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long time before he led them in fancy to the door of the boat-house and
showed them Red Feather and Gledware disappearing forever beneath the
surface of the lake.

"There I waited," he said, "expecting first one head, then the other to
come to light, but nothing happened. Seemed like I couldn't move. But
Edgerton, he began rowing towards me with Annabel, she happy despite
herself, and when I see it wouldn't do to tarry no longer, I cuts loose
the old deaf boatman and unstops his mouth. Well, sir, he lets out a
yell that would a-done credit to a bobcat fighting in the traps. I had
to run for it fellows from the club-house took after me thinking I'd
been murdering somebody - I skinned them Ozark hills and I skinned
myself. But Brick, he says, 'When you turns loose a bobcat, expect
scratches,' says he."

"Don't tell about how you hid in the hills waiting for a night train,"
Bill pleaded.

"I tells it all;" Brick was inflexible. "You are here, I'm here, and
it's a safe place. We may never be so put again."

"A safe place!" Bill snarled. "Yes, it IS a safe place. But you've
lost your nerve. WAS a time, when you'd have stood out creation in a
hole like this. But you've turned to salt, you have a regular Bible
character - giving up to the law, letting them clap you in jail, getting
yourself hanged, very likely! And all because you've lost your nerve.
See here, Brick, stand 'em out! I'll steady you through thick and
thin. I'll bring you grub and water."

"YOU couldn't do nothing," Brick returned contemptuously, "you're too
old. As for that, I ain't come to the pass of needing being waited on,
I guess. It ain't dangers that subdues me, it's principles. Look
here!"

He walked to the cross-bar that was set in the walls to guard the floor
from the unknown abyss. "I found out they was a hole in the rock just
about five feet under the floor. I can take this rope and tie one end
to the post and let myself down to that little room where there's grub
enough to last a long siege, where there's bedding and common luxuries,
as tobacco and the like. I ain't been smoked out, into the open, I
goes free and disposed and my hands held up according."

When he had finished the last morsel of his story and had warmed some
of it over for another taste, there came an ominous silence, broken at
last by the querulous voice of Bill, arguing against surrender.

Willock waited in patience till his friend had exhausted himself. "I
ain't saying nothing," he explained to Wilfred, "because he ain't
pervious to reason, and it does him good to get that out of his system."

"Let me make a suggestion," exclaimed Wilfred suddenly.

Willock looked at him suspiciously. "If it ain't counter to my plans - "

"It isn't. It's this: Suppose we drop the subject till tomorrow - it
won't hurt any of us to sleep on it, and I know I'D enjoy another night
with you, as in the old days."

"I'm willing to sleep on it, out of friendship," Willock conceded
unwillingly, "though I'd rest easier on a bed in the jail. There never
was no bird more crazy to get into a cage than I am to be shut up. But
as to the old days, they ain't none left. Them deputies is in the
dugout, they're in the cabin I built for Lahoma, they think they owns
our cove. Well, they's no place left for me; life wouldn't be nothing,
crouching and slinking up here in the rocks. Life wouldn't be nothing
to me without Lahoma. I'd have a pretty chance for happiness, now
wouldn't I, sitting up somewheres with Bill Atkins! I ain't saying I
mightn't get out of this country and find a safe spot where I could
live free and disposed with an old renegade like HIM that nobody ain't
after and ain't a-caring whether he's above ground or in kingdom come.
But I couldn't be with Lahoma; I'm under ban."

"If you were on my farm near Oklahoma City," Wilfred suggested, "and
Lahoma and I lived in the city, you could often see her. Up there,
nobody'd molest you, nobody'd know you. That's what I've been
planning. You could look after the farm and Bill could go back and
forth. As soon as the news comes that Red Feather killed Gledware,
it'll be taken for granted that he killed Red Kimball and attacked the
stage. You'll be cleared of all that and nobody will want you
arrested."

Willock rose. "Are we going to sleep on this, or shall I answer you
now?" he demanded fixedly.

Wilfred hastily asked for time.

They passed the night in the mountain-top, but Willock had spoken
truly; there were no old days. The one subject forbidden was the only
subject in their minds. All attempts at reminiscence, at irrelevant
anecdotes, were mere pretense. The fact that Wilfred and Lahoma were
now married seemed to banish events of a month ago as if they were
years and years in the past.

They partook of breakfast in the gray dawn of the new day, eating by
lantern-light. And when the light had been extinguished, Willock, like
a wild animal brought to bay, squared his shoulders against the wall,
and said: "We've slept on it. Say all you got to say. Don't leave
out nothing because you might be sorry, afterwards. Speak together, or
one at a time, it's all the same to me. And when you're done, and say
you're done, I'll do my talking, according."

And when they were done, and said they were done, he straightened
himself and said:

"When Red Kimball's band give themselves to the law that done nothing
to them, there might of been a man, one of 'em, that never come in out
of the rain. I ain't saying I am that man, for I stands by the records
and the proofs and the showings of man and man, technical and
arbitrary. But in due time, the governor of Texas he says that that
man - whoever he may be - was no longer to be excused on the grounds that
he done his operating in No-Man's Land and his residing in the state of
Texas. And he said that there man would be held responsible for all
the deeds done by Red Kimball's band. That word has been handed down.
Now whether I'm that man, or just thought to be that man, makes little
difference. I'm a fugitive on the face of the earth without an ark of
safety - referring to my cove. That's ME.

"Now look at LAHOMA. She has folks, not meaning you, Wilfred, but
Boston kin that stands high. A woman ain't nothing without family, out
in the world. You're going to be a great man some day, if I don't miss
my guess, a great man in Oklahoma government and laws. Lahoma's going
to be proud of you. You'll take a hand in politics, you'll be elected
to something high. If I lived near at hand, I'd all-time be hiding,
and having her a-conniving at something that would hurt your reputation
if found out, and that would kill me because I couldn't breathe under
such a load. And if away from her, well - I'm too old, now, to live
without Lahoma. She's - she's just a habit of mine.

"So you puts me in jail. They does what they likes with me, hangs me
or gives me time, but the point as I see it is this: I'll be disposed
of, I'll be given a rank, you may say, and classified. Lahoma won't be
hampered. She's young; young people takes things hard but they don't
take 'em long. In due time, them Boston kinfolks will be inviting her
and will be visiting her, and you'll be in congress, like enough - if
you wasn't a western man, I'd say you might be president. And
everybody will honor you and feast you - and as to Brick Willock, he'll
simply be forgot.

"Which is eminent and proper, Wilfred. I belongs to the past - I'M a
kind of wild creature such as has to die out when civilization rolls
high; and she's rolling high in these parts, and it's for me and Bill
to join the Indians and buffaloes, and fade away. Trappers is out of
date; so is highwaymen, I judge.

"I don't know as I makes myself clear or well put, but if you'll catch
up the ponies I guess your sheriff can handle my meaning."

Without much difficulty, Wilfred effected another compromise. They
waited till night before leaving the retreat. The reason accepted for
this delay was that in the daytime the deputies would stop them and
Willock wanted to give himself up to the chief in command. When it was
dark they slipped down the gully whose matted trees, though stripped of
leaves, offered additional shelter. In the cove, they saw the light
streaming from the window of the dugout - that famous window that had
given Lahoma her first outlook upon learning. As the beams caught his
eye, a sigh heaved the great bulk of the former master of the cove, but
he said nothing.

In oppressive silence they skirted Turtle Hill and emerged from the
horseshoe bend, finding in a sheltered nook the three ponies that
Wilfred had provided at nightfall. He had hoped to the last that
Willock could be prevailed on to alter his decision, and even while
riding away toward Mangum, he argued and coaxed. But it was in vain,
and as they clattered up to the hotel veranda, Willock was searching
the crowd for a glimpse of the sheriff.

The street was unusually full for that time of night; some topic of
engrossing interest seemed to engage all minds until Willock's figure
was recognized; then, indeed, he held the center of attention. Men
gathered eagerly, curiously, but without the hostility they would have
displayed had not a message regarding Red Feather reached the town.
Brick was still an outlaw, to be sure, but whatever crimes he had
committed were unknown, hence unable to react on the imagination. The
surviving friend of Red Kimball, giving up his efforts against Willock
on the liberation of Bill, had left the country, harmless without his
leader.

Conversation which had been loud and excited, eager calls from street
corners that had punctuated the many-tongued argument and exposition,
dimmed to silence. There was a forward movement of the men, not a rush
but a vibratory swell of the human tide, pushing toward the steps of
the hotel. The two riderless horses danced sidewise - Brick Willock had
jumped upon the unpainted floor of the veranda, and Wilfred had sprung
lightly to his side.

"I'll just keep on my horse," muttered Bill, resting one leg stiffly
over the pommel. "I can't get up as I used to, and I expect to stay
with ye, Brick, to the jail door."

Willock did not turn his shaggy head to answer. He had seen the
sheriff at the other end of the piazza, and he made straight for him,
not even condescending to a grin when the other, mistaking his
intentions, whipped out his revolver.

"Put it up, pard," Brick said gruffly. "When you come to me in the
cove, a few years ago, I give you a warm welcome, but now I ain't
a-coming to you, I'm a-coming to the Law. Where's that there warrant?"

The crowd that had been listening to the sheriff's discourse before the
arrival of the highwayman, scattered at sight of the drawn weapon - all
except Lahoma.

"Brick!" she cried, "oh, Brick, Brick!"

There was something in her voice he could not understand, but he dared
not turn to examine her face; he could not trust himself if he once
looked at her.

"Get out your warrant," he cried savagely, "and get it out quick if you
want ME!" His great breast heaved with the conflict of powerful
emotions.

"I'm sure sorry to see you, old man," Mizzoo declared. "We know Red
Feather done what we was charging up against you. But I guess there's
no other course open to me. As my aunt used to say (Miss Sue of
Missouri) 'I got a duty - do it, I must.'" He thrust his hairy hand
into his bosom and drew forth the fateful paper.

Lahoma laughed. "Read it, Mizzoo, read it aloud - read all of it!" she
cried gleefully.

Wilfred looked at her, bewildered. The crowd stared also, knowing her
love for Brick, therefore dazed at the sound of mirthful music. Brick
turned his head at last; he looked, also, not reproachfully but with a
question in his hard stern eyes.

Mizzoo turned red. "Well, yes, I'll read it," he said, defiantly.
"Sure! I guess as sheriff of Greer County I'll make shift to get
through with it alive."

He began to read, slowly, doggedly; Brick, without movement save for
that heaving of his bosom, facing him with a mingling on his face of
supreme defiance for the reader and superstitious awe for the legal
instrument.

"That's all," Mizzoo at last announced. "You'll have to come with me,
Willock."

"Hold on!" came voices from the crowd. During the reading, they had
been watching Lahoma, and her expression promised more than fruitless
laughter. "Hold on, Mizzoo, Lahoma's got something up her sleeve!"

Lahoma spoke clearly, that her voice might carry to the confines of the
crowd: "Mizzoo, I think you read in that warrant, 'county of Greer,
state of Texas'? Didn't you?"

"That's what I done. Here's the words."

"But, you see," returned Lahoma, "that warrant's no good!"

Mizzoo stared at her a moment, then exclaimed violently, "By - "
Propriety forbade the completion of his phrase.

The crowd instantly caught her meaning; a shout rose, shrill,
tumultuous, broken with laughter. She had reminded them of the subject
which a short time ago had engaged all minds.

"It's no good," cried Lahoma triumphantly. She took it from Mizzoo's
lax fingers and deliberately tore it from top to bottom.

"I guess I'm a-getting old, sure enough," said Bill. "This is beyond
me."

Wilfred looked at Lahoma questioningly. Brick, stupefied by violence
done that sacred instrument of civilization, stood rooted to the spot.

Mizzoo was grinning now. "You see," he explained, "word come today
that the Supreme Court has at last turned in its decision. Prairie Dog
Fork is now Red River, and 'Red River' is only the North Fork of Red
River - and that means that Greer County don't belong to Texas, and
never did belong to her, but is a part of Oklahoma."

"And you'll never have an Oklahoma writ served on you," cried Lahoma,
"not while I'm living! And you'll go with us to our farm and live with
us, you and Bill and..."

Lahoma had expected to be very calm and logical, for she knew she had
all the advantage on her side. But when she saw the change in Brick's
eyes, she forgot her rights; she forgot all that watching crowd; she
forgot even Wilfred - and with a spring she was in Brick's arms, sobbing
for joy.

He tried to say something about her Boston kin, but he could not
express the thought coherently, for giant as he was, he was sobbing,
too.

"If there's ever a meeting," she said, between tears and laughter, "the
East will have to come to the West!"

"Those Boston folks," cried Bill, with a sudden upheaval of unwonted
humor, "can simply go to - beans! I'm a-getting down," he added,
cautiously lowering himself from his pony; "I guess I'm in this, too."

"You're in it," growled Brick, "but you're on the outskirts. Don't
come no nearer." He stroked the head that rested on his breast, his
great hand moving with exceeding gentleness. He gazed over her brown
glory, at the sympathetic crowd.

"Fellows," he cried, "just look what I've raised!"

"Boys," exclaimed Mizzoo, "what do you say? Let's give three cheers
for Lahoma."

Wilfred's voice cut across the last word, proud and happy: "Make it
Lahoma of Oklahoma!"











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