The Breaking Point
For several days after his visit to the Livingstone ranch Louis Bassett made no
move to go to the cabin. He wandered around the town, made promiscuous
acquaintances and led up, in careful conversations with such older residents as
he could find, to the Clark and Livingstone families. Of the latter he learned
nothing; of the former not much that he had not known before.
One day he happened on a short, heavy-set man, the sheriff, who had lost his
office on the strength of Jud Clark's escape, and had now recovered it. Bassett
had brought some whisky with him, and on the promise of a drink lured Wilkins to
his room. Over his glass the sheriff talked.
"All this newspaper stuff lately about Jud Clark being alive is dead wrong," he
declared, irritably. "Maggie Donaldson was crazy. You can ask the people here
about her. They all know it. Those newspaper fellows descended on us here with
a tooth-brush apiece and a suitcase full of liquor, and thought they'd get
something. Seemed to think we'd hold out on them unless we got our skins full.
But there isn't anything to hold out. Jud Clark's dead. That's all."
"Sure he's dead," Bassett agreed, amiably. "You found his horse, didn't you?"
"Yes. Dead. And when you find a man's horse dead in the mountains in a
blizzard, you don't need any more evidence. It was five months before you could
see a trail up the Goat that winter."
Bassett nodded, rose and poured out another drink.
"I suppose," he observed casually, "that even if Clark turned up now, it would be
hard to convict him, wouldn't it?"
The 8herlff considered that, holding up his glass.
"Well, yes and no," he said. "It was circumstantial evidence, mostly. Nobody saw
it done. The worst thing against him was his running off."
"How about witnesses?"
"Nobody actually saw it done. John Donaldson came the nearest, and he's dead.
Lucas's wife was still alive, the last I heard, and I reckon the valet is floating
"I suppose if he did turn up you'd make a try for it." Bassett stared at the end of