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CHAPTER II


The wind and rain had cleared the unfrequented suburb of any
observant lounger, and the darkness, lit only by far-spaced, gusty
lamps, hid her hastening figure. She had barely crossed the second
street when she heard the quick clatter of hoofs behind her; a
buggy drove up to the curbstone, and Poindexter leaped out. She
entered quickly, but for a moment he still held the reins of the
impatient horse. "He's rather fresh," he said, eying her keenly;
"are you sure you can manage him?"

"Give me the reins," she said simply.

He placed them in the two firm, well-shaped hands that reached from
the depths of the vehicle, and was satisfied. Yet he lingered.

"It's rough work for a lone woman," he said, almost curtly. "I
can't go with you, but, speak frankly, is there any man you know
whom you can trust well enough to take? It's not too late yet;
think a moment!"

He paused over the buttoning of the leather apron of the vehicle.

"No, there is none," answered the voice from the interior; "and
it's better so. Is all ready?"

"One moment more." He had recovered his half-bantering manner.
"You HAVE a friend and countryman already with you, do you know?
Your horse is Blue Grass. Good night."

With these words ringing in her ears she began her journey. The
horse, as if eager to maintain the reputation which his native
district had given his race, as well as the race of the pretty
woman behind him, leaped impatiently forward. But pulled together
by the fine and firm fingers that seemed to guide rather than check
his exuberance, he presently struck into the long, swinging pace of
his kind, and kept it throughout without "break" or acceleration.
Over the paved streets the light buggy rattled, and the slender
shafts danced around his smooth barrel, but when they touched the
level high-road, horse and vehicle slipped forward through the
night, a swift and noiseless phantom. Mrs. Tucker could see his
graceful back dimly rising and falling before her with tireless
rhythm, and could feel the intelligent pressure of his mouth until
it seemed the responsive grasp of a powerful but kindly hand. The
faint glow of conquest came to her cold cheek; the slight stirrings
of pride moved her preoccupied heart. A soft light filled her
hazel eyes. A desolate woman, bereft of husband and home, and
flying through storm and night, she knew not where, she still
leaned forward towards her horse. "Was he Blue Grass, then, dear
old boy?" she gently cooed at him in the darkness. He evidently
WAS, and responded by blowing her an ostentatious equine kiss.
"And he would be good to his own forsaken Belle," she murmured
caressingly, "and wouldn't let any one harm her?" But here,
overcome by the lazy witchery of her voice, he shook his head so
violently that Mrs. Tucker, after the fashion of her sex, had the
double satisfaction of demurely restraining the passion she had
evoked.

To avoid the more traveled thoroughfare, while the evening was
still early, it had been arranged that she should at first take a
less direct but less frequented road. This was a famous pleasure-
drive from San Francisco, a graveled and sanded stretch of eight
miles to the sea and an ultimate "cocktail," in a "stately
pleasure-dome decreed" among the surf and rocks of the Pacific
shore. It was deserted now, and left to the unobstructed sweep of
the wind and rain. Mrs. Tucker would not have chosen this road.
With the instinctive jealousy of a bucolic inland race born by
great rivers, she did not like the sea; and again the dim and
dreary waste tended to recall the vision connected with her
husband's flight, upon which she had resolutely shut her eyes. But
when she had reached it the road suddenly turned, following the
trend of the beach, and she was exposed to the full power of its
dread fascinations. The combined roar of sea and shore was in her
ears; as the direct force of the gale had compelled her to furl the
protecting hood of the buggy to keep the light vehicle from
oversetting or drifting to leeward, she could no longer shut out
the heaving chaos on the right from which the pallid ghosts of dead
and dying breakers dimly rose and sank as if in awful salutation.
At times through the darkness a white sheet appeared spread before
the path and beneath the wheels of the buggy, which, when withdrawn
with a reluctant hiss, seemed striving to drag the exhausted beach
seaward with it. But the blind terror of her horse, who swerved at
every sweep of the surge, shamed her own half-superstitious fears,
and with the effort to control his alarm she regained her own self-
possession, albeit with eyelashes wet not altogether with the salt
spray from the sea. This was followed by a reaction, perhaps
stimulated by her victory over the beaten animal, when for a time,
she knew not how long, she felt only a mad sense of freedom and
power; oblivious of even her sorrows, her lost home and husband,
and with intense feminine consciousness she longed to be a man.
She was scarcely aware that the track turned again inland until the
beat of the horse's hoofs on the firm ground and an acceleration of
speed showed her she had left the beach and the mysterious sea
behind her, and she remembered that she was near the end of the
first stage of her journey. Half an hour later the twinkling
lights of the roadside inn where she was to change horses rose out
of the darkness.

Happily for her, the ostler considered the horse, who had a local
reputation, of more importance than the unknown muffled figure in
the shadow of the unfurled hood, and confined his attention to the
animal. After a careful examination of his feet and a few comments
addressed solely to the superior creation, he led him away. Mrs.
Tucker would have liked to part more affectionately from her four-
footed compatriot, and felt a sudden sense of loneliness at the
loss of her new friend, but a recollection of certain cautions of
Captain Poindexter's kept her mute. Nevertheless, the ostler's
ostentatious adjuration of "Now then, aren't you going to bring out
that mustang for the Senora?" puzzled her. It was not until the
fresh horse was put to, and she had flung a piece of gold into the
attendant's hand, that the "Gracias" of his unmistakable Saxon
speech revealed to her the reason of the lawyer's caution.
Poindexter had evidently represented her to these people as a
native Californian who did not speak English. In her inconsistency
her blood took fire at this first suggestion of deceit, and burned
in her face. Why should he try to pass her off as anybody else?
Why should she not use her own, her husband's name? She stopped
and bit her lip.

It was but the beginning of an uneasy train of thought. She
suddenly found herself thinking of her visitor, Calhoun Weaver, and
not pleasantly. He would hear of their ruin tomorrow, perhaps of
her own flight. He would remember his visit, and what would he
think of her deceitful frivolity? Would he believe that she was
then ignorant of the failure? It was her first sense of any
accountability to others than herself, but even then it was rather
owing to an uneasy consciousness of what her husband must feel if
he were subjected to the criticisms of men like Calhoun. She
wondered if others knew that he had kept her in ignorance of his
flight. Did Poindexter know it, or had he only entrapped her into
the admission? Why had she not been clever enough to make him
think that she knew it already? For the moment she hated
Poindexter for sharing that secret. Yet this was again followed by
a new impatience of her husband's want of insight into her ability
to help him. Of course the poor fellow could not bear to worry
her, could not bear to face such men as Calhoun, or even Poindexter
(she added exultingly to herself), but he might have sent her a
line as he fled, only to prepare her to meet and combat the shame
alone. It did not occur to her unsophisticated singleness of
nature that she was accepting as an error of feeling what the world
would call cowardly selfishness.

At midnight the storm lulled and a few stars trembled through the
rent clouds. Her eyes had become accustomed to the darkness, and
her country instincts, a little overlaid by the urban experiences
of the last few years, came again to the surface. She felt the
fresh, cool radiation from outlying, upturned fields, the faint,
sad odors from dim stretches of pricking grain and quickening leaf,
and wondered if at Los Cuervos it might be possible to reproduce
the peculiar verdure of her native district. She beguiled her
fancy by an ambitious plan of retrieving their fortunes by farming;
her comfortable tastes had lately rebelled against the homeless
mechanical cultivation of these desolate but teeming Californian
acres, and for a moment indulged in a vision of a vine-clad cottage
home that in any other woman would have been sentimental. Her
cramped limbs aching, she took advantage of the security of the
darkness and the familiar contiguity of the fields to get down from
the vehicle, gather her skirts together, and run at the head of the
mustang, until her chill blood was thawed, night drawing a modest
veil over this charming revelation of the nymph and woman. But the
sudden shadow of a coyote checked the scouring feet of this swift
Camilla, and sent her back precipitately to the buggy. Nevertheless,
she was refreshed and able to pursue her journey, until the cold
gray of early morning found her at the end of her second stage.

Her route was changed again from the main highway, rendered
dangerous by the approach of day and the contiguity of the
neighboring rancheros. The road was rough and hilly, her new horse
and vehicle in keeping with the rudeness of the route--by far the
most difficult of her whole journey. The rare wagon tracks that
indicated her road were often scarcely discernible; at times they
led her through openings in the half-cleared woods, skirted
suspicious morasses, painfully climbed the smooth, dome-like hills,
or wound along perilous slopes at a dangerous angle. Twice she had
to alight and cling to the sliding wheels on one of those
treacherous inclines, or drag them from impending ruts or immovable
mire. In the growing light she could distinguish the distant, low-
lying marshes eaten by encroaching sloughs and insidious channels,
and beyond them the faint gray waste of the Lower Bay. A darker
peninsula in the marsh she knew to be the extreme boundary of her
future home: the Rancho de los Cuervos. In another hour she began
to descend to the plain, and once more to approach the main road,
which now ran nearly parallel with her track. She scanned it
cautiously for any early traveler; it stretched north and south in
apparent unending solitude. She struck into it boldly, and urged
her horse to the top of his speed, until she reached the cross road
that led to the rancho. But here she paused and allowed the reins
to drop idly on the mustang's back. A singular and unaccountable
irresolution seized her. The difficulties of her journey were
over; the rancho lay scarcely two miles away; she had achieved the
most important part of her task in the appointed time, but she
hesitated. What had she come for? She tried to recall Poindexter's
words, even her own enthusiasm, but in vain. She was going to take
possession of her husband's property, she knew, that was all. But
the means she had taken seemed now so exaggerated and mysterious for
that simple end that she began to dread an impending something, or
some vague danger she had not considered, that she was rushing
blindly to meet. Full of this strange feeling she almost
mechanically stopped her horse as she entered the cross road.

From this momentary hesitation a singular sound aroused her. It
seemed at first like the swift hurrying by of some viewless courier
of the air, the vague alarm of some invisible flying herald, or
like the inarticulate cry that precedes a storm. It seemed to rise
and fall around her as if with some changing urgency of purpose.
Raising her eyes she suddenly recognized the two far-stretching
lines of telegraph wire above her head, and knew the aeolian cry of
the morning wind along its vibrating chords. But it brought
another and more practical fear to her active brain. Perhaps even
now the telegraph might be anticipating her! Had Poindexter
thought of that? She hesitated no longer, but laying the whip on
the back of her jaded mustang again hurried forward.

As the level horizon grew more distinct, her attention was
attracted by the white sail of a small boat lazily threading the
sinuous channel of the slough. It might be Poindexter arriving by
the more direct route from the steamboat that occasionally lay off
the ancient embarcadero of the Los Cuervos Rancho. But even while
watching it her quick ear caught the sound of galloping hoofs
behind her. She turned quickly and saw she was followed by a
horseman. But her momentary alarm was succeeded by a feeling of
relief as she recognized the erect figure and square shoulders of
Poindexter. Yet she could not help thinking that he looked more
like a militant scout, and less like a cautious legal adviser, than
ever.

With unaffected womanliness she rearranged her slightly disordered
hair as he drew up beside her. "I thought you were in yonder
boat," she said.

"Not I," he laughed; "I distanced you by the high road two hours,
and have been reconnoitring, until I saw you hesitate at the cross
roads."

"But who is in the boat?" asked Mrs. Tucker, partly to hide her
embarrassment.

"Only some early Chinese market gardener, I dare say. But you are
safe now. You are on your own land. You passed the boundary
monument of the rancho five minutes ago. Look! All you see before
you is yours from the embarcadero to yonder Coast Range."

The tone of half-raillery did not, however, cheer Mrs. Tucker. She
shuddered slightly and cast her eyes over the monotonous sea of
tule and meadow.

"It doesn't look pretty, perhaps," continued Poindexter, "but it's
the richest land in the State, and the embarcadero will some day be
a town. I suppose you'll call it Blue Grassville. But you seem
tired!" he said, suddenly dropping his voice to a tone of half-
humorous sympathy.

Mrs. Tucker managed to get rid of an impending tear under the
pretense of clearing her eyes. "Are we nearly there?" she asked.

"Nearly. You know," he added with the same half-mischievous, half-
sympathizing gayety, "it's not exactly a palace you're coming to.
Hardly. It's the old casa that has been deserted for years, but I
thought it better you should go into possession there than take up
your abode at the shanty where your husband's farm-hands are. No
one will know when you take possession of the casa, while the very
hour of your arrival at the shanty would be known; and if they
should make any trouble--"

"If they should make any trouble?" repeated Mrs. Tucker, lifting
her frank, inquiring eyes to Poindexter.

His horse suddenly rearing from an apparently accidental prick of
the spur, it was a minute or two before he was able to explain. "I
mean if this ever comes up as a matter of evidence, you know. But
here we are!"

What had seemed to be an overgrown mound rising like an island out
of the dead level of the grassy sea now resolved itself into a
collection of adobe walls, eaten and incrusted with shrubs and
vines, that bore some resemblance to the usual uninhabited-looking
exterior of a Spanish-American dwelling. Apertures that might have
been lance-shaped windows or only cracks and fissures in the walls
were choked up with weeds and grass, and gave no passing glimpse of
the interior. Entering a ruinous corral they came to a second
entrance, which proved to be the patio or courtyard. The deserted
wooden corridor, with beams, rafters, and floors whitened by the
eternal sun and wind, contained a few withered leaves, dryly
rotting skins, and thongs of leather, as if undisturbed by human
care. But among these scattered debris of former life and
habitation there was no noisome or unclean suggestion of decay. A
faint, spiced odor of desiccation filled the bare walls. There was
no slime on stone or sun-dried brick. In place of fungus or
discolored moisture the dust of efflorescence whitened in the
obscured corners. The elements had picked clean the bones of the
crumbling tenement ere they should finally absorb it.

A withered old peon woman, who in dress, complexion, and fibrous
hair might have been an animated fragment of the debris, rustled
out of a low vaulted passage and welcomed them with a feeble
crepitation. Following her into the dim interior Mrs. Tucker was
surprised to find some slight attempt at comfort and even adornment
in the two or three habitable apartments. They were scrupulously
clean and dry, two qualities which in her feminine eyes atoned for
poverty of material.

"I could not send anything from San Bruno, the nearest village,
without attracting attention," explained Poindexter; "but if you
can manage to picnic here for a day longer, I'll get one of our
Chinese friends here," he pointed to the slough, "to bring over,
for his return cargo from across the bay, any necessaries you may
want. There is no danger of his betraying you," he added, with an
ironical smile; "Chinamen and Indians are, by an ingenious
provision of the statute of California, incapable of giving
evidence against a white person. You can trust your handmaiden
perfectly--even if she can't trust YOU. That is your sacred
privilege under the constitution. And now, as I expect to catch
the up boat ten miles from hence, I must say 'good-by' until to-
morrow night. I hope to bring you then some more definite plans
for the future. The worst is over." He held her hand for a
moment, and with a graver voice continued, "You have done it very
well--do you know--very well!"

In the slight embarrassment produced by his sudden change of manner
she felt that her thanks seemed awkward and restrained. "Don't
thank me," he laughed, with a prompt return of his former levity,
"that's my trade. I only advised. You have saved yourself like a
plucky woman--shall I say like Blue Grass? Good-by!" He mounted
his horse, but, as if struck by an after-thought, wheeled and drew
up by her side again. "If I were you I wouldn't see many strangers
for a day or two, and listen to as little news as a woman possibly
can." He laughed again, waved her a half-gallant, half-military
salute, and was gone. The question she had been trying to frame,
regarding the probability of communication with her husband,
remained unasked. At least she had saved her pride before him.

Addressing herself to the care of her narrow household, she
mechanically put away the few things she had brought with her, and
began to readjust the scant furniture. She was a little
discomposed at first at the absence of bolts, locks, and even
window-fastenings until assured, by Concha's evident inability to
comprehend her concern, that they were quite unknown at Los
Cuervos. Her slight knowledge of Spanish was barely sufficient to
make her wants known, so that the relief of conversation with her
only companion was debarred her, and she was obliged to content
herself with the sapless, crackling smiles and withered
genuflexions that the old woman dropped like dead leaves in her
path. It was staring noon when, the house singing like an empty
shell in the monotonous wind, she felt she could stand the solitude
no longer, and, crossing the glaring patio and whistling corridor,
made her way to the open gateway.

But the view without seemed to intensify her desolation. The broad
expanse of the shadowless plain reached apparently to the Coast
Range, trackless and unbroken save by one or two clusters of
dwarfed oaks, which at that distance were but mossy excrescences on
the surface, barely raised above the dead level. On the other side
the marsh took up the monotony and carried it, scarcely interrupted
by undefined water-courses, to the faintly marked out horizon line
of the remote bay. Scattered and apparently motionless black spots
on the meadows that gave a dreary significance to the title of "the
Crows" which the rancho bore, and sudden gray clouds of sand-pipers
on the marshes, that rose and vanished down the wind, were the only
signs of life. Even the white sail of the early morning was gone.

She stood there until the aching of her straining eyes and the
stiffening of her limbs in the cold wind compelled her to seek the
sheltered warmth of the courtyard. Here she endeavored to make
friends with a bright-eyed lizard, who was sunning himself in the
corridor; a graceful little creature in blue and gold, from whom
she felt at other times she might have fled, but whose beauty and
harmlessness solitude had made known to her. With misplaced
kindness she tempted it with bread-crumbs, with no other effect
than to stiffen it into stony astonishment. She wondered if she
should become like the prisoners she had read of in books, who
poured out their solitary affections on noisome creatures, and she
regretted even the mustang, which with the buggy had disappeared
under the charge of some unknown retainer on her arrival. Was she
not a prisoner? The shutterless windows, yawning doors, and open
gate refuted her suggestion, but the encompassing solitude and
trackless waste still held her captive. Poindexter had told her it
was four miles to the shanty; she might walk there. Why had she
given her word that she would remain at the rancho until he
returned?

The long day crept monotonously away, and she welcomed the night
which shut out the dreary prospect. But it brought no cessation of
the harassing wind without, nor surcease of the nervous irritation
its perpetual and even activity wrought upon her. It haunted her
pillow even in her exhausted sleep, and seemed to impatiently
beckon her to rise and follow it. It brought her feverish dreams
of her husband, footsore and weary, staggering forward under its
pitiless lash and clamorous outcry; she would have gone to his
assistance, but when she reached his side and held out her arms to
him it hurried her past with merciless power, and, bearing her
away, left him hopelessly behind. It was broad day when she awoke.
The usual night showers of the waning rainy season had left no
trace in sky or meadow; the fervid morning sun had already dried
the patio; only the restless, harrying wind remained.

Mrs. Tucker arose with a resolve. She had learned from Concha on
the previous evening that a part of the shanty was used as a tienda
or shop for the laborers and rancheros. Under the necessity of
purchasing some articles, she would go there and for a moment
mingle with those people, who would not recognize her. Even if
they did, her instinct told her it would be less to be feared than
the hopeless uncertainty of another day. As she left the house the
wind seemed to seize her as in her dream, and hurry her along with
it, until in a few moments the walls of the low casa sank into the
earth again and she was alone, but for the breeze on the solitary
plain. The level distance glittered in the sharp light, a few
crows with slant wings dipped and ran down the wind before her, and
a passing gleam on the marsh was explained by the far-off cry of a
curlew.

She had walked for an hour, upheld by the stimulus of light and
morning air, when the cluster of scrub oaks, which was her
destination, opened enough to show two rambling sheds, before one
of which was a wooden platform containing a few barrels and bones.
As she approached nearer, she could see that one or two horses were
tethered under the trees, that their riders were lounging by a
horse-trough, and that over an open door the word Tienda was rudely
painted on a board, and as rudely illustrated by the wares
displayed at door and window. Accustomed as she was to the poverty
of frontier architecture, even the crumbling walls of the old
hacienda she had just left seemed picturesque to the rigid angles
of the thin, blank, unpainted shell before her. One of the
loungers, who was reading a newspaper aloud as she advanced, put it
aside and stared at her; there was an evident commotion in the shop
as she stepped upon the platform, and when she entered, with
breathless lips and beating heart, she found herself the object of
a dozen curious eyes. Her quick pride resented the scrutiny and
recalled her courage, and it was with a slight coldness in her
usual lazy indifference that she leaned over the counter and asked
for the articles she wanted.

The request was followed by a dead silence. Mrs. Tucker repeated
it with some hauteur.

"I reckon you don't seem to know this store is in the hands of the
sheriff," said one of the loungers.

Mrs. Tucker was not aware of it.

"Well, I don't know any one who's a better right to know than
Spence Tucker's wife," said another with a coarse laugh. The laugh
was echoed by the others. Mrs. Tucker saw the pit into which she
had deliberately walked, but did not flinch.

"Is there any one to serve here?" she asked, turning her clear eyes
full upon the bystanders.

"You'd better ask the sheriff. He was the last one to SARVE here.
He sarved an attachment," replied the inevitable humorist of all
Californian assemblages.

"Is he here?" asked Mrs. Tucker, disregarding the renewed laughter
which followed this subtle witticism.

The loungers at the door made way for one of their party, who was
half dragged, half pushed into the shop. "Here he is," said half a
dozen eager voices, in the fond belief that his presence might
impart additional humor to the situation. He cast a deprecating
glance at Mrs. Tucker and said, "It's so, madam! This yer place is
attached; but if there's anything you're wanting, why I reckon,
boys,"--he turned half appealingly to the crowd,--"we could oblige
a lady." There was a vague sound of angry opposition and
remonstrance from the back door of the shop, but the majority,
partly overcome by Mrs. Tucker's beauty, assented. "Only,"
continued the officer explanatorily, "ez these yer goods are in the
hands of the creditors, they ought to be represented by an
equivalent in money. If you're expecting they should be charged--"

"But I wish to PAY for them," interrupted Mrs. Tucker, with a
slight flush of indignation; "I have the money."

"Oh, I bet you have!" screamed a voice, as, overturning all
opposition, the malcontent at the back door, in the shape of an
infuriated woman, forced her way into the shop. "I'll bet you have
the money! Look at her, boys! Look at the wife of the thief, with
the stolen money in diamonds in her ears and rings on her fingers.
SHE'S got money if WE'VE none. SHE can pay for what she fancies,
if we haven't a cent to redeem the bed that's stolen from under us.
Oh yes, buy it all, Mrs. Spencer Tucker! buy the whole shop, Mrs.
Spencer Tucker, do you hear? And if you ain't satisfied then, buy
my clothes, my wedding ring, the only things your husband hasn't
stolen."

"I don't understand you," said Mrs. Tucker coldly, turning towards
the door. But with a flying leap across the counter her relentless
adversary stood between her and retreat.

"You don't understand! Perhaps you don't understand that your
husband not only stole the hard labor of these men, but even the
little money they brought here and trusted to his thieving hands.
Perhaps you don't know that he stole my husband's hard earnings,
mortgaged these very goods you want to buy, and that he is to-day a
convicted thief, a forger, and a runaway coward. Perhaps, if you
can't understand ME, you can read the newspaper. Look!" She
exultingly opened the paper the sheriff had been reading aloud, and
pointed to the displayed headlines. "Look! there are the very
words, 'Forgery, Swindling, Embezzlement!' Do you see? And
perhaps you can't understand this. Look! 'Shameful Flight.
Abandons his Wife. Runs off with a Notorious--'"

"Easy, old gal, easy now. D--n it! Will you dry up? I say.
STOP!"

It was too late!

The sheriff had dashed the paper from the woman's hand, but not
until Mrs. Tucker had read a single line, a line such as she had
sometimes turned from with weary scorn in her careless perusal of
the daily shameful chronicle of domestic infelicity. Then she had
coldly wondered if there could be any such men and women; and now!
The crowd fell back before her; even the virago was silenced as she
looked at her face. The humorist's face was as white, but not as
immobile, as he gasped, "Christ! if I don't believe she knew
nothin' of it!"

For a moment the full force of such a supposition, with all its
poignancy, its dramatic intensity, and its pathos, possessed the
crowd. In the momentary clairvoyance of enthusiasm they caught a
glimpse of the truth, and by one of the strange reactions of human
passion they only waited for a word of appeal or explanation from
her lips to throw themselves at her feet. Had she simply told her
story they would have believed her; had she cried, fainted, or gone
into hysterics, they would have pitied her. She did neither.
Perhaps she thought of neither, or indeed of anything that was then
before her eyes. She walked erect to the door and turned upon the
threshold. "I mean what I say," she said calmly. "I don't
understand you. But whatever just claims you have upon my husband
will be paid by me, or by his lawyer, Captain Poindexter."

She had lost the sympathy but not the respect of her hearers. They
made way for her with sullen deference as she passed out on the
platform. But her adversary, profiting by the last opportunity,
burst into an ironical laugh.

"Captain Poindexter, is it? Well, perhaps he's safe to pay YOUR
bill, but as for your husband's--"

"That's another matter," interrupted a familiar voice with the
greatest cheerfulness; "that's what you were going to say, wasn't
it? Ha! ha! Well, Mrs. Patterson," continued Poindexter, stepping
from his buggy, "you never spoke a truer word in your life. One
moment, Mrs. Tucker. Let me send you back in the buggy. Don't
mind ME. I can get a fresh horse of the sheriff. I'm quite at
home here. I say, Patterson, step a few paces this way, will you?
A little further from your wife, please. That'll do. You've got a
claim of five thousand dollars against the property, haven't you?"

"Yes."

"Well, that woman just driving away is your one solitary chance of
getting a cent of it. If your wife insults her again, that chance
is gone. And if YOU do--"

"Well?"

"As sure as there is a God in Israel and a Supreme Court of the
State of California, I'll kill you in your tracks! . . . Stay!"

Patterson turned. The irrepressible look of humorous tolerance of
all human frailty had suffused Poindexter's black eyes with
mischievous moisture. "If you think it quite safe to confide to
your wife this prospect of her improvement by widowhood, you may!"




On the Frontier by Bret Harte
Category:
General Fiction
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