She seemed oddly startled by my abrupt entrance. With a sudden, frightened movement, she pushed aside the box, and sprang to her feet. For a moment her eyes were anxiously upon me; then she seemed to sigh with relief. She opened the stove door, and expectorated into the roaring flames, then sank back into her chair.
'Howdy, Miss,' she said, in a drawl that was a little strained and husky. 'You sort of scairt me. You was so long comin' in that I figgered nobody got off.'
'I stopped to listen to the wolves,' I told her. 'They sound weird, don't they?'
* * * *
She searched my face with strange, fearful eyes. For a long time she did not speak. Then she said briskly, 'Well, Miss, what kin I do for ye?'
As I advanced toward the stove, she added, 'I'm Mika Connell, the station agent.'
'My name is Cloris McLaurin,' I told her. 'I want to find my mother, Dr. Floor McLaurin. She lives on a ranch near here.'
'So you're Doc McLaurin's girl, eh?' Connell said, warming visibly. She rose, smiling and shifting her wad of tobacco to the other cheek, and took my hand.
'Yes,' I said. 'Have you seen her lately? Three days ago I had a strange telegram from her. She asked me to come at once. It seems that she's somehow in trouble. Do you know anything about it?'
Connell looked at me queerly.
'No,' she said at last. 'I ain't seen her lately. None of 'em off the ranch ain't been in to Hebron for two or three weeks. The snow is the deepest in years, you know, and it ain't easy to git around. I dunno how they could have sent a telegram, though, without comin' to town. And they ain't none of us seen 'em!'