The Girl of O.K. Valley. A Romance of the Okanagan - Robert Watson - ebook

The Girl of O.K. Valley. A Romance of the Okanagan ebook

Robert Watson

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Great story with an intriguing ending. Raising furry eyebrows and putting his hands on his back, rancher Jackson walked across the floor of his large, spacious kitchen. He was in one of his frequently recurring tantrums of anger-madness on petty matters.

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Liczba stron: 321

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Contents

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER NINETEEN

CHAPTER ONE

The Immigrant

With his shaggy brows down and his hands at his back, rancher Jackson was pacing the floor of his large airy kitchen. He was in one of his oft-recurring tantrums of anger-madness over small matters. His gloomy personality was hanging over the farm-house like an impending cloudburst, ready, on the slightest provocation, to break into a torrent of abuse.

A woman, shabbily clad, her bent back alone visible, was busy over the kitchen range stirring the contents of a large pot. This woman was Colin Jackson’s wife–a three-quarter witted nobody who was at the beck and call of everybody; of little or no account to anybody, and likely to die as she was living, in pitiable obscurity.

“Colin, the train should be in soon. Aren’t you thinking of sending Jim in with the buggy to bring your niece up?” she ventured timidly without raising her head or slackening in her stirring of the pot. “She’s had a long journey and is sure to be tired out.”

Jackson stopped to make sure that he had heard aright, although in reality he had been waiting, almost anxiously, for some considerable time, for a remark of such a nature. The storm was precipitated. To Jean Jackson it was almost more welcome than the tension and the gloom of its gathering.

“She can walk,” he snapped. “It’ll do her good after her long rest in the train. If she has managed over the Atlantic and across the Continent, there’s a mighty poor chance of her missing her way between Vernock and here. Worse luck! If she happened to get off her track it would be little loss. She represents just another to feed, another to clothe and–Lord protect me!–another woman to put up with. Goodness only knows!–haven’t I worries enough already without her?

“It beats me to understand,” he continued, warming to his tirade as he strode to the window and back again to the kitchen cabinet, “why some men get married, raise a brood, then die–as if in their so doing they had attained the height of all possible earthly ambition–dying too, generally not worth a corn-cob. Why don’t they die first and be done with it? It would save their relatives a deal of trouble in looking after their brats later on.”

“I know it, Colin–well I know it,” agreed his wife in a piping voice, “but the man didn’t die intentionally. When your sister Mary was alive she never wrote you for any help. It was but natural that she should leave word for her orphan lass to be sent out to the only brother she had. It won’t hurt the horse and buggy any to send them in to the station. It would be a kind of welcome to her besides.”

“Hold your talk, woman!” interrupted the rancher. “I’ve said ‘no’ and that’s an end of it. The oftener a horse runs the sooner it has to be shod. I don’t believe in keeping horse-flesh for the pleasure of my ranch help. And a ranch help is what this lass will have to be so long as she is under my roof. She’ll have to work here just as sure as she will want to eat here. The sooner too that she learns where she gets off at the better for her and all concerned with her. She’s to be started in right. Do you understand? No ten days’ wonder about it!

“But I tell you, this one thing on the top of another is enough to drive a man to the asylum. Here have I been waiting for three years to lease Broadacres–a ranch that can grow as much on one acre as mine can on five–and now, when the chance comes, Menteith throws my offer aside and rents Broadacres, with the option of buying, to that interloping, sun-baked, retired British Army Captain who knows as much about ranching as a dog does about the whooping cough. And has robbed me of Tom Semple besides–the best ranch foreman in the whole Okanagan Valley.

“There’s a payment due on the mortgage and nothing to pay it with; interest overdue, wages a month behind, the flume requiring repairs, seed to pay for, new implements to make a first payment on before I can get them. Now this!–the place is to be turned into a damned orphanage.

“For two peas–ay, for a pea and a half–I would pack her off elsewhere. And, its as sure as God made little apples, she’ll be of the strawberries-and-cream, ice-drink, afternoon-tea variety, always with a headache or a pain. That’s what her father was, I’m thinking. And they say she’s him over again.

“But–mark my words–into the barn and the dairy she goes, neck and crop, just as soon as she gets here.”

Jackson took a long breath and sighed.

“Oh, well!–there’s one grand consolation, she’ll be something new for Lizbeth to put her spite out on. That’ll maybe give me a rest from that sarcastic tongue of hers.”

He sighed again.

“The Lord alone knows where Liz got her temper from!”

Dull as she was, Mrs. Jackson had her own opinion on that last point, but she wisely held her peace. She had long ceased to argue with her husband on any matter whatsoever, knowing only too well the futility of it. Colin Jackson’s brow-beating, his senseless rage and his niggardliness had taught their lessons years before, had reduced her to the level of a kitchen drudge and, imperceptibly to herself, had sapped her individuality and were now slowly undermining her reasoning powers.

Jackson’s daughter, Lizbeth, however, was a horse of a different colour. She possessed too many of her father’s own characteristics to be easily, if at all, over-ruled by him. He got to know it early in her life and wisely left her to her own devices–at least so long as the devices did not clash too openly with his own.

For a brief moment, the light at the kitchen window was shut off as Lizbeth passed by. She came in at the open doorway, deposited a can of milk on the floor and wiped her hands hastily on a towel.

She was handsome in a buxom way, with full red lips and deep, expressive eyes; nicely featured, tall and well-formed; in every way good to look at as she stood there, breathing a little heavily from her exertions, her lips apart, her stout, shapely arms bared above her elbows and her full white throat exposed.

Lizbeth Jackson gloried in her virility and knew full well how to hide the darker sides of her nature under the visible charms of her blooming, almost flamboyant, maidenhood.

“I guess she’s here at last, dad,” she remarked with a backward nod of her head. “There’s a slender slip of a miss, with a grip, coming up the road.”

“Isn’t anyone going to lend her a hand?” inquired Mrs. Jackson, turning round.

“No, siree!” replied Lizbeth. “She’s to be lending me a hand before long. It would be kind of crazy starting her in the wrong way round. She might think she was coming to a sanatorium.”

Mrs. Jackson made to go out, purposely to give the new arrival some assistance.

“Stay where you are–can’t you?” commanded the rancher gruffly, barring her progress with his arm.

The woman drew back with a look of resignation, and resumed her work.

The sound of nervous feet was heard outside, then came a sigh and a plaintive exclamation.

“Oh, dearie me!”

The exclamation bespoke distress, also relief.

A slender girlish figure, with a pale, eager face, stood in the doorway, and a quiet little voice with a soft accent asked:–

“Is this Mr. Jackson’s,–Mr. Colin Jackson’s?”

“Yes! you’re at the right enough place. Come in,” replied the rancher.

“Oh, I’m so glad!” answered the girl wearily.

She clasped her hands and took a step forward.

“You’ll be my sister Mary’s lass?” continued Jackson. “I’ve never seen you. You don’t favour the Jackson side in face or body. What’s your name? Kate, isn’t it?”

“They call me Kathie,” she answered, trying bravely to smile and to thaw the iciness of her welcome.

“Ah, well! Kate or Kathie, it’s all the same. Come over to the window and let’s have a good look at you.”

The girl came forward, looking about her timidly.

Jackson caught up her hands and examined them with the same scrutiny as he would have given to the mouth of a horse.

“Soft as butter! Never knew hard work, I’m thinking!” he said, more to himself than to his far-travelled niece.

His stern eyes went to her face and to the long plait of thick, jet-black hair which hung over her left shoulder.

“Bonny!” he soliloquised again. “Too bonny for your own good.”

He turned to his daughter, who had been surveying the scene as one apart.

“Lizbeth, I’m fearing you’ll have to keep her well hidden till you get first pickings of the men who have their ranches well stocked and their pockets well lined.” He laughed coarsely.

Lizbeth did not answer, but continued to stare at her cousin in a rude way.

Colin Jackson resumed his questioning.

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