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     Brand Blotters

       William MacLeod Raine / Western
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Brand Blotters
Produced by Roger Frank and the Online DistributedProofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net



”WHO ARE YOU?” ”WATER!” HE GASPED. Page 20.]

BRAND BLOTTERS

By

WILLIAM MacLEOD RAINE

Author Of

Wyoming, Bucky O'Connor, Mavericks,A Texas Ranger, Ridgway Of Montana, Etc.

Illustrations By

CLARENCE ROWE

Grosset & Dunlap

Publishers New York

Made in the United States of America

Copyright, 1909, by J. B. Lippincott Co.

Copyright, 1911, by Street & Smith

Copyright, 1912, by G. W. DILLINGHAM COMPANY

Brand Blotters

TOFRANK N. SPINDLER

In Memory of Certain Sunday Afternoon TrampsLong Ago, During Which We Solved theProblems of the Nation

CONTENTS

PART I

MELISSY OF THE BAR DOUBLE G

CHAPTER PAGE I A Crossed Trail 11 II Brand Blotting 18 III An Accusation 35 IV The Man with the Chihuahua Hat 49 V The Tenderfoot Takes up a Claim 61 VI ”Hands Up” 75 VII Watering Sheep 98 VIII The Boone-Bellamy Feud is Renewed 109 IX The Danger Line 121 X Jack Goes to the Head of the Class 141 XI A Conversation 156 XII The Tenderfoot Makes a Proposition 163 XIII Old Acquaintances 182 XIV Concerning the Boone-Bellamy-Yarnell Feud 191

PART II

DEAD MAN'S CACHE

CHAPTER PAGE I Kidnapped 199 II A Capture 209 III The Tables Turned 217 IV The Real Bucky and the False 231 V A Photograph 243 VI In Dead Man's Cache 255 VII ”Trapped!” 266 VIII An Escape and a Capture 276 IX A Bargain 286 X The Price 301 XI Squire Latimer Takes a Hand 306 XII The Taking of the Cache 322 XIII Melissy Entertains 334 XIV Black MacQueen Cashes his Checks 340

PART I

MELISSY OF THE BAR DOUBLE G

CHAPTER I

A CROSSED TRAIL

The tenderfoot rose from the ledge upon which he had been lying andstretched himself stiffly. The chill of the long night had set himshivering. His bones ached from the pressure of his body upon the rockwhere he had slept and waked and dozed again with troubled dreams. Thesharpness of his hunger made him light-headed. Thirst tortured him. Histhroat was a lime-kiln, his tongue swollen till it filled his mouth.

If the night had been bad, he knew the day would be a hundred times worse.Already a gray light was sifting into the hollow of the sky. The vaguemisty outlines of the mountains were growing sharper. Soon from a crotchof them would rise a red hot cannon ball to pour its heat into the parcheddesert.

He was headed for the Sonora line, for the hills where he had heard a manmight drop out of sight of the civilization that had once known him. Therewere reasons why he had started in a hurry, without a horse or food or acanteen, and these same reasons held good why he could not follow beatentracks. All yesterday he had traveled without sighting a ranch or meetinga human being. But he knew he must get to water soon--if he were to reachit at all.

A light breeze was stirring, and on it there was borne to him a faintrumble as of thunder. Instantly the man came to a rigid alertness. Thundermight mean rain, and rain would be salvation. But the sound did not dieaway. Instead, it deepened to a steady roar, growing every instant louder.His startled glance swept the canyon that drove like a sword cleft into thehills. Pouring down it, with the rush of a tidal wave, came a wall ofcattle, a thousand backs tossing up and down as the swell of a troubledsea. Though he had never seen one before, the man on the lip of the gulchknew that he was watching a cattle stampede. Under the impact of thegalloping hoofs the ground upon which he stood quaked.

A cry diverted his attention. From the bed of the sandy wash a man hadstarted up and was running for his life toward the canyon walls. Before hehad taken half a dozen steps the avalanche was upon him, had cut him down,swept over him.

The thud of the hoofs died away. Into the open desert the stampede hadpassed. A huddled mass lay motionless on the sand in the track of theavalanche.

A long ragged breath whistled through the closed lips of the tenderfoot.He ran along the edge of the rock wall till he found a descent less sharp,lowered himself by means of jutting quartz and mesquit cropping out fromthe crevices, and so came through a little draw to the canyon.

He dropped on a knee beside the sprawling, huddled figure. No secondglance was needed to see that the man was dead. Life had been trampled outof him almost instantly and his features battered beyond any possiblerecognition. Unused to scenes of violence, the stranger stooping over himfelt suddenly sick. It made him shudder to remember that if he could havefound a way down in the darkness he, too, would have slept in the warmsand of the dry wash. If he had, the fate of this man would have beenhis.

Under the doubled body was a canteen. The trembling fingers of thetenderfoot unscrewed the cork. Tipping the vessel, he drank avidly. Oneswallow, a second, then a few trickling drops. The canteen had been almostempty.

Uncovering, he stood bareheaded before the inert body and spoke gently inthe low, soft voice one instinctively uses in the presence of the dead.

”Friend, I couldn't save your life, but your water has saved mine, Ireckon. Anyhow, it gives me another chance to fight for it. I wish I coulddo something for you ... carry a message to your folks and tell them howit happened.”

He dropped down again beside the dead man and rifled the pockets. In themhe found two letters addressed in an illiterate hand to James Diller,Cananea, Sonora, Mexico. An idea flashed into his brain and for a momentheld him motionless while he worked it out. Why not? This man was abouthis size, dressed much like him, and so mutilated that identification wasimpossible.

From his own pocket he took a leather bill book and a monogrammedcigarcase. With a sharp stone he scarred the former. The metal case hecrushed out of shape beneath the heel of his boot. Having first taken onetwenty dollar yellowback from the well-padded book, he slipped it and thecigarcase into the inner coat pocket of the dead man. Irregularly in adozen places he gashed with his knife the derby hat he was wearing, rippedthe band half loose, dragged it in the dust, and jumped on it till the hatwas flat as a pancake. Finally he kicked it into the sand a dozen yardsaway.

”The cattle would get it tangled in their hoofs and drag it that far withthem,” he surmised.

The soft gray hat of the dead man he himself appropriated. Again he spoketo the lifeless body, lowering his voice to a murmur.

”I reckon you wouldn't grudge me this if you knew. I'm up against it. If Iget out of these hills alive I'll be lucky. But if I do--well, it won't doyou any harm to be mistaken for me, and it will accommodate me mightily. Ihate to leave you here alone, but it's what I've got to do to savemyself.”

He turned away and plodded up the dry creek bed.

* * * * *

The sun was at the meridian when three heavily armed riders drew up at themouth of the canyon. They fell into the restful, negligent postures ofhorsemen accustomed to take their ease in the saddle.

”Do you figure maybe he's working up to the headwaters of Dry Sandy?” onesuggested.

A squat, bandy-legged man with a face of tanned leather presentlyanswered. ”No, Tim, I expect not. The way I size him up Mr. RichardBellamy wouldn't know Dry Sandy from an irrigation ditch. Mr. R. B. hopeshe's hittin' the high spots for Sonora, but he ain't anyways sure. Rightabout now he's ridin' the grub line, unless he's made a strikesomewhere.”

The third member of the party, a lean, wide-shouldered, sinewy youth, bluesilk kerchief knotted loosely around his neck, broke in with a gesturethat swept the sky. ”Funny about all them buzzards. What are they doinghere, sheriff?”

The squat man opened his mouth to answer, but Tim took the word out of hismouth.

”Look!” His arm had shot straight out toward the canyon. A coyote wasdisappearing on the lope. ”Something lying there in the wash at the bend,Burke.”

Sheriff Burke slid his rifle from its scabbard. ”We'll not take anychances, boys. Spread out far as you can. Tim, ride close to the leftwall. You keep along the right one, Flatray. Me, I'll take the center.That's right.”

They rode forward cautiously. Once Flatray spoke.

”By the tracks there has been a lot of cattle down here on the jumprecently.”

”That's what,” Tim agreed.

Flatray swung from his saddle and stooped over the body lying at the bendof the wash.

”Crushed to death in a cattle stampede, looks like,” he called to thesheriff.

”Search him, Jack,” the sheriff ordered.

The young man gave an exclamation of surprise. He was standing with acigarcase in one hand and a billbook in the other. ”It's the man we'reafter--it's Bellamy.”

Burke left his horse and came forward. ”How do you know?”

”Initials on the cigarcase, R. B. Same monogram on the billbook.”

The sheriff had stooped to pick up a battered hat as he moved toward thedeputy. Now he showed the initials stamped on the sweat band. ”R. B. here,too.”

”Suit of gray clothes, derby hat, size and weight about medium. We'llnever know about the scar on the eyebrow, but I guess Mr. Bellamy isidentified without that.”

”Must have camped here last night and while he was asleep the cattlestampeded down the canyon,” Tim hazarded.

”That guess is as good as any. They ce'tainly stomped the life out of himthorough. Anyhow, Bellamy has met up with his punishment. We'll have topack the body back to town, boys,” the sheriff told them.

Half an hour later the party filed out to the creosote flats and struckacross country toward Mesa. Flatray was riding pillion behind Tim. His ownhorse was being used as a pack saddle.


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