Sample N10 from Joseph Chadwick, No Land Is Free. New York: Avon Book Division, Hearst Corporation, 1961. Pp. 21-26. A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,008 words 491 (24.5%) quotesN10

Used by permission of Joseph L. Chadwick 0010-1760

Joseph Chadwick, No Land Is Free. New York: Avon Book Division, Hearst Corporation, 1961. Pp. 21-26.

Typographical Error: cossie's [for cookie's] [0080]

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The Brannon outfit -- known as the Slash-B because of its brand -- reached Hondo Creek before sundown . The herd was watered and then thrown onto a broad grass flat which was to be the first night's bedground . Two of the new hands , a Mexican named Jose Amado and a kid known only as Laredo , were picked for the first trick of riding night herd .

The rest of the crew offsaddled their mounts and turned them into the remuda . They got tin cups of coffee from the big pot on the coosie's fire , rolled and lighted brown-paper cigarettes , lounged about . There was some idle talk , a listless discussion of this or that small happening during the day's drive . But they deliberately avoided the one subject that had them all curious : the failure of the boss's wife and son to join the outfit . It especially bothered the older hands .

The cook , Mateo Garcia , had arrived there long before the herd . He'd started a fire and put coffee on , and now was busy at the work board of his chuck wagon . He was readying a batch of sourdough biscuits for the Dutch oven . Supper would be ready within the hour .

The Maguire family was setting up a separate camp nearby . Billie had unhitched the mules from both Tom Brannon's and his father's wagon . Hank had gathered wood for a cookfire , and his wife was busy at it now . Conchita kept an eye on the twins and little Elena , trying to keep them from falling into the creek by which they persisted in playing . Conchita nagged at the younger children , attempting without success to keep her thoughts off Tom Brannon .

Tom Brannon had caught up with the outfit shortly after the Maguires joined it , which had been at midday . He'd come alone , without his wife and child . He'd been in an angry mood : Conchita had thought his face almost ugly with the anger in him .

She wondered what had taken place in town , between him and his wife . She wished that she could talk to her mother about it . Not that her mother knew what had happened , but they could speculate upon it . But her mother would rebuke her if she mentioned it , and say that it was none of her concern .

`` Pat , get out of that creek ! ! You too , Sean ! ! Elena , you'll get mud all over your dress '' ! !

Even as she called to the children , Conchita let her gaze seek Tom Brannon . Tomas , she called him -- as the Mexican hands did . He was in earnest conversation with her father and the old vaquero , Luis Hernandez . Whatever they are talking about ? ? Conchita wondered .

It bothered her that she probably would never know . Certainly , she wouldn't dare ask her father afterward . He would tell her not to pry into grownups' affairs -- as though she were a little kid like Elena ! !

At the moment , the three men were not saying much of anything . They were sitting on their heels , rider-fashion , over by the still empty calf wagon . Brannon was hunkered down with his broad back to the left rear wheel , with the other two facing him . He held a cigarette in his right hand . It was burning away , forgotten . His face was clouded with unhappiness .

He'd told Hank Maguire and Luis Hernandez about his wife's refusal to come with him and about what he now intended to do . They were considering it gravely , neither seeming to like what he planned .

Finally Hernandez said , `` I could offer you advice , Tomas , but you wouldn't heed it '' .

`` Let's hear it , anyway '' .

`` Wait a little while . Let Senora Brannon live in her father's house for a time . Give her time to miss you . Maybe she will then come to you . After all , you want the senora as much as you want the boy . You need her even more than you need him '' .

`` She won't change her mind '' , Brannon said . `` John Clayton will see to that '' .

`` But after a time away from you .

`` A year , Luis ? ? Five ? ? Ten ? ? How long should I wait '' ? ? `` Maybe in a year , Tomas .

`` In a year she'll like living in Clayton's house too much to come back to me '' , Brannon said flatly . `` And the boy will be too much under his influence by then . I've got to take Danny away from Clayton before I lose him altogether . Hell , in a year or five or ten , the boy will have forgotten me -- his own father '' ! !

`` But to take him and leave his mother behind is not good '' .

`` In my place , you'd follow such advice as you give me '' ? ?

Hernandez looked suddenly uncertain . `` That I can't answer , for I can't imagine something like this happening to me . Maybe I should withdraw my advice -- no '' ? ?

Brannon looked at Hank Maguire . `` And you ? ? What would you do in my place '' ? ?

Hank shook his head . `` I don't know , Tom . Like Luis , I can't see something like this happening to me . With Maria and me , there's never any problem . Where I go , she goes -- and the kids with us . You're going to need your woman . And the boy will need his mother . If you take the one , you'd better take both '' .

Brannon shook his head . `` I won't force Beth to come against her will . But I'm going to have my son '' .

They were silent for a little while , each looking glum .

Finally Luis Hernandez said , `` What must be , must be . I am with you , of course , Tomas '' .

And Hank Maguire added , `` So am I , Tom '' .

`` All right '' , Brannon said , rising . `` We'll ride out as soon as we've had chuck '' .

Brannon timed it so that they rode in an hour after nightfall . They had for cover both darkness and a summer storm . During much of the fifteen-mile ride they had watched a lurid display of lightning in the sky to the east . Later , they'd heard the rumble of thunder and then , just outside Rockfork , they ran into rain . Those who had slickers donned them . The others put on old coats or ducking jackets , whichever they carried behind their saddle cantles .

There were seven of them , enough for a show of strength -- to run a bluff . It was to be nothing more than that . There was to be no gunplay . If the bluff failed and they ran into trouble , Brannon had told the others , they would withdraw -- and he would come after his son another time . He didn't want to put himself outside the law .

With him were Hank Maguire , Luis Hernandez , and Luis's son Pedro . The Ramirez brothers were also along . The seventh man was Red Hogan , a wiry little puncher with a wild streak and a liking for hell-raising . They were all good men .

It was dark early , because of the storm . Also because of the storm , the streets of Rockfork were deserted . Lighted windows glowed jewel-bright through the downpour . They reined in before the town marshal's office , a box-sized building on Main Street . A lamp burned inside , but Brannon , peering through the window , saw that the office was empty . He'd hoped to catch Jesse Macklin there .

`` Probably just stepped out '' , he said . `` Maybe to have supper . Red , come along . The rest of you wait here '' .

With Red Hogan , he rode to the Welcome Cafe . Hogan got down from the saddle and had a look inside . `` Not there '' , he said , getting back onto his horse . `` Maybe he's at the hotel '' .

They rode to the Rockfork House , a little farther along the opposite side of the street . They reined in there , Brannon remaining in the saddle while Hogan went to look for Jesse Macklin in the hotel dining room . Brannon had no slicker . He'd put on his old brown corduroy coat and it was already soaked . But he felt no physical discomfort . He was only vaguely aware of the sluicing rain . He hardly noticed the blue-green flashes of lightning and the hard claps of thunder .

Hogan reappeared , stopped on the hotel porch , lifted a hand in signal . Brannon dismounted and climbed the steps .

`` He's finished eating '' , Hogan said . `` Sitting with a cup of coffee now . It shouldn't be long '' .

It seemed long , at least to Tom Brannon . He and Hogan waited by the door , one to either side . Macklin was the third man to come out , and he came unhurriedly . He was puffing on a cigar , and he was turning up his coat collar against the rain . It was not until he moved across the porch that he became aware of them , and then it was too late . They closed in fast , kept him from reaching inside his coat for his gun .

`` Just come along '' , Brannon told him . `` Don't start anything you can't finish '' .

`` Now , listen '' -- Macklin began .

`` We'll talk over at your office '' .

`` Brannon , I warn you '' ! ! `` Let's go , Marshal '' , Brannon said , and took him by the arm .

Hogan gripped the lawman's other arm . They escorted him down from the porch and through the rain to his office . The other five Slash-B men followed them inside , crowding the small room . His face was stiff with anger when they let go of his arms . He looked at each of them in turn , Brannon last of all .

`` I'll remember you '' , he said . `` Every last one of you . As for you , Brannon '' --

`` Put your gun on the desk , Marshal '' .

`` Now , hold on , damn it ; ; I won't '' --

Red Hogan's patience ran out . He lifted the skirt of Macklin's coat , took his gun from its holster , tossed it onto the desk . `` Too much fooling around '' , he said . `` Don't press your luck , badge-toter '' .

Brannon said , `` Now the key to the lockup , Marshal '' .

`` Key '' ? ? Macklin said . `` What for '' ? ?

`` Can't you guess '' ? ? Brannon said . `` We're putting you where you won't come to harm . Come on -- the key . Get it out '' ! !

`` Damned if I will . Brannon , you've assaulted a law officer and '' --

They moved in on him , crowded him from all sides . No man laid a hand on him , but the threat of violence was there . His face took on a sudden pallor , became beaded with sweat , and he seemed to have trouble with his breathing . He held out a moment longer , then his nerve gave under the pressure .

He swore , and said , `` All right . It's here in my pocket '' .

`` Get it out '' , Brannon ordered . Then , as Macklin obeyed : `` Now let's go out back '' .

Resignedly , Macklin turned to the back door . They followed him into the rain and across to the squat stone building fifty feet to the rear . The door of the lockup was of oak planks and banded with strap iron . It was secured by an oversized padlock . Macklin balked again , not wanting to unlock and open the door . They crowded him in that threatening way once more , forced him to give in . Once the door was open , they crowded him inside the dark building . He was uttering threats in a low but savage voice when they closed and padlocked the door .

They returned to the street , mounted their horses , rode through the rain to the big house on Houston Street . Its windows glowed with lamplight . Deputy Marshal Luke Harper still stood guard on the veranda , a forlorn , scarecrowish figure in the murky dark . He came to the edge of the veranda , peered down at them with his hand on his gun .

`` Don't try it '' , Brannon told him , dismounting and starting up the steps with his men following . `` Don't get yourself killed for something that doesn't concern you '' .

He strode past the now frightened man , entered the house . Miguel and Arturo Ramirez remained on the veranda to keep Harper from interfering . The others followed Brannon inside . They trailed him across the wide hallway to the parlor , four roughly garbed and tough-looking men who probably had never before ventured into such a house . They brought to it all the odors that clung to men like themselves , that of their own sweat , of campfire smoke , of horses and cattle . They tracked mud on the oaken floor , on the carpet . Their presence fouled the elegance of that room .

And their arrival caught John Clayton and Charles Ansley off guard .