Part 2 out of 5
"'Slack up your grip in my dress shirt,' says Uncle Emsley, 'and I'll
tell you. Yes, it looks like Jackson Bird has gone and humbugged you
some. The day after he went riding with Willella he came back and told
me and her to watch out for you whenever you got to talking about
pancakes. He said you was in camp once where they was cooking
flapjacks, and one of the fellows cut you over the head with a frying
pan. Jackson said that whenever you got overhot or excited that wound
hurt you and made you kind of crazy, and you went raving about
pancakes. He told us to just get you worked off of the subject and
soothed down, and you wouldn't be dangerous. So, me and Willella done
the best by you we knew how. Well, well,' says Uncle Emsley, 'that
Jackson Bird is sure a seldom kind of a snoozer.'"
During the progress of Jud's story he had been slowly but deftly
combining certain portions of the contents of his sacks and cans.
Toward the close of it he set before me the finished product--a pair
of red-hot, rich-hued pancakes on a tin plate. From some secret
hoarding he also brought a lump of excellent butter and a bottle of
"How long ago did these things happen?" I asked him.
"Three years," said Jud. "They're living on the Mired Mule Ranch now.
But I haven't seen either of 'em since. They say Jackson Bird was
fixing his ranch up fine with rocking chairs and window curtains all
the time he was putting me up the pancake tree. Oh, I got over it
after a while. But the boys kept the racket up."
"Did you make these cakes by the famous recipe?" I asked.
"Didn't I tell you there wasn't no receipt?" said Jud. "The boys
hollered pancakes till they got pancake hungry, and I cut this recipe
out of a newspaper. How does the truck taste?"
"They're delicious," I answered. "Why don't you have some, too, Jud?"
I was sure I heard a sigh.
"Me?" said Jud. "I don't ever eat 'em."
SEATS OF THE HAUGHTY
Golden by day and silver by night, a new trail now leads to us across
the Indian Ocean. Dusky kings and princes have found our Bombay of the
West; and few be their trails that do not lead down to Broadway on
their journey for to admire and for to see.
If chance should ever lead you near a hotel that transiently shelters
some one of these splendid touring grandees, I counsel you to seek
Lucullus Polk among the republican tuft-hunters that besiege its
entrances. He will be there. You will know him by his red, alert,
Wellington-nosed face, by his manner of nervous caution mingled with
determination, by his assumed promoter's or broker's air of busy
impatience, and by his bright-red necktie, gallantly redressing the
wrongs of his maltreated blue serge suit, like a battle standard still
waving above a lost cause. I found him profitable; and so may you.
When you do look for him, look among the light-horse troop of Bedouins
that besiege the picket-line of the travelling potentate's guards and
secretaries--among the wild-eyed genii of Arabian Afternoons that
gather to make astounding and egregrious demands upon the prince's
I first saw Mr. Polk coming down the steps of the hotel at which
sojourned His Highness the Gaekwar of Baroda, most enlightened of the
Mahratta princes, who, of late, ate bread and salt in our Metropolis
of the Occident.
Lucullus moved rapidly, as though propelled by some potent moral force
that imminently threatened to become physical. Behind him closely
followed the impetus--a hotel detective, if ever white Alpine hat,
hawk's nose, implacable watch chain, and loud refinement of manner
spoke the truth. A brace of uniformed porters at his heels preserved
the smooth decorum of the hotel, repudiating by their air of
disengagement any suspicion that they formed a reserve squad of
Safe on the sidewalk, Lucullus Polk turned and shook a freckled fist
at the caravansary. And, to my joy, he began to breathe deep invective
in strange words:
"Rides in howdays, does he?" he cried loudly and sneeringly. "Rides on
elephants in howdahs and calls himself a prince! Kings--yah! Comes
over here and talks horse till you would think he was a president; and
then goes home and rides in a private dining-room strapped onto an
elephant. Well, well, well!"
The ejecting committee quietly retired. The scorner of princes turned
to me and snapped his fingers.
"What do you think of that?" he shouted derisively. "The Gaekwar of
Baroda rides in an elephant in a howdah! And there's old Bikram
Shamsher Jang scorching up and down the pig-paths of Khatmandu on a
motor-cycle. Wouldn't that maharajah you? And the Shah of Persia, that
ought to have been Muley-on-the-spot for at least three, he's got the
palanquin habit. And that funny-hat prince from Korea--wouldn't you
think he could afford to amble around on a milk-white palfrey once in
a dynasty or two? Nothing doing! His idea of a Balaklava charge is to
tuck his skirts under him and do his mile in six days over the hog-
wallows of Seoul in a bull-cart. That's the kind of visiting
potentates that come to this country now. It's a hard deal, friend."
I murmured a few words of sympathy. But it was uncomprehending, for I
did not know his grievance against the rulers who flash, meteor-like,
now and then upon our shores.
"The last one I sold," continued the displeased one, "was to that
three-horse-tailed Turkish pasha that came over a year ago. Five
hundred dollars he paid for it, easy. I says to his executioner or
secretary--he was a kind of a Jew or a Chinaman--'His Turkey Gibbets
is fond of horses, then?'
"'Him?' says the secretary. 'Well, no. He's got a big, fat wife in the
harem named Bad Dora that he don't like. I believe he intends to
saddle her up and ride her up and down the board-walk in the Bulbul
Gardens a few times every day. You haven't got a pair of extra-long
spurs you could throw in on the deal, have you?' Yes, sir; there's
mighty few real rough-riders among the royal sports these days."
As soon as Lucullus Polk got cool enough I picked him up, and with no
greater effort than you would employ in persuading a drowning man to
clutch a straw, I inveigled him into accompanying me to a cool corner
in a dim cafe.
And it came to pass that man-servants set before us brewage; and
Lucullus Polk spake unto me, relating the wherefores of his
beleaguering the antechambers of the princes of the earth.
"Did you ever hear of the S.A. & A.P. Railroad in Texas? Well, that
don't stand for Samaritan Actor's Aid Philanthropy. I was down that
way managing a summer bunch of the gum and syntax-chewers that play
the Idlewild Parks in the Western hamlets. Of course, we went to
pieces when the soubrette ran away with a prominent barber of
Beeville. I don't know what became of the rest of the company. I
believe there were some salaries due; and the last I saw of the troupe
was when I told them that forty-three cents was all the treasury
contained. I say I never saw any of them after that; but I heard them
for about twenty minutes. I didn't have time to look back. But after
dark I came out of the woods and struck the S.A. & A.P. agent for
means of transportation. He at once extended to me the courtesies of
the entire railroad, kindly warning me, however, not to get aboard any
of the rolling stock.
"About ten the next morning I steps off the ties into a village that
calls itself Atascosa City. I bought a thirty-cent breakfast and a
ten-cent cigar, and stood on the Main Street jingling the three
pennies in my pocket--dead broke. A man in Texas with only three cents
in his pocket is no better off than a man that has no money and owes
"One of luck's favourite tricks is to soak a man for his last dollar
so quick that he don't have time to look it. There I was in a swell
St. Louis tailor-made, blue-and-green plaid suit, and an eighteen-
carat sulphate-of-copper scarf-pin, with no hope in sight except the
two great Texas industries, the cotton fields and grading new
railroads. I never picked cotton, and I never cottoned to a pick, so
the outlook had ultramarine edges.
"All of a sudden, while I was standing on the edge of the wooden
sidewalk, down out of the sky falls two fine gold watches in the
middle of the street. One hits a chunk of mud and sticks. The other
falls hard and flies open, making a fine drizzle of little springs and
screws and wheels. I looks up for a balloon or an airship; but not
seeing any, I steps off the sidewalk to investigate.
"But I hear a couple of yells and see two men running up the street in
leather overalls and high-heeled boots and cartwheel hats. One man is
six or eight feet high, with open-plumbed joints and a heartbroken
cast of countenance. He picks up the watch that has stuck in the mud.
The other man, who is little, with pink hair and white eyes, goes for
the empty case, and says, 'I win.' Then the elevated pessimist goes
down under his leather leg-holsters and hands a handful of twenty-
dollar gold pieces to his albino friend. I don't know how much money
it was; it looked as big as an earthquake-relief fund to me.
"'I'll have this here case filled up with works,' says Shorty, 'and
throw you again for five hundred.'
"'I'm your company,' says the high man. 'I'll meet you at the Smoked
Dog Saloon an hour from now.'
"The little man hustles away with a kind of Swiss movement toward a
jewelry store. The heartbroken person stoops over and takes a
telescopic view of my haberdashery.
"'Them's a mighty slick outfit of habiliments you have got on, Mr.
Man,' says he. 'I'll bet a hoss you never acquired the right, title,
and interest in and to them clothes in Atascosa City.'
"'Why, no,' says I, being ready enough to exchange personalities with
this moneyed monument of melancholy. 'I had this suit tailored from a
special line of coatericks, vestures, and pantings in St. Louis. Would
you mind putting me sane,' says I, 'on this watch-throwing contest?
I've been used to seeing time-pieces treated with more politeness and
esteem--except women's watches, of course, which by nature they abuse
by cracking walnuts with 'em and having 'em taken showing in tintype
"'Me and George,' he explains, 'are up from the ranch, having a spell
of fun. Up to last month we owned four sections of watered grazing
down on the San Miguel. But along comes one of these oil prospectors
and begins to bore. He strikes a gusher that flows out twenty thousand
--or maybe it was twenty million--barrels of oil a day. And me and
George gets one hundred and fifty thousand dollars--seventy-five
thousand dollars apiece--for the land. So now and then we saddles up
and hits the breeze for Atascosa City for a few days of excitement and
damage. Here's a little bunch of the /dinero/ that I drawed out of the
bank this morning,' says he, and shows a roll of twenties and fifties
as big around as a sleeping-car pillow. The yellowbacks glowed like a
sunset on the gable end of John D.'s barn. My knees got weak, and I
sat down on the edge of the board sidewalk.
"'You must have knocked around a right smart,' goes on this oil
Grease-us. 'I shouldn't be surprised if you have saw towns more
livelier than what Atascosa City is. Sometimes it seems to me that
there ought to be some more ways of having a good time than there is
here, 'specially when you've got plenty of money and don't mind
"Then this Mother Cary's chick of the desert sits down by me and we
hold a conversationfest. It seems that he was money-poor. He'd lived
in ranch camps all his life; and he confessed to me that his supreme
idea of luxury was to ride into camp, tired out from a round-up, eat a
peck of Mexican beans, hobble his brains with a pint of raw whisky,
and go to sleep with his boots for a pillow. When this barge-load of
unexpected money came to him and his pink but perky partner, George,
and they hied themselves to this clump of outhouses called Atascosa
City, you know what happened to them. They had money to buy anything
they wanted; but they didn't know what to want. Their ideas of
spendthriftiness were limited to three--whisky, saddles, and gold
watches. If there was anything else in the world to throw away
fortunes on, they had never heard about it. So, when they wanted to
have a hot time, they'd ride into town and get a city directory and
stand in front of the principal saloon and call up the population
alphabetically for free drinks. Then they would order three or four
new California saddles from the storekeeper, and play crack-loo on the
sidewalk with twenty-dollar gold pieces. Betting who could throw his
gold watch the farthest was an inspiration of George's; but even that
was getting to be monotonous.
"Was I on to the opportunity? Listen.
"In thirty minutes I had dashed off a word picture of metropolitan
joys that made life in Atascosa City look as dull as a trip to Coney
Island with your own wife. In ten minutes more we shook hands on an
agreement that I was to act as his guide, interpreter and friend in
and to the aforesaid wassail and amenity. And Solomon Mills, which was
his name, was to pay all expenses for a month. At the end of that
time, if I had made good as director-general of the rowdy life, he was
to pay me one thousand dollars. And then, to clinch the bargain, we
called the roll of Atascosa City and put all of its citizens except
the ladies and minors under the table, except one man named Horace
Westervelt St. Clair. Just for that we bought a couple of hatfuls of
cheap silver watches and egged him out of town with 'em. We wound up
by dragging the harness-maker out of bed and setting him to work on
three new saddles; and then we went to sleep across the railroad track
at the depot, just to annoy the S.A. & A.P. Think of having seventy-
five thousand dollars and trying to avoid the disgrace of dying rich
in a town like that!
"The next day George, who was married or something, started back to
the ranch. Me and Solly, as I now called him, prepared to shake off
our moth balls and wing our way against the arc-lights of the joyous
and tuneful East.
"'No way-stops,' says I to Solly, 'except long enough to get you
barbered and haberdashed. This is no Texas feet shampetter,' says I,
'where you eat chili-concarne-con-huevos and then holler "Whoopee!"
across the plaza. We're now going against the real high life. We're
going to mingle with the set that carries a Spitz, wears spats, and
hits the ground in high spots.'
"Solly puts six thousand dollars in century bills in one pocket of his
brown ducks, and bills of lading for ten thousand dollars on Eastern
banks in another. Then I resume diplomatic relations with the S.A. &
A.P., and we hike in a northwesterly direction on our circuitous route
to the spice gardens of the Yankee Orient.
"We stopped in San Antonio long enough for Solly to buy some clothes,
and eight rounds of drinks for the guests and employees of the Menger
Hotel, and order four Mexican saddles with silver trimmings and white
Angora /suaderos/ to be shipped down to the ranch. From there we made
a big jump to St. Louis. We got there in time for dinner; and I put
our thumb-prints on the register of the most expensive hotel in the
"'Now,' says I to Solly, with a wink at myself, 'here's the first
dinner-station we've struck where we can get a real good plate of
beans.' And while he was up in his room trying to draw water out of
the gas-pipe, I got one finger in the buttonhole of the head waiter's
Tuxedo, drew him apart, inserted a two-dollar bill, and closed him up
"'Frankoyse,' says I, 'I have a pal here for dinner that's been
subsisting for years on cereals and short stogies. You see the chef
and order a dinner for us such as you serve to Dave Francis and the
general passenger agent of the Iron Mountain when they eat here. We've
got more than Bernhardt's tent full of money; and we want the nose-
bags crammed with all the Chief Deveries /de cuisine/. Object is no
expense. Now, show us.'
"At six o'clock me and Solly sat down to dinner. Spread! There's
nothing been seen like it since the Cambon snack. It was all served at
once. The chef called it /dinnay a la poker/. It's a famous thing
among the gormands of the West. The dinner comes in threes of a kind.
There was guinea-fowls, guinea-pigs, and Guinness's stout; roast veal,
mock turtle soup, and chicken pate; shad-roe, caviar, and tapioca;
canvas-back duck, canvas-back ham, and cotton-tail rabbit;
Philadelphia capon, fried snails, and sloe-gin--and so on, in threes.
The idea was that you eat nearly all you can of them, and then the
waiter takes away the discard and gives you pears to fill on.
"I was sure Solly would be tickled to death with these hands, after
the bobtail flushes he'd been eating on the ranch; and I was a little
anxious that he should, for I didn't remember his having honoured my
efforts with a smile since we left Atascosa City.
"We were in the main dining-room, and there was a fine-dressed crowd
there, all talking loud and enjoyable about the two St. Louis topics,
the water supply and the colour line. They mix the two subjects so
fast that strangers often think they are discussing water-colours; and
that has given the old town something of a rep as an art centre. And
over in the corner was a fine brass band playing; and now, thinks I,
Solly will become conscious of the spiritual oats of life nourishing
and exhilarating his system. But /nong, mong frang/.
"He gazed across the table at me. There was four square yards of it,
looking like the path of a cyclone that has wandered through a stock-
yard, a poultry-farm, a vegetable-garden, and an Irish linen mill.
Solly gets up and comes around to me.
"'Luke,' says he, 'I'm pretty hungry after our ride. I thought you
said they had some beans here. I'm going out and get something I can
eat. You can stay and monkey with this artificial layout of grub if
you want to.'
"'Wait a minute,' says I.
"I called the waiter, and slapped 'S. Mills' on the back of the check
for thirteen dollars and fifty cents.
"'What do you mean,' says I, 'by serving gentlemen with a lot of truck
only suitable for deck-hands on a Mississippi steamboat? We're going
out to get something decent to eat.'
"I walked up the street with the unhappy plainsman. He saw a saddle-
shop open, and some of the sadness faded from his eyes. We went in,
and he ordered and paid for two more saddles--one with a solid silver
horn and nails and ornaments and a six-inch border of rhinestones and
imitation rubies around the flaps. The other one had to have a gold-
mounted horn, quadruple-plated stirrups, and the leather inlaid with
silver beadwork wherever it would stand it. Eleven hundred dollars the
two cost him.
"Then he goes out and heads toward the river, following his nose. In a
little side street, where there was no street and no sidewalks and no
houses, he finds what he is looking for. We go into a shanty and sit
on high stools among stevedores and boatmen, and eat beans with tin
spoons. Yes, sir, beans--beans boiled with salt pork.
"'I kind of thought we'd strike some over this way,' says Solly.
"'Delightful,' says I, 'That stylish hotel grub may appeal to some;
but for me, give me the husky /table d'goat.'
"When we had succumbed to the beans I leads him out of the tarpaulin-
steam under a lamp post and pulls out a daily paper with the amusement
column folded out.
"'But now, what ho for a merry round of pleasure,' says I. 'Here's one
of Hall Caine's shows, and a stock-yard company in "Hamlet," and
skating at the Hollowhorn Rink, and Sarah Bernhardt, and the Shapely
Syrens Burlesque Company. I should think, now, that the Shapely--'
"But what does this healthy, wealthy, and wise man do but reach his
arms up to the second-story windows and gape noisily.
"'Reckon I'll be going to bed,' says he; 'it's about my time. St.
Louis is a kind of quiet place, ain't it?'
"'Oh, yes,' says I; 'ever since the railroads ran in here the town's
been practically ruined. And the building-and-loan associations and
the fair have about killed it. Guess we might as well go to bed. Wait
till you see Chicago, though. Shall we get tickets for the Big Breeze
"'Mought as well,' says Solly. 'I reckon all these towns are about
"Well, maybe the wise cicerone and personal conductor didn't fall hard
in Chicago! Loolooville-on-the-Lake is supposed to have one or two
things in it calculated to keep the rural visitor awake after the
curfew rings. But not for the grass-fed man of the pampas! I tried him
with theatres, rides in automobiles, sails on the lake, champagne
suppers, and all those little inventions that hold the simple life in
check; but in vain. Solly grew sadder day by day. And I got fearful
about my salary, and knew I must play my trump card. So I mentioned
New York to him, and informed him that these Western towns were no
more than gateways to the great walled city of the whirling dervishes.
"After I bought the tickets I missed Solly. I knew his habits by then;
so in a couple of hours I found him in a saddle-shop. They had some
new ideas there in the way of trees and girths that had strayed down
from the Canadian mounted police; and Solly was so interested that he
almost looked reconciled to live. He invested about nine hundred
dollars in there.
"At the depot I telegraphed a cigar-store man I knew in New York to
meet me at the Twenty-third Street ferry with a list of all the
saddle-stores in the city. I wanted to know where to look for Solly
when he got lost.
"Now I'll tell you what happened in New York. I says to myself:
'Friend Heherezade, you want to get busy and make Bagdad look pretty
to the sad sultan of the sour countenance, or it'll be the bowstring
for yours.' But I never had any doubt I could do it.
"I began with him like you'd feed a starving man. I showed him the
horse-cars on Broadway and the Staten Island ferry-boats. And then I
piled up the sensations on him, but always keeping a lot of warmer
ones up my sleeve.
"At the end of the third day he looked like a composite picture of
five thousand orphans too late to catch a picnic steamboat, and I was
wilting down a collar every two hours wondering how I could please him
and whether I was going to get my thou. He went to sleep looking at
the Brooklyn Bridge; he disregarded the sky-scrapers above the third
story; it took three ushers to wake him up at the liveliest vaudeville
"Once I thought I had him. I nailed a pair of cuffs on him one morning
before he was awake; and I dragged him that evening to the palm-cage
of one of the biggest hotels in the city--to see the Johnnies and the
Alice-sit-by-the-hours. They were out in numerous quantities, with the
fat of the land showing in their clothes. While we were looking them
over, Solly divested himself of a fearful, rusty kind of laugh--like
moving a folding bed with one roller broken. It was his first in two
weeks, and it gave me hope.
"'Right you are,' says I. 'They're a funny lot of post-cards, aren't
"'Oh, I wasn't thinking of them dudes and culls on the hoof,' says he.
'I was thinking of the time me and George put sheep-dip in Horsehead
Johnson's whisky. I wish I was back in Atascosa City,' says he.
"I felt a cold chill run down my back. 'Me to play and mate in one
move,' says I to myself.
"I made Solly promise to stay in the cafe for half an hour and I hiked
out in a cab to Lolabelle Delatour's flat on Forty-third Street. I
knew her well. She was a chorus-girl in a Broadway musical comedy.
"'Jane,' says I when I found her, 'I've got a friend from Texas here.
He's all right, but--well, he carries weight. I'd like to give him a
little whirl after the show this evening--bubbles, you know, and a
buzz out to a casino for the whitebait and pickled walnuts. Is it a
"'Can he sing?' asks Lolabelle.
"'You know,' says I, 'that I wouldn't take him away from home unless
his notes were good. He's got pots of money--bean-pots full of it.'
"'Bring him around after the second act,' says Lolabelle, 'and I'll
examine his credentials and securities.'
"So about ten o'clock that evening I led Solly to Miss Delatour's
dressing-room, and her maid let us in. In ten minutes in comes
Lolabelle, fresh from the stage, looking stunning in the costume she
wears when she steps from the ranks of the lady grenadiers and says to
the king, 'Welcome to our May-day revels.' And you can bet it wasn't
the way she spoke the lines that got her the part.
"As soon as Solly saw her he got up and walked straight out through
the stage entrance into the street. I followed him. Lolabelle wasn't
paying my salary. I wondered whether anybody was.
"'Luke,' says Solly, outside, 'that was an awful mistake. We must have
got into the lady's private room. I hope I'm gentleman enough to do
anything possible in the way of apologies. Do you reckon she'd ever
"'She may forget it,' says I. 'Of course it was a mistake. Let's go
find some beans.'
"That's the way it went. But pretty soon afterward Solly failed to
show up at dinner-time for several days. I cornered him. He confessed
that he had found a restaurant on Third Avenue where they cooked beans
in Texas style. I made him take me there. The minute I set foot inside
the door I threw up my hands.
"There was a young woman at the desk, and Solly introduced me to her.
And then we sat down and had beans.
"Yes, sir, sitting at the desk was the kind of a young woman that can
catch any man in the world as easy as lifting a finger. There's a way
of doing it. She knew. I saw her working it. She was healthy-looking
and plain dressed. She had her hair drawn back from her forehead and
face--no curls or frizzes; that's the way she looked. Now I'll tell
you the way they work the game; it's simple. When she wants a man, she
manages it so that every time he looks at her he finds her looking at
him. That's all.
"The next evening Solly was to go to Coney Island with me at seven. At
eight o'clock he hadn't showed up. I went out and found a cab. I felt
sure there was something wrong.
"'Drive to the Back Home Restaurant on Third Avenue,' says I. 'And if
I don't find what I want there, take in these saddle-shops.' I handed
him the list.
"'Boss,' says the cabby, 'I et a steak in that restaurant once. If
you're real hungry, I advise you to try the saddle-shops first.'
"'I'm a detective,' says I, 'and I don't eat. Hurry up!'
"As soon as I got to the restaurant I felt in the lines of my palms
that I should beware of a tall, red, damfool man, and I was going to
lose a sum of money.
"Solly wasn't there. Neither was the smooth-haired lady.
"I waited; and in an hour they came in a cab and got out, hand in
hand. I asked Solly to step around the corner for a few words. He was
grinning clear across his face; but I had not administered the grin.
"'She's the greatest that ever sniffed the breeze,' says he.
"'Congrats,' says I. 'I'd like to have my thousand now, if you
"'Well, Luke,' says he, 'I don't know that I've had such a skyhoodlin'
fine time under your tutelage and dispensation. But I'll do the best I
can for you--I'll do the best I can,' he repeats. 'Me and Miss Skinner
was married an hour ago. We're leaving for Texas in the morning.'
"'Great!' says I. 'Consider yourself covered with rice and Congress
gaiters. But don't let's tie so many satin bows on our business
relations that we lose sight of 'em. How about my honorarium?'
"'Missis Mills,' says he, 'has taken possession of my money and papers
except six bits. I told her what I'd agreed to give you; but she says
it's an irreligious and illegal contract, and she won't pay a cent of
it. But I ain't going to see you treated unfair,' says he. 'I've got
eighty-seven saddles on the ranch what I've bought on this trip; and
when I get back I'm going to pick out the best six in the lot and send
'em to you.'"
"And did he?" I asked, when Lucullus ceased talking.
"He did. And they are fit for kings to ride on. The six he sent me
must have cost him three thousand dollars. But where is the market for
'em? Who would buy one except one of these rajahs and princes of Asia
and Africa? I've got 'em all on the list. I know every tan royal dub
and smoked princerino from Mindanao to the Caspian Sea."
"It's a long time between customers," I ventured.
"They're coming faster," said Polk. "Nowadays, when one of the
murdering mutts gets civilised enough to abolish suttee and quit using
his whiskers for a napkin, he calls himself the Roosevelt of the East,
and comes over to investigate our Chautauquas and cocktails. I'll
place 'em all yet. Now look here."
From an inside pocket he drew a tightly folded newspaper with much-
worn edges, and indicated a paragraph.
"Read that," said the saddler to royalty. The paragraph ran thus:
His Highness Seyyid Feysal bin Turkee, Imam of Muskat, is one of
the most progressive and enlightened rulers of the Old World. His
stables contain more than a thousand horses of the purest Persian
breeds. It is said that this powerful prince contemplates a visit
to the United States at an early date.
"There!" said Mr. Polk triumphantly. "My best saddle is as good as
sold--the one with turquoises set in the rim of the cantle. Have you
three dollars that you could loan me for a short time?"
It happened that I had; and I did.
If this should meet the eye of the Imam of Muskat, may it quicken his
whim to visit the land of the free! Otherwise I fear that I shall be
longer than a short time separated from my dollars three.
HYGEIA AT THE SOLITO
If you are knowing in the chronicles of the ring you will recall to
mind an event in the early 'nineties when, for a minute and sundry odd
seconds, a champion and a "would-be" faced each other on the alien
side of an international river. So brief a conflict had rarely imposed
upon the fair promise of true sport. The reporters made what they
could of it, but, divested of padding, the action was sadly fugacious.
The champion merely smote his victim, turned his back upon him,
remarking, "I know what I done to dat stiff," and extended an arm like
a ship's mast for his glove to be removed.
Which accounts for a trainload of extremely disgusted gentlemen in an
uproar of fancy vests and neck-wear being spilled from their pullmans
in San Antonio in the early morning following the fight. Which also
partly accounts for the unhappy predicament in which "Cricket" McGuire
found himself as he tumbled from his car and sat upon the depot
platform, torn by a spasm of that hollow, racking cough so familiar to
San Antonian ears. At that time, in the uncertain light of dawn, that
way passed Curtis Raidler, the Nueces County cattleman--may his shadow
never measure under six foot two.
The cattleman, out this early to catch the south-bound for his ranch
station, stopped at the side of the distressed patron of sport, and
spoke in the kindly drawl of his ilk and region, "Got it pretty bad,
"Cricket" McGuire, ex-feather-weight prizefighter, tout, jockey,
follower of the "ponies," all-round sport, and manipulator of the gum
balls and walnut shells, looked up pugnaciously at the imputation cast
"G'wan," he rasped, "telegraph pole. I didn't ring for yer."
Another paroxysm wrung him, and he leaned limply against a convenient
baggage truck. Raidler waited patiently, glancing around at the white
hats, short overcoats, and big cigars thronging the platform. "You're
from the No'th, ain't you, bud?" he asked when the other was partially
recovered. "Come down to see the fight?"
"Fight!" snapped McGuire. "Puss-in-the-corner! 'Twas a hypodermic
injection. Handed him just one like a squirt of dope, and he's asleep,
and no tanbark needed in front of his residence. Fight!" He rattled a
bit, coughed, and went on, hardly addressing the cattleman, but rather
for the relief of voicing his troubles. "No more dead sure t'ings for
me. But Rus Sage himself would have snatched at it. Five to one dat de
boy from Cork wouldn't stay t'ree rounds is what I invested in. Put my
last cent on, and could already smell the sawdust in dat all-night
joint of Jimmy Delaney's on T'irty-seventh Street I was goin' to buy.
And den--say, telegraph pole, what a gazaboo a guy is to put his whole
roll on one turn of the gaboozlum!"
"You're plenty right," said the big cattleman; "more 'specially when
you lose. Son, you get up and light out for a hotel. You got a mighty
bad cough. Had it long?"
"Lungs," said McGuire comprehensively. "I got it. The croaker says
I'll come to time for six months longer--maybe a year if I hold my
gait. I wanted to settle down and take care of myself. Dat's why I
speculated on dat five to one perhaps. I had a t'ousand iron dollars
saved up. If I winned I was goin' to buy Delaney's cafe. Who'd a
t'ought dat stiff would take a nap in de foist round--say?"
"It's a hard deal," commented Raidler, looking down at the diminutive
form of McGuire crumpled against the truck. "But you go to a hotel and
rest. There's the Menger and the Maverick, and--"
"And the Fi'th Av'noo, and the Waldorf-Astoria," mimicked McGuire.
"Told you I went broke. I'm on de bum proper. I've got one dime left.
Maybe a trip to Europe or a sail in me private yacht would fix me up--
He flung his dime at a newsboy, got his /Express/, propped his back
against the truck, and was at once rapt in the account of his
Waterloo, as expanded by the ingenious press.
Curtis Raidler interrogated an enormous gold watch, and laid his hand
on McGuire's shoulder.
"Come on, bud," he said. "We got three minutes to catch the train."
Sarcasm seemed to be McGuire's vein.
"You ain't seen me cash in any chips or call a turn since I told you I
was broke, a minute ago, have you? Friend, chase yourself away."
"You're going down to my ranch," said the cattleman, "and stay till
you get well. Six months'll fix you good as new." He lifted McGuire
with one hand, and half-dragged him in the direction of the train.
"What about the money?" said McGuire, struggling weakly to escape.
"Money for what?" asked Raidler, puzzled. They eyed each other, not
understanding, for they touched only as at the gear of bevelled cog-
wheels--at right angles, and moving upon different axes.
Passengers on the south-bound saw them seated together, and wondered
at the conflux of two such antipodes. McGuire was five feet one, with
a countenance belonging to either Yokohama or Dublin. Bright-beady of
eye, bony of cheek and jaw, scarred, toughened, broken and reknit,
indestructible, grisly, gladiatorial as a hornet, he was a type
neither new nor unfamiliar. Raidler was the product of a different
soil. Six feet two in height, miles broad, and no deeper than a
crystal brook, he represented the union of the West and South. Few
accurate pictures of his kind have been made, for art galleries are so
small and the mutoscope is as yet unknown in Texas. After all, the
only possible medium of portrayal of Raidler's kind would be the
fresco--something high and simple and cool and unframed.
They were rolling southward on the International. The timber was
huddling into little, dense green motts at rare distances before the
inundation of the downright, vert prairies. This was the land of the
ranches; the domain of the kings of the kine.
McGuire sat, collapsed into his corner of the seat, receiving with
acid suspicion the conversation of the cattleman. What was the "game"
of this big "geezer" who was carrying him off? Altruism would have
been McGuire's last guess. "He ain't no farmer," thought the captive,
"and he ain't no con man, for sure. W'at's his lay? You trail in,
Cricket, and see how many cards he draws. You're up against it,
anyhow. You got a nickel and gallopin' consumption, and you better
lay low. Lay low and see w'at's his game."
At Rincon, a hundred miles from San Antonio, they left the train for a
buckboard which was waiting there for Raidler. In this they travelled
the thirty miles between the station and their destination. If
anything could, this drive should have stirred the acrimonious McGuire
to a sense of his ransom. They sped upon velvety wheels across an
exhilarant savanna. The pair of Spanish ponies struck a nimble,
tireless trot, which gait they occasionally relieved by a wild,
untrammelled gallop. The air was wine and seltzer, perfumed, as they
absorbed it, with the delicate redolence of prairie flowers. The road
perished, and the buckboard swam the uncharted billows of the grass
itself, steered by the practised hand of Raidler, to whom each tiny
distant mott of trees was a signboard, each convolution of the low
hills a voucher of course and distance. But McGuire reclined upon his
spine, seeing nothing but a desert, and receiving the cattleman's
advances with sullen distrust. "W'at's he up to?" was the burden of
his thoughts; "w'at kind of a gold brick has the big guy got to sell?"
McGuire was only applying the measure of the streets he had walked to
a range bounded by the horizon and the fourth dimension.
A week before, while riding the prairies, Raidler had come upon a sick
and weakling calf deserted and bawling. Without dismounting he had
reached and slung the distressed bossy across his saddle, and dropped
it at the ranch for the boys to attend to. It was impossible for
McGuire to know or comprehend that, in the eyes of the cattleman, his
case and that of the calf were identical in interest and demand upon
his assistance. A creature was ill and helpless; he had the power to
render aid--these were the only postulates required for the cattleman
to act. They formed his system of logic and the most of his creed.
McGuire was the seventh invalid whom Raidler had picked up thus
casually in San Antonio, where so many thousand go for the ozone that
is said to linger about its contracted streets. Five of them had been
guests of Solito Ranch until they had been able to leave, cured or
better, and exhausting the vocabulary of tearful gratitude. One came
too late, but rested very comfortably, at last, under a ratama tree in
So, then, it was no surprise to the ranchhold when the buckboard spun
to the door, and Raidler took up his debile /protege/ like a handful
of rags and set him down upon the gallery.
McGuire looked upon things strange to him. The ranch-house was the
best in the country. It was built of brick hauled one hundred miles by
wagon, but it was of but one story, and its four rooms were completely
encircled by a mud floor "gallery." The miscellaneous setting of
horses, dogs, saddles, wagons, guns, and cow-punchers' paraphernalia
oppressed the metropolitan eyes of the wrecked sportsman.
"Well, here we are at home," said Raidler, cheeringly.
"It's a h--l of a looking place," said McGuire promptly, as he rolled
upon the gallery floor in a fit of coughing.
"We'll try to make it comfortable for you, buddy," said the cattleman
gently. "It ain't fine inside; but it's the outdoors, anyway, that'll
do you the most good. This'll be your room, in here. Anything we got,
you ask for it."
He led McGuire into the east room. The floor was bare and clean. White
curtains waved in the gulf breeze through the open windows. A big
willow rocker, two straight chairs, a long table covered with
newspapers, pipes, tobacco, spurs, and cartridges stood in the centre.
Some well-mounted heads of deer and one of an enormous black javeli
projected from the walls. A wide, cool cot-bed stood in a corner.
Nueces County people regarded this guest chamber as fit for a prince.
McGuire showed his eyeteeth at it. He took out his nickel and spun it
up to the ceiling.
"T'ought I was lyin' about the money, did ye? Well, you can frisk me
if you wanter. Dat's the last simoleon in the treasury. Who's goin' to
The cattleman's clear grey eyes looked steadily from under his grizzly
brows into the huckleberry optics of his guest. After a little he said
simply, and not ungraciously, "I'll be much obliged to you, son, if
you won't mention money any more. Once was quite a plenty. Folks I ask
to my ranch don't have to pay anything, and they very scarcely ever
offers it. Supper'll be ready in half an hour. There's water in the
pitcher, and some, cooler, to drink, in that red jar hanging on the
"Where's the bell?" asked McGuire, looking about.
"Bell for what?"
"Bell to ring for things. I can't--see here," he exploded in a sudden,
weak fury, "I never asked you to bring me here. I never held you up
for a cent. I never gave you a hard-luck story till you asked me. Here
I am fifty miles from a bellboy or a cocktail. I'm sick. I can't
hustle. Gee! but I'm up against it!" McGuire fell upon the cot and
Raidler went to the door and called. A slender, bright-complexioned
Mexican youth about twenty came quickly. Raidler spoke to him in
"Ylario, it is in my mind that I promised you the position of
/vaquero/ on the San Carlos range at the fall /rodeo/."
"/Si, senor/, such was your goodness."
"Listen. This /senorito/ is my friend. He is very sick. Place yourself
at his side. Attend to his wants at all times. Have much patience and
care with him. And when he is well, or--and when he is well, instead
of /vaquero/ I will make you /mayordomo/ of the Rancho de las Piedras.
"/Si, si--mil gracias, senor/." Ylario tried to kneel upon the floor
in his gratitude, but the cattleman kicked at him benevolently,
growling, "None of your opery-house antics, now."
Ten minutes later Ylario came from McGuire's room and stood before
"The little /senor/," he announced, "presents his compliments"
(Raidler credited Ylario with the preliminary) "and desires some
pounded ice, one hot bath, one gin feez-z, that the windows be all
closed, toast, one shave, one Newyorkheral', cigarettes, and to send
Raidler took a quart bottle of whisky from his medicine cabinet.
"Here, take him this," he said.
Thus was instituted the reign of terror at the Solito Ranch. For a few
weeks McGuire blustered and boasted and swaggered before the cow-
punchers who rode in for miles around to see this latest importation
of Raidler's. He was an absolutely new experience to them. He
explained to them all the intricate points of sparring and the tricks
of training and defence. He opened to their minds' view all the
indecorous life of a tagger after professional sports. His jargon of
slang was a continuous joy and surprise to them. His gestures, his
strange poses, his frank ribaldry of tongue and principle fascinated
them. He was like a being from a new world.
Strange to say, this new world he had entered did not exist to him. He
was an utter egoist of bricks and mortar. He had dropped out, he felt,
into open space for a time, and all it contained was an audience for
his reminiscences. Neither the limitless freedom of the prairie days
nor the grand hush of the close-drawn, spangled nights touched him.
All the hues of Aurora could not win him from the pink pages of a
sporting journal. "Get something for nothing," was his mission in
life; "Thirty-seventh" Street was his goal.
Nearly two months after his arrival he began to complain that he felt
worse. It was then that he became the ranch's incubus, its harpy, its
Old Man of the Sea. He shut himself in his room like some venomous
kobold or flibbertigibbet, whining, complaining, cursing, accusing.
The keynote of his plaint was that he had been inveigled into a
gehenna against his will; that he was dying of neglect and lack of
comforts. With all his dire protestations of increasing illness, to
the eye of others he remained unchanged. His currant-like eyes were as
bright and diabolic as ever; his voice was as rasping; his callous
face, with the skin drawn tense as a drum-head, had no flesh to lose.
A flush on his prominent cheek bones each afternoon hinted that a
clinical thermometer might have revealed a symptom, and percussion
might have established the fact that McGuire was breathing with only
one lung, but his appearance remained the same.
In constant attendance upon him was Ylario, whom the coming reward of
the /mayordomo/ship must have greatly stimulated, for McGuire chained
him to a bitter existence. The air--the man's only chance for life--he
commanded to be kept out by closed windows and drawn curtains. The
room was always blue and foul with cigarette smoke; whosoever entered
it must sit, suffocating, and listen to the imp's interminable
gasconade concerning his scandalous career.
The oddest thing of all was the relation existing between McGuire and
his benefactor. The attitude of the invalid toward the cattleman was
something like that of a peevish, perverse child toward an indulgent
parent. When Raidler would leave the ranch McGuire would fall into a
fit of malevolent, silent sullenness. When he returned, he would be
met by a string of violent and stinging reproaches. Raidler's attitude
toward his charge was quite inexplicable in its way. The cattleman
seemed actually to assume and feel the character assigned to him by
McGuire's intemperate accusations--the character of tyrant and guilty
oppressor. He seemed to have adopted the responsibility of the
fellow's condition, and he always met his tirades with a pacific,
patient, and even remorseful kindness that never altered.
One day Raidler said to him, "Try more air, son. You can have the
buckboard and a driver every day if you'll go. Try a week or two in
one of the cow camps. I'll fix you up plumb comfortable. The ground,
and the air next to it--them's the things to cure you. I knowed a man
from Philadelphy, sicker than you are, got lost on the Guadalupe, and
slept on the bare grass in sheep camps for two weeks. Well, sir, it
started him getting well, which he done. Close to the ground--that's
where the medicine in the air stays. Try a little hossback riding now.
There's a gentle pony--"
"What've I done to yer?" screamed McGuire. "Did I ever doublecross
yer? Did I ask you to bring me here? Drive me out to your camps if you
wanter; or stick a knife in me and save trouble. Ride! I can't lift my
feet. I couldn't sidestep a jab from a five-year-old kid. That's what
your d--d ranch has done for me. There's nothing to eat, nothing to
see, and nobody to talk to but a lot of Reubens who don't know a
punching bag from a lobster salad."
"It's a lonesome place, for certain," apologised Raidler abashedly.
"We got plenty, but it's rough enough. Anything you think of you want,
the boys'll ride up and fetch it down for you."
It was Chad Murchison, a cow-puncher from the Circle Bar outfit, who
first suggested that McGuire's illness was fraudulent. Chad had
brought a basket of grapes for him thirty miles, and four out of his
way, tied to his saddle-horn. After remaining in the smoke-tainted
room for a while, he emerged and bluntly confided his suspicions to
"His arm," said Chad, "is harder'n a diamond. He interduced me to what
he called a shore-perplexus punch, and 'twas like being kicked twice
by a mustang. He's playin' it low down on you, Curt. He ain't no
sicker'n I am. I hate to say it, but the runt's workin' you for range
The cattleman's ingenuous mind refused to entertain Chad's view of the
case, and when, later, he came to apply the test, doubt entered not
into his motives.
One day, about noon, two men drove up to the ranch, alighted, hitched,
and came in to dinner; standing and general invitations being the
custom of the country. One of them was a great San Antonio doctor,
whose costly services had been engaged by a wealthy cowman who had
been laid low by an accidental bullet. He was now being driven back to
the station to take the train back to town. After dinner Raidler took
him aside, pushed a twenty-dollar bill against his hand, and said:
"Doc, there's a young chap in that room I guess has got a bad case of
consumption. I'd like for you to look him over and see just how bad he
is, and if we can do anything for him."
"How much was that dinner I just ate, Mr. Raidler?" said the doctor
bluffly, looking over his spectacles. Raidler returned the money to
his pocket. The doctor immediately entered McGuire's room, and the
cattleman seated himself upon a heap of saddles on the gallery, ready
to reproach himself in the event the verdict should be unfavourable.
In ten minutes the doctor came briskly out. "Your man," he said
promptly, "is as sound as a new dollar. His lungs are better than
mine. Respiration, temperature, and pulse normal. Chest expansion four
inches. Not a sign of weakness anywhere. Of course I didn't examine
for the bacillus, but it isn't there. You can put my name to the
diagnosis. Even cigarettes and a vilely close room haven't hurt him.
Coughs, does he? Well, you tell him it isn't necessary. You asked if
there is anything we could do for him. Well, I advise you to set him
digging post-holes or breaking mustangs. There's our team ready. Good-
day, sir." And like a puff of wholesome, blustery wind the doctor was
Raidler reached out and plucked a leaf from a mesquite bush by the
railing, and began chewing it thoughtfully.
The branding season was at hand, and the next morning Ross Hargis,
foreman of the outfit, was mustering his force of some twenty-five men
at the ranch, ready to start for the San Carlos range, where the work
was to begin. By six o'clock the horses were all saddled, the grub
wagon ready, and the cow-punchers were swinging themselves upon their
mounts, when Raidler bade them wait. A boy was bringing up an extra
pony, bridled and saddled, to the gate. Raidler walked to McGuire's
room and threw open the door. McGuire was lying on his cot, not yet
"Get up," said the cattleman, and his voice was clear and brassy, like
"How's that?" asked McGuire, a little startled.
"Get up and dress. I can stand a rattlesnake, but I hate a liar. Do I
have to tell you again?" He caught McGuire by the neck and stood him
on the floor.
"Say, friend," cried McGuire wildly, "are you bug-house? I'm sick--
see? I'll croak if I got to hustle. What've I done to yer?"--he began
his chronic whine--"I never asked yer to--"
"Put on your clothes," called Raidler in a rising tone.
Swearing, stumbling, shivering, keeping his amazed, shining eyes upon
the now menacing form of the aroused cattleman, McGuire managed to
tumble into his clothes. Then Raidler took him by the collar and
shoved him out and across the yard to the extra pony hitched at the
gate. The cow-punchers lolled in their saddles, open-mouthed.
"Take this man," said Raidler to Ross Hargis, "and put him to work.
Make him work hard, sleep hard, and eat hard. You boys know I done
what I could for him, and he was welcome. Yesterday the best doctor in
San Antone examined him, and says he's got the lungs of a burro and
the constitution of a steer. You know what to do with him, Ross."
Ross Hargis only smiled grimly.
"Aw," said McGuire, looking intently at Raidler, with a peculiar
expression upon his face, "the croaker said I was all right, did he?
Said I was fakin', did he? You put him onto me. You t'ought I wasn't
sick. You said I was a liar. Say, friend, I talked rough, I know, but
I didn't mean most of it. If you felt like I did--aw! I forgot--I
ain't sick, the croaker says. Well, friend, now I'll go work for yer.
Here's where you play even."
He sprang into the saddle easily as a bird, got the quirt from the
horn, and gave his pony a slash with it. "Cricket," who once brought
in Good Boy by a neck at Hawthorne--and a 10 to 1 shot--had his foot
in the stirrups again.
McGuire led the cavalcade as they dashed away for San Carlos, and the
cow-punchers gave a yell of applause as they closed in behind his
But in less than a mile he had lagged to the rear, and was last man
when they struck the patch of high chaparral below the horse pens.
Behind a clump of this he drew rein, and held a handkerchief to his
mouth. He took it away drenched with bright, arterial blood, and threw
it carefully into a clump of prickly pear. Then he slashed with his
quirt again, gasped "G'wan" to his astonished pony, and galloped after
That night Raidler received a message from his old home in Alabama.
There had been a death in the family; an estate was to divide, and
they called for him to come. Daylight found him in the buckboard,
skimming the prairies for the station. It was two months before he
returned. When he arrived at the ranch house he found it well-nigh
deserted save for Ylario, who acted as a kind of steward during his
absence. Little by little the youth made him acquainted with the work
done while he was away. The branding camp, he was informed, was still
doing business. On account of many severe storms the cattle had been
badly scattered, and the branding had been accomplished but slowly.
The camp was now in the valley of the Guadalupe, twenty miles away.
"By the way," said Raidler, suddenly remembering, "that fellow I sent
along with them--McGuire--is he working yet?"
"I do not know," said Ylario. "Mans from the camp come verree few
times to the ranch. So plentee work with the leetle calves. They no
say. Oh, I think that fellow McGuire he dead much time ago."
"Dead!" said Raidler. "What you talking about?"
"Verree sick fellow, McGuire," replied Ylario, with a shrug of his
shoulder. "I theenk he no live one, two month when he go away."
"Shucks!" said Raidler. "He humbugged you, too, did he? The doctor
examined him and said he was sound as a mesquite knot."
"That doctor," said Ylario, smiling, "he tell you so? That doctor no
"Talk up," ordered Raidler. "What the devil do you mean?"
"McGuire," continued the boy tranquilly, "he getting drink water
outside when that doctor come in room. That doctor take me and pound
me all over here with his fingers"--putting his hand to his chest--"I
not know for what. He put his ear here and here and here, and listen--
I not know for what. He put little glass stick in my mouth. He feel my
arm here. He make me count like whisper--so--twenty, /treinta/,
/cuarenta/. Who knows," concluded Ylario, with a deprecating spread of
his hands, "for what that doctor do those verree droll and such-like
"What horses are up?" asked Raidler shortly.
"Paisano is grazing out behind the little corral, /senor/."
"Saddle him for me at once."
Within a very few minutes the cattleman was mounted and away. Paisano,
well named after that ungainly but swift-running bird, struck into his
long lope that ate up the ground like a strip of macaroni. In two
hours and a quarter Raidler, from a gentle swell, saw the branding
camp by a water hole in the Guadalupe. Sick with expectancy of the
news he feared, he rode up, dismounted, and dropped Paisano's reins.
So gentle was his heart that at that moment he would have pleaded
guilty to the murder of McGuire.
The only being in the camp was the cook, who was just arranging the
hunks of barbecued beef, and distributing the tin coffee cups for
supper. Raidler evaded a direct question concerning the one subject in
"Everything all right in camp, Pete?" he managed to inquire.
"So, so," said Pete, conservatively. "Grub give out twice. Wind
scattered the cattle, and we've had to rake the brush for forty mile.
I need a new coffee-pot. And the mosquitos is some more hellish than
"The boys--all well?"
Pete was no optimist. Besides, inquiries concerning the health of cow-
punchers were not only superfluous, but bordered on flaccidity. It was
not like the boss to make them.
"What's left of 'em don't miss no calls to grub," the cook conceded.
"What's left of 'em?" repeated Raidler in a husky voice. Mechanically
he began to look around for McGuire's grave. He had in his mind a
white slab such as he had seen in the Alabama church-yard. But
immediately he knew that was foolish.
"Sure," said Pete; "what's left. Cow camps change in two months.
Raidler nerved himself.
"That--chap--I sent along--McGuire--did--he--"
"Say," interrupted Pete, rising with a chunk of corn bread in each
hand, "that was a dirty shame, sending that poor, sick kid to a cow
camp. A doctor that couldn't tell he was graveyard meat ought to be
skinned with a cinch buckle. Game as he was, too--it's a scandal among
snakes--lemme tell you what he done. First night in camp the boys
started to initiate him in the leather breeches degree. Ross Hargis
busted him one swipe with his chaparreras, and what do you reckon the
poor child did? Got up, the little skeeter, and licked Ross. Licked
Ross Hargis. Licked him good. Hit him plenty and everywhere and hard.
Ross'd just get up and pick out a fresh place to lay down on agin.
"Then that McGuire goes off there and lays down with his head in the
grass and bleeds. A hem'ridge they calls it. He lays there eighteen
hours by the watch, and they can't budge him. Then Ross Hargis, who
loves any man who can lick him, goes to work and damns the doctors
from Greenland to Poland Chiny; and him and Green Branch Johnson they
gets McGuire into a tent, and spells each other feedin' him chopped
raw meat and whisky.
"But it looks like the kid ain't got no appetite to git well, for they
misses him from the tent in the night and finds him rootin' in the
grass, and likewise a drizzle fallin'. 'G'wan,' he says, 'lemme go and
die like I wanter. He said I was a liar and a fake and I was playin'
sick. Lemme alone.'
"Two weeks," went on the cook, "he laid around, not noticin' nobody,
A sudden thunder filled the air, and a score of galloping centaurs
crashed through the brush into camp.
"Illustrious rattlesnakes!" exclaimed Pete, springing all ways at
once; "here's the boys come, and I'm an assassinated man if supper
ain't ready in three minutes."
But Raidler saw only one thing. A little, brown-faced, grinning chap,
springing from his saddle in the full light of the fire. McGuire was
not like that, and yet--
In another instant the cattleman was holding him by the hand and
"Son, son, how goes it?" was all he found to say.
"Close to the ground, says you," shouted McGuire, crunching Raidler's
fingers in a grip of steel; "and dat's where I found it--healt' and
strengt', and tumbled to what a cheap skate I been actin'. T'anks fer
kickin' me out, old man. And--say! de joke's on dat croaker, ain't it?
I looked t'rough the window and see him playin' tag on dat Dago kid's
"You son of a tinker," growled the cattleman, "whyn't you talk up and
say the doctor never examined you?"
"Ah--g'wan!" said McGuire, with a flash of his old asperity, "nobody
can't bluff me. You never ast me. You made your spiel, and you t'rowed
me out, and I let it go at dat. And, say, friend, dis chasin' cows is
outer sight. Dis is de whitest bunch of sports I ever travelled with.
You'll let me stay, won't yer, old man?"
Raidler looked wonderingly toward Ross Hargis.
"That cussed little runt," remarked Ross tenderly, "is the
Jo-dartin'est hustler--and the hardest hitter in anybody's cow camp."
AN AFTERNOON MIRACLE
At the United States end of an international river bridge, four armed
rangers sweltered in a little 'dobe hut, keeping a fairly faithful
espionage upon the lagging trail of passengers from the Mexican side.
Bud Dawson, proprietor of the Top Notch Saloon, had, on the evening
previous, violently ejected from his premises one Leandro Garcia, for
alleged violation of the Top Notch code of behaviour. Garcia had
mentioned twenty-four hours as a limit, by which time he would call
and collect a painful indemnity for personal satisfaction.
This Mexican, although a tremendous braggart, was thoroughly
courageous, and each side of the river respected him for one of these
attributes. He and a following of similar bravoes were addicted to the
pastime of retrieving towns from stagnation.
The day designated by Garcia for retribution was to be further
signalised on the American side by a cattlemen's convention, a bull
fight, and an old settlers' barbecue and picnic. Knowing the avenger
to be a man of his word, and believing it prudent to court peace while
three such gently social relaxations were in progress, Captain
McNulty, of the ranger company stationed there, detailed his
lieutenant and three men for duty at the end of the bridge. Their
instructions were to prevent the invasion of Garcia, either alone or
attended by his gang.
Travel was slight that sultry afternoon, and the rangers swore gently,
and mopped their brows in their convenient but close quarters. For an
hour no one had crossed save an old woman enveloped in a brown wrapper
and a black mantilla, driving before her a burro loaded with kindling
wood tied in small bundles for peddling. Then three shots were fired
down the street, the sound coming clear and snappy through the still
The four rangers quickened from sprawling, symbolic figures of
indolence to alert life, but only one rose to his feet. Three turned
their eyes beseechingly but hopelessly upon the fourth, who had gotten
nimbly up and was buckling his cartridge-belt around him. The three
knew that Lieutenant Bob Buckley, in command, would allow no man of
them the privilege of investigating a row when he himself might go.
The agile, broad-chested lieutenant, without a change of expression in
his smooth, yellow-brown, melancholy face, shot the belt strap through
the guard of the buckle, hefted his sixes in their holsters as a belle
gives the finishing touches to her toilette, caught up his Winchester,
and dived for the door. There he paused long enough to caution his
comrades to maintain their watch upon the bridge, and then plunged
into the broiling highway.
The three relapsed into resigned inertia and plaintive comment.
"I've heard of fellows," grumbled Broncho Leathers, "what was wedded
to danger, but if Bob Buckley ain't committed bigamy with trouble, I'm
a son of a gun."
"Peculiarness of Bob is," inserted the Nueces Kid, "he ain't had
proper trainin'. He never learned how to git skeered. Now, a man ought
to be skeered enough when he tackles a fuss to hanker after readin'
his name on the list of survivors, anyway."
"Buckley," commented Ranger No. 3, who was a misguided Eastern man,
burdened with an education, "scraps in such a solemn manner that I
have been led to doubt its spontaneity. I'm not quite onto his system,
but he fights, like Tybalt, by the book of arithmetic."
"I never heard," mentioned Broncho, "about any of Dibble's ways of
mixin' scrappin' and cipherin'."
"Triggernometry?" suggested the Nueces infant.
"That's rather better than I hoped from you," nodded the Easterner,
approvingly. "The other meaning is that Buckley never goes into a
fight without giving away weight. He seems to dread taking the
slightest advantage. That's quite close to foolhardiness when you are
dealing with horse-thieves and fence-cutters who would ambush you any
night, and shoot you in the back if they could. Buckley's too full of
sand. He'll play Horatius and hold the bridge once too often some
"I'm on there," drawled the Kid; "I mind that bridge gang in the
reader. Me, I go instructed for the other chap--Spurious Somebody--the
one that fought and pulled his freight, to fight 'em on some other
"Anyway," summed up Broncho, "Bob's about the gamest man I ever see
along the Rio Bravo. Great Sam Houston! If she gets any hotter she'll
sizzle!" Broncho whacked at a scorpion with his four-pound Stetson
felt, and the three watchers relapsed into comfortless silence.
How well Bob Buckley had kept his secret, since these men, for two
years his side comrades in countless border raids and dangers, thus
spake of him, not knowing that he was the most arrant physical coward
in all that Rio Bravo country! Neither his friends nor his enemies had
suspected him of aught else than the finest courage. It was purely a
physical cowardice, and only by an extreme, grim effort of will had he
forced his craven body to do the bravest deeds. Scourging himself
always, as a monk whips his besetting sin, Buckley threw himself with
apparent recklessness into every danger, with the hope of some day
ridding himself of the despised affliction. But each successive test
brought no relief, and the ranger's face, by nature adapted to
cheerfulness and good-humour, became set to the guise of gloomy
melancholy. Thus, while the frontier admired his deeds, and his
prowess was celebrated in print and by word of mouth in many camp-
fires in the valley of the Bravo, his heart was sick within him. Only
himself knew of the horrible tightening of the chest, the dry mouth,
the weakening of the spine, the agony of the strung nerves--the never-
failing symptoms of his shameful malady.
One mere boy in his company was wont to enter a fray with a leg
perched flippantly about the horn of his saddle, a cigarette hanging
from his lips, which emitted smoke and original slogans of clever
invention. Buckley would have given a year's pay to attain that devil-
may-care method. Once the debonair youth said to him: "Buck, you go
into a scrap like it was a funeral. Not," he added, with a
complimentary wave of his tin cup, "but what it generally is."
Buckley's conscience was of the New England order with Western
adjustments, and he continued to get his rebellious body into as many
difficulties as possible; wherefore, on that sultry afternoon he chose
to drive his own protesting limbs to investigation of that sudden
alarm that had startled the peace and dignity of the State.
Two squares down the street stood the Top Notch Saloon. Here Buckley
came upon signs of recent upheaval. A few curious spectators pressed
about its front entrance, grinding beneath their heels the fragments
of a plate-glass window. Inside, Buckley found Bud Dawson utterly
ignoring a bullet wound in his shoulder, while he feelingly wept at
having to explain why he failed to drop the "blamed masquerooter," who
shot him. At the entrance of the ranger Bud turned appealingly to him
for confirmation of the devastation he might have dealt.
"You know, Buck, I'd 'a' plum got him, first rattle, if I'd thought a
minute. Come in a-masque-rootin', playin' female till he got the drop,
and turned loose. I never reached for a gun, thinkin' it was sure
Chihuahua Betty, or Mrs. Atwater, or anyhow one of the Mayfield girls
comin' a-gunnin', which they might, liable as not. I never thought of
that blamed Garcia until--"
"Garcia!" snapped Buckley. "How did he get over here?"
Bud's bartender took the ranger by the arm and led him to the side
door. There stood a patient grey burro cropping the grass along the
gutter, with a load of kindling wood tied across its back. On the
ground lay a black shawl and a voluminous brown dress.
"Masquerootin' in them things," called Bud, still resisting attempted
ministrations to his wounds. "Thought he was a lady till he gave a
yell and winged me."
"He went down this side street," said the bartender. "He was alone,
and he'll hide out till night when his gang comes over. You ought to
find him in that Mexican lay-out below the depot. He's got a girl down
"How was he armed?" asked Buckley.
"Two pearl-handled sixes, and a knife."
"Keep this for me, Billy," said the ranger, handing over his
Winchester. Quixotic, perhaps, but it was Bob Buckley's way. Another
man--and a braver one--might have raised a posse to accompany him. It
was Buckley's rule to discard all preliminary advantage.
The Mexican had left behind him a wake of closed doors and an empty
street, but now people were beginning to emerge from their places of
refuge with assumed unconsciousness of anything having happened. Many
citizens who knew the ranger pointed out to him with alacrity the
course of Garcia's retreat.
As Buckley swung along upon the trail he felt the beginning of the
suffocating constriction about his throat, the cold sweat under the
brim of his hat, the old, shameful, dreaded sinking of his heart as it
went down, down, down in his bosom.
The morning train of the Mexican Central had that day been three hours
late, thus failing to connect with the I. & G.N. on the other side of
the river. Passengers for /Los Estados Unidos/ grumblingly sought
entertainment in the little swaggering mongrel town of two nations,
for, until the morrow, no other train would come to rescue them.
Grumblingly, because two days later would begin the great fair and
races in San Antone. Consider that at that time San Antone was the hub
of the wheel of Fortune, and the names of its spokes were Cattle,
Wool, Faro, Running Horses, and Ozone. In those times cattlemen played
at crack-loo on the sidewalks with double-eagles, and gentlemen backed
their conception of the fortuitous card with stacks limited in height
only by the interference of gravity. Wherefore, thither journeyed the
sowers and the reapers--they who stampeded the dollars, and they who
rounded them up. Especially did the caterers to the amusement of the
people haste to San Antone. Two greatest shows on earth were already
there, and dozens of smallest ones were on the way.
On a side track near the mean little 'dobe depot stood a private car,
left there by the Mexican train that morning and doomed by an
ineffectual schedule to ignobly await, amid squalid surroundings,
connection with the next day's regular.
The car had been once a common day-coach, but those who had sat in it
and gringed to the conductor's hat-band slips would never have
recognised it in its transformation. Paint and gilding and certain
domestic touches had liberated it from any suspicion of public
servitude. The whitest of lace curtains judiciously screened its
windows. From its fore end drooped in the torrid air the flag of
Mexico. From its rear projected the Stars and Stripes and a busy
stovepipe, the latter reinforcing in its suggestion of culinary
comforts the general suggestion of privacy and ease. The beholder's
eye, regarding its gorgeous sides, found interest to culminate in a
single name in gold and blue letters extending almost its entire
length--a single name, the audacious privilege of royalty and genius.
Doubly, then, was this arrogant nomenclature here justified; for the
name was that of "Alvarita, Queen of the Serpent Tribe." This, her
car, was back from a triumphant tour of the principal Mexican cities,
and now headed for San Antonio, where, according to promissory
advertisement, she would exhibit her "Marvellous Dominion and Fearless
Control over Deadly and Venomous Serpents, Handling them with Ease as
they Coil and Hiss to the Terror of Thousands of Tongue-tied
One hundred in the shade kept the vicinity somewhat depeopled. This
quarter of the town was a ragged edge; its denizens the bubbling froth
of five nations; its architecture tent, /jacal/, and 'dobe; its
distractions the hurdy-gurdy and the informal contribution to the
sudden stranger's store of experience. Beyond this dishonourable
fringe upon the old town's jowl rose a dense mass of trees,
surmounting and filling a little hollow. Through this bickered a small
stream that perished down the sheer and disconcerting side of the
great canon of the Rio Bravo del Norte.
In this sordid spot was condemned to remain for certain hours the
impotent transport of the Queen of the Serpent Tribe.
The front door of the car was open. Its forward end was curtained off
into a small reception-room. Here the admiring and propitiatory
reporters were wont to sit and transpose the music of Senorita
Alvarita's talk into the more florid key of the press. A picture of
Abraham Lincoln hung against a wall; one of a cluster of school-girls
grouped upon stone steps was in another place; a third was Easter
lilies in a blood-red frame. A neat carpet was under foot. A pitcher,
sweating cold drops, and a glass stood on a fragile stand. In a willow
rocker, reading a newspaper, sat Alvarita.
Spanish, you would say; Andalusian, or, better still, Basque; that
compound, like the diamond, of darkness and fire. Hair, the shade of
purple grapes viewed at midnight. Eyes, long, dusky, and disquieting
with their untroubled directness of gaze. Face, haughty and bold,
touched with a pretty insolence that gave it life. To hasten
conviction of her charm, but glance at the stacks of handbills in the
corner, green, and yellow, and white. Upon them you see an incompetent
presentment of the senorita in her professional garb and pose.
Irresistible, in black lace and yellow ribbons, she faces you; a blue
racer is spiralled upon each bare arm; coiled twice about her waist
and once about her neck, his horrid head close to hers, you perceive
Kuku, the great eleven-foot Asian python.
A hand drew aside the curtain that partitioned the car, and a middle-
aged, faded woman holding a knife and a half-peeled potato looked in
"Alviry, are you right busy?"
"I'm reading the home paper, ma. What do you think! that pale, tow-
headed Matilda Price got the most votes in the /News/ for the
prettiest girl in Gallipo--/lees/."
"Shush! She wouldn't of done it if /you'd/ been home, Alviry. Lord
knows, I hope we'll be there before fall's over. I'm tired gallopin'
round the world playin' we are dagoes, and givin' snake shows. But
that ain't what I wanted to say. That there biggest snake's gone
again. I've looked all over the car and can't find him. He must have
been gone an hour. I remember hearin' somethin' rustlin' along the
floor, but I thought it was you."
"Oh, blame that old rascal!" exclaimed the Queen, throwing down her
paper. "This is the third time he's got away. George never /will/
fasten down the lid to his box properly. I do believe he's /afraid/ of
Kuku. Now I've got to go hunt him."
"Better hurry; somebody might hurt him."
The Queen's teeth showed in a gleaming, contemptuous smile. "No
danger. When they see Kuku outside they simply scoot away and buy
bromides. There's a crick over between here and the river. That old
scamp'd swap his skin any time for a drink of running water. I guess
I'll find him there, all right."
A few minutes later Alvarita stopped upon the forward platform, ready
for her quest. Her handsome black skirt was shaped to the most recent
proclamation of fashion. Her spotless shirt-waist gladdened the eye in
that desert of sunshine, a swelling oasis, cool and fresh. A man's
split-straw hat sat firmly on her coiled, abundant hair. Beneath her
serene, round, impudent chin a man's four-in-hand tie was jauntily
knotted about a man's high, stiff collar. A parasol she carried, of
white silk, and its fringe was lace, yellowly genuine.
I will grant Gallipolis as to her costume, but firmly to Seville or
Valladolid I am held by her eyes; castanets, balconies, mantillas,
serenades, ambuscades, escapades--all these their dark depths
"Ain't you afraid to go out alone, Alviry?" queried the Queen-mother
anxiously. "There's so many rough people about. Mebbe you'd better--"
"I never saw anything I was afraid of yet, ma. 'Specially people. And
men in particular. Don't you fret. I'll trot along back as soon as I
find that runaway scamp."
The dust lay thick upon the bare ground near the tracks. Alvarita's
eye soon discovered the serrated trail of the escaped python. It led
across the depot grounds and away down a smaller street in the
direction of the little canon, as predicted by her. A stillness and
lack of excitement in the neighbourhood encouraged the hope that, as
yet, the inhabitants were unaware that so formidable a guest traversed
their highways. The heat had driven them indoors, whence outdrifted
occasional shrill laughs, or the depressing whine of a maltreated
concertina. In the shade a few Mexican children, like vivified stolid
idols in clay, stared from their play, vision-struck and silent, as
Alvarita came and went. Here and there a woman peeped from a door and
stood dumb, reduced to silence by the aspect of the white silk
A hundred yards and the limits of the town were passed, scattered
chaparral succeeding, and then a noble grove, overflowing the bijou
canon. Through this a small bright stream meandered. Park-like it was,
with a kind of cockney ruralness further endorsed by the waste papers
and rifled tins of picnickers. Up this stream, and down it, among its
pseudo-sylvan glades and depressions, wandered the bright and
unruffled Alvarita. Once she saw evidence of the recreant reptile's
progress in his distinctive trail across a spread of fine sand in the
arroyo. The living water was bound to lure him; he could not be far
So sure was she of his immediate proximity that she perched herself to
idle for a time in the curve of a great creeper that looped down from
a giant water-elm. To reach this she climbed from the pathway a little
distance up the side of a steep and rugged incline. Around her
chaparral grew thick and high. A late-blooming ratama tree dispensed
from its yellow petals a sweet and persistent odour. Adown the ravine
rustled a seductive wind, melancholy with the taste of sodden, fallen
Alvarita removed her hat, and undoing the oppressive convolutions of
her hair, began to slowly arrange it in two long, dusky plaits.
From the obscure depths of a thick clump of evergreen shrubs five feet
away, two small jewel-bright eyes were steadfastly regarding her.
Coiled there lay Kuku, the great python; Kuku, the magnificent, he of
the plated muzzle, the grooved lips, the eleven-foot stretch of
elegantly and brilliantly mottled skin. The great python was viewing
his mistress without a sound or motion to disclose his presence.
Perhaps the splendid truant forefelt his capture, but, screened by the
foliage, thought to prolong the delight of his escapade. What pleasure
it was, after the hot and dusty car, to lie thus, smelling the running
water, and feeling the agreeable roughness of the earth and stones
against his body! Soon, very soon the Queen would find him, and he,
powerless as a worm in her audacious hands, would be returned to the
dark chest in the narrow house that ran on wheels.
Alvarita heard a sudden crunching of the gravel below her. Turning her
head she saw a big, swarthy Mexican, with a daring and evil
expression, contemplating her with an ominous, dull eye.
"What do you want?" she asked as sharply as five hairpins between her
lips would permit, continuing to plait her hair, and looking him over
with placid contempt. The Mexican continued to gaze at her, and showed
his teeth in a white, jagged smile.
"I no hurt-y you, Senorita," he said.
"You bet you won't," answered the Queen, shaking back one finished,
massive plait. "But don't you think you'd better move on?"
"Not hurt-y you--no. But maybeso take one /beso/--one li'l kees, you
The man smiled again, and set his foot to ascend the slope. Alvarita
leaned swiftly and picked up a stone the size of a cocoanut.
"Vamoose, quick," she ordered peremptorily, "you /coon/!"
The red of insult burned through the Mexican's dark skin.
"/Hidalgo, Yo/!" he shot between his fangs. "I am not neg-r-ro!
/Diabla bonita/, for that you shall pay me."
He made two quick upward steps this time, but the stone, hurled by no
weak arm, struck him square in the chest. He staggered back to the
footway, swerved half around, and met another sight that drove all
thoughts of the girl from his head. She turned her eyes to see what
had diverted his interest. A man with red-brown, curling hair and a
melancholy, sunburned, smooth-shaven face was coming up the path,
twenty yards away. Around the Mexican's waist was buckled a pistol
belt with two empty holsters. He had laid aside his sixes--possibly in
the /jacal/ of the fair Pancha--and had forgotten them when the
passing of the fairer Alvarita had enticed him to her trail. His hands
now flew instinctively to the holsters, but finding the weapons gone,
he spread his fingers outward with the eloquent, abjuring, deprecating
Latin gesture, and stood like a rock. Seeing his plight, the newcomer
unbuckled his own belt containing two revolvers, threw it upon the
ground, and continued to advance.
"Splendid!" murmured Alvarita, with flashing eyes.
As Bob Buckley, according to the mad code of bravery that his
sensitive conscience imposed upon his cowardly nerves, abandoned his
guns and closed in upon his enemy, the old, inevitable nausea of
abject fear wrung him. His breath whistled through his constricted air
passages. His feet seemed like lumps of lead. His mouth was dry as
dust. His heart, congested with blood, hurt his ribs as it thumped
against them. The hot June day turned to moist November. And still he
advanced, spurred by a mandatory pride that strained its uttermost
against his weakling flesh.
The distance between the two men slowly lessened. The Mexican stood,
immovable, waiting. When scarce five yards separated them a little
shower of loosened gravel rattled down from above to the ranger's
feet. He glanced upward with instinctive caution. A pair of dark eyes,
brilliantly soft, and fierily tender, encountered and held his own.
The most fearful heart and the boldest one in all the Rio Bravo
country exchanged a silent and inscrutable communication. Alvarita,
still seated within her vine, leaned forward above the breast-high
chaparral. One hand was laid across her bosom. One great dark braid
curved forward over her shoulder. Her lips were parted; her face was
lit with what seemed but wonder--great and absolute wonder. Her eyes
lingered upon Buckley's. Let no one ask or presume to tell through
what subtle medium the miracle was performed. As by a lightning flash
two clouds will accomplish counterpoise and compensation of electric
surcharge, so on that eyeglance the man received his complement of
manhood, and the maid conceded what enriched her womanly grace by its
The Mexican, suddenly stirring, ventilated his attitude of apathetic
waiting by conjuring swiftly from his bootleg a long knife. Buckley
cast aside his hat, and laughed once aloud, like a happy school-boy at
a frolic. Then, empty-handed, he sprang nimbly, and Garcia met him
So soon was the engagement ended that disappointment imposed upon the
ranger's warlike ecstasy. Instead of dealing the traditional downward
stroke, the Mexican lunged straight with his knife. Buckley took the
precarious chance, and caught his wrist, fair and firm. Then he
delivered the good Saxon knock-out blow--always so pathetically
disastrous to the fistless Latin races--and Garcia was down and out,
with his head under a clump of prickly pears. The ranger looked up
again to the Queen of the Serpents.
Alvarita scrambled down to the path.
"I'm mighty glad I happened along when I did," said the ranger.
"He--he frightened me so!" cooed Alvarita.
They did not hear the long, low hiss of the python under the shrubs.
Wiliest of the beasts, no doubt he was expressing the humiliation he
felt at having so long dwelt in subjection to this trembling and
colouring mistress of his whom he had deemed so strong and potent and
Then came galloping to the spot the civic authorities; and to them the
ranger awarded the prostrate disturber of the peace, whom they bore
away limply across the saddle of one of their mounts. But Buckley and
Slowly, slowly they walked. The ranger regained his belt of weapons.
With a fine timidity she begged the indulgence of fingering the great
.45's, with little "Ohs" and "Ahs" of new-born, delicious shyness.
The /canoncito/ was growing dusky. Beyond its terminus in the river
bluff they could see the outer world yet suffused with the waning
glory of sunset.
A scream--a piercing scream of fright from Alvarita. Back she cowered,
and the ready, protecting arm of Buckley formed her refuge. What
terror so dire as to thus beset the close of the reign of the never-
Across the path there crawled a /caterpillar/--a horrid, fuzzy, two-
inch caterpillar! Truly, Kuku, thou went avenged. Thus abdicated the
Queen of the Serpent Tribe--/viva la reina/!
THE HIGHER ABDICATION
Curly the tramp sidled toward the free-lunch counter. He caught a
fleeting glance from the bartender's eye, and stood still, trying to
look like a business man who had just dined at the Menger and was
waiting for a friend who had promised to pick him up in his motor car.
Curly's histrionic powers were equal to the impersonation; but his
make-up was wanting.
The bartender rounded the bar in a casual way, looking up at the
ceiling as though he was pondering some intricate problem of
kalsomining, and then fell upon Curly so suddenly that the roadster
had no excuses ready. Irresistibly, but so composedly that it seemed
almost absendmindedness on his part, the dispenser of drinks pushed
Curly to the swinging doors and kicked him out, with a nonchalance
that almost amounted to sadness. That was the way of the Southwest.
Curly arose from the gutter leisurely. He felt no anger or resentment
toward his ejector. Fifteen years of tramphood spent out of the
twenty-two years of his life had hardened the fibres of his spirit.
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune fell blunted from the
buckler of his armoured pride. With especial resignation did he suffer
contumely and injury at the hands of bartenders. Naturally, they were
his enemies; and unnaturally, they were often his friends. He had to
take his chances with them. But he had not yet learned to estimate
these cool, languid, Southwestern knights of the bungstarter, who had
the manners of an Earl of Pawtucket, and who, when they disapproved of
your presence, moved you with the silence and despatch of a chess
automaton advancing a pawn.
Curly stood for a few moments in the narrow, mesquite-paved street.
San Antonio puzzled and disturbed him. Three days he had been a non-
paying guest of the town, having dropped off there from a box car of
an I. & G.N. freight, because Greaser Johnny had told him in Des
Moines that the Alamo City was manna fallen, gathered, cooked, and
served free with cream and sugar. Curly had found the tip partly a
good one. There was hospitality in plenty of a careless, liberal,
irregular sort. But the town itself was a weight upon his spirits
after his experience with the rushing, business-like, systematised
cities of the North and East. Here he was often flung a dollar, but
too frequently a good-natured kick would follow it. Once a band of
hilarious cowboys had roped him on Military Plaza and dragged him
across the black soil until no respectable rag-bag would have stood
sponsor for his clothes. The winding, doubling streets, leading
nowhere, bewildered him. And then there was a little river, crooked as
a pot-hook, that crawled through the middle of the town, crossed by a
hundred little bridges so nearly alike that they got on Curly's
nerves. And the last bartender wore a number nine shoe.
The saloon stood on a corner. The hour was eight o'clock. Homefarers
and outgoers jostled Curly on the narrow stone sidewalk. Between the
buildings to his left he looked down a cleft that proclaimed itself
another thoroughfare. The alley was dark except for one patch of
light. Where there was light there were sure to be human beings. Where
there were human beings after nightfall in San Antonio there might be
food, and there was sure to be drink. So Curly headed for the light.
The illumination came from Schwegel's Cafe. On the sidewalk in front
of it Curly picked up an old envelope. It might have contained a check
for a million. It was empty; but the wanderer read the address, "Mr.
Otto Schwegel," and the name of the town and State. The postmark was
Curly entered the saloon. And now in the light it could be perceived
that he bore the stamp of many years of vagabondage. He had none of
the tidiness of the calculating and shrewd professional tramp. His
wardrobe represented the cast-off specimens of half a dozen fashions
and eras. Two factories had combined their efforts in providing shoes
for his feet. As you gazed at him there passed through your mind vague
impressions of mummies, wax figures, Russian exiles, and men lost on
desert islands. His face was covered almost to his eyes with a curly
brown beard that he kept trimmed short with a pocket-knife, and that
had furnished him with his /nom de route/. Light-blue eyes, full of
sullenness, fear, cunning, impudence, and fawning, witnessed the
stress that had been laid upon his soul.
The saloon was small, and in its atmosphere the odours of meat and
drink struggled for the ascendancy. The pig and the cabbage wrestled
with hydrogen and oxygen. Behind the bar Schwegel laboured with an
assistant whose epidermal pores showed no signs of being obstructed.
Hot weinerwurst and sauerkraut were being served to purchasers of
beer. Curly shuffled to the end of the bar, coughed hollowly, and told
Schwegel that he was a Detroit cabinet-maker out of a job.
It followed as the night the day that he got his schooner and lunch.
"Was you acquainted maybe with Heinrich Strauss in Detroit?" asked
"Did I know Heinrich Strauss?" repeated Curly, affectionately. "Why,
say, 'Bo, I wish I had a dollar for every game of pinochle me and
Heine has played on Sunday afternoons."
More beer and a second plate of steaming food was set before the
diplomat. And then Curly, knowing to a fluid-drachm how far a "con"
game would go, shuffled out into the unpromising street.
And now he began to perceive the inconveniences of this stony Southern
town. There was none of the outdoor gaiety and brilliancy and music
that provided distraction even to the poorest in the cities of the
North. Here, even so early, the gloomy, rock-walled houses were closed
and barred against the murky dampness of the night. The streets were
mere fissures through which flowed grey wreaths of river mist. As he
walked he heard laughter and the chink of coin and chips behind
darkened windows, and music coming from every chink of wood and stone.
But the diversions were selfish; the day of popular pastimes had not
yet come to San Antonio.
But at length Curly, as he strayed, turned the sharp angle of another
lost street and came upon a rollicking band of stockmen from the
outlying ranches celebrating in the open in front of an ancient wooden
hotel. One great roisterer from the sheep country who had just
instigated a movement toward the bar, swept Curly in like a stray goat
with the rest of his flock. The princes of kine and wool hailed him as
a new zoological discovery, and uproariously strove to preserve him in
the diluted alcohol of their compliments and regards.
An hour afterward Curly staggered from the hotel barroom dismissed by
his fickle friends, whose interest in him had subsided as quickly as
it had risen. Full--stoked with alcoholic fuel and cargoed with food,
the only question remaining to disturb him was that of shelter and
A drizzling, cold Texas rain had begun to fall--an endless, lazy,
unintermittent downfall that lowered the spirits of men and raised a
reluctant steam from the warm stones of the streets and houses. Thus
comes the "norther" dousing gentle spring and amiable autumn with the
chilling salutes and adieux of coming and departing winter.
Curly followed his nose down the first tortuous street into which his
irresponsible feet conducted him. At the lower end of it, on the bank
of the serpentine stream, he perceived an open gate in a cemented rock
wall. Inside he saw camp fires and a row of low wooden sheds built
against three sides of the enclosing wall. He entered the enclosure.
Under the sheds many horses were champing at their oats and corn. Many
wagons and buckboards stood about with their teams' harness thrown
carelessly upon the shafts and doubletrees. Curly recognised the place
as a wagon-yard, such as is provided by merchants for their out-of-
town friends and customers. No one was in sight. No doubt the drivers
of those wagons were scattered about the town "seeing the elephant and
hearing the owl." In their haste to become patrons of the town's
dispensaries of mirth and good cheer the last ones to depart must have
left the great wooden gate swinging open.
Curly had satisfied the hunger of an anaconda and the thirst of a
camel, so he was neither in the mood nor the condition of an explorer.
He zigzagged his way to the first wagon that his eyesight
distinguished in the semi-darkness under the shed. It was a two-horse
wagon with a top of white canvas. The wagon was half filled with loose
piles of wool sacks, two or three great bundles of grey blankets, and
a number of bales, bundles, and boxes. A reasoning eye would have
estimated the load at once as ranch supplies, bound on the morrow for
some outlying hacienda. But to the drowsy intelligence of Curly they
represented only warmth and softness and protection against the cold
humidity of the night. After several unlucky efforts, at last he
conquered gravity so far as to climb over a wheel and pitch forward
upon the best and warmest bed he had fallen upon in many a day. Then
he became instinctively a burrowing animal, and dug his way like a
prairie-dog down among the sacks and blankets, hiding himself from the
cold air as snug and safe as a bear in his den. For three nights sleep
had visited Curly only in broken and shivering doses. So now, when
Morpheus condescended to pay him a call, Curly got such a strangle
hold on the mythological old gentleman that it was a wonder that
anyone else in the whole world got a wink of sleep that night.
Six cowpunchers of the Cibolo Ranch were waiting around the door of
the ranch store. Their ponies cropped grass near by, tied in the Texas
fashion--which is not tied at all. Their bridle reins had been dropped
to the earth, which is a more effectual way of securing them (such is
the power of habit and imagination) than you could devise out of a
half-inch rope and a live-oak tree.
These guardians of the cow lounged about, each with a brown cigarette
paper in his hand, and gently but unceasingly cursed Sam Revell, the
storekeeper. Sam stood in the door, snapping the red elastic bands on
his pink madras shirtsleeves and looking down affectionately at the
only pair of tan shoes within a forty-mile radius. His offence had
been serious, and he was divided between humble apology and admiration
for the beauty of his raiment. He had allowed the ranch stock of
"smoking" to become exhausted.
"I thought sure there was another case of it under the counter, boys,"
he explained. "But it happened to be catterdges."
"You've sure got a case of happenedicitis," said Poky Rodgers, fency
rider of the Largo Verde /potrero/. "Somebody ought to happen to give
you a knock on the head with the butt end of a quirt. I've rode in
nine miles for some tobacco; and it don't appear natural and seemly
that you ought to be allowed to live."
"The boys was smokin' cut plug and dried mesquite leaves mixed when I
left," sighed Mustang Taylor, horse wrangler of the Three Elm camp.
"They'll be lookin' for me back by nine. They'll be settin' up, with
their papers ready to roll a whiff of the real thing before bedtime.
And I've got to tell 'em that this pink-eyed, sheep-headed, sulphur-
footed, shirt-waisted son of a calico broncho, Sam Revell, hasn't got
no tobacco on hand."
Gregorio Falcon, Mexican vaquero and best thrower of the rope on the
Cibolo, pushed his heavy, silver-embroidered straw sombrero back upon
his thicket of jet black curls, and scraped the bottoms of his pockets
for a few crumbs of the precious weed.
"Ah, Don Samuel," he said, reproachfully, but with his touch of
Castilian manners, "escuse me. Dthey say dthe jackrabbeet and dthe
sheep have dthe most leetle /sesos/--how you call dthem--brain-es? Ah
don't believe dthat, Don Samuel--escuse me. Ah dthink people w'at
don't keep esmokin' tobacco, dthey--bot you weel escuse me, Don
"Now, what's the use of chewin' the rag, boys," said the untroubled
Sam, stooping over to rub the toes of his shoes with a red-and-yellow
handkerchief. "Ranse took the order for some more smokin' to San
Antone with him Tuesday. Pancho rode Ranse's hoss back yesterday; and
Ranse is goin' to drive the wagon back himself. There wa'n't much of a
load--just some woolsacks and blankets and nails and canned peaches
and a few things we was out of. I look for Ranse to roll in to-day
sure. He's an early starter and a hell-to-split driver, and he ought
to be here not far from sundown."
"What plugs is he drivin'?" asked Mustang Taylor, with a smack of hope
in his tones.
"The buckboard greys," said Sam.
"I'll wait a spell, then," said the wrangler. "Them plugs eat up a
trail like a road-runner swallowin' a whip snake. And you may bust me
open a can of greengage plums, Sam, while I'm waitin' for somethin'
"Open me some yellow clings," ordered Poky Rodgers. "I'll wait, too."
The tobaccoless punchers arranged themselves comfortably on the steps
of the store. Inside Sam chopped open with a hatchet the tops of the
cans of fruit.
The store, a big, white wooden building like a barn, stood fifty yards
from the ranch-house. Beyond it were the horse corrals; and still
farther the wool sheds and the brush-topped shearing pens--for the
Rancho Cibolo raised both cattle and sheep. Behind the store, at a
little distance, were the grass-thatched /jacals/ of the Mexicans who
bestowed their allegiance upon the Cibolo.
The ranch-house was composed of four large rooms, with plastered adobe
walls, and a two-room wooden ell. A twenty-feet-wide "gallery"
circumvented the structure. It was set in a grove of immense live-oaks
and water-elms near a lake--a long, not very wide, and tremendously
deep lake in which at nightfall, great gars leaped to the surface and
plunged with the noise of hippopotamuses frolicking at their bath.
From the trees hung garlands and massive pendants of the melancholy
grey moss of the South. Indeed, the Cibolo ranch-house seemed more of
the South than of the West. It looked as if old "Kiowa" Truesdell
might have brought it with him from the lowlands of Mississippi when
he came to Texas with his rifle in the hollow of his arm in '55.
But, though he did not bring the family mansion, Truesdell did bring
something in the way of a family inheritance that was more lasting
than brick or stone. He brought one end of the Truesdell-Curtis family
feud. And when a Curtis bought the Rancho de los Olmos, sixteen miles
from the Cibolo, there were lively times on the pear flats and in the
chaparral thickets off the Southwest. In those days Truesdell cleaned
the brush of many a wolf and tiger cat and Mexican lion; and one or
two Curtises fell heirs to notches on his rifle stock. Also he buried
a brother with a Curtis bullet in him on the bank of the lake at
Cibolo. And then the Kiowa Indians made their last raid upon the
ranches between the Frio and the Rio Grande, and Truesdell at the head
of his rangers rid the earth of them to the last brave, earning his
sobriquet. Then came prosperity in the form of waxing herds and
broadening lands. And then old age and bitterness, when he sat, with
his great mane of hair as white as the Spanish-dagger blossoms and his
fierce, pale-blue eyes, on the shaded gallery at Cibolo, growling like
the pumas that he had slain. He snapped his fingers at old age; the
bitter taste to life did not come from that. The cup that stuck at his
lips was that his only son Ransom wanted to marry a Curtis, the last
youthful survivor of the other end of the feud.
For a while the only sounds to be heard at the store were the rattling
of the tin spoons and the gurgling intake of the juicy fruits by the
cowpunchers, the stamping of the grazing ponies, and the singing of a
doleful song by Sam as he contentedly brushed his stiff auburn hair
for the twentieth time that day before a crinkly mirror.
From the door of the store could be seen the irregular, sloping
stretch of prairie to the south, with its reaches of light-green,
billowy mesquite flats in the lower places, and its rises crowned with
nearly black masses of short chaparral. Through the mesquite flat
wound the ranch road that, five miles away, flowed into the old
government trail to San Antonio. The sun was so low that the gentlest
elevation cast its grey shadow miles into the green-gold sea of
That evening ears were quicker than eyes.
The Mexican held up a tawny finger to still the scraping of tin
"One waggeen," said he, "cross dthe Arroyo Hondo. Ah hear dthe wheel.
Verree rockee place, dthe Hondo."
"You've got good ears, Gregorio," said Mustang Taylor. "I never heard
nothin' but the song-bird in the bush and the zephyr skallyhootin'
across the peaceful dell."
In ten minutes Taylor remarked: "I see the dust of a wagon risin'
right above the fur end of the flat."
"You have verree good eyes, senor," said Gregorio, smiling.
Two miles away they saw a faint cloud dimming the green ripples of the
mesquites. In twenty minutes they heard the clatter of the horses'
hoofs: in five minutes more the grey plugs dashed out of the thicket,
whickering for oats and drawing the light wagon behind them like a
From the /jacals/ came a cry of: "El Amo! El Amo!" Four Mexican youths
raced to unharness the greys. The cowpunchers gave a yell of greeting
Ranse Truesdell, driving, threw the reins to the ground and laughed.