Under The Lion's Paw
From: Main-travelled Roads
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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.
Next: The Creamery Man
Previous: The Return Of A Private