The Watchers


11. The Letter Written

But Seth's trials were not yet over. The two interviews just passed had given Ma Sampson sufficient time to complete her household duties. And now she entered her parlor, the pride of her home.

She came in quite unaware of Seth's presence there. But when she observed him at the table with his writing materials spread out before him, she paused.

"Oh," she exclaimed, "I didn't know you were writin', Seth!"

The man's patience seemed inexhaustible, for he smiled and shook his head.

"No, Ma," he said with truth.

The little old woman came round the table and occupied her husband's chair. If Seth were not writing, then she might as well avail herself of the opportunity which she had long wanted. She had no children of her own, and lavished all her motherly instincts upon this man. She was fond of Rosebud, but the girl occupied quite a secondary place in her heart. It is doubtful if any mother could have loved a son more than she loved Seth.

She had a basket of sewing with her which she set upon the table. Then she took from it a bundle of socks and stockings and began to overhaul them with a view to darning. Seth watched the slight figure bending over its work, and the bright eyes peering through the black-rimmed glasses which hooked over her ears. His look was one of deep affection. Surely Nature had made a mistake in not making them mother and son. Still, she had done the next best thing in invoking Fate's aid in bringing them together. Mrs. Sampson looked no older than the day on which Rosebud had been brought to the house. As Seth had once told her, she would never grow old. She would just go on as she was, and, when the time came, she would pass away peacefully and quietly, not a day older than she had been when he first knew her.

But Seth, understanding so much as he did of the life on that prairie farm, and the overshadowing threat which was always with them, had yet lost sight of the significance of the extreme grayness of this woman's hair. Still her bright energy and uncomplaining nature might well have lulled all fears, and diverted attention from the one feature which betrayed her ceaseless anxiety.

"I kind o' tho't sech work was for young fingers, Ma," Seth observed, indicating the stockings.

"Ah, Seth, boy, I hated to darn when I was young an' flighty."

The man smiled. His accusations had been made to ears that would not hear. He knew this woman's generous heart.

"I reckon Rosebud'll take to it later on," he said quietly.

"When she's married."


Seth watched the needle pass through and through the wool on its rippling way. And his thoughts were of a speculative nature.

"She's a grown woman now," said Mrs. Sampson, after a while.

"That's so."

"An' she'll be thinkin' of 'beaus,' or I'm no prophet."

"Time enough, Ma."

"Time? I guess she's goin' on eighteen. Maybe you don't know a deal o' gals, boy."

The bright face looked up. One swift glance at her companion and she was bending over her work again.

"I had 'beaus' enough, I reckon, when I was eighteen. Makes me laff when I think o' Rube. He's always been like what he is now. Jest quiet an' slow. I came nigh marryin' a feller who's got a swell horse ranch way up in Canada, through Rube bein' slow. Guess Rube was the man for me, though, all through. But, you see, I couldn't ask him to marry me. Mussy on us, he was slow!"

"Did you have to help him out, Ma?"

"Help him? Did you ever know a gal who didn't help her 'beau' out? Boy, when a gal gets fixed on a man he's got a job if he's goin' to get clear. Unless he's like my Rube--ter'ble slow."

"That's how you're sizin' me now," said Seth, with a short laugh.

Ma Sampson worked on assiduously.

"Maybe you're slow in some things, Seth," she ventured, after a moment's thought.

"See here, Ma, I've always reckoned we'd get yarnin' like this some day. It 'ud please you an' Rube for me to marry Rosebud. Wal, you an' me's mostly given to talkin' plain. An' I tell you right here that Rosebud ain't for the likes o' me. Don't you think I'm makin' out myself a poor sort o' cuss. 'Tain't that. You know, an' I know, Rosebud belongs to mighty good folk. Wal, before ther's any thought of me an' Rosebud, we're goin' to locate those friends. It's only honest, Ma, and as such I know you'll understand. Guess we don't need to say any more."

Mrs. Sampson had ceased working, and sat peering at her boy through her large spectacles. Seth's look was very determined, and she understood him well.

She shook her head.

"Guess you're reckoning out your side." She laughed slyly and went on darning. "Maybe Rosebud won't thank you a heap when you find those friends. They haven't made much fuss to find her."

"No, Ma. An' that's just it."

"How?" The darning suddenly dropped into Mrs. Sampson's lap.

"Maybe they were killed by the Injuns."

"You're guessin'."

"Maybe I am. But----"

"What do you know, boy?" The old woman was all agog with excitement.

"Not a great deal, Ma," Seth said, with one of his shadowy smiles. "But what I do makes me want to write a letter. And a long one. An' that sort of thing ain't easy with me. You see, I'm 'ter'ble slow.'"

Seth's manner was very gentle, but very decided, and Ma Sampson did not need much explanation. She quietly stood up and gathered her belongings together.

"You get right to it, boy. What you do is right for me. I'll say no more. As my Rube says, ther' ain't nothin' like livin' honest. An' so I says. But if that letter's goin' to lose you Rosebud, I'd take it friendly of Providence if it would kind o' interfere some. I'll go an' sit with Rube, an' you can write your letter."

At last Seth turned to his letter in earnest. He first pulled out a piece of newspaper from his pocket and unfolded it. Then he laid it on the table, and carefully read the long paragraph marked by four blue crosses. He wanted to make no mistake. As he had said himself, letter-writing wasn't easy to him. He read thoughtfully and slowly.


"Once more we are reminded of the mysterious disappearance of that distinguished cavalry officer, Colonel Landor Raynor. This reminder comes in the form of the legal proceedings relating to his estate.

"For the benefit of our readers, and also in the gallant officer's own interests, we give here a recapitulation of the events surrounding his sudden disappearance.

"On May 18th, 18--, Colonel Raynor returned from service in Egypt, on six months' leave, and rented a shooting-box in the Highlands. Hardly had he settled down when he suddenly declared his intention of crossing the Atlantic for a big game shoot in the Rockies. This purpose he carried out within four days of his announcement, accompanied by Mrs. Raynor and their little daughter Marjorie, aged eleven, a golden-haired little beauty with the most perfect violet eyes, which is a very rare and distinguishing feature amongst women. It has been clearly proved that the party arrived safely in New York, and proceeded on their way to the Rockies. Since that time nothing has been heard of any of the three.

"There is no definite pronouncement as to the administration of Colonel Raynor's estate. He owns large property, valued roughly at nearly a quarter of a million sterling. It has come to light that he leaves a will behind him, but whether this will be executed or not remains to be seen. There are no near relations, except the colonel's brother, Stephen, who was disinherited by their father in favor of the colonel, and who, it is believed, left this country at the time, and went to the United States. His whereabouts are also unknown, in spite of advertisement during the last six years.

"We publish these details, even at this late hour, in the faint hope that some light may yet be thrown on the mystery which enshrouds the fate of the gallant colonel and his family, or, at least, that they may assist in discovering the whereabouts of his brother. Theories have been put forward. But the suggestion which seems most feasible comes from the New York police. They think he must have met with some accident in the obscurer mountains, for he was a daring climber, and that, unaccompanied as they were by any servants, his wife and daughter, left helpless, were unable to get back to civilization. There is a chance that misfortune of some other character overtook him, but of what nature it is impossible to estimate. It has been asserted by one of the officials at the railway station at Omaha that a party alighted from a transcontinental train there answering the description of Colonel Raynor's party. These people are supposed to have stayed the night at a hotel, and then left by a train going north. Inquiry, however, has thrown no further light in this direction, and so the police have fallen back on their original theory."

Seth laid the cutting aside, and thoughtfully chewed the end of his pen. There were many things he had to think of, but, curiously enough, the letter he had to compose did not present the chief item. Nor did Rosebud even. He thought chiefly of that railway official, and the story which the police had so easily set aside. He thought of that, and he thought of the Indians, who now more than ever seemed to form part of his life.

Finally he took a fresh piece of paper and headed it differently. He had changed his mind. He originally intended to write to the New York police. Now he addressed himself to the Editor of the ----, London, England. And his letter was just the sort of letter one might have expected from such a man, direct, plain, but eminently exact.

As he finally sealed it in its envelope there was no satisfaction in the expression of his face. He drew out his pipe and filled it and lit it, and smoked with his teeth clenching hard on the mouthpiece. He sat and smoked on long after Rube had looked in and bade him good-night, and Ma had come in for a good-night kiss, and Rosebud had called out her nightly farewell. It was not until the lamp burnt low and began to smell that he stole silently up to his bed. But, whatever thought had kept him up to this hour, he slept soundly, for he was a healthy-minded man.