Sidney Groves Burghard was born in England in 1867 and left at age seventeen to hunt for gold in Africa and was later involved in the clashes between British and Boer settlers at the Cape of Good Hope. The gold strike in the Canadian Yukon lured him there. Later he moved south settling in the Montana region of the continent, joining the army in 1889, and was likely involved in the Sioux uprising of ’90-’91. He eventually became a successful cattle rancher and tried his hand at writing. His first novel, DEVIL’S KEG, was published in 1903 and was an instant success. He followed up with dozens of others over his career, dying in 1947. THE NIGHT RIDERS appeared in 1912.
John Tresler was from the New England states. He’d come west to learn cattle ranching. A recent college graduate, he’d learned self defense among other things, but not how to earn a practical living. So he had apprenticed himself to a rancher named Julian Marbolt of Mosquito Bend in the Montana territory for three years to learn all the ins and outs of running a cattle business. When he rode into a small town near by, he learned just what he’d gotten himself into. The ranch was known as “Blind Hell” because old Marbolt was blind and the foreman, one Jake Harnach, had a fearsome reputation. A huge man, he used bullying and intimidation to keep the punchers in line.
Tresler wanted an education, so he went along. Harnach and he didn’t get along from the start. the first thing the man did was try him on a wild horse no one had been able to break for three years. The young man knew riding, but had never been on an animal like the mare. Of course he was as stubborn as the animal. Every time he was thrown, he got back on. The horse ran for miles until worn out. Tresler won the first day and named the mare Lady Jezebel. She only tolerated him and was prone to race uncontrollably for miles on end. All he could do was hang on.
And the pair seemed to love every minute of their relationship.
Tresler made two close friends amongst the crew, though all were friendly. A young puncher named Arizona and an old man named Joe Nelson. Nelson he was particularly fond of and when he catches Harnach stomping the old man after a night of drinking, the old man, he jumps him, bringing a quirt across the big man’s face several times.
That wasn’t the young Easterner’s only problem. The first night out, while taking a late walk around the ranch, he heard quiet hoof beats and something made him hide. In the very dim moonlight, two horsemen rode up and sat for a couple of minutes. One apparently had his face covered with something, it was hard to tell.
When he mentioned it to old Joe the next day, he was told to keep quiet. It was likely an outlaw leader known as Red Mask, unknown because of his face wear, whose gang stole cattle, money, whatever they could lay hands on, and killed people. Folks who saw then, who said anything, invariably ended up dead. In fact, Arizona, when Tresler first met him, was recovering from a bullet wound. He was one of the few that had survived such an attack. It wasn’t the first time Tresler would see the outlaw leader on the ranch.
And then there was Marbolt’s daughter, the beautiful Diane. from the first moment he saw her, he was attracted. The same with her. As time went on, they grew close. Which infuriated the foreman who’d staked out er as his own. Marbolt didn’t like either of the men around his daughter. it was to become a bone of contention. between the three.
Why did Red Mask keep showing up on the ranch late at night? Tresler wanted to find out and aimed to learn the reasons. He intended to win Diane’s hand, despite her father and the big foreman. A lot for a young man to do.
I found this one on Project Gutenberg, as well as a number of other of Cullum’s novels. The cover is from a book edition I found on line. The writing shows the British roots of the author from the spelling of certain words to the frequent use of pannikin, Britsh for a tin cup. I enjoyed this one, though the first chapter seemed a bit slow. It got going fine after that.
Would recommend it for those with a e-book reader and editions are fairly reasonable on used book sites.