Part 5 out of 6
use she was goin' to put her edication to. Sometimes she was minded
to go on the stage, at others lawyerin' looked good to her, but most
of the time she seemed to think that a female doctor would come
nearer fittin' her than anything else.
Me an' Jabez worried about it a heap; but we was wise enough to hide
it. We knew that Barbie carted around at all times what they call a
spirit of combativity, which fattened on opposition, an' we
preferred to let her scrap it out with herself, hopin' that what she
finally decided on would be all for the best.
Jabez said good-bye at the edge of the ranch, while I drove her over
to Webb Station. I kind o' fought shy of Danders 'cause it seemed to
me that the' was always some kind of a job waitin' for me there, an'
Barbie had left me a heap of work for that winter. "Have you learned
anything yet?" she asked me, after the train had pulled into sight
an' we was shakin' hands.
"Not a thing for certain," sez I. "I've stumbled onto several
rumors, but they always went out. Do you still study over it much,
"Never a day goes by but what I study over it," sez she. "There
isn't anything I wouldn't give to know about my mother--all about
"Are you sure, Barbie?" said I.
She thought hard a minute, an' then she threw back her head an'
looked into my eyes. "Yes," she said, in a low tone, "I'd give
everything--even the love and respect I feel for my father."
I gave a little shiver. "Barbie," I sez, "I don't think you'll ever
have to pay that high a price. I never saw your Dad cruel in cold
blood, an' he's purty just."
"Oh, I would rather die than find out that he'd ever been cruel to
my mother; but I do want to know about her; and some day I will."
She squeezed my hand hard and her eyes were wet with tears when she
stepped on the train; but she tried to smile, she sure did.
RICHARD WHITTINGTON ARRIVES
Well, that winter rolled by without a break. Me an' Jabez had just
about learned how to take each other, an' we didn't stretch our
harness to the snappin' point. Bill Andrews had finally got tol'able
well acquainted with me also, an' was able to savvy that while peace
was my one great desire, the' was some prices that I wouldn't pay
We was all het up when the graduation day finally came, an' we
didn't do a lick of work on the ranch; just gathered around the
ranch buildin's, polishin' up her harness an' hosses, an' talkin'
about her in hushed voices. She had won honors an' medals an' one
thing or another until I reckon we felt purty much as Mrs.
Washington did when she was cleanin' house to welcome the father of
his country after he had showed England where to reset the boundery
Barbie had wrote us that she was goin' to cut out a string of
invitations as long as your arm and pike right out for home as soon
as she had finished her part of the program, an' we weren't able to
do a tap until she arrived. At first I was minded to drive down
after her, an' then I decided that it would be better for me to stay
at home an' line up the boys in some sort of style to receive her.
Spider Kelley went after her and as soon as they hove in sight I had
all the punchers charge down an' shoot their guns off in the air.
They was wearin' their gaudiest raiment an' shoutin' their heads
off, an' she owned up herself that it topped anything she ever saw
in the East. She stood up in the buckboard an' took off her hat an'
swung it about her head and shouted, "Boys, you're just bully--every
one of you!" an' say, the' wasn't a puncher on the Diamond Dot that
wouldn't have given up his hide to make her a pair o' ridin' gloves.
Jabez had waited back at the ranch house an' he was tremblin' when
we left him to ride down an' meet her.
Here she was, comin' back for the last time with all the learnin' of
the earth packed away in her head, an' niched up with more degrees
than a thermometer; but it hadn't changed her heart, not one grain;
an' when she saw the home buildin's with ol' Mount Savage sittin' up
on his throne an' all the little peaks bowin' before him, like pages
to a king, she jes' threw out her arms as though she would take in
the whole outfit in one big hug, an' her eyes filled up with tears
as she sez, "Oh, Dad. I love it! I love every inch of it, every line
of it, every shade of it; an' I've hungered an' thirsted for it all
these years--an' for you, Dad, for you most of all."
Well, you should have seen Jabez. Beam? Why, I reckon you could have
lit a cigar on his face, an' he fluttered around like a hen with one
chicken an' that one a duck. He couldn't quite believe that it was
all true and that he was actually awake. He had worried so long
about her cuttin' into some new game as soon as her schoolin' was
done that he hardly dared rejoice for fear it would wake him up; but
it didn't take her long to begin enjoyin' her old freedom again. It
took us some longer to adjust ourselves to her, however.
Now she hadn't changed such an awful sight, an' yet the' was
somethin' about her 'at made you feel like touchin' your hat when
she issued an order. Not that she was uppity nor nothin'; she
rambled around playin' with the colts an' the calves, an' rompin'
with the dogs, an' fairly stackin' up the whole place in little
heaps. An' she rustled up her old sombrero an' leggin's just as
though she had never set a hoof off the range. Still, the' was
somethin' about her you couldn't quite put your finger on; but which
you knew in your heart was there all the time, awaitin' till she
made up her mind to call it out; like a handful o' regulars givin'
dignity to a scrawny two by twice fort in the Injun country.
We took up our ridin' again, an' just as I was gettin' used to it,
along comes a feller lookin' about two thirds starved. His clothes
was ragged an' soiled, he had forgot his baggage, he was on foot
(an' when I say on foot, I don't only mean that he was dispensin'
with the luxury of a pony; he was also unemcumbered with soles to
his boots), but he had indoor hands, a back as straight as an
Injun's, an' a way of flingin' up his head an' drawin' down his
brows when you spoke to him sudden, which proved 'at trampin' was
only a sideline with him. He put in an application as cook for the
Ol' Cast Steel looked into him: examined his eyes, his hands, an'
the way he carried his head. Then he spoke kind o' slow an' drawly.
"Cook?" sez he. "We'll, I'd be willin' to bet 'at you've stayed up
till three o'clock a heap more times'n you have ever arose at this
wholesome hour. What can you cook?"
Well, the feller he laughed, an' sez, "You win. I own up 'at I ain't
no cook, nor I ain't no cow puncher; but my pension has stopped an'
my appetite is still runnin'. I never yet recall readin' no notice
of any cook what died of starvation."
Jabez grinned. "I don't ask no man about his past," sez he. "No man
knows nothin' about his future. As for the present, you can help
with the cookin'. Flap Jack is due for his bender, week after next,
an' if you can learn the trade by that time you'll come in handy."
'Twas the first time I ever heard of Cast Steel vary his hirin'
speech; so I knew 'at he too had the feller spotted for a stray; but
he rolled up his sleeves an' started to peel spuds for the evenin'
slum. He said that his name was Richard Whittington, an' while he
didn't talk overly extensive about himself, he wasn't nowise offish
nor snarly. He did his work up to the limit too, an' even of Flap
Jack didn't complain as much as he generally did whenever he was
furnished with a little extra help. The peculiar thing was the way
'at Barbie treated him. She came down to the cook shack soon after
he landed, with a lot of Jabez' old clothes an' a pair of boots,
'cause anything in distress got to her heart by the shortest cut.
She came lopin' along with about fifteen dogs, whistlin' an' hummin'
an' sort o' dancin' up in the air like a young angel; but the minute
she saw him she sobered up, an' after he had thanked her, which he
did in book langwidge, she simply pulled down the blinds an' locked
the door. It was mighty curious an' set us all to talkin', 'cause
she treated us feliers just as friendly as the rest of the stock;
but Dick made a bad impression right at the start, an' we kept our
eyes on him for the first crooked move.
He was a restless feller, was Dick, allus askin' questions about
breeds an' fencin' an' winter feeds an' marketin'. Said he liked to
have somethin' to study about when his hands was workin'. Barbie
left one of her books out in the wagon-shed one day an' Dick found
it. He curled right up on a cushion an' begun to read. That was the
very day 'at Flappy was to start off on his periodical, an' he had
made all his preparations so that everything would be in apple-pie
order. When dinner went by an' no deputy showed up he ground out
several canticles of profanity; but when supper time hove in sight
and nairy a report from the substitute hash-herder, he fairly stood
on tiptoe an' screamed his woes into what they call the wel-kin; an'
you can bet that Flappy made her welk all right.
He had been training for this jag for full three months, an' the
thirst he had built up was somethin' for the whole ranch to be proud
of; an' all the boys was full of sympathy an' interest, an' wanted
him to have every show in the world. They wanted his mind to be
utterly free from care, so that he could give his full attention to
tackin' up a Diamond Dot record that would arouse the envy of the
entire West, an' Flappy was in fine shape to do it.
We all started out to find Dick, whether he was still hidin' around
the ranch or had started to hike; but it was Barbie herself who
found him. She came racin' along with a herd of dogs, friskin' an'
rompin' the same as they was; but when she came onto Dick readin'
her book she simmered down immejet. When he looked up an' saw her he
seemed like a feller wakin' up out of a dream. It didn't break on
him all at once; but when it did, he looked as guilty as a sheep-
herder. He stood up an' bowed an' helt out the book an' stammered,
an' all in all, it was painful to watch 'em. None of us was able to
figger out why they acted this way ever time they happened to meet;
but they did.
Well, after he'd apologized a couple o' chapters she told him 'at
she was nearly through with the book, an' if he'd come up to the
house after supper she'd he glad to let him take it. After supper up
he went to the house an' sent ol' Mellisse in for it. When he got it
he went back to the cook-shack an' stayed up all night readin' it.
One of the boys what got in about two o'clock said 'at he was just
about half through with it the second time when he came along. Books
is the same as opium to some folks. After that Barbie used to send
him down books purty often, an' he used to get a world of comfort
out of 'em.
One afternoon when Dick was cookin' up a stew Jabez came out an' sat
on a cracker-box talkin' to him. He allus seemed to have a likin'
for Dick, an' used to chat with him right consid'able. This
afternoon he got to spreadin' himself about how much money the place
handled every year an' how much the' was invested in it, an' what a
great thing the cattle industry was to the entire country. Jabez had
his vanities all right, an' he used to parade 'em occasional an' got
a heap o' comfort out of 'em. Dick went along seasonin' an' addin'
an' stirrin' an' not seemin' to pay a mite of attention, until
finally Jabez got tired of appreciatin' himself, an' sez, "Well,
what do you think of this little plant anyway?"
"Do you like the scenery around here, or do you have to live here on
account of your health?" sez Dick, sort of unconcerned like.
Jabez looked at him about a minute to kind of get the drift of his
remark, an' then he sez, "What do you mean by that?"
"Why," sez Dick, "you ain't makin' two percent profit, an' I was
just wonderin' what you stayed here for--if it wasn't for somethin'
else beside the filthy looger."
Jabez, he jumps to his feet an' goes all through it again, tellin'
all he has took in an' all he has paid out; while Dick kept
attendin' to his pots an' pans the same as if he was stone deaf.
Jabez rattled on an ended up with: "An' this here ranch has the best
water an' the best range an' the best shelter of any ranch in the
state. What do you think of that?" "Why, I think it all the more
reason why it should pay a business profit," drawls Dick. "Only last
week I heard you complainin' somethin' fierce because you had to put
up for a new freight-wagon. The great trouble with you is that you
don't have no system. You need a manager, a man who takes an
interest in modern progress, a man who sees that the rest o' the men
pay a profit. I don't mean a foreman, you got plenty o' them. I mean
a business man. You ain't no business man; you don't like it."
Well, Jabez was stupefied. He'd never had no wage-earner dump advice
on him before, an' here was a tramp, as you might say, who started
in by telling him that what he really needed was some one to run his
business for him. He didn't fly up through. He just rose an' gave
Dick a searchin' look, an' then he meandered up to the house; an'
you could tell by the very droop of his shoulders that what he was
doin' was thinkin'.
The upshot of it was that when Flappy was hauled out to the ranch
the next week, an' as soon as he got so he could tell fire from
water, Dick fitted up an office in the North wing; an' about fifteen
minutes afterward we all felt the difference. From that on
everything ran like a round-up. Dick didn't boss none, he just
pointed out the best way, an' we did it. All those answers we had
told him about calves an' winter hay an' such-like had simply gone
in one ear--an' stuck to the inside of his mental gearing. He
discovered that Jabez had been stuck for further orders on most of
his supplies, an' had allus managed to win the bottom price whenever
it came his turn to make a sale.
Well, Dick was a perpetual surprise party. You could tell by the
color of his skin that he was an indoor man; but he sat a hoss like
a cow puncher, an' as soon as he got things runnin' to suit him on
our place he got to makin' side trips to the other ranches. He would
spend two hours talkin' about the weather; but at the end o' that
time, he knew more about a man's outfit than the owner himself. Then
he ordered out a lot of stock papers, an' the first thing we knew,
we was askin' him questions about things 'at we'd allus supposed we
savvied from tail to muzzle. He seemed to like me more'n the rest,
an' chose me out to be his ridin' pal an' what he called an A. D.
Kong, which was simply the French for messenger boy; but Dick never
unloaded a lot of talk about himself. You wouldn't notice it, but he
allus managed to have the other feller do most o' the talkin'.
When winter came he took a trainload o' cattle clear to Chicago an'
brought back twenty bulls--dandies! Big white-faced fellers with
pool-table backs an' stocky legs, an' they sure made the other stuff
look like the champion scrubs of creation. No one in our parts had
ever seen such cattle, an' for the rest of the winter we helt a fair
an' booked enough orders for calves to make a man nervous. Jabez had
gone along, an' it must have ganted him consid'able to heave out the
wampum for that bunch; but you should have seen him swell up when
folks got to talkin' about 'em. He was game though, an' gave Dick
the credit. He thought Dick was the whole manuver by this time.
Barbie an' Dick had got over givin' antelope starts every time they
met; but they wasn't what you would call friendly by a long ways.
Dick had worn a rough lookin' beard when he first arrived; but
afterward he had trimmed it to a point, an' it made him look some
like a doctor. His ears were set tight to his head, an' he had a
proud nose; but it was his hands an' his eyes that set him apart.
His hands were fair size but white, an' they stayed white. They had
a nervous way of fussin' around with things whenever he got to
thinkin'; but after all, the thing that was the final call was his
eyes. They were bright an' set in under heavy brows; but they never
seemed tryin' to bend you, like some eyes do, they just seemed so
completely sure of what they saw, an' they seemed to have seen so
much beforehand, that a feller was tempted to stick to the truth in
front of 'em--even when it wasn't altogether convenient. Dick was
the first cold-blooded man I ever liked, an' he was sure cold-
blooded at this period.
HAPPY MAKES A DISCOVERY
Now dogs an' Barbie was allus exceedin' intimate. Dogs just doted on
her, an she recipercated full measure; but she had one dog what was
only a dog by what they call an act of courtesy. It must 'a' weighed
fully two pounds, an' had bushy hair at that. It had a bark to it
like one o' these intellectual dolls what can say Ma-maa, Ma-maa,
but the critter was as proud o' this bark as though it shook all the
buildin's on the place. The blame thing wasn't physically able to
inflict much more damage than a mosquito, but it was full as
bloodthirsty, an' it had took a keen disregard for Bill Andrews.
Bill Andrews was still the foreman, an' one day he was on his way to
the office to make a report to Dick when this imitation dog came
sailin' around the corner an' took a grab at his leg. He had a
brand-new pair of pants on, an' they was outside his boots. You know
how corduroy tears when the dye has been a bit too progressive.
Well, the pup loosened up a piece like a section of pie. Bill
Andrews lost his Christian fortitude, give that toy muff a kick that
landed him fifteen feet--an' Barbie came around the corner, an' Dick
came out of the office at the same time.
The poor little pup was a-layin' on his back yelpin' like a love-
sick bob-cat; a white rage came over me an' I pulled out my gun; but
before I could use it Dick had sailed into him without a word. Bill
Andrews was too flustered to pull his own gun, so he put up his
hands, but it didn't do no good. Dick caught him under the chin, an'
the back of his head struck the ground several moments before his
feet arrived. It was a beautiful blow; I never seen a neater. I
don't reckon Barbie ever did either; 'cause as soon as she had
gathered up the pup she walked up to Dick an' sez, "I want to thank
you for this, an' to say that I am in your debt to the extent of any
favor what's in my power." Course Dick was locoed the same as usual.
His face looked like the settin' sun, an' he couldn't pump out a
word to save him. Them two found it mighty hard to overcome the
first prejudice they'd felt again each other.
Bill Andrews he set up after a bit, with his hands on the ground,
bracin' himself while he was tryin' to recall the history of the few
precedin' moments. Dick looked down at him calmly an' said, "As soon
as you have apologized to Miss Judson you may come into the office
and we shall transact our business." Then he lifted his hat, whirled
on his heel, an 'stalked inside like as if he was a colonel.
Bill Andrews was purty tol'able low-spirited; but he handed out as
affectin' an excuse as he could dream up, and as soon as Barbie had
spoke her piece he slouched into the office purty consid'able
cargoed up with conflictin' emotions. I'd ruther shoot a man an' not
kill him, than to be the cause of makin' him look ridiculous before
a woman--that is, a revengeful sneak like what Bill Andrews was.
As soon as he an' Dick got through with their talk, an' it was a
purty tol'able lengthy confab at that, Bill Andrews went to the boss
an' tendered in his resignation. Cast Steel accepted it mighty
hearty, 'cause Barbie had just been callin' on him; an' that very
mornin' Dick made Pete Hanson foreman.
Next night the office safe was opened an' fifteen hundred dollars
was took. Every one thought right away of Bill Andrews, an' the ol'
man sent us out in pairs to scour the country. The' wasn't much
scourin' to be done, how-ever, 'cause we found Bill Andrews on the
next ranch, an' they was ready to swear 'at he hadn't left it all
night. The' wasn't no one else that any one felt like suspectin'.
Jabez wasn't the man to weep over upsettin' a can o' condensed, an'
purty soon the theft was forgot an' everything was runnin' along as
smooth as forty quarts o' joint-oil.
The ol' man kept dependin' more an' more on Dick, until finally Dick
got to signin' checks, orderin' all the supplies, an' takin' full
charge; while Jabez spent most of his time taggin' around after
Barbie. They was like a couple o' young children; but Barbie wasn't
quite so high-headed with Dick after the dog affair, an' they got to
ridin' together quite a bit themselves. Barbie was just as good
friends with me as ever; but I could see--any one could see--that
Jabez was willin' to call Dick a son-in-law just the minute that
By the time he had been there a year Dick was the big head chief,
an' the ranch was boomin' along like a river steamboat. He allus got
the best of everything in the way of supplies, an' every laddie-buck
in the West knew of it; so 'at a Diamond Dot puncher didn't throw up
his job just for exercise. The' was a swarm o' white-faced calves,
an' about half of 'em wore other fellers' brands, which was a
receipt for a lot of fancy money, so 'at Jabez was as well satisfied
as the men; an' even Barbie had come to own up that Dick was the
fittin'est man in those parts. I could read every thought in her
head, an' it hurt me to think that at last I had dropped back to
second fiddle; but I could see that Dick had had chances that I
hadn't had, an'--an' I allus aim to play fair, so I took to ridin'
alone an' workin' harder than I was used to.
She could strum a guitar till you'd be willin' to swear it was the
heavenly harps of the Celustial Choir; an' she an' Dick used to loaf
around in the moonlight makin' melody 'at was worth goin' a good
long ways to hear. They sure made a tasty couple, an' all the boys
used to like to see 'em together. In fact, the whole Diamond Dot was
as match-makey as a quiltin' bee.
One moonlight night I'd been up to ol' Monody's grave, an' I came
walkin' back about half-past nine. It was more'n twelve years since
Ol' Monody had passed over, but it didn't seem that long. Just as I
turned a corner; I heard a laugh that seemed to float to me from a
long ways back in the past. It was Jim Jimison's laugh, an' as I
came around the corner of the house there he stood with his back to
me, talkin' to Barbie. "Well, for the Gee Whizz!" I cried. He
turned, an' it was Dick. We looked into each other's eyes a moment,
an' then I forced a laugh an' went on to the stallion stable, where
I sat down to puzzle it out.
It wasn't very long before Dick came to me an' held out his hand. I
took it, an' we gave an old-time grip. "I was wonderin' how long it
would be before you saw through me," he sez.
I got the moon in his face an' looked at him a long time. Of course
a dozen years and the beard made a lot of difference, but not near
all. When I'd left him, he was only a boy, a boy all the way
through,--looks, words, actions; while now he was a man an' a sizey
one at that. It ain't years alone that make any such change. I knew
in a minute that Jim had been through something that was mighty near
too narrow to get through. "Well," sez I, "what's the story?"
"You put me on my feet, Happy," sez he, "an' after you left I just
kept on goin'. I tended to my stuff, an' I improved it an' I took on
new ranges, an' I made it go, I sure made it go. Then the Exporters
Cattle Company got after me. My range was needed to fill a gap
between two o' their ranges, an' they tried to make me sell.
"I didn't want to sell, I was makin' money an' I was layin' it up;
and I wasn't ready to stop workin' at my age, so I fought back. I
didn't stand any show. There's a bunch o' these big companies that
are all the same, under different names, an' they fought me on the
ground an' on the railroads, an' at the stock yards; they tried to
turn my men again me; they had my stuff run onto their range, an'
then tried to prevent my gettin' it back. I didn't mind their open
warfare; but their underhanded ways drove me wild. One o' their
agents used to dog me around every time I'd go to town. He'd grin
an' ask me if I wasn't ready to sell out YET. I finally closed out
the cattle, an' started to raise only horses. One night my three
thorough-bred stallions had their throats cut, an' then next time I
went to town he came in when I was eatin' my supper, grinnin' as
usual, an' asked me if I thought raisin' hosses would pay.
"I knew what his game was an' tried my best to hold in, but I
couldn't help tellin' him that I didn't suppose it would pay quite
so well as hirin' out to murder hosses would. This was enough for
him; he called me everything he could lay tongue to, and when I rose
to my feet he pulled his gun. The other men in the room were
beginnin' to sneer at me, but I knew the consequences, and started
to leave. He grabbed me by the shoulder an' whirled me around. 'Git
down on your knees,' he sez, 'an' 'pologize to me.'
"That was my limit. My cup was nearly full of coffee, an' I dashed
the coffee in his face, hoping to get hold of his gun. But he jumped
back an' fired. He missed me, an' I hit him in the center of the
forehead with the coffee cup. It was big an' heavy, and it--killed
him. This was just what the bunch wanted; but in spite of their
precautions I got away, came north, and got into another business;
but that didn't suit either; so here I am, with the worst gang in
this country achin' to get track o' me."
"How long ago was this, Jim?" sez I.
"Call me Dick," sez he. "It was about four years ago now. I leased
my land for more'n enough to pay taxes, but I suppose it will all
blow up sometime, an' they'll get me in the end."
"I don't suppose the' 's any way to go back an' square it, is
there?" sez I.
"Hell, no!" he sez, bitter as death. "They own Texas."
"Haven't you any friends there who would swear it was self-defense?"
"I've got plenty of friends there--that's how I got away; but they
don't dare to fight that cattle crowd in the open," sez he.
"Looks purty bad," sez I.
"It's rotten bad!" sez he. "But this is business all right. Whenever
I hear any one talk about the morals of business it drives me wild.
The' ain't any morals in business. The best it ever is, is straight
gamblin'--I say the BEST it ever is, is straight gamblin'"--Jim's
voice was gritty with wrath--"while at the worst," he went on, "it
stoops to murder, wholesale and retail, it ruins homes, it
manufactures thieves an' perjurers an'--" "You remind me of a feller
named Fergoson," sez I. "He said that at the best, business was
"I like him," sez Jim, or I suppose I better say Dick. "I like him.
You couldn't fool him with a lot o' pleasant names for things. He
dealt in the spirit of a deed. I like him."
It wasn't much peculiar that I hadn't recognized the boy. As he
talked, I could see the caged tiger glarin' out through his eyes,
an' I knew that something wild would happen if the bars ever broke.
"I'm mighty sorry, Dick," sez I.
"Oh, I ain't through with 'em yet. I'm not clear out of the game.
You don't need to think 'at they've broke me," sez he.
"I wasn't thinkin' o' you," I said in a low tone.
He drew in his breath, an' the noise he made was half way between a
sob an' a groan. "My God!" he said between set teeth. "Do you think
that I haven't carried that cross also? But I've changed a lot in
five years, an' they won't think of me at the Diamond Dot. Happy,
I've got a scheme for organizin' the cattlemen o' the Northwest to
fight that Texas crowd an' whip 'em out o' the business. I know the
game from A to Z, an' if I can just work it through without comin'
out in the open I can beat 'em."
"Mebbe," sez I, "but it's exposin' her to a mighty big risk."
"I'll never do that, whatever happens," sez he.
"As long as this Texas crime hangs over you, it hangs over her too,"
sez I, "an' as soon as your fight gets under way they'll turn your
record inside out, an' you know it."
He gripped his hands together an' punched a hole in the ground with
his heel, an' you could tell by his face that he was mighty sorry he
couldn't have picked out the face he'd have liked to have under his
heel instead of the ground. Finally he put his hand on my shoulder
an' sez, "Well, Happy, you allus did have the gift of hittin' the
nail on the head; an' I'll promise that no matter what comes up, I
won't do anything to risk the happiness of--of Barbie. You just
remember to keep on callin' me Dick, an' I reckon I'll be content to
let the revenge part go, an' just settle down with my head under
cover. They didn't remember me in the Chicago stock yards, an' you
didn't recognize me; so I suppose it's safe enough, if I just keep
We shook hands, an' he went back to the house; but I could easy see
that he was troubled. I stayed out with the stars purty late that
night. It was clear an' bright an' peaceful when I looked up, but
when I tried to look ahead it seemed misty an' dark an' gloomy, so I
looked straight up for a long, long time; an' then when they soothed
me, as they allus do, I went to bed an' slept like a log.
A FRIENDLY GAME
About three days after this, a slick lookin' feller came ridin' in
about sun-down, an' of course they booked him for supper an' bed; a
stranger didn't want to expose himself to a meal at that outfit,
less'n he was in the mood to eat. He was a fine easy talker, an' he
had indoor hands too, an' one o' these smiles what is made to order;
what you might call a candidate's smile--a sort o' lightin' up in
honor o' the person bein' addressed. Barbie had a bit of a headache,
'cause her cinch had broke that mornin' while she was havin' a
little argument with a bad-actor; an' about eight o'clock she give
us the fare-you-well an' fluttered up to bed.
So the four of us--me, Dick, the stranger, an' ol' Jabez--sat there
smokin' seegars an' tellin' anecdotes. About nine Piker, which was
the name the stranger had handed in, sez, "Do you gentlemen ever
indulge in a little friendly game?"
Now Dick had never throwed a card in his life, to my knowin'. The
ol' man used to play some, but he was mighty choicy who he played
with; while I--well, o' course, I played. Dick didn't say anything
at first, but he give the stranger a long an' a curious look, as
though he was tryin' to place him. He looked so long that both me
an' the ol' man noticed it. "I don't care to play," sez Dick,
blowin' a ring o' smoke to the ceilin'.
The ol' man had been trottin' along without a break for a
consid'able of a stretch, an' the proposition looked amply
sufficient to him, so he sez pleasantly, "Well, now, boys, it
wouldn't be a bad way to spend the evenin'. We could make the stakes
small an' we could have a right sociable time together."
'Tain't altogether wise to jump hasty at another man's idee of size.
I had seen the ol' man sit in a game where steers was the ante an'
car-loads the limit; but at that time I thought I knew just a little
wee mite more about the game than any other man what played
straight, so I sez, "Well, I'll set in a while; but I don't care to
lose more'n a hundred dollars"; which was just what I'd saved out
for a little vacation I was ruminatin' about.
"Oh, we'll only play a quarter ante an' five dollar limit," sez
Jabez. "Come on, boys, clear the table an' let's get started."
Dick didn't seem to want to play at all, but after the ol' man had
coaxed him a little he drew up his chair an' we started in. The old
man's deck was purty tol'able careworn an' floppy, an' the stranger
sez, "I happen to have a couple o' new decks what have never been
opened. We'll open one in honor o' the occasion."
"This deck is good enough," sez Dick, an' he spoke purty harsh. As
me an' the ol' man looked up, our glances met an' we showed
surprise. Dick wasn't a bit like himself; but the stranger didn't
take no offense, he just smiled a bit careless an' put his cards on
the stand, sayin, "Well, I'll just leave 'em here handy, an' if we
decide to use 'em later we can open 'em up. For my part, I like a
"So do I," sez the ol' man. "I'm sorry mine are so bum. I meant to
send for some new ones a long time ago, but I allus forgot it."
The stranger took out a healthy lookin' stack o' gold, Dick an'
Jabez did the same, an' my little squad o' yella fellers looked
purty tol'able squeezy. Dick was tremendous sober; his face was
pale, his eyes were hid away beneath his brows, an' kept dartin'
here an' there like the eyes of a hawk. Now for me, I allus have a
curious promonition when anything is goin' to happen, an' I began to
have it bad.
Still the longer we played the easier Dick got in his ways, an'
purty soon he was smilin' as open-faced as a dollar watch. We played
along nice an' gentle; my luck arrived early, an purty soon the
yella fellers begun to percalate in my direction. About half-past
ten Piker had to dig up some more funds, an' he sez, "It's gettin'
kind o' late, boys, let's raise the edge a bit. Hawkins there has
had all the luck so far, an' when it changes we ought to have a show
to get back our riskin's."
"All right," sez Jabez, "we'll double."
"The stakes suit me all right," sez Dick. "In fact, I'd ruther split
I was feelin' purty consid'able opulent myself, so I voted to
"Three to one," sez Piker, "the stakes are doubled."
"The original agreement can't be changed durin' a game without the
unanimous consent of all the players," sez Dick, speakin' like a
judge; "but as the rest of you wish it, I'll give mine."
From that on the luck shifted. Two or three times I see a queer look
steal across the ol' man's face; but everything was out in the open,
as far as I could see. I played even Steven; but the wind shifted
plumb away from Jabez, an' he lost steady. Part of the time Dick
corraled the pots, an' part of the time me an' Piker provided
shelter for 'em: but no matter who won, the ol' man lost.
Twice he frowned purty serious, an' once I caught him givin' Dick a
queer hurt look. The ol' man hadn't a drop o' welcher blood in his
make-up; but cheatin' was spelled in mighty red letters to 'im. Dick
was smilin' now as sweet as a girl baby, an' makin' funny, joshin'
remarks, which was a new turn for him; but at the same time the' was
somethin' in his face that wasn't altogether pleasant.
When midnight arrived Dick an' Piker was each about two thousand
ahead, I was slidin' back to taw, an' the old man was payin' the
fiddler. We had doubled the edge again at eleven, an' were usin'
both the strange decks, changin' every few deals. Then the luck
began to settle to Dick. Two out of three times on his own deals,
an' every single time on Piker's deals, the devidends slid into
Dick's coffers, while I was growin' resigned to havin' had a good
run for my money. Jabez' face was drawn an' worried, which was
queer, 'cause he was allus a royal loser.
At last we had built up a four-story jack-pot, an' every feller's
face wore the take-off-your-hat-to-me smile. It was Dick's deal an'
we all held three cards except Jabez who had furnished openers. He
only wintered through a pair, but after he looked at his draw he
settled back to enjoy himself. I held three kings an' a brace o
trays. It looked to me as if that jack-pot belonged to Happy
Hawkins. The peculiar expression had wore off Jabez' face, an' his
eyes had a glad glint in 'em. I was only in for my table stakes, so
I didn't make much of a noise, nohow; but the other three kept
boostin' her up till it begun to look like a man's game all right.
"If you'll excuse the limit, I'd like to show my appreciation of
this little hand by bettin' a hundred on it," sez Piker.
"I'm willin'," sez Jabez, "an' if it goes, why, I'll see your
appreciation an' raise you five hundred." "I don't have any more
vote," sez I, "just enjoy yourselves."
"Oh, no, Happy," sez Dick, as serious as a hangman; "no matter if we
raise the edge every hand, you must vote on it each time. We must be
perfectly regular, you know, because this is merely a friendly
little game to pass away the evening, you remember. I shall make no
Jabez had slid deep into his chair, an' now he had a fierce scowl on
his face. "That was MY toe you was a-pressin'," he sez, lookin'
Piker between the eyes.
"I beg your pardon," sez Piker, laughin' easy; "I thought it was
Silv--I mean Whittington's. I wanted him to keep still until after
this hand was out. Then I'll be willin' to quit or go back to the
old limit, or keep right along with the lid off."
I glanced at Dick; an' talk about jerk-lightnin'! Well, I can't see
yet what kept Piker from gettin' scorched; but Jabez was in a good
humor again from lookin' at his royalty, so he turns to Dick an'
sez, "Now, Dick, Piker's company, you know, an' I reckon we'd better
humor him. What do you say?"
"Off goes the lid," sez Dick.
They bet around awhile longer until nearly all of Dick's money was
in the pot an' Jabez had a neat little pile of checks representin'
him. Then Dick bet his balance an' called. We all laid down with a
satisfied grin. Jabez had queens full on jacks, Piker had three
bullets an' a team o' ten-spots; Dick had a royal straight flush,
an' I had a nervous chill. Three aristocratic fulls an' a royal
straight! Nobody spoke, an' the money stayed where it was, in the
center of the table. Finally the of man sez, makin' an effort to
speak cordial, "Well, I've had enough for one evenin', I guess I'll
quit." "Now, boys," sez Dick, in a low, husky voice, "I don't
believe in gamblin'. I only went into this to be sociable, an' I
want you all to take your money back."
We sat an' looked at Dick with our eyes poppin' out, 'cause that
wasn't our way o' playin' the game in that neighborhood. Suddenly
the ol' man whirled an' glared at Piker. "What the hell do you mean
by pressin' my toe?" he growls between his set teeth. "This is the
fourth time you've done it to-night."
Piker seemed confused, an' mumbled an' stammered, an' couldn't
hardly speak at all. "It ain't my custom to play with strangers,"
sez Jabez, an' he was fast gettin' into the dangerous stage, "but
you are my guest. I won't take my money back, but if Dick is
willin', I'll write him a check for yours an' you can take your
condemned filthy gold an' get out o' here."
"I ain't askin' my money back," sez Piker. "I'm game, I am; but I
can't savvy this scheme o' dividin' up after the game." He paused a
second, an' then sez clear an' distinct, "This ain't exactly the way
'at Silver Dick used to play the game when he made a business of
Piker leaned back an' stared at Dick in a sneerin' sort of way;
while me an' the ol' man stared at him with our eyes poppin' out.
Silver Dick, Silver Dick: every one in the West had heard of Silver
Dick. It didn't seem possible; but as me an' Jabez sat gazin' at
him, we knew 'at our Dick was Silver Dick the gambler, an' the
smoothest article, accordin' to reports, 'at ever threw a card. Dick
didn't say a word; just sat there with his face pale as a sheet, an'
his glitterin' black eyes dartin' flame at Piker's nasty grin.
"I see you don't recognize me with a full beard," sez Piker; "but
down at Laramie they called me Jo Denton. It was my cousin, Big
Brown, that you shot."
"Do you happen to know what I shot him for?" Dick's face was as hard
as marble, an' his voice was as cold as ice.
"I wasn't there at the time," sez Piker in an irritatin' voice, "but
I know that it was because he spoke about it bein' a little peculiar
that you held such wonderful good hands on your own deal."
Dick didn't make no reply, but he slipped his hand inside his shirt,
an' I knew he had his gun there.
"I say that this was the EXCUSE for your shootin';" Piker went on,
bent on gettin' all the trouble the' was; "but I allus believed,
myself, that it started over the woman you was keepin'."
Dick's gun flashed in the air; but quick as a wink ol' Cast Steel
knocked it up with his right hand, an' struck at Dick with his left.
The bullet crashed through the ceiling, an' Dick grabbed Jabez'
wrist at the same instant. Piker made a quick snap under the table,
a gun went off, an' the bullet tore through the slack o' Dick's vest
an' spinged into the wall behind him.
Then I kicked off my hobbles an' sailed in on my own hook. Dick had
allus been white to me--an' back in the old days he was the squarest
feller on earth--so I felt mightly relieved when I caught Piker in
the center of the forehead with a full left swing. It was a blow 'at
nobody didn't have no grounds to complain of. The chair flew over
backwards, Piker's feet made a lovely circle, an' his head tried to
insinuate itself into the mopboard. He remained quiet, an' I started
in to satisfy my curiosity.
"Stay where you are," commanded Dick, an' I stuck in my tracks. "No
man is allowed to doubt my deal without havin' something to remind
him of it. I ain't a-goin' to kill that snake now; but I do intend
to remove his trigger fingers."
Dick still held Jabez by a peculiar twist in the wrist 'at made the
ol' man wince a little; he held his gun ready, an' calmly sized up
Piker's hand, which was flattened out again the wall. I stood where
I was, an' the room was so quiet it hurt your ears.
A grin of wolfish joy came into Dick's face as he stood there with
his gun back of his head an' his thumb on the hammer--of course he
was a snap-shooter--these nervous fellers allus are. It seemed as if
we had all been in that same position for ages, when suddenly a
voice said, "Why, Dad, what's the matter?"
It was Barbie with her hair all rumpled up an' a loose gray wrapper
on. Dick dropped his hands to his side an' turned his face away;
while Jabez put his arm about her an' told her that we had had a
little mix-up but that it was all over now an' she must go back to
bed. She reared up an' vetoed the motion without parley; but the ol'
man finally convinced her, an' she agreed to go if we'd promise not
to stir up any more trouble. Me an' Jabez promised quick, but Dick
never said a word. She looked him in the face mighty beseechful, but
he wouldn't look at her; an' when he finally promised not to START
any more fuss his voice was so low you could hardly hear him.
She was pale as a ghost, an' Dick's voice made her all the more
suspicious. "I'll not go one step," she said at last, sinkin' down
in a chair; but Dick walked over to her an' asked her to step into
the next room with him a minute. They only talked together a few
moments, an' then we heard her give a stifled sob an' go back
upstairs. I never see such a change as had come over Jabez. His face
was drawn an' haggard like the face of a man lost in the desert
The time had come at last when another man stood between his
daughter--his greatest treasure on earth--an' himself. I remembered
what Friar Tuck had said about the time comin' when she'd be all
girl an' would stand before him with the questions of life in her
eyes, an' I pitied him, God knows I pitied him.
Jabez had got the rope on himself when Dick came back, an' he spoke
to him in the voice of a father sayin' farewell to the son who had
gone wrong once too often. "I don't care nothin' about the money,
Dick," he said. "You'd 'a' been welcome to all I had; but I can't
forgive you about my little girl. You made her love you, you schemed
to do it, an' you came here with that end in view. I trusted you
from the ground up, but I can see a heap o' things now 'at I
wouldn't see before. I had a letter written from Bill Andrews
tellin' me 'at he had heard you brag 'at you intended to get holt o'
my money, an' that it would pay me to search you instead o'
"Where was the letter from?" asked Dick.
"Laramie," sez the ol' man.
"Kind o' curious," sez Dick, an' his vice was as bitter as the dregs
o' sin; "that's where Denton came from too."
"You deceived me all along," sez the ol' man, not payin' much heed
to Dick, but speakin' mostly to himself. "You know 'at what I hate
worse'n anything else is deceit--an' here you've been fast an' loose
with women--" Dick tried to say somethin', but the ol' man stopped
him. "That was bad enough," he went on, "but I'm no fool; I know the
world, an' I could forgive you a good deal; but hang it, I never
could forgive you bein' a professional gambler--a man that lives by
deceit an' trickery an' false pretenses. Lookin' back now, it
strikes me as bein' mighty curious how you got the best o' Piker's
deals too. Was Piker or Denton, or whatever his name is, a gambler
"He was," answered Dick in a low tone.
The ol' man squared himself, an' his face was as fierce as the face
of an ol' she bear. "Of all the human snakes I ever heard of, you
crawl the closest to the ground. You come here an' act as square as
a man can until you have made us all think the world of ya; an' yet
in your black heart you were all the time plottin' to get my money,
usin' my little girl as a burglar would use a bar to open a safe
with. Even then you couldn't wait in patience; your inborn
cussedness forced you to steal an' cheat--and yet, boy, I could
almost forgive you for deceivin' me, but I can't never forgive you
for deceivin' my little girl. You stand there with a gun in your
hand an' I stand here with none; you brag 'at no man can't doubt
your dealin' without havin' cause to remember it; but I tell you to
your teeth that you're a sneak an' a cheat an' a low-grade coward."
Dick stood with his head thrown back an' his left hand clenched,
while his right gripped the butt of his gun so fierce that the
knuckles stood out white as chalk an' the veins was black an'
swollen. His bosom was heavin', his teeth showed in a threatenin'
white line, an' all the savage th' was in him was cryin' kill, kill,
He tottered a little when he took a step toward Jabez; but he laid
the gun on the table with the butt pointin' towards Jabez, an' then
he went back to the wall an' folded his arms. He stood lookin' at
Jabez for a moment, an' then he sez slow an' soft an' creepy: "Every
word you have said from start to finish is a lie; and you yourself
are a liar."
The ol' man choked. He loosened the collar around his neck, fairly
gaspin' for breath; an' then he grabbed up the gun an' held it ready
to drop on Dick's heart. A curious expression came over Dick as he
looked into Jabez' face; a tired, heart-achy smile as though he'd be
so glad to be all through with it that he wouldn't care a great deal
how it was done. Ol' Cast Steel was livin' up to his name if ever a
man did. The' wasn't a sign of anger in his face by this time,
nothin' but one grim purpose, an' it was horrid. It looked like a
plain case o' suicide on Dick's part, an' I was just makin' up my
mind whether or not it would be polite to interfere, when the door
opened noiselessly an' Barbie stood in the openin'.
She seemed turned to stone for a second, an' then she gave a spring
an' grabbed the ol' man's arm. "Jabez Judson, what are you doin'?"
she said, an' the' wasn't much blood relation in her tone.
The ol' man lowered his gun an' sank into a chair, while Barbie
stood with her hands on her hips an' looked from one to the other of
us. Then it would be the time for our eyes to hit the carpet. "Now I
want to know the meanin' o' this," sez she, "an' I want the full
truth. This is nice doin's over a game o' cards. I wish I had
thought to set up a bar, so you'd all felt a little more at home.
What's it about?"
We didn't none of us seem to have a great deal to say, but just
stood there lookin' foolish. Finally Dick came out of it an' sez, "I
have been accused of cheatin' an' lyin' an' stealin'. The
circumstantial evidence is all again me, so I shall have to go away,
but you remember all I told you out in the other room--an' on our
rides across the plain, an' on our walks in the moonlight; an'
Barbie, girl, don't you believe a word of it.
"Good-bye, Happy--I know you an' you know me. Jabez Judson, I know
it ain't no use to attempt any explanation; but I give you my word
of honor--an' I set just as much store by it as any man in all the
world--that I never stacked a deck o' cards in my life, an' I never
held a single underhanded thought again you; while as for Barbie--
well, Barbie knows. Good-bye."
Dick turned on his heel an' stalked out o' the room, Barbie dropped
into a chair sobbin', an' me an' the old man continued to look like
the genuine guilty parties. Then it occurred to me that mebbe it
would be wise to see if Piker was worth botherin' with. First thing
I did though was to see where he had helt his gun when he fired
beneath the table. The' wasn't no gun on the floor, an' I couldn't
nowise savvy it.
He had one gun in his holster, but he couldn't have pulled it out
without bein' seen, an' he couldn't have put it back, nohow. I was
plumb mystified, an' had about give it up when I came across it. I
own up it was a clever dodge, but snakish to an extreme. He had
fashioned a rig just above his knee, an' when he had sat down the
gun had been pointin' at Dick all through the game, an' nothin' but
Jabez makin' Dick move had saved him. It was a blood-thirsty scheme,
an' I felt like stampin' his face into a jelly.
His head was still bent over an' he was black in the face; but when
I straightened him out an' soused a lot o' water over him, he came
out of it, an' I fair itched to make him eat his gun--knee-riggin'
an' all! He sat up an' began to tell what a low-down, sneakin' cuss
Dick had allus been. I let him sing a couple o' verses, an' then I
sez: "Now, you look here, you slimy spider. Dick's too busy just now
to attend to your case an' if you don't swaller them few remarks
instant I'll be obliged to prepare you for the coroner myself. I've
knowed Dick sometime, an' I've knowed several other men; an' I know
enough to know that such a dust-eatin' lizard as you never could
know enough to know what such a man as Dick was thinkin' out or
plannin' to do. An' furthermore, you're a liar in your heart, an'
still further more, I don't like your face; an' one other
furthermore--the longer I look at you the madder I get! My advice to
you, an' I give it in the name o' peace an' sobriety, an' because
the' 's a lady present, is to start right now to a more salubrious
climate--you an' your knee-gun an' your black lies an' your marked
decks. Do you hear what I say? Are you goin' to go?"
I was surely losin' my temper; the' was a blood taste in my throat,
an' when I asked him the question I kicked him gently in the chest,
just to let him know 'at I was ready for his verdict.
He was a coward. He just lunched himself away from me on his back
an' whined somethin' about only tryin' to show us the truth an' not
wantin' any trouble, an' a lot o' such foolishness; but I soon
wearied of it, an' grabbed him by the collar an' yanked him to his
feet, an' sez, "Now answer me one question--who told you that Dick
"Bill Andrews," he sez; an' I opened the door an' kicked him through
it: but in a minute back he comes, cringin' like a cur. "Don't send
me away until after I see what direction Silver takes," he
whimpered. "He never forgives; He'll kill me if he sees me; let me
stay until after he starts."
I laughed. "Why, you fool you," I sez, "if he SHOULD happen to ruin
you beyond repair you don't imagine any one would put on mournin' do
ya? But if it's goin' to make your mind any easier I stand ready to
give you a written guarantee 'at he won't use any knee-gun to do it
with. Now you get; I'm strainin' myself to keep from spoilin' you on
my own hook."
I was in an advanced state of bein' exasperated, an' I walked up to
him intendin' to brand him a few with the butt of his own gun, when
Barbie spoke low an' cold, but in a voice fairly jagged with scorn:
"Let the creature alone; I don't want Dick to soil his boots."
Barbie's voice had lost its college finish, an' she was in the mood
to do a little shootin' herself just then.
Dick finished his packin' in short order, an' went out an' saddled
his pony an' rode away toward Danders an' Laramie. We all set like
corpse-watchers for half an hour longer, an' then Jabez straightened
up an' sez to Piker; "Take your money out o' that pot an' never get
caught in this neighborhood again. Your partner started toward
Laramie; when you see him tell him I'll send the full amount o' the
pot to him as soon as he sends me his address. You can also tell him
that I'll kill him if he ever sets foot on this ranch again."
Barbie was standin' at the window lookin' out into the moonlight
which had swallered up the best part of her world. When Jabez
finished speakin' she turned around an' looked at Piker. "I can't
figger out just whose dog-robber yon are," she sez; "but next time
you go gunnin' for Silver Dick--you better take the whole gang with
It fair hurt me to see Barbie's face, so hard it was an' so
different from the real Barbie: but it warmed my heart to hear the
way she made that Silver Dick ring out. Oh, she was a thoroughbred
every inch of her, that girl was. Piker didn't say a word; he just
picked up his coin an' walked out o' the room, an' I raised up the
window an' drew a deep breath. The blame pole-cat had managed to
slip out an' saddle his pony about supper time, an' in a second he
dashed away toward Webb Station, mighty thankful in his nasty little
heart that he wasn't bound for hell, where he rightly belonged.
"Did you ever know Dick before he came here, Happy?" asked Barbie.
"I swear to heaven that I never knew that our Dick was Silver Dick
until this very night," sez I; "but I'd be willing to stake my life
on his word, an' I'd take it again the word of any other livin' man-
"Thank you, Happy. Good-night." She held her head high as she walked
out o' the room; but I knew that livin' serpents was tearin' at her
Ol' Cast Steel sat for an hour, his chin on his hands an' his elbows
on the table, lookin' at the pile of money an' checks on the table
"Gold, gold, gold!" he mutters at last; "it builds the churches an'
the schoolhouses an' the homes; an' it fills the jails and the
insane asylums an' hell itself. It drives brother to murder brother,
an' neither love nor friendship is proof against its curse. It
starves those who scorn it, while those who pay out their souls for
it find themselves sinking, sinking, sinking in its hideous
quicksand until at last it closes above their mad screams. God! if I
only had my life to live over!"
That was just the way he said it, deep an' hoarse an' coning between
his set teeth; an' I felt the hair raisin' on my head. He looked
like a lost soul, an' the whites of his eyes showed in ghastly rings
around the pupils.
"You take this rubbish, Happy," sez he, turnin' on me. "You're too
much like the birds an' the beasts for it to ever injure you. Take
it an' spend it--drink it, throw it away, burn it up, destroy it,
an' when it is gone come back here an' live in the open again an'
you'll never be far from the spirit of God."
Well, I knew it was ol' Cast Steel who was speakin', but it was
mighty hard to believe it. "I don't mean no disrespect to you,
Jabez," I sez, edgin' toward the door, "but I'll see you damned
first." An' I slid outside an' straddled a pony an' rode till the
dawn wind blew all the fever out of me an' let the sunshine in.
Well, the Diamond Dot was sure a dismal dump after that. Every one
had liked Dick; but they didn't know how much until he was snuffed
out like the flame of a candle. The ol' man had me make a stagger at
fillin' Dick's shoes; but it wasn't what a truthful man would call a
coal-ossal success. Dick had left a lot of directions, tellin' how
to judge the markets an' how to make improvements without feelin'
the cost, an' a dozen other things that. I had allus supposed was
simply a mixture o' luck an' Providence; but it wasn't in my line to
figger things out on paper. Give me the actual cattle an' I could
nurse 'em along through sand-storm an' blizzard, an' round 'em up in
the President's back yard; but at that time they didn't signify much
to me when they was corraled up on a sheet of paper. When it cane to
action I was as prepossessed as a clerk at a pie counter; but I
didn't have the slightest symptom of what they call the legal mind.
The' wouldn't much 'a' come of it; but one day Barbie came out of
her daze an' walked into the office where I was sweatin' over some
of Dick's prognostications, stuck a pencil behind her ear, an' waded
into 'em; an' from that on I took off my hat to a college edication.
Dick may have been on the queer all right, but he was smooth enough
to hide it. Anyhow, ol' man Judson's bank account was a heap
plumper'n it was when Dick had his first whack at it, an' Dick had
drawn a mighty stately salery himself. But he earned it, for the
ranch was in strictly modern order an' runnin' on a passenger
It allus gave me a hurtin' in the chest to see either Barbie or the
ol' man himself those days. The' was a set look in Barbie's eyes;
cold an' unflinchin' an' defiant. I once saw the same expression in
the eyes of a trapped mountain lion. The ol' man's face was all
plowed up too. He reminded me of an Injun up to Port Bridger. A
Shoshone he was from the Wind River country, an' he had the look of
an eagle; but he got a holt of some alcohol an' upset a kettle o'
boilin' grease on himself. He lived for eight days with part of his
bones stickin' through, but never givin' a groan; an' I ain't got
the look of his face out o' my system yet. Jabez reminded me of it a
heap: an' he was just about as noisy over it too. I never supposed
that the Diamond Dot could get to lookin' so much like a desert
island to me. I got to feelin' like one who had been sent up for
life, an' I would sure have made a break for freedom if it hadn't
been for the little girl. I couldn't bear to leave her.
One of the saddest things I ever see in my whole life was the
difference between the way she an' Jabez acted an' the way they used
to. I've heard preachers beseech their victims to live in peace an'
harmony together, an' not to quarrel or complain; an' right at the
time it didn't sound so empty an' mockish; but when you come to boil
it down the' ain't nothin' in that theory. Why, I'd seen the ol' man
hunt Barbie all forenoon just to pick a quarrel with her; an' they
would fuss an' stew an' revile each other an' keep it up all through
dinner; an' then go off in the afternoon an' scrap from wire to
wire; but they was enjoyin' themselves fine, an' addin' to their
stock of what is called mutual respect. Every time one of 'em would
land it would cheer him up an' put the other one on his mettle; an'
they certainly did get more comfort an' brotherly love out of it
than most folks does out of a prayer-meetin'; but after Dick went
away the' wasn't no more quarrels. No, they was as differential as a
pair of Japanese ambassadors; an' she never called him Dad again--
never once! an' I could see him a-hunngerin' for it with the look in
his eyes a young cow has when she is huntin' for the little wet calf
the coyotes has beat her to. It was allus, "Yes, sir," or "No, sir,"
until I could almost hear the ol' man's heart a-breakin' in his
She never complained none, Barbie didn't. She plowed through her
work as though it was goin' to bring him back to her; an' when she
couldn't think of anything else to do she would tramp off to the
hills or ride like the wind over the roughest roads she could find.
Time an' again she wouldn't be able to sleep, but would steal out o'
the house, an' we could hear her guitar sobbin' an' wailin of in the
night; but if Barbie herself ever shed a tear it never left a mark
on her cheek nor put a glaze to her eye.
The' was one knoll not far from the house which commanded the view a
long way toward Danders in one direction, an' a long way toward Webb
Station in another, an' she spent about ten minutes each evenin' on
this knoll. Oh, it used to hurt, it used to hurt, to see that purty
little light-hearted creature makin' her fight all alone, an' never
lettin' another livin' bein' come within hailin' distance. At times
it was all I could do to keep from goin' gunnin' for Dick myself.
Once she sez to me, "Happy, if any mail comes to me I want to get it
myself, an' I want you to see that I do get it"
"Barbie," sez I, "as far as my feeble power goes you'll get your
mail; an' if it happens to involve any other male--why, from this
on, I'm under your orders." She was grateful all right, an' tried to
smile, but it was a purty successful failure.
Soon the winter settled down an' the snow blotted out the trails,
but she never heard from him. The ol' man had wrote to the
postmaster at Laramie, an' he had answered that Dick had allus
played fair accordin' to the best o' his belief. He went on to say
that Dick was generally counted about the best citizen they had; but
that after he had shut Big Brown he had pulled out an' no one knew
where he was. He said 'at Brown hadn't died, which was a cause for
sorrow to the whole town. He also said that Denton would be a
disgrace to coyote parents. He furthermore went on to state that
Dick still owned quite a little property in Laramie. The old man
showed me an' Barbie the letter; but it didn't help much.
When Thanksgivin' hove in sight the ol' man dug up a bottle o'
whiskey, an' put on a few ruffles to sort o' stiffen up his back;
an' one day after dinner he sez to Barbie, "Now you just stay
settin'." She was in the habit of estimatin' just how little
nurishment it would take to run her to the next feed, gettin' it
into her in the shortest possible time, an' then makin' a streak for
"Now, little girl," sez Jabez, tryin' to look joyous an' free from
care, "you are leadin' too sober a life. I want to see you happy
again. I want to see you laughin' about the house, like you used to.
Can't you sort o' liven up a little?"
"I might," sez she, with the first sneer I ever see her use on the
ol' man, "I might, if you'd give me the rest o' the bottle you got
your own gaiety out of."
Cast Steel's face turned as red as a brick, an' his fist doubled up.
"That's a sample o' your idee of respect, is it? You're gettin' too
infernal biggoty. Now you pay attention. I want to have a little
gatherin' here Thanks-givin'. Will you, or will you not, see that
the arrangements are attended to?"
"Yes, sir," sez Barbie, lookin' down at her plate. "How many guests
will the' be?"
"Well, how can I tell?" sez Jabez. "Can you get ready for twenty?"
"Yes, sir," answers Barbie, never liftin' her eyes.
"Yes, sir; yes, sir; yes, sir!" yells the of man. "I get everlastin'
tired o' your `yes, sirs.' Am I or am I not your ol' Dad?" "If you
prefer, I can call you father," sez she, like she was talkin' to the
moon through a telephone. "Dad is not correct English; it is a
This was allus like a pail o' water to the of man. Nothin' stung him
any worse than to have her peel a couple o' layers off her edication
an' chuck 'em at him.
"Do you know what is apt to happen if you keep on pesterin' me?" he
sez, glarin' at her. "Do you think 'at you're too big to be
She raised her eyes an' looked at him then. Poor feller, he could
'a' torn his tongue out by the roots the minute it was guilty o'
that fool speech; but she didn't spare him. She let him have the
full effect o' that look, an' he seemed to shrivel up. "I reckon
you're big enough to whip me--once," she said; "but I'm of age, an'
I'm mighty sure 'at that would be the finishin' touch 'at would
break the bonds what seem to hold me to this house. I probably have
bad blood o' some kind in me; but I'm not so ill-favored but what I
can find a man to go along with me when I do conclude to go." She
looked at me, an' the ol' man looked at me, an' I felt like a red-
hot stove; but I straightened back in my chair, an' I cleared my
throat. "I ain't no mind-reader," sez I, "but I'm bettin' on that
The ol' man couldn't think up a come-back; so in about a minute he
pushed back his chair, upsettin' it an' lettin' it lay where it
fell. He went up to his room, slammin' the door after him, an'
Barbie got out a pony an' galloped off to the hills.
But the ol' man hadn't give up his project. He opened it again, an'
was mighty crafty in the way he handled it, until finally he
engineered it through. The' was purt' nigh forty of 'em who arrived
to make merry over Thanksgivin'. Some of 'em came the day before,
an' some of 'em two days before, an' some didn't arrive till the day
itself, 'cause they had lived such a ways. The' was four women an'
three unmarried ladies, countin' Miss Wiggins, the Spike Crick
schoolmarm, who was a friendly little thing, though a shade too
coltish for her years. Most o' the men was still liable to
Jabez had an idee in his head, an' it didn't take no ferret to nose
it out, neither. He was extra cordial to the store-keeper from Webb
Station, an' a young Englishman by the name o' Hawthorn, finally
settlin' down to Hawthorn an' playin' him wide open. We had a mighty
sociable time, an' whenever we wasn't eatin' we played games. Barbie
did just exactly what of Cast Steel played her to do. She was too
red-blooded to let an outsider see 'at she'd been bad hurt; so she
brazened up an' laughed an' danced an' sang, an' showed 'em games
they hadn't never dreamt of before.
Most of 'em went home by Sunday night, but Hawthorn was prevailed
upon to stay a week longer. He had a little ranch up in the hills,
an' seemed a well-meanin' sort of a feller, but slow. He belonged to
the show-me club, an' had all his facical muscles spiked fast for
fear they'd come loose an' grin before he saw the point himself.
Barbie see through the ol' man's lead, an' she took her revenge out
on Hawthorn. She would lean forward an' hold his eye, an' say, in
the sweetest voice you ever heard, "Oh. Mr. Hawthorn, I want to tell
you somethin' that happened at school;" an' then she would start in
an' tell some long-winded tale 'at didn't have no more point than a
mush room, an' as she told along she would call his attention to
certain details as though they was goin' to figger in at the wind-
up. When she would reach the end she would break out in a peal o'
spontunious laughter; while he would look as if he had been lost in
the heart of a great city without his name-plate on. Still, he had a
certain breedy look about him, an' before the week was up she grew
ashamed of her-self an' showed him a good time.
He was one o' these sad ones--sentimental an' romantic, with a bad
case o' chronic lonesomeness; an' one twilight he told her a
pathetic little love story about a girl back in England what had had
sense enough to cut him out of her assets when he had trooped over
to this country to punch a fortune out o' beef cattle. This had been
about five years previous; but his heart still ached about it--
though it hadn't cut his appetite so you could notice. She treated
him mighty gentle after this, an' when he started to ride away Jabez
had the look of a man what had filled his hand.
In about a week he came over an' stayed for a couple o' days, an' he
showed up at Christmas too; an' about once a week after that he'd
drop in an' stay four or five days. Early in March he paid a visit
to his own ranch to ready things up for spring, an' the day after he
was gone Jabez sez to Barbie at dinner, "Now, Mr Hawthorn is a
gentle man. He asked me for the honor of winnin' your hand in holy
wedlock; an' I have give my consent."
Barbie went along eatin' her meal, an' purty soon Jabez sez, "Well,
did you hear what I had to say?"
"Why, certainly I did," sez Barbie, calmly.
"What have you got to say about it?" sez he.
"Oh, nothin' in particular," sez she. "It was very polite in him to
ask, an' very kind in you to give your consent; but I can't see as
it interests me much. I can't see that he has any show of winnin'
the hand. I promised that once, an' I ain't never got the promise
"Yes," snaps Jabez, "an' who did you promise it to? To a sneak who
didn't care a pin for you but was only after my money. If he was
honest why didn't he ask me, the same as Hawthorn did?"
"Of course I can't tell for sure," sez she, without raisin' her
voice or changin' her expression, "but I thought at the time that it
was the hand itself he wanted, an' not merely permission to set an'
wish for it. In this life a man generally gets what he asks for.
Dick got the hand."
"Seems to set a heap o' store by it," sez the ol' man, edgin' up his
voice cruel an' tantalizin'. "Where's this Dick now; when did you
last hear from this winner of hands?"
It was a fierce stab, an' Barbie went white as a sheet; but she
faced him cool an' steady. "I ain't never heard from him since the
day he left; but I trust him just the same. The hand will be his
when he chooses to claim it; or if he never comes back at all--why
the hand will still be his."
Cast Steel got on his hind legs an' struck the table till every dish
on it jumped, an' I rose a bit myself; but Barbie only curled her
little red lip. "Curse him," sez the ol' man, "curse him, wherever
he is an' wherever he goes. He has ruined my life an' he has ruined
yours; an' if he ever steps foot on this ranch again, I'll--"
"Stop!" sez Barbie, springin' to her feet. "You give me more sadness
every day I live than Dick has altogether; but for pity's sake don't
bind yourself by a threat. Wait till he comes back, an' be free to
meet him like a man, not like a thug pledged to murder."
"What do you know about him?" sez the ol' man, sittin' down. "For
all you know, he may be robbin' trains for a livin'. It would be
right in his line."
"For all I know, robbin' trains was where you got your start," sez
Barbie; an' the of man's face turned gray an' his eyes stuck out
like picture nails. He wasn't used to gettin' it quite so
unpolluted, an' it gave him a nasty jar.
"How do you know 'at he ain't livin' with the woman he kept over at
Laramie?" sez Jabez, tryin' to get the whip hand again. "How do you
know he ain't married?"
"An' how do I know 'at you ever was married--" she stopped short,
bitin' her lip an' turnin' red with shame. "I know it's well nigh
hopeless to plead with a natural bully," she sez in a new tone; "but
I do wish 'at you'd let me alone. You're destroyin' my respect for
everything. I can't stand this much longer. If I can't live here in
peace I'll have to hunt a new place to live; but as long as I do
stay here you will have to act like a man--even if you can't act
like a father. I think that in the future I shall take my meals
"I do want to act like a father, little girl. That's what I want
most of all. If you would only go back to the old times, if you
would only get this sneak out of your head"--Jabez had started in
gentle an' repentent, but the minute he thought of Dick again he
flared out white with rage--"an' you might just as well get him out
of your head, 'cause he's the same as dead to you. I hate him! I
hate every sneak; an' I hate every lie--spoken or lived, I hate a
The ol' man leaned forward, shaking with anger, an' Barbie got up
like a queen an' walked out o' the room as though she was steppin'
on the necks of the airy-stockracy. She went to the office, an'
after a couple o' minutes I follered her, expectin' to cheer her up
a bit; but she wasn't mournin' none; she was workin' like a steam
engine, with her face cold an' white except for a little patch o'
red in each cheek; an' when she raised her eyes to mine I knew 'at
the ol' man had gone a link too far.
After me and Barbie had taken up Dick's work we had divided his
wages, an' she had a nice little roll of her own corded away. I
didn't ask no questions, but it was plain as day that she had jerked
up her tie-rope; an' the next time Cast Steel used the spurs he was
goin' to be dumped off an' she was goin' to flit the trail for
Never-again. I didn't blame her a mite; an' though I didn't pester
her with queries nor smother her with advice nor sicken her with
consolation nor madden her with pity, I did give her the man-to-man
look, an' she knew 'at all she had to do was to issue orders.
It was that very afternoon that she started to correctin' my talk
an' stimulatin' my ambition, an' tellin' me about it never bein' too
late to mend; an' while I couldn't quite decide just what she was
drivin' at I saw that when she found she couldn't trust her cinches
any longer we was both goin' to jump together. About five o'clock
she put her hand on my shoulder an' sez: "We've been mighty good
pals, Happy Hawkins; an' while you ain't parlor-broke nor city-wise,
any time 'at anybody counts on you they don't have to count over."
She walked softly out o' the office, an' I sat until it was long
after dark. I couldn't believe 'at she was desperate enough to marry
me; I could see the gulf between us plain enough, an' the higher you
are the plainer you can see the difference; but I could see that
unless Jabez changed his ways, why, the oldest man the' was couldn't
tell how far Barbie would go. I didn't think a bit of myself, I can
say that much; all I looked at was what would make her the happiest,
an' she was welcome to take my life any way she wanted. If she chose
to drag it out for fifty years, or if she selected that I cash it in
the next hour, my only regret would be that I hadn't but one life to
THE WAYS OF WOMANKIND
Things went along purty much the same after that; but I could see
'at the ol' man sensed a new tone in things, an' he begun to look
agey. He was still gallin' on Barbie, but I couldn't help but feel
mighty sorry for him. He had paid all them years 'at she was away at
school, out o' the joy of his own heart, lookin' for his pay in the
time when she'd come back an' be his chum again, an' here they was
with a wall of ice between 'em an' nairy a lovin' glance to melt it
The' come a warm spell toward the last o' the month; an' one evenin'
just as we was finishin' supper we heard a cry o' distress in a
man's voice--an' the cry sounded like "Barbie!" I reckon all our
hearts stood still, an' I reckon we all thought exactly the same
thing. In about a minute the cry came again, an' the ol' man jumped
to his feet an' pulled his gun. "If that's Silver Dick," sez he,
"I'll kill him."
Barbie had also sprung up, an' she looked him square in the eyes.
"If you harm a hair of his head I'll--I'll do some shootin' myself."
She pulled a little gun out of her bosom, an' we all stood quiet for
a moment. It was easy to see 'at she wasn't bluffin': but I'm purty
sure that Jabez an' I had different idees as to what she meant.
Jabez thought she meant him self; but he hadn't got the name o' Cast
Steel for nothin', an' a sort of a grim smile crept onto his face.
We stood still for a moment, an' then we went out together, an'
before long we heard the sound again--a long, waverin', ghostly call
in the gatherin' twilight.
We hurried along, an' purty soon we saw a man lyin' across the
trail. The ol' man held his gun in his hand, an' so did Barbie,
while I walked a step behind doin' a heap o' thinkin'. If the ol'
man killed Dick, Barbie would shoot herself; if any one stopped the
ol' man that one would take on weight exceedin' fast, unless he
crippled the of man first. I finally made up my mind that I would
try to overpower the ol' man without hurtin' him, an' ol' Cast Steel
was built like a grizzly. I didn't enjoy that walk as much as some
I've took. When we got close to the figger lyin' in the trail we all
walked a little crouchy. It looked quite a little like Dick; but
when we saw it wasn't nothin' but that fool Hawthorn with a busted
leg, we three looked like the reception committee of the Foolish
I hustled back an' got Hanson an' a couple o' the boys and an ol'
door, an' we fetched him home an' put him to bed an' sent for the
doctor--an' that was the worst luck that ever happened to ol' Dick.
You know how a woman is with anything hurt or sick; they're the same
the world over. A right strickly wise married man would have
everything broke except his pocket-book, an' then he'd be sure o'
lots of pettin'. They allus want to spoil a feller when he's on the
flat of his back. When he's walkin' around on his own feet all he
needs to do is to express a desire, an' they vetoe it on general
principles, an' after they've talked themselves dry they send out
an' get the preacher to finish the job; but when that same vile
speciment of masculine humanity gets some of his runnin' gear
damaged, why they bed him on rose leaves, feed him on honey, an',
good or bad, they give him whatever he wants. This particular feller
wanted Barbie, an' Barbie was mighty gentle with him.
Sometimes it seems to me that the only men who can understand a
woman are the men who work a lot with the dumb creatures. Take an
animal now, wild or tame, an' it hates to confess a weakness; it'll
just go on head up an' eyes flashin' till it drops in its tracks--so
will a woman. Take the fiercest female animal the' is, an' it's all
mother on the inside. Why, they're everlastin'ly adoptin' somethin'
'at don't rightly belong to 'em. Sometimes they go to work an' adopt
a little straggler that in a regular way is their daily food; an' it
ain't no step-mother affair neither, it 's the real thing.
The wild animals are the best to study, 'cause the tame ones have
been some spoiled by associatin' with man. Well, the wild animals
spend all their spare time dressin' up an' cleanin' their clothes,
an' when it ain't absolutely necessary they hate to get a toe wet;
but when it comes to love or duty, why fire, water, nor the fear o'
man ain't goin' to stop 'em; so again I sez 'at the man what can
savvy the wild animals can get purty nigh within hailin' distance of
woman, an' that's gettin' close; but you want to remember this, no
animal never tells the truth to an outsider. The principle part o'
their life is spent in throwin' folks off their trail, an' they
allus make their lairs in the most secret places. If a feller ever
gets to know 'em even a little he has to be mighty patient an'
mighty careful, an' above all things, he mustn't never get the idee
that he knows every last thing about 'em the' is to know, 'cause no
man never knows that. Some men try to estimate a woman by their own
earthy way o' doin' things. 'T would be just as reasonable for a man
who was purty wise to the ways of a pug-dog to get inflated with the
idee that he had a natural talent for hivin' grizzly bears.
But to get back to my tale: this Englishman had fallen on his feet
all right, even if the connection to one of 'em was busted up a bit.
I was around 'em a good bit, bein' forced to consult with Barbie
about things, an' I was able to piece out the method he was usin'.
He wasn't such a fool as he looked, by consid'able many rods. He
talked a heap about the sacrifice he had made for the girl back in
England, an' how much he had loved her an' how much Barbie had
comforted him, although even yet he could not forget her. Once
Barbie asked him what her name was. For a moment he didn't answer,
an' then he sez in a low voice, Alice LeMoyne. I lifted my face
quick an' gave him a look, but he wasn't noticin' me. I didn't say
anything; but I couldn't help wonderin' if this Alice LeMoyne had
anything to do with the dancer what had married into the Clarenden
family, an' then died. It was an odd name, but still I didn't reckon
the' was a patent on it.
Finally I could tell by their talk that Barbie had told him about
Dick, an' then I knew the jig was about up. He allus spoke o' Dick
in a gentle, soothin' way, makin' every excuse for him; an' this
made her think him a noble-minded feller! an' the most natural
outcome was for 'm to just bunch their woes an' cling together for
comfort. She allus used to sit by his side in the twilight, singin'
sorrowful love songs to him, an' once I caught him holdin' her hand.
You see she was just naturally hungry for somethin' to pet an' care
for; luck offered a spavined Englishman, an' she was tryin' to make
the best of it.
Jabez savvied this to the queen's taste, an' he got gentle an'
lovin' to Barbie, an' did all he could to square himself; so that
poor old Dick wasn't much more'n a memory, which is one o' the
complications absence is apt to cause after it gets tired o' makin'
the heart grow fonder.
But hang it, I didn't like this Englishman more than the law
required. The' didn't seem to be much harm to him; but he had washy
eyes, an' he was too blame oily an' gentle. I never heard him swear
all through it, an' it ain't natural for a real man to stand on his
back for eight weeks without havin' a little molten lava slop over
into his conversation. It was all I could do to keep from stickin' a
pin into him.
"Barbie," I sez one day, as innocent as an Injun, "I over-heard our
honored guest tell you that a girl by the name of Alice LeMoyne put
a crack in his heart over the water."
"Yes," sez she, with a sigh.
"It don't seem to be a popular name," sez I. "I've met lots o' women
who wasn't called Alice LeMoyne."
"It is probably French," sez she.
"It does sound like a circus, that's a fact," sez I. "Well, you
break it to him gently that Alice LeMoyne is dead. Don't ask me any
questions, but do be careful not to shock him, he seems purty high
You might as well use sarcasm on a steer as on a woman; Barbie went
up to Hawthorn with her eyes full o' pity, while I waited below an'
made up pictures o' the crockadile tears he'd pump up for her. All
of a sudden she gave a shriek. I hit the stairs, goin' forty miles
an hour, an' there was Barbie with her hands clasped, lookin' down
at the Englishman.
Well, he was enough to make a snake shriek. He was layin' there with
his head jerked back, his eyes wide open an' pointin' inwards, an'
lookin' altogether like the ancient corpse of a strangled cat. His
hands was doubled up tight, an' the' was a little froth on his lips.
I'd never seen nothing like that before, so I threw some water in
his face. That's about all the rule I know for any one who is
missin' cogs, an' I poured enough water on him to please a duck. He
didn't respond for some several minutes, an' when he did come out of
it he looked loose all over. I helped Barbie get some dry stuff
under him, an' then I went down, wonderin' what kind o' dynamite for
him they'd been in that name I'd sent up.
I tried to convince Barbie that his wires were all mixed up an' he
wasn't healthy; but she argued that it showed a loyal nature to be
so affected by mention of his old sweet-heart, an' tried to pump me
for where I had picked up the name. It looked too much like a chance
shot to me; as this guy had only been among us a few years, an' I
gathered from Bill Hammersly that the Alice LeMoyne I was springin'
had journeyed on, some several years earlier.
But the Englishman continued to repose on his bed o' down, Barbie
read to him, cooked little tid-bits for him, an' he opened up his
nature an' gave a new shine to his eyes; while Jabez--well, Jabez
was buoyant as a balloon, an' sent here an' there for nick-hacks an'
jim-cracks an' such like luxuries. He got to callin' Hawthorn
"Clarence" an' "my boy," an' kindry epithets, till even a casual
stranger would 'a' knowed the' was a roarin' in the ol' man's head
like a chime o' weddin' bells.
Hawthorn was able to crutch around a bit by the first o' May; it was
an early season, an' the' was a great harvest o' calves at the
round-up. I was in work up to my eyes, an' sort o' lost track of the
doin's except when Barbie would have the buckboard hooked up an'
come out to the brandin' ground. The weather was glorious, an' you
couldn't have blamed an Injun idol for fallin' in love, so I lost
heart an' was two-thirds mad nine-tenths o' the time.
Jabez had had a hard siege of it an' it showed. His face was lined,
his hair was white at the temples, an' the' was a wistful look in
his eyes which was mighty touchy. Barbie was more chummy with him
too, an' they was edgin' back to ol' times; but I was darn glad to
see Hawthorn finally admit that he was sufficiently recovered to
drive over an' see what had become of his own lay-out.
The very first meal that we et alone, however, showed that the old
sore wasn't plumb healed over yet. Jabez couldn't wait any longer,
so he called for a show-down as soon as our food began to catch up
with our appetite. "Has Clarence popped the question yet, honey?"
"About twice a day on the average," sez Barbie, chillin' up a
trifle; "but I don't think he stands much chance. I like him an' he
is kind an' good; but I don't reckon I could ever marry him."
The ol' man didn't flare up, same as he would have once. He just sat
still, lookin' at his plate, an' that was the hardest blow he had
ever struck her. She asked me twice that afternoon if I thought he
Next day at dinner Jabez finished his rations, an' then leaned back
an' looked lovin'ly at Barbie for a minute. "Little girl," he sez,
"I know 'at you don't like to hurt me intentional; but you have give
me a mighty sight of heartaches in my time. I have allus aimed to do
what seemed best for you, an' it has generally been a hard job. I
haven't complained much; but I'm gettin' old, child, I'm gettin'
old. It's not for myself, Barbie, it's all for you, for you an' for-
-for the mother you never knew; but who made me promise to watch
over an' protect ya. I can't speak of her, Barbie; but when I meet
her out yonder I want to be able to tell her that as far as I was
able I've done my part.
"This Dick has been gone a year, an' never a word to ya to let you
know even whether he's alive or not. This ain't love, honey; he was
only after my money. Now Clarence is honest an' open; why can't you
take up with him, so 'at if I'd be called sudden I could go in
peace. It would mean a lot to me to see you in good hands, honey.
I'm afraid 'at Dick'll wait until I'm gone, an' then come snoopin'
around, like a coyote sneakin' into camp when the hunters are away.
Don't answer me now, child; just think it over careful. I've
generally let you have your own way, but I do wish you'd give in to
me this time."
Was Jabez failin'--was he? Well, not so you could notice it! Course
he wasn't quite so physically able as once; but I never saw him put
up a toppier mental exhibition than he did right then. Barbie didn't
have a word to say that afternoon until about five o'clock. Then she
suddenly looked up from some reports we was goin' over, an' sez,
"Happy, if you had gone away from me like Dick did, what would be
the only thing what would have kept you from comin' back to me?"
"By God, nothin' but death!" sez I, without stoppin' to think.
The color rushed to her cheeks as if I had slapped her; an' then it
oozed away, leavin' her white as chalk, while I bit my lip an'
pinched myself somethin' hearty. I had wanted to compliment her I
suppose, if I'd had any motive at all; but what I had done, when you
come to look it square in the teeth, was to ask her to cut an ace
out of a deck with nothin' left higher than a six spot. I ain't what
you would call inventionative; but I could 'a' done a blame sight
better'n that if I'd taken the time to think, instead o' simply
blurtin' out the truth like some fool amateur.
"Well," sez she, finally, "Dick was twice the man you are, so he
We didn't say anything for some time. Vanity ain't like a mill-store
about my neck; but at the same time, whenever any one plugs me in
the face with an aged cabbage, I allus like to make a some little
acknowledgment. Of course I knew that she was handin' me one for my
fool break; but she did it in cold blood, an' if it hadn't been for
her bein' so stewed up in trouble, I'd have made her furnish some
specifications to back up that remark. Twice is a good many, but I
let it go.
She sat lost in study for a while, an' then said, mostly to herself,
"I reckon I might as well take him"--my heart popped up in my mouth
till I liked to have gagged, but she went on--"he's honest an' kind,
an' he's been true a long time to his first love. I hope he'll stay
true to her after we're married; I know I'll stay true to mine"--
then I knew she meant that fool Englishman. "Anyway, father has been
good to me," she continued, "an' I don't set enough store by my own
life to risk spoilin' his."
"I suppose that mis-shapen stray from the other side is twice the
man I am, too," sez I. She put her hand on mine an' sez in a tired
voice, "Ah, Happy, you've been my staff so far through the valley,
don't you slip out from under me too"; so I swallered hard a couple
o' times an' let it go.
She sat still a long while, lookin' out the window an' up to the of
gray mountains; and as I watched her with her lips tremblin, an' her
eyes misty, with courage winnin' a battle over pain, I saw the woman
lines of her face steal forth an' bury the last traces o' girlhood.
After a time she sez softly, "Poor ol' Dick, I wonder how it
happened"; but never one tear got by her eyelids--never one single
From that on it was plain sailin'. Barbie didn't put up any more
fight to either of 'em. She told 'em open an' fair that she would
never in the world have consented if she had thought that Dick was
still alive; but if they was willin' to take what part of her heart
was left why they was welcome to it. Jabez was pleased at any kind
of a compromise 'at would give him his own way, an' Clarence, poor
dear, wasn't a proud lot. The flesh-pots of Egypt was about all the
arguments needed to win his vote, confound him. I used to give him
some sneerin' glances what would 'a' put fight into the heart of a
ring-dove; but he was resigned an' submissive; so 'at I had to
swaller my tongue when I saw him comin', for fear I might tell him
my opinion of him an' then stamp his life out for not bein'
The first of November was selected for the weddin' day; an' Jabez
told 'em 'at his present would be a trip to Europe an' a half
interest in the ranch. Clarence sort o' perked up his face when
Jabez told him about it; an' I thought he was goin' to suggest that
they cut out the trip to Europe an' take the whole o' the ranch. I
had the makin's of a good many cyclones in my system those days.
A MODERN KNIGHT-ERRANT
I was lonesome once. I don't mean simply willin' to sit in a game,
or to join a friendly little booze competition, or feelin' a sort of
inward desire to mingle about with some o' the old boys an' see who
could remember the biggest tales--I mean LONESOME,--the real rib-
strainin' article when a man sits in a limpy little heap with his
tongue hangin' out, a-wishin' that a flea-bit coyote would saunter
along, slap him on the back, an' call him friens.
I was out in No-man's land with just a small bunch o' mangy cows,
an' the grass so scarce I purt' nigh had to get 'em shod--they had
to travel so far in makin' a meal. It was hot an' it was dusty an'
it was dry--the whole earth seemed to reek. My victuals got moldy
an' soft an' sticky, my appetite laid down an' refused to go another
peg; 'I was just simply dyin' o' thirst, an' every single drop o'
water we came across had a breath like the dyin' gasp of a coal-oil
stove, expirin' for a couple o' fingers o' the stuff they float
Now I'd allus supposed that the' wasn't anything left to tell me
about bein' lonesome; but when it was finally settled that Barbie
was to waste herself on that imported imitation of a hand-made
mechanical toy, I found out that heretofore I'd been only dealin' in
childish delusions. The whole Diamond Dot seemed to rest right on
top o' my soul: the air didn't smell sweet, I got so I'd lie awake
at night, food grew so fearless it could look me right in the face
without flinchin'; but one night I saw Merry England with his arm
around Barbie's waist, an' that settled it. By the time I had
regained my self-control, I was twenty miles from the ranch, an' I
knew that if I went back it would be to make arrangements for the
last sad obsequaries of Clarence the Comforter.
I had about three hundred bucks in my belt, so I wended my way to
Danders an' sneaked aboard the East-bound without attractin' the
notice of ol' Mrs. Fate or any o' the rest o' the Danders bunch. I
got out at Laramie, an' they all knew Dick an' was proud of him an'
eager to learn what had become of him. One thing else I found out,
an' that was that he had been keepin' a woman all right, an' that
she was livin' there yet; but never went out without a heavy veil,
an' the' wasn't any way short o' physical force to get to speak to
I figured out that Dick wouldn't care to go back to Texas, so the
chances were that he was either in San Francisco or England. I
didn't know anything about England, so I went to Frisco. I prowled
around for a couple o' days exactly like a story-detective; an' by
jinks, I turned up a clew. That feller, Piker, was the clew, an'
when I spied him in a low gamblin' room I made some little stir
until I got him alone so I could talk to him. I hadn't hurt him
none; but I had been tol'able firm, an' he was minded to speak the
truth. He told me that Dick was in the Texas Penitentiary for life--
that he had surrendered himself up, an' that this was what had give
him life instead of the rope.
I knew the gang what had put him there, an' I knew that his chances
for gettin' out were about as good as if he was in his grave. I was
stumped an' I knew it; so I sez to Piker: "Piker, you may think that
I'm allus as gentle as I've been with you; but if this ain't the
truth you've told me I'll get your life if I have to track you bare-
footed through hell."
He swore by everything he could remember that it was the solemn
truth, an' then I turned him loose an' I turned myself loose too.
The boys down at Frisco was certainly glad to see me, an' we sure
had a royal good time as long as my money lasted; but when it began
to dry up they seemed to lose interest in me an' had a heap o'
private business to attend to.
One mornin' I noticed that I was dead broke; so I drilled down to
the dock an' sat on a post. Pretty soon along comes a little fat
man, an' he looks me over from nose to toe. I don't know why it is,
but as a rule a city man takes as open-hearted an' disembarrassed an
interest in me as though I was a prize punkin' or the father of a
new breed o' beef cattle. After he had made up his opinion he smiles
into my eyes an' sez, "I like your face."
"You soothe me," sez I. "I was just thinkin' o' havin' it
remodelled; but now I'll leave it just as it is."
Well, he laughs an' slaps me on the back an' sez, "I like your
style. Want to take a ride?"
"What on?" sez I, for he seemed purty blocky an' fat-legged for a
"On that there sailboat," sez he, pointin' to a thing about the size
of a flat-iron with a knittin'-needle stickin' out of it. I give a
little think, an' I sez: "To tell you the gospel truth, Bud, I ain't
never been on a sailboat in my life; but I'm game to play her one
whirl if you'll just wait until I get my breakfast."
"How long will it take?" sez he. "Deuced if I know," sez I. "I've
been waitin' hereabout two hours already an' the' ain't none showed
"Why don't you go to a restaurant?" sez he.
"I thank you kindly for the suggestion," sez I; "but the same
brilliant idee occurred to me a little over two hours ago, an' all
my finger-nails is wore to the quick tryin' to scratch up enough
He studied my face a moment, then he chuckled up a laugh, an'
scooted over to an eatin'-house, comin' back with a lot o' stuff an'
some coffee. Then we got into the boat an' begun to sail. Oh, it
certainly was grand! By the time I had made it up with my stomach we
were out on the Pacific Ocean, an' I felt like Christopher Columbus.
Enjoy myself? Well. I guess I did! I felt like a boy with copper-
toed boots an' a toy balloon. Then things began to churn up wild an'
furious. Fatty said that Pacific meant mild an' peaceful--the
darned, sarcastic, little liar! The storm that was presently
kazooin' along was fierce an' horrible, an' that dinky little soap-
bubble cut up scand'lous.
We went jumpin' an' slidin' ahead, tilted away over on one side, but
Fatty never turned a hair; he said it was nothin' but a capful o'
wind, an' he sat in the back end o' the boat with a little stick in
his hand, hummin' tunes an' havin' the time of his life; but give me
a bunch of blizzard-scared long-horns for mine.
I never knowed a boat was so human. This one bucked an' kicked an'
reared up an' tried to fall over on its back, the same as a mustang;
while I held on with my teeth an' wondered if it was a put-up job.
Then I began to feel as though I had partakin' of a balloon. I
gritted my teeth an' swallered hot water constant; but it wasn't no
use; purty soon that beautiful breakfast began to fight its way to
liberty. Layer after layer, up it came; an' all the while mebbe I
wasn't feelin' like a tender-foot, with that fat little cuss puffin'
his pipe in the back seat, as happy as a toad.
After a bit he looks at me purty sympathetic like, an' sez, "You
seem to have a weak stomach."
"Weak?" I yells. "Weak! why you doggone son of a pirate, it kicks
like a shotgun every time it goes off. Weak!"
We stayed out on our pleasure trip the best part of the day, me
layin' with what used to be my head jammed under the front seat,
while my liver chased my stomach up an' down my backbone, tryin' to
squeeze out a few more crumbs o' that breakfast. You can believe me
or not; but when noon came that double dyed villain got out the grub
an' began to eat--even goin' so far as to ask me to join him. A hog
wouldn't 'a' done it. We came back; about five o'clock, an' by the
time we reached the landin' place I was feelin' fine. An' hungry--
When we got upon the platform an' started to walk up-town Fatty sez
to me, "What are you goin' to do to kill time now?"
"Time?" sez I. "Well, now, I dunno as I feel any inborn hankerin' to
slaughter time; but if the game laws ain't in force I wouldn't mind
flushin' up a covey of fat young ham sandwidges."
"You're a funny cuss," sez he.
"I am," sez I; "an' I hope I won't come sudden in front of a
lookin'-glass. A good hearty laugh just now would be purty apt to
puncture my stomach--it's jammed up so tight again my backbone."
"You don't seem to like this community," sez he.
"I don't know," sez I. "It's been a mighty long time since I tasted
it; but I have an idy that I'd enjoy some served hot with a couple
o' porterhouse steaks smothered in cornbeef hash an' about three
pints o' coffee."
He chuckled up another laugh, an sez, "If you had a good job here
would you be apt to settle?"
"Settle?" sez I. "You needn't worry much about that; I'm no tight-
wad. When it comes my turn to settle I generally fish up a handful
an' say, 'Here, take it out o' that an' keep the change.'"
He looked at me a minute without speakin', an' then he said, as
though he was thinkin' aloud, "You seem to be mighty well set up."
I was hurt at this. "Your ticket entitles you to one more guess,"
sez I. "Any time anybody got set up in my company since I struck
town the bartender allus managed to sneak me the checks without
gettin' caught at it. The' must 'a' been a cold snap here, an' all
the easy spenders got froze up."
"No, I mean you're wonderful well built," sez he. "Kin you ride a
"I can," sez I, "if he's kind an' gentle, an' I manage to get a good
grip on the saddle horn, an' he don't start to lopin' or somethin'
"Do you know what a knight is?" sez he.
"Yes," sez I, "I do when I'm home; but since I've been here I ain't
wasted none of 'em in sleep, so I ain't right certain."
"No, I don't mean that kind," sez he. "I mean the soldiers of long
ago who used to wear steel armor an' fight with spears an' rescue
maidens an' so forth. I believe I can get you a job at it for a
month or so, at three dollars a day."
"Now look here, Bud," sez I, "them three dollars look mighty
enticin' to me, an' I ain't no objection to rescuin' the maidens;
but I move we cut out the steel armor an' the spears. If the' 's any
great amount o' maidens in need o' rescuin', I could do the job a
heap quicker with my six-shooters."
"Oh, I don't mean to be a real knight," sez he. "I want you to
"Say," sez I, "perhaps you never noticed it; but after you've been
livin' on air for some time you get so you can't tell whether it's
yourself or the other feller what's crazy. I came down to this town
because my appetite was clogged up an' wouldn't work; but I'm cured.
I'm the most infernally cured individual you ever set eyes on, an'
I'm goin' back where food ain't too blame proud to be seen in
company with a poor man."
Well, I broke through his crust that time, an' we sidled into a
feed-joint, where I pried my ribs apart while he un folded his plot.
It seemed the' was a brand of chewin' tobacco what had one o' these
here knights on the tag, an' I was to dress up like the picture an'
advertise it. The man who was to do it had sprained his ankle, an'
Fatty's brother was huntin' up a new man. Fatty said he'd get me the
Well, he did, an' next mornin' I started out in a tin suit with a
sort of kettle turned upside down an' covered with feathers for a
sky-piece. I certainly made an imposin' sight, an' all I had to do
was to ride around an' fling little plugs o' tobacco out o' my
saddle-bags. But the' was draw-backs. The' generally is.
Take the real native-son brand of Friscoite, an' he'll tell you 'at
Frisco an' Paradise are sunonomous. I used to like to argue 'em out
about it. One day I had a thirty-third degree one pointin' his
finger in my eye an' beatin' his palm with his fist, an' spreadin'
himself somethin' gorgeous. He never curbed his jubilization nor
altered the heavy seriousness of his expression; but in the most
matter-of-fact way in the world he backs over to the door-jamb an'
begins to polish it up with his spinal column. If ya'll notice
you'll find most o' the coats in that locality has curious little
streaks up the back--but it ain't polite to ask questions about 'em.
"Look here, Bud," sez I, interruptin', "I know all about your golden
gates an' sea lions an' cosmopopilic civilization; but how about
"Fleas!" sez he. "Hang the fleas! I'll tell you about them. The
devil He tried an experiment; he wanted a place so fine to live in
that man wouldn't have no inducement to try to get to heaven; so he
studied all the cities an' the towns--an' then he made Frisco. The
experiment worked to perfection; everybody what lived there was
perfectly satisfied, an' the preachers couldn't make 'em believe 'at
any place could be any better. But the good Lord, he was powerful
fond o' the Friscoites, so he finally figgered out the little red
flea--an' then even Frisco had a drawback; not enough to give the
town anything of a black eye; just enough to leave one little