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In Which Hatred Is Born








From: 'firebrand' Trevison

For some persons romance dwells in the new and the unusual, and for other
persons it dwells not at all. Certain of Rosalind Benham's friends would
have been able to see nothing but the crudities and squalor of Manti,
viewing it as Miss Benham did, from one of the windows of her father's
private car, which early that morning had been shunted upon a switch at
the outskirts of town. Those friends would have seen nothing but a new
town of weird and picturesque buildings, with more saloons than seemed to
be needed in view of the noticeable lack of citizens. They would have
shuddered at the dust-windrowed street, the litter of refuse, the dismal
lonesomeness, the forlornness, the utter isolation, the desolation. Those
friends would have failed to note the vast, silent reaches of green-brown
plain that stretched and yawned into aching distances; the wonderfully
blue and cloudless sky that covered it; they would have overlooked the
timber groves that spread here and there over the face of the land, with
their lure of mystery. No thoughts of the bigness of this country would
have crept in upon them--except as they might have been reminded of the
dreary distance from the glitter and the tinsel of the East. The
mountains, distant and shining, would have meant nothing to them; the
strong, pungent aroma of the sage might have nauseated them.

But Miss Benham had caught her first glimpse of Manti and the surrounding
country from a window of her berth in the car that morning just at dawn,
and she loved it. She had lain for some time cuddled up in her bed,
watching the sun rise over the distant mountains, and the breath of the
sage, sweeping into the half-opened window, had carried with it something
stronger--the lure of a virgin country.

Aunt Agatha Benham, chaperon, forty--maiden lady from choice--various
uncharitable persons hinted humorously of pursued eligibles--found
Rosalind gazing ecstatically out of the berth window when she stirred and
awoke shortly after nine. Agatha climbed out of her berth and sat on its
edge, yawning sleepily.

"This is Manti, I suppose," she said acridly, shoving the curtain aside
and looking out of the window. "We should consider ourselves fortunate not
to have had an adventure with Indians or outlaws. We have that to be
thankful for, at least."

Agatha's sarcasm failed to penetrate the armor of Rosalind's unconcern--as
Agatha's sarcasms always did. Agatha occupied a place in Rosalind's
affections, but not in her scheme of enjoyment. Since she must be
chaperoned, Agatha was acceptable to her. But that did not mean that she
made a confidante of Agatha. For Agatha was looking at the world through
the eyes of Forty, and the vision of Twenty is somewhat more romantic.

"Whatever your father thought of in permitting you to come out here is a
mystery to me," pursued Agatha severely, as she fussed with her hair. "It
was like him, though, to go to all this trouble--for me--merely to satisfy
your curiosity about the country. I presume we shall be returning
shortly."

"Don't be impatient, Aunty," said the girl, still gazing out of the
window. "I intend to stretch my legs before I return."

"Mercy!" gasped Agatha; "such language! This barbaric country has affected
you already, my dear. Legs!" She summoned horror into her expression, but
it was lost on Rosalind, who still gazed out of the window. Indeed, from a
certain light in the girl's eyes it might be adduced that she took some
delight in shocking Agatha.

"I shall stay here quite some time, I think," said Rosalind. "Daddy said
there was no hurry; that he might come out here in a month, himself. And I
have been dying to get away from the petty conventionalities of the East.
I am going to be absolutely human for a while, Aunty. I am going to 'rough
it'--that is, as much as one can rough it when one is domiciled in a
private car. I am going to get a horse and have a look at the country. And
Aunty--" here the girl's voice came chokingly, as though some deep emotion
agitated her "--I am going to ride 'straddle'!"

She did not look to see whether Agatha had survived this second shock--but
Agatha had survived many such shocks. It was only when, after a silence of
several minutes, Agatha spoke again, that the girl seemed to remember
there was anybody in the compartment with her. Agatha's voice was laden
with contempt:

"Well, I don't know what you see in this outlandish place to compensate
for what you miss at home."

The girl did not look around. "A man on a black horse, Aunty," she said.
"He has passed here twice. I have never seen such a horse. I don't
remember to have ever seen a man quite like the rider. He looks
positively--er--heroish! He is built like a Roman gladiator, he rides
the black horse as though he had been sculptured on it, and his head has a
set that makes one feel he has a mind of his own. He has furnished me with
the only thrill that I have felt since we left New York!"

"He hasn't seen you!" said Agatha, coldly; "of course you made sure of
that?"

The girl looked mischievously at the older woman. She ran her fingers
through her hair--brown and vigorous-looking--then shaded her eyes with
her hands and gazed at her reflection in a mirror near by. In deshabille
she looked fresh and bewitching. She had looked like a radiant goddess to
"Brand" Trevison, when he had accidentally caught a glimpse of her face at
the window while she had been watching him. He had not known that the lady
had just awakened from her beauty sleep. He would have sworn that she
needed no beauty sleep. And he had deliberately ridden past the car again,
hoping to get another glimpse of her. The girl smiled.

"I am not so positive about that, Aunty. Let us not be prudish. If he saw
me, he made no sign, and therefore he is a gentleman." She looked out of
the window and smiled again. "There he is now, Aunty!"

It was Agatha who parted the curtains, this time. The horseman's face was
toward the window, and he saw her. An expression of puzzled astonishment
glowed in his eyes, superseded quickly by disappointment, whereat Rosalind
giggled softly and hid her tousled head in a pillow.

"The impertinent brute! Rosalind, he dared to look directly at me, and I
am sure he would have winked at me in another instant! A gentleman!" she
said, coldly.

"Don't be severe, Aunty. I'm sure he is a gentleman, for all his
curiosity. See--there he is, riding away without so much as looking
back!"

Half an hour later the two women entered the dining-room just as a big,
rather heavy-featured, but handsome man, came through the opposite door.
He greeted both ladies effusively, and smilingly looked at his watch.

"You over-slept this morning, ladies--don't you think? It's after ten.
I've been rummaging around town, getting acquainted. It's rather an
unfinished place, after the East. But in time--" He made a gesture,
perhaps a silent prophecy that one day Manti would out-strip New York, and
bowed the ladies to seats at table, talking while the colored waiter moved
obsequiously about them.

"I thought at first that your father was over-enthusiastic about Manti,
Miss Benham," he continued. "But the more I see of it the firmer becomes
my conviction that your father was right. There are tremendous
possibilities for growth. Even now it is a rather fertile country. We
shall make it hum, once the railroad and the dam are completed. It is a
logical site for a town--there is no other within a hundred miles in any
direction."

"And you are to anticipate the town's growth--isn't that it, Mr.
Corrigan?"

"You put it very comprehensively, Miss Benham; but perhaps it would be
better to say that I am the advance agent of prosperity--that sounds
rather less mercenary. We must not allow the impression to get abroad that
mere money is to be the motive power behind our efforts."

"But money-making is the real motive, after all?" said Miss Benham,
dryly.

"I submit there are several driving forces in life, and that money-making
is not the least compelling of them."

"The other forces?" It seemed to Corrigan that Miss Benham's face was very
serious. But Agatha, who knew Rosalind better than Corrigan knew her, was
aware that the girl was merely demurely sarcastic.

"Love and hatred are next," he said, slowly.

"You would place money-making before love?" Rosalind bantered.

"Money adds the proper flavor to love," laughed Corrigan. The laugh was
laden with subtle significance and he looked straight at the girl, a deep
fire slumbering in his eyes. "Yes," he said slowly, "money-making is a
great passion. I have it. But I can hate, and love. And when I do either,
it will be strongly. And then--"

Agatha cleared her throat impatiently. Corrigan colored slightly, and Miss
Benham smothered something, artfully directing the conversation into less
personal channels:

"You are going to build manufactories, organize banks, build municipal
power-houses, speculate in real estate, and such things, I suppose?"

"And build a dam. We already have a bank here, Miss Benham."

"Will father be interested in those things?"

"Silently. You understand, that being president of the railroad, your
father must keep in the background. The actual promoting of these
enterprises will be done by me."

Miss Benham looked dreamily out of the window. Then she turned to Corrigan
and gazed at him meditatively, though the expression in her eyes was so
obviously impersonal that it chilled any amorous emotion that Corrigan
might have felt.

"I suppose you are right," she said. "It must be thrilling to feel a
conscious power over the destiny of a community, to direct its progress,
to manage it, and--er--figuratively to grab industries by their--" She
looked slyly at Agatha "--lower extremities and shake the dollars out of
them. Yes," she added, with a wistful glance through the window; "that
must be more exciting than being merely in love."

Agatha again followed Rosalind's gaze and saw the black horse standing in
front of a store. She frowned, and observed stiffly:

"It seems to me that the people in these small places--such as Manti--are
not capable of managing the large enterprises that Mr. Corrigan speaks
of." She looked at Rosalind, and the girl knew that she was deprecating
the rider of the black horse. Rosalind smiled sweetly.

"Oh, I am sure there must be some intelligent persons among them!"

"As a rule," stated Corrigan, dogmatically, "the first citizens of any
town are an uncouth and worthless set."

"The Four Hundred would take exception to that!" laughed Rosalind.

Corrigan laughed with her. "You know what I mean, of course. Take Manti,
for instance. Or any new western town. The lowest elements of society are
represented; most of the people are very ignorant and criminal."

The girl looked sharply at Corrigan, though he was not aware of the
glance. Was there a secret understanding between Corrigan and Agatha? Had
Corrigan also some knowledge of the rider's pilgrimages past the car
window? Both had maligned the rider. But the girl had seen intelligence on
the face of the rider, and something in the set of his head had told her
that he was not a criminal. And despite his picturesque rigging, and the
atmosphere of the great waste places that seemed to envelop him, he had
made a deeper impression on her than had Corrigan, darkly handsome,
well-groomed, a polished product of polite convention and breeding, whom
her father wanted her to marry.

"Well," she said, looking at the black horse; "I intend to observe Manti's
citizens more closely before attempting to express an opinion."

Half an hour later, in response to Corrigan's invitation, Rosalind was
walking down Manti's one street, Corrigan beside her. Corrigan had donned
khaki clothing, a broad, felt hat, boots, neckerchief. But in spite of the
change of garments there was a poise, an atmosphere about him, that hinted
strongly of the graces of civilization. Rosalind felt a flash of pride in
him. He was big, masterful, fascinating.

Manti seemed to be fraudulent, farcical, upon closer inspection. For one
thing, its crudeness was more glaring, and its unpainted board fronts
looked flimsy, transient. Compared to the substantial buildings of the
East, Manti's structures were hovels. Here was the primitive town in the
first flush of its creation. Miss Benham did not laugh, for a mental
picture rose before her--a bit of wild New England coast, a lowering sky,
a group of Old-world pilgrims shivering around a blazing fire in the open,
a ship in the offing. That also was a band of first citizens; that picture
and the one made by Manti typified the spirit of America.

There were perhaps twenty buildings. Corrigan took her into several of
them. But, she noted, he did not take her into the store in front of which
was the black horse. She was introduced to several of the proprietors.
Twice she overheard parts of the conversation carried on between Corrigan
and the proprietors. In each case the conversation was the same:

"Do you own this property?"

"The building."

"Who owns the land?"

"A company in New York."

Corrigan introduced himself as the manager of the company, and spoke of
erecting an office. The two men spoke about their "leases." The latter
seemed to have been limited to two months.

"See me before your lease expires," she heard Corrigan tell the men.

"Does the railroad own the town site?" asked Rosalind as they emerged from
the last store.

"Yes. And leases are going to be more valuable presently."

"You don't mean that you are going to extort money from them--after they
have gone to the expense of erecting buildings?"

His smile was pleasant. "They will be treated with the utmost
consideration, Miss Benham."

He ushered her into the bank. Like the other buildings, the bank was of
frame construction. Its only resemblance to a bank was in the huge safe
that stood in the rear of the room, and a heavy wire netting behind which
ran a counter. Some chairs and a desk were behind the counter, and at the
desk sat a man of probably forty, who got up at the entrance of his
visitors and approached them, grinning and holding out a hand to
Corrigan.

"So you're here at last, Jeff," he said. "I saw the car on the switch this
morning. The show will open pretty soon now, eh?" He looked inquiringly at
Rosalind, and Corrigan presented her. She heard the man's name, "Mr.
Crofton Braman," softly spoken by her escort, and she acknowledged the
introduction formally and walked to the door, where she stood looking out
into the street.

Braman repelled her--she did not know why. A certain crafty gleam of his
eyes, perhaps, strangely blended with a bold intentness as he had looked
at her; a too effusive manner; a smoothly ingratiating smile--these
evidences of character somehow made her link him with schemes and plots.

She did not reflect long over Braman. Across the street she saw the rider
of the black horse standing beside the animal at a hitching rail in front
of the store that Corrigan had passed without entering. Viewed from this
distance, the rider's face was more distinct, and she saw that he was
good-looking--quite as good-looking as Corrigan, though of a different
type. Standing, he did not seem to be so tall as Corrigan, nor was he
quite so bulky. But he was lithe and powerful, and in his movements, as he
unhitched the black horse, threw the reins over its head and patted its
neck, was an ease and grace that made Rosalind's eyes sparkle with
admiration.

The rider seemed to be in no hurry to mount his horse. The girl was
certain that twice as he patted the animal's neck he stole glances at her,
and a stain appeared in her cheeks, for she remembered the car window.

And then she heard a voice greet the rider. A man came out of the door of
one of the saloons, glanced at the rider and raised his voice, joyously:

"Well, if it ain't ol' 'Brand'! Where in hell you been keepin' yourself? I
ain't seen you for a week!"

Friendship was speaking here, and the girl's heart leaped in sympathy. She
watched with a smile as the other man reached the rider's side and wrung
his hand warmly. Such effusiveness would have been thought hypocritical in
the East; humanness was always frowned upon. But what pleased the girl
most was this evidence that the rider was well liked. Additional evidence
on this point collected quickly. It came from several doors, in the shapes
of other men who had heard the first man's shout, and presently the rider
was surrounded by many friends.

The girl was deeply interested. She forgot Braman, Corrigan--forgot that
she was standing in the doorway of the bank. She was seeing humanity
stripped of conventionalities; these people were not governed by the
intimidating regard for public opinion that so effectively stifled warm
impulses among the persons she knew.

She heard another man call to him, and she found herself saying: "'Brand'!
What an odd name!" But it seemed to fit him; he was of a type that one
sees rarely--clean, big, athletic, virile, magnetic. His personality
dominated the group; upon him interest centered heavily. Nor did his
popularity appear to destroy his poise or make him self-conscious. The
girl watched closely for signs of that. Had he shown the slightest trace
of self-worship she would have lost interest in him. He appeared to be a
trifle embarrassed, and that made him doubly attractive to her. He
bantered gayly with the men, and several times his replies to some quip
convulsed the others.

And then while she dreamily watched him, she heard several voices insist
that he "show Nigger off." He demurred, and when they again insisted, he
spoke lowly to them, and she felt their concentrated gaze upon her. She
knew that he had declined to "show Nigger off" because of her presence.
"Nigger," she guessed, was his horse. She secretly hoped he would overcome
his prejudice, for she loved the big black, and was certain that any
performance he participated in would be well worth seeing. So, in order to
influence the rider she turned her back, pretending not to be interested.
But when she heard exclamations of satisfaction from the group of men she
wheeled again, to see that the rider had mounted and was sitting in the
saddle, grinning at a man who had produced a harmonica and was rubbing it
on a sleeve of his shirt, preparatory to placing it to his lips.

The rider had gone too far now to back out, and Rosalind watched him in
frank curiosity. And in the next instant, when the strains of the
harmonica smote the still morning air, Nigger began to prance.

What followed reminded the girl of a scene in the ring of a circus. The
horse, proud, dignified, began to pace slowly to the time of the
accompanying music, executing difficult steps that must have tried the
patience of both animal and trainer during the teaching period; the rider,
lithe, alert, proud also, smiling his pleasure.

Rosalind stood there long, watching. It was a clever exhibition, and she
found herself wondering about the rider. Had he always lived in the West?

The animal performed a dozen feats of the circus arena, and the girl was
so deeply interested in him that she did not observe Corrigan when he
emerged from the bank, stepped down into the street and stood watching the
rider. She noticed him though, when the black, forced to her side of the
street through the necessity of executing a turn, passed close to the
easterner. And then, with something of a shock, she saw Corrigan smiling
derisively. At the sound of applause from the group on the opposite side
of the street, Corrigan's derision became a sneer. Miss Benham felt
resentment; a slight color stained her cheeks. For she could not
understand why Corrigan should show displeasure over this clean and clever
amusement. She was looking full at Corrigan when he turned and caught her
gaze. The light in his eyes was positively venomous.

"It is a rather dramatic bid for your interest, isn't it, Miss Benham?" he
said.

His voice came during a lull that followed the applause. It reached
Rosalind, full and resonant. It carried to the rider of the black horse,
and glancing sidelong at him, Rosalind saw his face whiten under the deep
tan upon it. It carried, too, to the other side of the street, and the
girl saw faces grow suddenly tense; noted the stiffening of bodies. The
flat, ominous silence that followed was unreal and oppressive. Out of it
came the rider's voice as he urged the black to a point within three or
four paces of Corrigan and sat in the saddle, looking at him. And now for
the first time Rosalind had a clear, full view of the rider's face and a
quiver of trepidation ran over her. For the lean jaws were corded, the
mouth was firm and set--she knew his teeth were clenched; it was the face
of a man who would not be trifled with. His chin was shoved forward
slightly; somehow it helped to express the cold humor that shone in his
narrowed, steady eyes. His voice, when he spoke to Corrigan, had a
metallic quality that rang ominously in the silence that had continued:

"Back up your play or take it back," he said slowly.

Corrigan had not changed his position. He stared fixedly at the rider; his
only sign of emotion over the latter's words was a quickening of the eyes.
He idly tapped with his fingers on the sleeve of his khaki shirt, where
the arm passed under them to fold over the other. His voice easily matched
the rider's in its quality of quietness:

"My conversation was private. You are interfering without cause."

Watching the rider, filled with a sudden, breathless premonition of
impending tragedy, Rosalind saw his eyes glitter with the imminence of
physical action. Distressed, stirred by an impulse to avert what
threatened, she took a step forward, speaking rapidly to Corrigan:

"Mr. Corrigan, this is positively silly! You know you were hardly
discreet!"

Corrigan smiled coldly, and the girl knew that it was not a question of
right or wrong between the two men, but a conflict of spirit. She did not
know that hatred had been born here; that instinctively each knew the
other for a foe, and that this present clash was to be merely one battle
of the war that would be waged between them if both survived.

Not for an instant did Corrigan's eyes wander from those of the rider. He
saw from them that he might expect no further words. None came. The
rider's right hand fell to the butt of the pistol that swung low on his
right hip. Simultaneously, Corrigan's hand dropped to his hip pocket.

Rosalind saw the black horse lunge forward as though propelled by a sudden
spring. A dust cloud rose from his hoofs, and Corrigan was lost in it.
When the dust swirled away, Corrigan was disclosed to the girl's view,
doubled queerly on the ground, face down. The black horse had struck him
with its shoulder--he seemed to be badly hurt.

For a moment the girl stood, swaying, looking around appealingly, startled
wonder, dismay and horror in her eyes. It had happened so quickly that she
was stunned. She had but one conscious emotion--thankfulness that neither
man had used his pistol.

No one moved. The girl thought some of them might have come to Corrigan's
assistance. She did not know that the ethics forbade interference, that a
fight was between the fighters until one acknowledged defeat.

Corrigan's face was in the dust; he had not moved. The black horse stood,
quietly now, several feet distant, and presently the rider dismounted,
walked to Corrigan and turned him over. He worked the fallen man's arms
and legs, and moved his neck, then knelt and listened at his chest. He got
up and smiled mirthlessly at the girl.

"He's just knocked out, Miss Benham. It's nothing serious. Nigger--"

"You coward!" she interrupted, her voice thick with passion.

His lips whitened, but he smiled faintly.

"Nigger--" he began again.

"Coward! Coward!" she repeated, standing rigid before him, her hands
clenched, her lips stiff with scorn.

He smiled resignedly and turned away. She stood watching him, hating him,
hurling mental anathemas after him, until she saw him pass through the
doorway of the bank. Then she turned to see Corrigan just getting up.

Not a man in the group across the street had moved. They, too, had watched
Trevison go into the bank, and now their glances shifted to the girl and
Corrigan. Their sympathies, she saw plainly, were with Trevison; several
of them smiled as the easterner got to his feet.

Corrigan was pale and breathless, but he smiled at her and held her off
when she essayed to help him brush the dust from his clothing. He did that
himself, and mopped his face with a handkerchief.

"It wasn't fair," whispered the girl, sympathetically. "I almost wish that
you had killed him!" she added, vindictively.

"My, what a fire-eater!" he said with a broad smile. She thought he looked
handsomer with the dust upon him, than he had ever seemed when polished
and immaculate.

"Are you badly hurt?" she asked, with a concern that made him look quickly
at her.

He laughed and patted her arm lightly. "Not a bit hurt," he said. "Come,
those men are staring."

He escorted her to the step of the private car, and lingered a moment
there to make his apology for his part in the trouble. He told her
frankly, that he was to blame, knowing that Trevison's action in riding
him down would more than outweigh any resentment she might feel over his
mistake in bringing about the clash in her presence.

She graciously forgave him, and a little later she entered the car alone;
he telling her that he would be in presently, after he returned from the
station where he intended to send a telegram. She gave him a smile,
standing on the platform of the car, dazzling, eloquent with promise. It
made his heart leap with exultation, and as he went his way toward the
station he voiced a sentiment:

"Entirely worth being ridden down for."

But his jaws set savagely as he approached the station. He did not go into
the station, but around the outside wall of it, passing between it and
another building and coming at last to the front of the bank building. He
had noted that the black horse was still standing in front of the bank
building, and that the group of men had dispersed. The street was
deserted.

Corrigan's movements became quick and sinister. He drew a heavy revolver
out of a hip pocket, shoved its butt partly up his sleeve and concealed
the cylinder and barrel in the palm of his hand. Then he stepped into the
door of the bank. He saw Trevison standing at one of the grated windows of
the wire netting, talking with Braman. Corrigan had taken several steps
into the room before Trevison heard him, and then Trevison turned, to find
himself looking into the gaping muzzle of Corrigan's pistol.

"You didn't run," said the latter. "Thought it was all over, I suppose.
Well, it isn't." He was grinning coldly, and was now deliberate and
unexcited, though two crimson spots glowed in his cheeks, betraying the
presence of passion.

"Don't reach for that gun!" he warned Trevison. "I'll blow a hole through
you if you wriggle a finger!" Watching Trevison, he spoke to Braman: "You
got a back room here?"

The banker stepped around the end of the counter and opened a door behind
the wire netting. "Right here," he directed.

Corrigan indicated the door with a jerking movement of the head. "Move!"
he said shortly, to Trevison. The latter's lips parted in a cold, amused
grin, and he hesitated slightly, yielding presently.

An instant later the three were standing in the middle of a large room,
empty except for a cot upon which Braman slept, some clothing hanging on
the walls, a bench and a chair. Corrigan ordered the banker to clear the
room. When that had been done, Corrigan spoke again to the banker:

"Get his gun."

A snapping alertness of the eyes indicated that Trevison knew what was
coming. That was the reason he had been so quiescent this far; it was why
he made no objection when Braman passed his hands over his clothing in
search of other weapons, after his pistol had been lifted from its holster
by the banker.

"Now get out of here and lock the doors!" ordered Corrigan. "And let
nobody come in!"

Braman retired, grinning expectantly.

Then Corrigan backed away until he came to the wall. Reaching far up, he
hung his revolver on a nail.

"Now," he said to Trevison, his voice throaty from passion; "take off your
damned foolish trappings. I'm going to knock hell out of you!"





Next: Beating A Good Man

Previous: The Rider Of The Black Horse



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