Concerning The Boone-bellamy-yarnell Feud
Part of: DEAD MAN'S CACHE
From: Brand Blotters
The story that Ferne Yarnell told them in the parlor of the hotel had its
beginnings far back in the days before the great war. They had been
neighbors, these three families, had settled side by side in this new land
of Arkansas, had hunted and feasted together in amity. In an hour had
arisen the rift between them that was to widen to a chasm into which much
blood had since been spilt. It began with a quarrel between hotheaded
young men. Forty years later it was still running its blind wasteful
Even before the war the Boones had begun to go down hill rapidly. Cad
Boone, dissipated and unprincipled, had found even the lax discipline of
the Confederate army too rigid and had joined the guerrillas, that band of
hangers-on which respected neither flag and developed a cruelty that was
appalling. Falling into the hands of Captain Ransom Yarnell, he had been
tried by drumhead courtmartial and executed within twenty four hours of
The boast of the Boones was that they never forgot an injury. They might
wait many years for the chance, but in the end they paid their debts.
Twenty years after the war Sugden Boone shot down Colonel Yarnell as he
was hitching his horse in front of the courthouse at Nemo. Next Christmas
eve a brother of the murdered man--Captain Tom, as his old troopers still
called him--met old Sugden in the postoffice and a revolver duel followed.
From it Captain Tom emerged with a bullet in his arm. Sugden was carried
out of the store feet first to a house of mourning.
The Boones took their time. Another decade passed. Old Richard Bellamy,
father of the young man, was shot through the uncurtained window of his
living rooms while reading the paper one night. Though related to the
Yarnells, he had never taken any part in the feud beyond that of
expressing his opinion freely. The general opinion was that he had been
killed by Dunc Boone, but there was no conclusive evidence to back it.
Three weeks later another one of the same faction met his fate. Captain
Tom was ambushed while riding from his plantation to town and left dead on
the road. Dunc Boone had been seen lurking near the spot, and immediately
after the killing he was met by two hunters as he was slipping through the
underbrush for the swamps. There was no direct evidence against the young
man, but Captain Tom had been the most popular man in the county. Reckless
though he was, Duncan Boone had been forced to leave the country by the
intensity of the popular feeling against him.
Again the feud had slumbered. It was understood that the Yarnells and the
Bellamys were ready to drop it. Only one of the opposite faction remained
on the ground, a twin brother of Duncan. Shep Boone was a drunken
ne'er-do-well, but since he now stood alone nothing more than empty
threats was expected of him. He spent his time idly with a set of gambling
loafers, but he lacked the quality of active malice so pronounced in
A small part of the old plantation, heavily mortgaged, still belonged to
Shep and was rented by him to a tenant, Jess Munro. He announced one day
that he was going to collect the rent due him. Having been drinking
heavily, he was in an abusive frame of mind. As it chanced he met young
Hal Yarnell, just going into the office of his kinsman Dick Bellamy, with
whom he was about to arrange the details of a hunting trip they were
starting upon. Shep emptied his spleen on the boy, harking back to the old
feud and threatening vengeance at their next meeting. The boy was white
with rage, but he shut his teeth and passed upstairs without saying a
The body of Shep Boone was found next day by Munro among the blackberry
bushes at the fence corner of his own place. No less than four witnesses
had seen young Yarnell pass that way with a rifle in his hand about the
same time that Shep was riding out from town. They had heard a shot, but
had thought little of it. Munro had been hoeing cotton in the field and
had seen the lad as he passed. Later he had heard excited voices, and
presently a shot. Other circumstantial evidence wound a net around the
boy. He was arrested. Before the coroner held an inquest a new development
startled the community. Dick Bellamy fled on a night train, leaving a note
to the coroner exonerating Hal. In it he practically admitted the crime,
pleading self defence.
This was the story that Ferne Yarnell told in the parlor of the Palace
Hotel to Jack Flatray and the Lees.
Melissy spoke first. "Did Mr. Bellamy kill the man to keep your brother
from being killed?"
"I don't know. It must have been that. It's all so horrible."
The deputy's eyes gleamed. "Think of it another way, Miss Yarnell. Bellamy
was up against it. Your brother is only a boy. He took his place. A friend
couldn't have done more for another."
The color beat into the face of the Arkansas girl as she looked at him.
"No. He sacrificed his career for him. He did a thing he must have hated
"He's sure some man," Flatray pronounced.
A young man, slight, quick of step, and erect as a willow sapling, walked
into the room. He looked from one to another with clear level eyes. Miss
Ferne introduced him as her brother.
A thought crossed the mind of the deputy. Perhaps this boy had killed his
enemy after all and Bellamy had shouldered the blame for him. If the mine
owner were in love with Ferne Yarnell this was a hypothesis more than
possible. In either case he acquitted the slayer of blame. In his pocket
was a letter from the sheriff at Nemo, Arkansas, stating that his county
was well rid of Shep Boone and that the universal opinion was that neither
Bellamy nor young Yarnell had been to blame for the outcome of the
difficulty. Unless there came to him an active demand for the return of
Bellamy he intended to let sleeping dogs lie.
No such demand came. Within a month the mystery was cleared. The renter
Munro delivered himself to the sheriff at Nemo, admitting that he had
killed Shep Boone in self defence. The dead man had been drinking and was
exceedingly quarrelsome. He had abused his tenant and at last drawn on
him. Whereupon Munro had shot him down. At first afraid of what might
happen to him, he had stood aside and let the blame be shouldered upon
young Yarnell. But later his conscience had forced him to a confession. It
is enough here to say that he was later tried and acquitted, thus closing
the chapter of the wastrel's tragic death.
The day after the news of Munro's confession reached Arizona Richard
Bellamy called upon Flatray to invite him to his wedding. As soon as his
name was clear he had asked Ferne Yarnell to marry him.
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