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The Heart of the Range by William Patterson White

Part 7 out of 7

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"Somebody must have. Who was it?"

"Nobody, I tell you. McFluke had to go somewhere, didn't he? He
couldn't hang around Farewell. Too dangerous. But the chances were
he wouldn't leave the country complete till he got his share. And as
nothing had come off it wasn't any likely he'd got his share. So he'd
want to keep in touch with his friends till the deal was put through.
It was only natural he'd drift to you. And when I come here to Piegan
City and heard you had hired a man to live on yore claim and then got
a look at him without him knowing it the rest was easy."

"But what," inquired Mr. Pooley, perplexedly, "has Wells Fargo to do
with this business?"

"Anybody that knows Bill Smith alias Jack Harpe as well as you do,"
spoke up Mr. Johnson, grimly, "is bound to be of interest to Wells



"I'd take it kindly if you gents would stick yore guns on the
mantel-piece," said Judge Dolan.

Jack Harpe and Luke Tweezy looked at each other.

"I ain't wearing a gun," said Luke Tweezy, crossing one skinny knee
over the other.

"But Mr. Harpe is," pointed out Judge Dolan.

Jack Harpe jackknifed his long body out of his chair, which was placed
directly in front of an open doorway giving into an inner room,
crossed the floor, and placed his sixshooter on the mantel-piece.

"What is this," he demanded, returning to his place "a trial?"

"Not a-tall," the Judge made haste to assure him. "Just a li'l
friendly talk, thassall. I'm a-lookin' for information, and I've an
idea you and Luke can give it to me."

"I'd like a li'l information my own self," grumbled Luke Tweezy. "When
are you gonna make the Dales vacate?"

"All in good time," the Judge replied with a wintry smile. "I'll be
getting to that in short order. Here comes Kansas and Jake Rule now."

"What you want with the sheriff?" Luke queried, uneasily.

"He's gonna help us in our li'l talk," explained the Judge, smoothly.

"I think I'll get my gun," observed Jack Harpe.

He made as if to rise but sank back immediately for Racey Dawson had
suddenly appeared in the open doorway behind him and run the chill
muzzle of a sixshooter into the back of his neck.

"Never sit with yore back to a doorway," advised Racey Dawson. "If
you'll clamp yore hands behind yore head, Jack, we'll all be the
happier. Luke, fish out the knife you wear under yore left armpit, lay
it on the floor and kick it into the corner."

Luke Tweezy's knife tinkled against the wall at the moment that the
sheriff, his deputy, and two other men entered from the street. The
third man was Mr. Johnson, the Wells Fargo detective. The fourth man
wore his left arm in a sling and hobbled on a cane. The fourth man was
Swing Tunstall.

"What kind of hell's trick is this?" demanded Jack Harpe, glaring at
the Wells Fargo detective.

"It's the last trick, Bill," said Mr. Johnson.

At the mention of which name Jack Harpe appeared to shrink inwardly.
He looked suddenly very old.

"Take chairs, gents," invited Judge Dolan, looking about him in the
manner of a minstrel show's interlocutor. "If everybody's comfortable,
we'll proceed to business."

"I thought you said this wasn't a trial," objected Luke Tweezy.

"And so it ain't a trial," the Judge rapped out smartly. "The trial
will come later."

Luke Tweezy subsided. His furtive eyes became more furtive than ever.

"Go ahead, Racey," said Judge Dolan.

Racey, still holding his sixshooter, leaned hipshot against the

"It was this way," he began, and told what had transpired that day in
the hotel corral when he had been bandaging his horse's leg and had
overheard the conversation between Lanpher and Jack Harpe and later,
Punch-the-breeze Thompson.

"They's nothing in that," declared Jack Harpe with contempt, twisting
his neck to glower up at Racey. "Suppose I did wanna get hold of the
Dale ranch. What of it?"

"Shore," put in Luke Tweezy. "What of it? Perfectly legitimate
business proposition. Legal, and all that."

"Not quite," denied Racey. "Not the way you went about it. Nawsir.
Well, gents," he resumed, "what I heard in that corral showed plain
enough there was something up. Dale wouldn't sell, and they were bound
to get his land away from him. So they figured to have Nebraska Jones
turn the trick by playin' poker with the old man. When Nebraska--They
switched from Nebraska to Peaches Austin, plannin' to go through with
the deal at McFluke's from the beginning. And that was where Tweezy
come in. He was to get the old man to McFluke's, and with the help of
Peaches Austin cheat Dale out of the ranch."

"That's a damn lie!" cried Tweezy.

"I suppose you'll deny," said Racey, "that the day I saw you ride in
here to Farewell--I mean the day Jack Harpe spoke to you in front of
the Happy Heart, and you didn't answer him--that day you come in from
Marysville on purpose to tell Jack an' Lanpher about the mortgage
having to be renewed and that now was their chance. I suppose you'll
deny all that, huh?"

"Yo're--yo're lyin'," sputtered Luke Tweezy.

"Am I? We'll see. When playin' cards with old Dale didn't work they
caught the old man at McFluke's one day and after he'd got in a fight
with McFluke and McFluke downed him, they saw their chance to produce
a forged release from Dale."

"Who did the forging?" broke in the Judge.

"I dunno for shore. This here was found in Tweezy's safe." He held out
a letter to the Judge.

Judge Dolan took the letter and read it carefully. Then he looked
across at Luke Tweezy.

"This here," said he, tapping the letter with stiffened forefinger,
"is a signed letter from Dale to you. It seems to be a reply in the
negative to a letter of yores askin' him to sell his ranch."

The Judge paused and glanced round the room. Then his cold eyes
returned to the face of Luke Tweezy who was beginning to look
extremely wretched.

"Underneath the signature of Dale," continued the Judge, "somebody has
copied that signature some fifty or sixty times. I wonder why."

"I dunno anything about it," Luke Tweezy denied, feebly.

"We'll come back to that," the Judge observed, softly. "G'on, Racey."

"I figure," said Racey, "that they'd hatched that forgery some while
before Dale was killed. The killing made it easier to put it on

"Looks that way," nodded the Judge.

"Lookit here," boomed Jack Harpe, "you ain't got any right to judge us
thisaway. We ain't on trial."

"Shore you ain't," asserted the Judge. "I always said you wasn't. This
here is just a talk, a friendly talk. No trial about it."

"Here's another letter, Judge," said Racey Dawson.

The Judge read the other letter, and again fixed Luke Tweezy with his

"This ain't a letter exactly," said Judge Dolan. "It's a quadruplicate
copy of an agreement between Lanpher of the 88 ranch, Jacob Pooley of
Piegan City, and Luke Tweezy of Marysville, parties of the first part,
and Jack Harpe, party of the second part, to buy or otherwise obtain
possession of the ranch of William Dale, in the northeast corner of
which property is located an abandoned mine tunnel in which Jack
Harpe, the party of the second part, has discovered a gold-bearing

"A mine!" muttered Swing Tunstall. "A gold mine! And I thought they
wanted it for a ranch."

"So did I," Racey nodded.

"I know that mine," said Jake Rule. "Silvertip Ransom and Long Oscar
drove the tunnel, done the necessary labour, got their patent, and
sold out when they couldn't get day wages to old Dale for one pony
and a jack. But Dale never worked it. A payin' lode! Hell! Who'd 'a'
thought it?"

"Old Salt an' Tom Loudon got a couple o' claims on the other side of
the ridge from Dale's mine," put in Kansas Casey. "They bought 'em off
of Slippery Wilson and his wife. Them claims oughta be right valuable

"They are," nodded Judge Dolan. "The agreement goes on to say that
Jack Harpe found gold-bearing lodes in both of Slippery's old tunnels,
that these claims will be properly relocated and registered--I guess
that's where Jakey Pooley come in--and all three mines will be worked
by a company made up of these four men, each man to receive one
quarter of the profits. This agreement is signed by Jack Harpe, Simon
Lanpher, and Jacob Pooley."

"And after Pooley was arrested," contributed Racey Dawson, "the Piegan
City marshal went through his safe and found the original of this
agreement signed by Tweezy, Lanpher, and Harpe."

Luke Tweezy held up his hand. "One moment," said he. "Where was the
agreement signed by Harpe, Pooley, and Lanpher found?"

"In yore safe," replied Racey Dawson.

"Did you find it there?"


"What were you doing at my safe?"

"Now don't get excited, Luke. I happened to be in the neighbourhood of
yore house in Marysville about a month ago when I noticed one of yore
back windows open. I snooped in and there was Jack Harpe working on
yore combination with Jakey Pooley watchin' him. Jack Harpe was the
boy who opened the safe.... Huh? Shore, I know him and Jakey Pooley
sicked posses on my trail. Why not? They hadda cover their own tracks,
didn't they? But that ain't the point. What I can't help wondering is
why Harpe and Pooley was fussin' with the safe in the first place.
What do you guess, Luke?"

Evidently Tweezy knew the answer. With a yelp of "Tried to cross me,
you--!" he flung himself bodily upon Jack Harpe.

In a moment the two were rolling on the floor. It required four men
and seven minutes to pry them apart.



Molly Dale looked at Racey with adoring eyes. "How on earth did
you guess that the Bill Smith who robbed the Wells Fargo safe at
Keeleyville and killed the agent was Jack Harpe?"

"Oh, that was nothing. You see, I'd heard somebody say--I disremember
exactly who now--that Jack Harpe's real name was Bill Smith, that he'd
shaved off his beard and part of his eyebrows to make himself look
different, and that he'd done something against the law to some
company in some town. I didn't know what company nor what town, but I
had somethin' to start with when McFluke was let loose. I figured out
by this, that, and the other that Jack Harpe had let McFluke loose. Aw
right, that showed Jack Harpe was a expert lock picker. He showed us
at Marysville that he was a expert on safe combinations. Now there
can't be many men like that. So I took what I knew about him to the
detective chiefs of three railroads. He'd done somethin' against
a company, do you see, and of course I went to three different
_railroad_ companies before I woke up and went to the Wells Fargo an'
found out that such a man as Jack Harpe named Bill Smith was wanted
for the Keeleyville job. So you see there wasn't much to it. It was
all there waitin' for somebody to find it."

"But it lacked the somebody till you came along," she told him with
shining eyes.


"No shucks about it. That we have our ranch to-day with a sure-enough
producing gold mine in one corner of it is all due to you."

"Shucks, suppose now those handwritin' experts Judge Dolan got from
Chicago hadn't been able to prove at the time that the forgery and
the fifty or sixty copies of yore dad's name were written by the same
hand, ink, and pen? Suppose now they hadn't? What then? Where'd you
be, I'd like to know? Nawsir, you give them the credit. They deserve
it. Well, I'm shore glad yo're all gonna be rich, Molly. It's fine.
That's what it is--fine--great. Well, I've got to be driftin' along.
I'm going to meet Swing in town. We're riding south Arizona way


"Yeah, we're going to give the mining game a whirl."

"Why--why not give it a whirl up here in this country?"

"Because there ain't another mine like yores in the territory. No,
we'll go south. Swing wants to go--been wanting to go for some time."

"Bub-but I thought you were going to stay up here," persisted Molly,
her cheeks a little white.

"Not--not now," Racey said, hastily. "So long, take care of yoreself."

He reached for her hand, gave it a quick squeeze, then picked up his
hat and walked out of the house without another word or a backward

* * * * *

"What makes me sick is not a cent out of Old Salt," said Racey,
wrathfully, as he and Swing Tunstall walked their horses south along
the Marysville trail.

"What else could you expect?" said the philosopher Swing. "We
specified in the agreement that it was cows them jiggers was gonna run
on the range. We didn't say nothin' about a mine."

"'We?'" repeated Racey. "'We?' You didn't have a thing to do with that
agreement. I made it. It was my fool fault we worked all those months
for nothing."

"What's the dif?" Swing said, comfortably. "We're partners. Deal
yoreself a new hand and forget it. Tough luck we couldn't 'a' made a
clean sweep of that bunch, huh?"

"Oh, I dunno. Suppose Peaches, Nebraska, and Thompson did get away. We
did pretty good, considerin'. You can't expect everything."

"Alla same they'd oughta been a reward--for Jack Harpe, anyway. Wells
Fargo is shore getting mighty close-fisted."

"Jack did better than I thought he would. He never opened his yap
about Marie being in that Keeleyville gang."

"Maybe he didn't know for shore or else knowed better. Bull was in
that gang, too, and Bull got his throat cut. If Jack had done any
blattin' about Marie and Keeleyville he might 'a' had to stand trial
for murder right here in this county instead of going down to New
Mexico to be tried for a murder committed ten years ago with all that
means--evidence gone rusty with age and witnesses dead or in jail
themselves most like. Oh, he'll be convicted, but it won't be first
degree, you can stick a pin in that."

"I wonder if he did kill Bull."

"I wonder, too. Didja know who Bull really was, Swing?... Marie's
brother. Yep, she told me about it yesterday."

"Her own brother, huh? That's a odd number. Alla same I'll bet she
don't miss him much."

"Nor Nebraska, neither. _He'll_ never come back to bother her again,
that's a cinch. Who's that ahead?"

"That" was Molly waiting for them at a turn in the trail. When they
came up to her she nodded to both men, but her smile was all for Racey
Dawson. He felt his pulse begin to beat a trifle faster. How handsome
she was with her dark hair and blue eyes. And at the moment those blue
eyes that were looking into his were deep enough to drown a man.

"Can I see you a minute, Racey?" said she.

Swing immediately turned his horse on a dime and loped along the back
trail. Left alone with Racey she moved her horse closer to his. Their
ankles touched. His hands were clasped on the saddle-horn. She laid
her cool hand on top of them.

"Racey," she said, her wonderful eyes holding him, "why are you going

This was almost too much for Racey. He could hardly think straight. "I
told you," he said, hoarsely. "We're goin' to Arizona--minin'."

She flung this statement aside with a jerk of her head. "You used to
like me, Racey," she told him.

He nodded miserably.

"Don't you like me any more?" she persisted.

He did not nod. Nor did he speak. He stared down at the back of the
hand lying on top of his.

"Look at me, boy," she directed.

He looked. The fingers of the hand on top of his slid in between his

"Look me in the eye," said she, "and tell me you don't love me."

"I cuc-can't," he muttered in a panic.

"Then why are you going away?" Her voice was gentle--gentle and

"Because yo're rich now, that's why," he replied, thickly, the words
wrung out in a rush. "You've lots o' money, and I ain't got a thing
but my hoss and what I stand up in. How can I love you, Molly?"

"Lean over here, and I'll show you how," said Molly Dale.


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