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Lin McLean

Destiny At Drybone
PART I
Children have many special endowments, and of these the chiefest is to ask
questions that their elders must skirmish to evade. Married people and aunts and
uncles commonly discover this, but mere instinct does not guide one to it. A
maiden of twenty-three will not necessarily divine it. Now except in one unhappy
hour of stress and surprise, Miss Jessamine Buckner had been more than equal
to life thus far. But never yet had she been shut up a whole day in one room with
a boy of nine. Had this experience been hers, perhaps she would not have
written to Mr. McLean the friendly and singular letter in which she hoped he was
well, and said that she was very well, and how was dear little Billy? She was glad
Mr. McLean had stayed away. That was just like his honorable nature, and what
she expected of him. And she was perfectly happy at Separ, and "yours sincerely
and always, 'Neighbor.' "Postscript. Talking of Billy Lusk--if Lin was busy with
gathering the cattle, why not send Billy down to stop quietly with her. She would
make him a bed in the ticket-office, and there she would be to see after him all
the time. She knew Lin did not like his adopted child to be too much in cow-camp
with the men. She would adopt him, too, for just as long as convenient to Lin--
until the school opened on Bear Creek, if Lin so wished. Jessamine wrote a good
deal about how much better care any woman can take of a boy of Billy's age than
any man knows. The stage-coach brought the answer to this remarkably soon--
young Billy with a trunk and a letter of twelve pages in pencil and ink-- the only
writing of this length ever done by Mr. McLean.
"I can write a lot quicker than Lin," said Billy, upon arriving. "He was fussing at
that away late by the fire in camp, an' waked me up crawling in our bed. An' then
he had to finish it next night when he went over to the cabin for my clothes."
"You don't say!" said Jessamine. And Billy suffered her to kiss him again.
When not otherwise occupied Jessamine took the letter out of its locked box and
read it, or looked at it. Thus the first days had gone finely at Separ, the weather
being beautiful and Billy much out-of-doors. But sometimes the weather changes
in Wyoming; and now it was that Miss Jessamine learned the talents of
childhood.
Soon after breakfast this stormy morning Billy observed the twelve pages being
taken out of their box, and spoke from his sudden brain. "Honey Wiggin says
Lin's losing his grip about girls," he remarked. "He says you couldn't 'a' downed
him onced. You'd 'a' had to marry him. Honey says Lin ain't worked it like he
done in old times."
"Now I shouldn't wonder if he was right," said Jessamine, buoyantly. "And that
being the case, I'm going to set to work at your things till it clears, and then we'll
go for our ride."
"Yes," said Billy. When does a man get too old to marry?"
"I'm only a girl, you see. I don't know."
"Yes. Honey said he wouldn't 'a' thought Lin was that old. But I guess he must be
thirty."
 
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