“Then you’ve not told me everything, even yet,” exclaimed she, piteously.
“Not quite,” said Curly, with a long breath; “but I’m a-comin’ along.”
“He’s dying!” she cried with conviction. Curly, now taking an impersonal interest in the dramatic aspect of the affair, solemnly turned away his head.
“Ma’am,” said he, at length, “he thought a heap of you when he was alive. We—we all did, but he did special and private like. Why, ma’am, if you’d come and stand by his grave, he’d wake up now and welcome you! You see, I am a married man my own self, and Tom Osby, he’s been married copious; and Tom and me, we both allowed just like I said. We knew the diseased would have done that cheerful—if he had any sort of chanct.”
The girl sprang up. “He’s not dead!” she cried, and her eyes blazed, her natural courage refusing to yield. “I’ll not believe it!”
“I didn’t ast you to, ma’am,” said Curly. “He ain’t plumb dead; he’s just threatened. Oh, say, you’ve kind of got me rattled, you see. I’ve got a missage—I mean a missive—anyways a letter, from him. I had it in my pants pocket all the time, and thought it was in my coat. Them was the last words he wrote.”
She tore the letter from his hand, and her eyes caught every word of it at the first glance.
“This is not his letter!” she exclaimed. “He never wrote it! It’s not in his hand!”
“Ma’am,” said Curly, virtuously grieved, “how could you! I didn’t say he wrote it. He had to have a amanyensis, of course,—him a-layin’ there all shot up. Nobody said it was his handwriting It ain’t his handwritin’. It’s his heartwritin’. They sign it with their hearts, ma’am! Now I tell you that for the truth, and you can gamble on that, anyways.
“I think I had better go away. I’m hungry, anyhow,” he added, turning away.
“Soon!” she said, stretching out her hand. “Wait!” her other hand trembled as she devoured the pages of the message to the queen. Her cheeks flushed.
“Oh, read it, ma’am!” said Curly, querulously. “Read it and get sorry. If you can read that there letter from Dan Anderson—signed with his heart—and not hit the trail for his bedside, then I’ve had a almighty long ride for nothing.”
THE GIRL AT HEART’S DESIRE
The Story of a Surprise, a Success, and Something Else Very Much Better
As Curly stumped away, his spurs clinking on the gallery floor, he encountered Mr. Ellsworth, who held out his hand in recognition.
“I just heard some one was down from the town,” he began. “How are you, and what’s the news?”
“Mighty bad,” said Curly, “mighty bad.” Then to himself: “O Lord! I’m in for it again, and worse. I’d a heap rather lie to a woman than a man—it seems more natural.”