The Impostor - Harold Bindloss - ebook

The Impostor ebook

Harold Bindloss

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Opis

Every person has a choice in this life. It depends on you whether it will be good or bad. So before our hero there was a choice: good or evil. The problem was that this choice will affect his future life. You will feel the hunger of despair when you read the story. This story has a good moral and will teach readers how to distribute fate correctly.

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Liczba stron: 468

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Contents

CHAPTER I. RANCHER WITHAM

CHAPTER II. LANCE COURTHORNE

CHAPTER III. TROOPER SHANNON’S QUARREL

CHAPTER IV. IN THE BLUFF

CHAPTER V. MISS BARRINGTON COMES HOME

CHAPTER VI. ANTICIPATIONS

CHAPTER VII. WITHAM’S DECISION

CHAPTER VIII. WITHAM COMES TO SILVERDALE

CHAPTER IX. AN ARMISTICE

CHAPTER X. MAUD HARRINGTON’S PROMISE

CHAPTER XI. SPEED THE PLOUGH

CHAPTER XII. MASTERY RECOGNIZED

CHAPTER XIII. A FAIR ADVOCATE

CHAPTER XIV. THE UNEXPECTED

CHAPTER XV. FACING THE FLAME

CHAPTER XVI. MAUD BARRINGTON IS MERCILESS

CHAPTER XVII. WITH THE STREAM

CHAPTER XVIII. UNDER TEST

CHAPTER XIX. COURTHORNE BLUNDERS

CHAPTER XX. THE FACE AT THE WINDOW

CHAPTER XXI. COLONEL BARRINGTON IS CONVINCED

CHAPTER XXII. SERGEANT STIMSON CONFIRMS HIS SUSPICIONS

CHAPTER XXIII. THE REVELATION

CHAPTER XXIV. COURTHORNE MAKES REPARATION

CHAPTER XXV. WITHAM RIDES AWAY

CHAPTER XXVI. REINSTATION

CHAPTER I. RANCHER WITHAM

It was a bitter night, for although there was no snow as yet, the frost had bound the prairie in its iron grip, when Rancher Witham stood shivering in a little Canadian settlement in the great, lonely land which runs north from the American frontier to Athabasca. There was no blink of starlight in the murky sky, and a stinging wind that came up out of the great waste of grass moaned about the frame houses clustering beside the trail that led south over the limited levels to the railroad and civilization. It chilled Witham through his somewhat tattered furs, and he strode up and down, glancing expectantly into the darkness, and then across the unpaved street, where the ruts were ploughed a foot deep in the prairie sod, towards the warm, red glow from the windows of the wooden hotel. He knew that the rest of the outlying farmers and ranchers who had ridden in for their letters were sitting snug about the stove, but it was customary for all who sought shelter there to pay for their share of the six o’clock supper, and the half-dollar Witham had then in his pocket was required for other purposes.

He had also retained through all his struggles a measure of his pride, and because of it strode up and down buffeted by the blasts until a beat of horse-hoofs came out of the darkness and was followed by a rattle of wheels. It grew steadily louder, a blinking ray of brightness flickered across the frame houses, and presently dark figures were silhouetted against the light on the hotel veranda as a lurching wagon drew up beneath it. Two dusky objects, shapeless in their furs, sprang down, and one stumbled into the post office close by with a bag while the other man answered the questions hurled at him as he fumbled with stiffened fingers at the harness.

“Late? Well, you might be thankful you’ve got your mail at all,” he said. “We had to go round by Willow Bluff, and didn’t think we’d get through the ford. Ice an inch thick, anyway, and Charley talked that much he’s not said anything since, even when the near horse put his foot into a badger hole.”

Rude banter followed this, but Witham took no part in it. Hastening into the post office, he stood betraying his impatience by his very impassiveness while a sallow-faced woman tossed the letters out upon the counter. At last she took up two of them, and the man’s fingers trembled a little as he stretched out his hand, when she said–

“That’s all there are for you.”

Witham recognized the writing on the envelopes, and it was with difficulty he held his eagerness in check, but other men were waiting for his place, and he went out and crossed the street to the hotel where there was light to read by. As he entered it a girl, bustling about a long table in the big stove-warmed room, turned with a little smile.

“It’s only you!” she said. “Now I was figuring it was Lance Courthorne.”

Witham, impatient as he was, stopped and laughed, for the hotel-keeper’s daughter was tolerably well-favoured and a friend of his.

“And you’re disappointed?” he said. “I haven’t Lance’s good looks, or his ready tongue.”

The room was empty, for the guests were thronging about the post office then, and the girl’s eyes twinkled as she drew back a pace and surveyed the man. There was nothing in his appearance that would have aroused a stranger’s interest, or attracted more than a passing glance, and he stood before her in a very old fur coat, with a fur cap that was in keeping with it in his hand. His face had been bronzed almost to the colour of a Blackfoot Indian’s by frost and wind and sun, and it was of English type from the crisp fair hair above the broad forehead to the somewhat solid chin. The mouth was hidden by the bronze-tinted moustache, and the eyes alone, were noticeable. They were grey, and there was a steadiness in them which was almost unusual even in that country, where men look into long distances. For the rest, he was of average stature, and stood impassively straight, looking down upon the girl without either grace or awkwardness, while his hard brown hands, suggested, as his attire did, strenuous labour for a very small reward.

“Well,” said the girl with Western frankness, “there’s a kind of stamp on Lance that you haven’t got. I figure he brought it with him from the old country. Still, one might take you for him if you stood with the light behind you, and you’re not quite a bad-looking man. It’s a kind of pity you’re so solemn.”

Witham smiled. “I don’t fancy that’s astonishing after losing two harvests in succession,” he said. “You see, there’s nobody back there in the old country to send remittances to me.”

The girl nodded with quick sympathy. “Oh, yes. The times are bad,” she said. “Well, you read your letters; I’m not going to worry you.”

Witham sat down and opened the first envelope under the big lamp. It was from a land agent and mortgage-broker, and his face grew a trifle grimmer as he read, “In the present condition of the money market your request that we should carry you over is unreasonable, and we regret that unless you can extinguish at least half the loan we will be compelled to foreclose upon your holding.”

There was a little more of it, but that was sufficient for Witham, who knew it meant disaster, and it was with the feeling of one clinging desperately to the last shred of hope he tore open the second envelope. The letter it held was from a friend he had made in a Western city, and once entertained for a month at his ranch, but the man had evidently sufficient difficulties of his own to contend with.

“Very sorry, but it can’t be done,” he wrote. “I’m loaded up with wheat nobody will buy, and couldn’t raise five hundred dollars to lend any one just now,”

Witham sighed a little, but when he rose and slowly straightened himself nobody would have suspected he was looking ruin in the face. He had fought a slow, losing battle for six weary years, holding on doggedly though defeat appeared inevitable, and now when it had come he bore it impassively, for the struggle which, though he was scarcely twenty-six, had crushed all mirth and brightness out of his life, had given him endurance in place of them. Just then a man came bustling towards him, with the girl who bore a tray close behind.

“What are you doing with that coat on?” he said. “Get it off and sit down right there. The boys are about through with the mail and supper’s ready,”

Witham glanced at the steaming dishes hungrily, for he had passed most of the day in the bitter frost, eating very little, and there was still a drive of twenty miles before him.

“It is time I was taking the trail,” he said.

He was sensible of a pain in his left side, which, as other men have discovered, not infrequently follows enforced abstinence from food, but he remembered what he wanted the half-dollar in his pocket for. The hotel-keeper had possibly some notion of the state of affairs, for he laughed a little.

“You’ve got to sit down,” he said. “Now, after the way you fixed me up when I stopped at your ranch, you don’t figure I’d let you go before you had some supper with me.”

Witham may have been unduly sensitive, but he shook his head. “You’re very good, but it’s a long ride, and I’m going now,” he said. “Good-night, Nettie.”

He turned as he spoke, with the swift decision that was habitual with him, and when he went out the girl glanced at her father reproachfully.

“You always get spoiling things when you put your hand in,” she said. “Now that man’s hungry, and I’d have fixed it so he’d have got his supper if you had left it to me.”

The hotel-keeper laughed a little. “I’m kind of sorry for Witham because there’s grit in him, and he’s never had a show,” he said. “Still, I figure he’s not worth your going out gunning after, Nettie.”

The girl said nothing, but there was a little flush in her face which had not been there before, when she busied herself with the dishes.

In the meanwhile Witham was harnessing two bronco horses to a very dilapidated wagon. They were vicious beasts, but he had bought them cheap from a man who had some difficulty in driving them, while the wagon had been given him, when it was apparently useless, by a neighbour. The team had, however, already covered thirty miles that day, and started homewards at a steady trot without the playful kicking they usually indulged in. Here and there a man sprang clear of the rutted road, but Witham did not notice him or return his greeting. He was abstractedly watching the rude frame houses flit by, and wondering, while the pain in his side grew keener, when he would get his supper, for it happens not infrequently that the susceptibilities are dulled by a heavy blow, and the victim finds a distraction that is almost welcome in the endurance of a petty trouble.

Witham was very hungry, and weary alike in body and mind. The sun had not risen when he left his homestead, and he had passed the day under a nervous strain, hoping, although it seemed improbable, that the mail would bring him relief from his anxieties. Now he knew the worst he could bear it as he had borne the loss of two harvests, and the disaster which followed in the wake of the blizzard that killed off his stock; but it seemed unfair that he should endure cold and hunger too, and when one wheel sank in a rut and the jolt shook him in every stiffened limb, he broke out with a hoarse expletive. It was his first protest against the fate that was too strong for him, and almost as he made it he laughed.

“Pshaw! There’s no use kicking against what has to be, and I’ve got to keep my head just now,” he said.

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