Part 2 out of 4
and was led out of the entertainment, which resumed more gayly than ever.
Feet shuffled, the fiddle whined, and truculent treble laughter sounded
through the canvas walls as Toussaint walked between Cutler and the
saloon-man to jail. He was duly indicted, and upon the scout's deposition
committed to trial for the murder of Loomis and Kelley. Cutler, hoping
still to be wagon-master, wrote to Lieutenant Balwin, hearing in reply
that the reinforcements would not arrive for two months. The session of
the court came in one, and Cutler was the Territory's only witness. He
gave his name and age, and hesitated over his occupation.
"Call it poker-dealer," sneered Toussaint's attorney.
"I would, but I'm such a fool one," observed the witness. "Put me down as
wagon-master to the military outfit that's going to White River."
"What is your residence?"
"Well, I reside in the section that lies between the Missouri River and
the Pacific Ocean."
"A pleasant neighborhood," said the judge, who knew Cutler perfectly, and
precisely how well he could deal poker hands.
"It's not a pleasant neighborhood for some." And Cutler looked at
"You think you done with me?" Toussaint inquired, upon which silence was
ordered in the court.
Upon Cutler's testimony the half-breed was found guilty, and sentenced to
be hanged in six weeks from that day. Hearing this, he looked at the
witness. "I see you one day agin," he said.
The scout returned to Fort Laramie, and soon the expected troops arrived,
and the expedition started for White River to join Captain Brent. The
captain was stationed there to impress Red Cloud, and had written to
headquarters that this chief did not seem impressed very deeply, and that
the lives of the settlers were insecure. Reinforcements were accordingly
sent to him. On the evening before these soldiers left Laramie, news came
from the south. Toussaint had escaped from jail. The country was full of
roving, dubious Indians, and with the authentic news went a rumor that
the jailer had received various messages. These were to the effect that
the Sioux nation did not desire Toussaint to be killed by the white man,
that Toussaint's mother was the sister of Red Cloud, and that many
friends of Toussaint often passed the jailer's house. Perhaps he did get
such messages. They are not a nice sort to receive. However all this may
have been, the prisoner was gone.
Fort Robinson, on the White River, is backed by yellow bluffs that break
out of the foot-hills in turret and toadstool shapes, with stunt pines
starving between their torrid bastions. In front of the fort the land
slants away into the flat unfeatured desert, and in summer the sky is a
blue-steel covet that each day shuts the sun and the earth and mankind
into one box together, while it lifts at night to let in the cool of the
stars. The White River, which is not wide, runs in a curve, and around
this curve below the fort some distance was the agency, and beyond it a
stockade, inside which in those days dwelt the settlers. All this was
strung out on one side of the White River, outside of the curve; and at a
point near the agency a foot-bridge of two cottonwood trunks crossed to
the concave of the river's bend--a bottom of some extent, filled with
growing cottonwoods, and the tepees of many Sioux families. Along the
river and on the plain other tepees stood.
One morning, after Lieutenant Balwin had become established at Fort
Robinson, he was talking with his friend Lieutenant Powell, when Cutler
knocked at the wire door. The wagon-master was a privileged character,
and he sat down and commented irrelevantly upon the lieutenant's
pictures, Indian curiosities, and other well-meant attempts to conceal
"What's the trouble, Cutler?"
"Don't know as there's any trouble."
"Come to your point, man; you're not a scout now."
"What! in camp?"
"Hiding with the Sioux. Two Knives heard about it." (Two Knives was a
friendly Indian.) "He's laying for me," Cutler added.
"You've seen him?"
"No. I want to quit my job and go after him."
"Nonsense!" said Powell.
"You can't, Cutler," said Balwin. "I can't spare you."
"You'll be having to fill my place, then, I guess."
"You mean to go without permission?" said Powell, sternly.
"Lord, no! He'll shoot me. That's all."
The two lieutenants pondered.
"And it's to-day," continued Cutler, plaintively, "that he should be
gettin' hanged in Cheyenne."
Still the lieutenants pondered, while the wagon-master inspected a
photograph of Marie Rose as Marguerite.
"I have it!" exclaimed Powell. "Let's kill him."
"How about the commanding officer?"
"He'd back us--but we'll tell him afterwards. Cutler, can you find
"If I get the time."
"Very well, you're off duty till you do. Then report to me at once."
Just after guard-mounting two days later, Cutler came in without
knocking. Toussaint was found. He was down on the river now, beyond the
stockade. In ten minutes the wagon-master and the two lieutenants were
rattling down to the agency in an ambulance, behind four tall blue
government mules. These were handily driven by a seventeen-year-old boy
whom Balwin had picked. up, liking his sterling American ways. He had
come West to be a cow-boy, but a chance of helping to impress Red Cloud
had seemed still dearer to his heart. They drew up at the agency store,
and all went in, leaving the boy nearly out of his mind with curiosity,
and pretending to be absorbed with the reins. Presently they came out,
Balwin with field-glasses.
"Now," said he, "where?"
"You see the stockade, sir?"
"Well?" said Powell, sticking his chin on Cutler's shoulder to look along
his arm as he pouted. But the scout proposed to be deliberate.
"Now the gate of the stockade is this way, ain't it?"
"You start there and follow the fence to the corner--the left corner,
towards the river. Then you follow the side that's nearest the river down
to the other corner. Now that corner is about a hundred yards from the
bank. You take a bee-line to the bank and go down stream, maybe thirty
yards. No; it'll be forty yards, I guess. There's a lone pine-tree right
agin the edge." The wagon-master stopped.
"I see all that," said Lieutenant Balwin, screwing the field-glasses.
"There's a buck and a squaw lying under the tree."
"Naw, sir," drawled Cutler, "that ain't no buck. That's him lying in his
Injun blanket and chinnin' a squaw."
"Why, that man's an Indian, Cutler. I tell you I can see his braids."
"Oh, he's rigged up Injun fashion, fust rate, sir. But them braids of his
ain't his'n. False hair."
The lieutenants passed each other the fieldglasses three times, and
glared at the lone pine and the two figures in blankets. The boy on the
ambulance was unable to pretend any longer, and leaned off his seat till
he nearly fell.
"Well," said Balwin, "I never saw anything look more like a buck Sioux.
Look at his paint. Take the glasses yourself, Cutler."
But Cutler refused. "He's like an Injun," he said. "But that's just what
he wants to be." The scout's conviction bore down their doubt.
They were persuaded. "You can't come with us, Cutler," said Powell. "You
must wait for us here."
"I know, sir; he'd spot us, sure. But it ain't right. I started this
whole business with my poker scheme at that cabin, and I ought to stay
with it clear through."
The officers went into the agency store and took down two rifles hanging
at the entrance, always ready for use. "We're going to kill a man," they
explained, and the owner was entirely satisfied. They left the rueful
Cutler inside, and proceeded to the gate of the stockade, turning there
to the right, away from the river, and following the paling round the
corner down to the farther right-hand corner. Looking from behind it, the
lone pine-tree stood near, and plain against the sky. The striped figures
lay still in their blankets, talking, with their faces to the river. Here
and there across the stream the smoke-stained peak of a tepee showed
among the green leaves.
"Did you ever see a more genuine Indian?" inquired Baldwin.
"We must let her rip now, anyhow," said Powell, and they stepped out into
the open. They walked towards the pine till it was a hundred yards from
them, and the two beneath it lay talking all the while. Balwin covered
the man with his rifle and called. The man turned his head, and seeing
the rifle, sat up in his blanket. The squaw sat up also. Again the
officer called, keeping his rifle steadily pointed, and the man dived
like a frog over the bank. Like magic his blanket had left his limbs and
painted body naked, except for the breech-clout. Balwin's tardy bullet
threw earth over the squaw, who went flapping and screeching down the
river. Balwin and Powell ran to the edge, which dropped six abrupt feet
of clay to a trail, then shelved into the swift little stream. The red
figure was making up the trail to the foot-bridge that led to the Indian
houses, and both officers fired. The man continued his limber flight, and
they jumped down and followed, firing. They heard a yell on the plain
above, and an answer to it, and then confused yells above and below,
gathering all the while. The figure ran on above the river trail below
the bank, and their bullets whizzed after it.
"Indian!" asserted Balwin, panting.
"Ran away, though," said Powell.
"So'd you run. Think any Sioux'd stay when an army officer comes gunning
"Shoot!" said Powell. "'S getting near bridge," and they went on, running
and firing. The yells all over the plain were thickening. The air seemed
like a substance of solid flashing sound. The naked runner came round the
river curve into view of the people at the agency store.
"Where's a rifle?" said Cutler to the agent.
"Officers got 'em," the agent explained.
"Well, I can't stand this," said the scout, and away he went.
"That man's crazy," said the agent.
"You bet he ain't!" remarked the ambulance boy.
Cutler was much nearer to the bridge than was the man in the
breech-clout, and reaching the bank, he took half a minute's keen
pleasure in watching the race come up the trail. When the figure was
within ten yards Cutler slowly drew an ivory-handled pistol. The
lieutenants below saw the man leap to the middle of the bridge, sway
suddenly with arms thrown up, and topple into White River. The current
swept the body down, and as it came it alternately lifted and turned and
sank as the stream played with it. Sometimes it struck submerged stumps
or shallows, and bounded half out of water, then drew under with nothing
but the back of the head in sight, turning round and round. The din of
Indians increased, and from the tepees in the cottonwoods the red Sioux
began to boil, swarming on the opposite bank, but uncertain what had
happened. The man rolling in the water was close to the officers.
"It's not our man," said Balwin. "Did you or I hit him?"
"We're gone, anyhow," said Powell, quietly. "Look!"
A dozen rifles were pointing at their heads on the bank above. The
Indians still hesitated, for there was Two Knives telling them these
officers were not enemies, and had hurt no Sioux. Suddenly Cutler pushed
among the rifles, dashing up the nearest two with his arm, and their
explosion rang in the ears of the lieutenants. Powell stood grinning at
the general complication of matters that had passed beyond his control,
and Balwin made a grab as the head of the man in the river washed by. The
false braid came off in his hand!
"Quick!" shouted Cutler from the bank. "Shove him up here!"
Two Knives redoubled his harangue, and the Indians stood puzzled, while
the lieutenants pulled Toussaint out, not dead, but shot through the hip.
They dragged him over the clay and hoisted him, till Cutler caught hold
and jerked him to the level, as a new noise of rattling descended on the
crowd, and the four blue mules wheeled up and halted. The boy had done it
himself. Massing the officers' need, he had pelted down among the Sioux,
heedless of their yells, and keeping his gray eyes on his team. In got
the three, pushing Toussaint in front, and scoured away for the post as
the squaw arrived to shriek the truth to her tribe--what Red Cloud's
relation had been the victim.
Cutler sat smiling as the ambulance swung along. "I told you I belonged
in this here affair," he said. And when they reached the fort he was
saying it still, occasionally.
Captain Brent considered it neatly done. "But that boy put the finishing
touches," he said. "Let's have him in."
The boy was had in, and ate a dinner with the officers in glum
embarrassment, smoking a cigar after it without joy. Toussaint was given
into the doctor's hands, and his wounds carefully dressed.
"This will probably cost an Indian outbreak," said Captain Brent, looking
down at the plain. Blanketed riders galloped over it, and yelling filled
the air. But Toussaint was not destined to cause this further harm. An
unexpected influence intervened.
All afternoon the cries and galloping went on, and next morning (worse
sign) there seemed to be no Indians in the world. The horizon was empty,
the air was silent, the smoking tepees were vanished from the
cottonwoods, and where those in the plain had been lay the lodge-poles,
and the fires were circles of white, cold ashes. By noon an interpreter
came from Red Cloud. Red Cloud would like to have Toussaint. If the white
man was not willing, it should be war.
Captain Brent told the story of Loomis and Kelley. "Say to Red Cloud," he
ended, "that when a white man does such things among us, he is killed.
Ask Red Cloud if Toussaint should live. If he thinks yes, let him come
and take Toussaint."
The next day with ceremony and feathers of state, Red Cloud came,
bringing his interpreter, and after listening until every word had been
told him again, requested to see the half-breed. He was taken to the
hospital. A sentry stood on post outside the tent, and inside lay
Toussaint, with whom Cutler and the ambulance-boy were playing
whiskey-poker. While the patient was waiting to be hanged, he might as
well enjoy himself within reason. Such was Cutler's frontier philosophy.
We should always do what we can for the sick. At sight of Red Cloud
looming in the doorway, gorgeous and grim as Fate, the game was
suspended. The Indian took no notice of the white men, and walked to the
bed. Toussaint clutched at his relation's fringe, but Red Cloud looked at
him. Then the mongrel strain of blood told, and the half-breed poured out
a chattering appeal, while Red Cloud by the bedside waited till it had
spent itself. Then he grunted, and left the room. He had not spoken, and
his crest of long feathers as it turned the corner was the last vision of
him that the card-players had.
Red Cloud came back to the officers, and in their presence formally spoke
to his interpreter, who delivered the message: "Red Cloud says Toussaint
heap no good. No Injun, anyhow. He not want him. White man hunt pretty
hard for him. Can keep him."
Thus was Toussaint twice sentenced. He improved under treatment, played
many games of whiskey-poker, and was conveyed to Cheyenne and hanged.
These things happened in the early seventies; but there are Sioux still
living who remember the two lieutenants, and how they pulled the
half-breed out of White River by his false hair. It makes them laugh to
this day. Almost any Indian is full of talk when he chooses, and when he
gets hold of a joke he never lets go.
Under Providence, a man may achieve the making of many things--ships,
books, fortunes, himself even, quite often enough to encourage others;
but let him beware of creating a town. Towns mostly happen. No
real-estate operator decided that Rome should be. Sharon was an intended
town; a one man's piece of deliberate manufacture; his whim, his pet, his
monument, his device for immortally continuing above ground. He planned
its avenues, gave it his middle name, fed it with his railroad. But he
had reckoned without the inhabitants (to say nothing of nature), and one
day they displeased him. Whenever you wish, you can see Sharon and what
it has come to as I saw it when, as a visitor without local prejudices,
they asked me to serve with the telegraph-operator and the ticket-agent
and the hotel-manager on the literary committee of judges at the school
festival. There would be a stage, and flags, and elocution, and parents
assembled, and afterwards ice-cream with strawberries from El Paso.
"Have you ever awarded prizes for school speaking?" inquired the
"Yes," I told him. "At Concord in New Hampshire."
"Ever have a chat afterwards with a mother whose girl did not get the
"It was boys," I replied. "And parents had no say in it."
"It's boys and girls in Sharon," said he. "Parents have no say in it
here, either. But that don't seem to occur to them at the moment. We'll
all stick together, of course."
"I think I had best resign." said I. "You would find me no hand at
pacifying a mother."
"There are fathers also," said Stuart. "But individual parents are small
trouble compared with a big split in public opinion. We've missed that so
"Then why have judges? Why not a popular vote?" I inquired.
"Don't go back on us," said Stuart. "We are so few here. And you know
education can't be democratic or where will good taste find itself?
Eastman knows that much, at least." And Stuart explained that Eastman was
the head of the school and chairman of our committee. "He is from
Massachusetts, and his taste is good, but he is total abstinence. Won't
allow any literature with the least smell of a drink in it, not even in
the singing-class. Would not have 'Here's a health to King Charles'
inside the door. Narrowing, that; as many of the finest classics speak of
wine freely. Eastman is useful, but a crank. Now take 'Lochinvar.' We are
to have it on strawberry night; but say! Eastman kicked about it. Told
the kid to speak something else. Kid came to me, and I--"
A smile lurked for one instant in the corner of Stuart's eye, and
disappeared again. Then he drew his arm through mine as we walked.
"You have never seen anything in your days like Sharon," said he. "You
could not sit down by yourself and make such a thing up. Shakespeare
might have, but he would have strained himself doing it. Well, Eastman
says 'Lochinvar' will go in my expurgated version. Too bad Sir Walter
cannot know. Ever read his Familiar Letters, Great grief! but he was a
good man. Eastman stuck about that mention of wine. Remember?
'So now am I come with this lost love of mine
To lead but one measure, drink one cup of wine.'
'Well,' thought I, 'Eastman would agree to water. Water and daughter
would go, but is frequently used, and spoils the meter.' So I fiddled
with my pencil down in the telegraph office, and I fixed the thing up.
'So now am I come with this beautiful maid
To lead but one measure, drink one lemonade.'
Eastman accepts that. Says it's purer. Oh, it's not all sadness here!"
"How did you come to be in Sharon?" I asked my exotic acquaintance.
"Ah, how did I? How did all our crowd at the railroad? Somebody has got
to sell tickets, somebody has got to run that hotel, and telegraphs have
got to exist here. That's how we foreigners came. Many travellers change
cars here, and one train usually misses the other, because the two
companies do not love each other. You hear lots of language, especially
in December. Eastern consumptives bound for southern California get left
here, and drummers are also thick. Remarks range from 'How provoking!' to
things I would not even say myself. So that big hotel and depot has to be
kept running, and we fellows get a laugh now and then. Our lot is better
than these people's." He made a general gesture at Sharon.
"I should have thought it was worse," said I. "No, for we'll be
transferred some day. These poor folks are shipwrecked. Though it is
their own foolishness, all this."
Again my eye followed as he indicated the town with a sweep of his hand;
and from the town I looked to the four quarters of heaven. I may have
seen across into Old Mexico. No sign labels the boundary; the vacuum of
continent goes on, you might think, to Patagonia. Symptoms of neighboring
Mexico basked on the sand heaps along Sharon's spacious avenues--little
torpid, indecent gnomes in sashes and open rags, with crowning-steeple
straw hats, and murder dozing in their small black eyes. They might have
crawled from holes in the sand, or hatched out of brown cracked pods on
some weeds that trailed through the broken bottles, the old shoes, and
the wire fences. Outside these ramparts began the vacuum, white, gray,
indigo, florescent, where all the year the sun shines. Not the semblance
of any tree dances in the heat; only rocks and lumps of higher sand waver
and dissolve and reappear in the shaking crystal of mirage. Not the scar
of any river-bed furrows the void. A river there is, flowing somewhere
out of the shiny violet mountains to the north, but it dies
subterraneously on its way to Sharon, misses the town, and emerges thirty
miles south across the sunlight in a shallow, futile lake, a cienaga,
called Las Palomas. Then it evaporates into the ceaseless blue sky.
The water you get in Sharon is dragged by a herd of wind-wheels from the
bowels of the sand. Over the town they turn and turn--Sharon's upper
story--a filmy colony of slats. In some of the homes beneath them you may
go up-stairs--in the American homes, not in the adobe Mexican caves of
song, woman, and knives; and brick and stone edifices occur. Monuments of
perished trade, these rise among their flatter neighbors cubical and
stark; under-shirts, fire-arms, and groceries for sale in the
ground-floor, blind dust-windows above. Most of the mansions, however,
squat ephemerally upon the soil, no cellar to them, and no staircase, the
total fragile box ready to bounce and caracole should the wind drive hard
enough. Inside them, eating, mending, the newspaper, and more babies, eke
out the twelvemonth; outside, the citizens loiter to their errands along
the brief wide avenues of Sharon that empty into space. Men, women, and
children move about in the town, sparse and casual, and over their heads
in a white tribe the wind-wheels on their rudders veer to the breeze and
indolently revolve above the gaping obsoleteness. Through the dumb town
the locomotive bell tolls pervadingly when a train of freight or
passengers trundles in from the horizon or out along the dwindling fence
of telegraph poles. No matter where you are, you can hear it come and go,
leaving Sharon behind, an airy carcass, bleached and ventilated, sitting
on the sand, with the sun and the hot wind pouring through its bones.
This town was the magnate's child, the thing that was to keep his memory
green; and as I took it in on that first walk of discovery, Stuart told
me its story: how the magnate had decreed the railroad shops should be
here; how, at that, corner lots grew in a night; how horsemen galloped
the streets, shooting for joy, and the hasty tents rose while the houses
were hammered together; how they had song, dance, cards, whiskey,
license, murder, marriage, opera--the whole usual thing--regular as the
clock in our West, in Australia, in Africa, in every virgin corner of the
world where the Anglo-Saxon rushes to spend his animal spirits--regular
as the clock, and in Sharon's case about fifteen minutes long. For they
became greedy, the corner-lot people. They ran up prices for land which
the railroad, the breath of their nostrils, wanted. They grew ugly,
forgetting they were dealing with a magnate, and that a railroad from
ocean to ocean can take its shops somewhere else with appalling ease.
Thus did the corner lots become sand again in a night. "And in the words
of the poet," concluded Stuart, "Sharon has an immense future behind it."
Our talk was changed by the sight of a lady leaning and calling over a
"Mrs. Jeffries," said she. "Oh, Mrs. Jeffries!"
"Well?" called a voice next door.
"I want to send Leola and Arvasita into your yard."
"Well?" the voice repeated.
"Our tool-house blew over into your yard last night. It's jammed behind
A window in the next house was opened, a head put out, and this
occasioned my presentation to both ladies. They were Mrs. Mattern and
Mrs. Jeffries, and they fell instantly into a stiff caution of
deportment; but they speedily found I was not worth being cautious over.
Stuart whispered to me that they were widows of high standing, and
mothers of competing favorites for the elocution prize; and I hastened to
court their esteem. Mrs. Mattern was in body more ample, standing high
and yellow and fluffy; but Mrs. Jeffries was smooth and small, and behind
her spectacles she had an eye.
"You must not let us interrupt you, ladies," said I, after some
civilities. "Did I understand that something was to be carried some-
"You did," said Mrs. Jeffries (she had come out of her house); "and I am
pleased to notice no damage has been done to our fence--this time."
"It would have been fixed right up at my expense, as always, Mrs.
Jeffries," retorted her neighbor, and started to keep abreast of Mrs.
Jeffries as that lady walked and inspected the fence. Thus the two
marched parallel along the frontier to the rear of their respective
"You'll not resign?" said Stuart to me. "It is 'yours till death,' ain't
I told him that it was.
"About once a month I can expect this," said Mrs. Jeffries, returning
along her frontier.
"Well, it's not the only case in Sharon, Mrs. Jeffries," said Mrs.
Mattern. "I'll remind you of them three coops when you kept poultry, and
they got away across the railroad, along with the barber's shop."
"But cannot we help you get it out?" said I, with a zealous wish for
"You are very accommodating, sir," said Mrs. Mattern.
"One of the prize-awarding committee," said Stuart. "An elegant judge of
oratory. Has decided many contests at Concord, the home of Emerson."
"Concord, New Hampshire," I corrected; but neither lady heard me.
"How splendid for Leola!" cried Mrs. Mattern, instantly." Leola! Oh,
Leola! Come right out here!"
Mrs. Jeffries has been more prompt. She was already in her house, and now
came from it, bringing a pleasant-looking boy of sixteen, it might be.
The youth grinned at me as he stood awkwardly, brought in shirtsleeves
from the performance of some household work.
"This is Guy," said his mother. "Guy took the prize last year. Guy
"Shut up, mother," said Guy, with entire sweetness. "I don't hope
"Twice or a dozen times should raise no hard feelings if my son is
Sharon's best speaker," cried Mrs. Jeffries, and looked across the fence
"Shut up, mother; I ain't," said Guy.
"He is a master of humor recitations," his mother now said to me.
"Perhaps you know, or perhaps you do not know, how high up that is
"Why, mother, Leola can speak all around me. She can," Guy added to me,
nodding his head confidentially.
I did not believe him, I think because I preferred his name to that of
"Leola will study in Paris, France," announced Mrs. Mattern, arriving
with her child. "She has no advantages here. This is the gentleman,
But before I had more than noted a dark-eyed maiden who would not look at
me, but stood in skirts too young for her figure, black stockings, and a
dangle of hair that should have been up, her large parent had thrust into
my hand a scrap-book.
"Here is what the Santa Fe Observer says"; and when I would have read,
she read aloud for me. 'The next is the Los Angeles Christian Home. And
here's what they wrote about her in El Paso: 'Her histrionic genius for
one so young'--it commences below that picture. That's Leola." I now
recognized the black stockings and the hair. "Here's what a literary lady
in Lordsburg thinks," pursued Mrs. Mattern.
"Never mind that," murmured Leola.
"I shall." And the mother read the letter to me. "Leola has spoke in five
cultured cities," she went on. "Arvasita can depict how she was encored
at Albuquerque last Easter-Monday."
"Yes, sir, three recalls," said Arvasita, arriving at our group by the
fence. An elder sister, she was, evidently. "Are you acquainted with
'Camill'?" she asked me, with a trifle of sternness; and upon my
hesitating, "the celebrated French drayma of 'Camill'," she repeated,
with a trifle more of sternness. "Camill is the lady in it who dies of
consumption. Leola recites the letter-and-coughing scene, Act Third. Mr.
Patterson of Coloraydo Springs pronounces it superior to Modjeska."
"That is Leola again," said Mrs. Mattern, showing me another newspaper
cut--hair, stockings, and a candle this time.
"Sleep-walking scene, 'Macbeth,'" said Arvasita. "Leola's great night at
the church fair and bazar, El Paso, in Shakespeare's acknowledged
masterpiece. Leola's repetwar likewise includes 'Catherine the Queen
before her Judges,' 'Quality of Mercy is not Strained,' 'Death of Little
Nell,' 'Death of Paul Dombey,' ' Death of the Old Year,' 'Burial of Sir
John Moore,' and other standard gems suitable for ladies."
"Leola," said her mother, "recite 'When the British Warrior Queen' to the
"No, momma, please not," said Leola, and her voice made me look at her;
something of appeal sounded in it.
"Leola is that young you must excuse her," said her mother--and I thought
the girl winced.
"Come away, Guy," suddenly snapped little Mrs. Jeffries. "We are wasting
the gentleman's time. You are no infant prodigy, and we have no pictures
of your calves to show him in the papers."
"Why, mother!" cried the boy, and he gave a brotherly look to Leola.
But the girl, scarlet and upset, now ran inside the house.
"As for wasting time, madam," said I, with indignation, "you are wasting
yours in attempting to prejudice the judges."
"There!" said Guy.
"And, Mrs. Mattern," continued, "if I may say so without offense, the age
(real or imaginary) of the speakers may make a difference in Albuquerque,
but with our committee not the slightest."
"Thank you, I'm sure," said Mrs. Mattern, bridling.
"Eastern ideas are ever welcome in Sharon," said Mrs. Jeffries.
"Good-morning." And she removed Guy and herself into her house, while Mrs.
Mattern and Arvasita, stiffly ignoring me, passed into their own door.
"Come have a drink," said Stuart to me. "I am glad you said it. Old
Mother Mattern will let down those prodigy skirts. The poor girl has been
ashamed of them these two years, but momma has bulldozed her into staying
young for stage effect. The girl's not conceited, for a wonder, and she
speaks well. It is even betting which of the two widows you have made the
Close by the saloon we were impeded by a rush of small boys. They ran
before and behind us suddenly from barrels and unforeseen places, and
wedging and bumping between us, they shouted: "Chicken-legs! Ah, look at
For a sensitive moment I feared they were speaking of me; but the folding
slat-doors of the saloon burst open outward, and a giant barkeeper came
among the boys and caught and shook them to silence.
"You want to behave," was his single remark; and they dispersed like a
I did not see why they should thus describe him. He stood and nodded to
us, and jerked big thumb towards the departing flock. "Funny how a boy
will never think," said he, with amiability." But they'll grow up to be
about as good as the rest of us, I guess. Don't you let them monkey with
you, Josey!" he called.
"Naw, I won't," said a voice. I turned and saw, by a barrel, a youth in
knee-breeches glowering down the street at his routed enemies. He was
possibly eight, and one hand was bound in a grimy rag. This was Chicken-
"Did they harm you, Josey?" asked the giant.
"Naw, they didn't."
"Not troubled your hand any?"
"Naw, they didn't."
"Well, don't you let them touch you. We'll see you through." And as we
followed him in towards our drink through his folding slat-doors he
continued discoursing to me, the newcomer. "I am against interfering with
kids. I like to leave 'em fight and fool just as much as they see fit.
Now them boys ain't malicious, but they're young, you see, they're young,
and misfortune don't appeal to them. Josey lost his father last spring,
and his mother died last month. Last week he played with a freight car
and left two of his fingers with it. Now you might think that was enough
"Indeed yes," I answered.
"But the little stake he inherited was gambled away by his stinking old
"Well!" I cried.
"So we're seeing him through."
"You bet," said a citizen in boots and pistol, who was playing billiards.
"This town is not going to permit any man to fool with Josey," stated his
opponent in the game.
"Or women either," added a lounger by the bar, shaggy-bearded and also
with a pistol.
"Mr. Abe Hanson," said the barkeeper, presenting me to him. "Josey's
father's partner. He's took the boy from the aunt and is going to see him
"How 'r' ye?" said Mr. Hanson, hoarsely, and without enthusiasm.
"A member of the prize - awarding committee," explained Stuart, and waved
a hand at me.
They all brightened up and came round me.
"Heard my boy speak?" inquired one. "Reub Gadsden's his name."
I told him I had heard no speaker thus far; and I mentioned Leola and
"Hope the boy'll give us 'The Jumping Frog' again," said one. "I near
"What's the heifer speakin' this trip?" another inquired.
"Huh! Her!" said a third.
"You'll talk different, maybe, this time," retorted the other.
"Not agin 'The Jumping Frog,' he won't," the first insisted. "I near
bust," he repeated.
"I'd like for you to know my boy Reub," said Mr. Gadsden to me,
"Quit fixing' the judge, Al," said Leola's backer. "Reub forgets his
words, an' says 'em over, an' balks, an' mires down, an' backs out, an
starts fresh, en' it's confusin' to foller him."
"I'm glad to see you take so much interest, gentlemen," said I.
"Yes, we're apt to see it through," said the barkeeper. And Stuart and I
bade them a good-morning.
As we neared the school-master's house, where Stuart was next taking me,
we came again upon the boys with Josey, and no barkeeper at hand to "see
him through." But Josey made it needless. At the word "Chicken-legs" he
flew in a limber manner upon the nearest, and knocking him immediately
flat, turned with spirit upon a second and kicked him. At this they set
up a screeching and fell all together, and the school-master came out of
"Boys, boys!" said he. "And the Sabbath too!"
As this did not immediately affect them, Mr. Eastman made a charge, and
they fled from him then. A long stocking of Josey's was torn, and hung in
two streamers round his ankles; and his dangling shoe-laces were trodden
"If you want your hand to get well for strawberry night--" began Mr.
"Ah, bother strawberry night!" said Josey, and hopped at one of his
playmates. But Mr. Eastman caught him skilfully by the collar.
"I am glad his misfortunes have not crushed him altogether," said I.
"Josey Yeatts is an anxious case, sir," returned the teacher. "Several
influences threaten his welfare. Yesterday I found tobacco on him.
"Just you hurt me," said Josey, "and I'll tell Abe."
"Abe!" exclaimed Mr. Eastman, lifting his brow. "He means a man old
enough to be his father, sir. I endeavor to instill him with some few
notions of respect, but the town spoils him. Indulges him completely, I
may say. And when Sharon's sympathies are stirred sir, it will espouse a
cause very warmly--Give me that!" broke off the schoolmaster, and there
followed a brief wrestle. "Chewing again to-day, sir," he added to me.
"Abe lemme have it," shrieked Josey. "Lemme go, or he'll come over and
But the calm, chilly Eastman had ground the tobacco under his heel. "You
can understand how my hands are tied," he said to me.
"Readily," I answered.
"The men give Josey his way in everything. He has a--I may say an
"Yes," said I. "So I have gathered."
At this point Josey ducked and slid free, and the united flock vanished
with jeers at us. Josey forgot they had insulted him, they forgot he had
beaten them; against a common enemy was their friendship cemented.
"You spoke of Sharon's warm way of espousing causes," said I to Eastman.
"I did, sir. No one could live here long without noticing it."
"Sharon is a quiet town, but sudden," remarked Stuart. "Apt to be sudden.
They're beginning about strawberry night," he said to Eastman. "Wanted to
know about things down in the saloon."
"How does their taste in elocution chiefly lie?" I inquired.
Eastman smiled. He was young, totally bald, the moral dome of his skull
rising white above visionary eyes and a serious auburn beard. He was
clothed in a bleak, smooth slate-gray suit, and at any climax of emphasis
he lifted slightly upon his toes and relaxed again, shutting his lips
tight on the finished sentence. "Your question," said he, "has often
perplexed me. Sometimes they seem to prefer verse; sometimes prose stirs
them greatly. We shall have a liberal crop of both this year. I am proud
to tell you I have augmented our number of strawberry speakers by nearly
fifty per cent."
"How many will there be?" said I.
"Eleven. You might wish some could be excused. But I let them speak to
stimulate their interest in culture. Will you not take dinner with me,
gentlemen? I was just sitting down when little Josey Yeatts brought me
We were glad to do this, and he opened another can of corned beef for us.
"I cannot offer you wine, sir," said he to me, "though I am aware it is a
general habit in luxurious homes." And he tightened his lips.
"General habit wherever they don't prefer whiskey," said Stuart.
"I fear so," the school-master replied, smiling. "That poison shall never
enter my house, gentlemen, any more than tobacco. And as I cannot reform
the adults of Sharon, I am doing what I can for their children. Little
Hugh Straight is going to say his 'Lochinvar' very pleasingly, Mr.
Stuart. I went over it with him last night. I like them to be word per-
fect," he continued to me, "as failures on exhibition night elicit
"And are we to expect failures also?" I inquired.
"Reuben Gadsden is likely to mortify us. He is an earnest boy, but
nervous; and one or two others. But I have limited their length. Reuben
Gadsden's father declined to have his boy cut short, and he will give us
a speech of Burke's; but I hope for the best. It narrows down, it narrows
down. Guy Jeffries and Leola Mattern are the two."
"The parents seem to take keen interest," said I.
Mr. Eastman smiled at Stuart. "We have no reason to suppose they have
changed since last year," said he. "Why, sir," he suddenly exclaimed, "if
I did not feel I was doing something for the young generation here, I
should leave Sharon to-morrow! One is not appreciated, not appreciated."
He spoke fervently of various local enterprises, his failures, his hopes,
his achievements; and I left his house honoring him, but amazed --his
heart was so wide and his head so narrow; a man who would purify with
simultaneous austerity the morals of Lochinvar and of Sharon.
"About once a month," said Stuart, "I run against a new side he is blind
on. Take his puzzlement as to whether they perfer verse or prose. Queer
and dumb of him that, you see. Sharon does not know the difference
between verse and prose."
"That's going too far," said I.
"They don't," he repeated, "when it comes to strawberry night. If the
piece is about something they understand, rhymes do not help or hinder.
And of course sex is apt to settle the question."
"Then I should have thought Leola--" I began.
"Not the sex of the speaker. It's the listeners. Now you take women.
Women generally prefer something that will give them a good cry. We men
want to laugh mostly."
"Yes," said I; "I would rather laugh myself, I think."
"You'd know you'd rather if you had to live in Sharon. The laugh is one
of the big differences between women and men, and I would give you my
views about it, only my Sunday-off time is up, and I've got to go to
"Our ways are together," said I. "I'm going back to the railroad hotel."
"There's Guy," continued Stuart. "He took the prize on 'The Jumping
Frog.' Spoke better than Leola, anyhow. She spoke 'The Wreck of the
Hesperus.' But Guy had the back benches--that's where the men sit--
pretty well useless. Guess if there had been a fire, some of the fellows
would have been scorched before they'd have got strength sufficient to
run out. But the ladies did not laugh much. Said they saw nothing much in
jumping a frog. And if Leola had made 'em cry good and hard that night,
the committee's decision would have kicked up more of a fuss than it did.
As it was, Mrs. Mattern got me alone; but I worked us around to where
Mrs. Jeffries was having her ice-cream, and I left them to argue it out."
"Let us adhere to that policy," I said to Stuart; and he replied nothing,
but into the corner of his eye wandered that lurking smile which revealed
that life brought him compensations.
He went to telegraphing, and I to revery concerning strawberry night. I
found myself wishing now that there could have been two prizes; I desired
both Leola and Guy to be happy; and presently I found the matter would be
very close, so far at least as my judgment went. For boy and girl both
brought me their selections, begging I would coach them, and this I had
plenty of leisure to do. I preferred Guy's choice--the story of that
blue-jay who dropped nuts through the hole in a roof, expecting to fill
it, and his friends came to look on and discovered the hole went into the
entire house. It is better even than "The Jumping Frog"--better than
anything, I think--and young Guy told it well. But Leola brought a potent
rival on the tearful side of things. "The Death of Paul Dombey" is plated
pathos, not wholly sterling; but Sharon could not know this; and while
Leola most prettily recited it to me I would lose my recent opinion in
favor of Guy, and acknowledge the value of her performance. Guy might
have the men strong for him, but this time the women were going to cry. I
got also a certain other sort of entertainment out of the competing
mothers. Mrs. Jeffries and Mrs. Mattern had a way of being in the hotel
office at hours when I passed through to meals. They never came together,
and always were taken by surprise at meeting me.
"Leola is ever so grateful to you," Mrs. Mattern would say.
"Oh," I would answer, "do not speak of it. Have you ever heard Guy's
"Well, if it's anything like that frog business, I don't want to." And
the lady would leave me.
"Guy tells me you are helping him so kindly," said Mrs. Jeffries.
"Oh yes, I'm severe,"' I answered, brightly. "I let nothing pass. I only
wish I was as careful with Leola. But as soon as she begins 'Paul had
never risen from his little bed,' I just lose myself listening to her."
On the whole, there were also compensations for me in these mothers, and
I thought it as well to secure them in advance.
When the train arrived from El Paso, and I saw our strawberries and our
ice-cream taken out, I felt the hour to be at hand, and that whatever our
decision, no bias could be laid to me. According to his prudent habit,
Eastman had the speakers follow each other alphabetically. This happened
to place Leola after Guy, and perhaps might give her the last word, as it
were, with the people; but our committee was there, and superior to such
accidents. The flags and the bunting hung gay around the draped stage.
While the audience rustled or resoundingly trod to its chairs, and seated
neighbors conferred solemnly together over the programme, Stuart, behind
the bunting, played "Silver Threads among the Gold" upon a melodeon.
"Pretty good this," he said to me, pumping his feet.
"What?" I said.
"Tune. Sharon is for free silver."
"Do you think they will catch your allusion?" I asked him.
"No. But I have a way of enjoying a thing by myself." And he pumped away,
playing with tasteful variations until the hall was full and the
singing-class assembled in gloves and ribbons.
They opened the ceremonies for us by rendering "Sweet and Low" very
happily; and I trusted it was an omen.
Sharon was hearty, and we had "Sweet and Low" twice. Then the speaking
began, and the speakers were welcomed, coming and going, with mild and
friendly demonstrations. Nothing that one would especially mark went
wrong until Reuben Gadsden. He strode to the middle of the boards, and
they creaked beneath his tread. He stood a moment in large glittering
boots and with hair flat and prominently watered. As he straightened from
his bow his suspender-buttons came into view, and remained so for some
singular internal reason, while he sent his right hand down into the
nearest pocket and began his oratory.
"It is sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the Queen of France," he
said, impressively, and stopped.
We waited, and presently he resumed:
"It is sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the Queen of France." He
took the right hand out and put the left hand in.
"It is sixteen or seventeen years," said he, and stared frowning at his
I found the silence was getting on my nerves. I felt as if it were myself
who was drifting to idiocy, and tremulous empty sensations began to occur
in my stomach. Had I been able to recall the next sentence, I should have
"It is sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the Queen of France," said
the orator, rapidly.
And down deep back among the men came a voice, "Well, I guess it must be,
This snapped the tension. I saw Reuben's boots march away; Mr. Eastman
came from behind the bunting and spoke (I suppose) words of protest. I
could not hear them, but in a minute, or perhaps two, we grew calm, and
the speaking continued.
There was no question what they thought of Guy and Leola. He conquered
the back of the room. They called his name, they blessed him with
endearing audible oaths, and even the ladies smiled at his pleasant,
honest face--the ladies, except Mrs. Mattern. She sat near Mrs. Jeffries,
and throughout Guy's "Blue-Jay" fanned herself, exhibiting a
well-sustained inattention. She might have foreseen that Mrs. Jeffries
would have her turn. When the "Death of Paul Dombey" came, and
handkerchiefs began to twinkle out among the audience, and various noises
of grief were rising around us, and the men themselves murmured in sym-
pathy, Mrs. Jeffries not only preserved a suppressed-hilarity
countenance, but managed to cough twice with a cough that visibly bit
into Mrs. Mattern's soul.
But Leola's appealing cadences moved me also. When Paul was dead, she
made her pretty little bow, and we sat spellbound, then gave her applause
surpassing Guy's. Unexpectedly I found embarrassment of choice dazing me,
and I sat without attending to the later speakers. Was not successful
humor more difficult than pathos? Were not tears more cheaply raised than
laughter? Yet, on the other hand, Guy had one prize, and where merit was
so even--I sat, I say, forgetful of the rest of the speakers, when
suddenly I was aware of louder shouts of welcome, and I awaked to Josey
Yeatts bowing at us.
"Spit it out, Josey!" a large encouraging voice was crying in the back of
the hall. "We'll see you through."
"Don't be scared, Josey!" yelled another.
Then Josey opened his mouth and rhythmically rattled the following:
"I love little pussy her coat is so warm
And if I don't hurt her she'll do me no harm
I'll sit by the fi-yer and give her some food
And pussy will love me because I am good."
That was all. It had come without falter or pause, even for breath. Josey
stood, and the room rose to him.
"Again! again!" they roared." He ain't a bit scared!" "Go it, Josey!"
"You don't forgit yer piece!" And a great deal more, while they pounded
with their boots.
"I love little pussy," began Josey.
"Poor darling!" said a lady next me. "No mother."
"I'll sit by the fi-yer,"
Josey was continuing. But nobody heard him finish. The room was a Babel.
"Look at his little hand!" "Only three fingers inside them rags!" "Nobody
to mend his clothes any more." They all talked to each other, and clapped
and cheered, while Josey stood, one leg slightly advanced and proudly
stiff, somewhat after the manner of those military engravings where some
general is seen erect upon an eminence at the moment of victory.
Mr. Eastman again appeared from the bunting, and was telling us, I have
no doubt, something of importance; but the giant barkeeper now shouted
above the din, "Who says Josey Yeatts ain't the speaker for this night?"
At that striking of the common chord I saw them heave, promiscuous and
unanimous, up the steps to the stage. Josey was set upon Abe Hanson's
shoulder, while ladies wept around him. What the literary committee might
have done I do not know, for we had not the time even to resign. Guy and
Leola now appeared, bearing the prize between them--a picture of
Washington handing the Bible out of clouds to Abraham Lincoln--and very
immediately I found myself part of a procession. Men and women we were,
marching about Sharon. The barkeeper led; four of Sharon's fathers fol-
lowed him, escorting Josey borne aloft on Abe Hanson's shoulder, and
rigid and military in his bearing. Leola and Guy followed with the
picture; Stuart walked with me, whistling melodies of the war--Dixie and
others. Eastman was not with us. When the ladies found themselves
conducted to the saloon, they discreetly withdrew back to the
entertainment we had broken out from. Josey saw them go, and shrilly
spoke his first word:
"Ain't I going to have any ice-cream?"
This presently caused us to return to the ladies, and we finished the
evening with entire unity of sentiment. Eastman alone took the incident
to heart; inquired how he was to accomplish anything with hands tied, and
murmured his constant burden once more: "One is not appreciated, not
I do not stop over in Sharon any more. My ranch friend, whose presence
there brought me to visit him, is gone away. But such was my virgin
experience of the place; and in later days fate led me to be concerned
with two more local competitions--one military and one civil--which
greatly stirred the population. So that I never pass Sharon on my long
travels without affectionately surveying the sandy, quivering, bleached
town, unshaded by its twinkling forest of wind-wheels. Surely the heart
always remembers a spot where it has been merry! And one thing I should
like to know--shall know, perhaps: what sort of citizen in our republic
Josey will grow to be. For whom will he vote? May he not himself come to
sit in Washington and make laws for us? Universal suffrage holds so many
Augustus Albumblatt, young and new and sleek with the latest book-
knowledge of war, reported to his first troop commander at Fort Brown.
The ladies had watched for him, because he would increase the number of
men, the officers because he would lessen the number of duties; and he
joined at a crisis favorable to becoming speedily known by them all. Upon
that same day had household servants become an extinct race. The last
one, the commanding officer's cook, had told the commanding officer's
wife that she was used to living where she could see the cars. She added
that there was no society here "fit for man or baste at all." This
opinion was formed on the preceding afternoon when Casey, a sergeant of
roguish attractions in G troop, had told her that he was not a marrying
man. Three hours later she wedded a gambler, and this morning at six they
had taken the stage for Green River, two hundred miles south, the nearest
point where the bride could see the cars.
"Frank," said the commanding officer's wife, "send over to H troop for
"Catherine," he answered, "my dear, our statesmen at Washington say it's
wicked to hire the free American soldier to cook for you. It's too menial
for his manhood."
"Hush, my love. Therefore York must be spared the insult of twenty more
dollars a month, our statesmen must be re-elected, and you and I,
Catherine, being cookless, must join the general mess."
Thus did all separate housekeeping end, and the garrison began unitedly
to eat three times a day what a Chinaman set before them, when the
long-expected Albumblatt stepped into their midst, just in time for
This youth was spic-and-span from the Military Academy, with a
top-dressing of three months' thoughtful travel in Germany. "I was deeply
impressed with the modernity of their scientific attitude," he pleasantly
remarked to the commanding officer. For Captain Duane, silent usually,
talked at this first meal to make the boy welcome in this forlorn
"We're cut off from all that sort of thing here," said he. "I've not been
east of the Missouri since '69. But we've got the railroad across, and
we've killed some Indians, and we've had some fun, and we're glad we're
alive--eh, Mrs. Starr?"
"I should think so," said the lady.
"Especially now we've got a bachelor at the post!" said Mrs. Bainbridge.
"That has been the one drawback, Mr. Albumblatt."
"I thank you for the compliment," said Augustus, bending solemnly from
his hips; and Mrs. Starr looked at him and then at Mrs. Bainbridge.
"We're not over-gay, I fear," the Captain continued; "but the flat's full
of antelope, and there's good shooting up both canyons."
"Have you followed the recent target experiments at Metz?" inquired the
traveller. "I refer to the flattened trajectory and the obus
"We have not heard the reports," answered the commandant, with becoming
gravity. "But we own a mountain howitzer."
"The modernity of German ordnance--" began Augustus.
"Do you dance, Mr. Albumblatt?" asked Mrs. Starr.
"For we'll have a hop and all be your partners," Mrs. Bainbridge
"I will be pleased to accommodate you, ladies."
"It's anything for variety's sake with us, you see," said Mrs. Starr,
smoothly smiling; and once again Augustus bent blandly from his hips.
But the commanding officer wished leniency. "You see us all," he hastened
to say. "Commissioned officers and dancing-men. Pretty shabby--"
"Oh, Captain!" said a lady.
"And pretty old."
"Captain!" said another lady.
"But alive and kicking. Captain Starr, Mr. Bainbridge, the Doctor and
me. We are seven."
Augustus looked accurately about him. "Do I understand seven, Captain?"
"We are seven," the senior officer repeated.
Again Mr. Albumblatt counted heads. "I imagine you include the ladies,
Captain? Ha! ha!"
"Seven commissioned males, sir. Our Major is on sick-leave, and two of
our Lieutenants are related to the President's wife. She can't bear them
to be exposed. None of us in the church-yard lie--but we are seven."
"Ha! ha, Captain! That's an elegant double entendre on Wordsworth's poem
and the War Department. Only, if I may correct your addition--ha!
ha!--our total, including myself, is eight." And Augustus grew as
hilarious as a wooden nutmeg.
The commanding officer rolled an intimate eye at his wife.
The lady was sitting big with rage, but her words were cordial still:
"Indeed, Mr. Albumblatt, the way officers who have influence in
Washington shirk duty here and get details East is something I can't
laugh about. At one time the Captain was his own adjutant and
quartermaster. There are more officers at this table to-night than I've
seen in three years. So we are doubly glad to welcome you at Fort Brown."
"I am fortunate to be on duty where my services are so required, though I
could object to calling it Fort Brown." And Augustus exhaled a new smile.
"Prefer Smith?" said Captain Starr.
"You misunderstand me. When we say Fort Brown. Fort Russell, Fort Et
Cetera, we are inexact. They are not fortified."
"Cantonment Et Cetera would be a trifle lengthy, wouldn't it?" put in the
Doctor, his endurance on the wane.
"Perhaps; but technically descriptive of our Western posts. The Germans
criticise these military laxities."
Captain Duane now ceased talking, but urbanely listened; and from time to
time his eye would scan Augustus, and then a certain sublimated laugh, to
his wife well known; would seize him for a single voiceless spasm, and
pass. The experienced Albumblatt meanwhile continued, "By-the-way,
Doctor, you know the Charite, of course?"
Doctor Guild had visited that great hospital, but being now a goaded man
he stuck his nose in his plate, and said, unwisely: "Sharrity? What's
that?" For then Augustus told him what and where it was, and that
Krankenhaus is German for hospital, and that he had been deeply impressed
with the modernity of the ventilation. "Thirty-five cubic metres to a bed
in new wards," he stated. "How many do you allow, Doctor?"
"None," answered the surgeon.
"Do I understand none, Doctor?"
"You do, sir. My patients breathe in cubic feet, and swallow their doses
in grains, and have their inflation measured in inches."
"Now there again!" exclaimed Augustus, cheerily. "More antiquity to be
swept away! And people say we young officers have no work cut out for
"Patients don't die then under the metric system?" said the Doctor.
"No wonder Europe's overcrowded," said Starr.
But the student's mind inhabited heights above such trifling. "Death," he
said, "occurs in ratios not differentiated from our statistics." And he
told them much more while they booked at him over their plates. He
managed to say 'modernity' and 'differentiate' again, for he came from
our middle West, where they encounter education too suddenly, and it
would take three generations of him to speak clean English. But with all
his polysyllabic wallowing, he showed himself keen-minded, pat with
authorities, a spruce young graduate among these dingy Rocky Mountain
campaigners. They had fought and thirsted and frozen; the books that he
knew were not written when they went to school; and so far as war is to
be mastered on paper, his equipment was full and polished while theirs
was meagre and rusty.
And yet, if you know things that other and older men do not, it is as
well not to mention them too hastily. These soldiers wished that they
could have been taught what he knew; but they watched young Augustus
unfolding himself with a gaze that might have seemed chill to a less
highly abstract thinker. He, however, rose from the table pleasantly
edified by himself, and hopeful for them. And as he left them,
"Good-night, ladies and gentlemen," he said; "we shall meet again."
"Oh yes," said the Doctor. "Again and again."
"He's given me indigestion," said Bainbridge.
"Take some metric system," said Starr.
"And lie flat on your trajectory," said the Doctor.
"I hate hair parted in the middle for a man," said Mrs. Guild.
"And his superior eye-glasses," said Mrs. Bainbridge.
"His staring conceited teeth," hissed Mrs. Starr.
"I don't like children slopping their knowledge all over me," said the
"He's well brushed, though," said Mrs. Duane, seeking the bright side.
"He'll wipe his feet on the mat when he comes to call."
"I'd rather have mud on my carpet than that bandbox in any of my chairs,"
said Mrs. Starr.
"He's no fool," mused the Doctor. "But, kingdom come, what an ass!"
"Well, gentlemen," said the commanding officer (and they perceived a
flavor of the official in his tone), "Mr. Albumblatt is just twenty-one.
I don't know about you; but I'll never have that excuse again."
"Very well, Captain, we'll be good," said Mrs. Bainbridge.
"And gr-r-ateful," said Mrs. Starr, rolling her eyes piously. "I prophecy
he'll entertain us."
The Captain's demeanor remained slightly official; but walking home, his
Catherine by his side in the dark was twice aware of that laugh of his,
twinkling in the recesses of his opinions. And later, going to bed, a
little joke took him so unready that it got out before he could suppress
it." My love," said he, "my Second Lieutenant is grievously mislaid in
the cavalry. Providence designed him for the artillery."
It was wifely but not right in Catherine to repeat this strict confidence
in strictest confidence to her neighbor, Mrs. Bainbridge, over the fence
next morning before breakfast. At breakfast Mrs. Bainbridge spoke of
artillery reinforcing the post, and her husband giggled girlishly and
looked at the puzzled Duane; and at dinner Mrs. Starr asked Albumblatt,
would not artillery strengthen the garrison?
"Even a light battery," pronounced Augustus, promptly, "would be absurd
Whereupon the mess rattled knives, sneezed, and became variously
disturbed. So they called him Albumbattery, and then Blattery, which is
more condensed; and Captain Duane's official tone availed him nothing in
this matter. But he made no more little military jokes; he disliked
garrison personalities. Civilized by birth and ripe from weather-beaten
years of men and observing, he looked his Second Lieutenant over, and
remembered to have seen worse than this. He had no quarrel with the
metric system (truly the most sensible), and thinking to leaven it with a
little rule of thumb, he made Augustus his acting quartermaster. But he
presently indulged his wife with the soldier-cook she wanted at home, so
they no longer had to eat their meals in Albumblatt's society; and Mrs.
Starr said that this showed her husband dreaded his quartermaster worse
than the Secretary of War.
Alas for the Quartermaster's sergeant, Johannes Schmoll, that routined
and clock-work German! He found Augustus so much more German than he had
ever been himself, that he went speechless for three days. Upon his
lists, his red ink, and his ciphering, Augustus swooped like a bird of
prey, and all his fond red-tape devices were shredded to the winds.
Augustus set going new quadratic ones of his own, with an index and
cross-references. It was then that Schmoll recovered his speech and
walked alone, saying, "Mein Gott!" And often thereafter, wandering among
the piled stores and apparel, he would fling both arms heavenward and
repeat the exclamation. He had rated himself the unique human soul at
Fort Brown able to count and arrange underclothing. Augustus rejected his
laborious tally, and together they vigiled after hours, verifying socks
and drawers. Next, Augustus found more horseshoes than his papers called
"That man gif me der stomach pain efry day," wailed Schmoll to Sergeant
Casey. "I tell him, 'Lieutenant, dose horseshoes is expendable. We don't
acgount for efry shoe like they was men's shoes, und oder dings dot is
issued.' 'I prefer to cake them cop!' says Baby Bismarck. Und he smile
mit his two beaver teeth."
"Baby Bismarck!" cried, joyfully, the rosy-faced Casey." Yo-hanny, take a
"Und so," continued the outraged Schmoll, "he haf a Board of Soorvey on
dree-pound horseshoes, und I haf der stomach pain."
"It was buckles the next month. The allowance exceeded the expenditure,
Augustus's arithmetic came out wrong, and another board sat on buckles.
"Yo-hanny, you're lookin' jaded under Colonel Safetypin." said Casey.
"Safetypin is my treat," said Schmoll; "und very apt."
But Augustus found leisure to pervade the post with his modernity. He set
himself military problems, and solved them; he wrote an essay on "The
Contact Squadron"; he corrected Bainbridge for saying "throw back the
left flank" instead of "refuse the left flank"; he had reading-room
ideas, canteen' ideas, ideas for the Indians and the Agency, and recruit-
drill ideas, which he presented to Sergeant Casey. Casey gave him, in
exchange, the name of Napoleon Shave-Tail, and had his whiskey again paid
for by the sympathetic Schmoll.
"But bless his educated heart," said Casey, "he don't learn me nothing
that'll soil my innercence!"
Thus did the sunny-humored Sergeant take it, but not thus the mess. Had
Augustus seen himself as they saw him, could he have heard Mrs. Starr--
But he did not; the youth was impervious, and to remove his complacency
would require (so Mrs. Starr said) an operation, probably fatal. The
commanding officer held always aloof from gibing, yet often when Augustus
passed him his gray eye would dwell upon the Lieutenant's back, and his
voiceless laugh would possess him. That is the picture I retain of these
days--the unending golden sun, the wide, gentle-colored plain, the
splendid mountains, the Indians ambling through the flat, clear distance;
and here, close along the parade-ground, eye-glassed Augustus, neatly
hastening, with the Captain on his porch, asleep you might suppose.
One early morning the agent, with two Indian chiefs, waited on the
commanding officer, and after their departure his wife found him
breakfasting in solitary mirth.
"Without me," she chided, sitting down. "And I know you've had some good
"The best, my love. Providence has been tempted at last. The wholesome
irony of life is about to function."
"Frank, don't tease so! And where are you rushing now before the cakes?"
"To set our Augustus a little military problem, dearest. Plain living for
to-day, and high thinking be jolly well--"
"Frank, you're going to swear, and I must know!"
But Frank had sworn and hurried out to the right to the Adjutant's
office, while his Catherine flew to the left to the fence.
"Ella!" she cried." Oh, Ella!"
Mrs. Bainbridge, instantly on the other side of the fence, brought scanty
light. A telegram had come, she knew, from the Crow Agency in Montana.
Her husband had admitted this three nights ago; and Captain Duane (she
knew) had given him some orders about something; and could it be the
Crows? "Ella, I don't know," said Catherine. "Frank talked all about
Providence in his incurable way, and it may be anything." So the two
ladies wondered together over the fence, until Mrs. Duane, seeing the
Captain return, ran to him and asked, were the Crows on the war-path?
Then her Frank told her yes, and that he had detailed Albumblatt to
vanquish them and escort them to Carlisle School to learn German and
"Stuff, stuff, stuff! Why, there he does go!" cried the unsettled
Catherine. "It's something at the Agency!" But Captain Duane was gone
into the house for a cigar.
Albumblatt, with Sergeant Casey and a detail of six men, was in truth
hastening over that broad mile which opens between Fort Brown and the
Agency. On either side of them the level plain stretched, gray with its
sage, buff with intervening grass, hay-cocked with the smoky,
mellow-stained, meerschaum-like canvas tepees of the Indians, quiet as a
painting; far eastward lay long, low, rose-red hills, half dissolved in
the trembling mystery of sun and distance; and westward, close at hand
and high, shone the great pale-blue serene mountains through the vaster
serenity of the air. The sounding hoofs of the troops brought the Indians
out of their tepees to see. When Albumblatt reached the Agency, there
waited the agent and his two chiefs, who pointed to one lodge standing
apart some three hundred yards, and said, "He is there." So then Augustus
beheld his problem, the military duty fallen to him from Providence and
It seems elementary for him who has written of "The Contact Squadron." It
was to arrest one Indian. This man, Ute Jack, had done a murder among the
Crows, and fled south for shelter. The telegram heralded him, but with
boundless miles for hiding he had stolen in under the cover of night. No
welcome met him. These Fort Brown Indians were not his friends at any
time, and less so now, when he arrived wild drunk among their families.
Hounded out, he sought this empty lodge, and here he was, at bay, his
hand against every man's, counting his own life worthless except for
destroying others before he must himself die.
"Is he armed?" Albumblatt inquired, and was told yes.
Augustus considered the peaked cone tent. The opening was on this side,
but a canvas drop closed it. Not much of a problem--one man inside a sack
with eight outside to catch him! But the books gave no rule for this
combination, and Augustus had met with nothing of the sort in Germany. He
considered at some length. Smoke began to rise through the meeting poles
of the tepee, leisurely and natural, and one of the chiefs said:
"Maybe Ute Jack cooking. He hungry."
"This is not a laughing matter," said Augustus to the by-standers, who
were swiftly gathering. "Tell him that I command him to surrender," he
added to the agent, who shouted this forthwith; and silence followed.
"Tell him I say he must come out at once," said Augustus then; and
received further silence.
"He eat now," observed the chief. "Can't talk much."
"Sergeant Casey," bellowed Albumblatt, "go over there and take him out!"
"The Lootenant understands," said Casey, slowly, "that Ute Jack has got
the drop on us, and there ain't no getting any drop on him."
"Sergeant, you will execute your orders without further comment."
At this amazing step the silence fell cold indeed; but Augustus was in
"Shall I take any men along, sir?" said Casey in his soldier's machine
"Er--yes. Er--no. Er--do as you please."
The six troopers stepped forward to go, for they loved Casey; but he
ordered them sharply to fall back. Then, looking in their eyes, he
whispered, "Good-bye, boys, if it's to be that way," and walked to the
lodge, lifted the flap, and fell, shot instantly dead through the heart.
"Two bullets into him," muttered a trooper, heavily breathing as the
sounds rang. "He's down," another spoke to himself with fixed eyes; and a
sigh they did not know of passed among them. The two chiefs looked at
Augustus and grunted short talk together; and one, with a sweeping lift
of his hand out towards the tepee and the dead man by it, said, "Maybe
Ute Jack only got three--four--cartridges--so!" (his fingers counted it).
"After he kill three--four--men, you get him pretty good." The Indian
took the white man's death thus; but the white men could not yet be even
"This will require reinforcement," said Augustus to the audience. "The
place must be attacked by a front and flank movement. It must be knocked
down. I tell you I must have it knocked down. How are you to see where he
is, I'd like to know, if it's not knocked down?" Augustus's voice was
"I want the howitzer," he screeched generally.
A soldier saluted, and Augustus chattered at him.
"The howitzer, the mountain howitzer, I tell you. Don't you hear me? To
knock the cursed thing he's in down. Go to Captain Duane and give him my
compliments, and--no, I'll go myself. Where's my horse? My horse, I tell
you! It's got to be knocked down."
"If you please, Lieutenant," said the trooper, "may we have the Red Cross
"Red Cross? What's that for? What's that?"
"Sergeant Casey, sir. He's a-lyin' there."
"Ambulance? Certainly. The howitzer--perhaps they're only flesh wounds.
I hope they are only flesh wounds. I must have more men--you'll come
From his porch Duane viewed both Augustus approach and the man stop at
the hospital, and having expected a bungle, sat to hear; but at
Albumblatt's mottled face he stood up quickly and said, "What's the
matter?" And hearing, burst out: "Casey! Why, he was worth fifty of--Go
on, Mr. Albumblatt. What next did you achieve, sir?" And as the tale was
told he cooled, bitter, but official.
"Reinforcements is it, Mr. Albumblatt?"
"The howitzer, Captain."
"Good. And G troop?"
"For my double flank movement I--"
"Perhaps you'd like H troop as reserve?"
"Not reserve, Captain. I should establish--"
"This is your duty, Mr. Albumblatt. Perform it as you can, with what
force you need."
"Thank you, sir. It is not exactly a battle, but with a, so-to-speak,
"Take your troops and go, sir, and report to me when you have arrested
Then Duane went to the hospital, and out with the ambulance, hoping that
the soldier might not be dead. But the wholesome irony of life reckons
beyond our calculations; and the unreproachful, sunny face of his
Sergeant evoked in Duane's memory many marches through long heat and
cold, back in the rough, good times.
"Hit twice, I thought they told me," said he; and the steward surmised
that one had missed.
"Perhaps," mused Duane. "And perhaps it went as intended, too. What's all
He turned sharply, having lost Augustus among his sadder thoughts; and
here were the operations going briskly. Powder-smoke in three directions
at once! Here were pickets far out-lying, and a double line of skirmish-
ers deployed in extended order, and a mounted reserve, and men standing
to horse--a command of near a hundred, a pudding of pompous, incompetent,
callow bosh, with Augustus by his howitzer, scientifically raising and
lowering it to bear on the lone white tepee that shone in the plain. Four
races were assembled to look on--the mess Chinaman, two black
laundresses, all the whites in the place (on horse and foot, some with
their hats left behind), and several hundred Indians in blankets. Duane
had a thought to go away and leave this galling farce under the eye of
Starr for the officers were at hand also. But his second thought bade him
remain; and looking at Augustus and the howitzer, his laugh would have
returned to him; but his heart was sore for Casey.
It was an hour of strategy and cannonade, a humiliating hour, which Fort
Brown tells of to this day; and the tepee lived through it all. For it
stood upon fifteen slender poles, not speedily to be chopped down by
shooting lead from afar. When low bullets drilled the canvas, the chief
suggested to Augustus that Ute Jack had climbed up; and when the bullets
flew high, then Ute Jack was doubtless in a hole. Nor did Augustus
contrive to drop a shell from the howitzer upon Ute Jack and explode
him--a shrewd and deadly conception; the shells went beyond, except one,
that ripped through the canvas, somewhat near the ground; and Augustus,
dripping, turned at length, and saying, "It won't go down," stood
vacantly wiping his white face. Then the two chiefs got his leave to
stretch a rope between their horses and ride hard against the tepee. It
was military neither in essence nor to see, but it prevailed. The tepee
sank, a huge umbrella wreck along the earth, and there lay Ute Jack
across the fire's slight hollow, his knee-cap gone with the howitzer
shell. But no blood had flown from that; blood will not run, you know,
when a man has been dead some time. One single other shot had struck
him--one through his own heart. It had singed the flesh.
"You see, Mr. Albumblatt," said Duane, in the whole crowd's hearing, "he
killed himself directly after killing Casey. A very rare act for an
Indian, as you are doubtless aware. But if your manoeuvres with his
corpse have taught you anything you did not know before, we shall all be
"Captain," said Mrs. Starr, on a later day, "you and Ute Jack have ended
our fun. Since the Court of Inquiry let Mr. Albumblatt off, he has not
said Germany once--and that's three months to-morrow."
Twenty Minutes for Refreshments
Upon turning over again my diary of that excursion to the Pacific, I find
that I set out from Atlantic waters on the 30th day of a backward and
forlorn April, which had come and done nothing towards making its share
of spring, but had gone, missing its chance, leaving the trees as bare as
it had received them from the winds of March. It was not bleak weather
alone, but care, that I sought to escape by a change of sky; and I hoped
for some fellow-traveller who might begin to interest my thoughts at
once. No such person met me in the several Pullmans which I inhabited
from that afternoon until the forenoon of the following Friday. Through
that long distance, though I had slanted southwestward across a multitude
of States and vegetations, and the Mississippi lay eleven hundred miles
to my rear, the single event is my purchasing some cat's-eyes of the
news-agent at Sierra Blanca. Save this, my diary contains only neat
additions of daily expenses, and moral reflections of a delicate and
restrained melancholy. They were Pecos cat's-eyes, he told me, obtained
in the rocky canyons of that stream, and destined to be worth little until
fashion turned from foreign jewels to become aware of these fine native
stones. And I, glad to possess the jewels of my country, chose two
bracelets and a necklace of them, paying but twenty dollars for fifteen
or sixteen cat's-eyes, and resolved to give them a setting worthy of
their beauty. The diary continues with moral reflections upon the
servility of our taste before anything European, and the handwriting is
clear and deliberate. It abruptly becomes hurried, and at length well-
nigh illegible. It is best, I think, that you should have this portion as
it comes, unpolished, unamended, unarranged--hot, so to speak, from my
immediate pencil, instead of cold from my subsequent pen. I shall
disguise certain names, but that is all.
Friday forenoon, May 5.--I don't have to gaze at my cat's-eyes to kill
time any more. I'm not the only passenger any more. There's a lady. She
got in at El Paso. She has taken the drawing-room, but sits outside
reading newspaper cuttings and writing letters. She is sixty, I should
say, and has a cap and one gray curl. This comes down over her left ear
as far as a purple ribbon which suspends a medallion at her throat. She
came in wearing a sage-green duster of pongee silk, pretty nice, only the
buttons are as big as those largest mint-drops. "You porter," she said,
"brush this." He put down her many things and received it. Her dress was
sage green, and pretty nice too. "You porter," said she, "open every
window. Why, they are, I declare! What's the thermometer in this car?"
"Ninety-five, ma'am. Folks mostly travelling--" "That will do, porter.
Now you go make me a pitcher of lemonade right quick." She went into the
state-room and shut the door. When she came out she was dressed in what
appeared to be chintz bedroom curtains. They hang and flow loosely about
her, and are covered with a pattern of pink peonies. She has
slippers--Turkish--that stare up in the air, pretty handsome and
comfortable. But I never before saw any one travel with fly-paper. It
must be hard to pack. But it's quite an idea in this train. Fully a dozen
flies have stuck to it already; and she reads her clippings, and writes
away, and sips another glass of lemonade, all with the most extreme ap-
pearance of leisure, not to say sloth. I can't imagine how she manages to
produce this atmosphere of indolence when in reality she is steadily
occupied. Possibly the way she sits. But I think it's partly the bedroom
These notes were interrupted by the entrance of the new conductor. "If
you folks have chartered a private car, just say so," he shouted
instantly at the sight of us. He stood still at the extreme end and
removed his hat, which was acknowledged by the lady. "Travel is surely
very light, Gadsden," she assented, and went on with her writing. But he
remained standing still, and shouting like an orator: "Sprinkle the floor
of this car, Julius, and let the pore passengers get a breath of cool. My
lands!" He fanned himself sweepingly with his hat. He seemed but little
larger than a red squirrel, and precisely that color. Sorrel hair, sorrel
eyebrows, sorrel freckles, light sorrel mustache, thin aggressive nose,
receding chin, and black, attentive, prominent eyes. He approached, and I
gave him my ticket, which is as long as a neck-tie, and has my height,
the color of my eyes and hair, and my general description, punched in the
margin. "Why, you ain't middle-aged!" he shouted, and a singular croak
sounded behind me. But the lady was writing. "I have been growing younger
since I bought that ticket," I explained. "That's it, that's it," he
sang; a man's always as old as he feels, and a woman--is ever young," he
finished. "I see you are true to the old teachings and the old-time
chivalry, Gadsden," said the lady, continuously busy. "Yes, ma'am. Jacob
served seven years for Leah and seven more for Rachel." "Such men are
raised today in every worthy Louisiana home, Gadsden, be it ever so
humble." "Yes, ma'am. Give a fresh sprinkle to the floor, Julius, soon as
it goes to get dry. Excuse me, but do you shave yourself, sir?" I told
him that I did, but without excusing him. "You will see that I have a
reason for asking," he consequently pursued, and took out of his
coat-tails a round tin box handsomely labelled "Nat. Fly Paper Co.," so
that I supposed it was thus, of course, that the lady came by her
fly-paper. But this was pure coincidence, and the conductor explained:
"That company's me and a man at Shreveport, but he dissatisfies me right
frequently. You know what heaven a good razor is for a man, and what you
feel about a bad one. Vaseline and ground shells," he said, opening the
box, "and I'm not saying anything except it will last your lifetime and
never hardens. Rub the size of a pea on the fine side of your strop,
spread it to an inch with your thumb. May I beg a favor on so short a
meeting? Join me in the gentlemen's lavatory with your razorstrop in five
minutes. I have to attend to a corpse in the baggage-car, and will return
at once." "Anybody's corpse I know, Gadsden?" said the lady." No, ma'am.
Just a corpse."
When I joined him, for I was now willing to do anything, he was
apologetic again. "'Tis a short acquaintance," he said, "but may I also
beg your razor? Quick as I get out of the National Fly I am going to
register my new label. First there will be Uncle Sam embracing the world,
signifying this mixture is universal, then my name, then the word Stropine,
which is a novelty and carries copyright, and I shall win comfort
and doubtless luxury. The post barber at Fort Bayard took a dozen off me
at sight to retail to the niggers of the Twenty-fourth, and as he did not
happen to have the requisite cash on his person I charged him two
roosters and fifty cents, and both of us done well. He's after more
Stropine, and I got Pullman prices for my roosters, the buffet-car being
out of chicken a la Marengo. There is your razor, sir, and I appreciate
your courtesy." It was beautifully sharpened, and I bought a box of the
Stropine and asked him who the lady was. "Mrs. Porcher Brewton!" he
exclaimed. "Have you never met her socially? Why she--why she is the most
intellectual lady in Bee Bayou." "Indeed!" I said." Why she visits New
Orleans, and Charleston, and all the principal centres of refinement, and
is welcomed in Washington. She converses freely with our statesmen and is
considered a queen of learning. Why she writes po'try, sir, and is
strong-minded. But a man wouldn't want to pick her up for a fool, all the
samey." "I shouldn't; I don't," said I. "Don't you do it, sir. She's run
her plantation all alone since the Colonel was killed in sixty-two. She
taught me Sunday-school when I was a lad, and she used to catch me at her
pecan-trees 'most every time in Bee Bayou."
He went forward, and I went back with the Stropine in my pocket. The lady
was sipping the last of the lemonade and looking haughtily over the top
of her glass into (I suppose) the world of her thoughts. Her eyes met
mine, however. "Has Gadsden--yes, I perceive he has been telling about
me," she said, in her languid, formidable voice. She set her glass down
and reclined among the folds of the bedroom curtains, considering me.
"Gadsden has always been lavish," she mused, caressingly. "He seems
destined to succeed in life," I hazarded. "ah n--a!" she sighed, with
decision. "He will fail." As she said no more and as I began to resent
the manner in which she surveyed me, I remarked, "You seem rather sure of
his failure." "I am old enough to be his mother, and yours," said Mrs.
Porcher Brewton among her curtains. "He is a noble-hearted fellow, and
would have been a high-souled Southern gentleman if born to that station.
But what should a conductor earning $103.50 a month be dispersing his
attention on silly patents for? Many's the time I've told him what I
think; but Gadsden will always be flighty. No further observations
occurring to me, I took up my necklace and bracelets from the seat and
put them in my pocket. "Will you permit a meddlesome old woman to inquire
what made you buy those cat's-eyes?" said Mrs. Brewton. "Why--" I
dubiously began. "Never mind," she cried, archly. "If you were thinking
of some one in your Northern home, they will be prized because the
thought, at any rate, was beautiful and genuine. 'Where'er I roam,
whatever realms to see, my heart, untravelled, fondly turns to thee.' Now
don't you be embarrassed by an old woman!" I desired to inform her that I
disliked her, but one can never do those things; and, anxious to learn
what was the matter with the cat's-eyes, I spoke amiably and politely to
her. "Twenty dollars!" she murmured. "And he told you they came from the
Pecos!" She gave that single melodious croak I had heard once before.
Then she sat up with her back as straight as if she was twenty. "My dear
young fellow, never do you buy trash in these trains. Here you are with
your coat full of--what's Gadsden's absurd razor concoctions--strut--strop
--bother! And Chinese paste buttons. Last summer, on the Northern Pacific,
the man offered your cat's-eyes to me as native gems found exclusively in
Dakota. But I just sat and mentioned to him that I was on my way home from
a holiday in China, and he went right out of the car. The last day I was
in Canton I bought a box of those cat's-eyes at eight cents a dozen." After
this we spoke a little on other subjects, and now she's busy writing again.
She's on business in California, but will read a paper at Los Angeles at
the annual meeting of the Golden Daughters of the West. The meal station
is coming, but we have agreed to--
Later, Friday afternoon.--I have been interrupted again. Gadsden entered,
removed his hat, and shouted: "Sharon. Twenty minutes for dinner." I was
calling the porter to order a buffet lunch in the car when there tramped
in upon us three large men of such appearance that a flash of
thankfulness went through me at having so little ready-money and only a
silver watch. Mrs. Brewton looked at them and said, "Well, gentlemen?"
and they took off their embroidered Mexican hats. "We've got a baby show
here," said one of them, slowly, looking at me, "and we'd be kind of
obliged if you'd hold the box." "There's lunch put up in a basket for you
to take along," said the next, "and a bottle of wine--champagne. So
losing your dinner won't lose you nothing." "We're looking for somebody
raised East and without local prejudice," said the third. "So we come to
the Pullman." I now saw that so far from purposing to rob us they were in
a great and honest distress of mind. "But I am no judge of a baby," said
I; "not being mar--" "You don't have to be," broke in the first, more
slowly and earnestly. "It's a fair and secret ballot we're striving for.
The votes is wrote out and ready, and all we're shy of is a stranger
without family ties or business interests to hold the box and do the
counting." His deep tones ceased, and he wiped heavy drops from his
forehead with his shirt sleeve. "We'd be kind of awful obliged to you,"
he urged. "The town would be liable to make it two bottles," said the
second. The third brought his fist down on the back of a seat and said,
"I'll make it that now." "But, gentlemen," said I, "five, six, and seven
years ago I was not a stranger in Sharon. If my friend Dean Drake was
still here--" "But he ain't. Now you might as well help folks, and eat
later. This town will trust you. And if you quit us--" Once more he wiped
the heavy drops away, while in a voice full of appeal his friend finished
his thought: "If we lose you, we'll likely have to wait till this train
comes in to-morrow for a man satisfactory to this town. And the show is
costing us a heap." A light hand tapped my arm, and here was Mrs. Brewton
saying: "For shame! Show your enterprise." "I'll hold this yere train,"
shouted Gadsden, "if necessary." Mrs. Brewton rose alertly, and they all
hurried me out. "My slippers will stay right on when I'm down the steps,"
said Mrs. Brewton, and Gadsden helped her descend into the blazing dust
and sun of Sharon. "Gracious!" said she, "what a place! But I make it a
point to see everything as I go." Nothing had changed. There, as of old,
lay the flat litter of the town--sheds, stores, and dwellings, a
shapeless congregation in the desert, gaping wide everywhere to the
glassy, quivering immensity; and there, above the roofs, turned the
slatted wind-wheels. But close to the tracks, opposite the hotel, was an
edifice, a sort of tent of bunting, from which brass music issued, while
about a hundred pink and blue sun-bonnets moved and mixed near the
entrance. Little black Mexicans, like charred toys, lounged and lay
staring among the ungraded dunes of sand. "Gracious!" said Mrs. Brewton
again. Her eye lost nothing; and as she made for the tent the chintz peo-
nies flowed around her, and her step was surprisingly light. We passed
through the sunbonnets and entered where the music played. "The precious
blessed darlings!" she exclaimed, clasping her hands. "This will do for
the Golden Daughters," she rapidly added; "yes, this will distinctly do."
And she hastened away from me into the throng.
I had no time to look at much this first general minute. I could see
there were booths, each containing a separate baby. I passed a whole
section of naked babies, and one baby farther along had on golden wings
and a crown, and was bawling frightfully. Their names were over the
booths, and I noticed Lucille, Erskine Wales, Banquo Lick Nolin, Cuba,
Manilla, Ellabelle, Bosco Grady, James J. Corbett Nash, and Aqua Marine.
There was a great sign at the end, painted "Mrs. Eden's Manna in the
Wilderness," and another sign, labelled "Shot-gun Smith's twins." In the
midst of these first few impressions I found myself seated behind a bare
table raised three feet or so, with two boxes on it, and a quantity of
blank paper and pencils, while one of the men was explaining me the rules
and facts. I can't remember them all now, because I couldn't understand
them all then, and Mrs. Brewton was distant among the sun-bonnets,
talking to a gathering crowd and feeling in the mouths of babies that
were being snatched out of the booths and brought to her. The man was
instructing me steadily all the while, and it occurred to me to nod
silently and coldly now and then, as if I was doing this sort of thing
every day. But I insisted that some one should help me count, and they
gave me Gadsden.
Now these facts I do remember very clearly, and shall never forget them.
The babies came from two towns--Sharon, and Rincon its neighbor. Alone,
neither had enough for a good show, though in both it was every family's
pride to have a baby every year. The babies were in three classes: Six
months and under, one prize offered; eighteen months, two prizes; three
years, two prizes. A three-fourths vote of all cast was necessary to a
choice. No one entitled to vote unless of immediate family of a competing
baby. No one entitled to cast more than one vote. There were rules of
entry and fees, but I forget them, except that no one could have two
exhibits in the same class. When I read this I asked, how about twins?
"Well, we didn't kind of foresee that," muttered my instructor,
painfully; "what would be your idea?" "Look here, you sir," interposed
Mrs. Brewton, "he came in to count votes." I was very glad to have her
back. "That's right, ma'am," admitted the man; "he needn't to say a
thing. We've only got one twins entered," he pursued, "which we're glad
of. Shot-gun--", "Where is this Mr. Smith?" interrupted Mrs. Brewton.
"Uptown, drinking, ma'am." "And who may Mr. Smith be?" "Most popular
citizen of Rincon, ma'am. We had to accept his twins because--well, he
come down here himself, and most of Rincon come with him, and as we
aimed to have everything pass off pleasant-like--" "I quite comprehend,"
said Mrs. Brewton. "And I should consider twins within the rule; or any
number born at one time. But little Aqua Marine is the finest single
child in that six months class. I told her mother she ought to take that
splurgy ring off the poor little thing's thumb. It's most unsafe. But I
should vote for that child myself." "Thank you for your valuable endorse-
ment," said a spruce, slim young man. "But the public is not allowed to
vote here," he added. He was standing on the floor and resting his elbows
on the table. Mrs. Brewton stared down at him. "Are you the father of the
child?" she inquired. "Oh no! I am the agent. I--" "Aqua Marine's agent?"
said Mrs. Brewton, sharply. "Ha, ha!" went the young man. "Ha, ha! Well,
that's good too. She's part of our exhibit. I'm in charge of the
manna-feds, don't you know?" "I don't know," said Mrs. Brewton. "Why,
Mrs. Eden's Manna in the Wilderness! Nourishes, strengthens, and makes no
unhealthy fat. Take a circular, and welcome. I'm travelling for the
manna. I organized this show. I've conducted twenty-eight similar shows
in two years. We hold them in every State and Territory. Second of last
March I gave Denver--you heard of it, probably?" "I did not," said Mrs.
Brewton. "Well! Ha, ha! I thought every person up to date had heard of
Denver's Olympic Offspring Olio." "Is it up to date to loll your elbows
on the table when you're speaking to a lady?" inquired Mrs. Brewton. He
jumped, and then grew scarlet with rage. "I didn't expect to learn
manners in New Mexico," said he. "I doubt if you will," said Mrs.
Brewton, and turned her back on him. He was white now; but better
instincts, or else business, prevailed in his injured bosom. "Well," said
he, "I had no bad intentions. I was going to say you'd have seen ten
thousand people and five hundred babies at Denver. And our manna-feds won
out to beat the band. Three first medals, and all exclusively manna-fed.
We took the costume prize also. Of course here in Sharon I've simplified.
No special medal for weight, beauty, costume, or decorated perambulator.
Well, I must go back to our exhibit. Glad to have you give us a call up
there and see the medals we're offering, and our fifteen manna-feds, and
take a package away with you." He was gone.
The voters had been now voting in my two boxes for some time, and I found
myself hoping the manna would not win, whoever did; but it seemed this
agent was a very capable person. To begin with, every family entering a
baby drew a package of the manna free, and one package contained a
diamond ring. Then, he had managed to have the finest babies of all
classes in his own exhibit. This was incontestable, Mrs. Brewton
admitted, after returning from a general inspection; and it seemed to us
extraordinary. "That's easy, ma'am," said Gadsden; "he came around here a
month ago. Don't you see?" I did not see, but Mrs. Brewton saw at once.
He had made a quiet selection of babies beforehand, and then introduced
the manna into those homes. And everybody in the room was remarking that
his show was very superior, taken as a whole they all added, "taken as a
whole"; I heard them as they came up to vote for the 3-year and the
18-month classes. The 6-month was to wait till last, because the third
box had been accidentally smashed by Mr. Smith. Gadsden caught several
trying to vote twice. "No, you don't!" he would shout. "I know faces. I'm
not a conductor for nothing." And the victim would fall back amid jeers
from the sun-bonnets. Once the passengers sent over to know when the
train was going. "Tell them to step over here and they'll not feel so
lonesome!" shouted Gadsden; and I think a good many came. The band was
playing "White Wings," with quite a number singing it, when Gadsden
noticed the voting had ceased, and announced this ballot closed. The
music paused for him, and we could suddenly hear how many babies were in
distress; but for a moment only; as we began our counting, "White Wings"
resumed, and the sun-bonnets outsang their progeny. There was something
quite singular in the way they had voted. Here are some of the 3-year-old
tickets: "First choice, Ulysses Grant Blum; 2d choice, Lewis Hendricks."
"First choice, James Redfield; 2d, Lewis Hendricks." "First, Elk Chester;
2d, Lewis Hendricks." "Can it be?" said the excited Gadsden. "Finish
these quick. I'll open the 18-monthers." But he swung round to me at
once. "See there!" he cried." Read that! and that!" He plunged among
more, and I read: "First choice, Lawrence Nepton Ford, Jr.; 2d, Iona
Judd." "First choice, Mary Louise Kenton; 2d, Iona Judd." "Hurry up!"
said Gadsden; "that's it!" And as we counted, Mrs. Brewton looked over my
shoulder and uttered her melodious croak, for which I saw no reason.
"That young whipper-snapper will go far," she observed; nor did I under-
stand this. But when they stopped the band for me to announce the
returns, one fact did dawn on me even while I was reading: "Three-
year-olds: Whole number of votes cast, 300; necessary to a choice, 225.
Second prize, Lewis Hendricks, receiving 300. First prize, largest number
of votes cast, 11, for Salvisa van Meter. No award. Eighteen-month class:
Whole number of votes cast, 300; necessary to a choice, 225. Second
prize, Iona Judd, receiving 300. Lillian Brown gets 15 for 1st prize. None
awarded." There was a very feeble applause, and then silence for a
second, and then the sun-bonnets rushed together, rushed away to others,
rushed back; and talk swept like hail through the place. Yes, that is
what they had done. They had all voted for Lewis Hendricks and Iona Judd
for second prize, and every family had voted the first prize to its own
baby. The Browns and van Meters happened to be the largest families
present. "He'll go far! he'll go far!" repeated Mrs. Brewton. Sport
glittered in her eye. She gathered her curtains, and was among the
sun-bonnets in a moment. Then it fully dawned on me. The agent for Mrs.
Eden's Manna in the Wilderness was indeed a shrewd strategist, and knew
his people to the roots of the grass. They had never seen a baby-show.
They were innocent. He came among them. He gave away packages of manna
and a diamond ring. He offered the prizes. But he proposed to win some.
Therefore he made that rule about only the immediate families voting. He
foresaw what they would do; and now they had done it. Whatever happened,
two prizes went to his manna-feds. "They don't see through it in the
least, which is just as well," said Mrs. Brewton, returning. "And it's
little matter that only second prizes go to the best babies. But what's
to be done now?" I had no idea; but it was not necessary that I should.
"You folks of Rincon and Sharon," spoke a deep voice. It was the first
man in the Pullman, and drops were rolling from his forehead, and his
eyes were the eyes of a beleaguered ox. "You fathers and mothers," he
said, and took another breath. They grew quiet. "I'm a father myself, as
is well known." They applauded this. "Salvisa is mine, and she got my
vote. The father that will not support his own child is not--does not--is
worse than if they were orphans." He breathed again, while they loudly
applauded." But, folks, I've got to get home to Rincon. I've got to. And
I'll give up Salvisa if I'm met fair." "Yes, yes, you'll be met," said
voices of men. "Well, here's my proposition: Mrs. Eden's manna has took
two, and I'm satisfied it should. We voted, and will stay voted." "Yes,
yes!" "Well, now, here's Sharon and Rincon, two of the finest towns in
this section, and I say Sharon and Rincon has equal rights to get
something out of this, and drop private feelings, and everybody back
their town. And I say let this lady and gentleman, who will act elegant
and on the square, take a view and nominate the finest Rincon 3-year-old
and the finest Sharon 18-month they can cut out of the herd. And I say
let's vote unanimous on their pick, and let each town hold a first prize