The Jimmyjohn Boss and Other Stories
by Owen Wister
A Kinsman of Red
To Messrs. Harper Bothers and Henry Mills Alden whose friendliness and
fair dealing I am glad of this chance to record
It's very plain that if a thing's the fashion--
Too much the fashion--if the people leap
To do it, or to be it, in a passion
Of haste and crowding, like a herd of sheep,
Why then that thing becomes through imitation
Vulgar, excessive, obvious, and cheap.
No gentleman desires to be pursuing
What every Tom and Dick and Harry's doing.
Stranger, do you write books? I ask the question,
Because I'm told that everybody writes
That what with scribbling, eating, and digestion,
And proper slumber, all our days and nights
Are wholly filled. It seems an odd suggestion--
But if you do write, stop it, leave the masses,
Read me, and join the small selected classes.
The Jimmyjohn Boss
One day at Nampa, which is in Idaho, a ruddy old massive jovial man
stood by the Silver City stage, patting his beard with his left hand,
and with his right the shoulder of a boy who stood beside him. He had
come with the boy on the branch train from Boise, because he was a
careful German and liked to say everything twice--twice at least when
it was a matter of business. This was a matter of very particular
business, and the German had repeated himself for nineteen miles.
Presently the east-bound on the main line would arrive from Portland;
then the Silver City stage would take the boy south on his new
mission, and the man would journey by the branch train back to Boise.
From Boise no one could say where he might not go, west or east. He
was a great and pervasive cattle man in Oregon, California, and other
places. Vogel and Lex--even to-day you may hear the two ranch partners
spoken of. So the veteran Vogel was now once more going over his
notions and commands to his youthful deputy during the last precious
minutes until the east-bound should arrive.
"Und if only you haf someding like dis," said the old man, as he
tapped his beard and patted the boy, "it would be five hoondert more
dollars salary in your liddle pants."
The boy winked up at his employer. He had a gray, humorous eye; he
was slim and alert, like a sparrow-hawk--the sort of boy his father
openly rejoices in and his mother is secretly in prayer over. Only,
this boy had neither father nor mother. Since the age of twelve he had
looked out for himself, never quite without bread, sometimes attaining
champagne, getting along in his American way variously, on horse or
afoot, across regions of wide plains and mountains, through towns
where not a soul knew his name. He closed one of his gray eyes at his
employer, and beyond this made no remark.
"Vat you mean by dat vink, anyhow?" demanded the elder.
"Say," said the boy, confidentially--"honest now. How about you and
me? Five hundred dollars if I had your beard. You've got a record and
I've got a future. And my bloom's on me rich, without a scratch. How
many dollars you gif me for dat bloom?" The sparrow-hawk sailed into a
freakish imitation of his master.
"You are a liddle rascal!" cried the master, shaking with
entertainment. "Und if der peoples vas to hear you sass old Max Vogel
in dis style they would say, 'Poor old Max, he lose his gr-rip.' But I
don't lose it." His great hand closed suddenly on the boy's shoulder,
his voice cut clean and heavy as an axe, and then no more joking about
him. "Haf you understand that?" he said.
"How old are you, son?"
"Oh my, that is offle young for the job I gif you. Some of dose man
you go to boss might be your father. Und how much do you weigh?"
"About a hundred and thirty."
"Too light, too light. Und I haf keep my eye on you in Boise. You
are not so goot a boy as you might be."
"Well, sir, I guess not."
"But you was not so bad a boy as you might be, neider. You don't
lie about it. Now it must be farewell to all that foolishness. Haf you
understand? You go to set an example where one is needed very bad. If
those men see you drink a liddle, they drink a big lot. You forbid
them, they laugh at you. You must not allow one drop of whiskey at the
whole place. Haf you well understand?"
"Yes, sir. Me and whiskey are not necessary to each other's
"It is not you, it is them. How are you mit your gun?"
Vogel took the boy's pistol from its holster and aimed at an empty
bottle which was sticking in the thin Deceiver snow. "Can you do
this?" he said, carelessly, and fired. The snow struck the bottle, but
the unharming bullet was buried half an inch to the left.
The boy took his pistol with solemnity." No," he said. "Guess I
can't do that." He fired, and the glass splintered into shapelessness.
"Told you I couldn't miss as close as you did," said he.
"You are a darling," said Mr. Vogel. "Gif me dat lofely weapon."
A fortunate store of bottles lay, leaned, or stood about in the
white snow of Nampa, and Mr. Vogel began at them.
"May I ask if anything is the matter?" inquired a mild voice from
"Stick that lily head in-doors," shouted Vogel; and the face and
eye-glasses withdrew again into the stage." The school-teacher he will
be beautifool virtuous company for you at Malheur Agency," continued
Vogel, shooting again; and presently the large old German destroyed a
bottle with a crashing smack. "Ah!" said he, in unison with the smack.
"Ah-ha! No von shall say der old Max lose his gr-rip. I shoot it efry
time now, but the train she whistle. I hear her."
The boy affected to listen earnestly.
"Bah! I tell you I hear de whistle coming."
"Did you say there was a whistle?" ventured the occupant of the
stage. The snow shone white on his glasses as he peered out.
"Nobody whistle for you," returned the robust Vogel. "You listen to
me," he continued to the boy. "You are offle yoong. But I watch you
plenty this long time. I see you work mit my stock on the Owyhee and
the Malheur; I see you mit my oder men. My men they say always more
and more, 'Yoong Drake he is a goot one,' und I think you are a goot
one mine own self. I am the biggest cattle man on the Pacific slope,
und I am also an old devil. I have think a lot, und I like you."
"I'm obliged to you, sir."
"Shut oop. I like you, und therefore I make you my new
sooperintendent at my Malheur Agency r-ranch, mit a bigger salary as
you don't get before. If you are a sookcess, I r-raise you some more."
"I am satisfied now, sir."
"Bah! Never do you tell any goot business man you are satisfied mit
vat he gif you, for eider he don't believe you or else he think you
are a fool. Und eider ways you go down in his estimation. You make
those men at Malheur Agency behave themselves und I r-raise you. Only
I do vish, I do certainly vish you had some beard on that yoong chin."
The boy glanced at his pistol.
"No, no, no, my son," said the sharp old German. "I don't want
gunpowder in dis affair. You must act kviet und decisif und keep your
liddle shirt on. What you accomplish shootin'? You kill somebody, und
then, pop! somebody kills you. What goot is all that nonsense to me?"
"It would annoy me some, too," retorted the boy, eyeing the
capitalist. "Don't leave me out of the proposition."
"Broposition! Broposition! Now you get hot mit old Max for
"If you didn't contemplate trouble," pursued the boy, "what was
your point just now in sampling my marksmanship?" He kicked some snow
in the direction of the shattered bottle. "It's understood no whiskey
comes on that ranch. But if no gunpowder goes along with me, either,
let's call the deal off. Buy some other fool."
"You haf not understand, my boy. Und you get very hot because I
happen to make that liddle joke about somebody killing you. Was you
thinking maybe old Max not care what happen to you?"
A moment of silence passed before the answer came: "Suppose we talk
"Very well, very well. Only notice this thing. When oder peoples
talk oop to me like you haf done many times, it is not they who does
the getting hot. It is me--old Max. Und when old Max gets hot he
slings them out of his road anywheres. Some haf been very sorry they
get so slung. You invite me to buy some oder fool? Oh, my boy, I will
buy no oder fool except you, for that was just like me when I was
yoong Max!" Again the ruddy and grizzled magnate put his hand on the
shoulder of the boy, who stood looking away at the bottles, at the
railroad track, at anything save his employer.
The employer proceeded: "I was afraid of nobody und noding in those
days. You are afraid of nobody and noding. But those days was
different. No Pullman sleepers, no railroad at all. We come oop the
Columbia in the steamboat, we travel hoonderts of miles by team, we
sleep, we eat nowheres in particular mit many unexpected
interooptions. There was Indians, there was offle bad white men, und
if you was not offle yourself you vanished quickly. Therefore in those
days was Max Vogel hell und repeat."
The magnate smiled a broad fond smile over the past which he had
kicked, driven, shot, bled, and battled through to present power; and
the boy winked up at him again now.
"I don't propose to vanish, myself," said he.
"Ah-ha! you was no longer mad mit der old Max! Of coorse I care
what happens to you. I was alone in the world myself in those lofely
Reserve again made flinty the boy's face.
"Neider did I talk about my feelings," continued Max Vogel, "but I
nefer show them too quick. If I was injured I wait, and I strike to
kill. We all paddles our own dugout, eh? We ask no favors from nobody;
we must win our spurs! Not so? Now I talk business with you where you
interroopt me. If cow-boys was not so offle scarce in the country, I
would long ago haf bounce the lot of those drunken fellows. But they
cannot be spared; we must get along so. I cannot send Brock, he is
needed at Harper's. The dumb fellow at Alvord Lake is too dumb; he is
not quickly courageous. They would play high jinks mit him. Therefore
I send you. Brock he say to me you haf joodgement. I watch, and I say
to myself also, this boy haf goot joodgement. And when you look at
your pistol so quick, I tell you quick I don't send you to kill men
when they are so scarce already! My boy, it is ever the moral, the
say-noding strength what gets there--mit always the liddle pistol
behind, in case--joost in case. Haf you understand? I ask you to
shoot. I see you know how, as Brock told me. I recommend you to let
them see that aggomplishment in a friendly way. Maybe a shooting-match
mit prizes--I pay for them--pretty soon after you come. Und
joodgement--und joodgement. Here comes that train. Haf you well
Upon this the two shook hands, looking square friendship in each
other's eyes. The east-bound, long quiet and dark beneath its flowing
clots of smoke, slowed to a halt. A few valises and legs descended,
ascended, herding and hurrying; a few trunks were thrown resoundingly
in and out of the train; a woolly, crooked old man came with a box and
a bandanna bundle from the second-class car; the travellers of a
thousand miles looked torpidly at him through the dim, dusty windows
of their Pullman, and settled again for a thousand miles more. Then
the east-bound, shooting heavier clots of smoke laboriously into the
air, drew its slow length out of Nampa, and away.
"Where's that stage?" shrilled the woolly old man. "That's what I'm
"Why, hello!" shouted Vogel. "Hello, Uncle Pasco! I heard you was
Uncle Pasco blinked his small eyes to see who hailed him. "Oh!"
said he, in his light, crusty voice. "Dutchy Vogel. No, I ain't dead.
You guessed wrong. Not dead. Help me up, Dutchy."
A tolerant smile broadened Vogel's face. "It was ten years since I
see you," said he, carrying the old man's box.
"Shouldn't wonder. Maybe it'll be another ten till you see me
next." He stopped by the stage step, and wheeling nimbly, surveyed his
old-time acquaintance, noting the good hat, the prosperous
watch-chain, the big, well-blacked boots. "Not seen me for ten years.
Hee-hee! No. Usen't to have a cent more than me. Twins in poverty.
That's how Dutchy and me started. If we was buried to-morrow they'd
mark him 'Pecunious' and me 'Impecunious.' That's what. Twins in
"I stick to von business at a time, Uncle," said good-natured,
A flicker of aberration lighted in the old man's eye. "H'm, yes,"
said he, pondering. "Stuck to one business. So you did. H'm." Then,
suddenly sly, he chirped: "But I've struck it rich now." He tapped his
box. "Jewelry," he half-whispered. "Miners and cow-boys."
"Yes," said Vogel. "Those poor, deluded fellows, they buy such
stuff." And he laughed at the seedy visionary who had begun frontier
life with him on the bottom rung and would end it there. "Do you play
that concertina yet, Uncle?" he inquired.
"Yes, yes. I always play. It's in here with my tooth-brush and
socks." Uncle Pasco held up the bandanna. "Well, he's getting ready to
start. I guess I'll be climbing inside. Holy Gertrude!"
This shrill comment was at sight of the school-master, patient
within the stage. "What business are you in?" demanded Uncle Pasco.
"I am in the spelling business," replied the teacher, and smiled,
"Hell!" piped Uncle Pasco. "Take this."
He handed in his bandanna to the traveller, who received it
politely. Max Vogel lifted the box of cheap jewelry; and both he and
the boy came behind to boost the old man up on the stage step. But
with a nettled look he leaped up to evade them, tottered half-way, and
then, light as a husk of grain, got himself to his seat and scowled at
After a brief inspection of that pale, spectacled face, "Dutchy,"
he called out of the door, "this country is not what it was."
But old Max Vogel was inattentive. He was speaking to the boy, Dean
Drake, and held a flask in his hand. He reached the flask to his new
superintendent. "Drink hearty," said he. "There, son! Don't be shy.
Haf you forgot it is forbidden fruit after now?"
"Kid sworn off?" inquired Uncle Pasco of the school-master.
"I understand," replied this person, "that Mr. Vogel will not allow
his cow-boys at the Malheur Agency to have any whiskey brought there.
Personally, I feel gratified." And Mr. Bolles, the new school-master,
gave his faint smile.
"Oh," muttered Uncle Pasco. "Forbidden to bring whiskey on the
ranch? H'm." His eyes wandered to the jewelry-box. "H'm," said he
again; and becoming thoughtful, he laid back his moth-eaten sly head,
and spoke no further with Mr. Bolles.
Dean Drake climbed into the stage and the vehicle started.
"Goot luck, goot luck, my son!" shouted the hearty Max, and opened
and waved both his big arms at the departing boy: He stood looking
after the stage. "I hope he come back," said he. "I think he come
back. If he come I r-raise him fifty dollars without any beard."
The stage had not trundled so far on its Silver City road but that
a whistle from Nampa station reached its three occupants. This was the
branch train starting back to Boise with Max Vogel aboard; and the boy
looked out at the locomotive with a sigh.
"Only five days of town," he murmured. "Six months more wilderness
"My life has been too much town," said the new school-master. "I am
looking forward to a little wilderness for a change."
Old Uncle Pasco, leaning back, said nothing; he kept his eyes shut
and his ears open.
"Change is what I don't get," sighed Dean Drake. In a few miles,
however, before they had come to the ferry over Snake River, the
recent leave-taking and his employer's kind but dominating repression
lifted from the boy's spirit. His gray eye wakened keen again, and he
began to whistle light opera tunes, looking about him alertly, like
the sparrow-hawk that he was. "Ever see Jeannie Winston in
'Fatinitza'?" he inquired of Mr. Bolles.
The school-master, with a startled, thankful countenance, stated
that he had never.
"Ought to," said Drake.
"You a man? that can't be true! Men have never eyes like you."
That's what the girls in the harem sing in the second act. Golly
whiz!" The boy gleamed over the memory of that evening.
"You have a hard job before you," said the school-master, changing
"Yep. Hard." The wary Drake shook his head warningly at Mr. Bolles
to keep off that subject, and he glanced in the direction of
slumbering Uncle Pasco. Uncle Pasco was quite aware of all this. "I
wouldn't take another lonesome job so soon," pursued Drake, "but I
want the money. I've been working eleven months along the Owyhee as a
sort of junior boss, and I'd earned my vacation. Just got it started
hot in Portland, when biff! old Vogel telegraphs me. Well, I'll be
saving instead of squandering. But it feels so good to squander!"
"I have never had anything to squander," said Bolles, rather sadly.
"You don't say! Well, old man, I hope you will. It gives a man a
lot he'll never get out of spelling-books. Are you cold? Here." And
despite the school-master's protest, Dean Drake tucked his buffalo
coat round and over him. "Some day, when I'm old," he went on, "I mean
to live respectable under my own cabin and vine. Wife and everything.
But not, anyway, till I'm thirty-five."
He dropped into his opera tunes for a while; but evidently it was
not "Fatinitza" and his vanished holiday over which he was chiefly
meditating, for presently he exclaimed: "I'll give them a
shooting-match in the morning. You shoot?"
Bolles hoped he was going to learn in this country, and exhibited a
Smith Wesson revolver.
Drake grieved over it. "Wrap it up warm," said he. "I'll lend you a
real one when we get to the Malheur Agency. But you can eat, anyhow.
Christmas being next week, you see, my programme is, shoot all A.M.
and eat all P.M. I wish you could light on a notion what prizes to
give my buccaroos."
"Buccaroos?" said Bolles.
"Yep. Cow-punchers. Vaqueros. Buccaroos in Oregon. Bastard Spanish
word, you see, drifted up from Mexico. Vogel would not care to have me
give 'em money as prizes."
At this Uncle Pasco opened an eye.
"How many buccaroos will there be?" Bolles inquired.
"At the Malheur Agency? It's the headquarters of five of our
ranches. There ought to be quite a crowd. A dozen, probably, at this
time of year."
Uncle Pasco opened his other eye. "Here, you!" he said, dragging at
his box under the seat. "Pull it, can't you? There. Just what you're
after. There's your prizes." Querulous and watchful, like some aged,
rickety ape, the old man drew out his trinkets in shallow shelves.
"Sooner give 'em nothing," said Dean Drake.
"What's that? What's the matter with them?"
"Guess the boys have had all the brass rings and glass diamonds
"That's all you know, then. I sold that box clean empty through the
Palouse country last week, 'cept the bottom drawer, and an outfit on
Meacham's hill took that. Shows all you know. I'm going clean through
your country after I've quit Silver City. I'll start in by Baker City
again, and I'll strike Harney, and maybe I'll go to Linkville. I know
what buccaroos want. I'll go to Fort Rinehart, and I'll go to the
Island Ranch, and first thing you'll be seeing your boys wearing my
stuff all over their fingers and Sunday shirts, and giving their girls
my stuff right in Harney City. That's what."
"All right, Uncle. It's a free country."
"Shaw! Guess it is. I was in it before you was, too. You were wet
behind the ears when I was jammin' all around here. How many are they
up at your place, did you say?"
"I said about twelve. If you're coming our way, stop and eat with
"Maybe I will and maybe I won't." Uncle Pasco crossly shoved his
"All right, Uncle. It's a free country," repeated Drake.
Not much was said after this. Uncle Pasco unwrapped his concertina
from the red handkerchief and played nimbly for his own benefit. At
Silver City he disappeared, and, finding he had stolen nothing from
them, they did not regret him. Dean Drake had some affairs to see to
here before starting for Harper's ranch, and it was pleasant to Bolles
to find how Drake was esteemed through this country. The school-master
was to board at the Malheur Agency, and had come this way round
because the new superintendent must so travel. They were scarcely
birds of a feather, Drake and Bolles, yet since one remote roof was to
cover them, the in-door man was glad this boy-host had won so much
good-will from high and low. That the shrewd old Vogel should trust so
much in a nineteen-year-old was proof enough at least of his
character; but when Brock, the foreman from Harper's, came for them at
Silver City, Bolles witnessed the affection that the rougher man held
for Drake. Brock shook the boy's hand with that serious quietness and
absence of words which shows the Western heart is speaking. After a
look at Bolles and a silent bestowing of the baggage aboard the team,
he cracked his long whip and the three rattled happily away through
the dips of an open country where clear streams ran blue beneath the
winter air. They followed the Jordan (that Idaho Jordan) west towards
Oregon and the Owyhee, Brock often turning in his driver's seat so as
to speak with Drake. He had a long, gradual chapter of confidences and
events; through miles he unburdened these to his favorite:
The California mare was coring well in harness. The eagle over at
Whitehorse ranch had fought the cat most terrible. Gilbert had got a
mule-kick in the stomach, but was eating his three meals. They had a
new boy who played the guitar. He used maple-syrup an his meat, and
claimed he was from Alabama. Brock guessed things were about as usual
in most ways. The new well had caved in again. Then, in the midst of
his gossip, the thing he had wanted to say all along came out: "We're
pleased about your promotion," said he; and, blushing, shook Drake's
Warmth kindled the boy's face, and next, with a sudden severity, he
said: "You're keeping back something."
The honest Brock looked blank, then labored in his memory.
"Has the sorrel girl in Harney married you yet?" said Drake. Brock
slapped his leg, and the horses jumped at his mirth. He was mostly
grave-mannered, but when his boy superintendent joked, he rejoiced
with the same pride that he took in all of Drake's excellences.
"The boys in this country will back you up," said he, next day; and
Drake inquired: "What news from the Malheur Agency?"
"Since the new Chinaman has been cooking for them," said Brock,
"they have been peaceful as a man could wish."
"They'll approve of me, then," Drake answered. "I'm feeding 'em
hyas Christmas muck-a-muck. "
"And what may that be?" asked the schoolmaster.
"You no kumtux Chinook?" inquired Drake. "Travel with me and you'll
learn all sorts of languages. It means just a big feed. All whiskey is
barred," he added to Brock.
"It's the only way," said the foreman. "They've got those
Pennsylvania men up there."
Drake had not encountered these.
"The three brothers Drinker," said Brock. "Full, Half-past Full,
and Drunk are what they call them. Them's the names; they've brought
them from Klamath and Rogue River."
"I should not think a Chinaman would enjoy such comrades," ventured
"Chinamen don't have comrades in this country," said Brock,
briefly. "They like his cooking. It's a lonesome section up there, and
a Chinaman could hardly quit it, not if he was expected to stay.
Suppose they kick about the whiskey rule?" he suggested to Drake.
"Can't help what they do. Oh, I'll give each boy his turn in Harney
City when he gets anxious. It's the whole united lot I don't propose
to have cut up on me."
A look of concern for the boy came over the face of foreman Brock.
Several times again before their parting did he thus look at his
favorite. They paused at Harper's for a day to attend to some matters,
and when Drake was leaving this place one of the men said to him:
"We'll stand by you." But from his blithe appearance and talk as the
slim boy journeyed to the Malheur River and Headquarter ranch, nothing
seemed to be on his mind. Oregon twinkled with sun and fine white
snow. They crossed through a world of pines and creviced streams and
exhilarating silence. The little waters fell tinkling through icicles
in the loneliness of the woods, and snowshoe rabbits dived into the
brush. East Oregon, the Owyhee and the Malheur country, the old trails
of General Crook, the willows by the streams, the open swales, the
high woods where once Buffalo Horn and Chief E-egante and O-its the
medicine-man prospered, through this domain of war and memories went
Bolles the school-master with Dean Drake and Brock. The third noon
from Harper's they came leisurely down to the old Malheur Agency,
where once the hostile Indians had drawn pictures on the door, and
where Castle Rock frowned down unchanged.
"I wish I was going to stay here with you," said Brock to Drake.
"By Indian Creek you can send word to me quicker than we've come."
"Why, you're an old bat!" said the boy to his foreman, and clapped
him farewell on the shoulder.
Brock drove away, thoughtful. He was not a large man. His face was
clean-cut, almost delicate. He had a well-trimmed, yellow mustache,
and it was chiefly in his blue eye and lean cheek-bone that the
frontiersman showed. He loved Dean Drake more than he would ever tell,
even to himself.
The young superintendent set at work to ranch-work this afternoon
of Brock's leaving, and the buccaroos made his acquaintance one by one
and stared at him. Villany did not sit outwardly upon their faces;
they were not villains; but they stared at the boy sent to control
them, and they spoke together, laughing. Drake took the head of the
table at supper, with Bolles on his right. Down the table some
silence, some staring, much laughing went on--the rich brute laugh of
the belly untroubled by the brain. Sam, the Chinaman, rapid and
noiseless, served the dishes.
"What is it?" said a buccaroo.
"Can it bite?" said another.
"If you guess what it is, you can have it," said a third.
"It's meat," remarked Drake, incisively, helping himself; "and
tougher than it looks."
The brute laugh rose from the crowd and fell into surprised
silence; but no rejoinder came, and they ate their supper somewhat
thoughtfully. The Chinaman's quick, soft eye had glanced at Dean Drake
when they laughed. He served his dinner solicitously. In his kitchen
that evening he and Bolles unpacked the good things--the olives, the
dried fruits, the cigars--brought by the new superintendent for
Christmas; and finding Bolles harmless, like his gentle Asiatic self,
Sam looked cautiously about and spoke:
"You not know why they laugh," said he. "They not talk about my
meat then. They mean new boss, Misser Dlake. He velly young boss."
"I think," said Bolles, "Mr. Drake understood their meaning, Sam. I
have noticed that at times he expresses himself peculiarly. I also
think they understood his meaning."
The Oriental pondered. "Me like Misser Dlake," said he. And drawing
quite close, he observed, "They not nice man velly much."
Next day and every day "Misser Dlake" went gayly about his
business, at his desk or on his horse, vigilant, near and far, with no
sign save a steadier keenness in his eye. For the Christmas dinner he
provided still further sending to the Grande Ronde country for turkeys
and other things. He won the heart of Bolles by lending him a good
horse; but the buccaroos, though they were boisterous over the coming
Christmas joy, did not seem especially grateful. Drake, however, kept
his worries to himself.
"This thing happens anywhere," he said one night in the office to
Bolles, puffing a cigar. "I've seen a troop of cavalry demoralize
itself by a sort of contagion from two or three men."
"I think it was wicked to send you here by yourself," blurted
"Poppycock! It's the chance of my life, and I'll jam her through or
"I think they have decided you are getting turkeys because you are
afraid of them," said Bolles.
"Why, of course! But d' you figure I'm the man to abandon my
Christmas turkey because my motives for eating it are misconstrued?"
Dean Drake smoked for a while; then a knock came at the door. Five
buccaroos entered and stood close, as is the way with the guilty who
"We were thinking as maybe you'd let us go over to town," said
Half-past Full, the spokesman.
"Oh, any day along this week."
"Can't spare you till after Christmas."
"Maybe you'll not object to one of us goin'?"
"You'll each have your turn after this week."
A slight pause followed. Then Half-past Full said: "What would you
do if I went, anyway?"
"Can't imagine," Drake answered, easily. "Go, and I'll be in a
position to inform you."
The buccaroo dropped his stolid bull eyes, but raised them again
and grinned. "Well, I'm not particular about goin' this week, boss."
"That's not my name," said Drake, "but it's what I am."
They stood a moment. Then they shuffled out. It was an orderly
Drake winked over to Bolles. "That was a graze," said he, and
smoked for a while. "They'll not go this time. Question is, will they
Drake took a fresh cigar, and threw his legs over the chair arm.
"I think you smoke too much," said Bolles, whom three days had made
familiar and friendly.
"Yep. Have to just now. That's what! as Uncle Pasco would say. They
are a half-breed lot, though," the boy continued, returning to the
buccaroos and their recent visit. "Weaken in the face of a straight
bluff, you see, unless they get whiskey-courageous. And I've called
'em down on that."
"Oh!" said Bolles, comprehending.
"Didn't you see that was their game? But he will not go after it."
"The flesh is all they seem to understand," murmured Bolles.
Half-past Full did not go to Harney City for the tabooed whiskey,
nor did any one. Drake read his buccaroos like the children that they
were. After the late encounter of grit, the atmosphere was relieved of
storm. The children, the primitive, pagan, dangerous children, forgot
all about whiskey, and lusted joyously for Christmas. Christmas was
coming! No work! A shooting-match! A big feed! Cheerfulness bubbled at
the Malheur Agency. The weather itself was in tune. Castle Rock seemed
no longer to frown, but rose into the shining air, a mass of friendly
strength. Except when a rare sledge or horseman passed, Mr. Bolles's
journeys to the school were all to show it was not some pioneer colony
in a new, white, silent world that heard only the playful shouts and
songs of the buccaroos. The sun overhead and the hard-crushing snow
underfoot filled every one with a crisp, tingling hilarity.
Before the sun first touched Castle Rock on the morning of the
feast they were up and in high feather over at the bunk-house. They
raced across to see what Sam was cooking; they begged and joyfully
swallowed lumps of his raw plum-pudding. "Merry Christmas!" they
wished him, and "Melly Clismas!" said he to them. They played
leap-frog over by the stable, they put snow down each other's backs.
Their shouts rang round corners; it was like boys let out of school.
When Drake gathered them for the shooting-match, they cheered him;
when he told them there were no prizes, what did they care for prizes?
When he beat them all the first round, they cheered him again. Pity he
hadn't offered prizes! He wasn't a good business man, after all!
The rounds at the target proceeded through the forenoon, Drake the
acclaimed leader; and the Christmas sun drew to mid-sky. But as its
splendor in the heavens increased, the happy shoutings on earth began
to wane. The body was all that the buccaroos knew; well, the flesh
comes pretty natural to all of us--and who had ever taught these men
about the spirit? The further they were from breakfast the nearer they
were to dinner; yet the happy shootings waned! The spirit is a strange
thing. Often it dwells dumb in human clay, then unexpectedly speaks
out of the clay's darkness.
It was no longer a crowd Drake had at the target. He became aware
that quietness had been gradually coming over the buccaroos. He
looked, and saw a man wandering by himself in the lane. Another leaned
by the stable corner, with a vacant face. Through the windows of the
bunk-house he could see two or three on their beds. The children were
tired of shouting. Drake went in-doors and threw a great log on the
fire. It blazed up high with sparks, and he watched it, although the
sun shown bright on the window-sill. Presently he noticed that a man
had come in and taken a chair. It was Half-past Full, and with his
boots stretched to the warmth, he sat gazing into the fire. The door
opened and another buckaroo entered and sat off in a corner. He had a
bundle of old letters, smeared sheets tied trite a twisted old ribbon.
While his large, top-toughened fingers softly loosened the ribbon, he
sat with his back to the room and presently began to read the letters
over, one by one. Most of the men came in before long, and silently
joined the watchers round the treat fireplace. Drake threw another log
on, and in a short time this, too, broke into ample flame. The silence
was long; a slice of shadow had fallen across the window-sill, when a
young man spoke, addressing the logs:
"I skinned a coon in San Saba, Texas, this day a year."
At the sound of a voice, some of their eyes turned on the speaker,
but turned back to the fire again. The spirit had spoken from the
clay, aloud; and the clay was uncomfortable at hearing it.
After some more minutes a neighbor whispered to a neighbor, "Play
you a game of crib."
The man nodded, stole over to where the board was, and brought it
across the floor on creaking tip-toe. They set it between them, and
now and then the cards made a light sound in the room.
"I treed that coon on Honey," said the young man, after a
while--"Honey Creek, San Saba. Kind o' dry creek. Used to flow into
Big Brady when it rained."
The flames crackled on, the neighbors still played their cribbage.
Still was the day bright, but the shrinking wedge of sun had gone
entirely from the window-sill. Half-past Full had drawn from his
pocket a mouthorgan, breathing half-tunes upon it; in the middle of
"Suwanee River" the man who sat in the corner laid the letter he was
beginning upon the heap on his knees and read no more. The great
genial logs lay glowing, burning; from the fresher one the flames
flowed and forked; along the embered surface of the others ran red and
blue shivers of iridescence. With legs and arms crooked and sprawled,
the buccaroos brooded, staring into the glow with seldom-winking eyes,
while deep inside the clay the spirit spoke quietly. Christmas Day was
passing, but the sun shone still two good hours high. Outside, over
the snow and pines, it was only in the deeper folds of the hills that
the blue shadows had come; the rest of the world was gold and silver;
and from far across that silence into this silence by the fire came a
tinkling stir of sound. Sleighbells it was, steadily coming, too early
for Bolles to be back from his school festival.
The toy-thrill of the jingling grew clear and sweet, a spirit of
enchantment that did not wake the stillness, but cast it into a deeper
dream. The bells came near the door and stopped, and then Drake opened
"Hello, Uncle Pasco!" said he. "Thought you were Santa Claus."
"Santa Claus! H'm. Yes. That's what. Told you maybe I'd come."
"So you did. Turkey is due in--let's see--ninety minutes. Here,
boys! some of you take Uncle Pasco's horse."
"No, no, I won't. You leave me alone. I ain't stoppin' here. I
ain't hungry. I just grubbed at the school. Sleepin' at Missouri
Pete's to-night. Got to make the railroad tomorrow." The old man
stopped his precipitate statements. He sat in his sledge deep1y
muffled, blinking at Drake and the buccaroos, who had strolled out to
look at him, "Done a big business this trip," said he. "Told you I
would. Now if you was only givin' your children a Christmas-tree like
that I seen that feller yer schoolmarm doin' just now--hee-hee!" From
his blankets he revealed the well-known case. "Them things would shine
on a tree," concluded Uncle Pasco.
"Hang 'em in the woods, then," said Drake.
"Jewelry, is it?" inquired the young Texas man.
Uncle Pasco whipped open his case. "There you are," said he. "All
what's left. That ring'll cost you a dollar."
"I've a dollar somewheres," said the young man, fumbling.
Half-past Full, on the other side of the sleigh, stood visibly
fascinated by the wares he was given a skilful glimpse of down among
the blankets. He peered and he pondered while Uncle Pasco glibly spoke
"Scatter your truck out plain!" the buccaroo exclaimed, suddenly.
"I'm not buying in the dark. Come over to the bunk-house and scatter."
"Brass will look just the same anywhere," said Drake.
"Brass!" screamed Uncle. "Brass your eye!"
But the buccaroos, plainly glad for distraction, took the woolly
old scolding man with them. Drake shouted that if getting cheated
cheered them, by all means to invest heavily, and he returned alone to
his fire, where Bolles soon joined him. They waited, accordingly, and
by-and-by the sleigh-bells jingled again. As they had come out of the
silence, so did they go into it, their little silvery tinkle dancing
away in the distance, faint and fainter, then, like a breath, gone.
Uncle Pasco's trinkets had audibly raised the men's spirits. They
remained in the bunkhouse, their laughter reaching Drake and Bolles
more and more. Sometimes they would scuffle and laugh loudly.
"Do you imagine it's more leap-frog?" inquired the school-master.
"Gambling," said Drake. "They'll keep at it now till one of them
wins everything the rest have bought."
"Have they been lively ever since morning?"
"Had a reaction about noon," said Drake. "Regular home-sick spell.
I felt sorry for 'em."
"They seem full of reaction," said Bolles. "Listen to that!"
It was now near four o'clock, and Sam came in, announcing dinner.
"All ready," said the smiling Chinaman.
"Pass the good word to the bunk-house," said Drake, "if they can
Sam went across, and the shouting stopped. Then arose a thick
volley of screams and cheers.
"That don't sound right," said Drake, leaping to his feet. In the
next instant the Chinaman, terrified, returned through the open door.
Behind him lurched Half-past Full, and stumbled into the room. His
boot caught, and he pitched, but saved himself and stood swaying,
heavily looking at Drake. The hair curled dense over his bull head,
his mustache was spread with his grin, the light of cloddish humor and
destruction burned in his big eye. The clay had buried the spirit like
a caving pit.
"Twas false jewelry all right!" he roared, at the top of his voice.
"A good old jimmyjohn full, boss. Say, boss, goin' to run our
jimmyjohn off the ranch? Try it on, kid. Come over and try it on!" The
bull beat on the table.
Dean Drake had sat quickly down in his chair, his gray eye upon the
hulking buccaroo. Small and dauntless he sat, a sparrow-hawk caught in
a trap, and game to the end--whatever end.
"It's a trifle tardy to outline any policy about your demijohn,"
said he, seriously. "You folks had better come in and eat before
you're beyond appreciating."
"Ho, we'll eat your grub, boss. Sam's cooking goes." The buccaroo
lurched out and away to the bunk-house, where new bellowing was set
"I've got to carve this turkey, friend," said the boy to Bolles.
"I'll do my best to help eat it," returned the school-master,
"Misser Dlake," said poor Sam, "I solly you. I velly solly you."
"Reserve your sorrow, Sam," said Dean Drake. "Give us your soup for
a starter. Come," he said to Bolles. "Quick."
He went into the dining-room, prompt in his seat at the head of the
table, with the school-master next to him.
"Nice man, Uncle Pasco," he continued. "But his time is not now. We
have nothing to do for the present but sit like every day and act
"I have known simpler tasks," said Mr. Bolles, "but I'll begin by
spreading this excellently clean napkin."
"You're no schoolmarm!" exclaimed Drake; "you please me."
"The worst of a bad thing," said the mild Bolles, "is having time
to think about it, and we have been spared that."
"Here they come," said Drake.
They did come. But Drake's alert strategy served the end he had
tried for. The drunken buccaroos swarmed disorderly to the door and
halted. Once more the new superintendent's ways took them aback. Here
was the decent table with lights serenely burning, with unwonted good
things arranged upon it--the olives, the oranges, the preserves. Neat
as parade drill were the men's places, all the cups and forks
symmetrical along the white cloth. There, waiting his guests at the
far end, sat the slim young boss talking with his boarder, Mr. Bolles,
the parts in their smooth hair going with all the rest of this
propriety. Even the daily tin dishes were banished in favor of
"Bashful of Sam's napkins, boys?" said the boss. "Or is it the
At this bidding they came in uncertainly. Their whiskey was ashamed
inside. They took their seats, glancing across at each other in a
transient silence, drawing their chairs gingerly beneath them. Thus
ceremony fell unexpected upon the gathering, and for a while they
swallowed in awkwardness what the swift, noiseless Sam brought them.
He in a long white apron passed and re-passed with his things from his
kitchen, doubly efficient and civil under stress of anxiety for his
young master. In the pauses of his serving he watched from the
background, with a face that presently caught the notice of one of
"Smile, you almond-eyed highbinder," said the buccaroo. And the
Chinaman smiled his best.
"I've forgot something," said Half-past Full, rising. "Don't let
'em skip a course on me." Half-past left the room.
"That's what I have been hoping for," said Drake to Bolles.
Half-past returned presently and caught Drake's look of expectancy.
"Oh no, boss," said the buccaroo, instantly, from the door. "You're on
to me, but I'm on to you." He slammed the door with ostentation and
dropped with a loud laugh into his seat.
"First smart thing I've known him do," said Drake to Bolles. "I am
Two buccaroos next left the room together.
"They may get lost in the snow," said the humorous Half-past. "I'll
just show 'em the trail." Once more he rose from the dinner and went
"Yes, he knew too much to bring it in here," said Drake to Bolles.
"He knew none but two or three would dare drink, with me looking on."
"Don't you think he is afraid to bring it in the same room with you
at all?" Bolles suggested.
"And me temperance this season? Now, Bolles, that's unkind."
"Oh, dear, that is not at all what--"
"I know what you meant, Bolles. I was only just making a little
merry over this casualty. No, he don't mind me to that extent, except
when he's sober. Look at him!"
Half-past was returning with his friends. Quite evidently they had
all found the trail.
"Uncle Pasco is a nice old man!" pursued Drake. "I haven't got my
gun on. Have you?"
"Yes," said Bolles, but with a sheepish swerve of the eye.
Drake guessed at once. "Not Baby Bunting? Oh, Lord! and I promised
to give you an adult weapon!--the kind they're wearing now by way of
"Talkin' secrets, boss?" said Half-past Full.
The well-meaning Sam filled his cup, and this proceeding shifted
the buccaroo's truculent attention.
"What's that mud?" he demanded.
"Coffee," said Sam, politely.
The buccaroo swept his cup to the ground, and the next man howled
"Burn your poor legs?" said Half-past. He poured his glass over the
victim. They wrestled, the company pounded the table, betting
hoarsely, until Half-past went to the floor, and his plate with him.
"Go easy," said Drake. "You're smashing the company's property."
"Bald-headed china for sure, boss!" said a second of the brothers
Drinker, and dropped a dish.
"I'll merely tell you," said Drake, "that the company don't pay for
this china twice."
"Not twice?" said Half-past Full, smashing some more. "How about
"Want your money now?" another inquired.
A riot of banter seized upon all of them, and they began to laugh
"How much did this cost?" said one, prying askew his three-tined
"How much did you cost yourself?" said another to Drake.
"What, our kid boss? Two bits, I guess."
"Hyas markook. Too dear!"
They bawled at their own jokes, loud and ominous; threat sounded
beneath their lightest word, the new crashes of china that they threw
on the floor struck sharply through the foreboding din of their mirth.
The spirit that Drake since his arrival had kept under in them day by
day, but not quelled, rose visibly each few succeeding minutes,
swelling upward as the tide does. Buoyed up on the whiskey, it
glittered in their eyes and yelled mutinously in their voices.
"I'm waiting all orders," said Bolles to Drake.
"I haven't any," said Drake. "New ones, that is. We've sat down to
see this meal out. Got to keep sitting."
He leaned back, eating deliberately, saying no more to the
buccaroos; thus they saw he would never leave the room till they did.
As he had taken his chair the first, so was the boy bound to quit it
the last. The game of prying fork-tines staled on them one by one, and
they took to songs, mostly of love and parting. With the red whiskey
in their eyes they shouted plaintively of sweethearts, and vows, and
lips, and meeting in the wild wood. From these they went to ballads of
the cattle-trail and the Yuba River, and so inevitably worked to the
old coast song, made of three languages, with its verses rhymed on
each year since the first beginning. Tradition laid it heavy upon each
singer in his turn to keep the pot a-boiling by memory or by new
invention, and the chant went forward with hypnotic cadence to a tune
of larkish, ripping gayety. He who had read over his old stained
letters in the homesick afternoon had waked from such dreaming and now
"Once jes' onced in the year o' 49, I met a fancy thing by the
name o' Keroline; I never could persuade her for to leave me be; She
went and she took and she married me."
His neighbor was ready with an original contribution:
"Once, once again in the year o' '64, By the city of Whatcom down
along the shore-- I never could persuade them for to leave me be-- A
Siwash squaw went and took and married me."
"What was you doin' between all them years?" called Half-past Full.
"Shut yer mouth," said the next singer:
Once, once again in the year o' 71 ('Twas the suddenest deed that
I ever done)-- I never could persuade them for to leave me be-- A
rich banker's daughter she took and married me."
"This is looking better," said Bolles to Drake.
"Don't you believe it," said the boy.
Ten or a dozen years were thus sung.
"I never could persuade them for to leave me be" tempestuously
brought down the chorus and the fists, until the drunkards could sit
no more, but stood up to sing, tramping the tune heavily together.
Then, just as the turn came round to Drake himself, they dashed their
chairs down and herded out of the room behind Half-past Full, slamming
Drake sat a moment at the head of his Christmas dinner, the fallen
chairs, the lumpy wreck. Blood charged his face from his hair to his
collar. "Let's smoke," said he. They went from the dinner through the
room of the great fireplace to his office beyond.
"Have a mild one?" he said to the schoolmaster.
"No, a strong one to-night, if you please." And Bolles gave his
"You do me good now and then," said Drake.
"Dear me," said the teacher, "I have found it the other way."
All the rooms fronted on the road with doors--the old-time agency
doors, where the hostiles had drawn their pictures in the days before
peace had come to reign over this country. Drake looked out, because
the singing had stopped and they were very quiet in the bunk-house. He
saw the Chinaman steal from his kitchen.
"Sam is tired of us," he said to Bolles.
"Running away, I guess. I'd prefer a new situation myself. That's
where you're deficient, Bolles. Only got sense enough to stay where
you happen to be. Hello. What is he up to?"
Sam had gone beside a window of the bunkhouse and was listening
there, flat like a shadow. Suddenly he crouched, and was gone among
the sheds. Out of the bunk-house immediately came a procession, the
buccaroos still quiet, a careful, gradual body.
Drake closed his door and sat in the chair again. "They're
escorting that jug over here," said he. "A new move, and a big one."
He and Bolles heard them enter the next room, always without much
noise or talk--the loudest sound was the jug when they set it on the
floor. Then they seemed to sit, talking little.
"Bolles," said Drake, "the sun has set. If you want to take after
But the door of the sitting-room opened and the Chinaman himself
came in. He left the door a-swing and spoke clearly. "Misser Dlake,"
said he, "slove bloke" (stove broke).
The superintendent came out of his office, following Sam to the
kitchen. He gave no look or word to the buccaroos with their demijohn;
he merely held his cigar sidewise in his teeth and walked with no
hurry through the sitting-room. Sam took him through to the kitchen
and round to a hind corner of the stove, pointing.
"Misser Dlake," said he, "slove no bloke. I hear them inside. They
going kill you."
"That's about the way I was figuring it," mused Dean Drake.
"Misser Dlake," said the Chinaman, with appealing eyes, "I velly
solly you. They no hurtee me. Me cook."
"Sam, there is much meat in your words. Condensed beef don't class
with you. But reserve your sorrows yet a while. Now what's my policy?"
he debated, tapping the stove here and there for appearances; somebody
might look in. "Shall I go back to my office and get my guns?"
"You not goin' run now?" said the Chinaman, anxiously.
"Oh yes, Sam. But I like my gun travelling. Keeps me kind of warm.
Now if they should get a sight of me arming--no, she's got to stay
here till I come back for her. So long, Sam! See you later. And I'll
have time to thank you then."
Drake went to the corral in a strolling manner. There he roped the
strongest of the horses, and also the school-master's. In the midst of
his saddling, Bolles came down.
"Can I help you in any way?" said Bolles.
"You've done it. Saved me a bothering touch-and-go play to get you
out here and seem innocent. I'm going to drift."
"There are times to stay and times to leave, Bolles; and this is a
case of the latter. Have you a real gun on now?"
Poor Bolles brought out guiltily his .22 Smith Wesson. "I don't
seem to think of things," said he.
"Cheer up," said Drake. "How could you thought-read me? Hide Baby
Bunting, though. Now we're off. Quietly, at the start. As if we were
merely jogging to pasture."
Sam stood at his kitchen door, mutely wishing them well. The horses
were walking without noise, but Half-past Full looked out of the
"We're by, anyhow," said Drake. "Quick now. Burn the earth. "The
horse sprang at his spurs." Dust, you son of a gun! Rattle your hocks!
Brindle! Vamoose!" Each shouted word was a lash with his quirt.
"Duck!" he called to Bolles.
Bolles ducked, and bullets grooved the spraying snow. They rounded
a corner and saw the crowd jumping into the corral, and Sam's door
empty of that prudent Celestial.
"He's a very wise Chinaman!" shouted Drake, as they rushed.
"What?" screamed Bolles.
"Very wise Chinaman. He'll break that stove now to prove his
"Who did you say was innocent?" screamed Bolles.
"Oh, I said you were," yelled Drake, disgusted; and he gave over
this effort at conversation as their horses rushed along.
It was a dim, wide stretch of winter into which Drake and Bolles
galloped from the howling pursuit. Twilight already veiled the base of
Castle Rock, and as they forged heavily up a ridge through the caking
snow, and the yells came after them, Bolles looked seriously at Dean
Drake; but that youth wore an expression of rising merriment. Bolles
looked back at the dusk from which the yells were sounding, then
forward to the spreading skein of night where the trail was taking him
and the boy, and in neither direction could he discern cause for
"May I ask where we are going?" said he.
"Away," Drake answered. "Just away, Bolles. It's a healthy resort."
Ten miles were travelled before either spoke again. The drunken
buccaroos yelled hot on their heels at first, holding more obstinately
to this chase than sober ruffians would have attempted. Ten cold, dark
miles across the hills it took to cure them; but when their shootings,
that had followed over heights where the pines grew and down through
the open swales between, dropped off, and died finally away among the
willows along the south fork of the Malheur, Drake reined in his horse
with a jerk.
"Now isn't that too bad!" he exclaimed.
"It is all very bad," said Bolles, sorry to hear the boy's tone of
"I didn't think they'd fool me again," continued Drake, jumping
"Again?" inquired the interested Bolles.
"Why, they've gone home!" said the boy, in disgust.
"I was hoping so," said the school-master.
"Hoping? Why, it's sad, Bolles. Four miles farther and I'd have had
"Oh!" said Bolles.
"I wanted them to keep after us," complained Drake. "Soon as we had
a good lead I coaxed them. Coaxed them along on purpose by a trail
they knew, and four miles from here I'd have swung south into the
mountains they don't know. There they'd have been good and far from
home in the snow without supper, like you and me, Bolles. But after
all my trouble they've gone back snug to that fireside. Well, let us
be as cosey as we can."
He built a bright fire, and he whistled as he kicked the snow from
his boots, busying over the horses and the blankets. "Take a rest," he
said to Bolles. "One man's enough to do the work. Be with you soon to
share our little cottage." Presently Bolles heard him reciting
confidentially to his horse, "Twas the night after Christmas, and all
in the house--only we are not all in the house!" He slapped the belly
of his horse Tyee, who gambolled away to the limit of his picket-rope.
"Appreciating the moon, Bolles?" said he, returning at length to
the fire. "What are you so gazeful about, father?"
"This is all my own doing," lamented the school-master.
"What, the moon is?"
"It has just come over me," Bolles continued. "It was before you
got in the stage at Nampa. I was talking. I told Uncle Pasco that I
was glad no whiskey was to be allowed on the ranch. It all comes from
"Why, you hungry old New England conscience!" cried the boy,
clapping him on the shoulder. "How in the world could you foresee the
crookedness of that hoary Beelzebub?"
"That's all very well," said Bolles, miserably. "You would never
have mentioned it yourself to him."
"You and I, Bolles, are different. I was raised on miscellaneous
wickedness. A look at my insides would be liable to make you say your
The school-master smiled. "If I said any prayers," he replied, "you
would be in them."
Drake looked moodily at the fire. "The Lord helps those who help
themselves," said he. "I've prospered. For a nineteen-year-old I've
hooked my claw fairly deep here and there. As for to-day--why, that's
in the game too. It was their deal. Could they have won it on their
own play? A joker dropped into their hand. It's my deal now, and I
have some jokers myself. Go to sleep, Bolles. We've a ride ahead of
The boy rolled himself in his blanket skillfully. Bolles heard him
say once or twice in a sort of judicial conversation with the blanket
--"and all in the house--but we were not all in the house. Not all.
Not a full house--" His tones drowsed comfortably into murmur, and
then to quiet breathing. Bolles fed the fire, thatched the unneeded
wind-break (for the calm, dry night was breathless), and for a long
while watched the moon and a tuft of the sleeping boy's hair.
"If he is blamed," said the school-master, "I'll never forgive
myself. I'll never forgive myself anyhow."
A paternal, or rather maternal, expression came over Bolles's face,
and he removed his large, serious glasses. He did not sleep very well.
The boy did. "I'm feeling like a bird," said he, as they crossed
through the mountains next morning on a short cut to the Owybee.
"Breakfast will brace you up, Bolles. There'll be a cabin pretty soon
after we strike the other road. Keep thinking hard about coffee."
"I wish I could," said poor Bolles. He was forgiving himself less
Their start had been very early; as Drake bid the school-master
observe, to have nothing to detain you, nothing to eat and nothing to
pack, is a great help in journeys of haste. The warming day, and
Indian Creek well behind them, brought Drake to whistling again, but
depression sat upon the self-accusing Bolles. Even when they sighted
the Owyhee road below them, no cheerfulness waked in him; not at the
nearing coffee, nor yet at the companionable tinkle of sleigh-bells
dancing faintly upward through the bright, silent air.
"Why, if it ain't Uncle Pasco!" said Drake, peering down through a
gap in the foot-hill. "We'll get breakfast sooner than I expected.
Quick! Give me Baby Bunting!"
"Are you going to kill him?" whispered the school-master, with a
beaming countenance. And he scuffled with his pocket to hand over his
hitherto belittled weapon.
Drake considered him. "Bolles, Bolles," said he, "you have got the
New England conscience rank. Plymouth Rock is a pudding to your heart.
Remind me to pray for you first spare minute I get. Now follow me
close. He'll be much more useful to us alive."
They slipped from their horses, stole swiftly down a shoulder of
the hill, and waited among some brush. The bells jingled
unsuspectingly onward to this ambush.
"Only hear 'em!" said Drake. "All full of silver and Merry
Christmas. Don't gaze at me like that, Bolles, or I'll laugh and give
the whole snap away. See him come! The old man's breath streams out so
calm. He's not worried with New England conscience. One, two, three"
Just before the sleigh came opposite, Dean Drake stepped out.
"Morning, Uncle!" said he. "Throw up your hands"
Uncle Pasco stopped dead, his eyes blinking. Then he stood up in
the sleigh among his blankets. "H'm," said he, "the kid."
"Throw up your hands! Quit fooling with that blanket!" Drake spoke
dangerously now. "Bolles," he continued, "pitch everything out of the
sleigh while I cover him. He's got a shot-gun under that blanket.
Sling it out."
It was slung. The wraps followed. Uncle Pasco stepped obediently
down, and soon the chattels of the emptied sleigh littered the snow.
The old gentleman was invited to undress until they reached the
six-shooter that Drake suspected. Then they ate his lunch, drank some
whiskey that he had not sold to the buccaroos, told him to repack the
sleigh, allowed him to wrap up again, bade him take the reins, and
they would use his six-shooter and shot-gun to point out the road to
He had said very little, had Uncle Pasco, but stood blinking,
obedient and malignant. "H'm," said he now, "goin' to ride with me,
He was told yes, that for the present he was their coachman. Their
horses were tired and would follow, tied behind. "We're weary, too,"
said Drake, getting in. "Take your legs out of my way or I'll kick off
your shins. Bolles, are you fixed warm and comfortable? Now start her
up for Harper ranch, Uncle."
"What are you proposing to do with me?" inquired Uncle Pasco.
"Not going to wring your neck, and that's enough for the present.
Faster, Uncle. Get a gait on. Bolles, here's Baby Bunting. Much
obliged to you for the loan of it, old man."
Uncle Pasco's eye fell on the 22-caliber pistol. "Did you hold me
up with that lemonade straw?" he asked, huskily.
"Yep," said Drake. "That's what."
"Oh, hell!" murmured Uncle Pasco. And for the first time he seemed
"Uncle, you're not making time," said Drake after a few miles.
"I'll thank you for the reins. Open your bandanna and get your
concertina. Jerk the bellows for us."
"That I'll not!" screamed Uncle Pasco.
"It's music or walk home," said the boy. "Take your choice."
Uncle Pasco took his choice, opening with the melody of "The Last
Rose of Summer." The sleigh whirled up the Owyhee by the winter
willows, and the, levels, and the meadow pools, bright frozen under
the blue sky. Late in this day the amazed Brock by his corrals at
Harper's beheld arrive his favorite, his boy superintendent, driving
in with the schoolmaster staring through his glasses, and Uncle Pasco
throwing out active strains upon his concertina. The old man had been
bidden to bellows away for his neck.
Drake was not long in explaining his need to the men. "This thing
must be worked quick," said he. "Who'll stand by me?"
All of them would, and he took ten, with the faithful Brock. Brock
would not allow Gilbert to go, because he had received another
mule-kick in the stomach. Nor was Bolles permitted to be of the
expedition. To all his protests, Drake had but the single word: "This
is not your fight, old man. You've done your share with Baby Bunting."
Thus was the school-master in sorrow compelled to see them start
back to Indian Creek and the Malheur without him. With him Uncle Pasco
would have joyfully exchanged. He was taken along with the avengers.
They would not wring his neck, but they would play cat and mouse with
him and his concertina; and they did. But the conscience of Bolles
still toiled. When Drake and the men were safe away, he got on the
wagon going for the mail, thus making his way next morning to the
railroad and Boise, where Max Vogel listened to him; and together this
couple hastily took train and team for the Malheur Agency.
The avengers reached Indian Creek duly, and the fourth day after
his Christmas dinner Drake came once more in sight of Castle Rock.
"I am doing this thing myself, understand," he said to Brock. "I am
"We're here to take your orders," returned the foreman. But as the
agency buildings grew plain and the time for action was coming,
Brock's anxious heart spoke out of its fulness. "If they start in
to--to--they might--I wish you'd let me get in front," he begged, all
"I thought you thought better of me," said Drake.
"Excuse me," said the man. Then presently: "I don't see how anybody
could 'a' told he'd smuggle whiskey that way. If the old man [Brock
meant Max Vogel] goes to blame you, I'll give him my opinion
"The old man's got no use for opinions," said Drake. "He goes on
results. He trusted me with this job, and we're going to have results
The drunkards were sitting round outside the ranch house. It was
evening. They cast a sullen inspection on the new-comers, who returned
them no inspection whatever. Drake had his men together and took them
to the stable first, a shed with mangers. Here he had them unsaddle.
"Because," he mentioned to Brock, "in case of trouble we'll be sure of
their all staying. I'm taking no chances now."
Soon the drunkards strolled over, saying good-day, hazarding a few
comments on the weather and like topics, and meeting sufficient
"Goin' to stay?"
"That's a good horse you've got."
But Sam was the blithest spirit at the Malheur Agency. "Hiyah!" he
exclaimed. "Misser Dlake! How fashion you come quick so?" And the
excellent Chinaman took pride in the meal of welcome that he prepared.
"Supper's now," said Drake to his men. "Sit anywhere you feel like.
Don't mind whose chair you're taking--and we'll keep our guns on."
Thus they followed him, and sat. The boy took his customary perch
at the head of the table, with Brock at his right. "I miss old
Bolles," he told his foreman. "You don't appreciate Bolles."
"From what you tell of him," said Brock, "I'll examine him more
Seeing their boss, the sparrow-hawk, back in his place, flanked
with supporters, and his gray eye indifferently upon them, the
buccaroos grew polite to oppressiveness. While Sam handed his dishes
to Drake and the new-comers, and the new-comers eat what was good
before the old inhabitants got a taste, these latter grew more and
more solicitous. They offered sugar to the strangers, they offered
their beds; Half-past Full urged them to sit companionably in the room
where the fire was burning. But when the meal was over, the visitors
went to another room with their arms, and lighted their own fire. They
brought blankets from their saddles, and after a little concertina
they permitted the nearly perished Uncle Pasco to slumber. Soon they
slumbered themselves, with the door left open, and Drake watching. He
would not even share vigil with Brock, and all night he heard the
voices of the buccaroos, holding grand, unending council.
When the relentless morning came, and breakfast with the visitors
again in their seats unapproachable, the drunkards felt the crisis to
be a strain upon their sobered nerves. They glanced up from their
plates, and down; along to Dean Drake eating his hearty porridge, and
back at one another, and at the hungry, well-occupied strangers.
"Say, we don't want trouble," they began to the strangers.
"Course you don't. Breakfast's what you're after."
"Oh, well, you'd have got gay. A man gets gay."
"Mr. Drake," said Half-past Full, sweating with his effort, "we
were sorry while we was a-fogging you up."
"Yes," said Drake. "You must have been just overcome by
A large laugh went up from the visitors, and the meal was finished
without further diplomacy.
"One matter, Mr. Drake," stammered Half-past Full, as the party
rose. "Our jobs. We're glad to pay for any things what got sort of
"Sort of broke," repeated the boy, eyeing him. "So you want to hold
"If--" began the buccaroo, and halted.
"Fact is, you're a set of cowards," said Drake, briefly. "I notice
you've forgot to remove that whiskey jug." The demijohn still stood by
the great fireplace. Drake entered and laid hold of it, the crowd
standing back and watching. He took it out, with what remained in its
capacious bottom, set it on a stump, stepped back, levelled his gun,
and shattered the vessel to pieces. The whiskey drained down, wetting
the stump, creeping to the ground.
Much potency lies in the object-lesson, and a grin was on the faces
of all present, save Uncle Pasco's. It had been his demijohn, and when
the shot struck it he blinked nervously.
"You ornery old mink!" said Drake, looking at him. "You keep to the
jewelry business hereafter."
The buccaroos grinned again. It was reassuring to witness wrath
turn upon another.
"You want to hold your jobs?" Drake resumed to them. "You can trust
"Yes, sir," said Half-past Full.
"But I don't trust you," stated Drake, genially; and the buccaroos'
hopeful eyes dropped. "I'm going to divide you," pursued the new
superintendent. "Split you far and wide among the company's ranches.
Stir you in with decenter blood. You'll go to White-horse ranch, just
across the line of Nevada," he said to Half-past Full. "I'm tired of
the brothers Drinker. You'll go--let's see--"
Drake paused in his apportionment, and a sleigh came swiftly round
the turn, the horse loping and lathery.
"What vas dat shooting I hear joost now?" shouted Max Vogel, before
he could arrive. He did not wait for any answer. "Thank the good God!"
he exclaimed, at seeing the boy Dean Drake unharmed, standing with a
gun. And to their amazement he sped past them, never slacking his
horse's lope until he reached the corral. There he tossed the reins to
the placid Bolles, and springing out like a surefooted elephant,
counted his saddle-horses; for he was a general. Satisfied, he strode
back to the crowd by the demijohn. "When dem men get restless," he
explained to Drake at once, "always look out. Somebody might steal a
The boy closed one gray, confidential eye at his employer. "Just my
idea," said he," when I counted 'em before breakfast."
"You liddle r-rascal," said Max, fondly, "What you shoot at?"
Drake pointed at the demijohn. "It was bigger than those bottles at
Nampa," said he. "Guess you could have hit it yourself."
Max's great belly shook. He took in the situation. It had a flavor
that he liked. He paused to relish it a little more in silence.
"Und you have killed noding else?" said he, looking at Uncle Pasco,
who blinked copiously. "Mine old friend, you never get rich if you
change your business so frequent. I tell you that thirty years now."
Max's hand found Drake's shoulder, but he addressed Brock. "He is all
what you tell me," said he to the foreman. "He have joodgement."
Thus the huge, jovial Teuton took command, but found Drake had left
little for him to do. The buccaroos were dispersed at Harper's, at
Fort Rinehart, at Alvord Lake, towards Stein's peak, and at the Island
Ranch by Harney Lake. And if you know east Oregon, or the land where
Chief E-egante helped out Specimen Jones, his white soldier friend,
when the hostile Bannocks were planning his immediate death as a spy,
you will know what wide regions separated the buccaroos. Bolles was
taken into Max Vogel's esteem; also was Chinese Sam. But Max sat
smoking in the office with his boy superintendent, in particular
"You are a liddle r-rascal," said he. "Und I r-raise you fifty
A Kinsman of Red Cloud
It was thirty minutes before a June sundown at the post, and the
first call had sounded for parade. Over in the barracks the two
companies and the single troop lounged a moment longer, then laid
their police litera- ture down, and lifted their stocking feet from
the beds to get ready. In the officers' quarters the captain rose
regretfully from after-dinner digestion, and the three lieutenants
sought their helmets with a sigh. Lieutenant Balwin had been dining an
unconventional and impressive guest at the mess, and he now
interrupted the anecdote which the guest was achieving with frontier
"Make yourself comfortable," he said. "I'll have to hear the rest
about the half-breed when I get back."
"There ain't no more--yet. He got my cash with his private poker
deck that onced, and I'm fixing for to get his'n."
Second call sounded; the lines filed out and formed, the sergeant
of the guard and two privates took their station by the flag, and when
battalion was formed the commanding officer, towering steeple-stiff
beneath his plumes, received the adjutant's salute, ordered him to his
post, and began drill. At all this the unconventional guest looked on
comfortably from Lieutenant Balwin's porch.
"I doubt if I could put up with that there discipline all the
week," he mused. "Carry--arms! Present--Arms! I guess that's all I
know of it." The winking white line of gloves stirred his approval.
"Pretty good that. Gosh, see the sun on them bayonets!"
The last note of retreat merged in the sonorous gun, and the flag
shining in the light of evening slid down and rested upon the earth.
The blue ranks marched to a single bugle--the post was short of men
and officers--and the captain, with the released lieutenants, again
sought digestion and cigars. Balwin returned to his guest, and
together they watched the day forsake the plain. Presently the guest
rose to take his leave. He looked old enough to be the father of the
young officer, but he was a civilian, and the military man proceeded
to give him excellent advice.
"Now don't get into trouble, Cutler."
The slouch-shouldered scout rolled his quid gently, and smiled at
his superior with indulgent regard.
"See here, Cutler, you have a highly unoccupied look about you this
evening. I've been studying the customs of this population, and I've
noted a fact or two."
"Let 'em loose on me, sir."
"Fact one: When any male inhabitant of Fort Laramie has a few spare
moments, he hunts up a game of cards."
"Well, sir, you've called the turn on me."
"Fact two: At Fort Laramie a game of cards frequently ends in
"Fact three: Mr. Calvin, in them discussions Jarvis Cutler has the
last word. You put that in your census report alongside the other
"Well, Cutler, if somebody's gun should happen to beat yours in an
argument, I should have to hunt another wagon-master."
"I'll not forget that. When was you expecting to pull out north?"
"Whenever the other companies get here. May be three days--may be
"Then I will have plenty time for a game to-night."
With this slight dig of his civilian independence into the
lieutenant's military ribs, the scout walked away, his long,
lugubrious frockcoat (worn in honor of the mess) occasionally flapping
open in the breeze, and giving a view of a belt richly fluted with
cartridges, and the ivory handle of a pistol looking out of its
holster. He got on his horse, crossed the flat, and struck out for the
cabin of his sociable friends, Loomis and Kelley, on the hill. The
open door and a light inside showed the company, and Cutler gave a
grunt, for sitting on the table was the half-breed, the winner of his
unavenged dollars. He rode slower, in order to think, and arriving at
the corral below the cabin, tied his horse to the stump of a
cottonwood. A few steps towards the door, and he wheeled on a sudden
thought, and under cover of the night did a crafty something which to
the pony was altogether unaccountable. He unloosed both front and rear
cinch of his saddle, so they hung entirely free in wide bands beneath
the pony's belly. He tested their slackness with his hand several
times, stopping instantly when the more and more surprised pony turned
his head to see what new thing in his experience might be going on,
and, seeing, gave a delicate bounce with his hind-quarters.
"Never you mind, Duster," muttered the scout. "Did you ever see a
skunk-trap? Oughts is for mush-rats, and number ones is mostly used
for 'coons and 'possums, and I guess they'd do for a skunk. But you
and we'll call this here trap a number two, Duster, for the skunk I'm
after is a big one. All you've to do is to act natural."
Cutler took the rope off the stump by which Duster had been tied
securely, wound and strapped it to the tilted saddle, and instead of
this former tether, made a weak knot in the reins, and tossed them
over the stump. He entered the cabin with a countenance sweeter than
"Good-evening, boys," he said. "Why, Toussaint, how do you do?"
The hand of Toussaint had made a slight, a very slight, movement
towards his hip, but at sight of Cutler's mellow smile resumed its
clasp upon his knee.
"Golly, but you're gay-like this evening," said Kelley.
"Blamed if I knowed he could look so frisky," added Loomis.
"Sporting his onced-a-year coat," Kelley pursued. "That ain't for
our benefit, Joole."
"No, we're not that high in society." Both these cheerful waifs had
drifted from the Atlantic coast westward.
Cutler looked from them to his costume, and then amiably surveyed
"Well, boys, I'm in big luck, I am. How's yourn nowadays,
"Pretty good sometime. Sometime heap hell." The voice of the
half-breed came as near heartiness as its singularly false quality
would allow, and as he smiled he watched Cutler with the inside of his
The scout watched nobody and nothing with great care, looked about
him pleasantly, inquired for the whiskey, threw aside hat and gloves,
sat down, leaning the chair back against the wall, and talked with
artful candor. "Them sprigs of lieutenants down there," said he,
"they're a surprising lot for learning virtue to a man. You take
Balwin. Why, he ain't been out of the Academy only two years, and he's
been telling me how card-playing ain't good for you. And what do you
suppose he's been and offered Jarvis Cutler for a job? I'm to be
wagon-master." He paused, and the half-breed's attention to his next
words increased. "Wagon-master, and good pay, too. Clean up to the
Black Hills; and the troops'll move soon as ever them reinforcements
come. Drinks on it, boys! Set 'em up, Joole Loomis. My contract's
sealed with some of Uncle Sam's cash, and I'm going to play it right
here. Hello! Somebody coming to join us? He's in a hurry."
There was a sound of lashing straps and hoofs beating the ground,
and Cutler looked out of the door. As he had calculated, the saddle
had gradually turned with Duster's movements and set the pony bucking.
"Stampeded!" said the scout, and swore the proper amount called for
by such circumstances. "Some o' you boys help me stop the durned
Loomis and Kelley ran. Duster had jerked the prepared reins from
the cottonwood, and was lurching down a small dry gulch, with the
saddle bouncing between his belly and the stones.
Cutler cast a backward eye at the cabin where Toussaint had stayed
behind alone. "Head him off below, boys, and I'll head him off above,"
the scout sang out. He left his companions, and quickly circled round
behind the cabin, stumbling once heavily, and hurrying on, anxious
lest the noise had reached the lurking half-breed. But the
ivory-handled pistol, jostled from its holster, lay unheeded among the
stones where he had stumbled. He advanced over the rough ground, came
close to the logs, and craftily peered in at the small window in the
back of the cabin. It was evident that he had not been heard. The
sinister figure within still sat on the table, but was crouched,
listening like an animal to the shouts that were coming from a safe
distance down in the gulch. Cutler, outside of the window, could not
see the face of Toussaint, but he saw one long brown hand sliding up
and down the man's leg, and its movement put him in mind of the tail
of a cat. The hand stopped to pull out a pistol, into which fresh
cartridges were slipped. Cutler had already done this same thing after
dismounting, and he now felt confident that his weapon needed no
further examination. He did not put his hand to his holster. The
figure rose from the table, and crossed the room to a set of shelves
in front of which hung a little yellow curtain. Behind it were cups,
cans, bottles, a pistol, counters, red, white, and blue, and two fresh
packs of cards, blue and pink, side by side. Seeing these, Toussaint
drew a handkerchief from his pocket, and unwrapped two further packs,
both blue; and at this Cutler's intent face grew into plain shape
close to the window, but receded again into uncertain dimness. From
down in the gulch came shouts that the runaway horse was captured.
Toussaint listened, ran to the door, and quickly returning, put the
blue pack from the shelf into his pocket, leaving in exchange one of
his own. He hesitated about altering the position of the cards on the
shelf, but Kelley and Loomis were unobservant young men, and the
half-breed placed the pink cards on top of his blue ones. The little
yellow curtain again hung innocently over the shelves, and Toussaint,
pouring himself a drink of whiskey, faced round, and for the first
time saw the window that had been behind his back. He was at it in an
instant, wrenching its rusty pin, that did not give, but stuck
motionless in the wood. Cursing, he turned and hurried out of the door
and round the cabin. No one was there. Some hundred yards away the
noiseless Cutler crawled farther among the thickets that filled the
head of the gulch. Toussaint whipped out a match, and had it against
his trousers to strike and look if there were footprints, when second
thoughts warned him this might be seen, and was not worth risking
suspicion over, since so many feet came and went by this cabin. He
told himself no one could have been there to see him, and slowly
returned inside, with a mind that fell a hair's breadth short of
The boys, coming up with the horse, met Cutler, who listened to how
Duster had stood still as soon as he had kicked free of his saddle,
making no objection to being caught. They suggested that he would not
have broken loose had he been tied with a rope; and hearing this,
Cutler bit off a piece of tobacco, and told them they were quite
right: a horse should never be tied by his bridle. For a savory moment
the scout cuddled his secret, and turned it over like the tobacco lump
under his tongue. Then he explained, and received serenely the
amazement of Loomis and Kelley.
"When you kids have travelled this Western country awhile you'll
keep your cards locked," said he." He's going to let us win first.
You'll see, he'll play a poor game with the pink deck. Then, if we
don't call for fresh cards, why, he'll call for 'em himself. But, just
for the fun of the thing, if any of us loses steady, why, we'll call.
Then, when he gets hold of his strippers, watch out. When he makes his
big play, and is stretchin' for to rake the counters in, you grab 'em,
Joole; for by then I'll have my gun on him, and if he makes any
trouble we'll feed him to the coyotes. I expect that must have been
it, boys," he continued, in a new tone, as they came within possible
ear-shot of the half-breed in the cabin. "A coyote come around him
where he was tied. The fool horse has seen enough of 'em to git used
to 'em, you'd think, but he don't. There; that'll hold him. I guess
he'll have to pull the world along with him if he starts to run
The lamp was placed on the window-shelf, and the four took seats,
Cutler to the left of Toussaint, with Kelley opposite. The pink cards
fell harmless, and for a while the game was a dull one to see. Holding
a pair of kings, Cutler won a little from Toussaint, who remarked that
luck must go with the money of Uncle Sam. After a few hands, the
half-breed began to bet with ostentatious folly, and, losing to one
man and another, was joked upon the falling off of his game. In an
hour's time his blue chips had been twice reinforced, and twice melted
from the neat often-counted pile in which he arranged them; moreover,
he had lost a horse from his string down on Chug Water.
"Lend me ten dollar," he said to Cutler. "You rich man now."
In the next few deals Kelley became poor. "I'm sick of this luck,"
"Then change it, why don't you? Let's have a new deck." And Loomis
"Joole, you always are for something new," said Cutler. "Now I'm
doing pretty well with these pink cards. But I'm no hog. Fetch on your
The eyes of the half-breed swerved to the yellow curtain. He was by
a French trapper from Canada out of a Sioux squaw, one of Red Cloud's
sisters, and his heart beat hot with the evil of two races, and none
of their good. He was at this moment irrationally angry with the men
who had won from him through his own devices, and malice undisguised
shone in his lean flat face. At sight of the blue cards falling in the
first deal, silence came over the company, and from the distant
parade-ground the bugle sounded the melancholy strain of taps. Faint,
far, solemn, melodious, the music travelled unhindered across the
"Them men are being checked off in their bunks now," said Cutler.
"What you bet this game?" demanded Toussaint.
"I've heard 'em play that same music over a soldier's grave," said
"You goin' to bet?" Toussaint repeated.
Cutler pushed forward the two necessary white chips. No one's hand
was high, and Loomis made a slight winning. The deal went its round
several times, and once, when it was Toussaint's, Cutler suspected
that special cards had been thrown to him by the half-breed as an
experiment. He therefore played the gull to a nicety, betting gently
upon his three kings; but when he stepped out boldly and bet the
limit, it was not Toussaint but Kelley who held the higher hand,
winning with three aces. Why the coup should be held off longer
puzzled the scout, unless it was that Toussaint was carefully testing
the edges of his marked cards to see if he controlled them to a
certainty. So Cutler played on calmly. Presently two aces came to him
in Toussaint's deal, and he wondered how many more would be in his
three-card draw. Very pretty! One only, and he lost to Loomis, who had
drawn three, and held four kings. The hands were getting higher, they
said. The game had "something to it now." But Toussaint grumbled, for
his luck was bad all this year, he said. Cutler had now made sure that
the aces and kings went where the half-breed wished, and could be slid
undetected from the top or the middle or the bottom of the pack; but
he had no test yet how far down the scale the marking went. At
Toussaint's next deal Cutler judged the time had come, and at the
second round of betting he knew it. The three white men played their
parts, raising each other without pause, and again there was total
silence in the cabin. Every face bent to the table, watching the turn
repeat its circle with obstinate increase, until new chips and more
new chips had been brought to keep on with, and the heap in the middle
had mounted high in the hundreds, while in front of Toussaint lay his
knife and a match-box--pledges of two more horses which he had staked.
He had drawn three cards, while the others took two, except Cutler,
who had a pair of kings again, and drawing three, picked up two more.
Kelley dropped out, remarking he had bet more than his hand was worth,
which was true, and Loomis followed him. Their persistence had
surprised Toussaint a little. He had not given every one suspicious
hands: Cutler's four kings were enough. He bet once more, was raised
by the scout, called, and threw down his four aces.
"That beats me," said Cutler, quietly, and his hand moved under his
frock-coat, as the half-breed, eyeing the central pile of counters in
triumph, closed his fingers over it. They were dashed off by Kelley,
who looked expectantly across at Cutler, and seeing the scout's face
wither into sudden old age, cried out, "For God's sake, Jarvis,
where's your gun?" Kelley sprang for the yellow curtain, and reeled
backward at the shot of Toussaint. His arm thrashed along the
window-sill as he fell, sweeping over the lamp, and flaring channels
of oil ran over his body and spread on the ground. But these could no
longer hurt him. The half-breed had leaped outside the cabin, enraged
that Cutler should have got out during the moment he had been dealing
with Kelley. The scout was groping for his ivory-handled pistol off in
the darkness. He found it, and hurried to the little window at a
second shot he heard inside. Loomis, beating the rising flame away,
had seized the pistol from the shelf, and aimlessly fired into the
night at Toussaint. He fired again, running to the door from the
scorching heat. Cutler got round the house to save him if he could,
and saw the half-breed's weapon flash, and the body pitch out across
the threshold. Toussaint, gaining his horse, shot three times and
missed Cutler, whom he could not clearly see; and he heard the scout's
bullets sing past him as his horse bore him rushing away.
Jarvis Cutler lifted the dead Loomis out of the cabin. He made a
try for Kelley's body, but the room had become a cave of flame, and he
was driven from the door. He wrung his hands, giving himself bitter
blame aloud, as he covered Loomis with his saddle-blanket, and jumped
bareback upon Duster to go to the post. He had not been riding a
minute when several men met him. They had seen the fire from below,
and on their way up the half-breed had passed them at a run.
"Here's our point," said Cutler. "Will he hide with the Sioux, or
will he take to the railroad? Well, that's my business more than being
wagon-master. I'll get a warrant. You tell Lieutenant Balwin--and
somebody give me a fresh horse."
A short while later, as Cutler, with the warrant in his pocket,
rode out of Fort Laramie, the call of the sentinels came across the
night: "Number One. Twelve o'clock, and all's well." A moment, and the
refrain sounded more distant, given by Number Two. When the fourth
took it up, far away along the line, the words were lost, leaving
something like the faint echo of a song. The half-breed had crossed
the Platte, as if he were making for his kindred tribe, but the scout
did not believe in this too plain trail.
"There's Chug Water lying right the other way from where he went,
and I guess it's there Mr. Toussaint is aiming for." With this idea
Cutler swung from north to southwest along the Laramie. He went slowly
over his shortcut, not to leave the widely circling Toussaint too much
in his rear. The fugitive would keep himself carefully far on the
other side of the Laramie, and very likely not cross it until the
forks of Chug Water. Dawn had ceased to be gray, and the doves were
cooing incessantly among the river thickets, when Cutler, reaching the
forks, found a bottom where the sage-brush grew seven and eight feet
high, and buried himself and his horse in its cover. Here was comfort;
here both rivers could be safely watched. It seemed a good
leisure-time for a little fire and some breakfast. He eased his horse
of the saddle, sliced some bacon, and put a match to his pile of small
sticks. As the flame caught, he stood up to enjoy the cool of a breeze
that was passing through the stillness, and he suddenly stamped his
fire out. The smell of another fire had come across Chug Water on the
wind. It was incredible that Toussaint should be there already. There
was no seeing from this bottom, and if Cutler walked up out of it the
other man would see too. If it were Toussaint, he would not stay long
in the vast exposed plain across Chug Water, but would go on after his
meal. In twenty minutes it would be the thing to swim or wade the
stream, and crawl up the mud bank to take a look. Meanwhile, Cutler
dipped in water some old bread that he had and sucked it down, while
the little breeze from opposite hook the cottonwood leaves and brought
over the smell of cooking meat. The sun grew warmer, and the doves
ceased. Cutler opened his big watch, and clapped it shut as the sound
of mud heavily slopping into the other river reached him. He crawled
to where he could look at the Laramie from among his sagebrush, and
there was Toussaint leading his horse down to the water. The
half-breed gave a shrill call, and waved his hat. His call was
answered, and as he crossed the Laramie, three Sioux appeared, riding
to the bank. They waited till he gained their level, when all four
rode up the Chug Water, and went out of sight opposite the watching
Cutler. The scout threw off some of his clothes, for the water was
still high, and when he had crossed, and drawn himself to a level with
the plain, there were the four squatted among the sage-brush beside a
fire. They sat talking and eating for some time. One of them rose at
last, pointed south, and mounting his horse, dwindled to a dot,
blurred, and evaporated in the heated, trembling distance. Cutler at
the edge of the bank still watched the other three, who sat on the
ground. A faint shot came, and they rose at once, mounted, and
vanished southward. There was no following them now in this exposed
country, and Cutler, feeling sure that the signal had meant something
about Toussaint's horses, made his fire, watered his own horse, and
letting him drag a rope where the feed was green, ate his breakfast in
ease. Toussaint would get a fresh mount, and proceed to the railroad.
With the comfort of certainty and tobacco, the scout lolled by the
river under the cottonwood, and even slept. In the cool of the
afternoon he reached the cabin of an acquaintance twenty miles south,
and changed his horse. A man had passed by, he was told. Looked as if
bound for Cheyenne. "No," Cutler said, "he's known there"; and he went
on, watching Toussaint's tracks. Within ten miles they veered away
from Cheyenne to the southeast, and Cutler struck out on a trail of
his own more freely. By midnight he was on Lodge-Pole Creek, sleeping
sound among the last trees that he would pass. He slept twelve hours,
having gone to bed knowing he must not come into town by daylight.
About nine o'clock he arrived, and went to the railroad station; there
the operator knew him. The lowest haunt in the town had a tent south
of the Union Pacific tracks; and Cutler, getting his irons, and a man
from the saloon, went there, and stepped in, covering the room with
his pistol. The fiddle stopped, the shrieking women scattered, and
Toussaint, who had a glass in his hand, let it fly at Cutler's head,
for he was drunk. There were two customers besides himself.
"Nobody shall get hurt here," said Cutler, above the bedlam that
was now set up. "Only that man's wanted. The quieter I get him, the
quieter it'll be for others."
Toussaint had dived for his pistol, but the proprietor of the
dance-hall, scenting law, struck the half-breed with the butt of
another, and he rolled over, and was harmless for some minutes. Then
he got on his legs, and was led out of the entertainment, which
resumed more gayly than ever. Feet shuffled, the fiddle whined, and
truculent treble laughter sounded through the canvas walls as
Toussaint walked between Cutler and the saloon-man to jail. He was
duly indicted, and upon the scout's deposition committed to trial for
the murder of Loomis and Kelley. Cutler, hoping still to be
wagon-master, wrote to Lieutenant Balwin, hearing in reply that the
reinforcements would not arrive for two months. The session of the
court came in one, and Cutler was the Territory's only witness. He
gave his name and age, and hesitated over his occupation.
"Call it poker-dealer," sneered Toussaint's attorney.
"I would, but I'm such a fool one," observed the witness. "Put me
down as wagon-master to the military outfit that's going to White
"What is your residence?"
"Well, I reside in the section that lies between the Missouri River
and the Pacific Ocean."
"A pleasant neighborhood," said the judge, who knew Cutler
perfectly, and precisely how well he could deal poker hands.
"It's not a pleasant neighborhood for some." And Cutler looked at
"You think you done with me?" Toussaint inquired, upon which
silence was ordered in the court.
Upon Cutler's testimony the half-breed was found guilty, and
sentenced to be hanged in six weeks from that day. Hearing this, he
looked at the witness. "I see you one day agin," he said.
The scout returned to Fort Laramie, and soon the expected troops
arrived, and the expedition started for White River to join Captain
Brent. The captain was stationed there to impress Red Cloud, and had
written to headquarters that this chief did not seem impressed very
deeply, and that the lives of the settlers were insecure.
Reinforcements were accordingly sent to him. On the evening before
these soldiers left Laramie, news came from the south. Toussaint had
escaped from jail. The country was full of roving, dubious Indians,
and with the authentic news went a rumor that the jailer had received
various messages. These were to the effect that the Sioux nation did
not desire Toussaint to be killed by the white man, that Toussaint's
mother was the sister of Red Cloud, and that many friends of Toussaint
often passed the jailer's house. Perhaps he did get such messages.
They are not a nice sort to receive. However all this may have been,
the prisoner was gone.
Fort Robinson, on the White River, is backed by yellow bluffs that
break out of the foot-hills in turret and toadstool shapes, with stunt
pines starving between their torrid bastions. In front of the fort the
land slants away into the flat unfeatured desert, and in summer the
sky is a blue-steel covet that each day shuts the sun and the earth
and mankind into one box together, while it lifts at night to let in
the cool of the stars. The White River, which is not wide, runs in a
curve, and around this curve below the fort some distance was the
agency, and beyond it a stockade, inside which in those days dwelt the
settlers. All this was strung out on one side of the White River,
outside of the curve; and at a point near the agency a foot-bridge of
two cottonwood trunks crossed to the concave of the river's bend--a
bottom of some extent, filled with growing cottonwoods, and the tepees
of many Sioux families. Along the river and on the plain other tepees
One morning, after Lieutenant Balwin had become established at Fort
Robinson, he was talking with his friend Lieutenant Powell, when
Cutler knocked at the wire door. The wagon-master was a privileged
character, and he sat down and commented irrelevantly upon the
lieutenant's pictures, Indian curiosities, and other well-meant
attempts to conceal the walk:
"What's the trouble, Cutler?"
"Don't know as there's any trouble."
"Come to your point, man; you're not a scout now."
"What! in camp?"
"Hiding with the Sioux. Two Knives heard about it." (Two Knives was
a friendly Indian.) "He's laying for me," Cutler added.
"You've seen him?"
"No. I want to quit my job and go after him."
"Nonsense!" said Powell.
"You can't, Cutler," said Balwin. "I can't spare you."
"You'll be having to fill my place, then, I guess."
"You mean to go without permission?" said Powell, sternly.
"Lord, no! He'll shoot me. That's all."
The two lieutenants pondered.
"And it's to-day," continued Cutler, plaintively, "that he should
be gettin' hanged in Cheyenne."
Still the lieutenants pondered, while the wagon-master inspected a
photograph of Marie Rose as Marguerite.
"I have it!" exclaimed Powell. "Let's kill him."
"How about the commanding officer?"
"He'd back us--but we'll tell him afterwards. Cutler, can you find
"If I get the time."
"Very well, you're off duty till you do. Then report to me at
Just after guard-mounting two days later, Cutler came in without
knocking. Toussaint was found. He was down on the river now, beyond
the stockade. In ten minutes the wagon-master and the two lieutenants
were rattling down to the agency in an ambulance, behind four tall
blue government mules. These were handily driven by a
seventeen-year-old boy whom Balwin had picked. up, liking his sterling
American ways. He had come West to be a cow-boy, but a chance of
helping to impress Red Cloud had seemed still dearer to his heart.
They drew up at the agency store, and all went in, leaving the boy
nearly out of his mind with curiosity, and pretending to be absorbed
with the reins. Presently they came out, Balwin with field-glasses.
"Now," said he, "where?"
"You see the stockade, sir?"
"Well?" said Powell, sticking his chin on Cutler's shoulder to look
along his arm as he pouted. But the scout proposed to be deliberate.
"Now the gate of the stockade is this way, ain't it?"
"You start there and follow the fence to the corner--the left
corner, towards the river. Then you follow the side that's nearest the
river down to the other corner. Now that corner is about a hundred
yards from the bank. You take a bee-line to the bank and go down
stream, maybe thirty yards. No; it'll be forty yards, I guess. There's
a lone pine-tree right agin the edge." The wagon-master stopped.
"I see all that," said Lieutenant Balwin, screwing the
field-glasses. "There's a buck and a squaw lying under the tree."
"Naw, sir," drawled Cutler, "that ain't no buck. That's him lying
in his Injun blanket and chinnin' a squaw."
"Why, that man's an Indian, Cutler. I tell you I can see his
"Oh, he's rigged up Injun fashion, fust rate, sir. But them braids
of his ain't his'n. False hair."
The lieutenants passed each other the fieldglasses three times, and
glared at the lone pine and the two figures in blankets. The boy on
the ambulance was unable to pretend any longer, and leaned off his
seat till he nearly fell.
"Well," said Balwin, "I never saw anything look more like a buck
Sioux. Look at his paint. Take the glasses yourself, Cutler."
But Cutler refused. "He's like an Injun," he said. "But that's just
what he wants to be." The scout's conviction bore down their doubt.
They were persuaded. "You can't come with us, Cutler," said Powell.
"You must wait for us here."
"I know, sir; he'd spot us, sure. But it ain't right. I started
this whole business with my poker scheme at that cabin, and I ought to
stay with it clear through."
The officers went into the agency store and took down two rifles
hanging at the entrance, always ready for use. "We're going to kill a
man," they explained, and the owner was entirely satisfied. They left
the rueful Cutler inside, and proceeded to the gate of the stockade,
turning there to the right, away from the river, and following the
paling round the corner down to the farther right-hand corner. Looking
from behind it, the lone pine-tree stood near, and plain against the
sky. The striped figures lay still in their blankets, talking, with
their faces to the river. Here and there across the stream the
smoke-stained peak of a tepee showed among the green leaves.
"Did you ever see a more genuine Indian?" inquired Baldwin.
"We must let her rip now, anyhow," said Powell, and they stepped
out into the open. They walked towards the pine till it was a hundred
yards from them, and the two beneath it lay talking all the while.
Balwin covered the man with his rifle and called. The man turned his
head, and seeing the rifle, sat up in his blanket. The squaw sat up
also. Again the officer called, keeping his rifle steadily pointed,
and the man dived like a frog over the bank. Like magic his blanket
had left his limbs and painted body naked, except for the
breech-clout. Balwin's tardy bullet threw earth over the squaw, who
went flapping and screeching down the river. Balwin and Powell ran to
the edge, which dropped six abrupt feet of clay to a trail, then
shelved into the swift little stream. The red figure was making up the
trail to the foot-bridge that led to the Indian houses, and both
officers fired. The man continued his limber flight, and they jumped
down and followed, firing. They heard a yell on the plain above, and
an answer to it, and then confused yells above and below, gathering
all the while. The figure ran on above the river trail below the bank,
and their bullets whizzed after it.
"Indian!" asserted Balwin, panting.
"Ran away, though," said Powell.
"So'd you run. Think any Sioux'd stay when an army officer comes
gunning for him?"
"Shoot!" said Powell. "'S getting near bridge," and they went on,
running and firing. The yells all over the plain were thickening. The
air seemed like a substance of solid flashing sound. The naked runner
came round the river curve into view of the people at the agency
"Where's a rifle?" said Cutler to the agent.
"Officers got 'em," the agent explained.
"Well, I can't stand this," said the scout, and away he went.
"That man's crazy," said the agent.
"You bet he ain't!" remarked the ambulance boy.
Cutler was much nearer to the bridge than was the man in the
breech-clout, and reaching the bank, he took half a minute's keen
pleasure in watching the race come up the trail. When the figure was
within ten yards Cutler slowly drew an ivory-handled pistol. The
lieutenants below saw the man leap to the middle of the bridge, sway
suddenly with arms thrown up, and topple into White River. The current
swept the body down, and as it came it alternately lifted and turned
and sank as the stream played with it. Sometimes it struck submerged
stumps or shallows, and bounded half out of water, then drew under
with nothing but the back of the head in sight, turning round and
round. The din of Indians increased, and from the tepees in the
cottonwoods the red Sioux began to boil, swarming on the opposite
bank, but uncertain what had happened. The man rolling in the water
was close to the officers.
"It's not our man," said Balwin. "Did you or I hit him?"
"We're gone, anyhow," said Powell, quietly. "Look!"
A dozen rifles were pointing at their heads on the bank above. The
Indians still hesitated, for there was Two Knives telling them these
officers were not enemies, and had hurt no Sioux. Suddenly Cutler
pushed among the rifles, dashing up the nearest two with his arm, and
their explosion rang in the ears of the lieutenants. Powell stood
grinning at the general complication of matters that had passed beyond
his control, and Balwin made a grab as the head of the man in the
river washed by. The false braid came off in his hand!
"Quick!" shouted Cutler from the bank. "Shove him up here!"
Two Knives redoubled his harangue, and the Indians stood puzzled,
while the lieutenants pulled Toussaint out, not dead, but shot through
the hip. They dragged him over the clay and hoisted him, till Cutler
caught hold and jerked him to the level, as a new noise of rattling
descended on the crowd, and the four blue mules wheeled up and halted.
The boy had done it himself. Massing the officers' need, he had pelted
down among the Sioux, heedless of their yells, and keeping his gray
eyes on his team. In got the three, pushing Toussaint in front, and
scoured away for the post as the squaw arrived to shriek the truth to
her tribe--what Red Cloud's relation had been the victim.
Cutler sat smiling as the ambulance swung along. "I told you I
belonged in this here affair," he said. And when they reached the fort
he was saying it still, occasionally.
Captain Brent considered it neatly done. "But that boy put the
finishing touches," he said. "Let's have him in."
The boy was had in, and ate a dinner with the officers in glum
embarrassment, smoking a cigar after it without joy. Toussaint was
given into the doctor's hands, and his wounds carefully dressed.
"This will probably cost an Indian outbreak," said Captain Brent,
looking down at the plain. Blanketed riders galloped over it, and
yelling filled the air. But Toussaint was not destined to cause this
further harm. An unexpected influence intervened.
All afternoon the cries and galloping went on, and next morning
(worse sign) there seemed to be no Indians in the world. The horizon
was empty, the air was silent, the smoking tepees were vanished from
the cottonwoods, and where those in the plain had been lay the
lodge-poles, and the fires were circles of white, cold ashes. By noon
an interpreter came from Red Cloud. Red Cloud would like to have
Toussaint. If the white man was not willing, it should be war.
Captain Brent told the story of Loomis and Kelley. "Say to Red
Cloud," he ended, "that when a white man does such things among us, he
is killed. Ask Red Cloud if Toussaint should live. If he thinks yes,
let him come and take Toussaint."
The next day with ceremony and feathers of state, Red Cloud came,
bringing his interpreter, and after listening until every word had
been told him again, requested to see the half-breed. He was taken to
the hospital. A sentry stood on post outside the tent, and inside lay
Toussaint, with whom Cutler and the ambulance-boy were playing
whiskey-poker. While the patient was waiting to be hanged, he might as
well enjoy himself within reason. Such was Cutler's frontier
philosophy. We should always do what we can for the sick. At sight of
Red Cloud looming in the doorway, gorgeous and grim as Fate, the game
was suspended. The Indian took no notice of the white men, and walked
to the bed. Toussaint clutched at his relation's fringe, but Red Cloud
looked at him. Then the mongrel strain of blood told, and the
half-breed poured out a chattering appeal, while Red Cloud by the
bedside waited till it had spent itself. Then he grunted, and left the
room. He had not spoken, and his crest of long feathers as it turned
the corner was the last vision of him that the card-players had.
Red Cloud came back to the officers, and in their presence formally
spoke to his interpreter, who delivered the message: "Red Cloud says
Toussaint heap no good. No Injun, anyhow. He not want him. White man
hunt pretty hard for him. Can keep him."
Thus was Toussaint twice sentenced. He improved under treatment,
played many games of whiskey-poker, and was conveyed to Cheyenne and
These things happened in the early seventies; but there are Sioux
still living who remember the two lieutenants, and how they pulled the
half-breed out of White River by his false hair. It makes them laugh
to this day. Almost any Indian is full of talk when he chooses, and
when he gets hold of a joke he never lets go.
Under Providence, a man may achieve the making of many
things--ships, books, fortunes, himself even, quite often enough to
encourage others; but let him beware of creating a town. Towns mostly
happen. No real-estate operator decided that Rome should be. Sharon
was an intended town; a one man's piece of deliberate manufacture; his
whim, his pet, his monument, his device for immortally continuing
above ground. He planned its avenues, gave it his middle name, fed it
with his railroad. But he had reckoned without the inhabitants (to say
nothing of nature), and one day they displeased him. Whenever you
wish, you can see Sharon and what it has come to as I saw it when, as
a visitor without local prejudices, they asked me to serve with the
telegraph-operator and the ticket-agent and the hotel-manager on the
literary committee of judges at the school festival. There would be a
stage, and flags, and elocution, and parents assembled, and
afterwards ice-cream with strawberries from El Paso.
"Have you ever awarded prizes for school speaking?" inquired the
"Yes," I told him. "At Concord in New Hampshire."
"Ever have a chat afterwards with a mother whose girl did not get
"It was boys," I replied. "And parents had no say in it."
"It's boys and girls in Sharon," said he. "Parents have no say in
it here, either. But that don't seem to occur to them at the moment.
We'll all stick together, of course."
"I think I had best resign." said I. "You would find me no hand at
pacifying a mother."
"There are fathers also," said Stuart. "But individual parents are
small trouble compared with a big split in public opinion. We've
missed that so far, though."
"Then why have judges? Why not a popular vote?" I inquired.
"Don't go back on us," said Stuart. "We are so few here. And you
know education can't be democratic or where will good taste find
itself? Eastman knows that much, at least." And Stuart explained that
Eastman was the head of the school and chairman of our committee. "He
is from Massachusetts, and his taste is good, but he is total
abstinence. Won't allow any literature with the least smell of a drink
in it, not even in the singing-class. Would not have 'Here's a health
to King Charles' inside the door. Narrowing, that; as many of the
finest classics speak of wine freely. Eastman is useful, but a crank.
Now take 'Lochinvar.' We are to have it on strawberry night; but say!
Eastman kicked about it. Told the kid to speak something else. Kid
came to me, and I--"
A smile lurked for one instant in the corner of Stuart's eye, and
disappeared again. Then he drew his arm through mine as we walked.
"You have never seen anything in your days like Sharon," said he.
"You could not sit down by yourself and make such a thing up.
Shakespeare might have, but he would have strained himself doing it.
Well, Eastman says 'Lochinvar' will go in my expurgated version. Too
bad Sir Walter cannot know. Ever read his Familiar Letters, Great
grief! but he was a good man. Eastman stuck about that mention of
'So now am I come with this lost love of mine To lead but one
measure, drink one cup of wine.'
'Well,' thought I, 'Eastman would agree to water. Water and
daughter would go, but is frequently used, and spoils the meter.' So I
fiddled with my pencil down in the telegraph office, and I fixed the
thing up. How's this?
'So now am I come with this beautiful maid To lead but one
measure, drink one lemonade.'
Eastman accepts that. Says it's purer. Oh, it's not all sadness
"How did you come to be in Sharon?" I asked my exotic acquaintance.
"Ah, how did I? How did all our crowd at the railroad? Somebody has
got to sell tickets, somebody has got to run that hotel, and
telegraphs have got to exist here. That's how we foreigners came. Many
travellers change cars here, and one train usually misses the other,
because the two companies do not love each other. You hear lots of
language, especially in December. Eastern consumptives bound for
southern California get left here, and drummers are also thick.
Remarks range from 'How provoking!' to things I would not even say
myself. So that big hotel and depot has to be kept running, and we
fellows get a laugh now and then. Our lot is better than these
people's." He made a general gesture at Sharon.
"I should have thought it was worse," said I. "No, for we'll be
transferred some day. These poor folks are shipwrecked. Though it is
their own foolishness, all this."
Again my eye followed as he indicated the town with a sweep of his
hand; and from the town I looked to the four quarters of heaven. I may
have seen across into Old Mexico. No sign labels the boundary; the
vacuum of continent goes on, you might think, to Patagonia. Symptoms
of neighboring Mexico basked on the sand heaps along Sharon's spacious
avenues--little torpid, indecent gnomes in sashes and open rags, with
crowning-steeple straw hats, and murder dozing in their small black
eyes. They might have crawled from holes in the sand, or hatched out
of brown cracked pods on some weeds that trailed through the broken
bottles, the old shoes, and the wire fences. Outside these ramparts
began the vacuum, white, gray, indigo, florescent, where all the year
the sun shines. Not the semblance of any tree dances in the heat; only
rocks and lumps of higher sand waver and dissolve and reappear in the
shaking crystal of mirage. Not the scar of any river-bed furrows the
void. A river there is, flowing somewhere out of the shiny violet
mountains to the north, but it dies subterraneously on its way to
Sharon, misses the town, and emerges thirty miles south across the
sunlight in a shallow, futile lake, a cienaga, called Las Palomas.
Then it evaporates into the ceaseless blue sky.
The water you get in Sharon is dragged by a herd of wind-wheels
from the bowels of the sand. Over the town they turn and
turn--Sharon's upper story--a filmy colony of slats. In some of the
homes beneath them you may go up-stairs--in the American homes, not in
the adobe Mexican caves of song, woman, and knives; and brick and
stone edifices occur. Monuments of perished trade, these rise among
their flatter neighbors cubical and stark; under-shirts, fire-arms,
and groceries for sale in the ground-floor, blind dust-windows above.
Most of the mansions, however, squat ephemerally upon the soil, no
cellar to them, and no staircase, the total fragile box ready to
bounce and caracole should the wind drive hard enough. Inside them,
eating, mending, the newspaper, and more babies, eke out the
twelvemonth; outside, the citizens loiter to their errands along the
brief wide avenues of Sharon that empty into space. Men, women, and
children move about in the town, sparse and casual, and over their
heads in a white tribe the wind-wheels on their rudders veer to the
breeze and indolently revolve above the gaping obsoleteness. Through
the dumb town the locomotive bell tolls pervadingly when a train of
freight or passengers trundles in from the horizon or out along the
dwindling fence of telegraph poles. No matter where you are, you can
hear it come and go, leaving Sharon behind, an airy carcass, bleached
and ventilated, sitting on the sand, with the sun and the hot wind
pouring through its bones.
This town was the magnate's child, the thing that was to keep his
memory green; and as I took it in on that first walk of discovery,
Stuart told me its story: how the magnate had decreed the railroad
shops should be here; how, at that, corner lots grew in a night; how
horsemen galloped the streets, shooting for joy, and the hasty tents
rose while the houses were hammered together; how they had song,
dance, cards, whiskey, license, murder, marriage, opera--the whole
usual thing--regular as the clock in our West, in Australia, in
Africa, in every virgin corner of the world where the Anglo-Saxon
rushes to spend his animal spirits--regular as the clock, and in
Sharon's case about fifteen minutes long. For they became greedy, the
corner-lot people. They ran up prices for land which the railroad, the
breath of their nostrils, wanted. They grew ugly, forgetting they were
dealing with a magnate, and that a railroad from ocean to ocean can
take its shops somewhere else with appalling ease. Thus did the corner
lots become sand again in a night. "And in the words of the poet,"
concluded Stuart, "Sharon has an immense future behind it."
Our talk was changed by the sight of a lady leaning and calling
over a fence.
"Mrs. Jeffries," said she. "Oh, Mrs. Jeffries!"
"Well?" called a voice next door.
"I want to send Leola and Arvasita into your yard."
"Well?" the voice repeated.
"Our tool-house blew over into your yard last night. It's jammed
behind your tank."
A window in the next house was opened, a head put out, and this
occasioned my presentation to both ladies. They were Mrs. Mattern and
Mrs. Jeffries, and they fell instantly into a stiff caution of
deportment; but they speedily found I was not worth being cautious
over. Stuart whispered to me that they were widows of high standing,
and mothers of competing favorites for the elocution prize; and I
hastened to court their esteem. Mrs. Mattern was in body more ample,
standing high and yellow and fluffy; but Mrs. Jeffries was smooth and
small, and behind her spectacles she had an eye.
"You must not let us interrupt you, ladies," said I, after some
civilities. "Did I understand that something was to be carried some-
"You did," said Mrs. Jeffries (she had come out of her house); "and
I am pleased to notice no damage has been done to our fence--this
"It would have been fixed right up at my expense, as always, Mrs.
Jeffries," retorted her neighbor, and started to keep abreast of Mrs.
Jeffries as that lady walked and inspected the fence. Thus the two
marched parallel along the frontier to the rear of their respective
"You'll not resign?" said Stuart to me. "It is 'yours till death,'
I told him that it was.
"About once a month I can expect this," said Mrs. Jeffries,
returning along her frontier.
"Well, it's not the only case in Sharon, Mrs. Jeffries," said Mrs.
Mattern. "I'll remind you of them three coops when you kept poultry,
and they got away across the railroad, along with the barber's shop."
"But cannot we help you get it out?" said I, with a zealous wish
"You are very accommodating, sir," said Mrs. Mattern.
"One of the prize-awarding committee," said Stuart. "An elegant
judge of oratory. Has decided many contests at Concord, the home of
"Concord, New Hampshire," I corrected; but neither lady heard me.
"How splendid for Leola!" cried Mrs. Mattern, instantly." Leola!
Oh, Leola! Come right out here!"
Mrs. Jeffries has been more prompt. She was already in her house,
and now came from it, bringing a pleasant-looking boy of sixteen, it
might be. The youth grinned at me as he stood awkwardly, brought in
shirtsleeves from the performance of some household work.
"This is Guy," said his mother. "Guy took the prize last year. Guy
"Shut up, mother," said Guy, with entire sweetness. "I don't hope
"Twice or a dozen times should raise no hard feelings if my son is
Sharon's best speaker," cried Mrs. Jeffries, and looked across the
"Shut up, mother; I ain't," said Guy.
"He is a master of humor recitations," his mother now said to me.
"Perhaps you know, or perhaps you do not know, how high up that is
"Why, mother, Leola can speak all around me. She can," Guy added to
me, nodding his head confidentially.
I did not believe him, I think because I preferred his name to that
"Leola will study in Paris, France," announced Mrs. Mattern,
arriving with her child. "She has no advantages here. This is the
But before I had more than noted a dark-eyed maiden who would not
look at me, but stood in skirts too young for her figure, black
stockings, and a dangle of hair that should have been up, her large
parent had thrust into my hand a scrap-book.
"Here is what the Santa Fe Observer says"; and when I would have
read, she read aloud for me. 'The next is the Los Angeles Christian
Home. And here's what they wrote about her in El Paso: 'Her histrionic
genius for one so young'--it commences below that picture. That's
Leola." I now recognized the black stockings and the hair. "Here's
what a literary lady in Lordsburg thinks," pursued Mrs. Mattern.
"Never mind that," murmured Leola.
"I shall." And the mother read the letter to me. "Leola has spoke
in five cultured cities," she went on. "Arvasita can depict how she
was encored at Albuquerque last Easter-Monday."
"Yes, sir, three recalls," said Arvasita, arriving at our group by
the fence. An elder sister, she was, evidently. "Are you acquainted
with 'Camill'?" she asked me, with a trifle of sternness; and upon my
hesitating, "the celebrated French drayma of 'Camill'," she repeated,
with a trifle more of sternness. "Camill is the lady in it who dies of
consumption. Leola recites the letter-and-coughing scene, Act Third.
Mr. Patterson of Coloraydo Springs pronounces it superior to
"That is Leola again," said Mrs. Mattern, showing me another
newspaper cut--hair, stockings, and a candle this time.
"Sleep-walking scene, 'Macbeth,'" said Arvasita. "Leola's great
night at the church fair and bazar, El Paso, in Shakespeare's
acknowledged masterpiece. Leola's repetwar likewise includes
'Catherine the Queen before her Judges,' 'Quality of Mercy is not
Strained,' 'Death of Little Nell,' 'Death of Paul Dombey,' ' Death of
the Old Year,' 'Burial of Sir John Moore,' and other standard gems
suitable for ladies."
"Leola," said her mother, "recite 'When the British Warrior Queen'
to the gentleman."
"No, momma, please not," said Leola, and her voice made me look at
her; something of appeal sounded in it.
"Leola is that young you must excuse her," said her mother--and I
thought the girl winced.
"Come away, Guy," suddenly snapped little Mrs. Jeffries. "We are
wasting the gentleman's time. You are no infant prodigy, and we have
no pictures of your calves to show him in the papers."
"Why, mother!" cried the boy, and he gave a brotherly look to
But the girl, scarlet and upset, now ran inside the house.
"As for wasting time, madam," said I, with indignation, "you are
wasting yours in attempting to prejudice the judges."
"There!" said Guy.
"And, Mrs. Mattern," continued, "if I may say so without offense,
the age (real or imaginary) of the speakers may make a difference in
Albuquerque, but with our committee not the slightest."
"Thank you, I'm sure," said Mrs. Mattern, bridling.
"Eastern ideas are ever welcome in Sharon," said Mrs. Jeffries.
"Good-morning." And she removed Guy and herself into her house, while
Mrs. Mattern and Arvasita, stiffly ignoring me, passed into their own
"Come have a drink," said Stuart to me. "I am glad you said it. Old
Mother Mattern will let down those prodigy skirts. The poor girl has
been ashamed of them these two years, but momma has bulldozed her into
staying young for stage effect. The girl's not conceited, for a
wonder, and she speaks well. It is even betting which of the two
widows you have made the maddest."
Close by the saloon we were impeded by a rush of small boys. They
ran before and behind us suddenly from barrels and unforeseen places,
and wedging and bumping between us, they shouted: "Chicken-legs! Ah,
look at the chicken-legs!"
For a sensitive moment I feared they were speaking of me; but the
folding slat-doors of the saloon burst open outward, and a giant
barkeeper came among the boys and caught and shook them to silence.
"You want to behave," was his single remark; and they dispersed
like a Sunday-school.
I did not see why they should thus describe him. He stood and
nodded to us, and jerked big thumb towards the departing flock. "Funny
how a boy will never think," said he, with amiability." But they'll
grow up to be about as good as the rest of us, I guess. Don't you let
them monkey with you, Josey!" he called.
"Naw, I won't," said a voice. I turned and saw, by a barrel, a
youth in knee-breeches glowering down the street at his routed
enemies. He was possibly eight, and one hand was bound in a grimy rag.
This was Chicken- legs.
"Did they harm you, Josey?" asked the giant.
"Naw, they didn't."
"Not troubled your hand any?"
"Naw, they didn't."
"Well, don't you let them touch you. We'll see you through." And as
we followed him in towards our drink through his folding slat-doors he
continued discoursing to me, the newcomer. "I am against interfering
with kids. I like to leave 'em fight and fool just as much as they see
fit. Now them boys ain't malicious, but they're young, you see,
they're young, and misfortune don't appeal to them. Josey lost his
father last spring, and his mother died last month. Last week he
played with a freight car and left two of his fingers with it. Now you
might think that was enough hardship."
"Indeed yes," I answered.
"But the little stake he inherited was gambled away by his stinking
"Well!" I cried.
"So we're seeing him through."
"You bet," said a citizen in boots and pistol, who was playing
"This town is not going to permit any man to fool with Josey,"
stated his opponent in the game.
"Or women either," added a lounger by the bar, shaggy-bearded and
also with a pistol.
"Mr. Abe Hanson," said the barkeeper, presenting me to him.
"Josey's father's partner. He's took the boy from the aunt and is
going to see him through."
"How 'r' ye?" said Mr. Hanson, hoarsely, and without enthusiasm.
"A member of the prize - awarding committee," explained Stuart, and
waved a hand at me.
They all brightened up and came round me.
"Heard my boy speak?" inquired one. "Reub Gadsden's his name."
I told him I had heard no speaker thus far; and I mentioned Leola
"Hope the boy'll give us 'The Jumping Frog' again," said one. "I
"What's the heifer speakin' this trip?" another inquired.
"Huh! Her!" said a third.
"You'll talk different, maybe, this time," retorted the other.
"Not agin 'The Jumping Frog,' he won't," the first insisted. "I
near bust," he repeated.
"I'd like for you to know my boy Reub," said Mr. Gadsden to me,
"Quit fixing' the judge, Al," said Leola's backer. "Reub forgets
his words, an' says 'em over, an' balks, an' mires down, an' backs
out, an starts fresh, en' it's confusin' to foller him."
"I'm glad to see you take so much interest, gentlemen," said I.
"Yes, we're apt to see it through," said the barkeeper. And Stuart
and I bade them a good-morning.
As we neared the school-master's house, where Stuart was next
taking me, we came again upon the boys with Josey, and no barkeeper at
hand to "see him through." But Josey made it needless. At the word
"Chicken-legs" he flew in a limber manner upon the nearest, and
knocking him immediately flat, turned with spirit upon a second and
kicked him. At this they set up a screeching and fell all together,
and the school-master came out of his door.
"Boys, boys!" said he. "And the Sabbath too!"
As this did not immediately affect them, Mr. Eastman made a charge,
and they fled from him then. A long stocking of Josey's was torn, and
hung in two streamers round his ankles; and his dangling shoe-laces
were trodden to fringe.
"If you want your hand to get well for strawberry night--" began
"Ah, bother strawberry night!" said Josey, and hopped at one of his
playmates. But Mr. Eastman caught him skilfully by the collar.
"I am glad his misfortunes have not crushed him altogether," said
"Josey Yeatts is an anxious case, sir," returned the teacher.
"Several influences threaten his welfare. Yesterday I found tobacco on
him. Chewing, sir."
"Just you hurt me," said Josey, "and I'll tell Abe."
"Abe!" exclaimed Mr. Eastman, lifting his brow. "He means a man old
enough to be his father, sir. I endeavor to instill him with some few
notions of respect, but the town spoils him. Indulges him completely,
I may say. And when Sharon's sympathies are stirred sir, it will
espouse a cause very warmly--Give me that!" broke off the
schoolmaster, and there followed a brief wrestle. "Chewing again
to-day, sir," he added to me.
"Abe lemme have it," shrieked Josey. "Lemme go, or he'll come over
and fix you."
But the calm, chilly Eastman had ground the tobacco under his heel.
"You can understand how my hands are tied," he said to me.
"Readily," I answered.
"The men give Josey his way in everything. He has a--I may say an
"Yes," said I. "So I have gathered."
At this point Josey ducked and slid free, and the united flock
vanished with jeers at us. Josey forgot they had insulted him, they
forgot he had beaten them; against a common enemy was their friendship
"You spoke of Sharon's warm way of espousing causes," said I to
"I did, sir. No one could live here long without noticing it."
"Sharon is a quiet town, but sudden," remarked Stuart. "Apt to be
sudden. They're beginning about strawberry night," he said to Eastman.
"Wanted to know about things down in the saloon."
"How does their taste in elocution chiefly lie?" I inquired.
Eastman smiled. He was young, totally bald, the moral dome of his
skull rising white above visionary eyes and a serious auburn beard. He
was clothed in a bleak, smooth slate-gray suit, and at any climax of
emphasis he lifted slightly upon his toes and relaxed again, shutting
his lips tight on the finished sentence. "Your question," said he,
"has often perplexed me. Sometimes they seem to prefer verse;
sometimes prose stirs them greatly. We shall have a liberal crop of
both this year. I am proud to tell you I have augmented our number of
strawberry speakers by nearly fifty per cent."
"How many will there be?" said I.
"Eleven. You might wish some could be excused. But I let them speak
to stimulate their interest in culture. Will you not take dinner with
me, gentlemen? I was just sitting down when little Josey Yeatts
brought me out."
We were glad to do this, and he opened another can of corned beef
for us. "I cannot offer you wine, sir," said he to me, "though I am
aware it is a general habit in luxurious homes." And he tightened his
"General habit wherever they don't prefer whiskey," said Stuart.
"I fear so," the school-master replied, smiling. "That poison shall
never enter my house, gentlemen, any more than tobacco. And as I
cannot reform the adults of Sharon, I am doing what I can for their
children. Little Hugh Straight is going to say his 'Lochinvar' very
pleasingly, Mr. Stuart. I went over it with him last night. I like
them to be word per- fect," he continued to me, "as failures on
exhibition night elicit unfavorable comment."
"And are we to expect failures also?" I inquired.
"Reuben Gadsden is likely to mortify us. He is an earnest boy, but
nervous; and one or two others. But I have limited their length.
Reuben Gadsden's father declined to have his boy cut short, and he
will give us a speech of Burke's; but I hope for the best. It narrows
down, it narrows down. Guy Jeffries and Leola Mattern are the two."
"The parents seem to take keen interest," said I.
Mr. Eastman smiled at Stuart. "We have no reason to suppose they
have changed since last year," said he. "Why, sir," he suddenly
exclaimed, "if I did not feel I was doing something for the young
generation here, I should leave Sharon to-morrow! One is not
appreciated, not appreciated."
He spoke fervently of various local enterprises, his failures, his
hopes, his achievements; and I left his house honoring him, but amazed
--his heart was so wide and his head so narrow; a man who would purify
with simultaneous austerity the morals of Lochinvar and of Sharon.
"About once a month," said Stuart, "I run against a new side he is
blind on. Take his puzzlement as to whether they perfer verse or
prose. Queer and dumb of him that, you see. Sharon does not know the
difference between verse and prose."
"That's going too far," said I.
"They don't," he repeated, "when it comes to strawberry night. If
the piece is about something they understand, rhymes do not help or
hinder. And of course sex is apt to settle the question."
"Then I should have thought Leola--" I began.
"Not the sex of the speaker. It's the listeners. Now you take
women. Women generally prefer something that will give them a good
cry. We men want to laugh mostly."
"Yes," said I; "I would rather laugh myself, I think."
"You'd know you'd rather if you had to live in Sharon. The laugh is
one of the big differences between women and men, and I would give you
my views about it, only my Sunday-off time is up, and I've got to go
"Our ways are together," said I. "I'm going back to the railroad
"There's Guy," continued Stuart. "He took the prize on 'The Jumping
Frog.' Spoke better than Leola, anyhow. She spoke 'The Wreck of the
Hesperus.' But Guy had the back benches--that's where the men sit--
pretty well useless. Guess if there had been a fire, some of the
fellows would have been scorched before they'd have got strength
sufficient to run out. But the ladies did not laugh much. Said they
saw nothing much in jumping a frog. And if Leola had made 'em cry good
and hard that night, the committee's decision would have kicked up
more of a fuss than it did. As it was, Mrs. Mattern got me alone; but
I worked us around to where Mrs. Jeffries was having her ice-cream,
and I left them to argue it out."
"Let us adhere to that policy," I said to Stuart; and he replied
nothing, but into the corner of his eye wandered that lurking smile
which revealed that life brought him compensations.
He went to telegraphing, and I to revery concerning strawberry
night. I found myself wishing now that there could have been two
prizes; I desired both Leola and Guy to be happy; and presently I
found the matter would be very close, so far at least as my judgment
went. For boy and girl both brought me their selections, begging I
would coach them, and this I had plenty of leisure to do. I preferred
Guy's choice--the story of that blue-jay who dropped nuts through the
hole in a roof, expecting to fill it, and his friends came to look on
and discovered the hole went into the entire house. It is better even
than "The Jumping Frog"--better than anything, I think--and young Guy
told it well. But Leola brought a potent rival on the tearful side of
things. "The Death of Paul Dombey" is plated pathos, not wholly
sterling; but Sharon could not know this; and while Leola most
prettily recited it to me I would lose my recent opinion in favor of
Guy, and acknowledge the value of her performance. Guy might have the
men strong for him, but this time the women were going to cry. I got
also a certain other sort of entertainment out of the competing
mothers. Mrs. Jeffries and Mrs. Mattern had a way of being in the
hotel office at hours when I passed through to meals. They never came
together, and always were taken by surprise at meeting me.
"Leola is ever so grateful to you," Mrs. Mattern would say.
"Oh," I would answer, "do not speak of it. Have you ever heard
Guy's 'Blue-Jay' story?"
"Well, if it's anything like that frog business, I don't want to."
And the lady would leave me.
"Guy tells me you are helping him so kindly," said Mrs. Jeffries.
"Oh yes, I'm severe,"' I answered, brightly. "I let nothing pass. I
only wish I was as careful with Leola. But as soon as she begins 'Paul
had never risen from his little bed,' I just lose myself listening to
On the whole, there were also compensations for me in these
mothers, and I thought it as well to secure them in advance.
When the train arrived from El Paso, and I saw our strawberries and
our ice-cream taken out, I felt the hour to be at hand, and that
whatever our decision, no bias could be laid to me. According to his
prudent habit, Eastman had the speakers follow each other
alphabetically. This happened to place Leola after Guy, and perhaps
might give her the last word, as it were, with the people; but our
committee was there, and superior to such accidents. The flags and the
bunting hung gay around the draped stage. While the audience rustled
or resoundingly trod to its chairs, and seated neighbors conferred
solemnly together over the programme, Stuart, behind the bunting,
played "Silver Threads among the Gold" upon a melodeon.
"Pretty good this," he said to me, pumping his feet.
"What?" I said.
"Tune. Sharon is for free silver."
"Do you think they will catch your allusion?" I asked him.
"No. But I have a way of enjoying a thing by myself." And he pumped
away, playing with tasteful variations until the hall was full and the
singing-class assembled in gloves and ribbons.
They opened the ceremonies for us by rendering "Sweet and Low" very
happily; and I trusted it was an omen.
Sharon was hearty, and we had "Sweet and Low" twice. Then the
speaking began, and the speakers were welcomed, coming and going, with
mild and friendly demonstrations. Nothing that one would especially
mark went wrong until Reuben Gadsden. He strode to the middle of the
boards, and they creaked beneath his tread. He stood a moment in large
glittering boots and with hair flat and prominently watered. As he
straightened from his bow his suspender-buttons came into view, and
remained so for some singular internal reason, while he sent his right
hand down into the nearest pocket and began his oratory.
"It is sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the Queen of France,"
he said, impressively, and stopped.
We waited, and presently he resumed:
"It is sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the Queen of France."
He took the right hand out and put the left hand in.
"It is sixteen or seventeen years," said he, and stared frowning at
I found the silence was getting on my nerves. I felt as if it were
myself who was drifting to idiocy, and tremulous empty sensations
began to occur in my stomach. Had I been able to recall the next
sentence, I should have prompted him.
"It is sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the Queen of France,"
said the orator, rapidly.
And down deep back among the men came a voice, "Well, I guess it
must be, Reub."
This snapped the tension. I saw Reuben's boots march away; Mr.
Eastman came from behind the bunting and spoke (I suppose) words of
protest. I could not hear them, but in a minute, or perhaps two, we
grew calm, and the speaking continued.
There was no question what they thought of Guy and Leola. He
conquered the back of the room. They called his name, they blessed him
with endearing audible oaths, and even the ladies smiled at his
pleasant, honest face--the ladies, except Mrs. Mattern. She sat near
Mrs. Jeffries, and throughout Guy's "Blue-Jay" fanned herself,
exhibiting a well-sustained inattention. She might have foreseen that
Mrs. Jeffries would have her turn. When the "Death of Paul Dombey"
came, and handkerchiefs began to twinkle out among the audience, and
various noises of grief were rising around us, and the men themselves
murmured in sym- pathy, Mrs. Jeffries not only preserved a
suppressed-hilarity countenance, but managed to cough twice with a
cough that visibly bit into Mrs. Mattern's soul.
But Leola's appealing cadences moved me also. When Paul was dead,
she made her pretty little bow, and we sat spellbound, then gave her
applause surpassing Guy's. Unexpectedly I found embarrassment of
choice dazing me, and I sat without attending to the later speakers.
Was not successful humor more difficult than pathos? Were not tears
more cheaply raised than laughter? Yet, on the other hand, Guy had one
prize, and where merit was so even--I sat, I say, forgetful of the
rest of the speakers, when suddenly I was aware of louder shouts of
welcome, and I awaked to Josey Yeatts bowing at us.
"Spit it out, Josey!" a large encouraging voice was crying in the
back of the hall. "We'll see you through."
"Don't be scared, Josey!" yelled another.
Then Josey opened his mouth and rhythmically rattled the following:
"I love little pussy her coat is so warm And if I don't hurt her
she'll do me no harm I'll sit by the fi-yer and give her some food
And pussy will love me because I am good."
That was all. It had come without falter or pause, even for breath.
Josey stood, and the room rose to him.
"Again! again!" they roared." He ain't a bit scared!" "Go it,
Josey!" "You don't forgit yer piece!" And a great deal more, while
they pounded with their boots.
"I love little pussy," began Josey.
"Poor darling!" said a lady next me. "No mother."
"I'll sit by the fi-yer,"
Josey was continuing. But nobody heard him finish. The room was a
"Look at his little hand!" "Only three fingers inside them rags!"
"Nobody to mend his clothes any more." They all talked to each other,
and clapped and cheered, while Josey stood, one leg slightly advanced
and proudly stiff, somewhat after the manner of those military
engravings where some general is seen erect upon an eminence at the
moment of victory.
Mr. Eastman again appeared from the bunting, and was telling us, I
have no doubt, something of importance; but the giant barkeeper now
shouted above the din, "Who says Josey Yeatts ain't the speaker for
At that striking of the common chord I saw them heave, promiscuous
and unanimous, up the steps to the stage. Josey was set upon Abe
Hanson's shoulder, while ladies wept around him. What the literary
committee might have done I do not know, for we had not the time even
to resign. Guy and Leola now appeared, bearing the prize between
them--a picture of Washington handing the Bible out of clouds to
Abraham Lincoln--and very immediately I found myself part of a
procession. Men and women we were, marching about Sharon. The
barkeeper led; four of Sharon's fathers fol- lowed him, escorting
Josey borne aloft on Abe Hanson's shoulder, and rigid and military in
his bearing. Leola and Guy followed with the picture; Stuart walked
with me, whistling melodies of the war--Dixie and others. Eastman was
not with us. When the ladies found themselves conducted to the saloon,
they discreetly withdrew back to the entertainment we had broken out
from. Josey saw them go, and shrilly spoke his first word:
"Ain't I going to have any ice-cream?"
This presently caused us to return to the ladies, and we finished
the evening with entire unity of sentiment. Eastman alone took the
incident to heart; inquired how he was to accomplish anything with
hands tied, and murmured his constant burden once more: "One is not
appreciated, not appreciated."
I do not stop over in Sharon any more. My ranch friend, whose
presence there brought me to visit him, is gone away. But such was my
virgin experience of the place; and in later days fate led me to be
concerned with two more local competitions--one military and one
civil--which greatly stirred the population. So that I never pass
Sharon on my long travels without affectionately surveying the sandy,
quivering, bleached town, unshaded by its twinkling forest of
wind-wheels. Surely the heart always remembers a spot where it has
been merry! And one thing I should like to know--shall know, perhaps:
what sort of citizen in our republic Josey will grow to be. For whom
will he vote? May he not himself come to sit in Washington and make
laws for us? Universal suffrage holds so many possibilities.
Augustus Albumblatt, young and new and sleek with the latest book-
knowledge of war, reported to his first troop commander at Fort Brown.
The ladies had watched for him, because he would increase the number
of men, the officers because he would lessen the number of duties; and
he joined at a crisis favorable to becoming speedily known by them
all. Upon that same day had household servants become an extinct race.
The last one, the commanding officer's cook, had told the commanding
officer's wife that she was used to living where she could see the
cars. She added that there was no society here "fit for man or baste
at all." This opinion was formed on the preceding afternoon when
Casey, a sergeant of roguish attractions in G troop, had told her that
he was not a marrying man. Three hours later she wedded a gambler, and
this morning at six they had taken the stage for Green River, two
hundred miles south, the nearest point where the bride could see the
"Frank," said the commanding officer's wife, "send over to H troop
"Catherine," he answered, "my dear, our statesmen at Washington say
it's wicked to hire the free American soldier to cook for you. It's
too menial for his manhood."
"Hush, my love. Therefore York must be spared the insult of twenty
more dollars a month, our statesmen must be re-elected, and you and I,
Catherine, being cookless, must join the general mess."
Thus did all separate housekeeping end, and the garrison began
unitedly to eat three times a day what a Chinaman set before them,
when the long-expected Albumblatt stepped into their midst, just in
time for supper.
This youth was spic-and-span from the Military Academy, with a
top-dressing of three months' thoughtful travel in Germany. "I was
deeply impressed with the modernity of their scientific attitude," he
pleasantly remarked to the commanding officer. For Captain Duane,
silent usually, talked at this first meal to make the boy welcome in
this forlorn two-company post.
"We're cut off from all that sort of thing here," said he. "I've
not been east of the Missouri since '69. But we've got the railroad
across, and we've killed some Indians, and we've had some fun, and
we're glad we're alive--eh, Mrs. Starr?"
"I should think so," said the lady.
"Especially now we've got a bachelor at the post!" said Mrs.
Bainbridge. "That has been the one drawback, Mr. Albumblatt."
"I thank you for the compliment," said Augustus, bending solemnly
from his hips; and Mrs. Starr looked at him and then at Mrs.
"We're not over-gay, I fear," the Captain continued; "but the
flat's full of antelope, and there's good shooting up both canyons."
"Have you followed the recent target experiments at Metz?" inquired
the traveller. "I refer to the flattened trajectory and the obus
"We have not heard the reports," answered the commandant, with
becoming gravity. "But we own a mountain howitzer."
"The modernity of German ordnance--" began Augustus.
"Do you dance, Mr. Albumblatt?" asked Mrs. Starr.
"For we'll have a hop and all be your partners," Mrs. Bainbridge
"I will be pleased to accommodate you, ladies."
"It's anything for variety's sake with us, you see," said Mrs.
Starr, smoothly smiling; and once again Augustus bent blandly from his
But the commanding officer wished leniency. "You see us all," he
hastened to say. "Commissioned officers and dancing-men. Pretty
"Oh, Captain!" said a lady.
"And pretty old."
"Captain!" said another lady.
"But alive and kicking. Captain Starr, Mr. Bainbridge, the Doctor
and me. We are seven."
Augustus looked accurately about him. "Do I understand seven,
"We are seven," the senior officer repeated.
Again Mr. Albumblatt counted heads. "I imagine you include the
ladies, Captain? Ha! ha!"
"Seven commissioned males, sir. Our Major is on sick-leave, and two
of our Lieutenants are related to the President's wife. She can't bear
them to be exposed. None of us in the church-yard lie--but we are
"Ha! ha, Captain! That's an elegant double entendre on Wordsworth's
poem and the War Department. Only, if I may correct your addition--ha!
ha!--our total, including myself, is eight." And Augustus grew as
hilarious as a wooden nutmeg.
The commanding officer rolled an intimate eye at his wife.
The lady was sitting big with rage, but her words were cordial
still: "Indeed, Mr. Albumblatt, the way officers who have influence in
Washington shirk duty here and get details East is something I can't
laugh about. At one time the Captain was his own adjutant and
quartermaster. There are more officers at this table to-night than
I've seen in three years. So we are doubly glad to welcome you at Fort
"I am fortunate to be on duty where my services are so required,
though I could object to calling it Fort Brown." And Augustus exhaled
a new smile.
"Prefer Smith?" said Captain Starr.
"You misunderstand me. When we say Fort Brown. Fort Russell, Fort
Et Cetera, we are inexact. They are not fortified."
"Cantonment Et Cetera would be a trifle lengthy, wouldn't it?" put
in the Doctor, his endurance on the wane.
"Perhaps; but technically descriptive of our Western posts. The
Germans criticise these military laxities."
Captain Duane now ceased talking, but urbanely listened; and from
time to time his eye would scan Augustus, and then a certain
sublimated laugh, to his wife well known; would seize him for a single
voiceless spasm, and pass. The experienced Albumblatt meanwhile
continued, "By-the-way, Doctor, you know the Charite, of course?"
Doctor Guild had visited that great hospital, but being now a
goaded man he stuck his nose in his plate, and said, unwisely:
"Sharrity? What's that?" For then Augustus told him what and where it
was, and that Krankenhaus is German for hospital, and that he had been
deeply impressed with the modernity of the ventilation. "Thirty-five
cubic metres to a bed in new wards," he stated. "How many do you
"None," answered the surgeon.
"Do I understand none, Doctor?"
"You do, sir. My patients breathe in cubic feet, and swallow their
doses in grains, and have their inflation measured in inches."
"Now there again!" exclaimed Augustus, cheerily. "More antiquity to
be swept away! And people say we young officers have no work cut out
"Patients don't die then under the metric system?" said the Doctor.
"No wonder Europe's overcrowded," said Starr.
But the student's mind inhabited heights above such trifling.
"Death," he said, "occurs in ratios not differentiated from our
statistics." And he told them much more while they booked at him over
their plates. He managed to say 'modernity' and 'differentiate' again,
for he came from our middle West, where they encounter education too
suddenly, and it would take three generations of him to speak clean
English. But with all his polysyllabic wallowing, he showed himself
keen-minded, pat with authorities, a spruce young graduate among these
dingy Rocky Mountain campaigners. They had fought and thirsted and
frozen; the books that he knew were not written when they went to
school; and so far as war is to be mastered on paper, his equipment
was full and polished while theirs was meagre and rusty.
And yet, if you know things that other and older men do not, it is
as well not to mention them too hastily. These soldiers wished that
they could have been taught what he knew; but they watched young
Augustus unfolding himself with a gaze that might have seemed chill to
a less highly abstract thinker. He, however, rose from the table
pleasantly edified by himself, and hopeful for them. And as he left
them, "Good-night, ladies and gentlemen," he said; "we shall meet
"Oh yes," said the Doctor. "Again and again."
"He's given me indigestion," said Bainbridge.
"Take some metric system," said Starr.
"And lie flat on your trajectory," said the Doctor.
"I hate hair parted in the middle for a man," said Mrs. Guild.
"And his superior eye-glasses," said Mrs. Bainbridge.
"His staring conceited teeth," hissed Mrs. Starr.
"I don't like children slopping their knowledge all over me," said
the Doctor's wife.
"He's well brushed, though," said Mrs. Duane, seeking the bright
side. "He'll wipe his feet on the mat when he comes to call."
"I'd rather have mud on my carpet than that bandbox in any of my
chairs," said Mrs. Starr.
"He's no fool," mused the Doctor. "But, kingdom come, what an ass!"
"Well, gentlemen," said the commanding officer (and they perceived
a flavor of the official in his tone), "Mr. Albumblatt is just
twenty-one. I don't know about you; but I'll never have that excuse
"Very well, Captain, we'll be good," said Mrs. Bainbridge.
"And gr-r-ateful," said Mrs. Starr, rolling her eyes piously. "I
prophecy he'll entertain us."
The Captain's demeanor remained slightly official; but walking
home, his Catherine by his side in the dark was twice aware of that
laugh of his, twinkling in the recesses of his opinions. And later,
going to bed, a little joke took him so unready that it got out before
he could suppress it." My love," said he, "my Second Lieutenant is
grievously mislaid in the cavalry. Providence designed him for the
It was wifely but not right in Catherine to repeat this strict
confidence in strictest confidence to her neighbor, Mrs. Bainbridge,
over the fence next morning before breakfast. At breakfast Mrs.
Bainbridge spoke of artillery reinforcing the post, and her husband
giggled girlishly and looked at the puzzled Duane; and at dinner Mrs.
Starr asked Albumblatt, would not artillery strengthen the garrison?
"Even a light battery," pronounced Augustus, promptly, "would be
absurd and useless."
Whereupon the mess rattled knives, sneezed, and became variously
disturbed. So they called him Albumbattery, and then Blattery, which
is more condensed; and Captain Duane's official tone availed him
nothing in this matter. But he made no more little military jokes; he
disliked garrison personalities. Civilized by birth and ripe from
weather-beaten years of men and observing, he looked his Second
Lieutenant over, and remembered to have seen worse than this. He had
no quarrel with the metric system (truly the most sensible), and
thinking to leaven it with a little rule of thumb, he made Augustus
his acting quartermaster. But he presently indulged his wife with the
soldier-cook she wanted at home, so they no longer had to eat their
meals in Albumblatt's society; and Mrs. Starr said that this showed
her husband dreaded his quartermaster worse than the Secretary of War.
Alas for the Quartermaster's sergeant, Johannes Schmoll, that
routined and clock-work German! He found Augustus so much more German
than he had ever been himself, that he went speechless for three days.
Upon his lists, his red ink, and his ciphering, Augustus swooped like
a bird of prey, and all his fond red-tape devices were shredded to the
winds. Augustus set going new quadratic ones of his own, with an index
and cross-references. It was then that Schmoll recovered his speech
and walked alone, saying, "Mein Gott!" And often thereafter, wandering
among the piled stores and apparel, he would fling both arms
heavenward and repeat the exclamation. He had rated himself the unique
human soul at Fort Brown able to count and arrange underclothing.
Augustus rejected his laborious tally, and together they vigiled after
hours, verifying socks and drawers. Next, Augustus found more
horseshoes than his papers called for.
"That man gif me der stomach pain efry day," wailed Schmoll to
Sergeant Casey. "I tell him, 'Lieutenant, dose horseshoes is
expendable. We don't acgount for efry shoe like they was men's shoes,
und oder dings dot is issued.' 'I prefer to cake them cop!' says Baby
Bismarck. Und he smile mit his two beaver teeth."
"Baby Bismarck!" cried, joyfully, the rosy-faced Casey." Yo-hanny,
take a drink."
"Und so," continued the outraged Schmoll, "he haf a Board of
Soorvey on dree-pound horseshoes, und I haf der stomach pain."
"It was buckles the next month. The allowance exceeded the
expenditure, Augustus's arithmetic came out wrong, and another board
sat on buckles.
"Yo-hanny, you're lookin' jaded under Colonel Safetypin." said
Casey. "Have something?"
"Safetypin is my treat," said Schmoll; "und very apt."
But Augustus found leisure to pervade the post with his modernity.
He set himself military problems, and solved them; he wrote an essay
on "The Contact Squadron"; he corrected Bainbridge for saying "throw
back the left flank" instead of "refuse the left flank"; he had
reading-room ideas, canteen' ideas, ideas for the Indians and the
Agency, and recruit- drill ideas, which he presented to Sergeant
Casey. Casey gave him, in exchange, the name of Napoleon Shave-Tail,
and had his whiskey again paid for by the sympathetic Schmoll.
"But bless his educated heart," said Casey, "he don't learn me
nothing that'll soil my innercence!"
Thus did the sunny-humored Sergeant take it, but not thus the mess.
Had Augustus seen himself as they saw him, could he have heard Mrs.
Starr-- But he did not; the youth was impervious, and to remove his
complacency would require (so Mrs. Starr said) an operation, probably
fatal. The commanding officer held always aloof from gibing, yet often
when Augustus passed him his gray eye would dwell upon the
Lieutenant's back, and his voiceless laugh would possess him. That is
the picture I retain of these days--the unending golden sun, the wide,
gentle-colored plain, the splendid mountains, the Indians ambling
through the flat, clear distance; and here, close along the
parade-ground, eye-glassed Augustus, neatly hastening, with the
Captain on his porch, asleep you might suppose.
One early morning the agent, with two Indian chiefs, waited on the
commanding officer, and after their departure his wife found him
breakfasting in solitary mirth.
"Without me," she chided, sitting down. "And I know you've had some
"The best, my love. Providence has been tempted at last. The
wholesome irony of life is about to function."
"Frank, don't tease so! And where are you rushing now before the
"To set our Augustus a little military problem, dearest. Plain
living for to-day, and high thinking be jolly well--"
"Frank, you're going to swear, and I must know!"
But Frank had sworn and hurried out to the right to the Adjutant's
office, while his Catherine flew to the left to the fence.
"Ella!" she cried." Oh, Ella!"
Mrs. Bainbridge, instantly on the other side of the fence, brought
scanty light. A telegram had come, she knew, from the Crow Agency in
Montana. Her husband had admitted this three nights ago; and Captain
Duane (she knew) had given him some orders about something; and could
it be the Crows? "Ella, I don't know," said Catherine. "Frank talked
all about Providence in his incurable way, and it may be anything." So
the two ladies wondered together over the fence, until Mrs. Duane,
seeing the Captain return, ran to him and asked, were the Crows on the
war-path? Then her Frank told her yes, and that he had detailed
Albumblatt to vanquish them and escort them to Carlisle School to
learn German and Beethoven's sonatas.
"Stuff, stuff, stuff! Why, there he does go!" cried the unsettled
Catherine. "It's something at the Agency!" But Captain Duane was gone
into the house for a cigar.
Albumblatt, with Sergeant Casey and a detail of six men, was in
truth hastening over that broad mile which opens between Fort Brown
and the Agency. On either side of them the level plain stretched, gray
with its sage, buff with intervening grass, hay-cocked with the smoky,
mellow-stained, meerschaum-like canvas tepees of the Indians, quiet as
a painting; far eastward lay long, low, rose-red hills, half dissolved
in the trembling mystery of sun and distance; and westward, close at
hand and high, shone the great pale-blue serene mountains through the
vaster serenity of the air. The sounding hoofs of the troops brought
the Indians out of their tepees to see. When Albumblatt reached the
Agency, there waited the agent and his two chiefs, who pointed to one
lodge standing apart some three hundred yards, and said, "He is
there." So then Augustus beheld his problem, the military duty fallen
to him from Providence and Captain Duane.
It seems elementary for him who has written of "The Contact
Squadron." It was to arrest one Indian. This man, Ute Jack, had done a
murder among the Crows, and fled south for shelter. The telegram
heralded him, but with boundless miles for hiding he had stolen in
under the cover of night. No welcome met him. These Fort Brown Indians
were not his friends at any time, and less so now, when he arrived
wild drunk among their families. Hounded out, he sought this empty
lodge, and here he was, at bay, his hand against every man's, counting
his own life worthless except for destroying others before he must
"Is he armed?" Albumblatt inquired, and was told yes.
Augustus considered the peaked cone tent. The opening was on this
side, but a canvas drop closed it. Not much of a problem--one man
inside a sack with eight outside to catch him! But the books gave no
rule for this combination, and Augustus had met with nothing of the
sort in Germany. He considered at some length. Smoke began to rise
through the meeting poles of the tepee, leisurely and natural, and one
of the chiefs said:
"Maybe Ute Jack cooking. He hungry."
"This is not a laughing matter," said Augustus to the by-standers,
who were swiftly gathering. "Tell him that I command him to
surrender," he added to the agent, who shouted this forthwith; and
"Tell him I say he must come out at once," said Augustus then; and
received further silence.
"He eat now," observed the chief. "Can't talk much."
"Sergeant Casey," bellowed Albumblatt, "go over there and take him
"The Lootenant understands," said Casey, slowly, "that Ute Jack has
got the drop on us, and there ain't no getting any drop on him."
"Sergeant, you will execute your orders without further comment."
At this amazing step the silence fell cold indeed; but Augustus was
"Shall I take any men along, sir?" said Casey in his soldier's
"Er--yes. Er--no. Er--do as you please."
The six troopers stepped forward to go, for they loved Casey; but
he ordered them sharply to fall back. Then, looking in their eyes, he
whispered, "Good-bye, boys, if it's to be that way," and walked to the
lodge, lifted the flap, and fell, shot instantly dead through the
heart. "Two bullets into him," muttered a trooper, heavily breathing
as the sounds rang. "He's down," another spoke to himself with fixed
eyes; and a sigh they did not know of passed among them. The two
chiefs looked at Augustus and grunted short talk together; and one,
with a sweeping lift of his hand out towards the tepee and the dead
man by it, said, "Maybe Ute Jack only got
three--four--cartridges--so!" (his fingers counted it). "After he kill
three--four--men, you get him pretty good." The Indian took the white
man's death thus; but the white men could not yet be even saturnine.
"This will require reinforcement," said Augustus to the audience.
"The place must be attacked by a front and flank movement. It must be
knocked down. I tell you I must have it knocked down. How are you to
see where he is, I'd like to know, if it's not knocked down?"
Augustus's voice was getting high.
"I want the howitzer," he screeched generally.
A soldier saluted, and Augustus chattered at him.
"The howitzer, the mountain howitzer, I tell you. Don't you hear
me? To knock the cursed thing he's in down. Go to Captain Duane and
give him my compliments, and--no, I'll go myself. Where's my horse? My
horse, I tell you! It's got to be knocked down."
"If you please, Lieutenant," said the trooper, "may we have the Red
"Red Cross? What's that for? What's that?"
"Sergeant Casey, sir. He's a-lyin' there."
"Ambulance? Certainly. The howitzer--perhaps they're only flesh
wounds. I hope they are only flesh wounds. I must have more
men--you'll come with me."
From his porch Duane viewed both Augustus approach and the man stop
at the hospital, and having expected a bungle, sat to hear; but at
Albumblatt's mottled face he stood up quickly and said, "What's the
matter?" And hearing, burst out: "Casey! Why, he was worth fifty
of--Go on, Mr. Albumblatt. What next did you achieve, sir?" And as the
tale was told he cooled, bitter, but official.
"Reinforcements is it, Mr. Albumblatt?"
"The howitzer, Captain."
"Good. And G troop?"
"For my double flank movement I--"
"Perhaps you'd like H troop as reserve?"
"Not reserve, Captain. I should establish--"
"This is your duty, Mr. Albumblatt. Perform it as you can, with
what force you need."
"Thank you, sir. It is not exactly a battle, but with a,
"Take your troops and go, sir, and report to me when you have
arrested your man."
Then Duane went to the hospital, and out with the ambulance, hoping
that the soldier might not be dead. But the wholesome irony of life
reckons beyond our calculations; and the unreproachful, sunny face of
his Sergeant evoked in Duane's memory many marches through long heat
and cold, back in the rough, good times.
"Hit twice, I thought they told me," said he; and the steward
surmised that one had missed.
"Perhaps," mused Duane. "And perhaps it went as intended, too.
What's all that fuss?"
He turned sharply, having lost Augustus among his sadder thoughts;
and here were the operations going briskly. Powder-smoke in three
directions at once! Here were pickets far out-lying, and a double line
of skirmish- ers deployed in extended order, and a mounted reserve,
and men standing to horse--a command of near a hundred, a pudding of
pompous, incompetent, callow bosh, with Augustus by his howitzer,
scientifically raising and lowering it to bear on the lone white tepee
that shone in the plain. Four races were assembled to look on--the
mess Chinaman, two black laundresses, all the whites in the place (on
horse and foot, some with their hats left behind), and several hundred
Indians in blankets. Duane had a thought to go away and leave this
galling farce under the eye of Starr for the officers were at hand
also. But his second thought bade him remain; and looking at Augustus
and the howitzer, his laugh would have returned to him; but his heart
was sore for Casey.
It was an hour of strategy and cannonade, a humiliating hour, which
Fort Brown tells of to this day; and the tepee lived through it all.
For it stood upon fifteen slender poles, not speedily to be chopped
down by shooting lead from afar. When low bullets drilled the canvas,
the chief suggested to Augustus that Ute Jack had climbed up; and when
the bullets flew high, then Ute Jack was doubtless in a hole. Nor did
Augustus contrive to drop a shell from the howitzer upon Ute Jack and
explode him--a shrewd and deadly conception; the shells went beyond,
except one, that ripped through the canvas, somewhat near the ground;
and Augustus, dripping, turned at length, and saying, "It won't go
down," stood vacantly wiping his white face. Then the two chiefs got
his leave to stretch a rope between their horses and ride hard against
the tepee. It was military neither in essence nor to see, but it
prevailed. The tepee sank, a huge umbrella wreck along the earth, and
there lay Ute Jack across the fire's slight hollow, his knee-cap gone
with the howitzer shell. But no blood had flown from that; blood will
not run, you know, when a man has been dead some time. One single
other shot had struck him--one through his own heart. It had singed
"You see, Mr. Albumblatt," said Duane, in the whole crowd's
hearing, "he killed himself directly after killing Casey. A very rare
act for an Indian, as you are doubtless aware. But if your manoeuvres
with his corpse have taught you anything you did not know before, we
shall all be gainers."
"Captain," said Mrs. Starr, on a later day, "you and Ute Jack have
ended our fun. Since the Court of Inquiry let Mr. Albumblatt off, he
has not said Germany once--and that's three months to-morrow."
Twenty Minutes for Refreshments
Upon turning over again my diary of that excursion to the Pacific,
I find that I set out from Atlantic waters on the 30th day of a
backward and forlorn April, which had come and done nothing towards
making its share of spring, but had gone, missing its chance, leaving
the trees as bare as it had received them from the winds of March. It
was not bleak weather alone, but care, that I sought to escape by a
change of sky; and I hoped for some fellow-traveller who might begin
to interest my thoughts at once. No such person met me in the several
Pullmans which I inhabited from that afternoon until the forenoon of
the following Friday. Through that long distance, though I had slanted
southwestward across a multitude of States and vegetations, and the
Mississippi lay eleven hundred miles to my rear, the single event is
my purchasing some cat's-eyes of the news-agent at Sierra Blanca. Save
this, my diary contains only neat additions of daily expenses, and
moral reflections of a delicate and restrained melancholy. They were
Pecos cat's-eyes, he told me, obtained in the rocky canyons of that
stream, and destined to be worth little until fashion turned from
foreign jewels to become aware of these fine native stones. And I,
glad to possess the jewels of my country, chose two bracelets and a
necklace of them, paying but twenty dollars for fifteen or sixteen
cat's-eyes, and resolved to give them a setting worthy of their
beauty. The diary continues with moral reflections upon the servility
of our taste before anything European, and the handwriting is clear
and deliberate. It abruptly becomes hurried, and at length well- nigh
illegible. It is best, I think, that you should have this portion as
it comes, unpolished, unamended, unarranged--hot, so to speak, from my
immediate pencil, instead of cold from my subsequent pen. I shall
disguise certain names, but that is all.
Friday forenoon, May 5.--I don't have to gaze at my cat's-eyes to
kill time any more. I'm not the only passenger any more. There's a
lady. She got in at El Paso. She has taken the drawing-room, but sits
outside reading newspaper cuttings and writing letters. She is sixty,
I should say, and has a cap and one gray curl. This comes down over
her left ear as far as a purple ribbon which suspends a medallion at
her throat. She came in wearing a sage-green duster of pongee silk,
pretty nice, only the buttons are as big as those largest mint-drops.
"You porter," she said, "brush this." He put down her many things and
received it. Her dress was sage green, and pretty nice too. "You
porter," said she, "open every window. Why, they are, I declare!
What's the thermometer in this car?" "Ninety-five, ma'am. Folks mostly
travelling--" "That will do, porter. Now you go make me a pitcher of
lemonade right quick." She went into the state-room and shut the door.
When she came out she was dressed in what appeared to be chintz
bedroom curtains. They hang and flow loosely about her, and are
covered with a pattern of pink peonies. She has
slippers--Turkish--that stare up in the air, pretty handsome and
comfortable. But I never before saw any one travel with fly-paper. It
must be hard to pack. But it's quite an idea in this train. Fully a
dozen flies have stuck to it already; and she reads her clippings, and
writes away, and sips another glass of lemonade, all with the most
extreme ap- pearance of leisure, not to say sloth. I can't imagine how
she manages to produce this atmosphere of indolence when in reality
she is steadily occupied. Possibly the way she sits. But I think it's
partly the bedroom curtains.
These notes were interrupted by the entrance of the new conductor.
"If you folks have chartered a private car, just say so," he shouted
instantly at the sight of us. He stood still at the extreme end and
removed his hat, which was acknowledged by the lady. "Travel is surely
very light, Gadsden," she assented, and went on with her writing. But
he remained standing still, and shouting like an orator: "Sprinkle the
floor of this car, Julius, and let the pore passengers get a breath of
cool. My lands!" He fanned himself sweepingly with his hat. He seemed
but little larger than a red squirrel, and precisely that color.
Sorrel hair, sorrel eyebrows, sorrel freckles, light sorrel mustache,
thin aggressive nose, receding chin, and black, attentive, prominent
eyes. He approached, and I gave him my ticket, which is as long as a
neck-tie, and has my height, the color of my eyes and hair, and my
general description, punched in the margin. "Why, you ain't
middle-aged!" he shouted, and a singular croak sounded behind me. But
the lady was writing. "I have been growing younger since I bought that
ticket," I explained. "That's it, that's it," he sang; a man's always
as old as he feels, and a woman--is ever young," he finished. "I see
you are true to the old teachings and the old-time chivalry, Gadsden,"
said the lady, continuously busy. "Yes, ma'am. Jacob served seven
years for Leah and seven more for Rachel." "Such men are raised today
in every worthy Louisiana home, Gadsden, be it ever so humble." "Yes,
ma'am. Give a fresh sprinkle to the floor, Julius, soon as it goes to
get dry. Excuse me, but do you shave yourself, sir?" I told him that I
did, but without excusing him. "You will see that I have a reason for
asking," he consequently pursued, and took out of his coat-tails a
round tin box handsomely labelled "Nat. Fly Paper Co.," so that I
supposed it was thus, of course, that the lady came by her fly-paper.
But this was pure coincidence, and the conductor explained: "That
company's me and a man at Shreveport, but he dissatisfies me right
frequently. You know what heaven a good razor is for a man, and what
you feel about a bad one. Vaseline and ground shells," he said,
opening the box, "and I'm not saying anything except it will last your
lifetime and never hardens. Rub the size of a pea on the fine side of
your strop, spread it to an inch with your thumb. May I beg a favor on
so short a meeting? Join me in the gentlemen's lavatory with your
razorstrop in five minutes. I have to attend to a corpse in the
baggage-car, and will return at once." "Anybody's corpse I know,
Gadsden?" said the lady." No, ma'am. Just a corpse."
When I joined him, for I was now willing to do anything, he was
apologetic again. "'Tis a short acquaintance," he said, "but may I
also beg your razor? Quick as I get out of the National Fly I am going
to register my new label. First there will be Uncle Sam embracing the
world, signifying this mixture is universal, then my name, then the
word Stropine, which is a novelty and carries copyright, and I shall
win comfort and doubtless luxury. The post barber at Fort Bayard took
a dozen off me at sight to retail to the niggers of the Twenty-fourth,
and as he did not happen to have the requisite cash on his person I
charged him two roosters and fifty cents, and both of us done well.
He's after more Stropine, and I got Pullman prices for my roosters,
the buffet-car being out of chicken a la Marengo. There is your razor,
sir, and I appreciate your courtesy." It was beautifully sharpened,
and I bought a box of the Stropine and asked him who the lady was.
"Mrs. Porcher Brewton!" he exclaimed. "Have you never met her
socially? Why she--why she is the most intellectual lady in Bee
Bayou." "Indeed!" I said." Why she visits New Orleans, and Charleston,
and all the principal centres of refinement, and is welcomed in
Washington. She converses freely with our statesmen and is considered
a queen of learning. Why she writes po'try, sir, and is strong-minded.
But a man wouldn't want to pick her up for a fool, all the samey." "I
shouldn't; I don't," said I. "Don't you do it, sir. She's run her
plantation all alone since the Colonel was killed in sixty-two. She
taught me Sunday-school when I was a lad, and she used to catch me at
her pecan-trees 'most every time in Bee Bayou."
He went forward, and I went back with the Stropine in my pocket.
The lady was sipping the last of the lemonade and looking haughtily
over the top of her glass into (I suppose) the world of her thoughts.
Her eyes met mine, however. "Has Gadsden--yes, I perceive he has been
telling about me," she said, in her languid, formidable voice. She set
her glass down and reclined among the folds of the bedroom curtains,
considering me. "Gadsden has always been lavish," she mused,
caressingly. "He seems destined to succeed in life," I hazarded. "ah
n--a!" she sighed, with decision. "He will fail." As she said no more
and as I began to resent the manner in which she surveyed me, I
remarked, "You seem rather sure of his failure." "I am old enough to
be his mother, and yours," said Mrs. Porcher Brewton among her
curtains. "He is a noble-hearted fellow, and would have been a
high-souled Southern gentleman if born to that station. But what
should a conductor earning $103.50 a month be dispersing his attention
on silly patents for? Many's the time I've told him what I think; but
Gadsden will always be flighty. No further observations occurring to
me, I took up my necklace and bracelets from the seat and put them in
my pocket. "Will you permit a meddlesome old woman to inquire what
made you buy those cat's-eyes?" said Mrs. Brewton. "Why--" I dubiously
began. "Never mind," she cried, archly. "If you were thinking of some
one in your Northern home, they will be prized because the thought, at
any rate, was beautiful and genuine. 'Where'er I roam, whatever realms
to see, my heart, untravelled, fondly turns to thee.' Now don't you be
embarrassed by an old woman!" I desired to inform her that I disliked
her, but one can never do those things; and, anxious to learn what was
the matter with the cat's-eyes, I spoke amiably and politely to her.
"Twenty dollars!" she murmured. "And he told you they came from the
Pecos!" She gave that single melodious croak I had heard once before.
Then she sat up with her back as straight as if she was twenty. "My
dear young fellow, never do you buy trash in these trains. Here you
are with your coat full of--what's Gadsden's absurd razor
concoctions--strut--strop --bother! And Chinese paste buttons. Last
summer, on the Northern Pacific, the man offered your cat's-eyes to me
as native gems found exclusively in Dakota. But I just sat and
mentioned to him that I was on my way home from a holiday in China,
and he went right out of the car. The last day I was in Canton I
bought a box of those cat's-eyes at eight cents a dozen." After this
we spoke a little on other subjects, and now she's busy writing again.
She's on business in California, but will read a paper at Los Angeles
at the annual meeting of the Golden Daughters of the West. The meal
station is coming, but we have agreed to--
Later, Friday afternoon.--I have been interrupted again. Gadsden
entered, removed his hat, and shouted: "Sharon. Twenty minutes for
dinner." I was calling the porter to order a buffet lunch in the car
when there tramped in upon us three large men of such appearance that
a flash of thankfulness went through me at having so little
ready-money and only a silver watch. Mrs. Brewton looked at them and
said, "Well, gentlemen?" and they took off their embroidered Mexican
hats. "We've got a baby show here," said one of them, slowly, looking
at me, "and we'd be kind of obliged if you'd hold the box." "There's
lunch put up in a basket for you to take along," said the next, "and a
bottle of wine--champagne. So losing your dinner won't lose you
nothing." "We're looking for somebody raised East and without local
prejudice," said the third. "So we come to the Pullman." I now saw
that so far from purposing to rob us they were in a great and honest
distress of mind. "But I am no judge of a baby," said I; "not being
mar--" "You don't have to be," broke in the first, more slowly and
earnestly. "It's a fair and secret ballot we're striving for. The
votes is wrote out and ready, and all we're shy of is a stranger
without family ties or business interests to hold the box and do the
counting." His deep tones ceased, and he wiped heavy drops from his
forehead with his shirt sleeve. "We'd be kind of awful obliged to
you," he urged. "The town would be liable to make it two bottles,"
said the second. The third brought his fist down on the back of a seat
and said, "I'll make it that now." "But, gentlemen," said I, "five,
six, and seven years ago I was not a stranger in Sharon. If my friend
Dean Drake was still here--" "But he ain't. Now you might as well help
folks, and eat later. This town will trust you. And if you quit us--"
Once more he wiped the heavy drops away, while in a voice full of
appeal his friend finished his thought: "If we lose you, we'll likely
have to wait till this train comes in to-morrow for a man satisfactory
to this town. And the show is costing us a heap." A light hand tapped
my arm, and here was Mrs. Brewton saying: "For shame! Show your
enterprise." "I'll hold this yere train," shouted Gadsden, "if
necessary." Mrs. Brewton rose alertly, and they all hurried me out.
"My slippers will stay right on when I'm down the steps," said Mrs.
Brewton, and Gadsden helped her descend into the blazing dust and sun
of Sharon. "Gracious!" said she, "what a place! But I make it a point
to see everything as I go." Nothing had changed. There, as of old, lay
the flat litter of the town--sheds, stores, and dwellings, a shapeless
congregation in the desert, gaping wide everywhere to the glassy,
quivering immensity; and there, above the roofs, turned the slatted
wind-wheels. But close to the tracks, opposite the hotel, was an
edifice, a sort of tent of bunting, from which brass music issued,
while about a hundred pink and blue sun-bonnets moved and mixed near
the entrance. Little black Mexicans, like charred toys, lounged and
lay staring among the ungraded dunes of sand. "Gracious!" said Mrs.
Brewton again. Her eye lost nothing; and as she made for the tent the
chintz peo- nies flowed around her, and her step was surprisingly
light. We passed through the sunbonnets and entered where the music
played. "The precious blessed darlings!" she exclaimed, clasping her
hands. "This will do for the Golden Daughters," she rapidly added;
"yes, this will distinctly do." And she hastened away from me into the
I had no time to look at much this first general minute. I could
see there were booths, each containing a separate baby. I passed a
whole section of naked babies, and one baby farther along had on
golden wings and a crown, and was bawling frightfully. Their names
were over the booths, and I noticed Lucille, Erskine Wales, Banquo
Lick Nolin, Cuba, Manilla, Ellabelle, Bosco Grady, James J. Corbett
Nash, and Aqua Marine. There was a great sign at the end, painted
"Mrs. Eden's Manna in the Wilderness," and another sign, labelled
"Shot-gun Smith's twins." In the midst of these first few impressions
I found myself seated behind a bare table raised three feet or so,
with two boxes on it, and a quantity of blank paper and pencils, while
one of the men was explaining me the rules and facts. I can't remember
them all now, because I couldn't understand them all then, and Mrs.
Brewton was distant among the sun-bonnets, talking to a gathering
crowd and feeling in the mouths of babies that were being snatched out
of the booths and brought to her. The man was instructing me steadily
all the while, and it occurred to me to nod silently and coldly now
and then, as if I was doing this sort of thing every day. But I
insisted that some one should help me count, and they gave me Gadsden.
Now these facts I do remember very clearly, and shall never forget
them. The babies came from two towns--Sharon, and Rincon its neighbor.
Alone, neither had enough for a good show, though in both it was every
family's pride to have a baby every year. The babies were in three
classes: Six months and under, one prize offered; eighteen months, two
prizes; three years, two prizes. A three-fourths vote of all cast was
necessary to a choice. No one entitled to vote unless of immediate
family of a competing baby. No one entitled to cast more than one
vote. There were rules of entry and fees, but I forget them, except
that no one could have two exhibits in the same class. When I read
this I asked, how about twins? "Well, we didn't kind of foresee that,"
muttered my instructor, painfully; "what would be your idea?" "Look
here, you sir," interposed Mrs. Brewton, "he came in to count votes."
I was very glad to have her back. "That's right, ma'am," admitted the
man; "he needn't to say a thing. We've only got one twins entered," he
pursued, "which we're glad of. Shot-gun--", "Where is this Mr. Smith?"
interrupted Mrs. Brewton. "Uptown, drinking, ma'am." "And who may Mr.
Smith be?" "Most popular citizen of Rincon, ma'am. We had to accept
his twins because--well, he come down here himself, and most of Rincon
come with him, and as we aimed to have everything pass off
pleasant-like--" "I quite comprehend," said Mrs. Brewton. "And I
should consider twins within the rule; or any number born at one time.
But little Aqua Marine is the finest single child in that six months
class. I told her mother she ought to take that splurgy ring off the
poor little thing's thumb. It's most unsafe. But I should vote for
that child myself." "Thank you for your valuable endorse- ment," said
a spruce, slim young man. "But the public is not allowed to vote
here," he added. He was standing on the floor and resting his elbows
on the table. Mrs. Brewton stared down at him. "Are you the father of
the child?" she inquired. "Oh no! I am the agent. I--" "Aqua Marine's
agent?" said Mrs. Brewton, sharply. "Ha, ha!" went the young man. "Ha,
ha! Well, that's good too. She's part of our exhibit. I'm in charge of
the manna-feds, don't you know?" "I don't know," said Mrs. Brewton.
"Why, Mrs. Eden's Manna in the Wilderness! Nourishes, strengthens, and
makes no unhealthy fat. Take a circular, and welcome. I'm travelling
for the manna. I organized this show. I've conducted twenty-eight
similar shows in two years. We hold them in every State and Territory.
Second of last March I gave Denver--you heard of it, probably?" "I did
not," said Mrs. Brewton. "Well! Ha, ha! I thought every person up to
date had heard of Denver's Olympic Offspring Olio." "Is it up to date
to loll your elbows on the table when you're speaking to a lady?"
inquired Mrs. Brewton. He jumped, and then grew scarlet with rage. "I
didn't expect to learn manners in New Mexico," said he. "I doubt if
you will," said Mrs. Brewton, and turned her back on him. He was white
now; but better instincts, or else business, prevailed in his injured
bosom. "Well," said he, "I had no bad intentions. I was going to say
you'd have seen ten thousand people and five hundred babies at Denver.
And our manna-feds won out to beat the band. Three first medals, and
all exclusively manna-fed. We took the costume prize also. Of course
here in Sharon I've simplified. No special medal for weight, beauty,
costume, or decorated perambulator. Well, I must go back to our
exhibit. Glad to have you give us a call up there and see the medals
we're offering, and our fifteen manna-feds, and take a package away
with you." He was gone.
The voters had been now voting in my two boxes for some time, and I
found myself hoping the manna would not win, whoever did; but it
seemed this agent was a very capable person. To begin with, every
family entering a baby drew a package of the manna free, and one
package contained a diamond ring. Then, he had managed to have the
finest babies of all classes in his own exhibit. This was
incontestable, Mrs. Brewton admitted, after returning from a general
inspection; and it seemed to us extraordinary. "That's easy, ma'am,"
said Gadsden; "he came around here a month ago. Don't you see?" I did
not see, but Mrs. Brewton saw at once. He had made a quiet selection
of babies beforehand, and then introduced the manna into those homes.
And everybody in the room was remarking that his show was very
superior, taken as a whole they all added, "taken as a whole"; I heard
them as they came up to vote for the 3-year and the 18-month classes.
The 6-month was to wait till last, because the third box had been
accidentally smashed by Mr. Smith. Gadsden caught several trying to
vote twice. "No, you don't!" he would shout. "I know faces. I'm not a
conductor for nothing." And the victim would fall back amid jeers from
the sun-bonnets. Once the passengers sent over to know when the train
was going. "Tell them to step over here and they'll not feel so
lonesome!" shouted Gadsden; and I think a good many came. The band was
playing "White Wings," with quite a number singing it, when Gadsden
noticed the voting had ceased, and announced this ballot closed. The
music paused for him, and we could suddenly hear how many babies were
in distress; but for a moment only; as we began our counting, "White
Wings" resumed, and the sun-bonnets outsang their progeny. There was
something quite singular in the way they had voted. Here are some of
the 3-year-old tickets: "First choice, Ulysses Grant Blum; 2d choice,
Lewis Hendricks." "First choice, James Redfield; 2d, Lewis Hendricks."
"First, Elk Chester; 2d, Lewis Hendricks." "Can it be?" said the
excited Gadsden. "Finish these quick. I'll open the 18-monthers." But
he swung round to me at once. "See there!" he cried." Read that! and
that!" He plunged among more, and I read: "First choice, Lawrence
Nepton Ford, Jr.; 2d, Iona Judd." "First choice, Mary Louise Kenton;
2d, Iona Judd." "Hurry up!" said Gadsden; "that's it!" And as we
counted, Mrs. Brewton looked over my shoulder and uttered her
melodious croak, for which I saw no reason. "That young
whipper-snapper will go far," she observed; nor did I under- stand
this. But when they stopped the band for me to announce the returns,
one fact did dawn on me even while I was reading: "Three- year-olds:
Whole number of votes cast, 300; necessary to a choice, 225. Second
prize, Lewis Hendricks, receiving 300. First prize, largest number of
votes cast, 11, for Salvisa van Meter. No award. Eighteen-month class:
Whole number of votes cast, 300; necessary to a choice, 225. Second
prize, Iona Judd, receiving 300. Lillian Brown gets 15 for 1st prize.
None awarded." There was a very feeble applause, and then silence for
a second, and then the sun-bonnets rushed together, rushed away to
others, rushed back; and talk swept like hail through the place. Yes,
that is what they had done. They had all voted for Lewis Hendricks and
Iona Judd for second prize, and every family had voted the first prize
to its own baby. The Browns and van Meters happened to be the largest
families present. "He'll go far! he'll go far!" repeated Mrs. Brewton.
Sport glittered in her eye. She gathered her curtains, and was among
the sun-bonnets in a moment. Then it fully dawned on me. The agent for
Mrs. Eden's Manna in the Wilderness was indeed a shrewd strategist,
and knew his people to the roots of the grass. They had never seen a
baby-show. They were innocent. He came among them. He gave away
packages of manna and a diamond ring. He offered the prizes. But he
proposed to win some. Therefore he made that rule about only the
immediate families voting. He foresaw what they would do; and now they
had done it. Whatever happened, two prizes went to his manna-feds.
"They don't see through it in the least, which is just as well," said
Mrs. Brewton, returning. "And it's little matter that only second
prizes go to the best babies. But what's to be done now?" I had no
idea; but it was not necessary that I should.
"You folks of Rincon and Sharon," spoke a deep voice. It was the
first man in the Pullman, and drops were rolling from his forehead,
and his eyes were the eyes of a beleaguered ox. "You fathers and
mothers," he said, and took another breath. They grew quiet. "I'm a
father myself, as is well known." They applauded this. "Salvisa is
mine, and she got my vote. The father that will not support his own
child is not--does not--is worse than if they were orphans." He
breathed again, while they loudly applauded." But, folks, I've got to
get home to Rincon. I've got to. And I'll give up Salvisa if I'm met
fair." "Yes, yes, you'll be met," said voices of men. "Well, here's my
proposition: Mrs. Eden's manna has took two, and I'm satisfied it
should. We voted, and will stay voted." "Yes, yes!" "Well, now, here's
Sharon and Rincon, two of the finest towns in this section, and I say
Sharon and Rincon has equal rights to get something out of this, and
drop private feelings, and everybody back their town. And I say let
this lady and gentleman, who will act elegant and on the square, take
a view and nominate the finest Rincon 3-year-old and the finest Sharon
18-month they can cut out of the herd. And I say let's vote unanimous
on their pick, and let each town hold a first prize and go home in
friendship, feeling it has been treated right."
Universal cheers endorsed him, and he got down panting. The band
played "Union Forever," and I accompanied Mrs. Brewton to the booths.
"You'll remember!" shouted the orator urgently after us; "one apiece."
We nodded. "Don't get mixed," he appealingly insisted. We shook our
heads, and out of the booths rushed two women, and simultaneously
dashed their infants in our faces. "You'll never pass Cuba by!"
entreated one. "This is Bosco Grady," said the other. Cuba wore an
immense garment made of the American flag, but her mother whirled her
out of it in a second. "See them dimples; see them knees!" she said.
"See them feet! Only feel of her toes!" "Look at his arms!" screamed
the mother of Bosco. "Doubled his weight in four months." "Did he
indeed, ma'am?" said Cuba's mother; "well, he hadn't much to double."
"Didn't he, then? Didn't he indeed?" "No at you; he didn't indeed and
indeed! I guess Cuba is known to Sharon. I guess Sharon'll not let
Cuba be slighted." "Well, and I guess Rincon'll see that Bosco Grady
gets his rights." "Ladies," said Mrs. Brewton, towering but poetical
with her curl, "I am a mother myself, and raised five noble boys and
two sweet peerless girls." This stopped them immediately; they stared
at her and her chintz peonies as she put the curl gently away from her
medallion and proceeded: "But never did I think of myself in those
dark weary days of the long ago. I thought of my country and the Lost
Cause." They stared at her, fascinated. "Yes, m'm," whispered they,
quite humbly. "Now," said Mrs. Brewton, "what is more sacred than an
American mother's love? Therefore let her not shame it with anger and
strife. All little boys and girls are precious gems to me and to you.
What is a cold, lifeless medal compared to one of them? Though I would
that all could get the prize! But they can't, you know." "No, m'm."
Many mothers, with their children in their arms, were now dumbly
watching Mrs. Brewton, who held them with a honeyed, convincing smile.
"If I choose only one in this beautiful and encouraging harvest, it is
because I have no other choice. Thank you so much for letting me see
that little hero and that lovely angel," she added, with a yet sweeter
glance to the mothers of Bosco and Cuba. "And I wish them all luck
when their turn comes. I've no say about the 6-month class, you know.
And now a little room, please."
The mothers fell back. But my head swam slightly. The 6-month
class, to be sure! The orator had forgotten all about it. In the
general joy over his wise and fair proposition, nobody had thought of
it. But they would pretty soon. Cuba and Bosco were likely to remind
them. Then we should still be face to face with a state of things
that--I cast a glance behind at those two mothers of Sharon and Rincon
following us, and I asked Mrs. Brewton to look at them. "Don't think
about it now," said she, "it will only mix you. I always like to take
a thing when it comes, and not before." We now reached the 18-month
class. They were the naked ones. The 6-month had stayed nicely in
people's arms; these were crawling hastily everywhere, like crabs
upset in the market, and they screamed fiercely when taken upon the
lap. The mother of Thomas Jefferson Brayin Lucas showed us a framed
letter from the statesman for whom her child was called. The letter
reeked with gratitude, and said that offspring was man's proudest
privilege; that a souvenir sixteen-to-one spoon would have been
cheerfully sent, but 428 babies had been named after Mr. Brayin since
January. It congratulated the swelling army of the People's Cause. But
there was nothing eminent about little Thomas except the letter; and
we selected Reese Moran, a vigorous Sharon baby, who, when they
attempted to set him down and pacify him, stiffened his legs, dashed
his candy to the floor, and burst into lamentation. We were soon. on
our way to the 3-year class, for Mrs. Brewton was rapid and thorough.
As we went by the Manna Exhibit, the agent among his packages and
babies invited us in. He was loudly declaring that he would vote for
Bosco if he could. But when he examined Cuba, he became sure that
Denver had nothing finer than that. Mrs. Brewton took no notice of
him, but bade me admire Aqua Marine as far surpassing any other
6-month child. I proclaimed her splendid (she was a wide-eyed,
contented thing, with a head shaped like a croquet mallet), and the
agent smiled modestly and told the mothers that as for his babies two
prizes was luck enough for them; they didn't want the earth. "If that
thing happened to be brass," said Mrs. Brewton, bending over the ring
that Aqua was still sucking; and again remonstrating with the mother
for this imprudence, she passed on. The three-year-olds were, many of
them, in costume, with extraordinary arrangements of hair; and here
was the child with gold wings and a crown I had seen on arriving. Her
name was Verbena M., and she personated Faith. She had colored
slippers, and was drinking tea from her mother's cup. Another child,
named Broderick McGowan, represented Columbus, and joyfully shouted
"Ki-yi!" every half-minute. One child was attired as a prominent
admiral; another as a prominent general; and one stood in a boat and
was Washington. As Mrs. Brewton examined them and dealt with the
mothers, the names struck me afresh--not so much the boys; Ulysses
Grant and James J. Corbett explained themselves; but I read the names
of five adjacent girls-- Lula, Ocilla, Nila, Cusseta, and Maylene. And
I asked Mrs. Brewton how they got them. "From romances," she told me,
"in papers that we of the upper classes never see." In choosing Horace
Boyd, of Rincon, for his hair, his full set of front teeth well cared
for, and his general beauty, I think both of us were also influenced
by his good sensible name, and his good clean sensible clothes. With
both our selections, once they were settled, were Sharon and Rincon
satisfied. We were turning back to the table to announce our choice
when a sudden clamor arose behind us, and we saw confusion in the
Manna Department. Women were running and shrieking, and I hastened
after Mrs. Brewton to see what was the matter. Aqua Marine had
swallowed the ring on her thumb. "It was gold! it was pure gold!"
wailed the mother, clutching Mrs. Brewton. "It cost a whole dollar in
El Paso." "She must have white of egg instantly," said Mrs. Brewton,
handing me her purse. "Run to the hotel--" "Save your money," said the
agent, springing forward with some eggs in a bowl. "Lord! you don't
catch us without all the appliances handy. We'd run behind the trade
in no time. There, now, there," he added, comfortingly to the mother.
"Will you make her swallow it? Better let me--better let me --And
here's the emetic. Lord! why, we had three swallowed rings at the
Denver Olio, and I got 'em all safe back within ten minutes after time
of swallowing." "You go away," said Mrs. Brewton to me, "and tell them
our nominations." The mothers sympathetically surrounded poor little
Aqua, saying to each other: "She's a beautiful child!" "Sure indeed
she is!" "But the manna-feds has had their turn." "Sure indeed they've
been recognized," and so forth, while I was glad to retire to the
voting table. The music paused for me, and as the crowd cheered my
small speech, some one said, "And now what are you going to do about
me?" It was Bosco Grady back again, and close behind him Cuba. They
had escaped from Mrs. Brewton's eye and had got me alone. But I
pretended in the noise and cheering not to see these mothers. I
noticed a woman hurrying out of the tent, and hoped Aqua was not in
further trouble--she was still surrounded, I could see. Then the
orator made some silence, thanked us in the names of Sharon and
Rincon, and proposed our candidates be voted on by acclamation. This
was done. Rincon voted for Sharon and Reese Moran in a solid roar, and
Sharon voted for Rincon and Horace Boyd in a roar equally solid. So
now each had a prize, and the whole place was applauding happily, and
the band was beginning again, when the mothers with Cuba and Bosco
jumped up beside me on the platform, and the sight of them produced
"There's a good many here has a right to feel satisfied," said Mrs.
Grady, looking about, "and they're welcome to their feelings. But if
this meeting thinks it is through with its business, I can tell it
that it ain't--not if it acts honorable, it ain't. Does those that
have had their chance and those that can take home their prizes expect
us 6-month mothers come here for nothing? Do they expect I brought my
Bosco from Rincon to be insulted, and him the pride of the town?"
"Cuba is known to Sharon," spoke the other lady. "I'll say no more."
"Jumping Jeans!" murmured the orator to himself. "I can't hold this
train much longer," said Gadsden; "she's due at Lordsburg now."
"You'll have made it up by Tucson, Gadsden," spoke Mrs. Brewton,
quietly, across the whole assembly from the Manna Department. "As for
towns," continued Mrs. Grady, "that think anything of a baby that's
only got three teeth--" "Ha! Ha!" laughed Cuba's mother, shrilly.
"Teeth! Well, we're not proud of bald babies in Sharon." Bosco was
certainly bald. All the men were looking wretched, and all the women
were growing more and more like eagles. Moreover, they were separating
into two bands and taking their husbands with them--Sharon and Rincon
drawing to opposite parts of the tent--and what was coming I cannot
say; for we all had to think of something else. A third woman,
bringing a man, mounted the platform. It was she I had seen hurry out.
"My name's Shot-gun Smith," said the man, very carefully, "and I'm
told you've reached my case." He was extremely good-looking, with a
blue eye and a blond mustache, not above thirty, and was trying hard
to be sober, holding himself with dignity. "Are you the judge?" said
he to me. "Hell--" I began. "N-not guilty, your honor," said he. At
this his wife looked anxious. "S-self-defence," he slowly continued;
"told you once already." "Why, Rolfe!" exclaimed his wife, touching
his elbow." Don't you cry, little woman," said he; "this'll come out
all right. Where 're the witnesses?" "Why, Rolfe! Rolfe!" She shook
him as you shake a sleepy child. "Now see here," said he, and wagged a
finger at her af- fectionately, "you promised me you'd not cry if I
let you come." "Rolfe, dear, it's not that to-day; it's the twins."
"It's your twins, Shot-gun, this time," said many men's voices." We
acquitted you all right last month." "Justifiable homicide," said
Gadsden." Don't you remember?" "Twins?" said Shotgun, drowsily. "Oh
yes, mine. Why--" He opened on us his blue eyes that looked about as
innocent as Aqua Marine's, and he grew more awake. Then he blushed
deeply, face and forehead. "I was not coming to this kind of thing,"
he explained. "But she wanted the twins to get something." He put his
hand on her shoulder and straightened himself. "I done a heap of
prospecting before I struck this claim," said he, patting her
shoulder. "We got married last March a year. It's our
first--first--first"--he turned to me with a confiding smile--"it's
our first dividend, judge." "Rolfe! I never! You come right down."
"And now let's go get a prize," he declared, with his confiding
pleasantness. "I remember now! I remember! They claimed twins was
barred. And I kicked down the bars. Take me to those twins. They're
not named yet, judge. After they get the prize we'll name them fine
names, as good as any they got anywhere--Europe, Asia,
Africa--anywhere. My gracious! I wish they was boys. Come on, judge!
You and me'll go give 'em a prize, and then we'll drink to 'em." He
hugged me suddenly and affectionately, and we half fell down the
steps. But Gadsden as suddenly caught him and righted him, and we
proceeded to the twins. Mrs. Smith looked at me helplessly, saying:
"I'm that sorry, sir! I had no idea he was going to be that gamesome."
"Not at all," I said; "not at all!" Under many circumstances I should
have delighted in Shot-gun's society. He seemed so utterly sure that,
now he had explained himself, everybody would rejoice to give the
remaining-medal to his little girls. But Bosco and Cuba had not been
idle. Shotgun did not notice the spread of whispers, nor feel the
divided and jealous currents in the air as he sat, and, in expanding
good-will, talked himself almost sober. To entice him out there was no
way. Several of his friends had tried it. But beneath his innocence
there seemed to lurk something wary, and I grew apprehensive about
holding the box this last time. But Gadsden relieved me as our count
began. "Shot-gun is a splendid man," said he, "and he has trailed more
train-robbers than any deputy in New Mexico. But he has seen too many
friends to-day, and is not quite himself. So when he fell down that
time I just took this off him." He opened the drawer, and there lay a
six-shooter. "It was touch and go," said Gadsden; "but he's thinking
that hard about his twins that he's not missed it yet. 'Twould have
been the act of an enemy to leave that on him to-day.--Well, d'you
say!" he broke off. "Well, well, well!" It was the tickets we took out
of the box that set him exclaiming. I began to read them, and saw that
the agent was no mere politician, but a statesman. His Aqua Marine had
a solid vote. I remembered his extreme praise of both Bosco and Cuba.
This had set Rincon and Sharon bitterly against each other. I
remembered his modesty about Aqua Marine. Of course. Each town, unable
to bear the idea of the other's beating it, had voted for the
manna-fed, who had 299 votes. Shot-gun and his wife had voted for
their twins. I looked towards the Manna Department, and could see that
Aqua Marine was placid once more, and Mrs. Brewton was dancing the
ring before her eyes. I hope I announced the returns in a firm voice.
"What!" said Shot-gun Smith; and at that sound Mrs. Brewton stopped
dancing the ring. He strode to our table. "There's the winner," said
Gadsden, quickly pointing to the Manna Exhibit. "What!" shouted Smith
again; "and they quit me for that hammer-headed son-of-a-gun?" He
whirled around. The men stood ready, and the women fled shrieking and
cowering to their infants in the booths. "Gentlemen! Gentlemen!" cried
Gadsden, "don't hurt him! Look here!" And from the drawer he displayed
Shot-gun's weapon. They understood in a second, and calmly watched the
enraged and disappointed Shot-gun. But he was a man. He saw how he had
frightened the women, and he stood in the middle of the floor with
eyes that did not at all resemble Aqua Marine's at present. "I'm all
right now, boys," he said. "I hope I've harmed no one. Ladies, will
you try and forget about me making such a break? It got ahead of me, I
guess; for I had promised the little woman--" He stopped himself; and
then his eye fell upon the Manna Department. "I guess I don't like one
thing much now. I'm not after prizes. I'd not accept one from a
gold-bug-combine-trust that comes sneaking around stuffing wholesale
concoctions into our children's systems. My twins are not manna-fed.
My twins are raised as nature intended. Perhaps if they were swelled
out with trash that acts like baking-powder, they would have a medal
too--for I notice he has made you vote his way pretty often this
afternoon." I saw the agent at the end of the room look very queer.
"That's so!" said several. "I think I'll clear out his boxes," said
Shot-gun, with rising joy." I feel like I've got to do something
before I go home. Come on, judge!" He swooped towards the manna with a
yell, and the men swooped with him, and Gadsden and I were swooped
with them. Again the women shrieked. But Mrs. Brewton stood out before
the boxes with her curl and her chintz.
"Mr. Smith," said she, "you are not going to do anything like that.
You are going to behave yourself like the gentleman you are, and not
like the wild beast that's inside you." Never in his life before,
probably, had Shot-gun been addressed in such a manner, and he too
became hypnotized, fixing his blue eyes upon the strange lady. "I do
not believe in patent foods for children," said Mrs. Brewton. "We
agree on that, Mr. Smith, and I am a grandmother, and I attend to what
my grandchildren eat. But this highly adroit young man has done you no
harm. If he has the prizes, whose doing is that, please? And who paid
for them? Will you tell me, please? Ah, you are all silent!" And she
croaked melodiously. "Now let him and his manna go along. But I have
enjoyed meeting you all, and I shall not forget you soon. And, Mr.
Smith, I want you to remember me. Will you, please?" She walked to
Mrs. Smith and the twins, and Shot-gun followed her, entirely
hypnotized. She beckoned to me. "Your judge and I," she said,
"consider not only your beautiful twins worthy of a prize, but also
the mother and father that can so proudly claim them." She put her
hand in my pocket. "These cat's-eyes," she said, "you will wear, and
think of me and the judge who presents them." She placed a bracelet on
each twin, and the necklace upon Mrs. Smith's neck." Give him
Gadsden's stuff," she whispered to me. "Do you shave yourself, sir?"
said I, taking out the Stropine. "Vaseline and ground shells, and will
last your life. Rub the size of a pea on your strop and spread it to
an inch." I placed the box in Shot-gun's motionless hand. "And now,
Gadsden, we'll take the train," said Mrs. Brewton. "Here's your lunch!
Here's your wine!" said the orator, forcing a basket upon me." I don't
know what we'd have done without you and your mother." A flash of
indignation crossed Mrs. Brewton's face, but changed to a smile.
"You've forgot to name my girls!" exclaimed Shot-gun, suddenly finding
his voice. "Suppose you try that," said Mrs. Brewton to me, a trifle
viciously. "Thank you," I said to Smith. "Thank you. I--" "Something
handsome," he urged. "How would Cynthia do for one?" I suggested.
"Shucks, no! I've known two Cynthias. You don't want that?" he asked
Mrs. Smith; and she did not at all. "Something extra, something fine,
something not stale," said he. I looked about the room. There was no
time for thought, but my eye fell once more upon Cuba. This reminded
me of Spain, and the Spanish; and my brain leaped. "I have them!" I
cried. "'Armada' and 'Loyola.'" "That's what they're named!" said
Shot-gun; "write it for us." And I did. Once more the band played, and
we left them, all calling, "Good-bye, ma'am. Good-bye, judge," happy
as possible. The train was soon going sixty miles an hour through the
desert. We had passed Lordsburg, San Simon, and were nearly at Benson
before Mrs. Brewton and Gadsden (whom she made sit down with us) and I
finished the lunch and champagne." I wonder how long he'll remember
me?" mused Mrs. Brewton at Tucson, where we were on time. "That woman
is not worth one of his boots."
Saturday afternoon, May 6.--Near Los Angeles. I have been writing
all day, to be sure and get everything in, and now Sharon is
twenty-four hours ago, and here there are roses, gardens, and many
nice houses at the way-stations. Oh, George Washington, father of your
country, what a brindled litter have you sired!
But here the moral reflections begin again, and I copy no more
diary. Mrs. Brewton liked my names for the twins. "They'll pronounce
it Loyo'la," she said, "and that sounds right lovely." Later she sent
me her paper for the Golden Daughters. It is full of poetry and
sentiment and all the things I have missed. She wrote that if she had
been sure the agent had helped Aqua Marine to swallow the ring, she
would have let them smash his boxes. And I think she was a little in
love with Shot-gun Smith. But what a pity we shall soon have no more
Mrs. Brewtons! The causes that produced her--slavery, isolation,
literary tendencies, ad- versity, game blood--that combination is
broken forever. I shall speak to Mr. Howells about her. She ought to
The Promised Land
Perhaps there were ten of them--these galloping dots were hard to
count--down in the distant bottom across the river. Their swiftly
moving dust hung with them close, thinning to a yellow veil when they
halted short. They clustered a moment, then parted like beads, and
went wide asunder on the plain. They veered singly over the level,
merged in twos and threes, apparently racing, shrank together like
elastic, and broke ranks again to swerve over the stretching waste.
From this visioned pantomime presently came a sound, a tiny shot. The
figures were too far for discerning which fired it. It evidently did
no harm, and was repeated at once. A babel of diminutive explosions
followed, while the horsemen galloped on in unexpected circles. Soon,
for no visible reason, the dots ran together, bunching compactly. The
shooting stopped, the dust rose thick again from the crowded hoofs,
cloaking the group, and so passed back and was lost among the silent
Four emigrants had watched this from the high bleak rim of the Big
Bend. They stood where the flat of the desert broke and tilted down in
grooves and bulges deep to the lurking Columbia. Empty levels lay
opposite, nar- rowing up into the high country.
"That's the Colville Reservation across the river from us," said
"Another!" sighed his wife.
"The last Indians we'll strike. Our trail to the Okanagon goes over
a corner of it."
"We're going to those hills?" The mother looked at her little girl
and back where the cloud had gone.
"Only a corner, Liza. The ferry puts us over on it, and we've got
to go by the ferry or stay this side of the Columbia. You wouldn't
want to start a home here?"
They had driven twenty-one hundred miles at a walk. Standing by
them were the six horses with the wagon, and its tunneled roof of
canvas shone duskily on the empty verge of the wilderness. A dry
windless air hung over the table-land of the Big Bend, but a sound
rose from somewhere, floating voluminous upon the silence, and sank
"Rapids!" The man pointed far up the giant rut of the stream to
where a streak of white water twinkled at the foot of the hills.
"We've struck the river too high," he added.
"Then we don't cross here?" said the woman, quickly.
"No. By what they told me the cabin and the ferry ought to be five
Her face fell. "Only five miles! I was wondering, John--Wouldn't
there be a way round for the children to--"
"Now, mother," interrupted the husband, "that ain't like you. We've
crossed plenty Indian reservations this trip already."
"I don't want to go round," the little girl said. "Father, don't
make me go round."
Mart, the boy, with a loose hook of hair hanging down to his eyes
from his hat, did not trouble to speak. He had been disappointed in
the westward journey to find all the Indians peaceful. He knew which
way he should go now, and he went to the wagon to look once again down
the clean barrel of his rifle.
"Why, Nancy, you don't like Indians?" said her mother.
"Yes, I do. I like chiefs."
Mrs. Clallam looked across the river. "It was so strange, John, the
way they acted. It seems to get stranger, thinking about it."
"They didn't see us. They didn't have a notion--"
"But if we're going right over?"
"We're not going over there, Liza. That quick water's the Mahkin
Rapids, and our ferry's clear down below from this place."
"What could they have been after, do you think?"
"Those chaps? Oh, nothing, I guess. They weren't killing anybody."
"Playing cross-tag," said Mart.
"I'd like to know, John, how you know they weren't killing anybody.
They might have been trying to."
"Then we're perfectly safe, Liza. We can set and let 'em kill us
"Well, I don't think it's any kind of way to behave, running around
shooting right off your horse."
"And Fourth of July over too," said Mart from the wagon. He was
putting cartridges into the magazine of his Winchester. His
common-sense told him that those horsemen would not cross the river,
but the notion of a night attack pleased the imagination of young
"It was the children," said Mrs. Clallam. "And nobody's getting me
any wood. How am I going to cook supper? Stir yourselves!"
They had carried water in the wagon, and father and son went for
wood. Some way down the hill they came upon a gully with some dead
brush, and climbed back with this. Supper was eaten on the ground, the
horses were watered, given grain, and turned loose to find what
pickings they might in the lean growth; and dusk had not turned to
dark when the emigrants were in their beds on the soft dust. The noise
of the rapids dominated the air with distant sonority, and the
children slept at once, the boy with his rifle along his blanket's
edge. John Clallam lay till the moon rose hard and brilliant, and then
quietly, lest his wife should hear from her bed by the wagon, went to
look across the river. Where the downward slope began he came upon
her. She had been watching for some time. They were the only objects
in that bald moonlight. No shrub grew anywhere that reached to the
waist, and the two figures drew together on the lonely hill. They
stood hand in hand and motionless, except that the man bent over the
woman and kissed her. When she spoke of Iowa they had left, he talked
of the new region of their hopes, the country that lay behind the void
hills opposite, where it would not be a struggle to live. He dwelt on
the home they would make, and her mood followed his at last, till
husband and wife were building distant plans together. The Dipper had
swung low when he remarked that they were a couple of fools, and they
went back to their beds. Cold came over the ground, and their musings
turned to dreams. Next morning both were ashamed of their fears.
By four the wagon was on the move. Inside, Nancy's voice was heard
discussing with her mother whether the school-teacher where they were
going to live now would have a black dog with a white tail, that could
swim with a basket in his mouth. They crawled along the edge of the
vast descent, making slow progress, for at times the valley widened
and they receded far from the river, and then circuitously drew close
again where the slant sank abruptly. When the ferryman's cabin came in
sight, the canvas interior of the wagon was hot in the long-risen sun.
The lay of the land had brought them close above the stream, but no
one seemed to be at the cabin on the other side, nor was there any
sign of a ferry. Groves of trees lay in the narrow folds of the
valley, and the water swept black between untenanted shores. Nothing
living could be seen along the scant levels of the bottom-land. Yet
there stood the cabin as they had been told, the only one between the
rapids and the Okanagon; and bright in the sun the Colville
Reservation confronted them. They came upon tracks going down over the
hill, marks of wagons and horses, plain in the soil, and charred
sticks, with empty cans, lying where camps had been. Heartened by this
proof that they were on the right road, John Clallam turned his horses
over the brink. The slant steepened suddenly in a hundred yards,
tilting the wagon so no brake or shoe would hold it if it moved
"All out!" said Clallam. "Either folks travel light in this country
or they unpack." He went down a little way. "That's the trail too," he
said. "Wheel marks down there, and the little bushes are snapped off."
Nancy slipped out. "I'm unpacked," said she. "Oh, what a splendid
hill to go down! We'll go like anything."
"Yes, that surely is the trail," Clallam pursued. "I can see away
down where somebody's left a wheel among them big stones. But where
does he keep his ferry-boat? And where does he keep himself?"
"Now, John, if it's here we're to go down, don't you get to
studying over something else. It'll be time enough after we're at the
bottom. Nancy, here's your chair." Mrs. Clallam began lifting the
lighter things from the wagon.
"Mart," said the father, "we'll have to chain lock the wheels after
we're empty. I guess we'll start with the worst. You and me'll take
the stove apart and get her down somehow. We're in luck to have open
country and no timber to work through. Drop that bedding mother!
Yourself is all you're going to carry. We'll pack that truck on the
"Then pack it now and let me start first. I'll make two trips while
you're at the stove."
"There's the man!" said Nancy.
A man--a white man--was riding up the other side of the river. Near
the cabin he leaned to see something on the ground. Ten yards more and
he was off the horse and picked up something and threw it away. He
loitered along, picking up and throwing till he was at the door. He
pushed it open and took a survey of the interior. Then he went to his
horse, and when they saw him going away on the road he had come, they
set up a shouting, and Mart fired a signal. The rider dived from his
saddle and made head- long into the cabin, where the door clapped to
like a trap. Nothing happened further, and the horse stood on the
"That's the funniest man I ever saw," said Nancy.
"They're all funny over there," said Mart. "I'll signal him again."
But the cabin remained shut, and the deserted horse turned, took a few
first steels of freedom, then trotted briskly down the river.
"Why, then, he don't belong there at all," said Nancy.
"Wait, child, till we know something about it."
"She's liable to be right, Liza. The horse, anyway, don't belong,
or he'd not run off. That's good judgment, Nancy. Right good for a
"I am six years old," said Nancy, "and I know lots more than that."
"Well, let's get mother and the bedding started down. It'll be noon
before we know it."
There were two pack-saddles in the wagon, ready against such
straits as this. The rolls were made, balanced as side packs, and
circled with the swing-ropes, loose cloths, clothes, frying-pans, the
lantern, and the axe tossed in to fill the gap in the middle, canvas
flung over the whole, and the diamond-hitch hauled taut on the first
pack, when a second rider appeared across the river. He came out of a
space between the opposite hills, into which the trail seemed to turn,
and he was leading the first man's horse. The heavy work before them
was forgotten, and the Clallams sat down in a row to watch.
"He's stealing it," said Mrs. Clallam.
"Then the other man will come out and catch him," said Nancy.
Mart corrected them. "A man never steals horses that way. He drives
them up in the mountains, where the owner don't travel much."
The new rider had arrived at the bank and came steadily along till
opposite the door, where he paused and looked up and down the river.
"See him stoop," said Clallam the father. "He's seen the tracks
don't go further."
"I guess he's after the other one," added Clallam the son.
"Which of them is the ferry-man?" said Mrs. Clallam.
The man had got off and gone straight inside the cabin. In the
black of the doorway appeared immediately the first man, dangling in
the grip of the other, who kicked him along to the horse. There the
victim mounted his own animal and rode back down the river. The
chastiser was returning to the cabin, when Mart fired his rifle. The
man stopped short, saw the emigrants, and waved his hand. He
dismounted and came to the edge of the water. They could hear he was
shouting to them, but it was too far for the words to carry. From a
certain reiterated cadence, he seemed to be saying one thing. John and
Mart tried to show they did not understand, and indicated their wagon,
walking to it and getting aboard. On that the stranger redoubled his
signs and shootings, ran to the cabin, where he opened and shut the
door several times, came back, and pointed to the hills.
"He's going away, and can't ferry us over," said Mrs. Clallam.
"And the other man thought he'd gone," said Nancy, "and he came and
caught him in his house."
"This don't suit me," Clallam remarked. "Mart, we'll go to the
shore and talk to him."
When the man saw them descending the hill, he got on his horse and
swam the stream. It carried him below, but he was waiting for them
when they reached the level. He was tall, shambling, and bony, and
roved over them with a pleasant, restless eye.
"Good-morning," said he. "Fine weather. I was baptized Edward
Wilson, but you inquire for Wild-Goose Jake. Them other names are
retired and pensioned. I expect you seen me kick him?"
"Couldn't help seeing."
"Oh, I ain't blamin' you, son, not a bit, I ain't. He can't bile
water without burnin' it, and his toes turns in, and he's blurry round
the finger-nails. He's jest kultus, he is. Hev some?" With a furtive
smile that often ran across his lips, he pulled out a flat bottle, and
all took an acquaintanceship swallow, while the Clallams explained
their journey. "How many air there of yu' slidin' down the hill?" he
inquired, shifting his eye to the wagon.
"I've got my wife and little girl up there. That's all of us. "
"Ladies along! Then I'll step behind this bush." He was dragging
his feet from his waterlogged boots. "Hear them suck now?" he
commented." Didn't hev to think about a wetting onced. But I ain't
young any more. There, I guess I ain't caught a chill." He had whipped
his breeches off and spread them on the sand. "Now you arrive down
this here hill from Ioway, and says you: 'Where's that ferry? 'Ain't
we hit the right spot?' Well, that's what you hev hit. You're all
right, and the spot is hunky-dory, and it's the durned old boat hez
made the mistake, begosh! A cloud busted in this country, and she tore
out fer the coast, and the joke's on her! You'd ought to hev heerd her
cable snap! Whoosh, if that wire didn't screech! Jest last week it
was, and the river come round the corner on us in a wave four feet
high, same as a wall. I was up here on business, and seen the whole
thing. So the ferry she up and bid us good-bye, and lit out for
Astoria with her cargo. Beggin' pardon, hev you tobacco, for mine's in
my wet pants? Twenty-four hogs and the driver, and two Sheeny drummers
bound to the mines with brass jew'lry, all gone to hell, for they
didn't near git to Astoria. They sank in the sight of all, as we run
along the bank. I seen their arms wave, and them hogs rolling over
like 'taters bilin' round in the kettle." Wild-Goose Jake's words came
slow and went more slowly as he looked at the river and spoke, but
rather to himself. "It warn't long, though. I expect it warn't three
minutes till the water was all there was left there. My stars, what a
lot of it! And I might hev been part of that cargo, easy as not.
Freight behind time was all that come between me and them that went.
So, we'd hev gone bobbin' down that flood, me and my piah-chuck."
"Your piah-chuck?" Mart inquired.
The man faced the boy like a rat, but the alertness faded instantly
from his eye, and his lip slackened into a slipshod smile."Why, yes,
sonny, me and my grub-stake. You've been to school, I'll bet, but they
didn't learn yu' Chinook, now, did they? Chinook's the lingo us white
folks trade in with the Siwashes, and we kinder falls into it, talking
along. I was thinkin' how but for delay me and my
grubstake--provisions, ye know--that was consigned to me clear away at
Spokane, might hev been drownded along with them hogs and Hebrews.
That's what the good folks calls a dispensation of the Sauklee
Tyee!--Providence, ye know, in Chinook. 'One shall be taken and the
other left.' And that's what beats me--they got left; and I'm a bigger
sinner than them drummers, for I'm ten years older than they was. And
the poor hogs was better than any of us. That can't be gainsaid. Oh
no! oh no!"
"I mean it, son. Some day such thoughts will come to you." He
stared at the river unsteadily with his light gray eyes.
"Well, if the ferry's gone," said John Clallam, getting on his
legs, "we'll go on down to the next one."
"Hold on! hold on! Did you never hear tell of a raft? I'll put you
folks over this river. Wait till I git my pants on," said he, stalking
nimbly to where they lay.
"It's just this way," Clallam continued; "we're bound for the upper
Okanagon country, and we must get in there to build our cabin before
"Don't you worry about that. It'll take you three days to the next
ferry, while you and me and the boy kin build a raft right here by
to-morrow noon. You hev an axe, I expect? Well, here is timber close,
and your trail takes over to my place on the Okanagon, where you've
got another crossin' to make. And all this time we're keeping the
ladies waitin' up the hill! We'll talk business as we go along; and,
see here, if I don't suit yu', or fail in my bargain, you needn't to
pay me a cent."
He began climbing, and on the way they came to an agreement.
Wild-Goose Jake bowed low to Mrs. Clallam, and as low to Nancy, who
held her mother's dress and said nothing, keeping one finger in her
mouth. All began emptying the wagon quickly, and tins of
baking-powder, with rocking-chairs and flowered quilts, lay on the
hill. Wild-Goose Jake worked hard, and sustained a pleasant talk by
himself. His fluency was of an eagerness that parried interruption or
"So you've come acrosst the Big Bend! Ain't it a cosey place?
Reminds me of them medicine pictures, 'Before and After Using.' The
Big Bend's the way this world looked before using--before the Bible
fixed it up, ye know. Ever seen specimens of Big Bend produce, ma'am?
They send 'em East. Grain and plums and such. The feller that gathered
them curiosities hed hunt forty square miles apiece for 'em. But it's
good-payin' policy, and it fetches lots of settlers to the Territory.
They come here hummin' and walks around the wilderness, and 'Where's
the plums?' says they. 'Can't you see I'm busy?' says the land agent;
and out they goes. But you needn't to worry, ma'am. The country where
you're goin' ain't like that. There's water and timber and rich soil
and mines. Billy Moon has gone there--he's the man run the ferry. When
she wrecked, he pulled his freight for the new mines at Loop Loop."
"Did the man live in the little house?" said Nancy.
"Right there, miss. And nobody lives there any more, so you take it
if you're wantin' a place of your own."
"What made you kick the other man if it wasn't your house?"
"Well, now, if it ain't a good one on him to hev you see that! I'll
tell him a little girl seen that, and maybe he'll feel the disgrace.
Only he's no account, and don't take any experience the reg'lar way.
He's nigh onto thirty, and you'll not believe me, I know, but he ain't
never even learned to spit right."
"Is he yours?" inquired Nancy.
"Gosh! no, miss--beggin' pardon. He's jest workin' for me."
"Did he know you were coming to kick him when he hid?"
"Hid? What's that?" The man's eyes narrowed again into points. "You
folks seen him hide?" he said to Clallam.
"Why, of course; didn't he say anything?"
"He didn't get much chance," muttered Jake. "What did he hide at?"
"I guess so," said Mart. "We took him for the ferry-man, and when
he couldn't hear us--"
"What was he doin'?"
"Just riding along. And so I fired to signal him, and he flew into
"So you fired, and he flew into the door. Oh, h'm." Jake continued
to pack the second horse, attending carefully to the ropes. "I never
knowed he was that weak in the upper story," he said, in about five
minutes. "Knew his brains was tenas, but didn't suspect he were that
weak in the upper story. You're sure he didn't go in till he heerd
"He'd taken a look and was going away," said Mart.
"Now ain't some people jest odd! Now you follow me, and I'll tell
you folks what I'd figured he'd been at. Billy Moon he lived in that
cabin, yu' see. And he had his stuff there, yu, see, and run the
ferry, and a kind of a store. He kept coffee and canned goods and
star-plug and this and that to supply the prospectin' outfits that
come acrosst on his ferry on the trail to the mines. Then a
cloud-burst hits his boat and his job's spoiled on the river, and he
quits for the mines, takin' his stuff along --do you follow me? But he
hed to leave some, and he give me the key, and I was to send the
balance after him next freight team that come along my way.
Leander--that's him I was kickin'--he knowed about it, and he'll steal
a hot stove he's that dumb. He knowed there was stuff here of Billy
Moon's. Well, last night we hed some horses stray, and I says to him,
'Andy, you get up by daylight and find them.' And he gits. But by
seven the horses come in all right of theirselves, and Mr. Leander he
was missin'; and says I to myself, 'I'll ketch you, yu' blamed hobo.'
And I thought I had ketched him, yu' see. Weren't that reasonable of
me? Wouldn't any of you folks hev drawed that conclusion?" The man had
fallen into a wheedling tone as he studied their faces. "Jest put
yourselves in my place," he said.
"Then what was he after?" said Mart.
"Stealin'. But he figured he'd come again."
"He didn't like my gun much."
"Guns always skeers him when he don't know the parties shootin'.
That's his dumbness. Maybe he thought I was after him; he's jest that
distrustful. Begosh! we'll have the laugh on him when he finds he run
from a little girl."
"He didn't wait to see who he was running from," said Mart.
"Of course he didn't. Andy hears your gun and he don't inquire
further, but hits the first hole he kin crawl into. That's Andy!
That's the kind of boy I hev to work for me. All the good ones goes
where you're goin', where the grain grows without irrigation and the
blacktail deer comes out on the hill and asks yu' to shoot 'em for
dinner. Who's ready for the bottom? If I stay talkin' the sun'll go
down on us. Don't yu' let me get started agin. Just you shet me off
twiced anyway each twenty-four hours."
He began to descend with his pack-horse and the first load. All
afternoon they went up and down over the hot bare face of the hill,
until the baggage, heavy and light, was transported and dropped
piecemeal on the shore. The torn-out insides of their home littered
the stones with familiar shapes and colors, and Nancy played among
them, visiting each parcel and folded thing.
"There's the red table-cover!" she exclaimed. "and the big
coffee-grinder. And there's our table, and the hole Mart burned in
it." She took a long look at this. "Oh, how I wish I could see our
pump!" she said, and began to cry.
"You talk to her, mother," said Clallam. "She's tuckered out."
The men returned to bring the wagon. With chain-locked wheels, and
tilted half over by the cross slant of the mountain, it came heavily
down, reeling and sliding on the slippery yellow weeds, and grinding
deep ruts across the faces of the shelving beds of gravel. Jake guided
it as he could, straining back on the bits of the two hunched horses
when their hoofs glanced from the stones that rolled to the bottom;
and the others leaned their weight on a pole lodged between the
spokes, making a balance to the wagon, for it leaned the other way so
far that at any jolt the two wheels left the ground. When it was safe
at the level of the stream, dusk had come and a white flat of mist lay
along the river, striping its course among the gaunt hills. They slept
without moving, and rose early to cut logs, which the horses dragged
to the shore. The outside trunks were nailed and lashed with ropes,
and sank almost below the surface with the weight of the wood fastened
crosswise on top. But the whole floated dry with its cargo, and
crossed clumsily on the quick-wrinkled current. Then it brought the
wagon; and the six horses swam. The force of the river had landed them
below the cabin, and when they had repacked there was too little left
of day to go on. Clallam suggested it was a good time to take Moon's
leavings over to the Okanagon, but Wild-Goose Jake said at once that
their load was heavy enough; and about this they could not change his
mind. He made a journey to the cabin by himself, and returned saying
that he had managed to lock the door.
"Father," said Mart, as they were harnessing next day, "I've been
up there. I went awful early. There's no lock to the door, and the
"I guessed that might be."
"There has been a lock pried off pretty lately. There was a lot of
broken bottles around everywheres, inside and out."
"What do you make out of it?" said Mart.
"Nothing yet. He wants to get us away, and I'm with him there. I
want to get up the Okanagon as soon as we can."
"Well, I'm takin' yu' the soonest way," said Wild-Goose Jake,
behind them. From his casual smile there was no telling what he had
heard. "I'll put your stuff acrosst the Okanagon to-morrow mornin'.
But to-night yourselves'll all be over, and the ladies kin sleep in my
The wagon made good time. The trail crossed easy valleys and over
the yellow grass of the hills, while now and then their guide took a
short-cut. He wished to get home, he said, since there could be no
estimating what Leander might be doing. While the sun was still well
up in the sky they came over a round knob and saw the Okanagon, blue
in the bright afternoon, and the cabin on its further bank. This was a
roomier building to see than common, and a hay-field was by it, and a
bit of green pasture, fenced in. Saddle-horses were tied in front,
heads hanging and feet knuckled askew with long waiting, and from
inside an uneven, riotous din whiffled lightly across the river and
intervening meadow to the hill.
"If you'll excuse me," said Jake, "I'll jest git along ahead, and
see what game them folks is puttin' up on Andy. Likely as not he's
weighin' 'em out flour at two cents, with it costin' me two and a half
on freightin' alone. I'll hev supper ready time you ketch up."
He was gone at once, getting away at a sharp pace, till presently
they could see him swimming the stream. When he was in the cabin the
sounds changed, dropping off to one at a time, and expired. But when
the riders came out into the air, they leaned and collided at random,
whirled their arms, and, screaming till they gathered heart, charged
with wavering menace at the door. The foremost was flung from the
sill, and he shot along toppling and scraped his length in the dust,
while the owner of the cabin stood in the entrance. The Indian picked
himself up, and at some word of Jake's which the emigrants could half
follow by the fierce lift of his arm, all got on their horses and set
up a wailing, like vultures driven off. They went up the river a
little and crossed, but did not come down this side, and Mrs. Clallam
was thankful when their evil noise had died away up the valley. They
had seen the wagon coming, but gave it no attention. A man soon came
over the river from the cabin, and was lounging against a tree when
the emigrants drew up at the margin.
"I don't know what you know," he whined defiantly from the tree,
"but I'm goin' to Cornwall, Connecticut, and I don't care who knows
it." He sent a cowed look at the cabin across the river.
"Get out of the wagon, Nancy," said Clallam. "Mart, help her down."
"I'm going back," said the man, blinking like a scolded dog. "I
ain't stayin' here for nobody. You can tell him I said so, too." Again
his eye slunk sidewise towards the cabin, and instantly back.
"While you're staying," said Mart, "you might as well give a hand
He came with alacrity, and made a shift of unhitching the horses.
"I was better off coupling freight cars on the Housatonic," he soon
remarked. His voice came shallow, from no deeper than his throat, and
a peevish apprehension rattled through it. "That was a good job. And
I've had better, too; forty, fifty, sixty dollars better."
"Shall we unpack the wagon?" Clallam inquired.
"I don't know. You ever been to New Milford? I sold shoes there.
Thirty-five dollars and board."
The emigrants attended to their affairs, watering the horses and
driving picket stakes. Leander uselessly followed behind them with
conversation, blinking and with lower lip sagged, showing a couple of
teeth. "My brother's in business in Pittsfield, Massachusetts," said
he, "and I can get a salary in Bridgeport any day I say so. That a
"No," said Mart. "It's a Winchester."
"I had a Marlin. He's took it from me. I'll bet you never got shot
"Anybody want to shoot you?" Mart inquired.
"Well and I guess you'll believe they did day before yesterday"
"If you're talking about up at that cabin, it was me."
Leander gave Mart a leer."That won't do," said he. "He's put you up
to telling me that, and I'm going to Cornwall, Connecticut. I know
what's good for me, I guess."
"I tell you we were looking for the ferry, and I signalled you
across the river."
"No, no," said Leander. "I never seen you in my life. Don't you be
like him and take me for a fool."
"All right. Why did they want to murder you?"
"Why?" said the man, shrilly. "Why? Hadn't they broke in and filled
themselves up on his piah-chuck till they were crazy-drunk? And when I
came along didn't they--"
"When you came along they were nowhere near there," said Mart.
"Now you're going to claim it was me drunk it and scattered all
them bottles of his," screamed Leander, backing away. "I tell you I
didn't. I told him I didn't, and he knowed it well, too. But he's just
that mean when he's mad he likes to put a thing on me whether or no,
when he never seen me touch a drop of whiskey, nor any one else,
neither. They were riding and shooting loose over the country like
they always do on a drunk. And I'm glad they stole his stuff. What
business had he to keep it at Billy Moon's old cabin and send me away
up there to see it was all right? Let him do his own dirty work. I
ain't going to break the laws on the salary he pays me."
The Clallam family had gathered round Leander, who was stricken
with volubility. "It ain't once in a while, but it's every day and
every week," he went on, always in a woolly scream. "And the longer he
ain't caught the bolder he gets, and puts everything that goes wrong
on to me. Was it me traded them for that liquor this afternoon? It was
his squaw, Big Tracks, and he knowed it well. He lets that mud-faced
baboon run the house when he's off, and I don't have the keys nor
nothing, and never did have. But of course he had to come in and say
it was me just because he was mad about having you see them Siwashes
hollering around. And he come and shook me where I was sittin', and
oh, my, he knowed well the lie he was acting. I bet I've got the marks
on my neck now. See any red marks?" Leander exhibited the back of his
head, but the violence done him had evidently been fleeting. "He'll be
awful good to you, for he's that scared--"
Leander stood tremulously straight in silence, his lip sagging, as
Wild-Goose Jake called pleasantly from the other bank. "Come to
supper, you folks," said he. "Why, Andy, I told you to bring them
across", and you've let them picket their horses. Was you expectin'
Mrs. Clallam to take your arm and ford six feet of water?" For some
reason his voice sounded kind as he spoke to his assistant.
"Well, mother?" said Clallam.
"If it was not for Nancy, John--"
"I know, I know. Out on the shore here on this side would be a
pleasanter bedroom for you, but" (he looked up the valley) "I guess
our friend's plan is more sensible to-night."
So they decided to leave the wagon behind and cross to the cabin.
The horses put them with not much wetting to the other bank, where
Jake, most eager and friendly, hovered to meet his party, and when
they were safe ashore pervaded his premises in their behalf.
"Turn them horses into the pasture, Andy," said he, "and first feed
'em a couple of quarts." It may have been hearing himself say this,
but tone and voice dropped to the confidential and his sentences came
with a chuckle. "Quarts to the horses and quarts to the Siwashes and a
skookum pack of trouble all round, Mrs. Clallam! If I hedn't a-came to
stop it a while ago, why about all the spirits that's in stock jest
now was bein' traded off for some blamed ponies the bears hev let
hobble on the range unswallered ever since I settled here. A store on
a trail like this here, ye see, it hez to keep spirits, of course;
and--well, well! here's my room; you ladies'll excuse, and make
yourselves at home as well as you can."
It was of a surprising neatness, due all to him, they presently
saw; the log walls covered with a sort of bunting that was also
stretched across to make a ceiling below the shingles of the roof;
fresh soap and towels, china service, a clean floor and bed, on the
wall a print of some white and red village among elms, with a covered
bridge and the water running over an apron-dam just above; and a rich
smell of whiskey everywhere. "Fix up as comfortable as yu' can," the
host repeated, "and I'll see how Mrs. Jake's tossin' the flapjacks.
She's Injun, yu' know, and five years of married life hadn't learned
her to toss flapjacks. Now if I was you" (he was lingering in the
doorway) "I wouldn't shet that winder so quick. It don't smell nice
yet for ladies in here, and I'd hev liked to git the time to do better
for ye; but them Siwashes--well, of course, you folks see how it is.
Maybe it ain't always and only white men that patronizes our goods.
Uncle Sam is a long way off, and I don't say we'd ought to, but when
the cat's away, why the mice will, ye know--they most always will."
There was a rattle of boards outside, at which he shut the door
quickly, and they heard him run. A light muttering came in at the
window, and the mother, peeping out, saw Andy fallen among a rubbish
of crates and empty cans, where he lay staring, while his two fists
beat up and down like a disordered toy. Wild-Goose Jake came, and
having lifted him with great tenderness, was laying him flat as
Elizabeth Clallam hurried to his help.
"No, ma'am," he sighed, "you can't do nothing, I guess."
"Just let me go over and get our medicines."
"Thank you, ma'am," said Jake, and the pain on his face was
miserable to see; "there ain't no medicine. We're kind of used to
this, Andy and me. Maybe, if you wouldn't mind stayin' till he comes
to--Why, a sick man takes comfort at the sight of a lady."
When the fit had passed they helped him to his feet, and Jake led
Mrs. Jake made her first appearance upon the guests sitting down to
their meal, when she waited on table, passing busily forth from the
kitchen with her dishes. She had but three or four English words, and
her best years were plainly behind her; but her cooking was good,
fried and boiled with sticks of her own chopping, and she served with
industry. Indeed, a squaw is one of the few species of the domestic
wife that survive today upon our continent. Andy seemed now to keep
all his dislike for her, and followed her with a scowling eye, while
he frequented Jake, drawing a chair to sit next him when he smoked by
the wall after supper, and some- times watching him with a sort of
clouded affection upon his face. He did not talk, and the seizure had
evidently jarred his mind as well as his frame. When the squaw was
about lighting a lamp he brushed her arm in a childish way so that the
match went out, and set him laughing. She poured out a harangue in
Chinook, showing the dead match to Jake, who rose and gravely lighted
the lamp himself, Andy laughing more than ever. When Mrs. Clallam had
taken Nancy with her to bed, Jake walked John Clallam to the
river-bank, and looking up and down, spoke a little of his real mind.
"I guess you see how it is with me. Anyway, I don't commonly hev
use for stranger-folks in this house. But that little girl of yourn
started cryin' about not havin' the pump along that she'd been used to
seein' in the yard at home. And I says to myself, 'Look a-here, Jake,
I don't care if they do ketch on to you and yer blamed whiskey
business. They're not the sort to tell on you.' Gee! but that about
the pump got me! And I says, 'Jake, you're goin' to give them the best
you hev got.' Why, that Big Bend desert and lonesome valley of the
Columbia hez chilled my heart in the days that are gone when I weren't
used to things; and the little girl hed came so fur! And I knowed how
she was a-feelin'."
He stopped, and seemed to be turning matters over.
"I'm much obliged to you," said Clallam.
"And your wife was jest beautiful about Andy. You've saw me wicked
to Andy. I am, and often, for I rile turruble quick, and God forgive
me! But when that boy gits at his meanness--yu've seen jest a touch of
it-- there's scarcely livin' with him. It seems like he got reg'lar
inspired. Some days he'll lie--make up big lies to the fust man comes
in at the door. They ain't harmless, his lies ain't. Then he'll trick
my woman, that's real good to him; and I believe he'd lick whiskey up
off the dirt. And every drop is poison for him with his complaint. But
I'd ought to remember. You'd surely think I could remember, and
forbear. Most likely he made a big talk to you about that cabin."
John Clallam told him.
"Well, that's all true, for onced. I did think he'd been up to
stealin' that whiskey gradual, 'stead of fishin', the times he was out
all day. And the salary I give him"--Jake laughed a little--"ain't
enough to justify a man's breaking the law. I did take his rifle away
when he tried to shoot my woman. I guess it was Siwashes bruck into
"I'm pretty certain of it," said Clallam.
"You? What makes you?"
John began the tale of the galloping dots, and Jake stopped walking
to listen the harder. "Yes," he said; "that's bad. That's jest bad.
They hev carried a lot off to drink. That's the worst."
He had little to say after this, but talked under his tongue as
they went to the house, where he offered a bed to Clallam and Mart.
They would not turn him out, so he showed them over to a haystack,
where they crawled in and went to sleep.
Most white men know when they have had enough whiskey. Most Indians
do not. This is a difference between the races of which government has
taken notice. Government says that "no ardent spirits shall be
introduced under any presence into the Indian country." It also says
that the white man who attempts to break this law "shall be punished
by imprisonment for not more than two years and by a fine of not more
than three hundred dollars." It further says that if any
superintendent of Indian affairs has reason to suspect a man, he may
cause the "boats, stores, packages, wagons, sleds, and places of
deposit" of such person to be searched, and if ardent spirits be found
it shall be forfeit, together with the boats and all other substances
with it connected, one half to the informer and the other half to the
use of the United States. The courts and all legal machines necessary
for trial and punishment of offenders are oiled and ready; two years
is a long while in jail; three hundred dollars and confiscation sounds
heavy; altogether the penalty looks severe on the printed page--and
all the while there's no brisker success in our far West than selling
whiskey to Indians. Very few people know what the whiskey is made of,
and the Indian does not care. He drinks till he drops senseless. If he
has killed nobody and nobody him during the process, it is a good
thing, for then the matter ends with his getting sober and going home
to his tent till such happy time when he can put his hand on some
further possession to trade away. The white offender is caught now and
then; but Okanagon County lies pretty snug from the arm of the law.
It's against Canada to the north, and the empty county of Stevens to
the east; south of it rushes the Columbia, with the naked horrible Big
Bend beyond, and to its west rises a domain of unfooted mountains.
There is law up in the top of it at Conconully sometimes, but not much
even to-day, for that is still a new country, where flow the Methow,
the Ashinola, and the Similikameen.
Consequently a cabin like Wild-Goose Jake's was a holiday place.
The blanketed denizens of the reservation crossed to it, and the
citizens who had neighboring cabins along the trail repaired here to
spend what money they had. As Mrs. Clallam lay in her bed she heard
customers arrive. Two or three loud voices spoke in English, and
several Indians and squaws seemed to be with the party, bantering in
Chinook. The visitors were in too strong force for Jake's word about
coming some other night to be of any avail.
"Open your cellar and quit your talk," Elizabeth heard, and next
she heard some door that stuck, pulled open with a shriek of the
warped timber. Next they were gambling, and made not much noise over
it at first; but the Indians in due time began to lose to the soberer
whites, becoming quarrelsome, and raising a clumsy disturbance, though
it was plain the whites had their own way and were feared. The voices
rose, and soon there was no moment that several were not shouting
curses at once, till Mrs. Clallam stopped her ears. She was still for
a time, hearing only in a muffled way, when all at once the smell of
drink and tobacco, that had sifted only a little through the cracks,
grew heavy in the room, and she felt Nancy shrink close to her side.
"Mother, mother," the child whispered, "what's that?"
It had gone beyond card-playing with the company in the saloon;
they seemed now to be having a savage horse-play, those on their feet
tramping in their scuffles upon others on the floor, who bellowed
incoherently. Elizabeth Clallam took Nancy in her arms and told her
that nobody would come where they were.
But the child was shaking. "Yes, they will," she whispered, in
terror. "They are!" And she began a tearless sobbing, holding her
mother with her whole strength.
A little sound came close by the bed, and Elizabeth's senses
stopped so that for half a minute she could not stir. She stayed rigid
beneath the quilt, and Nancy clung to her. Something was moving over
the floor. It came quite near, but turned, and its slight rustle
crawled away towards the window.
"Who is that?" demanded Mrs. Clallam, sitting up.
There was no answer, but the slow creeping continued, always close
along the floor, like the folds of stuff rubbing, and hands feeling
their way in short slides against the boards. She had no way to find
where her husband was sleeping, and while she thought of this and
whether or not to rush out at the door, the table was gently shaken,
there was a drawer opened, and some object fell.
"Only a thief," she said to herself, and in a sort of sharp joy
cried out her question again.
The singular broken voice of a woman answered, seemingly in fear.
"Match-es," it said; and "Match-es" said a second voice, pronouncing
with difficulty, like the first. She knew it was some of the squaws,
and sprang from the bed, asking what they were doing there.
"Match-es," they murmured; and when she had struck a light she saw how
the two were cringing, their blankets huddled round them. Their
motionless black eyes looked up at her from the floor where they lay
sprawled, making no offer to get up. It was clear to her from the
pleading fear in the one word they answered to whatever she said, that
they had come here to hide from the fury of the next room; and as she
stood listening to this she would have let them remain, but their
escape had been noticed. A man burst into the room, and at sight of
her and Nancy stopped, and was blundering excuses, when Jake caught
his arm and had dragged him almost out, but he saw the two on the
floor; at this, getting himself free, he half swept the crouching
figures with his boot as they fled out of the room, and the door was
swung shut. Mrs. Clallam heard his violent words to the squaws for
daring to disturb the strangers, and there followed the heavy lashing
of a quirt, with screams and lamenting. No trouble came from the
Indian husbands, for they were stupefied on the ground, and when their
intelligences quickened enough for them to move, the punishment was
long over and no one in the house awake but Elizabeth and Nancy,
seated together in their bed, watching for the day. Mother and
daughter heard them rise to go out one by one, and the hoof-beats of
their horses grew distant up and down the river. As the rustling trees
lighted and turned transparent in the rising sun, Jake roused those
that remained and got them away. Later he knocked at the door.
"I hev a little raft fixed this morning," said he, "and I guess we
can swim the wagon over here."
"Whatever's quickest to take us from this place," Elizabeth
"Breakfast'll be ready, ma'am, whenever you say."
"I am ready now. I shall want to start ferrying our things--
Where's Mr. Clallam? Tell him to come here."
"I will, ma'am. I'm sorry--"
"Tell Mr. Clallam to come here, please."
John had slept sound in his haystack, and heard nothing. "Well," he
said, after comforting his wife and Nancy, "you were better off in the
room, anyway. I'd not blame him so, Liza. How was he going to help
But Elizabeth was a woman, and just now saw one thing alone: if
selling whiskey led to such things in this country, the man who sold
it was much worse than any mere law-breaker. John Clallam, being now a
long time married, made no argument. He was looking absently at the
open drawer of a table. "That's queer," he said, and picked up a
She had no curiosity for anything in that room, and he laid it in
the drawer again, his thoughts being taken up with the next step of
their journey, and what might be coming to them all.
During breakfast Jake was humble about the fright the ladies had
received in his house, explaining how he thought he had acted for the
best; at which Clallam and Mart said that in a rough country folks
must look for rough doings, and get along as well as they can; but
Elizabeth said nothing. The little raft took all but Nancy over the
river to the wagon, where they set about dividing their belongings in
loads that could be floated back, one at a time, and Jake returned to
repair some of the disorder that remained from the night at the cabin.
John and Mart poled the first cargo across, and while they were on the
other side, Elizabeth looked out of the wagon, where she was working
alone, and saw five Indian riders coming down the valley. The dust
hung in the air they had rushed through, and they swung apart and
closed again as she had seen before; so she looked for a rifle; but
the firearms had gone over the Okanagon with the first load. She got
down and stood at the front wheel of the wagon, confronting the riders
when they pulled up their horses. One climbed unsteadily from his
saddle and swayed towards her.
"Drink!" said he, half friendly, and held out a bottle.
Elizabeth shook her head.
"Drink," he grunted again, pushing the bottle at her. "Piah-chuck!
Skookurn!" He had a slugglish animal grin, and when she drew back,
tipped the bottle into his mouth, and directly choked, so that his
friends on their horses laughed loud as he stood coughing. "Heap
good," he remarked, looking at Elizabeth, who watched his eyes swim
with the plot of the drink. "Where you come back?" he inquired,
touching the wagon. "You cross Okanagon? Me cross you; cross horses;
cross all. Heap cheap. What yes?"
The others nodded. "Heap cheap," they said.
"We don't want you," said Elizabeth.
"No cross? Maybe he going cross you? What yes?"
Again Elizabeth nodded.
"Maybe he Jake?" pursued the Indian.
"Yes, he is. We don't want you."
"We cross you all same. He not."
The Indian spoke loud and thick, and Elizabeth looked over the
river where her husband was running with a rifle, and Jake behind him,
holding a warning hand on his arm. Jake called across to the Indians,
who listened sullenly, but got on their horses and went up the river.
"Now," said Jake to Clallam, "they ain't gone. Get your wife over
here so she kin set in my room till I see what kin be done."
John left him at once, and crossed on the raft. His wife was
stepping on it, when the noise and flight of riders descended along
the other bank, where Jake was waiting. They went in a circle, with
hoarse shouts, round the cabin as Mart with Nancy came from the
pasture. The boy no sooner saw them than he caught his sister up and
carried her quickly away among the corrals and sheds, where the two
went out of sight.
"You stay here, Liza," her husband said. "I'll go back over."
But Mrs. Clallam laughed.
"Get ashore," he cried to her. "Quick!"
"Where you go, I go, John."
"What good, what good, in the name--"
"Then I'll get myself over," said she. And he seized her as she
would have jumped into the stream.
While they crossed, the Indians had tied their horses and rambled
into the cabin. Jake came from it to stop the Clallams.
"They're after your contract," said he, quietly. "They say they're
going to have the job of takin' the balance of your stuff that's left
acrosst the Okanagon over to this side."
"What did you say?" asked Mrs. Clallam.
"I set 'em up drinks to gain time."
"Do you want me there?" said Clallam.
"Begosh, no! That would mix things worse."
"Can't you make them go away?" Elizabeth inquired.
"Me and them, ye see, ma'am, we hev a sort of bargain they're to
git certain ferryin'. I can't make 'em savvy how I took charge of you.
If you want them--" He paused.
"We want them!" exclaimed Elizabeth. "If you're joking, it's a poor
"It ain't no joke at all, ma'am." Jake's face grew brooding. "Of
course folks kin say who they'll be ferried by. And you may believe
I'd rather do it. I didn't look for jest this complication; but maybe
I kin steer through; and it's myself I've got to thank. Of course, if
them Siwashes did git your job, they'd sober up gittin' ready. And--"
The emigrants waited, but he did not go on with what was in his
mind. "It's all right," said he, in a brisk tone. "Whatever's
a-comin's a-comin'." He turned abruptly towards the door. "Keep
yerselves away jest now," he added, and went inside.
The parents sought their children, finding Mart had concealed Nancy
in the haystack. They put Mrs. Clallam also in a protected place, as a
loud altercation seemed to be rising at the cabin; this grew as they
listened, and Jake's squaw came running to hide herself. She could
tell them nothing, nor make them understand more than they knew; but
she touched John's rifle, signing to know if it were loaded, and was
greatly relieved when he showed her the magazine full of cartridges.
The quarrelling had fallen silent, but rose in a new gust of
fierceness, sounding as if in the open air and coming their way. No
Indian appeared, however, and the noise passed to the river, where the
emigrants soon could hear wood being split in pieces.
John risked a survey. "It's the raft," he said. "They're smashing
it. Now they're going back. Stay with the children, Liza."
"You're never going to that cabin?" she said.
"He's in a scrape, mother."
John started away, heedless of his wife's despair. At his coming
the Indians shouted and surrounded him, while he heard Jake say, "Drop
your gun and drink with them."
"Drink!" said Andy, laughing with the same screech he had made at
the match going out. "We re all going to Canaan, Connecticut."
Each Indian held a tin cup, and at the instant these were emptied
they were thrust towards Jake, who filled them again, going and coming
through a door that led a step or two down into a dark place which was
half underground. Once he was not quick, or was imagined to be
refusing, for an Indian raised his cup and drunkenly dashed it on
Jake's head. Jake laughed good-humoredly, and filled the cup.
"It's our one chance," said he to John as the Indian, propping
himself by a hand on the wall, offered the whiskey to Clallam.
"We cross you Okanagon," he said. "What yes?"
"Maybe you say no?" said another, pressing the emigrant to the
A third interfered, saying something in their language, at which
the other two disagreed. They talked a moment with threatening rage
till suddenly all drew pistols. At this the two remaining stumbled
among the group, and a shot went into the roof. Jake was there in one
step with a keg, that they no sooner saw than they fell upon it, and
the liquor jetted out as they clinched, wrestling over the room till
one lay on his back with his mouth at the open bung. It was wrenched
from him, and directly there was not a drop more in it. They tilted
it, and when none ran out, flung the keg out of doors and crowded to
the door of the dark place, where Jake barred the way. "Don't take to
that yet!" he said to Clallam, for John was lifting his rifle.
"Piah-chuck!" yelled the Indians, scarcely able to stand. All other
thought had left them, and a new thought came to Jake. He reached for
a fresh keg, while they held their tin cups in the left hand and
pistols in the right, pushing so it was a slow matter to get the keg
opened. They were fast nearing the sodden stage, and one sank on the
floor. Jake glanced in at the door behind him, and filled the cups
once again. While all were drinking he went in the store-room and set
more liquor open, beckoning them to come as they looked up from the
rims to which their lips had been glued. They moved round behind the
table, grasping it to keep on their feet, with the one on the floor
crawling among the legs of the rest. When they were all inside, Jake
leaped out and locked the door.
"They kin sleep now," said he. "Gunpowder won't be needed. Keep
wide away from in front."
There was a minute of stillness within, and then a groveling noise
and struggle. A couple of bullets came harmless through the door.
Those inside fought together as well as they could, while those
outside listened as it grew less, the bodies falling stupefied without
further sound of rising. One or two, still active, began striking at
the boards with what heavy thing they could find, until suddenly the
blade of an axe crashed through.
"Keep away!" cried Jake. But Andy had leaped insanely in front of
the door, and fell dead with a bullet through him. With a terrible
scream, Jake flung himself at the place, and poured six shots through
the panel; then, as Clallam caught him, wrenched at the lock, and they
saw inside. Whiskey and blood dripped together, and no one was moving
there. It was liquor with some, and death with others, and all of it
lay upon the guilty soul of Jake.
"You deserve killing yourself," said Clallam.
"That's been attended to," replied Jake, and he reeled, for during
his fire some Indian had shot once more.
Clallam supported him to the room where his wife and Nancy had
passed the night, and laid him on the bed. "I'll get Mrs. Clallam,"
"If she'll be willin' to see me," said the wounded man, humbly.
She came, dazed beyond feeling any horror, or even any joy, and she
did what she could.
"It was seein' 'em hit Andy," said Jake. "Is Andy gone? Yes, I kin
tell he's gone from your face." He shut his eyes, and lay still so
long a time that they thought he might be dying now; but he moved at
length, and looked slowly round the wall till he saw the print of the
village among the elms and the covered bridge. His hand lifted to show
them this. "That's the road," said he. "Andy and me used to go fishin'
acrosst that bridge. Did you ever see the Housatonic River? I've
fished a lot there. Cornwall, Connecticut. The hills are pretty there.
Then Andy got worse. You look in that drawer." John remembered, and
when he got out the tintype, Jake stretched for it eagerly. "His
mother and him, age ten," he explained to Elizabeth, and held it for
her to see, then studied the faces in silence. "You kin tell it's
Andy, can't yu'?" She told him yes. "That was before we knowed he
weren't--weren't goin' to grow up like the other boys he played with.
So after a while, when she was gone, I got ashamed seein' Andy's
friends makin' their way when he couldn't seem to, and so I took him
away where nobody hed ever been acquainted with us. I was layin' money
by to get him the best doctor in Europe. I 'ain't been a good man."
A faintness mastered him, and Elizabeth would have put the picture
on the table, but his hand closed round it. They let him lie so, and
Elizabeth sat there, while John, with Mart, kept Nancy away till the
horror in the outer room was made invisible. They came and went
quietly, and Jake seemed in a deepening torpor, once only rousing
suddenly to call his son's name, and then, upon looking from one to
the other, he recollected, and his eyes closed again. His mind
wandered, but very little, for torpor seemed to be overcoming him. The
squaw had stolen in, and sat cowering and useless. Towards sundown
John's heart sickened at the sound of more horsemen; but it was only
two white men, a sheriff and his deputy.
"Go easy," said John. "He's not going to resist."
"What's up here, anyway? Who are you?"
Clallam explained, and was evidently not so much as half believed.
"If there are Indians killed," said the sheriff, "there's still
another matter for the law to settle with him. We're sent to search
for whiskey. The county's about tired of him."
"You'll find him pretty sick," said John.
"People I find always are pretty sick," said the sheriff, and
pushed his way in, stopping at sight of Mrs. Clallam and the figure on
the bed. "I'm arresting that man, madam," he said, with a shade of
apology. "The county court wants him."
Jake sat up and knew the sheriff. "You're a little late, Proctor,"
said he. "The Supreme Court's a-goin' to call my case." Then he fell
back, for his case had been called.
Many fish were still in the pool; and though luck seemed to have
left me, still I stood at the end of the point, casting and casting my
vain line, while the Virginian lay and watched. Noonday's extreme
brightness had left the river and the plain in cooling shadow, but
spread and glowed over the yet undimmed mountains. Westward, the
Tetons lifted their peaks pale and keen as steel through the high,
radiant air. Deep down between the blue gashes of their canons the sun
sank long shafts of light, and the glazed laps of their snow-fields
shone separate and white upon their lofty vastness, like handkerchiefs
laid out to dry. Opposite, above the valley, rose that other range,
the Continental Divide, not sharp, but long and ample. It was bare in
some high places, and below these it stretched everywhere, high and
low, in brown and yellow parks, or in purple miles of pine a world of
serene undulations, a great sweet country of silence.
A passing band of antelope stood herded suddenly together at sight
of us; then a little breeze blew for a moment from us to them, and
they drifted like phantoms away, and were lost in the levels of the
"If humans could do like that," said the Virginian, watching them
"Run, you mean?" said I.
"Tell a foe by the smell of him," explained the cow-puncher; "at
fifty yards--or a mile."
"Yes," I said; "men would be hard to catch."
"A woman needs it most," he murmured. He lay down again in his
lounging sprawl, with his grave eyes intently fixed upon my
The gradual day mounted up the hills farther from the floor of
earth. Warm airs eddied in its wake slowly, stirring the scents of the
plain together. I looked at the Southerner; and there was no guessing
what his thoughts might be at work upon behind that drowsy glance.
Then for a moment a trout rose, but only to look and whip down again
into the pool that wedged its calm into the riffle from below
"Second thoughts," mused the Virginian; and as the trout came no
more, "Second thoughts," he repeated; "and even a fish will have them
sooner than folks has them in this mighty hasty country." And he
rolled over into a new position of ease.
At whom or what was he aiming these shafts of truth? Or did he
moralize merely because health and the weather had steeped him in that
serenity which lifts us among the spheres? Well, sometimes he went on
from these beginnings and told me wonderful things.
"I reckon," said he, presently, "that knowing when to change your
mind would be pretty near knowledge enough for plain people."
Since my acquaintance with him--this was the second summer of it--I
had come to understand him enough to know that he was unfathomable.
Still, for a moment it crossed my thoughts that perhaps now he was
discoursing about himself. He had allowed a jealous foreman to fall
out with him at Sunk Creek ranch in the spring, during Judge Henry's
absence. The man, having a brief authority, parted with him. The
Southerner had chosen that this should be the means of ultimately
getting the foreman dismissed and himself recalled. It was strategic.
As he put it to me: "When I am gone, it will be right easy for the
Judge to see which of us two he wants. And I'll not have done any
talking." All of which duly befell in the autumn as he had planned:
the foreman was sent off, his assistant promoted, and the Virginian
again hired. But this was meanwhile. He was indulging himself in a
several months' drifting, and while thus drifting he had written to
me. That is how we two came to be on our way from the railroad to hunt
the elk and the mountain-sheep, and were pausing to fish where Buffalo
Fork joins its waters with Snake River. In those days the antelope
still ran there in hundreds, the Yellowstone Park was a new thing, and
mankind lived very far away. Since meeting me with the horses in Idaho
the Virginian had been silent, even for him. So now I stood casting my
fly, and trusting that he was not troubled with second thoughts over
"Have yu' studded much about marriage?" he now inquired. His
serious eyes met mine as he lay stretched along the ground.
"Not much," I said; "not very much."
"Let's swim," he said. "They have changed their minds."
Forthwith we shook off our boots and dropped our few clothes, and
heedless of what fish we might now drive away, we went into the cool,
slow, deep breadth of backwater which the bend makes just there. As he
came up near me, shaking his head of black hair, the cowpuncher was
smiling a little.
"Not that any number of baths," he remarked, "would conceal a man's
objectionableness from an antelope--not even a she-one."
Then he went under water, and came up again a long way off.
We dried before the fire, without haste. To need no clothes is
better than purple and fine linen. Then he tossed the flap-jacks, and
I served the trout, and after this we lay on our backs upon a
buffalo-hide to smoke and watch the Tetons grow more solemn, as the
large stars opened out over the sky.
"I don't care if I never go home," said I.
The Virginian nodded. "It gives all the peace o' being asleep with
all the pleasure o' feeling the widest kind of awake," said he. "Yu'
might say the whole year's strength flows hearty in every waggle of
your thumb." We lay still for a while. "How many things surprise yu'
any more?" he next asked.
I began considering; but his silence had at length worked round to
"Inventions, of course," said he, "these hyeh telephones an' truck
yu' see so much about in the papers--but I ain't speaking o' such
things of the brain. It is just the common things I mean. The things
that a livin', noticin' man is liable to see and maybe sample for
himself. How many o' them kind can surprise yu' still?"
I still considered.
"Most everything surprised me onced," the cow-puncher continued, in
his gentle Southern voice. "I must have been a mighty green boy. Till
I was fourteen or fifteen I expect I was astonished by ten o'clock
every morning. But a man begins to ketch on to folks and things after
a while. I don't consideh that when--that afteh a man is, say
twenty-five, it is creditable he should get astonished too easy. And
so yu've not examined yourself that-away?"
I had not.
"Well, there's two things anyway--I know them for sure--that I
expect will always get me--don't care if I live to thirty-five, or
forty-five, or eighty. And one's the ways lightning can strike." He
paused. Then he got up and kicked the fire, and stood by it, staring
at me. "And the other is the people that other people will marry."
He stopped again; and I said nothing.
"The people that other people will marry," he repeated. "That will
surprise me till I die."
"If my sympathy--" I began.
But the brief sound that he gave was answer enough, and more than
enough cure for my levity.
"No," said he, reflectively; "not any such thing as a fam'ly for
me, yet. Never, it may be. Not till I can't help it. And that woman
has not come along so far. But I have been sorry for a woman lately. I
keep thinking what she will do. For she will have to do something. Do
yu' know Austrians? Are they quick in their feelings, like I-talians?
Or are they apt to be sluggish, same as Norwegians and them other
I told him what little I knew about Austrians.
"This woman is the first I have ever saw of 'em," he continued. "Of
course men will stampede into marriage in this hyeh Western country,
where a woman is a scanty thing. It ain't what Hank has done that
surprises me. And it is not on him that the sorrow will fall. For she
is good. She is very good. Do yu' remember little black Hank? From
Texas he claims he is. He was working on the main ditch over at Sunk
Creek last summer when that Em'ly hen was around. Well, seh, yu' would
not have pleasured in his company. And this year Hank is placer-mining
on Galena Creek, where we'll likely go for sheep. There's Honey Wiggin
and a young fello' named Lin McLean, and some others along with the
outfit. But Hank's woman will not look at any of them, though the
McLean boy is a likely hand. I have seen that; for I have done a right
smart o' business that-a-way myself, here and there. She will mend
their clothes for them, and she will cook lunches for them any time o'
day, and her conduct gave them hopes at the start. But I reckon
Austrians have good religion."
"No better than Americans," said I.
But the Virginian shook his head. "Better'n what I've saw any
Americans have. Of course I am not judging a whole nation by one
citizen, and especially her a woman. And of course in them big
Austrian towns the folks has shook their virtuous sayin's loose from
their daily doin's, same as we have. I expect selling yourself brings
the quickest returns to man or woman all the world over. But I am
speakin' not of towns, but of the back country, where folks don't just
merely arrive on the cyars, but come into the world the natural way,
and grow up slow. Onced a week anyway they see the bunch of old
grave-stones that marks their fam'ly. Their blood and name are knowed
about in the neighborhood, and it's not often one of such will sell
themselves. But their religion ain't to them like this woman's. They
can be rip-snortin' or'tn'ary in ways. Now she is getting naught but
hindrance and temptation and meanness from her husband and every
livin' thing around her--yet she keeps right along, nor does she
mostly bear any signs in her face. She has cert'nly come from where
they are used to believing in God and a hereafter mighty hard, and all
day long. She has got one o' them crucifixes, and Hank can't make her
quit prayin' to it. But what is she going to do?"
"He will probably leave her," I said.
"Yes," said the Virginian--"leave her. Alone; her money all spent;
knowin' maybe twenty words of English; and thousands of miles away
from everything she can understand. For our words and ways is all
alike strange to her."
"Then why did he want such a person?" I exclaimed.
There was surprise in the grave glance which the cow-puncher gave
me. "Why, any man would," he answered. "I wanted her myself, till I
found she was good."
I looked at this son of the wilderness, standing thoughtful and
splendid by the fire, and unconscious of his own religion that had
unexpectedly shone forth in these last words. But I said nothing; for
words too intimate, especially words of esteem, put him invariably to
"I had forgot to mention her looks to yu'." he pursued, simply.
"She is fit for a man." He stopped again.
"Then there was her wages that Hank saw paid to her," he resumed.
"And so marriage was but a little thing to Hank--agaynst such a heap
of advantages. As for her idea in takin' such as him--maybe it was
that he was small and she was big; tall and big. Or maybe it was just
his white teeth. Them ridiculous reasons will bring a woman to a man,
haven't yu' noticed? But maybe it was just her sorrowful, helpless
state, left stranded as she was, and him keeping himself near her and
sober for a week.
"I had been seein' this hyeh Yellowstone Park, takin' in its
geysers, and this and that, for my enjoyment; and when I found what
they claimed about its strange sights to be pretty near so, I landed
up at Galena Creek to watch the boys prospectin'. Honey Wiggin, yu'
know, and McLean, and the rest. And so they got me to go down with
Hank to Gardner for flour and sugar and truck, which we had to wait
for. We lay around the Mammoth Springs and Gardner for three days,
playin' cyards with friends. And I got plumb interested in them
tourists. For I had partly forgot about Eastern people. And hyeh they
came fresh every day to remind a man of the great size of his country.
Most always they would talk to yu' if yu' gave 'em the chance; and I
did. I have come mighty nigh regrettin' that I did not keep a tally of
the questions them folks asked me. And as they seemed genu-winely
anxious to believe anything at all, and the worser the thing the
believinger they'd grow, why I--well, there's times when I have got to
lie to keep in good health.
"So I fooled and I fooled. And one noon I was on the front poach of
the big hotel they have opened at the Mammoth Springs for tourists,
and the hotel kid, bein' on the watchout, he sees the dust comin' up
the hill, and he yells out, 'Stage!'
"Yu've not saw that hotel yet, seh? Well, when the kid says
'Stage,' the consequences is most sudden. About as conspicuous, yu'
may say, as when Old Faithful Geyser lets loose. Yu' see, one batch o'
tourists pulls out right after breakfast for Norris Basin, leavin'
things empty and yawnin'. By noon the whole hotel outfit has been
slumberin' in its chairs steady for three hours. Maybe yu' might hear
a fly buzz, but maybe not. Everything's liable to be restin', barrin'
the kid. He's a-watchin' out. Then he sees the dust, and he says
'Stage!' and it touches the folks off like a hot pokeh. The Syndicate
manager he lopes to a lookin'glass, and then organizes himself behind
the book; and the young photograph chap bounces out o' his private
door like one o' them cuckoo clocks; and the fossil man claws his
specimens and curiosities into shape, and the porters line up same as
parade, and away goes the piano and fiddles up-stairs. It is mighty
conspicuous. So Hank he come rennin' out from somewheres too, and the
stage drives up.
"Then out gets a tall woman, and I noticed her yello' hair. She was
kind o' dumb-eyed, yet fine to see. I reckon Hank noticed her too,
right away. And right away her trouble begins. For she was a lady's
maid, and her lady was out of the stage and roundin' her up quick. And
it's ' Where have you put the keys, Willomene?' The lady was rich and
stinkin' lookin', and had come from New Yawk in her husband's private
"Well, Willomene fussed around in her pockets, and them keys was
not there. So she started explaining in tanglefoot English to her lady
how her lady must have took them from her before leavin' the cyar. But
the lady seemed to relish hustlin' herself into a rage. She got
tolerable conspicuous, too. And after a heap o' words, 'You are
discharged,' she says; and off she struts. Soon her husband came out
to Willomene, still standin' like statuary, and he pays her a good sum
of cash, and he goes away, and she keeps a standing yet for a spell.
Then all of a sudden she says something I reckon was 'O, Jesus,' and
sits down and starts a cryin'.
"I would like to have given her comfort. But we all stood around on
the hotel poach, and the right thing would not come into my haid. Then
the baggage-wagon came in from Cinnabar, and they had picked the keys
up on the road between Cinnabar and Gardner. So the lady and her
toilet was rescued, but that did no good to Willomene. They stood her
trunk down along with the rest--a brass-nailed little old concern--and
there was Willomene out of a job and afoot a long, long ways from her
own range; and so she kept sitting, and onced in a while she'd cry
some more. We got her a room in the cheap hotel where the Park drivers
sleeps when they're in at the Springs, and she acted grateful like,
thanking the boys in her tanglefoot English. Next mawnin' her folks
druv off in a private team to Norris Basin, and she seemed dazed. For
I talked with her then, and questioned her as to her wishes, but she
could not say what she wished, nor if it was East or West she would
go; and I reckon she was too stricken to have wishes.
"Our stuff for Galena Creek delayed on the railroad, and I got to
know her, and then I quit givin' Hank cause for jealousy. I kept
myself with the boys, and I played more cyards, while Hank he sca'cely
played at all. One night I came on them--Hank and Willomene--walkin'
among the pines where the road goes down the hill. Yu' should have saw
that pair o' lovers. Her big shape was plain and kind o' steadfast in
the moon, and alongside of her little black Hank! And there it was. Of
course it ain't nothing to be surprised at that a mean and triflin'
man tries to seem what he is not when he wants to please a good woman.
But why does she get fooled, when it's so plain to other folks that
are not givin' it any special thought? All the rest of the men and
women at the Mammoth under- stood Hank. They knowed he was a worthless
proposition. And I cert'nly relied on his gettin' back to his whiskey
and openin' her eyes that way. But he did not. I met them next evening
again by the Liberty Cap. Sup- posin' I'd been her brother or her
mother, what use was it me warning her? Brothers and mothers don't get
"The railroad brought the stuff for Galena Creek, and Hank would
not look at it on account of his courtin'. I took it alone myself by
Yancey's and the second bridge and Miller Creek to the camp, nor I
didn't tell Willomene good-bye, for I had got disgusted at her
The Virginian shifted his position, and jerked his overalls to a
more comfortable fit. Then he continued:
"They was married the Tuesday after at Livingston, and Hank must
have been pow'ful pleased at himself. For he gave Willomene a wedding
present, with the balance of his cash, spending his last nickel on
buying her a red-tailed parrot they had for sale at the First National
Bank. The son-of-a-gun hollad so freely at the bank, the president
awde'd the cashier to get shed of the out-ragious bird, or he would
wring its neck.
"So Hank and Willomene stayed a week up in Livingston on her money,
and then he fetched her back to Gardner, and bought their grub, and
bride and groom came up to the camp we had on Galena Creek.
"She had never slep' out before. She had never been on a hawss,
neither. And she mighty near rolled off down into Pitchstone Canyon,
comin' up by the cut-off trail. Why, seh, I would not willingly take
you through that place, except yu' promised me yu' would lead your
hawss when I said to. But Hank takes the woman he had married, and he
takes heavy-loaded pack-hawsses. 'Tis the first time such a thing has
been known of in the country. Yu' remember them big tall grass-topped
mountains over in the Hoodoo country, and how they descends slam down
through the cross-timber that yu' can't scatcely work through afoot,
till they pitches over into lots an' lots o' little canyons, with
maybe two inches of water runnin' in the bottom? All that is East Fork
water, and over the divide is Clark's Fork, or Stinkin' Water, if yu'
take the country yondeh to the southeast. But any place yu' go is them
undesirable steep slopes, and the cut-off trail takes along about the
worst in the business.
"Well, Hank he got his outfit over it somehow, and, gentlemen,
hush! but yu'd ought t've seen him and that poor girl pull into our
camp. Yu'd cert'nly never have conjectured them two was a weddin'
journey. He was leadin', but skewed around in his saddle to jaw back
at Willomene for riding so ignorant. Suppose it was a thing she was
responsible for, yu'd not have talked to her that-a-way even in
private; and hyeh was the camp a-lookin', and a-listenin', and some of
us ashamed. She was setting straddleways like a mountain, and between
him and her went the three packanimals, plumb shiverin' played out,
and the flour--they had two hundred pounds--tilted over hellwards,
with the red-tailed parrot shoutin' landslides in his cage tied on top
o' the leanin' sacks.
"It was that mean to see, that shameless and unkind, that even a
thoughtless kid like the McLean boy felt offended, and favorable to
some sort of remonstrance. 'The son-of-a--!' he said to me. 'The
son-of-a--! If he don't stop, let's stop him.' And I reckon we might
"But Hank he quit. 'Twas plain to see he'd got a genu-wine scare
comin' through Pitchstone Canyon, and it turned him sour, so he'd
hardly talk to us, but just mumbled 'How!' kind o' gruff, when the
boys come up to con- gratulate him as to his marriage.
"But Willomene, she says when she saw me, 'Oh, I am so glad!' and
we shook hands right friendly. And I wished I'd told her good-bye that
day at the Mammoth. For she bore no spite, and maybe I had forgot her
feelings in thinkin' of my own. I had talked to her down at the
Mammoth at first, yu' know, and she said a word about old friends. Our
friendship was three weeks old that day, but I expect her new
experiences looked like years to her. And she told me how near she
come to gettin' killed.
"Yu' ain't ever been over that trail, seh? Yu' cert'nly must see
Pitchstone Canyon. But we'll not go there with packs. And we will get
off our hawsses a good ways back. For many animals feels that there's
something the matter with that place, and they act very strange about
"The Grand Canyon is grand, and makes yu' feel good to look at it,
and a geyser is grand and all right, too. But this hyeh Pitchstone
hole, if Willomene had went down into that-- well, I'll tell yu', that
you may judge.
"She seen the trail a-drawin' nearer and nearer the aidge, between
the timber and the jumpin'-off place, and she seen how them little
loose stones and the crumble stuff would slide and slide away under
the hawss's feet. She could hear the stuff rattlin' continually from
his steps, and when she turned her haid to look, she seen it goin'
down close beside her, but into what it went she could not see. Only,
there was a queer steam would come up now and agayn, and her hawss
trembled. So she tried to get off and walk without sayin' nothin' to
Hank. He kep' on ahaid, and her hawss she had pulled up started to
follo' as she was half off him, and that gave her a tumble, but there
was an old crooked dead tree. It growed right out o' the aidge. There
"Down below is a little green water tricklin', green as the stuff
that gets on brass, and tricklin' along over soft cream-colored
formation, like pie. And it ain't so far to fall but what a man might
not be too much hurt for crawlin' out. But there ain't no crawlin' out
o' Pitchstone Canyon, they say. Down in there is caves that yu' cannot
see. 'Tis them that coughs up the stream now and agayn. With the wind
yu' can smell 'em a mile away, and in the night I have been layin'
quiet and heard 'em. Not that it's a big noise, even when a man is
close up. It's a fluffy kind of a sigh. But it sounds as if some awful
thing was a-makin' it deep down in the guts of the world. They claim
there's poison air comes out o' the caves and lays low along the
water. They claim if a bear or an elk strays in from below, and the
caves sets up their coughin', which they don't regular every day, the
animals die. I have seen it come in two seconds. And when it comes
that-a-way risin' upon yu' with that fluffy kind of a sigh, yu' feel
mighty lonesome, seh.
"So Hank he happened to look back and see Willomene hangin' at the
aidge o' them black rocks. And his scare made him mad. And his mad
stayed with him till they come into camp. She looked around, and when
she seen Hank's tent that him and her was to sleep in she showed
surprise. And he showed surprise when he see the bread she cooked.
"'What kind of a Dutch woman are yu',' says he, strainin' for a
joke, 'if yu' can't use a Dutch-oven?'
"'You say to me you have a house to live in,' says Willomene.
'Where is that house?'
"'I did not figure on gettin' a woman when I left camp,' says Hank,
grinnin', but not pleasant, 'or I'd have hurried up with the shack I'm
"He was buildin' one. When I left Galena Creek and come away from
that country to meet you, the house was finished enough for the couple
to move in. I hefted her brass-nailed trunk up the hill from their
tent myself, and I watched her take out her crucifix. But she would
not let me help her with that. She'd not let me touch it. She'd fixed
it up agaynst the wall her own self her own way. But she accepted some
flowers I picked, and set them in a can front of the crucifix. Then
Hank he come in, and seein', says to me, 'Are you one of the kind that
squats before them silly dolls?' 'I would tell yu', I answered him;
'but it would not inter-est yu'.' And I cleared out, and left him and
Willomene to begin their housekeepin'.
"Already they had quit havin' much to say to each other down in
their tent. The only steady talkin' done in that house was done by the
parrot. I've never saw any go ahaid of that bird. I have told yu'
about Hank, and how when he'd come home and see her prayin' to that
crucifix he'd always get riled up. He would mention it freely to the
boys. Not that she neglected him, yu' know. She done her part, workin'
mighty hard, for she was a willin' woman. But he could not make her
quit her religion; and Willomene she had got to bein' very silent
before I come away. She used to talk to me some at first, but she
dropped it. I don't know why. I expect maybe it was hard for her to
have us that close in camp, witnessin' her troubles every day, and she
a foreigner. I reckon if she got any comfort, it would be when we was
off prospectin' or huntin', and she could shut the cabin door and be
The Virginian stopped for a moment.
"It will soon be a month since I left Galena Creek," he resumed.
"But I cannot get the business out o' my haid. I keep a studyin' over
His talk was done. He had unburdened his mind. Night lay deep and
quiet around us, with no sound far or near, save Buffalo Fork plashing
over its riffle.
We left Snake River. We went up Pacific Creek, and through Two
Ocean Pass, and down among the watery willow-bottoms and beaverdams of
the Upper Yellowstone. We fished; we enjoyed existence along the lake.
Then we went over Pelican Creek trail and came steeply down into the
giant country of grasstopped mountains. At dawn and dusk the elk had
begun to call across the stillness. And one morning in the Hoodoo
country, where we were looking for sheep, we came round a jut of the
strange, organ-pipe formation upon a longlegged boy of about nineteen,
"Still hyeh?" said the Virginian, without emotion.
"I guess so," returned the boy, equally matter-of-fact."Yu' seem to
be around yourself," he added.
They might have been next-door neighbors, meeting in a town street
for the second time in the same day.
The Virginian made me known to Mr. Lin McLean, who gave me a brief
"Any luck?" he inquired, but not of me.
"Oh," drawled the Virginian, "luck enough."
Knowing the ways of the country, I said no word. It was bootless to
interrupt their own methods of getting at what was really in both
The boy fixed his wide-open hazel eyes upon me. "Fine weather," he
"Very fine," said I.
"I seen your horses a while ago," he said. "Camp far from here?" he
asked the Virginian.
"Not specially. Stay and eat with us. We've got elk meat."
"That's what I'm after for camp," said McLean. "All of us is out on
a hunt to-day-- except him."
"How many are yu' now?"
"The whole six."
"Oh, some days the gold washes out good in the pan, and others it's
that fine it'll float off without settlin'."
"So Hank ain't huntin' to-day?"
"Huntin'! We left him layin' out in that clump o'brush below their
cabin. Been drinkin' all night."
The Virginian broke off a piece of the Hoodoo mud-rock from the
weird eroded pillar that we stood beside. He threw it into a bank of
last year's snow. We all watched it as if it were important. Up
through the mountain silence pierced the long quivering whistle of a
bull-elk. It was like an unearthly singer practising an unearthly
"First time she heard that," said McLean, "she was scared."
"Nothin' maybe to resemble it in Austria," said the Virginian.
"That's so," said McLean. "That's so, you bet! Nothin' just like
Hank over there, neither."
"Well, flesh is mostly flesh in all lands, I reckon," said the
Virginian. "I expect yu' can be drunk and disorderly in every
language. But an Austrian Hank would be liable to respect her
"He ain't made her quit it yet?"
"Not him. But he's got meaner."
"Drunk this mawnin', yu' say?"
"That's his most harmless condition now."
"Nobody's in camp but them two? Her and him alone?"
"Oh, he dassent touch her."
"Who did he tell that to?"
"Oh, the camp is backin' her. The camp has explained that to him
several times, you bet! And what's more, she has got the upper hand of
him herself. She has him beat."
"She has downed him with her eye. Just by endurin' him peacefully;
and with her eye. I've saw it. Things changed some after yu' pulled
out. We had a good crowd still, and it was pleasant, and not too
lively nor yet too slow. And Willomene, she come more among us. She'd
not stay shut in-doors, like she done at first. I'd have like to've
showed her how to punish Hank."
"Afteh she had downed yu' with her eye?" inquired the Virginian.
Young McLean reddened, and threw a furtive look upon me, the
stranger, the outsider. "Oh, well," he said, "I done nothing onusual.
But that's all different now. All of us likes her and respects her,
and makes allowances for her bein' Dutch. Yu' can't help but respect
her. And she shows she knows."
"I reckon maybe she knows how to deal with Hank," said the
"Shucks!" said McLean, scornfully. And her so big and him so puny!
She'd ought to lift him off the earth with one arm and lam him with a
baste or two with the other, and he'd improve."
"Maybe that's why she don't," mused the Virginian, slowly; "because
she is so big. Big in the spirit, I mean. She'd not stoop to his
level. Don't yu' see she is kind o' way up above him and camp and
everything--just her and her crucifix?"
"Her and her crucifix!" repeated young Lin McLean, staring at this
interpretation, which was beyond his lively understanding. "Her and
her crucifix. Turruble lonesome company! Well, them are things yu'
don't know about. I kind o' laughed myself the first time I seen her
at it. Hank, he says to me soft, 'Come here, Lin,' and I peeped in
where she was a-prayin'. She seen us two, but she didn't quit. So I
quit, and Hank came with me, sayin' tough words about it. Yes, them
are things yu' sure don't know about. What's the matter with you
camping with us boys tonight?"
We had been going to visit them the next day. We made it to-day,
instead. And Mr. McLean helped us with our packs, and we carried our
welcome in the shape of elk meat. So we turned our faces down the
grass-topped mountains towards Galena Creek. Once, far through an open
gap away below us, we sighted the cabin with the help of our
"Pity we can't make out Hank sleepin' in that brush," said McLean.
"He has probably gone into the cabin by now," said I.
"Not him! He prefers the brush all day when he's that drunk, you
"Afraid of her?"
"Well--oneasy in her presence. Not that she's liable to be in there
now. She don't stay inside nowadays so much. She's been comin' round
the ditch, silent-like but friendly. And she'll watch us workin' for a
spell, and then she's apt to move off alone into the woods, singin'
them Dutch songs of hern that ain't got no toon. I've met her walkin'
that way, tall and earnest, lots of times. But she don't want your
company, though she'll patch your overalls and give yu' lunch always.
Nor she won't take pay."
Thus we proceeded down from the open summits into the close pines;
and while we made our way among the cross-timber and over the little
streams, McLean told us of various days and nights at the camp, and
how Hank had come to venting his cowardice upon his wife's faith.
"Why, he informed her one day when he was goin' take his dust to
town, that if he come back and found that thing in the house, he'd do
it up for her. 'So yu' better pack off your wooden dummy somewheres,'
says he. And she just looked at him kind o' stone-like and solemn. For
she don't care for his words no more.
"And while he was away she'd have us all in to supper up at the
shack, and look at us eatin' while she'd walk around puttin' grub on
your plate. Day time she'd come around the ditch, watchin' for a
while, and move off slow, singin' her Dutch songs. And when Hank comes
back from spendin' his dust, he sees the crucifix same as always, and
he says, 'Didn't I tell yu' to take that down?' 'You did,' says
Willomene, lookin' at him very quiet. And he quit.
"And Honey Wiggin says to him, 'Hank, leave her alone.' And Hank,
bein' all trembly from spreein' in town, he says, 'You're all agin
me!' like as if he were a baby."
"I should think you would run him out of camp," said I.
"Well, we've studied over that some," McLean answered. "But what's
to be done with Willomene?"
I did not know. None of us seemed to know.
"The boys got together night before last," continued McLean, "and
after holdin' a unanimous meetin', we visited her and spoke to her
about goin' back to her home. She was slow in corrallin' our idea on
account of her bein' no English scholar. But when she did, after three
of us takin' their turn at puttin' the proposition to her, she would
not accept any of our dust. And though she started to thank us the
handsomest she knowed how, it seemed to grieve her, for she cried. So
we thought we'd better get out. She's tried to tell us the name of her
home, but yu' can't pronounce such outlandishness."
As we went down the mountains, we talked of other things, but
always came back to this; and we were turning it over still when the
sun had departed from the narrow cleft that we were following, and
shone only on the distant grassy tops which rose round us into an
upper world of light.
"We'll all soon have to move out of this camp, anyway," said
McLean, unstrapping his coat from his saddle and drawing it on. "It
gets chill now in the afternoons. D' yu' see the quakin'-asps all
turned yello', and the leaves keeps fallin' without no wind to blow
'em down? We're liable to get snowed in on short notice in this
mountain country. If the water goes to freeze on us we'll have to quit
workin'. There's camp."
We had rounded a corner, and once more sighted the cabin. I suppose
it may have been still half a mile away, upon the further side of a
ravine into which our little valley opened. But field-glasses were not
needed now to make out the cabin clearly, windows and door. Smoke rose
from it; for supper-time was nearing, and we stopped to survey the
scene. As we were looking, another hunter joined us, coming from the
deep woods to the edge of the pines where we were standing. This was
Honey Wiggin. He had killed a deer, and he surmised that all the boys
would be back soon. Others had met luck besides himself; he had left
one dressing an elk over the next ridge. Nobody seemed to have got in
yet, from appearances. Didn't the camp look lonesome?
"There's somebody, though," said McLean.
The Virginian took the glasses. "I reckon--yes, that's Hank. The
cold has woke him up, and he's comin' in out o' the brush."
Each of us took the glasses in turn; and I watched the figure go up
the hill to the door of the cabin. It seemed to pause and diverge to
the window. At the window it stood still, head bent, looking in. Then
it returned quickly to the door. It was too far to discern, even
through the glasses, what the figure was doing. Whether the door was
locked, whether he was knocking or fumbling with a key, or whether he
spoke through the door to the person within--I cannot tell what it was
that came through the glasses straight to my nerves, so that I jumped
at a sudden sound; and it was only the distant shrill call of an elk.
I was handing the glasses to the Virginian for him to see when the
figure opened the door and disappeared in the dark interior. As I
watched the square of darkness which the door's opening made,
something seemed to happen there--or else it was a spark, a flash, in
my own straining eyes.
But at that same instant the Virginian dashed forward upon his
horse, leaving the glasses in my hand. And with the contagion of his
act the rest of us followed him, leaving the pack animals to follow us
as they should choose.
"Look!" cried McLean. "He's not shot her."
I saw the tall figure of a woman rush out of the door and pass
quickly round the house.
"He's missed her!" cried McLean, again. "She's savin' herself."
But the man's figure did not appear in pursuit. Instead of this,
the woman returned as quickly as she had gone, and entered the dark
"She had something," said Wiggin. "What would that be?"
"Maybe it's all right, after all," said McLean. "She went out to
The rough steepness of our trail had brought us down to a walk, and
as we continued to press forward at this pace as fast as we could, we
compared a few notes. McLean did not think he saw any flash. Wiggin
thought that he had heard a sound, but it was at the moment when the
Virginian's horse had noisily started away.
Our trail had now taken us down where we could no longer look
across and see the cabin. And the half-mile proved a long one over
this ground. At length we reached and crossed the rocky ford,
overtaking the Virginian there.
"These hawsses," said he, "are played out. We'll climb up to camp
afoot. And just keep behind me for the present."
We obeyed our natural leader, and made ready for whatever we might
be going into. We passed up the steep bank and came again in sight of
the door. It was still wide open. We stood, and felt a sort of silence
which the approach of two new-comers could not break. They joined us.
They had been coming home from hunting, and had plainly heard a shot
here. We stood for a moment more after learning this, and then one of
the men called out the names of Hank and Willomene. Again we--or I at
least--felt that same silence, which to my disturbed imagination
seemed to be rising round us as mists rise from water.
"There's nobody in there," stated the Virginian. "Nobody that's
alive," he added. And he crossed the cabin and walked into the door.
Though he made no gesture, I saw astonishment pass through his
body, as he stopped still; and all of us came after him. There hung
the crucifix, with a round hole through the middle of it. One of the
men went to it and took it down; and behind it, sunk in the log, was
the bullet. The cabin was but a single room, and every object that it
contained could be seen at a glance; nor was there hiding-room for
anything. On the floor lay the axe from the wood-pile; but I will not
tell of its appearance. So he had shot her crucifix, her Rock of Ages,
the thing which enabled her to bear her life, and that lifted her
above life; and she--but there was the axe to show what she had done
then. Was this cabin really empty? I looked more slowly about, half
dreading to find that I had overlooked something. But it was as the
Virginian had said; nobody was there.
As we were wondering, there was a noise above our heads, and I was
not the only one who started and stared. It was the parrot; and we
stood away in a circle, looking up at his cage. Crouching flat on the
floor of the cage, his wings huddled tight to his body, he was
swinging his head from side to side; and when he saw that we watched
him, he began a low croaking and monotonous utterance, which never
changed, but remained rapid and continuous. I heard McLean whisper to
the Virginian, "You bet he knows."
The Virginian stepped to the door, and then he bent to the gravel
and beckoned us to come and see. Among the recent footprints at the
threshold the man's boot-heel was plain, as well as the woman's broad
tread. But while the man's steps led into the cabin, they did not lead
away from it. We tracked his course just as we had seen it through the
glasses: up the hill from the brush to the window, and then to the
door. But he had never walked out again. Yet in the cabin he was not;
we tore up the half-floor that it had. There was no use to dig in the
earth. And all the while that we were at this search the parrot
remained crouched in the bottom of his cage, his black eye fixed upon
"She has carried him," said the Virginian." We must follow up
The latest heavy set of footprints led us from the door along the
ditch, where they sank deep in the softer soil; then they turned off
sharply into the mountains.
"This is the cut-off trail," said McLean to me. "The same he
brought her in by."
The tracks were very clear, and evidently had been made by a person
moving slowly. Whatever theories our various minds were now shaping,
no one spoke a word to his neighbor, but we went along with a hush
After some walking, Wiggin suddenly stopped and pointed.
We had come to the edge of the timber, where a narrow black canyon
began, and ahead of us the trail drew near a slanting ledge, where the
footing was of small loose stones. I recognized the odor, the volcanic
whiff, that so often prowls and meets one in the lonely woods of that
region, but at first I failed to make out what had set us all running.
"Is he looking down into the hole himself?" some one asked; and
then I did see a figure, the figure I had looked at through the
glasses, leaning strangely over the edge of Pitchstone Canyon, as if
indeed he was peering to watch what might be in the bottom.
We came near. But those eyes were sightless, and in the skull the
story of the axe was carved. By a piece of his clothing he was hooked
in the twisted roots of a dead tree, and hung there at the extreme
verge. I went to look over, and Lin McLean caught me as I staggered at
the sight I saw. He would have lost his own foothold in saving me had
not one of the others held him from above.
She was there below; Hank's woman, brought from Austria to the New
World. The vision of that brown bundle lying in the water will never
leave me, I think. She had carried the body to this point; but had she
intended this end? Or was some part of it an accident? Had she meant
to take him with her? Had she meant to stay behind herself? No word
came from these dead to answer us. But as we stood speaking there, a
giant puff of breath rose up to us between the black walls.
"There's that fluffy sigh I told yu' about," said the Virginian.
"He's talkin' to her! I tell yu' he's talkin' to her!" burst out
McLean, suddenly, in such a voice that we stared as he pointed at the
man in the tree. "See him lean over! He's sayin', 'I have yu' beat
after all.'" And McLean fell to whimpering.
Wiggin took the boy's arm kindly and walked him along the trail. He
did not seem twenty yet. Life had not shown this side of itself to him
so plainly before.
"Let's get out of here," said the Virginian.
It seemed one more pitiful straw that the lonely bundle should be
left in such a vault of doom, with no last touches of care from its
fellow-beings, and no heap of kind earth to hide it. But whether the
place is deadly or not, man dares not venture into it. So they took
Hank from the tree that night, and early next morning they buried him
near camp on the top of a little mound.
But the thought of Willomene lying in Pitchstone Canyon had kept
sleep from me through that whole night, nor did I wish to attend
Hank's burial. I rose very early, while the sunshine had still a long
way to come down to us from the mountain-tops, and I walked back along
the cut-off trail. I was moved to look once more upon that frightful
place. And as I came to the edge of the timber, there was the
Virginian. He did not expect any one. He had set up the crucifix as
near the dead tree as it could be firmly planted.
"It belongs to her, anyway," he explained.
Some lines of verse came into my memory, and with a change or two I
wrote them as deep as I could with my pencil upon a small board that
he smoothed for me.
"Call for the robin redbreast and the wren, Since o'er shady
groves they hover, And with flowers and leaves do cover The
friendless bodies of unburied men. Call to this funeral dole The ant,
the field-mouse, and the mole To rear her hillocks that shall keep her
"That kind o' quaint language reminds me of a play I seen onced in
Saynt Paul," said the Virginian. "About young Prince Henry."
I told him that another poet was the author.
"They are both good writers," said the Virginian. And as he was
finishing the monument that we had made, young Lin McLean joined us.
He was a little ashamed of the feelings that he had shown yesterday, a
little anxious to cover those feelings with brass.
"Well," he said, taking an offish, man-of-the-world tone, "all this
fuss just because a woman believed in God."
"You have put it down wrong," said the Virginian; "it's just
because a man didn't."
At Santa Ysabel del Mar the season was at one of its moments when
the air hangs quiet over land and sea. The old breezes had gone; the
new ones were not yet risen. The flowers in the mission garden opened
wide, for no wind came by day or night to shake the loose petals from
their stems. Along the basking, silent, many-colored shore gathered
and lingered the crisp odors of the mountains. The dust floated golden
and motionless long after the rider was behind the hill, and the
Pacific lay like a floor of sapphire, on which to walk beyond the
setting sun into the East. One white sail shone there. Instead of an
hour, it had been from dawn till afternoon in sight between the short
headlands; and the padre had hoped that it might be his ship. But it
had slowly passed. Now from an arch in his garden cloisters he was
watching the last of it. Presently it was gone, and the great ocean
lay empty. The padre put his glasses in his lap. For a short while he
read in his breviary, but soon forgot it again. He looked at the
flowers and sunny ridges, then at the huge blue triangle of sea which
the opening of the hills let into sight."Paradise," he murmured, "need
not hold more beauty and peace. But I think I would exchange all my
remaining years of this for one sight again of Paris or Seville. May
God forgive me such a thought!"
Across the unstirred fragrance of oleanders the bell for vespers
began to ring. Its tones passed over the padre as he watched the sea
in his garden. They reached his parishioners in their adobe dwellings
near by. The gentle circles of sound floated outward upon the smooth
immense silence--over the vines and pear-trees; down the avenues of
the olives; into the planted fields, whence women and children began
to return; then out of the lap of the valley along the yellow uplands,
where the men that rode among the cattle paused, looking down like
birds at the map of their home. Then the sound widened, faint,
unbroken, until it met Temptation riding towards the padre from the
south, and cheered the steps of Temptation's jaded horse
"For a day, one single day of Paris!" repeated the padre, gazing
through his cloisters at the empty sea.
Once in the year the mother-world remembered him. Once in the year
a barkentine came sailing with news and tokens from Spain. It was in
1685 that a galleon had begun such voyages up to the lower country
from Acapulco, where she loaded the cargo that had come across
Tehuantepec on mules from Vera Cruz. By 1768 she had added the new
mission of San Diego to her ports. In the year that we, a thin strip
of colonists away over on the Atlantic edge of the continent, declared
ourselves an independent nation, that Spanish ship, in the name of
Saint Francis, was unloading the centuries of her own civilization at
the Golden Gate. Then, slowly, as mission after mission was planted
along the soft coast wilderness, she made new stops--at Santa Barbara,
for instance; and by Point San Luis for San Luis Obispo, that lay
inland a little way up the gorge where it opened among the hills. Thus
the world reached these places by water; while on land, through the
mountains, a road came to lead to them, and also to many more that
were too distant behind the hills for ships to serve--a long, lonely,
rough road, punctuated with church towers and gardens. For the fathers
gradually so stationed their settlements that the traveller might each
morning ride out from one mission and by evening of a day's fair
journey ride into the next. A long, rough road; and in its way pretty
to think of now.
So there, by-and-by, was our continent, with the locomotive
whistling from Savannah to Boston along its eastern edge, and on the
other the scattered chimes of Spain ringing among the unpeopled
mountains. Thus grew the two sorts of civilization--not equally. We
know what has happened since. To-day the locomotive is whistling also
from the Golden Gate to San Diego; but the old mission road goes
through the mountains still, and on it the steps of vanished Spain are
marked with roses, and white cloisters, and the crucifix.
But this was 1855. Only the barkentine brought the world that he
loved to the padre. As for the new world which was making a rude noise
to the northward, he trusted that it might keep away from Santa
Ysabel, and he waited for the vessel that was overdue with its package
containing his single worldly indulgence.
As the little, ancient bronze bell continued its swinging in the
tower, its plaintive call reached something in the padre's memory.
Without knowing, he began to sing. He took up the slow strain not
quite correctly, and dropped it, and took it up again, always in
cadence with the bell:
[Musical Score Appears Here]
At length he heard himself, and glancing at the belfry, smiled a
little. "It is a pretty tune," he said, "and it always made me sorry
for poor Fra Diavolo. Auber himself confessed to me that he had made
it sad and put the hermitage bell to go with it because he too was
grieved at having to kill his villain, and wanted him to die, if
possible, in a religious frame of mind. And Auber touched glasses with
me and said--how well I remember it!-- 'Is it the good Lord, or is it
merely the devil, that makes me always have a weakness for rascals?' I
told him it was the devil. I was not a priest then. I could not be so
sure with my answer now." And then Padre Ignazio repeated Auber's
remark in French: "'Est-ce le bon Dieu, on est-ce bien le diable, qui
me fait tonjours aimer les coquins?' I don't know! I don't know! I
wonder if Auber has composed anything lately? I wonder who is singing
He cast a farewell look at the ocean, and took his steps between
the monastic herbs and the oleanders to the sacristy. "At least," be
said, "if we cannot carry with us into exile the friends and the
places that we have loved, music will go where we go, even to such an
end of the world as this. Felipe!" he called to his organist. "Can
they sing the music I taught them for the Dixit Dominus to-night?"
"Yes, father, surely."
"Then we will have that. And, Felipe--" The padre crossed the
chancel to the small shabby organ. "Rise, my child, and listen. Here
is something you can learn. Why, see now if you cannot learn it with a
The swarthy boy of sixteen stood watching his master's fingers,
delicate and white, as they played. So of his own accord he had begun
to watch them when a child of six; and the padre had taken the wild,
half-scared, spellbound creature and made a musician of him.
"There, Felipe!" he said now. "Can you do it? Slower, and more
softly, muchacho. It is about the death of a man, and it should go
with our bell."
The boy listened. "Then the father has played it a tone too low,"
said he; "for our bell rings the note of sol, or something very near
it, as the father must surely know." He placed the melody in the right
key--an easy thing for him; but the padre was delighted.
"Ah, my Felipe," he exclaimed, "what could you and I not do if we
had a better organ! Only a little better! See! above this row of keys
would be a second row, and many more stops. Then we would make such
music as has never been heard in California yet. But my people are so
poor and so few! And some day I shall have passed from them, and it
will be too late;"
"Perhaps," ventured Felipe, "the Americanos--"
"They care nothing for us, Felipe. They are not of our religion--or
of any religion, from what I can hear. Don't forget my Dixit Dominus."
And the padre retired once more to the sacristy, while the horse that
carried Temptation came over the hill.
The hour of service drew near; and as he waited, the padre once
again stepped out for a look at the ocean; but the blue triangle of
water lay like a picture in its frame of land, empty as the sky. "I
think, from the color, though," said he, "that a little more wind must
have begun out there."
The bell rang a last short summons to prayer. Along the road from
the south a young rider, leading one pack-animal, ambled into the
mission and dismounted. Church was not so much in his thoughts as food
and, in due time after that, a bed; but the doors stood open, and as
everybody was going into them, more variety was to be gained by
joining this company than by waiting outside alone until they should
return from their devotions. So he seated himself at the back, and
after a brief, jaunty glance at the sunburnt, shaggy congregation,
made himself as comfortable as might be. He had not seen a face worth
keeping his eyes open for. The simple choir and simple fold gathered
for even-song, and paid him no attention on their part--a rough
American bound for the mines was no longer anything but an object of
aversion to them.
The padre, of course, had been instantly aware of the stranger's
presence. For this is the sixth sense with vicars of every creed and
heresy; and if the parish is lonely and the worshippers few and seldom
varying, a newcomer will gleam out like a new book to be read. And a
trained priest learns to read shrewdly the faces of those who assemble
to worship under his guidance. But American vagrants, with no thoughts
save of gold-digging, and an overweening illiterate jargon for their
speech, had long ceased to interest this priest, even in his
starvation for company and talk from the outside world; and therefore
after the intoning, he sat with his homesick thoughts unchanged, to
draw both pain and enjoyment from the music that he had set to the
Dixit Dominus. He listened to the tender chorus that opens "William
Tell"; and as the Latin psalm proceeded, pictures of the past rose
between him and the altar. One after another came these strains which
he had taken from the operas famous in their day, until at length the
padre was murmuring to some music seldom long out of his heart--not
the Latin verse which the choir sang, but the original French words:
"Ah, voile man envie, Voila mon seul desir: Rendez moi ma patrie,
Ou laissez moi mourir."
Which may be rendered:
But one wish I implore,
One wish is all my cry:
Give back my native land once more,
Give back, or let me die.
Then it happened that he saw the stranger in the back of the church
again, and forgot his Dixit Dominus straightway. The face of the young
man was no longer hidden by the slouching position he had at first
taken. "I only noticed his clothes before," thought the padre.
Restlessness was plain upon the handsome brow, and in the mouth there
was violence; but Padre Ignazio liked the eyes. "He is not saying any
prayers," he surmised, presently. "I doubt if he has said any for a
long while. And he knows my music. He is of educated people. He cannot
be American. And now--yes, he has taken--I think it must be a flower,
from his pocket. I shall have him to dine with me." And vespers ended
with rosy clouds of eagerness drifting across the padre's brain.
But the stranger made his own beginning. As the priest came from
the church, the rebellious young figure was waiting. "Your organist
tells me," he said, impetuously, "that it is you who--"
"May I ask with whom I have the great pleasure of speaking?" said
the padre, putting formality to the front and his pleasure out of
The stranger reddened, and became aware of the padre's features,
moulded by refinement and the world. "I beg your lenience," said he,
with a graceful and confident utterance, as of equal to equal. "My
name is Gaston Villere, and it was time I should be reminded of my
The padre's hand waved a polite negative.
"Indeed yes, padre. But your music has astonished me to pieces. If
you carried such associations as-- Ah! the days and the nights!" he
broke off. "To come down a California mountain," he resumed, "and find
Paris at the bottom! 'The Huguenots,' Rossini, Herold-- I was waiting
for 'Il Trovatore."'
"Is that something new?" said the padre, eagerly.
The young man gave an exclamation. "The whole world is ringing with
it," he said.
"But Santa Ysabel del Mar is a long way from the whole world," said
"Indeed it would not appear to be so," returned young Gaston. "I
think the Comedie Francaise must be round the corner."
A thrill went through the priest at the theatre's name. "And have
you been long in America?" he asked.
"Why, always--except two years of foreign travel after college."
"An American!" said the surprised padre, with perhaps a flavor of
disappointment in his voice." But no Americans who have yet come this
way have been--have been"--he veiled the too blunt expression of his
thought--"have been familiar with 'The Huguenots,'" he finished,
making a slight bow.
Villere took his under-meaning. "I come from New Orleans," he
returned. "And in New Orleans there live many of us who can recognize
a--who can recognize good music wherever we meet it." And he made a
slight bow in his turn.
The padre laughed outright with pleasure, and laid his hand upon
the young man's arm. "You have no intention of going away tomorrow, I
trust?" said he.
"With your leave," answered Gaston, "I will have such an intention
It was with the air and gait of mutual understanding that the two
now walked on together towards the padre's door. The guest was
twenty-five, the host sixty.
"And have you been in America long?" inquired Gaston.
"And at Santa Ysabel how long?"
"I should have thought," said Gaston, looking lightly at the empty
mountains, "that now and again you might have wished to travel."
"Were I your age," murmured Padre Ignazio, "it might be so."
The evening had now ripened to the long after-glow of sunset. The
sea was the purple of grapes, and wine colored hues flowed among the
high shoulders of the mountains.
"I have seen a sight like this," said Gaston, "between Granada and
"So you know Spain!" said the padre.
Often he had thought of this resemblance, but never heard it told
to him before. The courtly proprietor of San Fernando, and the other
patriarchal rancheros with whom he occasionally exchanged visits
across the wilderness, knew hospitality and inherited gentle manners,
sending to Europe for silks and laces to give their daughters; but
their eyes had not looked upon Granada, and their ears had never
listened to "William Tell."
"It is quite singular," pursued Gaston, "how one nook in the world
will suddenly remind you of another nook that may be thousands of
miles away. One morning, behind the Quai Voltaire, an old yellow house
with rusty balconies made me almost homesick for New Orleans."
"The Quai Voltaire!" said the padre.
"I heard Rachel in 'Valerie' that night," the young man went on.
"Did you know that she could sing too? She sang several verses by an
astonishing little Jew musician that has come up over there."
The padre gazed down at his blithe guest. "To see somebody,
somebody, once again," he said, "is very pleasant to a hermit."
"It cannot be more pleasant than arriving at an oasis," returned
They had delayed on the threshold to look at the beauty of the
evening, and now the priest watched his parishioners come and go. "How
can one make companions--" he began; then, checking himself, he said:
"Their souls are as sacred and immortal as mine, and God helps me to
help them. But in this world it is not immortal souls that we choose
for companions; it is kindred tastes, intelligences, and--and so I and
my books are growing old together, you see," he added, more lightly.
"You will find my volumes as behind the times as myself."
He had fallen into talk more intimate than he wished; and while the
guest was uttering something polite about the nobility of missionary
work, he placed him in an easy-chair and sought aguardiente for his
immediate refreshment. Since the year's beginning there had been no
guest for him to bring into his rooms, or to sit beside him in the
high seats at table, set apart for the gente fina.
Such another library was not then in California; and though Gaston
Villere, in leaving Harvard College, had shut Horace and Sophocles
forever at the earliest instant possible under academic requirements,
he knew the Greek and Latin names that he now saw as well as he knew
those of Shakespeare, Dante, Moliere, and Cervantes. These were here
also; nor could it be precisely said of them, either, that they made a
part of the young man's daily reading. As he surveyed the padre's
august shelves, it was with a touch of the florid Southern gravity
which his Northern education had not wholly schooled out of him that
"I fear that I am no scholar, sir. But I know what writers every
gentleman ought to respect."
The subtle padre bowed gravely to this compliment.
It was when his eyes caught sight of the music that the young man
felt again at ease, and his vivacity returned to him. Leaving his
chair, he began enthusiastically to examine the tall piles that filled
one side of the room. The volumes lay richly everywhere, making a
pleasant disorder; and as perfume comes out of a flower, memories of
singers and chandeliers rose bright from the printed names. "Norma,"
"Tancredi," "Don Pasquale," "La Vestale"--dim lights in the fashions
of to-day--sparkled upon the exploring Gaston, conjuring the radiant
halls of Europe before him. "'The Barber of Seville!'" he presently
exclaimed."And I happened to hear it in Seville."
But Seville's name brought over the padre a new rush of home
thoughts. "Is not Andalusia beautiful?" he said." Did you see it in
April, when the flowers come?"
"Yes," said Gaston, among the music. "I was at Cordova then."
"Ah, Cordova!" murmured the padre.
"'Semiramide!'" cried Gaston, lighting upon that opera. "That was a
week! I should like to live it over, every day and night of it!"
"Did you reach Malaga from Marseilles or Gibraltar?" said the
"From Marseilles. Down from Paris through the Rhone Valley, you
"Then you saw Provence! And did you go, perhaps, from Avignon to
Nismes by the Pont du Gard? There is a place I have made here--a
little, little place--with olive-trees. And now they have grown, and
it looks something like that country, if you stand in a particular
position. I will take you there to-morrow. I think you will understand
what I mean."
"Another resemblance!" said the volatile and happy Gaston. "We both
seem to have an eye for them. But, believe me, padre, I could never
stay here planting olives. I should go back and see the original
ones--and then I'd hasten up to Paris. "And, with a volume of
Meyerbeer open in his hand, Gaston hummed: "'Robert, Robert, toi que
j'aime.' Why, padre, I think that your library contains none of the
masses and all of the operas in the world!"
"I will make you a little confession," said Padre Ignazio, "and
then you shall give me a little absolution."
"With a penance," said Gaston. "You must play over some of these
things to me."
"I suppose that I could not permit myself this indulgence," began
the padre, pointing to his operas; "and teach these to my choir, if
the people had any worldly associations with the music. But I have
reasoned that the music cannot do them harm--"
The ringing of a bell here interrupted him. "In fifteen minutes,"
he said, "our poor meal will be ready for you." The good padre was not
quite sincere when he spoke of a poor meal. While getting the
aguardiente for his guest he had given orders, and he knew how well
such orders could be carried out. He lived alone, and generally supped
simply enough, but not even the ample table at San Fernando could
surpass his own on occasions. And this was for him an occasion indeed!
"Your half-breeds will think I am one of themselves," said Gaston,
showing his dusty clothes. "I am not fit to be seated with you." He,
too, was not more sincere than his host. In his pack, which an Indian
had brought from his horse, he carried some garments of civilization.
And presently, after fresh water and not a little painstaking with
brush and scarf, there came back to the padre a young guest whose
elegance and bearing and ease of the great world were to the exiled
priest as sweet as was his traveled conversation.
They repaired to the hall and took their seats at the head of the
long table. For the stately Spanish centuries of custom lived at Santa
Ysabel del Mar, inviolate, feudal, remote.
They were the only persons of quality present; and between
themselves and the gente de razon a space intervened. Behind the
padre's chair stood an Indian to wait upon him, and another stood
behind the chair of Gaston Villere. Each of these servants wore one
single white garment, and offered the many dishes to the gente fina
and refilled their glasses. At the lower end of the table a general
attendant waited upon the mesclados--the half-breeds. There was meat
with spices, and roasted quail, with various cakes and other
preparations of grain; also the black fresh olives, and grapes, with
several sorts of figs and plums, and preserved fruits, and white and
red wine--the white fifty years old. Beneath the quiet shining of
candles, fresh-cut flowers leaned from vessels of old Mexican and
There at one end of this feast sat the wild, pastoral, gaudy
company, speaking little over their food; and there at the other the
pale padre, questioning his visitor about Rachel. The mere name of a
street would bring memories crowding to his lips; and when his guest
would tell him of a new play, he was ready with old quotations from
the same author. Alfred de Vigny they had, and Victor Hugo, whom the
padre disliked. Long after the dulce, or sweet dish, when it was the
custom for the vaqueros and the rest of the retainers to rise and
leave the gente fina to themselves, the host sat on in the empty hall,
fondly telling the guest of his bygone Paris, and fondly learning of
the Paris that was to-day. And thus the two lingered, exchanging their
fervors, while the candles waned, and the long-haired Indians stood
silent behind the chairs.
"But we must go to my piano," the host exclaimed. For at length
they had come to a lusty difference of opinion. The padre, with ears
critically deaf, and with smiling, unconvinced eyes, was shaking his
head, while young Gaston sang "Trovatore" at him, and beat upon the
table with a fork.
"Come and convert me, then," said Padre Ignazio, and he led the
way. "Donizetti I have always admitted. There, at least, is
refinement. If the world has taken to this Verdi, with his street-band
music--But there, now! Sit down and convert me. Only don't crush my
poor little Erard with Verdi's hoofs. I brought it when I came. It is
behind the times too. And, oh, my dear boy, our organ is still worse.
So old, so old! To get a proper one I would sacrifice even this piano
of mine in a moment--only the tinkling thing is not worth a sou to
anybody except its master. But there! Are you quite comfortable?" And
having seen to his guest's needs, and placed spirits and cigars and an
ash-tray within his reach, the padre sat himself luxuriously in his
chair to hear and expose the false doctrine of "Il Trovatore."
By midnight all of the opera that Gaston could recall had been
played and sung twice. The convert sat in his chair no longer, but
stood singing by the piano. The potent swing and flow of tunes, the
torrid, copious inspiration of the South, mastered him. "Verdi has
grown," he cried. "Verdi has become a giant." And he swayed to the
beat of the melodies, and waved an enthusiastic arm. He demanded every
crumb. Why did not Gaston remember it all? But if the barkentine would
arrive and bring the whole music, then they would have it right! And
he made Gaston teach him what words he knew."'Non ti scordar,"' he
sang--"'non ti scordar di me.' That is genius. But one sees how the
world; moves when one is out of it. 'A nostri monti ritorneremo'; home
to our mountains. Ah, yes, there is genius again." And the exile
sighed and his spirit went to distant places, while Gaston continued
brilliantly with the music of the final scene.
Then the host remembered his guest. "I am ashamed of my
selfishness," he said. "It is already to-morrow."
"I have sat later in less good company," answered the pleasant
Gaston. "And I shall sleep all the sounder for making a convert."
"You have dispensed roadside alms," said the padre, smiling. "And
that should win excellent dreams."
Thus, with courtesies more elaborate than the world has time for at
the present day, they bade each other good-night and parted, bearing
their late candles along the quiet halls of the mission. To young
Gaston in his bed easy sleep came without waiting, and no dreams at
all. Outside his open window was the quiet, serene darkness, where the
stars shone clear, and tranquil perfumes hung in the cloisters. And
while the guest lay sleeping all night in unchanged position like a
child, up and down between the oleanders went Padre Ignazio, walking
Day showed the ocean's surface no longer glassy, but lying like a
mirror breathed upon; and there between the short headlands came a
sail, gray and plain against the flat water. The priest watched
through his glasses, and saw the gradual sun grow strong upon the
canvas of the barkentine. The message from his world was at hand, yet
to-day he scarcely cared so much. Sitting in his garden yesterday he
could never have imagined such a change. But his heart did not hail
the barkentine as usual. Books, music, pale paper, and print--this was
all that was coming to him, and some of its savor had gone; for the
siren voice of life had been speaking with him face to face, and in
his spirit, deep down, the love of the world was restlessly answering
that call. Young Gaston showed more eagerness than the padre over this
arrival of the vessel that might be bringing "Trovatore" in the nick
of time. Now he would have the chance, before he took his leave, to
help rehearse the new music with the choir. He would be a missionary
too. A perfectly new experience.
"And you still forgive Verdi the sins of his youth?" he said to his
host. "I wonder if you could forgive mine?"
"Verdi has left his behind him," retorted the padre.
"But I am only twenty-five," explained Gaston, pathetically.
"Ah, don't go away soon!" pleaded the exile. It was the plainest
burst that had escaped him, and he felt instant shame.
But Gaston was too much elated with the enjoyment of each new day
to understand. The shafts of another's pain might scarcely pierce the
bright armor of his gayety. He mistook the priest's exclamation for
anxiety about his own happy soul.
"Stay here under your care?" he said. "It would do me no good,
padre. Temptation sticks closer to me than a brother!" and he gave
that laugh of his which disarmed severer judges than his host. "By
next week I should have introduced some sin or other into your
beautiful Garden of Ignorance here. It will be much safer for your
flock if I go and join the other serpents at San Francisco."
Soon after breakfast the padre had his two mules saddled, and he
and his guest set forth down the hills together to the shore. And
beneath the spell and confidence of pleasant, slow riding, and the
loveliness of everything, the young man talked freely of himself.
"And, seriously," said he, "if I missed nothing else at Santa
Ysabel, I should long to hear the birds. At home our gardens are full
of them, and one smells the jasmine, and they sing and sing! When our
ship from the Isthmus put into San Diego, I decided to go on by land
and see California. Then, after the first days, I began to miss
something. All that beauty seemed empty, in a way. And suddenly I
found it was the birds. For these little scampering quail are nothing.
There seems a sort of death in the air where no birds ever sing."
"You will not find any birds at San Francisco," said the padre.
"I shall find life!" exclaimed Gaston. "And my fortune at the
mines, I hope. I am not a bad fellow, father. You can easily guess all
the things that I do. I have never, to my knowledge, harmed any one. I
did not even try to kill my adversary in an affair of honor. I gave
him a mere flesh wound, and by this time he must be quite recovered.
He was my friend. But as he came between me--"
Gaston stopped; and the padre, looking keenly at him, saw the
violence that he had noticed in church pass like a flame over the
young man's handsome face.
"There's nothing dishonorable," said Gaston, answering the priest's
"I have not thought so, my son."
"I did what every gentleman would do," said Gaston.
"And that is often wrong!" cried the padre. "But I'm not your
"I've nothing to confess," said Gaston, frankly. "I left New
Orleans at once, and have travelled an innocent journey straight to
you. And when I make my fortune I shall be in a position to return
"Claim the pressed flower!" put in the padre, laughing.
"Ah, you remember how those things are!" said Gaston; and he
laughed also and blushed.
"Yes," said the padre, looking at the anchored barkentine, "I
remember how those things are." And for a while the vessel and its
cargo and the landed men and various business and conversations
occupied them. But the freight for the mission once seen to, there was
not much else to hang about here for.
The barkentine was only a coaster like many others which now had
begun to fill the sea a little more of late years, and presently host
and guest were riding homeward. And guessing at the two men from their
outsides, any one would have got them precisely wrong; for within the
turbulent young figure of Gaston dwelt a spirit that could not be more
at ease, while revolt was steadily smouldering beneath the schooled
and placid mask of the padre.
Yet still the strangeness of his being at such a place came back as
a marvel into the young man's lively mind. Twenty years in prison, he
thought, and hardly aware of it! And he glanced at the silent priest.
A man so evidently fond of music, of theatres, of the world, to whom
pressed flowers had meant something once--and now contented to bleach
upon these wastes! Not even desirous of a brief holiday, but finding
an old organ and some old operas enough recreation! "It is his age, I
suppose," thought Gaston. And then the notion of himself when he
should be sixty occurred to him, and he spoke.
"Do you know, I do not believe," said he, "that I should ever reach
such contentment as yours."
"Perhaps you will," said Padre Ignazio, in a low voice.
"Never!" declared the youth. "It comes only to the few, I am sure."
"Yes. Only to the few," murmured the padre.
"I am certain that it must be a great possession," Gaston
continued; "and yet--and yet--dear me! life is a splendid thing!"
"There are several sorts of it," said the padre.
"Only one for me!" cried Gaston. "Action, men, women, things--to be
there, to be known, to play a part, to sit in the front seats; to have
people tell each other, 'There goes Gaston Villere!' and to deserve
one's prominence. Why, if I were Padre of Santa Ysabel del Mar for
twenty years--no! for one year--do you know what I should have done?
Some day it would have been too much for me. I should have left these
savages to a pastor nearer their own level, and I should have ridden
down this canyon upon my mule, and stepped on board the barkentine,
and gone back to my proper sphere. You will understand, sir, that I am
far from venturing to make any personal comment. I am only thinking
what a world of difference lies between men's natures who can feel
alike as we do upon so many subjects. Why, not since leaving New
Orleans have I met any one with whom I could talk, except of the
weather and the brute interests common to us all. That such a one as
you should be here is like a dream."
"But it is not a dream," said the padre.
"And, sir--pardon me if I do say this--are you not wasted at Santa
Ysabel del Mar? I have seen the priests at the other missions They
are--the sort of good men that I expected. But are you needed to save
such souls as these?"
"There is no aristocracy of souls," said the padre, almost
"But the body and the mind!" cried Gaston. "My God, are they
nothing? Do you think that they are given to us for nothing but a
trap? You cannot teach such a doctrine with your library there. And
how about all the cultivated men and women away from whose quickening
society the brightest of us grow numb? You have held out. But will it
be for long? Do you not owe yourself to the saving of higher game
henceforth? Are not twenty years of mesclados enough? No, no!"
finished young Gaston, hot with his unforeseen eloquence; "I should
ride down some morning and take the barkentine."
Padre Ignazio was silent for a space.
"I have not offended you?" said the young man.
"No. Anything but that. You are surprised that I should--choose--to
stay here. Perhaps you may have wondered how I came to be here at
"I had not intended any impertinent--"
"Oh no. Put such an idea out of your head, my son. You may remember
that I was going to make you a confession about my operas. Let us sit
down in this shade."
So they picketed the mules near the stream and sat down.
"You have seen," began Padre Ignazio, "what sort of a man I--was
once. Indeed, it seems very strange to myself that you should have
been here not twenty-four hours yet, and know so much of me. For there
has come no one else at all"--the padre paused a moment and mastered
the unsteadiness that he had felt approaching in his voice--"there has
been no one else to whom I have talked so freely. In my early days I
had no thought of being a priest. My parents destined me for a
diplomatic career. There was plenty of money and--and all the rest of
it; for by inheritance came to me the acquaintance of many people
whose names you would be likely to have heard of. Cities, people of
fashion, artists--the whole of it was my element and my choice; and
by-and-by I married, not only where it was desirable, but where I
loved. Then for the first time Death laid his staff upon my
enchantment, and I understood many things that had been only words to
me hitherto. Looking back, it seemed to me that I had never done
anything except for myself all my days. I left the world. In due time
I became a priest and lived in my own country. But my worldly
experience and my secular education had given to my opinions a turn
too liberal for the place where my work was laid. I was soon advised
concerning this by those in authority over me. And since they could
not change me and I could not change them, yet wished to work and to
teach, the New World was suggested, and I volunteered to give the rest
of my life to missions. It was soon found that some one was needed
here, and for this little place I sailed, and to these humble people I
have dedicated my service. They are pastoral creatures of the soil.
Their vineyard and cattle days are apt to be like the sun and storm
around them--strong alike in their evil and in their good. All their
years they live as children--children with men's passions given to
them like deadly weapons, unable to measure the harm their impulses
may bring. Hence, even in their crimes, their hearts will generally
open soon to the one great key of love, while civilization makes locks
which that key cannot always fit at the first turn. And coming to know
this," said Padre Ignazio, fixing his eyes steadily upon Gaston, "you
will understand how great a privilege it is to help such people, and
hour the sense of something accomplished--under God--should bring
contentment with renunciation."
"Yes," said Gaston Villere. Then, thinking of himself, "I can
understand it in a man like you."
"Do not speak of me at all!" exclaimed the padre, almost
passionately. "But pray Heaven that you may find the thing yourself
some day --contentment with renunciation--and never let it go."
"Amen!" said Gaston, strangely moved.
"That is the whole of my story," the priest continued, with no more
of the recent stress in his voice. "And now I have talked to you about
myself quite enough. But you must have my confession." He had now
resumed entirely his half-playful tone. "I was just a little mistaken,
you see too self-reliant, perhaps--when I supposed, in my first
missionary ardor, that I could get on without any remembrance of the
world at all. I found that I could not. And so I have taught the old
operas to my choir--such parts of them as are within our compass and
suitable for worship. And certain of my friends still alive at home
are good enough to remember this taste of mine, and to send me each
year some of the new music that I should never hear of otherwise. Then
we study these things also. And although our organ is a miserable
affair, Felipe manages very cleverly to make it do. And while the
voices are singing these operas, especially the old ones, what harm is
there if sometimes the priest is thinking of something else? So
there's my confession! And now, whether 'Trovatore' has come or not, I
shall not allow you to leave us until you have taught all you know of
it to Felipe."
The new opera, however, had duly arrived. And as he turned its
pages Padre Ignazio was quick to seize at once upon the music that
could be taken into his church. Some of it was ready fitted. By that
afternoon Felipe and his choir could have rendered "Ah! se l'error t'
ingombra" without slip or falter.
Those were strange rehearsals of "Il Trovatore" upon this
California shore. For the padre looked to Gaston to say when they went
too fast or too slow, and to correct their emphasis. And since it was
hot, the little Erard piano was carried each day out into the mission
garden. There, in the cloisters among the oleanders, in the presence
of the tall yellow hills and the blue triangle of sea, the "Miserere"
was slowly learned. The Mexicans and Indians gathered, swarthy and
black-haired, around the tinkling instrument that Felipe played; and
presiding over them were young Gaston and the pale padre, walking up
and down the paths, beating time, or singing now one part and now
another. And so it was that the wild cattle on the uplands would hear
"Trovatore" hummed by a passing vaquero, while the same melody was
filling the streets of the far-off world.
For three days Gaston Villere remained at Santa Ysabel del Mar; and
though not a word of the sort came from him, his host could read San
Francisco and the gold-mines in his countenance. No, the young man
could not have stayed here for twenty years! And the padre forbore
urging his guest to extend his visit.
"But the world is small," the guest declared at parting. "Some day
it will not be able to spare you any longer. And then we are sure to
meet. And you shall hear from me soon, at any rate."
Again, as upon the first evening, the two exchanged a few
courtesies, more graceful and particular than we, who have not time,
and fight no duels, find worth a man's while at the present day. For
duels are gone, which is a very good thing, and with them a certain
careful politeness, which is a pity; but that is the way in the
general profit and loss. So young Gaston rode northward out of the
mission, back to the world and his fortune; and the padre stood
watching the dust after the rider had passed from sight. Then he went
into his room with a drawn face. But appearances at least had been
kept up to the end; the youth would never know of the old man's
Temptation had arrived with Gaston, but was going to make a longer
stay at Santa Ysabel del Mar. Yet it was something like a week before
the priest knew what guest he had in his house now. The guest was not
always present--made himself scarce quite often.
Sail away on the barkentine? That was a wild notion, to be sure,
although fit enough to enter the brain of such a young scapegrace. The
padre shook his head and smiled affectionately when he thought of
Gaston Villere. The youth's handsome, reckless countenance would come
before him, and he repeated Auber's old remark, "Is it the good Lord,
or is it merely the devil, that always makes me have a weakness for
Sail away on the barkentine! Imagine taking leave of the people
here--of Felipe! In what words should he tell the boy to go on
industriously with his music? No, this could not be imagined. The mere
parting alone would make it forever impossible that he should think of
such a thing. "And then," he said to himself each new morning, when he
looked out at the ocean, "I have given my life to them. One does not
take back a gift."
Pictures of his departure began to shine and melt in his drifting
fancy. He saw himself explaining to Felipe that now his presence was
wanted elsewhere; that there would come a successor to take care of
Santa Ysabel--a younger man, more useful, and able to visit sick
people at a distance. "For I am old now. I should not be long here in
any case." He stopped and pressed his hands together; he had caught
his temptation in the very act. Now he sat staring at his temptation's
face, close to him, while there in the triangle two ships went sailing
One morning Felipe told him that the barkentine was here on its
return voyage south. "Indeed?" said the padre, coldly. "The things are
ready to go, I think." For the vessel called for mail and certain
boxes that the mission sent away. Felipe left the room, in wonder at
the padre's manner. But the priest was laughing alone inside to see
how little it was to him where the barkentine was, or whether it
should be coming or going. But in the afternoon, at his piano, he
found himself saying, "Other ships call here, at any rate." And then
for the first time he prayed to be delivered from his thoughts. Yet
presently he left his seat and looked out of the window for a sight of
the barkentine; but it was gone.
The season of the wine-making passed, and the putting up of all the
fruits that the mission fields grew. Lotions and medicines were
distilled from the garden herbs. Perfume was manufactured from the
petals of the flowers and certain spices, and presents of it
despatched to San Fernando and Ventura, and to friends at other
places; for the padre had a special receipt. As the time ran on, two
or three visitors passed a night with him; and presently there was a
word at various missions that Padre Ignazio had begun to show his
years. At Santa Ysabel del Mar they whispered, "The padre is getting
sick." Yet he rode a great deal over the hills by himself, and down
the canyon very often, stopping where he had sat with Gaston, to sit
alone and look up and down, now at the hills above, and now at the
ocean below. Among his parishioners he had certain troubles to soothe,
certain wounds to heal; a home from which he was able to drive
jealousy; a girl whom he bade her lover set right. But all said, "The
padre is sick." And Felipe told them that the music seemed nothing to
him any more; he never asked for his Dixit Dominus nowadays. Then for
a short time he was really in bed, feverish with the two voices that
spoke to him without ceasing ."You have given your life," said one
voice. "And therefore," said the other, "have earned the right to go
home and die." "You are winning better rewards in the service of God,"
said the first voice. "God can be served in other places than this,"
answered the second. As he lay listening he saw Seville again, and the
trees of Aranhal, where he had been born. The wind was blowing through
them; and in their branches he could hear the nightingales. "Empty!
Empty!" he said, aloud. "He was right about the birds. Death does live
in the air where they never sing." And he lay for two days and nights
hearing the wind and the nightingales in the trees of Aranhal. But
Felipe, watching, heard only the padre crying through the hours:
Then the wind in the trees died down, and the padre could get out
of bed, and soon could be in the garden. But the voices within him
still talked all the while as he sat watching the sails when they
passed between the headlands. Their words, falling forever the same
way, beat his spirit sore, like bruised flesh. If he could only change
what they said, he could rest.
"Has the padre any mail for Santa Barbara?" said Felipe. "The ship
bound southward should be here to-morrow."
"I will attend to it," said the priest, not moving. And Felipe
At Felipe's words the voices had stopped, a clock done striking.
Silence, strained like expectation, filled the padre's soul. But in
place of the voices came old sights of home again, the waving trees at
Aranhal; then would be Rachel for a moment, deciaiming tragedy while a
houseful of faces that he knew by name watched her; and through all
the panorama rang the pleasant laugh of Gaston. For a while in the
evening the padre sat at his Erard playing "Trovatore." Later, in his
sleepless bed he lay, saying now a then: "To die at home! Surely I may
granted at least this." And he listened for the inner voices. But they
were not speaking any more, and the black hole of silence grew more
dreadful to him than their arguments. Then the dawn came in at his
window, and he lay watching its gray grow warm into color, us suddenly
he sprang from his bed and looked the sea. The southbound ship was
coming. People were on board who in a few weeks would be sailing the
Atlantic, while he would stand here looking out of the same window.
"Merciful God!" he cried, sinking on knees. "Heavenly Father, Thou
seest this evil in my heart. Thou knowest that my weak hand cannot
pluck it out. My strength is breaking, and still Thou makest my burden
heavier than I can bear." He stopped, breathless and trembling. The
same visions were flitting across his closed eyes; the same silence
gaped like a dry crater in his soul. "There is no help in earth or
heaven," he said, very quietly; and he dressed himself.
It was so early still that none but a few of the Indians were
stirring, and one of them saddled the padre's mule. Felipe was not yet
awake, and for a moment it came in the priest's mind to open the boy's
door softly, look at him once more, and come away. But this he did not
do, nor even take a farewell glance at the church and organ. He bade
nothing farewell, but, turning his back upon his room and his garden,
rode down the caution.
The vessel lay at anchor, and some one had landed from her and was
talking with other men on the shore. Seeing the priest slowly coming,
this stranger approached to meet him.
"You are connected with the mission here?" he inquired.
"Perhaps it is with you that Gaston Villere stopped?"
"The young man from New Orleans? Yes. I am Padre Ignazio."
"Then you will save me a journey. I promised him to deliver these
into your own hands."
The stranger gave them to him.
"A bag of gold-dust," he explained, "and a letter. I wrote it from
his dictation while he was dying. He lived scarcely an hour
The stranger bowed his head at the stricken cry which his news
elicited from the priest, who, after a few moments vain effort to
speak, opened the letter and read:
MY DEAR FRIEND,--It is through no man's fault but mine that I have
come to this. I have had plenty of luck, and lately have been counting
the days until I should return home. But last night heavy news from
New Orleans reached me, and I tore the pressed flower to pieces. Under
the first smart and humiliation of broken faith I was rendered
desperate, and picked a needless quarrel. Thank God, it is I who have
the punishment. My dear friend, as I lie here, leaving a world that no
man ever loved more, I have come to understand you. For you and your
mission have been much in my thoughts. It is strange how good can be
done, not at the time when it is intended, but afterwards; and you
have done this good to me. I say over your words, Contentment with
renunciation, and believe that at this last hour I have gained
something like what you would wish me to feel. For I do not think that
I desire it otherwise now. My life would never have been of service, I
am afraid. You are the last person in this world who has spoken
serious words to me, and I want you to know that now at length I value
the peace of Santa Ysabel as I could never have done but for seeing
your wisdom and goodness. You spoke of a new organ for your church.
Take the gold-dust that will reach you with this, and do what you will
with it. Let me at least in dying have helped some one. And since
there is no aristocracy in souls--you said that to me; do you
remember?--perhaps you will say a mass for this departing soul of
mine. I only wish, since my body must go underground in a strange
country, that it might have been at Santa Ysabel del Mar, where your
feet would often pass."
"'At Santa Ysabel del Mar, where your feet would often pass.'" The
priest repeated this final sentence aloud, without being aware of it.
"Those are the last words he ever spoke," said the stranger,
"except bidding good-bye to me."
"You knew him well, then?"
"No; not until after he was hurt. I'm the man he quarrelled with."
The priest looked at the ship that would sail onward this
afternoon. Then a smile of great beauty passed over his face, and he
addressed the stranger. "I thank you," said he. "You will never know
what you have done for me."
"It is nothing," answered the stranger, awkwardly. "He told me you
set great store on a new organ."
Padre Ignazio turned away from the ship and rode back through the
gorge. When he reached the shady place where once he had sat with
Gaston Villere, he dismounted and again sat there, alone by the
stream, for many hours. Long rides and outings had been lately so much
his custom, that no one thought twice of his absence; and when he
returned to the mission in the afternoon, the Indian took his mule,
and he went to his seat in the garden. But it was with another look
that he watched the sea; and presently the sail moved across the blue
triangle, and soon it had rounded the headland. Gaston's first coming
was in the padre's mind; and as the vespers bell began to ring in the
cloistered silence, a fragment of Auber's plaintive tune passed like a
sigh across his memory:
[Musical Score Appears Here]
But for the repose of Gaston's soul they sang all that he had
taught them of "Il Trovatore."
Thus it happened that Padre Ignazio never went home, but remained
cheerful master of the desires to do so that sometimes visited him,
until the day came when he was called altogether away from this world,
and "passed beyond these voices, where is peace."