Max Brand.

Trailin'! online

. (page 1 of 17)
Online LibraryMax BrandTrailin'! → online text (page 1 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook





Author of " The Untamed," etc,



fmfcfcerbocfcer press













VI. JOHN BARD .... 47



IX. "Tms PLACE FOR REST" . . 72





XIV. LEMONADE . . . .117


vi Contents





XIX. THE CANDLE . . . .167

XX. JOAN 173


XXII. DREW SMILES . . . .189


XXIV. "SAM L HALL" .... 205



XXVIL THE STAGE . . . .228


XXIX. THE SHOW . . . .248

XXX. THE LAMP . . . 256




Contents vii



XXXV. ABANDON .... 304

XXXVI. JERRY WOOD . . . . 316




XL. PARTNERS. .... 353




ALL through the exhibition the two sat un
moved ; yet on the whole it was the best Wild West
show that ever stirred sawdust in Madison Square
Garden and it brought thunders of applause from
the crowded house. Even if the performance could
not stir these two, at least the throng of spectators
should have drawn them, for all New York was
there, from the richest to the poorest; neither the
combined audiences of a seven-day race, a prize
fight, or a community singing festival would make
such a cosmopolitan assembly.

All Manhattan came to look at the men who
had lived and fought and conquered under the
limitless skies of the Far West, free men, wild men
one of their shrill whoops banished distance and
brought the mountain desert into the very heart

2 Trailin

of the unromantic East. Nevertheless from all
these thrills these two men remained immune.

To be sure the smaller tilted his head back when
the horses first swept in, and the larger leaned to
watch when Diaz, the wizard with the lariat,
commenced to whirl his rope; but in both cases
their interest held no longer than if they had been
old vaudevillians watching a series of familiar
acts dressed up with new names.

The smaller, brown as if a thousand fierce suns
and winds had tanned and withered him, looked up
at last to his burly companion with a faint smile.

"They re bringing on the cream now, Drew,
but I m going to spoil the dessert. "

The other was a great, grey man whom age
apparently had not weakened but rather settled
and hardened into an ironlike durability; the
winds of time or misfortune would have to break
that stanch oak before it would bend.

He said: "We ve half an hour before our train
leaves. Can you play your hand in that time?"

"Easy. Look at em now the greatest gang
of liars that never threw a diamond hitch! Ride?
I ve got a ten-year kid home that would laugh at
em all. But I ll show em up. Want to know my
little stunt?"

"I ll wait and enjoy the surprise."

" La-a-a-dies an GenTmun" 3

The wild riders who provoked the scorn of the
smaller man were now gathering in the central
space; a formidable crew, long of hair and brilliant
as to bandannas, while the announcer thundered
through his megaphone :

"La-a-a-dies and genTmun! You see before
you the greatest band of subduers and breakers of
wild horses that ever rode the cattle ranges. Death
defying, reckless, and laughing at peril, they have
never failed; they have never pulled leather. I
present Happy Morgan!"

Happy Morgan, yelling like one possessed of ten
shrill- tongued demons, burst on the gallop away
from the others, and spurring his horse cruelly,
forced the animal to race, bucking and plunging,
half way around the arena and back to the group.
This, then, was a type of the dare-devil horse
breaker of the Wild West? The cheers travelled
in waves around and around the house and rocked
back and forth like water pitched from side to
side in a monstrous bowl.

When the noise abated somewhat, "And this,
la-a-a-dies and genTmun, is the peerless cow-
puncher, Bud Reeves. "

Bud at once imitated the example of Happy
Morgan, and one after another the five remaining
riders followed suit. In the meantime a number

4 Trailin

of prancing, kicking, savage-eyed horses were
brought into the arena and to these the master of
ceremonies now turned his attention.

"From the wildest regions of the range we have
brought mustangs that never have borne the
weight of man. They fight for pleasure ; they buck
by instinct. If you doubt it, step down and try
em. One hundred dollars to the man who sticks
on the back of one of em but we won t pay the
hospital bill!"

He lowered his megaphone to enjoy the laughter,
and the small man took this opportunity to say:
"Never borne the weight of a man ! That chap in
the dress-suit, he tells one lie for pleasure and ten
more from instinct. Yep, he has his hosses beat.
Never borne the weight of man! Why, Drew, I
can see the saddle-marks clear from here; I got a
mind to slip down there and pick up the easiest
hundred bones that ever rolled my way. "

He rose to make good his threat, but Drew cut
in with: "Don t be a damn fool, Werther. You
aren t part of this show. "

"Well, I will be soon. Watch me! There goes
Ananias on his second wind. "

The announcer was bellowing: "These man-
killing mustangs will be ridden, broken, beaten
into submission in fair fight by the greatest set of

" La-a-a-dies an GenTmun" 5

horse-breakers that ever wore spurs. They can
ride anything that walks on four feet and wears a
skin ; they can

Werther sprang to his feet, made a funnel of his
hand, and shouted : * Yi-i-i-ip !

If he had set off a great quantity of red fire he
could not more effectively have drawn all eyes
upon him. The weird, shrill yell cut the ring
master short, and a pleased murmur ran through
the crowd. Of course, this must be part of the
show, but it was a pleasing variation.

"Partner," continued Werther, brushing away
the big hand of Drew which would have pulled
him down into his seat; "I ve seen you bluff for
two nights hand running. There ain t no man can
bluff all the world three times straight. "

The ringmaster retorted in his great voice:
"That sounds like good poker. What s your

"Five hundred dollars on one card!" cried
Werther, and he waved a fluttering handful of
greenbacks. "Five hundred dollars to any man
of your lot or to any man in this house that can
ride a real wild horse. "

"Where s your horse?"

"Around the corner in a Twenty-sixth Street
stable. I ll have him here in five minutes. "

6 Trailin

"Lead him on," cried the ringmaster, but his
voice was not quite so loud.

Werther muttered to Drew :

"Here s where I hand him the lemon that ll
curdle his cream," and ran out of the box and
straight around the edge of the arena. New York,
murmuring and chuckling through the vast galler
ies of the Garden, applauded the little man s
flying coat-tails.

He had not underestimated the time ; in a little
less than his five minutes the doors at the end of
the arena were thrown wide and Werther reap
peared. Behind him came two stalwarts leading
between them a rangy monster. Before the blast
of lights and the murmurs of the throng the big
stallion reared and flung himself back, and the
two who lead him bore down with all their weight
on the halter ropes. He literally walked down the
planks into the arena, a strange, half-comical,
half-terrible spectacle. New York burst into
applause. It was a trained horse, of course, but a
horse capable of such training was worth applause.

At that roar of sound, vague as the beat of
waves along the shore, the stallion lurched down
on all fours and leaped ahead, but the two on the
halter ropes drove all their weight backward and
checked the first plunge. A bright-coloured scarf

" La-a-a-dies an GenTmun " 7

waved from a nearby box, and the monster swerved
away. So, twisting, plunging, rearing, he was
worked down the arena. As he came opposite a
box in which sat a tall young man in evening
clothes the latter rose and shouted : Bravo ! "

The fury of the stallion, searching on all sides
for a vent but distracted from one torment to
another, centred suddenly on this slender figure.
He swerved and rushed for the barrier with ears
flat back and bloodshot eyes. There he reared
and struck at the wood with his great front hoofs;
the boards splintered and shivered under the blows.

As for the youth in the box, he remained quietly
erect before this brute rage. A fleck of red foam
fell on the white front of his shirt. He drew his
handkerchief and wiped it calmly away, but a red
stain remained. At the same time the two who
led the stallion pulled him back from the barrier
and he stood with head high, searching for a more
convenient victim.

Deep silence spread over the arena; more hushed
and more hushed it grew, as if invisible blankets of
soundlessness were dropping down over the stirring
masses; men glanced at each other with a vague
surmise, knowing that this was no part of the
performance. The whole audience drew forward
to the edge of the seats and stared, first at the

8 Trailin

monstrous horse, and next at the group of men
who could "ride anything that walks on four feet
and wears a skin."

Some of the women were already turning away
their heads, for this was to be a battle, not a game;
but the vast majority of New York merely watched
and waited and smiled a slow, stiff-lipped smile.
All the surroundings were changed, the flaring
electric lights, the vast roof, the clothes of the
multitude, but the throng of white faces was the
same as that pale host which looked down from
the sides of the Coliseum when the lions were loosed
upon their victims.

As for the wild riders from the cattle ranges,
they drew into a close group with the ringmaster
between them and the gaunt stallion, almost as
if the fearless ones were seeking for protection.
But the announcer himself lost his almost invinc
ible sang-froid; in all his matchless vocabulary
there were no sounding phrases ready for this
occasion, and little Werther strutted in the centre
of the great arena, rising to his opportunity.

He imitated the ringmaster s phraseology:
"La-a-a-dies and genTmun, the price has gone
up. The death-defyin , dare-devils that laugh
at danger ain t none too ready to ride my hoss.
Maybe the price is too low for em. It s raised.

" La-a-a-dies an G^uTmun" 9

One thousand dollars cash for any man in
hearin of me that ll ride my pet. "

There was a stir among the cattlemen, but still
none of them moved forward toward the great
horse ; and as if he sensed his victory he raised and
shook his ugly head and neighed. A mighty laugh
answered that challenge; this was a sort of horse-
humour" that great New York could not overlook,
and in that mirth even the big grey man, Drew,
joined. The laughter stopped with an amazing
suddenness making the following silence impressive
as when a storm that has roared and howled about
a house falls mute, then all the dwellers in the
house look to one another and wait for the voice of
the thunder. So all of New York that sat in the
long galleries of the Garden hushed its laughter
and looked askance at one another and waited.
The big grey man rose and cursed softly.

For the slender young fellow in evening dress
at whom the stallion had rushed a moment before
was stripping off his coat, his vest, and rolling up
the stiff cuffs of his sleeves. Then he dropped a
hand on the edge of the box, vaulted lightly into
the arena, and walked straight toward the horse.



IT might easily have been made melodramatic
by any hesitation as he approached, but, with a
businesslike directness, he went right up to the
men who held the fighting horse.

He said: "Put a saddle on him, boys, and I ll
try my hand. "

They could not answer at once, for Werther s
"pet, " as if he recognized the newcomer, made a
sudden lunge and was brought to a stop only after
he had dragged his sweating handlers around and
around in a small circle. Here Werther himself
came running up, puffing with surprise.

"Son," he said eagerly, "I m not aiming to do
you no harm. I was only calling the bluff of those

The slender youth finished rolling up his left
sleeve and smiled down at the other

"Put on the saddle, " he said.

Werther looked at him anxiously; then his eyes


Sporting Chance n

brightened with a solution. He stepped closer
and laid a hand on the other s arm.

"Son, if you re broke and want to get the price
of a few squares just say the word and I ll fix you.
I been busted myself in my own day, but don t
try your hand with my hoss. He ain t just a
buckin hoss; he s a man-killer, lad. I m tellin
you straight. And this floor ain t so soft as the
sawdust makes it look, " he ended with a grin.

The younger man considered the animal

"I m not broke; I ve simply taken a fancy to
your horse. If you don t mind, I d like to try him
out. Seems too bad, in a way, for a brute like that
to put it over on ten thousand people without
getting a run for his money a sporting chance,

And he laughed with great good nature.

"What s your name?" asked Werther, his small
eyes growing round and wide.

"Anthony Woodbury. "

"Mine s Werther."

They shook hands.

"City raised?"


"Didn t know they came in this style east of the
Rockies, Woodbury. I hope I lose my thousand,

12 Trailin

but if there was any betting I d stake ten to one
against you."

In the meantime, some of the range-riders
had thrown a coat over the head of the stallion,
and while he stood quivering with helpless rage
they flung a saddle on and drew the cinches

Anthony Woodbury was saying with a smile:
"Just for the sake of the game, I ll take you on
for a few hundred, Mr. Werther, if you wish, but
I can t accept odds."

Werther ran a finger under his collar apparently
to facilitate breathing. His eyes, roving wildly,
wandered over the white, silent mass of faces, and
his glance picked out and lingered for a moment on
the big-shouldered figure of Drew, erect in his box.
At last his glance came back with an intent frown
to Woodbury. Something in the keen eyes of the
laid raised a responsive flicker in his own.

"Well, I ll be damned! Just a game, eh? Lad,
no matter on what side of the Rockies you were
born, I know your breed and I won t lay a penny
against your money. There s the hoss saddled
and there s the floor you ll land on. Go to it
and God help you!"

The other shook his shoulders back and stepped
toward the horse with a peculiarly unpleasant

Sporting Chance 13

smile, like a pugilist coming out of his corner
toward an opponent of unknown prowess.

He said: "Take off the halter."

One of the men snapped viciously over his
shoulder: "Climb on while the climbing s good.
Cut out the bluff, partner. "

The smile went out on the lips of Woodbury.
He repeated: "Take off the halter."

They stared at him, but quickly began to fumble
under the coat, unfastening the buckle. It re
quired a moment to work off the heavy halter
without giving the blinded animal a glimpse of the
light; then Woodbury caught the bridle reins
firmly just beneath the chin of the horse. With
the other hand he took the stirrup strap and raised
his foot, but he seemed to change his mind about
this matter.

"Take off the blinder," he ordered.

It was Werther who interposed this time with:
"Look here, lad, I know this hoss. The minute
the Winder s off he ll up on his hind legs and bash
you into the floor with his forefeet. "

"Let him go," growled one of the cowboys.
"He s goin to hell making a gallery play. "

But taking the matter into his own hands Wood-
bury snatched the coat from the head of the stal
lion, which snorted and reared up, mouth agape,

H Trailin

ears flattened back. There was a shout from
the man, not a cry of dismay, but a ringing battle
yell like some ancient berserker seeing the first
flash of swords in the melee. He leaped forward,
jerking down on the bridle reins with all the force
of his weight and his spring. The horse, caught
in mid-air, as it were, came floundering down on
all fours again. Before he could make another
move, Woodbury caught the high horn of the sad
dle and vaulted up to his seat. It was gallantly
done and in response came a great rustling from
the multitude; there was not a spoken word, but
every man was on his feet.

Perhaps what followed took their breaths and
kept them speechless. The first touch of his rider s
weight sent the stallion mad, not blind with fear
as most horses go, but raging with a devilish cun
ning like that of an insane man, a thing that made
the blood run cold to watch. He stood a moment
shuddering, as if the strange truth were slowly
dawning on his brute mind ; then he bolted straight
for the barriers. Woodbury braced himself and
lunged back on the reins, but he might as well have
tugged at the mooring cable of a great ship; the
bit was in the monster s teeth.

Then a whisper reached the rider, a universal
hushing of drawn breath, for the thousands were

Sporting Chance 15

tasting the first thrill and terror of the combat.
They saw a picture of horse and man crushed
against the barrier. But there was no such stupid
rage in the mind of the stallion.

At the last moment he swerved and raced close
beside the fence; some projecting edge caught the
trousers of Woodbury and ripped away the stout
cloth from hip to heel. He swung far to the other
side and wrenched back the reins. With stiff-
braced legs the stallion slid to a halt that flung his
unbalanced rider forward along his neck. Before
he could straighten himself in the saddle, the horse
roared and came down on rigid forelegs, yet by a
miracle Woodbury clung, sprawled down the side
of the monster, to be sure, but was not quite

Another pitch of the same nature would have
freed the stallion from his rider beyond doubt, but
he elected to gallop full speed ahead the length
of the arena, and during that time, Woodbury,
stunned though he was, managed to drag himself
back into the saddle. The end of the race was a
leap into the air that would have cleared a five-
bar fence, and down pitched the fighting horse on
braced legs again. Woodbury s chin snapped down
against his breast as though he had been struck
behind the head with a heavy bar, but though bis

1 6 Trailin

brain was stunned, the fighting instinct remained
strong in him and when the stallion reared and
toppled back the rider slipped from the saddle in
the nick of time.

Fourteen hundred pounds of raging horseflesh
crashed into the sawdust ; he rolled like a cat to his
feet, but at the same instant a flying weight leaped
through the air and landed in the saddle. The
audience awoke to sound to a dull roar of noise ;
a thin trickle of blood ran from Woodbury s mouth
and it seemed that the mob knew it and was yelling
for a death.

There followed a bewildering exhibition of such
bucking that the disgruntled cowboys forgot their
shame and shouted with joy. Upon his hind legs
and then down on his forefeet with a sickening
heartbreaking jar the stallion rocked; now he
bucked from side to side; now rose and whirled
about like a dancer; now toppled to the ground
and twisted again to his feet.

Still the rider clung. His head rocked with the
ceaseless jars; the red-stained lips writhed back
and showed the locked teeth. Yet, as if he scorned
the struggles of the stallion, he brought into play
the heavy quirt which had been handed him as he
mounted. Over neck and shoulders and tender
flanks he whirled the lash; it was not intelligence

Sporting Chance 17

fighting brute strength, but one animal conquering
another and rejoicing in the battle.

The horse responded, furiously he responded,
but still the lash fell, and the bucking grew more
cunning, perhaps, but less violent. Yet to the
wildly cheering audience the fight seemed more
dubious than ever. Then, in the very centre of
the arena, the stallion stopped in the midst of a
twisting course of bucking and stood with widely
braced legs and fallen head. Strength was left
in him, but the cunning, savage mind knew defeat.

Once more the quirt whirled in the air and fell
with a resounding crack, but the stallion merely
switched his tail and started forward at a clumsy
stumbling trot. The thunder of the host was too
hoarse for applause; they saw a victory and a
defeat but what they had wanted was blood, and
a death. They had had a promise and a taste;
now they hungered for the reality.

Woodbury slipped from the saddle and gave the
reins to Werther. Already a crowd was growing
about them of the curious who had sprung over
the barriers and swarmed across the arena to see
the conqueror, for had he not vindicated un
answerably the strength of the East as compared
with that of the West ? Boys shouted shrilly ; men
shouldered each other to slap him on the back;

1 8 Trailin

but Werther merely held forth the handful of
greenbacks. The conqueror braced himself against
the saddle with a trembling hand and shook his

"Not for me, " he said, "I ought to pay you
ten times that much for the sport compared to
this polo is nothing. "

"Ah," muttered those who overheard, "polo!
That explains it!"

"Then take the horse, " said Werther, "because
no one else could ride him. "

"And now any one can ride him, so I don t want
him," answered Woodbury.

And Werther grinned. "You re right, boy. I ll
give him to the iceman. "

The big grey man, William Drew, loomed over
the heads of the little crowd, and they gave way
before him as water divides under the prow of a
ship; it was as if he cast a shadow which they
feared before him.

"Help me through this mob," said Woodbury
to Werther, "and back to my box. Devil take it,
my overcoat won t cover that leg. "

Then on him also fell, as it seemed, the approach
ing shadow of the grey man and he looked up with
something of a start into the keen eyes of Drew.

"Son," said the big man, "you look sort of

Sporting Chance 19

familiar to me. I m asking your pardon, but who
was your mother? *

The eyes of young Woodbury narrowed and the
two stood considering each other gravely for a
long moment.

"I never saw her," he said at last, and then
turned with a frown to work his way through the
crowd and back to his box.

The tall man hesitated a moment and then
started in pursuit, but the mob intervened. He
turned back to Werther.

"Did you get his name?" he asked.

"Fine bit of riding he showed, eh?" cried the
little man, "and turned down my thousand as
cool as you please. I tell you, Drew, there s some
flint in the Easterners after all!"

"Damn the Easterners. What s his name?"

Woodbury. Anthony Woodbury.


"What s wrong with that name?"

"Nothing. Only I m a bit surprised. "

And he frowned with a puzzled, wistful expres
sion, staring straight ahead like a man striving to
solve a great riddle.



AT his box, Woodbury stopped only to huddle
into his coat and overcoat and pull his hat down
over his eyes. Then he hurried on toward an exit,
but even this slight delay brought the reporters
up with him. They had scented news as the eagle
sights prey far below, and then swooped down on
him. He continued his flight shaking off their
harrying questions, but they kept up the running
fight and at the door one of them reached his side
with: "It s Mr. Woodbury of the Westfall Polo
Club, son of Mr. John Woodbury of Anson Place?"

Anthony Woodbury groaned with dismay and
clutched the grinning reporter by the arm.

"Come with me!"

Prospects of a scoop of a sizable nature bright
ened the eyes of the reporter. He followed in all
haste, and the other news-gatherers, in obedience
to the exacting, unspoken laws of their craft, stood
back and followed the flight with grumbling envy.

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryMax BrandTrailin'! → online text (page 1 of 17)