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  • 1909
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talkin’-point in favor of everlastin’ bliss.”

Well, these here fleas was consid’able of a talkin’-point with me all right when I was takin’ the part of a canned knight. They used to congregate together in the valley between my shoulder-blades, an’ I’d get off an’ back up again a lamp-post, but it wa’n’t no use. I couldn’t reach ’em, an’ the’ ain’t no way on earth to scare ’em. Finally I hit upon a plan of wearin’ a couple o’ feet o’ chain down the back o’ my neck an’ givin’ it a jerk now an’ again. It was only just moderately comfortable; but I had the satisfaction of knowin’ that it was more of a bother to them than it was to me. A suit of armor ain’t no tenement house, it’s only meant for one. But when they got on my face they had me beat. I’d forget all about bein’ sealed up, an’ I’d take a smash at one an’ bat the kettle over again my forehead until I had both eyebrows knocked out o’ line.

I carried a spear with a little flag on it, an’ rode a hoss built like a barrel. He had been in the brewery business all his life an’ looked the part. About the only item in the whole parade that put me in mind of myself was my lariat. I smuggled that along for company, an’ so I’d have somethin’ to work with, provided anything turned up.

Fatty had give me a book called “Ivanhoe” the night before I started out, an’ it was full o’ pictures about knights knockin’ each other about with spears; an’ I bet a hat it was fun to be a real one an’ not have no tobacco to advertise, but just nothin’ to do except jab each other with spears. I reckon a corkin’ good one like Ivanhoe himself or the Black Knight got more ‘an three a day for it too; but the one best bet is, that the vigilance committee those days didn’t take on much superfluous fat.

I enjoyed myself first rate, an’ upset a couple o’ delivery wagons because they wouldn’t make way for me, roped a runaway steer ‘at had the whole town scared, an’ chased a flat-head clear into the Palace Hotel for throwin’ a pear at me. Fatty’s brother confided to him that I was the best advertisement they’d ever had.

Still I allus get weary o’ doin’ the same sort o’ thing day after day. That’s what gets me about livin’ in town; it’s so blame monotonous. Out on the range now a feller can allus be expectin’ a little excitement even if he ain’t enjoyin’ it right at the time; but in town it’s just the same thing over an’ over again. It’s bad enough at any time; but if you want to soak yourself plumb full o’ the horrors of a great city you want to wear a tin suit with an iron kettle strapped on your head that you can’t take off without help. I got so blame disgusted drinkin’ steam beer through a straw that if any one would ‘a’ dared me I’d ‘a’ signed the pledge.

If it hadn’t been for the children I’d probably got hysterical an’ been voted into the uncurable ward; but they thought I was the finest thing out, an’ I used to give ’em little plugs o’ tobacco for souvynears. I used to read “Ivanhoe” at night an’ tell stories to the kids the next day. Some o’ them thought I was a fairy godmother; an’ I generally had such a gang troopin’ after me that we looked like an orphan asylum out for an airin’. I allus did like children.

Well, one day I was out at the foot o’ the hill neighbor-hood on Sutter Street. A lot o’ cars was blockaded, an’ a herd o’ kids stood lookin’ on. I stopped an’ talked to ’em, an’ the’ was one little girl, just for all the world like another little girl I used to know, away back yonder in Indiana. She had the same confidin’ smile an’ the same big, wide open eyes; an’ I felt a sort o’ lump in my throat when she looked at me. She had that same queer little look that Barbie’d had when she was a child too. Her mother was named Maggie, which also happened to be the name o’ the little girl I had known clear away back when I’d been a school-boy. All of a sudden I felt lonesome again; so I give the kids the slip an’ skirted the car.

I started to ride up the Hyde Street hill on the other side, an’ say, it was a hill! Steep? Well, it was about all Mr. Hoss could do to climb it. While I was wonderin’ if I hadn’t better let that part o’ town go unadvertised I heard a rumble, looked up, an’ saw comin’ over the square o’ the next street a big wagon loaded with lumber an’ runnin’ towards me down the hill. The’ wasn’t no hosses hitched to it, an’ the tongue stuck straight out in front. It was comin’ like a steam-engine, an’ like a flash I remembered Maggie on the other side o’ the car. That wagon would ‘a’ weighed six tons, an’ any fool could see what would happen when it struck that street car.

For a second–for just one second, which seemed to last a thousand years–I was turned to stone. I could hear the crash; I could hear the screams; I could feel the horrid scrunch as car, wagon, an’ all ground over poor little Maggie; and then everything cleared up, an’ I could think ninety times a minute.

I turned my rope loose an’ backed ol’ Mr. Barrel up on the sidewalk in the wink of a hair trigger. I looked down at the hoss, an’ he would have weighed a full ton himself; but I knew that he wouldn’t have sense enough to brace himself when the jerk came. It was comical the way thoughts kept flashin’ through my head–everything I had done, an’ everything I might have done, an’ a heap more beside; but the thing that worried me most was the thought that a mighty good story was about to happen, an’ the chances were that I wouldn’t be the one to do the tellin’ of it afterward. I can talk about it easy now,: but I wasn’t BREATHIN’ then.

On came the wagon, an’ it looked as though nothin’ under heaven could stop it. A strange feelin’ o’ weakness swept over me for a minute, and–and–darned if I didn’t pray, right then. The pressure lifted like a fog, an’ I sat there as cool an’ still as though I was Ivanhoe, darin’ the whole blame outfit to come at me in a bunch; an’ I was some pleased to notice that a little group had gathered to see the outcome. My knees dug into the hoss’s ribs as I circled the rope around my head, an’ then at just the right instant I gave the foreleg throw. Well, it landed–everything landed. As soon as the noose caught the tip o’ the tongue I yanked back on the brewer until he must ‘a’ thought his lower jaw had dissolved partnership.

The’ never was any neater work–never. The noose tightened well out on the tongue, an’ when the strain came the wagon turned in toward the sidewalk, runnin’ in a big circle on the outside wheels. The jerk had lifted ol’ Uncle Brewer, who didn’t have gumption enough to squat, plumb out in the middle o’ the street, an’ just as the wagon climbed the curb an’ dove into the basement office of a Jew doctor the rope tightened up with me an’ the brewer square behind. It didn’t last long; the’ was only one cinch to the saddle, an’ the first jerk had purty well discouraged that; the brewer had grew suspicious an’ all four of his feet was dug into the cobble stones; the wagon was lopin’ along about ninety miles a second, an’ when the tug came me an’ the saddle an’ the tinware an’ about four thousand plugs o’ tobacco made a half-circle in the air an’ plunged through the first story winder onto the dinin’-table–an’ the family was at dinner.

Nobody was hurt; but I wish you could have seen the eyes o’ that family–an’ their hands–yes, an’ their tonsils too. They didn’t seem fully prepared. After a time the doctor got his heart to pumpin’ again, an’ he roars out, “Vat are you doin’–vat are you doin’?”

“I’m advertisin’ tobacco,” sez I, tryin’ to cut the kettle off my head with a fruit-knife.

Then he did the wind-mill act with his hands an’ rolled up his eyes an’ sez, “Vell, mine Cott, man, dis iss no vay to atfertice dobaggo!”

“Mebbe not, ol’ sport,” sez I, thinkin’ o’ the way that wagon had dove into his office, an’ takin’ a general survey o’ the dinner table; “but if you’re game at all you got to own up it makes a strong impression.”

He was a comical little cuss, an’ it amused me a heap to see how excited he was. He splutered an’ fizzed away like a leaky sody fountain, while the rest o’ the tribe kept up a most infernal squawkin’.

By the time I had the tobacco an’ the balance o’ the trimmin’s picked up an’ got back to the street again I found the rest o’ the population gathered together to see who was holdin’ the celebration; an’ from that on my stay in the city was a nightmare. The passengers in the car gave me gold watches an’ champagne suppers, the Jew doctor wore himself to a bone tryin’ to find out whether it was me, the lumber company, or the tobacco firm which had to pay the piper; while the newspaper reporters pumped me as dry as the desert. The tobacco company kept me on double pay, because when it came to what they call a publicity agent I had played every winnin’ number open an’ coppered all the ones that lost.

That car had been loaded with a group o’ the real, genuine gold- sweaters, an’ they entered into a fierce competition to see which could load me down with the finest watch an’ load me up with the finest champagne. They got me to make ’em after-dinner speeches an’ do fancy stunts with my raw-hide–ropin’ wine bottles off the waiters’ trays an’ such–until we got as friendly as a herd of tramps. They even got me into a long-tailed coat an’ a bullfrog vest; but I didn’t take kindly to that, ‘count o’ there not bein’ any handy place to tote a gun except the tail pocket, which I never could have got at in case the trouble was to slop over.

I kept lookin’ for little Maggie, an’ one day I found her. I bought her a couple o’ pounds o’ candy an’ a lot o’ new dresses; an’ I took her out to her home in a carriage. Well, this home o’ hers was a thing to wring the heart of an ossi-fied toad. It was up near the Barbery coast, where they kill folks for exercise. She an’ her mother was livin’ in two miserable rooms, her mother doin’ washin’ an’ Maggie runnin’ errands; but they was as near respectable as half-fed people ever was in the world, an’ it made ’em hustle to even keep half fed, too, ’cause they was in competition with the Chinks, who don’t have to eat at all–that is, not regular food.

An’ would you believe it, her mother was the little Maggie I used to know away back yonder in the kid days when all the world was just like a big, bulgey Christmas-stocking. She had married a good man, an’ had come out to the coast with him on account of his health, an’ he had flickered out without leavin’ her much but a stack o’ doctor’s bills an’ little Maggie. She had struggled along ever since, an’ it made my heart ache like a tooth to see the sweetness an’ the beauty o’ the little girl I used to know come to the eyes o’ this poor tired woman an’ smile–smile the same old smile like what she used to when I’d given her an apple, or when she’d written me a little note an’ sneaked it across the aisle.

Well, I didn’t stay long. I had a special swell function to attend that night, but next mornin’, when the Turkish-bath man was willin’ to risk the peace o’ that locality by turnin’ me loose, I gathered up a peck or so o’ watches an’ cashed ’em in. I reckon I got beat some; but anyhow, I drew down somethin’ over sixteen hundred in yeller money; an’ I took them two Maggies down to the train an’ shipped ’em back where the little one would have a chance to grow up like a flower, with plenty o’ green grass an’ sunshine about her, an’ the mother could put on a clean dress afternoons an’ visit ’round a little with the friends o’ long ago.

After they was gone everything seemed mighty gloomy an’ damp an’ lonesome, an’ I entered into the social festivities most enthusiastic. The’ was somethin’ about both these two Maggies that kept bringin’ Barbie before me, an’ what I felt most like doin’ was to bolster up my forgetfulness. It wasn’t very long, however, before I noticed that my quiet an’ simple life hadn’t in nowise fitted me for refined society, an’ I made my plans to bid it a fond farewell. I’m just as cordial a friend as whiskey ever had; but my con science rebels at floodin’ my vital organs with seventeen different colored wines at one meal. I’ve been infested with pink elephants an’ green dragons an’ I never com plained none; but hang me if I can get any comfort out of a striped yellow spider ten feet high on horrid hairy legs.

I was sittin’ in the Palace lobby one mornin’ wonderin’ if I’d bump my head should I happen to sneeze, when in come one o’ my pals. His face lit up when he see me an’ he came over holdin’ out his hand. I held out my own hearty enough; but I sez in a warnin’ voice, “Now, before you ask me the customary question I want to inform you that I positively don’t want a drink, neither now nor this evenin’, nor never again.” “Pshaw,” sez he, “I’m goin’ to pull out for home to day, an’ I don’t want to go without a farewell libation to the good times we’ve been havin’.”

“I’m goin’ to pull out, myself,” sez I, “but I went on my farewell libation last night. Where might your home be?”

“Texas,” sez he. I straightened up.

“Know the governor?” sez I.

“Some,” sez he, his eyes twinklin’; “he was my sister’s youngest brother.”

“Your sister’s youngest brother?” sez I, an’ then I tumbled. “Say,” I yelled, jumpin’ to my feet, “you don’t mean that you’re it yourself?”

“That’s the history,” sez he; “but if it’s just the same to you, I’d rather you didn’t work up much of a story about the way I’ve handled this town since you saved that car.”

“Do you really think ‘at I saved your life?” sez I.

“Why,” sez he, “if that wagon had ever hit the car the’ wouldn’t ‘a’ been anything left but my teeth to identify me by, an’ I ain’t never had one filled yet.”

Well, I took one drink with him an’ I told him the straight o’ that cattle ring an’ how Jim Jimison had surrendered on account o’ the best little girl that walked, an’ that he was the all around squarest boy the’ was. I didn’t cork up any natural eloquence I happened to have, an’ I was some sorry ‘at ol’ Hammy couldn’t have heard that plea. It was dramatic, an’ I’ll bet money on it. The outcome was, that he swore he’d have Jim out o’ the pen as soon as he could get back an’ do the signin’. He was a big man with steel gray eyes, an’ by jing I felt good over it; but I stuck to the one drink proposition.



Well, now, mebbe I didn’t feel fine! I’d have a real man for Barbie to marry purty soon, an’ it was a good job o’ work to send that washy-eyed Englishman back to his one-hoss ranch to learn hove to act grown-up. I was all squared around now. Up to that mornin’ I couldn’t tell where on the face I did want to head for; but now I knew. I wanted to bee-line straight for the Diamond Dot an’ light the joy-lamps in Barbie’s eyes again. When I had given my life to her the’ wasn’t no strings to the gift. I hadn’t said that my happiness was to be considered at all, nor the happiness of any one else on the whole earth except just her own, an’ I was wild to be back.

I was makin’ up my mind to sneak away without seein’ any o’ the glad band–those Frisco fellers are terrors when they take a fancy to ya- -I mean the thoroughbreds, the toppy lad with rolls ‘at a ten-year- old boy couldn’t up-end without strainin’ himself. I hated to do it; but I’m only human, an’ when I’m in earnest about bein’ delivered from evil I allus get up early in the dawn an’ get a good start while temptation is still enjoyin’ its beauty sleep.

I had just got my will power properly stiffened up, when lo an’ behold, I was slapped on the back an’ a merry voice exclaimed, “Happy Hawkins, by the Chinese Devil!”

I glanced up into a bearded face with two twinklin’ eyes an’ an outdoor look about it. I recognized the eyes all right, but I knew I hadn’t never seen ’em in that sort o’ trimmin’ before; so I sez in a dignified manner, “I’m exceeding glad to see ya, but who the ‘ll are ya?”

“Ches!” sez he. “Ralph Chester Stuart–Great Scott, have you lost your memory?”

Well, by the Jinks, but I was glad to see the boy, an’ we hid away in a private room with two pure an’ proper lemonades before us. He was a genuine minin’ engineer, an’ had been havin’ lots of queer experiences. He wanted me to sign up with him, promisin’ me that we’d have change of bill twice a week; but I finally prevailed upon him that I had aged considerable since our didoes with the goat, an’ all of a sudden he ups an’ sez, “By the way, old hat, I’ve got you news!”

“Yes?” sez I. “Where’d you get it?”

“Why, about the Creole Belle,” sez he.

“Creole Belle!” sez I. “Well, tell it, tell it. Why don’t you tell it?”

“Oh, fudge,” sez he; “it’s been long enough on the way, an’ I reckon it’ll keep a minute longer. The Creole Belle was a gold-mine named after a woman.”

“Good or bad?” sez I.

“Good,” sez he. “Paid two hundred dollars to the ton in spots.”

“I meant the woman, confound ya,” sez I.

“Well, it seems that she was a purty square sort of a woman,” sez Ches, “but I didn’t suppose ‘at you’d care much about her. The mine- -” I groaned. “Well, you fool me,” sez Ches, seein’ I was in earnest. “The’ was a purty florid romance mixed up in it too; but I didn’t suppose you was interested in such things, an’ I didn’t pay much heed to that part of it.”

“That’s allus the way when a boy does anything,” sez I, with peevishness. “Now you set there an’ think up all you can about the deal–everything.”

“Well,” sez Ches, slowly, “it seems that a couple o’ young Easterners came out to find their fortune. They was the true Damon an’ Pythias brand o’ partners, an’ stood back to back durin’ a protracted spell o’ good, stiff, copper-bottomed misfortune. They finally located a mine that looked good-natured an’ generous; but it was a fooler. One day it coaxed ’em an’ next it give ’em the laugh. Finally they each got down in turn with mountain-fever an’ a beautiful young girl nursed ’em. She was there with her father, who was workin’ a claim near by. He was an odd sort of chap to be minin’–though come to think of, that’s not possible, seein’ that all kinds o’ men–“

“Ches,” I breaks in, “will you kindly get on with that tale, or must I shake it out o’ you?”

He seemed mightily surprised, but he went on: “Well, the girl was a beauty, an’ she had a gigantic maid–“

“Monody!” I shouted.

“Keeno!” shouts back Ches, some exasperated.

“Now that wasn’t slang nor sarcasm what I was usin’,” sez I, smoothin’ it over. “That gigantic maid you mentioned is part o’ the tale that you don’t know yet.”

“Well, naturally, while they was bein’ nursed they both fell in love with her–“

“With Monody?” I yells.

“No, you ijot, with the girl!” Ches was gettin’ flustered. “She was a corkin’ handsome girl, an’ they all called her the Creole Belle. To be strictly honest though, they didn’t really fall in love with her. They both loved the same girl back in Philadelphia, an’ they just took to the Creole Belle as a sort of a substitute. Now the ol’ man an’ the big maid watched over the girl careful, an’ the’ wasn’t no harm come of it; an’ when the mine finally got to handin’ out the gilt without jokin’ about it, the two pals got to goin’ off alone an’ thinkin’ o’ the girl back East. They had four or five miners workin’ for ’em by this time, an’ they was gettin’ the dust in quantities. Finally they got together about it. It seems that they had an agreement that neither one would propose to the girl without the other’s consent, but they had each been makin’ gentle-love in their letters to her, while she didn’t seem to know which she liked best.”

“Where’d you learn all this?” sez I.

“Oh, I’ve been askin’ all the of miners I’ve met,” sez Ches, “an’ at last I found one who knew the whole of it. All of ’em knew something; things ain’t done secret in a minin’ camp, an’ all the boys got interested. Well, they finally agreed to play five hands o’ draw for the first chance to propose. If the lucky one got the girl he was to pay the loser half the profits. If he lost an’ the second feller got the girl on his proposal, he was to get mine an’ girl both. They was still fond o’ the Creole Belle an’ she was fond o’ them–from all accounts they was men above the average, all right. Well, they played the five hands an’ it was even bones at the fourth show. Then Jordan made a crooked move o’ some kind, an’ Whitman called for a new deal. It was the first suspicion that had ever raised its head between ’em, an’ they looked into each other’s eyes a long time; then Jordan dealt again an’ Whitman won.

“He wrote to the girl, an’ after a time she answered, sayin’ yes. Jordan an’ Whitman wasn’t such good pals as before; but when the girl was due to arrive they started down in the stage to meet her, both together. Just as they was goin’ by the of man’s claim–Ol’ Pizarro, or some such a name as that he had–the stage lost a front wheel an’ Whitman got a broken leg. They took him into the ol’ man’s cabin, sent a man on hoss-back after the doctor, an’ Whitman insisted that Jordan ride on down to meet the girl. They’d had a hard time gettin’ the girl to consent to come at all; but she was an orphan with only a faithful servant for a family, an’ she had finally give in, seein’ as Jordan would be there as her best friend; an’ now Whitman forced Jordan to go down an’ meet her.” I remembered the letter ‘at little Barbie had made me read, an’ I was able to guess the rest.

“Well, Jordan met the girl, an’ the servant who had tagged along,– the name of the servant was Melisse, if you want all the details.”

“I knew it,” sez I; “go on.”

“He brought the girl back to where the Creole Belle was tendin’ to Whitman in a mighty gentle an’ tender way. The girl didn’t seem to care much for Whitman when she saw him, an’ that very day they had it out. She didn’t make no fuss, she was a game one all right; just said that it was a mistake all ’round an’ left on the next stage, goin’ to Frisco.

“Whitman was laid up six weeks, an’ by the time he was out Jordan told him that he was ready to propose to the girl on his own hook. Whitman agreed, Jordan made his play, got a favorable answer, an’ Whitman made over a full deed to the Creole Belle. Just at this time ol’ Pizzaro cashed in, an’ the first thing Whitman knew he was married to the Creole Belle, had sold his wife’s mine an’ started to leave the country. Down at the station he hears a chance word that gives him a tip, an’ he leaves his wife there an’ goes back to the mine. He accuses Jordan of havin’ told the eastern girl that he was already married to the Creole Belle when she came out to marry him herself. Jordan denies it, but they fight, an’ it’s sure a bad fight. Jordan gets three bullets in his body an’ only laughs about it; but he shoots Whitman twice, so that fever sets in, an’ it was reported that he died. Anyhow, he’s taken down to the train an’ put on board, out of his head; an’ was never heard of again.

“Jordan hid his wounds purty well, bein’ a man o’ wonderful grit; but just when he was gettin’ around again one o’ the boys what Whitman had done a good turn to picks a quarrel with Jordan, an’ Jordan still bein’ stiff from the wounds he was hidin’, gets the worst of it, is hammered up with a pick-handle an’ left for dead. He don’t die, however, he works the Creole Belle mine till he’s taken out about a million, an’ then she closes up an’ he gets out o’ the country for keeps. That’s all the’ is to that tale. Now you tell me what part of it you’re interested in.”

“Was that all you heard about the gigantic maid?” sez I.

“You certainly have a healthy appetite for gossip,” sez Chez, laughin’. “But I did hear more about the maid: she came back to that part a few months later to square things up with her lover. He didn’t appear willin’ to square, an’ they found him in his cabin one mornin’ with his throat tore out by the roots, an’ they found her clothes on the bank o’ Devil Crick; so that ends her story. She must ‘a’ been some devil herself.”

“No,” sez I to chez, “the worst any one can call her is a man; an’ it wasn’t altogether her fault that you can call her that, I’ll stake my soul on it.”

Ches was ravenous to learn why it was that I wanted all that old scandal dished up; but I was too busy to tell him right then, an’ he was goin’ to leave in an hour to overlook some new findin’s out in Nevada. We promised to write to each other, an’ I told him that probably I’d be willin’ to take a job with him in a month or so; an’ then he skinned out to make ready, an’ I got busy on my letter. Letters never was one o’ my chief delights; but I wrote to Jim, tellin’ him enough o’ the details to throw a bluff into Jabez; but not enough to put Jim wise to the tale. Just gave him the right names an’ the name o’ the mine an’ told him to bluff that he knew it all; but not to speak too free; an’ that would suit all around an’ put Jabez into a nervous condition. I sent this letter to the governor, tellin’ him to give it to Jim personal, an’ to hustle things for a quick finish.

I posted my letter an’ started up to the desk to pay my bill, when I had another turn. I stood still with a shock, pinchin’ myself to see if I was in my right mind or only sufferin’ from an extra foolin’ hang-over. A jaunty young chap with out-standin’ clothes, an’ a brindle bull-terrier was registerin’ their names, an’ if I was in my right mind I knew them folks for true. I was feelin’ exuberant to a dangerous limit, an’ I sneaks up an’ unsnaps the bull-terrier from the leash what the porter was holdin’. Well, it was Cupid all right, an’ he was bugs to see me. He started jumpin’ up on my shoulders an’ makin’ queer sounds, an’ I pertends ‘at I’m scared to death an’ duck an’ dodge around that office until I have all the inmates standin’ on the furniture an’ yellin’ police.

Bill runs around after us tellin’ me not to be frightened, an’ givin’ Cupid a tongue-handlin’ that would ‘a’ stung a deaf alligator. When I can’t hold in any longer I rolls over on a dievan- -that’s what they call a hotel sofy–an’ get Cupid in my arms an’ make a sound as if he was stranglin’ me. Bill gets Cupid by the collar an’ jerks him off, an’ then I stands up an’ sez in a hurt an’ dignified voice, “It seems darned funny to me that I can’t welcome an old friend without you interferin’.”

He give me one look–I was festooned a little out o’ the ordinary– an’ then he begins. First he’d sing a chant about how tickled he was to meet up with me, an’ then he’d sermonize most doleful about how untasteful it was to commit such a havoc as that in a hotel lobby, especially with a dog what had been trained to have quiet an’ refined manners. I finally refused to hold my safety valve down any longer; an’ I grabbed him under the arms an’ waltzed him over the marble, while Cupid frolicked around us an’ Bill kicked me on the shins. I had had too many things happen to me in a small space o’ time to be altogether sane, an’ it took a good many kicks on the shins to get me down to a practical basis again. Bill was plumb disgusted; but Jessamie, who had seen the last part of it, had to join in with the rest o’ the crowd an’ have a laugh.

Bill refused to eat unless we could have a private dinin’ room. Not on Cupid’s account neither; he’d got civilized enough to stand for Cupid bein’ treated like a dog by this time; but it was me he was scared of, an’ I sensed it, an’ refused to feed with him at all unless it would be in the main mess hall, an’ Jessamie voted with me; so Bill had to give in.

He didn’t want to make the contrast too strong, so he slid into a dark suit instead of the real caper, while I wiggled into my champagne apron an’ marched in like I was a foreign delegate. Well, you should have seen Bill–his mouth took on the triangle droop, an’ his lamps was stretched to match. I was entirely at home, et with the right forks, joshed the waiters, an’ when my friends began to drop over an’ pass the season’s greetings, an’ I presented ’em to Bill an’ Jessamie, an’ Bill saw that they was nothin’ at all but cream, I bet you a tip that he was the worst locoed man in topsy- turvy Frisco.

We had a hard time throwin’ the gang off the trail; but I finally sent ’em over to the Pampered Pug restaurant, while I took Bill an’ Jessamie to a quiet little spot to hold our own reunion. They had just come from a trip around the world–they was still on their honeymoon, in fact; an’ I had to listen to a heap o’ Sunday-school story adventures ‘at they’d been havin’.

After a while, though, I nudged Bill hack to the Clarenden family trail, an’ he said ‘at they had stopped for over a month with his friends in England, an’ was posted up to the minute.

“Well,” sez I, as though I was inquirin’ after an old pal, how’s the Earl?”

“They’re plumb out o’ earls in that family,” sez Bill. “The old one’s dead an’ they’ve hunted high an’ low for the strays an’ can’t even find Richard.”

“They won’t need him,” sez I. “The younger son is still in good order, an’ when the proper time comes I’ll spring him on ’em; but I doubt if he takes the job after all.”

“Confound you, Happy,” sez Bill, “I never can tell whether you’re jokin’ or not on this subject. Deuced if I ever could see where your trail could have junctioned onto the Clarenden family.”

“Son,” sez I, “I’m a store-house o’ knowledge, an’ I’m about to open the flood-gates an’ pour it forth. How many Alice LeMoynes did you ever happen to hear of?”

“Only but the one,” sez Bill. “It was a fake name probably, an’ one was all they ever struck off that die. What about her?”

“Oh, nothin’ much,” sez I, “only a stray Englishman happened to pull that name on us a while back, an’ I wondered where he came into possession of it.”

“You got somethin’ up your sleeve,” sez Bill, who was a mite too observin’ at times; “what is it you want to know?”

“Nothin’ at all,” sez I; “I know all I want to now.”

“What kind of lonkin’ feller was it?” sez Bill.

“Purty harmless,” sez I; “watery blue eyes, fair size, purty good lookin’, nice manners, book-talker, owns a little ranch; oh, he won’t set no important rivers on fire.”

Bill studied awhile. “How old was he?” sez he.

“Why, he’s about my age, in years,” sez I.

“It might be Richard–if Lord James is still alive, Richard is the heir apparent,” sez Bill. “How long have you known o’ this feller?”

“Oh, this ain’t Richard,” sez I. “He ain’t got epolepsy nor insanity; he’s just stingy an’ stupid.”

“How do you know he ain’t got epolepsy?” sez Bill.

“‘Cause he don’t bark like a dog nor froth at the mouth, nor he ain’t afraid o’ water,” sez I.

“You’re thinkin’ o’ hydrophobia,” sez Bill. “Epolepsy is sort o’ fits.”

“Well, by gum, he did have one fit!” sez I.

“What kind?” sez Bill.

“Why, I worked a trick on him, an’ he stiffened out an’ his eyes got set, an’ he was the sickenest lookin’ human I ever met up with,” sez I.

“That’s it!” sez Bill, “an’ you say he knew about Alice LeMoyne?”

“That’s what give him the fit,” sez I.

“I bet it’s Richard,” sez Bill. “This will make a story for me, an’ you can work things for the reward. Where is he?”

“Say, you come along with me to the Diamond Dot,” sez I. “Things are goin’ to happen promiscuous up there after a bit, an’ you don’t want to miss it. Never mind about the reward. I’m goin’ to handle this affair just as if the’ wasn’t such a thing on earth as the Clarenden family.”

“You make me tired,” sez Bill; it allus was spurs to him to cut him out of a secret. “You try to pertend ‘at you’re nothin’ short of a world power; but I bet you’re just flim-flammin’.”

“Nothin’ ‘at Happy Hawkins’d do would surprise me,” sez Jessamie. “Now that I’ve seen him in a dress suit, hob-nobbin’ with the bun- tong, I’m prepared for anything.” She was a good feller all right.

Well, we chatted along a while, an’ they told me that they wanted to see Frisco an’ the Yosemite Valley, an’ then would head for Colonel Scott’s, where it’d be handy to drop over to the Diamond Dot at any time.

“Well,” sez I, “I’ll write you some letters of introduction to a few o’ my friends here, an’ mebbe after you’ve seen Frisco, all you’ll want will be rest–just plain, simple rest; less’n your ruggeder built than me.”

So sure enough I wrote ’em a parcel o’ letters, pickin’ out about the most persistent spenders the town could show, an’ it made me laugh when I pictured Bill tryin’ to lug home the list o’ stuff they’d load him up with. I packed up for the early, train, an’ then as it wasn’t worth while to waste the handful o’ minutes left o’ that night, I got back into my workin’ togs an’ went out for one last Turkish bath. I’m mighty partial to Turkish baths, an’ I wanted to let ’em know that I was perfectly sober at least one night o’ my visit.

It was gray dawn when I came out o’ the buildin’, an’ even in Frisco that’s a shivery period. In spite of me holdin’ all the good cards in the deck, an’ knowin’ just about how I was goin’ to play ’em, I was lonely an’ down-hearted there in the dawning. All I wanted was Barbie’s happiness, an’ I was goin’ to give it to her full measure an’ nairy a whimper: but if it could just have been my home-comin’ instead of what I was goin’ to do, that would light up her world for her, I reckon I could have FLOWN all the way back to the Diamond Dot.

I turned a corner an’ came face to face on Piker. He was lookin’ downcast an’ harried, an’ I bought him a drink. He had told me where Jim was, an’ I didn’t try to forget it. I sat down an’ talked to him an tried to soften his crust an’ get him to agree to make a new try- out o’ life.

He finally got purty mellow an’ told me some o’ the steps down which he had stumbled, an’ how slippery the’d been when he’d tried to climb back. I confided to him a lot o’ my own mishaps, an’ he got purty near up to the mourner’s bench, when all of a sudden he gets bitter. “You’re just like all the rest,” sez he, “you make all kinds of allowance for a good lookin’, proud sort, like Silver Dick; but a feller like me–you allus give the verdict again a feller like me, an’ you know it.”

“Dick ain’t been no saint, I know,” sez I; “but at least he was out in the open, while I can’t quite get over that knee-gun you wore.”

“Out in the open, was he?” sez Piker, with a leer. “Didn’t he get to your ranch an’ try to land the daughter o’ the boss–an’ him a married man all the time!”

I reached across the table an’ got him by the collar, jerked him to me, an’ flopped him face up across the table. “You lie,” sez I. He shook his head, an’ I felt a cold streak hit my heart.

I loosened up on him an’ let him set up, an’ he said ‘at Silver Dick was married to the woman at Laramte, an’ he knew it. I tried to bluff him out of it, but he stuck to it, finally sayin’ that I had him, an’ could finish him if I wanted to; but that it was the God’s truth, an’ he’d stick to it.

As I looked into his eyes I knew beyond a doubt that he was dealin’ straight; an’ as my plans toppled over an’ came tumblin’ about me, I felt like walkin’ down to the dock an’ endin’ it all. Put this passed in a flash; it wasn’t my turn yet to think of myself. There was little Barbie with the two serpents creepin’ toward her, an’ my place was at her side till the fight was fairly won.



I had struck the Diamond Dot in a tol’able wide variety o’ moods; but I never felt like I did the mornin’ I came back to ditch Barbie’s weddin’. I knew ‘at the chances were ‘at I’d break her heart; but I had only one course open, an’ I didn’t intend to waver. I had gone on through to Laramie, an’ had found ‘at Silver Dick’s wife was still there, livin’ her locked-in life. Then I came on back through Danders to Webb Station where I hired a feller to drive me to within a mile o’ the ranch house. All he knew was that the weddin’ was to come off in three weeks.

Jabez an’ Barbie was both glad to see me; but I didn’t make much explanation for leavin’ without notice, an’ I didn’t tell all about my trip. Just told ’em about my experience as a knight an’ on the boat an’ such. Barbie was purty thin an’ a little under color; but her grit was still keyed up to full tone. I had a good long talk with her that very afternoon, tellin’ her that I had found out a lot o’ stuff about the remnant she was thinkin’ o’ marryin’, an’ tried to get her to test him out an’ find out where he’d come from an’ what he was; but she seemed numb, an’ told me that she would not think it friendly if I said anything evil against the man she had to marry. I couldn’t understand her, she didn’t seem like the same old Barbie; but the more I hinted the more froze-up she got, so I dropped it.

Then I told her that I had found out that Dick was even worse’n this one; an’ she opened up on me an’ we had a purty square-off talkin’ match. She wouldn’t listen to me, an’ she wouldn’t pay any heed to my suggestions; an’ I was consid’able out of patience. I was afraid if I turned her again Dick she might marry this Hawthorn thing, an’ if I turned her again him too soon she might run off with Dick on the rebound; so I was purty much hobbled, an’ made a botch of it. Finally she turned on me. “We’ve been good pals, Happy,” sez she, “an’ we’ll be good pals again some day; but you’re not playin’ square now–I can tell by your actions. I almost believe ‘at what you’re tryin’ to do is to–” she stopped with her face red as fire.

“Well, say it,” sez I.

“Is to marry me yourself,” she blurted out.

I didn’t say anything for a long time. I made every allowance for her, an’ I knew ‘at some one had threw it in her face, ’cause this wasn’t one of her own brand o’ thoughts; but I’m not all horn an’ bone, an’ when I saw that she intended to go her own gait I made up my mind that she’d know at the end of the course that she might have saved herself several hard bumps.

“Barbie.” I sez, an’ at my voice she turned her face an’ looked a little frightened, “I ain’t denyin’ that I’d rather marry you than be sure of gettin’ into Heaven; but I want you to remember one thing, an’ that is that if I ever do marry you it will be because you ask me to yourself.”

We rode side by side back to the ranch house, an’ her head wasn’t held an inch higher than mine nor her lips shut a grain tighter. I was willin’ to be used for a bumper; but I couldn’t stand everything even when I knew ‘at she’d been hounded beyond endurance. From that on Barbie was some cool to me; but I wasn’t there for a vacation, I had a duty to perform. Poor little Barbie, she didn’t act much like a bride elect. Jabez wanted a weddin’ that would be the talk for years; but Barbie said no, that she felt more like a widder than a maid, an’ she didn’t take much stock in turnin’ a second weddin’ into a circus. I didn’t say nothin’. The ol’ man didn’t contrary her much them days, so he dropped the subject; but he sent all the way to Frisco for a store full o’ fixin’s an’ a couple o’ women to engineer the construction of ’em.

A full week passed without me hearin’ from Dick, an’ then I telegraphed to the Governor. I waited at Webb Station till I got the answer. He said ‘at he had give Dick my letter an’ that he had left two days before. That kept me on edge ’cause I wanted to see him when he first arrived; so I kept a couple o’ the boys watchin’ each road; but day after day dragged around until I got desperate. For all I knew Silver Dick had enough black blood in him to take advantage of me an’ just fly his kite. He might have got news from England too, an’ all in all I was agitated.

Two days before the ceremony was scheduled I gave him up an’ made a run to Laramie. I wasn’t sure just what I would do, but I was minded to get all the evidence I could. I tried to get speech with Dick’s wife, but she wouldn’t pay any heed to my knocks, an’ finally the lights in the house went out. I scented trouble; so when a couple o’ men pounced onto the place where I’d just stood they found me immejetly behind ’em, an’ I rapped ’em on the heads before they could express a sound. I heard a noise at the keyhole an’ I whispered in, “If you want to save the life o’ Silver Dick, open the door.”

I waited a minute an’ then the door opened an inch, but a chain kept it from goin’ any wider. A woman’s coarse voice sez, “What do ya want?” I couldn’t believe that this was the woman, so I sez, “I want to speak to the other woman, an’ it’s got to be done quick.”

Presently a soft, gentle voice sez, “What is it?”

“Silver Dick is in the Texas penitentiary, sentenced to be hanged for a murder committed there in April four years ago. He’ll be hanged a week from to-morrow night if some one don’t make a plea for him. It takes a woman to do such a job as this–are you game?”

“Why, he couldn’t have done it,” sez she. “He was here all that spring.”

“Are you willin’ to swear to it?” sez I.

“Oh, I don’t want to appear in public–but of course I will, if the’ ain’t no other way.”

“You won’t have to if you’ll come with me to-night. The Governor of Texas is up here on a huntin’ trip; he’ll be at a party to-morrow night; all you’ll need to do is to wait in a room where I’ll hide you until he gets into a meller mood–I know him well–an’ then I’ll bring him to you an’ you make a plea for him. You can be his wife or his mother or daughter–or anything you wish.”

“I’ll go,” sez she, in a quiet tone, an’ I breathed free; an’ as soon as she opened the door I dragged the two men inside. They were Greasers, the same as the old woman what had first talked to me; an’ I turned ’em over to her a’ took the woman with the soft voice down to the train by a back street. She still wore a heavy veil, an’ I never looked at her–not right straight–but I could see that she walked with her feet an’ held her head on the top of her neck; so I was purty certain that if Dick did return an’ try to finish the weddin’ as the star performer she’d give us an interestin’ exhibition.

Spider Kelley was at the station when I got off the train. I turned the woman over to him, tellin’ him to bring her out so as to arrive the evenin’ of the weddin’, not to talk to her, an’ not to let Dick see her should he chance to come back that way; but to smuggle her into the office as soon as preparations for the ceremony got started. I still half looked for Dick, but I thought I had things blocked out, no matter what turned up, an’ I flopped on my hoss an’ rode him at about his best.

Everything around the house was whirlin’ with preparation; but Barbie was about the palest lookin’ bride ‘at ever got ready to toe the scratch, I reckon. The Hawthorn critter had stayed over at his own ranch for the last week, an’ Barbie wouldn’t ‘a’ had no search- warrant swore out if he had sent over word that it looked so good to him that he had decided to continue to remain there for a million years.

The guests had arrived plenty early, an’ whenever Barbie would stumble on to a bunch of ’em she would head up an’ get right rompy again. We had about a ton o’ stuff cooked, ’cause we was tol’able thoroughly experienced on the neighbors. Folks out our way ain’t nowise uppity about such matters. All you need to do is to hint that a little celebration is goin’ to be pulled off an’ you can count on their presence; an’ if so be ‘at you’ve forgot anybody’s invite, why like as not they’ll hear about it anyway an’ be on hand in plenty o’ time. The weddin’ was scheduled for Wednesday evenin’ at eight thirty; but by Sunday the house was full an’ the grounds looked like an Injun camp-meetin’.

Jabez, intended to give Barbie the full penalty; none o’ your squires for him, nothin’ but Friar Tuck, who was one o’ these here Episcolopian preachers what sport a full regalia an’ a book o’ tactics calculated to meet any complication a human bein’ is apt to veer into. Some say they’re just Roman Catholics, gone Republican, an’ some say that they’re the ones who started the first strike–I don’t know much about it myself.

He hadn’t arrived by seven o’clock, but we didn’t worry none; he might have had to come fifty miles, an’ he never had any time to waste.

We’d had a sort o’ light supper at four o’clock, an’ it was intended to have the weddin’ feast after the performance was finished. It was just eight o’clock when Friar Tuck swung off his pony an’ as many of the crowd as could gathered in the big dinin’ room an’ waited for the words to be said. Spidier Kelley came an’ told me that he had locked the woman in the office, an’ that she was behavin’ herself reasonable, so I knew ‘at the finish wasn’t far off. The tables an’ chairs had been taken out, the intention bein’ to dance in the store-room after the ceremony, an’ while the dancin’ was goin’ on to set the banquet in the dinin’ room. Oh, it was all planned out like a theater show: Jabez had a full orchestra too, three fiddlers, a guitarist, an’ a fifer; an’ they began to play solemn music, like they allus do at a wedding. It’s a toss-up which is the most touchin’, a weddin’ or a funeral,–a feller’s takin’ a mighty long shot at either one.

The whole crowd was on edge, but myself was strained to the breakin’ point. Just as the old clock struck the half hour the orchestra pealed forth a march, an’ they all came struttin’ in, slow an’ stately an’ top-heavy, accordin’ to the city way. Jabez was in a brand-new suit o’ black store clothes, an’ had a mighty proud look on his face; he was wearin’ gloves too. Barbie was a-leanin’ on his arm, an’ she was wearin’ a dress ‘at would ‘a’ made some o’ the queens crane their necks a bit, I reckon. Hawthorn had his nerve with him, an’ wore a low-necked vest an’ a droop-tailed coat. I had my own rig like this hid away in the stallion stable; so it didn’t jar me none; but some o’ the boys had a hard time chokin’ back their grins. It was the first weddin’ I had ever seen where the groom hadn’t wore a silk handkerchief around his neck.

They all met in front o’ Friar Tuck, who was standin’ under a tissha paper bell with about four miles o’ ribbon tied to it. I couldn’t see Barbie’s face on account o’ the veil she was wearin’; but she held her head high, an’ I knew she was ready to take all the jumps without balkin’. The Friar had one o’ these voices ‘at never seem to say an idle word, an’ the room got as still as though it was a trial for life; which ain’t so mighty far off the mark, that bein’ the usual sentence, an’ out our way we don’t count it game to get pardoned out for a new trial.

I was on pins an’ needles durin’ the openin’, but Friar Tuck boomed along until he arrived at the part where it sez “If any man knows just cause why this here couple should not be joined together in holy wedlock let him make his kick right now, or forever after hold his peace.” The room was as still as the grave, an’ I had just taken a full breath, so that I could make a clean throw, when a deep voice at the back of the room sez: “I think that I know a cause. I don’t believe the girl is doin’ this of her own free will.”

We all whirled around, an’ there stood Silver Dick. Dusty he was an’ travel-stained; but as he loomed up, straight an’ tall, he certainly did look like a man. His beard was gone, his face was pale with a sort of unnatural whiteness, an’ he was ganted down in weight a little; but all the same he put up a great front as he stood with his hands on his hips, his head thrown back, an’ a grim smile on his face. Quick as a flash the ol’ man, who had half expected this, pulls a gun out of his pocket an’ drops it on Dick, while the crowd politely splits apart to give ’em a fair show. Barbie had settled back, an’ I caught her in my arms an’ held her a moment; but all the time my eyes were on Dick as though I’d been charmed.

Never in my life have I seen such a figger of a man as him, as he stood there alone an’ unfriended. His hat was tilted back a bit, an’ his short wavey hair rippled across his forehead, his mustache had been shaved off and his lips somehow reminded me of the muzzle of a gun, they was that firm; while his eyes–man, he had the greatest eyes in the world. Blue steel they was, but never for a moment free from some hidden fire. When he smiled they danced; when he frowned they blazed; but to-night the’ was a new darin’ in ’em,–a confidence, a purpose, an’ a strength that defied Death himself.

He had changed a heap since we’d seen him last. His face was as smooth as a woman’s, his hands were white, an’ his clothes looked like picture clothes out of a book. He didn’t speak for some time, an’ then he said: “Is your gun broke, Mr. Judson, or do you think it would be only the square thing to talk things over first? I think I can interest you. I am not armed; perhaps you would be more comfortable if you lowered your gun until you were ready to shoot.”

The’ was a sting in his slow, sarcastic tone, an’ a scowl came over Jabez’ face; but he lowered his gun just the same. I didn’t want to soften any toward Dick so I had to keep grittin’ my teeth as I watched him, ’cause bluffin’ a man like Cast Steel, armed an’ ready, was a stirrin’ sight, an’ Dick looked as if he had the backin’ of an army.

“Mr. Judson,” sez Dick, “when I left here your daughter was promised to marry me, an’ I promised to write as often as possible; but after I started in to clean up my record I was denied the privilege of writin’. I am here now, with my record clean; the’ ain’t no spot on this earth where I don’t feel free to go–an’ now I claim her hand.”

“Claim her hand, do ya?” sez Jabez, with a wicked leer. “Well, you allus was better at claimin’ than at gettin’. I don’t want to sadden my daughter’s weddin’ night, but if you ain’t minded to go your way peaceable I’ll have to spoil ya.”

“Barbie,” sez Dick, an’ his voice was meller as a flute, “don’t ya love me no more?”

She raised her head an’ looked at him, but she couldn’t speak, so she only nodded her head.

“Will ya marry me?” sez Dick, an’ we all waited a long time for the answer.

Once or twice she tried it, before her voice finally got back to her, “Dick,,” she sez, “I waited for ya a long time, an’ I never heard from you; so I thought ‘at you had either forgot me or else you were–were no longer living; an’–oh, Dick, you have no idee how hard it has been for me. You can’t imagine how often I refused, nor what a lonely life I was forced to live; but I’ve never ceased to love you, an’ I allus told ’em so. Now I am half married to another man; an’ I don’t see what we can do.”

“Well, I see what we can do!” blurts out Jabez, raisin’ his gun again. “We can go right on with this ceremony. You have give your word, an’ the word of a Judson is bindin’. As for you, you sneakin’ card-sharp, I’ll give you just ten to state your intentions.”

Jabez started to count slow an’ steady with his left forefinger, while he held his gun above his right shoulder ready for the drop. His face was white an’ his eyes blazed like live coals. The’ was no time to waste now; Dick had a card up his sleeve, an’ this was his chance to take the trick, or he’d spoil my own game. The room was so still it hurt you to breathe. Somebody sneezed, an’ it sounded like a boiler explosion.

“Judson,” sez Dick, an’ he was smilin’ now; but it was the chillin’ smile I had first seen durin’ the card game. It wasn’t a pleasant smile. “Judson, I did not cheat durin’ that game, an’ I never did cheat, although gamblin was my business. You have become a fanatic on the subject o’ truth, an’ I propose to tell you some. You are a bully; you have bullied this girl in order to make her consent; and you are a coward, a miserable coward. Any man afraid of his own past is a coward; and your past stands back of you like a ghost, doggin’ your steps awake, an’ hauntin’ your dreams ‘sleep. You preach the truth; but your entire life is one black–“

“Stop!” yells Jabez, holdin’ his hand over his heart, but gettin’ the drop on Dick, although his face looked like the face of a man long dead. “Say another word an’ a bullet will drive it back through your teeth.”

“All right,” sez Dick, still smilin’ his cruel, hard smile; “but you have only counted up to five, an’ you gave me ten. You’re surely honest enough to stick to your own agreement. Begin to count now, while I start the tale about Jack Whitman an’ the Creole Belle–“

When Dick mentioned the name o’ Jack Whitman both o’ Jabez’ arms fell to his side; an’ when Dick spoke o’ the Creole Belle his legs shut together like a pocket knife; an’ he crumpled down on a little padded bench they had fixed up to kneel on. His face was gray, an’ his eyes had a scum over ’em, while his mouth hung open like the mouth of a man dyin’ of old age. Barbie gave a low, waverin’ call: “Oh, what have you done, oh, Dick! Daddy, Daddy; what’s the matter Dad?”

She jumped to his side, an’ after tearin’ off her veil she knelt at his feet; but he drew his hands feebly away, an’ refused to touch her; while a look of sorrow–sorrow an’ pain an’ shame, swept across his old gray face, an’ his lips trembled so ‘at he couldn’t talk.

I glanced at Silver Dick; he stood there with his lips set tight, his eyes cold an’ hard, an’ I knew ‘at he was ready to make his kill, cost what it would.

“Oh, Daddy,” pleaded Barbie, “don’t look this way. Tell me what it is all about. Don’t turn away from me, Dad; I don’t care what it is, or whether it is true or false–I am ready to forgive you, an’ to love you. Look at me. Daddy. I care more for you than for any one else in the whole world.

“Yes,” she sez, standin’ up an’ flashin’ a look into Dick’s eyes as fierce as they had ever shot themselves. “Yes, an’ if you think to win me by strikin’ down my old Dad, why–we have both been mistaken, an’ I despise you!”

Silver looked as though she had struck him in the face with a whip; the hot blood swept up to his hair, an’ then left him ghastly white again; while she put her hand on the ol’ man’s shoulder an’ looked like an eagle protectin’ her brood. I looked around for Hawthorn, who had become entirely forgotten. Gee! how I envied him his chance just then; but there he stood, lookin’ like a white rabbit bein’ tried for murder. The girl looked at him too, gave him one long scornful look; then she looked back at Silver, standin’ all alone like the statue of a king; an’ then she looked up at me. “Happy,” she sez, “you never failed me yet. Clear this room–clear it of every one but just ourselves.”

“Clear the room,” I yells. “Come, friends, this is the time to step lively. You can go into the store-room an’ dance if you want to, but the weddin’ has been postponed.”

They filed out in good order, all except Dick, Friar Tuck, an’ Hawthorn. Hawthorn stood leanin’ again the wall, lookin’ at Dick as though he was seein’ a ghost. I tapped him on the shoulder. “Git!” I sez, “your number didn’t win nothin’.” He gives a start, then down on the floor he flops with his eyes turned in an’ his mouth frothin’ a little. Friar Tuck straightened him out an’ began to rub his hands; an’ I turned to Dick.

“Now, it’s your turn to go,” I sez. “I’d advise you to go clear to England, where you’ll find good news.”

He came toward me as if he didn’t see me, an’ when he reached me he said: “You better go along too, Happy. I want to talk to them alone.”

“Jim,” I said, usin’ the old name, “I don’t want to do you harm. This game is up; you’d better go along peaceable.”

He looked at me a moment in surprise, an’ then his face got haughty, an’ he put out his hand to push me aside. I took him by the arm an’ swung him over against the wall. At first he couldn’t seem to understand that I was in ear-nest, an’ then his hand shot to hip an’ breast; but he had spoke the truth, he wasn’t armed. I had him covered, an’ he sneered into my face without speakin’. I walled over an’ examined him, but he didn’t have even a knife. I didn’t have the heart to drive him forth like a dog, so I sez, too low for the rest to hear: “Jim, I know the double life you’ve been leadin’; but you can’t break Barbie’s heart. You’re a married man, an’ I know it.”

“You lie,” he sez, clear an’ cold. It was just the word I needed.

I crossed the room an’ laid my gun on a chair, an’ then I turned to him. “We’re equal now,” sez I. “The winner gets the gun.”

He wasn’t as strong as I was, quite; an’ he was some out o’ condition; but he had had trainin’ more than me, an’ for a few minutes he stood me off; an’ then as he struck at me I grabbed his wrist, his left wrist, with my right hand, shot it in close to his body, an’ clamped it behind his back; while I got his throat with my left. Slowly I brought him to his knees, my fingers all the time workin’ deeper into his throat, while his right kept jabbin’ me till it made me grunt. No one tried to interfere at first; but then he got too weak to strike. Barbie said sharply, “Happy Hawkins, stop that at once!”

“I’ll stop as soon as he promisses to go without further trouble,” sez I.

She got up an’ came across the room to us like a flash, an’ seized the wrist that held Jim’s throat. “Let him alone, Happy,” she said fiercely.

I gave him a little push that sent him to the floor, an’ then I picked up my, gun. Jim rose to his feet; but the starch was purty well taken out of him, an’ of course this touched her heart, she bein’ a woman. “Are you hurt, Dick?” she sez sympathetic. “Yes, I’m hurt,” he snaps back, glarin’ at me; “not at what he’s done, but at his lies.”

“It’s no lie,” sez I.

“What was it?” asked Barbie–of Jim. He didn’t answer for a minute, an’ when he did his voice shook; but he looked into her eyes as he answered: “He said I was married.”

Barbie drew away with a sharp gasp an’ looked at him in horror; then she looked at me with her face all drawn up with anguish. “I tried to prepare you for this three weeks ago, Barbie,” I sez, “an’ you– you know what you threw in my face.”

“Oh, Happy, Happy,” she whispered, “it’s not true, it’s not true– say it’s not true!”

“It is true, Barbie,” sez I, an’ she gave a scream.

“It is not true,” sez Dick, an’ she glanced from one to the other.

“I can prove it at once,” sez I; “she’s here to-night.”

“Who?” asked Dick with a start.

“The wife you left in Laramie,” sez I.

“Good God, you haven’t brought her here. have you!” shouted Dick, an’ Barbie a queer, heart-broken little laugh. “It’s true, it’s true,” she sez. “You have convicted yourself, and it’s true. Happy,”–she went on speakin’ to me,–“of all the men I have ever known you are the only one that has been always true to me. You said that you would never marry me unless I asked you to–prove to me that this man is already married, an’ I’ll marry you. I’ll get down on my knees an’ beg you to marry me. The world seems full of wolves an’ I want a man I can trust.”

She was wild, an’ the look in her eyes frightened me; but she came over an’ put her hand on my arm, an’ said: “Prove it, prove it, an’ then let us go away together!”

“She’s out in the office,” sez I. “Shall I bring her in here?”

“No,” sez Dick. “Happy, for heaven’s sake don’t do anything hasty.”

“Bring her in, bring her in at once!” sez Barbie. “This is my wedding-day, an’ my father wanted it to be the talk of the whole state. Bring her in!”

Just as I reached the door it opened, an’ the strange woman came in with old Melisse, who was makin’ queer throaty noises like a dog. Her veil was raised, an’ I stepped back in surprise. She was an elderly woman with gray hair, white at the temples, an’ dark eyes that rested for a moment on Dick, for a longer second on Barbie, an’ then stopped when they met the starin’ eyes of of Cast Steel, who had staggered to his feet.

He stood there with his hands clutchin’ the side of his head, an’ his lips movin’ rapidly, but not a sound comin’ through ’em, an’ then his knees gave way beneath him, an’ Friar Tuck eased him back to the little padded bench. The hands of the strange woman were clasped on her breast; but even when the rest of us started for Jabez she didn’t move.



It hurts me inside to see anything plumb beaten. I’ve hunted a lot, an’ I’m as keen on the trail as a terrier dog an’ durin the fight I don’t have no disturbin shudders; but after I’ve won an’ I see the light of joy an’ hope an’ freedom fadin’ out of eyes that have been so bright an’ fearless, the’ ‘s allus somethin’ ‘at swells inside o’ my breast an’ makes me half sorry ‘at all fights can’t end in a draw. The’ ‘s one kind of nature which I never yet was able to figger out, an’ that’s the nature that can rub it in on a fallen foe.

Poor old Jabez, I’d judged him an’ I’d judges him harsh; but when I saw him go to pieces there on the padded bench I just seemed to go to pieces with him. When I saw the strength leave him like the steam from an engine as the flood reaches its fire-box; when I saw the hands that thought they was strong enough to shape the future danglin’ between his crooked knees, an’ the eyes that had never before asked mercy lookin’ up glazed an’ pitiful, why, it felt to me as if I was just tryin’ to send the strength out of my own body into his. Poor ol’ Jabez, he was cast steel to the finish, no spring, just simply rigid an’ stiff, till at last he broke.

But runnin’ the universe is no job for a human; every man would choose to look his best when he’s to meet the one woman; but if Jabez had still been standin’ like a rock an’ lookin’ out at the world through eagle-eyes the woman at the door wouldn’t never have spoke to him. When she saw him tired an’ broken an’ heart-sick of life itself, the mother in her finally tore out all the wrongs o’ the past, an’ she crossed the room an’ took one of his hands an’ said, “George, you mustn’t give up, you mustn’t give up now.”

Barbie was holdin’ his other hand, an’ the ol’ man looked first from one to the other while big tears gathered in his open eyes an’ rolled slowly down his cheeks. I tell you it was a touchy sight, an’ I was sweatin’ like a fish when ol’ Friar Tuck tip-toed over an’ put one hand on my shoulder an’ the other on Jim’s, an’ said: “They’ll get along better without us, boys. Let’s just step outside till they call us.”

Oh, I tell you that Friar Tuck was a sky-pilot for true! We sneaked stealthily to the door, passin’ ol’ Melisse on the way. She was huddled up on the floor prayin’ in Spanish, an’ Friar Tuck rested his hand on her head a second, an’ then we went out into the night air–I can taste my first breath of it yet.

He went over to see how the crowd was doin’ in the storeroom, sayin’ that he thought he’d get some eatin’-things under way to sort of ease the strain–he knew a human all right, the Friar did. Jim an’ I walked out together under the stars, an’ I told him my side of it; an’ he told me that he had met Jack Whitman when he was runnin’ a gamblin’ place close to the New Mexico line. Whitman ran it on the square an’ he had saved Jim a lot o’ money one night, an’ then afterwards Jim had helped to stand off a hold-up gang, an’ a strong feelin’ had grew up between ’em. Whitman had told part of the story, but made out that Barbie’s mother was his own sister. When she had left Jabez an’ the child–I don’t know, myself, just why she left him. It started when she found out how he had lied to Whitman an’ mighty near killed him; but just all that happened, before she burned out her brand and skipped, I don’t know to this day, but they was both purty high-headed an’ nervy in their youth, an’ I’ve often suspected that Jabez’ conscience didn’t get to workin’ smooth until after he was left alone with the child on his hands. It sometimes happens that way.

Well, anyhow, when she had left him she had gone to the southern part of California, where she’d got a job teachin’ school. Whitman had located her, an’ when her health gave out he had sent her money without lettin’ her know where it came from. Whitman had follered minin’ till his wife died, an’ then he got to speculatin’ in stocks, finally gettin’ cleaned out full an’ proper, an’ then he started to gamblin’ in earnest. It was from him that Jim had picked up most of his idees about business an’ gamblin’. When Whitman himself had died he had turned Barbie’s mother over to Jim.

She was livin’ on a ranch in northern Colorado at this time, on account of her health. When Jim got cleaned out by the cattle crowd, an’ opened his joint in Laramie, he brought her over to keep house an’ be company for him. He pertended to be the son of a wild uncle she’d had, an’ he fixed up a believable tale to go with it. All the while he’d been at the Diamond Dot he had supposed that she was Whitman’s sister–she went by her maiden name of Miss Garrison, an’ she had never told him her full story, simply hintin’ enough at times to let him know that she had gone through the mill.

He had never pieced things together until I had sent him my letter, an’ then he guessed how it was, an’ puttin’ what I told him onto what she an’ Whitman had told him, he saw it all. He didn’t know what had made her leave Judson, or rather Jordan; but he said he was positive it was his fault, as she was some the finest woman he had ever met, exceptin’ of course her own daughter.

We talked it all over there in the starlight, until ol’ Melisse came an’ called us in. I didn’t want to go; I was tryin’ to cut myself out of the game entirely an’ forget that I even existed; for the’ was a cry in my heart that wouldn’t hush, an’ I wanted to be alone; but when Jim insisted I braced up an’ went in.

Ol’ Jabez looked a heap better, but still shaky; his wife had a tender half sad smile on her face, while Barbie was radiant with the joy she had waited for so long; she had kept her father, she had found her mother, an’ she was about to meet–her lover. I saw the Sioux Injuns doin’ the dance once, where they tie thongs through their breast muscles an’ circle around a pole. Every now an’ again they’d fling back their full weight on the thongs, an’ their faces would light with savage joy. That was the kind of joy I felt when I saw Barbie’s face.

Her mother smiled into Jim’s eyes when he came in, an’ Jabez stood up an’ held out his hand. “Do you want to marry her?” he said.

“That’s the only wish I have,” sez Jim.

“Then she’s yours, an’ I thank God she’s got a true man,” sez Jabez, puttin’ Barbie’s hand into Jim’s. I turned my face away.

The first thing I knew I felt a hand on my shoulder an’ another hand taken’ hold of mine. I turned an’ looked down into Barbie’s face, but I couldn’t bear the light in her eyes. I turned my face away again–an’ my lips were tremblin’, the blasted traitors.

But she turned me around until my eyes looked down into hers, an’ they were swimmin’ in tears. Her little soft hand clasped my big rough one, tight an’ warm, an’ her voice was husky as she whispered, “You–you won’t care much, will you, Happy?”

“No, Barbie,” I sez between my set teeth, “not much”; an’ by God, I smiled.

“An’, Happy,” she went on, “my home will allus be your home, an’ anything that is mine is yours; but my heart ain’t mine, ol’ pal; an’ so–an’ so we can’t help it.”

“No,” I sez, an’ I was back in the saddle again this time. “No, little gel, we can’t help it; but we can allus make the best of it; so I vote that we don’t disappoint the crowd; but go on an’ have a weddin’.”

She backed away from me a little, while her face took the color of a rose, an’ her eyes went to the floor; an’ then I turned to Jabez an’ said: “Jabez, I’ve took a mighty sight off you in my time without ever puttin’ up one little squeal; but if you send this gang away to-night without a weddin’, why, I quit you for good.”

The’ was all so wrought up that I was about the steadiest in the room; an’ in about two minutes I had ’em lined up, an’ the crowd back in place an’ Friar Tuck in full regimentals under the tissha paper bell.

Before we could begin, however. Jabez mounted on a chair an’ said in a new, soft voice: “Friends, in all my life I never told but one black lie. I may have spoken falsely through ignorance, or to spare sorrow to my child; but I never fought through the temptation but once, an’ got whipped by it. I told one black lie, an’ it was the blackest one ever told, I reckon. It brought me my money an’ my wife; an’ my load of shame an’ sin an’ contempt–it lost me the best friend I ever had, an’ it led to my losin’ my wife for most o’ my journey. All my life I’ve tried to live down that lie an’ to fill every man I met with a reverence for the truth, an’ that’s what makes me so blame ashamed of the way I’ve treated Dick. I ought to have seen quicker’n anybody else the kind of a fight he was a- makin’, an’ pitched in an’ helped him instead of findin’ him guilty, on the first suspicion, an’ tryin’ to make his life as sour as mine has been. But”–here Jabez put his arm about Barbie’s shoulder, an’ looked down on her a moment–“it was all on account o’ this little girl.”

Then we all gave a cheer an’ Friar Tuck tied the knot, after which every one opened the sluice-gates o’ their hearts an’ let the sociability gush forth in a torrent. I stuck around until the dancin’ began, an’ then I flopped myself on a hoss an’ rode, an’ rode, an’ rode. The air was cool an’ crisp as it swept over my face; but it was a long time before it took the fever out of my blood. Finally I circled back to of Monody’s grave an’ got off an’ sat there till the sun came up, fresh an’ strong. Ol’ Monody had taken the burden ‘at had been handed to him, an’ had borne it along to a mighty fire finish; an’ it made me ashamed of myself, so I got to my feet, gave myself a shake, an’ rode back to the ranch house.



I didn’t look for anybody to be about that early after the night that outfit had put in; but just before I reached the corral I saw Barbie an’ Jim ridin’ slowly toward the stable. They was ridin’ close together an’ lookin’ into each other’s eyes, an’ I’m glad to say that even that soon I felt nothin’ but joy in the sight. A little farther on I spied Jabez an’ his wife standin’ on a knoll, lookin’ at the sunshine, an’ before I reached the house I saw two others swingin’ up the trail on a lope. In a minute I made out Bill Hammersly an’ Jessamie. For just one second I did feel a little bit out o’ the world; but by the time they rode up I was able to welcome ’em with a joke.

“We lost our way,” sez Bill. “Is it too late?”

“It’s never too late,” sez I. “But I’m right down sorry that you didn’t arrive last evenin’. We had about as stirrin’ a weddin’ here as ever you see.”

“Who was it that Barbie married?” asked Jessamie.

Just then Jim an’ Barbie came around the corner o’ the house, an’ I sez: “Mr. an’ Mrs. Bill Hammersly, allow me to make you introduced to the Earl o’ Clarenden an’ his bride.”

They was totally devoid of remarks for some time. Jim was the first to speak, an’ he seemed a trifle put out. “What do you mean by such nonsense, Happy?” sez he. Then they all looked at him on account of him usin’ the tone he had. I turned to Barbie an’ sez easily: “I was tellin’ Bill down at Frisco about a month ago that I rather doubted if Jim here would take the job; but if so be that he wants it, it’s open for him. If not, that Hawthorn thing has the next chance.”

I stepped back a few paces after this an’ let ’em talk it out. Jim was the most flabbergasted of any, Barbie looked a little bit frightened; but Jessamie sez: “If Happy Hawkins sez ‘at you’re the Earl of Clarenden, why you might as well give up. He has inside information on every given subject, an’ things don’t never happen until he’s had his finger in it somewhere.” Jessamie allus was a good feller.

An’ that’s the way it turned out. Jim an’ Barbie went back to Clarenden on their honeymoon, an’ Barbie’s taken the lead over there the same as she’d do anywhere. I stayed right at the Diamond Dot ’cause Jabez didn’t seem able to get along without me; an’ I hit work harder than ever. Now I oversee the Diamond Dot, Jim’s place down in the Pan Handle, which is full stocked an’ runnin’ easy with the ex-governor’s backin’, an’ also the ol’ Colonel Scott ranch which Bill and Jessamie fell heir to.

Jim an’ Barbie an’ the children come back every summer; Bill an’ Jessamie an’ their outfit hop in on me most any time, Ches an’ his bunch drop in for a week or so now an’ again, an’ if I ever do get lonesome I just sneak my full-dress uniform out o’ the hay an’ go down to Frisco for a little easin’ off o’ the guy-ropes. Oh, I haven’t had to petition to congress to have my name changed; I’m Happy. I’m happier than any human ever had a right to be, an’ life never drags none–at least not in the daytimes. The’ ‘s dozens o’ boys named after me, an’ only the recordin’ angel knows how many dogs an’ ponies. Take it as a big gatherin’, an’ if any one yells, “Happy, you rascal, get out o’ here,” Why the’ ‘s a general stampede.

Barbie’s allus extra kind to me, as if she still felt that the’ was somethin’ left for me to forgive her; but my goodness, the’ ain’t a thing. It wasn’t her fault–she couldn’t never have loved me–not in the only way I wanted her to. And it ain’t my fault–I couldn’t help but love her, an’ the’ was only one way that I could love her, an’ that was world without end. I’m not sorry I loved her; why, the’ ain’t nothin’ in life I’d take for this love of mine–and it is mine. The’ ain’t nothin’ can ever take it away from me, the’ ain’t nothin’ can ever put a limit to it; an’ though it has burned in my heart like fire, I reckon the worst it has ever done was to burn up the natural-born evil I started out with. I ain’t mean-hearted nor jealous–I can’t even understand it.

I can easy see how a feller would kill a man for ill-treatin’ the woman he loved; but I can’t see how he could marry a girl who didn’t love him with all her heart. An’ Jim, he’s been square. They’re happy, an’ I stand afar off watchin’ ’em; an’ some way when I’m out in the starlight–when it seems that I ain’t lyin’ on the earth at all, but floatin’ slow an’ easy like an eagle restin’ on his wings– I seem to share in their love, an’ I don’t seem to grow old.

I don’t reckon I ever will grow old, ’cause love is–love is–some way MY love is like the starlight itself; an’ the starlight don’t scorch an’ weaken an’ pester like the sun; it soothes an’ softens an’ lifts a man up where it’s calm an’ steady and–and pure.

The longer I live the fonder I grow o’ the stars. It don’t take as much sleep for me now as it used to, an’ I never was dopey; so the’ ‘s mighty few nights ‘at I don’t have a little visit with ’em. I know now ‘at they keep whirlin’ an’ circlin’ away up there; but they never deceive a body. You can allus keep track of ‘m, an’ when the seasons change an’ you can’t see ’em for a while, you know ‘at they’re tendin’ to their duties just the same; an’ somehow it kind o’ holds a man to the trail when the trail is gettin’ rougher than he thinks he can stand.

I’ve got a heap o’ friends, men an’ women of all kinds; an’ when they come to me ragin’ an’ bitter, I just take ’em out an’ show ’em the stars; tell ’em the ones who are about to go on a long journey, but who will come back again when they’re due, an’ not a minute late. The’ ‘s something about the stars ‘at allus seems to take the wickedness out of a human. I’ve had ’em come to me–men an’ women both–with murder in their hearts; but after we’ve visited a while with the stars they either sigh or sob–but they allus go away clean an’ rested.

It’s a funny notion; but sometimes I feet like as if I’d like to be a star myself; away up above the worry an’ selfishness of the world, an’ helpin’ to bring peace an content to those who look up to me. It’s a funny notion–especially for a feller what’s follered the trail I have.

Me an’ the preachers lock horns purty often; but they’re all right, most of ’em, when you treat ’em like humans an’ make ’em play fair. One of ’em happened out here on a visit, to sort o’ rest up, an’ he called me some kind of a Persian name an’ read me a little book called The Other Wise Man. I reckon I know that book, all except the big names, by heart; an’ if one of my stars would ever cut out o’ the herd an’ go off, slow an’ stately on a new trail, why I’d foller that star–God knows I’d foller; an’–I wouldn’t let on to no one else except you–but, way down, deep in my heart, I’m hopin’ that sometime I’ll get the chance.