Another six months passed, and an event occurred which gave a great shock to the little community and gave Toyner a pain of heart such as almost nothing else could have given. Ann’s father, John Markham, had a deadly dispute with a man by the name of Walker. Walker was a comparatively new comer to the town, or he would have known better than to gamble with Markham as he did and arouse his enmity. The feud lasted for a week, and then Markham shot his enemy with a borrowed fire-arm. Walker was discovered wounded, and cared for, but with little hope of his recovery. From all around the men assembled to seize Markham, but half a night had elapsed, and it was found that he had made good his escape. When the others had gone, Toyner stood alone before Ann Markham.
I have often heard what Toyner looked like in those days. Slight as his theological knowledge might be, he was quite convinced that if religion was anything it must be everything, personal appearance included. As he stood before Ann, he appeared to be a dapper, rather dandified man, for he had dressed himself just as well as he could. Everything that he did was done just as well as he could in those days; that was the reason he did not shirk the inexpressibly painful duty which now devolved on him.
You may picture him. His clothes were black, his linen good. He wore a large white tie, which was the fashionable thing in that time and place. His long moustache, which was fine rather than heavy, hung down to his chin on either side of his mouth. He did not look like a man who would chance upon any strong situation in life, for the strength of circumstances is the strength of the soul that opposes them, and we are childishly given to estimating the strength of souls by certain outward tests, although they fail us daily.
“I have always been your friend, Ann,” said Toyner sadly.
Ann tossed her head. “Not with my leave.”
“No,” he assented; “but I want to tell you now that if we can’t get on Markham’s track I shall have to spy on you. You’ll help him if you can, of course.”
“I don’t know where he is,” said Ann sullenly.
“I do not believe you are telling the truth” (sadly); “but you may believe me, I have warned you.”
People in Fentown went to sleep early. At about eleven that night all was still and lonely about the weather-stained, unpainted wooden house in which Ann lived.
Ann closed her house for the night. The work was a simple one: she set her knee against the door to shut it more firmly, and worked an old nail into the latch. Then she shook down the scant cotton curtains that were twisted aside from the windows. There were three windows, two in the living-room (which was also kitchen and beer-saloon) and one in the bedroom; that was the whole of the house. There was not an article of furniture in the place that was not absolutely necessary; what there was was clean. The girl herself was clean, middle-sized, and dressed in garments that were old and worn; there was about her appearance a certain brightness and quickness, which is the best part of beauty and grace. The very hair itself, turning black and curly, from the temples, seemed to lie glossy and smooth by reason of character that willed that it should lie so.