Alfred Henry Lewis
Author of "Wolfville", "Wolfville Days", "Peggy O'Nea", &c.
DEDICATION SOME COWBOY FACTS I. THE DISMISSAL OF SILVER PHIL II. COLONEL STERETT'S PANTHER HUNT III. HOW FARO NELL DEALT BANK IV. HOW THE RAVEN DIED V. THE QUEERNESS OF DAVE TUTT VI. WITH THE APACHE'S COMPLIMENTS VII. THE MILLS OF SAVAGE GODS VIII. TOM AND JERRY; WHEELERS IX. THE INFLUENCE OF FARO NELL X. THE GHOST OF THE BAR-B-8 XI. TUCSON JENNIE'S CORRECTION XII. BILL CONNORS OF THE OSAGES XIII. WHEN TUTT FIRST SAW TUCSON XIV. THE TROUBLES OF DAN BOGGS XV. BOWLEGS AND MAJOR BEN XVI. TOAD ALLEN'S ELOPEMENT XVII. THE CLIENTS OF AARON GREEN XVIII. COLONEL STERETT'S MARVELS XIX. THE LUCK OF HARDROBE XX. LONG AGO ON THE RIO GRANDE XXI. COLONEL COYOTE CLUBBS
William Greene Sterett
this volume is
NEW YORK CITY,
August 1, 1902
MY DEAR STERETT:—
In offering this book to you I might have advantage of the occasion to express my friendship and declare how high I hold you as a journalist and a man. Or I might speak of those years at Washington when in the gallery we worked shoulder to shoulder; I might recall to you the wit of Hannum, or remind you of the darkling Barrett, the mighty Decker, the excellent Cohen, the vivid Brown, the imaginative Miller, the volatile Angus, the epigrammatic Merrick, the quietly satirical Splain, Rouzer the earnest, Boynton the energetic, Carson the eminent, and Dunnell, famous for a bitter, frank integrity. I might remember that day when the gifted Fanciulli, with no more delicate inspiration than crackers, onions, and cheese, and no more splendid conservatory than Shoemaker's, wrote, played and consecrated to you his famous "Lone Star March" wherewith he so disquieted the public present of the next concert in the White House grounds. Or I might hark back to the campaign of '92, when together we struggled against national politics as evinced in the city of New York; I might repaint that election night when, with one hundred thousand whirling dervishes of democracy in Madison Square, dancing dances, and singing songs of victory, we undertook through the hubbub to send from the "Twenty-third street telegraph office" half-hourly bulletins to our papers in the West; how you, accompanied of the dignified Richard Bright, went often to the Fifth Avenue Hotel; and how at last you dictated your bulletins—a sort of triumphant blank verse, they were—as Homeric of spirit as lofty of phrase—to me, who caught them as they came from your lips, losing none of their fire, and so flashed them all burning into Texas, far away. But of what avail would be such recount? Distance separates us and time has come between. Those are the old years, these are the new, with newer years beyond. Life like a sea is filling from rivers of experience. Forgetfulness rises as a tide and creeps upward to drown within us those stories of the days that were. And because this is true, it comes to me that you as a memory must stand tallest in the midst of my regard. For of you I find within me no forgetfulness. I have met others; they came, they tarried, they departed. They came again; and on this second encounter the recollection of their existences smote upon me as a surprise. I had forgotten them as though they had not been. But such is not your tale. Drawn on the plates of memory, as with a tool of diamond, I carry you both in broadest outline and in each least of shade; and there hangs no picture in the gallery of hours gone, to which I turn with more of pleasure and of good. Nor am I alone in my recollection. Do I pass through the Fifth Avenue Hotel on my way to the Hoffman, that vandyked dispenser leans pleasantly across his counter, to ask with deepest interest: "Do you hear from the Old Man now?" Or am I belated in Shanley's, a beaming ring of waiters—if it be not an hour overrun of custom—will half-circle my table, and the boldest, "Pat," will question timidly, yet with a kindly Galway warmth: "How's the Old Man?" Old Man! That is your title: at once dignified and affectionate; and by it you come often to be referred to along Broadway these ten years after its conference. And when the latest word is uttered what is there more to fame! I shall hold myself fortunate, indeed, if, departing, I'm remembered by half so many half so long. But wherefore extend ourselves regretfully? We may meet again; the game is not played out. Pending such bright chance, I dedicate this book to you. It is the most of honour that lies in my lean power. And in so doing, I am almost moved to say, as said Goldsmith of Johnson in his offering of She Stoops to Conquer: "By inscribing this slight performance to you, I do not mean to so much compliment you as myself. It may do me some honour to inform the public that I have lived many years in intimacy with you. It may serve the interests of mankind also to inform them that the greatest wit may be found in a character without impairing the most unaffected piety." I repeat, I am all but moved to write these lines of you. It would tell my case at least; and while description might limp in so far as you lack somewhat of that snuffle of "true piety" so often engaging the Johnsonian nose, you make up the defect with possession of a wider philosophy, a better humour and a brighter, quicker wit than visited or dwelt beneath the candle-scorched wig of our old bully lexicographer.
ALFRED HENRY LEWIS.
Some Cowboy Facts.
There are certain truths of a botanical character that are not generally known. Each year the trees in their occupation creep further west. There are regions in Missouri—not bottom lands—which sixty years ago were bald and bare of trees. Today they are heavy with timber. Westward, beyond the trees, lie the prairies, and beyond the prairies, the plains; the first are green with long grasses, the latter bare, brown and with a crisp, scorched, sparse vesture of vegetation scarce worth the name. As the trees march slowly westward in conquest of the prairies, so also do the prairies, in their verdant turn, become aggressors and push westward upon the plains. These last stretches, extending to the base of that bluff and sudden bulwark, the Rocky Mountains, can go no further. The Rockies hold the plains at bay and break, as it were, the teeth of the desert. As a result of this warfare of vegetations, the plains are to first disappear in favour of the prairies; and the prairies to give way before the trees. These mutations all wait on rain; and as the rain belt goes ever and ever westward, a strip of plains each year surrenders its aridity, and the prairies and then the trees press on and take new ground.
These facts should contain some virtue of interest; the more since with the changes chronicled, come also changes in the character of both the inhabitants and the employments of these regions. With a civilised people extending themselves over new lands, cattle form ever the advance guard. Then come the farms. This is the procession of a civilised, peaceful invasion; thus is the column marshalled. First, the pastoral; next, the agricultural; third and last, the manufacturing;—and per consequence, the big cities, where the treasure chests of a race are kept. Blood and bone and muscle and heart are to the front; and the money that steadies and stays and protects and repays them and their efforts, to the rear.
Forty years ago about all that took place west of the Mississipi of a money-making character was born of cattle. The cattle were worked in huge herds and, like the buffalo supplanted by them, roamed in unnumbered thousands. In a pre-railroad period, cattle were killed for their hides and tallow, and smart Yankee coasters went constantly to such ports as Galveston for these cargoes. The beef was left to the coyotes.
Cattle find a natural theatre of existence on the plains. There, likewise, flourishes the pastoral man. But cattle herding, confined to the plains, gives way before the westward creep of agriculture. Each year beholds more western acres broken by the plough; each year witnesses a diminution of the cattle ranges and cattle herding. This need ring no bell of alarm concerning a future barren of a beef supply. More cattle are the product of the farm-regions than of the ranges. That ground, once range and now farm, raises more cattle now than then. Texas is a great cattle State. Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri are first States of agriculture. The area of Texas is about even with the collected area of the other five. Yet one finds double the number of cattle in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri than in Texas, to say nothing of tenfold the sheep and hogs. No; one may be calm; one is not to fall a prey to any hunger of beef.
While the farms in their westward pushing do not diminish the cattle, they reduce the cattleman and pinch off much that is romantic and picturesque. Between the farm and the wire fence, the cowboy, as once he flourished, has been modified, subdued, and made partially to disappear. In the good old days of the Jones and Plummer trail there were no wire fences, and the sullen farmer had not yet arrived. Your cowboy at that time was a person of thrill and consequence. He wore a broad-brimmed Stetson hat, and all about it a rattlesnake skin by way of band, retaining head and rattles. This was to be potent against headaches—a malady, by the way, which swept down no cowboy save in hours emergent of a spree. In such case the snake cure didn't cure. The hat was retained in defiance of winds, by a leathern cord caught about the back of the head, not under the chin. This cord was beautiful with a garniture of three or four perforated poker chips, red, yellow, and blue.
There are sundry angles of costume where the dandyism of a cowboy of spirit and conceit may acquit itself; these are hatband, spurs, saddle, and leggins. I've seen hatbands made of braided gold and silver filigree; they were from Santa Fe, and always in the form of a rattlesnake, with rubies or emeralds or diamonds for eyes. Such gauds would cost from four hundred to two thousand dollars. Also, I've encountered a saddle which depleted its proud owner a round twenty-five hundred dollars. It was of finest Spanish leather, stamped and spattered with gold bosses. There was gold-capping on the saddle horn, and again on the circle of the cantle. It was a dream of a saddle, made at Paso del Norte; and the owner had it cinched upon a bronco dear at twenty dollars. One couldn't have sold the pony for a stack of white chips in any faro game of that neighbourhood (Las Vegas) and they were all crooked games at that.
Your cowboy dandy frequently wears wrought steel spurs, inlaid with silver and gold; price, anything you please. If he flourish a true Brummel of the plains his leggins will be fronted from instep to belt with the thick pelt, hair outside, of a Newfoundland dog. These "chapps," are meant to protect the cowboy from rain and cold, as well as plum bushes, wire fences and other obstacles inimical, and against which he may lunge while riding headlong in the dark. The hair of the Newfoundland, thick and long and laid the right way, defies the rains; and your cowboy loathes water.
Save in those four cardinals of vanity enumerated, your cowboy wears nothing from weakness; the rest of his outfit is legitimate. The long sharp heels of his boots are there to dig into the ground and hold fast to his mother earth while roping on foot. His gay pony when "roped" of a frosty morning would skate him all across and about the plains if it were not for these heels. The buckskin gloves tied in one of the saddle strings are used when roping, and to keep the half-inch manila lariat—or mayhap it's horsehair or rawhide pleated—from burning his hands. The red silken sash one was wont aforetime to see knotted about his waist, was used to hogtie and hold down the big cattle when roped and thrown. The sash—strong, soft and close—could be tied more tightly, quickly, surely than anything besides. In these days, with wire pastures and branding pens and the fine certainty of modern round-ups and a consequent paucity of mavericks, big cattle are seldom roped; wherefor the sash has been much cast aside.
The saddle-bags or "war-bags,"—also covered of dogskin to match the leggins, and worn behind, not forward of the rider—are the cowboy's official wardrobe wherein he carries his second suit of underclothes, and his other shirt. His handkerchief, red cotton, is loosely knotted about the cowboy's neck, knot to the rear. He wipes the sweat from his brow therewith on those hot Texas days when in a branding pen he "flanks" calves or feeds the fires or handles the irons or stands off the horned indignation of the cows, resentful because of burned and bawling offspring.
It would take two hundred thousand words to tell in half fashion the story of the cowboy. His religion of fatalism, his courage, his rides at full swing in midnight darkness to head and turn and hold a herd stampeded, when a slip on the storm-soaked grass by his unshod pony, or a misplaced prairie-dog hole, means a tumble, and a tumble means that a hundred and fifty thousand dollars worth of cattle, with hoofs like chopping knives, will run over him and make him look and feel and become as dead as a cancelled postage stamp; his troubles, his joys, his soberness in camp, his drunkenness in town, and his feuds and occasional "gun plays" are not to be disposed of in a preface. One cannot in such cramped space so much as hit the high places in a cowboy career.
At work on the range and about his camp—for, bar accidents, wherever you find a cowboy you will find a camp—the cowboy is a youth of sober quiet dignity. There is a deal of deep politeness and nothing of epithet, insult or horseplay where everybody wears a gun.
There are no folk inquisitive on the ranges. No one asks your name. If driven by stress of conversation to something akin to it the cowboy will say: "What may I call you, sir?" And he's as careful to add the "sir," as he is to expect it in return.
You are at liberty to select what name you prefer. Where you hail from? where going? why? are queries never put. To look at the brand on your pony—you, a stranger—is a dangerous vulgarity to which no gentleman of the Panhandle or any other region of pure southwestern politeness would stoop. And if you wish to arouse an instant combination of hate, suspicion and contempt in the bosom of a cowboy you have but to stretch forth your artless Eastern hand and ask: "Let me look at your gun."
Cowboys on the range or in the town are excessively clannish. They never desert each other, but stay and fight and die and storm a jail and shoot a sheriff if needs press, to rescue a comrade made captive in their company. Also they care for each other when sick or injured, and set one another's bones when broken in the falls and tumbles of their craft. On the range the cowboy is quiet, just and peaceable. There are neither women nor cards nor rum about the cow camps. The ranches and the boys themselves banish the two latter; and the first won't come. Women, cards and whiskey, the three war causes of the West, are confined to the towns.
Those occasions when cattle are shipped and the beef-herds, per consequence, driven to the shipping point become the only times when the cowboy sees the town. In such hours he blooms and lives fully up to his opportunity. He has travelled perhaps two hundred miles and has been twenty days on the trail, for cattle may only be driven about ten miles a day; he has been up day and night and slept half the time in the saddle; he has made himself hoarse singing "Sam Bass" and "The Dying Ranger" to keep the cattle quiet and stave off stampedes; he has ridden ten ponies to shadows in his twenty days of driving, wherefore, and naturally, your cowboy feels like relaxing.
There would be as many as ten men with each beef-herd; and the herd would include about five thousand head. There would be six "riders," divided into three watches to stand night guard over the herd and drive it through the day; there would be two "hoss hustlers," to hold the eighty or ninety ponies, turn and turn about, and carry them along with the herd; there would be the cook, with four mules and the chuck wagon; and lastly there would be the herd-boss, a cow expert he, and at the head of the business.
Once the herd is off his hands and his mind at the end of the drive, the cowboy unbuckles and reposes himself from his labours. He becomes deeply and famously drunk. Hungering for the excitement of play he collides amiably with faro and monte and what other deadfalls are rife of the place. Never does he win; for the games aren't arranged that way. But he enjoys himself; and his losses do not prey on him.
Sated with faro bank and monte—they can't be called games of chance, the only games of chance occurring when cowboys engage with each other at billiards or pool—sated, I say, with faro and Mexican monte, and exuberant of rum, which last has regular quick renewal, our cowboy will stagger to his pony, swing into the saddle, and with gladsome whoops and an occasional outburst from his six shooter directed toward the heavens, charge up and down the street. This last amusement appeals mightily to cowboys too drunk to walk. For, be it known, a gentleman may ride long after he may not walk.
If a theatre be in action and mayhap a troop of "Red Stocking Blondes," elevating the drama therein, the cowboy is sure to attend. Also he will arrive with his lariat wound about his body under his coat; and his place will be the front row. At some engaging crisis, such as the "March of the Amazons," having first privily unwound and organised his lariat to that end, he will arise and "rope" an Amazon. This will produce bad language from the manager of the show, and compel the lady to sit upon the stage to the detriment of her wardrobe if no worse, and all to keep from being pulled across the footlights. Yet the exercise gives the cowboy deepest pleasure. Having thus distinguished the lady of his admiration, later he will meet her and escort her to the local dancehall. There, mingling with their frank companions, the two will drink, and loosen the boards of the floor with the strenuous dances of our frontier till daylight does appear.
For the matter of a week, or perchance two—it depends on how fast his money melts—in these fashions will our gentleman of cows engage his hours and expand himself. He will make a deal of noise, drink a deal of whiskey, acquire a deal of what he terms "action"; but he harms nobody, and, in a town toughened to his racket and which needs and gets his money, disturbs nobody.
"Let him whoop it up; he's paying for it, ain't he?" will be the prompt local retort to any inquiry as to why he is thus permitted to disport.
So long as the cowboy observes the etiquette of the town, he will not be molested or "called down" by marshal or sheriff or citizen. There are four things your cowboy must not do. He must not insult a woman; he must not shoot his pistol in a store or bar-room; he must not ride his pony into those places of resort; and as a last proposal he must not ride his pony on the sidewalks. Shooting or riding into bar-rooms is reckoned as dangerous; riding on the sidewalk comes more under the head of insult, and is popularly regarded as a taunting defiance of the town marshal. On such occasions the marshal never fails to respond, and the cowboy is called upon to surrender. If he complies, which to the credit of his horse-sense he commonly does, he is led into brief captivity to be made loose when cooled. Does he resist arrest, there is an explosive rattle of six shooters, a mad scattering of the careful citizenry out of lines of fire, and a cowboy or marshal is added to the host beyond. At the close of the festival, if the marshal still lives he is congratulated; if the cowboy survives he is lynched; if both fall, they are buried with the honours of frontier war; while whatever the event, the communal ripple is but slight and only of the moment, following which the currents of Western existence sweep easily and calmly onward as before.
A. H. L.
The Dismissal of Silver Phil.
"His name, complete, is 'Silver City Philip.' In them social observances of the Southwest wherein haste is a feacher an' brev'ty the bull's eye aimed at, said cognomen gets shortened to 'Silver Phil.'"
The Old Cattleman looked thoughtfully into his glass, as if by that method he collected the scattered elements of a story. There was a pause; then he lifted the glass to his lips as one who being now evenly equipped of information, proposed that it arrive hand in hand with the inspiration which should build a tale from it.
"Shore, this Silver Phil is dead now; an' I never yet crosses up with the gent who's that sooperfluous as to express regrets. It's Dan Boggs who dismisses Silver Phil; Dan does it in efforts he puts forth to faithfully represent the right.
"Doc Peets allers allows this Silver Phil is a 'degen'rate;' leastwise that's the word Peets uses. An' while I freely concedes I ain't none too cl'ar as to jest what a degen'rate is, I stands ready to back Peets' deescription to win. Peets is, bar Colonel William Greene Sterett, the best eddicated sharp in Arizona; also the wariest as to expressin' views. Tharfore when Peets puts it up, onflinchin', that this yere Silver Phil's a degen'rate, you-all can spread your blankets an' go to sleep on it that a degen'rate he is.
"Silver Phil is a little, dark, ignorant, tousled-ha'red party, none too neat in costume. He's as black an' small an' evil-seemin' as a Mexican; still, you sees at a glance he ain't no Greaser neither. An' with all this yere surface wickedness, Silver Phil has a quick, hyster'cal way like a woman or a bird; an' that's ever a grin on his face. You can smell 'bad' off Silver Phil, like smoke in a house, an' folks who's on the level—an' most folks is—conceives a notion ag'in him the moment him an' they meets up.
"The first time I observes Silver Phil, he's walkin' down the licker room of the Red Light. As he goes by the bar, Black Jack—who's rearrangin' the nosepaint on the shelf so it shows to advantage—gets careless an' drops a bottle.
"'Crash!' it goes onto the floor.
"With the sound, an' the onexpected suddenness of it stampedin' his nerves, that a-way, Silver Phil leaps into the air like a cat; an' when he 'lights, he's frontin' Black Jack an' a gun in each hand.
"'Which I won't be took!' says Silver Phil, all flustered.
"His eyes is gleamin' an' his face is palin' an' his ugly grin gets even uglier than before. But like a flash, he sees thar's nothin' to go in the air about—nothin' that means him; an' he puts up his hardware an' composes himse'f.
"'You-all conducts yourse'f like a sport who has something on his mind,' says Texas Thompson, who's thar present at the time, an' can't refrain from commentin' on the start that bottle-smashin' gives Silver Phil.
"This Silver Phil makes no response, but sort o' grins plenty ghastly, while his breath comes quick.
"Still, while you-all notes easy that this person's scared, it's plain he's a killer jest the same. It's frequent that a-way. I'm never much afraid of one of your cold game gents like Cherokee Hall; you can gamble the limit they'll never put a six-shooter in play till it's shorely come their turn. But timid, feverish, locoed people, whose jedgment is bad an' who's prone to feel themse'fs in peril; they're the kind who kills. For myse'f I shuns all sech. I won't say them erratic, quick-to-kill sports don't have courage; only it strikes me—an' I've rode up on a heap of 'em—it's more like a fear-bit f'rocity than sand.
"Take Enright or Peets or Cherokee or Tutt or Jack Moore or Boggs or Texas Thompson; you're plumb safe with sech gents—all or any. An' yet thar ain't the first glimmer of bein' gun-shy about one of 'em; they're as clean strain as the eternal granite, an' no more likely to hide out from danger than a hill. An' while they differs from each other, yet they're all different from sech folks as Silver Phil. Boggs, goin' to war, is full of good-humoured grandeur, gala and confident, ready to start or stop like a good hoss. Cherokee Hall is quiet an' wordless; he gets pale, but sharp an' deadly; an' his notion is to fight for a finish. Peets is haughty an' sooperior on the few o'casions when he onbends in battle, an' comports himse'f like a gent who fights downhill; the same, ondoubted, bein' doo to them book advantages of Peets which elevates him an' lifts him above the common herd a whole lot. Enright who's oldest is of course slowest to embark in blood, an' pulls his weepons—when he does pull 'em—with sorrowful resignation.
"'Which I'm shorely saddest when I shoots,' says Enright to me, as he reloads his gun one time.
"These yere humane sentiments, however, don't deter him from shootin' soon an' aimin' low, which latter habits makes Wolfville's honoured chief a highly desp'rate game to get ag'inst.
"Jack Moore, bein' as I explains former, the execyootive of the Stranglers, an' responsible for law an' order, has a heap of shootin' shoved onto him from time to time. Jack allers transacts these fireworks with a ca'm, offishul front, the same bein' devoid, equal, of anger or regrets. Tutt, partic'lar after he weds Tucson Jennie, an' more partic'lar still when he reaps new honours as the originator of that blessed infant Enright Peets Tutt, carries on what shootin' comes his way in a manner a lot dignified an' lofty; while Texas Thompson—who's mebby morbid about his wife down in Laredo demandin' she be divorced that time—although he picks up his hand in a fracas, ready an' irritable an' with no delays, after all is that well-balanced he's bound to be each time plumb right.
"Which, you observes, son, from these yere settin's forth, that thar's a mighty sight of difference between gents like them pards of mine an' degen'rates of the tribe of Silver Phil. It's the difference between right an' wrong; one works from a impulse of pure jestice, the other is moved of a sperit of crime; an' thar you be.
"Silver Phil, we learns later—an' it shore jestifies Peets in his theories about him bein' a degen'rate—has been in plenty of blood. But allers like a cat; savage, gore-thirsty, yet shy, prideless, an' ready to fly. It seems he begins to be homicidal in a humble way by downin' a trooper over near Fort Cummings. That's four years before he visits us. He's been blazin' away intermittent ever since, and allers crooel, crafty an' safe. It's got to be a shore thing or Silver Phil quits an' goes into the water like a mink.
"This yere ondersized miscreant ain't ha'nted about Wolfville more'n four days before he shows how onnecessary he is to our success. Which he works a ha'r copper on Cherokee Hall. What's a ha'r copper? I'll onfold, short and terse, what Silver Phil does, an' then you saveys. Cherokee's dealin' his game—farobank she is; an' if all them national banks conducts themse'fs as squar' as that enterprise of Cherokee's, the fields of finance would be as safely honest as a church. Cherokee's turnin' his game one evenin'; Faro Nell on the lookout stool where she belongs. Silver Phil drifts up to the lay-out, an' camps over back of the king-end. He gets chips, an' goes to takin' chances alternate on the king, queen, jack, ten; all side an' side they be. Cherokee bein' squar' himse'f ain't over-prone to expect a devious play in others. He don't notice this Silver Phil none speshul, an' shoves the kyards.
"Silver Phil wins three or four bets; it's Nell that catches on to his racket, an' signs up to Cherokee onder the table with her little foot. One glance an' Cherokee is loaded with information. This Silver Phil, it seems, in a sperit of avarice, equips himse'f with a copper—little wooden checker, is what this copper is—one he's done filched from Cherokee the day prior. He's fastened a long black hoss-ha'r to it, an' he ties the other end of the hoss-ha'r to his belt in front. This ha'r is long enough as he's planted at the table that a-way, so it reaches nice to them four nearest kyards,—the king, queen, jack, ten. An' said ha'r is plumb invisible except to eyes as sharp as Faro Nell's. The deceitful Silver Phil will have a stack on one of 'em, coppered with this yere ha'r copper. He watches the box. As the turns is made, if the kyards come his way, well an' good. Silver Phil does nothin' but garners in results. When the kyards start to show ag'in him, however, that's different. In sech events Silver Phil draws in his breath, sort o' takin' in on the hoss-ha'r, an' the copper comes off the bet. When the turn is made, thar's Silver Phil's bet—by virchoo of said fraud—open an' triumphant an' waitin' to be paid.
"Cherokee gets posted quick an with a look. As sharp as winkin' Cherokee has a nine-inch bowie in his hand an' with one slash cuts the hoss-ha'r clost up by Silver Phil's belt.
"'That's a yoonique invention!" observes Cherokee, an' he's sarcastic while he menaces with the knife at Silver Phil; 'that contraption is shorely plenty sagacious! But it don't go here. Shove in your chips.' Silver Phil obeys: an' he shows furtive, ugly, an' alarmed, an' all of 'em at once. He don't say a word. 'Now pull your freight,' concloods Cherokee. 'If you ever drifts within ten foot of a game of mine ag'in I'll throw this knife plumb through you—through an' through.' An' Cherokee, by way of lustration lets fly the knife across the bar-room. It comes like a flash.
"Thar's a picture paper pasted onto the wooden wall of the Red Light, displayin' the liniaments of some party. That bowie pierces the picture—a shot in the cross it is—an' all with sech fervour that the p'int of the blade shows a inch an' a half on the other side of that individyool board.
"'The next time I throws a knife in your presence,' remarks Cherokee to Silver Phil, an' Cherokee's as cold an' p'isonous as a rattlesnake, 'it'll be la'nched at you.'
"Silver Phil don't say nothin' in retort. He's aware by the lib'ral way Cherokee sep'rates himse'f from the bowie that said weepon can't constitoote Cherokee's entire armament. An' as Silver Phil don't pack the sperit to face no sech flashlight warrior, he acts on Cherokee's hint to vamos, an fades into the street. Shore, Cherokee don't cash the felon's chips none; he confiscates 'em. Cherokee ain't quite so tenderly romantic as to make good to a detected robber. Moreover, he lets this Silver Phil go onharmed when by every roole his skelp is forfeit. It turns out good for the camp, however, as this yere experience proves so depressin' to Silver Phil he removes his blankets to Red Dog. Thar among them purblind tarrapins, its inhabitants, it's likely he gets prosperous an' ondetected action on that little old ha'r copper of his.
"It's not only my beliefs, but likewise the opinions of sech joodicial sports as Enright, Peets, an' Colonel Sterett, that this maverick, Silver Phil, is all sorts of a crim'nal. An' I wouldn't wonder if he's a pure rustler that a-way; as ready to stand up a stage as snake a play at farobank. This idee settles down on the Wolfville intell'gence on the heels of a vicissitoode wherein Dan Boggs performs, an' which gets pulled off over in the Bird Cage Op'ry House. Jack Moore ain't thar none that time. Usual, Jack is a constant deevotee of the dramy. Jack's not only a first-nighter, he comes mighty clost to bein' a every-nighter. But this partic'lar evenin' when Boggs performs, Jack's rummagin' about some'ers else.
"If Jack's thar, it's even money he'd a-had that second shot instead of Boggs; in which event, the results might have been something graver than this yere minoote wound which Boggs confers. I'm confident Jack would have cut in with the second shot for sech is his offishul system. Jack more'n once proclaims his position.
"'By every roole of law,' says Jack at epocks when he declar's himse'f, 'an' on all o'casions, I, as kettle-tender to the Stranglers, is entitled to the first shot. When I uses the term 'o'casion,' I would be onderstood as alloodin' to affairs of a simply social kind, an' not to robberies, hold-ups, hoss-larcenies, an' other an' sim'lar transactions in spec'latif crime when every gent defends his own. Speakin' social, however, I reasserts that by every roole of guidance, I'm entitled to the first shot. Which a doo regyard for these plain rights of mine would go far to freein' Wolfville upper circles of the bullets which occurs from time to time, an' which even the most onconventional admits is shore a draw-back. All I can add as a closer,' concloods Jack, 'is that I'll make haste to open on any sport who transgresses these fiats an' goes to shootin' first. Moreover, it's likely that said offender finds that when I'm started once, what I misses in the orig'nal deal I'll make up in the draw, an' I tharfore trusts that none will prove so sooicidal as to put me to the test.'
"This Bird Cage Op'ry House evenin', however, Jack is absent a heap. Dan Boggs is present, an' is leanin' back appreciatin' the show an' the Valley Tan plenty impartial. Dan likes both an' is doin' 'em even jestice. Over opp'site to Dan is a drunken passel of sports from Red Dog, said wretched hamlet bein' behind Wolfville in that as in all things else an' not ownin' no op'ry house.
"As the evenin' proceeds—it's about sixth drink time—a casyooal gun goes off over among the Red Dog outfit, an' the lead tharfrom bores a hole in the wall clost to Dan's y'ear. Nacherally Dan don't like it. The show sort o' comes to a balk, an' takin' advantages of the lull Dan arises in a listless way an' addresses the Red Dogs.
"'I merely desires to inquire,' says Dan 'whether that shot is inadvertent; or is it a mark of innocent joobilation an' approval of the show; or is it meant personal to me?'
"'You can bet your moccasins!' shouts one of the Red Dog delegation, 'thar's no good fellowship with that gun-play. That shot's formal an' serious an' goes as it lays.'
"'My mind bein' now cl'ar on the subject of motive,' says Dan; 'the proper course is plain.'"
With this retort Dan slams away gen'ral—shoots into the flock like—at the picnickers from Red Dog, an' a party who's plenty drunk an' has his feet piled up on a table goes shy his off big toe.
"As I remarks yeretofore it's as well Jack Moore ain't thar. Jack would have corralled something more momentous than a toe. Which Jack would have been shootin' in his capac'ty as marshal, an' couldn't onder sech circumstances have stooped to toes. But it's different with Dan. He is present private an' only idlin' 'round; an' he ain't driven to take high ground. More partic'lar since Dan's playin' a return game in the nacher of reproofs an' merely to resent the onlicensed liberties which Red Dog takes with him, Dan, as I says, is free to accept toes if he so decides.
"When Dan busts this yere inebriate, the victim lams loose a yell ag'inst which a coyote would protest. That sot thinks he's shore killed. What with the scare an' the pain an' the nosepaint, an' regyardin' of himse'f as right then flutterin' about the rim of eternity, he gets seized with remorse an' allows he's out to confess his sins before he quits. As thar's no sky pilot to confide in, this drunkard figgers that Peets 'll do, an' with that he onloads on Peets how, bein' as he is a stage book-keep over in Red Dog, he's in cahoots with a outfit of route agents an' gives 'em the word when it's worth while to stand-up the stage. An' among other crim'nal pards of his this terrified person names that outlaw Silver Phil. Shore, when he rounds to an' learns it ain't nothin' but a toe, this party's chagrined to death.
"This yere confidin' sport's arrested an' taken some'ers—Prescott mebby—to be tried in a shore-enough co't for the robberies; the Red Dog Stranglers not bein' game to butt in an' hang him a lot themse'fs. They surrenders him to the marshal who rides over for him; an' they would have turned out Silver Phil, too, only that small black outcast don't wait, but goes squanderin' off to onknown climes the moment he hears the news. He's vamoosed Red Dog before this penitent bookkeep ceases yelpin' an' sobbin' over his absent toe.
"It ain't no time, however, before we hears further of Silver Phil; that is, by way of roomer. It looks like a couple of big cow outfits some'ers in the San Simon country—they're the 'Three-D' an' the 'K-in-a-box' brands—takes first to stealin' each, other's cattle, an', final, goes to war. Each side retains bands of murderers an' proceeds buoyantly to lay for one another. Which Silver Phil enlists with the 'Three-D' an' sneaks an' prowls an' bushwhacks an' shoots himse'f into more or less bloody an' ignoble prom'nence. At last the main war-chiefs of the Territory declar's themse'fs in on the riot an' chases both sides into the hills; an' among other excellent deeds they makes captive Silver Phil.
"It's a great error they don't string this Silver Phil instanter. But no; after the procrastinatin' fashion of real law, they permits the villain—who's no more use on the surface of Arizona that a-way than one of them hydrophoby polecats whose bite is death—to get a law sharp to plead an' call for a show-down before a jedge an' jury. It takes days to try Silver Phil, an' marshals an' sheriff gents is two weeks squanderin' about gettin' witnesses; an' all to as much trouble an' loss of time an' dinero as would suffice to round-up the cattle of Cochise county. Enright an' the Stranglers would have turned the trick in twenty minutes an' never left the New York Store ontil with Silver Phil an' a lariat they reepairs to the windmill to put the finishin' touches on their lucoobrations.
"Still, dooms slow an' shiftless as they shore be, at the wind-up Silver Phil's found guilty, an' is put in nom'nation by the presidin' alcade to be hanged; the time bein' set in a crazy-hoss fashion for a month away. As Silver Phil—which he's that bad an' hard he comes mighty clost to bein; game—is leavin' the co't-room with the marshal who's ridin' herd on him, he says:
"'I ain't payin' much attention at the time,'—Silver Phil's talkin' to that marshal gent,—'bein' I'm thinkin' of something else, but do I onderstand that old grey sport on the bench to say you-all is to hang me next month?'
"'That's whatever!' assents this marshal gent, 'an' you can gamble a bloo stack that hangin' you is a bet we ain't none likely to overlook. Which we're out to put our whole grateful souls into the dooty.'
"'Now I thinks of it,' observes Silver Phil, 'I'm some averse to bein' hanged. I reckons, speakin' free an' free as between fellow sports, that in order for that execootion to be a blindin' success I'll have to be thar personal?'
"'It's one of the mighty few o'casions,' responds the marshal, 'when your absence would shorely dash an' damp the gen'ral joy. As you says, you'll have to be thar a heap personal when said hangin' occurs.'
"'I'm mighty sorry,' says Silver Phil, 'that you-all lays out your game in a fashion that so much depends on me. The more so, since the longer I considers this racket, the less likely it is I'll be thar. It's almost a cinch, with the plans I has, that I'll shore be some'ers else.'
"They corrals Silver Phil in the one big upper room of a two-story 'doby, an' counts off a couple of dep'ty marshals to gyard him. These gyards, comin' squar' down to cases, ain't no improvement, moral, on Silver Phil himse'f; an' since they're twice his age—Silver Phil not bein' more'n twenty—it's safe as a play to say that both of 'em oughter have been hanged a heap before ever Silver Phil is born. These two hold-ups, however, turns dep'ty marshals in their old age, an' is put in to stand watch an' watch an' see that Silver Phil don't work loose from his hobbles an' go pirootin' off ag'in into parts onknown. Silver Phil is loaded with fetters,—handcuffs an' laig-locks both—an' these hold-up sentries is armed to the limit.
"It's the idee of Doc Peets later, when he hears the details, that if the gyards that time treats Silver Phil with kindness, the little felon most likely would have remained to be hanged. But they don't: they abooses Silver Phil; cussin' him out an' herdin' him about like he's cattle. They're a evil-tempered couple, them dep'ties, an' they don't give Silver Phil no sort o' peace.
"'As I su'gests yeretofore,' says Doc Peets, when he considers the case, 'this Silver Phil is a degen'rate. He's like a anamile. He don't entertain no reg'lar scheme to work free when he waxes sardonic with the marshal; that's only a bluff. Later, when them gyards takes to maltreatin' him an' battin' him about, it wakes up the venom in him, an' his cunnin' gets aroused along with his appetite for revenge.'
"This Silver Phil, who's lean an' slim like I explains at the jump, has hands no bigger than a cat's paws. It ain't no time when he discovers that by cuttin' himse'f a bit on the irons, he can shuck the handcuffs whenever he's disposed. Even then, he don't outline no campaign for liberty; jest sort o' roominates an' waits.
"It's one partic'lar mornin', some two weeks after Silver Phil's sentenced that a-way. The marshal gent himse'f ain't about, bein' on some dooty over to Tucson. Silver Phil is upsta'rs on the top floor of the 'doby with his gyards. Which he's hotter than a wildcat; the gyards an' him has been havin' a cussin' match, an' as Silver Phil outplays 'em talkin', one of 'em's done whacked him over the skelp with his gun. The blood's tricklin' down Silver Phil's fore'erd as he sits glowerin'.
"One of the gyards is loadin' a ten-gauge Greener—a whole mouthful of buckshot in each shell. He's grinnin' at Silver Phil as he shoves the shells in the gun an' slams her shet.
"'Which I'm loadin' that weepon for you,' says the gyard, contemplatin' Silver Phil derisive.
"'You be, be you!' replies Silver Phil, his eyes burnin' with rage. 'Which you better look out a whole lot; you-all may get it yourse'f.'
"The gyard laughs ugly an' exasperatin' an' puts the ten-gauge in a locker along with two or three Winchesters. Then he turns the key on the firearms an' goes caperin' off to his feed.
"The other gyard, his compadre, is settin' on a stool lookin' out a window. Mebby he's considerin' of his sins. It would be more in his hand at this time if he thinks of Silver Phil.
"Silver Phil, who's full of wrath at the taunts of the departed gyard, slips his hands free of the irons. Most of the hide on his wrists comes with 'em, but Silver Phil don't care. The gyard's back is to him as that gent sits gazin' out an' off along the dusty trail where it winds gray an' hot toward Tucson. Silver Phil organises, stealthy an' cat-cautious; he's out for the gyard's gun as it hangs from his belt, the butt all temptin' an' su'gestive.
"As Silver Phil makes his first move the laig-locks clanks. It ain't louder than the jingle of a brace of copper centouse knockin' together. It's enough, however; it strikes on the y'ear of that thoughtful gyard like the roar of a '44. He emerges from his reverie with a start; the play comes cl'ar as noonday to him in a moment.
"The gyard leaps, without even lookin' 'round, to free himse'f from the clutch of Silver Phil. Which he's the splinter of a second too late. Silver Phil makes a spring like a mountain lion, laig-locks an' all, an' grabs the gun. As the gyard goes clatterin' down sta'rs. Silver Phil pumps two loads into him an' curls him up at the foot. Then Silver Phil hurls the six-shooter at him with a volley of mal'dictions.
"Without pausin' a moment, Silver Phil grabs the stool an' smashes to flinders the locker that holds the 10-gauge Greener. He ain't forgot none; an' he's fair locoed to get that partic'lar weepon for the other gyard. He rips it from the rack an' shows at the window as his prey comes runnin' to the rescoo of his pard:
"'Oh, you! Virg Sanders!' yells Silver Phil.
"The second gyard looks up; an' as he does, Silver Phil gives him both bar'ls. Forty-two buckshot; an' that gyard's so clost he stops 'em all! As he lays dead, Silver Phil breaks the Greener in two, an' throws, one after the other, stock an' bar'l at him.
"'Which I'll show you-all what happens when folks loads a gun for me!' says Silver Phil.
"Nacherally, this artillery practice turns out the entire plaza. The folks is standin' about the 'doby which confines Silver Phil, wonderin' whatever that enthoosiast's goin' to do next. No, they don't come after him, an' I'll tell you why. Shore, thar's twenty gents lookin' on, any one of whom, so far as personal apprehensions is involved, would trail Silver Phil single-handed into a wolf's den. Which he'd feel plumb confident he gets away with Silver Phil an' the wolves thrown in to even up the odds. Still, no one stretches forth to capture Silver Phil on this yere voylent o'casion. An' these is the reasons. Thar's no reg'lar offishul present whose dooty it is to rope up this Silver Phil. If sech had chanced to be thar, you can put down a stack he'd come a-runnin', an' him or Silver Phil would have caught up with the two gyards on their journey into the beyond. But when it gets down to private people volunteerin' for dooty as marshals, folks in the Southwest goes some slothful to work. Thar's the friends of the accoosed—an' as a roole he ain't none friendless—who would mighty likely resent sech zeal. Also, in the case of Silver Phil, his captivity grows out of a cattle war. One third the public so far as it stands about the 'doby where Silver Phil is hived that time is 'Three-D' adherents, mebby another third is 'K-in-a-box' folks, while the last third is mighty likely nootral. Whichever way it breaks, however, thar's a tacit stand-off, an' never a sport of 'em lifts a finger or voice to head off Silver Phil.
"'Which she's the inalien'ble right of Americans onder the constitootion to escape with every chance they gets,' says one.
"'That's whatever!' coincides his pard; 'an' moreover this ain't our round-up nohow.'
"It's in that fashion these private citizens adjusts their dooty to the state while pausin' to look on, in a sperit of cur'osity while Silver Phil makes his next play.
"They don't wait long. Silver Phil comes out on the roof of a stoop in front. He's got a Winchester by now, an' promptly throws the muzzle tharof on a leadin' citizen. Silver Phil allows he'll plug this dignitary if they don't send up a sport with a file to cut loose the laig-locks. Tharupon the pop'lace, full of a warm interest by this time, does better. They gropes about in the war-bags of the Virg Sanders sharp who stops the buckshot an' gets his keys; a moment after, Silver Phil is free.
"Still, this ontirin' hold-up goes on menacin' the leadin' citizen as former. Which now Silver Phil demands a bronco, bridled an' saddled. He gives the public ten minutes; if the bronco is absent at the end of ten minutes Silver Phil allows he'll introdooce about a pound of lead into where that village father does his cogitating. The bronco appears with six minutes to spar'. As it arrives, the vivacious Silver Phil jumps off the roof of the stoop—the same bein' low—an' is in the saddle an' out o' sight while as practised a hand as Huggins is pourin' out a drink. Where the trail bends 'round a mesa Silver Phil pulls up.
"'Whoop! whoop! whoopee! for Silver Phil,' he shouts.
"Then he waves the Winchester, an' as he spurs 'round the corner of the hill it's the last that spellbound outfit ever sees of Silver Phil.
"Nacherally now," remarked my old friend, as he refreshed himself with a mouthful of scotch, "you-all is waitin' an' tryin' to guess wherever does Dan Boggs get in on this yere deal. An' it won't take no time to post you; the same bein' a comfort.
"Not one word do we-all wolves of Wolfville hear of the divertin' adventures of Silver Phil—shootin' up his gyards an' fetchin' himse'f free—ontil days after. No one in camp has got Silver Phil on his mind at all; at least if he has he deems him safe an' shore in hock, a-waitin' to be stretched. Considerin' what follows, I never experiences trouble in adoptin' Doc Peets' argyments that the eepisodes wherein this onhappy Silver Phil figgers sort o' aggravates his intellects ontil he's locoed.
"'Bein' this Silver Phil's a degen'rate,' declar's Peets, explanatory, 'he's easy an' soon to loco. His mind as well as his moral nacher is onbalanced congenital. Any triflin' jolt, much less than what that Silver Phil runs up on, an' his fretful wits is shore to leave the saddle.
"Now that Silver Phil's free, but loonatic like Peets says, an' doubly vicious by them tantalisin' gyards, it looks like he thinks of nothin' but wreckin' reprisals on all who's crossed his trail. An' so with vengeance eatin' at his crim'nal heart he p'ints that bronco's muzzle straight as a bird flies for Wolfville. Whoever do you-all reckon now he wants? Cherokee Hall? Son, you've followed off the wrong waggon track. Silver Phil—imagine the turpitoode of sech a ornery wretch!—is out for the lovely skelp of Faro Nell who detects him in his ha'r-copper frauds that time.
"Which the first intimations we has of Silver Phil after that escape, is one evenin' about fifth drink time—or as you-all says 'four o'clock.' The sun's still hot an' high over in the west. Thar's no game goin'; but bein' it's as convenient thar as elsewhere an' some cooler, Cherokee's settin' back of his layout with Faro Nell as usual on her lookout perch. Dan Boggs is across the street in the dancehall door, an' his pet best bronco is waitin' saddled in front. Hot an' drowsy; the street save for these is deserted.
"It all takes place in a moment. Thar's a clattering rush; an' then, pony a-muck with sweat an' alkali dust, Silver Phil shows in the portals of the Red Light. Thar's a flash an' a spit of white smoke as he fires his six-shooter straight at Faro Nell.
"Silver Phil is quick, but Cherokee is quicker. Cherokee sweeps Faro Nell from her stool with one motion of his arm an' the bullet that's searchin' for her lifts Cherokee's ha'r a trifle where he 'most gets his head in its way.
"Ondoubted, this Silver Phil allows he c'llects on Faro Nell as planned. He don't shoot twice, an' he don't tarry none, but wheels his wearied pony, gives a yell, an' goes surgin' off.
"But Silver Phil's got down to the turn of that evil deal of his existence. He ain't two hundred yards when Dan Boggs is in the saddle an' ridin' hard. Dan's bronco runs three foot for every one of the pony of Silver Phil's; which that beaten an' broken cayouse is eighty miles from his last mouthful of grass.
"As Dan begins to crowd him, Silver Phil turns in the saddle an' shoots. The lead goes 'way off yonder—wild. Dan, grim an' silent, rides on without returnin' the fire.
"'Which I wouldn't dishonour them guns of mine,' says Dan, explainin' later the pheenomenon of him not shootin' none, 'which I wouldn't dishonour them guns by usin' 'em on varmints like this yere Silver Phil.'
"As Silver Phil reorganises for a second shot his bronco stumbles. Silver Phil pitches from the saddle an' strikes the grass to one side. As he half rises, Dan lowers on him like the swoop of a hawk. It's as though Dan's goin' to snatch a handkerchief from the ground.
"As Dan flashes by, he swings low from the saddle an' his right hand takes a troo full grip on that outlaw's shoulder. Dan has the thews an' muscles of a cinnamon b'ar, an' Silver Phil is only a scrap of a man. As Dan straightens up in the stirrups, he heaves this Silver Phil on high to the length of his long arm; an' then he dashes him ag'inst the flint-hard earth; which the manoover—we-all witnesses it from mebby a quarter of a mile—which the manoover that a-way is shore remorseless! This Silver Phil is nothin' but shattered bones an' bleedin' pulp. He strikes the plains like he's crime from the clouds an' is dead without a quiver.
"'Bury him? No!' says Old Man Enright to Dave Tutt who asks the question. 'Let him find his bed where he falls.
"While Enright speaks, an' as Dan rides up to us at the Red Light, a prompt raven drops down over where this Silver Phil is layin'. Then another raven an' another—black an' wide of wing—comes floatin' down. A coyote yells—first with the short, sharp yelp, an' then with that multiplied patter of laughter like forty wolves at once. That daylight howl of the coyote alters tells of a death. Shore raven an' wolf is gatherin'. As Enright says: 'This yere Silver Phil ain't likely to be lonesome none to-night.'
"'Did you kill him, Dan?' asks Faro Nell.
"'Why, no, Nellie,' replies Dan, as he steps outen the stirrups an' beams on Faro Nell. She's still a bit onstrung, bein' only a little girl when all is said. 'Why, no, Nellie; I don't kill him speecific as Wolfville onderstands the word; but I dismisses him so effectual the kyard shore falls the same for Silver Phil.'"
Colonel Sterett's Panther Hunt,
"Panthers, what we-all calls 'mountain lions,'" observed the Old Cattleman, wearing meanwhile the sapient air of him who feels equipped of his subject, "is plenty furtive, not to say mighty sedyoolous to skulk. That's why a gent don't meet up with more of 'em while pirootin' about in the hills. Them cats hears him, or they sees him, an' him still ignorant tharof; an' with that they bashfully withdraws. Which it's to be urged in favour of mountain lions that they never forces themse'fs on no gent; they're shore considerate, that a-way, an' speshul of themse'fs. If one's ever hurt, you can bet it won't be a accident. However, it ain't for me to go 'round impugnin' the motives of no mountain lion; partic'lar when the entire tribe is strangers to me complete. But still a love of trooth compels me to concede that if mountain lions ain't cowardly, they're shore cautious a lot. Cattle an' calves they passes up as too bellicose, an' none of 'em ever faces any anamile more warlike than a baby colt or mebby a half-grown deer. I'm ridin' along the Caliente once when I hears a crashin' in the bushes on the bluff above—two hundred foot high, she is, an' as sheer as the walls of this yere tavern. As I lifts my eyes, a fear-frenzied mare an' colt comes chargin' up an' projects themse'fs over the precipice an' lands in the valley below. They're dead as Joolius Caesar when I rides onto 'em, while a brace of mountain lions is skirtin' up an' down the aige of the bluff they leaps from, mewin' an' lashin' their long tails in hot enthoosiasm. Shore, the cats has been chasin' the mare an' foal, an' they locoes 'em to that extent they don't know where they're headin' an' makes the death jump I relates. I bangs away with my six-shooter, but beyond givin' the mountain lions a convulsive start I can't say I does any execootion. They turns an' goes streakin' it through the pine woods like a drunkard to a barn raisin'.
"Timid? Shore! They're that timid seminary girls compared to 'em is as sternly courageous as a passel of buccaneers. Out in Mitchell's canyon a couple of the Lee-Scott riders cuts the trail of a mountain lion and her two kittens. Now whatever do you-all reckon this old tabby does? Basely deserts her offsprings without even barin' a tooth, an' the cow-punchers takes 'em gently by their tails an' beats out their joovenile brains. That's straight; that mother lion goes swarmin' up the canyon like she ain't got a minute to live. An' you can gamble the limit that where a anamile sees its children perish without frontin' up for war, it don't possess the commonest roodiments of sand. Sech, son, is mountain lions.
"It's one evenin' in the Red Light when Colonel Sterett, who's got through his day's toil on that Coyote paper he's editor of, onfolds concernin' a panther round-up which he pulls off in his yooth.
"'This panther hunt,' says Colonel Sterett, as he fills his third tumbler, 'occurs when mighty likely I'm goin' on seventeen winters. I'm a leader among my young companions at the time; in fact, I allers is. An' I'm proud to say that my soopremacy that a-way is doo to the dom'nant character of my intellects. I'm ever bright an' sparklin' as a child, an' I recalls how my aptitoode for learnin' promotes me to be regyarded as the smartest lad in my set. If thar's visitors, to the school, or if the selectmen invades that academy to sort o' size us up, the teacher allers plays me on 'em. I'd go to the front for the outfit. Which I'm wont on sech harrowin' o'casions to recite a ode—the teacher's done wrote it himse'f—an' which is entitled Napoleon's Mad Career. Thar's twenty-four stanzas to it; an' while these interlopin' selectmen sets thar lookin' owley an' sagacious, I'd wallop loose with the twenty-four verses, stampin' up and down, an' accompanyin' said recitations with sech a multitood of reckless gestures, it comes plenty clost to backin' everybody plumb outen the room. Yere's the first verse:
I'd drink an' sw'ar an' r'ar an' t'ar An' fall down in the mud, While the y'earth for forty miles about Is kivered with my blood.
"'You-all can see from that speciment that our schoolmaster ain't simply flirtin' with the muses when he originates that epic; no sir, he means business; an' whenever I throws it into the selectmen, I does it jestice. The trustees used to silently line out for home when I finishes, an' never a yeep. It stuns 'em; it shore fills 'em to the brim!
"'As I gazes r'arward,' goes on the Colonel, as by one rapt impulse he uplifts both his eyes an' his nosepaint, 'as I gazes r'arward, I says, on them sun-filled days, an' speshul if ever I gets betrayed into talkin' about 'em, I can hardly t'ar myse'f from the subject. I explains yeretofore, that not only by inclination but by birth, I'm a shore-enough 'ristocrat. This captaincy of local fashion I assoomes at a tender age. I wears the record as the first child to don shoes throughout the entire summer in that neighbourhood; an' many a time an' oft does my yoothful but envy-eaten compeers lambaste me for the insultin' innovation. But I sticks to my moccasins; an' to-day shoes in the Bloo Grass is almost as yooniversal as the licker habit.
"'Thar dawns a hour, however, when my p'sition in the van of Kaintucky ton comes within a ace of bein' ser'ously shook. It's on my way to school one dewey mornin' when I gets involved all inadvertent in a onhappy rupture with a polecat. I never does know how the misonderstandin' starts. After all, the seeds of said dispoote is by no means important; it's enough to say that polecat finally has me thoroughly convinced.
Followin' the difference an' my defeat, I'm witless enough to keep goin' on to school, whereas I should have returned homeward an' cast myse'f upon my parents as a sacred trust. Of course, when I'm in school I don't go impartin' my troubles to the other chil'en; I emyoolates the heroism of the Spartan boy who stands to be eat by a fox, an' keeps 'em to myself. But the views of my late enemy is not to be smothered; they appeals to my young companions; who tharupon puts up a most onneedful riot of coughin's an' sneezin's. But nobody knows me as the party who's so pungent.
"'It's a tryin' moment. I can see that, once I'm located, I'm goin' to be as onpop'lar as a b'ar in a hawg pen; I'll come tumblin' from my pinnacle in that proud commoonity as the glass of fashion an' the mold of form. You can go your bottom peso, the thought causes me to feel plenty perturbed.
"'At this peril I has a inspiration; as good, too, as I ever entertains without the aid of rum. I determines to cast the opprobrium on some other boy an' send the hunt of gen'ral indignation sweepin' along his trail.
"'Thar's a innocent infant who's a stoodent at this temple of childish learnin' an' his name is Riley Bark. This Riley is one of them giant children who's only twelve an' weighs three hundred pounds. An' in proportions as Riley is a son of Anak, physical, he's dwarfed mental; he ain't half as well upholstered with brains as a shepherd dog. That's right; Riley's intellects, is like a fly in a saucer of syrup, they struggles 'round plumb slow. I decides to uplift Riley to the public eye as the felon who's disturbin' that seminary's sereenity. Comin' to this decision, I p'ints at him where he's planted four seats ahead, all tangled up in a spellin' book, an' says in a loud whisper to a child who's sittin' next:
"'Throw him out!'
"'That's enough. No gent will ever realise how easy it is to direct a people's sentiment ontil he take a whirl at the game. In two minutes by the teacher's bull's-eye copper watch, every soul knows it's pore Riley; an' in three, the teacher's done drug Riley out doors by the ha'r of his head an' chased him home. Gents, I look back on that yoothful feat as a triumph of diplomacy; it shore saves my standin' as the Beau Brummel of the Bloo Grass.
"'Good old days, them!' observes the Colonel mournfully, 'an' ones never to come ag'in! My sternest studies is romances, an' the peroosals of old tales as I tells you-all prior fills me full of moss an' mockin' birds in equal parts. I reads deep of Walter Scott an' waxes to be a sharp on Moslems speshul. I dreams of the Siege of Acre, an' Richard the Lion Heart; an' I simply can't sleep nights for honin' to hold a tournament an' joust a whole lot for some fair lady's love.
"'Once I commits the error of my career by joustin' with my brother Jeff. This yere Jeff is settin' on the bank of the Branch fishin' for bullpouts at the time, an' Jeff don't know I'm hoverin' near at all. Jeff's reedic'lous fond of fishin'; which he'd sooner fish than read Paradise Lost. I'm romancin' along, sim'larly bent, when I notes Jeff perched on the bank. To my boyish imagination Jeff at once turns to be a Paynim. I drops my bait box, couches my fishpole, an' emittin' a impromptoo warcry, charges him. It's the work of a moment; Jeff's onhossed an' falls into the Branch.
"'But thar's bitterness to follow vict'ry. Jeff emerges like Diana from the bath an' frales the wamus off me with a club. Talk of puttin' a crimp in folks! Gents when Jeff's wrath is assuaged I'm all on one side like the leanin' tower of Pisa. Jeff actooally confers a skew-gee to my spinal column.
"'A week later my folks takes me to a doctor. That practitioner puts on his specs an' looks me over with jealous care.
"'"Whatever's wrong with him, Doc?" says my father.
"'"Nothin'," says the physician, "only your son Willyum's five inches out o' plumb."
"'Then he rigs a contraption made up of guy-ropes an' stay-laths, an' I has to wear it; an' mebby in three or four weeks he's got me warped back into the perpendic'lar.'
"'But how about this cat hunt?" asks Dan Boggs. 'Which I don't aim to be introosive none, but I'm camped yere through the second drink waitin' for it, an' these procrastinations is makin' me kind o' batty.'
"'That panther hunt is like this,' says the Colonel turnin' to Dan. 'At the age of seventeen, me an' eight or nine of my intimate brave comrades founds what we-all denom'nates as the "Chevy Chase Huntin' Club." Each of us maintains a passel of odds an' ends of dogs, an' at stated intervals we convenes on hosses, an' with these fourscore curs at our tails goes yellin' an' skally-hootin' up an' down the countryside allowin' we're shore a band of Nimrods.
"'The Chevy Chasers ain't been in bein' as a institootion over long when chance opens a gate to ser'ous work. The deep snows in the Eastern mountains it looks like has done drove a panther into our neighbourhood. You could hear of him on all sides. Folks glimpses him now an' then. They allows he's about the size of a yearlin' calf; an' the way he pulls down sech feeble people as sheep or lays desolate some he'pless henroost don't bother him a bit. This panther spreads a horror over the county. Dances, pra'er meetin's, an' even poker parties is broken up, an' the social life of that region begins to bog down. Even a weddin' suffers; the bridesmaids stayin' away lest this ferocious monster should show up in the road an' chaw one of 'em while she's en route for the scene of trouble. That's gospel trooth! the pore deserted bride has to heel an' handle herse'f an' never a friend to yoonite her sobs with hers doorin' that weddin' ordeal. The old ladies present shakes their heads a heap solemn.
"'"It's a worse augoory," says one, "than the hoots of a score of squinch owls."
"'When this reign of terror is at its height, the local eye is rolled appealin'ly towards us Chevy Chasers. We rises to the opportoonity. Day after day we're ridin' the hills an' vales, readin' the milk white snow for tracks. An' we has success. One mornin' I comes up on two of the Brackenridge boys an' five more of the Chevy Chasers settin' on their hosses at the Skinner cross roads. Bob Crittenden's gone to turn me out, they says. Then they p'ints down to a handful of close-wove bresh an' stunted timber an' allows that this maraudin' cat-o-mount is hidin' thar; they sees him go skulkin' in.
"'Gents, I ain't above admittin' that the news puts my heart to a canter. I'm brave; but conflicts with wild an' savage beasts is to me a novelty an' while I faces my fate without a flutter, I'm yere to say I'd sooner been in pursoot of minks or raccoons or some varmint whose grievous cap'bilities I can more ackerately stack up an' in whose merry ways I'm better versed. However, the dauntless blood of my grandsire mounts in my cheek; an' as if the shade of that old Trojan is thar personal to su'gest it, I searches forth a flask an' renoos my sperit; thus qualified for perils, come in what form they may, I resolootely stands my hand.
"'Thar's forty dogs if thar's one in our company as we pauses at the Skinner crossroads. An' when the Crittenden yooth returns, he brings with him the Rickett boys an' forty added dogs. Which it's worth a ten-mile ride to get a glimpse of that outfit of canines! Thar's every sort onder the canopy: thar's the stolid hound, the alert fice, the sapient collie; that is thar's individyool beasts wherein the hound, or fice, or collie seems to preedominate as a strain. The trooth is thar's not that dog a-whinin' about our hosses' fetlocks who ain't proudly descended from fifteen different tribes, an' they shorely makes a motley mass meetin'. Still, they're good, zealous dogs; an' as they're going to go for'ard an' take most of the resks of that panther, it seems invidious to criticise 'em.
"'One of the Twitty boys rides down an' puts the eighty or more dogs into the bresh. The rest of us lays back an' strains our eyes. Thar he is! A shout goes up as we descries the panther stealin' off by a far corner. He's headin' along a hollow that's full of bresh an' baby timber an' runs parallel with the pike. Big an' yaller he is; we can tell from the slight flash we gets of him as he darts into a second clump of bushes. With a cry—what young Crittenden calls a "view halloo,"—we goes stampedin' down the pike in pursoot.
"'Our dogs is sta'nch; they shore does themse'fs proud. Singin' in twenty keys, reachin' from growls to yelps an' from yelps to shrillest screams, they pushes dauntlessly on the fresh trail of their terrified quarry. Now an' then we gets a squint of the panther as he skulks from one copse to another jest ahead. Which he's goin' like a arrow; no mistake! As for us Chevy Chasers, we parallels the hunt, an' continyoos poundin' the Skinner turnpike abreast of the pack, ever an' anon givin' a encouragin' shout as we briefly sights our game.
"'Gents,' says Colonel Sterett, as he ag'in refreshes himse'f, 'it's needless to go over that hunt in detail. We hustles the flyin' demon full eighteen miles, our faithful dogs crowdin' close an' breathless at his coward heels. Still, they don't catch up with him; he streaks it like some saffron meteor.
"'Only once does we approach within strikin' distance; that's when he crosses at old Stafford's whiskey still. As he glides into view, Crittenden shouts:
"'"Thar he goes!"
"'For myse'f I'm prepared. I've got one of these misguided cap-an'-ball six-shooters that's built doorin' the war; an' I cuts that hardware loose! This weepon seems a born profligate of lead, for the six chambers goes off together. Which you should have seen the Chevy Chasers dodge! An' well they may; that broadside ain't in vain! My aim is so troo that one of the r'armost dogs evolves a howl an' rolls over; then he sets up gnawin' an' lickin' his off hind laig in frantic alternations. That hunt is done for him. We leaves him doctorin' himse'f an' picks him up two hours later on our triumphant return.
"'As I states, we harries that foogitive panther for eighteen miles an' in our hot ardour founders two hosses. Fatigue an' weariness begins to overpower us; also our prey weakens along with the rest. In the half glimpses we now an' ag'in gets of him its plain that both pace an' distance is tellin' fast. Still, he presses on; an' as thar's no spur like fear, that panther holds his distance.
"'But the end comes. We've done run him into a rough, wild stretch of country where settlements is few an' cabins roode. Of a sudden, the panther emerges onto the road an' goes rackin' along the trail. We pushes our spent steeds to the utmost.
"'Thar's a log house ahead; out in the stump-filled lot in front is a frowsy woman an' five small children. The panther leaps the rickety worm-fence an' heads straight as a bullet for the cl'arin'! Horrors! the sight freezes our marrows! Mad an' savage, he's doo to bite a hunk outen that devoted household! Mutooally callin' to each other, we goads our hosses to the utmost. We gain on the panther! He may wound but he won't have time to slay that fam'ly.
"'Gents, it's a soopreme moment! The panther makes for the female squatter an' her litter, we pantin' an' pressin' clost behind. The panther is among 'em; the woman an' the children seems transfixed by the awful spectacle an' stands rooted with open eyes an' mouths. Our emotions shore beggars deescriptions.
"'Now ensooes a scene to smite the hardiest of us with dismay. No sooner does the panther find himse'f in the midst of that he'pless bevy of little ones, than he stops, turns round abrupt, an' sets down on his tail; an' then upliftin' his muzzle he busts into shrieks an' yells an' howls an' cries, a complete case of dog hysterics! That's what he is, a great yeller dog; his reason is now a wrack because we harasses him the eighteen miles.
"'Thar's a ugly outcast of a squatter, mattock in hand, comes tumblin' down the hillside from some'ers out back of the shanty where he's been grubbin':
"'"What be you-all eediots chasin' my dog for?" demands this onkempt party. Then he menaces us with the implement.
"'We makes no retort but stands passive. The great orange brute whose nerves has been torn to rags creeps to the squatter an' with mournful howls explains what we've made him suffer.
"'No, thar's nothin' further to do an' less to be said. That cavalcade, erstwhile so gala an' buoyant, drags itself wearily homeward, the exhausted dogs in the r'ar walkin' stiff an' sore like their laigs is wood. For more'n a mile the complainin' howls of the hysterical yeller dog is wafted to our y'ears. Then they ceases; an' we figgers his sympathizin' master has done took him into the shanty an' shet the door.
"'No one comments on this adventure, not a word is heard. Each is silent ontil we mounts the Big Murray hill. As we collects ourse'fs on this eminence one of the Brackenridge boys holds up his hand for a halt. "Gents," he says, as—hosses, hunters an' dogs—we-all gathers 'round, "gents, I moves you the Chevy Chase Huntin' Club yereby stands adjourned sine die." Thar's a moment's pause, an' then as by one impulse every gent, hoss an' dog, says "Ay!" It's yoonanimous, an' from that hour till now the Chevy Chase Huntin' Club ain't been nothin' save tradition. But that panther shore disappears; it's the end of his vandalage; an' ag'in does quadrilles, pra'rs, an poker resoom their wonted sway. That's the end; an' now, gents, if Black Jack will caper to his dooties we'll uplift our drooped energies with the usual forty drops."
How Faro Nell Dealt Bank.
"Riches," remarked the Old Cattleman, "riches says you! Neither you-all nor any other gent is competent to state whether in the footure he amasses wealth or not. The question is far beyond the throw of your rope."
My friend's tone breathed a note of strong contradiction while his glance was the glance of experience. I had said that I carried no hope of becoming rich; that the members of my tribe were born with their hands open and had such hold of money as a riddle has of water. It was this which moved him to expostulatory denial.
"This matter of wealth, that a-way," he continued, "is a mighty sight a question of luck. Shore, a gent has to have capacity to grasp a chance an' savey sufficient to get his chips down right. But this chance, an' whether it offers itse'f to any specific sport, is frequent accident an' its comin' or failure to come depends on conditions over which the party about to be enriched ain't got no control. That's straight, son! You backtrack any fortune to its beginning an some'ers along the trail or at the farthest end you'll come up with the fact that it took a accident or two, what we-all darkened mortals calls 'luck,' to make good the play. It's like gettin' shot gettin' rich is; all you has to do is be present personal at the time, an' the bullet does the rest.
"You distrusts these doctrines. You shore won't if you sets down hard an' thinks. Suppose twenty gents has made a surround an' is huntin' a b'ar. Only one is goin' to down him. An' in his clumsy blunderin' the b'ar is goin' to select his execootioner himse'f. That's a fact; the party who downs the b'ar, final, ain't goin' to pick the b'ar out; the b'ar's goin' to pick him out. An' it's the same about wealth; one gent gets the b'ar an' the other nineteen—an' they're as cunnin' an' industr'ous as the lucky party—don't get nothing—don't even get a shot. I repeats tharfore, that you-all settin' yere this evenin', firin' off aimless observations, don't know whether you'll quit rich or not."
At the close of his dissertation, my talkative companion puffed a cloud which seemed to hang above his venerable head in a fashion of heavy blue approval. I paused as one impressed by the utter wisdom of the old gentleman. Then I took another tack.
"Speaking of wealth," I said, "tell me concerning the largest money you ever knew to be won or lost at faro—tell me a gambling story."
"Tell you-all a gamblin' tale," he repeated, and then mused as if lost in retrospection. "If I hesitates it's because of a multitoode of incidents from which to draw. I've beheld some mighty cur'ous doin's at the gamblin' tables. Once I knows a party who sinks his hopeless head on the layout an' dies as he loses his last chip. This don't happen in Wolfville none. No, I don't say folks ain't cashed in at farobank in that excellent hamlet an' gone singin' to their home above; but it ain't heart disease. Usual it's guns; the same bein' invoked by sech inadvertencies as pickin' up some other gent's bet.
"Tell you-all a story about gamblin'! Now I reckons the time Faro Nell rescoos Cherokee Hall from rooin is when I sees the most dinero changed in at one play. You can gamble that's a thrillin' eepisode when Faro Nell steps in between Cherokee an' the destroyer. It's the gossip of the camp for days, an' when Wolfville discusses anything for days that outfit's plumb moved.
"This gent who crowds Cherokee to the wall performs the feat deliberate. He organises a sort o' campaign ag'in Cherokee; what you might term a fiscal dooel, an' at the finish he has Cherokee corralled for his last peso. It's at that p'int Nell cuts in an' redeems the sityooation a heap. It's all on the squar'; this invadin' sport simply outlucks the bank. That, an' the egreegious limit Cherokee gives him, is what does the trick.
"In Wolfville, we-all allers recalls that sharp-set gent who comes after Cherokee with respect. In fact he wins our encomiums before he sets in ag'in Cherokee—before ever he gets his second drink at the Red Light bar. He comes ramblin' over with Old Monte from Tucson one evenin'; that's the first glimpse we has of him. An' for a hour, mebby, followin' his advent, seein' the gen'ral herd is busy with the mail, he has the Red Light to himse'f.
"On this yere o'casion, thar's likewise present in Wolfville—he's been infringin' 'round some three days—a onsettled an' migratory miscreant who's name is Ugly Collins. He's in a heap of ill repoote in the territories, this Ugly Collins is; an' only he contreebutes the information when he arrives in camp that his visit is to be mighty temp'rary, Enright would have signed up Jack Moore to take his guns an' stampede him a lot.
"At the time I'm talkin' of, as thar's no one who's that abandoned as to go writin' letters to Ugly Collins, it befalls he's plenty footloose. This leesure on the part of Ugly Collins turns out some disastrous for that party. Not havin' no missives to read leaves him free to go weavin' about permiscus an' it's while he's strayin' here an' thar that he tracks up on this stranger who's come after Cherokee.
"Ugly Collins sees our pilgrim in the Red Light an', except Black Jack,—who of course is present offishul—the stranger's alone. He's weak an' meek an' shook by a cough that sounds like the overture to a fooneral. Ugly Collins, who's a tyrannizin' cowardly form of outcast, sizes him up as a easy prey. He figgers he'll have a heap of evil fun with him, Ugly Collins does. Tharupon he approaches the consumptive stranger:
"'You-all seems plenty ailin', pard,' says Ugly Collins.
"'Which I shore ain't over peart none,' retorts the stranger.
"'An' you-all can put down a bet,' returns Ugly Collins, 'I learns of your ill-health with regrets. It's this a-way: I ain't had no exercise yet this evenin'; an' as I tracks in yere, I registers a vow to wallop the first gent I meets up with to whom I've not been introdooced ;—merely by way of stretchin' my muscles. Now I must say—an' I admits it with sorrow—that you-all is that onhappy sport. It's no use; I knows I'll loathe myse'f for crawlin' the hump of a gent who's totterin' on the brink of the grave; but whatever else can I do? Vows is vows an' must be kept, so you might as well prepare yourse'f for a cloud of sudden an' painful vicissitoodes.'
"As Ugly Collins says this he kind o' reaches for the invalid gent where he's camped in a cha'r. It's a onfortunate gesture; the invalid—as quick as a rattlesnake,—prodooces a derringer, same as Doc Peets allers packs, from his surtoot an' the bullet carries away most of Ugly Collins' lower jaw.
"'You-all is goin' to be a heap sight more of a audience than a orator yereafter, Collins,' says Doc Peets, as he ties up the villain's visage that a-way. 'Also, you oughter be less reckless an' get the address of your victims before embarkin' on them skelp-collectin' enterprises of yours. That gent you goes ag'inst is Doc Holliday; as hard a game as lurks anywhere between the Slope an' the Big Muddy.'
"Does the Stranglers do anything to this Holliday? Why, no, not much; all they does is present him with a Colt's-44 along with the compliments of the camp.
"'An' it's to be deplored,' says Enright, when he makes the presentation speech to Holliday, 'that you-all don't have this weepon when you cuts loose at Collins instead of said jimcrow derringer. In sech events, that hoss-thief's death would have been assured. Shore! shootin' off Collins' jaw is good as far as it goes, but it can't be regyarded as no sech boon as downin' him complete.
"It's after supper when this Holliday encounters Cherokee; the two has a conference. This Holliday lays bar' his purpose.
"'Which I'm yere,' says this Holliday, 'not only for your money, but I wants the camp.' Then he goes for'ard an' proposes that they plays till one is broke; an, if it's Cherokee who goes down, he is to vamos the outfit while Holliday succeeds to his game. 'An' the winner is to stake his defeated adversary to one thousand dollars wherewith to begin life anew,' concloodes this Holliday.
"'Which what you states seems like agreeable offers,' says Cherokee, an' he smiles clever an' gentlemanly. 'How strong be you-all, may I ask?'
"'Thirty thousand dollars in thirty bills,' replies this Holliday. 'An' now may I enquire how strong be you? I also likes to know how long a trail I've got to travel.'
"'My roll is about forty thousand big,' says Cherokee. Then he goes on: 'It's all right; I'll open a game for you at second drink time sharp.'
"'That's comfortin' to hear,' retorts this Holliday. 'The chances,—what with splits an' what with the ten thousand you oversizes me,—is nacherally with you; but I takes 'em. If I lose, I goes back with a even thousand; if I win, you-all hits the trail with a thousand, while I'm owner of your roll an' bank. Does that onderstandin' go?'
"'It goes!' says Cherokee. Then he turns off for a brief powwow with Faro Nell.
"'But thar's one thing you-all forgets, Cherokee,' says Nell. 'If he breaks you, he's got to go on an' break me. I've a bundle of three thousand; he's got to get it all before ever the play is closed. Tell this yere Holliday party that.'
"Cherokee argues ag'in it; but Nell stamps 'round an' starts to weep some, an' at that, like every other troo gent, he gives in abject.
"'Thar's a bet I overlooks,' observes Cherokee, when he resoomes his talk with this Holliday; 'it's my partner. It's only a little matter of three thousand, but the way the scheme frames itse'f up, after I'm down an' out, you'll have to break my partner before Wolfville's all your own.'
"'That's eminent satisfactory,' returns this Holliday. 'An' I freely adds that your partner is a dead game sport to take so brief a fortune an'—win all, lose all—go after more'n twenty times as much. Your partner's a shore enough optimist that a-way.'
"Cherokee don't make no retort. This Holliday ain't posted none that the partner Cherokee's mentionin' is Faro Nell, an' Cherokee allows he won't onbosom himse'f on that p'int onless his hand is forced.
"When the time arrives to open the game, the heft of Wolfville's public is gathered at the Red Light. The word goes 'round as to the enterprisin' Holliday bein' out for Cherokee's entire game; an' the prospect of seein' a limit higher than a cat's back, an' a dooel to the death, proves mighty pop'lar. The play opens to a full house, shore!
"'What limit do you give me?' says this Holliday, with a sort o' cough, at the same time settin' in opposite to Cherokee. 'Be lib'ral; I ain't more'n a year to live, an' I've got to play 'em high an' hard to get average action. If I'm in robust health now, with a long, useful life before me, the usual figgers would do. Considerin' my wasted health, however, I shore hopes you'll say something like the even thousand.'
"'Which I'll do better than that,' returns Cherokee, as he snaps the deck in the box, 'I'll let you fix the limit to suit yourse'f. Make it the ceilin' if the sperit moves you.'
"'That's gen'rous!' says Holliday. 'An' to mark my appreciation tharof, I'll jest nacherally take every resk of splits an' put ten thousand in the pot, coppered; ten thousand in the big squar'; an' ten thousand, coppered, on the high kyard.'
"Son, we-all sports standin' lookin' on draws a deep breath. Thirty thousand in three ten thousand dollar bets, an' all on the layout at once, marks a epock in Wolfville business life wherefrom folks can onblushin'ly date time! Thar it lays however, an' the two sharps most onmoved tharby is Cherokee an' Holliday themse'fs.
"'Turn your game!' says this Holliday, when his money is down, an' leanin' back to light a seegyar.
"Cherokee makes the turn. Never does I witness action so sudden an' complete! It's shore the sharpest! The top kyard as the deck lays in the box is a ten-spot. An' as the papers is shoved forth, how do you-all reckon they falls! I'm a Mexican! if they don't come seven-king! This Holliday wins all along; Cherokee is out thirty thousand an' only three kyards showed! How's that for perishin' flesh an' blood!
"I looks at Cherokee; his face is as ca'm as a Injun's; he's too finely fibred a sport to so much as let a eyelash quiver. This Holliday is equally onemotional. Cherokee shoves over three yaller chips.
"'Call 'em ten thousand each,' says Cherokee. Then he waits for this Holliday to place his next bets.
"'Since you-all has exackly that sum left in your treasury,' observes this Holliday, puffin' his seegyar, 'I reckons I'll let one of these yaller tokens go, coppered, on the high kyard ag'in. You-all doubles or breaks right yere.'
"The turn falls trey-eight. Cherokee takes in that ten thousand dollar chip.
"'Bein's that I'm still playin' on velvet,' remarks this Holliday, an' his tone is listless an' languid like he's only half interested, 'I'll go twenty thousand on the high kyard, open. This trip we omits the copper.'
"The first kyard to show is a deuce. It's better than ten to one Cherokee will win. But disapp'intment chokes the camp; the next kyard is a ace, an' Cherokee's swept off his moccasins. The bank is broke; and to signify as much, Cherokee turns his box on its side, counts over forty thousand dollars to this Holliday an' gets up from the dealer's cha'r.
"As Cherokee rises, Faro Nell slides off the lookout's stool an' into the vacated cha'r. When Cherokee loses the last bet I hears Nell's teeth come together with a click. I don't dare look towards her at the time; but now, when she turns the box back, takes out the deck, riffles an' returns it to its place I gives her a glance. Nell's as game as Cherokee. As she sets over ag'inst this lucky invalid her colour is high an' her eyes like two stars.
"'An' now you've got to break me,' says Nell to this Holliday. 'Also, we restores the statu quo, as Colonel Sterett says in that Coyote paper, an' the limit retreats to a even hundred dollars.'
"'Be you-all the partner Mister Hall mentions?' asks this Holliday, at the same time takin' off his sombrero an' throwin' away his seegyar.
"Nell says she is.
"'Miss,' says this Holliday, 'I feels honoured to find myse'f across the layout from so much sperit an' beauty. A limit of one hundred, says you; an' your word is law! As a first step then, give me three thousand dollars worth of chips an' make 'em fifty dollars each. I'll take the same chance with you on that question of splits I does former, an' I wants a hundred on every kyard, middle to win ag'in the ends.'
"The deal begins; Nell is winner from the jump; she takes in three bets to lose one plumb down to the turn. This Holliday calls the turn for the limit; an' loses. The kyards go into the box ag'in an' a next deal ensooes. So it continyoos; an' Nell beats this Holliday hard for half a hour. Nell sees she's in luck; an' she feels that strong she concloods to press it some.
"'The limit's five hundred!' says Nell to this Holliday. 'Come after me!'
"Holliday bows like he's complimented. 'I'm after you; an' I comes a-runnin',' he says.
"Down goes his money all over the lay-out; only now its five hundred instead of one hundred.
"It's no avail, this Holliday still loses. At the end of a hour Nell sizes up her roll; she's a leetle over forty thousand strong; jest where Cherokee stands at the start.
"Nell pauses as she's about to put the deck in the box for a deal. She looks at this Holliday a heap thoughtful. That look excites Dan Boggs who's been on the brink of fits since ever the play begins, he's that 'motional.
"'Don't raise the limit, Nell!' says Dan in a awful whisper. 'That's where Cherokee's weak at the go-off. He ought never to have thrown away the limit.'
"Nell casts her eyes—they're burnin' like coals!—on Dan. I can see his bluff about Cherokee bein' weak has done decided her mind.
"'Cherokee does right,' says Nell to Dan, 'like Cherokee allers does. An' I'll do the same as Cherokee. Stranger,' goes on Nell, turnin' from Dan to this Holliday; 'go as far as you likes. The bridle's off the hoss.'
"'An' much obleeged to you, Miss!' says this Holliday, with another of them p'lite bows. 'As the kyards goes in the box, I makes you the same three bets I makes first to Mister Hall. Ten thousand, coppered, in the pot; ten thousand, open, in the big squar'; an' ten thousand on the high kyard, coppered.'
"'An' now as then,' says Nell, sort o' catchin' her breath, 'the ten-spot's the soda kyard!'
"Son, it won't happen ag'in in a billion years! Nell's right hand shakes a trifle—she's only a child, mind, an' ain't got the nerves that goes with case-hardened sports—as she shoves the ten-spot forth. But it's comin' her way; her luck holds; as certain as we all sets yere drinkin' toddy, the same two kyards shows for her as for Cherokee, but this time they falls 'king-seven'; the bank wins, an' pore Holliday is cleaned out.
"'Thar, Cherokee,' says Nell, an' thar's a soft smile an' a sigh of deep content goes with the observation, 'thar's your bank ag'in; only it's thirty thousand stronger than it is four hours ago.'
"'Your bank, ladybird, you means!' says Cherokee.
"'Well, our bank, then,' retorts Nell. 'What's the difference? Don't you-all tell me we're partners?' Then Nell motions to Black Jack. 'The drinks is on me, Jack,' she says; 'see what the house will have.'"
How The Raven Died.
"Which if you-all is out to hear of Injuns, son," observed the Old Cattleman, doubtfully, "the best I can do is shet my eyes an' push along regyardless, like a cayouse in a storm of snow. But I don't guarantee no facts; none whatever! I never does bend myse'f to severe study of savages an' what notions I packs concernin' 'em is the casual frootes of what I accidental hears an' what I sees. It's only now an' then, as I observes former, that Injuns invades Wolfville; an' when they does, we-all scowls 'em outen camp—sort o' makes a sour front, so as to break 'em early of habits of visitin' us. We shore don't hone none to have 'em hankerin' 'round.
"Nacherally, I makes no doubt that if you goes clost to Injuns an' studies their little game you finds some of 'em good an' some bad, some gaudy an' some sedate, some cu'rous an' some indifferent, same as you finds among shore-enough folks. It's so with mules an' broncos; wherefore, then, may not these differences exist among Injuns? Come squar' to the turn, you-all finds white folks separated the same. Some gents follows off one waggon track an' some another; some even makes a new trail.
"Speakin' of what's opposite in folks, I one time an' ag'in sees two white chiefs of scouts who frequent comes pirootin' into Wolfville from the Fort. Each has mebby a score of Injuns at his heels who pertains to him personal. One of these scout chiefs is all buck-skins, fringes, beads an' feathers from y'ears to hocks, while t'other goes garbed in a stiff hat with a little jim crow rim—one of them kind you deenom'nates as a darby—an' a diag'nal overcoat; one chief looks like a dime novel on a spree an' t'other as much like the far East as he saveys how. An' yet, son, this voylent person in buckskins is a Second Lootenent—a mere boy, he is—from West P'int; while that outcast in the reedic'lous hat is foaled on the plains an' never does go that clost to the risin' sun as to glimpse the old Missouri. The last form of maverick bursts frequent into Western bloom; it's their ambition, that a-way, to deloode you into deemin' 'em as fresh from the States as one of them tomatter airtights.
"Thar's old gent Jeffords; he's that sort. Old Jeffords lives for long with the Apaches; he's found among 'em when Gen'ral Crook—the old 'Grey Fox'—an' civilisation and gatlin' guns comes into Arizona arm in arm. I used to note old Jeffords hibernatin' about the Oriental over in Tucson. I shore reckons he's procrastinatin' about thar yet, if the Great Sperit ain't done called him in. As I says, old Jeffords is that long among the Apaches back in Cochise's time that the mem'ry of man don't run none to the contrary. An' yet no gent ever sees old Jeffords wearin' anything more savage than a long-tail black surtoot an' one of them stove pipe hats. Is Jeffords dangerous? No, you-all couldn't call him a distinct peril; still, folks who goes devotin' themse'fs to stirrin' Jeffords up jest to see if he's alive gets disasterous action. He has long grey ha'r an' a tangled white beard half-way down his front; an' with that old plug hat an' black coat he's a sight to frighten children or sour milk! Still, Jeffords is all right. As long as towerists an' other inquisitive people don't go pesterin' Jeffords, he shore lets 'em alone. Otherwise, you might as well be up the same saplin' with a cinnamon b'ar; which you'd most likely hear something drop a lot!
"For myse'f, I likes old Jeffords, an' considers him a pleasin' conundrum. About tenth drink time he'd take a cha'r an' go camp by himse'f in a far corner, an' thar he'd warble hymns. Many a time as I files away my nosepaint in the Oriental have I been regaled with,
Jesus, Lover of my soul, Let me to Thy bosom fly, While the nearer waters roll, While the tempest still is high,
as emanatin' from Jeffords where he's r'ared back conductin' some personal services. Folks never goes buttin' in interferin' with these concerts; which it's cheaper to let him sing.
"Speakin' of Injuns, as I su'gests, I never does see over-much of 'em in Wolfville. An' my earlier experiences ain't thronged with 'em neither, though while I'm workin' cattle along the Red River I does carom on Injuns more or less. Thar's one old hostile I recalls speshul; he's a fool Injun called Black Feather;—Choctaw, he is. This Black Feather's weakness is fire-water; he thinks more of it than some folks does of children.
"Black Feather used to cross over to where Dick Stocton maintains a store an' licker house on the Upper Hawgthief. Of course, no gent sells these Injuns licker. It's ag'in the law; an' onless you-all is onusual eager to make a trip to Fort Smith with a marshal ridin' herd on you doorin' said visit, impartin' of nosepaint to aborigines is a good thing not to do. But Black Feather, he'd come over to Dick Stocton's an' linger 'round the bar'ls of Valley Tan, an' take a chance on stealin' a snifter or two while Stocton's busy.
"At last Stocton gets tired an' allows he'll lay for Black Feather. This yere Stocton is a mighty reckless sport; he ain't carin' much whatever he does do; he hates Injuns an' shot guns, an' loves licker, seven-up, an' sin in any form; them's Stocton's prime characteristics. An' he gets mighty weary of the whiskey-thievin' Black Feather, an' lays for him.
"One evenin' this aggravatin' Black Feather crosses over an' takes to ha'ntin' about Dick Stocton's licker room as is his wont. It looks like Black Feather has already been buyin' whiskey of one of them boot-laig parties who takes every chance an' goes among the Injuns an' sells 'em nosepaint on the sly. 'Fore ever he shows up on the Upper Hawgthief that time, this Black Feather gets nosepaint some'ers an' puts a whole quart of it away in the shade; an' he shore exhibits symptoms. Which for one thing he feels about four stories tall!
"Stocton sets a trap for Black Feather. He fills up the tin cup into which he draws that Valley Tan with coal-oil—karoseen you-all calls it—an' leaves it, temptin' like, settin' on top a whiskey bar'l. Shore! it's the first thing Black Feather notes. He sees his chance an' grabs an' downs the karoseen; an' Stocton sort o' startin' for him, this Black Feather gulps her down plump swift. The next second he cuts loose the yell of that year, burns up about ten acres of land, and starts for Red River. No, I don't know whether the karoseen hurts him none or not; but he certainly goes squatterin' across the old Red River like a wounded wild-duck, an' he never does come back no more.