Kategoria: Obyczajowe i romanse Język: angielski Rok wydania: 1921

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Opis ebooka Trail's End - George W. Ogden

Ascalon was the end of the trail for thirsty cowboys who gave vent to their pent-up feelings without restraint. Calvin Morgan was not concerned with its wickedness until Seth Craddock's malevolence directed itself against him. He did not emerge from the maelstrom until he had obliterated every vestige of lawlessness, and assured himself of the safety of a certain dark-eyed girl.

Opinie o ebooku Trail's End - George W. Ogden

Fragment ebooka Trail's End - George W. Ogden

About
Chapter 1 - THE UNCONQUERED LAND
Chapter 2 - THE MEAT HUNTER

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Chapter 1 THE UNCONQUERED LAND

Bones.

Bones of dead buffalo, bones of dead horses, bones of dead men. The tribute exacted by the Kansas prairie: bones. A waste of bones, a sepulcher that did not hide its bones, but spread them, exulting in its treasures, to bleach and crumble under the stern sun upon its sterile wastes. Bones of deserted houses, skeletons of men's hopes sketched in the dimming furrows which the grasses were reclaiming for their own.

A land of desolation and defeat it seemed to the traveler, indeed, as he followed the old trail along which the commerce of the illimitable West once was borne. Although that highway had belonged to another generation, and years had passed since an ox train toiled over it on its creeping journey toward distant Santa Fé, the ruts of old wheels were deep in the soil, healed over by the sod again, it is true, but seamed like scars on a veteran's cheek. One could not go astray on that broad highway, for the eye could follow the many parallel trails, where new ones had been broken when the old ones wore deep and rutted.

Present-day traffic had broken a new trail between the old ones; it wound a dusty gray line through the early summer green of the prairie grass, endless, it seemed, to the eyes of the leg-weary traveler who bent his footsteps along it that sunny morning. This passenger, afoot on a road where it was almost an offense to travel by such lowly means, was a man of thirty or thereabout, tall and rather angular, who took the road in long strides much faster than the freighters' trains had traveled it in the days of his father. He carried a black, dingy leather bag swinging from his long arm, a very lean and unpromising repository, upon which the dust of the road lay spread.

Despite the numerous wheel tracks in the road, all of them apparently fresh, there was little traffic abroad. Not a wagon had passed him since morning, not a lift had been given him for a single mile. Now, mounting a ridge toward which he had been pressing forward the past hour, which had appeared a hill of consequence in the distance, but now flattened out to nothing more than a small local divide, he put down his bag, flung his dusty black hat beside it, and stood wiping his face with a large turkey-red handkerchief which he unknotted from about his neck.

His face was of that rugged type common among the pioneers of the West, lean and harsh-featured, yet nobly austere, the guarantee of a soul above corruption and small trickery, of a nature that endures patiently, of an anger slow to move. There were bright hues as of glistening metal in his close-cut light hair as he stood bareheaded in the sun.

Sheep sorrel was blooming by the wheel tracks of the road, purple and yellow; daisy-like flowers, with pale yellow petals and great wondering hearts like frightened eyes, grew low among the short grass; countless strange blooms spread on the prairie green, cheering for their brief day the stern face of a land that had broken the hearts of men in its unkindness and driven them away from its fair promises. The traveler sighed, unable to understand it quite.

All day he had been passing little sod houses whose walls were crumbling, whose roofs had fallen in, whose doors beckoned in the wind a sad invitation to come in and behold the desolation that lay within. Even here, close by the road, ran the grass-grown furrows of an abandoned field, the settler's dwelling-place unmarked by sod or stone. What tragedy was written in those wavering lines; what heartbreak of going away from some dear hope and broken dream! Here a teamster was cutting across the prairie to strike the road a little below the point where the traveler stood. Extra side boards were on his wagon-box, as they used to put them on in corn-gathering time back in the traveler's boyhood home in Indiana. The wagon was heaped high with white, dry bones.

Bones. Nothing left to haul out of that land but bones. The young man took up his valise and hat and struck off down the road to intercept the freighter of this prairie product, hoping for an invitation to ride, better pleased by the prospect of resting living bones on dead dry ones than racking them in that strain to reach the town on the railroad, his journey's end, on foot before nightfall.

The driver's hat was white, like his bones; it drooped in weather-beaten limpness about his ears, hiding his face, but he appeared to have an hospitable heart in spite of the cheerlessness of his pursuit. Coming to the road a little before the traveler reached the point of conjunction, he drew the team to a stand, waiting his approach.

"Have a ride?" the freighter invited, edging over on the backless spring seat as he spoke, making room.

The bone-wagon driver was a hollow-framed man, who looked as if he had starved with the country but endured past all bounds of hardship and discouragement. He looked hungry—hungry for food, hungry for change, hungry for the words of men. His long gray mustache hung far below his stubble-covered chin; there was a pallor of a lingering sickness in his skin, which the hot sun could not sere out of it. He sat dispiritedly on his broken seat, sagging forward with forearms across his thighs.

"Footin' it over to Ascalon?" he asked, as the traveler mounted beside him.

"Yes sir, I'm headin' that way."

"Come fur?"

"Well, yes," thoughtfully, as if he considered what might be counted far in that land of unobstructed horizons, "I have come a considerable little stretch."

"I thought maybe you was one of them new settlers in here, goin' over to Ascalon to ketch the train," the bone man ventured, putting his inquiry for further particulars as politely as he knew how.

"I'm not a settler yet, but I expect to try it here."

"You don't tell me?"

"Yes sir; that's my intention."

"Where you from?"

"Iowa."

The bone man looked his passenger over with interest, from his feet in their serviceable shoes, to his head under his round-crowned, wide-brimmed black hat.

"A good many of 'em used to come in here from Ioway and Newbrasky in the early days," he said. "You never walked plumb from there, did you?"

"I thought of stopping at Buffalo Creek, back fifteen or twenty miles, but I didn't like the country around there. They told me it was better at Ascalon, so I just struck out to walk across the loop of the railroad and take a close look at the land as I went along."

"You must be something of a walker," the bone man marveled.

"I used to follow a walking cultivator across an eighty-acre cornfield," the traveler replied.

"Yes, that'll stretch a feller's legs," the bone man admitted, reminiscently. "Nothing like follerin' a plow to give a man legs and wind. But they don't mostly walk around in this country; they kind of suspicion a man when they see him hoofin' it."

"There doesn't seem to be many of them to either walk or ride," the traveler commented, sweeping a look around the empty land.

"It used to be full of homesteaders all through this country—I seen 'em come and I seen 'em go."

"I've seen traces of them all along the railroad for the last hundred miles or more. It must have been a mighty exodus, a sad thing to see."

"Accordin' to the way you look at it, I reckon," the bone man reflected. "They're comin' to this country ag'in, flocks of 'em. This makes the third time they've tried to break this part of Kansas to ride, and I don't know, on my soul, whether they'll ever do it or not. Maybe I'll have more bones to pick up in a year or two."

"It seems to be one big boneyard; I saw cars of bones on every sidetrack as I came through."

"Yes, I tell folks that come here and try to farm that bones was the best crop this country ever raised, and it'll be about the only one. I come in here with the railroad, I used to drive a team pickin' up the buffaloes the contractors' meat hunter killed."

"You know the history of its ups and downs, then," the young man said, with every evidence of deep interest.

"I guess I do, as well as any man. Bones was the first freight the railroad hauled out of here, and bones'll be the last. I follered the railroad camps after they built out of the buffalo country and didn't need me any more, pickin' up the bones. Then the settlers begun to come in, drawed on by the stuff them railroad colonization agents used to put in the papers back East. The country broke their backs and drove 'em out after four or five years. Then I follered around after them and picked up the bones.

"Yes, there used to be some familiar lookin' bones among 'em once in a while in them times. I used to bury that kind. A few of them settlers stuck, the ones that had money to put in cattle and let 'em increase on the range. They've done well—you'll see their ranches all along the Arkansaw when you travel down that way. This is a cattle country, son; that's what the Almighty made it for. It never can be anything else."

"And there was another wave of immigration, you say, after that?" the passenger asked, after sitting a while in silence turning over what the old pioneer had said.

"Yes, wave is about right. They come in by freight trainload, cars of horses and cattle, and machinery for farmin', from back there in Ohio and Indiany and Ellinoi—all over that country where things a man plants in the ground grows up and comes to something. They went into this pe-rairie and started a bustin' it up like the ones ahead of 'em did. Shucks! you can turn a ribbon of this blame sod a hundred miles long and never break it. What can a farmer do with land that holds together that way? Nothin'. But them fellers planted corn in them strips of sod, raised a few nubbins, some of 'em, some didn't raise even fodder. It run along that way a few years, hot winds cookin' their crops when they did git the ground softened up so stuff would begin to make roots and grow, cattle and horses dyin' off in the winter and burnin' up in the fires them fool fellers didn't know how to stop when they got started in this grass. They thinned out year after year, and I drove around over the country and picked up their bones.

"That crowd of settlers is about all gone now, only one here and there along some crick. Bones is gittin' scarce, too. I used to make more when I got four dollars a ton for 'em than I do now when they pay me ten. Grind 'em up to put on them farms back in the East, they tell me. Takin' the bones of famine from one place to put on fat in another. Funny, ain't it?"

The traveler said it was strange, indeed, but that it was the way of nature for the upstanding to flourish on the remains of the fallen. The bone man nodded, and allowed that it was so, world without end, according to his own observations in the scale of living things from grass blade to mankind.

"How are they coming in now—by the trainload?" the traveler asked, reverting to the influx of settlers.

"These seem to be a different class of men," the bone man replied, his perplexity plain in his face. "I don't make 'em out as easy as I did the ones ahead of 'em. These fellers generally come alone, scoutin' around to see the lay of the country—I run into 'em right along drivin' livery rigs, see 'em around for a couple or three weeks sometimes. Then they go away, and the first thing I know they're back with their immigrant car full of stuff, haulin' out to some place somebody went broke on back in the early days. They seem to be a calculatin' kind, but no man ain't deep anough to slip up on the blind side of this country and grab it by the mane like them fellers seems to think they're doin'. It'll throw 'em, and it'll throw 'em hard."

"It looks to me like it would be a good country for wheat," the traveler said.

"Wheat!"

The bone man pulled up on his horses, checking them as if he would stop and let this dangerous fellow off. He looked at the traveler with incredulous stare, into which a shading of pity came, drawing his naturally long face longer. "I'd just as well stop and let you start back right now, mister." He tightened up a little more on the lines.

There was merriment in the stranger's gray eyes, a smile on his homely face that softened its harsh lines.

"Has nobody ever tried it?" he inquired.

"There's been plenty of fools here, but none that wild that I ever heard of," the bone man said. "You're a hundred miles and more past the deadline for wheat—you'd just as well try to raise bananers here. Wheat! it'd freeze out in the winter and blow out by the roots in the spring if any of it got through."

The traveler swept a long look around the country, illusive, it seemed, according to its past treatment of men, in its restful beauty and secure feeling of peace. He was silent so long that the bone man looked at him again keenly, measuring him up and down as he would some monstrosity seen for the first time.

"Maybe you're right," the young man said at last.

The bone man grunted, with an inflection of superiority, and drove on, meditating the mental perversions of his kind.

"Over in Ascalon," he said, breaking silence by and by, "there's a feller by the name of Thayer—Judge Thayer, they call him, but he ain't never been a judge of nothin' since I've knowed him—lawyer and land agent for the railroad. He brings a lot of people in here and sells 'em railroad land. He says wheat'll grow in this country, tells them settlers that to fetch 'em here. You two ought to git together—you'd sure make a pair to draw to."

"Wouldn't we?" said the stranger, in hearty humor.

"What business did you foller back there in Ioway?" inquired the bone man, not much respect in him now for the man he had lifted out of the road.

"I was a professional optimist," the traveler replied, grave enough for all save his eyes.

The bone man thought it over a spell. "Well, I don't think you'll do much in Ascalon," he said. "People don't wear specs out here in this country much. Anybody that wants 'em goes to the feller that runs the jewelry store."

The stranger attempted no correction, but sat whistling a merry tune as he looked over the country. The bone man drove in silence until they rose a swell that brought the town of Ascalon into view, a passenger train just pulling into the station.

"Octomist! Wheat!" said the bone man, with discount on the words that left them so poor and worthless they would not have passed in the meanest exchange in the world.


Chapter 2 THE MEAT HUNTER

There was one tree in the city of Ascalon, the catalpa in front of Judge Thayer's office. This blazing noonday it threw a shadow as big as an umbrella, or big enough that the judge, standing close by the trunk and holding himself up soldierly, was all in the shade but the gentle swell of his abdomen, over which his unbuttoned vest gaped to invite the breeze.

Judge Thayer was far too big for the tree, as he was too big for Ascalon, but, scholar and gentleman that he was, he made the most of both of them and accepted what they had to offer with grateful heart. Now he stood, his bearded face streaming sweat, his alpaca coat across his arm, his straw hat in his hand, his bald head red from the parboiling of that intense summer day, watching a band of Texas drovers who had just arrived with three or four thousand cattle over the long trail from the south.

These lank, wide-horned creatures were crowding and lowing around the water troughs in the loading pens, the herdsmen shouting their monotonous, melancholy urgings as they crowded more famished beasts into the enclosures. Judge Thayer regarded the dusty scene with troubled face.

"And so pitch hot!" said he, shaking his head in the manner of a man who sees complications ahead of him. He stood fanning himself with his hat, his brows drawn in concentration. "Twenty wild devils from the Nueces, four months on the trail, and this little patch of Hades at the end!"

The judge entered his office with that uneasy reflection, leaving the door standing open behind him, ran up his window shades, for the sun had turned from the front of his building, took off his collar, and settled down to work. One could see him from the station platform, substantial, rather aristocratic, sitting at his desk, his gray beard trimmed to a nicety, one polished shoe visible in line with the door.

Judge Thayer's office was a bit removed from the activities of Ascalon, which were mainly profane activities, to be sure, and not fit company for a gentleman even in the daylight hours. It was a snubby little building with square front like a store, "Real Estate" painted its width above the door. On one window, in crude black lettering:

WILLIAM THAYER
ATTORNEY
——
NOTARY

On the other:

MAYOR'S OFFICE

The office stood not above two hundred feet from the railroad station, at the end of Main Street, where the buildings blended out into the prairie, unfenced, unprofaned by spade or plow. Beyond Judge Thayer's office were a coal yard and a livery barn; behind him the lots which he had charted off for sale, their bounds marked by white stakes.

Ascalon, in those early days of its history, was not very large in either the territory covered or the inhabitants numbered, but it was a town of national notoriety in spite of its size. People who did not live there believed it to be an exceedingly wicked place, and the farther one traveled from Ascalon, in any direction whatever, the faster this ill fame increased. It was said, no farther off than Kansas City, that Ascalon was the wickedest place in the United States. So, one can image what character the town had in St. Louis, and guess at the extent of its notoriety in Pittsburg and Buffalo.

Porters on trains had a holy fear of Ascalon. They announced the train's approach to it with suppressed breath, with eyes rolling white in fear that some citizen of the proscribed town might overhear and defend the reputation of his abiding-place in the one swift and incontrovertible argument then in vogue in that part of the earth. Passengers of adventurous nature flocked to the station platform during the brief pause the train made at Ascalon, prickling with admiration of their own temerity, so they might return home and tell of having set foot in the wickedest town in the world.

And that was the fame of Ascalon, new and raw, for the greater part of it, as it lay beside the railroad on that hot afternoon when Judge Thayer stood in the shade of his little catalpa tree watching the Texans drive their cattle into the loading pens.

Before the railroad reached out across the Great Plains, Ascalon was there as a fort, under another name. The railroad brought new consequence, new activities, and made it the most important loading place for Texas cattle, driven over the long route on their slow way to market.

It was a cattle town, living and fattening on the herds which grazed the vast prairie lands surrounding it, and on the countless thousands which came northward to its portal over the Chisholm Trail. As will have been gathered from the scene already passed, agriculture had tried and failed in that land. Ascalon was believed to be, in truth, far beyond the limit of that gentle art, which was despised and contemned by the men who roamed their herds over the free grass lands, and the gamesters who flourished at their expense.

Not that all in Ascalon were vicious and beyond the statutory and moral laws. There was a submerged desire for respectability in the grain of even the worst of them which came to the front at times, as in defense of the town's reputation, and on election day, when they put in such a man as Judge Thayer for mayor. With a man like Judge Thayer at the head of affairs, all charges of the town's utter abandonment to the powers of evil seemed to fall and fade. But the judge, in reality, was only a pillar set up for dignity and show. They elected him mayor, and went on running the town to suit themselves, for the city marshal was also an elective officer, and in his hands the scroll of the law reposed.

Now, in these summer days, there was a vacancy in this most important office, three months, only, after election. The term had almost two years to run, the appointment of a man to the vacancy being in the mayor's hands. As a consequence there was being exerted a great deal of secret and open pressure on the mayor in favor of certain favorites. It was from a conference with several of the town's financial powers that the mayor had returned to his office when you first beheld him under his catalpa tree. The sweat on his face was due as much to internal perplexity as outward heat, for Judge Thayer was a man who wanted to please his friends, and everybody that counted in Ascalon was his friend, although they were not all friends among themselves.

No later than the night before the vacancy in the marshalship had fallen; it would not do to allow the town to go unbridled for even another night. A strong man must be appointed to the place, and no fewer than three candidates were being urged by as many factions, each of which wanted its peculiar interests especially favored and protected. So Judge Thayer was in a sweat with good reason. He wished in his honest soul that he could reach out and pick up a disinterested man somewhere, set him into the office without the strings of fear or favor on him, and tell him to keep everybody within the deadline, regardless of whose business prospered most.

But there were not men raining down every day around Ascalon competent to fill the office of city marshal. Out of the material offered there was not the making of one side of a man. Two of them were creatures of the opposing gambling factions, the other a weak-kneed fellow with the pale eyes of a coward, put forward by the conservative business men who deplored much shooting in the name of the law.

How they were to get on without much shooting, Judge Thayer did not understand. Not a bit of it. What he wanted was a man who would do more shooting than ever had been done before, a man who would clean the place of the too-ready gun-slingers who had gathered there, making the town's notoriety their capital, invading even the respectable districts in their nightly debaucheries to such insolent boldness that a man's wife or daughter dared not show her ear on the street after nightfall.

Judge Thayer put the town's troubles from him with a sigh and leaned to his work. He was preparing a defense for a cattle thief whom he knew to be guilty, but whose case he had undertaken on account of his wife and several small children living in a tent behind the principal gambling-house. Because it seemed a hopeless case from the jump, Judge Thayer had set his beard firmer in the direction of the fight. Hopeless cases were the kind that had come most frequently his way all the days of his life. He had been fronting for the under pup so long that his own chances had dwindled down to a distant point in his gray-headed years. But there was lots of satisfaction behind him to contemplate even though there might not be a great deal of prosperity ahead. That helped a man wonderfully when it came to casting up accounts. So he was bent to the cattle thief's case when a man appeared in his door.

This was a tall, bony man with the dust of the long trail on him; a sour-faced man of thin visage, with long and melancholy nose, a lowering frown in his unfriendly, small red eyes. A large red mustache drooped over his mouth, the brim of his sombrero was pressed back against the crown as if he had arrived devil-come-headlong against a heavy wind.

Judge Thayer took him for a cattleman seeking legal counsel, and invited him in. The visitor shifted the chafed gear that bore his weapon, as if to ease it around his gaunt waist, and entered, removing his hat. He stood a little while looking down at Judge Thayer, a disturbance in his weathered face that might have been read for a smile, a half-mocking, half-humorous expression that twitched his big mustache with a catlike sneer.

"You're the mayor of this man's town, are you, Judge?" he asked.

As the visitor spoke, Judge Thayer's face cleared of the perplexity that had clouded it. He got up, beaming welcome, offering his hand.

"Seth Craddock, as sure as little apples! I knew you, and I didn't know you, you old scoundrel! Where have you been all these years?"

Seth Craddock only expanded his facial twitching at this friendly assault until it became a definite grin. It was a grin that needed no apology, for all evidence was in its favor that it was so seldom seen by the eyes of men that it could be forgiven without a plea.

"I've been ridin' the long trail," said Seth.

"With that bunch that just arrived?"

"Yeh. Drove up from the Nueces. I'm quittin'."

"The last time I saw you, Seth, you were butchering two tons of buffalo a day for the railroaders. I often wondered where you went after you finished your meat contract."

"I scouted a while for the gover'ment, but we run out of Indians. Then I went to Texas and rode with the rangers a year or two."

"I guess you kept your gun-barrel hot down in that country, Seth?"

"Yeh. Once in a while it was lively. Dyin' out down there now, quiet as a school."

"So you turned back to Kansas lookin' for high life. Heard of this burg, I guess?"

"I kind of thought something might be happenin' off up here, Judge."

"And I was sitting here frying out my soul for the sight of a full-sized man when you stepped in the door! Sit down; let's you and me have a talk."

Seth drew a dusty chair from against the wall and arranged himself in the draft between the front and back doors of the little house. He leaned his storm-beaten sombrero against the leg of his chair near his heel, as carefully as if making preparations for quick action in a hostile country, shook his head when the judge offered a cigar, shifted his worn cartridge belt a bit with a movement that appeared to be as unconscious as unnecessary.

"What's restin' so heavy on your mind, Judge?" he inquired.

"Our city marshal stepped in the way of a fool feller's bullet last night, and all the valuable property in this town is lying open and unguarded today."

"Don't nobody want the job?"

"Many are called, or seem to feel themselves nominated, but none is appointed. The appointment is in my hands; the job's yours if you'll do an old friend a favor and take it. It pays a hundred dollars a month."

Seth's heavy black hair lay in disorder on his high, sharp forehead, sweated in little ropes, more than half concealing his immense ears. He smoothed it back now with slow hand, holding a thoughtful silence; shifted his feet, crossed his legs, looked out through the open door into the dusty street.

"How does the land lay?" he asked at length.

"You know the name of the town, everybody knows the name of the town. Well, Seth, it's worse than its name. It's a job; it's a double man's job. If it was any less, I wouldn't lay it down before you."

"Crooks run things, heh?"

"I'm only a knot on a log. The marshal we had wasn't worth the powder that killed him. Oh-h, he did kill off a few of 'em, but what we need here is a man that can see both sides of the street and behind him at the same time."

"How many folks have you got in this man's town by now, Judge?"

"Between six and seven hundred. And we could double it in three months if we could clean things up and make it safe."

"How would you do it, Judge? marry everybody?"

"I mean we'd bring settlers in here and put 'em on the land. The railroad company could shoot farmers in here by the hundreds every month if it wasn't for the hard name this town's got all over the country. A good many chance it and come as it is. We could make this town the supply point for a big territory, we could build up a business that'd make us as respectable as we're open and notorious now. For I tell you, Seth, this country around here is God Almighty's granary—it's the wheat belt of the world."

Seth made no reply. He slewed himself a little to sweep the country over beyond the railroad station with his sullen red eyes. The heat was wavering up from the treeless, shrubless expanse; the white sun was over it as hot as a furnace blast. From the cattle pens the dusty, hoarse cries of the cowboys sounded, "Ho, ho, ho!" in what seemed derision of the judge's fervent claims.

"A lot of us have staked our all on the outcome here in Ascalon, we fellows who were here before the town turned out to be the sink-hole of perdition that it is today. We built our homes here, and brought our families out, and we can't afford to abandon it to these crooks and gamblers and gun-slingers from the four corners of the earth. I let them put me in for mayor, but I haven't got any more power than a stray dog. This chance to put in a marshal is the first one I've had to land them a kick in the gizzards, and by Jeems River, Seth, I want to double 'em up!"

"It looks like your trick, Judge."

"Yes, if I had the marshal with me the two of us could run this town the way it ought to be run. And we'd keep the county seat here as sure as sundown."

"Considerin' a change?"

"The folks over in Glenmore are—the question will come to a vote this fall. The county seat belongs here, not away off there at Glenmore, seven miles from the railroad."

"What's your chance?"

"Not very heavy right now. We can out-vote them in town, but the country's with Glenmore, all on account of our notorious name. Folks hate to come in here to court, it's got so bad. But we could do a lot of cleaning up between now and November, Seth."

Seth considered it in silence, his red eyes on the dusty activities of his late comrades at the cattle pens. He shifted his dusty feet as if dancing to his slow thoughts, scraping his boot soles grittily on the floor.

"Yes, I reckon we could, Judge."

"Half the people in Glenmore want to come over to the railroad. They'd vote with us if they could be made to feel this was a town to bring their families to."

Seth seemed to take this information like a pill under his tongue and dissolve it in his reflective way. Judge Thayer left him to his ruminations, apparently knowing his habits. After a little Seth reached down for his hat in the manner of a man about to depart.

"All right, Judge; we'll clean up the town and part its hair down the middle," he said.

Judge Thayer did not give vent to his elation on Seth Craddock's acceptance of the office of city marshal, although his satisfaction gleamed from his eyes and radiated from his kindly face. He merely shook hands with his new officer in the way of men sealing a bargain, swore him in, and gave him the large shield which had been worn by the many predecessors of the meat hunter in that uncomfortable office, three of whom had gone out of the world with lead enough in them to keep them from tossing in their graves.

This ceremony ended, Seth put his hat firmly on his small, reptilian head, adding greatly to the ferociousness of his thirsty countenance by his way of pulling the sombrero down upon his ears.

"Want to walk around with me and introduce me and show me off?" he asked.

"It'll be the biggest satisfaction in ten years!" Judge Thayer declared.