West of the Pecos - Zane Grey - ebook

West of the Pecos ebook

Zane Grey

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From one of the bestselling western novelists of all time, comes another classic story. It is the story of Terrill Lambert, a young girl who disguises herself as a boy, at first to please her father’s dream for a son and second to protect herself in wild west Texas when her father is murdered. Young Terrill Lambeth could ride and shoot with the best men of the south. When her widowed father parks a caravan and drives towards Texas, she gets the chance to test her skills and prove herself on the rugged and dangerous trail west. When Templeton is murdered Terrill is left to fend for herself until desperado Pecos Smith crosses her path. A romantic western of the early 20th century.

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Liczba stron: 384

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Contents

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER I

WHEN Templeton Lambeth’s wife informed him that if God was good they might in due time expect the heir he had so passionately longed for, he grasped at this with the joy of a man whose fortunes were failing, and who believed that a son might revive his once cherished dream of a new and adventurous life on the wild Texas ranges west of the Pecos River.

That very momentous day he named the expected boy Terrill Lambeth, for a beloved brother. Their father had bequeathed to each a plantation; one in Louisiana, and the other in eastern Texas. Terrill had done well with his talents, while Templeton had failed.

The baby came and it was a girl. This disappointment was the second of Lambeth’s life, and the greater. Lambeth never reconciled himself to what he considered a scurvy trick of fate. He decided to regard the child as he would a son, and to bring her up accordingly. He never changed the name Terrill. And though he could not help loving Terrill as a daughter, he exulted in her tomboy tendencies and her apparently natural preferences for the rougher and more virile pleasures and occupations. Of these he took full advantage.

Lambeth saw that Terrill had teachers and schooling beginning with her fifth year, but when she reached the age of ten he was proudest of the boyish accomplishments he had fostered, especially her skill in horsemanship. Terrill could ride any four-footed animal on the plantation.

Then came the Civil War. Lambeth, at that time in his middle thirties, obtained an officer’s commission, and his brother, Terrill, enlisted as a private.

During this period of slow disintegration of the South’s prosperity Mrs. Lambeth had her innings with Terrill. Always she had been under the dominance of her husband, and could not stress the things she desired to see inculcated in her daughter. She belonged to one of the old Southern families of French extraction, and after her marriage she had learned she had not been Lambeth’s first love. Pride and melancholy, coupled with her gentle and retiring virtues, operated against her opposing Lambeth in his peculiar way of being happy by making Terrill’s play as well as work those of a boy. But during the long and devastating war the mother made up greatly for those things she feared Terrill had lacked. Before the end of the war, when Terrill was fifteen, she died, leaving her a heritage that not all the girl’s passionate thirst for adventure nor her father’s influence could ever wholly eradicate. Lambeth returned home a Colonel, destined to suffer less grief at finding himself ruined as a planter, than at the certainty of his brother’s early demise. Terrill had fallen victim to an incurable disease during the war, and had been invalided home long before Lee’s surrender.

His wife’s death and his ruin did not further embitter Lambeth, inasmuch as these misfortunes left the way unobstructed for tearing up root and setting out for the western frontier of Texas, where vast and unknown rangelands offered fortune to a man still young enough to work and fight.

Texas was a world in itself. Before the war Lambeth had hunted north as far as the Panhandle and west over the buffalo plains between the Arkansas and the Red Rivers. He had ideas about the future of the country. He was tired of cotton raising. Farther west he would roam to the land beyond the vague and wild Pecos, about which country alluring rumors had reached his ears.

Colonel Lambeth’s first move upon arriving home was to free those slaves who still remained on his plantation despite the freedom for which the war had been waged. And the next, after selecting several favorite horses, a wagon and equipment, and a few possessions that would have been hard to part with, he put the plantation and everything on it under the hammer. Little indeed did he realize from this sale.

Then came news of his brother’s death and with it a legacy sufficient to enable him to carry on. But Lambeth had had enough of a planter’s ups and downs. The soil was poor and he had neither the desire nor the ability to try again. The West called. Texans impoverished by the war, and the riff-raff left over from the army, were spreading far and wide to the north and west, lured on by something magnetic and compelling.

Lambeth journeyed across the Mississippi, to return with sad and imperishable memories of his brother, and with the means to fulfill his old forlorn hope–to find and stock a ranch in the West.

Two of Lambeth’s younger generation of slaves, out of the many who wanted to cleave to him, he listened to, appreciative of what their help would mean on such a hazardous enterprise as he was undertaking.

“But, Sambo, you’re a free man now,” argued Lambeth.

“Yes, suh, I sho knows I’se emancipated. But, Kuhnel, I don’ know what to do with it.”

This was a problem Sambo shared with the other slaves. He had been sold to the Lambeth plantation from the Texas plains, and was a stalwart, sober negro. Lambeth had taken Sambo on his latest buffalo hunts, finding in him a most willing and capable hand. Moreover he was one of the few really good negro vaqueros. It was Sambo who had taught Terrill to stick like a burr on a horse and to throw a lasso. And he had always been devoted to the girl. This last fact decided Lambeth.

“Very well, Sambo, I’ll take you. But what about Mauree?” And Lambeth indicated the handsome negress who accompanied Sambo.

“Well, Kuhnel, we done got married when you was away. Mauree’s a-devilin’ me to go along wid you. There ain’t no better cook than Mauree, suh.” Sambo’s tone was wheedling.

Lambeth settled with this couple, but turned a deaf ear to the other loyal negroes.

The morning of their departure, Terrill walked along the old road between the canal and the grove of stately moss-curtained oaks that surrounded the worn and weathered Colonial mansion.

It was early spring. The air was full of the sweet, fragrant languor of the South; mockingbirds were singing, full-throated and melodious; meadow larks and swamp blackbirds sang their farewell to the South for that season; the sky was blue and the sun shone warm; dewdrops like diamonds sparkled on the grass.

Beyond the great lawn a line of dilapidated old cottages faced the road, vacant-eyed and melancholy. From only a few rose the thin columns of blue smoke that denoted habitation. The happy, dancing, singing slaves were gone, and their whitewashed homes were falling to ruin. Terrill had known them all her life. It made her sad to say good-by to them, yet she was deeply glad that it was so and that slaves were no longer slaves. Four years of war had been unintelligible to Terrill. She wanted to forget that and all of the suffering and the bitterness.

When she returned from this, her last walk along the beloved old canal with its water-lily pads floating on the still surface, she found the horses in the yard, and Sambo carrying out her little brass-bound French trunk.

“Missy Rill, I done my best,” said Sambo, as he shoved the trunk into the heavily laden canvas-covered wagon.

“Sambo, what’re you sneakin’ in on me heah?” demanded Lambeth, his sharp dark eyes taking in the situation.

“Missy’s trunk, suh.”

“Rill, what’s in it?” queried her father.

“All my little treasures. So few, Dad! My jewelry, laces, pictures, books–and my clothes.”

“Dresses, you mean? Rill, you’ll not need them out where we’re goin’,” he replied, his gaze approving of her as she stood there in boy’s garb, her trousers in her boots, her curls hidden under the wide-brimmed, soft hat.

“Never?” she asked, wistfully.

“I reckon never,” he returned, gruffly. “After we leave heah you’re the same as a real son to me…. Rill, a girl would be a handicap, not to speak of risk to herself. Beyond Santone it’s wild country.”

“Dad, I’d shore rather be a boy, and I will be. But it troubles me, now I face it, for really I–I’m a girl.”

“You can go to your Aunt Lambeth,” responded her father, sternly.

“Oh, Dad! … You know I love only you–and I’m crazy to go West…. To ride and ride! To see the buffalo, the plains, and that lonely Pecos country you tell me aboot! That will be glorious…. But this mawnin’, Dad, I’m sorrowful at leavin’ home.”

“Rill, I am, too,” replied Lambeth, with tears in his eyes. “Daughter, if we stayed heah we’d always be sad. And poor, too!–But there we’ll take fresh root in new soil. We’ll forget the past. We’ll work. Everything will be new, strange, wonderful…. Why, Rill, if what I heah is true we’ll have to fight Mexican hoss thieves and Comanche Indians!”

“Oh, it thrills me, Dad,” cried Terrill. “Frightens me! Makes cold chills creep up my back! But I’d not have it otherwise.”

And so they rode away from the gray, dim mansion, out under the huge live oaks with their long streamers of Spanish moss swaying in the breeze, and into the yellow road that stretched away along the green canal.

Sambo headed the six free horses in the right direction and rode after them; Mauree drove the big wagon with its strong team of speckled whites. Terrill came on behind, mounted on her black thoroughbred, Dixie. Her father was long in catching up. But Terrill did not look back.

When, however, a mile down the road they reached the outskirts of the hamlet where Terrill’s mother was buried, she looked back until her tear-blurred eyes could no longer distinguish objects. The day before she had taken her leave of her mother’s grave, a rending experience which she could not endure twice.

All that endless day memories of the happy and grievous past possessed Terrill as she rode.

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