Steve yeager, p.1
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       Steve Yeager, p.1

           William MacLeod Raine
 
Steve Yeager


  Produced by Roger Frank and the Distributed ProofreadingTeam at https://www.pgdp.net

  STEVE YEAGERBYWILLIAM MACLEOD RAINE

  NEW YORKGROSSET & DUNLAPPUBLISHERS

  Made in the United States of America

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  COPYRIGHT, 1915, BY WILLIAM MACLEOD RAINEALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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  RUTH]

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  Contents

  I STEVE MAKES A MISTAKE 1 II "ENOUGH'S A-PLENTY" 10 III CHAD HARRISON 25 IV THE EXTRA 33 V YEAGER ASKS ADVICE 42 VI PLUCKING A PIGEON 56 VII STEVE TELLS TOO MUCH TRUTH 71 VIII THE HEAVY GETS HIS TIME 79 IX GABRIEL PASQUALE 86 X A NIGHT VISIT 96 XI CHAD DECIDES TO GET BUSY 112 XII INTO THE DESERT 121 XIII THE NIGHT TRAIL 131 XIV THE CAVE MEN 140 XV STEVE WINS A HAM SANDWICH 153 XVI THE HEAVY PAYS A DEBT 166 XVII PEDRO CABENZA 175 XVIII HARRISON OVERPLAYS HIS HAND 181 XIX THE TEXAN 194 XX NEAR THE END OF HIS TRAIL 207 XXI A STAGE PREPARED FOR TRAGEDY 216 XXII A CONSPIRACY 223 XXIII TRAPPED 229 XXIV THE PRISONER 247 XXV THE TEXAN TAKES A LONG JOURNEY 257 XXVI AT SUNSET 266 XXVII CULVERA RECONSIDERS 274XXVIII AS LONG AS LIFE 284

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  STEVE YEAGER

  CHAPTER I

  STEVE MAKES A MISTAKE

  Steve Yeager held his bronco to a Spanish trot. Somewhere in front ofhim, among the brown hill swells that rose and fell like waves of thesea, lay Los Robles and breakfast. One solitary silver dollar, toolonesome even to jingle, lay in his flatulent trouser pocket. After heand Four Bits had eaten, two quarters would take the place of the bigcartwheel. Then would come dinner, a second transfer of capital, and hispocket would be empty as a cow's stomach after a long drive.

  Being dead broke, according to the viewpoint of S. Yeager, is right andfitting after a jaunt to town when one has a good job back in the hills.But it happened he had no more job than a rabbit. Wherefore, to keep uphis spirits he chanted the endless metrical version of the adventures ofSam Bass, who

  "... started out to Texas a cowboy for to be, And a kinder-hearted fellow you scarcely ever'd see."

  Steve had not quit his job. It had quit him. A few years earlier theLone Star Cattle Company had reigned supreme in Dry Sandy Valley andthe territory tributary thereto. Its riders had been kings of the range.That was before the tide of settlement had spilled into the valley,before nesters had driven in their prairie schooners, homesteaded thewater-holes, and strung barb-wire fences across the range. Line-ridersand dry farmers and irrigators had pushed the cowpuncher to one side.Sheep had come bleating across the desert to wage war upon the cattle.Finally Uncle Sam had sliced off most of the acreage still left andcalled it a forest reserve.

  Wherefore the Lone Star outfit had thrown up its hands, sold itsholdings, and moved to Los Angeles to live. Wherefore also Steve Yeager,who did not know Darwin from a carburetor, had by process of evolutionbeen squeezed out of the occupation he had followed all of histwenty-three years since he could hang on to a saddle-horn. He hadmournfully foreseen the end when the schoolhouse was built on Pine Knoband little folks went down the road with their arms twined around thewaist of teacher. After grizzled Tim Sawyer made bowlegged tracksstraight for that schoolmarm and matrimony, his friends realized thatthe joyous whoop of the puncher would not much longer be heard in theland. The range-rider must dwindle to a farmer or get off the earth.Steve was getting off the earth.

  Since Steve was of the sunburnt State, still a boy, and by temperamentincurably optimistic, he sang cheerfully. He wanted to forget that hehad eaten neither supper nor breakfast. So he carried Mr. Bass throughmany adventures till that genial bandit

  "... sold out at Custer City and there got on a spree, And a tougher lot of cowboys you never'd hope to see."

  Four Bits had topped a rise and followed the road down in its windingdescent. After the nomadic fashion of Arizona the trail circled around atongue of a foothill which here jutted out. Voices from just beyond thebend startled Yeager. One of them was raised impatiently.

  "Won't do, Harrison. Be rougher. Throw her on her knees and tie herhands."

  The itinerant road brought Steve in another moment within view. He saw agirl picking poppies. Two men rode up and swung from their saddles. Theytalked with her threateningly. She shrank back in fear. One of themseized her wrists and threw her down.

  "Lively, now. Into the pit with her. Get the stuff across," urged ashort fat man with a cigar in his mouth who was standing ten or fifteenyards back from the scene of action.

  Steve had put his horse at a gallop the moment the girl had been seized.It struck him there was something queer about the affair,--somethingnot quite natural to which he could not put a name. But he did not stopto reason out the situation. Dragging his pony to a slithering halt, heleaped to the ground.

  "Get busy, Jackson. You ain't in a restaurant waiting for a meal," thelittle fat man reminded one of his tools irritably. Then, as he caughtsight of Steve, "What the hell!"

  Yeager's left shot forward, all the weight and muscle of one hundred andseventy pounds of live cowpuncher behind it. Villain Number One went tothe ground as if a battering-ram had hit him between the eyes.

  "Lay hands on a lady, will you?"

  Steve turned to Villain Number Two, who backed away rapidly in alarm.

  "What's eatin' you? We ain't hurtin' her any, you mutt."

  The girl, still crouched on the ground, turned with a nervous littlelaugh to the man who had been directing operations:--

  "What d'you know about that, Billie? The rube swallowed it all. Yougotta raise my salary."

  The cowpuncher felt in the pit of his stomach the same sensation he hadknown when an elevator in Denver had dropped beneath his feet toosuddenly. The young woman was rouged and painted to the ears. Never inits palmiest days had the 'Dobe Dollar's mirrors reflected a costumemore gaudy than the one she was wearing. The men too were painted anddolled up extravagantly in vaqueros' costumes that were the limit ofabsurdity. Had they all escaped from a madhouse? Or was he, SteveYeager, in a pipe-dream?

  From a near grove of cottonwoods half a dozen men in chaps came running.Assured of their proximity, the fat little fellow pawed the air withrage.

  "Ever see such rotten luck? Spoiled the whole scene. Say, you Rip VanWinkle, think we came out here for the ozone?"

  One of the men joined the young woman, who was assisting the villainYeager had knocked out. The others crowded around him in excitement, allexpostulating at once. They were dressed wonderfully and amazingly ascowpunchers, but they were painted frauds in spite of the carefulostentation of their costumes. Steve's shiny leathers and dusty hatmissed the picturesque, but he looked indigenous and they did not. Hewas at his restful ease, this slender, brown man, negligent, careless,eyes twinkling but alert. The brand of the West was stamped indelibly onhim.

  "I ce'tainly must 'a' spilled the beans. Looks like I done barked upthe wrong tree," he drawled amiably.

  A man who had been standing on a box behind some kind of a maskedbattery jumped down and
joined the group.

  "Gee! I've got a bully picture of our anxious friend laying outHarrison. Nothing phony about that, Threewit. Won't go in this reel, butshe'll make a humdinger in some other. Say, didn't Harrison hit the dustfine! Funny you lads can't ever pull off a fall like that."

  An annoyed voice, both raucous and sneering, interrupted his enthusiasm."Just stick around, Mr. Camera Man, and you'll get a chance to doanother bit of real life that ain't faked. I'm goin' to hammer the headoff Buttinski presently."

  The camera man, an alert, boyish fellow as thin as a lath, turned andgrinned. Harrison was sitting up a little unsteadily. Burning blackeyes, set in sockets of extraordinary depths, blazed from a facesinister enough to justify Steve's impression of him as a villain. Theshoulders of the man were very broad and set with the gorilla hunch; hewas deep-chested and lean-loined. His eyes shifted with a quick, furtivemenace. His companions might be imitation cowpunchers, but if Yeager wasany judge this was no imitation bad man.

  "Going to eat him alive, are you?" the camera man wanted to knowpleasantly.

  Steve pushed through to Harrison. A whimsical little smile of apologycrinkled the boyish face.

  "It's on me, compadre. I'm a rube, and anything else you like. And Isure am sorry for going off half-cocked."

  A wintry frost was in the jet bead eyes that looked up at the puncher.The sitting man did not recognize the extended hand.

  "You'll be a heap sorrier before I'm through with you," he growled. "I'mgoin' to beat your head off and learn you to mind your own business."

  "Interesting if true," retorted Steve lightly. "And maybeso you'reright. A man can't always most likely tell. Take a watermelon now. Youcan't tell how good it is till you thump it. Same way with a man, I'veheard say."

  He turned to the young woman, whose bright brown eyes were lingeringupon him curiously. This was no novel experience to him. He wore hissplendid youth so jauntily and yet so casually that the gaze of a girlwas likely to be drawn in his direction a second and a third time. Inspite of his youthfulness there was in his face a certainsun-and-wind-bitten maturity, a steadiness of the quiet eye thatpromised efficiency. The film actress sensed the same competentstrength in the brown, untorn hand that assisted her to rise to herfeet. His friendly smile showed the flash of white, regular teeth.

  "The rube apologizes, ma'am. He's just in from Cactus Center and neverdid see one of those moving-picture outfits before. Thirty-eleven thingswere in sight as I happened round that bend, but the only one I glimmedwas you being mistreated. Corking chance for a grandstand play. So Isailed in pronto. 'Course I should've known better, but I didn't."

  Maisie Winters was the name of the young woman. She played the leads inone of the Southwest companies of the Lunar Film Manufacturers. Hercharming face was known and liked on the screens of several continents.Now it broke into lines of mischievous amusement.

  "I don't mind if Mr. Harrison doesn't." She flashed a gay, inquiringlook toward that discomfited villain, who was leaning for support on hisaccomplice Jackson and glaring at Yeager. Impudently she tilted her chinback toward the puncher. "Are you always so--so impetuous? If so,there's a fortune waiting for you in the moving-picture field."

  Yeager did not object to having so attractive a young woman as this onepoke fun at him. He grinned joyfully.

  "Me! I'm open to an engagement, ma'am."

  The short fat man whom Maisie Winters had called Billie looked sharplyat the cowpuncher out of shrewd gray eyes.

  "Where you been working?" he demanded abruptly.

  "With the Lone Star outfit."

  "Get fired?"

  "Company gone out of business--country getting too popular, what withhomesteaders, forest rangers, and Mary's little lamb," explained Steve.

  "Hm! Can you ride a bucker?"

  "I can pull leather and kinder stick on."

  "I'll try you out for a week at two-fifty a day if you like."

  "You've hired Steve Yeager," promptly announced the owner of that name.

 
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