December 1993 | Volume 44, Issue 8
ALL now must be lost. The portmanteau was last spied tumbling down the ravine-side, with good Dr. Mudlow close behind. Not a trice later, the sounds of gunplay were to be heard echoing from Bad Man’s Rock. In camp, Miss Eulalie read and read again the billet-doux, writ in Indian code and wrapped around a rock, that the mysterious Dragoman had delivered. And whatever, wondered she, had become of Huckstep?
“Never fear,” a strong voice boomed. “I aver that by this same time tomorrow, Grady and his entire gang will be safely delivered into the hands of John Law, and you and your Father will need have no fear again from that quarter. Will it be back to Arkansas, then?”
That it was Huckstep who thus spoke must be true and yet not true, thought Miss Eulalie; but, can such a thing be both true, and not true, at one and the same time? For she had last glimpsed dear Huckstep from the river bank, a human salmon-fish, leaping upstream. His hat had floated; Huckstep, not. But then, if events had run so, how could he be—
“Crunch-o!” With the loud snapping of a nearby twig did the young schoolmarm of the pine barrens’ reverie of a sudden, perforce, cease.
“Gotcher, pard!” For it was Grady himself, a shadow pantomiming Menace itself from just behind the campfire’s cheery glow. Did any storm-tossed Atlantic packet ever sink so fast as did Miss Eulahe’s heart in that moment?
“By the great Allah, may this teapot become a cannon ball!” Did any western sunrise e’er lift the human heart as was Miss Eulalie’s tender cardiacian pump now lifted? It was the Dragoman, in the tree-tops behind.
“R-r-r-ragggh! ” From nowhere had come Huckstep! In the millionth particle of a jot, that worthy had set down his hookah, moved back the divan on which he had been resting, placed his sombrero on his head, taken up a sack of chestnuts in his fist, and leapt toward the shadow as a panther leaps toward its prey.
“Tuh!” Like the proverbial sack of chestnuts did brave Huckstep sag and sprawl prostrate across the campfire; the dragoman’s teapot had hit home; but if we take skulls for houses, it had knocked at the wrong address.