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Death Rides a Chestnut Mare-Ralph Compton

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Death Rides a Chestnut Mare
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Автор: Ralph Compton,

Жанр: Прочая старинная литература,

Серия: ,

Издательство: Penguin,

Язык: en

A woman sates her lust for vengeance in this Ralph Compton western...  Waylaid by a pack of murdering outlaws, Daniel Strange's lifeless body is left dangling at the end of a rope. Now, a mysterious gunslinger is on the vengeance trail, packing Strange's trademark twin Colts, and answering to the same name. With fiery green eyes and a temper to match, he won't stop until every last man who killed Strange shares the same fate. And as each bullet finds its mark, his victims will die never knowing the truth: that Daniel Strange may be dead and buried, but his daughter is alive—and killing...More Than Six Million Ralph Compton Books In Print! From the Paperback edition.

      LAST STAND . . .

      “What are you doin’ here in the Territory all by your lonesome, mister?”

      “I’m not the law, if that’s what’s bothering you,” Dan said.

      “Haw, haw,” one of the men cackled. “Would you admit it if you was?”

      “I have nothing to hide,” said Dan. “I didn’t cotton to the war, and I laid out up in St. Joe, Missouri. But I got lonesome for Texas, and that’s where I’m headed.”

      To further his bluff, Dan holstered the Colt he still held in his hand.

      “I’m Bart Scovill,” the lead rider said, “and I’ve always had a hankerin’ for a chestnut mare just like that one of yours.”

      “Good luck finding one,” said Dan.

      While Scovill had been talking, two of the mounted men had drawn their horses to the side so that they had a clear shot, and it was these that Daniel Strange was watching. When they went for their guns, Dan drew with lightning swiftness and shot them both out of their saddles. But four of them were on him before he was able to make another move.

      “Jasper,” said Scovill, “tie me a good thirteen-knot noose. . . .”

      

      THE IMMORTAL COWBOY

      This is respectfully dedicated to the “American Cowboy.” His was the saga sparked by the turmoil that followed the Civil War, and the passing of more than a century has by no means diminished the flame.

      True, the old days and the old ways are but treasured memories, and the old trails have grown dim with the ravage of time, but the spirit of the cowboy lives on.

      In my travels—which include Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Arizona—there’s something within me that remembers. While I am walking these plains and mountains for the first time, there is this feeling that a part of me is eternal, that I have known these old trails before. I believe it is the undying spirit of the frontier calling, allowing me, through the mind’s eye, to step back into time. What is the appeal of the Old West of the American frontier?

      It has been epitomized by some as the dark and bloody period in American history. Its heroes—Crockett, Bowie, Hickock, Earp—have been reviled and criticized. Yet the Old West lives on, larger than life.

      It has become a symbol of freedom, when there was always another mountain to climb and another river to cross; when a dispute between two men was settled not with expensive lawyers, but with fists, knives, or guns. Barbaric? Maybe. But some things never change. When the cowboy rode into the pages of American history, he left behind a legacy that lives within the hearts of us all.

      —Ralph Compton

      Prologue

      St. Joseph, Missouri. April 1, 1870.

      “Margaret,” said Daniel Strange to his wife, “Texas cattle can be had for three dollars a head in Texas. Drive them north to the railroad, and they’ll bring thirty dollars and more. I can’t pass up a chance at that kind of money.”

      “But you’re the best gunsmith in Missouri,” Margaret said, “and you’ve taught all the children the trade. Your father was a gunsmith and his father before him. Why must you give it all up and travel hundreds of miles for a herd of Texas cows? Why, you’re one of the most respected men in town.”

      “And the most taken for granted,” said Daniel Strange. “I’m owed thousands of dollars, and nobody pays. I’ve already arranged to sell the shop for five thousand dollars, which is more than it’s worth. I can leave fifteen hundred dollars for you to manage on, until I can bring the cattle north.”

      “But there’s just you, Daniel. You’ll need men to help you drive the cattle.”

      “Texas is suffering through Reconstruction,” Daniel said. “From what I’ve heard, I can get riders aplenty, paying them at the end of the drive.”

      “I have a bad feeling about this, Daniel,” said Margaret. “Like if you go, I’ll never see you again.”

      

      But Daniel Strange’s mind was made up. On April 10, he rode out on a chestnut mare his daughter, Danielle, had named Sundown, bound for Texas. His wife, Margaret, wept, his twin sons, Jed and Tim, cussed the fate that kept them from going, and Danielle said not a word. While Jed and Tim had their father’s blue eyes, they were not as tall. Danielle, on the other hand, had her father’s height. With hat and boots, she was almost six feet. Her hair was dark as a raven’s wing, and she had her mother’s green eyes.

      “Damn it, Ma,” said fourteen-year-old Jed, “Tim and me should be goin’ with him.”

      “Don’t you swear at me, young man,” Margaret snapped. “You and your brother will remain here and go to school, just as your father ordered. You don’t see Danielle wanting to ride off on a cattle drive.”

      “She’s just a girl,” Tim scoffed. “What does she know about cattle, or anything else?”

      Danielle turned and walked away, saying nothing. She had shared her mother’s misgivings regarding Daniel Strange’s journey to Texas, but she knew her father too well to try and cross him. She sat down on the front steps, watching the evening sun sink below the mountains far to the west. Despite her mother’s objections, she had taken to wearing her gun belt with the Colt her father had taught her to use. She thought fondly of the days Daniel Strange had spent teaching her to draw and cock the weapon in a single motion. There had been countless days of constant practice, with advice on cleaning and oiling the weapon as well. There was practice shooting with her brothers, and Daniel Strange had been delighted when Danielle had outshot both of them. Not only had he been a master gunsmith, he had been a master of the weapon itself. Thus the offspring of Daniel Strange were proud of their ability to pull a Colt and fire in a split second. Instead of going back into the house where Jed and Tim still complained, Danielle leaned on the corral fence, her eyes looking away into the distance, where she had last seen her father.

      Daniel Strange regretted taking the chestnut mare, for it was the best horse they had, and he had given it to his daughter, Danielle. From St. Joe, he would ride almost due south, crossing Indian Territory into North Texas. The thirty-five-hundred dollars in his wallet would more than pay for the anticipated herd. There would be money enough for a chuck wagon and grub for the journey to Kansas. Dan Strange well knew the dangers of crossing Indian Territory, but trail herds were doing it on a regular basis. There was no other route that wouldn’t be hundreds of miles longer. He simply had to be careful. Taking care to rest the chestnut mare, he made swift progress. After entering Indian Territory at the extreme northeastern corner, a four-day ride had taken him well into the heart of the Territory. He had seen nobody since leaving southern Missouri. His cook fires were small, and he doused them before dark. He had just lighted a fire to make his breakfast coffee when the chestnut mare nickered. There was an answering nicker, and Dan Strange drew his Colt. He well knew the Territory was a haven for renegades and killers, and prepared to bluff his way out, if he could. His heart sank when a dozen riders reined up a few yards away. They had the look of men on the dodge. Some of them wore two guns, and every man had a rifle in his saddle boot. Dan looked longingly at his own saddle and the Winchester in the boot, but he dared not risk going for it. Finally, the lead rider spoke.

      “What are you doin’ here in the Territory all by your lonesome, mister?”

      “I’m not the law, if that’s what’s botherin’ you,” Dan said.

      “Haw, haw,” one of the men cackled. “Would you admit it if you was?”

      “I have nothing to hide,” said Dan. “I didn’t cotton to the war, and I laid out up in St. Joe, Missouri. But I got lonesome for Texas, and that’s where I’m headed.”

      To further his bluff, Dan holstered the Colt he still held

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