The Broken Gate A Novel

Language: English
Published: 1 month ago
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"Eejit! My son John! Whip ary man in Jackson County! Whoop! Come along! Who'll fight old Eph Adamson?"

The populace of Spring Valley, largely assembled in the shade of the awnings which served as shelter against an ardent June sun, remained cold to the foregoing challenge. It had been repeated more than once by a stout, middle-aged man in shirt sleeves and a bent straw hat, who still turned a truculent gaze this side and that, taking in the straggling buildings which lined the public square—a quadrangle which had for its center the brick courthouse, surrounded by a plat of scorched and faded greensward. At his side walked a taller though younger man, grinning amiably.

The audience remained indifferent, although the challenger now shifted his position to the next path leading out to a street entrance; and repeated this until he had quite traversed the square. Only, at the farther corner back of him, a woman paused as she entered the courthouse inclosure—paused and turned back as she caught sight of the challenger and heard his raucous summons, although evidently she had been hurrying upon some errand.

Ephraim Adamson walked hither and thither, his muscular arms now bared to the elbows; and at his side stalked his stalwart son, who now and then beat his fists together, and cracked his knuckles with a vehemence like that of pistol shots. But none paid great attention to either of the Adamsons. Indeed, the eyes of most now were following the comely figure of this woman, as usually was the case when she appeared.

"Take her now, right how she is," said one of the sidewalk philosophers, "and you got to admit yonder's the handsomest woman in this town, and has been for twenty years." He nodded to where she stood, hesitating.

That she was a tallish woman, of less than middle age and of good figure, was perceptible even at some distance as she finally advanced. She was well clad enough, and with a certain grace and trimness in her appointings—indeed seemed smart in a quiet and unobtrusive way—very neat as to hands and feet, and trim as to the small turban which served now as her only defense against the heat of the summer sun.

"'Rory Lane," said one languid citizen to another, as they sat on comfortable boxes in front of the leading grocery store. "Wonder where she's goin', this time of day? Anyhow, she runs into Old Man Adamson on his regular weekly spree. He wants to fight, as usual, him and his half-wit boy. It's a shame."

"But they kin do it," responded the other ruminatingly. "It's got so lately, every Saturday afternoon regular, him and his half-wit yonder stands off the whole town. No man wants to fight a eejit—it ain't proper."

"Some has," remarked the first citizen thoughtfully.

"Well, anyways, old Joel Tarbush, the town marshal, had ought to look after such things. There he sets now, over yonder under the awnings in front of the Golden Eagle, and he sees them two plain enough."

His crony only chuckled. "Reckon Old Man Tarbush knows when he's well off," was his sententious reply....