The Breaking Point
Louis Bassett, when he started to the old Livingstone ranch, now the Wasson place, was
carefully turning over in his mind David's participation in the escape of Judson Clark.
Certain phases of it were quite clear, provided one accepted the fact that, following a
heavy snowfall, an Easterner and a tenderfoot had gone into the mountains alone, under
conditions which had caused the posse after Judson Clark to turn back and give him up
Had Donaldson sent him there, knowing he was a medical man? If he had, would Maggie
Donaldson not have said so? She had said "a man outside that she had at first thought was
a member of the searching party." Evidently, then, Donaldson had not prepared her to
expect medical assistance.
Take the other angle. Say David Livingstone had not been sent for. Say he knew nothing
of the cabin or its occupants until he stumbled on them. He had sold the ranch, distributed
his brother's books, and apparently the townspeople at Dry River believed that he had
gone back home. Then what had taken him, clearly alone and having certainly given the
impression of a departure for the East, into the mountains? To hunt? To hunt what, that
he went about it secretly and alone?
Bassett was inclined to the Donaldson theory, finally. John Donaldson would have been
wanting a doctor, and not wanting one from Norada. He might have heard of this Eastern
medical man at Dry River, have gone to him with his story, even have taken him part of
the way. The situation was one that would have a certain appeal. It was possible, anyhow:
But instead of clarifying the situation Bassett's visit at the Wasson place brought forward
new elements which fitted neither of the hypotheses in his mind.
To Wasson himself, whom he met on horseback on the road into the ranch, he gave the
same explanation he had given to the store-keeper's wife. Wasson was a tall man in chaps
and a Stetson, and he was courteously interested.
"Bill and Jake are still here," he said. "They're probably in for dinner now, and I'll see
you get a chance to talk to them. I took them over with the ranch. Property, you say?
Well, I hope it's better land than he had here."
He turned his horse and rode beside the car to the house.
"Comes a little late to do Henry Livingstone much good," he said. "He's been lying in the
Dry River graveyard for about ten years. Not much mourned either. He was about as
close-mouthed and uncompanionable as they make them."
The description Wasson had applied to Henry Livingstone, Bassett himself applied to the
two ranch hands later on, during their interview. It could hardly have been called an
interview at all, indeed, and after a time Bassett realized that behind their taciturnity was