The Stolen Stallion - Max Brand - ebook

The Stolen Stallion ebook

Max Brand

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The Stolen Stallion by Max Brand is one of the books in the Silvertip series. Wild horses ... evil men! Parade - a magnificent stallion worth twice his weight in cold cash. And many men had set out to capture this legendary prize. Some never returned. Some came back stony-broke. Others were ruined by desert heat and mountain winters. Only Silvertip, an honest man fast with his fists and quicker with his guns, can tame the magnificent stallion Parade, son of Brandy, king of the wild horses of the Sierras. When Silvertip hunted Parade he took only a rope and raw courage. But trailing him, guns at their sides, were two killers who wanted Silvertip as badly as they wanted Parade!

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Liczba stron: 259

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Contents

I. BRANDY

II. SILVERTIP

III. LAKE TAKES THE CHANCE

IV. THE VICTOR

V. THE HORSE HUNT

VI. PARADE

VII. THE GREAT ENEMY

VIII. REUNION

IX. THE RODEO RACE

X. SILVERTIP’S DISCOVERY

XI. DESERT MEETING

XII. THE PURSUIT

XIII. SALT CREEK

XIV. THE POOL

XV. THE NEW WORLD

XVI. THE CAPTURE

XVII. AT PARMALEE

XVIII. THE OLD STALLION

XIX. SILVERTIP’S RETURN

XX. THE SHERIFF TALKS

XXI. JUAREZ, THE HORSE BREAKER

XXII. LEFTY’S PROPOSITION

XXIII. THE CROOKED THREE

XXIV. OUT OF THE PAST

XXV. THE GREAT RACE

XXVI. SETTLEMENT

I. BRANDY

He stood sixteen three, but his hoofs pressed the ground like the paws of a cat. Wherever the moonlight fingered him, shoulder or flank, it touched on silk. With head raised, he looked into the wind, and there seemed in him a lightness of spirit, as though he were capable of leaping into the air and striding on it; but the leather crossbars of a halter were fitted over his head and a lead rope trailed down into the hand of Lake, the half-breed. The stallion, that looked as much king of the earth as ever a hawk was king of the sky, was tied fast to a brutal humanity.

Lake turned his savage face. The same moon that lingered on the beauty of the horse etched out the ugliness of the man with a few high lights and skull-like shadows.

“What’s he called?” asked Lake.

Harry Richmond was grinning, for he understood the excitement that was making the voice of Lake hard and quick.

“Brandy’s his name,” said Richmond. “And that’s what he’s like, ain’t he? A regular shot under the belt, eh?”

He moved to another position, so that he could examine the stallion anew with familiar but ever-delighted eyes. Richmond had the lean legs of a rider and a fat lump of a body mounted on them, so that he looked like a blue crane when it stands at the margin of water with its head laid back on its shoulders, readier for sleep than for frogs.

“Looks ain’t the hoss,” Lake was saying. “But where’d you get this one? You never had nothing on your ranch but mustangs that was rags and bones, and this here is a thoroughbred.”

“Yeah,” agreed the rancher, “he makes even Mischief look pretty sick, don’t he?”

He pointed toward the big mare which stood near by. Mischief seemed nothing, after the stallion, but any good judge who narrowed his eyes could not fail to see her points. She had been caught wild off the range and never more than half tamed; but, like a wild-caught hawk, she seemed able to move without tiring. In every rodeo race where she was entered, the cowpunchers were sure to back her with their money, and she never yet had failed them.

“Maybe he has looks,” reiterated Lake, “but looks ain’t the hoss. Take and run ‘em, and Mischief would likely eat him up.”

“That’s what we’re goin’ to see,” answered Harry Richmond. “That’s why I got you down here, Lake. I’ll pay you ten dollars, if you’ll run the mare a mile or two against that stallion.”

Lake shook his head with a movement so slow that he seemed merely to be looking over each shoulder. “I won’t run Mischief for ten, but I’ll race her for fifty,” he declared.

“For fifty!” exclaimed Richmond. “And me ridin’ Brandy? Me givin’ you more’n a pound for every dollar of the bet? I ain’t such a fool.”

“Then it ain’t a go,” said Lake. “I’ll run Mischief yonder to the top of that hill, where the rocks stick out and back here for a finish.”

“Two miles, and a lump like me ridin’ against a skinny buzzard of a jockey like you?” protested Richmond. But then his eye ran over the silk and the shine of Brandy, and he said through his teeth, “I’ll do it!”

He picked up a saddle and bridle, and began to prepare the stallion.

Lake made a cigarette and presently was blowing dissolving wreaths of smoke into the moonshine.

“Look!” he commanded, and waved his hand toward the rattletrap barn near which they were standing, and toward the broken-backed house beyond, and then to the hills and hollows of the ranch, naked as waves of the sea. “Look!” said Lake. “You never raised no horse like Brandy on this kind of a place, and you never paid for him out of your pocket. Where’d you get him?”

“I only got half of him,” said Richmond, “but, if he can run the way I think, I’ll have the other half, too.”

“Who owns the other half?” asked Lake.

“You know Charlie Moore?”

“That old cowpuncher of yours? That cockeyed one?”

“That’s him. He owns the other half,” answered Richmond. “Three or four years back, Charlie Moore was over at the railroad station in Parmalee, and a train pulls in, and on that train there’s the racin’ stable of Sam Dickery, the big oil man and crook. And they take off a dead mare, a brood mare by the name of Mary Anne, that had had a foal before her time; the foal was carted off, too, not strong enough to stand. It was the get of Single Shot, that foal was, and the stable manager cursed the hair off the head of the veterinary who said he couldn’t save the colt. Anyway, they got ready to knock the foal on the head when old Charlie Moore–that never did have no sense–said he’d like to have the colt. Dickery’s trainer grinned and said the deal was on, and all it would cost Charlie was the price of diggin’ the grave. But Charlie spent a week right there on the spot, and never moved until he got that colt onto its feet; and here it is today–Brandy!”

“Yeah,” said Lake, “that’s why Brandy has a kind of hand-polished look about him. Every fool in the world has got one good thing in him, I guess, and this is what Charlie Moore’s done with his life. But how come that you got a half claim in the horse?”

As he spoke, Lake began to dig softly, with the tips of his fingers, among the India-rubber strands of muscles which overlaid the shoulder of Brandy.

Harry Richmond thrust out his head with a laugh, saying, “Moore’s a half-wit, just about. He never has any money. The boys do him out of his month’s pay before he ever gets close to a saloon. So when the colt got sick a couple times and needed a vet, I took a chance and paid the bills, and pulled a half interest out of Moore. That was when Brandy was more’n a year old, and I could see that he was goin’ to be somethin’. It was like takin’ half the teeth out of Moore’s head, but he signed up a paper with me. And I’m goin’ to get the other half of Brandy, too, if he can make a fool out of Mischief. Ready?”

They sat the saddles side by side, with Mischief already sensing the contest and beginning to dance for it, while Brandy fell to looking once more into the eye of the wind that brought to his nostrils so many tales from the unknown range.

That was why, when the count of ten was finished, Mischief shot off many a length in the lead; Harry Richmond, thinking of his fifty dollars, began to curse, calling Lake back for a “fair start.” The words were blown off his lips. There is something in every hot-blooded horse that can sense a race, and Brandy went after Mischief like a hurled spear.

It was soft, sandy going over which Mischief dusted along lightly, while the pounding hoofs of Brandy broke through, flinging up handfuls of sand that puffed out into clouds. They had six furlongs of such going before they struck the steep slope of the hills, and Richmond waited for that ascent to quench the speed of the stallion. Instead, Brandy went up that rise like a bounding mule deer, and collared the mare at the rocks, where they turned.

A cry came suddenly out of the throat of Richmond. He struck the stallion with the flat of his hand. And then he found himself leaning backward, fighting to get into an upright position, for the mount seemed to be leaping out from under the rider. Brandy had twisted his head a little to the side, in the full fury of his effort, as though he were about to turn a corner, and nothing could have been stranger than to see him boring his head so crookedly into the wind. One might have thought that he was looking back for orders from his rider.

That was the end of the race. As Richmond went by, his heart lifted into his throat by the prodigious striding of the stallion, he saw the face of Lake convulsed with malice and disbelief. And when Richmond pulled up at the starting point behind the barn, the mare was thirty lengths behind.

The half-breed had nothing to say. He dismounted, threw the reins, and then stepped back to watch the dropped head, the heaving sides, the sweat that ran in a steady trickle from the belly of Mischief. As for Brandy, he was merely polished black by the run, and seemed on tip-toe for another race.

Still in silence, Lake drew out his wallet to pay the bet.

“Wait a minute,” protested Richmond. “Fifty dollars will break you. I’m goin’ to give you money, not take it away.”

“She lay down and quit!” said Lake fiercely.

“She didn’t quit,” answered Richmond. “She’ll go right on winnin’ all kinds of races at the rodeos; but, the way Brandy come wingin’ past her, he would ‘a’ beat pretty near any hoss in the world. He’s goin’ to get his chance, too. Listen to me, Lake! You got the wool pulled out of your ears and your brain tuned up?”

“What kind of a crooked deal?” asked Lake.

“It ain’t crooked,” declared Richmond. “You take a poor half-wit like Charlie Moore, what would he do with a stake hoss? He wouldn’t know. But you and me would know. You hear me, Lake? This here Brandy has gotta go East, and pick up a new name, and he’s goin’ to meet the best in the land–for the biggest stakes. I can’t leave the ranch–there’s too much money for me right here in beef–but you’re free, Lake. You’re goin’ to take Brandy tomorrow night, and you’re goin’ to start East with him. You’re goin’ to clean up, and you and me go half and half!”

The half-breed looked at Richmond and grinned. Then he put back his ugly face so that the moonlight flooded it, and laughed silently.

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