Western Wednesdays—FORGOTTEN RANGE
August 24, 2011 Leave a comment
I’m particularly excited about today’s preview—a true fish-out-of-water tale where city slicker meets the wild west. Get introduced to Roger Hartland, a New Yorker who knows nothing about mining but is looking for some adventure, so he heads out to Montana to check on the family’s investment in the Yellow Jacket mine. But the Silver City locals aren’t about to let some greenhorn tell them what to do. To make it worse, his old girlfriend from back East shows up just as a new romance is beginning to bloom with Margaret Cram. With two jealous ex-lovers—his own and Margaret’s—wanting to pound him to a pulp and rival mine owners eager to shoot him dead, all the money in the world can’t save Roger now.
A fish-out-of-water myself (although in my case I’m a Montanan in the Big Apple), I’ve met my share of New Yorkers who could benefit from just the sort of adventure Roger has in Forgotten Range, if only experienced on the printed page.
Check out the first two chapters below!
Happy reading everyone,
Editorial and Web Coordinator
At the Rameses night club 2:30 a.m. meant that the morning had just begun. Colored lights played upon white shirt fronts, bare shoulders, white tablecloths littered with glasses in which gleamed liquid rubies, beryl, topaz, the emerald of creme-dementhe, and the soft, saffron sapphire of champagne. The booming of drums, clash of cymbals, squawking of saxophones—jazz. Smoke pencils from 300 cigarettes. A dancing team, scantily attired, winning yawns. A tumult of voices, laughter, hand clapping, calls for waiters—bedlam. Dancing in a space the size of a rug.
Roger Hartland looked out upon all this with a stupid, bored expression. He was drinking martini cocktails this night, and now, as he raised his glass, he dropped it on the table. He didn’t bother to pick it up. Merely held up a finger to a waiter. The signal was instantly answered. Hartland had a way of winning respect and ser vice from waiters. And he was a good tipper.
He looked across at the woman who sat on the other side of his table. A brunette, tall, dark- eyed with a certain mysterious beauty and an expression usually unfathomable. Her white shoulders were shapely. None could have told her age. Even Hartland didn’t know.
As the waiter left, Hartland waved an arm taking in the scene about them. “Sucker stuff,” he said disgustedly, “and I’m the biggest sucker of them all.”
“Why, you don’t spend as much as any of the butter-and-egg men who come here,” said the woman languidly.
“I don’t mean that,” said Hartland with a frown. “I mean I’m a sucker to come here at all. I’m a fool, Rose.”
“You mean you’re drunk,” she returned, fitting a scented cigarette into a long, ivory holder. “What kind of a mood are you in to night, Roger? You know I’m the victim of them all.”
He looked at her with new interest. “Yes, Rose, I guess that’s so. Well, you’re a pretty good sport, and I’m willing to pay for it.”
Rose Raymond arched her brows. “You consider me an employee, then?”
“Oh, don’t talk drivel,” he retorted irritably. “Don’t you see that I’m sick of all this sort of thing? What do we get out of it?”
“Well,” she answered with a wry smile, “you get a good souse out of it every night.”
“That’s just it!” exclaimed Hartland, slapping the table with the palm of his hand. “That’s just what I get. My life at present is one round of night clubs. I end up at home with the sunrise, soused to the gills, as you say. Along about two o’clock, Fredricks comes in with whiskey and absinthe. I have a bath and another bracer. A bit of breakfast and I’m off for cards at some fool club. The theater, maybe, supper, and . . . you know the rest. Every day the same. Now isn’t that a fine life?”
“It might be worse,” Rose observed with a shrug.
“Yes . . . it would be worse working on the docks, I suppose,” said Hartland moodily.
“Why don’t you go into business?” Rose suggested, knowing full well the mockery of the idea.
“Business!” he snorted. “What business could I go into? Father left everything in stocks and bonds. I know of no business I control. And I wouldn’t know where to start if I had one. Rose, I’m bored to death. I’m all fed up with life. It seems as though I’ve been everywhere, seen everything, done about everything I want to do. Damn!”
“Well, why don’t you. . . .” She bit off her words. She had been about to ask him why he didn’t get married. But that would be fatal for her. Hartland was her meal ticket.
But he anticipated what she had meant to say. “Get married?” he said with a cynical ring to his voice. “And where would I find the woman? I believe most of them can be bought. The ones that can’t are undesirable, married, or not in my set. I’m fed up on the woman question, too.”
“Well, you’re in bad shape, Roger,” Rose commented. “Why don’t you get yourself a fine big boat and jump off in the middle of the ocean?”
“Why the middle?” He smiled grimly. “Sandy Hookwould do and it wouldn’t be so expensive. No, none of that, Rose. You may do it someday, though.” He looked at her and was startled to see that her face had gone deathly white. “Oh, I didn’t mean it, Rose. Come, don’t look at me that way. Let’s order champagne.”
“What you say might come true, Roger,” she said in a low voice. Then with more spirit: “Roger, it’s spring.Parisis wonderful in spring, as you know. Let’s take a trip over toParis.” She gazed at him out of shrewd eyes.
“Not me.” He laughed. “But I’ll stand the gaff if you want to go.”
“I may take you up,” she said. Roger was a good sport.
He was looking about and frowning again. A waiter passed and accidentally tipped a silver tray. Several bills fl uttered down on Roger’s table. The waiter gathered them up with profuse apologies.
“There it is again,” said Hartland. “Money. Get the money anyway you can. That’s the code here.”
“Well, you shouldn’t worry,” said Rose sarcastically. “You’ve got plenty of it.”
The waiter served champagne.
“If there was only something new,” Hartland complained.
“There’s a new revue up at the Cortez they say is very good,” said Rose.
“Oh, the devil. New revue. If I could only get into a fight, or something. If I had the slightest fancy for it, I’d go big- game hunting inAfrica.”
Rose laughed softly. “Your moods change with the drinks,” she said, and asked him to dance.
At dawn they left the club. As Hartland’s car pulled up, a laborer on the way to his work passed so closely in front of them that he jostled Rose.
“What’re you doing?” Hartland snapped. He took the man by the arm and jerked him around with such force that his lunch pail was knocked from his hand.
The man pulled free and struck Hartland in the face. Next instant Hartland’s right flashed and the blow caught the man flushly on the jaw. He went down in a heap.
A policeman came on the run.
“Don’ get ’cited, officer,” said Hartland unsteadily. “Man jostled the . . . lady, here.” He was groping for a card, found it, and handed it over.
The policeman looked at the name and address.
“Well, you better get along home,” he said, and went on down the street.
Hartland took a bill from a pocket and gave it to the man who was recovering his lunch pail, thoroughly beaten. Then he handed Rose into the car.
It was Fredricks, Hartland’s man, who let them into the apartment, looking with surprise and haughtiness at Rose.
Hartland led the way into his sitting room. “Whiskey an’ soda, Fredricks!” he called back.
Rose Raymond stared in wonder at the luxury surrounding her. Rare paintings and etchings, tapestries, bronzes, knickknacks picked up in many lands, soft divans, deep rugs, antique furniture, weapons, a gold figured Japanese screen.
Hartland was lighting a cigarette. “Sit down, Rose,” he said. And when the drinks had been served: “Rose, I brought you up here to night for a certain reason.” He paused. He was drunk, yet his mind seemed clear—if such a thing could be possible—and his articulation was slow but perfect.
She eyed him askance.
“Rose,” he said, “without meaning to offend you in any way, you are a woman of the world. You have been somewhat of a comfort to me because I have been able to take my . . . my spite, you might say, out on you. But you’ve got brains. Now I want you to try and think up something I can do to break this fearful monotony that is eating me alive. But remember . . .”—he held up a wavering, warning finger—“it must be original.”
Behind the curtains the man Fredricks was listening intently.
“Is that all?” asked Rose, rather astonished.
“That’s the order,” Hartland replied.
“And it’s a big order,” said Rose with spirit. “But I’ll try it. And there might be some expense attached to my investigations and researches.”
Hartland tossed her a roll of bills. “Good night, Rose,” he said drowsily.
Fredricks showed her out, and she looked at him twice because of the curious expression he wore. Then Fredricks proceeded to put his master to bed.
At the breakfast table in the morning, or what Hartland called the morning and what was really early afternoon, Hartland sat frowning at his soft- boiled egg, bit of toast, and coffee, and looked at Fredricks suspiciously.
“Fredricks,” he said sharply, “those drinks you served me this morning seem to be taking unusual effect.”
“In what way, sir?” Fredricks inquired solicitously.
“Why, they seem powerful strong in one way, and in another they appear to give me a somnolent feeling,” Hartland complained. “I feel more like sleeping than like eating.”
Fredricks, being an English butler, coughed discreetly behind his hand. “If you will permit me, sir,” he said solemnly, “perhaps it is . . . ah . . . if you’ll excuse me, you were quite touched last night.”
“I see,” said Hartland with a glare. “You mean I’m nursing a hangover and that those two drinks floored me.”
“I wouldn’t quite say that, sir,” said Fredricks. “They were of the usual strength.”
Hartland drank the coffee, ignored the egg and toast, and went into his living room to lie down. He was soon asleep. Fredricks told several who telephoned that Hartland was out. Later he went out himself. He went first to a doctor and next to a drug store. When he returned, Hartland still was asleep.
Fredricks liked Hartland. He had worked for his father for twenty- two years; in fact, it was the elder Hartland who had brought him over fromEngland. He had worried about the young man’s present mode of living for some time, had endeavored to formulate a plan by which he could help him, but had failed. Subtle hints had merely brought scowls from Roger.
It was the visit of Rose Raymond the night before that had given him a sudden and great inspiration. He now had his plan. Roger wanted something new. Very well, he would give it to him. He had seen the young man toss Rose the roll of bills and had muttered gold digger to himself. This explained the look Rose had thought was curious, but that really was one of contempt.
When Hartland awakened, he called: “Fredricks, I feel groggy! Bring me a drink.”
“Quite right, sir.” Fredricks did as he had been ordered.
“I’m late for the club,” Hartland grumbled, looking at his watch. It was a quarter to five. He dressed hurriedly and took himself off.
As soon as he had left, Fredricks became active. He packed a trunk, putting in all his master’s sporting togs, a rifle and shotgun and other outdoor paraphernalia. He had this taken to the express office to 8 await instructions for it to be forwarded as addressed. He then packed another trunk with clothing and this he sent to a railway terminal. After this, he packed a bag containing Hartland’s shaving kit, toilet articles, and such things as he would require on a train journey. Fredricks proposed to take his master away whether he wanted to go or not. He knew very well that to suggest to Hartland that he go to the place Fredricks had in mind would be futile. Hartland would only laugh scornfully. Therefore, Fredricks was taking drastic mea sures, although his action might mean his dismissal.
Hartland came in at dawn fearfully drunk. Fredricks helped him to a chair.
“Going . . . to . . . the dogs,” Hartland stammered. “Ought go to . . . lodge.”
The lodge? Fredricks smiled. This was playing right into his hands. Hartland had a lodge onLake Georgeand he would think he was going there.
“Just the thing, sir,” said Fredricks loudly. “Just the thing. I’ll have everything ready.”
“Want drink,” muttered Hartland.
“Very good, sir.”
Fredricks hurried for a mild drink of whiskey and water into which he put a few drops of a mixture from a bottle. He roused Hartland and actually compelled him to take the drink. Then he undressed him and put him to bed.
At 2:00 p.m., he awakened his master who got up sluggishly. He accepted the drink Fredricks offered him as a matter of course. Fredricks helped him with his bath and helped him to dress. Another drink followed. Hartland had not said a word. He took his coffee and ate his egg as a man in a dream. “Something’s THE matter,” he muttered.
“You’ll be all right at the lodge, sir,” Fredricks said. “You ordered preparations made to go to the lodge and everything’s ready. We’ll go right over to the train. Splendid idea, sir. Splendid!”
Hartland could not seem to collect his faculties.
“Suppose . . . might as well,” he muttered, his head nodding. “Sleep on train.”
“Quite right, sir,” Fredricks assured him. “Everything is arranged.”
Meanwhile Fredricks had attended to the matter of closing the apartment for a considerable period of time. He was staking everything on Hartland’s common sense when he would be himself again, upon the change of environment, and upon a business proposition that he hoped would interest his master.
Shortly after 3:00 p.m. they were in Hartland’s car. They drove to Grand Central where arrangements had been made for the immediate occupancy of a drawing room on the Twentieth Century. Fredricks had the lower berth made up at once and Hartland lay down upon the blanket and was off to sleep. Shortly afterward they were on their way toChicago.
Hartland woke late that night. Fredricks had put a blanket over him and made him comfortable.
“Not there yet?” Hartland mumbled.
“Not yet, sir,” Fredricks answered. “Do you want anything?”
“Sure. Want . . . drink.”
Fredricks had anticipated this. It was something of a mechanical answer. He gave his master a drink of whiskey and water, and again the few drops went in. Hartland sank back upon the pillows and went to sleep immediately.
InChicagonext morning, Hartland still was dazed. He took the drink offered him automatically, asked no questions about the taxi ride to another station, entered another train without protest. All he wanted was sleep and he didn’t care where he got it. He was in a torpor. He was mumbling and muttering as Fredricks undressed him, put on his pajamas, and put him to bed in the drawing room.
He was sleeping practically all the time for a day and a night and a day, rousing only when Fredricks made him do so to give him nourishment.
“Still on the train?” he would say sleepily. “It’s a long night, Fredricks.”
“It is, indeed, sir,” said Fredricks. “We have that little change to make, you know, at the junction, and then we’ll be there, sir.”
Hartland nodded stupidly.
Fredricks got him dressed late in the afternoon and they made the change to the little train that ran up into the mountains without trouble. At 9:00 p.m. they left the train at its terminal inSilverCity. They went to the Central Hotel where rooms were ready for them, Fredricks having made the arrangement by wire. Hartland was taking things as a matter of course and here he again went to bed.
Fredricks sighed a long, deep sigh of relief.
“Well, I did it,” he said aloud. “Now I wonder what he . . . what he . . . I wonder?”
He unpacked the bag and arranged Hartland’s toilet articles, laid out the one suit of clothes the bag contained, fresh linen, under things, and socks. Then for the first time in three days he got a good night’s sleep.
He was up early. He looked out the windows at the pine- clad mountains, the sparkling stream— green everywhere save for the mine dumps on the slopes above the town. The air was clean, cool, stimulating. The breeze that came in through the open window made Fredricks’s nerves tingle. He recalled the time when he had first come to this place in theMontanamountains years before with Roger’s father. The elder Hartland had sought a rest inSilverCitymore than once.
Well, if this doesn’t fix him up, nothing will, he mused.
He heard Hartland stirring in the other room and went in to him. Hartland was sitting on the edge of the bed, rubbing his eyes. But Fredricks saw they looked better this morning. He had discontinued the drops. His master looked at him stupidly.
“Just a moment, sir,” said Fredricks, “and I’ll bring you some black coffee. You’re much better, sir.”
He hurried away and soon returned with two large cups of black coffee. They made strong coffee in that country as he well knew.
Hartland willingly drank one of the cups and the strong potion picked him up as if by magic. When he had drained the other cup, the cobwebs were nearly cleared from his brain.
He looked about the room with a puzzled expression. “Fredricks, where are we?” he demanded weakly.
“We’re inSilver City,Montana, sir,” Fredricks replied.
The clouded look of perplexity in Hartland’s eyes increased. He rose unsteadily and, with Fredricks aiding him, went to the window. There he looked out upon the squat buildings of the mining town, the dusty street, the mine dumps on the slopes, the stands of pine marching up to the shoulders of Old Baldy, snow-crowned, gleaming in the sun.
“Good Lord,” he groaned, “it’s the end of the world.”