Part 3 out of 5
Cicely says you're a poet; maybe,--I ain't much on rhyme:
I reckon you'd give me a hundred, and beat me every time.
Poetry!--that's the way some chaps puts up an idee,
But I takes mine "straight without sugar," and that's what's the
matter with me.
Poetry!--just look round you,--alkali, rock, and sage;
Sage-brush, rock, and alkali; ain't it a pretty page!
Sun in the east at mornin', sun in the west at night,
And the shadow of this 'yer station the on'y thing moves in sight.
Poetry!--Well now--Polly! Polly, run to your mam;
Run right away, my pooty! By-by! Ain't she a lamb?
Poetry!--that reminds me o' suthin' right in that suit:
Jest shet that door thar, will yer?--for Cicely's ears is cute.
Ye noticed Polly,--the baby? A month afore she was born,
Cicely--my old woman--was moody-like and forlorn;
Out of her head and crazy, and talked of flowers and trees;
Family man yourself, sir? Well, you know what a woman be's.
Narvous she was, and restless,--said that she "couldn't stay."
Stay!--and the nearest woman seventeen miles away.
But I fixed it up with the doctor, and he said he would be on hand,
And I kinder stuck by the shanty, and fenced in that bit o' land.
One night,--the tenth of October,--I woke with a chill and a fright,
For the door it was standing open, and Cicely warn't in sight,
But a note was pinned on the blanket, which it said that she
But had gone to visit her neighbor,--seventeen miles away!
When and how she stampeded, I didn't wait for to see,
For out in the road, next minit, I started as wild as she;
Running first this way and that way, like a hound that is off the
For there warn't no track in the darkness to tell me the way she went.
I've had some mighty mean moments afore I kem to this spot,--
Lost on the Plains in '50, drownded almost and shot;
But out on this alkali desert, a-hunting a crazy wife,
Was ra'ly as on-satis-factory as anything in my life.
"Cicely! Cicely! Cicely!" I called, and I held my breath,
And "Cicely!" came from the canyon,--and all was as still as death.
And "Cicely! Cicely! Cicely!" came from the rocks below,
And jest but a whisper of "Cicely!" down from them peaks of snow.
I ain't what you call religious,--but I jest looked up to the sky,
And--this 'yer's to what I'm coming, and maybe ye think I lie:
But up away to the east'ard, yaller and big and far,
I saw of a suddent rising the singlerist kind of star.
Big and yaller and dancing, it seemed to beckon to me:
Yaller and big and dancing, such as you never see:
Big and yaller and dancing,--I never saw such a star,
And I thought of them sharps in the Bible, and I went for it then
Over the brush and bowlders I stumbled and pushed ahead,
Keeping the star afore me, I went wherever it led.
It might hev been for an hour, when suddent and peart and nigh,
Out of the yearth afore me thar riz up a baby's cry.
Listen! thar's the same music; but her lungs they are stronger now
Than the day I packed her and her mother,--I'm derned if I jest know
But the doctor kem the next minit, and the joke o' the whole thing is
That Cis never knew what happened from that very night to this!
But Cicely says you're a poet, and maybe you might, some day,
Jest sling her a rhyme 'bout a baby that was born in a curious way,
And see what she says; and, old fellow, when you speak of the star,
As how 'twas the doctor's lantern,--for maybe 'twon't sound so well.
(SIMPSON'S BAR, 1858)
So you've kem 'yer agen,
And one answer won't do?
Well, of all the derned men
That I've struck, it is you.
O Sal! 'yer's that derned fool from Simpson's, cavortin' round 'yer
in the dew.
Kem in, ef you WILL.
Thar,--quit! Take a cheer.
Not that; you can't fill
Them theer cushings this year,--
For that cheer was my old man's, Joe Simpson, and they don't make
such men about 'yer.
He was tall, was my Jack,
And as strong as a tree.
Thar's his gun on the rack,--
Jest you heft it, and see.
And YOU come a courtin' his widder! Lord! where can that critter,
You'd fill my Jack's place?
And a man of your size,--
With no baird to his face,
Nor a snap to his eyes,
And nary--Sho! thar! I was foolin',--I was, Joe, for sartain,--don't
Sit down. Law! why, sho!
I'm as weak as a gal.
Sal! Don't you go, Joe,
Or I'll faint,--sure, I shall.
Sit down,--ANYWHEER, where you like, Joe,--in that cheer, if you
choose,--Lord! where's Sal?
PLAIN LANGUAGE FROM TRUTHFUL JAMES
(TABLE MOUNTAIN, 1870)
Which I wish to remark,
And my language is plain,
That for ways that are dark
And for tricks that are vain,
The heathen Chinee is peculiar,
Which the same I would rise to explain.
Ah Sin was his name;
And I shall not deny,
In regard to the same,
What that name might imply;
But his smile it was pensive and childlike,
As I frequent remarked to Bill Nye.
It was August the third,
And quite soft was the skies;
Which it might be inferred
That Ah Sin was likewise;
Yet he played it that day upon William
And me in a way I despise.
Which we had a small game,
And Ah Sin took a hand:
It was Euchre. The same
He did not understand;
But he smiled as he sat by the table,
With the smile that was childlike and bland.
Yet the cards they were stocked
In a way that I grieve,
And my feelings were shocked
At the state of Nye's sleeve,
Which was stuffed full of aces and bowers,
And the same with intent to deceive.
But the hands that were played
By that heathen Chinee,
And the points that he made,
Were quite frightful to see,--
Till at last he put down a right bower,
Which the same Nye had dealt unto me.
Then I looked up at Nye,
And he gazed upon me;
And he rose with a sigh,
And said, "Can this be?
We are ruined by Chinese cheap labor,"--
And he went for that heathen Chinee.
In the scene that ensued
I did not take a hand,
But the floor it was strewed
Like the leaves on the strand
With the cards that Ah Sin had been hiding,
In the game "he did not understand."
In his sleeves, which were long,
He had twenty-four packs,--
Which was coming it strong,
Yet I state but the facts;
And we found on his nails, which were taper,
What is frequent in tapers,--that's wax.
Which is why I remark,
And my language is plain,
That for ways that are dark
And for tricks that are vain,
The heathen Chinee is peculiar,--
Which the same I am free to maintain.
THE SOCIETY UPON THE STANISLAUS
I reside at Table Mountain, and my name is Truthful James;
I am not up to small deceit or any sinful games;
And I'll tell in simple language what I know about the row
That broke up our Society upon the Stanislow.
But first I would remark, that it is not a proper plan
For any scientific gent to whale his fellow-man,
And, if a member don't agree with his peculiar whim,
To lay for that same member for to "put a head" on him.
Now nothing could be finer or more beautiful to see
Than the first six months' proceedings of that same Society,
Till Brown of Calaveras brought a lot of fossil bones
That he found within a tunnel near the tenement of Jones.
Then Brown he read a paper, and he reconstructed there,
From those same bones, an animal that was extremely rare;
And Jones then asked the Chair for a suspension of the rules,
Till he could prove that those same bones was one of his lost mules.
Then Brown he smiled a bitter smile, and said he was at fault,
It seemed he had been trespassing on Jones's family vault;
He was a most sarcastic man, this quiet Mr. Brown,
And on several occasions he had cleaned out the town.
Now I hold it is not decent for a scientific gent
To say another is an ass,--at least, to all intent;
Nor should the individual who happens to be meant
Reply by heaving rocks at him, to any great extent.
Then Abner Dean of Angel's raised a point of order, when
A chunk of old red sandstone took him in the abdomen,
And he smiled a kind of sickly smile, and curled up on the floor,
And the subsequent proceedings interested him no more.
For, in less time than I write it, every member did engage
In a warfare with the remnants of a palaeozoic age;
And the way they heaved those fossils in their anger was a sin,
Till the skull of an old mammoth caved the head of Thompson in.
And this is all I have to say of these improper games,
For I live at Table Mountain, and my name is Truthful James;
And I've told in simple language what I know about the row
That broke up our Society upon the Stanislow.
(IN THE COLORADO PARK, 1873)
Wot's that you're readin'?--a novel? A novel!--well, darn my skin!
You a man grown and bearded and histin' such stuff ez that in--
Stuff about gals and their sweethearts! No wonder you're thin ez a
Look at me--clar two hundred--and never read one in my life!
That's my opinion o' novels. And ez to their lyin' round here,
They belong to the Jedge's daughter--the Jedge who came up last year
On account of his lungs and the mountains and the balsam o' pine and
And his daughter--well, she read novels, and that's what's the
matter with her.
Yet she was sweet on the Jedge, and stuck by him day and night,
Alone in the cabin up 'yer--till she grew like a ghost, all white.
She wus only a slip of a thing, ez light and ez up and away
Ez rifle smoke blown through the woods, but she wasn't my kind--no
Speakin' o' gals, d'ye mind that house ez you rise the hill,
A mile and a half from White's, and jist above Mattingly's mill?
You do? Well now THAR's a gal! What! you saw her? Oh, come now,
She was only bedevlin' you boys, for to me she don't cotton one bit.
Now she's what I call a gal--ez pretty and plump ez a quail;
Teeth ez white ez a hound's, and they'd go through a ten-penny nail;
Eyes that kin snap like a cap. So she asked to know "whar I was hid?"
She did! Oh, it's jist like her sass, for she's peart ez a Katydid.
But what was I talking of?--Oh! the Jedge and his daughter--she read
Novels the whole day long, and I reckon she read them abed;
And sometimes she read them out loud to the Jedge on the porch where
And 'twas how "Lord Augustus" said this, and how "Lady Blanche" she
But the sickest of all that I heerd was a yarn thet they read 'bout
"Leather-stocking" by name, and a hunter chock full o' the greenest
And they asked me to hear, but I says, "Miss Mabel, not any for me;
When I likes I kin sling my own lies, and thet chap and I shouldn't
Yet somehow or other that gal allus said that I brought her to mind
Of folks about whom she had read, or suthin belike of thet kind,
And thar warn't no end o' the names that she give me thet summer up
"Robin Hood," "Leather-stocking" "Rob Roy,"--Oh, I tell you, the
critter was queer!
And yet, ef she hadn't been spiled, she was harmless enough in her
She could jabber in French to her dad, and they said that she knew
how to play;
And she worked me that shot-pouch up thar, which the man doesn't
live ez kin use;
And slippers--you see 'em down 'yer--ez would cradle an Injin's
Yet along o' them novels, you see, she was wastin' and mopin' away,
And then she got shy with her tongue, and at last she had nothin' to
And whenever I happened around, her face it was hid by a book,
And it warn't till the day she left that she give me ez much ez a
And this was the way it was. It was night when I kem up here
To say to 'em all "good-by," for I reckoned to go for deer
At "sun up" the day they left. So I shook 'em all round by the hand,
'Cept Mabel, and she was sick, ez they give me to understand.
But jist ez I passed the house next morning at dawn, some one,
Like a little waver o' mist got up on the hill with the sun;
Miss Mabel it was, alone--all wrapped in a mantle o' lace--
And she stood there straight in the road, with a touch o' the sun in
And she looked me right in the eye--I'd seen suthin' like it before
When I hunted a wounded doe to the edge o' the Clear Lake Shore,
And I had my knee on its neck, and I jist was raisin' my knife,
When it give me a look like that, and--well, it got off with its life.
"We are going to-day," she said, "and I thought I would say good-by
To you in your own house, Luke--these woods and the bright blue sky!
You've always been kind to us, Luke, and papa has found you still
As good as the air he breathes, and wholesome as Laurel Tree Hill.
"And we'll always think of you, Luke, as the thing we could not take
The balsam that dwells in the woods, the rainbow that lives in the
And you'll sometimes think of ME, Luke, as you know you once used to
A rifle smoke blown through the woods, a moment, but never to stay."
And then we shook hands. She turned, but a-suddent she tottered and
And I caught her sharp by the waist, and held her a minit. Well,
It was only a minit, you know, thet ez cold and ez white she lay
Ez a snowflake here on my breast, and then--well, she melted away--
And was gone. . . . And thar are her books; but I says not any for me;
Good enough may be for some, but them and I mightn't agree.
They spiled a decent gal ez might hev made some chap a wife,
And look at me!--clar two hundred--and never read one in my life!
"THE BABES IN THE WOODS"
(BIG PINE FLAT, 1871)
"Something characteristic," eh?
Humph! I reckon you mean by that
Something that happened in our way,
Here at the crossin' of Big Pine Flat.
Times aren't now as they used to be,
When gold was flush and the boys were frisky,
And a man would pull out his battery
For anything--maybe the price of whiskey.
Nothing of that sort, eh? That's strange!
Why, I thought you might be diverted
Hearing how Jones of Red Rock Range
Drawed his "hint to the unconverted,"
And saying, "Whar will you have it?" shot
Cherokee Bob at the last debating!
What was the question I forgot,
But Jones didn't like Bob's way of stating.
Nothing of that kind, eh? You mean
Something milder? Let's see!--O Joe!
Tell to the stranger that little scene
Out of the "Babes in the Woods." You know,
"Babes" was the name that we gave 'em, sir,
Two lean lads in their teens, and greener
Than even the belt of spruce and fir
Where they built their nest, and each day grew leaner.
No one knew where they came from. None
Cared to ask if they had a mother.
Runaway schoolboys, maybe. One
Tall and dark as a spruce; the other
Blue and gold in the eyes and hair,
Soft and low in his speech, but rarely
Talking with us; and we didn't care
To get at their secret at all unfairly.
For they were so quiet, so sad and shy,
Content to trust each other solely,
That somehow we'd always shut one eye,
And never seem to observe them wholly
As they passed to their work. 'Twas a worn-out claim,
And it paid them grub. They could live without it,
For the boys had a way of leaving game
In their tent, and forgetting all about it.
Yet no one asked for their secret. Dumb
It lay in their big eyes' heavy hollows.
It was understood that no one should come
To their tent unawares, save the bees and swallows.
So they lived alone. Until one warm night
I was sitting here at the tent-door,--so, sir!
When out of the sunset's rosy light
Up rose the Sheriff of Mariposa.
I knew at once there was something wrong,
For his hand and his voice shook just a little,
And there isn't much you can fetch along
To make the sinews of Jack Hill brittle.
"Go warn the Babes!" he whispered, hoarse;
"Tell them I'm coming--to get and scurry;
For I've got a story that's bad,--and worse,
I've got a warrant: G-d d--n it, hurry!"
Too late! they had seen him cross the hill;
I ran to their tent and found them lying
Dead in each other's arms, and still
Clasping the drug they had taken flying.
And there lay their secret cold and bare,
Their life, their trial--the old, old story!
For the sweet blue eyes and the golden hair
Was a WOMAN'S shame and a WOMAN'S glory.
"Who were they?" Ask no more, or ask
The sun that visits their grave so lightly;
Ask of the whispering reeds, or task
The mourning crickets that chirrup nightly.
All of their life but its love forgot,
Everything tender and soft and mystic,
These are our Babes in the Woods,--you've got,
Well--human nature--that's characteristic.
THE LATEST CHINESE OUTRAGE
It was noon by the sun; we had finished our game,
And was passin' remarks goin' back to our claim;
Jones was countin' his chips, Smith relievin' his mind
Of ideas that a "straight" should beat "three of a kind,"
When Johnson of Elko came gallopin' down,
With a look on his face 'twixt a grin and a frown,
And he calls, "Drop your shovels and face right about,
For them Chinees from Murphy's are cleanin' us out--
With their ching-a-ring-chow
And their chic-colorow
They're bent upon making
No slouch of a row."
Then Jones--my own pardner--looks up with a sigh;
"It's your wash-bill," sez he, and I answers, "You lie!"
But afore he could draw or the others could arm,
Up tumbles the Bates boys, who heard the alarm.
And a yell from the hill-top and roar of a gong,
Mixed up with remarks like "Hi! yi! Chang-a-wong,"
And bombs, shells, and crackers, that crashed through the trees,
Revealed in their war-togs four hundred Chinees!
Four hundred Chinee;
We are eight, don't ye see!
That made a square fifty
To just one o' we.
They were dressed in their best, but I grieve that that same
Was largely made up of our own, to their shame;
And my pardner's best shirt and his trousers were hung
On a spear, and above him were tauntingly swung;
While that beggar, Chey Lee, like a conjurer sat
Pullin' out eggs and chickens from Johnson's best hat;
And Bates's game rooster was part of their "loot,"
And all of Smith's pigs were skyugled to boot;
But the climax was reached and I like to have died
When my demijohn, empty, came down the hillside,--
Down the hillside--
What once held the pride
Of Robertson County
Pitched down the hillside!
Then we axed for a parley. When out of the din
To the front comes a-rockin' that heathen, Ah Sin!
"You owe flowty dollee--me washee you camp,
You catchee my washee--me catchee no stamp;
One dollar hap dozen, me no catchee yet,
Now that flowty dollee--no hab?--how can get?
Me catchee you piggee--me sellee for cash,
It catchee me licee--you catchee no 'hash;'
Me belly good Sheliff--me lebbee when can,
Me allee same halp pin as Melican man!
But Melican man
He washee him pan
On BOTTOM side hillee
And catchee--how can?"
"Are we men?" says Joe Johnson, "and list to this jaw,
Without process of warrant or color of law?
Are we men or--a-chew!"--here be gasped in his speech,
For a stink-pot had fallen just out of his reach.
"Shall we stand here as idle, and let Asia pour
Her barbaric hordes on this civilized shore?
Has the White Man no country? Are we left in the lurch?
And likewise what's gone of the Established Church?
One man to four hundred is great odds, I own,
But this 'yer's a White Man--I plays it alone!"
And he sprang up the hillside--to stop him none dare--
Till a yell from the top told a "White Man was there!"
A White Man was there!
We prayed he might spare
Those misguided heathens
The few clothes they wear.
They fled, and he followed, but no matter where;
They fled to escape him,--the "White Man was there,"--
Till we missed first his voice on the pine-wooded slope,
And we knew for the heathen henceforth was no hope;
And the yells they grew fainter, when Petersen said,
"It simply was human to bury his dead."
And then, with slow tread,
We crept up, in dread,
But found nary mortal there,
Living or dead.
But there was his trail, and the way that they came,
And yonder, no doubt, he was bagging his game.
When Jones drops his pickaxe, and Thompson says "Shoo!"
And both of 'em points to a cage of bamboo
Hanging down from a tree, with a label that swung
Conspicuous, with letters in some foreign tongue,
Which, when freely translated, the same did appear
Was the Chinese for saying, "A White Man is here!"
And as we drew near,
In anger and fear,
Bound hand and foot, Johnson
Looked down with a leer!
In his mouth was an opium pipe--which was why
He leered at us so with a drunken-like eye!
They had shaved off his eyebrows, and tacked on a cue,
They had painted his face of a coppery hue,
And rigged him all up in a heathenish suit,
Then softly departed, each man with his "loot."
Yes, every galoot,
And Ah Sin, to boot,
Had left him there hanging
Like ripening fruit.
At a mass meeting held up at Murphy's next day
There were seventeen speakers and each had his say;
There were twelve resolutions that instantly passed,
And each resolution was worse than the last;
There were fourteen petitions, which, granting the same,
Will determine what Governor Murphy's shall name;
And the man from our district that goes up next year
Goes up on one issue--that's patent and clear:
"Can the work of a mean,
Believer in Buddha
Be held as a lien?"
TRUTHFUL JAMES TO THE EDITOR
Which it is not my style
To produce needless pain
By statements that rile
Or that go 'gin the grain,
But here's Captain Jack still a-livin', and Nye has no skelp on his
On that Caucasian head
There is no crown of hair;
It has gone, it has fled!
And Echo sez "Where?"
And I asks, "Is this Nation a White Man's, and is generally things
on the square?"
She was known in the camp
As "Nye's other squaw,"
And folks of that stamp
Hez no rights in the law,
But is treacherous, sinful, and slimy, as Nye might hev well known
But she said that she knew
Where the Injins was hid,
And the statement was true,
For it seemed that she did,
Since she led William where he was covered by seventeen Modocs, and--
Then they reached for his hair;
But Nye sez, "By the law
Of nations, forbear!
I surrenders--no more:
And I looks to be treated,--you hear me?--as a pris'ner, a pris'ner
But Captain Jack rose
And he sez, "It's too thin!
Such statements as those
It's too late to begin.
There's a MODOC INDICTMENT agin you, O Paleface, and you're goin' in!
"You stole Schonchin's squaw
In the year sixty-two;
It was in sixty-four
That Long Jack you went through,
And you burned Nasty Jim's rancheria, and his wives and his papooses
"This gun in my hand
Was sold me by you
'Gainst the law of the land,
And I grieves it is true!"
And he buried his face in his blanket and wept as he hid it from view.
But you're tried and condemned,
And skelping's your doom,"
And he paused and he hemmed--
But why this resume?
He was skelped 'gainst the custom of nations, and cut off like a rose
in its bloom.
So I asks without guile,
And I trusts not in vain,
If this is the style
That is going to obtain--
If here's Captain Jack still a-livin', and Nye with no skelp on his
AN IDYL OF THE ROAD
Yuba Bill, Driver
Look how the upland plunges into cover,
Green where the pines fade sullenly away.
Wonderful those olive depths! and wonderful, moreover--
The red dust that rises in a suffocating way.
Small is the soul that cannot soar above it,
Cannot but cling to its ever-kindred clay:
Better be yon bird, that seems to breathe and love it--
Doubtless a hawk or some other bird of prey.
Were we, like him, as sure of a dinner
That on our stomachs would comfortably stay;
Or were the fried ham a shade or two just thinner,
That must confront us at closing of the day:
Then might you sing like Theocritus or Virgil,
Then might we each make a metrical essay;
But verse just now--I must protest and urge--ill
Fits a digestion by travel led astray.
CHORUS OF PASSENGERS
Speed, Yuba Bill! oh, speed us to our dinner!
Speed to the sunset that beckons far away.
William of Yuba, O Son of Nimshi, hearken!
Check thy profanity, but not thy chariot's play.
Tell us, O William, before the shadows darken,
Where, and, oh! how we shall dine? O William, say!
It ain't my fault, nor the Kumpeney's, I reckon,
Ye can't get ez square meal ez any on the Bay,
Up at you place, whar the senset 'pears to beckon--
Ez thet sharp allows in his airy sort o' way.
Thar woz a place wor yer hash ye might hev wrestled,
Kept by a woman ez chipper ez a jay--
Warm in her breast all the morning sunshine nestled;
Red on her cheeks all the evening's sunshine lay.
Praise is but breath, O chariot compeller!
Yet of that hash we would bid you farther say.
Thar woz a snipe--like you, a fancy tourist--
Kem to that ranch ez if to make a stay,
Ran off the gal, and ruined jist the purist
Critter that lived--
You're a liar, driver!
YUBA BILL (reaching for his revolver).
Here take my lines, somebody--
CHORUS OF PASSENGERS
Hush, boys! listen!
Inside there's a lady! Remember! No affray!
Ef that man lives, the fault ain't mine or his'n.
Wait for the sunset that beckons far away,
Then--as you will! But, meantime, friends, believe me,
Nowhere on earth lives a purer woman; nay,
If my perceptions do surely not deceive me,
She is the lady we have inside to-day.
As for the man--you see that blackened pine tree,
Up which the green vine creeps heavenward away!
He was that scarred trunk, and she the vine that sweetly
Clothed him with life again, and lifted--
Yes; but pray
How know you this?
She's my wife.
The h-ll you say!
THOMPSON OF ANGELS
It is the story of Thompson--of Thompson, the hero of Angels.
Frequently drunk was Thompson, but always polite to the stranger;
Light and free was the touch of Thompson upon his revolver;
Great the mortality incident on that lightness and freedom.
Yet not happy or gay was Thompson, the hero of Angels;
Often spoke to himself in accents of anguish and sorrow,
"Why do I make the graves of the frivolous youth who in folly
Thoughtlessly pass my revolver, forgetting its lightness and freedom?
"Why in my daily walks does the surgeon drop his left eyelid,
The undertaker smile, and the sculptor of gravestone marbles
Lean on his chisel and gaze? I care not o'er much for attention;
Simple am I in my ways, save but for this lightness and freedom."
So spake that pensive man--this Thompson, the hero of Angels,
Bitterly smiled to himself, as he strode through the chapparal musing.
"Why, oh, why?" echoed the pines in the dark olive depth far
"Why, indeed?" whispered the sage brush that bent 'neath his feet
Pleasant indeed was that morn that dawned o'er the barroom at Angels,
Where in their manhood's prime was gathered the pride of the hamlet.
Six "took sugar in theirs," and nine to the barkeeper lightly
Smiled as they said, "Well, Jim, you can give us our regular fusil."
Suddenly as the gray hawk swoops down on the barnyard, alighting
Where, pensively picking their corn, the favorite pullets are
So in that festive bar-room dropped Thompson, the hero of Angels,
Grasping his weapon dread with his pristine lightness and freedom.
Never a word he spoke; divesting himself of his garments,
Danced the war-dance of the playful yet truculent Modoc,
Uttered a single whoop, and then, in the accents of challenge,
Spake: "Oh, behold in me a Crested Jay Hawk of the mountain."
Then rose a pallid man--a man sick with fever and ague;
Small was he, and his step was tremulous, weak, and uncertain;
Slowly a Derringer drew, and covered the person of Thompson;
Said in his feeblest pipe, "I'm a Bald-headed Snipe of the Valley."
As on its native plains the kangaroo, startled by hunters,
Leaps with successive bounds, and hurries away to the thickets,
So leaped the Crested Hawk, and quietly hopping behind him
Ran, and occasionally shot, that Bald-headed Snipe of the Valley.
Vain at the festive bar still lingered the people of Angels,
Hearing afar in the woods the petulant pop of the pistol;
Never again returned the Crested Jay Hawk of the mountains,
Never again was seen the Bald-headed Snipe of the Valley.
Yet in the hamlet of Angels, when truculent speeches are uttered,
When bloodshed and life alone will atone for some trifling
Maidens and men in their prime recall the last hero of Angels,
Think of and vainly regret the Bald-headed Snipe of the Valley!
THE HAWK'S NEST
We checked our pace, the red road sharply rounding;
We heard the troubled flow
Of the dark olive depths of pines resounding
A thousand feet below.
Above the tumult of the canyon lifted,
The gray hawk breathless hung,
Or on the hill a winged shadow drifted
Where furze and thorn-bush clung;
Or where half-way the mountain side was furrowed
With many a seam and scar;
Or some abandoned tunnel dimly burrowed,--
A mole-hill seen so far.
We looked in silence down across the distant
A silence broken by the guide's consistent
And realistic speech.
"Walker of Murphy's blew a hole through Peters
For telling him he lied;
Then up and dusted out of South Hornitos
Across the Long Divide.
"We ran him out of Strong's, and up through Eden,
And 'cross the ford below,
And up this canyon (Peters' brother leadin'),
And me and Clark and Joe.
"He fou't us game: somehow I disremember
Jest how the thing kem round;
Some say 'twas wadding, some a scattered ember
From fires on the ground.
"But in one minute all the hill below him
Was just one sheet of flame;
Guardin' the crest, Sam Clark and I called to him,
And,--well, the dog was game!
"He made no sign: the fires of hell were round him,
The pit of hell below.
We sat and waited, but we never found him;
And then we turned to go.
"And then--you see that rock that's grown so bristly
With chapparal and tan--
Suthin crep' out: it might hev been a grizzly
It might hev been a man;
"Suthin that howled, and gnashed its teeth, and shouted
In smoke and dust and flame;
Suthin that sprang into the depths about it,
Grizzly or man,--but game!
"That's all! Well, yes, it does look rather risky,
And kinder makes one queer
And dizzy looking down. A drop of whiskey
Ain't a bad thing right here!"
I'm sitting alone by the fire,
Dressed just as I came from the dance,
In a robe even YOU would admire,--
It cost a cool thousand in France;
I'm be-diamonded out of all reason,
My hair is done up in a cue:
In short, sir, "the belle of the season"
Is wasting an hour upon you.
A dozen engagements I've broken;
I left in the midst of a set;
Likewise a proposal, half spoken,
That waits--on the stairs--for me yet.
They say he'll be rich,--when he grows up,--
And then he adores me indeed;
And you, sir, are turning your nose up,
Three thousand miles off as you read.
"And how do I like my position?"
"And what do I think of New York?"
"And now, in my higher ambition,
With whom do I waltz, flirt, or talk?"
"And isn't it nice to have riches,
And diamonds and silks, and all that?"
"And aren't they a change to the ditches
And tunnels of Poverty Flat?"
Well, yes,--if you saw us out driving
Each day in the Park, four-in-hand,
If you saw poor dear mamma contriving
To look supernaturally grand,--
If you saw papa's picture, as taken
By Brady, and tinted at that,
You'd never suspect he sold bacon
And flour at Poverty Flat.
And yet, just this moment, when sitting
In the glare of the grand chandelier,--
In the bustle and glitter befitting
The "finest soiree of the year,"--
In the mists of a gaze de Chambery,
And the hum of the smallest of talk,--
Somehow, Joe, I thought of the "Ferry,"
And the dance that we had on "The Fork;"
Of Harrison's barn, with its muster
Of flags festooned over the wall;
Of the candles that shed their soft lustre
And tallow on head-dress and shawl;
Of the steps that we took to one fiddle,
Of the dress of my queer vis-a-vis;
And how I once went down the middle
With the man that shot Sandy McGee;
Of the moon that was quietly sleeping
On the hill, when the time came to go;
Of the few baby peaks that were peeping
From under their bedclothes of snow;
Of that ride--that to me was the rarest;
Of--the something you said at the gate.
Ah! Joe, then I wasn't an heiress
To "the best-paying lead in the State."
Well, well, it's all past; yet it's funny
To think, as I stood in the glare
Of fashion and beauty and money,
That I should be thinking, right there,
Of some one who breasted high water,
And swam the North Fork, and all that,
Just to dance with old Folinsbee's daughter,
The Lily of Poverty Flat.
But goodness! what nonsense I'm writing!
(Mamma says my taste still is low),
Instead of my triumphs reciting,
I'm spooning on Joseph,--heigh-ho!
And I'm to be "finished" by travel,--
Whatever's the meaning of that.
Oh, why did papa strike pay gravel
In drifting on Poverty Flat?
Good-night!--here's the end of my paper;
Good-night!--if the longitude please,--
For maybe, while wasting my taper,
YOUR sun's climbing over the trees.
But know, if you haven't got riches,
And are poor, dearest Joe, and all that,
That my heart's somewhere there in the ditches,
And you've struck it,--on Poverty Flat.
HIS ANSWER TO "HER LETTER"
(REPORTED BY TRUTHFUL JAMES)
Being asked by an intimate party,--
Which the same I would term as a friend,--
Though his health it were vain to call hearty,
Since the mind to deceit it might lend;
For his arm it was broken quite recent,
And there's something gone wrong with his lung,--
Which is why it is proper and decent
I should write what he runs off his tongue.
First, he says, Miss, he's read through your letter
To the end,--and "the end came too soon;"
That a "slight illness kept him your debtor,"
(Which for weeks he was wild as a loon);
That "his spirits are buoyant as yours is;"
That with you, Miss, he "challenges Fate,"
(Which the language that invalid uses
At times it were vain to relate).
And he says "that the mountains are fairer
For once being held in your thought;"
That each rock "holds a wealth that is rarer
Than ever by gold-seeker sought."
(Which are words he would put in these pages,
By a party not given to guile;
Though the claim not, at date, paying wages,
Might produce in the sinful a smile.)
He remembers the ball at the Ferry,
And the ride, and the gate, and the vow,
And the rose that you gave him,--that very
Same rose he is "treasuring now."
(Which his blanket he's kicked on his trunk, Miss,
And insists on his legs being free
And his language to me from his bunk, Miss,
Is frequent and painful and free.)
He hopes you are wearing no willows,
But are happy and gay all the while;
That he knows--(which this dodging of pillows
Imparts but small ease to the style,
And the same you will pardon)--he knows, Miss,
That, though parted by many a mile,
Yet, were HE lying under the snows, Miss,
They'd melt into tears at your smile."
And "you'll still think of him in your pleasures,
In your brief twilight dreams of the past;
In this green laurel spray that he treasures,--
It was plucked where your parting was last;
In this specimen,--but a small trifle,--
It will do for a pin for your shawl."
(Which, the truth not to wickedly stifle,
Was his last week's "clean up,"--and HIS ALL.)
He's asleep, which the same might seem strange, Miss,
Were it not that I scorn to deny
That I raised his last dose, for a change, Miss,
In view that his fever was high;
But he lies there quite peaceful and pensive.
And now, my respects, Miss, to you;
Which my language, although comprehensive,
Might seem to be freedom, is true.
For I have a small favor to ask you,
As concerns a bull-pup, and the same,--
If the duty would not overtask you,--
You would please to procure for me, GAME;
And send per express to the Flat, Miss,--
For they say York is famed for the breed,
Which, though words of deceit may be that, Miss,
I'll trust to your taste, Miss, indeed.
P.S.--Which this same interfering
Into other folks' way I despise;
Yet if it so be I was hearing
That it's just empty pockets as lies
Betwixt you and Joseph, it follers
That, having no family claims,
Here's my pile, which it's six hundred dollars,
As is YOURS, with respects,
"THE RETURN OF BELISARIUS"
(MUD FLAT, 1860)
So you're back from your travels, old fellow,
And you left but a twelvemonth ago;
You've hobnobbed with Louis Napoleon,
Eugenie, and kissed the Pope's toe.
By Jove, it is perfectly stunning,
Astounding,--and all that, you know;
Yes, things are about as you left them
In Mud Flat a twelvemonth ago.
The boys!--they're all right,--Oh! Dick Ashley,
He's buried somewhere in the snow;
He was lost on the Summit last winter,
And Bob has a hard row to hoe.
You know that he's got the consumption?
You didn't! Well, come, that's a go;
I certainly wrote you at Baden,--
Dear me! that was six months ago.
I got all your outlandish letters,
All stamped by some foreign P. O.
I handed myself to Miss Mary
That sketch of a famous chateau.
Tom Saunders is living at 'Frisco,--
They say that he cuts quite a show.
You didn't meet Euchre-deck Billy
Anywhere on your road to Cairo?
So you thought of the rusty old cabin,
The pines, and the valley below,
And heard the North Fork of the Yuba
As you stood on the banks of the Po?
'Twas just like your romance, old fellow;
But now there is standing a row
Of stores on the site of the cabin
That you lived in a twelvemonth ago.
But it's jolly to see you, old fellow,--
To think it's a twelvemonth ago!
And you have seen Louis Napoleon,
And look like a Johnny Crapaud.
Come in. You will surely see Mary,--
You know we are married. What, no?
Oh, ay! I forgot there was something
Between you a twelvemonth ago.
FURTHER LANGUAGE FROM TRUTHFUL JAMES
(NYE'S FORD, STANISLAUS, 1870)
Do I sleep? do I dream?
Do I wonder and doubt?
Are things what they seem?
Or is visions about?
Is our civilization a failure?
Or is the Caucasian played out?
Which expressions are strong;
Yet would feebly imply
Some account of a wrong--
Not to call it a lie--
As was worked off on William, my pardner,
And the same being W. Nye.
He came down to the Ford
On the very same day
Of that lottery drawed
By those sharps at the Bay;
And he says to me, "Truthful, how goes it?"
I replied, "It is far, far from gay;
"For the camp has gone wild
On this lottery game,
And has even beguiled
'Injin Dick' by the same."
Then said Nye to me, "Injins is pizen:
But what is his number, eh, James?"
I replied, "7, 2,
9, 8, 4, is his hand;"
When he started, and drew
Out a list, which he scanned;
Then he softly went for his revolver
With language I cannot command.
Then I said, "William Nye!"
But he turned upon me,
And the look in his eye
Was quite painful to see;
And he says, "You mistake; this poor Injin
I protects from such sharps as YOU be!"
I was shocked and withdrew;
But I grieve to relate,
When he next met my view
Injin Dick was his mate;
And the two around town was a-lying
In a frightfully dissolute state.
Which the war dance they had
Round a tree at the Bend
Was a sight that was sad;
And it seemed that the end
Would not justify the proceedings,
As I quiet remarked to a friend.
For that Injin he fled
The next day to his band;
And we found William spread
Very loose on the strand,
With a peaceful-like smile on his features,
And a dollar greenback in his hand;
Which the same, when rolled out,
We observed, with surprise,
Was what he, no doubt,
Thought the number and prize--
Them figures in red in the corner,
Which the number of notes specifies.
Was it guile, or a dream?
Is it Nye that I doubt?
Are things what they seem?
Or is visions about?
Is our civilization a failure?
Or is the Caucasian played out?
AFTER THE ACCIDENT
(MOUTH OF THE SHAFT)
What I want is my husband, sir,--
And if you're a man, sir,
You'll give me an answer,--
Where is my Joe?
Penrhyn, sir, Joe,--
Six months ago
Since we came here--
Eh?--Ah, you know!
Well, I am quiet
But I must stand here,
Please, I'll be strong,
If you'll just let me wait
Inside o' that gate
Till the news comes along.
That was the cause!--
Are there no laws,--
Laws to protect such as we?
I won't raise my voice.
I won't make no noise,
Only you just let me be.
Four, only four--did he say--
Saved! and the other ones?--Eh?
Why do they call?
Why are they all
Looking and coming this way?
What's that?--a message?
I'll take it.
I know his wife, sir,
I'll break it.
"Out by and by,--
Just saved his life.
Say to his wife
Soon he'll be free."
Will I?--God bless you!
THE GHOST THAT JIM SAW
Why, as to that, said the engineer,
Ghosts ain't things we are apt to fear;
Spirits don't fool with levers much,
And throttle-valves don't take to such;
And as for Jim,
What happened to him
Was one half fact, and t'other half whim!
Running one night on the line, he saw
A house--as plain as the moral law--
Just by the moonlit bank, and thence
Came a drunken man with no more sense
Than to drop on the rail
Flat as a flail,
As Jim drove by with the midnight mail.
Down went the patents--steam reversed.
Too late! for there came a "thud." Jim cursed
As the fireman, there in the cab with him,
Kinder stared in the face of Jim,
And says, "What now?"
Says Jim, "What now!
I've just run over a man,--that's how!"
The fireman stared at Jim. They ran
Back, but they never found house nor man,--
Nary a shadow within a mile.
Jim turned pale, but he tried to smile,
Then on he tore
Ten mile or more,
In quicker time than he'd made afore.
Would you believe it! the very next night
Up rose that house in the moonlight white,
Out comes the chap and drops as before,
Down goes the brake and the rest encore;
And so, in fact,
Each night that act
Occurred, till folks swore Jim was cracked.
Humph! let me see; it's a year now, 'most,
That I met Jim, East, and says, "How's your ghost?"
"Gone," says Jim; "and more, it's plain
That ghost don't trouble me again.
I thought I shook
That ghost when I took
A place on an Eastern line,--but look!
"What should I meet, the first trip out,
But the very house we talked about,
And the selfsame man! 'Well,' says I, 'I guess
It's time to stop this 'yer foolishness.'
So I crammed on steam,
When there came a scream
From my fireman, that jest broke my dream:
"'You've killed somebody!' Says I, 'Not much!
I've been thar often, and thar ain't no such,
And now I'll prove it!' Back we ran,
And--darn my skin!--but thar WAS a man
On the rail, dead,
Smashed in the head!--
Now I call that meanness!" That's all Jim said.
(MR. INTERVIEWER INTERVIEWED)
Know me next time when you see me, won't you, old smarty?
Oh, I mean YOU, old figger-head,--just the same party!
Take out your pensivil, d--n you; sharpen it, do!
Any complaints to make? Lots of 'em--one of 'em's YOU.
You! who are YOU, anyhow, goin' round in that sneakin' way?
Never in jail before, was you, old blatherskite, say?
Look at it; don't it look pooty? Oh, grin, and be d--d to you, do!
But if I had you this side o' that gratin,' I'd just make it lively
How did I get in here? Well what 'ud you give to know?
'Twasn't by sneakin' round where I hadn't no call to go;
'Twasn't by hangin' round a-spyin' unfortnet men.
Grin! but I'll stop your jaw if ever you do that agen.
Why don't you say suthin, blast you? Speak your mind if you dare.
Ain't I a bad lot, sonny? Say it, and call it square.
Hain't got no tongue, hey, hev ye? Oh, guard! here's a little swell
A cussin' and swearin' and yellin', and bribin' me not to tell.
There! I thought that 'ud fetch ye! And you want to know my name?
"Seventy-nine" they call me, but that is their little game;
For I'm werry highly connected, as a gent, sir, can understand,
And my family hold their heads up with the very furst in the land.
For 'twas all, sir, a put-up job on a pore young man like me;
And the jury was bribed a puppos, and at furst they couldn't agree;
And I sed to the judge, sez I,--Oh, grin! it's all right, my son!
But you're a werry lively young pup, and you ain't to be played upon!
Wot's that you got?--tobacco? I'm cussed but I thought 'twas a tract.
Thank ye! A chap t'other day--now, lookee, this is a fact--
Slings me a tract on the evils o' keepin' bad company,
As if all the saints was howlin' to stay here along o' we.
No, I hain't no complaints. Stop, yes; do you see that chap,--
Him standin' over there, a-hidin' his eyes in his cap?
Well, that man's stumick is weak, and he can't stand the pris'n fare;
For the coffee is just half beans, and the sugar it ain't nowhere.
Perhaps it's his bringin' up; but he's sickenin' day by day,
And he doesn't take no food, and I'm seein' him waste away.
And it isn't the thing to see; for, whatever he's been and done,
Starvation isn't the plan as he's to be saved upon.
For he cannot rough it like me; and he hasn't the stamps, I guess,
To buy him his extry grub outside o' the pris'n mess.
And perhaps if a gent like you, with whom I've been sorter free,
Would--thank you! But, say! look here! Oh, blast it! don't give it
Don't you give it to me; now, don't ye, don't ye, DON'T!
You think it's a put-up job; so I'll thank ye, sir, if you won't.
But hand him the stamps yourself: why, he isn't even my pal;
And, if it's a comfort to you, why, I don't intend that he shall.
THE STAGE-DRIVER'S STORY
It was the stage-driver's story, as he stood with his back to the
Quietly flecking his whip, and turning his quid of tobacco;
While on the dusty road, and blent with the rays of the moonlight,
We saw the long curl of his lash and the juice of tobacco descending.
"Danger! Sir, I believe you,--indeed, I may say, on that subject,
You your existence might put to the hazard and turn of a wager.
I have seen danger? Oh, no! not me, sir, indeed, I assure you:
'Twas only the man with the dog that is sitting alone in yon wagon.
"It was the Geiger Grade, a mile and a half from the summit:
Black as your hat was the night, and never a star in the heavens.
Thundering down the grade, the gravel and stones we sent flying
Over the precipice side,--a thousand feet plumb to the bottom.
"Half-way down the grade I felt, sir, a thrilling and creaking,
Then a lurch to one side, as we hung on the bank of the canyon;
Then, looking up the road, I saw, in the distance behind me,
The off hind wheel of the coach, just loosed from its axle, and
"One glance alone I gave, then gathered together my ribbons,
Shouted, and flung them, outspread, on the straining necks of my
Screamed at the top of my voice, and lashed the air in my frenzy,
While down the Geiger Grade, on THREE wheels, the vehicle thundered.
"Speed was our only chance, when again came the ominous rattle:
Crack, and another wheel slipped away, and was lost in the darkness.
TWO only now were left; yet such was our fearful momentum,
Upright, erect, and sustained on TWO wheels, the vehicle thundered.
"As some huge boulder, unloosed from its rocky shelf on the mountain,
Drives before it the hare and the timorous squirrel, far leaping,
So down the Geiger Grade rushed the Pioneer coach, and before it
Leaped the wild horses, and shrieked in advance of the danger
"But to be brief in my tale. Again, ere we came to the level,
Slipped from its axle a wheel; so that, to be plain in my statement,
A matter of twelve hundred yards or more, as the distance may be,
We traveled upon ONE wheel, until we drove up to the station.
"Then, sir, we sank in a heap; but, picking myself from the ruins,
I heard a noise up the grade; and looking, I saw in the distance
The three wheels following still, like moons on the horizon whirling,
Till, circling, they gracefully sank on the road at the side of the
"This is my story, sir; a trifle, indeed, I assure you.
Much more, perchance, might be said--but I hold him of all men most
Who swerves from the truth in his tale. No, thank you-- Well, since
you ARE pressing,
Perhaps I don't care if I do: you may give me the same, Jim,--no
A QUESTION OF PRIVILEGE
REPORTED BY TRUTHFUL JAMES
It was Andrew Jackson Sutter who, despising Mr. Cutter for remarks
he heard him utter in debate upon the floor,
Swung him up into the skylight, in the peaceful, pensive twilight,
and then keerlessly proceeded, makin' no account what WE did--
To wipe up with his person casual dust upon the floor.
Now a square fight never frets me, nor unpleasantness upsets me, but
the simple thing that gets me--now the job is done and gone,
And we've come home free and merry from the peaceful cemetery,
leavin' Cutter there with Sutter--that mebbee just a stutter
On the part of Mr. Cutter caused the loss we deeply mourn.
Some bashful hesitation, just like spellin' punctooation--might have
worked an aggravation on to Sutter's mournful mind,
For the witnesses all vary ez to wot was said and nary a galoot will
toot his horn except the way he is inclined.
But they all allow that Sutter had begun a kind of mutter, when
uprose Mr. Cutter with a sickening kind of ease,
And proceeded then to wade in to the subject then prevadin': "Is
Profanity degradin'?" in words like unto these:
"Onlike the previous speaker, Mr. Sutter of Yreka, he was but a
humble seeker--and not like him--a cuss"--
It was here that Mr. Sutter softly reached for Mr. Cutter, when the
latter with a stutter said: "ac-customed to discuss."
Then Sutter he rose grimly, and sorter smilin' dimly bowed onto the
Chairman primly--(just like Cutter ez could be!)
Drawled "he guessed he must fall--back--as--Mr. Cutter owned the
pack--as--he just had played the--Jack--as--" (here Cutter's gun
went crack! as Mr. Sutter gasped and ended) "every man can see!"
But William Henry Pryor--just in range of Sutter's fire--here
evinced a wild desire to do somebody harm,
And in the general scrimmage no one thought if Sutter's "image" was
a misplaced punctooation--like the hole in Pryor's arm.
For we all waltzed in together, never carin' to ask whether it was
Sutter or was Cutter we woz tryin' to abate.
But we couldn't help perceivin', when we took to inkstand heavin',
that the process was relievin' to the sharpness of debate,
So we've come home free and merry from the peaceful cemetery, and I
make no commentary on these simple childish games;
Things is various and human--and the man ain't born of woman who is
free to intermeddle with his pal's intents and aims.
THE THOUGHT-READER OF ANGELS
REPORTED BY TRUTHFUL JAMES
We hev tumbled ez dust
Or ez worms of the yearth;
Wot we looked for hez bust!
We are objects of mirth!
They have played us--old Pards of the river!--they hev played us for
all we was worth!
Was it euchre or draw
Cut us off in our bloom?
Was it faro, whose law
Is uncertain ez doom?
Or an innocent "Jack pot" that--opened--was to us ez the jaws of the
It was nary! It kem
With some sharps from the States.
Ez folks sez, "All things kem
To the fellers ez waits;"
And we'd waited six months for that suthin'--had me and Bill Nye--in
And it kem. It was small;
It was dream-like and weak;
It wore store clothes--that's all
That we knew, so to speak;
But it called itself "Billson, Thought-Reader"--which ain't half a
name for its cheek!
He could read wot you thought,
And he knew wot you did;
He could find things untaught,
No matter whar hid;
And he went to it, blindfold and smiling, being led by the hand like
Then I glanced at Bill Nye,
And I sez, without pride,
"You'll excuse US. We've nigh
On to nothin' to hide;
But if some gent will lend us a twenty, we'll hide it whar folks
It was Billson's own self
Who forked over the gold,
With a smile. "Thar's the pelf,"
He remarked. "I make bold
To advance it, and go twenty better that I'll find it without being
Then I passed it to Nye,
Who repassed it to me.
And we bandaged each eye
Of that Billson--ez we
Softly dropped that coin in his coat pocket, ez the hull crowd
around us could see.
That was all. He'd one hand
Locked in mine. Then he groped.
We could not understand
Why that minit Nye sloped,
For we knew we'd the dead thing on Billson--even more than we
dreamed of or hoped.
For he stood thar in doubt
With his hand to his head;
Then he turned, and lit out
Through the door where Nye fled,
Draggin' me and the rest of us arter, while we larfed till we
thought we was dead,
Till he overtook Nye
And went through him. Words fail
For what follers! Kin I
Paint our agonized wail
Ez he drew from Nye's pocket that twenty wot we sworn was in his own
And it WAS! But, when found,
It proved bogus and brass!
And the question goes round
How the thing kem to pass?
Or, if PASSED, woz it passed thar by William; and I listens, and
"For the days when the skill
Of the keerds was no blind,
When no effort of will
Could beat four of a kind,
When the thing wot you held in your hand, Pard, was worth more than
the thing in your mind."
THE SPELLING BEE AT ANGELS
(REPORTED BY TRUTHFUL JAMES)
Waltz in, waltz in, ye little kids, and gather round my knee,
And drop them books and first pot-hooks, and hear a yarn from me.
I kin not sling a fairy tale of Jinnys* fierce and wild,
For I hold it is unchristian to deceive a simple child;
But as from school yer driftin' by, I thowt ye'd like to hear
Of a "Spelling Bee" at Angels that we organized last year.
It warn't made up of gentle kids, of pretty kids, like you,
But gents ez hed their reg'lar growth, and some enough for two.
There woz Lanky Jim of Sutter's Fork and Bilson of Lagrange,
And "Pistol Bob," who wore that day a knife by way of change.
You start, you little kids, you think these are not pretty names,
But each had a man behind it, and--my name is Truthful James.
There was Poker Dick from Whisky Flat, and Smith of Shooter's Bend,
And Brown of Calaveras--which I want no better friend;
Three-fingered Jack--yes, pretty dears, three fingers--YOU have five.
Clapp cut off two--it's sing'lar, too, that Clapp ain't now alive.
'Twas very wrong indeed, my dears, and Clapp was much to blame;
Likewise was Jack, in after-years, for shootin' of that same.
The nights was kinder lengthenin' out, the rains had jest begun,
When all the camp came up to Pete's to have their usual fun;
But we all sot kinder sad-like around the bar-room stove
Till Smith got up, permiskiss-like, and this remark he hove:
"Thar's a new game down in Frisco, that ez far ez I can see
Beats euchre, poker, and van-toon, they calls the 'Spellin' Bee.'"
Then Brown of Calaveras simply hitched his chair and spake,
"Poker is good enough for me," and Lanky Jim sez, "Shake!"
And Bob allowed he warn't proud, but he "must say right thar
That the man who tackled euchre hed his education squar."
This brought up Lenny Fairchild, the schoolmaster, who said
He knew the game, and he would give instructions on that head.
"For instance, take some simple word," sez he, "like 'separate:'
Now who can spell it?" Dog my skin, ef thar was one in eight.
This set the boys all wild at once. The chairs was put in row,
And at the head was Lanky Jim, and at the foot was Joe,
And high upon the bar itself the schoolmaster was raised,
And the bar-keep put his glasses down, and sat and silent gazed.
The first word out was "parallel," and seven let it be,
Till Joe waltzed in his "double l" betwixt the "a" and "e;"
For since he drilled them Mexicans in San Jacinto's fight
Thar warn't no prouder man got up than Pistol Joe that night--
Till "rhythm" came! He tried to smile, then said "they had him
And Lanky Jim, with one long stride, got up and took his chair.
O little kids, my pretty kids, 'twas touchin' to survey
These bearded men, with weppings on, like schoolboys at their play.
They'd laugh with glee, and shout to see each other lead the van,
And Bob sat up as monitor with a cue for a rattan,
Till the Chair gave out "incinerate," and Brown said he'd be durned
If any such blamed word as that in school was ever learned.
When "phthisis" came they all sprang up, and vowed the man who rung
Another blamed Greek word on them be taken out and hung.
As they sat down again I saw in Bilson's eye a flash,
And Brown of Calaveras was a-twistin' his mustache,
And when at last Brown slipped on "gneiss," and Bilson took his chair,
He dropped some casual words about some folks who dyed their hair.
And then the Chair grew very white, and the Chair said he'd adjourn,
But Poker Dick remarked that HE would wait and get his turn;
Then with a tremblin' voice and hand, and with a wanderin' eye,
The Chair next offered "eider-duck," and Dick began with "I",
And Bilson smiled--then Bilson shrieked! Just how the fight begun
I never knowed, for Bilson dropped, and Dick, he moved up one.
Then certain gents arose and said "they'd business down in camp,"
And "ez the road was rather dark, and ez the night was damp,
They'd"--here got up Three-fingered Jack and locked the door and
"No, not one mother's son goes out till that thar word is spelled!"
But while the words were on his lips, he groaned and sank in pain,
And sank with Webster on his chest and Worcester on his brain.
Below the bar dodged Poker Dick, and tried to look ez he
Was huntin' up authorities thet no one else could see;
And Brown got down behind the stove, allowin' he "was cold,"
Till it upsot and down his legs the cinders freely rolled,
And several gents called "Order!" till in his simple way
Poor Smith began with "O-r"--"Or"--and he was dragged away.
O little kids, my pretty kids, down on your knees and pray!
You've got your eddication in a peaceful sort of way;
And bear in mind thar may be sharps ez slings their spellin' square,
But likewise slings their bowie-knives without a thought or care.
You wants to know the rest, my dears? Thet's all! In me you see
The only gent that lived to tell about the Spellin' Bee!
He ceased and passed, that truthful man; the children went their way
With downcast heads and downcast hearts--but not to sport or play.
For when at eve the lamps were lit, and supperless to bed
Each child was sent, with tasks undone and lessons all unsaid,
No man might know the awful woe that thrilled their youthful frames,
As they dreamed of Angels Spelling Bee and thought of Truthful James.
* Qy. Genii.
ARTEMIS IN SIERRA
Poet. Philosopher. Jones of Mariposa.
Halt! Here we are. Now wheel your mare a trifle
Just where you stand; then doff your hat and swear
Never yet was scene you might cover with your rifle
Half as complete or as marvelously fair.
Dropped from Olympus or lifted out of Tempe,
Swung like a censer betwixt the earth and sky!
He who in Greece sang of flocks and flax and hemp,--he
Here might recall them--six thousand feet on high!
Well you may say so. The clamor of the river,
Hum of base toil, and man's ignoble strife,
Halt far below, where the stifling sunbeams quiver,
But never climb to this purer, higher life!
Not to this glade, where Jones of Mariposa,
Simple and meek as his flocks we're looking at,
Tends his soft charge; nor where his daughter Rosa--
Hallo! What's that?
A--something thro' my hat--
Bullet, I think. You were speaking of his daughter?
Yes; but--your hat you were moving through the leaves;
Likely he thought it some eagle bent on slaughter.
Lightly he shoots-- (A second shot.)
As one readily perceives.
Still, he improves! This time YOUR hat has got it,
Quite near the band! Eh? Oh, just as you please--
Stop, or go on.
Perhaps we'd better trot it
Down through the hollow, and up among the trees.
Trot, trot, trot, where the bullets cannot follow;
Trot down and up again among the laurel trees.
Thanks, that is better; now of this shot-dispensing
Jones and his girl--you were saying--
Well, you see--
I--hang it all!--Oh! what's the use of fencing!
Sir, I confess it!--these shots were meant for ME.
Are you mad!
God knows, I shouldn't wonder!
I love this coy nymph, who, coldly--as yon peak
Shines on the river it feeds, yet keeps asunder--
Long have I worshiped, but never dared to speak.
Till she, no doubt, her love no longer hiding,
Waked by some chance word her father's jealousy;
Slips her disdain--as an avalanche down gliding
Sweeps flocks and kin away--to clear a path for ME.
Hence his attack.
I see. What I admire
Chiefly, I think, in your idyl, so to speak,
Is the cool modesty that checks your youthful fire,--
Absence of self-love and abstinence of cheek!
Still, I might mention, I've met the gentle Rosa,--
Danced with her thrice, to her father's jealous dread;
And, it is possible, she's happened to disclose a--
Ahem! You can fancy why he shoots at ME instead.
Me. But kindly take your hand from your revolver,
I am not choleric--but accidents may chance.
And here's the father, who alone can be the solver
Of this twin riddle of the hat and the romance.
Enter JONES OF MARIPOSA.
Hail! Time-and-cartridge waster,
Aimless exploder of theories and skill!
Whom do you shoot?
JONES OF MARIPOSA
Well, shootin' ain't my taste, or
EF I shoot anything--I only shoot to kill.
That ain't what's up. I only kem to tell ye--
Sportin' or courtin'--trot homeward for your life!
Gals will be gals, and p'r'aps it's just ez well ye
Larned there was one had no wish to be--a wife.
Is this true?
JONES OF MARIPOSA
I reckon it looks like it.
She saw ye comin'. My gun was standin' by;
She made a grab, and 'fore I up could strike it,
Blazed at ye both! The critter is SO shy!
JONES OF MARIPOSA
JONES OF MARIPOSA
JACK OF THE TULES
Shrewdly you question, Senor, and I fancy
You are no novice. Confess that to little
Of my poor gossip of Mission and Pueblo
You are a stranger!
Am I not right? Ah! believe me, that ever
Since we joined company at the posada
I've watched you closely, and--pardon an old priest--
I've caught you smiling!
Smiling to hear an old fellow like me talk
Gossip of pillage and robbers, and even
Air his opinion of law and alcaldes
Like any other!
Now!--by that twist of the wrist on the bridle,
By that straight line from the heel to the shoulder,
By that curt speech,--nay! nay! no offense, son,--
You are a soldier?
No? Then a man of affairs? San Sebastian!
'Twould serve me right if I prattled thus wildly
To--say a sheriff? No?--just caballero?
Well, more's the pity.
Ah! what we want here's a man of your presence;
Sano, Secreto,--yes, all the four S's,
Joined with a boldness and dash, when the time comes,
And--may I say it?--
One not TOO hard on the poor country people,
Peons and silly vaqueros, who, dazzled
By reckless skill, and, perchance, reckless largesse,
Wink at some queer things.
No? You would crush THEM as well as the robbers,--
Root them out, scatter them? Ah you are bitter--
And yet--quien sabe, perhaps that's the one way
To catch their leader.
As to myself, now, I'd share your displeasure;
For I admit in this Jack of the Tules
Certain good points. He still comes to confession--
You'd "like to catch him"?
Ah, if you did at such times, you might lead him
Home by a thread. Good! Again you are smiling:
You have no faith in such shrift, and but little
In priest or penitent.
Bueno! We take no offense, sir; whatever
It please you to say, it becomes us, for Church sake,
To bear in peace. Yet, if you were kinder--
And less suspicious--
I might still prove to you, Jack of the Tules
Shames not our teaching; nay, even might show you,
Hard by this spot, his old comrade, who, wounded,
Lives on his bounty.
If--ah, you listen!--I see I can trust you;
Then, on your word as a gentleman--follow.
Under that sycamore stands the old cabin;
There sits his comrade.
Eh!--are you mad? You would try to ARREST him?
You, with a warrant? Oh, well, take the rest of them:
Pedro, Bill, Murray, Pat Doolan. Hey!--all of you,
Tumble out, d--n it!
There!--that'll do, boys! Stand back! Ease his elbows;
Take the gag from his mouth. Good! Now scatter like devils
After his posse--four straggling, four drunken--
At the posada.
You--help me off with these togs, and then vamos!
Now, ole Jeff Dobbs!--Sheriff, Scout, and Detective!
You're so derned 'cute! Kinder sick, ain't ye, bluffing
Jack of the Tules!
A GREYPORT LEGEND
They ran through the streets of the seaport town,
They peered from the decks of the ships that lay;
The cold sea-fog that came whitening down
Was never as cold or white as they.
"Ho, Starbuck and Pinckney and Tenterden!
Run for your shallops, gather your men,
Scatter your boats on the lower bay."
Good cause for fear! In the thick mid-day
The hulk that lay by the rotting pier,
Filled with the children in happy play,
Parted its moorings and drifted clear,
Drifted clear beyond reach or call,--
Thirteen children they were in all,--
All adrift in the lower bay!
Said a hard-faced skipper, "God help us all!
She will not float till the turning tide!"
Said his wife, "My darling will hear MY call,
Whether in sea or heaven she bide;"
And she lifted a quavering voice and high,
Wild and strange as a sea-bird's cry,
Till they shuddered and wondered at her side.
The fog drove down on each laboring crew,
Veiled each from each and the sky and shore:
There was not a sound but the breath they drew,
And the lap of water and creak of oar;
And they felt the breath of the downs, fresh blown
O'er leagues of clover and cold gray stone,
But not from the lips that had gone before.
They came no more. But they tell the tale
That, when fogs are thick on the harbor reef,
The mackerel fishers shorten sail--
For the signal they know will bring relief;
For the voices of children, still at play