Keith bowed politely, but preserved silence.
“I was mad enough to do it, but I didn’t, and them that says I done it lies.” She flushed, but looked him straight in the face.
“Oh, that’s all right,” said Keith, civilly, starting to move on.
“I wish they would let me and my affairs alone,” she began.’ “They’re always a-talkin’ about me, and I never done ’em no harm. First thing they know, I’ll give ’em something to talk about.”
The suppressed fire was beginning to blaze again, and Keith looked somewhat anxiously down the street, wishing he were anywhere except in that particular company. To relieve the tension, he said:
“I did not mean to be rude to you the other day. Good morning.”
At the kind tone her face changed.
“I knew it. I was riled that mornin’ about another thing—somethin’ what happened the day before, about Bill,” she explained. “Bill’s bad enough when he’s in liquor, and I’d have sent him off for good long ago if they had let him alone. But they’re always a-peckin’ and a-diggin’ at him. They set him on drinkin’ and fightin’, and not one of ’em is man enough to stand up to him.”
She gave a little whimper, and then, as if not trusting herself further, walked hastily away. Mr. Gilsey said to Gordon soon afterwards:
“Well, you’ve got one friend in Gumbolt as is a team by herself; you’ve captured Terp. She says you’re the only man in Gumbolt as treats her like a lady.”
Keith was both pleased and relieved.
A week or two after Keith had taken up his abode in Gumbolt, Mr. Gilsey was taken down with his old enemy, the rheumatism, and Keith went to visit him. He found him in great anxiety lest his removal from the box should hasten the arrival of the railway. He unexpectedly gave Keith evidence of the highest confidence he could have in any man. He asked if he would take the stage until he got well. Gordon readily assented.