Part 3 out of 5
raced to unharness the greys. The cowpunchers gave a yell of greeting
Ranse Truesdell, driving, threw the reins to the ground and laughed.
"It's under the wagon sheet, boys," he said. "I know what you're
waiting for. If Sam lets it run out again we'll use those yellow shoes
of his for a target. There's two cases. Pull 'em out and light up. I
know you all want a smoke."
After striking dry country Ranse had removed the wagon sheet from the
bows and thrown it over the goods in the wagon. Six pair of hasty
hands dragged it off and grabbled beneath the sacks and blankets for
the cases of tobacco.
Long Collins, tobacco messenger from the San Gabriel outfit, who rode
with the longest stirrups west of the Mississippi, delved with an arm
like the tongue of a wagon. He caught something harder than a blanket
and pulled out a fearful thing--a shapeless, muddy bunch of leather
tied together with wire and twine. From its ragged end, like the head
and claws of a disturbed turtle, protruded human toes.
"Who-ee!" yelled Long Collins. "Ranse, are you a-packin' around of
corpuses? Here's a--howlin' grasshoppers!"
Up from his long slumber popped Curly, like some vile worm from its
burrow. He clawed his way out and sat blinking like a disreputable,
drunken owl. His face was as bluish-red and puffed and seamed and
cross-lined as the cheapest round steak of the butcher. His eyes were
swollen slits; his nose a pickled beet; his hair would have made the
wildest thatch of a Jack-in-the-box look like the satin poll of a Cleo
de Merode. The rest of him was scarecrow done to the life.
Ranse jumped down from his seat and looked at his strange cargo with
"Here, you maverick, what are you doing in my wagon? How did you get
The punchers gathered around in delight. For the time they had
Curly looked around him slowly in every direction. He snarled like a
Scotch terrier through his ragged beard.
"Where is this?" he rasped through his parched throat. "It's a damn
farm in an old field. What'd you bring me here for--say? Did I say I
wanted to come here? What are you Reubs rubberin' at--hey? G'wan or
I'll punch some of yer faces."
"Drag him out, Collins," said Ranse.
Curly took a slide and felt the ground rise up and collide with his
shoulder blades. He got up and sat on the steps of the store shivering
from outraged nerves, hugging his knees and sneering. Taylor lifted
out a case of tobacco and wrenched off its top. Six cigarettes began
to glow, bringing peace and forgiveness to Sam.
"How'd you come in my wagon?" repeated Ranse, this time in a voice
that drew a reply.
Curly recognised the tone. He had heard it used by freight brakemen
and large persons in blue carrying clubs.
"Me?" he growled. "Oh, was you talkin' to me? Why, I was on my way to
the Menger, but my valet had forgot to pack my pyjamas. So I crawled
into that wagon in the wagon-yard--see? I never told you to bring me
out to this bloomin' farm--see?"
"What is it, Mustang?" asked Poky Rodgers, almost forgetting to smoke
in his ecstasy. "What do it live on?"
"It's a galliwampus, Poky," said Mustang. "It's the thing that hollers
'willi-walloo' up in ellum trees in the low grounds of nights. I don't
know if it bites."
"No, it ain't, Mustang," volunteered Long Collins. "Them galliwampuses
has fins on their backs, and eighteen toes. This here is a
hicklesnifter. It lives under the ground and eats cherries. Don't
stand so close to it. It wipes out villages with one stroke of its
Sam, the cosmopolite, who called bartenders in San Antone by their
first name, stood in the door. He was a better zoologist.
"Well, ain't that a Willie for your whiskers?" he commented. "Where'd
you dig up the hobo, Ranse? Goin' to make an auditorium for
inbreviates out of the ranch?"
"Say," said Curly, from whose panoplied breast all shafts of wit fell
blunted. "Any of you kiddin' guys got a drink on you? Have your fun.
Say, I've been hittin' the stuff till I don't know straight up."
He turned to Ranse. "Say, you shanghaied me on your d--d old prairie
schooner--did I tell you to drive me to a farm? I want a drink. I'm
goin' all to little pieces. What's doin'?"
Ranse saw that the tramp's nerves were racking him. He despatched one
of the Mexican boys to the ranch-house for a glass of whisky. Curly
gulped it down; and into his eyes came a brief, grateful glow--as
human as the expression in the eye of a faithful setter dog.
"Thanky, boss," he said, quietly.
"You're thirty miles from a railroad, and forty miles from a saloon,"
Curly fell back weakly against the steps.
"Since you are here," continued the ranchman, "come along with me. We
can't turn you out on the prairie. A rabbit might tear you to pieces."
He conducted Curly to a large shed where the ranch vehicles were kept.
There he spread out a canvas cot and brought blankets.
"I don't suppose you can sleep," said Ranse, "since you've been
pounding your ear for twenty-four hours. But you can camp here till
morning. I'll have Pedro fetch you up some grub."
"Sleep!" said Curly. "I can sleep a week. Say, sport, have you got a
coffin nail on you?"
Fifty miles had Ransom Truesdell driven that day. And yet this is what
Old "Kiowa" Truesdell sat in his great wicker chair reading by the
light of an immense oil lamp. Ranse laid a bundle of newspapers fresh
from town at his elbow.
"Back, Ranse?" said the old man, looking up.
"Son," old "Kiowa" continued, "I've been thinking all day about a
certain matter that we have talked about. I want you to tell me again.
I've lived for you. I've fought wolves and Indians and worse white men
to protect you. You never had any mother that you can remember. I've
taught you to shoot straight, ride hard, and live clean. Later on I've
worked to pile up dollars that'll be yours. You'll be a rich man,
Ranse, when my chunk goes out. I've made you. I've licked you into
shape like a leopard cat licks its cubs. You don't belong to yourself
--you've got to be a Truesdell first. Now, is there to be any more
nonsense about this Curtis girl?"
"I'll tell you once more," said Ranse, slowly. "As I am a Truesdell
and as you are my father, I'll never marry a Curtis."
"Good boy," said old "Kiowa." "You'd better go get some supper."
Ranse went to the kitchen at the rear of the house. Pedro, the Mexican
cook, sprang up to bring the food he was keeping warm in the stove.
"Just a cup of coffee, Pedro," he said, and drank it standing. And
"There's a tramp on a cot in the wagon-shed. Take him something to
eat. Better make it enough for two."
Ranse walked out toward the /jacals/. A boy came running.
"Manuel, can you catch Vaminos, in the little pasture, for me?"
"Why not, senor? I saw him near the /puerta/ but two hours past. He
bears a drag-rope."
"Get him and saddle him as quick as you can."
Soon, mounted on Vaminos, Ranse leaned in the saddle, pressed with his
knees, and galloped eastward past the store, where sat Sam trying his
guitar in the moonlight.
Vaminos shall have a word--Vaminos the good dun horse. The Mexicans,
who have a hundred names for the colours of a horse, called him
/gruyo/. He was a mouse-coloured, slate-coloured, flea-bitten roan-
dun, if you can conceive it. Down his back from his mane to his tail
went a line of black. He would live forever; and surveyors have not
laid off as many miles in the world as he could travel in a day.
Eight miles east of the Cibolo ranch-house Ranse loosened the pressure
of his knees, and Vaminos stopped under a big ratama tree. The yellow
ratama blossoms showered fragrance that would have undone the roses of
France. The moon made the earth a great concave bowl with a crystal
sky for a lid. In a glade five jack-rabbits leaped and played together
like kittens. Eight miles farther east shone a faint star that
appeared to have dropped below the horizon. Night riders, who often
steered their course by it, knew it to be the light in the Rancho de
In ten minutes Yenna Curtis galloped to the tree on her sorrel pony
Dancer. The two leaned and clasped hands heartily.
"I ought to have ridden nearer your home," said Ranse. "But you never
will let me."
Yenna laughed. And in the soft light you could see her strong white
teeth and fearless eyes. No sentimentality there, in spite of the
moonlight, the odour of the ratamas, and the admirable figure of Ranse
Truesdell, the lover. But she was there, eight miles from her home, to
"How often have I told you, Ranse," she said, "that I am your half-way
girl? Always half-way."
"Well?" said Ranse, with a question in his tones.
"I did," said Yenna, with almost a sigh. "I told him after dinner when
I thought he would be in a good humour. Did you ever wake up a lion,
Ranse, with the mistaken idea that he would be a kitten? He almost
tore the ranch to pieces. It's all up. I love my daddy, Ranse, and I'm
afraid--I'm afraid of him too. He ordered me to promise that I'd never
marry a Truesdell. I promised. That's all. What luck did you have?"
"The same," said Ranse, slowly. "I promised him that his son would
never marry a Curtis. Somehow I couldn't go against him. He's mighty
old. I'm sorry, Yenna."
The girl leaned in her saddle and laid one hand on Ranse's, on the
horn of his saddle.
"I never thought I'd like you better for giving me up," she said
ardently, "but I do. I must ride back now, Ranse. I slipped out of the
house and saddled Dancer myself. Good-night, neighbour."
"Good-night," said Ranse. "Ride carefully over them badger holes."
They wheeled and rode away in opposite directions. Yenna turned in her
saddle and called clearly:
"Don't forget I'm your half-way girl, Ranse."
"Damn all family feuds and inherited scraps," muttered Ranse
vindictively to the breeze as he rode back to the Cibolo.
Ranse turned his horse into the small pasture and went to his own
room. He opened the lowest drawer of an old bureau to get out the
packet of letters that Yenna had written him one summer when she had
gone to Mississippi for a visit. The drawer stuck, and he yanked at it
savagely--as a man will. It came out of the bureau, and bruised both
his shins--as a drawer will. An old, folded yellow letter without an
envelope fell from somewhere--probably from where it had lodged in one
of the upper drawers. Ranse took it to the lamp and read it curiously.
Then he took his hat and walked to one of the Mexican /jacals/.
"Tia Juana," he said, "I would like to talk with you a while."
An old, old Mexican woman, white-haired and wonderfully wrinkled, rose
from a stool.
"Sit down," said Ranse, removing his hat and taking the one chair in
the /jacal/. "Who am I, Tia Juana?" he asked, speaking Spanish.
"Don Ransom, our good friend and employer. Why do you ask?" answered
the old woman wonderingly.
"Tia Juana, who am I?" he repeated, with his stern eyes looking into
A frightened look came in the old woman's face. She fumbled with her
"Who am I, Tia Juana?" said Ranse once more.
"Thirty-two years I have lived on the Rancho Cibolo," said Tia Juana.
"I thought to be buried under the coma mott beyond the garden before
these things should be known. Close the door, Don Ransom, and I will
speak. I see in your face that you know."
An hour Ranse spent behind Tia Juana's closed door. As he was on his
way back to the house Curly called to him from the wagon-shed.
The tramp sat on his cot, swinging his feet and smoking.
"Say, sport," he grumbled. "This is no way to treat a man after
kidnappin' him. I went up to the store and borrowed a razor from that
fresh guy and had a shave. But that ain't all a man needs. Say--can't
you loosen up for about three fingers more of that booze? I never
asked you to bring me to your d--d farm."
"Stand up out here in the light," said Ranse, looking at him closely.
Curly got up sullenly and took a step or two.
His face, now shaven smooth, seemed transformed. His hair had been
combed, and it fell back from the right side of his forehead with a
peculiar wave. The moonlight charitably softened the ravages of drink;
and his aquiline, well-shaped nose and small, square cleft chin almost
gave distinction to his looks.
Ranse sat on the foot of the cot and looked at him curiously.
"Where did you come from--have you got any home or folks anywhere?"
"Me? Why, I'm a dook," said Curly. "I'm Sir Reginald--oh, cheese it.
No; I don't know anything about my ancestors. I've been a tramp ever
since I can remember. Say, old pal, are you going to set 'em up again
to-night or not?"
"You answer my questions and maybe I will. How did you come to be a
"Me?" answered Curly. "Why, I adopted that profession when I was an
infant. Case of had to. First thing I can remember, I belonged to a
big, lazy hobo called Beefsteak Charley. He sent me around to houses
to beg. I wasn't hardly big enough to reach the latch of a gate."
"Did he ever tell you how he got you?" asked Ranse.
"Once when he was sober he said he bought me for an old six-shooter
and six bits from a band of drunken Mexican sheep-shearers. But what's
the diff? That's all I know."
"All right," said Ranse. "I reckon you're a maverick for certain. I'm
going to put the Rancho Cibolo brand on you. I'll start you to work in
one of the camps to-morrow."
"Work!" sniffed Curly, disdainfully. "What do you take me for? Do you
think I'd chase cows, and hop-skip-and-jump around after crazy sheep
like that pink and yellow guy at the store says these Reubs do? Forget
"Oh, you'll like it when you get used to it," said Ranse. "Yes, I'll
send you up one more drink by Pedro. I think you'll make a first-class
cowpuncher before I get through with you."
"Me?" said Curly. "I pity the cows you set me to chaperon. They can go
chase themselves. Don't forget my nightcap, please, boss."
Ranse paid a visit to the store before going to the house. Sam Rivell
was taking off his tan shoes regretting and preparing for bed.
"Any of the boys from the San Gabriel camp riding in early in the
morning?" asked Ranse.
"Long Collins," said Sam briefly. "For the mail."
"Tell him," said Ranse, "to take that tramp out to camp with him and
keep him till I get there."
Curly was sitting on his blankets in the San Gabriel camp cursing
talentedly when Ranse Truesdell rode up and dismounted on the next
afternoon. The cowpunchers were ignoring the stray. He was grimy with
dust and black dirt. His clothes were making their last stand in
favour of the conventions.
Ranse went up to Buck Rabb, the camp boss, and spoke briefly.
"He's a plumb buzzard," said Buck. "He won't work, and he's the low-
downest passel of inhumanity I ever see. I didn't know what you wanted
done with him, Ranse, so I just let him set. That seems to suit him.
He's been condemned to death by the boys a dozen times, but I told 'em
maybe you was savin' him for the torture."
Ranse took off his coat.
"I've got a hard job before me, Buck, I reckon, but it has to be done.
I've got to make a man out of that thing. That's what I've come to
He went up to Curly.
"Brother," he said, "don't you think if you had a bath it would allow
you to take a seat in the company of your fellow-man with less
injustice to the atmosphere."
"Run away, farmer," said Curly, sardonically. "Willie will send for
nursey when he feels like having his tub."
The /charco/, or water hole, was twelve yards away. Ranse took one of
Curly's ankles and dragged him like a sack of potatoes to the brink.
Then with the strength and sleight of a hammer-throw he hurled the
offending member of society far into the lake.
Curly crawled out and up the bank spluttering like a porpoise.
Ranse met him with a piece of soap and a coarse towel in his hands.
"Go to the other end of the lake and use this," he said. "Buck will
give you some dry clothes at the wagon."
The tramp obeyed without protest. By the time supper was ready he had
returned to camp. He was hardly to be recognised in his new shirt and
brown duck clothes. Ranse observed him out of the corner of his eye.
"Lordy, I hope he ain't a coward," he was saying to himself. "I hope
he won't turn out to be a coward."
His doubts were soon allayed. Curly walked straight to where he stood.
His light-blue eyes were blazing.
"Now I'm clean," he said meaningly, "maybe you'll talk to me. Think
you've got a picnic here, do you? You clodhoppers think you can run
over a man because you know he can't get away. All right. Now, what do
you think of that?"
Curly planted a stinging slap against Ranse's left cheek. The print of
his hand stood out a dull red against the tan.
Ranse smiled happily.
The cowpunchers talk to this day of the battle that followed.
Somewhere in his restless tour of the cities Curly had acquired the
art of self-defence. The ranchman was equipped only with the splendid
strength and equilibrium of perfect health and the endurance conferred
by decent living. The two attributes nearly matched. There were no
formal rounds. At last the fibre of the clean liver prevailed. The
last time Curly went down from one of the ranchman's awkward but
powerful blows he remained on the grass, but looking up with an
Ranse went to the water barrel and washed the red from a cut on his
chin in the stream from the faucet.
On his face was a grin of satisfaction.
Much benefit might accrue to educators and moralists if they could
know the details of the curriculum of reclamation through which Ranse
put his waif during the month that he spent in the San Gabriel camp.
The ranchman had no fine theories to work out--perhaps his whole stock
of pedagogy embraced only a knowledge of horse-breaking and a belief
The cowpunchers saw that their boss was trying to make a man out of
the strange animal that he had sent among them; and they tacitly
organised themselves into a faculty of assistants. But their system
was their own.
Curly's first lesson stuck. He became on friendly and then on intimate
terms with soap and water. And the thing that pleased Ranse most was
that his "subject" held his ground at each successive higher step. But
the steps were sometimes far apart.
Once he got at the quart bottle of whisky kept sacredly in the grub
tent for rattlesnake bites, and spent sixteen hours on the grass,
magnificently drunk. But when he staggered to his feet his first move
was to find his soap and towel and start for the /charco/. And once,
when a treat came from the ranch in the form of a basket of fresh
tomatoes and young onions, Curly devoured the entire consignment
before the punchers reached the camp at supper time.
And then the punchers punished him in their own way. For three days
they did not speak to him, except to reply to his own questions or
remarks. And they spoke with absolute and unfailing politeness. They
played tricks on one another; they pounded one another hurtfully and
affectionately; they heaped upon one another's heads friendly curses
and obloquy; but they were polite to Curly. He saw it, and it stung
him as much as Ranse hoped it would.
Then came a night that brought a cold, wet norther. Wilson, the
youngest of the outfit, had lain in camp two days, ill with fever.
When Joe got up at daylight to begin breakfast he found Curly sitting
asleep against a wheel of the grub wagon with only a saddle blanket
around him, while Curly's blankets were stretched over Wilson to
protect him from the rain and wind.
Three nights after that Curly rolled himself in his blanket and went
to sleep. Then the other punchers rose up softly and began to make
preparations. Ranse saw Long Collins tie a rope to the horn of a
saddle. Others were getting out their six-shooters.
"Boys," said Ranse, "I'm much obliged. I was hoping you would. But I
didn't like to ask."
Half a dozen six-shooters began to pop--awful yells rent the air--Long
Collins galloped wildly across Curly's bed, dragging the saddle after
him. That was merely their way of gently awaking their victim. Then
they hazed him for an hour, carefully and ridiculously, after the code
of cow camps. Whenever he uttered protest they held him stretched over
a roll of blankets and thrashed him woefully with a pair of leather
And all this meant that Curly had won his spurs, that he was receiving
the puncher's accolade. Nevermore would they be polite to him. But he
would be their "pardner" and stirrup-brother, foot to foot.
When the fooling was ended all hands made a raid on Joe's big coffee-
pot by the fire for a Java nightcap. Ranse watched the new knight
carefully to see if he understood and was worthy. Curly limped with
his cup of coffee to a log and sat upon it. Long Collins followed and
sat by his side. Buck Rabb went and sat at the other. Curly--grinned.
And then Ranse furnished Curly with mounts and saddle and equipment,
and turned him over to Buck Rabb, instructing him to finish the job.
Three weeks later Ranse rode from the ranch into Rabb's camp, which
was then in Snake Valley. The boys were saddling for the day's ride.
He sought out Long Collins among them.
"How about that bronco?" he asked.
Long Collins grinned.
"Reach out your hand, Ranse Truesdell," he said, "and you'll touch
him. And you can shake his'n, too, if you like, for he's plumb white
and there's none better in no camp."
Ranse looked again at the clear-faced, bronzed, smiling cowpuncher who
stood at Collins's side. Could that be Curly? He held out his hand,
and Curly grasped it with the muscles of a bronco-buster.
"I want you at the ranch," said Ranse.
"All right, sport," said Curly, heartily. "But I want to come back
again. Say, pal, this is a dandy farm. And I don't want any better fun
than hustlin' cows with this bunch of guys. They're all to the merry-
At the Cibolo ranch-house they dismounted. Ranse bade Curly wait at
the door of the living room. He walked inside. Old "Kiowa" Truesdell
was reading at a table.
"Good-morning, Mr. Truesdell," said Ranse.
The old man turned his white head quickly.
"How is this?" he began. "Why do you call me 'Mr.--'?"
When he looked at Ranse's face he stopped, and the hand that held his
newspaper shook slightly.
"Boy," he said slowly, "how did you find it out?"
"It's all right," said Ranse, with a smile. "I made Tia Juana tell me.
It was kind of by accident, but it's all right."
"You've been like a son to me," said old "Kiowa," trembling.
"Tia Juana told me all about it," said Ranse. "She told me how you
adopted me when I was knee-high to a puddle duck out of a wagon train
of prospectors that was bound West. And she told me how the kid--your
own kid, you know--got lost or was run away with. And she said it was
the same day that the sheep-shearers got on a bender and left the
"Our boy strayed from the house when he was two years old," said the
old man. "And then along came those emigrant wagons with a youngster
they didn't want; and we took you. I never intended you to know,
Ranse. We never heard of our boy again."
"He's right outside, unless I'm mighty mistaken," said Ranse, opening
the door and beckoning.
Curly walked in.
No one could have doubted. The old man and the young had the same
sweep of hair, the same nose, chin, line of face, and prominent light-
Old "Kiowa" rose eagerly.
Curly looked about the room curiously. A puzzled expression came over
his face. He pointed to the wall opposite.
"Where's the tick-tock?" he asked, absent-mindedly.
"The clock," cried old "Kiowa" loudly. "The eight-day clock used to
stand there. Why--"
He turned to Ranse, but Ranse was not there.
Already a hundred yards away, Vaminos, the good flea-bitten dun, was
bearing him eastward like a racer through dust and chaparral towards
the Rancho de los Olmos.
CUPID A LA CARTE
"The dispositions of woman," said Jeff Peters, after various opinions
on the subject had been advanced, "run, regular, to diversions. What a
woman wants is what you're out of. She wants more of a thing when it's
scarce. She likes to have souvenirs of things that never happened. She
likes to be reminded of things she never heard of. A one-sided view of
objects is disjointing to the female composition.
"'Tis a misfortune of mine, begotten by nature and travel," continued
Jeff, looking thoughtfully between his elevated feet at the grocery
stove, "to look deeper into some subjects than most people do. I've
breathed gasoline smoke talking to street crowds in nearly every town
in the United States. I've held 'em spellbound with music, oratory,
sleight of hand, and prevarications, while I've sold 'em jewelry,
medicine, soap, hair tonic, and junk of other nominations. And during
my travels, as a matter of recreation and expiation, I've taken
cognisance some of women. It takes a man a lifetime to find out about
one particular woman; but if he puts in, say, ten years, industrious
and curious, he can acquire the general rudiments of the sex. One
lesson I picked up was when I was working the West with a line of
Brazilian diamonds and a patent fire kindler just after my trip from
Savannah down through the cotton belt with Dalby's Anti-explosive Lamp
Oil Powder. 'Twas when the Oklahoma country was in first bloom.
Guthrie was rising in the middle of it like a lump of self-raising
dough. It was a boom town of the regular kind--you stood in line to
get a chance to wash your face; if you ate over ten minutes you had a
lodging bill added on; if you slept on a plank at night they charged
it to you as board the next morning.
"By nature and doctrines I am addicted to the habit of discovering
choice places wherein to feed. So I looked around and found a
proposition that exactly cut the mustard. I found a restaurant tent
just opened up by an outfit that had drifted in on the tail of the
boom. They had knocked together a box house, where they lived and did
the cooking, and served the meals in a tent pitched against the side.
That tent was joyful with placards on it calculated to redeem the
world-worn pilgrim from the sinfulness of boarding houses and pick-me-
up hotels. 'Try Mother's Home-Made Biscuits,' 'What's the Matter with
Our Apple Dumplings and Hard Sauce?' 'Hot Cakes and Maple Syrup Like
You Ate When a Boy,' 'Our Fried Chicken Never Was Heard to Crow'--
there was literature doomed to please the digestions of man! I said to
myself that mother's wandering boy should munch there that night. And
so it came to pass. And there is where I contracted my case of Mame
"Old Man Dugan was six feet by one of Indiana loafer, and he spent his
time sitting on his shoulder blades in a rocking-chair in the shanty
memorialising the great corn-crop failure of '96. Ma Dugan did the
cooking, and Mame waited on the table.
"As soon as I saw Mame I knew there was a mistake in the census
reports. There wasn't but one girl in the United States. When you come
to specifications it isn't easy. She was about the size of an angel,
and she had eyes, and ways about her. When you come to the kind of a
girl she was, you'll find a belt of 'em reaching from the Brooklyn
Bridge west as far as the courthouse in Council Bluffs, Ia. They earn
their own living in stores, restaurants, factories, and offices.
They're chummy and honest and free and tender and sassy, and they look
life straight in the eye. They've met man face to face, and discovered
that he's a poor creature. They've dropped to it that the reports in
the Seaside Library about his being a fairy prince lack confirmation.
"Mame was that sort. She was full of life and fun, and breezy; she
passed the repartee with the boarders quick as a wink; you'd have
smothered laughing. I am disinclined to make excavations into the
insides of a personal affection. I am glued to the theory that the
diversions and discrepancies of the indisposition known as love should
be as private a sentiment as a toothbrush. 'Tis my opinion that the
biographies of the heart should be confined with the historical
romances of the liver to the advertising pages of the magazines. So,
you'll excuse the lack of an itemised bill of my feelings toward Mame.
"Pretty soon I got a regular habit of dropping into the tent to eat at
irregular times when there wasn't so many around. Mame would sail in
with a smile, in a black dress and white apron, and say: 'Hello, Jeff
--why don't you come at mealtime? Want to see how much trouble you can
be, of course. Friedchickenbeefsteakporkchopshamandeggspotpie'--and so
on. She called me Jeff, but there was no significations attached.
Designations was all she meant. The front names of any of us she used
as they came to hand. I'd eat about two meals before I left, and
string 'em out like a society spread where they changed plates and
wives, and josh one another festively between bites. Mame stood for
it, pleasant, for it wasn't up to her to take any canvas off the tent
by declining dollars just because they were whipped in after meal
"It wasn't long until there was another fellow named Ed Collier got
the between-meals affliction, and him and me put in bridges between
breakfast and dinner, and dinner and supper, that made a three-ringed
circus of that tent, and Mame's turn as waiter a continuous
performance. That Collier man was saturated with designs and
contrivings. He was in well-boring or insurance or claim-jumping, or
something--I've forgotten which. He was a man well lubricated with
gentility, and his words were such as recommended you to his point of
view. So, Collier and me infested the grub tent with care and
activity. Mame was level full of impartiality. 'Twas like a casino
hand the way she dealt out her favours--one to Collier and one to me
and one to the board, and not a card up her sleeve.
"Me and Collier naturally got acquainted, and gravitated together some
on the outside. Divested of his stratagems, he seemed to be a pleasant
chap, full of an amiable sort of hostility.
"'I notice you have an affinity for grubbing in the banquet hall after
the guests have fled,' says I to him one day, to draw his conclusions.
"'Well, yes,' says Collier, reflecting; 'the tumult of a crowded board
seems to harass my sensitive nerves.'
"'It exasperates mine some, too,' says I. 'Nice little girl, don't you
"'I see,' says Collier, laughing. 'Well, now that you mention it, I
have noticed that she doesn't seem to displease the optic nerve.'
"'She's a joy to mine,' says I, 'and I'm going after her. Notice is
"'I'll be as candid as you,' admits Collier, 'and if the drug stores
don't run out of pepsin I'll give you a run for your money that'll
leave you a dyspeptic at the wind-up.'
"So Collier and me begins the race; the grub department lays in new
supplies; Mame waits on us, jolly and kind and agreeable, and it looks
like an even break, with Cupid and the cook working overtime in
"'Twas one night in September when I got Mame to take a walk after
supper when the things were all cleared away. We strolled out a
distance and sat on a pile of lumber at the edge of town. Such
opportunities was seldom, so I spoke my piece, explaining how the
Brazilian diamonds and the fire kindler were laying up sufficient
treasure to guarantee the happiness of two, and that both of 'em
together couldn't equal the light from somebody's eyes, and that the
name of Dugan should be changed to Peters, or reasons why not would be
"Mame didn't say anything right away. Directly she gave a kind of
shudder, and I began to learn something.
"'Jeff,' she says, 'I'm sorry you spoke. I like you as well as any of
them, but there isn't a man in the world I'd ever marry, and there
never will be. Do you know what a man is in my eye? He's a tomb. He's
a sarcophagus for the interment of Beafsteakporkchopsliver'nbaconham-
andeggs. He's that and nothing more. For two years I've watched men
eat, eat, eat, until they represent nothing on earth to me but
ruminant bipeds. They're absolutely nothing but something that goes in
front of a knife and fork and plate at the table. They're fixed that
way in my mind and memory. I've tried to overcome it, but I can't.
I've heard girls rave about their sweethearts, but I never could
understand it. A man and a sausage grinder and a pantry awake in me
exactly the same sentiments. I went to a matinee once to see an actor
the girls were crazy about. I got interested enough to wonder whether
he liked his steak rare, medium, or well done, and his eggs over or
straight up. That was all. No, Jeff; I'll marry no man and see him sit
at the breakfast table and eat, and come back to dinner and eat, and
happen in again at supper to eat, eat, eat.'
"'But, Mame,' says I, 'it'll wear off. You've had too much of it.
You'll marry some time, of course. Men don't eat always.'
"'As far as my observation goes, they do. No, I'll tell you what I'm
going to do.' Mame turns, sudden, to animation and bright eyes.
'There's a girl named Susie Foster in Terre Haute, a chum of mine. She
waits in the railroad eating house there. I worked two years in a
restaurant in that town. Susie has it worse than I do, because the men
who eat at railroad stations gobble. They try to flirt and gobble at
the same time. Whew! Susie and I have it all planned out. We're saving
our money, and when we get enough we're going to buy a little cottage
and five acres we know of, and live together, and grow violets for the
Eastern market. A man better not bring his appetite within a mile of
"'Don't girls ever--' I commenced, but Mame heads me off, sharp.
"'No, they don't. They nibble a little bit sometimes; that's all.'
"'I thought the confect--'
"'For goodness' sake, change the subject,' says Mame.
"As I said before, that experience puts me wise that the feminine
arrangement ever struggles after deceptions and illusions. Take
England--beef made her; wieners elevated Germany; Uncle Sam owes his
greatness to fried chicken and pie, but the young ladies of the
Shetalkyou schools, they'll never believe it. Shakespeare, they allow,
and Rubinstein, and the Rough Riders is what did the trick.
"'Twas a situation calculated to disturb. I couldn't bear to give up
Mame; and yet it pained me to think of abandoning the practice of
eating. I had acquired the habit too early. For twenty-seven years I
had been blindly rushing upon my fate, yielding to the insidious lures
of that deadly monster, food. It was too late. I was a ruminant biped
for keeps. It was lobster salad to a doughnut that my life was going
to be blighted by it.
"I continued to board at the Dugan tent, hoping that Mame would
relent. I had sufficient faith in true love to believe that since it
has often outlived the absence of a square meal it might, in time,
overcome the presence of one. I went on ministering to my fatal vice,
although I felt that each time I shoved a potato into my mouth in
Mame's presence I might be burying my fondest hopes.
"I think Collier must have spoken to Mame and got the same answer, for
one day he orders a cup of coffee and a cracker, and sits nibbling the
corner of it like a girl in the parlour, that's filled up in the
kitchen, previous, on cold roast and fried cabbage. I caught on and
did the same, and maybe we thought we'd made a hit! The next day we
tried it again, and out comes old man Dugan fetching in his hands the
"'Kinder off yer feed, ain't ye, gents?' he asks, fatherly and some
sardonic. 'Thought I'd spell Mame a bit, seein' the work was light,
and my rheumatiz can stand the strain.'
"So back me and Collier had to drop to the heavy grub again. I noticed
about that time that I was seized by a most uncommon and devastating
appetite. I ate until Mame must have hated to see me darken the door.
Afterward I found out that I had been made the victim of the first
dark and irreligious trick played on me by Ed Collier. Him and me had
been taking drinks together uptown regular, trying to drown our thirst
for food. That man had bribed about ten bartenders to always put a big
slug of Appletree's Anaconda Appetite Bitters in every one of my
drinks. But the last trick he played me was hardest to forget.
"One day Collier failed to show up at the tent. A man told me he left
town that morning. My only rival now was the bill of fare. A few days
before he left Collier had presented me with a two-gallon jug of fine
whisky which he said a cousin had sent him from Kentucky. I now have
reason to believe that it contained Appletree's Anaconda Appetite
Bitters almost exclusively. I continued to devour tons of provisions.
In Mame's eyes I remained a mere biped, more ruminant than ever.
"About a week after Collier pulled his freight there came a kind of
side-show to town, and hoisted a tent near the railroad. I judged it
was a sort of fake museum and curiosity business. I called to see Mame
one night, and Ma Dugan said that she and Thomas, her younger brother,
had gone to the show. That same thing happened for three nights that
week. Saturday night I caught her on the way coming back, and got to
sit on the steps a while and talk to her. I noticed she looked
different. Her eyes were softer, and shiny like. Instead of a Mame
Dugan to fly from the voracity of man and raise violets, she seemed to
be a Mame more in line as God intended her, approachable, and suited
to bask in the light of the Brazilians and the Kindler.
"'You seem to be right smart inveigled,' says I, 'with the
Unparalleled Exhibition of the World's Living Curiosities and
"'It's a change,' says Mame.
"'You'll need another,' says I, 'if you keep on going every night.'
"'Don't be cross, Jeff,' says she; 'it takes my mind off business.'
"'Don't the curiosities eat?' I ask.
"'Not all of them. Some of them are wax.'
"'Look out, then, that you don't get stuck,' says I, kind of flip and
"Mame blushed. I didn't know what to think about her. My hopes raised
some that perhaps my attentions had palliated man's awful crime of
visibly introducing nourishment into his system. She talked some about
the stars, referring to them with respect and politeness, and I
drivelled a quantity about united hearts, homes made bright by true
affection, and the Kindler. Mame listened without scorn, and I says to
myself, 'Jeff, old man, you're removing the hoodoo that has clung to
the consumer of victuals; you're setting your heel upon the serpent
that lurks in the gravy bowl.'
"Monday night I drop around. Mame is at the Unparalleled Exhibition
"'Now, may the curse of the forty-one seven-sided sea cooks,' says I,
'and the bad luck of the nine impenitent grasshoppers rest upon this
self-same sideshow at once and forever more. Amen. I'll go to see it
myself to-morrow night and investigate its baleful charm. Shall man
that was made to inherit the earth be bereft of his sweetheart first
by a knife and fork and then by a ten-cent circus?'
"The next night before starting out for the exhibition tent I inquire
and find out that Mame is not at home. She is not at the circus with
Thomas this time, for Thomas waylays me in the grass outside of the
grub tent with a scheme of his own before I had time to eat supper.
"'What'll you give me, Jeff,' says he, 'if I tell you something?'
"'The value of it, son,' I says.
"'Sis is stuck on a freak,' says Thomas, 'one of the side-show freaks.
I don't like him. She does. I overheard 'em talking. Thought maybe
you'd like to know. Say, Jeff, does it put you wise two dollars'
worth? There's a target rifle up town that--'
"I frisked my pockets and commenced to dribble a stream of halves and
quarters into Thomas's hat. The information was of the pile-driver
system of news, and it telescoped my intellects for a while. While I
was leaking small change and smiling foolish on the outside, and
suffering disturbances internally, I was saying, idiotically and
"'Thank you, Thomas--thank you--er--a freak, you said, Thomas. Now,
could you make out the monstrosity's entitlements a little clearer, if
you please, Thomas?'
"'This is the fellow,' says Thomas, pulling out a yellow handbill from
his pocket and shoving it under my nose. 'He's the Champion Faster of
the Universe. I guess that's why Sis got soft on him. He don't eat
nothing. He's going to fast forty-nine days. This is the sixth. That's
"I looked at the name Thomas pointed out--'Professor Eduardo
Collieri.' 'Ah!' says I, in admiration, 'that's not so bad, Ed
Collier. I give you credit for the trick. But I don't give you the
girl until she's Mrs. Freak.'
"I hit the sod in the direction of the show. I came up to the rear of
the tent, and, as I did so, a man wiggled out like a snake from under
the bottom of the canvas, scrambled to his feet, and ran into me like
a locoed bronco. I gathered him by the neck and investigated him by
the light of the stars. It is Professor Eduardo Collieri, in human
habiliments, with a desperate look in one eye and impatience in the
"'Hello, Curiosity,' says I. 'Get still a minute and let's have a look
at your freakship. How do you like being the willopus-wallopus or the
bim-bam from Borneo, or whatever name you are denounced by in the
"'Jeff Peters,' says Collier, in a weak voice. 'Turn me loose, or I'll
slug you one. I'm in the extremest kind of a large hurry. Hands off!'
"'Tut, tut, Eddie,' I answers, holding him hard; 'let an old friend
gaze on the exhibition of your curiousness. It's an eminent graft you
fell onto, my son. But don't speak of assaults and battery, because
you're not fit. The best you've got is a lot of nerve and a mighty
empty stomach.' And so it was. The man was as weak as a vegetarian
"'I'd argue this case with you, Jeff,' says he, regretful in his
style, 'for an unlimited number of rounds if I had half an hour to
train in and a slab of beefsteak two feet square to train with. Curse
the man, I say, that invented the art of going foodless. May his soul
in eternity be chained up within two feet of a bottomless pit of red-
hot hash. I'm abandoning the conflict, Jeff; I'm deserting to the
enemy. You'll find Miss Dugan inside contemplating the only living
mummy and the informed hog. She's a fine girl, Jeff. I'd have beat you
out if I could have kept up the grubless habit a little while longer.
You'll have to admit that the fasting dodge was aces-up for a while. I
figured it out that way. But say, Jeff, it's said that love makes the
world go around. Let me tell you, the announcement lacks verification.
It's the wind from the dinner horn that does it. I love that Mame
Dugan. I've gone six days without food in order to coincide with her
sentiments. Only one bite did I have. That was when I knocked the
tattooed man down with a war club and got a sandwich he was gobbling.
The manager fined me all my salary; but salary wasn't what I was
after. 'Twas that girl. I'd give my life for her, but I'd endanger my
immortal soul for a beef stew. Hunger is a horrible thing, Jeff. Love
and business and family and religion and art and patriotism are
nothing but shadows of words when a man's starving!'
"In such language Ed Collier discoursed to me, pathetic. I gathered
the diagnosis that his affections and his digestions had been
implicated in a scramble and the commissary had won out. I never
disliked Ed Collier. I searched my internal admonitions of suitable
etiquette to see if I could find a remark of a consoling nature, but
there was none convenient.
"'I'd be glad, now,' says Ed, 'if you'll let me go. I've been hard
hit, but I'll hit the ration supply harder. I'm going to clean out
every restaurant in town. I'm going to wade waist deep in sirloins and
swim in ham and eggs. It's an awful thing, Jeff Peters, for a man to
come to this pass--to give up his girl for something to eat--it's
worse than that man Esau, that swapped his copyright for a partridge--
but then, hunger's a fierce thing. You'll excuse me, now, Jeff, for I
smell a pervasion of ham frying in the distance, and my legs are
crying out to stampede in that direction.'
"'A hearty meal to you, Ed Collier,' I says to him, 'and no hard
feelings. For myself, I am projected to be an unseldom eater, and I
have condolence for your predicaments.'
"There was a sudden big whiff of frying ham smell on the breeze; and
the Champion Faster gives a snort and gallops off in the dark toward
"I wish some of the cultured outfit that are always advertising the
extenuating circumstances of love and romance had been there to see.
There was Ed Collier, a fine man full of contrivances and flirtations,
abandoning the girl of his heart and ripping out into the contiguous
territory in the pursuit of sordid grub. 'Twas a rebuke to the poets
and a slap at the best-paying element of fiction. An empty stomach is
a sure antidote to an overfull heart.
"I was naturally anxious to know how far Mame was infatuated with
Collier and his stratagems. I went inside the Unparalleled Exhibition,
and there she was. She looked surprised to see me, but unguilty.
"'It's an elegant evening outside,' says I. 'The coolness is quite
nice and gratifying, and the stars are lined out, first class, up
where they belong. Wouldn't you shake these by-products of the animal
kingdom long enough to take a walk with a common human who never was
on a programme in his life?'
"Mame gave a sort of sly glance around, and I knew what that meant.
"'Oh,' says I, 'I hate to tell you; but the curiosity that lives on
wind has flew the coop. He just crawled out under the tent. By this
time he has amalgamated himself with half the delicatessen truck in
"'You mean Ed Collier?' says Mame.
"'I do,' I answers; 'and a pity it is that he has gone back to crime
again. I met him outside the tent, and he exposed his intentions of
devastating the food crop of the world. 'Tis enormously sad when one's
ideal descends from his pedestal to make a seventeen-year locust of
"Mame looked me straight in the eye until she had corkscrewed my
"'Jeff,' says she, 'it isn't quite like you to talk that way. I don't
care to hear Ed Collier ridiculed. A man may do ridiculous things, but
they don't look ridiculous to the girl he does 'em for. That was one
man in a hundred. He stopped eating just to please me. I'd be hard-
hearted and ungrateful if I didn't feel kindly toward him. Could you
do what he did?'
"'I know,' says I, seeing the point, 'I'm condemned. I can't help it.
The brand of the consumer is upon my brow. Mrs. Eve settled that
business for me when she made the dicker with the snake. I fell from
the fire into the frying-pan. I guess I'm the Champion Feaster of the
Universe.' I spoke humble, and Mame mollified herself a little.
"'Ed Collier and I are good friends,' she said, 'the same as me and
you. I gave him the same answer I did you--no marrying for me. I liked
to be with Ed and talk with him. There was something mighty pleasant
to me in the thought that here was a man who never used a knife and
fork, and all for my sake.'
"'Wasn't you in love with him?' I asks, all injudicious. 'Wasn't there
a deal on for you to become Mrs. Curiosity?'
"All of us do it sometimes. All of us get jostled out of the line of
profitable talk now and then. Mame put on that little lemon /glace/
smile that runs between ice and sugar, and says, much too pleasant:
'You're short on credentials for asking that question, Mr. Peters.
Suppose you do a forty-nine day fast, just to give you ground to stand
on, and then maybe I'll answer it.'
"So, even after Collier was kidnapped out of the way by the revolt of
his appetite, my own prospects with Mame didn't seem to be improved.
And then business played out in Guthrie.
"I had stayed too long there. The Brazilians I had sold commenced to
show signs of wear, and the Kindler refused to light up right frequent
on wet mornings. There is always a time, in my business, when the star
of success says, 'Move on to the next town.' I was travelling by wagon
at that time so as not to miss any of the small towns; so I hitched up
a few days later and went down to tell Mame good-bye. I wasn't
abandoning the game; I intended running over to Oklahoma City and work
it for a week or two. Then I was coming back to institute fresh
proceedings against Mame.
"What do I find at the Dugans' but Mame all conspicuous in a blue
travelling dress, with her little trunk at the door. It seems that
sister Lottie Bell, who is a typewriter in Terre Haute, is going to be
married next Thursday, and Mame is off for a week's visit to be an
accomplice at the ceremony. Mame is waiting for a freight wagon that
is going to take her to Oklahoma, but I condemns the freight wagon
with promptness and scorn, and offers to deliver the goods myself. Ma
Dugan sees no reason why not, as Mr. Freighter wants pay for the job;
so, thirty minutes later Mame and I pull out in my light spring wagon
with white canvas cover, and head due south.
"That morning was of a praiseworthy sort. The breeze was lively, and
smelled excellent of flowers and grass, and the little cottontail
rabbits entertained themselves with skylarking across the road. My two
Kentucky bays went for the horizon until it come sailing in so fast
you wanted to dodge it like a clothesline. Mame was full of talk and
rattled on like a kid about her old home and her school pranks and the
things she liked and the hateful ways of those Johnson girls just
across the street, 'way up in Indiana. Not a word was said about Ed
Collier or victuals or such solemn subjects. About noon Mame looks and
finds that the lunch she had put up in a basket had been left behind.
I could have managed quite a collation, but Mame didn't seem to be
grieving over nothing to eat, so I made no lamentations. It was a sore
subject with me, and I ruled provender in all its branches out of my
"I am minded to touch light on explanations how I came to lose the
way. The road was dim and well grown with grass; and there was Mame by
my side confiscating my intellects and attention. The excuses are good
or they are not, as they may appear to you. But I lost it, and at dusk
that afternoon, when we should have been in Oklahoma City, we were
seesawing along the edge of nowhere in some undiscovered river bottom,
and the rain was falling in large, wet bunches. Down there in the
swamps we saw a little log house on a small knoll of high ground. The
bottom grass and the chaparral and the lonesome timber crowded all
around it. It seemed to be a melancholy little house, and you felt
sorry for it. 'Twas that house for the night, the way I reasoned it. I
explained to Mame, and she leaves it to me to decide. She doesn't
become galvanic and prosecuting, as most women would, but she says
it's all right; she knows I didn't mean to do it.
"We found the house was deserted. It had two empty rooms. There was a
little shed in the yard where beasts had once been kept. In a loft of
it was a lot of old hay. I put my horses in there and gave them some
of it, for which they looked at me sorrowful, expecting apologies. The
rest of the hay I carried into the house by armfuls, with a view to
accommodations. I also brought in the patent kindler and the
Brazilians, neither of which are guaranteed against the action of
"Mame and I sat on the wagon seats on the floor, and I lit a lot of
the kindler on the hearth, for the night was chilly. If I was any
judge, that girl enjoyed it. It was a change for her. It gave her a
different point of view. She laughed and talked, and the kindler made
a dim light compared to her eyes. I had a pocketful of cigars, and as
far as I was concerned there had never been any fall of man. We were
at the same old stand in the Garden of Eden. Out there somewhere in
the rain and the dark was the river of Zion, and the angel with the
flaming sword had not yet put up the keep-off-the-grass sign. I opened
up a gross or two of the Brazilians and made Mame put them on--rings,
brooches, necklaces, eardrops, bracelets, girdles, and lockets. She
flashed and sparkled like a million-dollar princess until she had pink
spots in her cheeks and almost cried for a looking-glass.
"When it got late I made a fine bunk on the floor for Mame with the
hay and my lap robes and blankets out of the wagon, and persuaded her
to lie down. I sat in the other room burning tobacco and listening to
the pouring rain and meditating on the many vicissitudes that came to
a man during the seventy years or so immediately preceding his
"I must have dozed a little while before morning, for my eyes were
shut, and when I opened them it was daylight, and there stood Mame
with her hair all done up neat and correct, and her eyes bright with
admiration of existence.
"'Gee whiz, Jeff!' she exclaims, 'but I'm hungry. I could eat a--'
"I looked up and caught her eye. Her smile went back in and she gave
me a cold look of suspicion. Then I laughed, and laid down on the
floor to laugh easier. It seemed funny to me. By nature and geniality
I am a hearty laugher, and I went the limit. When I came to, Mame was
sitting with her back to me, all contaminated with dignity.
"'Don't be angry, Mame,' I says, 'for I couldn't help it. It's the
funny way you've done up your hair. If you could only see it!'
"'You needn't tell stories, sir,' said Mame, cool and advised. 'My
hair is all right. I know what you were laughing about. Why, Jeff,
look outside,' she winds up, peeping through a chink between the logs.
I opened the little wooden window and looked out. The entire river
bottom was flooded, and the knob of land on which the house stood was
an island in the middle of a rushing stream of yellow water a hundred
yards wide. And it was still raining hard. All we could do was to stay
there till the doves brought in the olive branch.
"I am bound to admit that conversations and amusements languished
during that day. I was aware that Mame was getting a too prolonged
one-sided view of things again, but I had no way to change it.
Personally, I was wrapped up in the desire to eat. I had
hallucinations of hash and visions of ham, and I kept saying to myself
all the time, 'What'll you have to eat, Jeff?--what'll you order now,
old man, when the waiter comes?' I picks out to myself all sorts of
favourites from the bill of fare, and imagines them coming. I guess
it's that way with all hungry men. They can't get their cogitations
trained on anything but something to eat. It shows that the little
table with the broken-legged caster and the imitation Worcester sauce
and the napkin covering up the coffee stains is the paramount issue,
after all, instead of the question of immortality or peace between
"I sat there, musing along, arguing with myself quite heated as to how
I'd have my steak--with mushrooms, or /a la creole/. Mame was on the
other seat, pensive, her head leaning on her hand. 'Let the potatoes
come home-fried,' I states in my mind, 'and brown the hash in the pan,
with nine poached eggs on the side.' I felt, careful, in my own
pockets to see if I could find a peanut or a grain or two of popcorn.
"Night came on again with the river still rising and the rain still
falling. I looked at Mame and I noticed that desperate look on her
face that a girl always wears when she passes an ice-cream lair. I
knew that poor girl was hungry--maybe for the first time in her life.
There was that anxious look in her eye that a woman has only when she
has missed a meal or feels her skirt coming unfastened in the back.
"It was about eleven o'clock or so on the second night when we sat,
gloomy, in our shipwrecked cabin. I kept jerking my mind away from the
subject of food, but it kept flopping back again before I could fasten
it. I thought of everything good to eat I had ever heard of. I went
away back to my kidhood and remembered the hot biscuit sopped in
sorghum and bacon gravy with partiality and respect. Then I trailed
along up the years, pausing at green apples and salt, flapjacks and
maple, lye hominy, fried chicken Old Virginia style, corn on the cob,
spareribs and sweet potato pie, and wound up with Georgia Brunswick
stew, which is the top notch of good things to eat, because it
comprises 'em all.
"They say a drowning man sees a panorama of his whole life pass before
him. Well, when a man's starving he sees the ghost of every meal he
ever ate set out before him, and he invents new dishes that would make
the fortune of a chef. If somebody would collect the last words of men
who starved to death, they'd have to sift 'em mighty fine to discover
the sentiment, but they'd compile into a cook book that would sell
into the millions.
"I guess I must have had my conscience pretty well inflicted with
culinary meditations, for, without intending to do so, I says, out
loud, to the imaginary waiter, 'Cut it thick and have it rare, with
the French fried, and six, soft-scrambled, on toast.'
"Mame turned her head quick as a wing. Her eyes were sparkling and she
"'Medium for me,' she rattles out, 'with the Juliennes, and three,
straight up. Draw one, and brown the wheats, double order to come. Oh,
Jeff, wouldn't it be glorious! And then I'd like to have a half fry,
and a little chicken curried with rice, and a cup custard with ice
"'Go easy,' I interrupts; 'where's the chicken liver pie, and the
kidney /saute/ on toast, and the roast lamb, and--'
"'Oh,' cuts in Mame, all excited, 'with mint sauce, and the turkey
salad, and stuffed olives, and raspberry tarts, and--'
"'Keep it going,' says I. 'Hurry up with the fried squash, and the hot
corn pone with sweet milk, and don't forget the apple dumpling with
hard sauce, and the cross-barred dew-berry pie--'
"Yes, for ten minutes we kept up that kind of restaurant repartee. We
ranges up and down and backward and forward over the main trunk lines
and the branches of the victual subject, and Mame leads the game, for
she is apprised in the ramifications of grub, and the dishes she
nominates aggravates my yearnings. It seems that there is a feeling
that Mame will line up friendly again with food. It seems that she
looks upon the obnoxious science of eating with less contempt than
"The next morning we find that the flood has subsided. I geared up the
bays, and we splashed out through the mud, some precarious, until we
found the road again. We were only a few miles wrong, and in two hours
we were in Oklahoma City. The first thing we saw was a big restaurant
sign, and we piled into there in a hurry. Here I finds myself sitting
with Mame at table, with knives and forks and plates between us, and
she not scornful, but smiling with starvation and sweetness.
"'Twas a new restaurant and well stocked. I designated a list of
quotations from the bill of fare that made the waiter look out toward
the wagon to see how many more might be coming.
"There we were, and there was the order being served. 'Twas a banquet
for a dozen, but we felt like a dozen. I looked across the table at
Mame and smiled, for I had recollections. Mame was looking at the
table like a boy looks at his first stem-winder. Then she looked at
me, straight in the face, and two big tears came in her eyes. The
waiter was gone after more grub.
"'Jeff,' she says, soft like, 'I've been a foolish girl. I've looked
at things from the wrong side. I never felt this way before. Men get
hungry every day like this, don't they? They're big and strong, and
they do the hard work of the world, and they don't eat just to spite
silly waiter girls in restaurants, do they, Jeff? You said once--that
is, you asked me--you wanted me to--well, Jeff, if you still care--I'd
be glad and willing to have you always sitting across the table from
me. Now give me something to eat, quick, please.'
"So, as I've said, a woman needs to change her point of view now and
then. They get tired of the same old sights--the same old dinner
table, washtub, and sewing machine. Give 'em a touch of the various--a
little travel and a little rest, a little tomfoolery along with the
tragedies of keeping house, a little petting after the blowing-up, a
little upsetting and a little jostling around--and everybody in the
game will have chips added to their stack by the play."
THE CABALLERO'S WAY
The Cisco Kid had killed six men in more or less fair scrimmages, had
murdered twice as many (mostly Mexicans), and had winged a larger
number whom he modestly forbore to count. Therefore a woman loved him.
The Kid was twenty-five, looked twenty; and a careful insurance
company would have estimated the probable time of his demise at, say,
twenty-six. His habitat was anywhere between the Frio and the Rio
Grande. He killed for the love of it--because he was quick-tempered--
to avoid arrest--for his own amusement--any reason that came to his
mind would suffice. He had escaped capture because he could shoot
five-sixths of a second sooner than any sheriff or ranger in the
service, and because he rode a speckled roan horse that knew every
cow-path in the mesquite and pear thickets from San Antonio to
Tonia Perez, the girl who loved the Cisco Kid, was half Carmen, half
Madonna, and the rest--oh, yes, a woman who is half Carmen and half
Madonna can always be something more--the rest, let us say, was
humming-bird. She lived in a grass-roofed /jacal/ near a little
Mexican settlement at the Lone Wolf Crossing of the Frio. With her
lived a father or grandfather, a lineal Aztec, somewhat less than a
thousand years old, who herded a hundred goats and lived in a
continuous drunken dream from drinking /mescal/. Back of the /jacal/ a
tremendous forest of bristling pear, twenty feet high at its worst,
crowded almost to its door. It was along the bewildering maze of this
spinous thicket that the speckled roan would bring the Kid to see his
girl. And once, clinging like a lizard to the ridge-pole, high up
under the peaked grass roof, he had heard Tonia, with her Madonna face
and Carmen beauty and humming-bird soul, parley with the sheriff's
posse, denying knowledge of her man in her soft /melange/ of Spanish
One day the adjutant-general of the State, who is, /ex offico/,
commander of the ranger forces, wrote some sarcastic lines to Captain
Duval of Company X, stationed at Laredo, relative to the serene and
undisturbed existence led by murderers and desperadoes in the said
The captain turned the colour of brick dust under his tan, and
forwarded the letter, after adding a few comments, per ranger Private
Bill Adamson, to ranger Lieutenant Sandridge, camped at a water hole
on the Nueces with a squad of five men in preservation of law and
Lieutenant Sandridge turned a beautiful /couleur de rose/ through his
ordinary strawberry complexion, tucked the letter in his hip pocket,
and chewed off the ends of his gamboge moustache.
The next morning he saddled his horse and rode alone to the Mexican
settlement at the Lone Wolf Crossing of the Frio, twenty miles away.
Six feet two, blond as a Viking, quiet as a deacon, dangerous as a
machine gun, Sandridge moved among the /Jacales/, patiently seeking
news of the Cisco Kid.
Far more than the law, the Mexicans dreaded the cold and certain
vengeance of the lone rider that the ranger sought. It had been one of
the Kid's pastimes to shoot Mexicans "to see them kick": if he
demanded from them moribund Terpsichorean feats, simply that he might
be entertained, what terrible and extreme penalties would be certain
to follow should they anger him! One and all they lounged with
upturned palms and shrugging shoulders, filling the air with "/quien
sabes/" and denials of the Kid's acquaintance.
But there was a man named Fink who kept a store at the Crossing--a man
of many nationalities, tongues, interests, and ways of thinking.
"No use to ask them Mexicans," he said to Sandridge. "They're afraid
to tell. This /hombre/ they call the Kid--Goodall is his name, ain't
it?--he's been in my store once or twice. I have an idea you might run
across him at--but I guess I don't keer to say, myself. I'm two
seconds later in pulling a gun than I used to be, and the difference
is worth thinking about. But this Kid's got a half-Mexican girl at the
Crossing that he comes to see. She lives in that /jacal/ a hundred
yards down the arroyo at the edge of the pear. Maybe she--no, I don't
suppose she would, but that /jacal/ would be a good place to watch,
Sandridge rode down to the /jacal/ of Perez. The sun was low, and the
broad shade of the great pear thicket already covered the grass-
thatched hut. The goats were enclosed for the night in a brush corral
near by. A few kids walked the top of it, nibbling the chaparral
leaves. The old Mexican lay upon a blanket on the grass, already in a
stupor from his mescal, and dreaming, perhaps, of the nights when he
and Pizarro touched glasses to their New World fortunes--so old his
wrinkled face seemed to proclaim him to be. And in the door of the
/jacal/ stood Tonia. And Lieutenant Sandridge sat in his saddle
staring at her like a gannet agape at a sailorman.
The Cisco Kid was a vain person, as all eminent and successful
assassins are, and his bosom would have been ruffled had he known that
at a simple exchange of glances two persons, in whose minds he had
been looming large, suddenly abandoned (at least for the time) all
thought of him.
Never before had Tonia seen such a man as this. He seemed to be made
of sunshine and blood-red tissue and clear weather. He seemed to
illuminate the shadow of the pear when he smiled, as though the sun
were rising again. The men she had known had been small and dark. Even
the Kid, in spite of his achievements, was a stripling no larger than
herself, with black, straight hair and a cold, marble face that
chilled the noonday.
As for Tonia, though she sends description to the poorhouse, let her
make a millionaire of your fancy. Her blue-black hair, smoothly
divided in the middle and bound close to her head, and her large eyes
full of the Latin melancholy, gave her the Madonna touch. Her motions
and air spoke of the concealed fire and the desire to charm that she
had inherited from the /gitanas/ of the Basque province. As for the
humming-bird part of her, that dwelt in her heart; you could not
perceive it unless her bright red skirt and dark blue blouse gave you
a symbolic hint of the vagarious bird.
The newly lighted sun-god asked for a drink of water. Tonia brought it
from the red jar hanging under the brush shelter. Sandridge considered
it necessary to dismount so as to lessen the trouble of her
I play no spy; nor do I assume to master the thoughts of any human
heart; but I assert, by the chronicler's right, that before a quarter
of an hour had sped, Sandridge was teaching her how to plaint a
six-strand rawhide stake-rope, and Tonia had explained to him that
were it not for her little English book that the peripatetic /padre/
had given her and the little crippled /chivo/, that she fed from a
bottle, she would be very, very lonely indeed.
Which leads to a suspicion that the Kid's fences needed repairing, and
that the adjutant-general's sarcasm had fallen upon unproductive soil.
In his camp by the water hole Lieutenant Sandridge announced and
reiterated his intention of either causing the Cisco Kid to nibble the
black loam of the Frio country prairies or of haling him before a
judge and jury. That sounded business-like. Twice a week he rode over
to the Lone Wolf Crossing of the Frio, and directed Tonia's slim,
slightly lemon-tinted fingers among the intricacies of the slowly
growing lariata. A six-strand plait is hard to learn and easy to
The ranger knew that he might find the Kid there at any visit. He kept
his armament ready, and had a frequent eye for the pear thicket at the
rear of the /jacal/. Thus he might bring down the kite and the
humming-bird with one stone.
While the sunny-haired ornithologist was pursuing his studies the
Cisco Kid was also attending to his professional duties. He moodily
shot up a saloon in a small cow village on Quintana Creek, killed the
town marshal (plugging him neatly in the centre of his tin badge), and
then rode away, morose and unsatisfied. No true artist is uplifted by
shooting an aged man carrying an old-style .38 bulldog.
On his way the Kid suddenly experienced the yearning that all men feel
when wrong-doing loses its keen edge of delight. He yearned for the
woman he loved to reassure him that she was his in spite of it. He
wanted her to call his bloodthirstiness bravery and his cruelty
devotion. He wanted Tonia to bring him water from the red jar under
the brush shelter, and tell him how the /chivo/ was thriving on the
The Kid turned the speckled roan's head up the ten-mile pear flat that
stretches along the Arroyo Hondo until it ends at the Lone Wolf
Crossing of the Frio. The roan whickered; for he had a sense of
locality and direction equal to that of a belt-line street-car horse;
and he knew he would soon be nibbling the rich mesquite grass at the
end of a forty-foot stake-rope while Ulysses rested his head in
Circe's straw-roofed hut.
More weird and lonesome than the journey of an Amazonian explorer is
the ride of one through a Texas pear flat. With dismal monotony and
startling variety the uncanny and multiform shapes of the cacti lift
their twisted trunks, and fat, bristly hands to encumber the way. The
demon plant, appearing to live without soil or rain, seems to taunt
the parched traveller with its lush grey greenness. It warps itself a
thousand times about what look to be open and inviting paths, only to
lure the rider into blind and impassable spine-defended "bottoms of
the bag," leaving him to retreat, if he can, with the points of the
compass whirling in his head.
To be lost in the pear is to die almost the death of the thief on the
cross, pierced by nails and with grotesque shapes of all the fiends
But it was not so with the Kid and his mount. Winding, twisting,
circling, tracing the most fantastic and bewildering trail ever picked
out, the good roan lessened the distance to the Lone Wolf Crossing
with every coil and turn that he made.
While they fared the Kid sang. He knew but one tune and sang it, as he
knew but one code and lived it, and but one girl and loved her. He was
a single-minded man of conventional ideas. He had a voice like a
coyote with bronchitis, but whenever he chose to sing his song he sang
it. It was a conventional song of the camps and trail, running at its
beginning as near as may be to these words:
Don't you monkey with my Lulu girl
Or I'll tell you what I'll do--
and so on. The roan was inured to it, and did not mind.
But even the poorest singer will, after a certain time, gain his own
consent to refrain from contributing to the world's noises. So the
Kid, by the time he was within a mile or two of Tonia's /jacal/, had
reluctantly allowed his song to die away--not because his vocal
performance had become less charming to his own ears, but because his
laryngeal muscles were aweary.
As though he were in a circus ring the speckled roan wheeled and
danced through the labyrinth of pear until at length his rider knew by
certain landmarks that the Lone Wolf Crossing was close at hand. Then,
where the pear was thinner, he caught sight of the grass roof of the
/jacal/ and the hackberry tree on the edge of the arroyo. A few yards
farther the Kid stopped the roan and gazed intently through the
prickly openings. Then he dismounted, dropped the roan's reins, and
proceeded on foot, stooping and silent, like an Indian. The roan,
knowing his part, stood still, making no sound.
The Kid crept noiselessly to the very edge of the pear thicket and
reconnoitred between the leaves of a clump of cactus.
Ten yards from his hiding-place, in the shade of the /jacal/, sat his
Tonia calmly plaiting a rawhide lariat. So far she might surely escape
condemnation; women have been known, from time to time, to engage in
more mischievous occupations. But if all must be told, there is to be
added that her head reposed against the broad and comfortable chest of
a tall red-and-yellow man, and that his arm was about her, guiding her
nimble fingers that required so many lessons at the intricate six-
Sandridge glanced quickly at the dark mass of pear when he heard a
slight squeaking sound that was not altogether unfamiliar. A gun-
scabbard will make that sound when one grasps the handle of a six-
shooter suddenly. But the sound was not repeated; and Tonia's fingers
needed close attention.
And then, in the shadow of death, they began to talk of their love;
and in the still July afternoon every word they uttered reached the
ears of the Kid.
"Remember, then," said Tonia, "you must not come again until I send
for you. Soon he will be here. A /vaquero/ at the /tienda/ said to-day
he saw him on the Guadalupe three days ago. When he is that near he
always comes. If he comes and finds you here he will kill you. So, for
my sake, you must come no more until I send you the word."
"All right," said the stranger. "And then what?"
"And then," said the girl, "you must bring your men here and kill him.
If not, he will kill you."
"He ain't a man to surrender, that's sure," said Sandridge. "It's kill
or be killed for the officer that goes up against Mr. Cisco Kid."
"He must die," said the girl. "Otherwise there will not be any peace
in the world for thee and me. He has killed many. Let him so die.
Bring your men, and give him no chance to escape."
"You used to think right much of him," said Sandridge.
Tonia dropped the lariat, twisted herself around, and curved a lemon-
tinted arm over the ranger's shoulder.
"But then," she murmured in liquid Spanish, "I had not beheld thee,
thou great, red mountain of a man! And thou art kind and good, as well
as strong. Could one choose him, knowing thee? Let him die; for then I
will not be filled with fear by day and night lest he hurt thee or
"How can I know when he comes?" asked Sandridge.
"When he comes," said Tonia, "he remains two days, sometimes three.
Gregorio, the small son of old Luisa, the /lavendera/, has a swift
pony. I will write a letter to thee and send it by him, saying how it
will be best to come upon him. By Gregorio will the letter come. And
bring many men with thee, and have much care, oh, dear red one, for
the rattlesnake is not quicker to strike than is '/El Chivato/,' as
they call him, to send a ball from his /pistola/."
"The Kid's handy with his gun, sure enough," admitted Sandridge, "but
when I come for him I shall come alone. I'll get him by myself or not
at all. The Cap wrote one or two things to me that make me want to do
the trick without any help. You let me know when Mr. Kid arrives, and
I'll do the rest."
"I will send you the message by the boy Gregorio," said the girl. "I
knew you were braver than that small slayer of men who never smiles.
How could I ever have thought I cared for him?"
It was time for the ranger to ride back to his camp on the water hole.
Before he mounted his horse he raised the slight form of Tonia with
one arm high from the earth for a parting salute. The drowsy stillness
of the torpid summer air still lay thick upon the dreaming afternoon.
The smoke from the fire in the /jacal/, where the /frijoles/ blubbered
in the iron pot, rose straight as a plumb-line above the clay-daubed
chimney. No sound or movement disturbed the serenity of the dense pear
thicket ten yards away.
When the form of Sandridge had disappeared, loping his big dun down
the steep banks of the Frio crossing, the Kid crept back to his own
horse, mounted him, and rode back along the tortuous trail he had
But not far. He stopped and waited in the silent depths of the pear
until half an hour had passed. And then Tonia heard the high, untrue
notes of his unmusical singing coming nearer and nearer; and she ran
to the edge of the pear to meet him.
The Kid seldom smiled; but he smiled and waved his hat when he saw
her. He dismounted, and his girl sprang into his arms. The Kid looked
at her fondly. His thick, black hair clung to his head like a wrinkled
mat. The meeting brought a slight ripple of some undercurrent of
feeling to his smooth, dark face that was usually as motionless as a
"How's my girl?" he asked, holding her close.
"Sick of waiting so long for you, dear one," she answered. "My eyes
are dim with always gazing into that devil's pincushion through which
you come. And I can see into it such a little way, too. But you are
here, beloved one, and I will not scold. /Que mal muchacho/! not to
come to see your /alma/ more often. Go in and rest, and let me water
your horse and stake him with the long rope. There is cool water in
the jar for you."
The Kid kissed her affectionately.
"Not if the court knows itself do I let a lady stake my horse for me,"
said he. "But if you'll run in, /chica/, and throw a pot of coffee
together while I attend to the /caballo/, I'll be a good deal
Besides his marksmanship the Kid had another attribute for which he
admired himself greatly. He was /muy caballero/, as the Mexicans
express it, where the ladies were concerned. For them he had always
gentle words and consideration. He could not have spoken a harsh word
to a woman. He might ruthlessly slay their husbands and brothers, but
he could not have laid the weight of a finger in anger upon a woman.
Wherefore many of that interesting division of humanity who had come
under the spell of his politeness declared their disbelief in the
stories circulated about Mr. Kid. One shouldn't believe everything one
heard, they said. When confronted by their indignant men folk with
proof of the /caballero's/ deeds of infamy, they said maybe he had
been driven to it, and that he knew how to treat a lady, anyhow.
Considering this extremely courteous idiosyncrasy of the Kid and the
pride he took in it, one can perceive that the solution of the problem
that was presented to him by what he saw and heard from his hiding-
place in the pear that afternoon (at least as to one of the actors)
must have been obscured by difficulties. And yet one could not think
of the Kid overlooking little matters of that kind.
At the end of the short twilight they gathered around a supper of
/frijoles/, goat steaks, canned peaches, and coffee, by the light of a
lantern in the /jacal/. Afterward, the ancestor, his flock corralled,
smoked a cigarette and became a mummy in a grey blanket. Tonia washed
the few dishes while the Kid dried them with the flour-sacking towel.
Her eyes shone; she chatted volubly of the inconsequent happenings of
her small world since the Kid's last visit; it was as all his other
home-comings had been.
Then outside Tonia swung in a grass hammock with her guitar and sang
sad /canciones de amor/.
"Do you love me just the same, old girl?" asked the Kid, hunting for
his cigarette papers.
"Always the same, little one," said Tonia, her dark eyes lingering
"I must go over to Fink's," said the Kid, rising, "for some tobacco. I
thought I had another sack in my coat. I'll be back in a quarter of an
"Hasten," said Tonia, "and tell me--how long shall I call you my own
this time? Will you be gone again to-morrow, leaving me to grieve, or
will you be longer with your Tonia?"
"Oh, I might stay two or three days this trip," said the Kid, yawning.
"I've been on the dodge for a month, and I'd like to rest up."
He was gone half an hour for his tobacco. When he returned Tonia was
still lying in the hammock.
"It's funny," said the Kid, "how I feel. I feel like there was
somebody lying behind every bush and tree waiting to shoot me. I never
had mullygrubs like them before. Maybe it's one of them presumptions.
I've got half a notion to light out in the morning before day. The
Guadalupe country is burning up about that old Dutchman I plugged down
"You are not afraid--no one could make my brave little one fear."
"Well, I haven't been usually regarded as a jack-rabbit when it comes
to scrapping; but I don't want a posse smoking me out when I'm in your
/jacal/. Somebody might get hurt that oughtn't to."
"Remain with your Tonia; no one will find you here."
The Kid looked keenly into the shadows up and down the arroyo and
toward the dim lights of the Mexican village.
"I'll see how it looks later on," was his decision.
At midnight a horseman rode into the rangers' camp, blazing his way by
noisy "halloes" to indicate a pacific mission. Sandridge and one or
two others turned out to investigate the row. The rider announced
himself to be Domingo Sales, from the Lone Wolf Crossing. he bore a
letter for Senor Sandridge. Old Luisa, the /lavendera/, had persuaded
him to bring it, he said, her son Gregorio being too ill of a fever to
Sandridge lighted the camp lantern and read the letter. These were its
/Dear One/: He has come. Hardly had you ridden away when he came
out of the pear. When he first talked he said he would stay three
days or more. Then as it grew later he was like a wolf or a fox,
and walked about without rest, looking and listening. Soon he said
he must leave before daylight when it is dark and stillest. And
then he seemed to suspect that I be not true to him. He looked at
me so strange that I am frightened. I swear to him that I love
him, his own Tonia. Last of all he said I must prove to him I am
true. He thinks that even now men are waiting to kill him as he
rides from my house. To escape he says he will dress in my
clothes, my red skirt and the blue waist I wear and the brown
mantilla over the head, and thus ride away. But before that he
says that I must put on his clothes, his /pantalones/ and /camisa/
and hat, and ride away on his horse from the /jacal/ as far as the
big road beyond the crossing and back again. This before he goes,
so he can tell if I am true and if men are hidden to shoot him. It
is a terrible thing. An hour before daybreak this is to be. Come,
my dear one, and kill this man and take me for your Tonia. Do not
try to take hold of him alive, but kill him quickly. Knowing all,
you should do that. You must come long before the time and hide
yourself in the little shed near the /jacal/ where the wagon and
saddles are kept. It is dark in there. He will wear my red skirt
and blue waist and brown mantilla. I send you a hundred kisses.
Come surely and shoot quickly and straight.
Thine Own Tonia.
Sandridge quickly explained to his men the official part of the
missive. The rangers protested against his going alone.
"I'll get him easy enough," said the lieutenant. "The girl's got him
trapped. And don't even think he'll get the drop on me."
Sandridge saddled his horse and rode to the Lone Wolf Crossing. He
tied his big dun in a clump of brush on the arroyo, took his
Winchester from its scabbard, and carefully approached the Perez
/jacal/. There was only the half of a high moon drifted over by
ragged, milk-white gulf clouds.
The wagon-shed was an excellent place for ambush; and the ranger got
inside it safely. In the black shadow of the brush shelter in front of
the /jacal/ he could see a horse tied and hear him impatiently pawing
the hard-trodden earth.
He waited almost an hour before two figures came out of the /jacal/.
One, in man's clothes, quickly mounted the horse and galloped past the
wagon-shed toward the crossing and village. And then the other figure,
in skirt, waist, and mantilla over its head, stepped out into the
faint moonlight, gazing after the rider. Sandridge thought he would
take his chance then before Tonia rode back. He fancied she might not
care to see it.
"Throw up your hands," he ordered loudly, stepping out of the wagon-
shed with his Winchester at his shoulder.
There was a quick turn of the figure, but no movement to obey, so the
ranger pumped in the bullets--one--two--three--and then twice more;
for you never could be too sure of bringing down the Cisco Kid. There
was no danger of missing at ten paces, even in that half moonlight.
The old ancestor, asleep on his blanket, was awakened by the shots.
Listening further, he heard a great cry from some man in mortal
distress or anguish, and rose up grumbling at the disturbing ways of
The tall, red ghost of a man burst into the /jacal/, reaching one
hand, shaking like a /tule/ reed, for the lantern hanging on its nail.
The other spread a letter on the table.
"Look at this letter, Perez," cried the man. "Who wrote it?"
"/Ah, Dios/! it is Senor Sandridge," mumbled the old man, approaching.
"/Pues, senor/, that letter was written by '/El Chivato/,' as he is
called--by the man of Tonia. They say he is a bad man; I do not know.
While Tonia slept he wrote the letter and sent it by this old hand of
mine to Domingo Sales to be brought to you. Is there anything wrong in
the letter? I am very old; and I did not know. /Valgame Dios/! it is a
very foolish world; and there is nothing in the house to drink--
nothing to drink."
Just then all that Sandridge could think of to do was to go outside
and throw himself face downward in the dust by the side of his
humming-bird, of whom not a feather fluttered. He was not a
/caballero/ by instinct, and he could not understand the niceties of
A mile away the rider who had ridden past the wagon-shed struck up a
harsh, untuneful song, the words of which began:
Don't you monkey with my Lulu girl
Or I'll tell you what I'll do--
THE SPHINX APPLE
Twenty miles out from Paradise, and fifteen miles short of Sunrise
City, Bildad Rose, the stage-driver, stopped his team. A furious snow
had been falling all day. Eight inches it measured now, on a level.
The remainder of the road was not without peril in daylight, creeping
along the ribs of a bijou range of ragged mountains. Now, when both
snow and night masked its dangers, further travel was not to be
thought of, said Bildad Rose. So he pulled up his four stout horses,
and delivered to his five passengers oral deductions of his wisdom.
Judge Menefee, to whom men granted leadership and the initiatory as
upon a silver salver, sprang from the coach at once. Four of his
fellow-passengers followed, inspired by his example, ready to explore,
to objurgate, to resist, to submit, to proceed, according as their
prime factor might be inclined to sway them. The fifth passenger, a
young woman, remained in the coach.
Bildad had halted upon the shoulder of the first mountain spur. Two
rail-fences, ragged-black, hemmed the road. Fifty yards above the
upper fence, showing a dark blot in the white drifts, stood a small
house. Upon this house descended--or rather ascended--Judge Menefee
and his cohorts with boyish whoops born of the snow and stress. They
called; they pounded at window and door. At the inhospitable silence
they waxed restive; they assaulted and forced the pregnable barriers,
and invaded the premises.
The watchers from the coach heard stumblings and shoutings from the
interior of the ravaged house. Before long a light within flickered,
glowed, flamed high and bright and cheerful. Then came running back
through the driving flakes the exuberant explorers. More deeply
pitched than the clarion--even orchestral in volume--the voice of
Judge Menefee proclaimed the succour that lay in apposition with their
state of travail. The one room of the house was uninhabited, he said,
and bare of furniture; but it contained a great fireplace, and they
had discovered an ample store of chopped wood in a lean-to at the
rear. Housing and warmth against the shivering night were thus
assured. For the placation of Bildad Rose there was news of a stable,
not ruined beyond service, with hay in a loft, near the house.
"Gentlemen," cried Bildad Rose from his seat, swathed in coats and
robes, "tear me down two panels of that fence, so I can drive in. That
is old man Redruth's shanty. I thought we must be nigh it. They took
him to the foolish house in August."
Cheerfully the four passengers sprang at the snow-capped rails. The
exhorted team tugged the coach up the slant to the door of the edifice
from which a mid-summer madness had ravished its proprietor. The
driver and two of the passengers began to unhitch. Judge Menefee
opened the door of the coach, and removed his hat.
"I have to announce, Miss Garland," said he, "the enforced suspension
of our journey. The driver asserts that the risk in travelling the
mountain road by night is too great even to consider. It will be
necessary to remain in the shelter of this house until morning. I beg
that you will feel that there is nothing to fear beyond a temporary
inconvenience. I have personally inspected the house, and find that
there are means to provide against the rigour of the weather, at
least. You shall be made as comfortable as possible. Permit me to
assist you to alight."
To the Judge's side came the passenger whose pursuit in life was the
placing of the Little Goliath windmill. His name was Dunwoody; but
that matters not much. In travelling merely from Paradise to Sunrise
City one needs little or no name. Still, one who would seek to divide
honours with Judge Madison L. Menefee deserves a cognomenal peg upon
which Fame may hang a wreath. Thus spake, loudly and buoyantly, the
"Guess you'll have to climb out of the ark, Mrs. McFarland. This
wigwam isn't exactly the Palmer House, but it turns snow, and they
won't search your grip for souvenir spoons when you leave. /We've/ got
a fire going; and /we'll/ fix you up with dry Tilbys and keep the mice
away, anyhow, all right, all right."
One of the two passengers who were struggling in a melee of horses,
harness, snow, and the sarcastic injunctions of Bildad Rose, called
loudly from the whirl of his volunteer duties: "Say! some of you
fellows get Miss Solomon into the house, will you? Whoa, there! you
Again must it be gently urged that in travelling from Paradise to
Sunrise City an accurate name is prodigality. When Judge Menefee--
sanctioned to the act by his grey hair and widespread repute--had
introduced himself to the lady passenger, she had, herself, sweetly
breathed a name, in response, that the hearing of the male passengers
had variously interpreted. In the not unjealous spirit of rivalry that
eventuated, each clung stubbornly to his own theory. For the lady
passenger to have reasseverated or corrected would have seemed
didactic if not unduly solicitous of a specific acquaintance.
Therefore the lady passenger permitted herself to be Garlanded and
McFarlanded and Solomoned with equal and discreet complacency. It is
thirty-five miles from Paradise to Sunrise City. /Compagnon de voyage/
is name enough, by the gripsack of the Wandering Jew! for so brief a
Soon the little party of wayfarers were happily seated in a cheerful
arc before the roaring fire. The robes, cushions, and removable
portions of the coach had been brought in and put to service. The lady
passenger chose a place near the hearth at one end of the arc. There
she graced almost a throne that her subjects had prepared. She sat
upon cushions and leaned against an empty box and barrel, robe
bespread, which formed a defence from the invading draughts. She
extended her feet, delectably shod, to the cordial heat. She ungloved
her hands, but retained about her neck her long fur boa. The unstable
flames half revealed, while the warding boa half submerged, her face--
a youthful face, altogether feminine, clearly moulded and calm with
beauty's unchallenged confidence. Chivalry and manhood were here vying
to please and comfort her. She seemed to accept their devoirs--not
piquantly, as one courted and attended; nor preeningly, as many of her
sex unworthily reap their honours; not yet stolidly, as the ox
receives his hay; but concordantly with nature's own plan--as the lily
ingests the drop of dew foreordained to its refreshment.
Outside the wind roared mightily, the fine snow whizzed through the
cracks, the cold besieged the backs of the immolated six; but the
elements did not lack a champion that night. Judge Menefee was
attorney for the storm. The weather was his client, and he strove by
special pleading to convince his companions in that frigid jury-box
that they sojourned in a bower of roses, beset only by benignant
zephyrs. He drew upon a fund of gaiety, wit, and anecdote,
sophistical, but crowned with success. His cheerfulness communicated
itself irresistibly. Each one hastened to contribute his own quota
toward the general optimism. Even the lady passenger was moved to
"I think it is quite charming," she said, in her slow, crystal tones.
At intervals some one of the passengers would rise and humorously
explore the room. There was little evidence to be collected of its
habitation by old man Redruth.
Bildad Rose was called upon vivaciously for the ex-hermit's history.
Now, since the stage-driver's horses were fairly comfortable and his
passengers appeared to be so, peace and comity returned to him.
"The old didapper," began Bildad, somewhat irreverently, "infested
this here house about twenty year. He never allowed nobody to come
nigh him. He'd duck his head inside and slam the door whenever a team
drove along. There was spinning-wheels up in his loft, all right. He
used to buy his groceries and tobacco at Sam Tilly's store, on the
Little Muddy. Last August he went up there dressed in a red bedquilt,
and told Sam he was King Solomon, and that the Queen of Sheba was
coming to visit him. He fetched along all the money he had--a little
bag full of silver--and dropped it in Sam's well. 'She won't come,'
says old man Redruth to Sam, 'if she knows I've got any money.'
"As soon as folks heard he had that sort of a theory about women and
money they knowed he was crazy; so they sent down and packed him to
the foolish asylum."
"Was there a romance in his life that drove him to a solitary
existence?" asked one of the passengers, a young man who had an
"No," said Bildad, "not that I ever heard spoke of. Just ordinary
trouble. They say he had had unfortunateness in the way of love
derangements with a young lady when he was young; before he contracted
red bed-quilts and had his financial conclusions disqualified. I never
heard of no romance."
"Ah!" exclaimed Judge Menefee, impressively; "a case of unrequited
affection, no doubt."
"No, sir," returned Bildad, "not at all. She never married him.
Marmaduke Mulligan, down at Paradise, seen a man once that come from
old Redruth's town. He said Redruth was a fine young man, but when you
kicked him on the pocket all you could hear jingle was a cuff-fastener
and a bunch of keys. He was engaged to this young lady--Miss Alice--
something was her name; I've forgot. This man said she was the kind of
girl you like to have reach across you in a car to pay the fare. Well,
there come to the town a young chap all affluent and easy, and fixed
up with buggies and mining stock and leisure time. Although she was a
staked claim, Miss Alice and the new entry seemed to strike a mutual
kind of a clip. They had calls and coincidences of going to the post
office and such things as sometimes make a girl send back the
engagement ring and other presents--'a rift within the loot,' the
poetry man calls it.
"One day folks seen Redruth and Miss Alice standing talking at the
gate. Then he lifts his hat and walks away, and that was the last
anybody in that town seen of him, as far as this man knew."
"What about the young lady?" asked the young man who had an Agency.
"Never heard," answered Bildad. "Right there is where my lode of
information turns to an old spavined crowbait, and folds its wings,
for I've pumped it dry."
"A very sad--" began Judge Menefee, but his remark was curtailed by a
"What a charming story!" said the lady passenger, in flute-like tones.
A little silence followed, except for the wind and the crackling of
The men were seated upon the floor, having slightly mitigated its
inhospitable surface with wraps and stray pieces of boards. The man
who was placing Little Goliath windmills arose and walked about to
ease his cramped muscles.
Suddenly a triumphant shout came from him. He hurried back from a
dusky corner of the room, bearing aloft something in his hand. It was
an apple--a large, red-mottled, firm pippin, pleasing to behold. In a
paper bag on a high shelf in that corner he had found it. It could
have been no relic of the lovewrecked Redruth, for its glorious
soundness repudiated the theory that it had lain on that musty shelf
since August. No doubt some recent bivouackers, lunching in the
deserted house, had left it there.
Dunwoody--again his exploits demand for him the honours of
nomenclature--flaunted his apple in the faces of his fellow-marooners.
"See what I found, Mrs. McFarland!" he cried, vaingloriously. He held
the apple high up in the light of the fire, where it glowed a still
richer red. The lady passenger smiled calmly--always calmly.
"What a charming apple!" she murmured, clearly.
For a brief space Judge Menefee felt crushed, humiliated, relegated.
Second place galled him. Why had this blatant, obtrusive, unpolished
man of windmills been selected by Fate instead of himself to discover
the sensational apple? He could have made of the act a scene, a
function, a setting for some impromptu, fanciful discourse or piece of
comedy--and have retained the role of cynosure. Actually, the lady
passenger was regarding this ridiculous Dunboddy or Woodbundy with an
admiring smile, as if the fellow had performed a feat! And the
windmill man swelled and gyrated like a sample of his own goods,
puffed up with the wind that ever blows from the chorus land toward
the domain of the star.