Part 4 out of 5
At ten o'clock the next morning court opened, and the case of the
United States versus Rafael Ortiz was called. The district attorney,
with his arm in a sling, rose and addressed the court.
"May it please your honour," he said, "I desire to enter a _nolle
pros._ in this case. Even though the defendant should be guilty,
there is not sufficient evidence in the hands of the government to
secure a conviction. The piece of counterfeit coin upon the
identity of which the case was built is not now available as
evidence. I ask, therefore, that the case be stricken off."
At the noon recess Kilpatrick strolled into the district attorney's
"I've just been down to take a squint at old Mexico Sam," said the
deputy. "They've got him laid out. Old Mexico was a tough outfit, I
reckon. The boys was wonderin' down there what you shot him with.
Some said it must have been nails. I never see a gun carry anything
to make holes like he had."
"I shot him," said the district attorney, "with Exhibit A of your
counterfeiting case. Lucky thing for me--and somebody else--that
it was as bad money as it was! It sliced up into slugs very nicely.
Say, Kil, can't you go down to the jacals and find where that Mexican
girl lives? Miss Derwent wants to know."
A NEWSPAPER STORY
At 8 A. M. it lay on Giuseppi's news-stand, still damp from the
presses. Giuseppi, with the cunning of his ilk, philandered on the
opposite corner, leaving his patrons to help themselves, no doubt on
a theory related to the hypothesis of the watched pot.
This particular newspaper was, according to its custom and design, an
educator, a guide, a monitor, a champion and a household counsellor
and _vade mecum_.
From its many excellencies might be selected three editorials. One
was in simple and chaste but illuminating language directed to
parents and teachers, deprecating corporal punishment for children.
Another was an accusive and significant warning addressed to a
notorious labour leader who was on the point of instigating his
clients to a troublesome strike.
The third was an eloquent demand that the police force be sustained
and aided in everything that tended to increase its efficiency as
public guardians and servants.
Besides these more important chidings and requisitions upon the store
of good citizenship was a wise prescription or form of procedure laid
out by the editor of the heart-to-heart column in the specific case
of a young man who had complained of the obduracy of his lady love,
teaching him how he might win her.
Again, there was, on the beauty page, a complete answer to a young
lady inquirer who desired admonition toward the securing of bright
eyes, rosy cheeks and a beautiful countenance.
One other item requiring special cognizance was a brief "personal,"
DEAR JACK:--Forgive me. You were right. Meet me corner Madison and
----th at 8.30 this morning. We leave at noon. PENITENT.
At 8 o'clock a young man with a haggard look and the feverish gleam of
unrest in his eye dropped a penny and picked up the top paper as he
passed Giuseppi's stand. A sleepless night had left him a late riser.
There was an office to be reached by nine, and a shave and a hasty cup
of coffee to be crowded into the interval.
He visited his barber shop and then hurried on his way. He pocketed
his paper, meditating a belated perusal of it at the luncheon hour.
At the next corner it fell from his pocket, carrying with it his pair
of new gloves. Three blocks he walked, missed the gloves and turned
Just on the half-hour he reached the corner where lay the gloves and
the paper. But he strangely ignored that which he had come to seek.
He was holding two little hands as tightly as ever he could and
looking into two penitent brown eyes, while joy rioted in his heart.
"Dear Jack," she said, "I knew you would be here on time."
"I wonder what she means by that," he was saying to himself; "but it's
all right, it's all right."
A big wind puffed out of the west, picked up the paper from the
sidewalk, opened it out and sent it flying and whirling down a side
street. Up that street was driving a skittish bay to a spider-wheel
buggy, the young man who had written to the heart-to-heart editor for
a recipe that he might win her for whom he sighed.
The wind, with a prankish flurry, flapped the flying newspaper against
the face of the skittish bay. There was a lengthened streak of bay
mingled with the red of running gear that stretched itself out for
four blocks. Then a water-hydrant played its part in the cosmogony,
the buggy became matchwood as foreordained, and the driver rested very
quietly where he had been flung on the asphalt in front of a certain
They came out and had him inside very promptly. And there was one who
made herself a pillow for his head, and cared for no curious eyes,
bending over and saying, "Oh, it was you; it was you all the time,
Bobby! Couldn't you see it? And if you die, why, so must I, and--"
But in all this wind we must hurry to keep in touch with our paper.
Policeman O'Brine arrested it as a character dangerous to traffic.
Straightening its dishevelled leaves with his big, slow fingers, he
stood a few feet from the family entrance of the Shandon Bells Café.
One headline he spelled out ponderously: "The Papers to the Front in a
Move to Help the Police."
But, whisht! The voice of Danny, the head bartender, through the
crack of the door: "Here's a nip for ye, Mike, ould man."
Behind the widespread, amicable columns of the press Policeman O'Brine
receives swiftly his nip of the real stuff. He moves away, stalwart,
refreshed, fortified, to his duties. Might not the editor man view
with pride the early, the spiritual, the literal fruit that had
blessed his labours.
Policeman O'Brine folded the paper and poked it playfully under the
arm of a small boy that was passing. That boy was named Johnny, and he
took the paper home with him. His sister was named Gladys, and she
had written to the beauty editor of the paper asking for the
practicable touchstone of beauty. That was weeks ago, and she had
ceased to look for an answer. Gladys was a pale girl, with dull eyes
and a discontented expression. She was dressing to go up to the
avenue to get some braid. Beneath her skirt she pinned two leaves of
the paper Johnny had brought. When she walked the rustling sound was
an exact imitation of the real thing.
On the street she met the Brown girl from the flat below and stopped
to talk. The Brown girl turned green. Only silk at $5 a yard could
make the sound that she heard when Gladys moved. The Brown girl,
consumed by jealousy, said something spiteful and went her way, with
Gladys proceeded toward the avenue. Her eyes now sparkled like
jagerfonteins. A rosy bloom visited her cheeks; a triumphant, subtle,
vivifying, smile transfigured her face. She was beautiful. Could the
beauty editor have seen her then! There was something in her answer
in the paper, I believe, about cultivating kind feelings toward others
in order to make plain features attractive.
The labour leader against whom the paper's solemn and weighty
editorial injunction was laid was the father of Gladys and Johnny. He
picked up the remains of the journal from which Gladys had ravished a
cosmetic of silken sounds. The editorial did not come under his eye,
but instead it was greeted by one of those ingenious and specious
puzzle problems that enthrall alike the simpleton and the sage.
The labour leader tore off half of the page, provided himself with
table, pencil and paper and glued himself to his puzzle.
Three hours later, after waiting vainly for him at the appointed
place, other more conservative leaders declared and ruled in favour of
arbitration, and the strike with its attendant dangers was averted.
Subsequent editions of the paper referred, in coloured inks, to the
clarion tone of its successful denunciation of the labour leader's
The remaining leaves of the active journal also went loyally to the
proving of its potency.
When Johnny returned from school he sought a secluded spot and removed
the missing columns from the inside of his clothing, where they had
been artfully distributed so as to successfully defend such areas as
are generally attacked during scholastic castigations. Johnny
attended a private school and had had trouble with his teacher. As
has been said, there was an excellent editorial against corporal
punishment in that morning's issue, and no doubt it had its effect.
After this can any one doubt the power of the press?
At ten o'clock P. M. Felicia, the maid, left by the basement door with
the policeman to get a raspberry phosphate around the corner. She
detested the policeman and objected earnestly to the arrangement.
She pointed out, not unreasonably, that she might have been allowed to
fall asleep over one of St. George Rathbone's novels on the third
floor, but she was overruled. Raspberries and cops were not created
The burglar got into the house without much difficulty; because we
must have action and not too much description in a 2,000-word story.
In the dining room he opened the slide of his dark lantern. With a
brace and centrebit he began to bore into the lock of the silver-closet.
Suddenly a click was heard. The room was flooded with electric light.
The dark velvet portières parted to admit a fair-haired boy of eight
in pink pajamas, bearing a bottle of olive oil in his hand.
"Are you a burglar?" he asked, in a sweet, childish voice.
"Listen to that," exclaimed the man, in a hoarse voice. "Am I a
burglar? Wot do you suppose I have a three-days' growth of bristly
beard on my face for, and a cap with flaps? Give me the oil, quick,
and let me grease the bit, so I won't wake up your mamma, who is lying
down with a headache, and left you in charge of Felicia who has been
faithless to her trust."
"Oh, dear," said Tommy, with a sigh. "I thought you would be more
up-to-date. This oil is for the salad when I bring lunch from the
pantry for you. And mamma and papa have gone to the Metropolitan to
hear De Reszke. But that isn't my fault. It only shows how long the
story has been knocking around among the editors. If the author had
been wise he'd have changed it to Caruso in the proofs."
"Be quiet," hissed the burglar, under his breath. "If you raise an
alarm I'll wring your neck like a rabbit's."
"Like a chicken's," corrected Tommy. "You had that wrong. You don't
wring rabbits' necks."
"Aren't you afraid of me?" asked the burglar.
"You know I'm not," answered Tommy. "Don't you suppose I know fact
from fiction. If this wasn't a story I'd yell like an Indian when I
saw you; and you'd probably tumble downstairs and get pinched on the
"I see," said the burglar, "that you're on to your job. Go on with
Tommy seated himself in an armchair and drew his toes up under him.
"Why do you go around robbing strangers, Mr. Burglar? Have you no
"I see what you're driving at," said the burglar, with a dark frown.
"It's the same old story. Your innocence and childish insouciance is
going to lead me back into an honest life. Every time I crack a crib
where there's a kid around, it happens."
"Would you mind gazing with wolfish eyes at the plate of cold beef
that the butler has left on the dining table?" said Tommy. "I'm
afraid it's growing late."
The burglar accommodated.
"Poor man," said Tommy. "You must be hungry. If you will please stand
in a listless attitude I will get you something to eat."
The boy brought a roast chicken, a jar of marmalade and a bottle of
wine from the pantry. The burglar seized a knife and fork sullenly.
"It's only been an hour," he grumbled, "since I had a lobster and a
pint of musty ale up on Broadway. I wish these story writers would
let a fellow have a pepsin tablet, anyhow, between feeds."
"My papa writes books," remarked Tommy.
The burglar jumped to his feet quickly.
"You said he had gone to the opera," he hissed, hoarsely and with
"I ought to have explained," said Tommy. "He didn't buy the tickets."
The burglar sat again and toyed with the wishbone.
"Why do you burgle houses?" asked the boy, wonderingly.
"Because," replied the burglar, with a sudden flow of tears. "God
bless my little brown-haired boy Bessie at home."
"Ah," said Tommy, wrinkling his nose, "you got that answer in the
wrong place. You want to tell your hard-luck story before you pull
out the child stop."
"Oh, yes," said the burglar, "I forgot. Well, once I lived in
"Take the silver," said Tommy, rising from his chair.
"Hold on," said the burglar. "But I moved away." I could find no
other employment. For a while I managed to support my wife and
child by passing confederate money; but, alas! I was forced to give
that up because it did not belong to the union. I became desperate
and a burglar."
"Have you ever fallen into the hands of the police?" asked Tommy.
"I said 'burglar,' not 'beggar,'" answered the cracksman.
"After you finish your lunch," said Tommy, "and experience the usual
change of heart, how shall we wind up the story?"
"Suppose," said the burglar, thoughtfully, "that Tony Pastor turns out
earlier than usual to-night, and your father gets in from 'Parsifal'
at 10.30. I am thoroughly repentant because you have made me think of
my own little boy Bessie, and--"
"Say," said Tommy, "haven't you got that wrong?"
"Not on your coloured crayon drawings by B. Cory Kilvert," said the
burglar. "It's always a Bessie that I have at home, artlessly
prattling to the pale-cheeked burglar's bride. As I was saying, your
father opens the front door just as I am departing with admonitions
and sandwiches that you have wrapped up for me. Upon recognizing me
as an old Harvard classmate he starts back in--"
"Not in surprise?" interrupted Tommy, with wide, open eyes.
"He starts back in the doorway," continued the burglar. And then he
rose to his feet and began to shout "Rah, rah, rah! rah, rah, rah!
rah, rah, rah!"
"Well," said Tommy, wonderingly, "that's, the first time I ever knew a
burglar to give a college yell when he was burglarizing a house, even
in a story."
"That's one on you," said the burglar, with a laugh. "I was practising
the dramatization. If this is put on the stage that college touch is
about the only thing that will make it go."
Tommy looked his admiration.
"You're on, all right," he said.
"And there's another mistake you've made," said the burglar. "You
should have gone some time ago and brought me the $9 gold piece your
mother gave you on your birthday to take to Bessie."
"But she didn't give it to me to take to Bessie," said Tommy, pouting.
"Come, come!" said the burglar, sternly. "It's not nice of you to
take advantage because the story contains an ambiguous sentence. You
know what I mean. It's mighty little I get out of these fictional
jobs, anyhow. I lose all the loot, and I have to reform every time;
and all the swag I'm allowed is the blamed little fol-de-rols and
luck-pieces that you kids hand over. Why, in one story, all I got was
a kiss from a little girl who came in on me when I was opening a safe.
And it tasted of molasses candy, too. I've a good notion to tie this
table cover over your head and keep on into the silver-closet."
"Oh, no, you haven't," said Tommy, wrapping his arms around his knees.
"Because if you did no editor would buy the story. You know you've
got to preserve the unities."
"So've you," said the burglar, rather glumly. "Instead of sitting here
talking impudence and taking the bread out of a poor man's mouth, what
you'd like to be doing is hiding under the bed and screeching at the
top of your voice."
"You're right, old man," said Tommy, heartily. "I wonder what they
make us do it for? I think the S. P. C. C. ought to interfere. I'm
sure it's neither agreeable nor usual for a kid of my age to butt in
when a full-grown burglar is at work and offer him a red sled and a
pair of skates not to awaken his sick mother. And look how they make
the burglars act! You'd think editors would know--but what's the
The burglar wiped his hands on the tablecloth and arose with a yawn.
"Well, let's get through with it," he said. "God bless you, my little
boy! you have saved a man from committing a crime this night. Bessie
shall pray for you as soon as I get home and give her her orders. I
shall never burglarize another house--at least not until the June
magazines are out. It'll be your little sister's turn then to run in
on me while I am abstracting the U. S. 4 per cent. from the tea urn
and buy me off with her coral necklace and a falsetto kiss."
"You haven't got all the kicks coming to you," sighed Tommy, crawling
out of his chair. "Think of the sleep I'm losing. But it's tough on
both of us, old man. I wish you could get out of the story and really
rob somebody. Maybe you'll have the chance if they dramatize us."
"Never!" said the burglar, gloomily. "Between the box office and my
better impulses that your leading juveniles are supposed to awaken
and the magazines that pay on publication, I guess I'll always be
"I'm sorry," said Tommy, sympathetically. "But I can't help myself
any more than you can. It's one of the canons of household fiction
that no burglar shall be successful. The burglar must be foiled by
a kid like me, or by a young lady heroine, or at the last moment by
his old pal, Red Mike, who recognizes the house as one in which he
used to be the coachman. You have got the worst end of it in any kind
of a story."
"Well, I suppose I must be clearing out now," said the burglar, taking
up his lantern and bracebit.
"You have to take the rest of this chicken and the bottle of wine with
you for Bessie and her mother," said Tommy, calmly.
"But confound it," exclaimed the burglar, in an annoyed tone, "they
don't want it. I've got five cases of Château de Beychsvelle at home
that was bottled in 1853. That claret of yours is corked. And you
couldn't get either of them to look at a chicken unless it was stewed
in champagne. You know, after I get out of the story I don't have so
many limitations. I make a turn now and then."
"Yes, but you must take them," said Tommy, loading his arms with the
"Bless you, young master!" recited the burglar, obedient. "Second-Story
Saul will never forget you. And now hurry and let me out, kid. Our
2,000 words must be nearly up."
Tommy led the way through the hall toward the front door. Suddenly
the burglar stopped and called to him softly: "Ain't there a cop out
there in front somewhere sparking the girl?"
"Yes," said Tommy, "but what--"
"I'm afraid he'll catch me," said the burglar. "You mustn't forget
that this is fiction."
"Great head!" said Tommy, turning. "Come out by the back door."
A CHAPARRAL CHRISTMAS GIFT
The original cause of the trouble was about twenty years in growing.
At the end of that time it was worth it.
Had you lived anywhere within fifty miles of Sundown Ranch you would
have heard of it. It possessed a quantity of jet-black hair, a pair
of extremely frank, deep-brown eyes and a laugh that rippled across
the prairie like the sound of a hidden brook. The name of it was
Rosita McMullen; and she was the daughter of old man McMullen of the
Sundown Sheep Ranch.
There came riding on red roan steeds--or, to be more explicit, on a
paint and a flea-bitten sorrel--two wooers. One was Madison Lane,
and the other was the Frio Kid. But at that time they did not call him
the Frio Kid, for he had not earned the honours of special
nomenclature. His name was simply Johnny McRoy.
It must not be supposed that these two were the sum of the agreeable
Rosita's admirers. The bronchos of a dozen others champed their bits
at the long hitching rack of the Sundown Ranch. Many were the
sheeps'-eyes that were cast in those savannas that did not belong to
the flocks of Dan McMullen. But of all the cavaliers, Madison Lane
and Johnny McRoy galloped far ahead, wherefore they are to be
Madison Lane, a young cattleman from the Nueces country, won the race.
He and Rosita were married one Christmas day. Armed, hilarious,
vociferous, magnanimous, the cowmen and the sheepmen, laying aside
their hereditary hatred, joined forces to celebrate the occasion.
Sundown Ranch was sonorous with the cracking of jokes and sixshooters,
the shine of buckles and bright eyes, the outspoken congratulations of
the herders of kine.
But while the wedding feast was at its liveliest there descended upon
it Johnny McRoy, bitten by jealousy, like one possessed.
"I'll give you a Christmas present," he yelled, shrilly, at the door,
with his .45 in his hand. Even then he had some reputation as an
His first bullet cut a neat underbit in Madison Lane's right ear. The
barrel of his gun moved an inch. The next shot would have been the
bride's had not Carson, a sheepman, possessed a mind with triggers
somewhat well oiled and in repair. The guns of the wedding party had
been hung, in their belts, upon nails in the wall when they sat at
table, as a concession to good taste. But Carson, with great
promptness, hurled his plate of roast venison and frijoles at McRoy,
spoiling his aim. The second bullet, then, only shattered the white
petals of a Spanish dagger flower suspended two feet above Rosita's
The guests spurned their chairs and jumped for their weapons. It was
considered an improper act to shoot the bride and groom at a wedding.
In about six seconds there were twenty or so bullets due to be
whizzing in the direction of Mr. McRoy.
"I'll shoot better next time," yelled Johnny; "and there'll be a next
time." He backed rapidly out the door.
Carson, the sheepman, spurred on to attempt further exploits by the
success of his plate-throwing, was first to reach the door. McRoy's
bullet from the darkness laid him low.
The cattlemen then swept out upon him, calling for vengeance, for,
while the slaughter of a sheepman has not always lacked condonement,
it was a decided misdemeanour in this instance. Carson was
innocent; he was no accomplice at the matrimonial proceedings; nor had
any one heard him quote the line "Christmas comes but once a year" to
But the sortie failed in its vengeance. McRoy was on his horse and
away, shouting back curses and threats as he galloped into the
That night was the birthnight of the Frio Kid. He became the "bad
man" of that portion of the State. The rejection of his suit by Miss
McMullen turned him to a dangerous man. When officers went after him
for the shooting of Carson, he killed two of them, and entered upon
the life of an outlaw. He became a marvellous shot with either hand.
He would turn up in towns and settlements, raise a quarrel at the
slightest opportunity, pick off his man and laugh at the officers
of the law. He was so cool, so deadly, so rapid, so inhumanly
blood-thirsty that none but faint attempts were ever made to capture
him. When he was at last shot and killed by a little one-armed Mexican
who was nearly dead himself from fright, the Frio Kid had the deaths
of eighteen men on his head. About half of these were killed in fair
duels depending upon the quickness of the draw. The other half were
men whom he assassinated from absolute wantonness and cruelty.
Many tales are told along the border of his impudent courage and
daring. But he was not one of the breed of desperadoes who have
seasons of generosity and even of softness. They say he never had
mercy on the object of his anger. Yet at this and every Christmastide
it is well to give each one credit, if it can be done, for whatever
speck of good he may have possessed. If the Frio Kid ever did a
kindly act or felt a throb of generosity in his heart it was once at
such a time and season, and this is the way it happened.
One who has been crossed in love should never breathe the odour from
the blossoms of the ratama tree. It stirs the memory to a dangerous
One December in the Frio country there was a ratama tree in full
bloom, for the winter had been as warm as springtime. That way rode
the Frio Kid and his satellite and co-murderer, Mexican Frank. The kid
reined in his mustang, and sat in his saddle, thoughtful and grim,
with dangerously narrowing eyes. The rich, sweet scent touched him
somewhere beneath his ice and iron.
"I don't know what I've been thinking about, Mex," he remarked in his
usual mild drawl, "to have forgot all about a Christmas present I got
to give. I'm going to ride over to-morrow night and shoot Madison
Lane in his own house. He got my girl--Rosita would have had me if
he hadn't cut into the game. I wonder why I happened to overlook it
up to now?"
"Ah, shucks, Kid," said Mexican, "don't talk foolishness. You know
you can't get within a mile of Mad Lane's house to-morrow night. I
see old man Allen day before yesterday, and he says Mad is going to
have Christmas doings at his house. You remember how you shot up the
festivities when Mad was married, and about the threats you made?
Don't you suppose Mad Lane'll kind of keep his eye open for a certain
Mr. Kid? You plumb make me tired, Kid, with such remarks."
"I'm going," repeated the Frio Kid, without heat, "to go to Madison
Lane's Christmas doings, and kill him. I ought to have done it a long
time ago. Why, Mex, just two weeks ago I dreamed me and Rosita was
married instead of her and him; and we was living in a house, and I
could see her smiling at me, and--oh! h----l, Mex, he got her; and
I'll get him--yes, sir, on Christmas Eve he got her, and then's when
I'll get him."
"There's other ways of committing suicide," advised Mexican. "Why
don't you go and surrender to the sheriff?"
"I'll get him," said the Kid.
Christmas Eve fell as balmy as April. Perhaps there was a hint of
far-away frostiness in the air, but it tingles like seltzer, perfumed
faintly with late prairie blossoms and the mesquite grass.
When night came the five or six rooms of the ranch-house were
brightly lit. In one room was a Christmas tree, for the Lanes had a
boy of three, and a dozen or more guests were expected from the nearer
At nightfall Madison Lane called aside Jim Belcher and three other
cowboys employed on his ranch.
"Now, boys," said Lane, "keep your eyes open. Walk around the house
and watch the road well. All of you know the 'Frio Kid,' as they call
him now, and if you see him, open fire on him without asking any
questions. I'm not afraid of his coming around, but Rosita is. She's
been afraid he'd come in on us every Christmas since we were married."
The guests had arrived in buckboards and on horseback, and were making
themselves comfortable inside.
The evening went along pleasantly. The guests enjoyed and praised
Rosita's excellent supper, and afterward the men scattered in groups
about the rooms or on the broad "gallery," smoking and chatting.
The Christmas tree, of course, delighted the youngsters, and above all
were they pleased when Santa Claus himself in magnificent white beard
and furs appeared and began to distribute the toys.
"It's my papa," announced Billy Sampson, aged six. "I've seen him wear
Berkly, a sheepman, an old friend of Lane, stopped Rosita as she was
passing by him on the gallery, where he was sitting smoking.
"Well, Mrs. Lane," said he, "I suppose by this Christmas you've
gotten over being afraid of that fellow McRoy, haven't you? Madison
and I have talked about it, you know."
"Very nearly," said Rosita, smiling, "but I am still nervous
sometimes. I shall never forget that awful time when he came so near
to killing us."
"He's the most cold-hearted villain in the world," said Berkly. "The
citizens all along the border ought to turn out and hunt him down like
"He has committed awful crimes," said Rosita, "but--I--don't--know.
I think there is a spot of good somewhere in everybody. He was not
always bad--that I know."
Rosita turned into the hallway between the rooms. Santa Claus, in
muffling whiskers and furs, was just coming through.
"I heard what you said through the window, Mrs. Lane," he said. "I
was just going down in my pocket for a Christmas present for your
husband. But I've left one for you, instead. It's in the room to
"Oh, thank you, kind Santa Claus," said Rosita, brightly.
Rosita went into the room, while Santa Claus stepped into the cooler
air of the yard.
She found no one in the room but Madison.
"Where is my present that Santa said he left for me in here?" she
"Haven't seen anything in the way of a present," said her husband,
laughing, "unless he could have meant me."
The next day Gabriel Radd, the foreman of the X O Ranch, dropped into
the post-office at Loma Alta.
"Well, the Frio Kid's got his dose of lead at last," he remarked to
"That so? How'd it happen?"
"One of old Sanchez's Mexican sheep herders did it!--think of it!
the Frio Kid killed by a sheep herder! The Greaser saw him riding
along past his camp about twelve o'clock last night, and was so
skeered that he up with a Winchester and let him have it. Funniest
part of it was that the Kid was dressed all up with white Angora-skin
whiskers and a regular Santy Claus rig-out from head to foot. Think
of the Frio Kid playing Santy!"
A LITTLE LOCAL COLOUR
I mentioned to Rivington that I was in search of characteristic New
York scenes and incidents--something typical, I told him, without
necessarily having to spell the first syllable with an "i."
"Oh, for your writing business," said Rivington; "you couldn't have
applied to a better shop. What I don't know about little old New York
wouldn't make a sonnet to a sunbonnet. I'll put you right in the
middle of so much local colour that you won't know whether you are a
magazine cover or in the erysipelas ward. When do you want to begin?"
Rivington is a young-man-about-town and a New Yorker by birth,
preference and incommutability.
I told him that I would be glad to accept his escort and guardianship
so that I might take notes of Manhattan's grand, gloomy and peculiar
idiosyncrasies, and that the time of so doing would be at his own
"We'll begin this very evening," said Rivington, himself interested,
like a good fellow. "Dine with me at seven, and then I'll steer you
up against metropolitan phases so thick you'll have to have a
kinetoscope to record 'em."
So I dined with Rivington pleasantly at his club, in Forty-eleventh
street, and then we set forth in pursuit of the elusive tincture of
As we came out of the club there stood two men on the sidewalk near
the steps in earnest conversation.
"And by what process of ratiocination," said one of them, "do you
arrive at the conclusion that the division of society into producing
and non-possessing classes predicates failure when compared with
competitive systems that are monopolizing in tendency and result
inimically to industrial evolution?"
"Oh, come off your perch!" said the other man, who wore glasses.
"Your premises won't come out in the wash. You wind-jammers who apply
bandy-legged theories to concrete categorical syllogisms send logical
conclusions skallybootin' into the infinitesimal ragbag. You can't
pull my leg with an old sophism with whiskers on it. You quote Marx
and Hyndman and Kautsky--what are they?--shines! Tolstoi?--his
garret is full of rats. I put it to you over the home-plate that the
idea of a cooperative commonwealth and an abolishment of competitive
systems simply takes the rag off the bush and gives me hyperesthesia
of the roopteetoop! The skookum house for yours!"
I stopped a few yards away and took out my little notebook.
"Oh, come ahead," said Rivington, somewhat nervously; "you don't
want to listen to that."
"Why, man," I whispered, "this is just what I do want to hear. These
slang types are among your city's most distinguishing features. Is
this the Bowery variety? I really must hear more of it."
"If I follow you," said the man who had spoken first, "you do not
believe it possible to reorganize society on the basis of common
"Shinny on your own side!" said the man with glasses. "You never
heard any such music from my foghorn. What I said was that I did not
believe it practicable just now. The guys with wads are not in the
frame of mind to slack up on the mazuma, and the man with the portable
tin banqueting canister isn't exactly ready to join the Bible class.
You can bet your variegated socks that the situation is all
spifflicated up from the Battery to breakfast! What the country needs
is for some bully old bloke like Cobden or some wise guy like old Ben
Franklin to sashay up to the front and biff the nigger's head with
the baseball. Do you catch my smoke? What?"
Rivington pulled me by the arm impatiently.
"Please come on," he said. "Let's go see something. This isn't what
"Indeed, it is," I said resisting. "This tough talk is the very stuff
that counts. There is a picturesqueness about the speech of the lower
order of people that is quite unique. Did you say that this is the
Bowery variety of slang?"
"Oh, well," said Rivington, giving it up, "I'll tell you straight.
That's one of our college professors talking. He ran down for a day or
two at the club. It's a sort of fad with him lately to use slang in
his conversation. He thinks it improves language. The man he is
talking to is one of New York's famous social economists. Now will
you come on. You can't use that, you know."
"No," I agreed; "I can't use that. Would you call that typical of New
"Of course not," said Rivington, with a sigh of relief. "I'm glad you
see the difference. But if you want to hear the real old tough Bowery
slang I'll take you down where you'll get your fill of it."
"I would like it," I said; "that is, if it's the real thing. I've
often read it in books, but I never heard it. Do you think it will be
dangerous to go unprotected among those characters?"
"Oh, no," said Rivington; "not at this time of night. To tell the
truth, I haven't been along the Bowery in a long time, but I know it
as well as I do Broadway. We'll look up some of the typical Bowery
boys and get them to talk. It'll be worth your while. They talk a
peculiar dialect that you won't hear anywhere else on earth."
Rivington and I went east in a Forty-second street car and then south
on the Third avenue line.
At Houston street we got off and walked.
"We are now on the famous Bowery," said Rivington; "the Bowery
celebrated in song and story."
We passed block after block of "gents'" furnishing stores--the
windows full of shirts with prices attached and cuffs inside. In
other windows were neckties and no shirts. People walked up and down
"In some ways," said I, "this reminds me of Kokomono, Ind., during
the peach-crating season."
Rivington was nettled.
"Step into one of these saloons or vaudeville shows," said he, "with a
large roll of money, and see how quickly the Bowery will sustain its
"You make impossible conditions," said I, coldly.
By and by Rivington stopped and said we were in the heart of the
Bowery. There was a policeman on the corner whom Rivington knew.
"Hallo, Donahue!" said my guide. "How goes it? My friend and I are
down this way looking up a bit of local colour. He's anxious to meet
one of the Bowery types. Can't you put us on to something genuine in
that line--something that's got the colour, you know?"
Policeman Donahue turned himself about ponderously, his florid face
full of good-nature. He pointed with his club down the street.
"Sure!" he said huskily. "Here comes a lad now that was born on the
Bowery and knows every inch of it. If he's ever been above Bleecker
street he's kept it to himself."
A man about twenty-eight or twenty-nine, with a smooth face, was
sauntering toward us with his hands in his coat pockets. Policeman
Donahue stopped him with a courteous wave of his club.
"Evening, Kerry," he said. "Here's a couple of gents, friends of
mine, that want to hear you spiel something about the Bowery. Can you
reel 'em off a few yards?"
"Certainly, Donahue," said the young man, pleasantly. "Good
evening, gentlemen," he said to us, with a pleasant smile. Donahue
walked off on his beat.
"This is the goods," whispered Rivington, nudging me with his elbow.
"Look at his jaw!"
"Say, cull," said Rivington, pushing back his hat, "wot's doin'?
Me and my friend's taking a look down de old line--see? De copper
tipped us off dat you was wise to de bowery. Is dat right?"
I could not help admiring Rivington's power of adapting himself to
"Donahue was right," said the young man, frankly; "I was brought up
on the Bowery. I have been news-boy, teamster, pugilist, member of
an organized band of 'toughs,' bartender, and a 'sport' in various
meanings of the word. The experience certainly warrants the
supposition that I have at least a passing acquaintance with a few
phases of Bowery life. I will be pleased to place whatever knowledge
and experience I have at the service of my friend Donahue's friends."
Rivington seemed ill at ease.
"I say," he said--somewhat entreatingly, "I thought--you're not
stringing us, are you? It isn't just the kind of talk we expected.
You haven't even said 'Hully gee!' once. Do you really belong on the
"I am afraid," said the Bowery boy, smilingly, "that at some time you
have been enticed into one of the dives of literature and had the
counterfeit coin of the Bowery passed upon you. The 'argot' to which
you doubtless refer was the invention of certain of your literary
'discoverers' who invaded the unknown wilds below Third avenue and
put strange sounds into the mouths of the inhabitants. Safe in their
homes far to the north and west, the credulous readers who were
beguiled by this new 'dialect' perused and believed. Like Marco Polo
and Mungo Park--pioneers indeed, but ambitious souls who could not
draw the line of demarcation between discovery and invention--the
literary bones of these explorers are dotting the trackless wastes of
the subway. While it is true that after the publication of the
mythical language attributed to the dwellers along the Bowery certain
of its pat phrases and apt metaphors were adopted and, to a limited
extent, used in this locality, it was because our people are prompt in
assimilating whatever is to their commercial advantage. To the
tourists who visited our newly discovered clime, and who expected a
realization of their literary guide books, they supplied the demands
of the market.
"But perhaps I am wandering from the question. In what way can I
assist you, gentlemen? I beg you will believe that the hospitality of
the street is extended to all. There are, I regret to say, many
catchpenny places of entertainment, but I cannot conceive that they
would entice you."
I felt Rivington lean somewhat heavily against me. "Say!" he
remarked, with uncertain utterance; "come and have a drink with us."
"Thank you, but I never drink. I find that alcohol, even in the
smallest quantities, alters the perspective. And I must preserve my
perspective, for I am studying the Bowery. I have lived in it nearly
thirty years, and I am just beginning to understand its heartbeats.
It is like a great river fed by a hundred alien streams. Each influx
brings strange seeds on its flood, strange silt and weeds, and now and
then a flower of rare promise. To construe this river requires a man
who can build dykes against the overflow, who is a naturalist, a
geologist, a humanitarian, a diver and a strong swimmer. I love my
Bowery. It was my cradle and is my inspiration. I have published one
book. The critics have been kind. I put my heart in it. I am writing
another, into which I hope to put both heart and brain. Consider me
your guide, gentlemen. Is there anything I can take you to see, any
place to which I can conduct you?"
I was afraid to look at Rivington except with one eye.
"Thanks," said Rivington. "We were looking up . . . that is . . . my
friend . . . confound it; it's against all precedent, you know . . .
awfully obliged . . . just the same."
"In case," said our friend, "you would like to meet some of our Bowery
young men I would be pleased to have you visit the quarters of our
East Side Kappa Delta Phi Society, only two blocks east of here."
"Awfully sorry," said Rivington, "but my friend's got me on the jump
to-night. He's a terror when he's out after local colour. Now,
there's nothing I would like better than to drop in at the Kappa Delta
Phi, but--some other time!"
We said our farewells and boarded a home-bound car. We had a rabbit on
upper Broadway, and then I parted with Rivington on a street corner.
"Well, anyhow," said he, braced and recovered, "it couldn't have
happened anywhere but in little old New York."
Which to say the least, was typical of Rivington.
If you should chance to visit the General Land Office, step into the
draughtsmen's room and ask to be shown the map of Salado County. A
leisurely German--possibly old Kampfer himself--will bring it to
you. It will be four feet square, on heavy drawing-cloth. The
lettering and the figures will be beautifully clear and distinct. The
title will be in splendid, undecipherable German text, ornamented with
classic Teutonic designs--very likely Ceres or Pomona leaning
against the initial letters with cornucopias venting grapes and
wieners. You must tell him that this is not the map you wish to see;
that he will kindly bring you its official predecessor. He will then
say, "Ach, so!" and bring out a map half the size of the first, dim,
old, tattered, and faded.
By looking carefully near its northwest corner you will presently come
upon the worn contours of Chiquito River, and, maybe, if your eyes are
good, discern the silent witness to this story.
The Commissioner of the Land Office was of the old style; his
antique courtesy was too formal for his day. He dressed in fine
black, and there was a suggestion of Roman drapery in his long
coat-skirts. His collars were "undetached" (blame haberdashery
for the word); his tie was a narrow, funereal strip, tied in the
same knot as were his shoe-strings. His gray hair was a trifle
too long behind, but he kept it smooth and orderly. His face was
clean-shaven, like the old statesmen's. Most people thought it a
stern face, but when its official expression was off, a few had
seen altogether a different countenance. Especially tender and
gentle it had appeared to those who were about him during the last
illness of his only child.
The Commissioner had been a widower for years, and his life, outside
his official duties, had been so devoted to little Georgia that people
spoke of it as a touching and admirable thing. He was a reserved man,
and dignified almost to austerity, but the child had come below it all
and rested upon his very heart, so that she scarcely missed the
mother's love that had been taken away. There was a wonderful
companionship between them, for she had many of his own ways, being
thoughtful and serious beyond her years.
One day, while she was lying with the fever burning brightly in her
checks, she said suddenly:
"Papa, I wish I could do something good for a whole lot of children!"
"What would you like to do, dear?" asked the Commissioner. "Give
them a party?"
"Oh, I don't mean those kind. I mean poor children who haven't homes,
and aren't loved and cared for as I am. I tell you what, papa!"
"What, my own child?"
"If I shouldn't get well, I'll leave them you--not _give_ you, but
just lend you, for you must come to mamma and me when you die too. If
you can find time, wouldn't you do something to help them, if I ask
"Hush, hush dear, dear child," said the Commissioner, holding her hot
little hand against his cheek; "you'll get well real soon, and you and
I will see what we can do for them together."
But in whatsoever paths of benevolence, thus vaguely premeditated, the
Commissioner might tread, he was not to have the company of his
beloved. That night the little frail body grew suddenly too tired to
struggle further, and Georgia's exit was made from the great stage
when she had scarcely begun to speak her little piece before the
footlights. But there must be a stage manager who understands. She
had given the cue to the one who was to speak after her.
A week after she was laid away, the Commissioner reappeared at the
office, a little more courteous, a little paler and sterner, with the
black frock-coat hanging a little more loosely from his tall figure.
His desk was piled with work that had accumulated during the four
heartbreaking weeks of his absence. His chief clerk had done what he
could, but there were questions of law, of fine judicial decisions
to be made concerning the issue of patents, the marketing and
leasing of school lands, the classification into grazing,
agricultural, watered, and timbered, of new tracts to be opened to
The Commissioner went to work silently and obstinately, putting
back his grief as far as possible, forcing his mind to attack the
complicated and important business of his office. On the second day
after his return he called the porter, pointed to a leather-covered
chair that stood near his own, and ordered it removed to a lumber-room
at the top of the building. In that chair Georgia would always sit
when she came to the office for him of afternoons.
As time passed, the Commissioner seemed to grow more silent, solitary,
and reserved. A new phase of mind developed in him. He could not
endure the presence of a child. Often when a clattering youngster
belonging to one of the clerks would come chattering into the big
business-room adjoining his little apartment, the Commissioner would
steal softly and close the door. He would always cross the street to
avoid meeting the school-children when they came dancing along in
happy groups upon the sidewalk, and his firm mouth would close into a
It was nearly three months after the rains had washed the last dead
flower-petals from the mound above little Georgia when the "land-shark"
firm of Hamlin and Avery filed papers upon what they considered the
"fattest" vacancy of the year.
It should not be supposed that all who were termed "land-sharks"
deserved the name. Many of them were reputable men of good business
character. Some of them could walk into the most august councils of
the State and say: "Gentlemen, we would like to have this, and that,
and matters go thus." But, next to a three years' drought and the
boll-worm, the Actual Settler hated the Land-shark. The land-shark
haunted the Land Office, where all the land records were kept, and
hunted "vacancies"--that is, tracts of unappropriated public
domain, generally invisible upon the official maps, but actually
existing "upon the ground." The law entitled any one possessing
certain State scrip to file by virtue of same upon any land not
previously legally appropriated. Most of the scrip was now in the
hands of the land-sharks. Thus, at the cost of a few hundred dollars,
they often secured lands worth as many thousands. Naturally, the
search for "vacancies" was lively.
But often--very often--the land they thus secured, though legally
"unappropriated," would be occupied by happy and contented settlers,
who had laboured for years to build up their homes, only to discover
that their titles were worthless, and to receive peremptory notice to
quit. Thus came about the bitter and not unjustifiable hatred felt by
the toiling settlers toward the shrewd and seldom merciful speculators
who so often turned them forth destitute and homeless from their
fruitless labours. The history of the state teems with their
antagonism. Mr. Land-shark seldom showed his face on "locations" from
which he should have to eject the unfortunate victims of a monstrously
tangled land system, but let his emissaries do the work. There was
lead in every cabin, moulded into balls for him; many of his brothers
had enriched the grass with their blood. The fault of it all lay far
When the state was young, she felt the need of attracting newcomers,
and of rewarding those pioneers already within her borders. Year
after year she issued land scrip--Headrights, Bounties, Veteran
Donations, Confederates; and to railroads, irrigation companies,
colonies, and tillers of the soil galore. All required of the grantee
was that he or it should have the scrip properly surveyed upon the
public domain by the county or district surveyor, and the land thus
appropriated became the property of him or it, or his or its heirs and
In those days--and here is where the trouble began--the state's
domain was practically inexhaustible, and the old surveyors, with
princely--yea, even Western American--liberality, gave good
measure and over-flowing. Often the jovial man of metes and bounds
would dispense altogether with the tripod and chain. Mounted on a pony
that could cover something near a "vara" at a step, with a pocket
compass to direct his course, he would trot out a survey by counting
the beat of his pony's hoofs, mark his corners, and write out his
field notes with the complacency produced by an act of duty well
performed. Sometimes--and who could blame the surveyor?--when
the pony was "feeling his oats," he might step a little higher and
farther, and in that case the beneficiary of the scrip might get a
thousand or two more acres in his survey than the scrip called for.
But look at the boundless leagues the state had to spare! However, no
one ever had to complain of the pony under-stepping. Nearly every
old survey in the state contained an excess of land.
In later years, when the state became more populous, and land values
increased, this careless work entailed incalculable trouble, endless
litigation, a period of riotous land-grabbing, and no little
bloodshed. The land-sharks voraciously attacked these excesses in
the old surveys, and filed upon such portions with new scrip as
unappropriated public domain. Wherever the identifications of the
old tracts were vague, and the corners were not to be clearly
established, the Land Office would recognize the newer locations as
valid, and issue title to the locators. Here was the greatest
hardship to be found. These old surveys, taken from the pick of the
land, were already nearly all occupied by unsuspecting and peaceful
settlers, and thus their titles were demolished, and the choice was
placed before them either to buy their land over at a double price or
to vacate it, with their families and personal belongings,
immediately. Land locators sprang up by hundreds. The country was
held up and searched for "vacancies" at the point of a compass.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of splendid acres were wrested
from their innocent purchasers and holders. There began a vast hegira
of evicted settlers in tattered wagons; going nowhere, cursing
injustice, stunned, purposeless, homeless, hopeless. Their children
began to look up to them for bread, and cry.
It was in consequence of these conditions that Hamilton and Avery
had filed upon a strip of land about a mile wide and three miles long,
comprising about two thousand acres, it being the excess over
complement of the Elias Denny three-league survey on Chiquito River,
in one of the middle-western counties. This two-thousand-acre body
of land was asserted by them to be vacant land, and improperly
considered a part of the Denny survey. They based this assertion and
their claim upon the land upon the demonstrated facts that the
beginning corner of the Denny survey was plainly identified; that its
field notes called to run west 5,760 varas, and then called for
Chiquito River; thence it ran south, with the meanders--and so on--
and that the Chiquito River was, on the ground, fully a mile farther
west from the point reached by course and distance. To sum up: there
were two thousand acres of vacant land between the Denny survey proper
and Chiquito River.
One sweltering day in July the Commissioner called for the papers in
connection with this new location. They were brought, and heaped, a
foot deep, upon his desk--field notes, statements, sketches,
affidavits, connecting lines--documents of every description that
shrewdness and money could call to the aid of Hamlin and Avery.
The firm was pressing the Commissioner to issue a patent upon their
location. They possesed inside information concerning a new
railroad that would probably pass somewhere near this land.
The General Land Office was very still while the Commissioner was
delving into the heart of the mass of evidence. The pigeons could
be heard on the roof of the old, castle-like building, cooing and
fretting. The clerks were droning everywhere, scarcely pretending
to earn their salaries. Each little sound echoed hollow and loud
from the bare, stone-flagged floors, the plastered walls, and the
iron-joisted ceiling. The impalpable, perpetual limestone dust that
never settled, whitened a long streamer of sunlight that pierced the
It seemed that Hamlin and Avery had builded well. The Denny survey was
carelessly made, even for a careless period. Its beginning corner
was identical with that of a well-defined old Spanish grant, but its
other calls were sinfully vague. The field notes contained no other
object that survived--no tree, no natural object save Chiquito
River, and it was a mile wrong there. According to precedent, the
Office would be justified in giving it its complement by course and
distance, and considering the remainder vacant instead of a mere
The Actual Settler was besieging the office with wild protests _in re_.
Having the nose of a pointer and the eye of a hawk for the land-shark,
he had observed his myrmidons running the lines upon his ground.
Making inquiries, he learned that the spoiler had attacked his home,
and he left the plough in the furrow and took his pen in hand.
One of the protests the Commissioner read twice. It was from a woman,
a widow, the granddaughter of Elias Denny himself. She told how her
grandfather had sold most of the survey years before at a trivial
price--land that was now a principality in extent and value. Her
mother had also sold a part, and she herself had succeeded to this
western portion, along Chiquito River. Much of it she had been forced
to part with in order to live, and now she owned only about three
hundred acres, on which she had her home. Her letter wound up rather
"I've got eight children, the oldest fifteen years. I work all day
and half the night to till what little land I can and keep us in
clothes and books. I teach my children too. My neighbours is all
poor and has big families. The drought kills the crops every two or
three years and then we has hard times to get enough to eat. There is
ten families on this land what the land-sharks is trying to rob us of,
and all of them got titles from me. I sold to them cheap, and they
aint paid out yet, but part of them is, and if their land should be
took from them I would die. My grandfather was an honest man, and he
helped to build up this state, and he taught his children to be
honest, and how could I make it up to them who bought from me? Mr.
Commissioner, if you let them land-sharks take the roof from over my
children and the little from them as they has to live on, whoever
again calls this state great or its government just will have a lie in
The Commissioner laid this letter aside with a sigh. Many, many such
letters he had received. He had never been hurt by them, nor had he
ever felt that they appealed to him personally. He was but the
state's servant, and must follow its laws. And yet, somehow, this
reflection did not always eliminate a certain responsible feeling that
hung upon him. Of all the state's officers he was supremest in his
department, not even excepting the Governor. Broad, general land laws
he followed, it was true, but he had a wide latitude in particular
ramifications. Rather than law, what he followed was Rulings:
Office Rulings and precedents. In the complicated and new questions
that were being engendered by the state's development the
Commissioner's ruling was rarely appealed from. Even the courts
sustained it when its equity was apparent.
The Commissioner stepped to the door and spoke to a clerk in the other
room--spoke as he always did, as if he were addressing a prince of
"Mr. Weldon, will you be kind enough to ask Mr. Ashe, the state
school-land appraiser, to please come to my office as soon as
Ashe came quickly from the big table where he was arranging his
"Mr. Ashe," said the Commissioner, "you worked along the Chiquito
River, in Salado County, during your last trip, I believe. Do you
remember anything of the Elias Denny three-league survey?"
"Yes, sir, I do," the blunt, breezy, surveyor answered. "I crossed it
on my way to Block H, on the north side of it. The road runs with the
Chiquito River, along the valley. The Denny survey fronts three miles
on the Chiquito."
"It is claimed," continued the commissioner, "that it fails to reach
the river by as much as a mile."
The appraiser shrugged his shoulder. He was by birth and instinct an
Actual Settler, and the natural foe of the land-shark.
"It has always been considered to extend to the river," he said,
"But that is not the point I desired to discuss," said the
Commissioner. "What kind of country is this valley portion of (let us
say, then) the Denny tract?"
The spirit of the Actual Settler beamed in Ashe's face.
"Beautiful," he said, with enthusiasm. "Valley as level as this
floor, with just a little swell on, like the sea, and rich as cream.
Just enough brakes to shelter the cattle in winter. Black loamy soil
for six feet, and then clay. Holds water. A dozen nice little houses
on it, with windmills and gardens. People pretty poor, I guess--too
far from market--but comfortable. Never saw so many kids in my
"They raise flocks?" inquired the Commissioner.
"Ho, ho! I mean two-legged kids," laughed the surveyor; "two-legged,
and bare-legged, and tow-headed."
"Children! oh, children!" mused the Commissioner, as though a new
view had opened to him; "they raise children!
"It's a lonesome country, Commissioner," said the surveyor. "Can you
"I suppose," continued the Commissioner, slowly, as one carefully
pursues deductions from a new, stupendous theory, "not all of them are
tow-headed. It would not be unreasonable, Mr. Ashe, I conjecture, to
believe that a portion of them have brown, or even black, hair."
"Brown and black, sure," said Ashe; "also red."
"No doubt," said the Commissioner. "Well, I thank you for your
courtesy in informing me, Mr. Ashe. I will not detain you any longer
from your duties."
Later, in the afternoon, came Hamlin and Avery, big, handsome, genial,
sauntering men, clothed in white duck and low-cut shoes. They
permeated the whole office with an aura of debonair prosperity. They
passed among the clerks and left a wake of abbreviated given names and
fat brown cigars.
These were the aristocracy of the land-sharks, who went in for big
things. Full of serene confidence in themselves, there was no
corporation, no syndicate, no railroad company or attorney general
too big for them to tackle. The peculiar smoke of their rare, fat
brown cigars was to be perceived in the sanctum of every department of
state, in every committee-room of the Legislature, in every bank
parlour and every private caucus-room in the state Capital. Always
pleasant, never in a hurry, in seeming to possess unlimited leisure,
people wondered when they gave their attention to the many audacious
enterprises in which they were known to be engaged.
By and by the two dropped carelessly into the Commissioner's room
and reclined lazily in the big, leather-upholstered arm-chairs. They
drawled a good-natured complaint of the weather, and Hamlin told the
Commissioner an excellent story he had amassed that morning from
the Secretary of State.
But the Commissioner knew why they were there. He had half promised
to render a decision that day upon their location.
The chief clerk now brought in a batch of duplicate certificates for
the Commissioner to sign. As he traced his sprawling signature,
"Hollis Summerfield, Comr. Genl. Land Office," on each one, the chief
clerk stood, deftly removing them and applying the blotter.
"I notice," said the chief clerk, "you've been going through that
Salado County location. Kampfer is making a new map of Salado, and
I believe is platting in that section of the county now."
"I will see it," said the Commissioner. A few moments later he went to
the draughtsmen's room.
As he entered he saw five or six of the draughtsmen grouped about
Kampfer's desk, gargling away at each other in pectoral German, and
gazing at something thereupon. At the Commissioner's approach they
scattered to their several places. Kampfer, a wizened little German,
with long, frizzled ringlets and a watery eye, began to stammer
forth some sort of an apology, the Commissioner thought, for the
congregation of his fellows about his desk.
"Never mind," said the Commissioner, "I wish to see the map you are
making"; and, passing around the old German, seated himself upon the
high draughtsman's stool. Kampfer continued to break English in
trying to explain.
"Herr Gommissioner, I assure you blenty sat I haf not it bremeditated
--sat it wass--sat it itself make. Look you! from se field notes
wass it blatted--blease to observe se calls: South, 10 degrees west
1,050 varas; south, 10 degrees east 300 varas; south, 100; south, 9
west, 200; south, 40 degrees west 400--and so on. Herr Gommissioner,
nefer would I have--"
The Commissioner raised one white hand, silently, Kampfer dropped his
pipe and fled.
With a hand at each side of his face, and his elbows resting upon the
desk, the Commissioner sat staring at the map which was spread and
fastened there--staring at the sweet and living profile of little
Georgia drawn thereupon--at her face, pensive, delicate, and
infantile, outlined in a perfect likeness.
When his mind at length came to inquire into the reason of it, he
saw that it must have been, as Kampfer had said, unpremeditated. The
old draughtsman had been platting in the Elias Denny survey, and
Georgia's likeness, striking though it was, was formed by nothing more
than the meanders of Chiquito River. Indeed, Kampfer's blotter,
whereon his preliminary work was done, showed the laborious tracings
of the calls and the countless pricks of the compasses. Then, over
his faint pencilling, Kampfer had drawn in India ink with a full, firm
pen the similitude of Chiquito River, and forth had blossomed
mysteriously the dainty, pathetic profile of the child.
The Commissioner sat for half an hour with his face in his hands,
gazing downward, and none dared approach him. Then he arose and
walked out. In the business office he paused long enough to ask that
the Denny file be brought to his desk.
He found Hamlin and Avery still reclining in their chairs, apparently
oblivious of business. They were lazily discussing summer opera, it
being, their habit--perhaps their pride also--to appear supernaturally
indifferent whenever they stood with large interests imperilled. And
they stood to win more on this stake than most people knew. They
possessed inside information to the effect that a new railroad would,
within a year, split this very Chiquito River valley and send land
values ballooning all along its route. A dollar under thirty thousand
profit on this location, if it should hold good, would be a loss to
their expectations. So, while they chatted lightly and waited for the
Commissioner to open the subject, there was a quick, sidelong sparkle
in their eyes, evincing a desire to read their title clear to those
fair acres on the Chiquito.
A clerk brought in the file. The Commissioner seated himself and
wrote upon it in red ink. Then he rose to his feet and stood for a
while looking straight out of the window. The Land Office capped the
summit of a bold hill. The eyes of the Commissioner passed over the
roofs of many houses set in a packing of deep green, the whole
checkered by strips of blinding white streets. The horizon, where his
gaze was focussed, swelled to a fair wooded eminence flecked with
faint dots of shining white. There was the cemetery, where lay many
who were forgotten, and a few who had not lived in vain. And one
lay there, occupying very small space, whose childish heart had been
large enough to desire, while near its last beats, good to others.
The Commissioner's lips moved slightly as he whispered to himself: "It
was her last will and testament, and I have neglected it so long!"
The big brown cigars of Hamlin and Avery were fireless, but they still
gripped them between their teeth and waited, while they marvelled at
the absent expression upon the Commissioner's face.
By and by he spoke suddenly and promptly.
"Gentlemen, I have just indorsed the Elias Denny survey for patenting.
This office will not regard your location upon a part of it as legal."
He paused a moment, and then, extending his hand as those dear old-time
ones used to do in debate, he enunciated the spirit of that Ruling that
subsequently drove the land-sharks to the wall, and placed the seal of
peace and security over the doors of ten thousand homes.
"And, furthermore," he continued, with a clear, soft light upon his
face, "it may interest you to know that from this time on this office
will consider that when a survey of land made by virtue of a
certificate granted by this state to the men who wrested it from the
wilderness and the savage--made in good faith, settled in good faith,
and left in good faith to their children or innocent purchasers--when
such a survey, although overrunning its complement, shall call for
any natural object visible to the eye of man, to that object it shall
hold, and be good and valid. And the children of this state shall
lie down to sleep at night, and rumours of disturbers of title shall
not disquiet them. For," concluded the Commissioner, "of such is the
Kingdom of Heaven."
In the silence that followed, a laugh floated up from the patent-room
below. The man who carried down the Denny file was exhibiting it
among the clerks.
"Look here," he said, delightedly, "the old man has forgotten his
name. He's written 'Patent to original grantee,' and signed it
'Georgia Summerfield, Comr."'
The speech of the Commissioner rebounded lightly from the impregnable
Hamlin and Avery. They smiled, rose gracefully, spoke of the baseball
team, and argued feelingly that quite a perceptible breeze had arisen
from the east. They lit fresh fat brown cigars, and drifted
courteously away. But later they made another tiger-spring for their
quarry in the courts. But the courts, according to reports in the
papers, "coolly roasted them" (a remarkable performance, suggestive of
liquid-air didoes), and sustained the Commissioner's Ruling.
And this Ruling itself grew to be a Precedent, and the Actual Settler
framed it, and taught his children to spell from it, and there was
sound sleep o' nights from the pines to the sage-brush, and from the
chaparral to the great brown river of the north.
But I think, and I am sure the Commissioner never thought otherwise,
that whether Kampfer was a snuffy old instrument of destiny, or
whether the meanders of the Chiquito accidentally platted themselves
into that memorable sweet profile or not, there was brought about
"something good for a whole lot of children," and the result ought
to be called "Georgia's Ruling."
BLIND MAN'S HOLIDAY
Alas for the man and for the artist with the shifting point of
perspective! Life shall be a confusion of ways to the one; the
landscape shall rise up and confound the other. Take the case of
Lorison. At one time he appeared to himself to be the feeblest of
fools; at another he conceived that he followed ideals so fine that
the world was not yet ready to accept them. During one mood he cursed
his folly; possessed by the other, he bore himself with a serene
grandeur akin to greatness: in neither did he attain the perspective.
Generations before, the name had been "Larsen." His race had
bequeathed him its fine-strung, melancholy temperament, its saving
balance of thrift and industry.
From his point of perspective he saw himself an outcast from society,
forever to be a shady skulker along the ragged edge of respectability;
a denizen _des trois-quartz de monde_, that pathetic spheroid lying
between the _haut_ and the _demi_, whose inhabitants envy each of their
neighbours, and are scorned by both. He was self-condemned to this
opinion, as he was self-exiled, through it, to this quaint Southern
city a thousand miles from his former home. Here he had dwelt for
longer than a year, knowing but few, keeping in a subjective world
of shadows which was invaded at times by the perplexing bulks of
jarring realities. Then he fell in love with a girl whom he met in a
cheap restaurant, and his story begins.
The Rue Chartres, in New Orleans, is a street of ghosts. It lies in
the quarter where the Frenchman, in his prime, set up his translated
pride and glory; where, also, the arrogant don had swaggered, and
dreamed of gold and grants and ladies' gloves. Every flagstone has
its grooves worn by footsteps going royally to the wooing and the
fighting. Every house has a princely heartbreak; each doorway its
untold tale of gallant promise and slow decay.
By night the Rue Chartres is now but a murky fissure, from which the
groping wayfarer sees, flung against the sky, the tangled filigree of
Moorish iron balconies. The old houses of monsieur stand yet,
indomitable against the century, but their essence is gone. The
street is one of ghosts to whosoever can see them.
A faint heartbeat of the street's ancient glory still survives in a
corner occupied by the Café Carabine d'Or. Once men gathered there to
plot against kings, and to warn presidents. They do so yet, but they
are not the same kind of men. A brass button will scatter these;
those would have set their faces against an army. Above the door
hangs the sign board, upon which has been depicted a vast animal of
unfamiliar species. In the act of firing upon this monster is
represented an unobtrusive human levelling an obtrusive gun, once the
colour of bright gold. Now the legend above the picture is faded
beyond conjecture; the gun's relation to the title is a matter of
faith; the menaced animal, wearied of the long aim of the hunter, has
resolved itself into a shapeless blot.
The place is known as "Antonio's," as the name, white upon the red-lit
transparency, and gilt upon the windows, attests. There is a promise
in "Antonio"; a justifiable expectancy of savoury things in oil and
pepper and wine, and perhaps an angel's whisper of garlic. But the
rest of the name is "O'Riley." Antonio O'Riley!
The Carabine d'Or is an ignominious ghost of the Rue Chartres. The
café where Bienville and Conti dined, where a prince has broken bread,
is become a "family ristaurant."
Its customers are working men and women, almost to a unit.
Occasionally you will see chorus girls from the cheaper theatres,
and men who follow avocations subject to quick vicissitudes; but at
Antonio's--name rich in Bohemian promise, but tame in fulfillment--
manners debonair and gay are toned down to the "family" standard.
Should you light a cigarette, mine host will touch you on the "arrum"
and remind you that the proprieties are menaced. "Antonio" entices
and beguiles from fiery legend without, but "O'Riley" teaches decorum
It was at this restaurant that Lorison first saw the girl. A flashy
fellow with a predatory eye had followed her in, and had advanced to
take the other chair at the little table where she stopped, but
Lorison slipped into the seat before him. Their acquaintance began,
and grew, and now for two months they had sat at the same table each
evening, not meeting by appointment, but as if by a series of
fortuitous and happy accidents. After dining, they would take a walk
together in one of the little city parks, or among the panoramic
markets where exhibits a continuous vaudeville of sights and sounds.
Always at eight o'clock their steps led them to a certain street
corner, where she prettily but firmly bade him good night and left
him. "I do not live far from here," she frequently said, "and you
must let me go the rest of the way alone."
But now Lorison had discovered that he wanted to go the rest of the
way with her, or happiness would depart, leaving, him on a very lonely
corner of life. And at the same time that he made the discovery, the
secret of his banishment from the society of the good laid its finger
in his face and told him it must not be.
Man is too thoroughly an egoist not to be also an egotist; if he love,
the object shall know it. During a lifetime he may conceal it through
stress of expediency and honour, but it shall bubble from his dying
lips, though it disrupt a neighbourhood. It is known, however, that
most men do not wait so long to disclose their passion. In the case
of Lorison, his particular ethics positively forbade him to declare
his sentiments, but he must needs dally with the subject, and woo by
innuendo at least.
On this night, after the usual meal at the Carabine d'Or, he strolled
with his companion down the dim old street toward the river.
The Rue Chartres perishes in the old Place d'Armes. The ancient
Cabildo, where Spanish justice fell like hail, faces it, and the
Cathedral, another provincial ghost, overlooks it. Its centre is a
little, iron-railed park of flowers and immaculate gravelled walks,
where citizens take the air of evenings. Pedestalled high above it,
the general sits his cavorting steed, with his face turned stonily
down the river toward English Turn, whence come no more Britons to
bombard his cotton bales.
Often the two sat in this square, but to-night Lorison guided her past
the stone-stepped gate, and still riverward. As they walked, he smiled
to himself to think that all he knew of her--except that be loved
her--was her name, Norah Greenway, and that she lived with her
brother. They had talked about everything except themselves. Perhaps
her reticence had been caused by his.
They came, at length, upon the levee, and sat upon a great, prostrate
beam. The air was pungent with the dust of commerce. The great river
slipped yellowly past. Across it Algiers lay, a longitudinous black
bulk against a vibrant electric haze sprinkled with exact stars.
The girl was young and of the piquant order. A certain bright
melancholy pervaded her; she possessed an untarnished, pale prettiness
doomed to please. Her voice, when she spoke, dwarfed her theme. It
was the voice capable of investing little subjects with a large
interest. She sat at ease, bestowing her skirts with the little
womanly touch, serene as if the begrimed pier were a summer garden.
Lorison poked the rotting boards with his cane.
He began by telling her that he was in love with some one to whom he
durst not speak of it. "And why not?" she asked, accepting swiftly
his fatuous presentation of a third person of straw. "My place in the
world," he answered, "is none to ask a woman to share. I am an
outcast from honest people; I am wrongly accused of one crime, and am,
I believe, guilty of another."
Thence he plunged into the story of his abdication from society. The
story, pruned of his moral philosophy, deserves no more than the
slightest touch. It is no new tale, that of the gambler's declension.
During one night's sitting he lost, and then had imperilled a certain
amount of his employer's money, which, by accident, he carried with
him. He continued to lose, to the last wager, and then began to gain,
leaving the game winner to a somewhat formidable sum. The same night
his employer's safe was robbed. A search was had; the winnings of
Lorison were found in his room, their total forming an accusative
nearness to the sum purloined. He was taken, tried and, through
incomplete evidence, released, smutched with the sinister _devoirs_
of a disagreeing jury.
"It is not in the unjust accusation," he said to the girl, "that my
burden lies, but in the knowledge that from the moment I staked the
first dollar of the firm's money I was a criminal--no matter whether
I lost or won. You see why it is impossible for me to speak of love
"It is a sad thing," said Norah, after a little pause, "to think what
very good people there are in the world."
"Good?" said Lorison.
"I was thinking of this superior person whom you say you love. She
must be a very poor sort of creature."
"I do not understand."
"Nearly," she continued, "as poor a sort of creature as yourself."
"You do not understand," said Lorison, removing his hat and sweeping
back his fine, light hair. "Suppose she loved me in return, and
were willing to marry me. Think, if you can, what would follow. Never
a day would pass but she would be reminded of her sacrifice. I would
read a condescension in her smile, a pity even in her affection, that
would madden me. No. The thing would stand between us forever. Only
equals should mate. I could never ask her to come down upon my lower
An arc light faintly shone upon Lorison's face. An illumination from
within also pervaded it. The girl saw the rapt, ascetic look; it was
the face either of Sir Galahad or Sir Fool.
"Quite starlike," she said, "is this unapproachable angel. Really too
high to be grasped."
"By me, yes."
She faced him suddenly. "My dear friend, would you prefer your star
fallen?" Lorison made a wide gesture.
"You push me to the bald fact," he declared; "you are not in sympathy
with my argument. But I will answer you so. If I could reach my
particular star, to drag it down, I would not do it; but if it were
fallen, I would pick it up, and thank Heaven for the privilege."
They were silent for some minutes. Norah shivered, and thrust her
hands deep into the pockets of her jacket. Lorison uttered a
"I'm not cold," she said. "I was just thinking. I ought to tell you
something. You have selected a strange confidante. But you cannot
expect a chance acquaintance, picked up in a doubtful restaurant, to
be an angel."
"Norah!" cried Lorison.
"Let me go on. You have told me about yourself. We have been such
good friends. I must tell you now what I never wanted you to know.
I am--worse than you are. I was on the stage . . . I sang in the
chorus . . . I was pretty bad, I guess . . . I stole diamonds from
the prima donna . . . they arrested me . . . I gave most of them up,
and they let me go . . . I drank wine every night . . . a great
deal . . . I was very wicked, but--"
Lorison knelt quickly by her side and took her hands.
"Dear Norah!" he said, exultantly. "It is you, it is you I love!
You never guessed it, did you? 'Tis you I meant all the time. Now I
can speak. Let me make you forget the past. We have both suffered;
let us shut out the world, and live for each other. Norah, do you
hear me say I love you?"
"In spite of--"
"Rather say because of it. You have come out of your past noble and
good. Your heart is an angel's. Give it to me."
"A little while ago you feared the future too much to even speak."
"But for you; not for myself. Can you love me?"
She cast herself, wildly sobbing, upon his breast.
"Better than life--than truth itself--than everything."
"And my own past," said Lorison, with a note of solicitude--"can you
"I answered you that," she whispered, "when I told you I loved you."
She leaned away, and looked thoughtfully at him. "If I had not told
you about myself, would you have--would you--"
"No," he interrupted; "I would never have let you know I loved you. I
would never have asked you this--Norah, will you be my wife?"
She wept again.
"Oh, believe me; I am good now--I am no longer wicked! I will be
the best wife in the world. Don't think I am--bad any more. If you
do I shall die, I shall die!"
While he was consoling, her, she brightened up, eager and impetuous.
"Will you marry me to-night?" she said. "Will you prove it that way.
I have a reason for wishing it to be to-night. Will you?"
Of one of two things was this exceeding frankness the outcome: either
of importunate brazenness or of utter innocence. The lover's
perspective contained only the one.
"The sooner," said Lorison, "the happier I shall be."
"What is there to do?" she asked. "What do you have to get? Come!
You should know."
Her energy stirred the dreamer to action.
"A city directory first," he cried, gayly, "to find where the man
lives who gives licenses to happiness. We will go together and rout
him out. Cabs, cars, policemen, telephones and ministers shall aid
"Father Rogan shall marry us," said the girl, with ardour. "I will
take you to him."
An hour later the two stood at the open doorway of an immense, gloomy
brick building in a narrow and lonely street. The license was tight
in Norah's hand.
"Wait here a moment," she said, "till I find Father Rogan."
She plunged into the black hallway, and the lover was left standing,
as it were, on one leg, outside. His impatience was not greatly
taxed. Gazing curiously into what seemed the hallway to Erebus,
he was presently reassured by a stream of light that bisected the
darkness, far down the passage. Then he heard her call, and
fluttered lampward, like the moth. She beckoned him through a
doorway into the room whence emanated the light. The room was
bare of nearly everything except books, which had subjugated all
its space. Here and there little spots of territory had been
reconquered. An elderly, bald man, with a superlatively calm,
remote eye, stood by a table with a book in his hand, his finger
still marking a page. His dress was sombre and appertained to a
religious order. His eye denoted an acquaintance with the
"Father Rogan," said Norah, "this is _he_."
"The two of ye," said Father Rogan, "want to get married?"
They did not deny it. He married them. The ceremony was quickly
done. One who could have witnessed it, and felt its scope, might have
trembled at the terrible inadequacy of it to rise to the dignity of
its endless chain of results.
Afterward the priest spake briefly, as if by rote, of certain other
civil and legal addenda that either might or should, at a later time,
cap the ceremony. Lorison tendered a fee, which was declined, and
before the door closed after the departing couple Father Rogan's book
popped open again where his finger marked it.
In the dark hall Norah whirled and clung to her companion, tearful.
"Will you never, never be sorry?"
At last she was reassured.
At the first light they reached upon the street, she asked the time,
just as she had each night. Lorison looked at his watch. Half-past
Lorison thought it was from habit that she guided their steps toward
the corner where they always parted. But, arrived there, she
hesitated, and then released his arm. A drug store stood on the
corner; its bright, soft light shone upon them.
"Please leave me here as usual to-night," said Norah, sweetly. "I
must--I would rather you would. You will not object? At six
to-morrow evening I will meet you at Antonio's. I want to sit with
you there once more. And then--I will go where you say." She gave
him a bewildering, bright smile, and walked swiftly away.
Surely it needed all the strength of her charm to carry off this
astounding behaviour. It was no discredit to Lorison's strength of
mind that his head began to whirl. Pocketing his hands, he rambled
vacuously over to the druggist's windows, and began assiduously to
spell over the names of the patent medicines therein displayed.
As soon as be had recovered his wits, he proceeded along the street in
an aimless fashion. After drifting for two or three squares, he
flowed into a somewhat more pretentious thoroughfare, a way much
frequented by him in his solitary ramblings. For here was a row of
shops devoted to traffic in goods of the widest range of choice--
handiworks of art, skill and fancy, products of nature and labour from
Here, for a time, he loitered among the conspicuous windows, where was
set, emphasized by congested floods of light, the cunningest spoil of
the interiors. There were few passers, and of this Lorison was glad.
He was not of the world. For a long time he had touched his fellow
man only at the gear of a levelled cog-wheel--at right angles, and
upon a different axis. He had dropped into a distinctly new orbit.
The stroke of ill fortune had acted upon him, in effect, as a blow
delivered upon the apex of a certain ingenious toy, the musical top,
which, when thus buffeted while spinning, gives forth, with scarcely
retarded motion, a complete change of key and chord.
Strolling along the pacific avenue, he experienced singular,
supernatural calm, accompanied by an unusual a activity of brain.
Reflecting upon recent affairs, he assured himself of his happiness in
having won for a bride the one he had so greatly desired, yet he
wondered mildly at his dearth of active emotion. Her strange
behaviour in abandoning him without valid excuse on his bridal eve
aroused in him only a vague and curious speculation. Again, he found
himself contemplating, with complaisant serenity, the incidents of her
somewhat lively career. His perspective seemed to have been queerly
As he stood before a window near a corner, his ears were assailed by a
waxing clamour and commotion. He stood close to the window to allow
passage to the cause of the hubbub--a procession of human beings,
which rounded the corner and headed in his direction. He perceived a
salient hue of blue and a glitter of brass about a central figure of
dazzling white and silver, and a ragged wake of black, bobbing
Two ponderous policemen were conducting between them a woman dressed
as if for the stage, in a short, white, satiny skirt reaching to the
knees, pink stockings, and a sort of sleeveless bodice bright with
relucent, armour-like scales. Upon her curly, light hair was perched,
at a rollicking angle, a shining tin helmet. The costume was to be
instantly recognized as one of those amazing conceptions to which
competition has harried the inventors of the spectacular ballet. One
of the officers bore a long cloak upon his arm, which, doubtless, had
been intended to veil the I candid attractions of their effulgent
prisoner, but, for some reason, it had not been called into use, to
the vociferous delight of the tail of the procession.
Compelled by a sudden and vigorous movement of the woman, the parade
halted before the window by which Lorison stood. He saw that she was
young, and, at the first glance, was deceived by a sophistical
prettiness of her face, which waned before a more judicious scrutiny.
Her look was bold and reckless, and upon her countenance, where yet
the contours of youth survived, were the finger-marks of old age's
credentialed courier, Late Hours.
The young woman fixed her unshrinking gaze upon Lorison, and called to
him in the voice of the wronged heroine in straits:
"Say! You look like a good fellow; come and put up the bail, won't
you? I've done nothing to get pinched for. It's all a mistake. See
how they're treating me! You won't be sorry, if you'll help me out of
this. Think of your sister or your girl being dragged along the
streets this way! I say, come along now, like a good fellow."
It may be that Lorison, in spite of the unconvincing bathos of this
appeal, showed a sympathetic face, for one of the officers left the
woman's side, and went over to him.
"It's all right, Sir," he said, in a husky, confidential tone; "she's
the right party. We took her after the first act at the Green Light
Theatre, on a wire from the chief of police of Chicago. It's only a
square or two to the station. Her rig's pretty bad, but she refused
to change clothes--or, rather," added the officer, with a smile, "to
put on some. I thought I'd explain matters to you so you wouldn't
think she was being imposed upon."
"What is the charge?" asked Lorison.
"Grand larceny. Diamonds. Her husband is a jeweller in Chicago. She
cleaned his show case of the sparklers, and skipped with a comic-opera
The policeman, perceiving that the interest of the entire group of
spectators was centred upon himself and Lorison--their conference
being regarded as a possible new complication--was fain to prolong
the situation--which reflected his own importance--by a little
afterpiece of philosophical comment.
"A gentleman like you, Sir," he went on affably, "would never notice
it, but it comes in my line to observe what an immense amount of
trouble is made by that combination--I mean the stage, diamonds
and light-headed women who aren't satisfied with good homes. I tell
you, Sir, a man these days and nights wants to know what his women
folks are up to."
The policeman smiled a good night, and returned to the side of his
charge, who had been intently watching Lorison's face during the
conversation, no doubt for some indication of his intention to render
succour. Now, at the failure of the sign, and at the movement made to
continue the ignominious progress, she abandoned hope, and addressed
him thus, pointedly:
"You damn chalk-faced quitter! You was thinking of giving me a hand,
but you let the cop talk you out of it the first word. You're a dandy
to tie to. Say, if you ever get a girl, she'll have a picnic. Won't
she work you to the queen's taste! Oh, my!" She concluded with a
taunting, shrill laugh that rasped Lorison like a saw. The policemen
urged her forward; the delighted train of gaping followers closed up
the rear; and the captive Amazon, accepting her fate, extended the
scope of her maledictions so that none in hearing might seem to be
Then there came upon Lorison an overwhelming revulsion of his
perspective. It may be that he had been ripe for it, that the
abnormal condition of mind in which he had for so long existed was
already about to revert to its balance; however, it is certain that
the events of the last few minutes had furnished the channel, if not
the impetus, for the change.
The initial determining influence had been so small a thing as the
fact and manner of his having been approached by the officer. That
agent had, by the style of his accost, restored the loiterer to his
former place in society. In an instant he had been transformed from a
somewhat rancid prowler along the fishy side streets of gentility into
an honest gentleman, with whom even so lordly a guardian of the peace
might agreeably exchange the compliments.
This, then, first broke the spell, and set thrilling in him a
resurrected longing for the fellowship of his kind, and the rewards of
the virtuous. To what end, he vehemently asked himself, was this
fanciful self-accusation, this empty renunciation, this moral
squeamishness through which he had been led to abandon what was his
heritage in life, and not beyond his deserts? Technically, he was
uncondemned; his sole guilty spot was in thought rather than deed, and
cognizance of it unshared by others. For what good, moral or
sentimental, did he slink, retreating like the hedgehog from his own
shadow, to and fro in this musty Bohemia that lacked even the
But the thing that struck home and set him raging was the part played
by the Amazonian prisoner. To the counterpart of that astounding
belligerent--identical at least, in the way of experience--to one,
by her own confession, thus far fallen, had he, not three hours since,
been united in marriage. How desirable and natural it had seemed to
him then, and how monstrous it seemed now! How the words of diamond
thief number two yet burned in his ears: "If you ever get a girl,
she'll have a picnic." What did that mean but that women instinctively
knew him for one they could hoodwink? Still again, there reverberated
the policeman's sapient contribution to his agony: "A man these days
and nights wants to know what his women folks are up to." Oh, yes, he
had been a fool; he had looked at things from the wrong standpoint.
But the wildest note in all the clamour was struck by pain's
forefinger, jealousy. Now, at least, he felt that keenest sting--a
mounting love unworthily bestowed. Whatever she might be, he loved
her; he bore in his own breast his doom. A grating, comic flavour to
his predicament struck him suddenly, and he laughed creakingly as he
swung down the echoing pavement. An impetuous desire to act, to
battle with his fate, seized him. He stopped upon his heel, and smote
his palms together triumphantly. His wife was--where? But there
was a tangible link; an outlet more or less navigable, through which
his derelict ship of matrimony might yet be safely towed--the
Like all imaginative men with pliable natures, Lorison was, when
thoroughly stirred, apt to become tempestuous. With a high and
stubborn indignation upon him, be retraced his steps to the
intersecting street by which he had come. Down this he hurried to the
corner where he had parted with--an astringent grimace tinctured the
thought--his wife. Thence still back he harked, following through
an unfamiliar district his stimulated recollections of the way they
had come from that preposterous wedding. Many times he went abroad,
and nosed his way back to the trail, furious.
At last, when he reached the dark, calamitous building in which his
madness had culminated, and found the black hallway, he dashed down
it, perceiving no light or sound. But he raised his voice, hailing
loudly; reckless of everything but that he should find the old
mischief-maker with the eyes that looked too far away to see the
disaster he had wrought. The door opened, and in the stream of light
Father Rogan stood, his book in hand, with his finger marking the
"Ah!" cried Lorison. "You are the man I want. I had a wife of you a
few hours ago. I would not trouble you, but I neglected to note how
it was done. Will you oblige me with the information whether the
business is beyond remedy?"
"Come inside," said the priest; "there are other lodgers in the
house, who might prefer sleep to even a gratified curiosity."
Lorison entered the room and took the chair offered him. The priest's
eyes looked a courteous interrogation.
"I must apologize again," said the young man, "for so soon intruding
upon you with my marital infelicities, but, as my wife has neglected
to furnish me with her address, I am deprived of the legitimate
recourse of a family row."
"I am quite a plain man," said Father Rogan, pleasantly; "but I do
not see how I am to ask you questions."
"Pardon my indirectness," said Lorison; "I will ask one. In this room
to-night you pronounced me to be a husband. You afterward spoke of
additional rites or performances that either should or could be
effected. I paid little attention to your words then, but I am hungry
to hear them repeated now. As matters stand, am I married past all