Joyce stood in the door of the little adobe house, and looked out across the desert with tears in her eyes. If this was to be their home through all the dreary years that stretched ahead of them, it hardly seemed worth while to go on living.
Jack, in the bare unfurnished room behind her, was noisily wielding a hatchet, opening the boxes and barrels of household goods which had followed them by freight. He did not know which one held his gun, but he was determined to ﬁnd it before the sun went down.
For nearly three weeks they had been at Lee’s Ranch, half a mile farther down the road, waiting for the goods to come, and to ﬁnd a place where they could set up a home of their own. Boarding for a family of six was far too expensive to be afforded long. Now the boxes had arrived, and they had found a place, the only one for rent anywhere near the ranch. Joyce felt sick at heart as she looked around her.
“Here it is at last,” called Jack, triumphantly, dropping the hatchet and throwing pillows and bedding out of the box in reckless haste to reach his most cherished possession, the ﬁne hammerless shotgun which Mr. Link had given him Christmas.He Had intended to carry it with him on the journey, in its carved leather case, but in the confusion of the hurried packing, some well-meaning neighbour had nailed it up in one of the boxes while he was absent, and there had been no time to rescue it. He had worried about it ever since.
“Oh, you beauty!” he exclaimed, rubbing his hand along the polished stock as he drew it from the case. Sitting on the ﬂoor tailor-fashion, he began whistling cheerfully as he ﬁtted the parts together.
“Joyce,” he called, peering down the barrels to see if any speck of rust had gathered in them, “do you suppose we brought any machine-oil with us? I’ll uncrate the sewing-machine if you think that the can is likely to be in one of the drawers.”
“I don’t know,” answered Joyce, in such a hopeless tone that Jack lowered his gun-barrels and stared at her in astonishment. Her back was toward him, but her voice certainly sounded choked with tears. It was so unusual for Joyce to cry that he felt that something very serious must be the cause.
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