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A Telegram And A Girl

From: 'firebrand' Trevison

Banker Braman went to bed on the cot in the back room shortly after
Corrigan departed from Manti. He stretched himself out with a sigh,
oppressed with the conviction that he had done a bad day's work in
antagonizing Trevison. The Diamond K owner would repay him, he knew. But
he knew, too, that he need have no fear that Trevison would sneak about
it. Therefore he did not expect to feel Trevison at his throat during the
night. That was some satisfaction.

He dropped to sleep, thinking of Trevison. He awoke about dawn to a loud
hammering on the rear door, and he scrambled out of bed and opened the
door upon the telegraph agent. That gentleman gazed at him with grim

"Holy Moses!" he said; "you're a hell of a tight sleeper! I've been
pounding on this door for an age!" He shoved a sheet of paper under
Braman's nose. "Here's a telegram for you."

Braman took the telegram, scanning it, while the agent talked on,
ramblingly. A sickly smile came over Braman's face when he finished
reading, and then he listened to the agent:

"I got a wire a little after midnight, asking me if that man, Corrigan,
was still in Manti. The engineer told me he was taking Corrigan back to
Dry Bottom at midnight, and so I knew he wasn't here, and I clicked back
'No.' It was from J. C. He must have connected with Corrigan at Dry
Bottom. That guy Trevison must have old Benham's goat, eh?"

Braman re-read the telegram; it was directed to him:

Send my daughter to Trevison with cash in amount of check destroyed
by Corrigan yesterday. Instruct her to say mistake made. No offense
intended. Hustle. J. C. BENHAM.

Braman slipped his clothes on and ran down the track to the private car.
He had known J. C. Benham several years and was aware that when he issued
an order he wanted it obeyed, literally. The negro autocrat of the private
car met him at the platform and grinned amply at the banker's request.

"Miss Benham done tol' me she am not to be disturbed till eight o'clock,"
he objected. But the telegram in Braman's hands had instant effect upon
the black custodian of the car, and shortly afterward Miss Benham was
looking at the banker and his telegram in sleepy-eyed astonishment, the
door of her compartment open only far enough to permit her to stick her
head out.

Braman was forced to do much explaining, and concluded by reading the
telegram to her. She drew everything out of him except the story of the

"Well," she said in the end, "I suppose I shall have to go. So his name is
'Brand' Trevison. And he won't permit the men to work. Why did Mr.
Corrigan destroy the check?"

Braman evaded, but the girl thought she knew. Corrigan had yielded to an
impulse of obstinacy provoked by Trevison's assault on him. It was not
good business--it was almost childish; but it was human to feel that way.
She felt a slight disappointment in Corrigan, though; the action did not
quite accord with her previous estimate of him. She did not know what to
think of Trevison. But of course any man who would deliberately and
brutally ride another man down, would naturally not hesitate to adopt
other lawless means of defending himself.

She told Braman to have the money ready for her in an hour, and at the end
of that time with her morocco handbag bulging, she emerged from the front
door of the bank and climbed the steps of the private car, which had been
pulled down to a point in front of the station by the dinky engine, with
Murphy presiding at the throttle.

Carson was standing on the platform when Miss Benham climbed to it, and he
grinned and greeted her with:

"If ye have no objections, ma'am, I'll be ridin' down to the cut with ye.
Me name's Patrick Carson, ma'am."

"I have no objection whatever," said the lady, graciously. "I presume you
are connected with the railroad?"

"An' wid the ginneys that's buildin' it, ma'am," he supplemented. "I'm the
construction boss av this section, an' I'm the mon that had the unhappy
experience av lookin' into the business end av 'Firebrand's' six-shooter

"'Firebrand's'?" she said, with a puzzled look at him.

"Thot mon, Trevison, ma'am; that's what they call him. An' he fits it
bedad--beggin' your pardon."

"Oh," she said; "then you know him." And she felt a sudden interest in

"Enough to be certain he ain't to be monkeyed with, ma'am."

She seemed to ignore this. "Please tell the engineer to go ahead," she
told him. "And then come into the car--I want to talk with you."

A little later, with the car clicking slowly over the rail-joints toward
the cut, Carson diffidently followed the negro attendant into a luxurious
compartment, in which, seated in a big leather-covered chair, was Miss
Benham. She motioned Carson to another chair, and in the conversation that
followed Miss Benham received a comprehensive estimate of Trevison from
Carson's viewpoint. It seemed unsatisfying to her--Carson's commendation
did not appear to coincide with Trevison's performances.

"Have you heard what happened in Manti yesterday?" she questioned. "This
man, Trevison, jumped his horse against Mr. Corrigan and knocked him

"I heard av it," grinned Carson. "But I didn't see it. Nor did I see the
daisy scrap that tuk place right after."

"Fight?" she exclaimed.

Carson reddened. "Sure, ye haven't heard av it, an' I'm blabbin' like a

"Tell me about it." Her eyes were aglow with interest.

"There's devilish little to tell--beggin' your pardon, ma'am. But thim
that was in at the finish is waggin' their tongues about it bein' a dandy
shindy. Judgin' from the talk, nobuddy got licked--it was a fair dhraw.
But I sh'ud judge, lookin' at Corrigan's face, that it was a darlin' av a

She was silent, gazing contemplatively out of the car window. Corrigan had
returned, after escorting her to the car, to engage in a fight with
Trevison. That was what had occupied him; that was why he had gone away
without seeing her. Well, Trevison had given him plenty of provocation.

"Trevison's horse knockin' Corrigan down was what started it, they've been
tellin' me," said Carson. "But thim that know Trevison's black knows that
Trevison wasn't to blame."

"Not to blame?" she asked; "why not?"

"For the simple rayson thot in a case like thot the mon has no control
over the baste, ma'am. 'Firebrand' told me only yisterday mornin' thot
there was no holdin' the black whin somebuddy tried to shoot wid him on
his back."

The girl remembered how Trevison had tried to speak to her immediately
after the upsetting of Corrigan, and she knew now, that he had wanted to
explain his action. Reviewing the incident in the light of Carson's
explanation, she felt that Corrigan was quite as much at fault as
Trevison. Somehow, that knowledge was vaguely satisfying.

She did not succeed in questioning Carson further about Trevison, though
there were many points over which she felt a disturbing curiosity, for
Agatha came in presently, and after nodding stiffly to Carson, seated
herself and gazed aloofly out of a window.

Carson, ill at ease in Agatha's presence, soon invented an excuse to go
out upon the platform, leaving Rosalind to explain his presence in the

"What on earth could you have to say to a section boss--or he to you?"
demanded Agatha. "You are becoming very--er--indiscreet, Rosalind."

The girl smiled. It was a smile that would have betrayed the girl had
Agatha possessed the physiognomist's faculty of analyzation, for in it was
much relief and renewed faith. For the rider of the black horse was not
the brutal creature she had thought him.

* * * * *

When the private car came to a stop, Rosalind looked out of the window to
see the steep wall of the cut towering above her. Aunt Agatha still sat
near, and when Rosalind got up Agatha rose also, registering an

"I think your father might have arranged to have some man meet this
outlaw. It is not, in my opinion, a proper errand for a girl. But if you
are determined to go, I presume I shall have to follow."

"It won't be necessary," said Rosalind. But Agatha set her lips tightly.
And when the girl reached the platform Agatha was close behind her.

But both halted on the platform as they were about to descend the steps.
They heard Carson's voice, loud and argumentative:

"There's a lady aboored, I tell ye! If ye shoot, you're a lot of damned
rapscallions, an' I'll come up there an' bate the head off ye!"

"Stow your gab an' produce the lady!" answered a voice. It came from
above, and Rosalind stepped down to the floor of the cut and looked
upward. On the crest of the southern wall were a dozen men--cowboys--armed
with rifles, peering down at the car. They shifted their gaze to her when
she stepped into view, and one of them laughed.

"Correct, boys," he said; "it's a lady." There was a short silence;
Rosalind saw the men gather close--they were talking, but she could not
hear their voices. Then the man who had spoken first stepped to the edge
of the cut and called: "What do you want?"

The girl answered: "I want to speak with Mr. Trevison."

"Sorry, ma'am," came back the voice; "but Trevison ain't here--he's at the
Diamond K."

Rosalind reached a decision quickly. "Aunty," she said; "I am going to the
Diamond K."

"I forbid you!" said Agatha sternly. "I would not trust you an instant
with those outlaws!"

"Nonsense," smiled Rosalind. "I am coming up," she called to the man on
the crest; "do you mind?"

The man laughed. "I reckon not, ma'am."

Rosalind smiled at Carson, who was watching her admiringly, and to the
smile he answered, pointing eastward to where the slope of the hill melted
into the plains: "You'll have to go thot way, ma'am." He laughed. "You're
perfectly safe wid thim min, ma'am--they're Trevison's--an' Trevison wud
shoot the last mon av thim if they'd harm a hair av your pretty head. Go
along, ma'am, an' God bless ye! Ye'll be savin' a heap av throuble for me
an' me ginneys, an' the railroad company." He looked with bland derision
at Agatha who gave him a glance of scornful reproof as she followed after
her charge.

The girl was panting when she reached the crest of the cut. Agatha was a
little white, possibly more from apprehension than from indignation,
though that emotion had its influence; but their reception could not have
been more formal had it taken place in an eastern drawing-room. For every
hat was off, and each man was trying his best to conceal his interest. And

when men have not seen a woman for a long time, the appearance of a pretty
one makes it rather hard to maintain polite poise. But they succeeded,
which spoke well for their manliness. If they exchanged surreptitious
winks over the appearance of Agatha, they are to be excused, for that
lady's demeanor was one of frigid haughtiness, which is never quite
impressive to those who live close to nature.

In an exchange of words, brief and pointed, Rosalind learned that it was
three miles to the Diamond K ranchhouse, and that Trevison had given
orders not to be disturbed unless the railroad company attempted to
continue work at the cut. Could she borrow one of their horses, and a

"You bet!" emphatically returned the spokesman who, she learned later, was
Trevison's foreman. She should have the gentlest "cayuse" in the "bunch,"
and the foreman would do the guiding, himself. At which word Agatha,
noting the foreman's enthusiasm, glared coldly at him.

But here Agatha was balked by the insurmountable wall of convention. She
had ridden horses, to be sure, in her younger days; but when the foreman,
at Rosalind's request, offered her a pony, she sniffed scornfully and
marched down the slope toward the private car, saying that if Rosalind was
determined to persist she might persist without her assistance. For
there was no side-saddle in the riding equipment of the outfit. And
Rosalind, quite aware of the prudishness exhibited by her chaperon, and
not unmindful of the mirth that the men were trying their best to keep
concealed, rode on with the foreman, with something resembling
thankfulness for the temporary freedom tugging at her heart.

* * * * *

Trevison had camped all night on the crest of the cut. It was only at dawn
that Barkwell, the foreman who had escorted Rosalind, had appeared at the
cut on his way to town, and discovered him, and then the foreman's plans
were changed and he was dispatched to the Diamond K for reinforcements.
Trevison had ridden back to the Diamond K to care for his arm, which had
pained him frightfully during the night, and at ten o'clock in the morning
he was stretched out, fully dressed and wide awake on the bed in his room
in the ranchhouse, frowningly reviewing the events of the day before.

He was in no good humor, and when he heard Barkwell hallooing from the
yard near the house, he got up and looked out of a window, a scowl on his

Rosalind was not in the best of spirits, herself, for during the ride to
the ranchhouse she had been sending subtly-questioning shafts at the
foreman--questions that mostly concerned Trevison--and they had all fell,
blunted and impotent, from the armor of Barkwell's reticence. But a glance
at Trevison's face, ludicrous in its expression of stunned amazement,
brought a broad smile to her own. She saw his lips form her name, and then
she waited demurely until she saw him coming out of the ranchhouse door
toward her.

He had quite recovered from his surprise, she noted; his manner was that
of the day before, when she had seen him riding the black horse. When she
saw him coming lightly toward her, she at first had eyes for nothing but
his perfect figure, feeling the strength that his close-fitting clothing
revealed so unmistakably, and an unaccountable blush glowed in her cheeks.
And then she observed that his left arm was in a sling, and a flash of
wondering concern swept over her--also unaccountable. And then he was at
her stirrup, smiling up at her broadly and cordially.

"Welcome to the Diamond K, Miss Benham," he said. "Won't you get off your

"Thank you; I came on business and must return immediately. There has been
a misunderstanding, my father says. He wired me, directing me to
apologize, for him, for Mr. Corrigan's actions of yesterday. Perhaps Mr.
Corrigan over-stepped his authority--I have no means of knowing." She
passed the morocco bag over to him, and he took it, looking at it in some
perplexity. "You will find cash in there to the amount named by the check
that Mr. Corrigan destroyed. I hope," she added, smiling at him, "that
there will be no more trouble."

"The payment of this money for the right-of-way removes the provocation
for trouble," he laughed. "Barkwell," he directed, turning to the foreman;
"you may go back to the outfit." He looked after the foreman as the latter
rode away, turning presently to Rosalind. "If you will wait a few minutes,
until I stow this money in a safe place, I'll ride back to the cut with
you and pull the boys off."

She had wondered much over the rifles in the hands of his men at the cut.
"Would your men have used their guns?" she asked.

He had turned to go to the house, and he wheeled quickly, astonished.
"Certainly!" he said; "why not?"

"That would be lawlessness, would it not?" It made her shiver slightly to
hear him so frankly confess to murderous designs.

"It was not my quarrel," he said, looking at her narrowly, his brows
contracted. "Law is all right where everybody accepts it as a governor to
their actions. I accept it when it deals fairly with me--when it's just.
Certain rights are mine, and I'll fight for them. This situation was
brought on by Corrigan's obstinacy. We had a fight, and it peeved him
because I wouldn't permit him to hammer my head off. He destroyed the
check, and as the company's option expired yesterday it was unlawful for
the company to trespass on my land."

"Well," she smiled, affected by his vehemence; "we shall have peace now,
presumably. And--" she reddened again "--I want to ask your pardon on my
own account, for speaking to you as I did yesterday. I thought you
brutal--the way you rode your horse over Mr. Corrigan. Mr. Carson assured
me that the horse was to blame."

"I am indebted to Carson," he laughed, bowing. Rosalind watched him go
into the house, and then turned and inspected her surroundings. The house
was big, roomy, with a massive hip roof. A paved gallery stretched the
entire length of the front--she would have liked to rest for a few minutes
in the heavy rocker that stood in its cool shadows. No woman lived here,
she was certain, because there was a lack of evidence of woman's
handiwork--no filmy curtains at the windows--merely shades; no cushion was
on the chair--which, by the way, looked lonesome--but perhaps that was
merely her imagination. Much dust had gathered on the gallery floor and on
the sash of the windows--a woman would have had things looking
differently. And so she divined that Trevison was not married. It
surprised her to discover that that thought had been in her mind, and she
turned to continue her inspection, filled with wonder that it had been

She got an impression of breadth and spaciousness out of her survey of the
buildings and the surrounding country. The buildings were in good
condition; everything looked substantial and homelike and her
contemplation of it aroused in her a yearning for a house and land in this
section of the country, it was so peaceful and dignified in comparison
with the life she knew.

She watched Trevison when he emerged from the house, and smiled when he
returned the empty handbag. He went to a small building near a fenced
enclosure--the corral, she learned afterward--and came out carrying a
saddle, which he hung on the fence while he captured the black horse,
which she had already observed. The animal evaded capture, playfully, but
in the end it trotted mincingly to Trevison and permitted him to throw the
bridle on. Then, shortly afterward he mounted the black and together they
rode back toward the cut.

As they rode the girl's curiosity for the man who rode beside her grew
acute. She was aware--she had been aware all along--that he was far
different from the other men of Manti--there was about him an atmosphere
of refinement and quiet confidence that mingled admirably with his
magnificent physical force, tempering it, suggesting reserve power,
hinting of excellent mental capacity. She determined to know something
about him. And so she began subtly:

"In a section of country so large as this it seems that our American
measure of length--a mile--should be stretched to something that would
more adequately express size. Don't you think so?"

He looked quickly at her. "That is an odd thought," he laughed, "but it
inevitably attacks the person who views the yawning distances here for the
first time. Why not use the English mile if the American doesn't

"There is a measure that exceeds that, isn't there? Wasn't there a Persian
measure somewhat longer, fathered by Herodotus or another of the ancients?
I am sure there was--or is--but I have forgotten?"

"Yes," he said, "--a parasang." He looked narrowly at her and saw her eyes

She had made progress; she felt much satisfaction.

"You are not a native," she said.

"How do you know?"

"Cowboys do not commonly measure their distances with parasangs," she

"Nor do ordinary women try to shake off ennui by coming West in private
cars," he drawled.

She started and looking quickly at him. "How did you know that was what
happened to me?" she demanded.

"Because you're too spirited and vigorous to spend your life dawdling in
society. You yearn for action, for the broad, free life of the open.
You're in love with this country right now."

"Yes, yes," she said, astonished; "but how do you know?"

"You might have sent a man here in your place--Braman, for instance; he
could be trusted. You came yourself, eager for adventure--you came on a
borrowed horse. When you were looking at the country from the horse in
front of my house, I saw you sigh."

"Well," she said, with flushed face and glowing eyes; "I have decided to
live out here--for a time, at least. So you were watching me?"

"Just a glance," he defended, grinning; "I couldn't help it. Please
forgive me."

"I suppose I'll have to," she laughed, delighted, reveling in this freedom
of speech, in his directness. His manner touched a spark somewhere in her,
she felt strangely elated, exhilarated. When she reflected that this was
only their second meeting and that she had not been conventionally
introduced to him, she was amazed. Had a stranger of her set talked to her
so familiarly she would have resented it. Out here it seemed to be
perfectly natural.

"How do you know I borrowed a horse to come here?" she asked.

"That's easy," he grinned; "there's the Diamond K brand on his hip."


They rode on a little distance in silence, and then she remembered that
she was still curious about him. His frankness had affected her; she did
not think it impertinent to betray curiosity.

"How long have you lived out here?" she asked.

"About ten years."

"You weren't born here, of course--you have admitted that. Then where did
you come from?"

"This is a large country," he returned, unsmilingly.

It was a reproof, certainly--Rosalind could go no farther in that
direction. But her words had brought a mystery into existence, thus
sharpening her interest in him. She was conscious, though, of a slight
pique--what possible reason could he have for evasion? He had not the
appearance of a fugitive from justice.

"So you're going to live out here?" he said, after an interval. "Where?"

"I heard father speak of buying Blakeley's place. Do you know where it

"It adjoins mine." There was a leaping note in his voice, which she did
not fail to catch. "Do you see that dark line over there?" He pointed
eastward--a mile perhaps. "That's a gully; it divides my land from
Blakeley's. Blakeley told me a month ago that he was dickering with an
eastern man. If you are thinking of looking the place over, and want a
trustworthy escort I should be pleased to recommend--myself." And he
grinned widely at her.

"I shall consider your offer--and I thank you for it," she returned. "I
feel positive that father will buy a ranch here, for he has much faith in
the future of Manti--he is obsessed with it."

He looked sharply at her. "Then your father is going to have a hand in the
development of Manti? I heard a rumor to the effect that some eastern
company was interested, had, in fact, secured the water rights for an
enormous section."

She remembered what Corrigan had told her, and blushingly dissembled:

"I put no faith in rumor--do you? Mr. Corrigan is the head of the company
which is to develop Manti. But of course that is an eastern company,
isn't it?"

He nodded, and she smiled at a thought that came to her. "How far is it to
Blakeley's ranchhouse?" she asked.

"About two parasangs," he answered gravely.

"Well," she said, mimicking him; "I could never walk there, could I? If
I go, I shall have to borrow a horse--or buy one. Could you recommend a
horse that would be as trustworthy as the escort you have promised me?"

"We shall go to Blakeley's tomorrow," he told her. "I shall bring you a
trustworthy horse at ten o'clock in the morning."

They were approaching the cut, and she nodded an acceptance. An instant
later he was talking to his men, and she sat near him, watching them as
they raced over the plains toward the Diamond K ranchhouse. One man
remained; he was without a mount, and he grinned with embarrassment when
Rosalind's gaze rested on him.

"Oh," she said; "you are waiting for your horse! How stupid of me!" She
dismounted and turned the animal over to him. When she looked around,
Trevison had also dismounted and was coming toward her, leading the black,
the reins looped through his arm. Rosalind flushed, and thought of Agatha,
but offered no objection.

It was a long walk down the slope of the hill and around its base to the
private car, but they made it still longer by walking slowly and taking
the most roundabout way. Three persons saw them coming--Agatha, standing
rigid on the platform; the negro attendant, standing behind Agatha in the
doorway, his eyes wide with interest; and Carson, seated on a boulder a
little distance down the cut, grinning broadly.

"Bedad," he rumbled; "the bhoy's made a hit wid her, or I'm a sinner! But
didn't I know he wud? The two bulldogs is goin' to have it now, sure as
I'm a foot high!"

Next: A Judicial Puppet

Previous: The Long Arm Of Power

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