Ford, for a time, watched for an opening honestly; saw at last the impossibility of telling her—unless indeed he shouted, “Say, I’m a married man!” to her without preface or extenuating explanation—and yielded finally to the reprieve the fates sent him.
To Find and Free a Wife
Ford spent the rest of that day and all of the night that followed, in thinking what would be the best and the easiest method of gaining the point he wished to reach. All along he had been uncomfortably aware of his matrimonial entanglement and had meant, as soon as he conveniently could, to try and discover who was his wife, and how best to free himself and her. He had half expected that she herself would do something to clear the mystery. She had precipitated the marriage, he constantly reminded himself, and it was reasonable to expect that she would do something; though what, Ford could only conjecture.
When he faced Josephine across the breakfast table the next morning, and caught the shy glance she gave him when Mrs. Kate was not looking, a plan he had half formed crystallized into a determination. He would not tell her anything about it until he knew just what he was up against, and how long it was going to take him to free himself. And since he could not do anything about it while he rode and planned and gave orders at the Double Cross, he swallowed his breakfast rather hurriedly and went out to find Jim Felton.
“Say, Jim,” he began, when he ran that individual to earth in the stable, where, with a pair of sheep shears, he was roaching the mane of a shaggy old cow pony to please Buddy, who wanted to make him look like a circus horse, even if there was no hope of his ever acting like one. “I’m going to hand you the lines and let you drive, for a few days. I’ve got to scout around on business of my own, and I don’t know just how long it’s going to take me. I’m going right away—to-day.”
“Yeah?” Jim poised the shears in air and regarded him quizzically over the pony’s neck. “Going to pass me foreman’s privilege—to hire and fire?” he grinned. “Because I may as well tell you that if you do, Dick won’t be far behind you on the trail.”
“Oh, darn Dick. I’ll fire him myself, maybe, before I leave. Yes,” he added, thinking swiftly of Josephine as the object of Dick’s desires, “that’s what I’ll do. Maybe it’ll save a lot of trouble while I’m gone. He’s a tricky son-of-a-gun.”
“You’re dead right; he is,” Jim agreed. And then, dryly: “Grandmother just died?”
“Oh, shut up. This ain’t an excuse—it’s business. I’ve just got to go, and that’s all there is to it. I’ll fix things with the missus, and tell her you’re in charge. Anyway, I won’t be gone any longer than I can help.”
“I believe that, too,” said Jim softly, and busied himself with the shears.