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He smiled at her. “No.”
“Aren’t you going to let me see it when it’s done?”
“No.” Then a freakish look came into his eyes. “I’ll let yu’ see anything I write to other women.” And he gave her one of his long kisses. “Let’s get through with it together,” he suggested, when they were once more in his sick-room, that room which she had given to him. “You’ll sit one side o’ the table, and I’ll sit the other, and we’ll go ahaid; and pretty soon it will be done.”
“O dear!” she said. “Yes, I suppose that is the best way.”
And so, accordingly, they took their places. The inkstand stood between them. Beside each of them she distributed paper enough, almost, for a presidential message. And pens and pencils were in plenty. Was this not the headquarters of the Bear Creek schoolmarm?
“Why, aren’t you going to do it in penc moncler jackets il first?” she exclaimed, looking up from her vacant sheet. His pen was moving slowly, but steadily.
“No, I don’t reckon I need to,” he answered, with his nose close to the paper. “Oh, damnation, there’s a blot!” He tore his spoiled beginning in small bits, and threw them into the fireplace. “You’ve got it too full,” he commented; and taking the inkstand, he tipped a little from it out of the window. She sat lost among her false starts. Had she heard him swear, she would not have minded. She rather liked it when he swore. He possessed that quality in his profanity of not offending by it. It is quite wonderful how much worse the same word will sound in one man’s lips than in another’s. But she did not hear him. Her mind was among a litter of broken sentences. Each thought which she began ran out into the empty air, or came moncler sale against some stone wall. So there she sat, her eyes now upon that inexorable blank sheet that lay before her, waiting, and now turned with vacant hopelessness upon the sundry objects in the room. And while she thus sat accomplishing nothing, opposite to her the black head bent down, and the steady pen moved from phrase to phrase.
She became aware of his gazing at her, flushed and solemn. That strange color of the sea-water, which she could never name, was lustrous in his eyes. He was folding his letter.
“You have finished?” she said.
“Yes.” His voice was very quiet. “I feel like an honester man.”
“Perhaps I can do something to-night at Mrs. Taylor’s,” she said, looking at her paper.
On it were a few words crossed out. This was all she had to show. At this set task in letter-writing, the cow-puncher had greatly excelled the schoolmarm!
But that night, while he lay quite fast asleep in his bed, she was keeping vigil in her room at Mrs. Taylor’s.
Accordingly, the next day, those three letters departed for the mail, and Mrs. Taylor consequently made her exclamation, “It’s come!”
On the day before the Virginian returned to take up his work at Judge Henry’s ranch, he and Molly announced their news. What Molly said to Mrs. Taylor and what Mrs. Taylor said to her, is of no interest to us, though it was of much to them.
But Mr. McLean happened to make a call quite early in the morning to inquire for his friend’s health.
“Lin,” began the Virginian, “there is no harm in your knowing an hour or so before the rest, I am–”
“Lord!” said Mr. McLean, indulgently. “Everybody has knowed that since the day she found yu’ at the spring.”
“It was not so, then,” moncler sale said the Virginian, crossly.
“Lord! Everybody has knowed it right along.”
“Hmp!” said the Virginian. “I didn’t know this country was that rank with gossips.”
Mr. McLean laughed mirthfully at the lover. “Well,” he said, “Mrs. McLean will be glad. She told me to give yu’ her congratulations quite a while ago. I was to have ’em ready just as soon as ever yu’ asked for ’em yourself.” Lin had been made a happy man some twelve months previous to this. And now, by way of an exchange of news, he added: “We’re expectin’ a little McLean down on Box Elder. That’s what you’ll be expectin’ some of these days, I hope.”
“Yes,” murmured the Virginian, “I hope so too.”
“And I don’t guess,” said Lin, “that you and I will do much shufflin’ of other folks’ children any more.”
Whereupon he and the Virginian shook hands silently, and understood moncler sale coats each other very well.
On the day that the Virginian parted with Molly, beside the weight of farewell which lay heavy on his heart, his thoughts were also grave with news. The cattle thieves had grown more audacious. Horses and cattle both were being missed, and each man began almost to doubt his neighbor.
“Steps will have to be taken soon by somebody, I reckon,” said the lover.
“By you?” she asked quickly.
“Most likely I’ll get mixed up with it.”
“What will you have to do?”
“Can’t say. I’ll tell yu’ when I come back.”
So did he part from her, leaving her more kisses than words to remember.
And what was doing at Bennington, meanwhile, and at Dunbarton? Those three letters which by their mere outside had so moved Mrs. Taylor, produced by their contents much painful disturbance.
It will be remembered that Molly wrote to her moncler sale authentic mother, and to her great-aunt. That announcement to her mother was undertaken first. Its composition occupied three hours and a half, and it filled eleven pages, not counting a postscript upon the twelfth. The letter to the great-aunt took only ten minutes. I cannot pretend to explain why this one was so greatly superior to the other; but such is the remarkable fact. Its beginning, to be sure, did give the old lady a start; she had dismissed the cow-boy from her probabilities.
“Tut, tut, tut!” she exclaimed out loud in her bedroom. “She has thrown herself away on that fellow!”
But some sentences at the end made her pause and sit still for a long while. The severity upon her face changed to tenderness, gradually. “Ah, me,” she sighed. “If marriage were as simple as love!” Then she went slowly downstairs, and out into her ga cheap moncler sale rden, where she walked long between the box borders. “But if she has found a great love,” said the old lady at length. And she returned to her bedroom, and opened an old desk, and read some old letters.
There came to her the next morning a communication from Bennington. This had been penned frantically by poor Mrs. Wood. As soon as she had been able to gather her senses after the shock of her daughter’s eleven pages and the postscript, the mother had poured out eight pages herself to the eldest member of the family. There had been, indeed, much excuse for the poor lady. To begin with, Molly had constructed her whole opening page with the express and merciful intention of preparing her mother. Consequently, it made no sense whatever. Its effect was the usual effect of remarks designed to break a thing gently. It merely made moncler sale womens jackets Mrs. Wood’s head swim, and filled her with a sickening dread. “Oh, mercy, Sarah,” she had cried, “come here. What does this mean?” And then, fortified by her elder daughter, she had turned over that first page and found what it meant on the top of the second. “A savage with knives and pistols!” she wailed.
“Well, mother, I always told you so,” said her daughter Sarah.
“What is a foreman?” exclaimed the mother. “And who is Judge Henry?”
“She has taken a sort of upper servant,” said Sarah. “If it is allowed to go as far as a wedding, I doubt if I can bring myself to be present.” (This threat she proceeded to make to Molly, with results that shall be set forth in their proper place.)
“The man appears to have written to me himself,” said Mrs. Wood.
“He knows no better,” said Sarah.
“Bosh!” said Sarah’s husband later. “It was moncler men sale a very manly thing to do.” Thus did consternation rage in the house at Bennington. Molly might have spared herself the many assurances that she gave concerning the universal esteem in which her cow-puncher was held, and the fair prospects which were his. So, in the first throes of her despair, Mrs. Wood wrote those eight not maturely considered pages to the great-aunt.
“Tut, tut, tut!” said the great-aunt as she read them. Her face was much more severe to-day. “You’d suppose,” she said, “that the girl had been kidnapped! Why, she has kept him waiting three years!” And then she read more, but soon put the letter down with laughter. For Mrs. Wood had repeated in writing that early outburst of hers about a savage with knives and pistols. “Law!” said the great-aunt. “Law, what a fool Lizzie is!”
So she sat down and wrote to Mrs. Wood a wholesome reply about putting a little mor moncler jacket sale e trust in her own flesh and blood, and reminding her among other things that General Stark had himself been wont to carry knives and pistols owing to the necessities of his career, but that he had occasionally taken them off, as did probably this young man in Wyoming. “You had better send me the letter he has written you,” she concluded. “I shall know much better what to think after I have seen that.”
It is not probable that Mrs. Wood got much comfort from this communication; and her daughter Sarah was actually enraged by it. “She grows more perverse as she nears her dotage,” said Sarah. But the Virginian’s letter was sent to Dunbarton, where the old lady sat herself down to read it with much attention.
Here is what the Virginian had said to the unknown mother of his sweetheart.
MRS. JOHN STARK WOOD Bennington, Vermont.
Madam: If your daughter Miss Wood has ever told you a moncler sell bout her saving a man’s life here when some Indians had shot him that is the man who writes to you now. I don’t think she can have told you right about that affair for she is the only one in this country who thinks it was a little thing. So I must tell you it, the main points. Such an action would have been thought highly of in a Western girl, but with Miss Wood’s raising nobody had a right to expect it.
“Indeed!” snorted the great-aunt. “Well, he would be right, if I had not had a good deal more to do with her ‘raising’ than ever Lizzie had.” And she went on with the letter.
I was starting in to die when she found me. I did not know anything then, and she pulled me back from where I was half in the next world. She did not know but what Indians would get her too but I could not make her leave me. I am a heavy man one hundred and seventy-three stripped when in full health. She lifted me herself from the ground me helping scarc moncler sale for kids e any for there was not much help in me that day. She washed my wound and brought me to with her own whiskey. Before she could get me home I was out of my head but she kept me on my horse somehow and talked wisely to me so I minded her and did not go clean crazy till she had got me safe to bed. The doctor says I would have died all the same if she had not nursed me the way she did. It made me love her more which I did not know I could. But there is no end, for this writing it down makes me love her more as I write it.
And now Mrs. Wood I am sorry this will be bad news for you to hear. I know you would never choose such a man as I am for her for I have got no education and must write humble against my birth. I wish I could make the news easier but truth is the best.
I am of old stock in Virginia. English and one Scotch Irish grandmother my father’s father brought from Kentucky. We have always stayed at the same place farmers and hunters not bettering our lot and very plain. We have fought when we got the chance, under Old Hickory and in Mexico and my father and two brothers were killed in the Valley sixty-four. Always with us one son has been apt to run away and I was the one this time. I had too much older brothering to suit me. But now I am doing well being in full sight of prosperity and not too old and very strong my health having stood the sundries it has been put through. She shall teach school no more when she is mine. I wish I could make this news easier for you Mrs. Wood. I do not like promises I have heard so many. I will tell any man of your family anything he likes to ask one, and Judge Henry would tell you about my reputation. I have seen plenty rough things but can say I have never killed for pleasure or profit and am not one of that kind, always preferring peace. I have had to live in places where they had courts and lawyers so called but an honest man was all the law you could find in five hundred miles. I have not told her about those things not because I am ashamed of them but there are so many things too dark for a girl like her to hear about.
I had better tell you the way I know I love Miss Wood. I am not a boy now, and women are no new thing to me. A man like me who has travelled meets many of them as he goes and passes on but I stopped when I came to Miss Wood. That is three years but I have not gone on. What right has such as he? you will say. So did I say it after she had saved my life. It was hard to get to that point and keep there with her around me all day. But I said to myself you have bothered her for three years with your love and if you let your love bother her you don’t love her like you should and you must quit for her sake who has saved your life. I did not know what I was going to do with my life after that but I supposed I could go somewhere and work hard and so Mrs. Wood I told her I would give her up. But she said no. It is going to be hard for her to get used to a man like me–
But at this point in the Virginian’s letter, the old great-aunt could read no more. She rose, and went over to that desk where lay those faded letters of her own. She laid her head down upon the package, and as her tears flowed quietly upon it, “O dear,” she whispered, “O dear! And this is what I lost!”
To her girl upon Bear Creek she wrote the next day. And this word from Dunbarton was like balm among the harsh stings Molly was receiving. The voices of the world reached her in gathering numbers, and not one of them save that great-aunt’s was sweet. Her days were full of hurts; and there was no one by to kiss the hurts away. Nor did she even hear from her lover any more now. She only knew he had gone into lonely regions upon his errand.
That errand took him far:– Across the Basin, among the secret places of Owl Creek, past the Washakie Needles, over the Divide to Gros Ventre, and so through a final barrier of peaks into the borders of East Idaho. There, by reason of his bidding me, I met him, and came to share in a part of his errand.
It was with no guide that I travelled to him. He had named a little station on the railroad, and from thence he had charted my route by means of landmarks. Did I believe in omens, the black storm that I set out in upon my horse would seem like one to-day. But I had been living in cities and smoke; and Idaho, even with rain, was delightful to me.
Chapter 30 A Stable On The Flat
When the first landmark, the lone clump of cottonwoods, came at length in sight, dark and blurred in the gentle rain, standing out perhaps a mile beyond the distant buildings, my whole weary body hailed the approach of repose. Saving the noon hour, I had been in the saddle since six, and now six was come round again. The ranch, my resting-place for this night, was a ruin–cabin, stable, and corral. Yet after the twelve hours of pushing on and on through silence, still to have silence, still to eat and go to sleep in it, perfectly fitted the mood of both my flesh and spirit. At noon, when for a while I had thrown off my long oilskin coat, merely the sight of the newspaper half crowded into my pocket had been a displeasing reminder of the railway, and cities, and affairs. But for its possible help to build fires, it would have come no farther with me. The great levels around me lay cooled and freed of dust by the wet weather, and full of sweet airs. Far in front the foot-hills rose through the rain, indefinite and mystic. I wanted no speech with any one, nor to be near human beings at all. I was steeped in a revery as of the primal earth; even thoughts themselves had almost ceased motion. To lie down with wild animals, with elk and deer, would have made my waking dream complete; and since such dream could not be, the cattle around the deserted buildings, mere dots as yet across separating space, were my proper companions for this evening.
To-morrow night I should probably be camping with the Virginian in the foot-hills. At his letter’s bidding I had come eastward across Idaho, abandoning my hunting in the Saw Tooth Range to make this journey with him back through the Tetons. It was a trail known to him, and not to many other honest men. Horse Thief Pass was the name his letter gave it. Business (he was always brief) would call him over there at this time. Returning, he must attend to certain matters in the Wind River country. There I could leave by stage for the railroad, or go on with him the whole way back to Sunk Creek. He designated for our meeting the forks of a certain little stream in the foot-hills which to-day’s ride had brought in sight. There would be no chance for him to receive an answer from me in the intervening time. If by a certain day–which was four days off still–I had not reached the forks, he would understand I had other plans. To me it was like living back in ages gone, this way of meeting my friend, this choice of a stream so far and lonely that its very course upon the maps was wrongly traced. And to leave behind all noise and mechanisms, and set out at ease, slowly, with one packhorse, into the wilderness, made me feel that the ancient earth was indeed my mother and that I had found her again after being lost among houses, customs, and restraints. I should arrive three days early at the forks–three days of margin seeming to me a wise precaution against delays unforeseen. If the Virginian were not there, good; I could fish and be happy. If he were there but not ready to start, good; I could still fish and be happy. And remembering my Eastern helplessness in the year when we had met first, I enjoyed thinking how I had come to be trusted. In those days I had not been allowed to go from the ranch for so much as an afternoon’s ride unless tied to him by a string, so to speak; now I was crossing unmapped spaces with no guidance. The man who could do this was scarce any longer a “tenderfoot.”
My vision, as I rode, took in serenely the dim foot-hills,–to-morrow’s goal,–and nearer in the vast wet plain the clump of cottonwoods, and still nearer my lodging for to-night with the dotted cattle round it. And now my horse neighed. I felt his gait freshen for the journey’s end, and leaning to pat his neck I noticed his ears no longer slack and inattentive, but pointing forward to where food and rest awaited both of us. Twice he neighed, impatiently and long; and as he quickened his gait still more, the packhorse did the same, and I realized that there was about me still a spice of the tenderfoot: those dots were not cattle; they were horses.
My horse had put me in the wrong. He had known his kind from afar, and was hastening to them. The plainsman’s eye was not yet mine; and I smiled a little as I rode. When was I going to know, as by instinct, the different look of horses and cattle across some two or three miles of plain?
These miles we finished soon. The buildings changed in their aspect as they grew to my approach, showing their desolation more clearly, and in some way bringing apprehension into my mood. And around them the horses, too, all standing with ears erect, watching me as I came–there was something about them; or was it the silence? For the silence which I had liked until now seemed suddenly to be made too great by the presence of the deserted buildings. And then the door of the stable opened, and men came out and stood, also watching me arrive. By the time I was dismounting more were there. It was senseless to feel as unpleasant as I did, and I strove to give to them a greeting that should sound easy. I told them that I hoped there was room for one more here to-night. Some of them had answered my greeting, but none of them answered this; and as I began to be sure that I recognized several of their strangely imperturbable faces, the Virginian came from the stable; and at that welcome sight my relief spoke out instantly.
“I am here, you see!”
“Yes, I do see.” I looked hard at him, for in his voice was the same strangeness that I felt in everything around me. But he was looking at his companions. “This gentleman is all right,” he told them.
“That may be,” said one whom I now knew that I had seen before at Sunk Creek; “but he was not due to-night.”
“Nor to-morrow,” said another.
“Nor yet the day after,” a third added.
The Virginian fell into his drawl. “None of you was ever early for anything, I presume.”
One retorted, laughing, “Oh, we’re not suspicioning you of complicity.”
And another, “Not even when we remember how thick you and Steve used to be.”
Whatever jokes they meant by this he did not receive as jokes. I saw something like a wince pass over his face, and a flush follow it. But he now spoke to me. “We expected to be through before this,” he began. “I’m right sorry you have come to-night. I know you’d have preferred to keep away.”
“We want him to explain himself,” put in one of the others. “If he satisfies us, he’s free to go away.”
“Free to go away!” I now exclaimed. But at the indulgence in their frontier smile I cooled down. “Gentlemen,” I said, “I don’t know why my movements interest you so much. It’s quite a compliment! May I get under shelter while I explain?”
No request could have been moncler outlet more natural, for the rain had now begun to fall in straight floods. Yet there was a pause before one of them said, “He might as well.”
The Virginian chose to say nothing more; but he walked beside me into the stable. Two men sat there together, and a third guarded them. At that sight I knew suddenly what I had stumbled upon; and on the impulse I murmured to the Virginian, “You’re hanging them to-morrow.”
He kept ralph lauren sale his silence. ③

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