Part 3 out of 5
to fill in the pause that followed the stranger's last words, so
in a moment he continued his narrative.
We had every sort of people with us off and on, and, as I was
lookout at a popular game, I saw them all. One evening I was on
my way home about two o'clock of a moonlit night, when on the
edge of the shadow I stumbled over a body lying part across the
footway. At the same instant I heard the rip of steel through
cloth and felt a sharp stab in my left leg. For a minute I
thought some drunk had used his knife on me, and I mighty near
derringered him as he lay. But somehow I didn't, and looking
closer, I saw the man was unconscious. Then I scouted to see
what had cut me, and found that the fellow had lost a hand. In
place of it he wore a sharp steel hook. This I had tangled up
with and gotten well pricked.
I dragged him out into the light. He was a slim-built young
fellow, with straight black hair, long and lank and oily, a lean
face, and big hooked nose. He had on only a thin shirt, a pair
of rough wool pants, and the rawhide home-made zapatos the
Mexicans wore then instead of boots. Across his forehead ran a
long gash, cutting his left eyebrow square in two.
There was no doubt of his being alive, for he was breathing hard,
like a man does when he gets hit over the head. It didn't sound
good. When a man breathes that way he's mostly all gone.
Well, it was really none of my business, as you might say. Men
got batted over the head often enough in those days. But for
some reason I picked him up and carried him to my 'dobe shack,
and laid him out, and washed his cut with sour wine. That
brought him to. Sour wine is fine to put a wound in shape to
heal, but it's no soothing syrup. He sat up as though he'd been
touched with a hot poker, stared around wild-eyed, and cut loose
with that song you were singing. Only it wasn't that verse.
It was another one further along, that went like this:
Their coffin was their ship, and their grave it was the sea,
Blow high, blow low, what care we;
And the quarter that we gave them was to sink them in the sea,
Down on the coast of the High Barbaree.
It fair made my hair rise to hear him, with the big, still,
solemn desert outside, and the quiet moonlight, and the shadows,
and him sitting up straight and gaunt, his eyes blazing each side
his big eagle nose, and his snaky hair hanging over the raw cut
across his head. However, I made out to get him bandaged up and
in shape; and pretty soon he sort of went to sleep.
Well, he was clean out of his head for nigh two weeks. Most of
the time he lay flat on his back staring at the pole roof, his
eyes burning and looking like they saw each one something a
different distance off, the way crazy eyes do. That was when he
was best. Then again he'd sing that Barbaree song until I'd go
out and look at the old Colorado flowing by just to be sure I
hadn't died and gone below. Or else he'd just talk. That was
the worst performance of all. It was like listening to one end
of a telephone, though we didn't know what telephones were in
those days. He began when be was a kid, and he gave his side of
conversations, pausing for replies. I could mighty near furnish
the replies sometimes. It was queer lingo--about ships and
ships' officers and gales and calms and fights and pearls and
whales and islands and birds and skies. But it was all little
stuff. I used to listen by the hour, but I never made out
anything really important as to who the man was, or where he'd
come from, or what he'd done.
At the end of the second week I came in at noon as per usual to
fix him up with grub. I didn't pay any attention to him, for he
was quiet. As I was bending over the fire he spoke. Usually I
didn't bother with his talk, for it didn't mean anything, but
something in his voice made me turn. He was lying on his side,
those black eyes of his blazing at me, but now both of them saw
the same distance.
"Where are my clothes?" he asked, very intense.
"You ain't in any shape to want clothes," said I. "Lie still."
I hadn't any more than got the words out of my mouth before he
was atop me. His method was a winner. He had me by the throat
with his hand, and I felt the point of the hook pricking the back
of my neck. One little squeeze--Talk about your deadly weapons!
But he'd been too sick and too long abed. He turned dizzy and
keeled over, and I dumped him back on the bunk. Then I put my
In a minute or so he came to.
"Now you're a nice, sweet proposition," said I, as soon as I was
sure he could understand me. "Here I pick you up on the street
and save your worthless carcass, and the first chance you get you
try to crawl my hump.
"Where's my clothes?" he demanded again, very fierce.
"For heaven's sake," I yelled at him, "what's the matter with you
and your old clothes? There ain't enough of them to dust a
fiddle with anyway. What do you think I'd want with them?
They're safe enough."'
"Let me have them," he begged.
"Now, look here," said I, "you can't get up to-day. You ain't
"I know," he pleaded, "but let me see them."
Just to satisfy him I passed over his old duds.
"I've been robbed," he cried.
"Well," said I, "what did you expect would happen to you lying
around Yuma after midnight with a hole in your head?"
"Where's my coat?" he asked.
"You had no coat when I picked you up," I replied.
He looked at me mighty suspicious, but didn't say anything more--
he wouldn't even answer when I spoke to him. After he'd eaten a
fair meal he fell asleep. When I came back that evening the bunk
was empty and he was gone.
I didn't see him again for two days. Then I caught sight of him
quite a ways off. He nodded at me very sour, and dodged around
the corner of the store.
"Guess he suspicions I stole that old coat of his," thinks I; and
afterwards I found that my surmise had been correct.
However, he didn't stay long in that frame of mind. It was along
towards evening, and I was walking on the banks looking down over
the muddy old Colorado, as I always liked to do. The sun had
just set, and the mountains had turned hard and stiff, as they do
after the glow, and the sky above them was a thousand million
miles deep of pale green-gold light. A pair of Greasers were
ahead of me, but I could see only their outlines, and they didn't
seem to interfere any with the scenery. Suddenly a black figure
seemed to rise up out of the ground; the Mexican man went down as
though he'd been jerked with a string, and the woman screeched.
I ran up, pulling my gun. The Mex was flat on his face, his arms
stretched out. On the middle of his back knelt my one-armed
friend. And that sharp hook was caught neatly under the point of
the Mexican's jaw. You bet he lay still.
I really think I was just in time to save the man's life.
According to my belief another minute would have buried the hook
in the Mexican's neck. Anyway, I thrust the muzzle of my Colt's
into the sailor's face.
"What's this?" I asked.
The sailor looked up at me without changing his position. He was
not the least bit afraid.
"This man has my coat," he explained.
"Where'd you get the coat?" I asked the Mex.
"I ween heem at monte off Antonio Curvez," said he.
"Maybe," growled the sailor.
He still held the hook under the man's jaw, but with the other
hand he ran rapidly under and over the Mexican's left shoulder.
In the half light I could see his face change. The gleam died
from his eye; the snarl left his lips. Without further delay he
arose to his feet.
"Get up and give it here!" he demanded.
The Mexican was only too glad to get off so easy. I don't know
whether he'd really won the coat at monte or not. In any case,
he flew poco pronto, leaving me and my friend together.
The man with the hook felt the left shoulder of the coat again,
looked up, met my eye, muttered something intended to be
pleasant, and walked away.
This was in December.
During the next two months he was a good deal about town, mostly
doing odd jobs. I saw him off and on. He always spoke to me as
pleasantly as he knew how, and once made some sort of a bluff
about paying me back for my trouble in bringing him around.
However, I didn't pay much attention to that, being at the time
almighty busy holding down my card games.
The last day of February I was sitting in my shack smoking a pipe
after supper, when my one-armed friend opened the door a foot,
slipped in, and shut it immediately. By the time he looked
towards me I knew where my six-shooter was.
"That's all right," said I, "but you better stay right there."
I intended to take no more chances with that hook.
He stood there looking straight at me without winking or offering
"What do you want?" I asked.
"I want to make up to you for your trouble," said he. "I've got
a good thing, and I want to let you in on it."
"What kind of a good thing?" I asked.
"Treasure," said he.
"H'm," said I.
I examined him closely. He looked all right enough, neither
drunk nor loco.
"Sit down," said I--"over there; the other side the table." He
did so. "Now, fire away," said I.
He told me his name was Solomon Anderson, but that he was
generally known as Handy Solomon, on account of his hook; that he
had always followed the sea; that lately he had coasted the west
shores of Mexico; that at Guaymas he had fallen in with Spanish
friends, in company with whom he had visited the mines in the
Sierra Madre; that on this expedition the party had been attacked
by Yaquis and wiped out, he alone surviving; that his
blanket-mate before expiring had told him of gold buried in a
cove of Lower California by the man's grandfather; that the man
had given him a chart showing the location of the treasure; that
he had sewn this chart in the shoulder of his coat, whence his
suspicion of me and his being so loco about getting it back.
"And it's a big thing," said Handy Solomon to me, "for they's not
only gold, but altar jewels and diamonds. It will make us rich,
and a dozen like us, and you can kiss the Book on that."
"That may all be true," said I, "but why do you tell me? Why
don't you get your treasure without the need of dividing it?"
"Why, mate," he answered, "it's just plain gratitude. Didn't you
save my life, and nuss me, and take care of me when I was nigh
"Look here, Anderson, or Handy Solomon, or whatever you please to
call yourself," I rejoined to this, "if you're going to do
business with me--and I do not understand yet just what it is you
want of me--you'll have to talk straight. It's all very well to
say gratitude, but that don't go with me. You've been around
here three months, and barring a half-dozen civil words and twice
as many of the other kind, I've failed to see any indications of
your gratitude before. It's a quality with a hell of a hang-fire
He looked at me sideways, spat, and looked at me sideways again.
Then he burst into a laugh.
"The devil's a preacher, if you ain't lost your pinfeathers,"'
said he. "Well, it's this then: I got to have a boat to get
there; and she must be stocked. And I got to have help with the
treasure, if it's like this fellow said it was. And the Yaquis
and cannibals from Tiburon is through the country. It's money I
got to have, and it's money I haven't got, and can't get unless I
let somebody in as pardner."
"Why me?" I asked.
"Why not?" he retorted. "I ain't see anybody I like better."
We talked the matter over at length. I had to force him to each
point, for suspicion was strong in him. I stood out for a larger
party. He strongly opposed this as depreciating the shares, but
I had no intention of going alone into what was then considered a
wild and dangerous country. Finally we compromised. A third of
the treasure was to go to him, a third to me, and the rest was to
be divided among the men whom I should select. This scheme did
not appeal to him.
"How do I know you plays fair?" he complained. "They'll be four
of you to one of me; and I don't like it, and you can kiss the
Book on that."
"If you don't like it, leave it," said I, "and get out, and be
damned to you."
Finally he agreed; but he refused me a look at the chart, saying
that he had left it in a safe place. I believe in reality he
wanted to be surer of me, and for that I can hardly blame him.
THE MURDER ON THE BEACH
At this moment the cook stuck his head in at the open door.
"Say, you fellows," he complained, "I got to be up at three
o'clock. Ain't you never going to turn in?"
"Shut up, Doctor!" "Somebody kill him!" "Here, sit down and
listen to this yarn!" yelled a savage chorus.
There ensued a slight scuffle, a few objections. Then silence,
and the stranger took up his story.
I had a chum named Billy Simpson, and I rung him in for
friendship. Then there was a solemn, tall Texas young fellow,
strong as a bull, straight and tough, brought up fighting Injins.
He never said much, but I knew he'd be right there when the gong
struck. For fourth man I picked out a German named Schwartz. He
and Simpson had just come back from the mines together. I took
him because he was a friend of Billy's, and besides was young and
strong, and was the only man in town excepting the sailor,
Anderson, who knew anything about running a boat. I forgot to
say that the Texas fellow was named Denton.
Handy Solomon had his boat all picked out. It belonged to some
Basques who had sailed her around from California. I must say
when I saw her I felt inclined to renig, for she wasn't more'n
about twenty-five feet long, was open except for a little sort of
cubbyhole up in the front of her, had one mast, and was pointed
at both ends. However, Schwartz said she was all right. He
claimed he knew the kind; that she was the sort used by French
fishermen, and could stand all sorts of trouble. She didn't look
We worked her up to Yuma, partly with oars and partly by sails.
Then we loaded her with grub for a month. Each of us had his own
weapons, of course. In addition we put in picks and shovels, and
a small cask of water. Handy Solomon said that would be enough,
as there was water marked down on his chart. We told the gang
that we were going trading.
At the end of the week we started, and were out four days. There
wasn't much room, what with the supplies and the baggage, for the
five of us. We had to curl up 'most anywheres to sleep. And it
certainly seemed to me that we were in lots of danger. The waves
were much bigger than she was, and splashed on us considerable,
but Schwartz and Anderson didn't seem to mind. They laughed at
us. Anderson sang that song of his, and Schwartz told us of the
placers he had worked. He and Simpson had made a pretty good
clean-up, just enough to make them want to get rich. The first
day out Simpson showed us a belt with about an hundred ounces of
dust. This he got tired of wearing, so he kept it in a
compass-box, which was empty.
At the end of the four days we turned in at a deep bay and came
to anchor. The country was the usual proposition--very
light-brown, brittle-looking mountains, about two thousand feet
high; lots of sage and cactus, a pebbly beach, and not a sign of
anything fresh and green.
But Denton and I were mighty glad to see any sort of land.
Besides, our keg of water was pretty low, and it was getting
about time to discover the spring the chart spoke of. So we
piled our camp stuff in the small boat and rowed ashore.
Anderson led the way confidently enough up a dry arroyo, whose
sides were clay and conglomerate. But, though we followed it to
the end, we could find no indications that it was anything more
than a wash for rain floods.
"That's main queer," muttered Anderson, and returned to the
There he spread out the chart--the first look at it we'd had--and
set to studying it.
It was a careful piece of work done in India ink, pretty old, to
judge by the look of it, and with all sorts of pictures of
mountains and dolphins and ships and anchors around the edge.
There was our bay, all right. Two crosses were marked on the
land part--one labelled "oro" and the other "agua."
"Now there's the high cliff," says Anderson, following it out,
"and there's the round hill with the boulder--and if them
bearings don't point due for that ravine, the devil's a
We tried it again, with the same result. A second inspection of
the map brought us no light on the question. We talked it over,
and looked at it from all points, but we couldn't dodge the
truth: the chart was wrong.
Then we explored several of the nearest gullies, but without
finding anything but loose stones baked hot in the sun.
By now it was getting towards sundown, so we built us a fire of
mesquite on the beach, made us supper, and boiled a pot of beans.
We talked it over. The water was about gone.
"That's what we've got to find first," said Simpson, "no question
of it. It's God knows how far to the next water, and we don't
know how long it will take us to get there in that little boat.
If we run our water entirely out before we start, we're going to
be in trouble. We'll have a good look to-morrow, and if we don't
find her, we'll run down to Mollyhay and get a few extra
 Mulege - I retain the Old Timer's pronunciation.
"Perhaps that map is wrong about the treasure, too," suggested
"I thought of that," said Handy Solomon, "but then, thinks I to
myself, this old rip probably don't make no long stay here--just
dodges in and out like, between tides, to bury his loot. He
would need no water at the time; but he might when he came back,
so he marked the water on his map. But he wasn't noways
particular AND exact, being in a hurry. But you can kiss the
Book to it that he didn't make no such mistakes about the swag."
"I believe you're right," said I.
When we came to turn in, Anderson suggested that he should sleep
aboard the boat. But Billy Simpson, in mind perhaps of the
hundred ounces in the compass-box, insisted that he'd just as
soon as not. After a little objection Handy Solomon gave in, but
I thought he seemed sour about it. We built a good fire, and in
about ten seconds were asleep.
Now, usually I sleep like a log, and did this time until about
midnight. Then all at once I came broad awake and sitting up in
my blankets. Nothing had happened--I wasn't even dreaming--but
there I was as alert and clear as though it were broad noon.
By the light of the fire I saw Handy Solomon sitting, and at his
side our five rifles gathered.
I must have made some noise, for he turned quietly toward me, saw
I was awake, and nodded. The moonlight was sparkling on the hard
stony landscape, and a thin dampness came out from the sea.
After a minute Anderson threw on another stick of wood, yawned,
and stood up.
"It's wet," said he; "I've been fixing the guns."
He showed me how he was inserting a little patch of felt between
the hammer and the nipple, a scheme of his own for keeping damp
from the powder. Then he rolled up in his blanket. At the time
it all seemed quite natural--I suppose my mind wasn't fully
awake, for all my head felt so clear. Afterwards I realised what
a ridiculous bluff he was making: for of course the cap already
on the nipple was plenty to keep out the damp. I fully believe
he intended to kill us as we lay. Only my sudden awakening
spoiled his plan.
I had absolutely no idea of this at the time, however. Not the
slightest suspicion entered my head. In view of that fact, I
have since believed in guardian angels. For my next move, which
at the time seemed to me absolutely aimless, was to change my
blankets from one side of the fire to the other. And that
brought me alongside the five rifles.
Owing to this fact, I am now convinced, we awoke safe at
daylight, cooked breakfast, and laid the plan for the day.
Anderson directed us. I was to climb over the ridge before us
and search in the ravine on the other side. Schwartz was to
explore up the beach to the left, and Denton to the right.
Anderson said he would wait for Billy Simpson, who had overslept
in the darkness of the cubbyhole, and who was now paddling
ashore. The two of them would push inland to the west until a
high hill would give them a chance to look around for greenery.
We started at once, before the sun would be hot. The hill I had
to climb was steep and covered with chollas, so I didn't get
along very fast. When I was about half way to the top I heard a
shot from the beach. I looked back. Anderson was in the small
boat, rowing rapidly out to the vessel. Denton was running up
the beach from one direction and Schwartz from the other. I slid
and slipped down the bluff, getting pretty well stuck up with the
At the beach we found Billy Simpson lying on his ace, shot
through the back. We turned him over, but he was apparently
dead. Anderson had hoisted the sail, had cut loose from the
anchor, and was sailing away.
Denton stood up straight and tall, looking. Then he pulled his
belt in a hole, grabbed my arm, and started to run up the long
curve of the beach. Behind us came Schwartz. We ran near a
mile, and then fell among some tules in an inlet at the farther
"What is it?" I gasped.
"Our only chance--to get him-- said Denton. "He's got to go
around this point--big wind--perhaps his mast will bust--then
he'll come ashore--" He opened and shut his big brown hands.
So there we two fools lay, like panthers in the tules, taking our
only one-in-a-million chance to lay hands on Anderson. Any
sailor could have told us that the mast wouldn't break, but we
had winded Schwartz a quarter of a mile back. And so we waited,
our eyes fixed on the boat's sail, grudging her every inch, just
burning to fix things to suit us a little better. And naturally
she made the point in what I now know was only a fresh breeze,
squared away, and dropped down before the wind toward Guaymas.
We walked back slowly to our camp, swallowing the copper taste of
too hard a run. Schwartz we picked up from a boulder, just
recovering. We were all of us crazy mad. Schwartz half wept,
and blamed and cussed. Denton glowered away in silence. I
ground my feet into the sand in a help less sort of anger, not
only at the man himself, but also at the whole way things had
turned out. I don't believe the least notion of our predicament
had come to any of us. All we knew yet was that we had been done
up, and we were hostile about it.
But at camp we found something to occupy us for the moment. Poor
Billy was not dead, as we had supposed, but very weak and sick,
and a hole square through him. When we returned he was
conscious, but that was about all. His eyes were shut, and he
was moaning. I tore open his shirt to stanch the blood. He felt
my hand and opened his eyes. They were glazed, and I don't think
he saw me.
"Water, water!" he cried.
At that we others saw all at once where we stood. I remember I
rose to my feet and found myself staring straight into Tom
Denton's eyes. We looked at each other that way for I guess it
was a full minute. Then Tom shook his head.
"Water, water!" begged poor Billy.
Tom leaned over him.
"My God, Billy, there ain't any water!" said he.
The Old Timer's voice broke a little. We had leisure to notice
that even the drip from the eaves had ceased. A faint, diffused
light vouchsafed us dim outlines of sprawling figures and
tumbled bedding. Far in the distance outside a wolf yelped.
We could do nothing for him except shelter him from the sun, and
wet his forehead with sea-water; nor could we think clearly for
ourselves as long as the spark of life lingered in him. His
chest rose and fell regularly, but with long pauses between.
When the sun was overhead he suddenly opened his eyes.
"Fellows," said he, "it's beautiful over there; the grass is so
green, and the water so cool; I am tired of marching, and I
reckon I'll cross over and camp."
Then he died. We scooped out a shallow hole above tide-mark,
and laid him in it, and piled over him stones from the wash.
Then we went back to the beach, very solemn, to talk it over.
"Now, boys," said I, "there seems to me just one thing to do, and
that is to pike out for water as fast as we can."
"Where?" asked Denton.
"Well," I argued, "I don't believe there's any water about this
bay. Maybe there was when that chart was made. It was a long
time ago. And any way, the old pirate was a sailor, and no
plainsman, and maybe he mistook rainwater for a spring. We've
looked around this end of the bay. The chances are we'd use up
two or three days exploring around the other, and then wouldn't
be as well off as we are right now."
"Which way?" asked Denton again, mighty brief.
"Well," said I, "there's one thing I've always noticed in case of
folks held up by the desert: they generally go wandering about
here and there looking for water until they die not far from
where they got lost. And usually they've covered a heap of
"That's so," agreed Denton.
"Now, I've always figured that it would be a good deal better to
start right out for some particular place, even if it's ten
thousand miles away. A man is just as likely to strike water
going in a straight line as he is going in a circle; and then,
besides, he's getting somewhere."
"Correct," said Denton,
"So," I finished, "I reckon we'd better follow the coast south
and try to get to Mollyhay."
"How far is that?" asked Schwartz.
"I don't rightly know. But somewheres between three and five
hundred miles, at a guess."
At that he fell to glowering and grooming with himself, brooding
over what a hard time it was going to be. That is the way with a
German. First off he's plumb scared at the prospect of suffering
anything, and would rather die right off than take long chances.
After he gets into the swing of it, he behaves as well as any
"We took stock of what we had to depend on. The total assets
proved to be just three pairs of legs. A pot of coffee had been
on the fire, but that villain had kicked it over when he left.
The kettle of beans was there, but somehow we got the notion they
might have been poisoned, so we left them. I don't know now why
we were so foolish--if poison was his game, he'd have tried it
before--but at that time it seemed reasonable enough. Perhaps
the horror of the morning's work, and the sight of the
brittle-brown mountains, and the ghastly yellow glare of the sun,
and the blue waves racing by outside, and the big strong wind
that blew through us so hard that it seemed to blow empty our
souls, had turned our judgment. Anyway, we left a full meal
there in the beanpot.
So without any further delay we set off up the ridge I had
started to cross that morning. Schwartz lagged, sulky as a muley
cow, but we managed to keep him with us. At the top of the ridge
we took our bearings for the next deep bay. Already we had made
up our minds to stick to the sea-coast, both on account of the
lower country over which to travel and the off chance of falling
in with a fishing vessel. Schwartz muttered something about its
being too far even to the next bay, and wanted to sit down on a
rock. Denton didn't say anything, but he jerked Schwartz up by
the collar so fiercely that the German gave it over and came
We dropped down into the gully, stumbled over the boulder wash,
and began to toil in the ankle-deep sand of a little sage-brush
flat this side of the next ascent. Schwartz followed steadily
enough now, but had fallen forty or fifty feet behind. This was
a nuisance, as we bad to keep turning to see if he still kept up.
Suddenly he seemed to disappear.
Denton and I hurried back to find him on his hands and knees
behind a sagebrush, clawing away at the sand like mad.
"Can't be water on this flat," said Denton; "he must have gone
"What's the matter, Schwartz?" I asked.
For answer he moved a little to one side, showing beneath his
knee one corner of a wooden box sticking above the sand.
At this we dropped beside him, and in five minutes had uncovered
the whole of the chest. It was not very large, and was locked.
A rock from the wash fixed that, however. We threw back the lid.
It was full to the brim of gold coins, thrown in loose, nigh two
bushels of them.
"The treasure!" I cried.
There it was, sure enough, or some of it. We looked the rest
through, but found nothing but the gold coins. The altar
ornaments and jewels were lacking.
"Probably buried in another box or so," said Denton.
Schwartz wanted to dig around a little.
"No good," said I. "We've got our work cut out for us as it is."
Denton backed me up. We were both old hands at the business, had
each in our time suffered the "cotton-mouth" thirst, and the
memory of it outweighed any desire for treasure.
But Schwartz was money-mad. Left to himself he would have staid
on that sand flat to perish, as certainly as had poor Billy. We
had fairly to force him away, and then succeeded only because we
let him fill all his pockets to bulging with the coins. As we
moved up the next rise, he kept looking back and uttering little
moans against the crime of leaving it.
Luckily for us it was winter. We shouldn't have lasted six hours
at this time of year. As it was, the sun was hot against the
shale and the little stones of those cussed hills. We plodded
along until late afternoon, toiling up one hill and down another,
only to repeat immediately. Towards sundown we made the second
bay, where we plunged into the sea, clothes and all, and were
greatly refreshed. I suppose a man absorbs a good deal that way.
Anyhow, it always seemed to help.
We were now pretty hungry, and, as we walked along the shore, we
began to look for turtles or shellfish, or anything else that
might come handy. There was nothing. Schwartz wanted to stop
for a night's rest, but Denton and I knew better than that.
"Look here, Schwartz," said Denton, "you don't realise you're
entered against time in this race--and that you're a damn fool to
carry all that weight in your clothes."
So we dragged along all night.
It was weird enough, I can tell you. The moon shone cold and
white over that dead, dry country. Hot whiffs rose from the
baked stones and hillsides. Shadows lay under the stones like
animals crouching. When we came to the edge of a silvery hill we
dropped off into pitchy blackness. There we stumbled over
boulders for a minute or so, and began to climb the steep shale
on the other side. This was fearful work. The top seemed always
miles away. By morning we didn't seem to have made much of
anywhere. The same old hollow-looking mountains with the sharp
edges stuck up in about the same old places.
We had got over being very hungry, and, though we were pretty
dry, we didn't really suffer yet from thirst. About this time
Denton ran across some fishhook cactus, which we cut up and
chewed. They have a sticky wet sort of inside, which doesn't
quench your thirst any, but helps to keep you from drying up and
All that day we plugged along as per usual. It was main hard
work, and we got to that state where things are disagreeable, but
mechanical. Strange to say, Schwartz kept in the lead. It
seemed to me at the time that he was using more energy than the
occasion called for--just as man runs faster before he comes to
the giving-out point. However, the hours went by, and he
didn't seem to get any more tired than the rest of us.
We kept a sharp lookout for anything to eat, but there was
nothing but lizards and horned toads. Later we'd have been glad
of them, but by that time we'd got out of their district. Night
came. Just at sundown we took another wallow in the surf, and
chewed some more fishhook cactus. When the moon came up we went
I'm not going to tell you how dead beat we got. We were pretty
tough and strong, for all of us had been used to hard living, but
after the third day without anything to eat and no water to
drink, it came to be pretty hard going. It got to the point
where we had to have some REASON for getting out besides just
keeping alive. A man would sometimes rather die than keep alive,
anyway, if it came only to that. But I know I made up my mind I
was going to get out so I could smash up that Anderson, and I
reckon Denton had the same idea. Schwartz didn't say anything,
but he pumped on ahead of us, his back bent over, and his clothes
sagging and bulging with the gold he carried.
We used to travel all night, because it was cool, and rest an
hour or two at noon. That is all the rest we did get. I don't
know how fast we went; I'd got beyond that. We must have crawled
along mighty slow, though, after our first strength gave out.
The way I used to do was to collect myself with an effort, look
around for my bearings, pick out a landmark a little distance
off, and forget everything but it. Then I'd plod along, knowing
nothing but the sand and shale and slope under my feet, until I'd
reached that landmark. Then I'd clear my mind and pick out
But I couldn't shut out the figure of Schwartz that way. He used
to walk along just ahead of my shoulder. His face was all
twisted up, but I remember thinking at the time it looked more as
if he was worried in his mind than like bodily suffering. The
weight of the gold in his clothes bent his shoulders over.
As we went on the country gradually got to be more mountainous,
and, as we were steadily growing weaker, it did seem things were
piling up on us. The eighth day we ran out of the fishhook
cactus, and, being on a high promontory, were out of touch with
the sea. For the first time my tongue began to swell a little.
The cactus had kept me from that before. Denton must have been
in the same fix, for he looked at me and raised one eyebrow kind
Schwartz was having a good deal of difficulty to navigate. I
will say for him that he had done well, but now I could see that
his strength was going on him in spite of himself. He knew it,
all right, for when we rested that day he took all the gold coins
and spread them in a row, and counted them, and put them back in
his pocket, and then all of a sudden snatched out two handfuls
and threw them as far as he could.
"Too heavy," he muttered, but that was all he could bring himself
to throw away.
All that night we wandered high in the air. I guess we tried to
keep a general direction, but I don't know. Anyway, along late,
but before moonrise--she was now on the wane--I came to, and
found myself looking over the edge of a twenty-foot drop. Right
below me I made out a faint glimmer of white earth in the
starlight. Somehow it reminded me of a little trail I used to
know under a big rock back in Texas.
"Here's a trail," I thought, more than half loco; "I'll follow
At least that's what half of me thought. The other half was
sensible, and knew better, but it seemed to be kind of standing
to one side, a little scornful, watching the performance. So I
slid and slipped down to the strip of white earth, and, sure
enough, it was a trail. At that the loco half of me gave the
sensible part the laugh. I followed the path twenty feet and
came to a dark hollow under the rock, and in it a round pool of
water about a foot across. They say a man kills himself drinking
too much, after starving for water. That may be, but it didn't
kill me, and I sucked up all I could hold. Perhaps the fishhook
cactus had helped. Well, sir, it was surprising how that drink
brought me around. A minute before I'd been on the edge of going
plumb loco, and here I was as clear-headed as a lawyer.
I hunted up Denton and Schwartz. They drank, themselves full,
too. Then we rested. It was mighty hard to leave that spring--
Oh, we had to do it. We'd have starved sure, there. The trail
was a game trail, but that did us no good, for we had no weapons.
How we did wish for the coffeepot, so we could take some away.
We filled our hats, and carried them about three hours, before
the water began to soak through. Then we had to drink it in
order to save it.
The country fairly stood up on end. We had to climb separate
little hills so as to avoid rolling rocks down on each other. It
took it out of us. About this time we began to see mountain
sheep. They would come right up to the edges of the small cliffs
to look at us. We threw stones at them, hoping to hit one in the
forehead, but of course without any results.
The good effects of the water lasted us about a day. Then we
began to see things again. Off and on I could see water plain as
could be in every hollow, and game of all kinds standing around
and looking at me. I knew these were all fakes. By making an
effort I could swing things around to where they belonged. I
used to do that every once in a while, just to be sure we weren't
doubling back, and to look out for real water. But most of the
time it didn't seem to be worth while. I just let all these
visions riot around and have a good time inside me or outside me,
whichever it was. I knew I could get rid of them any minute.
Most of the time, if I was in any doubt, it was easier to throw a
stone to see if the animals were real or not. The real ones ran
We began to see bands of wild horses in the uplands. One day
both Denton and I plainly saw one with saddle marks on him. If
only one of us had seen him, it wouldn't have counted much, but
we both made him out. This encouraged us wonderfully, though I
don't see why it should have. We had topped the high country,
too, and had started down the other side of the mountains that
ran out on the promontory. Denton and I were still navigating
without any thought of giving up, but Schwartz was getting in bad
shape. I'd hate to pack twenty pounds over that country even
with rest, food, and water. He was toting it on nothing. We
told him so, and he came to see it, but he never could persuade
himself to get rid of the gold all at once. Instead he threw
away the pieces one by one. Each sacrifice seemed to nerve him
up for another heat. I can shut my eyes and see it now--the
wide, glaring, yellow country, the pasteboard mountains, we three
dragging along, and the fierce sunshine flashing from the
doubloons as one by one they went spinning through the air.
THE CHEWED SUGAR CANE
"I'd like to have trailed you fellows," sighed a voice from the
"Would you!" said Colorado Rogers grimly.
It was five days to the next water. But they were worse than the
eight days before. We were lucky, however, for at the spring we
discovered in a deep wash near the coast, was the dried-up skull
of a horse. It had been there a long time, but a few shreds of
dried flesh still clung to it. It was the only thing that could
be described as food that had passed our lips since breakfast
thirteen days before. In that time we had crossed the mountain
chain, and had come again to the sea. The Lord was good to us.
He sent us the water, and the horse's skull, and the smooth hard
beach, without breaks or the necessity of climbing hills. And we
needed it, oh, I promise you, we needed it!
I doubt if any of us could have kept the direction except by such
an obvious and continuous landmark as the sea to our left. It
hardly seemed worth while to focus my mind, but I did it
occasionally just by way of testing myself. Schwartz still threw
away his gold coins, and once, in one of my rare intervals of
looking about me, I saw Denton picking them up. This surprised
me mildly, but I was too tired to be very curious. Only now,
when I saw Schwartz's arm sweep out in what had become a
mechanical movement, I always took pains to look, and always I
saw Denton search for the coin. Sometimes he found it, and
sometimes he did not.
The figures of my companions and the yellow-brown tide sand under
my feet, and a consciousness of the blue and white sea to my
left, are all I remember, except when we had to pull ourselves
together for the purpose of cutting fishhook cactus. I kept
going, and I knew I had a good reason for doing so, but it seemed
too much of an effort to recall what that reason was.
Schwartz threw away a gold piece as another man would take a
stimulant. Gradually, without really thinking about it, I came
to see this, and then went on to sabe why Denton picked up the
coins; and a great admiration for Denton's cleverness seeped
through me like water through the sand. He was saving the coins
to keep Schwartz going. When the last coin went, Schwartz would
give out. It all sounds queer now, but it seemed all right
then--and it WAS all right, too.
So we walked on the beach, losing entire track of time. And
after a long interval I came to myself to see Schwartz lying on
the sand, and Denton standing over him. Of course we'd all been
falling down a lot, but always before we'd got up again.
"He's give out," croaked Denton.
His voice sounded as if it was miles away, which surprised me,
but, when I answered, mine sounded miles away, too, which
surprised me still more.
Denton pulled out a handful of gold coins.
"This will buy him some more walk," said he gravely, "but not
I nodded. It seemed all right, this new, strange purchasing
power of gold--it WAS all right, by God, and as real as buying
"I'll go on," said Denton, "and send back help. You come after."
"To Mollyhay!" said I.
This far I reckon we'd hung onto ourselves because it was
serious. Now I began to laugh. So did Denton. We laughed and
"A damn long way
said I. Then we laughed some more, until the tears ran down our
cheeks, and we had to hold our poor weak sides. Pretty soon we
fetched up with a gasp.
"A damn long way
whispered Denton, and then off we went into more shrieks. And
when we would sober down a little, one or the other of us would
say it again;
"A damn long way
and then we'd laugh some more. It must have been a sweet sight!
At last I realised that we ought to pull ourselves together, so I
snubbed up short, and Denton did the same, and we set to laying
plans. But every minute or so one of us would catch on some
word, and then we'd trail off into rhymes and laughter and
"Keep him going as long as you can," said Denton.
"And be sure to stick to the beach."
That far it was all right and clear-headed. But the word "beach"
let us out.
"I'm a peach
Upon the beach,"
sings I, and there we were both off again until one or the other
managed to grope his way back to common sense again. And
sometimes we crow-hopped solemnly around and around the prostrate
Schwartz like a pair of Injins.
But somehow we got our plan laid at last, slipped the coins into
Schwartz's pocket, and said good-bye.
"Old socks, good-bye,
You bet I'll try,"
yelled Denton, and laughing fit to kill, danced off up the beach,
and out into a sort of grey mist that shut off everything beyond
a certain distance from me now.
So I kicked Schwartz, he felt in his pocket, threw a gold piece
away, and "bought a little more walk."
My entire vision was fifty feet or so across. Beyond that was
grey mist. Inside my circle I could see the sand quite plainly
and Denton's footprints. If I moved a little to the left, the
wash of the waters would lap under the edge of that grey curtain.
If I moved to the right, I came to cliffs. The nearer I drew to
them, the farther up I could see, but I could never see to the
top. It used to amuse me to move this area of consciousness
about to see what I could find. Actual physical suffering was
beginning to dull, and my head seemed to be getting clearer.
One day, without any apparent reason, I moved at right angles
across the beach. Directly before me lay a piece of sugar cane,
and one end of it had been chewed.
Do you know what that meant? Animals don't cut sugar cane and
bring it to the beach and chew one end. A new strength ran
through me, and actually the grey mist thinned and lifted for a
moment, until I could make out dimly the line of cliffs and the
I was not a bit hungry, but I chewed on the sugar cane, and made
Schwartz do the same. When we went on I kept close to the cliff,
even though the walking was somewhat heavier.
I remember after that its getting dark and then light again, so
the night must have passed, but whether we rested or walked I do
not know. Probably we did not get very far, though certainly we
staggered ahead after sun-up, for I remember my shadow.
About midday, I suppose, I made out a dim trail leading up a
break in the cliffs. Plenty of such trails we had seen before.
They were generally made by peccaries in search of cast-up fish--
I hope they had better luck than we.
But in the middle of this, as though for a sign, lay another
piece of chewed sugar cane.
THE CALABASH STEW
I had agreed with Denton to stick to the beach, but Schwartz
could not last much longer, and I had not the slightest idea how
far it might prove to be to Mollyhay. So I turned up the trail.
We climbed a mountain ten thousand feet high. I mean that; and I
know, for I've climbed them that high, and I know just how it
feels, and how many times you have to rest, and how long it
takes, and how much it knocks out of you. Those are the things
that count in measuring height, and so I tell you we climbed that
far. Actually I suppose the hill was a couple of hundred feet,
if not less. But on account of the grey mist I mentioned, I
could not see the top, and the illusion was complete.
We reached the summit late in the afternoon, for the sun was
square in our eyes. But instead of blinding me, it seemed to
clear my sight, so that I saw below me a little mud hut with
smoke rising behind it, and a small patch of cultivated ground.
I'll pass over how I felt about it: they haven't made the
Well, we stumbled down the trail and into the hut. At first I
thought it was empty, but after a minute I saw a very old man
crouched in a corner. As I looked at him he raised his bleared
eyes to me, his head swinging slowly from side to side as though
with a kind of palsy. He could not see me, that was evident, nor
hear me, but some instinct not yet decayed turned him toward a
new presence in the room. In my wild desire for water I found
room to think that here was a man even worse off than myself.
A vessel of water was in the corner. I drank it. It was more
than I could hold, but I drank even after I was filled, and the
waste ran from the corners of my mouth. I had forgotten
Schwartz. The excess made me a little sick, but I held down what
I had swallowed, and I really believe it soaked into my system as
it does into the desert earth after a drought.
In a moment or so I took the vessel and filled it and gave it to
Schwartz. Then it seemed to me that my responsibility had ended.
A sudden great dreamy lassitude came over me. I knew I needed
food, but I had no wish for it, and no ambition to search it out.
The man in the corner mumbled at me with his toothless gums. I
remember wondering if we were all to starve there peacefully
together--Schwartz and his remaining gold coins, the man far gone
in years, and myself. I did not greatly care.
After a while the light was blotted out. There followed a slight
pause. Then I knew that someone had flown to my side, and was
kneeling beside me and saying liquid, pitying things in Mexican.
I swallowed something hot and strong. In a moment I came back
from wherever I was drifting, to look up at a Mexican girl about
twenty years old.
She was no great matter in looks, but she seemed like an angel to
me then. And she had sense. No questions, no nothing. Just
business. The only thing she asked of me was if I understood
Then she told me that her brother would be back soon, that they
were very poor, that she was sorry she had no meat to offer me,
that they were VERY poor, that all they had was calabash--a sort
of squash. All this time she was bustling things together. Next
thing I know I had a big bowl of calabash stew between my knees.
Now, strangely enough, I had no great interest in that calabash
stew. I tasted it, sat and thought a while, and tasted it again.
By and by I had emptied the bowl. It was getting dark. I was
very sleepy. A man came in, but I was too drowsy to pay any
attention to him. I heard the sound of voices. Then I was
picked up bodily and carried to an out-building and laid on a
pile of skins. I felt the weight of a blanket thrown over me--
I awoke in the night. Mind you, I had practically had no rest at
all for a matter of more than two weeks, yet I woke in a few
hours. And, remember, even in eating the calabash stew I had
felt no hunger in spite of my long fast. But now I found myself
ravenous. You boys do not know what hunger is. It HURTS. And
all the rest of that night I lay awake chewing on the rawhide of
a pack-saddle that hung near me.
Next morning the young Mexican and his sister came to us early,
bringing more calabash stew. I fell on it like a wild animal,
and just wallowed in it, so eager was I to eat. They stood and
watched me--and I suppose Schwartz, too, though I had now lost
interest in anyone but myself--glancing at each other in pity
from time to time.
When I had finished the man told me that they had decided to
kill a beef so we could have meat. They were very poor, but God
had brought us to them--
I appreciated this afterward. At the time I merely caught at the
word "meat." It seemed to me I could have eaten the animal
entire, hide, hoofs, and tallow. As a matter of fact, it was
mighty lucky they didn't have any meat. If they had, we'd
probably have killed ourselves with it. I suppose the calabash
was about the best thing for us under the circumstances.
The Mexican went out to hunt up his horse. I called the girl
"How far is it to Mollyhay?" I asked her.
"A league," said she.
So we bad been near our journey's end after all, and Denton was
probably all right.
The Mexican went away horseback. The girl fed us calabash. We
About one o'clock a group of horsemen rode over the hill. When
they came near enough I recognised Denton at their head. That
man was of tempered steel--
They had followed back along the beach, caught our trail where we
had turned off, and so discovered us. Denton had fortunately
found kind and intelligent people.
We said good-bye to the Mexican girl. I made Schwartz give her
one of his gold pieces.
But Denton could not wait for us to say "hullo" even, he was so
anxious to get back to town, so we mounted the horses he had
brought us, and rode off, very wobbly.
We lived three weeks in Mollyhay. It took us that long to get
fed up. The lady I stayed with made a dish of kid meat and
Why, an hour after filling myself up to the muzzle I'd be hungry
again, and scouting round to houses looking for more to eat!
We talked things over a good deal, after we had gained a little
strength. I wanted to take a little flyer at Guaymas to see if I
could run across this Handy Solomon person, but Denton pointed
out that Anderson would be expecting just that, and would take
mighty good care to be scarce. His idea was that we'd do better
to get hold of a boat and some water casks, and lug off the
treasure we had stumbled over. Denton told us that the idea of
going back and scooping all that dinero up with a shovel had
kept him going, just as the idea of getting even with Anderson
had kept me going. Schwartz said that after he'd carried that
heavy gold over the first day, he made up his mind he'd get the
spending of it or bust. That's why he hated so to throw it away.
There were lots of fishing boats in the harbour, and we hired
one, and a man to run it for next to nothing a week. We laid a
course north, and in six days anchored in our bay.
I tell you it looked queer. There were the charred sticks of the
fire, and the coffeepot lying on its side. We took off our hats
at poor Billy's grave a minute, and then climbed over the
cholla-covered hill carrying our picks and shovels, and the
canvas sacks to take the treasure away in.
There was no trouble in reaching the sandy flat. But when we got
there we found it torn up from one end to the other. A few
scattered timbers and three empty chests with the covers pried
off alone remained. Handy Solomon had been there before us.
We went back to our boat sick at heart. Nobody said a word. We
went aboard and made our Greaser boatman head for Yuma. It took
us a week to get there. We were all of us glum, but Denton was
the worst of the lot. Even after we'd got back to town and
fallen into our old ways of life, he couldn't seem to get over
it. He seemed plumb possessed of gloom, and moped around like a
chicken with the pip. This surprised me, for I didn't think the
loss of money would hit him so hard. It didn't hit any of us
very hard in those days.
One evening I took him aside and fed him a drink, and
expostulated with him.
"Oh, HELL, Rogers," he burst out, "I don't care about the loot.
But, suffering cats, think how that fellow sized us up for a lot
of pattern-made fools; and how right he was about, it. Why all
he did was to sail out of sight around the next corner. He knew
we'd start across country; and we did. All we had to do was to
lay low, and save our legs. He was BOUND to come back. And we
might have nailed him when he landed."
"That's about all there was to it," concluded Colorado Rogers,
after a pause, "--except that I've been looking for him ever
since, and when I heard you singing that song I naturally thought
"And you never saw him again?" asked Windy Bill.
"Well," chuckled Rogers, "I did about ten year later. It was in
Tucson. I was in the back of a store, when the door in front
opened and this man came in. He stopped at the little cigar-case
by the door. In about one jump I was on his neck. I jerked him
over backwards before he knew what had struck him, threw him on
his face, got my hands in his back-hair, and began to jump his
features against the floor. Then all at once I noted that this
man had two arms; so of course he was the wrong fellow. "Oh,
excuse me," said I, and ran out the back door."
THE HONK-HONK BREED
It was Sunday at the ranch. For a wonder the weather bad been
favourable; the windmills were all working, the bogs had dried
up, the beef had lasted over, the remuda had not strayed--in
short, there was nothing to do. Sang had given us a baked
bread-pudding with raisins in it. We filled it--in a wash basin
full of it--on top of a few incidental pounds of chile con, baked
beans, soda biscuits, "air tights," and other delicacies. Then
we adjourned with our pipes to the shady side of the blacksmith's
shop where we could watch the ravens on top the adobe wall of the
corral. Somebody told a story about ravens. This led to
road-runners. This suggested rattlesnakes. They started Windy
"Speakin' of snakes," said Windy, "I mind when they catched the
great-granddaddy of all the bullsnakes up at Lead in the Black
Hills. I was only a kid then. This wasn't no such tur'ble long
a snake, but he was more'n a foot thick. Looked just like a
sahuaro stalk. Man name of Terwilliger Smith catched it. He
named this yere bullsnake Clarence, and got it so plumb gentle it
followed him everywhere. One day old P. T. Barnum come along and
wanted to buy this Clarence snake--offered Terwilliger a thousand
cold--but Smith wouldn't part with the snake nohow. So finally
they fixed up a deal so Smith could go along with the show. They
shoved Clarence in a box in the baggage car, but after a while
Mr. Snake gets so lonesome he gnaws out and starts to crawl back
to find his master. Just as he is half-way between the baggage
car and the smoker, the couplin' give way--right on that heavy
grade between Custer and Rocky Point. Well, sir, Clarence wound
his head 'round one brake wheel and his tail around the other,
and held that train together to the bottom of the grade. But it
stretched him twenty-eight feet and they had to advertise him as
Windy Bill's story of the faithful bullsnake aroused to
reminiscence the grizzled stranger, who thereupon held forth as
Wall, I've see things and I've heerd things, some of them ornery,
and some you'd love to believe, they was that gorgeous and
improbable. Nat'ral history was always my hobby and sportin'
events my special pleasure and this yarn of Windy's reminds me of
the only chanst I ever had to ring in business and pleasure and
hobby all in one grand merry-go-round of joy. It come about like
One day, a few year back, I was sittin' on the beach at Santa
Barbara watchin' the sky stay up, and wonderin' what to do with
my year's wages, when a little squinch-eye round-face with big
bow spectacles came and plumped down beside me.
"Did you ever stop to think," says he, shovin' back his hat,
"that if the horsepower delivered by them waves on this beach in
one single hour could be concentrated behind washin' machines, it
would be enough to wash all the shirts for a city of four hundred
and fifty-one thousand one hundred and thirty-six people?"
"Can't say I ever did," says I, squintin' at him sideways.
"Fact," says he, "and did it ever occur to you that if all the
food a man eats in the course of a natural life could be gathered
together at one time, it would fill a wagon-train twelve miles
"You make me hungry," says I.
"And ain't it interestin' to reflect," he goes on, "that if all
the finger-nail parin's of the human race for one year was to be
collected and subjected to hydraulic pressure it would equal in
size the pyramid of Cheops?"
"Look yere," says I, sittin' up, "did YOU ever pause to
excogitate that if all the hot air you is dispensin' was to be
collected together it would fill a balloon big enough to waft you
and me over that Bullyvard of Palms to yonder gin mill on the
He didn't say nothin' to that--just yanked me to my feet, faced
me towards the gin mill above mentioned, and exerted considerable
pressure on my arm in urgin' of me forward.
"You ain't so much of a dreamer, after all," thinks I. "In
important matters you are plumb decisive."
We sat down at little tables, and my friend ordered a beer and a
"Chickens," says he, gazin' at the sandwich, "is a dollar apiece
in this country, and plumb scarce. Did you ever pause to ponder
over the returns chickens would give on a small investment? Say
you start with ten hens. Each hatches out thirteen aigs, of
which allow a loss of say six for childish accidents. At the end
of the year you has eighty chickens. At the end of two years
that flock has increased to six hundred and twenty. At the end
of the third year--"
He had the medicine tongue! Ten days later him and me was
occupyin' of an old ranch fifty mile from anywhere. When they
run stage-coaches this joint used to be a roadhouse. The outlook
was on about a thousand little brown foothills. A road two miles
four rods two foot eleven inches in sight run by in front of us.
It come over one foothill and disappeared over another. I know
just how long it was, for later in the game I measured it.
Out back was about a hundred little wire chicken corrals filled
with chickens. We had two kinds. That was the doin's of
Tuscarora. My pardner called himself Tuscarora Maxillary. I
asked him once if that was his real name.
"It's the realest little old name you ever heerd tell of," says
he. "I know, for I made it myself--liked the sound of her.
Parents ain't got no rights to name their children. Parents
don't have to be called them names."
Well, these chickens, as I said, was of two kinds. The first was
these low-set, heavyweight propositions with feathers on their
laigs, and not much laigs at that, called Cochin Chinys. The
other was a tall ridiculous outfit made up entire of bulgin'
breast and gangle laigs. They stood about two foot and a half
tall, and when they went to peck the ground their tail feathers
stuck straight up to the sky. Tusky called 'em Japanese Games.
"Which the chief advantage of them chickens is," says he, "that
in weight about ninety per cent of 'em is breast meat. Now my
idee is, that if we can cross 'em with these Cochin Chiny fowls
we'll have a low-hung, heavyweight chicken runnin' strong on
breast meat. These Jap Games is too small, but if we can bring
'em up in size and shorten their laigs, we'll shore have a
That looked good to me, so we started in on that idee. The
theery was bully, but she didn't work out. The first broods we
hatched growed up with big husky Cochin Chiny bodies and little
short necks, perched up on laigs three foot long. Them chickens
couldn't reach ground nohow. We had to build a table for 'em to
eat off, and when they went out rustlin' for themselves they had
to confine themselves to sidehills or flyin' insects. Their
breasts was all right, though--"And think of them drumsticks for
the boardinghouse trade!" says Tusky.
So far things wasn't so bad. We had a good grubstake. Tusky and
me used to feed them chickens twict a day, and then used to set
around watchin' the playful critters chase grasshoppers up an'
down the wire corrals, while Tusky figgered out what'd happen if
somebody was dumfool enough to gather up somethin' and fix it in
baskets or wagons or such. That was where we showed our
ignorance of chickens.
One day in the spring I hitched up, rustled a dozen of the
youngsters into coops, and druv over to the railroad to make our
first sale. I couldn't fold them chickens up into them coops at
first, but then I stuck the coops up on aidge and they worked all
right, though I will admit they was a comical sight. At the
railroad one of them towerist trains had just slowed down to a
halt as I come up, and the towerist was paradin' up and down
allowin' they was particular enjoyin' of the warm Californy
sunshine. One old terrapin, with grey chin whiskers, projected
over, with his wife, and took a peek through the slats of my
coop. He straightened up like someone had touched him off with a
"Stranger," said he, in a scared kind of whisper, "what's them?"
"Them's chickens," says I.
He took another long look.
"Marthy," says he to the old woman, "this will be about all! We
come out from Ioway to see the Wonders of Californy, but I can't
go nothin' stronger than this. If these is chickens, I don't
want to see no Big Trees."
Well, I sold them chickens all right for a dollar and two bits,
which was better than I expected, and got an order for more.
About ten days later I got a letter from the commission house.
"We are returnin' a sample of your Arts and Crafts chickens with
the lovin' marks of the teeth still onto him," says they. "Don't
send any more till they stops pursuin' of the nimble grasshopper.
Dentist bill will foller."
With the letter came the remains of one of the chickens. Tusky
and I, very indignant, cooked her for supper. She was tough, all
right. We thought she might do better biled, so we put her in
the pot over night. Nary bit. Well, then we got interested.
Tusky kep' the fire goin' and I rustled greasewood. We cooked
her three days and three nights. At the end of that time she was
sort of pale and frazzled, but still givin' points to
three-year-old jerky on cohesion and other uncompromisin' forces
of Nature. We buried her then, and went out back to recuperate.
There we could gaze on the smilin' landscape, dotted by about
four hundred long-laigged chickens swoopin' here and there after
"We got to stop that," says I.
"We can't," murmured Tusky, inspired. "We can't. It's born in
'em; it's a primal instinct, like the love of a mother for her
young, and it can't be eradicated! Them chickens is constructed
by a divine providence for the express purpose of chasin'
grasshoppers, jest as the beaver is made for buildin' dams, and
the cow-puncher is made for whisky and faro-games. We can't
keep 'em from it. If we was to shut 'em in a dark cellar, they'd
flop after imaginary grasshoppers in their dreams, and die
emaciated in the midst of plenty. Jimmy, we're up agin the
Cosmos, the oversoul--" Oh, he had the medicine tongue, Tusky
had, and risin' on the wings of eloquence that way, he had me
faded in ten minutes. In fifteen I was wedded solid to the
notion that the bottom had dropped out of the chicken business.
I think now that if we'd shut them hens up, we might have--still,
I don't know; they was a good deal in what Tusky said.
"Tuscarora Maxillary," says I, "did you ever stop to entertain
that beautiful thought that if all the dumfoolishness possessed
now by the human race could be gathered together, and lined up
alongside of us, the first feller to come along would say to it
'Why, hello, Solomon!'"
We quit the notion of chickens for profit right then and there,
but we couldn't quit the place. We hadn't much money, for one
thing, and then we, kind of liked loafin' around and raisin' a
little garden truck, and--oh, well, I might as well say so, we
had a notion about placers in the dry wash back of the house you
know how it is. So we stayed on, and kept a-raisin' these
long-laigs for the fun of it. I used to like to watch 'em
projectin' around, and I fed 'em twict a day about as usual.
So Tusky and I lived alone there together, happy as ducks in
Arizona. About onc't in a month somebody'd pike along the road.
She wasn't much of a road, generally more chuckholes than bumps,
though sometimes it was the other way around. Unless it happened
to be a man horseback or maybe a freighter without the fear of
God in his soul, we didn't have no words with them; they was too
busy cussin' the highways and generally too mad for social
One day early in the year, when the 'dobe mud made ruts to add to
the bumps, one of these automobeels went past. It was the first
Tusky and me had seen in them parts, so we run out to view her.
Owin' to the high spots on the road, she looked like one of these
movin' picters, as to blur and wobble; sounded like a cyclone
mingled with cuss-words, and smelt like hell on housecleanin'
"Which them folks don't seem to be enjoyin' of the scenery," says
I to Tusky. "Do you reckon that there blue trail is smoke from
the machine or remarks from the inhabitants thereof?"
Tusky raised his head and sniffed long and inquirin'.
"It's langwidge," says he. "Did you ever stop to think that all
the words in the dictionary stretched end to end would reach--"
But at that minute I catched sight of somethin' brass lyin' in
the road. It proved to be a curled-up sort of horn with a rubber
bulb on the end. I squoze the bulb and jumped twenty foot over
the remark she made.
"Jarred off the machine," says Tusky.
"Oh, did it?" says I, my nerves still wrong. "I thought maybe it
had growed up from the soil like a toadstool."
About this time we abolished the wire chicken corrals, because we
needed some of the wire. Them long-laigs thereupon scattered all
over the flat searchin' out their prey. When feed time come I
had to screech my lungs out gettin' of 'em in, and then sometimes
they didn't all hear. It was plumb discouragin', and I mighty
nigh made up my mind to quit 'em, but they had come to be sort of
pets, and I hated to turn 'em down. It used to tickle Tusky
almost to death to see me out there hollerin' away like an old
bull-frog. He used to come out reg'lar, with his pipe lit, just
to enjoy me. Finally I got mad and opened up on him.
"Oh," he explains, "it just plumb amuses me to see the dumfool
at his childish work. Why don't you teach 'em to come to that
brass horn, and save your voice?"
"Tusky," says I, with feelin', "sometimes you do seem to get a
glimmer of real sense."
Well, first off them chickens used to throw back-sommersets over
that horn. You have no idee how slow chickens is to learn
things. I could tell you things about chickens--say, this yere
bluff about roosters bein' gallant is all wrong. I've watched
'em. When one finds a nice feed he gobbles it so fast that the
pieces foller down his throat like yearlin's through a hole in
the fence. It's only when he scratches up a measly one-grain
quick-lunch that he calls up the hens and stands noble and
self-sacrificin' to one side. That ain't the point, which is,
that after two months I had them long-laigs so they'd drop
everythin' and come kitin' at the HONK-HONK of that horn. It was
a purty sight to see 'em, sailin' in from all directions twenty
foot at a stride. I was proud of 'em, and named 'em the
Honk-honk Breed. We didn't have no others, for by now the
coyotes and bob-cats had nailed the straight-breds. There wasn't
no wild cat or coyote could catch one of my Honk-honks, no, sir!
We made a little on our placer--just enough to keep interested.
Then the supervisors decided to fix our road, and what's more,
THEY DONE IT! That's the only part in this yarn that's hard to
believe, but, boys, you'll have to take it on faith. They
ploughed her, and crowned her, and scraped her, and rolled her,
and when they moved on we had the fanciest highway in the State
That noon--the day they called her a job--Tusky and I sat smokin'
our pipes as per usual, when way over the foothills we seen a
cloud of dust and faint to our cars was bore a whizzin' sound.
The chickens was gathered under the cottonwood for the heat of
the day, but they didn't pay no attention. Then faint, but
clear, we heard another of them brass horns:
"Honk! honk!" says it, and every one of them chickens woke up,
and stood at attention.
"Honk! honk!" it hollered clearer and nearer.
Then over the hill come an automobeel, blowin' vigorous at every
"My God!" I yells to Tusky, kickin' over my chair, as I springs
to my feet. "Stop 'em! Stop 'em!"
But it was too late. Out the gate sprinted them poor devoted
chickens, and up the road they trailed in vain pursuit. The last
we seen of 'em was a mingling of dust and dim figgers goin'
thirty mile an hour after a disappearin' automobeel.
That was all we seen for the moment. About three o'clock the
first straggler came limpin' in, his wings hangin', his mouth
open, his eyes glazed with the heat. By sundown fourteen had
returned. All the rest had disappeared utter; we never seen 'em
again. I reckon they just naturally run themselves into a
sunstroke and died on the road.
It takes a long time to learn a chicken a thing, but a heap
longer to unlearn him. After that two or three of these yere
automobeels went by every day, all a-blowin' of their horns, all
kickin' up a hell of a dust. And every time them fourteen
Honk-honks of mine took along after 'em, just as I'd taught 'em
to do, layin' to get to their corn when they caught up. No more
of 'em died, but that fourteen did get into elegant trainin'.
After a while they got plumb to enjoyin' it. When you come right
down to it, a chicken don't have many amusements and relaxations
in this life. Searchin' for worms, chasin' grasshoppers, and
wallerin' in the dust is about the limits of joys for chickens.
It was sure a fine sight to see 'em after they got well into the
game. About nine o'clock every mornin' they would saunter down
to the rise of the road where they would wait patient until a
machine came along. Then it would warm your heart to see the
enthusiasm of them. With, exultant cackles of joy they'd trail
in, reachin' out like quarter-horses, their wings half spread
out, their eyes beamin' with delight. At the lower turn they'd
quit. Then, after talkin' it over excited-like for a few
minutes, they'd calm down and wait for another.
After a few months of this sort of trainin' they got purty good
at it. I had one two-year-old rooster that made fifty-four mile
an hour behind one of those sixty-horsepower Panhandles. When
cars didn't come along often enough, they'd all turn out and
chase jack-rabbits. They wasn't much fun at that. After a
short, brief sprint the rabbit would crouch down plumb terrified,
while the Honk-honks pulled off triumphal dances around his
Our ranch got to be purty well known them days among
automobeelists. The strength of their cars was horse-power, of
course, but the speed of them they got to ratin' by
chicken-power. Some of them used to come way up from Los Angeles
just to try out a new car along our road with the Honk-honks for
pace-makers. We charged them a little somethin', and then, too,
we opened up the road-house and the bar, so we did purty well.
It wasn't necessary to work any longer at that bogus placer.
Evenin's we sat around outside and swapped yarns, and I bragged
on my chickens. The chickens would gather round close to listen.
They liked to hear their praises sung, all right. You bet they
sabe! The only reason a chicken, or any other critter, isn't
intelligent is because he hasn't no chance to expand.
Why, we used to run races with 'em. Some of us would hold two or
more chickens back of a chalk line, and the starter'd blow the
horn from a hundred yards to a mile away, dependin' on whether it
was a sprint or for distance. We had pools on the results, gave
odds, made books, and kept records. After the thing got knowed
we made money hand over fist.
The stranger broke off abruptly and began to roll a cigarette.
"What did you quit it for, then?" ventured Charley, out of the
"Pride," replied the stranger solemnly. "Haughtiness of spirit."
"How so?" urged Charley, after a pause.
"Them chickens," continued the stranger, after a moment, "stood
around listenin' to me a-braggin' of what superior fowls they was
until they got all puffed up. They wouldn't have nothin'
whatever to do with the ordinary chickens we brought in for
eatin' purposes, but stood around lookin' bored when there wasn't
no sport doin'. They got to be just like that Four Hundred you
read about in the papers. It was one continual round of
grasshopper balls, race meets, and afternoon hen-parties. They
got idle and haughty, just like folks. Then come race suicide.
They got to feelin' so aristocratic the hens wouldn't have no
Nobody dared say a word.
"Windy Bill's snake--" began the narrator genially.
"Stranger," broke in Windy Bill, with great emphasis, "as to
that snake, I want you to understand this: yereafter in my
estimation that snake is nothin' but an ornery angleworm!"
THE TWO GUN MAN
THE CATTLE RUSTLERS
Buck Johnson was American born, but with a black beard and a
dignity of manner that had earned him the title of Senor. He had
drifted into southeastern Arizona in the days of Cochise and
Victorio and Geronimo. He had persisted, and so in time had come
to control the water--and hence the grazing--of nearly all the
Soda Springs Valley. His troubles were many, and his
difficulties great. There were the ordinary problems of lean and
dry years. There were also the extraordinary problems of
devastating Apaches; rivals for early and ill-defined range
rights--and cattle rustlers.
Senor Buck Johnson was a man of capacity, courage, directness of
method, and perseverance. Especially the latter. Therefore he
had survived to see the Apaches subdued, the range rights
adjusted, his cattle increased to thousands, grazing the area of
a principality. Now, all the energy and fire of his
frontiersman's nature he had turned to wiping out the third
uncertainty of an uncertain business. He found it a task of some
For Senor Buck Johnson lived just north of that terra incognita
filled with the mystery of a double chance of death from man or
the flaming desert known as the Mexican border. There, by
natural gravitation, gathered all the desperate characters of
three States and two republics. He who rode into it took good
care that no one should ride behind him, lived warily, slept
light, and breathed deep when once he had again sighted the
familiar peaks of Cochise's Stronghold. No one professed
knowledge of those who dwelt therein. They moved, mysterious as
the desert illusions that compassed them about. As you rode, the
ranges of mountains visibly changed form, the monstrous, snaky,
sea-like growths of the cactus clutched at your stirrup, mock
lakes sparkled and dissolved in the middle distance, the sun beat
hot and merciless, the powdered dry alkali beat hotly and
mercilessly back--and strange, grim men, swarthy, bearded,
heavily armed, with red-rimmed unshifting eyes, rode silently out
of the mists of illusion to look on you steadily, and then to
ride silently back into the desert haze. They might be only the
herders of the gaunt cattle, or again they might belong to the
Lost Legion that peopled the country. All you could know was
that of the men who entered in, but few returned.
Directly north of this unknown land you encountered parallel
fences running across the country. They enclosed nothing, but
offered a check to the cattle drifting toward the clutch of the
renegades, and an obstacle to swift, dashing forays.
Of cattle-rustling there are various forms. The boldest consists
quite simply of running off a bunch of stock, hustling it over
the Mexican line, and there selling it to some of the big Sonora
ranch owners. Generally this sort means war. Also are there
subtler means, grading in skill from the re-branding through a
wet blanket, through the crafty refashioning of a brand to the
various methods of separating the cow from her unbranded calf.
In the course of his task Senor Buck Johnson would have to do
with them all, but at present he existed in a state of warfare,
fighting an enemy who stole as the Indians used to steal.
Already be had fought two pitched battles and had won them both.
His cattle increased, and he became rich. Nevertheless he knew
that constantly his resources were being drained. Time and again
he and his new Texas foreman, Jed Parker, had followed the trail
of a stampeded bunch of twenty or thirty, followed them on down
through the Soda Springs Valley to the cut drift fences, there to
abandon them. For, as yet, an armed force would be needed to
penetrate the borderland. Once he and his men bad experienced
the glory of a night pursuit. Then, at the drift fences, he had
fought one of his battles. But it was impossible adequately to
patrol all parts of a range bigger than some Eastern States.
Buck Johnson did his best, but it was like stepping with sand the
innumerable little leaks of a dam. Did his riders watch toward
the Chiricahuas, then a score of beef steers disappeared from
Grant's Pass forty miles away. Pursuit here meant leaving cattle
unguarded there. It was useless, and the Senor soon perceived
that sooner or later he must strike in offence.
For this purpose he began slowly to strengthen the forces of his
riders. Men were coming in from Texas. They were good men,
addicted to the grass-rope, the double cinch, and the ox-bow
stirrup. Senor Johnson wanted men who could shoot, and he got
"Jed," said Senor Johnson to his foreman, "the next son of a gun
that rustles any of our cows is sure loading himself full of
trouble. We'll hit his trail and will stay with it, and we'll
reach his cattle-rustling conscience with a rope."
So it came about that a little army crossed the drift fences and
entered the border country. Two days later it came out, and
mighty pleased to be able to do so. The rope had not been used.
The reason for the defeat was quite simple. The thief had run
his cattle through the lava beds where the trail at once became
difficult to follow. This delayed the pursuing party; they ran
out of water, and, as there was among them not one man well
enough acquainted with the country to know where to find more,
they had to return.
"No use, Buck," said Jed. "We'd any of us come in on a gun play,
but we can't buck the desert. We'll have to get someone who
knows the country."
"That's all right--but where?" queried Johnson.
"There's Pereza," suggested Parker. "It's the only town down
near that country."
"Might get someone there," agreed the Senor.
Next day he rode away in search of a guide. The third evening he
was back again, much discouraged.
"The country's no good," he explained. "The regular inhabitants
're a set of Mexican bums and old soaks. The cowmen's all from
north and don't know nothing more than we do. I found lots who
claimed to know that country, but when I told 'em what I wanted
they shied like a colt. I couldn't hire'em, for no money, to go
down in that country. They ain't got the nerve. I took two days
to her, too, and rode out to a ranch where they said a man lived
who knew all about it down there. Nary riffle. Man looked all
right, but his tail went down like the rest when I told him what
we wanted. Seemed plumb scairt to death. Says he lives too
close to the gang. Says they'd wipe him out sure if he done it.
Seemed plumb SCAIRT." Buck Johnson grinned. "I told him so and
he got hosstyle right off. Didn't seem no ways scairt of me. I
don't know what's the matter with that outfit down there.
They're plumb terrorised."
That night a bunch of steers was stolen from the very corrals of
the home ranch. The home ranch was far north, near Fort Sherman
itself, and so had always been considered immune from attack.
Consequently these steers were very fine ones.
For the first time Buck Johnson lost his head and his dignity.
He ordered the horses.
"I'm going to follow that -- -- into Sonora," he shouted to Jed
Parker. "This thing's got to stop!"
"You can't make her, Buck," objected the foreman. "You'll get
held up by the desert, and, if that don't finish you, they'll
tangle you up in all those little mountains down there, and
ambush you, and massacre you. You know it damn well."
"I don't give a --" exploded Senor Johnson, "if they do. No man
can slap my face and not get a run for it."
Jed Parker communed with himself.
"Senor," said he, at last,"it's no good; you can't do it. You
got to have a guide. You wait three days and I'll get you one."
"You can't do it," insisted the Senor. "I tried every man in the
"Will you wait three days?" repeated the foreman.
Johnson pulled loose his latigo. His first anger had cooled.
"All right," he agreed, "and you can say for me that I'll pay
five thousand dollars in gold and give all the men and horses he
needs to the man who has the nerve to get back that bunch of
cattle, and bring in the man who rustled them. I'll sure make
this a test case."
So Jed Parker set out to discover his man with nerve.
THE MAN WITH NERVE
At about ten o'clock of the Fourth of July a rider topped the
summit of the last swell of land, and loped his animal down into
the single street of Pereza. The buildings on either side were
flat-roofed and coated with plaster. Over the sidewalks extended
wooden awnings, beneath which opened very wide doors into the
coolness of saloons. Each of these places ran a bar, and also
games of roulette, faro, craps, and stud poker. Even this early
in the morning every game was patronised.
The day was already hot with the dry, breathless, but
exhilarating, beat of the desert. A throng of men idling at the
edge of the sidewalks, jostling up and down their centre, or
eddying into the places of amusement, acknowledged the power of
summer by loosening their collars, carrying their coats on their
arms. They were as yet busily engaged in recognising
acquaintances. Later they would drink freely and gamble, and
perhaps fight. Toward all but those whom they recognised they
preserved an attitude of potential suspicion, for here were
gathered the "bad men" of the border countries. A certain
jealousy or touchy egotism lest the other man be considered
quicker on the trigger, bolder, more aggressive than himself,
kept each strung to tension. An occasional shot attracted little
notice. Men in the cow-countries shoot as casually as we strike
matches, and some subtle instinct told them that the reports were
As the rider entered the one street, however, a more definite
cause of excitement drew the loose population toward the centre
of the road. Immediately their mass blotted out what had
interested them. Curiosity attracted the saunterers; then in
turn the frequenters of the bars and gambling games. In a very
few moments the barkeepers, gamblers, and look-out men, held
aloof only by the necessities of their calling, alone of all the
population of Pereza were not included in the newly-formed ring.
The stranger pushed his horse resolutely to the outer edge of the
crowd where, from his point of vantage, he could easily overlook
their heads. He was a quiet-appearing young fellow, rather
neatly dressed in the border costume, rode a "centre fire," or
single-cinch, saddle, and wore no chaps. He was what is known as
a "two-gun man": that is to say, he wore a heavy Colt's revolver
on either hip. The fact that the lower ends of his holsters were
tied down, in order to facilitate the easy withdrawal of the
revolvers, seemed to indicate that he expected to use them. He
had furthermore a quiet grey eye, with the glint of steel that
bore out the inference of the tied holsters.
The newcomer dropped his reins on his pony's neck, eased himself
to an attitude of attention, and looked down gravely on what was
taking place. He saw over the heads of the bystanders a tall,
muscular, wild-eyed man, hatless, his hair rumpled into staring
confusion, his right sleeve rolled to his shoulder, a
wicked-looking nine-inch knife in his hand, and a red bandana
handkerchief hanging by one corner from his teeth.
"What's biting the locoed stranger?" the young man inquired of
The other frowned at him darkly.
"Dare's anyone to take the other end of that handkerchief in his
teeth, and fight it out without letting go."
"Nice joyful proposition," commented the young man.
He settled himself to closer attention. The wild-eyed man was
talking rapidly. What he said cannot be printed here. Mainly
was it derogatory of the southern countries. Shortly it became
boastful of the northern, and then of the man who uttered it.
He swaggered up and down, becoming always the more insolent as
his challenge remained untaken.
"Why don't you take him up?" inquired the young man, after a
"Not me!" negatived the other vigorously. "I'll go yore little
old gunfight to a finish, but I don't want any cold steel in
mine. Ugh! it gives me the shivers. It's a reg'lar Mexican
trick! With a gun it's down and out, but this knife work is too
slow and searchin'."
The newcomer said nothing, but fixed his eye again on the raging
man with the knife.
"Don't you reckon he's bluffing? "be inquired.
"Not any!" denied the other with emphasis. "He's jest drunk
enough to be crazy mad."
The newcomer shrugged his shoulders and cast his glance
searchingly over the fringe of the crowd. It rested on a Mexican.
"Hi, Tony! come here," he called.
The Mexican approached, flashing his white teeth.
"Here," said the stranger, "lend me your knife a minute."
The Mexican, anticipating sport of his own peculiar kind, obeyed
"You fellows make me tired," observed the stranger, dismounting.
"He's got the whole townful of you bluffed to a standstill. Damn
if I don't try his little game."
He hung his coat on his saddle, shouldered his way through the
press, which parted for him readily, and picked up the other
corner of the handkerchief.
"Now, you mangy son of a gun," said he.
Jed Parker straightened his back, rolled up the bandana
handkerchief, and thrust it into his pocket, hit flat with his
hand the touselled mass of his hair, and thrust the long hunting
knife into its sheath.
"You're the man I want," said he.
Instantly the two-gun man had jerked loose his weapons and was
covering the foreman.
"AM I!" he snarled.
Not jest that way," explained Parker. "My gun is on my hoss, and
you can have this old toad-sticker if you want it. I been
looking for you, and took this way of finding you. Now, let's go
The stranger looked him in the eye for nearly a half minute
without lowering his revolvers.
"I go you," said he briefly, at last.
But the crowd, missing the purport, and in fact the very
occurrence of this colloquy, did not understand. It thought the
bluff had been called, and naturally, finding harmless what had
intimidated it, gave way to an exasperated impulse to get even.
"You -- -- -- bluffer!" shouted a voice, "don't you think you can
run any such ranikaboo here!"
Jed Parker turned humorously to his companion.
"Do we get that talk?" he inquired gently.
For answer the two-gun man turned and walked steadily in the
direction of the man who had shouted. The latter's hand strayed
uncertainly toward his own weapon, but the movement paused when
the stranger's clear, steel eye rested on it.
"This gentleman," pointed out the two-gun man softly, "is an old