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Another Letter








From: 'firebrand' Trevison

That afternoon, Corrigan rode to the Bar B. The ranchhouse was of the
better class, big, imposing, well-kept, with a wide, roofed porch running
across the front and partly around both sides. It stood in a grove of
fir-balsam and cottonwood, on a slight eminence, and could be seen for
miles from the undulating trail that led to Manti. Corrigan arrived
shortly after noon, to find Rosalind gone, for a ride, Agatha told him,
after she had greeted him at the edge of the porch.

Agatha had not been pleased over Rosalind's rides with Trevison as a
companion. She was loyal to her brother, and she did not admire the bold
recklessness that shone so frankly and unmistakably in Trevison's eyes.
Had she been Rosalind she would have preferred the big, sleek,
well-groomed man of affairs who had called today. And because of her
preference for Corrigan, she sat long on the porch with him and told him
many things--things that darkened the big man's face. And when, as they
were talking, Rosalind came, Agatha discreetly retired, leaving the two
alone.

For a time after the coming of Rosalind, Corrigan sat in a big rocking
chair, looking thoughtfully down the Manti trail, listening to the girl
talk of the country, picturing her on a distant day--not too distant,
either, for he meant to press his suit--sitting beside him on the porch of
another house that he meant to build when he had achieved his goal. These
thoughts thrilled him as they had never thrilled him until the entrance of
Trevison into his scheme of things. He had been sure of her then. And now
the knowledge that he had a rival, filled him with a thousand emotions,
the most disturbing of which was jealousy. The rage in him was deep and
malignant as he coupled the mental pictures of his imagination with the
material record of Rosalind's movements with his rival, as related by
Agatha. It was not his way to procrastinate; he meant to exert every force
at his command, quickly, resistlessly, to destroy Trevison, to blacken him
and damn him, in the eyes of the girl who sat beside him. But he knew that
in the girl's presence he must be wise and subtle.

"It's a great country, isn't it?" he said, his eyes on the broad reaches
of plain, green-brown in the shimmering sunlight. "Look at it--almost as
big as some of the Old-world states! It's a wonderful country. I feel like
a feudal baron, with the destinies of an important principality in the
clutch of my hand!"

"Yes; it must give one a feeling of great responsibility to know that one
has an important part in the development of a section like this."

He laughed, deep in his throat, at the awe in her voice. "I ought to have
seen its possibilities years ago--I should have been out here, preparing
for this. But when I bought the land I had no idea it would one day be so
valuable."

"Bought it?"

"A hundred thousand acres of it. I got it very cheap." He told her about
the Midland grant and his purchase from Marchmont.

"I never heard of that before!" she told him.

"It wasn't generally known. In fact, it was apparently generally
considered that the land had been sold by the Midland Company to various
people--in small parcels. Unscrupulous agents engineered the sales, I
suppose. But the fact is that I made the purchase from the Midland Company
years ago--largely as a personal favor to Jim Marchmont, who needed money
badly. And a great many of the ranch-owners around here really have no
title to their land, and will have to give it up."

She breathed deeply. "That will be a great disappointment to them, now
that there exists the probability of a great advance in the value of the
land."

"That was the owners' lookout. A purchaser should see that his deed is
clear before closing a deal."

"What owners will be affected?" She spoke with a slight breathlessness.

"Many." He named some of them, leaving Trevison to the last, and then
watching her furtively out of the corners of his eyes and noting, with
straightened lips, the quick gasp she gave. She said nothing; she was
thinking of the great light that had been in Trevison's eyes on the day he
had told her of his ten years of exile; she could remember his words, they
had been vivid fixtures in her mind ever since: "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."

How hard it would be for him to give it all up; to acknowledge defeat, to
feel those ten wasted years behind him, empty, unproductive; full of
shattered hopes and dreams changed to nightmares! She sat, white of face,
gripping the arms of her chair, feeling a great, throbbing sympathy for
him.

"You will take it all?"

"He will still hold one hundred and sixty acres--the quarter-section
granted him by the government, which he has undoubtedly proved on."

"Why--" she began, and paused, for to go further would be to inject her
personal affairs into the conversation.

"Trevison is an evil in the country," he went on, speaking in a judicial
manner, but watching her narrowly. "It is men like him who retard
civilization. He opposes law and order--defies them. It is a shock, I
know, to learn that the title to property that you have regarded as your
own for years, is in jeopardy. But still, a man can play the man and not
yield to lawless impulses."

"What has happened?" She spoke breathlessly, for something in Corrigan's
voice warned her.

"Very little--from Trevison's viewpoint, I suppose," he laughed. "He came
into my office this morning, after being served with a summons from Judge
Lindman's court in regard to the title of his land, and tried to kill me.
Failing in that, he knocked poor, inoffensive little Braman down--who had
interfered in my behalf--and threw him bodily through the front window of
the building, glass and all. It's lucky for him that Braman wasn't hurt.
After that he tried to incite a riot, which Judge Lindman nipped in the
bud by sending a number of deputies, armed with rifles, to the scene. It
was a wonderful exhibition of outlawry. I was very sorry to have it
happen, and any more such outbreaks will result in Trevison's being
jailed--if not worse."

"My God!" she panted, in a whisper, and became lost in deep thought.

They sat for a time, without speaking. She studied the profile of the man
and compared its reposeful strength with that of the man who had ridden
with her many times since her coming to Blakeley's. The turbulent spirit
of Trevison awed her now, frightened her--she feared for his future. But
she pitied him; the sympathy that gripped her made icy shivers run over
her.

"From what I understand, Trevison has always been a disturber," resumed
Corrigan. "He disgraced himself at college, and afterwards--to such an
extent that his father cut him off. He hasn't changed, apparently; he is
still doing the same old tricks. He had some sort of a love affair before
coming West, your father told me. God help the girl who marries him!"

The girl flushed at the last sentence; she replied to the preceding one:

"Yes. Hester Keyes threw him over, after he broke with his father."

She did not see Corrigan's eyes quicken, for she was wondering if, after
all, Hester Keyes had not acted wisely in breaking with Trevison.
Certainly, Hester had been in a position to know him better than some of
those critics who had found fault with her for her action--herself, for
instance. She sighed, for the memory of her ideal was dimming. A figure
that represented violence and bloodshed had come in its place.

"Hester Keyes," said Corrigan, musingly. "Did she marry a fellow named
Harvey--afterwards? Winslow Harvey, if I remember rightly. He died soon
after?"

"Yes--do you know her?"

"Slightly." Corrigan laughed. "I knew her father. Well, well. So Trevison
worshiped there, did he? Was he badly hurt--do you know?"

"I do not know."

"Well," said Corrigan, getting up, and speaking lightly, as though
dismissing the subject from his mind; "I presume he was--and still is, for
that matter. A person never forgets the first love." He smiled at her.
"Won't you go with me for a short ride?"

The ride was taken, but a disturbing question lingered in Rosalind's mind
throughout, and would not be solved. Had Trevison forgotten Hester Keyes?
Did he think of her as--as--well, as she, herself, sometimes thought of
Trevison--as she thought of him now--with a haunting tenderness that made
his faults recede, as the shadows vanish before the sunshine?

What Corrigan thought was expressed in a satisfied chuckle, as later, he
loped his horse toward Manti. That night he wrote a letter and sent it
East. It was addressed to Mrs. Hester Harvey, and was subscribed: "Your
old friend, Jeff."





Next: A Rumble Of War

Previous: Exposed To The Sunlight



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