the Night Horseman (1920)

the Night Horseman (1920) by Max Brand

Book: the Night Horseman (1920) by Max Brand Read Free Book Online
Authors: Max Brand
waitress, "you've had some luck in your life. Take a cross between a bulldog and a mustang and a mountain lion-that's Mac Strann. He's in town, and he's here for killin'."
    "You don't say, ma'am. And why don't they lock him up?"
    "Because he ain't done nothin' yet to be locked up about. That's the way with him. And when he does a thing he always makes the man he's after pull his gun first. Smart? I'll say he's just like an Indian, that Mac Strann!"
    "But who's he after?"
    "The fellow that plugged his brother, Jerry."
    "Kind of looks like he had reason for a killing, then."
    "Nope. Jerry had it comin' to him. He was always raising trouble, Jerry was. And this time, he pulled his gun first. Everybody seen him."
    "He run into a gunman?"
    "Gunman?" she laughed heartily. "Partner, if it wasn't for something funny about his eyes, I wouldn't be no more afraid of that gunman than I am of a tabby-cat. And me a weak woman. The quietest lookin' sort that ever come to Brownsville. But there's something queer about him. He knows that Mac Strann is here in town. He knows that Mac Strann is waiting for Jerry to die. He knows that when Jerry dies Mac will be out for a killin'. And this here stranger is just sittin' around and waitin' to be killed! Can you beat that?"
    But Buck Daniels had grown strangely excited.
    "What did you say there was about his eyes?" he asked sharply.
    She grew suddenly suspicious.
    "D'you know him?"
    "No. But you was talkin' about his eyes?"
    "I dunno what it is. I ain't the only one that's seen it. There ain't no word you can put to it. It's just there. That's all."
    The voice of Buck Daniels fell to a whisper.
    "It's a sort of fire," he suggested. "Ain't it a kind of light behind his eyes?"
    But the waitress stared at him in amazement.
    "Fire?" she gasped. "A light behind his eyes? M'frien', are you tryin' to string me?"
    "What's his name?"
    "I dunno."
    "Ma'am," said Daniels, rising hastily. "Here's a dollar if you'll take me to him."
    "You don't need no guide," she replied. "Listen to that, will you?"
    And as he hearkened obediently Buck Daniels heard a strain of whistling, needle-sharp with distance.
    "That's him," nodded the woman. "He's always goin' about whistling to himself. Kind of a nut, he is."
    "It's him!" cried Buck Daniels. "It's him!"
    And with this ungrammatical burst of joy he bolted from the room.

    Chapter 13. THE THREE
    THE WHISTLING came from behind the hotel, and although it ended as soon as he reached the veranda of the building, Buck Daniels hurried to the rear of the place. There were the long, low sheds of the barn, and behind these, he knew, must be the corrals. He raced around the corner of the shed and there came to a halt, for he saw a thing that turned his blood to ice.
    One of those rare rains of the mountain-desert had recently fallen and the corrals behind the barn were carpeted with a short, thick grass. In the small corral nearest him he beheld, rolling on that carpet of grass, a great wolf-or a dog as large and as rough-coated as a wolf, and a man; and they were engaged in a desperate and silent struggle for mastery. Their movements were so lightning fast that Buck Daniels could not make out distinct forms from the tangle. But he saw the great white teeth of the wolf flash in the sun one instant, and the next the man had whirled on top. It was Dan and Bart at play.
    No outcry from Dan; no growl from the wolf. Buck felt the old chill which never left him when he saw the fierce game of the wolf and the wolfman. All this passed in the twinkling of an eye, and then Dan, by a prodigious effort, had thrown the great beast away from him, so that Bart fell upon his back. Dan leaped with outstretched arms upon the fallen animal, and buried his clutching hands in the throat of the beast.
    Yet still there was a thrill to add to these, for now a black horse appeared in the picture, a miracle of slender, shimmering grace-and he rushed with flattened ears upon the two twisting, writhing,

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