As It Turned Out
: The Flying U's Last Stand
They found H. J. Owens the next forenoon wandering hopelessly lost in
the hills. Since killing him was barred, they tied his arms behind him
and turned him toward the Flying U. He was sullen, like an animal that
is trapped and will do nothing but lie flattened to the ground and glare
red-eyed at its captors. For that matter, the Happy Family themselves
were pretty sullen. They had fought fire for hours--and that is killing
work; and they had been in the saddle ever since, looking for the Kid
and for this man who rode bound in their midst.
Weary and Irish and Pink, who had run across him in a narrow canyon,
fired pistol-shot signals to bring the others to the spot. But when the
others emerged from various points upon the scene, there was very little
said about the capture.
In town, the Old man had been quite as eager to come close to Florence
Grace Hallman--but he was not so lucky. Florence Grace had heard the
news of the fire a good half hour before the train left for Great Falls.
She would have preferred a train going the other way, but she decided
not to wait. She watched the sick woman put aboard the one Pullman
coach, and then she herself went into the stuffy day-coach. Florence
Grace Hallman was not in the habit of riding in day-coaches in the
night-time when there was a Pullman sleeper attached to the train. She
did not stop at Great Falls; she went on to Butte--and from there I do
not know where she went. Certainly she never came back.
That, of course, simplified matters considerably for Florence Grace--and
for the Happy Family as well. For at the preliminary hearing of H. J.
Owens for the high crime of kidnapping, that gentleman proceeded to
unburden his soul in a way that would have horrified Florence Grace,
had she been there to hear. Remember, I told you that his eyes were the
wrong shade of blue.
A man of whom you have never heard tried to slip out of the court room
during the unburdening process, and was stopped by Andy Green, who had
been keeping an eye on him for the simple reason that the fellow had
been much in the company of H. J. Owens during the week preceding
the fire and the luring away of the Kid. The sheriff led him off
somewhere--and so they had the man who had set the prairie afire.
As is the habit of those who confess easily the crimes of others, H. J.
Owens professed himself as innocent as he consistently could in the face
of the Happy Family and of the Kid's loud-whispered remarks when he saw
him there. He knew absolutely nothing about the fire, he said, and had
nothing to do with the setting of it. He was two miles away at the time
And then Miss Rosemary Allen took the witness stand and told about the
man on the hilltop and the bit of mirror that had flashed sun-signals
toward the west.
H.J. Owens crimpled down visibly in his chair. Imagine for yourself the
trouble he would have in convincing men of his innocence after that.
Just to satisfy your curiosity, at the trial a month later he failed
absolutely to convince the jury that he was anything but what he was--a
criminal without the strength to stand by his own friends. He was
sentenced to ten years in Deer Lodge, and the judge informed him that he
had been dealt with leniently at that, because after all he was only
a tool in the hands of the real instigator of the crime. That real
instigator, by the way, was never apprehended.
The other man--he who had set fire to the prairie--got six years, and
cursed the judge and threatened the whole Happy Family with death when
the sentence was passed upon him--as so many guilty men do.
To go back to that preliminary, trial: The Happy Family, when H. J.
Owens was committed safely to the county jail, along with the fire-bug,
took the next train to Great Falls with witnesses and the Honorable
Blake. They filed their answers to the contests two days before the
time-limit had expired. You may call that shaving too close the margin
of safety. But the Happy family did not worry over that--seeing there
was a margin of safety. Nor did they worry over the outcome of the
matter. With the Homeseekers' Syndicate in extremely bad repute, and
with fully half of the colonists homeless and disgusted, why should they
worry over their own ultimate success?
They planned great things with their irrigation scheme.... I am not
going to tell any more about them just now. Some of you will complain,
and want to know a good many things that have not been told in detail.
But if I should try to satisfy you, there would be no more meetings
between you and the Happy Family--since there would be no more to tell.
So I am not even going to tell you whether Andy succeeded in persuading
Miss Rosemary Allen to go with him to the parson. Nor whether the Happy
Family really did settle down to raise families and alfalfa and beards.
Not another thing shall you know about them now.
You may take a look at them as they go trailing contentedly away from
the land-office, with their hats tilted at various characteristic angles
and their well-known voices mingled in more or less joyful converse,
and their toes pointed toward Central Avenue and certain liquid
refreshments. You need not worry over that bunch, surely. You may safely
leave them to meet future problems and emergencies as they have always
met them in the past--on their feet, with eyes that do not wave or
flinch, shoulder to shoulder, ready alike far grin fate or a frolic.