Part 2 out of 6
the story from the beginnin', I 'd see it was a mercy, after all.
Anyhow, it made it easy enough for him to work out his scheme.
The' ain't no rules for women anyhow, 'cause their hearts won't
never surrender to their heads; when they do, they ain't all woman.
Well, yes, there is one rule 'at 's safe for a man to foller In
dealin with woman, an' that is that when a woman's in love, she 's
in love all over. Sometimes a man's in love up to his pocket-book,
sometimes up to his appetite, an' sometimes up to his heart, but
he's mighty seldom in love all over. If nothin' else stays dry he's
generally able to take care of his head, but with a woman everything
goes; so I'm purty tol'able sure that away back at the beginnin' it
was love 'at drove ol' Monody out of her own sex down into ours.
When the news spread abroad 'at the man who had killed Bill Brophy
without a weapon had cashed in, the neighbors gathered from ninety
miles around, and we sure gave Monody the rip-snortin'est funeral
ever seen in those parts. We didn't say nothin' about him not really
bein' a man, an' though I reckon 'at every feller there knew of it,
the' wasn't a single one of 'em spoke of it--so we didn't have no
trouble at all.
He lies on a little knoll about a mile to the north of the ranch
house. Up back of him ol' Mount Savage stands guard an' fights off
the roughest of the storms; while the soft winds from the south
steal gently up a little cut in the rocks an' seem to circle about
him, whisperin' secrets of countries far away. If the' 's a single
bird in Wyoming, you can find it hoppin' about his narrow bed or
singin' in the oak tree 'at stands above him, spreadin' out its
branches like a priest givin' the blessin'. Winter or summer,
Monody's grave is the quietest, peacefullest, purtiest spot 'at lies
outdoors, as if the old Earth had repented of the way it had treated
him, and was tryin' to make it up to him now.
Take it in winter when the' 's a clean sheet o' soft, white snow
over everything, an' I like to go out an' stand on another little
knoll about a half mile this side. The last speck of light in the
valley comes through a narrow cleft an' falls on Monody's grave. As
the sun sinks lower an' lower the crimson glory on the soft fleecy
snow seems to come up out of the grave an' climb the black shadow of
the mountain, like--but pshaw, I reckon it'd be a mighty tame sight
to ol' Monody himself.
I never speak of him, an' I never think of him, as anything but a
man. He lived like a man, God knows he died like a man; and on the
little stone at his head the' ain't nothin' carved except just--
Monody, a Man.
It was mighty pleasant back at the Diamond Dot after things got
settled again. Barbie had become a curious little trick with a way
of doin' strange things in a sober old-fashioned manner like as if
she was a hundred years of age, but was tryin' to hide it.
She was more like Jabez too, which give me a heap of amusement,
seein' which one was goin' to win when they straddled a question.
Barbie wasn't sassy, not at all; she just didn't seem able to savvy
that a few small matters, like age an' parentage an' ownin' the
ranch, gave Jabez a sort of a majority vote, as you might say, on
all questions. No, Barbie couldn't seem to get callous to this, an'
she fought out all differences of opinion from the mere facts o' the
case, an' I got to do Jabez the justice of admittin' that he never
retreated behind his authority until after he'd been well licked in
the open; an' unless it was a mighty important question he took his
lickin' like a man. Barbie was game about it too, an' when she got
the worst of a fair fight she never put up a howl; but when she had
won in the open it used to grind her something fierce to be told
point blank that she had to do such an' so, "'Cause she was a girl."
"If tobacco stunts your growth, how's it come 'at old Tank Williams
an' George Hendricks an' Happy an' a lot more o' the boys is all
over six feet tall," she sez one day durin' a try-out, "while Flap
Jack is the smallest man on the place an' he don't never use it at
all--'cept when he cuts his finger."
"Things don't allus work alike," sez Jabez, slow an' cautious. "The
tall ones would all 'av' been taller if they hadn't used it, an'
Flappy, he wouldn't 'a' been able to see out of his boots if he
"Well, I don't see as it makes much difference, anyhow," sez she. "I
don't want to be so everlastin' tall, so I reckon I'll just smoke
four a day an' that'll--"
"I reckon you won't smoke any a day," sez Jabez, gettin' riled.
"Smokin' cigarettes is a nasty, filthy habit, an'--"
"Then I'll smoke a pipe," sez Barbie.
"No you won't smoke a pipe! I don't intend to have a gal child of
mine smokin' anything. It's disgustin', an--"
"It ain't as disgustin' as chewin', an' you chew," sez Barbie.
"Now you look here!" yells Jabez, hot as a hornet, "I'm a man an'
you ain't, an' that makes a heap o' difference. I had to give up
cussin' on your account, but I don't intend to go to wearin' dresses
complete, just to keep you halfway respectable."
"Yes, an' I got three cusses comin' to me too," sez Barbie. "I heard
you over at the hay-barn yesterday."
"That don't count--the agreement was, 'about the house'; an'
besides, you didn't have no call to be there."
"Yes I did. I couldn't light my cigarette out in the wind so I got
behind the barn. You are the one 'at didn't have no call to cuss.
The' wasn't anything wrong at the hay-barn an' you was all alone. I
just know 'at you went there to cuss 'cause I made you own up at
breakfast that it wasn't no worse for me to fling the oatmeal out
the window when it didn't suit me than it was for you to fling the
The old man just stood an' stared at her so I knew 'at the little
witch had rooted out his devisement. "When you are older, Barbara,"
ol' Cast Steel sez in his coldest tone, "you will understand these
things an' be glad of the care I took of you; but now I am compelled
to lay down a law. You are never to smoke again until you're of
"What's legal age?" sez she.
"Twenty-one years," sez Jabez.
"That'll be thirteen years," sez Barbie. "All right; but I'm goin'
to roll three cigarettes a day for thirteen years an' the very day
I'm twenty-one I'm goin' to smoke 'em all."
"You go to your room an' stay there," sez Jabez, white-hot.
"I will," she answers as cool as an icicle, "an' I'm goin' to figure
up how many it will be, so I'll have some sort of fun to look
forward to--when I get of legal age."
After she'd gone Jabez set down on a stone an' wiped his forehead.
"She ain't a child, Happy. She ain't nothin' like a child," sez
Jabez to me. "Here she is only eight year old an' she's got me out
beyond my depth already. I don't know what I ought to do with her.
She went to the spring round-up this year an' slept in a Navajo
right outdoors. She wants to go bear huntin' or anything else 'at's
wild an' dis-accordin' to her nature. What on earth am I goin' to do
"You ought to have children to play with her. She wants to play all
right, she tries to play; but the only kind of play she knows is
grown-up play. Get some children an' dolls an' pet kittens an' such
things for her; that'll give her a chance," sez I.
"I tried it," sez Jabez. "I tried it last summer, but she about
killed 'em. The only children I could get was two little Injuns, but
she about ruined 'em. The only game she would play was war, an' when
they wouldn't stand for her way o' playin' it she got on her pinto--
the one you broke for her--an' roped 'em both an' like to dragged
the hide off 'em. I don't know what to do."
"You ought to send her to school," sez I. "They'll be white children
there an' they won't be slow an' gentle like the little Injuns;
they'll be just as full o' devil as what she is, an' she'll get the
sharp corners wore off her."
"Hang it I tried that too. I sent her when she was six year old--I'd
been lookin' forward to it a good long time too, but it didn't do no
"She put in the first day all right, but things went too slow for
her after that, an' she brought home her books an' made me pester
over 'em with her, an' she went into it like a game, an' now she's
gone through about four years' work in two. It's a blame shame,
'cause the school is only ten miles away an' she could go as well as
not, but she's so terrible impatient. She reads all kinds o' books
already, an' sez she's goin' to read 'em all before she quits. She
ain't a bit like a child an' I don't think it's natural. I wish
she'd pester me for dolls an' pink dresses an' things like that
instead of wantin' all kinds of firearms, an' playin' poker with the
Ol' Cast Steel was all worked up over it, an' I thought a long time
before I answered him, then I sez, "Jabez, you're hard enough on the
child an' you're strict enough with her, but you ain't strict enough
with yourself. When it comes to a show down,--when you actually say
yes and now,--why, she gives in; but when you argue with her she's
just as sharp as you are, an' the' 's a heap o' things all children
has to do 'at I reckon the' ain't no real sense in, so when you try
to dig up a reason for 'em you give 'em the whip hand. Just like
religion: lots of it is better just stated an' not mussed up tryin'
to be explained. When a parson tries to tell me why God created this
universe, it don't sound reasonable; but when I go out an' look at
the stars an' the mountains an' the big sweep o' the plains an' then
try to round up all that astronomer feller said about things, why, I
just know 'at nobody but God could 'a' done it--an' I reckon it's
that way with a child. She trusts you until you get down to her
level an' then she sees that the' ain't much difference between you,
an' she naturally expects you to play the same game by the same
rules. You send her to school an' tell her it's for her own good,
an' let her'n the teacher fight it out. That's a teacher's business
an' they know how."
Well, they was a heap o' sense in what I said, an' I'd been thinkin'
over it a long spell; so when school opened up again in the fall
Barbie had her orders an' the' wasn't much in the way of trouble.
I didn't have any regular duties at the Diamond Dot--the worst
trouble about the Diamond Dot was that nobody had any regular
duties. Jabez was notionable to a degree, an' we all just floated
along, doin' what we did do right, but not havin' much of a plan for
it. I could have handled the place with ten less men an' got through
on a tighter schedule, but it was a fine place to work at an' we all
got what was comin' to us. Through the winter I used to ride over
with Barbie when the days was anyways rough, an' it took her a long
time to find out that Starlight really could beat her pinto. I
reckon that child was the best rider 'at ever backed a pony. As you
might say she grew up with a pony between her knees, an' the way she
could play a bit in a hoss's mouth was the finest sight I ever see.
I ain't much of a fool when it comes to pickin' out a ridin'
critter, an' the pinto was able--most uncommon able.
One Saturday morning she told me that she was tired o' seein'
Starlight beat Hawkins on ten-mile dashes, an' she was goin' to have
a real race that day. She allus called the pinto "Hawkins" after I
got back; she had said it wouldn't be polite to call us both "Happy"
an' as long as I had owned both names the longest, she was willin'
to give me my choice--an' then she said 'at that wouldn't be quite
fair to the pinto--she was mighty rigid on bein' square--so she said
'at we'd have to draw for 'em. She wrote "Happy" on one piece of
paper an' "Hawkins" on the other, put her hat in the pony's mouth,--
she had taught him a lot o' tricks,--an' I had to turn my back while
she dropped in the names. My luck was good, so I drawed "Happy," an'
the pony was called "Hawkins." I was feared I might have to go back
to John, an' John's a sort of a heavy baggage for a careless cuss to
he luggin' around.
It was spring, an' the range was smooth an' tough. All through the
snow Starlight's long legs had given him a big advantage, but now
her weight made it a purty good bet either way. "Let 'em go
grassin', Barbie," sez I. "This fine young grass--"
"I knew you were afraid to make a fair test of it," she sez
"I ain't neither afraid," I sez, "but what's the use of a race just
to satisfy our curiosity?"
"What's the use of curiosity except to satisfy it?" sez Barbie, an'
she had me sure enough. A feller was a fool to argue with that
little witch. She allus had a come-back, an' the only way to get
ahead of her was either to boss or beg. I hadn't no authority to
boss, an' I was too blame young to beg, so she just about had me
roped an' tied. "How far are you goin' to race?" sez I.
"A hundred miles," sez she.
"Pshaw," sez I, "the country's wider'n that. Why don't you give'em a
decent work out."
"That'll be enough for this time," sez she, "an' if you hustle you
can have'em ready by five o'clock."
"Does the boss know?" sez I.
"He will sometime," sez she. "Now hustle."
It was a glorious day, an' I own up I was amused at the prospect.
Both hosses was hard as flint an' nervy. If I'd 'a' stayed at the
ranch I'd have collected up brandin' irons an' other truck for the
round-up, an' a hundred miles through spring sweetness was a heap
sight more temptin' to me; so I give in an' soon we was under way.
"Where is the course laid out, Barbie?" I sez. "You know I won't see
much of you back there in the ruck an' I want to know the path."
"All you need to do is to foller Hawkins's trail," sez she, "but in
case you can't find it just circle Mount Savage an' that'll be the
distance, so the boys say."
We started out at a comfortable gait, an' I watched her pretty
close. Once I tried her out by sendin' Starlight along for a mile,
but she just kept the pinto pluggin' away, an' I sensed I was up
against some head ridin'. Oh, it was gratifyin' to watch the little
rascal ridin' with her brain, like I'd taught her. She didn't throw
the reins down on her pony's neck, an' she didn't pull in on the
bit; she just played it in his mouth to keep remindin' him that this
was his busy day, an' that he'd better tend to his knittin'. Old
Starlight knew every move I made, an' he was resigned to a good long
pump of it.
I nonsensed a while, tryin' to get her to laugh an' cut up, but not
her. "Now don't talk unless you have somethin' to say, Happy," sez
she. "I don't want Hawkins to imagine 'at we're out ridin' for an
appetite. I want him to believe 'at we're on mighty important
"Oh, he'll sure enough think it," sez I, "when we swing around Mount
Savage an' he gets to see home through Starlight's dust."
"When it comes to that, I'll bet he won't be complainin' o' the
dullness of the business he's been on. Now just practice thinkin' a
We watered about noon at a little snow stream on the opposite side
of old Savage; but we et our vittles on hoss back an' we didn't
waste any time on the waterin'. I figured we'd scaled up about fifty
miles, an' the pinto was still tonguin' his bit an' waitin' for
somethin' interestin' to turn up. Starlight was gettin' some
disgusted with the monotony.
We rode on for another hour an' then Barbie began to ride a little.
The pinto let out a couple of links as cheerful as a rainbow, an' I
rode at his cinch. I knew I could beat her in the brush, an' she was
easin' the pinto too much to make it a question of grit unless she
began to herd him mighty shortly. Well she did begin ridin' purty
soon, an' brother Hawkins responded like an echo. He was a hog for
distance, was that pinto. He was short on top with plenty of depth
to him, and his belly cut up quick, showin' he had lots o' room for
his heart an' his lungs an' his forage. Starlight's nostrils worked
a shade more than his did, but we were gettin' purty close to the
pinto's speed, an' Starlight had a load of it left, and he'd pay out
the last ounce of it when I said the word. I knew I could beat her
this time, but I was feared she might call for a repeat the next
day--an' I intended to remind Jabez it was the Sabbath.
Starlight was pretty wet with sweat, while the pinto was bone dry
when we struck Trouble Creek which was boilin' full. In we went, an'
the water hissed and sucked around our waists; but we crossed at
about the same time, an' then it was only ten miles to the ranch
house an' Barbie shook her quirt. Away shot the pinto, but Starlight
had his fussy streak warm by this time, an' I let him edge ahead as
fast as he wanted to. He knew the distance now, an' he knew I wanted
to cover it in the least possible time, an' he knew just how much
the' was left in him, so I drew a tight rein, eased it off again,
an' we dropped a gap between us an' the shorter legs of Barbie's
mount. We only gained an inch at a time an' I wasn't sure I'd be the
one to do the braggin' even yet, when all of a sudden we swept
around a point of rock an' there was Melisse hot-footin' it to the
ranch house. She heard us the minute we saw her, an' when we drew up
to her she gasped: "Pluto has about killed ol' Cast Steel, an'
Spider Kelley has gone for the doctor."
Barbie caught the words, but she never made a reply or asked a
single question; she just laid the quirt without a sting over
Hawkins's foreshoulder an' raced on. I stopped long enough to tell
Melisse that I would send the buckboard after her, an' then I took
after Barbie. It looked like a race, sure enough. I was worried.
Pluto was a high grade stallion Jabez had got after I lined up
Starlight alongside the range ponies, an' he had the meanest temper
I ever see put into a hoss. I had been tendin' him 'cause I'd got
wise to the ways o' these thin-skinned fellers down at the Lion
Head, but I never quite trusted him, an' I feared 'at maybe Barbie's
goin' off without notice had riled the old man an' he had tried to
take it out on Pluto.
We only had five miles to go, an' we sure went it. I beat her to the
ranch house, but Starlight hadn't got his breath back when she rode
in, an' the pinto only took one long breath an' shook his head. I
turned the hosses over to one o' the boys 'at were hangin' around
the door lookin' troubled, an' hustled inside. Jabez lay on the
lounge with a face like soured vinegar. He had a bandage round his
head an' another around his arm, while his leg was propped up on
"What's the damage, Jabez?" I asked.
"Where's Barbie?" he demanded, not payin' any heed to my question.
She had flung herself from the pinto an' came running into the room.
"Oh, Daddy," she said, throwin' her arms around him.
"Where have you been?" sez he.
"I been racin' with Happy," she said. "Are you bad hurt, Daddy?"
"Who beat?" sez he.
"Happy did, about a hundred yards."
"It wasn't more'n fifty," sez I.
"How far did you race?" asked Jabez, grittin' his teeth.
"A hundred miles," sez Barbie.
"A hundred miles?" sez Jabez, grinnin' painful. "A hundred miles,
an' the black hoss beat your pinto carryin' a hundred'n fifty pounds
more weight. Hendricks--tell those blame fools not to kill Pluto.
Happy, you go an' see that they don't even hurt him. It was my
fault. Now, Barbie, tell me about the race."
I went out to the big open stall where Pluto was kept all by
himself, but first I sent one o' the boys with the buckboard after
Melisse. I found Pluto in the middle of his stall with three ropes
around his neck an' the boys snubbin' him to posts. They wasn't
minded to let him go, even on Hendricks's say-so, but I went into
the stall an' told 'em to ease off. "He's whipped one man in a fair
fight," sez I, "an' if another man don't whip him in a fair fight
the' won't be any handlin' of him from this on. Ease off these
Well, I whipped that hoss in a fair fight, an' then I went in to see
how Jabez was gettin' along. I said a fair fight an' I meant a fair
fight. Yes, the' is a way to fight a hoss fair--that is, as fair as
any fight is. If you look at it one way, the' can't never be a fair
fight, 'cause one is bound to have an advantage--skill, luck,
experience, or courage; but what I mean is, that I fought that hoss
with nothing but just my own hands an' I whipped him.
Why the way I did it was this: as soon as they slacked off the ropes
I slipped up beside him an' jerked 'em over his head, an' we two
stood alone in the big box stall with size in his favor an' brains
in mine. I had some consid'able size in those days, an' he was
almost too brainy for a hoss; but I own up 'at I 'd had the most
First I stood off an' insulted him: I cussed him an' I called him
all manner of names an' then I laughed at him--you think a hoss, a
hoss like Pluto, can't be insulted? Why, pshaw! they're as high
feelin' as children. He was out o' humor to begin with, an' purty
soon his ears went back an' his eyes got red. I've heard tell about
an animal not bein' able to look a man in the eyes, an' I never saw
the wild animal 'at could; but I've seen three man-eatin' stallions
in my time 'at could look clear to your liver, an' a bulldog can do
First off he tried to bite, but I got him a shoulder-blow right on
the nose. It made him wink, an' he reared an' struck at me with his
front hoofs. I ducked to the left an' the minute his hoofs came down
I slipped thumb an' forefinger into his nostrils, an' tried to jerk
his head around to the right; but I'd thrown him once before that
way an' he was too quick. He threw up his head before I could grip
his mane with my left, an' a reachin' kick with his right hind foot
tore my vest away.
He floundered me around consid'able for a spell, but at last in
tryin' to jam me against the wall I got hold of his mane. I braced
my feet against the wall an' liftin' myself, I got his ear in my
mouth an' I bit it. It was a trick I'd learned from ol' Monody, an'
I sure bit hard an' close to the head. For mighty nigh a minute he
stood it fightin', an' then he give a groan. He hadn't had a sniff
of air through his nose since I'd grabbed it, an' he wasn't no
bulldog, he was a satin-skinned thoroughbred, an' he couldn't stand
the anguish in his ear.
He groaned an' then he shivered an' then of a sudden I let go his
ear, jerked his head around to the right, pulled up his left front
foot with my left hand an' heaved with my shoulder. Down he went an'
as he fell I leaped across him, an' put my weight on his head. Then
I took my fingers out of his nose an' patted him.
I hate to whip a hoss, I hate to break the pride of any livin'
creature; but when I start in to do it I don't just pester him. I
wait until I have good reason an' then I convince him--whether he's
able to live through it or not. I stroked old Pluto's ears an' nose,
all the time murmurin' to him, an' durin' the murmurin' I told the
boys to file out. I never shame nobody in front of anybody if the'
's any other way round.
Well, Pluto was drippin' with sweat an' havin' his bit ear rubbed
was mighty soothin' to him. We all like a lot of babyin' after we've
been hurt, whether we own up to it or not, an' Pluto wasn't any
exception to the rule. After a while I explained everything to him
an' told him that if he'd just act like a human bein', he'd be
treated like a king; but if he wanted to carry on like some savage
varmint we'd have to remove his hide an inch at a time; an' when I
finally let him up he was mortal shamed of himself.
It was plumb dark by the time I let him up, an' I watered him an'
fed him an' rubbed him until he began to eat, an' that was the last
bother any man ever had with Pluto; but I was the only one he'd mind
without bein' chainbitted. He counted me his best friend, an' after
a while he got so he'd play with me--nip my ear with his lips an'
such things, which I count as bein' a game way of takin' punishment.
Still, it ain't just gettin' beat, it's havin' it rubbed in that
makes a feller bitter.
I walked around to where Starlight an' Hawkins was enjoyin' their
evenin' meal, an' I was mortal proud of the condition they was in. I
reckon the' wasn't another pair in the territory 'at could 'a'
covered their ante that day, an' it was a feather in Uncle Happy's
cap all right.
But all the time I was thinkin' o' these things I was dreadin'
havin' it out with Jabez. He was contrairy enough at the best; but
all bunged up, I could see my self-control gettin' strained twice a
minute. I knew enough about us both to know 'at whenever it came to
a show down, it meant a breakin' of home ties, an' I hated to cut
loose from Barbie. After a while, I washed up, fed up, an' went in
to have it over with.
MENTAL TREATMENT FOR A BROKEN LEG
Barbie an' three of the boys were in the room when I went in. Barbie
was tellin' the old man of our ride, an' the three punchers sat with
the rims of their lids between thumb an' finger, lookin' at the
floor as solemn as if they was on trial for their life. Barbie had
just finished about our meetin' up with Melisse when I stepped in.
"Who's boss o' this place?" sez Jabez to me.
"If the' is any boss," sez I, "I reckon you're it."
"Who told you you could be gone all day?" sez he.
"Nobody told me. Nobody told me what was to be done if I stayed.
Nobody hasn't told me what to do on a ranch for some several years.
"Looks to me as if you 'd have sense enough not to risk this child's
life with your fool nonsense," sez he. I looked at him calm an'
steady, an' I didn't grin--much.
He knew all 'at I was thinkin' of,--about my leavin' the last time
an' also about my comin' back,--but he also knew 'at I knew he was
thinkin' of the same thing, an' that we'd neither of us mention it,
an' that it wouldn't ever weigh an ounce in whatever happened to
come between us. I didn't say anything.
"What makes you humor her in everything for?" sez he.
"As far as I know, she ain't my child," sez I.
He give a start an' it made him groan. "What's the matter with your
leg?" sez I. "It's broke!" he yells. "Do you think I got it stuck up
on pillers 'cause my foot's asleep?"
"Is it easy that way?" sez I.
"No it ain't," he snaps.
"Perhaps if you'd get it fixed easy you might be able to talk easy,"
I sez. "Do you want me to fix it easy?"
"For heaven's sake, yes, if you know how," he sez; so I examined it.
It was a nasty break. It seems 'at Jabez had hunted over the place
to find something to fuss about as soon as he discovered 'at Barbie
an' me had flown the coop. Luck was in his favor when Slinky Bill
left Pluto's door open an' he got out. It took 'em some time to get
him back, an' they finally roped him. None o' the boys seemed
anxious to go into his stall an' take the rope off unless he'd let
them ride him a while to get the ginger out of him. Jabez took a
short club an' went in an' took off the rope, an' if the boys hadn't
been handy he'd 'a' been took off himself. As it was the hoss had
smashed his leg something fierce.
"Get a board," sez I. The three boys left in a body to get the
board. I lined up the bones as well as I could, 'cause the leg was
some swelled. Then I bandaged it purty tight, next took an old boot-
leg an' bandaged that in, an' finally split a joint of stovepipe an'
packed cotton to fit the leg, tyin' the whole business to the board
when it arrived, an' proppin' the board up on pillers with one at
each side of the foot. Then I wet the bandage on his head an' arm,
puttin' in plenty of turpentine on the arm to prevent poisonin'. The
turpentine made him twist an' grunt, but when it stopped burnin' his
face cleared up.
"My leg's a heap easier," he sez. I only nodded. I knew he had a lot
more steam on his mind. Presently he said, "But we might as well
settle things now as any time. Who are you workin' for?"
"I settled that a long time ago," sez I. "I'm workin' for myself."
"Then what the deuce do you mean takin' my wages?" sez he.
"I ain't takin' your wages, I'm takin' my own," sez I; "but if I was
you I'd keep calm. You'll raise your fever."
"It's my fever!" he yells, an' even the three punchers had to grin.
"Look here, Jabez," sez I, "the' ain't any sense in your gettin'
riled. You ain't dangerous when you rant around, an' I know it; but
you're most uncommon irritatin'. We didn't run any risk in our ride
to-day, an' it proved 'at my way o' feedin' is the right way. You
don't own a pair o' hosses 'at can go out to-morrow an' keep in
sight o' Starlight an' the pinto. An' my way o' handlin' Pluto is
the right way too, but if you don't like my way o' workin' for
myself on your ranch--why, the' 's plenty of other ranches. The'
ain't no use o' your makin' us both miserable, quarrellin' like a
pair o' children."
"That's what I say," sez Barbie.
"You wait till you're spoke to," sez Jabez; but at that moment the
buckboard came in with old Melisse, an' the very first thing she did
was to chase the three punchers out o' the house, fix up a mess of
her own to put on Jabez's head an' arm, an' then she picks up Barbie
in her arms an' I saw the little chap's lip begin to quiver; I saw
Jabez wink his eyes too fast for comfort; I saw the tears rollin'
down the cheeks of old Melisse, an' I went out into the starlight to
look up toward Mount Savage where Monody was sleepin'. It's a funny
thing, life. After a while I went back inside an' they were purty
cozy again. "You been away purt nigh a year," sez Jabez, "where you
Melisse grinned; she was a Mexican an' had been good lookin' a
century or so before. She was the silent sort, but she could do a
heap sight keener thinkin' 'an lots of 'em 'at kicks up more dust at
"Part o' the time I been right here at the ranch," she sez," but
when the snow was heavy I stayed in a little cave right up the
ravine from the pony corral. You don't reckon 'at I'd leave this
child just on your account, do ya?"
It was some comical to see Jabez's face. "Lord, no!" sez he. "I'm in
the habit o' payin' wages to people 'at work for themselves, an' I
don't reckon I got the authority to make anybody get off my ranch.
If you've been foolin' around here, how come the dogs never barked
"Dogs ain't apt to forget the hand that feeds 'em. After a dog has
thought well of ya for a while, he don't turn on ya just because
you've become out o' favor for a spell; the friendship of a dog
works both ways--dogs ain't like human beings, Jabez Judson."
Melisse had a low, musical voice; but I kind o' felt my hair raisin'
in pity for the man on the sofey. It seemed like she had stuck a
knife into him, an' was twistin' it around slow without losin' her
temper. He squirmed, he bit his lip, his thumbs kept runnin' over
the inside of his fingers. It was some time before he spoke, an'
then he said, "How much longer you goin' to keep that child awake?"
"She's been asleep in my arms for some time," sez Melisse, lookin'
down at Barbie's face, which was nestled up close to hers. "I reckon
I'll put her to bed now." She got up an' carried Barbie to the door
an' then she turned an' sez in a low tone: "You're mighty proud o'
being called Cast Steel, you love to trample over people; but I want
to tell you somethin' to remember; I sha'n't never be separated from
this child again except by her own will. Next time I can't live
around you I'll take her with me. You've known me a long time"--an'
she shut the door without slammin' it.
"Oh, I don't reckon it's allus some one else's fault," I sez, after
he had got through cussin' about his luck.
"Am I a hard man to work for?" sez he.
"You ain't," sez I.
"When am I ever unjust?" sez he.
"When you go off halfcock," sez I.
"What is it allus about?" sez he.
I thought over everything before I answered. "Why, it's allus about
the child Barbie."
"I ain't Cast Steel about her; I'm spring steel where she's
concerned, an' you fellers ought to know the way spring steel works
if any one does."
"That's all right," sez I,--I was still smartin' a little,--"but the
deuce of the thing is that you go off at halfcock, an' then you
allus expect the other feller to pay the damage. It's goin' hard
with you some day, Jabez, if you don't watch closer."
"Oh, you can't understand it. If you only knew what lyin' an'
disobedience sometimes does, you wouldn't talk so calm about it,
neither. The' ain't nothin' I wouldn't do for Barbara--except see
her get started wrong. You're different from the rest, some way, an'
she thinks more of you than the others. That's one reason why I give
you a wider circle to range in, an' why I give you foreman's pay for
"Now if you think 'at I don't earn all you're payin' me," sez I--but
he broke in: "If I didn't think I wouldn't pay it," sez he.
"I can go down to the Lion Head any time I want an' get more'n
you're payin' me," sez I.
"I can pay you as much as any man in the West," sez he.
"You couldn't hire me at all if it wasn't for Barbie," sez I.
"An' I wouldn't hire you at all if it wasn't for her," he snaps.
"You can do the right thing at the right time better'n any other man
I ever had; but you're the contrariest man to work with on the job.
You're allus flyin' up, an' you'd talk back if your throat was cut."
"I'm free," sez I, "an' what's more, I know it. The' ain't no law
ever been framed up yet 'at can herd me in with the cows, an' I
don't never intend to act like a cow. I'm man to man wherever I am,
an' a lot o' you fellers with big outfits are beginnin' to forget
that proposition; but I don't forget it, an'--"
"Well, for heaven's sake," he yells, "I ain't tryin' to put a bit in
your mouth; though I must confess if I had my way about it, I'd like
to put a quart o' bran there sometimes. What I'm tryin' to do is to
come to an understandin' about the child."
"Hasn't she gone to school every day this term?" sez I.
"There's another thing," sez he. "When I told you to give that
schoolmaster a rawhidin', you wouldn't do it."
"Course I wouldn't do it," sez I. "He may have been in the right as
far as I know, an' anyway, she gave him the worst of it."
"I don't want her to give 'em the worst of it. I want her to act
like a gal child. Ridin' her pony into the schoolroom an' ropin' the
master ain't no way for a gal child to act. What I want is for the
teachers to play fair. It ain't reasonable to suppose 'at these
mountains was ever under water."
"You stood for it when the astronomer said so," sez I; "an' the
Bible sez so, an'--" "Well, that's all right when it comes to grown-
ups; but the' ain't no use makin' a child say somethin' it don't
nowise believe. The truth is more important than a lot of water 'at
dried up millions of years ago--if it ever was here."
"Well, the truth is a heap o' bother to Barbie's teachers at the
best," sez I. "Look at her spellin'--she comes upon a cross-bred
word in a book an' the teacher sez it's pronounced one way, an' you
another, an' me another, until she thinks we're all liars; and she
knows it the next day when she comes across another word spelled
almost alike an' pronounced just the opposite. How you goin' to
teach a child to spell an' be honest both?"
"It's a damned outrage!" sez Jabez, his eyes flashin'. "Take
'thought' an' through,' an' 'though'--why, it's enough to ruin the
morals of the best child the' is. Hang it, I--"
"Well, you had your own way about it," sez I. "You've had three
different teachers here this term."
"Who built the school?" sez Jabez. "Didn't I build it with my own
money, just so I'd have it handy, an' didn't I offer to pay the
teacher if they'd put it right here at the ranch?"
"You ain't got money enough to bring the world here to her feet,
Jabez," sez I, "an' it wouldn't be the best thing for her if you
Well, I sat there the whole blessed night, cheerin' him up. Every
time he'd get to thinkin' about his arm or his leg, I'd say
somethin' to rile him an' take his mind off his afflictions, an'
along about dawn he fell asleep. Spider Kelley had found the doctor
almost in our neighborhood, an' he arrived with him by ten in the
mornin'. He paid me a high compliment on the leg, an' after he'd
rounded up a few splinters it wasn't no trouble at all to set it;
but Jabez was in for a good long spell of it, an' the Spring round-
up in sight. You might think that this would rile him up too; but he
took it like a hero, an' I kept him in touch with everything.
We didn't have a regular foreman at the Diamond Dot. George
Hendricks took charge around the house, an' Omaha was a sort of
ridin' over-see-er; but Jabez himself tended to even little details
when he felt like it. When he didn't feel that way, any one else who
thought of it did. After the round-up Flap Jack decided to go on a
bender. I tried to talk him out of it, but he insisted, an' finally
I sent him into Jabez.
Flappy came away just tearin' mad. "He's the hardest-hearted old
tyrant ever breathed," sez Flappy to me.
"What now?" sez I.
"Last time I came back I was a day late," sez Flappy. "He fair
frothed at the mouth at it, an' made me promise to give him a
month's notice next time. How's a man to know a month ahead when
he's goin' to be in the notion for a bender. I'm fair ravin' for it
now; but like's not I'll be all out o' the notion in a month."
"Then you'll be a sight o' money ahead," sez I.
"Money? What's money for? Can you buy a thirst like mine with money?
Why, I could take this thirst o' mine to a city an' get independent
rich, just rentin' it out by the night. I've watched fellers
drinkin' when they didn't crave it, an' it hurt 'em somethin'
dreadful. If you don't want it, you can't enjoy it until you're
under the influence of it, an' after you're under the influence of
it half the fun o' drinkin' it is gone."
Flappy had studied this question more'n airy other man I ever see,
an' it was edicatin' to hear him lecture on it.
"The's only one way to get around ol' Cast Steel," sez I, winkin';
so he got Barbie to beg for him when she went in that evenin', an'
she got Jabez to let him go next day; but after Jabez'd had time to
think it over, he sez to me, "Now see what I've done--I've let that
child wheedle me into changin' my mind an' lettin' a man break his
"Well, he needed it mighty bad," sez I.
"An' another thing; it ain't no fit thing for a gal child to be
beggin' for a man to go get drunk," sez Jabez. "Maybe not," sez I,
"but he sure needed it."
It all came about through me bein' edicated. Most any one can read
print words, if they're of a reasonable size,--the words I mean,--
but I could read handwritin' too. I never was no great mathematician
when you got above fractions, an' I was some particular in what I
read; but if I 'd been minded that way, I reckon I could have waded
through purty much any kind of a book ever was written. At that
time, however, I was still middlin' young in some things, an' I sure
was suspicious of any kind of book 'at looked like a school book.
If you'd have school books did up in paper with the right kind of
pictures on the covers you could easy get children to peruse 'em.
Did you ever notice bear cubs gettin' an edication? They ain't beat
into it, they has to be helt back. Same with the Injun kids; they
was up on edge to learn until they got to schoolin' 'em, then they
fought again it just like the white kids. The reason is that we make
children learn things they ain't curious about. I bet if you was to
try an' keep it a secret about George Washington bein' made
President because he wouldn't lie about choppin' down that cherry
tree, the kids would stay awake nights to pry into it. Kids is only
human, any way you take 'em.
But this business was sure a fetcher to me, an' Barbie, she just
stumbled on it too. One afternoon me an' her went for a little ride
up into the foothills, an' after we'd built our fire, like we allus
did, no matter how hot it was, she lay there rollin' cigarettes for
me to smoke, like she allus did--the little scamp used to get on the
lee side o' me so the smoke would blow in her face; but we never
Well, after a while she begun to talk of romances, an' to ask me
questions about 'em. I told her as many as I could remember, an' the
one what suited her best was "Claud, the Boy Hero of Gore Gulch." It
allus used to fret her to think 'at the' wasn't nothing she could do
to make her a boy, an' she tried to even up by plannin' to herself
what she'd have done if so be she had been a boy. We talked along
about as usual; but I see the' was somethin' on her mind. She wasn't
the one to flare up an' shout for information. She allus talked in a
circle like an Injun when she really needed news.
After a while she fished out a funny old letter. It wasn't put into
an envelope, it was just wrapped inside itself an' stuck fast with a
gob o' some kind o' wax which had been broke before it was opened.
The' had been a name on the outside, but it had been rubbed out.
Inside at the beginning was the name "Rose Cottage, San Francisco,"
and a date; but I've forgotten the date. The letter began, "Dearest
George." I read that much an' then I looked at Barbie. "Where'd you
get this?" sez I.
She reddened a little, an' then she looked me straight in the face,
and sez "I found it in the attic. I wanted a new box to put my
cigarettes in, an' one day Daddy left the attic door open an' I went
in. The' was just a dandy chest there an' he had left the key in it.
I opened it an' this letter was on top. He goes to the attic alone
every now an' again,--mostly at night,--an' he won't never let me go
"I suppose that was the reason you thought he wanted you to go alone
to the attic, too," sez I. She flushed again. "If a person don't
trust me he ain't got no call to be surprised when I don't suit
I shook my head. Now in talkin' to her you forgot she was a child,
'cause she didn't talk broken like most of 'em do--nor she didn't
think broken neither; but when you looked at her, little and slim
an' purty as a picture, you couldn't help but wonder if she hadn't
got her soul changed off with some one else, like what they say the
Chinese believe. She had the same rules that I did for so many
things that it floored me to understand how she got 'em that young,
me havin' had to figger 'em out with a heap o' sweat.
"Was the letter to you?" I sez, gettin' around to facts.
"No, it wasn't; but I read it, an' I wisht I knew what it means."
"I ain't a-goin' to read it," sez I.
"You 're a coward," sez she.
"That's nothing," sez I; "if it wasn't for the cowards the' would be
a heap o' vacant land in this country," sez I.
"I thought you was my friend," sez she, takin' back the letter an'
holdin' it open in her hand. "If Spider Kelley could read he would
read it for me."
"So would Hawkins, your pinto," sez I, grinnin'. "What you ought to
do is to tell your Dad that you have the letter. If you don't tell
him, I reckon I'll have to."
At first she was mad as hops, an' then she looked into my eyes an'
laughed. "I'll dare you to," sez she. The' was some woman in her
The' wasn't no way to bluff her, so I said serious, "Well, what do
you intend to do about it?"
"I don't know," said she. "Dad has lost so many other things beside
his temper, stumpin' around with that cane, that he thinks he has
lost the key to the chest. He goes around grumblin' an' lookin' for
it; but he don't ask if any one has found it. Why do you suppose
"It ain't any of my supposin'," sez I. "What are you goin' to do
"As soon as I get through with this letter--an' make up my mind not
to hunt through the chest--I'm goin' to slip the key into his
pocket--an' then watch his face when he finds it."
"You oughtn't to treat your own father so, Barbara," sez I.
She laughed. "Barbara! that's a good soundin' name on your tongue,
Happy," sez she. Then she sobered. "I don't care nothing for what
you say or what he says; the' 's things I'm goin' to find out; an' I
have a right to. I never told him why it was that I whopped those
two girls over at school last winter, an' I never told even you. I
whopped 'em 'cause they said I never had a mother. Everything has to
have a mother, even a snake, an' I had one too. Why don't he tell me
about her? Why does he allus turn me off when I ask about her? I
don't intend to just let him tell me that she was the most beautiful
woman in the world an' too good to stay here, an' such things. I am
going to find out who she was, an' if you wasn't a coward you'd help
It was true what she said, an' I might have known she was studyin'
about it. I might, if I'd had the sense of a hoss, have known that
this was what made her old-like--studyin' about things she never
ought to have been forced to study about.
"Does that letter tell about her, Barbie?" I asked.
"That's what I want to know; but you ain't got the sand to read it,
an' I can't make it out. Here, read it."
I took it an' read it. The writin' was fine an' like what was in
Barbie's writin' book along the top. It sounded like as if a young
girl had written it partly against her will, although it was purty
lovesome too. It told about how lonely she was, an' that she hadn't
never been able to tell whether it was Jack or him she was most in
love with until Jack had asked her, an' then after Jack had deceived
her an' he had been so kind, she found out 'at he was the one she
had loved the most all the time. She reminded him 'at she had
written to him before acceptin' Jack, an' that now if he was still
sure he wanted her, she would accept him; but she could never live
near the Creole Belle. She closed with love, an' signed herself
I kept on lookin' at the page a long time after I had read it. I
remembered what Monody had said when I thought he was out of his
head--about George Jordan an' Jack Whitman, an' the Creole Belle. I
knew 'at Barbie was studyin' my face, an' I pertended to spell out
the words a letter at a time until I could get full control o'
"What kind of a bell is a Creole Bell?" sez I. "She ain't got it
spelled right neither."
"A Creole Belle is a beautiful woman of French an' Spanish blood who
lives in New Orleans," sez Barbie. "What do you make out about it?"
I was thinkin' fast as I could, but I still pertended to read the
letter. So Jabez had been in a scrape with some cross-breed woman,
an' he an' this Jack Whitman had loved the same girl, an' the' was a
bad mix-up somewhere.
"Little girl," I sez, "the' 's a lot o' wickedness in this world you
don't know about--"
"An' the' a lot o' wickedness I do know about 'at I ain't supposed
to," she snaps in. "Do you reckon I could knock around this ranch
the way I have an' not know nothin' except about flowers an'
moonlight? You cut out the little girl part an' play square."
"Well, you look here," I sez. "I don't know what you do know an' I
don't know what you don't know; but I do know 'at lots of the things
you think you know ain't so, if you picked it up from the fool
stories some o' these damn cow punchers tell; an' you ought to be
ashamed to listen to 'em."
"Oh, yes, of course!" she fires up. "I am the one what ought to be
ashamed of the stories the cow punchers tell! That's the way from
one end to the other; somebody else says somethin' an' I ought to be
ashamed 'cause I ain't too deaf to hear it. Now the' 's a lot of
questions I'm goin' to ask you as soon as I get time. I want to know
"No, you don't!" I yells, jumpin' to my feet an' blushin' clear to
my ears. "I ain't neither one o' your parents an' I ain't your
teacher. If you want to know things you ask Melisse. If you don't
put a curb on yourself I'm goin' to flop myself on Starlight an'
streak for the Lion Head this very minute, an' I won't stop before
reachin' the Pan Handle."
She knew enough to stop bettin' up a pair o' tens when she see the
other feller wasn't to be bluffed; so she sez, "Well, I'm goin' to
find it out some way or other--I'm going to find out everything I
want to know before I'm done. I love my Daddy, but he don't always
play fair; an' I'm goin' to find out what I want to find out--
whether he wants me to or not."
I was in a sweat. "Barbie," I sez at last, "supposin' he is playin'
fair? Supposin' he has sacrificed his own happiness to keep sorrow
out of your life, an' supposin' you nose around an' discover it--
who'd be the one 'at played un-fair then? You're powerful young yet;
you're a heap younger'n you realize, an' you can't know it all in a
day. He'll tell you when he can, an' you ought to trust him. He
loves you more'n anything else in this wide world. You ought to
trust him, Barbie."
She trembled tryin' to steady herself, an' I looked off into the
valley for a moment. "I know he loves me, an' I wouldn't hurt him
for the world; but I think I'm old enough to know, an' I'm goin' to
ask him. If he won't tell me now he has to set a date to tell me. I
ain't goin' to have no dirty-faced school kids askin' me questions I
"I reckon all you want to know is in that chest in the garret," sez
I; "an' I reckon it's kept for you to read after--well some day; but
if I was you, I'd put back the letter an' I'd not think about it any
more'n I could help. Supposin' your Dad had had to kill a man to
save your mother, an' didn't want you to know 'at he had ever killed
"Humph!" she snaps in. "Didn't Claud kill fourteen men in Gore
Gulch, an' didn't I think it was fine? If he's killed a man I'd be
proud of it."
"It's different in real life," sez I. "I like to read about Claud
myself, but I wouldn't want to slaughter men in the quantities he
"You killed a man oncet yourself," sez she.
"When?" sez I.
"You killed at least one o' the Brophy gang with the butt of your
gun," sez she.
"It couldn't be proved," sez I.
"It couldn't be denied," sez she. "If that's all you think it is I'm
goin' to ask him."
"Supposin' your mother had made him promise not to tell you until
you came of age,--you know what store he sets on keepin' his word,--
would you be glad to know 'at you had made him break it? This
Barbara might have been his sister, an' some one else might have
been your mother."
"Oh, I see it now--my mother was the Creole Belle, the beautiful
lady. He allus said she was beautiful, the most beautiful woman in
the world--" She sat there with her eyes flashin', but I didn't want
to let her make up things 'at wasn't so an' then be disappointed.
"Who do you suppose George was, an' Jack?" sez I quiet.
She drew her brows together an' sat diggin' her spur into the dirt.
"That's so, too," she said, thinkin' aloud. "But Barbara certainly
did have something to do with me, an' I wisht I knew! Oh, I wish I
could grow as big as I feel--I hate this bein' a child. I hate it!"
"Will you put the letter back an' try to forget it?" I said at last.
"I'll put it back at once, I'll give him the key at once; that is,
I'll slip it into his pocket, an' I won't pester him about it--now;
but you got to promise to tell me if you ever find it out. Will ya?"
"Yes," sez I. "If I ever find it all out I'll tell you, honest
across my heart."
"An' you won't say nothin' about this letter to Daddy, until I let
you?" she said, fixin' her eyes on me.
"No, I won't say a word about that until you tell me to," sez I.
"Now, then, let's play tag goin' back to the house," she said, with
her lip stiff again. Oh, she had a heart in her, that child had.
"You know the pinto has Starlight beat on turns an' twists," sez I.
"Yes," she sez, "an' on a two-hundred mile race, too." She played
away through the summer an' never spoke a word on the subject again;
but she hid it most too careful, and Jabez saw the' was somethin' on
her mind. "Have you any idea what the child's thinkin' about?" he
asked me one day when we was figurin' some on the beef round-up.
I didn't answer straight off, an' he noticed it. "What is she
studyin' about?" sez he, mighty shrewd.
"How can a body tell what that child is studyin' about?" sez I.
"You're with her most of the time--fact is, about all you do is to
play with her these days."
"Any time my work here don't suit you," I began; but he snaps in,
"It ain't a question o' work. If you amuse her you're worth more to
me'n any other ten men; but I have some rights. I want to know what
"Have you asked her?" sez I.
"I'm askin' you," sez he.
"Well, I want you to understand 'at I ain't no spy," sez I, glad of
a way out. "I don't know all 'at 's on her mind, an' I don't propose
to guess; and if I did know, I wouldn't tell unless she told me to.
If you know any way to make me tell, why go ahead and I'll stand by
and watch the proceedin's."
Well, he ranted up an' down a while, an' finally he pulls himself
down an' sez, "Now look here, Happy, the' 's a difference between a
parent an' anybody else."
"I own too to that," sez I; "but what have I got to do with it?"
"Well, you can sort of hint around until you find out what's on her
mind, an' if it ain't somethin' fit, you can tell her so; because if
it comes to a show down, she thinks I ought to tell her anything she
wants to know."
"Well, hadn't you?" sez I.
"Yes, sometime, I suppose--but hang it, it's mighty hard to answer
some of her questions, or to give reasons why I can't answer 'em."
"Have you asked her what's on her mind this time?" sez I.
He fidgeted around a while, an' then he sez, "Yes, I asked her."
"What did she say?" sez I.
"She looked me plumb in the eyes, an' said, 'Do you want me to ask
you what I want to find out?'"
"What did you say?" sez I.
"Why, I said, 'Yes, Barbara, if it is something you ought to know.'"
"Well?" I sez, after waitin' a bit.
"Why, she flared up," sez Jabez, "an' went on sarcastic about it
bein' strange to her why girls was so much different from other
folks, an' there bein' so many things 'at they wasn't fit to know;
an' finally she said to me point blank, 'Do you want me to ask you
what I want to know, an' if I do ask you will you answer?'"
"What did you say?" I sez.
"I didn't know what to say," sez Jabez. "She looked different from
any way she had ever looked before, and after a minute I sez, 'No,
Barbara, I don't think you had better ask me, an' I don't think you
had better think of it any more.' Don't you think I did right?"
"No," sez I, "you did not. You simply side-stepped; you wilted under
fire, an' she hates a coward as much as you do. Why didn't you face
it right then?"
"Happy," he sez, an' his voice wrung my heart, "the' 's things
she'll have to know sometime, but she ain't old enough to know 'em
yet." He stopped, an' his face grew hard as stone when he went on.
"But the' 's some things that she never can know, an' I don't want
her to even learn that there are such things. That's why you have to
find out what's on her mind."
"Now you know, Jabez, that I have my own ideas on what I have to do;
but you tell me what kind o' things there are that she mustn't ever
learn, an' maybe I'll see your way of it."
Jabez looked down at the ground, an' the sweat broke out on his
forehead before he answered me. When he did the' wasn't a trace of
friendliness in his tone. "You have done a heap for me, Happy, and
if there's anything in the money line that you think I owe you, why,
name it an' it's yours; but you can see for yourself that we can't
go on this way. I haven't asked you to do anything unreasonable and
you have refused point blank. I don't intend to explain myself to
one of my own men, and I don't intend to have an argument with him
every time I want anything done my way. This is my ranch and as long
's my own way suits me, that's the only man it has to suit."
"Yes, you own this ranch," sez I; "but you don't own the earth, so
I'll move on."
"I haven't fired you," sez Jabez. "You're welcome to work here as
long as you want to; but you'll have to be like the other men from
this on. You've been like one of the family so long 'at we don't
pull together any more, and so if you stay I'll have to send you out
with the riding gangs."
I looked into his face and laughed, though even then I was sorry for
him. He led a lonely life, an' I knew 'at he'd miss me; but we was
both as we was, so I rolled up my stuff, loaded up Starlight, an'
said good-bye to little Barbie. That was the hard part of it. She
didn't cry when I told her I was goin'--that would 'a' been too
girlish-like for her; she just breathed hard an' jerky for a couple
o' minutes while we looked in opposite directions, an' then she
said, "How'll you come back next time, Happy? It's over three years
ago since you left that other time, an' you came back just as you
said, ridin' on a black hoss with silver trimmed leather. How'll you
come back next time?"
"I don't know, Barbie," I said, "but I'll sure come back, true to
"Yes," she said, "an' I'll sure be true to you, all the time you're
away and when you come back."
"Barbie," I said, "you haven't treated your father right. You've let
him see that you're worryin' about somethin', an' it bothers him."
"I ain't made out o' wood," she snaps out fierce. "I try to be
contented, but I get tired o' bein' a girl. I've half a mind to go
with you, Happy."
"Yes, but the other half of your mind is the best half, Barbie," I
said. "Now I'm goin' to tell you a secret; your daddy is twice as
lonesome as you are, and he's been through a heap of trouble
sometime. You miss the mother that you never did see, but he misses
the mother that he knew and loved; and I want you to promise to do
all you can to cheer him up and make him happy."
"I never thought o' that before," said she, "I'll do the best I can-
-but you'll come back to me sometime, won't you, Happy?"
"I sure will," I said, an' we shook hands on it. Then I decided that
I'd leave Starlight with her. He wasn't as good for knockin' around
as a range pony, and I didn't know what I'd be doin', so I took my
stuff off him, picked out a tough little mustang from the home herd,
shook hands with her again, an' started. I glanced up toward old
Savage, and she read my thoughts. "I'll take flowers to him now and
again," sez she, "and I'll go up there and talk to him about you;
and Happy, Happy, we'll both be lonesome until you come back!" And
so I kissed her on the lips, and rode away the second time.
Well, I rode purty tol'able slow. Some way I didn't want to go back
to the Lion Head Ranch. I knew 'at Jim would be glad to see me, but
I knew I'd be lonesomer there than among total strangers; so I just
floated, punchin' cows most o' the time, but not runnin' very long
over the same range.
It was just about this period that I begun to lose my serious view
o' life and get more man-like. The usual idea is that a boy is a
careless, happy, easy-goin' sort of a creature, and a man is a
steady, serious minded, thoughtful kind of an outfit; but just the
reverse. A boy starts out believin' most o' what's told him an'
thinkin' that it's his duty to reform the world; an' about the only
thing he is careless of is human life--his own or any one else's.
Fact o' the matter is that if you watch him close enough you'll find
out that even in his games a boy is about the solemnest thing on
earth, an' you have to know the game purty thorough to tell when it
drifts into a real fight. That's why all wars have been fought by
boys. They believe in any cause 'at looks big enough to lay down
their lives for, an' that's their chief ambition. A man, though;
gets to see after a time that the' 's most generally somebody up
behind who's working the wires, an' he gets so 'at he don't want to
lay down ANYBODY's life, except as a last resort. He looks favorable
upon amusement, an' after a while he kind o' sort o' gets hardened
to the fact that the whole thing's a joke and he'd rather laugh than
shoot. Why, I'd be more afraid of a boy with a popgun than I 'd be
of a man with a standin' army.
So as I said, it was just about this time in my life that I begun to
hunt up pleasant places to eat and sleep; an' if I heard of trouble
in the next county I turned out an' went around. I did a little of
everything; even lugged a chain in a surveyor outfit, but the'
wasn't enough chance in that. I got to have a trace of gamblin' in
anything I do; so the first thing I knew I was down in Nevada
lookin' for the treasure 'at Bill Brophy had buried there. The last
of his gang had tried to describe the place, but his description
would have done for 'most any place in Nevada--she not bein' what
you might call free-handed in the way of variety.
Well, I ragged around in the mountains between Nevada and
California, lookin' for a flat-shaped rock with a mountain-peak on
each side of it, an' a cold wind sweepin' up the canon--I don't know
just how the cold wind got included, but the dyin' outlaw dwelt upon
that cold wind something particular. I stayed out puny late in the
season, an' if cold winds was identifyin', Brophy had his treasure
buried purty unpartially all over the West.
I reckon I'd have died if I had it fallen in with Slocum. Slocum was
a queer lookin' speciment when you first came upon him. His skin
didn't fit him very well, bein' a trifle too big, an' wrankled an'
baggy in consequence; his eyes was kind of a washy blue, an' they
stuck out from his face, givin' him the most sorrowful expression I
ever see. You just couldn't be suspicious of a man with such eyes as
that; he seemed to have throwed himself wide open an' invited the
whole world to come an' look inside. Why, a perfect stranger would
have trusted Slocum with his last plug of tobacoo, and like as not
he'd have gotten part of it back. Well, as I said, I was headin' for
warmer weather, but I got overtook an' had about given up all hope
when I noticed the smell of smoke in the air. I was walkin' on foot
an' pullin' a burro with a pack behind me, an' after a time I
located that smoke comin' right up through the snow.
I yelled and shouted around for a while without gettin' any
response. Night and the snow was both fallin' fast, an' that smoke
was exceeding temptin'. Finally I took a piece of burlap off the
pack, put it over the hole where the smoke was comin' up through,
an' piled snow on top of it. I was curious to see what would happen.
I waited--perhaps it was only five minutes, but it seemed that many
hours--an' then a low, calm voice, down somewhere beneath me, sez,
"Get off that chimney!"
"I will," sez I, "when you tell me how to get to the fire."
I waited again, an' then a man with a lantern emerged into the cut
about forty feet below me, an' told me how I could wind around and
come down to him. Well, me an' the burro finally worked it out, an'
there was a man with long whiskers standin' in his shirt-sleeves in
front of a hole in the snow.
"You like to 'a' smothered me," he grumbled. "Don't you know
better'n to stop up a chimney that's workin'?"
"I wanted the chimney to work double," sez I, "an' that was the only
way I could think up to attract your attention."
"Do you live around here?" sez he. "Not very much," sez I, "but I 'm
minded to try it a while, if there 's room in your burrow for two."
"Got any tobacco?" sez he.
"Plenty," sez I.
"You're welcome," sez he.
We took the burro over to a clump of pine woods an' turned him
loose, an' then I crawled in through the tunnel to Slocum's fire. It
was in a cave which had a natural chimney runnin' up the hill, an'
it looked considerable much like Paradise to me. We ate an' smoked
together for a week. an' then one day our fire went out an' a flood
of water poured down through the chimney. We worked like beavers for
a while, gettin' our stuff outdoors, an' it was as hot as summer
"That's the only drawback to this cave," said Slocum. "It will be
all to the good when the winter settles in earnest, but it will be
some bother while it's still snowin' an' thawin'."
I told him that I agreed with him to such an extent that if I could
locate the burro I'd rather risk gettin' back to humanity than to
dyin' there of rheumatiz. I was wringin' wet through.
"Nobody can't die of rheumatiz around me," sez Slocum, an' he went
to one of his packs an' got out a piece of root.
"Chew this," sez he, "an' it will drive the rheumatiz out of your
Anybody would have trusted those eyes, so I chewed the root for
about a minute, an' then I chewed snow an' mud an' tobacco an' red
pepper for an hour, tryin' to get rid of the taste. Drive the
rheumatiz out of your system? Why, the blame stuff would drive out
your system too if you chewed it long enough. It was the
tarnationest stuff 'at ever a human man met up with.
"It's most too strong to take pure," sez Slocum, "but if you grind
it an' put a shall pinch in a quart of alcohol it makes a fine
remedy. Don't throw the rest o' that root away. There is enough
there to do you a lifetime."
"Yes," sez I, "there is, an' more."
A feiler once told me that man was a slave to his envirament--
envirament is anything around you, scenery, books, evil companions,
an' sech; well, a burro ain't no slave to his envirament 'cause he
generally eats it. My burro was fat, an' the clump of pine trees had
mostly disappeared. I loaded up my stuff, shook hands with Slocum,
and started down the mountain. Just as I got fully started Slocum
sez to me, "I 'm sure sorry to see you go. I don't generally get
much friendly with folks any more, but I took to you from the first,
an' any time I can do you a favor, all you got to do is to wink."
"What's your general plan of occupation, Slocum?" sez I.
"All that I ever expect to do for the remainder of my days," sez he,
"is to search for my Rheumatiz Remedy."
"Well," sez I, "any time you get to do me a favor in that line,
it'll be when I'm too weak to wink." So we parted the best o'
friends, an' I went on to a lumber camp where I put in the winter
bossin' a gang. I didn't know much about lumber, but the men there
was just the same as anywhere else, an' we got along fine.
I was bossin' a little ranch up in Idaho next June when I heard tell
of a big strike in the Esmeralda range--not such a great distance
from where I had spent the week with Slocum. The report had it that
a feller named Slocum had located the big ace of gold mines, an' I
was some et up with curiosity to see if it was the same Slocum; but
I was needed at the ranch that winter, an' as I took a likin' for
the young feller who was tryin' to make it go, I stuck to him, an'
it wasn't until the followin' July that I pulled out an' floated
down that way.
Well, it was the same old Slocum sure enough. He was the most
onlucky cuss 'at ever breathed, I reckon. Every time he had made up
his mind to do something, Fate had stepped up an' voted again it. He
had wasted the best part of his life locatin' gold mines 'at
wouldn't hang out, until at last even he got disgusted an' went to
huntin' for his Injun root to cure rheumatiz with. First thing he
knew, he had stumbled on a bonanza lode in the Esmeralda range. This
here lode was a peach. Ten-foot face on top, just soggy with gold
an' silver, an' copper an' tin enough to pay expenses. It just
looked as if they's said, "Now then, there's Slocum; he been
hammered so long he's got callous to it. Let's jus' see how he'd act
if we switched his luck on him." An' they sure done it.
Slocum, he scratched around until he see that it wasn't no joke, an'
then he set bait for a couple o' capitalists. He trapped two
beauties, an' they put up the assets an' went in, equal partners.
They sunk shafts an' built stamp mills an' smelters an' retorts; oh,
they sure made plans to get the metal wholesale. As soon as it began
to flow in they built stores an' shacks an' a big hotel--they wasn't
timorous about puttin' their coin into circulation, you bet your
life, an' it looked as if they was going to flood the market.
Well, Slocum, he owned a third of everything, mind, an' his
expression flopped square over like a dry moon, an' stayed points
up. He forgot all those years 'at he'd been havin' the muddy end of
it, an' after a time he got 'em to call the mine "Slocum's Luck."
The' wasn't no call to hurl such an insult as that into the mouth of
an honest, hard-workin' mine, an' naturally, as soon as it was done,
the mine laid down in its tracts an' refused to give up another
They came to a break in the lode an' couldn't find the beginnin'
again. The same twist that had hove one edge out of the ground had
unjointed the other. But they had got out a tidy sum already, an'
they knew the' must be a loose end somewhere, so they was anxious to
keep their outfit in good order.
Slocum hadn't swelled clear out of shape with his new fortune, an'
when I made myself known to him he had give me a purty tol'able
decent sort of a job, where there was more bossin' an'
responsibility than brute labor; an' I felt kindly toward him.
Winter lasted full four months out there. It was a good ninety miles
to the railroad, an' so when the mornin's begun to get frosty every
one else scooted for humanity, an' I, bein' more or less weak-
minded, took the job o' watchman, at forty a month an' my needin's.
I always was a hog for litachure, so I got a bushel o' libraries an'
started in to play it alone.
The' wasn't a blessed thing to do, so I read 'em through by New
Years, an' got out of tobacco by the first of February. From that on
I begun to think in a circle, an' my, intellect creaked like a dry
axle before the bluebirds began to sing. Quiet? I could hear the
shadows crawlin' along the side of the house. The snow was seventy-
five feet deep in the canyons, so you might say I was duty bound to
stay there. As a general rule, I don't shirk breakin' a path, but
when the snow is more than fifty feet higher than my head, I'd
rather walk fourth or fifth.
When the outfit came back in the spring I was the entire reception
committee; but I bet the' never was one more able to do its part.
A WINTER AT SLOCUM'S LUCK
They only brought out about half a gang that summer, an' they kept
them probin' around all over the neighborhood; but though they found
enough stuff to about pay expenses, they couldn't get back on the
main track. Both the Eastern capitalists showed up along toward fall
to see what was doin', an' when it came time to knock off work, they
tried to get me to repeat my little performance as watchman.
I thanked 'em for their trustfulness, but i politely declined the
honor. I told 'em 'at I was purty tol'able quick-witted, an' it
didn't take me four months to study out what I was goin' to say
next. But I compromised by sayin' that if they would give me two
other fellers for company I'd stay; otherwise they'd have to rustle
up some poor devil 'at needed the money. They knew 'at I was
reliable, so they agreed; an' I selected out my two companions in
affliction. What I mostly wanted was a heap of variety, an' when the
number is limited to two, a feller has to be some choicy; but I
reckon I got the best the' was.
There'd been a little light-haired feller there all season, kind o'
gettin' familiar with labor, like. He was no account to work, he
couldn't even learn to tie a knot; but he talked kin' o' blotchy,
an' it was divertin' to listen to him. One day we was kiddin' him
about bein' so thumby, an' he sez, "That's right, boys, laugh while
you can; but I'll have you all between the covers of a book some
day, an' then it will be my grin. I ain't swore no everlastin'
felicity to the holy cause o' labor; I'm just gettin' local color
Next day he fell into a barrel of red paint he was swobbin' on the
hotel to keep her from warpin', an' every blessed man in camp passed
out about six jokes apiece relatin' to local color. He never
saddened up none, though, just smiled sorrowful, as though he pitied
us, an' went on tanglin' up everything he touched.
An' then there was another curious speciment there; a tall thin
feller, with one o' them lean, chinny faces. He claimed 'at he had
been a show actor, but his lungs had given out--claimed he was a
tragudian, but Great Scott! he couldn't even turn a handspring.
He said he was recuperatin', an' he sure did hit his liquor purty
hard; but I never could make out what he expected to get out of a
minin' camp, 'cause he was full as useless as Local Color. About
half the fellers you meet strayin' around out here are a bit one-
sided, but we don't care so long as they're peaceable. When you'd
guy this one a little stout, he'd fold his arms, throw back his
head, an' say, "Laugh, varlets, laugh! Like the cracklin' o' thorns
under a pot, is the laughter of fools." This was the brand of
langwidge 'at flowed from this one, an' he wasn't no ways stingy
Well, they had kept these two at boys' jobs an' boys' wages, an'
when I offered 'em the position of deputy watchmen, they fair jumped
at it. Said Local Color, "It will be a golden opportunity to
perpetuate the seething thoughts which crowd upon my brain." Said
Hamlet, "I thank thee, sir, for this, thy proposition fair. In sooth
I'll try the cold-air cure, and in the majesty of prime-evil
silence, I shall make the snow-capped mountains echo to the
wonderful rhapsodies of Shakespeare." Well, the' was a super-
abundance of cold air an' prime-evil silence an' snow-capped
mountains, an' I didn't care a hang what he did to 'em, so long as
it kept me from gettin' everlastin' sick o' my own company.
I never see any company yet 'at wasn't a shade better'n just my own.
I knew I could stand these two innocents for four months, an' if
they got violent I could rope an' tie 'em. When everybody begun to
get ready to pull out, I took the twenty-mule team down to town to
get our needin's. I took the children along with me, an' I sez to
'em, "Now, boys, no drinkin' goes up above through the winter. We
simply have to go out an' get disgusted with it before we start
Well, we sure had a work-out. On the sixth day Hamlet, he throws his
arm around my neck an' busts out cryin' an' sez, "Happy, it is the
inflexible destiny o' the human race to weary of all things mortal,
an' I'm dog-tired o' bein' drunk--an' 'sides, I'm busted."
It turned out that he didn't have any advantage over me an' Locals
in this respect, so we went to the company store an' got three
bushels o' nickle libraries, enough grub to do six men six months,
enough tobacco to do twelve men a car, an' a little yeller pup 'at
we give six bits for. I didn't 'low to run any risks this deal.
When we got back 'most everybody had pulled out, an' the roads was
beginnin' to choke up. Slocum an' the two capitalists was there
waitin' for us, but when all their stuff was loaded on the wagon
the' wasn't room for the men; so Miller, the youngest capitalist,
who was a bit of a highroller, an' had been shakin' up the coast off
an' on, he took off four trunks, an' sez to me, "Happy, if you run
out of clothes, here's four trunks-full." Then they hopped on the
wagon an' left us alone in our glory.
I reckon, take it all in all, that was about the most florid winter
I ever put in, an' it purt' nigh spoilt me for hard work. I did the
cookin', the innocents did the chores, an' we got along as bully as
a fat bear for a while, livin' in the hotel. The' was a hundred
rooms, but we didn't use 'em all. Locals, he wrote most of the time,
when he wasn't lookin' at the ceiling an' tryin' to think. Hammy, he
walked barefoot in the snow, on' hollered at the snow-capped
mountains. I read nickle libraries, an' we didn't care a dang for
the Czar of Russia, until along toward Christmas a spark lit in my
pile of litachure, an' doggone near burned the hotel down. Then we
began to feel snowed-in. Locals had writ himself dry, Hammy was
tired of listenin' to himself, besides havin' chilblains up to his
knees, an' I was half crazy, 'count of havin' nothing to read. We
didn't have a nickle between us, so we couldn't gamble, an' I
resigned my mind that when spring climbed up the trail the 'd be two
corpses an' one maniac in that cussed hotel.
One day Hammy came stalkin' in to where me an' Locals was playin'
guess. Guess ain't never apt to be a popular pastime 'cause it has
to be played without any kind o' cheatin' whatever. The one who is
it, guesses what the other one is thinkin' of, an' if he guesses
before he falls asleep, he wins. Well, Hammy, he breaks in on our
game just the same as if we hadn't been doin' anything at all, an' I
knew by his action that the' was somethin' afoot. Whenever Hammy was
ready to speak something, he always walked like a hoss 'at was
string-haltered in all four legs. Well, he paraded up to us that
day, hip action, knee action, and instep action all workin', stopped
in front of us, folded his arms, an' sez, "Good sirs, I have
conceived a fitting fete." "The only fate I expect is to go mad an'
cut my own throat," sez Locals; but Hammy frowned an' went on in a
scoldy, indignant voice. "When Wisdom speaks, Folly replies with
jest; yet, having little choice of company, I needs must make the
best of what I have."
Well, those two had what they called a war of wits until finally
Locals hit Hammy with a chair, which was the way most o' their
discussions ended; but it turned out that what Hammy was tryin' to
say was that we should open the trunks, dress ourselves in the
clothes, an' give a show. He said he knew parts to fit any make-ups
we'd find; an' after Locals found out what it was 'at Hammy had
schemed out, he joined in enthusiastic, an' said that if the' had
never been a part writ to fit 'em yet, he could do it on the spot,
an' he wasn't swamped with business right then anyway. "Yes," I sez,
" it's a great idee, an' we'll sure draw a mammoth crowd. We'll
charge 'em a library apiece an' get enough litachure to last us a
hundred years." "At best, sarcasm is out of season; at worst, the
season 's out of it," sez Hammy to me: "and furthermore, good
friend, in life, as on the stage, your part must be a role of
actions, not of words." I used to say over the things 'at this pair
made up, until I had 'em by heart, an' since then I've had a lot o'
fun springin' 'em on strangers. They used to speak to me as though I
was a horse, and of me as though I was part of the furniture. Hammy
sez to me one day, "Me good man, you do very well with your hands,
but kindly Nature designed your head merely for a hatrack."
They could say these little things right off the roll, an' it allus
made me feel like a fish out o' water, somehow, but I stored 'em up
in my memory, an' I've got my worth out of 'em all right.
We did open the trunks a week or so after this--and clothes! Well,
say, Miller sure was the dresser. The' was fifteen hats in a little
trunk built a-purpose for 'em, an' the' was all kinds of vests an'
pants an' neckties 'at a feller could imagine. But best of all was a
book 'at we found at the bottom of one o' the trunks. It was a hard-
shelled book, an' I never took much stock in that kind. When it's my
turn to read a book, a little old paper-back fits me out all right.
I've been fooled on them hard-shells too often; but this here one
was a hummer.
I ain't no tenderfoot when it comes to a book, but this one was sure
the corkin'est I ever met up with. I had allus thought 'at
"Seventeen Buckets o' Blood; or the Mormon Widder's Revenge" was
about the extreme limit in books, but this here one lays over even
that. It was called "Monte Cristo," an' had the darndest set o' Dago
names in it ever a mortal human bein' laid eyes on. I tried to mine
it out by myself at first, but pshaw, every cuss in the book had a
name like an Injun town, an' the' was about as many characters in
the book as the' is on the earth; so I delegated Hammy to read her
out loud. This suited Hammy to the limit, an' he didn't only read
her--he acted her. He'd roar an' screech an' whisper an' glare into
your eyes so blame natural that a feller never used the back of his
chair from start to finish, an' twice I was on the point of shootin'
him, thinkin' it was real.
If you ain't never read the book it'll pay you to fling up your job
an' wrastle through it. It starts out with a nice, decent young
feller sailin' home to marry his steady, but all his friends turn in
an' stack the cards on him, an' get him chucked into the rottenest
dungeon in France. He knowed how they soak it to a feller citizen in
that country, an' at first he was all for killin' himself; but after
he'd studied it over ten or twelve years, he suddenly heard a queer
In that same prison was another prisoner, an Abbey. An Abbey is a
kind of foreman priest. Well, this Abbey wasn't one to throw out a
prayer an' then set down to wait for results, not him. He was one o'
these nervous, fretty fellers what like to do their own drivin', an'
he makes him a set o' minin' tools out of a tin saucepan an' a bed-
castor, an' runs a level from his own cell into Eddie's--an' that
was the queer, scratchin' sound that made Eddie decide not to kill
By George, if I could find a prison what had an Abbey shut up in it,
the' wouldn't be any way in the world to keep me out. This Abbey, he
cottoned to Eddie right from the start, an' durin' the next few
years they mine around in the prison till she's as holey as a
Switzer cheeze; an' durin' their leisure he edicates Eddie till he
knows more'n a college professor.
Then the Abbey begins to have fits, an' when all the medicine 'at he
could make out of old soot an' sulphur matches an' such stuff is
gone, he gives up an' tells Eddie where he has a little holler
island, chuck full o' diamonds an' money an' such like plunder. Then
he dies, an' Eddie gets in the sack. They chain a round shot to
Eddie's feet an' hurl him off a cliff into the angry sea, an' when
it comes to that part you can't hardly breathe; but Eddie kicks off
the chain, rips open the sack, an' when he strikes the water he's a
He swims along for a couple of days until he overtakes a smuggler,
an' he climbs on board an' shows 'ern how to run their business
accordin' to Hoyle. He only stays with 'em long enough to learn all
their secrets, an' then he gives 'em the slip an' goes to his little
holler island. He pulls off the top, an' it's all so, what the Abbey
told him. Then he lifts up his hand an' he sez, sez he, "I'll be
avenged!" And he sure done it.
He didn't believe in none o' your cheap little killin's. He gives
'em all the range they wanted while he was fixin' up the cards; but
when he was ready to call their hands, the' was somethin' doin'
every minute, an' don't you never forget it. Oh, he was a deep one.
It is creepy to think of any one like him bein' turned loose on the
earth, 'cause a feller might do somethin' 'at didn`t suit him, an'
the' wasn't no place you could hide in afterward. He kept watchin'
all the while, an' nobody couldn't commit a crime nowheres on earth
but what he knew of it, an' he'd go an' call the feller over to one
side an' say, "Young man, you are doomed to die; but if you'll
promise to do anything I want you to, I'll give the Pope, or the
Emp'rer of Chinee, or whoever the main stem happened to be, a
scuttle o' diamonds an' get you free--what's the word?"
Well, in a few years the' wasn't half a dozen criminals in the whole
world who wasn't bound to carry out his orders, an' you can see what
an outfit he had to back him up. Some of 'em he'd make his body-
servants; but that wasn't no snap, you can bet, 'cause he was
notionable to a degree. He'd make plans for a little party, an' he'd
send one man to Siberia for a fish, an' another to Asia for a fowl,
an' another to Chinee for a bird's nest--to make soup of--an' so on.
He never give his guests nothin' to eat 'at growed in the same
country the feast was to be give in. Then he'd say to his steward,
who had the hardest job of all," hill "--Bill wasn't his name, but
it'll do--"Bill, where did I see that six-foot vase, made out of a
An' Bill would turn pale an' say, "It was in the secret vault of the
Em'prer of Chince, your Excellency." Then Monte Cristo, he'd say,
"Ah, yes, so it was. `Tell, go an' get it an' have it here by the
twenty-fifth day of next month."
Well, Bill, he'd just about flicker out, an' begin to tell how it
couldn't be did; but Xlonte, he'd only look at him cold, an' say,
"Never mind the details, Bill--get the vase. If you think you need
the British Navy, why, buy it, but don't bother me. It seems to me,
Bill, 'at you ought to begin gittin' on to my curves purty soon.
This was the way he carried on. He'd go to a prison an' he'd say,
"Young man, you was buried to death when you was a baby, but I
figgered I could use you later on, so I had you transplanted. You
come out o' this prison, get an edication, an' on the ninth o' next
June you show up at number forty-nine, Rue de Champaign, Paris, at
two fifteen P. M.--sharp. Here's a million francs to pay expenses.
Don't be a tight-wad--the's plenty more." A franc is worth five
dollars, but he didn't give a durn for 'em. That was HIS style.
He'd come to town an' buy a tenement house 'at wouldn't rent,
because it was haunted; an' he'd tear it all down except the rooms
'at had been most popular to commit murder in. Then next day he'd
run up a swell mansion around these rooms--big an' gorgeous, like
the Capitol at Cheyenne, with full-grown trees from all over the
world, standin' in the front yard. Then he 'd give a party to all
the substantial citizens who had once used those rooms to commit
murders in, an' he'd bring 'em face to face with the ones they
thought they had murdered--an' it was comical to see 'em fallin'
around in faints; but Monte, he'd pretend 'at he hadn't noticed
anything unusual, an' he'd get 'em a glass of wine an' make 'em face
the torture, till it gives a feller a cold sweat, just to read about
You might think that a man runnin' for congress in this country has
a hard time sinkin' his reputation; but the way 'at Monte Cristo
mined around in a feller's past was enough to scare a cat out of a
cellar. They don't run things over in France like they do here; they
make Counts an' Markusses an' Bankers out of the bad men, an' slap
the innocent ones into dungeons to keep 'em from gettin' spoilt. But
this didn't suit Monte for a minute; so when he gets the gang all
settin' up in front of him like a herd o' tenpins he sez, "Let her
go!" an' you ought to have seen 'em drop.
He don't do none o' the dirty work himself--no more prisons for him.
He just goes around like a Sunday-school director at Christmas time,
while his enemies turn to an' poison an' stab an' mutilate each
other in a way to turn a butcher pale; but his favorite plan is to
make 'em go insane an' have their hair turn white in a single night.
That got to be his private brand.
Well, Hammy read the book to us so natural that we all slept in one
bed for company; but it cheered us a heap, an' we begun to feel
rich, ourselves, an' talked about millions as easy an' natural as
though we each had little holler islands of our own. Miller was
about my size, so 'at all his clothes fit me like the skin on a
potato. Hammy was a leetle too tall an' thin, and Locals, a foot or
so short; but they fished out a couple of swell outfits too.
We found a lot of empty check-books, an' used to play draw, settlin'
at night by check. It was purty good fun for a while--until we woke
up. Hammy owed me ten million francs an' Locals was into me for
fifteen. I offered to give 'em a receipt in full if they'd give me
their interest in the yeller pup. As long as the pup had three
bosses he wouldn't mind no one, an' I wanted to teach him somethin'
besides eatin' an' sleepin; but them two cusses wouldn't sell out at
the price. When I saw that a hundred an' twenty-five million dollars
wouldn't buy two-thirds of a seventy-five cent pup, I understood
what the spell-binders mean by a debased currency, an' I felt hurt
an' lonesome again.
One day Hammy stacked himself in front of a window an' began to talk
about the gloomy ghastliness of solitude, until me an' Locals
couldn't stand it no longer, an' we heaved him out into a drift.
Under ordinary circumstances he would have rolled his eyes, pulled
his hair, an' ranted around about the base ungratitude of man; but
this time he looked up to the sky an' hollered, "Come out here
quick! Hurry up! COME ON!"
We went out, an' the' was somethin' a-floatin' away up yonder,
lookin' like a flyspeck on a new tablecloth. "What is it?" asked
Hammy. "Is it a bird?" asked Locals. Under such conditions I never
say nothin' until I have somethin' to say, so we stood an' gazed. In
about ten minutes we all shouted together, "It's a balloon!"
An' by jinks, that's what it was. We hollered an' fired off guns,
an' after a while it settled down an' lodged in a tree. The' was
only one man in it, but he was dyked out in Sunday clothes, an'
purt' nigh froze to death. We fed an' warmed him, an' he was about
as much surprised at us as we was at him. I was wearin' a Prince
Albert coat an' a high plug hat, Locals had on a white flannel
yachtin' rig, an' Hammy was sportin' a velvet suit with yeller
leggin's an' a belt around the waist. After we had fitted him out
with a pipe he sez, "Gentlemen, I may possibly be able to repay you
at some future time. I am Lord Arthur Cleighton, second son of the
Earl o' Clarenden."
When he registered himself thus, I see Locals an' Hammy open their
eyes, an' I knew 'at we had landed somethin' purty stately.
"I am pleased to meet you, me lord," sez Hammy, in his most gorgeous
manner. "I am Gene De Arcy. You may have heard of my father, the
Locals, he looked at Lord Arthur, an' see that Hammy's bluff had
stuck, so he girded up his loins an' sez, "Sir, it gives me great
pleasure to make your acquaintance. My uncle, Silas Martin, the late
copper king, has just died, leavin' me as his sole heir; an' I have
been seein' a bit of my own country, preparatory to a prolonged trip
around the world."
Lord Arthur, he jumps to his feet an' shakes hands with 'em, tellin'
'em to just cut out his title, as he was a simple Democrat while in
the United States.
I hardly knew what to do. I didn't hold openers, an' yet if I didn't
draw some cards an' see it out I stood to lose entirely. I had been
corralin' a heap o' city langwidge since I had been cooped up with
Locals an' Hammy, but my heart failed me. I knew I was still some
shy on society manners; but I also knew 'at the' was a heap o'
bluffin' goin' on, so I stuck up my bet an' called.
"Artie," I sez, holdin' out my hand, "you 're the first lord my eyes
has ever feasted on; but I like you--you're game. it ain't many 'at
will own up to bein' a Democrat these days, not even in the secrecy
of the ballot box, but here in Nevada you're safe. Pa has just
retired from business, leavin' me this little mine; but it only pays
about ten million a year now, so I've made up my mind not to bother
with it, but to shut it down an' go on a tour of the world with my
two friends here. I never cared much for school, so this will be a
good way to finish my edication. We was up here last fall seein'
that things was closed in proper order, an' waited for the watchman
to come up from below, when we expected to drive down to our special
train an' start for Paris. But the snow came unexpected, and the
expected watchman failed to come; and here we are, with no food fit
for a human, an' all our servants in the special train, ninety miles
When I begun my oration Locals and Hammy leaned forward, holdin'
their breath; but when they see 'at I wasn't turnin' out no
schoolboy article of a lie, they settled back with a long sigh, an'
I could tell by their faces 'at they were takin' pride in my work.
They was about the best qualified judges o' that kind o' work I ever
met up with, an' I'll own 'at I never felt prouder in my life 'an I
did when Hammy slapped me on the back as soon as I finished an' sez
to Artie, "Me Lord, this is a typical American. He plans his life on
larger things than rules; but you can depend on him--yea, though the
heavens fall, you can depend on Jack here."
I was glad we didn't have any liquor there, or like as not we'd 'a'
burned the hotel down just for a lark. We was so full of that
doggone Monte Cristo book that we believed our own lies as easy as
Artie did, an' begun to talk to each other like we was society folks
at a banquet.
But Artie was a good, decent sort of a chap, as common as we were,
when we got to know him. He never kicked none on the grub, an' his
appetite was a thing to make preparations for; but, as Locals said,
his high descent came out the minute he was brought face to face
with work--he didn't recognize it. Now he didn't try to dodge it,
nor he didn't apologize for not doing it; he just didn't seem to
know the' was such a thing. It never occurred to him that the only
way to have clean dishes was to wash dirty ones. Hammy and Locals,
those freeborn sons of Independence, was glad an' proud to have the
chance to wait on him; but I must confess that the day he sat by the
fire with a pile of wood within reachin' distance, an' let the fire
go out, I grew a trifle loquacious about it.
Hammy overheard me mutterin' to myself in a voice 'at could be heard
anywhere in the hotel, an' he drew me to one side an' sez, "Hush,
presumptuous peasant; for all you know the blood of Alfred flows
within his veins."
"That ain't my fault," sez I; "but some of it will flow down this
mountain side if he don't begin stayin' awake daytimes."
Still, all in all, he was a likeable young feller an' the' ain't no
doubt but what he saved us from bein' lonesome any more. He said 'at
this balloon had been exhibited in Los Angeles, an' he had got into
it just for fun; but the rope had parted an' he had been fifteen
hours on the way. It was only by luck 'at he had happened to have
his overcoat along.
He had four or five newspapers, which he had tied around his feet to
keep 'em warm, but nare a library; so after we had lied our
imaginations sore for a week or so, we fell back on draw, settlin'
by checks at night. By a dazzling piece of luck Artie had his money
in the same New York bank 'at Miller had, so he could use our
checks, an' things began to brighten. Three of us were playin' for
real money, an' the other feller thought he was--it was genuine
poker, an' the stiffest game I ever sat in.
Time didn't drag none now. Artie knew the game, an' it kept me in a
sweat to beat him. White chips was a hundred dollars apiece; but we
bet colored ones mostly, to keep from litterin' up the table. Spring
began to loosen up about the first of March, an' by that time Artie
owed me two million real dollars. Locals an' Hammy was into me for
close to a billion, but I didn't treasure their humble offerings
much, 'ceptin' as pipe-lighters. We was keyed up to a high pitch by
this time, an' was beginnin' to get thin and ringey about the eyes.
Artie from losin', me from longin' for the time to come when I
should start out to be a little Monte Cristo on my own hook, an'
Locals an' Hammy, from pityin' Artie an' envyin' me.
On the twenty-fifth of March a wagon-load of grub an' four men came
out to get things started. I see 'em comin' up the grade, an' I
piked down an' told'em 'at I had landed a good thing, an' to just
treat me as the boss for a few days an' I'd make it all right with
When Artie saw the new men he turned pale about the gills. He owed
me close to three millions, an' blame if I didn't feel a little
sorry for him. Still, I'd played fair all the while, an' I 'lowed
'at the Earl o' Clarenden could stand it, and I needed the money a
heap more'n some who might 'a' won it.
When old Bill Sykes came in to report to me I was wearin' a plug hat
on the back o' my head an' sportin' a white vest an' a red necktie,
so I looked enough like the real thing to make it easy for him to
act his part. He came in an' blurted out, right while we was
boostin' up a jack-pot. "That'll do, me good man," sez I, "wait
until this hand is played." Bill, he took off his hat an' stood
humble until Artie had scooped in a hundred thousand dollars, an'
then I told Bill he might talk.
"The watchman was found froze to death, Mr. Hawkins," sez Bill to me
mighty respectful, "an' your train waited until two relief parties
had been drove back by storms, an' then it pulled out for 'Frisco.
We are all ready to take charge here, an' as soon as you wish you
can drive down in the wagon an' telegraph for the train."
Bill backed out bowin', an' we made plans to emigrate a little. I
promised Locals an' Hammy a generous rake-off, an' we fixed to have
a tol'able fair time as soon as I cashed in.
Next mornin' I found a letter addressed to Mr. John Hawkins, Esq.
Artie wasn't around, but Locals an' Hammy was, so I opened the
letter an' read it. This here is the letter. It's one o' my greatest
"GENTLEMEN,--You have all treated me fine an' I hate to skin out
without saying good-bye but I have not the nerve. I have lied to you
all the time. I am not a real lord at all. My father was gardener at
Clarenden Castle an' I was under groom at St. James Court. When the
younger son came to this country, I came with him but left him an'
became a waiter in New York City. I went to an excursion to Long
Branch an' got to flirting with a widow just for pastime. She dogged
my life after that and my wife is something terrible so I took her
and came to Los Angeles. We was as happy as any one could be with a
wife like mine until the widow showed up. Then I stood between two
fires and either one of them was hell so I got into the balloon and
cut the rope expecting to drift over into Mexico. You are all rich
and will not need the money but I always play fair and I hate to
skin out this way;
"yours truly "L. A. C.
"P.S. It was all I could do to keep from helping with the work
'cause some of your cooking was rotten and you did not wash the
dishes clean but I knew if I worked you would not think me a real
lord. I hope some day I may be able to repay you for all your
I didn't say a word after I finished readin' the letter. I had
fallen too far to have any breath left for talkin'; but Hammy an'
Locals unbosomed their hearts something terrible.
"A murrian on the filthy swine!" sez Hammy, after he began to quiet
down a little. "I would I had his treacherous throat within my
grasp, that I might squeeze his inky soul back to the lower depths
from whence he sprung."
"Hush, you punkin headed peasant," sez I. "The' 's just as much of
Alfred's blood flowin' through his veins now as the' ever was."
"'T is not the money I have lost that makes me mad," sez Locals.
"It's finding out that a man can become so degenerate that he will
impose upon the very ones who save his life--deceive them, lie to