Gunman’s Gold - Max Brand - ebook

Gunman’s Gold ebook

Max Brand

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An exciting Western tale of a honorable thief who steals from crooks and ends up saving a family from the ruthless and conniving hands of a cousin who is trying to insert himself into their fortunes. There’s lots of action with good characterizations and even some political and philosophical insights that gives the story a depth of being more than just an action yarn. There’s a hired investigator, who saves him repeatedly, at risk to himself, and there is a lovely girl who eventually sees through an ugly face to a heart of gold. Highly recommended, especially for those who love the Old Western genre.

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Liczba stron: 383

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Contents

1. WIRE GOLD!

2. MURDER!

3. THE FALSE TRAIL

4. SHANNIGAN

5. THE PLAN

6. AT DEERFOOT

7. A TALK WITH SAM

8. PRINGLE’S DECISION

9. THE SHERIFF

10. BEFORE SUNRISE

11. SHANNIGAN’S PLEA

12. THE NECKTIE PARTY

13. THE ESCAPE

14. RETURN OF THE POSSE

15. SHANNIGAN SMILES

16. AT THE BEST CHANCE

17. THE EXCITED MAN

18. THE TELEGRAM

19. REYNOLDS TALKS

20. MARY’S IDEA

21. SWAIN’S DISCOVERY

22. DELIVERING THE BLOW

23. EXPOSURE

24. THE MOB

25. THE JAILER

26. THE TRICK

27. SHANNIGAN’S PERVERSITY

28. THE RENDEZVOUS

29. HIDING OUT

30. THE HUNT

31. THE EASIER PREY

32. SHANNIGAN’S SWING

33. THE WESTERN WAY

34. REYNOLDS’S LUCK

35. THE TRAP

36. A PRISONER

37. SWAIN’S PARTY

38. A GLASS OF BEER

39. THE WESTERN IDEA

1. WIRE GOLD!

The strategy of Lee Swain was simple. It consisted in being at the right place at the right time. He had managed to get there, through skillful planning, so often that he had stacked up what he considered a nest egg. He had done that in the Eastern States. When he wanted to make the nest egg grow into a whole brood of thriving birds, he decided to go West.

He picked out Deerfoot, because it was forty miles from the railroad, because there were cattle, lumber, and mining interests in the region around it, and because it was so inaccessible that he expected to find ready money at a high premium. And he was right.

He made a few small investments here and there; he began to be looked upon as a sound and rising member of the community, but he had not yet found the lucky strike that would make him a rich man capable of retiring. It was chance that brought him to the course of action that makes the foundation of this narrative.

It was purest chance from the beginning. Ordinarily, Lee Swain was not one to be bothered by the more tender sensibilities. He was what he himself would have termed a “practical man.” A practical man is one hard to define. The fellow who knows that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush is called practical. The man who wastes no time on daydreams is practical. The man who never lets love, friendship, patriotism, or devotion to any cause stand between him and money is essentially practical.

And, in this sense, Lee Swain was a practical man.

Yet it was the surrender to a sense of idle beauty that advanced him, finally, on the trail of a great fortune! Which shows how this silly old world works by opposites!

He was sitting in the back room of the Best Chance Saloon on the edge of Deerfoot. He was sitting there because he wanted to be alone with his schemes, and because the beer was a shade cheaper than in the center of the town. And now, as he raised his thin face from the hands that had been covering his eyes, he happened to glance out the window and saw, toward the west, a great mountain lifted against a sky of crimson and of gold.

It stirred Lee Swain, in an odd way. It made him think of random snatches of music, of beautiful faces, of noble words that had, in his more careless moments, from time to time invaded his mind.

Presently he rose – since the beer glass was empty – and walking out the back door of the little building, he rested his back against the side wall. He contemplated the flames in the sky and wondered, if they had been real fire, how many thousands of useful factories could have been run by the heat. As his thoughts began to drift on toward kindred reflections, about the vast wastage of energy in this most spendthrift universe, three men entered the front of the saloon, and he heard them speaking to the proprietor:

“Hey, Slim–is the back room free?”

“I think there’s Lee Swain back there,” said the proprietor. “Wait’ll I see.”

Presently he said: “No, I guess Swain went home and forgot to pay for his drink.”

“One of your charity patients, Slim?” asked a voice.

“Aw, no; Swain’s all right. Kind of a sour little guy, but he’s as straight as a string. One of these gents with brains and money.”

Lee Swain smiled and nodded.

The praise was doubly sweet to him, because he felt that it was entirely just. It was the picture that he carried in his own mind’s eye, the ideal toward which he aspired. As for “straight as a string,” that was a little embroidery that did not hurt the essential pattern of the description. Honesty was certainly the best policy, except on important occasions.

“Bring some beer back in here,” said one. “You know my friends, Slim? Doc Halpin, here–”

“Glad to meet you, Doc,” came from “Slim.”

“And Jack Reynolds you oughta know, if you don’t.”

“Aw, I know Reynolds, all right. He don’t wear no veil over his face.”

Slim laughed, and then they all laughed. Said a hearty young voice:

“That’s all right, Slim. Now I know where I stand with you.”

“Well,” said Slim, “I hope you’ll always stand with me because if you stood agin’ me, I wouldn’t keep my feet very long!”

They all laughed again.

As they pulled out their chairs, and settled around the table of the back room, the listener gathered the third name -Chad Powell.

The beer came in.

Two or three voices presently joined in a groaning chorus of content.

“Yeah, and that’s pretty good,” said Chad Powell.

“The first drink of beer, there ain’t anything in the world like it,” said Halpin. “Let’s have another.”

“No, you don’t get another so quick, boy,” broke in Powell. “Take a coupla, three beers and you’re started, maybe. And you ain’t goin’ to start today, brother. You save your thirst a while. I guess you’re goin’ to be able to buy your drinks, one of these days.”

“Yeah, maybe I will, too,” said the other. “Maybe I’ll be able to buy a lotta drinks, one of these days.”

He laughed, loudly, as though there were a hidden meaning behind this remark.

“Lock the doors, Chad,” said Halpin.

“Yeah, I guess we’d better. Better light the lamp, too. Maybe there’s goin’ to be something that old boy Jack’ll wanta see.”

“You fellows struck it rich?” asked young Reynolds.

His voice was big, cheerful, clear. His reputation was big and cheerful, also, but not quite so clear.

With increasing interest, Lee Swain listened.

“You wait and listen, and then look,” said Halpin. “It’s this way. You take a throw at a stake for us, and we barge out. We got an outfit, and we got some spare cash besides, because we didn’t need all that we got from you, Jack. And we decide that we’ll cut straight for the Willejee Mountains, and we’ll take a short cut. And, like a pair of fools, we head straight out across the Owens Desert.”

Some one whistled–Reynolds, perhaps.

Then his voice said: “That’s a hot place, this time of day.”

“We pretty near died, before the whisky got sweated out of us,” put in Powell. “And then we struck one of them little streams that only show their heads and run twenty steps and jump down a hole ag’in, like ground squirrels, and–”

“Say, are you goin’ to tell this, or am I, Chad?” demanded Halpin angrily.

“Aw, go on and tell it then,” said the other. “You enjoy shootin’ off your face such a lot, you do!”

“We filled up with water,” said Halpin, “and we were so dog-gone hot and tired that we were half minded to turn back and go around the desert, instead of through it. I mean, lookin’ at the boulders and the gravel, it kind of hurts your eyes, and your brain, too, after a while.”

“It does,” said Reynolds. “Owens Desert is a plain hell hole!”

“But the water bucked us up, a lot, and pretty soon we got up with our canteen full and us full, and the hosses full, and we slogged along, slow and steady, maybe an hour. Then there was a fool of a rabbit that jumped up, and this here Powell, dog-gone his heart, he ups with a rifle and shoots– and the rabbit, it runs faster than ever.

“‘I scared him, anyway,’ says Chad.

“‘You done nothin’ but hit a rock,’ says I.

“‘I pretty near hit him,’ says Chad.

“‘You’re crazy,’ says I.

“We sort of pulled up our hosses, and as we sat there in the saddle, like a pair of fools, talkin’ about how close he come to a rabbit, or how close he didn’t come to it, I looked and seen a yaller point of light, shinin’ like a candle flame on a dark night, and it was shinin’ right off of the edge of a boulder. I thinks that it’s funny, and I goes and takes a look. And there, mind you, was a fresh chip off the edge of the rock, where Chad’s bullet had broke off a chunk-“

“It wasn’t my bullet,” said Powell, with some energy. “I hit in the sand, right close to the rabbit. I seen the sand splash.”

“You seen the sand fly where the rabbit was pawin’ the ground,” said Halpin.

“I didn’t,” said Powell. “I got a better eye than you, any day, and I seen where–”

“Wait a minute, boys,” said the voice of young Jack Reynolds. “What was it that made the stone shine?”

Halpin answered with a lowered voice: “Gold! Wire gold!”

The words struck electric splashes through the mind and the imagination of Lee Swain, listening outside.

Wire gold! He had heard of pockets of it that yielded thousands of dollars– pockets that a man could surround with his arms.

He heard Halpin going on huskily: “The rock was rotten. It was so rotten it was black. You could pretty near kick it to pieces. We put a blast into it, and we seen that there was driftings and colorings all the way clean through it. Then we took and hunted, and we seen a few other rocks, stretched out in a line, and them rocks had the same stuff. They was lyin’ over a fault. They was what was broke off the end of a real strike of ore, we says to ourselves, and we sunk a shaft, and pretty soon–you tell him, Chad!”

“We’re rich,” said Chad Powell. “The three of us, we’re all rich. We’re goin’ to roll in gold, I can tell you. We can throw it away. We’re millionaires. We got–”

“Tell him what we found!” gasped Halpin.

“We got the biggest thing I ever seen–” cried Powell.

There was the smacking sound of a blow against bare flesh.

“I’ll knock your head off, you dog!” shouted Powell.

“I’ll kill you, Chad,” said Halpin, grimly, and through his teeth. “I’ll kill you dead, if you talk out loud like that again.”

Suddenly Powell was muttering: “Yeah, you’re right. I was yelling. I can’t talk about it. It drives me crazy. Listen, Jack, you could go and dig it out with shovels, pretty near! It’s so rich it makes you laugh, it makes you crazy!”

“It’s a foot thick, the vein is,” said Halpin. “We seen that, and then we decided that we’d leave the shaft, and jump back here, and get you to see it. Then we’d work some more and open out the real line of the strike of the ore, and then we’d locate our three claims! You hear, son?”

“You boys found it. It’s yours. You take it,” said Jack Reynolds.

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