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TRAILIN'!

By Max Brand


1919


To
ROBERT HOBART DAVIS
Maker of Books and Men




CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I. - - - "LA-A-A-DIES AN' GEN'L'MUN"

II. - - -SPORTING CHANCE

III. - - SOCIAL SUICIDE

IV. - - -A SESSION OF CHAT

V. - - - ANTHONY IS LEFT IN THE DARK

VI. - - -JOHN BARD

VII. - - BLUEBEARD'S ROOM

VIII. - -MARTY WILKES

IX. - - -"THIS PLACE FOR REST"

X. - - - A BIT OF STALKING

XI. - - -THE QUEST BEGINS

XII. - - THE FIRST DAY

XIII. - -A TOUCH OF CRIMSON

XIV. - - LEMONADE

XV. - - -THE DARKNESS IN ELDARA

XVI. - - BLUFF

XVII. - -BUTCH RETURNS

XVIII. - FOOLISH HABITS

XIX. - - THE CANDLE

XX. - - -JOAN

XXI. - - THE SWIMMING OF THE SAVERACK

XXII. - -DREW SMILES

XXIII. - THE COMEDY SETTING

XXIV. - -"SAM'L HALL"

XXV. - - HAIR LIKE THE SUNSHINE

XXVI. - -"THE CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON"

XXVII. - THE STAGE

XXVIII.-SALLY BREAKS A MIRROR

XXIX. - -THE SHOW

XXX. - - THE LAMP

XXXI. - -NASH STARTS THE FINISH

XXXII. - TO "APPREHEND" A MAN

XXXIII.-NOTHING NEW

XXXIV. - CRITICISM

XXXV. - -ABANDON

XXXVI. - JERRY WOOD

XXXVII.-"TODO ES PERDO"

XXXVIII.-BACON

XXXIX. - LEGAL MURDER

XL. - - -PARTNERS

XLI. - - SALLY WEEPS


_The characters, places, incidents and situations in this book are
imaginary and have no relation to any person, place or actual
happening_.




CHAPTER I


"LA-A-A-DIES AN' GEN'L'MUN"

All through the exhibition the two sat unmoved; 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 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."

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 gen'l'mun! 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 gen'l'mun, is
the peerless, cowpuncher, '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 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
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
ringmaster 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 game?"

"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."

"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 galleries 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
reappeared. 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 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 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 invincible _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 gen'l'mun,
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. 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.




CHAPTER II


SPORTING CHANCE

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 four-flushers."

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 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 seriously.

"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, eh?"

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?"

"Yes."

"Didn't know they came in this style east of the Rockies, Woodbury. I
hope I lose my thousand, 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 taut.

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
lad 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 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 required 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 blinder'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 Woodbury snatched the coat from
the head of the stallion, which snorted and reared up, mouth agape 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 mêlée. 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 saddle
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 cunning 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 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 dismounted.

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

"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 approaching 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 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."

"Woodbury?"

"What's wrong with that name?"

"Nothing. Only I'm a bit surprised."

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




CHAPTER III


SOCIAL SUICIDE

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 brightened 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.

On Twenty-Sixth Street, a little from the corner of Madison Avenue,
stood a big touring car with the chauffeur waiting in the front seat.
There were still some followers from the Garden.

Woodbury jumped into the back seat, drew the reporter after him, and
called: "Start ahead, Maclaren - drive anywhere, but get moving."

"Now, sir," turning to the reporter as the engine commenced to hum,
"what's your name?"

"Bantry."

"Bantry? Glad to know you."

He shook hands.

"You know me?"

"Certainly. I cover sports all the way from polo to golf. Anthony


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