3682027The Arizona Callahan — Chapter 2H. Bedford-Jones


NELLY CALLAHAN saw that this man Hardrock was a stranger; and yet he was not a stranger. No one but a fool would have walked ashore on the Beavers and claimed ownership of land, unless he was known and accepted; for little good his law title would do him. Hardrock was certainly not a fool, however; and at the same time he had some knowledge of the islands. He had hidden his canoe and the stuff in it; and it was significant that Nelly did not look upon the story he told as a lie, but as justifiable precaution. Was it his motorboat that she had seen sinking?

“And did ye say,” inquired Hughie; recalling the boat, “that your boat had gone down?”

“Motorboat,” and Hardrock nodded in affirmation. “Hit a sunken rock out yonder and raked her bottom out.”

“Where from?”

“St. James.”

Hughie scowled at that, as well he might, since no one but an islander was from St. James; and this man was no islander. Set in the middle of Lake Michigan, inhabited by a hundred and fifty families, each related to the others, living by the loot of the lakes and woods, the islanders were a clannish lot who clung together and let the world go by. A few Indians lingered; a few outsiders had roamed in; a few tourists came and went; and over on High Island was the colony of Israelites—silent, wistful men with wide eyes and hairy lips. No law was on the Beavers, nor ever had been, save when King Strang established his brief Mormon kingdom. at St. James. There was not an officer in the group, not a judge nor a lawyer nor a doctor, and one man was as good as another; and once when the revenue men came to pry around, with talk of the Eighteenth Amendment, there were dark tales of what happened by night—but no more revenue men came. As for game wardens they were not fools.

The Beavers were not out of touch with the world, however. Scarce a large boat on the western lakes but had from one to ten islanders aboard, and the Beaver Gallaghers were known from Buffalo to Duluth; how many island men lay at the bottom of Whitefish Bay, it was hard to say. Some, who made money, spent the winters in Chicago or elsewhere; and Bowery Callahan, who swung the island vote, was State road-inspector and traveled up and down the land enjoying his ease.

{{{1}}}ELLY looked at the two men by the fire, and felt a sudden hurt in the heart of her for the smiling stranger. He had no fear in his eye, and under his brown throat his skin was white like ivory, and his arms under their tattered sleeves were smooth as silk. At him as he ate glared Hughie Dunlevy, broad and dark like all the Dunlevys, rippling with great muscles, a man with strength to toss a box of fish like a toy; and many a tale was told of Hughie on the lake boats, and how he put the boots to any man who dared stand up to him.

Now Hardrock sighed, and smiled at Nelly, and thanked her for his meal.

“We'll have our talk,” said he to Hughie, “and then I'll have a smoke.”

“I'm not so sure about that,” said Hughie. “What are ye doing here?”

“Resting on my own land, if you want to know. I bought this end of the island from Eddie John Macaulay in Charlevoix.”

There was no parry between the two of them, no hesitation. Hardrock looked Hughie in the eye and gave him the news straight and direct.

“Buying isn't keeping,” said Hughie. “We'll have a word about that matter. Eddie John told us to take the timber if we wanted it, and take it we will.”

The gray eyes of Hardrock glittered for a moment.

“Take it you wont,” said he bluntly.

Hughie laughed, and it was a laugh to reach under the skin and sting.

“Is that so, Mr. Callahan? It's sorry I'd be to hurt ye, and you washed ashore and out of luck; so keep a civil tongue in your head. Have no such talk around Matt Big Mary, I warn ye, for this is his camp and mine, and he's a bad man in his anger.”

Hardrock's thin lips twitched. “So they said about Connie Dunlevy this morning in St. James. I hope he's not related to you? He came out on the dock to have a talk with me, and I think they're taking him over on the mailboat this afternoon to the hospital.”

Hughie scrambled to his feet. “Glory be! What have ye done to my brother Connie, ye red-haired outlander?”

“Not a thing,” said Hardrock, and chuckled. “Poor Connie fell off the dock. I think he broke a rib or two, and maybe his shoulder.”

“Get up!” cried Hughie hoarsely, passion flaming in his face. “So that's who marked ye up, eh? Then I'll finish the job—”

Hardrock stretched himself and began to rise, lazily enough. Just then Nelly Callahan stepped forward.

“Don't, Hughie!” she exclaimed. “It isn't fair—you mustn't! He's all worn out—”

Hughie turned on her and shoved her aside. “Out o' this! Stand aside, and see—”

He never finished the sentence, for Hardrock was off the ground like a spring of steel, a billet of firewood in one hand, and the sound of the blow could be heard across the clearing. Struck behind the ear Hughie Dunlevy threw out his arms and went down in a heap. Hardrock looked at Nelly Callahan, and the glitter of his eyes changed to a smile.

“So that's that,” he said coolly. “Too bad I had to use the stick, Miss Nelly, but you spoke the truth when you said I was done up. Don't worry about him—he'll come around after a bit. Do you suppose you could find me a bit of dry tobacco? Then we'll sit down and talk things over.”

For a moment the girl looked at him. She was blue of eye and black of hair, and the color was high in her cheeks; and when she smiled there came a dimple on either side of her mouth, and her body held a spring of the foot and a supple grace of round lines that the school-teaching had not taken out of her. Suddenly a laugh broke in her eyes.

“Hughie had it coming, I think,” said she, and turned. “I'll get you the tobacco.”

She got him some, and sat down at the fire and watched him stuff it into his pipe and light it with an ember. Hughie Dunlevy lay where he had fallen.

“Father and the other boys will be back in an hour or sooner,” she said. “I think you'd better go and get that canoe of yours, and be off while you have the chance.”

Hardrock gave her a swift look, then chuckled.

“Oh! Saw me land, did you? No, I'm not going, thanks. I'm staying.”

“Then you'll have trouble, I'm afraid.”

He shrugged, and lay back on one elbow, smoking contentedly.

“Very likely. Eddie John Macaulay thought he worked a smooth trick when he sold me this end of the island, timber and all, but I'd been warned beforehand. I spent the night at St. James and went up to the dance and had a grand time. Connie Dunlevy had too much moonshine, though, and this morning he started to make trouble.”

“Listen, please!” said the girl, an urgent note in her voice. “You can't take this seriously—but you must! You don't understand. You'll not be allowed to stay, after all that's happened. Who was shooting out in the channel? What boat was that I saw sinking?”

Hardrock took the pipe from his lips and regarded her for a moment.

“My dear Nelly,” he said quietly, “I'm afraid you're the one who doesn't understand. Did you ever hear of Danny Gallagher?”

Her eyes opened at that. “Danny? Why of course! His father Vesty owns the sawmill down at the head of the island. But Danny has been away two years, in Arizona.”

“And I've come from, Arizona,” said Hardrock. “That's where I got my nickname. I've been running a mine out there, and Danny has been working with me. He's a fine boy, Danny is! He told me so much about the islands that I came up here when I got a year off, and I'm going to settle down in a cabin here under the trees, and finish writing a mining book for engineers. Danny has written his father about me. I meant to look up Vesty, but haven't had a chance yet.”

THE troubled comprehension in the blue eyes of the girl deepened at this.

“Why didn't you do it first?” she broke out. “If people knew that Danny had sent you here, and Vesty Gallagher would answer for you, there'd have been no trouble! Vesty is a big man on the island. A word from him—”

“My dear girl, I stand on my own feet,” said Hardrock quietly. “The sunken boat you saw was mine. Two of Connie's friends got after me. I suppose they thought it was quite safe, for the rain was coming down in sheets and one could scarcely see three hundred yards. They ran me down before I knew what they were up to. Fortunately, I had time to cut the canoe loose and get into her, and then I opened up on the two rascals with my shotgun, and gave them plenty. Never fear! When I go over to St. James I'll know 'em again, and take a little punishment out of them for the loss of that motorboat. Satisfied, are you?”

Under his twinkling gray eyes, the girl laughed a little.

“Hold it!” he exclaimed. “Oh, no use—gone again.”

“Eh?” Her gaze widened. “What?”

“Those dimples. How long is this camp to continue?”

“Until the first of the week.” Nelly Callahan was disconcerted by his abrupt change of subject and forgot to resent the personality. “Father's rounding up some cattle and counting how many there are here.”

“Good! Then I'll be over to the dance next Thursday night. May I take you?”

She was startled by his words. She was more startled a moment later when a crashing of brush sounded, and she leaped to her feet.

“Oh! Father's coming—”

“Answer the question,” persisted Hardrock. “Quick!”

“Yes,” she said, and then turned swiftly to him. “Go quickly—”

“Nonsense!” Hardrock puffed at his pipe. “Nothing to get excited about.. I'm not going to start any trouble, I promise you. Great Scott! Is that your father?”

He stared at the huge figure of Matt Big Mary advancing upon him, with the other two men following. All three gaped at him. Matt, astonished, came to a halt.

“What's this!” he rumbled. “Hughie! Where's Hughie, lass? Who's yon man?”

“Hughie's gone to sleep,” said Hardrock, and came easily to his feet. “My name's Callahan—”

“He's a friend of Danny Vesty Gallagher,” broke in the girl swiftly. “From Arizona. And Danny had him buy this end of the island from Eddie John Macaulay, Father.”

“Shipwrecked on my own land,” said Hardrock, laughing. He held out his hand. “You're Matt Callahan—Matt Big Mary? Danny has told me about you. Glad to meet you.”

Matt gave him a huge grip, between surprise and bewilderment.

“What's all this? Bought it off of Eddie John, ye did? And what d'ye mean by shipwrecked? There's been no boat—”

“My motorboat went down,” said Hardrock. “I got ashore with my duffle, though. Got a camp down shore a piece. Came over from St. James this morning.”

“Oh! And it's a friend o' Vesty Gallagher ye are, eh? What's the matter with Hughie?”

“Hughie made a mistake,” Hardrock grinned cheerfully. “He didn't believe that I had bought this bit of the island. Somehow, Hughie and I didn't get along very well. He had some queer idea that I ought to walk home, and I didn't agree with him. So he went to sleep. I guess I'll be going. Drop over to my camp sometime. I'll likely run in and see you again. Thanks for the coffee, Miss Nelly.”

And he was gone, with a wave of his hand, before the three astonished men knew what to say or do.