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the Shoo-Fly when he told me about Kahtenny.
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"He begged me to shoot him. Under the same situation I'd have done
the same, more than likely."
"Perhaps." Lewiston looked hard at me. "Sackett, is it not true
that your family feuded for years with a family named Higgins? That you hunted
each other and killed each other on sight?"
"That was over years ago," I said. "Anyway, I ain't been backin
that country since the war. As for this Higgins, I never gave it no thought.
It's been a good while since I've had any cause to think of it."
"Nevertheless, Billy Higgins is dead, killed by your bullet. I
have to warn you, Sackett, the story is out, and there's considerable feeling
in Tucson. Higgins had friends there."
"But I tell you, I  "
"Don't tell me. Tell the jury." He walked away from me, and I sat
there by the fire, a-staring into it. I'd run a long way. I'd fought some hard
fights. I'd stood off the Apaches and the Haddens, and now here I was,
arrested for a crime that was no crime, but a crime they could hang me for.
And there was only one person in Tucson likely to know about that
old Higgins-Sackett feud.
Laura Sackett ...
Chapter 18
You can take it from me that no jail cell is a place for a
mountain boy. I was raised up where folks looked to the hills, only up where
we came from you hadn't chance to look much higher, we were that near the top
of the ridge.
This cell they put me into had one small window, too small for me
to crawl out of, and a door that was as barred as could be. When I heard that
door clang shut I wasn't at all happy. Only thing I knew, I was going to catch
up on my sleep, and at least I could eat. And right about that time I was
hungry enough to eat an old saddle, stirrups and all.
Captain Lewiston was my first visitor. He came early in the
morning, and brought a chair into the cell with him. He also brought the
company clerk.
"Sackett," he began, "I want you to give me the whole story, in
your own words. I want to help you if I can. Right now the people are divided.
Some want to hang you for killing Billy Higgins, and some want to give you a
medal for saving those youngsters."
So I gave it to him. How the bunch of us, unknown to each other
until then, had banded together to ride to Tucson.
The story of our fight with Kahtenny's Apaches I repeated for him,
as I'd told him the whole story before, except the part about me killing Billy
Higgins, which I didn't like to think on. Then I told him about my meeting
with Laura Sackett, and her story of the lost boy.
"This much I have learned since your departure," Lewiston said.
"Laura Sackett was divorced from your brother, and your brothers and her
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father had been deadly enemies."
"If I ever heard of that, I'd forgotten. We Sacketts were never
much on talking of troubles when we were together. It never does any good to
go worrying your thoughts about things gone by."
"I approached her last night about your story," Captain Lewiston
said. "She denies ever mentioning a child to you, or giving you any cause to
ride into Mexico."
I just looked at him. It was no use to say she was lying, although
she surely was.
"As a matter of fact, she says you ran away to Mexico for fear
somebody would discover you had taken advantage of an Apache attack to kill
Higgins."
"Those boys I was with knew better. Why else would they come with
me?"
"I am afraid that won't help you at all. I believe you told me
that they are dead."
"I buried Rocca with my own hands. Spanish Murphy was finished off
by the Haddens. By their own say-so. John J.... well, I guess he never made it
that far."
"You have no witnesses then?"
"No, sir. Nary a one. You see, Cap'n, none of those men saw it
anyway. When I shot Billy Higgins there was just him and me. Nobody was close
enough to hear what was said."
Well, we talked a while, and he asked a sight of questions, but
after that neither of us had much hope. That feud was ten years out of my mind
when I met those men in Yuma, and the name Higgins meant nothing at all to me.
So here I was in jail, and Laura Sackett, who'd been the cause of
the deaths of at least three good men, was walking free. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]