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Old Acquaintances

From: Brand Blotters

"You wanted to see me?"

The voice had the soft, slow intonation of the South, and it held some
quality that haunted the memory. Or so Melissy thought afterward, but that
may have been because of its owner's appeal to sympathy.

"If you are Miss Yarnell."

"Ferne Yarnell is my name."

"Mr. Bellamy asked me to call on you. He sent this letter of

A faint wave of color beat into the cheek of the stranger. "You know Mr.
Bellamy then?"

"Yes. He would have been here to meet you, but he met with an accident

"An accident!" There was a quick flash of alarm in the lifted face.

"He told me to tell you that it was not serious. He was shot in the arm."

"Shot. By whom?" She was ashen to the lips.

"By a man called Duncan Boone."

"I know him. He is a dangerous man."

"Yes," Melissy nodded. "I don't think we know how very dangerous he is. We
have all been deceived in him till recently."

"Does he live here?"

"Yes. The strange thing is that he and Mr. Bellamy had never met in this
country until a few days ago. There used to be some kind of a feud between
the families. But you must know more about that than I do."

"Yes. My family is involved in the feud. Mr. Bellamy is a distant cousin
of mine."

"So he told me."

"Have you known him long?"

Melissy thought that there was a little more than curiosity in the quick
look the young woman flung at her.

"I met him when he first came here. He was lost on the desert and I found
him. After that we became very unfriendly. He jumped a mining claim
belonging to my father. But we've made it up and agreed to be friends."

"He wrote about the young lady who saved his life."

Melissy smiled. "Did he say that I was a cattle and a stage rustler?"

"He said nothing that was not good."

"I'm much obliged to him," the Western girl answered breezily. "And now do
tell me, Miss Yarnell, that you and your people have made up your mind to
stay permanently."

"Father is still looking the ground over. He has almost decided to buy a
store here. Yet he has been in the town only a day. So you see he must
like it."

Outside the open second story window of the hotel Melissy heard a voice
that sounded familiar. She moved toward the window alcove, and at the same
time a quick step was heard in the hall. Someone opened the door of the
parlor and stood on the threshold. It was the man called Boone.

Melissy, from the window, glanced round. Her first impulse was to speak;
her second to remain silent. For the Arkansan was not looking at her. His
mocking ribald gaze was upon Ferne Yarnell.

That young woman looked up from the letter of introduction she was reading
and a startled expression swept into her face.

"Dunc Boone," she cried.

The man doffed his hat with elaborate politeness. "Right glad to meet up
with you again, Miss Ferne. You was in short dresses when I saw you last.
My, but you've grown pretty. Was it because you heard I was in Arizona
that you came here?"

She rose, rejecting in every line of her erect figure his impudent
geniality, his insolent pretense of friendliness.

"My brother is in the hotel. If he learns you are here there will be

A wicked malice lay in his smiling eyes. "Trouble for him or for me?" he
inquired silkily.

His lash flicked her on the raw. Hal Yarnell was a boy of nineteen. This
man had a long record as a gunfighter to prove him a desperate man.
Moreover, he knew how hopelessly heart sick she was of the feud that for
many years had taken its toll of blood.

"Haven't you done us enough harm, you and yours? Go away. Leave us alone.
That's all I ask of you."

He came in and closed the door. "But you see it ain't all I ask of you,
Ferne Yarnell. I always did ask all I could get of a girl as pretty as

"Will you leave me, sir?"

"When I'm through."


"No, I reckon not," he drawled between half shuttered eyes.

She moved toward the door, but he was there before her. With a turn of his
wrist he had locked it.

"This interview quits at my say-so, honey. Think after so many years of
absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder you're going to trample over me like I
was a kid? Guess again."

"Unlock that door," she ordered.

"When I get good and ready. We'll have our talk out first."

Her eyes blazed. She was white as paper though she faced him steadily. But
her heart wavered. She dared not call out for fear her brother might hear
and come to her assistance. This she must forestall at all costs.

A heel clicked in the alcove. For the first time Norris, or Boone as the
Southern girl had called him, became aware of a third party in the room.
Melissy was leaning out of the window. She called down to a man standing
on the street.

"Jack, come up here quick. I want you."

Boone took a step forward. "You here, 'Lissie Lee?"

She laughed scornfully. "Yes, I'm here. An unexpected pleasure, isn't

"Do you know Ferne Yarnell?" he asked, for once taken aback.

"It looks as if I do."

His quick furtive eye fell upon an envelope on the floor. He picked it up.
Upon it was written, "Miss Ferne Yarnell," and in the corner, "Introducing
Miss Lee."

A muscle twitched in his face. When he looked up there was an expression
of devilish malignity on it.

"Mr. Bellamy's handwriting, looks like." He turned to the Arizona girl.
"Then I didn't put the fellow out of business."

"No, you coward."

The angry color crept to the roots of his hair. "Better luck next time."

The door knob rattled. Someone outside was trying to get in. Those inside
the room paid no obvious attention to him. The venomous face of the
cattle detective held the women fascinated.

"When Dick Bellamy ambushed Shep he made a hell of a bad play of it. My
old mammy used to say that the Boones were born wolves. I can see where
she was right. The man that killed my brother gets his one of these days
and don't you forget it. You just stick around. We're due to shoot this
thing out, him and me," the man continued, his deep-socketed eyes burning
from the grim handsome face.

"Open the door," ordered a voice from the hall, shaking the knob

"You don't know he killed your brother. Someone else may have done it. And
it may have been done in self defence," the Arkansas girl said to Boone in
a voice so low and reluctant that it appeared the words were wrung from
her by torture.

"Think I'm a buzzard head? Why for did he run away? Why did he jump for
the sandhills soon as the word came to arrest him?" He snapped together
his straight, thin-lipped mouth, much as a trap closes on its prey.

A heavy weight hurtled against the door and shook it to the hinges.
Melissy had been edging to the right. Now with a twist of her lissom body
she had slipped past the furious man and turned the key.

Jack Flatray came into the room. His glance swept the young women and
fastened on the man. In the crossed eyes of the two was the thrust of
rapiers, the grinding of steel on steel, that deadly searching for
weakness in the other that duelists employ.

The deputy spoke in a low soft drawl. "Mornin', Boone. Holding an
executive session, are you?"

The lids of the detective narrowed to slits. From the first there had been
no pretense of friendship between these two. There are men who have only
to look once at each other to know they will be foes. It had been that way
with them. Causes of antagonism had arisen quickly enough. Both dominant
personalities, they had waged silent unspoken warfare for the leadership
of the range. Later over the favor of Melissy Lee this had grown more
intense, still without having ever been put into words. Now they were face
to face, masks off.

"Why yes, until you butted in, Mr. Sheriff."

"This isn't my busy day. I thought I'd just drop in to the meeting."

"You've made a mistake. We're not holding a cattle rustlers' convention."

"There are so many ladies present I can't hear you, but maybe if you said
it outside I could," the deputy suggested gently, a gleam of steely anger
in his eyes.

"Say it anywhere to oblige a friend," sneered Boone.

From the moment of meeting neither man had lowered his gaze by the
fraction of an inch. Red tragedy was in the air. Melissy knew it. The
girl from Arkansas guessed as much. Yet neither of them knew how to avert
the calamity that appeared impending. One factor alone saved the situation
for the moment. Flatray had not yet heard of the shooting of Bellamy. Had
he known he would have arrested Boone on the spot and the latter would
have drawn and fought it out.

Into the room sauntered Lee. "Hello, 'Lissie. Been looking for you an
hour, honey. Mornin', Norris. Howdy, Jack! Dad burn yore ornery hide, I
ain't see you long enough for a good talk in a coon's age."

Melissy seized on her father joyfully as an interposition of Providence.
"Father, this is Miss Yarnell, the young lady I told you about."

The ranchman buried her little hand in his big paw. "Right glad to meet up
with you, Miss Yarnell. How do you like Arizona by this time? I reckon
Melissy has introduced you to her friends. No? Make you acquainted with
Mr. Flatray. Shake hands with Mr. Norris, Miss Yarnell. Where are you,

The owner of the Bar Double G swung round, to discover for the first time
that harmony was not present. Boone stood back with a sullen vindictive
expression on his face.

"Why, what's up, boys?" the rancher asked, his glance passing from one to

"You ain't in this, Lee," Boone informed him. Then, to Flatray: "See you

The deputy nodded carelessly. "Any time you like."

The lank old Confederate took a step forward to call Boone back, but
Melissy caught him by the sleeve.

"Let him go," she whispered emphatically.

"I know my boss," returned Lee with a laugh.

"If you're quite through with me, Miss Lee, I'll not intrude longer,"
Flatray said.

"But I'm not," spoke Melissy quickly.

She did not intend to let him get away to settle his quarrel with Boone.

"I'm rather busy," he suggested.

"Your business will have to wait," she came back decisively.

Lee laughed and clapped Jack on the shoulder. "Might as well know your
boss too, boy."

Melissy flushed with a flash of temper. "I'm nothing of the kind, dad."

"Sho! A joke's a joke, girl. That's twice hand-runnin' I get a call-down.
You're mighty high-heeled to-day, 'pears like."

Jack smiled grimly. He understood some things that were hidden from Lee.

Next: Concerning The Boone-bellamy-yarnell Feud

Previous: The Tenderfoot Makes A Proposition

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