To The Last Man
When Ellen, utterly spent in body and mind, reached home that day a melancholy, sultry
twilight was falling. Fitful flares of sheet lightning swept across the dark horizon to the
east. The cabins were deserted. Antonio and the Mexican woman were gone. The
circumstances made Ellen wonder, but she was too tired and too sunken in spirit to think
long about it or to care. She fed and watered her horse and left him in the corral. Then,
supperless and without removing her clothes, she threw herself upon the bed, and at once
sank into heavy slumber.
Sometime during the night she awoke. Coyotes were yelping, and from that sound she
concluded it was near dawn. Her body ached; her mind seemed dull. Drowsily she was
sinking into slumber again when she heard the rapid clip-clop of trotting horses. Startled,
she raised her head to listen. The men were coming back. Relief and dread seemed to
clear her stupor.
The trotting horses stopped across the lane from her cabin, evidently at the corral where
she had left Spades. She heard him whistle. >From the sound of hoofs she judged the
number of horses to be six or eight. Low voices of men mingled with thuds and cracking
of straps and flopping of saddles on the ground. After that the heavy tread of boots
sounded on the porch of the cabin opposite. A door creaked on its hinges. Next a slow
footstep, accompanied by clinking of spurs, approached Ellen's door, and a heavy hand
banged upon it. She knew this person could not be her father.
She recognized the voice as belonging to Colter. Somehow its tone, or something about
it, sent a little shiver clown her spine. It acted like a revivifying current. Ellen lost her
"Hey, Ellen, are y'u there?" added Colter, louder voice.
"Yes. Of course I'm heah," she replied. What do y'u want?"
"Wal--I'm shore glad y'u're home," he replied. "Antonio's gone with his squaw. An' I was
some worried aboot y'u."
"Who's with y'u, Colter?" queried Ellen, sitting up.
"Rock Wells an' Springer. Tad Jorth was with us, but we had to leave him over heah in a
"What's the matter with him?"
"Wal, he's hurt tolerable bad," was the slow reply.