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The Prodigal Son







Part of: LUCK
From: Crooked Trails And Straight

They found the prodigal son with his sister and Laura London at the Del
Mar. Repentance was writ large all over his face and manner. From Davis
and from the girls he had heard the story of how Soapy Stone had intended
to destroy him. His scheme of life had been broken into pieces and he was
a badly shaken young scamp.

When Luck and Curly came into the room he jumped up, very white about the
lips.

"Father!"

"My boy!"

Cullison had him by the hand, one arm around the shaking shoulders.

"What----what----?"

Sam's question broke down, but his father guessed it.

"Soapy and Bad Bill were killed, Dutch is a prisoner, and Blackwell
escaped. All Spring Valley is out after him."

The boy was aghast. "My God!"

"Best thing for all of us. Soapy meant to murder you. If it hadn't been
for Curly----"

"Are you sure?"

"No question about it. He brought no horse for you to ride away on. Bill
admitted it, though he didn't know what was planned. Curly heard Soapy ask
Blackwell whether he had seen your body."

The boy shuddered and drew a long sobbing, breath. "I've been a fool,
Father--and worse."

"Forget it, son. We'll wipe the slate clean. I've been to blame too."

It was no place for outsiders. Curly beat a retreat into the next room.
The young women followed him. Both of them were frankly weeping. Arms
twined about each other's waists, they disappeared into an adjoining
bedroom.

"Don't go," Kate called to him over her shoulder.

Curly sat down and waited. Presently Kate came back alone. Her shining
eyes met his.

"I never was so happy in all my life before. Tell me what
happened--everything please."

As much as was good for her to know Curly told. Without saying a word she
listened till he was through. Then she asked a question.

"Won't Dutch tell about Sam being in it?"

"Don't matter if he does. Evidence of an accomplice not enough to convict.
Soapy overshot himself. I'm here to testify that Sam and he quarrelled
before Sam left. Besides, Dutch won't talk. I drilled it into him thorough
that he'd better take his medicine without bringing Sam in."

She sat for a long time looking out of the window without moving. She did
not make the least sound, but the young man knew she was crying softly to
herself. At last she spoke in a low sweet voice.

"What can we do for you? First you save Father and then Sam. You risked
everything for my brother--to win him back to us, to save his life and now
his reputation. If you had been killed people would always have believed
you were one of the gang."

"Sho! That's nonsense, Miss Kate." He twisted his hat in his hand
uneasily. "Honest, I enjoyed every bit of it. And a fellow has to pay his
debts."

"Was that why you did it?" she asked softly.

"Yes. I had to make good. I had to show your father and you that I had not
thrown away all your kindness. So I quit travelling that downhill road on
which I had got started."

"I'm glad--I'm so glad." She whispered it so low he could hardly hear.

"There was one way to prove myself. That was to stand between Sam and
trouble. So I butted in and spoiled Soapy's game."

"I wish I could tell you how fine Father thinks it was of you. He doesn't
speak of it much, but I know."

"Nothing to what I did--nothing at all." A wave of embarrassment had crept
to the roots of his curly hair. "Just because a fellow--Oh, shucks!"

"That's all very well for you to say, but you can't help us thinking what
we please."

"But that ain't right. I don't want you thinking things that ain't so
because----"

"Yes? Because----?"

She lifted her eyes and met his. Then she knew it had to come out, that
the feeling banked in him would overflow in words.

"Because you're the girl I love."

He had not intended to say it now, lest he might seem to be urging his
services as a claim upon her. But the words had slipped out in spite of
him.

She held out her two hands to him with a little gesture of surrender. The
light of love was in her starry eyes.

And then----

She was in his arms, and the kisses he had dreamed about were on his
lips.





Next: Cutting Trail

Previous: A Clean Up



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