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The Last Straw   By: (1888-1967)

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First Page:

THE LAST STRAW

BY

HAROLD TITUS

Author of "Bruce of the Circle A," "I Conquered," etc.

ILLUSTRATED BY

GEORGE W. GAGE

BOSTON

SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY

PUBLISHERS

Copyright, 1920,

BY SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY

(INCORPORATED)

Second Printing, June, 1920.

PRESS OF GEO. H. ELLIS CO., BOSTON, MASS.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I THE NEW BOSS II MY ADVICE, MA'AM III THE NESTER AND ANOTHER IV THE CHAMPION V THE COURTING VI OUTCASTS VII THE CATAMOUNT VIII AND NOW, THE CLERGY IX THE DESTROYER X A MATTER OF DIRECTION XI HEPBURN'S PLAY XII A NEIGHBORLY CALL XIII THE FRAME UP XIV THE BIG CHANCE XV WAR! XVI THE WARNING XVII HIS FAITHFUL LITTLE PONY XVIII AN INTERRUPTED PROPOSAL XIX CONCERNING SAM MCKEE XX "WORK AMONG THE HEATHEN" XXI RENUNCIATION XXII THE REVEREND'S STRATEGY XXIII BECK'S DEPARTURE XXIV IN THE SHADOW XXV A MOUNTAIN PORTIA XXVI BATTLE! XXVII THE LAST STRAW

THE LAST STRAW

CHAPTER I

THE NEW BOSS

The last patches of snow, even in the most secluded gulches, had been licked up by the mounting sun; the waters of Coyote Creek had returned to the confines of the stream bed; in places a suggestion of green was making its appearance about the bases of grass clumps, and cottonwood buds were swelling. Four men sat on the bench before the bunkhouse of the H.C. ranch; one was braiding a belt, another whittling and two more, hats over their eyes to shield them from the brilliant light, joined in the desultory conversation from time to time.

In the pauses, such as the one now prevailing, was something besides the spirit of idling. Dad Hepburn, gray of hair, eye and mustache, but with the body of a young man, who sat nearest the doorway, glanced frequently towards the road as though expecting to see another come that way to bring fresh interest; Two Bits Beal was uneasy and did not remain long in one pose, as men do who sit in the first real warmth of spring for its own sake; Jimmy Oliver, the whittler, stopped now and then and held his head at an angle, as if listening; and although he worked industriously at the belt it was evident that Tom Beck had thought for other affairs.

"So she was his nephew an' only heir," commented Two Bits, gravely. Hepburn stirred and snorted softly. Jimmy Oliver looked at the homely, freckle blotched face of the gaunt speaker and grinned. After a moment Tom Beck said:

"Two Bits, for a smart man you know less than anybody I ever encountered! When I first set eyes on you, I said to myself, 'That man ain't real. He's no work of God A'mighty. Some of these hombres that draw cartoons for newspapers got him up.' But I thought you must have brains, seein' you're so powerful low on looks. You're a good cowhand and a first rate horse handler, but won't you ever get anything in your head but those things? Or did this cartoonist make a mistake an' put your kidneys in your skull?

"Niece; niece! Not nephew!"

"Have it your way," Two Bits said in his high voice, swallowing so his immense Adam's apple shot up half the extraordinary length of his lean throat toward his pointed chin, and slipped back again with a jerk. "I was half right, wasn't I? She's his only heir, ain't she? You can't ask a man to be more'n half right, can you?"

"If his heir'd been a nephew instead of a niece, we wouldn't all be settin' here so anxious about this arrival," opined Jimmy. "An' we wouldn't all be wonderin' if we was goin' to work for a squaw outfit. It'll be a relief when this lady lands in our midst. Mebby there'll be less speculatin' and more work done."

"You're right," assented Dad, and pulled at his mustache. "There's a lot to do."

Tom Beck began to whistle softly and the older man glanced sideways at him uneasily; then fixed his eyes on the road.

"I'll bet two bit," volunteered Two Bits, "that she's as homely as Tom claims I am an' about as pleasant as a hod full of bumble bees."

No one demonstrated interest in his offer and, as though he had not even heard it, Beck said:

"Seems to me there's been a lot goin' on lately, Dad... Continue reading book >>




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