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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 himself.

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 uneasiness.

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
buffalo."

"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.

"Lahoma."


"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
other, speechless.

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 doing it?"

"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 his
proving!"

"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 bridled."

Wilfred asked, "But when Lahoma writes, how will you get her letter?"

"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."



CHAPTER XVI

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 surprise.

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 news.

"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 unworked.

"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 limit, yet.

"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 buried.

"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 Brick hanged.

"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 even.

"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 winds
blow.

"Your little girl,

"Lahoma.

"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?


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