Summary (Masterplots, Definitive Revised Edition)
Wade Shiveley had killed his own brother in a fight over a squaw and had murdered and robbed old man Howell. Now he had been captured. The officers wanted Uncle Press Shiveley, Wade’s father, to try to get Wade to say where he had hidden the money. Uncle Press, however, had threatened to shoot Wade if he ever laid eyes on him again, and so in his place, he sent Clay Calvert, the son of one of Wade’s wives. Clay did not want to go because he also hated Wade. Uncle Press gave Clay a gun to slip to Wade in the jail. Having loaded the gun with blank cartridges, he hoped Wade would use the worthless gun to attempt an escape and thus be shot down by the officers.
On the way to the jail, Clay met a horse trader and his wife and daughter. When Clay slipped the gun to Wade in jail, Wade said that he had not killed Howell, that Howell was killed by a bullet that split when it was fired and that such a bullet did not fit his own gun. Wade had always been a liar, but Clay suspected that this time he might be telling the truth.
Clay left town to hide in Wade’s abandoned shack until after Wade had been killed and buried. Later, Uncle Press sent a half-breed Indian to tell him that Wade had escaped and that the sheriff was looking for Clay as an accomplice. Clay left the shack with the Indian, taking with him Wade’s rifle he had found there. After traveling awhile, they met the horse trader and his woman again. Clay learned that the girl was called Luce and that she traveled with her father and stepmother, trading horses, racing them, and picking hops in season. Since he wanted to get out of the immediate territory and because he was attracted to Luce, Clay decided to travel with the horse trader’s family. The Indian stole Wade’s rifle from Clay and ran away.
Clay and the horse trader’s family worked for a time in the hop fields. The trader was a weak man who lost all he and his family earned by gambling, and Luce took the responsibility for the family on her shoulders. Clay and Luce liked each other very much, but they quarreled frequently, and one day, Clay moved away from the wagon. When the sheriff appeared at the field one day, Clay became frightened and left hurriedly, traveling toward the coast.
Luce and her folks found him after awhile, and Luce and Clay decided to stay together. There was no place for them to get married. They spent the winter in a little settlement on the coast, in a cabin apart from the horse trader’s. Luce rescued some bags of flour that had floated to shore from a wrecked ship, and with money earned by selling the flour to the Indians, she and Clay were able to buy a wagon and start on their own.
Clay and Luce left for eastern Oregon, but Clay refused to let her father and stepmother go with them, for he could not stand the sight of the weak horse trader. They traveled across the mountains and into Looking Glass Valley, where they joined...
(The entire section is 1198 words.)
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