Peace And A Sunset
From: 'drag' Harlan
Red Linton had recovered--there was no doubt of that. For Linton, though
a trifle pale, was vigorous. Vigor was in the look of him as he stood, a
slow grin on his face, beside Barbara Morgan at the entrance of the
patio of the Rancho Seco ranchhouse.
Barbara was sitting on a bench that ranged the front wall of the
building. She was arrayed in a dress of some soft, fluffy material, in
which she made a picture that brought a breathless longing into Linton's
heart--a longing which made him feel strangely tender and sympathetic.
But Barbara was not smiling. There was a wistfulness in her eyes that
made Linton gulp with jealous thoughts that came to him.
"He don't deserve it, the durned scalawag!"
"Deserve what?" questioned Barbara.
"You," muttered Linton, with an embarrassed grin. "Shucks, I wasn't
thinkin' I was talkin' out loud. I'm sure gettin' locoed."
"Who doesn't deserve me?" asked Barbara.
"Harlan!" declared Linton, with a subtle glance at the girl. "He ain't in
no ways fit to be thinkin' serious thoughts about a girl like you."
"Has he been thinking serious thoughts?" Her eyes dropped from Linton's
and the latter grinned widely.
"Thinkin' them! He's been talkin' them. Talked them all the time him an'
me was stretched out in the big room, gettin' over our scratches. That
man is plumb locoed. I couldn't get him to talk nothin' else. When I told
him about the governor sendin' him congratulations, an' offerin' to do
somethin' handsome for him, he says: 'You say she ain't worryin' none
about things? Red, do you think she'd hook up with a guy like me--that's
got a bad reputation?'"
Linton shot a side glance at Barbara and saw a flush steal into her
cheeks. He concealed a broad grin with the palm of his hand and then
"I answers him as such a impertinent question ought to be answered. Says
I--'Harlan, you're a damned fool!'--askin' your pardon, ma'am. A girl
like Barbara Morgan ain't goin' to throw herself away on a no-good
outlaw. Not none! Why, ma'am, he's an outlaw at heart as well as by
reputation. He's clean bad--there ain't a bit of good in him. Didn't he
go to Haydon deliberate? An' didn't he keep you in suspense about what
was goin' on--not tellin' you anything until he had to? Shucks!"
"But there was a method in that, Linton," said Barbara; "he told me he
was afraid I'd unconsciously betray him, and then he could not have done
what he did."
Linton grinned again--again concealing the grin.
"You don't mean to say that you believe the cuss done the best he could?"
"I think I do, Linton."
"Shucks. Women is odd that way, ain't they? You ain't tellin' me that you
think he's on the level--that his reputation ain't as bad as some folks
make believe it is, an' that he's square?"
"I believe he's square, Linton!" the girl answered, firmly.
Linton was silent for an instant, during which he stood on one foot,
looking westward where the sun was swimming low above the big valley.
"Ma'am," he said lowly, breaking the silence: "I'm damned if I ain't
beginnin' to believe it, myself. There's some things that seem to prove
"First, there's him takin' your part over in Lamo. Then there's him
comin' here with you, knowin' you was alone--an' not botherin' you. Then
he guarded you right steady, not lettin' Haydon or Deveny run in on you.
Then he makes me foreman--which seems to prove that he's got sense. Then
he goes up the valley an' helps your brother bust up the outlaw gang,
riskin' his life a lot.
"An' all the time he knows where your dad hid that gold. But he didn't
touch it until he got over that scratch Deveny give him--or until he
could take you where it was hid an' show you he hadn't touched it. Yes,
ma'am," he added with a hyprocritical grin--which he did not permit the
girl to see--"I'm beginnin' to believe the cuss is on the level."
"Oh, he is, Linton!" said Barbara, in a low, earnest voice.
Again there was a silence. Then----
"Do you think he's a pretty good looker, ma'am?"
"I think he is handsome!" Again the girl blushed.
And again Linton grinned. He cleared his throat before he again spoke:
"Well," he drawled; "mebbe I wouldn't go that far. Mostly I don't care
for a handsome man, anyway. I wouldn't say he's ugly, an' I won't say
he's handsome. I'd light on a spot about halfway between them two
extremes. I'd say he ain't a bad looker. That would be about right."
"He is handsome, Linton!"
"Well, likely he is--to a woman. I've heard that there's been women
which thought him a heap good lookin'."
"Where, Linton?" she asked, quickly.
"Why, in Pardo, ma'am. There was a biscuit shooter in a eatin'-house
there that was sure wild about Harlan--she followed him around a heap."
"He didn't have anything to do with her, Linton?" she questioned,
"Shucks! Not him. Women never bothered him none. He always fought shy of
them--until now. He's changed a lot. I don't understand him no more.
Keeps a-moonin' regular about you. I'm gettin' a heap sick of hangin'
around him. Ain't you?"
"Well, that's a heap odd, ma'am. I was thinkin' you didn't like him a
heap. Accordin' to that, I reckon you'd be right glad to see him--comin'
home from Pardo--where's he been to have that gold assayed?"
"He ought to be here before dark, Linton. And I shall be glad to see
"Hopin' the gold will assay good, I reckon?"
"Hoping he will come back, safe."
"You don't care about the gold?"
"Only about him?"
"Yes, Linton," she said, gently.
"Well, that's odd, ma'am," drawled Linton.
"That I feel the same way about the cuss."
She looked keenly at him, saw the dancing, wayward gleam in his eyes, and
gave him a reproachful glance.
"You've been pumping me, Linton," she charged.
"Well," he defended; "he's my friend, ma'am; an' I was sure worried,
thinkin' you wouldn't take him--if he offered himself."
She smiled, wisely.
"He did that long ago, Linton--right after he--well, the day he got up,
after the doctor told him he could."
"That he could offer himself?"
"That he could get up. Linton," she said, severely; "you want to know too
Linton did not answer. He took her by an arm, raised her to her feet, and
turned her face toward the northeast--where a rider came, not more than
two or three miles distant.
Linton left her to stand there, while he made his way into one of the
bunkhouses, where, with an appearance of unconcern that he did not feel,
he watched the coming rider. And when he saw the rider head his horse
straight for the gate of the patio, Linton grinned widely and sought some
of the other men in the cook-house.
The sun was between the two huge mountains at the western end of the big
valley when Harlan dismounted at the patio gate and dropped, tired and
dusty, to the bench upon which Barbara sat. Had Linton seen what occurred
when Harlan dismounted he would have ceased to speculate over certain
phases of the relations between the man and the girl.
Barbara did not seem to mind the dust on Harlan's sleeve, nor did she
feel it on his shoulder where her head was nestling.
For both were looking out into the big valley, where the sun was sinking
with a splendor that reminded them of another day.
"The gold isn't worth mining," said Harlan, gently. "The assayer used
names that didn't mean anything to me, but he told me enough in plain
talk, to prove that your dad wasted his time."
"I'm satisfied," said the girl.
"Me too," smiled Harlan. "There's somethin' better than gold."
"It's peace--and happiness," said Barbara, gently.
"An' a girl," smiled Harlan.
"And a man," declared Barbara stoutly.
"Well, then," he conceded, "we won't quarrel. We'll say it's both."
And they sat, saying little, watching the colors of the sunset flame over
the mighty valley--stealing over the vast, silent space that spread
between the two mountain ranges. And the big valley smiled back at them,
softening the sadness that dwelt in the heart of the girl, and holding
out to both of them a promise of good to come--telling them of a mystery
that had been solved, and of a menace removed.
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