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The Hack Driver
by [?]

If Bill was ignorant of universities and of urban ways, yet much had he traveled in the realm of jobs. He had worked on railroad section gangs, in harvest fields and contractors’ camps, and from his adventures he had brought back a philosophy of simplicity and laughter. He strengthened me. Nowadays, thinking of Bill, I know what people mean (though I abominate the simpering phrase) when they yearn over “real he-men. ”

We left that placid place of orchards and resumed the search for Oliver Lutkins. We could not find him. At last Bill cornered a friend of Lutkins and made him admit that “he guessed Oliver’d gone out to his ma’s farm, three miles north. ”

We drove out there, mighty with strategy.

“I know Oliver’s ma. She’s a terror. She’s a cyclone,” Bill sighed. “I took a trunk out for her once, and she pretty near took my hide off because I didn’t treat it like it was a crate of eggs. She’s somewheres about nine feet tall and four feet thick and quick’s a cat, and she sure manhandles the Queen’s English. I’ll bet Oliver has heard that somebody’s on his trail and he’s sneaked out there to hide behind his ma’s skirts. Well, we’ll try bawling her out. But you better let me do it, boy. You may be great at Latin and geography, but you ain’t educated in cussing. ”

We drove into a poor farmyard; we were faced by an enormous and cheerful old woman. My guardian stockily stood before her and snarled, “Remember me? I’m Bill Magnuson, the expressman. I want to find your son Oliver. Friend of mine here from the city’s got a present for him. ”

“I don’t know anything about Oliver and I don’t want to,” she bellowed.

“Now you look here. We’ve stood for just about enough plenty nonsense. This young man is the attorney general’s provost, and we got legal right to search any and all premises for the person of one Oliver Lutkins. ”

Bill made it seem terrific, and the Amazon seemed impressed. She retired into the kitchen and we followed. From the low old range, turned by years of heat into a dark silvery gray, she snatched a sadiron, and she marched on us, clamoring, “You just search all you want to—providin’ you don’t mind getting burnt to a cinder!” She bellowed, she swelled, she laughed at our nervous retreat.

“Let’s get out of this. She’ll murder us,” Bill groaned and, outside: “Did you see her grin? She was making fun of us. Can you beat that for nerve?”

I agreed that it was lese majesty.

We did, however, make adequate search. The cottage had but one story. Bill went round it, peeking in at all the windows. We explored the barn and the stable; we were reasonably certain that Lutkins was not there. It was nearly time for me to catch the afternoon train, and Bill drove me to the station. On the way to the city I worried very little over my failure to find Lutkins. I was too absorbed in the thought of Bill Magnuson. Really, I considered returning to New Mullion to practice law. If I had found Bill so deeply and richly human might I not come to love the yet uncharted Fritz Beinke and the Swede barber and a hundred other slow-spoken, simple, wise neighbors? I saw a candid and happy life beyond the neat learnings of universities’ law firms. I was excited, as one who has found a treasure.

But if I did not think much about Lutkins, the office did. I found them in a state next morning; the suit was ready to come to trial; they had to have Lutkins; I was a disgrace and a fool. That morning my eminent career almost came to an end. The Chief did everything but commit mayhem; he somewhat more than hinted that I would do well at ditch-digging. I was ordered back to New Mullion, and with me they sent an ex-lumber-camp clerk who knew Lutkins. I was rather sorry, because it would prevent my loafing again in the gorgeous indolence of Bill Magnuson.