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A Scandal Scotched

From: The Fighting Edge

Before the door of the room opened Tolliver heard the high-pitched voice
of his daughter.

"If you'd only stood up to him, Bob--if you'd shot him or fought him ...
lemme go, Jake. You got no right to take me with you. Tell you I'm
married.... Yes, sir, I'll love, honor, an' obey. I sure will--in
sickness an' health--yes, sir, I do...."

The father's heart sank. He knew nothing about illness. A fear racked him
that she might be dying. Piteously he turned to the doctor, after one
look at June's flushed face.

"Is she--is she--?"

"Out of her head, Mr. Tolliver."

"I mean--will she--?"

"Can't promise you a thing yet. All we can do is look after her and hope
for the best. She's young and strong. It's pretty hard to kill anybody
born an' bred in these hills. They've got tough constitutions. Better
take a chair."

Tolliver sat down on the edge of a chair, nursing his hat. His leathery
face worked. If he could only take her place, go through this fight
instead of her. It was characteristic of his nature that he feared and
expected the worst. He was going to lose her. Of that he had no doubt. It
would be his fault. He was being punished for the crimes of his youth and
for the poltroonery that had kept him from turning Jake out of the

June sat up excitedly in bed and pointed to a corner of the room. "There
he is, in the quaking asps, grinnin' at me! Don't you come nearer, Jake
Houck! Don't you! If you do I'll--I'll--"

Dr. Tuckerman put his hand gently on her shoulder. "It's all right, June.
Here's your father. We won't let Houck near you. Better lie down now and

"Why must I lie down?" she asked belligerently. "Who are you anyhow,

"I'm the doctor. You're not quite well. We're looking after you."

Tolliver came forward timorously. "Tha's right, June. You do like the
doctor says, honey."

"I'd just as lief, Dad," she answered, and lay down obediently.

When she was out of her head, at the height of the fever, Mrs. Gillespie
could always get her to take the medicine and could soothe her fears and
alarms. Mollie was chief nurse. If she was not in the room, after June
had begun to mend, she was usually in the kitchen cooking broths or
custards for the sick girl.

June's starved heart had gone out to her in passionate loyalty and
affection. No woman had ever been good to her before, not since the death
of her aunt, at least. And Mollie's goodness had the quality of sympathy.
It held no room for criticism or the sense of superiority. She was a
sinner herself, and it was in her to be tender to others who had fallen
from grace.

To Mollie this child's innocent trust in her was exquisitely touching.
June was probably the only person in the world except small children who
believed in her in just this way. It was not possible that this faith
could continue after June became strong enough to move around and talk
with the women of Bear Cat. Though she had outraged public opinion all
her life, Mollie Gillespie found herself tugged at by recurring impulses
to align herself as far as possible with respectability.

For a week she fought against the new point of view. Grimly she scoffed
at what she chose to consider a weakness.

"This is a nice time o' day for you to try to turn proper, Mollie
Gillespie," she told herself plainly. "Just because a chit of a girl goes
daffy over you, is that any reason to change yore ways? You'd ought to
have a lick o' sense or two at yore age."

But her derision was a fraud. She was tired of being whispered about. The
independent isolation of which she had been proud had become of a sudden
a thing hateful to her.

She went to Larson as he was leaving the hotel dining-room on his next
visit to town.

"Want to talk with you. Come outside a minute."

The owner of the Wagon Rod followed.

"Jim," she said, turning on him abruptly, "you've always claimed you
wanted to marry me." Her blue eyes searched deep into his. "Do you mean
that? Or is it just talk?"

"You know I mean it, Mollie," he answered quietly.

"Well, I'm tired of being a scandal to Bear Cat. I've always said I'd
never get married again since my bad luck with Hank Gillespie. But I
don't know. If you really want to get married, Jim."

"I've always thought it would be better."

"I'm not going to quit runnin' this hotel, you understand. You're in town
two-three days a week anyhow. If you like you can build a house here an'
we'll move into it."

"I'll get busy pronto. I expect you want a quiet wedding, don't you?"

"Sure. We can go over to Blister's office this afternoon. You see him an'
make arrangements. Tell him I don't want the boys to know anything about
it till afterward."

An hour later they stood before Justice Haines. Mollie thought she
detected a faint glimmer of mirth in his eye after the ceremony. She
quelled it promptly.

"If you get gay with me, Blister--"

The fat man's impulse to smile fled. "Honest to goodness, Mrs.

"Larson," she corrected.

"Larson," he accepted. "I w-wish you m-many happy returns."

She looked at him suspiciously and grunted "Hmp!"

Next: Blister As Deus Ex Machina

Previous: Houck Takes A Ride

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