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MYSTERY RANCH

BY ARTHUR CHAPMAN

AUTHOR OF "OUT WHERE THE WEST BEGINS," AND "CACTUS CENTER"

BOSTON AND NEW YORK HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY The Riverside Press Cambridge 1921

COPYRIGHT, 1921, BY DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & CO.

COPYRIGHT, 1921, BY ARTHUR CHAPMAN

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

CHAPTER I

There was a swift padding of moccasined feet through the hall leading to the Indian agent's office.

Ordinarily Walter Lowell would not have looked up from his desk. He recognized the footfalls of Plenty Buffalo, his chief of Indian police, but this time there was an absence of the customary leisureliness in the official's stride. The agent's eyes were questioning Plenty Buffalo before the police chief had more than entered the doorway.

The Indian, a broad shouldered, powerfully built man in a blue uniform, stopped at the agent's desk and saluted. Lowell knew better than to ask him a question at the outset. News speeds best without urging when an Indian tells it. The clerk who acted as interpreter dropped his papers and moved nearer, listening intently as Plenty Buffalo spoke rapidly in his tribal tongue.

"A man has been murdered on the road just off the reservation," announced the interpreter.

Still the agent did not speak.

"I just found him," went on the police chief to the clerk, who interpreted rapidly. "You'd better come and look things over."

"How do you know he was murdered?" asked the agent, reaching for his desk telephone.

"He was shot."

"But couldn't he have shot himself?"

"No. He's staked down."

Lowell straightened up suddenly, a tingle of apprehension running through him. Staked down and on the edge of the Indian reservation! Matters were being brought close home.

"Is there anything to tell who he is?"

"I didn't look around much," said Plenty Buffalo. "There's an auto in the road. That's what I saw first."

"Where is the body?"

"A few yards from the auto, on the prairie."

The agent called the sheriff's office at White Lodge, the adjoining county seat. The sheriff was out, but Lowell left the necessary information as to the location of the automobile and the body. Then he put on his hat, and, gathering up his gloves, motioned to Plenty Buffalo and the interpreter to follow him to his automobile which was standing in front of the agency office. Plenty Buffalo's pony was left at the hitching rack, to recover from the hard run it had just been given. The wooden handled quirt at the saddle had not been spared by the Indian.

Flooded with June sunshine the agency had never looked more attractive, from the white man's standpoint. The main street was wide, with a parkway in the center, shaded with cottonwoods. The school buildings, dormitories, dining hall, auditorium, and several of the employees' residences faced this street. The agent's house nestled among trees and shrubbery on the most attractive corner. The sidewalks were wide, and made of cement. There was a good water system, as the faithfully irrigated lawns testified. Arc lights swung from the street intersections, and there were incandescents in every house. A sewer system had just been completed. Indian boys and girls were looking after gardens in vacant lots. There were experimental ranches surrounding the agency. In the stables and enclosures were pure bred cattle and sheep, the nucleus of tribal flocks and herds of better standards.

In less than four years Walter Lowell had made the agency a model of its kind. He had done much to interest even the older Indians in agriculture. The school children, owing to a more liberal educational system, had lost the customary look of apathy. The agent's work had been commended in annual reports from Washington. The agency had been featured in newspaper and magazine articles, and yet Lowell had felt that he was far from accomplishing anything permanent. Ancient customs and superstitions had to be reckoned with. Smouldering fires occasionally broke out in most alarming fashion... Continue reading book >>




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