Part 3 out of 5
"My precinct is as clean as a hound's tooth," said the captain. "The
lid's shut down as close there as it is over the eye of a Williamsburg
girl when she's kissed at a party. But if you think there's anything
queer at the address, I'll go there with ye."
On the next afternoon at 3, Turpin and the captain crept softly up the
stairs of No. 345 Blank Street. A dozen plain-clothes men, dressed in
full police uniforms, so as to allay suspicion, waited in the hall
At the top of the stairs was a door, which was found to be locked.
The captain took a key from his pocket and unlocked it. The two men
They found themselves in a large room, occupied by twenty or twenty-
five elegantly clothed ladies. Racing charts hung against the walls,
a ticker clicked in one corner; with a telephone receiver to his ear a
man was calling out the various positions of the horses in a very
exciting race. The occupants of the room looked up at the intruders;
but, as if reassured by the sight of the captain's uniform, they
reverted their attention to the man at the telephone.
"You see," said the captain to Turpin, "the value of an anonymous
letter! No high-minded and self-respecting gentleman should
consider one worthy of notice. Is your wife among this assembly, Mr.
"She is not," said Turpin.
"And if she was," continued the captain, "would she be within the
reach of the tongue of slander? These ladies constitute a Browning
Society. They meet to discuss the meaning of the great poet. The
telephone is connected with Boston, whence the parent society
transmits frequently its interpretations of the poems. Be ashamed of
yer suspicions, Mr. Turpin."
"Go soak your shield," said Turpin. "Vivien knows how to take care of
herself in a pool-room. She's not dropping anything on the ponies.
There must be something queer going on here."
"Nothing but Browning," said the captain. "Hear that?"
"Thanatopsis by a nose," drawled the man at the telephone.
"That's not Browning; that's Longfellow," said Turpin, who sometimes
"Back to the pasture!" exclaimed the captain. "Longfellow made the
pacing-to-wagon record of 7.53 'way back in 1868."
"I believe there's something queer about this joint," repeated Turpin.
"I don't see it," said the captain.
"I know it looks like a pool-room, all right," persisted Turpin, "but
that's all a blind. Vivien has been dropping a lot of coin somewhere.
I believe there's some under-handed work going on here."
A number of racing sheets were tacked close together, covering a large
space on one of the walls. Turpin, suspicious, tore several of them
down. A door, previously hidden, was revealed. Turpin placed an
ear to the crack and listened intently. He heard the soft hum of many
voices, low and guarded laughter, and a sharp, metallic clicking and
scraping as if from a multitude of tiny but busy objects.
"My God! It is as I feared!" whispered Turpin to himself. "Summon
your men at once!" he called to the captain. "She is in there, I
At the blowing of the captain's whistle the uniformed plain-clothes
men rushed up the stairs into the pool-room. When they saw the
betting paraphernalia distributed around they halted, surprised and
puzzled to know why they had been summoned.
But the captain pointed to the locked door and bade them break it
down. In a few moments they demolished it with the axes they carried.
Into the other room sprang Claude Turpin, with the captain at his
The scene was one that lingered long in Turpin's mind. Nearly a score
of women--women expensively and fashionably clothed, many beautiful
and of refined appearance--had been seated at little marble-topped
tables. When the police burst open the door they shrieked and ran
here and there like gayly plumed birds that had been disturbed in a
tropical grove. Some became hysterical; one or two fainted; several
knelt at the feet of the officers and besought them for mercy on
account of their families and social position.
A man who had been seated behind a desk had seized a roll of currency
as large as the ankle of a Paradise Roof Gardens chorus girl and
jumped out of the window. Half a dozen attendants huddled at one end
of the room, breathless from fear.
Upon the tables remained the damning and incontrovertible evidences
of the guilt of the habituées of that sinister room--dish after dish
heaped high with ice cream, and surrounded by stacks of empty ones,
scraped to the last spoonful.
"Ladies," said the captain to his weeping circle of prisoners, "I'll
not hold any of yez. Some of yez I recognize as having fine houses and
good standing in the community, with hard-working husbands and childer
at home. But I'll read ye a bit of a lecture before ye go. In the
next room there's a 20-to-1 shot just dropped in under the wire three
lengths ahead of the field. Is this the way ye waste your husbands'
money instead of helping earn it? Home wid yez! The lid's on the
ice-cream freezer in this precinct."
Claude Turpin's wife was among the patrons of the raided room. He led
her to their apartment in stem silence. There she wept so
remorsefully and besought his forgiveness so pleadingly that he forgot
his just anger, and soon he gathered his penitent golden-haired Vivien
in his arms and forgave her.
"Darling," she murmured, half sobbingly, as the moonlight drifted
through the open window, glorifying her sweet, upturned face, "I know
I done wrong. I will never touch ice cream again. I forgot you were
not a millionaire. I used to go there every day. But to-day I felt
some strange, sad presentiment of evil, and I was not myself. I ate
only eleven saucers."
"Say no more," said Claude, gently as he fondly caressed her waving
"And you are sure that you fully forgive me?" asked Vivien, gazing at
him entreatingly with dewy eyes of heavenly blue.
"Almost sure, little one," answered Claude, stooping and lightly
touching her snowy forehead with his lips. "I'll let you know
later on. I've got a month's salary down on Vanilla to win the
three-year-old steeplechase to-morrow; and if the ice-cream hunch
is to the good you are It again--see?"
THE WHIRLIGIG OF LIFE
Justice-of-the-Peace Benaja Widdup sat in the door of his office
smoking his elder-stem pipe. Half-way to the zenith the Cumberland
range rose blue-gray in the afternoon haze. A speckled hen swaggered
down the main street of the "settlement," cackling foolishly.
Up the road came a sound of creaking axles, and then a slow cloud of
dust, and then a bull-cart bearing Ransie Bilbro and his wife. The
cart stopped at the Justice's door, and the two climbed down. Ransie
was a narrow six feet of sallow brown skin and yellow hair. The
imperturbability of the mountains hung upon him like a suit of armour.
The woman was calicoed, angled, snuff-brushed, and weary with unknown
desires. Through it all gleamed a faint protest of cheated youth
unconscious of its loss.
The Justice of the Peace slipped his feet into his shoes, for the sake
of dignity, and moved to let them enter.
"We-all," said the woman, in a voice like the wind blowing through pine
boughs, "wants a divo'ce." She looked at Ransie to see if he noted any
flaw or ambiguity or evasion or partiality or self-partisanship in her
statement of their business.
"A divo'ce," repeated Ransie, with a solemn nod. "We-all can't git
along together nohow. It's lonesome enough fur to live in the
mount'ins when a man and a woman keers fur one another. But when
she's a-spittin' like a wildcat or a-sullenin' like a hoot-owl in the
cabin, a man ain't got no call to live with her."
"When he's a no-'count varmint," said the woman, "without any especial
warmth, a-traipsin' along of scalawags and moonshiners and a-layin' on
his back pizen 'ith co'n whiskey, and a-pesterin' folks with a pack o'
hungry, triflin' houn's to feed!"
"When she keeps a-throwin' skillet lids," came Ransie's antiphony,
"and slings b'ilin' water on the best coon-dog in the Cumberlands, and
sets herself agin' cookin' a man's victuals, and keeps him awake o'
nights accusin' him of a sight of doin's!"
"When he's al'ays a-fightin' the revenues, and gits a hard name in the
mount'ins fur a mean man, who's gwine to be able fur to sleep o'
The Justice of the Peace stirred deliberately to his duties. He
placed his one chair and a wooden stool for his petitioners. He
opened his book of statutes on the table and scanned the index.
Presently he wiped his spectacles and shifted his inkstand.
"The law and the statutes," said he, "air silent on the subjeck of
divo'ce as fur as the jurisdiction of this co't air concerned. But,
accordin' to equity and the Constitution and the golden rule, it's a
bad barg'in that can't run both ways. If a justice of the peace can
marry a couple, it's plain that he is bound to be able to divo'ce 'em.
This here office will issue a decree of divo'ce and abide by the
decision of the Supreme Co't to hold it good."
Ransie Bilbro drew a small tobacco-bag from his trousers pocket. Out
of this he shook upon the table a five-dollar note. "Sold a b'arskin
and two foxes fur that," he remarked. "It's all the money we got."
"The regular price of a divo'ce in this co't," said the Justice, "air
five dollars." He stuffed the bill into the pocket of his homespun
vest with a deceptive air of indifference. With much bodily toil
and mental travail he wrote the decree upon half a sheet of foolscap,
and then copied it upon the other. Ransie Bilbro and his wife
listened to his reading of the document that was to give them freedom:
"Know all men by these presents that Ransie Bilbro and his wife,
Ariela Bilbro, this day personally appeared before me and promises
that hereinafter they will neither love, honour, nor obey each other,
neither for better nor worse, being of sound mind and body, and accept
summons for divorce according to the peace and dignity of the State.
Herein fail not, so help you God. Benaja Widdup, justice of the peace
in and for the county of Piedmont, State of Tennessee."
The Justice was about to hand one of the documents to Ransie. The
voice of Ariela delayed the transfer. Both men looked at her. Their
dull masculinity was confronted by something sudden and unexpected in
"Judge, don't you give him that air paper yit. 'Tain't all settled,
nohow. I got to have my rights first. I got to have my ali-money.
'Tain't no kind of a way to do fur a man to divo'ce his wife 'thout
her havin' a cent fur to do with. I'm a-layin' off to be a-goin' up
to brother Ed's up on Hogback Mount'in. I'm bound fur to hev a pa'r
of shoes and some snuff and things besides. Ef Rance kin affo'd a
divo'ce, let him pay me ali-money."
Ransie Bilbro was stricken to dumb perplexity. There had been no
previous hint of alimony. Women were always bringing up startling and
Justice Benaja Widdup felt that the point demanded judicial decision.
The authorities were also silent on the subject of alimony. But the
woman's feet were bare. The trail to Hogback Mountain was steep and
"Ariela Bilbro," he asked, in official tones, "how much did you 'low
would be good and sufficient ali-money in the case befo' the co't."
"I 'lowed," she answered, "fur the shoes and all, to say five dollars.
That ain't much fur ali-money, but I reckon that'll git me to up
"The amount," said the Justice, "air not onreasonable. Ransie Bilbro,
you air ordered by the co't to pay the plaintiff the sum of five
dollars befo' the decree of divo'ce air issued."
"I hain't no mo' money," breathed Ransie, heavily. "I done paid you
all I had."
"Otherwise," said the Justice, looking severely over his spectacles,
"you air in contempt of co't."
"I reckon if you gimme till to-morrow," pleaded the husband, "I mout
be able to rake or scrape it up somewhars. I never looked for to be
a-payin' no ali-money."
"The case air adjourned," said Benaja Widdup, "till to-morrow, when
you-all will present yo'selves and obey the order of the co't.
Followin' of which the decrees of divo'ce will be delivered." He sat
down in the door and began to loosen a shoestring.
"We mout as well go down to Uncle Ziah's," decided Ransie, "and spend
the night." He climbed into the cart on one side, and Ariela climbed
in on the other. Obeying the flap of his rope, the little red bull
slowly came around on a tack, and the cart crawled away in the nimbus
arising from its wheels.
Justice-of-the-peace Benaja Widdup smoked his elder-stem pipe. Late
in the afternoon he got his weekly paper, and read it until the
twilight dimmed its lines. Then he lit the tallow candle on his
table, and read until the moon rose, marking the time for supper. He
lived in the double log cabin on the slope near the girdled poplar.
Going home to supper he crossed a little branch darkened by a laurel
thicket. The dark figure of a man stepped from the laurels and
pointed a rifle at his breast. His hat was pulled down low, and
something covered most of his face.
"I want yo' money," said the figure, "'thout any talk. I'm gettin'
nervous, and my finger's a-wabblin' on this here trigger."
"I've only got f-f-five dollars," said the Justice, producing it
from his vest pocket.
"Roll it up," came the order, "and stick it in the end of this here
The bill was crisp and new. Even fingers that were clumsy and
trembling found little difficulty in making a spill of it and
inserting it (this with less ease) into the muzzle of the rifle.
"Now I reckon you kin be goin' along," said the robber.
The Justice lingered not on his way.
The next day came the little red bull, drawing the cart to the
office door. Justice Benaja Widdup had his shoes on, for he was
expecting the visit. In his presence Ransie Bilbro handed to his
wife a five-dollar bill. The official's eye sharply viewed it.
It seemed to curl up as though it had been rolled and inserted into
the end of a gun-barrel. But the Justice refrained from comment.
It is true that other bills might be inclined to curl. He handed
each one a decree of divorce. Each stood awkwardly silent, slowly
folding the guarantee of freedom. The woman cast a shy glance
full of constraint at Ransie.
"I reckon you'll be goin' back up to the cabin," she said, along 'ith
the bull-cart. There's bread in the tin box settin' on the shelf. I
put the bacon in the b'ilin'-pot to keep the hounds from gittin' it.
Don't forget to wind the clock to-night."
"You air a-goin' to your brother Ed's?" asked Ransie, with fine
"I was 'lowin' to get along up thar afore night. I ain't sayin' as
they'll pester theyselves any to make me welcome, but I hain't nowhar
else fur to go. It's a right smart ways, and I reckon I better be
goin'. I'll be a-sayin' good-bye, Ranse--that is, if you keer fur to
"I don't know as anybody's a hound dog," said Ransie, in a martyr's
voice, "fur to not want to say good-bye--'less you air so anxious to
git away that you don't want me to say it."
Ariela was silent. She folded the five-dollar bill and her decree
carefully, and placed them in the bosom of her dress. Benaja Widdup
watched the money disappear with mournful eyes behind his spectacles.
And then with his next words he achieved rank (as his thoughts ran)
with either the great crowd of the world's sympathizers or the little
crowd of its great financiers.
"Be kind o' lonesome in the old cabin to-night, Ranse," he said.
Ransie Bilbro stared out at the Cumberlands, clear blue now in the
sunlight. He did not look at Ariela.
"I 'low it might be lonesome," he said; "but when folks gits mad and
wants a divo'ce, you can't make folks stay."
"There's others wanted a divo'ce," said Ariela, speaking to the wooden
stool. "Besides, nobody don't want nobody to stay."
"Nobody never said they didn't."
"Nobody never said they did. I reckon I better start on now to
"Nobody can't wind that old clock."
"Want me to go back along 'ith you in the cart and wind it fur you,
The mountaineer's countenance was proof against emotion. But he
reached out a big hand and enclosed Ariela's thin brown one. Her soul
peeped out once through her impassive face, hallowing it.
"Them hounds shan't pester you no more," said Ransie. "I reckon I
been mean and low down. You wind that clock, Ariela."
"My heart hit's in that cabin, Ranse," she whispered, "along 'ith you.
I ai'nt a-goin' to git mad no more. Le's be startin', Ranse, so's we
kin git home by sundown."
Justice-of-the-peace Benaja Widdup interposed as they started for the
door, forgetting his presence.
"In the name of the State of Tennessee," he said, "I forbid you-all to
be a-defyin' of its laws and statutes. This co't is mo' than willin'
and full of joy to see the clouds of discord and misunderstandin'
rollin' away from two lovin' hearts, but it air the duty of the co't
to p'eserve the morals and integrity of the State. The co't reminds
you that you air no longer man and wife, but air divo'ced by regular
decree, and as such air not entitled to the benefits and 'purtenances
of the mattermonal estate."
Ariela caught Ransie's arm. Did those words mean that she must lose
him now when they had just learned the lesson of life?
"But the co't air prepared," went on the Justice, "fur to remove the
disabilities set up by the decree of divo'ce. The co't air on hand to
perform the solemn ceremony of marri'ge, thus fixin' things up and
enablin' the parties in the case to resume the honour'ble and
elevatin' state of mattermony which they desires. The fee fur
performin' said ceremony will be, in this case, to wit, five dollars."
Ariela caught the gleam of promise in his words. Swiftly her hand went
to her bosom. Freely as an alighting dove the bill fluttered to the
Justice's table. Her sallow cheek coloured as she stood hand in hand
with Ransie and listened to the reuniting words.
Ransie helped her into the cart, and climbed in beside her. The
little red bull turned once more, and they set out, hand-clasped, for
Justice-of-the-peace Benaja Widdup sat in his door and took off his
shoes. Once again he fingered the bill tucked down in his vest
pocket. Once again he smoked his elder-stem pipe. Once again the
speckled hen swaggered down the main street of the "settlement,"
A SACRIFICE HIT
The editor of the _Hearthstone Magazine_ has his own ideas about the
selection of manuscript for his publication. His theory is no secret;
in fact, he will expound it to you willingly sitting at his mahogany
desk, smiling benignantly and tapping his knee gently with his
"The _Hearthstone_," he will say, "does not employ a staff of
readers. We obtain opinions of the manuscripts submitted to us
directly from types of the various classes of our readers."
That is the editor's theory; and this is the way he carries it out:
When a batch of MSS. is received the editor stuffs every one of his
pockets full of them and distributes them as he goes about during the
day. The office employees, the hall porter, the janitor, the elevator
man, messenger boys, the waiters at the café where the editor has
luncheon, the man at the news-stand where he buys his evening paper,
the grocer and milkman, the guard on the 5.30 uptown elevated train,
the ticket-chopper at Sixty ----th street, the cook and maid at his
home--these are the readers who pass upon MSS. sent in to the
_Hearthstone Magazine_. If his pockets are not entirely emptied by
the time he reaches the bosom of his family the remaining ones are
handed over to his wife to read after the baby goes to sleep. A few
days later the editor gathers in the MSS. during his regular rounds
and considers the verdict of his assorted readers.
This system of making up a magazine has been very successful; and the
circulation, paced by the advertising rates, is making a wonderful
record of speed.
The _Hearthstone_ Company also publishes books, and its imprint is to
be found on several successful works--all recommended, says the
editor, by the _Hearthstone's_ army of volunteer readers. Now and
then (according to talkative members of the editorial staff) the
_Hearthstone_ has allowed manuscripts to slip through its fingers on
the advice of its heterogeneous readers, that afterward proved to be
famous sellers when brought out by other houses.
For instance (the gossips say), "The Rise and Fall of Silas Latham"
was unfavourably passed upon by the elevator-man; the office-boy
unanimously rejected "The Boss"; "In the Bishop's Carriage" was
contemptuously looked upon by the street-car conductor; "The
Deliverance" was turned down by a clerk in the subscription department
whose wife's mother had just begun a two-months' visit at his home;
"The Queen's Quair" came back from the janitor with the comment: "So
is the book."
But nevertheless the _Hearthstone_ adheres to its theory and system,
and it will never lack volunteer readers; for each one of the widely
scattered staff, from the young lady stenographer in the editorial
office to the man who shovels in coal (whose adverse decision lost to
the _Hearthstone_ Company the manuscript of "The Under World"), has
expectations of becoming editor of the magazine some day.
This method of the _Hearthstone_ was well known to Allen Slayton when
he wrote his novelette entitled "Love Is All." Slayton had hung about
the editorial offices of all the magazines so persistently that he was
acquainted with the inner workings of every one in Gotham.
He knew not only that the editor of the Hearthstone handed his MSS.
around among different types of people for reading, but that the
stories of sentimental love-interest went to Miss Puffkin, the
editor's stenographer. Another of the editor's peculiar customs was to
conceal invariably the name of the writer from his readers of MSS. so
that a glittering name might not influence the sincerity of their
Slayton made "Love Is All" the effort of his life. He gave it six
months of the best work of his heart and brain. It was a pure
love-story, fine, elevated, romantic, passionate--a prose poem that
set the divine blessing of love (I am transposing from the manuscript)
high above all earthly gifts and honours, and listed it in the
catalogue of heaven's choicest rewards. Slayton's literary ambition
was intense. He would have sacrificed all other worldly possessions
to have gained fame in his chosen art. He would almost have cut off
his right hand, or have offered himself to the knife of the
appendicitis fancier to have realized his dream of seeing one of his
efforts published in the _Hearthstone_.
Slayton finished "Love Is All," and took it to the _Hearthstone_ in
person. The office of the magazine was in a large, conglomerate
building, presided under by a janitor.
As the writer stepped inside the door on his way to the elevator a
potato masher flew through the hall, wrecking Slayton's hat, and
smashing the glass of the door. Closely following in the wake of the
utensil flew the janitor, a bulky, unwholesome man, suspenderless and
sordid, panic-stricken and breathless. A frowsy, fat woman with
flying hair followed the missile. The janitor's foot slipped on the
tiled floor, he fell in a heap with an exclamation of despair. The
woman pounced upon him and seized his hair. The man bellowed lustily.
Her vengeance wreaked, the virago rose and stalked triumphant as
Minerva, back to some cryptic domestic retreat at the rear. The
janitor got to his feet, blown and humiliated.
"This is married life," he said to Slayton, with a certain bruised
humour. "That's the girl I used to lay awake of nights thinking
about. Sorry about your hat, mister. Say, don't snitch to the tenants
about this, will yer? I don't want to lose me job."
Slayton took the elevator at the end of the hall and went up to the
offices of the _Hearthstone_. He left the MS. of "Love Is All" with
the editor, who agreed to give him an answer as to its availability
at the end of a week.
Slayton formulated his great winning scheme on his way down. It
struck him with one brilliant flash, and he could not refrain from
admiring his own genius in conceiving the idea. That very night he
set about carrying it into execution.
Miss Puffkin, the _Hearthstone_ stenographer, boarded in the same house
with the author. She was an oldish, thin, exclusive, languishing,
sentimental maid; and Slayton had been introduced to her some time
The writer's daring and self-sacrificing project was this: He knew
that the editor of the _Hearthstone_ relied strongly upon Miss
Puffkin's judgment in the manuscript of romantic and sentimental
fiction. Her taste represented the immense average of mediocre women
who devour novels and stories of that type. The central idea and
keynote of "Love Is All" was love at first sight--the enrapturing,
irresistible, soul-thrilling feeling that compels a man or a woman
to recognize his or her spirit-mate as soon as heart speaks to heart.
Suppose he should impress this divine truth upon Miss Puffkin
personally!--would she not surely indorse her new and rapturous
sensations by recommending highly to the editor of the _Hearthstone_
the novelette "Love Is All"?
Slayton thought so. And that night he took Miss Puffkin to the
theatre. The next night he made vehement love to her in the dim
parlour of the boarding-house. He quoted freely from "Love Is All";
and he wound up with Miss Puffkin's head on his shoulder, and visions
of literary fame dancing in his head.
But Slayton did not stop at love-making. This, he said to himself,
was the turning point of his life; and, like a true sportsman, he
"went the limit." On Thursday night he and Miss Puffkin walked over
to the Big Church in the Middle of the Block and were married.
Brave Slayton! Châteaubriand died in a garret, Byron courted a widow,
Keats starved to death, Poe mixed his drinks, De Quincey hit the pipe,
Ade lived in Chicago, James kept on doing it, Dickens wore white
socks, De Maupassant wore a strait-jacket, Tom Watson became a
Populist, Jeremiah wept, all these authors did these things for the
sake of literature, but thou didst cap them all; thou marriedst a wife
for to carve for thyself a niche in the temple of fame!
On Friday morning Mrs. Slayton said she would go over to the
_Hearthstone_ office, hand in one or two manuscripts that the editor
had given to her to read, and resign her position as stenographer.
"Was there anything--er--that--er--you particularly fancied
in the stories you are going to turn in?" asked Slayton with a
"There was one--a novelette, that I liked so much," said his wife. "I
haven't read anything in years that I thought was half as nice and
true to life."
That afternoon Slayton hurried down to the _Hearthstone_ office. He
felt that his reward was close at hand. With a novelette in the
_Hearthstone_, literary reputation would soon be his.
The office boy met him at the railing in the outer office. It was not
for unsuccessful authors to hold personal colloquy with the editor
except at rare intervals.
Slayton, hugging himself internally, was nursing in his heart the
exquisite hope of being able to crush the office boy with his
He inquired concerning his novelette. The office boy went into the
sacred precincts and brought forth a large envelope, thick with more
than the bulk of a thousand checks.
"The boss told me to tell you he's sorry," said the boy, "but your
manuscript ain't available for the magazine."
Slayton stood, dazed. "Can you tell me," he stammered, "whether or
no Miss Puff--that is my--I mean Miss Puffkin--handed in a novelette
this morning that she had been asked to read?"
"Sure she did," answered the office boy wisely. "I heard the old man
say that Miss Puffkin said it was a daisy. The name of it was,
'Married for the Mazuma, or a Working Girl's Triumph.'"
"Say, you!" said the office boy confidentially, "your name's Slayton,
ain't it? I guess I mixed cases on you without meanin' to do it. The
boss give me some manuscript to hand around the other day and I got
the ones for Miss Puffkin and the janitor mixed. I guess it's all
And then Slayton looked closer and saw on the cover of his manuscript,
under the title "Love Is All," the janitor's comment scribbled with a
piece of charcoal:
"The ---- you say!"
THE ROADS WE TAKE
Twenty miles west of Tucson, the "Sunset Express" stopped at a tank to
take on water. Besides the aqueous addition the engine of that famous
flyer acquired some other things that were not good for it.
While the fireman was lowering the feeding hose, Bob Tidball, "Shark"
Dodson and a quarter-bred Creek Indian called John Big Dog climbed on
the engine and showed the engineer three round orifices in pieces of
ordnance that they carried. These orifices so impressed the engineer
with their possibilities that he raised both hands in a gesture such
as accompanies the ejaculation "Do tell!"
At the crisp command of Shark Dodson, who was leader of the attacking
force the engineer descended to the ground and uncoupled the engine
and tender. Then John Big Dog, perched upon the coal, sportively held
two guns upon the engine driver and the fireman, and suggested that
they run the engine fifty yards away and there await further orders.
Shark Dodson and Bob Tidball, scorning to put such low-grade ore as
the passengers through the mill, struck out for the rich pocket of the
express car. They found the messenger serene in the belief that the
"Sunset Express" was taking on nothing more stimulating and dangerous
than aqua pura. While Bob was knocking this idea out of his head with
the butt-end of his six-shooter Shark Dodson was already dosing the
express-car safe with dynamite.
The safe exploded to the tune of $30,000, all gold and currency. The
passengers thrust their heads casually out of the windows to look for
the thunder-cloud. The conductor jerked at the bell-rope, which
sagged down loose and unresisting, at his tug. Shark Dodson and Bob
Tidball, with their booty in a stout canvas bag, tumbled out of the
express car and ran awkwardly in their high-heeled boots to the
The engineer, sullenly angry but wise, ran the engine, according to
orders, rapidly away from the inert train. But before this was
accomplished the express messenger, recovered from Bob Tidball's
persuader to neutrality, jumped out of his car with a Winchester rifle
and took a trick in the game. Mr. John Big Dog, sitting on the coal
tender, unwittingly made a wrong lead by giving an imitation of a
target, and the messenger trumped him. With a ball exactly between
his shoulder blades the Creek chevalier of industry rolled off to
the ground, thus increasing the share of his comrades in the loot by
Two miles from the tank the engineer was ordered to stop.
The robbers waved a defiant adieu and plunged down the steep slope
into the thick woods that lined the track. Five minutes of crashing
through a thicket of chaparral brought them to open woods, where three
horses were tied to low-hanging branches. One was waiting for John
Big Dog, who would never ride by night or day again. This animal the
robbers divested of saddle and bridle and set free. They mounted the
other two with the bag across one pommel, and rode fast and with
discretion through the forest and up a primeval, lonely gorge. Here
the animal that bore Bob Tidball slipped on a mossy boulder and broke
a foreleg. They shot him through the head at once and sat down to
hold a council of flight. Made secure for the present by the tortuous
trail they had travelled, the question of time was no longer so big.
Many miles and hours lay between them and the spryest posse that could
follow. Shark Dodson's horse, with trailing rope and dropped bridle,
panted and cropped thankfully of the grass along the stream in the
gorge. Bob Tidball opened the sack, drew out double handfuls of the
neat packages of currency and the one sack of gold and chuckled with
the glee of a child.
"Say, you old double-decked pirate," he called joyfully to Dodson,
"you said we could do it--you got a head for financing that knocks
the horns off of anything in Arizona."
"What are we going to do about a hoss for you, Bob? We ain't got long
to wait here. They'll be on our trail before daylight in the
"Oh, I guess that cayuse of yourn'll carry double for a while,"
answered the sanguine Bob. "We'll annex the first animal we come
across. By jingoes, we made a haul, didn't we? Accordin' to the
marks on this money there's $30,000--$15,000 apiece!"
"It's short of what I expected," said Shark Dodson, kicking softly at
the packages with the toe of his boot. And then he looked pensively at
the wet sides of his tired horse.
"Old Bolivar's mighty nigh played out," he said, slowly. "I wish that
sorrel of yours hadn't got hurt."
"So do I," said Bob, heartily, "but it can't be helped. Bolivar's got
plenty of bottom--he'll get us both far enough to get fresh mounts.
Dang it, Shark, I can't help thinkin' how funny it is that an
Easterner like you can come out here and give us Western fellows cards
and spades in the desperado business. What part of the East was you
"New York State," said Shark Dodson, sitting down on a boulder and
chewing a twig. "I was born on a farm in Ulster County. I ran away
from home when I was seventeen. It was an accident my coming West. I
was walkin' along the road with my clothes in a bundle, makin' for New
York City. I had an idea of goin' there and makin' lots of money. I
always felt like I could do it. I came to a place one evenin' where
the road forked and I didn't know which fork to take. I studied about
it for half an hour, and then I took the left-hand. That night I run
into the camp of a Wild West show that was travellin' among the little
towns, and I went West with it. I've often wondered if I wouldn't
have turned out different if I'd took the other road."
"Oh, I reckon you'd have ended up about the same," said Bob Tidball,
cheerfully philosophical. "It ain't the roads we take; it's what's
inside of us that makes us turn out the way we do."
Shark Dodson got up and leaned against a tree.
"I'd a good deal rather that sorrel of yourn hadn't hurt himself,
Bob," he said again, almost pathetically.
"Same here," agreed Bob; "he was sure a first-rate kind of a crowbait.
But Bolivar, he'll pull us through all right. Reckon we'd better be
movin' on, hadn't we, Shark? I'll bag this boodle ag'in and we'll hit
the trail for higher timber."
Bob Tidball replaced the spoil in the bag and tied the mouth of it
tightly with a cord. When he looked up the most prominent object that
he saw was the muzzle of Shark Dodson's .45 held upon him without a
"Stop your funnin'," said Bob, with a grin. "We got to be hittin' the
"Set still," said Shark. "You ain't goin' to hit no breeze, Bob. I
hate to tell you, but there ain't any chance for but one of us.
Bolivar, he's plenty tired, and he can't carry double."
"We been pards, me and you, Shark Dodson, for three year," Bob said
quietly. "We've risked our lives together time and again. I've
always give you a square deal, and I thought you was a man. I've
heard some queer stories about you shootin' one or two men in a
peculiar way, but I never believed 'em. Now if you're just havin' a
little fun with me, Shark, put your gun up, and we'll get on Bolivar
and vamose. If you mean to shoot--shoot, you blackhearted son of a
Shark Dodson's face bore a deeply sorrowful look. "You don't know how
bad I feel," he sighed, "about that sorrel of yourn breakin' his leg,
The expression on Dodson's face changed in an instant to one of cold
ferocity mingled with inexorable cupidity. The soul of the man showed
itself for a moment like an evil face in the window of a reputable
Truly Bob Tidball was never to "hit the breeze" again. The deadly .45
of the false friend cracked and filled the gorge with a roar that the
walls hurled back with indignant echoes. And Bolivar, unconscious
accomplice, swiftly bore away the last of the holders-up of the
"Sunset Express," not put to the stress of "carrying double."
But as "Shark" Dodson galloped away the woods seemed to fade from his
view; the revolver in his right hand turned to the curved arm of a
mahogany chair; his saddle was strangely upholstered, and he opened
his eyes and saw his feet, not in stirrups, but resting quietly on the
edge of a quartered-oak desk.
I am telling you that Dodson, of the firm of Dodson & Decker, Wall
Street brokers, opened his eyes. Peabody, the confidential clerk, was
standing by his chair, hesitating to speak. There was a confused hum
of wheels below, and the sedative buzz of an electric fan.
"Ahem! Peabody," said Dodson, blinking. "I must have fallen asleep.
I had a most remarkable dream. What is it, Peabody?"
"Mr. Williams, sir, of Tracy & Williams, is outside. He has come to
settle his deal in X. Y. Z. The market caught him short, sir, if you
"Yes, I remember. What is X. Y. Z. quoted at to-day, Peabody?"
"One eighty-five, sir."
"Then that's his price."
"Excuse me," said Peabody, rather nervously "for speaking of it, but
I've been talking to Williams. He's an old friend of yours, Mr.
Dodson, and you practically have a corner in X. Y. Z. I thought you
might--that is, I thought you might not remember that he sold you
the stock at 98. If he settles at the market price it will take every
cent he has in the world and his home too to deliver the shares."
The expression on Dodson's face changed in an instant to one of cold
ferocity mingled with inexorable cupidity. The soul of the man showed
itself for a moment like an evil face in the window of a reputable
"He will settle at one eighty-five," said Dodson. "Bolivar cannot
A BLACKJACK BARGAINER
The most disreputable thing in Yancey Goree's law office was Goree
himself, sprawled in his creaky old arm-chair. The rickety little
office, built of red brick, was set flush with the street--the main
street of the town of Bethel.
Bethel rested upon the foot-hills of the Blue Ridge. Above it the
mountains were piled to the sky. Far below it the turbid Catawba
gleamed yellow along its disconsolate valley.
The June day was at its sultriest hour. Bethel dozed in the tepid
shade. Trade was not. It was so still that Goree, reclining in his
chair, distinctly heard the clicking of the chips in the grand-jury
room, where the "court-house gang" was playing poker. From the open
back door of the office a well-worn path meandered across the grassy
lot to the court-house. The treading out of that path had cost Goree
all he ever had--first inheritance of a few thousand dollars, next
the old family home, and, latterly the last shreds of his self-respect
and manhood. The "gang" had cleaned him out. The broken gambler had
turned drunkard and parasite; he had lived to see this day come when
the men who had stripped him denied him a seat at the game. His word
was no longer to be taken. The daily bouts at cards had arranged
itself accordingly, and to him was assigned the ignoble part of the
onlooker. The sheriff, the county clerk, a sportive deputy, a gay
attorney, and a chalk-faced man hailing "from the valley," sat at
table, and the sheared one was thus tacitly advised to go and grow
Soon wearying of his ostracism, Goree had departed for his office,
muttering to himself as he unsteadily traversed the unlucky pathway.
After a drink of corn whiskey from a demijohn under the table, he had
flung himself into the chair, staring, in a sort of maudlin apathy,
out at the mountains immersed in the summer haze. The little white
patch he saw away up on the side of Blackjack was Laurel, the village
near which he had been born and bred. There, also, was the birthplace
of the feud between the Gorees and the Coltranes. Now no direct heir
of the Gorees survived except this plucked and singed bird of
misfortune. To the Coltranes, also, but one male supporter was left
--Colonel Abner Coltrane, a man of substance and standing, a member
of the State Legislature, and a contemporary with Goree's father. The
feud had been a typical one of the region; it had left a red record of
hate, wrong and slaughter.
But Yancey Goree was not thinking of feuds. His befuddled brain was
hopelessly attacking the problem of the future maintenance of himself
and his favourite follies. Of late, old friends of the family had
seen to it that he had whereof to eat and a place to sleep--but whiskey
they would not buy for him, and he must have whiskey. His law business
was extinct; no case had been intrusted to him in two years. He had
been a borrower and a sponge, and it seemed that if he fell no lower
it would be from lack of opportunity. One more chance--he was saying
to himself--if he had one more stake at the game, he thought he could
win; but he had nothing left to sell, and his credit was more than
He could not help smiling, even in his misery, as he thought of the
man to whom, six months before, he had sold the old Goree homestead.
There had come from "back yan'" in the mountains two of the strangest
creatures, a man named Pike Garvey and his wife. "Back yan'," with a
wave of the hand toward the hills, was understood among the
mountaineers to designate the remotest fastnesses, the unplumbed
gorges, the haunts of lawbreakers, the wolf's den, and the boudoir of
the bear. In the cabin far up on Blackjack's shoulder, in the wildest
part of these retreats, this odd couple had lived for twenty years.
They had neither dog nor children to mitigate the heavy silence of the
hills. Pike Garvey was little known in the settlements, but all who
had dealt with him pronounced him "crazy as a loon." He acknowledged
no occupation save that of a squirrel hunter, but he "moonshined"
occasionally by way of diversion. Once the "revenues" had dragged him
from his lair, fighting silently and desperately like a terrier, and
he had been sent to state's prison for two years. Released, he popped
back into his hole like an angry weasel.
Fortune, passing over many anxious wooers, made a freakish flight into
Blackjack's bosky pockets to smile upon Pike and his faithful partner.
One day a party of spectacled, knickerbockered, and altogether absurd
prospectors invaded the vicinity of the Garvey's cabin. Pike lifted
his squirrel rifle off the hooks and took a shot at them at long range
on the chance of their being revenues. Happily he missed, and the
unconscious agents of good luck drew nearer, disclosing their
innocence of anything resembling law or justice. Later on, they
offered the Garveys an enormous quantity of ready, green, crisp money
for their thirty-acre patch of cleared land, mentioning, as an excuse
for such a mad action, some irrelevant and inadequate nonsense about a
bed of mica underlying the said property.
When the Garveys became possessed of so many dollars that they
faltered in computing them, the deficiencies of life on Blackjack
began to grow prominent. Pike began to talk of new shoes, a hogshead
of tobacco to set in the corner, a new lock to his rifle; and, leading
Martella to a certain spot on the mountain-side, he pointed out to her
how a small cannon--doubtless a thing not beyond the scope of their
fortune in price--might be planted so as to command and defend the
sole accessible trail to the cabin, to the confusion of revenues and
meddling strangers forever.
But Adam reckoned without his Eve. These things represented to him
the applied power of wealth, but there slumbered in his dingy cabin an
ambition that soared far above his primitive wants. Somewhere in Mrs.
Garvey's bosom still survived a spot of femininity unstarved by twenty
years of Blackjack. For so long a time the sounds in her ears had
been the scaly-barks dropping in the woods at noon, and the wolves
singing among the rocks at night, and it was enough to have purged her
of vanities. She had grown fat and sad and yellow and dull. But when
the means came, she felt a rekindled desire to assume the perquisites
of her sex--to sit at tea tables; to buy futile things; to whitewash
the hideous veracity of life with a little form and ceremony. So she
coldly vetoed Pike's proposed system of fortifications, and
announced that they would descend upon the world, and gyrate socially.
And thus, at length, it was decided, and the thing done. The village
of Laurel was their compromise between Mrs. Garvey's preference for
one of the large valley towns and Pike's hankering for primeval
solitudes. Laurel yielded a halting round of feeble social
distractions comportable with Martella's ambitions, and was not
entirely without recommendation to Pike, its contiguity to the
mountains presenting advantages for sudden retreat in case fashionable
society should make it advisable.
Their descent upon Laurel had been coincident with Yancey Goree's
feverish desire to convert property into cash, and they bought the old
Goree homestead, paying four thousand dollars ready money into the
spendthrift's shaking hands.
Thus it happened that while the disreputable last of the Gorees
sprawled in his disreputable office, at the end of his row, spurned by
the cronies whom he had gorged, strangers dwelt in the halls of his
A cloud of dust was rolling, slowly up the parched street, with
something travelling in the midst of it. A little breeze wafted the
cloud to one side, and a new, brightly painted carryall, drawn by a
slothful gray horse, became visible. The vehicle deflected from the
middle of the street as it neared Goree's office, and stopped in the
gutter directly in front of his door.
On the front seat sat a gaunt, tall man, dressed in black broadcloth,
his rigid hands incarcerated in yellow kid gloves. On the back seat
was a lady who triumphed over the June heat. Her stout form was
armoured in a skin-tight silk dress of the description known as
"changeable," being a gorgeous combination of shifting hues. She sat
erect, waving a much-ornamented fan, with her eyes fixed stonily far
down the street. However Martella Garvey's heart might be rejoicing
at the pleasures of her new life, Blackjack had done his work with her
exterior. He had carved her countenance to the image of emptiness and
inanity; had imbued her with the stolidity of his crags, and the
reserve of his hushed interiors. She always seemed to hear, whatever
her surroundings were, the scaly-barks falling and pattering down the
mountain-side. She could always hear the awful silence of Blackjack
sounding through the stillest of nights.
Goree watched this solemn equipage, as it drove to his door, with only
faint interest; but when the lank driver wrapped the reins about his
whip, awkwardly descended, and stepped into the office, he rose
unsteadily to receive him, recognizing Pike Garvey, the new, the
transformed, the recently civilized.
The mountaineer took the chair Goree offered him. They who cast doubts
upon Garvey's soundness of mind had a strong witness in the man's
countenance. His face was too long, a dull saffron in hue, and
immobile as a statue's. Pale-blue, unwinking round eyes without
lashes added to the singularity of his gruesome visage. Goree was at a
loss to account for the visit.
"Everything all right at Laurel, Mr. Garvey?" he inquired.
"Everything all right, sir, and mighty pleased is Missis Garvey and me
with the property. Missis Garvey likes yo' old place, and she likes
the neighbourhood. Society is what she 'lows she wants, and she is
gettin' of it. The Rogerses, the Hapgoods, the Pratts and the Troys
hev been to see Missis Garvey, and she hev et meals to most of thar
houses. The best folks hev axed her to differ'nt kinds of doin's. I
cyan't say, Mr. Goree, that sech things suits me--fur me, give me
them thar." Garvey's huge, yellow-gloved hand flourished in the
direction of the mountains. "That's whar I b'long, 'mongst the wild
honey bees and the b'ars. But that ain't what I come fur to say, Mr.
Goree. Thar's somethin' you got what me and Missis Garvey wants to
"Buy!" echoed Goree. "From me?" Then he laughed harshly. "I reckon
you are mistaken about that. I reckon you are mistaken about that. I
sold out to you, as you yourself expressed it, 'lock, stock and
barrel.' There isn't even a ramrod left to sell."
"You've got it; and we 'uns want it. 'Take the money,' says Missis
Garvey, 'and buy it fa'r and squar'.'"
Goree shook his head. "The cupboard's bare," he said.
"We've riz," pursued the mountaineer, undeflected from his object, "a
heap. We was pore as possums, and now we could hev folks to dinner
every day. We been recognized, Missis Garvey says, by the best
society. But there's somethin' we need we ain't got. She says it
ought to been put in the 'ventory ov the sale, but it tain't thar.
'Take the money, then,' says she, 'and buy it fa'r and squar'."'
"Out with it," said Goree, his racked nerves growing impatient.
Garvey threw his slouch hat upon the table, and leaned forward, fixing
his unblinking eyes upon Goree's.
"There's a old feud," he said distinctly and slowly, "'tween you 'uns
and the Coltranes."
Goree frowned ominously. To speak of his feud to a feudist is a
serious breach of the mountain etiquette. The man from "back yan'"
knew it as well as the lawyer did.
"Na offense," he went on "but purely in the way of business. Missis
Garvey hev studied all about feuds. Most of the quality folks in the
mountains hev 'em. The Settles and the Goforths, the Rankins and the
Boyds, the Silers and the Galloways, hev all been cyarin' on feuds
f'om twenty to a hundred year. The last man to drap was when yo'
uncle, Jedge Paisley Goree, 'journed co't and shot Len Coltrane f'om
the bench. Missis Garvey and me, we come f'om the po' white trash.
Nobody wouldn't pick a feud with we 'uns, no mo'n with a fam'ly of
tree-toads. Quality people everywhar, says Missis Garvey, has feuds.
We 'uns ain't quality, but we're buyin' into it as fur as we can.
'Take the money, then,' says Missis Garvey, 'and buy Mr. Goree's feud,
fa'r and squar'.'"
The squirrel hunter straightened a leg half across the room, drew a
roll of bills from his pocket, and threw them on the table.
"Thar's two hundred dollars, Mr. Goree; what you would call a fa'r
price for a feud that's been 'lowed to run down like yourn hev.
Thar's only you left to cyar' on yo' side of it, and you'd make mighty
po' killin'. I'll take it off yo' hands, and it'll set me and Missis
Garvey up among the quality. Thar's the money."
The little roll of currency on the table slowly untwisted itself,
writhing and jumping as its folds relaxed. In the silence that
followed Garvey's last speech the rattling of the poker chips in the
court-house could be plainly heard. Goree knew that the sheriff had
just won a pot, for the subdued whoop with which he always greeted
a victory floated across the square upon the crinkly heat waves.
Beads of moisture stood on Goree's brow. Stooping, he drew the
wicker-covered demijohn from under the table, and filled a tumbler
"A little corn liquor, Mr. Garvey? Of course you are joking about--
what you spoke of? Opens quite a new market, doesn't it? Feuds.
Prime, two-fifty to three. Feuds, slightly damaged--two hundred, I
believe you said, Mr. Garvey?"
Goree laughed self-consciously.
The mountaineer took the glass Goree handed him, and drank the whisky
without a tremor of the lids of his staring eyes. The lawyer
applauded the feat by a look of envious admiration. He poured his own
drink, and took it like a drunkard, by gulps, and with shudders at the
smell and taste.
"Two hundred," repeated Garvey. "Thar's the money."
A sudden passion flared up in Goree's brain. He struck the table with
his fist. One of the bills flipped over and touched his hand. He
flinched as if something had stung him.
"Do you come to me," he shouted, "seriously with such a ridiculous,
insulting, darned-fool proposition?"
"It's fa'r and squar'," said the squirrel hunter, but he reached out
his hand as if to take back the money; and then Goree knew that his
own flurry of rage had not been from pride or resentment, but from
anger at himself, knowing that he would set foot in the deeper depths
that were being opened to him. He turned in an instant from an
outraged gentleman to an anxious chafferer recommending his goods.
"Don't be in a hurry, Garvey," he said, his face crimson and his
speech thick. "I accept your p-p-proposition, though it's dirt cheap
at two hundred. A t-trade's all right when both p-purchaser and
b-buyer are s-satisfied. Shall I w-wrap it up for you, Mr. Garvey?"
Garvey rose, and shook out his broadcloth. "Missis Garvey will be
pleased. You air out of it, and it stands Coltrane and Garvey. Just
a scrap ov writin', Mr. Goree, you bein' a lawyer, to show we traded."
Goree seized a sheet of paper and a pen. The money was clutched in
his moist hand. Everything else suddenly seemed to grow trivial and
"Bill of sale, by all means. 'Right, title, and interest in and to'
. . . 'forever warrant and--' No, Garvey, we'll have to leave out that
'defend,'" said Goree with a loud laugh. "You'll have to defend this
The mountaineer received the amazing screed that the lawyer handed
him, folded it with immense labour, and laced it carefully in his
Goree was standing near the window. "Step here," he said, raising his
finger, "and I'll show you your recently purchased enemy. There he
goes, down the other side of the street."
The mountaineer crooked his long frame to look through the window in
the direction indicated by the other. Colonel Abner Coltrane, an
erect, portly gentleman of about fifty, wearing the inevitable long,
double-breasted frock coat of the Southern lawmaker, and an old high
silk hat, was passing on the opposite sidewalk. As Garvey looked,
Goree glanced at his face. If there be such a thing as a yellow wolf,
here was its counterpart. Garvey snarled as his unhuman eyes followed
the moving figure, disclosing long, amber-coloured fangs.
"Is that him? Why, that's the man who sent me to the pen'tentiary
"He used to be district attorney," said Goree carelessly. "And, by
the way, he's a first-class shot."
"I kin hit a squirrel's eye at a hundred yard," said Garvey. "So that
thar's Coltrane! I made a better trade than I was thinkin'. I'll
take keer ov this feud, Mr. Goree, better'n you ever did!"
He moved toward the door, but lingered there, betraying a slight
"Anything else to-day?" inquired Goree with frothy sarcasm. "Any
family traditions, ancestral ghosts, or skeletons in the closet?
Prices as low as the lowest."
"Thar was another thing," replied the unmoved squirrel hunter, "that
Missis Garvey was thinkin' of. 'Tain't so much in my line as t'other,
but she wanted partic'lar that I should inquire, and ef you was
willin', 'pay fur it,' she says, 'fa'r and squar'.' Thar's a buryin'
groun', as you know, Mr. Goree, in the yard of yo' old place, under
the cedars. Them that lies thar is yo' folks what was killed by the
Coltranes. The monyments has the names on 'em. Missis Garvey says a
fam'ly buryin' groun' is a sho' sign of quality. She says ef we git
the feud, thar's somethin' else ought to go with it. The names on
them monyments is 'Goree,' but they can be changed to ourn by--"
"Go! Go!" screamed Goree, his face turning purple. He stretched out
both hands toward the mountaineer, his fingers hooked and shaking.
"Go, you ghoul! Even a Ch-Chinaman protects the g-graves of his
The squirrel hunter slouched out of the door to his carryall. While
he was climbing over the wheel Goree was collecting, with feverish
celerity, the money that had fallen from his hand to the floor. As
the vehicle slowly turned about, the sheep, with a coat of newly
grown wool, was hurrying, in indecent haste, along the path to the
At three o'clock in the morning they brought him back to his office,
shorn and unconscious. The sheriff, the sportive deputy, the county
clerk, and the gay attorney carried him, the chalk-faced man "from the
valley" acting as escort.
"On the table," said one of them, and they deposited him there among
the litter of his unprofitable books and papers.
"Yance thinks a lot of a pair of deuces when he's liquored up," sighed
the sheriff reflectively.
"Too much," said the gay attorney. "A man has no business to play
poker who drinks as much as he does. I wonder how much he dropped
"Close to two hundred. What I wonder is whar he got it. Yance ain't
had a cent fur over a month, I know."
"Struck a client, maybe. Well, let's get home before daylight. He'll
be all right when he wakes up, except for a sort of beehive about the
The gang slipped away through the early morning twilight. The next
eye to gaze upon the miserable Goree was the orb of day. He peered
through the uncurtained window, first deluging the sleeper in a flood
of faint gold, but soon pouring upon the mottled red of his flesh a
searching, white, summer heat. Goree stirred, half unconsciously,
among the table's débris, and turned his face from the window. His
movement dislodged a heavy law book, which crashed upon the floor.
Opening his eyes, he saw, bending over him, a man in a black frock
coat. Looking higher, he discovered a well-worn silk hat, and beneath
it the kindly, smooth face of Colonel Abner Coltrane.
A little uncertain of the outcome, the colonel waited for the other to
make some sign of recognition. Not in twenty years had male members
of these two families faced each other in peace. Goree's eyelids
puckered as he strained his blurred sight toward this visitor, and
then he smiled serenely.
"Have you brought Stella and Lucy over to play?" he said calmly.
"Do you know me, Yancey?" asked Coltrane.
"Of course I do. You brought me a whip with a whistle in the end."
So he had--twenty-four years ago; when Yancey's father was his best
Goree's eyes wandered about the room. The colonel understood. "Lie
still, and I'll bring you some," said he. There was a pump in the yard
at the rear, and Goree closed his eyes, listening with rapture to the
click of its handle, and the bubbling of the falling stream. Coltrane
brought a pitcher of the cool water, and held it for him to drink.
Presently Goree sat up--a most forlorn object, his summer suit of flax
soiled and crumpled, his discreditable head tousled and unsteady. He
tried to wave one of his hands toward the colonel.
"Ex-excuse--everything, will you?" he said. "I must have drunk too
much whiskey last night, and gone to bed on the table." His brows
knitted into a puzzled frown.
"Out with the boys awhile?" asked Coltrane kindly.
"No, I went nowhere. I haven't had a dollar to spend in the last two
months. Struck the demijohn too often, I reckon, as usual."
Colonel Coltrane touched him on the shoulder.
"A little while ago, Yancey," he began, "you asked me if I had brought
Stella and Lucy over to play. You weren't quite awake then, and must
have been dreaming you were a boy again. You are awake now, and I
want you to listen to me. I have come from Stella and Lucy to their
old playmate, and to my old friend's son. They know that I am going
to bring you home with me, and you will find them as ready with a
welcome as they were in the old days. I want you to come to my house
and stay until you are yourself again, and as much longer as you will.
We heard of your being down in the world, and in the midst of
temptation, and we agreed that you should come over and play at our
house once more. Will you come, my boy? Will you drop our old family
trouble and come with me?"
"Trouble!" said Goree, opening his eyes wide. "There was never any
trouble between us that I know of. I'm sure we've always been the
best friends. But, good Lord, Colonel, how could I go to your home as
I am--a drunken wretch, a miserable, degraded spendthrift and
He lurched from the table into his armchair, and began to weep maudlin
tears, mingled with genuine drops of remorse and shame. Coltrane
talked to him persistently and reasonably, reminding him of the
simple mountain pleasures of which he had once been so fond, and
insisting upon the genuineness of the invitation.
Finally he landed Goree by telling him he was counting upon his help
in the engineering and transportation of a large amount of felled
timber from a high mountain-side to a waterway. He knew that Goree
had once invented a device for this purpose--a series of slides and
chutes upon which he had justly prided himself. In an instant the
poor fellow, delighted at the idea of his being of use to any one, had
paper spread upon the table, and was drawing rapid but pitifully shaky
lines in demonstration of what he could and would do.
The man was sickened of the husks; his prodigal heart was turning
again toward the mountains. His mind was yet strangely clogged, and
his thoughts and memories were returning to his brain one by one, like
carrier pigeons over a stormy sea. But Coltrane was satisfied with
the progress he had made.
Bethel received the surprise of its existence that afternoon when a
Coltrane and a Goree rode amicably together through the town. Side by
side they rode, out from the dusty streets and gaping townspeople,
down across the creek bridge, and up toward the mountain. The
prodigal had brushed and washed and combed himself to a more decent
figure, but he was unsteady in the saddle, and he seemed to be deep in
the contemplation of some vexing problem. Coltrane left him in his
mood, relying upon the influence of changed surroundings to restore
Once Goree was seized with a shaking fit, and almost came to a
collapse. He had to dismount and rest at the side of the road. The
colonel, foreseeing such a condition, had provided a small flask of
whisky for the journey but when it was offered to him Goree refused it
almost with violence, declaring he would never touch it again. By and
by he was recovered, and went quietly enough for a mile or two. Then
he pulled up his horse suddenly, and said:
"I lost two hundred dollars last night, playing poker. Now, where did
I get that money?"
"Take it easy, Yancey. The mountain air will soon clear it up. We'll
go fishing, first thing, at the Pinnacle Falls. The trout are jumping
there like bullfrogs. We'll take Stella and Lucy along, and have a
picnic on Eagle Rock. Have you forgotten how a hickory-cured-ham
sandwich tastes, Yancey, to a hungry fisherman?"
Evidently the colonel did not believe the story of his lost wealth; so
Goree retired again into brooding silence.
By late Afternoon they had travelled ten of the twelve miles between
Bethel and Laurel. Half a mile this side of Laurel lay the old Goree
place; a mile or two beyond the village lived the Coltranes. The road
was now steep and laborious, but the compensations were many. The
tilted aisles of the forest were opulent with leaf and bird and bloom.
The tonic air put to shame the pharmacopæia. The glades were dark
with mossy shade, and bright with shy rivulets winking from the ferns
and laurels. On the lower side they viewed, framed in the near
foliage, exquisite sketches of the far valley swooning in its opal
Coltrane was pleased to see that his companion was yielding to the
spell of the hills and woods. For now they had but to skirt the base
of Painter's Cliff; to cross Elder Branch and mount the hill beyond,
and Goree would have to face the squandered home of his fathers. Every
rock he passed, every tree, every foot of the rocky way, was familiar
to him. Though he had forgotten the woods, they thrilled him like the
music of "Home, Sweet Home."
They rounded the cliff, descended into Elder Branch, and paused there
to let the horses drink and splash in the swift water. On the right
was a rail fence that cornered there, and followed the road and
stream. Inclosed by it was the old apple orchard of the home place;
the house was yet concealed by the brow of the steep hill. Inside and
along the fence, pokeberries, elders, sassafras, and sumac grew high
and dense. At a rustle of their branches, both Goree and Coltrane
glanced up, and saw a long, yellow, wolfish face above the fence,
staring at them with pale, unwinking eyes. The head quickly
disappeared; there was a violent swaying of the bushes, and an
ungainly figure ran up through the apple orchard in the direction of
the house, zig-zagging among the trees.
"That's Garvey," said Coltrane; "the man you sold out to. There's no
doubt but he's considerably cracked. I had to send him up for
moonshining once, several years ago, in spite of the fact that I
believed him irresponsible. Why, what's the matter, Yancey?"
Goree was wiping his forehead, and his face had lost its colour. "Do
I look queer, too?" he asked, trying to smile. "I'm just remembering
a few more things." Some of the alcohol had evaporated from his brain.
"I recollect now where I got that two hundred dollars."
"Don't think of it," said Coltrane cheerfully. "Later on we'll figure
it all out together."
They rode out of the branch, and when they reached the foot of the
hill Goree stopped again.
"Did you ever suspect I was a very vain kind of fellow, Colonel?" he
asked. "Sort of foolish proud about appearances?"
The colonel's eyes refused to wander to the soiled, sagging suit of
flax and the faded slouch hat.
"It seems to me," he replied, mystified, but humouring him, "I
remember a young buck about twenty, with the tightest coat, the
sleekest hair, and the prancingest saddle horse in the Blue Ridge."
"Right you are," said Goree eagerly. "And it's in me yet, though it
don't show. Oh, I'm as vain as a turkey gobbler, and as proud as
Lucifer. I'm going to ask you to indulge this weakness of mine in a
"Speak out, Yancey. We'll create you Duke of Laurel and Baron of Blue
Ridge, if you choose; and you shall have a feather out of Stella's
peacock's tail to wear in your hat."
"I'm in earnest. In a few minutes we'll pass the house up there on
the hill where I was born, and where my people have lived for nearly a
century. Strangers live there now--and look at me! I am about to
show myself to them ragged and poverty-stricken, a wastrel and a
beggar. Colonel Coltrane, I'm ashamed to do it. I want you to let me
wear your coat and hat until we are out of sight beyond. I know you
think it a foolish pride, but I want to make as good a showing as I
can when I pass the old place."
"Now, what does this mean?" said Coltrane to himself, as he
compared his companion's sane looks and quiet demeanour with his
strange request. But he was already unbuttoning the coat, assenting
readily, as if the fancy were in no wise to be considered strange.
The coat and hat fitted Goree well. He buttoned the former about him
with a look of satisfaction and dignity. He and Coltrane were nearly
the same size--rather tall, portly, and erect. Twenty-five years
were between them, but in appearance they might have been brothers.
Goree looked older than his age; his face was puffy and lined; the
colonel had the smooth, fresh complexion of a temperate liver. He put
on Goree's disreputable old flax coat and faded slouch hat.
"Now," said Goree, taking up the reins, "I'm all right. I want you to
ride about ten feet in the rear as we go by, Colonel, so that they can
get a good look at me. They'll see I'm no back number yet, by any
means. I guess I'll show up pretty well to them once more, anyhow.
Let's ride on."
He set out up the hill at a smart trot, the colonel following, as he
had been requested.
Goree sat straight in the saddle, with head erect, but his eyes were
turned to the right, sharply scanning every shrub and fence and
hiding-place in the old homestead yard. Once he muttered to himself,
"Will the crazy fool try it, or did I dream half of it?"
It was when he came opposite the little family burying ground that he
saw what he had been looking for--a puff of white smoke, coming from
the thick cedars in one corner. He toppled so slowly to the left that
Coltrane had time to urge his horse to that side, and catch him with
The squirrel hunter had not overpraised his aim. He had sent the
bullet where he intended, and where Goree had expected that it would
pass--through the breast of Colonel Abner Coltrane's black frock
Goree leaned heavily against Coltrane, but he did not fall. The
horses kept pace, side by side, and the Colonel's arm kept him steady.
The little white houses of Laurel shone through the trees, half a mile
away. Goree reached out one hand and groped until it rested upon
Coltrane's fingers, which held his bridle.
"Good friend," he said, and that was all.
Thus did Yancey Goree, as he rode past his old home, make, considering
all things, the best showing that was in his power.
THE SONG AND THE SERGEANT
Half a dozen people supping at a table in one of the upper-Broadway
all-night restaurants were making too much noise. Three times the
manager walked past them with a politely warning glance; but their
argument had waxed too warm to be quelled by a manager's gaze. It was
midnight, and the restaurant was filled with patrons from the theatres
of that district. Some among the dispersed audiences must have
recognized among the quarrelsome sextet the faces of the players
belonging to the Carroll Comedy Company.
Four of the six made up the company. Another was the author of the
comedietta, "A Gay Coquette," which the quartette of players had been
presenting with fair success at several vaudeville houses in the city.
The sixth at the table was a person inconsequent in the realm of art,
but one at whose bidding many lobsters had perished.
Loudly the six maintained their clamorous debate. No one of the Party
was silent except when answers were stormed from him by the excited
ones. That was the comedian of "A Gay Coquette." He was a young man
with a face even too melancholy for his profession.
The oral warfare of four immoderate tongues was directed at Miss
Clarice Carroll, the twinkling star of the small aggregation.
Excepting the downcast comedian, all members of the party united in
casting upon her with vehemence the blame of some momentous
misfortune. Fifty times they told her: "It is your fault, Clarice--it
is you alone who spoilt the scene. It is only of late that you have
acted this way. At this rate the sketch will have to be taken off."
Miss Carroll was a match for any four. Gallic ancestry gave her a
vivacity that could easily mount to fury. Her large eyes flashed a
scorching denial at her accusers. Her slender, eloquent arms
constantly menaced the tableware. Her high, clear soprano voice rose
to what would have been a scream had it not possessed so pure a
musical quality. She hurled back at the attacking four their
denunciations in tones sweet, but of too great carrying power for a
Finally they exhausted her patience both as a woman and an artist.
She sprang up like a panther, managed to smash half a dozen plates and
glasses with one royal sweep of her arm, and defied her critics. They
rose and wrangled more loudly. The comedian sighed and looked a
trifle sadder and disinterested. The manager came tripping and
suggested peace. He was told to go to the popular synonym for war so
promptly that the affair might have happened at The Hague.
Thus was the manager angered. He made a sign with his hand and a
waiter slipped out of the door. In twenty minutes the party of six
was in a police station facing a grizzled and philosophical desk
"Disorderly conduct in a restaurant," said the policeman who had
brought the party in.
The author of "A Gay Coquette" stepped to the front. He wore
nose-glasses and evening clothes, even if his shoes had been tans
before they met the patent-leather-polish bottle.
"Mr. Sergeant," said he, out of his throat, like Actor Irving, "I
would like to protest against this arrest. The company of actors who
are performing in a little play that I have written, in company with a
friend and myself were having a little supper. We became deeply
interested in the discussion as to which one of the cast is
responsible for a scene in the sketch that lately has fallen so flat
that the piece is about to become a failure. We may have been rather
noisy and intolerant of interruption by the restaurant people; but the
matter was of considerable importance to all of us. You see that we
are sober and are not the kind of people who desire to raise
disturbances. I hope that the case will not be pressed and that we may
be allowed to go."
"Who makes the charge?" asked the sergeant.
"Me," said a white-aproned voice in the rear. "De restaurant sent me
to. De gang was raisin' a rough-house and breakin' dishes."
"The dishes were paid for," said the playwright. "They were not broken
purposely. In her anger, because we remonstrated with her for
spoiling the scene, Miss--"
"It's not true, sergeant," cried the clear voice of Miss Clarice
Carroll. In a long coat of tan silk and a red-plumed hat, she
bounded before the desk.
"It's not my fault," she cried indignantly. "How dare they say such
a thing! I've played the title rôle ever since it was staged, and if
you want to know who made it a success, ask the public--that's all."
"What Miss Carroll says is true in part," said the author. "For five
months the comedietta was a drawing-card in the best houses. But
during the last two weeks it has lost favour. There is one scene in
it in which Miss Carroll made a big hit. Now she hardly gets a hand
out of it. She spoils it by acting it entirely different from her old
"It is not my fault," reiterated the actress.
"There are only two of you on in the scene," argued the playwright
hotly, "you and Delmars, here--"
"Then it's his fault," declared Miss Carroll, with a lightning glance
of scorn from her dark eyes. The comedian caught it, and gazed with
increased melancholy at the panels of the sergeant's desk.
The night was a dull one in that particular police station.
The sergeant's long-blunted curiosity awoke a little.
"I've heard you," he said to the author. And then he addressed the
thin-faced and ascetic-looking lady of the company who played "Aunt
Turnip-top" in the little comedy.
"Who do you think spoils the scene you are fussing about?" he asked.
"I'm no knocker," said that lady, "and everybody knows it. So, when I
say that Clarice falls down every time in that scene I'm judging her
art and not herself. She was great in it once. She does it something
fierce now. It'll dope the show if she keeps it up."
The sergeant looked at the comedian.
"You and the lady have this scene together, I understand. I suppose
there's no use asking you which one of you queers it?"
The comedian avoided the direct rays from the two fixed stars of Miss
"I don't know," he said, looking down at his patent-leather toes.
"Are you one of the actors?" asked the sergeant of a dwarfish youth
with a middle-aged face.
"Why, say!" replied the last Thespian witness, "you don't notice any
tin spear in my hands, do you? You haven't heard me shout: 'See, the
Emperor comes!' since I've been in here, have you? I guess I'm on the
stage long enough for 'em not to start a panic by mistaking me for a
thin curl of smoke rising above the footlights."
"In your opinion, if you've got one," said the sergeant, "is the frost
that gathers on the scene in question the work of the lady or the
gentleman who takes part in it?"
The middle-aged youth looked pained.
"I regret to say," he answered, "that Miss Carroll seems to have
lost her grip on that scene. She's all right in the rest of the
play, but--but I tell you, sergeant, she can do it--she has done
it equal to any of 'em--and she can do it again."
Miss Carroll ran forward, glowing and palpitating.
"Thank you, Jimmy, for the first good word I've had in many a day,"
she cried. And then she turned her eager face toward the desk.
"I'll show you, sergeant, whether I am to blame. I'll show them
whether I can do that scene. Come, Mr. Delmars; let us begin. You
will let us, won't you, sergeant?"
"How long will it take?" asked the sergeant, dubiously.
"Eight minutes," said the playwright. "The entire play consumes but
"You may go ahead," said the sergeant. "Most of you seem to side
against the little lady. Maybe she had a right to crack up a saucer
or two in that restaurant. We'll see how she does the turn before we
take that up."
The matron of the police station had been standing near, listening to
the singular argument. She came nigher and stood near the sergeant's
chair. Two or three of the reserves strolled in, big and yawning.
"Before beginning the scene," said the playwright, "and assuming that
you have not seen a production of 'A Gay Coquette,' I will make a
brief but necessary explanation. It is a musical-farce-comedy--
burlesque-comedietta. As the title implies, Miss Carroll's rôle is
that of a gay, rollicking, mischievous, heartless coquette. She
sustains that character throughout the entire comedy part of the
production. And I have designed the extravaganza features so that she
may preserve and present the same coquettish idea.
"Now, the scene in which we take exception to Miss Carroll's acting is
called the 'gorilla dance.' She is costumed to represent a wood nymph,
and there is a great song-and-dance scene with a gorilla--played by
Mr. Delmars, the comedian. A tropical-forest stage is set.
"That used to get four and five recalls. The main thing was the
acting and the dance--it was the funniest thing in New York for five
months. Delmars's song, 'I'll Woo Thee to My Sylvan Home,' while he
and Miss Carroll were cutting hide-and-seek capers among the tropical
plants, was a winner."
"What's the trouble with the scene now?" asked the sergeant.
"Miss Carroll spoils it right in the middle of it," said the
With a wide gesture of her ever-moving arms the actress waved back the
little group of spectators, leaving a space in front of the desk for
the scene of her vindication or fall. Then she whipped off her long
tan cloak and tossed it across the arm of the policeman who still
stood officially among them.
Miss Carroll had gone to supper well cloaked, but in the costume of
the tropic wood nymph. A skirt of fern leaves touched her knee; she
was like a humming-bird--green and golden and purple.
And then she danced a fluttering, fantastic dance, so agile and light
and mazy in her steps that the other three members of the Carroll
Comedy Company broke into applause at the art of it.
And at the proper time Delmars leaped out at her side, mimicking
the uncouth, hideous bounds of the gorilla so funnily that the
grizzled sergeant himself gave a short laugh like the closing of a
padlock. They danced together the gorilla dance, and won a hand from
Then began the most fantastic part of the scene--the wooing of the
nymph by the gorilla. It was a kind of dance itself--eccentric and
prankish, with the nymph in coquettish and seductive retreat, followed
by the gorilla as he sang "I'll Woo Thee to My Sylvan Home."
The song was a lyric of merit. The words were non-sense, as befitted
the play, but the music was worthy of something better. Delmars
struck into it in a rich tenor that owned a quality that shamed the
During one verse of the song the wood nymph performed the grotesque
evolutions designed for the scene. At the middle of the second verse
she stood still, with a strange look on her face, seeming to gaze
dreamily into the depths of the scenic forest. The gorilla's last
leap had brought him to her feet, and there he knelt, holding her
hand, until he had finished the haunting-lyric that was set in the
absurd comedy like a diamond in a piece of putty.
When Delmars ceased Miss Carroll started, and covered a sudden flow of
tears with both hands.
"There!" cried the playwright, gesticulating with violence; "there
you have it, sergeant. For two weeks she has spoiled that scene in
just that manner at every performance. I have begged her to consider
that it is not Ophelia or Juliet that she is playing. Do you wonder
now at our impatience? Tears for the gorilla song! The play is lost!"
Out of her bewitchment, whatever it was, the wood nymph flared
suddenly, and pointed a desperate finger at Delmars.
"It is you--you who have done this," she cried wildly. "You never
sang that song that way until lately. It is your doing."
"I give it up," said the sergeant.
And then the gray-haired matron of the police station came forward
from behind the sergeant's chair.
"Must an old woman teach you all?" she said. She went up to Miss
Carroll and took her hand.
"The man's wearing his heart out for you, my dear. Couldn't you tell
it the first note you heard him sing? All of his monkey flip-flops
wouldn't have kept it from me. Must you be deaf as well as blind?
That's why you couldn't act your part, child. Do you love him or must
he be a gorilla for the rest of his days?"
Miss Carroll whirled around and caught Delmars with a lightning glance
of her eye. He came toward her, melancholy.
"Did you hear, Mr. Delmars?" she asked, with a catching breath.
"I did," said the comedian. "It is true. I didn't think there was
any use. I tried to let you know with the song."
"Silly!" said the matron; "why didn't you speak?"
"No, no," cried the wood nymph, "his way was the best. I didn't know,
but--it was just what I wanted, Bobby."
She sprang like a green grasshopper; and the comedian opened his arms,
"Get out of this," roared the desk sergeant to the waiting waiter from
the restaurant. "There's nothing doing here for you."
ONE DOLLAR'S WORTH
The judge of the United States court of the district lying along the
Rio Grande border found the following letter one morning in his mail:
When you sent me up for four years you made a talk.
Among other hard things, you called me a rattlesnake.
Maybe I am one--anyhow, you hear me rattling now.
One year after I got to the pen, my daughter died of--
well, they said it was poverty and the disgrace together.
You've got a daughter, Judge, and I'm going to make
you know how it feels to lose one. And I'm going to
bite that district attorney that spoke against me. I'm
free now, and I guess I've turned to rattlesnake all right.
I feel like one. I don't say much, but this is my rattle.
Look out when I strike.
Judge Derwent threw the letter carelessly aside. It was nothing new
to receive such epistles from desperate men whom he had been called
upon to judge. He felt no alarm. Later on he showed the letter to
Littlefield, the young district attorney, for Littlefield's name was
included in the threat, and the judge was punctilious in matters
between himself and his fellow men.
Littlefield honoured the rattle of the writer, as far as it concerned
himself, with a smile of contempt; but he frowned a little over the
reference to the Judge's daughter, for he and Nancy Derwent were to be
married in the fall.
Littlefield went to the clerk of the court and looked over the records
with him. They decided that the letter might have been sent by Mexico
Sam, a half-breed border desperado who had been imprisoned for
manslaughter four years before. Then official duties crowded the
matter from his mind, and the rattle of the revengeful serpent was
Court was in session at Brownsville. Most of the cases to be tried
were charges of smuggling, counterfeiting, post-office robberies, and
violations of Federal laws along the border. One case was that of a
young Mexican, Rafael Ortiz, who had been rounded up by a clever
deputy marshal in the act of passing a counterfeit silver dollar. He
had been suspected of many such deviations from rectitude, but this
was the first time that anything provable had been fixed upon him.
Ortiz languished cozily in jail, smoking brown cigarettes and waiting
for trial. Kilpatrick, the deputy, brought the counterfeit dollar and
handed it to the district attorney in his office in the court-house.
The deputy and a reputable druggist were prepared to swear that Ortiz
paid for a bottle of medicine with it. The coin was a poor
counterfeit, soft, dull-looking, and made principally of lead. It was
the day before the morning on which the docket would reach the case of
Ortiz, and the district attorney was preparing himself for trial.
"Not much need of having in high-priced experts to prove the coin's
queer, is there, Kil?" smiled Littlefield, as he thumped the dollar
down upon the table, where it fell with no more ring than would have
come from a lump of putty.
"I guess the Greaser's as good as behind the bars," said the deputy,
easing up his holsters. "You've got him dead. If it had been just
one time, these Mexicans can't tell good money from bad; but this
little yaller rascal belongs to a gang of counterfeiters, I know.
This is the first time I've been able to catch him doing the trick.
He's got a girl down there in them Mexican jacals on the river bank.
I seen her one day when I was watching him. She's as pretty as a red
heifer in a flower bed."
Littlefield shoved the counterfeit dollar into his pocket, and slipped
his memoranda of the case into an envelope. Just then a bright,
winsome face, as frank and jolly as a boy's, appeared in the doorway,
and in walked Nancy Derwent.
"Oh, Bob, didn't court adjourn at twelve to-day until to-morrow?" she
asked of Littlefield.
"It did," said the district attorney, "and I'm very glad of it. I've
got a lot of rulings to look up, and--"
"Now, that's just like you. I wonder you and father don't turn
to law books or rulings or something! I want you to take me out
plover-shooting this afternoon. Long Prairie is just alive with them.
Don't say no, please! I want to try my new twelve-bore hammerless.
I've sent to the livery stable to engage Fly and Bess for the
buckboard; they stand fire so nicely. I was sure you would go."
They were to be married in the fall. The glamour was at its
height. The plovers won the day--or, rather, the afternoon--over
the calf-bound authorities. Littlefield began to put his papers
There was a knock at the door. Kilpatrick answered it. A beautiful,
dark-eyed girl with a skin tinged with the faintest lemon colour
walked into the room. A black shawl was thrown over her head and
wound once around her neck.
She began to talk in Spanish, a voluble, mournful stream of melancholy
music. Littlefield did not understand Spanish. The deputy did, and
he translated her talk by portions, at intervals holding up his hand
to check the flow of her words.
"She came to see you, Mr. Littlefield. Her name's Joya Treviñas. She
wants to see you about--well, she's mixed up with that Rafael Ortiz.
She's his--she's his girl. She says he's innocent. She says she
made the money and got him to pass it. Don't you believe her, Mr.
Littlefield. That's the way with these Mexican girls; they'll lie,
steal, or kill for a fellow when they get stuck on him. Never trust a
woman that's in love!"
Nancy Derwent's indignant exclamation caused the deputy to flounder
for a moment in attempting to explain that he had misquoted his own
sentiments, and then he went on with the translation:
"She says she's willing to take his place in the jail if you'll let
him out. She says she was down sick with the fever, and the doctor
said she'd die if she didn't have medicine. That's why he passed the
lead dollar on the drug store. She says it saved her life. This
Rafael seems to be her honey, all right; there's a lot of stuff in her
talk about love and such things that you don't want to hear."
It was an old story to the district attorney.
"Tell her," said he, "that I can do nothing. The case comes up in the
morning, and he will have to make his fight before the court."
Nancy Derwent was not so hardened. She was looking with sympathetic
interest at Joya Treviñas and at Littlefield alternately. The deputy
repeated the district attorney's words to the girl. She spoke a
sentence or two in a low voice, pulled her shawl closely about her
face, and left the room.
"What did she say then?" asked the district attorney.
"Nothing special," said the deputy. "She said: 'If the life of the
one'--let's see how it went--'_Si la vida de ella a quien tu amas_
--if the life of the girl you love is ever in danger, remember Rafael
Kilpatrick strolled out through the corridor in the direction of the
"Can't you do anything for them, Bob?" asked Nancy. "It's such a
little thing--just one counterfeit dollar--to ruin the happiness
of two lives! She was in danger of death, and he did it to save her.
Doesn't the law know the feeling of pity?"
"It hasn't a place in jurisprudence, Nan," said Littlefield,
"especially _in re_ the district attorney's duty. I'll promise you
that the prosecution will not be vindictive; but the man is as good as
convicted when the case is called. Witnesses will swear to his passing
the bad dollar which I have in my pocket at this moment as 'Exhibit
A.' There are no Mexicans on the jury, and it will vote Mr. Greaser
guilty without leaving the box."
The plover-shooting was fine that afternoon, and in the excitement of
the sport the case of Rafael and the grief of Joya Treviñas was
forgotten. The district attorney and Nancy Derwent drove out from
the town three miles along a smooth, grassy road, and then struck
across a rolling prairie toward a heavy line of timber on Piedra
Creek. Beyond this creek lay Long Prairie, the favourite haunt of the
plover. As they were nearing the creek they heard the galloping of a
horse to their right, and saw a man with black hair and a swarthy face
riding toward the woods at a tangent, as if he had come up behind
"I've seen that fellow somewhere," said Littlefield, who had a memory
for faces, "but I can't exactly place him. Some ranchman, I suppose,
taking a short cut home."
They spent an hour on Long Prairie, shooting from the buckboard.
Nancy Derwent, an active, outdoor Western girl, was pleased with her
twelve-bore. She had bagged within two brace of her companion's
They started homeward at a gentle trot. When within a hundred yards
of Piedra Creek a man rode out of the timber directly toward them.
"It looks like the man we saw coming over," remarked Miss Derwent.
As the distance between them lessened, the district attorney suddenly
pulled up his team sharply, with his eyes fixed upon the advancing
horseman. That individual had drawn a Winchester from its scabbard
on his saddle and thrown it over his arm.
"Now I know you, Mexico Sam!" muttered Littlefield to himself. "It
was you who shook your rattles in that gentle epistle."
Mexico Sam did not leave things long in doubt. He had a nice eye in
all matters relating to firearms, so when he was within good rifle
range, but outside of danger from No. 8 shot, he threw up his
Winchester and opened fire upon the occupants of the buckboard.
The first shot cracked the back of the seat within the two-inch space
between the shoulders of Littlefield and Miss Derwent. The next went
through the dashboard and Littlefield's trouser leg.
The district attorney hustled Nancy out of the buck-board to the
ground. She was a little pale, but asked no questions. She had the
frontier instinct that accepts conditions in an emergency without
superfluous argument. They kept their guns in hand, and Littlefield
hastily gathered some handfuls of cartridges from the pasteboard box
on the seat and crowded them into his pockets.
"Keep behind the horses, Nan," he commanded. "That fellow is a ruffian
I sent to prison once. He's trying to get even. He knows our shot
won't hurt him at that distance."
"All right, Bob," said Nancy steadily. "I'm not afraid. But you come
close, too. Whoa, Bess; stand still, now!"
She stroked Bess's mane. Littlefield stood with his gun ready,
praying that the desperado would come within range.
But Mexico Sam was playing his vendetta along safe lines. He was
a bird of different feather from the plover. His accurate eye drew
an imaginary line of circumference around the area of danger from
bird-shot, and upon this line lie rode. His horse wheeled to the
right, and as his victims rounded to the safe side of their equine
breast-work he sent a ball through the district attorney's hat. Once
he miscalculated in making a détour, and over-stepped his margin.
Littlefield's gun flashed, and Mexico Sam ducked his head to the
harmless patter of the shot. A few of them stung his horse, which
pranced promptly back to the safety line.
The desperado fired again. A little cry came from Nancy Derwent.
Littlefield whirled, with blazing eyes, and saw the blood trickling
down her cheek.
"I'm not hurt, Bob--only a splinter struck me. I think he hit one
of the wheel-spokes."
"Lord!" groaned Littlefield. "If I only had a charge of buckshot!"
The ruffian got his horse still, and took careful aim. Fly gave a
snort and fell in the harness, struck in the neck. Bess, now
disabused of the idea that plover were being fired at, broke her
traces and galloped wildly away. Mexican Sam sent a ball neatly
through the fulness of Nancy Derwent's shooting jacket.
"Lie down--lie down!" snapped Littlefield. "Close to the horse--flat
on the ground--so." He almost threw her upon the grass against the
back of the recumbent Fly. Oddly enough, at that moment the words
of the Mexican girl returned to his mind:
"If the life of the girl you love is ever in danger, remember Rafael
Littlefield uttered an exclamation.
"Open fire on him, Nan, across the horse's back. Fire as fast as you
can! You can't hurt him, but keep him dodging shot for one minute
while I try to work a little scheme."
Nancy gave a quick glance at Littlefield, and saw him take out his
pocket-knife and open it. Then she turned her face to obey orders,
keeping up a rapid fire at the enemy.
Mexico Sam waited patiently until this innocuous fusillade ceased.
He had plenty of time, and he did not care to risk the chance of a
bird-shot in his eye when it could be avoided by a little caution.
He pulled his heavy Stetson low down over his face until the shots
ceased. Then he drew a little nearer, and fired with careful aim at
what he could see of his victims above the fallen horse.
Neither of them moved. He urged his horse a few steps nearer. He
saw the district attorney rise to one knee and deliberately level
his shotgun. He pulled his hat down and awaited the harmless rattle
of the tiny pellets.
The shotgun blazed with a heavy report. Mexico Sam sighed, turned
limp all over, and slowly fell from his horse--a dead rattlesnake.