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  • 1909
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the story from the beginnin’, I ‘d see it was a mercy, after all.

Anyhow, it made it easy enough for him to work out his scheme.

The’ ain’t no rules for women anyhow, ’cause their hearts won’t never surrender to their heads; when they do, they ain’t all woman. Well, yes, there is one rule ‘at ‘s safe for a man to foller In dealin with woman, an’ that is that when a woman’s in love, she ‘s in love all over. Sometimes a man’s in love up to his pocket-book, sometimes up to his appetite, an’ sometimes up to his heart, but he’s mighty seldom in love all over. If nothin’ else stays dry he’s generally able to take care of his head, but with a woman everything goes; so I’m purty tol’able sure that away back at the beginnin’ it was love ‘at drove ol’ Monody out of her own sex down into ours.

When the news spread abroad ‘at the man who had killed Bill Brophy without a weapon had cashed in, the neighbors gathered from ninety miles around, and we sure gave Monody the rip-snortin’est funeral ever seen in those parts. We didn’t say nothin’ about him not really bein’ a man, an’ though I reckon ‘at every feller there knew of it, the’ wasn’t a single one of ’em spoke of it–so we didn’t have no trouble at all.

He lies on a little knoll about a mile to the north of the ranch house. Up back of him ol’ Mount Savage stands guard an’ fights off the roughest of the storms; while the soft winds from the south steal gently up a little cut in the rocks an’ seem to circle about him, whisperin’ secrets of countries far away. If the’ ‘s a single bird in Wyoming, you can find it hoppin’ about his narrow bed or singin’ in the oak tree ‘at stands above him, spreadin’ out its branches like a priest givin’ the blessin’. Winter or summer, Monody’s grave is the quietest, peacefullest, purtiest spot ‘at lies outdoors, as if the old Earth had repented of the way it had treated him, and was tryin’ to make it up to him now.

Take it in winter when the’ ‘s a clean sheet o’ soft, white snow over everything, an’ I like to go out an’ stand on another little knoll about a half mile this side. The last speck of light in the valley comes through a narrow cleft an’ falls on Monody’s grave. As the sun sinks lower an’ lower the crimson glory on the soft fleecy snow seems to come up out of the grave an’ climb the black shadow of the mountain, like–but pshaw, I reckon it’d be a mighty tame sight to ol’ Monody himself.

I never speak of him, an’ I never think of him, as anything but a man. He lived like a man, God knows he died like a man; and on the little stone at his head the’ ain’t nothin’ carved except just– Monody, a Man.



It was mighty pleasant back at the Diamond Dot after things got settled again. Barbie had become a curious little trick with a way of doin’ strange things in a sober old-fashioned manner like as if she was a hundred years of age, but was tryin’ to hide it.

She was more like Jabez too, which give me a heap of amusement, seein’ which one was goin’ to win when they straddled a question. Barbie wasn’t sassy, not at all; she just didn’t seem able to savvy that a few small matters, like age an’ parentage an’ ownin’ the ranch, gave Jabez a sort of a majority vote, as you might say, on all questions. No, Barbie couldn’t seem to get callous to this, an’ she fought out all differences of opinion from the mere facts o’ the case, an’ I got to do Jabez the justice of admittin’ that he never retreated behind his authority until after he’d been well licked in the open; an’ unless it was a mighty important question he took his lickin’ like a man. Barbie was game about it too, an’ when she got the worst of a fair fight she never put up a howl; but when she had won in the open it used to grind her something fierce to be told point blank that she had to do such an’ so, “‘Cause she was a girl.”

“If tobacco stunts your growth, how’s it come ‘at old Tank Williams an’ George Hendricks an’ Happy an’ a lot more o’ the boys is all over six feet tall,” she sez one day durin’ a try-out, “while Flap Jack is the smallest man on the place an’ he don’t never use it at all–‘cept when he cuts his finger.”

“Things don’t allus work alike,” sez Jabez, slow an’ cautious. “The tall ones would all ‘av’ been taller if they hadn’t used it, an’ Flappy, he wouldn’t ‘a’ been able to see out of his boots if he had.”

“Well, I don’t see as it makes much difference, anyhow,” sez she. “I don’t want to be so everlastin’ tall, so I reckon I’ll just smoke four a day an’ that’ll–“

“I reckon you won’t smoke any a day,” sez Jabez, gettin’ riled. “Smokin’ cigarettes is a nasty, filthy habit, an’–“

“Then I’ll smoke a pipe,” sez Barbie.

“No you won’t smoke a pipe! I don’t intend to have a gal child of mine smokin’ anything. It’s disgustin’, an–“

“It ain’t as disgustin’ as chewin’, an’ you chew,” sez Barbie.

“Now you look here!” yells Jabez, hot as a hornet, “I’m a man an’ you ain’t, an’ that makes a heap o’ difference. I had to give up cussin’ on your account, but I don’t intend to go to wearin’ dresses complete, just to keep you halfway respectable.”

“Yes, an’ I got three cusses comin’ to me too,” sez Barbie. “I heard you over at the hay-barn yesterday.”

“That don’t count–the agreement was, ‘about the house’; an’ besides, you didn’t have no call to be there.”

“Yes I did. I couldn’t light my cigarette out in the wind so I got behind the barn. You are the one ‘at didn’t have no call to cuss. The’ wasn’t anything wrong at the hay-barn an’ you was all alone. I just know ‘at you went there to cuss ’cause I made you own up at breakfast that it wasn’t no worse for me to fling the oatmeal out the window when it didn’t suit me than it was for you to fling the coffee.”

The old man just stood an’ stared at her so I knew ‘at the little witch had rooted out his devisement. “When you are older, Barbara,” ol’ Cast Steel sez in his coldest tone, “you will understand these things an’ be glad of the care I took of you; but now I am compelled to lay down a law. You are never to smoke again until you’re of legal age.”

“What’s legal age?” sez she.

“Twenty-one years,” sez Jabez.

“That’ll be thirteen years,” sez Barbie. “All right; but I’m goin’ to roll three cigarettes a day for thirteen years an’ the very day I’m twenty-one I’m goin’ to smoke ’em all.”

“You go to your room an’ stay there,” sez Jabez, white-hot.

“I will,” she answers as cool as an icicle, “an’ I’m goin’ to figure up how many it will be, so I’ll have some sort of fun to look forward to–when I get of legal age.”

After she’d gone Jabez set down on a stone an’ wiped his forehead. “She ain’t a child, Happy. She ain’t nothin’ like a child,” sez Jabez to me. “Here she is only eight year old an’ she’s got me out beyond my depth already. I don’t know what I ought to do with her. She went to the spring round-up this year an’ slept in a Navajo right outdoors. She wants to go bear huntin’ or anything else ‘at’s wild an’ dis-accordin’ to her nature. What on earth am I goin’ to do with her?”

“You ought to have children to play with her. She wants to play all right, she tries to play; but the only kind of play she knows is grown-up play. Get some children an’ dolls an’ pet kittens an’ such things for her; that’ll give her a chance,” sez I.

“I tried it,” sez Jabez. “I tried it last summer, but she about killed ’em. The only children I could get was two little Injuns, but she about ruined ’em. The only game she would play was war, an’ when they wouldn’t stand for her way o’ playin’ it she got on her pinto– the one you broke for her–an’ roped ’em both an’ like to dragged the hide off ’em. I don’t know what to do.”

“You ought to send her to school,” sez I. “They’ll be white children there an’ they won’t be slow an’ gentle like the little Injuns; they’ll be just as full o’ devil as what she is, an’ she’ll get the sharp corners wore off her.”

“Hang it I tried that too. I sent her when she was six year old–I’d been lookin’ forward to it a good long time too, but it didn’t do no good.

“She put in the first day all right, but things went too slow for her after that, an’ she brought home her books an’ made me pester over ’em with her, an’ she went into it like a game, an’ now she’s gone through about four years’ work in two. It’s a blame shame, ’cause the school is only ten miles away an’ she could go as well as not, but she’s so terrible impatient. She reads all kinds o’ books already, an’ sez she’s goin’ to read ’em all before she quits. She ain’t a bit like a child an’ I don’t think it’s natural. I wish she’d pester me for dolls an’ pink dresses an’ things like that instead of wantin’ all kinds of firearms, an’ playin’ poker with the boys.”

Ol’ Cast Steel was all worked up over it, an’ I thought a long time before I answered him, then I sez, “Jabez, you’re hard enough on the child an’ you’re strict enough with her, but you ain’t strict enough with yourself. When it comes to a show down,–when you actually say yes and now,–why, she gives in; but when you argue with her she’s just as sharp as you are, an’ the’ ‘s a heap o’ things all children has to do ‘at I reckon the’ ain’t no real sense in, so when you try to dig up a reason for ’em you give ’em the whip hand. Just like religion: lots of it is better just stated an’ not mussed up tryin’ to be explained. When a parson tries to tell me why God created this universe, it don’t sound reasonable; but when I go out an’ look at the stars an’ the mountains an’ the big sweep o’ the plains an’ then try to round up all that astronomer feller said about things, why, I just know ‘at nobody but God could ‘a’ done it–an’ I reckon it’s that way with a child. She trusts you until you get down to her level an’ then she sees that the’ ain’t much difference between you, an’ she naturally expects you to play the same game by the same rules. You send her to school an’ tell her it’s for her own good, an’ let her’n the teacher fight it out. That’s a teacher’s business an’ they know how.”

Well, they was a heap o’ sense in what I said, an’ I’d been thinkin’ over it a long spell; so when school opened up again in the fall Barbie had her orders an’ the’ wasn’t much in the way of trouble.

I didn’t have any regular duties at the Diamond Dot–the worst trouble about the Diamond Dot was that nobody had any regular duties. Jabez was notionable to a degree, an’ we all just floated along, doin’ what we did do right, but not havin’ much of a plan for it. I could have handled the place with ten less men an’ got through on a tighter schedule, but it was a fine place to work at an’ we all got what was comin’ to us. Through the winter I used to ride over with Barbie when the days was anyways rough, an’ it took her a long time to find out that Starlight really could beat her pinto. I reckon that child was the best rider ‘at ever backed a pony. As you might say she grew up with a pony between her knees, an’ the way she could play a bit in a hoss’s mouth was the finest sight I ever see. I ain’t much of a fool when it comes to pickin’ out a ridin’ critter, an’ the pinto was able–most uncommon able.

One Saturday morning she told me that she was tired o’ seein’ Starlight beat Hawkins on ten-mile dashes, an’ she was goin’ to have a real race that day. She allus called the pinto “Hawkins” after I got back; she had said it wouldn’t be polite to call us both “Happy” an’ as long as I had owned both names the longest, she was willin’ to give me my choice–an’ then she said ‘at that wouldn’t be quite fair to the pinto–she was mighty rigid on bein’ square–so she said ‘at we’d have to draw for ’em. She wrote “Happy” on one piece of paper an’ “Hawkins” on the other, put her hat in the pony’s mouth,– she had taught him a lot o’ tricks,–an’ I had to turn my back while she dropped in the names. My luck was good, so I drawed “Happy,” an’ the pony was called “Hawkins.” I was feared I might have to go back to John, an’ John’s a sort of a heavy baggage for a careless cuss to he luggin’ around.

It was spring, an’ the range was smooth an’ tough. All through the snow Starlight’s long legs had given him a big advantage, but now her weight made it a purty good bet either way. “Let ’em go grassin’, Barbie,” sez I. “This fine young grass–“

“I knew you were afraid to make a fair test of it,” she sez scornful.

“I ain’t neither afraid,” I sez, “but what’s the use of a race just to satisfy our curiosity?”

“What’s the use of curiosity except to satisfy it?” sez Barbie, an’ she had me sure enough. A feller was a fool to argue with that little witch. She allus had a come-back, an’ the only way to get ahead of her was either to boss or beg. I hadn’t no authority to boss, an’ I was too blame young to beg, so she just about had me roped an’ tied. “How far are you goin’ to race?” sez I.

“A hundred miles,” sez she.

“Pshaw,” sez I, “the country’s wider’n that. Why don’t you give’em a decent work out.”

“That’ll be enough for this time,” sez she, “an’ if you hustle you can have’em ready by five o’clock.”

“Does the boss know?” sez I.

“He will sometime,” sez she. “Now hustle.”

It was a glorious day, an’ I own up I was amused at the prospect. Both hosses was hard as flint an’ nervy. If I’d ‘a’ stayed at the ranch I’d have collected up brandin’ irons an’ other truck for the round-up, an’ a hundred miles through spring sweetness was a heap sight more temptin’ to me; so I give in an’ soon we was under way. “Where is the course laid out, Barbie?” I sez. “You know I won’t see much of you back there in the ruck an’ I want to know the path.”

“All you need to do is to foller Hawkins’s trail,” sez she, “but in case you can’t find it just circle Mount Savage an’ that’ll be the distance, so the boys say.”

We started out at a comfortable gait, an’ I watched her pretty close. Once I tried her out by sendin’ Starlight along for a mile, but she just kept the pinto pluggin’ away, an’ I sensed I was up against some head ridin’. Oh, it was gratifyin’ to watch the little rascal ridin’ with her brain, like I’d taught her. She didn’t throw the reins down on her pony’s neck, an’ she didn’t pull in on the bit; she just played it in his mouth to keep remindin’ him that this was his busy day, an’ that he’d better tend to his knittin’. Old Starlight knew every move I made, an’ he was resigned to a good long pump of it.

I nonsensed a while, tryin’ to get her to laugh an’ cut up, but not her. “Now don’t talk unless you have somethin’ to say, Happy,” sez she. “I don’t want Hawkins to imagine ‘at we’re out ridin’ for an appetite. I want him to believe ‘at we’re on mighty important business.”

“Oh, he’ll sure enough think it,” sez I, “when we swing around Mount Savage an’ he gets to see home through Starlight’s dust.”

“When it comes to that, I’ll bet he won’t be complainin’ o’ the dullness of the business he’s been on. Now just practice thinkin’ a while.”

We watered about noon at a little snow stream on the opposite side of old Savage; but we et our vittles on hoss back an’ we didn’t waste any time on the waterin’. I figured we’d scaled up about fifty miles, an’ the pinto was still tonguin’ his bit an’ waitin’ for somethin’ interestin’ to turn up. Starlight was gettin’ some disgusted with the monotony.

We rode on for another hour an’ then Barbie began to ride a little. The pinto let out a couple of links as cheerful as a rainbow, an’ I rode at his cinch. I knew I could beat her in the brush, an’ she was easin’ the pinto too much to make it a question of grit unless she began to herd him mighty shortly. Well she did begin ridin’ purty soon, an’ brother Hawkins responded like an echo. He was a hog for distance, was that pinto. He was short on top with plenty of depth to him, and his belly cut up quick, showin’ he had lots o’ room for his heart an’ his lungs an’ his forage. Starlight’s nostrils worked a shade more than his did, but we were gettin’ purty close to the pinto’s speed, an’ Starlight had a load of it left, and he’d pay out the last ounce of it when I said the word. I knew I could beat her this time, but I was feared she might call for a repeat the next day–an’ I intended to remind Jabez it was the Sabbath.

Starlight was pretty wet with sweat, while the pinto was bone dry when we struck Trouble Creek which was boilin’ full. In we went, an’ the water hissed and sucked around our waists; but we crossed at about the same time, an’ then it was only ten miles to the ranch house an’ Barbie shook her quirt. Away shot the pinto, but Starlight had his fussy streak warm by this time, an’ I let him edge ahead as fast as he wanted to. He knew the distance now, an’ he knew I wanted to cover it in the least possible time, an’ he knew just how much the’ was left in him, so I drew a tight rein, eased it off again, an’ we dropped a gap between us an’ the shorter legs of Barbie’s mount. We only gained an inch at a time an’ I wasn’t sure I’d be the one to do the braggin’ even yet, when all of a sudden we swept around a point of rock an’ there was Melisse hot-footin’ it to the ranch house. She heard us the minute we saw her, an’ when we drew up to her she gasped: “Pluto has about killed ol’ Cast Steel, an’ Spider Kelley has gone for the doctor.”

Barbie caught the words, but she never made a reply or asked a single question; she just laid the quirt without a sting over Hawkins’s foreshoulder an’ raced on. I stopped long enough to tell Melisse that I would send the buckboard after her, an’ then I took after Barbie. It looked like a race, sure enough. I was worried. Pluto was a high grade stallion Jabez had got after I lined up Starlight alongside the range ponies, an’ he had the meanest temper I ever see put into a hoss. I had been tendin’ him ’cause I’d got wise to the ways o’ these thin-skinned fellers down at the Lion Head, but I never quite trusted him, an’ I feared ‘at maybe Barbie’s goin’ off without notice had riled the old man an’ he had tried to take it out on Pluto.

We only had five miles to go, an’ we sure went it. I beat her to the ranch house, but Starlight hadn’t got his breath back when she rode in, an’ the pinto only took one long breath an’ shook his head. I turned the hosses over to one o’ the boys ‘at were hangin’ around the door lookin’ troubled, an’ hustled inside. Jabez lay on the lounge with a face like soured vinegar. He had a bandage round his head an’ another around his arm, while his leg was propped up on pillows.

“What’s the damage, Jabez?” I asked.

“Where’s Barbie?” he demanded, not payin’ any heed to my question. She had flung herself from the pinto an’ came running into the room. “Oh, Daddy,” she said, throwin’ her arms around him.

“Where have you been?” sez he.

“I been racin’ with Happy,” she said. “Are you bad hurt, Daddy?”

“Who beat?” sez he.

“Happy did, about a hundred yards.”

“It wasn’t more’n fifty,” sez I.

“How far did you race?” asked Jabez, grittin’ his teeth.

“A hundred miles,” sez Barbie.

“A hundred miles?” sez Jabez, grinnin’ painful. “A hundred miles, an’ the black hoss beat your pinto carryin’ a hundred’n fifty pounds more weight. Hendricks–tell those blame fools not to kill Pluto. Happy, you go an’ see that they don’t even hurt him. It was my fault. Now, Barbie, tell me about the race.”

I went out to the big open stall where Pluto was kept all by himself, but first I sent one o’ the boys with the buckboard after Melisse. I found Pluto in the middle of his stall with three ropes around his neck an’ the boys snubbin’ him to posts. They wasn’t minded to let him go, even on Hendricks’s say-so, but I went into the stall an’ told ’em to ease off. “He’s whipped one man in a fair fight,” sez I, “an’ if another man don’t whip him in a fair fight the’ won’t be any handlin’ of him from this on. Ease off these ropes.”

Well, I whipped that hoss in a fair fight, an’ then I went in to see how Jabez was gettin’ along. I said a fair fight an’ I meant a fair fight. Yes, the’ is a way to fight a hoss fair–that is, as fair as any fight is. If you look at it one way, the’ can’t never be a fair fight, ’cause one is bound to have an advantage–skill, luck, experience, or courage; but what I mean is, that I fought that hoss with nothing but just my own hands an’ I whipped him.

Why the way I did it was this: as soon as they slacked off the ropes I slipped up beside him an’ jerked ’em over his head, an’ we two stood alone in the big box stall with size in his favor an’ brains in mine. I had some consid’able size in those days, an’ he was almost too brainy for a hoss; but I own up ‘at I ‘d had the most experience.

First I stood off an’ insulted him: I cussed him an’ I called him all manner of names an’ then I laughed at him–you think a hoss, a hoss like Pluto, can’t be insulted? Why, pshaw! they’re as high feelin’ as children. He was out o’ humor to begin with, an’ purty soon his ears went back an’ his eyes got red. I’ve heard tell about an animal not bein’ able to look a man in the eyes, an’ I never saw the wild animal ‘at could; but I’ve seen three man-eatin’ stallions in my time ‘at could look clear to your liver, an’ a bulldog can do it too.

First off he tried to bite, but I got him a shoulder-blow right on the nose. It made him wink, an’ he reared an’ struck at me with his front hoofs. I ducked to the left an’ the minute his hoofs came down I slipped thumb an’ forefinger into his nostrils, an’ tried to jerk his head around to the right; but I’d thrown him once before that way an’ he was too quick. He threw up his head before I could grip his mane with my left, an’ a reachin’ kick with his right hind foot tore my vest away.

He floundered me around consid’able for a spell, but at last in tryin’ to jam me against the wall I got hold of his mane. I braced my feet against the wall an’ liftin’ myself, I got his ear in my mouth an’ I bit it. It was a trick I’d learned from ol’ Monody, an’ I sure bit hard an’ close to the head. For mighty nigh a minute he stood it fightin’, an’ then he give a groan. He hadn’t had a sniff of air through his nose since I’d grabbed it, an’ he wasn’t no bulldog, he was a satin-skinned thoroughbred, an’ he couldn’t stand the anguish in his ear.

He groaned an’ then he shivered an’ then of a sudden I let go his ear, jerked his head around to the right, pulled up his left front foot with my left hand an’ heaved with my shoulder. Down he went an’ as he fell I leaped across him, an’ put my weight on his head. Then I took my fingers out of his nose an’ patted him.

I hate to whip a hoss, I hate to break the pride of any livin’ creature; but when I start in to do it I don’t just pester him. I wait until I have good reason an’ then I convince him–whether he’s able to live through it or not. I stroked old Pluto’s ears an’ nose, all the time murmurin’ to him, an’ durin’ the murmurin’ I told the boys to file out. I never shame nobody in front of anybody if the’ ‘s any other way round.

Well, Pluto was drippin’ with sweat an’ havin’ his bit ear rubbed was mighty soothin’ to him. We all like a lot of babyin’ after we’ve been hurt, whether we own up to it or not, an’ Pluto wasn’t any exception to the rule. After a while I explained everything to him an’ told him that if he’d just act like a human bein’, he’d be treated like a king; but if he wanted to carry on like some savage varmint we’d have to remove his hide an inch at a time; an’ when I finally let him up he was mortal shamed of himself.

It was plumb dark by the time I let him up, an’ I watered him an’ fed him an’ rubbed him until he began to eat, an’ that was the last bother any man ever had with Pluto; but I was the only one he’d mind without bein’ chainbitted. He counted me his best friend, an’ after a while he got so he’d play with me–nip my ear with his lips an’ such things, which I count as bein’ a game way of takin’ punishment. Still, it ain’t just gettin’ beat, it’s havin’ it rubbed in that makes a feller bitter.

I walked around to where Starlight an’ Hawkins was enjoyin’ their evenin’ meal, an’ I was mortal proud of the condition they was in. I reckon the’ wasn’t another pair in the territory ‘at could ‘a’ covered their ante that day, an’ it was a feather in Uncle Happy’s cap all right.

But all the time I was thinkin’ o’ these things I was dreadin’ havin’ it out with Jabez. He was contrairy enough at the best; but all bunged up, I could see my self-control gettin’ strained twice a minute. I knew enough about us both to know ‘at whenever it came to a show down, it meant a breakin’ of home ties, an’ I hated to cut loose from Barbie. After a while, I washed up, fed up, an’ went in to have it over with.



Barbie an’ three of the boys were in the room when I went in. Barbie was tellin’ the old man of our ride, an’ the three punchers sat with the rims of their lids between thumb an’ finger, lookin’ at the floor as solemn as if they was on trial for their life. Barbie had just finished about our meetin’ up with Melisse when I stepped in.

“Who’s boss o’ this place?” sez Jabez to me.

“If the’ is any boss,” sez I, “I reckon you’re it.”

“Who told you you could be gone all day?” sez he.

“Nobody told me. Nobody told me what was to be done if I stayed. Nobody hasn’t told me what to do on a ranch for some several years. Why?”

“Looks to me as if you ‘d have sense enough not to risk this child’s life with your fool nonsense,” sez he. I looked at him calm an’ steady, an’ I didn’t grin–much.

He knew all ‘at I was thinkin’ of,–about my leavin’ the last time an’ also about my comin’ back,–but he also knew ‘at I knew he was thinkin’ of the same thing, an’ that we’d neither of us mention it, an’ that it wouldn’t ever weigh an ounce in whatever happened to come between us. I didn’t say anything.

“What makes you humor her in everything for?” sez he.

“As far as I know, she ain’t my child,” sez I.

He give a start an’ it made him groan. “What’s the matter with your leg?” sez I. “It’s broke!” he yells. “Do you think I got it stuck up on pillers ’cause my foot’s asleep?”

“Is it easy that way?” sez I.

“No it ain’t,” he snaps.

“Perhaps if you’d get it fixed easy you might be able to talk easy,” I sez. “Do you want me to fix it easy?”

“For heaven’s sake, yes, if you know how,” he sez; so I examined it. It was a nasty break. It seems ‘at Jabez had hunted over the place to find something to fuss about as soon as he discovered ‘at Barbie an’ me had flown the coop. Luck was in his favor when Slinky Bill left Pluto’s door open an’ he got out. It took ’em some time to get him back, an’ they finally roped him. None o’ the boys seemed anxious to go into his stall an’ take the rope off unless he’d let them ride him a while to get the ginger out of him. Jabez took a short club an’ went in an’ took off the rope, an’ if the boys hadn’t been handy he’d ‘a’ been took off himself. As it was the hoss had smashed his leg something fierce.

“Get a board,” sez I. The three boys left in a body to get the board. I lined up the bones as well as I could, ’cause the leg was some swelled. Then I bandaged it purty tight, next took an old boot- leg an’ bandaged that in, an’ finally split a joint of stovepipe an’ packed cotton to fit the leg, tyin’ the whole business to the board when it arrived, an’ proppin’ the board up on pillers with one at each side of the foot. Then I wet the bandage on his head an’ arm, puttin’ in plenty of turpentine on the arm to prevent poisonin’. The turpentine made him twist an’ grunt, but when it stopped burnin’ his face cleared up.

“My leg’s a heap easier,” he sez. I only nodded. I knew he had a lot more steam on his mind. Presently he said, “But we might as well settle things now as any time. Who are you workin’ for?”

“I settled that a long time ago,” sez I. “I’m workin’ for myself.”

“Then what the deuce do you mean takin’ my wages?” sez he.

“I ain’t takin’ your wages, I’m takin’ my own,” sez I; “but if I was you I’d keep calm. You’ll raise your fever.”

“It’s my fever!” he yells, an’ even the three punchers had to grin.

“Look here, Jabez,” sez I, “the’ ain’t any sense in your gettin’ riled. You ain’t dangerous when you rant around, an’ I know it; but you’re most uncommon irritatin’. We didn’t run any risk in our ride to-day, an’ it proved ‘at my way o’ feedin’ is the right way. You don’t own a pair o’ hosses ‘at can go out to-morrow an’ keep in sight o’ Starlight an’ the pinto. An’ my way o’ handlin’ Pluto is the right way too, but if you don’t like my way o’ workin’ for myself on your ranch–why, the’ ‘s plenty of other ranches. The’ ain’t no use o’ your makin’ us both miserable, quarrellin’ like a pair o’ children.”

“That’s what I say,” sez Barbie.

“You wait till you’re spoke to,” sez Jabez; but at that moment the buckboard came in with old Melisse, an’ the very first thing she did was to chase the three punchers out o’ the house, fix up a mess of her own to put on Jabez’s head an’ arm, an’ then she picks up Barbie in her arms an’ I saw the little chap’s lip begin to quiver; I saw Jabez wink his eyes too fast for comfort; I saw the tears rollin’ down the cheeks of old Melisse, an’ I went out into the starlight to look up toward Mount Savage where Monody was sleepin’. It’s a funny thing, life. After a while I went back inside an’ they were purty cozy again. “You been away purt nigh a year,” sez Jabez, “where you been?”

Melisse grinned; she was a Mexican an’ had been good lookin’ a century or so before. She was the silent sort, but she could do a heap sight keener thinkin’ ‘an lots of ’em ‘at kicks up more dust at it.

“Part o’ the time I been right here at the ranch,” she sez,” but when the snow was heavy I stayed in a little cave right up the ravine from the pony corral. You don’t reckon ‘at I’d leave this child just on your account, do ya?”

It was some comical to see Jabez’s face. “Lord, no!” sez he. “I’m in the habit o’ payin’ wages to people ‘at work for themselves, an’ I don’t reckon I got the authority to make anybody get off my ranch. If you’ve been foolin’ around here, how come the dogs never barked at ya?”

“Dogs ain’t apt to forget the hand that feeds ’em. After a dog has thought well of ya for a while, he don’t turn on ya just because you’ve become out o’ favor for a spell; the friendship of a dog works both ways–dogs ain’t like human beings, Jabez Judson.”

Melisse had a low, musical voice; but I kind o’ felt my hair raisin’ in pity for the man on the sofey. It seemed like she had stuck a knife into him, an’ was twistin’ it around slow without losin’ her temper. He squirmed, he bit his lip, his thumbs kept runnin’ over the inside of his fingers. It was some time before he spoke, an’ then he said, “How much longer you goin’ to keep that child awake?”

“She’s been asleep in my arms for some time,” sez Melisse, lookin’ down at Barbie’s face, which was nestled up close to hers. “I reckon I’ll put her to bed now.” She got up an’ carried Barbie to the door an’ then she turned an’ sez in a low tone: “You’re mighty proud o’ being called Cast Steel, you love to trample over people; but I want to tell you somethin’ to remember; I sha’n’t never be separated from this child again except by her own will. Next time I can’t live around you I’ll take her with me. You’ve known me a long time”–an’ she shut the door without slammin’ it.

“Oh, I don’t reckon it’s allus some one else’s fault,” I sez, after he had got through cussin’ about his luck.

“Am I a hard man to work for?” sez he.

“You ain’t,” sez I.

“When am I ever unjust?” sez he.

“When you go off halfcock,” sez I.

“What is it allus about?” sez he.

I thought over everything before I answered. “Why, it’s allus about the child Barbie.”

“I ain’t Cast Steel about her; I’m spring steel where she’s concerned, an’ you fellers ought to know the way spring steel works if any one does.”

“That’s all right,” sez I,–I was still smartin’ a little,–“but the deuce of the thing is that you go off at halfcock, an’ then you allus expect the other feller to pay the damage. It’s goin’ hard with you some day, Jabez, if you don’t watch closer.”

“Oh, you can’t understand it. If you only knew what lyin’ an’ disobedience sometimes does, you wouldn’t talk so calm about it, neither. The’ ain’t nothin’ I wouldn’t do for Barbara–except see her get started wrong. You’re different from the rest, some way, an’ she thinks more of you than the others. That’s one reason why I give you a wider circle to range in, an’ why I give you foreman’s pay for odd-job work–“

“Now if you think ‘at I don’t earn all you’re payin’ me,” sez I–but he broke in: “If I didn’t think I wouldn’t pay it,” sez he.

“I can go down to the Lion Head any time I want an’ get more’n you’re payin’ me,” sez I.

“I can pay you as much as any man in the West,” sez he.

“You couldn’t hire me at all if it wasn’t for Barbie,” sez I.

“An’ I wouldn’t hire you at all if it wasn’t for her,” he snaps. “You can do the right thing at the right time better’n any other man I ever had; but you’re the contrariest man to work with on the job. You’re allus flyin’ up, an’ you’d talk back if your throat was cut.”

“I’m free,” sez I, “an’ what’s more, I know it. The’ ain’t no law ever been framed up yet ‘at can herd me in with the cows, an’ I don’t never intend to act like a cow. I’m man to man wherever I am, an’ a lot o’ you fellers with big outfits are beginnin’ to forget that proposition; but I don’t forget it, an’–“

“Well, for heaven’s sake,” he yells, “I ain’t tryin’ to put a bit in your mouth; though I must confess if I had my way about it, I’d like to put a quart o’ bran there sometimes. What I’m tryin’ to do is to come to an understandin’ about the child.”

“Hasn’t she gone to school every day this term?” sez I.

“There’s another thing,” sez he. “When I told you to give that schoolmaster a rawhidin’, you wouldn’t do it.”

“Course I wouldn’t do it,” sez I. “He may have been in the right as far as I know, an’ anyway, she gave him the worst of it.”

“I don’t want her to give ’em the worst of it. I want her to act like a gal child. Ridin’ her pony into the schoolroom an’ ropin’ the master ain’t no way for a gal child to act. What I want is for the teachers to play fair. It ain’t reasonable to suppose ‘at these mountains was ever under water.”

“You stood for it when the astronomer said so,” sez I; “an’ the Bible sez so, an’–” “Well, that’s all right when it comes to grown- ups; but the’ ain’t no use makin’ a child say somethin’ it don’t nowise believe. The truth is more important than a lot of water ‘at dried up millions of years ago–if it ever was here.”

“Well, the truth is a heap o’ bother to Barbie’s teachers at the best,” sez I. “Look at her spellin’–she comes upon a cross-bred word in a book an’ the teacher sez it’s pronounced one way, an’ you another, an’ me another, until she thinks we’re all liars; and she knows it the next day when she comes across another word spelled almost alike an’ pronounced just the opposite. How you goin’ to teach a child to spell an’ be honest both?”

“It’s a damned outrage!” sez Jabez, his eyes flashin’. “Take ‘thought’ an’ through,’ an’ ‘though’–why, it’s enough to ruin the morals of the best child the’ is. Hang it, I–“

“Well, you had your own way about it,” sez I. “You’ve had three different teachers here this term.”

“Who built the school?” sez Jabez. “Didn’t I build it with my own money, just so I’d have it handy, an’ didn’t I offer to pay the teacher if they’d put it right here at the ranch?”

“You ain’t got money enough to bring the world here to her feet, Jabez,” sez I, “an’ it wouldn’t be the best thing for her if you could.”

Well, I sat there the whole blessed night, cheerin’ him up. Every time he’d get to thinkin’ about his arm or his leg, I’d say somethin’ to rile him an’ take his mind off his afflictions, an’ along about dawn he fell asleep. Spider Kelley had found the doctor almost in our neighborhood, an’ he arrived with him by ten in the mornin’. He paid me a high compliment on the leg, an’ after he’d rounded up a few splinters it wasn’t no trouble at all to set it; but Jabez was in for a good long spell of it, an’ the Spring round- up in sight. You might think that this would rile him up too; but he took it like a hero, an’ I kept him in touch with everything.

We didn’t have a regular foreman at the Diamond Dot. George Hendricks took charge around the house, an’ Omaha was a sort of ridin’ over-see-er; but Jabez himself tended to even little details when he felt like it. When he didn’t feel that way, any one else who thought of it did. After the round-up Flap Jack decided to go on a bender. I tried to talk him out of it, but he insisted, an’ finally I sent him into Jabez.

Flappy came away just tearin’ mad. “He’s the hardest-hearted old tyrant ever breathed,” sez Flappy to me.

“What now?” sez I.

“Last time I came back I was a day late,” sez Flappy. “He fair frothed at the mouth at it, an’ made me promise to give him a month’s notice next time. How’s a man to know a month ahead when he’s goin’ to be in the notion for a bender. I’m fair ravin’ for it now; but like’s not I’ll be all out o’ the notion in a month.”

“Then you’ll be a sight o’ money ahead,” sez I.

“Money? What’s money for? Can you buy a thirst like mine with money? Why, I could take this thirst o’ mine to a city an’ get independent rich, just rentin’ it out by the night. I’ve watched fellers drinkin’ when they didn’t crave it, an’ it hurt ’em somethin’ dreadful. If you don’t want it, you can’t enjoy it until you’re under the influence of it, an’ after you’re under the influence of it half the fun o’ drinkin’ it is gone.”

Flappy had studied this question more’n airy other man I ever see, an’ it was edicatin’ to hear him lecture on it.

“The’s only one way to get around ol’ Cast Steel,” sez I, winkin’; so he got Barbie to beg for him when she went in that evenin’, an’ she got Jabez to let him go next day; but after Jabez’d had time to think it over, he sez to me, “Now see what I’ve done–I’ve let that child wheedle me into changin’ my mind an’ lettin’ a man break his word.”

“Well, he needed it mighty bad,” sez I.

“An’ another thing; it ain’t no fit thing for a gal child to be beggin’ for a man to go get drunk,” sez Jabez. “Maybe not,” sez I, “but he sure needed it.”



It all came about through me bein’ edicated. Most any one can read print words, if they’re of a reasonable size,–the words I mean,– but I could read handwritin’ too. I never was no great mathematician when you got above fractions, an’ I was some particular in what I read; but if I ‘d been minded that way, I reckon I could have waded through purty much any kind of a book ever was written. At that time, however, I was still middlin’ young in some things, an’ I sure was suspicious of any kind of book ‘at looked like a school book.

If you’d have school books did up in paper with the right kind of pictures on the covers you could easy get children to peruse ’em. Did you ever notice bear cubs gettin’ an edication? They ain’t beat into it, they has to be helt back. Same with the Injun kids; they was up on edge to learn until they got to schoolin’ ’em, then they fought again it just like the white kids. The reason is that we make children learn things they ain’t curious about. I bet if you was to try an’ keep it a secret about George Washington bein’ made President because he wouldn’t lie about choppin’ down that cherry tree, the kids would stay awake nights to pry into it. Kids is only human, any way you take ’em.

But this business was sure a fetcher to me, an’ Barbie, she just stumbled on it too. One afternoon me an’ her went for a little ride up into the foothills, an’ after we’d built our fire, like we allus did, no matter how hot it was, she lay there rollin’ cigarettes for me to smoke, like she allus did–the little scamp used to get on the lee side o’ me so the smoke would blow in her face; but we never mentioned it.

Well, after a while she begun to talk of romances, an’ to ask me questions about ’em. I told her as many as I could remember, an’ the one what suited her best was “Claud, the Boy Hero of Gore Gulch.” It allus used to fret her to think ‘at the’ wasn’t nothing she could do to make her a boy, an’ she tried to even up by plannin’ to herself what she’d have done if so be she had been a boy. We talked along about as usual; but I see the’ was somethin’ on her mind. She wasn’t the one to flare up an’ shout for information. She allus talked in a circle like an Injun when she really needed news.

After a while she fished out a funny old letter. It wasn’t put into an envelope, it was just wrapped inside itself an’ stuck fast with a gob o’ some kind o’ wax which had been broke before it was opened. The’ had been a name on the outside, but it had been rubbed out. Inside at the beginning was the name “Rose Cottage, San Francisco,” and a date; but I’ve forgotten the date. The letter began, “Dearest George.” I read that much an’ then I looked at Barbie. “Where’d you get this?” sez I.

She reddened a little, an’ then she looked me straight in the face, and sez “I found it in the attic. I wanted a new box to put my cigarettes in, an’ one day Daddy left the attic door open an’ I went in. The’ was just a dandy chest there an’ he had left the key in it. I opened it an’ this letter was on top. He goes to the attic alone every now an’ again,–mostly at night,–an’ he won’t never let me go with him.”

“I suppose that was the reason you thought he wanted you to go alone to the attic, too,” sez I. She flushed again. “If a person don’t trust me he ain’t got no call to be surprised when I don’t suit him.”

I shook my head. Now in talkin’ to her you forgot she was a child, ’cause she didn’t talk broken like most of ’em do–nor she didn’t think broken neither; but when you looked at her, little and slim an’ purty as a picture, you couldn’t help but wonder if she hadn’t got her soul changed off with some one else, like what they say the Chinese believe. She had the same rules that I did for so many things that it floored me to understand how she got ’em that young, me havin’ had to figger ’em out with a heap o’ sweat.

“Was the letter to you?” I sez, gettin’ around to facts.

“No, it wasn’t; but I read it, an’ I wisht I knew what it means.”

“I ain’t a-goin’ to read it,” sez I.

“You ‘re a coward,” sez she.

“That’s nothing,” sez I; “if it wasn’t for the cowards the’ would be a heap o’ vacant land in this country,” sez I.

“I thought you was my friend,” sez she, takin’ back the letter an’ holdin’ it open in her hand. “If Spider Kelley could read he would read it for me.”

“So would Hawkins, your pinto,” sez I, grinnin’. “What you ought to do is to tell your Dad that you have the letter. If you don’t tell him, I reckon I’ll have to.”

At first she was mad as hops, an’ then she looked into my eyes an’ laughed. “I’ll dare you to,” sez she. The’ was some woman in her even then.

The’ wasn’t no way to bluff her, so I said serious, “Well, what do you intend to do about it?”

“I don’t know,” said she. “Dad has lost so many other things beside his temper, stumpin’ around with that cane, that he thinks he has lost the key to the chest. He goes around grumblin’ an’ lookin’ for it; but he don’t ask if any one has found it. Why do you suppose that is?”

“It ain’t any of my supposin’,” sez I. “What are you goin’ to do about it?”

“As soon as I get through with this letter–an’ make up my mind not to hunt through the chest–I’m goin’ to slip the key into his pocket–an’ then watch his face when he finds it.”

“You oughtn’t to treat your own father so, Barbara,” sez I.

She laughed. “Barbara! that’s a good soundin’ name on your tongue, Happy,” sez she. Then she sobered. “I don’t care nothing for what you say or what he says; the’ ‘s things I’m goin’ to find out; an’ I have a right to. I never told him why it was that I whopped those two girls over at school last winter, an’ I never told even you. I whopped ’em ’cause they said I never had a mother. Everything has to have a mother, even a snake, an’ I had one too. Why don’t he tell me about her? Why does he allus turn me off when I ask about her? I don’t intend to just let him tell me that she was the most beautiful woman in the world an’ too good to stay here, an’ such things. I am going to find out who she was, an’ if you wasn’t a coward you’d help me. Now.”

It was true what she said, an’ I might have known she was studyin’ about it. I might, if I’d had the sense of a hoss, have known that this was what made her old-like–studyin’ about things she never ought to have been forced to study about.

“Does that letter tell about her, Barbie?” I asked.

“That’s what I want to know; but you ain’t got the sand to read it, an’ I can’t make it out. Here, read it.”

I took it an’ read it. The writin’ was fine an’ like what was in Barbie’s writin’ book along the top. It sounded like as if a young girl had written it partly against her will, although it was purty lovesome too. It told about how lonely she was, an’ that she hadn’t never been able to tell whether it was Jack or him she was most in love with until Jack had asked her, an’ then after Jack had deceived her an’ he had been so kind, she found out ‘at he was the one she had loved the most all the time. She reminded him ‘at she had written to him before acceptin’ Jack, an’ that now if he was still sure he wanted her, she would accept him; but she could never live near the Creole Belle. She closed with love, an’ signed herself Barbara.

I kept on lookin’ at the page a long time after I had read it. I remembered what Monody had said when I thought he was out of his head–about George Jordan an’ Jack Whitman, an’ the Creole Belle. I knew ‘at Barbie was studyin’ my face, an’ I pertended to spell out the words a letter at a time until I could get full control o’ myself.

“What kind of a bell is a Creole Bell?” sez I. “She ain’t got it spelled right neither.”

“A Creole Belle is a beautiful woman of French an’ Spanish blood who lives in New Orleans,” sez Barbie. “What do you make out about it?”

I was thinkin’ fast as I could, but I still pertended to read the letter. So Jabez had been in a scrape with some cross-breed woman, an’ he an’ this Jack Whitman had loved the same girl, an’ the’ was a bad mix-up somewhere.

“Little girl,” I sez, “the’ ‘s a lot o’ wickedness in this world you don’t know about–“

“An’ the’ a lot o’ wickedness I do know about ‘at I ain’t supposed to,” she snaps in. “Do you reckon I could knock around this ranch the way I have an’ not know nothin’ except about flowers an’ moonlight? You cut out the little girl part an’ play square.”

“Well, you look here,” I sez. “I don’t know what you do know an’ I don’t know what you don’t know; but I do know ‘at lots of the things you think you know ain’t so, if you picked it up from the fool stories some o’ these damn cow punchers tell; an’ you ought to be ashamed to listen to ’em.”

“Oh, yes, of course!” she fires up. “I am the one what ought to be ashamed of the stories the cow punchers tell! That’s the way from one end to the other; somebody else says somethin’ an’ I ought to be ashamed ’cause I ain’t too deaf to hear it. Now the’ ‘s a lot of questions I’m goin’ to ask you as soon as I get time. I want to know why–“

“No, you don’t!” I yells, jumpin’ to my feet an’ blushin’ clear to my ears. “I ain’t neither one o’ your parents an’ I ain’t your teacher. If you want to know things you ask Melisse. If you don’t put a curb on yourself I’m goin’ to flop myself on Starlight an’ streak for the Lion Head this very minute, an’ I won’t stop before reachin’ the Pan Handle.”

She knew enough to stop bettin’ up a pair o’ tens when she see the other feller wasn’t to be bluffed; so she sez, “Well, I’m goin’ to find it out some way or other–I’m going to find out everything I want to know before I’m done. I love my Daddy, but he don’t always play fair; an’ I’m goin’ to find out what I want to find out– whether he wants me to or not.”

I was in a sweat. “Barbie,” I sez at last, “supposin’ he is playin’ fair? Supposin’ he has sacrificed his own happiness to keep sorrow out of your life, an’ supposin’ you nose around an’ discover it– who’d be the one ‘at played un-fair then? You’re powerful young yet; you’re a heap younger’n you realize, an’ you can’t know it all in a day. He’ll tell you when he can, an’ you ought to trust him. He loves you more’n anything else in this wide world. You ought to trust him, Barbie.”

She trembled tryin’ to steady herself, an’ I looked off into the valley for a moment. “I know he loves me, an’ I wouldn’t hurt him for the world; but I think I’m old enough to know, an’ I’m goin’ to ask him. If he won’t tell me now he has to set a date to tell me. I ain’t goin’ to have no dirty-faced school kids askin’ me questions I can’t answer.”

“I reckon all you want to know is in that chest in the garret,” sez I; “an’ I reckon it’s kept for you to read after–well some day; but if I was you, I’d put back the letter an’ I’d not think about it any more’n I could help. Supposin’ your Dad had had to kill a man to save your mother, an’ didn’t want you to know ‘at he had ever killed a man–“

“Humph!” she snaps in. “Didn’t Claud kill fourteen men in Gore Gulch, an’ didn’t I think it was fine? If he’s killed a man I’d be proud of it.”

“It’s different in real life,” sez I. “I like to read about Claud myself, but I wouldn’t want to slaughter men in the quantities he does.”

“You killed a man oncet yourself,” sez she.

“When?” sez I.

“You killed at least one o’ the Brophy gang with the butt of your gun,” sez she.

“It couldn’t be proved,” sez I.

“It couldn’t be denied,” sez she. “If that’s all you think it is I’m goin’ to ask him.”

“Supposin’ your mother had made him promise not to tell you until you came of age,–you know what store he sets on keepin’ his word,– would you be glad to know ‘at you had made him break it? This Barbara might have been his sister, an’ some one else might have been your mother.”

“Oh, I see it now–my mother was the Creole Belle, the beautiful lady. He allus said she was beautiful, the most beautiful woman in the world–” She sat there with her eyes flashin’, but I didn’t want to let her make up things ‘at wasn’t so an’ then be disappointed. “Who do you suppose George was, an’ Jack?” sez I quiet.

She drew her brows together an’ sat diggin’ her spur into the dirt. “That’s so, too,” she said, thinkin’ aloud. “But Barbara certainly did have something to do with me, an’ I wisht I knew! Oh, I wish I could grow as big as I feel–I hate this bein’ a child. I hate it!”

“Will you put the letter back an’ try to forget it?” I said at last.

“I’ll put it back at once, I’ll give him the key at once; that is, I’ll slip it into his pocket, an’ I won’t pester him about it–now; but you got to promise to tell me if you ever find it out. Will ya?”

“Yes,” sez I. “If I ever find it all out I’ll tell you, honest across my heart.”

“An’ you won’t say nothin’ about this letter to Daddy, until I let you?” she said, fixin’ her eyes on me.

“No, I won’t say a word about that until you tell me to,” sez I.

“Now, then, let’s play tag goin’ back to the house,” she said, with her lip stiff again. Oh, she had a heart in her, that child had.

“You know the pinto has Starlight beat on turns an’ twists,” sez I.

“Yes,” she sez, “an’ on a two-hundred mile race, too.” She played away through the summer an’ never spoke a word on the subject again; but she hid it most too careful, and Jabez saw the’ was somethin’ on her mind. “Have you any idea what the child’s thinkin’ about?” he asked me one day when we was figurin’ some on the beef round-up.

I didn’t answer straight off, an’ he noticed it. “What is she studyin’ about?” sez he, mighty shrewd.

“How can a body tell what that child is studyin’ about?” sez I.

“You’re with her most of the time–fact is, about all you do is to play with her these days.”

“Any time my work here don’t suit you,” I began; but he snaps in, “It ain’t a question o’ work. If you amuse her you’re worth more to me’n any other ten men; but I have some rights. I want to know what you think.”

“Have you asked her?” sez I.

“I’m askin’ you,” sez he.

“Well, I want you to understand ‘at I ain’t no spy,” sez I, glad of a way out. “I don’t know all ‘at ‘s on her mind, an’ I don’t propose to guess; and if I did know, I wouldn’t tell unless she told me to. If you know any way to make me tell, why go ahead and I’ll stand by and watch the proceedin’s.”

Well, he ranted up an’ down a while, an’ finally he pulls himself down an’ sez, “Now look here, Happy, the’ ‘s a difference between a parent an’ anybody else.”

“I own too to that,” sez I; “but what have I got to do with it?”

“Well, you can sort of hint around until you find out what’s on her mind, an’ if it ain’t somethin’ fit, you can tell her so; because if it comes to a show down, she thinks I ought to tell her anything she wants to know.”

“Well, hadn’t you?” sez I.

“Yes, sometime, I suppose–but hang it, it’s mighty hard to answer some of her questions, or to give reasons why I can’t answer ’em.”

“Have you asked her what’s on her mind this time?” sez I.

He fidgeted around a while, an’ then he sez, “Yes, I asked her.”

“What did she say?” sez I.

“She looked me plumb in the eyes, an’ said, ‘Do you want me to ask you what I want to find out?'”

“What did you say?” sez I.

“Why, I said, ‘Yes, Barbara, if it is something you ought to know.'”

“Well?” I sez, after waitin’ a bit.

“Why, she flared up,” sez Jabez, “an’ went on sarcastic about it bein’ strange to her why girls was so much different from other folks, an’ there bein’ so many things ‘at they wasn’t fit to know; an’ finally she said to me point blank, ‘Do you want me to ask you what I want to know, an’ if I do ask you will you answer?'”

“What did you say?” I sez.

“I didn’t know what to say,” sez Jabez. “She looked different from any way she had ever looked before, and after a minute I sez, ‘No, Barbara, I don’t think you had better ask me, an’ I don’t think you had better think of it any more.’ Don’t you think I did right?”

“No,” sez I, “you did not. You simply side-stepped; you wilted under fire, an’ she hates a coward as much as you do. Why didn’t you face it right then?”

“Happy,” he sez, an’ his voice wrung my heart, “the’ ‘s things she’ll have to know sometime, but she ain’t old enough to know ’em yet.” He stopped, an’ his face grew hard as stone when he went on. “But the’ ‘s some things that she never can know, an’ I don’t want her to even learn that there are such things. That’s why you have to find out what’s on her mind.”

“Now you know, Jabez, that I have my own ideas on what I have to do; but you tell me what kind o’ things there are that she mustn’t ever learn, an’ maybe I’ll see your way of it.”

Jabez looked down at the ground, an’ the sweat broke out on his forehead before he answered me. When he did the’ wasn’t a trace of friendliness in his tone. “You have done a heap for me, Happy, and if there’s anything in the money line that you think I owe you, why, name it an’ it’s yours; but you can see for yourself that we can’t go on this way. I haven’t asked you to do anything unreasonable and you have refused point blank. I don’t intend to explain myself to one of my own men, and I don’t intend to have an argument with him every time I want anything done my way. This is my ranch and as long ‘s my own way suits me, that’s the only man it has to suit.”

“Yes, you own this ranch,” sez I; “but you don’t own the earth, so I’ll move on.”

“I haven’t fired you,” sez Jabez. “You’re welcome to work here as long as you want to; but you’ll have to be like the other men from this on. You’ve been like one of the family so long ‘at we don’t pull together any more, and so if you stay I’ll have to send you out with the riding gangs.”

I looked into his face and laughed, though even then I was sorry for him. He led a lonely life, an’ I knew ‘at he’d miss me; but we was both as we was, so I rolled up my stuff, loaded up Starlight, an’ said good-bye to little Barbie. That was the hard part of it. She didn’t cry when I told her I was goin’–that would ‘a’ been too girlish-like for her; she just breathed hard an’ jerky for a couple o’ minutes while we looked in opposite directions, an’ then she said, “How’ll you come back next time, Happy? It’s over three years ago since you left that other time, an’ you came back just as you said, ridin’ on a black hoss with silver trimmed leather. How’ll you come back next time?”

“I don’t know, Barbie,” I said, “but I’ll sure come back, true to you.”

“Yes,” she said, “an’ I’ll sure be true to you, all the time you’re away and when you come back.”

“Barbie,” I said, “you haven’t treated your father right. You’ve let him see that you’re worryin’ about somethin’, an’ it bothers him.”

“I ain’t made out o’ wood,” she snaps out fierce. “I try to be contented, but I get tired o’ bein’ a girl. I’ve half a mind to go with you, Happy.”

“Yes, but the other half of your mind is the best half, Barbie,” I said. “Now I’m goin’ to tell you a secret; your daddy is twice as lonesome as you are, and he’s been through a heap of trouble sometime. You miss the mother that you never did see, but he misses the mother that he knew and loved; and I want you to promise to do all you can to cheer him up and make him happy.”

“I never thought o’ that before,” said she, “I’ll do the best I can- -but you’ll come back to me sometime, won’t you, Happy?”

“I sure will,” I said, an’ we shook hands on it. Then I decided that I’d leave Starlight with her. He wasn’t as good for knockin’ around as a range pony, and I didn’t know what I’d be doin’, so I took my stuff off him, picked out a tough little mustang from the home herd, shook hands with her again, an’ started. I glanced up toward old Savage, and she read my thoughts. “I’ll take flowers to him now and again,” sez she, “and I’ll go up there and talk to him about you; and Happy, Happy, we’ll both be lonesome until you come back!” And so I kissed her on the lips, and rode away the second time.



Well, I rode purty tol’able slow. Some way I didn’t want to go back to the Lion Head Ranch. I knew ‘at Jim would be glad to see me, but I knew I’d be lonesomer there than among total strangers; so I just floated, punchin’ cows most o’ the time, but not runnin’ very long over the same range.

It was just about this period that I begun to lose my serious view o’ life and get more man-like. The usual idea is that a boy is a careless, happy, easy-goin’ sort of a creature, and a man is a steady, serious minded, thoughtful kind of an outfit; but just the reverse. A boy starts out believin’ most o’ what’s told him an’ thinkin’ that it’s his duty to reform the world; an’ about the only thing he is careless of is human life–his own or any one else’s. Fact o’ the matter is that if you watch him close enough you’ll find out that even in his games a boy is about the solemnest thing on earth, an’ you have to know the game purty thorough to tell when it drifts into a real fight. That’s why all wars have been fought by boys. They believe in any cause ‘at looks big enough to lay down their lives for, an’ that’s their chief ambition. A man, though; gets to see after a time that the’ ‘s most generally somebody up behind who’s working the wires, an’ he gets so ‘at he don’t want to lay down ANYBODY’s life, except as a last resort. He looks favorable upon amusement, an’ after a while he kind o’ sort o’ gets hardened to the fact that the whole thing’s a joke and he’d rather laugh than shoot. Why, I’d be more afraid of a boy with a popgun than I ‘d be of a man with a standin’ army.

So as I said, it was just about this time in my life that I begun to hunt up pleasant places to eat and sleep; an’ if I heard of trouble in the next county I turned out an’ went around. I did a little of everything; even lugged a chain in a surveyor outfit, but the’ wasn’t enough chance in that. I got to have a trace of gamblin’ in anything I do; so the first thing I knew I was down in Nevada lookin’ for the treasure ‘at Bill Brophy had buried there. The last of his gang had tried to describe the place, but his description would have done for ‘most any place in Nevada–she not bein’ what you might call free-handed in the way of variety.

Well, I ragged around in the mountains between Nevada and California, lookin’ for a flat-shaped rock with a mountain-peak on each side of it, an’ a cold wind sweepin’ up the canon–I don’t know just how the cold wind got included, but the dyin’ outlaw dwelt upon that cold wind something particular. I stayed out puny late in the season, an’ if cold winds was identifyin’, Brophy had his treasure buried purty unpartially all over the West.

I reckon I’d have died if I had it fallen in with Slocum. Slocum was a queer lookin’ speciment when you first came upon him. His skin didn’t fit him very well, bein’ a trifle too big, an’ wrankled an’ baggy in consequence; his eyes was kind of a washy blue, an’ they stuck out from his face, givin’ him the most sorrowful expression I ever see. You just couldn’t be suspicious of a man with such eyes as that; he seemed to have throwed himself wide open an’ invited the whole world to come an’ look inside. Why, a perfect stranger would have trusted Slocum with his last plug of tobacoo, and like as not he’d have gotten part of it back. Well, as I said, I was headin’ for warmer weather, but I got overtook an’ had about given up all hope when I noticed the smell of smoke in the air. I was walkin’ on foot an’ pullin’ a burro with a pack behind me, an’ after a time I located that smoke comin’ right up through the snow.

I yelled and shouted around for a while without gettin’ any response. Night and the snow was both fallin’ fast, an’ that smoke was exceeding temptin’. Finally I took a piece of burlap off the pack, put it over the hole where the smoke was comin’ up through, an’ piled snow on top of it. I was curious to see what would happen. I waited–perhaps it was only five minutes, but it seemed that many hours–an’ then a low, calm voice, down somewhere beneath me, sez, “Get off that chimney!”

“I will,” sez I, “when you tell me how to get to the fire.”

I waited again, an’ then a man with a lantern emerged into the cut about forty feet below me, an’ told me how I could wind around and come down to him. Well, me an’ the burro finally worked it out, an’ there was a man with long whiskers standin’ in his shirt-sleeves in front of a hole in the snow.

“You like to ‘a’ smothered me,” he grumbled. “Don’t you know better’n to stop up a chimney that’s workin’?”

“I wanted the chimney to work double,” sez I, “an’ that was the only way I could think up to attract your attention.”

“Do you live around here?” sez he. “Not very much,” sez I, “but I ‘m minded to try it a while, if there ‘s room in your burrow for two.”

“Got any tobacco?” sez he.

“Plenty,” sez I.

“You’re welcome,” sez he.

We took the burro over to a clump of pine woods an’ turned him loose, an’ then I crawled in through the tunnel to Slocum’s fire. It was in a cave which had a natural chimney runnin’ up the hill, an’ it looked considerable much like Paradise to me. We ate an’ smoked together for a week. an’ then one day our fire went out an’ a flood of water poured down through the chimney. We worked like beavers for a while, gettin’ our stuff outdoors, an’ it was as hot as summer outside.

“That’s the only drawback to this cave,” said Slocum. “It will be all to the good when the winter settles in earnest, but it will be some bother while it’s still snowin’ an’ thawin’.”

I told him that I agreed with him to such an extent that if I could locate the burro I’d rather risk gettin’ back to humanity than to dyin’ there of rheumatiz. I was wringin’ wet through.

“Nobody can’t die of rheumatiz around me,” sez Slocum, an’ he went to one of his packs an’ got out a piece of root.

“Chew this,” sez he, “an’ it will drive the rheumatiz out of your system.”

Anybody would have trusted those eyes, so I chewed the root for about a minute, an’ then I chewed snow an’ mud an’ tobacco an’ red pepper for an hour, tryin’ to get rid of the taste. Drive the rheumatiz out of your system? Why, the blame stuff would drive out your system too if you chewed it long enough. It was the tarnationest stuff ‘at ever a human man met up with.

“It’s most too strong to take pure,” sez Slocum, “but if you grind it an’ put a shall pinch in a quart of alcohol it makes a fine remedy. Don’t throw the rest o’ that root away. There is enough there to do you a lifetime.”

“Yes,” sez I, “there is, an’ more.”

A feiler once told me that man was a slave to his envirament– envirament is anything around you, scenery, books, evil companions, an’ sech; well, a burro ain’t no slave to his envirament ’cause he generally eats it. My burro was fat, an’ the clump of pine trees had mostly disappeared. I loaded up my stuff, shook hands with Slocum, and started down the mountain. Just as I got fully started Slocum sez to me, “I ‘m sure sorry to see you go. I don’t generally get much friendly with folks any more, but I took to you from the first, an’ any time I can do you a favor, all you got to do is to wink.”

“What’s your general plan of occupation, Slocum?” sez I.

“All that I ever expect to do for the remainder of my days,” sez he, “is to search for my Rheumatiz Remedy.”

“Well,” sez I, “any time you get to do me a favor in that line, it’ll be when I’m too weak to wink.” So we parted the best o’ friends, an’ I went on to a lumber camp where I put in the winter bossin’ a gang. I didn’t know much about lumber, but the men there was just the same as anywhere else, an’ we got along fine.

I was bossin’ a little ranch up in Idaho next June when I heard tell of a big strike in the Esmeralda range–not such a great distance from where I had spent the week with Slocum. The report had it that a feller named Slocum had located the big ace of gold mines, an’ I was some et up with curiosity to see if it was the same Slocum; but I was needed at the ranch that winter, an’ as I took a likin’ for the young feller who was tryin’ to make it go, I stuck to him, an’ it wasn’t until the followin’ July that I pulled out an’ floated down that way.

Well, it was the same old Slocum sure enough. He was the most onlucky cuss ‘at ever breathed, I reckon. Every time he had made up his mind to do something, Fate had stepped up an’ voted again it. He had wasted the best part of his life locatin’ gold mines ‘at wouldn’t hang out, until at last even he got disgusted an’ went to huntin’ for his Injun root to cure rheumatiz with. First thing he knew, he had stumbled on a bonanza lode in the Esmeralda range. This here lode was a peach. Ten-foot face on top, just soggy with gold an’ silver, an’ copper an’ tin enough to pay expenses. It just looked as if they’s said, “Now then, there’s Slocum; he been hammered so long he’s got callous to it. Let’s jus’ see how he’d act if we switched his luck on him.” An’ they sure done it.

Slocum, he scratched around until he see that it wasn’t no joke, an’ then he set bait for a couple o’ capitalists. He trapped two beauties, an’ they put up the assets an’ went in, equal partners. They sunk shafts an’ built stamp mills an’ smelters an’ retorts; oh, they sure made plans to get the metal wholesale. As soon as it began to flow in they built stores an’ shacks an’ a big hotel–they wasn’t timorous about puttin’ their coin into circulation, you bet your life, an’ it looked as if they was going to flood the market.

Well, Slocum, he owned a third of everything, mind, an’ his expression flopped square over like a dry moon, an’ stayed points up. He forgot all those years ‘at he’d been havin’ the muddy end of it, an’ after a time he got ’em to call the mine “Slocum’s Luck.” The’ wasn’t no call to hurl such an insult as that into the mouth of an honest, hard-workin’ mine, an’ naturally, as soon as it was done, the mine laid down in its tracts an’ refused to give up another ounce.

They came to a break in the lode an’ couldn’t find the beginnin’ again. The same twist that had hove one edge out of the ground had unjointed the other. But they had got out a tidy sum already, an’ they knew the’ must be a loose end somewhere, so they was anxious to keep their outfit in good order.

Slocum hadn’t swelled clear out of shape with his new fortune, an’ when I made myself known to him he had give me a purty tol’able decent sort of a job, where there was more bossin’ an’ responsibility than brute labor; an’ I felt kindly toward him. Winter lasted full four months out there. It was a good ninety miles to the railroad, an’ so when the mornin’s begun to get frosty every one else scooted for humanity, an’ I, bein’ more or less weak- minded, took the job o’ watchman, at forty a month an’ my needin’s. I always was a hog for litachure, so I got a bushel o’ libraries an’ started in to play it alone.

The’ wasn’t a blessed thing to do, so I read ’em through by New Years, an’ got out of tobacco by the first of February. From that on I begun to think in a circle, an’ my, intellect creaked like a dry axle before the bluebirds began to sing. Quiet? I could hear the shadows crawlin’ along the side of the house. The snow was seventy- five feet deep in the canyons, so you might say I was duty bound to stay there. As a general rule, I don’t shirk breakin’ a path, but when the snow is more than fifty feet higher than my head, I’d rather walk fourth or fifth.

When the outfit came back in the spring I was the entire reception committee; but I bet the’ never was one more able to do its part.



They only brought out about half a gang that summer, an’ they kept them probin’ around all over the neighborhood; but though they found enough stuff to about pay expenses, they couldn’t get back on the main track. Both the Eastern capitalists showed up along toward fall to see what was doin’, an’ when it came time to knock off work, they tried to get me to repeat my little performance as watchman.

I thanked ’em for their trustfulness, but i politely declined the honor. I told ’em ‘at I was purty tol’able quick-witted, an’ it didn’t take me four months to study out what I was goin’ to say next. But I compromised by sayin’ that if they would give me two other fellers for company I’d stay; otherwise they’d have to rustle up some poor devil ‘at needed the money. They knew ‘at I was reliable, so they agreed; an’ I selected out my two companions in affliction. What I mostly wanted was a heap of variety, an’ when the number is limited to two, a feller has to be some choicy; but I reckon I got the best the’ was.

There’d been a little light-haired feller there all season, kind o’ gettin’ familiar with labor, like. He was no account to work, he couldn’t even learn to tie a knot; but he talked kin’ o’ blotchy, an’ it was divertin’ to listen to him. One day we was kiddin’ him about bein’ so thumby, an’ he sez, “That’s right, boys, laugh while you can; but I’ll have you all between the covers of a book some day, an’ then it will be my grin. I ain’t swore no everlastin’ felicity to the holy cause o’ labor; I’m just gettin’ local color now.”

Next day he fell into a barrel of red paint he was swobbin’ on the hotel to keep her from warpin’, an’ every blessed man in camp passed out about six jokes apiece relatin’ to local color. He never saddened up none, though, just smiled sorrowful, as though he pitied us, an’ went on tanglin’ up everything he touched.

An’ then there was another curious speciment there; a tall thin feller, with one o’ them lean, chinny faces. He claimed ‘at he had been a show actor, but his lungs had given out–claimed he was a tragudian, but Great Scott! he couldn’t even turn a handspring.

He said he was recuperatin’, an’ he sure did hit his liquor purty hard; but I never could make out what he expected to get out of a minin’ camp, ’cause he was full as useless as Local Color. About half the fellers you meet strayin’ around out here are a bit one- sided, but we don’t care so long as they’re peaceable. When you’d guy this one a little stout, he’d fold his arms, throw back his head, an’ say, “Laugh, varlets, laugh! Like the cracklin’ o’ thorns under a pot, is the laughter of fools.” This was the brand of langwidge ‘at flowed from this one, an’ he wasn’t no ways stingy with it.

Well, they had kept these two at boys’ jobs an’ boys’ wages, an’ when I offered ’em the position of deputy watchmen, they fair jumped at it. Said Local Color, “It will be a golden opportunity to perpetuate the seething thoughts which crowd upon my brain.” Said Hamlet, “I thank thee, sir, for this, thy proposition fair. In sooth I’ll try the cold-air cure, and in the majesty of prime-evil silence, I shall make the snow-capped mountains echo to the wonderful rhapsodies of Shakespeare.” Well, the’ was a super- abundance of cold air an’ prime-evil silence an’ snow-capped mountains, an’ I didn’t care a hang what he did to ’em, so long as it kept me from gettin’ everlastin’ sick o’ my own company.

I never see any company yet ‘at wasn’t a shade better’n just my own. I knew I could stand these two innocents for four months, an’ if they got violent I could rope an’ tie ’em. When everybody begun to get ready to pull out, I took the twenty-mule team down to town to get our needin’s. I took the children along with me, an’ I sez to ’em, “Now, boys, no drinkin’ goes up above through the winter. We simply have to go out an’ get disgusted with it before we start back.”

Well, we sure had a work-out. On the sixth day Hamlet, he throws his arm around my neck an’ busts out cryin’ an’ sez, “Happy, it is the inflexible destiny o’ the human race to weary of all things mortal, an’ I’m dog-tired o’ bein’ drunk–an’ ‘sides, I’m busted.”

It turned out that he didn’t have any advantage over me an’ Locals in this respect, so we went to the company store an’ got three bushels o’ nickle libraries, enough grub to do six men six months, enough tobacco to do twelve men a car, an’ a little yeller pup ‘at we give six bits for. I didn’t ‘low to run any risks this deal.

When we got back ‘most everybody had pulled out, an’ the roads was beginnin’ to choke up. Slocum an’ the two capitalists was there waitin’ for us, but when all their stuff was loaded on the wagon the’ wasn’t room for the men; so Miller, the youngest capitalist, who was a bit of a highroller, an’ had been shakin’ up the coast off an’ on, he took off four trunks, an’ sez to me, “Happy, if you run out of clothes, here’s four trunks-full.” Then they hopped on the wagon an’ left us alone in our glory.

I reckon, take it all in all, that was about the most florid winter I ever put in, an’ it purt’ nigh spoilt me for hard work. I did the cookin’, the innocents did the chores, an’ we got along as bully as a fat bear for a while, livin’ in the hotel. The’ was a hundred rooms, but we didn’t use ’em all. Locals, he wrote most of the time, when he wasn’t lookin’ at the ceiling an’ tryin’ to think. Hammy, he walked barefoot in the snow, on’ hollered at the snow-capped mountains. I read nickle libraries, an’ we didn’t care a dang for the Czar of Russia, until along toward Christmas a spark lit in my pile of litachure, an’ doggone near burned the hotel down. Then we began to feel snowed-in. Locals had writ himself dry, Hammy was tired of listenin’ to himself, besides havin’ chilblains up to his knees, an’ I was half crazy, ‘count of havin’ nothing to read. We didn’t have a nickle between us, so we couldn’t gamble, an’ I resigned my mind that when spring climbed up the trail the ‘d be two corpses an’ one maniac in that cussed hotel.

One day Hammy came stalkin’ in to where me an’ Locals was playin’ guess. Guess ain’t never apt to be a popular pastime ’cause it has to be played without any kind o’ cheatin’ whatever. The one who is it, guesses what the other one is thinkin’ of, an’ if he guesses before he falls asleep, he wins. Well, Hammy, he breaks in on our game just the same as if we hadn’t been doin’ anything at all, an’ I knew by his action that the’ was somethin’ afoot. Whenever Hammy was ready to speak something, he always walked like a hoss ‘at was string-haltered in all four legs. Well, he paraded up to us that day, hip action, knee action, and instep action all workin’, stopped in front of us, folded his arms, an’ sez, “Good sirs, I have conceived a fitting fete.” “The only fate I expect is to go mad an’ cut my own throat,” sez Locals; but Hammy frowned an’ went on in a scoldy, indignant voice. “When Wisdom speaks, Folly replies with jest; yet, having little choice of company, I needs must make the best of what I have.”

Well, those two had what they called a war of wits until finally Locals hit Hammy with a chair, which was the way most o’ their discussions ended; but it turned out that what Hammy was tryin’ to say was that we should open the trunks, dress ourselves in the clothes, an’ give a show. He said he knew parts to fit any make-ups we’d find; an’ after Locals found out what it was ‘at Hammy had schemed out, he joined in enthusiastic, an’ said that if the’ had never been a part writ to fit ’em yet, he could do it on the spot, an’ he wasn’t swamped with business right then anyway. “Yes,” I sez, ” it’s a great idee, an’ we’ll sure draw a mammoth crowd. We’ll charge ’em a library apiece an’ get enough litachure to last us a hundred years.” “At best, sarcasm is out of season; at worst, the season ‘s out of it,” sez Hammy to me: “and furthermore, good friend, in life, as on the stage, your part must be a role of actions, not of words.” I used to say over the things ‘at this pair made up, until I had ’em by heart, an’ since then I’ve had a lot o’ fun springin’ ’em on strangers. They used to speak to me as though I was a horse, and of me as though I was part of the furniture. Hammy sez to me one day, “Me good man, you do very well with your hands, but kindly Nature designed your head merely for a hatrack.”

They could say these little things right off the roll, an’ it allus made me feel like a fish out o’ water, somehow, but I stored ’em up in my memory, an’ I’ve got my worth out of ’em all right.

We did open the trunks a week or so after this–and clothes! Well, say, Miller sure was the dresser. The’ was fifteen hats in a little trunk built a-purpose for ’em, an’ the’ was all kinds of vests an’ pants an’ neckties ‘at a feller could imagine. But best of all was a book ‘at we found at the bottom of one o’ the trunks. It was a hard- shelled book, an’ I never took much stock in that kind. When it’s my turn to read a book, a little old paper-back fits me out all right. I’ve been fooled on them hard-shells too often; but this here one was a hummer.

I ain’t no tenderfoot when it comes to a book, but this one was sure the corkin’est I ever met up with. I had allus thought ‘at “Seventeen Buckets o’ Blood; or the Mormon Widder’s Revenge” was about the extreme limit in books, but this here one lays over even that. It was called “Monte Cristo,” an’ had the darndest set o’ Dago names in it ever a mortal human bein’ laid eyes on. I tried to mine it out by myself at first, but pshaw, every cuss in the book had a name like an Injun town, an’ the’ was about as many characters in the book as the’ is on the earth; so I delegated Hammy to read her out loud. This suited Hammy to the limit, an’ he didn’t only read her–he acted her. He’d roar an’ screech an’ whisper an’ glare into your eyes so blame natural that a feller never used the back of his chair from start to finish, an’ twice I was on the point of shootin’ him, thinkin’ it was real.

If you ain’t never read the book it’ll pay you to fling up your job an’ wrastle through it. It starts out with a nice, decent young feller sailin’ home to marry his steady, but all his friends turn in an’ stack the cards on him, an’ get him chucked into the rottenest dungeon in France. He knowed how they soak it to a feller citizen in that country, an’ at first he was all for killin’ himself; but after he’d studied it over ten or twelve years, he suddenly heard a queer scratchin’ noise.

In that same prison was another prisoner, an Abbey. An Abbey is a kind of foreman priest. Well, this Abbey wasn’t one to throw out a prayer an’ then set down to wait for results, not him. He was one o’ these nervous, fretty fellers what like to do their own drivin’, an’ he makes him a set o’ minin’ tools out of a tin saucepan an’ a bed- castor, an’ runs a level from his own cell into Eddie’s–an’ that was the queer, scratchin’ sound that made Eddie decide not to kill himself.

By George, if I could find a prison what had an Abbey shut up in it, the’ wouldn’t be any way in the world to keep me out. This Abbey, he cottoned to Eddie right from the start, an’ durin’ the next few years they mine around in the prison till she’s as holey as a Switzer cheeze; an’ durin’ their leisure he edicates Eddie till he knows more’n a college professor.

Then the Abbey begins to have fits, an’ when all the medicine ‘at he could make out of old soot an’ sulphur matches an’ such stuff is gone, he gives up an’ tells Eddie where he has a little holler island, chuck full o’ diamonds an’ money an’ such like plunder. Then he dies, an’ Eddie gets in the sack. They chain a round shot to Eddie’s feet an’ hurl him off a cliff into the angry sea, an’ when it comes to that part you can’t hardly breathe; but Eddie kicks off the chain, rips open the sack, an’ when he strikes the water he’s a free man.

He swims along for a couple of days until he overtakes a smuggler, an’ he climbs on board an’ shows ‘ern how to run their business accordin’ to Hoyle. He only stays with ’em long enough to learn all their secrets, an’ then he gives ’em the slip an’ goes to his little holler island. He pulls off the top, an’ it’s all so, what the Abbey told him. Then he lifts up his hand an’ he sez, sez he, “I’ll be avenged!” And he sure done it.

He didn’t believe in none o’ your cheap little killin’s. He gives ’em all the range they wanted while he was fixin’ up the cards; but when he was ready to call their hands, the’ was somethin’ doin’ every minute, an’ don’t you never forget it. Oh, he was a deep one. It is creepy to think of any one like him bein’ turned loose on the earth, ’cause a feller might do somethin’ ‘at didn`t suit him, an’ the’ wasn’t no place you could hide in afterward. He kept watchin’ all the while, an’ nobody couldn’t commit a crime nowheres on earth but what he knew of it, an’ he’d go an’ call the feller over to one side an’ say, “Young man, you are doomed to die; but if you’ll promise to do anything I want you to, I’ll give the Pope, or the Emp’rer of Chinee, or whoever the main stem happened to be, a scuttle o’ diamonds an’ get you free–what’s the word?”

Well, in a few years the’ wasn’t half a dozen criminals in the whole world who wasn’t bound to carry out his orders, an’ you can see what an outfit he had to back him up. Some of ’em he’d make his body- servants; but that wasn’t no snap, you can bet, ’cause he was notionable to a degree. He’d make plans for a little party, an’ he’d send one man to Siberia for a fish, an’ another to Asia for a fowl, an’ another to Chinee for a bird’s nest–to make soup of–an’ so on. He never give his guests nothin’ to eat ‘at growed in the same country the feast was to be give in. Then he’d say to his steward, who had the hardest job of all,” hill “–Bill wasn’t his name, but it’ll do–“Bill, where did I see that six-foot vase, made out of a single ruby?”

An’ Bill would turn pale an’ say, “It was in the secret vault of the Em’prer of Chince, your Excellency.” Then Monte Cristo, he’d say, “Ah, yes, so it was. `Tell, go an’ get it an’ have it here by the twenty-fifth day of next month.”

Well, Bill, he’d just about flicker out, an’ begin to tell how it couldn’t be did; but Xlonte, he’d only look at him cold, an’ say, “Never mind the details, Bill–get the vase. If you think you need the British Navy, why, buy it, but don’t bother me. It seems to me, Bill, ‘at you ought to begin gittin’ on to my curves purty soon. Good-bye.”

This was the way he carried on. He’d go to a prison an’ he’d say, “Young man, you was buried to death when you was a baby, but I figgered I could use you later on, so I had you transplanted. You come out o’ this prison, get an edication, an’ on the ninth o’ next June you show up at number forty-nine, Rue de Champaign, Paris, at two fifteen P. M.–sharp. Here’s a million francs to pay expenses. Don’t be a tight-wad–the’s plenty more.” A franc is worth five dollars, but he didn’t give a durn for ’em. That was HIS style.

He’d come to town an’ buy a tenement house ‘at wouldn’t rent, because it was haunted; an’ he’d tear it all down except the rooms ‘at had been most popular to commit murder in. Then next day he’d run up a swell mansion around these rooms–big an’ gorgeous, like the Capitol at Cheyenne, with full-grown trees from all over the world, standin’ in the front yard. Then he ‘d give a party to all the substantial citizens who had once used those rooms to commit murders in, an’ he’d bring ’em face to face with the ones they thought they had murdered–an’ it was comical to see ’em fallin’ around in faints; but Monte, he’d pretend ‘at he hadn’t noticed anything unusual, an’ he’d get ’em a glass of wine an’ make ’em face the torture, till it gives a feller a cold sweat, just to read about it.

You might think that a man runnin’ for congress in this country has a hard time sinkin’ his reputation; but the way ‘at Monte Cristo mined around in a feller’s past was enough to scare a cat out of a cellar. They don’t run things over in France like they do here; they make Counts an’ Markusses an’ Bankers out of the bad men, an’ slap the innocent ones into dungeons to keep ’em from gettin’ spoilt. But this didn’t suit Monte for a minute; so when he gets the gang all settin’ up in front of him like a herd o’ tenpins he sez, “Let her go!” an’ you ought to have seen ’em drop.

He don’t do none o’ the dirty work himself–no more prisons for him. He just goes around like a Sunday-school director at Christmas time, while his enemies turn to an’ poison an’ stab an’ mutilate each other in a way to turn a butcher pale; but his favorite plan is to make ’em go insane an’ have their hair turn white in a single night. That got to be his private brand.

Well, Hammy read the book to us so natural that we all slept in one bed for company; but it cheered us a heap, an’ we begun to feel rich, ourselves, an’ talked about millions as easy an’ natural as though we each had little holler islands of our own. Miller was about my size, so ‘at all his clothes fit me like the skin on a potato. Hammy was a leetle too tall an’ thin, and Locals, a foot or so short; but they fished out a couple of swell outfits too.

We found a lot of empty check-books, an’ used to play draw, settlin’ at night by check. It was purty good fun for a while–until we woke up. Hammy owed me ten million francs an’ Locals was into me for fifteen. I offered to give ’em a receipt in full if they’d give me their interest in the yeller pup. As long as the pup had three bosses he wouldn’t mind no one, an’ I wanted to teach him somethin’ besides eatin’ an’ sleepin; but them two cusses wouldn’t sell out at the price. When I saw that a hundred an’ twenty-five million dollars wouldn’t buy two-thirds of a seventy-five cent pup, I understood what the spell-binders mean by a debased currency, an’ I felt hurt an’ lonesome again.

One day Hammy stacked himself in front of a window an’ began to talk about the gloomy ghastliness of solitude, until me an’ Locals couldn’t stand it no longer, an’ we heaved him out into a drift. Under ordinary circumstances he would have rolled his eyes, pulled his hair, an’ ranted around about the base ungratitude of man; but this time he looked up to the sky an’ hollered, “Come out here quick! Hurry up! COME ON!”

We went out, an’ the’ was somethin’ a-floatin’ away up yonder, lookin’ like a flyspeck on a new tablecloth. “What is it?” asked Hammy. “Is it a bird?” asked Locals. Under such conditions I never say nothin’ until I have somethin’ to say, so we stood an’ gazed. In about ten minutes we all shouted together, “It’s a balloon!”

An’ by jinks, that’s what it was. We hollered an’ fired off guns, an’ after a while it settled down an’ lodged in a tree. The’ was only one man in it, but he was dyked out in Sunday clothes, an’ purt’ nigh froze to death. We fed an’ warmed him, an’ he was about as much surprised at us as we was at him. I was wearin’ a Prince Albert coat an’ a high plug hat, Locals had on a white flannel yachtin’ rig, an’ Hammy was sportin’ a velvet suit with yeller leggin’s an’ a belt around the waist. After we had fitted him out with a pipe he sez, “Gentlemen, I may possibly be able to repay you at some future time. I am Lord Arthur Cleighton, second son of the Earl o’ Clarenden.”

When he registered himself thus, I see Locals an’ Hammy open their eyes, an’ I knew ‘at we had landed somethin’ purty stately.

“I am pleased to meet you, me lord,” sez Hammy, in his most gorgeous manner. “I am Gene De Arcy. You may have heard of my father, the multimillionaire.”

Locals, he looked at Lord Arthur, an’ see that Hammy’s bluff had stuck, so he girded up his loins an’ sez, “Sir, it gives me great pleasure to make your acquaintance. My uncle, Silas Martin, the late copper king, has just died, leavin’ me as his sole heir; an’ I have been seein’ a bit of my own country, preparatory to a prolonged trip around the world.”

Lord Arthur, he jumps to his feet an’ shakes hands with ’em, tellin’ ’em to just cut out his title, as he was a simple Democrat while in the United States.

I hardly knew what to do. I didn’t hold openers, an’ yet if I didn’t draw some cards an’ see it out I stood to lose entirely. I had been corralin’ a heap o’ city langwidge since I had been cooped up with Locals an’ Hammy, but my heart failed me. I knew I was still some shy on society manners; but I also knew ‘at the’ was a heap o’ bluffin’ goin’ on, so I stuck up my bet an’ called.

“Artie,” I sez, holdin’ out my hand, “you ‘re the first lord my eyes has ever feasted on; but I like you–you’re game. it ain’t many ‘at will own up to bein’ a Democrat these days, not even in the secrecy of the ballot box, but here in Nevada you’re safe. Pa has just retired from business, leavin’ me this little mine; but it only pays about ten million a year now, so I’ve made up my mind not to bother with it, but to shut it down an’ go on a tour of the world with my two friends here. I never cared much for school, so this will be a good way to finish my edication. We was up here last fall seein’ that things was closed in proper order, an’ waited for the watchman to come up from below, when we expected to drive down to our special train an’ start for Paris. But the snow came unexpected, and the expected watchman failed to come; and here we are, with no food fit for a human, an’ all our servants in the special train, ninety miles away.”

When I begun my oration Locals and Hammy leaned forward, holdin’ their breath; but when they see ‘at I wasn’t turnin’ out no schoolboy article of a lie, they settled back with a long sigh, an’ I could tell by their faces ‘at they were takin’ pride in my work. They was about the best qualified judges o’ that kind o’ work I ever met up with, an’ I’ll own ‘at I never felt prouder in my life ‘an I did when Hammy slapped me on the back as soon as I finished an’ sez to Artie, “Me Lord, this is a typical American. He plans his life on larger things than rules; but you can depend on him–yea, though the heavens fall, you can depend on Jack here.”

I was glad we didn’t have any liquor there, or like as not we’d ‘a’ burned the hotel down just for a lark. We was so full of that doggone Monte Cristo book that we believed our own lies as easy as Artie did, an’ begun to talk to each other like we was society folks at a banquet.

But Artie was a good, decent sort of a chap, as common as we were, when we got to know him. He never kicked none on the grub, an’ his appetite was a thing to make preparations for; but, as Locals said, his high descent came out the minute he was brought face to face with work–he didn’t recognize it. Now he didn’t try to dodge it, nor he didn’t apologize for not doing it; he just didn’t seem to know the’ was such a thing. It never occurred to him that the only way to have clean dishes was to wash dirty ones. Hammy and Locals, those freeborn sons of Independence, was glad an’ proud to have the chance to wait on him; but I must confess that the day he sat by the fire with a pile of wood within reachin’ distance, an’ let the fire go out, I grew a trifle loquacious about it.

Hammy overheard me mutterin’ to myself in a voice ‘at could be heard anywhere in the hotel, an’ he drew me to one side an’ sez, “Hush, presumptuous peasant; for all you know the blood of Alfred flows within his veins.”

“That ain’t my fault,” sez I; “but some of it will flow down this mountain side if he don’t begin stayin’ awake daytimes.”

Still, all in all, he was a likeable young feller an’ the’ ain’t no doubt but what he saved us from bein’ lonesome any more. He said ‘at this balloon had been exhibited in Los Angeles, an’ he had got into it just for fun; but the rope had parted an’ he had been fifteen hours on the way. It was only by luck ‘at he had happened to have his overcoat along.

He had four or five newspapers, which he had tied around his feet to keep ’em warm, but nare a library; so after we had lied our imaginations sore for a week or so, we fell back on draw, settlin’ by checks at night. By a dazzling piece of luck Artie had his money in the same New York bank ‘at Miller had, so he could use our checks, an’ things began to brighten. Three of us were playin’ for real money, an’ the other feller thought he was–it was genuine poker, an’ the stiffest game I ever sat in.

Time didn’t drag none now. Artie knew the game, an’ it kept me in a sweat to beat him. White chips was a hundred dollars apiece; but we bet colored ones mostly, to keep from litterin’ up the table. Spring began to loosen up about the first of March, an’ by that time Artie owed me two million real dollars. Locals an’ Hammy was into me for close to a billion, but I didn’t treasure their humble offerings much, ‘ceptin’ as pipe-lighters. We was keyed up to a high pitch by this time, an’ was beginnin’ to get thin and ringey about the eyes. Artie from losin’, me from longin’ for the time to come when I should start out to be a little Monte Cristo on my own hook, an’ Locals an’ Hammy, from pityin’ Artie an’ envyin’ me.

On the twenty-fifth of March a wagon-load of grub an’ four men came out to get things started. I see ’em comin’ up the grade, an’ I piked down an’ told’em ‘at I had landed a good thing, an’ to just treat me as the boss for a few days an’ I’d make it all right with ’em.

When Artie saw the new men he turned pale about the gills. He owed me close to three millions, an’ blame if I didn’t feel a little sorry for him. Still, I’d played fair all the while, an’ I ‘lowed ‘at the Earl o’ Clarenden could stand it, and I needed the money a heap more’n some who might ‘a’ won it.

When old Bill Sykes came in to report to me I was wearin’ a plug hat on the back o’ my head an’ sportin’ a white vest an’ a red necktie, so I looked enough like the real thing to make it easy for him to act his part. He came in an’ blurted out, right while we was boostin’ up a jack-pot. “That’ll do, me good man,” sez I, “wait until this hand is played.” Bill, he took off his hat an’ stood humble until Artie had scooped in a hundred thousand dollars, an’ then I told Bill he might talk.

“The watchman was found froze to death, Mr. Hawkins,” sez Bill to me mighty respectful, “an’ your train waited until two relief parties had been drove back by storms, an’ then it pulled out for ‘Frisco. We are all ready to take charge here, an’ as soon as you wish you can drive down in the wagon an’ telegraph for the train.”

Bill backed out bowin’, an’ we made plans to emigrate a little. I promised Locals an’ Hammy a generous rake-off, an’ we fixed to have a tol’able fair time as soon as I cashed in.

Next mornin’ I found a letter addressed to Mr. John Hawkins, Esq. Artie wasn’t around, but Locals an’ Hammy was, so I opened the letter an’ read it. This here is the letter. It’s one o’ my greatest treasures.

“GENTLEMEN,–You have all treated me fine an’ I hate to skin out without saying good-bye but I have not the nerve. I have lied to you all the time. I am not a real lord at all. My father was gardener at Clarenden Castle an’ I was under groom at St. James Court. When the younger son came to this country, I came with him but left him an’ became a waiter in New York City. I went to an excursion to Long Branch an’ got to flirting with a widow just for pastime. She dogged my life after that and my wife is something terrible so I took her and came to Los Angeles. We was as happy as any one could be with a wife like mine until the widow showed up. Then I stood between two fires and either one of them was hell so I got into the balloon and cut the rope expecting to drift over into Mexico. You are all rich and will not need the money but I always play fair and I hate to skin out this way;

“yours truly “L. A. C.

“P.S. It was all I could do to keep from helping with the work ’cause some of your cooking was rotten and you did not wash the dishes clean but I knew if I worked you would not think me a real lord. I hope some day I may be able to repay you for all your kindness”

I didn’t say a word after I finished readin’ the letter. I had fallen too far to have any breath left for talkin’; but Hammy an’ Locals unbosomed their hearts something terrible.

“A murrian on the filthy swine!” sez Hammy, after he began to quiet down a little. “I would I had his treacherous throat within my grasp, that I might squeeze his inky soul back to the lower depths from whence he sprung.”

“Hush, you punkin headed peasant,” sez I. “The’ ‘s just as much of Alfred’s blood flowin’ through his veins now as the’ ever was.”

“‘T is not the money I have lost that makes me mad,” sez Locals. “It’s finding out that a man can become so degenerate that he will impose upon the very ones who save his life–deceive them, lie to