|Mass Market Paperback||2018-10-30||£4.60||240|
|Mass Market Paperback||1995-01||184|
|Hardcover (New Ed)||1988-10-06||£10.95||192|
|Mass Market Paperback||1981-10|
|Mass Market Paperback (later printing)||1981-01-01|
|Mass Market Paperback (English Language)||1981||184|
|Hardcover (Large type edition)||1977-06-15||£4.95||309|
|Mass Market Paperback (5th Printing)||1977|
|Mass Market Paperback (1st Printing)||1976||309|
|Mass Market Paperback||1658|
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By Louis L’Amour
Published by Bantam on 2018-10-30
Mass Market Paperback: £4.60
FICTION / Action and Adventure, FICTION / Historical
As part of the Louis L’Amour’s Lost Treasures series, this edition contains exclusive bonus materials!
The abandoned cabin seemed like a good place to settle down . . . except for the dead man in the front yard. But Doby Kernohan and his father had traveled a long way seeking a new start, and they were in no position to be choosy. Unfortunately, the mysterious man’s violent end was an omen of darker events to come, for a cycle of violence that had begun long ago was about to reach an explosive conclusion. Caught in a tangle of murder, greed, and blood vengeance, the Kernohans have no choice but to get involved. And when a mysterious beauty from deep in the surrounding hills and a deadly stranger named Owen Chantry arrive, what had at first seemed like good fortune suddenly becomes a terrifying fight for life itself.
Louis L’Amour’s Lost Treasures is a project created to release some of the author’s more unconventional manuscripts from the family archives.
In Louis L’Amour’s Lost Treasures: Volumes 1, Beau L’Amour takes the reader on a guided tour through many of the finished and unfinished short stories, novels, and treatments that his father was never able to publish during his lifetime. L’Amour’s never-before-seen first novel, No Traveller Returns, will also be released as a Lost Treasures publication, followed by Louis L’Amour’s Lost Treasures: Volume 2.
Additionally, many beloved classics will be rereleased with an exclusive Lost Treasures postscript featuring previously unpublished material, including outlines, plot notes, and alternate drafts. These postscripts tell the story behind the stories that millions of readers have come to know and cherish.
3D preview available at the top of this page...
texas fast draw N OBODY SAW HIM move, but we all heard the gun. And we seen that man with the rope drop it like something burned him, and something had. The rope lay on the ground and that man was shy two fingers. Then Owen Chantry come one foot down the steps and then the other. He stood there, his polished boots a-'shinin? and that gun in his hand. 'The name,' he said, 'is Owen Chantry. My brother lived on this place. He was killed. These folks are living here now and they're going to stay. 'I, too, am going to stay.' 'You're slick with that gun,' the brawny man said, 'but we'll be back.' 'Why come back'? Chantry said pleasantly. 'You're here now.'
Bantam Books by Louis L'Amour NOVELS Bendigo Shafter Borden Chantry Brionne The Broken Gun The Burning Hills The Californios Callaghen Catlow Chancy The Cherokee Trail Comstock Lode Conagher Crossfire Trail Dark Canyon Down the Long Hills The Empty Land Fair Blows the Wind Fallon The Ferguson Rifle The First Fast Draw Flint Guns of the Timberlands Hanging Woman Creek The Haunted Mesa Heller with a Gun The High Graders High Lonesome Hondo How the West Was Won The Iron Marshal The Key-'Lock Man Kid Rodelo Kilkenny Killoe Kilrone Kiowa Trail Last of the Breed Last Stand at Papago Wells The Lonesome Gods The Man Called Noon The Man from Skibbereen The Man from the Broken Hills Matagorda Milo Talon The Mountain Valley War North to the Rails Over on the Dry Side Passin? Through The Proving Trail The Quick and the Dead Radigan Reilly's Luck The Rider of Lost Creek Rivers West The Shadow Riders Shalako Showdown at Yellow Butte Silver Canyon Sitka Son of a Wanted Man Taggart The Tall Stranger To Tame a Land Tucker Under the Sweetwater Rim Utah Blaine The Walking Drum Westward the Tide Where the Long Grass Blows SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS Beyond the Great Snow Mountains Bowdrie Bowdrie's Law Buckskin Run The Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour (vols. 1''7) Dutchman's Flat End of the Drive From the Listening Hills The Hills of Homicide Law of the Desert Born Long Ride Home Lonigan May There Be a Road Monument Rock Night Over the Solomons Off the Mangrove Coast The Outlaws of Mesquite The Rider of the Ruby Hills Riding for the Brand The Strong Shall Live The Trail to Crazy Man Valley of the Sun War Party West from Singapore West of Dodge With These Hands Yondering SACKETT TITLES Sackett's Land To the Far Blue Mountains The Warrior's Path Jubal Sackett Ride the River The Daybreakers Sackett Lando Mojave Crossing Mustang Man The Lonely Men Galloway Treasure Mountain Lonely on the Mountain Ride the Dark Trail The Sackett Brand The Sky-'Liners THE HOPALONG CASSIDY NOVELS The Riders of High Rock The Rustlers of West Fork The Trail to Seven Pines Trouble Shooter NONFICTION Education of a Wandering Man Frontier The Sackett Companion: A Personal Guide to the Sackett Novels A Trail of Memories: The Quotations of Louis L'Amour, compiled by Angelique L'Amour POETRY Smoke from This Altar LOST TREASURES Louis L'Amour's Lost Treasures: Volume 1 No Traveller Returns
Over on the Dry Side A N O V E L Louis L'Amour Postscript by Beau L'Amour B anta m B ooks N e w Y ork
Sale of this book without a front cover may be unauthorized. If this book is coverless, it may have been reported to the publisher as 'unsold or destroyed? and neither the author nor the publisher may have received payment for it. Over on the Dry Side is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. 2018 Bantam Books Mass Market Edition Copyright ? 1975 by Louis & Katherine L'Amour Trust Postscript by Beau L'Amour ? 2018 by Beau L'Amour All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Bantam Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Bantam and the House colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC. Originally published in the United States by Bantam Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, in 1954. ISBN 978-? 0- ? 525-'48631-'2 Ebook ISBN 978-'0-'525-'48639-? 8 Cover art: William George Printed in the United States of America randomhousebooks.com 2? 4? 6? 8? 9? 7? 5? 3? 1 Bantam Books mass market edition: October 2018
To Don Demarest, companion of the High Country'
Over on the Dry Side
CHAPTER 1 Atook LL THAT SPRING, I was scared. Why Pa ever a notion to stop on that old Chantry place I never did know. Maybe it was because he was just tired and wishful of stopping someplace? .' .' . anyplace. There'd been a dead man on the steps by the door when we drove up. He'd been a long time dead, and nobody around to bury him, and I was scared. The cabin was strong. It was built mighty solid like whoever had shaped it up and put it together had planned to stay. That was before the Indians come. There was nobody inside and the place was all tore up? .' .' . of course. It had been vacant for weeks, prob'ly. Maybe even months. That man had been dead a long time. There wasn't much left but torn skin, dried out like old leather, and bones. His clothes was some tore up and all bloody. Pa, he stood there looking down at him a long time. 'Don't seem logical,' he said, at last. 'What's that, Pa'? 'Indians most usually take a body's clothes. They ain't taken nothin? from him.' 'His pockets is inside out.' 'I was seein? that, boy. It do make a body think.' He turned. 'Boy, you run out to the wagon an? git my shovel. We got a buryin? to see to.'
/ Louis L'Amour He stepped around the body and pushed wide the cabin door. That door had been half-'open, and Pa looked in like he feared what he might see, but like I said, there wasn't nothin? to fear. When I come in later I saw just what he saw. A bed with two sides nailed to the outside wall, a table, two chairs? .' .' . all mighty well made by a man with lovin? hands for wood. Pa always said you could tell a man who loved wood by the way things were fitted and dressed, nothing halfway, but smooth and nicely done. Pa couldn't do that sort of work himself, but he had admiration for it, and it made me feel like working at it until I was good. If fine work impressed Pa so much there must be something to it. 'I never had no craft, boy. I worked hard all my life but never had no craft. Just a few slights I picked up handling heavy things and the like. I do admire a man who does fine work. It is a plea'sure to look upon.' We taken that dead man out to the hill back of the house and we dug us a grave. When we'd dug it down, we laid that body in a blanket, covered it around him sweet an? neat, and then we lowered him easy into the ground and Pa said a few words from the Book. I never did know how Pa come to so much knowing of the Book, because I never did see him reading much in it. We filled in the grave an? Pa said, 'Come tomorrow we'll make him a marker.' 'How'll you know what to say? We ain't sure who he is.' 'No, we ain't. But they do call this the Chantry place, so I reckon his name must be that.' Pa stopped there, leaning on his shovel, like.
OVER ON THE DRY SIDE / 3 'What'll we do now, Pa? It's late to be startin? on.' 'This here's it, son. This place here. We ain't goin? no further. You know, son, I ain't been much of a success in my time. Fire burned me out back to home, and we lost everything. In Missouri the grasshoppers et it all up, and in Kansas it was hail. But you know, I never was much hand at pickin? land. 'Your grandpap, now he knowed land. He could look at what growed there, and he knew. He could ride over land at a gallop and tell you which was best, but me, I was a all-'fired smart youngster and no old man was going to tell me anything. I just knowed it all already. So I never learned. 'Son, I got to admit it. Ever? piece of land I picked was poor. Sure, we lost out to grasshoppers, hail, and the like, but those places never would have made it no way. 'Now this here? .' .' . some other man picked this. I heard talk of Chantrys and they were knowing folk. The man who built this house, he was a knowing man. He had a craft. So I reckon maybe he picked himself a right good piece of land. 'So this here is it. We just ain't a-goin? no farther.' We cleaned out the cabin. We mopped an? we dusted like a couple of women, but she was spic an? span when we finished. The shed and the stable were solid-'built, and there were good tools in the shed, leaning just like that dead man must have left them. Right close to the house was a spring, not more'n thirty feet away. Good cold water, too. Never tasted no better. There was a fieldstone wall around that spring, maybe eight, ten foot back from it, so a body could get water
/ Louis L'Amour and go back to the cabin, leaving himself open to fire only in front. Even that was partly protected by a swell of the ground. The cabin had a good field all around, and a corral joined the house to the barn. The horses had been run off, and what'ever other stock he might have had, but we pulled our wagon close and we unloaded. Not that I liked it much. Fact was, I didn't like it at all. Ever? time we stepped out of that cabin we stepped over where that dead man had lain. I never liked that. Pa said, 'Pay it no mind, son. That man would admire to see folks usin? what he built. No man with a craft builds to throw away. He builds to use, and to last, and it would be a shameful thing to leave it die here, all alone.' 'Ain't no neighbors, Pa.' 'We don't need neighbors right now. We need time an? hard work. If this here land's rich as I think, neighbors will come. Only when they do they'll find a fair piece of it staked out an? marked for we 'uns.' 'Maybe those Indians will come back.' He just looked at me. 'Boy, your pa ain't as smart as some, but I'm smart enough to know that Indians take the clothes off a dead man because they need 'em.' 'His clothes wasn't taken,' I said, wanting to argue with him. 'You bet. His clothes wasn't taken, but somethin? else was. You notice his pockets, boy'? 'They were inside out.' 'They surely were. Now, boy, somebody wanted what was in that man's pockets. Money and the like. Indians this part of the country don't set much store by money. They want goods. They want things. Ain't no money in them wigwams.'
OVER ON THE DRY SIDE / 5 'You mean, it wasn't Indians'? 'Seen no moccasin tracks, boy. But I seen boot tracks a-plenty. Those who killed that man weren't Indians. They was white men.' We were eatin? supper when Pa said that, and it give me a chill. If it wasn't no Indian, then we were in trouble, 'cause a man can tell an Indian. He can spot him right off. But a bad white man? How you goin? to tell until he's bad? I said as much. Pa, he just looked at me and said, 'Boy, you see strangers around, you come tell me, you hear? But you see 'em first, an? when you do you get clean out of sight.' Wasn't much time for thinkin? about things, because we worked. Seemed like Pa felt he owed something to the dead man, because he worked a sight harder than I ever seen him before. It was work from can see to cain't see, for Pa an? me. We mea'sured out four sections of land? .' .' . four square miles of it, field, forest, meadow, and stream. We had seed corn and some vegetable seeds. We planted forty acres to corn, and of an acre we made a vegetable garden. One reason we taken that corner because there was berries in it. But I never did forget that dead man. The stranger, when he came was alone. He was one man riding. He was a slim, tall man with a lean, dark face and high cheekbones. He wore a black store-'bought suit and a bandanna tied over his head like in the old pirate pictures. He had polished black boots, almighty dusty, and a fine black horse with a white and pink nose. He stopped afar off, and that was when I first seen
/ Louis L'Amour him. He stood in his saddle and shaded his eyes at us, seeing me first and then Pa, who was working with a hoe in the cornfield. 'Pa'? I said, just loud enough. 'All right, boy. I seen him.' Pa had his rifle in a scabbard set next to a bush close by. I seen him start to usin? his hoe over thataway, but this man on the black horse came right along, an? when I looked again I seen he was leading a spare? .' .' . a pack? horse. I guess it had been hidden behind him before, and I'd missed seeing it. He come on toward the house settin? easy in the saddle, and then I seen he carried a rifle in a scabbard, too. Close to his hand. From under his coat I could see the tip end of a holster. Pa wasn't far from the house but he moved over to stand where his rifle was, and he waited there. The man rode up, and called out, 'Is it all right to get a drink? We've come far and we're almighty thirsty.' Pa taken up his rifle and walked toward the house, leaving the hoe where the rifle had been. 'He'p yourself,' Pa said. 'It's a dusty road you've traveled.' The man's features relaxed a little, almost like he was going to smile, only I thought he didn't smile very much, by the look of him. 'Yes, it is. Most of my roads are dusty, it seems like.' He glanced around. 'Is this the Chantry place'? 'They call it that.' 'Are you a Chantry'? 'No. I'm not. We found the place deserted. Found a dead man on the doorstep. We buried the man, and we moved in. Seemed too fine a place to lay idle.' Pa paused a moment, and then he said, 'Even if the
OVER ON THE DRY SIDE / 7 land weren't so good, I'd have hesitated to go on. That man Chantry, if he was the one built this place, had a feelin? for good work. I just couldn't bear to see it left run down.' The man looked at Pa a long minute. 'I like that,' he said then, 'I think Chantry would want you here.' He drank from our gourd dipper. The water was cold an? sweet. We both knew how welcome that kind of water was to a long-'ridin? man. Pa taken to him. I seen that right off. There was somethin? lonely and standoffish about that man, yet there was warmth in 'im, too. Like he had a lot of friendship in him that hadn't been used. 'Might's well stay the night,' Pa said. 'It's a fur piece to anywhere from here. Beyond, there's the wild country.' 'Well,' the man hesitated. 'My horses could stand the rest. Thank you, and we will.' 'You he'p him, boy,' Pa said. 'I'll start some bacon in the pan.' We went to the stable. I always liked that stable. In the hottest weather it was always shadowy and cool. The walls was thick, the roof was high, and there was a loft in one end for the hay we'd mow come autumn time. I like the smell of fresh-'mowed hay, of horses and harness, saddles and such. 'You got some fine horses, mister,' I said. He nodded, putting a gentle hand on the black's shoulder. 'Yes, I have. You can always put your trust in a good horse, son. Treat them right and they'll always stay by you.' We took the rig from his riding horse and then from the buckskin pack'horse. It was a heavy load'lots of
/ Louis L'Amour grub and a blanket roll. From the feel of the blanket roll I near 'bout decided he had another rifle or a shotgun hidden there.' .' .' . One or t'other. Then he commenced to work on his horses. He taken out a currycomb and he done a good job, first one, then the other. 'Been here long, son'? 'Got here early spring. We put in a crop soon as we cleaned up.' 'Cleaned up? Was the place a mess'? 'Nossir. It was in mighty good shape, 'cept dusty and all. Course, it was tore up a mite inside by them men searchin'.' 'Searching'? 'Them men that killed him. They tore things up like they was huntin? for somethin'.' I paused, not sure how much I should say. 'Pa don't think it was Indians.' 'No'? 'That dead man? .' .' . his clothes wasn't took, and his pockets was turned inside out. Pa says Indians would take his clothes? .' .' . an? maybe burned the place.' 'Your pa is right.' He paused, his hands resting on the horse's back. 'I like your pa, son. He seems like a right-'thinking man. And I think he's correct. Chantry would have wanted a man like him on the place.' Then he taken his saddlebags and rifle, an? we walked to the house with the smell of wood smoke and bacon frying. He paused there on the stoop, and looked out an? around. You could see a far piece from the door, 'cross meadows and past stands of timber. It was a pretty view, and the man just stood there, lookin? at the rose color in the clouds where the sun was leaving a memory on the sky.
OVER ON THE DRY SIDE / 9 'Yes,' he said, 'this would be the place. This was what he would have wanted.' The floor inside was clean-'swept and mopped. He glanced about, and I could see approval in his eyes. Pa saw it, too. 'I never had much,' he said, 'but I've got sense enough to know that a place doesn't stay nice without you keep it so. It takes a deal of work to build a place, and a deal of work to keep it up.' The food was good, and Pa always made a good cup of coffee. I knew that from what folks said, for Pa never let me have coffee 'cept a couple times on mighty cold mornin's. 'Too bad about that dead man,' the stranger suddenly said. 'Anybody know who he was'? 'I ain't been to town but once't and never talked to nobody 'bout it more'n to just report I'd found a body and buried it. I guess nobody knew Chantry well, or much about his place. 'There ain't no sheriff. Just a marshal, and he pays no mind to nothin? outside the town. I 'spect the dead man was the Chantry the place was named for, but I got no way of knowin'. There wasn't nothin? in his pockets.' 'Nothing inside the house either'? 'Only books. A lot of them books, thirty or forty. Never look at 'em m'self. I don't find much time for readin', nor the boy, either. Though he seems to have a leanin? toward it? .' .' . like his ma. She was a reader.' Pa hesitated, then said quietly, 'My wife's friends figured she married beneath her. That was one reason we come on west. Only she never made it. She died in Westport of the cholera.' 'Was there anything else of his''
10 / Louis L'Amour 'In that desk yonder. There's papers and things. They was scattered all over when we come in the place. Dust over the papers. Some blood.' Pa paused. 'Y'know, mister, I never said this even to my son, but I b'lieve there was somebody here with Chantry. Somebody who either went away with whoever come and killed him. Or who was taken away or maybe left before his killer come.' The stranger looked at Pa. 'You are an observing man.' Pa shrugged his thin shoulders and refilled the stranger's cup. 'See that alcove yonder? With the bed in it? Well, there was another bed in t'other room, and that alcove had a curtain before it. 'The curtain was tore down when we come, but it ain't likely there'd be a curtain lest there was a woman in the house. I figger that woman either run away or was took away, and if she run away I figger she'd come back to bury her man.' 'So the mystery deepens,' the stranger smiled, showing even white teeth under his black mustache. 'You've done some thinking.' 'I have. There's a deal of time for it, with the work and all to keep a man's hands busy. But not his mind. It's by way of protection, too, for there's two ways to think if they were white men. Either they come to rob him of what he had, and robbed him, or they come lookin'. For something else. 'Now if they came lookin? for something else and didn't find it, they'll be comin? back.' Pa glanced at me. 'I think the boy's been thinkin? of that, and it worries him.'
OVER ON THE DRY SIDE / 11 'It is a thing to consider,' the stranger said. 'I think your son is wise.' 'It ain't only them,' I burst out of a sudden. 'It's her!' 'Her'? The stranger looked at me. 'That girl? .' .' . that? .' .' . woman! If she comes back, this place is hers. All Pa's work'll be for nothin'.' 'If she returns,' the stranger replied, 'I think she would be pleased that her friend had been buried and the place cared for. I should believe she would be very grateful, indeed. 'I cannot presume to speak for her, but stay on without fear and, if she returns, you will find you have lost nothing and perhaps gained much.' 'They didn't get her,' I said then. 'She got away.' Pa looked at me, surprised. The stranger stopped with his fork halfway to his mouth. Slowly, he lowered it. 'How can you know that'? 'I seen tracks out back. They were old tracks, but a body could read 'em. Somebody came up, ridin? easy? .' .' . cantering. Of a sudden that horse was pulled up awful sharp, his hoofs dug in an? he reared, then that horse turned in his own tracks and took off like lightnin? for the hills.' 'Did you see any other tracks'? 'Yessir. They taken out after her. There was two, three of 'em? .' .' . maybe four. But she had a good horse an? a good lead.' 'They still might have caught her.' 'They never done it. She got into them hills, and she knowed them hills like her own hands. She? .' .' .' 'How d'you know that'? Pa said. 'The way she taken to them hills, no stoppin', no
12 / Louis L'Amour hesitatin? like. She rode right into them hills and she got to the little valley yonder an? when she got there she drove a bunch of cattle'? 'What cattle'? Pa said. 'I ain't seen no cattle!' 'There's cattle,' I insisted. 'She drove 'em up and then she started 'em back the way they come, wiping out her trail. Then she went into soft sand where she wouldn't leave no tracks.' 'Still, they might have found her.' 'Nossir, they didn't. They followed her into them hills, but they lost her trail under the hoofs of them cattle, like she figured they would. They hunted a long time, then they come back.' 'Are those tracks still there'? 'Nossir. There ain't no tracks of any kind. On'y rains before that was soft and gentle, not enough to wipe out good tracks.' 'Doby,' Pa never called me by name an awful lot, so he was almighty serious, 'Doby, why didn't you ever tell me'? I could feel my neck gettin? red. 'Pa, you was so set on this place. You takin? to it like no other an? all. An? me, I liked it, too. I was afeared if you knowed you might pull out an? leave. You might just give up an? we'd be ridin? the wagon agin, goin? nowhere much. I want to stay, Pa. I want to stay right here. I want to see our work come to somethin', an? I want a place I know is home.' 'Stay on,' the stranger said. 'I think I can safely say it will be all right.' 'But how'? Pa asked. 'How can anybody'? 'I can,' the stranger said, 'I can say it. My name is Chantry. The dead man you buried was my brother.' Well, we just looked at him. Pa was surprised, and
OVER ON THE DRY SIDE / 13 maybe I was, too, a little. I'd had a funny feelin? all along, only mostly I was afraid he was one of them. 'Even so,' Pa said, 'what about his daughter? An? his wife or whoever she was? Don't she have first claim'? 'That's just it,' Chantry said quietly, 'my brother was a widower, with neither wife nor child. He was a lot older than me. If there was a woman, then I have no idea who she was or what she was doing here.'
CHAPTER 2 PtoCUT A HIMSELF a piece of work when he decided farm that place, and it taken some doing for the two of us. And from time to time I headed for them hills, Pa liking fresh meat and there being no game close by 'cept an occasional deer in the meadow. Come daybreak, it bein? Sunday, I taken Pa's old rifle and saddled up the dapple. Saying nothing to Pa or Chantry, I just taken off. They were low, rolling hills that broke into sharp bluffs, kind of a bench, and then the high-'up mountains lyin? behind 'em. So far, I'd never been so far as the mountains, but there they lay, a-waitin? for me. They knew and I knew that one day I'd ride those trails. Right now I had me an idea, and huntin? meat was second to that. Because that girl or woman, or whichever she was, headed right into them hills like she knew where she was going, and neither me nor them other folks found her. Least, I didn't believe they had. For certain, they never found her that first day. If she knew where she was goin', it stood to reason she'd rode the hills before, many times maybe, and if there was any kind of a hideout, she'd know where it was. It wasn't worryin? me much who she was. She'd either been close by when the killin? took place, or she knew
OVER ON THE DRY SIDE / 15 somethin? about it. She surely didn't waste any time askin? questions when the shootin? started. By now any sign she left would be washed away, 'less she was still back yonder and had cut a fresh sign for somebody to follow. Any way you looked at it, she was headin? for some place and I wanted to find out where. What'ever it was, or wherever she was, she figured she'd be safe when she got there. Or that's how it looked to me. It was cool an? pleasant. My horse had a liking for far-'flung trails as well as me, and he pointed for the hills like he already known where he was going. The grass was bound to be thick up yonder, and the water cold and fresh. I never had but just the rifle. I'd always wanted me one of them pistols, but we never had the money for it. I had me a rifle and it was a good one too'a Henry. I also carried me a bowie a man could shave with, it was that sharp. The dapple pointed us into a fold of the hills, climbed a little bit, and we topped out on a grass knoll with the wind stirring his mane and all the world spread out before and behind. The ranch land lay spread behind me, but I wasn't looking back. I was sixteen years old, and somewhere in the mountains there was a girl. Now in all my sixteen years I never stood up right close to not more than three or four girls of her age, and ever? single time I was ? skeered. They just look like they knowed it all, and I didn't know nothin'. That woman who rode off on that horse might be fourteen, forty, or ninety-'three for all I knew, but in my mind's eye she was young, gold-'haired, and pretty. She was every
16 / Louis L'Amour princess I'd ever heard stories about, and I was goin? to meet her. For three, four years now I'd been rescuing beautiful girls from Indians, bears, and buffaloes. In my dreams. But it never got down to where I had to talk to 'em. I kind of fought shy of that, even in my dreams, for I had no notion what you said to a girl. Settin? there lookin? at the mountains I kind of sized 'em up. Now mountains just ain't all that easy to ride through or cross over. There has to be ways, and if you give study to a situation you can surely come up with one of the ways. Looked to me like I saw a faint trail goin? up through the grass along the slope of a certain hill, so I taken a chance and moved out and that dapple taken that trail and held to it. I thought the trail seemed to peter out, but not for the dapple. He seen or smelled it, and just kept a-goin? and we dipped down off that slope across a meadow so green it hurt your eyes, and then across a rough and randy little mountain stream that boiled along over the rocks like it was going somewhere a-purpose, and then into the trees. We skirted the aspens, and I seen an elk. It was a bull elk, maybe half-'grown, and fat as a tick. That was meat for a coupla weeks plus jerked meat for winter, and my rifle came halfway up before I stopped it. That shot would go echoing off up that canyon and warn anybody, friend or enemy, that I was on my way. Unhappy and feeling bad, I let that elk go. But it was too soon to shoot. I had a sight of country to see before I started telling ever'body I was there. At the edge of the aspen stand, I drew up the dapple
OVER ON THE DRY SIDE / 17 and sat and listened. The elk kinda moved off, paying me no mind. I let him walk away, then looked up at the great swell of the mountain. It was rounded green, with a battalion of aspens marching down the slope in a solid rank 'til it came to a halt. Like a troop of soldiers. From there on, it was only grass with a few dips and hollers here and there with tufts of brush showing. That trail I was following, or one kin to it, made just a little thread across that slope. Now trails in the mountains can be game trails, but you usually don't see them from afar unless a body is above 'em. Trails can also be Indian trails, or they can be where some prospector has staked him a claim? .' .' . or maybe even built him a cabin. Chantry had said his brother had no wife nor daughter. Who, then, could that mysterious girl or woman be? She might be some woman Chantry taken up with. Or just somebody he'd met or found who needed help. The dapple walked along easy-'like. We dipped down into a draw, waded a branch, and had started up the opposite slope through the aspen when all of a sudden there were two men setting their horses right slam in front of me, barring the trail. One of them was a stocky, barrel-'chested man with a broad, hard face and tiny eyes. The other man was much like him, only a mite bigger. 'Where d'you think you're going'? the smaller one asked me. 'Huntin? meat,' I said, kind of careless-'like. 'Figgered I might scare up a elk.' 'This here trail's closed, boy,' the other man said. 'We got us a claim back yonder. We wouldn't want to get hit
18 / Louis L'Amour by no stray bullets. So you just hunt down below or off to the other direction.' A grin broke his hard face like somebody had cracked a rock. 'Why, somebody was to shoot up here we might take it wrong. We might just figure he was a-shootin? at us an? shoot back. You wouldn't like that, now would you, boy'? He wasn't runnin? no bluff on me. I didn't cotton to him, nohow, and didn't believe he had a claim back yonder. 'Nossir,' I said, 'I wouldn't like that. I wouldn't want nobody thinkin? I actually shot at 'im an? missed. Thing like that,' I said, 'can ruin a man's reputation.' Well, they just looked at me. They'd took me for some kid they could scare, not dry behind the ears, but I never was much of a one to scare. Back yonder to home I'd heard a fussin? in the pigpen one night when Pa was gone, and I'd taken down his shotgun loaded with buckshot an? gone with a lantern to see what for. Well, I opened the door of the pigshed an? they was all backed into a corner with a full-'growed cougar lookin? 'em straight in the eye. When that door opened he turned on me, ears back an? tail a-lashin'. Now nobody in his right mind corners a cougar, 'cause cornered they'll fight. But I wasn't of no mind to let that cougar make a bait of one of our pigs, so I ups with the shotgun and let him have a blast just as he leapt at me. That cougar knocked me a-rollin', tail over teakettle back out the door, an? my head smacked up agin a rock and laid me out cold. But when Pa got home I had me a cougar skinned and the hide nailed up to dry out on the outside cabin wall. 'Look, kid,' the bigger man said. 'You're a mite sassy
OVER ON THE DRY SIDE / 19 for a boy your size. Somebody'll take you off that horse an? give you a whuppin', if you don't watch out.' 'Mebbe,' I said. 'But he'd be doin? it with a chunk of lead in his belly. An? if there was two of them, two chunks of lead. 'This here's a free country, wide open for all, and if you're worried about gettin? shot at, you just high-'tail it back to your claim, because I reckon I could see a claim and men workin? and I'd put no bullet near 'em? .' .' . 'less they asked for it. 'I come up this mountain for meat, an? when I go back down, I'll have it.' I had that Henry right across my saddle. Both men was pistol-'armed and one of them had a rifle in his boot, but it was in the boot and them handguns was in their holsters. My Henry was lookin? right at them. 'You get your meat,' the stocky one said again. 'But make sure you stay shy of this mountainside or you'll get all the shootin? you want and then some.' They turned their horses then and went back up the trail, and soon as they were out of sight, I reined my dapple over and whisked through the trees, myself. No tellin? when they might try to circle around an? take a shot at me. Followin? that trail that day didn't look like good business, so I angled off through the trees, just getting myself out of harm's way. I wasn't no way eager for a shootin? over anything like that, but I didn't figure to back up, neither. So I worked my way up a slope, turned north and then west with the lay of the land and the trees, and suddenly I come out atop a mesa, riding down amongst some all-'fired big ponderosas, scattered spruce and aspen.
20 / Louis L'Amour Coming down through some big old trees I come upon a cabin. It set on a slab of solid rock with a big wide view of the whole country spread out in front. A body could see the Sleeping Ute, the great juttin? prow of Mesa Verde, and way afar off, the Abajo and La Sal mountains of Utah. Some trees growin? on the edge of the cliff kind of screened the cabin off, but a man with a good glass could of picked up ridin? men some distance away. The builder had cut grooves in the solid rock and put in fitted squared-'off timbers that were nigh two-'foot through. They'd been fitted like they'd growed that way, and the roof was strongly built and solid. I knocked on the door, expectin? no answer, and none came. So I lifted the latch and stepped in. I got a surprise. The place was empty. But the floor was swept clean, the hearth dusted, and everything spic an? span. There was a faint smell in the room that wasn't the smell of a closed-'up place. It was a fresh, woodsy smell. And then I seen on a shelf behind me a pot with flowers in it and some sprigs of juniper. The flowers wasn't two days old, and when I looked in the pot there was water for 'em. There was no bedding. There were no clothes hung on the pegs along the wall, and no dishes for cookin? 'cept for a coffeepot. Outside, there was a bench by the door, and the grass below it looked like somebody had been settin? there, time to time. That somebody could see our ranch right easy. It was miles away but the air was mountain clear, and you could see the ranch plain as day. By now I was three miles or more from where I'd come
OVER ON THE DRY SIDE / 21 up against the two trouble-'hunters, and I'd followed no trail to get here. Yet I knew there must be a trail. Maybe more than one. I scouted around the place, around the clearing. Now nobody ever said I couldn't read sign, and by the time I'd finished and set down on that bench I knowed a thing or two. It was a girl or woman who come here, and she didn't come often, but when she did she set awhile. I found no tracks but hers? .' .' . not even horse tracks. She must have come by horse. She'd likely left it back in the brush somewheres. This was a deserted, lonely place, and it looked to me like the girl who come here liked to be alone. Was it the selfsame girl who'd been to Chantry's place? I had me a feelin? it was. From here she could see the Chantry place clear. Maybe, when she came here, she watched and got curious to see who was living on the Chantry place. Maybe. Whoever built this cabin had known what he was doin', anyway. The land sloped gently away in front of the cabin for a hundred yards, and where the grass ended against the trees there were some tall old pines that make it unlikely anybody could see the cabin from way down below, even with powerful glasses. There was water. And beyond the pines the mountain fell clean away down through timber where no horse could go, nor a man climb up without a good struggle. Behind, there was forest that swelled up into the mountain. A trail could lead off somewhere right or left of that swell. Suddenly I had me a idea. That woman had cleared up this place and left flowers. She liked the place and she
22 / Louis L'Amour liked it neat. I figgered to let her know somebody was about who liked what she had done. Who liked what she liked. Under one eave of the house I found a small Indian pot. I taken it, rinsed it good, and half-'filled it with water. Then I went down the slope and picked some flowers and put them in the water. This I left on the table where she'd be sure to see it. Then I scouted for a trail to go back down and found one. It was a faint trail, but it had seen some use, time to time. First off, I looked for sign. What'ever there was seemed to be maybe a week old. I followed along, studying tracks. It was a horse that weighed no more than eight hundred pound, but with a nice, even pace. And the woman who rode that horse was small, 'cause I saw the hoof tracks when the horse was unmounted and after, and her weight didn't make hardly a single bit of difference. Now I knew that trail led somewhere, and I had me a idea it led right to where those two men had come from, who braced me on the trail. So once I spotted the direction the trail taken, I moved into the timber and hightailed it for the Chantry place. To home. Pa was out near the barn and he looked up when I come in. 'First time you ever come home without meat, boy. What's the matter? Didn't you see nothin''? 'Never got a good shot,' I said. 'Next time it'll be different.' 'We got to have meat, son. I'll take a walk down the meadow, come sundown. Sometimes there's a deer feedin? down thataway.' Chantry come out on the steps. He threw me a quick, hard look. He'd dusted off his black suit and polished his
OVER ON THE DRY SIDE / 23 boots with a rag. He stood there on the steps, looking toward the mountains while I filled a bucket of water for the house. We all kept busy for a while, even Chantry, with his thoughts. It was coming up to sundown now, and when Pa took his rifle and started off, Chantry just stood there watching him go. 'He's a good man, your father is,' he said. 'A real good man.' 'Yessir. We've had us some hard luck.' 'This is rough country,' Chantry replied. 'I like what he's doing here.' 'He just plain fell in love with the place.' .' .' . All the work that somebody else had done. He couldn't just go off an? leave it be.' 'I know.' Chantry looked at me again. 'Now, boy, tell me what you saw today.' 'What I saw? I? .' .' .' Well, I started to lie, but he was looking right straight into my eyes and smiling a lit? tle, and suddenly I didn't want to lie to him. So I told him the whole business from the start. Leaving out the flowers. 'You think she and those men came from the same outfit'? 'There ain't too many outfits around I know of. I think maybe it's the same outfit. She bein? a woman.' .' .' . Maybe she's got different feelings.' 'That might be the reason. And sometimes an honest person gets roped into a setup they don't rightly know how to get clear of. What about that cabin? Anything strike you odd about it'? 'Yessir. I believe it was built by the same man who built this. The same kind of work.' .' .' . Only that place up there is older. I think maybe he lived up there first and
24 / Louis L'Amour kept lookin? down on this flat country and decided to come down here and settle.' 'Might be right. Or maybe he just wanted two homes. One up high, one down below.' He looked at me again. 'What's your name, boy'? 'Doban Kernohan. They call me Doby.' 'Irish.' .' .' . Well, we come of the same stock, Doby. I'm Irish, too.' .' .' . Mostly Irish. My family left the old country a long time ago, and an ancestor of mine went to Newfoundland, then to the Gasp? Peninsula. From there to here, it's a long story.' 'You got a first name, mister'? 'Owen. A name that is sometimes Irish, and sometimes Welsh, they tell me. Well, there's been a sight of changing of names, Doby, especially among the Irish. 'There was a time long ago when Irishmen were ordered by law to take an En'glish name, and around about 1465, a time later, all those in four counties were to take the name of a town, a color, or a skill. Such as Sutton, Chester, Cork, or Kinsale for the town. Or the colors? any one they'd happen to choose. Or a trade, such as carpenter, smith, cook, or butler, to name just a few. 'And some of the Irish changed their names because there was a move against us. Many in my family were killed, and when my great-'grandfather escaped to En? gland he was advised never to tell his true name, but to take another? .' .' . or he'd be hunted down. So he took the name Chantry, although how he came by it I do not know, unless he happened to see and like the name, invented it, or took it from some man he admired. In any event, the name has served us well, and we, I trust, have brought it no dishonor.' 'I know little Irish history,' I said.
OVER ON THE DRY SIDE / 25 'That's likely, Doby, but the thing to remember is that this is your country now. It's well to know about the land from which you came. There's pride in a heritage, but it's here you live. This is the land that gives you bread. 'Yet it's a good thing to know the ways of the old countries, too, and there's no shame in remembering. There's some as would have it a disgrace to be Irish.' .' .' . You'll find places in eastern cities where they'll hire no man with an Irish look or an Irish name. A good many of those who come here are poor when they land, and nobody knows what lays behind them. 'Some are from families among the noblest on earth, and there's many another who's put a 'Mac? or an 'O? to his name to which he's not entitled. But a man is what he makes himself, no matter what the blood or barony that lays behind him.' 'What was your family name, Mr. Chantry, sir'? 'We'll not be talking of that, Doby. Three hundred years gone by and every child of the family has known the name. But not one has spoken it aloud. And so we shall not. Chantry is the name we've taken, and Chantry is the name we'll keep.' 'Did you come here to claim your brother's ranch? Pa says it's yours by right.' 'No, lad, I came not for that. There was another thought in my mind, though t'was my brother I wished to see. The ranch will be your Pa's and after him yours? but only to keep, and not to sell. I'll make a deed that way.' .' .' . But I'll want living quarters here when I pass by, and I think I'll claim the cabin up there the mountains are holding for me.' Something in my face drew his notice, for I was right
26 / Louis L'Amour worried, thinking of the girl. 'What is it, boy? What's troubling you'? he asked. 'It's just the girl? .' .' . the woman, sir. I believe she likes the mountain place. I believe she goes there to be alone. She left some flowers there? .' .' .' I said. 'If she loves the place she can come when she wills, but give it up, I'll not.' Owen tapped his breast pocket. 'I've a deed here to all the land you've claimed and more. Even the slope of the mountain is mine, and a bit beyond it, here and there. 'Four sections your father has claimed, and those four sections he can have. There's thirty more I'll keep for myself, for I've a love for this western land, and here I may stop one day after I've done some things that need doing.' It was the most I'd heard him talk, and the most he did talk for many another day. AT DAYBREAK MY eyes opened to hear the echo of a rifle, and I came bolt upright and scared. Pa was puttin? on his pants and reaching for his gun. But we couldn't see aught. Only that Chantry was gone and his horse was gone, too. But an hour later when he came in he had some nice cuts of venison wrapped in its own hide. 'Here's some meat,' he said. 'I'll not be a drone, Kernohan.' Chantry did his share of the woodcuttin? too, and he was a better than fair hand with an ax, cuttin? clean and sure and wasting no effort. Yet he stayed close to the house, spending most of his time on the porch with his glass in his hand to study the rise of the mountains. Once I asked if I could look through it. 'Yes,' he said,
OVER ON THE DRY SIDE / 27 'but handle it gentle. There's not its like in the world, I'm thinking. It was made some time ago by a man in a country far from here. He was the greatest master of his craft, and the lenses of this scope he ground himself.' It was astonishing the way the mountains leaped up at you. Far away as we were, you could almost reach out and touch the trees. I could even make out the cabin behind its trees, the bench at the door. Was it that he was watching? I felt a pang of jealousy, then. Was he watching for her'
CHAPTER 3 IheWAS T LONELY country. When Chantry come along brought some news. We'd heard nothing of what went on. Here and there a prospector worked in the hills, but they were shy of Indians and so kept out of sight, just comin? and goin? on the run. South of us, in New Mexico, folks had told us there wasn't no white men at all, that those who come before us had just gone on through or left their hair in some Indian's wickiup. Some had come, all right, as we had, but they'd not stayed and there was no record of their comings and goings. Pa found a rusted Patterson Colt once, down on a wash to the south of us. An? a couple of bones an? a few metal buttons, all that was left to show for somebody who tried to move into that country. But there was Indians a-plenty, though a body saw mighty few of 'em. There were Utes to the north and around us, Navajos to the west and south, and Apaches east. Some friendly, some almighty mean and evil. Some just plain standoffish, wantin? to stay to themselves and not be bothered. Well, we didn't aim to bother them none. 'I never give 'em much thought,' Pa said. 'No more'n I would a white stranger. They're folks. They got their ways, we got ours. If we cross, we'll talk it over or fight, whichever way they want it to be.'
OVER ON THE DRY SIDE / 29 Chantry agreed. 'You can't talk about all Indians the same way, boy. Any time a man comes along and says 'Indians? or 'Mexicans? or 'En'glishmen? he's bound to be wrong. Each man is a person unto himself, and you'll find good, bad, and indifferent wherever you go.' Didn't seem to me that Owen Chantry was taking any chances, though. When he put his pants on in the morning he also put on his gun belt and his gun. Most men put their hat on first. He put on that gun belt 'fore he drew on his boots. 'You figurin? on trouble'? I asked him once. He threw me a hard look. 'Boy,' he said, 'when a man comes at me shooting I figure he wants a fight. I surely wouldn't want him to go away disappointed. 'I don't want trouble or expect trouble, but I don't want to be found dead because I was optimistic. I'll wear the gun, use my own good judgment, be careful of what I say, and perhaps there won't be trouble.' He still didn't tell us why he'd come to start with, and it was a question you didn't ask. He was more than welcome. In them days you could ride a hundred miles in any direction and not see a soul. Once Chantry got started he was a natural-'born story'teller. Of a nighttime, when the fire burned down on the hearth and the shadows made witches on the walls. He'd been a sight of places and he'd read the stories of ancient times, the old stories of Ireland, of the sea and some folks called the Trojans who lived somewheres beyond the mountains and did a lot of fighting with the Greeks over a woman. And stories of Richard the Lion-? Hearted, who was a great fighter but a poor king. An? stories of Jean Ango, whose ships had been to America before Columbus. And of Ben Jonson, a poet,
30 / Louis L'Amour who could lift a cask of canary wine over his head and drink from the bunghole. He told of Gessar Khan, stories that happened in the black tents of nomads in haunted deserts on the flanks of a land called Tibet. An? so our world became a bigger place. He had him a way with words, did Owen Chantry, but he was a hard man, and dangerous. We found that out on the cold, still morning when the strangers come down the hills. I'd gone to put hay down the chutes to the mangers for the stock, an? I was in the loft with a hayfork when they come. Pa was in the yard, puttin? a harness on the mules for the plowing. They come ridin? up the trail, five rough men ridin? in one tight bunch, astride better horses than we could afford, and carryin? their guns. They drew up at the gate. And one of the men outs with his rope, tosses a noose over the gatepost, and starts to pull it down. 'Hey!' Pa yelled. 'What d'you think you're doin'? Leave that be!' 'We're tearin? it down so you'll have less to leave behind. When you go.' The speaker was a big brawny man with a gray hat. 'We're not goin? nowhere,' Pa said quietly. He dropped the harness where he stood and faced them. 'We come to stay.' The two men I'd met on the trail were in the bunch, but my rifle was inside the house. Pa's was too. We might just as well have had no weapons for the good they could do us now. 'You're goin',' the brawny man said. 'You're ridin'
OVER ON THE DRY SIDE / 31 out of here before sundown, and we'll burn this here place so nobody else will come back.' 'Burn it? This fine house, built by a man with skill? You'd burn it'? 'We'll burn any house and you in it if you don't leave. We didn't invite you here.' 'This here is open land,' Pa said. 'I'm only the first. There'll be many more along this way 'fore long.' 'There'll be nobody. Now I'm through talkin'. I want you out of here.' He looked around. 'Where's that loud-? mouthed boy of yours? One of my men wants to give him a whippin'.' I'd dropped from the loft and stood just inside the barn. 'I'm here, and your man ain't goin? to give me any kind of a whippin'? .' .' .' not if it's a fair fight.' 'It'll be a fair fight.' The words come from the steps, and we all looked. Owen Chantry stood there in his black pants, his polished boots, a white shirt, and a black string tie. 'Who in hell are you'? The brawny man was angry some, but not too worried. 'The name is Owen Chantry,' he replied quietly. The stocky man I'd met on the trail got down from his horse and come forward. He stood there, a-waitin? the outcome. 'Means nothing to me,' the brawny man said. 'It will,' Chantry said. 'Now take your rope off that post.' 'Like hell I will!' It was the man with the rope who shouted at him. In the year of 1866, the fast draw was an unheard of thing out west of the Rockies. In Texas (so Chantry told
32 / Louis L'Amour me later), Cullen Baker and Bill Longley had been usin? it, but that was about the extent of it 'til that moment. Nobody saw him move, but we all heard the gun. And we seen that man with the rope drop it like something burned him, and something had. The rope lay on the ground and that man was shy two fingers. I don't know whether Chantry aimed for two fingers, one finger, or his whole hand, but two fingers was what he got. Then Owen Chantry come one foot down the steps and then the other. He stood there, his polished boots a-shinin? and that gun in his hand. First time I'd ever seen that gun out'n the scabbard. 'The name,' he said, 'is Owen Chantry. My brother lived on this place. He was killed. These folks are living here now, and they're going to stay. 'I, too, am going to stay, and if you have among you the men who killed my brother, your only chance to live is to hang them. You have two weeks in which to find and hang those men.' .' .' . Two weeks.' 'You're slick with that gun,' the brawny man said, 'but we'll be back.' Owen Chantry come down another step, and then another. A stir of wind caught the hair on his brow and ruffled it a mite and flattened the fine material of his white shirt against the muscles of his arms and shoulders. 'Why come back, Mr. Fenelon'? Chantry said pleasantly. 'You're here now.' 'You know my name'? 'Of course. And a good deal more about you, none of it good. You may have run away from your sins, Mr.
OVER ON THE DRY SIDE / 33 Fenelon, but you can't escape the memory of them.' .' .' . Others have the same memories.' Chantry walked out a step toward him, still with that gun in his hand. 'You're here already, Mr. Fenelon. Would you like to choose your weapon'? 'I can wait,' Fenelon said. He was staring at Chantry, hard-'eyed, but wary. He didn't like nothin? he saw. 'And you'? Chantry looked at the stocky man who was settin? to whip me. 'Can you wait too'? 'No, by the Lord, I can't! I come to slap some sense into that young'un, and I aim to do it!' Chantry never moved his eyes from them. 'Doby, do you want to take care of this chore right now, or would you rather wait'? 'I'll take him right now,' I said, and I walked out there and he come for me, low an? hard. My pa come from the old country as a boy and settled in Boston, where there was a lot of Irish and some good fightin? men amongst 'em. He learned fightin? there, and when I was growing up he taught me a thing or two. Pa was no great fightin? man, but he was a good teacher. He taught me something about fighting and something about Cornish-'style wrestling. There were a lot of Cousin Jacks in the mines, then as ever, and Pa was quick to see and learn. But he was a teacher, not a fighter. Me, I started scrappin? the minute they took off my diapers. Most of us did, them days. Here I was sixteen, with plenty of years already spent on an ax handle, a plow, and a pick and shovel. So when he come at me, low and hard like that, I just braced myself, dropped both hands to the back of his head, and shoved down hard with them.
34 / Louis L'Amour I was thoughtful to jerk my knee up hard at the same time. There's something about them two motions together that's right bad for the complexion and the shape of a nose. He staggered back, almost went down on his knees, and then come up. And when he did his nose was a bloody smear. He had grit, I'll give him that. He come for me again and I fetched him a swing and my fist clobbered him right on the smashed-'up nose. He come in, flailing away at me with both fists, and he could hit almighty hard. He slammed me first with one fist and then with the other, but I stood in there and taken 'em and clobbered him again, this time in the belly. He stood flatfooted then, fightin? for wind, so I just sort of set myself and swung a couple from the hip. One of them missed as he pulled back, but the other taken him on his ear and his hands come up so I belted him again in the belly. He taken a step back and my next swing turned him halfway round and he went down to his knees. 'That's enough, Doby,' Chantry said. 'Let him go.' So I stepped back, but watchin? him. Fact is, I was scared. I might have got my ears pinned back, tacklin? him thataway? .' .' . Only he made me mad, there by the road. 'Now, gentlemen,' Chantry said, 'I believe you understand the situation. We are not looking for trouble here. These good people only wish to live, to work the ranch, to live quietly. 'As for myself, I've told you what I expect. I know either you or someone you know killed my brother. I'll
OVER ON THE DRY SIDE / 35 leave it to you. Hang them, or I shall hang you.' .' .' . One by one. 'Now you may go. Quietly, if you please.' And they rode away, the stocky one lagging behind, dabbing at his nose and mouth with a sleeve. First one, then the other. Pa looked at me in astonishment. 'Doby, I didn't know you could fight like that!' I looked back at him, kind of embarrassed. 'I didn't either, Pa. He just gimme it to do.' Suppertime, watching the clouds hanging around the highup mountains, I thought of that girl and wondered what she was to them and would anything happen when they rode home. 'You don't really b'lieve they'll hang their own men, do you'? Pa asked. 'Not right away,' Chantry said quietly. 'Not right away.' We looked at him, but if he knew it he gave no sign, and I wondered just how much he believed what he said. 'You'd really hang 'em'? Pa asked him then. Owen Chantry didn't reply for a minute, and when he did he spoke low. 'This is new country, and there are few white men here. If there is to be civilization, if people are to live and make their homes here, there must be law. 'People often think of the law as restrictions, but it needn't be, unless it's carried to extremes. Laws can give us freedom, because they offer security from the cruel, the brutal, and the thieves of property. 'In every community'even in the wildest gangs and bands of outlaws'there is some kind of law, if only the fear of the leader. There has to be law, or there can be no growth, no security.
36 / Louis L'Amour 'Here there is no established law yet. We have no marshal, no sheriff, no judge. And until such things exist, the evil must be restrained. A man has been murdered, you have been warned to leave. 'This country needs men like you. You may not think of yourselves as such, but you are the forerunners of a civilization. Where you are, others will come.' 'And how about you, Mr. Chantry'? I asked. He smiled, with genuine warmth. 'Doby, you've asked the key question. How about me? I am a man who's good with a gun. I'll be needed until there are enough people, and when there are enough, I shall be outmoded. 'I do not recall any other time in history when men like me existed. Usually it was a baron or a chief who brought peace to an area, but in this country it is often just a man with a gun.' 'I don't put no stock in guns,' Pa said suddenly. 'I figger there should be a better way.' 'So do I,' Chantry replied. 'But had there been no gun today, your son would have been beaten by not just one man but several. Your fence pulled down, your house burned. 'Civilization is a recent thing, sir. With many, it's still no more than skin deep. If you live in a busy community, you must live with the knowledge that maybe two out of every ten people are only wearing the outer skin of civilization. And if there was no law, or if there was not the restraint of public opinion, they would be utterly savage.' .' .' . Even some people you might know well. 'Many men and women now act with restraint 'cause they know it is the right thing to do. They know that if we are to live together we must respect the rights of