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The Boone-bellamy Feud Is Renewed







Part of: MELISSY OF THE BAR DOUBLE G
From: Brand Blotters

"Here's six bits on the counter under a seed catalogue. Did you leave it
here, daddy?"

Champ Lee, seated on the porch just outside the store door, took the pipe
from his mouth and answered:

"Why no, honey, I don't reckon I did, not to my ricollection."

"That's queer. I know I didn't----"

Melissy broke her sentence sharply. There had come into her eyes a spark
of excitement, simultaneous with the brain-flash which told her who had
left the money. No doubt the quarter and the half dollar had been lying
there ever since the day last week when Morse had eaten at the Bar Double
G. She addressed an envelope, dropped the money in, sealed the flap, and
put the package beside a letter addressed to T. L. Morse.

Lee, full of an unhappy restlessness which he could not control, presently
got up and moved away to the stables. He was blaming himself bitterly for
the events of the past few days.

It was perhaps half an hour later that Melissy looked up to see the
sturdy figure of Morse in the doorway. During the past year he had filled
out, grown stronger and more rugged. His deep tan and heavy stride
pronounced him an outdoor man no less surely than the corduroy suit and
the high laced miners' boots.

He came forward to the postoffice window without any sign of recognition.

"Is Mr. Flatray still here?"

"No!" Without further explanation Melissy took from the box the two
letters addressed to Morse and handed them to him.

The girl observed the puzzled look that stole over his face at sight of
the silver in one envelope. A glance at the business address printed on
the upper left hand corner enlightened him. He laid the money down in the
stamp window.

"This isn't mine."

"You heard what my father said?"

"That applies to next time, not to this."

"I think it does apply to this time."

"I can't see how you're going to make me take it back. I'm an obstinate
man."

"Just as you like."

A sudden flush of anger swept her. She caught up the silver and flung it
through the open window into the dusty road.

His dark eyes met hers steadily and a dull color burned in his tanned
cheeks. Without a word he turned away, and instantly she regretted what
she had done. She had insulted him deliberately and put herself in the
wrong. At bottom she was a tender-hearted child, even though her father
and his friends had always spoiled her, and she could not but reproach
herself for the hurt look she had brought into his strong, sad face. He
was their enemy, of course, but even enemies have rights.

Morse walked out of the office looking straight before him, his strong
back teeth gripped so that the muscles stood out on his salient jaw.
Impulsively the girl ran around the counter after him.

He looked up from untying his horse to see her straight and supple figure
running toward him. Her eager face was full of contrition and the color of
pink rose petals came and went in it.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Morse. I oughtn't to have done that. I hurt your
feelings," she cried.

At best he was never a handsome man, but now his deep, dark eyes lit with
a glow that surprised her.

"Thank you. Thank you very much," he said in a low voice.

"I'm so tempery," she explained in apology, and added: "I suppose a nice
girl wouldn't have done it."

"A nice girl did do it," was all he could think to say.

"You needn't take the trouble to say that. I know I've just scrambled up
and am not ladylike and proper. Sometimes I don't care. I like to be able
to do things like boys. But I suppose it's dreadful."

"I don't think it is at all. None of your friends could think so. Not that
I include myself among them," he hastened to disclaim. "I can't be both
your friend and your enemy, can I?"

The trace of a sardonic smile was in his eyes. For the moment as she
looked at him she thought he might. But she answered:

"I don't quite see how."

"You hate me, I suppose," he blurted out bluntly.

"I suppose so." And more briskly she added, with dimples playing near the
corners of her mouth: "Of course I do."

"That's frank. It's worth something to have so decent an enemy. I don't
believe you would shoot me in the back."

"Some of the others would. You should be more careful," she cried before
she could stop herself.

He shrugged. "I take my fighting chance."

"It isn't much of a one. You'll be shot at from ambush some day."

"It wouldn't be a new experience. I went through it last week."

"Where?" she breathed.

"Down by Willow Wash."

"Who did it?"

He laughed, without amusement. "I didn't have my rifle with me, so I
didn't stay to inquire."

"It must have been some of those wild vaqueros."

"That was my guess."

"But you have other enemies, too."

"Miss Lee," he smiled.

"I mean others that are dangerous."

"Your father?" he asked.

"Father would never do that except in a fair fight. I wasn't thinking of
him."

"I don't know whom you mean, but a few extras don't make much difference
when one is so liberally supplied already," he said cynically.

"I shouldn't make light of them if I were you," she cautioned.

"Who do you mean?"

"I've said all I'm going to, and more than I ought," she told him
decisively. "Except this, that it's your own fault. You shouldn't be so
stiff. Why don't you compromise? With the cattlemen, for instance. They
have a good deal of right on their side. They did have the range
first."

"You should tell that to your father, too."

"Dad runs sheep on the range to protect himself. He doesn't drive out
other people's cattle and take away their living."

"Well, I might compromise, but not at the end of a gun."

"No, of course not. Here comes dad now," she added hurriedly, aware for
the first time that she had been holding an extended conversation with her
father's foe.

"We started enemies and we quit enemies. Will you shake hands on that,
Miss Lee?" he asked.

She held out her hand, then drew it swiftly back. "No, I can't. I forgot.
There's another reason."

"Another reason! You mean the Arkansas charge against me?" he asked
quietly.

"No. I can't tell you what it is." She felt herself suffused in a crimson
glow. How could she explain that she could not touch hands with him
because she had robbed him of twenty thousand dollars?

Lee stopped at the steps, astonished to see his daughter and this man in
talk together. Yesterday he would have resented it bitterly, but now the
situation was changed. Something of so much greater magnitude had occurred
that he was too perturbed to cherish his feud for the present. All night
he had carried with him the dreadful secret he suspected. He could not
look Melissy in the face, nor could he discuss the robbery with anybody.
The one fact that overshadowed all others was that his little girl had
gone out and held up a stage, that if she were discovered she would be
liable to a term in the penitentiary. Laboriously his slow brain had
worked it all out. A talk with Jim Budd had confirmed his conclusions. He
knew that she had taken this risk in order to save him. He was bowed down
with his unworthiness, with shame that he had dragged her into this
horrible tangle. He was convinced that Jack Flatray would get at the
truth, and already he was resolved to come forward and claim the whole
affair as his work.

"I've been apologizing to Mr. Morse for insulting him, dad," the girl said
immediately.

Her father passed a bony hand slowly across his unshaven chin. "That's
right, honey. If you done him a meanness, you had ought to say so."

"She has said so very handsomely, Mr. Lee," spoke up Morse.

"I've been warning him, dad, that he ought to be more careful how he rides
around alone, with the cattlemen feeling the way they do."

"It's a fact they feel right hot under the collar. You're ce'tainly a
temptation to them, Mr. Morse," the girl's father agreed.

The mine owner shifted the subject of conversation. He was not a man of
many impulses, but he yielded to one now.

"Can't we straighten out this trouble between us, Mr. Lee? You think I've
done you an injury. Perhaps I have. If we both mean what's right, we can
get together and fix it up in a few minutes."

The old Southerner stiffened and met him with an eye of jade. "I ain't
asking any favors of you, Mr. Morse. We'll settle this matter some day,
and settle it right. But you can't buy me off. I'll not take a bean from
you."

The miner's eyes hardened. "I'm not trying to buy you off. I made a fair
offer of peace. Since you have rejected it, there is nothing more to be
said." With that he bowed stiffly and walked away, leading his horse.

Lee's gaze followed him and slowly the eyes under the beetled brows
softened.

"Mebbe I done wrong, honey. Mebbe I'd ought to have given in. I'm too
proud to compromise when he's got me beat. That's what's ailin' with me.
But I reckon I'd better have knuckled under."

The girl slipped her arm through his. "Sometimes I'm just like that too,
daddy. I've just got to win before I make up. I don't blame you a mite,
but, all the same, we should have let him fix it up."

It was characteristic of them both that neither thought of reversing the
decision he had made. It was done now, and they would abide by the
results. But already both of them half regretted, though for very
different reasons. Lee was thinking that for Melissy's sake he should have
made a friend of the man he hated, since it was on the cards that within a
few days she might be in his power. The girl's feeling, too, was
unselfish. She could not forget the deep hunger for friendship that had
shone in the man's eyes. He was alone in the world, a strong man
surrounded by enemies who would probably destroy him in the end. There was
stirring in her heart a sweet womanly pity and sympathy for the enemy
whose proffer of friendship had been so cavalierly rejected.

The sight of a horseman riding down the trail from the Flagstaff mine
shook Melissy into alertness.

"Look, dad. It's Mr. Norris," she cried.

Morse, who had not yet recognized him, swung to the saddle, his heart full
of bitterness. Every man's hand was against his, and every woman's. What
was there in his nature that turned people against him so inevitably?
There seemed to be some taint in him that corroded all natural human
kindness.

A startled oath brought him from his somber reflections. He looked up, to
see the face of a man with whom in the dead years of the past he had been
in bitter feud.

Neither of them spoke. Morse looked at him with a face cold as chiselled
marble and as hard. The devil's own passion burned in the storm-tossed one
of the other.

Norris was the first to break the silence.

"So it was all a lie about your being killed, Dick Bellamy."

The mine owner did not speak, but the rigor of his eyes did not relax.

"Gave it out to throw me off your trail, did you? Knew mighty well I'd cut
the heart out of the man who shot poor Shep." The voice of the cattle
detective rang out in malignant triumph. "You guessed it c'rect, seh.
Right here's where the Boone-Bellamy feud claims another victim."

The men were sitting face to face, so close that their knees almost
touched. As Norris jerked out his gun Bellamy caught his wrist. They
struggled for an instant, the one to free his arm, the other to retain his
grip. Bellamy spurred his horse closer. The more powerful of the two, he
slowly twisted around the imprisoned wrist. Inch by inch the revolver
swung in a jerky, spasmodic circle. There was a moment when it pointed
directly at the mine owner's heart. His enemy's finger crooked on the
trigger, eyes passionate with the stark lust to kill. But the pressure on
the wrist had numbed the hand. The weapon jumped out of line, went
clattering down into the dust from the palsied fingers.

Lee ran forward and pushed between the men.

"Here. Ain't you boys got ary bettah sense than to clinch like wildcats?"
he demanded, jerking one of the horses away by the bridle. "No, you don't,
Phil. I'll take keer of this gun for the present." It was noticeable that
Beauchamp Lee's speech grew more after the manner of the plantations when
he became excited.

The cowpuncher, white with anger, glared at his enemy and poured curses at
him, the while he nursed his strained wrist. For the moment he was
impotent, but he promised himself vengeance in full when they should meet
again.

"That'll be enough from you now, Phil," said the old ex-Confederate
good-naturedly, leading him toward the house and trying to soothe his
malevolent chagrin.

Bellamy turned and rode away. At the corner of the corral he met Jack
Flatray riding up.

"Been having a little difference of opinion with our friend, haven't you,
seh?" the deputy asked pleasantly.

"Yes." Bellamy gave him only the crisp monosyllable and changed the
subject immediately. "What about this stage robbery? Have you been able to
make anything of it, Mr. Flatray?"

"Why, yes. I reckon we'll be able to land the miscreant mebbe, if things
come our way," drawled the deputy. "Wouldn't it be a good idea to offer a
reward, though, to keep things warm?"

"I thought of that. I made it a thousand dollars. The posters ought to be
out to-day on the stage."

"Good enough!"

"Whom do you suspect?"

Jack looked at him with amiable imperturbability. "I reckon I better
certify my suspicions, seh, before I go to shouting them out."

"All right, sir. Since I'm paying the shot, it ought to entitle me to some
confidence. But it's up to you. Get back the twenty thousand dollars,
that's all I ask, except that you put the fellow behind the bars of the
penitentiary for a few years."

Flatray gave him an odd smile which he did not understand.

"I hope to be able to accommodate you, seh, about this time to-morrow, so
far as getting the gold goes. You'll have to wait a week or two before
the rest of your expectations get gratified."

"Any reasonable time. I want to see him there eventually. That's all."

Jack laughed again, without giving any reason for his mirth. That ironic
smile continued to decorate his face for some time. He seemed to have some
inner source of mirth he did not care to disclose.





Next: The Danger Line

Previous: Watering Sheep



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