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  • 1909
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“Oh, he ain’t the only liar ‘at was ever in this hotel,” sez I; “an’ when it comes to the money YOU’VE lost, that’d be a small matter to get mad over. He risked just as much money as we did, an’ if he’d ‘a’ won, he wouldn’t ‘a’ won a cent more.”

After a while they grew more resigned in their langwidge; but after we had driven down to town without finding him, Hammy sez, “In sooth ‘t is bitter truth that all the world’s a stage; yet Fate, however cruel, never decreed that I should play the second season, as servile server to a worn out mine–my health is all right again, an’ I’m goin’ back where a feller gets paid decent wages for makin’ a fool of himself.”

Suddenly Locals gave a yell of joy and shouted, “My fortune’s made! I can take this thing and have a runaway boy and a lost orphan and a rich uncle and a villanous cousin, and write the novel of the age about it.”

“No, no!” sez Hammy, catchin’ the excitement, “tragedy–make it a tragedy. It is for the stage! Think of them lost without food and the balloon coming into sight! Think of the scenic effects, the low music as the orphan kneels in the middle of the stage and prays that the balloon may bring them food; and then have the villanous cousin in the balloon–“

Well, they purt’ nigh fought about it, and they were still at it when I left them. The tingle of spring in the air made me wild to get back to the range again. I thought of little Barbie and what a great girl she must be by this time. I thought of the big-eyed winter calves huggin’ up to their mothers and wonderin’ what it all meant. I thought of old Mount Savage, and all of a sudden somethin’ seemed pullin’ at my breast like a rope, an’ I drew down my winter wages, an’ set out for the no’th, eager as a hound pup on his first hunt.



I’ve heard it called Christian fortitude, an’ I’ve heard it called Injun stoickcism, an’ I’ve heard it called bulldog grit; but it’s a handy thing to have, no matter what it is. I mean the thing that keeps a feller good company when the’ ‘s a hurtin’ in his heart that he never quite forgets. A little child away from home an’ just sick to go back, a man who has to grit his teeth an’–but no, the first expresses the feelin’ better–a child, homesick, but keepin’ a stiff upper lip; and it don’t make much difference what the age, that’s a condition ‘at nobody ever outgrows.

Well, all the years I’d been away the’ was a little empty sore spot in my heart that I couldn’t quite forget; but I never aired it none, an’ I don’t believe I knew myself how big it was, until I left Slocum’s Luck behind me an’ headed for the Diamond Dot. Then I spread a grin on my face that nothin’ wouldn’t wipe off, an’ I stepped so high an’ light that I was like a nervous man goin’ barefoot through a thistle patch. I was headed for home; an’ even a mule that gets dressed down regular with the neck-yoke gives a little simmer of joy when he’s headed toward home, while a dog,– well, a dog will just naturally joyful himself all over when the trail doubles back on itself, an’ a dog ain’t no parlor loafer, neither, if I’m any judge.

Why, for two years I hadn’t polished a saddle, an’ I whistled like a boy when I pictured to myself the feel of a hoss under me. The’ ‘s somethin’ about feelin’ a hoss’s strength slide into your legs an’ up through your body that must be a good deal like the sensation a saint enjoys the first fly he takes with his new wings. A little pop-eyed drug merchant was out here on a tour oncet, an’ he asked me the usual list of blame-fool questions, about what we et an’ where we washed an’ if it didn’t make us ache to sleep on the hard ground, an so on. When I had made answers to his queries accordin’ to the amount of information I thought it wise to load him with, he shakes his head solemn like an’ sez, “I do not see where you get any compensation for such a life as this.”

“We don’t get any compensation,” sez I, “but look at all the hoss- back ridin’ we get to make up for it.”

An’ there I was with the spring drippin’ all about me, the plains standin’ beckonin’ to me on every side, just coaxin’ to be rode over, an’ me walkin’ on foot with flat-heeled boots on!

I had rode out on Sam Cutler’s freighter to within’ twenty miles o’ the ranch house, an’ I built a little fire an’ unrolled my blankets; but I couldn’t sleep. I just lay lookin’ up at the stars an’ tryin’ to imagine what Barbie looked like an’ whether Starlight was still at the ranch, an’ every now an’ again I tried to decide as to whether I’d grin or he haughty when I first spied Jabez. I was some anxious to come upon Barbie first. I knew she’d be glad to see me, but I was rather leery about Jabez. He would ‘a’ welcomed a projical son of his own as often as occasion offered, but he wasn’t just the sort of a man to be a public welcomer. I couldn’t picture him puttin’ up a sign sayin’, “Projical sons turn to the left. If chicken is proferred to veal, shoot in the air twice when you get within a mile of the house.”

But I was too much elated to worry much, an’ along about one o’clock I rolled up my blankets, kicked out my fire, an’ started to drill. When the sun rose I was in sight of the ranch house, an’ the sun seemed to throw an arm around my shoulder an’ go skippin’ along by my side–an’ I did skip now an’ again.

When I got about a mile from the house I came upon Jabez, walkin’ slow an’ lookin’ down-hearted. He hadn’t changed a mite in the five years–in fact from what I could see he hadn’t even changed his clothes; so for a moment I thought his sour look was the same ill humor I’d left him in; an’ then I saw it was more serious, an’ my heart stopped with a thump.

He looked up just then an’ we stared at each other without speakin’. “Ain’t you dead?” sez he.

“No I ain’t,” sez I.

“We heard you was,” sez he; “killed in a muss over at Danders.”

“I don’t believe it,” sez I, “an’ besides, I ain’t been in Danders for over seven years.”

“Well, then, what made you stay away so long for?” sez he, sort o’ snappy.

“I don’t remember you sheddin’ any tears when I left, an’ I don’t recall you beggin’ me to hurry back,” sez I. I was pleased at the way I was bein’ received an’ I meant to make him show his hand.

“You know as well as I do that things allus go better on this ranch when you’re here.”

“Yes,” sez I.

“An’ you know ‘at I don’t like to beg no man to do anything; but you ought to see that I know that you’re the usefullest man I ever had, an’ you oughtn’t to be so fly-uppity,” sez he.

“Now see here, Jabez,” sez I, “you’re one o’ the kind o’ men who never own up ‘at a man was fit to live until after he’s dead. You’re like some o’ these Easterners–they get so everlastin’ entranced with the beautiful scenery that they forget to water their ridin’ hosses. I don’t ask no special favors, but I ain’t so mortal thick- skinned myself, an’ you ought to learn sometime that there is hosses ‘at work better when they’re not beat up an’ yelled at.”

“Are you goin’ to stay this time?” sez he.

“As long as it’s agreeable–all around,” sez I. “Is everything goin’ smooth?”

The down-hearted look came into his eyes again. “She won’t speak to me,” sez he.

“You don’t mean to say ‘at you’ve gone an’ got married,” sez I, “or that you are tryin’ to?”

“I ain’t such a fool,” he snaps. “It’s Barbie, I mean.”

“How long has this been goin’ on?” sez I.

“This is the fourth meal,” sez he; an’ he was so solemn about it that I was some inclined to snicker, but then it flashed upon me that when I left, the child was all het up over the letter she’d found in the attic, and I sobered an’ sez, “Is it something ‘at’s goin’ to be hard to smooth over?”

“I don’t see how the deuce it’s ever goin’ to be smoothed over,” sez Jabez, desperately.

“Would you feel like sort o’ hintin’ what it was about?” sez I.

“Well, it’s about the way she acts,” sez Jabez. “Confound it, Happy, she’s the best gal child ever was on this earth, I reckon, but she don’t want to be one, an’ she won’t act like it, an’ she–she won’t dress like it. Every time I argue with her she beats me to it, an’ I’m plumb stumped. Yesterday I told her she had to take ’em off an’ wear dresses, an’ she did; but now she won’t speak to me.”

“You mean that you said that she was never to argue with you again?” sez I, indignant.

“No, I mean that I sez she must take those confounded buckskin pants off! She’s big enough now to begin to train to become a woman–not a man.”

I had to grin a little, but even though it didn’t seem as skeptical to me as it did to him, I saw he might be right about it. Still, I wasn’t goin’ to take sides without hearin’ all the evidence, so I sez, “Is she healthy, Jabez?”

“Healthy?” he sez. “Why, that child could winter through without shelter an’ come out in the spring kickin’ up her heels an’ snortin’.”

“Well, that much is in her favor,” sez I. “Is she good at her studies?”

“Where you been that you haven’t heard about it?” sez he. “Last winter she out-ciphered an’ out-spelt the schoolmarm, an’ she fuddled up one o’ these missionary preachers till he didn’t know where he was at. She has been studyin’ about all kinds o’ things, an’ she cornered him up on the first chapter o’ Genesis. She lined out the school-marm first, an’ the schoolmarm came an’ told me that she was an infidel–the’ ain’t no sense in havin’ women teach school, Happy. You can’t reason with ’em an’ you can’t fight with ’em an’ they just about pester a body to death. I don’t see how Barbie stands it.”

“Well, what did you do about her bein’ an infidel?” sez I.

“I couldn’t do anything to the teacher except tell her what I thought of her; but next Sunday I had Barbie read to me the first chapter o’ Genesis. Did you ever read it, Happy?”

“Yes,” sez I, “I read all of that book an’ most of the next one. Me an’ another feller had a dispute about the Bible one time, an’ he said it was the best readin’ the’ was, an’ I said it was too dry. He read me about a feller in it named Samson, who was full o’ jokes an’ the strongest man ever was, I reckon, before he let that Philistine woman loco him, an’ he read about another feller, just a mite of a boy, who killed a giant with a slingshot in front of an army which had made fun of him an’ was all ready to give in to the giant, an’ he read me some poems about mountains; an’ I had to give in that the Bible was the greatest book ever was. That was up at a little ranch in Idaho, an’ he was goin’ to read it all to me an’ explain what it meant,–he was full edicated, this feller was, an’ had a voice as soft as a far-off bell, an’ an eye that seemed to reach right out an’ shake hands with ya,–but one day when I was away a posse surprised him, an’ though he potted two of ’em they finally put him out. He left me his Bible with a note in it which said that he had killed the man all right an’ that he would do it again under the circumstances; but he couldn’t tell a word in his own defense ‘count of mixin’ in a woman. We never found out a word about it, not even where the posse came from. Well, afterward I tried to read it alone; but I couldn’t make any headway. For one thing, the’ ‘s too many pedigrees to keep track of, an’ the names are simply awful. I don’t want to be profane nor nothin’, but hanged if I think the Children of Israel was square enough to deserve all the heavenly favors they got; so I finally gave up tryin’ to read it. But what about you an’ Barbie?”

“Well,” sez he, “I’d read the Bible clean through from cover to cover an’ I never saw anything unreasonable in it, so I thought I could set Barbie right without any trouble. She read the first chapter, an’ by that time I was runnin’ for cover an’ yellin’ for help. The’ ought to be something done about that book, it ain’t right to try an’ raise a child to be honest, an’ tell ’em that they must believe the Bible, an’ then have ’em find out what the Bible really sez.”

“Well, what about it?” sez I.

“Well, it sez that the’ was light an’ darkness an’ evenin’ an’ mornin’ on the first day; on the third day the’ was all kinds o’ grass an’ herbs yieldin’ seeds, an’ fruit trees yieldin’ fruit; but the’ wasn’t no sun or stars until the fourth day. Now how could you have evenings an’ mornings an’ grass an’ fruit trees without sunshine? You know that wouldn’t work, an’ when she put it up to me I simply threw up my hands, an’ sent Spider Kelley with the buckboard to hunt up this missionary preacher. He was long-haired an’ pius, an’ when I saw him I felt purty sure he could straighten it out; but he wasn’t game. Barbie argued fair an’ square, an’ he lost his temper an’ called her an infidel an’ a heretic an’ a nagnostic; but she pulled a lot o’ books on him, an’ he couldn’t uniderstand ’em an’ blasphemed ’em something terrible; but he see he was whipped, an’ just simply ran away. I felt mighty bad about Barbie bein’ an infidel until Friar Tuck came around. You remember Friar Tuck–the one they call an Episcolopian?” Course I remembered Friar Tuck. Everybody knew him an’ he was about as easy to forget as a stiff neck–though for different reasons. Preachers are about as different as other humans to begin with, but the women seem more unanimously bent on spoilin’ ’em; so as a general rule I wade in purty careful when I ‘m startin’ an acquaintance with a strange one, but I did know that this here one was all to the right, an’ his time belonged to any one who demanded it. This made him purty wearin’ on hosses, an’ when one would give out on him he’d just turn it loose an’ rope another ‘thout makin’ any preliminary about it; all the explanation a body got was just seein’ a tired, stray pony eatin’ grass. The first time he tried that game they gathered up a posse an’ ran him down; but he pulled a Bible on ’em showin’ where he got his commission from, threw a sermon into ’em ‘at converted two an’ made one other sign the pledge, an’ that put an end to any unsolicited interference in his line o’ work. He was a big man with two right hands, an’ some one gave him the name of Friar Tuck out of a book, an’ he was known by it the whole country over.

I nodded my head: “Did the Friar get fainty about Barbie bein’ a heretic?” sez I.

“No, he didn’t,” sez Jabez, “he just laughed when I told him about it, an’ he an’ Barbie, they wrangled over it for a long time; but he played fair. When he didn’t know the answer he owned up to it, an’ then he told her that the Bible was written by a lot of different men, an’ that the spirit of it was inspired; but that the’ wasn’t any words ever invented that could describe creation; because the origin of life was a thing ‘at man wasn’t wise enough to comprehend, an’ that all the scientific books ever written couldn’t come any nearer to it than that first chapter of Genesis, which had been written ages ago when the old Earth was still in its childhood.”

“How did Barbie get around this?” sez I.

“Well, she didn’t have much to say; he didn’t climb up on a perch an’ call her names, he just sat there by her side like they was both children together; an’ then he took some of her books an’ explained things she didn’t understand an’ pointed out things ‘at other scientists didn’t believe in, an’ he actually said ‘at he believed that after they had examined the earth all over, inside an’ out with a magnifyin’ glass, every last scientist the’ was would be willin’ to admit that it must have been created some way or another; and that we’d all be the better for the work these scientists was doin’, but that she mustn’t confuse the word with the spirit, for it was the spirit which giveth life. He’s an A I man, Friar Tuck is; but when I offered him twice as much a year as he’s gettin’ to stay an’ teach her, he just laughed again, an’ said that I wasn’t in no position to double the kind o’ wages he was workin’ for. I was a little put out at this, but Barbie said he was talkin’ in parables.”

“Was she wearin’ the buckskin pants when he was here?” sez I.

“Yes, she was, an’ I didn’t much like the way he acted about that. At first he thought she was a boy, an’ it made me hot; but he sez to me, ‘Didn’t God create man first?’ I owned up that he did. ‘Well, then,’ said he, `let this child develop the man side of her first, so that she may have strength an’ courage for all her journey.’ Everything that man sez has the ring o’ truth in it, an’ I didn’t have much of a come-back, except to say that she was overdoing it. He called Barbie over to him an’ looked into her eyes an’ put his big hand on her head an’ afterward he sez to me, `You needn’t worry; soon enough a soul which is all woman will stand before you and ask questions which will make you long for these days back again. Give her all the time she will take,'”

“What else did he say?” sez I.

“Well, he asked me if I had ever noticed a litter of pups. I said I had, and he wanted to know if the’ was much difference in the way they played. I owned up that the’ wasn’t. Then he looked sort o’ worried an’ asked me if I had ever found any of ’em to get their sex mixed up bad enough to have the tangle last through life. I had to admit that I never had, an’ he laughed at me good an’ proper–but his laughs never hurt. I didn’t mind about her wearin’ the buckskins after that so much.”

“Well, then, what made you rear up about ’em yesterday?” sez I.

“I hired a new man when she was out ridin’,–day before yesterday it was,–an’ when she came in he thought she was a boy an’ kind o’ got gay, an’ she panned him out; an’ he cussed her an’ she drew a gun on him an’ made him take it back, an’ he might o’ taken some spite out on her before he found out she was a girl. She is too sizey now, an’ confound it, leggin’s an’ a short skirt ought to satisfy any female- -but now she won’t speak to me, an’ I can’t go back on my order, so I don’t see how we’re goin’ to straighten it out.”

I pertended to be mad. “Jabez,” I sez, “I do wish I could come back to this ranch just once an’ find it runnin’ smooth. Here I come all the way from Nevada just to see it once again, an’ I find the boss an’ his daughter ain’t on speakin’ terms, an’ I have to stand palaverin’ for a solid hour without anything bein’ asked about my appetite, an’ me just finishin’ a twenty-mile walk.”

“By George, I’m sorry!” sez Jabez. “But hang it, Happy, you ought to savvy this place well enough by this time to know ‘at no human ever has to set up an’ beg for food. I’m glad to see you ’cause the little girl does set a heap by you, an’ you seem to have a way o’ straightenin’ out the kinks. While you’re eatin’ breakfast see if you can’t think up some way to get her to talkin’ again.” We started to walk to the house, an’ I sez, “just what was your orders about these buckskins?”

“I told her to take ’em off at once an’ throw ’em out the window, sez he.

“Did she do it?” sez I.

“She allus obeys orders when she drives me to issue ’em–but I allus get a sting out of it, some way or other. This time I issued the order at the supper table, an’ she went upstairs to her room, stuffed the suit full o’ pillows, stood in the window, an’ screamed until me an’ the boys ran out to see what was the matter. Then she threw the figger out an’ we thought she had jumped, an’ I made a fool o’ myself. It’s playin’ with fire every time you cross her, but she allus obeys orders. Still, it’s tarnation hard to be her father- -not that I’d trade the job for any other in the country, at that.”

I had to chuckle inward all the way to the housc, an’ just before we arrived to it I purt’ nigh exploded. Here come a figger, heavily veiled an’ wearin’ a shapeless sort of a dress affair made out of a bedquilt an’ draggin’ behind on the ground. It walked along slow an’ diginfied, like some sort of a heathen ghost, an’ when it came to a pebble in the path it would walk around it an’ not step over, all the time holdin’ a hand lookin’ glass to see that her toe didn’t show. I just took one side-eye at Jabez an’ his face looked like a storm cioud at a picnic; but when Barbie see who I was she tore off the veil, gathered up her skirts, an’ yelled, “Happy! Happy Hawkins, is it really you? “

“I’m ready to take my oath on it, madame,” sez I, not Cracktn’ a smile; “but if I might make so bold, who are you?”

“Oh, Happy, we thought you was dead,” said she, with a little catch in her voice that made me wink a time or two. “Where have you been all these years, an’ why didn’t you come back to us?”

She stood lookin’ into my eyes, half tender an’ half cross, an’ I couldn’t help but try her out to see which would win. “I didn’t know for sure that I’d be welcome,” sez I.

“Oh. Happy!” she sez; an’ she threw her arms around my neck an’ kissed me, an’ then we went in to breakfast. I answered her questions between bites, an’ as soon as we’d finished I proposed we’d go for a ride. “I haven’t crossed a saddle for two years,” sez I. “Is Starlight here yet?”

“Well I should say he is, and fat an’ bossy,” sez she. “The’ hasn’t airy another body but me rode him neither. I divide my ridin’ between him an’ Hawkins, just ridin’ a colt now an’ again to keep from gettin’ careless.” Then she stopped an’ looked down at the thing she was wearin’ an’ said, sadly, “But I reckon my ridin’ days are over.”

“Alas, yes,” sez I, usin’ Hammy’s most solemn voice, “Old Age has set his seal upon your brow, an’ I can see you sitting knitting by the fire for your few remainin’ days.”

“Where did you learn to talk that way?” sez she, quick as a wink. So I told her of my winter at Slocum’s Luck, an’ she asked me a million questions about Hammy an’ Locals. When I was through she sat silent for a while an’ then she sez, “Happy, I’m goin’ to see more o’ the world than just this ranch some day.”

“Well, the’ ain’t much of it that’s a whole lot better–an’ I’ve seen it about all,” sez I.

“You seen it about all?” sez she, scornful; “why, you haven’t seen the inside of one real house.”

I glanced around, but she snaps in, “This ain’t a house, this is just shelter from the elements. I’m goin’ to see mansions an’ palaces, an’ I’m goin’ to see ’em from the inside too.”

“Have you ever read Monte Cristo?” sez I.

“No,” sez she.

“Then don’t you do it,” sez I. “Your head’s about as far turned now as your neck’ll stand, an’ what you ought to do is to learn how to cook an’ sew.”

She looked at me with her eyes snappin’, but in a second her face broke into a grin. “The’ ain’t a mite o’ use in your tryin’ that,” sez she. “You like me just as I am, an’ you don’t need to feel it’s your duty to work in any that teacher stuff. Gee, but I’m glad you came back It looks as if me an’ Dad is in for a long siege of it this time, an’ you’ll keep me from gettin’ lonesome.”

“Not the right answer,” sez I. “I’m goin’ to leave tomorrow.”

Her face grew long in a minute, when she see I meant it. “Happy–you don’t really mean that, do you?”

“Barbie,” I sez, “I had to leave before, or take sides. Well, you an’ the boss are warrin’ again; I can’t fight you, an’ I won’t side again him. You don’t leave me any choice–I just have to go away again.”

“Oh, I don’t want you to go away again,” she sez. “You allus find more in things than the rest of ’em ever do, an’ I want you to tell me all about those two queer men you spent the winter with, an’ to teach me just the way the one you call Hammy used his voice. Happy, you just can’t go away again.”

“I don’t want to go away again,” sez I, an’ I was down-right in earnest by this time, “but you make me. Barbie, you are hard- hearted. You know that your father thinks the world of you–“

“He don’t think one speck more of me than I do of him,” she snaps in.

“Yes, but he’s different,” I sez. “He’s your father, an’ he has to guide and correct you.”

“Well, he don’t have to throw in my teeth that I’m a girl every tine I want to do anything.”

I’m disappointed in you,” I sez to her in a hard voice. “I thought that you would be game, but you’re not.”

“What ain’t I game about?” sez she.

“You’re ashamed of bein’ a girl,” sez I.

“I ain’t,” sez she. “I’m glad I’m a girl, an’ I want to tell you that the’ ‘s been just about as many heroines as heros too. I don’t mean just these patient women who put up with things; I mean heroines in history. Look at Joan of Arc!”

“I never heard of her before,” sez I, “but I reckon she must have been Noah’s wife.” She breaks in an’ tells me the story of the French farm girl who got to be the leader of an army and whipped the king of England an’ was finally burned; an’ then, naturally, became a heroine an’ a saint.

“She didn’t wear boys clothes, did she?” I sez, thinkin’ I had her.

“Yes, she did!” sez Barbie.

“Well, she ought to be ashamed of herself,” I said; but I knew I was gettin’ the worst of it, so I changes the sub-ject. “But speakin’ about the Ark,” sez I, “there’s another example of your obstinacy. When I went away from here you was fussin’ with the school-teachers because they said this whole earth was once under water, an’ now I find you cuttin’ around an’ linin’ out missionary-preachers because you ain’t suited with the way the Bible was wrote. It looks to me as if you ought to get old enough sometime to realize ‘at you ain’t nothin’ but a child. Your father is willin’ to give you a fair show; he don’t ask you to act like a girl, all he wants is for you to look like one.”

“If I have to wear a skirt, you know mighty well I can’t ride,” sez she.

“You don’t have to wear a thing like what you have on now,” I sez. “Why don’t you get over your pout an’ be sensible. He never asks you to humble yourself. All you need is to do what he wants, an’ he’ll drop it at once.”

“Yes,” sez she, “all I need to do is to give up my independence an’ he’ll think I’m a nice little girl.”

“Why don’t you figger out some kind of a dress that would look like a girl’s and–and work like a boy’s?” sez I.

She sat thinkin’ for a minute an’ then sez, “That wouldn’t be a complete surrender, that would only be a compromise; an’ I’d be mighty glad to do it if the’ was only some way.”

“Where’s that picture of the girl who whipped the king?” sez I.

She ran an’ got it, an’ it was a dandy lookin’ girl all right,–it looked a little mite like Barbie herself,–but she was wearin’ clothes ‘at most folks would think undesirable; they was made out of iron an’ covered with cloth.

“You don’t want to wear any such thing as that, Barbie,” sez I, “it would be too blame hot, an’ that bedquilt thing’s bad enough.”

“That’s what they used to fight in,” sez she.

“They must ‘a’ been blame poor shots,” sez I. “Why, I could shoot ’em through those eye-holes as fast as they came up, an’ she don’t even wear any head part with hers.” Then an idea struck me: “But why don’t you make a suit like her outside one?” sez I. “It comes below her knees an’ yet she can ride in it all right.”

Well, we got old Melisse to help us, an’ by four o’clock the thing was done. We had used up some dark-green flannel that Jabez had bought to have a dress made of, an’ which she had kicked on. She took it up to her room an’ I went out to find Jabez. I told him that she was always willin’ to give in when any honorable way was pointed out, an’ he was the tickledest man in the West. He went in to supper four times before it was ready, but when it finally was ready Barbie wouldn’t come down.

Melisse went after her an’ come back sayin’ that Barbie didn’t feel hungrv an’ was goin’ to wait until after dark an’ then wear it outdoors.

“What nonsense!” sez Jabez. “Here she’s been wearin’ regular buckskin pants, an’ now she fusses up about what you say is a half dress. You go an’ get her.”

I went to the head of the stairs an’ called her, an’ she finally stuck her head out of her room an’ sez, “Happy, I just can’t wear this thing. It flaps!”

“Let it flap!” sez I. “You’re just like a colt gettin’ used to a single-tree; you won’t mind it after the first hour. Let me see how it looks.”

She opens the door an’ stands with a queer new look on her face, an’ her cheeks pink as wild roses. I hadn’t never seen those cheeks pink up for anything but fun or anger before, an’ it flashed upon me what Friar Tuck had told Jabez; an’ I was willin’ to bet that the time would come when he’d have full as much girl on his hands as any one man could wish.

The waist part of it was loose an’ low in the neck an’ came to a little below the knees where the leggin’s began. The upper part of the leggin’s which you couldn’t see were loose an’ easy. Her little legs looked cute an’ shapely, an’ her smooth, round throat came up from the open neck mighty winnin’–the whole thing was just right an’ I sez to her, “Why, Barbie, this is the finest rig you ever had on, an’ you’re as purty as a picture.”

Well, her face went the color of a sunset an’ she slammed the door. “If I was your Dad,” sez I to myself, “you’d go back to those buckskins to-morrow.” I waited a moment an’ then I began to make fun of her, and after a while she came out with her teeth set tight together an’ we went down to the dinin’ room; but it was the first time I had ever seen her take an awkward step.

“Now that’s what I call a sensible garment,” sez Jabez, heartily, an’ then he begun talkin’ to me. Jabez had a lot o’ wisdom when he kept his head, an’ by the time supper was over Barbie was purty well used to the feel, an’ we all three went for a ride; me ridin’ Starlight, Barbie, Hawkins, an’ Jabez a strappin’ bay, one of Pluto’s colts, an’ a beauty. Well, I’ll never forget that ride: you know how tobacco tastes after a man owns up that he was only jokin’ when he swore off; you know how liquor seems to ooz all through you after you’ve been out in the alkali for three months–well, that first ride, after bein’ out o’ commission for two years, makes these two sensations something like the affection a man has for sour-dough bread. Oh, it was glorious! we all felt like a flock o’ birds– hosses an’ all. In the first place it was spring, an’ that was excuse enough if the’ hadn’t been any other; but two of us had gone into that day not on speakin’ terms, an’ now they were closer than ever, an’ the third one had brought ’em together. The old sayin’ is that three’s a crowd, but it took a crowd to hold all the joyfulness that we was luggin’ that night, an’ it was ten o’clock before we turned around on the velvet carpet an’ came swingin’ back to the house.

We had to finish with a little race, an’ I was rejoiced to see that old Starlight hadn’t become a back number, even though the bay colt did make it a mighty close finish.

As soon as we unsaddled, Barbie sort o’ whispered to me, “I ‘m awful glad you came back, Happy”; an’ then she ran into the house.

Jabez shook hands an’ sez, “It seems to me, Happy, that I’ve been waitin’ for you for months. I hope to goodness you don’t fly up any more.” “I ain’t goin’ to look for trouble Jabez” sez I “This spot is the most homelike to me of any on earth; but I don’t believe I’ll turn in yet. I want to stroll around a little.”

I walked off in the quiet to the little mound where Monody lay, an’ I sat there a long while, thinkin’ o’ the last time I’d come back. The night was unusual warm, an’ I hunted up all the stars that I knew, an’ watched ’em as they dropped down one by one behind the mountains. I thought of all that Friar Tuck had said about the origin of life, an’ what a nerve a child like Barbie had to even study on such a subject. Then I dropped back to all the happiness I’d had that day, an’ the last thing I knew I was lookin’ into Barbie’s eyes an’ wonderin’ what made her face so pink. It was the cold, gray dawn-wind that woke me up.



That was a summer I love to think over; but the’ wasn’t nothin’ happened to tell about. I was a little soft at first, but it didn’t take me long to get my hand in, an’ I roped my half o’ the winter calves. It had been a mild winter an’ the’ was a big run of ’em, an’ Jabez was in a good humor most o’ the time.

The men mostly liked Jabez; but they used to talk a lot about him, as he was some different from the usual run. He had first come into that locality when Barbie was two years old, buyin’ the big Sembrick ranch an’ stockin’ it up to the limit. Ye never said a word about his wife, nor his past; an’ Jabez wasn’t just the sort of character a man felt like pryin’ private history out of.

The men laughed a good bit about the time Jabez had had with the Spike Crick school. He had a fool notion that money was entitled to do all the talkin’, an’ that’s a hard position to make good in a new country. After his money had built the schoolhouse, they refused to elect him one o’ the trustees; said it might lead to one-man control. Still, Jabez wasn’t no blind worshiper of the law, an’ when he found that they’d put a rope on him, he just sidles in an’ asserts himself. It was easy enough to convince a teacher that the trustees was boss; but when Jabez began to get impatient, the school-teacher generally emigrated a little. Then they put a cinch on him for true. They hired a woman teacher. When it came to bluffin’ a woman teacher, Jabez got tongue-handled so bad that once did him for all time to come.

But the’ wasn’t any difference of opinion when it came to Barbie. The’ wasn’t a man on the place who wasn’t willin’ to stretch a neck for her. She knew ’em all by name an’ used to tease ’em an’ contrairy ’em; but she never hid behind bein’ the boss’s daughter. Any time they scored, she paid, an’ that was the thing that made ’em worship her. She had changed a lot in the five years I’d been away; not only in size, in fact, that was the least noticed in her; but she had more thinkin’ spells.

It used to be that she made up to every one right from the start; but now she was a little shy at first, especially with Easterners. Easterners generally are about as tantalizin’ as it’s possible for a human to get, but she had never minded ’em much until this summer. Now she’d answer the first twenty-five or thirty fool questions polite enough, but after that she got purty frosty an’ would ask ’em some questions herself that would straighten ’em up right short in their tracks. About every time an Easterner would pull out I noticed that she’d put a little wider heal on the bottom of her skirt.

But she was purty much the same with me, an’ after the spring round- up she used to keep me ridin’ with her most o’ the time when the’ wasn’t anything actually demandin’ my attention. It was just about this time that Jabez hired a new man by the name of Bill Andrews. He was about as near speak-less as a man ever gets, an’ he wasn’t much liked by the rest of us; but be was a hard worker an’ a good, all- around hand, so he got along all right.

When the fall round-up came, Barbie surprised every one by sayin’ she wasn’t goin’ to do any of the ridin’, but would wait until after we’d got all the sortin’ out an’ brandin’ done, an’ would then come out an’ see the whole herd in a bunch. The’ wasn’t a thing the matter with her health an’ we all wondered what was her reason; but I had my own private opinion–she was beginnin’ to find out she was a girl, an’ she wasn’t quite used to it.

We finally rounded up in the big bend of Spike Crick, an’ the stuff was in the suet, every one of ’em. Omaha was supposed to be straw boss; but he was too easy-goin’ an’ generally let the men do about as they pleased. Bill Andrews, the new man, had a sneer on his face about half the time, an’ one mornin’ when I came in from night ridin’, he sez to a bunch o’ the boys: “I didn’t suppose the parlor boarder ever risked any night dampness.”

They all grinned, ’cause the’ wasn’t any jokes barred with us; but I didn’t grin. I walked over to the group an’ I sez: “Is the’ anybody else in this outfit that has any o’ that brand o’ supposin’ about ‘im?”

“Aw sit down, Happy,” they sez; an’ “What’s the matter, Happy; you gettin’ tender?” an’ such like things; but Bill Andrews continued to sit an’ grin, so I sez to him: “As a rule, the last comer in an outfit has sense enough to either use his eyes or ask questions. I admit that this is a purty easy-goin’ place,–they don’t even ask where a man comes from when they take him on,–but I’ve been here off an’ on for some time, an’ I reckon that the boss is able to figger out whether or not I’ve been worth what I cost.”

“Yes,” sez Andrews, slow an’ drawly, “the boss–or his daughter.”

Three o’ the boys grabbed me, but Andrews never moved; so I let go of my gun an’ sez, “It seems ‘at you’re the kind of a hound ‘at picks out a safe time to snarl–but the’ ‘ll be other times.”

“Any time you wish,” sez he, “but I didn’t mean what you seem to think. I know well enough ‘at the’ ‘ll never be nothin’ between you an’ her–the old man knows it too, an’ you ain’t kept here for nothin’ except to be her play-mate.”

I was so blame mad I couldn’t see. I couldn’t speak. I was so infernal het up that I choked an’ spluttered; but when I got my hands on his throat I put my finger-prints on his neck-bone. The boys had a hard time tearin’ us apart, an’ a heap harder time startin’ Andrews goin’ again; but as soon as he was able to talk, I sez to him, “Now we ain’t through with this yet. I’m willin’ to give you your choice of settlements, but you sure have to settle some way. How do you want to settle?”

He had black blood–an’ he was a coward. It’s the hardest mix-up a man ever has to deal with. He jumped to his feet, his face all twisted up in a wolf-snarl, but he couldn’t look me in the eyes, an’ he finally tries to smile. Its a weak, sickly affair, but it is a smile all right, an’ he sez, “We’ll just compete to see which is the best man at a round-up, an’ we’ll settle it that way. The’ ain’t no use of us makin’ fools of ourselves over nothin’ at all. I was just jokin’ an’ I didn’t think you’d be so blame pernicious about boldin’ down an easy snap; so as the’ ain’t really nothin’ between us, we’ll settle it that way.”

I had been doin’ some quick thinkin’ while he was talkin’, an’ when he finished, I broke out laughin’, “Why, you blame rookie,” sez I, “you don’t really think I was mad, do you? I see ‘at you was only jokin’ right from the start, but I wanted to do a little play-actin’ for the boys here. That’ll be the best way of all to settle it–see who’s the best man at a round-up.”

He looked some relieved when he laughed–an’ then he rubbed his neck. I indulged in some hoss-play with Omaha, an’ began to eat my breakfast; but all the time I was thinkin’. I was thinkin’ several different ways too: first, was the’ some truth in what Bill Andrews had said–was I gettin’ to be nothin’ but the playmate of a girl? Then I wondered if Jabez had studied over it any–I never had myself before. I knew that he never cared nothin’ about my wages, knowin’ that I had saved him more the night I brought Monody back than he’d ever pay me–but I didn’t want to be pensioned, an’ I didn’t care to be looked on as the ranch watchdog. But the thing that finally came an’ refused to leave was a question–what right did I have to waste the best part of my life loafin’ around with a child? The’ was a lot more o’ these pesterin’ questions; but they all finally perched on Bill Andrews an’ made me want to blow him up with dynamite.

That was the swiftest round-up ever the Diamond Dot had. Bill Andrews was a roper for true, an’ I don’t believe the’ was a man in the West ‘at could touch me those days. When me an’ Barbie would be out ridin’ I was always practicin’ with a rope or a gun, an’ I had a dozen foller-up throws ‘at I’ve never seen beat. I did my work cleaner an’ more showy’n he did, but it couldn’t be done much quicker. We finished three days ahead of the schedule an’ the boys said it was a tie. I had roped twenty-six more calves’n he had, but they wanted to see us contest a little more, an’ they figgered out excuses for him. The’ ain’t nothin’ ever satisfies a civilized human except a finish fight. He don’t care a hang for points.

Well, we did all kinds o’ fancy ropin’, an’ I was a shade the better at all of it; but those confounded cusses kept on claimin’ it was a tic until I got het up a little, an’ sez ‘at we’ll have a lassoo duel an’ that’ll settle it, even among blind men. This ain’t all amusement, this lassoo-duel on hoss-back, an’ I see Andrews look wickedly content. “Nothing barred,” sez he; “we rope hoss or rider, either one.”

“Sure thing,” sez I. I don’t know to this day whether or not he really thought I was green, but anyhow, he thought he had me at this game, an’ I saw in a moment ‘at he had trained his pony; but he didn’t have any advantage over me. I was ridin’ Hawkins, an’ he had been dodgin’ ropes all his life an’ liked the sport. We fenced for an hour without bein’ able to land, an’ then he gets his noose over Hawkins’ neck. Before he can draw it tight I rides straight at him; his pony has settled back for a jerk; I gets my noose over the pony’s neck, a loop over Andrew’s right wrist, when he tries to ward it off his own neck, an’ then another loop over his shoulders, pinnin’ the left arm an’ the right wrist to his body. My rope was the shorter now so I sets Hawkins back an’ takes a strain. I knew what was goin’ to happen when that. rope tightened–he would be twisted out of the saddle an’ his right arm dislocated–an’ he knew it too; an’ he knew that I was goin’ to do it. The boys was as silent as the ace o’clubs.

His face went pale an’ he looked at me with beggin’ eyes, but mine was hard as stone. I hated him for all the devil-thoughts he had put into my head, an’ I wanted to see him twisted an’ torn. Then I just happened to see two riders comin’ in from toward the ranch house. I knew by instinct it was Jabez an’ Barbie, an’ just as Andrews started to twist in the saddle I touched Hawkins with the spurs, rode up to him, threw off the loops, put a smile on my face–an’ shook hands with Bill Andrews, while all the boys give a cheer. I was pantin’ an’ tremblin’, but I don’t think it was noticed, as I kept that smile as easy-goin’ an’ good-natured as a floatin’ cork.

Well, I kidded with the boys until Jabez got through decidin’ on what he wanted done with the different bunches, an’ then when he an’ Barbie rode back to the house I went along. I made sure to brazen it out as much as possible, an’ not to give the impression that I was as het up as I had been; but I knew that Bill Andrews was well aware of what had saved him. I also knew that he’d hate me to the day of his death–but he’d fear me to the last minute, an’ he’d never start but one more contest.

The Diamond Dot didn’t seem so homelike after that; it was a heap easier to get the best of Bill Andrews than it was to get rid of those questions; but I tried to act just as much the same as possible, only I did as much range ridin’ as I could make seem natural. I supposed that Bill Andrews would leave, but he didn’t; he stayed right along an’ he worked hard an’ he never kicked. He was allus friendly with me, but he didn’t overdo it, an’ things went along smooth as joint oil.

Barbie had gone through all the stuff they taught at the Spike Crick School, an’ was studyin’ some advance stuff with the teacher who was ambitious to finish her own edication. This was a big surprise to me; I had allus supposed that a teacher knew everything, but it seems not. The’ ‘s lots they don’t know, an’ the front they put up before a pupil is two thirds bluff. A naked body’s a disappointin’ sight, but I bet a naked soul would make a crow laugh.

All through that winter I was tryin’ to find an excuse to quarrel with Jabez, but the’ wasn’t none. The’ wasn’t one hitch in the whole outfit except that I’d lost my taste for it. I couldn’t get it out of my head that one man had already taken me for a child’s playmate, an’ while I knew that this particular man had other views by this time, I didn’t know how long it would be before some one else would find that same idea gettin’ too big to keep under his breath; so the very second that spring opened I hunted up Jabez one mornin’ after I had given old Pluto a special good rubbin’, an’ after talkin’ a while about nothin’ at all, I sez to him, “Jabez, I’m goin’ to pull out purty soon.”

“What for?” sez he.

The’ ain’t no chance on this place for a man to get on,” I sez. “What do you want to get on for?” Sez he. Well, that was a fetcher. The great trouble in debatin’ with a man is, that he never flushes up the kind of an idea ‘at your gun is loaded to shoot. “What does any one want to get on for?” sez I.

“I don’t know,” sez Jabez, kind o’ sad like. “It’s been so long since I wanted to get on that I can’t remember what fool notion it was that sicked me at it; but it looks to me as though you was doing purty well, considerin’ the way you work.”

There it was again. It was just for all the world as if the watchdog had gone on a strike for higher wages. “Well, you’re right about that,” sez I. “If I owned a place like this, I wouldn’t board a man who didn’t do more than I do. That’s one reason why I’m goin’ to travel on a little–I ‘m gettin’ so rusty that the creakin’ o’ my joints sets my teeth on edge.”

“Poor old man,” sez Jabez, sarcastic. “I saw you vaultin’ over Pluto this mornin’. You’d better be careful, you’re liable to snap some o’ your brittle bones. I’ll have to put you on a pension.”

“Pension bell!” I snaps. “I’ve been pensioned too long already. The’ ain’t any chance for a man with get-up, over a low grade coffee- cooler on this place, an’ I ‘m sick of it. I’m goin’ to hunt up a job where it will pay me to do my best.”

“How much pay do you want, for heaven’s sake?” sez he.

“I don’t want any more pay for what I ‘m doin’,” sez I, “but I do want more opportunity. You don’t keep any out an’ out foreman here an’–“

“An’ it wouldn’t make any difference if I did,” he snaps in. “It’s allus best to get an imported foreman, an’ not have any jealousy; but confound you, I pay six men on this place foremen’s wages–an’ you’re one of ’em.”

“Six?” sez I.

“Yes, I raised Bill Andrews’ pay last week. He does more work than any of you, all’ he ain’t all the time growlin’. He won’t never have any friends either, so if I was to choose a foreman he’d be my pick.” “I was foreman of the Lion Head a good many years ago,” sez I, “an’ I built it up, an’ my work was appreciated: but I was a fool kid then. Now I ‘m gettin’ along ill years an’ I don’t intend to waste any more o’ my life.”

“How old are ya, Happy?” sez he, laughin’.

“Well, I’ll be thirty years old–before so many more years,” sez I, lookin’ full as indignant as I felt, I reckon. “You’re nothin’ but a kid in most things,” sez Jabez, an’ his voice was so friendly that I began to cool. Then he said, “Why, I never think of you like I do the rest o’ the boys, though I rely on you a heap more. You’ve allus been like one o’ the family, like; an’ you an’ Barbie have played around together until most o’ the time I think of ya as about the same age; but if it’s anything in the money line, why speak out. I was a young feller myself once, an’ if you’ve happened to run up any debts on some o’ your town trips, why I’ll pass you over a little extra an’ take it out in laughin’ at you.”

By George, he made it hard for me. One moment he’d tramp on my corn an’ the next he’d scratch me between the shoulders; but the more he said the more I see that I did not have any regular place in the team; I was just a colt playin; beside, an’ it gritten on me something fierce.

“Jabez,” I sez, “it’s hard for me to explain myself. I like this place an’ you know it; but if you had a son o’ your own, you wouldn’t like to see him settlin’ down before he’d struggled up a little. I’m old enough now to take a practical view o’ life, an’ I intend to become a business man.”

He tried not to grin, I’ll say that for him, but he couldn’t cut it. “Why, bless your heart, boy, you never will be practical, an’ as for business, you have about the same talent for it as a grizzly bear. You enjoy life as you go along, an’ you enjoy it full an’ free; a business man don’t enjoy anything but makin’ money. You may be rich some day, but it won’t be from attendin’ to business. Now take a lay-off if you want to, an’ get this nonsense out of your system, then come back here. You know ‘at Barbie misses you every minute you’re away.”

“All right,” I sez, “I’ll try it. I want to leave this place once, the same as if we was both grownup, not as if we had had a child’s quarrel. I’ll go an’ I’ll take my lay-off by bucklin’ tight down to business; but if it don’t seem to agree with me, why, I’ll come back here an’ make a report.”

“Now, don’t stay away long, cause the little girl is lonesome for company, an’ as she sez to me the other night, you’re better company than any book, an’ you’ve got more intelligence than a school- teacher.”

“Yes,” I went on, “an’ I don’t require beatin’ as often as a fur rug, an’ my hair don’t shed off as bad as a dog’s, an’ if I could just forget that I ‘m a human bein’ I wouldn’t be any more bother than the rest o’ the furnishings; but that is the one thing that ‘s on my mind just now–I ‘m a man, an’ it’s time I began to practice at it.”

Barbie wasn’t quite so easy to get away from as Jabez was. She couldn’t believe but what we’d been quarrelin’. When you came right down to givin’ the actual reason for my departure without mentionin’ any o’ the true cause, it was a rather delicate project for a man who hadn’t no experience in makin’ political speeches: an’ Barbie gave me a purty complete goin’ over.

We talked it out for a week, but my mind was made up to go an’ the’ wasn’t anything that could stop me, unless it was mighty important; an’ at last she stopped arguin’ an’ just began to look sorry. That was hardest of all.

“Happy,” she sez to me one night when we was ridin’ back from Look Out, “don’t you think I’m old enough now to ask Dad about what that letter meant?”

I turned an’ looked at her; the sun was just about to duck behind the ridge, an’ her face was in all its brightness. It was a lot different face from that of the child who had asked the question so long ago. It was serious with its question, an’ it looked like the face of a woman. This was the first time she had mentioned the subject since I’d been back, an’ I hadn’t thought she dwelt on it any more; but I saw now that it lay close up to her heart, an’ was the one thing she never could ride away from. “I’m purt’ nigh fifteen,” she went on. “Fifteen is a goodly age,” I sez, but not sarcastic. I was thinkin’ of Jabez an’ myself that mornin’, an’ wonderin’ if age cut so much figger after all. “Do you an’ your dad ever talk about your mother any more?” I asked her.

“Not much,” she said. “When one wants to know all, and one don’t want to tell any, the’ ain’t much satisfaction in talkin’ about– about even your own mother. Don’t you still miss your mother?”

“Well, I wouldn’t like to tell everybody,” sez I, “but I sure do. Why, if the’ was any way on earth that I could go back to her, I’d sure go–this very minute.”

“At least you know about her. If I just knew about my mother it might be all right. You can’t seem to get close to even a mother when you don’t know a single thing about her. If you know people well, you can tell what they’d do under any kind of conditions, an’ if you know what they have done, an’ what they’ve been through, you know purty well what they are; but when you don’t know anything at all, it makes it hard, awful hard.”

I didn’t have anything to say to her that would help, so I didn’t say anything; an’ after we had ridden on a while she said, “Happy, I don’t want you to be a business man. The Easterners that rile me up worse than any other kind are the business men. They allus calculate how a thing could be turned into money. Why, if one of ’em lived out here he’d put a cash value on of Mount Savage. They allus make me think o’ Dombey.”

“What was th’ about that buckskin mustang to make you think of a business man?” sez I, thinkin’ she meant a little ridin’ pony she used to have.

“I don’t mean Dobbins,” sez she, “I mean a character out of a book. He was such a good business man that he let most of life slip by him. I don’t want you to do that.” “Well, I’ll try not to,” sez I, “an’ it may be that beginnin’ late in life like I am, I won’t become enough of a business man to get that way; but the’ is one thing sure–I ‘m through with my nonsense. I’m not goin’ around playin’ like a boy any more, I’m goin’ to start in an’ stick to business all this summer, an’ see what comes of it.”

“Where you goin’ to start in?” sez she.

“How do I know?” sez I. “I’m just goin’ to knock around till I meet up with a business openin’, an’ then I ‘m goin’ to put my full might into it till I know the whole game.”

“I don’t believe that’s the way they do it,” sez she. “These ones that I’ve heard braggin’ about bein’ business men don’t look to me as if they ever did much knockin’ around. They generally have everything all planned out when they begin, and then follow out the plans. Are you goin’ to start in some town or go into a big city?”

“Well, I can tell you more about it when I get back,” sez I. “I stayed three days in San Francisco oncet, but I didn’t like it–it was too cramped up. I’m thinkin’ o’ headin’ that way though.”

“Well, as soon as you’ve give business a good fair try-out, you’ll come back here an’ tell us about it, won’t you?” sez she. The sun had dropped by this time; but I could still make out her face in the twilight. The eyes were big an’ soft an’ glisteny, the lips were parted an’ were tremblin’ a little; it was a brave little face, but it looked lonesome. Something began to tighten around my heart. an’ I didn’t want to go; but I had put my hands to the plow, an’ I didn’t intend to back-track till I’d turned one full furrow. “Yes,” I sez. “Honor bright, just as soon as I’ve give it a fair trial I’ll come back an’ let you know.”

“You’ll come before it snows if you can, won’t you?” she sez, an’ I nodded.

Well, for my part, I’d rather quarrel when I’m goin’ to break any ties. I stayed for five meals after that, but they was uncommon dismal. We all tried to act as if everything was runnin’ to suit us, an’ we all made a successful failure of it. When at last I was ready to leave, Jabez shook my hand and said, “Now this is just a vacation, Happy. Have your outing an’ then come back an’ settle down here. Do you want to take your money with you, or leave it in the bank until you decide to invest it?”

“What money?” sez I.

He grinned. “Oh, you’ll make a business man all right. Don’t you remember givin’ me six hundred dollars after you came back from the Pan Handle? Well, it’s been in the bank ever since, an’ it’s grew some, I reckon.”

“Well, let her keep on growin’,” sez I. “I’m goin’ to learn the business before I invest in it.”

“That’s sense,” sez he. “Did you ever have any experience?”

“I was clerk in a restaurant once,” sez I; “but I didn’t like it, an’ I don’t reckon I’ll go into the restaurant business.”

Barbie rode a long way with me, but we didn’t talk much.

I don’t suppose the’ ever was a time when we both had so much to say; but we couldn’t seem to say it, an’ when we came to part all she said was, “Oh, Happy, I hate to see you go, but I’m sure you’ll come back in the fall.”

“I’ll come back as soon as I feel I can,” sez I; “an’ now don’t worry none yourself, an’ don’t fret your Dad–an’ don’t forget old Happy.” We shook hands long an’ firm, an’ her eyes seemed tryin’ to hold me until I couldn’t look into ’em–but I didn’t kiss her this time. We both noticed it, an’ we both knew ‘at while I was partin’ from her she was partin’ from her childhood. Partin’ from anything ‘at you’ve been fond of is mighty sad business; and so I rode away again.



I felt entirely different this time. I wasn’t smartin’ under anger an’ unjust treatment; I was goin’ out of my own accord an’ because I had left behind me the carelessness of boyhood, hood, an’ was ready to plow an’ plant an’ wait for a crop. No more gaiety, no more frivolity, no more heedlessness. I was to scheme an’ plan for the future an’ not be led astray by every enticin’ amusement that beckoned to me.

When I came in sight of Danders the second day, I didn’t inquire how my thirst was feelin’–no more thirst emersions for mine. The’ ain’t any profit in that, sez I to myself; what I want to do is to ease this old skin of a pony along until I can get a piece of money for him; that’s business.

I wasn’t much acquainted over in Danders, an’ I thought it would be easy slidin’; but the first feller I met was a useless sort of a cuss what had been punchin’ cows at the Diamond Dot the time the Prophy Gang tried to clean it out, an’ he has to tell ’em who I am, an’ they had all heard about me an’ Bill Andrews; so ‘at it was purt’ nigh impossible for me to hold out. I apologized for not drinkin’, an’ they let me off; but the old Diamond Dot hand said he was broke, an’ wanted me to shove him a little stake.

Well, that was sure a bad opening: “Business,” sez I, “don’t let go one cent unless it’s goin’ to grab another an’ fetch it back home;” an’ I knew that all I gave this feller would keep in circulation for the balance of eternity. Then a brilliant thought struck me, an’ I told him I’d give him one fourth of all he got for the pony over ten dollars. He looked at the pony an’ sez, “Who gets the ten dollars?”

“I gets the ten dollars,” sez I. “This is business: I own the pony, I pay you wages to sell him, the more you sell him for the more you get.”

He looks at me a moment an’ then he calls a gang around him an’ sez to ’em: “Here’s a rich one, fellers. You see this pony–well, he was too blame old to herd geese with when I was punchin’ cows over at the Diamond Dot, ten year ago, an’ now Happy wants me to sell him, me gettin’ one fourth of all I rake in over ten dollars–an’ HIM gettin’ the ten dollars. What do ya think o’ that for nerve?”

Course they all laughed like a lot o’ guinea-hens, but I knew that a business man has to overlook the inborn ignorance of his customers, or else it’s twice as hard to land ’em; so I just smiled polite.

“What is your first offer, men?” sez my salesman. “Who’ll give me a hundred dollars for this grand old relic; this veteran of a hundred wars; this venerable and honorable souvynier of bygone ages?” Well, that blame fool went on pilin’ it up while the crowd egged him on by offerin’ two bits, an’ four bits, an’ six bits an’ a drink; an’ so on until I was disgusted and turned it off as a joke, tellin’ the blasted rascal to take the pony an’ try to trade him for a night’s lodgin’.

He takes my saddle an’ bridle off an’ puts ’em careful in the hotel, an’ then he takes the pony across the street an’ begins to rub him down. He rubs him a while an’ combs out his stringy mane an’ tail with his fingers. Every now an’ again he backs off an’ examines that pony as though he was actually worth stealin’. I couldn’t make out what he was up to, so I stood in front of the hotel watchin’ him. Purty soon up comes a tourist what has been lurkin’ around in the distance.

“What is the’ about that pony that everybody takes such an interest in him for?” sez he, glancin’ over to where us fellers was gawkin’.

“Don’t you know?” sez the feller, in surprise. I can’t quite recall his name now, but I think it was Bill. Anyhow, most fellers’ names is Bill, so we’ll call him Bill. “Don’t you know who this pony is?” sez Bill.

“Why no,” sez the tourist. “I just arrived this mornin’, an’ I’m waitin’ for my uncle to send in after me.”

“Is that so?” sez Bill. “Well, I’ll bet your uncle knows who this pony is. This pony is Captain. Who is your Uncle?”

“Why, my uncle is Charles W. Hampton,” sez the tourist.

“You don’t say!” sez Bill. “Well, Cholly knows who Captain is all right.”

“Oh, do you know him?” sez the tourist.

“Why, everybody knows him around here,” sez Bill.

“That’s funny; they told me he lived over a hundred and forty miles from here,” sez the tourist. “But what is the’ about Captain that makes him so wonderful? He don’t look like much of a pony to me.”

Bill looks at the pony and then he looks at the tourist, then he looks at the pony again an’ sez in a low voice: “It ain’t on his looks, it’s for what he’s done that makes Captain famous.”

“What’s he done?” sez the tourist.

“Did you ever hear of Custer’s massacre?” sez Bill.

“Of course I have,” sez the tourist, gettin’ interested.

Bill, he walks up an’ puts his hand on the pony’s neck, an’ then he turns an’ sez proudly, “This here pony is the last survivin’ remnant of that historical event.”

“You don’t say!” sez the tourist. “What are you goin’ to do with him?”

“I don’t want to say a word again the flag of my country,” sez Bill, holdin’ tip his hand, “but my country ain’t got the gratitude it ort to have when it comes to hosses. I don’t blame ’em for condemnin’ the common run o’ hosses an’ sellin’ ’em to wear out their pore lives in–in toilsome labor, but when it comes to a hoss with a record like Captain–well, I kept him as long as I could afford it. Now I’m goin’ to give him a good groomin’, spend my last penny in givin’ him one more feed, an’ then take him out on the broad free prairie of his native soil–an’ shoot him. Of course I could sell him, but I won’t do it. I’d rather give him a soldier’s death than to have him hammered around in his old age, after all he’s done for his country.”

Well, the tourist, he gets all het up over it, an’ then he comes over to where us fellers gathered. We’re standin’ in solemn awe, an’ he sees the’ ain’t any of it put on; but he can’t tell that it ain’t respect for what the pony has done that makes us so solemn; he can’t see ‘at we ‘re off erin’ up our tribute to Bill.

“Do any of you gentlemen know anything about that pony?” sez the tourist.

“Who, Captain!” sez a tall, lanky, sad-lookin’ puncher. “Well, it ain’t likely that you can find a man in the West who wouldn’t recognize that pony by the description. That there pony was in the Custer Massacre.”

“The gentleman what owns him is goin’ to shoot him,” sez the tourist.

“Well, perhaps it’s all for the best,” sez the sad one. “I ain’t no millionaire, but I offered him thirty-seven dollars for that pony. He doubted that I’d take good care of him, so he wouldn’t sell him to me. He said he didn’t think I’d abuse the pony when I was sober, but I’ll have to own up that when a friend–when a friend invites me to have a drink, I can’t say no–an’ I got a darn sight o’ friends in this country.”

The’ ain’t no use in draggin’ this out. After that tourist had agreed to treat that pony like the saints of glory, Bill, he finally sold him to him for an even fifty dollars–an’ it was me that bought the liquor for the crowd.

I’m good-natured enough to suit any one reasonable, but I own up I was sore. Here I’d started out with the best intentions in the world, with my mind all made up not to be led into temptation or turned from a set purpose, an’ what was the first result? I had simply given my entire stock in trade away to a worthless loafer, an’ had seen him sell it for fifty dollars after he had made all manner of fun of me for offerin’ one fourth of all he made over ten. Why, the pony was worth seven dollars, an’ I could have sold him for that money myself if I hadn’t let them laugh me into showin’ of. Then to top off with, I’d blown in about a month’s wages just to show the gang I was able to take a joke when it was measured out to me.

I was ready right at that minute to own tip that business didn’t come natural to me; but I enjoyed myself plenty enough until along toward mornin’, an’ then the penjalum begun to swing back. I sat over in the corner kickin’ myself purty freely, when a funny, twisted little man came over an’ sat across from me. He had pink- like cheeks an’ shiny little eyes, an’ he was middlin’ well crowded with part of the wet goods I had been payin’ for. “It was one o’ the smoothest business deals I ever saw put through–on a small scale,” sez he.

“Oh, hang business,” sez I.

“Well, it’s a hangin’ matter often enough,” sez he. “Do you know the reason why the’ ‘s so much devilment in this world?”

“It’s ’cause the’ ‘s so many people here,” sez I; “that’s easy enough.”

“It’s ’cause the preachers ain’t got the nerve to explain what the commandments mean,” sez he.

It was an awful curious little man, an’ I kind o’ straightened up an’ give him a searchin’ look: “I’ve met a heap like you,” sez I. “Some folks think that preachers is paid to make the world better, but they ain’t. They’re paid so that when a feller’s conscience hurts him he can just lay all the sins of the whole world on the preachers.”

“They deserve ’em,” sez the little man. “What does it mean to steal?”

“Why, any fool knows what stealin’ is,” sez I. “It’s takin’ something that don’t belong to you.”

“How can you tell what does belong to you,” he sez, leanin’ forward as if he was makin’ a point.

I looked at him an’ saw that he really thought he was talkin’ sense, so I sez: “You go talk to some one else. I’m too sleepy an’ I’m too blame sore to bother with such nonsense.”

“It ain’t nonsense,” sez he. “I’m an edicated man, an’ I been studyin’ life ever since I been born. My father was a preacher across the water, an’ I got arrested for stealin’ a bottle of whiskey when I wasn’t nothin’ but a boy. The whole family was disgraced on account of me, an’ my father told ’em to go ahead an’ give it to me hard. Now I stole that whiskey on a dare, an’ I stole it from a good church member; but all the rest of my life I been stretchin’ that there commandment until I tell you the whole human race is one set o’ thieves.”

Well, I was purty sleepy, but the little old man had an eye in him like a headlight, an’ he just made you listen to him. “The’ ain’t no sense in your slingin’ mud that way,” sez I. “The’ ‘s lots of men ‘at wouldn’t steal, if they had a chance.”

“If I ruin my constitution through depravity, is it stealin’?” sez he.

“No,” sez I, “it’s darn foolishness.”

“It is stealin’,” sez he, “just as much as if I help to waste natural products what can’t be replaced–stealin’ from the children of the next generation, an’ all the followin’ generations.”

“What rights have they got?” I sez, losin’ my patience. “They ain’t even born yet.”

“Did you ever see a baby?” sez he.

“Yes,” I sez, “I bet I’ve seen a dozen of ’em.”

“Well,” sez he, “was they polite? Did they beg for what they wanted? Did they have any doubt but that they’d be plenty of everything to go around?”

“Not them what I saw,” sez I. “They’d give one little coo, to see if any one was handy, an’ then they’d holler an’ yell an’ scold an’ fuss until they got what they wanted.”

“Do you suppose if they didn’t have any rights they’d have the nerve to carry on that way?” sez he.

“Rights!” sez I. “They didn’t have to have rights–they had mothers.”

Well, that set him back a good ways, an’ by the time he had thought up some new stuff I was asleep; but he shook me awake an’ sez, “Of course the child’s mother will do all she can; but supposin’ she ain’t got what the child wants–how’ll she explain it to him?”

“She won’t bother explainin’ nothin’ to a baby,” sez I. “She’ll just send the old man out to get it.”

He looked sort o’ disgusted like, as if he wasn’t used to arguin’ with a man what could handle logic an’ make points. “You’re just like the rest,” sez he. “What I mean is, that every man who has ever been on earth is just sort of an overseer for them what is yet to come. We have the right to use everything we want in the right way, but we haven’t any right to waste it or destroy it, or hog it up so that all can’t enjoy it. Why, when you start to savin’ an’ draw in what ought to be circulatin’, you steal from them what haven’t had the chance ‘at you’ve had. It’s wicked to be thrifty.”

“Well, you’re the craziest one I’ve seen yet,” sez I, laughin’. “Why, if you had your way you’d utterly ruin business.”

“Business!” he yells, gettin’ excited. “Do you know what business is?”

I thought a moment. “I don’t know all the’ is to know about it,” sez I, “but I expect to give it a fair good work-out before I’m through with it.”

“Business,” he sez, leanin’ across the table an’ hittin’ it with his finger-nail, “business is simply havin’ the laws fixed so you can steal without havin’ to pay any fine. What is business? Ain’t it figgerin’ an’ schemin’ to get away from a man whatever he happens to have? That’s nothin’ but stealin’.”

“Confound you,” sez I, “do you mean to say that just because I’m goin’ to engage in business I’m a thief?”

He looked at me a moment an’ then he shook his head. “No,” he sez, “you won’t never be that kind, you’ll be some other kind; but that’s about all business is–just thievery. Why, I once knew two men ‘at was the best friends ‘at ever lived; an’ they just ruined their lives ’cause they couldn’t resist the temptation of each tryin’ to grab all. It was over the Creole Belle–” “Yes, but she was a woman!” I yells, jumpin’ to my feet, an’ leanin’ over the table.

“No, it was a mine,” sez he, sittin’ still.

“A Creole is a cross-breed woman ‘at came from New Orleans,” sez I; “an’ when they’re good lookin’ enough, they call ’em belles.”

“Well this here mine ‘at I’m goin’ to tell you about was called the Creole Belle,” he sez. “For a longtime it didn’t pay to amount to anything, an’ then it began to pay; an’ the two friends got covetous, an’ first George had Jack killed an’ then he gets killed himself by Jack’s–“

“No, he wasn’t killed,” I snaps in like a blame fool.

The old man looked at me with his little shiny eyes all scrouged up. “Who wasn’t killed?” he sez, slow an’ cautious. “Why, George Jordan wasn’t killed,” I sez.

“What would a kid like you know about it” sez he.

“Well, I do know ‘at he wasn’t killed,” I sez. “I been workin’ for him; he don’t live but a short way from here. Tell the the whole story. I’ll make it worth your while. Come on, what’ll you have to drink?”

He leaned forward with his hand clutchin’ at his side, an’ his pink checks gray an’ twisted. He coughed a dry, short cough, an’ groans out between his set teeth. “It ‘s my heart; I got a bum pump. You tell George Jordan that I never breathed a word of it, but that Jack Whitman–Oh, my God! Get me a drink of whiskey! Get me a drink of hell-fire!”

He doubled up, grabbin’ an’ clawin’ at his breast while I jumped to the bar yellin’ for whiskey. I grabbed the bottle an’ hustled back to him, but he was all crumpled up on the floor. We straightened him out an’ rubbed his wrists an’ poured whiskey down his throat, an’ after a while he opened his eyes. The minute his senses got back to him he clutched at his heart again, rollin’ an’ writhin’, an’ makin’ noises like a wounded beast. “I knew it would end this way,” he gasped. “I’m goin’ out now, but listen to what I say”–he helt his breath to keep from coughin’–“the’ ain’t no sin but stealin’. Don’t never take nothin’ that don’t belong to ya.”

All his muscles grew rigid an’ twisted, an’ then a smile came on his face an’ he sank back. They had the doctor there by that time, but the’ wasn’t anything to be done, except to give a big heathen name to what had been the matter with him. There he lay on the bar-room floor; the’ was filth an’ refuse all around him, but the smile on his face was just plumb satisfied, an’ yet it was a knowledgeable smile too. I could ‘a’ cried when I thought that this man, who could have told little Barbie what she wanted to know, had wasted all that time tryin’ to convince me that business an’ stealin’ was all one. What he knew wouldn’t do him a mite o’ good, wherever he was; an’ yet the’ wasn’t any way on earth to bring him back long enough to have him tell it.

They told me his name was Sandy Fergoson, an’ that he was harmless crazy. He used to float around doin’ odd jobs an’ talkin’ nonsense about stealin’; but nobody knew where he had come from, so I chipped in a little something to help bury him, an’ gave up the rest of my money for a ticket to Frisco.

I didn’t enjoy that trip to Frisco; business didn’t seem so attractive when you once set out to find her, an’ then again, I was broke. I don’t mind bein’ broke when I ‘m on the range ’cause a feller can pick up a job anywhere; but I wasn’t city-wise, an’ I didn’t know how long it would take me to track down the kind o’ business I wanted to engage in.

I suppose cities must suit some folks, or they wouldn’t keep on livin’ in ’em; but cities sure don’t suit me. I allus had a kind of an idea from what Slocum had told me that I’d enjoy the bankin’ business, so I applied to the banks first. They’re a blame offish set, bankers. They didn’t laugh at me,–leastwise not until after I’d gone out,–but they didn’t offer much encouragement. I tramped around that city for four days, an’ by the time I finally got located in business my appetite was tearin’ around inside my empty body till I couldn’t sleep nights. Oh, it was not joyful! I had taken the position of porter in a mammoth big drygoods store, an’ I was some glad when noon arrived; but no one called me to partake of dinner, so I went up to a young lad, an’ sez, “Where do they spread it?”

“Spread what?” sez he.

“Dinner,” sez I.

“I bring mine with me,” sez he.

“Is the grub that rotten?” sez I.

“What grub?” sez he. “You surely don’t think they serve meals here, do you?”

“Do you mean to tell me that I got to find myself, out of forty a month?” sez I.

He started to make up a joke, but I looked too famished to trifle with; so he explained to me that all we got was wages, an’ we couldn’t even sleep in the store. I was gettin’ purty disgusted with business, but he told me that the man what owned the whole store had started in as a porter; so I went back an’ portered harder than ever that afternoon, wonderin’ what in thunder kind of a man it was who could save enough out of a porter’s wages to buy a store like that. I was dressed some different from the rest o’ the folks around there, so I attracted a lot of attention, an’ the’ wasn’t much I did that wasn’t enjoyed by more or less of a crowd. When quittin’ time came I hustled up to the feller what had hired me an’ told him I’d like to have my day’s pay. “We don’t pay until Saturday night,” sez he, hustlin’ out o’ the store. I stood on the sidewalk thinkin’; an’ what I was thinkin’ of, was the nonsense ‘at Sandy Fergoson had been talkin’. It didn’t sound so foolish now.

The’ was a little restaurant across the street, an’ the owner of it had noticed me washin’ the windows–he had seemed to enjoy it too. I went over an’ told him that I would like to board with him if he would make me rates. He sized me up an’ sez he would board me for six dollars a week. I didn’t see how I could save enough to buy a store out of four dollars a week, an’ after I got tired o’ seein’ the sights I’d have to rent a bed somewheres too; but what I needed then was food, so I agreed.

I sat down an’ begun to eat slow, ’cause it’s always best to warm up careful on a long job. I et away peaceful an’ contented until I got good an’ used to it again, an’ then I kept the waiters hoppin’ purty lively. The proprietor took a deep interest in me, an’ dodged around so he could have an unobstructed view; while the rest of the guests got to noticin’ too, an’ when they’d finish they’d just stick around an’ keep cases, until after a while things began to jam, an’ every time I’d order in some new food they’d make bets on whether I’d be able to finish it or not. When I finally quit, the proprietor came up to me on a run an’ sez, “Are you sure you have had all you wish?”

“Yes,” I sez, “an’ I ain’t no fault to find with the cookin’ either.”

He eyed me all over, an’ then he drew me to one side. “I don’t want to go back on my word,” sez he, “an’ I don’t intend to charge you a cent for this meal; but Great Scott, man, I wouldn’t board you for six dollars a day, let alone six dollars a week.”

I didn’t intend to let him know that I was stone broke, ’cause it didn’t seem the thing in a business man; but I did tell him that I hardly ever et quite so much as I had that night. Still, he wouldn’t take any chances, so I took my blankets an’ went on. I was purty sleepy after my meal, an’ it was just all I could do to stagger up an’ down the hills, before I found a place to flop in. It was under a little tree in a big yard, an’ I got out at sun-up ’cause I didn’t want any one to see a business man occupyin’ such quarters as that. I didn’t miss breakfast much that day, an’ I went about my work singin’ an’ whistlin’. Just before noon I found a hundred dollars on the floor close to the door.

I asked every one around if they had lost any money, an’ most of ’em said no, an’ them what bad lost any–an’ the’ was a purty high average that mornin’–had all lost the wrong amount, or else it was in a different kind of a sack; so I knocked off at noon, went to a new restaurant, an’ et a fair meal, which they charged me one dollar for. I thought that was goin’ a little stout for a porter, but I knew I’d find a place where I could live on my income as soon as I got better acquainted, an’ I was purty light-hearted when I got back that noon.

“You’re nineteen minutes late,” sez the floor boss.

“Is that so; what’s happened?” sez I, pleasantly.

“You are not supposed to take more than an hour for lunch,” sez he.

“Well, you can just take the nineteen minutes out of the time I saved up yesterday,” sez I.

“You must understand right at the start that business depends on method,” sez he, sour like. “Mr. Hailsworth wishes to see you at once.”

Hailsworth was the capital letter o’ that outfit, an’ I was glad o’ the chance to see him, ’cause the’ was some several changes I wanted to make in the porterin’ department. I follered the floor boss upstairs an’ back to a private room, where a little wizen-faced old man sat up an’ looked at me over his spectacles. “I understand you found some money?” sez he.

“I did,” sez I. “Do you know who lost it?”

“Well, no, not yet,” sez he; “but of course you understand that any money that is found in this building belongs to the firm, unless its rightful owner claims it.”

“Well that’s a new wrinkle” sez I. “Why don’t it belong to me?”

“‘Cause you have hired your time to me, an’ whatever you find here you find in my time, so it’s mine. This is the law, an’ I am very busy. Just hand it over at once.”

“That ain’t right,” sez I, “an’ I don’t intend to hand over a nickle of it.”

“Then we’ll have to arrest you,” sez he. I put my hand down to my leg, but both my guns was rolled up in my blankets. “I’m goin’ out to see a lawyer,” sez I, thinkin’ that would be more business-like than to tell him I ‘d blow the top of his head off. The’ was lots more things I wanted to tell him, but it took most o’ my strength to manage my self-control; an’ I allus like to have good footin’ when I make my spring. I didn’t feel at home, either, an’ that’s a heap. It kind o’ got on my nerves to see that little shrimp squattin’ there behind his spectacles an’ tellin’ me what I had to do, the same as if I was a hoss. I turned on my heel and strode out o’ that store head up an’ I was some glad that Hammy had taught me what strodin’ was, ’cause the rest o’ the gang opened up a path you could ‘a’ drove a street-sprinkler through.

I didn’t like the looks o’ that lawyer, he reminded me of a rat. I don’t care much for the law anyhow. All the law is fit for is to take care o’ the weak an’ the ignorant–an’ they can’t afford it. I’ve noticed that much, the little time I’ve been penned up in cities. This lawyer o’ mine had full command o’ the kind o’ talk that bottles up a man an’ keeps him from expressin’ himself. He said I had a good case an’ that he would save me my findin’s, but that I had to give him half of it for his services–in advance. If you don’t tell a lawyer the truth he can’t fight your case; an’ if you do you put yourself in his power. Course I don’t claim to be authority, but I just actually don’t like the law.

When I came away from the law office, a nice friendly feller got into conversation with me, an’ after I’d bought him a couple o’ drinks, he grew confidential an’ told me his troubles. He was owner of a whole block of buildin’s an’ a lot o’ residence houses, but he was stone broke. He had had a quarrel with the banks, an’ couldn’t raise a penny, an’ he had lost ten thousand dollars the night before, gamblin’. He said it would take forty dollars for him to go to Los Angeles, where he had friends who would lend him any amount. Otherwise they would foreclose the little mortgage he had on the business block.

He talked along until I couldn’t stand it any longer, so I give him the forty on the condition that I was to be his collecting agent at wages of two hundred a month, as soon as he got back from Los Angeles.

I went down to the station with him and then I hunted up a place where I took board and lodging for a week at six dollars in advance. This left me purt’ nigh two dollars to go on until the real estate owner got back. I called around at my lawyer’s every day, an’ he told me just to lay low an’ he’d keep me out o’ trouble. Then the sixth day passed without the real estate owner I told the lawyer about it an’ asked him if he thought anything might have happened. He got awful mad an’ said he’d ought to be kicked for not chargin’ me ninety-five dollars for his services in the first place; an’ by Jinks that was the truth: that rascally real-estate owner wasn’t nothing but a flim-flammer.

At first I couldn’t believe that the block he had showed me over didn’t belong to him; but when I did I was ready to wreak vengeance. The lawyer said that wreakin’ vengeance wasn’t a thing that paid in city life, but that if I ever met up with that flim-flammer I could scare a lot of money out of him. My lawyer was a purty good sort of a feller, after all, an’ he gave me a lot of high-class advice. He told me that it might be years before my case came up, an’ that the’ wasn’t any use of me waitin’ around for it. Then he talked about business, an’ he an’ Sandy Fergoson had about the same ideas of it, though they used different words. He told me that it was all right for a boy to start in in some old business an’ learn the trade, but that the thing for a man to do was to get a start in a smaller town, an’ then after he’d learned the ropes to come to the big town an’ cut things wide open.

The more I thought over this the better it looked to me; but I hardly knew where to start in. Then the thought struck me that about the best business move I could make was to go to Los Angeles an’ scare enough money out of the flim-flammer to give me a good start in some little business of my own. My board bein’ out an’ my cash bein’ likewise, I had to travel on foot; but as my back was pointed toward Frisco, I didn’t mind that much.

I trudged along for several days, an’ the’ was enough people along the line to welcome me to my meals, so I begun to get more resigned to bein’ a human again. The farther I got from Frisco the nearer I got to Los Angeles, an’ though I was some anxious to meet up with the flim-flammer, I finally began to doubt if he was worth the bother, an’ besides, he might not be there anyway.

I was beginnin’ to get good an’ sick of business; an’ I was more than convinced that gettin’ a feller’s own consent to engage in it wasn’t the hardest step he’d ever have to take. Wayside friends was beginnin’ to get mighty scarce, an’ I was feelin’ lonesome above the average one mornin’, when I came to a pause in front of one o’ these little six-acre ranches where they raise lawn grass an’ fresh air. It was a purty, restful sort of a place, with a double row of trees leadin’ up to the house, an’ somethin’ seemed to be drawin’ me in at the front gate, although I couldn’t smell any food cookin’, either. I only waited about a minute, an’ then I followed the draw.

I’m a firm believer in Fate. Fate is a funny word: leave the first letter off, an’ it ‘s the cause; leave the last letter off, an’ it’s the result. Barbie found this out one night when we was discussin’ Fate. But I mean the sober side o’ Fate, when I say I believe in it. A train starts out o’ New York city just the same time that a fool cow puncher ropes a pony so he can ride to town for a big time. The puncher reaches the washed-out railroad bridge five minutes before the train–what do you call that?

I was thinkin’ o’ these things while I was walkin’ up the drive-way; an’ when I raised up my hand to knock, I felt just as if I’d been sent for.



It happened just like I thought it would. I hadn’t more than struck the fourth or fifth tap before the door was opened by the finest little woman you ever saw. She had a worried lock on her face, but when she saw me the clouds rolled away an’ she smiled clear into my heart. She was a real lady–it stuck out all over her, like a keep- off-the-grass sign.

“Are you the man?” sez she.

“Well, I’m one of ’em,” sez I.

“You know I sent clear to San Francisco for a man,” sez she, “an’ I suppose you’re the man.”

“To tell you the honest truth,” sez I, “I was so preoccupied in Frisco that I clean forgot to stop around for my mail, but as long as we’re conversin’ on this subject, I’ll just be bold enough to say ‘at I’ll take the job, without askin’ what it is.”

“Have you had a wide experience?” sez she.

“Wide?” sez I. “Wide, only just begins to give you a hint at it. I ain’t filled with the lust of vanity, nor I ain’t overly much given to tootin’ my own horn; but in my humble an’ modest way I guarantee to be able to do anything on this good, green earth ‘at don’t require a book edication.”

“Can I trust you?” sez she, lookin’ into my face mighty searchin’.

“If you sell me anything,” sez I, smilin’ as near like a baby as I could, “you’ll have to trust me, ’cause I’m dead broke.” She just stood an’ looked in through my face; an’ I tell ya, boys, I was mighty glad that in all this rip-snortin’ world the’ wasn’t one single woman who could rise up an’ say that I hadn’t played fair. She kept on lookin’ into me, until I knew she was readin’ everything I had ever done or said or thought, an’ the sweat was tricklin’ down my back like meltin’ snow.

“Yes,” she sez finally, “I can trust you.”

“Don’t you never doubt it,” sez I. “All you need to do is to issue the orders, an’ if I don’t carry ’em out, why, just tell the folks not to send flowers. I ain’t long on talk, but I’ll agree to carry out any plan you’ve got, from ditchin’ a limited to shootin’ up a Methodist Church. That’s me,” sez I, “an’ now let’s have the news.”

Talk about bein’ surprised! I thought she had a fence war on her hands at the least; but what she wanted me to do was to take care of a gentle old pair o’ hosses, milk a cow, tend a garden, cut the grass, an’ help around the house. By the time she finished the program, I felt like a fightin’ bulldog when a week-old kitten spits at him. Here I was, willin’ to leave my hide tacked up on her barn, an’ all she wanted was a kind of lady-gardener. I just sort o’ wilted down on the steps, an’ I must ‘a’ turned pale, ’cause she said to me, “Why, you must be hungry. Haven’t you had your breakfast?”

“Oh, yes,” sez I, “day before yesterday.”

Then she begun to rustle about an’ fix me up a snack, an’ I was glad I had followed the finger o’ Fate. The bill o’ fare seemed altogether adapted to my disposition.

While I was fillin’ up the chinks an’ crevices, she dealt out a varigated assortment of facts. It seemed they lived there on account o’ the health o’ the baby. Her husband had had to go East, an’ would be there some six weeks longer. When he had left, she had an Irish cook, an’ a Chinaman as polite as an insurance agent; but as soon as he was gone, the Chink began to take liberties, the cook packed up her brogue an’ headed for an inhabited community, an’ then the Chink concluded that all he saw was his’n. She finally took a brace a’ told him to hit the trail, an’ he had gone off, vowin’ to come back an’ burn down the whole place. This was her first year there, an’ the closest neighbor was seven miles across country, an’ not well acquainted.

She expected her cousin in a week or so, but as it was, she was beginnin’ to have trouble with her nerves. Then I was glad that I had made her my little openin’ address, ’cause she had joyfulled up like a desert poney when he smells water.

Well, I put in a rich an’ useful day, as the preacher sez. First, I rode one o’ the veterans over to the station about ten miles away, an telegraphed the other man not to bother; then I came back an’ wed the onions, washed the dishes, ran the washin’ machine–say, I was bein’ entertained all right, but every minute I felt like reachin’ to see if my back hair wasn’t comin’ down.

Me an’ the cow had the time of our life that night. She had missed a couple o’ milkin’s, an’ didn’t seem to care much about resumin’ payment; so I finally had to rope an’ tie her, an’ milk up hill into a fruit-jar. Talk about bein’ handy? I didn’t know but what next day I’d be doin’ some plain sewin’, or tuckin’ the crust around a vinegar pie.

That night after supper she put the kid to bed an’ then came down, an’ we went around nailin’ the house up. Finally she showed me where to flop. It was in her husband’s cave, I believe she called it–a little room full o’ books an’ pipes an’ resty-lookin’ furniture. The’ was a big leather bunk, an’ that was where I was to get mine. Her room was at the head of the stairs, an’ she had a rope goin’ over the transom with a bell hangin’ to it, close in front of my door. The bell was to be my signal if she heard the Chink attack before I did. Just before she went upstairs she reached into the bosom of her dress an’ fished out a real revolver, about the size of a watch-charm. She held it in her hand and looked into my eyes with her lips tight set.

“Are the mosquitoes as bad as that?” sez I.

“I carry this all the time, to defend myself an’ child,” sez she, rufflin’ up like a hen when you pick up her chicken, an’ she was so earnest about it that I nearly choked, swallerin’ a grin; ’cause honest, I could ‘a’ snuffed the thing up my nose.

I pulled a long face an’ sez to her as solemn as a judge, “Is there enough food and water in the house to stand a siege, in case the Chinaman’d pen us up?” Her face grew drawn an’ worried until she caught the twinkle in my eye, an’ then she broke into a simile an’ tripped upstairs like a girl. I stood out in the hall a moment lookin’ after her an’ I was mighty glad I had come. We was both in need of company; her mind was a heap easier than it had been that mornin’, an’ I felt better than I had for some several days. I couldn’t see where Sandy Fergoson had told me anything that would get me any nearer what Barbie wanted to know; an’ yet I couldn’t keep my mind off studyin’ over it, except when I was busy. It was the same with Bill Andrews, an’ I was glad to have some one new to worry over until I got tuned up again.

As soon as she shut an’ locked her door, I backed into my stall an’ looked about. The’ was some invitin’ lookin’ books on the wall, an’ I read over the titles, finally selectin’ one called, “The Ten Years’ Conflict.” Now, if ever the’ was a name framed up to deceive the innocent, this here was the name. I opened the book with my mouth waterin’, thinkin’ I was about to wade through two volumes of gore; but it started out to tell about the Church of Scotland, an’ I wasn’t able to keep awake to even the beginnin’ of the scrap; so I started to prepare myself for the morrow’s duties, as the preacher sez.

After I had opened my roll an’ took out my guns, so I could show ’em to her in the mornin’ an’ sort o’ cheer her up, I shed my boots an’ proceeded to occupy my bunk. Say, it was like floppin’ down on a tubful o’ suds. Springs! Well, you should have seen Uncle Happy bouncin’ up an’ down. I reckon I went to sleep in mid-air, ’cause I was too tired to remember whether I was a husky maid or a tender man.

When I came to, I thought it must sure be the last day, an’ that I had waited for the very last call. The dinner-bell was a-knockin’ all the echoes in the house loose an’ they was fallin’ on my ear- drums in bunches. I rushed out into the hall an’ grabbed that bell by the tongue, an’ give a yell to let her know that I was ready for orders. She opened the door an’ came to the head of the stairs, an’ sez, “Hush-shh! Don’t make any noise.”

“Noise!” sez I. “The’ ain’t any left. You used up all the raw material. What seems to be wrong?”

“Fido has just been growlin’,” sez she, in a low whisper, “an’ I heard a noise out in the bushes.”

“What shall I do?” sez I. “Come up there an’ toss Fido out into the bushes, so as to kill two birds with one stone?” “No,” sez she. “If you are willin’ to take the risk, I wish that you would go out the front door an’ lock it after you. Then look around careful and see if he is settin’ fire to the house. Take my revolver an’ Fido, an’ do be careful not to get hurt–an’ don’t kill him unless you have to.”

“I won’t kill him unless I see him, an’ he won’t hurt me unless he sees me first,” sez I. “You better keep Fido an’ the gun. I don’t want to be bothered with a couple o’ noncombatants.”

Fido was a little black woolly-faced dog, an’ he didn’t impress me as bein’ no old Injun-fighter. I went out an’ chased a cat out o’ the bushes; but didn’t flush up a single thing wantin’ to disturb the peace, except the goat. He was the most frolicsome goat I ever see, an’ he about got my tag before I heard him comin’. I rummaged the place purty thorough, an’ after tellin’ her that all was well, I folded my wings an’ went to roost on the leather bunk again.

Twice more that night the clanging bell summoned me to go forth an’ chase imaginary Chinamen, an’ then my patience begun to get baggy at the knees. I wanted to be up in time to gather the milk before the heat of the day, an’ I was a couple o’ nights shy on my sleep already. The last time I took Fido along an’ dropped him into the feed-bin, where he could hunt Chinamen to his heart’s content ‘thout disturbin’ my beauty sleep.

Our days flowed along smooth an’ peaceful; but most o’ the nights I put in huntin’ Chinamen. No, I wouldn’t have killed one if I could have found him–well, not all at once. I got so I could churn an’ dust an’ do fancy cookin’, until if they’d been any men in that locality, I reckon one would have chose me to be his wife–an’ then came the cousin.

She’d been tellin’ me all about him–it’s miraculous the way a woman’s talk’ll flow after it’s been dammed up a spell. He was from Virginie an’ was goin’ to college to study chemistry, whatever that is; an’ he was an athlete an’ a quarter-back an’ a coxswain–oh, he was the whole herd, the cousin was. I begun to feel shy whenever I thought of him. I feared he might arrive when I was peelin’ spuds with my apron on, an’ he might choose to kiss me.

I drove to the station after him; but nobody got off the train except a nice lookin’ boy with outlandish clothes, an’ a couple o’ trunks. After the train had pulled out, he sez to me, “Can you tell me the way to Mrs. B. A. Cameron’s?”

“I can sight you purty close,” sez I. “That’s my present headquarters. You–you ain’t Ralph Chester Stuart, are ya?”

“You win,” sez he, as though we had made mud-pies together. “Come on, let’s load the trunks an’ trip toward where ther’s a noise like food. I’m troubled with what they call a famine.”

We drove along, an’ he was as merry as a bug an’ talked a langwidge the like of nothin’ that I had ever met up with before; but I was tryin’ to fit his real size with my idea of it. I had been lookin’ for a six-footer with bulgy muscles an’ a grippy jaw. This pink- cheeked boy didn’t look like no athlete to me. He was so cute an’ sweet that I felt like hangin’ a string o’ coral beads around his neck an’ savin’ him for my adopted daughter. I had just concluded to hand over the dish-washin’ right at the start, when he fished up a pipe out of a case, filled it, an’ begun to puff like a grown-up, an’ then I savvied that dish-washin’ wasn’t one of his hobbies. “Any sport here?” sez he.

“If you’re good at dreamin,” sez I, “you can have the time of your life huntin’ Chinamen. I never see a place yet where the huntin’ was so plentiful an’ the game so scarce.”

He got interested in a minute an’ told me he had a shotgun, a rifle, an’ three revolvers.

“I wish I could write Chinese,” sez I.

“What for?” sez he.

“So I could put up a sign warnin’ him away,” sez I. “Why, if we’d all three get a chance at that Chinaman, it’d take me a solid week to clean him off the lawn.”

Ches an’ me got along fine. He was a game little rooster, an’ his college stories used to tickle me half to death. I never would have believed that a little feller could ‘a’ been a college athlete; but Ches had got his pictures in the papers, time an’ again. At college they race in a boat about the size an’ shape of a telegraph pole, eight of ’em rowin’ an’ the coxswain perched tip behind, pickin’ out the path an’ tellin’ the rowers not to think of their future, but to kill theirselves right then if it will win the race. Ches sez that the coxswain is the most important man in the boat. He had a good deal the same views about the quarter-back, in fact he took what they call a purely personal estimate of life.

He showed me how to play football. It’s pleasant pastime, but too excitin’ for a frail thing like me. He gave me his cap to carry, an’ told me to back off about twenty feet, an’ try to run over him, or stick my stiff-arm in his face or dodge him–any way at all to get by. I backed off an’ then I looked at him. He looked about as hard to get by as a toadstool.