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Snow-Bound at Eagle's Bret Harte

Chapter VIII

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"Of course it can't be proved yet, but there's no doubt in my mind that Lee, who is an old friend of Ned Falkner's, got up that job to help him, and that Ned's off with the money by this time--and I'm right glad of it. I can't say ez we've done much towards it, except to keep tumbling in the way of that detective party of Stanner's, and so throw them off the trail--ha, ha! The Judge here, I reckon, has had his share of fun, for while he was at Hennicker's trying to get some facts from Hennicker's pretty daughter, Stanner tried to get up some sort of vigilance committee of the stage passengers to burn down Hennicker's ranch out of spite, but the Judge here stepped in and stopped that."

"It was really a high-handed proceeding, Josephine, but I managed to check it," said Hale, meeting somewhat consciously the first direct look his wife had cast upon him, and falling back for support on his old manner. "In its way, I think it was worse than the robbery by Lee and Falkner, for it was done in the name of law and order; while, as far as I can judge from the facts, the affair that we were following up was simply a rude and irregular restitution of property that had been morally stolen."

"I have no doubt you did quite right, though I don't understand it," said Mrs. Hale languidly; "but I trust these gentlemen will stay to luncheon, and in the meantime excuse us for running away, as we are short of servants, and Manuel seems to have followed the example of the head of the house and left us, in pursuit of somebody or something."

When the three women had gained the vantage-ground of the drawing-room, Kate said, earnestly, "As it's all right, hadn't we better tell him now?"

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"Decidedly not, child," said Mrs. Scott, imperatively. "Do you suppose they are in a hurry to tell us THEIR whole story? Who are those Hennicker people? and they were there a week ago!"

"And did you notice John's hat when he came in, and the vulgar familiarity of calling him 'Judge'?" said Mrs. Hale.

"Well, certainly anything like the familiarity of this man Clinch I never saw," said Kate. "Contrast his manner with Mr. Falkner's."

At luncheon the three suffering martyrs finally succeeded in reducing Hale and his two friends to an attitude of vague apology. But their triumph was short-lived. At the end of the meal they were startled by the trampling of hoofs without, followed by loud knocking. In another moment the door was opened, and Mr. Stanner strode into the room. Hale rose with a look of indignation.

"I thought, as Mr. Stanner understood that I had no desire for his company elsewhere, he would hardly venture to intrude upon me in my house, and certainly not after--"

"Ef you're alluding to the Vigilantes shakin' you and Zeenie up at Hennicker's, you can't make ME responsible for that. I'm here now on business--you understand--reg'lar business. Ef you want to see the papers yer ken. I suppose you know what a warrant is?"

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Snow-Bound at Eagle's
Bret Harte

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