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The Free Range   By: (1887-)

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First Page:

THE FREE RANGE

by

ELWELL LAWRENCE

Illustrations by Douglas Duer

[Illustration: They rode needlessly close together and swung their clasped hands like happy children.]

Grosset & Dunlap Publishers :: New York

Copyright 1913 by W. J. Watt & Company

Published June

To MATHEW WHITE Jr., Editor, author, critic, friend.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE I Flinging The Gauntlet 9 II A Late Arrival 18 III An Unsettled Score 31 IV The Six Pistol Shots 39 V Strategy and a Surprise 50 VI Ugly Company 64 VII You Have Forgotten The Mask 74 VIII Fiendish Revenge 85 IX The Man in The Mask 98 X War Without Quarter 114 XI Made Prisoner 124 XII Juliet Asserts Herself 136 XIII The Heathen Chinee 149 XIV Sentenced 161 XV Cowland Topsy Turvy 176 XVI A Message By a Strange Hand 190 XVII A Battle in The Dark 203 XVIII The Immortal Ten 217 XIX An Indian Coulee 235 XX Somebody New Turns Up 245 XXI Julie Investigates 253 XXII The Use of Photography 265 XXIII The Crossing 279 XXIV The Story of Lester 289 XXV The Threads Meet 301

THE FREE RANGE

CHAPTER I

FLINGING THE GAUNTLET

"Then you insist on ruining me, Mr. Bissell?"

Bud Larkin, his hat pushed back on his head, looked unabashed at the scowling heavy features of the man opposite in the long, low room, and awaited a reply.

"I don't want to ruin anybody," puffed old "Beef" Bissell, whose cattle overran most of the range between the Gray Bull and the Big Horn. "But I allow as how them sheep of yours had better stay down Nebrasky way where they come from."

"In other words," snapped Larkin, "I had better give up the idea of bringing them north altogether. Is that it?"

"Just about."

"Well, now, see here, Mr. Bissell, you forget one or two things. The first is, that my sheep ranch is in Montana and not Wyoming, and that I want to run my southern herds onto the northern range before fall sets in. The second is, that, while your homestead may be three hundred and twenty acres, the range that has made you rich is free. My sheep have as much right there as your cattle. It is all government land and open to everybody."

"Possession is eleven points out here where there isn't any law," replied Bissell imperturbably. "It's a case of your sheep against my cattle, and, you see, I stand up reg'lar for my cows."

Bud rolled a cigarette and pondered.

He was in the rather bare and unornamental living room of the Bar T ranch. In the center was a rough hewn table supporting an oil lamp and an Omaha newspaper fully six months old. The chairs, except one, were rough and heavy and without rockers. This one was a gorgeous plush patent rocker so valued a generation ago, and evidently imported at great expense.

A square of carpet that had lost all claims to pattern had become a soft blur, the result of age and alkali. However, it was one of the proudest possessions of the Bar T outfit and showed that old Beef Bissell knew what the right thing was. A calico shroud hid a large, erect object against the wall farthest away from the windows; an object that was the last word in luxury and reckless expense a piano. The walls were of boards whitewashed, and the ceiling was just plain boards.

It had not taken Bud Larkin long to discern that there was a feminine cause for these numerous unusual effects; but he did not for a minute suppose it to be the thin, sharp tongued woman who had been washing behind the cook house as he rode up to the corral. Now, as he pondered, he thought again about it. But only for a minute; other things of vaster importance held him.

Although but two men had spoken during the conversation, three were in the room... Continue reading book >>




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