THE LONE STAR RANGER
THE LONE STAR RANGER
BOOK 1 THE OUTLAW
So it was in him then--an inherited fighting instinct a
driving intensity to kill. He was the last of the Duanes that
old fighting stock of Texas. But not the memory of his dead
father nor the pleading of his soft-voiced mother nor the
warning of this uncle who stood before him now had brought to
Buck Duane so much realization of the dark passionate strain in
his blood. It was the recurrence a hundred-fold increased in
power of a strange emotion that for the last three years had
arisen in him.
"Yes Cal Bain's in town full of bad whisky an' huntin' for
you" repeated the elder man gravely.
"It's the second time" muttered Duane as if to himself.
"Son you can't avoid a meetin'. Leave town till Cal sobers up.
He ain't got it in for you when he's not drinkin'."
"But what's he want me for?" demanded Duane. "To insult me
again? I won't stand that twice."
"He's got a fever that's rampant in Texas these days my boy.
He wants gun-play. If he meets you he'll try to kill you."
Here it stirred in Duane again that bursting gush of blood
like a wind of flame shaking all his inner being and subsiding
to leave him strangely chilled.
"Kill me! What for?" he asked.
"Lord knows there ain't any reason. But what's that to do with
most of the shootin' these days? Didn't five cowboys over to
Everall's kill one another dead all because they got to jerkin'
at a quirt among themselves? An' Cal has no reason to love you.
His girl was sweet on you."
"I quit when I found out she was his girl."
"I reckon she ain't quit. But never mind her or reasons. Cal's
here just drunk enough to be ugly. He's achin' to kill
somebody. He's one of them four-flush gun-fighters. He'd like
to be thought bad. There's a lot of wild cowboys who're
ambitious for a reputation. They talk about how quick they are
on the draw. T hey ape Bland an' King Fisher an' Hardin an' all
the big outlaws. They make threats about joinin' the gangs
along the Rio Grande. They laugh at the sheriffs an' brag about
how they'd fix the rangers. Cal's sure not much for you to
bother with if you only keep out of his way."
"You mean for me to run?" asked Duane in scorn.
"I reckon I wouldn't put it that way. Just avoid him. Buck I'm
not afraid Cal would get you if you met down there in town.
You've your father's eye an' his slick hand with a gun. What
I'm most afraid of is that you'll kill Bain."
Duane was silent letting his uncle's earnest words sink in
trying to realize their significance.
"If Texas ever recovers from that fool war an' kills off these
outlaws why a young man will have a lookout" went on the
uncle. "You're twenty-three now an' a powerful sight of a fine
fellow barrin' your temper. You've a chance in life. But if
you go gun-fightin' if you kill a man you're ruined. Then
you'll kill another. It'll be the same old story. An' the
rangers would make you an outlaw. The rangers mean law an'
order for Texas. This even-break business doesn't work with
them. If you resist arrest they'll kill you. If you submit to
arrest then you go to jail an' mebbe you hang."
"I'd never hang" muttered Duane darkly.
"I reckon you wouldn't" replied the old man. "You'd be like
your father. He was ever ready to draw--too ready. In times
like these with the Texas rangers enforcin' the law your Dad
would have been driven to the river. An' son I'm afraid
you're a chip off the old block. Can't you hold in--keep your
temper--run away from trouble? Because it'll only result in you
gettin' the worst of it in the end. Your father was killed in a
street-fight. An' it was told of him that he shot twice after a
bullet had passed through his heart. Think of the terrible
nature of a man to be able to do that. If you have any such
blood in you never give it a chance."
"What you say is all very well uncle" returned Duane "but
the only way out for me is to run and I won't do it. Cal Bain
and his outfit have already made me look like a coward. He says
I'm afraid to come out and face him. A man simply can't stand
that in this country. Besides Cal would shoot me in the back
some day if I didn't face him."
"Well then what're you goin' to do?" inquired the elder man.
"I haven't decided--yet."
"No but you're comin' to it mighty fast. That damned spell is
workin' in you. You're different to-day. I remember how you
used to be moody an' lose your temper an' talk wild. Never was
much afraid of you then. But now you're gettin' cool an' quiet
an' you think deep an' I don't like the light in your eye. It
reminds me of your father."
"I wonder what Dad would say to me to-day if he were alive and
here" said Duane.
"What do you think? What could you expect of a man who never
wore a glove on his right hand for twenty years?"
"Well he'd hardly have said much. Dad never talked. But he
would have done a lot. And I guess I'll go down-town and let
Cal Bain find me."
Then followed a long silence during which Duane sat with
downcast eyes and the uncle appeared lost in sad thought of
the future. Presently he turned to Duane with an expression
that denoted resignation and yet a spirit which showed wherein
they were of the same blood.
"You've got a fast horse--the fastest I know of in this
country. After you meet Bain hurry back home. I'll have a
saddle-bag packed for you and the horse ready."
With that he turned on his heel and went into the house
leaving Duane to revolve in his mind his singular speech. Buck
wondered presently if he shared his uncle's opinion of the
result of a meeting between himself and Bain. His thoughts were
vague. But on the instant of final decision when he had
settled with himself that he would meet Bain such a storm of
passion assailed him that he felt as if he was being shaken
with ague. Yet it was all internal inside his breast for his
hand was like a rock and for all he could see not a muscle
about him quivered. He had no fear of Bain or of any other man;
but a vague fear of himself of this strange force in him made
him ponder and shake his head. It was as if he had not all to
say in this matter. There appeared to have been in him a
reluctance to let himself go and some voice some spirit from
a distance something he was not accountable for had compelled
him. That hour of Duane's life was like years of actual living
and in it he became a thoughtful man.
He went into the house and buckled on his belt and gun. The gun
was a Colt .45 six-shot and heavy with an ivory handle. He
had packed it on and off for five years. Before that it had
been used by his father. There were a number of notches filed
in the bulge of the ivory handle. This gun was the one his
father had fired twice after being shot through the heart and
his hand had stiffened so tightly upon it in the death-grip
that his fingers had to be pried open. It had never been drawn
upon any man since it had come into Duane's possession. But the
cold bright polish of the weapon showed how it had been used.
Duane could draw it with inconceivable rapidity and at twenty
feet he could split a card pointing edgewise toward him.
Duane wished to avoid meeting his mother. Fortunately as he
thought she was away from home. He went out and down the path
toward the gate. The air was full of the fragrance of blossoms
and the melody of birds. Outside in the road a neighbor woman
stood talking to a countryman in a wagon; they spoke to him;
and he heard but did not reply. Then he began to stride down
the road toward the town.
Wellston was a small town but important in that unsettled part
of the great state because it was the trading-center of several
hundred miles of territory. On the main street there were
perhaps fifty buildings some brick some frame mostly adobe
and one-third of the lot and by far the most prosperous were
saloons. From the road Duane turned into this street. It was a
wide thoroughfare lined by hitching-rails and saddled horses
and vehicles of various kinds. Duane's eye ranged down the
street taking in all at a glance particularly persons moving
leisurely up and down. Not a cowboy was in sight. Duane
slackened his stride and by the time he reached Sol White's
place which was the first saloon he was walking slowly.
Several people spoke to him and turned to look back after they
had passed. He paused at the door of White's saloon took a
sharp survey of the interior then stepped inside.
The saloon was large and cool full of men and noise and smoke.
The noise ceased upon his entrance and the silence ensuing
presently broke to the clink of Mexican silver dollars at a
monte table. Sol White who was behind the bar straightened up
when he saw Duane; then without speaking he bent over to