Dwellers in the Hills (Chapter 4, page 2 of 8)


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Chapter 4

The trade was fair enough when the two had made it. But now the price of beef cattle was off almost thirty dollars a bullock, and Woodford was in a position to lose more money than his bald-faced cattle-horse could carry in a sack. He had waited all along hoping for the tide to turn. Suddenly, to-day he had demanded his cattle.

To-day, when Ward was on his back and the cattle far to the south across the Valley River. It was the contract, and he had the right to do it, but it was like Woodford. Ward, helpless in his bed, had sent Jourdan on Red Mike to find us somewhere over the Gauley and bid us bring up the cattle if we could. And so the old man had ridden as though the devil were after him.

The proportions of Woodford's plan outlined slowly, and with it came a sense of tremendous responsibility. If we carried out the contract to the letter,--and to the letter it must be with this man,--I knew that Woodford would meet the loss, if it stripped the coat off of his shoulders,--meet it with a smile and some swaggering comment. And I knew as well that, if by any hook or crook he could prevent the contract from being carried out, he would do it with the devil's cleverness.

Only, I knew that the hand of Woodford would never rise against us in the open. We might be balked by sudden providences of God, planned shrewdly like those which a great churchman ruling France sometimes called to his elbow.

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