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Lahoma by John Breckinridge Ellis

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Willock, like a wild animal brought to bay, squared his shoulders
against the wall, and said: "We've slept on it. Say all you got
to say. Don't leave out nothing because you might be sorry,
afterwards. Speak together, or one at a time, it's all the same to
me. And when you're done, and say you're done, I'll do my talking,

And when they were done, and said they were done, he straightened
himself and said:

"When Red Kimball's band give themselves to the law that done
nothing to them, there might of been a man, one of 'em, that never
come in out of the rain. I ain't saying I am that man, for I stands
by the records and the proofs and the showings of man and man,
technical and arbitrary. But in due time, the governor of Texas he
says that that man--whoever he may be--was no longer to be excused
on the grounds that he done his operating in No-Man's Land and his
residing in the state of Texas. And he said that there man would
be held responsible for all the deeds done by Red Kimball's band.
That word has been handed down. Now whether I'm that man, or just
thought to be that man, makes little difference. I'm a fugitive on
the face of the earth without an ark of safety--referring to my
cove. That's ME.

"Now look at LAHOMA. She has folks, not meaning you, Wilfred, but
Boston kin that stands high. A woman ain't nothing without family,
out in the world. You're going to be a great man some day, if I
don't miss my guess, a great man in Oklahoma government and laws.
Lahoma's going to be proud of you. You'll take a hand in politics,
you'll be elected to something high. If I lived near at hand, I'd
all-time be hiding, and having her a-conniving at something that
would hurt your reputation if found out, and that would kill me
because I couldn't breathe under such a load. And if away from her,
well--I'm too old, now, to live without Lahoma. She's--she's just
a habit of mine.

"So you puts me in jail. They does what they likes with me, hangs
me or gives me time, but the point as I see it is this: I'll be
disposed of, I'll be given a rank, you may say, and classified.
Lahoma won't be hampered. She's young; young people takes things
hard but they don't take 'em long. In due time, them Boston
kinfolks will be inviting her and will be visiting her, and you'll
be in congress, like enough--if you wasn't a western man, I'd say
you might be president. And everybody will honor you and feast
you--and as to Brick Willock, he'll simply be forgot.

"Which is eminent and proper, Wilfred. I belongs to the past--I'M
a kind of wild creature such as has to die out when civilization
rolls high; and she's rolling high in these parts, and it's for me
and Bill to join the Indians and buffaloes, and fade away. Trappers
is out of date; so is highwaymen, I judge.

"I don't know as I makes myself clear or well put, but if you'll
catch up the ponies I guess your sheriff can handle my meaning."

Without much difficulty, Wilfred effected another compromise. They
waited till night before leaving the retreat. The reason accepted
for this delay was that in the daytime the deputies would stop them
and Willock wanted to give himself up to the chief in command. When
it was dark they slipped down the gully whose matted trees, though
stripped of leaves, offered additional shelter. In the cove, they
saw the light streaming from the window of the dugout--that famous
window that had given Lahoma her first outlook upon learning. As
the beams caught his eye, a sigh heaved the great bulk of the former
master of the cove, but he said nothing.

In oppressive silence they skirted Turtle Hill and emerged from the
horseshoe bend, finding in a sheltered nook the three ponies that
Wilfred had provided at nightfall. He had hoped to the last that
Willock could be prevailed on to alter his decision, and even while
riding away toward Mangum, he argued and coaxed. But it was in
vain, and as they clattered up to the hotel veranda, Willock was
searching the crowd for a glimpse of the sheriff.

The street was unusually full for that time of night; some topic of
engrossing interest seemed to engage all minds until Willock's
figure was recognized; then, indeed, he held the center of
attention. Men gathered eagerly, curiously, but without the
hostility they would have displayed had not a message regarding Red
Feather reached the town. Brick was still an outlaw, to be sure,
but whatever crimes he had committed were unknown, hence unable to
react on the imagination. The surviving friend of Red Kimball,
giving up his efforts against Willock on the liberation of Bill, had
left the country, harmless without his leader.

Conversation which had been loud and excited, eager calls from
street corners that had punctuated the many-tongued argument and
exposition, dimmed to silence. There was a forward movement of the
men, not a rush but a vibratory swell of the human tide, pushing
toward the steps of the hotel. The two riderless horses danced
sidewise--Brick Willock had jumped upon the unpainted floor of the
veranda, and Wilfred had sprung lightly to his side.

"I'll just keep on my horse," muttered Bill, resting one leg stiffly
over the pommel. "I can't get up as I used to, and I expect to stay
with ye, Brick, to the jail door."

Willock did not turn his shaggy head to answer. He had seen the
sheriff at the other end of the piazza, and he made straight for
him, not even condescending to a grin when the other, mistaking his
intentions, whipped out his revolver.

"Put it up, pard," Brick said gruffly. "When you come to me in the
cove, a few years ago, I give you a warm welcome, but now I ain't
a-coming to you, I'm a-coming to the Law. Where's that there

The crowd that had been listening to the sheriff's discourse before
the arrival of the highwayman, scattered at sight of the drawn
weapon--all except Lahoma.

"Brick!" she cried, "oh, Brick, Brick!"

There was something in her voice he could not understand, but he
dared not turn to examine her face; he could not trust himself if
he once looked at her.

"Get out your warrant," he cried savagely, "and get it out quick if
you want ME!" His great breast heaved with the conflict of powerful

"I'm sure sorry to see you, old man," Mizzoo declared. "We know
Red Feather done what we was charging up against you. But I guess
there's no other course open to me. As my aunt used to say (Miss
Sue of Missouri) 'I got a duty--do it, I must.'" He thrust his
hairy hand into his bosom and drew forth the fateful paper.

Lahoma laughed. "Read it, Mizzoo, read it aloud--read all of it!"
she cried gleefully.

Wilfred looked at her, bewildered. The crowd stared also, knowing
her love for Brick, therefore dazed at the sound of mirthful music.
Brick turned his head at last; he looked, also, not reproachfully
but with a question in his hard stern eyes.

Mizzoo turned red. "Well, yes, I'll read it," he said, defiantly.
"Sure! I guess as sheriff of Greer County I'll make shift to get
through with it alive."

He began to read, slowly, doggedly; Brick, without movement save
for that heaving of his bosom, facing him with a mingling on his
face of supreme defiance for the reader and superstitious awe for
the legal instrument.

"That's all," Mizzoo at last announced. "You'll have to come with
me, Willock."

"Hold on!" came voices from the crowd. During the reading, they
had been watching Lahoma, and her expression promised more than
fruitless laughter. "Hold on, Mizzoo, Lahoma's got something up
her sleeve!"

Lahoma spoke clearly, that her voice might carry to the confines of
the crowd: "Mizzoo, I think you read in that warrant, 'county of
Greer, state of Texas'? Didn't you?"

"That's what I done. Here's the words."

"But, you see," returned Lahoma, "that warrant's no good!"

Mizzoo stared at her a moment, then exclaimed violently, "By--"
Propriety forbade the completion of his phrase.

The crowd instantly caught her meaning; a shout rose, shrill,
tumultuous, broken with laughter. She had reminded them of the
subject which a short time ago had engaged all minds.

"It's no good," cried Lahoma triumphantly. She took it from
Mizzoo's lax fingers and deliberately tore it from top to bottom.

"I guess I'm a-getting old, sure enough," said Bill. "This is
beyond me."

Wilfred looked at Lahoma questioningly. Brick, stupefied by
violence done that sacred instrument of civilization, stood rooted
to the spot.

Mizzoo was grinning now. "You see," he explained, "word come today
that the Supreme Court has at last turned in its decision. Prairie
Dog Fork is now Red River, and 'Red River' is only the North Fork
of Red River--and that means that Greer County don't belong to
Texas, and never did belong to her, but is a part of Oklahoma."

"And you'll never have an Oklahoma writ served on you," cried
Lahoma, "not while I'm living! And you'll go with us to our farm
and live with us, you and Bill and..."

Lahoma had expected to be very calm and logical, for she knew she
had all the advantage on her side. But when she saw the change in
Brick's eyes, she forgot her rights; she forgot all that watching
crowd; she forgot even Wilfred--and with a spring she was in Brick's
arms, sobbing for joy.

He tried to say something about her Boston kin, but he could not
express the thought coherently, for giant as he was, he was sobbing,

"If there's ever a meeting," she said, between tears and laughter,
"the East will have to come to the West!"

"Those Boston folks," cried Bill, with a sudden upheaval of unwonted
humor, "can simply go to--beans! I'm a-getting down," he added,
cautiously lowering himself from his pony; "I guess I'm in this,

"You're in it," growled Brick, "but you're on the outskirts. Don't
come no nearer." He stroked the head that rested on his breast, his
great hand moving with exceeding gentleness. He gazed over her
brown glory, at the sympathetic crowd.

"Fellows," he cried, "just look what I've raised!"

"Boys," exclaimed Mizzoo, "what do you say? Let's give three cheers
for Lahoma."

Wilfred's voice cut across the last word, proud and happy: "Make
it Lahoma of Oklahoma!"

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