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30,000 on the Hoof

Country of origin: USA USA
Available texts by the same author here Dokument

Chapter 2

   Lucinda Baker's dreams of romance and adventure had been secrets no one had ever guessed; but none of them had ever transcended this actual journey of hers to the far West to become the wife of her girlhood sweetheart. Yet it seemed she had been preparing for some incredible adventure ever since Logan had left Independence. How else could she account for having become a school teacher at sixteen, working through the long vacations, her strong application to household duties? She had always known that Logan Huett would never return home again, and that the great unknown West had claimed him. For this reason, if any, she had been training herself to become a pioneer's wife.
   She was thrillingly happy. She had left her family well and comfortable. She was inexpressibly glad to be away from persistent suitors. She was free to be herself--the half-savage, yearning creature she knew under her skin. Steady, plodding, dutiful, unsentimental Lucinda Baker was relegated to the past.
   Kansas in autumn was one vast, seared, rolling prairie, dotted with hamlets and towns along the steel highway. Lucinda grew tired watching the endless roll and stretch of barren land. She interested herself in her fellow-passengers and their children, all simple middle-class people like herself, journeying West to take up that beckoning life of the ranges. But what she saw of Colorado before dark, the grey, swelling slopes towards the heave and bulk of dim mountains, gave her an uneasy, awesome premonition of a fearful wildness and ruggedness of Nature much different from the pictures she-had imagined. She awoke in New Mexico, to gaze in rapture at its silver valleys, its dark forests, its sharp peaks white against the blue.
   But Arizona, the next day, crowned Lucinda's magnified expectations. During the night the train had traversed nearly half of this strange, glorious wilderness of purple land. Sunshine, Canyon Diablo were but wayside stations. Were there no towns in this tremendous country? Her query to the porter brought the information that Flagg was the next stop, two hours later. Yet still Lucinda feasted her gaze and tried not to think of Logan. Would he disappoint her? She had loved him since she was a little girl when he had rescued her from some beastly boys who had dragged her into a mud puddle. But not forgetting Logan's few and practical, letters, she argued that his proposal of marriage was conclusive.
   What changes would this hard country have wrought in Logan Huett? What would it do to her? Lucinda gazed with awe and fear out across this purple land, monotonous for leagues on leagues, then startling with magnificent red walls, towering and steep, that wandered away into the dim, mystic blue, and again shooting spear-pointed, black-belted peaks skyward; and once the vista was bisected by a deep, narrow yellow gorge, dreadful to gaze down into and justifying its diabolic name.
   After long deliberation Lucinda reasoned that Logan probably would not have changed much from the serious, practical boy to whom action was almost as necessary as breathing. He would own a ranch somewhere close to a town, perhaps near Flagg, and he would have friends among these westerners. In this loyal way Lucinda subdued her qualms and shut her eyes so she could not see the dense, monotonous forest the train had entered. Surrendering to thought of Logan then, she found less concern in how she would react to him than how he would discover her. Lucinda knew that she had grown and changed more after fifteen than was usual in girls. What her friends and family had said about her improvement, and especially the boys who had courted her, was far more flattering than justified, she felt. But perhaps it might be enough to make Logan fail to recognize her.
   A shrill whistle disrupted Lucinda's meditation. The train was now clattering down-grade and emerging from the green into a clearing. A trainman opened the coach-door to call out in sing-song voice: "Flagg. Stop five minutes."
   Lucinda's eyes dimmed. She wiped them so that she could see out. The forest had given place to a ghastly area of bleached and burned stumps of trees. That led to a huge, hideous structure with blue smoke belching from a great boiler-like chimney. Around it and beyond were piles of yellow lumber as high as houses. This was a sawmill. Lucinda preferred the forest to this crude and raw evidence of man's labours. Beyond were scattered little cabins made of slabs and shacks, all dreary and drab, unrelieved by any green.
   As the train slowed down with a grind of wheels there was a noisy bustle in the coach. Many passengers were getting off here. Lucinda marked several young girls, one of them pretty with snapping eyes, who were excited beyond due. What would they have shown had they Lucinda's cue for feeling? She felt a growing tumult within, but outwardly she was composed.
   When the train jarred to a stop, Lucinda lifted her two grips on to the seat and crossed the aisle to look out on that side. She saw up above the track a long block of queer, high, board-fronted buildings all adjoining. They fitted her first impression of Flagg. Above the town block loomed a grand mountain, black and white in its magnificent aloof distance. Lucinda gasped at the grandeur of it. Then the moving and colourful throng on the platform claimed her quick attention.
   First she saw Indians of a different type, slender, lithe, with cord bands around their black hair. They had lean, clear-cut faces, sombre as masks. Mexicans in huge sombreros lolled in the background.
   Then Lucinda's swift gaze alighted upon a broad-shouldered, powerfully built young man, in his shirt sleeves and with his blue jeans tucked in high boots. Logan! She sustained a combined shock and thrill. She would have known that strong, tanned face anywhere. He stood bareheaded, with piercing eyes on the alighting passengers. Lucinda felt a rush of pride. The boy she knew had grown into a man, hard, stern, even in that expectant moment. But he was more than merely handsome. There appeared to be something proven about him.
   Lucinda suddenly realized she must follow the porter, who took her grips, out of the coach. She could not resist a pat to her hair and a readjustment of her hat. Then she went out.
   The porter was not quick enough to help her down the steep steps. That act was performed gallantly by a strange, youthful individual, no less than Lucinda's first cowboy, red-haired, keen-faced, with a blue dancing devil in his eyes. He squeezed her arm.
   "Lady, air yu meetin' anyone?" he queried, as if his life depended on her answer.
   Lucinda looked over his head as if he had not been there. But she liked him. Leaving her grips where the porter had set them, she walked up the platform, passing less than ten feet from Logan. He did not recognize her. That failure both delighted and frightened her. She would return and give him another chance.
   She walked a few rods up the platform, and when she turned back she was revelling in the situation. Logan Huett had sent for his bride, and did not know her when she looked point-blank at him. He had left his post at the rail. She located him coming up the platform. A moment later she found herself an object of undisguised speculation by three cowboys, one of whom was the red-head.
   Lucinda slowed her pace. It would be fun to accost Logan before these bold westerners. This was an unfortunate impulse, as through it she heard remarks that made her neck and face burn.
   Logan had halted just beyond the red-haired cowboy. His grey glance took Lucinda in from head to foot and back again--a swift, questioning, baffled look. Then Lucinda swept by the cowboys and spoke:
   "Logan, don't you know me?"
   "Ah!--no, you can't be her," he blurted out. "Lucinda! It is you!"
   "Yes, Logan. I knew you from the train."
   He made a lunge for her, eager and clumsy, and kissed her heartily, missing her lips. "To think I didn't know my old sweetheart!" His grey eyes, that had been like bits of ice glistening in the sun, shaded and softened with a warm, glad light that satisfied Lucinda's yearning heart.
   "Have I changed so much?" she asked, happily, and that nameless dread broke and vanished in the released tumult within her breast.
   "Well, I should smile you have," he said. "Yet, somehow you're coming back...Lucinda, the fact is I didn't expect so--so strapping and handsome a girl."
   "That's a doubtful compliment, Logan," she replied with a laugh. "But I hope you like me."
   "I'm afraid I do--powerful much," he admitted. "But I'm sort of taken back to see you grown up into a lady, stylish and dignified."
   "Wouldn't you expect that from a school teacher?"
   "I'm afraid I don't know what to expect. But in a way, out here, your school teaching may come in handy."
   "We have to get acquainted and find out all about each other," she said, naively.
   "I should smile--and get married in the bargain, all in one day."
   "All to-day?"
   "Lucinda, I'm in a hurry to go," he replied, anxiously. "I've bought my outfit and we'll leave town--soon as we get it over."
   "Well...of course we must be married at once. But to rush away...It isn't far--is it--your ranch? I hope near town."
   "Pretty far," he rejoined. "Four days, maybe five with oxen and cattle."
   "Is it out there--in the--the...? she asked, faintly, with a slight gesture towards the range.
   "South sixty miles. Nice drive most of the way, after we leave town."
   "Forest--like that the train came through?"
   "Most of the way. But there are lakes, sage flats, desert. Wonderful country."
   "Logan, of course you're located--near a town?" she faltered.
   "Flagg is the closest," he answered, patiently, as if she were a child.
   Lucinda bit her lips to hold back an exclamation of dismay. Her strong, capable hands trembled slightly as she opened her pocket-book. "Here are my checks. I brought a trunk and a chest. My hand-baggage is there."
   "Trunk and chest! Golly, where'll I put them? We'll have a wagon-load," he exclaimed, and taking the checks he hailed an express-man outside the rail. He gave him instructions, pointing out the two bags on the platform, then returned to Lucinda.
   "Dear! You're quite pale," he said anxiously. "Tired from the long ride?"
   "I'm afraid so. But I'll be--all right...Take me somewhere."
   "That I will. To Babbitts', where you can buy anything from a needle to a piano. You'll be surprised to see a bigger store than there is in Kansas City."
   "I want to get some things I hadn't time for."
   "Fine. After we buy the wedding-ring. The parson told me not to forget that."
   Lucinda kept pace with his stride up town. But on the moment she did not evince her former interest in cowboys and westerners in general, nor the huge, barnlike store he dragged her into. She picked out a plain wedding-ring and left it on her finger as if she was afraid to remove it. Logan's earnest face touched her. For his sake she fought the poignant and sickening sensations that seemed to daze her.
   "Give me an hour here--then come after me," she said.
   "So long! Why, for goodness' sake?"
   "I have to buy a lot of woman's things."
   "Lucinda, my money's about gone," he said, perturbed. "It just melted away. I put aside some to pay Holbert for cattle I bought at Mormon Lake."
   "I have plenty, Logan. I saved my salary," she returned, smilingly. But she did not mention the five hundred dollars her uncle had given her for a wedding-present. Lucinda had a premonition she would need that money.
   "Good! Lucinda, you always were a saving girl...Come, let's get married pronto. Then you come back here while I repack that wagon." He slipped his arm under hers and hustled her along. How powerful he was, and what great strides he took! Lucinda wanted to cry out for a little time to adjust herself to this astounding situation. But he hurried her out of the store and up the street, talking earnestly. "Here's a list of the stuff I bought for our new home. Doesn't that sound good? Aw, I'm just tickled...Read it over. Maybe you'll think of things I couldn't. You see, we'll camp out while we're throwing up our log cabin. We'll live in my big canvas-covered wagon--a regular prairie-schooner--till we get the cabin up. We'll have to hustle, too, to get that done before the snow flies...It's going to be fun--and heaps of work--this start of mine at ranching. Oh, but I'm glad you're such a strapping girl!...Lucinda, I'm lucky. I mustn't forget to tell you how happy you've made me. I'll work for you. Some day I'll be able to give you all your heart could desire."
   "So we spend our honeymoon in a prairie-schooner!" she exclaimed, with a weak laugh.
   "Honeymoon?--So we do. I never thought of that. But many a pioneer girl has done so...Lucinda, if I remember right, you used to drive horses. Your Dad's team?"
   "Logan, I drove the buggy," she rejoined, aghast at what she divined was coming.
   "Same thing. You drove me home from church once. And I put my arm around you. Remember?"
   "I must--since I am here."
   "You can watch me drive the oxen, and learn on the way to Mormon Lake. There I have to take to the saddle and rustle my cattle through. You'll handle the wagon."
   "What!--Drive a yoke of oxen? Me!"
   "Sure. Lucinda, you might as well start right in. You'll be my partner. And I've a hunch no pioneer ever had a better one. We've got the wonderfullest range in Arizona. Wait till you see it! Some day we'll run thirty thousand head of cattle there...Ah, here's the parson's house. I darn near overrode it. Come, Lucinda. If you don't back out pronto it'll be too late."
   "Logan--I'll never--back out," she whispered, huskily. She felt herself drawn into the presence of kindly people who made much over her, and before she could realize what was actually happening she was made the wife of Logan Huett. Then Logan, accompanied by the black-bearded blacksmith Hardy, dragged her away to see her prairie-schooner home. Lucinda recovered somewhat on the way. There would not have been any sense in rebelling even if she wanted to. Logan's grave elation kept her from complete collapse. There was no denying his looks and actions of pride in his possession of her.
   At sight of the canvas-covered wagon Lucinda shrieked with hysterical laughter, which Logan took for mirth. It looked like a collapsed circus-tent hooped over a long box on wheels. When she tiptoed to peep into the wagon a wave of strongly contrasted feeling flooded over her. The look, the smell of the jumbled wagon-load brought Lucinda rudely and thrillingly to the other side of the question. That wagon reeked with an atmosphere of pioneer enterprise, of adventure, of struggle with the soil and the elements.
   "How perfectly wonderful!" she cried, surrendering to that other self. "But Logan, after you pack my baggage in here--where will we sleep?"
   "Doggone it! We'll sure be loaded, 'specially if you buy a lot more. But I'll manage some way till we get into camp. Oh, I tell you, wife, nothing can stump me!...I'll make room for you in there, and I'll sleep on the ground."
   "Haw! haw!" roared the black-bearded giant. "Thet's the pioneer spirit."
   "Logan, I daresay you'll arrange it comfortably for me, at least," said Lucinda, blushing. "I'll run back to the store now. Will you pick me up there? You must give me plenty of time and be prepared to pack a lot more."
   "Better send it out here," replied Logan scratching his chin thoughtfully.
   "Mrs. Huett, you'll change your clothes before you go?" inquired the blacksmith's comely wife. "That dress won't do for campin' oot on this desert. You'll spoil its an' freeze in the bargain."
   "You bet she'll change," interposed Logan, with a grin. "I'd never forget that...Lucinda, dig out your old clothes before I pack these bags."
   "I didn't bring any old clothes," retorted Lucinda.
   "And you going to drive oxen, cook over a wood fire, sleep on hay, and a thousand other pioneer jobs?...Well, while you're at that buying don't forget jeans and socks and boots--a flannel shirt and heavy coat--and a sombrero to protect your pretty white face from the sun. And heavy gloves, my dear, and a silk scarf to keep the dust from choking you."
   "Oh, is that all?" queried Lucinda, soberly. "You may be sure I'll get them."
   Hours later Lucinda surveyed herself before Mrs. Hardy's little mirror, and could not believe the evidence of her own eyes. But the blacksmith's good wife expressed pleasure enough to assure Lucinda that from her own point of view she was a sight to behold. Yet when had she ever felt so comfortable as in this cowboy garb?
   "How'll I ever go out before those men?" exclaimed Lucinda, in dismay. A little crowd had collected round the prairie-schooner, to the back of which Logan appeared to be haltering his horses.
   "My dear child, all women oot heah wear pants an' ride straddle," said Mrs. Hardy, with mild humour. "I'll admit you look more fetchin' than most gurls. But you'll get used to it."
   "Fetching?" repeated Lucinda, dubiously. Then she packed away the travelling-dress, wondering if or when she would ever wear it again. The western woman read her mind.
   "Settlers oot on the range don't get to town often," she vouchsafed, with a smile. "But they do come, an' like it all the better. Be brave now, an' take your medicine, as we westerners say. Yore man will make a great rancher, so Hardy says. Never forget thet the woman settler does the bigger share of the work, an' never gets the credit due her."
   "Thank you, Mrs. Hardy," replied Lucinda, grateful for sympathy anti advice. "I begin to get a glimmering. But I'll go through with it...Good-bye."
   Lucinda went out, carrying her bag, and she tried to walk naturally when she had a mad desire to run.
   "Whoopee!" yelled Logan.
   If they had been alone that startling tribute to her attire would have pleased Lucinda. Anything to rouse enthusiasm or excitement in this strange, serious husband! But to call attention to her before other men, and worse, before some wild, ragged little imps--that was signally embarrassing.
   "Hey, lady," piped up one of the boys, "fer cripes' sake, don't ya stoop over in them pants!"
   That sally elicited a yell of mirth from Logan. The other men turned their backs with hasty and suspicious convulsions. Lucinda hurried on with burning face.
   "Jiminy, she'll make a hot tenderfoot cowgirl," called out another youngster.
   Lucinda gained the wagon without loss of dignity, except for her blush, which she hoped the wide-brimmed sombrero would hide. She stowed her bag under the seat and stepped up on the hub of the wheel. When she essayed another hasty step, from the hub to the high rim of the wheel, she failed and nearly fell. Her blue jeans were too tight. Then Logan gave her a tremendous boost. She landed on the high seat, awkwardly but safely, amid the cheers of the watchers. From this vantage-point Lucinda's adventurous spirit and sense of humour routed her confusion and fury. She looked down upon her glad-eyed husband and the smiling westerners, and then at those devilish little imps.
   "You were all tenderfeet once," she said to the men, with a laugh, and then shook her finger at the urchins. "I've spanked many boys as big as you."
   Logan climbed up on the other side to seize a short stick, with a long leather thong:
   "Hardy, how do you drive these oxen?" called Logan, as if remembering an important item at the last moment.
   "Wal, Logan, thar's nothin' to thet but gadep, gee, whoa, an' haw," replied the blacksmith, with a grin. "Easy as pie. They're a fine trained brace."
   "Adios, folks. See you next spring," called Logan, and cracked the whip with a yell: "Gidap!"
   The oxen swung their huge heads together and moved. The heavy wagon rolled easily. Lucinda waved to the blacksmith's wife, and then at the boys. Their freckled faces expressed glee and excitement. The departure of that wagon meant something they felt but did not understand. One of them cupped his hands round his mouth to shrill a last word to Lucinda.
   "All right, lady. Yu can be our schoolmarm an' spank us if you wear them pants!"
   Lucinda turned quickly to the front. "Oh, the nerve of that little rascal!...Logan, what's the matter with my blue-jeans--pants--that boys should talk so?"
   "Nothing. They're just great. Blue-jeans are as common out here as flapjacks. But I never saw such a--a revealing pair as yours."
   The oxen plodded along, the canvas-covered wagon rolled down the side street. It must have been an ordinary sight in Flagg, because the few passers-by did not look twice at it. Lucinda felt relieved at escaping more curiosity and ridicule. What would that trio of cowboys have said? Logan drove across the railroad, on over a rattling wooden bridge, by the cottages and cabins, and at last by the black-and-yellow sawmill.
   "Darling, we're off!" exclaimed Logan, quite suddenly, and he placed a powerful hand over hers. With the whip he pointed south beyond the hideous slash of forest, to the dim blur of range beyond. His voice sang deep and rich with emotion. "We're on our way to my ranch--to our home in Sycamore Canyon."
   "Yes, Logan. I gathered something of the kind...I'm very happy," she replied, softly, surprised and moved by his term of endearment and the manifestation of strong feeling.
   "I've just lived for this. It's what I worked for--saved my money for. Down there hides my canyon--the grandest range for cattle--grass and water--all fenced. And here's my outfit all paid for. And, last and best, the finest little woman who ever came out to help build up the West!"
   Lucinda settled back happily. She had misjudged Logan's appreciation of her and her sacrifice, if not his absorption in his passion for the cattle-range. But she could forgive that, respect it, and cleave to him with joy now that she knew he loved her.
   The road wound through the denuded forest-land, dry but not dusty, and down-grade enough to make an easy pull for the oxen. A sweet, musty fragrance came on the slight, warm breeze. It grew from pleasant to exhilarating, and Lucinda asked her husband what it was. Dry Arizona, he replied--a mixture of sage, cedar, pinon, and pine. Lucinda liked it, which was all she did like on that six-mile drive out to the forest. Here the cabins and pastures, with their crude fences of poles, appeared to end. Driving into the forest was like entering a green-canopied, brown-pillared tunnel. It was still, shadowed, lighted by golden shafts, and strangely haunting. Lucinda was affected by a peculiar feeling she could not define. It had to do with a strange sense of familiarity when she had never before been in a forest.
   Before sunset Logan drove into a wide-open place. "We'll camp on the far side," he said. "Water and grass. And firewood--well, Lucinda, we'll never be in want for firewood."
   They halted under great pines that stood out from the wall of forest. Wrecks of trees that Logan called windfalls lay about, some yellow and splintered still, others old and grey, falling to decay. Logan leaped down, and when Lucinda essayed to follow, he lifted her down with a hug. "Now, tenderfoot wife, tight pants and all, you can begin!" he said, gaily. But he did not tell her what to begin, and Lucinda stood there stupidly while he unyoked the oxen, turned them loose, then started to lift bags and boxes out of the wagon. He lifted her trunk down with such ease that Lucinda marvelled, remembering how her father had to have help in moving it.
   "That'll go under the wagon," he said. "Don't worry. I'll cover it. But the rains are past, Lucinda. What we get next will be snow. Whew! Does it snow and blow!"
   "Logan, I hate wind and I don't like snow."
   "I daresay. You'll get over that in Arizona...Now, Lucinda, you watch me and learn." He spread a heavy canvas on the grass. Then from a box he took canvas bags of varying sizes, which he set down side by side. He emptied a burlap sack of jangling things that proved to be funny little iron kettles with lids, coffee-pot, skillet, pans and plates, cups of tin, and other utensils. Then he loosened several buckets that fitted one into the other. These he plunged into the brook, to swing out brimming full of water. All his movements were quick, vigorous, yet deft. It was wonderful to watch him ply an axe. Chips and splinters and billets flew. as if by magic. He built a roaring fire, explaining that it must burn down to a bed of red coals. Next, like a juggler, he produced washbasin, soap, and towel, and thoroughly washed his hands..."Most important of all," he said with a grin. "Now watch me mix sourdough biscuits." She did watch the procedure with intense interest. Here was her husband encroaching on the preserves of a housewife. But she was fascinated. He was efficient, he was really wonderful to a tenderfoot girl. To see that brawny-shouldered young man on his knees before a pan of flour and water, to watch his big brown hands skilfully mix the dough was a revelation to Lucinda. With the further preparation of the meal he was equally skilful. She sat down cross-legged, despite the tight breeches, and most heartily enjoyed her first supper in Arizona. She was famished. Logan had forgotten to take her to lunch. Ham and eggs, biscuits and coffee, with canned peaches for dessert, and finally the big box of candy that Logan produced from somewhere, as an especial present on that day--these certainly satisfied more than hunger for Lucinda.
   "Logan, you amaze me. You're a splendid cook," she said. "It's just fine to think I won't have to cook and bake."
   "Ha! ha! No you won't at all!" he ejaculated, gaily. "But I'm gad you see I can do it...Now we'll clear up. I'll wash, and you dry."
   After these chores were finished Logan went into the woods with an axe, to come forth burdened under an immense load of green, fragrant boughs. This he threw down beside the wagon. Then he unrolled a canvas to take out blankets.
   "There's hardly enough room in the wagon for you to sleep, let alone me," he said. "I'll make my bed on the ground. If skunks and coyotes, scorpions, tarantulas, and sidewinders come around, they'll get me first. Ha! ha! But really they're not to be laughed at. I won't take any risk of you being bitten, especially by a hydrophobia skunk. You're too doggone precious. I'd never find another woman like you."
   Lucinda said nothing. His words, like his actions, were so natural, so inevitable. Yet he showed fine feeling. She was a bride, and this was her wedding-night. Dusk came trooping out of the forest. She heard a sough of wind in the pines, an uneasy, breathing, melancholy sound. How lonely! She shivered a little. Logan's observations were keen. He fetched her heavy coat. Then he threw a bundle of the green pine foliage into the wagon, and some blankets, and climbed in the door after them. Lucinda heard him rummaging around at a great rate. Presently he leaped out, his hair rumpled.
   "There! All you got to do is use your coat for a pillow, take off your boots, crawl under the blankets, and you'll be jake...Well, the day is done. Our first day!...Now for a smoke. Lucinda, better stretch your legs a little before we turn in."
   She walked under the pines, along the brook, out into the open. But she did not go far. The windfalls, the clumps of sage might harbour some of the varmints Logan feared. She looked back to see he had replenished the camp fire. He stood beside it, a tall, dark, stalwart figure, singularly fitting this unfamiliar scene. There appeared to be something wild and raw, yet thrilling about it. The flames lighted up the exquisite lacy foliage of the pines. Sparks flew upwards. The great white wagon loomed like a spectre. Black always depressed Lucinda, but white frightened her. Logan stood there spreading his hands...He was splendid, she thought. She could well transfer the love she had given him as a boy to the grown man, for Logan had matured beyond his years. In repose his face showed fine, stern lines. He had suffered pain, hardship, if not grief. Lucinda's fears of Logan vanished like the columns of smoke blowing away into the darkness. She had vague fears of this West, and she divined they would be magnified and multiplied, but never would there be a fear of Logan Huett. Whatever it would cost her, she was glad she had answered to his call for a mate, and she would try to make herself a worthy one.
   She returned to the fire and warmed her hands over the blaze. How quickly the air had chilled!
   "I never knew how good fire could feel," she said, laughing.
   "Ha! You said a lot." Then he drew her to a seat on the log near by. He removed his pipe and knocked the ashes from it. "Lucinda,' I'm not much of a fellow to talk," he said, earnestly, with the light from the fire playing on his dark strong face and in his clear grey eyes. "Sure, I'll talk your head off about cattle and range, bears and cougars, Indians and all that's wild. But I mean the--the deep things--the things here----" and he tapped his broad breast. "I've got them here, only they're hard to say...Anyway, words would never tell how I appreciate your leaving your people, your friends and civilized comforts, to come out to this wild Arizona range. To be my wife--my pardner I It's almost too good to be true. And I love you for it...I reckon I was selfish to make you come to me and rush you at that. But you'll forgive me when you see our ranch--the work that's to be done--and winter coming fast...You're only a young girl, Lucinda. Only eighteen! And I feel shame to think what you must have overcome--before you accepted. But, my dear, don't fear I'll rush you into real wifehood--you know, like I did into marriage. All in good time, Lucinda, when you feel you know me as I am now, and love me, and want to come to me...That's all, little girl. Kiss me good night and go to your bed in our prairie-schooner."
   Lucinda did as she was bidden, relieved and comforted as she had not thought possible except after long trial. She peeped out to see Logan in the flickering firelight. Then she crawled under the warm woollen blankets. How strange! How marvellous to be there! She would not have exchanged that bed, and the canvas roof with its moving weird shadows, for the palace of a princess. But the wind moaned through the pines--moaned of the terrible loneliness, the distance, the wildness of this West.

Chapter 3 >