Part 3 out of 5
the fireside--well, not exactly a-purring, nuther, but sort of
mewing, and looking ready to scratch. He just took up with us and
now it's like always being scared to close a door for fear of
catching his tail in the jamb--I'm talking in a figger. Come in,
pard--this used to be Lahoma's boudoir before we built that cabin
for her. See the carpet? Don't tell ME you're a-walking on it, and
not noticing! See that little stove? I brung it clear across the
mountains from a deserted wagon, when I was young. Two legs is gone
and it's squat-bellied, and smokes if the wind gives it a chance;
but I wouldn't trade it for a new one. Set on this bench. I
recollect as well as if it 'us yesterday, Lahoma a-setting there
with her legs untouching of the floor, learning 'A' and 'B' and
asking thousands of questions and getting herself civilized. I
couldn't do a finished job, but Bill took her by the hand later,
then a Mrs. Featherby, what moved over in the west mountain, added
stores from New England and travels in Europe. When the settlers
come, she gleaned all they knowed, always a-rising and a-looking out
for new country. That's a wonderful girl!" he added with
When Bill came, they sat about the stove, the light from the famous
window bringing out with clear distinctness Brick's huge form and
bristling beard, Bill's thin figure surmounted by its shock of white
hair, and Wilfred's handsome grave face and splendidly developed
physique. It was so warm below the ground that the fire in the
stove was maintained at the lowest state possible; but when the
western light quickly vanished from the window, the glowing coals
gave homely cheer to the crude room.
In answer to their questioner, Wilfred told of his experiences on
his quarter-section: how he had broken the prairie land, put in
his crops, watched them wither away in the terrible dry months,
roughed it through the winters, tried again, fought through another
drought, staked all on the next spring's planting, raised a
half-crop, paid off his chattel mortgage, tried again,--succeeded.
"I've stayed right with it," he said gravely, looking from one to
the other as they smoked in silence, their eyes on his animated
face. "Of course, they required me to stay on the land only during
certain months, every year. But I stayed with it all the time; and
I studied it; and when I failed, as I did year after year, I failed
each time in a different way, because I learned my lesson. And when
I'd walled off the cause of each failure, one by one, seemed like
there opened before me a broad clear way that led right into the
goal I'd been seeking from the first day. Then I closed out all my
deals, and looked and saw that everything was trim and ready for
winter--and got my horse and started for Greer County."
"And glad we are!" cried Bill Atkins. "I hope you can stay a long
"That depends ... Lahoma is well, I suppose?"
"The picture of health--when she left," Brick declared admiringly,
"and the prettiest little gal this side of the angels. When the
early sunlight peeps over the mountain and laughs at the cove that's
sulking from thinking it's about to be left out in the day's
doings--that's like Lahoma's smile. And when you get down sick as
I done once from causes incidental to being made of flesh and blood,
and she come and laid her hand on my burning forehead, her touch
always made me think of an angel's wing, somehow, although I ain't
never set up to be religious, and I think of such things as little
as may be--except when Bill draws me to the subject from seeing him
so puny, at times."
"Lahoma's not here?" Wilfred asked anxiously.
"Not now, nor for some time," answered Brick.
"I wish," interposed Bill glumly, "that when you're going to talk
about me, Brick, you'd begin with Bill and not be dragging me in at
the tail-end of what concerns other people. I reckon, Wilfred, you
just traveled here to take a look at the country where you used to
"That wasn't my reason. Principally, I wanted to see Lahoma; and
incidentally, my brother."
"Your brother? HE ain't in these parts, is he?"
"No," ruefully, "but I expected him to be. When I left home to turn
cow-puncher, I didn't tell anybody where I'd gone; but just before
I left for Oklahoma to turn farmer, I wrote to my brother. And
about a month ago, seeing things clearing up before me, I asked him
to meet me here at Tent City--he's interested in new towns; he's
employed by a rich man to plant hardware-stores, and I thought he
might find an opening here. He came on, and was here several weeks
with a party of sightseers from Chicago; but he left with them about
a week ago."
Willock sat suddenly erect. "Couldn't have been that Sellimer
crowd, I reckon, from Chicago?"
"Yes--Mrs. Sellimer and her daughter, and some of their friends."
Willock whistled loudly. "And that up-and-down looking chap in the
gold nose-glasses was your brother?"
"Never thought of that," Bill exclaimed, "although he had your
name--he looked so different! But now that you've laid aside your
cowboy rigging, I guess you could sit in his class, down at the
bottom of it."
Willock was uneasy. "I was told," he observed, "and I took the
trouble to get datty on the subject, that them Sellimers--the mother
and daughter, and the herd they drift with--is of the highest
pedigree Chicago can produce. It sort of jolts me to find out that
anybody we know is kin to the bunch!"
Wilfred laughed without bitterness. "Don't let my kinship to
brother Edgerton disturb your ideal. We're so different that we
parted without saying good-by, and although I had the weakness to
imagine we might patch up old differences if we could meet here in
the desert, I suppose we'd have fallen out in a day or two--we're
so unlike. And as to Miss Sellimer--Annabel Sellimer--she is the
girl whose letters I was carrying about with me when I first saw
you. She refused me because I was as poor as herself; so you see,
the whole bunch is out of my class."
"That's good," Willock's face cleared up. "Mind you, I ain't saying
that as for me and Bill, we'd wouldn't rather sit with you in a
dugout than with them in a palace on Lake Michigan. But it's all
a matter of getting Lahoma out into the big world, and you gave me
a terrible jolt, scaring me that after all we'd made a mistake, and
they was just of your plain every-day cloth."
Wilfred moved uneasily. "Has Lahoma made their acquaintance, then?"
"It looks like it, don't it?"
"What looks like it?" Wilfred asked with sudden sharpness.
"Why, her going off, with 'em to spend the winter in high life."
"That's why I was so glad to see you," Bill explained, "her being
gone, and us so lonesome. That's why I'd like to have you stay with
us a long time--until she comes back, if it suits you."
"But I thought.... But I came here to see Lahoma," cried Wilfred,
unable to conceal his disappointment. "I thought as I came up the
road that I saw her half-opening the cabin-door."
"That was Red Feather taking a peep at you. He's the Indian that
brought Lahoma to Willock, as a child. He comes, about once a year,
to see us, but this time he was a little too late for Lahoma. Yes,
she's gone East--they're all putting up in Kansas City just now; on
their way to Chicago."
"Son," said Willock, puffing steadily at his pipe, "why did you want
to see Lahoma?"
"Well--you know she was just a child when I was here before, but
she's hovered before my mind a good deal--I've been too busy to seek
the acquaintance of strangers--just want to keep the few I know."
He blew a rueful breath. "You can't think how all my air-castles
have fallen about my ears! I wanted to see Lahoma! Yes, I wanted
to see how she'd turned out. I have a good farm, now, not very far
from Oklahoma City and-- Well, being alone there, year after year,
a fellow gets to imagining a great many things--" He stopped
"That's so," Willock agreed sympathetically. "I ain't a-saying that
if Lahoma'd been like me and Bill, she mightn't of liked farming
with you first-class. But she was born as an associate of high men
and women, not cows and chickens. It's the big world for her, and
that's where she's gone. She's with real folks. Be Mr. Edgerton
Compton your brother, or be he not, you can't imagine him setting
down with us sociable in this dugout. You're right about his being
different. And the fact that Miss Sellimer turned you down is
encouraging, too. It shows you couldn't run in her course; you
didn't have the speed. I guess we ain't made no mistake after ail."
There was silence, broken presently, by Bill--"I'm glad you've come,
Presently the door opened, and the Indian chief glided into the
apartment with a grunt of salutation. He spread his blanket in a
corner, and sat down, turning a stolid face to the fire.
"Don't pay no attention to him," remarked Willock, as if speaking
of some wild animal. "He comes and goes, and isn't troublesome if
you feeds and sleeps him, and don't try to lay your hand on him."
Bill Atkins rose. "But _I_ always light up when he comes," he
remarked, reaching stiffly for a lantern which in due time glimmered
from the partition wall. "Are you hungry, Wilfred? We never feed
till late; it gives us something to sleep on. I lie awake pretty
constantly all night, anyhow, and when I eat late, my stomach sorter
keeps me company."
Wilfred declared that he was not in the least hungry.
"I'm afraid you're disappointed, son," observed Willock, filling
his pipe anew.
Wilfred turned to him with a frank smile. "Brick--it's just awful!
It's what comes from depending on something you've no right to
consider a sure thing. I never thought of this cove without Lahoma
in it; didn't seem like it could be so empty.... How did she get
acquainted with Annabel?--and with my brother?"
"It come about, son. I see at once that the bunch of 'em was from
the big world. I come home and told Bill, 'Them's the people to
tow Lahoma out into life,' says I. So they invited her to spend the
winter with them, the Sellimers did, and show her city doings."
"Yes--but how did it come about?"
"Nothing more natural. I goes over to their tent and I tells them
of the curiosities and good points of these mountains, and gets 'em
to come on a sort of picnic to explore. So here they comes, and
they gets scattered, what with Bill and Lahoma and me taking
different ways--they liked Lahoma first time they see her, as a
matter of course. And so, that Miss Sellimer, she gets separated
from all the rest, and I shows her a dandy hiding-place where nobody
couldn't find her, and I shows her what a good joke it would be to
pretend to be lost. So I leaves her there to go to tell her crowd
she dares 'em to find her. Are you listening?"
"Well, while she was setting there waiting to be searched for, of
a sudden a great big Injun in a blanket and feathers and red paint
jumps down beside her and grabs her and picks her up, and about as
quick as she knew anything, she was gagged and bound and being bore
along through the air. I reckon it was a terrible moment for her.
Now there is a crevice in the top of the mountain that nobody don't
never explore, because it's just a crack in the rock that ain't to
be climbed out of without a ladder. So the Injun carries her there,
and lets her down with a rope that it seems he must of had handy
somewheres, and he puts out; and there she is, in a holler in the
mountain, not able to move or cry out no more than if she'd been
captured by a regular highwayman."
Wilfred stared at Willock in complete bewilderment. Willock
"There was a terrible time!" remarked Bill.
"Dark was a-coming on before the party got plumb scared," Willock
continued, "but they brushed and combed that mountain looking for
the poor lost lady, and as I tells 'em she's a-hiding a-purpose,
they think it a pore sort of joke till midnight catches 'em mighty
serious. Torches is carried here and there and everywhere, but no
use. You would think that the next day the crowd would naturally
look down in that crevice, but that's because I've posted you up on
where she is. There's lots of other crevices, and no reason as they
can see why Miss Sellimer should take the trouble to worm herself
down into any of 'em--and as nobody saw that Injun, how could they
suspicion foul play? It must of been AWFUL for pore Miss Sellimer,
all bound and gagged in that horrible way, but it takes heroic
treatment to get some cures--and so Lahoma went with 'em to spend
"But the Indian-?"
"Needn't think about HIM no more, son, we got no more use for THAT
Injun. Well, on the next day, Lahoma is looking everywhere, being
urged on by me, and lo, and behold! when she comes to that crevice
--looked like she couldn't be induced to go there of her own will,
but it was brung about finally--what does she see but a tomahawk
lying right at the edge what must have been dropped there recent,
or the crowd would have saw it the day before. It come to her that
Miss Sellimer is a prisoner down below. She looks, but it's too
dark to see nothing. Not telling nobody for fear of starting up
false hopes, she gets a light and lowers it--and there is that
miserable young woman, bound and gagged and her pretty dress all
tore. Lahoma jumps to her feet to raise the cry, when she discovers
a ladder under a boulder which the Injun must have put there meaning
to descend to his victim when the coast was clear. Down she skins,
and frees Miss Sellimer, who's half dead, poor young lady! Lahoma
comes up the ladder and meets me and I carries her out just like a
feather--Well, can't you imagine the rest? I reckon if Miss
Sellimer lives a thousand years she'll never forget the awfulness
of that big Injun and the angel sweetness of the little gal that
saved her. Why, if Lahoma had asked for the rings off her fingers,
she could have had 'em, diamonds and all."
Wilfred rose and went to stare at the darkness from the small square
window. Not a word was spoken for some time. At last the silence
was broken by the Indian-- "UGH!" grunted Red Feather.
"Just so!" remarked Wilfred, with exceeding dryness.
"What are you thinking, Wilfred?" demanded Brick Willock.
"I'd have thought Lahoma would recognize the ladder."
"So she done; but couldn't the Injun have stole my ladder and
carried it to that boulder? Just as soon as Miss Sellimer was well
enough to travel, NOTHING couldn't hold her in these parts, and
that's why your brother had to leave before seeing you--he's setting
to Miss Sellimer, and if Lahoma don't git him away from her, I
reckon he's a goner!"
Bill Atkins spoke vaguely. "It wasn't none of my doings."
Wilfred looked steadily at Willock. "What about your whiskers?"
"Oh, as to them, it was like old times; you takes a cloth and cuts
it out--painted red--Psha! What are we talking of? Bill, let's
show him her letter--what do you say?"
"I reckon it wouldn't hurt," Bill conceded.
"How'd you like it, Wilfred? We can't produce our little gal to
keep you company, but her letter would sort of be like hearing her
talk, wouldn't it? And if you stay with us a spell, we'll let you
read 'em as they come."
Wilfred perceived that Willock was anxious to get his mind off the
harrowing adventure of the crevice, and as he was eager to hear the
letter, and as Brick and Bill were anxious to hear it again, nothing
more was said about the "big Injun."
"Who'll read it?" asked Bill, as he drew the precious letter from
the strong box behind the stove.
"Let Wilfred do the deed," Willock suggested. "It travels slow in
my company, and though Bill reads 'er correct, he does considerable
droning. I expect if Wilfred reads it with unction, it'll sound
like a new document."
Wilfred drew the only stool in the room up beside the lantern, and
Bill and Brick disposed themselves on the bench, each holding his
pipe on his knee as if fearful of losing a word. Red Feather, his
beady eyes fastened on the young man's face, sat gracefully erect,
apparently alert to all that was going on. The lantern reddened the
strong clean-cut face of the young man, and touched the upturned
pages to the whiteness of snow. A sudden wind had sprung up, and
the flaring blaze from the open stove-door touched to vivid
distinctness the giant, the old man and the Indian. Brick closed
the stove-door, and the sudden gloom brought out in mellow effect
Wilfred's animated face, the dull yellow wall against which his
sturdy shoulder rested, and the letter in his hand.
"Dear Brick and Bill:
"I don't know what to tell first. It's all so strange and
grand--the people are just people, but the things are wonderful.
The people want it to be so; they act, and think according to the
things around them. They pride themselves on these things and on
being amongst them, and I am trying to learn to do that, too. When
I lived in the cove--it seems a long, long time ago--my thoughts
were always away from dirt-floors and cook-stoves and cedar logs and
wash-pans. But the people in the big world keep their minds tied
right up to such things--only the things are finer--they are marble
floors and magnificent restaurants and houses on what they call the
'best streets.' At meals, there are all kinds of little spoons and
forks, and they think to use a wrong one is something dreadful; that
is why I say the forks and spoons seem more important than THEY are,
but they want it to be so.
"They have certain ways of doing everything, and just certain times
for doing them, and if you do a wrong thing at a right time, or a
right thing at a wrong time, it shows you are from the West. At
first, I couldn't say a word, or turn around, without showing that
I was from the West. But although I've been from home only a few
days, I'm getting so that nobody can tell that I'm more important
than the furniture around me. I'm trying to be just like the one
I'm with, and I don't believe an outsider can tell that I have any
more sense than the rest of them.
"Miss Sellimer is so nice to me. I told her right at the start that
I didn't know anything about the big world, and she teaches me
everything. I'd be more comfortable if she could forget about my
saving her life, but she never can, and is so grateful it makes me
feel that I'm enjoying all this on false pretenses for you know my
finding her was only an accident. Her mother is very pleasant to
me--much more so than to her. Bill, you know how you speak to your
horse, sometimes, when it acts contrary? That's the way Miss
Sellimer speaks to her mother, at times. However, they don't seem
very well acquainted with each other. Of course if they'd lived
together in a cove for years, they'd have learned to tell each other
their thoughts and plans, but out in the big world there isn't time
for anything except to dress and go.
"I'm learning to dress. I used to think a girl could do that to
please herself, but no, the dresses are a thousand times more
important than the people inside them. It wouldn't matter how wise
you are if your dress is wrong, nor would it matter how foolish, if
your dress is like everybody else's. A person could be independent
and do as she pleased, but she wouldn't be in society. And nobody
would believe she was independent, they would just think she didn't
know any better, or was poor. Because, they don't know anything
about being independent; they want to be governed by their things.
A poor person isn't cut off from society because he hasn't money,
but because he doesn't know how to deal with high things, not having
practised amongst them. It isn't because society people have lots
of money that they stick together, but because all of them know what
to do with the little forks and spoons.
"It is like the dearest, jolliest kind of game to me, to be with
these people, and say just what they say, and like what they like,
and act as they act--and that's the difference between me and them;
it's not a game to them, it's deadly earnest. They think they're
"Do you think I could play at this so long that one day I'd imagine
I was doing what God had expected of me when he sent me to you,
Brick? Could I stay out in the big world until I'd think of the
cove as a cramped little pocket in the wilderness with two pennies
jingling at the bottom of it named Brick and Bill? If I thought
there was any danger of that, I'd start home in the morning!
"We are in a Kansas City hotel where all the feathers are in ladies'
hats and bonnets instead of in the gentlemen's hair. To get to our
rooms you go to a dark little door and push something that makes a
bell ring, and then you step into a dugout on pulleys, that shoots
up in the air so quick it makes you feel a part of you has fallen
out and got lost. The dugout doesn't slow up for the third story,
it just stops THAT QUICK--they call it an 'elevator' and it
certainly does elevate! You step out in a dim trail where there are
dusky kinds of lights, although it may be the middle of the day, and
you follow the trail over a narrow yellow desert, turn to your right
and keep going till you reach a door with your number on it. When
you are in your room, you see the things that are considered more
important than the people.
"There's an entire room set apart for the sole purpose of
bathing!--and the room with the bed in it is separate from the
sitting-room. You can go in one and stay a while, and go in another
and stay a while, and then go in the third--and you have a different
feeling for each room that you're in. I'd rather see everything at
once, as I can in my cabin. And that bed! If my little bed at home
could be brought here and set up beside this hotel wonder, the very
walls would cry out.... I wish I could sleep in my little bed
tonight, and hear the wind howling over the mountain.
"The dining-room is the finest thing I ever saw; I doubt if the
kings and queens of old times ever ate in richer surroundings.
There are rows of immense mirrors along the wall and gold borders
--and then the tables! I wonder what would happen if anybody should
spread newspapers on one of these wonderful tables and use them for
a tablecloth? At home, we can just reach out and take what we want
off the stove, and help our plates without rising. It's so
different here! After you've worried over crooked lists of things
to eat that you've never heard of, and have hurried to select so the
waiter won't have to lose any time, the waiter goes away. And when
he puts something before you, you don't know what to call it,
because it's been so long, you've forgotten its name on that awful
pasteboard. But there's something pleasant when you've finished,
in just getting up and walking away, not caring who cleans up the
"I've been to the opera-house, but it wasn't an opera, it was a
play. That house--I wish you could see it!--the inside, I mean,
for outside it looks like it needs washing. The chairs--well, if
you sent that stool of ours to a university you couldn't train it
up to look anything like those opera-chairs. And the dresses--the
diamonds.... Everything was perfectly lovely except what we had
come to see, and my party thought it was too funny for anything;
but it wasn't funny to me. The story they acted was all about a
young couple fooling their parents and getting married without
father and mother knowing, and a baby brought in at the last that
nobody would claim though it was said to be somebody's that
shouldn't have had one--the audience just screamed with laughter
over that; I thought they never would quiet down. Out in The big
world, babies and old fathers and mothers seem to be jokes. The
star of the evening was a married actress with 'Miss' before her
name. You could hear every word she spoke, but the others didn't
seem to try to make themselves plain--I guess that's why they aren't
"I've lived more during the last week than I had the previous
fifty-one. We must have been to everything there is, except a
church. Yesterday was Sunday, and I asked Mrs. Sellimer about it,
but she said people didn't go to church any more.
"Maybe you wonder why I don't tell you about our crowd, but I guess
it's because I feel as if they didn't matter. I wouldn't say that
to anybody in the world but to you, Brick and Bill, and if I hadn't
promised to write you every single thing, I wouldn't even tell you,
because they are so good to me. It sounds untrue to them, doesn't
it? But you won't tell anybody, because you've nobody to tell! And
besides, they could be different in a minute if they wanted to be;
it isn't as if they were helpless.
"Miss Sellimer is witty and talented, and from the way she treats
me, I know she has a tender heart. And her mother is a perfect
wonder of a manager, and never makes mistakes except such as happen
to be the fad of the hour. And Mr. Edgerton Compton could be
splendid, for he seems to know everything, and when we travel with
him, or go to the parks and all that, people do just as he says, as
if he were a prince; he has a magnificent way of showering money on
porters and waiters and cabmen that is dazzling; and he holds
himself perfectly WITHOUT TRYING, and dresses so that you are glad
you're with him in a crowd; he knows what to do ALL the time about
EVERYTHING. But there he stops. I mean, he isn't trying to do
anything that matters. Neither are any of the rest.
"What they are working at now, is all they expect to work at as long
as they live--and it takes awfully hard work to keep up with their
set. They call it 'keeping in the swim,' and let me tell you what
it reminds me of--a strong young steer out in a 'tank,' using all
the strength he has just to keep on top of the water, instead of
swimming to shore and going somewhere. Society people don't go
anywhere; they use all their energy staying right where they are;
and if one of them loses grip and goes under--GOODNESS!
"I know what Mrs. Sellimer has set her heart on, because she has
already begun instructing me in her ideals. She wants her daughter
to marry a rich man, and Mr. Edgerton Compton isn't rich, he only
looks like he is. Mrs. Sellimer feels that she's terribly poor,
herself; it's the kind of poverty that has all it wants to eat and
wear, but hasn't as many horses and servants as it wants. It's just
as hard on her as it would be on you if the bacon gave out and you
couldn't go for more. Annabel--that's Miss Sellimer--likes Mr.
Compton very, very much, but she feels like her mother about
marrying a rich man, and I don't think he has much chance. One
trouble is that he thinks he must marry a rich girl, so they just
go on, loving each other, and looking about for 'chances.'
"I feel like I oughtn't to be wasting my time telling about my
friends when there are all these wonderful lights and carpets and
decorations and conveniences, so much more interesting. Whenever
you want hot water, instead of bringing a bucketful from the spring
and building a fire and sitting down to watch it simmer, you just
turn a handle and out it comes, smoking; and whenever you want
ice-water, you touch a button and give a boy ten cents.
"The funny thing to me is that Annabel and Mr. Compton both think
they HAVE to marry somebody rich, or not marry at all. They really
don't know they COULD marry each other, because imagining they would
be unable to keep the wolf from the door. That's because they can't
imagine themselves living behind anything but a door on one of the
'best streets.' We know, don't we, Brick and Bill, that it takes
mighty little to keep the coyote from the dugout! And there's
something else we know that these people haven't dreampt of--that
there's happiness and love in many and many a dugout. I don't know
what's behind the doors on the 'best streets.'
"We are not going straight on to Chicago. A gentleman has invited
the Sellimers, which of course includes me, to a house-party in the
country not far from Kansas City. He is a very rich man of middle
age, so they tell me, a widower, who is interested in our sex and
particularly in Annabel Sellimer. Mr. Edgerton Compton isn't
invited. You see, he's a sort of rival--a poor rival. This
middle-aged man has known the Sellimers a long time, and he has been
trying to win Annabel for a year or two. If it hadn't been for Mr.
Compton she'd have married HIS HOUSE before now, I gather. The
house is said to be immense, in a splendid estate near the river.
I am all excitement when I think of going there for ten days. There
are to be fifty guests and the other forty-nine are invited as a
means of getting Annabel under his roof. Won't I feel like a little
girl in an old English novel! The best of it is that nobody will
bother ME--I'm too poor to be looked at a second time, I mean, what
THEY call poor. Sometimes I laugh when I'm alone, for I feel like
I'm a gold mine filled with rich ore that nobody has discovered.
Remember the 'fool's gold' we used to see among the granite
mountains? I think the gold that lies on the surface must always
be fool's gold. The name of the country-house we are to visit is
the same as that of the man who owns it--"
Wilfred Compton held the letter closer to the light.
Brick Willock spoke impatiently: "No use to stare at that there
word--we couldn't make it out. I guess she got it wrong, first,
then wrote it over. Just go ahead."
Bill suggested, "I think the first letter is an 'S.'"
Wilfred scrutinized the name closely.
"Besides," said Willock, "we knows none of them high people, the
name wouldn't be nothing to us--and her next letter will likely have
it more'n once."
Wilfred resumed the letter: "I must tell you good-by, now, for
Annabel's maid has come to help me dress for dinner, and it takes
longer than it did to do up the washing, at the cove; and is more
tiresome. But I like it. I like these fine, soft, beautiful
things. I like the big world, and I would like to live in it
forever and ever, if you could bring the dugout and be near enough
for me to run in, any time of the day. I wish I could run in this
minute and tell you the thousands and thousands of things I'll never
have time to write.
"Your loving, adoring, half-homesick, half-bewildered, somewhat
dizzy little girl,
"P. S. Nobody has been able to tell from word or look of mine that
I have ever been surprised at a single thing I have heard or seen.
You may be quite sure of that."
"I bet you!" cried Willock admiringly. "NOW, what do you think of
"She won't be there long," remarked Bill, waving his arm, "till she
finds out what I learned long ago--that there's nothing to it. If
you want to cultivate a liking for a dugout, just live a while in
"I don't know as to that," Willock said. "I sorter doubts if Lahoma
will ever care for dugouts again, except as she stays on the outside
of 'em, and gets to romancing. A mouthful of real ice-cream spoils
your taste everlasting for frozen starch and raw eggs."
"Lahoma is a real person," declared Bill, "and a dugout is grounded
and bedded in a real thing--this very solid and very real old earth,
if you ask to know what I mean."
"Lord, _I_ knows what you mean," retorted Willock. "You've lived
in a hole in the ground most of your life, and are pretty near ripe
to be laid away in another one, smaller I grant you, but dark and
deep, according. We'll never get Lahoma back the same as when we
let her flutter forth hunting a green twig over the face of the
waters. She may bring back the first few leaves she finds, but a
time's going to come...." He broke off abruptly, his eyes wide and
troubled, as if already viewing the dismal prospect.
"Maybe I AM old," Bill grudgingly conceded, "but I don't set up to
be no Noah's ark."
"Oh," cried Willock, his sudden sense of future loss causing him to
speak with unwonted irony, "maybe you're just a Shem, or Ham or that
other kind of Fat-- What's the matter, Wilfred? Can't you let go
of that letter?"
"I've made out the name of that widower who's paying court to my
old sweetheart," he said, "but it's one I never heard of before;
that's why it looked so strange--it's Gledware."
Willock uttered a sharp exclamation. "Let me see it." He started
up abruptly, and bent over the page.
"What of it?" asked Bill in surprise. Willock had uttered words to
which the dugout was unaccustomed.
"That's what it is," Willock growled; "it's Gledware!" His face
had grown strangely dark and forbidding, and Wilfred, who had never
imagined it could be altered by such an expression, handed him the
letter with a sense of uneasiness.
"What of it?" reiterated Bill. "Suppose it IS Gledware; who is HE?"
"Do you know such a man?" Wilfred demanded.
"Out with it!" cried Bill, growing wrathful as the other glowered
at the fire. "What's come over you? Look here, Brick Willock,
Lahoma is your cousin, but I claim my share in that little girl and
I ask you sharp and flat--"
"Oh you go to--!" cried Willock fiercely. "All of you."
Wilfred said lightly, "Red Feather has already gone there, perhaps."
"Eh?" Willock wheeled about as if roused to fresh uneasiness. The
Indian chief had glided from the room, as silent and as unobtrusive
as a shadow.
Willock sank on the bench beside Bill Atkins and said harshly,
"Where's my pipe?"
"Don't you ask ME where your pipe is," snapped Bill. "Yonder it is
in the comer where you dropped it."
Willock picked it up, and slowly recovered himself. "You see," he
observed apologetically, "I need Lahoma about, to keep me tame. I
was wondering the other day if I could swear if I wanted to. I
guess I could. And if put to it, I guess I could take up my old
life and not be very awkward about it, either--I used to be a
tax-collector, and of course got rubbed up against many people that
didn't want to pay. That there Gledware--well! maybe it isn't this
one Lahoma writes about, but the one I knew is just about middle
age, and he's a widower, all right, or the next thing to it--I
didn't like Gledware. That was all. I hate for Lahoma to be
throwed with anybody of the name--but I guess it's all right.
Lahoma ain't going to let nobody get on her off-side, when the
Bill inquired anxiously, "Did that Gledware you knew, live near
"He lived over in Indian Territory, last time I heard of him. But
he was a roving devil--he might be anywhere. Only--he wasn't rich;
why, he didn't have nothing on earth except a little--yes, except
"Then he can't be the owner of a big estate," remarked Wilfred, with
"I don't know that. Folks goes into the Territory, and somehow they
contrives to come out loaded down. But I hope to the Almighty it's
a different Gledware!"
"Lahoma can hold her own," Bill remarked confidently. "You just
wait till her next letter comes, and see if she ain't flying her
colors as gallant as when she sailed out of the cove."
Wilfred reflected that his invitation to remain had been sincere;
there was nothing to hurry him back to the Oklahoma country--he
would, at least, stay until the next letter came. His interest in
Lahoma was of course vague and dreamy, founded rather on the fancies
of a thousand-and-one-nights than upon the actual interview of a
brief hour. But the remarkable change that had taken possession of
Willock at the mention of Gledware's name, had impressed the young
man profoundly. In that moment, all the geniality and kindliness
of the huge fellow had vanished, and the great whiskered face had
looked so wild and dangerous, the giant fists had doubled so
threateningly, that long after the brow smoothed and the muscles
relaxed, it was impossible to forget the ferocious picture.
"That's what I'll do," Wilfred declared, settling back in his seat,
"I'll wait until that next letter comes."
THE DAY OF FENCES
While waiting for Lahoma's letter, Wilfred Compton spent his days
in ceaseless activity, his evenings in dreamy musings. Over on the
North Fork of Red River--which was still regarded as Red River
proper, and therefore the dividing line between Texas and Indian
Territory--he renewed his acquaintance with the boys of Old Man
Walker's ranch. Henry Woodson, the cow-puncher, still known as
Mizzoo was one of the old gang who greeted Wilfred with extravagant
joy which shaded away to easy and picturesque melancholy in
lamenting the passing of the good old days.
"These is the days of fences," complained Mizzoo, as Wilfred, in
answer to his invitation, rode forth with him to view the changes.
"Time was, our cattle was bounded on the south by nothing but the
south wind, and on the north by nothing but the north wind; hut
these unmitigated settlers has spiled the cattle business. I'm
looking for the old man to sell out and quit. Why, look at all the
little towns that has sprung up so confusing and handy that you
don't know which to choose to liquor up. They comes like a thief
in the night, and in the morning they're equipped to rob you. I
can't keep no change by me--I've asked the old man to hold back my
wages till the end of the year. But I'm calculating to make
something out of these very misfortunes. You know I always was sort
of thrifty--yes, as they GOT to be a settled county round us, it'll
needs call for a sheriff, and if all signs don't fail, I'll get the
job this week. Then there'll be no more riding of the line for old
Wilfred rode with him to Mangum, and other villages, with names and
without, and he tingled to the spirit of the bounding West. There
might be only a few dugouts, some dingy tents and a building or so
of undressed pine, but each hamlet felt in itself the possibilities
of a city, and had its spaces in the glaring sands or the dead
sagebrush which it called "the Square" and "Main Street" and
possibly "the park." The air quivered with expectations of a
railroad, maybe two or three, and each cluster of hovels expected
to find itself in a short time constituted the county-seat, with a
gleaming steel road at its back door.
This spirit of optimism was but a reflection of the miraculous
growth of the new country of which Greer County, though owned by
Texas, felt itself, in a sense, an integral part. Eight years
before, Indian Territory was the hunting-ground of the Indian, and
whosoever attempted to settle within its limits was driven forth by
the soldiers. It was then a land of dim twilight, full of mystery
and wildness, with vast stretches of thirsty plains and bleak
mountains around which the storms, unbroken by forests, shrieked in
the "straight winds" of many days, or whined the threat of the
deadly tornado. And suddenly it became a land of high noon, garish
and crude, but wide-awake and striving with all the tireless energy
of young blood.
Scarcely had the Oklahoma country been taken possession of before
the settlers began agitating the question of an organized territory,
and too impatient to wait for Congress to act, held their own
convention at Guthrie and divided the land into counties. Congress
made them wait five months--an age in the new country--before
approving the Organic Act. The district, which a short time before
had been the Unassigned Lands, became the counties of Logan,
Oklahoma, Cleveland, Canadian, Kingfisher and Payne. To these was
added Beaver County which in Brick Willock's day had been called
"No-Man's Land," and which the law-abiding citizens, uniting against
bandits and highwaymen, had sought to organize as Cimmaron
Then came the rivalry between Guthrie and Oklahoma City for the
capital, adding picturesqueness to territorial history, and offering
incitement to many a small village to make itself the county-seat
of its county. The growth of the new country advanced by leaps and
bounds. In 1891, the 868,414 acres of the surplus lands of the
Iowa, Sac, Fox and the Pottawatomie-Shawnee reservations formed the
new counties of Lincoln and Pottawatomie and increased the extent
of some of the old ones. The next year, 3,500,562 acres belonging
to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians were taken to increase several
of the older counties, and to from the new ones of honest old
American names--Blame, Custer, Washita, Dewey, Roger Mills, Beckham
and Ellis. In the year following, the Cherokee strip was opened for
a settlement together with the surplus lands of the Pawnee and
Tonhawa--5,698,140 acres; besides increasing other counties, this
land furnished forth the new counties of Alfalfa, Garfield, Grant,
Harper, Major, Woods, Woodward, Pawnee, Kay and Noble. At the time
of Wilfred's visit to Brick Willock, the winter of 1894-5, the
opening of the Kickapoo reservation was already a near certainty;
while the vast extent of Greer County itself, so long in dispute
between Texas and the United States, would in all likelihood be
added to the swelling territory of Oklahoma.
The territory, so young but so dauntless, was already agitating the
question of statehood--not only so, but of single statehood, meaning
thereby the prospective engulfment and assimilation of Indian
Territory, that all the land from Texas to Kansas, Missouri and
Arkansas might be called by the one name--Oklahoma; a name to stand
forever as a symbol of the marvelously swift and permanent growth
of a white people, in spite of its Choctaw significance--"Red
Although Wilfred had stayed close to his farm, near Oklahoma City,
he had kept alive to the rush and swing of the western life; and
now that he had leisure to ride with Mizzoo among the bustling
camps, and view the giant strides made from day to day by the
smallest towns, he was more than ever filled with the exultation of
one who takes part in world-movements. He began to view the
hurrying crowds that overran the sidewalks, with a sense of close
kinship--these people came from all points of the Union, but they
were his people. A year ago, six months ago, they might have been
New Yorkers, Californians, Oregonians, but now all were westerners
like himself, and though they believed themselves Texans the name
made as little difference as that between "Red River" and "Prairie
Dog Fork"--in spirit, they were Oklahomans.
If Wilfred had not been a simple visitor, he would have had no time
for thought; but now he could look on the life of which he had for
a few years been a part, and study it as related to the future. It
was as if his boyhood and youth had not been passed in Chicago--the
West had blotted out the past as it ever does with relentless hand,--
and every thought-channel led toward the light of the future.
Lahoma's letter had revived the picture of other days, of another
existence, without rousing one wish to return.
The only desire it had stirred in his breast was that of seeing
Lahoma again, of taking her by the hand to lead her, not back to
the old civilization, but to the new. As he lay awake at night in
the log cabin that had been Lahoma's, his brain for a long time
every night was busy with thoughts of that new civilization, and he
was stirred with ambition to take part, so that when single
statehood or double statehood was achieved, he would be a recognized
factor in its transformation from a loosely-bound territory.
He began to think, too, of moving his residence to Oklahoma City,
where he would be closer to men of affairs--great men of great
enterprises. His farm, of course, would be managed under his
superintendence--unless Oklahoma City should be generous enough to
spread out and surround it, and lap it up, town-lot after town-lot,
till not a red clod was left.... And if a girl like Lahoma--for
surely she had not changed!--if she, little Lahoma.... And the
longing grew on him to see Annabel Sellimer and Lahoma together,
that he might study the girl he had once loved with the girl he
might love tomorrow. He almost made up his mind to take a brief
trip to Chicago, on quitting the cove; perhaps there would be
something in Lahoma's next letter to force a decision.
Two weeks passed, but Wilfred did not consider the time lost; there
were letters almost daily, by coach, from Lahoma, telling of her
adventures in the great world--the house-party had been delayed on
account of Mrs. Sellimer's illness, but was to take place
immediately--so said the last letter before the arrival of the news
that changed the course of events at the cove. As yet, Lahoma had
not met Mr. Gledware, but the fame of his riches and his luxurious
home had both increased her curiosity to see him, and her conviction
that Mr. Edgerton Compton stood no chance with Annabel. She had
discovered, too, that Edgerton Compton was a brother of the Wilfred
Compton who had visited them one day in the cove--Wilfred read the
letter with great attention, but there was no further reference to
Brick Willock rode over to Mangum nearly every afternoon to hear
from Lahoma, but it happened that on the day of the great news,
neither he nor Bill had returned from a certain hunting expedition
in time for the stage, so Wilfred went for the mail. There was only
one letter, addressed to "Mr. B. Willock," and it seemed strangely
thin. The young man wondered during all his ten-mile return-trip
if Lahoma had fallen ill; and after reaching the log cabin, he kept
looking at the slim missive, and turning it over, with vague
Brick and Bill had ridden far, and it was dusk before they reached
home with a deer slung over one of the horses.
"They're getting scarcer every year," complained Bill, as he climbed
stiffly to the ground; "I guess they'll finally go the way of the
"Get a letter?" asked Brick, hurrying forward. "Huh! THAT it?
She is sure getting fashionable! I reckon when she's plumb
civilized, she won't write nothing!"
He took the long white envelope and squinted at it inquisitively.
"Well, why don't you open 'er?" snapped Bill. "Afraid you'll spring
a trap and get caught?"
"Ain't much here," replied Brick slowly, "and I'm making it last."
"Huh! Nothing is a-lasting when it hasn't been begun," retorted
Bill crossly. "See what the little girl says."
"I'm afraid she's sick," observed Wilfred, eying the envelope with
something like Bill's irritable impatience.
Brick tore it open, and found within another envelope, the inner
one of yellow. "It's a telegraph," he said uneasily. "Lahoma had
telegraphed to the end of the wire, and at Chickasha they puts it
in the white wrapper and sends it on. Do you see?"
"I don't see anything yet," snapped Bill. "Rip 'er open!"
Brick looked at Bill Atkins. "Better set down, Bill," he remarked.
"If they's any kind of shock in this, YOU ain't got no nerve to
stand it." He broke open the yellow envelope and stared at the
message. As he did so, the hand clutching the telegram hardened to
a giant fist, while his brow wrinkled, and his eyes grew dark and
menacing. Wilfred was reminded of the sinister expression displayed
at the first mention by Lahoma of Gledware's name, and he
experienced once more that surprised feeling of not being nearly so
well acquainted with him as he had supposed.
After a dead silence, Willock handed the telegram to Bill, who
wrinkled his brow over it a minute or two before handing it to
Wilfred. The young man read it hastily, then turned to Bill. His
face wore a decidedly puzzled look.
"I don't understand," he said.
"Neither do I," returned Bill rather blankly. "I guess if there is
to be any setting down, it's Brick that needs a chair."
The telegram was as follows:
"The second you get this, hide for your life. Red Kimball says he
can prove everything. Will explain in letter.
"Don't say nothing to me for a spell," growled Brick, thrusting his
hands deep into his pockets. "I've got to think mighty quick." He
strode toward the dugout, leaving Wilfred and Bill staring at each
In a short time, Willock reappeared, bringing from the dugout his
favorite gun. "Come along," he bade them briefly. When he had
ascended the rounded swell of Turtle Hill, he stretched himself
between two wide flat rocks and lay with his face and gun directed
toward the opening of the cove.
"Now, Bill," he said sharply, "if you will just set facing me with
your eye on the north wall, so you can tell if anybody tries to
sneak over the mountain-top, I'll make matters clear. Wilfred, you
can go or stay, free as air, only IF you stay, I can't promise but
you may see a man killed--me, or Red Kimball, I don't know which,
though naturally I has my preference," he added, his harsh voice
suddenly changing to the accent of comradeship. "As to Bill, he
ain't got no choice. He come and put up with me and Lahoma when
nobody didn't want him, and now, in time of danger, I 'low to get
all the help out of him that's there in spite of a begrudging
disposition and the ravages of time."
"What I want to know is this," Bill interrupted: "Who and what is
this Red Kimball? And if you have to hide from him, why ain't you
"I puts it this way, Bill: that the telegram traveled faster than
old Red could, so no need to hide till tonight, though when you
deals with Red, it behooves you to have your gun ready against
chances. You want to know about Red Kimball? But I think I'd best
wait till Lahoma's letter comes, so my story can tally with hers.
I got my reasons for not wanting to tell all about Red Kimball which
I reckon he wouldn't be grateful for, but that's for him to say.
So I 'lows to tell only as much as I has to tell, that depending on
what Lahoma has picked up, according."
"I suppose you've met him face to face?" growled Bill.
"They don't seem to be no harm in that question, Bill, but you never
knows where a first question is leading you. If I refuses to answer
what seems fair and square, no suspicions is roused when I refuses
to answer what might sound dark and shady. So I banks myself
against my general resolution to say nothing beyond Lahoma's word."
"Her word says he can prove everything. What is 'everything'?"
"That's what we'll learn from her letter. We'll just watch him do
"And her word says to hide this minute."
"I don't do my hiding in daylight, but when it's good and dark, I'm
going to put out. I would tell you the hiding-place, for I trusts
you both--but if you knowed where it was, and if officers of the law
come to you for information, you'd be in a box; I know you wouldn't
give me up, but neither would you swear to a lie. Not knowing where
I hides, your consciences are as free as mine that hasn't never been
Wilfred asked, "But when Lahoma writes, how will you get her
"You or Bill will go for the mail. If a letter comes, you'll take
it to that crevice into which Miss Sellimer was drug by that big
Injun, and you'll wait in there till I comes, not opening that
letter till I am with you. We'll read it together, down in the
hollow where poor Miss Sellimer's life was saved by Lahoma; then
you two will go back to the cove, and leave me to sneak away to my
hiding-place which may be near and may be far. When you get a
letter, bring your ladder and the lantern, and be sure nobody is
watching you--because if you let Red Kimball or any of his gang
follow you to that hiding-place, you'd have to see a man killed--and
such as that ain't no sight for eyes as civilized as Wilfred's, or
as old as Bill's."
THE ONYX PIN
When the next letter came from Lahoma, Wilfred Compton and Bill
Atkins hurried to the crevice in the mountain-top according to
agreement. It was a cloudless afternoon, but at the farther end of
the retreat the light of the lantern was necessary for its perusal.
Brick Willock, who was there before them, read the letter in silence
before handing it to the young man to read aloud.
"It's just addressed to me, this time," he remarked grimly, in
explanation of his proprietary act; "they ain't no foolishness of
'Dear Brick and Bill.' But I treats you as friends should be
treated, and lays before you everything Lahoma has found out. For
Brick Willock, he says 'Friends is better friends when they don't
know all about each other,' says he; and I tells you only what
Lahoma has been told, according."
Wilfred took the letter, tingling with excitement. The strained
watching and waiting for the sudden appearance of an unknown Red
Kimball had made his bed in the cabin as sleepless as had been
Bill's pallet in the dugout. They squatted about the lantern that
rested on the stone floor, Willock always with eyes directed toward
the narrow slit in the ceiling that they might not be taken by
The long natural corridor was bare, except for the old Spanish sword
hanging upon the wall. A stout cedar post, firmly fixed in the
extremity of the walls, formed a rude barricade against the abyss
of unknown depth that yawned a few yards away from where they sat.
This railing and the sword were the only evidences of man's
possession, save for the ladder that would presently be carried back
to the cove. No inquiries were made as to how Brick came and went,
where he found food and a bed, or how he happened to be present at
the precise moment of the arrival of the bearers of news.
"Dear Brick," Lahoma began: "By this time you have hidden where
nobody can find you, for you've got my telegram and you know I
wouldn't have sent it if it hadn't been necessary. You believe in
me, and, as you would say,--how I'd love to hear you--you act
'according.' Well, and I believe in you, Brick, and you needn't
imagine as long as you live that anybody could make me think you
anything but what I know you to be, the kindest, most
tender-hearted, most thoughtful man that ever lived. Get that fixed
in your mind so when I tell what they say about you, you won't care,
knowing I'm with you and will believe in you till death.
"I'm going to skip everything except the part about you, for this
letter goes by next mail. There's ever and ever so many other
things I'd love to tell you, and I don't see how I can wait, but
I'm going to find out, for wait I must. Maybe I ought to begin with
Mr. Gledware so you'll know more about him when I begin on the main
"We are at his house now and the house-party is in full swing. Mr.
Gledware is pressing his suit to Annabel with all his might, and
her mother is helping him. Nothing stands in the way--for she wants
to marry him--except her love for Mr. Edgerton Compton. She told
me all about her old romance with Wilfred--you remember him, I
guess? She got to liking Edgerton after Wilfred went away because
he looked so much like Wilfred. Maybe he does, but he isn't the
same kind of man. Mr. Edgerton has spent all his money on fixing
up the outside of the house, but Wilfred has spent his on the
furnishings. Well! If Annabel could change her heart from one
brother to the other just because Edgerton reminded her of Wilfred,
I guess she won't have a very hard time making another transfer,
especially as Mr. Gledware is traveling her way. When I love
anybody, my love is the part of me that comes alive whenever that
person is present, or is mentioned. So how could I slide it from
one man to another, any more than the man himself could change to
another man? And that's the way I love you, Brick, and not all the
wealth or fame or good looks in the world (and you have neither)
could get my heart away from YOU!
"Or from Bill.
"The first time I met Mr. Gledware, he acted in a curious way. Of
course I was introduced as 'Miss Willock' and he started at the
name, and at sight of me--two separate little movements just as
plain as anything. Then he said he had heard the name 'Willock' in
unusual surroundings, and that my face reminded him of somebody who
was dead. That was all there was to it, then. But afterward he
heard Annabel call me 'Lahoma,' and his face turned perfectly white.
"The first chance he had, after that, he sat down to talk to me in
a corner where we wouldn't be overhead, and he asked me questions.
So, of course, I told about father and mother taking me across the
prairie to the Oklahoma country, and how mother died and father was
killed, and I was with the Indians a while and then was taken to
live with my cousin, Brick. He listened with his head down, never
meeting my eye, and when I had finished all he said was, 'Did you
ever bear my name before?'
"And I said I never had. Then he asked if I thought I had ever seen
him, for he thought he could remember having seem ME somewhere. And
I said I wasn't sure, I had met so many people, and there was
something familiar about him. Then he said he guessed we hadn't
ever met unless accidentally on the trail somewhere, as he had once
been down in Texas,--and that was all.
"I don't like Mr. Gledware's eye because it always looks away from
you. He would be considered a handsome man by anybody not
particular about eyes. Afterward, I heard about his trip to Texas.
Annabel and her mother were talking about Mr. Gledware's past. It
seems that once Mr. Gledware and his first wife (I say his FIRST
because I look upon Annabel as certain to be the second) joined the
Oklahoma boomers and they were attacked by Indians, just as MY
father and mother were, and they had with them his wife's little
girl, for he had married a widow, just as MY father had (my
stepfather) and there was a terrible battle. And Mr. Gledware, oh,
he was SO brave! He killed ten Indians after the rest of his party,
including his wife and daughter, had been slain, and he broke
through the attacking party and escaped on a horse--the only one
that got away.
"He doesn't look THAT brave. Later, I asked him if it could be
possible that he was with the wagon-train we were in, but he said
there wasn't any Mr. or Mrs. Willock in his party, and no little
girl named Lahoma Willock. But he's been through what my father
went through, and it made me feel kinder to him, somehow.
"But his eye is bad. Maybe it got in the habit of shifting about
looking for Indians in the sagebrush. Sometimes he seems still to
be looking for Indians. Well, I see where's he's right there, and
I'm going to tell you why, which brings me to the biggest news yet.
"Now I've come to the day when I sent you the telegram, and why I
sent it, so be prepared! There was to be a big picnic, today, near
a town called Independence, and, as it happened, I didn't feel like
going, so begged off--let me tell you why: I began a novel, last
night, full of bright conversation, the pages all broken up in
little scraps of print that hurry you along as if building steps for
you to run down--it was ever and ever more interesting than real
people can be. It was a story about a house-party and the writer
just made them talk to suit himself and not to suit their dulness
as a real house-party must, you know. So I stayed to finish that
book. Oh, of course if I had had a lover to be with! But that's
something I'll never have, I suppose; but I don't complain, Brick,
for you've given me everything else I ever wanted.
"The reason I would like to have a lover is as follows: So I would
understand the experience of being regarded that way. It would be
like plowing up the sage-brush to plant kafir-corn and millo-maize,
because until such time, there is bound to be a part of my nature
"Now, there is a nook in Mr. Gledware's library, a sort of alcove
where you have a window all to yourself but are shut off from the
rest of the room, and that is where I was when two men came in
softly and closed and locked the door behind them. I couldn't see
them but just as I was starting up to find out what it meant, one
of them--it was Mr. Gledware, which surprised me greatly as he had
gone with the rest to the picnic--spoke your name, Brick. As soon
as I beard that name, and particularly on account of the way he
spoke it, I determined to 'lay low' and scout out the trouble. So
I just drew up as small as possible in my chair, as you would slip
along through the high grass if Indians were near, and I listened.
Maybe if I had finished my civilization I would have been obliged
to let them know I was there; but fortunately, I haven't reached the
"The other man, I soon found, was Red Kimball; they had about
finished their conversation before coming into the room, so the
first part was lost. Mr. Gledware had come for his check-book, and
the check was for Red Kimball. Red Kimball used to be the leader
of a band of highwaymen up in Cimarron, when it was No-Man's Land;
it was his hand that attacked the wagon-train when Mr. Gledware
acted the hero--only, as they were disguised as Indians, Mr.
Gledware didn't know they were such till later. He came on them,
afterward, without their disguises, and they would have killed him
if YOU, Brick, hadn't knocked down Red, and shot his brother! So,
as I listened, I found out that Mr. Gledware wasn't the hero he
claimed to be, but was THE MAN YOU SAVED; and he is MY STEPFATHER;
and I was carried away BY HIM, and taken FROM HIM by the Indians;
but he wasn't killed at all. And my name, I suppose is Lahoma
GLEDWARE, at least not as Red Feather had taught me, "Lahoma
WILLOCK." And I am NO kin to you, at all, Brick, you just took me
in and cared for me because you ARE Brick Willock, the dearest
tenderest friend a little girl ever had--and these lines are crooked
because there are tears--because you are not my cousin.
"I'd rather be kin to you than married to a prince.
"Red Kimball says you were one of his gang of highwaymen but I know
it ISN'T TRUE, so you don't have to say A WORD. But he is
determined to be revenged on you for killing his brother. And the
reason he's waited this long is because he didn't know where you
were--good reason, isn't it? Tell you how he found out--it all
comes from my getting civilized! He's a porter at our Kansas City
hotel. So when he heard the men talking about how I had once been
kidnaped by the Indians, and wrote nearly every day to my cousin
Brick Willock, which they thought an odd name--he guessed the rest.
"It makes my blood turn cold to think that all the time we were
living quietly and happily in the cove, that awful Red Kimball was
hunting for you, meaning to have your life--and in a way that I'm
ashamed to write, but must, so you'll know everything. He means to
have you arrested and tried for his brother's murder--and he says
HE CAN HANG YOU!
"And Mr. Gledware is his witness. That's why Red has come after
him. You'll think it strange that after his gang were about to kill
Mr. Gledware in the prairie, that he should come to ask him to act
as witness against another man. That's what Mr. Gledware told him.
But Red Kimball answered that it was all a bluff--they had never
dreamed of shooting him or his little girl.
"When No-Man's Land was added to Oklahoma, a pardon was offered to
Red Kimball and all his gang if they would come in and lay down
their arms and swear to keep the peace--you see, most of their
crimes had been committed where no courts could touch them. Well,
all the gang came in-- But what do you think? That terrible Red
Kimball swears that YOU WERE ONE OF HIS GANG, and that as you didn't
come in and surrender yourself, THE PARDON DOESN'T APPLY TO YOU!
It was all I could do to keep from stepping right out and telling
him you were one of the most peaceable and harmless of men and that
you just HAPPENED to be riding about when you saw Mr. Gledware's
danger, and just HAD to shoot Kansas Kimball to save me and my
stepfather. You, a highwayman, indeed! I could laugh at that, if
it didn't make me too mad when I think about it.
"Then Mr. Gledware talked. He said maybe it was a bluff against
him, that standing him up against the moon to be shot at, but it
wasn't one he was apt to forget, and he could never be on any kind
of terms with Red; besides, he said, if Brick Willock hadn't saved
his life, he'd always thought so, so wouldn't witness against him
though he had no doubt he belonged to Red's gang. But that was
nothing to HIM. And he couldn't understand how Red could have the
face to come to him about ANYTHING, but was willing to pay a sum to
keep all the past hushed up, as he didn't want any 'complications'
from being claimed as a stepfather by Lahoma! The past was over,
he said, and Lahoma had a home of her own, and he was satisfied to
be free of her--and he would pay Red something to keep the past
"Then Red spoke pretty ugly, saying it wasn't the past he was
anxious to have buried, but Brick Willock. And he said that Mr.
Gledware was a witness to the murder, whether he wanted to be or
not, and Red was willing to confess to everything, in order to have
"Then Mr. Gledware, in a cold unmoved voice, said he must go back
to the picnic and 'Mr. Kimball' could do as he pleased.
"But that wasn't the end. 'Do you know,' says 'Mr. Kimball,' 'that
Red Feather is in town, laying for you?' he says. Mr. Gledware gave
a dreadful kind of low scream, such as turned me sick to hear. It
reminded me of the cry of a coyote I heard once, caught in the trap,
that saw Bill coming with his knife. The room was as still as death
for a little while. I guess they were looking at each other.
"At last Red says, pretty slow and calm, 'Would you like to have
that Indian out of the way?' Mr. Gledware didn't answer, at least
not anything I could hear, but his eyes must have spoken for him,
for Red went on after a while-- 'It's a go, then, is it? Well,
that'll take time--but in a few days--maybe in a few hours--I'll
deal with the chief. And I want your word that after that's
accomplished, you'll go with me to Greer County and stay on the job
till Brick Willock swings.'"
"There was a longer silence than before. It lasted so long, and
the room was so still, that after a while I almost imagined that
they were gone, or that I had just waked up from a dreadful dream.
My nerves all clashed in the strangest way--like the shivering of
morning ice on a pool--when Mr. Gledware's voice jarred on my ears.
He said, 'How will I know?'
"'Well,' says Red Kimball roughly, 'how WOULD you know?'
"There was another of those awful silences. Then Mr. Gledware said,
'When you bring me a pin that he always carries about him, I'll know
that Red Feather will never trouble me again.'
"Kimball spoke rougher than before: 'You mean it'll show you that
he's a dead 'un, huh?"
"'I mean what I said,' Mr. Gledware snapped, as if just rousing
himself from a kind of stupor.
"'Well, what kind of pin?' That was Kimball's question.
"Then Mr. Gledware described the pin. He said it was a smooth-faced
gold-rimmed pin of onyx set with pearls. And Kimball said
boastingly that he would produce that pin, as he was a living man.
And Mr. Gledware told him if he did, he'd go to witness against
Brick Willock. So both left the room, and pretty soon, from the
window, I saw them going away on horseback, in opposite directions.
"I mustn't hold back this letter to add any more, it must get off
by the mail that's nearly due. The moment I learn anything new I'll
write again. Of course I know you're no more a highwayman than
myself, but since it's true that you did shoot Red's brother, and
since he evidently died of the wound, I suppose Red could cause you
a great deal of trouble. You could swear that if you hadn't killed
Kansas Kimball, he would have killed my stepfather; and that they
had ordered you to kill me, in my sleep. The trouble is that Mr.
Gledware seems to be in terror about Red Feather, and if Kimball
gets him rid of the Indian, I'm not sure that Mr. Gledware would
tell the whole truth. It might be the word of those two against
yours. It's certain that if they tried you and failed to convict,
Kimball would try a knife or a gun as the next best way of getting
"My poor dear Brick, it seems that there's long trouble before you,
hut the consciousness of innocence will uphold you, and just as soon
as I do all I can at this end of the trail, by acting as your
faithful scout, I'll come out in the open in my war clothes with my
belt well-lined with weapons, and we'll defy the world. In the
meantime--better keep hid! Good-by. Think of me when the wild
"Your little girl,
"P.S. Tell Bill he can still claim his share.
"P.P.S. Got Bill's note of a few lines, read it with the greatest
joy in the world, and guessed at the news. He says Wilfred Compton
is there. What for?
BRICK MAKES A STAND
As soon as Wilfred had finished the letter, not without a wry smile
over the query concerning himself, Bill Atkins exclaimed:
"THEN! Ho! And so she's no more kin to you, Brick, than to me;
and her name's no more Willock than Atkins--and being but a
stepdaughter to old Sneak, neither is it Gledware. Yet you have
everlastingly had your own say about Lahoma, from claiming to be a
cousin! I want you to know from this on that I claim as big a share
in Lahoma as anybody else on this green and living earth."
Wilfred looked up, expecting Brick to consent to this on the ground
that in all likelihood Bill's claim would last but a few years,
anyway. It seemed too good an opening for Brick to lose; but
instead of refreshing himself with his customary gibe, the huge
fellow sat dark and glowering, his eyes staring upward at the
crevice in the rock roof, the lantern-light showing his forehead
deeply rutted in a threatening scowl.
"Another point needs clearing up," Bill said sharply. "What about
Red Kimball's charge? DID you belong to his gang? ARE you a
Brick waved impatiently toward the letter that still gleamed in the
young man's hand. "We goes on document'ry evidence," he said. "I
takes a bold and open stand on the general plea of 'Not guilty' to
nothing. That's technical, and it's arbitrary. Should you be asked
had I ever expressed an opinion as to being a highwayman, or a
lowwayman, you can report me as saying 'Not guilty,' according."
"Brick," interposed Wilfred, returning him the letter, "you're
making a mistake not to trust us with the whole truth. If you wait
for Lahoma's letters and only admit what she discovers, Bill and I
can't form any plan of protecting you. While her information is
coming, bit by bit, the man who wants you hanged is liable to show
"Let 'im come!" growled Brick. "He can't get no closer to me than
I'll be to him. I'm not going to air my past history. What Lahoma
finds out, I admits frank and open; otherwise I stands firm as not
guilty, being on safe ground, technical and arbitrary."
"But if Red Kimball brings the sheriff--it's only a matter of
time--your plea of not guilty won't save you from arrest. And he'll
have any number of rascals to prove what he pleases, whether it's
the truth or not. If Gledware comes as a witness, his position will
give him great influence against you--and the fact that he'd testify
after you'd saved his life, would make a pretty hard hit with the
"Jury nothing!" retorted Brick. "This case ain't never going to a
jury. Such things is settled man to man, in these parts."
"But as surely as the sheriff serves his writ, you'll be landed in
jail. And I happen to know the sheriff; he's a man that couldn't
be turned from his duty--good friend of mine, too."
"Is, eh? Then you'd better advise with him for his good."
"Think of Lahoma. If you killed a man--whether the sheriff, or this
Red Kimball--Lahoma could never feel toward you as she does today."
"And how would she feel toward me if I was hanged, uh? I guess
she'd druther I laid my man low than that I swung high." Willock
started up impatiently. "We're wasting words," he said, roughly.
"There is but the two alternatives: I'm one of 'em, and Red Kimball
is the other. It's simply a question of which gets which. I tries
to make it plain, for there's no going back. Now are you with me,
or not? If not, I'll fight it out along as I always done in times
past and gone--and bedinged to 'em! I'm sorry my young days was as
they was, and for Lahoma's sake I'd cut off this right arm--" he
held it out, rigidly--"if that'd change the past. But the past--and
bedinged TO it--can't be changed. It's there, right over your shoulder,
out of reach. This mountain might as well say, 'I don't like being a
big chunk of granite where all the rest of the country is a smooth
prairie; I'm sorry I erupted; and I guess I'll go back into the
heart of the earth where I come from.' A mountain that's erupted
is erupted till kingdom come, and a man that's did a deed, has did
it till the stars fall. But you CAN imagine this mountain saying,
with some sense, too, 'Now, since I HAS erupted, I'll do my best to
cover my nakedness with pretty cedars for to stay green in season
and out of season, and I'll embroider myself with flowers and
grasses, and send little mountain-streams down to make soft water
in people's wells so they won't all-time be fretting because I takes
up so much of good plowing-land,' says the mountain. I may not be
a mountain, but I've got a good top to me which reasons against the
future and forgets the past. I know Red Kimball--and now that he's
learned where I live, one of us is too many, considering the hard
times. I mean to keep hiding, not to be took by surprise; but I
'lows to come forth one of these days and walk about free and
disposed, all danger having been removed."
"What about the law?" demanded Bill. "Do you think IT'S going to
let you walk about free and disposed, after you've removed Red
"I hopes the law and me can get on peaceable together," returned
the other grimly. "I've never had nothing to do with it, and I
hopes to be let alone."
Wilfred spoke with sudden decision: "Brick, I'm with you to the
end, and so is Bill. I have nothing to do with your purposes or
plans except to offer the best advice I know--you've rejected it,
but I'm with you just the same. It strikes me I can help you by
going to Kansas City--for you need only Bill in the cove,--he can
bring you Lahoma's letters. I'll hurry to Lahoma; and if she
decides to come back, as I'm sure she will very soon--well, she'll
need a protector. I'll bring her home. She asks in her letter what
I'm here for. Wouldn't that be a good answer?"
Brick Willock laid his hand on the other's shoulder and stared into
his face with troubled eyes. Gradually his countenance cleared and
something of his old geniality returned. "A first-class answer,
son! I believe you'll do it." He grasped Wilfred's hand. "These
are troublous times, and it's good to feel a hand like this that's
steady and true. Now I ain't going to drag you into nothing that
could hurt you nor Bill, or make you feel sore over past days. I
don't need nobody to lean on--but Lahoma does; and if Red Kimball
pops it to me before I get a chance to keel him over, you two must
look out for her."
"I'll look out for her myself, single-handed," said Bill gruffly.
"I know you would, old tap, as long as you lasts," said Willock with
an unwonted note of gentleness. Bill was so embarrassed by the tone
that he cringed awkwardly. After a pause, Willock suggested that
Wilfred wait for one more letter from Lahoma, provided it come
within the next twenty-four hours, then start up the trail for
Chickasha and board the train for Kansas. "She might write
something that needed instant work," he explained. "If so, I'd like
to have you here. I'm looking for developments in her next letter."
"Strange to me," muttered Bill, "about Red Feather and that sneaking
Gledware. Wonder how came the Indian with a pin on him that
Gledware knew of?"
Willock's face was twisted into a sardonic grin. "Guess I could
explain that, all right--but I says nothing beyond Lahoma's word.
I banks on document'ry proofs, and otherwise stands technical and
Hitherto Wilfred, as guest of honor, had been offered the cabin as
his sleeping-quarters, and he had accepted it because of the
countless reminders of Lahoma's fresh and innocent life; but this
night, he shared the dugout with Bill, from a sense of impending
danger. Until a late hour they sat over the glowing coals,
discussing their present situation and offering conjectures about
Willock's younger days. There could hardly have been a stronger
contrast between the emaciated old man of the huge white mustache,
thin reddish cheeks and shock of white hair, and the
broad-shouldered, handsome and erect young man--or the stern and
gloomy countenance of the former, and the expressive eyes and
flexible lips of Wilfred. Yet they seemed unconscious of any chasm
of age or disposition as they spoke in low tones, not without
frequent glances toward the barricaded door and the heavily
The wind made strange noises overhead and at times one could be
almost certain there was the stamping of a man's foot upon the
earthen roof. The distant cry of a wild beast, and the nearer
yelping of hungry wolves mingled with the whistling of the wind.
Sometimes Wilfred rose and, passing noiselessly to the window,
raised the curtain with a quick gesture to stare out on a dark and
stormy night; and once, in doing so, he surprised a pair of red eyes
under bristling gray hair which seemed to glow hot as molten lead,
as the fire from the open stove caught them unaware.
"If my arms were tied," remarked Bill, "I'd rather trust myself to
that coyote than to Red Kimball. I hate to think of Brick out
yonder on the mountain, all alone, and no fire to warm him, afraid
to smoke his pipe, I reckon. Well, this kind of thing can't last
long, that's plain."
It was Wilfred's conviction that "this kind of thing" could not,
indeed, last long, which kept him awake half through the night; and
yet, when the morning sunlight flooded the cove, it seemed
impossible that deeds of violence could be committed in so peaceful
a world. In that delusion, however, he could not long remain;
Lahoma's next letter came confirmatory of his worst fears.
"Just read it aloud, Wilfred," said Brick, as all gathered about
the lantern in the retreat at the mountain-top. "We're all one,
now, and I've got no secrets from you--at least none that's knowed
to Lahoma. And if the case seems immediate, I reckon you'll prove
Wilfred nodded briefly. "My horse is ready saddled," he said, as
he opened the letter addressed to Willock. "As soon as I've read
'Yours truly,' I'll be ready to jump into the saddle, so I say
LIFE ON ONE CONDITION
"Dear Brick and Bill:
"I put Bill in, because I am sure that by this time he has been told
what was in my last letter, and I know he's true blue. I have been
so excited since finding out that Red Kimball is determined on
revenge, and that Mr. Gledware may be a witness for him, that I
can't think about anything but the danger at the cove. I feel that
I ought to be there, to lend a hand; what will you do without me,
if that horrible highwayman comes slipping around Turtle Hill, or
creeps down the north mountain in the dead of night? And I would
be on my way there, now, if I didn't hope to find out more about
"They have come back from the picnic, and I am on the watch, feeling
sure Red Kimball will come again to have another talk with Mr.
Gledware. But he hasn't come yet, and everything is quiet and
peaceable, as if things were going along as things always do and
always will--it makes me dreadfully nervous! So, as it seemed that
nothing was going to happen, I decided to stir up something myself.
When there's no news, why not make some of your own? I made some.
"This is the same day I overheard that plot in the library, but it
is night. When it was good and dark, Annabel came up to my room
where I was watching the road from my window, and she sat down and
began talking about the picnic and what a fine time she had had,
with a good deal about going to Europe. She was all flushed and
running over with talk, and after a while it came clear that she's
just been engaged to Mr. Gledware.
"It seemed to me it would be like fighting behind bushes to tell
her what I thought of Mr Gledware, while under his roof and at his
expense, so I opened up matters by talking about Wilfred Compton.
I told her how faithful and true Wilfred has been to her all these
years, carrying her letters next to his heart, and dreaming of her
night and day, and how he came to see me, once, because it had been
two years since he'd seen a sure-enough girl, and how I tried to
interest him as hard as I could, but he never wanted to come back
because his heart belonged to Annabel.
"After a while she began to cry, but it wasn't over Wilfred, it was
over Edgerton. When Wilfred went away to be a cowboy she lost
interest and sympathy in him because she doesn't understand cowboys;
they are not in her imagination. But his brother Edgerton has
always been a city man in nice clothes with pleasing manners, and
if he had money-- But what's the use talking? Seems like that's
the worst waste of time there can be, and the most aggravating, to
say if so-and-so had money I Because if he hasn't got it, somebody
else has, and if you think money's more than the man, there you are.
And Mr. Gledware has it. He's not the man but he has the money.
"Then I expressed myself. You know what I think. So does Annabel,
now. That's how I made me some news, when there wasn't any. The
news is, that Annabel will never forgive me, and as I'm here solely
as her guest, my guesting-time will be brief--just long enough to
find out what Mr. Gledware decides to do. I oughtn't to have told
Annabel that she was mercenary, or that Mr. Gledware was as hard as
a stone and as old as M-- (I'm not sure how to spell him, but you
remember: the oldest man). Yes, I know I oughtn't. If a woman can
marry a man when she doesn't love him, it won't change her purpose
to know what YOU think about it, because her own feelings are the
biggest things that could stand in the way.
"But I told her, anyway. Seemed like everything in me turned to
words and poured out without my having to keep it going. I just
stood there and watched myself say things. You see, Annabel is so
dainty and pretty, and naturally so sweet--and Mr. Gledware--well,
he ISN'T. The more I thought of that, and the better I remembered
poor Wilfred pining away for her in the desert, and not coming back
to see me because he couldn't get HER out of his brain, and how she
changed from him to his brother, and from Mr. Edgerton to Mr.
Gledware, I was ashamed of her, and sorry for her, and angry with
"I wish I hadn't said anything. But I felt glorious at the time,
just like a storm sweeping across the prairie, purifying the air
and not caring whether the earth wants to be purified or not. I
did wrong, because I came to the big world to study people of
culture and refinement, not to quarrel with them. You must have
money, you MUST have money, you MUST have money, if you're
civilized. I don't care if I AM a little storm. Yes, of course,
I know a storm isn't a civilized thing. Well, I know what I'm going
to do,--I'm going to come back and blow the rest of my life right
there in the cove, with my Brick and my Bill.
"So that's my news, that I'm dissatisfied with the big world. It
isn't like I'd have made it, that's the truth! Now I'll lay this
letter aside to cool (I mean IT, and ME, too) and I'll not send it
until something about Red Kimball happens, so you'll be posted on
what really matters. After all, people that marry for money aren't
important, they don't belong to big affairs--but there's something
worth discussing in a plot to commit murder. That MEANS something;
as Brick would say, it's 'vital.' These people about me, kind,
gentle, correct,--all their waking thoughts are devoted to little
things--fashionable trifles that last no longer than the hour in
which they're born--just time-killers. I enjoy these pleasing
trifles, but my eyes are opened and I know they ARE trifles. These
people's eyes are not opened. Why? Because they haven't lived in
the West, neighboring with real things like alkali plains and
sand-storms and granite mountains.
"My! but it would open their eyes if one of their dearest friends
was in danger of getting himself hanged! Something permanent in
"LATER: This is midnight. I expect to leave as soon as I possibly
can, but probably this letter will get away first, so here's
something new to put your mind on; it's rather dreadful, when you
give it a calm thought. But my thoughts are not calm. Far from it.
Oh, how excited I was! But I guess THEY didn't know it. It all
happened about an hour ago, and you can see that my hand is still
a little shaky.
"There was a bright moonlight, but you needn't be afraid I'm going
to talk about THAT; this isn't any tale about moons. I was sitting
at my window because I couldn't sleep, not that I expected to see
anything unusual. There's a big summer-house at the far end of the
lawn, all covered with vines, and there's a walk between dense
shrubbery, leading to it from the house. I guess that's why I
didn't see anybody go to that summer-house. The first thing I DID
see was Red Kimball come out and slip through a little side-gate,
and hurry along the country road. As soon as I saw him, I guessed
that he and Mr. Gledware had been conspiring in the summer-house.
What a chance I had missed to act the good scout!
"But it seemed no use to go down, after Red Kimball had left. If
Mr. Gledware was still in the summer-house, I knew he was alone;
and if he'd returned to the house, all was over for the night. I
was wondering what new plot they had formed, and how I was to find
out about it, when my eye was caught by a movement in the hedge that
runs down to the side-gate. The movement was as slight as possible,
but as there wasn't ANY breeze, it made me shiver a little, for I
knew somebody was skulking there. I watched, and pretty soon
something passed through the gate, light and quick and stealthy,
like the shadow of a cloud. Only, there wasn't any cloud; and in
the flash of moonlight I saw it was our old friend--Red Feather.
"Almost as soon as I recognized him, he had disappeared behind a
large lilac-bush; but I had seen what he held in the hand behind
his back--it was a long unsheathed knife. The lilac-bush stood
close to the summer-house. He fell flat to the ground, and though
I couldn't see him, after that I knew he was wriggling his way
around the bush. You would have been ashamed of me for a minute or
two, for I kept sitting beside the window as if I had been turned
to a statue of ice. I felt just that cold, too!
"But maybe I didn't stay there as long as it seemed. First thing
I knew, I was running downstairs as lightly and swiftly as I could,
and out through the door at the end of the side hall that had been
left wide open--and I was at the summer-house door like a flash.
There was a wide path of moonlight across the concrete floor and
right in that glare was a sight never to be forgotten--Red Feather,
about to stab Mr. Gledware to the heart! He held Mr. Gledware by
the throat with one hand, and his other hand held the knife up for
the blow. Mr. Gledware lay on his back, and Red Feather had one
knee pressed upon his breast. In the light, Mr. Gledware's face was
purple and dreadfully distorted, but the Indian looked about as
usual--just serious and unchangeable.
"When I reached the doorway, I blotted out most of the moonlight,
and I drew back so Red Feather could see who I was. He looked up
and let go of Mr. Gledware's throat, but didn't move, otherwise.
'RED FEATHER!' I said. 'GIVE ME THAT KNIFE.'
"Mr. Gledware, recognizing my voice, tried to entreat me to save
him, but he was half-strangled, and only made sounds that turned me
faint, to know that the man my mother had married was such a coward.
"Red Feather told me that if I came any nearer, or if I cried for
help, he would murder that man and escape; but that if I would step
into the shadow and listen, he'd give his reason for doing it before
it was done. So I went across the room from him to save time,
hoping I could persuade him to change his mind. I stood in the
shadow, and in a low voice, I reminded him of his kindness to me,
and of our kindness to him, and I begged for Mr. Gledware's life.
"Red Feather asked me if I knew Mr. Gledware was my stepfather, yet
hadn't acknowledged it to me. I said yes. He asked me if I didn't
know Mr. Gledware had kept still about it because he didn't want the
trouble and expense of taking care of me. I said, of course I had
thought of that. He asked if I knew he had deserted my mother's
dead body in the desert to save his miserable life. I said I knew
that, but he had taken me with him, and he had tried to save me, and
I was going to save him.
"Red Feather shook his head. No, he said, I could not save him,
for he would be dead in two or three minutes--and then he bent over
Mr. Gledware, who all this time was afraid to move or to make a
sound. I hurried to remind him that he hadn't told me his reason
for wanting to kill the man.
"Then Red Feather said that when that man rode with me among the
Indians, Red Feather's daughter had taken a fancy to him, and Mr.
Gledware had married her; and I had been kept away from him so he'd
forget me and not turn his thoughts toward his own people; and they
had taught me that my name was Willock because they were going to
take me to you, Brick. Isn't it wonderful? That day you found the
deserted wagon, and buried my mother, Red Feather was watching you
from the mountain and he wouldn't kill you because you made that
grave and knelt down to talk to the Great Spirit. Afterward, when
he rode home and found that his daughter and Mr. Gledware were to
be married, he made up his mind that if you succeeded in keeping
hidden from Red Kimball and his band, you would be the one to take
care of me. And when two years had passed and you were still safe,
he brought me to you! What a glad day that was!
"When Red Feather's daughter wanted Mr. Gledware's life saved, it
was so. And Red Feather gave them a great stretch of land, and Mr.
Gledware got to be important in the tribe; he made himself one of
them, and they thought him greater than their own chief. At the end
of a few years, there was the great agitation over the boomers
coming to the Oklahoma country, and much talk of the land being
thrown open. The Indians didn't want it done, and they joined
together to send some one to Washington to address congress on the
subject. Mr. Gledware was such an orator that they thought him
irresistible, so they selected him, and, for his fee, they collected
over fifty thousand dollars. Think of it!
"Of course he didn't go near Washington. It was the time of Kansas
City's great boom. He went there and bought up city lots, and sold
out at the right time, and that's why he's rich today. In the
meantime, the Indians didn't know what had become of him, and Red
Feather's daughter died from shame over her desertion--just pined
away and hid herself from her people till she was starved to death.
That's why Red Feather meant to kill Mr. Gledware.
"When he had finished, Red Feather bent over Mr. Gledware and said
to him, 'Me speak all true? Tell Lahoma--me speak all true?'
"And the man whispered feebly, 'It is all true--don't kill me, for
God's sake, don't kill me--save me, Lahoma, MY CHILD!'
"I begged him not to kill the man. Red Feather said to me, 'You
hear how he treat my daughter! You my friend, Lahoma. You know
all that, and yet you tell me not kill him?'
"'I say not kill him.'
"'Then you hate my daughter?'
"'My mother could marry him, Red Feather, and I can beg for his
"He shook his head. 'No, Lahoma, he die; he leave my daughter to
die and this hand do to him what he do to her.'
"I never felt so helpless, so horribly weak and useless! There I
was, only a few yards away, and the man was my stepfather; and his
enemy was our friend. And not far away stood the man's big house
filled with guests--among them strong men who could have overpowered
dozens of Indians. But what could I do?
"Then I had a thought. 'Let him live, Red Feather,' I said, 'but
strip him of all his ill-gotten property. Turn him loose in the
world without a penny; it'll be punishment enough. You can't bring
back your daughter by killing him; but you can make him give up all
he has in return for stealing the money from your tribe.'
"I don't know why I thought of that, and I don't know why it made
instant appeal to Red Feather's mind. I saw at once that he was
going to consent. All he said was, 'Talk to him--' But I knew what
"So I crossed the room and looked down at the man. 'Mr. Gledware,'
I said, 'are you willing to give up all your possessions in order
to save your life?'
"'Oh, yes,' he gasped. 'A thousand times, yes! God bless you,
"'You will deed all your property away from you? And surrender all
that you own, money, bonds, stocks and so forth?'
"'My God, yes, yes!' he wailed. 'Save me--only save me, Lahoma!'
"I looked at Red Feather. 'Shall he make it all over to you?'
Red Feather shook his head. 'Me not want his money. Let him give
all to Red Flower, the daughter him not see since he stole our money
and desert his wife.'
"'Yes, yes, yes,' moaned Mr. Gledware, 'I'll give everything to
her--I'll make over everything to her in the morning, so help me
God--if you spare my life, she shall have everything.'
"All this time Red Feather had never moved his knee from the man's
breast. Now he rose and pointed toward the East. 'The morning will
come,' he said solemnly. 'If you keep your word--well! If you try
fool Red Feather--if you keep back one piece of money, one clod of
earth--' He wheeled about so suddenly with his drawn knife that I
thought he was plunging it into the man's heart. It shot down like
lightning, but stopped short just before the edge of the blade
touched the miserable coward.
"Mr. Gledware sobbed and gasped and choked, swearing that he would
keep his word, and assuring us that, if he broke it, death would be
too good for him. But what he will do when he thinks him-self
safe--that's another thing! I know his life is as secure as mine,
if he is true to his promise. But if he breaks it--well, we know
Red Feather! Do you think Mr. Gledware will keep his word? Or will
he wait to see whether or not Red Kimball rids him of the Indian?
I believe he'll be afraid to wait. But as soon as he's calm, it
will be like death for him to give up all he owns. That will mean
giving up Annabel, too.
"It hasn't been an hour since I came back to my room. When Red
Feather slipped away, the only thing I asked Mr. Gledware was my
mother's maiden name, and the place where her people lived. I'm
going to leave here in the morning. I'm coming back where there's
room enough to turn around in, and air enough to breathe, where men
speak the truth because they don't care who's who, and shoot quick
and straight when they have to. I'm coming back where money's
mighty scarce and love's as free and boundless as Heaven, where good
books are few and true hearts are many. Yes, I'm coming back to the
West, and if the winds don't blow all the sand away, under the sand
I expect to be buried. But I want to live until I'm buried. People
have made the big world as it is,--well they are welcome to it; but
God has made the cove as it is, and it's for Me and Brick and Bill.
"Just the three of us: just Me and Brick and Bill: ONE-TWO-THREE!
There's oceans of room out in the big world for everything and
everybody. But in the cove, there's room just for
On reaching Chickasha, Wilfred Compton telegraphed to Kansas City
asking his brother if Lahoma was still at Mr. Gledware's house in
the country. In the course of a few hours the reply came that she
had already started home to Greer County, Texas. After reading the
message, Wilfred haunted the station, not willing to let even the
most unpromising freight train escape observation.
Everything that came down the track on this last reach of the
railroad into Southwest Oklahoma, was crowded with people, cattle,
household furniture, stores of hardware, groceries, dry-goods--all
that man requires for his physical well-being. The town itself was
swarming with eager jostling throngs bound for many diverse points,
and friends of a day shouted hearty good-bys, or exchanged
good-natured badinage, as they separated to meet no more.
Men on horseback leading heavily laden pack-horses, covered wagons
from which peeped women and children half-reclining upon bedding,
their eyes filled with grave wonder at a world so unlike their homes
in the East or North--pyramids of undressed lumber fastened somehow
upon four wheels and surmounted in precarious fashion by sprawling
men whose faces and garments suggested Broadway, New York and
Leadville, Colorado--Wilfred gazed upon the unending panorama. In
those corded tents he saw the pioneer family already in possession
of the new land; in the stacks of pine boards he beheld houses
already sending up the smoke of peace and prosperity from their
chimneys; and in the men and women who streamed by, their faces
alight with hope, their bodies ready for the grapple with drought,
flood, cyclone, famine, he saw the guaranty of a young and dominant
Strangers greeted one another with easy comrade-ship. Sometimes it
was just, "Hello, neighbor!"--and if a warning were shouted across
the street to one endangered by the current of swelling life, it
might be-- "Look out there, brother!" The sense of kinship tingled
in the air, opening men's hearts and supplying aid to weaker
brethren. Those who gathered along the track awaiting the arrival
of the trains had already the air of old-timers, eager to extend the
hospitality of a well-loved land.
In such a crowd Wilfred was standing when he first caught sight of
Lahoma among those descending to the jostling platform. He had not
known how she would look, and certainly she was much changed from
the girl of fifteen, but he made his way to her side without the
She turned sharply with a certain ease of movement suggesting
fearless freedom. Her eyes looked straight into the young man's
with penetrating keenness which instantly softened to pleasure.
"Why I how glad I am to see you!" she cried, giving him her hand as
they withdrew from the rush. "But how did you know me?"
"How did YOU know?" he returned, pleased and thrilled by her glowing
brown hair, her eloquent eyes, her warm-tinted cheeks, her form, as
erect as of yore, but not so thin--as pleased and thrilled as if all
these belonged to him. "How did you know ME?" he repeated, looking
and looking, as if he would never be able to believe that she had
turned out so much better than he had ever dreamed she would.
"Oh," said Lahoma, "when I looked into your face, I saw myself as
a girl sitting under the cedar trees in the cove, with Brick and
"Just you three?" demanded Wilfred wistfully--also smilingly.
"Oho!" exclaimed Lahoma, showing her perfect little teeth as if
about to bite, in a way that filled him with fearful joy, "and so
they showed you that letter!"
"JUST you three?" repeated Wilfred. "Just room enough in the cove
for you--and Brick--and Bill?"
"Listen to me, Wilfred, and I will do the talking."
She lowered her voice to a whisper-- "Lean your head closer."
Wilfred put down his head. "Is this close enough?" he whispered,
feeling exalted. Men, women and children circled about them; the
air vibrated with the shock of trunks and mail bags hurled upon the
"No," said Lahoma, rising on tiptoe.
Wilfred took off his hat and got under hers.
She whispered in his ear, "Red Kimball came on this train--there he
is--he hasn't seen me, yet--was in another coach."
"Well? Go on talking. Lahoma--I'd get closer if I could."
"S-H-H! He knows me, for he was a porter in our hotel. When he
sees us he'll know I've come home to warn Brick. S-H-H! Then he'll
try to keep me from doing it. Look--some of his gang are speaking
to him--they've been waiting here to meet him--they'll go with him,
I expect. We'll all be in the stage-coach together!"
"What do you want me to do to 'em, Lahoma?"
"I want you to pretend that you don't know me--and they mustn't find
out your name is Compton, or they'll think Mr. Edgerton got word to
you to join me here. Be a stranger till we're safe in the cove."
"All right. Good-by--but suppose I hadn't come?"
"Oh, I could have done without you," said Lahoma. "Or I think I
"You could never have done without me!" Wilfred declared decidedly.
"I can right NOW--" She drew away. "I'll get into the stage; don't