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For The Kiddies

From: 'firebrand' Trevison

Trevison dropped from Nigger at the dooryard of Levins' cabin, and looked
with a grim smile at Levins himself lying face downward across the saddle
on his own pony. He had carried Levins out of the Belmont and had thrown
him, as he would have thrown a sack of meal, across the saddle, where he
had lain during the four-mile ride, except during two short intervals in
which Trevison had lifted him off and laid him flat on the ground, to
rest. Trevison had meditated, not without a certain wry humor, upon the
strength and the protracted potency of Manti's whiskey, for not once
during his home-coming had Levins shown the slightest sign of returning
consciousness. He was as slack as a meal sack now, as Trevison lifted him
from the pony's back and let him slip gently to the ground at his feet. A
few minutes later, Trevison was standing in the doorway of the cabin, his
burden over his shoulder, the weak glare of light from within the cabin
stabbing the blackness of the night and revealing him to the white-faced
woman who had answered his summons.

Her astonishment had been of the mute, agonized kind; her eyes, hollow,
eloquent with unspoken misery and resignation, would have told Trevison
that this was not the first time, had he not known from personal
observation. She stood watching, gulping, shame and mortification bringing
patches of color into her cheeks, as Trevison carried Levins into a
bedroom and laid him down, removing his boots. She was standing near the
door when Trevison came out of the bedroom; she was facing the blackness
of the desert night--a blacker future, unknowingly--and Trevison halted on
the threshold of the bedroom door and set his teeth in sympathy. For the
woman deserved better treatment. He had known her for several years--since
the time when Levins, working for him, had brought her from a ranch on the
other side of the Divide, announcing their marriage. It had been a
different Levins, then, as it was a different wife who stood at the door
now. She had faded; the inevitable metamorphosis wrought by neglect, worry
and want, had left its husks--a wan, tired-looking woman of thirty who had
only her hopes to nourish her soul. There were children, too--if that were
any consolation. Trevison saw them as he glanced around the cabin. They
were in another bed; through an archway he could see their chubby faces.
His lungs filled and his lips straightened.

But he grinned presently, in an effort to bring cheer into the cabin,
reaching into a pocket and bringing out the money he had recovered for

"There are nearly a thousand dollars here. Two tin-horn gamblers tried to
take it from Clay, but I headed them off. Tell Clay--"

Mrs. Levins' face whitened; it was more money than she had ever seen at
one time.

"Clay's?" she interrupted, perplexedly. "Why, where--"

"I haven't the slightest idea--but he had it, they tried to take it away
from him--it's here now--it belongs to you." He shoved it into her hands
and stepped back, smiling at the stark wonder and joy in her eyes. He saw
the joy vanish--concern and haunting worry came into her eyes.

"They told me that Clay shot--killed--a man yesterday. Is it true?" She
cast a fearing look at the bed where the children lay.

"The damned fools!"

"Then it's true!" She covered her face with her hands, the money in them.
Then she took the hands away and looked at the money in them, loathingly.
"Do you think Clay--"

"No!" he said shortly, anticipating. "That couldn't be. For the man Clay
killed had this money on him. Clay accused him of picking his pocket. Clay
gave the bartender in the Plaza the number of each bill before he saw
them after taking the bills out of the pickpocket's clothing. So it can't
be as you feared."

She murmured incoherently and pressed both hands to her breast. He laughed
and walked to the door.

"Well, you need it, you and the kiddies. I'm glad to have been of some
service to you. Tell Clay he owes me something for cartage. If there is
anything I can do for you and Clay and the kiddies I'd be only too glad."

"Nothing--now," said the woman, gratitude shining from her eyes, mingling
with a worried gleam. "Oh!" she added, passionately; "if Clay was only
different! Can't you help him to be strong, Mr. Trevison? Like you? Can't
you be with him more, to try to keep him straight for the sake of the

"Clay's odd, lately," Trevison frowned. "He seems to have changed a lot.
I'll do what I can, of course." He stepped out of the door and then looked
back, calling: "I'll put Clay's pony away. Good night." And the darkness
closed around him.

* * * * *

Over at Blakeley's ranch, J. C. Benham had just finished an inspection of
the interior and had sank into the depths of a comfortable chair facing
his daughter. Blakeley and his wife had retired, the deal that would place
the ranch in possession of Benham having been closed. J. C. gazed
critically at his daughter.

"Like it here, eh?" he said. "Well, you look it." He shook a finger at
her. "Agatha has been writing to me rather often, lately," he added. There
followed no answer and J. C. went on, narrowing his eyes at the girl. "She
tells me that this fellow who calls himself 'Brand' Trevison has proven
himself a--shall we say, persistent?--escort on your trips of inspection
around the ranch."

Rosalind's face slowly crimsoned.

"H'm," said Benham.

"I thought Corrigan--" he began. The girl's eyes chilled.

"H'm," said Benham, again.

Next: Exposed To The Sunlight

Previous: The Spirit Of Manti

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