Part 3 out of 4
and go home in friendship, feeling it has been treated right."
Universal cheers endorsed him, and he got down panting. The band played
"Union Forever," and I accompanied Mrs. Brewton to the booths. "You'll
remember!" shouted the orator urgently after us; "one apiece." We nodded.
"Don't get mixed," he appealingly insisted. We shook our heads, and out
of the booths rushed two women, and simultaneously dashed their infants
in our faces. "You'll never pass Cuba by!" entreated one. "This is Bosco
Grady," said the other. Cuba wore an immense garment made of the American
flag, but her mother whirled her out of it in a second. "See them
dimples; see them knees!" she said. "See them feet! Only feel of her
toes!" "Look at his arms!" screamed the mother of Bosco. "Doubled his
weight in four months." "Did he indeed, ma'am?" said Cuba's mother;
"well, he hadn't much to double." "Didn't he, then? Didn't he indeed?"
"No at you; he didn't indeed and indeed! I guess Cuba is known to Sharon.
I guess Sharon'll not let Cuba be slighted." "Well, and I guess Rincon'll
see that Bosco Grady gets his rights." "Ladies," said Mrs. Brewton,
towering but poetical with her curl, "I am a mother myself, and raised
five noble boys and two sweet peerless girls." This stopped them
immediately; they stared at her and her chintz peonies as she put the
curl gently away from her medallion and proceeded: "But never did I think
of myself in those dark weary days of the long ago. I thought of my
country and the Lost Cause." They stared at her, fascinated. "Yes, m'm,"
whispered they, quite humbly. "Now," said Mrs. Brewton, "what is more
sacred than an American mother's love? Therefore let her not shame it
with anger and strife. All little boys and girls are precious gems to me
and to you. What is a cold, lifeless medal compared to one of them?
Though I would that all could get the prize! But they can't, you know."
"No, m'm." Many mothers, with their children in their arms, were now
dumbly watching Mrs. Brewton, who held them with a honeyed, convincing
smile. "If I choose only one in this beautiful and encouraging harvest,
it is because I have no other choice. Thank you so much for letting me
see that little hero and that lovely angel," she added, with a yet
sweeter glance to the mothers of Bosco and Cuba. "And I wish them all
luck when their turn comes. I've no say about the 6-month class, you
know. And now a little room, please."
The mothers fell back. But my head swam slightly. The 6-month class, to
be sure! The orator had forgotten all about it. In the general joy over
his wise and fair proposition, nobody had thought of it. But they would
pretty soon. Cuba and Bosco were likely to remind them. Then we should
still be face to face with a state of things that--I cast a glance behind
at those two mothers of Sharon and Rincon following us, and I asked Mrs.
Brewton to look at them. "Don't think about it now," said she, "it will
only mix you. I always like to take a thing when it comes, and not
before." We now reached the 18-month class. They were the naked ones. The
6-month had stayed nicely in people's arms; these were crawling hastily
everywhere, like crabs upset in the market, and they screamed fiercely
when taken upon the lap. The mother of Thomas Jefferson Brayin Lucas
showed us a framed letter from the statesman for whom her child was
called. The letter reeked with gratitude, and said that offspring was
man's proudest privilege; that a souvenir sixteen-to-one spoon would have
been cheerfully sent, but 428 babies had been named after Mr. Brayin
since January. It congratulated the swelling army of the People's Cause.
But there was nothing eminent about little Thomas except the letter; and
we selected Reese Moran, a vigorous Sharon baby, who, when they attempted
to set him down and pacify him, stiffened his legs, dashed his candy to
the floor, and burst into lamentation. We were soon. on our way to the
3-year class, for Mrs. Brewton was rapid and thorough. As we went by the
Manna Exhibit, the agent among his packages and babies invited us in. He
was loudly declaring that he would vote for Bosco if he could. But when
he examined Cuba, he became sure that Denver had nothing finer than that.
Mrs. Brewton took no notice of him, but bade me admire Aqua Marine as far
surpassing any other 6-month child. I proclaimed her splendid (she was a
wide-eyed, contented thing, with a head shaped like a croquet mallet),
and the agent smiled modestly and told the mothers that as for his babies
two prizes was luck enough for them; they didn't want the earth. "If that
thing happened to be brass," said Mrs. Brewton, bending over the ring
that Aqua was still sucking; and again remonstrating with the mother for
this imprudence, she passed on. The three-year-olds were, many of them,
in costume, with extraordinary arrangements of hair; and here was the
child with gold wings and a crown I had seen on arriving. Her name was
Verbena M., and she personated Faith. She had colored slippers, and was
drinking tea from her mother's cup. Another child, named Broderick
McGowan, represented Columbus, and joyfully shouted "Ki-yi!" every
half-minute. One child was attired as a prominent admiral; another as a
prominent general; and one stood in a boat and was Washington. As Mrs.
Brewton examined them and dealt with the mothers, the names struck me
afresh--not so much the boys; Ulysses Grant and James J. Corbett
explained themselves; but I read the names of five adjacent girls-- Lula,
Ocilla, Nila, Cusseta, and Maylene. And I asked Mrs. Brewton how they got
them. "From romances," she told me, "in papers that we of the upper
classes never see." In choosing Horace Boyd, of Rincon, for his hair, his
full set of front teeth well cared for, and his general beauty, I think
both of us were also influenced by his good sensible name, and his good
clean sensible clothes. With both our selections, once they were settled,
were Sharon and Rincon satisfied. We were turning back to the table to
announce our choice when a sudden clamor arose behind us, and we saw
confusion in the Manna Department. Women were running and shrieking, and
I hastened after Mrs. Brewton to see what was the matter. Aqua Marine had
swallowed the ring on her thumb. "It was gold! it was pure gold!" wailed
the mother, clutching Mrs. Brewton. "It cost a whole dollar in El Paso."
"She must have white of egg instantly," said Mrs. Brewton, handing me her
purse. "Run to the hotel--" "Save your money," said the agent, springing
forward with some eggs in a bowl. "Lord! you don't catch us without all
the appliances handy. We'd run behind the trade in no time. There, now,
there," he added, comfortingly to the mother. "Will you make her swallow
it? Better let me--better let me --And here's the emetic. Lord! why, we
had three swallowed rings at the Denver Olio, and I got 'em all safe back
within ten minutes after time of swallowing." "You go away," said Mrs.
Brewton to me, "and tell them our nominations." The mothers
sympathetically surrounded poor little Aqua, saying to each other: "She's
a beautiful child!" "Sure indeed she is!" "But the manna-feds has had
their turn." "Sure indeed they've been recognized," and so forth, while I
was glad to retire to the voting table. The music paused for me, and as
the crowd cheered my small speech, some one said, "And now what are you
going to do about me?" It was Bosco Grady back again, and close behind
him Cuba. They had escaped from Mrs. Brewton's eye and had got me alone.
But I pretended in the noise and cheering not to see these mothers. I
noticed a woman hurrying out of the tent, and hoped Aqua was not in
further trouble--she was still surrounded, I could see. Then the orator
made some silence, thanked us in the names of Sharon and Rincon, and
proposed our candidates be voted on by acclamation. This was done. Rincon
voted for Sharon and Reese Moran in a solid roar, and Sharon voted for
Rincon and Horace Boyd in a roar equally solid. So now each had a prize,
and the whole place was applauding happily, and the band was beginning
again, when the mothers with Cuba and Bosco jumped up beside me on the
platform, and the sight of them produced immediate silence.
"There's a good many here has a right to feel satisfied," said Mrs.
Grady, looking about, "and they're welcome to their feelings. But if this
meeting thinks it is through with its business, I can tell it that it
ain't--not if it acts honorable, it ain't. Does those that have had their
chance and those that can take home their prizes expect us 6-month
mothers come here for nothing? Do they expect I brought my Bosco from
Rincon to be insulted, and him the pride of the town?" "Cuba is known to
Sharon," spoke the other lady. "I'll say no more." "Jumping Jeans!"
murmured the orator to himself. "I can't hold this train much longer,"
said Gadsden; "she's due at Lordsburg now." "You'll have made it up by
Tucson, Gadsden," spoke Mrs. Brewton, quietly, across the whole assembly
from the Manna Department. "As for towns," continued Mrs. Grady, "that
think anything of a baby that's only got three teeth--" "Ha! Ha!" laughed
Cuba's mother, shrilly. "Teeth! Well, we're not proud of bald babies in
Sharon." Bosco was certainly bald. All the men were looking wretched, and
all the women were growing more and more like eagles. Moreover, they were
separating into two bands and taking their husbands with them--Sharon and
Rincon drawing to opposite parts of the tent--and what was coming I
cannot say; for we all had to think of something else. A third woman,
bringing a man, mounted the platform. It was she I had seen hurry out.
"My name's Shot-gun Smith," said the man, very carefully, "and I'm told
you've reached my case." He was extremely good-looking, with a blue eye
and a blond mustache, not above thirty, and was trying hard to be sober,
holding himself with dignity. "Are you the judge?" said he to me.
"Hell--" I began. "N-not guilty, your honor," said he. At this his wife
looked anxious. "S-self-defence," he slowly continued; "told you once
already." "Why, Rolfe!" exclaimed his wife, touching his elbow." Don't
you cry, little woman," said he; "this'll come out all right. Where 're
the witnesses?" "Why, Rolfe! Rolfe!" She shook him as you shake a sleepy
child. "Now see here," said he, and wagged a finger at her af-
fectionately, "you promised me you'd not cry if I let you come." "Rolfe,
dear, it's not that to-day; it's the twins." "It's your twins, Shot-gun,
this time," said many men's voices." We acquitted you all right last
month." "Justifiable homicide," said Gadsden." Don't you remember?"
"Twins?" said Shotgun, drowsily. "Oh yes, mine. Why--" He opened on us
his blue eyes that looked about as innocent as Aqua Marine's, and he grew
more awake. Then he blushed deeply, face and forehead. "I was not coming
to this kind of thing," he explained. "But she wanted the twins to get
something." He put his hand on her shoulder and straightened himself. "I
done a heap of prospecting before I struck this claim," said he, patting
her shoulder. "We got married last March a year. It's our
first--first--first"--he turned to me with a confiding smile--"it's our
first dividend, judge." "Rolfe! I never! You come right down." "And now
let's go get a prize," he declared, with his confiding pleasantness. "I
remember now! I remember! They claimed twins was barred. And I kicked
down the bars. Take me to those twins. They're not named yet, judge.
After they get the prize we'll name them fine names, as good as any they
got anywhere--Europe, Asia, Africa--anywhere. My gracious! I wish they
was boys. Come on, judge! You and me'll go give 'em a prize, and then
we'll drink to 'em." He hugged me suddenly and affectionately, and we
half fell down the steps. But Gadsden as suddenly caught him and righted
him, and we proceeded to the twins. Mrs. Smith looked at me helplessly,
saying: "I'm that sorry, sir! I had no idea he was going to be that
gamesome." "Not at all," I said; "not at all!" Under many circumstances I
should have delighted in Shot-gun's society. He seemed so utterly sure
that, now he had explained himself, everybody would rejoice to give the
remaining-medal to his little girls. But Bosco and Cuba had not been
idle. Shotgun did not notice the spread of whispers, nor feel the divided
and jealous currents in the air as he sat, and, in expanding good-will,
talked himself almost sober. To entice him out there was no way. Several
of his friends had tried it. But beneath his innocence there seemed to
lurk something wary, and I grew apprehensive about holding the box this
last time. But Gadsden relieved me as our count began. "Shot-gun is a
splendid man," said he, "and he has trailed more train-robbers than any
deputy in New Mexico. But he has seen too many friends to-day, and is not
quite himself. So when he fell down that time I just took this off him."
He opened the drawer, and there lay a six-shooter. "It was touch and go,"
said Gadsden; "but he's thinking that hard about his twins that he's not
missed it yet. 'Twould have been the act of an enemy to leave that on him
to-day.--Well, d'you say!" he broke off. "Well, well, well!" It was the
tickets we took out of the box that set him exclaiming. I began to read
them, and saw that the agent was no mere politician, but a statesman. His
Aqua Marine had a solid vote. I remembered his extreme praise of both
Bosco and Cuba. This had set Rincon and Sharon bitterly against each
other. I remembered his modesty about Aqua Marine. Of course. Each town,
unable to bear the idea of the other's beating it, had voted for the
manna-fed, who had 299 votes. Shot-gun and his wife had voted for their
twins. I looked towards the Manna Department, and could see that Aqua
Marine was placid once more, and Mrs. Brewton was dancing the ring before
her eyes. I hope I announced the returns in a firm voice. "What!" said
Shot-gun Smith; and at that sound Mrs. Brewton stopped dancing the ring.
He strode to our table. "There's the winner," said Gadsden, quickly
pointing to the Manna Exhibit. "What!" shouted Smith again; "and they
quit me for that hammer-headed son-of-a-gun?" He whirled around. The men
stood ready, and the women fled shrieking and cowering to their infants
in the booths. "Gentlemen! Gentlemen!" cried Gadsden, "don't hurt him!
Look here!" And from the drawer he displayed Shot-gun's weapon. They
understood in a second, and calmly watched the enraged and disappointed
Shot-gun. But he was a man. He saw how he had frightened the women, and
he stood in the middle of the floor with eyes that did not at all
resemble Aqua Marine's at present. "I'm all right now, boys," he said. "I
hope I've harmed no one. Ladies, will you try and forget about me making
such a break? It got ahead of me, I guess; for I had promised the little
woman--" He stopped himself; and then his eye fell upon the Manna
Department. "I guess I don't like one thing much now. I'm not after
prizes. I'd not accept one from a gold-bug-combine-trust that comes
sneaking around stuffing wholesale concoctions into our children's
systems. My twins are not manna-fed. My twins are raised as nature
intended. Perhaps if they were swelled out with trash that acts like
baking-powder, they would have a medal too--for I notice he has made you
vote his way pretty often this afternoon." I saw the agent at the end of
the room look very queer. "That's so!" said several. "I think I'll clear
out his boxes," said Shot-gun, with rising joy." I feel like I've got to
do something before I go home. Come on, judge!" He swooped towards the
manna with a yell, and the men swooped with him, and Gadsden and I were
swooped with them. Again the women shrieked. But Mrs. Brewton stood out
before the boxes with her curl and her chintz.
"Mr. Smith," said she, "you are not going to do anything like that. You
are going to behave yourself like the gentleman you are, and not like the
wild beast that's inside you." Never in his life before, probably, had
Shot-gun been addressed in such a manner, and he too became hypnotized,
fixing his blue eyes upon the strange lady. "I do not believe in patent
foods for children," said Mrs. Brewton. "We agree on that, Mr. Smith, and
I am a grandmother, and I attend to what my grandchildren eat. But this
highly adroit young man has done you no harm. If he has the prizes, whose
doing is that, please? And who paid for them? Will you tell me, please?
Ah, you are all silent!" And she croaked melodiously. "Now let him and
his manna go along. But I have enjoyed meeting you all, and I shall not
forget you soon. And, Mr. Smith, I want you to remember me. Will you,
please?" She walked to Mrs. Smith and the twins, and Shot-gun followed
her, entirely hypnotized. She beckoned to me. "Your judge and I," she
said, "consider not only your beautiful twins worthy of a prize, but also
the mother and father that can so proudly claim them." She put her hand
in my pocket. "These cat's-eyes," she said, "you will wear, and think of
me and the judge who presents them." She placed a bracelet on each twin,
and the necklace upon Mrs. Smith's neck." Give him Gadsden's stuff," she
whispered to me. "Do you shave yourself, sir?" said I, taking out the
Stropine. "Vaseline and ground shells, and will last your life. Rub the
size of a pea on your strop and spread it to an inch." I placed the box
in Shot-gun's motionless hand. "And now, Gadsden, we'll take the train,"
said Mrs. Brewton. "Here's your lunch! Here's your wine!" said the
orator, forcing a basket upon me." I don't know what we'd have done
without you and your mother." A flash of indignation crossed Mrs.
Brewton's face, but changed to a smile. "You've forgot to name my girls!"
exclaimed Shot-gun, suddenly finding his voice. "Suppose you try that,"
said Mrs. Brewton to me, a trifle viciously. "Thank you," I said to
Smith. "Thank you. I--" "Something handsome," he urged. "How would
Cynthia do for one?" I suggested. "Shucks, no! I've known two Cynthias.
You don't want that?" he asked Mrs. Smith; and she did not at all.
"Something extra, something fine, something not stale," said he. I looked
about the room. There was no time for thought, but my eye fell once more
upon Cuba. This reminded me of Spain, and the Spanish; and my brain
leaped. "I have them!" I cried. "'Armada' and 'Loyola.'" "That's what
they're named!" said Shot-gun; "write it for us." And I did. Once more
the band played, and we left them, all calling, "Good-bye, ma'am.
Good-bye, judge," happy as possible. The train was soon going sixty miles
an hour through the desert. We had passed Lordsburg, San Simon, and were
nearly at Benson before Mrs. Brewton and Gadsden (whom she made sit down
with us) and I finished the lunch and champagne." I wonder how long he'll
remember me?" mused Mrs. Brewton at Tucson, where we were on time. "That
woman is not worth one of his boots."
Saturday afternoon, May 6.--Near Los Angeles. I have been writing all
day, to be sure and get everything in, and now Sharon is twenty-four
hours ago, and here there are roses, gardens, and many nice houses at the
way-stations. Oh, George Washington, father of your country, what a
brindled litter have you sired!
But here the moral reflections begin again, and I copy no more diary.
Mrs. Brewton liked my names for the twins. "They'll pronounce it
Loyo'la," she said, "and that sounds right lovely." Later she sent me her
paper for the Golden Daughters. It is full of poetry and sentiment and
all the things I have missed. She wrote that if she had been sure the
agent had helped Aqua Marine to swallow the ring, she would have let them
smash his boxes. And I think she was a little in love with Shot-gun
Smith. But what a pity we shall soon have no more Mrs. Brewtons! The
causes that produced her--slavery, isolation, literary tendencies, ad-
versity, game blood--that combination is broken forever. I shall speak to
Mr. Howells about her. She ought to be recorded.
The Promised Land
Perhaps there were ten of them--these galloping dots were hard to
count--down in the distant bottom across the river. Their swiftly moving
dust hung with them close, thinning to a yellow veil when they halted
short. They clustered a moment, then parted like beads, and went wide
asunder on the plain. They veered singly over the level, merged in twos
and threes, apparently racing, shrank together like elastic, and broke
ranks again to swerve over the stretching waste. From this visioned
pantomime presently came a sound, a tiny shot. The figures were too far
for discerning which fired it. It evidently did no harm, and was repeated
at once. A babel of diminutive explosions followed, while the horsemen
galloped on in unexpected circles. Soon, for no visible reason, the dots
ran together, bunching compactly. The shooting stopped, the dust rose
thick again from the crowded hoofs, cloaking the group, and so passed
back and was lost among the silent barren hills.
Four emigrants had watched this from the high bleak rim of the Big Bend.
They stood where the flat of the desert broke and tilted down in grooves
and bulges deep to the lurking Columbia. Empty levels lay opposite, nar-
rowing up into the high country.
"That's the Colville Reservation across the river from us," said the man.
"Another!" sighed his wife.
"The last Indians we'll strike. Our trail to the Okanagon goes over a
corner of it."
"We're going to those hills?" The mother looked at her little girl and
back where the cloud had gone.
"Only a corner, Liza. The ferry puts us over on it, and we've got to go
by the ferry or stay this side of the Columbia. You wouldn't want to
start a home here?"
They had driven twenty-one hundred miles at a walk. Standing by them were
the six horses with the wagon, and its tunneled roof of canvas shone
duskily on the empty verge of the wilderness. A dry windless air hung
over the table-land of the Big Bend, but a sound rose from somewhere,
floating voluminous upon the silence, and sank again.
"Rapids!" The man pointed far up the giant rut of the stream to where a
streak of white water twinkled at the foot of the hills. "We've struck
the river too high," he added.
"Then we don't cross here?" said the woman, quickly.
"No. By what they told me the cabin and the ferry ought to be five miles
Her face fell. "Only five miles! I was wondering, John--Wouldn't there be
a way round for the children to--"
"Now, mother," interrupted the husband, "that ain't like you. We've
crossed plenty Indian reservations this trip already."
"I don't want to go round," the little girl said. "Father, don't make me
Mart, the boy, with a loose hook of hair hanging down to his eyes from
his hat, did not trouble to speak. He had been disappointed in the
westward journey to find all the Indians peaceful. He knew which way he
should go now, and he went to the wagon to look once again down the clean
barrel of his rifle.
"Why, Nancy, you don't like Indians?" said her mother.
"Yes, I do. I like chiefs."
Mrs. Clallam looked across the river. "It was so strange, John, the way
they acted. It seems to get stranger, thinking about it."
"They didn't see us. They didn't have a notion--"
"But if we're going right over?"
"We're not going over there, Liza. That quick water's the Mahkin Rapids,
and our ferry's clear down below from this place."
"What could they have been after, do you think?"
"Those chaps? Oh, nothing, I guess. They weren't killing anybody."
"Playing cross-tag," said Mart.
"I'd like to know, John, how you know they weren't killing anybody. They
might have been trying to."
"Then we're perfectly safe, Liza. We can set and let 'em kill us all
"Well, I don't think it's any kind of way to behave, running around
shooting right off your horse."
"And Fourth of July over too," said Mart from the wagon. He was putting
cartridges into the magazine of his Winchester. His common-sense told him
that those horsemen would not cross the river, but the notion of a night
attack pleased the imagination of young sixteen.
"It was the children," said Mrs. Clallam. "And nobody's getting me any
wood. How am I going to cook supper? Stir yourselves!"
They had carried water in the wagon, and father and son went for wood.
Some way down the hill they came upon a gully with some dead brush, and
climbed back with this. Supper was eaten on the ground, the horses were
watered, given grain, and turned loose to find what pickings they might
in the lean growth; and dusk had not turned to dark when the emigrants
were in their beds on the soft dust. The noise of the rapids dominated
the air with distant sonority, and the children slept at once, the boy
with his rifle along his blanket's edge. John Clallam lay till the moon
rose hard and brilliant, and then quietly, lest his wife should hear from
her bed by the wagon, went to look across the river. Where the downward
slope began he came upon her. She had been watching for some time. They
were the only objects in that bald moonlight. No shrub grew anywhere that
reached to the waist, and the two figures drew together on the lonely
hill. They stood hand in hand and motionless, except that the man bent
over the woman and kissed her. When she spoke of Iowa they had left, he
talked of the new region of their hopes, the country that lay behind the
void hills opposite, where it would not be a struggle to live. He dwelt
on the home they would make, and her mood followed his at last, till
husband and wife were building distant plans together. The Dipper had
swung low when he remarked that they were a couple of fools, and they
went back to their beds. Cold came over the ground, and their musings
turned to dreams. Next morning both were ashamed of their fears.
By four the wagon was on the move. Inside, Nancy's voice was heard
discussing with her mother whether the school-teacher where they were
going to live now would have a black dog with a white tail, that could
swim with a basket in his mouth. They crawled along the edge of the vast
descent, making slow progress, for at times the valley widened and they
receded far from the river, and then circuitously drew close again where
the slant sank abruptly. When the ferryman's cabin came in sight, the
canvas interior of the wagon was hot in the long-risen sun. The lay of
the land had brought them close above the stream, but no one seemed to be
at the cabin on the other side, nor was there any sign of a ferry. Groves
of trees lay in the narrow folds of the valley, and the water swept black
between untenanted shores. Nothing living could be seen along the scant
levels of the bottom-land. Yet there stood the cabin as they had been
told, the only one between the rapids and the Okanagon; and bright in the
sun the Colville Reservation confronted them. They came upon tracks going
down over the hill, marks of wagons and horses, plain in the soil, and
charred sticks, with empty cans, lying where camps had been. Heartened by
this proof that they were on the right road, John Clallam turned his
horses over the brink. The slant steepened suddenly in a hundred yards,
tilting the wagon so no brake or shoe would hold it if it moved farther.
"All out!" said Clallam. "Either folks travel light in this country or
they unpack." He went down a little way. "That's the trail too," he said.
"Wheel marks down there, and the little bushes are snapped off."
Nancy slipped out. "I'm unpacked," said she. "Oh, what a splendid hill to
go down! We'll go like anything."
"Yes, that surely is the trail," Clallam pursued. "I can see away down
where somebody's left a wheel among them big stones. But where does he
keep his ferry-boat? And where does he keep himself?"
"Now, John, if it's here we're to go down, don't you get to studying over
something else. It'll be time enough after we're at the bottom. Nancy,
here's your chair." Mrs. Clallam began lifting the lighter things from
"Mart," said the father, "we'll have to chain lock the wheels after we're
empty. I guess we'll start with the worst. You and me'll take the stove
apart and get her down somehow. We're in luck to have open country and no
timber to work through. Drop that bedding mother! Yourself is all you're
going to carry. We'll pack that truck on the horses."
"Then pack it now and let me start first. I'll make two trips while
you're at the stove."
"There's the man!" said Nancy.
A man--a white man--was riding up the other side of the river. Near the
cabin he leaned to see something on the ground. Ten yards more and he was
off the horse and picked up something and threw it away. He loitered
along, picking up and throwing till he was at the door. He pushed it open
and took a survey of the interior. Then he went to his horse, and when
they saw him going away on the road he had come, they set up a shouting,
and Mart fired a signal. The rider dived from his saddle and made head-
long into the cabin, where the door clapped to like a trap. Nothing
happened further, and the horse stood on the bank.
"That's the funniest man I ever saw," said Nancy.
"They're all funny over there," said Mart. "I'll signal him again." But
the cabin remained shut, and the deserted horse turned, took a few first
steels of freedom, then trotted briskly down the river.
"Why, then, he don't belong there at all," said Nancy.
"Wait, child, till we know something about it."
"She's liable to be right, Liza. The horse, anyway, don't belong, or he'd
not run off. That's good judgment, Nancy. Right good for a little girl."
"I am six years old," said Nancy, "and I know lots more than that."
"Well, let's get mother and the bedding started down. It'll be noon
before we know it."
There were two pack-saddles in the wagon, ready against such straits as
this. The rolls were made, balanced as side packs, and circled with the
swing-ropes, loose cloths, clothes, frying-pans, the lantern, and the axe
tossed in to fill the gap in the middle, canvas flung over the whole, and
the diamond-hitch hauled taut on the first pack, when a second rider
appeared across the river. He came out of a space between the opposite
hills, into which the trail seemed to turn, and he was leading the first
man's horse. The heavy work before them was forgotten, and the Clallams
sat down in a row to watch.
"He's stealing it," said Mrs. Clallam.
"Then the other man will come out and catch him," said Nancy.
Mart corrected them. "A man never steals horses that way. He drives them
up in the mountains, where the owner don't travel much."
The new rider had arrived at the bank and came steadily along till
opposite the door, where he paused and looked up and down the river.
"See him stoop," said Clallam the father. "He's seen the tracks don't go
"I guess he's after the other one," added Clallam the son.
"Which of them is the ferry-man?" said Mrs. Clallam.
The man had got off and gone straight inside the cabin. In the black of
the doorway appeared immediately the first man, dangling in the grip of
the other, who kicked him along to the horse. There the victim mounted
his own animal and rode back down the river. The chastiser was returning
to the cabin, when Mart fired his rifle. The man stopped short, saw the
emigrants, and waved his hand. He dismounted and came to the edge of the
water. They could hear he was shouting to them, but it was too far for
the words to carry. From a certain reiterated cadence, he seemed to be
saying one thing. John and Mart tried to show they did not understand,
and indicated their wagon, walking to it and getting aboard. On that the
stranger redoubled his signs and shootings, ran to the cabin, where he
opened and shut the door several times, came back, and pointed to the
"He's going away, and can't ferry us over," said Mrs. Clallam.
"And the other man thought he'd gone," said Nancy, "and he came and
caught him in his house."
"This don't suit me," Clallam remarked. "Mart, we'll go to the shore and
talk to him."
When the man saw them descending the hill, he got on his horse and swam
the stream. It carried him below, but he was waiting for them when they
reached the level. He was tall, shambling, and bony, and roved over them
with a pleasant, restless eye.
"Good-morning," said he. "Fine weather. I was baptized Edward Wilson, but
you inquire for Wild-Goose Jake. Them other names are retired and
pensioned. I expect you seen me kick him?"
"Couldn't help seeing."
"Oh, I ain't blamin' you, son, not a bit, I ain't. He can't bile water
without burnin' it, and his toes turns in, and he's blurry round the
finger-nails. He's jest kultus, he is. Hev some?" With a furtive smile
that often ran across his lips, he pulled out a flat bottle, and all took
an acquaintanceship swallow, while the Clallams explained their journey.
"How many air there of yu' slidin' down the hill?" he inquired, shifting
his eye to the wagon.
"I've got my wife and little girl up there. That's all of us. "
"Ladies along! Then I'll step behind this bush." He was dragging his feet
from his waterlogged boots. "Hear them suck now?" he commented." Didn't
hev to think about a wetting onced. But I ain't young any more. There, I
guess I ain't caught a chill." He had whipped his breeches off and spread
them on the sand. "Now you arrive down this here hill from Ioway, and
says you: 'Where's that ferry? 'Ain't we hit the right spot?' Well,
that's what you hev hit. You're all right, and the spot is hunky-dory,
and it's the durned old boat hez made the mistake, begosh! A cloud busted
in this country, and she tore out fer the coast, and the joke's on her!
You'd ought to hev heerd her cable snap! Whoosh, if that wire didn't
screech! Jest last week it was, and the river come round the corner on us
in a wave four feet high, same as a wall. I was up here on business, and
seen the whole thing. So the ferry she up and bid us good-bye, and lit
out for Astoria with her cargo. Beggin' pardon, hev you tobacco, for
mine's in my wet pants? Twenty-four hogs and the driver, and two Sheeny
drummers bound to the mines with brass jew'lry, all gone to hell, for
they didn't near git to Astoria. They sank in the sight of all, as we run
along the bank. I seen their arms wave, and them hogs rolling over like
'taters bilin' round in the kettle." Wild-Goose Jake's words came slow
and went more slowly as he looked at the river and spoke, but rather to
himself. "It warn't long, though. I expect it warn't three minutes till
the water was all there was left there. My stars, what a lot of it! And I
might hev been part of that cargo, easy as not. Freight behind time was
all that come between me and them that went. So, we'd hev gone bobbin'
down that flood, me and my piah-chuck."
"Your piah-chuck?" Mart inquired.
The man faced the boy like a rat, but the alertness faded instantly from
his eye, and his lip slackened into a slipshod smile."Why, yes, sonny, me
and my grub-stake. You've been to school, I'll bet, but they didn't learn
yu' Chinook, now, did they? Chinook's the lingo us white folks trade in
with the Siwashes, and we kinder falls into it, talking along. I was
thinkin' how but for delay me and my grubstake--provisions, ye know--that
was consigned to me clear away at Spokane, might hev been drownded along
with them hogs and Hebrews. That's what the good folks calls a
dispensation of the Sauklee Tyee!--Providence, ye know, in Chinook. 'One
shall be taken and the other left.' And that's what beats me--they got
left; and I'm a bigger sinner than them drummers, for I'm ten years older
than they was. And the poor hogs was better than any of us. That can't be
gainsaid. Oh no! oh no!"
"I mean it, son. Some day such thoughts will come to you." He stared at
the river unsteadily with his light gray eyes.
"Well, if the ferry's gone," said John Clallam, getting on his legs,
"we'll go on down to the next one."
"Hold on! hold on! Did you never hear tell of a raft? I'll put you folks
over this river. Wait till I git my pants on," said he, stalking nimbly
to where they lay.
"It's just this way," Clallam continued; "we're bound for the upper
Okanagon country, and we must get in there to build our cabin before cold
"Don't you worry about that. It'll take you three days to the next ferry,
while you and me and the boy kin build a raft right here by to-morrow
noon. You hev an axe, I expect? Well, here is timber close, and your
trail takes over to my place on the Okanagon, where you've got another
crossin' to make. And all this time we're keeping the ladies waitin' up
the hill! We'll talk business as we go along; and, see here, if I don't
suit yu', or fail in my bargain, you needn't to pay me a cent."
He began climbing, and on the way they came to an agreement. Wild-Goose
Jake bowed low to Mrs. Clallam, and as low to Nancy, who held her
mother's dress and said nothing, keeping one finger in her mouth. All
began emptying the wagon quickly, and tins of baking-powder, with
rocking-chairs and flowered quilts, lay on the hill. Wild-Goose Jake
worked hard, and sustained a pleasant talk by himself. His fluency was of
an eagerness that parried interruption or inquiry.
"So you've come acrosst the Big Bend! Ain't it a cosey place? Reminds me
of them medicine pictures, 'Before and After Using.' The Big Bend's the
way this world looked before using--before the Bible fixed it up, ye
know. Ever seen specimens of Big Bend produce, ma'am? They send 'em East.
Grain and plums and such. The feller that gathered them curiosities hed
hunt forty square miles apiece for 'em. But it's good-payin' policy, and
it fetches lots of settlers to the Territory. They come here hummin' and
walks around the wilderness, and 'Where's the plums?' says they. 'Can't
you see I'm busy?' says the land agent; and out they goes. But you
needn't to worry, ma'am. The country where you're goin' ain't like that.
There's water and timber and rich soil and mines. Billy Moon has gone
there--he's the man run the ferry. When she wrecked, he pulled his
freight for the new mines at Loop Loop."
"Did the man live in the little house?" said Nancy.
"Right there, miss. And nobody lives there any more, so you take it if
you're wantin' a place of your own."
"What made you kick the other man if it wasn't your house?"
"Well, now, if it ain't a good one on him to hev you see that! I'll tell
him a little girl seen that, and maybe he'll feel the disgrace. Only he's
no account, and don't take any experience the reg'lar way. He's nigh onto
thirty, and you'll not believe me, I know, but he ain't never even
learned to spit right."
"Is he yours?" inquired Nancy.
"Gosh! no, miss--beggin' pardon. He's jest workin' for me."
"Did he know you were coming to kick him when he hid?"
"Hid? What's that?" The man's eyes narrowed again into points. "You folks
seen him hide?" he said to Clallam.
"Why, of course; didn't he say anything?"
"He didn't get much chance," muttered Jake. "What did he hide at?"
"I guess so," said Mart. "We took him for the ferry-man, and when he
couldn't hear us--"
"What was he doin'?"
"Just riding along. And so I fired to signal him, and he flew into the
"So you fired, and he flew into the door. Oh, h'm." Jake continued to
pack the second horse, attending carefully to the ropes. "I never knowed
he was that weak in the upper story," he said, in about five minutes.
"Knew his brains was tenas, but didn't suspect he were that weak in the
upper story. You're sure he didn't go in till he heerd your gun?"
"He'd taken a look and was going away," said Mart.
"Now ain't some people jest odd! Now you follow me, and I'll tell you
folks what I'd figured he'd been at. Billy Moon he lived in that cabin,
yu' see. And he had his stuff there, yu, see, and run the ferry, and a
kind of a store. He kept coffee and canned goods and star-plug and this
and that to supply the prospectin' outfits that come acrosst on his ferry
on the trail to the mines. Then a cloud-burst hits his boat and his job's
spoiled on the river, and he quits for the mines, takin' his stuff along
--do you follow me? But he hed to leave some, and he give me the key, and
I was to send the balance after him next freight team that come along my
way. Leander--that's him I was kickin'--he knowed about it, and he'll
steal a hot stove he's that dumb. He knowed there was stuff here of Billy
Moon's. Well, last night we hed some horses stray, and I says to him,
'Andy, you get up by daylight and find them.' And he gits. But by seven
the horses come in all right of theirselves, and Mr. Leander he was
missin'; and says I to myself, 'I'll ketch you, yu' blamed hobo.' And I
thought I had ketched him, yu' see. Weren't that reasonable of me?
Wouldn't any of you folks hev drawed that conclusion?" The man had fallen
into a wheedling tone as he studied their faces. "Jest put yourselves in
my place," he said.
"Then what was he after?" said Mart.
"Stealin'. But he figured he'd come again."
"He didn't like my gun much."
"Guns always skeers him when he don't know the parties shootin'. That's
his dumbness. Maybe he thought I was after him; he's jest that
distrustful. Begosh! we'll have the laugh on him when he finds he run
from a little girl."
"He didn't wait to see who he was running from," said Mart.
"Of course he didn't. Andy hears your gun and he don't inquire further,
but hits the first hole he kin crawl into. That's Andy! That's the kind
of boy I hev to work for me. All the good ones goes where you're goin',
where the grain grows without irrigation and the blacktail deer comes out
on the hill and asks yu' to shoot 'em for dinner. Who's ready for the
bottom? If I stay talkin' the sun'll go down on us. Don't yu' let me get
started agin. Just you shet me off twiced anyway each twenty-four hours."
He began to descend with his pack-horse and the first load. All afternoon
they went up and down over the hot bare face of the hill, until the
baggage, heavy and light, was transported and dropped piecemeal on the
shore. The torn-out insides of their home littered the stones with
familiar shapes and colors, and Nancy played among them, visiting each
parcel and folded thing.
"There's the red table-cover!" she exclaimed. "and the big
coffee-grinder. And there's our table, and the hole Mart burned in it."
She took a long look at this. "Oh, how I wish I could see our pump!" she
said, and began to cry.
"You talk to her, mother," said Clallam. "She's tuckered out."
The men returned to bring the wagon. With chain-locked wheels, and tilted
half over by the cross slant of the mountain, it came heavily down,
reeling and sliding on the slippery yellow weeds, and grinding deep ruts
across the faces of the shelving beds of gravel. Jake guided it as he
could, straining back on the bits of the two hunched horses when their
hoofs glanced from the stones that rolled to the bottom; and the others
leaned their weight on a pole lodged between the spokes, making a balance
to the wagon, for it leaned the other way so far that at any jolt the two
wheels left the ground. When it was safe at the level of the stream, dusk
had come and a white flat of mist lay along the river, striping its
course among the gaunt hills. They slept without moving, and rose early
to cut logs, which the horses dragged to the shore. The outside trunks
were nailed and lashed with ropes, and sank almost below the surface with
the weight of the wood fastened crosswise on top. But the whole floated
dry with its cargo, and crossed clumsily on the quick-wrinkled current.
Then it brought the wagon; and the six horses swam. The force of the
river had landed them below the cabin, and when they had repacked there
was too little left of day to go on. Clallam suggested it was a good time
to take Moon's leavings over to the Okanagon, but Wild-Goose Jake said at
once that their load was heavy enough; and about this they could not
change his mind. He made a journey to the cabin by himself, and returned
saying that he had managed to lock the door.
"Father," said Mart, as they were harnessing next day, "I've been up
there. I went awful early. There's no lock to the door, and the cabin's
"I guessed that might be."
"There has been a lock pried off pretty lately. There was a lot of broken
bottles around everywheres, inside and out."
"What do you make out of it?" said Mart.
"Nothing yet. He wants to get us away, and I'm with him there. I want to
get up the Okanagon as soon as we can."
"Well, I'm takin' yu' the soonest way," said Wild-Goose Jake, behind
them. From his casual smile there was no telling what he had heard. "I'll
put your stuff acrosst the Okanagon to-morrow mornin'. But to-night
yourselves'll all be over, and the ladies kin sleep in my room."
The wagon made good time. The trail crossed easy valleys and over the
yellow grass of the hills, while now and then their guide took a
short-cut. He wished to get home, he said, since there could be no
estimating what Leander might be doing. While the sun was still well up
in the sky they came over a round knob and saw the Okanagon, blue in the
bright afternoon, and the cabin on its further bank. This was a roomier
building to see than common, and a hay-field was by it, and a bit of
green pasture, fenced in. Saddle-horses were tied in front, heads hanging
and feet knuckled askew with long waiting, and from inside an uneven,
riotous din whiffled lightly across the river and intervening meadow to
"If you'll excuse me," said Jake, "I'll jest git along ahead, and see
what game them folks is puttin' up on Andy. Likely as not he's weighin'
'em out flour at two cents, with it costin' me two and a half on
freightin' alone. I'll hev supper ready time you ketch up."
He was gone at once, getting away at a sharp pace, till presently they
could see him swimming the stream. When he was in the cabin the sounds
changed, dropping off to one at a time, and expired. But when the riders
came out into the air, they leaned and collided at random, whirled their
arms, and, screaming till they gathered heart, charged with wavering
menace at the door. The foremost was flung from the sill, and he shot
along toppling and scraped his length in the dust, while the owner of the
cabin stood in the entrance. The Indian picked himself up, and at some
word of Jake's which the emigrants could half follow by the fierce lift
of his arm, all got on their horses and set up a wailing, like vultures
driven off. They went up the river a little and crossed, but did not come
down this side, and Mrs. Clallam was thankful when their evil noise had
died away up the valley. They had seen the wagon coming, but gave it no
attention. A man soon came over the river from the cabin, and was
lounging against a tree when the emigrants drew up at the margin.
"I don't know what you know," he whined defiantly from the tree, "but I'm
goin' to Cornwall, Connecticut, and I don't care who knows it." He sent a
cowed look at the cabin across the river.
"Get out of the wagon, Nancy," said Clallam. "Mart, help her down."
"I'm going back," said the man, blinking like a scolded dog. "I ain't
stayin' here for nobody. You can tell him I said so, too." Again his eye
slunk sidewise towards the cabin, and instantly back.
"While you're staying," said Mart, "you might as well give a hand here."
He came with alacrity, and made a shift of unhitching the horses. "I was
better off coupling freight cars on the Housatonic," he soon remarked.
His voice came shallow, from no deeper than his throat, and a peevish
apprehension rattled through it. "That was a good job. And I've had
better, too; forty, fifty, sixty dollars better."
"Shall we unpack the wagon?" Clallam inquired.
"I don't know. You ever been to New Milford? I sold shoes there.
Thirty-five dollars and board."
The emigrants attended to their affairs, watering the horses and driving
picket stakes. Leander uselessly followed behind them with conversation,
blinking and with lower lip sagged, showing a couple of teeth. "My
brother's in business in Pittsfield, Massachusetts," said he, "and I can
get a salary in Bridgeport any day I say so. That a Marlin?"
"No," said Mart. "It's a Winchester."
"I had a Marlin. He's took it from me. I'll bet you never got shot at."
"Anybody want to shoot you?" Mart inquired.
"Well and I guess you'll believe they did day before yesterday"
"If you're talking about up at that cabin, it was me."
Leander gave Mart a leer."That won't do," said he. "He's put you up to
telling me that, and I'm going to Cornwall, Connecticut. I know what's
good for me, I guess."
"I tell you we were looking for the ferry, and I signalled you across the
"No, no," said Leander. "I never seen you in my life. Don't you be like
him and take me for a fool."
"All right. Why did they want to murder you?"
"Why?" said the man, shrilly. "Why? Hadn't they broke in and filled
themselves up on his piah-chuck till they were crazy-drunk? And when I
came along didn't they--"
"When you came along they were nowhere near there," said Mart.
"Now you're going to claim it was me drunk it and scattered all them
bottles of his," screamed Leander, backing away. "I tell you I didn't. I
told him I didn't, and he knowed it well, too. But he's just that mean
when he's mad he likes to put a thing on me whether or no, when he never
seen me touch a drop of whiskey, nor any one else, neither. They were
riding and shooting loose over the country like they always do on a
drunk. And I'm glad they stole his stuff. What business had he to keep it
at Billy Moon's old cabin and send me away up there to see it was all
right? Let him do his own dirty work. I ain't going to break the laws on
the salary he pays me."
The Clallam family had gathered round Leander, who was stricken with
volubility. "It ain't once in a while, but it's every day and every
week," he went on, always in a woolly scream. "And the longer he ain't
caught the bolder he gets, and puts everything that goes wrong on to me.
Was it me traded them for that liquor this afternoon? It was his squaw,
Big Tracks, and he knowed it well. He lets that mud-faced baboon run the
house when he's off, and I don't have the keys nor nothing, and never did
have. But of course he had to come in and say it was me just because he
was mad about having you see them Siwashes hollering around. And he come
and shook me where I was sittin', and oh, my, he knowed well the lie he
was acting. I bet I've got the marks on my neck now. See any red marks?"
Leander exhibited the back of his head, but the violence done him had
evidently been fleeting. "He'll be awful good to you, for he's that
Leander stood tremulously straight in silence, his lip sagging, as
Wild-Goose Jake called pleasantly from the other bank. "Come to supper,
you folks," said he. "Why, Andy, I told you to bring them across", and
you've let them picket their horses. Was you expectin' Mrs. Clallam to
take your arm and ford six feet of water?" For some reason his voice
sounded kind as he spoke to his assistant.
"Well, mother?" said Clallam.
"If it was not for Nancy, John--"
"I know, I know. Out on the shore here on this side would be a pleasanter
bedroom for you, but" (he looked up the valley) "I guess our friend's
plan is more sensible to-night."
So they decided to leave the wagon behind and cross to the cabin. The
horses put them with not much wetting to the other bank, where Jake, most
eager and friendly, hovered to meet his party, and when they were safe
ashore pervaded his premises in their behalf.
"Turn them horses into the pasture, Andy," said he, "and first feed 'em a
couple of quarts." It may have been hearing himself say this, but tone
and voice dropped to the confidential and his sentences came with a
chuckle. "Quarts to the horses and quarts to the Siwashes and a skookum
pack of trouble all round, Mrs. Clallam! If I hedn't a-came to stop it a
while ago, why about all the spirits that's in stock jest now was bein'
traded off for some blamed ponies the bears hev let hobble on the range
unswallered ever since I settled here. A store on a trail like this here,
ye see, it hez to keep spirits, of course; and--well, well! here's my
room; you ladies'll excuse, and make yourselves at home as well as you
It was of a surprising neatness, due all to him, they presently saw; the
log walls covered with a sort of bunting that was also stretched across
to make a ceiling below the shingles of the roof; fresh soap and towels,
china service, a clean floor and bed, on the wall a print of some white
and red village among elms, with a covered bridge and the water running
over an apron-dam just above; and a rich smell of whiskey everywhere.
"Fix up as comfortable as yu' can," the host repeated, "and I'll see how
Mrs. Jake's tossin' the flapjacks. She's Injun, yu' know, and five years
of married life hadn't learned her to toss flapjacks. Now if I was you"
(he was lingering in the doorway) "I wouldn't shet that winder so quick.
It don't smell nice yet for ladies in here, and I'd hev liked to git the
time to do better for ye; but them Siwashes--well, of course, you folks
see how it is. Maybe it ain't always and only white men that patronizes
our goods. Uncle Sam is a long way off, and I don't say we'd ought to,
but when the cat's away, why the mice will, ye know--they most always
There was a rattle of boards outside, at which he shut the door quickly,
and they heard him run. A light muttering came in at the window, and the
mother, peeping out, saw Andy fallen among a rubbish of crates and empty
cans, where he lay staring, while his two fists beat up and down like a
disordered toy. Wild-Goose Jake came, and having lifted him with great
tenderness, was laying him flat as Elizabeth Clallam hurried to his help.
"No, ma'am," he sighed, "you can't do nothing, I guess."
"Just let me go over and get our medicines."
"Thank you, ma'am," said Jake, and the pain on his face was miserable to
see; "there ain't no medicine. We're kind of used to this, Andy and me.
Maybe, if you wouldn't mind stayin' till he comes to--Why, a sick man
takes comfort at the sight of a lady."
When the fit had passed they helped him to his feet, and Jake led him
Mrs. Jake made her first appearance upon the guests sitting down to their
meal, when she waited on table, passing busily forth from the kitchen
with her dishes. She had but three or four English words, and her best
years were plainly behind her; but her cooking was good, fried and boiled
with sticks of her own chopping, and she served with industry. Indeed, a
squaw is one of the few species of the domestic wife that survive today
upon our continent. Andy seemed now to keep all his dislike for her, and
followed her with a scowling eye, while he frequented Jake, drawing a
chair to sit next him when he smoked by the wall after supper, and some-
times watching him with a sort of clouded affection upon his face. He did
not talk, and the seizure had evidently jarred his mind as well as his
frame. When the squaw was about lighting a lamp he brushed her arm in a
childish way so that the match went out, and set him laughing. She poured
out a harangue in Chinook, showing the dead match to Jake, who rose and
gravely lighted the lamp himself, Andy laughing more than ever. When Mrs.
Clallam had taken Nancy with her to bed, Jake walked John Clallam to the
river-bank, and looking up and down, spoke a little of his real mind.
"I guess you see how it is with me. Anyway, I don't commonly hev use for
stranger-folks in this house. But that little girl of yourn started
cryin' about not havin' the pump along that she'd been used to seein' in
the yard at home. And I says to myself, 'Look a-here, Jake, I don't care
if they do ketch on to you and yer blamed whiskey business. They're not
the sort to tell on you.' Gee! but that about the pump got me! And I
says, 'Jake, you're goin' to give them the best you hev got.' Why, that
Big Bend desert and lonesome valley of the Columbia hez chilled my heart
in the days that are gone when I weren't used to things; and the little
girl hed came so fur! And I knowed how she was a-feelin'."
He stopped, and seemed to be turning matters over.
"I'm much obliged to you," said Clallam.
"And your wife was jest beautiful about Andy. You've saw me wicked to
Andy. I am, and often, for I rile turruble quick, and God forgive me! But
when that boy gits at his meanness--yu've seen jest a touch of it--
there's scarcely livin' with him. It seems like he got reg'lar inspired.
Some days he'll lie--make up big lies to the fust man comes in at the
door. They ain't harmless, his lies ain't. Then he'll trick my woman,
that's real good to him; and I believe he'd lick whiskey up off the dirt.
And every drop is poison for him with his complaint. But I'd ought to
remember. You'd surely think I could remember, and forbear. Most likely
he made a big talk to you about that cabin."
John Clallam told him.
"Well, that's all true, for onced. I did think he'd been up to stealin'
that whiskey gradual, 'stead of fishin', the times he was out all day.
And the salary I give him"--Jake laughed a little--"ain't enough to
justify a man's breaking the law. I did take his rifle away when he tried
to shoot my woman. I guess it was Siwashes bruck into that cabin."
"I'm pretty certain of it," said Clallam.
"You? What makes you?"
John began the tale of the galloping dots, and Jake stopped walking to
listen the harder. "Yes," he said; "that's bad. That's jest bad. They hev
carried a lot off to drink. That's the worst."
He had little to say after this, but talked under his tongue as they went
to the house, where he offered a bed to Clallam and Mart. They would not
turn him out, so he showed them over to a haystack, where they crawled in
and went to sleep.
Most white men know when they have had enough whiskey. Most Indians do
not. This is a difference between the races of which government has taken
notice. Government says that "no ardent spirits shall be introduced under
any presence into the Indian country." It also says that the white man
who attempts to break this law "shall be punished by imprisonment for not
more than two years and by a fine of not more than three hundred
dollars." It further says that if any superintendent of Indian affairs
has reason to suspect a man, he may cause the "boats, stores, packages,
wagons, sleds, and places of deposit" of such person to be searched, and
if ardent spirits be found it shall be forfeit, together with the boats
and all other substances with it connected, one half to the informer and
the other half to the use of the United States. The courts and all legal
machines necessary for trial and punishment of offenders are oiled and
ready; two years is a long while in jail; three hundred dollars and
confiscation sounds heavy; altogether the penalty looks severe on the
printed page--and all the while there's no brisker success in our far
West than selling whiskey to Indians. Very few people know what the
whiskey is made of, and the Indian does not care. He drinks till he drops
senseless. If he has killed nobody and nobody him during the process, it
is a good thing, for then the matter ends with his getting sober and
going home to his tent till such happy time when he can put his hand on
some further possession to trade away. The white offender is caught now
and then; but Okanagon County lies pretty snug from the arm of the law.
It's against Canada to the north, and the empty county of Stevens to the
east; south of it rushes the Columbia, with the naked horrible Big Bend
beyond, and to its west rises a domain of unfooted mountains. There is
law up in the top of it at Conconully sometimes, but not much even
to-day, for that is still a new country, where flow the Methow, the
Ashinola, and the Similikameen.
Consequently a cabin like Wild-Goose Jake's was a holiday place. The
blanketed denizens of the reservation crossed to it, and the citizens who
had neighboring cabins along the trail repaired here to spend what money
they had. As Mrs. Clallam lay in her bed she heard customers arrive. Two
or three loud voices spoke in English, and several Indians and squaws
seemed to be with the party, bantering in Chinook. The visitors were in
too strong force for Jake's word about coming some other night to be of
"Open your cellar and quit your talk," Elizabeth heard, and next she
heard some door that stuck, pulled open with a shriek of the warped
timber. Next they were gambling, and made not much noise over it at
first; but the Indians in due time began to lose to the soberer whites,
becoming quarrelsome, and raising a clumsy disturbance, though it was
plain the whites had their own way and were feared. The voices rose, and
soon there was no moment that several were not shouting curses at once,
till Mrs. Clallam stopped her ears. She was still for a time, hearing
only in a muffled way, when all at once the smell of drink and tobacco,
that had sifted only a little through the cracks, grew heavy in the room,
and she felt Nancy shrink close to her side.
"Mother, mother," the child whispered, "what's that?"
It had gone beyond card-playing with the company in the saloon; they
seemed now to be having a savage horse-play, those on their feet tramping
in their scuffles upon others on the floor, who bellowed incoherently.
Elizabeth Clallam took Nancy in her arms and told her that nobody would
come where they were.
But the child was shaking. "Yes, they will," she whispered, in terror.
"They are!" And she began a tearless sobbing, holding her mother with her
A little sound came close by the bed, and Elizabeth's senses stopped so
that for half a minute she could not stir. She stayed rigid beneath the
quilt, and Nancy clung to her. Something was moving over the floor. It
came quite near, but turned, and its slight rustle crawled away towards
"Who is that?" demanded Mrs. Clallam, sitting up.
There was no answer, but the slow creeping continued, always close along
the floor, like the folds of stuff rubbing, and hands feeling their way
in short slides against the boards. She had no way to find where her
husband was sleeping, and while she thought of this and whether or not to
rush out at the door, the table was gently shaken, there was a drawer
opened, and some object fell.
"Only a thief," she said to herself, and in a sort of sharp joy cried out
her question again.
The singular broken voice of a woman answered, seemingly in fear.
"Match-es," it said; and "Match-es" said a second voice, pronouncing with
difficulty, like the first. She knew it was some of the squaws, and
sprang from the bed, asking what they were doing there. "Match-es," they
murmured; and when she had struck a light she saw how the two were
cringing, their blankets huddled round them. Their motionless black eyes
looked up at her from the floor where they lay sprawled, making no offer
to get up. It was clear to her from the pleading fear in the one word
they answered to whatever she said, that they had come here to hide from
the fury of the next room; and as she stood listening to this she would
have let them remain, but their escape had been noticed. A man burst into
the room, and at sight of her and Nancy stopped, and was blundering
excuses, when Jake caught his arm and had dragged him almost out, but he
saw the two on the floor; at this, getting himself free, he half swept
the crouching figures with his boot as they fled out of the room, and the
door was swung shut. Mrs. Clallam heard his violent words to the squaws
for daring to disturb the strangers, and there followed the heavy lashing
of a quirt, with screams and lamenting. No trouble came from the Indian
husbands, for they were stupefied on the ground, and when their
intelligences quickened enough for them to move, the punishment was long
over and no one in the house awake but Elizabeth and Nancy, seated
together in their bed, watching for the day. Mother and daughter heard
them rise to go out one by one, and the hoof-beats of their horses grew
distant up and down the river. As the rustling trees lighted and turned
transparent in the rising sun, Jake roused those that remained and got
them away. Later he knocked at the door.
"I hev a little raft fixed this morning," said he, "and I guess we can
swim the wagon over here."
"Whatever's quickest to take us from this place," Elizabeth answered.
"Breakfast'll be ready, ma'am, whenever you say."
"I am ready now. I shall want to start ferrying our things-- Where's Mr.
Clallam? Tell him to come here."
"I will, ma'am. I'm sorry--"
"Tell Mr. Clallam to come here, please."
John had slept sound in his haystack, and heard nothing. "Well," he said,
after comforting his wife and Nancy, "you were better off in the room,
anyway. I'd not blame him so, Liza. How was he going to help it?"
But Elizabeth was a woman, and just now saw one thing alone: if selling
whiskey led to such things in this country, the man who sold it was much
worse than any mere law-breaker. John Clallam, being now a long time
married, made no argument. He was looking absently at the open drawer of
a table. "That's queer," he said, and picked up a tintype.
She had no curiosity for anything in that room, and he laid it in the
drawer again, his thoughts being taken up with the next step of their
journey, and what might be coming to them all.
During breakfast Jake was humble about the fright the ladies had received
in his house, explaining how he thought he had acted for the best; at
which Clallam and Mart said that in a rough country folks must look for
rough doings, and get along as well as they can; but Elizabeth said
nothing. The little raft took all but Nancy over the river to the wagon,
where they set about dividing their belongings in loads that could be
floated back, one at a time, and Jake returned to repair some of the
disorder that remained from the night at the cabin. John and Mart poled
the first cargo across, and while they were on the other side, Elizabeth
looked out of the wagon, where she was working alone, and saw five Indian
riders coming down the valley. The dust hung in the air they had rushed
through, and they swung apart and closed again as she had seen before; so
she looked for a rifle; but the firearms had gone over the Okanagon with
the first load. She got down and stood at the front wheel of the wagon,
confronting the riders when they pulled up their horses. One climbed
unsteadily from his saddle and swayed towards her.
"Drink!" said he, half friendly, and held out a bottle.
Elizabeth shook her head.
"Drink," he grunted again, pushing the bottle at her. "Piah-chuck!
Skookurn!" He had a slugglish animal grin, and when she drew back, tipped
the bottle into his mouth, and directly choked, so that his friends on
their horses laughed loud as he stood coughing. "Heap good," he remarked,
looking at Elizabeth, who watched his eyes swim with the plot of the
drink. "Where you come back?" he inquired, touching the wagon. "You cross
Okanagon? Me cross you; cross horses; cross all. Heap cheap. What yes?"
The others nodded. "Heap cheap," they said.
"We don't want you," said Elizabeth.
"No cross? Maybe he going cross you? What yes?"
Again Elizabeth nodded.
"Maybe he Jake?" pursued the Indian.
"Yes, he is. We don't want you."
"We cross you all same. He not."
The Indian spoke loud and thick, and Elizabeth looked over the river
where her husband was running with a rifle, and Jake behind him, holding
a warning hand on his arm. Jake called across to the Indians, who
listened sullenly, but got on their horses and went up the river.
"Now," said Jake to Clallam, "they ain't gone. Get your wife over here so
she kin set in my room till I see what kin be done."
John left him at once, and crossed on the raft. His wife was stepping on
it, when the noise and flight of riders descended along the other bank,
where Jake was waiting. They went in a circle, with hoarse shouts, round
the cabin as Mart with Nancy came from the pasture. The boy no sooner saw
them than he caught his sister up and carried her quickly away among the
corrals and sheds, where the two went out of sight.
"You stay here, Liza," her husband said. "I'll go back over."
But Mrs. Clallam laughed.
"Get ashore," he cried to her. "Quick!"
"Where you go, I go, John."
"What good, what good, in the name--"
"Then I'll get myself over," said she. And he seized her as she would
have jumped into the stream.
While they crossed, the Indians had tied their horses and rambled into
the cabin. Jake came from it to stop the Clallams.
"They're after your contract," said he, quietly. "They say they're going
to have the job of takin' the balance of your stuff that's left acrosst
the Okanagon over to this side."
"What did you say?" asked Mrs. Clallam.
"I set 'em up drinks to gain time."
"Do you want me there?" said Clallam.
"Begosh, no! That would mix things worse."
"Can't you make them go away?" Elizabeth inquired.
"Me and them, ye see, ma'am, we hev a sort of bargain they're to git
certain ferryin'. I can't make 'em savvy how I took charge of you. If you
want them--" He paused.
"We want them!" exclaimed Elizabeth. "If you're joking, it's a poor
"It ain't no joke at all, ma'am." Jake's face grew brooding. "Of course
folks kin say who they'll be ferried by. And you may believe I'd rather
do it. I didn't look for jest this complication; but maybe I kin steer
through; and it's myself I've got to thank. Of course, if them Siwashes
did git your job, they'd sober up gittin' ready. And--"
The emigrants waited, but he did not go on with what was in his mind.
"It's all right," said he, in a brisk tone. "Whatever's a-comin's
a-comin'." He turned abruptly towards the door. "Keep yerselves away jest
now," he added, and went inside.
The parents sought their children, finding Mart had concealed Nancy in
the haystack. They put Mrs. Clallam also in a protected place, as a loud
altercation seemed to be rising at the cabin; this grew as they listened,
and Jake's squaw came running to hide herself. She could tell them
nothing, nor make them understand more than they knew; but she touched
John's rifle, signing to know if it were loaded, and was greatly relieved
when he showed her the magazine full of cartridges. The quarrelling had
fallen silent, but rose in a new gust of fierceness, sounding as if in
the open air and coming their way. No Indian appeared, however, and the
noise passed to the river, where the emigrants soon could hear wood being
split in pieces.
John risked a survey. "It's the raft," he said. "They're smashing it. Now
they're going back. Stay with the children, Liza."
"You're never going to that cabin?" she said.
"He's in a scrape, mother."
John started away, heedless of his wife's despair. At his coming the
Indians shouted and surrounded him, while he heard Jake say, "Drop your
gun and drink with them."
"Drink!" said Andy, laughing with the same screech he had made at the
match going out. "We re all going to Canaan, Connecticut."
Each Indian held a tin cup, and at the instant these were emptied they
were thrust towards Jake, who filled them again, going and coming through
a door that led a step or two down into a dark place which was half
underground. Once he was not quick, or was imagined to be refusing, for
an Indian raised his cup and drunkenly dashed it on Jake's head. Jake
laughed good-humoredly, and filled the cup.
"It's our one chance," said he to John as the Indian, propping himself by
a hand on the wall, offered the whiskey to Clallam.
"We cross you Okanagon," he said. "What yes?"
"Maybe you say no?" said another, pressing the emigrant to the wall.
A third interfered, saying something in their language, at which the
other two disagreed. They talked a moment with threatening rage till
suddenly all drew pistols. At this the two remaining stumbled among the
group, and a shot went into the roof. Jake was there in one step with a
keg, that they no sooner saw than they fell upon it, and the liquor
jetted out as they clinched, wrestling over the room till one lay on his
back with his mouth at the open bung. It was wrenched from him, and
directly there was not a drop more in it. They tilted it, and when none
ran out, flung the keg out of doors and crowded to the door of the dark
place, where Jake barred the way. "Don't take to that yet!" he said to
Clallam, for John was lifting his rifle.
"Piah-chuck!" yelled the Indians, scarcely able to stand. All other
thought had left them, and a new thought came to Jake. He reached for a
fresh keg, while they held their tin cups in the left hand and pistols in
the right, pushing so it was a slow matter to get the keg opened. They
were fast nearing the sodden stage, and one sank on the floor. Jake
glanced in at the door behind him, and filled the cups once again. While
all were drinking he went in the store-room and set more liquor open,
beckoning them to come as they looked up from the rims to which their
lips had been glued. They moved round behind the table, grasping it to
keep on their feet, with the one on the floor crawling among the legs of
the rest. When they were all inside, Jake leaped out and locked the door.
"They kin sleep now," said he. "Gunpowder won't be needed. Keep wide away
from in front."
There was a minute of stillness within, and then a groveling noise and
struggle. A couple of bullets came harmless through the door. Those
inside fought together as well as they could, while those outside
listened as it grew less, the bodies falling stupefied without further
sound of rising. One or two, still active, began striking at the boards
with what heavy thing they could find, until suddenly the blade of an axe
"Keep away!" cried Jake. But Andy had leaped insanely in front of the
door, and fell dead with a bullet through him. With a terrible scream,
Jake flung himself at the place, and poured six shots through the panel;
then, as Clallam caught him, wrenched at the lock, and they saw inside.
Whiskey and blood dripped together, and no one was moving there. It was
liquor with some, and death with others, and all of it lay upon the
guilty soul of Jake.
"You deserve killing yourself," said Clallam.
"That's been attended to," replied Jake, and he reeled, for during his
fire some Indian had shot once more.
Clallam supported him to the room where his wife and Nancy had passed the
night, and laid him on the bed. "I'll get Mrs. Clallam," said he.
"If she'll be willin' to see me," said the wounded man, humbly.
She came, dazed beyond feeling any horror, or even any joy, and she did
what she could.
"It was seein' 'em hit Andy," said Jake. "Is Andy gone? Yes, I kin tell
he's gone from your face." He shut his eyes, and lay still so long a time
that they thought he might be dying now; but he moved at length, and
looked slowly round the wall till he saw the print of the village among
the elms and the covered bridge. His hand lifted to show them this.
"That's the road," said he. "Andy and me used to go fishin' acrosst that
bridge. Did you ever see the Housatonic River? I've fished a lot there.
Cornwall, Connecticut. The hills are pretty there. Then Andy got worse.
You look in that drawer." John remembered, and when he got out the
tintype, Jake stretched for it eagerly. "His mother and him, age ten," he
explained to Elizabeth, and held it for her to see, then studied the
faces in silence. "You kin tell it's Andy, can't yu'?" She told him yes.
"That was before we knowed he weren't--weren't goin' to grow up like the
other boys he played with. So after a while, when she was gone, I got
ashamed seein' Andy's friends makin' their way when he couldn't seem to,
and so I took him away where nobody hed ever been acquainted with us. I
was layin' money by to get him the best doctor in Europe. I 'ain't been a
A faintness mastered him, and Elizabeth would have put the picture on the
table, but his hand closed round it. They let him lie so, and Elizabeth
sat there, while John, with Mart, kept Nancy away till the horror in the
outer room was made invisible. They came and went quietly, and Jake
seemed in a deepening torpor, once only rousing suddenly to call his
son's name, and then, upon looking from one to the other, he recollected,
and his eyes closed again. His mind wandered, but very little, for torpor
seemed to be overcoming him. The squaw had stolen in, and sat cowering
and useless. Towards sundown John's heart sickened at the sound of more
horsemen; but it was only two white men, a sheriff and his deputy.
"Go easy," said John. "He's not going to resist."
"What's up here, anyway? Who are you?"
Clallam explained, and was evidently not so much as half believed.
"If there are Indians killed," said the sheriff, "there's still another
matter for the law to settle with him. We're sent to search for whiskey.
The county's about tired of him."
"You'll find him pretty sick," said John.
"People I find always are pretty sick," said the sheriff, and pushed his
way in, stopping at sight of Mrs. Clallam and the figure on the bed. "I'm
arresting that man, madam," he said, with a shade of apology. "The county
court wants him."
Jake sat up and knew the sheriff. "You're a little late, Proctor," said
he. "The Supreme Court's a-goin' to call my case." Then he fell back, for
his case had been called.
Many fish were still in the pool; and though luck seemed to have left me,
still I stood at the end of the point, casting and casting my vain line,
while the Virginian lay and watched. Noonday's extreme brightness had
left the river and the plain in cooling shadow, but spread and glowed
over the yet undimmed mountains. Westward, the Tetons lifted their peaks
pale and keen as steel through the high, radiant air. Deep down between
the blue gashes of their canons the sun sank long shafts of light, and
the glazed laps of their snow-fields shone separate and white upon their
lofty vastness, like handkerchiefs laid out to dry. Opposite, above the
valley, rose that other range, the Continental Divide, not sharp, but
long and ample. It was bare in some high places, and below these it
stretched everywhere, high and low, in brown and yellow parks, or in
purple miles of pine a world of serene undulations, a great sweet country
A passing band of antelope stood herded suddenly together at sight of us;
then a little breeze blew for a moment from us to them, and they drifted
like phantoms away, and were lost in the levels of the sage-brush.
"If humans could do like that," said the Virginian, watching them go.
"Run, you mean?" said I.
"Tell a foe by the smell of him," explained the cow-puncher; "at fifty
yards--or a mile."
"Yes," I said; "men would be hard to catch."
"A woman needs it most," he murmured. He lay down again in his lounging
sprawl, with his grave eyes intently fixed upon my fly-casting.
The gradual day mounted up the hills farther from the floor of earth.
Warm airs eddied in its wake slowly, stirring the scents of the plain
together. I looked at the Southerner; and there was no guessing what his
thoughts might be at work upon behind that drowsy glance. Then for a
moment a trout rose, but only to look and whip down again into the pool
that wedged its calm into the riffle from below
"Second thoughts," mused the Virginian; and as the trout came no more,
"Second thoughts," he repeated; "and even a fish will have them sooner
than folks has them in this mighty hasty country." And he rolled over
into a new position of ease.
At whom or what was he aiming these shafts of truth? Or did he moralize
merely because health and the weather had steeped him in that serenity
which lifts us among the spheres? Well, sometimes he went on from these
beginnings and told me wonderful things.
"I reckon," said he, presently, "that knowing when to change your mind
would be pretty near knowledge enough for plain people."
Since my acquaintance with him--this was the second summer of it--I had
come to understand him enough to know that he was unfathomable. Still,
for a moment it crossed my thoughts that perhaps now he was discoursing
about himself. He had allowed a jealous foreman to fall out with him at
Sunk Creek ranch in the spring, during Judge Henry's absence. The man,
having a brief authority, parted with him. The Southerner had chosen that
this should be the means of ultimately getting the foreman dismissed and
himself recalled. It was strategic. As he put it to me: "When I am gone,
it will be right easy for the Judge to see which of us two he wants. And
I'll not have done any talking." All of which duly befell in the autumn
as he had planned: the foreman was sent off, his assistant promoted, and
the Virginian again hired. But this was meanwhile. He was indulging
himself in a several months' drifting, and while thus drifting he had
written to me. That is how we two came to be on our way from the railroad
to hunt the elk and the mountain-sheep, and were pausing to fish where
Buffalo Fork joins its waters with Snake River. In those days the
antelope still ran there in hundreds, the Yellowstone Park was a new
thing, and mankind lived very far away. Since meeting me with the horses
in Idaho the Virginian had been silent, even for him. So now I stood
casting my fly, and trusting that he was not troubled with second
thoughts over his strategy.
"Have yu' studded much about marriage?" he now inquired. His serious eyes
met mine as he lay stretched along the ground.
"Not much," I said; "not very much."
"Let's swim," he said. "They have changed their minds."
Forthwith we shook off our boots and dropped our few clothes, and
heedless of what fish we might now drive away, we went into the cool,
slow, deep breadth of backwater which the bend makes just there. As he
came up near me, shaking his head of black hair, the cowpuncher was
smiling a little.
"Not that any number of baths," he remarked, "would conceal a man's
objectionableness from an antelope--not even a she-one."
Then he went under water, and came up again a long way off.
We dried before the fire, without haste. To need no clothes is better
than purple and fine linen. Then he tossed the flap-jacks, and I served
the trout, and after this we lay on our backs upon a buffalo-hide to
smoke and watch the Tetons grow more solemn, as the large stars opened
out over the sky.
"I don't care if I never go home," said I.
The Virginian nodded. "It gives all the peace o' being asleep with all
the pleasure o' feeling the widest kind of awake," said he. "Yu' might
say the whole year's strength flows hearty in every waggle of your
thumb." We lay still for a while. "How many things surprise yu' any
more?" he next asked.
I began considering; but his silence had at length worked round to
"Inventions, of course," said he, "these hyeh telephones an' truck yu'
see so much about in the papers--but I ain't speaking o' such things of
the brain. It is just the common things I mean. The things that a livin',
noticin' man is liable to see and maybe sample for himself. How many o'
them kind can surprise yu' still?"
I still considered.
"Most everything surprised me onced," the cow-puncher continued, in his
gentle Southern voice. "I must have been a mighty green boy. Till I was
fourteen or fifteen I expect I was astonished by ten o'clock every
morning. But a man begins to ketch on to folks and things after a while.
I don't consideh that when--that afteh a man is, say twenty-five, it is
creditable he should get astonished too easy. And so yu've not examined
I had not.
"Well, there's two things anyway--I know them for sure--that I expect
will always get me--don't care if I live to thirty-five, or forty-five,
or eighty. And one's the ways lightning can strike." He paused. Then he
got up and kicked the fire, and stood by it, staring at me. "And the
other is the people that other people will marry."
He stopped again; and I said nothing.
"The people that other people will marry," he repeated. "That will
surprise me till I die."
"If my sympathy--" I began.
But the brief sound that he gave was answer enough, and more than enough
cure for my levity.
"No," said he, reflectively; "not any such thing as a fam'ly for me, yet.
Never, it may be. Not till I can't help it. And that woman has not come
along so far. But I have been sorry for a woman lately. I keep thinking
what she will do. For she will have to do something. Do yu' know
Austrians? Are they quick in their feelings, like I-talians? Or are they
apt to be sluggish, same as Norwegians and them other Dutch-speakin'
I told him what little I knew about Austrians.
"This woman is the first I have ever saw of 'em," he continued. "Of
course men will stampede into marriage in this hyeh Western country,
where a woman is a scanty thing. It ain't what Hank has done that
surprises me. And it is not on him that the sorrow will fall. For she is
good. She is very good. Do yu' remember little black Hank? From Texas he
claims he is. He was working on the main ditch over at Sunk Creek last
summer when that Em'ly hen was around. Well, seh, yu' would not have
pleasured in his company. And this year Hank is placer-mining on Galena
Creek, where we'll likely go for sheep. There's Honey Wiggin and a young
fello' named Lin McLean, and some others along with the outfit. But
Hank's woman will not look at any of them, though the McLean boy is a
likely hand. I have seen that; for I have done a right smart o' business
that-a-way myself, here and there. She will mend their clothes for them,
and she will cook lunches for them any time o' day, and her conduct gave
them hopes at the start. But I reckon Austrians have good religion."
"No better than Americans," said I.
But the Virginian shook his head. "Better'n what I've saw any Americans
have. Of course I am not judging a whole nation by one citizen, and
especially her a woman. And of course in them big Austrian towns the
folks has shook their virtuous sayin's loose from their daily doin's,
same as we have. I expect selling yourself brings the quickest returns to
man or woman all the world over. But I am speakin' not of towns, but of
the back country, where folks don't just merely arrive on the cyars, but
come into the world the natural way, and grow up slow. Onced a week
anyway they see the bunch of old grave-stones that marks their fam'ly.
Their blood and name are knowed about in the neighborhood, and it's not
often one of such will sell themselves. But their religion ain't to them
like this woman's. They can be rip-snortin' or'tn'ary in ways. Now she is
getting naught but hindrance and temptation and meanness from her husband
and every livin' thing around her--yet she keeps right along, nor does
she mostly bear any signs in her face. She has cert'nly come from where
they are used to believing in God and a hereafter mighty hard, and all
day long. She has got one o' them crucifixes, and Hank can't make her
quit prayin' to it. But what is she going to do?"
"He will probably leave her," I said.
"Yes," said the Virginian--"leave her. Alone; her money all spent;
knowin' maybe twenty words of English; and thousands of miles away from
everything she can understand. For our words and ways is all alike
strange to her."
"Then why did he want such a person?" I exclaimed.
There was surprise in the grave glance which the cow-puncher gave me.
"Why, any man would," he answered. "I wanted her myself, till I found she
I looked at this son of the wilderness, standing thoughtful and splendid
by the fire, and unconscious of his own religion that had unexpectedly
shone forth in these last words. But I said nothing; for words too
intimate, especially words of esteem, put him invariably to silence.
"I had forgot to mention her looks to yu'." he pursued, simply. "She is
fit for a man." He stopped again.
"Then there was her wages that Hank saw paid to her," he resumed. "And so
marriage was but a little thing to Hank--agaynst such a heap of
advantages. As for her idea in takin' such as him--maybe it was that he
was small and she was big; tall and big. Or maybe it was just his white
teeth. Them ridiculous reasons will bring a woman to a man, haven't yu'
noticed? But maybe it was just her sorrowful, helpless state, left
stranded as she was, and him keeping himself near her and sober for a
"I had been seein' this hyeh Yellowstone Park, takin' in its geysers, and
this and that, for my enjoyment; and when I found what they claimed about
its strange sights to be pretty near so, I landed up at Galena Creek to
watch the boys prospectin'. Honey Wiggin, yu' know, and McLean, and the
rest. And so they got me to go down with Hank to Gardner for flour and
sugar and truck, which we had to wait for. We lay around the Mammoth
Springs and Gardner for three days, playin' cyards with friends. And I
got plumb interested in them tourists. For I had partly forgot about
Eastern people. And hyeh they came fresh every day to remind a man of the
great size of his country. Most always they would talk to yu' if yu' gave
'em the chance; and I did. I have come mighty nigh regrettin' that I did
not keep a tally of the questions them folks asked me. And as they seemed
genu-winely anxious to believe anything at all, and the worser the thing
the believinger they'd grow, why I--well, there's times when I have got
to lie to keep in good health.
"So I fooled and I fooled. And one noon I was on the front poach of the
big hotel they have opened at the Mammoth Springs for tourists, and the
hotel kid, bein' on the watchout, he sees the dust comin' up the hill,
and he yells out, 'Stage!'
"Yu've not saw that hotel yet, seh? Well, when the kid says 'Stage,' the
consequences is most sudden. About as conspicuous, yu' may say, as when
Old Faithful Geyser lets loose. Yu' see, one batch o' tourists pulls out
right after breakfast for Norris Basin, leavin' things empty and yawnin'.
By noon the whole hotel outfit has been slumberin' in its chairs steady
for three hours. Maybe yu' might hear a fly buzz, but maybe not.
Everything's liable to be restin', barrin' the kid. He's a-watchin' out.
Then he sees the dust, and he says 'Stage!' and it touches the folks off
like a hot pokeh. The Syndicate manager he lopes to a lookin'glass, and
then organizes himself behind the book; and the young photograph chap
bounces out o' his private door like one o' them cuckoo clocks; and the
fossil man claws his specimens and curiosities into shape, and the
porters line up same as parade, and away goes the piano and fiddles
up-stairs. It is mighty conspicuous. So Hank he come rennin' out from
somewheres too, and the stage drives up.
"Then out gets a tall woman, and I noticed her yello' hair. She was kind
o' dumb-eyed, yet fine to see. I reckon Hank noticed her too, right away.
And right away her trouble begins. For she was a lady's maid, and her
lady was out of the stage and roundin' her up quick. And it's ' Where
have you put the keys, Willomene?' The lady was rich and stinkin'
lookin', and had come from New Yawk in her husband's private cyar.
"Well, Willomene fussed around in her pockets, and them keys was not
there. So she started explaining in tanglefoot English to her lady how
her lady must have took them from her before leavin' the cyar. But the
lady seemed to relish hustlin' herself into a rage. She got tolerable
conspicuous, too. And after a heap o' words, 'You are discharged,' she
says; and off she struts. Soon her husband came out to Willomene, still
standin' like statuary, and he pays her a good sum of cash, and he goes
away, and she keeps a standing yet for a spell. Then all of a sudden she
says something I reckon was 'O, Jesus,' and sits down and starts a
"I would like to have given her comfort. But we all stood around on the
hotel poach, and the right thing would not come into my haid. Then the
baggage-wagon came in from Cinnabar, and they had picked the keys up on
the road between Cinnabar and Gardner. So the lady and her toilet was
rescued, but that did no good to Willomene. They stood her trunk down
along with the rest--a brass-nailed little old concern--and there was
Willomene out of a job and afoot a long, long ways from her own range;
and so she kept sitting, and onced in a while she'd cry some more. We got
her a room in the cheap hotel where the Park drivers sleeps when they're
in at the Springs, and she acted grateful like, thanking the boys in her
tanglefoot English. Next mawnin' her folks druv off in a private team to
Norris Basin, and she seemed dazed. For I talked with her then, and
questioned her as to her wishes, but she could not say what she wished,
nor if it was East or West she would go; and I reckon she was too
stricken to have wishes.
"Our stuff for Galena Creek delayed on the railroad, and I got to know
her, and then I quit givin' Hank cause for jealousy. I kept myself with
the boys, and I played more cyards, while Hank he sca'cely played at all.
One night I came on them--Hank and Willomene--walkin' among the pines
where the road goes down the hill. Yu' should have saw that pair o'
lovers. Her big shape was plain and kind o' steadfast in the moon, and
alongside of her little black Hank! And there it was. Of course it ain't
nothing to be surprised at that a mean and triflin' man tries to seem
what he is not when he wants to please a good woman. But why does she get
fooled, when it's so plain to other folks that are not givin' it any
special thought? All the rest of the men and women at the Mammoth under-
stood Hank. They knowed he was a worthless proposition. And I cert'nly
relied on his gettin' back to his whiskey and openin' her eyes that way.
But he did not. I met them next evening again by the Liberty Cap. Sup-
posin' I'd been her brother or her mother, what use was it me warning
her? Brothers and mothers don't get believed.
"The railroad brought the stuff for Galena Creek, and Hank would not look
at it on account of his courtin'. I took it alone myself by Yancey's and
the second bridge and Miller Creek to the camp, nor I didn't tell
Willomene good-bye, for I had got disgusted at her blindness."
The Virginian shifted his position, and jerked his overalls to a more
comfortable fit. Then he continued:
"They was married the Tuesday after at Livingston, and Hank must have
been pow'ful pleased at himself. For he gave Willomene a wedding present,
with the balance of his cash, spending his last nickel on buying her a
red-tailed parrot they had for sale at the First National Bank. The
son-of-a-gun hollad so freely at the bank, the president awde'd the
cashier to get shed of the out-ragious bird, or he would wring its neck.
"So Hank and Willomene stayed a week up in Livingston on her money, and
then he fetched her back to Gardner, and bought their grub, and bride and
groom came up to the camp we had on Galena Creek.
"She had never slep' out before. She had never been on a hawss, neither.
And she mighty near rolled off down into Pitchstone Canyon, comin' up by
the cut-off trail. Why, seh, I would not willingly take you through that
place, except yu' promised me yu' would lead your hawss when I said to.
But Hank takes the woman he had married, and he takes heavy-loaded
pack-hawsses. 'Tis the first time such a thing has been known of in the
country. Yu' remember them big tall grass-topped mountains over in the
Hoodoo country, and how they descends slam down through the cross-timber
that yu' can't scatcely work through afoot, till they pitches over into
lots an' lots o' little canyons, with maybe two inches of water runnin' in
the bottom? All that is East Fork water, and over the divide is Clark's
Fork, or Stinkin' Water, if yu' take the country yondeh to the southeast.
But any place yu' go is them undesirable steep slopes, and the cut-off
trail takes along about the worst in the business.
"Well, Hank he got his outfit over it somehow, and, gentlemen, hush! but
yu'd ought t've seen him and that poor girl pull into our camp. Yu'd
cert'nly never have conjectured them two was a weddin' journey. He was
leadin', but skewed around in his saddle to jaw back at Willomene for
riding so ignorant. Suppose it was a thing she was responsible for, yu'd
not have talked to her that-a-way even in private; and hyeh was the camp
a-lookin', and a-listenin', and some of us ashamed. She was setting
straddleways like a mountain, and between him and her went the three
packanimals, plumb shiverin' played out, and the flour--they had two
hundred pounds--tilted over hellwards, with the red-tailed parrot
shoutin' landslides in his cage tied on top o' the leanin' sacks.
"It was that mean to see, that shameless and unkind, that even a
thoughtless kid like the McLean boy felt offended, and favorable to some
sort of remonstrance. 'The son-of-a--!' he said to me. 'The son-of-a--!
If he don't stop, let's stop him.' And I reckon we might have.
"But Hank he quit. 'Twas plain to see he'd got a genu-wine scare comin'
through Pitchstone Canyon, and it turned him sour, so he'd hardly talk to
us, but just mumbled 'How!' kind o' gruff, when the boys come up to con-
gratulate him as to his marriage.
"But Willomene, she says when she saw me, 'Oh, I am so glad!' and we
shook hands right friendly. And I wished I'd told her good-bye that day
at the Mammoth. For she bore no spite, and maybe I had forgot her
feelings in thinkin' of my own. I had talked to her down at the Mammoth at
first, yu' know, and she said a word about old friends. Our friendship
was three weeks old that day, but I expect her new experiences looked
like years to her. And she told me how near she come to gettin' killed.
"Yu' ain't ever been over that trail, seh? Yu' cert'nly must see
Pitchstone Canyon. But we'll not go there with packs. And we will get off
our hawsses a good ways back. For many animals feels that there's
something the matter with that place, and they act very strange about it.
"The Grand Canyon is grand, and makes yu' feel good to look at it, and a
geyser is grand and all right, too. But this hyeh Pitchstone hole, if
Willomene had went down into that-- well, I'll tell yu', that you may
"She seen the trail a-drawin' nearer and nearer the aidge, between the
timber and the jumpin'-off place, and she seen how them little loose
stones and the crumble stuff would slide and slide away under the hawss's
feet. She could hear the stuff rattlin' continually from his steps, and
when she turned her haid to look, she seen it goin' down close beside
her, but into what it went she could not see. Only, there was a queer
steam would come up now and agayn, and her hawss trembled. So she tried
to get off and walk without sayin' nothin' to Hank. He kep' on ahaid, and
her hawss she had pulled up started to follo' as she was half off him,
and that gave her a tumble, but there was an old crooked dead tree. It
growed right out o' the aidge. There she hung.
"Down below is a little green water tricklin', green as the stuff that
gets on brass, and tricklin' along over soft cream-colored formation,
like pie. And it ain't so far to fall but what a man might not be too
much hurt for crawlin' out. But there ain't no crawlin' out o' Pitchstone
Canyon, they say. Down in there is caves that yu' cannot see. 'Tis them
that coughs up the stream now and agayn. With the wind yu' can smell 'em
a mile away, and in the night I have been layin' quiet and heard 'em. Not
that it's a big noise, even when a man is close up. It's a fluffy kind of
a sigh. But it sounds as if some awful thing was a-makin' it deep down in
the guts of the world. They claim there's poison air comes out o' the
caves and lays low along the water. They claim if a bear or an elk strays
in from below, and the caves sets up their coughin', which they don't
regular every day, the animals die. I have seen it come in two seconds.
And when it comes that-a-way risin' upon yu' with that fluffy kind of a
sigh, yu' feel mighty lonesome, seh.
"So Hank he happened to look back and see Willomene hangin' at the aidge
o' them black rocks. And his scare made him mad. And his mad stayed with
him till they come into camp. She looked around, and when she seen Hank's
tent that him and her was to sleep in she showed surprise. And he showed
surprise when he see the bread she cooked.
"'What kind of a Dutch woman are yu',' says he, strainin' for a joke, 'if
yu' can't use a Dutch-oven?'
"'You say to me you have a house to live in,' says Willomene. 'Where is
"'I did not figure on gettin' a woman when I left camp,' says Hank,
grinnin', but not pleasant, 'or I'd have hurried up with the shack I'm a
"He was buildin' one. When I left Galena Creek and come away from that
country to meet you, the house was finished enough for the couple to move
in. I hefted her brass-nailed trunk up the hill from their tent myself,
and I watched her take out her crucifix. But she would not let me help
her with that. She'd not let me touch it. She'd fixed it up agaynst the
wall her own self her own way. But she accepted some flowers I picked,
and set them in a can front of the crucifix. Then Hank he come in, and
seein', says to me, 'Are you one of the kind that squats before them
silly dolls?' 'I would tell yu', I answered him; 'but it would not
inter-est yu'.' And I cleared out, and left him and Willomene to begin
"Already they had quit havin' much to say to each other down in their
tent. The only steady talkin' done in that house was done by the parrot.
I've never saw any go ahaid of that bird. I have told yu' about Hank, and
how when he'd come home and see her prayin' to that crucifix he'd always
get riled up. He would mention it freely to the boys. Not that she
neglected him, yu' know. She done her part, workin' mighty hard, for she
was a willin' woman. But he could not make her quit her religion; and
Willomene she had got to bein' very silent before I come away. She used
to talk to me some at first, but she dropped it. I don't know why. I
expect maybe it was hard for her to have us that close in camp,
witnessin' her troubles every day, and she a foreigner. I reckon if she
got any comfort, it would be when we was off prospectin' or huntin', and
she could shut the cabin door and be alone."
The Virginian stopped for a moment.
"It will soon be a month since I left Galena Creek," he resumed. "But I
cannot get the business out o' my haid. I keep a studyin' over it."
His talk was done. He had unburdened his mind. Night lay deep and quiet
around us, with no sound far or near, save Buffalo Fork plashing over its
We left Snake River. We went up Pacific Creek, and through Two Ocean
Pass, and down among the watery willow-bottoms and beaverdams of the
Upper Yellowstone. We fished; we enjoyed existence along the lake. Then
we went over Pelican Creek trail and came steeply down into the giant
country of grasstopped mountains. At dawn and dusk the elk had begun to
call across the stillness. And one morning in the Hoodoo country, where
we were looking for sheep, we came round a jut of the strange, organ-pipe
formation upon a longlegged boy of about nineteen, also hunting.
"Still hyeh?" said the Virginian, without emotion.
"I guess so," returned the boy, equally matter-of-fact."Yu' seem to be
around yourself," he added.
They might have been next-door neighbors, meeting in a town street for
the second time in the same day.
The Virginian made me known to Mr. Lin McLean, who gave me a brief nod.
"Any luck?" he inquired, but not of me.
"Oh," drawled the Virginian, "luck enough."
Knowing the ways of the country, I said no word. It was bootless to
interrupt their own methods of getting at what was really in both their
The boy fixed his wide-open hazel eyes upon me. "Fine weather," he
"Very fine," said I.
"I seen your horses a while ago," he said. "Camp far from here?" he asked
"Not specially. Stay and eat with us. We've got elk meat."
"That's what I'm after for camp," said McLean. "All of us is out on a
hunt to-day-- except him."
"How many are yu' now?"
"The whole six."
"Oh, some days the gold washes out good in the pan, and others it's that
fine it'll float off without settlin'."
"So Hank ain't huntin' to-day?"
"Huntin'! We left him layin' out in that clump o'brush below their cabin.
Been drinkin' all night."
The Virginian broke off a piece of the Hoodoo mud-rock from the weird
eroded pillar that we stood beside. He threw it into a bank of last
year's snow. We all watched it as if it were important. Up through the
mountain silence pierced the long quivering whistle of a bull-elk. It was
like an unearthly singer practising an unearthly scale.
"First time she heard that," said McLean, "she was scared."
"Nothin' maybe to resemble it in Austria," said the Virginian.
"That's so," said McLean. "That's so, you bet! Nothin' just like Hank
over there, neither."
"Well, flesh is mostly flesh in all lands, I reckon," said the Virginian.
"I expect yu' can be drunk and disorderly in every language. But an
Austrian Hank would be liable to respect her crucifix.""
"He ain't made her quit it yet?"
"Not him. But he's got meaner."
"Drunk this mawnin', yu' say?"
"That's his most harmless condition now."
"Nobody's in camp but them two? Her and him alone?"
"Oh, he dassent touch her."
"Who did he tell that to?"
"Oh, the camp is backin' her. The camp has explained that to him several
times, you bet! And what's more, she has got the upper hand of him
herself. She has him beat."
"She has downed him with her eye. Just by endurin' him peacefully; and
with her eye. I've saw it. Things changed some after yu' pulled out. We
had a good crowd still, and it was pleasant, and not too lively nor yet