produced by Roger Frank and Sue Clark

”With a boldness that gripped his throat he slipped hishand along the back of the arbor seat”]

JUSTIN WINGATE, RANCHMAN

By

John H. Whitson

Author of ”The Rainbow Chasers,” ”Barbara, a Woman of the West,” etc.

With Illustrations from Drawings by

Arthur E. Becker

Boston

Little, Brown, and Company

Copyright, 1905,

by Little, Brown, and Company.

All rights reserved.

Published April, 1905.

Printers, S. J. Parkhill & Co., Boston, U. S. A.

CONTENTS

BOOK ONE--THE PREPARATION

CHAPTER I--THE DREAMER AND THE DREAM CHAPTER II--WINGATE JOURNEYS ON CHAPTER III--CLAYTON'S VISITORS CHAPTER IV--SIBYL CHAPTER V--THE INVASION OF PARADISE CHAPTER VI--WHEN LOVE WAS YOUNG CHAPTER VII--WILLIAM SANDERS CHAPTER VIII--AND MARY WENT TO DENVER CHAPTER IX--A REVELATION OF CHARACTER CHAPTER X--PIPINGS OF PAN CHAPTER XI--THE TRAGEDY OF THE RANGE CHAPTER XII--WITH SIBYL AND MARY CHAPTER XIII--WHEN AMBITION CAME CHAPTER XIV--IN THE STORM CHAPTER XV--A FLASH OF LIGHTNING CHAPTER XVI--BEN DAVISON'S TRIUMPH

BOOK TWO--THE BATTLE

CHAPTER I--COWARDICE AND HEROISM CHAPTER II--THE HARVEST OF THE FIRE CHAPTER III--LEES OF THE WINE CHAPTER IV--IN THE WHIRLPOOL CHAPTER V--HARKNESS AND THE SEER CHAPTER VI--THE MOTH AND THE FLAME CHAPTER VII--THE COMPACT CHAPTER VIII--THE THRALL OF THE PAST CHAPTER IX--SANDERS TELLS HIS STORY CHAPTER X--IN THE CRUCIBLE CHAPTER XI--FATHER AND SON CHAPTER XII--CHANGING EVENTS CHAPTER XIII--IN PARADISE VALLEY CHAPTER XIV--THE DOWNWARD WAY CHAPTER XV--MARY'S DESPAIR CHAPTER XVI--THE WAGES OF SIN CHAPTER XVII--SHADOWS BEFORE CHAPTER XVIII--PHILOSOPHY GONE MAD CHAPTER XIX--SIBYL AND CLAYTON CHAPTER XX--THE RIDE WITH DEATH CHAPTER XXI--RECONCILIATION CHAPTER XXII--THE DREAMS THAT CAME TRUE

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

”With a boldness that gripped his throat he slipped his hand along the back of the arbor seat”

”The woman sitting there on her chafing horse stared back at him”

”Sanders twisted round in his chair and began to draw from his pocket a grimy memorandum book”

”Behind them broke a bellowing tumult, as the foremost cattle began to plunge downward into the canon”

JUSTIN WINGATE, RANCHMAN

BOOK ONE--THE PREPARATION

CHAPTER I

THE DREAMER AND THE DREAM

Before swinging out of the saddle in front of the little schoolhouse which was serving as a church, Curtis Clayton, physician andphilosopher, looked over the valley which held the story of a romantichope and where he was to bury his own shattered dream. The rain of themorning had cleared away the bluish ground haze, the very air had beenwashed clean, and the land lay revealed in long levels and undulatingridges. Behind towered the mountain, washed clean, too, its flat topetched against the sky and every crag and peak standing out sharp andhard as a cameo.

Clayton's broncho pawed restlessly on the edge of a grass-growncellar. All about the tiny cluster of unoccupied houses were othergrass-grown cellars, and the foundation lines of vanished buildings,marking the site of the abandoned town. Beside the school house, fromwhich came now the sound of singing, horses were tied to a longhitching rack. A few farm wagons stood near, the unaccustomed muddrying on their wheels.

Clayton dismounted and began to tie his horse. His left arm, stiff andbent at the elbow, swung awkwardly and gave such scant aid that hetightened the knot of the hitching strap by pulling it with his teeth.He was dressed smartly, in dust-proof gray, and wore polished ridingboots. His unlined face showed depression and weariness. In spite ofthis it was a handsome face, lighted by clear dark eyes. The brow,massive and prominent, was the brow of a thinker. Over it, beneath theriding cap, was a tangle of dark hair, now damp and heavy. When hespoke to his horse his tones were suggestive of innate kindness. Therewere no spurs on the heels of his riding boots, and he patted thehorse affectionately before turning to the door of the church.

The interior was furnished as a school house. Cramped into the seats,with feet drawn up and arms on the tops of the desks, sat the fewpeople who composed the congregation, young farmers and their wivesand small children, with wind-burned, honest faces. Apart from theothers was a boy, whose slight form fitted easily into the narrowspace he occupied. He sat well forward and looked steadily at thepreacher, turning about, however, as all did, when Clayton came in atthe door.

Clayton's entrance and the turning about of the people to look brokethe rhythmic swing of the hymn, but the preacher, standing behind theteacher's desk which served as pulpit, lifted his voice, beating thetime energetically with the book he held, and the hymn was caught upagain with vigor. He smiled upon Clayton, as the latter squeezed intoa rear seat, as if to assure him that he was welcome and had disturbedno one.

The preacher took his text from the thirty-fifth chapter of Isaiah:

”The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and thedesert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossomabundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing.... Strengthen yethe weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are ofa fearful heart, 'Be strong, fear not.'”

Clayton was not greatly interested in the Scripture read, in thepreacher, nor in the people. He had entered to get away from his ownthoughts more than anything else. But, weary of thinking, he tried nowto let the preacher lead him out of himself.

His attention was caught and held by the application of the text. Thepreacher was using it not as a spiritual metaphor, but as a promise tobe fulfilled literally and materially in the near future and in thatplace. Looking through the open windows at the level grasslands dampwith the recent rain, he saw the good omen. The desert was there now,but men should till it and it should blossom as the rose; yellow grainfields should billow before the breezes that came down from themountain; the blue bloom of alfalfa should make of the valley a violetcup spilling its rich perfume on the air and offering its treasure ofhoney for the ravishing of the bee; rice corn, Kaffir corn, andsorghum should stand rank on rank, plumed, tufted, and burnished bythe sunlight. Paradise--Clayton heard the name of the valley and thetown for the first time--should become as the Garden of God.

Clayton saw that the man was a dreamer, putting into form thecherished hopes of the people in the narrow seats before him. A landboom had cast high its tide of humanity, then had receded, leavingthese few caught as the drift on the shore. The preacher was one ofthem; and he looked into their eyes with loving devotion and flushingface, as he contrasted the treeless valley of the present with theParadise of his desire. He was a dreamer who believed his dream andwas trying to make his hearers believe it.

At first Clayton had observed the outer man standing behind thatteacher's desk; he had noted the shabby, shiny suit of black,scrupulously clean, the coat much too long and every way too large,the white neatly-set cravat, and the protruding cuffs, which he wassure were scissors-trimmed. Now he looked only at the man's face, withits soft brown beard which the wind stirred at intervals, at thestraight goodly nose, at the deep-set dreamy eyes, and through theeyes into the mind of the dreamer.

”The temperament of a seer, of a Druid priest, of a prophet of old!”was his thought. ”He prophesies the impossible; yet by and by some onemay appear who will be able to show that the impossible has hadfulfillment. It has happened before.”

Willing to forget himself further and know more of this man who, itcould be seen, longed for a mental companionship which the members ofhis congregation could not give him, Clayton remained after theservices, accepting a pressing invitation to tarry awhile.

”We do not often have visitors here now,” said the preacher,pathetically.

So through the hot afternoon they sat together in the preacher'slittle home, the one occupied house in the town, while he dilated onhis dream; and as the day grew cool, they walked together by the banksof the tepid stream and looked at the deserted houses and the blaze ofthe sun behind the flat-topped mountain. The boy who had sat so farforward and given such apparent attention to the sermon walked outwith them. Absorbed in studying the personality of the preacher,Clayton gave the silent boy little attention.

As the sun slipped down behind the mountain, throwing pleasant shadowsacross the valley, Clayton took his horse from the preacher's stableand set out for a ride. And as he went the preacher stood in hisdoorway, smiling and dreaming his dream.

From his boyhood, Peter Wingate had been a dreamer. In his collegedays the zeal of the missionary was infused into his veins, and theFar West, which he pictured as a rough land filled with rough andGodless men, drew him. He had found it poorer than the East, moredirect and simple, more serious and sincere, but not Godless. And hehad come to love it. It was a hopeful, toiling land, rough perhaps,but as yet unspoiled.

Then a day came which brought a new interest into his life. A youthclimbed down from a white-topped prairie schooner with a bundle in hisarms and entered the preacher's house. The bundle held a baby, whosemother had died in the white-topped wagon. As the youth, who wasalmost a man in stature, but still a boy in years, told the story ofthe child, and placed in Wingate's hands its few belongings, he spokeof Paradise. At first the spiritual-minded minister thought hereferred to spiritual things, then understood that he was speaking ofa new town, situated in a wonderful valley that widened down from themountains. Thenceforth, though the child had not come from this newtown, this new town and its promise became linked in the minister'smind with the child; and by and by he journeyed to it, when the boywas well-grown and sturdy and the town had been caught up suddenly inthe whirl of a wild boom.

He began to preach in the new school house, and organized a newchurch; and soon the fiery earnestness and optimism of the boom wasinfused into his heart, supplementing the zeal of the missionary. Heno longer saw Paradise as it was, but as he wished it to be. The veryname allured him. He had long preached of a spiritual Paradise; herewas the germ of an earthly one. From rim to rim, from mountain tomesa, it was, to his eyes, a favored valley, fitted for happy homes.The town vanished, and the settlers departed, but the dream remained.The dreamer still saw the possibilities and the beauties--the fruitfulsoil, the sun-kissed grassy slopes, the alluring blue mountains. Andthe dream was associated with the child; the dreamer, the dream, andthe child, were as one, for had not the child brought to the dreamerhis first knowledge of this smiling land?

So Wingate remained after the boom bubble broke, encouraging the fewsturdy farmers who clung with fondness to the valley. Even when one byone the houses, all but those belonging to the town company, were torndown and borne away, the dream was not shattered. The dreamer becamethe agent of the company, charged with the care of the remaininghouses until the dream should reach again toward fulfillment.

While he waited, the dreamer pictured the joy and devotion with whichhe would minister to the spiritual needs of the new people, who wouldlove him he knew even as he should love them. And thus waiting, hemoved the rounds of his simple life, in the midst of the few, whorewarded his love and zeal with ever-renewed devotion. Even those whocared nothing for religion cared for the religious teacher, and cameregularly to hear him preach.

They could not give much to his support; they had not much themselves,but he needed so very little. He had his small stipend from themissionary organization of his denomination, the garden he tended onthe low land by the stream yielded well in the favorable seasons, andthe missionary barrel filled with clothing which some worthy ladieshad sent him from the East two years before had held such a goodlystore of cast-off garments that neither he nor the child, a stout boynow, had required anything in that line since. The shiny, long-tailedcoat which he kept so scrupulously clean and which was a world toolarge for him, and the tight-fitting, ink-spattered sailor suit whichthe boy wore, had come from the depths of that barrel, which seemed asmiraculous in its way as the widow's cruse of oil.

And now, when he had seen no stranger in Paradise for months, and nonew face except when he journeyed once a week to preach in the littlerailroad town at the base of the mountain, there had come thispleasant-voiced man, who spoke well of the prophetic sermon and seemedable to appreciate the promise and future of the land.

When Curtis Clayton returned from his ride night had fallen. The MilkyWay had stretched its shining trail across the prairies of the sky,and the Dipper was pouring the clouds out of its great bowl andshaking them from its handle.

Clayton sat looking at the night sky, and as he sat thus the boy cameout to put away his horse. Within the house, Wingate, busy with coffeepot and frying pan, directed him to the room he was to occupy, andannounced that supper would be ready soon.

At the end of fifteen minutes the boy tapped on Clayton's door. Thelatch had not caught, and the door flew open. The boy stood inhesitation, looking into the little room, wondering if he hadoffended. What he beheld puzzled him. Clayton had been burning lettersin the tiny stove; and beside the lamp on the little table, withscorched edges still smoking, stood the photograph of a beautifulwoman. Clayton had evidently committed it to the flames, and thenrelenting had drawn it back. Turning quickly now, when he heard thedoor moving on its hinges, he caught up the photograph and thrust ithastily into an inner pocket of his coat, but not before the boy hadbeen given a clear view of the pictured face.

Wingate talked of his dream, when grace had been said and the supperwas being eaten. The boy thought of the burned letters and of thescorched photograph showing that alluringly beautiful face, andwondered blindly. He saw that the stranger was not listening to thetalk of the minister; and observed, too, what the dreamer did not,that the stranger ate very little, and without apparent relish. Thoughhe could not define it, and did not at all understand it, something inthe man's face and manner moved him to sympathy.

For that reason, when, after supper, the minister had talked to theend of his dream and was about to begin all over again, the boyslipped away, and returning put a small book into the stranger'shands. Clayton stared at it, then looked up, and for the first timesaw the boy. He had already seen a face and form and a sailor suit,but not the boy. Now he looked into the clear open blue eyes, set inan attractive, wind-tanned face. His features lost their grim sadnessand he smiled.

”Your son?” he said, speaking to Wingate.

The dreamer showed surprise. He had already spoken to this man of theboy.

”My adopted son, but a real son to me in all but the ties of blood.”

The boy drew open the little Bible he had placed in Clayton's hands.Some writing showed on the fly-leaf. The boy's fore-finger fell on thewriting.

”My very own mother wrote those words, and my name there--Justin,” heannounced, reverently.

Clayton looked at the writing, and then again at the boy. The recordon the fly-leaf was but a simple memorandum, in faded ink:

”Justin, my baby boy, is now six months old. May God bless andpreserve him and may he become a good man.”

A date showed, in addition to this, but that was all; not even themother's name was signed.

”This was in it, too; it is my hair.”

The boy pulled the book open at another place and extracted a brownwisp.

”We think it is his hair,” said Wingate. ”It was found beside thewriting on the fly-leaf.”

Then while the boy crowded close against Clayton's knees, and Claytonsat holding the open Bible in his hands, Wingate told the story ofthis child, who now bore the name of Justin Wingate.

”The young fellow who brought him to me said there were some papers,which he had left behind, having forgotten them when he set out, andthat he would fetch them later. But he never came again,--he was onlya boy, and boys forget--and I even failed to get his name, beingsomewhat excited at the time, because of the strange charge given tome, a bachelor minister.”

Clayton read the words over slowly, and looked intently at the boy.

”It is a good name,” he said at length.

The boy took the book and placed the wisp of hair carefully betweenthe pages as he closed it. He was still standing close against theknees of this man, as if he desired to help or comfort him, or longedfor a little of the real father love he had never known. But Clayton,after that simple statement, dropped into silence. This absence ofspeech was not observed by Wingate, who had found in the story of theboy an opportunity to take up again the narrative of his introductionto Paradise and his life there since. Yet the boy noticed. His faceflushed slowly; and when Clayton still remained mute and unresponsive,he slipped away, with a choke in his throat.

Shortly afterward he said good night to the visitor, kissed thedreamer on his bearded cheek, and with the Bible still in his handscrept away to bed. Wingate sat up until a late hour, talking of hisdream, receiving now and then a monosyllabic assent to some propheticstatement. Having started at last to his room Clayton hesitated on thethreshold and turned back.

”As you are the agent of the town company you could let one of thosehouses, I suppose?” was his unexpected inquiry.

The face of the dreamer flushed with pleasure.

”Most assuredly.”

”Then you may consider one of them rented--to me; it doesn't matterwhich one. I think I should like to stop here awhile.”

It was one o'clock and the Sabbath was past. Wingate, his dream morevivid than it had been for months, sat down at his little writingdesk, and in a fever of renewed hope began to pen a letter to the towncompany, announcing the letting of a house and prophesying an earlyrevival of the boom.


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