A Gent from Bear Creek by Robert E. Howard
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1. Striped
Shirts And Busted Hearts
Chapter 2. Mountain Man
Chapter 3. Meet Cap'n Kidd
Chapter 4. Guns Of The Mountains
Chapter 5. A Gent From Bear Creek
Chapter 6. The Feud Buster
Chapter 7. The Road To Bear Creek
Chapter 8. The Scalp Hunter
Chapter 9. Cupid From Bear Creek
Chapter 10. The Haunted Mountain
Chapter 11. Educate Or Bust
Chapter 12. War On Bear Creek
Chapter 13. When Bear Creek Came To Chawed Ear
1. STRIPED SHIRTS AND BUSTED HEARTS
IF Joel Braxton hadn't drawed a knife whilst I was
beating his head agen a spruce log, I reckon I wouldn't of had that quarrel
with Glory McGraw, and things might of turned out different to what they did.
Pap's always said the Braxtons was no-account folks, and I allow he's right.
First thing I knowed Jim Garfield hollered: "Look out, Breck, the yaller
hound's got a knife!" Then I felt a kind of sting and looked down and seen
Joel had cut a big gash in my buckskin shirt and scratched my hide trying to
get at my innards.
I let go of his ears and taken the knife away from him and throwed it into
a blackjack thicket, and throwed him after it. They warn't no use in him
belly-aching like he done just because they happened to be a tree in his way.
I dunno how he expects to get throw%ed into a blackjack thicket without
getting some hide knocked off.
But I am a good-natured man, and I was a easy-going youngster, even then.
I paid no heed to Joel's bloodthirsty threats whilst his brother and Jim
Garfield and the others was pulling him out of the bresh and dousing him in
the creek to wash the blood off. I got on to my mule Alexander and headed for
Old Man McGraw's cabin where I was started to when I let myself be beguiled
into stopping with them idjits.
The McGraws is the only folks on Bear Creek besides the Reynoldses and the
Braxtons which ain't no kin to me one way or another, and I'd been sweet on
Glory McGraw ever since I was big enough to wear britches. She was the
tallest, finest, purtiest gal in the Humbolt Mountains, which is covering
considerable territory. They warn't a gal on Bear Creek, not even my own
sisters, which could swing a axe like her, or fry a b'ar steak as tasty, or
make hominy as good, and they warn't nobody, man nor woman, which could
outrun her, less'n it was me.
As I come up the trail that led up to the McGraw cabin, I seen her, just
scooping a pail of water out of the creek. The cabin was just out of sight on
the other side of a clump of alders. She turned around and seen me, and stood
there with the pail dripping in her hand, and her sleeves rolled up, and her
arms and throat and bare feet was as white as anything you ever seen, and her
eyes was the same color as the sky, and her hair looked like gold dust when
the sun hit it.
I taken off my coonskin cap, and said: "Good mornin', Glory, how're you-
all this mornin'?"
"Joe got kicked right severe by pap's sorrel mare yesterday," she says.
"Just knocked some hide off, though. Outside of that we're all doin' fine.
Air you glued to that mule?"
"No'm," I says, and clumb down, and says: "Lemme tote yore pail,
She started to hand it to me, and then she frowned and p'inted at my
shirt, and says: "You been fightin' agen."
"Nobody but Joel Braxton," I said. "'Twarn't nothin'. He said moskeeters
in the Injun Territory was bigger'n what they be in Texas."
"What you know about it?" says she. "You ain't never been to Texas."
"Well, he ain't never been to the Injun Territory neither," I said.
"'Taint the moskeeters. It's the principle of the thing. My folks all come
from Texas, and no Braxton can slander the State around me."
"You fight too much," she said. "Who licked?"
"Why, me, of course," I said. "I always do, don't I?"
This harmless statement seemed to irritate her.
"I reckon you think nobody on Bear Creek can lick you," she sneered.
"Well," I says truthfully, "nobody ain't, up to now—outside of
"You ain't never fit none of my brothers," she snapped.
"That's why," I said. "I've took quite a lot of sass offa them ganglin'
mavericks jest because they was yore brothers and I didn't want to hurt
Gals is funny about some things. She got mad and jerked the pail out of my
hand, and says: "Oh, is that so? Well, lemme tell you right now, Breckinridge
Elkins, the littlest one of my brothers can lick you like a balky hoss, and
if you ever lay a finger on one of 'em, I'll fix you! And furthermore and
besides, they's a gent up to the cabin right now which could pull his
shootin' iron and decorate yore whole carcass with lead polka-dots whilst you
was fumblin' for yore old cap-and-ball pistol!"
"I don't claim to be no gunfighter," I says mildly. "But I bet he cain't
sling iron fast as my cousin Jack Gordon."
"You and yore cousins!" says she plenty scornful. "This feller is sech a
gent as you never drempt existed! He's a cowpuncher from the Wild River
Country, and he's ridin' through to Chawed Ear and he stopped at our cabin
for dinner. If you could see him, you wouldn't never brag no more. You with
that old mule and them moccasins and buckskin clothes!"
"Well, gosh, Glory!" I says plumb bewildered. "What's the matter with
buckskin? I like it better'n homespun."
"Hah!" sneered she. "You oughta see Mr. Snake River Wilkinson! He ain't
wearin' neither buckskins nor homespun. Store-bought clothes! I never seen
such elegance. Star top boots, and gold-mounted spurs! And a red
neckcloth— he said silk. I dunno. I never seen nothin' like it before.
And a shirt all red and green and yaller and beautiful! And a white Stetson
hat! And a pearl- handled six-shooter! And the finest hoss and riggin's you
ever seen, you big dummox!"
"Aw, well, gosh!" I said, getting irritated. "If this here Mister
Wilkinson is so blame gorgeous, whyn't you marry him?"
I ought not to said it. Her eyes flashed blue sparks.
"I will!" she gritted. "You think a fine gentleman like him wouldn't marry
me, hey? I'll show you! I'll marry him right now!"
And impulsively shattering her water bucket over my head she turned and
run up the trail.
"Glory, wait!" I hollered, but by the time I got the water out of my eyes
and the oak splinters out of my hair she was gone.
Alexander was gone too. He taken off down the creek when Glory started
yelling at me, because he was a smart mule in his dumb way, and could tell
when thunder-showers was brewing. I run him for a mile before I caught him,
and then I got onto him and headed for the McGraw cabin agen. Glory was mad
enough to do anything she thought would worry me, and they warn't nothing
would worry me more'n for her to marry some dern cowpuncher from the river
country. She was plumb wrong when she thought I thought he wouldn't have her.
Any man which would pass up a chance to get hitched with Glory McGraw would
be a dern fool, I don't care what color his shirt was.
My heart sunk into my moccasins as I approached the alder clump where we'd
had our row. I figgered she'd stretched things a little talking about Mr.
Wilkinson's elegance, because whoever heard of a shirt with three colors into
it, or gold-mounted spurs? Still, he was bound to be rich and wonderful from
what she said, and what chance did I have? All the clothes I had was what I
had on, and I hadn't never even seen a store-bought shirt, much less owned
one. I didn't know whether to fall down in the trail and have a good bawl, or
go get my rifle-gun and lay for Mr. Wilkinson.
Then, jest as I got back to where I'd saw Glory last, here she come again,
running like a scairt deer, with her eyes all wide and her mouth open.
"Breckinridge!" she panted. "Oh, Breckinridge! I've played hell now!"
"What you mean?" I said.
"Well," says she, "that there cowpuncher Mister Wilkinson had been castin'
eyes at me ever since he arriv at our cabin, but I hadn't give him no
encouragement. But you made me so mad awhile ago, I went back to the cabin,
and I marched right up to him, and I says: 'Mister Wilkinson, did you ever
think about gittin' married?' He grabbed me by the hand and he says, says he:
'Gal, I been thinkin' about it ever since I seen you choppin' wood outside
the cabin as I rode by. Fact is, that's why I stopped here.' I was so plumb
flabbergasted I didn't know what to say, and the first thing I knowed, him
and pap was makin' arrangements for the weddin'!"
"Aw, gosh!" I said.
She started wringing her hands.
"I don't want to marry Mister Wilkinson!" she hollered. "I don't love him!
He turnt my head with his elegant manners and striped shirt! What'll I do?
Pap's sot on me marryin' the feller!"
"Well, I'll put a stop to that," I says. "No dem cowcountry dude can come
into the Humbolts and steal my gal. Air they all up to the cabin now?"
"They're arguin' about the weddin' gift," says Glory. "Pap thinks Mister
Wilkinson oughta give him a hundred dollars. Mister Wilkinson offered him his
Winchester instead of the cash. Be keerful, Breckinridge! Pap don't like you
much, and Mister Wilkinson has got a awful mean eye, and his scabbard-end
tied to his laig."
"I'll be plumb diplomatic," I promised, and got onto my mule Alexander and
reched down and lifted Glory on behind me, and we rode up the path till we
come to within maybe a hundred foot of the cabin door. I seen a fine white
hoss tied in front of the cabin, and the saddle and bridle was the most
elegant I ever seen. The silverwork shone when the sun hit it. We got off and
I tied Alexander, and Glory hid behind a white oak. She warn't scairt of
nobody but her old man, but he shore had her number.
"Be keerful, Breckinridge," she begged. "Don't make pap or Mister
Wilkinson mad. Be tactful and meek."
So I said I would, and went up to the door. I could hear Miz McGraw and
the other gals cooking dinner in the back room, and I could hear Old Man
McGraw talking loud in the front room.
"'Taint enough!" says he. "I oughta have the Winchester and ten dollars. I
tell you, Wilkinson, it's cheap enough for a gal like Glory! It plumb busts
my heart strings to let her go, and nothin' but greenbacks is goin' to soothe
"The Winchester and five bucks," says a hard voice which I reckoned was
Mister Wilkinson. "It's a prime gun, I tell you. Ain't another'n like it in
"Well," begun Old Man McGraw in a covetous voice, and jest then I come in
through the door, ducking my head to keep from knocking it agen the lintel-
Old Man McGraw was setting there, tugging at his black beard, and them
long gangling boys of his'n, Joe and Bill and John, was there gawking as
usual, and there on a bench nigh the empty fireplace sot Mister Wilkinson in
all his glory. I batted my eyes. I never seen such splendor in all my born
days. Glory had told the truth about everything: the white Stetson with the
fancy leather band, and the boots and gold-mounted spurs, and the shirt. The
shirt nigh knocked my eyes out. I hadn't never dreamed nothing could be so
beautiful —all big broad stripes of red and yaller and green! I seen
his gun, too, a pearl-handled Colt .45 in a black leather scabbard which was
wore plumb smooth and the end tied down to his laig with a rawhide thong. I
could tell he hadn't never wore a glove on his right hand, neither, by the
brownness of it. He had the hardest, blackest eyes I ever seen. They looked
right through me.
I was very embarrassed, being quite young then, but I pulled myself
together and says very polite: "Howdy, Mister McGraw."
"Who's this young grizzly?" demanded Mister Wilkinson suspiciously.
"Git out of here, Elkins," requested Old Man McGraw angrily. "We're
talkin' over private business. You git!"
"I know what kind of business you-all are talkin' over," I retorted,
getting irritated. But I remembered Glory said be diplomatic, so I said: "I
come here to tell you the weddin's off! Glory ain't goin' to marry Mister
Wilkinson. She's goin' to marry me, and anybody which comes between us had
better be able to rassle cougars and whup grizzlies bare-handed!"
"Why, you—" begun Mister Wilkinson in a blood-thirsty voice, as he
riz onto his feet like a painter fixing to go into action.
"Git outa here!" bellered Old Man McGraw jumping up and grabbing the iron
poker. "What I does with my datter ain't none of yore business! Mister
Wilkinson here is makin' me a present of his prime Winchester and five
dollars in hard money! What could you offer me, you mountain of beef and
"A bust in the snoot, you old tightwad," I replied heatedly, but still
remembering to be diplomatic. They warn't no use in offending him, and I was
determined to talk quiet and tranquil, in spite of his insults. So I said: "A
man which would sell his datter for five dollars and a gun ought to be et
alive by the buzzards! You try to marry Glory to Mister Wilkinson and see
what happens to you, sudden and onpleasant!"
"Why, you—!" says Old Man McGraw, swinging up his poker. "I'll bust
yore fool skull like a egg!"
"Lemme handle him," snarled Mister Wilkinson. "Git outa the way and gimme
a clean shot at him. Lissen here, you jack-eared mountain-mule, air you goin'
out of here perpendicular, or does you prefer to go horizontal?"
"Open the ball whenever you feels lucky, you stripe-bellied polecat!" I
retorted courteously, and he give a snarl and went for his gun, but I got
mine out first and shot it out of his hand along with one of his fingers
before he could pull his trigger.
He give a howl and staggered back agen the wall, glaring wildly at me, and
at the blood dripping off his hand, and I stuck my old cap-and-ball .44 back
in the scabbard and said: "You may be accounted a fast gunslinger down in the
low country, but yo're tolerable slow on the draw to be foolin' around Bear
Creek. You better go on home now, and—"
It was at this moment that Old Man McGraw hit me over the head with his
poker. He swung it with both hands as hard as he could, and if I hadn't had
on my coonskin cap I bet it would have skint my head some. As it was it
knocked me to my knees, me being off-guard that way, and his three boys run
in and started beating me with chairs and benches and a table laig. Well, I
didn't want to hurt none of Glory's kin, but I had bit my tongue when the old
man hit me with his poker, and that always did irritate me. Anyway, I seen
they warn't no use arguing with them fool boys. They was out for
blood—mine, to be exact.
So I riz up and taken Joe by the neck and crotch and throwed him through a
winder as gentle as I could, but I forgot about the hickory-wood bars which
was nailed acrost it to keep the bears out. He took 'em along with him, and
that was how he got skint up like he did. I heard Glory let out a scream
outside, and would have hollered out to let her know I was all right and for
her not to worry about me, but just as I opened my mouth to do it, John
jammed the butt-end of a table laig into it.
Sech treatment would try the patience of a saint, still and all I didn't
really intend to hit John as hard as I did. How was I to know a tap like I
give him would knock him through the door and dislocate his jawbone?
Old Man McGraw was dancing around trying to get another whack at me with
his bent poker without hitting Bill which was hammering me over the head with
a chair, but Mister Wilkinson warn't taking no part in the fray. He was
backed up agen a wall with a wild look on his face. I reckon he warn't used
to Bear Creek squabbles.
I taken the chair away from Bill and busted it over his head jest to kinda
cool him off a little, and jest then Old Man McGraw made another swipe at me
with his poker, but I ducked and grabbed him, and Bill stooped over to pick
up a bowie knife which had fell out of somebody's boot. His back was towards
me so I planted my moccasin in the seat of his britches with considerable
force and he shot head-first through the door with a despairing howl.
Somebody else screamed too, that sounded like Glory. I didn't know at the
time I that she was running up to the door and was knocked down by Bill as he
catapulted into the yard.
I couldn't see what was going on outside, and Old Man McGraw was chawing
my thumb and feeling for my eye, so I throwed him after John and Bill, and
he's a liar when he said I aimed him at that rain-barrel a-purpose. I didn't
even know they was one there till I heard the crash as his head went through
I turned around to have some more words with Mister Wilkinson, but he
jumped through the winder I'd throwed Joe through, and when I tried to foller
him, I couldn't get my shoulders through. So I run out at the door and Glory
met me just as I hit the yard and she give me a slap in the face that sounded
like a beaver hitting a mud bank with his tail.
"Why, Glory!" I says, dumbfounded, because her blue eyes was blazing, and
her yaller hair was nigh standing on end. She was so mad she was crying and
that's the first time I ever knowed she couldcry. "What's the matter?
What've I did?"
"What have you did?" she raged, doing a kind of a war-dance on her bare
feet. "You outlaw! You murderer! You jack-eared son of a spotted tail skunk!
Look what you done!" She p'inted at her old man dazedly pulling his head out
of the rooins of the rain-barrel, and her brothers laying around the yard in
various positions, bleeding freely and groaning loudly. "You tried to murder
my family!" says she, shaking her fists under my nose. "You throwed Bill onto
me on purpose!"
"I didn't neither!" I exclaimed, shocked and scandalized. "You know I
wouldn't hurt a hair of yore head, Glory! Why, all I done, I done it for
"You didn't have to mutilate my pap and my brothers!" she wept furiously.
Ain't that just like a gal? What could I done but what I did? She hollered:
"If you really loved me you wouldn't of hurt 'em! You jest done it for
meanness! I told you to be ca'm and gentle! Whyn't you do it? Shet up! Don't
talk to me! Well, whyn't you say somethin'? Ain't you got no tongue?"
"I handled 'em easy as I could!" I roared, badgered beyond endurance. "It
warn't my fault. If they'd had any sense, they wouldn't—"
"Don't you dare slander my folks!" she yelped. "What you done to Mister
The aforesaid gent jest then come limping around the corner of the cabin,
and started for his hoss, and Glory run to him and grabbed his arm, and said:
"If you still want to marry me, stranger, it's a go! I'll ride off with you
He looked at me and shuddered, and jerked his arm away.
"Do I look like a dern fool?" he inquired with some heat. "I advises you
to marry that young grizzly there, for the sake of public safety, if nothin'
else! Marry you when he wants you? No, thank you! I'm leavin' a
valuable finger as a sooverneer of my sojourn, but I figger it's a cheap
price! After watchin' that human tornado in action, I calculate a finger
ain't nothin' to bother about! Adios!If I ever come within a hundred
miles of Bear Creek again it'll be because I've gone plumb loco!"
And with that he forked his critter and took off up the trail like the
devil was after him.
"Now look what you done!" wept Glory. "Now he won't never marry me!"
"But I thought you didn't want to marry him!" I says, plumb
She turned on me like a catamount.
"I didn't!" she shrieked. "I wouldn't marry him if he was the last man on
earth! But I demands the right to say yes or no for myself! I don't aim to be
bossed around by no hillbilly on a mangy mule!"
"Alexander ain't mangy," I said. "Besides, I warn't, tryin' to boss you
around, Glory. I war just fixin' it so yore pap wouldn't make you marry
Mister Wilkinson. Bein' as we aims to marry ourselves—"
"Who said we aimed to?" she hollered. "Me marry you, after you beat up my
pap and my brothers like you done? You think yo're the best man on Bear
Creek! Ha! You with yore buckskin britches and old cap-and-ball pistol and
coonskin cap! Me marry you? Git on yore mangy mule and git before I takes a
shotgun to you!"
"All right!" I roared, getting mad at last. "All right, if that's the way
you want to ack! You ain't the only gal in these mountains! They's plenty of
gals which would be glad to have me callin' on 'em."
"Who, for a instance?" she sneered.
"Ellen Reynolds, for instance!" I bellered. "That's who!"
"All right!" says she, trembling with rage. "Go and spark that stuck-up
hussy on yore mangy mule with yore old moccasins and cap-and-ball gun! See if
"I aim to!" I assured her bitterly. "And I won't be on no mule, neither.
I'll be on the best hoss in the Humbolts, and I'll have me some boots on to
my feet, and a silver mounted saddle and bridle, and a pistol that shoots
store- bought ca'tridges, too! You wait and see!"
"Where you think you'll git 'em?" she sneered.
"Well, I will!" I bellered, seeing red. "You said I thought I was the best
man on Bear Creek! Well, by golly, I am, and I aim to prove it! I'm glad you
gimme the gate! If you hadn't I'd of married you and settled down in a cabin
up the creek somewheres and never done nothin' nor seen nothin' nor been
nothin' but yore husband! Now I'm goin' to plumb bust this State wide open
from one end to the other'n, and folks is goin' to know about me all over
"Heh! heh! heh!" she laughed bitterly.
"I'll show you!" I promised her wrathfully, as I forked my mule, and
headed down the trail with her laughter ringing in my ears. I kicked
Alexander most vicious in the ribs, and he give a bray of astonishment and
lit a shuck for home. A instant later the alder clump hid the McGraw cabin
from view and Glory McGraw and my boyhood dreams was out of sight behind
2. MOUNTAIN MAN
"I'LL show her!" I promised the world at large, as I
rode through the bresh as hard as Alexander could run. "I'll go out into the
world and make a name for myself, by golly! She'll see. Whoa, Alexander!"
Because I'd jest seen a bee-tree I'd located the day before. My busted
heart needed something to soothe it, and I figgered fame and fortune could
wait a little whilst I drowned my woes in honey.
I was up to my ears in this beverage when I heard my old man calling:
"Breckinridge! Oh, Breckinridge! Whar air you? I see you now. You don't need
to climb that tree. I ain't goin' to larrup you."
He come up and said: "Breckinridge, ain't that a bee settin' on to yore
I reched up, and sure enough, it was. Come to think about it, I had felt
kind of like something was stinging me somewheres.
"I swan, Breckinridge," says pap, "I never seen a hide like yore'n not
even amongst the Elkinses. Lissen to me now: old Buffalo Rogers jest come
through on his way back from Tomahawk, and the postmaster there said they was
a letter for me, from Mississippi. He wouldn't give it to nobody but me or
some of my folks. I dunno who'd be writin' me from Mississippi; last time I
was there was when I was fightin' the Yankees. But anyway, that letter is got
to be got. Me and yore maw have decided yo're to go git it."
"Clean to Tomahawk?" I said. "Gee whiz, Pap!"
"Well," he says, combing his beard with his fingers, "yo're growed in
size, if not in years. It's time you seen somethin' of the world. You ain't
never been more'n thirty miles away from the cabin you was born in. Yore
brother Garfield ain't able to go on account of that b'ar he tangled with,
and Buckner is busy skinnin' the b'ar. You been to whar the trail goin' to
Tomahawk passes. All you got to do is foller it and turn to the right whar it
forks. The left goes on to Perdition."
"Great!" I says. "This is whar I begins to see the world!" And I added to
myself: "This is whar I begins to show Glory McGraw I'm a man of importance,
Well, next morning before good daylight I was off, riding my mule
Alexander, with a dollar pap gimme stuck in the bottom of my pistol scabbard.
Pap rode with me a few miles and give me advice.
"Be keerful how you spend that dollar I give you," he said. "Don't gamble.
Drink in reason. Half a gallon of corn juice is enough for any man. Don't be
techy—but don't forgit that yore pap was once the rough-and- tumble
champeen of Gonzales County, Texas. And whilst yo're feelin' for the other
feller's eye, don't be keerless and let him chaw yore ear off. And don't
resist no officer."
"What's them, Pap?" I inquired.
"Down in the settlements," he explained, "they has men which their job is
to keep the peace. I don't take no stock in law myself, but them city folks
is different from us. You do what they says, and if they says give up yore
gun, even, why you up and do it!"
I was shocked, and meditated a while, and then says: "How can I tell which
"They'll have a silver star stuck onto their shirt," he says, so I said
I'd do like he told me. He then reined around and went back up the mountains,
and I rode on down the path.
Well, I camped late that night where the path come out onto the Tomahawk
trail, and the next morning I rode on down the trail, feeling like I was a
long way from home. It was purty hot, and I hadn't went far till I passed a
stream and decided I'd take a swim. So I tied Alexander to a cottonwood, and
hung my buckskins close by, but I taken my gun belt with my cap-and-ball .44
and hung it on a willer limb reching out over the water. They was thick
bushes all around the stream.
Well, I div deep, and as I come up, I had a feeling like somebody had hit
me over the head with a club. I looked up, and there was a Injun holding on
to a limb with one hand and leaning out over the water with a club in the
He yelled and swung at me again, but I div, and he missed, and I come up
right under the limb where my gun was hung. I reched up and grabbed it and
let bam at him just as he dived into the bushes, and he let out a
squall and grabbed the seat of his pants. Next minute I heard a horse
running, and glimpsed him tearing away through the bresh on a pinto mustang,
setting his hoss like it was a red-hot stove, and dern him, he had my clothes
in one hand! I was so upsot by this that I missed him clean, and jumping out,
I charged through the bushes and saplings, but he was already out of sight. I
knowed it warn't likely he was with a war-party—just a dern thieving
Piute —but what a fix I was in! He'd even stole my moccasins.
I couldn't go home, in that shape, without the letter, and admit I missed
a Injun twice. Pap would larrup the tar out of me. And if I went on, what if
I met some women, in the valley settlements? I don't reckon they ever was a
young'un half as bashful as what I was in them days. Cold sweat busted out
all over me. I thought, here I started out to see the world and show Glory
McGraw I was a man among men, and here I am with no more clothes than a
jackrabbit. At last, in desperation, I buckled on my belt and started down
the trail towards Tomahawk. I was about ready to commit murder to get me some
I was glad the Injun didn't steal Alexander, but the going was so rough I
had to walk and lead him, because I kept to the thick bresh alongside the
trail. He had a tough time getting through the bushes, and the thorns
scratched him so he hollered, and ever' now and then I had to lift him over
jagged rocks. It was tough on Alexander, but I was too bashful to travel in
the open trail without no clothes on.
After I'd gone maybe a mile I heard somebody in the trail ahead of me, and
peeking through the bushes, I seen a most pecooliar sight. It was a man on
foot, going the same direction as me, and he had on what I instinctly guessed
was city clothes. They warn't buckskin nor homespun, nor yet like the duds
Mister Wilkinson had on, but they were very beautiful, with big checks and
stripes all over 'em. He had on a round hat with a narrer brim, and shoes
like I hadn't never seen before, being neither boots nor moccasins. He was
dusty, and he cussed considerable as he limped along. Ahead of him I seen the
trail made a hoss-shoe bend, so I cut straight across and got ahead of him,
and as he come along, I come out of the bresh and throwed down on him with my
He throwed up his hands and hollered: "Don't shoot!"
"I don't want to, mister," I said, "but I got to have clothes!"
He shook his head like he couldn't believe I was so, and he said: "You
ain't the color of a Injun, but—what kind of people live in these
"Most of 'em's Democrats," I said. "But I ain't got no time to talk
politics. You climb out of them riggin's."
"My God!" he wailed. "My horse threw me off and ran away, and I've bin
walkin' for hours, expecting to get scalped by Injuns any minute, and now a
naked lunatic on a mule demands my clothes! It's too dern much!"
"I cain't argy, mister," I said; "somebody's liable to come up the trail
any minute. Hustle!" So saying I shot his hat off to encourage him.
He give a howl and shucked his duds in a hurry.
"My underclothes, too?" he demanded, shivering though it was very hot.
"Is that what them things is?" I demanded, shocked. "I never heard of a
man wearin' such womanish things. The country is goin' to the dogs, just like
pap says. You better git goin'. Take my mule. When I git to where I can git
some regular clothes, we'll swap back."
He clumb onto Alexander kind of dubious, and says to me, despairful: "Will
you tell me one thing—how do I get to Tomahawk?"
"Take the next turn to the right," I said, "and—"
Jest then Alexander turned his head and seen them underclothes on his
back, and he give a loud and ringing bray and sot sail down the trail at full
speed with the stranger hanging on with both hands. Before they was out of
sight they come to where the trail forked, and Alexander taken the left
branch instead of the right, and vanished amongst the ridges.
I put on the clothes, and they scratched my hide something fierce. I
thinks, well, I got store-bought clothes quicker'n I hoped to. But I didn't
think much of 'em. The coat split down the back, and the pants was too short,
but the shoes was the wust; they pinched all over. I throwed away the socks,
having never wore none, but put on what was left of the hat.
I went on down the trail, and taken the right-hand fork, and in a mile or
so I come out on a flat, and heard hosses running. The next thing a mob of
men on hosses bust into view. One of 'em yelled: "There he is!" and they all
come for me full tilt. Instantly I decided that the stranger had got to
Tomahawk after all, somehow, and had sot his friends onto me for stealing his
So I left the trail and took out across the sage grass, and they all
charged after me, yelling stop. Well, them dern shoes pinched my feet so bad
I couldn't make much speed, so after I had run maybe a quarter of a mile I
perceived that the hosses were beginning to gain on me. So I wheeled with my
cap-and-ball in my hand, but I was going so fast, when I turned, them dern
shoes slipped and I went over backwards into a cactus bed just as I pulled
the trigger. So I only knocked the hat off of the first hossman. He yelled
and pulled up his hoss, right over me nearly, and as I drawed another bead on
him, I seen he had a bright shiny star on to his shirt. I dropped my gun and
stuck up my hands.
They swarmed around me—cowboys, from their looks. The man with the
star got off his hoss and picked up my gun and cussed.
"What did you lead us this chase through this heat and shoot at me for?"
"I didn't know you was a officer," I said.
"Hell, McVey," said one of 'em, "you know how jumpy tenderfeet is. Likely
he thought we was Santry's outlaws. Where's yore hoss?"
"I ain't got none," I said.
"Got away from you, hey?" said McVey. "Well, climb up behind Kirby here,
and let's git goin'."
To my surprise, the sheriff stuck my gun back in the scabbard, and so I
clumb up behind Kirby, and away we went. Kirby kept telling me not to fall
off, and it made me mad, but I said nothing. After an hour or so we come to a
bunch of houses they said was Tomahawk. I got panicky when I seen all them
houses, and would have jumped down and run for the mountains, only I knowed
they'd catch me, with them dern pinchy shoes on.
I hadn't never seen such houses before. They was made out of boards,
mostly, and some was two stories high. To the north-west and west the hills
riz up a few hundred yards from the backs of the houses, and on the other
sides there was plains, with bresh and timber on them.
"You boys ride into town and tell the folks that the shebang starts soon,"
said McVey. "Me and Kirby and Richards will take him to the ring."
I could see people milling around in the streets, and I never had no idee
they was that many folks in the world. The sheriff and the other two fellers
rode around the north end of the town and stopped at a old barn and told me
to get off. So I did, and we went in and they had a kind of room fixed up in
there with benches and a lot of towels and water buckets, and the sheriff
said: "This ain't much of a dressin' room, but it'll have to do. Us boys
don't know much about this game, but we'll second you as good as we can. One
thing—the other feller ain't got no manager nor seconds neither. How do
"Fine," I said, "but I'm kind of hungry."
"Go git him somethin', Richards," said the sheriff.
"I didn't think they et just before a bout," said Richards.
"Aw, I reckon he knows what he's doin'," said McVey. "Gwan."
So Richards pulled out, and the sheriff and Kirby walked around me like I
was a prize bull, and felt my muscles, and the sheriff said: "By golly, if
size means anything, our dough is as good as in our britches right now!"
I pulled my dollar out of my scabbard and said I would pay for my keep,
and they haw-hawed and slapped me on the back and said I was a great joker.
Then Richards come back with a platter of grub, with a lot of men wearing
boots and guns and whiskers, and they stomped in and gawped at me, and McVey
said: "Look him over, boys! Tomahawk stands or falls with him today!"
They started walking around me like him and Kirby done, and I was
embarrassed and et three or four pounds of beef and a quart of mashed
pertaters, and a big hunk of white bread, and drunk about a gallon of water,
because I was purty thirsty. Then they all gaped like they was surprised
about something, and one of 'em said: "How come he didn't arrive on the
"Well," said the sheriff, "the driver told me he was so drunk they left
him at Bisney, and come on with his luggage, which is over there in the
corner. They got a hoss and left it there with instructions for him to ride
on to Tomahawk as soon as he sobered up. Me and the boys got nervous today
when he didn't show up, so we went out lookin' for him, and met him hoofin'
it down the trail."
"I bet them Perdition hombres starts somethin'," said Kirby. "Ain't
a one of 'em showed up yet. They're settin' over at Perdition soakin' up bad
licker and broodin' on their wrongs. They shore wanted this show staged over
there. They claimed that since Tomahawk was furnishin' one-half of the
attraction, and Gunstock the other half, the razee ought to be throwed at
"Nothin' to it," said McVey. "It laid between Tomahawk and Gunstock, and
we throwed a coin and won it. If Perdition wants trouble she can git it. Is
the boys r'arin' to go?"
"Is they!" says Richards. "Every bar in Tomahawk is crowded with hombres
full of licker and civic pride. They're bettin' their shirts, and they has
been nine fights already. Everybody in Gunstock's here."
"Well, le's git goin'," says McVey, getting nervous. "The quicker it's
over, the less blood there's likely to be spilt."
The first thing I knowed, they had laid hold of me and was pulling my
clothes off, so it dawned on me that I must be under arrest for stealing that
stranger's clothes. Kirby dug into the baggage which was in one corner of the
stall, and dragged out a funny looking pair of pants; I know now they was
white silk. I put 'em on because I didn't have nothing else to put on, and
they fitted me like my skin. Richards tied a American flag around my waist,
and they put some spiked shoes onto my feet.
I let 'em do like they wanted to, remembering what pap said about not
resisting no officer. Whilst so employed I begun to hear a noise outside,
like a lot of people whooping and cheering. Purty soon in come a skinny old
gink with whiskers and two guns on, and he hollered: "Lissen here, Mac, dern
it, a big shipment of gold is down there waitin' to be took off by the
evenin' stage, and the whole blame town is deserted on account of this dern
foolishness. Suppose Comanche Santry and his gang gits wind of it?"
"Well," said McVey, "I'll send Kirby here to help you guard it."
"You will like hell," says Kirby. "I'll resign as deputy first. I got
every cent of my dough on this scrap, and I aim to see it."
"Well, send somebody!" says the old codger. "I got enough to do runnin' my
store, and the stage stand, and the post office, without—"
He left, mumbling in his whiskers, and I said: "Who's that?"
"Aw," said Kirby, "that's old man Brenton that runs the store down at the
other end of town, on the east side of the street. The post office is in
"I got to see him," I says. "There's a letter—"
Just then another man come surging in and hollered: "Hey, is yore man
ready? Folks is gittin' impatient!"
"All right," says McVey, throwing over me a thing he called a bathrobe.
Him and Kirby and Richards picked up towels and buckets and things, and we
went out the oppersite door from what we come in, and they was a big crowd of
people there, and they whooped and shot off their pistols. I would have
bolted back into the barn, only they grabbed me and said it was all right. We
pushed through the crowd, and I never seen so many boots and pistols in my
life, and we come to a square corral made out of four posts sot in the
ground, and ropes stretched between. They called this a ring and told me to
get in. I done so, and they had turf packed down so the ground was level as a
floor and hard and solid. They told me to set down on a stool in one corner,
and I did, and wrapped my robe around me like a Injun.
Then everybody yelled, and some men, from Gunstock, McVey said, clumb
through the ropes on the other side. One of 'em was dressed like I was, and I
never seen such a funny-looking human. His ears looked like cabbages, and his
nose was plumb flat, and his head was shaved and looked right smart like a
bullet. He sot down in a oppersite corner.
Then a feller got up and waved his arms, and hollered: "Gents, you all
know the occasion of this here suspicious event. Mister Bat O'Tool, happenin'
to be passin' through Gunstock, consented to fight anybody which would meet
him. Tomahawk riz to the occasion by sendin' all the way to Denver to procure
the services of Mister Bruiser McGoorty, formerly of San Francisco!"
He p'inted at me, and everybody cheered and shot off their pistols, and I
was embarrassed and bust out in a cold sweat.
"This fight," said the feller, "will be fit accordin' to London Prize Ring
Rules, same as in a champeenship go. Bare fists, round ends when one of 'em's
knocked down or throwed down. Fight lasts till one or t'other ain't able to
come up to the scratch when time's called. I, Yucca Blaine, have been
selected as referee because, bein' from Chawed Ear, I got no prejudices
either way. Air you all ready? Time!"
McVey hauled me off my stool and pulled off my bathrobe and pushed me out
into the ring. I nearly died with embarrassment, but I seen the feller they
called O'Tool didn't have on no more clothes than me. He approached and held
out his hand like he wanted to shake hands, so I held out mine. We shook
hands, and then without no warning he hit me a awful lick on the jaw with his
left. It was like being kicked by a mule. The first part of me which hit the
turf was the back of my head. O'Tool stalked back to his corner, and the
Gunstock boys was dancing and hugging each other, and the Tomahawk fellers
was growling in their whiskers and fumbling with their guns and bowie
McVey and his deperties rushed into the ring before I could get up and
dragged me to my corner and begun pouring water on me.
"Air you hurt much?" yelled McVey.
"How can a man's fist hurt anybody?" I ast. "I wouldn't of fell down, only
I was caught off-guard. I didn't know he was goin' to hit me. I never played
no game like this here'n before."
McVey dropped the towel he was beating me in the face with, and turned
pale. "Ain't you Bruiser McGoorty of San Francisco?" he hollered.
"Naw," I said. "I'm Breckinridge Elkins, from up in the Humbolt Mountains.
I come here to git a letter for pap."
"But the stagecoach driver described them clothes—" he begun
"A Injun stole my clothes," I explained, "so I taken some off'n a
stranger. Maybe that was Mister McGoorty."
"What's the matter?" ast Kirby, coming up with another bucket of water.
"Time's about ready to be called."
"We're sunk!" bawled McVey. "This ain't McGoorty! This is a derned
hillbilly which murdered McGoorty and stole his clothes!"
"We're rooint!" exclaimed Richards, aghast. "Everybody's bet their dough
without even seein' our man, they was that full of trust and civic pride. We
cain't call it off now. Tomahawk is rooint! What'll we do?"
"He's goin' to git in there and fight his derndest," said McVey, pulling
his gun and jamming it into my back. "We'll hang him after the fight."
"But he cain't box!" wailed Richards.
"No matter," said McVey; "the fair name of our town is at stake; Tomahawk
promised to supply a fighter to fight O'Tool, and—"
"Oh!" I said, suddenly seeing light. "This here is a fight then, ain't
McVey give a low moan, and Kirby reched for his gun, but just then the
referee hollered time, and I jumped up and run at O'Tool. If a fight was all
they wanted, I was satisfied. All that talk about rules, and the yelling of
the crowd and all had had me so confused I hadn't knowed what it was all
about. I hit at O'Tool and he ducked and hit me in the belly and on the nose
and in the eye and on the ear. The blood spurted, and the crowd hollered, and
he looked plumb dumbfounded and gritted betwixt his teeth: "Are you human?
Why don't you fall?"
I spit out a mouthful of blood and got my hands on him and started chawing
his ear, and he squalled like a catamount. Yucca run in and tried to pull me
loose and I give him a slap under the ear and he turned a somersault into the
"Yore man's fightin' foul!" he squalled, and Kirby said: "Yo're crazy! Do
you see this gun? You holler 'foul' just once more, and it'll go off!"
Meanwhile O'Tool had broke loose from me and caved in his knuckles on my
jaw, and I come for him again, because I was beginning to lose my temper. He
gasped: "If you want to make an alley-fight out of it, all right. I wasn't
raised in Five Points for nothing!" He then rammed his knee into my groin,
and groped for my eye, but I got his thumb in my teeth and begun masticating
it, and the way he howled was a caution.
By this time the crowd was crazy, and I throwed O'Tool and begun to stomp
him, when somebody let bang at me from the crowd and the bullet cut my silk
belt and my pants started to fall down.
I grabbed 'em with both hands, and O'Tool riz up and rushed at me, bloody
and bellering, and I didn't dare let go my pants to defend myself. I whirled
and bent over and lashed out backwards with my right heel like a mule, and I
caught him under the chin. He done a cartwheel in the air, his head hit the
turf, and he bounced on over and landed on his back with his knees hooked
over the lower rope. There warn't no question about him being out. The only
question was, was he dead?
A roar of "Foul!" went up from the Gunstock men, and guns bristled all
around the ring.
The Tomahawk men was cheering and yelling that I'd won fair and square,
and the Gunstock men was cussing and threatening me, when somebody hollered:
"Leave it to the referee!"
"Sure," said Kirby. "He knows our man won fair, and if he don't say so,
I'll blow his head off!"
"That's a lie!" bellered a Gunstock man. "He knows it war a foul, and if
he says it warn't, I'll kyarve his gizzard with this here bowie knife!"
At them words Yucca fainted, and then a clatter of hoofs sounded above the
din, and out of the timber that hid the trail from the east a gang of hossmen
rode at a run. Everybody yelled: "Look out, here comes them Perdition
Instantly a hundred guns covered 'em, and McVey demanded: "Come ye in
peace or in war?"
"We come to unmask a fraud!" roared a big man with a red bandanner around
his neck. "McGoorty, come forth!"
A familiar figger, now dressed in cowboy togs, pushed forward on my mule.
"There he is!" this figger yelled, p'inting a accusing finger at me. "That's
the desperado that robbed me! Them's my tights he's got on!"
"What is this?" roared the crowd.
"A cussed fake!" bellered the man with the red bandanner. "This here is
"Then who's he?" somebody bawled, p'inting at me.
"I'm Breckinridge Elkins and I can lick any man here!" I roared, getting
mad. I brandished my fists in defiance, but my britches started sliding down
again, so I had to shut up and grab 'em.
"Aha!" the man with the red bandanner howled like a hyener. "He admits it!
I dunno what the idee is, but these Tomahawk polecats has double-crossed
somebody! I trusts that you jackasses from Gunstock realizes the blackness
and hellishness of their hearts! This man McGoorty rode into Perdition a few
hours ago in his unmentionables, astraddle of that there mule, and told us
how he'd been held up and robbed and put on the wrong road. You skunks was
too proud to stage this fight in Perdition, but we ain't the men to see
justice scorned with impunity! We brought McGoorty here to show you that you
was bein' gypped by Tomahawk! That man ain't no prize fighter; he's a highway
"These Tomahawk coyotes has framed us!" squalled a Gunstock man, going for
"Yo're a liar!" roared Richards, bending a .45 barrel over his head.
The next instant guns was crashing, knives was gleaming, and men was
yelling blue murder. The Gunstock braves turned frothing on the Tomahawk
warriors, and the men from Perdition, yelping with glee, pulled their guns,
and begun fanning the crowd indiscriminately, which give back their fire.
McGoorty give a howl and fell down on Alexander's neck, gripping around it
with both arms, and Alexander departed in a cloud of dust and gun-smoke.
I grabbed my gunbelt, which McVey had hung over the post in my corner, and
I headed for cover, holding onto my britches whilst the bullets hummed around
me as thick as bees. I wanted to take to the bresh, but I remembered that
blamed letter, so I headed for town. Behind me there riz a roar of banging
guns and yelling men. Jest as I got to the backs of the row of buildings
which lined the street, I run head on into something soft. It was McGoorty,
trying to escape on Alexander. He had hold of jest one rein, and Alexander,
evidently having rounded one end of the town, was traveling in a circle and
heading back where he started from.
I was going so fast I couldn't stop, and I run right over Alexander and
all three of us went down in a heap. I jumped up, afeared Alexander was kilt
or crippled, but he scrambled up snorting and trembling, and then McGoorty
weaved up, making funny noises. I poked my cap-and-ball into his belly.
"Off with them pants!" I hollered.
"My God!" he screamed. "Again? This is getting to be a habit!"
"Hustle!" I bellered. "You can have these scandals I got on now."
He shucked his britches and grabbed them tights and run like he was
afeared I'd want his underwear too. I jerked on the pants, forked Alexander
and headed for the south end of town. I kept behind the houses, though the
town seemed to be deserted, and purty soon I come to the store where Kirby
had told me old man Brenton kept the post office. Guns was barking there, and
across the street I seen men ducking in and out behind a old shack, and
I tied Alexander to a corner of the store and went in the back door. Up in
the front part I seen old man Brenton kneeling behind some barrels with a
.45-90, and he was shooting at the fellers in the shack acrost the street.
Every now and then a slug would hum through the door and comb his whiskers,
and he would cuss worse'n pap did that time he sot down in a b'ar trap.
I went up to him and tapped him on the shoulder and he give a squall and
flopped over and let go bam! right in my face and singed off my
eyebrows. And the fellers acrost the street hollered and started shooting at
both of us.
I'd grabbed the barrel of his Winchester, and he was cussing and jerking
at it with one hand and feeling in his boot for a knife with the other'n, and
I said: "Mister Brenton, if you ain't too busy, I wish you'd gimme that there
letter which come for pap."
"Don't never come up behind me like that again!" he squalled. "I thought
you was one of them dern outlaws! Look out! Duck, you blame fool!"
I let go of his gun, and he taken a shot at a head which was aiming around
the corner of the shack, and the head let out a squall and disappeared.
"Who is them fellers?" I ast.
"Comanche Santry and his bunch, from up in the hills," snarled old man
Brenton, jerking the lever of his Winchester. "They come after that gold. A
hell of a sheriff McVey is; never sent me nobody. And them fools over at the
ring are makin' so much noise they'll never hear the shootin' over here. Look
out, here they come!"
Six or seven men rushed out from behind the shack and run acrost the
street, shooting as they come. I seen I'd never get my letter as long as all
this fighting was going on, so I unslung my old cap-and-ball and let
bam at them three times, and three of them outlaws fell acrost each
other in the street, and the rest turned around and run back behind the
"Good work, boy!" yelled old man Brenton. "If I ever—oh, Judas
Iscariot, we're blowed up now!"
Something was pushed around the corner of the shack and come rolling down
towards us, the shack being on higher ground than what the store was. It was
a keg, with a burning fuse which whirled as the keg revolved and looked like
a wheel of fire.
"What's in that there kaig?" I ast.
"Blastin' powder!" screamed old man Brenton, scrambling up. "Run, you dern
fool! It's comin' right into the door!"
He was so scairt he forgot all about the fellers acrost the street, and
one of 'em caught him in the thigh with a buffalo rifle, and he plunked down
again, howling blue murder. I stepped over him to the door—that's when
I got that slug in my hip—and the keg hit my laigs and stopped, so I
picked it up and heaved it back acrost the street. It hadn't no more'n hit
the shack when bam! it exploded and the shack went up in smoke. When
it stopped raining pieces of wood and metal, they warn't no sign to show any
outlaws had ever hid behind where that shack had been.
"I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't saw it myself," old man Brenton moaned
"Air you hurt bad, Mister Brenton?" I ast.
"I'm dyin'," he groaned.
"Well, before you die, Mister Brenton," I says, "would you mind givin' me
that there letter for pap?"
"What's yore pap's name?" he ast.
"Roarin' Bill Elkins, of Bear Creek," I said.
He warn't as bad hurt as he thought. He reched up and got hold of a
leather bag and fumbled in it and pulled out a envelope. "I remember tellin'
old Buffalo Rogers I had a letter for Bill Elkins," he said, fingering it
over. Then he said: "Hey, wait! This ain't for yore pap. My sight is gittin'
bad. I read it wrong the first time. This here is for Bill Elston that
lives between here and Perdition."
I want to spike a rumor which says I tried to murder old man Brenton and
tore down his store for spite. I've done told how he got his laig broke, and
the rest was accidental. When I realized that I had went through all that
embarrassment for nothing, I was so mad and disgusted I turned and run out of
the back door, and I forgot to open the door and that's how it got tore off
I then jumped on to Alexander and forgot to ontie him loose from the
store. I kicked him in the ribs, and he bolted and tore loose that corner of
the building and that's how come the roof to fall in. Old man Brenton inside
was scairt and started yelling bloody murder, and about that time a mob of
men come up to investigate the explosion which had stopped the three-cornered
battle between Perdition, Tomahawk and Gunstock, and they thought I was the
cause of everything, and they all started shooting at me as I rode off.
Then was when I got that charge of buckshot in my back.
I went out of Tomahawk and up the hill trail so fast I bet me and
Alexander looked like a streak; and I says to myself it looks like making a
name for myself in the world is going to be tougher than I thought, because
it's evident that civilization is full of snares for a boy which ain't reched
his full growth and strength.
3. MEET CAP'N KIDD
I DIDN'T pull up Alexander till I was plumb out of
sight of Tomahawk. Then I slowed down and taken stock of myself, and my
spirits was right down in my spiked shoes which still had some of Mister
O'Tool's hide stuck onto the spikes. Here I'd started forth into the world to
show Glory McGraw what a he- bearcat I was, and now look at me. Here I was
without even no clothes but them derned spiked shoes which pinched my feet,
and a pair of britches some cow- puncher had wore the seat out of and patched
with buckskin. I still had my gunbelt and the dollar pap gimme, but no place
to spend it. I likewise had a goodly amount of lead under my hide.
"By golly!" I says, shaking my fists at the universe at large. "I ain't
goin' to go back to Bear Creek like this, and have Glory McGraw laughin' at
me! I'll head for the Wild River settlements and git me a job punchin' cows
till I got money enough to buy me store-bought boots and a hoss!"
I then pulled out my bowie knife which was in a scabbard on my gunbelt,
and started digging the slug out of my hip, and the buckshot out of my back.
Them buckshot was kinda hard to get to, but I done it. I hadn't never held a
job of punching cows, but I'd had plenty experience roping wild bulls up in
the Humbolts. Them bulls wanders off the lower ranges into the mountains and
grows most amazing big and mean. Me and Alexander had had plenty experience
with them, and I had me a lariat which would hold any steer that ever
bellered. It was still tied to my saddle, and I was glad none of them
cowpunchers hadn't stole it. Maybe they didn't know it was a lariat. I'd made
it myself, especial, and used it to rope them bulls and also cougars and
grizzlies which infests the Humbolts. It was made out of buffalo hide, ninety
foot long and half again as thick and heavy as the average lariat, and the
honda was a half-pound chunk of iron beat into shape with a sledge hammer. I
reckoned I was qualified for a vaquero even if I didn't have no cowboy
clothes and was riding a mule.
So I headed acrost the mountains for the cowcountry. They warn't no trail
the way I taken, but I knowed the direction Wild River lay in, and that was
enough for me. I knowed if I kept going that way I'd hit it after awhile.
Meanwhile, they was plenty of grass in the draws and along the creeks to keep
Alexander fat and sleek, and plenty of squirrels and rabbits for me to knock
over with rocks. I camped that night away up in the high ranges and cooked me
nine or ten squirrels over a fire and et 'em, and while that warn't much of a
supper for a appertite like mine, still I figgered next day I'd stumble on to
a b'ar or maybe a steer which had wandered offa the ranges.
Next morning before sunup I was on Alexander and moving on, without no
breakfast, because it looked like they warn't no rabbits nor nothing near
abouts, and I rode all morning without sighting nothing. It was a high range,
and nothing alive there but a buzzard I seen onst, but late in the afternoon
I crossed a backbone and come down into a whopping big plateau about the size
of a county, with springs and streams and grass growing stirrup-high along
'em, and clumps of cottonwood, and spruce, and pine thick up on the
hillsides. They was canyons and cliffs, and mountains along the rim, and
altogether it was as fine a country as I ever seen, but it didn't look like
nobody lived there, and for all I know I was the first white man that ever
come into it. But they was more soon, as I'll relate.
Well, I noticed something funny as I come down the ridge that separated
the bare hills from the plateau. First I met a wildcat. He come lipping along
at a right smart clip, and he didn't stop. He just gimme a wicked look
sidewise and kept right on up the slope. Next thing I met a lobo wolf, and
after that I counted nine more wolves, and they was all heading west, up the
slopes. Then Alexander give a snort and started trembling, and a cougar slid
out of a blackjack thicket and snarled at us over his shoulder as he went
past at a long lope. All them varmints was heading for the dry bare country
I'd just left, and I wondered why they was leaving a good range like this one
to go into that dern no-account country.
It worried Alexander too, because he smelt of the air and brayed kind of
plaintively. I pulled him up and smelt the air too, because critters run like
that before a forest fire, but I couldn't smell no smoke, nor see none. So I
rode on down the slopes and started across the flats, and as I went I seen
more bobcats, and wolves, and painters, and they was all heading west, and
they warn't lingering none, neither. They warn't no doubt that them critters
was pulling their freight because they was scairt of something, and it warn't
humans, because they didn't 'pear to be scairt of me a mite. They just
swerved around me and kept trailing. After I'd gone a few miles I met a herd
of wild hosses, with the stallion herding 'em. He was a big mean-looking
cuss, but he looked scairt as bad as any of the critters I'd saw.
The sun was getting low, and I was getting awful hungry as I come into a
open spot with a creek on one side running through clumps of willers and
cottonwoods, and on the other side I could see some big cliffs looming up
over the tops of the trees. And whilst I was hesitating, wondering if I ought
to keep looking for eatable critters, or try to worry along on a wildcat or a
wolf, a big grizzly come lumbering out of a clump of spruces and headed west.
When he seen me and Alexander he stopped and snarled like he was mad about
something, and then the first thing I knowed he was charging us. So I pulled
my .44 and shot him through the head, and got off and onsaddled Alexander and
turnt him loose in grass stirrup-high, and skun the b'ar. Then I cut me off
some steaks and started a fire and begun reducing my appertite. That warn't
no small job, because I hadn't had nothing to eat since the night before.
Well, while I was eating I heard hosses and looked up and seen six men
riding towards me from the east. One was as big as me, but the other ones
warn't but about six foot tall apiece. They was cowpunchers, by their look,
and the biggest man was dressed plumb as elegant as Mister Wilkinson was,
only his shirt was jest only one color. But he had on fancy boots and a white
Stetson and a ivory-butted Colt, and what looked like the butt of a sawed-off
shotgun jutted out of his saddle-scabbard. He was dark and had awful mean
eyes, and a jaw which it looked like he could bite the spokes out of a wagon
wheel if he wanted to.
He started talking to me in Piute, but before I could say anything, one of
the others said: "Aw, that ain't no Injun, Donovan, his eyes ain't the right
"I see that, now," says Donovan. "But I shore thought he was a Injun when
I first rode up and seen them old ragged britches and his sunburnt hide. Who
the devil air you?"
"I'm Breckinridge Elkins, from Bear Creek," I says, awed by his
"Well," says he, "I'm Wild Bill Donovan, which name is heard with fear and
tremblin' from Powder River to the Rio Grande. Just now I'm lookin' for a
wild stallion. Have you seen sech?"
"I seen a bay stallion headin' west with his herd," I said.
"'Twarn't him," says Donovan. "This here one's a pinto, the biggest,
meanest hoss in the world. He come down from the Humbolts when he was a colt,
but he's roamed the West from Border to Border. He's so mean he ain't never
got him a herd of his own. He takes mares away from other stallions, and then
drifts on alone just for pure cussedness. When he comes into a country all
other varmints takes to the tall timber."
"You mean the wolves and painters and b'ars I seen headin' for the high
ridges was runnin' away from this here stallion?" I says.
"Exactly," says Donovan. "He crossed the eastern ridge sometime durin' the
night, and the critters that was wise high-tailed it. We warn't far behind
him; we come over the ridge a few hours ago, but we lost his trail somewhere
on this side."
"You chasin' him?" I ast.
"Ha!" snarled Donovan with a kind of vicious laugh. "The man don't live
what can chase Cap'n Kidd! We're just follerin' him. We been follerin' him
for five hundred miles, keepin' outa sight, and hopin' to catch him off guard
or somethin'. We got to have some kind of a big advantage before we closes
in, or even shows ourselves. We're right fond of life! That devil has kilt
more men than any other ten hosses on this continent."
"What you call him?" I says.
"Cap'n Kidd," says Donovan. "Cap'n Kidd was a big pirate long time ago.
This here hoss is like him in lots of ways, particularly in regard to morals.
But I'll git him, if I have to foller him to the Gulf and back. Wild Bill
Donovan always gits what he wants, be it money, woman, or hoss! Now lissen
here, you range-country hobo: we're a-siftin' north from here, to see if we
cain't pick up Cap'n Kidd's sign. If you see a pinto stallion bigger'n you
ever dreamed a hoss could be, or come onto his tracks, you drop whatever
yo're doin' and pull out and look for us, and tell me about it. You keep
lookin' till you find us, too. If you don't you'll regret it, you hear
"Yessir," I said. "Did you gents come through the Wild River country?"
"Maybe we did and maybe we didn't," he says with haughty grandeur. "What
business is that of yore'n, I'd like to know?"
"Not any," I says. "But I was aimin' to go there and see if I could git me
a job punchin' cows."
At that he throwed back his head and laughed long and loud, and all the
other fellers laughed too, and I was embarrassed.
"You git a job punchin' cows?" roared Donovan. "With them britches and
shoes, and not even no shirt, and that there ignorant-lookin' mule I see
gobblin' grass over by the creek? Haw! haw! haw! haw! You better stay up here
in the mountains whar you belong and live on roots and nuts and jackrabbits
like the other Piutes, red or white! Any self-respectin' rancher would take a
shotgun to you if you was to ast him for a job. Haw! haw! haw!" he says, and
rode off still laughing.
I was that embarrassed I bust out into a sweat. Alexander was a good mule,
but he did look kind of funny in the face. But he was the only critter I'd
ever found which could carry my weight very many miles without giving plumb
out. He was awful strong and tough, even if he was kind of dumb and pot-
bellied. I begun to get kind of mad, but Donovan and his men was already
gone, and the stars was beginning to blink out. So I cooked me some more b'ar
steaks and et 'em, and the land sounded awful still, not a wolf howling nor a
cougar squalling. They was all west of the ridge. This critter Cap'n Kidd
sure had the country to hisself, as far as the meat-eating critters was
I hobbled Alexander close by and fixed me a bed with some boughs and his
saddle blanket, and went to sleep. I was woke up shortly after midnight by
Alexander trying to get in bed with me.
I sot up in irritation and prepared to bust him in the snoot, when I heard
what had scairt him. I never heard such a noise. My hair stood straight up.
It was a stallion neighing, but I never heard no hoss critter neigh like
that. I bet you could of heard it for fifteen miles. It sounded like a
combination of a wild hoss neighing, a rip saw going through a oak log full
of knots, and a hungry cougar screeching. I thought it come from somewhere
within a mile of the camp, but I warn't sure. Alexander was shivering and
whimpering he was that scairt, and stepping all over me as he tried to huddle
down amongst the branches and hide his head under my shoulder. I shoved him
away, but he insisted on staying as close to me as he could, and when I woke
up again next morning he was sleeping with his head on my belly.
But he must of forgot about the neigh he heard, or thought it was jest a
bad dream or something, because as soon as I taken the hobbles off of him he
started cropping grass and wandered off amongst the thickets in his pudding-
I cooked me some more b'ar steaks, and wondered if I ought to go and try
to find Mister Donovan and tell him about hearing the stallion neigh, but I
figgered he'd heard it. Anybody that was within a day's ride ought to of
heard it. Anyway, I seen no reason why I should run errands for Donovan.
I hadn't got through eating when I heard Alexander give a horrified bray,
and he come lickety-split out of a grove of trees and made for the camp, and
behind him come the biggest hoss I ever seen in my life. Alexander looked
like a pot-bellied bull pup beside of him. He was painted—black and
white —and he r'ared up with his long mane flying agen the sunrise, and
give a scornful neigh that nigh busted my ear-drums, and turned around and
sa'ntered back towards the grove, cropping grass as he went, like he thunk so
little of Alexander he wouldn't even bother to chase him.
Alexander come blundering into camp, blubbering and hollering, and run
over the fire and scattered it every which away, and then tripped hisself
over the saddle which was laying nearby, and fell on his neck braying like he
figgered his life was in danger.
I catched him and throwed the saddle and bridle on to him, and by that
time Cap'n Kidd was out of sight on the other side of the thicket. I onwound
my lariat and headed in that direction. I figgered not even Cap'n Kidd could
break that lariat. Alexander didn't want to go; he sot back on his haunches
and brayed fit to deefen you, but I spoke to him sternly, and it seemed to
convince him that he better face the stallion than me, so he moved out, kind
We went past the grove and seen Cap'n Kidd cropping grass in the patch of
rolling prairie just beyond, so I rode towards him, swinging my lariat. He
looked up and snorted kinda threateningly, and he had the meanest eye I ever
seen in man or beast; but he didn't move, just stood there looking
contemptuous, so I throwed my rope and piled the loop right around his neck,
and Alexander sot back on his haunches.
Well, it was about like roping a roaring hurricane. The instant he felt
that rope Cap'n Kidd give a convulsive start, and made one mighty lunge for
freedom. The lariat held, but the girths didn't. They held jest long enough
for Alexander to get jerked head over heels, and naturally I went along with
him. But right in the middle of the somesault we taken, both girths
Me and the saddle and Alexander landed all in a tangle, but Cap'n Kidd
jerked the saddle from amongst us, because I had my rope tied fast to the
horn, Texas-style, and Alexander got loose from me by the simple process of
kicking me vi'lently in the ear. He also stepped on my face when he jumped
up, and the next instant he was high-tailing it through the bresh in the
general direction of Bear Creek. As I learned later he didn't stop till he
run into pap's cabin and tried to hide under my brother John's bunk.
Meanwhile Cap'n Kidd had throwed the loop offa his head and come for me
with his mouth wide open, his ears laid back and his teeth and eyes flashing.
I didn't want to shoot him, so I riz up and run for the trees. But he was
coming like a tornado, and I seen he was going to run me down before I could
get to a tree big enough to climb, so I grabbed me a sapling about as thick
as my laig and tore it up by the roots, and turned around and busted him over
the head with it, just as he started to r'ar up to come down on me with his
Pieces of roots and bark and wood flew every which a way, and Cap'n Kidd
grunted and batted his eyes and went back on to his haunches. It was a right
smart lick. If I'd ever hit Alexander that hard it would have busted his
skull like a egg—and Alexander had a awful thick skull, even for a
Whilst Cap'n Kidd was shaking the bark and stars out of his eyes, I run to
a big oak and clumb it. He come after me instantly, and chawed chunks out of
the tree as big as washtubs, and kicked most of the bark off as high up as he
could rech, but it was a good substantial tree, and it held. He then tried to
climb it, which amazed me most remarkable, but he didn't do much good at
that. So he give up with a snort of disgust and trotted off.
I waited till he was out of sight, and then I clumb down and got my rope
and saddle, and started follering him. I knowed there warn't no use trying to
catch Alexander with the lead he had. I figgered he'd get back to Bear Creek
safe. And Cap'n Kidd was the critter I wanted now. The minute I lammed him
with that tree and he didn't fall, I knowed he was the hoss for me—a
hoss which could carry my weight all day without giving out, and likewise
full of spirit. I says to myself I rides him or the buzzards picks my
I snuck from tree to tree, and presently seen Cap'n Kidd swaggering along
and eating grass, and biting the tops off of young sapling, and occasionally
tearing down a good sized tree to get the leaves off. Sometimes he'd neigh
like a steamboat whistle, and let his heels fly in all directions just out of
pure cussedness. When he done this the air was full of flying bark and dirt
and rocks till it looked like he was in the middle of a twisting cyclone. I
never seen such a critter in my life. He was as full of pizen and
rambunctiousness as a drunk Apache on the warpath.
I thought at first I'd rope him and tie the other end of the rope to a big
tree, but I was a-feared he'd chawed the lariat apart. Then I seen something
that changed my mind. We was close to the rocky cliffs which jutted up above
the trees, and Cap'n Kidd was passing a canyon mouth that looked like a big
knife cut. He looked in and snorted, like he hoped they was a mountain lion
hiding in there, but they warn't, so he went on. The wind was blowing from
him towards me and he didn't smell me.
After he was out of sight amongst the trees I come out of cover and looked
into the cleft. It was kinda like a short blind canyon. It warn't but about
thirty foot wide at the mouth, but it widened quick till it made a kind of
bowl a hundred yards acrost, and then narrowed to a crack again. Rock walls
five hundred foot high was on all sides except at the mouth.
"And here," says I to myself, "is a ready-made corral!"
Then I lay to and started to build a wall to close the mouth of the
canyon. Later on I heard that a scientific expedition (whatever the hell that
might be) was all excited over finding evidences of a ancient race up in the
mountains. They said they found a wall that could of been built only by
giants. They was crazy; that there was the wall I built for Cap'n Kidd.
I knowed it would have to be high and solid if I didn't want Cap'n Kidd to
jump it or knock it down. They was plenty of boulders laying at the foot of
the cliffs which had weathered off, and I didn't use a single rock which
weighed less'n three hundred pounds, and most of 'em was a lot heavier than
that. It taken me most all morning, but when I quit I had me a wall higher'n
the average man could reach, and so thick and heavy I knowed it would hold
even Cap'n Kidd.
I left a narrer gap in it, and piled some boulders close to it on the
outside, ready to shove 'em into the gap. Then I stood outside the wall and
squalled like a cougar. They ain't even a cougar hisself can tell the
difference when I squalls like one. Purty soon I heard Cap'n Kidd give his
war- neigh off yonder, and then they was a thunder of hoofs and a snapping
and crackling of bresh, and he come busting into the open with his ears laid
back and his teeth bare and his eyes as red as a Comanche's war-paint. He
sure hated cougars. But he didn't seem to like me much neither. When he seen
me he give a roar of rage, and come for me lickety-split. I run through the
gap and hugged the wall inside, and he come thundering after me going so fast
he run clean across the bowl before he checked hisself. Before he could get
back to the gap I'd run outside and was piling rocks in it. I had a good big
one about the size of a fat hawg and I jammed it in the gap first and piled
t'others on top of it.
Cap'n Kidd arriv at the gap all hoofs and teeth and fury, but it was
already filled too high for him to jump and too solid for him to tear down.
He done his best, but all he done was to knock some chunks offa the rocks
with his heels. He sure was mad. He was the maddest hoss I ever seen, and
when I got up on the wall and he seen me, he nearly busted with rage.
He went tearing around the bowl, kicking up dust and neighing like a
steamboat on the rampage, and then he come back and tried to kick the wall
down again. When he turned to gallop off I jumped offa the wall and landed
square on his back, but before I could so much as grab his mane he throwed me
clean over the wall and I landed in a cluster of boulders and cactus and skun
my shin. This made me mad so I got the lariat and the saddle and clumb back
on the wall and roped him, but he jerked the rope out of my hand before I
could get any kind of a purchase, and went bucking and pitching around all
over the bowl trying to get shet of the rope. So purty soon he pitched right
into the cliff- wall and he lammed it so hard with his hind hoofs that a
whole section of overhanging rock was jolted loose and hit him right between
the ears. That was too much even for Cap'n Kidd.
It knocked him down and stunned him, and I jumped down into the bowl and
before he could come to I had my saddle on to him, and a hackamore I'd fixed
out of a piece of my lariat. I'd also mended the girths with pieces of the
lariat, too, before I built the wall.
Well, when Cap'n Kidd recovered his senses and riz up, snorting and war-
like, I was on his back. He stood still for a instant like he was trying to
figger out jest what the hell was the matter, and then he turned his head and
seen me on his back. The next instant I felt like I was astraddle of a ring-
I dunno what all he done. He done so many things all at onst I couldn't
keep track. I clawed leather. The man which could have stayed onto him
without clawing leather ain't born yet, or else he's a cussed liar. Sometimes
my feet was in the stirrups and sometimes they warn't, and sometimes they was
in the wrong stirrups. I cain't figger out how that could be, but it was so.
Part of the time I was in the saddle and part of the time I was behind it on
his rump, or on his neck in front of it. He kept reching back trying to snap
my laig and onst he got my thigh between his teeth and would ondoubtedly of
tore the muscle out if I hadn't shook him loose by beating him over the head
with my fist.
One instant he'd have his head betwixt his feet and I'd be setting on a
hump so high in the air I'd get dizzy, and the next thing he'd come down
stiff- laiged and I could feel my spine telescoping. He changed ends so fast
I got sick at my stummick and he nigh unjointed my neck with his sunfishing.
I calls it sunfishing because it was more like that than anything. He
occasionally rolled over and over on the ground, too, which was very
uncomfortable for me, but I hung on, because I was afeared if I let go I'd
never get on him again. I also knowed that if he ever shaken me loose I'd had
to shoot him to keep him from stomping my guts out. So I stuck, though I'll
admit that they is few sensations more onpleasant than having a hoss as big
as Cap'n Kidd roll on you nine or ten times.
He tried to scrape me off agen the walls, too, but all he done was scrape
off some hide and most of my pants, though it was when he lurched agen that
outjut of rock that I got them ribs cracked, I reckon.
He looked like he was able to go on forever, and aimed to, but I hadn't
never met nothing which could outlast me, and I stayed with him, even after I
started bleeding at the nose and mouth and ears, and got blind, and then all
to onst he was standing stock still in the middle of the bowl, with his
tongue hanging out about three foot, and his sweat-soaked sides heaving, and
the sun was just setting over the mountains. He'd bucked nearly all
But he was licked. I knowed it and he knowed it. I shaken the stars and
sweat and blood out of my eyes and dismounted by the simple process of
pulling my feet out of the stirrups and falling off. I laid there for maybe a
hour, and was most amazing sick, but so was Cap'n Kidd. When I was able to
stand on my feet I taken the saddle and the hackamore off and he didn't kick
me nor nothing. He jest made a half-hearted attempt to bite me but all he
done was to bite the buckle offa my gunbelt. They was a little spring back in
the cleft where the bowl narrered in the cliff, and plenty of grass, so I
figgered he'd be all right when he was able to stop blowing and panting long
enough to eat and drink.
I made a fire outside the bowl and cooked me what was left of the b'ar
meat, and then I lay down on the ground and slept till sunup.
When I riz up and seen how late it was, I jumped up and run and looked
over the wall, and there was Cap'n Kidd mowing the grass down as ca'm as you
please. He give me a mean look, but didn't say nothing. I was so eager to see
if he was going to let me ride him without no more foolishness that I didn't
stop for breakfast, nor to fix the buckle onto my gunbelt. I left it hanging
on a spruce limb, and clumb into the bowl. Cap'n Kidd laid back his ears but
didn't do nothing as I approached outside of making a swipe at me with his
left hoof. I dodged and give him a good hearty kick in the belly and he
grunted and doubled up, and I clapped the saddle on him. He showed his teeth
at that, but he let me cinch it up, and put on the hackamore, and when I got
on him he didn't pitch but about ten jumps and make but one snap at my
Well, I was plumb tickled as you can imagine. I clumb down and opened the
gap in the wall and led him out, and when he found he was outside the bowl he
bolted and dragged me for a hundred yards before I managed to get the rope
around a tree. After I tied him up though, he didn't try to bust loose.
I started back towards the tree where I left my gunbelt when I heard
hosses running, and the next thing I knowed Donovan and his five men busted
into the open and pulled up with their mouths wide open. Cap'n Kidd snorted
warlike when he seen 'em, but didn't cut up no other way.
"Blast my soul!" says Donovan. "Can I believe my eyes? If there ain't
Cap'n Kidd hisself, saddled and tied to that tree! Did you do
"Yeah," I said.
He looked me over and said: "I believes it. You looked like you been
through a sausage-grinder. Air you still alive?"
"My ribs is kind of sore," I said.
"mdash;!" says Donovan. "To think that a blame half-naked hillbilly should
do what the best hossmen of the West has attempted in vain! I don't aim to
stand for it! I knows my rights! That there is my hoss by rights! I've
trailed him nigh a thousand miles, and combed this cussed plateau in a
circle. He's my hoss!"
"He ain't, nuther," I says. "He come from the Humbolts original, jest like
me. You said so yoreself. Anyway, I caught him and broke him, and he's
"He's right, Bill," one of the men says to Donovan.
"You shet up!" roared Donovan. "What Wild Bill Donovan wants, he
I reched for my gun and then remembered in despair that it was hanging on
a limb a hundred yards away. Donovan covered me with the sawed-off shotgun he
jerked out of his saddle-holster as he swung down.
"Stand where you be," he advised me. "I ought to shoot you for not comin'
and tellin' me when you seen the hoss, but after all you've saved me the
trouble of breakin' him in."
"So yo're a hoss-thief!" I said wrathfully.
"You be keerful what you calls me!" he roared. "I ain't no hoss thief. We
gambles for that hoss. Set down!"
I sot and he sot on his heels in front of me, with his sawed-off still
covering me. If it'd been a pistol I would of took it away from him and
shoved the barrel down his throat. But I was quite young in them days and
bashful about shotguns. The others squatted around us, and Donovan says:
"Smoky, haul out yore deck—the special one. Smoky deals, hillbilly, and
the high hand wins the hoss."
"I'm puttin' up my hoss, it looks like," I says fiercely. "What you
"My Stetson hat!" says he. "Haw! haw! haw!"
"Haw! haw! haw!" chortles the other hoss-thieves.
Smoky started dealing and I said: "Hey! Yo're dealin' Donovan's hand offa
the bottom of the deck!"
"Shet up!" roared Donovan, poking me in the belly with his shotgun. "You
be keerful how you slings them insults around! This here is a fair and square
game, and I just happen to be lucky. Can you beat four aces?"
"How you know you got four aces?" I says fiercely. "You ain't looked at
yore hand yet."
"Oh," says he, and picked it up and spread it out on the grass, and they
was four aces and a king. "By golly!" says he. "I shore called that shot
"Remarkable foresight!" I said bitterly, throwing down my hand which was a
three, five and seven of hearts, a ten of clubs and a jack of diamonds.
"Then I wins!" gloated Donovan, jumping up. I riz too, quick and sudden,
but Donovan had me covered with that cussed shotgun.
"Git on that hoss and ride him over to our camp, Red," says Donovan, to a
big red-headed hombre which was shorter than him but jest about as
big. "See if he's properly broke. I wants to keep my eye on this hillbilly
So Red went over to Cap'n Kidd which stood there saying nothing, and my
heart sunk right down to the tops of my spiked shoes. Red ontied him and
clumb on him and Cap'n Kidd didn't so much as snap at him. Red says: "Git
goin', cuss you!" Cap'n Kidd turnt his head and looked at Red and then he
opened his mouth like a alligator and started laughing. I never seen a hoss
laugh before, but now I know what they mean by a hoss-laugh. Cap'n Kidd
didn't neigh nor nicker. He jest laughed. He laughed till the acorns come
rattling down outa the trees and the echoes rolled through the cliffs like
thunder. And then he reched his head around and grabbed Red's laig and
dragged him out of the saddle, and held him upside down with guns and things
spilling out of his scabbards and pockets, and Red yelling blue murder. Cap'n
Kidd shaken him till he looked like a rag and swung him around his head three
or four times, and then let go and throwed him clean through a alder
Them fellers all stood gaping, and Donovan had forgot about me, so I
grabbed the shotgun away from him and hit him under the ear with my left fist
and he bit the dust. I then swung the gun on the others and roared: "Onbuckle
them gunbelts, cuss ye!" They was bashfuller about buckshot at close range
than I was. They didn't argy. Them four gunbelts was on the grass before I
"All right," I said. "Now go catch Cap'n Kidd."
Because he had gone over to where their hosses was tied and was chawing
and kicking the tar out of them and they was hollering something fierce.
"He'll kill us!" squalled the men.
"Well, what of it?" I snarled. "Gwan!"
So they made a desperate foray onto Cap'n Kidd and the way he kicked 'em
in the belly and bit the seat out of their britches was beautiful to behold.
But whilst he was stomping them I come up and grabbed his hackamore and when
he seen who it was he stopped fighting, so I tied him to a tree away from the
other hosses. Then I throwed Donovan's shotgun onto the men and made 'em get
up and come over to where Donovan was laying, and they was a bruised and
battered gang. The way they taken on you'd of thought somebody had mistreated
I made 'em take Donovan's gunbelt offa him and about that time he come to
and sot up, muttering something about a tree falling on him.
"Don't you remember me?" I says. "I'm Breckinridge Elkins."
"It all comes back," he muttered. "We gambled for Cap'n Kidd."
"Yeah," I says, "and you won, so now we gambles for him again. You sot the
stakes before. This time I sets 'em. I matches these here britches I got on
agen Cap'n Kidd, and yore saddle, bridle, gunbelt, pistol, pants, shirt,
boots, spurs and Stetson."
"Robbery!" he bellered. "Yo're a cussed bandit!"
"Shet up," I says, poking him in the midriff with his shotgun. "Squat! The
rest of you, too."
"Ain't you goin' to let us do somethin' for Red?" they said. Red was
laying on the other side of the thicket Cap'n Kidd had throwed him through,
groaning loud and fervent.
"Let him lay for a spell," I says. "If he's dyin' they ain't nothin' we
can do for him, and if he ain't, he'll keep till this game's over. Deal,
Smoky, and deal from the top of the deck this time."
So Smoky dealed in fear and trembling, and I says to Donovan: "What you
"A royal flush of diamonds, by God!" he says. "You cain't beat that!"
"A royal flush of hearts'll beat it, won't it, Smoky?" I says, and Smoky
says: "Yuh—yuh—yeah! Yeah! Oh, yeah!"
"Well," I said, "I ain't looked at my hand yet, but I bet that's jest what
I got. What you think?" I says, p'inting the shotgun at Donovan's upper
teeth. "Don't you reckon I've got a royal flush in hearts?"
"It wouldn't surprise me a bit," says Donovan, turning pale.
"Then everybody's satisfied and they ain't no use in me showin' my hand,"
I says, throwing the cards back into the pack. "Shed them duds!"
He shed 'em without a word, and I let 'em take up Red, which had seven
busted ribs, a dislocated arm and a busted laig, and they kinda folded him
acrost his I saddle and tied him in place. Then they pulled out without
saying a word or looking back. They all looked purty wilted, and Donovan
particularly looked very pecooliar in the blanket he had wrapped around his
middle. If he'd had a feather in his hair he'd of made a lovely Piute, as I
told him. But he didn't seem to appreciate the remark. Some men just
naturally ain't got no sense of humor.
They headed east, and as soon as they was out of sight, I put the saddle
and bridle I'd won onto Cap'n Kidd and getting the bit in his mouth was about
like rassling a mountain tornado. But I done it, and then I put on the
riggins I'd won. The boots was too small and the shirt fit a mite too snug in
the shoulders, but I sure felt elegant, nevertheless, and stalked up and down
admiring myself and wishing Glory McGraw could see me then.
I cached my old saddle, belt and pistol in a holler tree, aiming to send
my younger brother Bill back after 'em. He could have 'em, along with
Alexander. I was going back to Bear Creek in style, by golly!
With a joyful whoop I swung onto Cap'n Kidd, headed him west and tickled
his flanks with my spurs—them trappers in the mountains which later
reported having seen a blue streak traveling westwardly so fast they didn't
have time to tell what it was, and was laughed at and accused of being drunk,
was did a injustice. What they seen was me and Cap'n Kidd going to Bear
Creek. He run fifty miles before he even pulled up for breath.
I ain't going to tell how long it took Cap'n Kidd to cover the distance to
Bear Creek. Nobody wouldn't believe me. But as I come up the trail a few
miles from my home cabin, I heard a hoss galloping and Glory McGraw bust into
view. She looked pale and scairt, and when she seen me she give a kind of a
holler and pulled up her hoss so quick it went back onto its haunches.
"Breckinridge!" she gasped. "I jest heard from yore folks that yore mule
come home without you, and I was just startin' out to look for—oh!"
says she, noticing my hoss and elegant riggings for the first time. She kind
of froze up, and said stiffly: "Well, MisterElkins, I see yo're back
"And you sees me rigged up in store-bought clothes and ridin' the best
hoss in the Humbolts, too, I reckon," I said. "I hope you'll excuse me, Miss
McGraw. I'm callin' on Ellen Reynolds as soon as I've let my folks know I'm
home safe. Good day!"
"Don't let me detain you!" she flared, but after I'd rode on past she
hollered: "Breckinridge Elkins, I hate you!"
"I know that," I said bitterly, "they warn't no use in tellin' me
But she was gone, riding lickety-split off through the woods towards her
home-cabin and I rode on for mine, thinking to myself what curious critters
gals was anyway.
4. GUNS OF THE MOUNTAINS
THINGS run purty smooth for maybe a month after I
got back to Bear Creek. Folks come from miles around to see Cap'n Kidd and
hear me tell about licking Wild Bill Donovan, and them fancy clothes sure had
a pleasing effeck on Ellen Reynolds. The only flies in the 'intment was Joel
Braxton's brother Jim, Ellen's old man, and my Uncle Garfield Elkins; but of
him anon as the French says.
Old Man Braxton didn't like me much, but I had learnt my lesson in dealing
with Old Man McGraw. I taken no foolishness offa him, and Ellen warn't nigh
as sensitive about it as Glory had been. But I warn't sure about Jim Braxton.
I discouraged him from calling on Ellen, and I done it purty vi'lent, but I
warn't sure he warn't sneaking around and sparking her on the sly, and I
couldn't tell just what she thought about him. But I was making progress,
when the third fly fell into the 'intment.
Pap's Uncle Garfield Elkins come up from Texas to visit us.
That was bad enough by itself, but between Grizzly Run and Chawed Ear the
stage got held up by some masked bandits, and Uncle Garfield, never being
able to forget that he was a gunfighting fool thirty or forty years ago,
pulled his old cap-and-ball instead of reching for the clouds like he was
advised to. For some reason, instead of blowing out his light, they merely
busted him over the head with a .45 barrel, and when he come to he was
rattling on his way towards Chawed Ear with the other passengers, minus his
money and watch.
It was his watch what caused the trouble. That there timepiece had been
his grandpap's, back in Kentucky, and Uncle Garfield sot more store by it
than he did all his kin folks.
When he arriv onto Bear Creek he imejitly let into howling his woes to the
stars like a wolf with the belly-ache. And from then on we heered nothing but
that watch. I'd saw it and thunk very little of it. It was big as my fist,
and wound up with a key which Uncle Garfield was always losing and looking
for. But it was solid gold, and he called it a hairloom, whatever them things
is. And he nigh driv the family crazy.
"A passle of big hulks like you-all settin' around and lettin' a old man
git robbed of all his property," he would say bitterly. "When I was a
young buck, if'n my uncle had been abused that way, I'd of took the
trail and never slept nor et till I brung back his watch and the sculp of the
skunk which hived it. Men now days—" And so on and so on, till I felt
like drownding the old jassack in a barrel of corn licker.
Finally pap says to me, combing his beard with his fingers;
"Breckinridge," says he, "I've endured Uncle Garfield's belly-achin' all I
aim to. I wants you to go look for his cussed watch, and don't come back
"How'm I goin' to know where to look?" I protested. "The feller which got
it may be in Californy or Mexico by now."
"I realizes the difficulties," says pap. "But warn't you eager for farin's
which would make you a name in the world?"
"They is times for everything," I said. "Right now I'm interested in
sparkin' a gal, which I ain't willin' to leave for no wild goose chase."
"Well," says pap, "I've done made up our mind. If Uncle Garfield knows
somebody is out lookin' for his cussed timepiece, maybe he'll give the rest
of us some peace. You git goin', and if you cain't find that watch, don't
come back till after Uncle Garfield has went home."
"How long does he aim to stay?" I demanded.
"Well," says pap, "Uncle Garfield's visits generally last a year, at
At this I bust into earnest profanity.
I says: "I got to stay away from home a year? Dang it, Pap, Jim
Braxton'll steal Ellen Reynolds away from me whilst I'm gone. I been courtin'
that gal till I'm ready to fall dead. I done licked her old man three times,
and now, jest when I got her goin', you tells me I got to up and leave her
for a year with that dern Jim Braxton to have no competition with."
"You got to choose between Ellen Reynolds and yore own flesh and blood,"
says pap. "I'm derned if I'll listen to Uncle Garfield's squawks any longer.
You make yore own choice—but if you don't choose to do what I asks you
to, I'll fill yore hide with buckshot every time I see you from now on."
Well, the result was that I was presently riding morosely away from home
and Ellen Reynolds, and in the general direction of where Uncle Garfield's
blasted watch might possibly be.
I rode by the Braxton cabin with the intention of dropping Jim a warning
about his actions whilst I was gone, but I didn't see his saddle on the
corral fence, so I knowed he warn't there. So I issued a general defiance to
the family by slinging a .45 slug through the winder which knocked a corn cob
pipe outa old man Braxton's mouth. That soothed me a little, but I knowed
very well that Jim would make a bee-line for the Reynolds cabin the second I
was out of sight. I could just see him gorging on Ellen's b'ar meat and
honey, and bragging on hisself. I hoped Ellen would notice the difference
between a loud- mouthed boaster like him, and a quiet modest young man like
me, which never bragged, though admittedly the biggest man and the best
fighter in the Humbolts.
I hoped to meet Jim somewhere in the woods as I rode down the trail,
because I was intending to do something to kinda impede his courting whilst I
was gone, like breaking his laig or something, but luck wasn't with me.
I headed in the general direction of Chawed Ear, and a few days later seen
me riding in gloomy grandeur through a country quite some distance from Ellen
Reynolds. Nobody'd been able to tell me anything in Chawed Ear, so I thought
I might as well comb the country between there and Grizzly Run. Probably
wouldn't never find them dern bandits anyway.
Pap always said my curiosity would be the ruination of me some day, but I
never could listen to guns popping up in the mountains without wanting to
find out who was killing who. So that morning, when I heard the rifles
talking off amongst the trees, I turned Cap'n Kidd aside and left the trail
and rode in the direction of the noise.
A dim path wound up through the big boulders and bushes, and the shooting
kept getting louder. Purty soon I come out into a glade, and just as I did,
bam! somebody let go at me from the bresh and a .45-70 slug cut both
my bridle reins nearly in half. I instantly returned the shot with my .45,
getting jest a glimpse of something in the bresh, and a man let out a squall
and jumped out into the open, wringing his hands. My bullet had hit the lock
of his Winchester and mighty nigh jarred his hands offa him.
"Cease that ungodly noise," I said sternly, p'inting my .45 at his bay-
winder, "and explain how come you waylays innercent travellers."
He quit working his fingers and moaning, and he said: "I thought you was
Joel Cairn, the outlaw. Yo're about his size."
"Well, I ain't," I said. "I'm Breckinridge Elkins, from Bear Creek. I was
jest ridin' over to find out what all the shootin' was about."
The guns was banging in the trees behind the feller, and somebody yelled
what was the matter.
"Ain't nothin' the matter," he hollered back. "Just a misunderstandin'."
And he says to me: "I'm glad to see you, Elkins. We need a man like you. I'm
Sheriff Dick Hopkins, from Grizzly Run."
"Where at's yore star?" I inquired.
"I lost it in the bresh," he said. "Me and my deputies have been chasin'
Tarantula Bixby and his gang for a day and a night, and we got 'em cornered
over there in a old deserted cabin in a holler. The boys is shootin' at 'em
now. I heered you comin' up the trail and snuck over to see who it was. Just
as I said, I thought you was Cairn. Come on with me. You can help us."
"I ain't no deperty," I said. "I got nothin' against Tranchler Bixby."
"Well, you want to uphold the law, don't you?" he said.
"Naw," I said.
"Well, gee whiz!" he wailed. "If you ain't a hell of a citizen! The
country's goin' to the dogs. What chance has a honest man got?"
"Aw, shet up," I said. "I'll go over and see the fun, anyhow."
So he picked up his gun, and I tied Cap'n Kidd, and follered the sheriff
through the trees till we come to some rocks, and there was four men laying
behind them rocks and shooting down into a hollow. The hill sloped away
mighty steep into a small basin that was jest like a bowl, with a rim of
slopes all around. In the middle, of this bowl they was a cabin and puffs of
smoke was coming from the cracks between the logs.
The men behind the rocks looked at me in surprise, and one of 'em said:
"What the hell?"
The sheriff scowled at them and said, "Boys, this here is Breck Elkins. I
done already told him about us bein' a posse from Grizzly Run, and about how
we got Tarantula Bixby and two of his cutthroats trapped in that there
One of the deputies bust into a loud guffaw and Hopkins glared at him and
said: "What you laughin' about, you spotted hyener?"
"I swallered my terbaccer and that allus gives me the hystericals,"
mumbled the deputy, looking the other way.
"Hold up yore right hand, Elkins," requested Hopkins, so I done so,
wondering what for, and he said: "Does you swear to tell the truth, the whole
truth and nothing but the truth, e pluribus unum, anno dominecker, to wit in
"What the hell are you talkin' about?" I demanded.
"Them which God has j'ined asunder let no man put together," said Hopkins.
"Whatever you say will be used agen you and the Lord have mercy on yore soul.
That means yo're a deputy. I just swore you in."
"Go set on a prickly pear," I snorted disgustedly. "Go catch yore own
thieves. And don't look at me like that. I might bend a gun over yore
"But Elkins," pleaded Hopkins, "with yore help we can catch them rats
easy. All you got to do is lay up here behind this big rock and shoot at the
cabin and keep 'em occupied till we can sneak around and rush 'em from the
rear. See, the bresh comes down purty close to the foot of the slope on the
other side, and gives us cover. We can do it easy, with somebody keepin'
their attention over here. I'll give you part of the reward."
"I don't want no derned blood-money," I said, backing away, "And besides
I'd absent-mindedly backed out from behind the big rock where I'd been
standing, and a .30-30 slug burned its way acrost the seat of my
"Dern them murderers!" I bellered, seeing red. "Gimme a rifle! I'll learn
'em to shoot a man behind his back! Gwan, and git 'em from behind whilst I
attracts their attention with a serenade of hot lead!"
"Good boy!" says Hopkins. "You'll git plenty for this!"
It sounded like somebody was snickering to theirselves as they snuck away,
but I give no heed. I squinted cautiously around the big boulder and begun
sniping at the cabin. All I could see to shoot at was the puffs of smoke
which marked the cracks they was shooting through, but from the cussing and
yelling which begun to float up from the shack, I must of throwed some lead
mighty close to them.
They kept shooting back, and the bullets splashed and buzzed on the rocks,
and I kept looking at the further slope for some sign of Sheriff Hopkins and
the posse. But all I heard was a sound of hosses galloping away towards the
west. I wondered who it was, and I kept expecting the posse to rush down the
oppersite slope and take them desperadoes in the rear, and whilst I was
craning my neck around a corner of the boulder—whang! A bullet
smashed into the rock a few inches from my face and a sliver of stone taken a
notch out of my ear. I don't know of nothing that makes me madder'n getting
shot in the ear.
I seen red and didn't even shoot back. A ordinary rifle was too paltry to
satisfy me. Suddenly I realized that the big boulder in front of me was jest
poised on the slope, its underside partly embedded in the earth. I throwed
down my rifle and bent my knees and spread my arms and gripped it.
I shook the sweat and blood outa my eyes, and bellered so them in the
hollow could hear me: "I'm givin' you-all a chance to surrender! Come out
with yore hands up!"
They give loud and sarcastic jeers, and I yelled: "All right, you ring-
tailed jackasses! If you gits squashed like a pancake, it's yore own fault.
Here she comes!"
And I heaved with all I had. The veins stood out onto my temples, and my
feet sunk into the ground, but the earth bulged and cracked all around the
big rock, rivulets of dirt begun to trickle down, and the big boulder
groaned, give way and lurched over.
A dumbfounded yell riz from the cabin. I lept behind a bush, but the
outlaws was too surprised to shoot at me. That enormous boulder was tumbling
down the hill, crushing bushes flat and gathering speed as it rolled. And the
cabin was right in its path.
Wild yells bust the air, the door was throwed vi'lently open, and a man
hove into view. Jest as he started out of the door I let bamat him and
he howled and ducked back jest like anybody will when a .45-90 slug knocks
their hat off. The next instant that thundering boulder hit the cabin.
Smash! It knocked it sidewise like a ten pin and caved in the wall,
and the whole structure collapsed in a cloud of dust and bark and
I run down the slope, and from the yells which issued from under the
ruins, I knowed they warn't all kilt.
"Does you-all surrender?" I roared.
"Yes, dern it!" they squalled. "Git us out from under this landslide!"
"Throw out yore guns," I ordered.
"How in hell can we throw anything?" they hollered wrathfully. "We're
pinned down by a ton of rocks and boards and we're bein' squoze to death.
"Aw, shet up," I said. "You all don't hear me carryin' on in no
such hysterical way, does you?"
Well, they moaned and complained, and I sot to work dragging the ruins
offa them, which warn't no great task. Purty soon I seen a booted laig and I
laid hold of it and dragged out the critter it was fastened to, and he looked
more done up than what my brother Buckner did that time he rassled a mountain
lion for a bet. I taken his pistol out of his belt, and laid him down on the
ground and got the others out. They was three, altogether, and I taken their
arms and laid 'em out in a row.
Their clothes was nearly tore off, and they was bruised and scratched and
had splinters in their hair, but they warn't hurt permanent. They sot up and
felt of theirselves, and one of 'em said: "This here's the first earthquake I
ever seen in this country."
"'Twarn't no earthquake," said another'n. "It was a avalanche."
"Lissen here, Joe Partland," said the first'n, grinding his teeth. "I says
it was a earthquake, and I ain't the man to be called a liar—"
"Oh, you ain't, hey?" says the other'n, bristling up. "Well, lemme tell
you somethin', Frank Jackson—"
"This ain't no time for sech argyments," I admonished 'em sternly. "As for
that there rock, I rolled that at you-all myself."
They gaped at me, and one of 'em says: "Who are you?" he says, mopping the
blood offa his ear.
"Never mind that," I says. "You see this here Winchester? Well, you-all
set still and rest yorselves. Soon as the sheriff gits here I'm goin' to hand
you over to him."
His mouth fell open. "Sheriff?" he said, dumb-like. "What sheriff?"
"Dick Hopkins, from Grizzly Run," I said.
"Why, you demed fool!" he screamed, scrambling up.
"Set down!" I roared, shoving my rifle barrel at him, and he sank back,
all white and shaking. He couldn't hardly talk.
"Lissen to me!" he gasped. "I'm Dick Hopkins! I'm sheriff of
Grizzly Run! These men are my deputies."
"Yeah?" I said sarcastically. "And who was the fellers shootin' at you
from the bresh?"
"Tarantula Bixby and his gang," he says. "We was follerin' 'em when they
jumped us, and bein' outnumbered and surprised, we taken cover in that old
hut. They robbed the Grizzly Run bank day before yesterday. And now they'll
be gittin' further away every minute! Oh, Judas J. Iscariot! Of all the dumb,
bone- headed jackasses—"
"Heh! heh! heh!" I said cynically. "You must think I ain't got no sense.
If yo're the sheriff, where at's yore star?"
"It was on my suspenders," he said despairingly. "When you hauled me out
by the laig my suspenders caught on somethin' and tore off. If you'll lemme
look amongst them rooins—"
"You set still," I commanded. "You cain't fool me. Yo're Tranchler Bixby
yoreself. Sheriff Hopkins told me so. Him and the posse'll be here directly.
Set still and shet up."
We stayed there, and the feller which claimed to be the sheriff moaned and
pulled his hair and shed a few tears, and the other fellers tried to convince
me they was deputies till I got tired of their gab and told 'em to shet up or
I'd bend my Winchester over their heads. I wondered why Hopkins and them
didn't come, and I begun to get nervous, and all to onst the feller which
said he was the sheriff give a yell that startled me so I jumped and nearly
shot him. He had something in his hand and was waving it around.
"See here?" he hollered so loud his voice cracked. "I found it! It must of
fell down into my shirt when my suspenders busted! Look at it, you derned
I looked and my flesh crawled. It was a shiny silver star.
"Hopkins said he lost his'n," I said weakly. "Maybe you found it in the
"You know better!" he bellered. "Yo're one of Bixby's men. You was left
here to hold us whilst Tarantula and the rest made their gitaway. You'll git
ninety years for this!"
I turned cold all over as I remembered them hosses I heard galloping. I'd
been fooled! This was the sheriff! That pot-bellied thug which shot at
me had been Bixby hisself! And whilst I held up the real sheriff and his
posse, them outlaws was riding out of the country! I was the prize
"You better gimme that gun and surrender," opined Hopkins. "Maybe if you
do they won't hang you."
"Set still!" I snarled. "I'm the biggest fool that ever straddled a
mustang, but even idjits has their feelin's. Pap said never resist a officer,
but this here is a special case. You ain't goin' to put me behind no bars,
jest because I made a mistake. I'm goin' up that there slope, but I'll be
watchin' you. I've throwed yore guns over there in the bresh. If anybody
makes a move towards 'em, I'll shove a harp right into his hand."
They set up a chant of hate as I backed away, but they sot still. I went
up the slope backwards till I hit the rim, and then I turned and ducked into
the bresh and run. I heard 'em cussing something awful down in the hollow,
but I didn't pause. I come to where I'd left Cap'n Kidd and forked him and
pulled out, being thankful them outlaws had been in too big a hurry to steal
him. But I doubt if he'd a-let 'em. I throwed away the rifle they give me and
I aimed to cross Thunder River at Ghost Canyon, and head into the wild
mountain region beyond there. I figgered I could dodge a posse indefinite
onst I got there. I let Cap'n Kidd out into a long lope, cussing my reins
which had been notched deep by Bixby's bullet. I didn't have time to fix 'em,
and Cap'n Kidd was a iron-jawed outlaw.
He was sweating plenty when I finally hove in sight of the place I was
heading for. As I topped the canyon's crest before I dipped down to the
crossing, I looked back. They was a high notch in the hills a few miles
behind me, and as I looked three hossmen was etched in that notch, lined agen
the sky behind 'em. I cussed free and fervent. Why hadn't I had sense enough
to know Hopkins and his men was bound to have hosses tied somewheres near?
They got their mounts and follered me, figgering I'd aim for the country
beyond Thunder River. It was about the only place I could go.
Not wanting no running fight with no sheriff's posse, I raced recklessly
down the sloping canyon wall, busted out of the bushes—and stopped
short. Thunder River was on the rampage—bank-full in the narrow channel
and boiling and foaming. Been a cloud-bust somewhere away up on the head, and
the hoss warn't never foaled which could swum it. Not even Cap'n Kidd, though
he snorted warlike and was game to try it.
They wasn't but one thing to do, and I done it. I wheeled Cap'n Kidd and
headed up the canyon. Five miles up the river they was another crossing, with
a bridge—if it hadn't been washed away. Like as not it had been, with
the luck I was having. A nice pickle Uncle Garfield's cussed watch had got me
in, I reflected bitterly. Jest when I was all sot to squelch Glory McGraw
onst and for all by marrying Ellen Reynolds, here I was throwed into
circumstances which made me a fugitive from justice. I could just imagine
Glory laughing at me, and it nigh locoed me.
I was so absorbed in these thoughts I paid little attention to my imejit
surroundings, but all of a sudden I heard a noise ahead, above the roar of
the river and the thunder of Cap'n Kidd's hoofs on the rocky canyon floor. We
was approaching a bend in the gorge where a low ridge run out from the canyon
wall, and beyond that ridge I heard guns banging. I heaved back on the
reins— and both of 'em snapped in two!
Cap'n Kidd instantly clamped his teeth on the bit and bolted, like he
always does when he gits the chance. He headed straight for the bushes at the
end of the ridge, and I leaned forward and tried to get hold of the bit rings
with my fingers. But all I done was swerve him from his course. Instead of
follering the canyon bed on around the end of the ridge, he went right over
the rise, which sloped on that side. It didn't slope on t'other side; it fell
away abrupt. I had a fleeting glimpse of five men crouching amongst the
bushes on the canyon floor with guns in their hands. They looked up—and
Cap'n Kidd braced his laigs and slid to a halt at the lip of the blow bluff,
and simultaneous bogged his head and throwed me heels over head down amongst
My boot heel landed on somebody's head, and the spur knocked him cold and
blame near sculped him. That partly bust my fall, and it was further
cushioned by another feller which I lit on in a setting position, and which
taken no further interest in the proceedings. But the other three fell on me
with loud brutal yells, and I reched for my .45 and found to my humiliation
that it had fell out of my scabbard when I was throwed.
So I riz up with a rock in my hand and bounced it offa the head of a
feller which was fixing to shoot me, and he dropped his pistol and fell on
top of it. At this juncture one of the survivors put a buffalo gun to his
shoulder and sighted, then evidently fearing he would hit his companion which
was carving at me on the other side with a bowie knife, he reversed it and
run in swinging it like a club.
The man with the knife got in a slash across my ribs and I then hit him on
the chin which was how his jawbone got broke in four places. Meanwhile the
other'n swung at me with his rifle, but missed my head and broke the stock
off across my shoulder. Irritated at his persistency in trying to brain me
with the barrel, I laid hands on him and throwed him head-on agen the bluff,
which is when he got his fractured skull and concussion of the brain, I
I then shaken the sweat outa my eyes, and glaring down, rekernized the
remains as Bixby and his gang. I might have knew they'd head for the wild
country across the river, same as me. Only place they could go.
Just then, however, a clump of bushes parted, nigh, the river bank, and a
big black-bearded man riz up from behind a dead hoss. He had a six-shooter in
his hand and he approached me cautiously.
"Who're you?" he demanded suspiciously. "Whar'd you come from?"
"I'm Breckinridge Elkins," I answered, wringing the blood outa my shirt.
"What is this here business, anyway?"
"I was settin' here peaceable waitin' for the river to go down so I could
cross," he says, "when up rode these yeggs and started shootin'. I'm a honest
"Yo're a liar," I said with my usual diplomacy. "Yo're Joel Cairn, the
wust outlaw in these hills. I seen yore picher in the post office at Chawed
With that he p'inted his .45 at me and his beard bristled like the
whiskers of a old timber wolf.
"So you know me, hey?" he said. "Well, what you goin' to do about it, hey?
Want to colleck the reward money, hey?"
"Naw, I don't," I says. "I'm a outlaw myself, now. I just run foul of the
law account of these skunks. They's a posse right behind me."
"They is?" he snarled. "Why'nt you say so? Here, le's catch these fellers'
hosses and light out. Cheapskates! They claims I double-crossed 'em in the
matter of a stagecoach hold-up we pulled together recent. I been avoidin' 'em
'cause I'm a peaceful man by nater, but they rode onto me onexpected awhile
ago. They shot down my hoss first crack; we been tradin' lead for more'n a
hour, without doin' much damage, but they'd got me eventually, I reckon. Come
on. We'll pull out together.
"No, we won't," I said. "I'm a outlaw by force of circumstances, but I
ain't no murderin' bandit."
"Purty particular of yore comperny, ain'tcha?" he sneered. "Well, anyway,
help me catch me a hoss. Yore's is still up thar on that bluff. The day's
He pulled out a big gold watch and looked at it; it was one which wound
with a key.
I jumped like I was shot. "Where'd you git that watch?" I hollered.
He jerked up his head kinda startled, and said: "My grandpap gimme it.
"You're a liar!" I bellered. "You taken that off'n my Uncle Garfield.
Gimme that watch!"
"Air you crazy?" he yelled, going white under his whiskers. I plunged for
him, seeing red, and he let bang! and I got it in the left thigh.
Before he could shoot again I was on top of him and knocked the gun up. It
banged but the bullet went singing up over the bluff and Cap'n Kidd squealed
with rage and started changing ends. The pistol flew outa Cairn's hand and he
hit hit me vi'lently on the nose which made me see stars. So I hit him in the
belly and he grunted and doubled up; and come up with a knife out of his boot
which he cut me acrost the boozum with, also in the arm and shoulder and
kicked me in the groin. So I swung him clear of the ground and throwed him
down headfirst and jumped on him with both boots. And that settled his
I picked up the watch where it had fell, and staggered over to the cliff,
spurting blood at every step like a stuck hawg.
"At last my search is at a end!" I panted. "I can go back to Ellen
Reynolds who patiently awaits the return of her hero—"
It was at this instant that Cap'n Kidd, which had been stung by Cairn's
wild shot and was trying to buck off his saddle, bucked hisself off the
bluff. He fell on me...
The first thing I heard was bells ringing, and then they turned to hosses
galloping. I sot up and wiped off the blood which was running into my eyes
from where Cap'n Kidd's left hind shoe had split my sculp. And I seen Sheriff
Hopkins, Jackson and Partland come tearing around the ridge. I tried to get
up and run, but my right laig wouldn't work. I reched for my gun and it still
wasn't there. I was trapped.
"Look there!" yelled Hopkins, plumb wild-eyed. "That's Bixby on the
ground—and all his gang! And ye gods, there's Joel Cairn! What is this,
anyway? It looks like a battle-field! What's that settin' there? He's so
bloody I cain't rekernize him!"
"It's the hillbilly!" yelped Jackson. "Don't move or I'll shoot'cha!"
"I already been shot," I snarled. "Gwan—do yore wust. Fate is agen
They dismounted and stared in awe.
"Count the dead, boys," said Hopkins in a still, small voice.
"Aw," said Partland, "ain't none of 'em dead, but they'll never be the
same men again. Look! Bixby's comin' to! Who done this, Bixby?"
Bixby cast a wabbly eye about till he spied me, and then he moaned and
shrivelled up. "He tried to sculp me!" he wailed. "He ain't human!"
They all looked at me, and all taken their hats off.
"Elkins," says Hopkins in a tone of reverence, "I see it all now. They
fooled you into thinkin' they was the posse and we was the outlaws, didn't
they? And when you realized the truth, you hunted 'em down, didn't you? And
cleaned 'em out single-handed, and Joel Cairn, too, didn't you?"
"Well," I said groggily, "the truth is—"
"We understand," Hopkins soothed. "You mount tain men is all modest. Hey,
boys, tie up them outlaws whilst I look at Elkins' wounds."
"If you'll catch my hoss," I said, "I got to be ridin' back—"
"Gee whiz, man!" he said, "you ain't in no shape to ride a hoss! Do you
know you got five busted ribs and a fractured arm, and one laig broke and a
bullet in the other'n, to say nothin' of bein' slashed to ribbons? We'll rig
up a litter for you. What's that you got in yore good hand?"
I suddenly remembered Uncle Garfield's watch which I'd kept clutched in a
death grip. I stared at what I held in my hand; and I fell back with a low
moan. All I had in my hand was a bunch of busted metal and broken wheels and
springs, bent and smashed plumb beyond recognition.
"Grab him!" yelled Hopkins. "He's fainted!"
"Plant me under a pine tree, boys," I murmured weakly. "Just kyarve onto
my tombstone: 'He fit a good fight but Fate dealt him the joker.'"
A few days later a melancholy procession wound its way up the trail to
Bear Creek. I was being toted on a litter. I told 'em I wanted to see Ellen
Reynolds before I died, and to show Uncle Garfield the rooins of the watch so
he'd know I done my duty as I seen it.
When we'd got to within a few miles of my home cabin, who should meet us
but Jim Braxton, which tried to conceal his pleasure when I told him in a
weak voice that I was a dying man. He was all dressed up in new buckskins and
his exuberance was plumb disgustful to a man in my condition.
"Too bad," says he. "Too bad, Breckinridge. I hoped to meet you, but not
like this, of course. Yore pap told me to tell you about yore Uncle
Garfield's watch if I seen you. He thought I might run into you on my way to
Chawed Ear to git a licence—"
"Hey?" I said, pricking up my ears.
"Yeah, me and Ellen Reynolds is goin' to git married," he says. "Well, as
I started to say, seems like one of them bandits which robbed the stage was a
feller whose dad was a friend of yore Uncle Garfield's back in Texas. He
rekernized the name in the watch and sent it back, and it got here the day
after you left—"
They say it was jealousy which made me rise up on my litter and fracture
Jim Braxton's jawbone. I denies that. I stoops to no sech petty practices.
What impelled me was family conventions. I couldn't hit Uncle Garfield; I had
to hit somebody; and Jim Braxton jest happened to be the only man in
5. A GENT FROM BEAR CREEK
"YOU," says my sister Ouachita, p'inting a accusing
finger at me, "ought a be shot for the way you treat Glory McGraw!"
"Don't mention that gal's name to me," I says bitterly. "I don't want to
hear nothin' about her. Don't talk to me about her—why you think I
ain't treated her right?"
"Well," says Ouachita, "after they brung you back from Chawed Ear lookin'
like you'd been through a sorghum mill, Glory come right over when she heered
you was hurt. And what did you do when she come through the door?"
"I didn't do nothin'," I says. "What'd I do?"
"You turnt over towards the wall," says Ouachita, "and you says, says you:
'Git that woman outa here; she's come to t'ant me in my helpless
"Well, she did!" I said fiercely.
"She didn't!" says Ouachita. "When she heered you say them words, she
turnt pale, and she turnt around and walked outa the cabin with her head up
in the air, not sayin' a word. And she ain't been back since."
"Well, I don't want her to," I says. "She come over here jest to gloat on
"I don't believe no such," says Ouachita. "First thing she says, was: 'Is
Breckinridge hurt bad?' And she didn't say it in no gloatin' way. She come
over here to help you, I bet, and you talked to her like that! You ought to
"You mind yore own business," I advised her, and got up and got outa the
cabin to get some peace and quiet.
I went towards the creek aiming to do a little fishing. My laig had knit
proper and quick, and that had been the only thing which had kept me laid up.
On my way to the creek I got to thinking over what Ouachita had said, and I
thought, well, maybe I was a mite hasty. Maybe Glory did repent of her
treatment of me when I was laying wounded. Maybe I ought not to of spoke so
I thought, it's no more'n my neighborly duty to go over and thank Glory
for coming over to see me, and tell her I didn't mean what I said. I'd tell
her I was delirious and thought it was Ellen Reynolds. After all, I was a man
with a great, big, generous, forgiving heart, and if forgiving Glory McGraw
was going to brighten her life, why, I warn't one to begrudge it. So I headed
for the McGraw cabin—a trail I hadn't took since the day I shot up
I went afoot because I wanted to give my laig plenty of exercise now it
was healed. And I hadn't gone more'n halfway when I met the gal I was looking
for. She was riding her bay mare, and we met face to face right spang in the
middle of the trail. I taken off my Stetson and says: "Howdy, Glory. You
warn't by any chance headin' for my cabin?"
"And why should I be headin' for yore cabin, Mister Elkins?" she said as
stiff and cold as a frozen bowie knife.
"Well," I said, kinda abashed, "well—uh—that is, Glory, I jest
want to thank you for droppin' in to see about me when I was laid up,
"I didn't," she snapped. "I jest come to borrer some salt. I didn't even
know you'd been hurt."
"What you want to talk like that for, Glory?" I protested. "I didn't aim
to hurt yore feelin's. Fact is, I war delirious, and thought you was somebody
"Ellen Reynolds, maybe?" says she sneeringly. "Or was she already there,
holdin' yore hand? Oh, no! I'd plumb forgot! She was gittin' married to Jim
Braxton about that time! Too bad, Breckinridge! But cheer up! Ellen's got a
little sister which'll be growed up in a few years. Maybe you can git her
—if some Braxton don't beat you to her."
"To hell with the Braxtons and the Reynolds too!" I roared, seeing red
again. "And you can go along with 'em, far's I'm consarned! I was right!
Ouachita's a fool, sayin' you was sorry for me. You jest come over there to
gloat over me when I was laid up!"
"I didn't!" she says, in a changed voice.
"You did, too!" I says bitterly. "You go yore way and I'll go mine. You
think I cain't git me no woman, just because you and Ellen Reynolds turned me
down. Well, you-all ain't the only women they is! I ain't goin' to marry no
gal on Bear Creek! I'm goin' to git me a town-gal!"
"A town-gal wouldn't look at a hillbilly like you!" she sneered.
"Oh, is that so?" I bellered, convulsively jerking some saplings up by the
roots in my agitation. "Well, lemme tell you somethin', Miss McGraw, I'm
pullin' out right now, this very day, for the settlements, where purty gals
is thick as flies in watermelon time, and I aim to bring back the purtiest
one of the whole kaboodle! You wait and see!"
And I went storming away from there so blind mad that I fell into the
creek before I knowed it, and made a most amazing splash. I thought I heard
Glory call me to come back, jest before I fell, but I was so mad I didn't pay
no attention. I'd had about all the badgering I could stand for one day. I
clumb out on t'other side, dripping like a muskrat, and headed for the tall
timber. I could hear her laughing behind me, and she must of been kinda
hysterical, because it sounded like she was crying instead of laughing, but I
didn't stop to see. All I wanted was to put plenty of distance between me and
Glory McGraw, and I headed for home as fast as I could laig it.
It was my fullest intention to saddle Cap'n Kidd and pull out for Chawed
Ear or somewheres as quick as I could. I meant what I said about getting me a
town-gal. But right then I was fogging head-on into the cussedest mix-up I'd
ever saw, up to that time, and didn't know it. I didn't even get a inkling of
it when I almost stumbled over a couple of figures locked in mortal combat on
the bank of the creek.
I was surprised when I seen who it was. The folks on Bear Creek ain't
exactly what you'd call peaceable by nature, but Erath Elkins and his
brother- in-law Joel Gordon had always got along well together, even when
they was full of corn juice. But there they was, so tangled up they couldn't
use their bowies to no advantage, and their cussin' was scandalous to
Remonstrances being useless, I kicked their knives out of their hands and
throwed 'em bodily into the creek. That broke their holds and they come
swarming out with blood-thirsty shrieks and dripping whiskers, and attacked
me. Seeing they was too blind mad to have any sense, I bashed their heads
together till they was too dizzy to do anything but holler.
"Is this any way for relatives to ack?" I ast disgustedly.
"Lemme at him!" howled Joel, gnashing his teeth whilst blood streamed down
his whiskers. "He's broke three of my fangs and I'll have his life!"
"Stand aside, Breckinridge!" raved Erath. "No man can chaw a ear offa me
and live to tell the tale."
"Aw, shet up," I snorted. "Ca'm down, before I sees is yore fool heads
harder'n this." I brandished a large fist under their noses and they subsided
sulkily. "What's all this about?" I demanded.
"I jest discovered my brother-in-law is a thief," said Joel bitterly. At
that Erath give a howl and a vi'lent plunge to get at his relative, but I
kind of pushed him backwards, and he fell over a willer stump.
"The facks is, Breckinridge," says Joel, "me and this here polecat found a
buckskin poke full of gold nuggets in a holler oak over on Apache Ridge
yesterday, right nigh the place whar yore brother Garfield fit them seven
wildcats last year. We didn't know whether somebody in these parts had jest
hid it thar for safe-keepin', or whether some old prospector had left it thar
a long time ago and maybe got sculped by the Injuns and never come back to
git it. We agreed to leave it alone for a month, and if it was still thar
when we come back, we'd feel purty shore that the original owner was dead,
and we'd split the gold between us. Well, last night I got to worryin' lest
somebody'd find it which warn't as honest as me, so this mornin' I thought I
better go see if it was still thar..."
At this p'int Erath laughed bitterly.
Joel glared at him ominously and continued: "Well, no sooner I hove in
sight of the holler tree than this skunk let go at me from the bresh with a
"That's a lie!" yelped Erath. "It war jest the other way around!"
"Not bein' armed, Breckinridge," Joel said with dignity, "and realizin'
that this coyote was tryin' to murder me so he could claim all the gold, I
laigged it for home and my weppin's. And presently I sighted him sprintin'
through the bresh after me."
Erath begun to foam slightly at the mouth. "I warn't chasin' you!" he
howled. "I war goin' home after my rifle-gun."
"What's yore story, Erath?" I inquired.
"Last night I drempt somebody had stole the gold," he answered sullenly.
"This mornin' I went to see if it was safe. Jest as I got to the tree, this
murderer begun shootin' at me with a Winchester. I run for my life, and by
some chance I finally run right into him. Likely he thought he'd hived me and
was comin' for the sculp."
"Did either one of you see t'other'n shoot at you?" I ast.
"How could I, with him hid in the bresh?" snapped Joel. "But who else
could it been?"
"I didn't have to see him," growled Erath. "I felt the wind of his
"But each one of you says he didn't have no rifle," I said.
"He's a cussed liar," they accused simultaneous, and would have fell onto
each other tooth and nail if they could have got past my bulk. "I'm convinced
they'd been a mistake," I said. "Git home and cool off."
"Yo're too big for me to lick, Breckinridge," said Erath. "But I warn you,
if you cain't prove to me that it warn't Joel which tried to murder me, I
ain't goin' to rest nor sleep nor eat till I've nailed his mangy sculp to the
highest pine on Apache Ridge."
"That goes for me, too," says Joel, grinding his teeth. "I'm declarin'
truce till tomorrer mornin'. If Breckinridge cain't show me by then that you
didn't shoot at me, either my wife or yore'n'll be a widder before
So saying they stalked off in oppersite directions, whilst I stared
helplessly after 'em, slightly dazed at the responsibility which had been
dumped onto me. That's the drawback of being the biggest man in yore
settlement. All the relatives piles their trouble onto you. Here it was up to
me to stop what looked like the beginnings of a regular family feud which was
bound to reduce the population awful. I couldn't go sparking me no town-gal
with all this hell brewing.
The more I thought of the gold them idjits had found, the more I felt like
I ought to go and take a look at it myself, so I went back to the corral and
saddled Cap'n Kidd and lit out for Apache Ridge. From the remarks they'd let
fall whilst cussing each other, I had a purty good idee where the holler oak
was at, and sure enough I found it without much trouble. I tied Cap'n Kidd
and clumb up onto the trunk till I reched the holler. And then as I was
craning my neck to look in, I heard a voice say: "Another dern thief!"
I looked around and seen Uncle Jeppard Grimes p'inting a gun at me.
"Bear Creek is goin' to hell," says Uncle Jeppard. "First it was Erath and
Joel, and now it's you. I aim to throw a bullet through yore hind laig jest
to teach you a little honesty. Hold still whilst I draws my bead."
With that he started sighting along the barrel of his Winchester, and I
says: "You better save yore lead for that Injun over there."
Him being a old Injun fighter he jest naturally jerked his head around
quick, and I pulled my .45 and shot the rifle out of his hands. I jumped down
and put my foot on it, and he pulled a knife out of his leggin', and I taken
it away from him and shaken him till he was so addled when I let him go he
run in a circle and fell down cussing something terrible.
"Is everybody on Bear Creek gone crazy?" I demanded. "Cain't a man look
into a holler tree without gittin' assassinated?"
"You was after my gold!" swore Uncle Jeppard.
"So it's yore gold, hey?" I said. "Well, a holler tree ain't no bank."
"I know it," he growled, combing the pine-needles out of his whiskers.
"When I come here early this mornin' to see if it was safe, like I frequent
does, I seen right off somebody'd been handlin' it. Whilst I was meditatin'
over this, I seen Joel Gordon sneakin' towards the tree. I fired a shot
acrost his bows in warnin' and he run off. But a few minutes later here come
Erath Elkins slitherin' through the pines. I was mad by this time, so I
combed his whiskers with a chunk of lead and he high-tailed it. And
now, by golly, here you come—"
"You shet up!" I roared. "Don't you accuse me of wantin' yore blame gold.
I jest wanted to see if it was safe, and so did Joel and Erath. If them men
was thieves, they'd have took it when they found it yesterday. Where'd you
git it, anyway?"
"I panned it, up in the hills," he said sullenly. "I ain't had time to
take it to Chawed Ear and git it changed into cash money. I figgered this
here tree was as good a place as any. But I done put it elsewhar now."
"Well," I said, "you got to go tell Erath and Joel it war you which shot
at 'em, so they won't kill each other. They'll be mad at you, but I'll
restrain 'em, with a hickery club, if necessary."
"All right," he said. "I'm sorry I misjedged you, Breckinridge. Jest to
show I trusts you, I'll show you whar I hid it after I taken it outa the
He led me through the trees till he come to a big rock jutting out from
the side of a cliff, and p'inted at a smaller rock wedged beneath it.
"I pulled out that there rock," he said, "and dug a hole and stuck the
poke in. Look!"
He heaved the rock out and bent down. And then he went straight up in the
air with a yell that made me jump and pull my gun with cold sweat busting out
all over me.
"What's the matter?" I demanded. "Air you snake-bit!"
"Yeah, by human snakes!" he hollered. "It's gone! I been
I looked and seen the impressions the wrinkles in the buckskin poke had
made in the soft earth. But there warn't nothing there now.
Uncle Jeppard was doing a scalp dance with a gun in one hand and a bowie
knife in the other'n. "I'll fringe my leggin's with their mangy sculps! I'll
pickle their hearts in a barr'l of brine! I'll feed their gizzards to my
houn' dawgs!" he yelled.
"Whose gizzards?" I inquired.
"Whose, you idjit?" he howled. "Joe Gordon and Erath Elkins, dern it! They
didn't run off. They snuck back and seen me move the gold! War-paint and
rattlesnakes! I've kilt better men than them for less'n half that much!"
"Aw," I said, "t'ain't possible they stole yore gold—"
"Then whar is it?" he demanded bitterly. "Who else knowed about it?"
"Look here!" I said, p'inting to a belt of soft loam nigh the rocks.
"There's a hoss's tracks."
"Well, what of it?" he demanded. "Maybe they had hosses tied in the
"Aw, no," I said. "Look how the calks is sot. They ain't no hosses on Bear
Creek shod like that. These is the tracks of a stranger—I bet the
feller I seen ride past my cabin jest about daybreak. A black-whiskered man
with one ear missin'. That hard ground by the big rock don't show where he
got off and stomped around, but the man which rode this hoss stole yore gold,
I'll bet my guns."
"I ain't convinced," says Uncle Jeppard. "I'm goin' home and ile my rifle-
gun, and then I'm goin' to go over and kill Joel and Erath."
"Now you lissen," I said forcibly, taking hold of the front of his
buckskin shirt and h'isting him off the ground by way of emphasis, "I know
what a stubborn old jassack you are, Uncle Jeppard, but this time you got to
lissen to reason, or I'll forgit myself to the extent of kickin' the seat out
of yore britches. I'm goin' to foller this feller and take yore gold away
from him, because I know it war him that stole it. And don't you dare to kill
nobody till I git back."
"I'll give you till tomorrer mornin'," he compromised. "I won't pull a
trigger till then. But," said Uncle Jeppard waxing poetical, "if my gold
ain't in my hands by the time the mornin' sun h'ists itself over the shinin'
peaks of the Jackass Mountains, the buzzards will rassle their hash on the
carcasses of Joel Gordon and Erath Elkins."
I went away from there, and mounted Cap'n Kidd and headed west on the
stranger's trail. A hell of a chance I had to go sparking a town-gal,
with my lunatickal relatives thirsting for each other's gore.
It was still tolerably early in the morning, and one of them long summer
days ahead of me. They warn't a hoss in the Humbolts which could equal Cap'n
Kidd for endurance. I've rode him a hundred miles between sundown and sunup.
But the hoss the stranger was riding must have been some chunk of hoss-meat
hisself, and of course he had a long start of me. The day wore on, and still
I hadn't come up with my man. I'd covered a lot of distance and was getting
into country I warn't familiar with, but I didn't have no trouble follering
his trail, and finally, late in the evening, I come out on a narrer dusty
path where the calk-marks of his hoss's shoes was very plain.
The sun sunk lower and my hopes dwindled. Even if I got the thief and got
the gold, it'd be a awful push to get back to Bear Creek in time to prevent
mayhem. But I urged on Cap'n Kidd, and presently we come out into a road, and
the tracks I was follering merged with a lot of others. I went on, expecting
to come to some settlement, and wondering jest where I was.
Jest at sundown I rounded a bend in the road and I seen something hanging
to a tree, and it was a man. They was another man in the act of pinning
something to the corpse's shirt, and when he heard me he wheeled and jerked
his gun—the man, I mean, not the corpse. He was a mean looking cuss,
but he warn't Black Whiskers. Seeing I made no hostile motion, he put up his
gun and grinned.
"That feller's still kickin'?" I said.
"We just strung him up," he said. "The other boys has rode back to town,
but I stayed to put this warnin' on his buzzum. Can you read?"
"No," I said.
"Well," says he, "this here paper says: 'Warnin' to all outlaws and
specially them on Grizzly Mountain—Keep away from Wampum.'"
"How far's Wampum from here?" I ast.
"Half a mile down the road," he said. "I'm Al Jackson, one of Bill
Ormond's deputies. We aim to clean up Wampum. This is one of them outlaws
which has denned up on Grizzly Mountain."
Before I could say anything more, I heard somebody breathing quick and
gaspy, and they was a patter of bare feet in the bresh, and a kid gal about
fourteen years old bust into the road.
"You've killed Uncle Joab!" she shrieked. "You murderers! A boy told me
they was fixin' to hang him! I run as fast as I could—"
"Git away from that corpse!" roared Jackson, hitting at her with his
"You stop that!" I ordered. "Don't you hit that young 'un."
"Oh, please, Mister!" she wept, wringing her hands. "You ain't one of
Ormond's men. Please help me! He ain't dead—I seen him move!"
Waiting for no more I spurred alongside the body and drawed my knife.
"Don't you cut that rope!" squawked the deputy, jerking his gun. So I hit
him under the jaw and knocked him out of his saddle and into the bresh beside
the road where he lay groaning. I then cut the rope and eased the hanged man
down onto my saddle and got the noose offa his neck. He was purple in the
face and his eyes was closed and his tongue lolled out, but he still had some
life in him. Evidently they didn't drop him, but jest hauled him up to
strangle to death.
I laid him on the ground and worked over him till some of his life begun
to come back to him, but I knowed he ought to have medical attention, so I
said: "Where's the nearest doctor?"
"Doc Richards in Wampum," whimpered the kid. "But if we take him there
Ormond'll git him again. Won't you please take him home?"
"Where you-all live?" I inquired.
"We been livin' in a cabin on Grizzly Mountain every since Ormond run us
out of Wampum," she whimpered.
"Well," I said, "I'm goin' to put yore uncle onto Cap'n Kidd and you can
set behind the saddle and help hold him on, and tell me which way to go."
I done this and Cap'n Kidd didn't like it none, but after I busted him
between the ears with the butt of my six-shooter he subsided and come along
sulkily as I led him. As we went I seen that deputy Jackson drag hisself out
of the bresh and go limping down the road holding onto his jaw.
I was losing a awful lot of time, but I couldn't leave this feller to die,
even if he was a outlaw, because probably the little gal didn't have nobody
else to take care of her but him.
It was well after dark when we come up a narrer trail that wound up a
thickly timbered mountain side, and purty soon somebody in a thicket ahead of
us hollered: "Halt whar you be or I'll shoot!"
"Don't shoot, Jim!" called the gal. "This is Betty, and we're bringin'
Uncle Joab home."
A tall hard-looking young feller stepped out into the open, p'inting his
Winchester at me. He cussed when he seen our load.
"He ain't dead," I said. "But we oughta git him to his cabin."
So Jim led the way through the thickets till we come into a clearing where
they was a cabin and a woman come running out and screamed like a catamount
when she seen Joab. Me and Jim lifted him off and toted him in and laid him
on a bunk, and the women begun to work over him, and I went out to my hoss,
because I was in a hurry to get gone. Jim follered me.
"This is the kind of stuff we've been havin' ever since Ormond come to
Wampum," he says bitterly. "We been livin' up here like rats, afeared to stir
in the open. I warned Joab agen slippin' down into the village to-day, but he
was sot on it, and wouldn't let none of the boys go with him. Said he'd sneak
in and git what he wanted and sneak out again."
"Well," I says, "what's yore business ain't none of mine. But this here
life is hard lines on the women and chillern."
"You must be a friend of Joab's," he said. "He sent a man east some days
ago, but we was afraid one of Ormond's men trailed him and killed him. But
maybe he got through. Air you the man Joab sent for?"
"Meanin' am I some gunman come in to clean up the town?" I snorted. "Naw,
I ain't. I never seen this feller Joab before."
"Well," says Jim, "cutting him down like you done has already got you in
bad with Ormond. Whyn't you help us run them fellers out of the country?
They's still a good many of us in these hills, even if we have been run out
of Wampum. This hangin' is the last straw. I'll round up the boys tonight,
and we'll have a show-down with Ormond's men. We're outnumbered, and we been
licked bad onst before, but we'll try it again. Why don't you throw in with
"Lissen," I says, climbing into the saddle, "jest because I cut down a
outlaw ain't no sign I'm ready to be one myself. I done it jest because I
couldn't stand to see the little gal take on so. Anyway, I'm lookin' for a
feller with black whiskers and one ear missin' which rides a roan with a big
Jim fell back from me and lifted his rifle. "You better ride on, then," he
said sombrely. "I'm obleeged to you for what you've did—but a friend of
Wolf Ashley cain't be no friend of our'n."
I give him a snort of defiance and rode off down the mountains and headed
for Wampum, because it was reasonable to suppose that maybe I'd find Black
Wampum warn't much of a town, but they was one big saloon and gambling
hall where sounds of hilarity was coming from, and not many people on the
streets and them which was mostly went in a hurry. I stopped one of them and
ast him where a doctor lived, and he p'inted out a house where he said Doc
Richards lived, so I rode up to the door and hollered, and somebody inside
said: "What do you want? I got you covered."
"Air you Doc Richards?" I said, and he said: "Yes, keep your hands away
from your belt or I'll salivate you."
"This is a nice, friendly town!" I snorted. "I ain't figgerin' on doin'
you no harm. They's a man up in the hills which needs yore attention."
At that the door opened and a man with red whiskers and a shotgun stuck
his head out and said: "Who do you mean?"
"They call him Joab," I said. "He's on Grizzly Mountain."
"Hmmmmm!" said Doc Richards, looking at me very sharp where I sot Cap'n
Kidd in the starlight. "I set a man's jaw tonight, and he had a good deal to
say about a certain party who cut down a man that was hanged. If you happen
to be that party, my advice to you is to hit the trail before Ormond catches
"I'm hungry and thirsty and I'm lookin' for a man," I said. "I aim to
leave Wampum when I'm good and ready."
"I never argue with a man as big as you," said Doc Richards. "I'll ride to
Grizzly Mountain as quick as I can get my horse saddled. If I never see you
alive again, which is very probable, I'll always remember you as the biggest
man I ever saw, and the biggest fool. Good night!"
I thought the folks in Wampum is the queerest acting I ever seen. I taken
Cap'n Kidd to the barn which served as a livery stable and seen that he was
properly fixed in a stall to hisself, as far away from the other hosses as I
could get him, because I knowed if he got to 'em he'd chaw the ears off 'em.
The barn didn't look strong enough to hold him, but I told the livery stable
man to keep him occupied with fodder, and to run for me if he got
rambunctious. Then I went into the big saloon which was called the Golden
Eagle. I was low in my spirits because I seemed to have lost Black Whiskers'
trail entirely, and even if I found him in Wampum, which I hoped, I never
could make it back to Bear Creek by sunup. But I hoped to recover that derned
gold yet, and get back in time to save a few lives, anyway.
They was a lot of tough looking fellers in the Golden Eagle drinking and
gambling and talking loud and cussing, and they all stopped their noise as I
come in, and looked at me very fishy. But I give 'em no heed and went up to
the bar, and purty soon they kinda forgot about me, and the racket started up
Whilst I was drinking me a few fingers of whisky, somebody shouldered up
to me and said: "Hey!" I turnt around and seen a big, broad-built man with a
black beard and blood-shot eyes and a pot-belly and two guns on.
I says: "Well?"
"Who air you?" he demanded.
"Who air you?" I come back at him.
"I'm Bill Ormond, sheriff of Wampum," he says. "That's who!" And he showed
me a star onto his shirt.
"Oh," I says. "Well, I'm Breckinridge Elkins, from Bear Creek."
I noticed a kind of quiet come over the place, and fellers was laying down
their glasses and their billiard sticks, and hitching up their belts and
kinda gathering around me. Ormond scowled and combed his beard with his
fingers, and rocked on his heels and said: "I got to 'rest you!"
I sot down my glass quick and he jumped back and hollered: "Don't you dast
pull no gun on the law!" And they was a kind of movement amongst the men
"What you arrestin' me for?" I demanded. "I ain't busted no law."
"You assaulted one of my deperties," he said, and then I seen that feller
Jackson standing behind the sheriff with his jaw all bandaged up. He couldn't
work his chin to talk. All he could do was p'int his finger at me and shake
"You likewise cut down a outlaw we had just hunged," says Ormond. "Yo're
"But I'm lookin' for a man!" I protested. "I ain't got time to be
"You should of thunk about that when you busted the law," opined Ormond.
"Gimme yore gun and come along peaceable."
A dozen men had their hands on their guns, but it warn't that which made
me give in. Pap had always told me not to resist no officer of the law. It
was kind of instinctive for me to hand over my gun to this feller with the
star on his shirt. Somehow it didn't seem right, but I was kind of bewildered
and my thoughts was addled. I ain't one of these fast thinking sharps. So I
jest done what pap always told me to do.
Ormond taken me down the street a-ways, with a whole bunch of men
follering us, and stopped at a log building with barred winders which was
next to a board shack. A man come out of this shack with a big bunch of keys,
and Ormond said he was the jailer. So they put me in the log jail and Ormond
went off with everybody but the jailer, who sot down on the step outside his
shack and rolled hisself a cigaret.
They warn't no light in the jail, but I found the bunk and tried to lay
down on it, but it warn't built for a man six and a half foot tall. I sot
down on it and at last realized what a infernal mess I was in. Here I ought
to be hunting Black Whiskers and getting the gold to take back to Bear Creek
and save the lives of a swarm of my kin-folks, but instead of that I was in
jail, and no way of getting out without killing a officer of the law. With
daybreak Joel and Erath would be at each others' throats, and Uncle Jeppard
would be gunning for both of 'em. It was too much to hope that the other
relatives would let them three fight it out amongst theirselves. I never seen
sech a clan for buttin' into each others' business. The guns would be talking
all up and down Bear Creek, and the population would be decreasing with every
volley. I thunk about it till I got dizzy and then the jailer stuck his head
up to the winder and said if I'd give him five dollars he'd go get me
something to eat.
I had five dollars I won in a poker game a few days before and I give it
to him, and he went off and was gone quite a spell, and at last he come back
and give me a ham sandwich. I ast him was that all he could get for five
dollars, and he said grub was awful high in Wampum. I et the sandwich with
one bite, and he said if I'd give him some more money he'd get me another
sandwich. But I didn't have no more and told him so.
"What!" he said, breathing licker fumes in my face through the winder
bars. "No money? And you expect us to feed you for nothin'?" So he cussed me,
and went off, and purty soon the sheriff come and looked in at me, and said:
"What's this I hear about you not havin' no money?"
"I ain't got none left," I said, and he cussed something fierce.
"How you expeck to pay yore fine?" he demanded. "You think you can lay up
in our jail and eat us out of house and home? What kind of a critter are you,
Just then the jailer chipped in and said somebody told him I had a hoss
down at the livery stable.
"Good," said the sheriff. "We'll sell his hoss for his fine."
"You won't neither," I says, beginning to get mad. "You try to sell Cap'n
Kidd, and I'll forgit what pap told me about law-officers, and take you plumb
I riz up and glared at him through the winder, and he fell back and put
his hand on his gun. But jest about that time I seen a man going into the
Golden Eagle which was in easy sight of the jail, and lit up so the light
streamed out into the street. I give a yell that made Ormond jump about a
foot. It was Black Whiskers!
"Arrest that man, Sheriff!" I hollered. "He's a thief!"
Ormond whirled and looked, and then he said: "Air you plumb crazy? That's
Wolf Ashley, my deperty."
"I don't give a dern," I said. "He stole a poke of gold from my Uncle
Jeppard Grimes up in the Humbolts, and I've trailed him clean from Bear
Creek. Do yore duty and arrest him."
"You shet up!" roared Ormond. "You cain't tell me my business! I ain't
goin' to arrest my best gunman—my star deperty, I mean. What you mean
tryin' to start trouble this way? One more yap outa you and I'll throwa chunk
of lead through you."
And he turned around and stalked off muttering: "Poke of gold, huh?
Holdin' out on me, is he? I'll see about that!"
"I sot down and held my head in bewilderment. What kind of a sheriff was
this which wouldn't arrest a derned thief? My thoughts run in circles till my
wits was addled. The jailer had gone off and I wondered if he had went to
sell Cap'n Kidd. I wondered what was going on back on Bear Creek, and I
shivered to think what would bust loose at daybreak. And here I was in jail,
with them fellers fixing to sell my hoss, whilst that dern thief swaggered
around at large. I looked helplessly out a the winder.
It was getting late, but the Golden Eagle was going full blast. I could
hear the music blaring away, and the fellers yipping and shooting their
pistols in the air, and their boot heels stomping on the board walk. I felt
like busting down and bawling, and then I begun to get mad. I get mad slow,
generally, and before I was plumb mad, I heard a noise at the winder.
I seen a pale face staring in at me, and a couple of small white hands on
"Mister!" a voice whispered. "Oh, Mister!"
I stepped over and looked out and it was the kid gal Betty.
"What you doin' here, gal?" I ast.
"Doc Richards said you was in Wampum," she whispered. "He said he was
afraid Ormond would do for you because you helped us, so I slipped away on
his hoss and rode here as hard as I could. Jim was out tryin' to round up the
boys for a last stand, and Aunt Rachel and the other women was busy with
Uncle Joab. They wasn't nobody but me to come, but I had to! You saved Uncle
Joab, and I don't care if Jim does say yo're a outlaw because yo're a friend
of Wolf Ashley. Oh, I wish't I wasn't jest a gal! I wisht I could shoot a
gun, so's I could kill Bill Ormond!"
"That ain't no way for a gal to talk," I says. "Leave the killin' to the
men. But I appreciates you goin' to all this trouble. I got some kid sisters
myself—in fact I got seven or eight, as near as I remember. Don't you
worry none about me. Lots of men gits throwed in jail."
"But that ain't it!" she wept, wringing her hands. "I listened outside the
winder of the back room in the Golden Eagle and heard Ormond and Ashley
talkin' about you. I dunno what you wanted with Ashley when you ast Jim about
him, but he ain't yo're friend. Ormond accused him of stealin' a poke of gold
and holdin' out on him, and Ashley said it was a lie. Then Ormond said you
told him about it, and he said he'd give Ashley till midnight to perjuice
that gold, and if he didn't Wampum would be too small for both of 'em."
"Then he went out to the bar, and I heered Ashley talkin' to a pal of
his'n, and Ashley said he'd have to raise some gold somehow, or Ormond would
have him killed, but that he was goin' to fix you,Mister, for lyin'
about him. Mister, Ashley and his bunch air over in the back of the Golden
Eagle right now plottin' to bust into jail before daylight and hang you!"
"Aw," I says, "the sheriff wouldn't let 'em do that."
"But Ormond ain't the sheriff!" she cried. "Him and his gunmen come into
Wampum and killed all the people that tried to oppose him, or run 'em up into
the hills. They got us penned up there like rats, nigh starvin' and afeared
to come to town. Uncle Joab come into Wampum this mornin' to git some salt,
and you seen what they done to him. He's the real sheriff. Ormond is
jest a bloody outlaw. Him and his gang is usin' Wampum for a hang-out whilst
they rob and steal and kill all over the country."
"Then that's what yore friend Jim meant," I said slowly. "And me, like a
dumb damn' fool, I thought him and Joab and the rest of you-all was jest
outlaws, like that fake deperty said."
"Ormond took Uncle Joab's badge and called hisself the sheriff to fool
strangers," she whimpered. "What honest people is left in Wampum air afeared
to say anything. Him and his gunmen air rulin' this whole part of the
country. Uncle Joab sent a man east to git us some help in the settlements on
Buffalo River, but none never come, and from what I overheard tonight, I
believe Wolf Ashley follered him and killed him over east of the Humbolts
somewheres. What air we goin' to do?" she sobbed.
"Git on Doc Richards' hoss and ride for Grizzly Mountain," I said. "When
you git there, tell the Doc to light a shuck for Wampum, because there's
goin' to be plenty of work for him time he gits here."
"But what about you?" she cried. "I cain't go off and leave you to git
"Don't worry about me, gal," I said. "I'm Breckinridge Elkins of the
Humbolt Mountains, and I'm preparin' for to shake my mane! Hustle!"
I reckon something about me convinced her, because she glided away into
the shadders, whimpering, and presently I heard the clack of hoss' hoofs
dwindling in the distance. I then riz and laid hold of the winder bars and
tore' em out by the roots. Then I sunk my fingers into the sill log and tore
it out, and three or four more along with it, and the wall give way and the
roof fell down on me, but I shaken aside the rooins and heaved up out of the
wreckage like a b'ar out of a deadfall.
About this time the jailer come running up, and when he seen what I had
did he was so surprised he forgot to shoot with his pistol. So I taken it
away from him and knocked down the door of his shack with him and left him
laying in its rooins.
I then strode up the street towards the Golden Eagle and here come a
feller galloping down the street, and who should it be but that derned fake
deputy, Jackson. He couldn't holler with his bandaged jaw, but when he seen
me he jerked loose his lariat and piled it around my neck, and sot spurs to
his cayuse aiming for to drag me to death. But I seen he had his rope tied
fast to his horn, Texas style, so I laid hold onto it with both hands and
braced my laigs, and when the hoss got to the end of the rope, the girths
busted and the hoss went out from under the saddle, and Jackson come down on
his head in the street and laid still.
I throwed the rope off my neck and went onto the Golden Eagle with the
jailer's .45 in my scabbard. I looked in and seen the same crowd there, and
Ormond r'ared back at the bar with his belly stuck out, roaring and
I stepped in and hollered: "Look this way, Bill Ormond, and pull iron, you
He wheeled, paled, and went for his gun, and I slammed six bullets into
him before he could hit the floor. I then throwed the empty gun at the dazed
crowd and give one deafening roar and tore into 'em like a mountain cyclone.
They begun to holler and surge onto me and I throwed 'em and knocked 'em
right and left like ten pins. Some was knocked over the bar and some under
the tables and some I knocked down stacks of beer kegs with. I ripped the
roulette wheel loose and mowed down a whole row of 'em with it, and I throwed
a billiard table through the mirror behind the bar jest for good measure.
Three or four fellers got pinned under it and yelled bloody murder.
Meanwhile they was hacking at me with bowies and hitting me with chairs
and brass knuckles and trying to shoot me, but all they done with their guns
was shoot each other because they was so many they got in each other's way,
and the other things just made me madder. I laid hands on as many as I could
hug at onst, and the thud of their heads banging together was music to me. I
also done good work heaving 'em head-on agen the walls, and I further slammed
several of 'em heartily agen the floor and busted all the tables with their
carcasses. In the melee the whole bar collapsed, and the shelves behind the
bar fell down when I slang a feller into 'em, and bottles rained all over the
floor. One of the lamps also fell off the ceiling which was beginning to
crack and cave in, and everybody begun to yell: "Fire!" and run out through
the doors and jump out the winders.
In a second I was alone in the blazing building except for them which was
past running. I'd started for a door myself when I seen a buckskin pouch on
the floor along with a lot of other belongings which had fell out of men's
pockets as they will when the men gets swung by the feet and smashed agen the
I picked it up and jerked the tie-string, and a trickle of gold dust spilt
into my hand. I begun to look on the floor for Ashley, but he warn't there.
But he was watching me from outside, because I looked and seen him jest as he
let bam at me with a .45 from the back room which warn't on fire much
yet. I plunged after him, ignoring his next slug which took me in the
shoulder, and then I grabbed him and taken the gun away from him. He pulled a
bowie and tried to stab me in the groin, but only sliced my thigh, so I
throwed him the full length of the room and he hit the wall so hard his head
went through the boards.
Meantime the main part of the saloon was burning so I couldn't go out that
way. I started to go out the back door of the room I was in, but got a
glimpse of some fellers which was crouching jest outside the door waiting to
shoot me as I come out. So I knocked out a section of the wall on another
side of the room, and about that time the roof fell in so loud them fellers
didn't hear me coming, so I fell on 'em from the rear and beat their heads
together till the blood ran out of their ears, and stomped 'em and taken
their shotguns away from 'em.
Then I was aware that people was shooting at me in the light of the
burning saloon, and I seen that a bunch was ganged up on the other side of
the street, so I begun to loose my shotguns into the thick of them, and they
broke and run yelling blue murder.
And as they went out one side of the town, another gang rushed in from the
other, yelling and shooting, and I snapped a empty shell at 'em before one
yelled: "Don't shoot, Elkins! We're friends!" And I seen it was Jim and Doc
Richards, and a lot of other fellers I hadn't never seen before then.
They went tearing after Ormond's gang, whooping and yelling, and the way
them outlaws took to the tall timber was a caution. They warn't no fight left
in 'em at all.
Jim pulled up, and looked at the wreckage of the jail, and the remnants of
the Golden Eagle, and he shook his head like he couldn't believe it.
"We was on our way to make a last effort to take the town back from that
gang," says he. "Betty met us as we come down the trail and told us you was a
friend and a honest man. We hoped to git here in time to save you from
gittin' hanged." Again he shaken his head with a kind of bewildered look.
Then he says "Oh, say, I'd about forgot. On our way here we run onto a man on
the road who said he was lookin' for you. Not knowin' who he was, we roped
him and brung him along with us. Bring the prisoner, boys!"
They brung him, tied to his saddle, and it was Jack Gordon, Joel's
youngest brother and the fastest gunslinger on Bear Creek.
"What you doin' houndin' me?" I demanded bitterly. "Has the feud begun
already and has Joel sot you on my trail? Well, I got what I come
after, and I'm headin' back for Bear Creek. I cain't git there by daylight,
but maybe I'll git there in time to keep everybody from gittin' kilt. Here's
Uncle Jeppard's cussed gold!" And I waved the poke in front of him.
"But that cain't be it!" says he. "I been trailin' you all the way from
Bear Creek, tryin' to catch you and tell you the gold had been found! Uncle
Jeppard and Joel and Erath got together and everything was explained and is
all right. Where'd you git that gold?"
"I dunno whether Ashley's pals got it together so he could give it to
Ormond and not git kilt for holdin' out on his boss, or what," I says. "But I
know the owner ain't got no more use for it now, and probably stole it in the
first place. I'm givin' this gold to Betty," I says. "She shore deserves a
reward. And giving it to her makes me feel like maybe some good come
outa this wild goose chase, after all."
Jim looked around at the ruins of the outlaw hangout, and murmured
something I didn't catch. I says to Jack: "You said Uncle Jeppard's gold was
found. Where was it, anyway?"
"Well," said Jack, "little General William Harrison Grimes, Joash Grimes's
youngest boy, he seen his grand-pap put the gold under the rock, and he got
it out to play with it. He was usin' the nuggets for slugs in his nigger-
shooter," Jack said, "and it's plumb cute the way he pops a rattlesnake with
'em. What did you say?"
"Nothin'," I said between my teeth. "Nothin' that'd be fit to repeat,
"Well," he said, "if you've had yore fun, I reckon yo're ready to start
back to Bear Creek with me."
"I reckon I ain't," I said. "I'm goin' to 'tend to my own private
affairs for a change. I told Glory McGraw early this mornin' I was goin' to
git me a town-gal, and by golly, I meant it. Gwan on back to Bear Creek, and
if you see Glory, tell her I'm headin' for Chawed Ear where the purty gals is
as thick as honey bees around a apple tree."
6. THE FEUD BUSTER
I PULLED out of Wampum before sunup. The folks,
wanted me to stay and be a deputy sheriff, but I taken a good look at the
female population and seen that the only single woman in town was a Piute
squaw. So I headed acrost the mountains for Chawed Ear, swinging wide to
avoid coming anywheres nigh to the Humbolts. I didn't want to chance running
into Glory McGraw before I had me a town-gal.
But I didn't get to Chawed Ear nigh as soon as I'd figgered to. As I
passed through the hills along the head-waters of Mustang River, I run into a
camp of cowpunchers from the Triple L which was up there rounding up strays.
The foreman needed some hands, and I happened to think maybe I'd cut a better
figger before the Chawed Ear belles if'n I had some money in my pocket, so I
taken on with them. After he seen me and Cap'n Kidd do one day's work the
foreman 'lowed that they warn't no use in hiring the six or seven other men
he aimed; he said I filled the bill perfect.
So I worked with 'em three weeks, and then collected my pay and pulled for
I was all primed for the purty settlement-gals, little suspected the
jamboree I was riding into blind, the echoes of which ain't yet quit
circulating through the mountain country. And that reminds me to remark that
I'm sick and tired of the slanders which has been noised abroad about that
there affair, and if they don't stop, I'll liable to lose my temper, and
anybody in the Humbolts can tell you when I loses my temper the effect on the
population is wuss'n fire, earthquake and cyclone.
First-off, it's a lie that I rode a hundred miles to mix into a feud which
wasn't none of my business. I never heard of the Warren-Barlow war before I
come into the Mezquital country. I hear tell the Barlows is talking about
suing me for destroying their property. Well, they ought to build their
cabins solider if they don't want 'em tore down. And they're all liars when
they says the Warrens hired me to exterminate 'em at five dollars a sculp. I
don't believe even a Warren would pay five dollars for one of their mangy
sculps. Anyway, I don't fight for hire for nobody, And the Warrens needn't
belly-ache about me turnin' on 'em and trying to massacre the entire clan.
All I wanted to do was kind of disable 'em so they couldn't interfere with my
business. And my business, from first to last, was defending the family
honor. If I had to wipe up the earth with a couple of feuding clans whilst so
doing, I cain't help it. Folks which is particular of their hides ought to
stay out of the way of tornadoes, wild bulls, devastating torrents and a
This is the way it was: I was dry and hot and thirsty when I hit Chawed
Ear, so I went into a saloon and had me a few drinks. Then I was going out
and start looking for a gal, when I spied a friendly game of kyards going on
between a hoss-thief and three train-robbers, and I decided I'd set in for a
hand or so. And whilst we was playing, who should come in but Uncle Jeppard
Grimes. I should of knew my day was spoilt the minute he hove in sight. Dern
near all the calamities which takes place in southern Nevada can be traced
back to that old lobo. He's got a ingrown disposition and a natural talent
for pestering his feller man. Specially his relatives.
He didn't say a word about that wild goose chase I went on to get back the
gold I thought Wolf Ashley had stole from him. He come over and scowled down
on me like I was the missing lynx or something, and purty soon, jest as I was
all sot to make a killing, he says: "How can you set there so free and
keerless, with four aces into yore hand, when yore family name is bein'
I flang down my hand in annoyance, and said: "Now look what you done! What
you mean blattin' out information of sech a private nature? What you talkin'
"Well," he says, "durin' the time you been away from home roisterin' and
wastin' yore substance in riotous livin'—"
"I been punchin' cows!" I said fiercely. "And before that I was chasin' a
man to git back the gold I thought he'd stole from you. I ain't squandered
nothin' nowheres. Shet up and tell me whatever yo're a-talkin' about."
"Well," says he, "whilst you been gone young Dick Blanton of Grizzly Run
has been courtin' yore sister Elinor, and the family's been expectin' 'em to
set the day, any time now. But now I hear he's been braggin' all over Grizzly
Run about how he done jilted her. Air you goin' to set there and let yore
sister become the laughin' stock of the country? When I was a young
"When you was a young man Dan'l Boone warn't whelped yet!" I bellered, so
mad I included him and everybody else in my irritation. They ain't nothing
upsets me like injustice done to some of my close kin. "Git out of my way!
I'm headin' for Grizzly Run—what yougrinnin' at, you spotted
hyener?" This last was addressed to the hoss-thief in which I seemed to
detect signs of amusement.
"I warn't grinnin'," he said.
"So I'm a liar, I reckon!" I said, impulsively shattering a demi-john over
his head, and he fell under the table hollering bloody murder, and all the
fellers drinking at the bar abandoned their licker and stampeded for the
street hollering: "Take cover, boys! Breckinridge Elkins is on the
So I kicked all the slats out of the bar to relieve my feelings, and
stormed out of the saloon and forked Cap'n Kidd. Even he seen it was no time
to take liberties with me; he didn't pitch but seven jumps, and then he
settled down to a dead run, and we headed for Grizzly Run.
Everything kind of floated in a red haze all the way, but them folks which
claims I tried to murder' em in cold blood on the road between Chawed Ear and
Grizzly Run is jest narrer-minded and super-sensitive. The reason I shot off
everybody's hats that I met was jest to kind of ca'm my nerves, because I was
afeared if I didn't cool off some by the time I hit Grizzly Run I might hurt
somebody. I'm that mild-mannered and retiring by nature that I wouldn't
willing hurt man, beast, nor Injun unless maddened beyond all endurance.
That's why I acted with so much self-possession and dignity when I got to
Grizzly Run and entered the saloon where Dick Blanton generally hung out.
"Where's Dick Blanton?" I demanded, and everybody must of been nervous,
because when I boomed out they all jumped and looked around, and the
bartender dropped a glass and turned pale.
"Well," I hollered, beginning to lose patience. "Where is the coyote?"
"G-gimme time, will ya?" stuttered the bar-keep. "I—uh—he
"Evadin' the question, hey?" I said, kicking the foot-rail loose. "Friend
of his'n, hey? Tryin' to pertect him, hey?" I was so overcome by this perfidy
that I lunged for him and he ducked down behind the bar and I crashed into it
bodily with all my lunge and weight, and it collapsed on top of him, and all
the customers run out of the saloon hollering: "Help, murder, Elkins is
killin' the bartender!"
That individual stuck his head up from amongst the rooins of the bar and
begged: "For God's sake, lemme alone! Blanton headed south for the Mezquital
I throwed down the chair I was fixing to bust all the ceiling lamps with,
and run out and jumped on Cap'n Kidd and headed south, whilst behind me folks
emerged from their cyclone cellars and sent a rider up in the hills to tell
the sheriff and his deputies they could come on back now.
I knowed where the Mezquitals was, though I hadn't never been there. I
crossed the Californy line about sundown, and shortly after dark I seen
Mezquital Peak looming ahead of me. Having ca'med down somewhat, I decided to
stop and rest Cap'n Kidd. He warn't tired, because that hoss has got
alligator blood in his veins, but I knowed I might have to trail Blanton
clean to The Angels, and they warn't no use in running Cap'n Kidd's laigs off
on the first lap of the chase.
It warn't a very thick settled country I'd come into, very mountainous and
thick timbered, but purty soon I come to a cabin beside the trail and I
pulled up and hollered: "Hello!"
The candle inside was instantly blowed out, and somebody pushed a rifle
barrel through the winder and bawled: "Who be you?"
"I'm Breckinridge Elkins from Bear Creek, Nevada," I said. "I'd like to
stay all night, and git some feed for my hoss."
"Stand still," warned the voice. "We can see you agen the stars, and
they's four rifle-guns a-kiverin' you."
"Well, make up yore minds," I said, because I could could hear 'em
discussin' me. I reckon they thought they was whispering. One of 'em said:
"Aw, he cain't be a Barlow. Ain't none of 'em that big." T'other'n said:
"Well, maybe he's a derned gunfighter they've sent for to help 'em. Old
jake's nephew's been up in Nevady."
"Le's let him in," says a third. "We can mighty quick tell what he
So one of 'em come out and 'lowed it would be all right for me to stay the
night, and he showed me a corral to put Cap'n Kidd in, and hauled out some
hay for him.
"We got to be keerful," he said. "We got lots of enemies in these
We went into the cabin, and they lit the candle again, and sot some corn
pone and sow-belly and beans on the table and a jug of corn licker. They was
four men, and they said their names was Warren—George, Ezra, Elisha,
and Joshua, and they was brothers. I'd always heard tell the Mezquital
country was famed for big men, but these fellers warn't so big—not much
over six foot high apiece. On Bear Creek they'd been considered kind of puny
and undersized, so to speak.
They warn't very talkative. Mostly they sot with their rifles acrost their
knees and looked at me without no expression onto their faces, but that
didn't stop me from eating a hearty supper, and would of et a lot more only
the grub give out; and I hoped they had more licker somewheres else because I
was purty dry. When I turned up the jug to take a snort it was brim-full, but
before I'd more'n dampened my gullet the dern thing was plumb empty.
When I got through I went over and sot down on a raw-hide bottomed chair
in front of the fire-place where they warn't no fire because it was summer
time, and they said: "What's yore business, stranger?"
"Well," I said, not knowing I was going to get the surprise of my life,
"I'm lookin' for a feller named Dick Blanton—"
By golly, the words warn't clean out of my mouth when they was four men
onto my neck like catamounts!
"He's a spy!" they hollered. "He's a cussed Barlow! Shoot him! Stab him!
Hit him on the head!"
All of which they was endeavoring to do with such passion they was getting
in each other's way, and it was only his over-eagerness which caused George
to miss me with his bowie and sink it into the table instead, but Joshua
busted a chair over my head and Elisha would of shot me if I hadn't jerked
back my head so he jest singed my eyebrows. This lack of hospitality so
irritated me that I riz up amongst 'em like a b'ar with a pack of wolves
hanging onto him, and commenced committing mayhem on my hosts, because I seen
right off they was critters which couldn't be persuaded to respect a guest no
Well, the dust of battle hadn't settled, the casualities was groaning all
over the place, and I was jest relighting the candle when I heard a hoss
galloping up the trail from the south. I wheeled and drawed my guns as it
stopped before the cabin. But I didn't shoot, because the next instant they
was a bare-footed gal standing in the door. When she seen the rooins she let
out a screech like a catamount.
"You've kilt 'em!" she screamed. "You murderer!"
"Aw, I ain't, neither," I said. "They ain't hurt much—jest a few
cracked ribs and dislocated shoulders and busted laigs and sech-like trifles.
Joshua's ear'll grow back on all right, if you take a few stitches into
"You cussed Barlow!" she squalled, jumping up and down with the
hystericals. "I'll kill you! You damned Barlow!"
"I ain't no Barlow, dern it," I said. "I'm Breckinridge Elkins, of Bear
Creek. I ain't never even heard of no Barlows."
At that George stopped his groaning long enough to snarl: "If you ain't a
friend of the Barlows, how come you askin' for Dick Blanton? He's one of
"He jilted my sister!" I roared. "I aim to drag him back and make him
"Well, it was all a mistake," groaned George. "But the damage is done
"It's wuss'n you think," said the gal fiercely. "The Warrens has all
forted theirselves over at pap's cabin, and they sent me to git you boys. We
got to make a stand. The Barlows is gatherin' over to Jake Barlow's cabin,
and they aims to make a foray onto us tonight. We was outnumbered to begin
with, and now here's our best fightin' men laid out! Our goose is cooked
plumb to hell!"
"Lift me onto my hoss," moaned George. "I cain't walk, but I can still
shoot." He tried to rise up, and fell back cussing and groaning.
"You got to help us!" said the gal desperately, turning to me. "You done
laid out our four best fightin' men, and you owes it to us. It's yore duty!
Anyway, you says Dick Blanton's yore enemy—well, he's Jake Barlow's
nephew, and he come back here to help 'em clean out us Warrens. He's over to
Jake's cabin right now. My brother Bill snuck over and spied on 'em, and he
says every fightin' man of the clan is gatherin' there. All we can do is hold
the fort, and you got to come help us hold it! Yo're nigh as big as all four
of these boys put together."
Well, I figgered I owed the Warrens something, so, after setting some
bones and bandaging some wounds and abrasions of which they was a goodly lot,
I saddled Cap'n Kidd and we sot out.
As we rode along she said: "That there is the biggest, wildest, meanest-
lookin' critter I ever seen. Is he actually a hoss, or some kind of a
"He's a hoss," I said. "But he's got painter's blood and a shark's
disposition. What's this here feud about?"
"I dunno," she said. "It's been goin' on so long everybody's done forgot
what started it. Somebody accused somebody else of stealin' a cow, I think.
What's the difference?"
"They ain't none," I assured her. "If folks wants to have feuds it's their
We was follering a winding path, and purty soon we heard dogs barking and
about that time the gal turned aside and got off her hoss, and showed me a
pen hid in the bresh. It was full of hosses.
"We keep our mounts here so's the Barlows ain't so likely to find 'em and
run 'em off," she said, and she turnt her hoss into the pen, and I put Cap'n
Kidd in, but I tied him over in one corner by hisself—otherwise he
would of started fighting all the other hosses and kicked the fence down.
Then we went on along the path and the dogs barked louder and purty soon
we come to a big two-story cabin which had heavy board-shutters over the
winders. They was jest a dim streak of candle light come through the cracks.
It was dark, because the moon hadn't come up. We stopped in the shadders of
the trees, and the gal whistled like a whippoorwill three times, and somebody
answered from up on the roof. A door opened a crack in a room which didn't
have no light at all, and somebody said: "That you, Elizerbeth? Air the boys
"It's me," says she, starting towards the door. "But the boys ain't with
Then all to onst he throwed open the door and hollered: "Run, gal! They's
a grizzly b'ar standin' up on his hind laigs right behind you!"
"Aw, that ain't no b'ar," says she. "That there's Breckinridge Elkins,
from up in Nevady. He's goin' to help us fight the Barlows."
We went on into a room where they was a candle on the table, and they was
nine or ten men there and thirty-odd women and chillern. They all looked
kinda pale and scairt, and the men was loaded down with pistols and
They all looked at me kind of dumb-like, and the old man kept staring at
me like he warn't any too sure he hadn't let a grizzly in the house, after
all. He mumbled something about making a natural mistake, in the dark, and
turnt to the gal, and demanded: "Whar's the boys I sent you after?"
And she says: "This gent mussed 'em up so's they ain't fitten for to
fight. Now, don't git rambunctious, Pap. It war jest a honest mistake all
around. He's our friend, and he's gunnin' for Dick Blanton."
"Ha! Dick Blanton!" snarled one of the men, lifting his Winchester. "Jest
lemme line my sights on him! I'll cook his goose!"
"You won't, neither," I said. "He's got to go back to Bear Creek and marry
my sister Elinor. Well," I says, "what's the campaign?"
"I don't figger they'll git here till well after midnight," said Old Man
Warren. "All we can do is wait for 'em."
"You means you all sets here and waits till they comes and lays siege?" I
"What else?" says he. "Lissen here, young man, don't start tellin' me how
to conduck a feud. I growed up in this here'n. It war in full swing when I
was born, and I done spent my whole life carryin' it on."
"That's jest it," I snorted. "You lets these dern wars drag on for
generations. Up in the Humbolts we bring sech things to a quick conclusion.
Mighty nigh everybody up there come from Texas, original, and we fights our
feuds Texas style, which is short and sweet—a feud which lasts ten
years in Texas is a humdinger. We winds 'em up quick and in style. Where-at
is this here cabin where the Barlows is gatherin'?"
"'Bout three mile over the ridge," says a young feller they called
"How many is they?" I ast.
"I counted seventeen," says he.
"Jest a fair-sized mouthful for a Elkins," I said. "Bill, you guide me to
that there cabin. The rest of you can come or stay, it don't make no
difference to me."
Well, they started jawing with each other then. Some was for going and
some for staying. Some wanted to go with me, and try to take the Barlows by
surprise, but the others said it couldn't be done—they'd git ambushed
theirselves, and the only sensible thing to be did was to stay forted and
wait for the Barlows to come. They given me no more heed—jest sot there
But that was all right with me. Right in the middle of the dispute, when
it looked like maybe the Warrens would get to fighting among theirselves and
finish each other before the Barlows could get there, I lit out with the boy
Bill, which seemed to have considerable sense for a Warren.
He got him a hoss out of the hidden corral, and I got Cap'n Kidd, which
was a good thing. He'd somehow got a mule by the neck, and the critter was
almost at its last gasp when I rescued it. Then me and Bill lit out.
We follered winding paths over thick-timbered mountainsides till at last
we come to a clearing and they was a cabin there, with light and profanity
pouring out of the winders. We'd been hearing the last mentioned for half a
mile before we sighted the cabin.
We left our hosses back in the woods a ways, and snuck up on foot and
stopped amongst the trees back of the cabin.
"They're in there tankin' up on corn licker to whet their appertites for
Warren blood!" whispered Bill, all in a shiver. "Lissen to 'em! Them fellers
ain't hardly human! What you goin' to do? They got a man standin' guard out
in front of the door at the other end of the cabin. You see they ain't no
doors nor winders at the back. They's winders on each side, but if we try to
rush it from the front or either side, they'll see us and fill us full of
lead before we could git in a shot. Look! The moon's comin' up. They'll be
startin' on their raid before long."
I'll admit that cabin looked like it was going to be harder to storm than
I'd figgered. I hadn't had no idee in mind when I sot out for the place. All
I wanted was to get in amongst them Barlows—I does my best fighting at
close quarters. But at the moment I couldn't think of no way that wouldn't
get me shot up. Of course I could jest rush the cabin, but the thought of
seventeen Winchesters blazing away at me from close range was a little stiff
even for me, though I was game to try it, if they warn't no other way.
Whilst I was studying over the matter, all to onst the hosses tied out in
front of the cabin snorted, and back up in the hills something went
Oooaaaw- w-w! And a idee hit me.
"Git back in the woods and wait for me," I told Bill, as I headed for the
thicket where we'd left the hosses.
I rode up in the hills towards where the howl had come from, and purty
soon I lit and throwed Cap'n Kidd's reins over his head, and walked on into
the deep bresh, from time to time giving a long squall like a cougar. They
ain't a catamount in the world can tell the difference when a Bear Creek man
imitates one. After awhile one answered, from a ledge jest a few hundred feet
I went to the ledge and clumb up on it, and there was a small cave behind
it, and a big mountain lion in there. He give a grunt of surprise when he
seen I was a human, and made a swipe at me, but I give him a bat on the head
with my fist, and whilst he was still dizzy I grabbed him by the scruff of
the neck and hauled him out of the cave and lugged him down to where I left
Cap'n Kidd snorted when he seen the cougar and wanted to kick his brains
out, but I give him a good kick in the stummick hisself, which is the only
kind of reasoning Cap'n Kidd understands, and got on him and headed for the
I can think of a lot more pleasant jobs than totin' a full-growed mountain
lion down a thick-timbered mountainside on the back of a iron-jawed outlaw at
midnight. I had the cat by the back of the neck with one hand, so hard he
couldn't squall, and I held him out at arm's length as far from me and the
hoss as I could, but every now and then he'd twist around so he could claw
Cap'n Kidd with his hind laigs, and when this would happen Cap'n Kidd would
squall with rage and start bucking all over the place. Sometimes he would
buck the derned cougar onto me, and pulling him loose from my hide was
wuss'll pulling cockle-burrs out of a cow's tail.
But presently I arriv close behind the cabin. I whistled like a
whippoorwill for Bill, but he didn't answer and warn't nowheres to be seen,
so I decided he'd got scairt and pulled out for home. But that was all right
with me. I'd come to fight the Barlows, and I aimed to fight 'em, with or
without assistance. Bill would jest of been in the way.
I got off in the trees back of the cabin and throwed the reins over Cap'n
Kidd's head, and went up to the back of the cabin on foot, walking soft and
easy. The moon was well up, by now, and what wind they was, was blowing
towards me, which pleased me, because I didn't want the hosses tied out in
front to scent the cat and start cutting up before I was ready.
The fellers inside was still cussing and talking loud as I approached one
of the winders on the side, and one hollered out: "Come on! Le's git started!
I craves Warren gore!" And about that time I give the cougar a heave and
throwed him through the winder.
He let out a awful squall as he hit, and the fellers in the cabin hollered
louder'n he did. Instantly a most awful bustle broke loose in there and of
all the whooping and bellering and shooting I ever heard, and the lion
squalling amongst it all, and clothes and hides tearing so you could hear it
all over the clearing, and the hosses busting loose and tearing out through
As soon as I hove the cat I run around to the door and a man was standing
there with his mouth open, too surprised at the racket to do anything. So I
taken his rifle away from him and broke the stock off on his head, and stood
there at the door with the barrel intending to brain them Barlows as they run
out. I was plumb certain they wouldrun out, because I have noticed
that the average man is funny that way, and hates to be shet up in a cabin
with a mad cougar as bad as the cougar would hate to be shet up in a cabin
with a infuriated settler of Bear Creek.
But them scoundrels fooled me. 'Pears like they had a secret door in the
back wall, and whilst I was waiting for them to storm out through the front
door and get their skulls cracked, they knocked the secret door open and went
piling out that way.
By the time I realized what was happening and run around to the other end
of the cabin, they was all out and streaking for the trees, yelling blue
murder, with their clothes all tore to shreds and them bleeding like stuck
That there catamount sure improved the shining hours whilst he was
corralled with them Barlows. He come out after 'em with his mouth full of the
seats of their britches, and when he seen me he give a kind of despairing
yelp and taken out up the mountain with his tail betwixt his laigs like the
devil was after him with a red-hot branding iron.
I taken after the Barlows, sot on scuttling at least a few of 'em, and I
was on the p'int of letting bam at 'em with my six-shooters as they
run, when, jest as they reched the trees, all the Warren men riz out of the
bresh and fell on 'em with piercing howls.
That fray was kind of pecooliar. I don't remember a single shot being
fired. The Barlows had all dropped their guns in their flight, and the
Warrens seemed bent on wiping out their wrongs with their bare fists and gun
butts. For a few seconds they was a hell of a scramble—men cussing and
howling and bellering, and rifle-stocks cracking over heads, and the bresh
crashing underfoot, and then before I could get into it, the Barlows broke
every which- way and took out through the woods like jack-rabbits squalling
Old Man Warren come prancing out of the bresh waving his Winchester and
his beard flying in the moonlight and he hollered: "The sins of the wicked
shall return onto 'em! Elkins, we have hit a powerful lick for righteousness
this here night!"
"Where'd you all come from?" I ast. "I thought you was still back in yore
cabin chawin' the rag."
"Well," he says, "after you pulled out we decided to trail along and see
how you come out with whatever you planned. As we come through the woods
expectin' to git ambushed every second, we met Bill here who told us he
believed you had a idee of circumventin' them devils, though he didn't know
what it war. So we come on and hid ourselves at the aidge of the trees to see
what'd happen. I see we been too timid in our dealin's with these heathens.
We been lettin' 'em force the fightin' too long. You was right. A good
offence is the best defence."
"We didn't kill any of the varmints, wuss luck, but we give 'em a prime
lickin'. Hey, look there!" he hollered. "The boys has caught one of the
critters! Lug him into the cabin, boys!"
They done so, and by the time me and the old man got there, they had the
candles lit, and a rope around the Barlow's neck and one end throwed on a
That cabin was a sight, all littered with broke guns and splintered chairs
and tables, and pieces of clothes and strips of hide. It looked jest about
like a cabin ought to look where they has jest been a fight between seventeen
polecats and a mountain lion. It was a dirt floor, and some of the poles
which helped hold up the roof was splintered, so most of the weight was
resting on a big post in the centre of the hut.
All the Warrens was crowding around their prisoner, and when I looked over
their heads and seen the feller's pale face in the light of the candle I give
a yell: "Dick Blanton!"
"So it is!" said Old Man Warren, rubbing his hands with glee. "So it is!
Well, young feller, you got any last words to orate?"
"Naw," said Blanton sullenly. "But if it hadn't been for that derned lion
spilin' our plans we'd of had you derned Warrens like so much pork. I never
heard of a cougar jumpin' through a winder before."
"That there cougar didn't jump," I said, shouldering through the mob. "He
was hev. I done the heavin'."
His mouth fell open and he looked at me like he'd saw the ghost of Sitting
Bull. "Breckinridge Elkins!" says he. "I'm cooked now, for sure!"
"I'll say you air!" gritted the feller who'd yearned to shoot Blanton
earlier in the night. "What we waitin' for? Le's string him up."
"Hold on," I said. "You all cain't hang him. I'm goin' to take him back to
"You ain't neither," says Old Man Warren. "We're much obleeged to you for
the help you've give us tonight, but this here is the first chance we've had
to hang a Barlow in fifteen year, and we aims to make the most of it. String
"Stop!" I roared, stepping for'ard.
In a second I was covered by seven rifles, whilst three men laid hold of
the rope and started to heave Blanton's feet off the floor. Them seven
Winchesters didn't stop me. I'd of taken them guns away and wiped up the
floor with them ongrateful mavericks, but I was afeared Blanton might get hit
in the wild shooting that was certain to accompany it.
What I wanted to do was something which would put 'em all horse-de-
combat, as the French say, without getting Blanton killed. So I laid hold on
the center post and before they knowed what I was doing, I tore it loose and
broke it off, and the roof caved in and the walls fell inwards on the
In a second they warn't no cabin at all—jest a pile of timber with
the Warrens all underneath and screaming blue murder. Of course I jest braced
my laigs and when the roof fell my head busted a hole through it, and the
logs of the falling walls hit my shoulders and glanced off, so when the dust
settled I was standing waist-deep amongst the rooins and nothing but a few
scratches to show for it.
The howls that riz from beneath the rooins was blood-curdling, but I
knowed nobody was hurt permanent because if they was they wouldn't be able to
howl like that. But I expect some of 'em would of been hurt if my head and
shoulders hadn't kind of broke the fall of the roof and wall-logs.
I located Blanton by his voice, and pulled pieces of roof board and logs
off him until I came onto his laig, and I pulled him out by it and laid him
on the ground to get his wind back, because a beam had fell acrost his
stummick and when he tried to holler he made the funniest noise I ever
I then kind of rooted around amongst the debris and hauled Old Man Warren
out, and he seemed kind of dazed and kept talking about earthquakes.
"You better git to work extricatin' yore misguided kin from under them
logs," I told him sternly. "After that there display of ingratitude I got no
sympathy for you. In fact, if I was a short-tempered man I'd feel inclined to
vi'lence. But bein' the soul of kindness and generosity, I controls my
emotions and merely remarks that if I wasn't mild-mannered as a lamb,
I'd hand you a boot in the pants—like this!"
I showed him how I meant.
"Owww!" wails he, sailing through the air and sticking his nose to
the hilt in the dirt.
"I'll have the law on you, you derned murderer!" he wept, shaking his
fists at me, and as I departed with my captive I could hear him chanting a
hymn of hate as he pulled logs off of his bellering relatives.
Blanton was trying to say something, but I told him I warn't in no mood
for perlite conversation and the less he said the less likely I was to lose
my temper and tie his neck into a knot around a blackjack. I was thinking how
the last time I seen Glory McGraw I told her I was faring forth to find me a
town- gal, and now instead of bringing a wife back to Bear Creek, I was
bringing back a brother-in-law. My relatives, I reflected bitterly, was sure
playing hell with my matrimonial plans. Looked like I warn't never going to
get started on my own affairs.
Cap'n Kidd made the hundred miles from the Mezquital Mountains to Bear
Creek by noon the next day, carrying double, and never stopping to eat,
sleep, nor drink. Them that don't believe that kindly keep their mouths shet.
I have already licked nineteen men for acting like they didn't believe
I stalked into the cabin and throwed Dick Blanton down onto the floor
before Elinor which looked at him and me like she thought I was crazy.
"What you finds attractive about this coyote," I said bitterly, "is beyond
the grasp of my dust-coated brain. But here he is, and you can marry him
She said: "Air you drunk or sunstruck? Marry that good-for-nothin',
whisky-swiggin', kyard-shootin' loafer? Why, it ain't been a week since I run
him out of the house with a broom-handle."
"Then he didn't jilt you?" I gasped.
"Him jilt me?" she said. "I jilted him!"
I turned to Dick Blanton more in sorrer than in anger.
"Why," said I, "did you boast all over Grizzly Run about jiltin' Elinor
"I didn't want folks to know she turned me down," he said sullenly. "Us
Blantons is proud. The only reason I ever thought about marryin' her was I
was ready to settle down on the farm pap gave me, and I wanted to marry me a
Elkins gal, so I wouldn't have to go to the expense of hirin' a couple of
hands and buyin' a span of mules, and—"
They ain't no use in Dick Blanton threatening to have the law onto me. He
got off light to what he'd have got if pap and my brothers hadn't all been
off hunting. They've got terrible tempers. But I was always too soft-hearted
for my own good. In spite of Dick Blanton's insults I held my temper. I
didn't do nothing to him at all, except escort him with dignity for five or
six miles down the Chawed Ear trail, kicking him in the seat of his
7. THE ROAD TO BEAR CREEK
AS I come back up the trail after escorting Dick
Blanton down it, I got nervous as I approached the p'int where the path that
run from the McGraw cabin came out into it. If they was anybody I in the
world right then I didn't want to meet, it was Glory McGraw. I got past and
hove a sigh of relief, and jest as I done so, I heard a hoss, and looked back
and she was riding out of the path.
I taken to the bresh and to my rage she spurred her hoss and come after
me. She was on a fast cayuse, but I thought if I keep my lead I'd be all
right, because soon I'd be in the dense thickets where she couldn't come
a-hossback. I speeded up, because I'd had about all of her rawhiding I could
endure. And then, as I was looking back over my shoulder, I run right smack
into a low- hanging oak limb and nearly knocked my brains out. When things
stopped spinning around me, I was setting on the ground, and Glory McGraw was
setting on her hoss looking down at me.
"Why, Breckinridge," she says mockingly. "Air in you scairt of me? What
you want to run from me for?"
"I warn't runnin' from you," I growled, glaring up at her. "I didn't even
know you was anywheres around. I seen one of pap's steers sneakin' off in the
bresh, and I was tryin' to head him. Now you done scairt him I away!"
I riz and breshed the dust offa my clothes with my I hat, and she says: "I
been hearin' a lot about you, Breckinridge. Seems like yo're gittin' to be
quite a famous man."
"Hmmmm!" I says, suspicious.
"But where, Breckinridge," she cooed, leaning over the saddle horn towards
me, "where is that there purty town-gal you was goin' to bring back to Bear
Creek as yore blushin' bride?"
"We ain't sot the day yet," I muttered, looking off.
"Is she purty, Breckinridge?" she pursued.
"Purty as a pitcher," I says. "They ain't a gal on Bear Creek can hold a
candle to her."
"Where's she live?" ast Glory.
"War Paint," I said, that being the first town that come into my mind.
"What's her name, Breckinridge?" ast Glory, and I couldn't think of a
gal's name if I'd knowed I was going to be shot.
I stammered and floundered, and whilst I was trying my damndest to think
of some name to give her, she bust into laughter.
"What a lover you be!" says she. "Cain't even remember the name of
the gal yo're goin' to marry—you air goin' to marry her, ain't
"Yes, I am!" I roared. "I have got a gal in War Paint! I'm goin' to
see her right now, soon as I can git back to my corral and saddle my hoss!
What d'you think of that, Miss Smarty?"
"I think yo're the biggest liar on Bear Creek!" says she, with a mocking
laugh, and reined around and rode off whilst I stood in helpless rage. "Give
my regards to yore War Paint sweetheart, Breckinridge!" she called back over
her shoulder. "Soon as you remember what her name is!"
I didn't say nothing. I was past talking. I was too full of wishing that
Glory McGraw was a man for jest about five minutes. She was clean out of
sight before I could even see straight, much less talk or think reasonable. I
give a maddened roar and ripped a limb off a tree as big as a man's laig and
started thrashing down the bresh all around, whilst chawing the bark offa all
the trees I could rech, and by the time I had cooled off a little that
thicket looked like a cyclone had hit it. But I felt a little better and I
headed for home on the run, cussing a blue streak and the bobcats and
painters taken to the high ridges as I come.
I made for the corral, and as I come out into the clearing I heard a
beller like a mad bull up at the cabin, and seen my brothers Buckner and
Garfield and John and Bill run out of the cabin and take to the woods, so I
figgered pap must be having a touch of the rheumatiz. It makes him remarkable
peevish. But I went on and saddled Cap'n Kidd. I was determined to make good
on what I told Glory. I didn't have no gal in War Paint, but by golly, I
aimed to, and this time I warn't to be turnt aside. I was heading for War
Paint, and I was going to get me a gal if I had to lick the entire town.
Well, jest as I was leading Cap'n Kidd outa the corral, my sister Brazoria
come to the door of the cabin and hollered: "Oh, Breckinridge! Come up to the
shack! Pap wants you!"
"mdash;!" says I. "What the hell now?"
I went up to the cabin and tied Cap'n Kidd and went in. At first glance I
seen pap had past the peevish stage and was having a remorseful spell.
Rheumatism effects him that way. But the remorse is always for something that
happened a long time ago. He didn't seem a bit regretful for having busted a
ox- yoke over brother Garfield's head that morning.
He was laying on his b'ar-skin with a jug of corn licker at his elbow, and
he says: "Breckinridge, the sins of my youth is ridin' my conscience heavy.
When I was a young man I was free and keerless in my habits, as numerous
tombstones on the boundless prairies testifies. I sometimes wonders if I
warn't a trifle hasty in shootin' some of the gents which disagreed with my
principles. Maybe I should of controlled my passion and jest chawed their
"Take Uncle Esau Grimes, for instance." And then pap hove a sigh like a
bull, and said: "I ain't seen Uncle Esau for many years. Me and him parted
with harsh words and gun-smoke. I've often wondered if he still holds a
grudge agen me for plantin' that charge of buckshot in his hind laig."
"What about Uncle Esau?" I said.
Pap perjuiced a letter and said: "He was brung to my mind by this here
letter which Jim Braxton fotched me from War Paint. It's from my sister
Elizabeth, back in Devilville, Arizona, whar Uncle Esau lives. She says Uncle
Esau is on his way to Californy, and is due to pass through War Paint about
the tenth—that's tomorrer. She don't know whether he intends turnin'
off to see me or not, but suggests that I meet him at War Paint, and make
peace with him."
"Well?" I demanded, because from the way pap combed his beard with his
fingers and eyed me, I knowed he was aiming to call on me to do something for
"Well," said pap, taking a long swig out of the jug, "I want you to meet
the stage tomorrer mornin' at War Paint, and invite Uncle Esau to come up
here and visit us. Don't take no for a answer. Uncle Esau is as cranky as
hell, and a pecooliar old duck, but I think he'll like you. Specially if you
keep yore mouth shet and don't expose yore ignorance."
"Well," I said, "for onst the job you've sot for me falls in with my own
plans. I was just fixin' to light out for War Paint. But how'm I goin' to
know Uncle Esau? I ain't never seen him."
"He ain't a big man," said pap. "Last time I seen him he had a right smart
growth of red whiskers. You bring him home regardless. Don't pay no attention
to his belly-achin'. He's awful suspicious because he's got lots of enemies.
He burnt plenty of powder in his younger days, all the way from Texas to
Californy. He war mixed up in more feuds and range-wars than any man I ever
knowed. He's supposed to have considerable money hid away somewheres, but
that ain't got nothin' to do with us. I wouldn't take his blasted money as a
gift. All I want to do is talk to him, and git his forgiveness for fillin'
his hide with buckshot in a moment of youthful passion.
"If he don't forgive me," says pap, taking another pull at his jug, "I'll
bend my .45 over his stubborn old skull. Git goin'."
So I hit out acrost the mountains, and the next morning found me eating
breakfast at the aidge of War Paint, with a old hunter and trapper by the
name of old Bill Polk which was camped there temporary.
War Paint was a new town which had sprung up out of nothing on account of
a gold rush right recent, and old Bill was very bitter.
"A hell of a come-off this is!" he snorted. "Clutterin' up the scenery and
scarin' the animals off with their fool houses and claims. Last year I shot
deer right whar that saloon yonder stands now," he said, glaring at me like
it was my fault.
I said nothing but chawed my venison which we was cooking over his fire,
and he said: "No good'll come of it, you mark my word. These mountains won't
be fit to live in. These camps draws scum like a dead hoss draws buzzards.
The outlaws is already ridin' in from Arizona and Utah and Californy, besides
the native ones. Grizzly Hawkins and his thieves is hidin' up in the hills,
and no tellin' how many more'll come in. I'm glad they cotched Badger Chisom
and his gang after they robbed that bank at Gunstock. That's one gang which
won't bedevil us, becaze they're in jail. If somebody'd jest kill Grizzly
"Who's that gal?" I ejaculated suddenly, forgetting to eat in my
"Who? Whar?" says old Bill, looking around. "Oh, that gal jest goin' by
the Golden Queen restaurant? Aw, that's Dolly Rixby, the belle of the
"She's awful purty," I says.
"You never seen a purtier," says he.
"I have, too," I says absent-mindedly. "Glory McGraw—" Then I kind
of woke up to what I was saying and flang my breakfast into the fire in
disgust. "Sure, she's the purtiest gal I ever seen!" I snorted. "Ain't a gal
in the Humbolts can hold a candle to her. What you say her name was? Dolly
Rixby? A right purty name, too."
"You needn't start castin' sheep's eyes at her," he opined. "They's a
dozen young bucks sparkin' her already. I think Blink Wiltshaw's the favorite
to put his brand onto her, though. She wouldn't look at a hillbilly like
"I might remove the competition," I suggested.
"You better not try no Bear Creek rough-stuff in War Paint," says he. "The
town's jest reekin' with law and order. Why, I actually hear they ups and
puts you in jail if you shoots a man within the city limits."
I was scandalized. Later I found out that was jest a slander started by
the citizens of Chawed Ear which was jealous of War Paint, but at the time I
was so upsot by this information I was almost afeared to go into town for
fear I'd get arrested.
"Where's Miss Rixby goin' with that bucket?" I ast him.
"She's takin' a bucket of beer to her old man which is workin' a claim up
the creek," says old Bill.
"Well, lissen," I says. "You git over there behind that thicket, and when
she comes by, make a noise like a Injun."
"What kind of damfoolishness is this?" he demanded. "You want me to
stampede the whole camp?"
"Don't make a loud noise," I said. "Jest make it loud enough for her to
"Air you crazy?" he ast.
"No, dern it!" I said fiercely, because she was coming along stepping
purty fast. "Git in there and do like I say. I'll rush up from the other side
and pertend to rescue her from the Injuns and that'll make her like me.
"I mistrusts yo're a blasted fool," he grumbled. "But I'll do it." He
snuck into the thicket which she'd have to pass on the other side, and I
circled around so she wouldn't see me till I was ready to rush out and I save
her from being sculped. Well, I warn't hardly in position when I heard a kind
of mild war-whoop, and it sounded jest like a Blackfoot, only not so loud.
But imejitly there come the crack of a pistol and another yell which warn't
subdued like the first. It was lusty and energetic. I run towards the
thicket, but before I could get into the open trail, old Bill come piling out
of the back side of the clump with his hands to the seat of his britches.
"You planned this a-purpose, you snake in the grass!" he yelped. "Git outa
"Why, Bill," I says. "What happened?"
"I bet you knowed she had a derringer in her stockin'," he snarled as he
run past me. "It's all yore fault! When I whooped, she pulled it and shot
into the bresh! Don't speak to me! I'm lucky to be alive. I'll git even with
you for this if it takes a hundred years!"
He headed on into the deep bresh, and I run around the thicket and seen
Dolly Rixby peering into it with her gun smoking in her hand. She looked up
as I come onto the trail, and I taken off my hat and said, perlite: "Howdy,
miss; can I be of no assistance to you?"
"I jest shot a Injun," she said. "I heard him holler. You might go in
there and git the sculp, if you don't mind. I'd like to have it for a
"I'll be glad to, miss," I says heartily. "I'll likewise cure and tan it
for you myself."
"Oh, thank you!" she says, dimpling when she smiled. "It's a pleasure to
meet a real gent like you."
"The pleasure is all mine," I assured her, and went into the bresh and
stomped around a little, and then come out and says: "I'm awful sorry, miss,
but the critter ain't nowheres to be found. You must of jest winged him. If
you want me to I'll take his trail and foller it till I catch up with him,
"Oh, I wouldn't think of puttin' you to no sech trouble," she says much to
my relief, because I was jest thinking that if she did demand a sculp, the
only thing I could do would be to catch old Bill and sculp him, and I'd hate
awful bad to have to do that.
But she looked me over with admiration in her eyes, and said: "I'm Dolly
Rixby. Who're you?"
"I knowed you the minute I seen you," I says. "The fame of yore beauty has
reched clean into the Humbolts. I'm Breckinridge Elkins."
Her eyes kind of sparkled, and she said: "I've heard of you, too! You
broke Cap'n Kidd, and it was you that cleaned up Wampum!"
"Yes'm," I says, and jest then I seen the stagecoach fogging it down the
road from the east, and I says: "Say, I got to meet that there stage, but I'd
like to call on you at yore convenience."
"Well," she says, "I'll be back at the cabin in about a hour. What's the
matter with then? I live about ten rods north of The Red Rooster gamblin'
"I'll be there," I promised, and she gimme a dimply smile and went on down
the trail with her old man's bucket of beer, and I hustled back to where I
left Cap'n Kidd. My head was in a whirl, and my heart was pounding. And here,
thinks I, is where I show Glory McGraw what kind of stuff a Elkins is made
of. Jest wait till I ride back to Bear Creek with Dolly Rixby as my
I rode into War Paint just as the stage pulled up at the stand, which was
also the post office and a saloon. They was three passengers, and they warn't
none of 'em tenderfeet. Two was big hard-looking fellers, and t'other'n was a
wiry oldish kind of a bird with red whiskers, so I knowed right off it was
Uncle Esau Grimes. They was going into the saloon as I dismounted, the big
men first, and the older feller follering 'em. Thinks I, I'll start him on
his way to Bear Creek, and then I'll come back and start sparking Dolly
I touched him on the shoulder, and he whirled most amazing quick with a
gun in his hand, and he looked at me very suspicious, and said: "What you
"I'm Breckinridge Elkins," I said. "I want you to come with me. I
recognized you as soon as I seen you—"
I then got a awful surprise, but not as sudden as it would have been if
pap hadn't warned me that Uncle Esau was pecooliar. He hollered: "Bill! Jim!
Help!" And swung his six-shooter agen my head with all his might.
The other two fellers whirled and their hands streaked for their guns, so
I knocked Uncle Esau flat to keep him from getting hit by a stray slug, and
shot one of 'em through the shoulder before he could unlimber his artillery.
T'other'n grazed my neck with a bullet, so I perforated him in the arm and
the hind laig and he fell down acrost the other'n. I was careful not to shoot
'em in no vital parts, because I seen they was friends of Uncle Esau; but
when guns is being drawn it ain't no time to argy or explain.
Men was hollering and running out of saloons, and I stooped and started to
lift Uncle Esau, who was kind of groggy because he'd hit his head agen a
hitching post. He was crawling around on his all-fours cussing something
terrible, and trying to find his gun which he'd dropped. When I laid hold
onto him he commenced biting and kicking and hollering, and I said: "Don't
ack like that, Uncle Esau. Here comes a lot of fellers, and the sheriff may
be here any minute and 'rest me for shootin' them idjits. We got to git
goin'. Pap's waitin' for you, up on Bear Creek."
But he jest fit that much harder and hollered that much louder, so I
scooped him up bodily and jumped onto Cap'n Kidd and throwed Uncle Esau face
down acrost the saddle-bow, and headed for the hills. A lot of men yelled at
me to stop, and some of 'em started shooting at me, but I give no heed.
I give Cap'n Kidd the rein and we went tearing down the road and around
the first bend, and I didn't even take time to change Uncle Esau's position,
because I didn't want to get arrested. A fat chance I had of keeping my date
with Dolly Rixby. I wonder if anybody ever had sech cussed relatives as
Jest before we reched the p'int where the Bear Creek trail runs into the
road, I seen a man on the road ahead of me, and he must have heard the
shooting and Uncle Esau yelling because he whirled his hoss and blocked the
road. He was a wiry old cuss with grey whiskers.
"Where you goin' with that man?" he yelled as I approached at a thundering
"None of yore business," I retorted. "Git outa my way."
"Help! Help!" hollered Uncle Esau. "I'm bein' kidnapped and murdered!"
"Drop that man, you derned outlaw!" roared the stranger, suiting his
actions to his words.
Him and me drawed simultaneous, but my shot was a split-second quicker'n
his'n. His slug fanned my ear, but his hat flew off and he pitched out of his
saddle like he'd been hit with a hammer. I seen a streak of red along his
temple as I thundered past him.
"Let that larn you not to interfere in family affairs!" I roared, and
turned up the trail that switched off the road and up into the mountains.
"Don't never yell like that," I said irritably to Uncle Esau. "You like to
got me shot. That feller thought I was a criminal."
I didn't catch what he said, but I looked back and down over the slopes
and shoulders, and seen men boiling out of town full tilt, and the sun
glinted on six-shooters and rifles, so I urged on Cap'n Kidd and we covered
the next few miles at a fast clip.
Uncle Esau kept trying to talk, but he was bouncing up and down so all I
could understand was his cuss words, which was free and fervent. At last he
gasped: "For God's sake lemme git off this cussed saddle-horn; it's rubbin' a
hole in my belly."
So I pulled up and seen no sign of my pursuers, so I said: "All right, you
can ride in the saddle and I'll set on behind. I was goin' to hire you a hoss
at the livery stable, but we had to leave so quick they warn't no time."
"Where you takin' me?" he demanded.
"To Bear Creek," I said. "Where you think?"
"I don't wanta go to Bear Creek," he said fiercely. "I ain'tgoin'
to Bear Creek."
"You are, too," I said. "Pap said not to take no for a answer. I'm goin'
to slide over behind the saddle, and you can set in it."
So I pulled my feet outa the stirrups and moved over the cantle, and he
slid into the seat—and the first thing I knowed he had a knife out of
his boot and was trying to kyarve my gizzard.
Now I likes to humor my relatives, but they is a limit to everything. I
taken the knife away from him, but in the struggle, me being handicapped by
not wanting to hurt him, I lost hold of the reins and Cap'n Kidd bolted and
run for several miles through the pines and bresh. What with me trying to
grab the reins and keep Uncle Esau from killing me at the same time, and
neither one of us in the stirrups, finally we both fell off, and if I hadn't
managed to catch hold of the bridle as I went off, we'd had a long walk ahead
I got Cap'n Kidd stopped, after being drug for about seventy-five yards,
and then I went back to where Uncle Esau was laying on the ground trying to
get his wind back, because I had kind of fell on him.
"Is that any way to ack, tryin' to stick a knife in a man which is doin'
his best to make you comfortable?" I said reproachfully. All he done was
gasp, so I said: "Well, pap told me you was a cranky old duck, so I reckon
the only thing to do is to jest not notice yore pecooliarities."
I looked around to get my bearings, because Cap'n Kidd had got away off
the trail. We was west of it, in very wild country, but I seen a cabin off
through the trees, and I said: "We'll go over there and see can I buy or hire
a hoss for you to ride. That'll be more convenient for both of us."
I h'isted him back into the saddle, and he said kind of dizzily: "This
here's a free country. I don't have to go to Bear Creek if'n I don't want
"Well," I said severely, "you oughta want to, after all the trouble I've
went to, comin' and invitin' you, and passin' up a date with the purtiest gal
in War Paint on account of you. Set still now. I'm settin' on behind but I'm
holdin' the reins."
"I'll have yore life for this," he promised blood-thirstily, but I ignored
it, because pap had said Uncle Esau was pecooliar.
Purty soon we hove up to the cabm I'd glimpsed through the trees. Nobody
was in sight, but I seen a hoss tied to a tree in front of the cabin. I rode
up to the door and knocked, but nobody answered. But I seen smoke coming out
of the chimney, so I decided I'd go in.
I dismounted and lifted Uncle Esau off, because I seen from the gleam in
his eye that he was intending to run off on Cap'n Kidd if I give him half a
chance. I got a firm grip onto his collar, because I was determined that he
was going to visit us up on Bear Creek if I had to tote him on my shoulder
all the way, and I went into the cabin with him.
They warn't nobody in there, though a big pot of beans was simmering over
some coals in the fireplace, and I seen some rifles in racks on the wall and
a belt with two pistols hanging on a peg.
Then I heard somebody walking behind the cabin, and the back door opened
and there stood a big, black-whiskered man with a bucket of water in his hand
and a astonished glare on his face. He didn't have no guns on.
"Who the hell are you?" he demanded, but Uncle Esau give a kind of gurgle,
and said: "Grizzly Hawkins!"
The big man jumped and glared at Uncle Esau, and then his black whiskers
bristled in a ferocious grin, and he said: "Oh, it's you, is it? Who'd of
thunk I'd ever meet you here?"
"Grizzly Hawkins, hey?" I said, realizing that I'd stumbled onto the
hideout of the wust outlaw in them mountains. "So you-all know each
"I'll say we do!" rumbled Hawkins, looking at Uncle Esau like a wolf looks
at a fat yearling.
"I'd heard you was from Arizona," I said, being naturally tactful. "Looks
to me like they's enough cow-thieves in these hills already without outsiders
buttin' in. But yore morals ain't none of my business. I want to buy or hire
or borrer a hoss for this here gent to ride."
"Oh, no, you ain't!" said Grizzly. "You think I'm goin' to let a fortune
slip through my fingers like that? Tell you what I'll do, though: I'll split
with you. My gang had business over towards Chawed Ear this momin', but
they're due back soon. Me and you will work him over before they gits back,
and we'll nab all the loot ourselves."
"What you mean?" I ast. "My uncle and me is on our way to Bear
"Aw, don't ack innercent with me!" he snorted disgustedly. "Uncle! Hell!
You think I'm a plumb fool? Cain't I see he's yore prisoner, the way you got
him by the neck? Think I don't know what yo're up to? Be reasonable. Two can
work this job better'n one. I know lots of ways to make a man talk. I betcha
if we kinda massage his hinder parts with a red-hot brandin' iron he'll tell
us quick enough where the money is hid."
Uncle Esau turnt pale under his whiskers, and I said indignantly: "Why,
you low-lifed polecat! You got the crust to pertend to think I'm kidnappin'
my own uncle for his dough? I got a good mind to shoot you."
"So yo're greedy, hey?" he snarled, showing his teeth. "Want all the loot
yoreself, hey? I'll show you!" And quick as a cat he swung that water bucket
over his head and let it go at me. I ducked and it hit Uncle Esau in the head
and stretched him out all drenched with water, and Hawkins give a roar and
dived for a .45-90 on the wall. He wheeled with it and I shot it out of his
hands. He then come for me wild-eyed with a bowie out of his boot, and my
next cartridge snapped, and he was on top of me before I could cock my gun
I dropped it and grappled with him, and we fit all over the cabin and
every now and then we would tromple on Uncle Esau which was trying to crawl
towards the door, and the way he would holler was pitiful to hear.
Hawkins lost his knife in the melee, but he was as big as me, and a bear-
cat at rough-and-tumble. We would stand up and whale away with both fists,
and then clinch and roll around the floor, biting and gouging and slugging,
and onst we rolled clean over Uncle Esau and kind of flattened him out like a
Finally Hawkins got hold of the table which he lifted like it was a board
and splintered over my head, and this made me mad, so I grabbed the pot off
the fire and hit him in the head with it, and about a gallon of red-hot beans
went down his back and he fell into a corner so hard he jolted the shelves
loose from the logs, and all the guns fell off the walls.
He come up with a gun in his hand, but his eyes was so full of blood and
hot beans that he missed me the first shot, and before he could shoot again I
hit him on the chin so hard it fractured his jaw bone and sprained both his
ankles and laid him out cold.
Then I looked around for Uncle Esau, and he was gone and the front door
was open. I rushed out of the cabin and there he was jest climbing aboard
Cap'n Kidd. I hollered for him to wait, but he kicked Cap'n Kidd in the ribs
and went tearing off through the trees. Only he didn't head north back
towards War Paint. He was p'inted south-east, in the general direction of
Hideout Mountain. I grabbed my gun up off the floor and lit out after him,
though I didn't have much hope of catching him. Grizzly's cayuse was a good
hoss, but he couldn't hold a candle to Cap'n Kidd.
I wouldn't have caught him, neither, if it hadn't been for Cap'n Kidd's
determination not to be rode by nobody but me. Uncle Esau was a crack hossman
to stay on as long as he did.
But finally Cap'n Kidd got tired of sech foolishness, and about the time
he crossed the trail we'd been follerin' when he first bolted, he bogged his
head and started busting hisself in two, with his snoot rubbing the grass and
his heels scraping the clouds offa the sky.
I could see mountain peaks between Uncle Esau and the saddle, and when
Cap'n Kidd start sunfishing it looked like the wrath of Jedgment Day, but
somehow Uncle Esau managed to stay with him till Cap'n Kidd plumb left the
earth like he aimed to aviate from then on, and Uncle Esau left the saddle
with a shriek of despair and sailed head-on into a blackjack thicket.
Cap'n Kidd give a snort of contempt and trotted off to a patch of grass
and started grazing, and I dismounted and went and ontangled Uncle Esau from
amongst the branches. His clothes was tore and he was scratched so he looked
like he'd been fighting with a drove of wildcats, and he left a right smart
bunch of his whiskers amongst the bresh.
But he was full of pizen and hostility.
"I understand this here treatment," he said bitterly, like he blamed me
for Cap'n Kidd pitching him into the thicket, "but you'll never git a penny.
Nobody but me knows whar the dough is, and you can pull my toe nails out by
the roots before I tells you."
"I know you got money hid away," I said, deeply offended, "but I don't
He snorted skeptical and said sarcastic: "Then what're you draggin' me
over these cussed hills for?"
"'Cause pap wants to see you," I said. "But they ain't no use in askin' me
a lot of fool questions. Pap said for me to keep my mouth shet."
I looked around for Grizzly's hoss, and seen he had wandered off. He sure
hadn't been trained proper.
"Now I got to go look for him," I said disgustedly. "Will you stay here
till I git back?"
"Sure," he said. "Sure. Go on and look for the hoss. I'll wait here."
But I give him a searching look, and shook my head.
"I don't want to seem like I mistrusts you," I said, "but I see a gleam in
yore eye which makes me believe that you intends to run off the minute my
back's turned. I hate to do this, but I got to bring you safe to Bear Creek;
so I'll just kinda hawg-tie you with my lariat till I git back."
Well, he put up a awful holler, but I was firm, and when I rode off on
Cap'n Kidd I was satisfied that he couldn't untie them knots by hisself. I
left him laying in the grass beside the trail, and his language was painful
to listen to.
That derned hoss had wandered farther'n I thought. He'd moved north along
the trail for a short way, and then turned off and headed in a westerly
direction, and after a while I heard hosses galloping somewheres behind me,
and I got nervous, thinking what if Hawkins's gang had got back to their
hangout and he'd told 'em about us, and sent 'em after us, to capture pore
Uncle Esau and torture him to make him tell where his savings was hid. I
wished I'd had sense enough to shove Uncle Esau back in the thicket so he
wouldn't be seen by anybody riding along the trail, and I'd just decided to
let the hoss go and turn back, when I seen him grazing amongst the trees
ahead of me.
I caught him and headed back for the trail, aiming to hit it a short piece
north of where I'd left Uncle Esau, and before I got in sight of it, I heard
hosses and saddles creaking ahead of me.
I pulled up on the crest of a slope, and looked down onto the trail, and
there I seen a gang of men riding north, and they had Uncle Esau amongst 'em.
Two of the men was ridin' double, and they had him on a hoss in the middle of
'em. They'd took the ropes off'n him, but he didn't look happy. Instantly I
realized that my premonishuns was correct. The Hawkins gang had follered us,
and now pore Uncle Esau was in their clutches.
I let go of Hawkins's hoss and reched for my gun, but I didn't dare fire
for fear of hitting Uncle Esau, they was clustered so clost about him. I
reched up and tore a limb off a oak tree as big as my arm, and I charged down
the slope yelling: "I'll save you, Uncle Esau!"
I come so sudden and onexpected them fellers didn't have time to do
nothing but holler before I hit 'em. Cap'n Kidd ploughed through their hosses
like a avalanche through saplings, and he was going so hard I couldn't check
him in time to keep him from knocking Uncle Esau's hoss sprawling. Uncle Esau
hit the turf with a shriek.
All around me men was yelling and surging and pulling guns and I riz in my
stirrups and laid about me right and left, and pieces of bark and oak leaves
and blood flew in showers and in a second the ground was littered with
writhing figgers, and the hollering and cussing was awful to hear. Knives was
flashing and pistols was banging, but them outlaws' eyes was too full of bark
and stars and blood for them to aim, and right in the middle of the brawl,
when the guns was roaring and hosses was neighing and men yelling and my
oak-limb going crack! crack! crack! on their skulls, down from the
north swooped another gang, howling like hyeners!
"There he is!" one of 'em yelled. "I see him crawlin' around under them
hosses! After him, boys! We got as much right to his dough as anybody!"
The next minute they'd dashed in amongst us and embraced the members of
the other gang and started hammering 'em over the heads with their pistols,
and in a second there was the damndest three-cornered war you ever seen, men
fighting on the ground and on the hosses, all mixed and tangled up, two gangs
trying to exterminate each other, and me whaling hell out of both of 'em.
Meanwhile Uncle Esau was on the ground under us, yelling bloody murder and
being stepped on by the hosses, but finally I cleared me a space with a
devastating sweep of my club, and leaned down and scooped him up with one
hand and hung him over my saddle horn and started battering my way clear.
But a big feller which was one of the second gang come charging through
the melee yelling like a Injun, with blood running down his face from a cut
in his scalp. He snapped a empty ca'tridge at me, and then leaned out from
his saddle and grabbed Uncle Esau by the foot.
"Leggo!" he howled. "He's my meat!"
"Release Uncle Esau before I does you a injury!" I roared, trying to jerk
Uncle Esau loose, but the outlaw hung on, and Uncle Esau squalled like a
catamount in a wolf-trap. So I lifted what was left of my club and splintered
it over the outlaw's head, and he give up the ghost with a gurgle. I then
wheeled Cap'n Kidd and rode off like the wind. Them fellers was too busy
fighting each other to notice my flight. Somebody did let bam at me
with a Winchester, but all it done was to nick Uncle Esau's ear.
The sounds of carnage faded out behind us as I headed south along the
trail. Uncle Esau was belly-aching about something. I never seen sech a cuss
for finding fault, but I felt they was no time to be lost, so I didn't slow
up for some miles. Then I pulled Cap'n Kidd down and said: "What did you say,
"I'm a broken man!" he gasped. "Take my secret, and lemme go back to the
posse. All I want now is a good, safe prison term."
"What posse?" I ast, thinking he must be drunk, though I couldn't figger
where he could of got any booze.
"The posse you took me away from," he said. "Anything's better'n bein'
dragged through these hellish mountains by a homicidal maneyack."
"Posse?" I gasped wildly. "But who was the second gang?"
"Grizzly Hawkins's outlaws," he said, and added bitterly: "Even they'd be
preferable to what I been goin' through. I give up. I know when I'm licked.
The dough's hid in a holler oak three miles west of Gunstock."
I didn't pay no attention to his remarks, because my head was in a whirl.
A posse! Of course; the sheriff and his men had follered us from War Paint,
along the Bear Creek trail, and finding Uncle Esau tied up, had thought he'd
been kidnapped by a outlaw instead of merely being invited to visit his
relatives. Probably he was too cussed ornery to tell 'em any different. I
hadn't rescued him from no bandits; I'd took him away from a posse which
thought they was rescuing him.
Meanwhile Uncle Esau was clamoring: "Well, why'n't you lemme go? I've told
you whar the dough is. What else you want?"
"You got to go on to Bear Creek with me—" I begun; and Uncle Esau
give a shriek and went into a kind of convulsion, and the first thing I
knowed he'd twisted around and jerked my gun out of its scabbard and let
bam! right in my face so close it singed my hair. I grabbed his wrist
and Cap'n Kidd bolted like he always does whenever he gets the chance.
"They's a limit to everything!" I roared. "A hell of a relative you be,
you old maneyack!"
We was tearing over slopes and ridges at breakneck speed and fighting all
over Cap'n Kidd's back—me to get the gun away from him, and him to
commit murder. "If you warn't kin to me, Uncle Esau," I said wrathfully, "I'd
plumb lose my temper!"
"What you keep callin' me that fool name for?" he yelled, frothing at the
mouth. "What you want to add insult to injury—" Cap'n Kidd swerved
sudden and Uncle Esau tumbled over his neck. I had him by the shirt and tried
to hold him on, but the shirt tore. He hit the ground on his head and Cap'n
Kidd run right over him. I pulled up as quick as I could and hove a sigh of
relief to see how close to home I was.
"We're nearly there, Uncle Esau," I said, but he made no comment. He was
A short time later I rode up to the cabin with my eccentric relative slung
over my saddle-bow, and I taken him off and stalked into where pap was laying
on his b'ar-skin, and slung my burden down on the floor in disgust. "Well,
here he is," I said.
Pap stared and said: "Who's this?"
"When you wipe the blood off," I said, "you'll find it's yore Uncle Esau
Grimes. And," I added bitterly, "the next time you wants to invite him to
visit us, you can do it yoreself. A more ungrateful cuss I never seen.
Pecooliar ain't no name for him; he's as crazy as a locoed jackass."
"But that ain't Uncle Esau!" said pap.
"What you mean?" I said irritably. "I know most of his clothes is tore
off, and his face is kinda scratched and skint and stomped outa shape, but
you can see his whiskers is red, in spite of the blood."
"Red whiskers turn grey, in time," said a voice, and I wheeled and pulled
my gun as a man loomed in the door.
It was the grey-whiskered old feller I'd traded shots with on the edge of
War Paint. He didn't go for his gun, but stood twisting his moustache and
glaring at me like I was a curiosity or something.
"Uncle Esau!" said pap.
"What?" I hollered. "Air you Uncle Esau?"
"Certainly I am!" he snapped.
"But you warn't on the stagecoach—" I begun.
"Stagecoach!" he snorted, taking pap's jug and beginning to pour licker
down the man on the floor. "Them things is for wimmen and childern. I travel
hoss-back. I spent last night in War Paint, and aimed to ride on up to Bear
Creek this mornin'. In fact, Bill," he addressed pap, "I was on the way here
when this young maneyack creased me." He indicated a bandage on his head.
"You mean Breckinridge shot you?" ejaculated pap.
"It seems to run in the family," grunted Uncle Esau.
"But who's this?" I hollered wildly, pointing at the man I'd thought was
Uncle Esau, and who was jest coming to.
"I'm Badger Chisom," he said, grabbing the jug with both hands. "I demands
to be pertected from this lunatick and turned over to the sheriff."
"Him and Bill Reynolds and Jim Hopkins robbed a bank over at Gunstock
three weeks ago," said Uncle Esau; the real one, I mean. "A posse captured
them, but they'd hid the loot somewhere and wouldn't say where. They escaped
several days ago, and not only the sheriffs was lookin' for 'em, but all the
outlaw gangs too, to find out where they'd hid their plunder. It was a awful
big haul. They must of figgered that escapin' out of the country by
stagecoach would be the last thing folks would expect 'em to do, and they
warn't known around War Paint.
"But I recognized Billy Reynolds when I went back to War Paint to have my
head dressed, after you shot me, Breckinridge. The doctor was patchin' him
and Hopkins up, too. I knowed Reynolds back in Arizona. The sheriff and a
posse lit out after you, and I follered 'em when I'd got my head fixed.
'Course, I didn't know who you was. I come up while the posse was fightin'
with the Hawkins gang, and with my help we corralled the whole bunch. Then I
took up yore trail again. Purty good day's work, wipin' out two of the wust
gangs in the West. One of Hawkins's men said Grizzly was laid up in his
cabin, and the posse was going to drop by for him."
"What you goin' to do about me?" clamored Chisom.
"Well," said pap, "we'll bandage you up good, and then I'll let
Breckinridge here take you back to War Paint—hey, what's the matter
Badger Chisom had fainted.
8. THE SCALP HUNTER
MY return to War Paint with Badger Chisom was plumb
uneventful. He was awful nervous all the way and every time I spoke to him he
jumped and ducked like he expected to be shot at, and he hove a distinct sigh
of relief when the sheriff taken charge of him. He said something like, "Safe
at last, thank God!" and seemed in a sweat to get into a good, strong cell.
Criminals is pecooliar people.
Well, to my surprise I found that I had become a kind of personage in War
Paint account of shooting Chisom's pards and bringing him in. It warn't a
narrer-minded town at all, like the folks over to Chawed Ear had led me to
believe. Things was free and easy, big gambling games running all the time,
bars open all day and all night, and pistols popping every hour of the day.
They had a sheriff but he was a sensible man which didn't interfere with the
business of honest citizens. He 'lowed it was his job to see that the town
warn't overrun by thieving, murdering outlaws, not to go butting into folks'
affairs. He told me that if I had occasion to shoot another gent he'd take it
as a personal favor if I'd be careful not to hit no innercent bystander by
mistake, and when I said I would, he said I was a credit to the community,
and we had a drink.
I was about half scairt to go see Dolly Rixby, but I screwed up my courage
by thinking of what Glory McGraw would say if I didn't get me a gal soon, and
called on her. She warn't as peeved as I thought, though she did say: "Well,
yo're a mite late, ain't you? About two days, I believe! But better late than
never, I reckon."
She was broad-minded enough to understand my position, and we got along
fine. Well, we did after I persuaded them young bucks which was mooning
around her that I wasn't going to stand for no claim-jumping. I had to be
kind of subtle about this, because it always made Dolly mad for me to disable
any of her admirers. She liked me, but she also seemed to like a lot of other
fellers, especially young Blink Wiltshaw, which was a good-looking young
miner. Sometimes I wondered whether Dolly's interest in me was really for
myself, or on account of the glory which was reflected onto her by me calling
on her regular. Because by this time I'd made quite a name for myself around
over the country, jest like I told Glory McGraw I would. But it didn't make
much difference to me, as long as Dolly let me spark her, and I figgered that
in a little time more I'd have her roped and hawg-tied and branded, and I
drempt of the day when I'd take her back to Bear Creek and interjuice her to
everybody as my wife. I plumb gloated over how Glory McGraw'd look then, and
got to feeling kind of sorry for her, and decided I wouldn't rub it in on her
too raw. I'd jest be dignified and tolerant, as become a man of my
And then my money give out. Things had run remarkable smooth since I come
back to War Paint, and my luck had suited it. The first night I was there I
sot into a poker game in The Rebel Captain saloon with ten dollars and run it
up to five hundred before I riz—more money than I'd ever knowed they
was in the world. I had a remarkable run of luck at gambling for maybe three
weeks, and lived high, wide and handsome, and spent money on Dolly right and
left. Then my streak broke, and the first thing I knowed, I was busted.
Well, it taken money to live in a fast-stepping town like War Paint, and
go with a gal like Dolly Rixby, so I cast about for something to do to get me
some dough. About the time I was about ready to start working somebody's
claim for day-wages, I got wind of a big jamboree which was going to be
staged in Yavapai, a cowcountry town about a hundred miles north of War
Paint. They was going to be hoss-races and roping and bull-dogging and I seen
where it was a good chance to pick up me some easy prize money. I knowed, of
course, that all them young bucks which I'd cut out could be counted on to
start shining up to Dolly the minute my back was turnt, but I didn't look for
no serious competition from them, and Blink Wiltshaw had pulled out for Teton
Gulch a week before. I figgered he'd decided I was too much for him.
So I went and told Dolly that I was heading for Yavapai, and urged her not
to pine away in my absence, because I'd be back before many days with plenty
of dough. She 'lowed she could bear up under it till I got back, so I kissed
her heartily, and sallied forth into the starlit evening where I got a
onpleasant surprise. I run into Blink Wiltshaw jest coming up onto the stoop.
I was so overcome by irritation that I started to sweep the street with him,
when Dolly come out and stopped me and made us shake hands. Blink swore that
he was going back to Teton Gulch next morning, and had jest stopped by to say
hello, so I was mollified and pulled out for Yavapai without no more
Well, a couple of days later I pulled into Yavapai, which was plumb full
of wild cowboys and drunk Injuns, and everybody was full of licker and
rambunctiousness, so it taken 'em a whole day to get things into shape enough
and everybody sober enough to get the races started. I started entering Cap'n
Kidd in every race that was run, me riding him, of course, and he won the
first three races, one after another, and everybody cussed something
terrible, and then the jedges said they'd have to bar me from entering any
more races. So I said all right I will now lick the jedges and they turnt
pale and gimme fifty dollars to agree not to run Cap'n Kidd in any more of
What with that, and the prizes, and betting on Cap'n Kidd myself, I had
about a thousand dollars, so I decided I wouldn't stay for the roping and
bull- dogging contests next day, but would hustle back to War Paint. I'd been
gone three days and was beginning to worry about them young bucks which was
sweet on Dolly. I warn't scairt of 'em, but they warn't no use givin' 'em too
But I thought I'd have a little hand of poker before I pulled out, and
that was a mistake. My luck warn't holding. When I ariz at midnight I had
exactly five dollars in my pants. But I thinks, to hell with it; I ain't
going to stay away from Dolly no longer. Blink Wiltshaw might not have went
back to Teton Gulch after all. They is plenty of dough in the world, but not
many gals like Dolly.
So I headed back for War Paint without waiting for morning. After all, I
was five bucks to the good, and by playing clost to my shirt I might run them
up to several hundred, when I got back amongst men whose style of play I
About the middle of the next morning I run head-on into a snag on the path
of progress in the shape of Tunk Willoughby.
And right here lemme say that I'm sick and tired of these lies which is
being circulated about me terrorizing the town of Grizzly Claw. They is
always more'n one side to anything. These folks which is going around telling
about me knocking the mayor of Grizzly Claw down a flight of steps with a
kitchen stove ain't yet added that the mayor was trying to blast me with a
sawed-off shotgun. If I was a hot-headed man like some I know, I could easy
lose my temper over them there slanders, but being shy and retiring by
nature, I keeps my dignity and merely remarks that these gossipers is blamed
liars which I'll kick the ears off of if I catch 'em.
I didn't have no intention whatever of going to Grizzly Claw, in the first
place. It lay a way off my road.
But as I passed the place where the trail from Grizzly Claw comes into the
road that runs from War Paint to Yavapai, I seen Tunk Willoughby setting on a
log in the fork of the trails. I knowed him at War Paint. Tunk ain't got no
more sense'n the law allows anyway, and now he looked plumb discouraged. He
had a mangled ear, a couple of black eyes, and a lump onto his head so big
his hat wouldn't fit. From time to time he spit out a tooth.
I pulled up Cap'n Kidd and said: "What kind of a brawl have you been
"I been to Grizzly Claw," he said, jest like that explained it. But I
didn't get the drift, because I hadn't never been to Grizzly Claw.
"That's the meanest town in these mountains," he says. "They ain't got no
real law there, but they got a feller which claims to be a officer, and if
you so much as spit, he says you busted a law and has got to pay a fine. If
you puts up a holler, the citizens comes to his assistance. You see what
happened to me. I never found out jest what law I was supposed to have
broke," Tunk said, "but it must of been one they was particular fond of. I
give 'em a good fight as long as they confined theirselves to rocks and gun
butts, but when they interjuiced fence rails and wagon-tongues into the fray,
I give up the ghost."
"What you go there for, anyhow?" I ast.
"Well," he said, mopping off some dried blood, "I was lookin' for you.
Three days ago I met yore cousin Jack Gordon, and he told me somethin' to
Him showing no signs of going on, I says: "Well, what was it?"
"I cain't remember," he said. "That lammin' they give me in Grizzly Claw
has plumb addled my brains. Jack told me to tell you to keep a sharp look-out
for somebody, but I cain't remember who, or why. But somebody had did
somethin' awful to somebody on Bear Creek—seems like it was yore Uncle
"But what did you go to Grizzly Claw for?" I demanded. "I warn't
"I dunno," he said. "Seems like the feller which Jack wanted you to git
was from Grizzly Claw, or was supposed to go there, or somethin'."
"A great help you be!" I said in disgust. "Here somebody has went and
wronged one of my kinfolks, maybe, and you forgits the details. Try to
remember the name of the feller, anyway. If I knew who he was, I could lay
him out, and then find out what he done later on. Think, cain't you?"
"Did you ever have a wagon-tongue busted over yore head?" he said. "I tell
you, it's jest right recent that I remembered my own name. It was all I could
do to rekernize you jest now. If you'll come back in a couple of days, maybe
by then I'll remember what all Jack told me."
I give a snort of disgust and turned off the road and headed up the trail
for Grizzly Claw. I thought maybe I could learn something there. Anyway, it
was up to me to try. Us Bear Creek folks may fight amongst ourselves, but we
stands for no stranger to impose on anyone of us. Uncle Jeppard was about as
old as the Humbolt Mountains, and he'd fit Injuns for a living in his younger
days. He was still a tough old knot. Anybody that could do him a wrong and
get away with it sure wasn't no ordinary man, so it warn't no wonder that
word had been sent out for me to get on his trail. And now I hadn't no idee
who to look for, or why, jest because of Tunk Willoughby's weak skull. I
despise these here egg- headed weaklings.
I arrove in Grizzly Claw late in the afternoon and went first to the
wagon-yard and seen that Cap'n Kidd was put in a good stall and fed proper,
and warned the feller there to keep away from him if he didn't want his
brains kicked out. Cap'n Kidd has got a disposition like a shark and he don't
like strangers. There was only five other hosses in the wagon-yard, besides
me and Cap'n Kidd—a pinto, a bay, a piebald, and a couple of
I then went back into the business part of the village, which was one
dusty street with stores and saloons on each side, and I didn't pay much
attention to the town, because I was trying to figger out how I could go
about trying to find out what I wanted to know, and couldn't think of no
questions to ask nobody about nothing.
Well, I was approaching a saloon called the Apache Queen, and was looking
at the ground in meditation, when I seen a silver dollar laying in the dust
clost to a hitching rack. I immejitly stooped down and picked it up, not
noticing how clost it was to the hind laigs of a mean-looking mule. When I
stooped over he hauled off and kicked me in the head. Then he let out a awful
bray and commenced jumping around holding up his hind hoof, and some men come
running out of the saloon, and one of 'em hollered: "He's tryin' to kill my
mule! Call the law!"
Quite a crowd gathered and the feller which owned the mule hollered like a
catamount. He was a mean-looking cuss with mournful whiskers and a cock-eye.
He yelled like somebody was stabbing him, and I couldn't get in a word aidge-
ways. Then a feller with a long skmny neck and two guns come up and said:
"I'm the sheriff. What's goin' on here? Who is this giant? What's he
The whiskered cuss hollered: "He kicked hisself in the head with my mule
and crippled the pore critter for life! I demands my rights! He's got to pay
me three hundred and fifty dollars for my mule!"
"Aw, heck," I said, "that mule ain't hurt none; his laig's jest kinda
numbed. Anyway, I ain't got but six bucks, and whoever gets them will take
'em offa my dead corpse." I then hitched my six-shooters for'ards, and the
crowd kinda fell away.
"I demands that you 'rest him!" howled Drooping-whiskers. "He tried to
'ssassinate my mule!"
"You ain't got no star," I told the feller which said he was the law. "You
ain't goin' to arrest me."
"Does you dast resist arrest?" he says, fidgeting with his belt.
"Who said anything about resistin' arrest?" I retorted. "All I aim to do
is see how far yore neck will stretch before it breaks."
"Don't you dast lay hands onto a officer of the law!" he squawked, backing
away in a hurry.
I was tired of talking, and thirsty, so I merely give a snort and turned
away through the crowd towards a saloon pushing 'em right and left out of my
way. I seen 'em gang up in the street behind me, talking low and mean, but I
give no heed.
They warn't nobody in the saloon except the barman and a gangling
cowpuncher which had draped hisself over the bar. I ordered whisky, and when
I had drunk a few fingers of the rottenest muck I believe I ever tasted, I
give it up in disgust and throwed the dollar on the bar which I had found,
and was starting out when the bartender hollered: "Hey!"
I turned around and said courteously: "Don't you yell at me like that, you
bat-eared buzzard! What you want?"
"This here dollar ain't no good!" says he, banging it on the bar.
"Well, neither is yore whisky!" I snarled, because I was getting mad. "So
that makes us even!"
I am a long-suffering man, but it looked like everybody in Grizzly Claw
was out to gyp the stranger in their midst.
"You cain't run no blazer over me!" he hollered. "You gimme a real dollar,
He ducked down behind the bar and come up with a shotgun so I taken it
away from him and bent the barrel double acrost my knee and throwed it after
him as he run out the back door hollering help, murder.
The cowpuncher had picked up the dollar and bit on it, and then he looked
at me very sharp, and said: "Where did you get this?"
"I found it, if it's any of yore derned business," I snapped, and strode
out the door, and the minute I hit the street somebody let bam! at me
from behind a rain-barrel acrost the street and shot my hat off. So I slammed
a bullet back through the barrel and the feller hollered and fell out in the
open yelling blue murder. It was the feller which called hisself the sheriff
and he was drilled through the hind laig. I noticed a lot of heads sticking
up over winder sills and around doors, so I roared: "Let that be a warnin' to
you Grizzly Claw coyotes! I'm Breckinridge Elkins from Bear Creek up in the
Humbolts, and I shoot better in my sleep than most men does wide awake!"
I then lent emphasis to my remarks by punctuating a few signboards and
knocking out a few winder panes and everybody hollered and ducked. So I
shoved my guns back in their scabbards and went into a restaurant. The
citizens come out from their hiding-places and carried off my victim, and he
made more noise over a broke laig than I thought was possible for a grown
They was some folks in the restaurant but they stampeded out the back door
as I come in at the front, all except the cook which tried to take refuge
"Come outa there and fry me some bacon!" I commanded, kicking a few slats
out of the counter to add p'int to my request. It disgusts me to see a grown
man trying to hide under a stove. I am a very patient and mild-mannered
human, but Grizzly Claw was getting under my hide. So the cook come out and
fried me a mess of bacon and ham and aigs and pertaters and sourdough bread
and beans and coffee, and I et three cans of cling peaches. Nobody come into
the restaurant whilst I was eating but I thought I heard somebody sneaking
When I got through I ast the feller how much, and he told me, and I
planked down the cash, and he commenced to bite it. This lack of faith in his
feller humans so enraged me that I drawed my bowie knife and said: "They is a
limit to any man's patience! I been insulted onst tonight and that's enough!
You jest dast to say that coin's phoney and I'll slice off yore whiskers
plumb at the roots!"
I brandished my bowie under his nose, and he hollered and stampeded back
into the stove and upsot it and fell over it, and the coals went down the
back of his shirt, so he riz up and run for the creek yelling bloody murder.
And that's how the story got started that I tried to burn a cook alive,
Injun- style, because he fried my bacon too crisp. Matter of fact, I kept his
shack from catching fire and burning down, because I stomped out the coals
before they done no more than burn a big hole through the floor, and I
throwed the stove out the back door.
It ain't my fault if the mayor of Grizzly Claw was sneaking up the back
steps with a shotgun jest at that moment. Anyway, I hear he was able to walk
with a couple of crutches after a few months.
I emerged suddenly from the front door, hearing a suspicious noise, and I
seen a feller crouching clost to a side winder peeking through a hole in the
wall. It was the cowboy I seen in the Apache Queen. He whirled when I come
out, but I had him covered.
"Air you spyin' on me?" I demanded. "'Cause if you air—"
"No, no!" he says in a hurry. "I was jest leanin' up agen that wall
"You Grizzly Claw folks is all crazy," I said disgustedly, and looked
around to see if anybody else tried to shoot me, but they wam't nobody in
sight, which was suspicious, but I give no heed. It was dark by that time so
I went to the wagon-yard, and they warn't nobody there. I reckon the man
which run it was off somewheres drunk, because that seemed to be the main
occupation of most of them Grizzly Claw devils.
The only place for folks to sleep was a kind of double log-cabin. That is,
it had two rooms, but they warn't no door between 'em; and in each room they
wasn't nothing but a fireplace and a bunk, and jest one outside door. I seen
Cap'n Kidd was fixed for the night, and then I went into the cabin and
brought in my saddle and bridle and saddle blanket because I didn't trust the
people thereabouts. I taken off my boots and hat and hung 'em on the wall,
and hung my guns and bowie on the end of the bunk, and then spread my saddle-
blanket on the bunk and laid down glumly.
I dunno why they don't build them dern things for ordinary sized humans. A
man six and a half foot tall like me can't never find one comfortable for
him. You'd think nobody but pigmies ever expected to use one. I laid there
and was disgusted at the bunk, and at myself too, because I hadn't learnt who
it was done something to Uncle Jeppard, or what he done. It looked like I'd
have to go clean to Bear Creek to find out, and then maybe have to come clean
back to Grizzly Claw again to get the critter. By that time Dolly Rixby would
be plumb wore out of patience with me, and I wouldn't blame her none.
Well, as I lay there contemplating, I heard a man come into the wagon-
yard, and purty soon I heard him come towards the cabin, but I thought
nothing of it. Then the door begun to open, and I riz up with a gun in each
hand and said: "Who's there? Make yoreself knowed before I blasts you
Whoever it was mumbled some excuse about being on the wrong side, and the
door closed. But the voice sounded kind of familiar, and the feller didn't go
into the other room. I heard his footsteps sneaking off, and I riz and went
to the door, and looked over towards the row of stalls. So purty soon a man
led the pinto out of his stall, and swung aboard him and rode off. It was
purty dark, but if us folks on Bear Creek didn't have eyes like a hawk, we'd
never live to get grown. I seen it was the cowboy I'd seen in the Apache
Queen and outside the restaurant. Onst he got clear of the wagon-yard, he
slapped in the spurs and went racing through the village like they was a red
war-party on his trail. I could hear the beat of his hoss's hoofs fading
south down the rocky trail after he was out of sight.
I knowed he must of follered me to the wagon-yard, but I couldn't make no
sense out of it, so I went and laid down on the bunk again. I was jest about
to go to sleep when I was woke by the sounds of somebody coming into the
other room of the cabin, and I heard somebody strike a match. The bunk was
built agen the partition wall, so they was only a few feet from me, though
with the log wall betwixt us.
They was two of them, from the sounds of their talking.
"I tell you," one of them was saying, "I don't like his looks. I don't
believe he's what he pertends to be. We better take no chances, and clear
out. After all, we cain't stay here forever. These people air beginning to
git suspicious, and if they find out for shore, they'll be demandin' a cut in
the profits, to pertect us. The stuff's all packed and ready to jump at a
second's notice. Let's run for it tonight. It's a wonder nobody ain't never
stumbled onto that hide-out before now."
"Aw," said the other'n, "these Grizzly Claw yaps don't do nothin' but
swill licker and gamble and think up swindles to work on sech strangers as is
unlucky enough to wander in here. They don't never go into the hills
southwest of the village whar our cave is. Most of 'em don't even know
there's a path past that big rock to the west."
"Well, Bill," said t'other'n, "we've done purty well, countin' that job up
in the Bear Creek country."
At that I was wide awake and listening with both ears.
Bill laughed. "That was kind of funny, warn't it, Jim?" says he.
"You ain't never told me the particulars," says Jim. "Did you have any
"Well," said Bill. "T'warn't to say easy. That old Jeppard Grimes was a
hard old nut. If all Injun fighters was like him, I feel plumb sorry for the
"If any of them Bear Creek devils ever catches you—" begun Jim.
Bill laughed again.
"Them hillbillies never strays more'n ten miles from Bear Creek," says he.
"I had the sculp and was gone before they knowed what was up. I've collected
bounties for wolves and b'ars, but that's the first time I ever got money for
a human sculp!"
A icy chill run down my spine. Now I knowed what had happened to pore old
Uncle Jeppard! Scalped! After all the Injun sculps he'd lifted! And them
cold- blooded murderers could set there and talk about it like it was the
ears of a coyote or a rabbit!
"I told him he'd had the use of that there sculp long enough," Bill was
saying. "A old cuss like him—"
I waited for no more. Everything was red around me. I didn't stop for my
boots, guns nor nothing. I was too crazy mad even to know sech things
existed. I riz up from that bunk and put my head down and rammed that
partition wall like a bull going through a rail fence.
The dried mud poured out of the chinks and some of the logs give way, and
a howl went up from the other side.
"What's that?" hollered one, and t'other'n yelled: "Lookout! It's a
I drawed back and rammed the wall again. It caved inwards and I crashed
headlong through it in a shower of dry mud and splinters, and somebody shot
at me and missed. They was a lighted lantern setting on a hand-hewn table,
and two men about six feet tall each that hollered and let bam at me
with their six-shooters. But they was too dumbfounded to shoot straight. I
gathered 'em to my bosom and we went backwards over the table, taking it and
the lantern with us, and you ought to of heard them critters howl when the
burning ile splashed down their necks.
It was a dirt floor so nothing caught on fire, and we was fighting in the
dark, and they was hollering: "Help! Murder! We are bein' 'sassinated! Ow!
Release go my ear!" And then one of 'em got his boot heel wedged in my mouth,
and whilst I was twisting it out with one hand, the other'n tore out of his
shirt which I was gripping with t'other hand, and run out the door. I had
hold of the other feller's foot and commenced trying to twist it off, when he
wrenched his laig outa the boot, and took it on the run. When I started to
foller him I fell over the table in the dark and got all tangled up in
I broke off a laig for a club and rushed to the door, and jest as I got to
it a whole mob of folks come surging into the wagon-yard with torches and
guns and dogs and a rope, and they hollered: "There he is, the murderer, the
outlaw, the counterfeiter, the house-burner, the mule-killer!"
I seen the man that owned the mule, and the restaurant feller, and the
bar-keep, and a lot of others. They come roaring and bellering up to the
door, hollering: "Hang him! Hang him! String up the murderer!" And they begun
shooting at me, so I fell amongst 'em with my table-laig and laid right and
left till it busted. They was packed so clost together I laid out three or
four at a lick, and they hollered something awful. The torches was all
knocked down and trompled out except them which was held by fellers which
danced around on the aidge of the mill, hollering: "Lay hold on him! Don't be
scairt of the big hillbilly! Shoot him! Knife him! Knock him in the head!"
The dogs having more sense than the men, they all run off except one big
mongrel that looked like a wolf, and he bit the mob often'ern he did me.
They was a lot of wild shooting and men hollering: "Oh, I'm shot! I'm
kilt! I'm dyin'!" and some of them bullets burnt my hide they come so clost,
and the flashes singed my eye-lashes, and somebody broke a knife agen my belt
buckle. Then I seen the torches was all gone except one, and my club was
broke, so I bust right through the mob, swinging right and left with my fists
and stomping on them that tried to drag me down. I got clear of everybody
except the man with the torch who was so excited he was jumping up and down
trying to shoot me without cocking his gun. That blame dog was snapping at my
heels, so I swung him by the tail and hit the man over the head with him.
They went down in a heap and the torch went out, and the dog clamped onto the
feller's ear, and he let out a squall like a steam-whistle.
They was milling in the dark behind me, and I run straight to Cap'n Kidd's
stall and jumped on him bareback with nothing but a hackamore on him. Jest as
the mob located where I went, we come storming out of the stall like a
hurricane and knocked some of 'em galley-west and run over some more, and
headed for the gate. Somebody shet the gate but Cap'n Kidd took it in his
stride, and we was gone into the darkness before they knowed what hit
Cap'n Kidd decided then was a good time to run away, like he usually does,
so he taken to the hills and run through bushes and clumps of trees trying to
scrape me off. When I finally pulled him up we was maybe a mile south of the
village, with Cap'n Kidd no bridle nor saddle nor blanket, and me with no
guns, knife, boots nor hat. And what was wuss, them devils which sculped
Uncle Jeppard had got away from me, and I didn't know where to look for
I sot meditating whether to go back and fight the whole town of Grizzly
Claw for my boots and guns, or what to do, when all to onst I remembered what
Bill and Jim had said about a cave and a path running to it. I thought I bet
them fellers will go back and get their hosses and pull out, jest like they
was planning, and they had stuff in the cave, so that's the place to look for
'em. I hoped they hadn't already got the stuff, whatever it was, and
I knowed where that rock was, because I'd saw it when I come into town
that afternoon—a big rock that jutted up above the trees about a mile
to the west of Grizzly Claw. So I started out through the bresh, and before
long I seen it looming up agen the stars, and I made straight for it. Sure
enough, they was a narrer trail winding around the base and leading off to
the southwest. I follered it, and when I'd went nearly a mile, I come to a
steep mountainside, all clustered with bresh.
When I seen that I slipped off and led Cap'n Kidd off the trail and tied
him back amongst the trees. Then I crope up to the cave which was purty well
masked with bushes. I listened, but everything was dark and still, but all to
onst, away down the trail, I heard a burst of shots, and what sounded like
hosses running. Then everything was still again, and I quick ducked into the
cave, and struck a match.
They was a narrer entrance that broadened out after a few feet, and the
cave run straight like a tunnel for maybe thirty steps, about fifteen foot
wide, and then it made a bend. After that it widened out and got purty big
—about fifty feet wide, and I couldn't tell how far back into the
mountain it run. To the left the wall was very broken and notched with
ledges, mighty nigh like stair-steps, and when the match went out, away up
above me I seen some stars which meant that they was a cleft in the wall or
roof away up on the mountain somewheres.
Before the match went out, I seen a lot of junk over in a corner covered
up with a tarpaulin, and when I was fixing to strike another match I heard
men coming up the trail outside. So I quick clumb up the broken wall and laid
on a ledge about ten feet up and listened.
From the sounds as they arriv at the cave mouth, I knowed it was two men
on foot, running hard and panting loud. They rushed into the cave and made
the turn, and I heard 'em fumbling around. Then a light flared up and I seen
a lantern being lit and hung up on a spur of rock.
In the light I seen them two murderers, Bill and Jim, and they looked
plumb dilapidated. Bill didn't have no shirt on and the other'n was wearing
jest one boot and limped. Bill didn't have no gun in his belt neither, and
both was mauled and bruised, and scratched, too, like they'd been running
"Look here," said Jim, holding his head which had a welt on it which was
likely made by my fist. "I ain't sartain in my mind as to jest what all
has happened. Somebody must of hit me with a club some time tonight,
and things is happened too fast for my addled wits. Seems like we been
fightin' and runnin' all night. Listen, was we settin' in the
wagon-yard shack talkin' peaceable, and did a grizzly b'ar bust
through the wall and nigh slaughter us?"
"That's plumb correct," said Bill. "Only it warn't no b'ar. It was some
kind of a human critter—maybe a escaped maneyack. We ought to of
stopped for hosses—"
"I warn't thinkin' 'bout no hosses," broke in Jim. "When I found myself
outside that shack my only thought was to kiver ground, and I done my best,
considerin' that I'd lost a boot, and that critter had nigh onhinged my hind
laig. I'd lost you in the dark, so I made for the cave knowin' you'd come
there eventual, if you was still alive, and it seemed like I was forever
gittin' through the woods, crippled like I was. I hadn't no more'n hit the
path when you come up it on the run."
"Well," says Bill, "as I went over the wagon-yard wall a lot of people
come whoopin' through the gate, and I thought they was after us, but it must
of been the feller we fit, because as I run I seen him layin' into 'em right
and left. After I'd got over my panic, I went back after our hosses, but I
run right into a gang of men on hossback, and one of 'em was that derned
feller which passed hisself off as a cowboy. I didn't need no more. I taken
out through the woods as hard as I could pelt, and they hollered, 'There he
goes!' and hot-foot after me."
"And was them the fellers I shot at back down the trail?" ast Jim.
"Yeah," says Bill. "I thought I'd shooken 'em off, but jest as I seen you
on the path, I heard hosses comin' behind us, so I hollered to let 'em have
it, and you did."
"Well, I didn't know who it was," said Jim. "I tell you, my head's buzzin'
like a circle-saw."
"Well," said Bill, "we stopped 'em and scattered 'em. I dunno if you hit
anybody in the dark, but they'll be mighty keerful about comin' up the trail.
Let's clear out."
"On foot?" says Jim. "And me with jest one boot?"
"How else?" says Bill. "We'll have to hoof it till we can steal us some
cayuses. We'll have to leave all this stuff here. We don't dare go back to
Grizzly Claw after our hosses. I told that derned cowboy would do to
watch. He ain't no cowpoke at all. He's a blame detective."
"What's that?" broke in Jim.
"Hosses' hoofs!" exclaimed Bill, turning pale. "Here, blow out that
lantern! We'll climb the ledges and git out through the cleft, and take out
over the mountain whar they cain't foller with hosses, and then—"
It was at that instant that I launched myself offa the ledge on top of
'em. I landed with all my two hundred and ninety pounds square on jim's
shoulders and when he hit the ground under me he kind of spread out like a
toad when you tromp on him. Bill give a scream of astonishment and tore off a
hunk of rock about the size of a man's head and lammed me over the ear with
it as I riz. This irritated me, so I taken him by the neck, and also taken
away a knife which he was trying to hamstring me with, and begun sweeping the
floor with his carcass.
Presently I paused and kneeling on him, I strangled him till his tongue
lolled out, whilst hammering his head fervently agen the rocky floor.
"You murderin' devil!" I gritted betwixt my teeth. "Before I varnishes
this here rock with yore brains, tell me why you taken my Uncle jeppard's
"Let up!" he gurgled, being purple in the face where he warn't bloody.
"They was a dude travellin' through the country and collectin' souvenirs, and
he heard about that sculp and wanted it. He hired me to go git it for
I was so shocked at that cold-bloodedness that I forgot what I was doing
and choked Bill nigh to death before I remembered to ease up on him.
"Who was he?" I demanded. "Who is the skunk which hires old men murdered
so's he can colleck their sculps? My God, these Eastern dudes is wuss'n
Apaches! Hurry up and tell me, so I can finish killin' you."
But he was unconscious; I'd squoze his neck too hard. I riz up and looked
around for some water or whisky or something to bring him to so he could tell
who hired him to sculp Uncle Jeppard, before I twisted his head off, which
was my earnest intention of doing, when somebody said: "Han's up!"
I whirled and there at the crook of the cave stood that there cowboy which
had spied on me in Grizzly Claw, and ten other men. They all had their
Winchesters p'inted at me, and the cowboy had a star on his buzum.
"Don't move!" he said. "I'm a Federal detective, and I'm arrestin' you for
manufactorin' counterfeit money!"
"What you mean?" I snarled, backing up to the wall.
"You know," he said, kicking the tarpaulin off the junk in the corner.
"Look here, men! All the stamps and dyes he used to make phoney coins and
bills! All packed up, ready to light out. I been hangin' around Grizzly Claw
for days, knowin' that whoever was passin' this stuff made his, or their
headquarters here somewheres. Today I spotted that dollar you give the
barkeep, and I went pronto for my men which was camped back in the
hills a few miles. I thought you was settled in the wagon-yard for the night,
but it seems you give us the slip. Put the cuffs on him, men!"
"No, you don't!" I snarled, bounding back. "Not till I've finished these
devils on the floor—and maybe not then! I dunno what yo're talkin'
"Here's a couple of corpses!" hollered one of the men. "He's kilt a couple
One of them stooped over Bill, but he had recovered his senses, and now he
riz up on his elbows and give a howl. "Save me!" he bellered. "I confesses!
I'm a counterfeiter, and so is Jim there on the floor! We surrenders, and you
got to pertect us!"
"Yo're the counterfeiters?" ejaculated the detective, took aback as
it were. "Why, I was follerin' this giant! I seen him pass fake money myself.
We got to the wagon-yard awhile after he'd run off, but we seen him duck in
the woods not far from there, and we been chasin' him. He shot at us down the
trail while ago—"
"That was us," said Bill. "It was me you was chasin'. If he was passin'
fake stuff, he musta found it somewheres. I tell you, we're the men you're
after, and you got to pertect us! I demands to be put in the strongest jail
in this state, which even this here devil cain't bust into!"
"And he ain't no counterfeiter?" said the detective.
"He ain't nothin' but a man-eater," said Bill. "Arrest us and take us outa
"No!" I roared, clean beside myself. "They belongs to me! They
sculped my uncle! Give 'em knives or guns or somethin', and let us fight it
"Cain't do that," said the detective. "They're Federal prisoners. If you
got any charge agen 'em, they'll have to be indicted in the proper form."
His men hauled 'em up and handcuffed 'em and started to lead 'em out.
"Blast yore cussed souls!" I raved. "You low-down, mangy, egg-suckin'
coyotes! Does you mean to perteck a couple of dirty sculpers?
I started for 'em and they all p'inted their Winchesters at me.
"Keep back!" said the detective. "I'm grateful for you leadin' us into
this den, and layin' out these criminals for us, but I don't hanker after no
battle in a cave with a human grizzly like you."
Well, what could I do? If I'd had my guns, or even my knife, I'd of took a
chance with the whole eleven men, officers or not, but even I can't fight
eleven .45-90's with my bare hands. I stood speechless with rage whilst they
filed out, and then I went for Cap'n Kidd in a kind of a daze. I felt wuss'n
a hoss-thief. Them fellers would be put in the pen safe out of my rech, and
Uncle Jeppard's sculp was unavenged! It was awful. I felt like bawling.
Time I got my hoss back onto the trail, the posse with their prisoners was
out of sight and hearing. I seen the only thing to do was to go back to
Grizzly Claw and get my outfit, and then foller 'em and try to take their
prisoners away from 'em some way.
Well, the wagon-yard was dark and still. The wounded had been carried away
to have their injuries bandaged, and from the groaning that was still coming
from the shacks and cabins along the street, the casualities had been
plenteous. The citizens of Grizzly Claw must have been shook up something
terrible, because they hadn't even stole my guns and saddle and things yet;
everything was in the cabin jest like I'd left 'em.
I put on my boots, hat and belt, saddled and bridled Cap'n Kidd and sot
out on the road I knowed the posse had took. But they had a long start on me,
and when daylight come I hadn't overtook 'em, though I knowed they couldn't
be far ahead of me. But I did meet somebody else. It was Tunk Willoughby
riding up the trail, and when he seen me he grinned all over his battered
"Hey, Breck!" he hailed me. "After you left I sot on that there log and
thunk, and thunk, and I finally remembered what Jack Gordon told me, and I
started out to find you again and tell you. It was this: he said to keep a
close lookout for a feller from Grizzly Claw named Bill Croghan, because he'd
gypped yore Uncle Jeppard in a deal."
"What?" I said.
"Yeah," said Tunk. "He bought somethin' from Jeppard and paid him in
counterfeit money. Jeppard didn't know it was phoney till after the feller
had got plumb away," said Tunk, "and bein' as he was too busy kyorin' some
b'ar meat to go after him, he sent word for you to git him."
"But the sculp—" I said wildly.
"Oh," said Tunk, "that was what Jeppard sold the feller. It was the sculp
Jeppard taken offa old Yeller Eagle, the Comanche war-chief forty years ago,
and been keepin' for a souvenear. Seems like a Eastern dude heard about it
and wanted to buy it, but this Croghan feller must of kept the money he give
him to git it with, and give Jeppard phoney cash. So you see everything's all
right, even if I did forgit a little, and no harm did—"
And that's why Tunk Willoughby is going around saying I'm a homicidal
maneyack, and run him five miles down a mountain and tried to kill him—
which is a exaggeration, of course. I wouldn't of kilt him if I could of
caught him—which I couldn't when he taken to the thick bresh. I would
merely of raised a few knots on his head and tied his hind laigs in a
bow-knot around his fool neck, and did a few other little things that might
of improved his memory.
9. CUPID FROM BEAR CREEK
WHEN I reined my hoss towards War Paint again, I
didn't go back the way I'd come. I was so far off my route that I knowed it
would be nearer to go through the mountains by the way of Teton Gulch than it
would be to go clean back to the Yavapai-War Paint road. So I headed out.
I aimed to pass right through Teton Gulch without stopping, because I was
in a hurry to get back to War Paint and Dolly Rixby, but my thirst got the
best of me, and I stopped in the camp. It was one of them new mining towns
that springs up overnight like mushrooms. I was drinking me a dram at the bar
of the Yaller Dawg Saloon and Hotel, when the barkeep says, after studying me
a spell, he says: "You must be Breckinridge Elkins, of Bear Creek."
I give the matter due consideration, and 'lowed as how I was.
"How come you knowed me?" I inquired suspiciously, because I hadn't never
been in Teton Gulch before, and he says: "Well, I've heard tell of
Breckinridge Elkins, and when I seen you, I figgered you must be him, because
I don't see how they can be two men in the world that big. By the way,
there's a friend of yore'n upstairs—Blink Wiltshaw, from War Paint.
I've heered him brag about knowin' you personal. He's upstairs now, fourth
door from the stair-head, on the left."
So Blink had come back to Teton, after all. Well, that suited me fine, so
I thought I'd go up and pass the time of day with him, and find out if he had
any news from War Paint, which I'd been gone from for about a week. A lot of
things can happen in a week in a fast-moving town like War Paint.
I went upstairs and knocked on the door, and bam! went a gun inside
and a .45 slug ripped through the door and taken a nick out of my off- ear.
Getting shot in the ear always did irritate me, so without waiting for no
more exhibitions of hospitality, I give voice to my displeasure in a
deafening beller and knocked the door off'n its hinges and busted into the
room over its rooins.
For a second I didn't see nobody, but then I heard a kind of gurgle going
on, and happened to remember that the door seemed kind of squishy underfoot
when I tromped over it, so I knowed that whoever was in the room had got
pinned under the door when I knocked it down.
So I reched under it and got him by the collar and hauled him out, and
sure enough it was Blink Wiltshaw. He was limp as a lariat, and glassy-eyed
and pale, and was still trying to shoot me with his six-shooter when I taken
it away from him.
"What the hell's the matter with you?" I demanded sternly, dangling him by
the collar with one hand, whilst shaking him till his teeth rattled. "Didn't
Dolly make us shake hands? What you mean by tryin' to 'sasserinate me through
a hotel door?"
"Lemme down, Breck," he gasped. "I didn't know it was you. I thought it
was Rattlesnake Harrison comin' after my gold."
So I sot him down. He grabbed a jug of licker and taken him a swig, and
his hand shook so he spilt half of it down his neck.
"Well?" I demanded. "Ain't you goin' to offer me a snort, dern it?"
"Excuse me, Breckinridge," he apolergized. "I'm so derned jumpy I dunno
what I'm doin'. You see them buckskin pokes?" says he, p'inting at some bags
on the bed. "Them is plumb full of nuggets. I got a claim up the Gulch, and
the day I got back from War Paint I hit a regular bonanza. But it ain't doin'
me no good."
"What you mean?" I ast.
"The mountains around Teton is full of outlaws," says he. "They robs and
murders every man which makes a strike. The stagecoach has been stuck up so
often nobody sends their dust out on it no more. When a man makes a pile he
sneaks out through the mountains at night, with his gold on pack-mules. I
aimed to do that last night. But them outlaws has got spies all over the
camp, and I know they got me spotted. Rattlesnake Harrison's their chief, and
he's a ring- tailed he-devil. I been squattin' over this here gold with my
pistol in fear and tremblin', expectin' 'em to come right into camp after me.
I'm dern nigh loco!"
And he shivered and cussed kind of whimpery, and taken another dram, and
cocked his pistol and sot there shaking like he'd saw a ghost or two.
"You got to help me, Breckinridge," he said desperately. "You take this
here gold out for me, willya? The outlaws don't know you. Youcould hit
the old Injun path south of the camp and foller it to Hell-Wind Pass. The
Chawed Ear-Wahpeton stage goes there about sundown. You could put the gold on
the stage there, and they'd take it on to Wahpeton. Harrison wouldn't never
think of holdin' it up after it left Hell-Wind. They always holds it
up this side of the Pass."
"What I want to risk my neck for you for?" I demanded bitterly, memories
of Dolly Rixby rising up before me. "If you ain't got the guts to tote out
yore own gold—"
"'Tain't altogether the gold, Breck," says he. "I'm tryin' to git married,
"Married?" says I. "Here? In Teton Gulch? To a gal in Teton
"Maried to a gal in Teton Gulch," he avowed. "I was aimin' to git hitched
tomorrer, but they ain't a preacher or a justice of the peace in camp to tie
the knot. But her uncle the Reverant Rembrandt Brockton is a circuit rider,
and he's due to pass through Hell-Wind Pass on his way to Wahpeton today. I
was aimin' to sneak out last night, hide in the hills till the stage come
through, and then put the gold on it and bring Brother Rembrandt back with
me. But yesterday I learnt Harrison's spies was watchin' me, and I'm scairt
to go. Now Brother Rembrandt will go on to Wahpeton, not knowin' he's needed
here, and no tellin' when I'll be able to git married—"
"Hold on," I said hurriedly, doing some quick thinking. I didn't want this
here wedding to fall through. The more Blink was married to some gal in
Teton, the less he could marry Dolly Rixby.
"Blink," I said, grasping his hand warmly, "never let it be said that a
Elkins ever turned down a friend in distress. I'll take yore gold to
Hell-Wind Pass and bring back Brother Rembrandt."
Blink fell onto my neck and wept with joy. "I'll never forgit this,
Breckinridge," says he, "and I bet you won't neither! My hoss and pack-mule
are in the stables behind the saloon."
"I don't need no pack-mule," I says. "Cap'n Kidd can pack the dust
Cap'n Kidd was getting fed out in the corral next to the hotel. I went out
there and got my saddle-bags, which is a lot bigger'n most saddle-bags,
because all my plunder has to be made to fit my size. They're made outa
three- ply elkskin, stitched with rawhide thongs, and a wildcat couldn't claw
his way out of 'em.
I noticed quite a bunch of men standing around the corral looking at Cap'n
Kidd, but thunk nothing of it, because he is a hoss which naturally attracks
attention. But whilst I was getting my saddle-bags, a long lanky cuss with
long yaller whiskers come up and said, says he: "Is that yore hoss in the
I says: "If he ain't he ain't nobody's."
"Well, he looks a whole lot like a hoss that was stole off my ranch six
months ago," he said, and I seen ten or fifteen hard-looking hombres
gathering around me. I laid down my saddle-bags sudden-like and reched for my
guns, when it occurred to me that if I had a fight I there I might get
arrested and it would interfere with me bringing Brother Rembrandt in for the
"If that there is yore hoss," I said, "you ought to be able to lead him
out of that there corral."
"Shore I can," he says with a oath. "And what's more, I aim'ta."
"That's right, Jake," says another feller. "Stand up for yore rights. Us
boys is right behind you."
"Go ahead," I says. "If he's yore hoss, prove it. Go git him!"
He looked at me suspiciously, but he taken up a rope and clumb the fence
and started towards Cap'n Kidd which was chawing on a block of hay in the
middle of the corral. Cap'n Kidd throwed up his head and laid back his ears
and showed his teeth, and Jake stopped sudden and turned pale.
"I—I don't believe that there is my hoss, after all!" says
"Put that lasso on him!" I roared, pulling my right-hand gun. "You say
he's yore'n; I say he's mine. One of us is a liar and a hoss-thief and I aim
to prove which. Gwan, before I festoons yore system with lead
"He looked at me and he looked at Cap'n Kidd, and he turned bright green
all over. He looked again at my .45 which I now had cocked and p'inted at his
long neck, which his adam's apple was going up and down like a monkey on a
pole, and he begun to aidge towards Cap'n Kidd again, holding the rope behind
him and sticking out one hand.
"Whoa, boy," he says, kind of shudderingly. "Whoa—good old feller
—nice hossie—whoa, boy—ow!"
He let out a awful howl as Cap'n Kidd made a snap and bit a chunk out of
his hide. He turned to run but Cap'n Kidd wheeled and let fly both heels
which catched Jake in the seat of the britches, and his shriek of despair was
horrible to hear as he went head-first through the corral-fence into a hoss-
trough on the other side. From this he ariz dripping water, blood and
profanity, and he shook a quivering fist at me and croaked: "You derned
murderer! I'll have yore life for this!"
"I don't hold no conversation with hoss-thieves," I snorted, and picked up
my saddle-bags and stalked through the crowd which give back in a hurry and
take care to cuss under their breath when I tromped on their fool toes.
I taken the saddle-bags up to Blink's room, and told him about Jake,
thinking he'd be amoosed, but he got a case of the aggers again, and said:
"That was one of Harrison's men! He aimed to take yore hoss. It's a old
trick, and honest folks don't dare interfere. Now they got you spotted!
What'll you do?"
"Time, tide and a Elkins waits for no man!" I snorted, dumping the gold
into the saddle-bags. "If that yaller-whiskered coyote wants any trouble, he
can git a bellyfull! Don't worry, yore gold will be safe in my saddle-bags.
It's as good as in the Wahpeton stage right now. And by midnight I'll be back
with Brother Rembrandt Brockton to hitch you up with his niece."
"Don't yell so loud," begged Blink. "The cussed camp's full of spies. Some
of 'em may be downstairs right now, lissenin'."
"I warn't speakin' above a whisper," I said indignantly.
"That bull's beller may pass for a whisper on Bear Creek," says he, wipin'
off the sweat, "but I bet they can hear it from one end of the Gulch to the
other'n, at least."
It's a pitable sight to see a man with a case of the scairts. I shook
hands with him and left him pouring red licker down his gullet like it was
water, and I swung the saddle-bags over my shoulder and went downstairs, and
the barkeep leaned over the bar and whispered to me: "Look out for Jake
Roman! He was in here a minute ago, lookin' for trouble. He pulled out jest
before you come down, but he won't be forgittin' what yore hoss done to
"Not when he tries to set down, he won't," I agreed, and went out to the
corral, and they was a crowd of men watching Cap'n Kidd eat his hay, and one
of 'em seen me and hollered: "Hey, boys, here comes the giant! He's goin' to
saddle that man-eatin' monster! Hey, Bill! Tell the boys at the bar."
And here come a whole passel of fellers running out of all the saloons,
and they lined the corral fence solid, and started laying bets whether I'd
get the saddle onto Cap'n Kidd, or get my brains kicked out. I thought miners
must all be crazy. They ought've knowed I was able to saddle my own hoss.
Well, I saddled him and throwed on the saddle-bags and clumb aboard, and
he pitched about ten jumps like he always does when I first fork him—
'twarn't nothing, but them miners hollered like wild Injuns. And when he
accidentally bucked hisself and me through the fence and knocked down a
section of it along with fifteen men which was setting on the top rail, the
way they howled you'd of thought something terrible had happened. Me and
Cap'n Kidd don't bother about gates. We usually makes our own through
whatever happens to be in front of us. But them miners is a weakly breed. As
I rode out of town I seen the crowd dipping nine or ten of 'em into a
hoss-trough to bring 'em to, on account of Cap'n Kidd having accidentally
tromped on 'em.
Well, I rode out of the Gulch and up the ravine to the south and come out
into the high-timbered country, and hit the old Injun trail Blink had told me
about. It warn't traveled much. I didn't meet nobody after I left the Gulch.
I figgered to hit Hell-Wind Pass at least a hour before sundown which would
give me plenty of time. Blink said the stage passed through there about
sundown. I'd have to bring back Brother Rembrandt on Cap'n Kidd, I reckoned,
but that there hoss can carry double and still out-run and out-last any other
hoss in the State of Nevada. I figgered on getting back to Teton about
midnight or maybe a little later.
After I'd went several miles I come to Apache Canyon, which was a deep,
narrer gorge, with a river at the bottom which went roaring and foaming along
betwixt rock walls a hundred and fifty feet high. The old trail hit the rim
at a place where the canyon warn't only about seventy foot wide, and somebody
had felled a whopping big pine tree on one side so it fell acrost and made a
foot- bridge, where a man could walk acrost. They'd onst been a gold strike
in Apache Canyon, and a big camp there, but now it was plumb abandoned and
nobody lives anywheres near it.
I turned east and follered the rim for about half a mile. Here I come into
a old wagon road which was jest about growed up with saplings now, but it run
down into a ravine into the bed of the canyon, and they was a bridge acrost
the river which had been built during the days of the gold rush. Most of it
had done been washed away by head-rises, but a man could still ride a hoss
acrost what was left. So I done so, and rode up a ravine on the other side,
and come out on high ground again.
I'd rode a few hundred yards past the mouth of the ravine when somebody
said: "Hey!" and I wheeled with both guns in my hands. Out of the bresh
sa'ntered a tall gent in a long frock tail coat and broad-brimmed hat.
"Who air you and what the hell you mean by hollerin' 'Hey!' at me?" I
demanded courteously, p'inting my guns at him. A Elkins is always
"I am the Reverant Rembrandt Brockton, my good man," says he. "I am on my
way to Teton Gulch to unite my niece and a young man of that camp in the
bonds of holy matrimony."
"The he—you don't say!" I says. "Afoot?"
"I alit from the stagecoach at—ah—Hades-Wind Pass," says he.
"Some very agreeable cowboys happened to be awaiting the stage there, and
they offered to escort me to Teton."
"How come you knowed yore niece was wantin' to be united in acrimony?" I
"The cowpersons informed me that such was the case," says he.
"Where-at are they now?" I next inquore.
"The mount with which they supplied me went lame a little while ago," says
he. "They left me here while they went to procure another from a nearby
"I dunno who'd have a ranch anywheres around near here," I muttered. "They
ain't got much sense leavin' you here by yore high lonesome."
"You mean to imply there is danger?" says he, blinking mildly at me.
"These here mountains is lousy with outlaws which would as soon kyarve a
preacher's gullet as anybody's," I said, and then I thought of something
else. "Hey!" I says. "I thought the stage didn't come through the Pass till
"Such was the case," says he. "But the schedule has been altered."
"Heck!" I says. "I was aimin' to put this here gold on it which my saddle-
bags is full of. Now I'll have to take it back to Teton with me. Well, I'll
bring it out tomorrer and catch the stage then. Brother Rembrandt, I'm
Breckinridge Elkins of Bear Creek, and I come out here to meet you and escort
you back to the Gulch, so's you can unite yore niece and Blink Wiltshaw in
the holy bounds of alimony. Come on. We'll ride double."
"But I must await my cowboy friends!" he said. "Ah, here they come
I looked over to the east, and seen about fifteen men ride into sight and
move towards us. One was leading a hoss without no saddle onto it.
"Ah, my good friends!" beamed Brother Rembrandt. "They have procured a
mount for me, even as they promised."
He hauled a saddle out of the bresh, and says: "Would you please saddle my
horse for me when they get here? I should be delighted to hold your rifle
while you did so."
I started to hand him my Winchester, when the snap of a twig under a
hoss's hoof made me whirl quick. A feller had jest rode out of a thicket
about a hundred yards south of me, and he was raising a Winchester to his
shoulder. I recognized him instantly. If us Bear Creek folks didn't have eyes
like a hawk, we'd never live to get growed. It was Jake Roman!
Our Winchesters banged together. His lead fanned my ear and mine knocked
him end-ways out of his saddle.
"Cowboys, hell!" I roared. "Them's Harrison's outlaws! I'll save you,
I swooped him up with one arm and gouged Cap'n Kidd with the spurs and he
went from there like a thunderbolt with its tail on fire. Them outlaws come
on with wild yells. I ain't in the habit of running from people, but I was
afeared they might do the Reverant harm if it come to a close fight, and if
he stopped a chunk of lead, Blink might not get to marry his niece, and might
get disgusted and go back to War Paint and start sparking Dolly Rixby
I was heading for the canyon, aiming to make a stand in the ravine if I
had to, and them outlaws was killing their hosses trying to get to the bend
of the trail ahead of me, and cut me off. Cap'n Kidd was running with his
belly to the ground, but I'll admit Brother Rembrandt warn't helping me much.
He was laying acrost my saddle with his arms and laigs waving wildly because
I hadn't had time to set him comfortable, and when the horn jobbed him in the
belly he uttered some words I wouldn't of expected to hear spoke by a
minister of the gospel.
Guns begun to crack and lead hummed past us, and Brother Rembrandt twisted
his head around and screamed: "Stop that—shootin', you— sons
of—! You'll hit me!"
I thought it was kind of selfish from Brother Rembrandt not to mention me,
too, but I said: "'Tain't no use to remonstrate with them skunks, Reverant.
They ain't got no respeck for a preacher even."
But to my amazement, the shooting did stop, though them bandits yelled
louder'n ever and flogged their cayuses harder. But about that time I seen
they had me cut off from the lower canyon crossing, so I wrenched Cap'n Kidd
into the old Injun track and headed straight for the canyon rim as hard as he
could hammer, with the bresh lashing and snapping around us, and slapping
Brother Rembrandt in the face when it whipped back. Them outlaws yelled and
wheeled in behind us, but Cap'n Kidd drawed away from them with every stride,
and the canyon rim loomed jest ahead of us.
"Pull up, you jack-eared son of Baliol!" howled Brother Rembrandt. "You'll
go over the edge!"
"Be at ease, Reverant," I reassured him. "We're goin' over the log."
"Lord have mercy on my soul!" he squalled, and shet his eyes and grabbed a
stirrup leather with both hands, and then Cap'n Kidd went over that log like
thunder rolling on Jedgment Day.
I doubt if they is another hoss west of the Pecos, or east of it either,
which would bolt out onto a log foot-bridge acrost a canyon a hundred and
fifty foot deep like that, but they ain't nothing in this world Cap'n Kidd's
scairt of except maybe me. He didn't slacken his speed none. He streaked
acrost that log like it was a quarter-track, with the bark and splinters
flying from under his hoofs, and if one foot had slipped a inch, it would of
been Sally bar the door. But he didn't slip, and we was over and on the other
side almost before you could catch yore breath.
"You can open yore eyes now, Brother Rembrandt," I said kindly, but he
didn't say nothing. He'd fainted. I shaken him to wake him up, and in a flash
he come to and give a shriek and grabbed my laig like a b'ar trap. I reckon
he thought we was still on the log. I was trying to pry him loose when Cap'n
Kidd chose that moment to run under a low-hanging oak tree limb. That's his
idee of a joke. That there hoss has got a great sense of humor.
I looked up jest in time to see the limb coming, but not in time to dodge
it. It was as big around as my thigh, and it took me smack acrost the wish-
bone. We was going full-speed, and something had to give way. It was the
girths —both of 'em. Cap'n Kidd went out from under me, and me and
Brother Rembrandt and the saddle hit the ground together.
I jumped up but Brother Rembrandt laid there going: "Wug wug wug!" like
water running out of a busted jug. And then I seen them cussed outlaws had
dismounted off of their hosses and was coming acrost the bridge single file
on foot, with their Winchesters in their hands.
I didn't waste no time shooting them misguided idjits. I run to the end of
the foot-bridge, ignoring the slugs they slung at me. It was purty pore
shooting, because they warn't shore of their footing, and didn't aim good. So
I only got one bullet in the hind laig and was creased three or four other
unimportant places—not enough to bother about.
I bent my knees and got hold of the end of the tree and heaved up with it,
and them outlaws hollered and fell along it like ten pins, and dropped their
Winchesters and grabbed holt of the log. I given it a shake and shook some of
'em off like persimmons off a limb after a frost, and then I swung the butt
around clear of the rim and let go, and it went down end over end into the
river a hundred and fifty feet below, with a dozen men still hanging onto it
and yelling blue murder.
A regular geyser of water splashed up when they hit, and the last I seen
of 'em they was all swirling down the river together in a thrashing tangle of
arms and laigs and heads.
I remembered Brother Rembrandt and run back to where he'd fell, but he was
already on his feet. He was kind of pale and wild-eyed and his laigs kept
bending under him, but he had hold of the saddle-bags, and was trying to drag
'em into a thicket, mumbling kind of dizzily to hisself.
"It's all right now, Brother Rembrandt," I said kindly. "Them outlaws is
all horse-de-combat now, as the French say. Blink's gold is safe."
"—" says Brother Rembrandt, pulling two guns from under his coat
tails, and if I hadn't grabbed him, he would of ondoubtedly shot me. We
rassled around and I protested: "Hold on, Brother Rembrandt! I ain't no
outlaw. I'm yore friend, Breckinridge Elkins. Don't you remember?"
His only reply was a promise to eat my heart without no seasoning, and he
then sunk his teeth into my ear and started to chaw it off, whilst gouging
for my eyes with both thumbs, and spurring me severely in the hind laigs. I
seen he was out of his head from fright and the fall he got, so I said
sorrerfully: "Brother Rembrandt, I hates to do this. It hurts me more'n it
does you, but we cain't waste time like this. Blink is waitin' to git
married." And with a sigh I busted him over the head with the butt of my
six-shooter, and he fell over and twitched a few times and then lay limp.
"Pore Brother Rembrandt," I sighed sadly. "All I hope is I ain't addled
yore brains so's you've forgot the weddin' ceremony."
So as not to have no more trouble with him when, and if, he come to, I
tied his arms and laigs with pieces of my lariat, and taken his weppins which
was most surprising arms for a circuit rider. His pistols had the triggers
out of 'em, and they was three notches on the butt of one, and four on
t'other'n. Moreover he had a bowie knife in his boot, and a deck of marked
kyards and a pair of loaded dice in his hip-pocket. But that warn't none of
About the time I finished tying him up, Cap'n Kidd come back to see if
he'd kilt me or jest crippled me for life. To show him I could take a joke
too, I give him a kick in the belly, and when he could get his breath again,
and ondouble hisself, I throwed the saddle on him. I spliced the girths with
the rest of my lariat, and put Brother Rembrandt in the saddle and clumb on
behind and we headed for Teton Gulch.
After a hour or so Brother Rembrandt come to and says kind of dizzily:
"Was anybody saved from the typhoon?"
"Yo're all right, Brother Rembrandt," I assured him. "I'm takin' you to
"I remember," he muttered. "It all comes back to me. Damn Jake Roman! I
thought it was a good idea, but it seems I was mistaken. I thought we had an
ordinary human being to deal with. I know when I'm licked. I'll give you a
thousand dollars to let me go."
"Take it easy, Brother Rembrandt," I soothed, seeing he was still
delirious. "We'll be to Teton in no time."
"I don't want to go to Teton!" he hollered.
"You got to," I told him. "You got to unite yore niece and Blink Wiltshaw
in the holy bums of parsimony."
"To hell with Blink Wiltshaw and my—niece!" he yelled.
"You ought to be ashamed usin' sech langwidge, and you a minister of the
gospel," I reproved him sternly. His reply would of curled a Piute's
I was so scandalized I made no reply. I was jest fixing to untie him, so's
he could ride more comfortable, but I thought if he was that crazy, I better
not. So I give no heed to his ravings which growed more and more unbearable
as we progressed. In all my born days I never seen sech a preacher.
It was sure a relief to me to sight Teton at last. It was night when we
rode down the ravine into the Gulch, and the dance halls and saloons was
going full blast. I rode up behind the Yaller Dawg Saloon and hauled Brother
Rembrandt off with me and sot him onto his feet, and he said, kind of
despairingly: "For the last time, listen to reason. I've got fifty thousand
dollars cached up in the hills. I'll give you every cent if you'll untie
"I don't want no money," I said. "All I want is for you to marry yore
niece and Blink Wiltshaw. I'll untie you then."
"All right," he said. "All right! But untie me now!"
I was jest fixing to do it, when the bar-keep come out with a lantern, and
he shone it on our faces and said in a startled tone: "Who the hell is that
with you, Elkins?"
"You wouldn't never suspect it from his langwidge," I says, "but it's the
Reverant Rembrandt Brockton."
"Are you crazy?" says the bar-keep. "That's Rattle snake Harrison!"
"I give up," said my prisoner. "I'm Harrison. I'm licked. Lock me up
somewhere away from this lunatic!"
I was standing in a kind of daze, with my mouth open, but now I woke up
and bellered: "What? Yo're Harrison? I see it all now! Jake Roman
overheard me talkin' to Blink Wiltshaw, and rode off and fixed it with you to
fool me like you done, so's to git Blink's gold! That's why you wanted to
hold my Winchester whilst I saddled yore cayuse."
"How'd you ever guess it?" he sneered. "We ought to have shot you from
ambush like I wanted to, but Jake wanted to catch you alive and torture you
to death account of your horse bitin' him. The fool must have lost his head
at the last minute and decided to shoot you after all. If you hadn't
recognized him we'd had you surrounded and stuck up before you knew what was
"But now the real preacher's gone on to Wahpeton!" I hollered. "I got to
foller him and bring him back—"
"Why, he's here," said one of the men which was gathering around us. "He
come in with his niece a hour ago on the stage from War Paint."
"War Paint?" I howled, hit in the belly by a premonishun. I run into the
saloon, where they was a lot of people, and there was Blink and a gal holding
hands in front of a old man with a long white beard, and he had a book in his
hand, and the other'n lifted in the air. He was saying: "mdash;And I now
pernounces you-all man and wife. Them which God has j'ined togither let no
snake-hunter put asunder."
"Dolly!" I yelled. Both of 'em jumped about four foot and whirled,
and Dolly jumped in front of Blink and spread her arms like she was shooing
"Don't you tech him, Breckinridge!" she hollered. "I jest married him and
I don't aim for no Humbolt grizzly to spile him!"
"But I don't sabe all this—" I said dizzily, nervously
fumbling with my guns which is a habit of mine when upsot.
Everybody in the wedding party started ducking out of line, and Blink said
hurriedly: "It's this way, Breck. When I made my pile so onexpectedly quick,
I sent for Dolly to come and marry me, like she'd promised that night, jest
after you pulled out for Yavapai. I wasaimin' to take my gold out
today, like I told you, so me and Dolly could go to San Francisco on our
honeymoon, but I learnt Harrison's gang was watchin' me, jest like I told
you. I wanted to git my gold out, and I wanted to git you out of the way
before Dolly and her uncle got here on the War Paint stage, so I told you
that there lie about Brother Rembrandt bein' on the Wahpeton stage. It was
the only lie."
"You said you was marryin' a gal in Teton," I accused fiercely.
"Well," says he, "I did marry her in Teton. You know, Breck, all's fair in
love and war."
"Now, now, boys," says Brother Rembrandt—the real one, I mean. "The
gal's married, yore rivalry is over, and they's no use holdin' grudges. Shake
hands and be friends."
"All right," I said heavily. No man can't say I ain't a good loser. I was
cut deep, but I concealed my busted heart.
Leastways I concealed it all I was able to. Them folks which says I
crippled Blink Wiltshaw with malice aforethought is liars which I'll sweep
the road with when I catches 'em. I didn't aim to break his cussed arm when
we shaken hands. It was jest the convulsive start I give when I suddenly
thought of what Glory McGraw would say when she heard about this mess. And
they ain't no use in folks saying that what imejitly follered was done in
revenge for Dolly busting me in the head with that cuspidor. When I thought
of the rawhiding I'd likely get from Glory McGraw I kind of lost my head and
stampeded like a loco bull. When something got in my way I removed it without
stopping to see what it was. How was I to know it was Dolly's Uncle Rembrandt
which I absent-mindedly throwed through a winder. And as for them fellers
which claims they was knocked down and trompled on, they ought to of got outa
my way, dern 'em.
As I headed down the trail on Cap'n Kidd I wondered if I ever really loved
Dolly, after all, because I was less upsot over her marrying another feller
than I was about what Glory McGraw would say.
10. THE HAUNTED MOUNTAIN
THEY say when a critter is mortally wounded he
generally heads for his den, so maybe that's why I headed for Bear Creek when
I rode out of Teton Gulch that night; I'd had about as much civilization as I
could stand for awhile.
But the closer I got to Bear Creek the more I thought about Glory McGraw
and I bust into profuse sweat every time I thought about what she'd say to
me, because I'd sent her word by one of the Braxton boys that I aimed to
bring Dolly Rixby to Bear Creek as Miz Breckinridge Elkins.
I thought about this so much that when I cut the Chawed Ear road I turned
aside and headed up it. I'd met a feller a few miles back which told me about
a rodeo which was going to take place at Chawed Ear, so I thought it was a
good way to pick up some easy money whilst avoiding Glory at the same time.
But I forgot I had to pass by the cabin of one of my relatives.
The reason I detests tarantulas, stinging lizards, and hydrophobia skunks
is because they reminds me so much of Aunt Lavaca Grimes, which my Uncle
Jacob Grimes married in a absent-minded moment, when he was old enough to
That there woman's voice plumb puts my teeth on aidge, and it has the same
effect on Cap'n Kidd, which don't otherwise shy at nothing less'n a cyclone.
So when she stuck her head out of her cabin as I was riding by and yelled:
"Breck-in-ri-i-idge!" Cap'n Kidd jumped like he was shot, and then tried to
buck me off.
"Stop tormentin' that pore animal and come here," commanded Aunt Lavaca,
whilst I was fighting for my life agen Cap'n Kidd's spine-twisting
sunfishing. "Always showin' off! I never see such a inconsiderate, worthless,
She kept on yapping away till I had wore him down and reined up alongside
the cabin-stoop, and said: "What you want, Aunt Lavaca?"
She give me a scornful stare, and put her hands onto her hips and glared
at me like I was something she didn't like the smell of.
"I want you to go git yore Uncle Jacob and bring him home," she said at
last. "He's off on one of his idjiotic prospectin' sprees again. He snuck out
before daylight with the bay mare and a pack mule—I wisht I'd woke up
and caught him. I'd of fixed him! If you hustle you can catch him this side
of Haunted Mountain Gap. You bring him back if you have to lasso him and tie
him to his saddle. Old fool! Off huntin' gold when they's work to be did in
the alfalfa fields. Says he ain't no farmer. Huh! I 'low I'll make a farmer
outa him yet. You git goin'."
"But I ain't got time to go chasin' Uncle Jacob all over Haunted
Mountain," I protested. "I'm headin' for the rodeo over to Chawed Ear. I'm
goin' to winme a prize bull-doggin' some steers—"
"Bull-doggin'!" she snapped. "A fine ockerpashun! Gwan, you worthless
loafer! I ain't goin' to stand here all day argyin' with a big ninny like you
be. Of all the good-for-nothin', triflin', lunk-headed—"
When Aunt Lavaca starts in like that you might as well travel. She can
talk steady for three days and nights without repeating herself, with her
voice getting louder and shriller all the time till it nigh splits a body's
ear drums. She was still yelling at me as I rode up the trail towards Haunted
Mountain Gap, and I could hear her long after I couldn't see her no more.
Pore Uncle Jacob! He never had much luck prospecting, but trailing around
with a jackass is a lot better'n listening to Aunt Lavaca. A jackass's voice
is mild and soothing alongside of her'n.
Some hours later I was climbing the long rise that led up to the gap and I
realized I had overtook the old coot when something went ping! up on
the slope, and my hat flew off. I quick reined Cap'n Kidd behind a clump of
bresh, and looked up towards the Gap, and seen a pack-mule's rear end
sticking out of a cluster of boulders.
"You quit that shootin' at me, Uncle Jacob!" I roared.
"You stay whar you be," his voice come back rambunctious and warlike. "I
know Lavacky sent you after me, but I ain't goin' home. I'm onto somethin'
big at last, and I don't aim to be interfered with."
"What you mean?" I demanded.
"Keep back or I'll ventilate you," he promised. "I'm goin' after the Lost
"You been huntin' that thing for fifty years," I snorted.
"This time I finds it," he says. "I bought a map off'n a drunk Mexican
down to Perdition. One of his ancestors was a Injun which helped pile up the
rocks to hide the mouth of the cave whar it is."
"Why didn't he go find it and git the gold?" I ast.
"He's scairt of ghosts," said Uncle Jacob. "All Mexes is awful
superstitious. This 'un'd ruther set and drink, anyhow. They's millions in
gold in that there mine. I'll shoot you before I'll go home. Now will you go
on back peacable, or will you throw in with me? I might need you, in case the
pack-mule plays out."
"I'll come with you," I said, impressed. "Maybe you have got somethin', at
that. Put up yore Winchester, I'm comin'."
He emerged from his rocks, a skinny, leathery old cuss, and he said: "What
about Lavacky? If you don't come back with me, she'll foller us herself,
she's that strong-minded."
"You can write, cain't you, Uncle Jacob?" I said, and he said, "Yeah, I
always carries me a pencil-stub in my saddle-bags. Why?"
"We'll write her a note," I said. "Joe Hopkins always comes down through
the Gap onst a week on his way to Chawed Ear. He's due through here today.
We'll stick the note on a tree, where he'll see it and take it to her."
So I tore a piece of wrapping paper off'n a can of tomatoes Uncle Jacob
had in his pack, and he got out his pencil stub, and writ as I told him, as
"Dere Ant Lavaca: I am takin uncle Jacob way up in the mountins don't try
to foler us it wont do no good gold is what Im after. Breckinridge."
We folded it and I told Uncle Jacob to write on the outside:
"Dere Joe: pleeze take this here note to Miz Lavaca Grimes on the Chawed
It was lucky Joe knowed how to read. I made Uncle Jacob read me what he
had writ to be sure he had got it right. Education is a good thing in its
place, but it never taken the place of common hoss-sense.
But he had got it right for a wonder, so I stuck the note on a spruce
limb, and me and Uncle Jacob sot out for the higher ranges. He started
telling me all about the Lost Haunted Mine again, like he'd already did about
forty times before. Seems like they was onst a old prospector which stumbled
onto a cave about sixty years before then, which the walls was solid gold and
nuggets all over the floor till a body couldn't walk, as big as mushmelons.
But the Injuns jumped him and run him out and he got lost and nearly starved
in the desert, and went crazy. When he come to a settlement and finally got
his mind back, he tried to lead a party back to it, but never could find it.
Uncle Jacob said the Injuns had took rocks and bresh and hid the mouth of the
cave so nobody could tell it was there. I ast him how he knowed the Injuns
done that, and he said it was common knowledge. He said any fool ought a know
that's jest what they done.
"This here mine," says Uncle Jacob, "is located in a hidden valley which
lies away up amongst the high ranges. I ain't never seen it, and I thought
I'd explored these mountains plenty. Ain't nobody more familiar with 'em than
me, except old Joshua Braxton. But it stands to reason that the cave is awful
hard to find, or somebody'd already found it. Accordin' to this here map,
that lost valley must lie jest beyond Wildcat Canyon. Ain't many white men
know whar that is, even. We're headin' there."
We had left the Gap far behind us, and was moving along the slanting side
of a sharp-angled crag whilst he was talking. As we passed it we seen two
figgers with hosses emerge from the other side, heading in the same direction
we was, so our trails converged. Uncle Jacob glared and reched for his
"Who's that?" he snarled.
"The big 'un's Bill Glanton," I said. "I never seen t'other'n."
"And nobody else, outside of a freak show," growled Uncle Jacob.
The other feller was a funny-looking little maverick, with laced boots and
a cork sun-helmet and big spectacles. He sot his hoss like he thought it was
a rocking-chair, and held his reins like he was trying to fish with 'em.
Glanton hailed us. He was from Texas, original, and was rough in his speech
and free with his weppins, but me and him had always got along together very
"Where you-all goin'?" demanded Uncle Jacob.
"I am Professor Van Brock, of New York," said the tenderfoot, whilst Bill
was getting rid of his terbaccer wad. "I have employed Mr. Glanton, here, to
guide me up into the mountains. I am on the track of a tribe of aborigines,
which according to fairly well substantiated rumor, have inhabited the
haunted Mountains since time immemorial."
"Lissen here, you four-eyed runt," said Uncle Jacob in wrath, "air you
givin' me the hoss-laugh?"
"I assure yon that equine levity is the furthest thing from my thoughts,"
says Van Brock. "Whilst touring the country in the interests of science, I
heard the rumors to which I have referred. In a village possessing the
singular appellation of Chawed Ear, I met an aged prospector who told me that
he had seen one of the aborigines, clad in the skin of a wild animal and
armed with a bludgeon. The wild man, he said, emitted a most peculiar and
piercing cry when sighted, and fled into the recesses of the hills. I am
confident that it is some survivor of a pre-Indian race, and I am determined
"They ain't no sech critter in these hills," snorted Uncle Jacob. "I've
roamed all over 'em for fifty year, and I ain't seen no wild man."
"Well," says Glanton, "they's somethin' onnatural up there, because
I been hearin' some funny yarns myself. I never thought I'd be huntin' wild
men," he says, "but since that hash-slinger in Perdition turned me down to
elope with a travelin' salesman, I welcomes the chance to lose myself in the
mountains and forgit the perfidy of women-kind. What you-all doin' up here?
Prospectin'?" he said, glancing at the tools on the mule.
"Not in earnest," said Uncle Jacob hurriedly. "We're jest whilin' away our
time. They ain't no gold in these mountains."
"Folks says that Lost Haunted Mine is up here somewheres," said
"A pack of lies," snorted Uncle Jacob, busting into a sweat. "Ain't no
sech mine. Well, Breckinridge, le's be shovin'. Got to make Antelope Peak
"I thought we was goin' to Wildcat Canyon," I says, and he give me a awful
glare, and said: "Yes, Breckinridge, that's right, Antelope Peak, jest like
you said. So long, gents."
"So long," says Glanton.
So we turned off the trail almost at right angles to our course, me
follering Uncle Jacob bewilderedly. When we was out of sight of the others,
he reined around again.
"When Nature give you the body of a giant, Breckinridge," he said, "she
plumb forgot to give you any brains to go along with yore muscles. You want
everybody to know what we're lookin' for, and whar?"
"Aw," I said, "them fellers is jest lookin' for wild men."
"Wild men!" he snorted. "They don't have to go no further'n Chawed Ear on
payday night to find more wild men than they could handle. I ain't swallerin'
no sech tripe. Gold is what they're after, I tell you. I seen Glanton talkin'
to that Mex in Perdition the day I bought that map from him. I believe they
either got wind of that mine, or know I got that map, or both."
"What you goin' to do?" I ast him.
"Head for Wildcat Canyon by another trail," he said.
So we done so and arriv there after night, him not willing to stop till we
got there. It was deep, with big high cliffs cut with ravines and gulches
here and there, and very wild in appearance. We didn't descend into the
canyon that night, but camped on a plateau above it. Uncle Jacob 'lowed we'd
begin exploring next morning. He said they was lots of caves in the canyon,
and he'd been in all of 'em. He said he hadn't never found nothing except
b'ars and painters and rattlesnakes, but he believed one of them caves went
on through into another hidden canyon, and that was where the gold was
Next morning I was awoke by Uncle Jacob shaking me, and his whiskers was
curling with rage.
"What's the matter?" I demanded, setting up and pulling my guns.
"They're here!" he squalled. "Dawgone it, I suspected 'em all the time!
Git up, you big lunk! Don't set there gawpin' with a gun in each hand like a
idjit! They're here, I tell you!"
"Who's here?" I ast.
"That dern tenderfoot and his cussed Texas gunfighter," snarled Uncle
Jacob. "I was up jest at daylight, and purty soon I seen a wisp of smoke
curlin' up from behind a big rock t'other side of the flat. I snuck over
there, and there was Glanton fryin' bacon, and Van Brock was pertendin' to be
lookin' at some flowers with a magnifyin' glass—the blame fake. He
ain't no perfessor. I bet he's a derned crook. They're follerin' us. They aim
to murder us and take my map."
"Aw, Glanton wouldn't do that," I said, and Uncle Jacob said: "You shet
up! A man will do anything whar gold's consarned. Dang it all, git up and do
somethin'! Air you goin' to set there, you big lummox, and let us git
murdered in our sleep?"
That's the trouble of being the biggest man in yore clan; the rest of the
family always dumps all the onpleasant jobs onto yore shoulders. I pulled on
my boots and headed acrost the flat with Uncle Jacob's war-songs ringing in
my ears, and I didn't notice whether he was bringing up the rear with his
Winchester or not.
They was a scattering of trees on the flat, and about halfway acrost a
figger emerged from amongst it and headed my direction with fire in his eye.
It was Glanton.
"So, you big mountain grizzly," he greeted me rambunctiously, "you was
goin' to Antelope Peak, hey? Kinda got off the road, didn't you? Oh, we're on
to you, we air!"
"What you mean?" I demanded. He was acting like he was the one which ought
a feel righteously indignant instead of me.
"You know what I mean!" he says, frothing slightly at the mouth. "I didn't
believe it when Van Brock first said he suspicioned you, even though you
hombres did act funny yesterday when he met you on the trail. But this
momin' when I glimpsed yore fool Uncle Jacob spyin' on our camp, and then
seen him sneakin' off through the bresh, I knowed Van Brock was right. Yo're
after what we're after, and you-all resorts to dirty, onderhanded tactics.
Does you deny yo're after the same thing we air?"
"Naw, I don't," I said. "Uncle Jacob's got more right to it than you-all
has. And when you says we uses onderhanded tricks, yo're a liar."
"That settles it!" gnashed he. "Go for yore gun!"
"I don't want to perforate you," I growled.
"I ain't hankerin' to conclude yore mortal career," he admitted. "But
Haunted Mountain ain't big enough, for both of us. Take off yore guns, and
I'll maul the livin' daylights out you, big as you be."
I unbuckled my gun-belt, and hung it on a limb, and he laid off his'n, and
hit me in the stummick and on the ear and in the nose, and then he busted me
in the jaw and knocked out a tooth. This made me mad, so I taken him by the
neck and throwed him agen the ground so hard it jolted all the wind outa him.
I then sot on him and started banging his head agen a convenient boulder, and
his cussing was terrible to hear.
"If you-all had acted like white men," I gritted, "we'd of giveyou
a share in that there mine."
"What the hell air you talkin' about?" he gurgled, trying to haul his
bowie out of his boot which I had my knee on.
"The Lost Haunted Mine, what you think?" I snarled, getting a fresh grip
on his ears.
"Hold on!" he protested. "You mean you-all air jest lookin' for gold? Is
that on the level?"
I was so astonished I quit hammering his skull agen the rock.
"Why, what else?" I demanded. "Ain't you-all follerin' us to steal Uncle
jacob's map which shows where at the mine is hid?"
"Git offa me!" he snorted disgustfully, taking advantage of my surprise to
push me off. "Hell!" says he, starting to knock the dust offa his britches.
"I might of knowed that tenderfoot was wool-gatherin'. After we seen you-all
yesterday, and he heard you mention Wildcat Canyon, he told me he believed
you was follerin' us. He said that yarn about prospectin' was jest a blind.
He said he believed you was workin' for a rival scientific society to git
ahead of us and capture that there wild man yoreselves."
"What?" I said. "You mean that wild man yarn is straight goods?"
"Far as we're consarned," said Bill. "Prospectors is been tellin' some
onusual stories about Wildcat Canyon. Well, I laughed at him at first, but he
kept on usin' so many .45 calibre words that he got me to believin' it might
be so. 'Cause, after all, here was me guidin' a tenderfoot on the trail of a
wild man, and they warn't no reason to think that you and Jacob Grimes was
any more sensible than me.
"Then, this mornin' when I seen Jacob peekin' at me from the bresh, I
decided Van Brock must be right. You-all hadn't never went to Antelope Peak.
The more I thought it over, the more sartain I was that you was follerin' us
to steal our wild man, so I started over to have a show-down."
"Well," I said, "we've reched a understandin'. You don't want our mine,
and we sure don't want yore wild man. They's plenty of them amongst my
relatives on Bear Creek. Le's git Van Brock and lug him over to our camp and
explain things to him and my weak-minded uncle."
"All right," said Glanton, buckling on his guns. "Hey, what's that?"
From down in the canyon come a yell: "Help! Aid! Assistance!"
"It's Van Brock!" yelped Glanton. "He's wandered down into the canyon by
hisself! Come on!"
Right nigh their camp they was a ravine leading down to the floor of the
canyon. We pelted down that at full speed and emerged nigh the wall of the
cliffs. They was the black mouth of a cave showing nearby, in a kind of
cleft, and jest outside this cleft Van Brock was staggering around, yowling
like a hound-dawg with his tail caught in the door.
His cork helmet was laying on the ground all bashed outa shape, and his
specs was lying nigh it. He had a knot on his head as big as a turnip and he
was doing a kind of ghost-dance or something all over the place.
He couldn't see very good without his specs, 'cause when he sighted us he
give a shriek and started legging it up the canyon, seeming to think we was
more enemies. Not wanting to indulge in no sprinting in that heat, Bill shot
a heel offa his boot, and that brung him down squalling blue murder.
"Help!" he shrieked. "Mr. Glanton! Help! I am being attacked! Help!"
"Aw, shet up," snorted Bill. "I'm Glanton. Yo're all right. Give him his
specs, Breck. Now, what's the matter?"
He put 'em on, gasping for breath, and staggered up, wild-eyed, and
p'inted at the cave, and hollered: "The wild man! I saw him, as I descended
into the canyon on a private exploring expedition! A giant with a panther's
skin about his waist, and a club in his hand. When I sought to apprehend him
he dealt me a murderous blow with the bludgeon and fled into that cavern. He
should be arrested!"
I looked into the cave. It was too dark to see anything except for a hoot-
"He must of saw somethin', Breck," said Glanton, hitching his gun-
harness. "Somethin' shore cracked him on the conk. I've been hearin'
some queer tales about this canyon, myself. Maybe I better sling some lead in
"No, no, no!" broke in Van Brock. "We must capture him alive!"
"What's goin' on here?" said a voice, and we turned to see Uncle Jacob
approaching with his Winchester in his hands.
"Everything's all right, Uncle Jacob," I said. "They don't want yore mine.
They're after the wild man, like they said, and we got him cornered in that
"All right, huh?" he snorted. "I reckon you thinks it's all right for you
to waste yore time with sech dern foolishness when you oughta be helpin' me
look for my mine. A big help you be!"
"Where was you whilst I was argyin' with Bill here?" I demanded.
"I knowed you could handle the situation, so I started explorin' the
canyon," he said. "Come on, we got work to do."
"But the wild man!" cried Van Brock. "Your nephew would be invaluable in
securing the specimen. Think of science! Think of progress! Think
"Think of a striped skunk!" snorted Uncle Jacob. "Breckinridge, air you
"Aw, shet up," I said disgustedly. "You both make me tired. I'm goin' in
there and run that wild man out, and Bill, you shoot him in the hind-laig as
he comes out, so's we can catch him and tie him up."
"But you left yore guns hangin' onto that limb up on the plateau,"
"I don't need 'em," I said. "Didn't you hear Van Brock say we was to catch
him alive? If I started shootin' in the dark I might rooin him."
"All right," says Bill, cocking his six-shooters. "Go ahead. I figger
yo're a match for any wild man that ever come down the pike."
So I went into the cleft and entered the cave and it was dark as all get-
out. I groped my way along and discovered the main tunnel split in two, so I
taken the biggest one. It seemed to get darker the further I went, and purty
soon I bumped into something big and hairy and it went "Wump!" and grabbed
Thinks I, it's the wild man, and he's on the war-path. So I waded into him
and he waded into me, and we tumbled around on the rocky floor in the dark,
biting and mauling and tearing. Bear Creek is famed far and wide for its
ring- tailed scrappers, and I don't have to repeat I'm the fightin'est of 'em
all, but that cussed wild man sure give me my hands full. He was the biggest,
hairiest critter I ever laid hands on, and he had more teeth and talons than
I thought a human could possibly have. He chawed me with vigor and
enthusiasm, and he walzed up and down my frame free and hearty, and swept the
floor with me till I was groggy.
For a while I thought I was going to give up the ghost, and I thought with
despair of how humiliated my relatives on Bear Creek would be to hear their
champeen battler had been clawed to death by a wild man in a cave.
This thought maddened me so I redoubled my onslaughts, and the socks I
give him ought to of laid out any man, wild or tame, to say nothing of the
pile- driver kicks in his belly, and butting him with my head so he gasped. I
got what felt like a ear in my mouth and commenced chawing on it, and
presently, what with this and other mayhem I committed on him, he give a most
inhuman squall and bust away and went lickety-split for the outside
I riz up and staggered after him, hearing a wild chorus of yells break
forth, but no shots. I bust out into the open, bloody all over, and my
clothes hanging in tatters.
"Where is he?" I hollered. "Did you let him git away?"
"Who?" said Glanton, coming out from behind a boulder, whilst Van Brock
and Uncle Jacob dropped down out of a tree nearby.
"The wild man, damn it!" I roared.
"We ain't seen no wild man," said Glanton.
"Well, what was that thing I jest run outa the cave?" I hollered.
"That was a grizzly b'ar," said Glanton.
"Yeah," sneered Uncle Jacob, "and that was Van Brock's 'wild man'! And
now, Breckinridge, if yo're through playin', we'll—"
"No, no!" hollered Van Brock, jumping up and down. "It was indubitably a
human being which smote me and fled into the cavern. Not a bear! It is still
in there somewhere, unless there is another exit to the cavern."
"Well, he ain't in there now," said Uncle Jacob, peering into the mouth of
the cave. "Not even a wild man would run into a grizzly's cave, or if he did,
he wouldn't stay long—ooomp!"
A rock come whizzing out of the cave and hit Uncle Jacob in the belly, and
he doubled up on the ground.
"Aha!" I roared, knocking up Glanton's ready six-shooter. "I know! They's
two tunnels in there. He's in that smaller cave. I went into the wrong one!
Stay here, you-all, and gimme room! This time I gits him!"
With that I rushed into the cave mouth again, disregarding some more rocks
which emerged, and plunged into the smaller opening. It was dark as pitch,
but I seemed to be running along a narrer tunnel, and ahead of me I heard
bare feet pattering on the rock. I follered 'em at full lope, and presently
seen a faint hint of light. The next minute I rounded a turn and come out
into a wide place, which was lit by a shaft of light coming in through a
cleft in the wall, some yards up. In the light I seen a fantastic figger
climbing up on a ledge, trying to rech that cleft.
"Come down offa that!" I thundered, and give a leap and grabbed the ledge
by one hand and hung on, and reched for his laigs with t'other hand. He give
a squall as I grabbed his ankle and splintered his club over my head. The
force of the lick broke off the lip of the rock ledge I was holding on to,
and we crashed to the floor together, because I didn't let loose of him.
Fortunately, I hit the rock floor headfirst which broke my fall and kept me
from fracturing any of my important limbs, and his head hit my jaw, which
rendered him unconscious.
I riz up and picked up my limp captive and carried him out into the
daylight where the others was waiting. I dumped him on the ground and they
stared at him like they couldn't believe it. He was a ga'nt old cuss with
whiskers about a foot long and matted hair, and he had a mountain lion's hide
tied around his waist.
"A white man!" enthused Van Brock, dancing up and down. "An unmistakable
Caucasian! This is stupendous! A pre-historic survivor of a pre-Indian epoch!
What an aid to anthropology! A wild man! A veritable wild man!"
"Wild man, hell!" snorted Uncle Jacob. "That there's old Joshua Braxton,
which was trying to marry that old maid schoolteacher down at Chawed Ear all
"I was tryin' to marry her!" said Joshua bitterly, setting up
suddenly and glaring at all of us. "That there is good, that there is! And me
all the time fightin' for my life agen it. Her and all her relations was
tryin' to marry her to me. They made my life a curse. They was finally
all set to kidnap me and marry me by force. That's why I come away off up
here, and put on this rig to scare folks away. All I crave is peace and quiet
and no dern women."
Van Brock begun to cry because they warn't no wild man, and Uncle Jacob
said: "Well, now that this dern foolishness is settled, maybe I can git to
somethin' important. Joshua, you know these mountains even better'n I do. I
want ya to help me find the Lost Haunted Mine."
"There ain't no sech mine," said Joshua. "That old prospector imagined all
that stuff whilst he was wanderin' around over the desert crazy."
"But I got a map I bought from a Mexican in Perdition!" hollered Uncle
"Lemme see that map," said Glanton. "Why, hell," he said, "that there is a
fake. I seen that Mexican drawin' it, and he said he was goin' to try to sell
it to some old jassack for the price of a drunk."
Uncle Jacob sot down on a rock and pulled his whiskers. "My dreams is
bust. I'm goin' to go home to my wife," he said weakly.
"You must be desperate if it's come to that," said old Joshua acidly. "You
better stay up here. If they ain't no gold, they ain't no women to torment a
"Women is a snare and a delusion," agreed Glanton. "Van Brock can go back
with these fellers. I'm stayin' with Joshua."
"You all oughta be ashamed talkin' about women that way," I reproached
'em. "I've suffered from the fickleness of certain women more'n either of you
snake-hunters, but I ain't let it sour me on the sex. What," I says, waxing
oratorical, "in this lousy and troubled world of six-shooters and centipedes,
what, I asts you-all, can compare to women's gentle sweetness—"
"There the scoundrel is!" screeched a familiar voice like a rusty buzzsaw.
"Don't let him git away! Shoot him if he tries to run!"
We turned sudden. We'd been argying so loud amongst ourselves we hadn't
noticed a gang of folks coming down the ravine. There was Aunt Lavaca and the
sheriff of Chawed Ear with ten men, and they all p'inted sawed-off shotguns
"Don't git rough, Elkins," warned the sheriff nervously. "They're loaded
with buckshot and ten-penny nails. I knows yore repertation and I takes no
chances. I arrests you for the kidnappin' of Jacob Grimes."
"Air you plumb crazy?" I demanded.
"Kidnappin'!" hollered Aunt Lavaca, waving a piece of paper. "Abductin'
yore pore old uncle! Aimin' to hold him for ransom! It's all writ down over
yore name right here on this here paper! Sayin' yo're takin' Jacob away off
into the mountains—warnin' me not to try to foller! Same as threatenin'
me! I never heered of sech doin's! Soon as that good-for-nothin' Joe Hopkins
brung me that there imperdent letter, I went right after the sheriff...
Joshua Braxton, what airyou doin' in them ondecent togs? My land, I
dunno what we're a-comin' to! Well, sheriff, what you standin' there for like
a ninny? Why'n't you put some handcuffs and chains and shackles onto him? Air
you scairt of the big lunkhead?"
"Aw, heck," I said. "This is all a mistake. I warn't threatenin' nobody in
that there letter—"
"Then where's Jacob?" she demanded. "Perjuice him imejitly, or—"
"He ducked into the cave," said Glanton.
I stuck my head in and roared: "Uncle Jacob! You come outa there and
explain before I come in after you!"
He snuck out looking meek and down-trodden, and I says: "You tell these
idjits that I ain't no kidnapper."
"That's right," he said. "I brung him along with me."
"Hell!" said the sheriff disgustedly. "Have we come all this way on a wild
goose chase? I should of knew better'n to lissen to a woman—"
"You shet yore fool mouth!" squalled Aunt Lavaca. "A fine sheriff you be.
Anyway—what was Breckinridge doin' up here with you, Jacob?"
"He was helpin' me look for a mine, Lavacky," he said.
"Helpin' you?" she screeched. "Why, I sent him to fetch you back!
Breckinridge Elkins, I'll tell yore pap about this, you big, lazy, good-for-
nothin', low-down, ornery—"
"Aw, SHET UP!" I roared, exasperated beyond endurance. I seldom lets my
voice go its full blast. Echoes rolled through the canyon like thunder, the
trees shook and pine cones fell like hail, and rocks tumbled down the
mountain sides. Aunt Lavaca staggered backwards with a outraged squall.
"Jacob!" she hollered. "Air you goin' to 'low that ruffian to use that
there tone of voice to me? I demands that you flail the livin' daylights outa
the scoundrel right now!"
"Now, now, Lavacky," he started soothing her, and she give him a clip
under the ear that changed ends with him, and the sheriff and his posse and
Van Brock took out up the ravine like the devil was after 'em.
Glanton bit hisself off a chaw of terbaccer and says to me, he says:
"Well, what was you fixin' to say about women's gentle sweetness?"
"Nothin'," I snarled. "Come on, let's git goin'. I yearns to find a more
quiet and secluded spot than this here'n. I'm stayin' with Joshua and you and
11. EDUCATE OR BUST
ME and Bill Glanton and Joshua Braxton stood on the
canyon rim and listened to the orations of Aunt Lavaca Grimes fading in the
distance as she herded Uncle Jacob for the home range.
"There," says Joshua sourly, "goes the most hen-pecked pore critter in the
Humbolts. For sech I has only pity and contempt. He's that scairt of a woman
he don't dast call his soul his own."
"And what air we, I'd like to know?" says Glanton, slamming his hat down
on the ground. "What right has we to criticize Jacob, when it's on account of
women that we're hidin' in these cussed mountains? Yo're here, Joshua,
because yo're scairt of that old maid schoolteacher. Breck's here because a
gal in War Paint give him the gate. And I'm here sourin' my life because a
hash-slinger done me wrong!"
"I'm tellin' you gents," says Bill, "no woman is goin' to rooin my life!
Lookin' at Jacob Grimes has teached me a lesson. I ain't goin' to eat my
heart out up here in the mountains in the company of a soured old hermit and
a love- lorn human grizzly. I'm goin' to War Paint, and bust the bank at the
Yaller Dawg's Tail gamblin' hall, and then I'm goin' to head for San
Francisco and a high-heeled old time! The bright lights calls me, gents, and
I heeds the summons! You-all better take heart and return to yore respective
"Not me," I says. "If I go back to Bear Creek without no gal, Glory McGraw
will rawhide the life outa me."
"As for me returnin' to Chawed Ear," snarls old Joshua, "whilst that old
she-mudhen is anywhere in the vicinity, I haunts the wilds and solitudes, if
it takes all the rest of my life. You 'tend to yore own business, Bill
"Oh, I forgot to tell you," says Bill. "So dern many things is been
happenin' I ain't had time to tell you. But that old maid schoolteacher ain't
to Chawed Ear no more. She pulled out for Arizona three weeks ago."
"That's news!" says Joshua, straightening up and throwing away his busted
club. "Now I can return and take my place among men—Hold on!" says he,
reching for his club again. "Likely they'll be gittin' some other old
harridan to take her place! That new-fangled schoolhouse they got at Chawed
Ear is a curse and a blight. We'll never be rid of female school-shooters. I
better stay up here, after all."
"Don't worry," says Bill. "I seen a pitcher of the gal that's comin' to
take Miss Stark's place, and I can assure you right now, that a gal as young
and purty as her wouldn't never try to sot her brand on no old buzzard like
I come alive suddenly.
"Young and purty, you says?" I says.
"As a pitcher," he says. "First time I ever knowed a schoolteacher could
be less'n forty and have a face that didn't look like the beginnin's of a
long drought. She's due into Chawed Ear tomorrer, on the stage from the East,
and the whole town's goin' to turn out to welcome her. The mayor aims to make
a speech, if he's sober enough, and they've got together a band to play."
"Damn foolishness!" snorted Joshua. "I don't take no stock in
"I dunno," I said. "They's times when I wish I could read and write."
"What would you read outside of the labels on whisky bottles?" snorted old
"Everybody ought to know how," I said defiantly. "We ain't never had no
school on Bear Creek."
"Funny how a purty face changes a man's views," says Bill. "I remember
onst Miss Stark ast you how you folks up on Bear Creek would like for her to
come up there and teach yore chillern, and you taken one look at her face,
and told her that it was agen the principles of Bear Creek to have their
peaceful innercence invaded by the corruptin' influences of education, and
the folks was all banded together to resist sech corruption."
I ignored him and says: "It's my duty to Bear Creek to pervide culture for
the risin' generation. We ain't never had a school, but by golly, we're goin'
to, if I have to lick every old moss-back in the Humbolts. I'll build the
cabin for the schoolhouse myself."
"And where'll you git a teacher?" ast old Joshua. "This gal that's comin'
to teach at Chawed Ear is the only one in the county. Chawed Ear ain't goin'
to let you have her."
"Chawed Ear is, too," I says. "If they won't give her up peaceful, I
resorts to vi'lence. Bear Creek is goin' to have education and culture, if I
have to wade ankle-deep in gore to pervide it. Come on, le's go! I'm r'arin'
to start the ball for arts and letters. Air you all with me?"
"Till hell freezes!" acclaimed Bill. "My shattered nerves needs a little
excitement, and I can always count on you to pervide sech. How about it,
"Yo're both crazy," growls old Joshua. "But I've lived up here eatin' nuts
and wearin' a painter-hide till I ain't shore of my own sanity. Anyway, I
know the only way to disagree successfully with Elkins is to kill him, and I
got strong doubts of bein' able to do that, even if I wanted to. Lead on!
I'll do anything in reason to keep eddication out of Chawed Ear. 'Tain't only
my own feelin's in regard to schoolteachers. It's the principle of the
"Git yore clothes then," I said, "and le's hustle."
"This painter hide is all I got," he said.
"You cain't go down into the settlements in that garb," I says.
"I can and will," says he. "I look about as civilized as you do, with yore
clothes all tore to rags account of that b'ar. I got a hoss down in that
canyon. I'll git him."
So Joshua got his hoss, and Glanton got his'n, and I got Cap'n Kidd, and
then the trouble started. Cap'n Kidd evidently thought Joshua was some kind
of a varmint, because every time Joshua come near him he taken in after him
and run him up a tree. And every time Joshua tried to come down, Cap'n Kidd
busted loose from me and run him back up again.
I didn't get no help from Bill; all he done was laugh like a spotted
hyener, till Cap'n Kidd got irritated at them guffaws and kicked him in the
belly and knocked him clean through a clump of spruces. Time I got him
ontangled he looked about as disreputable as what I did, because his clothes
was tore most off of him. We couldn't find his hat, neither, so I tore up
what was left of my shirt and he tied the pieces around his head like a
Apache. We was sure a wild-looking bunch.
But I was so disgusted thinking about how much time we was wasting while
all the time Bear Creek was wallering in ignorance, so the next time Cap'n
Kidd went for Joshua I took and busted him betwixt the ears with my
six-shooter, and that had some effect on him.
So we sot out, with Joshua on a ga'nt old nag he rode bare-back with a
hackamore, and a club he toted not having no gun. I had Bill to ride betwixt
him and me, so's to keep that painter hide as far from Cap'n Kidd as
possible, but every time the wind shifted and blowed the smell to him, Cap'n
Kidd reched over and taken a bite at Joshua, and sometimes he bit Bill's hoss
instead, and sometimes he bit Bill, and the langwidge Bill directed at that
pore dumb animal was shocking to hear.
But between rounds, as you might say, we progressed down the trail, and
early the next morning we come out onto the Chawed Ear Road, some miles west
of Chawed Ear. And there we met our first human—a feller on a pinto
mare, and when he seen us he give a awful squall and took out down the road
towards Chawed Ear like the devil had him by the seat of the britches.
"Le's catch him and find out if the teacher's got there yet!" I hollered,
and we taken out after him, yelling for him to wait a minute, but he spurred
his hoss that much harder, and before we'd gone any piece, hardly, Joshua's
fool hoss jostled agen Cap'n Kidd, which smelt that painter skin and got his
bit betwixt his teeth and run Joshua and his hoss three miles through the
bresh before I could stop him. Glanton follered us, and of, course, time we
got back to the road, the feller on the pinto mare was out of sight long
So we headed for Chawed Ear, but everybody that lived along the road had
run into their cabins and bolted the doors, and they shot at us through their
winders as we rode by. Glanton said irritably, after having his off-ear
nicked by a buffalo rifle, he says: "Dern it, they must know we aim to steal
"Aw, they couldn't know that," I said. "I bet they is a war on between
Chawed Ear and War Paint."
"Well, what they shootin' at me for, then?" demanded old Joshua. "I
don't hang out at War Paint, like you fellers. I'm a Chawed Ear man
"I doubt if they rekernizes you with all them whiskers and that rig you
got on," I said. "Anyway—what's that?"
Ahead of us, away down the road, we seen a cloud of dust, and here come a
gang of men on hosses, waving their guns and yelling.
"Well, whatever the reason is," says Glanton, "we better not stop to find
out! Them gents is out for blood!"
"Pull into the bresh," says I. "I'm goin' to Chawed Ear today in spite of
hell, high water, and all the gunmen they can raise!"
So we taken to the bresh, leaving a trail a blind man could of follered,
but we couldn't help it, and they lit into the bresh after us, about forty or
fifty of 'em, but we dodged and circled and taken short cuts old Joshua
knowed about, and when we emerged into the town of Chawed Ear, our pursuers
warn't nowheres in sight. They warn't nobody in sight in the town, neither.
All the doors was closed and the shutters up on the cabins and saloons and
stores and everything. It was pecooliar.
As we rode into the clearing somebody let bam at us with a shotgun
from the nearest cabin, and the load combed old Joshua's whiskers. This made
me mad, and I rode at the cabin and pulled my foot out'n the stirrup and
kicked the door in, and while I was doing this, the feller inside hollered
and jumped out the winder, and Glanton grabbed him by the neck and taken his
gun away from him. It was Esau Barlow, one of Chawed Ear's confirmed
"What the hell does you Chawed Ear buzzards mean by this here hostility?"
"Is that you, Glanton?" gasped Barlow, blinking his eyes.
"Yes, it's me!" bellered Bill wrathfully. "Do I look like a Injun?"
"Yes—ow! I mean, I didn't know you in that there turban,"
says Barlow. "Am I dreamin', or is that Joshua Braxton and Breckinridge
"Shore it's us!" snorted Joshua. "Who you think?"
"Well," says Esau, rubbing his neck, "I didn't know!" He stole a glance at
Joshua's painter-hide and he batted his eyes again, and kind of shaken his
head like he warn't sure of hisself, even then.
"Where is everybody?" Joshua demanded.
"Well," says Esau, "a little while ago Dick Lynch rode into town with his
hoss all of a lather, and swore he'd jest out-run the wildest war-party that
ever come down from the hills!
"'Boys,' says Dick, 'they ain't neither Injuns nor white men! They're them
cussed wild men that New York perfessor was talkin' about! One of 'em's big
as a grizzly b'ar, with no shirt on, and he's ridin' a hoss bigger'n a bull
moose. One of the others is as ragged and ugly as him, but not so big, and
wearin' a Apache head-dress. T'other'n's got nothin' on but a painter's hide,
and a club, and his hair and whiskers falls to his shoulders! When they seen
me,' says Dick, 'they sot up the awfullest yells I ever heard and come for me
like so many wild Injuns. I fogged it for town,' says Dick, warnin' everybody
along the road to fort theirselves in their cabins."
"Well," says Esau, "when he says that, sech men as was left in town got
their hosses and guns—except me which cain't ride account of a risin' I
got in a vital spot—and they taken out up the road to meet the war-
party before it got into town."
"Well, of all the cussed fools!" I snorted. "Lissen, where-at's the new
"She ain't arriv yet," says he. "She's due on the next stage, and the
mayor and the band rode out to meet her at the Yaller Creek crossin' and
escort her into town in honor. They pulled out before Dick Lynch brung news
of the war- party."
"Well, come on!" I says to my warriors. "I aims to meet that stage
So we pulled out and fogged it down the road, and purty soon we heard
music blaring ahead of us, and men yipping and shooting off their pistols
like they does when they're celebrating, so we jedged the stage had already
"What you goin' to do now?" ast Glanton, and about that time a noise bust
out behind us, and I looked back and seen that gang of Chawed Ear maniacs
which had been chasing us dusting down the road after us, waving their
Winchesters. I seen it warn't no use to try to stop and argy with 'em. They'd
fill us full of lead before we could get clost enough to make 'em hear what
we was saying. So I hollered: "Come on! If they git her into town they'll
fort theirselves agen us, and we'll never git her! We'll have to take her by
force! Foller me!"
So we swept down the road and around the bend, and there was the
stagecoach coming up the road with the mayor riding alongside with his hat in
his hand, and a whisky bottle sticking out of each saddle-bag and his hip
pocket. He was orating at the top of his voice to make hisself heard above
the racket the band was making. They was blowing horns of every kind, and
banging drums, and twanging on Jews harps, and the hosses was skittish and
shying and jumping. But we heard the mayor say: "mdash;And so we welcomes
you, Miss Devon, to our peaceful little community, where life runs smooth and
tranquil, and men's souls is overflowing with milk and honey—" And jest
then we stormed around the the bend and come tearing down on 'em with the mob
right behind us yelling and cussing and shooting free and fervent.
The next minute they was the damndest mix-up you ever seen, what with the
hosses bucking their riders off, and men yelling and cussing, and the hosses
hitched to the stage running away and knocking the mayor off his hoss. We hit
'em like a cyclone and they shot at us and hit us over the head with their
derned music horns, and right in the middle of the fray the mob behind us
rounded the bend and piled up amongst us before they could check theirselves,
and everybody was so confused they started fighting everybody else. Old
Joshua was laying right and left with his club, and Glanton was beating the
band over their heads with his six-shooter, and I was trompling everybody in
my rush for the stage.
Because the fool hosses had whirled around and started in the general
direction of the Atlantic Ocean, and neither the driver nor the shotgun guard
could stop 'em. But Cap'n Kidd overtook it in maybe a dozen strides, and I
left the saddle in a flying leap and landed on it. The guard tried to shoot
me with his shotgun so I throwed it into a alder clump and he didn't let go
of it quick enough so he went along with it.
I then grabbed the reins out of the driver's hands and swung them fool
hosses around, and the stage kind of revolved on one wheel for a dizzy
instant and then settled down again and we headed back up the road
lickety-split and in a instant was right amongst the melee that was going on
around Bill and Joshua.
About that time I realized that the driver was trying to stab me with a
butcher knife, so I kind of tossed him off the stage, and there ain't no
sense in him going around saying he's going to have me arrested account of
him landing headfirst in the bass horn so it take seven men to pull his head
out of it. He ought to watch where he falls, when he gets throwed off a stage
going at a high run.
I feels, moreover, that the mayor is prone to carry petty grudges, or he
wouldn't be belly-aching about me accidentally running over him with all four
wheels. And it ain't my fault he was stepped on by Cap'n Kidd, neither. Cap'n
Kidd was jest follering the stage, because he knowed I was on it. And it
naturally irritates any well-trained hoss to stumble over somebody, and
that's why Cap'n Kidd chawed the mayor's ear.
As for them fellers which happened to get knocked down and run over by the
stage, I didn't have nothing personal agen 'em. I was jest rescuing Joshua
and Bill which I seen was outnumbered about twenty to one. I was doing them
idjits a favor, if they only knowed it, because in about another minute Bill
would of started using the front ends of his six-shooters instead of the
butts, and the fight would of turnt into a massacre. Glanton has got a awful
Him and Joshua had laid out a remarkable number of the enemy, but the
battle was going agen 'em when I arriv on the field of carnage. As the stage
crashed through the mob I reched down and got Joshua by the neck and pulled
him out from under about fifteen men which was beating him to death with
their gun butts and pulling out his whiskers, and I slung him up on top of
the other luggage. About that time we was rushing past the melee which Bill
was the center of, and I reched down and snared him as we went by, but three
of the men which had hold of him wouldn't let go, so I hauled all four of 'em
up into the stage. I then handled the team with one hand whilst with the
other'n I pulled them idjits loose from Bill like pulling ticks off a cow's
hide, and throwed 'em at the mob which was chasing us.
Men and hosses piled up in a stack on the road which was further
complicated by Cap'n Kidd's actions as he come busting along after the stage,
and by the time we sighted Chawed Ear again, our enemies was far behind us
down the road.
We busted right through Chawed Ear in a fog of dust, and the women and
chillern which had ventured out of their cabins, squalled and run back in
again, though they warn't in no danger at all. But Chawed Ear folks is
pecooliar that way.
When we was out of sight of Chawed Ear on the road to War Paint I give the
lines to Bill and swung down on the side of the stage and stuck my head
They was one of the purtiest gals I ever seen in there, all huddled up in
a corner as pale as she could be, and looking so scairt I thought she was
going to faint, which I'd heard Eastern gals had a habit of doing.
"Oh, spare me!" she begged, clasping her hands in front of her. "Please
don't scalp me! I cannot speak your language, but if you can understand
English, please have mercy on me—"
"Be at ease, Miss Devon," I reassured her. "I ain't no Injun, nor wild man
neither. I'm a white man, and so is my friends here. We wouldn't none of us
hurt a flea. We're that refined and tender-hearted you wouldn't believe
it—" About that time a wheel hit a stump and the stage jumped into the
air and I bit my tongue, and roared in some irritation: "Bill, you—son
of a—polecat! Stop them hosses before I comes up there and breaks yore
"Try it and see what you git, you beefheaded lummox!" he retorted, but he
pulled the hosses to a stop, and I taken off my hat and opened the stage
door. Bill and Joshua clumb down and peered over my shoulder.
"Miss Devon," I says, "I begs yore pardon for this here informal welcome.
But you sees before you a man whose heart bleeds for the benighted state of
his native community. I'm Breckinridge Elkins from Bear Creek, where hearts
is pure and motives is noble, but education is weak.
"You sees before you," I says, "a man which has growed up in ignorance. I
cain't neither read nor write my own name. Joshua here, in the painter-skin,
he cain't neither, and neither can Bill—"
"That's a lie," says Bill. "I can read and—oomp!" Because I'd
kind of stuck my elbow in his stummick. I didn't want Bill Glanton to spile
the effeck of my speech.
"They is some excuse for men like us," I says. "When we was cubs schools
was unknown in these mountains, and keepin' a sculpin' knife from betwixt
yore skull and yore hair was more important than makin' marks onto a
"But times has changed. I sees the young 'uns of my home range growin' up
in the same ignorance as me," I said, "and my heart bleeds for 'em. They is
no sech excuse for them as they was for me. The Injuns has went, mostly, and
a age of culture is due to be ushered in.
"Miss Devon," I says, "will you please come up to Bear Creek and be our
"Why," says she, bewilderedly, "I came West expecting to teach school at a
place called Chawed Ear, but I haven't signed any contract—"
"How much was them snake-hunters goin' to pay you?" I ast.
"Ninety dollars a month," says she.
"We pays you a hundred on Bear Creek," I says. "Board and lodgin'
"But what will the people of Chawed Ear say?" she said.
"Nothin'!" I says heartily. "I done arranged that. They got the interests
of Bear Creek so much at heart, that they wouldn't think of interferin' with
any arrangements I make. You couldn't drag 'em up to Bear Creek with a team
"It seems all very strange and irregular," says she, "but I
So I says: "Good! Fine! Great! Then it's all settled. Le's go!"
"Where?" she ast, grabbing hold of the stage as I clumb into the seat.
"To War Paint, first," I says, "where I gits me some new clothes and a
good gentle hoss for you to ride—because nothin' on wheels can git over
the Bear Creek road—and then we heads for home! Git up, hosses! Culture
is on her way to the Humbolts!"
Well, a few days later me and the schoolteacher was riding sedately up the
trail to Bear Creek, with a pack-mule carrying her plunder, and you never
seen nothing so elegant—store-bought clothes and a hat with a feather
into it, and slippers and everything. She rode in a side-saddle I bought for
her—the first that ever come into the Humbolts. She was sure purty. My
heart beat in wild enthusiasm for education ever time I looked at her.
I swung off the main trail so's to pass by the spring in the creek where
Glory McGraw filled her pail every morning and evening. It was jest about
time for her to be there, and sure enough she was. She straightened when she
heard the hosses, and started to say something, and then her eyes got wide as
she seen my elegant companion, and her purty red mouth stayed open. I pulled
up my hoss and taken off my hat with a perlite sweep I learnt from a gambler
in War Paint, and I says: "Miss Devon, lemme interjuice you to Miss Glory
McGraw, the datter of one of Bear Creek's leadin' citizens. Miss McGraw, this
here is Miss Margaret Devon, from Boston, Massachusetts, which is goin' to
teach school here."
"How do you do?" says Miss Margaret, but Glory didn't say nothing. She
jest stood there, staring, and the pail fell outa her hand and splashed into
"Allow me to pick up yore pail," I said, and started to lean down from my
saddle to get it, but she started like she was stung, and said, in a voice
which sounded kind of strained and onnatural: "Don't tech it! Don't tech
nothin' I own! Git away from me!"
"What a beautiful girl!" says Miss Margaret as we rode on. "But how
peculiarly she acted!"
But I said nothing, because I was telling myself, well, I reckon I showed
Glory McGraw something this time. I reckon she sees now that I warn't lying
when I said I'd bring a peach back to Bear Creek with me. But somehow I
warn't enjoying my triumph nigh as much as I'd thought I would.
12. WAR ON BEAR CREEK
PAP dug the nineteenth buckshot out of my shoulder
and said: "Pigs is more disturbin' to the peace of a community than scandal,
divorce, and corn- licker put together. And," says pap, pausing to strop his
bowie on my sculp where the hair was all burnt off, "when the pig is a
razorback hawg, and is mixed up with a lady schoolteacher, a English
tenderfoot, and a passle of blood- thirsty relatives, the result is appallin'
for a peaceable man to behold. Hold still till Buckner gits yore ear sewed
Pap was right. I warn't to blame for nothing that happened. Breaking Joe
Gordon's laig was a mistake, and Erath Elkins is a liar when he says I caved
in them five ribs of his'n on purpose. If Uncle Jeppard Grimes had been
tending to his own business, he wouldn't have got the seat of his britches
filled with bird-shot, and I don't figger it was my fault that cousin Bill
Kirby's cabin got burned down. And I don't take no blame for Jim Gordon's ear
which Jack Grimes shot off, neither. I figger everybody was more to blame
than I was, and I stand ready to wipe up the road with anybody which
disagrees with me.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Lemme go back to the days when culture
first reared its head amongst the simple inhabitants of Bear Creek.
Jest like I said, I was determined that education should be committed on
the rising generation, and I gathered the folks in a clearing too far away
for Miss Devon to be stampeded by the noise of argyment and persuasion, and I
sot forth my views. Opinions differed vi'lently like they always does on Bear
Creek, but when the dust settled and the smoke drifted away, it was found
that a substantial majority of folks agreed to see things my way. Some was
awful sot agen it, and said no good would come of book larning, but after I
had swept the clearing with six or seven of them, they allowed it might be a
good thing after all, and agreed to let Miss Margaret take a whack at
uplifting the young 'uns.
Then they ast me how much money I'd promised her, and when I said a
hundred a month they sot up a howl that they wasn't that much hard money seen
on Bear Creek in a year's time. But I settled that. I said each family would
contribute whatever they was able—coonskins, honey, b'ar hides, corn-
licker, or what not, and I'd pack the load into War Paint each month and turn
it into cash money. I added that I'd be more'n glad to call around each month
to make sure nobody failed to contribute.
Then we argyed over where to build the cabin for the schoolhouse, and I
wanted to build it between pap's cabin and the corral, but he riz up and said
he'd be dadgasted he'd have a schoolhouse anywhere nigh his dwelling-house,
with a passle of yelling kids scaring off all the eatable varmints. He said
if it was built within a mile of his cabin it would be because they was
somebody on Bear Creek which had a quicker trigger finger and a better
shooting eye than what he did. So after some argyment in the course of which
five of Bear Creek's leading citizens was knocked stiff, we decided to build
the schoolhouse over nigh the settlement on Apache Mountain. That was the
thickest populated spot on Bear Creek anyway. And Cousin Bill Kirby agreed to
board her for his part of contributing to her wages.
Well, it would of suited me better to had the schoolhouse built closer to
my home-cabin, and have Miss Margaret board with us, but I was purty well
satisfied, because this way I could see her any time I wanted to. I done this
every day, and she looked purtier every time I seen her. The weeks went by,
and everything was going fine. I was calling on Miss Margaret every day, and
she was learning me how to read and write, though it was a mighty slow
process. But I was progressing a little in my education, and a whole
lot—I thought —in my love affair, when peace and romance hit a
snag in the shape of a razorback pig named Daniel Webster.
It begun when that there tenderfoot come riding up the trail from War
Paint with Tunk Willoughby. Tunk ain't got no more sense than the law allows,
but he sure showed good jedgment that time, because having delivered his
charge to his destination, he didn't tarry. He merely handed me a note, and
p'inted dumbly at the tenderfoot, whilst holding his hat reverently in his
"What you mean by that there gesture?" I ast him rather irritably, and he
said: "I doffs my sombrero in respect to the departed. Bringin' a specimen
like that onto Bear Creek is jest like heavin' a jackrabbit to a pack of
He hove a sigh and shook his head, and put his hat back on. "Rassle a cat
in pieces," he said.
"What the hell air you talkin' about?" I demanded.
"That's Latin," he said. "It means rest in peace."
And with that he dusted it down the trail and left me alone with the
tenderfoot which all the time was setting his cayuse and looking at me like I
was a curiosity or something.
I called for my sister Ouachita to come read that there note for me,
because she'd learnt how from Miss Margaret, so she did, and it run as
"Dere Breckinridge: This will interjuice Mr. J. Pembroke Pemberton a
English sportsman which I met in Frisco recent. He was disapinted because he
hadnt found no adventures in America and was fixin to go to Aferker to shoot
liuns and elerfants but I perswaded him to come with me because I knowed he
would find more hell on Bear Creek in a week than he would find in a yere in
Aferker or any other place. But the very day we hit War Paint I run into a
old ackwaintance from Texas I will not speak no harm of the ded but I wish
the son of a buzzard had shot me somewheres besides in my left laig which
already had three slugs in it which I never could get cut out. Anyway I am
lade up and not able to come on to Bear Creek with J. Pembroke Pemberton. I
am dependin' on you to show him some good bear huntin' and other excitement
and pertect him from yore relatives I know what a awful responsibility I am
puttin on you but I am askin this as yore friend, William Harrison Glanton,
I looked J. Pembroke over. He was a medium-sized young feller and looked
kinda soft in spots. He had yaller hair and very pink cheeks like a gal; and
he had on whip-cord britches and tan riding boots which was the first I ever
seen. And he had on a funny kinda coat with pockets and a belt which he
called a shooting jacket, and a big hat like a mushroom made outa cork with a
red ribbon around it. And he had a pack-hoss loaded with all kinds of
plunder, and five or six different kinds of shotguns and rifles.
"So yo're J. Pembroke," I says, and he says: "Oh, rahther! And you, no
doubt, are the person Mr. Glanton described to me as Breckinridge
"Yeah," I said. "Light and come in. We got b'ar meat and honey for
"I say," he says, climbing down. "Pardon me for being a bit personal, old
chap, but may I ask if your—ah—magnitude of bodily stature is not
a bit unique?"
"I dunno," I says, not having the slightest idee what he was talking
about. "I always votes a straight Democratic ticket, myself."
He started to say something else, but jest then pap and my brothers John
and Bill and Jim and Buckner and Garfield come to the door to see what the
noise was about, and he turned pale and said faintly: "I beg your pardon;
giants seem to be the rule in these parts."
"Pap says men ain't what they was when he was in his prime," I said, "but
we manage to git by."
Well, J. Pembroke laid into them b'ar steaks with a hearty will, and when
I told him we'd go after b'ar next day, he ast me how many days travel it'd
take till we got to the b'ar country.
"Heck!" I says. "You don't have to travel to git b'ar in these parts. If
you forgit to bolt yore door at night yo're liable to find a grizzly sharin'
yore bunk before mornin'. This here'n we're eatin' was catched by my sister
Elinor there whilst tryin' to rob the pig-pen out behind the cabin last
"My word!" he says, looking at her pecooliarly. "And may I ask, Miss
Elkins, what calibre of firearm you used?"
"I knocked him in the head with a wagon spoke," she said, and he shook his
head to hisself and muttered: "Extraordinary!"
J. Pembroke slept in my bunk and I taken the floor that night; and we was
up at daylight and ready to start after the b'ar. Whilst J. Pembroke was
fussing over his guns, pap come out and pulled his whiskers and shook his
head and said: "That there is a perlite young man, but I'm afeared he ain't
as hale as he ought a be. I jest give him a pull at my jug, and he didn't
gulp but one good snort and like to choked to death."
"Well," I said, buckling the cinches on Cap'n Kidd, "I've done learnt not
to jedge outsiders by the way they takes their licker on Bear Creek. It takes
a Bear Creek man to swig Bear Creek corn juice."
"I hopes for the best," sighed pap. "But it's a dismal sight to see a
young man which cain't stand up to his licker. Whar you takin' him?"
"Over towards Apache Mountain," I said. "Erath seen a exter big grizzly
over there day before yesterday."
"Hmmmmm!" says pap. "By a pecooliar coincidence the schoolhouse is over on
the side of Apache Mountain, ain't it, Breckinridge?"
"Maybe it is and maybe it ain't," I replied with dignerty, and rode off
with J. Pembroke ignoring pap's sourcastic comment which he hollered after
me: "Maybe they is a connection betwixt book-larnin' and b'ar-huntin', but
who am I to say?"
J. Pembroke was a purty good rider, but he used a funny-looking saddle
without no horn nor cantle, and he had the derndest gun I ever seen. It was a
double-barrel rifle, and he said it was a elerfant-gun. It was big enough to
knock a hill down. He was surprised I didn't tote no rifle and ast me what
would I do if we met a b'ar. I told him I was depending on him to shoot it,
but I said if it was necessary for me to go into action, my six-shooters was
"My word!" says he. "You mean to say you can bring down a grizzly with a
shot from a pistol?"
"Not always," I said. "Sometimes I have to bust him over the head with the
barrel to finish him."
He didn't say nothing for a long time after that.
Well, we rode over on the lower slopes of Apache Mountain, and tied the
hosses in a holler and went through the bresh on foot. That was a good place
for b'ars, because they come there very frequently looking for Uncle Jeppard
Grimes' pigs which runs loose all over the lower slopes of the mountain.
But jest like it always is when yo're looking for something special, we
didn't see a cussed b'ar.
The middle of the evening found us around on the side of the mountain
where they is a settlement of Kirbys and Grimeses and Gordons. Half a dozen
families has their cabins within a mile or so of each other, and I dunno what
in hell they want to crowd up together that way for, it would plumb smother
me, but pap says they was always pecooliar that way.
We warn't in sight of the settlement, but the schoolhouse warn't far off,
and I said to J. Pembroke: "You wait here a spell, and maybe a b'ar will come
by. Miss Margaret Devon is teachin' me how to read and write, and it's time
for my lesson."
I left J. Pembroke setting on a log hugging his elerfant-gun, and I strode
through the bresh and come out at the upper end of the run which the
settlement was at the other'n, and school had jest turned out and the
chillern was going home, and Miss Margaret was waiting for me in the log
She was setting at her hand-made desk as I come in, ducking my head so as
not to bump it agen the top of the door and perlitely taking off my Stetson.
She looked kinda tired and discouraged, and I said: "Has the young'uns been
raisin' any hell today, Miss Margaret?"
"Oh, no," she said. "They're very polite—in fact I've noticed that
Bear Creek people are always polite when they're not killing each other. I've
finally gotten used to the boys wearing their pistols and bowie knives to
school. But somehow it seems so futile. This is all so terribly different
from everything to which I've always been accustomed. I get discouraged and
feel like giving it up."
"You'll git used to it," I consoled her. "It'll be a lot different onst
yo're married to some honest reliable young man."
She give me a startled look and said: "Married to someone here on Bear
"Shore," I said, involuntarily expanding my chest. "Everybody is jest
wonderin' when you'll set the day. But le's git at my readin' lesson. I done
learnt the words you writ out for me yesterday."
But she warn't listenin', and she said: "Do you have any idea of why Mr.
Joel Grimes and Mr. Esau Gordon quit calling on me? Until a few days ago one
or the other was at Mr. Kirby's cabin where I board almost every night."
"Now don't you worry none about them," I soothed her. "Joel'll be about on
crutches before the week's out, and Esau can already walk without bein'
helped. I always handles my relatives as easy as possible."
"You fought with them?" she exclaimed.
"I jest convinced 'em you didn't want to be bothered with 'em," I
reassured her. "I'm easy-goin', but I don't like competition."
"Competition!" Her eyes flared wide open and she looked at me like she
hadn't never seen me before. "Do you mean that you—that I—that
"Well," I said modestly, "everybody on Bear Creek is jest wonderin' when
yo're goin' to set the day for us to git hitched. You see gals don't
generally stay single very long in these parts—hey, what's the
Because she was getting paler and paler like she'd et something which
didn't agree with her.
"Nothing," she said faintly. "You—you mean people are expecting me
to marry you?"
"Sure," I said.
She muttered something that sounded like "My God!" and licked her lips
with her tongue and looked at me like she was about ready to faint. Well, it
ain't every gal which has a chance to get hitched to Breckinridge Elkins, so
I didn't blame her for being excited.
"You've been very kind to me, Breckinridge," she said feebly. "But I
—this is so sudden—so unexpected—I never thought— I
"I don't want to rush you," I said. "Take yore time. Next week will be
soon enough. Anyway, I got to build us a cabin, and—"
Bang! went a gun, too loud for a Winchester.
"Elkins!" It was J. Pembroke yelling for me up the slope. "Elkins!
"Who's that?" she exclaimed, jumping to her feet like she was working on a
"Aw," I said in disgust, "it's a fool tenderfoot Bill Glanton wished on
me. I reckon a b'ar is got him by the neck. I'll go see."
"I'll go with you!" she said, but from the way J. Pembroke was yelling I
figgered I better not waste no time getting to him, so I couldn't wait for
her, and she was some piece behind me when I mounted the lap of the slope and
met him running out from amongst the trees. He was gibbering with
"I winged it!" he squawked. "I'm sure I winged the blighter! But it ran in
among the underbrush and I dared not follow it, for the beast is most vicious
when wounded. A friend of mine once wounded one in South Africa,
"A b'ar?" I ast.
"No, no!" he said. "A wild boar! The most vicious brute I have ever seen!
It ran into that brush there!"
"Aw, they ain't no wild boars in the Humbolts," I snorted. "You wait here,
I'll go see jest what you did shoot."
I seen some splashes of blood on the grass, so I knowed he'd shot
something. Well, I hadn't gone more'n a few hundred feet and was jest
out of sight of J. Pembroke when I run into Uncle Jeppard Grimes.
Uncle Jeppard was one of the first white men to come into the Humbolts, in
case I ain't mentioned that before, and he wears fringed buckskins and
moccasins jest like he done fifty years ago. He had a bowie knife in one hand
and he waved something in the other'n like a flag of revolt, and he was
frothing at the mouth.
"The derned murderer!" he shrieked. "You see this? That's the proper tail
of Dan'l Webster, the finest derned razorback boar which ever trod the
Humbolts! That danged tenderfoot of yore'n tried to 'sassernate him! Shot his
tail off, right spang up to the hilt! I'll show him he cain't muterlate my
animals like this! I'll have his heart's blood!"
And he done a war-dance waving that pig-tail and his bowie and cussing in
American and Spanish and Apache Injun all at onst.
"You ca'm down, Uncle Jeppard," I said sternly. "He ain't got no sense,
and he thought Daniel Webster was a wild boar like they have in Aferker and
England and them foreign places. He didn't mean no harm."
"No harm," said Uncle jeppard fiercely. "And Dan'l Webster with no more
tail onto him than a jackrabbit!"
"Well," I said, "here's a five dollar gold piece to pay for the dern
hawg's tail, and you let J. Pembroke alone!"
"Gold cain't satisfy honor," he said bitterly, but nevertheless grabbing
the coin like a starving Kiowa grabbing a beefsteak. "I'll let this here
outrage pass for the time. But I'll be watchin' that maneyack to see that he
don't muterlate no more of my prize livestock."
And so saying he went off muttering in his beard.
I went back to where I left J. Pembroke, and there he was talking to Miss
Margaret which had jest come up. She had more color in her face than I'd saw
"Fancy meeting a girl like you here!" J. Pembroke was saying.
"No more surprising than meeting a man like you!" says she with a kind of
"Oh, a sportsman wanders into all sorts of out-of-the-way places," says
he, and seeing they hadn't noticed me coming up, I says: "Well, J. Pembroke,
I didn't find yore wild boar, but I met the owner."
He looked at me kinda blank, and said vaguely: "Wild boar? Whatwild
"That 'un you shot the tail off of with that there fool elerfant gun," I
said. "Lissen: next time you see a hawg-critter you remember there ain't no
wild boars in the Humbolts. They is critters called haverleeners in South
Texas, but they ain't even none of them in Nevada. So next time you see a
hawg, jest reflect that it's merely one of Uncle Jeppard Grimes' razorbacks
and refrain from shootin' at it."
"Oh, quite!" he agreed absently, and started talking to Miss Margaret
So I picked up the elerfant gun which he'd absent-mindedly laid down, and
said: "Well, it's gittin' late. Let's go. We won't go back to pap's cabin
tonight, J. Pembroke. We'll stay at Uncle Saul Garfield's cabin on t'other
side of the Apache Mountain settlement."
Like I said, them cabins was awful clost together. Uncle Saul's cabin was
below the settlement, but it warnt much over three hundred yards from cousin
Bill Kirby's cabin where Miss Margaret boarded. The other cabins was on
t'other side of Bill's, mostly, strung out up the run and up and down the
I told J. Pembroke and Miss Margaret to walk on down to the settlement
whilst I went back and got the hosses.
They'd got to the settlement time I catched up with 'em, and Miss Margaret
had gone into the Kirby cabin, and I seen a light spring up in her room. She
had one, of them new-fangled ile lamps she brung with her, the only one on
Bear Creek. Taller candles and pine chunks was good enough for us folks. And
she'd hanged rag-things over the winders which she called curtains. You never
seen nothing like it. I tell you she was that elegant you wouldn't believe
We walked on towards Uncle Saul's, me leading the hosses, and after awhile
J. Pembroke says: "A wonderful creature!"
"You mean Dan'l Webster?" I ast.
"No!" he said. "No, no! I mean Miss Devon."
"She sure is," I said. "She'll make me a fine wife."
He hirled like I'd stabbed him and his face looked pale in the dusk.
"You?" he said. "You a fine wife?"
"Well," I said bashfully, "she ain't sot the day yet, but I've sure sot my
heart on that gal."
"Oh!" he says. "Oh!" says he, like he had the toothache. Then he
said kinda hesitatingly: "Suppose—er, just suppose, you know! Suppose a
rival for her affections should appear? What would you do?"
"You mean if some dirty, low-down son of a mangy skunk was to try to steal
my gal?" I said, whirling so sudden he staggered backwards.
"Steal my gal?" I roared, seeing red at the mere thought. "Why,
Words failing me I grabbed a big sapling and tore it up by the roots and
broke it acrost my knee and throwed the pieces clean through a rail fence on
the other side of the road.
"That there is a faint idee!" I said, panting with passion.
"That gives me a very vivid conception," he said faintly, and he said
nothing more till we reched the cabin and seen Uncle Saul Garfield standing
in the light of the door combing his black beard with his fingers.
Next morning J. Pembroke seemed like he'd kinda lost interest in b'ars. He
said all that walking he done over the slopes of Apache Mountain had made his
laig muscles sore. I never heard of sech a thing, but nothing that gets the
matter with these tenderfeet surprises me much, they is sech a effemernate
race, so I ast him would he like to go fishing down the run and he said all
But we hadn't been fishing more'n a hour when he said he believed he'd go
back to Uncle Saul's cabin and take him a nap, and he insisted on going
alone, so I stayed where I was and catched me a nice string of trout.
I went back to the cabin about noon, and ast Uncle Saul if J. Pembroke had
got his nap out.
"Why, heck," said Uncle Saul, "I ain't seen him since you and him started
down the run this mornin'. Wait a minute—yonder he comes from the other
Well, J. Pembroke didn't say where he'd been all morning, and I didn't ast
him, because a tenderfoot don't generally have no reason for anything he
We et the trout I catched, and after dinner he perked up a right smart and
got his shotgun and said he'd like to hunt some wild turkeys. I never heard
of anybody hunting anything as big as a turkey with a shotgun, but I didn't
say nothing, because tenderfeet is like that.
So we headed up the slopes of Apache Mountain, and I stopped by the
schoolhouse to tell Miss Margaret I probably wouldn't get back in time to
take my reading and writing lesson, and she said: "You know, until I met your
friend, Mr. Pembroke, I didn't realize what a difference there was between
men like him, and—well, like the men on Bear Creek."
"I know," I said. "But don't hold it agen him. He means well. He jest
ain't got no sense. Everybody cain't be smart like me. As a special favor to
me, Miss Margaret, I'd like for you to be exter nice to the poor sap, because
he's a friend of my friend Bill Glanton down to War Paint."
"I will, Breckinridge," she replied heartily, and I thanked her and went
away with my big manly heart pounding in my gigantic bosom.
Me and J. Pembroke headed into the heavy timber, and we hadn't went far
till I was convinced that somebody was follering us. I kept hearing twigs
snapping, and onst I thought I seen a shadowy figger duck behind a bush. But
when I run back there, it was gone, and no track to show in the pine needles.
That sort of thing would of made me nervous, anywheres else, because they is
a goodly number of people which would like to get a clean shot at my back
from the bresh, but I knowed none of them dast come after me in my own
territory. If anybody was trailing us it was bound to be one of my relatives
and to save my neck I couldn't think of no reason why anyone of 'em would be
gunning for me.
But I got tired of it, and left J. Pembroke in a small glade whilst I
snuck back to do some shaddering of my own. I aimed to cast a big circle
around the clearing and see could I find out who it was, but I'd hardly got
out of sight of J. Pembroke when I heard a gun bang.
I turned to run back and here come J. Pembroke yelling: "I got him! I got
him! I winged the bally aborigine!"
He had his head down as he busted through the bresh and he run into me in
his excitement and hit me in the belly with his head so hard he bounced back
like a rubber ball and landed in a bush with his riding boots brandishing
wildly in the air.
"Assist me, Breckinridge!" he shrieked. "Extricate me! They will be hot on
"Who?" I demanded, hauling him out by the hind laig and setting him on his
"The Indians!" he hollered, jumping up and down and waving his smoking
shotgun frantically. "The bally redskins! I shot one of them! I saw him
sneaking through the bushes! I saw his legs! I knew it was an Indian
instantly because he had on moccasins instead of boots! Listen! That's him
"A Injun couldn't cuss like that," I said. "You've shot Uncle Jeppard
Telling him to stay there, I run through the bresh, guided by the maddened
howls which riz horribly on the air, and busting through some bushes I seen
Uncle Jeppard rolling on the ground with both hands clasped to the rear bosom
of his buckskin britches which was smoking freely. His langwidge was awful to
"Air you in misery Uncle Jeppard?" I inquired solicitously. This evoked
another ear-splitting squall.
"I'm writhin' in my death-throes," he says in horrible accents, "and you
stands there and mocks my mortal agony! My own blood-kin!" he says "—!"
says Uncle Jeppard with passion.
"Aw," I said, "that there bird-shot wouldn't hurt a flea. It cain't be
very deep under yore thick old hide. Lie on yore belly, Uncle Jeppard," I
says, stropping my bowie on my boot, "and I'll dig out them shot for
"Don't tech me!" he said fiercely, painfully climbing onto his feet.
"Where's my rifle-gun? Gimme it! Now then, I demands that you bring that
British murderer here where I can git a clean lam at him! The Grimes honor is
besmirched and my new britches is rooint. Nothin' but blood can wipe out the
stain on the family honor!"
"Well," I said, "you didn't have no business sneakin' around after us
Here Uncle Jeppard give tongue to loud and painful shrieks.
"Why shouldn't I?" he howled. "Ain't a man got no right to perteck his own
property? I war follerin' him to see that he didn't shoot no more tails offa
my hawgs. And now he shoots me in the same place! He's a fiend in human
form—a monster which stalks ravelin' through these hills bustin' for
the blood of the innercent!"
"Aw, J. Pembroke thought you was a Injun," I said.
"He thought Dan'l Webster was a wild wart-hawg," gibbered Uncle Jeppard.
"He thought I was Geronimo. I reckon he'll massacre the entire population of
Bear Creek under a misapprehension, and you'll uphold and defend him! When
the cabins of yore kinfolks is smoulderin' ashes, smothered in the blood of
yore own relations, I hope you'll be satisfied—bringin' a foreign
assassin into a peaceful community!"
Here Uncle Jeppard's emotions choked him, and he chawed his whiskers and
then yanked out the five-dollar gold piece I give him for Daniel Webster's
tail, and throwed it at me.
"Take back yore filthy lucre," he said bitterly. "The day of retribution
is nigh onto hand, Breckinridge Elkins, and the Lord of battles shall jedge
betwixt them which turns agen their kinsfolks in their extremerties!"
"In their which?" I ast, but he merely snarled and went limping off
through the trees, calling back over his shoulder: "They is still men on Bear
Creek which will see jestice did for the aged and helpless. I'll git that
English murderer if it's the last thing I do, and you'll be sorry you stood
up for him, you big lunkhead!"
I went back to where J. Pembroke was waiting bewilderedly, and evidently
still expecting a tribe of Injuns to bust out of the bresh and sculp him, and
I said in disgust: "Let's go home. Tomorrer I'll take you so far away from
Bear Creek you can shoot in any direction without hittin' a prize razorback
or a antiquated gunman with a ingrown disposition. When Uncle Jeppard Grimes
gits mad enough to throw away money, it's time to ile the Winchesters and
strap yore scabbard-ends to yore laigs."
"Legs?" he said mistily. "But what about the Indians?"
"They warn't no Injun, gol-dern it!" I howled. "They ain't been none on
Bear Creek for four or five year. They—aw, hell! What the hell! Come
on. It's gittin' late. Next time you see somethin' you don't understand, ast
me before you shoot it. And remember, the more ferocious and woolly it looks,
the more likely it is to be a leadin' citizen of Bear Creek."
It was dark when we approached Uncle Saul's cabin, and J. Pembroke glanced
back up the road, towards the settlement, and said: "My word, is it a
political rally? Look! A torchlight parade!"
I looked, and said: "Quick! Git into the cabin and stay there!"
He turned pale, but said: "If there is danger, I insist on—"
"Insist all you dern please," I said, "but git in that house and stay
there. I'll handle this. Uncle Saul, see he gits in there."
Uncle Saul is a man of few words. He taken a firm grip onto his pipe stem
and he grabbed J. Pembroke by the neck and the seat of the britches and
throwed him bodily into the cabin, and shet the door and sot down on the
"They ain't no use in you gittin' mixed up in this, Uncle Saul," I
"You got yore faults, Breckinridge," he grunted. "You ain't got much
sense, but yo're my favorite sister's son—and I ain't forgot that lame
mule Jeppard traded me for a sound animal back in '69. Let 'em come!"
They come all right, and surged up in front of the cabin— Jeppard's
boys Jack and Buck and Esau and Joash and Polk County. And Erath Elkins, and
a mob of Gordons and Buckners and Polks, all more or less kin to me, except
Joel Braxton who wasn't kin to none of us, but didn't like me because he was
sweet on Miss Margaret. But Uncle jeppard warn't with 'em. Some had torches
and Polk County Grimes had a rope with a noose in it.
"Where at air you-all goin' with that there lariat?" I ast them sternly,
planting my enormous bulk in their path.
"Perjuice the scoundrel!" commanded Polk County, waving his rope around
his head. "Bring out the foreign invader which shoots hawgs and defenceless
old men from the bresh!"
"What you aim to do?" I inquired.
"We aim to hang him!" they replied with hearty enthusiasm.
Uncle Saul knocked the ashes out of his pipe and stood up and stretched
his arms which looked like knotted oak limbs, and he grinned in his black
beard like a old timber wolf, and he says: "Whar is dear cousin Jeppard to
speak for hisself?"
"Uncle Jeppard was havin' the shot picked outa his hide when we left,"
says Jim Gordon. "He'll be along directly. Breckinridge, we don't want no
trouble with you, but we aims to have that Englishman."
"Well," I snorted, "you-all cain't. Bill Glanton is trustin' me to return
him whole of body and limb, and—"
"What you want to waste time in argyment for, Breckinridge?" Uncle Saul
reproved mildly. "Don't you know it's a plumb waste of time to try to reason
with the off-spring of a lame-mule trader?"
"What would you sejest, old man?" sneeringly remarked Polk County.
Uncle Saul beamed on him benevolently, and said gently: "I'd try moral
suasion—like this!" And he hit Polk County under the jaw and knocked
him clean acrost the yard into a rain barrel amongst the rooins of which he
reposed till he was rescued and revived some hours later.
But they was no stopping Uncle Saul onst he took the war-path. No sooner
had he disposed of Polk County than he jumped seven foot in the air, cracked
his heels together three times, give the rebel yell and come down with his
arms around the necks of Esau Grimes and Joel Braxton, and started mopping up
the cabin yard with 'em.
That started the fight, and they is no scrap in the world where mayhem is
committed as free and fervent as in one of these here family rukuses.
Polk County had hardly crashed into the rain-barrel when Jack Grimes stuck
a pistol in my face. I slapped it aside jest as he fired and the bullet
missed me and taken a ear offa Jim Gordon. I was scairt Jack would hurt
somebody if he kept on shooting reckless that way, so I kinda rapped him with
my left fist and how was I to know it would dislocate his jaw? But Jim Gordon
seemed to think I was to blame about his ear, because he give a maddened howl
and jerked up his shotgun and let bam with both barrels. I ducked jest
in time to keep from getting my head blowed off, and catched most of the
double charge in my shoulder, whilst the rest hived in the seat of Steve
Kirby's britches. Being shot that way by a relative was irritating, but I
controlled my temper and merely taken the gun away from Jim and splintered
the stock over his head.
In the meantime Joel Gordon and Buck Grimes had grabbed one of my laigs
apiece and was trying to rassle me to the earth, and Joash Grimes was trying
to hold down my right arm, and cousin Pecos Buckner was beating me over the
head from behind with a axe-handle, and Erath Elkins was coming at me from
the front with a bowie knife. I reched down and got Buck Grimes by the neck
with my left hand, and I swung my right and hit Erath with it, but I had to
lift Joash clean off his feet and swing him around with the lick, because he
wouldn't let go, so I only knocked Erath through the rail fence which was
around Uncle Saul's garden.
About this time I found my left laig was free and discovered that Buck
Grimes was unconscious, so I let go of his neck and begun to kick around with
my left laig, and it ain't my fault if the spur got tangled up in Uncle
Jonathan Polk's whiskers and jerked most of 'em out by the roots. I shaken
Joash off and taken the axe-handle away from Pecos because I seen he was
going to hurt somebody if he kept on swinging it around so reckless, and I
dunno why he blames me because his skull got fractured when he hit that tree.
He ought a look where he falls when he gets throwed acrost a cabin yard. And
if Joel Gordon hadn't been so stubborn trying to gouge me he wouldn't of got
his laig broke neither.
I was handicapped by not wanting to kill any of my kinfolks, but they was
so mad they all wanted to kill me, so in spite of my carefulness the
casualties was increasing at a rate which would of discouraged anybody but
Bear Creek folks. But they are the stubbornest people in the world. Three or
four had got me around the laigs again, refusing to be convinced that I
couldn't be throwed that way, and Erath Elkins, having pulled hisself out of
the rooins of the fence, come charging back with his bowie.
By this time I seen I'd have to use vi'lence in spite of myself, so I
grabbed Erath Elkins and squoze him with a grizzly-hug and that was when he
got them five ribs caved in, and he ain't spoke to me since. I never seen
sech a cuss for taking offence over trifles.
For a matter of fact, if he hadn't been wrought up, he'd of realized how
kindly and kindredly I felt towards him, even in the heat of battle. If I had
dropped him underfoot he might of got fatally tromped on, for I was kicking
folks right and left. So I carefully throwed Erath out of range of the melee,
and he's a liar when he says I aimed him at Ozark Grimes' pitchfork; I didn't
even see the cussed implement.
It was at this moment that somebody swung at me with a axe and ripped a
ear offa my head, and I begun to lose my temper. Four or five other relatives
was kicking and hitting and biting me all at onst, and they is a limit even
to my timid manners and mild nature. I voiced my displeasure with a beller of
wrath that shook the leaves offa the trees, and lashed out with both fists,
and my misguided relatives fell all over the yard like persimmons after a
frost. I grabbed Joash Grimes by the ankles and begun to knock them
ill-advised idjits in the head with him, and the way he hollered you'd of
thought somebody was man- handling him. The yard was beginning to look like a
battlefield when the cabin door opened and a deluge of b'iling water
descended on us.
I got about a gallon down my neck, but paid very little attention to it,
however the others ceased hostilities and started rolling on the ground and
hollering and cussing, and Uncle Saul riz up from amongst the rooins of Esau
Grimes and Joel Braxton, and bellered: "Woman! Whar air you at?"
Aunt Zavalla Garfield was standing in the doorway with a kettle in her
hand, and she said: "Will you idjits stop fightin'? The Englishman's gone. He
run out the back door when the fightin' started, and saddled his nag and
pulled out. Now will you born fools stop, or will I give you another surge?
Land save us! What's that light?"
Somebody was yelling off towards the settlement, and I was aware of a
pecooliar glow which didn't come from sech torches as was still burning. And
here come Medina Kirby, one of Bill's gals, yelping like a Comanche.
"Our cabin's burnin'!" she squalled. "A stray bullet went through the
winder and busted Miss Margaret's ile lamp!"
With a yell of dismay I abandoned the fray and headed for Bill's cabin,
follered by everybody which was able to toller me. They had been several wild
shots fired during the melee and one of 'em must have hived in Miss
Margaret's winder. The Kirbys had dragged most of their belongings into the
yard and some was toting water from the creek, but the whole cabin was in a
blaze by now.
"Where's Miss Margaret?" I roared.
"She must be still in there," shrilled Miz Kirby. "A beam fell and wedged
her door so we couldn't open it, and—"
I grabbed a blanket one of the gals had rescued and plunged it into the
rain barrel and run for Miss Margaret's room. They wasn't but one door in it,
which led into the main part of the cabin, and was jammed like they said, and
I knowed I couldn't never get my shoulders through either winder, so I jest
put down my head and rammed the wall full force and knocked four or five logs
outa place and made a hole big enough to go through.
The room was so full of smoke I was nigh blinded but I made out a figger
fumbling at the winder on the other side. A flaming beam fell outa the roof
and broke acrost my head with a loud report and about a bucketful of coals
rolled down the back of my neck, but I paid no heed.
I charged through the smoke, nearly fracturing my shin on a bedstead or
something, and enveloped the figger in the wet blanket and swept it up in my
arms. It kicked wildly and fought and though its voice was muffled in the
blanket I catched some words I never would of thought Miss Margaret would
use, but I figgered she was hysterical. She seemed to be wearing spurs, too,
because I felt 'em every time she kicked.
By this time the room was a perfect blaze and the roof was falling in and
we'd both been roasted if I'd tried to get back to the hole I'd knocked in
the oppersite wall. So I lowered my head and butted my way through the near
wall, getting all my eyebrows and hair burnt off in the process, and come
staggering through the rooins with my precious burden and fell into the arms
of my relatives which was thronged outside.
"I've saved her!" I panted. "Pull off the blanket! Yo're safe, Miss
"mdash;!" said Miss Margaret.
Uncle Saul groped under the blanket and said: "By golly, if this is the
schoolteacher she's growed a remarkable set of whiskers since I seen her
He yanked off the blanket—to reveal the bewhiskered countenance of
Uncle Jeppard Grimes!
"Hell's fire!" I bellered. "What you doin' here?"
"I was comin' to jine the lynchin', you blame fool!" he snarled. "I seen
Bill's cabin was afire so I clum in through the back winder to save Miss
Margaret. She was gone, but they was a note she'd left. I was fixin' to climb
out the winder when you grabbed me, you cussed maneyack!"
"Gimme that note!" I bellered, grabbing it. "Medina! Come here and read it
That note run:
"Dear Breckinridge. I am sorry, but I can't stay on Bear Creek any longer.
It was tough enough anyway, but being expected to marry you was the last
straw. You've been very kind to me, but it would be too much like marrying a
grizzly bear. Please forgive me. I am eloping with J. Pembroke Pemberton.
We're going out the back window to avoid any trouble, and ride away on his
horse. Give my love to the children. We are going to Europe on our honeymoon.
With love, Margaret Devon."
"Now what you got to say?" sneered Uncle Jeppard.
"Where's my hoss?" I yelled, gomg temporarily insane. "I'll foller 'em!
They cain't do me this way! I'll have his sculp if I have to foller 'em to
Europe or to hell! Git outa my way!"
Uncle Saul grabbed me as I plunged through the crowd.
"Now, now, Breckinridge," he expostulated, trying to brace his laigs as he
hung on and was dragged down the road. "You cain't do nothin' to him. She
done this of her own free will. She made her choice, and—"
"Release go of me!" I roared, jerking loose. "I'm ridin' on their trail,
and the man don't live which can stop me! Life won't be worth livin' when
Glory McGraw hears about this, and I aim to take it out on that Britisher's
hide! Hell hath no fury like a Elkins scorned! Git outa my way!"
13. WHEN BEAR CREEK CAME TO CHAWED EAR
I DUNNO how far I rode that night before the red
haze cleared out from around me so's I could even see where I was. I knowed I
was follering the trail to War Paint, but that was about all. I knowed Miss
Margaret and J. Pembroke would head for War Paint, and I knowed Cap'n Kidd
would run 'em down before they could get there, no matter how much start they
had. And I must of rode for hours before I come to my senses.
It was like waking up from a bad dream. I pulled up on the crest of a rise
and looked ahead of me where the trail dipped down into the holler and up
over the next ridge. It was jest getting daylight and everything looked kinda
grey and still. I looked down in the trail and seen the hoof prints of J.
Pembroke's hoss fresh in the dust, and knowed they couldn't be more'n three
or four miles ahead of me. I could run' em down within the next hour.
But thinks I, what the hell? Am I plumb locoed? The gal's got a right to
marry whoever she wants to, and if she's idjit enough to choose him instead
of me, why, 'tain't for me to stand in her way. I wouldn't hurt a hair onto
her head; yet here I been aiming to hurt her the wust way I could, by
shooting down her man right before her eyes. I felt so ashamed of myself I
wanted to cuss —and so sorry for myself I wanted to bawl.
"Go with my blessin'," I said bitterly, shaking my fist in the direction
where they'd went, and then reined Cap'n Kidd around and headed for Bear
Creek. I warn't aiming to stay there and endure Glory McGraw's rawhiding, but
I had to get me some clothes. Mine was burnt to rags, and I didn't have no
hat, and the buckshot in my shoulder was stinging me now and then.
A mile or so on the back-trail I crossed the road that runs from Cougar
Paw to Grizzly Run, and I was hungry and thirsty so I turnt up it to the
tavern which had been built recent on the crossing at Mustang Creek.
The sun warn't up when I pulled at the hitch-rack and clumb off and went
in. The bartender give a holler and fell backwards into a tub of water and
empty beer bottles, and started yelling for help, and I seen a man come to
one of the doors which opened into the bar, and look at me. They was
something familiar about him, but I couldn't place him for the instant.
"Shet up and git outa that tub," I told the bar-keep petulantly. "It's me,
and I want a drink."
"Excuse me, Breckinridge," says he, hauling hisself onto his feet. "I
rekernize you now, but I'm a nervous man, and you got no idee what a start
you gimme when you come through that door jest now, with yore hair and
eye-lashes all burnt off, and most of yore clothes, and yore hide all black
with soot. What the hell—"
"Cease them personal remarks and gimme some whisky," I snarled, being in
no mood for airy repartee. "Likewise wake up the cook and tell him to fry me
some ham and aigs."
So he sot the bottle onto the bar and stuck his head into the kitchen and
hollered: "Break out a fresh ham and start bustin' aigs. Breckinridge Elkins
When he come back I said: "Who was that lookin' through that door there
"Oh, that?" says he. "Why, that was a man nigh as famous as what you be
—Wild Bill Donovan. You-all ever met?"
"I'll say we has," I grunted, pouring me a drink. "He tried to take Cap'n
Kidd away from me when I was a ignorant kid. I was forced to whup him with my
bare fists before he'd listen to reason."
"He's the only man I ever seen which was as big as you," said the bar-
keep. "And at that he ain't quite as thick in the chest and arms as you be.
I'll call him in and you-all can chin about old times."
"Save yore breath," I growled. "The thing I craves to do about chins with
that coyote is to bust his'n with a pistol butt."
This seemed to kinda intimidate the bartender. He got behind the bar and
started shining beer mugs whilst I et my breakfast in gloomy grandeur,
halting only long enough to yell for somebody to feed Cap'n Kidd. Three or
four menials went out to do it, and being afeared to try to lead Cap'n Kidd
to the trough, they filled it and carried it to him, so only one of them got
kicked in the belly. It's awful hard for the average man to dodge Cap'n
Well, I finished my breakfast whilst they was dipping the stable-hand in a
hoss-trough to bring him to, and I said to the bar-keep, "I ain't got no
money to pay for what me and Cap'n Kidd et, but I'll be headin' for War Paint
late this evenin' or tonight, and when I git the money I'll send it to you.
I'm broke right now, but I ain't goin' to be broke long."
"All right," he said, eyeing my scorched skull in morbid fascination. "You
got no idee how pecoolier you look, Breckinridge, with that there bald
"Shet up!" I roared wrathfully. A Elkins is sensitive about his personal
appearance. "This here is merely a temporary inconvenience which I cain't
help. Lemme hear no more about it. I'll shoot the next son of a polecat which
calls attention to my singed condition!"
I then tied a bandanner around my head and got on Cap'n Kidd and pulled
I arriv at pap's cabin about the middle of the afternoon and my family
rallied around to remove the buckshot from my hide and repair other damages
which had been did.
Maw made each one of my brothers lend me a garment, and she let 'em out to
"Though how much good it'll do you," said she, "I don't know. I never seen
any man so hard on his clothes as you be, in my life. If it ain't fire it's
bowie knives, and if it ain't bowie knives, it's buckshot."
"Boys will be boys, maw," soothed pap. "Breckinridge is jest full of life
and high spirits, ain't you, Breckinridge?"
"From the whiff I got of his breath," snorted Elinor, "I'd say they is no
doubt about the spirits."
"Right now I'm full of gloom and vain regrets," I says bitterly. "Culture
is a flop on Bear Creek, and my confidence has been betrayed. I have tooken a
sarpent with a British accent to my bosom and been bit. I stands knee-deep in
the rooins of education and romance. Bear Creek lapses back into ignorance
and barbarism and corn-licker, and I licks the wounds of unrequited love like
a old wolf after a tussle with a pack of hound dawgs!"
"What you goin' to do?" ast pap, impressed.
"I'm headin' for War Paint," I said gloomily. "I ain't goin' to stay here
and have the life rawhided outa me by Glory McGraw. It's a wonder to me she
ain't been over already to gloat over my misery."
"You ain't got no money," says pap.
"I'll git me some," I said. "And I ain't particular how. I'm going now. I
ain't goin' to wait for Glory McGraw to descend onto me with her derned
So I headed for War Paint as soon as I could wash the soot off of me. I
had a Stetson I borrowed from Garfield and I jammed it down around my ears so
my bald condition warn't evident, because I was awful sensitive about it.
Sundown found me some miles from the place where the trail crossed the
Cougar Paw-Grizzly Run road, and jest before the sun dipped I was hailed by a
He was tall and gangling—tall as me, but didn't weigh within a
hundred pounds as much. His hands hung about three foot out of his sleeves,
and his neck with a big adam's apple riz out of his collar like a crane's,
and he had on a plug hat instead of a Stetson, and a long-tailed coat. He
moreover sot his hoss like it was a see-saw, and his stirrups was so short
his bony knees come up almost level with his shoulders. He wore his pants
laigs down over his boots, and altogether he was the funniest-looking human I
ever seen. Cap'n Kidd give a disgusted snort when he seen him and wanted to
kick his bony old sorrel nag in the belly, but I wouldn't let him.
"Air you," said this apparition, p'inting a accusing finger at me, "air
you Breckinridge Elkins, the bearcat of the Humbolts?"
"I'm Breckinridge Elkins," I replied suspiciously.
"I dedooced as much," he says ominously. "I have come a long ways to meet
you, Elkins. They can be only one sun in the sky, my roarin' grizzly from the
high ranges. They can be only one champeen in the State of Nevada. I'm
"Oh, be you?" I says, scenting battle afar. "Well, I feels the same way
about one sun and one champeen. You look a mite skinny and gantlin' to be
makin' sech big talk, but far be it from me to deny you a tussle after you've
come so far to git it. Light down from yore hoss whilst I mangles yore frame
with a free and joyful spirit! They is nothin' I'll enjoy more'n uprootin' a
few acres of junipers with yore carcass and festoonin' the crags with yore
"You mistakes my meanin', my bloodthirsty friend," says he. "I warn't
referrin' to mortal combat. Far as I'm consarned, yo're supreme in that line.
Nay, nay, B. Elkins, esquire! Reserve yore personal ferocity for the b'ars
and knife-fighters of yore native mountains. I challenges you in another
"Look well, my bowie-wieldin' orang-outang of the high peaks. Fame is
shakin' her mane. I am Jugbelly Judkins, and my talent is guzzlin'. From the
live-oak grown coasts of the Gulf to the sun-baked buttes of Montana," says
he oratorical, "I ain't yet met the gent I couldn't drink under the table
betwixt sundown and sunup. I have met the most celebrated topers of plain and
mountain, and they have all went down in inglorious and rum-soaked defeat.
Afar off I heard men speak of you, praisin' not only yore genius in alterin'
the features of yore feller man, but also laudin' yore capacity for
corn-licker. So I have come to cast the ga'ntlet at yore feet, as it
"Oh," I says, "you wants a drinkin' match."
"'Wants' is a weak word, my murderous friend," says he. "I demands
"Well, come on," I said. "Le's head for War Paint then. They'll be plenty
of gents there willin' to lay heavy bets—"
"To hell with filthy lucre!" snorted Jugbelly. "My mountainous friend, I
am an artist. I cares nothin' for money. My reputation is what I
"Well, then," I said, "they's a tavern on Mustang Creek—"
"Let it rot," says he. "I scorns these vulgar displays in low inns and
cheap taverns, my enormous friend. I supplies the sinews of war myself.
So he turnt his hoss off the trail, and I follered him through the bresh
for maybe a mile, till he come to a small cave in a bluff with dense thickets
all around. He reched into the cave and hauled out a gallon jug of
"I hid a goodly supply of the cup that cheers in that cave," says he.
"This is a good secluded spot where nobody never comes. We won't be
interrupted here, my brawny but feeble-minded gorilla of the high
"But what're we bettin'?" I demanded. "I ain't got no money. I was goin'
down to War Paint and git me a job workin' somebody's claim for day-wages
till I got me a stake and built it up playin' poker, but—"
"You wouldn't consider wagerin' that there gigantic hoss you rides?" says
he, eyeing me very sharp.
"Never in the world," I says with a oath.
"Very well," says he. "Let the bets go. We battles for honor and glory
alone! Let the carnage commence!"
So we started. First he'd take a gulp, and then me, and the jug was empty
about the fourth gulp I taken, so he dragged out another'n, and we emptied
it, and he hauled out another. They didn't seem to be no limit to his supply.
He must of brought it there on a whole train of pack mules. I never seen a
man drink like that skinny cuss. I watched the liquor careful, but he lowered
it every time he taken a swig, so I knowed he warn't jest pertending. His
belly expanded enormous as we went along and he looked very funny, with his
skinny frame, and that there enormous belly bulging out his shirt till the
buttons flew off of his coat.
I ain't goin' to tell you how much we drunk, because you wouldn't believe
me. But by midnight the glade was covered with empty jugs and Jugbelly's arms
was so tired lifting 'em he couldn't hardly move. But the moon and the glade
and everything was dancing around and around to me, and he warn't even
staggerring. He looked kind of pale and wan, and onst he says, in a awed
voice: "I wouldn't of believed it if I hadn't saw it myself!" But he kept on
drinking and so did I, because I couldn't believe a skinny maverick like that
could lick me, and his belly kept getting bigger and bigger till I was scairt
it was going to bust, and things kept spinning around me faster than
After awhile I heard him muttering to hisself, away off: "This is the last
jug, and if it don't fix him, nothin' will. By God, he ain't human."
That didn't make no sense to me, but he passed me the jug and said: "Air
you capable, my gulf-bellied friend?"
"Gimme that jug!" I muttered, bracing my laigs and getting a firm hold of
myself. I taken a big gulp—and then I didn't know nothing.
When I woke up the sun was high above the trees. Cap'n Kidd was cropping
grass nearby, but Jugbelly was gone. So was his hoss and all the empty jugs.
There warn't no sign to show he'd ever been there, only the taste in my mouth
which I cain't describe because I am a gent and there is words no gent will
stoop to use. I felt like kicking myself in the pants. I was ashamed
something terrible at being beat by that skinny mutt. It was the first time
I'd ever drunk enough to lay me out. I don't believe in a man making a hawg
out of hisself, even in a good cause.
I saddled Cap'n Kidd and pulled out for War Paint, and stopped a few rods
away and drunk five or six gallons of water at a spring, and felt a lot
better. I started on again, but before I come to the trail, I heard somebody
bawling and pulled up, and there sot a feller on a stump, crying like his
heart would bust.
"What's the trouble?" I ast, and he blinked the tears out of his eyes and
looked up mournful and melancholy. He was a scrawny cuss with over-sized
"You beholds in me," says he sobfully, "a critter tossed on the crooel
tides of fate. Destiny has dealt my hand from the bottom of the deck. Whoa is
me!" says he, and wept bitterly.
"Buck up," I said. "Things might well be wuss. Dammit," I said, waxing
irritable, "stop that blubberin' and tell me what's the matter. I'm
Breckinridge Elkins. Maybe I can help you."
He swallered some sobs, and said: "You air a man of kind impulses and a
noble heart. My name is Japhet Jalatin. In my youth I made a enemy of a
wealthy, powerful and unscrupulous man. He framed me and sent me to the pen
for somethin' I never done. I busted free and under a assumed name, I come
West. By hard workin' I accumulated a tidy sum which I aimed to send to my
sorrowin' wife and baby datters. But jest last night I learnt that I had been
rekernized and the bloodhounds of the law was on my trail. I have got to skip
to Mexico. My loved ones won't never git the dough.
"Oh," says he, "if they was only some one I could trust to leave it with
till I could write 'em a letter and tell 'em where it was so they could send
a trusted man after it! But I trust nobody. The man I left it with might tell
where he got it, and then the bloodhounds of the law would be onto my trail
again, houndin' me day and night."
He looked at me desperate, and says: "Young man, you got a kind and honest
face. Won't you take this here money and hold it for my wife, till she
can come after it?"
"Yeah, I'll do that," I said. He jumped up and run to his hoss which was
tied nearby, and hauled out a buckskin poke, and shoved it into my hands.
"Keep it till my wife comes for it," says he. "And promise me you won't
never breathe a word of how you got it, except to her!"
"A Elkins never broke his word in his life," I said. "Wild hosses couldn't
drag it outa me."
"Bless you, young man!" he cries, and grabbed my hand with both of his'n
and pumped it up and down like a pump-handle, and then jumped on his hoss and
fogged. I thought they is some curious people in the world, as I stuffed the
poke in my saddle-bags and headed for War Paint again.
I thought I'd turn off to the Mustang Creek tavern and eat me some
breakfast, but I hadn't much more'n hit the trail I'd been follerin' when I
met Jugbelly, than I heard hosses behind me, and somebody hollered: "Stop, in
the name of the law!"
I turnt around and seen a gang of men riding towards me, from the
direction of Bear Creek, and there was the sheriff leading 'em, and right
beside him was pap and Uncle John Garfield and Uncle Bill Buckner and Uncle
Bearfield Gordon. A tenderfoot onst called them four men the patriarchs of
Bear Creek. I dunno what he meant, but they generally decides argyments which
has got beyond the public control, as you might say. Behind them and the
sheriff come about thirty more men, most of which I rekernized as citizens of
Chawed Ear, and therefore definitely not my friends. Also, to my surprise, I
rekernized Wild Bill Donovan amongst 'em, with his thick black hair falling
down to his shoulders. They was four other hard-looking strangers which rode
clost beside him.
All the Chawed Ear men had sawed-off shotguns and that surprised me,
because that made it look like maybe they was coming to arrest me, and I
hadn't done nothing, except steal their schoolteacher, several weeks before,
and if they'd meant to arrest me for that, they'd of tried it before now.
"There he is!" yelped the sheriff, p'inting at me. "Han's up!"
"Don't be a damn' fool!" roared pap, knocking his shotgun out of his hands
as he started to raise it. "You want to git you and yore cussed posse
slaughtered? Come here, Breckinridge," he said, and I rode up to them, some
bewildered. I could see pap was worried. He scowled and tugged at his beard.
My uncles didn't have no more expression onto their faces than so many red
"What the hell's all this about?" I ast.
"Take off yore hat," ordered the sheriff.
"Look here, you long-legged son of a mangy skunk," I said heatedly, "if
yo're tryin' to rawhide me, lemme tell you right now—"
"'Tain't a joke," growled pap. "Take off yore sombrero."
I done so bewilderedly, and instantly four men in the gang started
hollering: "That's him! That's the man! He had on a mask, but when he taken
his hat off, we seen the hair was all off his head! That's shore him!"
"Elkins," said the sheriff, "I arrests you for the robbery of the Chawed
I convulsively went for my guns. It was jest a instinctive move which I
done without knowing it, but the sheriff hollered and ducked, and the
possemen throwed up their guns, and pap spurred in between us.
"Put down them guns, everybody!" he roared, covering me with one six-
shooter and the posse with the other'n. "First man that pulls a trigger, I'll
"I ain't aimin' to shoot nobody!" I bellered. "But what the hell is this
"As if he didn't know!" sneered one of the posse. "Tryin' to ack
innercent! Heh heh heh—glup!"
Pap riz in his stirrups and smashed him over the head with his right-hand
six-shooter barrel, and he crumpled into the trail and laid there with the
blood oozing out of his sculp.
"Anybody else feel humorous?" roared pap, sweeping the posse with a
terrible eye. Evidently nobody did, so he turnt around and says to me, and I
seen drops of perspiration standing on his face which warn't caused
altogether by the heat. Says he: "Breckinridge, early last night the Chawed
Ear stage was stuck up and robbed a few miles t'other side of Chawed Ear. The
feller which done it not only taken the passengers' money and watches and
things, and the mail sack, but he also shot the driver, old Jim Harrigan,
jest out of pure cussedness. Old Jim's layin' over in Chawed Ear now with a
bullet through his laig.
"These born fools thinks you done it! They was on Bear Creek before
daylight—the first time a posse ever dared to come onto Bear Creek, and
it was all me and yore uncles could do to keep the boys from massacrein, 'em.
Bear Creek was sure wrought up. These mavericks," pap p'inted a finger of
scorn at the four men which had claimed to identify me, "was on the stage.
You know Ned Ashley, Chawed Ear's leadin' merchant. The others air strangers.
They say their names is Hurley, Jackson and Slade. They claim to lost
"We done that!" clamored Jackson. "I had a buckskin poke crammed full of
gold pieces the scoundrel taken. I tell you, that's the man which done it!"
He p'inted at me, and pap turnt to Ned Ashley, and said: "Ned, what do you
"Well, Bill," says Ashley reluctantly, "I hates to say it, but I don't see
who else it could of been. The robber was Breckinridge's size, all right, and
you know they ain't many men that big. He warn't ridin' Cap'n Kidd, of
course; he was ridin' a big bay mare. He had on a mask, but as he rode off he
taken off his hat, and we all seen his head in the moonlight. The hair was
all off of it, jest like it is Breckinridge's. Not like he was naturally
bald, but like it had been burnt off or shaved off recent."
"Well," says the sheriff, "unless he can prove a alibi I'll have to arrest
"Breckinridge," says pap, "whar was you last night?"
"I was layin' out in the woods drunk," I says.
I felt a aidge of doubt in the air.
"I didn't know you could drink enough to git drunk," says pap. "It ain't
like you, anyway. What made you? Was it thinkin' about that gal?"
"Naw," I said. "I met a gent in a plug hat named Jugbelly Judkins and he
challenged me to a drinkin' match."
"Did you win?" ast pap anxiously.
"Naw!" I confessed in bitter shame. "I lost."
Pap muttered disgustedly in his beard, and the sheriff says: "Can you
perduice this Judkins hombre?"
"I dunno where he went," I said. "He'd pulled out when I woke up."
"Very inconvenient, I says!" says Wild Bill Donovan, running his fingers
lovingly through his long black locks, and spitting.
"Who ast you yore opinion?" I snarled blood-thirstily. "What you doin' in
the Humbolts? Come back to try to git even for Cap'n Kidd?"
"I forgot that trifle long ago," says he. "I holds no petty grudge. I jest
happened to be ridin' the road this side of Chawed Ear when the posse come by
and I come with 'em jest to see the fun."
"You'll see more fun than you can tote home if you fool with me," I
"Enough of this," snorted pap. "Breckinridge, even I got to admit yore
alibi sounds kind of fishy. A critter named Jugbelly with a plug hat! It
sounds plumb crazy. Still and all, we'll look for this cussed maverick, and
if we find him and he establishes whar you was last night, why—"
"He put my gold in his saddle-bags!" clamored Jackson. "I seen him! That's
the same saddle! Look in them bags and I bet you'll find it!"
"Go ahead and look," I invited, and the sheriff went up to Cap'n Kidd very
gingerly, whilst I restrained Cap'n Kidd from kicking his brains out. He run
his hand in the bags and I'll never forget the look on pap's face when the
sheriff hauled out that buckskin poke Japhet Jalatin had give me. I'd forgot
all about it.
"How you explain this?" exclaimed the sheriff. I said nothing. A
Elkins never busts his word, not even if he hangs for it.
"It's mine!" hollered Jackson. "You'll find my initials worked onto it!
J.J., for Judah Jackson."
"There they air," announced the sheriff. "J.J. That's for Judah Jackson,
"They don't stand for that!" I roared. "They stand for—" Then I
stopped. I couldn't tell him they stood for Japhet Jalatin without breaking
my word and giving away Japhet's secret.
"'Tain't his'n," I growled. "I didn't steal it from nobody."
"Then where'd you git it?" demanded the sheriff.
"None of yore business," I said sullenly.
Pap spurred forwards, and I seen beads of sweat on his face.
"Well, say somethin', damn it!" he roared. "Don't jest set there! No
Elkins was ever accused of thievin' before, but if you done it, say so! I
demands that you tells me whar you got that gold! If you didn't take it off'n
the stage, why don't you say so?"
"I cain't tell you," I muttered.
"Hell's fire!" bellered pap. "Then you must of robbed that stage! What a
black shame onto Bear Creek this here is! But these town-folks ain't goin' to
haul you off to their cussed jail, even if you did turn thief! Jest come out
plain and tell me you done it, and we'll lick the whole cussed posse if
I seen my uncles behind him drawing in and cocking their Winchesters, but
I was too dizzy with the way things was happening to think straight about
"I never robbed the cussed stage!" I roared. "I cain't tell you where I
got that gold—but I didn't rob the gol-derned stage."
"So yo're a liar as well as a thief!" says pap, drawing back from me like
I was a reptile. "To think it should come to this! From this day onwards," he
says, shaking his fist in my face, "you ain't no son of mine! I disowns you!
When they lets you out of the pen, don't you come sneakin' back to Bear
Creek! Us folks there if is rough and ready; we kyarves and shoots each other
free and frequent; but no Bear Creek man ever yet stole nor lied. I could
forgive the thievin', maybe, maybe even the shootin' of pore old Jim
Harrigan. But I cain't forgive a lie. Come on, boys."
And him and my uncles turnt around and rode back up the trail towards Bear
Creek with their eyes straight ahead of 'em and their backs straight as
ramrods. I glared after 'em wildly, feeling like the world was falling to
pieces. It war the first time in my life I'd ever knowed Bear Creek folks to
turn their backs on a Bear Creek man.
"Well, come along," said the sheriff, and started to hand the poke to
Jackson, when I come alive. I warn't going to let Japhet Jalatin's wife spend
the rest of her life in poverty if I could help it. I made one swoop and
grabbed the poke out of his hand and simultaneous drove in the spurs. Cap'n
Kidd made one mighty lunge and knocked Jackson and his hoss sprawling and
went over them and into the bresh whilst them fool posse-men was fumbling
with their guns. They was a lot of cussing and yelling behind me and some
shooting, but we was out of sight of them in a instant, and I went crashing
on till I hit a creek I knowed was there. I jumped off and grabbed a big rock
which was in the bed of the creek, with about three foot of water around
it—jest the top stuck out above the water. I grabbed it and lifted it,
and stuck the poke down under it, and let the rock back down again. It was
safe here. Nobody'd ever suspect it was hid there, and it was a cinch nobody
was going to be lifting the rock jest for fun and find the gold accidental.
It weighed about as much as the average mule.
Cap'n Kidd bolted off through the woods as the posse come crashing through
the bresh, yelling like Injuns, and they throwed down their shotguns on me as
I clumb up the bank, dripping wet.
"Catch that hoss!" yelled the sheriff. "The gold's in the
"You'll never catch that hoss," opined Wild Bill Donovan. "I know him of
"Maybe Elkins is got the gold on him!" hollered Jackson. "Search him!"
I didn't make no resistance as the sheriff taken my guns and snapped a
exter heavy pair of hand-cuffs onto my wrists. I was still kind of numb from
having pap and my uncles walk out on me like that. All I'd been able to think
of up to then was to hide the gold, and when that was hid my brain wouldn't
work no further.
"Elkins ain't got it on him!" snarled the sheriff, after slapping my
pockets. "Go after that hoss! Shoot him if you cain't catch him."
"No use for that," I says. "It ain't in the saddle-bags. I hid it where
you won't never find it."
"Look in all the holler trees!" says Jackson, and added viciously: "We
might make him talk."
"Shet up," said the sheriff. "Anything you could do to him would
jest make him mad. He's actin' tame and gentle now. But he's got a broodin'
gleam in his eye. Le's git him in jail before he gits a change of heart and
starts remodellin' the landscape with the posse's carcasses."
"I'm a broken man," I says mournfully. "My own clan has went back on me,
and I got no friends. Take me to jail if you wanta! All places is dreary for
a man whose kin has disown him."
So we went to Chawed Ear.
One of the fellers who was riding a big strong hoss lemme have his'n, and
the posse closed around me with their shotguns p'inting at me, and we headed
It was after dark when we got to Chawed Ear, but everybody was out in the
streets to see the posse bring me in. They warn't no friendly faces in that
crowd. I'd been very onpopular in Chawed Ear ever since I stole their
schoolteacher. I looked for old Joshua Braxton, but somebody said he was off
on a prospecting trip.
They stopped at a log-hut clost to the jail, and some men was jest getting
through working onto it.
"That there," says the sheriff, "is yore private jail. We built it special
for you. As soon as word come last night that you'd robbed the stage, I set
fifteen men buildin' that jail, and they're jest now gittin' through."
Well, I didn't think anybody could build anything in a night and a day
which could hold me, but I didn't have no thought of trying to break out. I
didn't have the heart. All I could think of was the way pap and my uncles had
rode off and left me disowned and arrested.
I went in like he told me, and sot down on the bunk, and heard 'em barring
the door on the outside. They was fellers holding torches outside, and the
light come in at the winder so I could see it was a good strong jail. They
was jest one room, with a door towards the town and a winder in the other
side. It had a floor made out of logs, and the roof and walls was made out of
heavy logs, and they was a big log at each corner sot in concrete, which was
something new in them mountains, and the concrete wasn't dry yet. The bars in
the winder was thick as a man's wrist, and drove clean through the sill and
lintel logs and the ends clinched, and chinks betwixt the logs was tamped in
with concrete. The door was made outa sawed planks four inches thick and
braced with iron, and the hinges was big iron pins working in heavy iron
sockets, and they was a big lock onto the door and three big bars made outa
logs sot in heavy iron brackets.
Everybody outside was jammed around the winder trying to look in at me,
but I put my head in my hands and paid no attention to 'em. I was trying to
think but everything kept going round and round. Then the sheriff chased
everybody away except them he told off to stay there and guard the jail, and
he put his head to the bars and said: "Elkins, it'll go easier with you,
maybe, if you'll tell us where you hid that there gold."
"When I do," I said gloomily, "there'll be ice in hell thick enough for
the devil to skate on."
"All right," he snapped. "If you want to be stubborn. You'll git twenty
years for this, or I miss my guess."
"Gwan," I said, "and leave me to my misery. What's a prison term to a man
which has jest been disowned by his own blood-kin?"
He pulled back from the winder and I heard him say to somebody: "It ain't
no use. Them Bear Creek devils are the most uncivilized white men I ever seen
in my life. You cain't do nothin' with one of 'em. I'm goin' to send some men
back to look for the gold around that creek we found him climbin' out of. I
got a idee he hid it in a holler tree somewheres. He's that much like a b'ar.
Likely he hid it and then run and got in the creek jest to throw us off the
scent. Thought he'd make us think he hid it on t'other side of the creek. I
bet he hid it in a tree this side somewheres.
"I'm goin' to git some food and some sleep. I didn't git to bed at all
last night. You fellers watch him clost, and if folks git too rambunctious
around the jail, call me quick."
"Ain't nobody around the jail now," said a familiar voice.
"I know," says the sheriff. "They're back in town lickerin' up at all the
bars. But Elkins is got plenty of enemies here, and they ain't no tellin'
what might bust loose before mornin'."
I heard him leave, and then they was silence, except for some men
whispering off somewheres nearby but talking too low for me to make out what
they was saying. I could hear noises coming from the town, snatches of
singing, and a occasional yell, but no pistol-shooting like they usually is.
The jail was on the aidge of town, and the winder looked in the other
direction, acrost a narrer clearing with thick woods bordering it.
Purty soon a man come and stuck his head up to the winder and I seen by
the starlight that it was Wild Bill Donovan.
"Well, Elkins," says he, "you think you've finally found a jail which can
"What you doin' hangin' around here?" I muttered.
He patted his shotgun and said: "Me and four of my friends has been
app'inted special guards. But I tell you what I'll do. I hate to see a man
down and out like you be, and booted out by his own family and shore to do at
least fifteen years in the pen. You tell me where you hid that there gold,
and give me Cap'n Kidd, and I'll contrive to let you escape before mornin'. I
got a fast hoss hid out there in the thickets, right over yonder, see? You
can fork that hoss and be gone outa the country before the sheriff could
catch you. All you got to do is give me Cap'n Kidd, and that gold. What you
"I wouldn't give you Cap'n Kidd," I said, "not if they was goin' to hang
"Well," he sneered, "'tain't none too shore they ain't. They's plenty of
rope-law talk in town tonight. Folks are purty well wrought up over you
shootin' old Jim Harrigan."
"I didn't shoot him, damn yore soul!" I said.
"You'll have a hell of a time provin' it," says he, and turnt around and
walked around towards the other end of the jail with his shotgun under his
Well, I dunno how long I sot there with my head in my hands and jest
suffered. Noises from the town seemed dim and far off. I didn't care if they
come and lynched me before morning, I was that low-spirited. I would of
bawled if I could of worked up enough energy, but I was too low for that
Then somebody says: "Breckinridge!" and I looked up and seen Glory McGraw
looking in at the winder with the rising moon behind her.
"Go ahead and t'ant me," I said numbly. "Everything else has happened to
me. You might as well, too."
"I ain't goin' to t'ant you!" she said fiercely. "I come here to help you,
and I aim to, no matter what you says!"
"You better not let Donovan see you talkin' to me," I says.
"I done seen him," she said. "He didn't want to let me come to the winder,
but I told him I'd go to the sheriff for permission if he didn't, so he said
he'd let me talk ten minutes. Listen: did he offer to help you escape if
you'd do somethin' for him?"
"Yeah," I said. "Why?"
She ground her teeth slightly.
"I thought so!" says she. "The dirty rat! I come through the woods, and
snuck on foot the last few hundred feet to git a look at the jail before I
come out in the open. They's a hoss tied out there in the thickets and a man
hidin' behind a log right nigh it with a sawed-off shotgun. Donovan's always
hated you, ever since you taken Cap'n Kidd away from him. He aimed to git you
shot whilst tryin' to escape. When I seen that ambush I jest figgered on
somethin' like that."
"How'd you git here?" I ast, seeing she seemed to really mean what she
said about helping me.
"I follered the posse and yore kinfolks when they came down from Bear
Creek," she said. "I kept to the bresh on my pony, and was within hearin'
when they stopped you on the trail. After everybody had left I went and
caught Cap'n Kidd, and—"
"You caught Cap'n Kidd!" I said in dumbfoundment.
"Certainly," says she. "Hosses has frequently got more sense than men.
He'd come back to the creek where he'd saw you last and looked like he was
plumb broken-hearted because he couldn't find you. I turnt the pony loose and
started him home, and I come on to Chawed Ear on Cap'n Kidd."
"Well, I'm a saw-eared jackrabbit!" I said helplessly.
"Hosses knows who their friends is," says she. "Which is more'n I can say
for some men. Breckinridge, pull out of this! Tear this blame jail apart and
le's take to the hills! Cap'n Kidd's waitin' out there behind that big clump
of oaks. They'll never catch you!"
"I ain't got the strength, Glory," I said helplessly. "My strength has
oozed out of me like licker out of a busted jug. What's the use to bust jail,
even if I could? I'm a marked man, and a broken man. My own kin has throwed
me down. I got no friends."
"You have, too!" she said fiercely. "I ain't throwed you down. I'm
standin' by you till hell freezes!"
"But folks thinks I'm a thief and a liar!" I says, about ready to
"What I care what they thinks?" says she. "If you was all them
things, I'd still stand by you! But you ain't, and I know it!"
For a second I couldn't see her because my sight got blurry, but I groped
and found her hand tense on the winder bar, and I said: "Glory, I dunno what
to say. I been a fool, and thought hard things about you, and—"
"Forgit it," says she. "Listen: if you won't bust out of here, we got to
prove to them fools that you didn't rob that stage. And we got to do it
quick, because them strangers Hurley and Jackson and Slade air in town
circulatin' around through the bars and stirrin' them fool Chawed Ear folks
up to lynchin' you. A mob's liable to come bustin' out of town any minute.
Won't you tell me where you got that there gold they found in yore
saddle-bags? I know you never stole it, but if you was to tell me, it
might help us."
I shaken my head helplessly.
"I cain't tell you," I said. "Not even you. I promised not to. A Elkins
cain't break his word."
"Ha!" says she. "Listen: did some stranger meet you and give you that poke
of gold to give to his starvin' wife and chillern, and make you promise not
to tell nobody where you got it, because his life was in danger?"
"Why, how'd you know?" I exclaimed in amazement.
"So that was it!" she exclaimed, jumping up and down in her
excitement. "How'd I know? Because I know you, you big bone-headed
mush-hearted chump! Lissen: don't you see how they worked you? This was a
"Jugbelly got you off and made you drink so's you'd be outa the way and
couldn't prove no alibi. Then somebody that looked like you robbed the stage
and shot old man Harrigan in the laig jest to make the crime wuss. Then this
feller what's-his-name give you the money so they'd find it onto you!"
"It looks sensible!" I said dizzily.
"It's bound to be!" says she. "Now all we got to do is find Jugbelly and
the feller which give you the gold, and the bay mare the robber rode. But
first we got to find a man which has got it in for you enough to frame you
"That's a big order," I says. "Nevada's full of gents which would give
their eye-teeth to do me a injury."
"A big man," she mused. "Big enough to be mistook for you, with his head
shaved, and ridin' a big bay mare. Hmmmmm! A man which hates you enough to do
anything to you, and is got sense enough to frame somethin' like this!"
And jest then Wild Bill Donovan come around the corner of the jail with
his shotgun under his arm.
"You've talked to that jail-bird long enough, gal," he says. "You better
pull out. The noise is gettin' louder all the time in town, and it wouldn't
surprise me to see quite a bunch of folks comin' to the jail before long
—with a necktie for yore friend there."
"And I bet you'll plumb risk yore life defendin' him," she sneered.
He laughed and taken off his sombrero and run his fingers through his
thick black locks.
"I don't aim to git none of my valuable gore spilt over a stagecoach
robber," says he. "But I like yore looks, gal. Why you want to waste yore
time with a feller like that when they is a man like me around, I dunno! His
head looks like a peeled onion! The hair won't never git no chance to grow
out, neither, 'cause he's goin' to git strung up before it has time. Whyn't
you pick out a handsome hombrelike me, which has got a growth of hair
as is hair?"
"He got his hair burnt off tryin' to save a human life," says she.
"Somethin' that ain't been said of you, you big monkey!"
"Haw haw haw!" says he. "Ain't you got the spunk, though! That's the way I
"You might not like me so much," says she suddenly, "if I told you I'd
found that big bay mare you rode last night!"
He started like he was shot and blurted out: "Yo're lyin'! Nobody could
find her where I hid her—"
He checked hisself sudden, but Glory give a yelp.
"I thought so! It was you!" And before he could stop her she
grabbed his black locks and yanked. And his sculp come off in her hands and
left his head as bare as what mine was!
"A wig jest like I thought!" she shrieked. "You robbed that stage! You
shaved yore head to look like Breckinridge—" He grabbed her and clapped
his hand over her mouth, and yelped: "Joe! Tom! Buck!" And at the sight of
Glory struggling in his grasp I snapped them handcuffs like they was rotten
cords and laid hold of them winder bars and tore 'em out. The logs they was
sot in split like kindling wood and I come smashing through that winder like
a b'ar through a chicken coop. Donovan let go of Glory and grabbed up his
shotgun to blow my head off, but she grabbed the barrel and throwed all her
weight onto it, so he couldn't bring it to bear on me, and my feet hit the
ground jest as three of his pals come surging around the corner of the
They was so surprised to see me out, and going so fast they couldn't stop
and they run right into me and I gathered 'em to my bosom and you ought to of
heard the bones crack and snap. I jest hugged the three of 'em together onst
and then throwed 'em in all direction like a b'ar ridding hisself of a pack
of hounds. Two of 'em fractured their skulls agen the jail-house and t'other
broke his laig on a stump.
Meanwhile Donovan had let loose of his shotgun and run for the woods and
Glory scrambled up onto her feet with the shotgun and let bam at him,
but he was so far away by that time all she done was sting his hide with the
shot. But he hollered tremendous jest the same. I started to run after him,
but Glory grabbed me.
"He's headed for that hoss I told you about!" she panted. "Git Cap'n Kidd!
We'll have to be a-hoss-back if we catch him!"
Bang! went a shotgun in the thickets, and Donovan's maddened voice
yelled: "Stop that, you cussed fool! This ain't Elkins! It's me! The game's
up! We got to shift!"
"Lemme ride with you!" hollered another voice, which I reckoned was the
feller Donovan had planted to shoot me if I agreed to try to escape. "My hoss
is on the other side of the jail!"
"Git off, blast you!" snarled Donovan. "This boss won't carry double!"
Wham! I jedged he'd hit his pal over the head with his six-shooter. "I
owe you that for fillin' my hide with buckshot, you blame fool!" Donovan
roared as he went crashing off into the bresh.
By this time we'd reched the oaks Cap'n Kidd was tied behind, and I swung
up into the saddle and Glory jumped up behind me.
"I'm goin' with you!" says she. "Don't argy! Git, goin'!"
I headed for the thickets Donovan had disappeared into, and jest inside of
'em we seen a feller sprawled on the ground with a shotgun in his hand and
his sculp split open. Even in the midst of my righteous wrath I had a instant
of ca'm and serene joy as I reflected that Donovan had got sprinkled with
buckshot by the feller who evidently mistook him for me. The deeds of the
wicked sure do return onto 'em.
Donovan had took straight out through the bresh, and left gaps in the
bushes a blind man could foller. We could hear his hoss crashing through the
timber ahead of us, and then purty soon the smashing stopped but we could
hear the hoofs lickety-split on hard ground, so I knowed he'd come out into a
path, and purty soon so did we. Moonlight hit down into it, but it was
winding so we couldn't see very far ahead, but the hoof-drumming warn't
pulling away from us, and we knowed we was closing in onto him. He was riding
a fast critter but I knowed Cap'n Kidd would run it off its fool laigs within
the next mile.
Then we seen a small clearing ahead and a cabin in it with candle-light
coming through the winders, and Donovan busted out of the trees and jumped
off his hoss which bolted into the bresh. Donovan run to the door and yelled:
"Lemme in, you damn' fools! The game's up and Elkins is right behind me!"
The door opened and he fell in onto his all-fours and yelled: "Shet the
door and bolt it! I don't believe even he can bust it down!" And somebody
else hollered: "Blow out the candles! There he is at the aidge of the
Guns begun to crack and bullets whizzed past me, so I backed Cap'n Kidd
back into cover and jumped off and picked up a big log which warn't rotten
yet, and run out of the clearing and made towards the door. This surprised
the men in the cabin, and only one man shot at me and he hit the log. The
next instant I hit the door—or rather I hit the door with the log going
full clip and the door splintered and ripped offa the hinges and crashed
inwards, and three or four men got pinned under it and yelled bloody
I lunged into the cabin over the rooins of the door and the candles was
all out, but a little moonlight streamed in and showed me three or four vague
figgers before me. They was all shooting at me but it was so dark in the
cabin they couldn't see to aim good and only nicked me in a few unimportant
places. So I went for them and got both arms full of human beings and started
sweeping the floor with 'em. I felt several fellers underfoot because they
hollered when I tromped on 'em, and every now and then I felt somebody's head
with my foot and give it a good rousing kick. I didn't know who I had hold of
because the cabin was so full of gunpowder smoke by this time that the moon
didn't do much good. But none of the fellers was big enough to be Donovan,
and them I stomped on didn't holler like him, so I started clearing house by
heaving 'em one by one through the door, and each time I throwed one they was
a resounding whack! outside that I couldn't figger out till I realized
that Glory was standing outside with a club and knocking each one in the head
as he come out.
Then the next thing I knowed the cabin was empty, except for me and a
figger which was dodging back and forth in front of me trying to get past me
to the door. So I laid hands onto it and heaved it up over my head and
started to throw it through the door when it hollered: "Quarter, my titanic
friend, quarter! I surrenders and demands to be treated as a prisoner of
"Jugbelly Judkins!" I says.
"The same," says he, "or what's left of him!"
"Come out here where I can talk to you!" I roared, and groped my way out
of the door with him. As I emerged I got a awful lick over the head, and then
Glory give a shriek like a stricken elk.
"Oh, Breckinridge!" she wailed. "I didn't know it war you!"
"Never mind!" I says, brandishing my victim before her. "I got my alerbi
right here by the neck! Jugbelly Judkins," I says sternly, clapping
him onto his feet and waving a enormous fist under his snoot, "if you values
yore immortal soul, speak up and tell where I was all last night!"
"Drinkin' licker with me a mile off the Bear Creek trail," gasps he,
staring wildly about at the figgers which littered the ground in front of the
cabin. "I confesses all! Lead me to the bastile! My sins has catched up with
me. I'm a broken man. Yet I am but a tool in the hands of a master mind, same
as these misguided sons of crime which lays there—"
"One of 'em's tryin' to crawl off," quoth Glory, fetching the aforesaid
critter a clout on the back of the neck with her club. He fell on his belly
and howled in a familiar voice.
I started vi'lently and bent over to look close at him.
"Japhet Jalatin!" I hollered. "You cussed thief, you lied to me about yore
"If he told you he had a wife it was a gross understatement," says
Jugbelly. "He's got three that I know of, includin' a Piute squaw, a Mexican
woman, and a Chinee gal in San Francisco. But to the best of my knowledge
they're all fat and hearty."
"I have been took for a cleanin' proper," I roared, gnashing my teeth.
"I've been played for a sucker! My trustin' nature has been tromped on! My
faith in humanity is soured! Nothin' but blood can wipe out I this here
"Don't take it out on us," begged Japhet. "It war all Donovan's idee."
"Where's he?" I yelled, glaring around.
"Knowin' his nature as I does," said Judkins, working his jaw to see if it
was broke in more'n one place, "I would sejest that he snuck out the back
door whilst the fightin' was goin' on, and is now leggin' it for the corral
he's got hid in the thicket behind the cabin, where he secreted the bay mare
he rode the night he held up the stagecoach."
Glory pulled a pistol out of one of 'em's belt which he'd never got a
chance to use, and she says: "Go after him, Breck. I'll take care of these
I taken one look at the groaning rooins on the ground, and decided she
could all right, so I whistled to Cap'n Kidd, and he come, for a wonder. I
forked him and headed for the thicket behind the cabin and jest as I done so
I seen Donovan streaking it out the other side on a big bay mare. The moon
made everything as bright as day.
"Stop and fight like a man, you mangy polecat!" I thundered, but he made
no reply except to shoot at me with his six-shooter, and seeing I ignored
this, he spurred the mare which he was riding bareback and headed for the
She was a good mare, but she didn't have a chance agen Cap'n Kidd. We was
only a few hundred feet behind and closing in fast when Donovan busted out
onto a bare ridge which overlooked a valley. He looked back and seen I was
going to ride him down within the next hundred yards, and he jumped offa the
mare and taken cover behind a pine which stood by itself a short distance
from the aidge of the bresh. They warn't no bushes around it, and to rech him
I'd of had to cross a open space in the moonlight, and every time I come out
of the bresh he shot at me. So I kept in the aidge of the bresh and unslung
my lariat and roped the top of the pine, and sot Cap'n Kid agen it with all
his lungs and weight, and tore it up by the roots.
When it fell and left Donovan without no cover he run for the rim of the
valley, but I jumped down and grabbed a rock about the size of a man's head
and throwed it at him, and hit him jest above the knee on the hind laig. He
hit the ground rolling and throwed away both of his six-shooters and
hollered: "Don't shoot! I surrenders!"
I quiled my lariat and come up to where he was laying, and says: "Cease
that there disgustin' belly-achin'. You don't hear megroanin' like
that, do you?"
"Take me to a safe, comfortable jail," says he. "I'm a broken man. My soul
is full of remorse and my hide is full of buckshot. My laig is broke and my
spirit is crushed. Where'd you git the cannon you shot me with?"
"'Twarn't no cannon," I said with dignity. "I throwed a rock at you."
"But the tree fell!" he says wildly. "Don't tell me you didn't do
that with artillery!"
"I roped it and pulled it down," I said, and he give a loud groan and sunk
back on the ground, and I said: "Pardon me if I seems to tie yore hands
behind yore back and put you acrost Cap'n Kidd. Likely they'll set yore laig
at Chawed Ear if you remember to remind 'em about it."
He said nothin' except to groan loud and lusty all the way back to the
cabin, and when we got there Glory had tied all them scoundrels' hands behind
'em, and they'd all come to and was groaning in chorus. I found a corral near
the house full of their hosses, so I saddled 'em and put them critters onto
'em, and tied their laigs to their stirrups. Then I tied the hosses head to
tail, all except one I saved for Glory, and we headed for Chawed Ear.
"What you aimin' to do now, Breck?" she ast as we pulled out.
"I'm goin' to take these critters back to Chawed Ear," I said fiercely,
"and make 'em make their spiel to the sheriff and the folks. But my triumph
is dust and ashes into my mouth, when I think of the way my folks has did
There warn't nothing for her to say; she was a Bear Creek woman. She
knowed how Bear Creek folks felt.
"This here night's work," I said bitterly, "has learnt me who my friends
is—and ain't. If it warn't for you these thieves would be laughin' up
their sleeves at me whilst I rotted in jail."
"I wouldn't never go back on you when you was in trouble, Breck," she
says, and I says: "I know that now. I had you all wrong."
We was nearing the town with our groaning caravan strung out behind us,
when through the trees ahead of us, we seen a blaze of torches in the
clearing around the jail, and men on hosses, and a dark mass of humanity
swaying back and forth. Glory pulled up.
"It's the mob, Breck!" says she, with a catch in her throat. "They'll
never listen to you. They're crazy mad like mobs always is. They'll shoot you
down before you can tell 'em anything. Wait—"
"I waits for nothin'," I said bitterly. "I takes these coyotes in and
crams them down the mob's throat! I makes them cussed fools listen to my
exoneration. And then I shakes the dust of the Humbolts offa my boots and
heads for foreign parts. When a man's kin lets him down, it's time for him to
"Look there!" exclaimed Glory.
We had come out of the trees, and we stopped short at the aidge of the
clearing, in the shadder of some oaks.
The mob was there, all right, with torches and guns and ropes—
backed up agen the jail with their faces as pale as dough and their knees
plumb knocking together. And facing 'em, on hosses, with guns in their hands,
I seen pap and every fighting man on Bear Creek! Some of 'em had torches, and
they shone on the faces of more Elkinses, Garfields, Gordons, Kirbys,
Grimeses, Buckners, and Polks than them Chawed Ear misfits ever seen together
at one time. Some of them men hadn't never been that far away from Bear Creek
before in their lives. But they was all there now. Bear Creek had sure come
to Chawed Ear.
"Whar is he, you mangy coyotes?" roared pap, brandishing his rifle. "What
you done with him? I war a fool and a dog, desertin' my own flesh and blood
to you polecats! I don't care if he's a thief or a liar, or what! A Bear
Creek man ain't made to rot in a blasted town-folks jail! I come after him
and I aim to take him back, alive or dead! And if you've kilt him, I aim to
burn Chawed Ear to the ground and kill every able-bodied man in her! Whar
is he, damn yore souls?"
"I swear we don't know!" panted the sheriff, pale and shaking. "When I
heard the mob was formin' I come as quick as I could, and got here by the
time they did, but all we found was the jail winder tore out like you see,
and three men layin' senseless here and another'n out there in the thicket.
They was the guards, but they ain't come to yet to tell us what happened. We
was jest startin' to look for Elkins when you come, and—"
"Don't look no farther!" I roared, riding into the torch-light. "Here I
"Breckinridge!" says pap. "Whar you been? Who's that with you?"
"Some gents which has got a few words to say to the assemblage," I says,
drawing my string of captives into the light of the torches. Everybody gaped
at 'em, and I says: "I interjuices you to Mister Jugbelly Judkins. He's the
slickest word-slingin' sharp I ever seen, so I reckon it oughta be him which
does the spielin'. He ain't got on his plug-hat jest now, but he ain't
gagged. Speak yore piece, Jugbelly."
"Honest confession is good for the soul," says he. "Lemme have the
attention of the crowd, whilst I talks myself right into the penitentiary."
You could of heard a pin drop when he commenced.
"Donovan had brooded a long time about failin' to take Cap'n Kidd away
from Elkins," says he. "He laid his plans careful and long to git even with
Elkins without no risk to hisself. This was a job which taken plenty of
caution and preparation. He got a gang of versatile performers
together—the cream of the illegal crop, if I do say so myself.
"Most of us kept hid in that cabin back up in the hills, from which Elkins
recently routed us. From there he worked out over the whole country
—Donovan, I mean. One mornin' he run into Elkins at the Mustang Creek
tavern. He overheard Elkins say he was broke, also that he was goin' back to
Bear Creek and was aimin' to return to War Paint late that evenin'. All this,
and Elkins' singed sculp, give him a idee how to work what he'd been
"He sent me to meet Elkins and git him drunk and keep him out in the hills
all night. Then I was to disappear, so Elkins couldn't prove no alibi. Whilst
we was drinkin' up there, Donovan went and robbed the stage. He had his head
shaved so's to make him look like Elkins, of course, and he shot old Jim
Harrigan jest to inflame the citizens.
"Hurley and Jackson and Slade was his men. The gold Jackson had on him
really belonged to Donovan. Donovan, as soon as he'd robbed the stage, he
give the gold to Jalatin who lit out for the place where me and Elkins was
boozin'. Then Donovan beat it for the cabin and hid the bay mare and put on
his wig to hide his shaved head, and got on another hoss, and started
sa'ntering along the Cougar Paw-Grizzly Run road—knowin' a posse would
soon be headin' for Bear Creek.
"Which it was, as soon as the stage got in. Hurley and Jackson and Slade
swore they'd knowed Elkins in Yavapai, and rekernized him as the man which
robbed the stage. Ashley and Harrigan warn't ready to say for sure, but
thought the robber looked like him. But you Chawed Ear gents know about
that—as soon as you heard about the robbery you started buildin' yore
special jail, and sent a posse to Bear Creek, along with Ashley and them
three fakes that claimed to of rekernized Elkins. On the way you met Donovan,
jest like he planned, and he jined you.
"But meanwhile, all the time, me and Elkins was engaged in alcoholic
combat, till he passed out, long after midnight. Then I taken the jugs and
hid 'em, and pulled out for the cabin to hide till I could sneak outa the
country. Jalatin got there jest as I was leavin', and he waited till Elkins
sobered up the next momin', and told him a sob story about havin' a wife in
poverty, and give him the gold to give to her, and made him promise not to
tell nobody where he got it. Donovan knowed the big grizzly wouldn't bust his
word, if it was to save his neck even.
"Well, as you all know, the posse didn't find Elkins on Bear Creek. So
they started out lookin' for him, with his pap and some of his uncles, and
met him jest comin' out into the trail from the place where me and him had
our famous boozin' bout. Imejitly Slade, Hurley and Jackson begun yellin' he
was the man, and they was backed by Ashley which is a honest man but really
thought Elkins was the robber, when he seen that nude skull. Donovan planned
to git Elkins shot while attemptin' to escape. And the rest is now
history—war- history, I might say."
"Well spoke, Jugbelly," I says, dumping Donovan off my hoss at the
sheriff's feet. "That's the story, and you-all air stuck with it. My part of
the game's done did, and I washes my hands of it."
"We done you a big injestice, Elkins," says the sheriff. "But how was we
"Forget it," I says, and then pap rode up. Us Bear Creek folks don't talk
much, but we says plenty in a few words.
"I was wrong, Breckinridge," he says gruffly, and that said more'n most
folks could mean in a long-winded speech. "For the first time in my life," he
says, "I admits I made a mistake. But," says he, "the only fly in the
'intment is the fack that a Elkins was drunk off'n his feet by a specimen
like that!" And he p'inted a accusing finger at Jugbelly Judkins.
"I alone have come through the adventure with credit," admitted Jugbelly
modestly. "A triumph of mind over muscle, my law-shootin' friends!"
"Mind, hell!" says Jalatin viciously. "That coyote didn't drink none of
that licker! He was a sleight-of-hand performer in a vaudeville show when
Donovan picked him up. He had a rubber stummick inside his shirt and he
poured the licker into that. He couldn't outdrink Breckinridge Elkins if he
was a whole corporation, the derned thief!"
"I admits the charge," sighed Jugbelly. "I bows my head in shame."
"Well," I says, "I've saw worse men than you, at that, and if they's
anything I can do, you'll git off light, you derned wind-bag, you!"
"Thank you, my generous friend," says he, and pap reined his hoss around
and said: "You comin' home, Breckinridge?"
"Go ahead," I said. "I'll come on with Glory."
So pap and the men of Bear Creek turnt and headed up the trail, riding
single file, with their rifles gleaming in the flare of the torches, and
nobody saying nothing, jest saddles creaking and hoofs clinking softly, like
Bear Creek men generally ride.
And as they went the citizens of Chawed Ear hove a loud sigh of relief,
and grabbed Donovan and his gang with enthusiasm and lugged 'em off to the
jail —the one I hadn't busted, I mean.
"And that," said Glory, throwing her club away, "is that. You ain't goin'
off to foreign parts now, be you, Breckinridge?"
"Naw," I said. "My misguided relatives has redeemed theirselves."
We stood there a minute looking at each other, and she said: "You—
you ain't got nothin' to say to me, Breckinridge?"
"Why, sure I has," I responded. "I'm mighty much obliged for what you
"Is that all?" she ast, gritting her teeth slightly.
"What else you want me to say?" I ast, puzzled. "Ain't I jest thanked you?
They was a time when I would of said more, and likely made you mad, Glory,
but knowin' how you feel towards me, I—"
"mdash;!" says Glory, and before I knowed what she was up to, she grabbed
up a rock the size of a watermelon and busted it over my head. I was so
tooken by surprise I stumbled backwards and fell sprawling and as I looked up
at her, a great light bust onto me.
"She loves me!" I exclaimed.
"I been wonderin' how long it was goin' to take you to find out!" says
"But what made you treat me like you done?" I demanded presently. "I
thought you plumb hated me!"
"You ought to of knowed better," says she, snuggling in my arms. "You made
me mad that time you licked pap and them fool brothers of mine. I didn't mean
most of them things I said. But you got mad and said some things which made
me madder, and after that I was too proud to act any way but like I done. I
never loved nobody but you, but I wouldn't admit it as long as you was at the
top of the ladder, struttin' around with money in yore pocket, and goin' with
purty gals, and everybody eager to be friends with you. I was lovin' you then
so's it nearly busted me, but I wouldn't let on. I wouldn't humble myself to
no blamed man! But you seen how quick I come to you when you needed a friend,
you big lunkhead!"
"Then I'm glad all this happened," I says. "It made me see things
straight. I never loved no other gal but you. I was jest tryin' to forgit you
and make you jealous when I was goin' with them other gals. I thought I'd
lost you, and was jest tryin' to git the next best. I know that now, and I
admits it. I never seen a gal which could come within a hundred miles of you
in looks and nerve and everything."
"I'm glad you've come to yore senses, Breckinridge," says she.
I swung up on Cap'n Kidd and lifted her up before me, and the sky was jest
getting pink and the birds was beginning to cut loose as we started up the
road towards Bear Creek.