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Trailin'! by Max Brand

Part 6 out of 6

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fought, and he fell; and then I saw you running over the lawn toward us.

"I remembered Joan, her pride and her fierceness, and I knew that if I
waited a son would kill his father that night. So I turned and fled
through the trees. Anthony, do you believe me; do you forgive me?"

The memory of the clumsy, hungered tenderness of John Bard swept about

He cried: "How can I believe? My father has killed my father; what is

The solemn voice replied: "Anthony, my son!"

He saw the great, blunt-fingered hands which had killed men, which were
feared through the length and breadth of the mountain-desert, stretched
out to him.

"Anthony Drew!" said the voice.

His hand went out, feebly, by slow degrees, and was caught in a mighty
double clasp. Warmth flowed through him from that grasp, and a great
emotion troubled him, and a voice from deep to deep echoed within
him--the call of blood to blood. He knew the truth, for the hate burned
out in him and left only an infinite sadness.

He said: "What of the man who loved me? Whom I love?"

"I have done penance for that death," answered William Drew, "and I
shall do more penance before I die. For I am only your father in name,
but he is the father in your thoughts and in your love. Is it true?"

"It is true," said Anthony.

And the other, bitterly: "In his life he was as strong as I; in his
death he is still stronger. It is his victory; his shadow falls between

But Anthony answered: "Let us go together and bring his body and bury it
at the left side of--my mother."

"Lad, it is the one thing we can do together, and after that?"

A plaintive sound came to the ear of Anthony, and he looked down to see
Sally Fortune weeping at the grave of Joan. Better than both the men she
understood, perhaps. In the deep tenderness which swelled through him he
caught a sense of the drift of life through many generations of the past
and projecting into the future, men and women strong and fair and each
with a high and passionate love.

The men died and the women changed, but the love persisted with the will
to live. It came from a thousand springs, but it rolled in one river to
one sea. The past stood there in the form of William Drew; he and Sally
made the present, and through his love of her sprang the hope of the

It was all very clear to him. The love of Bard and Drew for Joan Piotto
had not died, but passed through the flame and the torment of the three
ruined lives and returned again with gathering power as the force which
swept him and Sally Fortune out into that river and toward that far-off
sea. The last mist was brushed from his eyes. He saw with a piercing
vision the world, himself, life. He looked to William Drew and saw that
he was gazing on an old and broken man.

He said to the old man: "Father, she is wiser than us both."

And he pointed to Sally Fortune, still weeping softly on the grave of

But William Drew had no eye for her; he was fallen into a deep muse over
the blurred inscription on the headstone. He did not even raise his head
when Anthony touched Sally Fortune on the shoulder. She rose, and they
stole back together toward the house. There, as they stood close
together, Sally murmured: "It is cruel to leave him alone. He needs us
now, close to him."

His hand wandered slowly across her hair, and he said: "Sally, how close
can we ever be to him?"

"We can only watch and wait and try to understand," murmured Sally

They were so close to the door of the ruined house, now, that a taint of
burnt powder crept out to them, a small, keen odour, and with a sudden
desire to protect her, he drew her close to him. There was no tensing of
her body when his arm went around her and he knew with a rush of
tenderness how completely, how perfectly she accepted him. Over the hand
which held her he felt soft fingers settle to keep it in its place, and
when he looked down he found that her face was raised, and the eyes
which brooded on him were misty bright, like the eyes of a child when
joy overflows in it, but awe keeps it quiet.


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