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     The Highgrader, p.1

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

KILMENY'S ALERT EYES SWEPT AGAIN AND AGAIN THE TRAILLEADING UP THE GULCH. HE DID NOT INTEND TO BE CAUGHT NAPPING BY THEOFFICERS. Frontispiece (p. 67)]

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THE HIGHGRADER

BY

WILLIAM MacLEOD RAINE

Author of ”Wyoming,” ”Ridgway of Montana,” ”Bucky O'Connor,” ”A TexasRanger,” ”Mavericks,” ”Brand Blotters,” ”Crooked Trails and Straight,””The Vision Splendid,” ”The Pirate of Panama,” ”A Daughter of the Dons,”Etc.

Illustrations ByD. C. HUTCHISON

G. W. DILLINGHAM COMPANYPublishers New York

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Copyright, 1915, byG. W. DILLINGHAM COMPANY

The Highgrader

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CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I. The Campers 11 II. Mr. Verinder Complains 18 III. Night Fishing 28 IV. Fugitives From Justice 44 V. ”I'm Here, Neighbor” 56 VI. Lord Farquhar Gives Moya A Hint 71 VII. Moya's Highwayman 84 VIII. The Bad Penny Again 102 IX. ”An Out and Out Rotter” 113 X. Old Friends 123 XI. A Blizzard 141 XII. Out of the Storm a Man 157 XIII. Shot To the Core With Sunlight 170 XIV. ”Prove It!... Prove It!” 180 XV. A Highgrader--In Principle 189 XVI. One Maid--Two Men 201 XVII. A Warning 218 XVIII. Two Ambushes 237 XIX. Mr. Verinder Is Treated To A Surprise 243 XX. Colter Takes A Hand 250 XXI. Spirit Rapping? 264 XXII. The Acid Test 274 XXIII. Captain Kilmeny Retires 284 XXIV. Two In A Bucket 291 XXV. Homing Hearts 309

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ILLUSTRATIONS PAGE

Kilmeny's alert eyes swept again and again the trailleading up the gulch. He did not intend to be caughtnapping by the officers _Frontispiece_ 67

”He's hooked pretty fast. Take your time about gettinghim into your net. These big fellows are likely to squirmaway” 33

They rode through a world shot to the core with sunlight.The snow sparkled and gleamed with it 177

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THE HIGHGRADER

PRELUDE

A young idealist, _aetat_ four, was selling stars to put in the sky. Shehad cut them with her own scissors out of red tissue paper, so that shewas able to give a guarantee.

”But you'll have to get the ladder out of our bedroom to put 'em upwiv,” she told purchasers honestly.

The child was a wild dark creature, slim and elfish, with a queer littlesmile that flashed sudden as an April sun.

It was evening, on the promenade deck of an ocean liner. The sea waslike glass and the swell hardly perceptible. Land was in sight, a vagueuneven line rising mist-like on the horizon. Before morning the_Victorian_ would be running up the St. Lawrence. Even for the mostsqueamish the discomforts of the voyage lay behind. A pleasant goodfellowship was in the air. In some it took the form of an idlecontentment, a vague regret that ties newly formed must so soon bebroken. In others it found an expression more buoyant. Merry voices ofshuffleboard players drifted forward. Young couples paced the deck andleaned over the rail to watch the phosphorescent glow. The open windowsof the smoking-room gave forth the tinkle of glasses and the low rattleof chips. All sounds blended into a mellow harmony.

”What's your price on a whole constellation with a lovers' moon thrownin?” inquired a young man lounging in a deck chair.

The vendor of stars looked at him in her direct serious fashion. ”I finkI tan't sell you all 'at, but I'll make you a moon to go wiv thestars--not a weally twuly one, jus' a make-believe moon,” she added in awhisper.

An irritated voice made itself heard. ”Steward, have you seen that childanywhere? The naughty little brat has run away again--and I left heronly a minute.”

The dealer in celestial supplies came to earth.

”I'm goin' to be smacked,” she announced with grave conviction.

An unvoiced conspiracy formed itself instantly in her behalf. A lady ina steamer chair gathered the child under the shelter of her rug. Aneight-year-old youngster knotted his fists valiantly. The young man whohad priced a constellation considered the chances of a cutting-outexpedition.

”She should have been in bed long ago. I just stepped out to speak toour room steward and when I came back she was gone,” the annoyedgoverness was explaining.

Discovery was imminent. The victim prepared herself for the worst.

”I don't care,” she protested to her protector. ”It's ever so nicer tostay up, an' if it wasn't runnin' away it would be somefing else.”

At this bit of philosophy the lounger chuckled, rose swiftly, andintercepted the dragon.

”When do I get that walk you promised me, Miss Lupton? What's the matterwith right now?”

The governess was surprised, since it was the first she had heard of anywalk. Flattered she was, but still faithful to duty.

”I'm looking for Moya. She knows she must always go to her room aftertea and stay there. The naughty child ran away.”

”She's all right. I saw her snuggled under a rug with Mrs. Curtis nottwo minutes ago. Just a turn or two in this lovely night.”

Drawn by the magnet of his manhood, Moya slipped into the chair besidethe eight-year-old.

”I'd kick her darned shins if she spanked me,” boasted he of the eightyears.

Moya admired his courage tremendously. Her dark eyes followed theretreating figure of her governess. ”I'm 'fraid.”

”Hm! Bet I wouldn't be. Course, you're only a girl.”

His companion pleaded guilty with a sigh and slipped her hand into hisbeneath the steamer rug.

”It's howwid to be a dirl,” she confided.

”Bet I wouldn't be one.”

”You talk so funny.”

”Don't either. I'm a Namerican. Tha's how we all talk.”

”I'm Irish. Mith Lupton says 'at's why I'm so naughty,” the sinnerconfessed complacently.

Confidences were exchanged. Moya explained that she was a norphan andhad nobody but a man called Guardy, and he was not her very own. Shelived in Sussex and had a Shetland pony. Mith Lupton was horrid and wasalways smacking her. When she said her prayers she always said in softto herself, ”But pleathe, God, don't bless Mith Lupton.” They weretaking a sea voyage for Moya's health, and she had been seasick just theteentiest weentiest bit. Jack on his part could proudly affirm that hehad not missed a meal. He lived in Colorado on a ranch with his father,who had just taken him to England and Ireland to visit his folks. Hedidn't like England one little bit, and he had told his cousin Ned soand they had had a fight. As he was proceeding to tell details MissLupton returned from her stroll.

She brought Moya to her feet with a jerk. ”My goodness! Who will youpick up next? Now walk along to your room, missie.”

”Yes, Mith Lupton.”

”Haven't I told you not to talk to strangers?”

”He isn't stwanger. He's Jack,” announced Moya stanchly.

”I'll teach you to run away as soon as my back is turned. You shouldhave been in bed an hour ago.”

”I tan't unbutton myself.”

”A likely reason. Move along, now.”

Having been remiss in her duty, Miss Lupton was salving her conscienceby being extra severe now. She hurried her charge away.

Suddenly Moya stopped. ”Pleathe, my han'erchif.”

”Have you lost it? Where is it?”

”I had it in the chair.”

”Then run back and get it.”

Moya's thin white legs flashed along the deck. Like a small hurricaneshe descended upon the boy. Her arms went around his neck and for aninstant he was smothered in her embrace, dark ringlets flying about hisfair head.

”Dood-night, Jack.”

A kiss fell helter-skelter on his cheek and she was gone, tugging alittle handkerchief from her pocket as she ran.

The boy did not see her again. Before she was up he and his father leftthe boat at Quebec. Jack wondered whether she had been smacked, afterall. Once or twice during the day he thought of her, but the excitementof new sights effaced from his mind the first romance his life hadknown.

But for nearly a week Moya added a codicil silently to her prayer. ”And,God, pleathe bless Jack.”


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