Idy by Margaret Collier Graham
Seņora Gonzales was leaning upon the corral gate in the shade of the
pomegranates, looking out over the lake. The lake itself was not more
placid than the seņora's face under her black rebozo. Perhaps a long
life of leaning and gazing had given her those calm, slow-moving eyes,
full of the wisdom of unfathomable ignorance. The landscape on the
opposite shore was repeated in the water below, as if to save her the
trouble of raising her heavily fringed lids. To the southward a line of
wild geese gleamed snow-white, like the crest of a wave. Half a dozen
dogs were asleep in the smoothly swept dooryard behind her, and a young
Mexican, whose face was pitted by smallpox, like the marks of raindrops
in dry sand, leaned against the gnarled trunk of a trellised grapevine,
clasping his knees, and sending slow wreaths of smoke from his
cigarette. The barley in the field behind the house was beginning to
head, and every breath of wind stirred it in glistening waves. Beyond
the field shone a yellow mist of wild mustard. The California spring,
more languorous, even with its hint of moisture, than the cloudless
summer, sent a thousand odors adrift upon the air. Even the smell of
garlic hanging about the seņora could not drown the scent of the
orange-blooms, and as for Ricardo's cigarette, surely no reasonable
mortal could object to that. Ricardo himself would have questioned the
sanity of any one who might have preferred the faint, musky fragrance of
the alfilaria to the soothing odor of tobacco. He closed his eyes in
placid unconsciousness of such vagaries of taste, and rocked himself
rhythmically, as if he were a part of the earth, and felt its motion.
A wagon was creaking along the road behind the house, but it did not
disturb him. There were always wagons now; Ricardo had grown used to
them, and so had the seņora, who did not even turn her head. These
restless Americanos, who bought pieces of land that were not large
enough to pasture a goat, and called them ranchos—caramba! what fools
they were, always a-hurrying about!
The wagon had stopped. Well, it would be time enough to move when some
one called. A dust-colored hound that slept at the corner of the house,
stretched flat, as if moulded in relief from the soil upon which he lay,
raised his head and pricked up one ear; then arose, as if reluctantly
compelled to do the honors, and went slowly around the house.
"Of course they've got a dawg; forty of 'em, like enough!" It was a
girl's voice, pitched in a high, didactic key. "I guess I c'n make 'em
understand, pappy; I'll try, anyway."
She came around the house, and confronted Ricardo, who took his
cigarette from his mouth, and looked at her gravely without moving. The
seņora turned her head slowly, and glanced over her shoulder.
The girl smiled, displaying two rows of sound teeth shut tightly
"How do you do?" she said, raising her voice still higher, and advancing
toward the seņora with outstretched hand. "I suppose you're Mrs.
The seņora disentangled one arm slowly from her rebozo, and gave the
newcomer a large, brown, cushiony hand.
"This is my fawther," continued the girl, waving her left hand toward
her companion; "sabby?"
The man stepped forward, and confronted the seņora. She looked at him
gravely, and shook her head. He was a small, heavily bearded man, with
soft, bashful brown eyes, which fell shyly under the seņora's placid
"She don't understand you, Idy," he said helplessly.
The girl caught his hand, and squeezed it reassuringly. "Never mind,
pappy," she said, lowering her voice; "I'll fetch her. Now, listen," she
went on, fixing her wide gray eyes on the seņora, and speaking in a
loud, measured voice. "I—am—Idy Starkweather. This—is—my—fawther.
There! Now! Sabby?"
Evidently she considered failure to understand English a species of
physical disability which might be overcome by strong concentration of
The seņora turned a bland, unmoved face upon her son. The eyes of the
newcomers followed her gaze. Ricardo held his cigarette between his
fingers, and blew a cloud of smoke above his head.
"She don' spik no Englis'," he said, looking at them mildly.
The girl flushed to the roots of her hay-colored frizz of hair. "You're
a nice one!" she said. "Why didn't you speak up?"
Ricardo gave her another gentle, undisturbed glance. "Ah on'stan' a
leetle Englis'; Ah c'n talk a leetle," he said calmly.
The girl hesitated an instant, letting her desire for information
struggle with her resentment. "Well, then," she said, lowering her voice
half sullenly, "my fawther here wants to ask you something. We live a
mile or so down the road. We've come out from Ioway this summer—me and
mother, that is; pappy here come in the spring, didn't you, pappy? An'
he bought the Slater place, an' there's ten acres of vineyard, an'
Barden,—he's the real 'state agent over t' Elsmore, you know 'im,—he
told my fawther they wuz all raisin-grapes, white muscat,—didn't he,
pappy?—an' my fawther here paid cash down fer the place, an' the
vineyard's comin' into bearin' next fall, an' Parker Lowe,—he has a
gov'ment claim on section eighteen, back of our ranch,—-maybe you know
'im,—he says they're every one mission grapes—fer makin' wine. He
helped set 'em out, an' he says they got the cuttin's from your folks;
but I thought he wuz sayin' it just to plague me, so my fawther here
thought he'd come an' ask. If they are wine-grapes, that felluh Barden
lied—didn't he, pappy?"
The Mexican gazed at her pensively through the smoke of his cigarette.
"Yass, 'm," he said slowly and softly—"yass, 'm; Ah gass he tell good
deal lies. Ah gass he don' tell var' much trut'."
"Then they are mission grapes?"
"Yass, 'm; dey all meession grapes; dey mek var' good wahn."
The girl's face flamed an angry red under her crimpled thatch of hair.
She put out her hand with a swift, protecting gesture, and caught her
The little man's cheeks were pale gray above his shaggy beard. He took
off his hat, and nervously wiped the damp hair from his forehead. His
daughter did not look at him. Ricardo could see the frayed plume on her
jaunty turban quiver.
"My fawther here's a temperance man, a prohibitionist: he don't believe
in wine; he hates it; he wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole. That
felluh Barden knowed it—didn't he, pappy? He lied!" She spoke fiercely,
catching her breath between her sentences.
The Mexican threw away the end of his cigarette, and gazed after it with
"Some folks don' lak wahn," he said amiably. "Ah lak it var' well
mahse'f. Ah gass he al's tell var' big lies, Mist' Barrd'n."
The girl turned away, still grasping her father's arm. Then she came
back, with a sudden and somewhat bewildering accession of civility.
"Addyoce," she said, bowing loftily toward the seņora. The plume in her
hat had turned in the afternoon breeze, and curved forward, giving her a
slightly martial aspect.
"Addyoce, Mr. Gonsallies. We're much obliged,—ain't we, pappy?
Ricardo touched his sombrero. "Good-evenin', mees," he said in his
soft, leisurely voice; "good-evenin', seņor."
When the last ruffle of Miss Starkweather's green "polonay" had
disappeared around the corner of the adobe house, the seņora drifted
slowly across the dooryard in her voluminous pink drapery, and sat down
beside her son. There was a thin stratum of curiosity away down in her
Latin soul. What had Ricardo done to make the seņorita so very angry?
She was angry, was she not?
Oh, yes, she was very angry, but Ricardo had done nothing. Seņor Barden
had sold her father ten acres of wine-grapes, and the old man did not
like wine; he liked raisins. Santa Maria! Did he mean to eat ten acres
of raisins? He need not drink his wine; he could sell it. But the
seņorita was very angry; she would probably kill Seņor Barden. She had
said she would kill him with a very long pole—ten feet. Ricardo would
not care much if she did. Seņor Barden had called him a greaser. But as
for a man who did not like wine—caramba!
Parker Lowe's government claim was a fractional section, triangular in
shape, with its base on the grant line of Rancho la Laguna, and its apex
high up on the mountain-side. Parker's cabin was perched upon the
highest point, at the mouth of the caņon, in a patch of unconquerable
boulders. Other government settlers were wont to remark the remoteness
of his residence from the tillable part of his claim, but Parker
remained loyal to his own fireside.
"It's a sightly place," he asserted, "and nigh to the water, and it
ain't no furder goin' down to work than it would be comin' up fer a
drink, besides bein' down-grade. I lay out to quit workin' some o' these
days, but I don't never lay out to quit drinkin'."
This latter determination on Parker's part had come to be pretty well
understood, and the former would have obtained ready credence except for
the fact that one cannot very well quit what he has never begun. Without
risking the injustice of the statement that Parker was lazy, it is
perhaps safe to say that he belonged by nature to the leisure class,
and doubtless felt the accident of his birth even more keenly than the
man of unquenchable industry who finds himself born to wealth and
idleness. "Holdin' down a claim" had proved an occupation as well
adapted to his tastes as anything that had ever fallen to his lot, and
his bachelor establishment among the boulders was managed with an
economy of labor, and a resultant of physical comfort, hitherto unknown
in the annals of housekeeping. The house itself was of unsurfaced
redwood, battened with lath to keep out the winter rain. The furniture
consisted of a wide shelf upon which he slept, two narrower ones which
held the tin cans containing his pantry stores, a bench, a table which
"let down" against the wall by means of leathern hinges when not in use,
a rusty stove, and a much-mended wooden chair. From numerous nails in
the wall smoky ends of bacon were suspended by their original hempen
strings, and the size of the grease-spot below testified to the length
of the "side" which Parker had carried in a barley sack from Barney
Wilson's store at Elsmore, five miles away on the other side of the
lake. Parker surveyed these mural decorations with deep, inward
satisfaction not untinged with patriotism.
"There wa'n't many folks right here when I filed on to this claim," he
had been known to remark, "an' I may have trouble provin' up. But if the
Register of the General Land-Office wants to come an' take a look, he
c'n figger up from them ends o' bacon just about how long I've lived
here, an' satisfy himself that I've acted fair with the gover'ment,
which I've aimed to do, besides makin' all these improvements."
The improvements referred to were hardly such as an artist would have so
designated, but Parker surveyed them with taste and conscience void of
offense. The redwood shanty; a dozen orange-trees, rapidly diminishing
in size and number by reason of neglect and gophers; a clump of slender,
smoky eucalypti; a patch of perennial tomato-vines; and a few acres of
what Barney Wilson called "veteran barley,"—it having been sown once,
and having "volunteered" ever since,—constituted those additions to the
value of the land, if not to the landscape, upon which Parker based his
Since the Laguna Ranch had been subdivided, and settlers had increased,
and especially since Eben Starkweather had bought the Slater place, and
Ida Starkweather had invaded the foot-hills with her vigorous,
self-reliant, breezy personality, Parker had been contemplating further
improvements in his domicile—improvements which, in moments of
flattered hope, assumed the dignity of a lean-to, a rocking-chair, and a
box-spring mattress. The dreams which had led him to a consideration of
this domestic expansion he had confided to no one but Mose Doolittle,
who had a small stock-ranch high up on the mountain, and who found
Parker's cabin a convenient resting-place on his journeys up and down
"I tell ye," he had said to Mose, "that girl is no slouch. Her pa is an
infant in arms, a babe an' a suckling, beside her. Her ma is sickly; one
o' your chronics. Idy runs the ranch. I set here of evenin's, an' watch
'em through this yer field-glass. She slams around that place like a
house a-fire. It's inspirin' to see her. Give me a woman that makes
things hum, ever-ee time!"
"Somebody said she had a hell of a temper," ventured Mose, willing to be
the recipient of further confidences.
"Somebody lied. She's got spunk. When she catches anybody in a mean
trick she don't quote poetry to 'im; she gives 'im the straight goods.
Some folks call that temper. I call it sand. There'll be a picnic when
she gets hold o' Barden!"
Parker raised the field-glass again, and leveled it on the Starkweather
"There's the infant now, grubbin' greasewood. He's a crank o' the first
water; you'd ought to hear 'im talk. He went through the war, an' he's
short one lung, an' he's got the asmy so bad he breathes like a squeaky
windmill, an' he won't apply fer a pension because he says he was awful
sickly when he enlisted, an' he thinks goin' South an' campin' out saved
his life. That's what I call lettin' yer 'magination run away with ye."
"What does Idy think about it?" queried Mose innocently.
"Idy stands up fer her pa; that's what I like about 'er. I like a woman
that'll back a man up, right er wrong; it's proper an' female. It's
what made me take a shine to 'er."
"You wouldn't want her to back Barden up." Mose made the suggestion
preoccupiedly, with his eyes discreetly wandering over the landscape, as
if he had suddenly missed some accustomed feature of it.
Parker lowered the glass and glanced at him suspiciously. "No, sir-ee!
If there's any backin' done there, Barden'll do it. She'll make 'im
crawfish out o' sight when she ketches 'im. That's another thing I like
about 'er; she'll stand up fer a feller; that is, fer any feller that
b'longs to 'er—that is, I mean, fer a feller she b'longs to."
Mose got up and turned around, and brushed the burr-clover from his
"Well, I guess I must be movin'," he said, with a highly artificial
yawn. "Come here, you Muggins!" he called to his burro, which had
strayed into the alfilaria. "Give me an invite to the weddin', Parker.
I'll send you a fresh cow if you do."
Parker held the glass between his knees, and looked down at it with
"There's a good deal to be gone through with yet, Mose," he said
dubiously. "I set up here with this yer field-glass, workin' myself up
to it, an' then I go down there, an' she comes at me so brash I get all
rattled, an' come home 'thout 'complishin' anythin'. But I'll make it
yet," he added, with renewed cheerfulness. "She sewed a button on fer me
t' other day. Now, between ourselves, Mose, don't ye think that's kind
Hopeful! Mose would say it was final. No girl had ever sewed a button on
for him. When one did, he would propose to her on the spot. He wondered
what Parker was thinking of not to seize such an opportunity.
"That's what I had ought to 'a' done," acknowledged Parker, shaking his
head ruefully. "Yes, sir; that's what I'd ought to 'a' done. I had ought
to 'a' seized that opportunity an' pressed my suit."
"That's the idea, Park," said his companion gravely, as he bestrode
Muggins, and jerked the small dejected creature out into the trail.
"You'd ought to 'a' pressed your suit; there's nothin' a woman likes
better 'n pressin' your suit. Whoop-la, Muggins!"
Some time after Mose had disappeared up the caņon, Parker heard a loud
echoing laugh. He turned his head to listen, and then raised the glass
and leveled it on Starkweather's ranch.
"I thought at first that was Idy," he said to himself, "but it wa'n't.
She 's got a cheerful disposition, but I don't believe she'd laugh that
a-way when she's a-learnin' a bull calf to drink; that ain't what I call
a laughin' job. Jeemineezer! don't she hold that cantankerous little
buzzard's head down pretty. Whoa there, Calamity! don't you back into
the chicken corral. That's right, Idy, jam his head into the bucket, an'
set down on it—you're a daisy!"
On the strength of Mose's friendly encouragement, Parker betook himself
next day to where Eben Starkweather was trimming greasewood roots, and
moved about sociably from one hillock to another while his neighbor
worked. Nothing but the ardor of unspoken love would have reconciled
Parker to the exertion involved, for Eben worked briskly, in spite of
his singularity of lung and the disadvantages of "asmy," and the
greasewood was not very thick on the ground he had been clearing. The
grotesque gnarled roots were collected in little heaps, like piles of
discarded heathen images, and Eben hacked about among them, a very
mild-mannered but determined iconoclast.
"I'll have to keep at it pretty studdy," he explained apologetically to
his visitor, "fer they say we're like enough not to have any more rain,
and I'm calc'latin' to grub out the vineyard before the ground hardens
"Goin' to yank them vines all out, are ye?"
"That's the calc'lation."
Parker clasped one knee, and whetted his knife on the toe of his boot
"'Pears to me ye might sell off that vineyard, an' buy a strip t' other
side of ye, an' set out muscats."
"I couldn't sell that vineyard," said Eben. He had laid down his axe,
and was wiping his forehead nervously with an old silk handkerchief.
"Oh, I reckon ye could," said Parker easily; "ye got the whole place
The little man's bearded mouth twitched. When he spoke, his voice was
high and strained.
"I'd jest as soon keep a saloon; I'd jest as soon sell wine to a man
after it's made as before it's made." He wiped the moist inner band of
his hat, and then dropped his handkerchief into it, and put it on his
head. Parker could see his grimy hand tremble. "I didn't know what I was
buyin'," he went on, picking up his axe, "but I'd know what I was
Parker glanced at him as he fell to work. He was a crooked little man,
and one shoulder was higher than the other; there was nothing aggressive
in his manner. He had turned away as if he did not care to argue, did
not care even for a response. Perhaps no man on earth had less ability
to comprehend a timid soul lashed by conscience than Parker Lowe. "The
hell!" he ejaculated under his breath. Then he sat still a moment, and
drew a map of his claim, and the adjoining subdivision, on the ground
between his feet. The affectionate way in which the Starkweather ranch
line joined his own seemed suggestive.
"It 'pears to me," he broke out judicially, "that ye could argue this
thing out better 'n ye do. Now, if I was in your place, 'pears to me I'd
look at it this a-way. There's a heap o' churches in Ameriky, an', if I
remember right, they mostly use wine for communion. I hain't purtook for
some time myself, but I guess I've got it right. Now all the wine that
could be made out o' them grapes o' yourn wouldn't s'ply half the
churches in this country, not to mention Europe an' Asie, an' Afriky;
an' as long as that's the case, I don't see as you're called on to
know that your wine's used fer anything but religious purposes. Of
course you can conjure up all sorts o' turrible things about gettin'
drunk an' cavin' round, but that's what I call lettin' yer 'magination
run away with ye."
"Your 'magination don't have to run a great ways to see men gettin'
drunk," said Eben, with some relaxation of voice and manner. The absence
of conviction which Parker's logic displayed seemed a relief to him. His
fanaticism was personal, not polemical.
"What'd ye raise back in Ioway?" asked Parker, with seeming irrelevance.
"How'd ye reconcile that?"
"I didn't reconcile it; I couldn't. I sold out, an' come away."
Parker trimmed a ragged piece of leather from the sole of his boot, and
"Well, I try not to be an extremist," he said, with moderation. "That
Barden's the brazenest liar on this coast. He'd ought to be kicked by a
mule. I'd like to see Idy tackle 'im."
This suggestive combination of Barden's deserts with his daughter's
energy seemed to give Eben no offense.
"Idy's so mad with him she gets excited," he said mildly. "I can't make
'er see it's all fer the best. Sence I've found out about the vines,
I've been glad I bought 'em."
Parker stopped his amateur cobbling, and looked up.
"Ye don't mean it!" he said, with rising curiosity.
"Yes; I'm glad o' the chance to get red o' them. It's worth the money."
He turned to pick up another twisted root, displaying the patches on his
knees, and the hollowness of his sunken chest.
"The hell!" commented Parker, softly to himself, with a long, indrawn
"I guess I'll go down to the house," he said aloud, getting up by easy
stages. "I see the cow's pulled up her stake, an' 's r'airn round tryin'
to get to the calf. Mebby Idy'll need some help."
"She was calc'latin' to move 'er at noon," said Eben, shading his eyes,
and looking toward the house. "It must be 'long toward 'leven now. If
you're goin' down, you'd better stop an' have a bite o' dinner with us."
"Well, I won't kick if the women folks don't," answered Parker amiably;
"bachin' 's pretty slow. I've eat so much bacon an' beans I dunno
whether I'm a hog or a Boston schoolma'am."
Arrived at the corral, where the cow stood with uplifted head snuffing
the air, and gazing excitedly at her wild-eyed offspring, his composure
suddenly vanished. Miss Starkweather was holding the stake in one hand,
and winding the rope about her arm with the other.
"Hello!" she said, with a start, "where on earth 'd you spring from?"
"I see the cow was loose," ventured Parker, "an' I thought you mightn't
be able to ketch 'er."
"Well, it wouldn't be fer lack o' practice," responded the girl, with a
wide, good-natured smile. "She's yanked her stake out three times this
mornin', an' come cavin' around here as if she thought somebody wanted
to run away with 'er triflin' little calf. I guess she likes to have me
follerin' 'er 'round."
"She's got good taste," said Parker gallantly.
The girl laughed, and struck at him with the iron stake.
"Oh, taffy!" she said, looking at him coquettishly from under her frizz.
"Ain't you ashamed?"
"No," said Parker, waxing brave. "Gi' me the stake; mebbe I c'n fasten
'er so she'll stay."
"You're welcome to try,"—the girl slipped her arm out of the coil of
rope,—"but I don't b'lieve you can, unless you drill a hole in a
boulder, an' wedge the stake in."
Parker led away the cow, mooing with maternal solicitude, and Idy
returned to the house. When she reached the kitchen door, she turned and
called between the ringing blows of the axe,—
"Oh, Mr. Lowe, mother says won't ye come to dinner?"
"You bet!" answered Parker warmly.
Mrs. Starkweather sat on the doorstep picking a chicken, which seemed to
develop a prodigious accession of leg and neck in the process. She had
the set, impervious face of a nervous invalid, and her whole attitude,
the downward curve of her mouth, and the elevation of her brows, were
eloquent of injustice. The clammy, half-plucked fowl in her hand seemed
to share her expression of irreparable injury. She allowed her daughter
to climb over her without moving, and when Parker appeared she wiped one
long yellow hand on her apron, and gave it to him in a nerveless grasp.
"I hope you'll excuse me fer not gettin' up," she drawled; "I guess you
c'n get a-past me. Idy, come an' set a rocker fer Mr. Lowe."
"I've got my hands in the dough," called her daughter hilariously, from
the pantry; "Mr. Lowe'll have to set on his thumb till I get these
biscuits in the pan."
Parker's head swam. The domestic familiarity of it all filled him with
ecstasy. He got himself a chair, and inquired solicitously concerning
Mrs. Starkweather's health.
"Oh, I'm just about the same," complained his hostess; "not down sick,
but gruntin'. Folks that's up an' down like I am don't get nigh as much
sympathy as they 'd ought. I tell Starkweather, well folks like him an'
Idy ain't fittin' comp'ny fer an inv'lid."
"Mr. Starkweather's lookin' better 'n he did," said Parker, listening
rapturously to the thumps of the rolling-pin in the pantry. "I think
this climate agrees with 'im."
"Oh, he's well enough," responded Mrs. Starkweather dejectedly, "if he
didn't make 'imself so much extry work. Grubbin' out that vineyard, now!
I can't fer the life o' me see"—
"Maw!" called Idy warningly, opening the battened door with a jerk—"you
maw! look out, now!"
Mrs. Starkweather drooped her mouth, and raised her brows, with a sigh
of extreme and most self-sacrificial virtue.
"Oh, of course Idy fires up if anybody says anythin' ag'in' 'er fawther.
I guess that's always the way; them that does least fer their fam'lies
always gets the most credit. I think if some folks was thinkin' more
about their dooties an' less about their queer notions, some other folks
wouldn't be laid up with miseries in their backs."
Having thus modestly obscured herself and her sufferings behind a
plurality of backs, Mrs. Starkweather arose and dragged herself into the
"Gi' me the chicken," said Idy, slamming her biscuits into the oven, and
taking the hunchbacked and apparently shivering fowl from her mother. "I
ain't a-goin' to have anybody talkin' about pappy, an' you know it. If I
was a man, I'd get even with that lyin' Barden, or I'd know the reason
"That's just what I was sayin'," returned Mrs. Starkweather, with
malicious meekness. "If your fawther was the man he'd ought to be, he
wouldn't be rode over that way by nobody."
The girl's face flamed until it seemed that her blonde thatch of hair
would take fire.
"Pappy ain't to blame," she said angrily; "he can't help thinkin' the
way he does. There ain't no call to be mad with pappy; it's all that
miser'ble, lyin' Barden. It'll be a cold day fer him when I ketch 'im."
Parker gazed at her admiringly. She had laid the chicken on a corner of
the table, and was vigorously cutting it into pieces, cracking its
bones, and slashing into it with an energy that seemed to her lover
deliciously bloodthirsty and homicidal.
"Barden's got back from the East," he announced. "I see 'im over t'
Elsmore Saturday, tryin' to peek over the top of his high collar. You'd
ought to seen 'im; he's sweet pretty."
The girl refused to smile, but the blaze in her cheeks subsided a
"It's just as well fer him I didn't," she said, whetting her knife on
the edge of a stone jar. "He mightn't be so pretty after I'd got done
lookin' at 'im."
Parker laughed resoundingly, and the girl's face relaxed a little under
his appreciative mirth. When her father stepped upon the platform at
the kitchen door, she left the frying chicken to hiss and sputter in the
skillet, and went to meet him.
"Now, pappy," she said, taking hold of him with vigorous tenderness,
"I'll bet you've been workin' too hard. Here, let me fill that basin,
and when you've washed, you come in an' let Mr. Lowe give ye a pointer
on settin' 'round watchin' other folks work." She raised her voice for
Parker's benefit. "He come out here fer his health, an' he's gettin' so
fat an' sassy he has to live by 'imself."
Parker's appreciation of this brilliant sally seemed to threaten the
underpinning of the kitchen.
Eben smiled up into his daughter's face as he lathered his hairy hands.
"I wouldn't make out much at livin' by myself, Idy," he said gently.
"You ain't goin' to get a chance," rejoined his daughter, rushing back
to her sputtering skillet, and spearing the pieces of chicken
energetically; "you ain't goin' to get red o' me, no matter how sassy
you are; I'm here to stay."
"Hold on now," warned Parker; "mind what you're sayin'."
"I know what I'm sayin'," retorted the girl, tossing her head. "I'd just
like to see the man that could coax me away from pappy."
"You'd like to see 'im, would ye?" roared Parker, slapping his knee.
"Come, now, that's pretty good. Mebbe if you'd look, ye might ketch a
glimpse of 'im settin' 'round som'er's."
The girl lifted the skillet from the stove, and let the flame flare up
to hide her blushes.
"He wouldn't be settin' 'round," she asserted indignantly, jabbing the
fire with her fork. "He'd be up an' comin', you c'n bet on that."
"What's Idy gettin' off now?" drawled Mrs. Starkweather from the other
"Gettin' off her base," answered Parker jocosely. Nevertheless, the wit
of his inamorata rankled, and after dinner he went with Eben to the barn
to "hitch up."
"Idy wants to go over to Elsmore this afternoon," said Eben, "an' I
promised to go 'long; but I'd ought to stay with the grubbin'. If you
was calc'latin' to lay off anyhow, mebbe you wouldn't mind the ride. The
broncos hain't been used much sence I commenced on the greasewood, and
I don't quite like to have 'er go alone."
"She hadn't ought to go alone," broke in Parker eagerly. "That pinto o'
yourn's goin' to kick some o' ye into the middle o' next week, one o'
these days. I was just thinkin' I'd foot it over to the store fer some
bacon. Tell Idy to wait till I run up to the house an' get my gun."
Idy waited, rather impatiently, and rejected with contempt her escort's
proposal to take the lines.
"When I'm scared o' this team, I'll let ye know," she informed him,
giving the pinto a cut with the whip that sent his heels into the air.
"If ye don't like my drivin', ye c'n invite yerself to ride with
somebody else. I'm a-doin' this."
The afternoon was steeped in the warm fragrance of a California spring.
Every crease and wrinkle in the velvet of the encircling hills was
reflected in the blue stillness of the laguna. Patches of poppies blazed
like bonfires on the mesa, and higher up the faint smoke of the
blossoming buckthorn tangled its drifts in the chaparral. Bees droned in
the wild buckwheat, and powdered themselves with the yellow of the
mustard, and now and then the clear, staccato voice of the meadow-lark
broke into the drowsy quiet—a swift little dagger of sound.
"The barley's headin' out fast." Parker raised his voice above the
rattle of the wagon. "I wished now I'd 'a' put in that piece of
"Harvest's a poor time fer wishin'; it's more prof'table 'long about
seedin'-time," said Idy, with a smile that threatened the meshes of her
stylishly drawn veil.
Parker set one foot on the dashboard, and swung the other out of the
"I do a good deal o' wishin' now that ain't very prof'table—time o'
year don't seem to make much difference," he said plaintively.
"Well, I guess if I wanted anything I wouldn't wish fer it a great
while—not if I could set to work an' get it."
The vim of this remark seemed to communicate itself to the pinto through
the tightened rein, and sent him forward with accelerated speed.
Parker glanced at his companion from under the conical shapelessness of
his old felt hat, but she kept her eyes on the team, and gave him her
jaunty profile behind its tantalizing barrier of meshes and dots.
"Well, I'll bet if you wanted what I want you'd be 'most afraid to
mention it," he said, reaching down into the tall barley, and jerking up
a handful of the bearded heads.
"Well, now, I bet I wouldn't."
"S'posin' I wanted to get married?"
There was a silence so sudden that it had the effect of an explosion.
Then Miss Starkweather giggled nervously.
"That's just exactly what I do want," persisted Parker desperately,
turning his toe inward, and kicking the wagon-box.
There was another disheartening silence. Then the girl's color flamed up
under her rusty lace veil. She turned upon him witheringly.
"Well, what are ye goin' to do about it? Set 'round and wait till some
girl asks ye?"
Her voice had a fine sarcastic sting in it.
Parker whipped his brown overalls with a green barley-head.
"No; I ain't such a bloomin' idiot as I look."
"I don't know 'bout that," answered the young woman coolly.
Parker faced about.
"Now, look here, Idy," he said; "you'd ought to quit foolin'. You know
what I mean well enough; you're just purtendin'. You know I want to
"Me!" The girl lifted her brows until they disappeared under the edge of
her much-becurled bang. "Want to marry me! Great Scott!"
"I don't see why it's great Scott or great anything else," said Parker
Idy held the reins in her left hand, and smoothed her alpaca lap with
the whip handle, in maiden meditation.
"Well, I don't know as 't is so very great after all," she said, rubbing
the folds of her dress, and glancing at him in giggling confusion.
Parker made an experimental motion with his right arm toward the back of
the seat. The girl repelled him dexterously with her elbow.
"You drop that, Parker Lowe!" she said, with dignity. "I ain't so far
gone as all that. There's that Gonsallies felluh lookin' at us. You just
straighten up, or I'll hit ye a cut with this whip!"
Her lover gave a short, embarrassed laugh.
"Oh, come now, Idy; Ricardo don't understand United States."
"Well, I don't care whether he understands United States or not. I guess
idiots acts about the same in all languages. I'll bet a dollar he
understands what you're up to, anyway; so there."
She drove on, in rigid perpendicularity, past the adobe ranch-house of
the Gonzales family, and around the curve of the lake-shore, into the
sunshine of the wild mustard that fringed the road. Through it they
could see the pale sheen of the ripening barley-fields, broken here and
there by the darker green of alfalfa.
As the mustard grew taller and denser, Idy's spine relaxed sufficiently
to permit a covert, conciliatory glance toward her companion's arm,
which hung from the back of the seat in the disappointed attitude it had
assumed at her repulse.
"I s'pose you think I'm awful touchy," she broke out at last, "an' mebbe
I am; but before I promise to marry anybody, there's two things he's got
to promise me—he's got to sign the pledge, an' he's got to get even
with that felluh Barden."
Parker's face, which had brightened perceptibly at the first
requirement, clouded dismally at the second.
Idy dropped her chin on the silk handkerchief flaring softly at her
throat, and looked at him deliciously sidewise from under her
"I'll promise anything, Idy," he protested, fervently abject.
Half an hour later they drove into Elsmore with the radiance of their
betrothal still about them, and Idy drove the team up, with a skillful
avoidance of the curb, before the "Live and Let Live Meat-Market."
"I'm goin' to get some round steak," she said, giving the lines to
Parker, who sprang to the sidewalk, "an' then I'm goin' over to
Saunders's to look at jerseys. You c'n go where you please, but if I see
you loafin' 'round a saloon there'll be a picnic. If you tie the team,
you want to put a halter on the pinto—he's like me, he hates to be
tied; he pulls back. If you hain't got much to do, I think you'd better
make a hitchin'-post of yerself, and not tie 'im."
She stood up in the wagon, preening her finery, and looking down at her
lover before she gave him her hand.
"I won't be a hitchin'-post if you hate to be tied," he said, holding
out his hands invitingly.
As he spoke, the rider of a glittering bicycle glided noiselessly around
the corner, apparently steering straight for Eben's team of ranch-bred
broncos. The pinto snorted wildly, and dashed into the street, jerking
the reins from Parker's hand, and rolling him over in the dust. There
was the customary soothing yell with which civilization always greets a
runaway, and a man sprang from a doorway on the opposite side of the
street, and flung himself in front of the frightened horses. The pinto
reared, but the stranger's hand was on the bridle; a firm and skillful
hand it seemed, for the horses came down on quivering haunches, and then
stood still, striving to look around their blinders in search of the
modern centaur that had terrified them.
Idy had fallen back into the seat without a word or cry, and sat there
bolt upright, her face so white that it gleamed through the meshes of
"Well," she said, with a long panting breath, "that was a pretty close
call fer kingdom come, wasn't it?"
The stranger, who was stroking the pinto's nose, and talking to him
"Hello, Park!" he said as the latter came up. "Cold day, wasn't it? Got
your jacket pretty well dusted for once, I guess."
The crowd that had collected laughed, and two or three bareheaded men
began to examine the harness. While this was in progress, the
livery-stable keeper took a look at the pinto's teeth, and they all
confided liberally in one another as to what they had thought when they
first heard the racket. The young man who had stopped the team left them
in the care of a newcomer, and walked around beside Idy.
"Won't you come into the office and rest a little?" he asked.
"Oh, thanks, no," said the girl, with a shuddering, nervous laugh; "I
hain't done nothin' to make me tired. I think you're the one that
ought to take a rest. If it hadn't been fer you I'd been a goner, sure."
Her rescuer laughed again and turned away, moving his hand involuntarily
toward his head, and discovering that it was bare. The discovery seemed
to amuse him even more highly, and he made two or three strides to where
his hat lay in the middle of the street, and went across to his office,
dusting the hat with long, elaborate flirts of his gayly bordered silk
The knot of men began to disperse, and the boys, who lingered longest,
finally straggled away, stifling their regret that no one was mangled
beyond recognition. Parker climbed into the wagon, and drove over to
"I don't know as I'd better buy a jersey to-day," giggled Idy, as she
stepped from the wagon to the elevated wooden sidewalk. "I'm afraid it
won't fit. I feel as if I'd been scared out o' ten years' growth."
As they drove home in the chill, yellow evening, Idy turned to her
lover, and asked abruptly,—
"Who was that felluh?"
"The young felluh with the sandy mustache, the one that stopped the
Parker's manner had been evasive from the first, but at this the
evasiveness became a highly concentrated unconcern. He looked across the
lake, and essayed a yawn with feeble success.
"There was a good many standin' around when I got there. What sort o'
lookin' felluh was he?"
"I just told ye; with a sandy mustache, short, and middlin' heavy set."
"Sh-h-h!" said Parker, reaching for his gun. Idy stopped the horses.
A bronze ibis arose from the tules at the water's edge, and flapped
slowly westward, its pointed wings and hanging feet dripping with the
gold of the sunset. Parker laid down his gun.
"What did you want to shoot at that thing fer?" asked Idy. "They ain't
fit to eat."
"The wings is pretty. I thought you might like another feather in your
The girl gave him a look of radiant contempt, and he spoke again
hurriedly, anxious to prevent a relapse in the conversation.
"You was sayin' somethin' to-day about signin' the pledge, Idy: I've
been layin' off to sign the pledge this good while. The next time
there's a meetin' of the W. X. Y. Z. women, you fetch on one o' their
pledges, an' I'll put my fist to it."
"W. C. T. U.," corrected Idy, with emphasis.
"All right; W. C. T. me, if that suits you any better. It's a long time
since I learned my letters, an' I get 'em mixed. But I've made up my
mind on the teetotal business, and don't ye forget it."
"There ain't any danger of me forgettin' it," said the young woman
significantly. "What ye goin' to do about that other business?" she
added, turning her wide eyes upon him abruptly—"about gettin' even with
that cheatin' Barden?"
They had driven into the purple shadow of the mountains, and Parker
seemed to have left his enthusiasm behind him with the sunlight.
"I don't know," he said gloomily. "Do ye want me to kill 'im?"
"Kill him!" sneered the girl; "I want ye to get even with 'im!
'Tain't no great trick to kill a man; any fool can do that. I want ye to
get ahead of 'im!"
She glowed upon him in angry magnificence.
"Idy," said her lover, sidling toward her tenderly, "when you flare up
that a-way, you mustn't expect me to think about Barden. You look just
pretty 'nough to eat!"
A week later Eben began grubbing out the vineyard. The weather turned
suddenly warm, and the harvest was coming on rapidly. Parker Lowe had
gone to Temecula with Mose Doolittle, who was about to purchase a
machine, presumably feminine, which they both referred to familiarly as
"she," and styled more formally "a second-hand steam-thrasher." It was
Monday, and Idy was putting the week's washing through the wringer with
a loud vocal accompaniment of gospel hymn.
Eben had worked steadily since sunrise. The vines were young, and the
ground was not heavy, but the day was warm, and he wielded the mattock
rapidly, stooping now and then to jerk out a refractory root with his
hands. An hour before noon his daughter saw him coming through the
apricot orchard, walking wearily, with his soiled handkerchief pressed
to his lips. The girl's voice lost its song abruptly, and then broke out
again in a low, faltering wail. She bounded across the warm plowed
ground to his side.
"Pappy! O pappy!" she cried, breathing wildly, "what is it? Tell me,
can't you, pappy?"
The little man smiled at her with his patient eyes, and shook his head.
She put her hand under his elbow, and walked beside him, her arm across
his shoulders, her tortured young face close to his. When they reached
the kitchen door he sank down on the edge of the platform, resting his
head on his hand. The girl took off his weather-beaten hat, and
smoothed the wet hair from his forehead.
"O pappy! Poor, little, sweet old pappy!" she moaned, rubbing her cheek
caressingly on his bowed head.
Eben took the handkerchief from his lips, and she started back, crying
out piteously as she saw it stained with blood. He looked up at her, a
gentle, tremulous smile twitching his beard.
"Don't—tell—your—maw," he said, putting out his hand feebly.
The words seemed to recall her. She went hurriedly into the house and
close to the lounge where her mother was lying.
"Maw," she said quickly, "you must get up! Pappy's got a hem'ridge. I
want you to help me to get 'im to bed, an' then I'm goin' fer a doctor."
The woman got up, and followed her daughter eagerly.
"Why, Eben!" she said, when they reached the kitchen door. Her voice was
almost womanly; and a real anxiety seemed to have penetrated her
They got him to bed tenderly, and propped him up among the white
pillows. His knotted hands lay on the coverlet, gray and bloodless
under the stains of hard work. Idy bent over him, tucking him in with
little pats and crooning moans of sympathy. When she had finished, she
dropped her wet cheek against his beard.
"I'm goin' fer the doctor, pappy," she whispered; "I won't be gone but a
little while,"—then rushed down the path to the stable, and flung the
harness on the pinto.
The buggy was standing in the shed, and she caught the shafts and
dragged it out with superabundant energy, as if her anxiety found relief
in the exertion. A few minutes later she drove out between the rows of
pallid young eucalyptus-trees that led to the road, leaning eagerly
forward, her young face white and set beneath the row of knobby
protuberances that represented the morning stage of her much cherished
bang. It was thus that she drove into Elsmore, the rattling of the old
buggy and the spots of lather on the pinto's sides exciting a ripple of
curiosity, which furnished its own solution in the fact that it was
"that there Starkweather girl," who was generally conceded to be "a
She stopped her panting horse before the doctor's office, and sprang
"Are you the doctor?" she asked breathlessly, standing on the threshold,
with one hand on each side of the casing.
A man in his shirt-sleeves, who was writing at the desk, turned and
looked at her. It was the same man who had prevented the runaway. He
began to smile, but the girl's stricken face stopped him.
"Dr. Patterson has gone to the tin-mine," he said, getting up and coming
forward; "he will not be home till to-morrow."
Idy grasped the casing so tightly that her knuckles shone white and
"My fawther's got a hem'ridge," she said, swallowing after the words. "I
don't know what on earth to do."
"A hemorrhage!" said the young man with kindly sympathy. "Well, now,
don't be too much alarmed, Miss—"
"Starkweather," quavered Idy.
"Starkweather? Oh, it's Mr. Starkweather. Why, he's a friend of mine.
And so you're his daughter. Well, you mustn't be too much alarmed. I've
had a great many hemorrhages myself, and I'm good for twenty years
yet." He had taken his coat from a nail at the back of the room, and was
putting it on hurriedly. "Prop him up in bed, and don't let him talk,
and give him a spoonful of salt-and-water now and then. My horse is
standing outside, and I'll go right down to Maravilla and fetch a
doctor. I'll come up on the other side of the lake, and get there almost
as soon as you do—let me help you into your buggy. And drive right on
home, and don't worry."
He had put on his hat, and they stood on the sidewalk together.
Idy made a little impulsive stoop toward him, as if she would have taken
him in her arms.
"Oh!" she gasped, her eyes swimming, and her chin working painfully; "I
just think you're the very best man I ever saw in all my life!"
A moment later she saw him driving a tall black horse toward the lake at
a speed that brought her the first sigh of relief she had known, and
made her put up her hand suddenly to her forehead.
"Good gracious me!" she exclaimed under her breath—"if I didn't forget
to take down my crimps!"
Two or three times as she drove home through the warm odors of the
harvest noon her anxiety was invaded by the recollection of this man, to
whose promptness and decision her own vigorous nature responded with a
strong sense of liking; and this liking did not suffer any abatement
when he came into her father's sick-room with the doctor, and the
invalid looked at the stranger, and then at her, with a faint, troubled
"Don't try to speak, Mr. Starkweather," said the visitor cheerfully;
"I've made your daughter's acquaintance already. We want you to give
your entire attention to getting well, and let us do the talking."
He went out of the room, and strolled about the place while the doctor
made his call, and when it was over he went around to the kitchen, where
Idy was kindling a fire, and said:—
"Doctor Patterson thinks your father will be all right in a day or so,
Miss Starkweather. Be careful to keep him quiet. I'm going to drive
around to the station, so the doctor can catch the evening train, and
save my driving him down to Maravilla; and I'll go on over to Elsmore
and get this prescription filled, and bring the medicine back to you. Is
there anything else you'd like from town—a piece of meat to make
beef-tea, or anything?"
"Well, I wouldn't mind much if you would bring me a piece of beef,"
said Idy, pausing with a stick of redwood kindling across her knee. Then
she dropped it, and came forward. "We're ever so much obliged to
ye—pappy 'n' all of us. Seem 's if you always turn up. I think you've
been just awful good and kind—an' us strangers, too."
"Oh, you're not strangers," laughed the young man, lifting his hat;
"I've known your father ever since he came."
He went around the house, and got into the cart with the doctor.
"Starkweather's a crank," he said, as they drove off, "but he's the kind
of crank that makes you wish you were one yourself. When I see a man
like that going off with consumption, and a lot of loafers getting so
fat they crowd each other off the store boxes, I wonder what Providence
is thinking of."
"He works too hard," growled the doctor, with the savagery of science.
"What can Providence do with a man who grubs greasewood when he ought to
be in bed!"
It was moonlight when the stranger returned, and handed the packages to
Idy at the kitchen door.
"Pappy's asleep," she whispered, in answer to his inquiries; "he seems
to be restin' easy."
"Is there no one about the place but yourself and mother, Miss
Idy shook her head.
"Well, then, if you don't mind, I think I will put my horse in the barn,
and sleep in the shed here, on the hay. If you should need any one in
the night, you can call me. I haven't an idea but that your father will
be all right, but it's a little more comfortable to have some one within
"Well," said Idy, dropping her hands at her sides, and looking at him in
admiring bewilderment, "if you ain't just— Have you had anythin' to
eat?" she broke off, with sudden hospitality.
"Oh yes, thank you; I had dinner at Elsmore," laughed the young man,
backing out into the shadow. "Good-night."
Half a minute later she followed him down the walk, carrying a heavy
blanket over her arm. He had led his horse to the water-trough, and the
moonlight shone full upon him as he stood with one arm thrown over the
glossy creature's neck.
"I brought you this here blanket, Mr.—"
"Barden," supplied the young man, carelessly.
Idy sank back against the corral fence as if she were stunned.
"Barden!" she repeated helplessly. "Is your name Barden?"
She stood breathless a moment, and then burst out:—
"An' you're him! you—an' doin' this way, after the way you've
done—an' him sick—an' me talkin' to ye—an'—an'—everything!"
The two torrents of hate and gratitude had met, and were whirling her
The young man pushed his hat back on his head, and stared at her in
sturdy, unflinching amazement.
"My dear young lady, what on earth do you mean?" he asked quietly.
"I mean that I didn't know that you was him—the man that sold my
father this place, an' lied to him about the vineyard—told him they was
raisin-grapes, an' they wasn't—an' you knowed he was a temp'rance man,
a prohibitionist. An' him tryin' to grub 'em out, an' gettin' sick—an'
bein' so patient, an' never hurtin' nobody—" she ended in a wild,
angry sob that seemed to swallow up her voice.
"Miss Starkweather," said the young fellow steadily, "I certainly did
sell this place to your father, and if I told him anything about the
vineyard I most certainly told him they were raisin-grapes; and upon my
soul I thought they were. Aren't they?"
"No," sobbed Idy, "they ain't; they're wine-grapes! He was grubbin' 'em
out to-day. That's what hurt 'im—I'm afraid he'll die!"
"You mustn't be afraid of that. Dr. Patterson says he will get better.
But we must see that he doesn't do any more grubbing. When Slater gave
me this for sale," he went on, as if he were reflecting aloud, "he said
there were ten acres of vineyard. I can't swear that he told me what the
vines were, or that I asked him. But it never occurred to me that any
man—even an Englishman—would plant ten acres of wine-grapes when there
wasn't a winery within fifty miles of him."
Parker Lowe borrowed one of Mose Doolittle's mules Monday evening, and
rode from Temecula to Jake Levison's saloon at Maravilla. It was
understood when he left the thresher's camp that he would probably "make
a night of it," and Mose gave him a word of friendly warning and advice.
"You want to remember, Park, that the old man is down on the flowing
bowl; an' from what I've heard of the family I think it'll pay you to
keep yourself solid with the old man."
"I'm a-goin' up to the drug-store to get some liniment for Dave
Montgomery's lame shoulder," returned Parker, with a knowing wink at
his companion, as he flung himself into the saddle; "but I hain't signed
no pledge yet—not by a jugful," he called back, as the mule jolted
lazily down the road.
It was a warm night, and half a dozen loafers were seated on empty
beer-kegs in front of Levison's door when Parker rode up. Levison got
up, and began to disengage himself from the blacksmith's story as he saw
the newcomer dismount; but the blacksmith raised his voice insistently.
"'There don't no dude tell me how to pare a hoof,' says I; 'I'll do it
my way, or I don't do it;' an' I done it, an' him kickin' like a steer
all the time"—
"Who?" asked one of the other men.
"What was he doin' down here?"
"He came down for Doc Patterson. That teetotal wreck on the west side o'
the lake took a hem'ridge—I furget his name, somethin'-weather: pretty
dry weather, judgin' from what I hear."
"Yes, Starkweather; I guess he's pretty low."
Parker started back to the post where his mule was tied. Then he turned
and looked into the saloon. Levison had gone in and was wiping off the
"It won't take but a minute," he apologized to himself.
It took a good many minutes, however, and by the time the minutes
lengthened into hours Parker had ceased to apologize to himself, and
insisted upon taking the by-standers into his confidence.
"I'm—I'm goin' to sign the pledge," he said, with an unsteady wink,
"an' then I'm goin' to get merried,—yes, sir, boys; rattlin' nice girl,
too,—'way up girl, temperance girl. But there's many a cup 'twixt the
slip and the lip—ain't there, boys? Yes, sir, 'twixt the cup and the
slip—yes, sir—yes, sir—ee." Then his reflections driveled off into
stupor, and he sat on an empty keg with the conical crown of his old
felt hat pointed forward, and his hands hanging limply between his
When Levison was ready to leave he stirred Parker up with his foot, and
helped him to mount his mule. The patient creature turned its head
It was after daybreak when Parker rode into the Starkweather ranch, and
presented himself at the kitchen door. The night air had sobered him,
but it had done nothing more. Idy was standing by the stove with her
back toward him. She turned when she heard his step.
"Why, Park!" she said, with a start; then she put up her hand. "Don't
make a noise. Pappy's sick."
He came toward her hesitatingly.
"So I heard down at Maravilla last night, Idy."
Her face darkened.
"And you been all night gettin' here?"
He bent over her coaxingly.
"Well, you see, Idy"—
The girl pushed him away with both hands, and darted back out of reach.
"Parker Lowe," she said, with a gasp, "you've been drinkin'!"
Parker hung his head sullenly.
"No, I hain't," he muttered; "not to speak of. Whose horse is that out
'n the corral?"
The girl looked at him witheringly.
"I don't know as it's any of your pertic'lar business, but I don't mind
tellin' you that horse b'longs to a gentleman!"
"A gentleman," sneered Parker.
"Yes, a gentleman; if you don't know what that is you'd better look in
the dictionary. You won't find out by lookin' in the lookin'-glass, I
can tell you that."
"Oh, come now, Idy, you hadn't ought to be so mad; I hadn't signed the
He took a step toward her. The girl put out her hands warningly, and
then clasped her arms about herself with a shudder.
"Don't you come near me, Parker Lowe," she gasped. "What do I care about
the pledge! Didn't you tell me you'd stop drinkin'? Won't a man that
tells lies with his tongue tell 'em with his fingers? Do you suppose I'd
marry a man that 'u'd come to me smellin' of whiskey, an' him lyin'
sick in there? Can't you see that he's worth ten thousand such folks as
you an' me? I don't want a man that can't see that! I'm done with you,
Parker Lowe,"—her voice broke into a dry sob; "I want you to go away
and stay away! It ain't the drinkin'—it's him—can't you understand?"
And Parker, as he climbed toward his lonesome cabin, understood.