Under The Lion's Paw

"Along the main-travelled road trailed an endless line of prairie

schooners. Coming into sight at the east, and passing out of sight

over the swell to the west. We children used to wonder where they

were going and why they went."

IT was the last of autumn and first day of winter coming together.

All day long the ploughmen on their prairie farms had moved to

and fro in their wide level fields through the falling snow, which

melted as it fell, wetting them to the skin all day, notwithstanding

the frequent squalls of snow, the dripping, desolate clouds, and the

muck of the furrows, black and tenacious as tar.

Under their dripping harness the horses swung to and fro silently

with that marvellous uncomplaining patience which marks the

horse. All day the wild geese, honking wildly, as they sprawled

sidewise down the wind, seemed to be fleeing from an enemy

behind, and with neck outthrust and wings extended, sailed down

the wind, soon lost to sight.

Yet the ploughman behind his plough, though the snow lay on his

ragged great-coat, and the cold clinging mud rose on his heavy

boots, fettering him like gyves, whistled in the very beard of the

gale. As day passed, the snow, ceasing to melt, lay along the

ploughed land, and lodged in the depth of the stubble, till on each

slow round the last furrow stood out black and shining as jet

between the ploughed land and the gray stubble.

When night began to fall, and the geese, flying low, began to alight

invisibly in the near corn-field, Stephen Council was still at work

"finishing a land." He rode on his sulky plough when going with

the wind, but walked when facing it. Sitting bent and cold but

cheery under his slouch hat, he talked encouragingly to his


"Come round there, boys! Round agin! We got t' finish this land.

Come in there, Dan! Stiddy, Kate, stiddy! None o' y'r tantrums,

Kittie. It's purty tuff, but got a be did. Tchk! tchk! Step along, Pete!

Don't let Kate git y'r single-tree on the wheel. Once more!"

They seemed to know what he meant, and that this was the last

round, for they worked with greater vigor than before. "Once

more, boys, an' then, sez I, oats an' a nice warm stall, an' sleep f'r


By the time the last furrow was turned on the land it was too dark

to see the house, and the snow was changing to rain again. The

tired and hungry man could see the light from the kitchen shining

through the leafless hedge, and he lifted a great shout, "Supper f'r

a half a dozen!"

It was nearly eight o'clock by the time he had finished his chores

and started for supper. He was picking his way carefully through

the mud, when the tall form of a man loomed up before him with

a premonitory cough.

"Waddy ye want ?" was the rather startled question of the farmer.

"Well, ye see," began the stranger, in a deprecating tone, "we'd

like t' git in f'r the night. We've tried every house f'r the last two

miles, but they hadn't any room f'r us. My wife's jest about sick, 'n'

the children are cold and hungry-- "

"Oh, y' want 'o stay all night, eh, ?"

"Yes, sir; it 'ud be a great accom-- "

"Waal, I don't make it a practice t' turn anybuddy way hungry, not

on sech nights as this. Drive right in. We ain't got much, but sech

as it is--"

But the stranger had disappeared. And soon his steaming, weary

team, with drooping heads and swinging single-trees, moved past

the well to the block beside the path. Council stood at the side of

the "schooner" and helped the children out two little half- sleeping

children and then a small woman with a babe in her arms.

"There ye go!" he shouted jovially, to the children. "Now we're all

right! Run right along to the house there, an' tell Mam' Council

you wants sumpthin' t' eat. Right this way, Mis' keep right off t' the

right there. I'll go an' git a lantern. Come," he said to the dazed and

silent group at his side.

"Mother'" he shouted, as he neared the fragrant and warmly

lighted kitchen, "here are some wayfarers an' folks who need

sumpthin' t' eat an' a place t' snoot." He ended by pushing them all


Mrs. Council, a large, jolly, rather coarse-looking woman, too the

children in her arms. "Come right in, you little rabbits. 'Mos

asleep, hey? Now here's a drink o' milk f'r each o' ye. I'll have sam

tea in a minute. Take off y'r things and set up t' the fire."

While she set the children to drinking milk, Council got out his

lantern and went out to the barn to help the stranger about his

team, where his loud, hearty voice could be heard as it came and

went between the haymow and the stalls.

The woman came to light as a small, timid, and discouraged

looking woman, but still pretty, in a thin and sorrowful way.

"Land sakes! An' you've travelled all the way from Clear Lake'

t'-day in this mud! Waal! Waal! No wonder you're all tired out

Don't wait f'r the men, Mis'-- " She hesitated, waiting for the name.


"Mis' Haskins, set right up to the table an' take a good swig o tea

whilst I make y' s'm toast. It's green tea, an' it's good. I tell Council

as I git older I don't seem to enjoy Young Hyson n'r Gunpowder. I

want the reel green tea, jest as it comes off'n the vines. Seems t'

have more heart in it, some way. Don't s'pose it has. Council says

it's all in m' eye."

Going on in this easy way, she soon had the children filled with

bread and milk and the woman thoroughly at home, eating some

toast and sweet-melon pickles, and sipping the tea.

"See the little rats!" she laughed at the children. "They're full as

they can stick now, and they want to go to bed. Now, don't git up,

Mis' Haskins; set right where you are an' let me look after 'em. I

know all about young ones, though I'm all alone now. Jane went

an' married last fall. But, as I tell Council, it's lucky we keep our

health. Set right there, Mis' Haskins; I won't have you stir a finger."

It was an unmeasured pleasure to sit there in the warm, homely

kitchen. the jovial chatter of the housewife driving out and holding

at bay the growl of the impotent, cheated wind.

The little woman's eyes filled with tears which fell down upon the

sleeping baby in her arms. The world was not so desolate and cold

and hopeless, after all.

"Now I hope. Council won't stop out there and talk politics all

night. He's the greatest man to talk politics an' read the Tribune

--How old is it?"

She broke off and peered down at the face of the babe.

"Two months 'n' five days," said the mother, with a mother's


"Ye don't say! I want 'o know! The dear little pudzy-wudzy!" she

went on, stirring it up in the neighborhood of the ribs with her fat


"Pooty tough on 'oo to go gallivant'n' 'cross lots this way--"

"Yes, that's so; a man can't lift a mountain," said Council, entering

the door. "Mother, this is Mr. Haskins, from Kansas. He's been eat

up 'n' drove out by grasshoppers."

"Glad t' see yeh! Pa, empty that wash-basin 'n' give him a chance t'

wash." Haskins was a tall man, with a thin, gloomy face. His hair

was a reddish brown, like his coat, and seemed equally faded by

the wind and sun, and his sallow face, though hard and set, was

pathetic somehow. You would have felt that he had suffered much

by the line of his mouth showing under his thin, yellow mustache.

"Hadn't Ike got home yet, Sairy?"

"Hadn't seen 'im."

"W-a-a-l, set right up, Mr. Haskins; wade right into what we've got;

'taint much, but we manage to live on it she gits fat on it," laughed

Council, pointing his thumb at his wife.

After supper, while the women put the children to bed, Haskins

and Council talked on, seated near the huge cooking-stove, the

steam rising from their wet clothing. In the Western fashion

Council told as much of his own life as he drew from his guest. He

asked but few questions, but by and by the story of Haskins'

struggles and defeat came out. The story was a terrible one, but he

told it quietly, seated with his elbows on his knees, gazing most of

the time at the hearth.

"I didn't like the looks of the country, anyhow," Haskins said,

partly rising and glancing at his wife. "I was ust t' northern

Ingyannie, where we have lots o' timber 'n' lots o' rain, 'n' I didn't

like the looks o' that dry prairie. What galled me the worst was

goin' s' far away acrosst so much fine land layin' all through here


"And the 'hoppers eat ye four years, hand runnin', did they?" "Eat!

They wiped us out. They chawed everything that was green. They

jest set around waitin' f'r us to die t' eat us, too. My God! I ust t'

dream of 'em sittin' 'round on the bedpost, six feet long, workin'

their jaws. They eet the fork-handles. They got worse 'n' worse till

they jest rolled on one another, piled up like snow in winter Well,

it ain't no use. If I was t' talk all winter I couldn't tell nawthin'. But

all the while I couldn't help thinkin' of all that land back here that

nobuddy was usin' that I ought 'o had 'stead o' bein' out there in that

cussed country."

"Waal, why didn't ye stop an' settle here ?" asked Ike, who had

come in and was eating his supper.

"Fer the simple reason that you fellers wantid ten 'r fifteen dollars

an acre fer the bare land, and I hadn't no money fer that kind o'


"Yes, I do my own work," Mrs. Council was heard to say in the

pause which followed. "I'm a gettin' purty heavy t' be on m'laigs all

day, but we can't afford t' hire, so I keep rackin' around somehow,

like a foundered horse. S' lame I tell Council he can t tell how

lame I am, f'r I'm jest as lame in one laig as t' other." And the good

soul laughed at the joke on herself as she took a handful of flour

and dusted the biscuit-board to keep the dough from sticking.

"Well, I hadn't never been very strong," said Mrs. Haskins. "Our

folks was Canadians an' small-boned, and then since my last child

I hadn't got up again fairly. I don't like t' complain. Tim has about

all he can bear now but they was days this week when I jest

wanted to lay right down an' die."

"Waal, now, I'll tell ye," said Council, from his side of the stove

silencing everybody with his good-natured roar, "I'd go down and

see Butler, anyway, if I was you. I guess he'd let you have his place

purty cheap; the farm's all run down. He's teen anxious t' let t'

somebuddy next year. It 'ud be a good chance fer you. Anyhow,

you go to bed and sleep like a babe. I've got some ploughing t' do,

anyhow, an' we'll see if somethin' can't be done about your case.

Ike, you go out an' see if the horses is all right, an' I'll show the

folks t' bed."

When the tired husband and wife were lying under the generous

quilts of the spare bed, Haskins listened a moment to the wind in

the eaves, and then said, with a slow and solemn tone,

"There are people in this world who are good enough t' be angels,

an' only haff t' die to be angels."

Jim Butler was one of those men called in the West "land poor. "

Early in the history of Rock River he had come into the town and

started in the grocery business in a small way, occupying a small

building in a mean part of the town. At this period of his life he

earned all he got, and was up early and late sorting beans, working

over butter, and carting his goods to and from the station. But a

change came over him at the end of the second year, when he sold

a lot of land for four times what he paid for it. From that time

forward he believed in land speculation as the surest way of

getting rich. Every cent he could save or spare from his trade he

put into land at forced sale, or mortgages on land, which were "just

as good as the wheat," he was accustomed to say.

Farm after farm fell into his hands, until he was recognized as one

of the leading landowners of the county. His mortgages were

scattered all over Cedar County, and as they slowly but surely fell

in he sought usually to retain the former owner as tenant.

He was not ready to foreclose; indeed, he had the name of being

one of the "easiest" men in the town. He let the debtor off again

and again, extending the time whenever possible.

"I don't want y'r land," he said. "All I'm after is the int'rest on my

money that's all. Now, if y' want 'o stay on the farm, why, I'll give

y' a good chance. I can't have the land layin' vacant. " And in many

cases the owner remained as tenant.

In the meantime he had sold his store; he couldn't spend time in it -

he was mainly occupied now with sitting around town on rainy

days smoking and "gassin' with the boys," or in riding to and from

his farms. In fishing-time he fished a good deal. Doc Grimes, Ben

Ashley, and Cal Cheatham were his cronies on these fishing

excursions or hunting trips in the time of chickens or partridges. In

winter they went to Northern Wisconsin to shoot deer.

In spite of all these signs of easy life Butler persisted in saying he

"hadn't enough money to pay taxes on his land," and was careful to

convey the impression that he was poor in spite of his twenty

farms. At one time he was said to be worth fifty thousand dollars,

but land had been a little slow of sale of late, so that he was not

worth so much.

A fine farm, known as the Higley place, had fallen into his hands

in the usual way the previous year, and he had not been able to

find a tenant for it. Poor Higley, after working himself nearly to

death on it in the attempt to lift the mortgage, had gone off to

Dakota, leaving the farm and his curse to Butler.

This was the farm which Council advised Haskins to apply for;

and the next day Council hitched up his team and drove down to

see Butler.

"You jest let me do the talkin'," he said. "We'll find him wearin'

out his pants on some salt barrel somew'ers; and if he thought you

wanted a place he'd sock it to you hot and heavy. You jest keep

quiet, I'll fix 'im."

Butler was seated in Ben Ashley's store telling fish yarns when

Council sauntered in casually.

"Hello, But; lyin' agin, hey?"

"Hello, Steve! How goes it?"

"Oh, so-so. Too clang much rain these days. I thought it was goin' t

freeze up f'r good last night. Tight squeak if I get m' ploughin'

done. How's farmin' with you these days?"

"Bad. Ploughin' ain't half done."

"It 'ud be a religious idee f'r you t' go out an' take a hand y'rself."

"I don't haff to," said Butler, with a wink.

"Got anybody on the Higley place?"

"No. Know of anybody?"

"Waal, no; not eggsackly. I've got a relation back t' Michigan who's

ben hot an' cold on the idea o' comin' West f'r some time. Might

come if he could get a good lay-out. What do you talk on the


"Well, I d' know. I'll rent it on shares or I'll rent it money rent."

"Waal, how much money, say?"

"Well, say ten per cent, on the price two-fifty."

"Wall, that ain't bad. Wait on 'im till 'e thrashes?"

Haskins listened eagerly to this important question, but Council

was coolly eating a dried apple which he had speared out of a

barrel with his knife. Butler studied him carefully.

"Well, knocks me out of twenty-five dollars interest."

"My relation'll need all he's got t' git his crops in," said Council, in

the same, indifferent way.

"Well, all right; say wait," concluded Butler.

"All right; this is the man. Haskins, this is Mr. Butler no relation to

Ben the hardest-working man in Cedar County."

On the way home Haskins said: "I ain't much better off. I'd like that

farm; it's a good farm, but it's all run down, an' so 'm I. I could

make a good farm of it if I had half a show. But I can't stock it n'r

seed it."

"Waal, now, don't you worry," roared Council in his ear. "We'll

pull y' through somehow till next harvest. He's agreed t' hire it

ploughed, an' you can earn a hundred dollars ploughin' an' y' c'n git

the seed o' me, an' pay me back when y' can."

Haskins was silent with emotion, but at last he said, "I ain't got

nothin' t' live on."

"Now, don't you worry 'bout that. You jest make your headquarters

at ol' Steve Council's. Mother'll take a pile o' comfort in havin' y'r

wife an' children 'round.

Y' see, Jane's married off lately, an' Ike's away a good 'eal, so we'll

be darn glad t' have y' stop with us this winter. Nex' spring we'll see

if y' can't git a start agin." And he chirruped to the team, which

sprang forward with the rumbling, clattering wagon.

"Say, looky here, Council, you can't do this. I never saw " shouted

Haskins in his neighbor's ear.

Council moved about uneasily in his seat and stopped his

stammering gratitude by saying: "Hold on, now; don't make such a

fuss over a little thing. When I see a man down, an' things all on

top of 'm, I jest like t' kick 'em off an' help 'm up. That's the kind of

religion I got, an' it's about the only kind."

They rode the rest of the way home in silence. And when the red

light of the lamp shone out into the darkness of the cold and windy

night, and he thought of this refuge for his children and wife,

Haskins could have put his arm around the neck of his burly

companion and squeezed him like a lover. But he contented

himself with saying, "Steve Council, you'll git y'r pay f'r this some


"Don't want any pay. My religion ain't run on such business


The wind was growing colder, and the ground was covered with a

white frost, as they turned into the gate of the Council farm, and

the children came rushing out, shouting, "Papa's come!" They

hardly looked like the same children who had sat at the table the

night before. Their torpidity, under the influence of sunshine and

Mother Council, had given way to a sort of spasmodic

cheerfulness, as insects in winter revive when laid on the hearth.

Haskins worked like a fiend, and his wife, like the heroic woman

that she was, bore also uncomplainingly the most terrible burdens.

They rose early and toiled without intermission till the darkness

fell on the plain, then tumbled into bed, every bone and muscle

aching with fatigue, to rise with the sun next morning to the same

round of the same ferocity of labor.

The eldest boy drove a team all through the spring, ploughing and

seeding, milked the cows, and did chores innumerable, in most

ways taking the place of a man.

An infinitely pathetic but common figure this boy on the American

farm, where there is no law against child labor. To see him in his

coarse clothing, his huge boots, and his ragged cap, as he staggered

with a pail of water from the well, or trudged in the cold and

cheerless dawn out into the frosty field behind his team, gave the

city-bred visitor a sharp pang of sympathetic pain. Yet Haskins

loved his boy, and would have saved him from this if he could, but

he could not.

By June the first year the result of such Herculean toil began to

show on the farm. The yard was cleaned up and sown to grass, the

garden ploughed and planted, and the house mended.

Council had given them four of his cows.

"Take 'em an' run 'em on shares. I don't want 'o milk s' many. Ike's

away s' much now, Sat'd'ys an' Sund'ys, I can't stand the bother


Other men, seeing the confidence of Council in the newcomer, had

sold him tools on time; and as he was really an able farmer, he

soon had round him many evidences of his care and thrift. At the

advice of Council he had taken the farm for three years, with the

privilege of re-renting or buying at the end of the term.

"It's a good bargain, an' y' want 'o nail it," said Council. "If you

have any kind ov a crop, you c'n pay y'r debts, an' keep seed an'


The new hope which now sprang up in the heart of Haskins and his

wife grew almost as a pain by the time the wide field of wheat

began to wave and rustle and swirl in the winds of July. Day after

day he would snatch a few moments after supper to go and look at


"'Have ye seen the wheat t'-day, Nettie?" he asked one night as he

rose from supper.

"No, Tim, I ain't had time."

"Well, take time now. Le's go look at it."

She threw an old hat on her head Tommy's hat and looking almost

pretty in her thin, sad way, went out with her husband to the hedge.

"Ain't it grand, Nettie ? Just look at it."

It was grand. Level, russet here and there, heavy-headed, wide as a

lake, and full of multitudinous whispers and gleams of wealth, it

stretched away before the gazers like the fabled field of the cloth

of gold.

"Oh, I think I hope we'll have a good crop, Tim; and oh, how good

the people have been to us!"

"Yes; I don't know where we'd be t'-day if it hadn't teen f'r Council

and his wife."

"They're the best people in the world," said the little woman, with

a great sob of gratitude.

"We'll be in the field on Monday sure," said Haskins, gripping the

rail on the fences as if already at the work of the harvest.

The harvest came, bounteous, glorious, but the winds came and

blew it into tangles, and the rain matted it here and there close

to the ground, increasing the work of gathering it threefold.

Oh, how they toiled in those glorious days! Clothing dripping with

sweat, arms aching, filled with briers, fingers raw and bleeding,

backs broken with the weight of heavy bundles, Haskins and his

man toiled on. Tummy drove the harvester, while his father and a

hired man bound on the machine. In this way they cut ten acres

every day, and almost every night after supper, when the hand

went to bed, Haskins returned to the field shocking the bound

grain in the light of the moon. Many a night he worked till his

anxious wife came out at ten o'clock to call him in to rest and

lunch. At the same time she cooked for the men, took care of the

children, washed and ironed, milked the cows at night, made the

butter, and sometimes fed the horses and watered them while her

husband kept at the shocking.

No slave in the Roman galleys could have toiled so frightfully and

lived, for this man thought himself a free man, and that he was

working for his wife and babes.

When he sank into his bed with a deep groan of relief, too tired to

change his grimy, dripping clothing, he felt that he was getting

nearer and nearer to a home of his own, and pushing the wolf of

want a little farther from his door.

There is no despair so deep as the despair of a homeless man or

woman. To roam the roads of the country or the streets of the city,

to feel there is no rood of ground on which the feet can rest, to halt

weary and hungry outside lighted windows and hear laughter and

song within, these are the hungers and rebellions that drive men to

crime and women to shame.

It was the memory of this homelessness, and the fear of its coming

again, that spurred Timothy Haskins and Nettie, his wife, to such

ferocious labor during that first year.

"'M, yes; 'm, yes; first-rate," said Butler, as his eye took in the neat

garden, the pig-pen, and the well-filled barnyard. "You're gitt'n'

quite a stock around yeh. Done well, eh?" Haskins was showing

Butler around the place. He had not seen it for a year, having

spent the year in Washington and Boston with Ashley, his

brother-in-law, who had been elected to Congress.

"Yes, I've laid out a good deal of money durin' the last three years.

I've paid out three hundred dollars f'r fencin'."

"Um h'm! I see, I see," said Butler, while Haskins went on:

"The kitchen there cost two hundred; the barn ain't cost much in

money, but I've put a lot o' time on it. I've dug a new well, and I-- "

"Yes, yes, I see. You've done well. Stock worth a thousand dollars,

" said Butler, picking his teeth with a straw.

"About that," said Haskins, modestly. "We begin to feel's if we was

gitt'n' a home f'r ourselves; but we've worked hard. I tell you we

begin to feel it, Mr. Butler, and we're goin' t' begin to ease up purty

soon. We've been kind o' plannin' a trip back t' her folks after the

fall ploughin's done."

"Eggs-actly!" said Butler, who was evidently thinking of something

else. "I suppose you've kind o' calc'lated on stayin' here three years


"Well, yes. Fact is, I think I c'n buy the farm this fall, if you'll give

me a reasonable show."

"Um m! What do you call a reasonable show?"

"Well, say a quarter down and three years' time."

Butler looked at the huge stacks of wheat, which filled the yard,

over which the chickens were fluttering and crawling, catching

grasshoppers, and out of which the crickets were singing

innumerably. He smiled in a peculiar way as he said, "Oh, I won't

be hard on yeh. But what did you expect to pay f'r the place?"

"Why, about what you offered it for before, two thousand five

hundred, or possibly three thousand dollars," he added quickly, as

he saw the owner shake his head.

"This farm is worth five thousand and five hundred dollars," said

Butler, in a careless and decided voice.

"What!" almost shrieked the astounded Haskins. "What's that? Five

thousand ? Why, that's double what you offered it for three years


"Of course, and it's worth it. It was all run down then - now it's in

good shape. You've laid out fifteen hundred dollars in

improvements, according to your own story."

"But you had nothin' t' do about that. It's my work an' my money. "

"You bet it was; but it's my land."

"But what's to pay me for all my-- "

"Ain't you had the use of 'em?" replied Butler, smiling calmly into

his face.

Haskins was like a man struck on the head with a sandbag; he

couldn't think; he stammered as he tried to say: "But I never'd git

the use You'd rob me! More'n that: you agreed you promised that I

could buy or rent at the end of three years at-- "

"That's all right. But I didn't say I'd let you carry off the

improvements, nor that I'd go on renting the farm at two-fifty. The

land is doubled in value, it don't matter how; it don't enter into the

question; an' now you can pay me five hundred dollars a year rent,

or take it on your own terms at fifty-five hundred, or git out."

He was turning away when Haskins, the sweat pouring from his

face, fronted him, saying again:

"But you've done nothing to make it so. You hadn't added a cent. I

put it all there myself, expectin' to buy. I worked an' sweat to

improve it. I was workin' for myself an' babes-- "

"Well, why didn't you buy when I offered to sell? What y' kickin'


"I'm kickin' about payin' you twice f'r my own things, my own

fences, my own kitchen, my own garden."

Butler laughed. "You're too green t' eat, young feller. Your

improvements! The law will sing another tune."

"But I trusted your word."

"Never trust anybody, my friend. Besides, I didn't promise not to

do this thing. Why, man, don't look at me like that. Don't take me

for a thief. It's the law. The reg'lar thing. Everybody does it."

"I don't care if they do. It's stealin' jest the same. You take three

thousand dollars of my money the work o' my hands and my

wife's." He broke down at this point. He was not a strong man

mentally. He could face hardship, ceaseless toil, but he could not

face the cold and sneering face of Butler.

"But I don't take it," said Butler, coolly "All you've got to do is to

go on jest as you've been a-coin', or give me a thousand dollars

down, and a mortgage at ten per cent on the rest."

Haskins sat down blindly on a bundle of oats near by, and with

staring eyes and drooping head went over the situation. He was

under the lion's paw. He felt a horrible numbness in his heart and

limbs. He was hid in a mist, and there was no path out.

Butler walked about, looking at the huge stacks of grain, and

pulling now and again a few handfuls out, shelling the heads in his

hands and blowing the chaff away. He hummed a little tune as he

did so. He had an accommodating air of waiting.

Haskins was in the midst of the terrible toil of the last year. He was

walking again in the rain and the mud behind his plough - he felt

the dust and dirt of the threshing. The ferocious husking- time,

with its cutting wind and biting, clinging snows, lay hard upon

him. Then he thought of his wife, how she had cheerfully cooked

and baked, without holiday and without rest.

"Well, what do you think of it?" inquired the cool, mocking,

insinuating voice of Butler.

"I think you're a thief and a liar!" shouted Haskins, leaping up. "A

black-hearted houn'!" Butler's smile maddened him; with a sudden

leap he caught a fork in his hands, and whirled it in the air. "You'll

never rob another man, damn ye!" he grated through his teeth, a

look of pitiless ferocity in his accusing eyes.

Butler shrank and quivered, expecting the blow; stood, held

hypnotized by the eyes of the man he had a moment before

despised a man transformed into an avenging demon. But in the

deadly hush between the lift of the weapon and its fall there came

a gush of faint, childish laughter and then across the range of his

vision, far away and dim, he saw the sun-bright head of his baby

girl, as, with the pretty, tottering run of a two-year-old, she moved

across the grass of the dooryard. His hands relaxed: the fork fell to

the ground; his head lowered.

"Make out y'r deed an' mor'gage, an' git off'n my land, an' don't ye

never cross my line agin; if y' do, I'll kill ye."

Butler backed away from the man in wild haste, and climbing into

his buggy with trembling limbs drove off down the road, leaving

Haskins seated dumbly on the sunny pile of sheaves, his head sunk

into his hands.

Uncle Ethan Ripley Unleashed facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail