Franklin bowed his head between his hands and half groaned over the pain which he had cost. Then slowly and crushingly his own hurt came home to him. Every fibre of his being, which had been exultingly crying out in triumph at the finding of this missing friend—every fibre so keenly strung—now snapped and sprang back at rag ends. In his brain he could feel the parting one by one of the strings which but now sang in unison. Discord, darkness, dismay, sat on all the world.
The leisurely foot of Buford sounded on the stair, and he knocked gaily on the door jam as he entered.
“Well, niece,” said he, “Mrs. Buford thinks we ought to be starting back for home right soon now.”
Mary Ellen rose and bowed to Franklin as she passed to leave the room; but perhaps neither she nor Franklin was fully conscious of the leave-taking. Buford saw nothing out of the way, but turned and held out his hand. “By the way, Captain Franklin,” said he, “I’m mighty glad to meet you, sir—mighty glad. We shall want you to come down and see us often. It isn’t very far—only about twenty-five miles south. They call our place the Halfway Ranch, and it’s not a bad name, for it’s only about halfway as good a place as you and I have always been used to; but it’s ours, and you will be welcome there. We’ll be up here sometimes, and you must come down. We shall depend on seeing you now and then.”
“I trust we shall be friends,” mumbled Franklin.
“Friends?” said Butord cheerily, the smiling wrinkles of his own thin face signifying his sincerity; “why, man, here is a place where one needs friends, and where he can have friends. There is time enough and room enough, and—well, you’ll come, won’t you?” And Franklin, dazed and missing all the light which had recently made glad the earth, was vaguely conscious that he had promised to visit the home of the girl who had certainly given him no invitation to come further into her life, but for whose word of welcome he knew that he should always long.
THE DAY OF THE CATTLE
ELLISVILLE THE RED
Gourdlike, Ellisville grew up in a night. It was not, and lo! it was. Many smokes arose, not moving from crest to crest of the hills as in the past, when savage bands of men signalled the one to the other, but rising steadily, in combined volume, a beacon of civilization set far out in the plains, assuring, beckoning. Silently, steadily, the people came to this rallying place, dropping in from every corner of the stars. The long street spun out still longer its string of toylike wooden houses. It broke and doubled back upon itself, giving Ellisville title to unique distinction among all the cities of the plains, which rarely boasted more than a single street. The big hotel at the depot sheltered