None of His Business…

Papago Wells

He knew it was none of his business but something impelled him to ask, “Are you really going to marry him?”

Her eyes when she turned to look at him were level and cool.  “I believe that is my business, Mr. Cates.”

“Of course.”

“He’s a gentleman,” she added, and was immediately angry for defending him.  “He has breeding.”

“So has his horse…but I wouldn’t pick him to ride in this country.”

“I don’t intend to live in this country.”

“Then you should do all right.”  Her comment rankled, and he said irritably, “What’s wrong with this country?  Your father likes it.  He helped to open it up.”

“I’ve seen how a country like this opened up and I don’t like it. I doubt, Mr. Cates, if you could understand how I feel.”  She looked directly into his eyes.  “I know what kind of man you are.”

“Do you?”  His eyes narrowed as they swept the lava and sand.  “I don’t believe it.  I don’t believe you know anything about a man like me or a country like this.  It takes rough men, Miss Fair, to tame a rough country; rough men but good men.  Your father is in that class.  As for you, I don’t think you’d measure up, and you’ll do well to leave it.  You’re a hothouse flower, very soft, very appealing and very useless.”

“You aren’t very complimentary.”

“Should I be?”  He glanced at the end of his cigarette, then his eye caught a flicker of movement and he held himself very still, keyed for action until he saw it was a tiny lizard, struggling with some insect at the edge of a bush.  “In the world you are going to, men want pretty, useless women.  They want toys for their lighter moments, and we have those women out here, too, only we have another name for them.  We want women here who can make a home, and if need be, handle a rifle.”

“And you don’t think I could?”

“You’re quitting, aren’t you?  You’re running away?”

“My father can get along without me.  He has done so for years.”

“And probably during all those years he has been looking forward to the day when you would be with him.  What do you suppose a man like your father works for?  He worked for you, for your children…if you ever have any.”

Exchange between Logan Cates and Jennifer Fair in Last Stand at Papago Wells by Louis L’Amour


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