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Winston of the Prairie

Harold Edward Bindloss

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
It was a bitter night, for the frost had bound the prairie in its iron grip, although as yet there was no snow. Rancher Winston stood shivering in a little Canadian settlement in the great lonely land which runs north from the American frontier to Athabasca. There was no blink of starlight in the murky sky, and out of the great waste of grass came a stinging wind that moaned about the frame houses clustering beside the trail that led south over the limited levels to the railroad and civilization. It chilled Winston, and his furs, somewhat tattered, gave him little protection. He strode up and down, glancing expectantly into the darkness, and then across the unpaved street, where the ruts were plowed a foot deep in the prairie sod, towards the warm red glow from the windows of the wooden hotel. He knew that the rest of the outlying farmers and ranchers who had ridden in for their letters were sitting snug about the stove, but it was customary for all who sought shelter there to pay for their share of the six o'clock supper, and the half-dollar Winston had then in his pocket was required for other purposes. He had also retained through all his struggles a measure of his pride, and because of it strode up and down buffeted by the blasts until a beat of horsehoofs came out of the darkness and was followed by a rattle of wheels. It grew steadily louder, a blinking ray of brightness flickered across the frame houses, and presently dark figures were silhouetted against the light on the hotel veranda as a lurching wagon drew up beneath it. Two dusky objects, shapeless in their furs, sprang down, and one stumbled into the post office close by with a bag, while the other man answered the questions hurled at him as he fumbled with stiffened fingers at the harness. "Late? Well, you might be thankful you've got your mail at all," he said. "We had to go round by Willow Bluff, and didn't think we'd get through the ford. Ice an inch thick, any way, and Charley talked that much he's not said anything since, even when the near horse put his foot into a badger hole."