But would he come? Yes, for the sake of such a battle as this he would journey to the end of the world and give his services for nothing.
Before noon Shorty, that lightweight and tireless rider, unwearied, to all appearance, by his efforts of that night, had started towards Glosterville with her letter to Perris, but it was not until the next day that she confessed what she had done to Hervey. Certainly he had done more than his share in his effort to get back the Coles horses and she had no wish to needlessly hurt his feelings by letting him know that the business was to be taken out of his hands and given into those of a more efficient worker. But Hervey surprised her by the complaisance with which he heard the tidings.
“Never in my life hung out a shingle as a hoss-catcher,” he assured her. “He’s welcome to the job. Me and the boys won’t envy him none. It’ll be a long trail and a tolerable lonely one, most like.”
After that she settled down to wait with as great a feeling of security as though the mares were already safely back in the corral. If he came, the death-warrant of Alcatraz was as good as signed. But when the third day of waiting ended without bringing Shorty and Perris, as it should have done, the “if” began to assume greater proportions, and by late afternoon of the fourth day she had made up her mind that Perris was gone from Glosterville and that Shorty was on a wild goose chase after him. So great was her gloom that even her father, usually blind to all emotions around him, delayed a moment after he had been helped into his buckboard and stared thoughtfully down at her.
The habit had grown on Oliver Jordan of late. When the westering sun lost most of its heat and threw slant shadows and a yellow light over the mountains, Oliver would have a pair of ancient greys, patient as burros and hardly faster, hitched to a buckboard and then drive off into the evening and perhaps, long after the dinner hour. Only foul weather kept him in from these lonely jaunts on which he never took a companion. To Marianne they were a never-ending source of wonder and sorrow, for she saw her father slowly withdrawing himself from the life about him and dwelling in a gentle, uninterrupted melancholy. She met his stare, on this evening, with eyes clouded with tears.
Truly he had aged wonderfully in the past years.
The accident which robbed him of his physical freedom seemed, at the same time, to destroy all spirit of youth. Whether walking or sitting he was bowed. His eyes were dull. Beside his mouth and between his eyes deep lines gave a sad dignity to his expression. And though, as his cowpunchers swore, his hand was as swift to draw a gun as ever and his eye as steady on a target, he had gradually lost interest in even his revolvers. Indeed, what real interest remained to him in the world, Marianne was unable to tell. He lived and moved as one in a dream surrounded by a world of dreams. His eyes were dull from looking into the dim distance of strange thoughts, and the smile which was rarely away from his lips was rather whimsically enduring than a sign of mirth.