THE BIRD of DESTINY
PHILIP WINTER LUCE
Author of “The Mail Order Bride.”
FOR a man who shifted about the country as much as he did, Bill Woods certainly had queer ideas as to the kind of truck to pack around with his dunnage.
I have known men who laid great store by a lucky pocketpiece: others who never stirred without a rabbit’s foot; and highbrows who were hopelessly lost if they mislaid Omar Khayyam. Nearly every man has some trinket out of which he makes a sort of fetish.
Bill Woods was the only man I ever came across who always carried a stuffed parrot wherever he went. It was the only thing on which he did not try to raise money, at some time or other. Probably no loan shark would have advanced him a plugged nickel on the bird, but that was not the reason Bill clung to his queer bit of property, good times and bad. despite all the ridicule he^got.
Time and again I had hinted that there must be some story connected with this stuffed parrot, but Woods had never been communicative.
“Just a fancy of mine,” he would say, and I had to let it go at that.
One evening, when we were killing time in Bill’s room, Frank Harris strolled in to listen to the chin
About the first thing Harris noticed was the stuffed parrot. He picked up the bird and examined it closely, paying particular attention to the powerful hooked bill.
“Not exactly the ornament one expects to find in a roaming bachelor’s hail bedroom, is it?” he remarked. “Seems more suited to a straight laced s pin s t er’s front parlor, under a spotless glass case. Though I’ll
bet my last dollar that when alive this little grey parrot said many a naughty word that would have frightfully shocked Miss Spinster.”
“Know anything about parrots, Harris?” inquired Woods, his eyes lighting with sudden interest.
“How could I help knowing something about parrots,” came back Harris, “after spending seven years in South America snaring tropical birds and animals for the Bonamy and the MacGregor Expeditions? This little grey bird was never much to look at, but all the same he was a wizard with words in his day.”
“I’ll say he was!” emphatically assented Bill Woods. “Ever hear him speak?” I asked casually.
“Just heard him sentence two to death, that’s all,” answered Woods grimly.
OUR undisguised astonishment rather amused Woods.
Possibly he saw incredulity mixed with our amazement, for he continued:
“I guess you fellows never heard of a parrot being the star witness at a murder trial, and capping the climax by making the supreme sacrifice to save an innocent man, eh? A few words by that bird a moment before he died a sudden and violent death staggered the ranchers of Laredo County about twenty years ago.v For all I know they may be talking about it yet, when the old-timers get together.”
“You don’t mean to say that this bird was called as awitness in a murder trial, and two men sentenced on his evidence,” I asked incredulously.
“I said two were sentenced tó death by the parrot’s remarks. But the bird himself was one of ttyé two. And l he wasn’t called as a witness; he volunteered his evidence.
“Maybe the yarn would interest you fellows,” 1 continued Woods. “I’ve never spoken much about this stuffed relic of mine. Guess I’ve been kind of sensitive about the part I played in this affair, but it’s getting to be so long ago that sometimes I wonder if it was really' real. At the time it was more like a horrible nightmare than anything else. . . . ”
Bill’s voice droned away into silence, and for a couple of minutes he seemed lost in contemplation of the stuffed parrot. Then he roused himself, rolled a fresh cigarette, and resumed his tale : ' -
“As Harris guessed a while ago, this bird was certainly
some talker in his day. He would pick up odd bits of conversation and piece them together in the funniest fashion. Sometimes he would be days without saying a word, and then again he might be days when he chattered away all the time.
“He wasn’t the kind of parrot you could teach to say things in a parrot-like way, if you get what I mean. This bird memorized what ever he felt inclined and sometimes, months after he bad heard some snappy remark, he would crack it out for the first time. That’s what made him so darned amusing—he was always doing the unexpected.
“How Nemesis—that was his name, and one that fitted him like an old glove to the last—how Nemesis . happened to be brought into the cattle' country I never ■ learned. A parrot isn’t the kind of pet one expects on the range, but those old-time cattle punchers had funny notions once in a while.
WHEN I first saw Nemesis he belonged to the Broken S. outfit, which was run by old Jake Matson and his son Sol. Old Jake was a rough and 'ready type of frontierman, with a reasonable number of notches in his gun, but not the kind to go looking for trouble. At least not when I knew him, for he was getting on in years. But his son Sol was bad all the way through, mean, crafty, and cruel. He’d never fight fair if he had a chance to fight foul. And he had a way of shifting the burden of his misdeeds on to some innocent party, though it wasn’t often he was caught at it. Sol was clever all right, as well as unscrupulous
“Jim Walcott, a quarrelsome cattleman, owned a big ranch adjoining the Broken S., and, as was nearly always the case in that part of the country in the early days, there was friction a-plenty between the two outfits.
“The two Matsons, Jim Walcott, and a young fellow named Forrest, who had had the worst of it in a rough and tumble scrap with Walcott about this time, are the only four characters I need introduce at this stage. The parrot you already know.
■’ “Walcott only comes into it because he’s murdered right at the beginning of this yarn. If I knew how to tell a murder mystery story like these writer fellows, I would introduce the suspense element right here and now, and
not explain who’d killed Walcott un-
til I’d given you all the details. But I guess I’d make an awful botch of it, so I’ll just let it ride the way it happened.
“Late one aftern o o n—I learned all these details later from Old Jake himself—Sol Matson rushed into the house and slammed the door so hárd the walls rattled, upsetting a lantern which fell against this bird’s cage, much to the parrot’s annoyance.
“Sol was trembling with excitement, his eyes almost starting from their sockets. He leaned up against the door to recover his breath.
" 'My God. Sol.' exclaimed the old man. 'what’s the matter'?'
" ‘My God, Dad. I've just killed Walcott!' answered Sol. breathing heavily. ‘He came
around looking for trouble again, and I let him have it.
I didn’t mean to, but he got ugly, so I plugged him.
“ ‘Sol, Sol,’ said the old man, all upset, ‘how’d you ever come to do a mad thing like that? There’s been so many killings round this country lately that the Law and Order crowd will get you for
Where’d this happen?’
“ ‘Báck near Horseneck Creek,’ said Sol. ‘I left—it —where he dropped. There wasn’t anybody saw me plug him, I’m sure of that. But now I wish to God I hadn’t done it,’ he moaned.
“ ‘When they find out-’ com-
menced the old man, but he could no't go on. It was too horrible t o think about. Sol was his only son!
“ ‘They mustn’t find out!’ whispered Sol, hoarsely. ‘We’ve got to fix things. There must be some way out. I might—I might skip the country, Dad.’
“The old man shook his head.
“ ‘No good thinking about that, Sol. The minute you were reported missing they’d know you were guilty, and you’d never have a chance to get clear away. The posses would get you inside twenty-four hours, and, catching you in flight, they might not even bother bringing you back to trial, for all their Law and Order ideals.’
“ ‘TX7ELL, what am I going to do?’ asked Sol in desperY v ation. ‘Walcott only got what was coming to him, after all. If I hadn’t plugged him to-day, somebody else would have done it to-morrow or next week. The whole country is full of his enemies.’
“ ‘I know,’ nodded the old man, ‘but I don’t see that that helps any. Only two or three days ago Walcott had one hell of a row with young Forrest, and licked the everlasting tar out of the pup.’
“ ‘Forrest, sure must hate him like poison,’ agreed Sol. ‘I bet he’d have done exactly what I did to-day if he’d had the chance. I wish to God he had!’
“ ‘So do I, Sol. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings any to see Forrest at the end of a rope. Not that I have anything against the lad, but he’s a stranger, and hasn’t got a stake in the country, like you have.’
“ ‘Say, Dad! Suppose......’ broke in Sol, struck by a
“ ‘Suppose what?’
“ ‘Suppose we frame this up on young Forrest?’
“ ‘Frame it up on young Forrest!’ repeated Jake, half in amazement, half in horror.
“ ‘Frame it up on young Forrest,’ emphasized Sol, unconsciously using the phrase for the third time. ‘He’s as innocent as Nemesis here in his cage, but if we take the will for the deed, I have no doubt he would gladly have plugged Walcott first safe chance he got. He looks kind of a wild sort to me, when you size him up close. And nobody knows anything much about him. Those closemouthed punchers are often a bad lot.’
“Old Jake Matson was not listening. He had slumped in his chair, unseeing eyes staring straight in front of him. Mechanically he kept mumbling to himself:
“ ‘Frame it up on young Forrest! Frame it up on young Forrest!’
“'T'HE younger man watched his father curiously for a A minute or two, then walked across and touched him gently on the shoulder. Jake started as if from a trance.
“ ‘Brace up, Dad,’ said Sol. ‘We’ve got to talk this thing over. We’ve got to fix it some way so that the Law and Order gang will never suspect the truth.’
■ “ ‘No, I’ll be damned if I’ll be a party to any such thing, Sol,’ stormed the old rancher, his face livid. ‘You’ve got yourself into one hell of a scrape, and I’ll do all I can to help you out, but I won’t swear away the life of an innocent man. I’ve been pretty bad in my time, but I’ve never sunk so low as that.’
“ ‘It’s his neck or mine!’ came back Sol sharply. ‘The only way we can be sure I’m going to keep my boots on the ground is to see that Forrest swings for this. You won’t go back on me, Dad?’
“ T can’t do it. I can’t do it!’ moaned the old man.
“ T don’t ask you to do it, Dad,’ pleaded the other. ‘Leave everything to me. I’ll just frame up a story something like this. Listen :’
“Sol carefully evolved the fiction he was prepared to tell of seeing Forrest having a quarrel with Walcott near Horseneck Creek, of seeing Walcott make a threatening movement towards Forrest, and of the latter whipping out his revolver and shooting twice.
“It took Sol quite a time to get his father to agree to the frame-up, but paternal affection triumphed over justice and common decency. The old man flatly refused to promise to help in any way in fastening the crime on Forrest, but he at last grudgingly agreed not to reveal anything his son had told him.
“ ‘All you have to do is to keep your mouth shut, Dad,’ explained Sol. ‘I’ll do all the talking that’s necessary.’
“ ‘Maybe Forrest will have a good alibi,’ murmured Jake, still looking for possible difficulties. ‘If he can show that he was with somebody else at the time, nowhere near Horseneck Creek, you’ll fall under suspicion right away for starting this story.’
“ ‘That’s all right,’ broke in Sol. T know Forrest was riding that jvay this afternoon—alone. I saw him, but he didn’ see me. It would have been quite easy for him to plug Walcott, if he had happened to meet him. And I believe he would have done it, too.’
WHETHER Sol Matson at the time really believed Forrest would have murdered the rancher, or not, there is no way of telling. But he soon convinced himself that such was the ease, and when he volunteered to tell what he knew of the killing, there was a ring of sincerity in his tones that would have satisfied the most sceptical. Even old Jake came to more than half believe the story.
“In those days, in the cattle country, circumstantial evidence was quite good enough for the rough and ready enforcers of Law and Order. Scores of men were strung up on evidence not anything like as strong as that framed against young Forrest. And let me tell you most of the men that got summary justice were guilty, though they could never have been convicted in a court of competent jurisdiction, protected by all sorts of technicalities, and with the benefit of these lawyers who think their fee is of much more importance than the good of the community.
“Forrest was plumb flabbergasted when the Law and Order crowd took him into custody on a charge of murder. He was so scared the bunch decided then and there that he must be guilty, but a man is apt to be all upset when he sees the noose dangling in front of him, whether he deserves it or not. You can’t tell anything about a man’s guilt or innocence by the way he acts when accused.
It’s just like a girl blushing—it* may mean anything— or nothing.
“Of course Forrest protested his innocence, but this didn’t get him much further along naturally, for that was only what everybody knew he would do. It was his word against Sol Matson ’ s, and the cards were stacked against the stranger.
“Everybody knew Matson and was prepared to believe him, while nobody knew anything about the other fellow, and his story was discounted even before he told it.” Woods stopped in his yarn long enough to roll a fresh cigarette, puffed away slowly for a while, and then continued: “I’ll say one thing for the Law and Order crowd. They played the game according to
Hoyle, insofar as it could be done in that country in those days. They wouldn’t stand for any lynehings. Everything had to be fair and square and above-board. Maybe they didn’t insist on the proofs being absolutely airtight in the case of notorious cattle rustlers or the like, but a man at least had a chance to defend himself. They gave him that much of a show.
“There were no regular courts, of course, but the Law and Order folks mobilized along approved lines whenever occasion arose. Generally the trial would be held somewhere near the scene of the crime— always provided there were trees handy, in case the prisoner happened to be so unfortunate as to be unconvincing in his defense.
“Jake Matson’s roomy house was selected for the trial of Forrest. It was handy for the jurors, handy for the prisoner, handy for the chief witness. And it had the necessary trees quite handy.
“The prisoner could see the waving branches through the little window. He shivered and let his eyes roam round the room until they rested on this parrot gravely strutting around in his cage.
“MOST of the time the trial was going on Forrest kept looking at that bird. He had no illusion regarding the most probable verdict, and he wanted to keep his mind off unpleasant developments, in so far as was possible. Nemesis amused him with his capers, and he felt thankful to the parrot for this occasional relief from the terrific mental strain.
“Forrest knew the nature of the evidence against him, but, beyond entering a straight denial, he could not think of any satisfactory line of defense. He had been offered the services of a volunteer 'prisoner’s friend.’ but he had declined. He could not see that it would help him much to be defended by a man who believed him guilty, and who had so stated in public.
“The preliminary stages were taken up with the evidence of the men who found Walcott’s body. Beyond the fact that Walcott had been shot, these two knew nothing, and their part was soon played.
“Pete Fraser was the next man to take the oath. Pete was a puncher who had been present when Forrest and Walcott had mixed it. to Forrest’s disadvantage. The story of the scrap was introduced to show motive for the murder. I don't know that that was good law. but it was good enough common-sense for pioneer days.
“Forrest expressed a desire to ask Pete Fraser a few questions.
“ ‘Ask anybody any questions you like,’ assented Crane Smith, a grizzled veteran who acted as presiding officer.
“ ‘You say I got the worst of the scrap?’ remarked Forrest.
“ ‘You sure did,’ answered Fraser, grinning reminiscently.
“ ‘How did I fight?’
“ ‘Best you knew how, I reckon, but that sure was bad enough. You never had a look in.’
Continued on page 38
Continued from page 13
“ ‘That’s true enough’, agreed Forrest, but what I want to ask you is this: Did I fight fair and square?’
“ ‘I guess you did” assented Fraser, adding, as one who wishes to be perfectly candid, ‘but I don’t know that you had any choice in the matter. Walcott could do anything he liked with you.’
“ ‘All the same,’ camé back Forrest, ‘you’ll admit I didn’t try any dirty work. Y ou picked me up after the slaughter?’
“ ‘I gave you first aid, all right,’ agreed Fraser. T helped you on your way quite a piece.’
“ ‘Did I say anything after the scrap?’ “ ‘Nothing much that I remember. You told me that Walcott was the better man, and that he sure was a tough scrapper for a man of his age.’
“ ‘That was all?’
“ ‘That was all of any importance that I can remember.’
“ ‘Did I make any threats that I’d get even with Walcott in some way or other? Did I say I’d plug him, or anything like that, while I was still feeling sore?’
“ ‘No,’ answered Fraser, ‘I’ll swear you never said anything about getting even, though it wouldn’t have meant anything if you had. Most men make crazy threats just after s a severe licking.’
“ ‘That’s all, Mr. President,’ announced Forrest, addressing the court. T wanted to show that in my scrap with Walcott I fought fair and square, although I was licked from the beginning. After it was all over I didn’t show any spite or make any threats against his life. That ought to go some way towards proving that I had no hankering to plug him.’
CRANE SMITH made no comment, and Forrest could see that his cross questioning of Pete Fraser was not likely to influence his fate one way or the other.
“Things looked black enough for the prisoner, in all conscience, but they looked blacker still when Sol Matson kissed the book and started to give his perjured evidence.
“Sol had rehearsed his story so often that he was letter-perfect. He gave his evidence in such a straightforward manner that nobody for a moment suspected he was lying, more particularly as he seemed rather reluctant, and even expressed regret that he was compelled to be the chief witness for the prosecution.
“With a cunning that really did him credit, Sol Matson did not attempt to prove too much. He swore he had seen Walcott riding towards Horseneck Creek about four o’clock in the afternoon and a little later heard a couple of shote. Assuming that it was Walcott scaring away a coyote, he had paid no particular attention to this. In a short time Forrest had ridden in from the direction in which the rancher had disappeared. Nobody else had been around that afternoon, so far as the witness knew.
“ ‘You would have seen them if they had?’inquired the president.
“ ‘Sure,’ answered Sol.
“ ‘Certain you didn’t make any mis-
take?’ queried the judge, merely as a matter of form.
“ ‘Absolutely. I knew the men, and I knew the horses. Walcott was riding that big blue roan devil of his, and Forrest was on his sorrel. Forrest kept looking back as he came along the trail after the shooting, and it struck me at the time he thought somebody or something might be following him.’
“Forrest straightened up at this.
“ ‘That’s a damned lie’, he shot out. C never looked back once, I’ll swear to that. I was coming along at a good gait, and looking straight ahead all the time.’
SOL MATSON saw at once that he had made a slip in being so positive about a matter of no particular importance, but there was nothing for him to do now but brazen it out.
“ ‘All the same,’ said Forrest, ‘either you’re honestly mistaken about my looking back, or you’re deliberately lying.’
“ ‘I’m positive you looked back several times,’ insisted the witness.
“Forrest abandoned that line of argument. When it came down to his word against that of the younger Matson, he knew which man the judge and jury would believe. Matson had apparently no reason to perjure himself, while Forrest’s neck was at stake.
“ ‘Go ahead with your cross-examination,’ suggested Crane Smith, coldly.
“ ‘All right,’ assented Forrest, ‘but I don’t place much stock in anything this man says after those statements.... You’re positive I’m the only man who rode by that afternoon?’
“ ‘You, and Walcott.’
“ ‘So, in your opinion, I must be the man who killed Walcott.?’
“ ‘It sort of looks that way. I’m sorry to have to say it, but I don’t see how it could have been anybody else.’
“ ‘You don’t, eh? Well, I’ll suggest a possibility you’ve overlooked. I’ll spring a theory of my own regarding this murder.’
“There was a feeling of tenseness after Forrest made this remark. Probably some of the jurors had an idea of what was coming, but nobody said a word.
“Sol Matson clenched his fists until the finger nails bit into the hard flesh, but he gave no sign that he understood what the prisoner meant.
“ ‘My theory is this,’ resumed Forrest, speaking slowly and very deliberately, ‘according to Sol Matson’s own evidence there were only two men who could possibly have killed Walcott. I was one— aud he was the other.'
OLD Jake Matson jumped up from his chair, trembling in every limb, his face bloodless:
“ ‘No, No, No, mv God, No,’ he cried in an anguished voice. 'Sol never did anything of the kind. My son is no murderer. . . .You won’t believe that, will you, boys? Forrest is only trying to save his neck.’
“Sol walked over to the old man, spoke a few words in a low tone, and soothed him down. Sol himself was as cool as a
cucumber by this time. Somehow his father’s outburst had steadied his nerves.
“The accusation made a momentary impression on the court, but the dramatic moment was turned into comedy by the parrot Nemesis cocking his little beady eyes at his owner and squawking:
“ ‘Hold your horses, Jake. Hold your horses!’
“The bird’s remarks caused everybody to chuckle or guffaw, thereby spoiling any effect Forrest might have produced by his indirect accusation of Sol. The parrot’s ridiculous advice, somehow, seemed to make the charge that Sol had shot Walcott also appear ridiculous. Forrest realized this, though probably no one else did, at least not consciously.
“The prisoner listened apathetically to Crane Smith's summing up, which practically directed the jury to bring in a verdict of guilty.
“After a,few moment’s quiet consultation, which was a mere formality, Forrest heard the ranchers and cow-punchers declare their belief in his.guilt.
“Crane Srhith stood up to pass sentence of death. It was not a pleasant task and Crane blinked once or twice and swallowed hard while trying to frame the words into the significant sentence. He stood facing the window, and a short distance away he could see the trees swaying in the breeze.
“As Crane Smith gazed through the window, he saw a horse approaching at full gallop, hèading straight for the ranch house.
“ ‘Well, I’m damned!’ he ejaculated. ■‘If that doesn’t beat anything I ever saw!’
“Several men crowded to the little window to see what could have so startled the president. They saw the galloping horse approaching, saddled and bridled,'his head held well back as though his rider dared take no chances with the big blue roan devil.
“Every man knew the animal for Walcott’s horse, which none but he had ever ridden. The horse came nearer and nearer, behaving as if under the control of an iron hand.
SOL MATSON had not been one of the group at the little window, but at Fraser’s remark he flung open the door and stepped out to see for himself.
“Sol remembered Walcott’s dying look of eternal hate, his unfinished effort to ■curse his slayer. ‘Walcott’s ghost is riding him,’ Pete Fraser had said.
“Whether Matson believed this or not is immaterial. Anyway, he lost his nerve, absolutely. Rushing back into the room he slammed the door violently, setting his back to it as if to prevent the entry of Walcott’s ghost.
“Just as had happened on a previous occasion, the slamming of the door shook the wall sufficiently to upset the lantern, which fell against the parrot’s cage. Nemesis set up an angry protest at this, ■cackling away to himself.
“Outside, Walcott’s big roan galloped until close to the house, wheeled sharply to the left, then galloped towards home again. There was a feeling of relief when the riderless roan disappeared in the distance.
“Crane Smith checked up a buzz of conversation by a sharp rap and an insistent demand for order.
“All voices were hushed. That is, all but one. Clawing wildly at his cage, Nemesis was squawking away in a violent temper. Nobody had taken any notice of what he was saying, but the screeching sentences now rang out with startling clearness i
“ ‘My God, Sol! What’s the matter?’ “My God, Dad! I’ve just killed Walcott!’
“Nemesis rolled hisbeadylittleeyesfrom Jake to Sol, winked wickedly once or twice, and then leaned far out and whispered hoarsely:
“ ‘Frame it up on young Forrest!’
“ ‘Frame it up on young Forrest!’
“ ‘Frame it up on young For “That time the damning sentence was broken off short. With a wild oath Sol Matson had made a jump for the cage, torn the door open, broken the bird’s neck and twisted his head almost off.
“Almost before anyone could realize what had happened,old Jakewas standing at the table, babbling out his confession to judge and jury. With tears streaming down his furrowed face, Jake sqbbed out the story of the conspiracy to ‘frame’ Forrest, his statements coming in quick, ■often incoherent, sentences.
“Sol had remained standing by the broken cage, the dead parrot swinging idly from his hand. He listened with gaping mouth while his father babbled of the confession and conspiracy, but he made no move even when the old man collapsed. He just stood there, holding the warm body of Nemesis, like a man stunned and incapable of thought.
“Crane Smith’s hard voice recalled him to his senses:
“ ‘Sol Matson, you now stand charged with the murder of James Walcott, and with the more heinous crime of trying to fasten the guilt on an innocent man. What have you to say for yourself?’
“ T admit everything,’ said Sol, in a tone of hopeless resignation. T plugged Walcott after a quarrel, and a little later I saw Forrest come along the trail, but it wasn’t until several hours after that the idea came to me that I might escape by framing it up on Forrest. I know it was a cowardly thing to do, but a man will do dirty work when his neck’s almost in the noose.’
“Forrest paid no attention to him whatever. He did not even hear him. The turn of events had completely unnerved him, and he just sat in his chair, his head buried in his arms sprawled over the table.
‘-‘ ‘We’ll have to finish one trial before we start in with the next,’ commented Crane Smith. ‘Gentlemen of the jury, will you please reconsider your verdict in the Forrest case.’
“Without even the formality of consulting the other members, the foreman announced that Forrest was ‘Not Guilty.’ All nodded acquiescence.
“ ‘You needn’t Waste any time so far as I’m concerned,’ broke in the confessed murderer. ‘Rush it through and get it óver with. I’m tough enough to take my medicine without a whimper. All I ask, boys, is that you finish your work before my father recovers his senses.’
“SoL’s request was granted. It was, I think, the fastest trial ever held in Laredo ' County.
“WHEN Jake Matson recovered his
VV senses and crept back to the living room, a broken old man, he found Forrest crouching on the floor, sorrowing over the broken body of the grey parrot, i and smoothing its ruffled plumage.
“ ‘Poor little Nemesis,’ he was saying, ‘poor little parrot! You died to savé me, birdie! It was your neck instead of mine.The. only consolation I have, birdie, is that that scoundrel......’
“Just then Forrest caught sight of Jake ' standing near him.
“ ‘I’m—I’m sorry,’ gulped Jake, ‘but, Sol’s my only son, and—and—’ fe w fe
“The old man almost broke down again.
_ “ ‘All right,Jake, allright,’ said Forrest, kindly. ‘I know how you must feel over this. I d,on’t think you were in any way to blame. Sol just led you on.’ -
“ ‘Is there anything I can do for you, by* way of atonement, as it were?’ asked Jake.
“ ‘Not a thing,’ answered Forrest, ‘except this. You don’t mind if I take this poor bird’s body along, do you? I rather think I’d like to have it stuffed and mounted. I feel, somehow, that I owe that much to Nemesis.’’
WOODS threw away his cigarette, got up; and stretched himself.
“Well, the yarn has kept you fellows interested quite a while,” he said, “here it is after midnight, and time to turn in.” “Sure a queer story,” I remarked,;“and it shows on what trifles a man’s fate depends at times. Of course the parrot had no idea that he was saying anything of such tremendous importance.”
“Personally,” said Woods, “I’ve always been convinced in my own mind that Nemesis, annoyed t?y that lantern falling against his cage, knew he was doing something that would annoy Sol Matson when he repeated those fateful sentences. But then, naturally, I had a special interest in the case.”
“What was that?” I asked. “That’s one point you haven’t made clear. Were you one of the cowpunchers on the jury that tried Forrest?”
“Hardly! My part in the trial was much more important than that of mere juryman. You know, names have a habit of getting lost and found easily in the cattle country, and if you just think it over for a moment, you will find there isn’t so very much difference between a Forrest and a Woods.”