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30,000 on the Hoof

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

Chapter 16

   It was dusk when Huett stamped out of the cottage, deaf to Lucinda's entreaties and Barbara's cries, his big fist tight about a ragged wad of bogus paper money, his mind blocked at what he thought could be only a stupendous joke.
   Yet his breast seemed to be crushed with a paralysing fear. The night watchman was lighting the street lamps. Huett strode on faster. He found Mitchell's office empty and vacated. Then he remembered that the cattle-buyer and his associate in the saloon had been carrying hand baggage. They were leaving Flagg. Then on the moment he heard a distant shrill whistle of the East-bound train. Whereupon Huett, who had not run for years, broke into a dash for the station. He arrived there strangled for breath, his great chest heaving like a bellows. In the waiting-room he found a woman at the ticket window. He stamped through to the platform.
   The usual loungers were there, and hurrying station-men, and waiting passengers. Down the railroad track shone the headlight of the train entering Flagg. Huett rushed on. At last, under one of the yellow street lamps, he espied Mitchell, the lieutenant who had been in the office, and two other men, and several young women. Huett broke into the circle to confront Mitchell.
   "You--you...What do you mean?" exploded Huett, in a husky almost incoherent voice, and he extended the big fist still clutching the cut papers.
   "Hello, Huett," replied the Government man, in cool irritation. "No time for you. I'm saying good-bye to friends."
   "By God--you've time--for me!...That package you--gave me...Cut newspaper and tin foil...Not money!...Damn poor joke."
   "Man, you must be drunk," flashed Mitchell, his piercing eyes like cold steel.
   "Drunk?...Hellsfire!" thundered Huett. "You gave me paper--instead of cash...Look!"
   Huett opened his huge fist to disclose pieces of shiny tin foil and crumpled cuts of paper. Some of them fell to the platform.
   "You're either drunk or crazy," replied Mitchell, sharply. "I paid you in cash. I have your receipt. Lieutenant Caddell witnessed your signature. We warned you to be careful with all that cash. But you didn't heed. We saw you drinking in that dive."
   Huett stood transfixed and mute, his spread hand still out-held, the fingers shaking, while Mitchell looked to his Lieutenant for confirmation of his claims.
   "That's right, Huett," declared Mitchell's companion, crisply. "I saw Mr. Mitchell pay you cash. I saw you take the money and sign the receipt, and I witnessed it. Later I understand you were drinking with your cronies in the worst joint in town. But what happened to you after, you left our office with the money is no concern of ours. That's all."
   "Mistake--wrong package!" gasped Huett, suffocatingly.
   Caddell made a gesture of scornful dismissal. Mitchell turned to the black-eyed, staring girl who held his arm. The train rumbled into the station, with puffing engine and grinding wheels. Baggage and mail-cars passed on down the platform. Then with a jerk the train stopped.
   Huett's mind cleared. A terrible flash of truth swept away the fog of stupefaction. This man had cheated him. Like an imbecile he had walked into a hellishly clever trap inspired by his demand for payment in cash.
   This swift deduction gave way to a slow metamorphosis in Huett's feeling. Violent release of dammed-up blood forced spasmodic expansion and movement of muscles. As he stood there, with that great hand outstretched, the quivering, calloused fingers like a claw, he felt the rise of a maelstrom of fury. In all his life Huett had never been subjected to a full storm of passion. It transformed him. An expulsion of breath whistled through his teeth. His sight filmed with a tinge of red, colouring the pretty faces of the young women, the paling visage of Caddell, and the averted one of Mitchell. Disjointed thoughts blocked Huett's rend--to beat down these baffling foes--to kill--to tear from them his money, which surely they had.
   He shut that spread hand into a ponderous fist. His bellow brought Mitchell around just in time to meet a blow like that from a battering-ram. Blood squirted as Mitchell went down, dragging two of the screaming girls with him. Caddell shouted lustily for help, and leaped to avoid Huett's fist. The other two men seized Huett from behind. He threw them sprawling and lunged upon the prostrate Mitchell, to half strip him of clothing. Then a crowd of men dragged Huett off his victim, back from the platform to the road. At length Huett stopped surging like a lassoed bull, and stood quiet in the grip of many hands, to see Mitchell carried on the train and his baggage thrown on after him. Caddell stood on the car-step, trying to rid himself of the clinging, hysterical young women. The train started with a jerk, gathered momentum and passed on out of the station. Then the excitement of the crowd centred upon, Huett.
   "Let go of me," he rumbled.
   "All right, men," called the sheriff. "Huett, you don't 'pear to be drunk. What'n hell was the matter? Who was you tryin' to kill? I didn't get here in time to see."
   "Mitchell, the Government cattle-buyer. I sold him thirty thousand and nine hundred head...He was to pay me in cash...Gave me a package. Got my receipt...I didn't open that package at once. Had some drinks with Doyle and Holbert...When I got home--I opened it--found I'd been swindled...My cash was cut newspaper and tin foil!"
   "For cripe's sake!" ejaculated the sheriff, while the circle of men gave vent to like exclamations. "Huett, are you out of your haid?"
   "I was there, for a little...I'd have killed him. Glad you pulled me off."
   "You look queer, but I guess you're not loco. Huett, can you prove what you say? I'll wire Slocum at Holbrook and have him stop that train an' arrest Mitchell. We mustn't let him get out of the State."
   "Prove it?" laboured Huett, ponderingly. "I've that package--and all the bogus money--except the handful I grabbed."
   "But somebody else who was on to this cash pay-off might have switched packages on you...Let's go see Mr. Little. This deal has a damn queer look, but it's too big for me to buck alone."
   Huett passed through the murmuring crowd with the sheriff and up town towards where the lawyer lived. They found him at supper. This time Huett told the story of the hoax more lucidly and in detail. Little's black eyes snapped.
   "Wire Holbrook to stop that train and hold both men," he ordered.
   "I'll do that pronto," replied the sheriff and hurried away. "Huett, this story of yours confirms suspicions I got to-day," went on the lawyer. "Mitchell has been buying horses and cattle for the Government. Charteris, who did some of his banking, told me Mitchell paid so much for stock and padded his report to the Government. If we can stop him we'll sure make him sweat. But this is war-time, Huett, rampant with greed, graft, crookedness. Mitchell has pulled a slick one on you. Good God, man, why did you demand cash?"
   "I didn't want to wait for my money. Charteris said a Government draft would be good, but there wasn't that much cash in his bank. He'd have to wait for the money."
   "Eight hundred and sixty-five thousand dollars! Whew! A fortune! Huett, I'm damned sorry, while I could cuss you for being such a fool. Certainly we ought to get that money. The case is flagrant enough. But these times!...Your drinking with Al and Holbert would hold against you. It's serious...Go home now. Don't make the mistake of drinking any more. If we can get Mitchell back here to-morrow, we want you sober."
   Huett went home in a daze. Little's evident concern put him right back where he had been before he was sure of the trick. But his consciousness would not harbour any doubt of his securing payment for his cattle. He told Lucinda and Barbara what had transpired at the railroad station. Lucinda wept. "I never--thought--we'd get all--that money," she said. But Barbara reacted differently. "You bet your life we'll get it," she cried, hotly, and flared into a passionate denunciation of Mitchell.
   Huett paced the floor for hours, went out into the night to plod up and down the walk, and when at last he went to bed, it was not to sleep. Morning came, cold and drab, with wind moaning in the trees presaging winter. Huett built the fires. The women arose to get breakfast. He forced down a little food and a drink of coffee, then went down town.
   That day Huett was to learn that the Holbrook officers had flagged the train designated, but Mitchell could not be found aboard. Lawyer Little took this news with grave disquiet.
   "Why did you let the man get on that train?" he demanded.
   "Hell! I knocked him flat. I had his clothes half torn off when they dragged me away. If I'd been packing a gun I'd have shot him. And that'd have been better."
   "Yes, it would. The man's a crook, and if we had him here, dead or alive, we could prove it...Now we'll have to resort to the slow offices of the law."
   Impatient days and weeks of waiting destined Huett to realize the law's delay. But Mr. Little was nothing if not energetic and persistent in his efforts to get some court action. In this he laboured in vain, so far as Flagg was concerned. Then he went to Prescott, the capital, in Huett's interest, and finally got the State congressman at Washington interested in the case.
   Meanwhile Flagg settled down and holed-in, as the old-timers called it, to a real Arizona winter at high altitude. Huett spent most of his daylight hours chopping wood, and the rest sitting before a warm fire. He received some meagre comfort out of this, as it brought back so much of his life that had been spent gazing into the heart of a log fire. When he spread his broad hands to the heat, something soothing and quieting happened to him. But he never enjoyed his strong-smelling black pipe after this loss, and finally ceased smoking altogether.
   The war went on, now of secondary interest to Huett. He had three sons at the front, and that was doing more than his share towards whipping Germany. His whole thought was taken up by this treachery of the Government cattle-buyer and the recovery of his money. When Barbara received a letter--and she haunted the post-office--Huett would lift out of his gloom to listen to her reading it. This letter would be from Abe, and it would be most exasperatingly censored and cut. Huett always cursed at this. "Since I've got three boys over there, why the hell can't I hear what they're doing? I declare I'm getting queer notions about this Government."
   Lucinda's letters would be from George and Grant, and they came regularly once or twice a month. If it were needed, those epistles always spurred Huett's women-folk to greater efforts in the war relief work. They were not needed to acquaint Lucinda and Barbara with the havoc the war was doing to American boys. Lucinda grew sombre and calm. Barbara became a pale ghost of her old self, with haunted eyes and nerves at high tension.
   Huett did not give up. All this might have made more impression upon him but for his obsession with what the Government owed him. Thus far in his life of vicissitudes he had not yet been beaten down by adversity. He kept waiting, hoping, fighting on.
   Late in January his lawyer received an important letter from Washington. Through the Arizona congressman the matter of a purchase of one Logan Huett's cattle had been thoroughly investigated. The sum of money for cattle had been paid in cash by the Government buyer, Mitchell, and that transfer of cash, and the signature of the seller, had been witnessed by Lieutenant Caddell. The receipt was in the Government's hands, along with information that said Logan Huett was addicted to the bottle and questionably associated.
   "I feared it;" declared Little, hoarsely, white of face. "They've got us nailed. Only one chance in a million, and that is to carry the case to Washington. But I can't give up my work here. And, Logan, you can't afford a trial there. With the U.S. Government at war! My God! It'd be worse than folly."
   "All the same, I'll go," declared Huett, and bidding Little write out all suggestions as to how he should proceed, he went home to tell Lucinda and Barbara. His wife thought it a forlorn hope. "If we were only back at Sycamore!" she exclaimed. But Barbara was keen to have him go and begged to be taken along. "Mother, you can forward Abe's letters. Oh, Dad, take me!" she cried.
   "No, I reckon you'd better stay here with Maw," replied Huett, ponderingly.
   "Barbara, have you forgotten that you're with child?" queried Lucinda, in amazement.
   "Oh! I had forgotten," replied Barbara, her white face flaming scarlet. "I'm ashamed...this war has almost driven me mad."
   So it came about that Logan Huett went to Washington, D.C.
   As a young man Huett had been to Chicago, and at that period he had lived in Kansas City. But Washington was a magnificent city, the Nation capital, and at this time of the war it struck Huett as being bedlam.
   He forgot what he had come for, and when he remembered he realized sickeningly that his hope was no more than a drop of rain in a storm. The city' was thronged with civilians, soldiers, and strangers of many nations. A ceaseless stream of automobiles passed up and down t the streets. Huett came to a dozen huge hotels before he found one that he thought of entering. Having secured a room, he went out again, and before he knew what was happening he had been shoved aboard a sight-seeing bus.
   During that ride Huett's love and pride of country welled up again. The impressive Government buildings, the Capitol, the White House, the Soldiers' Monument filled him with awe and delight. His sons were fighting for what they represented.
   Once more on his feet in the crowds, Huett came down to earth. Accosted by beggars, hawk-eyed men, and suave strangers who offered to pilot him around, Huett came to see with chagrin that he was as much of a tenderfoot as any one of them would have been in his country. Then the loss of his watch awakened him to another aspect of the great city. He buttoned his wallet inside his vest and resolved to have his eyes about him.
   About mid-afternoon Huett found the Army Building. It was immense. Men in uniform and civilian dress buzzed in and out like bees. Cars whizzed by. Overhead, airplanes droned about like monstrous bees. Despite Huett's grim strength, he had his first glimmering of the futility of his errand there. Uniformed attendants listened to him courteously and put him off with excuses. At length he was forced to leave the building without having seen a single army official.
   Outside, in the rush of the closing hour, the traffic astonished and alienated Huett. A city was no place for him. And it seemed to him that across a dirty, snow-piled park he passed there came a vision of his clean, sweet, silent Arizona forest. A sick longing such as he had never before experienced overwhelmed him. What was he doing there, just a miserable outsider among this swarm of grabbing humanity? It was long after dark when Huett, after getting lost twice, found his hotel. The hard pavements made his legs weak, he found his nostrils clogged with dirt, and he marvelled that people could breathe and live in such an atmosphere. Night was as hideous to him as day had been: the roar of automobiles and electric cars murdered sleep.
   For days Huett haunted the Army Building. He had patience and stubbornness. He resented being taken for a crank, for an old geezer from the West, for a lunatic who raved about thirty thousand head of cattle. But such was Huett's persistence that at last he was ushered through one office after another into the presence of some army official connected with the commissary department.
   "My name is Logan Huett," replied Huett, in answer to a curt query as to what was his business. "I'm a cattleman from Flagg, Arizona, I sold thirty thousand head of cattle to your buyer, named Mitchell. He cheated me out of that money."
   "How did he cheat you?" asked the official.
   "I asked for cash. He got me to sign the receipt, had it witnessed by his man Caddell, then gave me a package of bogus money."
   "Well, Mr. Huett, I can do nothing for you. It will be necessary for you to take court action against the Government and prove your claim. Good day, sir."
   Huett went out, a slow fire of wrath burning deep within him. He began to appreciate what a wall obstructed him in his just hopes and demands. Then, in reading over Little's instructions, he found that he had forgotten an important one--to call on the congressman from Arizona. At once Huett set out up that mission. He was told that Senator Spellman had left the city, during the adjournment of Congress, and would not be back for some weeks.
   Thus baffled at every turn, Huett set out to put his case in the hands of a lawyer. Little's advice in this regard was to engage some reliable lawyer recommended by Spellman. Upon inquiry Huett discovered that Washington was full of lawyers of every degree. He took the bull by the horns, making a blind choice of counsel.
   A retainer's fee of five thousand dollars was asked. Huett could not pay that, unless his money was recovered. The deal was compromised on half that sum. Huett left the office of the high-sounding firm, Highgate and Stanfield, cheered by a promise to recover his money soon, and worried over the fact that his bank account in Flagg had dwindled to less than two thousand dollars.
   Then began a test of Huett's patience. He had to wait. And while waiting he read the war news, walked the streets, sat on park benches. Only his dogged indomitable spirit sustained him.
   Huett received disturbing letters from Lucinda and Barbara. His wife begged him to come home, without giving any reason, and Barbara wrote pitifully that they had not had any word from the boys in over a month.
   Spring came early in Washington, D.C. Huett sat on a park bench, listening to the sparrows, feeling the welcome warmth of the sun, watching the slow green tinge the grass and trees.
   Every day he called at his lawyer's office to inquire if his suit had begun. The last time he distinctly heard himself announced as "that farmer from Arizona," and when an answer was brought to him by the girl that his suit would be delayed until September, then Huett became a victim of helpless rage and bewilderment. September! If he stayed in Washington that long he would go crazy. Still--his money--his fortune--payment for his thirty thousand cattle and his years of toil--he could not abandon that.
   Then Senator Spellman returned. He received Huett warmly. He was western; he had been a cattleman himself; he heard Huett's long story with strong feeling, at the conclusion of which he emitted some genuine Arizona range profanity.
   "Huett, I regret to say your case is hopeless. Absolutely hopeless," he went on. "Little should have made that clear to you. He has not the slightest doubt that you have been robbed. Bilked!...Nor have I. The whole country is rampant with graft and crooked work. Your case is one in a thousand. According to these buyers, you signed for the cash. You received it, and were seen drinking in an Arizona joint. You'd stand no chance in court."
   "I've started a suit already," replied Huett, heavily. "Paid two thousand five hundred as a fee."
   "My word! Huett, you sure are a Western lamb among Eastern wolves. Who gipped you out of that much money?"
   "Yes. You're a sucker. Washington is full of shyster lawyers. It's a hundred to one you fell into the hands of some of them. Who?"
   "Highgate and Stanfield. Here's their card. One of them--I don't know which--guaranteed recovery of my money. I've been waiting weeks. Yesterday I was told the suit had been delayed until September."
   "Humph," grunted the Senator, and taking the card, he resorted to the telephone. He called one number after another. Huett did not listen. He was too sick and dazed to listen. Finally Senator Spellman hung up the receiver and took up his cigar.
   "That firm is not rated among Washington's reliable lawyers. And no suit has been registered under your name. You've been duped again."
   "Ahuh...I'd begun to feel a hunch."
   "Huett, this is a hell of a break. It'd kill most men. But you're a Westerner. One of Arizona's old hard pioneers! It won't kill you. It's just another knock--the toughest of your life, sure. But it involves only loss of cattle. That's nothing to an Arizona range man. Go back to your range and your cows. Cattle prices will climb sky-high. A few good seasons of rain and grass--and you're jake, old-timer!"
   After the blow fell, Huett felt calm and strange. "Luce was right," he soliloquized, as he sat down on a park bench. "We're ruined."
   "Boss, could you stake me to a nickel?" came in an oily voice from a man beside him. Logan turned to see a ragged tramp sitting there. His hard blue eyes expressed a humorous curiosity.
   "Nickel? How much's that?" asked Huett, fingering in his vest pocket.
   "Five cents. But if you don't happen to have it I'll take a dime."
   "Two-bits. Smallest I've got, friend," replied Huett, handing the beggar a quarter.
   "Thanks. Two-bits, eh?...Then you're from the West?" he returned, curiously.
   "You're kinder than you look, mister. Are you sick or in trouble?"
   "Wal, so help me Gawd!" exclaimed Huett. "Somebody down here has seen that at last!...Here's a dollar, my friend. If you come to Arizona I'll give you a job."
   "I'll bet you would at that...What's ailing you, Mister?"
   But Logan had left.
   He went back to his hotel, beginning a desperate fight against his stubborn bulldog desire to stay in Washington and never give up his demand for that money owed him. There was a telegram on the floor of his room just inside the door. He took it to the window, the better to see, and tore it open. The message was from Flagg and read:
   Huett watched the dark hours pale and the dawn break with soft rosy greyness behind the grand spire of the Soldiers' Monument.
   He hated the light of day. Beaten down, crushed by an unexpected blow that dwarfed the sum of all his life's calamities, he had paced the endless black hours away at last to sink on a park bench, realizing that as he had forsaken God in his wild youth, now God had forsaken him in his troubled age.
   The flush of sunrise, clear and bright with spring radiance, grew like the illumination of his mind.
   In the very beginning of that Western range career he had started with a driving passion, a single selfish purpose to which all else was subservient. He had sacrificed his wife, his sons, and Barbara. This tragedy, this devastation of his life in one crushing blow, must have been just punishment, just retribution. He confessed it with anguish, and an exceeding bitterness flooded his soul.
   That noble spire of stone, sunrise-flushed, rising sheer against the rosy sky; an imperishable monument of honour to a nation's dead--how empty and futile its meaning to Logan Huett in that hour? It was a symbol of the great Government. Of the man of zealots, of patriots like himself, blinded by the leaders of powerful cliques and parties, who played politics as Westerners played poker, who fostered war because their war lords wanted war. Huett saw that the men who furnished the money to waste and the young men for gun-fodder were patriotic fools like himself. These boys had flashed up like fire, virile, trenchant, wonderful, imbued with the glory of fighting for their country. They had been misled. War in modern times held no glory for the boys who faced the firing line.
   All these weeks in Washington, watching, listening, reading, had been working imperceptibly on Huett's mind, summing up incredible and bewildering changes in his thoughts that did not clarify until this rending bolt of death.
   His strong heart broke.
   The scene before his eyes strangely altered. The lofty, shiny shaft, the faint tinge of foliage, the wide park and the gleam of water, the early cats and pedestrians that had begun to appear--these all faded. And in their place shone a stonewalled, pine-rimmed canyon, with winding ribbon of stream and herds of browsing cattle, and a grey, moss-roofed log cabin nestling on the wooded bench, all dim and unreal like the remembered scenes of a dream.
   Nevertheless it was home. And his pang of agony was appalling. He should have lived for his family, and not for cattle. His great ambition had been a blunder. His greed had broken him. He had been clubbed down in the prime of his marvellous physical manhood. And as his vision sharpened he saw three dirty-faced, ragged little boys playing beside the brook. And he cried out in his soul: Oh, my sons, my sons! Would God I had died for you! Oh, my sons, my sons!
   Huett had telegraphed his wife the day he would arrive in Flagg, which no doubt accounted for his being met at the train by Al Doyle, Holbert, Hardy, and other friends. But Lucinda did not come. No observer could have discerned from their greeting that they thought the world had come to an end for Logan Huett. Arizonians took hard knocks as incidents of range experience. They did not mention the loss of Huett's three sons.
   "Old-timer, how'd you make out in Washington?" asked Al, hopefully.
   "No good, Al," replied Huett, wearily. "Senator Spellman said my case against the Government was useless. When I signed that receipt and took that package I ruined myself...Some shyster lawyer down there said he could recover my money, and he fleeced me out of twenty-five hundred."
   "By God, Logan, I was agin thet trip East," said Holbert glumly.
   "It's over--and I'm done," said Logan, aware of their close scrutiny of his face.
   "Wal, you reckon so now," returned Doyle, sagely wagging his grey head, "but a cowman who has bucked the Tonto for thirty years gets habits that can't be changed overnight."
   "How are my women-folk?" asked Huett.
   "Lucinda shows surprisin' strength. She must have known it was comin'. But I heah Barbara took it bad."
   "Aghh!" grunted Huett, clearing his throat, and moved to leave the platform. Doyle and Holbert walked up street with him.
   "Logan, what you reckon about this?" queried Holbert. "None of us, an' shore not one of the cattle-buyers, had the prices of beef on the hoof figgered. Cattle are up to forty dollars a haid, an' goin' up."
   "What did I say?" exclaimed Huett, stung out of his apathy. "I had it figured. I wanted to hold on for another year. My Gawd, if I only had!"
   "Too late. But heh's somethin'. Cattle prices will not go down for years."
   "Ha! Too late for me, in more ways than one."
   "Aw no! Why, Logan, you're far younger'n me, an' I'm hangin' on," said Holbert, earnestly. "You know the cattle game. Twenty-five years ago I was rich. Then I was poor for twenty years. Now with these high prices an' a growin' herd I'm sittin' pretty."
   "Quien sabe, Logan?" added Al. "You can never tell. But I reckon how cattle gossip makes you sick. So we'll cut it."
   "Thanks, Al. There are some words I never want to hear again, so long as I live. They are cattle, money, Government, war."
   "Wal, then, you'll have to get back into the woods again. For this burg is full of war news. It's been hard hit, Logan...Last Tonto cowboy to go was Jack Campbell. He crawled up on a nest-hole of machine-guns, an' threw a bomb in on the Boches, just as they riddled him. That was jack's finish. We're all forgettin' what once was his bad name."
   "Well we may!" sighed Huett.
   At the gate of Huett's yard Al and Holbert bade him good day and hurried away. Logan went in slowly, like a man walking a narrow log over a deep gulch, and who dreaded the opposite side. He mounted the porch, and as he hesitated, wiping his clammy face, the door opened to disclose Lucinda.
   "Luce!" he cried, with tremendous relief and gladness that she did not look as he expected. And he staggered in, dropping his bag to reach for her. Lucinda closed the door and then took him in her arms.
   "Poor old darling Logan!" she murmured, and held him close and kissed him and wept over him.
   "Wife," he replied, huskily, as he held her away to gaze into her face. It was like marble, thinner, showing traces of havoc, sad and marvellously strong. Huett found home, love, Understanding, mother, in her deep, dark eyes. "I--I don't know just how I expected to see you, but not like this."
   "Logan dear, I always knew. It was a relief of torture when the news came...No other word about Abe. Missing. That was all."
   "Missing! What does it mean?"
   "Almost hopeless. They say it means a soldier might be blown to bits, or buried in a trench, or lost in a river."
   "Ah!...No chance of having been made a prisoner?"
   "In that case we'd have known long since."
   "Where's Barbara?--Al said it went bad with her."
   "Wait, dear, a little...It's hard to tell."
   Logan sat down heavily and averted his eyes from Lucinda's intense and pitiful gaze. She came close and pressed his head against her. "I'm so glad you're back," she said. "There is something serious to talk over...Would you take us back to Sycamore?"
   A keen blade could not have made Logan wince more violently. How terribly the question hurt! But Logan let it sink in before he asked her why.
   "There are a number of reasons. We can earn our living there. We'll be away from this hot-pressed war news day and night...Back in our quiet canyon!...I can garden again. And you can farm. It's not so cold down there. We nearly froze here...I think Barbara might get better there. And the baby would thrive."
   "Yes. Barbara's baby. A lovely boy like Abe. But not so dark, and he has Barbara's eyes."
   "Ah. I forgot about Bab. I forgot...Abe's boy! Well, now, isn't that just fine?...Luce, it makes me a grandfather."
   "Logan, I'm afraid it was high time...Will you take us back?"
   "Sure I will, Lucinda," returned Huett, his mind halting ponderingly at practical ideas. "It's a good idea. We got to stay somewhere...Mebbe it wouldn't hurt for long--going back to Sycamore...Let's see. Hardy has my wagon. My horses are running in Doyle's pasture. We can pack the stuff here that's ours. And buy what we need along with supplies...Supplies! My Gawd, what does that make you think of, Luce?...How about money?"
   "I have over a thousand of what you left me."
   Huett took out his cheque book and looked at his balance. "I've about the same. Ha! That's a fortune for us homesteaders. When shall we----"
   A piercingly sweet, droning little song interrupted Huett. "Is that--the new baby?" he whispered, with a thrill.
   "No, dear. That is Barbara. She sings a good deal of the time...You see--she has lost her mind!"

Chapter 17 >