Alcatraz - Max Brand - ebook

Alcatraz ebook

Max Brand

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This is a story of a wild horse who many said could not be caught or broken, and the man who set out to prove them wrong. Alcatraz is a wild horse and Brand alternates the narrative between the people struggling to hold onto a ranch and the horse as he breaks from a cruel master and learns to survive on the plains. This is one of the great Western novels. Max Brand’s style of writing is classic western, heroes and villains, good guys and bad guys, wide open country. Max Brand was the pen name of American author Frederick Schiller Faust. Brand was best known for writing Western novels, and many films have been adapted based on his stories.

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Liczba stron: 344

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Contents

Chapter 1. Cordova

Chapter 2. The Coming Of David

Chapter 3. Concerning Fighters

Chapter 4. The Strength Of The Weak

Chapter 5. Retribution

Chapter 6. Freedom

Chapter 7. The Promised Land

Chapter 8. Murder

Chapter 9. The Stampede

Chapter 10. The Thief

Chapter 11. The Failure

Chapter 12. From The Hip

Chapter 13. The Bargain

Chapter 14. Strategy

Chapter 15. The King

Chapter 16. Red Perris—Advocate

Chapter 17. Invisible Danger

Chapter 18. Victory

Chapter 19. Hervey Takes A Trick

Chapter 20. The Trap Shuts

Chapter 21. The Battle

Chapter 22. Mcguire Sleeps

Chapter 23. Lobo

Chapter 24. The Crisis

Chapter 25. The Little Smoky

Chapter 26. Partners

Chapter 27. The End Of The Race

1. CORDOVA

The west wind came over the Eagles, gathered purity from the evergreen slopes of the mountains, blew across the foothills and league wide fields, and came at length to the stallion with a touch of coolness and enchanting scents of far-off things. Just as his head went up, just as the breeze lifted mane and tail, Marianne Jordan halted her pony and drew in her breath with pleasure. For she had caught from the chestnut in the corral one flash of perfection and those far-seeing eyes called to mind the Arab belief.

Says the Sheik: “I have raised my mare from a foal, and out of love for me she will lay down her life; but when I come out to her in the morning, when I feed her and give her water, she still looks beyond me and across the desert. She is waiting for the coming of a real man, she is waiting for the coming of a true master out of the horizon!”

Marianne had known thoroughbreds since she was a child and after coming West she had become acquainted with mere “hoss-flesh,” but today for the first time she felt that the horse is not meant by nature to be the servant of man but that its speed is meant to ensure it sacred freedom. A moment later she was wondering how the thought had come to her. That glimpse of equine perfection had been an illusion built of spirit and attitude; when the head of the stallion fell she saw the daylight truth: that this was either the wreck of a young horse or the sad ruin of a fine animal now grown old. He was a ragged creature with dull eyes and pendulous lip. No comb had been among the tangles of mane and tail for an unknown period; no brush had smoothed his coat. It was once a rich red-chestnut, no doubt, but now it was sun-faded to the color of sand. He was thin. The unfleshed backbone and withers stood up painfully and she counted the ribs one by one. Yet his body was not so broken as his spirit. His drooped head gave him the appearance of searching for a spot to lie down. He seemed to have been left here by the cruelty of his owner to starve and die in the white heat of this corral–a desertion which he accepted as justice because he was useless in the world.

It affected Marianne like the resignation of a man; indeed there was more personality in the chestnut than in many human beings. Once he had been a beauty, and the perfection which first startled her had been a ghost out of his past. His head, where age or famine showed least, was still unquestionably fine. The ears were short and delicately made, the eyes well-placed, the distance to the angle of the jaw long–in brief, it was that short head of small volume and large brain space which speaks most eloquently of hot blood. As her expert eye ran over the rest of the body she sighed to think that such a creature had come to such an end. There was about him no sign of life save the twitch of his skin to shake off flies.

Certainly this could not be the horse she had been advised to see and she was about to pass on when she felt eyes watching her from the steep shadow of the shed which bordered the corral. Then she made out a dapper olive-skinned fellow sitting with his back against the wall in such a position of complete relaxation as only a Mexican is capable of assuming. He wore a short tuft of black moustache cut well away from the edge of the red lip, a moustache which oddly accentuated his youth. In body and features he was of that feminine delicacy which your large-handed Saxon dislikes, and though Marianne was by no means a stalwart, she detested the man at once. For that reason, being a lady to the tips of her slim fingers, her smile was more cordial than necessary.

“I am looking for Manuel Cordova,” she said.

“Me,” replied the Mexican, and managed to speak without removing the cigarette.

“I’m glad to know you.” she answered. “I am Marianne Jordan.”

At this, Manuel Cordova removed his cigarette, regardless of the ashes which tumbled straightway down the bell-mouthed sleeve of his jacket; for a Mexican deems it highly indecorous to pay the slightest heed to his tobacco ashes. Whether they land on chin or waistcoat they are allowed to remain until the wind carries them away.

“The pleasure is to me,” said Cordova melodiously, and made painful preparations to rise.

She gathered at once that the effort would spoil his morning and urged him to remain where he was, at which he smiled with the care of a movie star, presenting an even, white line of teeth.

Marianne went on: “Let me explain. I’ve come to the Glosterville fair to buy some brood mares for my ranch and of course the ones I want are the Coles horses. You’ve seen them?”

He nodded.

“But those horses,” she continued, checking off her points, “will not be offered for sale until after the race this afternoon. They’re all entered and they are sure to win. There’s nothing to touch them and when they breeze across the finish I imagine every ranch owner present will want to bid for them. That would put them above my reach and I can only pray that the miracle will happen –a horse may turn up to beat them. I made inquiries and I was told that the best prospect was Manuel Cordova’s Alcatraz. So I’ve come with high hopes, Senor Cordova, and I’ll appreciate it greatly if you’ll let me see your champion.”

“Look till the heart is content, senorita,” replied the Mexican, and he extended a slim, lazy hand towards the drowsing stallion.

“But,” cried the girl, “I was told of a real runner–”

She squinted critically at the faded chestnut. She had been told of a four-year-old while this gaunt animal looked fifteen at least. However, it is one thing to catch a general impression and another to read points. Marianne took heed, now, of the long slope of the shoulders, the short back, the well- let-down hocks. After all, underfeeding would dull the eye and give the ragged, lifeless coat.

“He is not much horse, eh?” purred Cordova.

But the longer she looked the more she saw. The very leanness of Alcatraz made it easier to trace his running-muscles; she estimated, too, the ample girth at the cinches where size means wind.

“And that’s Alcatraz?” she murmured.

“That is all,” said the pleasant Cordova.

“May I go into the corral and look him over at close range? I never feel that I know a horse till I get my hands on it.”

She was about to dismount when she saw that the Mexican was hesitating and she settled back in the saddle, flushed with displeasure.

“No,” said Cordova, “that would not be good. You will see!”

He smiled again and rising, he sauntered to the fence and turned about with his shoulders resting against the upper bar, his back to the stallion. As he did so, Alcatraz put forward his ears, which, in connection with the dullness of his eyes, gave him a peculiarly foolish look.

“You will see a thing, senorita!” the Mexican was chuckling.

It came without warning. Alcatraz turned with the speed of a whiplash curling and drove straight at the place where his master leaned. Marianne’s cry of alarm was not needed. Cordova had already started, but even so he barely escaped. The chestnut on braced legs skidded to the fence, his teeth snapping short inches from the back of his master. His failure maddened Alcatraz. He reminded Marianne of the antics of a cat when in her play with the mouse she tosses her victim a little too far away and wheels to find her prospective meal disappearing down a hole. In exactly similar wise the stallion went around the corral in a whirl of dust, rearing, lashing out with hind legs and striking with fore, catching imaginary things in his teeth and shaking them to pieces. When the fury diminished he began to glide up and down the fence, and there was something so feline in the grace of those long steps and the intentness with which the brute watched Cordova that the girl remembered a new-brought tiger in the zoo. Also, rage had poured him full of such strength that through the dust cloud she caught again glimpses of that first perfection.

He came at last to a stop, but he faced his owner with a look of steady hate. The latter returned the gaze with interest, stroking his face and snarling: “Once more, red devil, eh? Once more you miss? Bah! But I, I shall not miss!”

It was not as one will talk to a dumb beast, for there was no mistaking the vicious earnestness of Cordova, and now the girl made out that he was caressing a long, white scar which ran from his temple across the cheekbone. Marianne glanced away, embarrassed, as people are when another reveals a dark and hidden portion of his character.

“You see?” said Cordova, “you would not be happy in the corral with him, eh?”

He rolled a cigarette with smiling lips as he spoke, but all the time his black eyes burned at the chestnut. He seemed to Marianne half child and half old man, and both parts of him were evil now that she could guess the whole story. Cordova campaigned through the country, racing his horse at fairs or for side bets. For two reasons he kept the animal systematically undernourished: one was that he was thereby able to get better odds; the other was that only on a weakened Alcatraz would he trust himself. At this she did not wonder for never had she seen such almost human viciousness of temper in a dumb beast.

“As for running, senorita,” continued Cordova, “sometimes he does very well–yes, very well. But when he is dull the spurs are nothing to him.”

He indicated a criss-crossing of scars on the flank of the stallion and Marianne, biting her lips, realized that she must leave at once if she wished to avoid showing her contempt, and her anger.

She was a mile down the road and entering the main street of Glosterville before her temper cooled. She decided that it was best to forget both Alcatraz and his master: they were equally matched in devilishness. Her last hope of seeing the mares beaten was gone, and with it all chance of buying them at a reasonable figure; for no matter what the potentialities of Alcatraz in his present starved condition he could not compare with the bays. She thought of Lady Mary with the sunlight rippling over her shoulder muscles. Certainly Alcatraz would never come within whisking distance of her tail!

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