Three Young Ranchmen/Chapter 10

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CHAPTER X.


The Captain's Setback


Captain Grady recovered in a few seconds. He glanced suspiciously about to see if there were others with Noel. Seeing the young man was alone, he plucked up fresh courage.

"All right, I'll talk business with both," he said. "Who is this?" and he jerked his thumb toward Noel.

"A friend of ours from New York," replied Paul.

"Humph! Didn't know you had friends so far off."

"We don't know everything in this world," retorted Chet, pointedly.

"You're right, we don't," replied the captain with equal emphasis.

He tied his horse fast to the doorpost and strode into the house. Paul motioned Chet to follow, and then buttonholed Noel Urner.

"This is Captain Grady," he whispered. "We have told you a little about him. He is trying to get this ranch away from us."

"And he has no real claim to it?"

"I do not believe he has. But he is so slippery a customer he will swindle us if he can. Will you give us some advice how best to proceed? You know more about claims and legal papers than we do."

"Certainly I'll do what I can for you," and then both entered the ranch home.

"I'm sorry I ain't got your older brother to deal with," began the captain. "I reckon he is the one who will understand my talk best."

"Then, perhaps you had best wait till he gets back," said Chet quickly.

"And when will that be?'

"I cannot say exactly."

"I'm not in the humor to wait. I've waited too long already." The captain paused and cleared his throat. "I believe you said you had the original title papers to the ranch, didn't you?" he went on.

"Yes, we did say that."

"I would like to see 'em."

Chet and Paul looked at each other. They had expected and dreaded this request.

"Supposing we don't care to show them to you?" said Paul cautiously.

"What's the reason you don't care?" retorted the captain, angrily.

"We are not called on to explain all our actions to you," said Chet.

"See here, I don't want to quarrel, but I'm a-goin to see them ere papers," blustered Captain Grady, with a decided shake of his head. "I came all the way from Deadwood to see em."

"Well, you won't see them," returned Paul, boldly. It would never do in the wide world to acknowledge that they had been burned up.

"Well, then, I reckon I'm free to speak what's on my mind," roared the captain, "an' that is, that you never had no papers at all."

"You can say what you please," said Chet, as calmly as he could.

"An' that ain't all I've got to say," went on the captain. "I've got more to say to you. This ere claim o' land originally belonged to Sam Slater, o' Deadwood——"

"We know that."

"Slater died, an' left no will——"

"That may all be true, too."

"An' he left this land——"

'No, he didn't. It was sold to my father before that!" cried Paul.

"No such thing. Old Slater left it as part o' his estate——"

"He did not."

"He did, an I can take my affidavy to it, if it's necessary," exclaimed Captain Grady. "But that ain't all yet wot I hev got to tell. Slater left it to his heirs, an I bought it from them only last week."

"It can't be true!" gasped Chet, faintly.

"It is true, an I hev the papers to prove it. This here ranch belongs to me, an the sooner you boys pack up your duds an git out the better it will please me," and Captain Grady smiled maliciously at the blow his news had brought to the boys.

Both Paul and Chet were much dismayed by the unexpected announcement Captain Grady had made.

For the moment they stared at the speaker as if they had not heard aright.

It was Paul who spoke first.

"You bought the ranch, and have the papers to prove it?" he gasped.

"That's just wot I said, boy."

"Your claim will not hold water," put in Chet, faintly.

"Well, I reckon it will," retorted Captain Grady. "I allow as how I know wot I'm a-doin'."

"My father bought this ranch, and that settles it," said Paul. "We will not give up our rights here just on what you say."

"Perhaps you had better look at his papers," suggested Noel Urner, who had thus far remained silent.

"It won't be necessary for them to look at 'em," returned the captain, doggedly. "I have 'em and that's enough. I ain't got to show my papers no more than they hev got to show theirs."

"What shall we do?" whispered Paul to the young man from New York, as he led him a little to one side.

"Stick to your resolve to stand up for your rights," was Noel's reply "Remember, possession is nine points of the law. He cannot dispossess you unless he starts a lawsuit to recover the property he claims."

"I ain't a-goin' to wait for your Uncle Barnaby or Allen to return," went on Captain Grady, sullenly. "I want you to leave at once, bag and baggage."

"Indeed," returned Paul, coldly.

"Yes, indeed. I ve been kept out of this place long enough—seeing as how the original owner gave me a half hold on it long before he died."

"What makes you so anxious for the place?" asked Noel Urner, with sudden interest.

"That's my business," growled the captain.

"Is there any concealed wealth upon it?"

"No, there ain't," exclaimed Captain Grady, almost so quick that it did not sound natural.

"You seem to be awfully anxious——"

"I own the next ranch, that's why. I want to turn my cattle an' sech in the two. Besides that, it ain't natural for a man to stand by an see others a-usin' of his things."

"You talk very positively, Captain Grady," said Paul. "But it will do you no good. We shall not budge for the present."

"You won't?"

"Not a step. We claim this property and you will have to get the law to put us out if we are to be put out."

"You young highflyers!" growled the captain. He had a dread of the law and would do anything to keep out of court. "Do you think I'll stand sech talk?"

"You will have to stand it," put in Chet. "I agree with Paul. We won't budge until the sheriff or a constable puts us out."

For the moment Captain Grady was speechless. His face grew dark with gathering wrath, and he looked as if he wanted to eat some one up.

"You won't budge, hey?" he roared at last.

"No."

"I'll put ye out!"

"I don't think you will," retorted Paul.

"Not without a big fight," added Chet.

"The boys have a right to stay here until put out," said Noel Urner. "The property is in dispute, and the only way to settle the matter is by going to law."

"I didn t ask for your advice," growled the captain, fiercely. "I own this ranch, an' I'm a-goin to have it, an putty quick, too!"

And without another word he turned on his heel, strode out of the house, sprang on his horse, and rode away at top speed.

"Phew! but isn't he mad!" exclaimed Chet, as the rider disappeared up the river trail.

"You bet!" returned Paul, dropping into a bit of slang. "But he can stay mad as long as he pleases; he can't bulldoze us."

"He is not so sure of his rights as he pretends to be," remarked Noel Urner, who, in the course of his city life, had met many men similar to Captain Grady. "If he knew all was right he wouldn't bluster so much."

"That's my idea of it, too," rejoined Chet. "I am half inclined to think he never bought the land—that is, paid for what he supposed was a title to it—for he couldn t really buy it except it was sold by Uncle Barnaby."

"Well, by the time he pays another visit your brother will be back most likely. It is a pity that your uncle should just now be missing."

The afternoon wore away, and anxiously the two boys awaited the coming of Allen. Several times they went up to the roof of the house and swept all points of the compass with their field glass.

At last the shades of night began to fall, and with heavy hearts the two began the round of evening work, feeding the chickens and pigs and seeing that everything was secure for the night. There were also a couple of cows to milk and a dozen or more of eggs to gather.

Noel Urner went around with them as be fore, and he was greatly interested. When they returned to the house he began to question them as to the extent of the ranch.

"Oh, it's pretty big," replied Paul. "It runs up and down the river nearly half a mile, and as far back as what we call the second foothills. If we had horses I could ride you around and show you."

"Are there any mines in the foothills?" was the young man's next question.

"There used to be a few, but they have all been abandoned because they did not pay."

"Perhaps this Captain Grady has struck some thing that will pay."

"Hardly. My father and Uncle Barnaby went over every foot of the ground half a dozen times, and they were both better prospectors than the captain."

Noel Urner was about to ask more questions, but a sound outside of the stockade caused him to pause. They all listened, and then Chet gave a shout.

"Somebody is coming! It must be Allen or Ike Watson! Come on out and see!"