Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Al Haines
His Adventures West & East
Henry Wallace Phillips
A CHANCE SHOT
A RED-HAIRED CUPID
THE GOLDEN FORD
WHEN THE CHINOOK STRUCK FAIRFIELD
A Chance Shot
Reddy and I were alone at the Lake beds. He sat outside the cabin,
braiding a leather hat-band--eight strands, and the "repeat"
figure--an art that I never could master.
I sat inside, with a one-pound package of smoking tobacco beside
me, and newspapers within reach, rolling the day's supply of
Reddy stopped his story long enough to say: "Don't use the
'Princess' Slipper,' Kid--that paper burns my tongue--take the
'Granger'; there's plenty of it."
Well, as I was saying, I'd met a lot of the boys up in town this
day, and they threw as many as two drinks into me; I know that for
certain, because when we took the parting dose, I had a glass of
whisky in both my right hands, and had just twice as many friends
as when I started.
When I pulled out for home, I felt mighty good for myself--not
exactly looking for trouble, but not a-going to dodge it any,
either. I was warbling "Idaho" for all I was worth--you know how
pretty I can sing? Cock-eyed Peterson used to say it made him
forget all his troubles. "Because," says he, "you don't notice
trifles when a man bats you over the head with a two-by-four."
Well, I was enjoying everything in sight, even a little drizzle of
rain that was driving by in rags of wetness, when a flat-faced
swatty at Fort Johnson halted me.
Now it's a dreadful thing to be butted to death by a nanny-goat,
but for a full-sized cowpuncher to be held up by a soldier is worse
To say that I was hot under the collar don't give you the right
idea of the way I felt.
"Why, you cross between the Last Rose of Summer and a bobtailed
flush!" says I, "what d'yer mean? What's got into you? Get out of
my daylight, you dog-robber, or I'll walk the little horse around
your neck like a three-ringed circus. Come, pull your freight!"
It seems that this swatty had been chucked out of the third story
of Frenchy's dance emporium by Bronc. Thompson, which threw a great
respect for our profesh into him. Consequently he wasn't fresh
like most soldiers, but answers me as polite as a tin-horn gambler
Says he: "I just wanted to tell you that old Frosthead and forty
braves are some'ers between here and your outfit, with their war
paint on and blood in their eyes, cayoodling and whoopin' fit to
beat hell with the blower on, and if you get tangled up with them,
I reckon they'll give you a hair-cut and shampoo, to say nothing of
other trimmings. They say they're after the Crows, but it's a
ten-dollar bill against a last year's bird's-nest that they'll take
on any kind of trouble that comes along. Their hearts is mighty
bad, they state, and when an Injun's heart gets spoiled, the
disease is d--d catching. You'd better stop awhile."
"Now, cuss old Frosthead, and you too!" says I. "If he comes
crow-hopping on my reservation; I'll kick his pantalettes on top of
"All right, pardner!" says he. "It's your own funeral. My orders
was to halt every one going through; but I ain't a whole company,
so you can have it your own way. Only, if your friends have to
take you home in a coal-scuttle, don't blame me. Pass, friend!"
So I went through the officers' quarters forty miles an hour,
letting out a string of yells you might have heard to the coast,
just to show my respect for the United States army.
Now this has always been my luck: Whenever I made a band-wagon
play, somebody's sure to strike me for my licence. Or else the
team goes into the ditch a mile further on, and I come out about as
happy as a small yaller dog at a bob-cat's caucus.
Some fellers can run in a rhinecaboo that 'd make the hair stand up
on a buffeler robe, and get away with it just like a mice; but that
ain't me. If I sing a little mite too high in the cellar, down
comes the roof a-top of me. So it was this day. Old Johnny
Hardluck socked it to me, same as usual.
Gosh a'mighty! The liquor died in me after a while, and I went
sound asleep in the saddle, and woke up with a jar--to find myself
right in the middle of old Frosthead's gang; the drums
"_boom_-blipping" and those forty-odd red tigers "hyah-hayahing" in
a style that made my skin get up and walk all over me with cold
How in blazes I'd managed to slip through those Injuns I don't
know. 'Twould have been a wonderful piece of scouting if I'd meant
it. You can 'most always do any darn thing you don't want to do.
Well, there I was, and, oh Doctor! but wasn't I in a lovely mess!
That war-song put a crimp into me that Jack Frost himself couldn't
It was as dark as dark by this time. The moon just stuck one eye
over the edge of the prairie, and the rest of the sky was covered
with cloud. A little light came from the Injuns' camp-fire, but
not enough to ride by, and, besides, I didn't know which way I
ought to go.
Says I to myself, "Billy Sanders, you are the champion all-around,
old-fashioned fool of the district. You are a jackass from the
country where ears less'n three foot long are curiosities. You
sassed that poor swatty that wanted to keep you out of this,
tooting your bazoo like a man peddling soap; but now it's up to
you. What are you going to do about it?" and I didn't get any
Well, it was no use asking myself conundrums out there in the dark
when time was so scarce. So I wraps my hankercher around. Laddy's
nose to keep him from talking horse to the Injun ponies, and
prepared to sneak to where I'd rather be.
Laddy was the quickest thing on legs in that part of the
country--out of a mighty spry little Pinto mare by our thoroughbred
Kentucky horse--and I knew if I could get to the open them Injuns
wouldn't have much of a chance to take out my stopper and examine
my works--not much. A half-mile start, and I could show the whole
Sioux nation how I wore my hair.
I cut for the place where the Injuns seemed thinnest, lifting
myself up till I didn't weigh fifteen pound, and breathing only
when necessary. We got along first-rate until we reached the edge
of 'em, and then Laddy had to stick his foot in a gopher-hole, and
walloped around there like a whale trying to climb a tree.
Some dam cuss of an Injun threw a handful of hay on the fire, and,
as it blazed up, the whole gang spotted me.
I unlimbered my gun, sent the irons into Laddy, and we began to
I didn't like to make for the ranch, as I knew the boys were
short-handed, so I pointed north, praying to the good Lord that I'd
hit some kind of settlement before I struck the North Pole.
Well, we left those Injuns so far behind that there wasn't any fun
in it. I slacked up, patting myself on the back; and, as the
trouble seemed all over, I was just about to turn for the ranch,
when I heard horses galloping, and as the moon came out a little I
saw a whole raft of redskins a-boiling up a draw not half a mile
away. That knocked me slab-sided. It looked like I got the wrong
ticket every time the wheel turned.
I whooped it up again, swearing I wouldn't stop this deal short of
a dead sure thing. We flew through space--Laddy pushing a hole in
the air like a scart kiyote making for home and mother.
A ways down the valley I spotted a little shack sitting all alone
by itself out in the moonlight. I headed for it, hollering murder.
A man came to the door in his under-rigging.
"Hi, there! What's eating you?" he yells.
"Injuns coming, pardner! The country's just oozing Injuns! Better
get a wiggle on you!"
"All right--slide along, I'll ketch up to you," says he.
I looked back and saw him hustling out with his saddle on his arm.
"He's a particular kind of cuss," I thought; "bareback would suit
Taking it a little easier for the next couple of miles, I gave him
a chance to pull up.
We pounded along without saying anything for a spell, when I
happened to notice that his teeth were chattering.
"Keep your nerve up, pardner!" says I. "Don't you get
scared--we've got a good start on 'em."
He looked at me kind of reproachful.
"Scared be derned!" says he. "I reckon if you was riding around
this nice cool night in your drawers, _your_ teeth 'ud rattle some,
I took a look at him, and saw, sure enough, while he had hat, coat,
and boots on, the pants was missing. Well, if it had been the last
act, I'd have had to laugh.
"Couldn't find 'em nohow," says he; "hunted high and low, jick,
Jack, and the game--Just comes to my mind now that I had 'em rolled
up and was sleeping on 'em. I don't like to go around this way'--I
feel as if I was two men, and one of 'em hardly respectable."
"Did you bring a gun with you?"
He gave me another stare. "Why, pardner, you must think I have got
a light and frivolous disposition," says he, and with that he
heaves up the great-grand-uncle of all the six-shooters I ever did
see. It made my forty-five-long look like something for a kid to
cut its teeth on. "That's the best gun in this country," he went
"Looks as if it might be," says I. "Has the foundry that cast it
gone out of business? I'd like to have one like it, if it's as
dangerous as it looks."
"When I have any trouble with a man," says he, "I don't want to go
pecking at him with a putty-blower, just irritating him, and giving
him a little skin complaint here and there; I want something
that'll touch his conscience."
He had it, for a broadside from that battery would scatter an
elephant over a township.
We loped along quiet and easy until sun-up. The Grindstone Buttes
lay about a mile ahead of us. Looking back, we saw the Injuns
coming over a rise of ground 'way in the distance.
"Now," says my friend, "I know a short cut through those hills
that'll bring us out at Johnson's. They've got enough punchers
there to do the United States army up--starched and blued. Shall
we take it?"
"Sure!" says I. "I'm only wandering around this part of the
country because this part of the country is here--if it was
anywheres else I'd be just as glad."
So in we went. It was the steepest and narrowest kind of a canon,
looking as if it had been cut out of the rock with one crack of the
axe. I was just thinking: "Gee whiz! but this would be a poor
place to get snagged in," when bang! says a rifle right in front of
us, and m-e-arr! goes the bullet over our heads.
We were off them horses and behind a, couple of chunks of rock
sooner than we hoped for, and that's saying a good deal.
"Cussed poor shot, whoever he is," says my friend. "Some Injun
holding us here till the rest come up, I presume."
"That's about the size of it--and I'd like to make you a bet that
he does it, too, if I thought I'd have a chance to collect."
"Oh, you can't always tell--you might lose your money," says he,
kind of thoughtful.
"I wouldn't mind that half as much as winning," says I. "But on
the square, do you think we can get out? I'll jump him with you if
you say so, although I ain't got what you might call a passion for
"Now you hold on a bit," says he. "I don't know but what we'd have
done better to stick to the horses, and run for it, but it's too
late to think of that. Jumping him is all foolishness; he'd sit
behind his little rock and pump lead into us till we wouldn't float
in brine--and we can't back out now."
He talked so calm it made me kind of mad. "Well," says I, "in that
case, let's play 'Simon says thumbs up' till the rest of the crowd
"There you go!" says he. "Just like all young fellers--gettin'
hosstyle right away if you don't fall in with their plans. Now,
Sonny, you keep your temper, and watch me play cushion carroms with
our friend there."
"You see that block of stone just this side of him with the square
face towards us? Well, he's only covered in front, and I'm a-going
to shoot against that face and ketch him on the glance."
"Great, if you could work it!" says I. "But Lord!"
"Well, watch!" says he. Then he squinched down behind his cover,
so as not to give the Injun an opening, trained his cannon and
pulled the trigger. The old gun opened her mouth and roared like
an earthquake, but I didn't see any dead Injun. Then twice more
she spit fire, and still there weren't any desirable corpses to be
"Say, pardner," says I, "you wouldn't make many cigars at this
"Now, don't you get oneasy," says he. "Just watch!"
"_Biff_!" says the old gun, and this time, sure enough, the Injun
was knocked clear of the rock. I felt all along that he wouldn't
be much of a comfort to his friends afterwards, if that gun did
land on him.
Still, he wasn't so awful dead, for as we jumped for the horses he
kind of hitched himself to the rock, and laying the rifle across
it, and working the lever with his left hand, he sent a hole plumb
through my hat.
"Bully boy!" says I. I snapped at him, and smashed the lock of his
rifle to flinders. Then, of course, he was our meat.
As we rode up to him, my pard held dead on him. The Injun stood up
straight and tall, and looked us square in the eye--say, he was a
man, I tell you, red-skin or no red-skin. The courage just stuck
out on him as he stood there, waiting to pass in his checks.
My pardner threw the muzzle of his gun up. "D--n it!" says he, "I
can't do it--he's game from the heart out! But the Lord have mercy
on his sinful soul if he and I run foul of each other on the
Then we shacked along down to Johnson's and had breakfast.
"What became of Frosthead and his gang?" Oh, they sent out a
regiment or two, and gathered him in--'bout twenty-five soldiers to
an Injun. No, no harm was done. Me and my pard were the only ones
that bucked up against them. Chuck out a cigarette, Kid; my lungs
ache for want of a smoke.
A Red-Haired Cupid
"How did I come to get myself disliked down at the Chanta Seechee?
Well, I'll tell you," said Reddy, the cow-puncher. "The play came
up like this. First, they made the Chanta Seechee into a stock
company, then the stock company put all their brains in one think,
and says they, 'We'll make this man Jones superintendent, and the
ranch is all right at once.' So out comes Jones from Boston,
Massachusetts, and what he didn't know about running a ranch was
common talk in the country, but what he thought he knew about
running a ranch was too much for one man to carry around. He
wasn't a bad-hearted feller in some ways, yet on the whole he felt
it was an honour to a looking-glass to have the pleasure of
reflecting him. Looking-glass? I should say he had! And a
bureau, and a boot-blacking jigger, and a feather bed, and
curtains, and truck in his room. Strange fellers used to open
their eyes when they saw that room. 'Helloo-o!' they'd say, 'whose
little birdie have we here?' And other remarks that hurt our
feelings considerable. Jonesy, he said the fellers were a rank lot
of barbarians. He said it to old Neighbour Case's face, and he and
the old man came together like a pair of hens, for Jonesy had sand
in spite of his faults, That was a fight worth travelling to see.
They covered at least an acre of ground; they tore the air with
upper swats and cross swipes; they hollered, they jumped and they
pitched, and when the difficulty was adjusted we found that
Jonesy's coat was painfully ripped up the back and Neighbour Case
had lost his false teeth. One crowd of fellers patted Jones on the
back and said, 'Never mind your coat, old horse; you've licked a
man twice your age,' and the other comforted Neighbour, saying,
'Never mind, Case; you can ease your mind by thinking how you
headed up that rooster, and he fifty pounds lighter than you.'
"Jonesy put on airs after that. He felt he was a hard citizen.
And then he had the misfortune to speak harshly to Arizona Jenkins
when Old Dry Belt was in liquor. Then he got roped and dragged
through the slough. He cried like a baby whilst I helped him
scrape the mud off, but not because he was scared! No, sir! That
little runt was full of blood and murder.
"'You mark me, now, Red,' says he, the tears making bad-land water
courses through the mud on his cheeks, 'I shall fire upon that man
the first time I see him--will you lend me your revolver?'
"'Lord, Jones, see here,' says I, 'don't you go making any such
billy-goat play as that--keep his wages until he apologizes; put
something harmful in his grub; but, as you have respect for the
Almighty's handiwork as represented by your person, don't pull a
gun on Arizona Jenkins--that's the one thing he won't take from
"'D-d-darn him!' snivels Jonesy, 'I ain't afraid o-o-of him;' and
the strange fact is that he wasn't. Well, I saw he was in such a
taking that he might do something foolish and get hurt, so I goes
to Arizona and says I, 'You ought to apologize to Jones.' What
Zony replied ain't worth repeating--'and you along with him,' he
"'Now ain't that childish?' I says. 'A six-footer like you that
can shoot straight with either hand, and yet ain't got generosity
enough to ease the feelings of a poor little devil that's fair
busting with shame.'
"'Well, what did he want to tell me to shut up my mouth for?' cried
Old Dry Belt. 'Men have died of less than that.'
"'Aw, shucks, Zony,' I says, 'a great, big man like you oughtn't to
come down on a little cuss who's all thumb-hand-side and left feet.'
"'That be blowed,' says he--only he says it different. 'I'd like
to know what business such a sawed-off has to come and tell a
full-grown man like me to shut up his mouth? He'd ought to stay in
a little man's place and talk sassy to people his own size. When
he comes shooting off his bazoo to a man that could swaller him
whole without loosening his collar, it's impidence; that's what it
"'Well, as a favour to me?' I says.
"'Well, if you put it in that way--I don't want to be small about
"So Arizona goes up to Jones and sticks out his hand. 'There's my
hand, Jones,' he says. 'I'm mighty sorry you told me to shut up my
mouth,' says he.
"'So am I,' says Jones heartily, not taking in the sense of the
words, but feeling that it was all in good intention. So that was
all right and I stood in with the management in great shape for
fixing up the fuss so pleasant. But it didn't last. They say
nothing lasts in this world. There's some pretty solid rocks in
the Coeur d'Alene, however, and I should like to wait around and
see if they don't hold out, but I'll never make it. I've been in
too much excitement.
"Well, the next thing after Jonesy got established was that his
niece must come out during vacation and pay him a visit.
'Jee-rusalem!' thinks I, 'Jonesy's niece!' I had visions of a
thin, yaller, sour little piece, with mouse-coloured hair plastered
down on her head, and an unkind word for everybody. Jonesy told me
about her being in college, and then I stuck a pair of them
nose-grabber specks on the picture. I can stand 'most any kind of
a man, but if there's anything that makes the tears come to my eyes
it's a botch of a woman. I know they may have good qualities and
all that, but I don't like 'em, and that's the whole of it. We
gave three loud groans when we got the news in the bull-pen. And I
cussed for ten minutes straight, without repeating myself once,
when it so fell out that the members of the board rolled out our
way the day the girl had to be sent for, and Jonesy couldn't break
loose, and your Uncle was elected to take the buckboard and drive
twenty miles to the railroad. I didn't mind the going out, but
that twenty miles back with Jonesy's niece! Say, I foamed like a
soda-water bottle when I got into the bull-pen and told the boys my
"'Well,' says Kyle Lambert, 'that's what you might expect; your
sins have found you out.'
"'No, they ain't; they've caught me at home as usual,' says I.
'Well, I'll give that Eastern blossom an idea of the quality of
this country anyhow.' So I togs myself up in the awfullest rig I
could find; strapped two ca'tridge belts to me, every hole filled,
and a gun in every holster; put candle-grease on my mustache and
twisted the ends up to my eye-winkers; stuck a knife in my hatband
and another in my boot; threw a shotgun and a rifle in the
buckboard, and pulled out quick through the colt-pens before Jonesy
could get his peeps onto me.
"Well, sir, I was jarred witless when I laid my eyes on that young
woman. I'd had my mind made up so thorough as to what she must be
that the facts knocked me cold. She was the sweetest, handsomest,
healthiest female I ever see. It would make you believe in fairy
stories again just to look at her. She was all the things a man
ever wanted in this world rolled up in a prize package. Tall,
round and soople, limber and springy in her action as a
thoroughbred, and with something modest yet kind of daring in her
face that would remind you of a good, honest boy. Red, white, and
black were the colours she flew. Hair and eyes black, cheeks and
lips red, and the rest of her white. Now, there's a pile of
difference in them colours; when you say 'red,' for instance, you
ain't cleaned up the subject by a sight. My top-knot's red, but
that wasn't the colour of Loy's cheeks. No; that was a colour I
never saw before nor since. A rose would look like a tomater
alongside of 'em. Then, too, I've seen black eyes so hard and
shiny you could cut glass with 'em. And again that wasn't her
style. The only way you could get a notion of what them eyes were
like would be to look at 'em; you'd remember 'em all right if you
did. Seems like the good Lord was kind of careless when he built
Jonesy, but when he turned that girl out he played square with the
"I ain't what you might call a man that's easily disturbed in his
mind, but I know I says to myself that first day, 'If I was ten
year younger, young lady, they'd never lug you back East again.'
Gee, man! There was a time when I'd have pulled the country up by
the roots but I'd have had that girl! I notice I don't fall in
love so violent as the years roll on. I can squint my eye over the
cards now and say, 'Yes, that's a beautiful hand, but I reckon I'd
better stay out,' and lay 'em down without a sigh; whereas, when I
was a young feller, it I had three aces in sight I'd raise the rest
of the gathering right out of their foot-leather--or get caught at
it. Usually I got caught at it, for a man couldn't run the mint
long with the kind of luck I have.
"Well, I was plumb disgusted with the fool way I'd rigged myself
up, but, fortunately for me, Darragh, the station-man, came out
with the girl. 'There's Reddy, from your ranch now, ma'am,' says
he, and when he caught sight of me, 'What's the matter, Red; are
the Injuns up?'
"Darragh was a serious Irishman, and that's the mournfullest thing
on top of the globe; and besides, he believed anything you'd tell
him. There ain't any George Washington strain in my stock, so I
proceeded to get out of trouble.
"'They ain't up exactly,' says I, 'but it looked as if they were a
leetle on the rise, and being as I had a lady to look out for, I
thought I'd play safe.'
"The colour kind of went out of the girl's cheeks. Eastern folks
are scandalous afraid of Injuns.
"'Perhaps I'd better not start?' says she.
"'Don't you be scart, miss,' says Darragh. 'You're all right as
long as you're with Red--he's the toughest proposition we've got in
this part of the country.'
"'I'm obliged to you, Darragh,' says I. He meant well, but hell's
full of them people. I'd have given a month's wages for one lick
at him. Nice reputation to give me before that girl! She eyed me
"I stepped up to her, with my hat in my hand. 'Miss Andree,' says
I (she was Jonesy's sisters child), 'if you come along with me I'll
guarantee you a safe journey. If any harm reaches you it will be
after one of the liveliest times in the history of the Territory.'
"At this she laughed. 'Very well,' says she, 'I'll chance it, Mr.
"'His name ain't Red,' puts in Darragh, solemn. 'His name's
Saunders. We call him Red becus uf his hair.'
"'I'm sure I beg your pardon,' says Miss Loys, all of a fluster.
"'That's all right, ma'am; no damage done at all,' says I. 'It's
useless for me to try to conceal the fact that my hair is a little
on the auburn. You mustn't mind what Darragh says. We've had a
good deal of hot weather lately and his brains have gone wrong.
Now hop in and we'll touch the breeze,' So I piled her trunk in
and away we flew.
"Bud and Dandy were a corking little team. They'd run the whole
distance from the railway to the ranch if you'd let 'em--and I
never interfered. A straight line and the keen jump hits me all
right when I'm going some place, although I can loaf with the next
man on occasion. So we missed most of the gulleys.
"The ponies were snorting and pulling grass, the buckboard bouncing
behind 'em like a rubber ball, and we were crowding into the teeth
of the northwest wind, which made it seem as if we were travelling
100 per cent. better than a Dutch clock would show.
"'Goodness gracious!' says the girl, 'do you always go like this in
this country? And aren't there any roads?'
"'Why, no,' says I. 'Hike!' and I snapped the blacksnake over the
ponies' ears, and they strung themselves out like a brace of
coyotes, nearly pulling the buckboard out from under us.
'Sometimes we travel like _this_,' I says. 'And as for roads, I
despise 'em. You're not afraid, are you?'
"'Indeed I'm not. I think it's glorious. Might I drive?'
"'If I can smoke,' says I, 'then _you_ can drive.' I'd heard about
young women who'd been brought up so tender that tobacker smoke
would ruin their morals or something, and I kind of wondered if she
was that sort.
"'That's a bargain,' says she prompt. 'But how you're going to
light a cigar in this wind I don't see.'
"'Cigarette,' says I. 'And if you would kindly hold my hat until I
get one rolled I'll take it kind of you.'
"'But what about the horses?' says she.
"'Put your foot on the lines and they'll make. That's the main and
only art of driving on the prairie--not to let the lines get under
the horses' feet--all the rest is just sit still and look at the
"She held my hat for a wind-break, and I got my paper pipe
together. And then--not a match. I searched every pocket. Not a
lucifer. That is more of what I got for being funny and changing
my clothes. And then she happened to think of a box she had for
travelling, and fished it out of her grip.
"'Young lady,' I says, 'until it comes to be your bad luck--which I
hope won't ever happen--to be very much in love with a man who
won't play back, you'll never properly know the pangs of a man
that's got all the materials to smoke with except the fire. Now,
if I have a chance to do as much for you sometime, I'm there.'
"She laughed and crinkled up her eyes at me. 'All right, Mr.
Saunders. When that obdurate man disdains me, I'll call for your
"'The place for the man that would disdain you is an asylum,' says
I. 'And the only help I'd give you would be to put him there.'
She blushed real nice. I like to see a woman blush. It's a trick
they can't learn.
"But I see she was put out by my easy talk, so I gave her a pat on
the back and says, 'Don't mind me, little girl. We fellers see an
eighteen-carat woman so seldom that it goes to our heads. There
wasn't no offence meant, and you'll be foolish if you put it there.
Let's shake hands.'
"So she laughed again and shook. I mean _shook_. It wasn't like
handing you so much cold fish--the way some women shake hands. And
Loys and me, we were full pards from date.
"I made one more bad break on the home trip.
"'Jonesy will be powerful glad to see you,' says I.
"'Jonesy!' says she, surprised. 'Jonesy! Oh, is that what you
call Uncle Albert?'
"'Well, it does sometimes happen that way," says I. And then my
anti-George Washington blood rose again. 'You see, he was kind of
lonesome out there at first, and we took to calling him Jonesy to
cheer him up and make him feel at home,' I says.
"'Oh!' says she. And I reckon she didn't feel so horribly awful
about it, for after looking straight towards the Gulf of Mexico for
a minute, suddenly she bust right out and hollered. It seems that
Jones cut a great deal of grass to a swipe when he was back home in
his own street. It's astonishing how little of a man it takes to
do that in the East. We had an argument once on the subject.
'It's intellect does it,' says Silver Tompkins. 'Oh, that's it,
eh?' says Wind-River Smith. 'Well, I'm glad I'm not troubled that
way. I'd rather have a forty-four chest than a number eight head
any day you can find in the almanac.' And I'm with Smithy. This
knowing so much it makes you sick ain't any better than being so
healthy you don't know nothing, besides being square miles less
fun. Another thing about the Eastern folks is they're so sot in
their views, and it don't matter to them whether the facts bear out
their idees or not.
"'Here, take a cigar,' says one of the Board of Directors to me--a
little fat old man, who had to draw in his breath before he could
cross his legs--'them cigarettes'll ruin your health,' says he.
Mind you, he was always kicking and roaring about his liver or
stummick, or some of his works. I'm a little over six-foot-three
in my boots when I stand up straight, and I stood up straight as
the Lord would let me and gazed down at that little man.
'Pardner,' says I, 'I was raised on cigarettes. When I was two
years old I used to have a pull at the bottle, and then my
cigarette to aid digestion. It may be conceit on my part,' I says,
'but I'd rather be a wreck like me than a prize-fighter like you.'
They're queer; you'd think that that little fat man would have
noticed the difference without my pointing it out to him.
"Well, I don't have to mention that Loys stirred things up
considerable around the Chanta Seechee and vicinity. Gee! What a
diving into wannegans and a fetching out of good clothes there was.
And trading of useful coats and things for useless but decorating
silk handkerchers and things! And what a hair cutting and whisker
"But Kyle was the man from the go in. And it was right it should
be so. If ever two young people were born to make trouble for each
other it was Kyle and Loys.
"A nice, decent fellow was Kyle. Nothing remarkable, you could
say, and that was one of his best points. Howsomever, he had a
head that could do plain thinking, a pair of shoulders that
discouraged frivoling, and he was as square a piece of furniture as
ever came out of a factory. More'n that; he had quite a little
education, saved his money, never got more than good-natured
loaded, and he could ride anything that had four legs, from a
sawhorse to old tiger Buck, who would kick your both feet out of
the sturrups and reach around and bite you in the small of the back
so quick that the boys would be pulling his front hoofs out of your
frame before you'd realize that the canter had begun. Nice horse,
Buck. He like to eat Jonesy up one morning before Sliver and me
could get to the corral. Lord! The sounds made my blood run cold!
Old Buck squealing like a boar-pig in a wolf trap, and Jonesy
yelling, 'Help! Murder! Police!' Even that did not cure Jones
from sticking his nose where it wasn't wanted. Why, once--but
thunder! It would take me a long while to tell you all that
happened to Jones.
"One thing that didn't hurt Kyle any in the campaign was that he
was 'most as good-looking for a man as she was for a woman. They
made a pair to draw to, I tell you, loping over the prairie, full
of health and youngness! You wouldn't want to see a prettier sight
than they made, and you could see it at any time, for they were
together whenever it was possible. Loys was so happy it made you
feel like a boy again to see her. She told me in private that it
was wonderful how the air out here agreed with her, and I said it
was considered mighty bracing, and never let on that they
proclaimed their state of mind every time they looked at each
other. I reckon old smart-Aleck Jonesy was the only party in the
township who didn't understand. Kyle used to put vinegar in his
coffee and things like that, and if you'd ask him, 'What's that
fellow's name that runs the clothing store in town?' he'd come out
of his trance and say 'Yes,' and smile very amiable, to show that
he thoroughly admitted you were right.
"Well, things went as smooth and easy as bob-sledding until it came
time for Loys to be moseying back to college again.
"Then Kyle took me into his confidence. I never was less
astonished in my whole life, and I didn't tell him so. 'Well, what
are you going to do about it?' says I.
"He kind of groaned and shook his head. 'I dunno,' says he. 'Do
you think she likes me, Red?' I felt like saying, 'Well, if you
ain't got all the traits but the long ears, I miss my guess,' but I
made allowances, and says I, 'Well, about that, I don't think I
ought to say anything; still, if I had only one eye left I could
see plain that her education's finished. She don't want any more
college, that girl don't.'
"'Think not?' says he, bracing up. And then, by-and-by, they went
out to ride, for Jonesy was good to the girl, I'll say that for
him. He was willing to do anything for her in reason, according to
his views. But Kyle wasn't in them views; he was out of the
picture as far as husbands went.
"They came back at sunset, when the whole world was glowing red the
same as they were. I reached for the field glasses and took a
squint at them. There was no harm in that, for they were
well-behaved young folks. One look at their faces was enough.
There were three of us in the bull-pen--Bob, and Wind-River Smith,
and myself. We'd brought up a herd of calves from Nanley's ranch,
and we were taking it easy. 'Boys,' says I, under my breath,
'they've made the riffle.'
"'No!' says they, and then everybody had to take a pull at the
"'Well, I'm glad,' says Smithy. And darn my buttons if that old
hardshell's voice didn't shake. 'They're two of as nice kids as
you'd find in many a weary day,' says he. 'And I wish 'em all the
luck in the world.'
"'So do I,' says I, 'and I really think the best we could do for
'em would be to shoot Jones.'
"'Man! Won't he sizz!' says Bob. And you can't blame us old
codgers if we had a laugh at that, although it was such a powerful
serious matter to the youngsters.
"'Let's go out and meet 'em,' says I. And away we went. They
weren't a particle surprised. I suppose they thought the whole
universe had stopped to look on. We pump-handled away and laughed,
and Loys she laughed kind of teary, and Kyle he looked red in the
face and proud and happy and ashamed of himself, and we all felt
loosened up considerable, but I told him on the quiet, 'Take that
fool grin off your face, unless you want Uncle Jones to drop the
moment he sees you.'
"Now they only had three days left to get an action on them, as
that was the time set for Loys to go back to college.
"Next day they held a council behind the big barn, and they called
in Uncle Red--otherwise known as Big Red Saunders, or Chanta
Seechee Red, which means 'Bad-heart Red' in Sioux language, and
doesn't explain me by a durn sight--to get the benefit of his
"'Skip,' says I. 'Fly for town and get married, and come back and
tell Jonesy about it. It's a pesky sight stronger argument to tell
him what you have done than what you're going to do.'
"They couldn't quite agree with that. They thought it was sneaky.
"'So it is,' says I. 'The first art of war is understanding how to
make a grand sneak. If you don't want to take my advice you can
wait.' That didn't hit 'em just right either.
"'What will we wait for?' says Kyle.
"'Exercise--and the kind you won't take when you get as old and as
sensible as me. You're taking long chances, both of you; but it's
just like playing cards, you might as well put all your money on
the first turn, win or lose, as to try and play system. Systems
don't work in faro, nor love affairs, nor any other game of chance.
Be gone. Put your marker on the grand raffle. In other words take
the first horse to town and get married. Ten chances to one Jonesy
will have the laugh on you before the year is out.'
"'I don't think you are a bit nice to-day, Red,' says Loys.
"'He's jealous,' says Kyle.
"'That's what I am, young man,' says I. 'If I had ten years off my
shoulders, and a little of the glow off my hair, I'd give you a run
for your alley that would leave you breathless at the wind-up.'
"'I think your hair is a beautiful color, Red,' says Loys. 'Many a
woman would like to have it.'
"'Of course they would,' I answered. 'But they don't get it. I'm
foxy, I am.' Still I was touched in a tender spot. That young
woman knew Just the right thing to say, by nature. 'Well, what are
you young folks going to do?' I asked them.
"They decided that they'd think it over until next day, but that
turned out to be too late, for what must Kyle do but get chucked
from his horse and have his leg broke near the hip. You don't want
to take any love affairs onto the back of a bad horse, now you mark
me! There was no such thing as downing that boy when he was in his
"Now here was a hurrah! Loys, she dasn't cry, for fear of uncle,
and Kyle, he used the sinfullest language known to the tongue of
man. 'Twas the first time I'd ever heard him say anything much,
but he made it clear that it wasn't because he couldn't.
"'What will we do, Red? What will we do?' says he.
"'Now,' says I, 'don't bile over like that, because it's bad for
"He cussed the leg.
"'Go on and tell me what we can do,' says he.
"'When you ask me that, you've pulled the right bell,' says I.
'I'll tell you exactly what we'll do. I go for the doctor. Savvy?
Well, I bring back the minister at the same time. Angevine, he
loses the Jersey cow over in the cane-break, and uncle and Angevine
go hunting her, for not even Loys is ace high in uncle's mind
alongside that cow. The rest is easy.'
"'Red, you're a brick--you're the best fellow alive,' says Kyle,
nearly squeezing the hand off me.
"'I've tried to conceal it all my life, but I knew it would be
discovered some day,' says I. 'Well, I suppose I'd better break
the news to Loys--'twouldn't be any more than polite.'
"'Oh, Lord! I wonder if she'll be willing?' says he.
"'No reason I shouldn't turn an honest dollar on the
transaction--I'll bet you a month's wages she is,' says I. He
wanted to do it, thinking I was in earnest, but I laughed at him.
"She was willing all right--even anxious. There's some women, and
men, too, for that matter, who go through life like a cat through a
back alley, not caring a cuss for either end or the middle. They
would have been content to wait. Not so Loys. She wanted her
Kyle, her poor Kyle, and she wanted him quick. That's the kind of
people for me! Your cautious folk are all the time falling down
wells because their eyes are up in the air, keeping tabs so that
they can dodge shooting stars.
"Now, I had a minister friend up in town, Father Slade by name.
No, he was not a Catholic, I think. They called him 'Father'
because it fitted him. His church had a steeple on it, anyhow, so
it was no maverick. Just what particular kind of religion the old
man had I don't know, but I should say he was a homeopath on a
guess. He looked it. 'Twas a comfort to see him coming down the
street, his old face shining in his white hair like a shrivelled
pink apple in a snowdrift, God-blessing everything in sight--good,
bad, or indifferent. He had something pleasant to say to all. We
was quite friends, and every once in a while we'd have a chin about
"'Are you keeping straight, Red?' he'd ask when we parted.
"'Um,' I'd say, 'I'm afraid you'd notice a bend here and there, if
you Slid your eyes along the edge.'
"'Well, keep as straight as you can; don't give up trying, my boy,'
he'd tell me, mighty earnest, and I'd feel ashamed of myself clear
around the corner.
"I knew the old man would do me a favour if it could be done, so I
pulled out easy in my mind.
"First place, I stopped at the doctor's, because I felt they might
fix up the marrying business some other time, but if a leg that's
broke in the upper joint ain't set right, you can see a large
dark-complected hunk of trouble over the party's left shoulder for
the rest of his days. The doctor was out, so I left word for him
what was wanted, and to be ready when I got back, and pulled for
Father Slade's. The old gentleman had the rheumatism, and he
groaned when I come in. Rheumatism's no disease for people who
"'How are you, my boy?' says he; 'I'm glad to see you. Here am I,
an old man, nipped by the leg, and much wanting to talk to
"I passed the time of day to him, but felt kind of blue. This
didn't look like keeping my word with the kids. I really hated to
say anything to the old man, knowing his disposition; still I felt
I had to, and I out with my story.
"'Dear! dear!' says he. 'The hurry and skurry of young folks! How
idle it seems when you get fifty years away from it, and see how
little anything counts! For all that, I thank God,' says he, 'that
there's a little red left in my blood yet, which makes me
sympathise with them. But the girl's people object you say?'
"I made that all clear to him. The girl's _always_ all right,
Father,' says I, 'and as for the man in this case, my word for him.'
"Now it ain't just the right thing for me to say, but seeing as
I've never had anything in particular to be modest about, and I'm
proud of what the old gentleman told me, I'm going to repeat it.
"'Your word is good for me, Red,' says he. 'You're a mischievous
boy at times, but your heart and your head are both reliable; give
me your arm to the waggon.'
"Then I felt mighty sorry to think of lugging that poor old man all
"'Here!' says I. 'Now you sit down again; don't you do anything of
the sort--you ain't fit.'
"He put his hand on my shoulder and hobbled his weight off the game
"'Reddy, I was sitting there thinking when you came in--thinking of
how comfortable it was to be in an easy-chair with my foot on a
stool, and then I thought, "If the Lord should send me some work to
do, would I be willing?" Now, thanks be to Him! I am willing, and
glad to find myself so, and I do not believe there's any work more
acceptable to Him than the union of young folk who love each other.
Ouch!' says he, as that foot touched the ground. 'Perhaps you'd
better pick me up and carry me bodily.'
"So I did it, the old housekeeper following us with an armful of
things and jawing the both of us--him for a fool and me for a
villain. She was a strong-minded old lady, and I wish I could
remember some of her talk--it was great.
"We went around and got the doctor.
"'Hoo!' says he. 'Is it as bad as that?' I winked at Father Slade.
"'It's a plenty worse than that,' says I; 'you won't know the half
of it till you get down there.'
"But of course we had to tell him, and he was tickled. Funny what
an interest everybody takes in these happenings. He wanted all the
"'By Jove!' says he, 'the man whose feelings ain't the least dimmed
by a broken leg--horse rolled on him, you said? Splintered it,
probably--that man is one of the right sort. He'll do to tie to.'
"When we reached the ranch the boys were lined up to meet us.
'Hurry along!' they called. 'Angey can't keep uncle amused all
"So we hustled. Kyle was for being married first, and then having
his leg set, but I put my foot down flat. It had gone long enough
now, and I wasn't going to have him cripping it all his life. But
the doctor worked like a man who gets paid by the piece, and in
less than no time we were able to call Loys in.
"Wind-River Smith spoke to get to give the bride away, and we let
him have it.
"We'd just got settled to business when in comes Angevine, puffing
like a buffalo. 'For Heaven's sakes! Ain't you finished yet?' says
he; 'well, you want to be at it, for the old man ain't over two
minutes behind me, coming fast. I took the distance in ten-foot
steps. Just my luck! Foot slipped when I was talking to him, and
I dropped a remark that made him suspicious--I wouldn't have done
it for a ton of money--but it's too late now. I'll down him and
hold him out there if you say so.'
"Well, sir, at this old Father Slade stood right up, forgetting
that foot entirely.
"'Children, be ready,' says he, and he went over the line for a
"'Hurry there!' hollers old Bob from the outside, where he was on
watch; 'here comes uncle up the long coulee!'
"'What are your names?' says Father Slade. They told him, both
"'Do you, Kyle, take this woman, Loys, to have and keep track of,
come hell or high water, her heirs and assigns for ever?'--or such
a matter--says he, all in one breath, They both said they did.
"Things flew till we came to the ring. There was a hitch. We had
plumb forgotten that important article. For a minute I felt
stingy; then I cussed myself for a mean old long-horn, and dived
into my box.
"'Here, take this!' I says. 'It was my mother's!'
"'Oh, Red! You mustn't part with that!' cried Loys, her eyes
"'Don't waste time talking; I put through what I tackle. Hurry,
"'Has anybody any objections to these proceedings?' says he.
"'I have,' says I, 'but I won't mention 'em. Give them the
"'I pronounce you man and wife. Let us pray,' says he.
"'What's that?' screeches Uncle Jonesy from the doorway. And then
he gave us the queerest prayer you ever heard in your life. He
stood on one toe and clawed chunks out of the air while he
"He seemed to have it in for me in particular. 'You villain! You
rascal! You red-headed rascal! You did this! I know you did!'
"'Oh, uncle!' says I, 'forgive me!' With that I hugged him right
up to me, and he filled my bosom full of smothered language.
"'Cheese it, you little cuss!' I whispered in his ear, 'or I'll
break every rib in your poor old chest!' I came in on him a
trifle, Just to show him what I could do if I tried.
"'Nuff!' he wheezes. 'Quit. 'Nuff.'
"'Go up and congratulate 'em,' I whispered again.
"'I won't,' says he. 'Ouch! Yes, I will! I will!' So up he
goes, grinding his teeth.
"'I wish you every happiness,' he grunts.
"'Won't you forgive me, uncle?' begs Loys.
"'Some other time; some other time!' he hollers, and he pranced
out of the house like a hosstyle spider, the maddest little man in
"Loys had a hard time of it until Kyle got so he could travel, and
they went up to the Yellowstone with a team for a wedding trip.
"The rest of Loys's folks was in an unpleasant frame of mind, too.
They sent out her brother, and while I'd have took most anything
from Loys's brother, there comes a place where human nature is
human nature, and the upshot of it was I planked that young man
gently but firmly across my knees. Suffering Ike! But he was one
sassy young man! Howsomever, the whole outfit came round in
time--all except uncle and me. He used to grit his teeth together
till the sparks flew when he saw me. I was afraid he'd bust a
blood-vessel in one of them fits, so I quit. I hated to let go of
the old ranch, but I'm pretty well fixed--I'm superintendent here.
It's Kyle's ranch, you know. That's his brand--the queer-looking
thing on the left hip of that critter, over the vented hash-knife.
Loys's invention, that is. She says it's a cherublim, but we call
it the 'flying flap-jack.' There's a right smart lot of beef
critters toting that signal around this part of the country.
Kyle's one of the fellers that rises like a setting of bread--quiet
and gentle, but steady and sure. He's going to the State
Legislature next year. 'Twon't do no harm to have one honest man
in the outfit.
"Now, perhaps if I'd married some nice woman I might have had 1,000
steers of my own, and a chance to make rules and regulations for my
feller-citizens--and then again I might have took to gambling and
drinking and raising blazes, and broke my poor wife's broom-handle
with my hard head. So I reckon we'll let it slide as it is. Now
you straddle that cayuse of yours and come along with me and I'll
show you some rattling colts."
The Golden Ford
Reddy was on the station platform, walking up and down, looking
about him anxiously. We caught sight of each other at the same
"Hi, there!" said he and jumped for me. "Gad-dog your little
hide!" he cried as he put my right hand in line for a pension. "I
thought I was booked to go without saying good-bye to you--you got
the note I pinned on your shack?"
"Well, there's time for a chin before the choo-choo starts--thought
I'd be early, not savvying this kind of travelling a great deal.
Darned if you ain't growed since I saw you--getting fat, too!
Well, how's everything? I didn't say nothing to the other boys
about pulling my freight, as I wanted to go sober for once. You
explain to 'em that old Red's head ain't swelled, will you? Seems
kind of dirty to go off that way, but I'm bound for God's country
and the old-time folks, and somehow I feel that I must cut the
budge out of it. 'Nother thing is I'm superstitious, as you may or
may not have noticed, and I believe if you try the same game twicet
you'll get just as different results as can be the second time--you
heard how I hit it in the mines, didn't you? No? Well, that's so;
you dint seen many people out on the flat, have you? Hum. I don't
know principally where to begin. You remember Wind-River Smith's
pardner that the boys called Shadder, because he was so thin? Nice
feller, always willing to do you a favour, or say something comical
when you least expected it--had kind of a style with him, too.
Yes, sir, that's the man. Well him and me was out in the Bend one
day, holding a mess of Oregon half-breeds that was to be shipped by
train shortly, when old Smithy comes with the mail. 'Letter for
you, Shadder,' says Smith, and passes over a big envelope with wads
of sealing wax all over it. Shadder reads his letter, and folds it
up. Then he takes a look over the county--the kind of a look a man
gives when he's thinking hard. Then says he, 'Red, take off your
hat.' I done it. 'Smithy, take off your hat.' 'All right,' says
Smith; 'but you tell me why, or I'll snake the shirt off you to
"'Boys,' says Shadder, 'I'm Lord Walford.'
"'Lord Hellford;' hollers Smithy. 'You'd better call somebody in
to look at your plumbing--what you been drinkin', Shadder?'
"'Read for yourself,' says Shadder, and he handed him the letter.
"Wish't you could have seen old Smithy's face as he read it! He
thought his pardner had been cut out of his herd for ever.
"'It's the God's truth, Red,' says he slowly, and he had a sideways
smile on his face as he turned to Shadder. 'Well, sir,' says he,
'I suppose congratulations are in order?'
"Shadder's hand stopped short on its way to the cigarette, and he
looked at Smithy as if he couldn't believe what he saw.
"'To hell with 'em!' says he, as savage as a wildcat, and he jabbed
the irons in and whirled his cayuse about on one toe, heading for
"'Now you go after him, you jealous old sore-head,' says I. 'Go
on!' I says, as he started to argue the point, 'or I'll spread your
nose all the way down your spinal column!' The only time to say
'no' to me is when I'm not meaning what I say, so away goes
Wind-River, and they made it up all right in no time. Well,
Shadder had to pull for England to take a squint at the ancestral
estates, and all of us was right here at this station to see him
off--Lord! it seems as if that happened last world!--well, it took
a little bit the edge off any and all drunks a ranch as an
institution had ever seen before. There was old Smithy crying
around, wiping his eyes on his sleeve, and explaining to a lot of
Eastern folks that it wasn't Shadder's fault--gad-hook it all! He
was the best, hootin', tootin' son-of-a-sea-cook that ever hit a
prairie breeze, in spite of this dum foolishness.
"'They can't make no "lord" of Shadder!' hollers Smithy. 'That is,
not for long--he's a _man_, Shadder is--ain't cher, yer damned old
"And Shadder never lost his patience at all, though it must have
been kind of trying to be made into such a holy show before the
kind of people he used to be used to. All he'd say was 'Bet your
life, old boy!' Well, it was right enough too, as Smithy had
nursed him through small-pox one winter up in the Shoshonee
country, and mighty near starved himself to death feeding Shadder
out of the slim grub stock, when the boy was on the mend; still
some people would have forgot that.
"But did your uncle Red get under the influence of strong drink?
DID he? Oh _my_! Oh MY! I wish I could make it clear to you.
The vigilantes put after a horse thief once in Montana, and they
landed on him in a butt-end canon, and there was all the stock with
the brands on 'em as big as a patent medicine sign, as the lad
hadn't had time to stop for alterations.
"'Well,' says they, 'what have you got to say for yourself?' He
looked at them brands staring him in the face, and he bit off a
small hunk of chewing 'Ptt-chay!' Says he, 'Gentlemen, I'm at a
loss for words!' And they let him go, as a good joke is worth its
price in any man's country. I'm in that lad's fix; I ain't got the
words to tell you how seriously drunk I was on that occasion. I
remember putting for what I thought was the hotel, and settling
down, thinking there must be a lulu of a scrap in the barroom from
the noise; then somebody gave me a punch in the ribs and says,
'Where's your ticket?' and I don't know what I said nor what he
said after that, but it must have been all right. Then it got
light and I met a lot of good friends I never saw before nor since;
then more noise and trouble and at last I woke up.--in a hotel
bedroom, all right, but not the one I was used to. I went to the
window, heaved her open and looked out. It was a bully morning and
I felt A1. There was a nice range of mountains out in front of me
that must have come up during' the night. 'I'd like to know where
I am,' I thinks. 'But somebody will tell me before long, so there
is no use worrying about that--the main point is, have I been
touched?' I dug down into my jeans and there wasn't a thing of any
kind to remember me by. 'No,' I says to myself, 'I ain't been
touched--I've been grabbed--they might have left me the price of a
breakfast! Well, it's a nice looking country, anyhow!' So down I
walks to the office. A cheerful-seeming plump kind of a man was
sitting behind the desk. 'Hello!' says he, glancing up and smiling
as I came in. 'How do you open up this morning?'
"'Somebody saved me the trouble,' says I. 'I'm afraid I'll have to
give you the strong arm for breakfast.'
"He grinned wide. 'Oh, it ain't as bad as that, I hardly reckon,'
says he. He dove into a safe and brought out a cigar-box.
"'When a gentleman's in the condition you was in last night,' he
says, 'I always make it a point to go through his clothes and take
out anything a stranger might find useful, trusting that there
won't be no offence the next morning. Here's your watch and the
rest of your valuables, including the cash--count your money and
see if it's right.'
"Well, sir! I was one happy man, and I thanked that feller as I
thumbed over the bills, but when I got up to a hundred and seventy
I begun to feel queer. Looked like I'd made good money on the trip.
"'What's the matter?' says he, seeing my face. 'Nothing wrong, I
"'Why, the watch and the gun, and the other things is all right,'
says I. 'But I'm now fifty dollars to the good, even figuring that
I didn't spend a cent, which ain't in the least likely, and here's
ten-dollar bills enough to make a bed-spread left over.'
"'Pshaw!' says he. 'Blame it! I've mixed your plunder up with the
mining gentleman that came in at the same time. You and him was
bound to fight at first, and then you both turned to to lick me,
and what with keeping you apart and holding you off, and taking
your valuables away from you all at the same time, and me all alone
here as it was the night-man's day-off, I've made a blunder of it.
Just take your change out of the wad, and call for a drink on me
when you feel like it, will you?'
"I said I would do that, and moreover that he was an officer and a
gentleman, and that I'd stay at his hotel two weeks at least to
show my appreciation, no matter where it was, but to satisfy a
natural curiosity, I'd like to know what part of the country I was
at present inhabiting.
"'You're at Boise, Idaho,' says he, 'one of the best little towns
in the best little Territory in the United States of America,
"'Well . . .' says I. 'Well . . .' for again I was at a loss for
words. I had no idea I'd gone so far from home. 'I believe what
you say,' says I. 'What do you do around these parts?'
"'Mining,' says he. 'You're just in time--big strike in the
Bob-cat district. Poor man's mining. Placer, and durned good
placer, right on the top of the ground. The mining gentleman I
spoke about is having his breakfast now. Suppose you go in and
have a talk with him? Nice man, drunk or sober, although excitable
when he's had a little too much, or not quite enough. He might put
you onto a good thing. I'm not a mining person myself.'
"'Thanks,' says I, and in I went to the dining room.
There was a great, big, fine-looking man eating his ham and eggs
the way I like to see a man eat the next morning. He had a black
beard that was so strong it fairly jumped out from his face.
"'Mornin',' says I.
"'Good morning', sir!' says he. 'A day of commingled lucent
clarity and vernal softness, ain't it?'
"'Well, I wouldn't care to bet on that without going a little
deeper into the subject,' says I; 'but it smells good at least--so
does that ham and eggs. Mary, I'll take the same, with coffee
"'You have doubtless been attracted to our small but growing city
from the reports--which are happily true--of the inexhaustible
mineral wealth of the surrounding region?' says he.
"'No-o--not exactly,' says I; 'but I do want to hear something
about mines. Mr. Hotel-man out there (who's a gentleman of the old
school if ever there lived one) told me that you might put me on to
a good thing.'
"'Precisely,' says he. 'Now, sir, my name is Jones--Agamemnon G.
Jones--and my pardner, Mr. H. Smith, is on a business trip, selling
shares of our mine, which we have called "The Treasury" from
reasons which we can make obvious to any investor. The shares, Mr.
"'Saunders--Red Saunders--Chantay Seeche Red.'
"'Mr. Saunders, are fifty cents apiece, which price is really only
put upon them to avoid the offensive attitude of dealing them out
as charity. As a matter of fact, this mine of ours contains a
store of gold which would upset the commercial world, were the bare
facts of its extent known. There is neither sense nor amusement in
confining such enormous treasure in the hands of two people.
Consequently, my pardner and I are presenting an interest to the
public, putting the nominal figure of fifty cents a share upon it,
to save the feelings of our beneficiaries.'
"'What the devil do I care?' says I. 'I'm looking for a chance to
dig--could you tell a man where to go?'
"'Oh!' says he, 'when you come to that, that's different. Strictly
speaking, my pardner Hy hasn't gone off on a business trip. As a
matter of fact, he left town night before last with two-thirds of
the money we'd pulled out of a pocket up on Silver Creek, in the
company of two half-breed Injuns, a Chinaman, and four more
sons-of-guns not classified, all in such a state of beastly
intoxication that their purpose, route, and destination are matters
of the wildest conjecture. I've been laying around town here
hating myself to death, thinking perhaps I could sell some shares
in a mine that we'll find yet, if we have good luck. If you want
to go wild-catting over the hills and far away, I'm your
"'That hits me all right,' says I. 'For, what I don't know about
mining, nobody don't know. When do we start?'
"'This, or any other minute,' says he, getting up from the table.
"'Wait till I finish up these eggs,' says I. 'And there's a matter
of one drink coming to me outside--I may as well put that where it
won't harm any one else before we start.'
"'All right!' says he, waving his hand. 'You'll find me
outside--at your pleasure, sir.'
"I swallered the rest of my breakfast whole and hustled out to the
bar, where my friend and the Hotel-man was waiting. 'Now I'll take
that drink that's coming, and rather than be small about it, I'll
buy one for you too, and then we're off,' says I.
"'You won't do no such thing,' says the Hotel-man. 'It's a horse
on me, and I'll supply the liquor. Mr. Jones is in the play as
much as anybody.'
"So the Hotel-man set 'em up, and that made one drink. Then Jones
said he'd never let a drink suffer from lonesomeness yet when he
had the price, and that made two drinks. I had to uphold the
honour of the ranch, and that made three drinks. Hotel-man said it
was up-sticks now, and he meant to pay his just debts like an
honest man, and that made four drinks, then Jones said--well, by
this time I see I needn't have hurried breakfast so much. More
people came in. I woke up the next morning in the same old
bedroom. Every breakfast Aggy and me got ready to pull for the
mines, and every morning I woke up in the bedroom. I should like
to draw a veil over the next two weeks, but it would have to be a
pretty strong veil to hold it. I tried to keep level with Aggy,
but he'd spend three dollars to my one, and the consequence of that
was that we went broke within fifteen minutes of each other.
"Well, sir, we were a mournful pair to draw to that day. We sat
there and cussed and said, 'Now, why didn't we do this, that, and
t'other thing instead of blowing our hard earned dough?'--till
bimeby we just dripped melancholy, you might say. Howsomever, we
weren't booked for a dull time just yet. That afternoon there was
a great popping of whips like an Injun skirmish and into town comes
a bull train half-a-mile long. Twelve yoke of bulls to the team;
lead, swing, and trail waggons for each, as big as houses on
wheels. You don't see the like of that in this country. Down the
street they come, the dust flying, whips cracking and the lads
hollering 'Whoa haw, Mary--up there! Wherp! whoa haw.'
"And those fellers had picked up dry throats, walking in the dust.
Also, they had a month's wages aching in their pockets. We hadn't
much mor'n got the thump of their arrival out of our ears, when who
comes roaring into town but the Bengal Tiger gang, and they had
four months' wages. Owner of the mine got on a bender and paid
everybody off by mistake. You can hardly imagine how this livened
up things. There ain't nobody less likely to play lame-duck than
me, but there was no dodging the hospitality. The only idea
prevailing was to be rid of the money as soon as possible. The
effects showed right off. You could hear one man telling the folks
for their own good that he was the Old Missouri River, and when he
felt like swelling his banks, it was time for parties who couldn't
swim to hunt the high ground; whilst the gentleman on the next
corner let us know that he was a locomotive carrying three hundred
pounds of steam with the gauge still climbing and the blower on.
When he whistled three times, he said, any intelligent man would
know that there was danger around.
"Well, sir, I put the Old Missouri River to bed that night, and
he'd flattened out to a very small streamlet indeed, while the
locomotive went lame before supper, and had to be put in the
round-house by a couple of pushers. That's the way with fine
ideas. Cold facts comes and puts a crimp in them. Once I knew a
small feller I could have stuck in my pocket and forgot about, but
when we went out and took several prescriptions together on a day,
he spoke to me like this. 'Red,' says he, 'put your little hand in
mine, and we'll go and take a bird's-eye view of the Universe.'
Astonishin' idea, wasn't it? And him not weighing over a hundred
pound. Howsomever, he didn't take any bird's-eye view of the
Universe--he only become strikingly indisposed.
"Well, to get back to Boise, you never in all your life saw so many
men and brothers as was gathered there that day, and old Aggy, he
was one of the centres of attraction. That big voice and black
beard was always where the crowd was thickest, and the wet goods
flowing the freest. 'Gentlemen!' says he, 'Let's lift up our
voices in melody!' That was one of Ag's delusions--he thought he
could sing. So four of 'em got on top of a billiard table and
presented 'Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep' to the company, which
made me feel glad that I hadn't been brought up that way. After Ag
had hip-locked the last low note, another song-bird volunteered.
"This was a little fat Dutchman, with pale blue eyes and a mustache
like two streaks of darning cotton. He had come to town to sell a
pair of beef-steers, but got drawn into the general hilarity, and
now he didn't care a cuss whether he, she, or it ever sold another
steer. He got himself on end and sung 'Leeb Fadderlont moxtrue
eckstein' in a style that made you wonder that the human nose could
stand the strain.
"'Aw, cheese that!' says a feller near the door. 'Come get your
steers, one of 'em's just chased the barber up a telegraph pole!'
"So then we all piled out into the street to see the steers. Sure
enough, there was the barber, sitting on the cross-piece, and the
steer pawing dirt underneath.
"'He done made me come a fast heat from de cohner,' says the
barber. 'I kep' hollerin' "next!" but he ain't pay no 'tention--he
make it "next" fur me, shuah! Yah, yah, yah! You gents orter seen
me start at de bottom, an' slide all de way up disyer telegraft
"One of the bull-whackers went out to rope the steers, and Ag gave
directions from the sidewalk. He wasn't very handy with a riata,
and that's a fact, but the way Ag lit into him was scandalous.
When he'd missed about six casts of his rope, Ag opened up on him:
"'Put a stamp on it and send it to him by mail,' says Aggy, in his
sourcastic way. 'Address it, "Bay Steer, middle of Main St.,
Boise, Idaho. If not delivered within ten days, return to owner,
who can use it to hang himself." Blast my hide if I couldn't stand
here and throw a box-car nearer to the critter! Well, _well_,
WELL! How many left hands have you got, anyhow? Do it up in a wad
and heave it at him for general results--he might get tangled in
"It rattled the bull-whacker, having so much attention drawn to
him, and he stepped on the rope and twisted himself up in it and
was flying light generally.
"'Say!' says Ag, appealing to the crowd, 'won't some kind friend
who's fond of puzzles go down and help that gentleman do himself?'
"That made the whacker mad. He was as red in the face as a lobster.
"'You come down and show what _you_ can do," says he. 'You've got
gas enough for a balloon ascension, but that may be all there is to
"'Oh, I ain't so much,' says Aggy, 'although I'm as good a man
to-day as ever I was in my life--but I have a little friend here
who can rope, down, and ride that critter from here to the
brick-front in five minutes by the watch; and if you've got a
twenty-five dollar bill in your pocket, or its equivalent in dust,
you can observe the experiment.'
"'I'll go you, by gosh!' says the bull-whacker, slapping his hat on
the ground and digging for his pile.
"'Say, if you're referring to me, Ag,' I says, 'it's kind of a
sudden spring--I ain't what you might call in training, and that
steer is full of triple-extract of giant powder.'
"'G'wan!' says Ag. 'You can do it--and then we're twenty-five
"'But suppose we lose?'
"'Well . . . It won't be such an awful loss.'
"'Now you look here, Agamemnon G. Jones,' says I, 'I ain't going to
stand for putting up a summer breeze ag'in' that feller's good
dough--that's a skin game, to speak it pleasantly.'
"Then Aggy argues the case with me, and when Aggy started to argue,
you might just as well 'moo' and chase yourself into the corral,
because he'd get you, sure. Why, that man could sit in the cabin
and make roses bloom right in the middle of the floor; whilst he
was singing his little song you could see 'em and smell 'em; he
could talk a snowbank off a high divide in the middle of February.
Never see anybody with such a medicine tongue, and in a big man it
was all the stranger. 'Now,' he winds up, 'as for cheating that
feller, _you_ ought to know me better, Red--why, I'll give him my
"So, anyhow, I done it. Up the street we went, steer bawling and
buck-jumping, my hair a-flying, and me as busy as the little bee
you read about keeping that steer underneath me, 'stead of on top
of me, where he'd ruther be, and after us the whole town, whoopin',
yellin', crackin' off six-shooters, and carryin' on wild.
"Then we had twenty-five dollars and was as good as anybody. But
it didn't last long. The tin-horns come out after pay-day, like
hop-toads after a rain. 'Twould puzzle the Government at
Washington to know where they hang out in the meantime. There was
one lad had a face on him with about as much expression as a hotel
punkin pie. He run an arrow game, and he talked right straight
along in a voice that had no more bends in it than a billiard cue.
"'Here's where you get your three for one any child may do it no
chance to lose make your bets while the arrow of fortune swings all
gents accommodated in amounts from two-bits to double-eagles and
bets paid on the nail,' says he.
"'Red,' says Aggy, 'I can double our pile right here--let me have
the money. I know this game.' You'd hardly believe it, but I dug
up. 'Double-or-quits?' says he to the dealer.
"'Let her go,' says the dealer; the arrow swung around. 'Quits,'
says the dealer, and raked in my dough. It was all over in one
"I grabbed Aggy by the shoulder and took him in the corner for a
private talk. 'I thought you knew this game?' says I.
"'I do,' says he. 'That's the way it always happens.' And once
more in my life I experienced the peculiar feeling of being
altogether at a loss for words.
"'Aggy,' says I at last, 'I've got a good notion to lay two violent
hands on you, and wind you up like an eight-day clock, but rather
than make hard feelings between friends, I'll refrain. Besides you
are a funny cuss, that's sure. One thing, boy, you can mark down.
We leave here to-morrow morning.'
"'All right,' says Ag. 'This sporting life is the very devil. I
like out doors as well as the next man, when I get there.'
"So the morrow morning, away we went. All we had for kit was the
picks, shovels, and pans; the rest of our belongings was staying
with the Hotel-man until we made a rise.
"Ag said he'd be cussed if he'd walk. A hundred and fifty miles of
a stroll was too many.
"'But we ain't got a cent to pay the stage fare,' says I.
"'Borrow it of Uncle Hotel-keep,' says he.
"'Not by a town site,' says I. 'We owe him all we're going to, at
this very minute--you'll have to hoof it, that's all.'
"'I tell you I won't. I don't like to have anybody walk on my
feet, not even myself. I can stand off that stage driver so easy,
that you'll wonder I don't take it up as a profession. Now, don't
raise any more objections--please don't,' says he. 'I can't tell
you how nervous you make me, always finding some fault with
everything I try to do. That's no way for a hired man to act, let
alone a pardner.'
"So, of course, he got the best of me as usual, and we climbed into
the stage when she come along. Now, our bad luck seemed to hold,
because you wouldn't find many men in that country who wouldn't
stake two fellers to a waggon ride wherever they wanted to go, and
be pleasant about it, I'd have sure seen that the man got paid,
even if Aggy forgot it, but the man that drove us was the surliest
brute that ever growled. When you'd speak to him, he'd say,
'Unh'--a style of thing that didn't go well in that part of the
country. I kept my mouth shut, as knowing that I didn't have the
come-up-with weighed on my spirits; but Aggy gave him the jolly.
He only meant it in fun, and there was plenty of reason for it,
too, for you never seen such a game of driving as that feller put
up in all your life. The Lord save us! He cut around one corner
of a mountain, so that for the longest second I've lived through,
my left foot hung over about a thousand feet of fresh air. I'd
have had time to write my will before I touched bottom if we'd gone
over. I don't know as I turned pale, but my hair ain't been of the
same rosy complexion since.
"'Well!' says Aggy in a surprised tone of voice when we got all
four wheels on the ground again. 'Here we are!' says he. 'Who'd
have suspected it? I thought he was going to take the short cut
down to the creek.'
"The driver turned round with one corner of his lip h'isted--a dead
ringer of a mean man--Says he to Aggy, 'Yer a funny bloke, ain't
"'Why!' says Ag, 'that's for you to say--wouldn't look well coming
from me--but if you press me, I'll admit I give birth to a little
gem now and then.'
"Our bold buck puts on a great swagger. 'Well yer needn't be funny
in this waggon,' says he. 'The pair of yer spongin' a ride! Yer
needn't be gay--yer hear me, don't cher?'
"'Why, I hear you as plain as though you set right next me,' says
Ag. 'Now, you listen and see if I'm audible at the same
range--You're a blasted chump!' he roars, in a tone of voice that
would have carried forty mile. Did _you_ hear that, Red?' he asks
very innocent. I was so hot at the driver's sass--the cussed
low-downness of doing a feller a favour and then heaving it at
him--that you could have lit a match on me anywheres, but to save
me I couldn't help laughing--Ag had the comicallest way!
"At that the driver begins to larrup the horses. I ain't the kind
to feel faint when a cayuse gets what's coming to him for raising
the devil, but to see that lad whale his team because there wasn't
nothing else he dared hit, got me on my hind legs. I nestled one
hand in his hair and twisted his ugly mug back.
"'Quit that!' says I.
"'You let me be--I ain't hurting _you_,' he hollers.
"'That ain't to say I won't be hurting you soon,' says I. 'You put
the bud on them horses again, and I'll boot the spine of your back
up through the top of your head till it stands out like a
flag-staff. Just one more touch, and you get it!' says I.
"He didn't open his mouth again till we come to the river. Then he
pulled up. 'This is about as far as I care to carry you two gents
for nothin',' he says. 'Of course you're two to one, and I can't
do nothing if you see fit to bull the thing through. But I'll say
this: if either one or both of you roosters has got the least smell
of a gentleman about him, he won't have to be told his company
ain't wanted twice.'
"Now, mind you, Ag and me didn't have the first cussed thing--not
grub, nor blankets, nor gun, nor nothing; and this the feller well
"'Red,' says Aggy, 'what do you say to pulling this thing apart and
seeing what makes it act so?'
"'No,' says I, 'don't touch it--it might be catching. Now, you
whelp!' says I to the driver, 'you tell us if there's a place where
we can get anything to eat around here?' We'd expected to go
hungry until we hit the camp some forty mile further on, where we
knew there'd be plenty for anybody that wanted it.
"'Yes,' says he; 'there's a man running a shack two mile up the
"'All right,' says I. 'Drive on. You've played us as dirty a
trick as one man can play another. If we ever get a cinch on you,
you can expect we'll pull her till the latigoes snap.'
"He kept shut till he got across the river, where he felt safe.
"'It's all right about that cinch!' he hollers back, grinning.
'Only wait till you get it, yer suckers! Sponges! Beats!
"Well, a man can't catch a team of horses, and that's all there is
about it, but I want to tell you he was on the anxious seat for a
quarter of a mile. We tried hard.
"When we got back to where we started and could breathe again, we
held a council of war.
"'Now Aggy,' says I, 'we're dumped--what shall we do?'
He sat there awhile looking around him, snapping pebbles with his
"'Tell you what it is, Red,' he says at last, 'we might as well go
mining right here. This is likely gravel, and there's a river. If
that bar in front of you had been further in the mountains, it
would have been punched full of holes. It's only because it's on
the road that nobody's taken the trouble to see what was in it.
This road was made by cattle ranchers, that didn't know nothing
about mining, and every miner that's gone over the trail had his
mouth set to get further along as quick as possible--just like us.
Do you see that little hollow running down to the river? Well you
try your luck there. I give you that place as it's the most
probable, and you as a tenderfoot in the business will have all the
luck. I'll make a stab where I am.'
"Well, sir, it sounds queer to tell it, and it seems queerer still
to think of the doing of it, but I hadn't dug two feet before I
come to bed rock, and there was some heavy black chunks.
"'Aggy,' says I, 'what's these things?' throwing one over to him.
He caught it and Stared at it.
"'Where did you get that?' says he, in almost a whisper.
"'Why, out of the hole, of course!' says I, laughing. 'Come take a
"Aggy wasn't the kind of man to go off the handle over trifles, but
when he looked into that hole he turned perfectly green. His knees
give out from under him and he sat on the ground like a man in a
trance, wiping the sweat off his face with a motion like a machine.
"'What the devil ails you?' says I astonished. I thought maybe I'd
done something I hadn't ought to do, through ignorance of the rules
and regulations of mining.
"'Red,' says he dead solemn, 'I've mined for twenty year, and from
Old Mexico to Alaska, but I never saw anything that was ace-high to
that before. Gold laying loose in chunks on top of the bed-rock is
too much for me--I wish Hy could see this.'
"'Gold!' says I. 'What you talking about? What have those black
hunks to do with gold?'
"The only answer he made was to lay the one I had thrown to him on
top of a rock and hit her a crack with a pick. Then he handed it
to me. Sure enough! There under the black was the yeller. Of
course, it I'd known more about the business I could have told it
by the weight, but I'd never seen a piece of gold fresh off the
farm before in my life. I hadn't the slightest idea what it looked
like, and I learned afterward it all looks different. Some of it
shines up yaller in the start; some of it's red, and some is like
ours, coated black with iron-crust.
"So I looked at Ag, and Ag looked at me, neither one of us
believing anything at all for awhile. I simply couldn't get hold
of the thing--I ain't yet, for that matter. I expect to wake up
and find it a pipe dream, and in some ways I wouldn't mind if it
was. I never was so completely two men as I was on that occasion.
One of 'em was hopping around and hollering with Ag, yelling
'hooray!' and the other didn't take much interest in the
proceedings at all. And it wasn't until I thought, 'Now I can pay
that cussed cayote of a stage driver what I owe him!' that I got
any good out of it. That brought it home to me. When I spoke to
Ag about paying the driver, he says, 'That's so,' then he takes a
quick look around. 'We can pay him in full, too, old horse!' he
hollers, and there was a most joyful smile on his face.
"'Red,' say he, 'do you know this is the only ford on the river
for--I don't know how many miles--perhaps the whole length of her?'
"'Well?' says I.
"'Our little placer claim,' says Aggy slowly, rubbing his hands
together, 'covers that ford; and by a judicious taking up of claims
for various uncles and brothers and friends of ours along the creek
on the lowlands, we can fix it so they can't even bridge it.'
"'Do you mean they can't cross our claim if we say they can't?'
"'Sure thing!' says Aggy. 'There's you and me and the law to say
"no" to that--I wish I had a gun.'
"'You don't need any gun for that skunk of a driver.'
"'Of course not, but there'll be passengers, and there's no telling
how excited them passengers will be when they find they've got to
go over the hills ford-hunting.'
"'Are you going to send 'em all around, Ag?'
"'The whole bunch. Anybody coming back from the diggings has gold
in his clothes, so it won't hurt 'em none, and I propose to give
that stage line an advertising that won't do it a bit of good.
Come along, Red; let's see that lad that has the shack up the
river. We need something to eat, and maybe he's got a gun. If
he's a decent feller, we'll let him in on a claim. Never mind
about the hole!--it won't run away, and there's nobody to touch
"So we went up the river. The man's name was White, and he was a
white man by nature, too. He fed us well, and was just as hot as
us when we told him about the stage driver's trick. Then we told
him about the find and let him in.
"'Now,' says Aggy, 'have you got a gun?'
"'I have _that_,' says the man. 'My dad used to be a duck-hunter
on Chesapeake bay. When you say "gun," _I'll_ show you a gun.' He
dove in under his bunk and fetched out what I should say was a
number one bore shot gun, with barrels six foot long.
"'Gentlemen,' says he, holding the gun up and patting it lovingly,
'if you ram a quarter-pound of powder in each one of them barrels,
and a handful of buck-shot on top of that, you've got an argument
that couldn't be upset by the Supreme Court. I'll guarantee that
when you point her anywheres within ten feet of a man not over a
hundred yards away, and let her do her duty, all the talent that
that man's fambly could employ couldn't gather enough of him to
recognise him by, and you won't be in bed more'n long enough to
heal a busted shoulder.'
"'I hope it ain't going to be my painful line of performance to
pull the trigger,' says Aggy. 'I think the sight of her would have
weight with most people. When's the stage due back?'
"'Day after to-morrow, about noon.'
"'That gives us lots of time to stake, and to salt claims that
can't show cause their own selves,' says Aggy. 'I think we're all
"The next day we worked like the Old Harry. We had everything
fixed up right by nightfall, and there was nothing to do but dig
"Curious folks we all are, ain't we? I should have said my own
self that if I'd found gold by the bucketful, I'd be more
interested in that, than I would be in getting even with a mut that
had done me dirt, but it wasn't so. Perhaps it was because I
hadn't paid much attention to money all my life, and I had paid the
strictest attention to the way other people used me. Living where
there's so few folks accounts for that, I suppose.
"Getting even on our esteemed friend the stage driver was right in
your Uncle Reddy's line, and Aggy and our new pard White seemed to
take kindly to it, also.
"If ever you saw three faces filled with innocent glee, it was when
we heard the wheels of that stage coming--why, the night before I
was woke up by somebody laughing. There was Aggy sound asleep,
sitting up hugging himself in the moonlight.
"'Oh, my! Oh, MY!' says he. 'It's the only ford for four thousand
"We planted a sign in the middle of the road with this wording on
it in big letters, made with the black end of a stick.
THIS AND ADJOINING CLAIMS ARE THE
PROPERTY OF AGAMEMNON G. JONES,
RED SAUNDERS, JOHN HENRY WHITE,
TRESPASSING DONE AT YOUR OWN
RISK. OWNERS WILL NOT BE RESPONSIBLE
FOR THE REMAINS.
"There was a stretch of about a mile on the level before us. When
the stage come in plain sight Aggy proceeds to load up 'Old Moral
Suasion,' as he called her, so that the folks could see there was
no attempt at deception. They come pretty fairly slow after that.
At fifty yards, Ag hollers 'Halt!' The team sat right down on
"'Now, Mr. Snick'umfritz,' says Aggy, 'you that drives, I mean,
come here and read this little sign.'
"'Suppose I don't?' says the feller, trying to be smart before the
"'It's a horrible supposition,' says Aggy, and the innocent will
have to suffer with the guilty.' Then he cocks the gun.
"'God sakes! Don't shoot!' yells one of the passengers. 'Man, you
ought to have more sense than to try and pick him out of a crowd
with a shot-gun! Get down there, you fool, and make it quick!'
"So the driver walked our way, and read. He never said a word. I
reckon he realized it was the only ford for four thousand miles,
more or less, just as Aggy had remarked. There he stood, with his
mouth and eyes wide open.
"'I'd like to have you other gentlemen come up and see our first
clean up, so you won't think we're running in a windy,' says Aggy.
They wanted to see bad, as you can imagine, and when they did see
about fifteen pound of gold in the bottom of my old hat, they
talked like people that hadn't had a Christian bringing up.
"'Oh Lord!' groans one man. 'Brigham Young and all the prophets of
the Mormon religion! This is my tenth trip over this line, and me
and Pete Hendricks played a game of seven-up right on the spot
where that gent hit her, not over a month ago, when the stage broke
down! Somebody just make a guess at the way I feel and give me one
small drink.' And he put his hand to his head. 'Say, boys!' he
goes on, 'you don't want the whole blamed creek, do you? Let _us_
"'How's that, fellers?' says Ag to me and White. We said we was
"'All right, in you come!' says Aggy. 'There ain't no hog about
our firm--but as for you,' says he, walking on his tip-toes up to
the driver, 'as for you, you cock-eyed whelp, around you go!
Around you go!' he hollers, jamming the end of Moral Suasion into
the driver's trap. 'Oh, and WON'T you go 'round, though!' says he.
'Listen to me, now: if any one of your ancestors for twenty-four
generations back had ever done anything as decent as robbing a
hen-coop, it would have conferred a kind of degree of nobility upon
him. It wouldn't be possible to find an ornerier cuss than you, if
a man raked all hell with a fine-toothed comb. Now, you
stare-coated, mangey, bandy-legged, misbegotten, out-law coyote,
fly!--fly!' whoops Aggy, jumping four foot in the air, 'before I
squirt enough lead into your system to make it a paying job to melt
"The stage driver acted according to orders. Three wide steps and
he was in the waggon, and with one screech like a p'izened bob-cat,
he fairly lifted the cayuses over the first ridge. Nobody never
saw him any more, and nobody wanted to.
"So that's the way I hit my stake, son, just as I'd always
expected--by not knowing what I was doing any part of the time--and
now, there comes my iron-horse coughing up the track! I'll write
you sure, boy, and you let old Reddy know what's going on--and on
your life, don't forget to give it to the lads straight why I
sneaked off on the quiet! I've got ten years older in the last six
months. Well, here we go quite fresh, and damned if I altogether
want to, neither--too late to argue though--by-bye, son!"
When the Chinook Struck Fairfield
Miss Mattie sat on her little front porch, facing the setting sun.
Across the road, now ankle deep in June dust, was the wreck of the
Peters place: back-broken roof, crumbling chimneys, shutters
hanging down like broken wings, the old house had the pathetic
appeal of ship-wrecked gentility. A house without people in it,
even when it is in repair, is as forlorn as a dog who has lost his
Up the road were more houses of the nondescript village pattern,
made neither for comfort nor looks. God knows why they built such
houses--perhaps it was in accordance with the old Puritan idea that
any kind of physical perfection is blasphemy. Some of these were
kept in paint and window glass, but there were enough poor
relations to spoil the effect.
Down the road, between the arches of the weeping willows, came
first the brook, with the stone bridge--this broken as to coping
and threadbare in general--then on the hither side of the way some
three or four neighbour's houses, and opposite, the blacksmith's
shop and post-office, the latter, of course, in a store, where you
could buy anything from stale groceries to shingles.
In short, Fairfield was an Eastern village whose cause had
departed. A community drained of the male principle, leaving only
a few queer men, the blacksmith, and some halfling boys, to give
tone to the background of dozens of old maids.
An unsympathetic stranger would have felt that nothing was left to
the Fairfieldians but memory, and the sooner they lost that, the
Take a wineglassful of raspberry vinegar, two tablespoonsful of
sugar, half a cup each of boneset and rhubarb, a good full cup of
the milk of human kindness, dilute in a gallon of water, and you
have the flavor of Fairfield. There was just enough of each
ingredient to spoil the taste of all the rest.
Miss Mattie rested her elbow on the railing, her chin in her hand,
and gazed thoughtfully about her. As a matter of fact, she was the
most inspiring thing in view. At a distance of fifty yards she was
still a tall, slender girl. Her body retained the habit, as well
as the lines of youth; a trick of gliding into unexpected, pleasing
attitudes, which would have been awkward but for the suppleness of
limb to which they testified, and the unconsciousness and ease of
Her face was a child's face in the ennobling sense of the word.
The record of the years written upon it seemed a masquerade--the
face of a clear-eyed girl of fourteen made up to represent her own
aunt at a fancy dress party. A face drawn a trifle fine, a little
ascetic, but balanced by the humour of the large, shapely mouth,
and really beautiful in bone and contour. The beauty of
mignonette, and doves, and gentle things.
You could see that she was thirty-five, in the blatant candor of
noon, but now, blushed with the pink of the setting sun, she was
still in the days of the fairy prince.
Miss Mattie's revery idled over the year upon year of respectable
stupidity that represented life in Fairfield, while her eyes and
soul were in the boiling gold of the sky-glory. She sighed.
A panorama of life minced before Miss Mattie's mind about as vivid
and full of red corpuscles as a Greek frieze. Her affectionate
nature was starved. They visited each other, the ladies of
Fairfield--these women who had rolled on the floor together as
babies--in their best black, or green or whatever it might be, and
gloves! This, though the summer sun might be hammering down with
all his might. And then they sat in a closed room and talked in a
reserved fashion which was entirely the property of the call. Of
course, one could have a moment's real talk by chance meeting, and