Sample N01 from Wayne D. Overholser, The Killer Marshal. New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1963. [A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,004 words 561 (28.0%) quotes 2 symbolsN01

Copyright1961]. Pp. 53-58.

Wayne D. Overholser, The Killer Marshal. New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1963. [

Note: blond hair [0560] blonde hair [0690]

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Dan Morgan told himself he would forget Ann Turner . He was well rid of her . He certainly didn't want a wife who was fickle as Ann . If he had married her , he'd have been asking for trouble .

But all of this was rationalization . Sometimes he woke up in the middle of the night thinking of Ann , and then could not get back to sleep . His plans and dreams had revolved around her so much and for so long that now he felt as if he had nothing . The easiest thing would be to sell out to Al Budd and leave the country , but there was a stubborn streak in him that wouldn't allow it .

The best antidote for the bitterness and disappointment that poisoned him was hard work . He found that if he was tired enough at night , he went to sleep simply because he was too exhausted to stay awake . Each day he found himself thinking less often of Ann ; ; each day the hurt was a little duller , a little less poignant .

He had plenty of work to do . Because the summer was unusually dry and hot , the spring produced a smaller stream than in ordinary years . The grass in the meadows came fast , now that the warm weather was here . He could not afford to lose a drop of the precious water , so he spent most of his waking hours along the ditches in his meadows .

He had no idea how much time Budd would give him . In any case , he had no intention of being caught asleep , so he carried his revolver in its holster on his hip and he took his Winchester with him and leaned it against the fence . He stopped every few minutes and leaned on his shovel as he studied the horizon , but nothing happened , each day dragging out with monotonous calm .

When , in late afternoon on the last day in June , he saw two people top the ridge to the south and walk toward the house , he quit work immediately and strode to his rifle . It could be some kind of trick Budd had thought up . No one walked in this country , least of all Ed Dow or Dutch Renfro or any of the rest of the Bar B crew . Morgan watched the two figures for a time , puzzled . When they were closer and he saw that one was a woman , he was more puzzled than ever .

He cleaned his shovel , left it against the fence , picked up his Winchester , and started downstream . His visitors had crawled through the south fence and were crossing the meadow , angling toward the house . Now he saw that both the man and woman were moving slowly and irregularly , staggering , as if they found it a struggle to remain on their feet .

Reaching the house ahead of them , he waited with his Winchester in his hands . They crawled through the north fence and came on toward him , and now he saw that both were young , not more than nineteen or twenty . They were dirty , their clothes were torn , and the girl was so exhausted that she fell when she was still twenty feet from the front door . She lay there , making no effort to get back on her feet . The boy came on to the porch and sat down , his gaze on Morgan as if half expecting him to shoot and not really caring .

Morgan hesitated , thinking that if this was a trick , it was a good one . He didn't think it was possible for this couple to be pretending . The boy licked his dry lips . He asked , `` Could we have a drink '' ? ?

Morgan jerked his head toward the front door . `` In the kitchen '' , he said . Leaning his Winchester against the front of the house , he walked to the girl . `` Get up . There's water in the house '' .

She didn't move or say anything . Her eyes were glazed as if she didn't hear or even see him . She had reached a point at which she didn't even care how she looked . Her face was very thin , and burned by the sun until much of the skin was dead and peeling , the new skin under it red and angry .

Her blond hair was frowzy , her dress torn in several places , and her shoes were so completely worn out that they were practically no protection . It must have hurt her even to walk , for the sole was completely off her left foot and Morgan saw that it was bruised and bleeding .

He picked her up , sliding one hand under her shoulders , the other under her knees , and carried her into the house . She was amazingly light , and so relaxed in his arms that he wasn't even sure she was conscious . Any lingering suspicion that this was a trick Al Budd had thought up was dispelled . No girl would go this far to fool a man so she could kill him . Besides , she had a sweet face that attracted him .

He put her down on the couch , and going into the kitchen , saw that the boy had dropped into a chair beside the table . They looked a good deal alike , Morgan thought . Both had blonde hair and blue eyes , and there was even a faint similarity of features .

Morgan filled the dipper from the water bucket on the shelf , went back into the front room , lifted the girl's head , and held the edge of the dipper to her mouth . She drank greedily , and murmured , `` Thank you '' , as he lowered her head .

He stood looking down at her for a moment , wondering what could have reduced her to this condition . He had seen a few nester wagons go through the country , the families almost starving to death , but he had never seen any of them on foot and as bad off as these two .

The girl dropped off to sleep . Morgan returned to the kitchen , built a fire , and carried in several buckets of water from the spring which he poured into the copper boiler that he had placed on the stove . He brought his Winchester in from the front of the house , then faced the boy .

`` Who are you and what happened to you '' ? ? He asked .

`` I'm Billy Jones '' , the boy answered . `` That's my wife Sharon . We ran out of money and we haven't eaten for two days '' .

`` What are you doing here '' ? ?

`` Are we in Wyoming '' ? ?

Morgan nodded . `` About five miles north of the line '' .

Jones sighed as if relieved . `` We've been looking for work , but all the ranchers have turned us down '' .

`` You mean you dragged your wife all over hell's half-acre looking for work '' ? ? Morgan demanded . `` The town of Buckhorn's only about six miles from here . Why didn't you go there '' ? ?

`` We didn't want town work '' , Jones said .

`` This is a mighty empty country '' , Morgan said . `` There's only one more ranch three miles north of here . You'd have starved to death if you'd missed both places '' .

`` Then we're lucky we got here . Could you give us a job , Mr. ''

`` Morgan . Dan Morgan '' .

He was silent a moment , thinking he could use a man this time of year , and if the girl could cook , it would give him more time in the meadows , but he knew nothing about the couple . They might kill him in his sleep , thinking there was money in the house . He dismissed the possibility at once . The girl's thin face haunted him . It wasn't the face of a killer . He wasn't so sure about the boy . He hadn't shaved for several weeks , his sparse beard giving his face a pathetic , woebegone expression .

There was more to this than Jones had told him . They were running from something . He'd be an idiot to let them stay he thought , but he couldn't send them on , either .

`` I could use some help '' , Morgan said finally , `` but I can't afford to pay you anything . I guess you'd better go on in the morning '' .

`` We'll work for our keep '' , the boy said eagerly . `` I've been mucking in a mine in the San Juan , but I used to work on a ranch . Sharon , she's cooked in a restaurant . We'll work hard , Mr. Morgan '' .

`` I'll see '' , Morgan said . `` Right now you need a meal and a bath . Your wife's in terrible shape '' .

`` I know '' , Jones said dejectedly .

Morgan filled the fire box with wood again , then started supper and set the table . When the meal was ready , he told Jones to wash up , and going into the front room , woke the girl . He said , `` I've got some supper ready '' .

She rubbed her eyes and stretched , then sat up , her hands going to her hair . `` I'm a mess '' , she said , and suddenly she was alarmed . `` Who are you ? ? How did we get here '' ? ?

`` I'm Dan Morgan . This is the Rafter Aj . You fell down in front of the house , and I carried you in . I gave you a drink and then you went to sleep '' .

`` Oh '' . She stared at him , her eyes wide as she thought about what he had said ; ; then she murmured : `` You're very kind , Mr. Morgan . Do you take in all the strays who come by '' ? ?

`` I don't have many strays coming to my front door '' , he said . `` Think you can walk to the table '' ? ?

`` Of course '' .

She got to her feet , staggered , and almost fell . He caught her by an arm and helped her into the kitchen . She sat down at the table , shaking her head . `` I'm sorry , Mr. Morgan . I'm usually a very strong woman , but I'm awfully tired '' .

`` And hungry '' , he said . `` Start in . It's not much of a meal , but it's what I eat '' .

`` Not much of a meal '' ? ? The girl cried . `` Mr. Morgan , it's the best-looking food I ever saw '' .

He told himself he had never seen two people eat so much . When they were finally satisfied , Jones said , `` I think he's going to give us work '' .

The grateful way she looked at Morgan made him ashamed of himself . When he saw the expression in her eyes , he knew he couldn't send them on . She said , `` I guess the Lord looks out for fools , drunkards , and innocents '' .

Morgan laughed . `` Which are you '' ? ?

`` We're not drunkards '' , she said . `` That's all I'm sure of '' .

She helped him with the dishes , then he brought more water in from the spring before it got dark . He carried the tub from the back of the house where it hung from a nail in the wall . He said : `` You'll feel a lot better after you have a bath . Your feet are in bad shape , Mrs. Jones . You'll have to go to town to see the doc '' .

`` No , she'll be all right '' , Jones said quickly . `` I mean , we don't have any way to get there and we can't expect you to quit work just to take us to town '' .

`` We'll see '' , Morgan said .

`` Could you find me a needle and thread '' ? ? The girl asked . `` My dress needs some work on it '' .

He nodded and , going into the bedroom , brought a needle , thread , and scissors . He said : `` I'm going to bed '' . He nodded at the door in front of him . `` That's my spare bedroom . The bed isn't made , but you'll find plenty of blankets there '' .

`` You're awfully kind '' , the girl said . `` We'll pay you back if you'll let us . Some way '' .

`` It's all right '' , he said . `` I get up early . You'd better sleep '' .

Jones followed him into the front room , closing the door behind him . He said : `` If it's all right with you , Mr. Morgan , I'll sleep out here on the couch . We haven't slept together since we started . I just can't take any chances on getting her pregnant , and if we were sleeping together ''

He stopped , embarrassed , and Morgan said , `` I understand that , but I don't savvy why you'd go off and leave your jobs in the first place '' .

`` We got fired '' , Jones said . `` We had to do something '' .

They were a pair of lost , whipped kids , Morgan thought as he went to bed .