Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Eric Eldred, Elaine Nash
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
A DEAL IN WHEAT
And Other Stories Of The New And Old West
By FRANK NORRIS
_Illustrated by Remington, Leyendecker, Hitchcock and Hooper_
[Illustration: "'Sell A Thousand May At One-Fifty,' Vociferated The Bear
A Deal in Wheat
The Wife of Chino
A Bargain with Peg-Leg
The Passing of Cock-Eye Blacklock
A Memorandum of Sudden Death
Two Hearts That Beat as One
The Dual Personality of Slick Dick Nickerson
The Ship That Saw a Ghost
The Ghost in the Crosstrees
The Riding of Felipe
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"'Sell a Thousand May at One-Fifty,' Vociferated the Bear Broker"
Caught in the Circle. The last stand of three troopers and a scout
overtaken by a band of hostile Indians.
"'Ere's 'Ell to Pay!"
"'My Curse Is on Her Who Next Kisses You'"
A DEAL IN WHEAT
I. THE BEAR--WHEAT AT SIXTY-TWO
As Sam Lewiston backed the horse into the shafts of his backboard and
began hitching the tugs to the whiffletree, his wife came out from the
kitchen door of the house and drew near, and stood for some time at the
horse's head, her arms folded and her apron rolled around them. For a
long moment neither spoke. They had talked over the situation so long
and so comprehensively the night before that there seemed to be nothing
more to say.
The time was late in the summer, the place a ranch in southwestern
Kansas, and Lewiston and his wife were two of a vast population of
farmers, wheat growers, who at that moment were passing through a
crisis--a crisis that at any moment might culminate in tragedy. Wheat
was down to sixty-six.
At length Emma Lewiston spoke.
"Well," she hazarded, looking vaguely out across the ranch toward the
horizon, leagues distant; "well, Sam, there's always that offer of
brother Joe's. We can quit--and go to Chicago--if the worst comes."
"And give up!" exclaimed Lewiston, running the lines through the torets.
"Leave the ranch! Give up! After all these years!"
His wife made no reply for the moment. Lewiston climbed into the
buckboard and gathered up the lines. "Well, here goes for the last try,
Emmie," he said. "Good-by, girl. Maybe things will look better in town
"Maybe," she said gravely. She kissed her husband good-by and stood for
some time looking after the buckboard traveling toward the town in a
moving pillar of dust.
"I don't know," she murmured at length; "I don't know just how we're
going to make out."
When he reached town, Lewiston tied the horse to the iron railing in
front of the Odd Fellows' Hall, the ground floor of which was occupied
by the post-office, and went across the street and up the stairway of a
building of brick and granite--quite the most pretentious structure of
the town--and knocked at a door upon the first landing. The door was
furnished with a pane of frosted glass, on which, in gold letters, was
inscribed, "Bridges & Co., Grain Dealers."
Bridges himself, a middle-aged man who wore a velvet skull-cap and who
was smoking a Pittsburg stogie, met the farmer at the counter and the
two exchanged perfunctory greetings.
"Well," said Lewiston, tentatively, after awhile.
"Well, Lewiston," said the other, "I can't take that wheat of yours at
any better than sixty-two."
"It's the Chicago price that does it, Lewiston. Truslow is bearing the
stuff for all he's worth. It's Truslow and the bear clique that stick
the knife into us. The price broke again this morning. We've just got a
"Good heavens," murmured Lewiston, looking vaguely from side to side.
"That--that ruins me. I _can't_ carry my grain any longer--what with
storage charges and--and--Bridges, I don't see just how I'm going to
make out. Sixty-two cents a bushel! Why, man, what with this and with
that it's cost me nearly a dollar a bushel to raise that wheat, and now
He turned away abruptly with a quick gesture of infinite discouragement.
He went down the stairs, and making his way to where his buckboard was
hitched, got in, and, with eyes vacant, the reins slipping and sliding
in his limp, half-open hands, drove slowly back to the ranch. His wife
had seen him coming, and met him as he drew up before the barn.
"Well?" she demanded.
"Emmie," he said as he got out of the buckboard, laying his arm across
her shoulder, "Emmie, I guess we'll take up with Joe's offer. We'll go
to Chicago. We're cleaned out!"
II. THE BULL--WHEAT AT A DOLLAR-TEN
...----_and said Party of the Second Part further covenants and agrees to
merchandise such wheat in foreign ports, it being understood and agreed
between the Party of the First Part and the Party of the Second Part
that the wheat hereinbefore mentioned is released and sold to the Party
of the Second Part for export purposes only, and not for consumption or
distribution within the boundaries of the United States of America or of
"Now, Mr. Gates, if you will sign for Mr. Truslow I guess that'll be
all," remarked Hornung when he had finished reading.
Hornung affixed his signature to the two documents and passed them over
to Gates, who signed for his principal and client, Truslow--or, as he
had been called ever since he had gone into the fight against Hornung's
corner--the Great Bear. Hornung's secretary was called in and witnessed
the signatures, and Gates thrust the contract into his Gladstone bag and
stood up, smoothing his hat.
"You will deliver the warehouse receipts for the grain," began Gates.
"I'll send a messenger to Truslow's office before noon," interrupted
Hornung. "You can pay by certified check through the Illinois Trust
When the other had taken himself off, Hornung sat for some moments
gazing abstractedly toward his office windows, thinking over the whole
matter. He had just agreed to release to Truslow, at the rate of one
dollar and ten cents per bushel, one hundred thousand out of the two
million and odd bushels of wheat that he, Hornung, controlled, or
actually owned. And for the moment he was wondering if, after all, he
had done wisely in not goring the Great Bear to actual financial death.
He had made him pay one hundred thousand dollars. Truslow was good for
this amount. Would it not have been better to have put a prohibitive
figure on the grain and forced the Bear into bankruptcy? True, Hornung
would then be without his enemy's money, but Truslow would have been
eliminated from the situation, and that--so Hornung told himself--was
always a consummation most devoutly, strenuously and diligently to be
striven for. Truslow once dead was dead, but the Bear was never more
dangerous than when desperate.
"But so long as he can't get _wheat_," muttered Hornung at the end of
his reflections, "he can't hurt me. And he can't get it. That I _know_."
For Hornung controlled the situation. So far back as the February of
that year an "unknown bull" had been making his presence felt on the
floor of the Board of Trade. By the middle of March the commercial
reports of the daily press had begun to speak of "the powerful bull
clique"; a few weeks later that legendary condition of affairs implied
and epitomized in the magic words "Dollar Wheat" had been attained, and
by the first of April, when the price had been boosted to one dollar and
ten cents a bushel, Hornung had disclosed his hand, and in place of mere
rumours, the definite and authoritative news that May wheat had been
cornered in the Chicago pit went flashing around the world from
Liverpool to Odessa and from Duluth to Buenos Ayres.
It was--so the veteran operators were persuaded--Truslow himself who had
made Hornung's corner possible. The Great Bear had for once over-reached
himself, and, believing himself all-powerful, had hammered the price
just the fatal fraction too far down. Wheat had gone to sixty-two--for
the time, and under the circumstances, an abnormal price.
When the reaction came it was tremendous. Hornung saw his chance, seized
it, and in a few months had turned the tables, had cornered the product,
and virtually driven the bear clique out of the pit.
On the same day that the delivery of the hundred thousand bushels was
made to Truslow, Hornung met his broker at his lunch club.
"Well," said the latter, "I see you let go that line of stuff to
Hornung nodded; but the broker added:
"Remember, I was against it from the very beginning. I know we've
cleared up over a hundred thou'. I would have fifty times preferred to
have lost twice that and _smashed Truslow dead_. Bet you what you like
he makes us pay for it somehow."
"Huh!" grunted his principal. "How about insurance, and warehouse
charges, and carrying expenses on that lot? Guess we'd have had to pay
those, too, if we'd held on."
But the other put up his chin, unwilling to be persuaded. "I won't sleep
easy," he declared, "till Truslow is busted."
III. THE PIT
Just as Going mounted the steps on the edge of the pit the great gong
struck, a roar of a hundred voices developed with the swiftness of
successive explosions, the rush of a hundred men surging downward to the
centre of the pit filled the air with the stamp and grind of feet, a
hundred hands in eager strenuous gestures tossed upward from out the
brown of the crowd, the official reporter in his cage on the margin of
the pit leaned far forward with straining ear to catch the opening bid,
and another day of battle was begun.
Since the sale of the hundred thousand bushels of wheat to Truslow the
"Hornung crowd" had steadily shouldered the price higher until on this
particular morning it stood at one dollar and a half. That was Hornung's
price. No one else had any grain to sell.
But not ten minutes after the opening, Going was surprised out of all
countenance to hear shouted from the other side of the pit these words:
"Sell May at one-fifty."
Going was for the moment touching elbows with Kimbark on one side and
with Merriam on the other, all three belonging to the "Hornung crowd."
Their answering challenge of "_Sold_" was as the voice of one man. They
did not pause to reflect upon the strangeness of the circumstance. (That
was for afterward.) Their response to the offer was as unconscious, as
reflex action and almost as rapid, and before the pit was well aware of
what had happened the transaction of one thousand bushels was down upon
Going's trading-card and fifteen hundred dollars had changed hands. But
here was a marvel--the whole available supply of wheat cornered, Hornung
master of the situation, invincible, unassailable; yet behold a man
willing to sell, a Bear bold enough to raise his head.
"That was Kennedy, wasn't it, who made that offer?" asked Kimbark, as
Going noted down the trade--"Kennedy, that new man?"
"Yes; who do you suppose he's selling for; who's willing to go short at
this stage of the game?"
"Maybe he ain't short."
"Short! Great heavens, man; where'd he get the stuff?"
"Blamed if I know. We can account for every handful of May. Steady! Oh,
there he goes again."
"Sell a thousand May at one-fifty," vociferated the bear-broker,
throwing out his hand, one finger raised to indicate the number of
"contracts" offered. This time it was evident that he was attacking the
Hornung crowd deliberately, for, ignoring the jam of traders that swept
toward him, he looked across the pit to where Going and Kimbark were
shouting _"Sold! Sold!"_ and nodded his head.
A second time Going made memoranda of the trade, and either the Hornung
holdings were increased by two thousand bushels of May wheat or the
Hornung bank account swelled by at least three thousand dollars of some
unknown short's money.
Of late--so sure was the bull crowd of its position--no one had even
thought of glancing at the inspection sheet on the bulletin board. But
now one of Going's messengers hurried up to him with the announcement
that this sheet showed receipts at Chicago for that morning of
twenty-five thousand bushels, and not credited to Hornung. Some one had
got hold of a line of wheat overlooked by the "clique" and was dumping
it upon them.
"Wire the Chief," said Going over his shoulder to Merriam. This one
struggled out of the crowd, and on a telegraph blank scribbled:
"Strong bear movement--New man--Kennedy--Selling in lots of five
contracts--Chicago receipts twenty-five thousand."
The message was despatched, and in a few moments the answer came back,
laconic, of military terseness:
"Support the market."
And Going obeyed, Merriam and Kimbark following, the new broker fairly
throwing the wheat at them in thousand-bushel lots.
"Sell May at 'fifty; sell May; sell May." A moment's indecision, an
instant's hesitation, the first faint suggestion of weakness, and the
market would have broken under them. But for the better part of four
hours they stood their ground, taking all that was offered, in constant
communication with the Chief, and from time to time stimulated and
steadied by his brief, unvarying command:
"Support the market."
At the close of the session they had bought in the twenty-five thousand
bushels of May. Hornung's position was as stable as a rock, and the
price closed even with the opening figure--one dollar and a half.
But the morning's work was the talk of all La Salle Street. Who was back
of the raid?
What was the meaning of this unexpected selling? For weeks the pit
trading had been merely nominal. Truslow, the Great Bear, from whom the
most serious attack might have been expected, had gone to his country
seat at Geneva Lake, in Wisconsin, declaring himself to be out of the
market entirely. He went bass-fishing every day.
IV. THE BELT LINE
On a certain day toward the middle of the month, at a time when the
mysterious Bear had unloaded some eighty thousand bushels upon Hornung,
a conference was held in the library of Hornung's home. His broker
attended it, and also a clean-faced, bright-eyed individual whose name
of Cyrus Ryder might have been found upon the pay-roll of a rather
well-known detective agency. For upward of half an hour after the
conference began the detective spoke, the other two listening
"Then, last of all," concluded Ryder, "I made out I was a hobo, and
began stealing rides on the Belt Line Railroad. Know the road? It just
circles Chicago. Truslow owns it. Yes? Well, then I began to catch on. I
noticed that cars of certain numbers--thirty-one nought thirty-four,
thirty-two one ninety--well, the numbers don't matter, but anyhow, these
cars were always switched onto the sidings by Mr. Truslow's main
elevator D soon as they came in. The wheat was shunted in, and they were
pulled out again. Well, I spotted one car and stole a ride on her. Say,
look here, _that car went right around the city on the Belt, and came
back to D again, and the same wheat in her all the time_. The grain was
reinspected--it was raw, I tell you--and the warehouse receipts made out
just as though the stuff had come in from Kansas or Iowa."
"The same wheat all the time!" interrupted Hornung.
"The same wheat--your wheat, that you sold to Truslow."
"Great snakes!" ejaculated Hornung's broker. "Truslow never took it
abroad at all."
"Took it abroad! Say, he's just been running it around Chicago, like the
supers in 'Shenandoah,' round an' round, so you'd think it was a new
lot, an' selling it back to you again."
"No wonder we couldn't account for so much wheat."
"Bought it from us at one-ten, and made us buy it back--our own
Hornung and his broker looked at each other in silence for a moment.
Then all at once Hornung struck the arm of his chair with his fist and
exploded in a roar of laughter. The broker stared for one bewildered
moment, then followed his example.
"Sold! Sold!" shouted Hornung almost gleefully. "Upon my soul it's as
good as a Gilbert and Sullivan show. And we--Oh, Lord! Billy, shake on
it, and hats off to my distinguished friend, Truslow. He'll be President
some day. Hey! What? Prosecute him? Not I."
"He's done us out of a neat hatful of dollars for all that," observed
the broker, suddenly grave.
"Billy, it's worth the price."
"We've got to make it up somehow."
"Well, tell you what. We were going to boost the price to one
seventy-five next week, and make that our settlement figure."
"Can't do it now. Can't afford it."
"No. Here; we'll let out a big link; we'll put wheat at two dollars, and
let it go at that."
"Two it is, then," said the broker.
V. THE BREAD LINE
The street was very dark and absolutely deserted. It was a district on
the "South Side," not far from the Chicago River, given up largely to
wholesale stores, and after nightfall was empty of all life. The echoes
slept but lightly hereabouts, and the slightest footfall, the faintest
noise, woke them upon the instant and sent them clamouring up and down
the length of the pavement between the iron shuttered fronts. The only
light visible came from the side door of a certain "Vienna" bakery,
where at one o'clock in the morning loaves of bread were given away to
any who should ask. Every evening about nine o'clock the outcasts began
to gather about the side door. The stragglers came in rapidly, and the
line--the "bread line," as it was called--began to form. By midnight it
was usually some hundred yards in length, stretching almost the entire
length of the block.
Toward ten in the evening, his coat collar turned up against the fine
drizzle that pervaded the air, his hands in his pockets, his elbows
gripping his sides, Sam Lewiston came up and silently took his place at
the end of the line.
Unable to conduct his farm upon a paying basis at the time when Truslow,
the "Great Bear," had sent the price of grain down to sixty-two cents a
bushel, Lewiston had turned over his entire property to his creditors,
and, leaving Kansas for good, had abandoned farming, and had left his
wife at her sister's boarding-house in Topeka with the understanding
that she was to join him in Chicago so soon as he had found a steady
job. Then he had come to Chicago and had turned workman. His brother Joe
conducted a small hat factory on Archer Avenue, and for a time he found
there a meager employment. But difficulties had occurred, times were
bad, the hat factory was involved in debts, the repealing of a certain
import duty on manufactured felt overcrowded the home market with cheap
Belgian and French products, and in the end his brother had assigned and
gone to Milwaukee.
Thrown out of work, Lewiston drifted aimlessly about Chicago, from
pillar to post, working a little, earning here a dollar, there a dime,
but always sinking, sinking, till at last the ooze of the lowest bottom
dragged at his feet and the rush of the great ebb went over him and
engulfed him and shut him out from the light, and a park bench became
his home and the "bread line" his chief makeshift of subsistence.
He stood now in the enfolding drizzle, sodden, stupefied with fatigue.
Before and behind stretched the line. There was no talking. There was no
sound. The street was empty. It was so still that the passing of a
cable-car in the adjoining thoroughfare grated like prolonged rolling
explosions, beginning and ending at immeasurable distances. The drizzle
descended incessantly. After a long time midnight struck.
There was something ominous and gravely impressive in this interminable
line of dark figures, close-pressed, soundless; a crowd, yet absolutely
still; a close-packed, silent file, waiting, waiting in the vast
deserted night-ridden street; waiting without a word, without a
movement, there under the night and under the slow-moving mists of rain.
Few in the crowd were professional beggars. Most of them were workmen,
long since out of work, forced into idleness by long-continued "hard
times," by ill luck, by sickness. To them the "bread line" was a
godsend. At least they could not starve. Between jobs here in the end
was something to hold them up--a small platform, as it were, above the
sweep of black water, where for a moment they might pause and take
breath before the plunge.
The period of waiting on this night of rain seemed endless to those
silent, hungry men; but at length there was a stir. The line moved. The
side door opened. Ah, at last! They were going to hand out the bread.
But instead of the usual white-aproned under-cook with his crowded
hampers there now appeared in the doorway a new man--a young fellow who
looked like a bookkeeper's assistant. He bore in his hand a placard,
which he tacked to the outside of the door. Then he disappeared within
the bakery, locking the door after him.
A shudder of poignant despair, an unformed, inarticulate sense of
calamity, seemed to run from end to end of the line. What had happened?
Those in the rear, unable to read the placard, surged forward, a sense
of bitter disappointment clutching at their hearts.
The line broke up, disintegrated into a shapeless throng--a throng that
crowded forward and collected in front of the shut door whereon the
placard was affixed. Lewiston, with the others, pushed forward. On the
placard he read these words:
"Owing to the fact that the price of grain has been increased to two
dollars a bushel, there will be no distribution of bread from this
bakery until further notice."
Lewiston turned away, dumb, bewildered. Till morning he walked the
streets, going on without purpose, without direction. But now at last
his luck had turned. Overnight the wheel of his fortunes had creaked and
swung upon its axis, and before noon he had found a job in the
street-cleaning brigade. In the course of time he rose to be first
shift-boss, then deputy inspector, then inspector, promoted to the
dignity of driving in a red wagon with rubber tires and drawing a salary
instead of mere wages. The wife was sent for and a new start made.
But Lewiston never forgot. Dimly he began to see the significance of
things. Caught once in the cogs and wheels of a great and terrible
engine, he had seen--none better--its workings. Of all the men who had
vainly stood in the "bread line" on that rainy night in early summer,
he, perhaps, had been the only one who had struggled up to the surface
again. How many others had gone down in the great ebb? Grim question; he
dared not think how many.
He had seen the two ends of a great wheat operation--a battle between
Bear and Bull. The stories (subsequently published in the city's press)
of Truslow's countermove in selling Hornung his own wheat, supplied the
unseen section. The farmer--he who raised the wheat--was ruined upon one
hand; the working-man--he who consumed it--was ruined upon the other.
But between the two, the great operators, who never saw the wheat they
traded in, bought and sold the world's food, gambled in the nourishment
of entire nations, practised their tricks, their chicanery and oblique
shifty "deals," were reconciled in their differences, and went on
through their appointed way, jovial, contented, enthroned, and
THE WIFE OF CHINO
I. CHINO'S WIFE
On the back porch of the "office," young Lockwood--his boots, stained
with the mud of the mines and with candle-drippings, on the rail--sat
smoking his pipe and looking off down the caÒon.
It was early in the evening. Lockwood, because he had heard the laughter
and horseplay of the men of the night shift as they went down the caÒon
from the bunk-house to the tunnel-mouth, knew that it was a little after
seven. It would not be necessary to go indoors and begin work on the
columns of figures of his pay-roll for another hour yet. He knocked the
ashes out of his pipe, refilled and lighted it--stoppering with his
match-box--and shot a wavering blue wreath out over the porch railing.
Then he resettled himself in his tilted chair, hooked his thumbs into
his belt, and fetched a long breath.
For the last few moments he had been considering, in that comfortable
spirit of relaxed attention that comes with the after-dinner tobacco,
two subjects: first, the beauty of the evening; second, the temperament,
character, and appearance of Felice Zavalla.
As for the evening, there could be no two opinions about that. It was
charming. The Hand-over-fist Gravel Mine, though not in the higher
Sierras, was sufficiently above the level of the mere foot-hills to be
in the sphere of influence of the greater mountains. Also, it was
remote, difficult of access. Iowa Hill, the nearest post-office, was a
good eight miles distant, by trail, across the Indian River. It was
sixteen miles by stage from Iowa Hill to Colfax, on the line of the
Overland Railroad, and all of a hundred miles from Colfax to San
To Lockwood's mind this isolation was in itself an attraction. Tucked
away in this fold of the Sierras, forgotten, remote, the little
community of a hundred souls that comprised the _personnel_ of the
Hand-over-fist lived out its life with the completeness of an
independent State, having its own government, its own institutions and
customs. Besides all this, it had its own dramas as well--little
complications that developed with the swiftness of whirlpools, and that
trended toward culmination with true Western directness. Lockwood,
college-bred--he was a graduate of the Columbia School of Mines--found
the life interesting.
On this particular evening he sat over his pipe rather longer than
usual, seduced by the beauty of the scene and the moment. It was very
quiet. The prolonged rumble of the mine's stamp-mill came to his ears in
a ceaseless diapason, but the sound was so much a matter of course that
Lockwood no longer heard it. The millions of pines and redwoods that
covered the flanks of the mountains were absolutely still. No wind was
stirring in their needles. But the chorus of tree-toads, dry, staccato,
was as incessant as the pounding of the mill. Far-off--thousands of
miles, it seemed--an owl was hooting, three velvet-soft notes at exact
intervals. A cow in the stable near at hand lay down with a long breath,
while from the back veranda of Chino Zavalla's cabin came the clear
voice of Felice singing "The Spanish Cavalier" while she washed the
The twilight was fading; the glory that had blazed in cloudless
vermilion and gold over the divide was dying down like receding music.
The mountains were purple-black. From the caÒon rose the night mist,
pale blue, while above it stood the smoke from the mill, a motionless
plume of sable, shot through by the last ruddiness of the afterglow.
The air was full of pleasant odours--the smell of wood fires from the
cabins of the married men and from the ovens of the cookhouse, the
ammoniacal whiffs from the stables, the smell of ripening apples from
"Boston's" orchard--while over all and through all came the perfume of
the witch-hazel and tar-weed from the forests and mountain sides, as
pungent as myrrh, as aromatic as aloes.
"And if I should fall,
In vain I would call,"
Lockwood took his pipe from his teeth and put back his head to listen.
Felice had as good a voice as so pretty a young woman should have had.
She was twenty-two or twenty-three years of age, and was incontestably
the beauty of the camp. She was Mexican-Spanish, tall and very slender,
black-haired, as lithe as a cat, with a cat's green eyes and with all of
a cat's purring, ingratiating insinuation.
Lockwood could not have told exactly just how the first familiarity
between him and Felice had arisen. It had grown by almost imperceptible
degrees up to a certain point; now it was a chance meeting on the trail
between the office and the mill, now a fragment of conversation apropos
of a letter to be mailed, now a question as to some regulation of the
camp, now a detail of repairs done to the cabin wherein Felice lived. As
said above, up to a certain point the process of "getting acquainted"
had been gradual, and on Lockwood's part unconscious; but beyond that
point affairs had progressed rapidly.
At first Felice had been, for Lockwood, a pretty woman, neither more nor
less; but by degrees she emerged from this vague classification: she
became a very pretty woman. Then she became a personality; she occupied
a place within the circle which Lockwood called his world, his life. For
the past months this place had, perforce, to be enlarged. Lockwood
allowed it to expand. To make room for Felice, he thrust aside, or
allowed the idea of Felice to thrust aside, other objects which long had
sat secure. The invasion of the woman into the sphere of his existence
developed at the end into a thing veritably headlong. Deep-seated
convictions, old-established beliefs and ideals, even the two landmarks
right and wrong, were hustled and shouldered about as the invasion
widened and penetrated. This state of affairs was further complicated by
the fact that Felice was the wife of Chino Zavalla, shift-boss of No. 4
gang in the new workings.
It was quite possible that, though Lockwood could not have told when and
how the acquaintance between him and Felice began and progressed, the
young woman herself could. But this is guesswork. Felice being a woman,
and part Spanish at that, was vastly more self-conscious, more
disingenuous, than the man, the Anglo-Saxon. Also she had that
fearlessness that very pretty women have. In her more refined and
city-bred sisters this fearlessness would be called poise, or, at the
And she was quite capable of making young Lockwood, the superintendent,
her employer, and nominally the ruler of her little world, fall in love
with her. It is only fair to Felice to say that she would not do this
deliberately. She would be more conscious of the business than the man,
than Lockwood; but in affairs such as this, involving women like Felice,
there is a distinction between deliberately doing a thing and
consciously doing it.
Admittedly this is complicated, but it must be understood that Felice
herself was complex, and she could no more help attracting men to her
than the magnet the steel filings. It made no difference whether the man
was the "breed" boy who split logging down by the engine-house or the
young superintendent with his college education, his white hands and
dominating position; over each and all who came within range of her
influence Felice, with her black hair and green eyes, her slim figure
and her certain indefinite "cheek"--which must not by any manner of
means be considered as "boldness"--cast the weird of her kind.
If one understood her kind, knew how to make allowances, knew just how
seriously to take her eyes and her "cheek," no great harm was done.
Otherwise, consequences were very apt to follow.
Hicks was one of those who from the very first had understood. Hicks was
the manager of the mine, and Lockwood's chief--in a word, _the boss_. He
was younger even than Lockwood, a boy virtually, but a wonderful boy--a
boy such as only America, western America at that, could produce,
masterful, self-controlled, incredibly capable, as taciturn as a sphinx,
strong of mind and of muscle, and possessed of a cold gray eye that was
as penetrating as chilled steel.
To this person, impersonal as force itself, Felice had once, by some
mysterious feminine art, addressed, in all innocence, her little
maneuver of fascination. One lift of the steady eyelid, one quiet glint
of that terrible cold gray eye, that poniarded her every tissue of
complexity, inconsistency, and coquetry, had been enough. Felice had
fled the field from this young fellow, so much her junior, and then
afterward, in a tremor of discomfiture and distress, had kept her
Hicks understood Felice. Also the great majority of the
miners--shift-bosses, chuck-tenders, bed-rock cleaners, and the
like--understood. Lockwood did not.
It may appear difficult of belief that the men, the crude, simple
workmen, knew how to take Felice Zavalla, while Lockwood, with all his
education and superior intelligence, failed in his estimate of her. The
explanation lies no doubt in the fact that in these man-and-woman
affairs instinct is a surer guide than education and intelligence,
unless, indeed, the intelligence is preternaturally keen. Lockwood's
student life had benumbed the elemental instinct, which in the miners,
the "men," yet remained vigorous and unblunted, and by means of which
they assessed Felice and her harmless blandishments at their true worth.
For all Lockwood's culture, his own chuck-tenders, unlettered fellows,
cumbersome, slow-witted, "knew women"--at least, women of their own
world, like Felice--better than he. On the other hand, his intelligence
was no such perfected instrument as Hicks's, as exact as logarithms, as
penetrating as a scalpel, as uncoloured by emotions as a steel trap.
Lockwood's life had been a narrow one. He had studied too hard at
Columbia to see much of the outside world, and he had come straight from
his graduation to take his first position. Since then his life had been
spent virtually in the wilderness, now in Utah, now in Arizona, now in
British Columbia, and now, at last, in Placer County, California. His
lot was the common lot of young mining engineers. It might lead one day
to great wealth, but meanwhile it was terribly isolated.
Living thus apart from the world, Lockwood very easily allowed his
judgment to get, as it were, out of perspective. Class distinctions lost
their sharpness, and one woman--as, for instance, Felice--was very like
another--as, for instance, the girls his sisters knew "back home" in New
As a last result, the passions were strong.
Things were done "for all they were worth" in Placer County, California.
When a man worked, he worked hard; when he slept, he slept soundly; when
he hated, he hated with primeval intensity; and when he loved he grew
It was all one that Felice was Chino's wife. Lockwood swore between his
teeth that she should be _his_ wife. He had arrived at this conclusion
on the night that he sat on the back porch of his office and watched the
moon coming up over the Hog Back. He stood up at length and thrust his
pipe into his pocket, and putting an arm across the porch pillar, leaned
his forehead against it and looked out far in the purple shadows.
"It's madness," he muttered; "yet, I know it--sheer madness; but, by the
Lord! I _am_ mad--and I don't care."
III. CHINO GOES TO TOWN
As time went on the matter became more involved. Hicks was away. Chino
Zavalla, stolid, easy-going, came and went about his work on the night
shift, always touching his cap to Lockwood when the two crossed each
other's paths, always good-natured, always respectful, seeing nothing
but his work.
Every evening, when not otherwise engaged, Lockwood threw a saddle over
one of the horses and rode in to Iowa Hill for the mail, returning to
the mine between ten and eleven. On one of these occasions, as he drew
near to Chino's cabin, a slim figure came toward him down the road and
paused at his horse's head. Then he was surprised to hear Felice's voice
asking, "'Ave you a letter for me, then, Meester Lockwude?"
Felice made an excuse of asking thus for her mail each night that
Lockwood came from town, and for a month they kept up appearances; but
after that they dropped even that pretense, and as often as he met her
Lockwood dismounted and walked by her side till the light in the cabin
came into view through the chaparral.
At length Lockwood made a mighty effort. He knew how very far he had
gone beyond the point where between the two landmarks called right and
wrong a line is drawn. He contrived to keep away from Felice. He sent
one of the men into town for the mail, and he found reasons to be in the
mine itself whole half-days at a time. Whenever a moment's leisure
impended, he took his shotgun and tramped the mine ditch for leagues,
looking for quail and gray squirrels. For three weeks he so managed that
he never once caught sight of Felice's black hair and green eyes, never
once heard the sound of her singing.
But the madness was upon him none the less, and it rode and roweled him
like a hag from dawn to dark and from dark to dawn again, till in his
complete loneliness, in the isolation of that simple, primitive life,
where no congenial mind relieved the monotony by so much as a word,
morbid, hounded, tortured, the man grew desperate--was ready for
anything that would solve the situation.
Once every two weeks Lockwood "cleaned up and amalgamated"--that is to
say, the mill was stopped and the "ripples" where the gold was caught
were scraped clean. Then the ore was sifted out, melted down, and poured
into the mould, whence it emerged as the "brick," a dun-coloured
rectangle, rough-edged, immensely heavy, which represented anywhere from
two to six thousand dollars. This was sent down by express to the
But it was necessary to take the brick from the mine to the express
office at Iowa Hill.
This duty devolved upon Lockwood and Chino Zavalla. Hicks had from the
very first ordered that the Spaniard should accompany the superintendent
upon this mission. Zavalla was absolutely trustworthy, as honest as the
daylight, strong physically, cool-headed, discreet, and--to Hicks's mind
a crowning recommendation--close-mouthed. For about the mine it was
never known when the brick went to town or who took it. Hicks had
impressed this fact upon Zavalla. He was to tell nobody that he was
delegated to this duty. "Not even"--Hicks had leveled a forefinger at
Chino, and the cold eyes drove home the injunction as the steam-hammer
drives the rivet--"not even your wife." And Zavalla had promised. He
would have trifled with dynamite sooner than with one of Hicks's orders.
So the fortnightly trips to town in company with Lockwood were explained
in various fashions to Felice. She never knew that the mail-bag strapped
to her husband's shoulders on those occasions carried some five thousand
dollars' worth of bullion.
On a certain Friday in early June Lockwood had amalgamated, and the
brick, duly stamped, lay in the safe in the office. The following night
he and Chino, who was relieved from mine duty on these occasions, were
to take it in to Iowa Hill.
Late Saturday afternoon, however, the engineer's boy brought word to
Chino that the superintendent wanted him at once. Chino found Lockwood
lying upon the old lounge in the middle room of the office, his foot in
"Here's luck, Chino," he exclaimed, as the Mexican paused on the
threshold. "Come in and--shut the door," he added in a lower voice.
"_Dios!_" murmured Chino. "An accident?"
"Rather," growled Lockwood. "That fool boy, Davis's kid--the car-boy,
you know--ran me down in the mine. I yelled at him. Somehow he couldn't
stop. Two wheels went over my foot--and the car loaded, too."
Chino shuddered politely.
"Now here's the point," continued Lockwood. "Um--there's nobody round
outside there? Take a look, Chino, by the window there. All clear, eh?
Well, here's the point. That brick ought to go in to-night just the
"Oh--of a surety, of a surety." Chino spoke in Spanish.
"Now I don't want to let any one else take my place--you never can
tell--the beggars will talk. Not all like you, Chino."
"_Gracias, sigÒor_. It is an honour."
"Do you think you can manage alone? I guess you can, hey? No reason why
Chino shut his eyes tight and put up a palm. "Rest assured of that,
SigÒor Lockwude. Rest assured of that."
"Well, get around here about nine."
"It is understood, sigÒor."
Lockwood, who had a passable knowledge of telegraphy, had wired to the
Hill for the doctor. About suppertime one appeared, and Lockwood bore
the pain of the setting with such fortitude as he could command. He had
his supper served in the office. The doctor shared it with him and kept
During the early hours of the evening Lockwood lay on the sofa trying to
forget the pain. There was no easier way of doing this than by thinking
of Felice. Inevitably his thoughts reverted to her. Now that he was
helpless, he could secure no diversion by plunging into the tunnel,
giving up his mind to his work. He could not now take down his gun and
tramp the ditch. Now he was supine, and the longing to break through the
mesh, wrestle free from the complication, gripped him and racked him
with all its old-time force.
Promptly at nine o'clock the faithful Chino presented himself at the
office. He had one of the two horses that were used by Lockwood as
saddle animals, and as he entered he opened his coat and tapped the hilt
of a pistol showing from his trousers pocket, with a wink and a grin.
Lockwood took the brick from the safe, strapped it into the mail-bag,
and Chino, swinging it across his shoulders, was gone, leaving Lockwood
to hop back to the sofa, there to throw himself down and face once more
IV. A DESPATCH FROM THE EXPRESS MESSENGER
What made it harder for Lockwood just now was that even on that very
day, in spite of all precaution, in spite of all good resolutions, he
had at last seen Felice. Doubtless the young woman herself had contrived
it; but, be that as it may, Lockwood, returning from a tour of
inspection along the ditch, came upon her not far from camp, but in a
remote corner, and she had of course demanded why he kept away from her.
What Lockwood said in response he could not now remember; nor, for that
matter, was any part of the conversation very clear to his memory. The
reason for this was that, just as he was leaving her, something of more
importance than conversation had happened. Felice had looked at him.
And she had so timed her look, had so insinuated it into the little,
brief, significant silences between their words, that its meaning had
been very clear. Lockwood had left her with his brain dizzy, his teeth
set, his feet stumbling and fumbling down the trail, for now he knew
that Felice wanted him to know that she regretted the circumstance of
her marriage to Chino Zavalla; he knew that she wanted him to know that
the situation was as intolerable for her as for him.
All the rest of the day, even at this moment, in fact, this new phase of
the affair intruded its pregnant suggestions upon his mind, to the
exclusion of everything else. He felt the drift strong around him; he
knew that in the end he would resign himself to it. At the same time he
sensed the abyss, felt the nearness of some dreadful, nameless
cataclysm, a thing of black shadow, bottomless, terrifying.
"Lord!" he murmured, as he drew his hand across his forehead, "Lord! I
wonder where this thing is going to fetch up."
As he spoke, the telegraph key on his desk, near at hand, began all at
once to click off his call. Groaning and grumbling, Lockwood heaved
himself up, and, with his right leg bent, hobbled from chair-back to
chair-back over to the desk. He rested his right knee on his desk chair,
reached for his key, opened the circuit, and answered. There was an
instant's pause, then the instrument began to click again. The message
was from the express messenger at Iowa Hill.
Word by word Lockwood took it off as follows:
Lockwood let go the key and jumped back from the desk, lips compressed,
eyes alight, his fists clenched till the knuckles grew white. The whole
figure of him stiffened as tense as drawn wire, braced rigid like a
finely bred hound "making game."
Chino was already half an hour gone by the trail, and the Reno Kid was a
desperado of the deadliest breed known to the West. How he came to turn
up here there was no time to inquire. He was on hand, that was the
point; and Reno Kid always "shot to kill." This would be no mere
hold-up; it would be murder.
Just then, as Lockwood snatched open a certain drawer of his desk where
he kept his revolver, he heard from down the road, in the direction of
Chino's cabin, Felice's voice singing:
"To the war I must go,
To fight for my country and you, dear."
Lockwood stopped short, his arm at full stretch, still gripping tight
the revolver that he had half pulled from the drawer--stopped short and
The solution of everything had come.
He saw it in a flash. The knife hung poised over the knot--even at that
moment was falling. Nothing was asked of him--nothing but inertia.
For an instant, alone there in that isolated mining-camp, high above the
world, lost and forgotten in the gloom of the caÒons and redwoods,
Lockwood heard the crisis of his life come crashing through the air upon
him like the onslaught of a whirlwind. For an instant, and no more, he
considered. Then he cried aloud:
"No, no; I can't, I _can't_--not this way!" And with the words he threw
the belt of the revolver about his hips and limped and scampered from
the room, drawing the buckle close.
How he gained the stable he never knew, nor how he backed the horse from
the building, nor how, hopping on one leg, he got the headstall on and
drew the cinches tight.
But the wrench of pain in his foot as, swinging up at last, he tried to
catch his off stirrup was reality enough to clear any confusion of
spirit. Hanging on as best he might with his knees and one foot,
Lockwood, threshing the horse's flanks with the stinging quirt that
tapered from the reins of the bridle, shot from the camp in a swirl of
clattering hoofs, flying pebbles and blinding clouds of dust.
V. THE TRAIL
The night was black dark under the redwoods, so impenetrable that he
could not see his horse's head, and braced even as he was for greater
perils it required all his courage to ride top-speed at this vast slab
of black that like a wall he seemed to charge head down with every leap
of his bronco's hoofs.
For the first half-hour the trail mounted steadily, then, by the old
gravel-pits, it topped the divide and swung down over more open slopes,
covered only with chaparral and second growths. Here it was lighter, and
Lockwood uttered a fervent "Thank God!" when, a few moments later, the
moon shouldered over the mountain crests ahead of him and melted the
black shadows to silver-gray. Beyond the gravel-pits the trail turned
and followed the flank of the slope, level here for nearly a mile.
Lockwood set his teeth against the agony of his foot and gave the bronco
the quirt with all his strength.
In another half-hour he had passed Cold CaÒon, and twenty minutes after
that had begun the descent into Indian River. He forded the river at a
gallop, and, with the water dripping from his very hat-brim, drove
labouring under the farther slope.
Then he drew rein with a cry of bewilderment and apprehension. The
lights of Iowa Hill were not two hundred yards distant. He had covered
the whole distance from the mine, and where was Chino?
There was but one answer: back there along the trail somewhere, at some
point by which Lockwood had galloped headlong and unheeding, lying up
there in the chaparral with Reno's bullets in his body.
There was no time now to go on to the Hill. Chino, if he was not past
help, needed it without an instant's loss of time. Lockwood spun the
horse about. Once more the ford, once more the caÒon slopes, once more
the sharp turn by Cold CaÒon, once more the thick darkness under the
redwoods. Steadily he galloped on, searching the roadside.
Then all at once he reined in sharply, bringing the horse to a
standstill, one ear turned down the wind. The night's silence was broken
by a multitude of sounds--the laboured breathing of the spent bronco,
the saddle creaking as the dripping flanks rose and fell, the touch of
wind in the tree-tops and the chorusing of the myriad tree-toads. But
through all these, distinct, as precise as a clock-tick, Lockwood had
heard, and yet distinguished, the click of a horse's hoof drawing near,
and the horse was at a gallop: Reno at last.
Lockwood drew his pistol. He stood in thick shadow. Only some twenty
yards in front of him was there any faintest break in the darkness; but
at that point the blurred moonlight made a grayness across the trail,
just a tone less deep than the redwoods' shadows.
With his revolver cocked and trained upon this patch of grayness,
Lockwood waited, holding his breath.
The gallop came blundering on, sounding in the night's silence as loud
as the passage of an express train; and the echo of it, flung back from
the caÒon side, confused it and distorted it till, to Lockwood's morbid
alertness, it seemed fraught with all the madness of flight, all the
hurry of desperation.
Then the hoof-beats rose to a roar, and a shadow just darker than the
darkness heaved against the grayness that Lockwood held covered with his
pistol. Instantly he shouted aloud:
"Halt! Throw up your hands!"
His answer was a pistol shot.
He dug his heels to his horse, firing as the animal leaped forward. The
horses crashed together, rearing, plunging, and Lockwood, as he felt the
body of a man crush by him on the trail, clutched into the clothes of
him, and, with the pistol pressed against the very flesh, fired again,
crying out as he did so:
"Drop your gun, Reno! I know you. I'll kill you if you move again!"
And then it was that a wail rose into the night, a wail of agony and
"SigÒor Lockwude, SigÒor Lockwude, for the love of God, don't shoot!
'Tis I--Chino Zavalla."
VI. THE DISCOVERY OF FELICE
An hour later, Felice, roused from her sleep by loud knocking upon her
door, threw a blanket about her slim body, serape fashion, and opened
the cabin to two gaunt scarecrows, who, the one, half supported by the
other, himself far spent and all but swooning, lurched by her across the
threshold and brought up wavering and bloody in the midst of the cabin
"_Por Dios! Por Dios!_" cried Felice. "Ah, love of God! what misfortune
has befallen Chino!" Then in English, and with a swift leap of surprise
and dismay: "Ah, Meester Lockwude, air you hurt? Eh, tell me-a! Ah, it
is too draidful!"
"No, no," gasped Lockwood, as he dragged Chino's unconscious body to the
bed Felice had just left. "No; I--I've shot him. We met--there on the
trail." Then the nerves that had stood strain already surprisingly long
snapped and crisped back upon themselves like broken harp-strings.
"_I've shot him! I've shot him!_" he cried. "Shot him, do you
understand? Killed him, it may be. Get the doctor, quick! He's at the
office. I passed Chino on the trail over to the Hill. He'd hid in the
bushes as he heard me coming from behind, then when I came back I took
him. Oh, I'll explain later. Get the doctor, quick."
Felice threw on such clothes as came to her hand and ran over to the
office, returning with the doctor, half dressed and blinking in the
lantern-light. He went in to the wounded man at once, and Lockwood, at
the end of all strength, dropped into the hammock on the porch,
stretching out his leg to ease the anguish of his broken foot. He leaned
back and closed his eyes wearily, aware only of a hideous swirl of pain,
of intolerable anxiety as to Chino's wound, and, most of all, of a mere
blur of confusion wherein the sights and sounds of the last few hours
tore through his brain with the plunge of a wild galloping such as
seemed to have been in his ears for years and years.
But as he lay thus he heard a step at his side. Then came the touch of
Felice's long brown hand upon his face. He sat up, opening his eyes.
"You aisk me-a," she said, "eef I do onderstaind, eh? Yais, I
onderstaind. You--" her voice was a whisper--"you shoot Chino, eh? I
know. You do those thing' for me-a. I am note angri, no-a. You ver'
sharp man, eh? All for love oaf Felice, eh? Now we be happi, maybe; now
we git married soam day byne-by, eh? Ah, you one brave man, SigÒor
She would have taken his hand, but Lockwood, the pain all forgot, the
confusion all vanishing, was on his feet. It was as though a curtain
that for months had hung between him and the blessed light of clear
understanding had suddenly been rent in twain by her words. The woman
stood revealed. All the baseness of her tribe, all the degraded savagery
of a degenerate race, all the capabilities for wrong, for sordid
treachery, that lay dormant in her, leaped to life at this unguarded
moment, and in that new light, that now at last she had herself let in,
stood pitilessly revealed, a loathsome thing, hateful as malevolence
"What," shouted Lockwood, "you think--think that I--that I
_could_--oh-h, it's monstrous--_you_----" He could find no words to
voice his loathing. Swiftly he turned away from her, the last spark of
an evil love dying down forever in his breast.
It was a transformation, a thing as sudden as a miracle, as conclusive
as a miracle, and with all a miracle's sense of uplift and power. In a
second of time the scales seemed to fall from the man's eyes, fetters
from his limbs; he saw, and he was free.
At the door Lockwood met the doctor:
"He's all right; only a superficial wound. He'll recover. But you--how
about you? All right? Well, that is a good hearing. You've had a lucky
escape, my boy."
"I _have_ had a lucky escape," shouted Lockwood. "You don't know just
how lucky it was."
A BARGAIN WITH PEG-LEG
"Hey, youse!" shouted the car-boy. He brought his trundling, jolting,
loose-jointed car to a halt by the face of the drift. "Hey, youse!" he
Bunt shut off the Burly air-drill and nodded.
"Chaw," he remarked to me.
We clambered into the car, and, as the boy released the brake, rolled
out into the main tunnel of the Big Dipple, and banged and bumped down
the long incline that led to the mouth.
"Chaw" was dinner. It was one o'clock in the morning, and the men on the
night shift were taking their midnight spell off. Bunt was back at his
old occupation of miner, and I--the one loafer of all that little world
of workers--had brought him a bottle of beer to go with the "chaw"; for
Bunt and I were ancient friends.
As we emerged from the cool, cave-like dampness of the mine and ran out
into the wonderful night air of the Sierra foothills, warm, dry,
redolent of witch-hazel, the carboy began to cough, and, after we had
climbed out of the car and had sat down on the embankment to eat and
drink, Bunt observed:
"D'ye hear that bark? That kid's a one-lunger for fair. Which ain't no
salubrious graft for him--this hiking cars about in the bowels of the
earth, Some day he'll sure up an' quit. Ought to go down to Yuma a
The engineer in the mill was starting the stamps. They got under way
with broken, hiccoughing dislocations, bumping and stumbling like the
hoofs of a group of horses on the cattle-deck in a gale. Then they
jumped to a trot, then to a canter, and at last settled down to the
prolonged roaring gallop that reverberated far off over the entire
"I knew a one-lunger once," Bunt continued, as he uncorked the bottle,
"and the acquaintance was some distressful by reason of its bringing me
into strained relations with a cow-rustlin', hair-liftin',
only-one-born-in-captivity, man-eatin' brute of a one-legged Greaser
which he was named Peg-leg Smith. He was shy a leg because of a shotgun
that the other man thought wasn't loaded. And this here happens, lemme
tell you, 'way down in the Panamint country, where they wasn't no doctor
within twenty miles, and Peg-leg outs with his bowie and amputates that
leg hisself, then later makes a wood stump outa a ole halter and a
table-leg. I guess the whole jing-bang of it turned his head, for he
goes bad and loco thereafter, and begins shootin' and r'arin' up an'
down the hull Southwest, a-roarin' and a-bellerin' and a-takin' on
amazin'. We dasn't say boo to a yaller pup while he's round. I never see
such mean blood. Jus' let the boys know that Peg-leg was anyways
adjacent an' you can gamble they walked chalk.
"Y'see, this Peg-leg lay it out as how he couldn't abide no cussin' an'
swearin'. He said if there was any tall talkin' done he wanted to do it.
And he sure could. I've seed him hold on for six minutes by the watch
an' never repeat hisself once. An' shoot! Say, lemme tell you he did for
two Greasers once in a barroom at La Paz, one in front o' him, t'other
straight behind, _him_ standing between with a gun in each hand, and
shootin' both guns _at the same time_. Well, he was just a terror,"
declared Bunt, solemnly, "and when he was in real good form there wa'n't
a man south o' Leadville dared to call his hand.
"Now, the way I met up with this skunkin' little dewdrop was this-like
It was at Yuma, at a time when I was a kid of about nineteen. It was a
Sunday mornin'; Peg-leg was in town. He was asleep on a lounge in the
back room o' Bud Overick's Grand Transcontinental Hotel. (I used to
guess Bud called it that by reason that it wa'n't grand, nor
transcontinental, nor yet a hotel--it was a bar.) This was twenty year
ago, and in those days I knowed a one-lunger in Yuma named Clarence. (He
couldn't help that--he was a good kid--but his name _was_ Clarence.) We
got along first-rate. Yuma was a great consumptive place at that time.
They used to come in on every train; yes, and go out, too--by freight.
"Well, findin' that they couldn't do much else than jes' sit around an'
bark and keep their shawls tight, these 'ere chaps kinda drew together,
and lay it out to meet every Sunday morning at Bud's to sorta talk it
over and have a quiet game. One game they had that they played steady,
an' when I drifted into Bud's that morning they was about a dozen of 'em
at it--Clarence, too. When I came in, there they be, all sittin' in a
circle round a table with a cigar box on it. They'd each put four bits
into the box. That was the pot.
"A stranger wouldn't 'a' made nothin' very excitin' out of that game,
nor yet would 'a' caught on to what it were. For them pore yaps jes' sat
there, each with his little glass thermometer in his mouth, a-waitin'
and a-waitin' and never sayin' a word. Then bime-by Bud, who's a-holdin'
of the watch on 'em, sings out 'Time!' an' they all takes their
thermometers out an' looks at 'em careful-like to see where they stand.
"'Mine's ninety-nine,' says one.
"An' another says:
"'Mine's a hundred.'
"An' Clarence pipes up--coughin' all the time:
"'Mine's a hundred 'n one 'n 'alf.'
"An', no one havin' a higher tempriture than that, Clarence captures the
pot. It was a queer kind o' game.
"Well, on that particular Sunday morning they's some unpleasantness
along o' one o' the other one-lungers layin' it out as how Clarence had
done some monkey-business to make his tempriture so high. It was said as
how Clarence had took and drunk some hot tea afore comin' into the game
at Bud's. They all began to discuss that same p'int.
"Naturally, they don't go at it polite, and to make their remarks
p'inted they says a cuss-word occasional, and Clarence, bein' a
high-steppin' gent as takes nobody's dust, slings it back some forceful.
"Then all at once they hears Peg-leg beller from where's he layin' on
the lounge (they ain't figured on his bein' so contiguous), and he gives
it to be understood, does Peg-leg, as how the next one-lunger that
indulges in whatsoever profanity will lose his voice abrupt.
"They all drops out at that, bar the chap who had the next highest
tempriture to Clarence. Him having missed the pot by only a degree or so
is considerable sore.
"'Why,' says he, 'I've had a reg'lar _fever_ since yesterday afternoon,
an' only just dodged a hem'rage by a squeak. I'm all legitimate, I am;
an' if you-alls misdoubts as how my tempriture ain't normal you kin jes'
ask the doctor. I don't take it easy that a strappin', healthy gesabe
whose case ain't nowheres near the hopeless p'int yet steps in here with
a scalded mouth and plays it low.'
"Clarence he r'ars right up at that an' forgits about Peg-leg an'
expresses doubts, not to say convictions, about the one-lunger's chances
of salvation. He puts it all into about three words, an' just as quick
as look at it we hears ol' Peg-leg's wooden stump a-comin'. We stampedes
considerable prompt, but Clarence falls over a chair, an' before he kin
get up Peg-leg has him by the windpipe.
"Now I ain't billin' myself as a all-round star hero an' general
grand-stand man. But I was sure took with Clarence, an' I'd 'a' been
real disappointed if Peg-leg 'ud a-killed him that morning--which he
sure was tryin' to do when I came in for a few chips.
"I don' draw on Peg-leg, him being down on his knees over Clarence, an'
his back turned, but without sensin' very much _what_ I'm a-doin' of I
grabs holt o' the first part o' Peg-leg that comes handy, which, so help
me, Bob, is his old wooden leg. I starts to pull him off o' Clarence,
but instead o' that I pulls off the wooden leg an' goes a-staggerin'
back agin the wall with the thing in my fist.
"Y'know how it is now with a fightin' pup if you pull his tail while
he's a-chawin' up the other pup. Ye can bat him over the head till
you're tired, or kick him till you w'ars your boot out, an' he'll go
right on chawin' the harder. But monkey with his tail an' he's that
sensitive an' techy about it that he'll take a interest right off.
"Well, it were just so with Peg-leg--though I never knew it. Just by
accident I'd laid holt of him where he was tender; an' when he felt that
leg go--say, lemme tell you, he was some excited. He forgits all about
Clarence, and he lines out for me, a-clawin' the air. Lucky he'd left
his gun in the other room.
"Well, sir, y'ought to have seen him, a-hoppin' on one foot, and banging
agin the furniture, jes' naturally black in the face with rage, an'
doin' his darnedest to lay his hands on me, roarin' all the whiles like
a steer with a kinked tail.
"Well, I'm skeered, and I remarks that same without shame. I'm skeered.
I don't want to come to no grapples with Peg-leg in his wrath, an' I
knows that so long as he can't git his leg he can't take after me very
fast. Bud's saloon backs right up agin the bluff over the river. So what
do I do but heave that same wooden leg through one o' the back windows,
an' down she goes (as I _thought_) mebbe seventy feet into the caÒon o'
the Colorado? And then, mister man, _I skins out--fast_.
"I takes me headlong flight by way o' the back room and _on-root_
pitches Peg-leg's gun over into the caÒon, too, an' then whips around
the corner of the saloon an' fetches out ag'in by the street in front.
With his gun gone an' his leg gone, Peg-leg--so long's y'ain't within
arm's reach--is as harmless as a horned toad. So I kinda hangs 'round
the neighbourhood jes' to see what-all mout turn up.
"Peg-leg, after hoppin' back to find that his gun was gone, to look for
his leg, comes out by the front door, hoppin' from one chair to another,
an' seein' me standin' there across the street makes remarks; an' he
informs me that because of this same little turn-up this mornin' I ain't
never goin' to live to grow hair on my face. His observations are that
vigorous an' p'inted that I sure begin to see it that way, too, and I
says to myself:
"'Now you, Bunt McBride, you've cut it out for yourself good and hard,
an' the rest o' your life ain't goin' to be free from nervousness.
Either y'ought to 'a' let this here hell-roarin' maverick alone or else
you should 'a' put him clean out o' business when you had holt o' his
shootin'-iron. An' I ain't a bit happy.' And then jes' at this stage o'
the proceedings occurs what youse 'ud call a diversion.
"It seemed that that wood stump didn't go clean to the river as I first
figured, but stuck three-fourths the way down. An' a-course there's a
fool half-breed kid who's got to chase after it, thinkin' to do Peg-leg
a good turn.
"I don't know nothin' about this, but jes' stand there talkin' back to
Peg-leg, an' pre-tendin' I ain't got no misgivings, when I sees this kid
comin' a-cavoortin' an' a-cayoodlin' down the street with the leg in his
hands, hollerin' out:
"'Here's your leg, Mister Peg-leg! I went an' got it for you, Mister
"It ain't so likely that Peg-leg could 'a' caught me even if he'd had
his leg, but I wa'n't takin' no chances. An' as Peg-leg starts for the
kid I start, too--with my heart knockin' agin my front teeth, you can
"I never knew how fast a man could hop till that mornin', an', lookin'
at Peg-leg with the tail o' my eye as I ran, it seemed to me as how he
was a-goin' over the ground like a ole he-kangaroo. But somehow he gets
off his balance and comes down all of a smash like a rickety table, an'
I reaches the kid first an' takes the leg away from him.
"I guess Peg-leg must 'a' begun to lay it out by then that I held a
straight flush to his ace high, for he sits down on the edge of the
sidewalk an', being some winded, too, he just glares. Then byme-by he
"'You think you are some smart now, sonny, but I'm a-studyin' of your
face so's I'll know who to look for when I git a new leg; an' believe
me, I'll know it, m'son--yours and your friend's too' (he meant
Clarence)--'an' I guess you'll both be kind o' sick afore I'm done with
you. _You!_' he goes on, tremendous disgustful. 'You! an' them
one-lungers a-swearin' an' a-cussin' an' bedamnin' an' bedevilin' one
a-other. Ain't ye just ashamed o' yourselves ?' (he thought I was a
one-lunger, too); 'ain't ye ashamed--befoulin' your mouths, and
disturbin' the peace along of a quiet Sunday mornin', an' you-alls waist
over in your graves? I'm fair sick o' my job,' he remarks, goin' kind o'
thoughtful. 'Ten years now I've been range-ridin' all this yere ranch,
a-doin' o' my little feeble, or'nary best to clean out the mouths o' you
men an' purify the atmosphere o' God's own country, but I ain't made
_one_ convert. I've pounded 'em an' booted 'em, an' busted 'em an' shot
'em up, an' they go on cussin' each other out harder'n ever. I don't
know w'at all to do an' I sometimes gets plumb discouraged-like.'
"Now, hearin' of him talk that-a-way, an' a-knowin' of his weakness, I
gits a idea. It's a chanst and mebbee it don't pan out, but I puts it up
as a bluff. I don't want, you see, to spend the rest o' my appointed
time in this yere vale o' tears a-dodgin' o' Peg-leg Smith, an' in the
end, after all, to git between the wind and a forty-eight caliber
do-good, sure not. So I puts up a deal. Says I: 'Peg-leg, I'll make a
bargint along o' you. You lays it out as how you ain't never converted
nobody out o' his swearin' habits. Now if you wants, 'ere's a chanst.
You gimmee your word as a gent and a good-man-an'-true, as how you won't
never make no play to shoot me up, in nowise whatsoever, so long as we
both do live, an' promise never to bust me, or otherwise, and promise
never to rustle me or interfere with my life, liberty and pursuit o'
happiness, an' thereunto you set your seal an' may Lord 'a' mercy on
your soul--you promise that, an' I will agree an' covenant with the
party o' the first part to abstain an' abjure, early or late, dry or
drinkin', in liquor or out, out o' luck or in, rangin' or roundin', from
all part an' parcel o' profanity, cuss-words, little or big, several and
separate, bar none; this yere agreement to be considered as bindin' an'
obligatory till the day o' your demise, decease or death. _There!_' says
I, 'there's a fair bargint put up between man an' man, an' I puts it to
you fair. You comes in with a strong ante an' you gets a genuine,
guaranteed an' high-grade convert--the real article. You stays out, an'
not only you loses a good chanst to cut off and dam up as vigorous a
stream o' profanity as is found between here and Laredo, but you loses a
handmade, copper-bound, steel-riveted, artificial limb--which in five
minutes o' time,' says I, windin' up, 'will sure feed the fire. There's
"Well, the ol' man takes out time for about as long as a thirsty
horse-rustler could put away half a dozen drinks an' he studies the
proposition sideways and endways an' down side up. Then at last he ups
and speaks out decided-like:
"'Son,' he says, 'son, it's a bargint. Gimmee my leg.'
"Somehow neither o' us misdoubts as how the other man won't keep his
word; an' I gives him his stump, an' he straps her on joyful-like, just
as if he'd got back a ole friend. Then later on he hikes out for Mojave
and I don' see him no more for mebbee three years."
"And then?" I prompted.
"Well, I'll tell you," continued Bunt, between mouthfuls of pie, "I'll
tell you. This yere prejudice agin profanity is the only thing about
this yere Peg-leg that ain't pizen bad, an' _that_ prejudice, you got to
know, was just along o' his being loco on that one subjeck. 'Twa'n't as
if he had any real principles or convictions about the thing. It was
just a loco prejudice. Just as some gesabes has feelin's agin cats an'
snakes, or agin seein' a speckled nigger. It was just on-reasonable. So
what I'm aimin' to have you understand is the fact that it was extremely
appropriate that Peg-leg should die, that it was a blame good thing, and
somethin' to be celebrated by free drinks all round.
"You can say he treated me white, an' took my unsupported word. Well, so
he did; but that was in spite o' what he really was hisself, 'way on the
inside o' him. Inside o' him he was black-bad, an' it wa'n't a week
after we had made our bargint that he did for a little Mojave kid in a
way I don't like to think of.
"So when he took an' died like as how I'm a-going to tell you of, I was
plumb joyful, not only because I could feel at liberty to relieve my
mind when necessary in a manner as is approved of and rightful among
gents--not only because o' that, but because they was one less bad egg
in the cow-country.
"Now the manner o' Peg-leg's dying was sure hilarious-like. I didn't git
over laughin' about it for a month o' Sundays--an' I ain't done yet. It
was sure a joke on Peg-leg. The cutest joke that ever was played off on
"It was in Sonora--Sonora, Arizona, I mean. They'd a-been a kind o' gold
excitement there, and all the boys had rounded up. The town was
full--chock-a-block. Peg-leg he was there too, drunk all the time an'
bullyin' everybody, an' slambangin' around in his same old way. That
very day he'd used a friend o' his--his best friend--cruel hard: just
mean and nasty, you know.
"Well, I'm sitting into a little game o' faro about twelve o'clock at
night, me an' about a dozen o' the boys. We're good an' interested, and
pretty much to the good o' the game, an' somebody's passin' drinks when
all at once there's a sure big rumpus out in the street, an' a gent
sticks his head thro' the door an' yells out:
"'Hi, there, they's a fire! The Golden West Hotel is on fire!'
"We draws the game as soon as convenient and hikes out, an', my word,
you'd 'a' thought from the looks o' things as how the whole town was
going. But it was only the hotel--the Golden West, where Peg-leg was
stayin'; an' when we got up we could hear the ol' murderer bellerin' an'
ragin', an' him drunk--of course.
"Well, I'm some excited. Lord love you, I'd as soon 'a' seen Peg-leg
shot as I would eat, an' when I remembers the little Mojave kid I'm glad
as how his time is at hand. Saved us the trouble o' lynchin' that sooner
or later had to come.
"Peg-leg's room was in the front o' the house on the fourth floor, but
the fire was all below, and what with the smoke comin' out the
third-story winders he couldn't see down into the street, no more'n the
boys could see him--only they just heard him bellerin'.
"Then some one of 'em sings out:
"'Hey, Peg-leg, jump! We got a blanket here.'
"An' sure enough he does jump!"
Here Bunt chuckled grimly, muttering, "Yes, sir, sure enough he did
"I don't quite see," I observed, "where the laugh comes in. What was the
joke of it?"
"The joke of it was," finished Bunt, "that they hadn't any blanket."
THE PASSING OF COCK-EYE BLACKLOCK
"Well, m'son," observed Bunt about half an hour after supper, "if your
provender has shook down comfortable by now, we might as well jar loose
and be moving along out yonder."
We left the fire and moved toward the hobbled ponies, Bunt complaining
of the quality of the outfit's meals. "Down in the Panamint country," he
growled, "we had a Chink that was a sure frying-pan expert; but _this_
Dago--my word! That ain't victuals, that supper. That's just a'
ingenious device for removing superfluous appetite. Next time I
assimilate nutriment in this camp I'm sure going to take chloroform
beforehand. Careful to draw your cinch tight on that pinto bronc' of
yours. She always swells up same as a horned toad soon as you begin to
We rode from the circle of the camp-fire's light and out upon the
desert. It was Bunt's turn to ride the herd that night, and I had
volunteered to bear him company.
Bunt was one of a fast-disappearing type. He knew his West as the
cockney knows his Piccadilly. He had mined with and for Ralston, had
soldiered with Crook, had turned cards in a faro game at Laredo, and had
known the Apache Kid. He had fifteen separate and different times driven
the herds from Texas to Dodge City, in the good old, rare old, wild old
days when Dodge was the headquarters for the cattle trade, and as near
to heaven as the cowboy cared to get. He had seen the end of gold and
the end of the buffalo, the beginning of cattle, the beginning of wheat,
and the spreading of the barbed-wire fence, that, in the end, will take
from him his occupation and his revolver, his chaparejos and his
usefulness, his lariat and his reason for being. He had seen the rise of
a new period, the successive stages of which, singularly enough, tally
exactly with the progress of our own world-civilization: first the nomad
and hunter, then the herder, next and last the husband-man. He had
passed the mid-mark of his life. His mustache was gray. He had four
friends--his horse, his pistol, a teamster in the Indian Territory
Panhandle named Skinny, and me.
The herd--I suppose all told there were some two thousand head--we found
not far from the water-hole. We relieved the other watch and took up our
night's vigil. It was about nine o'clock. The night was fine, calm.
There was no cloud. Toward the middle watches one could expect a moon.
But the stars, the stars! In Idaho, on those lonely reaches of desert
and range, where the shadow of the sun by day and the courses of the
constellations by night are the only things that move, these stars are a
different matter from those bleared pin-points of the city after dark,
seen through dust and smoke and the glare of electrics and the hot haze
of fire-signs. On such a night as that when I rode the herd with Bunt
_anything_ might have happened; one could have believed in fairies then,
and in the buffalo-ghost, and in all the weirds of the craziest Apache
"Messiah" that ever made medicine.
One remembered astronomy and the "measureless distances" and the showy
problems, including the rapid moving of a ray of light and the long
years of its travel between star and star, and smiled incredulously.
Why, the stars were just above our heads, were not much higher than the
flat-topped hills that barred the horizons. Venus was a yellow lamp hung
in a tree; Mars a red lantern in a clock-tower.
One listened instinctively for the tramp of the constellations. Orion,
Cassiopeia and Ursa Major marched to and fro on the vault like cohorts
of legionaries, seemingly within call of our voices, and all without a
But beneath these quiet heavens the earth disengaged multitudinous
sounds--small sounds, minimized as it were by the muffling of the night.
Now it was the yap of a coyote leagues away; now the snapping of a twig
in the sage-brush; now the mysterious, indefinable stir of the
heat-ridden land cooling under the night. But more often it was the
confused murmur of the herd itself--the click of a horn, the friction of
heavy bodies, the stamp of a hoof, with now and then the low,
complaining note of a cow with a calf, or the subdued noise of a steer
as it lay down, first lurching to the knees, then rolling clumsily upon
the haunch, with a long, stertorous breath of satisfaction.
Slowly at Indian trot we encircle the herd. Earlier in the evening a
prairie-wolf had pulled down a calf, and the beasts were still restless.
Little eddies of nervousness at long intervals developed here and there
in the mass--eddies that not impossibly might widen at any time with
perilous quickness to the maelstrom of a stampede. So as he rode Bunt
sang to these great brutes, literally to put them to sleep--sang an old
grandmother's song, with all the quaint modulations of sixty, seventy, a
hundred years ago:
"With her ogling winks
And bobbling blinks,
Her quizzing glass,
Her one eye idle,
Oh, she loved a bold dragoon,
With his broadsword, saddle, bridle.
I remember that song. My grandmother--so they tell me--used to sing it
in Carolina, in the thirties, accompanying herself on a harp, if you
"Oh, she loved a bold dragoon,
With his broadsword, saddle, bridle."
It was in Charleston, I remembered, and the slave-ships used to
discharge there in those days. My grandmother had sung it then to her
beaux; officers they were; no wonder she chose it--"Oh, she loved a bold
dragoon"--and now I heard it sung on an Idaho cattle-range to quiet two
thousand restless steers.
Our talk at first, after the cattle had quieted down, ran upon all
manner of subjects. It is astonishing to note what strange things men
will talk about at night and in a solitude. That night we covered
religion, of course, astronomy, love affairs, horses, travel, history,
poker, photography, basket-making, and the Darwinian theory. But at last
inevitably we came back to cattle and the pleasures and dangers of
riding the herd.
"I rode herd once in Nevada," remarked Bunt, "and I was caught into a
blizzard, and I was sure freezing to death. Got to where I couldn't keep
my eyes open, I was that sleepy. Tell you what I did. Had some
eating-tobacco along, and I'd chew it a spell, then rub the juice into
my eyes. Kept it up all night. Blame near blinded me, but I come
through. Me and another man named Blacklock--Cock-eye Blacklock we
called him, by reason of his having one eye that was some out of line.
Cock-eye sure ought to have got it that night, for he went bad
afterward, and did a heap of killing before he _did_ get it. He was a
bad man for sure, and the way he died is a story in itself."
There was a long pause. The ponies jogged on. Rounding on the herd, we
"He did 'get it' finally, you say," I prompted.
"He certainly did," said Bunt, "and the story of it is what a man with
a' imaginary mind like you ought to make into one of your friction
"Is it about a treasure?" I asked with apprehension. For ever since I
once made a tale (of friction) out of one of Bunt's stories of real
life, he has been ambitious for me to write another, and is forever
suggesting motifs which invariably--I say invariably--imply the
discovery of great treasures. With him, fictitious literature must
always turn upon the discovery of hidden wealth.
"No," said he, "it ain't about no treasure, but just about the origin,
hist'ry and development--and subsequent decease--of as mean a Greaser as
ever stole stock, which his name was Cock-eye Blacklock.
"You see, this same Blacklock went bad about two summers after our
meet-up with the blizzard. He worked down Yuma way and over into New
Mexico, where he picks up with a sure-thing gambler, and the two begin
to devastate the population. They do say when he and his running mate
got good and through with that part of the Land of the Brave, men used
to go round trading guns for commissary, and clothes for ponies, and
cigars for whisky and such. There just wasn't any money left _anywhere_.
Those sharps had drawed the landscape clean. Some one found a dollar in
a floor-crack in a saloon, and the barkeep' gave him a gallon of
forty-rod for it, and used to keep it in a box for exhibition, and the
crowd would get around it and paw it over and say: 'My! my! Whatever in
the world is this extremely cu-roos coin?'
"Then Blacklock cuts loose from his running mate, and plays a lone hand
through Arizona and Nevada, up as far as Reno again, and there he stacks
up against a kid--a little tenderfoot kid so new he ain't cracked the
green paint off him--and _skins_ him. And the kid, being foolish and
impulsive-like, pulls out a peashooter. It was a _twenty-two_," said
Bunt, solemnly. "Yes, the kid was just that pore, pathetic kind to carry
a dinky twenty-two, and with the tears runnin' down his cheeks begins to
talk tall. Now what does that Cockeye do? Why, that pore kid that he had
skinned couldn't 'a' hurt him with his pore little bric-‡-brac. Does
Cock-eye take his little parlour ornament away from him, and spank him,
and tell him to go home? No, he never. The kid's little tin pop-shooter
explodes right in his hand before he can crook his forefinger twice, and
while he's a-wondering what-all has happened Cock-eye gets his two guns
on him, slow and deliberate like, mind you, and throws forty-eights into
him till he ain't worth shooting at no more. Murders him like the
mud-eating, horse-thieving snake of a Greaser that he is; but being
within the law, the kid drawing on him first, he don't stretch hemp the
way he should.
"Well, fin'ly this Blacklock blows into a mining-camp in Placer County,
California, where I'm chuck-tending on the night-shift. This here camp
is maybe four miles across the divide from Iowa Hill, and it sure is
named a cu-roos name, which it is Why-not. They is a barn contiguous,
where the mine horses are kep', and, blame me! if there ain't a
weathercock on top of that same--a golden trotting-horse--_upside down_.
When the stranger an' pilgrim comes in, says he first off: 'Why'n snakes
they got that weathercock horse upside down--why?' says he. 'Why-not,'
says you, and the drinks is on the pilgrim.
"That all went very lovely till some gesabe opens up a placer drift on
the far side the divide, starts a rival camp, an' names her Because. The
Boss gets mad at that, and rights up the weathercock, and renames the
camp Ophir, and you don't work no more pilgrims.
"Well, as I was saying, Cock-eye drifts into Why-not and begins
diffusing trouble. He skins some of the boys in the hotel over in town,
and a big row comes of it, and one of the bed-rock cleaners cuts loose
with both guns. Nobody hurt but a quarter-breed, who loses a' eye. But
the marshal don't stand for no short-card men, an' closes Cock-eye up
some prompt. Him being forced to give the boys back their money is
busted an' can't get away from camp. To raise some wind he begins
"He robs a pore half-breed of a cayuse, and shoots up a Chink who's
panning tailings, and generally and variously becomes too pronounced,
till he's run outen camp. He's sure stony-broke, not being able to turn
a card because of the marshal. So he goes to live in a ole cabin up by
the mine ditch, and sits there doing a heap o' thinking, and hatching
trouble like a' ole he-hen.
"Well, now, with that deporting of Cock-eye comes his turn of bad luck,
and it sure winds his clock up with a loud report. I've narrated special
of the scope and range of this 'ere Blacklock, so as you'll understand
why it was expedient and desirable that he should up an' die. You see,
he always managed, with all his killings and robbings and general and
sundry flimflamming, to be just within the law. And if anybody took a
notion to shoot him up, why, his luck saw him through, and the other
man's shooting-iron missed fire, or exploded, or threw wild, or such
like, till it seemed as if he sure did bear a charmed life; and so he
did till a pore yeller tamale of a fool dog did for him what the law of
the land couldn't do. Yes, sir, a fool dog, a pup, a blame yeller pup
named Sloppy Weather, did for Cock-eye Blacklock, sporting character,
three-card-monte man, sure-thing sharp, killer, and general bedeviler.
"You see, it was this way. Over in American CaÒon, some five miles maybe
back of the mine, they was a creek called the American River, and it was
sure chock-a-block full of trouts. The Boss used for to go over there
with a dinky fish-pole like a buggy-whip about once a week, and scout
that stream for fish and bring back a basketful. He was sure keen on it,
and had bought some kind of privilege or other, so as he could keep
other people off.
"Well, I used to go along with him to pack the truck, and one Saturday,
about a month after Cock-eye had been run outen camp, we hiked up over
the divide, and went for to round up a bunch o' trouts. When we got to
the river there was a mess for your life. Say, that river was full of
dead trouts, floating atop the water; and they was some even on the
bank. Not a scratch on 'em; just dead. The Boss had the papsy-lals. I
never _did_ see a man so rip-r'aring, snorting mad. _I_ hadn't a guess
about what we were up against, but he knew, and he showed down. He said
somebody had been shooting the river for fish to sell down Sacramento
way to the market. A mean trick; kill more fish in one shoot than you
can possibly pack.
"Well, we didn't do much fishing that day--couldn't get a bite, for that
matter--and took on home about noon to talk it over. You see, the Boss,
in buying the privileges or such for that creek, had made himself
responsible to the Fish Commissioners of the State, and 'twasn't a week
before they were after him, camping on his trail incessant, and wanting
to know how about it. The Boss was some worried, because the fish were
being killed right along, and the Commission was making him weary of
living. Twicet afterward we prospected along that river and found the
same lot of dead fish. We even put a guard there, but it didn't do no
manner of good.
"It's the Boss who first suspicions Cock-eye. But it don't take no
seventh daughter of no seventh daughter to trace trouble where
Black-lock's about. He sudden shows up in town with a bunch of
simoleons, buying bacon and tin cows [Footnote: Condensed milk.] and
such provender, and generally giving it away that he's come into money.
The Boss, who's watching his movements sharp, says to me one day:
"'Bunt, the storm-centre of this here low area is a man with a cock-eye,
an' I'll back that play with a paint horse against a paper dime.'
"'No takers,' says I. 'Dirty work and a cock-eyed man are two heels of
the same mule.'
"'Which it's a-kicking of me in the stummick frequent and painful,' he
remarks, plenty wrathful.
"'On general principles,' I said, 'it's a royal flush to a pair of
deuces as how this Blacklock bird ought to stop a heap of lead, and I
know the man to throw it. He's the only brother of my sister, and tends
chuck in a placer mine. How about if I take a day off and drop round to
his cabin and interview him on the fleetin' and unstable nature of human
"But the Boss wouldn't hear of that.
"'No,' says he; 'that's not the bluff to back in this game. You an' me
an' 'Mary-go-round'--that was what we called the marshal, him being so
much all over the country--'you an' me an' Mary-go-round will have to
stock a sure-thing deck against that maverick.'
"So the three of us gets together an' has a talky-talk, an' we lays it
out as how Cock-eye must be watched and caught red-handed.
"Well, let me tell you, keeping case on that Greaser sure did lack a
certain indefinable charm. We tried him at sun-up, an' again at sundown,
an' nights, too, laying in the chaparral an' tarweed, an' scouting up
an' down that blame river, till we were sore. We built surreptitious a
lot of shooting-boxes up in trees on the far side of the caÒon,
overlooking certain an' sundry pools in the river where Cock-eye would
be likely to pursue operations, an' we took turns watching. I'll be a
Chink if that bad egg didn't put it on us same as previous, an' we'd
find new-killed fish all the time. I tell you we were _fitchered_; and
it got on the Boss's nerves. The Commission began to talk of withdrawing
the privilege, an' it was up to him to make good or pass the deal. We
_knew_ Blacklock was shooting the river, y' see, but we didn't have no
evidence. Y' see, being shut off from card-sharping, he was up against
it, and so took to pot-hunting to get along. It was as plain as red
"Well, things went along sort of catch-as-catch-can like this for maybe
three weeks, the Greaser shooting fish regular, an' the Boss b'iling
with rage, and laying plans to call his hand, and getting bluffed out
"And right here I got to interrupt, to talk some about the pup dog,
Sloppy Weather. If he hadn't got caught up into this Blacklock game, no
one'd ever thought enough about him to so much as kick him. But after it
was all over, we began to remember this same Sloppy an' to recall what
he was; no big job. He was just a worthless fool pup, yeller at that,
everybody's dog, that just hung round camp, grinning and giggling and
playing the goat, as half-grown dogs will. He used to go along with the
car-boys when they went swimmin' in the resevoy, an' dash along in an'
yell an' splash round just to show off. He thought it was a keen stunt
to get some gesabe to throw a stick in the resevoy so's he could paddle
out after it. They'd trained him always to bring it back an' fetch it to
whichever party throwed it. He'd give it up when he'd retrieved it, an'
yell to have it throwed again. That was his idea of fun--just like a
"Well, one day this Sloppy Weather is off chasing jack-rabbits an' don't
come home. Nobody thinks anything about that, nor even notices it. But
we afterward finds out that he'd met up with Blacklock that day, an'
stopped to visit with him--sorry day for Cockeye. Now it was the very
next day after this that Mary-go-round an' the Boss plans another scout.
I'm to go, too. It was a Wednesday, an' we lay it out that the Cockeye
would prob'ly shoot that day so's to get his fish down to the railroad
Thursday, so they'd reach Sacramento Friday--fish day, see. It wasn't
much to go by, but it was the high card in our hand, an' we allowed to
draw to it.
"We left Why-not afore daybreak, an' worked over into the caÒon about
sun-up. They was one big pool we hadn't covered for some time, an' we
made out we'd watch that. So we worked down to it, an' clumb up into our
trees, an' set out to keep guard.
"In about an hour we heard a shoot some mile or so up the creek. They's
no mistaking dynamite, leastways not to miners, an' we knew that shoot
was dynamite an' nothing else. The Cock-eye was at work, an' we shook
hands all round. Then pretty soon a fish or so began to go by--big
fellows, some of 'em, dead an' floatin', with their eyes popped 'way out
same as knobs--sure sign they'd been shot.
"The Boss took and grit his teeth when he see a three-pounder go by, an'
made remarks about Blacklock.
"''Sh!' says Mary-go-round, sudden-like. 'Listen!'
"We turned ear down the wind, an' sure there was the sound of some one
scrabbling along the boulders by the riverside. Then we heard a pup yap.
"'That's our man,' whispers the Boss.
"For a long time we thought Cock-eye had quit for the day an' had
coppered us again, but byne-by we heard the manzanita crack on the far
side the caÒon, an' there at last we see Blacklock working down toward
the pool, Sloppy Weather following an' yapping and cayoodling just as a
fool dog will.
"Blacklock comes down to the edge of the water quiet-like. He lays his
big scoop-net an' his sack--we can see it half full already--down behind
a boulder, and takes a good squinting look all round, and listens maybe
twenty minutes, he's that cute, same's a coyote stealing sheep. We lies
low an' says nothing, fear he might see the leaves move.
"Then byne-by he takes his stick of dynamite out his hip pocket--he was
just that reckless kind to carry it that way--an' ties it careful to a
couple of stones he finds handy. Then he lights the fuse an' heaves her
into the drink, an' just there's where Cock-eye makes the mistake of his
life. He ain't tied the rocks tight enough, an' the loop slips off just
as he swings back his arm, the stones drop straight down by his feet,
and the stick of dynamite whirls out right enough into the pool.
"Then the funny business begins.
"Blacklock ain't made no note of Sloppy Weather, who's been sizing up
the whole game an' watchin' for the stick. Soon as Cock-eye heaves the
dynamite into the water, off goes the pup after it, just as he'd been
taught to do by the car-boys.
"'Hey, you fool dog!' yells Blacklock.
"A lot that pup cares. He heads out for that stick of dynamite same as
if for a veal cutlet, reaches it, grabs hold of it, an' starts back for
shore, with the fuse sputterin' like hot grease. Blacklock heaves rocks
at him like one possessed, capering an' dancing; but the pup comes right
on. The Cock-eye can't stand it no longer, but lines out. But the pup's
got to shore an' takes after him. Sure; why not? He think's it's all
part of the game. Takes after Cock-eye, running to beat a' express,
while we-all whoops and yells an' nearly falls out the trees for
laffing. Hi! Cock-eye did scratch gravel for sure. But 'tain't no manner
of use. He can't run through that rough ground like Sloppy Weather, an'
that fool pup comes a-cavartin' along, jumpin' up against him, an' him
a-kickin' him away, an' r'arin', an' dancin', an' shakin' his fists, an'
the more he r'ars the more fun the pup thinks it is. But all at once
something big happens, an' the whole bank of the caÒon opens out like a
big wave, and slops over into the pool, an' the air is full of trees an'
rocks and cart-loads of dirt an' dogs and Blacklocks and rivers an'
smoke an' fire generally. The Boss got a clod o' river-mud spang in the
eye, an' went off his limb like's he was trying to bust a bucking bronc'
an' couldn't; and ol' Mary-go-round was shooting off his gun on general
principles, glarin' round wild-eyed an' like as if he saw a' Injun
"When the smoke had cleared away an' the trees and rocks quit falling,
we clumb down from our places an' started in to look for Black-lock. We
found a good deal of him, but they wasn't hide nor hair left of Sloppy
Weather. We didn't have to dig no grave, either. They was a big enough
hole in the ground to bury a horse an' wagon, let alone Cock-eye. So we
planted him there, an' put up a board, an' wrote on it:
Here lies most
who died of a'
entangling alliance with
stick of dynamite.
Moral: A hook and line is good enough
fish-tackle for any honest man.
"That there board lasted for two years, till the freshet of '82, when
the American River--Hello, there's the sun!"
All in a minute the night seemed to have closed up like a great book.
The East flamed roseate. The air was cold, nimble. Some of the
sage-brush bore a thin rim of frost. The herd, aroused, the dew
glistening on flank and horn, were chewing the first cud of the day, and
in twos and threes moving toward the water-hole for the morning's drink.
Far off toward the camp the breakfast fire sent a shaft of blue smoke
straight into the moveless air. A jack-rabbit, with erect ears, limped
from the sage-brush just out of pistol-shot and regarded us a moment,
his nose wrinkling and trembling. By the time that Bunt and I, putting
our ponies to a canter, had pulled up by the camp of the Bar-circle-Z
outfit, another day had begun in Idaho.
A MEMORANDUM OF SUDDEN DEATH
The manuscript of the account that follows belongs to a harness-maker in
Albuquerque, Juan Tejada by name, and he is welcome to whatever of
advertisement this notice may bring him. He is a good fellow, and his
patented martingale for stage horses may be recommended. I understand he
got the manuscript from a man named Bass, or possibly Bass left it with
him for safe-keeping. I know that Tejada has some things of Bass's
now--things that Bass left with him last November: a mess-kit, a lantern
and a broken theodolite--a whole saddle-box full of contraptions. I
forgot to ask Tejada how Bass got the manuscript, and I wish I had done
so now, for the finding of it might be a story itself. The probabilities
are that Bass simply picked it up page by page off the desert, blown
about the spot where the fight occurred and at some little distance from
the bodies. Bass, I am told, is a bone-gatherer by profession, and one
can easily understand how he would come across the scene of the
encounter in one of his tours into western Arizona. My interest in the
affair is impersonal, but none the less keen. Though I did not know
young Karslake, I knew his stuff--as everybody still does, when you come
to that. For the matter of that, the mere mention of his pen-name,
"Anson Qualtraugh," recalls at once to thousands of the readers of a
certain world-famous monthly magazine of New York articles and stories
he wrote for it while he was alive; as, for instance, his admirable
descriptive work called "Traces of the Aztecs on the Mogolon Mesa," in
the October number of 1890. Also, in the January issue of 1892 there are
two specimens of his work, one signed Anson Qualtraugh and the other
Justin Blisset. Why he should have used the Blisset signature I do not
know. It occurs only this once in all his writings. In this case it is
signed to a very indifferent New Year's story. The Qualtraugh "stuff" of
the same number is, so the editor writes to me, a much shortened
transcript of a monograph on "Primitive Methods of Moki Irrigation,"
which are now in the archives of the Smithsonian. The admirable novel,
"The Peculiar Treasure of Kings," is of course well known. Karslake
wrote it in 1888-89, and the controversy that arose about the incident
of the third chapter is still--sporadically and intermittently--continued.
The manuscript that follows now appears, of course, for the first time
in print, and I acknowledge herewith my obligations to Karslake's
father, Mr. Patterson Karslake, for permission to publish.
I have set the account down word for word, with all the hiatuses and
breaks that by nature of the extraordinary circumstances under which it
was written were bound to appear in it. I have allowed it to end
precisely as Karslake was forced to end it, in the middle of a sentence.
God knows the real end is plain enough and was not far off when the poor
fellow began the last phrase that never was to be finished.
The value of the thing is self-apparent. Besides the narrative of
incidents it is a simple setting forth of a young man's emotions in the
very face of violent death. You will remember the distinguished victim
of the guillotine, a lady who on the scaffold begged that she might be
permitted to write out the great thoughts that began to throng her mind.
She was not allowed to do so, and the record is lost. Here is a case
where the record is preserved. But Karslake, being a young man not very
much given to introspection, his work is more a picture of things seen