The morning of the doctor’s departure witnessed quite a ceremony at the Cumberland ranch, for old Joe Cumberland insisted that he be brought down from his room to his old place in the living-room. When he attempted to rise from his bed, however, he found that he could not stand; and big Buck Daniels lifted the old man like a child and carried him down the stairs. Once ensconced on the sofa in the living-room Joe Cumberland beckoned his daughter close to him, and whispered with a smile as she leaned over: “Here’s what comes of pretendin’, Kate. I been pretending to be too sick to walk, and now I can’t walk; and if I’d pretended to be well, I’d be ridin’ Satan right now!”
He looked about him.
“Where’s Dan?” he asked.
“Upstairs getting ready for the trip.”
“He’s riding with Doctor Byrne to town and he’ll bring back Doctor Byrne’s horse.”
The old man grew instantly anxious.
“They’s a lot of things can happen on a long trip like that, Kate.”
She nodded gravely.
“But we have to try him,” she said. “We can’t keep him here at the ranch all the time. And if he really cares, Dad, he’ll come back.”
“And you let him go of your own free will?” asked Joe Cumberland, wonderingly.
“I asked him to go,” she answered quietly, but some of the colour left her face.
“Of course it’s going to come out all right,” nodded her father.
“I asked him when he’d be back, and he said he would be here by dark to-night.”
The old man sighed with relief.
“He don’t never slip up on promises,” he said. “But oh, lass, I’ll be glad when he’s back again! Buck, how’d you and Dan come along together?”
“We don’t come,” answered Buck gloomily. “I tried to shake hands with him yesterday and call it quits. But he wouldn’t touch me. He jest leaned back and smiled at me and hated me with his eyes, that way he has. He don’t even look at me except when he has to, and when he does I feel like someone was sneaking up behind me with a knife ready. And he ain’t said ten words to me since I come back.” He paused and considered Kate with the same dark, lowering glance. “To-morrow I leave.”
“You’ll think better of that,” nodded Joe Cumberland. “Here’s the doctor now.”
He came in with Dan Barry behind him. A changed man was the doctor. He was a good two inches taller because he stood so much more erect, and there was a little spring in his step which gave aspiration and spirit to his carriage. He bade them good-bye one by one, and by Joe Cumberland he sat down for an instant and wished him luck. The old ranchman drew the other down closer.
“They’s no luck for me,” he whispered, “but don’t tell none of ’em. I’m about to take a longer trip than you’ll ride to-day. But first I’ll see ’em settled down here—Dan quiet and both of ’em happy. S’long, doc—thanks for takin’ care of me. But this here is something that can’t be beat no way. Too many years’ll break the back of any man, doc. Luck to ye!”