“What is this, anyway?” he inquired of Tom. “Smoke-house?”
“It’s a jail,” snapped Tom. “To put you into if you don’t watch your dodgers. What ’n thunder you want to carry on like you did last night, for? And then go and sober up just when we’ve got a jail built to put you into! That ain’t no way for a man to do—I’ll leave it to Bill if it is! I’ve a darned good mind to swear out a warrant, anyway, Ford, and pinch you for disturbin’ the peace! That’s what I ought to do, all right.” Tom beat his hands about his body and glared at Ford with his ultra-official scowl.
“All right, if you want to do it.” Ford’s tone embellished the reply with a you-take-the-consequences sort of indifference. “Only, I’d advise you never to turn me loose again if you do lock me up in this coop once.”
“I know I wouldn’t uh worked all night on the thing if I’d knowed you was goin’ to sleep it off,” Bill complained, with deep reproach in his watery eyes. “I made sure you was due to keep things agitated around here for a couple uh days, at the very least, or I never woulda drove a nail, by hokey!”
“It is a darned shame, to have a nice, new jail and nobody to use it on,” sympathized Ford, his eyes half-closed and steely. “I’d like to help you out, all right. Maybe I’d better kill you, Bill; they might stretch a point and call it manslaughter—and I could use the bounty to help pay a lawyer, if it ever come to a head as a trial.”
Whereat Bill almost wept.
Ford pushed his hands deep into his pockets and walked away, sneering openly at Bill, the marshal, the jail, and the town which owned it, and at wives and matrimony and the world which held all these vexations.
He went straight to the shack, drank a cup of coffee, and packed everything he could find that belonged to him and was not too large for easy carrying on horseback; and when Sandy, hovering uneasily around him, asked questions, he told him briefly to go off in a corner and lie down; which advice Sandy understood as an invitation to mind his own affairs.
Like Bill, Sandy could have wept at the ingratitude of this man. But he asked no more questions and he made no more objections. He picked up the story of the unpronounceable count who owned the castle in the Black Forest and had much tribulation and no joy until the last chapter, and when Ford went out, with his battered, sole-leather suitcase and his rifle in its pigskin case, he kept his pale eyes upon his book and refused even a grunt in response to Ford’s grudging: “So long, Sandy.”