His Adventures West & East
Henry Wallace Phillips
A CHANCE SHOT A RED-HAIRED CUPID THE GOLDEN FORD WHEN THE CHINOOK STRUCK FAIRFIELD
A Chance Shot
Reddy and I were alone at the Lake beds. He sat outside the cabin, braiding a leather hat-band—eight strands, and the "repeat" figure—an art that I never could master.
I sat inside, with a one-pound package of smoking tobacco beside me, and newspapers within reach, rolling the day's supply of cigarettes.
Reddy stopped his story long enough to say: "Don't use the 'Princess' Slipper,' Kid—that paper burns my tongue—take the 'Granger'; there's plenty of it."
Well, as I was saying, I'd met a lot of the boys up in town this day, and they threw as many as two drinks into me; I know that for certain, because when we took the parting dose, I had a glass of whisky in both my right hands, and had just twice as many friends as when I started.
When I pulled out for home, I felt mighty good for myself—not exactly looking for trouble, but not a-going to dodge it any, either. I was warbling "Idaho" for all I was worth—you know how pretty I can sing? Cock-eyed Peterson used to say it made him forget all his troubles. "Because," says he, "you don't notice trifles when a man bats you over the head with a two-by-four."
Well, I was enjoying everything in sight, even a little drizzle of rain that was driving by in rags of wetness, when a flat-faced swatty at Fort Johnson halted me.
Now it's a dreadful thing to be butted to death by a nanny-goat, but for a full-sized cowpuncher to be held up by a soldier is worse yet.
To say that I was hot under the collar don't give you the right idea of the way I felt.
"Why, you cross between the Last Rose of Summer and a bobtailed flush!" says I, "what d'yer mean? What's got into you? Get out of my daylight, you dog-robber, or I'll walk the little horse around your neck like a three-ringed circus. Come, pull your freight!"
It seems that this swatty had been chucked out of the third story of Frenchy's dance emporium by Bronc. Thompson, which threw a great respect for our profesh into him. Consequently he wasn't fresh like most soldiers, but answers me as polite as a tin-horn gambler on pay-day.
Says he: "I just wanted to tell you that old Frosthead and forty braves are some'ers between here and your outfit, with their war paint on and blood in their eyes, cayoodling and whoopin' fit to beat hell with the blower on, and if you get tangled up with them, I reckon they'll give you a hair-cut and shampoo, to say nothing of other trimmings. They say they're after the Crows, but it's a ten-dollar bill against a last year's bird's-nest that they'll take on any kind of trouble that comes along. Their hearts is mighty bad, they state, and when an Injun's heart gets spoiled, the disease is d—d catching. You'd better stop awhile."
"Now, cuss old Frosthead, and you too!" says I. "If he comes crow-hopping on my reservation; I'll kick his pantalettes on top of his scalp-lock."
"All right, pardner!" says he. "It's your own funeral. My orders was to halt every one going through; but I ain't a whole company, so you can have it your own way. Only, if your friends have to take you home in a coal-scuttle, don't blame me. Pass, friend!"
So I went through the officers' quarters forty miles an hour, letting out a string of yells you might have heard to the coast, just to show my respect for the United States army.
Now this has always been my luck: Whenever I made a band-wagon play, somebody's sure to strike me for my licence. Or else the team goes into the ditch a mile further on, and I come out about as happy as a small yaller dog at a bob-cat's caucus.
Some fellers can run in a rhinecaboo that 'd make the hair stand up on a buffeler robe, and get away with it just like a mice; but that ain't me. If I sing a little mite too high in the cellar, down comes the roof a-top of me. So it was this day. Old Johnny Hardluck socked it to me, same as usual.
Gosh a'mighty! The liquor died in me after a while, and I went sound asleep in the saddle, and woke up with a jar—to find myself right in the middle of old Frosthead's gang; the drums "boom-blipping" and those forty-odd red tigers "hyah-hayahing" in a style that made my skin get up and walk all over me with cold feet.
How in blazes I'd managed to slip through those Injuns I don't know. 'Twould have been a wonderful piece of scouting if I'd meant it. You can 'most always do any darn thing you don't want to do. Well, there I was, and, oh Doctor! but wasn't I in a lovely mess! That war-song put a crimp into me that Jack Frost himself couldn't take out.
It was as dark as dark by this time. The moon just stuck one eye over the edge of the prairie, and the rest of the sky was covered with cloud. A little light came from the Injuns' camp-fire, but not enough to ride by, and, besides, I didn't know which way I ought to go.
Says I to myself, "Billy Sanders, you are the champion all-around, old-fashioned fool of the district. You are a jackass from the country where ears less'n three foot long are curiosities. You sassed that poor swatty that wanted to keep you out of this, tooting your bazoo like a man peddling soap; but now it's up to you. What are you going to do about it?" and I didn't get any answer, neither.
Well, it was no use asking myself conundrums out there in the dark when time was so scarce. So I wraps my hankercher around. Laddy's nose to keep him from talking horse to the Injun ponies, and prepared to sneak to where I'd rather be.
Laddy was the quickest thing on legs in that part of the country—out of a mighty spry little Pinto mare by our thoroughbred Kentucky horse—and I knew if I could get to the open them Injuns wouldn't have much of a chance to take out my stopper and examine my works—not much. A half-mile start, and I could show the whole Sioux nation how I wore my hair.
I cut for the place where the Injuns seemed thinnest, lifting myself up till I didn't weigh fifteen pound, and breathing only when necessary. We got along first-rate until we reached the edge of 'em, and then Laddy had to stick his foot in a gopher-hole, and walloped around there like a whale trying to climb a tree.
Some dam cuss of an Injun threw a handful of hay on the fire, and, as it blazed up, the whole gang spotted me.
I unlimbered my gun, sent the irons into Laddy, and we began to walk.
I didn't like to make for the ranch, as I knew the boys were short-handed, so I pointed north, praying to the good Lord that I'd hit some kind of settlement before I struck the North Pole.
Well, we left those Injuns so far behind that there wasn't any fun in it. I slacked up, patting myself on the back; and, as the trouble seemed all over, I was just about to turn for the ranch, when I heard horses galloping, and as the moon came out a little I saw a whole raft of redskins a-boiling up a draw not half a mile away. That knocked me slab-sided. It looked like I got the wrong ticket every time the wheel turned.
I whooped it up again, swearing I wouldn't stop this deal short of a dead sure thing. We flew through space—Laddy pushing a hole in the air like a scart kiyote making for home and mother.
A ways down the valley I spotted a little shack sitting all alone by itself out in the moonlight. I headed for it, hollering murder.
A man came to the door in his under-rigging.
"Hi, there! What's eating you?" he yells.
"Injuns coming, pardner! The country's just oozing Injuns! Better get a wiggle on you!"
"All right—slide along, I'll ketch up to you," says he.
I looked back and saw him hustling out with his saddle on his arm. "He's a particular kind of cuss," I thought; "bareback would suit most people."
Taking it a little easier for the next couple of miles, I gave him a chance to pull up.
We pounded along without saying anything for a spell, when I happened to notice that his teeth were chattering.
"Keep your nerve up, pardner!" says I. "Don't you get scared—we've got a good start on 'em."
He looked at me kind of reproachful.
"Scared be derned!" says he. "I reckon if you was riding around this nice cool night in your drawers, your teeth 'ud rattle some, too."
I took a look at him, and saw, sure enough, while he had hat, coat, and boots on, the pants was missing. Well, if it had been the last act, I'd have had to laugh.
"Couldn't find 'em nohow," says he; "hunted high and low, jick, Jack, and the game—Just comes to my mind now that I had 'em rolled up and was sleeping on 'em. I don't like to go around this way'—I feel as if I was two men, and one of 'em hardly respectable."
"Did you bring a gun with you?"
He gave me another stare. "Why, pardner, you must think I have got a light and frivolous disposition," says he, and with that he heaves up the great-grand-uncle of all the six-shooters I ever did see. It made my forty-five-long look like something for a kid to cut its teeth on. "That's the best gun in this country," he went on.
"Looks as if it might be," says I. "Has the foundry that cast it gone out of business? I'd like to have one like it, if it's as dangerous as it looks."
"When I have any trouble with a man," says he, "I don't want to go pecking at him with a putty-blower, just irritating him, and giving him a little skin complaint here and there; I want something that'll touch his conscience."
He had it, for a broadside from that battery would scatter an elephant over a township.
We loped along quiet and easy until sun-up. The Grindstone Buttes lay about a mile ahead of us. Looking back, we saw the Injuns coming over a rise of ground 'way in the distance.
"Now," says my friend, "I know a short cut through those hills that'll bring us out at Johnson's. They've got enough punchers there to do the United States army up—starched and blued. Shall we take it?"
"Sure!" says I. "I'm only wandering around this part of the country because this part of the country is here—if it was anywheres else I'd be just as glad."
So in we went. It was the steepest and narrowest kind of a canon, looking as if it had been cut out of the rock with one crack of the axe. I was just thinking: "Gee whiz! but this would be a poor place to get snagged in," when bang! says a rifle right in front of us, and m-e-arr! goes the bullet over our heads.
We were off them horses and behind a, couple of chunks of rock sooner than we hoped for, and that's saying a good deal.
"Cussed poor shot, whoever he is," says my friend. "Some Injun holding us here till the rest come up, I presume."
"That's about the size of it—and I'd like to make you a bet that he does it, too, if I thought I'd have a chance to collect."
"Oh, you can't always tell—you might lose your money," says he, kind of thoughtful.
"I wouldn't mind that half as much as winning," says I. "But on the square, do you think we can get out? I'll jump him with you if you say so, although I ain't got what you might call a passion for suicide."
"Now you hold on a bit," says he. "I don't know but what we'd have done better to stick to the horses, and run for it, but it's too late to think of that. Jumping him is all foolishness; he'd sit behind his little rock and pump lead into us till we wouldn't float in brine—and we can't back out now."
He talked so calm it made me kind of mad. "Well," says I, "in that case, let's play 'Simon says thumbs up' till the rest of the crowd comes."
"There you go!" says he. "Just like all young fellers—gettin' hosstyle right away if you don't fall in with their plans. Now, Sonny, you keep your temper, and watch me play cushion carroms with our friend there."
"You see that block of stone just this side of him with the square face towards us? Well, he's only covered in front, and I'm a-going to shoot against that face and ketch him on the glance."
"Great, if you could work it!" says I. "But Lord!"
"Well, watch!" says he. Then he squinched down behind his cover, so as not to give the Injun an opening, trained his cannon and pulled the trigger. The old gun opened her mouth and roared like an earthquake, but I didn't see any dead Injun. Then twice more she spit fire, and still there weren't any desirable corpses to be had.
"Say, pardner," says I, "you wouldn't make many cigars at this game!"
"Now, don't you get oneasy," says he. "Just watch!"
"Biff!" says the old gun, and this time, sure enough, the Injun was knocked clear of the rock. I felt all along that he wouldn't be much of a comfort to his friends afterwards, if that gun did land on him.
Still, he wasn't so awful dead, for as we jumped for the horses he kind of hitched himself to the rock, and laying the rifle across it, and working the lever with his left hand, he sent a hole plumb through my hat.
"Bully boy!" says I. I snapped at him, and smashed the lock of his rifle to flinders. Then, of course, he was our meat.
As we rode up to him, my pard held dead on him. The Injun stood up straight and tall, and looked us square in the eye—say, he was a man, I tell you, red-skin or no red-skin. The courage just stuck out on him as he stood there, waiting to pass in his checks.
My pardner threw the muzzle of his gun up. "D—n it!" says he, "I can't do it—he's game from the heart out! But the Lord have mercy on his sinful soul if he and I run foul of each other on the prairie again!"
Then we shacked along down to Johnson's and had breakfast.
"What became of Frosthead and his gang?" Oh, they sent out a regiment or two, and gathered him in—'bout twenty-five soldiers to an Injun. No, no harm was done. Me and my pard were the only ones that bucked up against them. Chuck out a cigarette, Kid; my lungs ache for want of a smoke.
A Red-Haired Cupid
"How did I come to get myself disliked down at the Chanta Seechee? Well, I'll tell you," said Reddy, the cow-puncher. "The play came up like this. First, they made the Chanta Seechee into a stock company, then the stock company put all their brains in one think, and says they, 'We'll make this man Jones superintendent, and the ranch is all right at once.' So out comes Jones from Boston, Massachusetts, and what he didn't know about running a ranch was common talk in the country, but what he thought he knew about running a ranch was too much for one man to carry around. He wasn't a bad-hearted feller in some ways, yet on the whole he felt it was an honour to a looking-glass to have the pleasure of reflecting him. Looking-glass? I should say he had! And a bureau, and a boot-blacking jigger, and a feather bed, and curtains, and truck in his room. Strange fellers used to open their eyes when they saw that room. 'Helloo-o!' they'd say, 'whose little birdie have we here?' And other remarks that hurt our feelings considerable. Jonesy, he said the fellers were a rank lot of barbarians. He said it to old Neighbour Case's face, and he and the old man came together like a pair of hens, for Jonesy had sand in spite of his faults, That was a fight worth travelling to see. They covered at least an acre of ground; they tore the air with upper swats and cross swipes; they hollered, they jumped and they pitched, and when the difficulty was adjusted we found that Jonesy's coat was painfully ripped up the back and Neighbour Case had lost his false teeth. One crowd of fellers patted Jones on the back and said, 'Never mind your coat, old horse; you've licked a man twice your age,' and the other comforted Neighbour, saying, 'Never mind, Case; you can ease your mind by thinking how you headed up that rooster, and he fifty pounds lighter than you.'
"Jonesy put on airs after that. He felt he was a hard citizen. And then he had the misfortune to speak harshly to Arizona Jenkins when Old Dry Belt was in liquor. Then he got roped and dragged through the slough. He cried like a baby whilst I helped him scrape the mud off, but not because he was scared! No, sir! That little runt was full of blood and murder.
"'You mark me, now, Red,' says he, the tears making bad-land water courses through the mud on his cheeks, 'I shall fire upon that man the first time I see him—will you lend me your revolver?'
"'Lord, Jones, see here,' says I, 'don't you go making any such billy-goat play as that—keep his wages until he apologizes; put something harmful in his grub; but, as you have respect for the Almighty's handiwork as represented by your person, don't pull a gun on Arizona Jenkins—that's the one thing he won't take from nobody.'
"'D-d-darn him!' snivels Jonesy, 'I ain't afraid o-o-of him;' and the strange fact is that he wasn't. Well, I saw he was in such a taking that he might do something foolish and get hurt, so I goes to Arizona and says I, 'You ought to apologize to Jones.' What Zony replied ain't worth repeating—'and you along with him,' he winds up.
"'Now ain't that childish?' I says. 'A six-footer like you that can shoot straight with either hand, and yet ain't got generosity enough to ease the feelings of a poor little devil that's fair busting with shame.'
"'Well, what did he want to tell me to shut up my mouth for?' cried Old Dry Belt. 'Men have died of less than that.'
"'Aw, shucks, Zony,' I says, 'a great, big man like you oughtn't to come down on a little cuss who's all thumb-hand-side and left feet.'
"'That be blowed,' says he—only he says it different. 'I'd like to know what business such a sawed-off has to come and tell a full-grown man like me to shut up his mouth? He'd ought to stay in a little man's place and talk sassy to people his own size. When he comes shooting off his bazoo to a man that could swaller him whole without loosening his collar, it's impidence; that's what it is.'
"'Well, as a favour to me?' I says.
"'Well, if you put it in that way—I don't want to be small about it.'
"So Arizona goes up to Jones and sticks out his hand. 'There's my hand, Jones,' he says. 'I'm mighty sorry you told me to shut up my mouth,' says he.
"'So am I,' says Jones heartily, not taking in the sense of the words, but feeling that it was all in good intention. So that was all right and I stood in with the management in great shape for fixing up the fuss so pleasant. But it didn't last. They say nothing lasts in this world. There's some pretty solid rocks in the Coeur d'Alene, however, and I should like to wait around and see if they don't hold out, but I'll never make it. I've been in too much excitement.
"Well, the next thing after Jonesy got established was that his niece must come out during vacation and pay him a visit. 'Jee-rusalem!' thinks I, 'Jonesy's niece!' I had visions of a thin, yaller, sour little piece, with mouse-coloured hair plastered down on her head, and an unkind word for everybody. Jonesy told me about her being in college, and then I stuck a pair of them nose-grabber specks on the picture. I can stand 'most any kind of a man, but if there's anything that makes the tears come to my eyes it's a botch of a woman. I know they may have good qualities and all that, but I don't like 'em, and that's the whole of it. We gave three loud groans when we got the news in the bull-pen. And I cussed for ten minutes straight, without repeating myself once, when it so fell out that the members of the board rolled out our way the day the girl had to be sent for, and Jonesy couldn't break loose, and your Uncle was elected to take the buckboard and drive twenty miles to the railroad. I didn't mind the going out, but that twenty miles back with Jonesy's niece! Say, I foamed like a soda-water bottle when I got into the bull-pen and told the boys my luck.
"'Well,' says Kyle Lambert, 'that's what you might expect; your sins have found you out.'
"'No, they ain't; they've caught me at home as usual,' says I. 'Well, I'll give that Eastern blossom an idea of the quality of this country anyhow.' So I togs myself up in the awfullest rig I could find; strapped two ca'tridge belts to me, every hole filled, and a gun in every holster; put candle-grease on my mustache and twisted the ends up to my eye-winkers; stuck a knife in my hatband and another in my boot; threw a shotgun and a rifle in the buckboard, and pulled out quick through the colt-pens before Jonesy could get his peeps onto me.
"Well, sir, I was jarred witless when I laid my eyes on that young woman. I'd had my mind made up so thorough as to what she must be that the facts knocked me cold. She was the sweetest, handsomest, healthiest female I ever see. It would make you believe in fairy stories again just to look at her. She was all the things a man ever wanted in this world rolled up in a prize package. Tall, round and soople, limber and springy in her action as a thoroughbred, and with something modest yet kind of daring in her face that would remind you of a good, honest boy. Red, white, and black were the colours she flew. Hair and eyes black, cheeks and lips red, and the rest of her white. Now, there's a pile of difference in them colours; when you say 'red,' for instance, you ain't cleaned up the subject by a sight. My top-knot's red, but that wasn't the colour of Loy's cheeks. No; that was a colour I never saw before nor since. A rose would look like a tomater alongside of 'em. Then, too, I've seen black eyes so hard and shiny you could cut glass with 'em. And again that wasn't her style. The only way you could get a notion of what them eyes were like would be to look at 'em; you'd remember 'em all right if you did. Seems like the good Lord was kind of careless when he built Jonesy, but when he turned that girl out he played square with the fambly.
"I ain't what you might call a man that's easily disturbed in his mind, but I know I says to myself that first day, 'If I was ten year younger, young lady, they'd never lug you back East again.' Gee, man! There was a time when I'd have pulled the country up by the roots but I'd have had that girl! I notice I don't fall in love so violent as the years roll on. I can squint my eye over the cards now and say, 'Yes, that's a beautiful hand, but I reckon I'd better stay out,' and lay 'em down without a sigh; whereas, when I was a young feller, it I had three aces in sight I'd raise the rest of the gathering right out of their foot-leather—or get caught at it. Usually I got caught at it, for a man couldn't run the mint long with the kind of luck I have.
"Well, I was plumb disgusted with the fool way I'd rigged myself up, but, fortunately for me, Darragh, the station-man, came out with the girl. 'There's Reddy, from your ranch now, ma'am,' says he, and when he caught sight of me, 'What's the matter, Red; are the Injuns up?'
"Darragh was a serious Irishman, and that's the mournfullest thing on top of the globe; and besides, he believed anything you'd tell him. There ain't any George Washington strain in my stock, so I proceeded to get out of trouble.
"'They ain't up exactly,' says I, 'but it looked as if they were a leetle on the rise, and being as I had a lady to look out for, I thought I'd play safe.'
"The colour kind of went out of the girl's cheeks. Eastern folks are scandalous afraid of Injuns.
"'Perhaps I'd better not start?' says she.
"'Don't you be scart, miss,' says Darragh. 'You're all right as long as you're with Red—he's the toughest proposition we've got in this part of the country.'
"'I'm obliged to you, Darragh,' says I. He meant well, but hell's full of them people. I'd have given a month's wages for one lick at him. Nice reputation to give me before that girl! She eyed me mighty doubtful.
"I stepped up to her, with my hat in my hand. 'Miss Andree,' says I (she was Jonesy's sisters child), 'if you come along with me I'll guarantee you a safe journey. If any harm reaches you it will be after one of the liveliest times in the history of the Territory.'
"At this she laughed. 'Very well,' says she, 'I'll chance it, Mr. Red.'
"'His name ain't Red,' puts in Darragh, solemn. 'His name's Saunders. We call him Red becus uf his hair.'
"'I'm sure I beg your pardon,' says Miss Loys, all of a fluster.
"'That's all right, ma'am; no damage done at all,' says I. 'It's useless for me to try to conceal the fact that my hair is a little on the auburn. You mustn't mind what Darragh says. We've had a good deal of hot weather lately and his brains have gone wrong. Now hop in and we'll touch the breeze,' So I piled her trunk in and away we flew.
"Bud and Dandy were a corking little team. They'd run the whole distance from the railway to the ranch if you'd let 'em—and I never interfered. A straight line and the keen jump hits me all right when I'm going some place, although I can loaf with the next man on occasion. So we missed most of the gulleys.
"The ponies were snorting and pulling grass, the buckboard bouncing behind 'em like a rubber ball, and we were crowding into the teeth of the northwest wind, which made it seem as if we were travelling 100 per cent. better than a Dutch clock would show.
"'Goodness gracious!' says the girl, 'do you always go like this in this country? And aren't there any roads?'
"'Why, no,' says I. 'Hike!' and I snapped the blacksnake over the ponies' ears, and they strung themselves out like a brace of coyotes, nearly pulling the buckboard out from under us. 'Sometimes we travel like this,' I says. 'And as for roads, I despise 'em. You're not afraid, are you?'
"'Indeed I'm not. I think it's glorious. Might I drive?'
"'If I can smoke,' says I, 'then you can drive.' I'd heard about young women who'd been brought up so tender that tobacker smoke would ruin their morals or something, and I kind of wondered if she was that sort.
"'That's a bargain,' says she prompt. 'But how you're going to light a cigar in this wind I don't see.'
"'Cigarette,' says I. 'And if you would kindly hold my hat until I get one rolled I'll take it kind of you.'
"'But what about the horses?' says she.
"'Put your foot on the lines and they'll make. That's the main and only art of driving on the prairie—not to let the lines get under the horses' feet—all the rest is just sit still and look at the scenery.'
"She held my hat for a wind-break, and I got my paper pipe together. And then—not a match. I searched every pocket. Not a lucifer. That is more of what I got for being funny and changing my clothes. And then she happened to think of a box she had for travelling, and fished it out of her grip.
"'Young lady,' I says, 'until it comes to be your bad luck—which I hope won't ever happen—to be very much in love with a man who won't play back, you'll never properly know the pangs of a man that's got all the materials to smoke with except the fire. Now, if I have a chance to do as much for you sometime, I'm there.'
"She laughed and crinkled up her eyes at me. 'All right, Mr. Saunders. When that obdurate man disdains me, I'll call for your help.'
"'The place for the man that would disdain you is an asylum,' says I. 'And the only help I'd give you would be to put him there.' She blushed real nice. I like to see a woman blush. It's a trick they can't learn.
"But I see she was put out by my easy talk, so I gave her a pat on the back and says, 'Don't mind me, little girl. We fellers see an eighteen-carat woman so seldom that it goes to our heads. There wasn't no offence meant, and you'll be foolish if you put it there. Let's shake hands.'
"So she laughed again and shook. I mean shook. It wasn't like handing you so much cold fish—the way some women shake hands. And Loys and me, we were full pards from date.
"I made one more bad break on the home trip.
"'Jonesy will be powerful glad to see you,' says I.
"'Jonesy!' says she, surprised. 'Jonesy! Oh, is that what you call Uncle Albert?'
"'Well, it does sometimes happen that way," says I. And then my anti-George Washington blood rose again. 'You see, he was kind of lonesome out there at first, and we took to calling him Jonesy to cheer him up and make him feel at home,' I says.
"'Oh!' says she. And I reckon she didn't feel so horribly awful about it, for after looking straight towards the Gulf of Mexico for a minute, suddenly she bust right out and hollered. It seems that Jones cut a great deal of grass to a swipe when he was back home in his own street. It's astonishing how little of a man it takes to do that in the East. We had an argument once on the subject. 'It's intellect does it,' says Silver Tompkins. 'Oh, that's it, eh?' says Wind-River Smith. 'Well, I'm glad I'm not troubled that way. I'd rather have a forty-four chest than a number eight head any day you can find in the almanac.' And I'm with Smithy. This knowing so much it makes you sick ain't any better than being so healthy you don't know nothing, besides being square miles less fun. Another thing about the Eastern folks is they're so sot in their views, and it don't matter to them whether the facts bear out their idees or not.
"'Here, take a cigar,' says one of the Board of Directors to me—a little fat old man, who had to draw in his breath before he could cross his legs—'them cigarettes'll ruin your health,' says he. Mind you, he was always kicking and roaring about his liver or stummick, or some of his works. I'm a little over six-foot-three in my boots when I stand up straight, and I stood up straight as the Lord would let me and gazed down at that little man. 'Pardner,' says I, 'I was raised on cigarettes. When I was two years old I used to have a pull at the bottle, and then my cigarette to aid digestion. It may be conceit on my part,' I says, 'but I'd rather be a wreck like me than a prize-fighter like you.' They're queer; you'd think that that little fat man would have noticed the difference without my pointing it out to him.
"Well, I don't have to mention that Loys stirred things up considerable around the Chanta Seechee and vicinity. Gee! What a diving into wannegans and a fetching out of good clothes there was. And trading of useful coats and things for useless but decorating silk handkerchers and things! And what a hair cutting and whisker trimming!
"But Kyle was the man from the go in. And it was right it should be so. If ever two young people were born to make trouble for each other it was Kyle and Loys.
"A nice, decent fellow was Kyle. Nothing remarkable, you could say, and that was one of his best points. Howsomever, he had a head that could do plain thinking, a pair of shoulders that discouraged frivoling, and he was as square a piece of furniture as ever came out of a factory. More'n that; he had quite a little education, saved his money, never got more than good-natured loaded, and he could ride anything that had four legs, from a sawhorse to old tiger Buck, who would kick your both feet out of the sturrups and reach around and bite you in the small of the back so quick that the boys would be pulling his front hoofs out of your frame before you'd realize that the canter had begun. Nice horse, Buck. He like to eat Jonesy up one morning before Sliver and me could get to the corral. Lord! The sounds made my blood run cold! Old Buck squealing like a boar-pig in a wolf trap, and Jonesy yelling, 'Help! Murder! Police!' Even that did not cure Jones from sticking his nose where it wasn't wanted. Why, once—but thunder! It would take me a long while to tell you all that happened to Jones.
"One thing that didn't hurt Kyle any in the campaign was that he was 'most as good-looking for a man as she was for a woman. They made a pair to draw to, I tell you, loping over the prairie, full of health and youngness! You wouldn't want to see a prettier sight than they made, and you could see it at any time, for they were together whenever it was possible. Loys was so happy it made you feel like a boy again to see her. She told me in private that it was wonderful how the air out here agreed with her, and I said it was considered mighty bracing, and never let on that they proclaimed their state of mind every time they looked at each other. I reckon old smart-Aleck Jonesy was the only party in the township who didn't understand. Kyle used to put vinegar in his coffee and things like that, and if you'd ask him, 'What's that fellow's name that runs the clothing store in town?' he'd come out of his trance and say 'Yes,' and smile very amiable, to show that he thoroughly admitted you were right.
"Well, things went as smooth and easy as bob-sledding until it came time for Loys to be moseying back to college again.
"Then Kyle took me into his confidence. I never was less astonished in my whole life, and I didn't tell him so. 'Well, what are you going to do about it?' says I.
"He kind of groaned and shook his head. 'I dunno,' says he. 'Do you think she likes me, Red?' I felt like saying, 'Well, if you ain't got all the traits but the long ears, I miss my guess,' but I made allowances, and says I, 'Well, about that, I don't think I ought to say anything; still, if I had only one eye left I could see plain that her education's finished. She don't want any more college, that girl don't.'
"'Think not?' says he, bracing up. And then, by-and-by, they went out to ride, for Jonesy was good to the girl, I'll say that for him. He was willing to do anything for her in reason, according to his views. But Kyle wasn't in them views; he was out of the picture as far as husbands went.
"They came back at sunset, when the whole world was glowing red the same as they were. I reached for the field glasses and took a squint at them. There was no harm in that, for they were well-behaved young folks. One look at their faces was enough. There were three of us in the bull-pen—Bob, and Wind-River Smith, and myself. We'd brought up a herd of calves from Nanley's ranch, and we were taking it easy. 'Boys,' says I, under my breath, 'they've made the riffle.'
"'No!' says they, and then everybody had to take a pull at the glasses.
"'Well, I'm glad,' says Smithy. And darn my buttons if that old hardshell's voice didn't shake. 'They're two of as nice kids as you'd find in many a weary day,' says he. 'And I wish 'em all the luck in the world.'
"'So do I,' says I, 'and I really think the best we could do for 'em would be to shoot Jones.'
"'Man! Won't he sizz!' says Bob. And you can't blame us old codgers if we had a laugh at that, although it was such a powerful serious matter to the youngsters.
"'Let's go out and meet 'em,' says I. And away we went. They weren't a particle surprised. I suppose they thought the whole universe had stopped to look on. We pump-handled away and laughed, and Loys she laughed kind of teary, and Kyle he looked red in the face and proud and happy and ashamed of himself, and we all felt loosened up considerable, but I told him on the quiet, 'Take that fool grin off your face, unless you want Uncle Jones to drop the moment he sees you.'
"Now they only had three days left to get an action on them, as that was the time set for Loys to go back to college.
"Next day they held a council behind the big barn, and they called in Uncle Red—otherwise known as Big Red Saunders, or Chanta Seechee Red, which means 'Bad-heart Red' in Sioux language, and doesn't explain me by a durn sight—to get the benefit of his valuable advice.
"'Skip,' says I. 'Fly for town and get married, and come back and tell Jonesy about it. It's a pesky sight stronger argument to tell him what you have done than what you're going to do.'
"They couldn't quite agree with that. They thought it was sneaky.
"'So it is,' says I. 'The first art of war is understanding how to make a grand sneak. If you don't want to take my advice you can wait.' That didn't hit 'em just right either.
"'What will we wait for?' says Kyle.
"'Exercise—and the kind you won't take when you get as old and as sensible as me. You're taking long chances, both of you; but it's just like playing cards, you might as well put all your money on the first turn, win or lose, as to try and play system. Systems don't work in faro, nor love affairs, nor any other game of chance. Be gone. Put your marker on the grand raffle. In other words take the first horse to town and get married. Ten chances to one Jonesy will have the laugh on you before the year is out.'
"'I don't think you are a bit nice to-day, Red,' says Loys.
"'He's jealous,' says Kyle.
"'That's what I am, young man,' says I. 'If I had ten years off my shoulders, and a little of the glow off my hair, I'd give you a run for your alley that would leave you breathless at the wind-up.'
"'I think your hair is a beautiful color, Red,' says Loys. 'Many a woman would like to have it.'
"'Of course they would,' I answered. 'But they don't get it. I'm foxy, I am.' Still I was touched in a tender spot. That young woman knew Just the right thing to say, by nature. 'Well, what are you young folks going to do?' I asked them.
"They decided that they'd think it over until next day, but that turned out to be too late, for what must Kyle do but get chucked from his horse and have his leg broke near the hip. You don't want to take any love affairs onto the back of a bad horse, now you mark me! There was no such thing as downing that boy when he was in his right mind.
"Now here was a hurrah! Loys, she dasn't cry, for fear of uncle, and Kyle, he used the sinfullest language known to the tongue of man. 'Twas the first time I'd ever heard him say anything much, but he made it clear that it wasn't because he couldn't.
"'What will we do, Red? What will we do?' says he.
"'Now,' says I, 'don't bile over like that, because it's bad for your leg.'
"He cussed the leg.
"'Go on and tell me what we can do,' says he.
"'When you ask me that, you've pulled the right bell,' says I. 'I'll tell you exactly what we'll do. I go for the doctor. Savvy? Well, I bring back the minister at the same time. Angevine, he loses the Jersey cow over in the cane-break, and uncle and Angevine go hunting her, for not even Loys is ace high in uncle's mind alongside that cow. The rest is easy.'
"'Red, you're a brick—you're the best fellow alive,' says Kyle, nearly squeezing the hand off me.
"'I've tried to conceal it all my life, but I knew it would be discovered some day,' says I. 'Well, I suppose I'd better break the news to Loys—'twouldn't be any more than polite.'
"'Oh, Lord! I wonder if she'll be willing?' says he.
"'No reason I shouldn't turn an honest dollar on the transaction—I'll bet you a month's wages she is,' says I. He wanted to do it, thinking I was in earnest, but I laughed at him.
"She was willing all right—even anxious. There's some women, and men, too, for that matter, who go through life like a cat through a back alley, not caring a cuss for either end or the middle. They would have been content to wait. Not so Loys. She wanted her Kyle, her poor Kyle, and she wanted him quick. That's the kind of people for me! Your cautious folk are all the time falling down wells because their eyes are up in the air, keeping tabs so that they can dodge shooting stars.
"Now, I had a minister friend up in town, Father Slade by name. No, he was not a Catholic, I think. They called him 'Father' because it fitted him. His church had a steeple on it, anyhow, so it was no maverick. Just what particular kind of religion the old man had I don't know, but I should say he was a homeopath on a guess. He looked it. 'Twas a comfort to see him coming down the street, his old face shining in his white hair like a shrivelled pink apple in a snowdrift, God-blessing everything in sight—good, bad, or indifferent. He had something pleasant to say to all. We was quite friends, and every once in a while we'd have a chin about things.
"'Are you keeping straight, Red?' he'd ask when we parted.
"'Um,' I'd say, 'I'm afraid you'd notice a bend here and there, if you Slid your eyes along the edge.'
"'Well, keep as straight as you can; don't give up trying, my boy,' he'd tell me, mighty earnest, and I'd feel ashamed of myself clear around the corner.
"I knew the old man would do me a favour if it could be done, so I pulled out easy in my mind.
"First place, I stopped at the doctor's, because I felt they might fix up the marrying business some other time, but if a leg that's broke in the upper joint ain't set right, you can see a large dark-complected hunk of trouble over the party's left shoulder for the rest of his days. The doctor was out, so I left word for him what was wanted, and to be ready when I got back, and pulled for Father Slade's. The old gentleman had the rheumatism, and he groaned when I come in. Rheumatism's no disease for people who can't swear.
"'How are you, my boy?' says he; 'I'm glad to see you. Here am I, an old man, nipped by the leg, and much wanting to talk to somebody.'
"I passed the time of day to him, but felt kind of blue. This didn't look like keeping my word with the kids. I really hated to say anything to the old man, knowing his disposition; still I felt I had to, and I out with my story.
"'Dear! dear!' says he. 'The hurry and skurry of young folks! How idle it seems when you get fifty years away from it, and see how little anything counts! For all that, I thank God,' says he, 'that there's a little red left in my blood yet, which makes me sympathise with them. But the girl's people object you say?'
"I made that all clear to him. The girl's always all right, Father,' says I, 'and as for the man in this case, my word for him.'
"Now it ain't just the right thing for me to say, but seeing as I've never had anything in particular to be modest about, and I'm proud of what the old gentleman told me, I'm going to repeat it.
"'Your word is good for me, Red,' says he. 'You're a mischievous boy at times, but your heart and your head are both reliable; give me your arm to the waggon.'
"Then I felt mighty sorry to think of lugging that poor old man all that ways.
"'Here!' says I. 'Now you sit down again; don't you do anything of the sort—you ain't fit.'
"He put his hand on my shoulder and hobbled his weight off the game leg.
"'Reddy, I was sitting there thinking when you came in—thinking of how comfortable it was to be in an easy-chair with my foot on a stool, and then I thought, "If the Lord should send me some work to do, would I be willing?" Now, thanks be to Him! I am willing, and glad to find myself so, and I do not believe there's any work more acceptable to Him than the union of young folk who love each other. Ouch!' says he, as that foot touched the ground. 'Perhaps you'd better pick me up and carry me bodily.'
"So I did it, the old housekeeper following us with an armful of things and jawing the both of us—him for a fool and me for a villain. She was a strong-minded old lady, and I wish I could remember some of her talk—it was great.
"We went around and got the doctor.
"'Hoo!' says he. 'Is it as bad as that?' I winked at Father Slade.
"'It's a plenty worse than that,' says I; 'you won't know the half of it till you get down there.'
"But of course we had to tell him, and he was tickled. Funny what an interest everybody takes in these happenings. He wanted all the details.
"'By Jove!' says he, 'the man whose feelings ain't the least dimmed by a broken leg—horse rolled on him, you said? Splintered it, probably—that man is one of the right sort. He'll do to tie to.'
"When we reached the ranch the boys were lined up to meet us. 'Hurry along!' they called. 'Angey can't keep uncle amused all day!'
"So we hustled. Kyle was for being married first, and then having his leg set, but I put my foot down flat. It had gone long enough now, and I wasn't going to have him cripping it all his life. But the doctor worked like a man who gets paid by the piece, and in less than no time we were able to call Loys in.
"Wind-River Smith spoke to get to give the bride away, and we let him have it.
"We'd just got settled to business when in comes Angevine, puffing like a buffalo. 'For Heaven's sakes! Ain't you finished yet?' says he; 'well, you want to be at it, for the old man ain't over two minutes behind me, coming fast. I took the distance in ten-foot steps. Just my luck! Foot slipped when I was talking to him, and I dropped a remark that made him suspicious—I wouldn't have done it for a ton of money—but it's too late now. I'll down him and hold him out there if you say so.'
"Well, sir, at this old Father Slade stood right up, forgetting that foot entirely.
"'Children, be ready,' says he, and he went over the line for a record.
"'Hurry there!' hollers old Bob from the outside, where he was on watch; 'here comes uncle up the long coulee!'
"'What are your names?' says Father Slade. They told him, both red'ning.
"'Do you, Kyle, take this woman, Loys, to have and keep track of, come hell or high water, her heirs and assigns for ever?'—or such a matter—says he, all in one breath, They both said they did.
"Things flew till we came to the ring. There was a hitch. We had plumb forgotten that important article. For a minute I felt stingy; then I cussed myself for a mean old long-horn, and dived into my box.
"'Here, take this!' I says. 'It was my mother's!'
"'Oh, Red! You mustn't part with that!' cried Loys, her eyes filling up.
"'Don't waste time talking; I put through what I tackle. Hurry, please, Father.'
"'Has anybody any objections to these proceedings?' says he.
"'I have,' says I, 'but I won't mention 'em. Give them the verdict.'
"'I pronounce you man and wife. Let us pray,' says he.
"'What's that?' screeches Uncle Jonesy from the doorway. And then he gave us the queerest prayer you ever heard in your life. He stood on one toe and clawed chunks out of the air while he delivered it.
"He seemed to have it in for me in particular. 'You villain! You rascal! You red-headed rascal! You did this! I know you did!'
"'Oh, uncle!' says I, 'forgive me!' With that I hugged him right up to me, and he filled my bosom full of smothered language.
"'Cheese it, you little cuss!' I whispered in his ear, 'or I'll break every rib in your poor old chest!' I came in on him a trifle, Just to show him what I could do if I tried.
"'Nuff!' he wheezes. 'Quit. 'Nuff.'
"'Go up and congratulate 'em,' I whispered again.
"'I won't,' says he. 'Ouch! Yes, I will! I will!' So up he goes, grinding his teeth.
"'I wish you every happiness,' he grunts.
"'Won't you forgive me, uncle?' begs Loys.
"'Some other time; some other time!' he hollers, and he pranced out of the house like a hosstyle spider, the maddest little man in the Territory.
"Loys had a hard time of it until Kyle got so he could travel, and they went up to the Yellowstone with a team for a wedding trip.
"The rest of Loys's folks was in an unpleasant frame of mind, too. They sent out her brother, and while I'd have took most anything from Loys's brother, there comes a place where human nature is human nature, and the upshot of it was I planked that young man gently but firmly across my knees. Suffering Ike! But he was one sassy young man! Howsomever, the whole outfit came round in time—all except uncle and me. He used to grit his teeth together till the sparks flew when he saw me. I was afraid he'd bust a blood-vessel in one of them fits, so I quit. I hated to let go of the old ranch, but I'm pretty well fixed—I'm superintendent here. It's Kyle's ranch, you know. That's his brand—the queer-looking thing on the left hip of that critter, over the vented hash-knife. Loys's invention, that is. She says it's a cherublim, but we call it the 'flying flap-jack.' There's a right smart lot of beef critters toting that signal around this part of the country. Kyle's one of the fellers that rises like a setting of bread—quiet and gentle, but steady and sure. He's going to the State Legislature next year. 'Twon't do no harm to have one honest man in the outfit.
"Now, perhaps if I'd married some nice woman I might have had 1,000 steers of my own, and a chance to make rules and regulations for my feller-citizens—and then again I might have took to gambling and drinking and raising blazes, and broke my poor wife's broom-handle with my hard head. So I reckon we'll let it slide as it is. Now you straddle that cayuse of yours and come along with me and I'll show you some rattling colts."
The Golden Ford
Reddy was on the station platform, walking up and down, looking about him anxiously. We caught sight of each other at the same time.
"Hi, there!" said he and jumped for me. "Gad-dog your little hide!" he cried as he put my right hand in line for a pension. "I thought I was booked to go without saying good-bye to you—you got the note I pinned on your shack?"
"Well, there's time for a chin before the choo-choo starts—thought I'd be early, not savvying this kind of travelling a great deal. Darned if you ain't growed since I saw you—getting fat, too! Well, how's everything? I didn't say nothing to the other boys about pulling my freight, as I wanted to go sober for once. You explain to 'em that old Red's head ain't swelled, will you? Seems kind of dirty to go off that way, but I'm bound for God's country and the old-time folks, and somehow I feel that I must cut the budge out of it. 'Nother thing is I'm superstitious, as you may or may not have noticed, and I believe if you try the same game twicet you'll get just as different results as can be the second time—you heard how I hit it in the mines, didn't you? No? Well, that's so; you dint seen many people out on the flat, have you? Hum. I don't know principally where to begin. You remember Wind-River Smith's pardner that the boys called Shadder, because he was so thin? Nice feller, always willing to do you a favour, or say something comical when you least expected it—had kind of a style with him, too. Yes, sir, that's the man. Well him and me was out in the Bend one day, holding a mess of Oregon half-breeds that was to be shipped by train shortly, when old Smithy comes with the mail. 'Letter for you, Shadder,' says Smith, and passes over a big envelope with wads of sealing wax all over it. Shadder reads his letter, and folds it up. Then he takes a look over the county—the kind of a look a man gives when he's thinking hard. Then says he, 'Red, take off your hat.' I done it. 'Smithy, take off your hat.' 'All right,' says Smith; 'but you tell me why, or I'll snake the shirt off you to square things.'
"'Boys,' says Shadder, 'I'm Lord Walford.'
"'Lord Hellford;' hollers Smithy. 'You'd better call somebody in to look at your plumbing—what you been drinkin', Shadder?'
"'Read for yourself,' says Shadder, and he handed him the letter.
"Wish't you could have seen old Smithy's face as he read it! He thought his pardner had been cut out of his herd for ever.
"'It's the God's truth, Red,' says he slowly, and he had a sideways smile on his face as he turned to Shadder. 'Well, sir,' says he, 'I suppose congratulations are in order?'
"Shadder's hand stopped short on its way to the cigarette, and he looked at Smithy as if he couldn't believe what he saw.
"'To hell with 'em!' says he, as savage as a wildcat, and he jabbed the irons in and whirled his cayuse about on one toe, heading for the ranch.
"'Now you go after him, you jealous old sore-head,' says I. 'Go on!' I says, as he started to argue the point, 'or I'll spread your nose all the way down your spinal column!' The only time to say 'no' to me is when I'm not meaning what I say, so away goes Wind-River, and they made it up all right in no time. Well, Shadder had to pull for England to take a squint at the ancestral estates, and all of us was right here at this station to see him off—Lord! it seems as if that happened last world!—well, it took a little bit the edge off any and all drunks a ranch as an institution had ever seen before. There was old Smithy crying around, wiping his eyes on his sleeve, and explaining to a lot of Eastern folks that it wasn't Shadder's fault—gad-hook it all! He was the best, hootin', tootin' son-of-a-sea-cook that ever hit a prairie breeze, in spite of this dum foolishness.
"'They can't make no "lord" of Shadder!' hollers Smithy. 'That is, not for long—he's a man, Shadder is—ain't cher, yer damned old gangle-legged hide-rack?'
"And Shadder never lost his patience at all, though it must have been kind of trying to be made into such a holy show before the kind of people he used to be used to. All he'd say was 'Bet your life, old boy!' Well, it was right enough too, as Smithy had nursed him through small-pox one winter up in the Shoshonee country, and mighty near starved himself to death feeding Shadder out of the slim grub stock, when the boy was on the mend; still some people would have forgot that.
"But did your uncle Red get under the influence of strong drink? DID he? Oh my! Oh MY! I wish I could make it clear to you. The vigilantes put after a horse thief once in Montana, and they landed on him in a butt-end canon, and there was all the stock with the brands on 'em as big as a patent medicine sign, as the lad hadn't had time to stop for alterations.
"'Well,' says they, 'what have you got to say for yourself?' He looked at them brands staring him in the face, and he bit off a small hunk of chewing 'Ptt-chay!' Says he, 'Gentlemen, I'm at a loss for words!' And they let him go, as a good joke is worth its price in any man's country. I'm in that lad's fix; I ain't got the words to tell you how seriously drunk I was on that occasion. I remember putting for what I thought was the hotel, and settling down, thinking there must be a lulu of a scrap in the barroom from the noise; then somebody gave me a punch in the ribs and says, 'Where's your ticket?' and I don't know what I said nor what he said after that, but it must have been all right. Then it got light and I met a lot of good friends I never saw before nor since; then more noise and trouble and at last I woke up.—in a hotel bedroom, all right, but not the one I was used to. I went to the window, heaved her open and looked out. It was a bully morning and I felt A1. There was a nice range of mountains out in front of me that must have come up during' the night. 'I'd like to know where I am,' I thinks. 'But somebody will tell me before long, so there is no use worrying about that—the main point is, have I been touched?' I dug down into my jeans and there wasn't a thing of any kind to remember me by. 'No,' I says to myself, 'I ain't been touched—I've been grabbed—they might have left me the price of a breakfast! Well, it's a nice looking country, anyhow!' So down I walks to the office. A cheerful-seeming plump kind of a man was sitting behind the desk. 'Hello!' says he, glancing up and smiling as I came in. 'How do you open up this morning?'
"'Somebody saved me the trouble,' says I. 'I'm afraid I'll have to give you the strong arm for breakfast.'
"He grinned wide. 'Oh, it ain't as bad as that, I hardly reckon,' says he. He dove into a safe and brought out a cigar-box.
"'When a gentleman's in the condition you was in last night,' he says, 'I always make it a point to go through his clothes and take out anything a stranger might find useful, trusting that there won't be no offence the next morning. Here's your watch and the rest of your valuables, including the cash—count your money and see if it's right.'
"Well, sir! I was one happy man, and I thanked that feller as I thumbed over the bills, but when I got up to a hundred and seventy I begun to feel queer. Looked like I'd made good money on the trip.
"'What's the matter?' says he, seeing my face. 'Nothing wrong, I hope!'
"'Why, the watch and the gun, and the other things is all right,' says I. 'But I'm now fifty dollars to the good, even figuring that I didn't spend a cent, which ain't in the least likely, and here's ten-dollar bills enough to make a bed-spread left over.'
"'Pshaw!' says he. 'Blame it! I've mixed your plunder up with the mining gentleman that came in at the same time. You and him was bound to fight at first, and then you both turned to to lick me, and what with keeping you apart and holding you off, and taking your valuables away from you all at the same time, and me all alone here as it was the night-man's day-off, I've made a blunder of it. Just take your change out of the wad, and call for a drink on me when you feel like it, will you?'
"I said I would do that, and moreover that he was an officer and a gentleman, and that I'd stay at his hotel two weeks at least to show my appreciation, no matter where it was, but to satisfy a natural curiosity, I'd like to know what part of the country I was at present inhabiting.
"'You're at Boise, Idaho,' says he, 'one of the best little towns in the best little Territory in the United States of America, including Alaska.'
"'Well . . .' says I. 'Well . . .' for again I was at a loss for words. I had no idea I'd gone so far from home. 'I believe what you say,' says I. 'What do you do around these parts?'
"'Mining,' says he. 'You're just in time—big strike in the Bob-cat district. Poor man's mining. Placer, and durned good placer, right on the top of the ground. The mining gentleman I spoke about is having his breakfast now. Suppose you go in and have a talk with him? Nice man, drunk or sober, although excitable when he's had a little too much, or not quite enough. He might put you onto a good thing. I'm not a mining person myself.'
"'Thanks,' says I, and in I went to the dining room.
There was a great, big, fine-looking man eating his ham and eggs the way I like to see a man eat the next morning. He had a black beard that was so strong it fairly jumped out from his face.
"'Mornin',' says I.
"'Good morning', sir!' says he. 'A day of commingled lucent clarity and vernal softness, ain't it?'
"'Well, I wouldn't care to bet on that without going a little deeper into the subject,' says I; 'but it smells good at least—so does that ham and eggs. Mary, I'll take the same, with coffee extra strong.'
"'You have doubtless been attracted to our small but growing city from the reports—which are happily true—of the inexhaustible mineral wealth of the surrounding region?' says he.
"'No-o—not exactly,' says I; 'but I do want to hear something about mines. Mr. Hotel-man out there (who's a gentleman of the old school if ever there lived one) told me that you might put me on to a good thing.'
"'Precisely,' says he. 'Now, sir, my name is Jones—Agamemnon G. Jones—and my pardner, Mr. H. Smith, is on a business trip, selling shares of our mine, which we have called "The Treasury" from reasons which we can make obvious to any investor. The shares, Mr. ———'
"'Saunders—Red Saunders—Chantay Seeche Red.'
"'Mr. Saunders, are fifty cents apiece, which price is really only put upon them to avoid the offensive attitude of dealing them out as charity. As a matter of fact, this mine of ours contains a store of gold which would upset the commercial world, were the bare facts of its extent known. There is neither sense nor amusement in confining such enormous treasure in the hands of two people. Consequently, my pardner and I are presenting an interest to the public, putting the nominal figure of fifty cents a share upon it, to save the feelings of our beneficiaries.'
"'What the devil do I care?' says I. 'I'm looking for a chance to dig—could you tell a man where to go?'
"'Oh!' says he, 'when you come to that, that's different. Strictly speaking, my pardner Hy hasn't gone off on a business trip. As a matter of fact, he left town night before last with two-thirds of the money we'd pulled out of a pocket up on Silver Creek, in the company of two half-breed Injuns, a Chinaman, and four more sons-of-guns not classified, all in such a state of beastly intoxication that their purpose, route, and destination are matters of the wildest conjecture. I've been laying around town here hating myself to death, thinking perhaps I could sell some shares in a mine that we'll find yet, if we have good luck. If you want to go wild-catting over the hills and far away, I'm your huckleberry.'
"'That hits me all right,' says I. 'For, what I don't know about mining, nobody don't know. When do we start?'
"'This, or any other minute,' says he, getting up from the table.
"'Wait till I finish up these eggs,' says I. 'And there's a matter of one drink coming to me outside—I may as well put that where it won't harm any one else before we start.'
"'All right!' says he, waving his hand. 'You'll find me outside—at your pleasure, sir.'
"I swallered the rest of my breakfast whole and hustled out to the bar, where my friend and the Hotel-man was waiting. 'Now I'll take that drink that's coming, and rather than be small about it, I'll buy one for you too, and then we're off,' says I.
"'You won't do no such thing,' says the Hotel-man. 'It's a horse on me, and I'll supply the liquor. Mr. Jones is in the play as much as anybody.'
"So the Hotel-man set 'em up, and that made one drink. Then Jones said he'd never let a drink suffer from lonesomeness yet when he had the price, and that made two drinks. I had to uphold the honour of the ranch, and that made three drinks. Hotel-man said it was up-sticks now, and he meant to pay his just debts like an honest man, and that made four drinks, then Jones said—well, by this time I see I needn't have hurried breakfast so much. More people came in. I woke up the next morning in the same old bedroom. Every breakfast Aggy and me got ready to pull for the mines, and every morning I woke up in the bedroom. I should like to draw a veil over the next two weeks, but it would have to be a pretty strong veil to hold it. I tried to keep level with Aggy, but he'd spend three dollars to my one, and the consequence of that was that we went broke within fifteen minutes of each other.
"Well, sir, we were a mournful pair to draw to that day. We sat there and cussed and said, 'Now, why didn't we do this, that, and t'other thing instead of blowing our hard earned dough?'—till bimeby we just dripped melancholy, you might say. Howsomever, we weren't booked for a dull time just yet. That afternoon there was a great popping of whips like an Injun skirmish and into town comes a bull train half-a-mile long. Twelve yoke of bulls to the team; lead, swing, and trail waggons for each, as big as houses on wheels. You don't see the like of that in this country. Down the street they come, the dust flying, whips cracking and the lads hollering 'Whoa haw, Mary—up there! Wherp! whoa haw.'
"And those fellers had picked up dry throats, walking in the dust. Also, they had a month's wages aching in their pockets. We hadn't much mor'n got the thump of their arrival out of our ears, when who comes roaring into town but the Bengal Tiger gang, and they had four months' wages. Owner of the mine got on a bender and paid everybody off by mistake. You can hardly imagine how this livened up things. There ain't nobody less likely to play lame-duck than me, but there was no dodging the hospitality. The only idea prevailing was to be rid of the money as soon as possible. The effects showed right off. You could hear one man telling the folks for their own good that he was the Old Missouri River, and when he felt like swelling his banks, it was time for parties who couldn't swim to hunt the high ground; whilst the gentleman on the next corner let us know that he was a locomotive carrying three hundred pounds of steam with the gauge still climbing and the blower on. When he whistled three times, he said, any intelligent man would know that there was danger around.
"Well, sir, I put the Old Missouri River to bed that night, and he'd flattened out to a very small streamlet indeed, while the locomotive went lame before supper, and had to be put in the round-house by a couple of pushers. That's the way with fine ideas. Cold facts comes and puts a crimp in them. Once I knew a small feller I could have stuck in my pocket and forgot about, but when we went out and took several prescriptions together on a day, he spoke to me like this. 'Red,' says he, 'put your little hand in mine, and we'll go and take a bird's-eye view of the Universe.' Astonishin' idea, wasn't it? And him not weighing over a hundred pound. Howsomever, he didn't take any bird's-eye view of the Universe—he only become strikingly indisposed.
"Well, to get back to Boise, you never in all your life saw so many men and brothers as was gathered there that day, and old Aggy, he was one of the centres of attraction. That big voice and black beard was always where the crowd was thickest, and the wet goods flowing the freest. 'Gentlemen!' says he, 'Let's lift up our voices in melody!' That was one of Ag's delusions—he thought he could sing. So four of 'em got on top of a billiard table and presented 'Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep' to the company, which made me feel glad that I hadn't been brought up that way. After Ag had hip-locked the last low note, another song-bird volunteered.
"This was a little fat Dutchman, with pale blue eyes and a mustache like two streaks of darning cotton. He had come to town to sell a pair of beef-steers, but got drawn into the general hilarity, and now he didn't care a cuss whether he, she, or it ever sold another steer. He got himself on end and sung 'Leeb Fadderlont moxtrue eckstein' in a style that made you wonder that the human nose could stand the strain.
"'Aw, cheese that!' says a feller near the door. 'Come get your steers, one of 'em's just chased the barber up a telegraph pole!'
"So then we all piled out into the street to see the steers. Sure enough, there was the barber, sitting on the cross-piece, and the steer pawing dirt underneath.
"'He done made me come a fast heat from de cohner,' says the barber. 'I kep' hollerin' "next!" but he ain't pay no 'tention—he make it "next" fur me, shuah! Yah, yah, yah! You gents orter seen me start at de bottom, an' slide all de way up disyer telegraft pole!'
"One of the bull-whackers went out to rope the steers, and Ag gave directions from the sidewalk. He wasn't very handy with a riata, and that's a fact, but the way Ag lit into him was scandalous. When he'd missed about six casts of his rope, Ag opened up on him:
"'Put a stamp on it and send it to him by mail,' says Aggy, in his sourcastic way. 'Address it, "Bay Steer, middle of Main St., Boise, Idaho. If not delivered within ten days, return to owner, who can use it to hang himself." Blast my hide if I couldn't stand here and throw a box-car nearer to the critter! Well, well, WELL! How many left hands have you got, anyhow? Do it up in a wad and heave it at him for general results—he might get tangled in it.'
"It rattled the bull-whacker, having so much attention drawn to him, and he stepped on the rope and twisted himself up in it and was flying light generally.
"'Say!' says Ag, appealing to the crowd, 'won't some kind friend who's fond of puzzles go down and help that gentleman do himself?'
"That made the whacker mad. He was as red in the face as a lobster.
"'You come down and show what you can do," says he. 'You've got gas enough for a balloon ascension, but that may be all there is to you.'
"'Oh, I ain't so much,' says Aggy, 'although I'm as good a man to-day as ever I was in my life—but I have a little friend here who can rope, down, and ride that critter from here to the brick-front in five minutes by the watch; and if you've got a twenty-five dollar bill in your pocket, or its equivalent in dust, you can observe the experiment.'
"'I'll go you, by gosh!' says the bull-whacker, slapping his hat on the ground and digging for his pile.
"'Say, if you're referring to me, Ag,' I says, 'it's kind of a sudden spring—I ain't what you might call in training, and that steer is full of triple-extract of giant powder.'
"'G'wan!' says Ag. 'You can do it—and then we're twenty-five ahead.'
"'But suppose we lose?'
"'Well . . . It won't be such an awful loss.'
"'Now you look here, Agamemnon G. Jones,' says I, 'I ain't going to stand for putting up a summer breeze ag'in' that feller's good dough—that's a skin game, to speak it pleasantly.'
"Then Aggy argues the case with me, and when Aggy started to argue, you might just as well 'moo' and chase yourself into the corral, because he'd get you, sure. Why, that man could sit in the cabin and make roses bloom right in the middle of the floor; whilst he was singing his little song you could see 'em and smell 'em; he could talk a snowbank off a high divide in the middle of February. Never see anybody with such a medicine tongue, and in a big man it was all the stranger. 'Now,' he winds up, 'as for cheating that feller, you ought to know me better, Red—why, I'll give him my note!'
"So, anyhow, I done it. Up the street we went, steer bawling and buck-jumping, my hair a-flying, and me as busy as the little bee you read about keeping that steer underneath me, 'stead of on top of me, where he'd ruther be, and after us the whole town, whoopin', yellin', crackin' off six-shooters, and carryin' on wild.
"Then we had twenty-five dollars and was as good as anybody. But it didn't last long. The tin-horns come out after pay-day, like hop-toads after a rain. 'Twould puzzle the Government at Washington to know where they hang out in the meantime. There was one lad had a face on him with about as much expression as a hotel punkin pie. He run an arrow game, and he talked right straight along in a voice that had no more bends in it than a billiard cue.
"'Here's where you get your three for one any child may do it no chance to lose make your bets while the arrow of fortune swings all gents accommodated in amounts from two-bits to double-eagles and bets paid on the nail,' says he.
"'Red,' says Aggy, 'I can double our pile right here—let me have the money. I know this game.' You'd hardly believe it, but I dug up. 'Double-or-quits?' says he to the dealer.
"'Let her go,' says the dealer; the arrow swung around. 'Quits,' says the dealer, and raked in my dough. It was all over in one second.
"I grabbed Aggy by the shoulder and took him in the corner for a private talk. 'I thought you knew this game?' says I.
"'I do,' says he. 'That's the way it always happens.' And once more in my life I experienced the peculiar feeling of being altogether at a loss for words.
"'Aggy,' says I at last, 'I've got a good notion to lay two violent hands on you, and wind you up like an eight-day clock, but rather than make hard feelings between friends, I'll refrain. Besides you are a funny cuss, that's sure. One thing, boy, you can mark down. We leave here to-morrow morning.'
"'All right,' says Ag. 'This sporting life is the very devil. I like out doors as well as the next man, when I get there.'
"So the morrow morning, away we went. All we had for kit was the picks, shovels, and pans; the rest of our belongings was staying with the Hotel-man until we made a rise.
"Ag said he'd be cussed if he'd walk. A hundred and fifty miles of a stroll was too many.
"'But we ain't got a cent to pay the stage fare,' says I.
"'Borrow it of Uncle Hotel-keep,' says he.
"'Not by a town site,' says I. 'We owe him all we're going to, at this very minute—you'll have to hoof it, that's all.'
"'I tell you I won't. I don't like to have anybody walk on my feet, not even myself. I can stand off that stage driver so easy, that you'll wonder I don't take it up as a profession. Now, don't raise any more objections—please don't,' says he. 'I can't tell you how nervous you make me, always finding some fault with everything I try to do. That's no way for a hired man to act, let alone a pardner.'
"So, of course, he got the best of me as usual, and we climbed into the stage when she come along. Now, our bad luck seemed to hold, because you wouldn't find many men in that country who wouldn't stake two fellers to a waggon ride wherever they wanted to go, and be pleasant about it, I'd have sure seen that the man got paid, even if Aggy forgot it, but the man that drove us was the surliest brute that ever growled. When you'd speak to him, he'd say, 'Unh'—a style of thing that didn't go well in that part of the country. I kept my mouth shut, as knowing that I didn't have the come-up-with weighed on my spirits; but Aggy gave him the jolly. He only meant it in fun, and there was plenty of reason for it, too, for you never seen such a game of driving as that feller put up in all your life. The Lord save us! He cut around one corner of a mountain, so that for the longest second I've lived through, my left foot hung over about a thousand feet of fresh air. I'd have had time to write my will before I touched bottom if we'd gone over. I don't know as I turned pale, but my hair ain't been of the same rosy complexion since.
"'Well!' says Aggy in a surprised tone of voice when we got all four wheels on the ground again. 'Here we are!' says he. 'Who'd have suspected it? I thought he was going to take the short cut down to the creek.'
"The driver turned round with one corner of his lip h'isted—a dead ringer of a mean man—Says he to Aggy, 'Yer a funny bloke, ain't yer?'
"'Why!' says Ag, 'that's for you to say—wouldn't look well coming from me—but if you press me, I'll admit I give birth to a little gem now and then.'
"Our bold buck puts on a great swagger. 'Well yer needn't be funny in this waggon,' says he. 'The pair of yer spongin' a ride! Yer needn't be gay—yer hear me, don't cher?'
"'Why, I hear you as plain as though you set right next me,' says Ag. 'Now, you listen and see if I'm audible at the same range—You're a blasted chump!' he roars, in a tone of voice that would have carried forty mile. Did you hear that, Red?' he asks very innocent. I was so hot at the driver's sass—the cussed low-downness of doing a feller a favour and then heaving it at him—that you could have lit a match on me anywheres, but to save me I couldn't help laughing—Ag had the comicallest way!
"At that the driver begins to larrup the horses. I ain't the kind to feel faint when a cayuse gets what's coming to him for raising the devil, but to see that lad whale his team because there wasn't nothing else he dared hit, got me on my hind legs. I nestled one hand in his hair and twisted his ugly mug back.
"'Quit that!' says I.
"'You let me be—I ain't hurting you,' he hollers.
"'That ain't to say I won't be hurting you soon,' says I. 'You put the bud on them horses again, and I'll boot the spine of your back up through the top of your head till it stands out like a flag-staff. Just one more touch, and you get it!' says I.
"He didn't open his mouth again till we come to the river. Then he pulled up. 'This is about as far as I care to carry you two gents for nothin',' he says. 'Of course you're two to one, and I can't do nothing if you see fit to bull the thing through. But I'll say this: if either one or both of you roosters has got the least smell of a gentleman about him, he won't have to be told his company ain't wanted twice.'
"Now, mind you, Ag and me didn't have the first cussed thing—not grub, nor blankets, nor gun, nor nothing; and this the feller well knew.
"'Red,' says Aggy, 'what do you say to pulling this thing apart and seeing what makes it act so?'
"'No,' says I, 'don't touch it—it might be catching. Now, you whelp!' says I to the driver, 'you tell us if there's a place where we can get anything to eat around here?' We'd expected to go hungry until we hit the camp some forty mile further on, where we knew there'd be plenty for anybody that wanted it.
"'Yes,' says he; 'there's a man running a shack two mile up the river.'
"'All right,' says I. 'Drive on. You've played us as dirty a trick as one man can play another. If we ever get a cinch on you, you can expect we'll pull her till the latigoes snap.'
"He kept shut till he got across the river, where he felt safe.
"'It's all right about that cinch!' he hollers back, grinning. 'Only wait till you get it, yer suckers! Sponges! Beats! Dead-heads! Yah!'
"Well, a man can't catch a team of horses, and that's all there is about it, but I want to tell you he was on the anxious seat for a quarter of a mile. We tried hard.
"When we got back to where we started and could breathe again, we held a council of war.
"'Now Aggy,' says I, 'we're dumped—what shall we do?'
He sat there awhile looking around him, snapping pebbles with his thumb.
"'Tell you what it is, Red,' he says at last, 'we might as well go mining right here. This is likely gravel, and there's a river. If that bar in front of you had been further in the mountains, it would have been punched full of holes. It's only because it's on the road that nobody's taken the trouble to see what was in it. This road was made by cattle ranchers, that didn't know nothing about mining, and every miner that's gone over the trail had his mouth set to get further along as quick as possible—just like us. Do you see that little hollow running down to the river? Well you try your luck there. I give you that place as it's the most probable, and you as a tenderfoot in the business will have all the luck. I'll make a stab where I am.'
"Well, sir, it sounds queer to tell it, and it seems queerer still to think of the doing of it, but I hadn't dug two feet before I come to bed rock, and there was some heavy black chunks.
"'Aggy,' says I, 'what's these things?' throwing one over to him. He caught it and Stared at it.
"'Where did you get that?' says he, in almost a whisper.
"'Why, out of the hole, of course!' says I, laughing. 'Come take a look!'
"Aggy wasn't the kind of man to go off the handle over trifles, but when he looked into that hole he turned perfectly green. His knees give out from under him and he sat on the ground like a man in a trance, wiping the sweat off his face with a motion like a machine.
"'What the devil ails you?' says I astonished. I thought maybe I'd done something I hadn't ought to do, through ignorance of the rules and regulations of mining.
"'Red,' says he dead solemn, 'I've mined for twenty year, and from Old Mexico to Alaska, but I never saw anything that was ace-high to that before. Gold laying loose in chunks on top of the bed-rock is too much for me—I wish Hy could see this.'
"'Gold!' says I. 'What you talking about? What have those black hunks to do with gold?'
"The only answer he made was to lay the one I had thrown to him on top of a rock and hit her a crack with a pick. Then he handed it to me. Sure enough! There under the black was the yeller. Of course, it I'd known more about the business I could have told it by the weight, but I'd never seen a piece of gold fresh off the farm before in my life. I hadn't the slightest idea what it looked like, and I learned afterward it all looks different. Some of it shines up yaller in the start; some of it's red, and some is like ours, coated black with iron-crust.
"So I looked at Ag, and Ag looked at me, neither one of us believing anything at all for awhile. I simply couldn't get hold of the thing—I ain't yet, for that matter. I expect to wake up and find it a pipe dream, and in some ways I wouldn't mind if it was. I never was so completely two men as I was on that occasion. One of 'em was hopping around and hollering with Ag, yelling 'hooray!' and the other didn't take much interest in the proceedings at all. And it wasn't until I thought, 'Now I can pay that cussed cayote of a stage driver what I owe him!' that I got any good out of it. That brought it home to me. When I spoke to Ag about paying the driver, he says, 'That's so,' then he takes a quick look around. 'We can pay him in full, too, old horse!' he hollers, and there was a most joyful smile on his face.
"'Red,' say he, 'do you know this is the only ford on the river for—I don't know how many miles—perhaps the whole length of her?'
"'Well?' says I.
"'Our little placer claim,' says Aggy slowly, rubbing his hands together, 'covers that ford; and by a judicious taking up of claims for various uncles and brothers and friends of ours along the creek on the lowlands, we can fix it so they can't even bridge it.'
"'Do you mean they can't cross our claim if we say they can't?'
"'Sure thing!' says Aggy. 'There's you and me and the law to say "no" to that—I wish I had a gun.'
"'You don't need any gun for that skunk of a driver.'
"'Of course not, but there'll be passengers, and there's no telling how excited them passengers will be when they find they've got to go over the hills ford-hunting.'
"'Are you going to send 'em all around, Ag?'
"'The whole bunch. Anybody coming back from the diggings has gold in his clothes, so it won't hurt 'em none, and I propose to give that stage line an advertising that won't do it a bit of good. Come along, Red; let's see that lad that has the shack up the river. We need something to eat, and maybe he's got a gun. If he's a decent feller, we'll let him in on a claim. Never mind about the hole!—it won't run away, and there's nobody to touch anything—come on.'
"So we went up the river. The man's name was White, and he was a white man by nature, too. He fed us well, and was just as hot as us when we told him about the stage driver's trick. Then we told him about the find and let him in.
"'Now,' says Aggy, 'have you got a gun?'
"'I have that,' says the man. 'My dad used to be a duck-hunter on Chesapeake bay. When you say "gun," I'll show you a gun.' He dove in under his bunk and fetched out what I should say was a number one bore shot gun, with barrels six foot long.
"'Gentlemen,' says he, holding the gun up and patting it lovingly, 'if you ram a quarter-pound of powder in each one of them barrels, and a handful of buck-shot on top of that, you've got an argument that couldn't be upset by the Supreme Court. I'll guarantee that when you point her anywheres within ten feet of a man not over a hundred yards away, and let her do her duty, all the talent that that man's fambly could employ couldn't gather enough of him to recognise him by, and you won't be in bed more'n long enough to heal a busted shoulder.'
"'I hope it ain't going to be my painful line of performance to pull the trigger,' says Aggy. 'I think the sight of her would have weight with most people. When's the stage due back?'
"'Day after to-morrow, about noon.'
"'That gives us lots of time to stake, and to salt claims that can't show cause their own selves,' says Aggy. 'I think we're all right.'
"The next day we worked like the Old Harry. We had everything fixed up right by nightfall, and there was nothing to do but dig and wait.
"Curious folks we all are, ain't we? I should have said my own self that if I'd found gold by the bucketful, I'd be more interested in that, than I would be in getting even with a mut that had done me dirt, but it wasn't so. Perhaps it was because I hadn't paid much attention to money all my life, and I had paid the strictest attention to the way other people used me. Living where there's so few folks accounts for that, I suppose.
"Getting even on our esteemed friend the stage driver was right in your Uncle Reddy's line, and Aggy and our new pard White seemed to take kindly to it, also.
"If ever you saw three faces filled with innocent glee, it was when we heard the wheels of that stage coming—why, the night before I was woke up by somebody laughing. There was Aggy sound asleep, sitting up hugging himself in the moonlight.
"'Oh, my! Oh, MY!' says he. 'It's the only ford for four thousand miles!'
"We planted a sign in the middle of the road with this wording on it in big letters, made with the black end of a stick.
THIS AND ADJOINING CLAIMS ARE THE PROPERTY OF AGAMEMNON G. JONES, RED SAUNDERS, JOHN HENRY WHITE, ET AL.
TRESPASSING DONE AT YOUR OWN RISK. OWNERS WILL NOT BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE REMAINS.
"There was a stretch of about a mile on the level before us. When the stage come in plain sight Aggy proceeds to load up 'Old Moral Suasion,' as he called her, so that the folks could see there was no attempt at deception. They come pretty fairly slow after that. At fifty yards, Ag hollers 'Halt!' The team sat right down on their tails.
"'Now, Mr. Snick'umfritz,' says Aggy, 'you that drives, I mean, come here and read this little sign.'
"'Suppose I don't?' says the feller, trying to be smart before the passengers.
"'It's a horrible supposition,' says Aggy, and the innocent will have to suffer with the guilty.' Then he cocks the gun.
"'God sakes! Don't shoot!' yells one of the passengers. 'Man, you ought to have more sense than to try and pick him out of a crowd with a shot-gun! Get down there, you fool, and make it quick!'
"So the driver walked our way, and read. He never said a word. I reckon he realized it was the only ford for four thousand miles, more or less, just as Aggy had remarked. There he stood, with his mouth and eyes wide open.
"'I'd like to have you other gentlemen come up and see our first clean up, so you won't think we're running in a windy,' says Aggy. They wanted to see bad, as you can imagine, and when they did see about fifteen pound of gold in the bottom of my old hat, they talked like people that hadn't had a Christian bringing up.
"'Oh Lord!' groans one man. 'Brigham Young and all the prophets of the Mormon religion! This is my tenth trip over this line, and me and Pete Hendricks played a game of seven-up right on the spot where that gent hit her, not over a month ago, when the stage broke down! Somebody just make a guess at the way I feel and give me one small drink.' And he put his hand to his head. 'Say, boys!' he goes on, 'you don't want the whole blamed creek, do you? Let us in!'
"'How's that, fellers?' says Ag to me and White. We said we was agreeable.
"'All right, in you come!' says Aggy. 'There ain't no hog about our firm—but as for you,' says he, walking on his tip-toes up to the driver, 'as for you, you cock-eyed whelp, around you go! Around you go!' he hollers, jamming the end of Moral Suasion into the driver's trap. 'Oh, and WON'T you go 'round, though!' says he. 'Listen to me, now: if any one of your ancestors for twenty-four generations back had ever done anything as decent as robbing a hen-coop, it would have conferred a kind of degree of nobility upon him. It wouldn't be possible to find an ornerier cuss than you, if a man raked all hell with a fine-toothed comb. Now, you stare-coated, mangey, bandy-legged, misbegotten, out-law coyote, fly!—fly!' whoops Aggy, jumping four foot in the air, 'before I squirt enough lead into your system to make it a paying job to melt you down!'
"The stage driver acted according to orders. Three wide steps and he was in the waggon, and with one screech like a p'izened bob-cat, he fairly lifted the cayuses over the first ridge. Nobody never saw him any more, and nobody wanted to.
"So that's the way I hit my stake, son, just as I'd always expected—by not knowing what I was doing any part of the time—and now, there comes my iron-horse coughing up the track! I'll write you sure, boy, and you let old Reddy know what's going on—and on your life, don't forget to give it to the lads straight why I sneaked off on the quiet! I've got ten years older in the last six months. Well, here we go quite fresh, and damned if I altogether want to, neither—too late to argue though—by-bye, son!"
When the Chinook Struck Fairfield
Miss Mattie sat on her little front porch, facing the setting sun. Across the road, now ankle deep in June dust, was the wreck of the Peters place: back-broken roof, crumbling chimneys, shutters hanging down like broken wings, the old house had the pathetic appeal of ship-wrecked gentility. A house without people in it, even when it is in repair, is as forlorn as a dog who has lost his master.
Up the road were more houses of the nondescript village pattern, made neither for comfort nor looks. God knows why they built such houses—perhaps it was in accordance with the old Puritan idea that any kind of physical perfection is blasphemy. Some of these were kept in paint and window glass, but there were enough poor relations to spoil the effect.