WeirdSpace Digital Library - Culture without borders

30,000 on the Hoof

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

Chapter 7

   Huett went out in the grey of dawn, glad to feel a light sifting snow almost damp in his face. That meant moderation of the bitter cold. The hard winter, with deep snows on the ridge-tops, had ruined his cherished plan of trapping abundant beaver and other animals. He had cleaned out his canyon of valuable fur. Deep snows had driven an old cougar down into the protected places, and Huett's little herd had suffered severely.
   With his milk-pail Huett strode for the cowsheds. In the pale gloom the brook made a black belt down the white canyon. Only in the most severe weather did the water freeze. He was thinking that a thaw would be most welcome. His hay was all gone and the fodder would not last another month. The cows and heifers, and the three calves he still had left, must soon be turned out in the pasture. There was abundant feed on the south slopes, but the risk in the open canyon was greater.
   "Welt, I don't know," pondered the homesteader. "That old Tom cougar has come right into my pen to kill stock. Reckon it's about six for one and half a dozen for the other. But by jiminy! I've got to kill that cunning old cat. But for him I'd come through the winter with little loss."
   He carried a bundle of fodder to Bossy and threw it under the shed. He was about to sit down on his box-seat, preparatory to milking Bossy, when he heard a thumping of hoofs and the bawl of cows in the far pen.
   "That cougar--I'll bet!" muttered Huett, and he stood up to listen. Then followed a scratching of claws on the high fence, a soft thump and a growl, followed by a strangled cry of a calf, suddenly cut short.
   Huett looked about for a weapon. Foolishly he had forgotten his gun. There was a pitchfork in the stall, but close at hand he espied a spade, which he caught up as he ran to the gate of the next pen. He was in time to see a dark, convulsive blur on the snow, to hear a rending of flesh, and a gasping intake of air. The next instant a big cougar, grey in the dim light of dawn, left the calf and bounded for the fence.
   Huett yelled and ran, brandishing the spade. The cougar leaped, catching the fence about two-thirds up. Then he climbed like any cat. The beast hooked his fore-paws over the top and was drawing his body up when Huett, with terrific sweep of the spade, knocked him off the fence. The blow was so powerful that it propelled the cougar almost twenty feet into a corner of the pen. It disabled him also, as Huett was quick to see.
   The homesteader leaped to take advantage of this opportunity, hoping to put in a telling blow before the giant cat recovered. He was an instant too late. The cougar spun round, sending the snow flying, and backed into the corner, crouched to spring, spitting explosively, his eyes blazing balls of green fire.
   "Aha, I got you now!" roared Huett, swinging the spade. "You bloody calf-eater! You'll never eat another calf of mine...I'll split your head!"
   The cougar sprang. Huett met that onslaught with a vigorous thrust of the spade. He hit straight into the open mouth at the beast. The cracking of teeth was followed by a snarling roar, then a grind of bone on steel. Huett wrenched the spade free and struck the cougar another blow that sent it sprawling again into the fence-corner.
   "Fightin' cornered cougar, huh?" shouted Huett, fierce in his anger. "You've got a man to deal with now, cat...Take that--damn your yellow hide!...Spit--roar...I'll separate those sneaking eyes!"
   Beaten down, the cougar rolled up on its back, emitting frightful hisses, snapping at the spade, clawing with four striking paws. Huett swung the spade edgewise and the blade caught in the fence. In the next instant the cougar whirled to seize Huett's left arm in its jaws. Luckily the heavy leather sleeve saved his arm from being crushed. Wrenching out the spade, he struck savagely at the eyes of green fire. The blade glanced off the skull, but one of the terrible eyes went out like a light extinguished. The spade broke, leaving the handle in Huett's grasp. With that he beat the beast over the head until the wood flew into bits. But he had freed his arm. With lightning speed he seized the big cat around the throat and brought to bear all his wonderful strength. A fiery elation ran along his veins. He muttered grimly at the clawing beast. Insensible to the rip and tear of claws, he lifted the animal high, crashed its head on the fence and choked it until it sagged limp in his grip.
   Huett held it a moment, gloating with the sheer savagery of his victory. Then he let it fall and staggered back to lean against the fence and look about with glazed eyes. Daylight had come. The snow had ceased. The corner of the pen displayed a ploughed area of bloodstained snow. Huett's left arm and his legs down to his boots had withstood the clawing attack of the cougar, but his sleeve and jeans were torn to shreds and soaked with blood.
   Realising that he was seriously clawed and bitten, Huett hurried back to the cabin, Lucinda was up, bending over the fire, which was burning brightly.
   "Logan!--What's happened?" she cried, standing up pale and staring.
   "Don't worry. I'm all right. Just had a hell of a fight with a cougar. That old Tom! And I killed him, too...But he cut me up bad!"
   Lucinda could only gasp as he threw off his coat, the left sleeve of which hung in ribbons. Then he took off his shirt.
   "Luce, don't look so scared," he said, with grim humour. "You should see old Tom!...We'll want hot water and some clean linen...They tell me a cat bite in this hospitable land is most as bad as that of a hydrophobia skunk. Danger of blood-poisoning. Have we anything to put on--any medicine or strong salve?"
   "No. I used the last...There's some turpentine. But you can't use that."
   "Just the stuff. Get the basin, Luce. Let's see...Water not too hot...Now, wash off the blood. Make a clean job of it, Luce. When I was scout for Crook I used to watch the Doc fix up cuts and gunshot wounds. To wash 'em clean was the trick...Yow I there's where Kitty got me with a big canine tooth! Reckon I broke off the other with the spade. If I hadn't had my leather coat on--whew!"
   "Does it hurt, Logan?"
   "Hurt? No. I was just thinking over what he might have done to me...Get some bandages before using the turpentine...He scratched this arm pretty bad...All right. Now!...Auggh!...Get some in that, bite. Deep."
   Logan thought he sweat blood during the application of the fiery turpentine, but he would have undergone it again to get rid of such a flesh-eater as the cougar. After Lucinda had bound his arm, she examined his leg, to find long deep scratches, but little laceration of flesh. When all of them were treated and bandaged Logan felt immersed in a bath of fire. He paced the floor restlessly, his grey eyes gleaming, while Lucinda turned her hand to breakfast. The dog Coyote sat on the hearth, grave-eyed and watchful.
   "Luce, that tom-cat was our worst enemy," said Logan, with strong relief in his tones. "With him out of the way I can raise some calves...That reminds me, I didn't look to see if he'd had time to kill the calf."
   Throwing a blanket around his shoulders, Logan went out. Snow was falling again. The air felt raw and damp. He found the calf dead. Judging by the tracks, which were printed words to Logan, the cougar had leaped nearly twenty feet on his last jump, and, landing on the calf, had buried his fangs in the back of its neck and with both paws had pulled its head back, thus breaking its neck.
   "He was a killer!...Dammit, that means I'll have to butcher this calf," Logan mumbled to himself. Then he turned his attention to the cougar. He had sliced off one side of its head, taking an eye and an ear. Other wounds did not show..."Here's a hide I won't sell...Biggest cougar I've seen. This was a good morning's work, in spite of losing a calf."
   Logan returned to the cabin, dragging the cougar over the snow, and indoors, much to Lucinda's disgust. "Here's the son-of-a-gun, Luce," he exclaimed. "Isn't he a beauty! I'll make a rug out of that hide...Back, Coyote. If you'd been a real dog you'd have smelled this cat, and saved me God knows what."
   After breakfast Logan skinned the cougar, and nailed the hide up on the wall outside. Then he went out to butcher the calf. He felt extreme dizziness, and such pain from the burning turpentine and wounds that it made him weak. His movements lacked their customary vigour and speed. He was long at the task, but finally got the calf hung up to a rafter. Then he returned to the cabin.
   "Luce, I can't milk this morning," he said, sinking into a chair. "You'll have to do it."
   "All right, Logan...You must be suffering torture. You're white and drawn."
   "Reckon I feel pretty bad. Loss of blood--and this damned burn...Be careful how you walk, dear. It's slippery this morning and you're getting heavy again." He shook his head mournfully. "I'm afraid I'll be laid up a bit...And you with child doing all the work! We don't have much good luck, Luce."
   "It could be worse. We'll manage, Logan. If only you weren't in such pain!"
   "I reckon that'll wear off presently," he replied, heavily. However, it did not wear off, but grew worse. Logan endured the most agonizing night of his life. Morning found him feverish, with swollen, throbbing limbs. The burn from the turpentine, however, had abated.
   Logan lay awake in the grey of dawn. Always a slow thinker, he was additionally inhibited by his condition, but he realized that the situation called for extreme measures. His faithful wife must not have thrust upon her, all the work from cabin to corrals. She had not been well for months, if to be strange, brooding, wholly unlike her old self, were ill. It was the new child. For him to succumb to his wounds, to be victim of blood-poisoning, to lie useless for weeks and more--these were absolutely impossible. At this juncture he began his fight.
   Logan did not go out of his head. His will compared markedly with his great physical strength. Many times during the next three days, especially in the dark of night, he was forced to sit up to keep his senses. Even then the darkness, the silence, rolled over him like demons. He endured the pain without betraying it to Lucinda, although her constant attention and solicitude gave him cause for concern. Three long days and three ghastly nights he fought to get off his back. All the while he was aware that Lucinda cared for his wounds and tried to ease his sufferings. She was required to chop wood because, owing to the unusually cold winter, the supply had been exhausted. This labour galled Logan to exasperation and passionate maledictions concerning his neglect, but stoically she went about her tasks, ignoring his protests. While breakfast was cooking she fed the baby, now a lusty and growing boy. During the day there was no rest from her unending toil. This evening and the succeeding one she kept the fire burning all night: winter was dying hard.
   On the fourth day Logan forced himself to get up. He staggered. It seemed his strength had vanished completely. He could not use his left arm nor scarcely move his left leg; but doggedly he chopped wood, built a fire, carried water, milked the cows, packed the fodder to the corrals. Silent, plodding, unbeatable, he refused to allow his muscles to cease their unremitting labour.
   Gradually the hard days and awful nights passed. Logan well knew when the fever left him. A dark and terrible force at work upon his mind, a slow boil of his blood, a dizziness and constant dancing spots before his eyes, the hot fire in his flesh--these fled with the endless days, and he was on the mend.
   Logan could not remember a spring so welcome. The snow faded off the ridges, the turkeys began to gobble, the bluebells to nod under the pines; jays returned to squall and the squirrels to chatter, bear-tracks showed in the open spots, and the sun shone daily warmer--these portents of summer could not be denied: they were a fulfilment of prophecy. Lucinda had quoted a familiar phrase one early winter day. "If winter comes, can spring be far behind?" Lo! here it hail, come, and Logan's doubts fled. He would soon be himself; he would beat this pioneer game; soon he would have sons to help him ride and drive and shoot and chop with him. He envisioned the day in the years to come when his canyon and the one below would be full of grazing cattle--the thirty thousand head these magnificent grassy valleys could support.
   That spring Logan did not go to Flagg. Lucinda begged him to wait until after the baby came, so that she could ride in with him. How sombrely she had vowed she would never stay alone at Sycamore Canyon again! But Logan was tolerant with her. She could well be excused during the burden and travail of child-bringing. She was a wonderful helpmate. Her uncomplaining, steadfast loyalty did not escape him. Lucinda Baker could have married a better man than he--one who could have given her the comforts which she had been brought up to expect. Logan Huett never forgot that. It was a spur to goad him on.
   Logan's horses stayed in the vicinity of the cabin, always hanging around for a little hay, or the measure of grain he doled out to them. He had acquired the habit of training horses while with the soldiers. No rider ever needed to follow the tracks of a trained horse. His oxen, however, he kept with the cattle down the canyon. Logan found six steers and the bull. Again his herd had dwindled. Instead of feeling badly about more loss, Logan was glad it was so small.
   The frost thawed out of the soil and the water dried up. Logan began his spring ploughing. It was slow work because of the snail-like pace of the oxen. Some day he would buy a good farm team. His poverty did not interfere with his old dreams and plans. He knew his tremendous assets--his strength, his endurance, his unquenchable optimism. No range could destroy these forces. Besides, it was to the future that he looked for results; and only his slow beginning filled him with dogged wrath at the seasons and the obstacles.
   He ploughed all the ground he had farmed the year before, even the sandy ten acres he had planted in corn. For the hayfield he chose a plot lower down, near the brook, where the grass grew abundantly. He trebled the area for potatoes. He would sell two hundred bushels that fall.
   Planting was labour he loved best of all, with the exception of work pertaining to cattle. Mistakes indulged in during the preceding year he carefully avoided. From dawn until dark he sowed, planted, waded through the rich, dark soil, but when he arrived at the cornfield he had scarce begun sowing when the flight of crows arrived. A black crowd of cawing crows!
   "All the damn crows in Arizona!" ejaculated Logan, in a rage. "You black buzzards; why don't a few of you call on some other farmer?"
   This spring he gave up killing them. All the corn he laid that first day they ate behind him. Next day he covered the precious kernels, and so outwitted them. Crows were not diggers, at least.
   "If it gets dry this summer, I'll irrigate," soliloquized Logan, surveying the land, and its relation to the brook. By going up the canyon he could dam the stream and run water all over his farmland. He scarcely gave a thought to the prodigious labour involved. After planting the cornfield he set to work with the beans. In a country where beans were supposed to flourish he had failed signally. He had one sack left, which was enough for a dozen long rows. He had no turnip seed.
   One morning at breakfast Lucinda said: "Logan, it is July."
   "July?--Well!--How do you know?"
   "I've kept track of the months...My time is near."
   "Aw! I almost forgot, dear. I wish I could stand it for you...Another boy! Gosh, I hope he comes on the Fourth of July. Anyway, I'll name him Abraham Lincoln Huett."
   "Husband, we should wait until we get him." Lucinda's tone was strange and far away, but Logan failed to notice it.
   "Hadn't you better take it easy, Luce?" he asked earnestly. "You're on your feet all the time, even when you're not helping me."
   "I feel strong--restless. I don't get tired. If I'm idle, I brood."
   "I know so little about such things...Can you tell any-ways near when?"
   "Not very closely. But when the hour comes a woman knows...You must be ready to hurry after Mrs. Holbert."
   "I can get her here in five hours."
   "That's reasonably quick, I'm sure. But it might be all over in far less time than that. We'll hope not...only you must have your horse ready."
   "I'll keep Buck in the' corral. Don't worry, dear. It'll be all right. I'll be within call any time."
   "Logan, you forget I'm alive while you're at work," she said, sombrely.
   Several days went by with Logan ever thoughtful of Lucinda, neglecting his work to make frequent trips back to the cabin, and never going far away. However, she went about her tasks as usual, and gradually his anxiety lessened. He expected another word from her to prepare him.
   There was a long, narrow ravine opening down into the canyon, a favourite place for cattle to stray in hot weather. It was shady, and the grazing was green. Logan had not fenced the upper end of this, as he had never tracked any cattle that far. One afternoon, however, happening along near this spot, he found to his dismay that several of his steers had worked out on to the ridge above. He discovered them up an aspen swale and drove them back, carrying poles and logs to obstruct the opening for the time being. When he had completed this job and started home, he saw that the afternoon was spent. The shade of the deep ravine where he had worked had failed to warn him of the approach of sunset and dusk.
   Darkness had settled down by the time he reached the fields. The night hawks were flying about with their weird cries, the insects had begun their buzzing chorus, and the drowsy summer warmth of the day had begun to cool. Logan was surprised not to see a light in the cabin. He hurried on, a sudden fear assailing him. Reaching the open door, he found the cabin dark.
   "Luce," he called, anxiously. She did not answer. He went in, repeating his call, this time sharply. She was not in the cabin. He rushed out to shout. If she had gone out for wood or water she could hear him; but there was no answer. The only other place she could possibly be was at the cowshed. His neglect to come back early to milk the cows might have induced her to do those chores herself--she was queer about such little things.
   Logan strode down the path. Stars had begun to twinkle. He heard a pattering on the ground, and the dog came running to him, leaping up and whining. Coyote would not be far from Lucinda. Nevertheless Logan's sense of something amiss did not leave him.
   He hurried to the sheds. All dark! Still, it was nothing for Lucinda to finish milking after nightfall. Logan heard the rustle and munching of hay. Coyote had left him, but he noticed that Bossy was in her stall.
   "Lucinda--are you there?" called Logan hesitantly, peering into the darkness. Fear knifed him with a swift, sharp pang.
   "Here--I am," Lucinda replied, in a voice from which it seemed all life had drained.
   Logan felt his way to the next stall. It had been used to store hay, of which only a lower layer was left. He called again huskily.
   "Here," she replied, almost under his feet.
   "Luce--girl!" he cried, falling on his knees to feel around for her. "What has happened?"
   "I wanted--to milk--before dark...But I never got to time came...Your son, Abraham Lincoln, has just--been born...He was in a hurry to--come into this world."
   "Son! Abraham--oh, my God!...Luce, this is awful...what shall I do?"
   "Leave me here...Go for Mrs. Holbert."
   "Let me carry you up to the cabin."
   "It wouldn't be safe...You'd better go...and hurry!...The baby is alive."
   Logan struck a match with shaking hands. The light flared up. He saw Lucinda lying on the hay, white as a corpse. Her face appeared small--shrunken--her eyes too large--somehow terrible. Tucked under her arm, half covered, lay a strange little mite with a mop of black hair.
   "Well!--Howdy there--Abe!" he said, in a strangled voice.
   But he did not look at his wife again. He extinguished the match with fingers which did not feel the burn.
   "Luce, I hate to leave you. But I'm helpless...If only I----"
   "Go, Logan. Don't waste time."
   Huett left her with a husky utterance, and running clumsily in the dark to the corral, saddled and bridled Buck with hands that shook in spite of his intense efforts to control them. Mounting, he was off up the hill. He found that Buck was not a racer, but was strong and tireless and could lope indefinitely. Except on the grades where Logan was forced to walk or trot, the homesteader kept his horse in open gait.
   The hard action gradually steadied Logan, but he could not remember having known such agitation before. However, his practical habit of thinking out obstacles soon enabled him to apply all his faculties towards the ride through the forest. Where the pines grew dense it was darker and the road was full of pits and roots; but in the open stretches Logan made better time. Vigilant and intense in his concentration over the lay of the land, Logan hardly realized the passing of time. At last he swung out of the deep wood and into the open where the south end of Mormon Lake gleamed under the stars. In less than half an hour he hauled Buck up in front of Holbert's ranch.
   The rancher and his womenfolk were astounded at Logan's onslaught upon their door; particularly his panting relief at finding them at home, and his frantic appeal for help.
   "Hitch up pronto, John," said the older woman calmly. "Mary, you come help me get ready...Don't worry, Huett. It'll be all right. There was once a great and good man born in a manger."
   Logan unsaddled Buck and turned him into the pasture. Then he ran to the barn, where Holbert was readying the wagon by the light of a lantern.
   "Won't take a jiffy," announced the rancher. "Bill went after the hosses. I had them in to water no more than hour ago...It's a downhill pull. You can drive it in three hours. My wife is an old hand at birthday parties. Don't be upset, Huett. This is kinda common in the lives of settlers."
   Logan had a fleeting idea that he lacked something theses pioneers like Holbert possessed, but their assurance and kindliness heartened him in this extremity. For the first time he echoed Lucinda's wish that they might have had near neighbours. Presently Holbert drove the buck-board up to the cabin, Logan following with the son-in-law, Bill, who was solicitous and helpful. When they arrived at the cabin, the women were emerging.
   "We'll take the lantern," Mrs. Holbert was saying. "But put it out. Give Huett some matches. Put some blankets under the seat...Mary, have I forgotten anything?"
   "I reckon not, maw."
   They climbed into the back seat. Holbert gave the reins over to Logan and jumped down. "Easy team to drive, Huett. Hold them to a fast trot, except on the grades...Good hick!"
   "I'm much obliged, Holbert," said Logan, gratefully. He drove out and turned south on the main road. A half moon had risen over the black forest and gleamed softly on the lake. That would be a help, he thought. The women wrapped blankets around their knees and lapsed into a silence welcome to Logan. He attended to the road, forcing into abeyance his acute anxiety, while his sense of dragging time eased away under the influence of swift movement. Holbert had spoken modestly of this team: they trotted on tirelessly, rolling the light buckboard; the lake passed, the moon soared, and the sections of black forest gradually grew longer as the miles went by.
   Before Logan thought such a thing possible he reached Long. Valley, and was soon clattering down into moonlit Sycamore Canyon.
   Halting at the corrals, he leaped out to dash towards the cow-stalls. He could dimly see Lucinda lying on the hay. The moment was exceedingly poignant. His voice almost failed him, but she heard and answered.
   "Aw!" he exclaimed, fervently. "They're here, Luce." And he ran back to the buckboard. "She's alive, Mrs. Holbert!" he cried, boyishly. "She spoke!"
   "Shore she's alive. What was you thinkin', man? Light the lantern an' hand out thet bundle."
   Logan heard the cheery pioneer woman talking solicitously to Lucinda. He halted the team near the corral fence to pace the moonlit path. After an endless interval the younger woman sought him.
   "Maw says to tell you it's a strappin' boy an' favours you," she said. "Both doin' fine. In the mawnin' they can be moved to the house. We'll stay heah with them...An' you can go to bed."
   Logan mumbled his profound gratitude to her and to something more of which he was only vaguely conscious. He unhitched the horses and turned them loose to graze. Then he went up to the cabin and sat down outside the open door, wiping the cold sweat from his brow. The silent canyon with its silver winding ribbon seemed to rebuke him.
   "Reckon there was something I didn't figure on," he soliloquized, grimly. "And that's been Luce's part in this lousy cattle-range deal of mine. My idee of a husky mate and some strappin' sons!...I reckon now I sure see the cost to a woman."
   Logan worked in the fields. Before August was out Lucinda was helping him with the harvest. The rain and heat for summer season held to normal; Logan raised no bumper crop, but he was satisfied with a yield that looked great compared with the failure of the years before. He sacked more potatoes than he would be able to haul to town in one load. The corn did not mature well, but there would be enough to take care of the young stock he wanted to keep enclosed during the winter. By mid-September the harvesting was finished. Then Logan was eager to make his fall trip to Flagg. Upon his return October would be well advanced--the one season he had any leisure to roam the woods with his gun.
   Lucinda kept to her vow regarding the next trip to Flagg. She went, despite the heavy load, and carried the baby on her lap, letting George hang on as best he could. They camped the first night at Turkey Flat, and late the next afternoon made Mormon Lake, where the Holberts welcomed them.
   "Abe Lincoln Huett, huh?" ejaculated the rancher, as the baby was placed on his knee. "Wal, if he ain't a kid! Got your eyes, Huett, only a little darker."
   Logan slept under the wagon with Coyote. At breakfast the following morning Holbert asked more questions about Sycamore Canyon.
   "Thet's a good place, if you ever get started," he said, thoughtfully. "My herd is growin' fast. I'm drivin' a hundred head to the railroad next month. Don't forget to find out the latest price."
   "I won't. Holbert, I'm wondering if you could spare me some stock this fall and let me pay you when I do get started."
   "Shore glad to oblige you, Huett...Have you proved up on your homestead yet?"
   "Not till next year."
   "Wal, I'd make application for a patent to the land. Government's awful slow. When the land's yours, wal, it's different. You'll own your homestead allotment an' have right of way over a big range. But in case you cain't make it go down there, I'd advise your locatin' over here north of me. There's a fine range thet some feller will locate sooner or later. An' he might not be a good neighbour. We got to expect rustlin' in this wild country."
   "Rustling! You mean cattle-thieves?"
   "Shore do. Wait till more settlers drift in an' we all raise enough stock. Then we'll ketch it hot, I'll bet."
   "Last thing I'd ever thought of," replied Huett, sombrely.
   Soon he was driving on, with Lucinda beside him, more animated than she had been for months. Logan decided that in the future, when he went to town, it would be the right thing to do to take his wife along.
   "Wife, we'll stay a couple of days," said Logan, upon their arrival at Flagg. "I haven't any money. But I'll trade in this load of potatoes and arrange for credit this time."
   "Logan, are we forced to go in debt?" asked Lucinda.
   "I reckon so. But not much."
   "A little is too much...I'll lend you a hundred dollars."
   "Luce!--Say, have you got that much money?--Well, you just spend it on yourself and the children."
   Babbitt's gave Logan a dollar a bushel for his potatoes and claimed they were the finest ever brought into that store. This pleased Logan and made him thoughtful, although he did not deviate in his ambition to be a cattleman, not a farmer. Nevertheless, he saw clearly the value of good crops while his herd was growing. Logan purchased food supplies, seed, tools, and clothes and boots for himself, of which necessities he was sadly in need. He renewed old acquaintances and made new ones. Flagg, a wide-open frontier town, had begun to grow rapidly, especially in undesirable citizens. Hard characters from New Mexico and Colorado had come to Arizona, and were drifting about looking for a place to lodge. Logan hardly saw his wife that day. They took supper at the blacksmith's, where Logan scarcely recognized the new, gayer Lucinda. Next morning he packed his supplies, leaving a space under the seat for Lucinda's purchases, but it developed that he had not left enough room for her numerous bundles. He had to tie many of them on the wagon-side; and about a few Lucinda was both particular and mysterious, refusing to allow him to handle them. Then she surprised him by announcing that if he was ready she would be glad to start for home.
   "I've had a wonderful time," she said gaily. "Everybody was nice--and crazy about the babies. I'm ready if you are. We mustn't waste money. And if I stay another hour I'll spend...Well, it's time to go home, Logan."
   Logan opined she had meant that she might spend money she did not have, as he had done. He had further cause to appreciate this wonderful wife.
   Logan had reason to rejoice for more than good credit in Flagg and at the prospect of an addition to his herd. Lucinda appeared to have changed, to have lost a sombreness that had come so gradually that Logan had scarcely perceived it. She was more like her old self. The ride into Sycamore Canyon after Logan had arranged with Holbert for the new stock was almost as thrilling for her, it appeared, as her first one had been. The golden rod and the purple asters had bloomed during their absence. The canyon was beginning to blaze with scarlet and gold and purple.
   "I'm glad to get back," Lucinda announced as if telling herself something new and exciting. "After all, it's home!"
   Three weeks later Holbert's sons drove in the score and more of lately purchased cows and heifers. All too soon, then, Logan's short fall season for hunting ended with deep snows up on the ridges. Again he was disappointed that he could not trap beaver. He must wait for an open winter. When he completed hanging up the winter supply of meat, he attacked the firewood job. This he made a long and hard one, goaded by the unforgettable fact that Lucinda had been forced to chop wood during her delicate condition while he lay helpless in bed from the cougar wounds.
   Day by day the snows crept down into the canyon, limiting Logan's activities to chores and the killing Or frightening away of the predatory beasts that preyed on his herd. The winter passed swiftly, giving way to an early spring and a warm summer. Lucinda persuaded Logan to wait until fall for the trip to town. Their third boy, whom Logan named Grant Huett, after General Grant, was born at Flagg in October. When they again returned to their ranch the snows were whitening the forest ridge-tops.
   Logan toiled early and late. He had a growing trio of youngsters now--the lusty boys he had prayed for--and prosperity still held aloof. The Government finally gave Logan patent for his homestead, and now the land was his as well as the rights of water, grass, and timber for all the canyon area. But Logan's draught of sweetness was rendered bitter by Holbert's demanding a mortgage on the property for the cattle he had advanced--the little herd which, instead of increasing in number towards the long-deferred fulfilment, had dwindled to a quarter. In spite of his dreams, Huett was a better farmer than a cattle-raiser. But he never faltered, never lost sight of his vision; and while he toiled, his giant frame bent over plough or furrow or axe, the months and years rolled on.

Chapter 8 >