A texas ranger, p.18
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       A Texas Ranger, p.18

           William MacLeod Raine
 
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

  CHAPTER V -- JED BRISCOE TAKES A HAND

  Suddenly a footfall, and a voice:

  "Hello, Arlie! I been looking for you everywhere."

  The Texan's gaze took in a slim dark man, goodlooking after a fashion,but with dissipation written on the rather sullen face.

  "Well, you've found me," the girl answered coolly.

  "Yes, I've found you," the man answered, with a steady, watchful eye onthe Texan.

  Miss Dillon was embarrassed at this plain hostility, but indignation toosparkled in her eye. "Anything in particular you want?"

  The newcomer ignored her question. His hard gaze challenged theSoutherner; did more than challenge--weighed and condemned.

  But this young woman was not used to being ignored. Her voice took on anedge of sharpness.

  "What can I do for you, Jed?"

  "Who's your friend?" the man demanded bluntly, insolently.

  Arlie's flush showed the swift, upblazing resentment she immediatelycontrolled. "Mr. Fraser--just arrived from Texas. Mr. Fraser, let meintroduce to you Mr. Briscoe."

  The Texan stepped forward to offer his hand, but Briscoe deliberatelyput both of his behind him.

  "Might I ask what Mr. Fraser, just arrived from Texas, is doing here?"the young man drawled, contriving to make an insult of every syllable.

  The girl's eyes flashed dangerously. "He is here as my guest."

  "Oh, as your guest!"

  "Doesn't it please you, Jed?"

  "Have I said it didn't please me?" he retorted smoothly.

  "Your looks say it."

  He let out a sudden furious oath. "Then my looks don't lie any."

  Fraser was stepping forward, but with a gesture Arlie held him back.This was her battle, not his.

  "What have you got to say about it?" she demanded.

  "You had no right to bring him here. Who is he anyhow?"

  "I think that is his business, and mine."

  "I make it mine," he declared hotly. "I've heard about this fellowfrom your father. You met up with him on the trail. He says his name isFraser. You don't even know whether that is true. He may be a spy. Howdo you know he ain't?"

  "How do I know you aren't?" she countered swiftly.

  "You've known me all my life. Did you ever see him before?"

  "Never."

  "Well, then!"

  "He risked his life to save ours."

  "Risked nothing! It was a trick, I tell you."

  "It makes no difference to me what you tell me. Your opinion can'taffect mine."

  "You know the feeling of the valley just now about strangers," saidBriscoe sullenly.

  "It depends on who the stranger is."

  "Well, I object to this one."

  "So it seems; but I don't know any law that makes me do whatever youwant me to." Her voice, low and clear, cut like a whiplash.

  Beneath the dust of travel the young man's face burned with anger."We're not discussing that just now. What I say is that you had no rightto bring him here--not now, especially. You know why," he added, almostin a whisper.

  "If you had waited and not attempted to brow-beat me, I would have shownyou that that is the very reason I had to bring him."

  "How do you mean?"

  "Never mind what I mean. You have insulted my friend, and through him,me. That is enough for one day." She turned from him haughtily and spoketo the Texan. "If you are ready, Mr. Fraser, we'll be going now."

  The ranger, whose fingers had been itching to get at the throat of thisinsolent young man, turned without a word and obediently brought thegirl's pony, then helped her to mount. Briscoe glared, in a silenttempest of passion.

  "I think I have left a glove and my anemones where we were sitting," thegirl said sweetly to the Texan.

  Fraser found them, tightened the saddle girth, and mounted Teddy. Asthey cantered away, Arlie called to him to look at the sunset behind themountains.

  From the moment of her dismissal of Briscoe the girl had apparently puthim out of her thoughts. No fine lady of the courts could have done itwith more disdainful ease. And the Texan, following her lead, played hispart in the little comedy, ignoring the other man as completely as shedid.

  The young cattleman, furious, his teeth set in impotent rage, watchedit all with the lust to kill in his heart. When they had gone, he flunghimself into the saddle and rode away in a tumultuous fury.

  Before they had covered two hundred yards Arlie turned to her companion,all contrition. "There! I've done it again. My fits of passion arealways getting me into trouble. This time one of them has given you anenemy, and a bad one, too."

  "No. He would have been my enemy no matter what you said. Soon as heput his eyes on me, I knew it."

  "Because I brought you here, you mean?"

  "I don't mean only that. Some folks are born to be enemies, just as someare born to be friends. They've only got to look in each other's eyesonce to know it."

  "That's strange. I never heard anybody else say that. Do you really meanit?"

  "Yes."

  "And did you ever have such an enemy before? Don't answer me if Ioughtn't to ask that," she added quickly.

  "Yes."

  "Where?"

  "In Texas. Why, here we are at a ranch!"

  "Yes. It's ours, and yours as long as you want to stay. Did you feelthat you were enemies the moment you saw this man in Texas?"

  "I knew we were going to have trouble as soon as we looked at eachother. I had no feeling toward him, but he had toward me."

  "And did you have trouble?"

  "Some, before I landed him. The way it turned out he had most of it."

  She glanced quickly at him. "What do you mean by 'landed'?"

  "I am an officer in the Texas Rangers."

  "What are they? Something like our forest rangers?"

  "No. The duty of a Texas Ranger is to enforce the law againstdesperadoes. We prevent crime if we can. When we can't do that, we huntdown the criminals."

  Arlie looked at him in a startled silence.

  "You are an officer of the law--a sort of sheriff?" she said, at last.

  "Yes, in Texas. This is Wyoming." He made his distinction, knowing itwas a false one. Somehow he had the feeling of a whipped cur.

  "I wish I had known. If you had only told me earlier," she said, so lowas to be almost a whisper.

  "I'm sorry. If you like, I'll go away again," he offered.

  "No, no. I'm only thinking that it gives Jed a hold, gives him somethingto stir up his friends with, you know. That is, it would if he knew. Hemustn't find out."

  "Be frank. Don't make any secret of it. That's the best way," headvised.

  She shook her head. "You don't know Jed's crowd. They'd be suspicious ofany officer, no matter where he came from."

  "Far as I can make out, that young man is going to be loaded withsuspicions of me anyhow," he laughed.

  "It isn't anything to laugh at. You don't know him," she told himgravely.

  "And can't say I'm suffering to," he drawled.

  She looked at him a little impatiently, as if he were a child playingwith gunpowder and unaware of its potentialities.

  "Can't you understand? You're not in Texas with your friends all aroundyou. This is Lost Valley--and Lost Valley isn't on the map. Men maketheir own law here. That is, some of them do. I wouldn't give a snap ofmy fingers for your life if the impression spread that you are a spy. Itdoesn't matter that I know you're not. Others must feel it, too."

  "I see. And Mr. Briscoe will be a molder of public opinion?"

  "So far as he can he will. We must forestall him."

  "Beat him to it, and give me a clean bill of moral health, eh?"

  She frowned. "This is serious business, my friend."

  "I'm taking it that way," he said smilingly.

  "I shouldn't have guessed it."

  Yet for all his debonair ease the man had an air of quiet competence.His strong, bronzed face and neck, the set of his shoulders, the lightpoise of him in the saddle
, the steady confidence of the gray eyes, alltold her as much. She was aware of a curiosity about what was hiddenbehind that stone-wall face of his.

  "You didn't finish telling me about that enemy in Texas," she suggestedsuddenly.

  "Oh, there ain't much to tell. He broke out from the pen, where I hadput him when I was a kid. He was a desperado wanted by the authorities,so I arrested him again."

  "Sounds easy."

  "He made some trouble, shot up two or three men first." Fraser liftedhis hand absently.

  "Is that scar on your hand where he shot you?" Arlie asked.

  He looked up in quick surprise. "Now, how did you know that?"

  "You were talking of the trouble he made and you looked at your hand,"she explained. "Where is he now? In the penitentiary?"

  "No. He broke away before I got him there."

  She had another flash of inspiration. "And you came to Wyoming to gethim again."

  "Good gracious, ma'am, but you're ce'tainly a wizard! That's why I came,though it's a secret."

  "What is he wanted for?"

  "Robbing a train, three murders and a few other things."

  As she swung from her pony in front of the old-fashioned Southern loghouse, Artie laughed at him over her shoulder.

  "You're a fine officer! Tell all you know to the first girl you meet!"

  "Well, you see, the girl happened to be--you!"

  After the manner of the old-fashioned Southern house a wide "gallery"bisected it from porch to rear. Saddles hung from pegs in the gallery.Horse blankets and bridles, spurs and saddlebags, lay here and there indisarray. A disjointed rifle which some one had started to clean was onthe porch. Swiftly Arlie stripped saddle, bridle, and blanket from herpony and flung them down as a contribution to the general disorder, andat her suggestion Fraser did the same. A half-grown lad came running toherd the horses into a corral close at hand.

  "I want you when you've finished feeding, Bobbie," Arlie told the lad.Then briefly to her guest: "This way, please."

  She led him into a large, cheerful living room, into which, through bigcasement windows, the light streamed. It was a pleasant room, despiteits barbaric touch. There was a grizzly bear skin before the greatopen, stone fireplace, and Navajo rugs covered the floor and hung onthe walls. The skin of a silver-tip bear was stretched beneath awriting desk, a trophy of Arlie's rifle, which hung in a rack above.Civilization had furnished its quota to the room in a piano, some books,and a few photographs.

  The Texan observed that order reigned here, even though it did notinterfere with the large effect of comfort.

  The girl left him, to return presently with her aunt, to whom sheintroduced him. Miss Ruth Dillon was a little, bright-eyed old lady,whose hair was still black, and her step light. Evidently she had herinstructions, for she greeted their guest with charming cordiality, andthanked him for the service he had rendered her brother and her niece.

  Presently the boy Bobbie arrived for further orders. Arlie went to herdesk and wrote hurriedly.

  "You're to give this note to my father," she directed. "Be sure he getsit himself. You ought to find him down in Jackson's Pocket, if the driveis from Round Top to-day. But you can ask about that along the road."

  When the boy had gone, Arlie turned to Fraser.

  "I want to tell father you're here before Jed gets to him with hisstory," she explained. "I've asked him to ride down right away. He'llprobably come in a few hours and spend the night here."

  After they had eaten supper they returned to the living room, where agreat fire, built by Jim the negro horse wrangler, was roaring up thechimney.

  It was almost eleven o'clock when horses galloped up and Dillon cameinto the house, followed by Jed Briscoe. The latter looked triumphant,the former embarrassed as he disgorged letters and newspapers from hispocket.

  "I stopped at the office to get the mail as I came down. Here's yorepaper, Ruth."

  Miss Dillon pounced eagerly upon the Gimlet Butte Avalanche, anddisappeared with it to her bedroom. She had formerly lived in GimletButte, and was still keenly interested in the gossip of the town.

  Briscoe had scored one against Arlie by meeting her father, telling hisside of the story, and returning with him to the house. NeverthelessArlie, after giving him the slightest nod her duty as hostess wouldpermit, made her frontal attack without hesitation.

  "You'll be glad to know, dad, that Mr. Fraser is our guest. He has hadrather a stormy time since we saw him last, and he has consented to staywith us a few days till things blow over."

  Dillon, very ill at ease, shook hands with the Texan, and was understoodto say that he was glad to see him.

  "Then you don't look it, dad," Arlie told him, with a gleam of vexedlaughter.

  Her father turned reproachfully upon her. "Now, honey, yo' done wrong tosay that. Yo' know Mr. Fraser is welcome to stay in my house long as hewants. I'm proud to have him stay. Do you think I forgot already what hedone for us?"

  "Of course not. Then it's all settled," Arlie cut in, and rushed on toanother subject. "How's the round-up coming, dad?"

  "We'll talk about the round-up later. What I'm saying is that Mr. Fraserhas only got to say the word, and I'm there to he'p him till the cowscome home."

  "That's just what I told him, dad."

  "Hold yore hawsses, will yo', honey? But, notwithstanding which, and notbacking water on that proposition none, we come to another p'int."

  "Which Jed made to you carefully on the way down," his daughterinterrupted scornfully.

  "It don't matter who made it. The p'int is that there are reasons whystrangers ain't exactly welcome in this valley right now, Mr. Fraser.This country is full o' suspicion. Whilst it's onjust, charges are beingmade against us on the outside. Right now the settlers here have got toguard against furriners. Now I know yo're all right, Mr. Fraser. But myneighbors don't know it."

  "It was our lives he saved, not our neighbors'," scoffed Arlie.

  "K'rect. So I say, Mr. Fraser, if yo' are out o' funds, I'll financeyou. Wherever you want to go I'll see you git there, but I hain't gotthe right to invite you to stay in Lost Valley."

  "Better send him to Gimlet Butte, dad! He killed a man in helping usto escape, and he 's wanted bad! He broke jail to get here! Pay hisexpenses back to the Butte! Then if there's a reward, you and Jed candivide it!" his daughter jeered.

  "What's that? Killed a man, yo' say?"

  "Yes. To save us. Shall we send him back under a rifle guard? Or shallwe have Sheriff Brandt come and get him?"

  "Gracious goodness, gyurl, shet up whilst I think. Killed a man, eh?This valley has always been open to fugitives. Ain't that right, Jed?"

  "To fugitives, yes," said Jed significantly. "But that fact ain'tproved."

  "Jed's getting right important. We'll soon be asking him whether we canstay here," said Arlie, with a scornful laugh. "And I say it is proved.We met the deputies the yon side of the big canyon."

  Briscoe looked at her out of dogged, half-shuttered eyes. He saidnothing, but he looked the picture of malice.

  Dillon rasped his stubbly chin and looked at the Texan. Far from analert-minded man, he came to conclusions slowly. Now he arrived at one.

  "Dad burn it, we'll take the 'fugitive' for granted. Yo' kin lie up herelong as yo' like, friend. I'll guarantee yo' to my neighbors. I reckonif they don't like it they kin lump it. I ain't a-going to give up theman that saved my gyurl's life."

  The door opened and let in Miss Ruth Dillon. The little old lady had thenewspaper in her hand, and her beady eyes were shining with excitement.

  "It's all in here, Mr. Fraser--about your capture and escape. But youdidn't tell us all of it. Perhaps you didn't know, though, that they hadplans to storm the jail and hang you?"

  "Yes, I knew that," the Texan answered coolly. "The jailer told me whatwas coming to me. I decided not to wait and see whether he was lying. Iwrenched a bar from the window, lowered myself by my bedding, flew thecoop, and borrowed a horse. That's the whole story, ma'am, exce
pt thatMiss Arlie brought me here to hide me."

  "Read aloud what the paper says," Dillon ordered.

  His sister handed the Avalanche to her niece. Arlie found the articleand began to read:

  "A dastardly outrage occurred three miles from Gimlet Butte last night.While on their way home from the trial of the well-known Three Pinessheep raid case, a small party of citizens were attacked by miscreantspresumed to be from the Cedar Mountain country. How many of these therewere we have no means of knowing, as the culprits disappeared in themountains after murdering William Faulkner, a well-known sheep man, andwounding Tom Long."

  There followed a lurid account of the battle, written from the pointof view of the other side. After which the editor paid his respects toFraser, though not by name.

  "One of the ruffians, for some unknown reason--perhaps in the hope ofgetting a chance to slay another victim--remained too long near thescene of the atrocity and was apprehended early this morning by thatfearless deputy, James Schilling. He refused to give his name or anyother information about himself. While the man is a stranger toGimlet Butte, there can be no doubt that he is one of the Lost Valleydesperadoes implicated in the Squaw Creek raid some months ago. Sincethe bullet that killed Faulkner was probably fired from the riflecarried by this man, it is safe to assume that the actual murderer wasapprehended. The man is above medium height, well built and muscular,and carries all the earmarks of a desperate character."

  Arlie glanced up from her reading to smile at Fraser. "Dad and I aremiscreants, and you are a ruffian and a desperate character," she toldhim gayly.

  "Go on, honey," her father urged.

  The account told how the prisoner had been confined in the jail, and howthe citizens, wrought up by the continued lawlessness of the Lost Valleydistrict, had quietly gathered to make an example of the captured man.While condemning lynching in general, the Avalanche wanted to go onrecord as saying that if ever it was justifiable this was the occasion.Unfortunately, the prisoner, giving thus further evidence of hisdesperate nature, had cut his way out of prison with a pocketknifeand escaped from town by means of a horse he found saddled and did nothesitate to steal. At the time of going to press he had not yet beenrecaptured, though Sheriff Brandt had several posses on his trail. Theoutlaw had cut the telephone wires, but it was confidently believed hewould be captured before he reached his friends in the mountains.

  Arlie's eyes were shining. She looked at Briscoe and handed him thepaper triumphantly. This was her vindication for bringing the hunted manto Lost Valley. He had been fighting their battles and had almost losthis life in doing it. Jed might say what he liked while she had this torefute him.

  "I guess that editor doesn't believe so confidently as he pretends," shesaid. "Anyhow, he has guessed wrong. Mr. Fraser has reached his friends,and they'll look out for him."

  Her father came to her support radiantly. "You bet yore boots they will,honey. Shake hands on it, Mr. Fraser. I reckon yore satisfied too, Jed.Eh, boy?"

  Briscoe viewed the scene with cynical malice. "Quite a hero, ain't he?If you want to know, I stand pat. Mr. Fraser from Texas don't drawthe wool over my eyes none. Right now I serve notice to that effect.Meantime, since I don't aim to join the happy circle of his admirers, Ireckon I'll duck."

  He nodded impudently at Arlie, turned on his heel, and went trailing offwith jingling spur. They heard him cursing at his horse as he mounted.The cruel swish of a quirt came to them, after which the swift poundingof a horse's hoofs. The cow pony had found its gallop in a stride.

  The Texan laughed lightly. "Exit Mr. Briscoe, some disappointed," hemurmured.

  He noticed that none of the others shared his mirth.

 
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll
Add comment

Add comment