AS before remarked, the boy poet, Little Billie Piper, sly and timid as he was with the men, was about the first to make friends with this first woman in this wild Eden. Men noted this as they did all things that in any way touched the life or affairs of the Widow, and made their observations accordingly.
"Thim's a bad lot," said the Irishman, as he rested his elbow on the counter, and held his glass poised in the air; "Thim's a bad lot fur the woman, as writes poetry."
Then the son of Erin winked at the row of men by his side winked right and left lifted his glass, shut both his eyes, and swallowed his "tarantula juice," as they called it in the mines.
Then this man wiped his broad mouth on his red sleeve, hitched up the broad belt that supported his duck breeches, and said, with another wink:
"Jist think of Bryan; that fellow, Lord O'Bryan. Why, gints, I tell yez he was pizen on the six."
But the Parson, the great rival of Sandy for the Widow's affections, took a deeper interest in this than that of an idle gossip.
It was with a lofty sort of derision in his tone and manner, that he now always spoke of the strange little poet, as"That Boy."
The Parson regarded him with bitter envy, as he oftentimes, at dusk and alone, saw him enter the Widow's cabin. At such times the Parson would usually stride up and down the trail, and swear to himself till he fairly tore the bark from the trees.
On one occasion, the boy returning to his own cabin at an earlier hour than usual, was met in the trail, where it ran around the spur of the mountain, on a high bluff, by the infuriated Parson.
Little Billie, as was his custom, gave him the trail, all of the trail, and stood quite aside on the lower hillside, to let him pass.
But the Parson did not pass on. He came close up to the boy as he stood there alone in the dusk, half trembling with fear, as the Parson approached.
The strong man did not speak at first. His face was terrible with rage and a strange tumult of thought. The stars were half hidden by the sailing clouds, and the moon had not risen. It was almost dark. Away up on the mountain side a wolf called to his companion, and a lonesome night bird, with a sharp cracked voice, kept up a mournful monotone in the canyon below.
The boy began to tremble, as the man towered up above him, and looked down into his uplifted face.
"By God, youngster," muttered the man between his teeth. The boy sank on his knees, as he saw the Parson look up and down the trail, as if to make sure that no one was in sight.
Then he reached his great hand and clutched him sharp by the shoulder:
"Come here! Come! Come with me!"
The broad hand tightened like a vice on the shoulder. The boy tried to rise, but trembled and half fell to the ground. The infuriated, half monster man, held tight to his shoulder, and led toward the precipice.
The boy, half lifted, half led, half dragged, found himself powerless in the hands of the Parson, and was soon on the brink of the canyon.
"Now sir, damn you, what have you been doing at the Widow's?"
The boy stood trembling before him.
"Boy! Do you hear; I intend to pitch you over the rocks, and break your infernal slim little neck!"
The boy still was silent. He could not even lift his eyes. He was preparing to die.
"Now sir, tell me the truth; what have you been doing at the Widow's?"
The boy trembled like a bird in the clutches of a hawk, but could not speak.
The Parson looked up the trail and down the trail; all was silent save the roar of the water in the canyon below, the interrupted howl of the wolf on the hill, and the mournful and monotonous call of the night bird. He looked up through the canyon at the sky. It was a dark and cloudy night. Now and then a star stood out in the fresco of clouds, but it was a gloomy night.
"Now you look here," and he shook the boy by the shoulder and laughed like a demon. "Don't you know that if you go on this way you will fall over this bluff some night and break your cussed little neck? Don't you know that? You boy! You brat!"
Still the boy could not speak or even lift his face.
"I'll save you the trouble," said the Parson between his teeth." 'The boys' will rather like it. They will say they knew you would break your neck some night." The boy did not speak, but beneath the iron clutch of the Parson settled to his knees.
"Now sir, you have just one minute. Do you see that star? When that flying cloud covers that star, then you die! And may God help you and me."
The man's voice was husky with rage and from the contemplation of his awful crime.
"Speak boy! Speak! Speak but once before I murder you!"
The boy's eyes were lifted to the star, to the flying cloud that was about to cover it, and then to the eyes of the Parson, and he, trembling, half whispering, said,"Please, Parson, may I pray?"
The iron hand relaxed; the man let go his hold, and staggering back to the trail went down the hill in silence, and into the dark, where he belonged.
The two men who had entered the saloon at the Forks so mysteriously and had so terrified the bar keeper, had disappeared. Yet Sandy, every man, knew that these men or their agents were all the time in their midst. No one knew the face of Nancy Williams; every body knew the story of her life. At first there was terror in the camp. Could the Widow be Nancy Williams? It was decided that that was impossible. Then all was peace.Start reading Chapter8 of The First Famlies of the Sierras