Part 3 out of 6
"Oh, he ain't the only liar 'at was ever in this hotel," sez I; "an'
when it comes to the money YOU'VE lost, that'd be a small matter to
get mad over. He risked just as much money as we did, an' if he'd
'a' won, he wouldn't 'a' won a cent more."
After a while they grew more resigned in their langwidge; but after
we had driven down to town without finding him, Hammy sez, "In sooth
't is bitter truth that all the world's a stage; yet Fate, however
cruel, never decreed that I should play the second season, as
servile server to a worn out mine--my health is all right again, an'
I'm goin' back where a feller gets paid decent wages for makin' a
fool of himself."
Suddenly Locals gave a yell of joy and shouted, "My fortune's made!
I can take this thing and have a runaway boy and a lost orphan and a
rich uncle and a villanous cousin, and write the novel of the age
"No, no!" sez Hammy, catchin' the excitement, "tragedy--make it a
tragedy. It is for the stage! Think of them lost without food and
the balloon coming into sight! Think of the scenic effects, the low
music as the orphan kneels in the middle of the stage and prays that
the balloon may bring them food; and then have the villanous cousin
in the balloon--"
Well, they purt' nigh fought about it, and they were still at it
when I left them. The tingle of spring in the air made me wild to
get back to the range again. I thought of little Barbie and what a
great girl she must be by this time. I thought of the big-eyed
winter calves huggin' up to their mothers and wonderin' what it all
meant. I thought of old Mount Savage, and all of a sudden somethin'
seemed pullin' at my breast like a rope, an' I drew down my winter
wages, an' set out for the no'th, eager as a hound pup on his first
DRESS REFORM AT THE DIAMOND DOT
I've heard it called Christian fortitude, an' I've heard it called
Injun stoickcism, an' I've heard it called bulldog grit; but it's a
handy thing to have, no matter what it is. I mean the thing that
keeps a feller good company when the' 's a hurtin' in his heart that
he never quite forgets. A little child away from home an' just sick
to go back, a man who has to grit his teeth an'--but no, the first
expresses the feelin' better--a child, homesick, but keepin' a stiff
upper lip; and it don't make much difference what the age, that's a
condition 'at nobody ever outgrows.
Well, all the years I'd been away the' was a little empty sore spot
in my heart that I couldn't quite forget; but I never aired it none,
an' I don't believe I knew myself how big it was, until I left
Slocum's Luck behind me an' headed for the Diamond Dot. Then I
spread a grin on my face that nothin' wouldn't wipe off, an' I
stepped so high an' light that I was like a nervous man goin'
barefoot through a thistle patch. I was headed for home; an' even a
mule that gets dressed down regular with the neck-yoke gives a
little simmer of joy when he's headed toward home, while a dog,--
well, a dog will just naturally joyful himself all over when the
trail doubles back on itself, an' a dog ain't no parlor loafer,
neither, if I'm any judge.
Why, for two years I hadn't polished a saddle, an' I whistled like a
boy when I pictured to myself the feel of a hoss under me. The' 's
somethin' about feelin' a hoss's strength slide into your legs an'
up through your body that must be a good deal like the sensation a
saint enjoys the first fly he takes with his new wings. A little
pop-eyed drug merchant was out here on a tour oncet, an' he asked me
the usual list of blame-fool questions, about what we et an' where
we washed an' if it didn't make us ache to sleep on the hard ground,
an so on. When I had made answers to his queries accordin' to the
amount of information I thought it wise to load him with, he shakes
his head solemn like an' sez, "I do not see where you get any
compensation for such a life as this."
"We don't get any compensation," sez I, "but look at all the hoss-
back ridin' we get to make up for it."
An' there I was with the spring drippin' all about me, the plains
standin' beckonin' to me on every side, just coaxin' to be rode
over, an' me walkin' on foot with flat-heeled boots on!
I had rode out on Sam Cutler's freighter to within' twenty miles o'
the ranch house, an' I built a little fire an' unrolled my blankets;
but I couldn't sleep. I just lay lookin' up at the stars an' tryin'
to imagine what Barbie looked like an' whether Starlight was still
at the ranch, an' every now an' again I tried to decide as to
whether I'd grin or he haughty when I first spied Jabez. I was some
anxious to come upon Barbie first. I knew she'd be glad to see me,
but I was rather leery about Jabez. He would 'a' welcomed a projical
son of his own as often as occasion offered, but he wasn't just the
sort of a man to be a public welcomer. I couldn't picture him
puttin' up a sign sayin', "Projical sons turn to the left. If
chicken is proferred to veal, shoot in the air twice when you get
within a mile of the house."
But I was too much elated to worry much, an' along about one o'clock
I rolled up my blankets, kicked out my fire, an' started to drill.
When the sun rose I was in sight of the ranch house, an' the sun
seemed to throw an arm around my shoulder an' go skippin' along by
my side--an' I did skip now an' again.
When I got about a mile from the house I came upon Jabez, walkin'
slow an' lookin' down-hearted. He hadn't changed a mite in the five
years--in fact from what I could see he hadn't even changed his
clothes; so for a moment I thought his sour look was the same ill
humor I'd left him in; an' then I saw it was more serious, an' my
heart stopped with a thump.
He looked up just then an' we stared at each other without speakin'.
"Ain't you dead?" sez he.
"No I ain't," sez I.
"We heard you was," sez he; "killed in a muss over at Danders."
"I don't believe it," sez I, "an' besides, I ain't been in Danders
for over seven years."
"Well, then, what made you stay away so long for?" sez he, sort o'
"I don't remember you sheddin' any tears when I left, an' I don't
recall you beggin' me to hurry back," sez I. I was pleased at the
way I was bein' received an' I meant to make him show his hand.
"You know as well as I do that things allus go better on this ranch
when you're here."
"Yes," sez I.
"An' you know 'at I don't like to beg no man to do anything; but you
ought to see that I know that you're the usefullest man I ever had,
an' you oughtn't to be so fly-uppity," sez he.
"Now see here, Jabez," sez I, "you're one o' the kind o' men who
never own up 'at a man was fit to live until after he's dead. You're
like some o' these Easterners--they get so everlastin' entranced
with the beautiful scenery that they forget to water their ridin'
hosses. I don't ask no special favors, but I ain't so mortal thick-
skinned myself, an' you ought to learn sometime that there is hosses
'at work better when they're not beat up an' yelled at."
"Are you goin' to stay this time?" sez he.
"As long as it's agreeable--all around," sez I. "Is everything goin'
The down-hearted look came into his eyes again. "She won't speak to
me," sez he.
"You don't mean to say 'at you've gone an' got married," sez I, "or
that you are tryin' to?"
"I ain't such a fool," he snaps. "It's Barbie, I mean."
"How long has this been goin' on?" sez I.
"This is the fourth meal," sez he; an' he was so solemn about it
that I was some inclined to snicker, but then it flashed upon me
that when I left, the child was all het up over the letter she'd
found in the attic, and I sobered an' sez, "Is it something 'at's
goin' to be hard to smooth over?"
"I don't see how the deuce it's ever goin' to be smoothed over," sez
"Would you feel like sort o' hintin' what it was about?" sez I.
"Well, it's about the way she acts," sez Jabez. "Confound it, Happy,
she's the best gal child ever was on this earth, I reckon, but she
don't want to be one, an' she won't act like it, an' she--she won't
dress like it. Every time I argue with her she beats me to it, an'
I'm plumb stumped. Yesterday I told her she had to take 'em off an'
wear dresses, an' she did; but now she won't speak to me."
"You mean that you said that she was never to argue with you again?"
sez I, indignant.
"No, I mean that I sez she must take those confounded buckskin pants
off! She's big enough now to begin to train to become a woman--not a
I had to grin a little, but even though it didn't seem as skeptical
to me as it did to him, I saw he might be right about it. Still, I
wasn't goin' to take sides without hearin' all the evidence, so I
sez, "Is she healthy, Jabez?"
"Healthy?" he sez. "Why, that child could winter through without
shelter an' come out in the spring kickin' up her heels an'
"Well, that much is in her favor," sez I. "Is she good at her
"Where you been that you haven't heard about it?" sez he. "Last
winter she out-ciphered an' out-spelt the schoolmarm, an' she
fuddled up one o' these missionary preachers till he didn't know
where he was at. She has been studyin' about all kinds o' things,
an' she cornered him up on the first chapter o' Genesis. She lined
out the school-marm first, an' the schoolmarm came an' told me that
she was an infidel--the' ain't no sense in havin' women teach
school, Happy. You can't reason with 'em an' you can't fight with
'em an' they just about pester a body to death. I don't see how
Barbie stands it."
"Well, what did you do about her bein' an infidel?" sez I.
"I couldn't do anything to the teacher except tell her what I
thought of her; but next Sunday I had Barbie read to me the first
chapter o' Genesis. Did you ever read it, Happy?"
"Yes," sez I, "I read all of that book an' most of the next one. Me
an' another feller had a dispute about the Bible one time, an' he
said it was the best readin' the' was, an' I said it was too dry. He
read me about a feller in it named Samson, who was full o' jokes an'
the strongest man ever was, I reckon, before he let that Philistine
woman loco him, an' he read about another feller, just a mite of a
boy, who killed a giant with a slingshot in front of an army which
had made fun of him an' was all ready to give in to the giant, an'
he read me some poems about mountains; an' I had to give in that the
Bible was the greatest book ever was. That was up at a little ranch
in Idaho, an' he was goin' to read it all to me an' explain what it
meant,--he was full edicated, this feller was, an' had a voice as
soft as a far-off bell, an' an eye that seemed to reach right out
an' shake hands with ya,--but one day when I was away a posse
surprised him, an' though he potted two of 'em they finally put him
out. He left me his Bible with a note in it which said that he had
killed the man all right an' that he would do it again under the
circumstances; but he couldn't tell a word in his own defense 'count
of mixin' in a woman. We never found out a word about it, not even
where the posse came from. Well, afterward I tried to read it alone;
but I couldn't make any headway. For one thing, the' 's too many
pedigrees to keep track of, an' the names are simply awful. I don't
want to be profane nor nothin', but hanged if I think the Children
of Israel was square enough to deserve all the heavenly favors they
got; so I finally gave up tryin' to read it. But what about you an'
"Well," sez he, "I'd read the Bible clean through from cover to
cover an' I never saw anything unreasonable in it, so I thought I
could set Barbie right without any trouble. She read the first
chapter, an' by that time I was runnin' for cover an' yellin' for
help. The' ought to be something done about that book, it ain't
right to try an' raise a child to be honest, an' tell 'em that they
must believe the Bible, an' then have 'em find out what the Bible
"Well, what about it?" sez I.
"Well, it sez that the' was light an' darkness an' evenin' an'
mornin' on the first day; on the third day the' was all kinds o'
grass an' herbs yieldin' seeds, an' fruit trees yieldin' fruit; but
the' wasn't no sun or stars until the fourth day. Now how could you
have evenings an' mornings an' grass an' fruit trees without
sunshine? You know that wouldn't work, an' when she put it up to me
I simply threw up my hands, an' sent Spider Kelley with the
buckboard to hunt up this missionary preacher. He was long-haired
an' pius, an' when I saw him I felt purty sure he could straighten
it out; but he wasn't game. Barbie argued fair an' square, an' he
lost his temper an' called her an infidel an' a heretic an' a
nagnostic; but she pulled a lot o' books on him, an' he couldn't
uniderstand 'em an' blasphemed 'em something terrible; but he see he
was whipped, an' just simply ran away. I felt mighty bad about
Barbie bein' an infidel until Friar Tuck came around. You remember
Friar Tuck--the one they call an Episcolopian?" Course I remembered
Friar Tuck. Everybody knew him an' he was about as easy to forget as
a stiff neck--though for different reasons. Preachers are about as
different as other humans to begin with, but the women seem more
unanimously bent on spoilin' 'em; so as a general rule I wade in
purty careful when I 'm startin' an acquaintance with a strange one,
but I did know that this here one was all to the right, an' his time
belonged to any one who demanded it. This made him purty wearin' on
hosses, an' when one would give out on him he'd just turn it loose
an' rope another 'thout makin' any preliminary about it; all the
explanation a body got was just seein' a tired, stray pony eatin'
grass. The first time he tried that game they gathered up a posse
an' ran him down; but he pulled a Bible on 'em showin' where he got
his commission from, threw a sermon into 'em 'at converted two an'
made one other sign the pledge, an' that put an end to any
unsolicited interference in his line o' work. He was a big man with
two right hands, an' some one gave him the name of Friar Tuck out of
a book, an' he was known by it the whole country over.
I nodded my head: "Did the Friar get fainty about Barbie bein' a
heretic?" sez I.
"No, he didn't," sez Jabez, "he just laughed when I told him about
it, an' he an' Barbie, they wrangled over it for a long time; but he
played fair. When he didn't know the answer he owned up to it, an'
then he told her that the Bible was written by a lot of different
men, an' that the spirit of it was inspired; but that the' wasn't
any words ever invented that could describe creation; because the
origin of life was a thing 'at man wasn't wise enough to comprehend,
an' that all the scientific books ever written couldn't come any
nearer to it than that first chapter of Genesis, which had been
written ages ago when the old Earth was still in its childhood."
"How did Barbie get around this?" sez I.
"Well, she didn't have much to say; he didn't climb up on a perch
an' call her names, he just sat there by her side like they was both
children together; an' then he took some of her books an' explained
things she didn't understand an' pointed out things 'at other
scientists didn't believe in, an' he actually said 'at he believed
that after they had examined the earth all over, inside an' out with
a magnifyin' glass, every last scientist the' was would be willin'
to admit that it must have been created some way or another; and
that we'd all be the better for the work these scientists was doin',
but that she mustn't confuse the word with the spirit, for it was
the spirit which giveth life. He's an A I man, Friar Tuck is; but
when I offered him twice as much a year as he's gettin' to stay an'
teach her, he just laughed again, an' said that I wasn't in no
position to double the kind o' wages he was workin' for. I was a
little put out at this, but Barbie said he was talkin' in parables."
"Was she wearin' the buckskin pants when he was here?" sez I.
"Yes, she was, an' I didn't much like the way he acted about that.
At first he thought she was a boy, an' it made me hot; but he sez to
me, 'Didn't God create man first?' I owned up that he did. 'Well,
then,' said he, `let this child develop the man side of her first,
so that she may have strength an' courage for all her journey.'
Everything that man sez has the ring o' truth in it, an' I didn't
have much of a come-back, except to say that she was overdoing it.
He called Barbie over to him an' looked into her eyes an' put his
big hand on her head an' afterward he sez to me, `You needn't worry;
soon enough a soul which is all woman will stand before you and ask
questions which will make you long for these days back again. Give
her all the time she will take,'"
"What else did he say?" sez I.
"Well, he asked me if I had ever noticed a litter of pups. I said I
had, and he wanted to know if the' was much difference in the way
they played. I owned up that the' wasn't. Then he looked sort o'
worried an' asked me if I had ever found any of 'em to get their sex
mixed up bad enough to have the tangle last through life. I had to
admit that I never had, an' he laughed at me good an' proper--but
his laughs never hurt. I didn't mind about her wearin' the buckskins
after that so much."
"Well, then, what made you rear up about 'em yesterday?" sez I.
"I hired a new man when she was out ridin',--day before yesterday it
was,--an' when she came in he thought she was a boy an' kind o' got
gay, an' she panned him out; an' he cussed her an' she drew a gun on
him an' made him take it back, an' he might o' taken some spite out
on her before he found out she was a girl. She is too sizey now, an'
confound it, leggin's an' a short skirt ought to satisfy any female-
-but now she won't speak to me, an' I can't go back on my order, so
I don't see how we're goin' to straighten it out."
I pertended to be mad. "Jabez," I sez, "I do wish I could come back
to this ranch just once an' find it runnin' smooth. Here I come all
the way from Nevada just to see it once again, an' I find the boss
an' his daughter ain't on speakin' terms, an' I have to stand
palaverin' for a solid hour without anything bein' asked about my
appetite, an' me just finishin' a twenty-mile walk."
"By George, I'm sorry!" sez Jabez. "But hang it, Happy, you ought to
savvy this place well enough by this time to know 'at no human ever
has to set up an' beg for food. I'm glad to see you 'cause the
little girl does set a heap by you, an' you seem to have a way o'
straightenin' out the kinks. While you're eatin' breakfast see if
you can't think up some way to get her to talkin' again." We started
to walk to the house, an' I sez, "just what was your orders about
"I told her to take 'em off at once an' throw 'em out the window,
"Did she do it?" sez I.
"She allus obeys orders when she drives me to issue 'em--but I allus
get a sting out of it, some way or other. This time I issued the
order at the supper table, an' she went upstairs to her room,
stuffed the suit full o' pillows, stood in the window, an' screamed
until me an' the boys ran out to see what was the matter. Then she
threw the figger out an' we thought she had jumped, an' I made a
fool o' myself. It's playin' with fire every time you cross her, but
she allus obeys orders. Still, it's tarnation hard to be her father-
-not that I'd trade the job for any other in the country, at that."
I had to chuckle inward all the way to the housc, an' just before we
arrived to it I purt' nigh exploded. Here come a figger, heavily
veiled an' wearin' a shapeless sort of a dress affair made out of a
bedquilt an' draggin' behind on the ground. It walked along slow an'
diginfied, like some sort of a heathen ghost, an' when it came to a
pebble in the path it would walk around it an' not step over, all
the time holdin' a hand lookin' glass to see that her toe didn't
show. I just took one side-eye at Jabez an' his face looked like a
storm cioud at a picnic; but when Barbie see who I was she tore off
the veil, gathered up her skirts, an' yelled, "Happy! Happy Hawkins,
is it really you? "
"I'm ready to take my oath on it, madame," sez I, not Cracktn' a
smile; "but if I might make so bold, who are you?"
"Oh, Happy, we thought you was dead," said she, with a little catch
in her voice that made me wink a time or two. "Where have you been
all these years, an' why didn't you come back to us?"
She stood lookin' into my eyes, half tender an' half cross, an' I
couldn't help but try her out to see which would win. "I didn't know
for sure that I'd be welcome," sez I.
"Oh. Happy!" she sez; an' she threw her arms around my neck an'
kissed me, an' then we went in to breakfast. I answered her
questions between bites, an' as soon as we'd finished I proposed
we'd go for a ride. "I haven't crossed a saddle for two years," sez
I. "Is Starlight here yet?"
"Well I should say he is, and fat an' bossy," sez she. "The' hasn't
airy another body but me rode him neither. I divide my ridin'
between him an' Hawkins, just ridin' a colt now an' again to keep
from gettin' careless." Then she stopped an' looked down at the
thing she was wearin' an' said, sadly, "But I reckon my ridin' days
"Alas, yes," sez I, usin' Hammy's most solemn voice, "Old Age has
set his seal upon your brow, an' I can see you sitting knitting by
the fire for your few remainin' days."
"Where did you learn to talk that way?" sez she, quick as a wink. So
I told her of my winter at Slocum's Luck, an' she asked me a million
questions about Hammy an' Locals. When I was through she sat silent
for a while an' then she sez, "Happy, I'm goin' to see more o' the
world than just this ranch some day."
"Well, the' ain't much of it that's a whole lot better--an' I've
seen it about all," sez I.
"You seen it about all?" sez she, scornful; "why, you haven't seen
the inside of one real house."
I glanced around, but she snaps in, "This ain't a house, this is
just shelter from the elements. I'm goin' to see mansions an'
palaces, an' I'm goin' to see 'em from the inside too."
"Have you ever read Monte Cristo?" sez I.
"No," sez she.
"Then don't you do it," sez I. "Your head's about as far turned now
as your neck'll stand, an' what you ought to do is to learn how to
cook an' sew."
She looked at me with her eyes snappin', but in a second her face
broke into a grin. "The' ain't a mite o' use in your tryin' that,"
sez she. "You like me just as I am, an' you don't need to feel it's
your duty to work in any that teacher stuff. Gee, but I'm glad you
came back It looks as if me an' Dad is in for a long siege of it
this time, an' you'll keep me from gettin' lonesome."
"Not the right answer," sez I. "I'm goin' to leave tomorrow."
Her face grew long in a minute, when she see I meant it. "Happy--you
don't really mean that, do you?"
"Barbie," I sez, "I had to leave before, or take sides. Well, you
an' the boss are warrin' again; I can't fight you, an' I won't side
again him. You don't leave me any choice--I just have to go away
"Oh, I don't want you to go away again," she sez. "You allus find
more in things than the rest of 'em ever do, an' I want you to tell
me all about those two queer men you spent the winter with, an' to
teach me just the way the one you call Hammy used his voice. Happy,
you just can't go away again."
"I don't want to go away again," sez I, an' I was down-right in
earnest by this time, "but you make me. Barbie, you are hard-
hearted. You know that your father thinks the world of you--"
"He don't think one speck more of me than I do of him," she snaps
"Yes, but he's different," I sez. "He's your father, an' he has to
guide and correct you."
"Well, he don't have to throw in my teeth that I'm a girl every tine
I want to do anything."
I'm disappointed in you," I sez to her in a hard voice. "I thought
that you would be game, but you're not."
"What ain't I game about?" sez she.
"You're ashamed of bein' a girl," sez I.
"I ain't," sez she. "I'm glad I'm a girl, an' I want to tell you
that the' 's been just about as many heroines as heros too. I don't
mean just these patient women who put up with things; I mean
heroines in history. Look at Joan of Arc!"
"I never heard of her before," sez I, "but I reckon she must have
been Noah's wife." She breaks in an' tells me the story of the
French farm girl who got to be the leader of an army and whipped the
king of England an' was finally burned; an' then, naturally, became
a heroine an' a saint.
"She didn't wear boys clothes, did she?" I sez, thinkin' I had her.
"Yes, she did!" sez Barbie.
"Well, she ought to be ashamed of herself," I said; but I knew I was
gettin' the worst of it, so I changes the sub-ject. "But speakin'
about the Ark," sez I, "there's another example of your obstinacy.
When I went away from here you was fussin' with the school-teachers
because they said this whole earth was once under water, an' now I
find you cuttin' around an' linin' out missionary-preachers because
you ain't suited with the way the Bible was wrote. It looks to me as
if you ought to get old enough sometime to realize 'at you ain't
nothin' but a child. Your father is willin' to give you a fair show;
he don't ask you to act like a girl, all he wants is for you to look
"If I have to wear a skirt, you know mighty well I can't ride," sez
"You don't have to wear a thing like what you have on now," I sez.
"Why don't you get over your pout an' be sensible. He never asks you
to humble yourself. All you need is to do what he wants, an' he'll
drop it at once."
"Yes," sez she, "all I need to do is to give up my independence an'
he'll think I'm a nice little girl."
"Why don't you figger out some kind of a dress that would look like
a girl's and--and work like a boy's?" sez I.
She sat thinkin' for a minute an' then sez, "That wouldn't be a
complete surrender, that would only be a compromise; an' I'd be
mighty glad to do it if the' was only some way."
"Where's that picture of the girl who whipped the king?" sez I.
She ran an' got it, an' it was a dandy lookin' girl all right,--it
looked a little mite like Barbie herself,--but she was wearin'
clothes 'at most folks would think undesirable; they was made out of
iron an' covered with cloth.
"You don't want to wear any such thing as that, Barbie," sez I, "it
would be too blame hot, an' that bedquilt thing's bad enough."
"That's what they used to fight in," sez she.
"They must 'a' been blame poor shots," sez I. "Why, I could shoot
'em through those eye-holes as fast as they came up, an' she don't
even wear any head part with hers." Then an idea struck me: "But why
don't you make a suit like her outside one?" sez I. "It comes below
her knees an' yet she can ride in it all right."
Well, we got old Melisse to help us, an' by four o'clock the thing
was done. We had used up some dark-green flannel that Jabez had
bought to have a dress made of, an' which she had kicked on. She
took it up to her room an' I went out to find Jabez. I told him that
she was always willin' to give in when any honorable way was pointed
out, an' he was the tickledest man in the West. He went in to supper
four times before it was ready, but when it finally was ready Barbie
wouldn't come down.
Melisse went after her an' come back sayin' that Barbie didn't feel
hungrv an' was goin' to wait until after dark an' then wear it
"What nonsense!" sez Jabez. "Here she's been wearin' regular
buckskin pants, an' now she fusses up about what you say is a half
dress. You go an' get her."
I went to the head of the stairs an' called her, an' she finally
stuck her head out of her room an' sez, "Happy, I just can't wear
this thing. It flaps!"
"Let it flap!" sez I. "You're just like a colt gettin' used to a
single-tree; you won't mind it after the first hour. Let me see how
She opens the door an' stands with a queer new look on her face, an'
her cheeks pink as wild roses. I hadn't never seen those cheeks pink
up for anything but fun or anger before, an' it flashed upon me what
Friar Tuck had told Jabez; an' I was willin' to bet that the time
would come when he'd have full as much girl on his hands as any one
man could wish.
The waist part of it was loose an' low in the neck an' came to a
little below the knees where the leggin's began. The upper part of
the leggin's which you couldn't see were loose an' easy. Her little
legs looked cute an' shapely, an' her smooth, round throat came up
from the open neck mighty winnin'--the whole thing was just right
an' I sez to her, "Why, Barbie, this is the finest rig you ever had
on, an' you're as purty as a picture."
Well, her face went the color of a sunset an' she slammed the door.
"If I was your Dad," sez I to myself, "you'd go back to those
buckskins to-morrow." I waited a moment an' then I began to make fun
of her, and after a while she came out with her teeth set tight
together an' we went down to the dinin' room; but it was the first
time I had ever seen her take an awkward step.
"Now that's what I call a sensible garment," sez Jabez, heartily,
an' then he begun talkin' to me. Jabez had a lot o' wisdom when he
kept his head, an' by the time supper was over Barbie was purty well
used to the feel, an' we all three went for a ride; me ridin'
Starlight, Barbie, Hawkins, an' Jabez a strappin' bay, one of
Pluto's colts, an' a beauty. Well, I'll never forget that ride: you
know how tobacco tastes after a man owns up that he was only jokin'
when he swore off; you know how liquor seems to ooz all through you
after you've been out in the alkali for three months--well, that
first ride, after bein' out o' commission for two years, makes these
two sensations something like the affection a man has for sour-dough
bread. Oh, it was glorious! we all felt like a flock o' birds--
hosses an' all. In the first place it was spring, an' that was
excuse enough if the' hadn't been any other; but two of us had gone
into that day not on speakin' terms, an' now they were closer than
ever, an' the third one had brought 'em together. The old sayin' is
that three's a crowd, but it took a crowd to hold all the joyfulness
that we was luggin' that night, an' it was ten o'clock before we
turned around on the velvet carpet an' came swingin' back to the
We had to finish with a little race, an' I was rejoiced to see that
old Starlight hadn't become a back number, even though the bay colt
did make it a mighty close finish.
As soon as we unsaddled, Barbie sort o' whispered to me, "I 'm awful
glad you came back, Happy"; an' then she ran into the house.
Jabez shook hands an' sez, "It seems to me, Happy, that I've been
waitin' for you for months. I hope to goodness you don't fly up any
more." "I ain't goin' to look for trouble Jabez" sez I "This spot is
the most homelike to me of any on earth; but I don't believe I'll
turn in yet. I want to stroll around a little."
I walked off in the quiet to the little mound where Monody lay, an'
I sat there a long while, thinkin' o' the last time I'd come back.
The night was unusual warm, an' I hunted up all the stars that I
knew, an' watched 'em as they dropped down one by one behind the
mountains. I thought of all that Friar Tuck had said about the
origin of life, an' what a nerve a child like Barbie had to even
study on such a subject. Then I dropped back to all the happiness
I'd had that day, an' the last thing I knew I was lookin' into
Barbie's eyes an' wonderin' what made her face so pink. It was the
cold, gray dawn-wind that woke me up.
THE LASSOO DUEL
That was a summer I love to think over; but the' wasn't nothin'
happened to tell about. I was a little soft at first, but it didn't
take me long to get my hand in, an' I roped my half o' the winter
calves. It had been a mild winter an' the' was a big run of 'em, an'
Jabez was in a good humor most o' the time.
The men mostly liked Jabez; but they used to talk a lot about him,
as he was some different from the usual run. He had first come into
that locality when Barbie was two years old, buyin' the big Sembrick
ranch an' stockin' it up to the limit. Ye never said a word about
his wife, nor his past; an' Jabez wasn't just the sort of character
a man felt like pryin' private history out of.
The men laughed a good bit about the time Jabez had had with the
Spike Crick school. He had a fool notion that money was entitled to
do all the talkin', an' that's a hard position to make good in a new
country. After his money had built the schoolhouse, they refused to
elect him one o' the trustees; said it might lead to one-man
control. Still, Jabez wasn't no blind worshiper of the law, an' when
he found that they'd put a rope on him, he just sidles in an'
asserts himself. It was easy enough to convince a teacher that the
trustees was boss; but when Jabez began to get impatient, the
school-teacher generally emigrated a little. Then they put a cinch
on him for true. They hired a woman teacher. When it came to
bluffin' a woman teacher, Jabez got tongue-handled so bad that once
did him for all time to come.
But the' wasn't any difference of opinion when it came to Barbie.
The' wasn't a man on the place who wasn't willin' to stretch a neck
for her. She knew 'em all by name an' used to tease 'em an'
contrairy 'em; but she never hid behind bein' the boss's daughter.
Any time they scored, she paid, an' that was the thing that made 'em
worship her. She had changed a lot in the five years I'd been away;
not only in size, in fact, that was the least noticed in her; but
she had more thinkin' spells.
It used to be that she made up to every one right from the start;
but now she was a little shy at first, especially with Easterners.
Easterners generally are about as tantalizin' as it's possible for a
human to get, but she had never minded 'em much until this summer.
Now she'd answer the first twenty-five or thirty fool questions
polite enough, but after that she got purty frosty an' would ask 'em
some questions herself that would straighten 'em up right short in
their tracks. About every time an Easterner would pull out I noticed
that she'd put a little wider heal on the bottom of her skirt.
But she was purty much the same with me, an' after the spring round-
up she used to keep me ridin' with her most o' the time when the'
wasn't anything actually demandin' my attention. It was just about
this time that Jabez hired a new man by the name of Bill Andrews. He
was about as near speak-less as a man ever gets, an' he wasn't much
liked by the rest of us; but be was a hard worker an' a good, all-
around hand, so he got along all right.
When the fall round-up came, Barbie surprised every one by sayin'
she wasn't goin' to do any of the ridin', but would wait until after
we'd got all the sortin' out an' brandin' done, an' would then come
out an' see the whole herd in a bunch. The' wasn't a thing the
matter with her health an' we all wondered what was her reason; but
I had my own private opinion--she was beginnin' to find out she was
a girl, an' she wasn't quite used to it.
We finally rounded up in the big bend of Spike Crick, an' the stuff
was in the suet, every one of 'em. Omaha was supposed to be straw
boss; but he was too easy-goin' an' generally let the men do about
as they pleased. Bill Andrews, the new man, had a sneer on his face
about half the time, an' one mornin' when I came in from night
ridin', he sez to a bunch o' the boys: "I didn't suppose the parlor
boarder ever risked any night dampness."
They all grinned, 'cause the' wasn't any jokes barred with us; but I
didn't grin. I walked over to the group an' I sez: "Is the' anybody
else in this outfit that has any o' that brand o' supposin' about
"Aw sit down, Happy," they sez; an' "What's the matter, Happy; you
gettin' tender?" an' such like things; but Bill Andrews continued to
sit an' grin, so I sez to him: "As a rule, the last comer in an
outfit has sense enough to either use his eyes or ask questions. I
admit that this is a purty easy-goin' place,--they don't even ask
where a man comes from when they take him on,--but I've been here
off an' on for some time, an' I reckon that the boss is able to
figger out whether or not I've been worth what I cost."
"Yes," sez Andrews, slow an' drawly, "the boss--or his daughter."
Three o' the boys grabbed me, but Andrews never moved; so I let go
of my gun an' sez, "It seems 'at you're the kind of a hound 'at
picks out a safe time to snarl--but the' 'll be other times."
"Any time you wish," sez he, "but I didn't mean what you seem to
think. I know well enough 'at the' 'll never be nothin' between you
an' her--the old man knows it too, an' you ain't kept here for
nothin' except to be her play-mate."
I was so blame mad I couldn't see. I couldn't speak. I was so
infernal het up that I choked an' spluttered; but when I got my
hands on his throat I put my finger-prints on his neck-bone. The
boys had a hard time tearin' us apart, an' a heap harder time
startin' Andrews goin' again; but as soon as he was able to talk, I
sez to him, "Now we ain't through with this yet. I'm willin' to give
you your choice of settlements, but you sure have to settle some
way. How do you want to settle?"
He had black blood--an' he was a coward. It's the hardest mix-up a
man ever has to deal with. He jumped to his feet, his face all
twisted up in a wolf-snarl, but he couldn't look me in the eyes, an'
he finally tries to smile. Its a weak, sickly affair, but it is a
smile all right, an' he sez, "We'll just compete to see which is the
best man at a round-up, an' we'll settle it that way. The' ain't no
use of us makin' fools of ourselves over nothin' at all. I was just
jokin' an' I didn't think you'd be so blame pernicious about boldin'
down an easy snap; so as the' ain't really nothin' between us, we'll
settle it that way."
I had been doin' some quick thinkin' while he was talkin', an' when
he finished, I broke out laughin', "Why, you blame rookie," sez I,
"you don't really think I was mad, do you? I see 'at you was only
jokin' right from the start, but I wanted to do a little play-actin'
for the boys here. That'll be the best way of all to settle it--see
who's the best man at a round-up."
He looked some relieved when he laughed--an' then he rubbed his
neck. I indulged in some hoss-play with Omaha, an' began to eat my
breakfast; but all the time I was thinkin'. I was thinkin' several
different ways too: first, was the' some truth in what Bill Andrews
had said--was I gettin' to be nothin' but the playmate of a girl?
Then I wondered if Jabez had studied over it any--I never had myself
before. I knew that he never cared nothin' about my wages, knowin'
that I had saved him more the night I brought Monody back than he'd
ever pay me--but I didn't want to be pensioned, an' I didn't care to
be looked on as the ranch watchdog. But the thing that finally came
an' refused to leave was a question--what right did I have to waste
the best part of my life loafin' around with a child? The' was a lot
more o' these pesterin' questions; but they all finally perched on
Bill Andrews an' made me want to blow him up with dynamite.
That was the swiftest round-up ever the Diamond Dot had. Bill
Andrews was a roper for true, an' I don't believe the' was a man in
the West 'at could touch me those days. When me an' Barbie would be
out ridin' I was always practicin' with a rope or a gun, an' I had a
dozen foller-up throws 'at I've never seen beat. I did my work
cleaner an' more showy'n he did, but it couldn't be done much
quicker. We finished three days ahead of the schedule an' the boys
said it was a tie. I had roped twenty-six more calves'n he had, but
they wanted to see us contest a little more, an' they figgered out
excuses for him. The' ain't nothin' ever satisfies a civilized human
except a finish fight. He don't care a hang for points.
Well, we did all kinds o' fancy ropin', an' I was a shade the better
at all of it; but those confounded cusses kept on claimin' it was a
tic until I got het up a little, an' sez 'at we'll have a lassoo
duel an' that'll settle it, even among blind men. This ain't all
amusement, this lassoo-duel on hoss-back, an' I see Andrews look
wickedly content. "Nothing barred," sez he; "we rope hoss or rider,
"Sure thing," sez I. I don't know to this day whether or not he
really thought I was green, but anyhow, he thought he had me at this
game, an' I saw in a moment 'at he had trained his pony; but he
didn't have any advantage over me. I was ridin' Hawkins, an' he had
been dodgin' ropes all his life an' liked the sport. We fenced for
an hour without bein' able to land, an' then he gets his noose over
Hawkins' neck. Before he can draw it tight I rides straight at him;
his pony has settled back for a jerk; I gets my noose over the
pony's neck, a loop over Andrew's right wrist, when he tries to ward
it off his own neck, an' then another loop over his shoulders,
pinnin' the left arm an' the right wrist to his body. My rope was
the shorter now so I sets Hawkins back an' takes a strain. I knew
what was goin' to happen when that. rope tightened--he would be
twisted out of the saddle an' his right arm dislocated--an' he knew
it too; an' he knew that I was goin' to do it. The boys was as
silent as the ace o'clubs.
His face went pale an' he looked at me with beggin' eyes, but mine
was hard as stone. I hated him for all the devil-thoughts he had put
into my head, an' I wanted to see him twisted an' torn. Then I just
happened to see two riders comin' in from toward the ranch house. I
knew by instinct it was Jabez an' Barbie, an' just as Andrews
started to twist in the saddle I touched Hawkins with the spurs,
rode up to him, threw off the loops, put a smile on my face--an'
shook hands with Bill Andrews, while all the boys give a cheer. I
was pantin' an' tremblin', but I don't think it was noticed, as I
kept that smile as easy-goin' an' good-natured as a floatin' cork.
Well, I kidded with the boys until Jabez got through decidin' on
what he wanted done with the different bunches, an' then when he an'
Barbie rode back to the house I went along. I made sure to brazen it
out as much as possible, an' not to give the impression that I was
as het up as I had been; but I knew that Bill Andrews was well aware
of what had saved him. I also knew that he'd hate me to the day of
his death--but he'd fear me to the last minute, an' he'd never start
but one more contest.
The Diamond Dot didn't seem so homelike after that; it was a heap
easier to get the best of Bill Andrews than it was to get rid of
those questions; but I tried to act just as much the same as
possible, only I did as much range ridin' as I could make seem
natural. I supposed that Bill Andrews would leave, but he didn't; he
stayed right along an' he worked hard an' he never kicked. He was
allus friendly with me, but he didn't overdo it, an' things went
along smooth as joint oil.
Barbie had gone through all the stuff they taught at the Spike Crick
School, an' was studyin' some advance stuff with the teacher who was
ambitious to finish her own edication. This was a big surprise to
me; I had allus supposed that a teacher knew everything, but it
seems not. The' 's lots they don't know, an' the front they put up
before a pupil is two thirds bluff. A naked body's a disappointin'
sight, but I bet a naked soul would make a crow laugh.
All through that winter I was tryin' to find an excuse to quarrel
with Jabez, but the' wasn't none. The' wasn't one hitch in the whole
outfit except that I'd lost my taste for it. I couldn't get it out
of my head that one man had already taken me for a child's playmate,
an' while I knew that this particular man had other views by this
time, I didn't know how long it would be before some one else would
find that same idea gettin' too big to keep under his breath; so the
very second that spring opened I hunted up Jabez one mornin' after I
had given old Pluto a special good rubbin', an' after talkin' a
while about nothin' at all, I sez to him, "Jabez, I'm goin' to pull
out purty soon."
"What for?" sez he.
The' ain't no chance on this place for a man to get on," I sez.
"What do you want to get on for?" Sez he. Well, that was a fetcher.
The great trouble in debatin' with a man is, that he never flushes
up the kind of an idea 'at your gun is loaded to shoot. "What does
any one want to get on for?" sez I.
"I don't know," sez Jabez, kind o' sad like. "It's been so long
since I wanted to get on that I can't remember what fool notion it
was that sicked me at it; but it looks to me as though you was doing
purty well, considerin' the way you work."
There it was again. It was just for all the world as if the watchdog
had gone on a strike for higher wages. "Well, you're right about
that," sez I. "If I owned a place like this, I wouldn't board a man
who didn't do more than I do. That's one reason why I'm goin' to
travel on a little--I 'm gettin' so rusty that the creakin' o' my
joints sets my teeth on edge."
"Poor old man," sez Jabez, sarcastic. "I saw you vaultin' over Pluto
this mornin'. You'd better be careful, you're liable to snap some o'
your brittle bones. I'll have to put you on a pension."
"Pension bell!" I snaps. "I've been pensioned too long already. The'
ain't any chance for a man with get-up, over a low grade coffee-
cooler on this place, an' I 'm sick of it. I'm goin' to hunt up a
job where it will pay me to do my best."
"How much pay do you want, for heaven's sake?" sez he.
"I don't want any more pay for what I 'm doin'," sez I, "but I do
want more opportunity. You don't keep any out an' out foreman here
"An' it wouldn't make any difference if I did," he snaps in. "It's
allus best to get an imported foreman, an' not have any jealousy;
but confound you, I pay six men on this place foremen's wages--an'
you're one of 'em."
"Six?" sez I.
"Yes, I raised Bill Andrews' pay last week. He does more work than
any of you, all' he ain't all the time growlin'. He won't never have
any friends either, so if I was to choose a foreman he'd be my
pick." "I was foreman of the Lion Head a good many years ago," sez
I, "an' I built it up, an' my work was appreciated: but I was a fool
kid then. Now I 'm gettin' along ill years an' I don't intend to
waste any more o' my life."
"How old are ya, Happy?" sez he, laughin'.
"Well, I'll be thirty years old--before so many more years," sez I,
lookin' full as indignant as I felt, I reckon. "You're nothin' but a
kid in most things," sez Jabez, an' his voice was so friendly that I
began to cool. Then he said, "Why, I never think of you like I do
the rest o' the boys, though I rely on you a heap more. You've allus
been like one o' the family, like; an' you an' Barbie have played
around together until most o' the time I think of ya as about the
same age; but if it's anything in the money line, why speak out. I
was a young feller myself once, an' if you've happened to run up any
debts on some o' your town trips, why I'll pass you over a little
extra an' take it out in laughin' at you."
By George, he made it hard for me. One moment he'd tramp on my corn
an' the next he'd scratch me between the shoulders; but the more he
said the more I see that I did not have any regular place in the
team; I was just a colt playin; beside, an' it gritten on me
"Jabez," I sez, "it's hard for me to explain myself. I like this
place an' you know it; but if you had a son o' your own, you
wouldn't like to see him settlin' down before he'd struggled up a
little. I'm old enough now to take a practical view o' life, an' I
intend to become a business man."
He tried not to grin, I'll say that for him, but he couldn't cut it.
"Why, bless your heart, boy, you never will be practical, an' as for
business, you have about the same talent for it as a grizzly bear.
You enjoy life as you go along, an' you enjoy it full an' free; a
business man don't enjoy anything but makin' money. You may be rich
some day, but it won't be from attendin' to business. Now take a
lay-off if you want to, an' get this nonsense out of your system,
then come back here. You know 'at Barbie misses you every minute
"All right," I sez, "I'll try it. I want to leave this place once,
the same as if we was both grownup, not as if we had had a child's
quarrel. I'll go an' I'll take my lay-off by bucklin' tight down to
business; but if it don't seem to agree with me, why, I'll come back
here an' make a report."
"Now, don't stay away long, cause the little girl is lonesome for
company, an' as she sez to me the other night, you're better company
than any book, an' you've got more intelligence than a school-
"Yes," I went on, "an' I don't require beatin' as often as a fur
rug, an' my hair don't shed off as bad as a dog's, an' if I could
just forget that I 'm a human bein' I wouldn't be any more bother
than the rest o' the furnishings; but that is the one thing that 's
on my mind just now--I 'm a man, an' it's time I began to practice
Barbie wasn't quite so easy to get away from as Jabez was. She
couldn't believe but what we'd been quarrelin'. When you came right
down to givin' the actual reason for my departure without mentionin'
any o' the true cause, it was a rather delicate project for a man
who hadn't no experience in makin' political speeches: an' Barbie
gave me a purty complete goin' over.
We talked it out for a week, but my mind was made up to go an' the'
wasn't anything that could stop me, unless it was mighty important;
an' at last she stopped arguin' an' just began to look sorry. That
was hardest of all.
"Happy," she sez to me one night when we was ridin' back from Look
Out, "don't you think I'm old enough now to ask Dad about what that
I turned an' looked at her; the sun was just about to duck behind
the ridge, an' her face was in all its brightness. It was a lot
different face from that of the child who had asked the question so
long ago. It was serious with its question, an' it looked like the
face of a woman. This was the first time she had mentioned the
subject since I'd been back, an' I hadn't thought she dwelt on it
any more; but I saw now that it lay close up to her heart, an' was
the one thing she never could ride away from. "I'm purt' nigh
fifteen," she went on. "Fifteen is a goodly age," I sez, but not
sarcastic. I was thinkin' of Jabez an' myself that mornin', an'
wonderin' if age cut so much figger after all. "Do you an' your dad
ever talk about your mother any more?" I asked her.
"Not much," she said. "When one wants to know all, and one don't
want to tell any, the' ain't much satisfaction in talkin' about--
about even your own mother. Don't you still miss your mother?"
"Well, I wouldn't like to tell everybody," sez I, "but I sure do.
Why, if the' was any way on earth that I could go back to her, I'd
sure go--this very minute."
"At least you know about her. If I just knew about my mother it
might be all right. You can't seem to get close to even a mother
when you don't know a single thing about her. If you know people
well, you can tell what they'd do under any kind of conditions, an'
if you know what they have done, an' what they've been through, you
know purty well what they are; but when you don't know anything at
all, it makes it hard, awful hard."
I didn't have anything to say to her that would help, so I didn't
say anything; an' after we had ridden on a while she said, "Happy, I
don't want you to be a business man. The Easterners that rile me up
worse than any other kind are the business men. They allus calculate
how a thing could be turned into money. Why, if one of 'em lived out
here he'd put a cash value on of Mount Savage. They allus make me
think o' Dombey."
"What was th' about that buckskin mustang to make you think of a
business man?" sez I, thinkin' she meant a little ridin' pony she
used to have.
"I don't mean Dobbins," sez she, "I mean a character out of a book.
He was such a good business man that he let most of life slip by
him. I don't want you to do that." "Well, I'll try not to," sez I,
"an' it may be that beginnin' late in life like I am, I won't become
enough of a business man to get that way; but the' is one thing
sure--I 'm through with my nonsense. I'm not goin' around playin'
like a boy any more, I'm goin' to start in an' stick to business all
this summer, an' see what comes of it."
"Where you goin' to start in?" sez she.
"How do I know?" sez I. "I'm just goin' to knock around till I meet
up with a business openin', an' then I 'm goin' to put my full might
into it till I know the whole game."
"I don't believe that's the way they do it," sez she. "These ones
that I've heard braggin' about bein' business men don't look to me
as if they ever did much knockin' around. They generally have
everything all planned out when they begin, and then follow out the
plans. Are you goin' to start in some town or go into a big city?"
"Well, I can tell you more about it when I get back," sez I. "I
stayed three days in San Francisco oncet, but I didn't like it--it
was too cramped up. I'm thinkin' o' headin' that way though."
"Well, as soon as you've give business a good fair try-out, you'll
come back here an' tell us about it, won't you?" sez she. The sun
had dropped by this time; but I could still make out her face in the
twilight. The eyes were big an' soft an' glisteny, the lips were
parted an' were tremblin' a little; it was a brave little face, but
it looked lonesome. Something began to tighten around my heart. an'
I didn't want to go; but I had put my hands to the plow, an' I
didn't intend to back-track till I'd turned one full furrow. "Yes,"
I sez. "Honor bright, just as soon as I've give it a fair trial I'll
come back an' let you know."
"You'll come before it snows if you can, won't you?" she sez, an' I
Well, for my part, I'd rather quarrel when I'm goin' to break any
ties. I stayed for five meals after that, but they was uncommon
dismal. We all tried to act as if everything was runnin' to suit us,
an' we all made a successful failure of it. When at last I was ready
to leave, Jabez shook my hand and said, "Now this is just a
vacation, Happy. Have your outing an' then come back an' settle down
here. Do you want to take your money with you, or leave it in the
bank until you decide to invest it?"
"What money?" sez I.
He grinned. "Oh, you'll make a business man all right. Don't you
remember givin' me six hundred dollars after you came back from the
Pan Handle? Well, it's been in the bank ever since, an' it's grew
some, I reckon."
"Well, let her keep on growin'," sez I. "I'm goin' to learn the
business before I invest in it."
"That's sense," sez he. "Did you ever have any experience?"
"I was clerk in a restaurant once," sez I; "but I didn't like it,
an' I don't reckon I'll go into the restaurant business."
Barbie rode a long way with me, but we didn't talk much.
I don't suppose the' ever was a time when we both had so much to
say; but we couldn't seem to say it, an' when we came to part all
she said was, "Oh, Happy, I hate to see you go, but I'm sure you'll
come back in the fall."
"I'll come back as soon as I feel I can," sez I; "an' now don't
worry none yourself, an' don't fret your Dad--an' don't forget old
Happy." We shook hands long an' firm, an' her eyes seemed tryin' to
hold me until I couldn't look into 'em--but I didn't kiss her this
time. We both noticed it, an' we both knew 'at while I was partin'
from her she was partin' from her childhood. Partin' from anything
'at you've been fond of is mighty sad business; and so I rode away
BUSINESS IS BUSINESS
I felt entirely different this time. I wasn't smartin' under anger
an' unjust treatment; I was goin' out of my own accord an' because I
had left behind me the carelessness of boyhood, hood, an' was ready
to plow an' plant an' wait for a crop. No more gaiety, no more
frivolity, no more heedlessness. I was to scheme an' plan for the
future an' not be led astray by every enticin' amusement that
beckoned to me.
When I came in sight of Danders the second day, I didn't inquire how
my thirst was feelin'--no more thirst emersions for mine. The' ain't
any profit in that, sez I to myself; what I want to do is to ease
this old skin of a pony along until I can get a piece of money for
him; that's business.
I wasn't much acquainted over in Danders, an' I thought it would be
easy slidin'; but the first feller I met was a useless sort of a
cuss what had been punchin' cows at the Diamond Dot the time the
Prophy Gang tried to clean it out, an' he has to tell 'em who I am,
an' they had all heard about me an' Bill Andrews; so 'at it was
purt' nigh impossible for me to hold out. I apologized for not
drinkin', an' they let me off; but the old Diamond Dot hand said he
was broke, an' wanted me to shove him a little stake.
Well, that was sure a bad opening: "Business," sez I, "don't let go
one cent unless it's goin' to grab another an' fetch it back home;"
an' I knew that all I gave this feller would keep in circulation for
the balance of eternity. Then a brilliant thought struck me, an' I
told him I'd give him one fourth of all he got for the pony over ten
dollars. He looked at the pony an' sez, "Who gets the ten dollars?"
"I gets the ten dollars," sez I. "This is business: I own the pony,
I pay you wages to sell him, the more you sell him for the more you
He looks at me a moment an' then he calls a gang around him an' sez
to 'em: "Here's a rich one, fellers. You see this pony--well, he was
too blame old to herd geese with when I was punchin' cows over at
the Diamond Dot, ten year ago, an' now Happy wants me to sell him,
me gettin' one fourth of all I rake in over ten dollars--an' HIM
gettin' the ten dollars. What do ya think o' that for nerve?"
Course they all laughed like a lot o' guinea-hens, but I knew that a
business man has to overlook the inborn ignorance of his customers,
or else it's twice as hard to land 'em; so I just smiled polite.
"What is your first offer, men?" sez my salesman. "Who'll give me a
hundred dollars for this grand old relic; this veteran of a hundred
wars; this venerable and honorable souvynier of bygone ages?" Well,
that blame fool went on pilin' it up while the crowd egged him on by
offerin' two bits, an' four bits, an' six bits an' a drink; an' so
on until I was disgusted and turned it off as a joke, tellin' the
blasted rascal to take the pony an' try to trade him for a night's
He takes my saddle an' bridle off an' puts 'em careful in the hotel,
an' then he takes the pony across the street an' begins to rub him
down. He rubs him a while an' combs out his stringy mane an' tail
with his fingers. Every now an' again he backs off an' examines that
pony as though he was actually worth stealin'. I couldn't make out
what he was up to, so I stood in front of the hotel watchin' him.
Purty soon up comes a tourist what has been lurkin' around in the
"What is the' about that pony that everybody takes such an interest
in him for?" sez he, glancin' over to where us fellers was gawkin'.
"Don't you know?" sez the feller, in surprise. I can't quite recall
his name now, but I think it was Bill. Anyhow, most fellers' names
is Bill, so we'll call him Bill. "Don't you know who this pony is?"
"Why no," sez the tourist. "I just arrived this mornin', an' I'm
waitin' for my uncle to send in after me."
"Is that so?" sez Bill. "Well, I'll bet your uncle knows who this
pony is. This pony is Captain. Who is your Uncle?"
"Why, my uncle is Charles W. Hampton," sez the tourist.
"You don't say!" sez Bill. "Well, Cholly knows who Captain is all
"Oh, do you know him?" sez the tourist.
"Why, everybody knows him around here," sez Bill.
"That's funny; they told me he lived over a hundred and forty miles
from here," sez the tourist. "But what is the' about Captain that
makes him so wonderful? He don't look like much of a pony to me."
Bill looks at the pony and then he looks at the tourist, then he
looks at the pony again an' sez in a low voice: "It ain't on his
looks, it's for what he's done that makes Captain famous."
"What's he done?" sez the tourist.
"Did you ever hear of Custer's massacre?" sez Bill.
"Of course I have," sez the tourist, gettin' interested.
Bill, he walks up an' puts his hand on the pony's neck, an' then he
turns an' sez proudly, "This here pony is the last survivin' remnant
of that historical event."
"You don't say!" sez the tourist. "What are you goin' to do with
"I don't want to say a word again the flag of my country," sez Bill,
holdin' tip his hand, "but my country ain't got the gratitude it ort
to have when it comes to hosses. I don't blame 'em for condemnin'
the common run o' hosses an' sellin' 'em to wear out their pore
lives in--in toilsome labor, but when it comes to a hoss with a
record like Captain--well, I kept him as long as I could afford it.
Now I'm goin' to give him a good groomin', spend my last penny in
givin' him one more feed, an' then take him out on the broad free
prairie of his native soil--an' shoot him. Of course I could sell
him, but I won't do it. I'd rather give him a soldier's death than
to have him hammered around in his old age, after all he's done for
Well, the tourist, he gets all het up over it, an' then he comes
over to where us fellers gathered. We're standin' in solemn awe, an'
he sees the' ain't any of it put on; but he can't tell that it ain't
respect for what the pony has done that makes us so solemn; he can't
see 'at we 're off erin' up our tribute to Bill.
"Do any of you gentlemen know anything about that pony?" sez the
"Who, Captain!" sez a tall, lanky, sad-lookin' puncher. "Well, it
ain't likely that you can find a man in the West who wouldn't
recognize that pony by the description. That there pony was in the
"The gentleman what owns him is goin' to shoot him," sez the
"Well, perhaps it's all for the best," sez the sad one. "I ain't no
millionaire, but I offered him thirty-seven dollars for that pony.
He doubted that I'd take good care of him, so he wouldn't sell him
to me. He said he didn't think I'd abuse the pony when I was sober,
but I'll have to own up that when a friend--when a friend invites me
to have a drink, I can't say no--an' I got a darn sight o' friends
in this country."
The' ain't no use in draggin' this out. After that tourist had
agreed to treat that pony like the saints of glory, Bill, he finally
sold him to him for an even fifty dollars--an' it was me that bought
the liquor for the crowd.
I'm good-natured enough to suit any one reasonable, but I own up I
was sore. Here I'd started out with the best intentions in the
world, with my mind all made up not to be led into temptation or
turned from a set purpose, an' what was the first result? I had
simply given my entire stock in trade away to a worthless loafer,
an' had seen him sell it for fifty dollars after he had made all
manner of fun of me for offerin' one fourth of all he made over ten.
Why, the pony was worth seven dollars, an' I could have sold him for
that money myself if I hadn't let them laugh me into showin' of.
Then to top off with, I'd blown in about a month's wages just to
show the gang I was able to take a joke when it was measured out to
I was ready right at that minute to own tip that business didn't
come natural to me; but I enjoyed myself plenty enough until along
toward mornin', an' then the penjalum begun to swing back. I sat
over in the corner kickin' myself purty freely, when a funny,
twisted little man came over an' sat across from me. He had pink-
like cheeks an' shiny little eyes, an' he was middlin' well crowded
with part of the wet goods I had been payin' for. "It was one o' the
smoothest business deals I ever saw put through--on a small scale,"
"Oh, hang business," sez I.
"Well, it's a hangin' matter often enough," sez he. "Do you know the
reason why the' 's so much devilment in this world?"
"It's 'cause the' 's so many people here," sez I; "that's easy
"It's 'cause the preachers ain't got the nerve to explain what the
commandments mean," sez he.
It was an awful curious little man, an' I kind o' straightened up
an' give him a searchin' look: "I've met a heap like you," sez I.
"Some folks think that preachers is paid to make the world better,
but they ain't. They're paid so that when a feller's conscience
hurts him he can just lay all the sins of the whole world on the
"They deserve 'em," sez the little man. "What does it mean to
"Why, any fool knows what stealin' is," sez I. "It's takin'
something that don't belong to you."
"How can you tell what does belong to you," he sez, leanin' forward
as if he was makin' a point.
I looked at him an' saw that he really thought he was talkin' sense,
so I sez: "You go talk to some one else. I'm too sleepy an' I'm too
blame sore to bother with such nonsense."
"It ain't nonsense," sez he. "I'm an edicated man, an' I been
studyin' life ever since I been born. My father was a preacher
across the water, an' I got arrested for stealin' a bottle of
whiskey when I wasn't nothin' but a boy. The whole family was
disgraced on account of me, an' my father told 'em to go ahead an'
give it to me hard. Now I stole that whiskey on a dare, an' I stole
it from a good church member; but all the rest of my life I been
stretchin' that there commandment until I tell you the whole human
race is one set o' thieves."
Well, I was purty sleepy, but the little old man had an eye in him
like a headlight, an' he just made you listen to him. "The' ain't no
sense in your slingin' mud that way," sez I. "The' 's lots of men
'at wouldn't steal, if they had a chance."
"If I ruin my constitution through depravity, is it stealin'?" sez
"No," sez I, "it's darn foolishness."
"It is stealin'," sez he, "just as much as if I help to waste
natural products what can't be replaced--stealin' from the children
of the next generation, an' all the followin' generations."
"What rights have they got?" I sez, losin' my patience. "They ain't
even born yet."
"Did you ever see a baby?" sez he.
"Yes," I sez, "I bet I've seen a dozen of 'em."
"Well," sez he, "was they polite? Did they beg for what they wanted?
Did they have any doubt but that they'd be plenty of everything to
"Not them what I saw," sez I. "They'd give one little coo, to see if
any one was handy, an' then they'd holler an' yell an' scold an'
fuss until they got what they wanted."
"Do you suppose if they didn't have any rights they'd have the nerve
to carry on that way?" sez he.
"Rights!" sez I. "They didn't have to have rights--they had
Well, that set him back a good ways, an' by the time he had thought
up some new stuff I was asleep; but he shook me awake an' sez, "Of
course the child's mother will do all she can; but supposin' she
ain't got what the child wants--how'll she explain it to him?"
"She won't bother explainin' nothin' to a baby," sez I. "She'll just
send the old man out to get it."
He looked sort o' disgusted like, as if he wasn't used to arguin'
with a man what could handle logic an' make points. "You're just
like the rest," sez he. "What I mean is, that every man who has ever
been on earth is just sort of an overseer for them what is yet to
come. We have the right to use everything we want in the right way,
but we haven't any right to waste it or destroy it, or hog it up so
that all can't enjoy it. Why, when you start to savin' an' draw in
what ought to be circulatin', you steal from them what haven't had
the chance 'at you've had. It's wicked to be thrifty."
"Well, you're the craziest one I've seen yet," sez I, laughin'.
"Why, if you had your way you'd utterly ruin business."
"Business!" he yells, gettin' excited. "Do you know what business
I thought a moment. "I don't know all the' is to know about it," sez
I, "but I expect to give it a fair good work-out before I'm through
"Business," he sez, leanin' across the table an' hittin' it with his
finger-nail, "business is simply havin' the laws fixed so you can
steal without havin' to pay any fine. What is business? Ain't it
figgerin' an' schemin' to get away from a man whatever he happens to
have? That's nothin' but stealin'."
"Confound you," sez I, "do you mean to say that just because I'm
goin' to engage in business I'm a thief?"
He looked at me a moment an' then he shook his head. "No," he sez,
"you won't never be that kind, you'll be some other kind; but that's
about all business is--just thievery. Why, I once knew two men 'at
was the best friends 'at ever lived; an' they just ruined their
lives 'cause they couldn't resist the temptation of each tryin' to
grab all. It was over the Creole Belle--" "Yes, but she was a
woman!" I yells, jumpin' to my feet, an' leanin' over the table.
"No, it was a mine," sez he, sittin' still.
"A Creole is a cross-breed woman 'at came from New Orleans," sez I;
"an' when they're good lookin' enough, they call 'em belles."
"Well this here mine 'at I'm goin' to tell you about was called the
Creole Belle," he sez. "For a longtime it didn't pay to amount to
anything, an' then it began to pay; an' the two friends got
covetous, an' first George had Jack killed an' then he gets killed
himself by Jack's--"
"No, he wasn't killed," I snaps in like a blame fool.
The old man looked at me with his little shiny eyes all scrouged up.
"Who wasn't killed?" he sez, slow an' cautious. "Why, George Jordan
wasn't killed," I sez.
"What would a kid like you know about it" sez he.
"Well, I do know 'at he wasn't killed," I sez. "I been workin' for
him; he don't live but a short way from here. Tell the the whole
story. I'll make it worth your while. Come on, what'll you have to
He leaned forward with his hand clutchin' at his side, an' his pink
checks gray an' twisted. He coughed a dry, short cough, an' groans
out between his set teeth. "It 's my heart; I got a bum pump. You
tell George Jordan that I never breathed a word of it, but that Jack
Whitman--Oh, my God! Get me a drink of whiskey! Get me a drink of
He doubled up, grabbin' an' clawin' at his breast while I jumped to
the bar yellin' for whiskey. I grabbed the bottle an' hustled back
to him, but he was all crumpled up on the floor. We straightened him
out an' rubbed his wrists an' poured whiskey down his throat, an'
after a while he opened his eyes. The minute his senses got back to
him he clutched at his heart again, rollin' an' writhin', an' makin'
noises like a wounded beast. "I knew it would end this way," he
gasped. "I'm goin' out now, but listen to what I say"--he helt his
breath to keep from coughin'--"the' ain't no sin but stealin'. Don't
never take nothin' that don't belong to ya."
All his muscles grew rigid an' twisted, an' then a smile came on his
face an' he sank back. They had the doctor there by that time, but
the' wasn't anything to be done, except to give a big heathen name
to what had been the matter with him. There he lay on the bar-room
floor; the' was filth an' refuse all around him, but the smile on
his face was just plumb satisfied, an' yet it was a knowledgeable
smile too. I could 'a' cried when I thought that this man, who could
have told little Barbie what she wanted to know, had wasted all that
time tryin' to convince me that business an' stealin' was all one.
What he knew wouldn't do him a mite o' good, wherever he was; an'
yet the' wasn't any way on earth to bring him back long enough to
have him tell it.
They told me his name was Sandy Fergoson, an' that he was harmless
crazy. He used to float around doin' odd jobs an' talkin' nonsense
about stealin'; but nobody knew where he had come from, so I chipped
in a little something to help bury him, an' gave up the rest of my
money for a ticket to Frisco.
I didn't enjoy that trip to Frisco; business didn't seem so
attractive when you once set out to find her, an' then again, I was
broke. I don't mind bein' broke when I 'm on the range 'cause a
feller can pick up a job anywhere; but I wasn't city-wise, an' I
didn't know how long it would take me to track down the kind o'
business I wanted to engage in.
I suppose cities must suit some folks, or they wouldn't keep on
livin' in 'em; but cities sure don't suit me. I allus had a kind of
an idea from what Slocum had told me that I'd enjoy the bankin'
business, so I applied to the banks first. They're a blame offish
set, bankers. They didn't laugh at me,--leastwise not until after
I'd gone out,--but they didn't offer much encouragement. I tramped
around that city for four days, an' by the time I finally got
located in business my appetite was tearin' around inside my empty
body till I couldn't sleep nights. Oh, it was not joyful! I had
taken the position of porter in a mammoth big drygoods store, an' I
was some glad when noon arrived; but no one called me to partake of
dinner, so I went up to a young lad, an' sez, "Where do they spread
"Spread what?" sez he.
"Dinner," sez I.
"I bring mine with me," sez he.
"Is the grub that rotten?" sez I.
"What grub?" sez he. "You surely don't think they serve meals here,
"Do you mean to tell me that I got to find myself, out of forty a
month?" sez I.
He started to make up a joke, but I looked too famished to trifle
with; so he explained to me that all we got was wages, an' we
couldn't even sleep in the store. I was gettin' purty disgusted with
business, but he told me that the man what owned the whole store had
started in as a porter; so I went back an' portered harder than ever
that afternoon, wonderin' what in thunder kind of a man it was who
could save enough out of a porter's wages to buy a store like that.
I was dressed some different from the rest o' the folks around
there, so I attracted a lot of attention, an' the' wasn't much I did
that wasn't enjoyed by more or less of a crowd. When quittin' time
came I hustled up to the feller what had hired me an' told him I'd
like to have my day's pay. "We don't pay until Saturday night," sez
he, hustlin' out o' the store. I stood on the sidewalk thinkin'; an'
what I was thinkin' of, was the nonsense 'at Sandy Fergoson had been
talkin'. It didn't sound so foolish now.
The' was a little restaurant across the street, an' the owner of it
had noticed me washin' the windows--he had seemed to enjoy it too. I
went over an' told him that I would like to board with him if he
would make me rates. He sized me up an' sez he would board me for
six dollars a week. I didn't see how I could save enough to buy a
store out of four dollars a week, an' after I got tired o' seein'
the sights I'd have to rent a bed somewheres too; but what I needed
then was food, so I agreed.
I sat down an' begun to eat slow, 'cause it's always best to warm up
careful on a long job. I et away peaceful an' contented until I got
good an' used to it again, an' then I kept the waiters hoppin' purty
lively. The proprietor took a deep interest in me, an' dodged around
so he could have an unobstructed view; while the rest of the guests
got to noticin' too, an' when they'd finish they'd just stick around
an' keep cases, until after a while things began to jam, an' every
time I'd order in some new food they'd make bets on whether I'd be
able to finish it or not. When I finally quit, the proprietor came
up to me on a run an' sez, "Are you sure you have had all you wish?"
"Yes," I sez, "an' I ain't no fault to find with the cookin'
He eyed me all over, an' then he drew me to one side. "I don't want
to go back on my word," sez he, "an' I don't intend to charge you a
cent for this meal; but Great Scott, man, I wouldn't board you for
six dollars a day, let alone six dollars a week."
I didn't intend to let him know that I was stone broke, 'cause it
didn't seem the thing in a business man; but I did tell him that I
hardly ever et quite so much as I had that night. Still, he wouldn't
take any chances, so I took my blankets an' went on. I was purty
sleepy after my meal, an' it was just all I could do to stagger up
an' down the hills, before I found a place to flop in. It was under
a little tree in a big yard, an' I got out at sun-up 'cause I didn't
want any one to see a business man occupyin' such quarters as that.
I didn't miss breakfast much that day, an' I went about my work
singin' an' whistlin'. Just before noon I found a hundred dollars on
the floor close to the door.
I asked every one around if they had lost any money, an' most of 'em
said no, an' them what bad lost any--an' the' was a purty high
average that mornin'--had all lost the wrong amount, or else it was
in a different kind of a sack; so I knocked off at noon, went to a
new restaurant, an' et a fair meal, which they charged me one dollar
for. I thought that was goin' a little stout for a porter, but I
knew I'd find a place where I could live on my income as soon as I
got better acquainted, an' I was purty light-hearted when I got back
"You're nineteen minutes late," sez the floor boss.
"Is that so; what's happened?" sez I, pleasantly.
"You are not supposed to take more than an hour for lunch," sez he.
"Well, you can just take the nineteen minutes out of the time I
saved up yesterday," sez I.
"You must understand right at the start that business depends on
method," sez he, sour like. "Mr. Hailsworth wishes to see you at
Hailsworth was the capital letter o' that outfit, an' I was glad o'
the chance to see him, 'cause the' was some several changes I wanted
to make in the porterin' department. I follered the floor boss
upstairs an' back to a private room, where a little wizen-faced old
man sat up an' looked at me over his spectacles. "I understand you
found some money?" sez he.
"I did," sez I. "Do you know who lost it?"
"Well, no, not yet," sez he; "but of course you understand that any
money that is found in this building belongs to the firm, unless its
rightful owner claims it."
"Well that's a new wrinkle" sez I. "Why don't it belong to me?"
"'Cause you have hired your time to me, an' whatever you find here
you find in my time, so it's mine. This is the law, an' I am very
busy. Just hand it over at once."
"That ain't right," sez I, "an' I don't intend to hand over a nickle
"Then we'll have to arrest you," sez he. I put my hand down to my
leg, but both my guns was rolled up in my blankets. "I'm goin' out
to see a lawyer," sez I, thinkin' that would be more business-like
than to tell him I 'd blow the top of his head off. The' was lots
more things I wanted to tell him, but it took most o' my strength to
manage my self-control; an' I allus like to have good footin' when I
make my spring. I didn't feel at home, either, an' that's a heap. It
kind o' got on my nerves to see that little shrimp squattin' there
behind his spectacles an' tellin' me what I had to do, the same as
if I was a hoss. I turned on my heel and strode out o' that store
head up an' I was some glad that Hammy had taught me what strodin'
was, 'cause the rest o' the gang opened up a path you could 'a'
drove a street-sprinkler through.
I didn't like the looks o' that lawyer, he reminded me of a rat. I
don't care much for the law anyhow. All the law is fit for is to
take care o' the weak an' the ignorant--an' they can't afford it.
I've noticed that much, the little time I've been penned up in
cities. This lawyer o' mine had full command o' the kind o' talk
that bottles up a man an' keeps him from expressin' himself. He said
I had a good case an' that he would save me my findin's, but that I
had to give him half of it for his services--in advance. If you
don't tell a lawyer the truth he can't fight your case; an' if you
do you put yourself in his power. Course I don't claim to be
authority, but I just actually don't like the law.
When I came away from the law office, a nice friendly feller got
into conversation with me, an' after I'd bought him a couple o'
drinks, he grew confidential an' told me his troubles. He was owner
of a whole block of buildin's an' a lot o' residence houses, but he
was stone broke. He had had a quarrel with the banks, an' couldn't
raise a penny, an' he had lost ten thousand dollars the night
before, gamblin'. He said it would take forty dollars for him to go
to Los Angeles, where he had friends who would lend him any amount.
Otherwise they would foreclose the little mortgage he had on the
He talked along until I couldn't stand it any longer, so I give him
the forty on the condition that I was to be his collecting agent at
wages of two hundred a month, as soon as he got back from Los
I went down to the station with him and then I hunted up a place
where I took board and lodging for a week at six dollars in advance.
This left me purt' nigh two dollars to go on until the real estate
owner got back. I called around at my lawyer's every day, an' he
told me just to lay low an' he'd keep me out o' trouble. Then the
sixth day passed without the real estate owner I told the lawyer
about it an' asked him if he thought anything might have happened.
He got awful mad an' said he'd ought to be kicked for not chargin'
me ninety-five dollars for his services in the first place; an' by
Jinks that was the truth: that rascally real-estate owner wasn't
nothing but a flim-flammer.
At first I couldn't believe that the block he had showed me over
didn't belong to him; but when I did I was ready to wreak vengeance.
The lawyer said that wreakin' vengeance wasn't a thing that paid in
city life, but that if I ever met up with that flim-flammer I could
scare a lot of money out of him. My lawyer was a purty good sort of
a feller, after all, an' he gave me a lot of high-class advice. He
told me that it might be years before my case came up, an' that the'
wasn't any use of me waitin' around for it. Then he talked about
business, an' he an' Sandy Fergoson had about the same ideas of it,
though they used different words. He told me that it was all right
for a boy to start in in some old business an' learn the trade, but
that the thing for a man to do was to get a start in a smaller town,
an' then after he'd learned the ropes to come to the big town an'
cut things wide open.
The more I thought over this the better it looked to me; but I
hardly knew where to start in. Then the thought struck me that about
the best business move I could make was to go to Los Angeles an'
scare enough money out of the flim-flammer to give me a good start
in some little business of my own. My board bein' out an' my cash
bein' likewise, I had to travel on foot; but as my back was pointed
toward Frisco, I didn't mind that much.
I trudged along for several days, an' the' was enough people along
the line to welcome me to my meals, so I begun to get more resigned
to bein' a human again. The farther I got from Frisco the nearer I
got to Los Angeles, an' though I was some anxious to meet up with
the flim-flammer, I finally began to doubt if he was worth the
bother, an' besides, he might not be there anyway.
I was beginnin' to get good an' sick of business; an' I was more
than convinced that gettin' a feller's own consent to engage in it
wasn't the hardest step he'd ever have to take. Wayside friends was
beginnin' to get mighty scarce, an' I was feelin' lonesome above the
average one mornin', when I came to a pause in front of one o' these
little six-acre ranches where they raise lawn grass an' fresh air.
It was a purty, restful sort of a place, with a double row of trees
leadin' up to the house, an' somethin' seemed to be drawin' me in at
the front gate, although I couldn't smell any food cookin', either.
I only waited about a minute, an' then I followed the draw.
I'm a firm believer in Fate. Fate is a funny word: leave the first
letter off, an' it 's the cause; leave the last letter off, an' it's
the result. Barbie found this out one night when we was discussin'
Fate. But I mean the sober side o' Fate, when I say I believe in it.
A train starts out o' New York city just the same time that a fool
cow puncher ropes a pony so he can ride to town for a big time. The
puncher reaches the washed-out railroad bridge five minutes before
the train--what do you call that?
I was thinkin' o' these things while I was walkin' up the drive-way;
an' when I raised up my hand to knock, I felt just as if I'd been
THE CHINESE QUESTION
It happened just like I thought it would. I hadn't more than struck
the fourth or fifth tap before the door was opened by the finest
little woman you ever saw. She had a worried lock on her face, but
when she saw me the clouds rolled away an' she smiled clear into my
heart. She was a real lady--it stuck out all over her, like a keep-
"Are you the man?" sez she.
"Well, I'm one of 'em," sez I.
"You know I sent clear to San Francisco for a man," sez she, "an' I
suppose you're the man."
"To tell you the honest truth," sez I, "I was so preoccupied in
Frisco that I clean forgot to stop around for my mail, but as long
as we're conversin' on this subject, I'll just be bold enough to say
'at I'll take the job, without askin' what it is."
"Have you had a wide experience?" sez she.
"Wide?" sez I. "Wide, only just begins to give you a hint at it. I
ain't filled with the lust of vanity, nor I ain't overly much given
to tootin' my own horn; but in my humble an' modest way I guarantee
to be able to do anything on this good, green earth 'at don't
require a book edication."
"Can I trust you?" sez she, lookin' into my face mighty searchin'.
"If you sell me anything," sez I, smilin' as near like a baby as I
could, "you'll have to trust me, 'cause I'm dead broke." She just
stood an' looked in through my face; an' I tell ya, boys, I was
mighty glad that in all this rip-snortin' world the' wasn't one
single woman who could rise up an' say that I hadn't played fair.
She kept on lookin' into me, until I knew she was readin' everything
I had ever done or said or thought, an' the sweat was tricklin' down
my back like meltin' snow.
"Yes," she sez finally, "I can trust you."
"Don't you never doubt it," sez I. "All you need to do is to issue
the orders, an' if I don't carry 'em out, why, just tell the folks
not to send flowers. I ain't long on talk, but I'll agree to carry
out any plan you've got, from ditchin' a limited to shootin' up a
Methodist Church. That's me," sez I, "an' now let's have the news."
Talk about bein' surprised! I thought she had a fence war on her
hands at the least; but what she wanted me to do was to take care of
a gentle old pair o' hosses, milk a cow, tend a garden, cut the
grass, an' help around the house. By the time she finished the
program, I felt like a fightin' bulldog when a week-old kitten spits
at him. Here I was, willin' to leave my hide tacked up on her barn,
an' all she wanted was a kind of lady-gardener. I just sort o'
wilted down on the steps, an' I must 'a' turned pale, 'cause she
said to me, "Why, you must be hungry. Haven't you had your
"Oh, yes," sez I, "day before yesterday."
Then she begun to rustle about an' fix me up a snack, an' I was glad
I had followed the finger o' Fate. The bill o' fare seemed
altogether adapted to my disposition.
While I was fillin' up the chinks an' crevices, she dealt out a
varigated assortment of facts. It seemed they lived there on account
o' the health o' the baby. Her husband had had to go East, an' would
be there some six weeks longer. When he had left, she had an Irish
cook, an' a Chinaman as polite as an insurance agent; but as soon as
he was gone, the Chink began to take liberties, the cook packed up
her brogue an' headed for an inhabited community, an' then the Chink
concluded that all he saw was his'n. She finally took a brace a'
told him to hit the trail, an' he had gone off, vowin' to come back
an' burn down the whole place. This was her first year there, an'
the closest neighbor was seven miles across country, an' not well
She expected her cousin in a week or so, but as it was, she was
beginnin' to have trouble with her nerves. Then I was glad that I
had made her my little openin' address, 'cause she had joyfulled up
like a desert poney when he smells water.
Well, I put in a rich an' useful day, as the preacher sez. First, I
rode one o' the veterans over to the station about ten miles away,
an telegraphed the other man not to bother; then I came back an' wed
the onions, washed the dishes, ran the washin' machine--say, I was
bein' entertained all right, but every minute I felt like reachin'
to see if my back hair wasn't comin' down.
Me an' the cow had the time of our life that night. She had missed a
couple o' milkin's, an' didn't seem to care much about resumin'
payment; so I finally had to rope an' tie her, an' milk up hill into
a fruit-jar. Talk about bein' handy? I didn't know but what next day
I'd be doin' some plain sewin', or tuckin' the crust around a
That night after supper she put the kid to bed an' then came down,
an' we went around nailin' the house up. Finally she showed me where
to flop. It was in her husband's cave, I believe she called it--a
little room full o' books an' pipes an' resty-lookin' furniture.
The' was a big leather bunk, an' that was where I was to get mine.
Her room was at the head of the stairs, an' she had a rope goin'
over the transom with a bell hangin' to it, close in front of my
door. The bell was to be my signal if she heard the Chink attack
before I did. Just before she went upstairs she reached into the
bosom of her dress an' fished out a real revolver, about the size of
a watch-charm. She held it in her hand and looked into my eyes with
her lips tight set.
"Are the mosquitoes as bad as that?" sez I.
"I carry this all the time, to defend myself an' child," sez she,
rufflin' up like a hen when you pick up her chicken, an' she was so
earnest about it that I nearly choked, swallerin' a grin; 'cause
honest, I could 'a' snuffed the thing up my nose.
I pulled a long face an' sez to her as solemn as a judge, "Is there
enough food and water in the house to stand a siege, in case the
Chinaman'd pen us up?" Her face grew drawn an' worried until she
caught the twinkle in my eye, an' then she broke into a simile an'
tripped upstairs like a girl. I stood out in the hall a moment
lookin' after her an' I was mighty glad I had come. We was both in
need of company; her mind was a heap easier than it had been that
mornin', an' I felt better than I had for some several days. I
couldn't see where Sandy Fergoson had told me anything that would
get me any nearer what Barbie wanted to know; an' yet I couldn't
keep my mind off studyin' over it, except when I was busy. It was
the same with Bill Andrews, an' I was glad to have some one new to
worry over until I got tuned up again.
As soon as she shut an' locked her door, I backed into my stall an'
looked about. The' was some invitin' lookin' books on the wall, an'
I read over the titles, finally selectin' one called, "The Ten
Years' Conflict." Now, if ever the' was a name framed up to deceive
the innocent, this here was the name. I opened the book with my
mouth waterin', thinkin' I was about to wade through two volumes of
gore; but it started out to tell about the Church of Scotland, an' I
wasn't able to keep awake to even the beginnin' of the scrap; so I
started to prepare myself for the morrow's duties, as the preacher
After I had opened my roll an' took out my guns, so I could show 'em
to her in the mornin' an' sort o' cheer her up, I shed my boots an'
proceeded to occupy my bunk. Say, it was like floppin' down on a
tubful o' suds. Springs! Well, you should have seen Uncle Happy
bouncin' up an' down. I reckon I went to sleep in mid-air, 'cause I
was too tired to remember whether I was a husky maid or a tender
When I came to, I thought it must sure be the last day, an' that I
had waited for the very last call. The dinner-bell was a-knockin'
all the echoes in the house loose an' they was fallin' on my ear-
drums in bunches. I rushed out into the hall an' grabbed that bell
by the tongue, an' give a yell to let her know that I was ready for
orders. She opened the door an' came to the head of the stairs, an'
sez, "Hush-shh! Don't make any noise."
"Noise!" sez I. "The' ain't any left. You used up all the raw
material. What seems to be wrong?"
"Fido has just been growlin'," sez she, in a low whisper, "an' I
heard a noise out in the bushes."
"What shall I do?" sez I. "Come up there an' toss Fido out into the
bushes, so as to kill two birds with one stone?" "No," sez she. "If
you are willin' to take the risk, I wish that you would go out the
front door an' lock it after you. Then look around careful and see
if he is settin' fire to the house. Take my revolver an' Fido, an'
do be careful not to get hurt--an' don't kill him unless you have
"I won't kill him unless I see him, an' he won't hurt me unless he
sees me first," sez I. "You better keep Fido an' the gun. I don't
want to be bothered with a couple o' noncombatants."
Fido was a little black woolly-faced dog, an' he didn't impress me
as bein' no old Injun-fighter. I went out an' chased a cat out o'
the bushes; but didn't flush up a single thing wantin' to disturb
the peace, except the goat. He was the most frolicsome goat I ever
see, an' he about got my tag before I heard him comin'. I rummaged
the place purty thorough, an' after tellin' her that all was well, I
folded my wings an' went to roost on the leather bunk again.
Twice more that night the clanging bell summoned me to go forth an'
chase imaginary Chinamen, an' then my patience begun to get baggy at
the knees. I wanted to be up in time to gather the milk before the
heat of the day, an' I was a couple o' nights shy on my sleep
already. The last time I took Fido along an' dropped him into the
feed-bin, where he could hunt Chinamen to his heart's content 'thout
disturbin' my beauty sleep.
Our days flowed along smooth an' peaceful; but most o' the nights I
put in huntin' Chinamen. No, I wouldn't have killed one if I could
have found him--well, not all at once. I got so I could churn an'
dust an' do fancy cookin', until if they'd been any men in that
locality, I reckon one would have chose me to be his wife--an' then
came the cousin.
She'd been tellin' me all about him--it's miraculous the way a
woman's talk'll flow after it's been dammed up a spell. He was from
Virginie an' was goin' to college to study chemistry, whatever that
is; an' he was an athlete an' a quarter-back an' a coxswain--oh, he
was the whole herd, the cousin was. I begun to feel shy whenever I
thought of him. I feared he might arrive when I was peelin' spuds
with my apron on, an' he might choose to kiss me.
I drove to the station after him; but nobody got off the train
except a nice lookin' boy with outlandish clothes, an' a couple o'
trunks. After the train had pulled out, he sez to me, "Can you tell
me the way to Mrs. B. A. Cameron's?"
"I can sight you purty close," sez I. "That's my present
headquarters. You--you ain't Ralph Chester Stuart, are ya?"
"You win," sez he, as though we had made mud-pies together. "Come
on, let's load the trunks an' trip toward where ther's a noise like
food. I'm troubled with what they call a famine."
We drove along, an' he was as merry as a bug an' talked a langwidge
the like of nothin' that I had ever met up with before; but I was
tryin' to fit his real size with my idea of it. I had been lookin'
for a six-footer with bulgy muscles an' a grippy jaw. This pink-
cheeked boy didn't look like no athlete to me. He was so cute an'
sweet that I felt like hangin' a string o' coral beads around his
neck an' savin' him for my adopted daughter. I had just concluded to
hand over the dish-washin' right at the start, when he fished up a
pipe out of a case, filled it, an' begun to puff like a grown-up,
an' then I savvied that dish-washin' wasn't one of his hobbies. "Any
sport here?" sez he.
"If you're good at dreamin," sez I, "you can have the time of your
life huntin' Chinamen. I never see a place yet where the huntin' was
so plentiful an' the game so scarce."
He got interested in a minute an' told me he had a shotgun, a rifle,
an' three revolvers.
"I wish I could write Chinese," sez I.
"What for?" sez he.
"So I could put up a sign warnin' him away," sez I. "Why, if we'd
all three get a chance at that Chinaman, it'd take me a solid week
to clean him off the lawn."
Ches an' me got along fine. He was a game little rooster, an' his
college stories used to tickle me half to death. I never would have
believed that a little feller could 'a' been a college athlete; but
Ches had got his pictures in the papers, time an' again. At college
they race in a boat about the size an' shape of a telegraph pole,
eight of 'em rowin' an' the coxswain perched tip behind, pickin' out
the path an' tellin' the rowers not to think of their future, but to
kill theirselves right then if it will win the race. Ches sez that
the coxswain is the most important man in the boat. He had a good
deal the same views about the quarter-back, in fact he took what
they call a purely personal estimate of life.
He showed me how to play football. It's pleasant pastime, but too
excitin' for a frail thing like me. He gave me his cap to carry, an'
told me to back off about twenty feet, an' try to run over him, or
stick my stiff-arm in his face or dodge him--any way at all to get
by. I backed off an' then I looked at him. He looked about as hard
to get by as a toadstool.