“Had he had any furse with ary feller down in there lately?”
“Nope, not that any one knows of. He just done went off over the range, an’ fanned out, seems like, without no special reason.”
The sheriff again fell into thought, slowly chewing at a splinter. “I’ll tell you,” he said at length, slowly, “I kain’t very well git away right now. You go over an’ git Cap Franklin. He’s a good man. Pick up somebody else you want to go along with you, an’ then you start out on Cal’s trail, near as you can git at it. You better take along that d——d Greaser o’ yourn, that big Juan, fer he kin run trail like a houn’. You stop at all the outfits you come to, fer say fifty miles. Don’t do nothin’ more’n ask, an’ then go on. If you come to a outfit that hain’t seen him, an’ then another outfit furder on that has seen him, you remember the one that hain’t. If you don’t git no track in fifty mile, swing around to the southeast, an’ cut the main drive trail an’ see if you hear of anything that-away. If you don’t git no trace by that, you better come on back in an’ tell me, an’ then we’ll see what to do about it furder.”
“All right, Bill,” said Curly, rising and taking a chew of tobacco, in which the sheriff joined him. “All right. You got any papers fer us to take along?”
“Papers?” said the sheriff contemptuously. “Papers? Hell!”
Ike Anderson was drunk—calmly, magnificently, satisfactorily drunk. It had taken time, but it was a fact accomplished. The actual state of affairs was best known to Ike Anderson himself, and not obvious to the passer-by. Ike Andersen’s gaze might have been hard, but it was direct. His walk was perfectly decorous and straight, his brain perfectly clear, his hand perfectly steady. Only, somewhere deep down in his mind there burned some little, still, blue flame of devilishness, which left Ike Anderson not a human being, but a skilful, logical, and murderous animal.
“This,” said Ike Anderson to himself all the time, “this is little Ike Anderson, a little boy, playing. I can see the green fields, the pleasant meadows, the little brook that crossed them. I remember my mother gave me bread and milk for my supper, always. My sister washed my bare feet, when I was a little, little boy.” He paused and leaned one hand against a porch post, thinking. “A little, little boy,” he repeated to himself.
“No, it isn’t,” he thought. “It’s Ike Anderson, growing up. He’s playing tag. The boy tripped him and laughed at him, and Ike Anderson got out his knife.” He cast a red eye about him.
“No, it isn’t,” he thought. “It’s Ike Anderson, with the people chasing him. And the shotgun. Ike’s growing up faster, growing right along. They all want him, but they don’t get him. One, two, three, five, nine, eight, seven—I could count them all once. Ike Anderson. No mother. No sweetheart. No home. Moving, moving. But they never scared him yet—Ike Anderson. . . . I never took any cattle!”