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PAGE 4

Wanted By The Police
by [?]

“Take that wet coat off him at once, Peter,” said the settler’s wife, “and let me dry it.” Then, on second thoughts: “Take this candle and take him into the house and get some dry things on him.”

The dark man, who was still standing in the doorway, swung aside to let them pass as the settler steered the young man into the “house;” then swung back again. He stood, drooping rather, with one hand on the door-post; his big, wild, dark eyes kept glancing round and round the room and even at the ceiling, seeming to overlook or be unconscious of the faces after the first keen glance, but always coming back to rest on the door in the partition of the boys’ room opposite.

“Won’t you sit down by the fire and rest and dry yourself?” asked the settler’s wife, rather timidly, after watching him for a moment.

He looked at the door again, abstractedly it seemed, or as if he had not heard her.

Then Uncle Abe (who, by the way, was supposed to know more than he should have been supposed to know) spoke out.

“Set down, man! Set down and dry yerself. There’s no one there except the boys–that’s the boys’ room. Would yer like to look through?”

The man seemed to rouse himself from a reverie. He let his arm and hand fall from the doorpost to his side like dead things. “Thank you, missus,” he said, apparently unconscious of Uncle Abe, and went and sat down in front of the fire.

“Hadn’t you better take your wet coat off and let me dry it?”

“Thank you.” He took off his coat, and, turning the sleeve, inside out, hung it from his knees with the lining to the fire then he leaned forward, with his hands on his knees, and stared at the burning logs and steam. He was unarmed, or, if not, had left his pistols in the saddle-bag outside.

Andy Page, general handy-man (who was there all the time, but has not been mentioned yet, because he didn’t mention anything himself which seemed necessary to this dark picture), now remarked to the stranger, with a wooden-face expression but a soft heart, that the rain would be a good thing for the grass, mister, and make it grow; a safe remark to make under the present, or, for the matter of that, under any circumstances.

The stranger said, “Yes; it would.”

“It will make it spring up like anything,” said Andy.

The stranger admitted that it would.

Uncle Abe joined in, or, rather, slid in, and they talked about the drought and the rain and the state of the country, in monosyllables mostly, with “Jesso,” and “So it is,” and “You’re right there,” till the settler came back with the young man dressed in rough and patched, but dry, clothes. He took another stool by his mate’s side at the fire, and had another fit of coughing. When it was over, Uncle Abe remarked “That’s a regular church-yarder yer got, young feller.”

The young fellow, too exhausted to speak, even had he intended doing so, turned his head in a quick, half-terrified way and gave it two short jerky nods.

The settler had brought a bottle out–it was gin they kept for medicine. They gave him some hot, and he took it in his sudden, frightened, half-animal way, like a dog that was used to ill-usage.

“He ought to be in the hospital,” said the mother.

“He ought to be in bed right now at once,” snapped the sister. “Couldn’t you stay till morning, or at least till the rain clears up?” she said to the elder man. “No one ain’t likely to come near this place in this weather.”

“If we did he’d stand a good chance to get both hospital and a bed pretty soon, and for a long stretch, too,” said the dark man grimly. “No, thank you all the same, miss–and missus–I’ll get him fixed up all right and safe before morning.”