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danger of ever meeting Willock, whom his conscience must have caused
him to hate with the hatred of the man who wrongs his benefactor.

Willock transferred all his rage against the dead enemy to the living.
He reminded himself how Gledware had caused the death of Red Feather,
not in the heat of fury or in blind terror, but in coldblooded
bargaining. He meditated on Gledware's attitude toward Lahoma; he
thought nothing good of him, he magnified the evil. That scene at the
grave of his wife - and Red Feather's account of how he had dug up the
body for a mere pin of pearl and onyx.... Ought such a creature to
live to condemn him, to bring sorrow on the stepdaughter he had basely
refused to acknowledge?

To wait for the coming of the witness would be to lose an opportunity
that might never recur. Willock would go to him. In doing so, he
would not only take Gledware by surprise, but would leave the only
neighborhood in which search would be made for himself. Thus it came
about that while the environs of the cove were being minutely examined,
Brick, riding his fastest pony, was on the way to Kansas City.

He reached Kansas City without unusual incident, where he was accepted
naturally, as a product of the West. Had his appearance been twice as
uncouth, twice as wild, it would have accorded all the better with
western superstitions that prevailed in this city, fast forgetting that
it had been a western outpost. At the hotel, whose situation he knew
from Lahoma's letters, he learned that Gledware was neither there, nor
at his home in the country. The country-house was closed up and, in
fact, there was a rumor that it was sold, or was about to be sold. One
of the porters happened to know that Gledware had gone for a week's
diversion down in the Ozarks. There were a lake, a club-house, a
dancing-hall, as yet unopened. The season was too early for the usual
crowd at Ozark Lodge, but the warm wave that nearly always came at this
time of year, had prompted a sudden outing party which might last no
longer than the warm wave.

Willock took the first train south and rode with the car window up - the
outside breath was the breath of balmy summer though the trees stood
bleak and leafless against the sky. Two days ago, snow had fallen - but
the birds did not remember it. Seven hours brought him to a lonely
wagon-trail called Ozark Lodge because after winding among hills
several miles it at last reached the clubhouse of that name overlooking
the lake. He left the train in the dusk of evening, and walked briskly
away, the only moving figure in the wilderness.

His pace did not slacken till a gleam as of fallen sky cupped in
night-fringe warned him that the club-house must be near. A turn of a
hill brought it into view, the windows not yet aglow. Nearer at hand
was the boat-house, seemingly deserted. But as Willock, now grown
wary, crept forward among the post-oaks and blackjacks, well screened
from observation by chinkapin masses of gray interlocked network, he
discovered two figures near the platform edging the lake. Neither was
the one he sought; but from their being there - they were Edgerton
Compton and Annabel, - he knew Gledware could not be far away.

"No," Annabel was saying decisively, and yet with an accent of regret,
"No, Edgerton, I can't."

"But our last boat-ride," he urged. "Don't refuse me the last ride - a
ride to think about all my life. I'm going away tomorrow at noon, as I
promised. But early in the morning - "

"I have promised HIM," she said with lingering sadness in her voice.
"So I must go with him. He has already engaged the boatman. He'll be
here at seven, waiting for me. So you see - "

"Annabel, I shall be here at seven, also!" he exclaimed impetuously.

"But why? I must go with him, Edgerton. You see that."

"Then I shall row alone."

"Why would you add to my unhappiness?" she pleaded.

"I shall be here at seven," he returned grimly; "while you and he take
your morning boat-ride, I shall row alone."

She turned from him with a sigh, and he followed her dejectedly up the
path toward the club-house.

She had lost some of the fresh beauty which she had brought to the
cove, and her step was no longer elastic; but this Willock did not
notice. He gave little heed to their tones, their gestures, their
looks in which love sought a thin disguise wherein it might show itself
unnamed. He had seized on the vital fact that in the morning, Annabel
and Gledware would push off from the boat-house steps, presumably
alone; and it would be early morning. Perhaps Gledware would come
first to the boat-house, there to wait for Annabel. In that case, he
would not ride with Annabel. The lake was deep - deep as Willock's hate.

Willock passed the night in the woods, sometimes walking against time
among the hills, sometimes seated on the ground, brooding. The night
was without breath, without coolness. Occasionally he climbed a
rounded elevation from which the clubhouse was discernible. No lights
twinkled among the barren trees. All in that wilderness seemed asleep
save himself. The myriad insects that sing through the spring and
summer months had not yet found their voices; there was no trill of
frogs, not even the hooting of an owl, - no sound but his own breathing.

At break of dawn he crept into the boat-house like a shadow,
barefooted, bareheaded - the club-house was not yet awake. He looked
about the barnlike room for a hiding-place. Walls, floor, ceiling were
bare. Near the door opening on the lake was a rustic bench, impossible
as a refuge. Only in one corner, where empty boxes and a disused skiff
formed a barricade, could he hope for concealment. He glided thither,
and on the floor between the dusty wall of broad boards and the jumbled
partition, he found a man stretched on his back.

At first, he thought he had surprised a sleeper, but as the figure did
not move, he decided it must be a corpse. He would have fled but for
his need of this corner. He bent down - the man was bound hand and
foot. In the mouth, a gag was fastened. Neck and ankles were tied to
spikes in the wall.

Willock swiftly surveyed the lake and the sloping hill leading down
from the club-house. Nobody was near. As he stared at the landscape,
the front door of the club-house opened. He darted hack to the corner.
"Pardner," he said, "I got to ask your hospitality for a spell, and if
you move so as to attract attention, I got to fix you better. I didn't
do this here, pardner, but you shore look like some of my handiwork in
days past and gone. I'll share this corner with you for a while, and
if you don't give me away to them that's coming, I promise to set you
free. That's fair, I guess. 'A man ain't all bad,' says Brick, 'as
unties the knots that other men has tied,' says he. Just lay still and
comfortable, and we'll see what's coming."

Presently there were footsteps in the path, and to Willock's intense
disappointment, Gledware and Annabel came in together. They were in
the midst of a conversation and at the first few words, he found it
related to Lahoma. The boatman who had promised to bring the skiff for
them at seven - it developed that Gledware had no intention of doing the
rowing - had not yet come. They sat down on the rustic bench, their
voices distinctly audible in all parts of the small building.

"Her closest living relative," Gledware said, "is a great-aunt, living
in Boston. As soon as I found out who she was - I'd always supposed her
living among Indians, and that it would be impossible to find her - but
as soon as I learned the truth, without saying anything to HER, I wrote
to her great-aunt. I've never been in a position to take care of
Lahoma - I felt that I ought to place her with her own family. I got an
answer - about what you would expect. They'd give her a home - I told
them what a respectable girl she is - fairly creditable
appearance - intelligent enough... But they couldn't stand those
people she lives with - criminals, you know, Annabel,
highwaymen - murderers! Imagine Brick Willock in a Boston
drawing-room... But you couldn't."

"No," Annabel agreed. "Poor Lahoma! And I know she'd never give him

"That's it - she's immovable. She'd insist on taking him along. But he
belongs to another age - a different country. He couldn't understand.
He thinks when you've anything against a man, the proper move is to
kill 'im. He's just like an Indian - a wild beast. Wouldn't know what
we meant if we talked about civilization. His religion is the knife.
Well - you see; if he were out of the way, Lahoma would have her chance."

"But couldn't he be arrested?"

"That's my only hope. If he were hanged, or locked up for a certain
number of years, Lahoma'd go East. But as long as he's at large,
she'll wait for him to turn up. She'll stay right there in the cove
till she dies of old age, if he's free to visit her at odd moments.
It's her idea of fidelity, and it's true that he did take her in when
she needed somebody. There's a move on foot now, to arrest him for an
old crime - a murder. I witnessed the deed - I'll testify, if called on.
Lahoma will hate me for that - but it'll be the greatest favor I could
possibly do her. She knows I mean to appear against him, and she
thinks me a brute. But if I can convict Willock, it'll place Lahoma in
a family of wealth and refinement - "

He broke off with, "Wonder why that old deaf boatman doesn't come?" He
walked impatiently to the head of the steps and stared out over the
lake. "Somebody out there now," he exclaimed. "Oh, - it's Edgerton,
rowing about!"

He returned to the bench, but did not sit down. "Annabel," he said
abruptly, "you promised me to name the day, this morning."

"Yes," she responded very faintly.

"And I am sure, dear," he added in a deep resonant voice, "that in time
you will come to care for me as I care for you now - you, the only woman
I have ever loved. I understand about Edgerton, but you see, you
couldn't marry him - in fact, he couldn't marry anybody for years; he
has nothing.... And these earlier attachments that we think the
biggest things in our lives - well, they just dwindle, Annabel, they
dwindle as we get the true perspective. I know your happiness depends
upon me, and it rejoices me to know it. I can give you all you
want - all you can dream of - and I'm man-of-the-world enough to
understand that happiness depends just on that - getting what you want."

Annabel started up abruptly. "I think I heard the boat scraping

"Yes, he's there. Come, dear, and before the ride is ended you must
name the day - "

"DON'T!" she exclaimed sharply. "He - "

"He's as deaf as a post, my dear," Gledware murmured gently. "That's
why I selected him. I knew we'd want to talk - I knew you'd name the

He helped her down the rattling boards.

Brick Willock rose softly and stole toward the opening, his eyes filled
with a strange light. They no longer glared with the blood-lust of a
wild beast, but showed gloomy and perplexed; the words spoken
concerning himself had sunk deep.

The boatman sat with his back to Gledware and Annabel. He wore a long
dingy coat of light gray and a huge battered straw hat, whose wide brim
hid his hair and almost eclipsed his face. Willock, careful not to
show himself, stared at the skiff as it shot out from the landing, his
brow wrinkled in anxious thought. He felt strange and dizzy, and at
first fancied it was because of the resolution that had taken
possession of him - the resolution to return to Greer County and give
himself up. This purpose, as unreasoning as his plan to kill Gledware,
grew as fixed in his mind as half an hour before his other plan had

To go voluntarily to the sheriff, unresistingly to hold out his wrists
for the handcuffs - that would indeed mark a new era in his life. "A
wild Indian wouldn't do that," he mused, "nor a wild beast. I guess I
understand, after all. And if that's the way to make Lahoma happy...."

No wonder he felt queer; but his light-headedness did not rise, as a
matter of fact, entirely from subjective storm-threatenings. There was
something about that boatman - now, when he tilted up his head slightly,
and the hat failed to conceal - was it possible?...

"My God!" whispered Willock; "it's Red Feather!"

And Gledware, with eyes only for Annabel, finding nothing beyond her
but a long gray coat, a big straw hat and two rowing arms - did not
suspect the truth!

In a flash, Willock comprehended all. The Indian had dropped the pin
in Kimball's path, and Kimball, finding it, had carried it to Gledware
as if Red Feather were dead. The Indian had led his braves against the
stage-coach - Kimball had fallen under his knife. Yonder man in the
corner, bound and gagged, was doubtless the old deaf boatman engaged by
Gledware. Red Feather had taken his place that he might row Gledware
far out on the lake....

But Annabel was in the boat. If the Indian...

Far away toward the east, Edgerton Compton was rowing, not near enough
to intervene in case the Indian attempted violence, but better able
than himself to lend assistance if the boat were overturned. Willock
could, in truth, do nothing, except shout a warning, and this he
forebore lest it hasten the impending catastrophe. He remained,
therefore, half-hidden, crouching at the doorway, his eyes glued to the
rapidly gliding boat, with its three figures clear-cut against the
first faint sun-glow.



Red Feather's mind was not constituted to entertain more than one
leading thought at a time. Ever since the desertion and death of his
daughter, revenge had been his dominant passion. It was in order to
find Gledware that he had haunted the trail during the years of
lahoma's youth, always hoping to discover him in the new
country - gliding behind herds of cattle, listening to scraps of talks
among the cattlemen, earning from Mizzoo the uneasy designation, "the

Thanks to the reading aloud of Lahoma's letter, he had learned of
Gledware's presence in the city which he had known years before as
Westport Landing. He went thither unbewildered by its marvelous
changes, undistracted by its tumultuous flood of life - for his mind was
full of his mission; he could see only the blood following the blade of
his knife, heard nothing but a groan, a death-rattle.

Gledware's presence in the boat this morning had been made possible
only by the interposition of Lahoma; but for the Indian's deep-seated
affection for her whom he regarded as a child, the man now smiling into
Annabel's pale face would long ago have found his final resting-place.
It was due to the Indian's singleness of thought that Lahoma's plan had
struck him as good. Gledware, stripped of all his possessions,
slinking as a beggar from door to door, no roof, no bed, but sky and
earth - that is what Red Feather had meant.

He had believed Gledware glad of the respite. That he should accept
the alternative seemed reasonable. There was a choice only between
death and poverty - and Gledware wished to live so desperately - so
basely! The chief cared little for life; still, he would
unhesitatingly have preferred the most meager existence to a knife in
his heart; how much more, then, this craven white man. But the plan
had failed because Gledware did not believe death was the other
alternative. Never in the remotest way had it occurred to the avenger
that Gledware could be spared should he prove false to his oath. Red
Feather was less a man with passions than a cold relentless fate. This
fate would surely overcome the helpless wretch, should he cling to his

As Red Feather skimmed the water with long sweeps of his oars, never
looking back, the voices of his passengers came to his ears without
meaning. He was thinking of the last few days and how this morning's
ride was their fitting sequel. The early sunbeams were full on him as
he tilted back his head, but they showed no emotion on his face,
hard-set and dully red in the clear radiance.

Crouching near the summer-house at Gledware's place, he had overheard
Red Kimball boast to bring Gledware the pearl and onyx pin. Then had
shot through his darkened mind the suspicion that Gledware meant to
escape the one condition on which his life was to be spared. With
simple cunning he had left the pin where the outlaw must find it; his
own death would be taken for granted - what then?

What then? This ride in the boat. Gledware had made his choice; he
had clung to his possessions - and now Death held the oars. He was
scarcely past middle age. He might have lived so long, he who so loved
to live! But no, he had chosen to be rich - and to die.

When Red Feather brought his mind back to the present, Gledware was
describing to Annabel a ranch in California for which he had traded the
house near Independence. He would take her far away; he would build a
house thus and thus - room so; terraces here; marble pillars....

Annabel listened gravely, silently, her face all the paler for the
sunlight flashing over it, for the mimic sun on the waves glancing up
into her pensive eyes. Somehow, the sunshine, the ripple of the water,
seemed to form no part of her life, belonged rather, to Edgerton
Compton rowing in solitude against the sky. Those naked trees, bare
brown hills and ledges of huge stones seemed her world-boundaries, kin
to her, claiming her - But there was California ... and the splendid
house to be built....

The Indian was listening now, but as he heard projected details
glowingly presented, no change came in his grim deep-lined face. He
simply knew it was not to be - let the fool plan! He found himself
wondering dully why he no longer hated Gledware with that vindictive
fury that gloats over the death-grip, lingers in fiendish leisure over
the lifted scalp. He scarcely remembered the wrong done his daughter;
it was almost as if he had banished the cause of his revenge; as if
vengeance itself had become a simple stroke of destiny. Gledware had
chosen his possession, and the Indian was Fate's answer.

"Beautiful one," he heard Gledware say, speaking in an altered tone,
"all that is in the future - but see what I have brought you; this is
for today. It's yours, dear - let me see it around your neck with the
sun full upon it - "

Red Feather turned his head, curiously.

Gledware held outstretched a magnificent diamond necklace which shot
forth dazzling rays as it swung from his eager fingers.

Annabel uttered a smothered cry of delight as the iridescence filled
her eyes. She looked across the water toward the pagoda-shaped
club-house where her mother stood, faintly defined as a speck of white
against the green wall-shingles of the piazza. It seemed that it
needed this glance to steady her nerves. Edgerton was forgotten. She
reached out her hand. And then, perplexed at the necklace being
suddenly withdrawn, she looked up. She caught a glimpse of Gledware's
face, and her blood turned cold.

That face was frozen in horror. At the turning of the boatman's head,
he had instantly recognized under the huge-brimmed hat, the face of his
enemy as if brought back from the grave.

There was a moment's tense silence, filled with mystery for her, with
indescribable agony for him, with simple waiting for the Indian.
Annabel turned to discover the cause of Gledware's terror, but she saw
no malice, no threat, in the boatman's eyes.

Gledware ceased breathing, then his form quivered with a sudden inrush
of breath as of a man emerging from diving. His eyes rolled in his
head as he turned about scanning the shore, glaring at Edgerton's
distant boat. Why had he come unarmed? How could he have put faith in
Red Kimball's assurances? He tortured his brain for some gleam of hope.

"This is all I have," he shrieked, as if the Indian's foot was already
upon his neck. "This is all I have." He flung the necklace into the
water. "It was a lie about the California ranch - it's a lie about all
my property - I've got nothing, Annabel! I sold the last bit to get you
the necklace, but I shouldn't have done that. Now it's gone. I have

The Indian rose slowly. The oars slipped down and floated away in the
flashing stream of the sun's rays.

Annabel, realizing that the Indian, despite his impassive countenance,
threatened some horrible catastrophe, started up with a scream.
Edgerton had already turned toward them; alarmed at sound of Gledware's
terror. He bent to the oars, comprehending only that Annabel was in

"Edgerton!" she shrieked blindly. "Edgerton! Edgerton! Edgerton!"

Gledware crouched at her feet, crying beseechingly, "I swear I have
nothing - nothing! I sold everything - gave it away - left it - nothing in
all the world! I'm willing to beg, to starve - I don't want to own
anything - I only want to live - to live.... My God! TO LIVE..."

Red Feather did not utter a word. But with the stealthy lightness and
litheness of a panther, he stepped over the seat and moved toward

Then Gledware, pushed to the last extremity, despairing of the
interposition of some miraculous chance, was forced back upon himself.
With the vision of an inherent coward he saw all chances against him;
but with the desperation of a maddened soul, he threw himself upon the

Red Feather had not expected to see him offer resistance. This show of
clenched teeth and doubled fists suddenly enraged him, and the old lust
of vengeance flamed from his eyes. Hat and disguising coat were cast
aside. For a moment his form, rigid and erect, gleamed like a statue
of copper cut in stern relentless lines, and the single crimson feather
in his raven locks matched, in gold, the silver brightness of his
upraised blade.

The next moment his form shot forward, his arm gripped Gledware about
the neck, despite furious resistance, and both men fell into the water.

The violent shock given to the boat sent Annabel to her knees.
Clutching the side she gazed with horrified eyes at the water in her
wake. The men had disappeared, but in the glowing white path cut
across the lake by the sun, appeared a dull red streak that thinned
away to faint purple and dim pink. She watched the sinister
discoloration with fascinated eyes. What was taking place beneath the
smooth tide? Or was it all over? Had Red Feather found a rock to
which he could cling while he drowned himself with his victim? Or had
their bodies been caught in the tangled branches of a submerged forest
tree? It was one of the mysteries of the Ozarks never to be solved.

She was still kneeling, still staring with frightened eyes, still
wondering, when Edgerton Compton rowed up beside her.

"He said he had nothing," she stammered, as he helped her to rise. "He
said he had nothing.... How true it is!" Edgerton gently lifted her
to his skiff, then stepped in beside her. He, too, was watching the
water for the possible emergence of a ghastly face.

Annabel began trembling as with the ague. "Edgerton!... He said it
was all a lie - about his property - and so it was. Everything is a lie
except - this..."

She clung to him.



When Bill Atkins with an air of impenetrable mystery invited Wilfred
Compton to a ride that might keep him from his bride several days, the
young man guessed that Willock had been found. Lahoma, divining as
much, urged Wilfred to hasten, assured him that she enjoyed the
publicity and stirring life of the Mangum hotel and expressed
confidence that should she need a friend, Mizzoo would help her through
any difficulty. So Wilfred rode away with Bill, and Willock was not

Bill was evidently in deep trouble, and when Wilfred and he had let
themselves down into the stone corridor whose only entrance was a
crevice in the mountain-top, he understood the old trapper's deep
despondency - Brick Willock was there; and Brick declared his intention
of giving himself up. He announced his purpose before greetings had
subsided. Bill called him an old fool, used unpruned language,
scolded, rather than argued. Wilfred, on the other hand, delayed
events by requesting full particulars of the last few weeks.

"He's told me all he's been up to," Bill objected; "there's no call to
travel over that ground again. What I brought you here for, Wilfred,
is to show him how foolish he'd be to let himself be taken when he's
free as the wind."

"I tells my tale," declared Brick, "and them as has heard it once can
take it or leave it." He was discursive, circumstantial, and it was a

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Online LibraryJ. Breckenridge EllisLahoma → online text (page 16 of 17)