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Law Invoked And Defied








From: 'firebrand' Trevison

As soon as the deputies had gone, two of them nursing injured heads, and
all exhibiting numerous bruises, Judge Lindman rose and dressed. In the
ghostly light preceding the dawn he went to the safe, his fingers
trembling so that he made difficult work with the combination. He got a
record from out of the safe, pulled out the bottom drawer, of a series
filled with legal documents and miscellaneous articles, laid the record
book on the floor and shoved the drawer in over it. An hour later he was
facing Corrigan, who on getting a report of the incident from one of the
deputies, had hurried to get the Judge's version. The Judge had had time
to regain his composure, though he was still slightly pale and nervous.

The Judge lied glibly. He had seen no one in the courthouse. His first
knowledge that anyone had been there had come when he had heard the voice
of one, of the deputies, calling to him. And then all he had seen was a
shadowy figure that had leaped and struck. After that there had been some
shooting. And then the men had escaped.

"No one spoke?"

"Not a word," said the Judge. "That is, of course, no one but the man who
called to me."

"Did they take anything?"

"What is there to take? There is nothing of value."

"Gieger says one of them was working at the safe. What's in there?"

"Some books and papers and supplies--nothing of value. That they tried to
get into the safe would seem to indicate that they thought there was money
there--Manti has many strangers who would not hesitate at robbery."

"They didn't get into the safe, then?"

"I haven't looked inside--nothing seems to be disturbed, as it would were
the men safe-blowers. In their hurry to get away it would seem, if they
had come to get into the safe, they would have left something
behind--tools, or something of that character."

"Let's have a look at the safe. Open it!" Corrigan seemed to be
suspicious, and with a pulse of trepidation, the Judge knelt and worked
the combination. When the door came open Corrigan dropped on his knees in
front of it and began to pull out the contents, scattering them in his
eagerness. He stood up after a time, scowling, his face flushed. He turned
on the Judge, grasped him by the shoulders, his fingers gripping so hard
that the Judge winced.

"Look here, Lindman," he said. "Those men were not ordinary robbers.
Experienced men would know better than to crack a safe in a courthouse
when there's a bank right next door. I've an idea that it was some of
Trevison's work. You've done or said something that's given him the notion
that you've got the original record. Have you?"

"I swear I have said nothing," declared the Judge.

Corrigan looked at him steadily for a moment and then released him. "You
burned it, eh?"

The Judge nodded, and Corrigan compressed his lips. "I suppose it's all
right, but I can't help wishing that I had been here to watch the ceremony
of burning that record. I'd feel a damn sight more secure. But understand
this: If you double-cross me in any detail of this game, you'll never go
to the penitentiary for what Benham knows about you--I'll choke the
gizzard out of you!" He took a turn around the room, stopping at last in
front of the Judge.

"Now we'll talk business. I want you to issue an order permitting me to
erect mining machinery on Trevison's land. We need coal here."

"Graney gave notice of appeal," protested the Judge.

"Which the Circuit Court denied."

"He'll go to Washington," persisted the Judge, gulping. "I can't legally
do it."

Corrigan laughed. "Appoint a receiver to operate the mine, pending the
Supreme Court decision. Appoint Braman. Graney has no case, anyway. There
is no record or deed."

"There is no need of haste," Lindman cautioned; "you can't get mining
machinery here for some time yet."

Corrigan laughed, dragging the Judge to a window, from which he pointed
out some flat-cars standing on a siding, loaded with lumber, machinery,
corrugated iron, shutes, cables, trucks, "T" rails, and other articles
that the Judge did not recognize.

The Judge exclaimed in astonishment. Corrigan grunted.

"I ordered that stuff six weeks ago, in anticipation of my victory in your
court. You can see how I trusted in your honesty and perspicacity. I'll
have it on the ground tomorrow--some of it today. Of course I want to
proceed legally, and in order to do that I'll have to have the court order
this morning. You do whatever is necessary."

At daylight he was in the laborers' camp, skirting the railroad at the
edge of town, looking for Carson. He found the big Irishman in one of the
larger tent-houses, talking with the cook, who was preparing breakfast
amid a smother of smoke and the strong mingled odors of frying bacon and
coffee. Corrigan went only to the flap of the tent, motioning Carson
outside.

Walking away from the tent toward some small frame buildings down the
track, Corrigan said:

"There are several carloads of material there," pointing to the flat-cars
which he had shown to the Judge. "I've hired a mining man to superintend
the erection of that stuff--it's mining machinery and material for
buildings. I want you to place as many of your men as you can spare at the
disposal of the engineer; his name's Pickand, and you'll find him at the
cars at eight o'clock. I'll have some more laborers sent over from the
dam. Give him as many men as he wants; go with him yourself, if he wants
you."

"What are ye goin' to mine?"

"Coal."

"Where?"

"I've been looking over the land with Pickand; he says we'll sink a shaft
at the base of the butte below the mesa, where you are laying tracks now.
We won't have to go far, Pickand says. There's coal--thick veins of
it--running back into the wall of the butte."

"All right, sir," said Carson. But he scratched his head in perplexity,
eyeing Corrigan sidelong. "Ye woudn't be sayin' that ye'll be diggin' for
coal on the railroad's right av way, wud ye?"

"No!" snapped Corrigan.

"Thin it will be on Trevison's land. Have ye bargained wid him for it?"

"No! Look here, Carson. Mind your own business and do as you're told!"

"I'm elicted, I s'pose; but it's a job I ain't admirin' to do. If ye've
got half the sinse I give ye credit for havin', ye'll be lettin' that mon
Trevison alone--I'd a lot sooner smoke a segar in that shed av dynamite
than to cross him!"

Corrigan smiled and turned to look in the direction in which the Irishman
was pointing. A small, flat-roofed frame building, sheathed with
corrugated iron, met his view. Crude signs, large enough to be read
hundreds of feet distant, were affixed to the walls:

"CAUTION. DYNAMITE."

"Do you keep much of it there?"

"Enough for anny blastin' we have to do. There's plenty--half a ton,
mebbe."

"Who's got the key?"

"Meself."

Corrigan returned to town, breakfasted, mounted a horse and rode out to
the dam, where he gave orders for some laborers to be sent to Carson. At
nine o'clock he was back in Manti talking with Pickand, and watching the
dinky engine as it pulled the loaded flat-cars westward over the tracks.
He left Pickand and went to his office in the bank building, where he
conferred with some men regarding various buildings and improvements in
contemplation, and shortly after ten, glancing out of a window, he saw a
buckboard stop in front of the Castle hotel. Corrigan waited a little,
then closed his desk and walked across the street. Shortly he confronted
Hester Harvey in her room. He saw from her downcast manner that she had
failed. His face darkened.

"Wouldn't work, eh? What did he say?"

The woman was hunched down in her chair, still wearing the cloak that she
had worn in Trevison's office; the collar still up, the front thrown open.
Her hair was disheveled; dark lines were under her eyes; she glared at
Corrigan in an abandon of savage dejection.

"He turned me down--cold." Her laugh held the bitterness of self-derision.
"I'm through, there, Jeff."

"Hell!" cursed the man. She looked at him, her lips curving with amused
contempt.

"Oh, you're all right--don't worry. That's all you care about, isn't it?"
She laughed harshly at the quickened light in his eyes. "You'd see me
sacrifice myself; you wouldn't give me a word of sympathy. That's you!
That's the way of all men. Give, give, give! That's the masculine
chorus--the hunting-song of the human wolf-pack!"

"Don't talk like that--it ain't like you, kid. You were always the gamest
little dame I ever knew." He essayed to take the hand that was twisted in
the folds of her cloak, but she drew it away from him in a fury. And the
eagerness in his eyes betrayed the insincerity of his attempt at
consolation; she saw it--the naked selfishness of his look--and sneered at
him.

"You want the good news, eh? The good for you? That's all you care about.
After you get it, I'll get the husks of your pity. Well, here it is. I've
poisoned them both--against each other. I told him she was against him in
this land business. And it hurt me to see how gamely he took it, Jeff!"
her voice broke, but she choked back the sob and went on, hoarsely: "He
didn't make a whimper. Not even when I told him you were going to marry
her--that you were engaged. But there was a fire in those eyes of his that
I would give my soul to see there for me!"

"Yes--yes," said the man, impatiently.

"Oh, you devil!" she railed at him. "I've made him think it was a frame-up
between you and her--to get information out of him; I told him that she
had strung him along for a month or so--amusing herself. And he believes
it."

"Good!"

"And I've made her believe that he sent for me," she went on, her voice
leaping to cold savagery. "I stayed all night at his place, and I went
back to the Bar B in the morning--this morning--and made Rosalind Benham
think--Ha, ha! She ordered me away from the house--the hussy! She's
through with him--any fool could tell that. But it's different with him,
Jeff. He won't give her up; he isn't that kind. He'll fight for her--and
he'll have her!"

The eager, pleased light died out of Corrigan's face, his lips set in an
ugly pout. But he contrived to smile as he got up.

"You've done well--so far. But don't give him up. Maybe he'll change his
mind. Stay here--I'll stake you to the limit." He laid a roll of bills on
a stand--she did not look at them--and approached her in a second endeavor
to console her. But she waved him away, saying: "Get out of here--I want
to think!" And he obeyed, looking back before he closed the door.

"Selfish?" he muttered, going down the street. "Well, what of it? That's a
human weakness, isn't it? Get what you want, and to hell with other
people!"

* * * * *

Trevison had gone to his room for a much-needed rest. He had watched
Hester Harvey go with no conscious regret, but with a certain grim pity,
which was as futile as her visit. But, lying on the bed he fought hard
against the bitter scorn that raged in him over the contemplation of
Rosalind Benham's duplicity. He found it hard to believe that she had been
duping him, for during the weeks of his acquaintance with her he had
studied her much--with admiration-weighted prejudice, of course, since she
made a strong appeal to him--and he had been certain, then, that she was
as free from guile as a child--excepting any girl's natural artifices by
which she concealed certain emotions that men had no business trying to
read. He had read some of them--his business or not--and he had imagined
he had seen what had fired his blood--a reciprocal affection. He would not
have declared himself, otherwise.

He went to sleep, thinking of her. He awoke about noon, to see Barkwell
standing at his side, shaking him.

"Have you got any understandin' with that railroad gang that they're to do
any minin' on the Diamond K range?"

"No."

"Well, they're gettin' ready to do it. Over at the butte near the railroad
cut. I passed there a while ago an' quizzed the big guy--Corrigan--about a
gang workin' there. He says they're goin' to mine coal. I asked him if he
had your permission an' he said he didn't need it. I reckon they ain't
none shy on gall where that guy come from!"

Trevison got out of bed and buckled on his cartridge belt and pistol. "The
boys are working the Willow Creek range," he said, sharply. "Get them,
tell them to load up with plenty of cartridges, and join me at the
butte."

He heard Barkwell go leaping down the stairs, his spurs striking the step
edges, and a few minutes later, riding Nigger out of the corral he saw the
foreman racing away in a dust cloud. He followed the bed of the river,
himself, going at a slow lope, for he wanted time to think--to gain
control of the rage that boiled in his veins. He conquered it, and when he
came in sight of the butte he was cool and deliberate, though on his face
was that "mean" look that Carson had once remarked about to his friend
Murphy, partly hidden by the "tiger" smile which, the Irishman had
discovered, preceded action, ruthless and swift.

The level below the butte was a-buzz with life and energy. Scores of
laborers were rushing about under the direction of a tall, thin,
bespectacled man who seemed to be the moving spirit in all the activity.
He shouted orders to Carson--Trevison saw the big figure of the Irishman
dominating the laborers--who repeated them, added to them; sending men
scampering hither and thither. Pausing at a little distance down the
level, Trevison watched the scene. At first all seemed confusion, but
presently he was able to discern that method ruled. For he now observed
that the laborers were divided into "gangs." Some were unloading the
flat-cars, others were "assembling" a stationary engine near the wall of
the butte. They had a roof over it, already. Others were laying tracks
that intersected with the main line; still others were erecting buildings
along the level. They were on Trevison's land--there was no doubt of that.
Moreover, they were erecting their buildings and apparatus at the point
where Trevison himself had contemplated making a start. He saw Corrigan
seated on a box on one of the flat-cars, smoking a cigar; another man,
whom Trevison recognized as Gieger--he would have been willing to swear
the man was one of those who had thwarted his plans in the
courthouse--standing beside him, a Winchester rifle resting in the hollow
of his left arm. Trevison urged Nigger along the level, down the track,
and halted near Corrigan and Gieger. He knew that Corrigan had seen him,
but it pleased the other to pretend that he had not.

"This is your work, Corrigan--I take it?" said Trevison, bluntly.

Corrigan turned slowly. He was a good actor, for he succeeded in getting a
fairly convincing counterfeit of surprise into his face as his gaze fell
on his enemy.

"You have taken it correctly, sir." He smiled blandly, though there was a
snapping alertness in his eyes that belied his apparent calmness. He
turned to Gieger, ignoring Trevison. "Organization is the thing. Pickand
is a genius at it," he said.

Trevison's eyes flamed with rage over this deliberate insult. But in it he
saw a cold design to make him lose his temper. The knowledge brought a
twisting smile to his face.

"You have permission to begin this work, I suppose?"

Corrigan turned again, as though astonished at the persistence of the
other. "Certainly, sir. This work is being done under a court order,
issued this morning. I applied for it yesterday. I am well within my legal
rights, the court having as you are aware, settled the question of the
title."

"You know I have appealed the case?"

"I have not been informed that you have done so. In any event such an
appeal would not prevent me mining the coal on the property, pending the
hearing of the case in the higher court. Judge Lindman has appointed a
receiver, who is bonded; and the work is to proceed under his direction. I
am here merely as an onlooker."

He looked fairly at Trevison, his eyes gleaming with cold derision. The
expression maddened the other beyond endurance, and his eyes danced the
chill glitter of meditated violence, unrecking consequences.

"You're a sneaking crook, Corrigan, and you know it! You're going too far!
You've had Braman appointed in order to escape the responsibility! You're
hiding behind him like a coward! Come out into the open and fight like a
man!"

Corrigan's face bloated poisonously, but he made no hostile move. "I'll
kill you for that some day!" he whispered. "Not now," he laughed
mirthlessly as the other stiffened; "I can't take the risk right now--I've
too much depending on me. But you've been damned impertinent and
troublesome, and when I get you where I want you I'm going to serve you
like this!" And he took the cigar from his mouth, dropped it to the floor
of the car and ground it to pieces under his heel. He looked up again, at
Trevison, and their gaze met, in each man's eyes glowed the knowledge of
imminent action, ruthless and terrible.

Trevison broke the tension with a laugh that came from between his teeth.
"Why delay?" he mocked. "I've been ready for the grinding process since
the first day."

"Enough of this!" Corrigan turned to Gieger with a glance of cold
intolerance. "This man is a nuisance," he said to the deputy. "Carry out
the mandate of the court and order him away. If he doesn't go, kill him!
He is a trespasser, and has no right here!" And he glared at Trevison.

"You've got to get out, mister," said the deputy. He tapped his rifle
menacingly, betraying a quick accession of rage that he caught, no doubt,
from Corrigan. Trevison smiled coldly, and backed Nigger a little. For an
instant he meditated resistance, and dropped his right hand to the butt of
his pistol. A shout distracted his attention. It came from behind him--it
sounded like a warning, and he wheeled, to see Carson running toward him,
not more than ten feet distant, waving his hands, a huge smile on his
face.

"Domned if it ain't Trevison!" he yelled as he lunged forward and caught
Trevison's right hand in his own, pulling the rider toward him. "I've been
wantin' to spake a word wid ye for two weeks now--about thim cows which me
brother in Illinoy has been askin' me about, an' divvil a chance have I
had to see ye!" And as he yanked Trevison's shoulders downward with a
sudden pressure that there was no resisting, he whispered, rapidly.

"Diputies--thirty av thim wid Winchesters--on the other side av the
flat-cars. It's a thrap to do away wid ye--I heard 'em cookin' it!"

"An' ye wudn't be sellin' 'em to me at twinty-five, eh?" he said, aloud.
"Go 'long wid ye--ye're a domned hold-up man, like all the rist av thim!"
And he slapped the black horse playfully in the ribs and laughed gleefully
as the animal lunged at him, ears laid back, mouth open.

His eyes cold, his lips hard and straight, Trevison spurred the black
again to the flat-car.

"The bars are down between us, Corrigan; it's man to man from now on. Law
or no law, I give you twenty-four hours to get your men and apparatus off
my land. After that I won't be responsible for what happens!" He heard a
shout behind him, a clatter, and he turned to see ten or twelve of his men
racing over the level toward him. At the same instant he heard a sharp
exclamation from Corrigan; heard Gieger issue a sharp order, and a line of
men raised their heads above the flat-cars, rifles in their hands, which
they trained on the advancing cowboys.

Nigger leaped; his rider holding up one hand, the palm toward his men, as
a sign to halt, while he charged into them. Trevison talked fast to them,
while the laborers, suspending work, watched, muttering; and the rifles,
resting on the flat-cars, grew steadier in their owners' hands. The
silence grew deeper; the tension was so great that when somewhere a man
dropped a shovel, it startled the watchers like a sudden bomb.

It was plain that Trevison's men wanted to fight. It was equally plain
that Trevison was arguing to dissuade them. And when, muttering, and
casting belligerent looks backward, they finally drew off, Trevison
following, there was a sigh of relief from the watchers, while Corrigan's
face was black with disappointment.





Next: A Woman Rides In Vain

Previous: Justice Vs Law



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