“I wish I could go and find her,
But ’twould be too hot for me;
Long before I got back that fur
I’d be strung up to a tree.
So I’ve been a kind o’ thinkin’,
Since I see what’s both’rin’ you,
’Bout a thing—I hate to ask it—
That I’d like for you to do.
I don’t think that girl has ever—
It sure hurts me, what I say—
But I’m sure that in the scrimmage
Nancy never got away.
Billy, you go back and find her;
You are all I’ve got to send,
You can sort o’ fix things decent,
Where she is—in Old Man’s Bend.”
Every life is but a journey—
Trav’ling on from place to place—
Starting from the point God gave us
With an ever-varying pace.
Outward, onward, spurred by motives
In our wand’rings here and there,
Sometimes led by hope alluring,
Sometimes halted by despair;
But the life that travels farthest
On that deeper strength depends,
For with love, there is no turning;
When love dies the journey ends.
Back across the broken foothills,
With a courage none can feel
Till the burning pangs of sorrow
Turn the heart-strings into steel;
Back across the winter’s playground,
Tracing out the paths he trod,
With each muttered execration
Ending in a prayer to God.
Blasts that howled with fiendish laughter,
By their loud derisive cry
Seemed to mock his labored progress
As they passed him swiftly by;
Icy, blizzard-driven snowflakes
Into ghost-like fancies whirled,
Painting on the barren canvas,
Gaunt Death battling for the world.
Back across the snow-strewn desert,
Fighting famine face to face,
Trusting to his horse to take him
To each former camping place.
Once Zeb stopped beside a snowdrift
With a loud and startling neigh;
Tried to tell his half-dazed master
Where his mate, old Simon, lay.
Pressing on, he reached the border
Of Nebraska’s whitened plain,
Where his mind in maudlin fancies
Yielded to the bitter strain,
As he saw far in the distance,
Like a battered mast at sea,
Once again the twisted branches
Of the lone and friendly tree.
[Illustration: “Once again the twisted branches Of the lone and friendly tree.”]
“Git up, Zeb. Come, see! She’s
Waving there for you and me.
See her there, so white and pretty,
Standing by our friend, the tree!
Quit that stumbling! Now then, streak it!
Hit the gait you used to do
When we hired out for the round up
And you beat the first one through.
There she is! There’s where I saw her
When we stayed there all that night;
Though ’twas dark, I saw her riding,
By those flashing threads of light;
She’s been waiting! Oh, I left her
In this awful lonely place!
God forgive me! Nancy! hear me!
Oh, that face—that poor white face!”