It was about Õ85 that Forks Settlement enjoyed the height of its prosperityÑa prosperity based on the supply of dry-goods and machinery to a widely scattered and sparse population of small ranchers and farmers. These things brought it into existence and kept it afloat for some years. Then it gradually faded from existenceÑjust as such places do.
When John Tresler rode into Forks he wondered what rural retreat he had chanced upon. He didnÕt wonder in those words, his language was much more derogatory to the place than that.
It was late one afternoon when his horse ambled gently on to the green patch which served Forks as a market-place. He drew up and looked around him for some one to give him information. The place was quite deserted. It was a roasting hot day, and the people of Forks were not given to moving about much on hot days, unless imperative business claimed them. As there were only two seasons in the year when such a thing was likely to happen, and this was not one of them, no one was stirring.
The sky was unshaded by a single cloud. Tresler was tired, stiff, and consumed by a sponge-like thirst, for he was unused to long hours in the saddle. And he had found a dreary monotony in riding over the endless prairie lands of the West.
Now he found himself surrounded by an uncertain circle of wooden houses. None of them suggested luxury, but after the heaving rollers of grass-land they suggested companionship and life. And just now that was all the horseman cared about.
He surveyed each house in turn, searching for a single human face. And at last he beheld a window full of faces staring curiously at him from the far side of the circle. It was enough. Touching his jaded horseÕs flanks he rode over toward it.
Further life appeared now in the form of a small man who edged shyly round the angle of the building and stood gazing at him. The stranger was a queer figure. His face was as brown as the surface of a prairie trail and just as scored with ruts. His long hair and flowing beard were the color of matured hay. His dress was simple and in keeping with his face; moleskin trousers, worn and soiled, a blue serge shirt, a shabby black jacket, and a fiery handkerchief about his neck, while a battered prairie hat adorned the back of his head.