‘Don’t you think?’ Scott Lancer observed, to his brother, Johnny, ‘that Murdoch’s been behaving a little odd lately?’
The brothers were in the barn, bedding down their horses before they made their way indoors for the last time for that day. Scott was running a soft bristled brush over his horse’s glossy sorrel hide, whilst in the next stall, Johnny was combing through Barranca’s almost pure white mane, with gentle fingertips.
‘Always have’ Johnny joshed, but he raised his eyes from his task to meet his brothers gaze over the partition wall that separated the horses and added, seriously enough ‘how do you mean?
‘He’s been acting kind of—shifty’ Scott tried to explain. ‘I mean—like earlier, I came in unexpectedly, took him by surprise and I could swear he was hiding something under the desk. He yelled a bit—you know, how he does, but I swear he looked a bit guilty’
‘Yeah?’ Johnny nodded slowly, and then repeated him-self on a rising inflection of realisation. ‘Yeah—now that you mention it: I came in a coupla days ago an’ he was in that big chair of his, reading some book or other—and he did look as if he had just been hiding something—or maybe had something in his hand that he didn’t want me to see’
Scott nodded. Johnny had, as usual, hit the nail right on the head.
‘Maybe we’d better keep an eye open then.’ He suggested. ‘I mean we are partners in this little enterprise. We need to know what he’s up to don’t we?’
‘Don’t want to spy on him’ Johnny mumbled—but he did join in the hunt of the Great Room for whatever it was their father was trying to hide from them.
It was Scott that ‘dared’ to search the big desk and it was Scott that finally unearthed their fathers little secret.
Grinning a little the elder brother held up his find for his brother to see.
‘Reckon this is it huh?’
‘Spectacles!’ Johnny recognised the article immediately. ‘I ain’t never seen—Ah!’ he broke of with a little snort of laughter ‘so that’s it. The Old Man has taken to wearing spectacles’
‘And he doesn’t want US to know it’
Johnny took the delicate article from his brother’s fingers and contemplated them thoughtfully.
He knew everything there was to know about not looking or seeming to be vulnerable or weak in any way and to his own surprise he found himself in full sympathy with his hitherto apparently invincible father, who now it seemed, had finally been forced to admit that his eyesight was failing him.
‘Well now’ he said softly, and carefully laid the spectacles back where Scott had found them. ‘I don’t know anything about them.’ His fingers lingered a little and his eyes were down.
‘Know anything about what?’ Scott asked gently and moved his brother aside to close the desk drawer firmly.
Their eyes met in a smile of mutual understanding.