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The Ashes

From: 'firebrand' Trevison

Rosalind Benham got up with the dawn and looked out of a window toward
Manti. She had not slept. She stood at the window for some time and then
returned to the bed and sat on its edge, staring thoughtfully downward.
She could not get Trevison out of her mind. It seemed to her that a crisis
had come and that it was imperative for her to reach a decision--to
pronounce judgment. She was trying to do this calmly; she was trying to
keep sentiment from prejudicing her. She found it difficult when
considering Trevison, but when she arrayed Hester Harvey against her
longing for the man she found that her scorn helped her to achieve a
mental balance that permitted her to think of him almost dispassionately.
She became a mere onlooker, with a calm, clear vision. In this role she
weighed him. His deeds, his manner, his claims, she arrayed against
Corrigan and his counter-claims and ambitions, and was surprised to
discover that were she to be called upon to pass judgment on the basis of
this surface evidence she would have decided in favor of Trevison. She had
fought against that, for it was a tacit admission that her father was in
some way connected with Corrigan's scheme, but she admitted it finally,
with a pulse of repugnance, and when she placed Levins' story on the
mental balance, with the knowledge that she had seen the record which
seemed to prove the contention of fraud in the land transaction, the
evidence favored Trevison overwhelmingly.

She got up and began to dress, her lips set with determination. Corrigan
had held her off once with plausible explanations, but she would not
permit him to do so again. She intended to place the matter before her
father. Justice must be done. Before she had half finished dressing she
heard a rustle and turned to see Agatha standing in the doorway connecting
their rooms.

"What is it, dear?"

"I can't stand the suspense any longer, Aunty. There is something very
wrong about that land business. I am going to telegraph to father about

"I was going to ask you to do that, dear. It seems to me that that young
Trevison is too much in earnest to be fighting for something that does not
belong to him. If ever there was honesty in a man's face it was in his
face last night. I don't believe for a minute that your father is
concerned in Corrigan's schemes--if there are schemes. But it won't do any
harm to learn what your father thinks about it. My dear--" she stepped to
the girl and placed an arm around her waist "--last night as I watched
Trevison, he reminded me of a--a very dear friend that I once knew. I saw
the wreck of my own romance, my dear. He was just such a man as
Trevison--reckless, impulsive, and impetuous--dare-devil who would not
tolerate injustice or oppression. They wouldn't let me have him, my dear,
and I never would have another man. He went away, joined the army, and was
killed at the battle of Kenesaw Mountain. I have kept his memory fresh in
my heart, and last night when I looked at Trevison it seemed to me that he
must be the reincarnation of the only man I ever loved. There must be
something terribly wrong to make him act the way he does, my dear. And he
loves you."

The girl bit her lips to repress the swelling emotions which clamored in
wild response to this sympathetic understanding. She looked at Agatha, to
see tears in her eyes, and she wheeled impulsively and threw her arms
around the other's neck.

"Oh, I know exactly how you feel, Aunty. But--" she gulped "--he doesn't
love me."

"I saw it in his eyes, my dear." Agatha's smile was tender and
reminiscent. "Don't you worry. He will find a way to let you know--as he
will find a way to beat Corrigan--if Corrigan is trying to defraud him!
He's that kind, my dear!"

In spite of her aunt's assurances the girl's heart was heavy as she began
her ride to Manti. Trevison might love her,--she had read that it was
possible for a man to love two women--but she could never return his love,
knowing of his affair with Hester. He should have justice, however, if
they were trying to defraud him of his rights!

Long before she reached Manti she saw the train from Dry Bottom, due at
Manti at six o'clock, gliding over the plains toward the town, and when
she arrived at the station its passengers had been swallowed by Manti's
buildings and the station agent and an assistant were dragging and bumping
trunks and boxes over the station platform.

The agent bowed deferentially to her and followed her into the telegraph
room, clicking her message over the wires as soon as she had written it.
When he had finished he wheeled his chair and grinned at her.

"See the courthouse and the bank?"

She had--all that was left of them--black, charred ruins with two iron
safes, red from their baptism of fire, standing among them. Also two other
buildings, one on each side of the two that had been destroyed, scorched
and warped, but otherwise undamaged.

"Come pretty near burning the whole town. It took some work to confine
that fire--coal oil. Trevison did a clean job. Robbed the safe in the
bank. Killed Braman--guzzled him. An awful complete job, from Trevison's
viewpoint. The town's riled, and I wouldn't give a plugged cent for
Trevison's chances. He's sloped. Desperate character--I always thought
he'd rip things loose--give him time. It was him blowed up Corrigan's
mine. I ain't seen Corrigan since last night, but I heard him and twenty
or thirty deputies are on Trevison's trail. I hope they get him." He
squinted at her. "There's trouble brewing in this town, Miss Benham. I
wouldn't advise you to stay here any longer than is absolutely
necessary. There's two factions--looks like. It's about that land deal.
Lefingwell and some more of them think they've been given a raw decision
by the court and Corrigan. Excitement! Oh, Lord! This town is fierce. I
ain't had any sleep in--Your answer? I can't tell. Mebbe right away. Mebbe
in an hour."

Rosalind went out upon the platform. The agent's words had revived a
horror that she had almost forgotten--that she wanted to forget--the
murder of Braman.

She walked to the edge of the station platform, tortured by thoughts in
which she could find no excuse for Trevison. Murderer and robber! A
fugitive from justice--the very justice he had been demanding! Her
thoughts made her weak and sick, and she stepped down from the platform
and walked up the track, halting beside a shed and leaning against it.
Across the street from her was the Castle hotel. A man in boots,
corduroy trousers, and a flannel shirt and dirty white apron, his sleeves
rolled to the elbows, was washing the front windows and spitting streams
of tobacco juice on the board walk. She shivered. A grocer next to the
hotel was adjusting a swinging shelf affixed to the store-front,
preparatory to piling his wares upon it; a lean-faced man standing in a
doorway in the building adjoining the grocery was inspecting a six-shooter
that he had removed from the holster at his side. Rosalind shivered again.
Civilization and outlawry were strangely mingled here. She would not have
been surprised to see the lean-faced man begin to shoot at the others.
Filled with sudden trepidation she took a step away from the shed,
intending to return to the station and wait for her answer.

As she moved she heard a low moan. She started, paling, and then stood
stock still, trembling with dread, but determined not to run. The sound
came again, seeming to issue from the interior of the shed, and she
retraced her step and leaned again against the wall of the building,

There was no mistaking the sound--someone was in trouble. But she wanted
to be certain before calling for help and she listened again to hear an
unmistakable pounding on the wall near her, and a voice, calling
frenziedly: "Help, help--for God's sake!"

Her fears fled and she sprang to the door, finding it locked. She rattled
it, impotently, and then left it and ran across the street to where the
window-washer stood. He wheeled and spat copiously, almost in her face, as
she rapidly told him her news, and then deliberately dropped his brush and
cloth into the dust and mud at his feet and jumped after her, across the

"Who's in here?" demanded the man, hammering on the door.

"It's I--Judge Lindman! Open the door! Hurry! I'm smothering--and hurt!"

In what transpired within the next few minutes--and indeed during the
hours following--the girl felt like an outsider. No one paid any attention
to her; she was shoved, jostled, buffeted, by the crowd that gathered,
swarming from all directions. But she was intensely interested.

It seemed to her that every person in Manti gathered in front of the
shed--that all had heard of the abduction of the Judge. Some one secured
an iron bar and battered the lock off the door; a half-dozen men dragged
the Judge out, and he stood in front of the building, swaying in the hands
of his supporters, his white hair disheveled, his lips blood-stained and
smashed, where Corrigan had hit him. The frenzy of terror held him, and he
looked wildly around at the tiers of faces confronting him, the cords of
his neck standing out and writhing spasmodically. Twice he opened his lips
to speak, but each time his words died in a dry gasp. At the third effort
he shrieked:

"I--I want protection! Don't let him touch me again, men! He means to kill
me! Don't let him touch me! I--I've been attacked--choked--knocked
insensible! I appeal to you as American citizens for protection!"

It was fear, stark, naked, cringing, that the crowd saw. Faces blanched,
bodies stiffened; a concerted breath, like a sigh, rose into the flat,
desert air. Rosalind clenched her hands and stood rigid, thrilling with

"Who done it?" A dozen voices asked the question.

"Corrigan!" The Judge screamed this, hysterically. "He is a thief and a
scoundrel, men! He has plundered this county! He has prostituted your
court. Your judge, too! I admit it. But I ask your mercy, men! I was
forced into it! He threatened me! He falsified the land records! He wanted
me to destroy the original record, but I didn't--I told Trevison where it
was--I hid it! And because I wouldn't help Corrigan to rob you, he tried
to kill me!"

A murmur, low, guttural, vindictive, rippled over the crowd, which had now
swelled to such proportions that the street could not hold it. It fringed
the railroad track; men were packed against the buildings surrounding the
shed; they shoved, jostled and squirmed in an effort to get closer to the
Judge. The windows of the Castle hotel were filled with faces, among
which Rosalind saw Hester Harvey's, ashen, her eyes aglow.

The Judge's words had stabbed Rosalind--each like a separate knife-thrust;
they had plunged her into a mental vacuum in which her brain, atrophied,
reeled, paralyzed. She staggered--a man caught her, muttered something
about there being too much excitement for a lady, and gruffly ordered
others to clear the way that he might lead her out of the jam. She
resisted, for she was determined to stay to hear the Judge to the end, and
the man grinned hugely at her; and to escape the glances that she could
feel were directed at her she slipped through the crowd and sought the
front of the shed, leaning against it, weakly.

A silence had followed the murmur that had run over the crowd. There was a
breathless period, during which every man seemed to be waiting for his
neighbor to take the initiative. They wanted a leader. And he appeared,
presently--a big, broad-shouldered man forced his way through the crowd
and halted in front of the Judge.

"I reckon we'll protect you, Judge. Just spit out what you got to say.
We'll stand by you. Where's Trevison?"

"He came to the courthouse last night to get the record. I told him where
it was. He forced me to go with him to an Indian pueblo, and he kept me
there yesterday. He left me there last night with Clay Levins, while he
came here to get the record."

"Do you reckon he got it?"

"I don't know. But from the way Corrigan acted last night--"

"Yes, yes; he got it!"

The words shifted the crowd's gaze to Rosalind, swiftly. The girl had
hardly realized that she had spoken. Her senses, paralyzed a minute
before, had received the electric shock of sympathy from a continued study
of the Judge's face. She saw remorse on it, regret, shame, and the birth
of a resolution to make whatever reparation that was within his power, at
whatever cost. It was a weak face, but it was not vicious, and while she
had been standing there she had noted the lines of suffering. It was not
until the girl felt the gaze of many curious eyes on her that she realized
she had committed herself, and her cheeks flamed. She set herself to face
the stares; she must go on now.

"It's Benham's girl!" she heard a man standing near her whisper hoarsely,
and she faced them, her chin held high, a queer joy leaping in her heart.
She knew at this minute that her sympathies had been with Trevison all
along; that she had always suspected Corrigan, but had fought against the
suspicion because of the thought that in some way her father might be
dragged into the affair. It had been a cowardly attitude, and she was glad
that she had shaken it off. As her brain, under the spur of the sudden
excitement, resumed its function, her thoughts flitted to the agent's
babble during the time she had been sending the telegram to her father.
She talked rapidly, her voice carrying far:

"Trevison got the record last night. He stopped at my ranch and showed it
to me. I suppose he was going to the pueblo, expecting to meet Levins and
Lindman there--"

"By God!" The big, broad-shouldered man standing at Judge Lindman's side
interrupted her. He turned and faced the crowd. "We're damned fools,
boys--lettin' this thing go on like we have! Corrigan's took his deputies
out, trailin' Trevison, chargin' him with murderin' Braman, when his real
purpose is to get his claws on that record! Trevison's been fightin' our
fight for us, an' we've stood around like a lot of gillies, lettin' him do
it! It's likely that a man who'd cook up a deal like the Judge, here, says
Corrigan has, would cook up another, chargin' Trevison with guzzlin' the
banker. I've knowed Trevison a long time, boys, an' I don't believe he'd
guzzle anybody--he's too square a man for that!" He stood on his toes,
raising his clenched hands, and bringing them down with a sweep of furious

The crowd swayed restlessly. Rosalind saw it split apart, men fighting to
open a pathway for a woman. There were shouts of: "Open up, there!" "Let
the lady through!" "Gangway!" "She's got somethin' to say!" And the girl
caught her breath sharply, for she recognized the woman as Hester Harvey.

It was some time before Hester reached the broad-shouldered man's side.
There was a stain in each of her cheeks, but outwardly, at least, she
showed none of the excitement that had seized the crowd; her movements
were deliberate and there was a resolute set to her lips. She got through,
finally, and halted beside the big man, the crowd closing up behind her.
She was swallowed in it, lost to sight.

"Lift her up, Lefingwell!" suggested a man on the outer fringe. "If she's
got anything to say, let us all hear it!" The suggestion was caught up,

"If you ain't got no objections, ma'am," said the big man. He stooped at
her cold smile and swung her to his shoulder. She spoke slowly and
distinctly, though there was a tremor in her voice:

"Trevison did not kill Braman--it was Corrigan. Corrigan was in my room in
the Castle last night just after dark. When he left, I watched him from
my window, after putting out the light. He had threatened to kill Braman.
I watched him cross the street and go around to the rear of the bank
building. There was a light in the rear room of the bank. After a while
Braman and Corrigan entered the banking room. The light from the rear room
shone on them for an instant and I recognized them. They were at the safe.
When they went out they left the safe door open. After a while the light
went out and I saw Corrigan come from around the rear of the building,
recross the street and come into the Castle. You men are blind. Corrigan
is a crook who will stop at nothing. If you let him injure Trevison for a
crime that Trevison did not commit you deserve to be robbed!"

Lefingwell swung her down from his shoulder.

"I reckon that cinches it, boys!" he bellowed over the heads of the men
nearest him. "There ain't nothin' plainer! If we stand for this we're a
bunch of cowardly coyotes that ain't fit to look Trevison in the face! I'm
goin' to help him! Who's comin' along?"

A chorus of shouts drowned his last words; the crowd was in motion, swift,
with definite purpose. It melted, streaming off in all directions, like
the sweep of water from a bursted dam. It broke at the doors of the
buildings; it sought the stables. Men bearing rifles appeared in the
street, mounting horses and congregating in front of the Belmont, where
Lefingwell had gone. Other men, on the board sidewalk and in the dust of
the street, were running, shouting, gesticulating. In an instant the town
had become a bedlam of portentous force; it was the first time in its
history that the people of Manti had looked with collective vision, and
the girl reeled against the iron wall of the shed, appalled at the
resistless power that had been set in motion. On a night when she sat on
the porch of the Bar B ranchhouse she had looked toward Manti, thrilled
over a pretty mental fancy. She had thought it all a game--wondrous,
joyous, progressive. She had neglected to associate justice with it
then--the inexorable rule of fairness under which every player of the game
must bow. She brought it into use now, felt the spirit of it, saw the dire
tragedy that its perversion portended, groaned, and covered her face with
her hands.

She looked around after a while. She saw Judge Lindman walking across the
street toward the Castle, supported by two other men. A third followed;
she did not know him, but Corrigan would have recognized him as the hotel
clerk who had grown confidential upon a certain day. The girl heard his
voice as he followed after the Judge and the others--raucous, vindictive:

"We need men like Trevison in this town. We can get along without any

She heard a voice behind her and she turned, swiftly, to see Hester Harvey
walking toward her. She would have avoided the meeting, but she saw that
Hester was intent on speaking and she drew herself erect, bowing to her
with cold courtesy as the woman stopped within a step of her and smiled.

"You look ready to flop into hysterics, dearie! Won't you come over to my
room with me and have something to brace you up? A cup of tea?" she added
with a laugh as Rosalind looked quickly at her. She did not seem to notice
the stiffening of the girl's body, but linked her arm within her own and
began to walk across the street. The girl was racked with emotion over the
excitement of the morning, the dread of impending violence, and half
frantic with anxiety over Trevison's safety. Hester's offense against her
seemed vague and far, and very insignificant, relatively. She yearned to
exchange confidences with somebody--anybody, and this woman, even though
she were what she thought her, had a capacity for feeling, for sympathy.
And she was very, very tired of it all.

"It was fierce, wasn't it?" said Hester a few minutes later in the privacy
of her room, as she balanced her cup and watched Rosalind as the girl ate,
hungrily. "These sagebrush rough-necks out here will make Corrigan hump
himself to keep out of their way. But he deserves it, the crook!"

The girl looked curiously at the other, trying hard to reconcile the
vindictiveness of these words and the woman's previous action in giving
damaging testimony against Corrigan, with the significant fact that
Corrigan had been in her room the night before, presumably as a guest.
Hester caught the look and laughed. "Yes, dearie, he deserves it. How much
do you know of what has been going on here?"

"Very little, I am afraid."

"Less than that, I suspect. I happen to know considerable, and I am going
to tell you about it. My trip out here has been a sort of a wild-goose
chase. I thought I wanted Trevison, but I've discovered I'm not badly hurt
by his refusal to resume our old relations."

The girl gasped and almost dropped her cup, setting it down slowly
afterward and staring at her hostess with doubting, fearing, incredulous

"Yes, dearie," laughed the other, with a trace of embarrassment; "you can
trust your ears on that statement. To make certain, I'll repeat it: I am
not very badly hurt by his refusal to resume our old relations. Do you
know what that means? It means that he turned me down cold, dearie."

"Do you mean--" began the girl, gripping the table edge.

"I mean that I lied to you. The night I went over to Trevison's ranch he
told me plainly that he didn't like me one teenie, weenie bit any more. He
wouldn't kiss me, shake my hand, or welcome me in any way. He told me he'd
got over it, the same as he'd got over his measles days--he'd outgrown it
and was going to throw himself at the feet of another goddess. Oh, yes, he
meant you!" she laughed, her voice a little too high, perhaps, with an odd
note of bitterness in it. "Then, determined to blot my rival out, I lied
about you. I told him that you loved Corrigan and that you were in the
game to rob him of his land. Oh, I blackened you, dearie! It hurt him,
too. For when a man like Trevison loves a woman--"

"How could you!" said the girl, shuddering.

"Please don't get dramatic," jeered the other. "The rules that govern the
love game are very elastic--for some women. I played it strong, but there
was no chance for me from the beginning. Trevison thinks you are
Corrigan's trump card in this game. It is a game, isn't it. But he loves
you in spite of it all. He told me he'd go to the gallows for you. Aren't
men the sillies! But just the same, dearie, we women like to hear them
murmur those little heroic things, don't we? It was on the night I told
him you'd told Corrigan about the dynamiting."

"Oh!" said the girl.

"That was my high card," laughed the woman, harshly. "He took it and
derided me. I decided right then that I wouldn't play any more."

"Then he didn't send for you?"

"Corrigan did that, dearie."

"You--you knew Corrigan before--before you came here?"

"You can guess intelligently, can't you?"

"Corrigan planned it all?"

"All." Hester watched as the girl bowed her head and sobbed convulsively.

"What a brazen, crafty and unprincipled thing Trevison must think me!"

Hester reached out a hand and laid it on the girl's. "I--there was a time
when I would have done murder to have him think of me as he thinks of you,
dearie. He isn't for me, though, and I can't spoil any woman's happiness.
There's little enough--but I'm not going to philosophize. I was going away
without telling you this. I don't know why I am telling it now. I always
was a little soft. But if you hadn't spoken as you did a while ago in that
crowd--taking Trevison's end--I--I think you'd never have known. Somehow,
it seemed you deserved him, dearie. And I couldn't bear to--to think of
him facing any more disappointment. He--he took it so--"

The girl looked up, to see the woman's eyes filling with a luminous mist.
A quick conception of what this all meant to the woman thrilled the girl.
She got up and walked to the woman's side. "I'm so sorry, Hester," she
said as her arms stole around the other's neck.

* * * * *

She went out a little later, into the glaring, shimmering sunlight of the
morning, her cheeks red, her eyes aglow, her heart racing wildly, to see
an engine and a luxurious private car just pulling from the main track to
a switch.

"Oh," she whispered, joyously; "it's father's!"

And she ran toward it, tingling with a new-found hope.

In her room at the Castle sat a woman who was finding the world very
empty. It held nothing for her except the sad consolation of repentance.

Next: The Fight

Previous: In The Dark

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