Rim O’ the World - B.M. Bower - ebook

Rim O’ the World ebook

B.M. Bower

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B. M. Bower’s novel „Rim O’ the World” introduces readers to a rough-and-tumble group of range riders who scrape out a living in the foreboding and unwelcoming region known as Black Rim Country. Packed with suspense, action, and romance, this is a must-read for Western fans of all ages. B. M. (Bertha Muzzy) Bower was the first woman to make a career of writing popular westerns. And what a career it was –more than sixty novels published from 1904 to 1940, the year of her death, and still more posthumously. In the western orbit, Bower was – and still is – a star.

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Liczba stron: 406

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Contents

I. THE RIM AND WHAT LAY BENEATH IT

II. THE LORRIGAN TREE GROWS THRIFTILY

III. MARY HOPE DOUGLAS APPEARS

IV. A MATTER OF BRANDS

V. THEY RIDE AND THEY DO NOT TELL WHERE

VI. BELLE MEETS AN EMERGENCY IN HER OWN WAY

VII. THE NAME

VIII. THE GAME

IX. A LITTLE SCOTCH

X. THE LORRIGAN WAY

XI. LANCE RIDES AHEAD

XII. SHE WILL, AND SHE WON'T

XIII. A WAY HE HAD WITH HIM

XIV. IN WHICH LANCE FINISHES ONE JOB

XV. HE TACKLES ANOTHER

XVI. ABOUT A PIANO

XVII. THE LORRIGAN VIEWPOINT

XVIII. PEDDLED RUMORS

XIX. MARY HOPE HAS MUCH TROUBLE

XX. AS HE LIVED, SO HE DIED

XXI. LANCE TRAILS A MYSTERY

XXII. LANCE RIDES ANOTHER TRAIL

XXIII. LANCE PLAYS THE GAME

XXIV. WHEN A LORRIGAN LOVES

XXV. BELLE LORRIGAN WINS

XXVI. THE DOPE

XXVII. HOW ONE TRAIL ENDED

XXVIII. THE MAKING OF NEW TRAILS

I. THE RIM AND WHAT LAY BENEATH IT

NOT all of the West is tamed and trained to run smoothly on pneumatic tires and to talk more enthusiastically of the different “makes” of cars than of bits and saddles. There are still wide stretches unknown of tourists and movie men hunting locations for Western melodrama where men live in the full flavor of adventure and romance and never know it, because they have never known any other way to live.

In the Black Rim country there is such a place,–a wide, rough, sage-grown expanse where cattle and horses and sheep scarce know the look of barbed wire, and where brands are still the sole mark of ownership. Set down between high mountain ranges, remote, sufficient unto itself, rudely prosperous, the Black Rim country has yet to be tamed.

Black Rim country is called bad. The men from Black Rim are eyed askance when they burr their spur rowels down the plank sidewalks of whatever little town they may choose to visit. A town dweller will not quarrel with one of them. He will treat him politely, straightway seek some acquaintance whom he wishes to impress, and jerk a thumb toward the departing Black Rim man, and say importantly: “See that feller I was talking with just now? That’s one of them boys from the Black Rim. Man, he’d kill yuh quick as look at yuh! He’s bad. Yep. You want to walk ‘way round them birds from the Rim country. They’re a hard-boiled bunch up that way.” And he would be as nearly correct in his estimate as such men usually are.

Tom Lorrigan’s father used to carry a rifle across his thighs when he rode up the trail past Devil’s Tooth Ridge to the benchland beyond, where his cattle fed on the sweet bunch grass. He never would sit close to a camp-fire at night save when his back was against a huge boulder and he could keep the glare of the fire from his eyes. Indians he killed as he killed rattlers, on the range theory that if they did not get him then they might some other time, and that every dead Indian counted one less to beware of. Tom Lorrigan’s father was called a bad man even in Black Rim country,–which meant a good deal. Hard-bitted men of the Black Rim chose their words wisely when they spoke to Tom’s father; chose wisely their words when they spoke of him, unless they had full faith in the listener’s loyalty and discretion.

Tom Lorrigan’s father lived to be sixty,–chiefly because he was “quick on the draw” and because he never missed anything that he shot at. But at sixty, when he was still hated by many, loved by a very few and feared by every one, he died,–crushed under his horse when it fell on the Devil’s Tooth trail one sleety day in midwinter.

Young Tom Lorrigan learned to shoot when he learned to ride, and he was riding pitching horses before he could be certain which was p and which was q in his dad’s old spelling book. Which does not by any means prove that young Tom was an ignoramus. Tom once had three brothers, but these were somehow unlucky and one by one they dropped out of the game of life. The oldest brother died with the smell of burnt black powder in his nostrils, and Tom’s father stood over the body and called his dead son a fool for wearing his gun so it could stick in the holster. “If I ever ketch yuh doin’ a trick like that, I’ll thrash yuh till yuh can’t stand,” he admonished young Tom sternly. Young Tom always remembered how his dad had looked when brother Bill was shot.

The second brother was overtaken while riding a big sorrel horse that did not happen to carry the Lorrigan brand. So he too died with the smell of powder smoke in his nostrils, taking three of his pursuers with him into the Dark Land. Him Tom’s father cursed for being caught.

So young Tom learned early two lessons of the Black Rim book of wisdom: His gun must never stick in the holster; he must never get caught by the law.

He was twenty when Brother Jim was drowned while trying to swim his horse across the Snake in flood time on a dare. Young Tom raced along the bank, frantically trying to cast his forty-foot rope across sixty feet of rushing current that rolled Jim and his horse along to the boil of rapids below. Young Tom was a long, long while forgetting the terror in Jim’s eyes, the helplessness of Jim’s gloved hand which he threw up to catch at the rope that never came within twenty feet of him, and at the last, the hopeless good-by wave he sent Tom when he whirled into the moil that pulled him under and never let him go. Tom learned on the bank of the Snake another lesson: He must never be so weak as to let another man badger him into doing something against his own desires or judgment.

Jim’s pitiful going left Tom in full possession of the Devil’s Tooth ranch and the cattle and horses that fed on the open range of the Black Rim country,–and they were many. Young Tom was lonely, but his loneliness was smothered under a consuming desire to add to his possessions and to avoid the mistakes of his brothers and of his father who had carelessly ridden where he should have walked.

Men of the Rim country frequently predicted that young Tom Lorrigan would die with his boots on; preferably in mid-air. They said he was going to be like his dad in more than looks, and that times were changing and a man couldn’t steal cattle and kill off anybody that argued with him, and get away with it as Tom’s father had done. They complained that the country was getting too damn Sunday school, and young Tom had better tame down a little before he got into trouble.

As Black Rim defines the word, Tom was quite as bad as they called him. A handsome young dare-devil he was, slanting his glance downward when he looked into the eyes of a six-foot man,–and every inch of him good healthy bone and muscle. Women eyed him pleasantly, wistful for his smile. Men spoke to him friendlywise and consciously side-stepped his wrath. On the Black Rim range his word was law, his law was made for himself and the wealth he hankered for. That wealth he named a million dollars, and he named it often because he liked the sound of the word. Without any ifs he declared it. There was a million to be had in Idaho, was there not? Very well, he would have his million, and he would have it in cattle and horses and land. He would not go mucking in the gold mines for it; his million should graze on the bunch grass. He wanted, he said, to see a million dollars walking around. And since old Tom Lorrigan had left him a mere forty thousand–according to the appraisers of the Devil’s Tooth estate–young Tom had a long way to go to see his dream a reality.

Men of the Black Rim hinted that young Tom rode with a long rope; meaning that his rope would reach the cattle of his neighbor cowmen if they came in his way. But they only hinted, for unless they could prove beyond the doubt of any twelve men in the county that his brand was burned on any cattle save his own, they had no wish to offend. For young Tom had learned well his three lessons from the fate of his three brothers; his gun never stuck in its holster; he was wily and not to be caught; he could neither be harried nor coaxed into setting aside his own judgment while it seemed to him good.

You would think that young Tom would speedily find himself a mate amongst the girls of the Black Rim country,–though they were as scarce as princesses of the royal blood and choice was of necessity restricted to a half-dozen or so. None of the girls he knew pleased his fancy, untrained though that fancy might be. Instinct told him that they were too tame, too commonplace to hold his interest for long. A breathless dance or two, a kiss stolen in a shadowy corner, and blushes and giggles and inane remonstrances that bored him because he knew they would come. Tom had reached the sere age of twenty-two when he began to wonder if he must go beyond the Black Rim world for his wife, or resign himself to the fate of an old bachelor. None of the Black Rim girls, he told himself grimly, should ever have a share in that million.

Then that purple-lidded, putty-face jade we call Fate whimsically sent him a mate; curious, I suppose, to see what would happen when the two whose trails had lain so far apart should meet.

A girl from some far city she was; a small star that had twinkled behind the footlights and had fled–or had fallen–to the Black Rim country. Like many another, she had gone as far as her money would take her. That it took her to the end of the little branch railroad that stopped abruptly with its nose against a mountain twenty miles from the Devil’s Tooth ranch was a coincidence,–or the whim of Fate. There she was, as strange to the outland as young Tom would have been to the city whence she had come; thinking perhaps to start life afresh in some little Western town; with no money to carry her back to the outskirts of civilization, and no town wherein she might win fresh successes. The train that had brought her panted upon a siding, deserted, its boiler cooling, its engineer, fireman, conductor and brakeman leaning over a bar in the shack that called itself a saloon. To-morrow it would rattle back to the junction, if all went well and the rails held fast to the ties, which was not certain.

The station’s name was Jumpoff. The train’s conductor, who had the misfortune to be considered a humorist, liked to say that Jumpoff was a knot at the end of the road to keep the track from unraveling. He had told the girl that, on the long, jolty ride from the junction. The girl replied that at any rate she liked the name.

What really held Jumpoff on the time-table in those days before it became a real town were the stockyards, where the Black Rim cattle came to start their journey to market. The trail over the mountains to the main line was rough, with a two-day drive without water. Yet the Black Rim country had many cattle, and a matter of a few tunnels and a trestle or two let the railroad in by a short cut which minimized the distance to the main line. The branch line paid a fair interest on the investment,–but not with its passenger service.

The girl found herself stranded in a settlement whose business was represented by one saloon, one section house, one stable, one twelve-by-twelve depot and a store that was no more than an addition to the saloon, with the bartender officiating in both places as customers required his services. Times when cattle were being shipped, the store was closed and the saloon had no rival.

It was while the girl was hesitating half-way between the store-saloon and the section house, wondering which she would choose, that young Tom Lorrigan galloped up to the hitch rail, stopped his horse in two stiff-legged jumps, swung down and came toward her. Like a picture on a wall calendar she looked to young Tom, who had never seen her like in flesh and blood. He lifted his big, range hat, and she smiled at him,–though it must have been a stage smile, she had so little heart for smiling then.

Tom blinked as though he had looked at the sun. Such a smile he had never seen in his life; nor such hair, like real, gold-colored silk all in curls around her face; nor such eyes, which were blue as the sky at twilight when the stars first begin to show.

“Jumpoff is not much of a town,” said the girl and laughed to hide how close she was to tears.

Young Tom caught his breath. He had thought that women had only two forms of laughter, the giggle of youth or the cackle of age. He had never dreamed that a woman could laugh like a mountain stream gurgling down over the rocks. Immediately he visioned young ferns dripping diamonds into a shadowed pool, though he did not attempt to formulate the vision in words. His answer was obvious and had nothing to do with gurgling brooks, or with ferns and shadowed pools.

“It sure ain’t, Miss. Might you be looking for somebody in particular?”

“No-o–I’m just here. It would be a poor place to look for anybody, wouldn’t it?”

“Sure would.” Young Tom found his courage and smiled, and the girl looked at him again, as though she liked that white-toothed smile of Tom’s.

“Well, I started out to find the jumping-off place, and this sounded like it on the railroad map. I guess it’s It, all right; there’s nothing to do but jump.”

Young Tom pulled his black eyebrows together, studying her. By her speech she was human; therefore, in spite of her beauty that dazzled him, she was not to be feared.

“You mean you ain’t got any particular place to go from here?”

The girl tilted her head and stared up the mountain’s steep, pine-covered slope. She swung her head a little and looked at Tom. She smiled bravely still, but he thought her eyes looked sorry for something.

“Is there any particular place to go from here?” she asked him wistfully, keeping the smile on her lips as the world had taught her to do.

“Not unless you went back.”

She shook her head. “No,” she said, firmly, “I’ll climb that mountain and jump off the top before I’ll go back.”

Young Tom felt that she spoke in sober earnest in spite of her smile; which was strange. He had seen men smile in deadly earnest,–his dad had smiled when he reached for his gun to kill Buck Sanderson. But women cried.

“Don’t you know anybody at all, around here?”

“Not a soul–except you, and I don’t know whether your name is Tom or Bill.”

“My name’s Tom–Tom Lorrigan. Say! If you ain’t got any place to go–why–I’ve got a ranch and about twenty-five hundred head of cattle and some horses. If you didn’t mind marrying me, I could take you out there and give yuh a home. I’d be plumb good to you, if you’re willing to take a chance.”

The girl stood back and looked him over. Tall as Tom was she came almost to his chin. He saw her eyes darken like the sky at dusk, and it seemed to him quite possible that stars could shine in them.

“You’d be taking as great a chance as I would. I haven’t any ranch or any cattle, or anything at all but myself and two trunks full of clothes and some things in my life I want to forget. And I have sixty cents in my purse. I can’t cook anything except to toast marshmallows–”

“I’ve got a cook,” put in young Tom quickly.

“And the clothes I’ve got would be a joke out here. And the things I came out here to forget I shall never tell you–”

“I ain’t interested enough to ask, or to listen if you told me,” said Tom.

“And myself can sing to you and dance to you, and I’m twenty years old by the family Bible–”

“I’m twenty-two–makes it about right,” said Tom.

“And if you should count fifty and ask me again–”

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