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A Judicial Puppet








From: 'firebrand' Trevison

Bowling along over the new tracks toward Manti in a special car secured at
Dry Bottom by Corrigan, one compartment of which was packed closely with
books, papers, ledger records, legal documents, blanks, and even office
furniture, Judge Lindman watched the landscape unfold with mingled
feelings of trepidation, reluctance, and impotent regret. The Judge's face
was not a strong one--had it been he would not have been seated in the
special car, talking with Corrigan. He was just under sixty-five years,
and their weight seemed to rest heavily upon him. His eyes were slightly
bleary, and had a look of weariness, as though he had endured much and was
utterly tired. His mouth was flaccid, the lips pouting when he compressed
his jaws, giving his face the sullen, indecisive look of the brooder
lacking the mental and physical courage of independent action and
initiative. The Judge could be led; Corrigan was leading him now, and the
Judge was reluctant, but his courage had oozed, back in Dry Bottom, when
Corrigan had mentioned a culpable action which the Judge had regretted
many times.

Some legal records of the county were on the table between the two men.
The Judge had objected when Corrigan had secured them from the compartment
where the others were piled.

"It isn't regular, Mr. Corrigan," he had said; "no one except a legally
authorized person has the right to look over those books."

"We'll say that I am legally authorized, then," grinned Corrigan. The look
in his eyes was one of amused contempt. "It isn't the only irregular thing
you have done, Lindman."

The Judge subsided, but back in his eyes was a slumbering hatred for this
man, who was forcing him to complicity in another crime. He regretted that
other crime; why should this man deliberately remind him of it?

After looking over the records, Corrigan outlined a scheme of action that
made the Judge's face blanch.

"I won't be a party to any such scurrilous undertaking!" he declared when,
he could trust his voice; "I--I won't permit it!"

Corrigan stretched his legs out under the table, shoved his hands into his
trousers' pockets and laughed.

"Why the high moral attitude, Judge? It doesn't become you. Refuse if you
like. When we get to Manti I shall wire Benham. It's likely he'll feel
pretty sore. He's got his heart set on this. And I have no doubt that
after he gets my wire he'll jump the next train for Washington, and--"

The Judge exclaimed with weak incoherence, and a few minutes later he was
bending over the records with Corrigan--the latter making sundry copies on
a pad of paper, which he placed in a pocket when the work was completed.

At noon the special car was in Manti. Corrigan, the Judge, and Braman,
carried the Judge's effects and stored them in the rear room of the bank
building. "I'll build you a courthouse, tomorrow," he promised the Judge;
"big enough for you and a number of deputies. You'll need deputies, you
know." He grinned as the Judge shrank. Then, leaving the Judge in the room
with his books and papers, Corrigan drew Braman outside.

"I got hell from Benham for destroying Trevison's check--he wired me to
attend to my other deals and let him run the railroad--the damned old
fool! You must have taken the cash to Trevison--I see the gang's working
again."

"The cash went," said the banker, watching Corrigan covertly, "but I
didn't take it. J. C. wired explicit orders for his daughter to act."

Corrigan cursed viciously, his face dark with wrath as he turned to look
at the private car, on the switch. The banker watched him with secret,
vindictive enjoyment. Miss Benham had judged Braman correctly--he was
cold, crafty, selfish, and wholly devoid of sympathy. He was for Braman,
first and last--and in the interim.

"Miss Benham went to the cut--so I hear," he went on, smoothly. "Trevison
wasn't there. Miss Benham went to the Diamond K." His eyes gleamed as
Corrigan's hands clenched. "Trevison rode back to the car with her--which
she had ordered taken to the cut," went on the banker. "And this morning
about ten o'clock Trevison came here with a led horse. He and Miss Benham
rode away together. I heard her tell her aunt they were going to
Blakeley's ranch--it's about eight miles from here."

Corrigan's face went white. "I'll kill him for that!" he said.

"Jealous, eh?" laughed the banker. "So, that's the reason--"

Corrigan turned and struck bitterly. The banker's jaws clacked
sharply--otherwise he fell silently, striking his head against the edge of
the step and rolling, face down, into the dust.

When he recovered and sat up, Corrigan had gone. The banker gazed
foolishly around at a world that was still reeling--felt his jaw
carefully, wonder and astonishment in his eyes.

"What do you know about that?" he asked of the surrounding silence. "I've
kidded him about women before, and he never got sore. He must be in
love!"

* * * * *

Riding through a saccaton basin, the green-brown tips so high that they
caught at their stirrups as they rode slowly along; a white, smiling sky
above them and Blakeley's still three miles away, Miss Benham and Trevison
were chatting gayly at the instant the banker had received Corrigan's
blow.

Miss Benham had spent the night thinking of Trevison, and she had spent
much of her time during the present ride stealing glances at him. She had
discovered something about him that had eluded her the day before--an
impulsive boyishness. It was hidden behind the manhood of him, so that the
casual observer would not be likely to see it; men would have failed to
see it, because she was certain that with men he would not let it be seen.
But she knew the recklessness that shone in his eyes, the energy that
slumbered in them ready to be applied any moment in response to any whim
that might seize him, were traits that had not yet yielded to the stern
governors of manhood--nor would they yield in many years to come--they
were the fountains of virility that would keep him young. She felt the
irresistible appeal of him, responsive to the youth that flourished in her
own heart--and Corrigan, older, more ponderous, less addicted to impulse,
grew distant in her thoughts and vision. The day before yesterday her
sympathies had been with Corrigan--she had thought. But as she rode she
knew that they were threatening to desert him. For this man of heroic mold
who rode beside her was disquietingly captivating in the bold recklessness
of his youth.

They climbed the far slope of the basin and halted their horses on the
crest. Before them stretched a plain so big and vast and inviting that it
made the girl gasp with delight.

"Oh," she said, awed; "isn't it wonderful?"

"I knew you'd like it."

"The East has nothing like this," she said, with a broad sweep of the
hand.

"No," he said.

She turned on him triumphantly. "There!" she declared; "you have committed
yourself. You are from the East!"

"Well," he said; "I've never denied it."

Something vague and subtle had drawn them together during the ride,
bridging the hiatus of strangeness, making them feel that they had been
acquainted long. It did not seem impertinent to her that she should ask
the question that she now put to him--she felt that her interest in him
permitted it:

"You are an easterner, and yet you have been out here for about ten years.
Your house is big and substantial, but I should judge that it has no
comforts, no conveniences. You live there alone, except for some men, and
you have male servants--if you have any. Why should you bury yourself
here? You are educated, you are young. There are great opportunities for
you in the East!"

She paused, for she saw a cynical expression in his eyes.

"Well?" she said, impatiently, for she had been very much in earnest.

"I suppose I've got to tell you," he said, soberly. "I don't know what has
come over me--you seem to have me under a spell. I've never spoken about
it before. I don't know why I should now. But you've got to know, I
presume."

"Yes."

"On your head rest the blame," he said, his grin still cynical; "and upon
mine the consequences. It isn't a pretty story to tell; it's only virtue
is its brevity. I was fired out of college for fighting. The fellows I
licked deserved what they got--and I deserved what I got for breaking
rules. I've always broken rules. I may have broken laws--most of us have.
My father is wealthy. The last time I saw him he said I was incorrigible
and a dunce. I admit the former, but I'm going to make him take the other
back. I told him so. He replied that he was from Missouri. He gave me an
opportunity to make good by cutting off my allowance. There was a girl.
When my allowance was cut off she made me feel cold as an Eskimo. Told me
straight that she had never liked me in the way she'd led me to believe
she did, and that she was engaged to a real man. She made the mistake of
telling me his name, and it happened to be one of the fellows I'd had
trouble with at college. The girl lost her temper and told me things he'd
said about me. I left New York that night, but before I hopped on the
train I stopped in to see my rival and gave him the bulliest trimming that
I had ever given anybody. I came out here and took up a quarter-section of
land. I bought more--after a while. I own five thousand acres, and about a
thousand acres of it is the best coal land in the United States. I
wouldn't sell it for love or money, for when your father gets his railroad
running, I'm going to cash in on ten of the leanest and hardest and
lonesomest years that any man ever put in. I'm going back some day. But I
won't stay. I've lived in this country so long that it's got into my heart
and soul. It's a golden paradise."

She did not share his enthusiasm--her thoughts were selfishly personal,
though they included him.

"And the girl!" she said. "When you go back, would you--"

"Never!" he scoffed, vehemently. "That would convince me that I am the
dunce my father said I was!"

The girl turned her head and smiled. And a little later, when they were
riding on again, she murmured softly:

"Ten years of lonesomeness and bitterness to save his pride! I wonder if
Hester Keyes knows what she has missed?"





Next: Two Letters Go East

Previous: A Telegram And A Girl



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