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The Forbidden Way

George Gibbs

  Produced by Al Haines.

  As she sat before her mirror...]







  Copyright, 1911, BY D. APPLETON AND COMPANY Copyright, 1911, by Associated Sunday Magazines, Incorporated.

  _Published September, 1911_

  Printed in the United States of America



  I. Sharp Practice II. Camilla III. New York IV. The Forbidden Way V. Diners Out VI. Mrs. Cheyne VII. Braebank VIII. The Brush IX. The Shadow X. Triton of the Minnows XI. Discord XII. Tea Cups and Music XIII. Good Fishing XIV. Father and Son XV. Infatuation XVI. Old Dangers XVII. Old Rose Leaves XVIII. Combat XIX. The Lady in Gray XX. *La Femme Propose* XXI. *L'Homme Dispose* XXII. Private Matters XXIII. The Intruder XXIV. Gretchen Decides XXV. The Crisis XXVI. The Call of the Heart XXVII. General Bent XXVIII. Household Gods--and Goddesses




  The young man in the swivel chair drummed with his toes against thedesk, while he studied the gaudy fire insurance calendar on the wallbefore him. His pipe hung bowl downward from his lips, and the longfingers of one hand toyed with a legal document in his lap.

  "Something new is hatching in this incubator," he muttered at last,dipping his pen in the ink bottle again. "And I think--I _think_ it'san ugly duckling. Of course, it's no business of mine, but----" Helooked up suddenly as a bulky figure darkened the doorway. "Hello,Jeff!"

  Jeff Wray nodded and walked to the water cooler.

  "Mulrennan's been here to see you three times," said the man in theswivel chair. "Each time he's been getting madder. I wish you'd keepyour appointments or get another office-boy. That man's vocabulary is awork of genius. Even you, in your happiest humors--why, what's thematter with your face?"

  Wray put his fingers up. Four red streaks ran parallel across his cheekbone. He touched the marks with his hand, then looked at his fingertips.

  "Oh, that? Seems like I must have butted into something." He gave ashort, unmirthful laugh. "Don't make me look any prettier, does it?Funny I didn't feel it before." And then, as he turned to the inneroffice, "Is Mulrennan coming back?" he asked.

  "Yes, at five."

  Wray glanced at the clock. "Has Bent been in?"


  "When will those papers be ready?"

  "To-night, if you want them."

  "Good!" Wray turned, with his hand on the knob of the door. "When Petecomes, send him back. Will you, Larry?"

  Larry Berkely nodded, and Wray went into the back office and closed thedoor behind him. He took out his keys and unlocked the desk, but,instead of sitting at once, he went over to a cracked mirror in thecorner and examined his face, grinning at his image and touching the redmarks with his fingers.

  "That was a love-tap for fair," he said. "I reckon I deserved it. Butshe oughtn't to push a man too far. She was sure angry. Won't speaknow for a while." He turned with a confident air. "She'll come around,though," he laughed. "You just bet she will." Then he sat down at hisdesk, took a photograph in a brass frame out of the drawer, put it upagainst the pen-rack before him, and, folding his arms across theblotter, gazed at it steadily for a moment.

  "It was a mean trick, wasn't it, Camilla girl?" he muttered, half aloud."I'm sorry. But you've got to learn who you belong to. There can't beany fooling of other fellows around Jeff Wray's girl. I just had tokiss you--had to put my seal on you, Camilla. I reckon you put yours onme, too, black and blue." He laughed ruefully. "You'll forgive me,though. A diamond necklace or so will square _that_. You bet it will!"

  He put the picture down, hid it away, and took up some papers that laybefore him. But when, a while later, Larry Berkely showed Mulrennan in,they found him sitting with his face to the window, looking out with hisbaby stare over the hundred thousand acres of the Hermosa Company.

  "Come in, Pete, and shut the door. You don't mind, Larry? Mulrennanand I have got some private business." Then, when the door was closed,he said in a half-whisper, "Well? What did you find out about the 'LoneTree'?"

  Mr. Mulrennan carefully sought the cuspidor, then wiped his brow with adirty red handkerchief. "What didn't I find out? God, Jeff! that mine'slousy with sylvanite. The watchman was asleep, and we got inscrumpshus-like. It's half way down that short winze they made lastfall. Max had put some timbers up to hide it, and we pulled 'em down.We only had matches to strike and couldn't see much, but what we saw wasa-plenty. It's the vein, all right. Holy Mother! but it started mymouth to watherin'--I haven't had a wink of shlape. Where in h--l haveyou been all day?"

  "Business," said Jeff vaguely, "in the mountains."

  "It's no time to be potherin' about wid little matthers." Mulrennanbrought his huge fist down on the table. "You've got to nail this deal,Jeff, to-day."

  "To-day? Bent hasn't been back."

  "Well, you've got to find him--now."

  "What for? See here, Pete, cool down. Can't you see if I go after himhe'll get suspicious--and then good-bye to everything. You leave thisdeal to me. He'll sign. Larry's drawing the lease and bond now. Maybeto-morrow----"

  "To-morrow? To-morrow will be too late. That's what I'm gettin' at.Max is ugly----"

  Wray clenched his bony fingers over the chair arm and leaned across thedesk.

  "Max!" he whispered angrily. "What----?"

  "He's afther more money. He talked pretty big last night, but thismornin'----" He broke off breathlessly. "Oh, I've had the h--l of aday----"

  "What did he say?"

  "He's talkin' of goin' to the mine owner. He says, after all, Cort Bentnever harmed him any, and it's only a matter of who gives him the most."

  Wray got to his feet and took two or three rapid turns up and down theroom.

  "D--n him!" he muttered. And then suddenly, "Where is he now?"

  "Up the bar playing pinochle with Fritz."

  "Are you sure?"

  "He was twenty minutes ago. I haven't left him a minute except to comehere. Fritz is losin' money to him. I told him to. That will kape himfor a while."

  But Wray had already taken up his hat. "Come, let's go up there. We'vegot to shut his mouth some way," he said, through set lips.

  "I've been promisin' myself sick, but he's a sharp one--God! But I wishthem papers was signed," sighed Mulrennan.

  As they passed through the office Jeff stopped a moment.

  "If Bent comes in, Larry, tell him I'll be back in half an hour.Understand? Don't seem anxious. Just tell him I'm going to Denver andwant to settle that deal one way or another as soon as possible."

  Berkely nodded and watched the strange pair as they made their way upthe street. Wray, his head down and hands in his pockets, and theIrishman using his arms in violent gestures.

  "I'm _sure_ it's an ugly duckling," commented the sage.

  * * * * *

  It was three years now since Berkely had come to Colorado for hishealth, and two since Fate had sent h
im drifting down to Mesa City andJeff Wray. Mesa City was a "boom" town. Three years ago, when the "JackPot" mine was opened, it had become the sudden proud possessor of fivehotels (and saloons), three "general" stores, four barber shops, threepool rooms, a livery stable, and post office. Its main (and only) streetwas a quarter of a mile in length, and the plains for a half mile inevery direction had been dotted with the camps of the settlers. It hadalmost seemed as if Saguache County had found another Cripple Creek.

  A time passed, and then Mesa City awoke one morning to find that thegamblers, the speculators, and the sporting men (and women) had goneforth to other fields, and left it to its fate, and the town knew thatit was a failure.

  But Jeff Wray stayed on. And when Berkely came, he stayed, too, partlybecause the place seemed to improve his health, but more largely onaccount of Jeff Wray. What was it that had drawn him so compellinglytoward the man? He liked him--why, he could not say--but he did--andthat was the end of it. There was a directness in the way Wray wentafter what he wanted which approached nothing Berkely could think of somuch as the unhesitating self-sufficiency of a child. He seemed to havean intuition for the right thing, and, though he often did the wrongone, Berkely was aware that he did it open-eyed and that no book wisdomor refinement would have made the slightest difference in theconsummation of his plans. Berkely was sure, as Wray was sure, that theonly reason Jeff hadn't succeeded was because opportunity hadn't yetcome knocking at his door. He liked Wray because he was bold andstrong, because he looked him in the eye, because he gave a sense oflarge areas, because his impulses, bad as well as good, were generousand big, like the mountains and plains of which he was a part. Hisschemes showed flashes of genius, but neither of them had money enoughto put them into practice. He was always figuring in hundreds ofthousands or even in millions, and at times it seemed to Berkely asthough he was frittering his life away over small problems when he mighthave been mastering big ones. At others he seemed very like MulberrySellers, Munchausen, and D'Artagnan all rolled into one.

  What was happening now, Berkely could not determine, so he gave up theproblem and, when his work was done, filled his pipe, strolled to thedoor, and watched the changing colors on the mountains to the east ofhim, as the sun, sinking lower, found some clouds and sent their shadowsscurrying along the range to the southward. With his eye he followedthe line of the trail up the canon, and far up above the cottonwoodsthat skirted the town he could see two figures on horseback coming down.He recognized them at once, even at that distance, for they were a sightto which Mesa City had become accustomed.

  "Camilla and Bent," he muttered. "I'm glad Jeff's not here. It's beengetting on his nerves. I hope if Bent sells out he'll hunt a new field.There are too few women around here--too few like Camilla. I wonder ifshe really cares. I wonder----"

  He stopped, his eyes contracted to pin points. The pair on the horseshad halted, and the man had drawn close to his companion, leaningforward. Was he fixing her saddle? An unconscious exclamation came fromBerkely's lips.

  "He's got his nerve--right in plain view of the town, too. What----?"

  The girl's horse suddenly drew ahead and came galloping down through thescrub-oak, the man following. Berkely smiled. "The race isn't alwaysto the swift, Cort Bent," he muttered.

  At the head of the street he saw Miss Irwin's horse turn in at thelivery stable where she kept him, but Cortland Bent's came straight onat an easy canter and halted at Berkely's door.

  "Is Wray there?" asked Bent.

  "No, but he told me to ask you to wait. Won't you come in?"

  "Just tell him I'll be in in the morning."

  "Jeff may go to Denver to-morrow," said Larry, "but of course there's nohurry----"

  Bent took out a silver cigarette case and offered it to Berkely. "Seehere, Larry," he said, "what the devil do you fellows want with the'Lone Tree'? Are you going to work it, or are you getting it for someone else? Of course, it's none of my business--but I'd like to know,just----"

  "Oh, I'm not in this. This is Jeff's deal. I don't know much about it,but I think he'd probably work it for a while."

  Together they walked into the office, and Berkely spread some papers outover the desk. "Jeff told me to draw these up. I think you'll findeverything properly stated."

  Bent nodded. "Humph! He feels pretty certain I'll sign, doesn't he?"

  Berkely stood beside him, smoking and leaning over his shoulder, butdidn't reply.

  Bent laughed. "Well, it's all cut and dried. Seems a pity to have put_you_ to so much trouble, Larry. I haven't made up my mind. They saytwice as much money goes into gold mines as ever comes out of 'em. Iguess it's true. If it wasn't for Jeff Wray in this deal I'd sign thatpaper in a minute. But I've always had an idea that some day he'd makehis pile, and I don't relish the idea of his making it on me. He's avisionary--a fanatic on the gold in these mountains, but fortune has away of favoring the fool----"

  "Sounds as though you might be talking about me," said a voice from thedoorway, where Jeff stood smiling, his broad figure completely blockingthe entrance.

  Bent turned, confused, but recovered himself with a short laugh. "Yes,I was," he replied slowly. "I've put twenty thousand dollars in thathole in the rocks, and I hate to leave it."

  Jeff Wray wiped his brow, went to the cooler, drew a glass of water, andslowly drank it.

  "Well, my friend," he said carelessly between swallows, "there's stilltime to back down. You're not committed to anything. Neither am I.Suit yourself. I'm going to get a mine or so. But I'm not particularwhich one. The 'Daisy' looks good to me, but they want too much for it.The terms on your mine, the 'Lone Tree,' just about suited me--that'sall. It's not a 'big' proposition. It might pan thirty or forty to theton, but there's not much in that--not away up there. Take my offer--orleave it, Bent. I don't give a d--n."

  He tossed his hat on the chair, took off his coat, and opened the doorof the back office.

  "Larry," he added, "you needn't bother to stay, I've got some writing todo. I'll lock up when I go."

  If Mr. Mulrennan had been present he would have lost his senses in sheeradmiration or sheer dismay. Berkely remembered that "bluff" later, whenhe learned how much had depended on its success.

  But it worked beautifully.

  "Oh, well," said Bent peevishly, "let's get it over. I'll sign. Areyou ready to make a settlement?"