The Gentleman from Indiana (Chapter 4, page 2 of 10)


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Chapter 4

"And he was the first to try to stop them?"

"Well, you see our folks are pretty long-suffering," Briscoe replied,
apologetically. "We'd sort of got used to the meanness of the Cross-Roads.
It took a stranger to stir things up--and he did. He sent eight of 'em to
the penitentiary, some for twenty years."

As they passed the saloon a man stepped into the doorway and looked at
them. He was coatless and clad in garments worn to the color of dust; his
bare head was curiously malformed, higher on one side than on the other,
and though the buckboard passed rapidly, and at a distance, this singular
lopsidedness was plainly visible to the occupants, lending an ugly
significance to his meagre, yellow face. He was tall, lean, hard,
powerfully built. He eyed the strangers with affected languor, and then,
when they had gone by, broke into sudden, loud laughter.

"That was Bob Skillett, the worst of the lot," said the judge. "Harkless
sent his son and one brother to prison, and it nearly broke his heart that
he couldn't swear to Bob."

When they were beyond the village and in the open road again. Miss
Sherwood took a deep breath. "I think I breathe more freely," she said.
"That was a hideous laugh he sent after us. I had heard of places like
this before--and I don't think I care to see many of them. As I understand
it, Six-Cross-Roads is entirely vicious, isn't it; and bears the same
relation to the country that the slums do to a city?'"

"That's about it. They make their own whiskey. I presume; and they have
their own fights amongst themselves, but they settle 'em themselves, too,
and keep their own counsel and hush it up. Lige Willetts, Minnie's friend
--I guess she's told you about Lige?--well, Lige Willetts will go anywhere
when he's following a covey, though mostly the boys leave this part of the
country alone when they're hunting; but Lige got into a thicket back of
the forge one morning, and he came on a crowd of buzzards quarrelling over
a heap on the ground, and he got out in a hurry. He said he was sure it
was a dog; but he ran almost all the way to Plattville."

"Father!" exclaimed his daughter, leaning from the back seat. "Don't tell
such stories to Helen; she'll think we're horrible, and you'll frighten
her, too."

"Well, it isn't exactly a lady's story," said the judge. He glanced at his
guest's face and chuckled. "I guess we won't frighten her much," he went
on. "Young lady, I don't believe you'd be afraid of many things, would
you? You don't look like it. Besides, the Cross-Roads isn't Plattville,
and the White-Caps have been too scared to do anything much, except try to
get even with the 'Herald,' for the last two years; ever since it went for
them. They're laying for Harkless partly for revenge and partly because
they daren't do anything until he's out of the way."

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