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   Chapter 26 “WHEN THE SUN GOES AWAY”

Good Indian By B. M. Bower Characters: 14374

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


"I wish," said Phoebe, putting her two hands on Miss Georgie's shoulders at the gate and looking up at her with haggard eyes, "you'd see what you can do with Vadnie. The poor child's near crazy; she ain't used to seeing such things happen-"

"Where is she?" Good Indian asked tersely, and was answered immediately by the sound of sobbing on the east porch. The three went together, but it was Grant who reached her first.

"Don't cry, Goldilocks," he said tenderly, bending over her. "It's all right now. There isn't going to be any more-"

"Oh! Don't TOUCH me!" She sprang up and backed from him, horror plain in her wide eyes. "Make him keep away, Aunt Phoebe!"

Good Indian straightened, and stood perfectly still, looking at her in a stunned, incredulous way.

"Chicken, don't be silly!" Miss Georgie's sane tones were like a breath of clean air. "You've simply gone all to pieces. I know what nerves can do to a woman-I've had 'em myself. Grant isn't going to bite you, and you're not afraid of him. You're proud of him, and you know it. He's acted the man, chicken!-the man we knew he was, all along. So pull yourself together, and let's not have any nonsense."

"He-KILLED a man! I saw him do it. And he's going to kill some more. I might have known he was like that! I might have KNOWN when he tried to shoot me that night in the orchard when I was trying to scare Gene! I can show you the mark-where he grazed my arm! And he LAUGHED about it! I called him a savage then-and I was RIGHT-only he can be so nice when he wants to be-and I forgot about the Indian in him-and then he killed Mr. Baumberger! He's lying out there now! I'd rather DIE than let him-"

Miss Georgie clapped a hand over her mouth, and stopped her. Also, she gripped her by the shoulder indignantly.

"'Vadna Ramsey, I'm ashamed of you!" she cried furiously. "For Heaven's sake, Grant, go on off somewhere and wait till she settles down. Don't stand there looking like a stone image-didn't you ever see a case of nerves before? She doesn't know what she's saying-if she did, she wouldn't be saying it. You go on, and let me handle her alone. Men are just a nuisance in a case like this."

She pushed Evadna before her into the kitchen, waited until Phoebe had followed, and then closed the door gently and decisively upon Grant. But not before she had given him a heartening smile just to prove that he must not take Evadna seriously, because she did not.

"We'd better take her to her room, Mrs. Hart," she suggested, "and make her lie down for a while. That poor fellow-as if he didn't have enough on his hands without this!"

"I'm not on his hands! And I won't lie down!" Evadna jerked away from Miss Georgie, and confronted them both pantingly, her cheeks still wet with tears. "You act as if I don't know what I'm doing' and I DO know. If I should lie down for a MILLION YEARS, I'd feel just the same about it. I couldn't bear him to TOUCH me! I-"

"For Heaven's sake, don't shout it," Miss Georgie interrupted, exasperatedly. "Do you want him-"

"To hear? I don't care whether he does or not." Evadna was turning sullen at the opposition. "He'll have to know it SOME TIME, won't he? If you think can forgive a thing like that and let-"

"He had to do it. Baumberger would have killed HIM. He had a perfect right to kill. He'd have been a fool and a coward if he hadn't. You come and lie down a while."

"I WON'T lie down. I don't care if he did have to do it-I couldn't love him afterward. And he didn't have to go down there and threaten Stanley-and-HE'LL DO IT, TOO!" She fell to trembling again. "He'll DO it-at sundown."

Phoebe and Miss Georgie looked at each other. He would, if the men stayed. They knew that.

"And I was going to marry him!" Evadna shuddered when she said it, and covered her face with her two hands. "He wasn't sorry afterward; you could see he wasn't sorry. He was ready to kill more men. It's the Indian in him. He LIKES to kill people. He'll kill those men, and he won't be a bit sorry he did it. And he could come to me afterward and expect me-Oh, what does he think I AM?" She leaned against the wall, and sobbed.

"I suppose," she wailed, lashing herself with every bitter thought she could conjure, "he killed Saunders, too, like old Hagar said. He wouldn't tell me where he was that morning. I asked him, and he wouldn't tell. He was up there killing Saunders-"

"If you don't shut up, I'll shake you!" Miss Georgie in her fury did not wait, but shook her anyway as if she had been a ten-year-old child in a tantrum.

"My Heavens above! I'll stand for nerves and hysterics, and almost any old thing, but you're going a little bit too far, my lady. There's no excuse for your talking such stuff as that, and you're not going to do it, if I have to gag you! Now, you march to your own room and-STAY there. Do you hear? And don't you dare let another yip out of you till you can talk sense."

Good Indian stood upon the porch, and heard every word of that. He heard also the shuffle of feet as Miss Georgie urged Evadna to her room-it sounded almost as if she dragged her there by force-and he rolled a cigarette with fingers that did not so much as quiver. He scratched a match upon the nearest post, and afterward leaned there and smoked, and stared out over the pond and up at the bluff glowing yellow in the sunlight. His face was set and expressionless except that it was stoically calm, and there was a glitter deep down in his eyes. Evadna was right, to a certain extent the Indian in him held him quiet.

It occurred to him that someone ought to pick up Baumberger, and put him somewhere, but he did not move. The boys and Peaceful must have stayed down in the garden, he thought. He glanced up at the tops of the nodding poplars, and estimated idly by their shadow on the bluff how long it would be before sundown, and as idly wondered if Stanley and the others would go, or stay. There was nothing they could gain by staying, he knew, now that Baumberger was out of it. Unless they got stubborn and wanted to fight. In that case, he supposed he would eventually be planted alongside his father. He wished he could keep the boys and old Peaceful out of it, in case there was a fight, but he knew that would be impossible. The boys, at least, had been itching for something like this ever since the trouble started.

Good Indian had, not so long ago, spent hours in avoiding all thought that he might prolong the ecstasy of mere feeling. Now he had reversed the desire. He was thinking of this thing and of that, simply that he might avoid feeling. If someone didn't kill him within the next hour or so, he was going to feel something-something that would hurt him more than he had been hurt since his father died in that same house. But in the meantime he need only think.

The shadow of the grove, with the long fingers of the poplars to point the way, climbed slowly up the bluff. Good Indian smoked another cigarette while he watched it. When a certain great bowlder that was like a miniature ledge glowed rosily and then slowly darkened to a chill gray, he threw his cigarette stub unerringly at a lily-pad whi

ch had courtesied many a time before to a like missile from his hand, pulled his hat down over his eyes, jumped off the porch, and started around the house to the gate which led to the stable.

Phoebe came out from the sitting-room, ran down the steps, and barred his way.

"Grant!" she said, and there were tears in her eyes, "don't do anything rash-don't. If it's for our sakes-and I know it is-don't do it. They'll go, anyway. We'll have the law on them and make them go. But don't YOU go down there. You let Thomas handle that part. You're like one of my own boys. I can't let you go!"

He looked down at her commiseratingly. "I've got to go, Mother Hart. I've made my war-talk." He hesitated, bent his head, and kissed her on the forehead as she stood looking up at him, and went on.

"Grant-GRANT!" she cried heartbrokenly after him, and sank down on the porch-steps with her face hidden in her arms.

Miss Georgie was standing beside the gate, looking toward the stable. She may not have been waiting for him, but she turned without any show of surprise when he walked up behind her.

"Well, your jumpers seem to have taken the hint," she informed him, with a sort of surface cheerfulness. "Stanley is down there talking to Mr. Hart now, and the others have gone on. They'll all be well over the dead-line by sundown. There goes Stanley now. Do you really feel that your future happiness depends on getting through this gate? Well-if you must-" She swung it open, but she stood in the opening.

"Grant, I-it's hard to say just what I want to say-but-you did right. You acted the man's part. No matter what-others-may think or say, remember that I think you did right to kill that man. And if there's anything under heaven that I can do, to-to help-you'll let me do it, won't you?" Her eyes held him briefly, unabashed at what they might tell. Then she stepped back, and contradicted them with a little laugh. "I will get fired sure for staying over my time," she said. "I'll wire for the coroner soon as I get to the office. This will never come to a trial, Grant. He was like a crazy man, and we all saw him shoot first."

She waited until he had passed through and was a third of the way to the stable where Peaceful Hart and his boys were gathered, and then she followed him briskly, as if her mind was taken up with her own affairs.

"It's a shame you fellows got cheated out of a scrap," she taunted Jack, who held her horse for her while she settled herself in the saddle. "You were all spoiling for a fight-and there did seem to be the makings of a beautiful row!"

Save for the fact that she kept her eyes studiously turned away from a certain place near by, where the dust was pressed down smoothly with the weight of a heavy body, and all around was trampled and tracked, one could not have told that Miss Georgie remembered anything tragic.

But Good Indian seemed to recall something, and went quickly over to her just in time to prevent her starting.

"Was there something in particular you wanted when you came?" he asked, laying a hand on the neck of the bay. "It just occurred to me that there must have been."

She leaned so that the others could not hear, and her face was grave enough now.

"Why, yes. It's old Hagar. She came to me this afternoon, and she had that bunch of hair you cut off that was snarled in the bush. She had your knife. She wanted me to buy them-the old blackmailer! She made threats, Grant-about Saunders. She says you-I came right down to tell you, because I was afraid she might make trouble. But there was so much more on hand right here"-she glanced involuntarily at the trampled place in the dust. "She said she'd come back this evening, 'when the sun goes away.' She's there now, most likely. What shall I tell her? We can't have that story mouthed all over the country."

Good Indian twisted a wisp of mane in his fingers, and frowned abstractedly.

"If you'll ride on slowly," he told her, at last straightening the twisted lock, "I'll overtake you. I think I'd better see that old Jezebel myself."

Secretly he was rather thankful for further action. He told the boys when they fired questions at his hurried saddling that he was going to take Miss Georgie home, and that he would be back before long; in an hour, probably. Then he galloped down the trail, and overtook her at the Point o' Rocks.

The sun was down, and the sky was a great, glowing mass of color. Round the second turn of the grade they came upon Stanley, walking with his hands thrust in his trousers pockets and whistling softly to himself as if he were thinking deeply. Perhaps he was glad to be let off so easily.

"Abandoning my claim," he announced, lightly as a man of his prosaic temperament could speak upon such a subject. "Dern poor placer mining down there, if yuh want to know!"

Good Indian scowled at him and rode on, because a woman rode beside him. Seven others they passed farther up the hill. Those seven gave him scowl for scowl, and did not speak a word; that also because a woman rode beside him. And the woman understood, and was glad that she was there.

From the Indian camp, back in the sage-inclosed hollow, rose a sound of high-keyed wailing. The two heard it, and looked at each other questioningly.

"Something's up over there," Good Indian said, answering her look. "That sounds to me like the squaws howling over a death."

"Let's go and see. I'm so late now, a few minutes more won't matter, one way or the other." Miss Georgie pulled out her watch, looked at it, and made a little grimace. So they turned into the winding trail, and rode into the camp.

There were confusion, and wailing, and a buzzing of squaws around a certain wikiup. Dogs sat upon their haunches, and howled lugubriously until someone in passing kicked them into yelping instead. Papooses stood nakedly about, and regarded the uproar solemnly, running to peer into the wikiup and then scamper back to their less hardy fellows. Only the bucks stood apart in haughty unconcern, speaking in undertones when they talked at all. Good Indian commanded Miss Georgie to remain just outside the camp, and himself rode in to where the bucks were gathered. Then he saw Peppajee sitting beside his own wikiup, and went to him instead.

"What's the matter here, Peppajee?" he asked. "Heap trouble walk down at Hart Ranch. Trouble walk here all same, mebbyso?"

Peppajee looked at him sourly, but the news was big, and it must be told.

"Heap much trouble come. Squaw callum Hagar make much talk. Do much bad, mebbyso. Squaw Rachel ketchum bad heart along yo'. Heap cry all time. No sleepum, no eatum-all time heap sad. Ketchum bad spirit, mebbyso. Ketchum debbil. Sun go 'way, ketchum knife, go Hagar wikiup. Killum Hagar-so." He thrust out his arm as one who stabs. "Killum himself-so." He struck his chest with his clenched fist. "Hagar heap dead. Rachel heap dead. Kay bueno. Mebbyso yo' heap bad medicine. Yo' go."

"A squaw just died," he told Miss Georgie curtly, when they rode on. But her quick eyes noted a new look in his face. Before it had been grave and stern and bitter; now it was sorrowful instead.

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