Part 1 out of 5
Etext prepared by John Bickers, email@example.com
and Dagny, firstname.lastname@example.org
HEART OF THE WEST
by O. Henry
I. Hearts and Crosses
II. The Ransom of Mack
III. Telemachus, Friend
IV. The Handbook of Hymen
V. The Pimienta Pancakes
VI. Seats of the Haughty
VII. Hygeia at the Solito
VIII. An Afternoon Miracle
IX. The Higher Abdication
X. Cupid a la Carte
XI. The Caballero's Way
XII. The Sphinx Apple
XIII. The Missing Chord
XIV. A Call Loan
XV. The Princess and the Puma
XVI. The Indian Summer of Dry Valley Johnson
XVII. Christmas by Injunction
XVIII. A Chaparral Prince
XIX. The Reformation of Calliope
HEART OF THE WEST
HEARTS AND CROSSES
Baldy Woods reached for the bottle, and got it. Whenever Baldy went
for anything he usually--but this is not Baldy's story. He poured out
a third drink that was larger by a finger than the first and second.
Baldy was in consultation; and the consultee is worthy of his hire.
"I'd be king if I was you," said Baldy, so positively that his holster
creaked and his spurs rattled.
Webb Yeager pushed back his flat-brimmed Stetson, and made further
disorder in his straw-coloured hair. The tonsorial recourse being
without avail, he followed the liquid example of the more resourceful
"If a man marries a queen, it oughtn't to make him a two-spot,"
declared Webb, epitomising his grievances.
"Sure not," said Baldy, sympathetic, still thirsty, and genuinely
solicitous concerning the relative value of the cards. "By rights
you're a king. If I was you, I'd call for a new deal. The cards have
been stacked on you--I'll tell you what you are, Webb Yeager."
"What?" asked Webb, with a hopeful look in his pale-blue eyes.
"You're a prince-consort."
"Go easy," said Webb. "I never blackguarded you none."
"It's a title," explained Baldy, "up among the picture-cards; but it
don't take no tricks. I'll tell you, Webb. It's a brand they're got
for certain animals in Europe. Say that you or me or one of them Dutch
dukes marries in a royal family. Well, by and by our wife gets to be
queen. Are we king? Not in a million years. At the coronation
ceremonies we march between little casino and the Ninth Grand
Custodian of the Royal Hall Bedchamber. The only use we are is to
appear in photographs, and accept the responsibility for the heir-
apparent. That ain't any square deal. Yes, sir, Webb, you're a prince-
consort; and if I was you, I'd start a interregnum or a habeus corpus
or somethin'; and I'd be king if I had to turn from the bottom of the
Baldy emptied his glass to the ratification of his Warwick pose.
"Baldy," said Webb, solemnly, "me and you punched cows in the same
outfit for years. We been runnin' on the same range, and ridin' the
same trails since we was boys. I wouldn't talk about my family affairs
to nobody but you. You was line-rider on the Nopalito Ranch when I
married Santa McAllister. I was foreman then; but what am I now? I
don't amount to a knot in a stake rope."
"When old McAllister was the cattle king of West Texas," continued
Baldy with Satanic sweetness, "you was some tallow. You had as much to
say on the ranch as he did."
"I did," admitted Webb, "up to the time he found out I was tryin' to
get my rope over Santa's head. Then he kept me out on the range as far
from the ranch-house as he could. When the old man died they commenced
to call Santa the 'cattle queen.' I'm boss of the cattle--that's all.
She 'tends to all the business; she handles all the money; I can't
sell even a beef-steer to a party of campers, myself. Santa's the
'queen'; and I'm Mr. Nobody."
"I'd be king if I was you," repeated Baldy Woods, the royalist. "When
a man marries a queen he ought to grade up with her--on the hoof--
dressed--dried--corned--any old way from the chaparral to the packing-
house. Lots of folks thinks it's funny, Webb, that you don't have the
say-so on the Nopalito. I ain't reflectin' none on Miz Yeager--she's
the finest little lady between the Rio Grande and next Christmas--but
a man ought to be boss of his own camp."
The smooth, brown face of Yeager lengthened to a mask of wounded
melancholy. With that expression, and his rumpled yellow hair and
guileless blue eyes, he might have been likened to a schoolboy whose
leadership had been usurped by a youngster of superior strength. But
his active and sinewy seventy-two inches, and his girded revolvers
forbade the comparison.
"What was that you called me, Baldy?" he asked. "What kind of a
concert was it?"
"A 'consort,'" corrected Baldy--"a 'prince-consort.' It's a kind of
short-card pseudonym. You come in sort of between Jack-high and a
Webb Yeager sighed, and gathered the strap of his Winchester scabbard
from the floor.
"I'm ridin' back to the ranch to-day," he said half-heartedly. "I've
got to start a bunch of beeves for San Antone in the morning."
"I'm your company as far as Dry Lake," announced Baldy. "I've got a
round-up camp on the San Marcos cuttin' out two-year-olds."
The two /companeros/ mounted their ponies and trotted away from the
little railroad settlement, where they had foregathered in the thirsty
At Dry Lake, where their routes diverged, they reined up for a parting
cigarette. For miles they had ridden in silence save for the soft drum
of the ponies' hoofs on the matted mesquite grass, and the rattle of
the chaparral against their wooden stirrups. But in Texas discourse is
seldom continuous. You may fill in a mile, a meal, and a murder
between your paragraphs without detriment to your thesis. So, without
apology, Webb offered an addendum to the conversation that had begun
ten miles away.
"You remember, yourself, Baldy, that there was a time when Santa
wasn't quite so independent. You remember the days when old McAllister
was keepin' us apart, and how she used to send me the sign that she
wanted to see me? Old man Mac promised to make me look like a colander
if I ever come in gun-shot of the ranch. You remember the sign she
used to send, Baldy--the heart with a cross inside of it?"
"Me?" cried Baldy, with intoxicated archness. "You old sugar-stealing
coyote! Don't I remember! Why, you dad-blamed old long-horned turtle-
dove, the boys in camp was all cognoscious about them hiroglyphs. The
'gizzard-and-crossbones' we used to call it. We used to see 'em on
truck that was sent out from the ranch. They was marked in charcoal on
the sacks of flour and in lead-pencil on the newspapers. I see one of
'em once chalked on the back of a new cook that old man McAllister
sent out from the ranch--danged if I didn't."
"Santa's father," explained Webb gently, "got her to promise that she
wouldn't write to me or send me any word. That heart-and-cross sign
was her scheme. Whenever she wanted to see me in particular she
managed to put that mark on somethin' at the ranch that she knew I'd
see. And I never laid eyes on it but what I burnt the wind for the
ranch the same night. I used to see her in that coma mott back of the
"We knowed it," chanted Baldy; "but we never let on. We was all for
you. We knowed why you always kept that fast paint in camp. And when
we see that gizzard-and-crossbones figured out on the truck from the
ranch we knowed old Pinto was goin' to eat up miles that night instead
of grass. You remember Scurry--that educated horse-wrangler we had--
the college fellow that tangle-foot drove to the range? Whenever
Scurry saw that come-meet-your-honey brand on anything from the ranch,
he'd wave his hand like that, and say, 'Our friend Lee Andrews will
again swim the Hell's point to-night.'"
"The last time Santa sent me the sign," said Webb, "was once when she
was sick. I noticed it as soon as I hit camp, and I galloped Pinto
forty mile that night. She wasn't at the coma mott. I went to the
house; and old McAllister met me at the door. 'Did you come here to
get killed?' says he; 'I'll disoblige you for once. I just started a
Mexican to bring you. Santa wants you. Go in that room and see her.
And then come out here and see me.'
"Santa was lyin' in bed pretty sick. But she gives out a kind of a
smile, and her hand and mine lock horns, and I sets down by the bed--
mud and spurs and chaps and all. 'I've heard you ridin' across the
grass for hours, Webb,' she says. 'I was sure you'd come. You saw the
sign?' she whispers. 'The minute I hit camp,' says I. ''Twas marked on
the bag of potatoes and onions.' 'They're always together,' says she,
soft like--'always together in life.' 'They go well together,' I says,
'in a stew.' 'I mean hearts and crosses,' says Santa. 'Our sign--to
love and to suffer--that's what they mean.'
"And there was old Doc Musgrove amusin' himself with whisky and a
palm-leaf fan. And by and by Santa goes to sleep; and Doc feels her
forehead; and he says to me: 'You're not such a bad febrifuge. But
you'd better slide out now; for the diagnosis don't call for you in
regular doses. The little lady'll be all right when she wakes up.'
"I seen old McAllister outside. 'She's asleep,' says I. 'And now you
can start in with your colander-work. Take your time; for I left my
gun on my saddle-horn.'
"Old Mac laughs, and he says to me: 'Pumpin' lead into the best ranch-
boss in West Texas don't seem to me good business policy. I don't know
where I could get as good a one. It's the son-in-law idea, Webb, that
makes me admire for to use you as a target. You ain't my idea for a
member of the family. But I can use you on the Nopalito if you'll keep
outside of a radius with the ranch-house in the middle of it. You go
upstairs and lay down on a cot, and when you get some sleep we'll talk
Baldy Woods pulled down his hat, and uncurled his leg from his saddle-
horn. Webb shortened his rein, and his pony danced, anxious to be off.
The two men shook hands with Western ceremony.
"/Adios/, Baldy," said Webb, "I'm glad I seen you and had this talk."
With a pounding rush that sounded like the rise of a covey of quail,
the riders sped away toward different points of the compass. A hundred
yards on his route Baldy reined in on the top of a bare knoll, and
emitted a yell. He swayed on his horse; had he been on foot, the earth
would have risen and conquered him; but in the saddle he was a master
of equilibrium, and laughed at whisky, and despised the centre of
Webb turned in his saddle at the signal.
"If I was you," came Baldy's strident and perverting tones, "I'd be
At eight o'clock on the following morning Bud Turner rolled from his
saddle in front of the Nopalito ranch-house, and stumbled with
whizzing rowels toward the gallery. Bud was in charge of the bunch of
beef-cattle that was to strike the trail that morning for San Antonio.
Mrs. Yeager was on the gallery watering a cluster of hyacinths growing
in a red earthenware jar.
"King" McAllister had bequeathed to his daughter many of his strong
characteristics--his resolution, his gay courage, his contumacious
self-reliance, his pride as a reigning monarch of hoofs and horns.
/Allegro/ and /fortissimo/ had been McAllister's temp and tone. In
Santa they survived, transposed to the feminine key. Substantially,
she preserved the image of the mother who had been summoned to wander
in other and less finite green pastures long before the waxing herds
of kine had conferred royalty upon the house. She had her mother's
slim, strong figure and grave, soft prettiness that relieved in her
the severity of the imperious McAllister eye and the McAllister air of
Webb stood on one end of the gallery giving orders to two or three
sub-bosses of various camps and outfits who had ridden in for
"Morning," said Bud briefly. "Where do you want them beeves to go in
town--to Barber's, as usual?"
Now, to answer that had been the prerogative of the queen. All the
reins of business--buying, selling, and banking--had been held by her
capable fingers. The handling of cattle had been entrusted fully to
her husband. In the days of "King" McAllister, Santa had been his
secretary and helper; and she had continued her work with wisdom and
profit. But before she could reply, the prince-consort spake up with
"You drive that bunch to Zimmerman and Nesbit's pens. I spoke to
Zimmerman about it some time ago."
Bud turned on his high boot-heels.
"Wait!" called Santa quickly. She looked at her husband with surprise
in her steady gray eyes.
"Why, what do you mean, Webb?" she asked, with a small wrinkle
gathering between her brows. "I never deal with Zimmerman and Nesbit.
Barber has handled every head of stock from this ranch in that market
for five years. I'm not going to take the business out of his hands."
She faced Bud Turner. "Deliver those cattle to Barber," she concluded
Bud gazed impartially at the water-jar hanging on the gallery, stood
on his other leg, and chewed a mesquite-leaf.
"I want this bunch of beeves to go to Zimmerman and Nesbit," said
Webb, with a frosty light in his blue eyes.
"Nonsense," said Santa impatiently. "You'd better start on, Bud, so as
to noon at the Little Elm water-hole. Tell Barber we'll have another
lot of culls ready in about a month."
Bud allowed a hesitating eye to steal upward and meet Webb's. Webb saw
apology in his look, and fancied he saw commiseration.
"You deliver them cattle," he said grimly, "to--"
"Barber," finished Santa sharply. "Let that settle it. Is there
anything else you are waiting for, Bud?"
"No, m'm," said Bud. But before going he lingered while a cow's tail
could have switched thrice; for man is man's ally; and even the
Philistines must have blushed when they took Samson in the way they
"You hear your boss!" cried Webb sardonically. He took off his hat,
and bowed until it touched the floor before his wife.
"Webb," said Santa rebukingly, "you're acting mighty foolish to-day."
"Court fool, your Majesty," said Webb, in his slow tones, which had
changed their quality. "What else can you expect? Let me tell you. I
was a man before I married a cattle-queen. What am I now? The
laughing-stock of the camps. I'll be a man again."
Santa looked at him closely.
"Don't be unreasonable, Webb," she said calmly. "You haven't been
slighted in any way. Do I ever interfere in your management of the
cattle? I know the business side of the ranch much better than you do.
I learned it from Dad. Be sensible."
"Kingdoms and queendoms," said Webb, "don't suit me unless I am in the
pictures, too. I punch the cattle and you wear the crown. All right.
I'd rather be High Lord Chancellor of a cow-camp than the eight-spot
in a queen-high flush. It's your ranch; and Barber gets the beeves."
Webb's horse was tied to the rack. He walked into the house and
brought out his roll of blankets that he never took with him except on
long rides, and his "slicker," and his longest stake-rope of plaited
raw-hide. These he began to tie deliberately upon his saddle. Santa, a
little pale, followed him.
Webb swung up into the saddle. His serious, smooth face was without
expression except for a stubborn light that smouldered in his eyes.
"There's a herd of cows and calves," said he, "near the Hondo water-
hole on the Frio that ought to be moved away from timber. Lobos have
killed three of the calves. I forgot to leave orders. You'd better
tell Simms to attend to it."
Santa laid a hand on the horse's bridle, and looked her husband in the
"Are you going to leave me, Webb?" she asked quietly.
"I am going to be a man again," he answered.
"I wish you success in a praiseworthy attempt," she said, with a
sudden coldness. She turned and walked directly into the house.
Webb Yeager rode to the southeast as straight as the topography of
West Texas permitted. And when he reached the horizon he might have
ridden on into blue space as far as knowledge of him on the Nopalito
went. And the days, with Sundays at their head, formed into hebdomadal
squads; and the weeks, captained by the full moon, closed ranks into
menstrual companies crying "Tempus fugit" on their banners; and the
months marched on toward the vast camp-ground of the years; but Webb
Yeager came no more to the dominions of his queen.
One day a being named Bartholomew, a sheep-man--and therefore of
little account--from the lower Rio Grande country, rode in sight of
the Nopalito ranch-house, and felt hunger assail him. /Ex
consuetudine/ he was soon seated at the mid-day dining table of that
hospitable kingdom. Talk like water gushed from him: he might have
been smitten with Aaron's rod--that is your gentle shepherd when an
audience is vouchsafed him whose ears are not overgrown with wool.
"Missis Yeager," he babbled, "I see a man the other day on the Rancho
Seco down in Hidalgo County by your name--Webb Yeager was his. He'd
just been engaged as manager. He was a tall, light-haired man, not
saying much. Perhaps he was some kin of yours, do you think?"
"A husband," said Santa cordially. "The Seco has done well. Mr. Yeager
is one of the best stockmen in the West."
The dropping out of a prince-consort rarely disorganises a monarchy.
Queen Santa had appointed as /mayordomo/ of the ranch a trusty
subject, named Ramsay, who had been one of her father's faithful
vassals. And there was scarcely a ripple on the Nopalito ranch save
when the gulf-breeze created undulations in the grass of its wide
For several years the Nopalito had been making experiments with an
English breed of cattle that looked down with aristocratic contempt
upon the Texas long-horns. The experiments were found satisfactory;
and a pasture had been set aside for the blue-bloods. The fame of them
had gone forth into the chaparral and pear as far as men ride in
saddles. Other ranches woke up, rubbed their eyes, and looked with new
dissatisfaction upon the long-horns.
As a consequence, one day a sunburned, capable, silk-kerchiefed
nonchalant youth, garnished with revolvers, and attended by three
Mexican /vaqueros/, alighted at the Nopalito ranch and presented the
following business-like epistle to the queen thereof:
Mrs. Yeager--The Nopalito Ranch:
I am instructed by the owners of the Rancho Seco to purchase 100
head of two and three-year-old cows of the Sussex breed owned by
you. If you can fill the order please deliver the cattle to the
bearer; and a check will be forwarded to you at once.
Manager the Rancho Seco.
Business is business, even--very scantily did it escape being written
"especially"--in a kingdom.
That night the 100 head of cattle were driven up from the pasture and
penned in a corral near the ranch-house for delivery in the morning.
When night closed down and the house was still, did Santa Yeager throw
herself down, clasping that formal note to her bosom, weeping, and
calling out a name that pride (either in one or the other) had kept
from her lips many a day? Or did she file the letter, in her business
way, retaining her royal balance and strength?
Wonder, if you will; but royalty is sacred; and there is a veil. But
this much you shall learn:
At midnight Santa slipped softly out of the ranch-house, clothed in
something dark and plain. She paused for a moment under the live-oak
trees. The prairies were somewhat dim, and the moonlight was pale
orange, diluted with particles of an impalpable, flying mist. But the
mock-bird whistled on every bough of vantage; leagues of flowers
scented the air; and a kindergarten of little shadowy rabbits leaped
and played in an open space near by. Santa turned her face to the
southeast and threw three kisses thitherward; for there was none to
Then she sped silently to the blacksmith-shop, fifty yards away; and
what she did there can only be surmised. But the forge glowed red; and
there was a faint hammering such as Cupid might make when he sharpens
Later she came forth with a queer-shaped, handled thing in one hand,
and a portable furnace, such as are seen in branding-camps, in the
other. To the corral where the Sussex cattle were penned she sped with
these things swiftly in the moonlight.
She opened the gate and slipped inside the corral. The Sussex cattle
were mostly a dark red. But among this bunch was one that was milky
white--notable among the others.
And now Santa shook from her shoulder something that we had not seen
before--a rope lasso. She freed the loop of it, coiling the length in
her left hand, and plunged into the thick of the cattle.
The white cow was her object. She swung the lasso, which caught one
horn and slipped off. The next throw encircled the forefeet and the
animal fell heavily. Santa made for it like a panther; but it
scrambled up and dashed against her, knocking her over like a blade of
Again she made her cast, while the aroused cattle milled around the
four sides of the corral in a plunging mass. This throw was fair; the
white cow came to earth again; and before it could rise Santa had made
the lasso fast around a post of the corral with a swift and simple
knot, and had leaped upon the cow again with the rawhide hobbles.
In one minute the feet of the animal were tied (no record-breaking
deed) and Santa leaned against the corral for the same space of time,
panting and lax.
And then she ran swiftly to her furnace at the gate and brought the
branding-iron, queerly shaped and white-hot.
The bellow of the outraged white cow, as the iron was applied, should
have stirred the slumbering auricular nerves and consciences of the
near-by subjects of the Nopalito, but it did not. And it was amid the
deepest nocturnal silence that Santa ran like a lapwing back to the
ranch-house and there fell upon a cot and sobbed--sobbed as though
queens had hearts as simple ranchmen's wives have, and as though she
would gladly make kings of prince-consorts, should they ride back
again from over the hills and far away.
In the morning the capable, revolvered youth and his /vaqueros/ set
forth, driving the bunch of Sussex cattle across the prairies to the
Rancho Seco. Ninety miles it was; a six days' journey, grazing and
watering the animals on the way.
The beasts arrived at Rancho Seco one evening at dusk; and were
received and counted by the foreman of the ranch.
The next morning at eight o'clock a horseman loped out of the brush to
the Nopalito ranch-house. He dismounted stiffly, and strode, with
whizzing spurs, to the house. His horse gave a great sigh and swayed
foam-streaked, with down-drooping head and closed eyes.
But waste not your pity upon Belshazzar, the flea-bitten sorrel.
To-day, in Nopalito horse-pasture he survives, pampered, beloved,
unridden, cherished record-holder of long-distance rides.
The horseman stumbled into the house. Two arms fell around his neck,
and someone cried out in the voice of woman and queen alike: "Webb--
"I was a skunk," said Webb Yeager.
"Hush," said Santa, "did you see it?"
"I saw it," said Webb.
What they meant God knows; and you shall know, if you rightly read the
primer of events.
"Be the cattle-queen," said Webb; "and overlook it if you can. I was a
mangy, sheep-stealing coyote."
"Hush!" said Santa again, laying her fingers upon his mouth. "There's
no queen here. Do you know who I am? I am Santa Yeager, First Lady of
the Bedchamber. Come here."
She dragged him from the gallery into the room to the right. There
stood a cradle with an infant in it--a red, ribald, unintelligible,
babbling, beautiful infant, sputtering at life in an unseemly manner.
"There's no queen on this ranch," said Santa again. "Look at the king.
He's got your eyes, Webb. Down on your knees and look at his
But jingling rowels sounded on the gallery, and Bud Turner stumbled
there again with the same query that he had brought, lacking a few
days, a year ago.
"'Morning. Them beeves is just turned out on the trail. Shall I drive
'em to Barber's, or--"
He saw Webb and stopped, open-mouthed.
"Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba!" shrieked the king in his cradle, beating the air
with his fists.
"You hear your boss, Bud," said Webb Yeager, with a broad grin--just
as he had said a year ago.
And that is all, except that when old man Quinn, owner of the Rancho
Seco, went out to look over the herd of Sussex cattle that he had
bought from the Nopalito ranch, he asked his new manager:
"What's the Nopalito ranch brand, Wilson?"
"X Bar Y," said Wilson.
"I thought so," said Quinn. "But look at that white heifer there;
she's got another brand--a heart with a cross inside of it. What brand
THE RANSOM OF MACK
Me and old Mack Lonsbury, we got out of that Little Hide-and-Seek gold
mine affair with about $40,000 apiece. I say "old" Mack; but he wasn't
old. Forty-one, I should say; but he always seemed old.
"Andy," he says to me, "I'm tired of hustling. You and me have been
working hard together for three years. Say we knock off for a while,
and spend some of this idle money we've coaxed our way."
"The proposition hits me just right," says I. "Let's be nabobs for a
while and see how it feels. What'll we do--take in the Niagara Falls,
or buck at faro?"
"For a good many years," says Mack, "I've thought that if I ever had
extravagant money I'd rent a two-room cabin somewhere, hire a Chinaman
to cook, and sit in my stocking feet and read Buckle's History of
"That sounds self-indulgent and gratifying without vulgar
ostentation," says I; "and I don't see how money could be better
invested. Give me a cuckoo clock and a Sep Winner's Self-Instructor
for the Banjo, and I'll join you."
A week afterwards me and Mack hits this small town of Pina, about
thirty miles out from Denver, and finds an elegant two-room house that
just suits us. We deposited half-a-peck of money in the Pina bank and
shook hands with every one of the 340 citizens in the town. We brought
along the Chinaman and the cuckoo clock and Buckle and the Instructor
with us from Denver; and they made the cabin seem like home at once.
Never believe it when they tell you riches don't bring happiness. If
you could have seen old Mack sitting in his rocking-chair with his
blue-yarn sock feet up in the window and absorbing in that Buckle
stuff through his specs you'd have seen a picture of content that
would have made Rockefeller jealous. And I was learning to pick out
"Old Zip Coon" on the banjo, and the cuckoo was on time with his
remarks, and Ah Sing was messing up the atmosphere with the handsomest
smell of ham and eggs that ever laid the honeysuckle in the shade.
When it got too dark to make out Buckle's nonsense and the notes in
the Instructor, me and Mack would light our pipes and talk about
science and pearl diving and sciatica and Egypt and spelling and fish
and trade-winds and leather and gratitude and eagles, and a lot of
subjects that we'd never had time to explain our sentiments about
One evening Mack spoke up and asked me if I was much apprised in the
habits and policies of women folks.
"Why, yes," says I, in a tone of voice; "I know 'em from Alfred to
Omaha. The feminine nature and similitude," says I, "is as plain to my
sight as the Rocky Mountains is to a blue-eyed burro. I'm onto all
their little side-steps and punctual discrepancies."
"I tell you, Andy," says Mack, with a kind of sigh, "I never had the
least amount of intersection with their predispositions. Maybe I might
have had a proneness in respect to their vicinity, but I never took
the time. I made my own living since I was fourteen; and I never
seemed to get my ratiocinations equipped with the sentiments usually
depicted toward the sect. I sometimes wish I had," says old Mack.
"They're an adverse study," says I, "and adapted to points of view.
Although they vary in rationale, I have found 'em quite often
obviously differing from each other in divergences of contrast."
"It seems to me," goes on Mack, "that a man had better take 'em in and
secure his inspirations of the sect when he's young and so
preordained. I let my chance go by; and I guess I'm too old now to go
hopping into the curriculum."
"Oh, I don't know," I tells him. "Maybe you better credit yourself
with a barrel of money and a lot of emancipation from a quantity of
uncontent. Still, I don't regret my knowledge of 'em," I says. "It
takes a man who understands the symptoms and by-plays of women-folks
to take care of himself in this world."
We stayed on in Pina because we liked the place. Some folks might
enjoy their money with noise and rapture and locomotion; but me and
Mack we had had plenty of turmoils and hotel towels. The people were
friendly; Ah Sing got the swing of the grub we liked; Mack and Buckle
were as thick as two body-snatchers, and I was hitting out a cordial
resemblance to "Buffalo Gals, Can't You Come Out To-night," on the
One day I got a telegram from Speight, the man that was working on a
mine I had an interest in out in New Mexico. I had to go out there;
and I was gone two months. I was anxious to get back to Pina and enjoy
life once more.
When I struck the cabin I nearly fainted. Mack was standing in the
door; and if angels ever wept, I saw no reason why they should be
That man was a spectacle. Yes; he was worse; he was a spyglass; he was
the great telescope in the Lick Observatory. He had on a coat and
shiny shoes and a white vest and a high silk hat; and a geranium as
big as an order of spinach was spiked onto his front. And he was
smirking and warping his face like an infernal storekeeper or a kid
"Hello, Andy," says Mack, out of his face. "Glad to see you back.
Things have happened since you went away."
"I know it," says I, "and a sacrilegious sight it is. God never made
you that way, Mack Lonsbury. Why do you scarify His works with this
presumptuous kind of ribaldry?"
"Why, Andy," says he, "they've elected me justice of the peace since
I looked at Mack close. He was restless and inspired. A justice of the
peace ought to be disconsolate and assuaged.
Just then a young woman passed on the sidewalk; and I saw Mack kind of
half snicker and blush, and then he raised up his hat and smiled and
bowed, and she smiled and bowed, and went on by.
"No hope for you," says I, "if you've got the Mary-Jane infirmity at
your age. I thought it wasn't going to take on you. And patent leather
shoes! All this in two little short months!"
"I'm going to marry the young lady who just passed to-night," says
Mack, in a kind of flutter.
"I forgot something at the post-office," says I, and walked away
I overtook that young woman a hundred yards away. I raised my hat and
told her my name. She was about nineteen; and young for her age. She
blushed, and then looked at me cool, like I was the snow scene from
the "Two Orphans."
"I understand you are to be married to-night," I said.
"Correct," says she. "You got any objections?"
"Listen, sissy," I begins.
"My name is Miss Rebosa Redd," says she in a pained way.
"I know it," says I. "Now, Rebosa, I'm old enough to have owed money
to your father. And that old, specious, dressed-up, garbled, sea-sick
ptomaine prancing about avidiously like an irremediable turkey gobbler
with patent leather shoes on is my best friend. Why did you go and get
him invested in this marriage business?"
"Why, he was the only chance there was," answers Miss Rebosa.
"Nay," says I, giving a sickening look of admiration at her complexion
and style of features; "with your beauty you might pick any kind of a
man. Listen, Rebosa. Old Mack ain't the man you want. He was twenty-
two when you was /nee/ Reed, as the papers say. This bursting into
bloom won't last with him. He's all ventilated with oldness and
rectitude and decay. Old Mack's down with a case of Indian summer. He
overlooked his bet when he was young; and now he's suing Nature for
the interest on the promissory note he took from Cupid instead of the
cash. Rebosa, are you bent on having this marriage occur?"
"Why, sure I am," says she, oscillating the pansies on her hat, "and
so is somebody else, I reckon."
"What time is it to take place?" I asks.
"At six o'clock," says she.
I made up my mind right away what to do. I'd save old Mack if I could.
To have a good, seasoned, ineligible man like that turn chicken for a
girl that hadn't quit eating slate pencils and buttoning in the back
was more than I could look on with easiness.
"Rebosa," says I, earnest, drawing upon my display of knowledge
concerning the feminine intuitions of reason--"ain't there a young man
in Pina--a nice young man that you think a heap of?"
"Yep," says Rebosa, nodding her pansies--"Sure there is! What do you
"Does he like you?" I asks. "How does he stand in the matter?"
"Crazy," says Rebosa. "Ma has to wet down the front steps to keep him
from sitting there all the time. But I guess that'll be all over after
to-night," she winds up with a sigh.
"Rebosa," says I, "you don't really experience any of this adoration
called love for old Mack, do you?"
"Lord! no," says the girl, shaking her head. "I think he's as dry as a
lava bed. The idea!"
"Who is this young man that you like, Rebosa?" I inquires.
"It's Eddie Bayles," says she. "He clerks in Crosby's grocery. But he
don't make but thirty-five a month. Ella Noakes was wild about him
"Old Mack tells me," I says, "that he's going to marry you at six
o'clock this evening."
"That's the time," says she. "It's to be at our house."
"Rebosa," says I, "listen to me. If Eddie Bayles had a thousand
dollars cash--a thousand dollars, mind you, would buy him a store of
his own--if you and Eddie had that much to excuse matrimony on, would
you consent to marry him this evening at five o'clock?"
The girl looks at me a minute; and I can see these inaudible
cogitations going on inside of her, as women will.
"A thousand dollars?" says she. "Of course I would."
"Come on," says I. "We'll go and see Eddie."
We went up to Crosby's store and called Eddie outside. He looked to be
estimable and freckled; and he had chills and fever when I made my
"At five o'clock?" says he, "for a thousand dollars? Please don't wake
me up! Well, you /are/ the rich uncle retired from the spice business
in India! I'll buy out old Crosby and run the store myself."
We went inside and got old man Crosby apart and explained it. I wrote
my check for a thousand dollars and handed it to him. If Eddie and
Rebosa married each other at five he was to turn the money over to
And then I gave 'em my blessing, and went to wander in the wildwood
for a season. I sat on a log and made cogitations on life and old age
and the zodiac and the ways of women and all the disorder that goes
with a lifetime. I passed myself congratulations that I had probably
saved my old friend Mack from his attack of Indian summer. I knew when
he got well of it and shed his infatuation and his patent leather
shoes, he would feel grateful. "To keep old Mack disinvolved," thinks
I, "from relapses like this, is worth more than a thousand dollars."
And most of all I was glad that I'd made a study of women, and wasn't
to be deceived any by their means of conceit and evolution.
It must have been half-past five when I got back home. I stepped in;
and there sat old Mack on the back of his neck in his old clothes with
his blue socks on the window and the History of Civilisation propped
up on his knees.
"This don't look like getting ready for a wedding at six," I says, to
"Oh," says Mack, reaching for his tobacco, "that was postponed back to
five o'clock. They sent me over a note saying the hour had been
changed. It's all over now. What made you stay away so long, Andy?"
"You heard about the wedding?" I asks.
"I operated it," says he. "I told you I was justice of the peace. The
preacher is off East to visit his folks, and I'm the only one in town
that can perform the dispensations of marriage. I promised Eddie and
Rebosa a month ago I'd marry 'em. He's a busy lad; and he'll have a
grocery of his own some day."
"He will," says I.
"There was lots of women at the wedding," says Mack, smoking up. "But
I didn't seem to get any ideas from 'em. I wish I was informed in the
structure of their attainments like you said you was."
"That was two months ago," says I, reaching up for the banjo.
Returning from a hunting trip, I waited at the little town of Los
Pinos, in New Mexico, for the south-bound train, which was one hour
late. I sat on the porch of the Summit House and discussed the
functions of life with Telemachus Hicks, the hotel proprietor.
Perceiving that personalities were not out of order, I asked him what
species of beast had long ago twisted and mutilated his left ear.
Being a hunter, I was concerned in the evils that may befall one in
the pursuit of game.
"That ear," says Hicks, "is the relic of true friendship."
"An accident?" I persisted.
"No friendship is an accident," said Telemachus; and I was silent.
"The only perfect case of true friendship I ever knew," went on my
host, "was a cordial intent between a Connecticut man and a monkey.
The monkey climbed palms in Barranquilla and threw down cocoanuts to
the man. The man sawed them in two and made dippers, which he sold for
two /reales/ each and bought rum. The monkey drank the milk of the
nuts. Through each being satisfied with his own share of the graft,
they lived like brothers.
"But in the case of human beings, friendship is a transitory art,
subject to discontinuance without further notice.
"I had a friend once, of the entitlement of Paisley Fish, that I
imagined was sealed to me for an endless space of time. Side by side
for seven years we had mined, ranched, sold patent churns, herded
sheep, took photographs and other things, built wire fences, and
picked prunes. Thinks I, neither homocide nor flattery nor riches nor
sophistry nor drink can make trouble between me and Paisley Fish. We
was friends an amount you could hardly guess at. We was friends in
business, and we let our amicable qualities lap over and season our
hours of recreation and folly. We certainly had days of Damon and
nights of Pythias.
"One summer me and Paisley gallops down into these San Andres
mountains for the purpose of a month's surcease and levity, dressed in
the natural store habiliments of man. We hit this town of Los Pinos,
which certainly was a roof-garden spot of the world, and flowing with
condensed milk and honey. It had a street or two, and air, and hens,
and a eating-house; and that was enough for us.
"We strikes the town after supper-time, and we concludes to sample
whatever efficacy there is in this eating-house down by the railroad
tracks. By the time we had set down and pried up our plates with a
knife from the red oil-cloth, along intrudes Widow Jessup with the hot
biscuit and the fried liver.
"Now, there was a woman that would have tempted an anchovy to forget
his vows. She was not so small as she was large; and a kind of welcome
air seemed to mitigate her vicinity. The pink of her face was the /in
hoc signo/ of a culinary temper and a warm disposition, and her smile
would have brought out the dogwood blossoms in December.
"Widow Jessup talks to us a lot of garrulousness about the climate and
history and Tennyson and prunes and the scarcity of mutton, and
finally wants to know where we came from.
"'Spring Valley,' says I.
"'Big Spring Valley,' chips in Paisley, out of a lot of potatoes and
knuckle-bone of ham in his mouth.
"That was the first sign I noticed that the old /fidus Diogenes/
business between me and Paisley Fish was ended forever. He knew how I
hated a talkative person, and yet he stampedes into the conversation
with his amendments and addendums of syntax. On the map it was Big
Spring Valley; but I had heard Paisley himself call it Spring Valley a
"Without saying any more, we went out after supper and set on the
railroad track. We had been pardners too long not to know what was
going on in each other's mind.
"'I reckon you understand,' says Paisley, 'that I've made up my mind
to accrue that widow woman as part and parcel in and to my
hereditaments forever, both domestic, sociable, legal, and otherwise,
until death us do part.'
"'Why, yes,' says I, 'I read it between the lines, though you only
spoke one. And I suppose you are aware,' says I, 'that I have a
movement on foot that leads up to the widow's changing her name to
Hicks, and leaves you writing to the society column to inquire whether
the best man wears a japonica or seamless socks at the wedding!'
"'There'll be some hiatuses in your program,' says Paisley, chewing up
a piece of a railroad tie. 'I'd give in to you,' says he, 'in 'most
any respect if it was secular affairs, but this is not so. The smiles
of woman,' goes on Paisley, 'is the whirlpool of Squills and
Chalybeates, into which vortex the good ship Friendship is often drawn
and dismembered. I'd assault a bear that was annoying you,' says
Paisley, 'or I'd endorse your note, or rub the place between your
shoulder-blades with opodeldoc the same as ever; but there my sense of
etiquette ceases. In this fracas with Mrs. Jessup we play it alone.
I've notified you fair.'
"And then I collaborates with myself, and offers the following
resolutions and by-laws:
"'Friendship between man and man,' says I, 'is an ancient historical
virtue enacted in the days when men had to protect each other against
lizards with eighty-foot tails and flying turtles. And they've kept up
the habit to this day, and stand by each other till the bellboy comes
up and tells them the animals are not really there. I've often heard,'
I says, 'about ladies stepping in and breaking up a friendship between
men. Why should that be? I'll tell you, Paisley, the first sight and
hot biscuit of Mrs. Jessup appears to have inserted a oscillation into
each of our bosoms. Let the best man of us have her. I'll play you a
square game, and won't do any underhanded work. I'll do all of my
courting of her in your presence, so you will have an equal
opportunity. With that arrangement I don't see why our steamboat of
friendship should fall overboard in the medicinal whirlpools you speak
of, whichever of us wins out.'
"'Good old hoss!' says Paisley, shaking my hand. 'And I'll do the
same,' says he. 'We'll court the lady synonymously, and without any of
the prudery and bloodshed usual to such occasions. And we'll be
friends still, win or lose.'
"At one side of Mrs. Jessup's eating-house was a bench under some
trees where she used to sit in the breeze after the south-bound had
been fed and gone. And there me and Paisley used to congregate after
supper and make partial payments on our respects to the lady of our
choice. And we was so honorable and circuitous in our calls that if
one of us got there first we waited for the other before beginning any
"The first evening that Mrs. Jessup knew about our arrangement I got
to the bench before Paisley did. Supper was just over, and Mrs. Jessup
was out there with a fresh pink dress on, and almost cool enough to
"I sat down by her and made a few specifications about the moral
surface of nature as set forth by the landscape and the contiguous
perspective. That evening was surely a case in point. The moon was
attending to business in the section of sky where it belonged, and the
trees was making shadows on the ground according to science and
nature, and there was a kind of conspicuous hullabaloo going on in the
bushes between the bullbats and the orioles and the jack-rabbits and
other feathered insects of the forest. And the wind out of the
mountains was singing like a Jew's-harp in the pile of old tomato-cans
by the railroad track.
"I felt a kind of sensation in my left side--something like dough
rising in a crock by the fire. Mrs. Jessup had moved up closer.
"'Oh, Mr. Hicks,' says she, 'when one is alone in the world, don't
they feel it more aggravated on a beautiful night like this?'
"I rose up off the bench at once.
"'Excuse me, ma'am,' says I, 'but I'll have to wait till Paisley comes
before I can give a audible hearing to leading questions like that.'
"And then I explained to her how we was friends cinctured by years of
embarrassment and travel and complicity, and how we had agreed to take
no advantage of each other in any of the more mushy walks of life,
such as might be fomented by sentiment and proximity. Mrs. Jessup
appears to think serious about the matter for a minute, and then she
breaks into a species of laughter that makes the wildwood resound.
"In a few minutes Paisley drops around, with oil of bergamot on his
hair, and sits on the other side of Mrs. Jessup, and inaugurates a sad
tale of adventure in which him and Pieface Lumley has a skinning-match
of dead cows in '95 for a silver-mounted saddle in the Santa Rita
valley during the nine months' drought.
"Now, from the start of that courtship I had Paisley Fish hobbled and
tied to a post. Each one of us had a different system of reaching out
for the easy places in the female heart. Paisley's scheme was to
petrify 'em with wonderful relations of events that he had either come
across personally or in large print. I think he must have got his idea
of subjugation from one of Shakespeare's shows I see once called
'Othello.' There is a coloured man in it who acquires a duke's
daughter by disbursing to her a mixture of the talk turned out by
Rider Haggard, Lew Dockstader, and Dr. Parkhurst. But that style of
courting don't work well off the stage.
"Now, I give you my own recipe for inveigling a woman into that state
of affairs when she can be referred to as '/nee/ Jones.' Learn how to
pick up her hand and hold it, and she's yours. It ain't so easy. Some
men grab at it so much like they was going to set a dislocation of the
shoulder that you can smell the arnica and hear 'em tearing off
bandages. Some take it up like a hot horseshoe, and hold it off at
arm's length like a druggist pouring tincture of asafoetida in a
bottle. And most of 'em catch hold of it and drag it right out before
the lady's eyes like a boy finding a baseball in the grass, without
giving her a chance to forget that the hand is growing on the end of
her arm. Them ways are all wrong.
"I'll tell you the right way. Did you ever see a man sneak out in the
back yard and pick up a rock to throw at a tomcat that was sitting on
a fence looking at him? He pretends he hasn't got a thing in his hand,
and that the cat don't see him, and that he don't see the cat. That's
the idea. Never drag her hand out where she'll have to take notice of
it. Don't let her know that you think she knows you have the least
idea she is aware you are holding her hand. That was my rule of
tactics; and as far as Paisley's serenade about hostilities and
misadventure went, he might as well have been reading to her a time-
table of the Sunday trains that stop at Ocean Grove, New Jersey.
"One night when I beat Paisley to the bench by one pipeful, my
friendship gets subsidised for a minute, and I asks Mrs. Jessup if she
didn't think a 'H' was easier to write than a 'J.' In a second her
head was mashing the oleander flower in my button-hole, and I leaned
over and--but I didn't.
"'If you don't mind,' says I, standing up, 'we'll wait for Paisley to
come before finishing this. I've never done anything dishonourable yet
to our friendship, and this won't be quite fair.'
"'Mr. Hicks,' says Mrs. Jessup, looking at me peculiar in the dark,
'if it wasn't for but one thing, I'd ask you to hike yourself down the
gulch and never disresume your visits to my house.'
"'And what is that, ma'am?' I asks.
"'You are too good a friend not to make a good husband,' says she.
"In five minutes Paisley was on his side of Mrs. Jessup.
"'In Silver City, in the summer of '98,' he begins, 'I see Jim
Batholomew chew off a Chinaman's ear in the Blue Light Saloon on
account of a crossbarred muslin shirt that--what was that noise?'
"I had resumed matters again with Mrs. Jessup right where we had left
"'Mrs. Jessup,' says I, 'has promised to make it Hicks. And this is
another of the same sort.'
"Paisley winds his feet round a leg of the bench and kind of groans.
"'Lem,' says he, 'we been friends for seven years. Would you mind not
kissing Mrs. Jessup quite so loud? I'd do the same for you.'
"'All right,' says I. 'The other kind will do as well.'
"'This Chinaman,' goes on Paisley, 'was the one that shot a man named
Mullins in the spring of '97, and that was--'
"Paisley interrupted himself again.
"'Lem,' says he, 'if you was a true friend you wouldn't hug Mrs.
Jessup quite so hard. I felt the bench shake all over just then. You
know you told me you would give me an even chance as long as there was
"'Mr. Man,' says Mrs. Jessup, turning around to Paisley, 'if you was
to drop in to the celebration of mine and Mr. Hicks's silver wedding,
twenty-five years from now, do you think you could get it into that
Hubbard squash you call your head that you are /nix cum rous/ in this
business? I've put up with you a long time because you was Mr. Hicks's
friend; but it seems to me it's time for you to wear the willow and
trot off down the hill.'
"'Mrs. Jessup,' says I, without losing my grasp on the situation as
fiance, 'Mr. Paisley is my friend, and I offered him a square deal and
a equal opportunity as long as there was a chance.'
"'A chance!' says she. 'Well, he may think he has a chance; but I hope
he won't think he's got a cinch, after what he's been next to all the
"Well, a month afterwards me and Mrs. Jessup was married in the Los
Pinos Methodist Church; and the whole town closed up to see the
"When we lined up in front and the preacher was beginning to sing out
his rituals and observances, I looks around and misses Paisley. I
calls time on the preacher. 'Paisley ain't here,' says I. 'We've got
to wait for Paisley. A friend once, a friend always--that's Telemachus
Hicks,' says I. Mrs. Jessup's eyes snapped some; but the preacher
holds up the incantations according to instructions.
"In a few minutes Paisley gallops up the aisle, putting on a cuff as
he comes. He explains that the only dry-goods store in town was closed
for the wedding, and he couldn't get the kind of a boiled shirt that
his taste called for until he had broke open the back window of the
store and helped himself. Then he ranges up on the other side of the
bride, and the wedding goes on. I always imagined that Paisley
calculated as a last chance that the preacher might marry him to the
widow by mistake.
"After the proceedings was over we had tea and jerked antelope and
canned apricots, and then the populace hiked itself away. Last of all
Paisley shook me by the hand and told me I'd acted square and on the
level with him and he was proud to call me a friend.
"The preacher had a small house on the side of the street that he'd
fixed up to rent; and he allowed me and Mrs. Hicks to occupy it till
the ten-forty train the next morning, when we was going on a bridal
tour to El Paso. His wife had decorated it all up with hollyhocks and
poison ivy, and it looked real festal and bowery.
"About ten o'clock that night I sets down in the front door and pulls
off my boots a while in the cool breeze, while Mrs. Hicks was fixing
around in the room. Right soon the light went out inside; and I sat
there a while reverberating over old times and scenes. And then I
heard Mrs. Hicks call out, 'Ain't you coming in soon, Lem?'
"'Well, well!' says I, kind of rousing up. 'Durn me if I wasn't
waiting for old Paisley to--'
"But when I got that far," concluded Telemachus Hicks, "I thought
somebody had shot this left ear of mine off with a forty-five. But it
turned out to be only a lick from a broomhandle in the hands of Mrs.
THE HANDBOOK OF HYMEN
'Tis the opinion of myself, Sanderson Pratt, who sets this down, that
the educational system of the United States should be in the hands of
the weather bureau. I can give you good reasons for it; and you can't
tell me why our college professors shouldn't be transferred to the
meteorological department. They have been learned to read; and they
could very easily glance at the morning papers and then wire in to the
main office what kind of weather to expect. But there's the other side
of the proposition. I am going on to tell you how the weather
furnished me and Idaho Green with an elegant education.
We was up in the Bitter Root Mountains over the Montana line
prospecting for gold. A chin-whiskered man in Walla-Walla, carrying a
line of hope as excess baggage, had grubstaked us; and there we was in
the foothills pecking away, with enough grub on hand to last an army
through a peace conference.
Along one day comes a mail-rider over the mountains from Carlos, and
stops to eat three cans of greengages, and leave us a newspaper of
modern date. This paper prints a system of premonitions of the
weather, and the card it dealt Bitter Root Mountains from the bottom
of the deck was "warmer and fair, with light westerly breezes."
That evening it began to snow, with the wind strong in the east. Me
and Idaho moved camp into an old empty cabin higher up the mountain,
thinking it was only a November flurry. But after falling three foot
on a level it went to work in earnest; and we knew we was snowed in.
We got in plenty of firewood before it got deep, and we had grub
enough for two months, so we let the elements rage and cut up all they
If you want to instigate the art of manslaughter just shut two men up
in a eighteen by twenty-foot cabin for a month. Human nature won't
When the first snowflakes fell me and Idaho Green laughed at each
other's jokes and praised the stuff we turned out of a skillet and
called bread. At the end of three weeks Idaho makes this kind of a
edict to me. Says he:
"I never exactly heard sour milk dropping out of a balloon on the
bottom of a tin pan, but I have an idea it would be music of the
spears compared to this attenuated stream of asphyxiated thought that
emanates out of your organs of conversation. The kind of half-
masticated noises that you emit every day puts me in mind of a cow's
cud, only she's lady enough to keep hers to herself, and you ain't."
"Mr. Green," says I, "you having been a friend of mine once, I have
some hesitations in confessing to you that if I had my choice for
society between you and a common yellow, three-legged cur pup, one of
the inmates of this here cabin would be wagging a tail just at
This way we goes on for two or three days, and then we quits speaking
to one another. We divides up the cooking implements, and Idaho cooks
his grub on one side of the fireplace, and me on the other. The snow
is up to the windows, and we have to keep a fire all day.
You see me and Idaho never had any education beyond reading and doing
"if John had three apples and James five" on a slate. We never felt
any special need for a university degree, though we had acquired a
species of intrinsic intelligence in knocking around the world that we
could use in emergencies. But, snowbound in that cabin in the Bitter
Roots, we felt for the first time that if we had studied Homer or
Greek and fractions and the higher branches of information, we'd have
had some resources in the line of meditation and private thought. I've
seen them Eastern college fellows working in camps all through the
West, and I never noticed but what education was less of a drawback to
'em than you would think. Why, once over on Snake River, when Andrew
McWilliams' saddle horse got the botts, he sent a buckboard ten miles
for one of these strangers that claimed to be a botanist. But that
One morning Idaho was poking around with a stick on top of a little
shelf that was too high to reach. Two books fell down to the floor. I
started toward 'em, but caught Idaho's eye. He speaks for the first
time in a week.
"Don't burn your fingers," says he. "In spite of the fact that you're
only fit to be the companion of a sleeping mud-turtle, I'll give you a
square deal. And that's more than your parents did when they turned
you loose in the world with the sociability of a rattle-snake and the
bedside manner of a frozen turnip. I'll play you a game of seven-up,
the winner to pick up his choice of the book, the loser to take the
We played; and Idaho won. He picked up his book; and I took mine. Then
each of us got on his side of the house and went to reading.
I never was as glad to see a ten-ounce nugget as I was that book. And
Idaho took at his like a kid looks at a stick of candy.
Mine was a little book about five by six inches called "Herkimer's
Handbook of Indispensable Information." I may be wrong, but I think
that was the greatest book that ever was written. I've got it to-day;
and I can stump you or any man fifty times in five minutes with the
information in it. Talk about Solomon or the New York /Tribune/!
Herkimer had cases on both of 'em. That man must have put in fifty
years and travelled a million miles to find out all that stuff. There
was the population of all cities in it, and the way to tell a girl's
age, and the number of teeth a camel has. It told you the longest
tunnel in the world, the number of the stars, how long it takes for
chicken pox to break out, what a lady's neck ought to measure, the
veto powers of Governors, the dates of the Roman aqueducts, how many
pounds of rice going without three beers a day would buy, the average
annual temperature of Augusta, Maine, the quantity of seed required to
plant an acre of carrots in drills, antidotes for poisons, the number
of hairs on a blond lady's head, how to preserve eggs, the height of
all the mountains in the world, and the dates of all wars and battles,
and how to restore drowned persons, and sunstroke, and the number of
tacks in a pound, and how to make dynamite and flowers and beds, and
what to do before the doctor comes--and a hundred times as many things
besides. If there was anything Herkimer didn't know I didn't miss it
out of the book.
I sat and read that book for four hours. All the wonders of education
was compressed in it. I forgot the snow, and I forgot that me and old
Idaho was on the outs. He was sitting still on a stool reading away
with a kind of partly soft and partly mysterious look shining through
his tan-bark whiskers.
"Idaho," says I, "what kind of a book is yours?"
Idaho must have forgot, too, for he answered moderate, without any
slander or malignity.
"Why," says he, "this here seems to be a volume by Homer K. M."
"Homer K. M. what?" I asks.
"Why, just Homer K. M.," says he.
"You're a liar," says I, a little riled that Idaho should try to put
me up a tree. "No man is going 'round signing books with his initials.
If it's Homer K. M. Spoopendyke, or Homer K. M. McSweeney, or Homer K.
M. Jones, why don't you say so like a man instead of biting off the
end of it like a calf chewing off the tail of a shirt on a clothes-
"I put it to you straight, Sandy," says Idaho, quiet. "It's a poem
book," says he, "by Homer K. M. I couldn't get colour out of it at
first, but there's a vein if you follow it up. I wouldn't have missed
this book for a pair of red blankets."
"You're welcome to it," says I. "What I want is a disinterested
statement of facts for the mind to work on, and that's what I seem to
find in the book I've drawn."
"What you've got," says Idaho, "is statistics, the lowest grade of
information that exists. They'll poison your mind. Give me old K. M.'s
system of surmises. He seems to be a kind of a wine agent. His regular
toast is 'nothing doing,' and he seems to have a grouch, but he keeps
it so well lubricated with booze that his worst kicks sound like an
invitation to split a quart. But it's poetry," says Idaho, "and I have
sensations of scorn for that truck of yours that tries to convey sense
in feet and inches. When it comes to explaining the instinct of
philosophy through the art of nature, old K. M. has got your man beat
by drills, rows, paragraphs, chest measurement, and average annual
So that's the way me and Idaho had it. Day and night all the
excitement we got was studying our books. That snowstorm sure fixed us
with a fine lot of attainments apiece. By the time the snow melted, if
you had stepped up to me suddenly and said: "Sanderson Pratt, what
would it cost per square foot to lay a roof with twenty by twenty-
eight tin at nine dollars and fifty cents per box?" I'd have told you
as quick as light could travel the length of a spade handle at the
rate of one hundred and ninety-two thousand miles per second. How many
can do it? You wake up 'most any man you know in the middle of the
night, and ask him quick to tell you the number of bones in the human
skeleton exclusive of the teeth, or what percentage of the vote of the
Nebraska Legislature overrules a veto. Will he tell you? Try him and
About what benefit Idaho got out of his poetry book I didn't exactly
know. Idaho boosted the wine-agent every time he opened his mouth; but
I wasn't so sure.
This Homer K. M., from what leaked out of his libretto through Idaho,
seemed to me to be a kind of a dog who looked at life like it was a
tin can tied to his tail. After running himself half to death, he sits
down, hangs his tongue out, and looks at the can and says:
"Oh, well, since we can't shake the growler, let's get it filled at
the corner, and all have a drink on me."
Besides that, it seems he was a Persian; and I never hear of Persia
producing anything worth mentioning unless it was Turkish rugs and
That spring me and Idaho struck pay ore. It was a habit of ours to
sell out quick and keep moving. We unloaded our grubstaker for eight
thousand dollars apiece; and then we drifted down to this little town
of Rosa, on the Salmon river, to rest up, and get some human grub, and
have our whiskers harvested.
Rosa was no mining-camp. It laid in the valley, and was as free of
uproar and pestilence as one of them rural towns in the country. There
was a three-mile trolley line champing its bit in the environs; and me
and Idaho spent a week riding on one of the cars, dropping off at
nights at the Sunset View Hotel. Being now well read as well as
travelled, we was soon /pro re nata/ with the best society in Rosa,
and was invited out to the most dressed-up and high-toned
entertainments. It was at a piano recital and quail-eating contest in
the city hall, for the benefit of the fire company, that me and Idaho
first met Mrs. De Ormond Sampson, the queen of Rosa society.
Mrs. Sampson was a widow, and owned the only two-story house in town.
It was painted yellow, and whichever way you looked from you could see
it as plain as egg on the chin of an O'Grady on a Friday. Twenty-two
men in Rosa besides me and Idaho was trying to stake a claim on that
There was a dance after the song books and quail bones had been raked
out of the Hall. Twenty-three of the bunch galloped over to Mrs.
Sampson and asked for a dance. I side-stepped the two-step, and asked
permission to escort her home. That's where I made a hit.
On the way home says she:
"Ain't the stars lovely and bright to-night, Mr. Pratt?"
"For the chance they've got," says I, "they're humping themselves in a
mighty creditable way. That big one you see is sixty-six million miles
distant. It took thirty-six years for its light to reach us. With an
eighteen-foot telescope you can see forty-three millions of 'em,
including them of the thirteenth magnitude, which, if one was to go
out now, you would keep on seeing it for twenty-seven hundred years."
"My!" says Mrs. Sampson. "I never knew that before. How warm it is!
I'm as damp as I can be from dancing so much."
"That's easy to account for," says I, "when you happen to know that
you've got two million sweat-glands working all at once. If every one
of your perspiratory ducts, which are a quarter of an inch long, was
placed end to end, they would reach a distance of seven miles."
"Lawsy!" says Mrs. Sampson. "It sounds like an irrigation ditch you
was describing, Mr. Pratt. How do you get all this knowledge of
"From observation, Mrs. Sampson," I tells her. "I keep my eyes open
when I go about the world."
"Mr. Pratt," says she, "I always did admire a man of education. There
are so few scholars among the sap-headed plug-uglies of this town that
it is a real pleasure to converse with a gentleman of culture. I'd be
gratified to have you call at my house whenever you feel so inclined."
And that was the way I got the goodwill of the lady in the yellow
house. Every Tuesday and Friday evening I used to go there and tell
her about the wonders of the universe as discovered, tabulated, and
compiled from nature by Herkimer. Idaho and the other gay Lutherans of
the town got every minute of the rest of the week that they could.
I never imagined that Idaho was trying to work on Mrs. Sampson with
old K. M.'s rules of courtship till one afternoon when I was on my way
over to take her a basket of wild hog-plums. I met the lady coming
down the lane that led to her house. Her eyes was snapping, and her
hat made a dangerous dip over one eye.
"Mr. Pratt," she opens up, "this Mr. Green is a friend of yours, I
"For nine years," says I.
"Cut him out," says she. "He's no gentleman!"
"Why ma'am," says I, "he's a plain incumbent of the mountains, with
asperities and the usual failings of a spendthrift and a liar, but I
never on the most momentous occasion had the heart to deny that he was
a gentleman. It may be that in haberdashery and the sense of arrogance
and display Idaho offends the eye, but inside, ma'am, I've found him
impervious to the lower grades of crime and obesity. After nine years
of Idaho's society, Mrs. Sampson," I winds up, "I should hate to
impute him, and I should hate to see him imputed."
"It's right plausible of you, Mr. Pratt," says Mrs. Sampson, "to take
up the curmudgeons in your friend's behalf; but it don't alter the
fact that he has made proposals to me sufficiently obnoxious to ruffle
the ignominy of any lady."
"Why, now, now, now!" says I. "Old Idaho do that! I could believe it
of myself, sooner. I never knew but one thing to deride in him; and a
blizzard was responsible for that. Once while we was snow-bound in the
mountains he became a prey to a kind of spurious and uneven poetry,
which may have corrupted his demeanour."
"It has," says Mrs. Sampson. "Ever since I knew him he has been
reciting to me a lot of irreligious rhymes by some person he calls
Ruby Ott, and who is no better than she should be, if you judge by her
"Then Idaho has struck a new book," says I, "for the one he had was by
a man who writes under the /nom de plume/ of K. M."
"He'd better have stuck to it," says Mrs. Sampson, "whatever it was.
And to-day he caps the vortex. I get a bunch of flowers from him, and
on 'em is pinned a note. Now, Mr. Pratt, you know a lady when you see
her; and you know how I stand in Rosa society. Do you think for a
moment that I'd skip out to the woods with a man along with a jug of
wine and a loaf of bread, and go singing and cavorting up and down
under the trees with him? I take a little claret with my meals, but
I'm not in the habit of packing a jug of it into the brush and raising
Cain in any such style as that. And of course he'd bring his book of
verses along, too. He said so. Let him go on his scandalous picnics
alone! Or let him take his Ruby Ott with him. I reckon she wouldn't
kick unless it was on account of there being too much bread along. And
what do you think of your gentleman friend now, Mr. Pratt?"
"Well, 'm," says I, "it may be that Idaho's invitation was a kind of
poetry, and meant no harm. May be it belonged to the class of rhymes
they call figurative. They offend law and order, but they get sent
through the mails on the grounds that they mean something that they
don't say. I'd be glad on Idaho's account if you'd overlook it," says
I, "and let us extricate our minds from the low regions of poetry to
the higher planes of fact and fancy. On a beautiful afternoon like
this, Mrs. Sampson," I goes on, "we should let our thoughts dwell
accordingly. Though it is warm here, we should remember that at the
equator the line of perpetual frost is at an altitude of fifteen
thousand feet. Between the latitudes of forty degrees and forty-nine
degrees it is from four thousand to nine thousand feet."
"Oh, Mr. Pratt," says Mrs. Sampson, "it's such a comfort to hear you
say them beautiful facts after getting such a jar from that minx of a
"Let us sit on this log at the roadside," says I, "and forget the
inhumanity and ribaldry of the poets. It is in the glorious columns of
ascertained facts and legalised measures that beauty is to be found.
In this very log we sit upon, Mrs. Sampson," says I, "is statistics
more wonderful than any poem. The rings show it was sixty years old.
At the depth of two thousand feet it would become coal in three
thousand years. The deepest coal mine in the world is at Killingworth,
near Newcastle. A box four feet long, three feet wide, and two feet
eight inches deep will hold one ton of coal. If an artery is cut,
compress it above the wound. A man's leg contains thirty bones. The
Tower of London was burned in 1841."
"Go on, Mr. Pratt," says Mrs. Sampson. "Them ideas is so original and
soothing. I think statistics are just as lovely as they can be."
But it wasn't till two weeks later that I got all that was coming to
me out of Herkimer.
One night I was waked up by folks hollering "Fire!" all around. I
jumped up and dressed and went out of the hotel to enjoy the scene.
When I see it was Mrs. Sampson's house, I gave forth a kind of yell,
and I was there in two minutes.
The whole lower story of the yellow house was in flames, and every
masculine, feminine, and canine in Rosa was there, screeching and
barking and getting in the way of the firemen. I saw Idaho trying to
get away from six firemen who were holding him. They was telling him
the whole place was on fire down-stairs, and no man could go in it and
come out alive.
"Where's Mrs. Sampson?" I asks.
"She hasn't been seen," says one of the firemen. "She sleeps up-
stairs. We've tried to get in, but we can't, and our company hasn't
got any ladders yet."
I runs around to the light of the big blaze, and pulls the Handbook
out of my inside pocket. I kind of laughed when I felt it in my hands
--I reckon I was some daffy with the sensation of excitement.
"Herky, old boy," I says to it, as I flipped over the pages, "you
ain't ever lied to me yet, and you ain't ever throwed me down at a
scratch yet. Tell me what, old boy, tell me what!" says I.
I turned to "What to do in Case of Accidents," on page 117. I run my
finger down the page, and struck it. Good old Herkimer, he never
overlooked anything! It said:
Suffocation from Inhaling Smoke or Gas.--There is nothing better
than flaxseed. Place a few seed in the outer corner of the eye.
I shoved the Handbook back in my pocket, and grabbed a boy that was
"Here," says I, giving him some money, "run to the drug store and
bring a dollar's worth of flaxseed. Hurry, and you'll get another one
for yourself. Now," I sings out to the crowd, "we'll have Mrs.
Sampson!" And I throws away my coat and hat.
Four of the firemen and citizens grabs hold of me. It's sure death,
they say, to go in the house, for the floors was beginning to fall
"How in blazes," I sings out, kind of laughing yet, but not feeling
like it, "do you expect me to put flaxseed in a eye without the eye?"
I jabbed each elbow in a fireman's face, kicked the bark off of one
citizen's shin, and tripped the other one with a side hold. And then I
busted into the house. If I die first I'll write you a letter and tell
you if it's any worse down there than the inside of that yellow house
was; but don't believe it yet. I was a heap more cooked than the
hurry-up orders of broiled chicken that you get in restaurants. The
fire and smoke had me down on the floor twice, and was about to shame
Herkimer, but the firemen helped me with their little stream of water,
and I got to Mrs. Sampson's room. She'd lost conscientiousness from
the smoke, so I wrapped her in the bed clothes and got her on my
shoulder. Well, the floors wasn't as bad as they said, or I never
could have done it--not by no means.
I carried her out fifty yards from the house and laid her on the
grass. Then, of course, every one of them other twenty-two plaintiff's
to the lady's hand crowded around with tin dippers of water ready to
save her. And up runs the boy with the flaxseed.
I unwrapped the covers from Mrs. Sampson's head. She opened her eyes
"Is that you, Mr. Pratt?"
"S-s-sh," says I. "Don't talk till you've had the remedy."
I runs my arm around her neck and raises her head, gentle, and breaks
the bag of flaxseed with the other hand; and as easy as I could I
bends over and slips three or four of the seeds in the outer corner of
Up gallops the village doc by this time, and snorts around, and grabs
at Mrs. Sampson's pulse, and wants to know what I mean by any such
"Well, old Jalap and Jerusalem oakseed," says I, "I'm no regular
practitioner, but I'll show you my authority, anyway."
They fetched my coat, and I gets out the Handbook.
"Look on page 117," says I, "at the remedy for suffocation by smoke or
gas. Flaxseed in the outer corner of the eye, it says. I don't know
whether it works as a smoke consumer or whether it hikes the compound
gastro-hippopotamus nerve into action, but Herkimer says it, and he
was called to the case first. If you want to make it a consultation,
there's no objection."
Old doc takes the book and looks at it by means of his specs and a
"Well, Mr. Pratt," says he, "you evidently got on the wrong line in
reading your diagnosis. The recipe for suffocation says: 'Get the
patient into fresh air as quickly as possible, and place in a
reclining position.' The flaxseed remedy is for 'Dust and Cinders in
the Eye,' on the line above. But, after all--"
"See here," interrupts Mrs. Sampson, "I reckon I've got something to
say in this consultation. That flaxseed done me more good than
anything I ever tried." And then she raises up her head and lays it
back on my arm again, and says: "Put some in the other eye, Sandy
And so if you was to stop off at Rosa to-morrow, or any other day,
you'd see a fine new yellow house with Mrs. Pratt, that was Mrs.
Sampson, embellishing and adorning it. And if you was to step inside
you'd see on the marble-top centre table in the parlour "Herkimer's
Handbook of Indispensable Information," all rebound in red morocco,
and ready to be consulted on any subject pertaining to human happiness
THE PIMIENTA PANCAKES
While we were rounding up a bunch of the Triangle-O cattle in the Frio
bottoms a projecting branch of a dead mesquite caught my wooden
stirrup and gave my ankle a wrench that laid me up in camp for a week.
On the third day of my compulsory idleness I crawled out near the grub
wagon, and reclined helpless under the conversational fire of Judson
Odom, the camp cook. Jud was a monologist by nature, whom Destiny,
with customary blundering, had set in a profession wherein he was
bereaved, for the greater portion of his time, of an audience.
Therefore, I was manna in the desert of Jud's obmutescence.
Betimes I was stirred by invalid longings for something to eat that
did not come under the caption of "grub." I had visions of the
maternal pantry "deep as first love, and wild with all regret," and
then I asked:
"Jud, can you make pancakes?"
Jud laid down his six-shooter, with which he was preparing to pound an
antelope steak, and stood over me in what I felt to be a menacing
attitude. He further endorsed my impression that his pose was
resentful by fixing upon me with his light blue eyes a look of cold
"Say, you," he said, with candid, though not excessive, choler, "did
you mean that straight, or was you trying to throw the gaff into me?
Some of the boys been telling you about me and that pancake racket?"
"No, Jud," I said, sincerely, "I meant it. It seems to me I'd swap my
pony and saddle for a stack of buttered brown pancakes with some first
crop, open kettle, New Orleans sweetening. Was there a story about
Jud was mollified at once when he saw that I had not been dealing in
allusions. He brought some mysterious bags and tin boxes from the grub
wagon and set them in the shade of the hackberry where I lay reclined.
I watched him as he began to arrange them leisurely and untie their
"No, not a story," said Jud, as he worked, "but just the logical
disclosures in the case of me and that pink-eyed snoozer from Mired
Mule Canada and Miss Willella Learight. I don't mind telling you.
"I was punching then for old Bill Toomey, on the San Miguel. One day I
gets all ensnared up in aspirations for to eat some canned grub that
hasn't ever mooed or baaed or grunted or been in peck measures. So, I
gets on my bronc and pushes the wind for Uncle Emsley Telfair's store
at the Pimienta Crossing on the Nueces.
"About three in the afternoon I throwed my bridle rein over a mesquite
limb and walked the last twenty yards into Uncle Emsley's store. I got
up on the counter and told Uncle Emsley that the signs pointed to the
devastation of the fruit crop of the world. In a minute I had a bag of
crackers and a long-handled spoon, with an open can each of apricots
and pineapples and cherries and greengages beside of me with Uncle
Emsley busy chopping away with the hatchet at the yellow clings. I was
feeling like Adam before the apple stampede, and was digging my spurs
into the side of the counter and working with my twenty-four-inch
spoon when I happened to look out of the window into the yard of Uncle
Emsley's house, which was next to the store.
"There was a girl standing there--an imported girl with fixings on--
philandering with a croquet maul and amusing herself by watching my
style of encouraging the fruit canning industry.
"I slid off the counter and delivered up my shovel to Uncle Emsley.
"'That's my niece,' says he; 'Miss Willella Learight, down from
Palestine on a visit. Do you want that I should make you acquainted?'
"'The Holy Land,' I says to myself, my thoughts milling some as I
tried to run 'em into the corral. 'Why not? There was sure angels in
Pales--Why, yes, Uncle Emsley,' I says out loud, 'I'd be awful edified
to meet Miss Learight.'
"So Uncle Emsley took me out in the yard and gave us each other's
"I never was shy about women. I never could understand why some men
who can break a mustang before breakfast and shave in the dark, get
all left-handed and full of perspiration and excuses when they see a
bold of calico draped around what belongs to it. Inside of eight
minutes me and Miss Willella was aggravating the croquet balls around
as amiable as second cousins. She gave me a dig about the quantity of
canned fruit I had eaten, and I got back at her, flat-footed, about
how a certain lady named Eve started the fruit trouble in the first
free-grass pasture--'Over in Palestine, wasn't it?' says I, as easy
and pat as roping a one-year-old.
"That was how I acquired cordiality for the proximities of Miss
Willella Learight; and the disposition grew larger as time passed. She
was stopping at Pimienta Crossing for her health, which was very good,
and for the climate, which was forty per cent. hotter than Palestine.
I rode over to see her once every week for a while; and then I figured
it out that if I doubled the number of trips I would see her twice as
"One week I slipped in a third trip; and that's where the pancakes and
the pink-eyed snoozer busted into the game.
"That evening, while I set on the counter with a peach and two damsons
in my mouth, I asked Uncle Emsley how Miss Willella was.
"'Why,' says Uncle Emsley, 'she's gone riding with Jackson Bird, the
sheep man from over at Mired Mule Canada.'
"I swallowed the peach seed and the two damson seeds. I guess somebody
held the counter by the bridle while I got off; and then I walked out
straight ahead till I butted against the mesquite where my roan was
"'She's gone riding,' I whisper in my bronc's ear, 'with Birdstone
Jack, the hired mule from Sheep Man's Canada. Did you get that, old
"That bronc of mine wept, in his way. He'd been raised a cow pony and
he didn't care for snoozers.
"I went back and said to Uncle Emsley: 'Did you say a sheep man?'
"'I said a sheep man,' says Uncle Emsley again. 'You must have heard
tell of Jackson Bird. He's got eight sections of grazing and four
thousand head of the finest Merinos south of the Arctic Circle.'
"I went out and sat on the ground in the shade of the store and leaned
against a prickly pear. I sifted sand into my boots with unthinking
hands while I soliloquised a quantity about this bird with the Jackson
plumage to his name.
"I never had believed in harming sheep men. I see one, one day,
reading a Latin grammar on hossback, and I never touched him! They
never irritated me like they do most cowmen. You wouldn't go to work
now, and impair and disfigure snoozers, would you, that eat on tables
and wear little shoes and speak to you on subjects? I had always let
'em pass, just as you would a jack-rabbit; with a polite word and a
guess about the weather, but no stopping to swap canteens. I never
thought it was worth while to be hostile with a snoozer. And because
I'd been lenient, and let 'em live, here was one going around riding
with Miss Willella Learight!
"An hour by sun they come loping back, and stopped at Uncle Emsley's
gate. The sheep person helped her off; and they stood throwing each
other sentences all sprightful and sagacious for a while. And then
this feathered Jackson flies up in his saddle and raises his little
stewpot of a hat, and trots off in the direction of his mutton ranch.
By this time I had turned the sand out of my boots and unpinned myself
from the prickly pear; and by the time he gets half a mile out of
Pimienta, I singlefoots up beside him on my bronc.
"I said that snoozer was pink-eyed, but he wasn't. His seeing
arrangement was grey enough, but his eye-lashes was pink and his hair
was sandy, and that gave you the idea. Sheep man?--he wasn't more than
a lamb man, anyhow--a little thing with his neck involved in a yellow
silk handkerchief, and shoes tied up in bowknots.
"'Afternoon!' says I to him. 'You now ride with a equestrian who is
commonly called Dead-Moral-Certainty Judson, on account of the way I
shoot. When I want a stranger to know me I always introduce myself
before the draw, for I never did like to shake hands with ghosts.'
"'Ah,' says he, just like that--'Ah, I'm glad to know you, Mr. Judson.
I'm Jackson Bird, from over at Mired Mule Ranch.'
"Just then one of my eyes saw a roadrunner skipping down the hill with
a young tarantula in his bill, and the other eye noticed a rabbit-hawk
sitting on a dead limb in a water-elm. I popped over one after the
other with my forty-five, just to show him. 'Two out of three,' says
I. 'Birds just naturally seem to draw my fire wherever I go.'
"'Nice shooting,' says the sheep man, without a flutter. 'But don't
you sometimes ever miss the third shot? Elegant fine rain that was
last week for the young grass, Mr. Judson?' says he.
"'Willie,' says I, riding over close to his palfrey, 'your infatuated
parents may have denounced you by the name of Jackson, but you sure
moulted into a twittering Willie--let us slough off this here analysis
of rain and the elements, and get down to talk that is outside the
vocabulary of parrots. That is a bad habit you have got of riding with
young ladies over at Pimienta. I've known birds,' says I, 'to be
served on toast for less than that. Miss Willella,' says I, 'don't
ever want any nest made out of sheep's wool by a tomtit of the
Jacksonian branch of ornithology. Now, are you going to quit, or do
you wish for to gallop up against this Dead-Moral-Certainty attachment
to my name, which is good for two hyphens and at least one set of
"Jackson Bird flushed up some, and then he laughed.
"'Why, Mr. Judson,' says he, 'you've got the wrong idea. I've called
on Miss Learight a few times; but not for the purpose you imagine. My
object is purely a gastronomical one.'
"I reached for my gun.
"'Any coyote,' says I, 'that would boast of dishonourable--'
"'Wait a minute,' says this Bird, 'till I explain. What would I do
with a wife? If you ever saw that ranch of mine! I do my own cooking
and mending. Eating--that's all the pleasure I get out of sheep
raising. Mr. Judson, did you ever taste the pancakes that Miss
"'Me? No,' I told him. 'I never was advised that she was up to any
"'They're golden sunshine,' says he, 'honey-browned by the ambrosial
fires of Epicurus. I'd give two years of my life to get the recipe for
making them pancakes. That's what I went to see Miss Learight for,'
says Jackson Bird, 'but I haven't been able to get it from her. It's
an old recipe that's been in the family for seventy-five years. They
hand it down from one generation to another, but they don't give it
away to outsiders. If I could get that recipe, so I could make them
pancakes for myself on my ranch, I'd be a happy man,' says Bird.
"'Are you sure,' I says to him, 'that it ain't the hand that mixes the
pancakes that you're after?'
"'Sure,' says Jackson. 'Miss Learight is a mighty nice girl, but I can
assure you my intentions go no further than the gastro--' but he seen
my hand going down to my holster and he changed his similitude--'than
the desire to procure a copy of the pancake recipe,' he finishes.
"'You ain't such a bad little man,' says I, trying to be fair. 'I was
thinking some of making orphans of your sheep, but I'll let you fly
away this time. But you stick to pancakes,' says I, 'as close as the
middle one of a stack; and don't go and mistake sentiments for syrup,
or there'll be singing at your ranch, and you won't hear it.'
"'To convince you that I am sincere,' says the sheep man, 'I'll ask
you to help me. Miss Learight and you being closer friends, maybe she
would do for you what she wouldn't for me. If you will get me a copy
of that pancake recipe, I give you my word that I'll never call upon
"'That's fair,' I says, and I shook hands with Jackson Bird. 'I'll get
it for you if I can, and glad to oblige.' And he turned off down the
big pear flat on the Piedra, in the direction of Mired Mule; and I
steered northwest for old Bill Toomey's ranch.
"It was five days afterward when I got another chance to ride over to
Pimienta. Miss Willella and me passed a gratifying evening at Uncle
Emsley's. She sang some, and exasperated the piano quite a lot with
quotations from the operas. I gave imitations of a rattlesnake, and
told her about Snaky McFee's new way of skinning cows, and described
the trip I made to Saint Louis once. We was getting along in one
another's estimations fine. Thinks I, if Jackson Bird can now be
persuaded to migrate, I win. I recollect his promise about the pancake
receipt, and I thinks I will persuade it from Miss Willella and give
it to him; and then if I catches Birdie off of Mired Mule again, I'll
make him hop the twig.
"So, along about ten o'clock, I put on a wheedling smile and says to
Miss Willella: 'Now, if there's anything I do like better than the
sight of a red steer on green grass it's the taste of a nice hot
pancake smothered in sugar-house molasses.'
"Miss Willella gives a little jump on the piano stool, and looked at
"'Yes,' says she, 'they're real nice. What did you say was the name of
that street in Saint Louis, Mr. Odom, where you lost your hat?'
"'Pancake Avenue,' says I, with a wink, to show her that I was on
about the family receipt, and couldn't be side-corralled off of the
subject. 'Come, now, Miss Willella,' I says; 'let's hear how you make
'em. Pancakes is just whirling in my head like wagon wheels. Start her
off, now--pound of flour, eight dozen eggs, and so on. How does the
catalogue of constituents run?'
"'Excuse me for a moment, please,' says Miss Willella, and she gives
me a quick kind of sideways look, and slides off the stool. She ambled
out into the other room, and directly Uncle Emsley comes in in his
shirt sleeves, with a pitcher of water. He turns around to get a glass
on the table, and I see a forty-five in his hip pocket. 'Great post-
holes!' thinks I, 'but here's a family thinks a heap of cooking
receipts, protecting it with firearms. I've known outfits that
wouldn't do that much by a family feud.'
"'Drink this here down,' says Uncle Emsley, handing me the glass of
water. 'You've rid too far to-day, Jud, and got yourself over-excited.
Try to think about something else now.'
"'Do you know how to make them pancakes, Uncle Emsley?' I asked.
"'Well, I'm not as apprised in the anatomy of them as some,' says
Uncle Emsley, 'but I reckon you take a sifter of plaster of Paris and
a little dough and saleratus and corn meal, and mix 'em with eggs and
buttermilk as usual. Is old Bill going to ship beeves to Kansas City
again this spring, Jud?'
"That was all the pancake specifications I could get that night. I
didn't wonder that Jackson Bird found it uphill work. So I dropped the
subject and talked with Uncle Emsley for a while about hollow-horn and
cyclones. And then Miss Willella came and said 'Good-night,' and I hit
the breeze for the ranch.
"About a week afterward I met Jackson Bird riding out of Pimienta as I
rode in, and we stopped on the road for a few frivolous remarks.
"'Got the bill of particulars for them flapjacks yet?' I asked him.
"'Well, no,' says Jackson. 'I don't seem to have any success in
getting hold of it. Did you try?'
"'I did,' says I, 'and 'twas like trying to dig a prairie dog out of
his hole with a peanut hull. That pancake receipt must be a
jookalorum, the way they hold on to it.'
"'I'm most ready to give it up,' says Jackson, so discouraged in his
pronunciations that I felt sorry for him; 'but I did want to know how
to make them pancakes to eat on my lonely ranch,' says he. 'I lie
awake at nights thinking how good they are.'
"'You keep on trying for it,' I tells him, 'and I'll do the same. One
of us is bound to get a rope over its horns before long. Well, so-
"You see, by this time we were on the peacefullest of terms. When I
saw that he wasn't after Miss Willella, I had more endurable
contemplations of that sandy-haired snoozer. In order to help out the
ambitions of his appetite I kept on trying to get that receipt from
Miss Willella. But every time I would say 'pancakes' she would get
sort of remote and fidgety about the eye, and try to change the
subject. If I held her to it she would slide out and round up Uncle
Emsley with his pitcher of water and hip-pocket howitzer.
"One day I galloped over to the store with a fine bunch of blue
verbenas that I cut out of a herd of wild flowers over on Poisoned Dog
Prairie. Uncle Emsley looked at 'em with one eye shut and says:
"'Haven't ye heard the news?'
"'Cattle up?' I asks.
"'Willella and Jackson Bird was married in Palestine yesterday,' says
he. 'Just got a letter this morning.'
"I dropped them flowers in a cracker-barrel, and let the news trickle
in my ears and down toward my upper left-hand shirt pocket until it
got to my feet.
"'Would you mind saying that over again once more, Uncle Emsley?' says
I. 'Maybe my hearing has got wrong, and you only said that prime
heifers was 4.80 on the hoof, or something like that.'
"'Married yesterday,' says Uncle Emsley, 'and gone to Waco and Niagara
Falls on a wedding tour. Why, didn't you see none of the signs all
along? Jackson Bird has been courting Willella ever since that day he
took her out riding.'
"'Then,' says I, in a kind of yell, 'what was all this zizzaparoola he
gives me about pancakes? Tell me /that/.'
"When I said 'pancakes' Uncle Emsley sort of dodged and stepped back.
"'Somebody's been dealing me pancakes from the bottom of the deck,' I
says, 'and I'll find out. I believe you know. Talk up,' says I, 'or
we'll mix a panful of batter right here.'
"I slid over the counter after Uncle Emsley. He grabbed at his gun,
but it was in a drawer, and he missed it two inches. I got him by the
front of his shirt and shoved him in a corner.
"'Talk pancakes,' says I, 'or be made into one. Does Miss Willella
"'She never made one in her life and I never saw one,' says Uncle
Emsley, soothing. 'Calm down now, Jud--calm down. You've got excited,
and that wound in your head is contaminating your sense of
intelligence. Try not to think about pancakes.'
"'Uncle Emsley,' says I, 'I'm not wounded in the head except so far as
my natural cognitive instincts run to runts. Jackson Bird told me he