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Charles Alden Seltzer.

The great Western special; 3 complete western novels online

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I




THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY
OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES



GIFT OF

Philip C. Durham



The

Great Western
Special



The

Great Western
Special

CHARLES ALDE1V SELTZER




^ C Complete Western Novels ^ C



A. L. BURT COMPANY

Publishers
New York Chicago




Copyright 1911

Outing Publishing Company
Entered at Stationers' Hall

London, England
All Rights Reserved



Copyright 1912
Outing Publishing Company



Copyright 1913
Outing Publishing Company



PKINTED IN U. 3. A.



e-s
'*?



Contents



1 . The Two-Gun Man

2. The Coming of the Law

3. The Trail to Yesterday / ^ i *



THE TWO-GUN MAN



CONTENTS

CHAPTEB PAGfi

I. THE STRANGER AT DRY BOTTOM .... 9

II. THE STRANGER SHOOTS 19

III. THE CABIN IN THE FLAT 28

IV. A "DIFFERENT GIRL," o 46

V. THE MAN OF DRY BOTTOM 68

VI. AT THE Two DIAMOND 76

VII. THE MEASURE OF A MAN 84

VIII. THE FINDING OF THE ORPHAN . ... . 105

IX. WOULD You BE A "CHARACTER"? . . . 114

X. DISAPPEARANCE OF THE ORPHAN . . .126

XI. A TOUCH OF LOCAL COLOR 138

XII. THE STORY BEGINS 150

XIII. "Do You SMOKE?" 167

XIV. ON THE EDGE OF THE PLATEAU .... 179
XV. A FREE HAND 210

XVI. LEVIATT TAKES A STEP 219

XVII. A BREAK IN THE STORY 244

XVIII. THE DIM TRAIL 263

XIX. THE SHOT IN THE DARK 276

XX. LOVE AND A RIFLE ...... 286

XXI. THE PROMISE 298

XXII. KEEPING A PROMISE 305

XXIII. AT THE EDGE OF THE COTTONWOOD . . . 331

XXIV. THE END OF THE STORY c c 844



THE TWO-GUN MAN

CHAPTER I

THE STRANGER AT DRY BOTTOM

FROM the crest of Three Mile Slope
the man on the pony could see the
town of Dry Bottom straggling
across the gray floor of the flat, its low,
squat buildings looking like so many old
boxes blown there by an idle wind, or un
ceremoniously dumped there by a careless
fate and left, regardless, to carry out the
scheme of desolation.

Apparently the rider was in no hurry,
for, as the pony topped the rise and the
town burst suddenly into view, the little ani-

9



THE TWO-GUN MAN

mal pricked up its ears and quickened its
pace, only to feel the reins suddenly tighten
and to hear the rider's voice gruffly discour
aging haste. Therefore, the pony pranced
gingerly, alert, champing the bit impa
tiently, picking its way over the lumpy hills
of stone and cactus, but holding closely to
the trail.

The man lounged in the saddle, his strong,
well-knit body swaying gracefully, his eyes,
shaded by the brim of his hat, narrowed
with slight mockery and interest as he gazed
steadily at the town that lay before him.

"I reckon that must be Dry Bottom," h<c
said finally, mentally taking in its dimen
sions. "If that's so, I've only got twenty
miles to go."

Half way down the slope, and still a mile
and a half from the town, the rider drew
the pony to a halt. He dropped the reins
over the high pommel of the saddle, drew
Dut his two guns, one after the other, rolled
the cylinders, and returned the guns to their
holsters. He had heard something of Dry
Bottom's reputation and in examining his

10



THE STRANGER



pistols he was merely preparing himself for
an emergency. For a moment after he had
replaced the weapons he sat quietly in the
saddle. Then he shook out the reins, spoke
to the pony, and the little animal set for
ward at a slow lope.

An ironic traveler, passing through Dry
Bottom in its younger days, before civic
spirit had definitely centered its efforts
upon things nomenclatural, had hinted that
the town should be known as "dry" because
of the fact that while it boasted seven build
ings, four were saloons; and that "bottom"
might well be used as a suffix, because, in
the nature of things, a town of seven build
ings, four of which were saloons, might rea
sonably expect to descend to the very depths
of moral iniquity.

The ironic traveler had spoken with pro
phetic wisdom. Dry Bottom was trying as
best it knew how to wallow in the depths of
sin. Unlovely, soiled, desolate of verdure,
dumped down upon a flat of sand in a tree
less waste, amid cactus, crabbed yucca, scor
pions, horned toads, and rattlesnakes, Dry

11



THE TWO-GUN MAN

Bottom had forgotten its morals, subverted
its principles, and neglected its God.

As the rider approached to within a few
hundred yards of the edge of town he be
came aware of a sudden commotion. He
reined in his pony, allowing it to advance
at a walk, while with alert eyes he endeav
ored to search out the cause of the excite
ment. He did not have long to watch for
the explanation.

A man had stepped out of the door of
one of the saloons, slowly walking twenty
feet away from it toward the center of the
street. Immediately other men had fol
lowed. But these came only to a point jusl
outside the door. For some reason which
was not apparent to the rider, they were
giving the first man plenty of room.

The rider was now able to distinguish the
faces of the men in the group, and he gazed
with interested eyes at the man who had
first issued from the door of the saloon.

The man was tall nearly as tall as the
rider and in his every movement seemed
sure of himself. He was young, seemingly



THE STRANGER



about thirty-five, with shifty, insolent eyes
and a hard mouth whose lips were just now
curved into a self-conscious smile.

The rider had now approached to within
fifty feet of the man, halting his pony at
the extreme end of the hitching rail that
skirted the front of the saloon. He sat
carelessly in the saddle, his gaze fixed on
the man.

The men who had followed the first man
out, to the number of a dozen, were appar
ently deeply interested, though plainly
skeptical. A short, fat man, who was stand
ing near the saloon door, looked on with a
half -sneer. Several others were smiling
blandly. A tall man on the extreme edge
of the crowd, near the rider, was watching
the man in the street gravely. Other men
had allowed various expressions to creep
into their faces. But all were silent.

Not so the man in the street. Plainly,
here was conceit personified, and yet a con
ceit mingled with a maddening insolence.
His expression told all that this thing which
he was about to do was worthy of the closest

13



THE TWO-GUN MAN

attention. He was the axis upon which the
interest of the universe revolved.

Certainly he knew of the attention he was
attracting. Men were approaching from
the other end of the street, joining the
group in front of the saloon which the
rider now noticed was called the "Silver
Dollar." The newcomers were inquisitive;
they spoke in low tones to the men who had
arrived before them, gravely inquiring the
cause.

But the man in the street seemed not dis
turbed by his rapidly swelling audience.
He stood in the place he had selected, his
insolent eyes roving over the assembled com
pany, his thin, expressive lips opening a
very little to allow words to filter through
them.

"Gents," he said, "y u ' re goin' to see
some shootin' ! I told you in the Silver Dol
lar that I could keep a can in the air while
I put five holes in it. There's some of you
gassed about bein' showed, not believin'.
An' now I'm goin' to show you!"

He reached down and took up a can that
14



THE STRANGER



had lain at his feet, removing the red litho
graphed label, which had a picture of a
large tomato in the center of it. The can
was revealed, naked and shining in the
white sunlight. The man placed the can in
his left hand and drew his pistol with the
right.

Then he tossed the can into the air.
While it still rose his weapon exploded, the
can shook spasmodically and turned clear
over. Then in rapid succession followed
four other explosions, the last occurring
just before the can reached the ground. The
man smiled, still holding the smoking
weapon in his hand.

The tall man on the extreme edge of the
group now stepped forward and examined
the can, while several other men crowded
about to look. There were exclamations of
surprise. It was curious to see how quickly
enthusiasm and awe succeeded skepticism.

"He's done it, boys!" cried the tall man,
holding the can aloft. "Bored it in five
places !" He stood erect, facing the crowd.
"I reckon that's some shootin'!" He now

15



THE TWO-GUN MAN

threw a glance of challenge and defiance
about him. "I've got a hundred dollars to
say that there ain't another man in this here
town can do it!"

Several men tried, but none equaled the
first man's performance. Many of the men
could not hit the can at all. The first man
watched their efforts, sneers twitching his
lips as man after man failed.

Presently all had tried. Watching
closely, the rider caught an expression of
slight disappointment on the tall man's face.
The rider was the only man who had not yet
tried his skill with the pistol, and the man
in the street now looked up at him, his eyes
glittering with an insolent challenge. As it
happened, the rider glanced at the shooter at
the instant the latter had turned to look up
at him. Their eyes met fairly, the shooter's
conveying a silent taunt. The rider smiled,
slight mockery glinting his eyes.

Apparently the stranger did not care to
try his skill. He still sat lazily in the sad
dle, his gaze wandering languidly over the
crowd. The latter plainly expected him to

16



THE STRANGER



take part in the shooting match and was im
patient over his inaction.

"Two-gun," sneered a man who stood
near the saloon door. "I wonder what he
totes them two guns for?"

The shooter heard and turned toward the
man who had spoken, his lips wreathed sa
tirically.

"I reckon he wouldn't shoot nothin' with
them," he said, addressing the man who had
spoken.

. Several men laughed. The tall man who
had revealed interest before now raised a
hand, checking further comment.

"That offer of a hundred to the man who
can beat that shootin' still goes," he de
clared. "An' I'm taking off the condition.
The man that tries don't have to belong to
Dry Bottom. No stranger is barred!"

The stranger's glance again met the
shooter's. The latter grinned felinely.
Then the rider spoke. The crowd gave him
its polite attention.

"I reckon you-all think you've seen some
shootin'," he said in a steady, even voice,
17



THE TWO-GUN MAN

singularly free from boast. "But I reckon
you ain't seen any real shootinV He turned
to the tall, grave-faced man. "I ain't got
no hundred," he said, "but I'm goin' to
show you."

He still sat in the saddle. But now with
an easy motion he swung down and hitched
his pony to the rail.



CHAPTER II

THE STRANGER SHOOTS

THE stranger seemed taller on the
ground than in the saddle and an
admirable breadth of shoulder and
slenderness of waist told eloquently of
strength. He could not have been over
twenty-five or six. Yet certain hard lines
about his mouth, the glint of mockery in his
eyes, the pronounced forward thrust of the
chin, the indefinable force that seemed to
radiate from him, told the casual observer
that here was a man who must be ap
proached with. care.

But apparently the shooter saw no such
signs. In the first glance that had been ex
changed between the two men there had
been a lack of ordinary cordiality. And

19



THE TWO-GUN MAN

now, as the rider slid down from his pony
and advanced toward the center of the
street, the shooter's lips curled. Writhing
through them came slow-spoken words.

"You runnin' sheep, stranger?"

The rider's lips smiled, but his eyes were
steady and cold. In them shone a flash of
cold humor. He stood, quietly contemplat
ing his insulter.

Smiles appeared on the faces of several
of the onlookers. The tall man with the
grave face watched with a critical eye. The
insult had been deliberate, and many men
crouched, plainly expecting a serious out
come. But the stranger made no move
toward his guns, and when he answered he
might have been talking about the weather,
so casual was his tone.

"I reckon you think you're a plum man,"
he said quietly. "But if you are, you ain't
showed it much buttin' in with that there
wise observation. An' there's some men
who think that shootin' at a man is more
excitin' than shootin' at a can."

There was a grim quality in his voice now.
20



He leaned forward slightly, his eyes cold
and alert. The shooter sneered experiment
ally. Again the audience smiled.

But the tall man now stepped forward.
"You've made your play, stranger," he said
quietly. "I reckon it's up to you to make
good."

"Correct," agreed the stranger. "I'm
goin' to show you some real shootin'. You
got another can?"

Some one dived into the Silver Dollar and
returned in a flash with another tomato can.
This the stranger took, removing the label,
as the shooter had done. Then, smiling, he
took a position in the center of the street,
the can in his right hand.

He did not draw his weapon as the shooter
had done, but stood loosely in his place, his
right hand still grasping the can, the left
swinging idly by his side. Apparently he
did not mean to shoot. Sneers reached the
faces of several men in the crowd. The
shooter growled, "Fourflush."

There was a flash as the can rose twenty
feet in the air, propelled by the right hand



THE TWO-GUN MAN

of the stranger. As the can reached the
apex of its 1 climb the stranger's right hand
descended and grasped the butt of the
weapon at his right hip. There was a flash
as the gun came out; a gasp of astonish
ment from the watchers. The can was ar
rested in the first foot of its descent by the
shock of the first bullet striking it. It
jumped up and out and again began its in
terrupted fall, only to stop dead still in the
air as another bullet struck it. There was
an infinitesimal pause, and then twice more
the can shivered and jumped. No man in
the crowd but could tell that the bullets were
striking true.

The can was still ten feet in the air and
well out from the stranger. The latter
whipped his weapon to a level, the bullet,
striking the can and driving it twenty feet
from him. Then it dropped. But when it
was within five feet of the ground the
stranger's gun spoke again. The can
leaped, careened sideways, and fell, shat
tered, to the street, thirty feet distant froii?
the stranger.



THE STRANGER SHOOTS

Several men sprang forward to examine
it.

"Six times!" ejaculated the tall man in
an awed tone. "An' he didn't pull his gun
till he'd thro wed the can!"

He approached the stranger, drawing him
confidentially aside. The crowd slowly dis
persed, loudly proclaiming the stranger's
ability with the six-shooter. The latter took
his honors lightly, the mocking smile again
on his face.

"I'm lookin' for a man who can shoot,"
said the tall man, when the last man of the
crowd had disappeared into the saloon.

The stranger smiled. "I reckon you've
just seen some shootin'," he returned.

The tall man smiled mirthlessly. "You
particular about what you shoot at?" he
inquired.

The stranger's lips straightened coldly.
"I used to have that habit," he returned
evenly.

"Hard luck?" queried the tall man.

"I'm rollin' in wealth," stated the
stranger, with an ironic sneer.

23



THE TWO-GUN MAN

The tall man's eyes glittered. "Where
you from?" he questioned.

"You c'n have three guesses," returned
the stranger, his eyes narrowing with the
mockery that the tall man had seen in them
before.

The tall man adopted a placative tone.
"I ain't wantin' to butt into your business,"
he said. "I was wantin' to find out if any
one around here knowed you.'.'

"This town didn't send any reception
committee to meet me, did they?" smiled
the stranger.

"Correct," said the tall man. He leaned
closer. "You willin' to work your guns for
me for a hundred a month?"

The stranger looked steadily into the tall
man's eyes.

"You've been right handy askin' ques
tions," he said. "Mebbe you'll answer some.
What's your name?"

"Stafford," returned the tall man. "I'm
managin' the Two Diamond, over on the
Ute."

The stranger's eyelashes flickered slightly.
24



His eyes narrowed quizzically. "What you
wantin' of a gun-man?" he asked.

"Rustler," returned the other shortly.

The stranger smiled. "Figger on shoot-
in' him?" he questioned.

Stafford hesitated. "Well, no," he re
turned. "That is, not until I'm sure I've
got the right one." He seized the stranger's
arm in a confidential grip. "You see," he
explained, "I don't know just where I'm at.
There's been a rustler workin' on the herd,
an' I ain't been able to get close enough to
find out who it is. But rustlin' has got to
be stopped. I've sent over to Raton to get
a man named Ned Ferguson, who's been
workin' for Sid Tucker, of the Lazy J.
Tucker wrote me quite a while back, tellin'
me that this man was plum slick at nosin'
out rustlers. He was to come to the Two
Diamond two weeks ago. But he ain't
showed up, an' I've about concluded that
he ain't comin'. An' so I come over to Dry
Bottom to find a man."

"You've found one," smiled the stranger.

Stafford drew out a handful of double
25



THE TWO-GUN MAN

eagles and pressed them into the other's
hand. "I'm goin' over to the Two Diamond
now," he said. "You'd better wait a day or
two, so's no one will get wise. Come right
to me, like you was wantin' a job."

He started toward the hitching rail for
his pony, hesitated and then walked back.

"I didn't get your name," he smiled.

The stranger's eyes glittered humorously.
"It's Ferguson," he said quietly.

Stafford's eyes widened with astonish
ment. Then his right hand went out and
grasped the other's.

"Well, now," he said warmly, "that's what
I call luck."

Ferguson smiled. "Mebbe it's luck," he
returned. "But before I go over to work for
you there's got to be an understandin'. I c'n
shoot some," he continued, looking steadily
at Stafford, "but I ain't runnin' around the
country shootin' men without cause. I'm
willin' to try an' find your rustler for you,
but I ain't shootin' him unless he goes to
crowdin' me mighty close."

"I'm agreein' to that," returned Stafford,
26



THE STRANGER SHOOTS

He turned again, looking back over his
shoulder. "You'll sure be over?" he ques
tioned.

"I'll be there the day after to-morrow,"
stated Ferguson.

He turned and went into the Silver Dol
lar. Stafford mounted his pony and loped
rapidly out of town.



CHAPTER III

THE CABIN IN THE FLAT

IT was the day appointed by Ferguson
for his presence at the Two Diamond
ranch, and he was going to keep his
word. Three hours out of Dry Bottom he
had struck the Ute trail and was loping his
pony through a cottonwood that skirted the
river. It was an enchanted country through
which he rode; a land of vast distances, of
white sunlight, blue skies, and clear, pure
air. Mountains rose in the distances, their
snowcapped peaks showing above the clouds
like bald rock spires above the calm level
of the sea. Over the mountains swam the
sun, its lower rim slowly disappearing be
hind the peaks, throwing off broad white
shafts of light that soon began to dim as
88



THE CABIN IN THE FLAT

vari-colors, rising in a slumberous haze like
a gauze veil, mingled with them.

Ferguson's gaze wandered from the trail
to the red buttes that fringed the river. He
knew this world; there was no novelty here
for him. He knew the lava beds, looming
gray and dead beneath the foothills; he
knew the grotesque rock shapes that seemed
to hint- of a mysterious past. Nature had
not altered her face. On the broad levels
were the yellow tinted lines that told of the
presence of soap-weed, the dark lines that
betrayed the mesquite, the saccatone belts
that marked the little guillies. Then there
were the barrancas, the arid stretches where
the sage-brush and the cactus grew. Snaky
octilla dotted the space; the crabbed yucca
had not lost its ugliness.

Ferguson looked upon the world with un
seeing eyes. He had lived here long and
the country had not changed. It would
never change. Nothing ever changed here
but the people.

But he himself had not changed. Twen
ty-seven years in this country was a long
29



THE TWO-GUN MAN

time, for here life was not measured by age,
but by experience. Looking back over the
years he could see that he was living to-day
as he had lived last year, as he had lived
during the last decade a hard life, but hav
ing its compensations.

His coming to the Two Diamond ranch
was merely another of those incidents that,
during the past year, had broken the mo
notony of range life for him. He had had
some success in breaking up a band of cattle
thieves which had made existence miserable
for Sid Tucker, his employer, and the latter
had recommended him to Stafford. The
promise of high wages had been attractive,
and so he had come. He had not expected
to surprise any one. When during his con
versation with the tall man in Dry Bottom
he had discovered that the latter was the
man for whom he was to work he had been
surprised himself. But he had not revealed
his surprise. Experience and association
with men who kept their emotions pretty
much to themselves had taught him the value
of repression when in the presence of others.

30



But alone he allowed his emotions full
play. There was no one to see, no one to
hear, and the silence and the distances, and
the great, swimming blue sky would not
tell.

Stafford's action in coming to Dry Bot
tom for a gunfighter had puzzled him not a
little. Apparently the Two Diamond man
ager was intent upon the death of the rus
tler he had mentioned. He had been search
ing for a man who could "shoot," he had
said. Ferguson had interpreted this to
mean that he desired to employ a gunfighter
who would not scruple to kill any man he
pointed out, whether innocent or guilty. He
had had some experience with unscrupulous
ranch managers, and he had admired them
very little. Therefore, during the ride to
day, his lips had curled sarcastically many
times.

Riding through a wide clearing in the cot-
tonwood, he spoke a thought that had trou
bled him not a little since he had entered
Stafford's employ.

"Why," he said, as he rode along, sitting
31



THE TWO-GUN MAN

carelessly in the saddle, "he's wantin' to
make a gunfighter out of me. But I reckon
I ain't goin' to shoot no man unless I'm
pretty sure he's gunnin' for me." -His lips
curled ironically. "I wonder what the boys
of the Lazy J would think if they knowed
that a guy was tryin' to make a gunfighter
out of their old straw boss. I reckon they'd
think that guy was loco or a heap mistaken,
in his man. But I'm seein' this thing
through. I ain't ridin' a hundred miles just
to take a look at the man who's hirin' me.
It'll be a change. An' when I go back to
the Lazy J

It was not the pony's fault. Neither was
it Ferguson's. The pony was experienced;
behind his slant eyes was stored a world of
horse-wisdom that had pulled him and his
rider through many tight places. And Fer
guson had ridden horses all his life; he
would not have known what to do without
one.

But the pony stumbled. The cause was
a prairie-dog hole, concealed under a clump
of matted mesquite. Ferguson lunged for'

32



THE CABIN IN THE FLAT

ward, caught at the saddle horn, missed it,
and pitched head-foremost out of the saddle,
turning completely over and alighting upon
his feet. He stood erect for an instant, but
the momentum had been too great. He
went down, and when he tried to rise a
twinge of pain in his right ankle brought a
grimace to his face. He arose and hopped
over to a flat rock, near where his pony
now stood grazing as though nothing had
happened.

Drawing off his boot, Ferguson made a
rapid examination of the ankle. It was in
flamed and painful, but not broken. He
believed he could see it swelling. He
rubbed it, hoping to assuage the pain. The
woolen sock interfered with the rubbing,
and he drew it off.

For a few minutes he worked with the
ankle, but to little purpose. He finally be
came convinced that it was a bad sprain, and
he looked up, scowling. The pony turned
an inquiring eye upon him, and he grinned,
suddenly smitten with the humor of the
situation.



THE TWO-GUN MAN

"You ain't got no call to look so dog-
goned innocent about it," he said. "If you'd
been tendin' to your business, you wouldn't
have stepped into no damned gopher hole."

The pony moved slowly away, and he
looked whimsically after it, remarking:
"Mebbe if I'd been tendin' to my business
it wouldn't have happened, either." He
spoke again to the pony. "I reckon you
know that too, Mustard. You're some
wise."

The animal was now at some little dis
tance from the rock upon which he was sit
ting. He arose, hobbling on one foot



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