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Title: Somewhere in Red Gap
Author: Wilson, Harry Leon, 1867-1939
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Somewhere in Red Gap" ***

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SOMEWHERE IN RED GAP

by

HARRY LEON WILSON

Illustrated by John R. Neill, F. R. Gruger, and Henry Raleigh

New York
Grosset & Dunlap
Publishers



[Illustration: "SHE WAS STANDING ON THE CENTRE TABLE BY NOW, SO SHE
COULD LAMP HERSELF IN THE GLASS OVER THE MANTEL"]



To
GEORGE HORACE LORIMER


CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I.    The Red Splash of Romance
II.   Ma Pettengill and the Song of Songs
III.  The Real Peruvian Doughnuts
IV.   Once a Scotchman, Always
V.    Non Plush Ultra
VI.   Cousin Egbert Intervenes
VII.  Kate; or, Up From the Depths
VIII. Pete's B'other-in-law
IX.   Little Old New York



I

THE RED SPLASH OF ROMANCE


The walls of the big living-room in the Arrowhead ranch house are
tastefully enlivened here and there with artistic spoils of the owner,
Mrs. Lysander John Pettengill. There are family portraits in crayon,
photo-engravings of noble beasts clipped from the _Breeder's Gazette_,
an etched cathedral or two, a stuffed and varnished trout of such size
that no one would otherwise have believed in it, a print in three
colours of a St. Bernard dog with a marked facial resemblance to the
late William E. Gladstone, and a triumph of architectural perspective
revealing two sides of the Pettengill block, corner of Fourth and Main
streets, Red Gap, made vivacious by a bearded fop on horseback who doffs
his silk hat to a couple of overdressed ladies with parasols in a
passing victoria.

And there is the photograph of the fat man. He is very large--both high
and wide. He has filled the lens and now compels the eye. His broad face
beams a friendly interest. His moustache is a flourishing, uncurbed,
riotous growth above his billowy chin.

The checked coat, held recklessly aside by a hand on each hip, reveals
an incredible expanse of waistcoat, the pattern of which raves
horribly. From pocket to pocket of this gaudy shield curves a watch
chain of massive links--nearly a yard of it, one guesses.

Often I have glanced at this noisy thing tacked to the wall, entranced
by the simple width of the man. Now on a late afternoon I loitered
before it while my hostess changed from riding breeches to the gown of
lavender and lace in which she elects to drink tea after a day's hard
work along the valleys of the Arrowhead. And for the first time I
observed a line of writing beneath the portrait, the writing of my
hostess, a rough, downright, plain fashion of script: "Reading from left
to right--Mr. Ben Sutton, Popular Society Favourite of Nome, Alaska."

"Reading from left to right!" Here was the intent facetious. And Ma
Pettengill is never idly facetious. Always, as the advertisements say,
"There's a reason!" And now, also for the first time, I noticed some
printed verses on a sheet of thickish yellow paper tacked to the wall
close beside the photograph--so close that I somehow divined an intimate
relationship between the two. With difficulty removing my gaze from the
gentleman who should be read from left to right, I scanned these verses:

    SONG OF THE OPEN ROAD

    A child of the road--a gypsy I--
      My path o'er the land and sea;
    With the fire of youth I warm my nights
      And my days are wild and free.
    Then ho! for the wild, the open road!
      Afar from the haunts of men.
    The woods and the hills for my spirit untamed--
      I'm away to mountain and glen.

    If ever I tried to leave my hills
      To abide in the cramped haunts of men,
    The urge of the wild to her wayward child
      Would drag me to freedom again.

    I'm slave to the call of the open road;
      In your cities I'd stifle and die.
    I'm off to the hills in fancy I see--
      On the breast of old earth I'll lie.

    WILFRED LENNOX, the Hobo Poet,
    On a Coast-to-Coast Walking Tour.
    These Cards for sale.

I briefly pondered the lyric. It told its own simple story and could at
once have been dismissed but for its divined and puzzling relationship
to the popular society favourite of Nome, Alaska. What could there be in
this?

Mrs. Lysander John Pettengill bustled in upon my speculation, but as
usual I was compelled to wait for the talk I wanted. For some moments
she would be only the tired owner of the Arrowhead Ranch--in the tea
gown of a debutante and with too much powder on one side of her
nose--and she must have at least one cup of tea so corrosive that the
Scotch whiskey she adds to it is but a merciful dilution. She now drank
eagerly of the fearful brew, dulled the bite of it with smoke from a
hurriedly built cigarette, and relaxed gratefully into one of those
chairs which are all that most of us remember William Morris for. Even
then she must first murmur of the day's annoyances, provided this time
by officials of the United States Forest Reserve. In the beginning I
must always allow her a little to have her own way.

"The annual spring rumpus with them rangers," she wearily boomed. "Every
year they tell me just where to turn my cattle out on the Reserve, and
every year I go ahead and turn 'em out where I want 'em turned out,
which ain't the same place at all, and then I have to listen patiently
to their kicks and politely answer all letters from the higher-ups and
wait for the official permit, which always comes--and it's wearing on a
body. Darn it! They'd ought to know by this time I always get my own
way. If they wasn't such a decent bunch I'd have words with 'em, giving
me the same trouble year after year, probably because I'm a weak,
defenceless woman. However!"

The lady rested largely, inert save for the hand that raised the
cigarette automatically to her lips. My moment had come.

"What did Wilfred Lennox, the hobo poet, have to do with Mr. Ben Sutton,
of Nome, Alaska?" I gently inquired.

"More than he wanted," replied the lady. Her glance warmed with
memories; she hovered musingly on the verge of recital. But the
cigarette was half done and at its best. I allowed her another moment, a
moment in which she laughed confidentially to herself, a little dry,
throaty laugh. I knew that laugh. She would be marshalling certain
events in their just and diverting order. But they seemed to be many and
of confusing values.

"Some said he not only wasn't a hobo but wasn't even a poet," she
presently murmured, and smoked again. Then: "That Ben Sutton, now, he's
a case. Comes from Alaska and don't like fresh eggs for breakfast
because he says they ain't got any kick to 'em like Alaska eggs have
along in March, and he's got to have canned milk for his coffee. Say, I
got a three-quarters Jersey down in Red Gap gives milk so rich that the
cream just naturally trembles into butter if you speak sharply to it or
even give it a cross look; not for Ben though. Had to send out for
canned milk that morning. I drew the line at hunting up case eggs for
him though. He had to put up with insipid fresh ones. And fat, that man!
My lands! He travels a lot in the West when he does leave home, and he
tells me it's the fear of his life he'll get wedged into one of them
narrow-gauge Pullmans some time and have to be chopped out. Well, as I
was saying--" She paused.

"But you haven't begun," I protested. I sharply tapped the printed
verses and the photograph reading from left to right. Now she became
animated, speaking as she expertly rolled a fresh cigarette.

"Say, did you ever think what aggravating minxes women are after they
been married a few years--after the wedding ring gets worn a little bit
thin?"

This was not only brutal; it seemed irrelevant.

"Wilfred Lennox--" I tried to insist, but she commandingly raised the
new cigarette at me.

"Yes, sir! Ever know one of 'em married for as long as ten years that
didn't in her secret heart have a sort of contempt for her life partner
as being a stuffy, plodding truck horse? Of course they keep a certain
dull respect for him as a provider, but they can't see him as dashing
and romantic any more; he ain't daring and adventurous. All he ever does
is go down and open up the store or push back the roll-top, and keep
from getting run over on the street. One day's like another with him,
never having any wild, lawless instincts or reckless moods that make a
man fascinating--about the nearest he ever comes to adventure is when he
opens the bills the first of the month. And she often seeing him without
any collar on, and needing a shave mebbe, and cherishing her own secret
romantic dreams, while like as not he's prosily figuring out how he's
going to make the next payment on the endowment policy.

"It's a hard, tiresome life women lead, chained to these here plodders.
That's why rich widows generally pick out the dashing young devils they
do for their second, having buried the man that made it for 'em. Oh,
they like him well enough, call him 'Father' real tenderly, and see
that he changes to the heavy flannels on time, but he don't ever thrill
them, and when they order three hundred and fifty dollars' worth of duds
from the Boston Cash Emporium and dress up like a foreign countess, they
don't do it for Father, they do it for the romantic guy in the magazine
serial they're reading, the handsome, cynical adventurer that has such
an awful power over women. They know darned well they won't ever meet
him; still it's just as well to be ready in case he ever should make Red
Gap--or wherever they live--and it's easy with the charge account there,
and Father never fussing more than a little about the bills.

"Not that I blame 'em. We're all alike--innocent enough, with freaks
here and there that ain't. Why, I remember about a thousand years ago I
was reading a book called 'Lillian's Honour,' in which the rightful earl
didn't act like an earl had ought to, but went travelling off over the
moors with a passel of gypsies, with all the she-gypsies falling in love
with him, and no wonder--he was that dashing. Well, I used to think what
might happen if he should come along while Lysander John was out with
the beef round-up or something. I was well-meaning, understand, but at
that I'd ought to have been laid out with a pick-handle. Oh, the nicest
of us got specks inside us--if ever we did cut loose the best one of us
would make the worst man of you look like nothing worse than a naughty
little boy cutting up in Sunday-school. What holds us, of course--we
always dream of being took off our feet; of being carried off by main
force against our wills while we snuggle up to the romantic brute and
plead with him to spare us--and the most reckless of 'em don't often get
their nerve up to that. Well, as I was saying--"

But she was not saying. The thing moved too slowly. And still the woman
paltered with her poisoned tea and made cigarettes and muttered
inconsequently, as when she now broke out after a glance at the
photograph:

"That Ben Sutton certainly runs amuck when he buys his vests. He must
have about fifty, and the quietest one in the lot would make a leopard
skin look like a piker." Again her glance dreamed off to visions.

I seated myself before her with some emphasis and said firmly: "Now,
then!" It worked.

"Wilfred Lennox," she began, "calling himself the hobo poet, gets into
Red Gap one day and makes the rounds with that there piece of poetry you
see; pushes into stores and offices and hands the piece out, and like as
not they crowd a dime or two bits onto him and send him along. That's
what I done. I was waiting in Dr. Percy Hailey Martingale's office for a
little painless dentistry, and I took Wilfred's poem and passed him a
two-bit piece, and Doc Martingale does the same, and Wilfred blew on to
the next office. A dashing and romantic figure he was, though kind of
fat and pasty for a man that was walking from coast to coast, but a
smooth talker with beautiful features and about nine hundred dollars'
worth of hair and a soft hat and one of these flowing neckties. Red it
was.

"So I looked over his piece of poetry--about the open road for his
untamed spirit and him being stifled in the cramped haunts of men--and
of course I get his number. All right about the urge of the wild to her
wayward child, but here he was spending a lot of time in the cramped
haunts of men taking their small change away from 'em and not seeming to
stifle one bit.

"Ain't this new style of tramp funny? Now instead of coming round to the
back door and asking for a hand-out like any self-respecting tramp had
ought to, they march up to the front door, and they're somebody with two
or three names that's walking round the world on a wager they made with
one of the Vanderbilt boys or John D. Rockefeller. They've walked
thirty-eight hundred miles already and got the papers to prove it--a
letter from the mayor of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and the mayor of
Davenport, Iowa, a picture post card of themselves on the courthouse
steps at Denver, and they've bet forty thousand dollars they could start
out without a cent and come back in twenty-two months with money in
their pocket--and ain't it a good joke?--with everybody along the way
entering into the spirit of it and passing them quarters and such, and
thank you very much for your two bits for the picture post card--and
they got another showing 'em in front of the Mormon Tabernacle at Salt
Lake City, if you'd like that, too--and thank you again--and now they'll
be off once more to the open road and the wild, free life. Not! Yes, two
or three good firm Nots. Having milked the town they'll be right down to
the dee-po with their silver changed to bills, waiting for No. 6 to come
along, and ho! for the open railroad and another town that will skin
pretty. I guess I've seen eight or ten of them boys in the last five
years, with their letters from mayors.

"But this here Wilfred Lennox had a new graft. He was the first I'd give
up to for mere poetry. He didn't have a single letter from a mayor, nor
even a picture card of himself standing with his hat off in front of
Pike's Peak--nothing but poetry. But, as I said, he was there with a
talk about pining for the open road and despising the cramped haunts of
men, and he had appealing eyes and all this flowing hair and necktie. So
I says to myself: 'All right, Wilfred, you win!' and put my purse back
in my bag and thought no more of it.

"Yet not so was it to be. Wilfred, working the best he could to make a
living doing nothing, pretty soon got to the office of Alonzo Price,
Choice Improved Real Estate and Price's Addition. Lon was out for the
moment, but who should be there waiting for him but his wife, Mrs.
Henrietta Templeton Price, recognized leader of our literary and
artistic set. Or I think they call it a 'group' or a 'coterie' or
something. Setting at Lon's desk she was, toying petulantly with horrid
old pens and blotters, and probably bestowing glances of disrelish from
time to time round the grimy office where her scrubby little husband
toiled his days away in unromantic squalor.

"I got to tell you about Henrietta. She's one of them like I just said
the harsh things about, with the secret cry in her heart for romance and
adventure and other forbidden things and with a kindly contempt for
peaceful Alonzo. She admits to being thirty-six, so you can figure it
out for yourself. Of course she gets her husband wrong at that, as women
so often do. Alonzo has probably the last pair of side whiskers outside
of a steel engraving and stands five feet two, weighing a hundred and
twenty-six pounds at the ring side, but he's game as a swordfish, and as
for being romantic in the true sense of the word--well, no one that ever
heard him sell a lot in Price's Addition--three miles and a half up on
the mesa, with only the smoke of the canning factory to tell a body they
was still near the busy haunts of men, that and a mile of concrete
sidewalk leading a life of complete idleness--I say no one that ever
listened to Lon sell a lot up there, pointing out on a blue print the
proposed site of the Carnegie Library, would accuse him of not being
romantic.

"But of course Henrietta never sees Lon's romance and he ain't always
had the greatest patience with hers--like the time she got up the Art
Loan Exhibit to get new books for the M.E. Sabbath-school library and
got Spud Mulkins of the El Adobe to lend 'em the big gold-framed oil
painting that hangs over his bar. Some of the other ladies objected to
this--the picture was a big pink hussy lying down beside the
ocean--but Henrietta says art for art's sake is pure to them that are
pure, or something, and they're doing such things constantly in the
East; and I'm darned if Spud didn't have his oil painting down and the
mosquito netting ripped off it before Alonzo heard about it and put the
Not-at-All on it. He wouldn't reason with Henrietta either. He just said
his objection was that every man that saw it would put one foot up
groping for the brass railing, which would be undignified for a
Sabbath-school scheme, and that she'd better hunt out something with
clothes on like Whistler's portrait of his mother, or, if she wanted the
nude in art, to get the Horse Fair or something with animals.

"I tell you that to show you how they don't hit it off sometimes. Then
Henrietta sulks. Kind of pinched and hungry looking she is, drapes her
black hair down over one side of her high forehead, wears daring
gowns--that's what she calls 'em anyway--and reads the most outrageous
kinds of poetry out loud to them that will listen. Likes this Omar
Something stuff about your path being beset with pitfalls and gin fizzes
and getting soused out under a tree with your girl.

"I'm just telling you so you'll get Henrietta when Wilfred Lennox drips
gracefully in with his piece of poetry in one hand. Of course she must
have looked long and nervously at Wilfred, then read his poetry, then
looked again. There before her was Romance against a background of
Alonzo Price, who never had an adventurous or evil thought in his life,
and wore rubbers! Oh, sure! He must have palsied her at once, this wild,
free creature of the woods who couldn't stand the cramped haunts of men.
And I have said that Wilfred was there with the wild, free words about
himself, and the hat and tie and the waving brown hair that give him so
much trouble. Shucks! I don't blame the woman. It's only a few years
since we been let out from under lock and key. Give us a little time to
get our bearings, say I. Wilfred was just one big red splash before her
yearning eyes; he blinded her. And he stood there telling how this here
life in the marts of trade would sure twist and blacken some of the very
finest chords in his being. Something like that it must have been.

"Anyway, about a quarter to six a procession went up Fourth Street,
consisting of Wilfred Lennox, Henrietta, and Alonzo. The latter was
tripping along about three steps back of the other two and every once in
a while he would stop for a minute and simply look puzzled. I saw him.
It's really a great pity Lon insists on wearing a derby hat with his
side whiskers. To my mind the two never seem meant for each other.

"The procession went to the Price mansion up on Ophir Avenue. And that
evening Henrietta had in a few friends to listen to the poet recite his
verses and tell anecdotes about himself. About five or six ladies in
the parlour and their menfolks smoking out on the front porch. The men
didn't seem to fall for Wilfred's open-road stuff the way the ladies
did. Wilfred was a good reciter and held the ladies with his voice and
his melting blue eyes with the long lashes, and Henrietta was envied for
having nailed him. That is, the women envied her. The men sort of
slouched off down to the front gate and then went down to the Temperance
Billiard Parlour, where several of 'em got stewed. Most of 'em, like old
Judge Ballard, who come to the country in '62, and Jeff Tuttle, who's
always had more than he wanted of the open road, were very cold indeed
to Wilfred's main proposition. It is probable that low mutterings might
have been heard among 'em, especially after a travelling man that was
playing pool said the hobo poet had come in on the Pullman of No. 6.

"But I must say that Alonzo didn't seem to mutter any, from all I could
hear. Pathetic, the way that little man will believe right up to the
bitter end. He said that for a hobo Wilfred wrote very good poetry,
better than most hobos could write, he thought, and that Henrietta
always knew what she was doing. So the evening come to a peaceful end,
most of the men getting back for their wives and Alonzo showing up in
fair shape and plumb eager for the comfort of his guest. It was Alonzo's
notion that the guest would of course want to sleep out in the front
yard on the breast of old earth where he could look up at the pretty
stars and feel at home, and he was getting out a roll of blankets when
the guest said he didn't want to make the least bit of trouble and for
one night he'd manage to sleep inside four stifling walls in a regular
bed, like common people do. So Lon bedded him down in the guest chamber,
but opened up the four windows in it and propped the door wide open so
the poor fellow could have a breeze and not smother. He told this
downtown the next morning, and he was beginning to look right puzzled
indeed. He said the wayward child of Nature had got up after about half
an hour and shut all the windows and the door. Lon thought first he was
intending to commit suicide, but he didn't like to interfere. He was
telling Jeff Tuttle and me about it when we happened to pass his office.

"'And there's another funny thing,'" he says. 'This chap was telling us
all the way up home last night that he never ate meat--simply fruits and
nuts with a mug of spring water. He said eating the carcasses of
murdered beasts was abhorrent to him. But when we got down to the table
he consented to partake of the roast beef and he did so repeatedly. We
usually have cold meat for lunch the day after a rib roast, but there
will be something else to-day; and along with the meat he drank two
bottles of beer, though with mutterings of disgust. He said spring water
in the hills was pure, but that water out of pipes was full of typhoid
germs. He admitted that there were times when the grosser appetites
assailed him. And they assailed him this morning, too. He said he might
bring himself to eat some chops, and he did it without scarcely a
struggle. He ate six. He said living the nauseous artificial life even
for one night brought back the hateful meat craving. I don't know. He is
undeniably peculiar. And of course you've heard about Pettikin's affair
for this evening?'

"We had. Just before leaving the house I had received Henrietta's card
inviting me to the country club that evening 'to meet Mr. Wilfred
Lennox, Poet and Nature Lover, who will recite his original verses and
give a brief talk on "The World's Debt to Poetry."' And there you have
the whole trouble. Henrietta should have known better. But I've let out
what women really are. I told Alonzo I would sure be among those
present, I said it sounded good. And then Alonzo pipes up about Ben
Sutton coming to town on the eleven forty-two from the West. Ben makes a
trip out of Alaska every summer and never fails to stop off a day or two
with Lon, they having been partners up North in '98.

"'Good old Ben will enjoy it, too,' says Alonzo; 'and, furthermore, Ben
will straighten out one or two little things that have puzzled me about
this poet. He will understand his complex nature in a way that I confess
I have been unequal to. What I mean is,' he says, 'there was talk when I
left this morning of the poet consenting to take a class in poetry for
several weeks in our thriving little city, and Henrietta was urging him
to make our house his home. I have a sort of feeling that Ben will be
able to make several suggestions of prime value. I have never known him
to fail at making suggestions.'

"Funny, the way the little man tried to put it over on us, letting on he
was just puzzled--not really bothered, as he plainly was. You knew
Henrietta was still seeing the big red splash of Romance, behind which
the figure of her husband was totally obscured. Jeff Tuttle saw the
facts, and he up and spoke in a very common way about what would quickly
happen to any tramp that tried to camp in his house, poet or no poet,
but that's neither here nor there. We left Alonzo looking cheerily
forward to Ben Sutton on the eleven forty-two, and I went on to do some
errands.

"In the course of these I discovered that others besides Henrietta had
fell hard for the poet of Nature. I met Mrs. Dr. Percy Hailey Martingale
and she just bubbles about him, she having been at the Prices' the night
before.

"'Isn't he a glorious thing!' she says; 'and how grateful we should be
for the dazzling bit of colour he brings into our drab existence!' She
is a good deal like that herself at times. And I met Beryl Mae Macomber,
a well known young society girl of seventeen, and Beryl Mae says: 'He's
awfully good looking, but do you think he's sincere?' And even Mrs.
Judge Ballard comes along and says: 'What a stimulus he should be to us
in our dull lives! How he shows us the big, vital bits!' and her at that
very minute going into Bullitt & Fleishacker's to buy shoes for her
nine year old twin grandsons! And the Reverend Mrs. Wiley Knapp in at
the Racquet Store wanting to know if the poet didn't make me think of
some wild, free creature of the woods--a deer or an antelope poised for
instant flight while for one moment he timidly overlooked man in his
hideous commercialism. But, of course, she was a minister's wife. I said
he made me feel just like that. I said so to all of 'em. What else could
I say? If I'd said what I thought there on the street I'd of been
pinched. So I beat it home in self-protection. I was sympathizing good
and hearty with Lon Price by that time and looking forward to Ben Sutton
myself. I had a notion Ben would see the right of it where these poor
dubs of husbands wouldn't--or wouldn't dast say it if they did.

"About five o'clock I took another run downtown for some things I'd
forgot, with an eye out to see how Alonzo and Ben might be coming on.
The fact is, seeing each other only once a year that way they're apt to
kind of loosen up--if you know what I mean.

"No sign of 'em at first. Nothing but ladies young and old--even some of
us older ranching set--making final purchases of ribbons and such for
the sole benefit of Wilfred Lennox, and talking in a flushed manner
about him whenever they met. Almost every darned one of 'em had made it
a point to stroll past the Price mansion that afternoon where Wilfred
was setting out on the lawn, in a wicker chair with some bottles of beer
surveying Nature with a look of lofty approval and chatting with
Henrietta about the real things of life.

"Beryl Mae Macomber had traipsed past four times, changing her clothes
twice with a different shade of ribbon across her forehead and all her
college pins on, and at last she'd simply walked right in and asked if
she hadn't left her tennis racquet there last Tuesday. She says to Mrs.
Judge Ballard and Mrs. Martingale and me in the Cut-Rate Pharmacy, she
says: 'Oh, he's just awfully magnetic--but do you really think he's
sincere?' Then she bought an ounce of Breath of Orient perfume and kind
of two-stepped out. These other ladies spoke very sharply about the
freedom Beryl Mae's aunt allowed her. Mrs. Martingale said the poet, it
was true, had a compelling personality, but what was our young girls
coming to? And if that child was hers--

"So I left these two lady highbinders and went on into the retail side
of the Family Liquor Store to order up some cooking sherry, and there
over the partition from the bar side what do I hear but Alonzo Price and
Ben Sutton! Right off I could tell they'd been pinning a few on. In
fact, Alonzo was calling the bartender Mister. You don't know about Lon,
but when he calls the bartender Mister the ship has sailed. Ten minutes
after that he'll be crying over his operation. So I thought quick,
remembering that we had now established a grillroom at the country club,
consisting of a bar and three tables with bells on them, and a
Chinaman, and that if Alonzo and Ben Sutton come there at all they had
better come right--at least to start with. When I'd given my order I
sent Louis Meyer in to tell the two gentlemen a lady wished to speak to
them outside.

"In a minute Ben comes out alone. He was awful glad to see me and I said
how well he looked, and he did look well, sort of cordial and
bulging--his forehead bulges and his eyes bulge and his moustache and
his chin, and he has cushions on his face. He beamed on me in a wide and
hearty manner and explained that Alonzo refused to come out to meet a
lady until he knew who she was, because you got to be careful in a small
town like this where every one talks. 'And besides,' says Ben, 'he's
just broke down and begun to cry about his appendicitis that was three
years ago. He's leaning his head on his arms down by the end of the bar
and sobbing bitterly over it. He seems to grieve about it as a personal
loss. I've tried to cheer him up and told him it was probably all for
the best, but he says when it comes over him this way he simply can't
stand it. And what shall I do?'

"Well, of course I seen the worst had happened with Alonzo. So I says to
Ben: 'You know there's a party to-night and if that man ain't seen to he
will certainly sink the ship. Now you get him out of that swamp and I'll
think of something.' 'I'll do it,' says Ben, turning sideways so he
could go through the doorway again. 'I'll do it,' he says, 'if I have to
use force on the little scoundrel.'

"And sure enough, in a minute he edged out again with Alonzo firmly
fastened to him in some way. Lon hadn't wanted to come and didn't want
to stay now, but he simply couldn't move. Say, that Ben Sutton would
make an awful grand anchor for a captive balloon. Alonzo wiped his eyes
until he could see who I was. Then I rebuked him, reminding him of his
sacred duties as a prominent citizen, a husband, and the secretary of
the Red Gap Chamber of Commerce. 'Of course it's all right to take a
drink now and then,' I says.

"Alonzo brightened at this. 'Good!' says he; 'now it's now and pretty
soon it will be then. Let's go into a saloon or something like that!'

"'You'll come with me,' I says firmly. And I marched 'em down to the
United States Grill, where I ordered tea and toast for 'em. Ben was
sensible enough, but Alonzo was horrified at the thought of tea. 'It's
tea or nice cold water for yours,' I says, and that set him off again.
'Water!' he sobs. 'Water! Water! Maybe you don't know that some dear
cousins of mine have just lost their all in the Dayton flood--twenty
years' gathering went in a minute, just like that!' and he tried to snap
his fingers. All the same I got some hot tea into him and sent for Eddie
Pierce to be out in front with his hack. While we was waiting for Eddie
it occurs to Alonzo to telephone his wife. He come back very solemn and
says: 'I told her I wouldn't be home to dinner because I was hungry and
there probably wouldn't be enough meat, what with a vegetarian poet in
the house. I told her I should sink to the level of a brute in the night
life of our gay little city. I said I was a wayward child of Nature
myself if you come right down to it.'

"'Good for you,' I says, having got word that Eddie is outside with his
hack. 'And now for the open road!' 'Fine!' says Alonzo. 'My spirit is
certainly feeling very untamed, like some poet's!' So I hustled 'em out
and into the four wheeler. Then I give Eddie Pierce private
instructions. 'Get 'em out into the hills about four miles,' I says,
'out past the Catholic burying ground, then make an excuse that your
hack has broke down, and as soon as they set foot to the ground have
them skates of yours run away. Pay no attention whatever to their
pleadings or their profane threats, only yelling to 'em that you'll be
back as soon as possible. But don't go back. They'll wait an hour or so,
then walk. And they need to walk.'

"'You said something there,' says Eddie, glancing back at 'em. Ben
Sutton was trying to cheer Alonzo up by reminding him of the Christmas
night they went to sleep in the steam room of the Turkish bath at Nome,
and the man forgot 'em and shut off the steam and they froze to the
benches and had to be chiselled off. And Eddie trotted off with his
load. You'd ought to seen the way the hack sagged down on Ben's side.
And I felt that I had done a good work, so I hurried home to get a bite
to eat and dress and make the party, which I still felt would be a good
party even if the husband of our hostess was among the killed or
missing.

"I reached the clubhouse at eight o'clock of that beautiful June
evening, to find the party already well assembled on the piazza and the
front steps or strolling about the lawn, about eight or ten of our
prominent society matrons and near as many husbands. And mebbe those
dames hadn't lingered before their mirrors for final touches! Mrs.
Martingale had on all her rings and the jade bracelet and the art-craft
necklace with amethysts, and Mrs. Judge Ballard had done her hair a new
way, and Beryl Mae Macomber, there with her aunt, not only had a new
scarf with silver stars over her frail young shoulders and a band of
cherry coloured velvet across her forehead, but she was wearing the
first ankle watch ever seen in Red Gap. I couldn't begin to tell you the
fussy improvements them ladies had made in themselves--and all, mind
you, for the passing child of Nature who had never paid a bill for 'em
in his life.

"Oh, it was a gay, careless throng with the mad light of pleasure in its
eyes, and all of 'em milling round Wilfred Lennox, who was eating it up.
Some bantered him roguishly and some spoke in chest tones of what was
the real inner meaning of life after all. Henrietta Templeton Price
hovered near with the glad light of capture in her eyes. Silent but
proud Henrietta was, careless but superior, reminding me of the hunter
that has his picture taken over in Africa with one negligent foot on
the head of a two-horned rhinoceros he's just killed.

"But again the husbands was kind of lurking in the background, bunched
up together. They seemed abashed by this strange frenzy of their
womenfolks. How'd they know, the poor dubs, that a poet wasn't something
a business man had ought to be polite and grovelling to? They affected
an easy manner, but it was poor work. Even Judge Ballard, who seems nine
feet tall in his Prince Albert, and usually looks quite dignified and
hostile with his long dark face and his moustache and goatee--even the
good old judge was rattled after a brief and unhappy effort to hold a
bit of converse with the guest of honour. Him and Jeff Tuttle went to
the grillroom twice in ten minutes. The judge always takes his with a
dash of pepper sauce in it, but now it only seemed to make him more
gloomy.

"Well, I was listening along, feeling elated that I'd put Alonzo and Ben
Sutton out of the way and wondering when the show would begin--Beryl Mae
in her high, innocent voice had just said to the poet: 'But seriously
now, are you sincere?' and I was getting some plenty of that, when up
the road in the dusk I seen Bush Jones driving a dray-load of furniture.
I wondered where in time any family could be moving out that way. I
didn't know any houses beyond the club and I was pondering about this,
idly as you might say, when Bush Jones pulls his team up right in front
of the clubhouse, and there on the load is the two I had tried to lose.
In a big armchair beside a varnished centre table sits Ben Sutton
reading something that I recognized as the yellow card with Wilfred's
verses on it. And across the dray from him on a red-plush sofa is Alonzo
Price singing 'My Wild Irish Rose' in a very noisy tenor.

"Well, sir, I could have basted that fool Bush Jones with one of his own
dray stakes. That man's got an intellect just powerful enough to take
furniture from one house to another if the new address ain't too hard
for him to commit to memory. That's Bush Jones all right! He has the
machinery for thinking, but it all glitters as new as the day it was put
in. So he'd come a mile out of his way with these two riots--and people
off somewhere wondering where that last load of things was!

"The ladies all affected to ignore this disgraceful spectacle, with
Henrietta sinking her nails into her bloodless palms, but the men broke
out and cheered a little in a half-scared manner and some of 'em went
down to help the newcomers climb out. Then Ben had words with Bush Jones
because he wanted him to wait there and take 'em back to town when the
party was over and Bush refused to wait. After suffering about twenty
seconds in the throes of mental effort I reckon he discovered that he
had business to attend to or was hungry or something. Anyway, Ben paid
him some money finally and he drove off after calling out 'Good-night,
all!' just as if nothing had happened.

"Alonzo and Ben Sutton joined the party without further formality. They
didn't look so bad, either, so I saw my crooked work had done some good.
Lon quit singing almost at once and walked good and his eyes didn't
wabble, and he looked kind of desperate and respectable, and Ben was
first-class, except he was slightly oratorical and his collar had melted
the way fat men's do. And it was funny to see how every husband there
bucked up when Ben came forward, as if all they had wanted was some one
to make medicine for 'em before they begun the war dance. They mooched
right up round Ben when he trampled a way into the flushed group about
Wilfred.

"'At last the well-known stranger!' says Ben cordially, seizing one of
Wilfred's pale, beautiful hands. 'I've been hearing so much of you,
wayward child of the open road that you are, and I've just been reading
your wonderful verses as I sat in my library. The woods and the hills
for your spirit untamed and the fire of youth to warm your
nights--that's the talk.' He paused and waved Wilfred's verses in a fat,
freckled hand. Then he looked at him hard and peculiar and says: 'When
you going to pull some of it for us?'

"Wilfred had looked slightly rattled from the beginning. Now he smiled,
but only with his lips--he made it seem like a mere Swedish exercise or
something, and the next second his face looked as if it had been sewed
up for the winter.

"'Little starry-eyed gypsy, I say, when are you going to pull some of
that open-road stuff?' says Ben again, all cordial and sinister.

"Wilfred gulped and tried to be jaunty. 'Oh, as to that, I'm here to-day
and there to-morrow,' he murmurs, and nervously fixes his necktie.

"'Oh, my, and isn't that nice!' says Ben heartily--'the urge of the wild
to her wayward child'--I know you're a slave to it. And now you're going
to tell us all about the open road, and then you and I are going to have
an intimate chat and I'll tell you about it--about some of the dearest
little open roads you ever saw, right round in these parts. I've just
counted nine, all leading out of town to the cunningest mountains and
glens that would make you write poetry hours at a time, with Nature's
glad fruits and nuts and a mug of spring water and some bottled beer and
a ham and some rump steak--'

"The stillness of that group had become darned painful, I want to tell
you. There was a horrid fear that Ben Sutton might go too far, even for
a country club. Every woman was shuddering and smiling in a painful
manner, and the men regarding Ben with glistening eyes. And Ben felt it
himself all at once. So he says: 'But I fear I am detaining you,' and
let go of the end of Wilfred's tie that he had been toying with in a
somewhat firm manner. 'Let us be on with your part of the evening's
entertainment,' he says, 'but don't forget, gypsy wilding that you are,
that you and I must have a chat about open roads the moment you have
finished. I know we are cramping you. By that time you will be feeling
the old, restless urge and you might take a road that wasn't open if I
didn't direct you.'

"He patted Wilfred loudly on the back a couple of times and Wilfred
ducked the third pat and got out of the group, and the ladies all began
to flurry their voices about the lovely June evening but wouldn't it be
pleasanter inside, and Henrietta tragically called from the doorway to
come at once, for God's sake, so they all went at once, with the men
only half trailing, and inside we could hear 'em fixing chairs round and
putting out a table for the poet to stand by, and so forth.

"Alonzo, however, had not trailed. He was over on the steps holding
Beryl Mae Macomber by her new scarf and telling her how flowerlike her
beauty was. And old Judge Ballard was holding about half the men,
including Ben Sutton, while he made a speech. I hung back to listen.
'Sir,' he was saying to Ben, 'Secretary Seward some years since
purchased your territory from Russia for seven million dollars despite
the protests of a clamorous and purblind opposition. How niggardly seems
that purchase price at this moment! For Alaska has perfected you, sir,
if it did not produce you. Gentlemen, I feel that we dealt unfairly by
Russia. But that is in the dead past. It is not too late, however, to
tiptoe to the grillroom and offer a toast to our young sister of the
snows.'

"There was subdued cheers and they tiptoed. Ben Sutton was telling the
judge that he felt highly complimented, but it was a mistake to ring in
that snow stuff on Alaska. She'd suffered from it too long. He was going
on to paint Alaska as something like Alabama--cooler nights, of course,
but bracing. Alonzo still had Beryl Mae by the scarf, telling her how
flowerlike her beauty was.

"I went into the big room, picking a chair over by the door so I could
keep tabs on that grillroom. Only three or four of the meekest husbands
had come with us. And Wilfred started. I'll do him the justice to say he
was game. The ladies thought anything bordering on roughness was all
over, but Wilfred didn't. When he'd try to get a far-away look in his
eyes while he was reciting his poetry he couldn't get it any farther
away than the grillroom door. He was nervous but determined, for there
had been notice given of a silver offering for him. He recited the
verses on the card and the ladies all thrilled up at once, including
Beryl Mae, who'd come in without her scarf. They just clenched their
hands and hung on Wilfred's wild, free words.

"And after the poetry he kind of lectured about how man had ought to
break away from the vile cities and seek the solace of great Mother
Nature, where his bruised spirit could be healed and the veneer of
civilization cast aside and the soul come into its own, and things like
that. And he went on to say that out in the open the perspective of life
is broadened and one is a laughing philosopher as long as the blue sky
is overhead and the green grass underfoot. 'To lie,' says he, 'with
relaxed muscles on the carpet of pine needles and look up through the
gently swaying branches of majestic trees at the fleecy white clouds,
dreaming away the hours far from the sordid activities of the market
place, is one of the best nerve tonics in all the world.' It was an
unfortunate phrase for Wilfred, because some of the husbands had tiptoed
out of the grillroom to listen, and there was a hearty cheer at this,
led by Jeff Tuttle. 'Sure! Some nerve tonic!' they called out, and
laughed coarsely. Then they rushed back to the grillroom without
tiptoeing.

"The disgraceful interruption was tactfully covered by Wilfred and his
audience. He took a sip from the glass of water and went on to talk
about the world's debt to poetry. Then I sneaked out to the grillroom
myself. By this time the Chinaman had got tangled up with the orders and
was putting out drinks every which way. And they was being taken
willingly. Judge Ballard and Ben Sutton was now planting cotton in
Alaska and getting good crops every year, and Ben was also promising to
send the judge a lovely spotted fawnskin vest that an Indian had made
for him, but made too small--not having more than six or eight fawns, I
judged. And Alonzo had got a second start. Still he wasn't so bad yet,
with Beryl Mae's scarf over his arm, and talking of the unparalleled
beauties of Price's Addition to Red Gap, which he said he wouldn't trade
even for the whole of Alaska if it was offered to him to-morrow--not
that Ben Sutton wasn't the whitest soul God ever made and he'd like to
hear some one say different--and so on.

"I mixed in with 'em and took a friendly drink myself, with the aim of
smoothing things down, but I saw it would be delicate work. About all I
could do was keep 'em reminded there was ladies present and it wasn't a
barroom where anything could be rightly started. Doc Martingale's
feelings was running high, too, account, I suppose, of certain
full-hearted things his wife had blurted out to him about the hypnotic
eyes of this here Nature lover. He was quiet enough, but vicious, acting
like he'd love to do some dental work on the poet that might or might
not be painless for all he cared a hoot. He was taking his own drinks
all alone, like clockwork--moody but systematic.

"Then we hear chairs pushed round in the other room and the chink of
silver to be offered to the poet, and Henrietta come out to give word
for the refreshments to be served. She found Alonzo in the hallway
telling Beryl Mae how flowerlike her beauty was and giving her the elk's
tooth charm off his watch chain. Beryl Mae was giggling heartily until
she caught Henrietta's eye--like a cobra's.

"The refreshments was handed round peaceful enough, with the ladies
pressing sardine sandwiches and chocolate cake and cups of coffee on to
Wilfred and asking him interesting questions about his adventurous life
in the open. And the plans was all made for his class in poetry to be
held at Henrietta's house, where the lady subscribers for a few weeks
could come into contact with the higher realities of life, at eight
dollars for the course, and Wilfred was beginning to cheer up again,
though still subject to dismay when one of the husbands would glare in
at him from the hall, and especially when Ben Sutton would look in with
his bulging and expressive eyes and kind of bark at him.

"Then Ben Sutton come and stood in the doorway till he caught Wilfred's
eye and beckoned to him. Wilfred pretended not to notice the first time,
but Ben beckoned a little harder, so Wilfred excused himself to the six
or eight ladies and went out. It seemed to me he first looked quick
round him to make sure there wasn't any other way out. I was standing in
the hall when Ben led him tenderly into the grillroom with two fingers.

"'Here is our well-known poet and _bon vivant_,' says Ben to Alonzo, who
had followed 'em in. So Alonzo bristles up to Wilfred and glares at him
and says: 'All joking aside, is that one of my new shirts you're wearing
or is it not?'

"Wilfred gasped a couple times and says: 'Why, as to that, you see, the
madam insisted--'

"Alonzo shut him off. 'How dare you drag a lady's name into a barroom
brawl?' says he.

"'Don't shoot in here,' says Ben. 'You'd scare the ladies.'

"Wilfred went pasty, indeed, thinking his host was going to gun him.

"'Oh, very well, I won't then,' says Alonzo. 'I guess I can be a
gentleman when necessary. But all joking aside, I want to ask him this:
Does he consider poetry to be an accomplishment or a vice?'

"'I was going to put something like that to him myself, only I couldn't
think of it,' says Doc Martingale, edging up and looking quite
restrained and nervous in the arms. I was afraid of the doc. I was
afraid he was going to blemish Wilfred a couple of times right there.

"'An accomplishment or a vice? Answer yes or no!' orders the judge in a
hard voice.

"The poet looks round at 'em and attempts to laugh merrily, but he only
does it from the teeth out.

"'Laugh on, my proud beauty!' says Ben Button. Then he turns to the
bunch. 'What we really ought to do,' he says, 'we ought to make a
believer of him right here and now.'

"Even then, mind you, the husbands would have lost their nerve if Ben
hadn't took the lead. Ben didn't have to live with their wives so what
cared he? Wilfred Lennox sort of shuffled his feet and smiled a smile of
pure anxiety. He knew some way that this was nothing to cheer about.

"'I got it,' says Jeff Tuttle with the air of a thinker. 'We're cramping
the poor cuss here. What he wants is the open road.'

"'What he really wants,' says Alonzo, 'is about six bottles of my pure,
sparkling beer, but maybe he'll take the open road if we show him a good
one.'

"'He wants the open road--show him a good one!' yells the other husbands
in chorus. It was kind of like a song.

"'I had meant to be on my way,' says Wilfred very cold and lofty.

"'You're here to-day and there to-morrow,' says Ben; 'but how can you be
there to-morrow if you don't start from here now?--for the way is long
and lonely.'

"'I was about to start,' says Wilfred, getting in a couple of steps
toward the door.

"''Tis better so,' says Ben. 'This is no place for a county recorder's
son, and there's a bully road out here open at both ends.'

"They made way for the poet, and a sickening silence reigned. Even the
women gathered about the door of the other room was silent. They knew
the thing had got out of their hands. The men closed in after Wilfred as
he reached the steps. He there took his soft hat out from under his coat
where he'd cached it. He went cautiously down the steps. Beryl Mae broke
the silence.

"'Oh, Mr. Price,' says she, catching Alonzo by the sleeve, 'do you think
he's really sincere?'

"'He is at this moment,' says Alonzo. 'He's behaving as sincerely as
ever I saw a man behave.' And just then at the foot of the steps Wilfred
made a tactical error. He started to run. The husbands and Ben Sutton
gave the long yell and went in pursuit. Wilfred would have left them all
if he hadn't run into the tennis net. He come down like a sack of meal.

"'There!' says Ben Sutton. 'Now he's done it--broke his neck or
something. That's the way with some men--they'll try anything to get a
laugh.'

"They went and picked the poet up. He was all right, only dazed.

"'But that's one of the roads that ain't open,' says Ben. 'And besides,
you was going right toward the nasty old railroad that runs into the
cramped haunts of men. You must have got turned round. Here'--he pointed
out over the golf links--'it's off that way that Mother Nature awaits
her wayward child. Miles and miles of her--all open. Doesn't your gypsy
soul hear the call? This way for the hills and glens, thou star-eyed
woodling!' and he gently led Wilfred off over the links, the rest of the
men trailing after and making some word racket, believe me. They was all
good conversationalists at the moment. Doc Martingale was wanting the
poet to run into the tennis net again, just for fun, and Jeff Tuttle
says make him climb a tree like the monkeys do in their native glades,
but Ben says just keep him away from the railroad, that's all. Good
Mother Nature will attend to the rest.

"The wives by now was huddled round the side of the clubhouse, too
scared to talk much, just muttering incoherently and wringing their
hands, and Beryl Mae pipes up and says: 'Oh, perhaps I wronged him
after all; perhaps deep down in his heart he was sincere.'

"The moon had come up now and we could see the mob with its victim
starting off toward the Canadian Rockies. Then all at once they began to
run, and I knew Wilfred had made another dash for liberty. Pretty soon
they scattered out and seemed to be beating up the shrubbery down by the
creek. And after a bit some of 'em straggled back. They paid no
attention to us ladies, but made for the grillroom.

"'We lost him in that brush beyond the fifth hole,' says Alonzo. 'None
of us is any match for him on level ground, but we got some good
trackers and we're guarding the line to keep him headed off from the
railroad and into his beloved hills.'

"'We should hurry back with refreshment for the faithful watchers,' says
Judge Ballard. 'The fellow will surely try to double back to the
railroad.'

"'Got to keep him away from the cramped haunts of business men,' says
Alonzo brightly.

"'I wish Clay, my faithful old hound, were still alive,' says the judge
wistfully.

"'Say, I got a peach of a terrier down to the house right now,' says
Jeff Tuttle, 'but he's only trained for bear--I never tried him on
poets.'

"'He might tree him at that,' says Doc Martingale.

"'Percy,' cries his wife, 'have you forgotten your manhood?'

"'Yes,' says Percy.

"'Darling,' calls Henrietta, 'will you listen to reason a moment?'

"'No,' says Alonzo.

"'It's that creature from Alaska leading them on,' says Mrs. Judge
Ballard--'that overdressed drunken rowdy!'

"Ben Sutton looked right hurt at this. He buttoned his coat over his
checked vest and says: 'I take that unkindly, madam--calling me
overdressed. I selected this suiting with great care. It ain't nice to
call me overdressed. I feel it deeply.'

"But they was off again before one thing could lead to another, taking
bottles of hard liquor they had uncorked. 'The open road! The open
road!' they yelled as they went.

"Well, that's about all. Some of the wives begun to straggle off home,
mostly in tears, and some hung round till later. I was one of these, not
wishing to miss anything of an absorbing character. Edgar Tomlinson went
early, too. Edgar writes 'The Lounger in the Lobby' column for the
_Recorder_, and he'd come out to report the entertainment; but at one
o'clock he said it was a case for the sporting editor and he'd try to
get him out before the kill.

"At different times one or two of the hunters would straggle back for
more drink. They said the quarry was making a long detour round their
left flank, trying his darndest to get to the railroad, but they had
hopes. And they scattered out. Ever and anon you would hear the long
howl of some lone drunkard that had got lost from the pack.

"About sunup they all found themselves at the railroad track about a
mile beyond the clubhouse, just at the head of Stender's grade. There
they was voting to picket the track for a mile each way when along come
the four-thirty-two way freight. It had slowed up some making the grade,
and while they watched it what should dart out from a bunch of scrub oak
but the active figure of Wilfred Lennox. He made one of them iron
ladders all right and was on top of a car when the train come by, but
none of 'em dast jump it because it had picked up speed again.

"They said Wilfred stood up and shook both fists at 'em and called 'em
every name he could lay his tongue to--using language so coarse you'd
never think it could have come from a poet's lips. They could see his
handsome face working violently long after they couldn't hear him. Just
my luck! I'm always missing something.

"So they come grouching back to the clubhouse and I took 'em home to
breakfast. When we got down to the table old Judge Ballard says: 'What
might have been an evening of rare enjoyment was converted into a
detestable failure by that cur. I saw from the very beginning that he
was determined to spoil our fun.'

"'The joke is sure on us,' says Ben Sutton, 'but I bear him no grudge.
In fact, I did him an injustice I knew he wasn't a poet, but I didn't
believe he was even a hobo till he jumped that freight.'

"Alonzo was out in the hall telephoning Henrietta. We could hear his
cheerful voice: 'No, Pettikins, no! It doesn't ache a bit. What's that?
Of course I still do! You are the only woman that ever meant anything to
me. What? What's that? Oh, I may have errant fancies now and again, like
the best of men--you know yourself how sensitive I am to a certain type
of flowerlike beauty--but it never touches my deeper nature. Yes,
certainly, I shall be right up the very minute good old Ben
leaves--to-morrow or next day. What's that? Now, now! Don't do that!
Just the minute he leaves--G'--by.'

"And the little brute hung up on her!"



II

MA PETTENGILL AND THE SONG OF SONGS


The hammock between the two jack pines at the back of the Arrowhead
ranch house had lured me to mid--afternoon slumber. The day was hot and
the morning had been toilsome--four miles of trout stream, rocky,
difficult miles. And my hostess, Mrs. Lysander John Pettengill, had
ridden off after luncheon to some remote fastness of her domain, leaving
me and the place somnolent.

In the shadowed coolness, aching gratefully in many joints, I had
plunged into the hammock's Lethe, swooning shamelessly to a benign
oblivion. Dreamless it must long have been, for the shadows of ranch
house, stable, hay barn, corral, and bunk house were long to the east
when next I observed them. But I fought to this wakefulness through one
of those dreams of a monstrous futility that sometimes madden us from
sleep. Through a fearsome gorge a stream wound and in it I hunted one
certain giant trout. Savagely it took the fly, but always the line broke
when I struck; rather, it dissolved; there would be no resistance. And
the giant fish mocked me each time, jeered and flouted me, came
brazenly to the surface and derided me with antics weirdly human.

Then, as I persisted, it surprisingly became a musical trout. It
whistled, it played a guitar, it sang. How pathetic our mildly amazed
acceptance of these miracles in dreams! I was only the more determined
to snare a fish that could whistle and sing simultaneously, and
accompany itself on a stringed instrument, and was six feet in length.
It was that by now and ever growing. It seemed only an attractive
novelty and I still believed a brown hackle would suffice. But then I
became aware that this trout, to its stringed accompaniment, ever
whistled and sang one song with a desperate intentness. That song was
"The Rosary." The fish had presumed too far. "This," I shrewdly told
myself, "is almost certainly a dream." The soundless words were magic.
Gorge and stream vanished, the versatile fish faded to blue sky showing
through the green needles of a jack pine. It was a sane world again and
still, I thought, with the shadows of ranch house, stable, hay barn,
corral, and bunk house going long to the east. I stretched in the
hammock, I tingled with a lazy well-being. The world was still; but was
it--quite?

On a bench over by the corral gate crouched Buck Devine, doing something
needful to a saddle. And as he wrought he whistled. He whistled "The
Rosary" shrilly and with much feeling. Nor was the world still but for
this. From the bunk house came the mellow throbbing of a stringed
instrument, the guitar of Sandy Sawtelle, star rider of the Arrowhead,
temporarily withdrawn from a career of sprightly endeavour by a sprained
ankle and solacing his retirement with music. He was playing "The
Rosary"--very badly indeed, but one knew only too well what he meant.
The two performers were distant enough to be no affront to each other.
The hammock, less happily, was midway between them.

I sat up with groans. I hated to leave the hammock.

"The trout also sang it," I reminded myself. Followed the voice, a voice
from the stable, the cracked, whining tenor of a very aged vassal of the
Arrowhead, one Jimmie Time. Jimmie, I gathered, was currying a horse as
he sang, for each bar of the ballad was measured by the double thud of a
currycomb against the side of a stall. Whistle, guitar, and voice now
attacked the thing in differing keys and at varying points. Jimmie might
be said to prevail. There was a fatuous tenderness in his attack and the
thudding currycomb gave it spirit. Nor did he slur any of the affecting
words; they clave the air with an unctuous precision:

    The ow-wurs I spu-hend with thu-hee, dee-yur heart,
          (The currycomb: Thud, thud!)
    Are as a stru-hing of pur-rulls tuh me-e-e,
          (The currycomb: Thud, thud!)

Came a dramatic and equally soulful interpolation: "Whoa, dang you! You
would, would you? Whoa-a-a, now!"

Again the melody:

    I count them o-vurr, ev-ry one apar-rut,
    (Thud, thud!)
    My ro-sah-ree--my ro-sah-ree!
    (Thud, thud!)

Buck Devine still mouthed his woful whistle and Sandy Sawtelle valiantly
strove for the true and just accord of his six strings. It was no place
for a passive soul. I parted swiftly from the hammock and made over the
sun-scorched turf for the ranch house. There was shelter and surcease;
doors and windows might be closed. The unctuous whine of Jimmie Time
pursued me:

    Each ow-wur a pur-rull, each pur-rull a prayer,
    (Thud, thud!)
    Tuh stu-hill a heart in absence wru-hung,
    (Thud, thud!)

As I reached the hospitable door of the living-room I observed Lew Wee,
Chinese chef of the Arrowhead, engaged in cranking one of those devices
with a musical intention which I have somewhere seen advertised. It is
an important-looking device in a polished mahogany case, and I recall in
the advertisement I saw it was surrounded by a numerous
enthralled-looking family in a costly drawing-room, while the ghost of
Beethoven simpered above it in ineffable benignancy. Something now told
me the worst, even as Lew Wee adjusted the needle to the revolving disk.
I waited for no more than the opening orchestral strains. It is a
leisurely rhythmed cacophony, and I had time to be almost beyond range
ere the voice took up a tale I was hearing too often in one day. Even so
I distantly perceived it to be a fruity contralto voice with an expert
sob.

A hundred yards in front of the ranch house all was holy peace, peace in
the stilled air, peace dreaming along the neighbouring hills and lying
like a benediction over the wide river-flat below me, through which the
stream wove a shining course. I exulted in it, from the dangers passed.
Then appeared Mrs. Lysander John Pettengill from the fringe of
cottonwoods, jolting a tired horse toward me over the flat.

"Come have some tea," she cordially boomed as she passed. I returned
uncertainly. Tea? Yes. But--However, the door would be shut and the
Asiatic probably diverted.

As I came again to the rear of the ranch house Mrs. Pettengill, in khaki
riding breeches, flannel shirt, and the hat of her trade, towered
bulkily as an admirable figure of wrath, one hand on her hip, one
poising a quirt viciously aloft. By the corral gate Buck Devine drooped
cravenly above his damaged saddle; at the door of the bunk house Sandy
Sawtelle tottered precariously on one foot, his guitar under his arm, a
look of guilty horror on his set face. By the stable door stood the
incredibly withered Jimmie Time, shrinking a vast dismay.

"You hear me!" exploded the infuriated chatelaine, and I knew she was
repeating the phrase.

"Ain't I got to mend this latigo?" protested Buck Devine piteously.

"You'll go up the gulch and beyond the dry fork and mend it, if you
whistle that tune again!"

Sandy Sawtelle rumpled his pink hair to further disorder and found a few
weak words for his conscious guilt.

"Now, I wasn't aiming to harm anybody, what with with my game laig and
shet up here like I am--"

"Well, my Lord! Can't you play a sensible tune then?"

Jimmie Time hereupon behaved craftily. He lifted his head, showing the
face of a boy who had somehow got to be seventy years old without ever
getting to be more than a boy, and began to whistle softly and
innocently--an air of which hardly anything could be definitely said
except that it was not "The Rosary." It was very flagrantly not "The
Rosary." His craft availed him not.

"Yes, and you, too!" thundered the lady. "You was the worst--you was
singing. Didn't I hear you? How many times I got to tell you? First
thing you know, you little reprobate--"

Jimmie Time cowered again. Visibly he took on unbelievable years.

"Yes, ma'am," he whispered.

"Yes, ma'am," meekly echoed the tottering instrumentalist.

"Yes, ma'am," muttered Buck Devine, "not knowing you was anywheres
near--"

"Makes no difference where I be--you hear me!"

Although her back was toward me I felt her glare. The wretches winced.
She came a dozen steps toward me, then turned swiftly to glare again.
They shuddered, even though she spoke no word. Then she came on,
muttering hotly, and together we approached the ranch house. A dozen
feet from the door she bounded ahead of me with a cry of baffled rage. I
saw why. Lew Wee, unrecking her approach, was cold-bloodedly committing
an encore. She sped through the doorway, and I heard Lew Wee's
frightened squeal as he sped through another. When I stood in the room
she was putting violent hands to the throat of the thing.

"The hours I spend with th--" The throttled note expired in a very
dreadful squawk of agony. It was as if foul murder had been done, and
done swiftly. The maddened woman faced me with the potentially evil disk
clutched in her hands. In a voice that is a notable loss to our revivals
of Greek tragedy she declaimed:

"Ain't it the limit?--and the last thing I done was to hide out that
record up behind the clock where he couldn't find it!"

In a sudden new alarm and with three long steps she reached the door of
the kitchen and flung it open. Through a window thus exposed we beheld
the offender. One so seldom thinks of the Chinese as athletes! Lew Wee
was well down the flat toward the cottonwoods and still going strong.

"Ain't it the limit?" again demanded his employer. "Gosh all--excuse me,
but they got me into such a state. Here I am panting like a tuckered
hound. And now I got to make the tea myself. He won't dare come back
before suppertime."

It seemed to be not yet an occasion for words from me. I tried for a
look of intelligent sympathy. In the kitchen I heard her noisily fill a
teakettle with water. She was not herself yet. She still muttered hotly.
I moved to the magazine--littered table and affected to be taken with
the portrait of a smug--looking prize Holstein on the first page of the
_Stock Breeder's Gazette_.

The volcano presently seethed through the room and entered its own
apartment.

Ten minutes later my hostess emerged with recovered aplomb. She had
donned a skirt and a flowered blouse, and dusted powder upon and about
her sunburned and rather blobby nose. Her crinkly gray hair had been
drawn to a knot at the back of her grenadier's head. Her widely set eyes
gleamed with the smile of her broad and competent mouth.

"Tea in one minute," she promised more than audibly as she bustled into
the kitchen. It really came in five, and beside the tray she pleasantly
relaxed. The cups were filled and a breach was made upon the cake she
had brought. The tea was advertising a sufficient strength, yet she now
raised the dynamics of her own portion.

"I'll just spill a hooker of this here Scotch into mine," she said, and
then, as she did even so: "My lands! Ain't I the cynical old Kate! And
silly! Letting them boys upset me that way with that there fool song."
She decanted a saucerful of the re-enforced tea and raised it to her
pursed lips. "Looking at you!" she murmured cavernously and drank deep.
She put the saucer back where nice persons leave theirs at all times.
"Say, it was hot over on that bench to-day. I was getting out that bunch
of bull calves, and all the time here was old Safety First mumbling
round--"

This was rather promising, but I had resolved differently.

"That song," I insinuated. "Of course there are people--"

"You bet there are! I'm one of 'em, too! What that song's done to
me--and to other innocent bystanders in the last couple weeks--"

She sighed hugely, drank more of the fortified brew--nicely from the cup
this time--and fashioned a cigarette from materials at her hand.

In the flame of a lighted match Mrs. Pettengill's eyes sparkled with a
kind of savage retrospection. She shrugged it off impatiently.

"I guess you thought I spoke a mite short when you asked about Nettie's
wedding yesterday."

It was true. She had turned the friendly inquiry with a rather
mystifying abruptness. I murmured politely. She blew twin jets of smoke
from the widely separated corners of her generous mouth and then
shrewdly narrowed her gaze to some distant point of narration.

"Yes, sir, I says to her, 'Woman's place is the home.' And what you
think she come back with? That she was going to be a leader of the New
Dawn. Yes, sir, just like that. Five feet one, a hundred and eight
pounds in her winter clothes, a confirmed pickle eater--pretty enough,
even if she is kind of peaked and spiritual looking--and going to lead
the New Dawn.

"Where'd she catch it? My fault, of course, sending her back East to
school and letting her visit the W.B. Hemingways, Mrs. H. being the
well-known clubwoman like the newspapers always print under her photo in
evening dress. That's how she caught it all right.

"I hadn't realized it when she first got back, except she was pale and
far-away in the eyes and et pickles heavily at every meal--oh, mustard,
dill, sour, sweet, anything that was pickles--and not enough meat and
regular victuals. Gaunted she was, but I didn't suspect her mind was
contaminated none till I sprung Chester Timmins on her as a good
marrying bet. You know Chet, son of old Dave that has the Lazy Eight
Ranch over on Pipe Stone--a good, clean boy that'll have the ranch to
himself as soon as old Dave dies of meanness, and that can't be long
now. It was then she come out delirious about not being the pampered toy
of any male--_male_, mind you! It seems when these hussies want to knock
man nowadays they call him a male. And she rippled on about the freedom
of her soul and her downtrod sisters and this here New Dawn.

"Well, sir, a baby could have pushed me flat with one finger. At first I
didn' know no better'n to argue with her, I was that affrighted. 'Why,
Nettie Hosford,' I says, 'to think I've lived to hear my only sister's
only child talking in shrieks like that! To think I should have to tell
one of my own kin that women's place is the home. Look at me,' I
says--we was down in Red Gap at the time--'pretty soon I'll go up to the
ranch and what'll I do there?" I says.

"'Well, listen,' I says, 'to a few of the things I'll be doing: I'll be
marking, branding, and vaccinating the calves, I'll be classing and
turning out the strong cattle on the range. I'll be having the colts
rid, breaking mules for haying, oiling and mending the team harness,
cutting and hauling posts, tattooing the ears and registering the
thoroughbred calves, putting in dams, cleaning ditches, irrigating the
flats, setting out the vegetable garden, building fence, swinging new
gates, overhauling the haying tools, receiving, marking, and branding
the new two--year--old bulls, plowing and seeding grain for our work
stock and hogs, breaking in new cooks and blacksmiths'--I was so mad I
went on till I was winded. 'And that ain't half of it,' I says. 'Women's
work is never done; her place is in the home and she finds so much to do
right there that she ain't getting any time to lead a New Dawn. I'll
start you easy,' I says; 'learn you to bake a batch of bread or do a tub
of washing--something simple--and there's Chet Timmins, waiting to give
you a glorious future as wife and mother and helpmeet.'

"She just give me one look as cold as all arctics and says, 'It's
repellent'--that's all, just 'repellent.' I see I was up against it. No
good talking. Sometimes it comes over me like a flash when not to talk.
It does to some women. So I affected a light manner and pretended to
laugh it off, just as if I didn't see scandal threatening--think of
having it talked about that a niece of my own raising was a leader of
the New Dawn!

"'All right,' I says, 'only, of course, Chet Timmins is a good friend
and neighbour of mine, even if he is a male, so I hope you won't mind
his dropping in now and again from time to time, just to say howdy and
eat a meal.' And she flusters me again with her coolness.

"'No,' she says, 'I won't mind, but I know what you're counting on, and
it won't do either of you any good. I'm above the appeal of a man's mere
presence,' she says, 'for I've thrown off the age--long subjection; but
I won't mind his coming. I shall delight to study him. They're all
alike, and one specimen is as good as another for that. But neither of
you need expect anything,' she says, 'for the wrongs of my sisters have
armoured me against the grossness of mere sex appeal.' Excuse me for
getting off such things, but I'm telling you how she talked.

"'Oh, shucks!' I says to myself profanely, for all at once I saw she
wasn't talking her own real thoughts but stuff she'd picked up from the
well-known lady friends of Mrs. W.B. Hemingway. I was mad all right; but
the minute I get plumb sure mad I get wily. 'I was just trying you out,'
I says. 'Of course you are right!' 'Of course I am,' says she, 'though I
hardly expected you to see it, you being so hardened a product of the
ancient ideal of slave marriage.'

"At them words it was pretty hard for me to keep on being wily, but I
kept all right. I kept beautifully. I just laughed and said we'd have
Chet Timmins up for supper, and she laughed and said it would be
amusing.

"And it was, or it would have been if it hadn't been so sad and
disgusting. Chet, you see, had plumb crumpled the first time he ever set
eyes on her, and he's never been able to uncrumple. He always choked up
the minute she'd come into the room, and that night he choked worse'n
ever because the little devil started in to lead him on--aiming to show
me how she could study a male, I reckon. He couldn't even ask for some
more of the creamed potatoes without choking up--with her all the time
using her eyes on him, and telling him how a great rough man like him
scared 'poor little me.' Chet's tan bleaches out a mite by the end of
winter, but she kept his face exactly the shade of that new mahogany
sideboard I got, and she told him several times that he ought to go see
a throat specialist right off about that choking of his.

"And after supper I'm darned if she didn't lure him out onto the porch
in the moonlight, and stand there sad looking and helpless, simply
egging him on, mind you, her in one of them little squashy white dresses
that she managed to brush against him--all in the way of cold study,
mind you. Say, ain't we the lovely tame rattlesnakes when we want to be!
And this big husky lummox of a Chester Timmins--him she'd called a
male--what does he do but stand safely at a distance of four feet in the
grand romantic light of the full moon, and tell her vivaciously all
about the new saddle he's having made in Spokane. And even then he not
only chokes but he giggles. They do say a strong man in tears is a
terrible sight. But a husky man giggling is worse--take it from one who
has suffered. And all the time I knew his heart was furnishing enough
actual power to run a feed chopper. So did she!

"'The creature is so typical,' she says when the poor cuss had finally
stumbled down the front steps. 'He's a real type.' Only she called it
'teep,' having studied the French language among other things. 'He is a
teep indeed!' she says.

"I had to admit myself that Chester wasn't any self-starter. I saw he'd
have to be cranked by an outsider if he was going to win a place of his
own in the New Dawn. And I kept thinking wily, and the next P.M. when
Nettie and I was downtown I got my hunch. You know that music store on
Fourth Street across from the Boston Cash Emporium. It's kept by C.
Wilbur Todd, and out in front in a glass case he had a mechanical banjo
that was playing 'The Rosary' with variations when we come by. We
stopped a minute to watch the machinery picking the strings and in a
flash I says to myself, 'I got it! Eureka, California!' I says, 'it's
come to me!'

"Of course that piece don't sound so awful tender when it's done on a
banjo with variations, but I'd heard it done right and swell one time
and so I says, 'There's the song of songs to bring foolish males and
females to their just mating sense.'"

The speaker paused to drain her cup and to fashion another cigarette,
her eyes dreaming upon far vistas.

"Ain't it fierce what music does to persons," she resumed. "Right off I
remembered the first time I'd heard that piece--in New York City four
years ago, in a restaurant after the theatre one night, where I'd gone
with Mrs. W.B. Hemingway and her husband. A grand, gay place it was,
with an orchestra. I picked at some untimely food and sipped a
highball--they wouldn't let a lady smoke there--and what interested me
was the folks that come in. Folks always do interest me something
amazing. Strange ones like that, I mean, where you set and try to
figure out all about 'em, what kind of homes they got, and how they act
when they ain't in a swell restaurant, and everything. Pretty soon comes
a couple to the table next us and, say, they was just plain Mr. and Mrs.
Mad. Both of 'em stall-fed. He was a large, shiny lad, with pink jowls
barbered to death and wicked looking, like a well-known clubman or
villain. The lady was spectacular and cynical, with a cold, thin nose
and eyes like a couple of glass marbles. Her hair was several shades off
a legal yellow and she was dressed! She would have made handsome loot,
believe me--aigrette, bracelets, rings, dog collar, gold-mesh bag,
vanity case--Oh, you could see at a glance that she was one of them
Broadway social favourites you read about. And both grouchy, like I
said. He scowled till you knew he'd just love to beat a crippled
step-child to death, and she--well, her work wasn't so coarse; she kept
her mad down better. She set there as nice and sweet as a pet scorpion.

"'A scrap,' I says to myself, 'and they've only half finished. She's
threatened to quit and he, the cowardly dog, has dared her to.' Plain
enough. The waiter knew it soon as I did when he come to take their
order. Wouldn't speak to each other. Talked through him; fought it out
to something different for each one. Couldn't even agree on the same
kind of cocktail. Both slamming the waiter--before they fought the order
to a finish each had wanted to call the head waiter, only the other one
stopped it.

"So I rubbered awhile, trying to figure out why such folks want to
finish up their fights in a restaurant, and then I forgot 'em, looking
at some other persons that come in. Then the orchestra started this song
and I seen a lady was getting up in front to sing it. I admit the piece
got me. It got me good. Really, ain't it the gooey mess of heart-throbs
when you come right down to it? This lady singer was a good-looking
sad-faced contralto in a low-cut black dress--and how she did get the
tears out of them low notes! Oh, I quit looking at people while her
chest was oozing out that music. And it got others, too. I noticed lots
of 'em had stopped eating when I looked round, and there was so much
clapping she had to get up and do it all over again. And what you think?
In the middle of the second time I look over to these fighters, and
darned if they ain't holding hands across the table; and more, she's got
a kind of pitiful, crying smile on and he's crying right out--crying
into his cold asparagus, plain as day.

"What more would you want to know about the powers of this here piece of
music? They both spoke like human beings to the scared waiter when he
come back, and the lad left a five-spot on the tray when he paid his
check. Some song, yes?

"And all this flashed back on me when Nettie and I stood there watching
this cute little banjo. So I says to myself, 'Here, my morbid vestal,
is where I put you sane; here's where I hurl an asphyxiating bomb into
the trenches of the New Dawn.' Out loud I only says, 'Let's go in and
see if Wilbur has got some new records.'

"'Wilbur?' says she, and we went in. Nettie had not met Wilbur.

"I may as well tell you here and now that C. Wilbur Todd is a shrimp.
Shrimp I have said and shrimp I always will say. He talks real brightly
in his way--he will speak words like an actor or something--but for
brains! Say, he always reminds me of the dumb friend of the great
detective in the magazine stories, the one that goes along to the scene
of the crime to ask silly questions and make fool guesses about the
guilty one, and never even suspects who done the murder, till the
detective tells on the last page when they're all together in the
library.

"Sure, that's Wilbur. It would be an ideal position for him. Instead of
which he runs this here music store, sells these jitney pianos and
phonographs and truck like that. And serious! Honestly, if you seen him
coming down the street you'd say, 'There comes one of these here
musicians.' Wears long hair and a low collar and a flowing necktie and
talks about his technique. Yes, sir, about the technique of working a
machinery piano. Gives free recitals in the store every second Saturday
afternoon, and to see him set down and pump with his feet, and push
levers and pull handles, weaving himself back and forth, tossing his
long, silken locks back and looking dreamily off into the distance,
you'd think he was a Paderewski. As a matter of fact, I've seen
Paderewski play and he don't make a tenth of the fuss Wilbur does. And
after this recital I was at one Saturday he comes up to some of us
ladies, mopping his pale brow, and he says, 'It does take it out of one!
I'm always a nervous wreck after these little affairs of mine.' Would
that get you, or would it not?

"So we go in the store and Wilbur looks up from a table he's setting at
in the back end.

"'You find me studying some new manuscripts,' he says, pushing back the
raven locks from his brow. Say, it was a weary gesture he done it
with--sort of languid and world-weary. And what you reckon he meant by
studying manuscripts? Why, he had one of these rolls of paper with the
music punched into it in holes, and he was studying that line that tells
you when to play hard or soft and all like that. Honest, that was it!

"'I always study these manuscripts of the masters conscientiously before
I play them,' says he.

"Such is Wilbur. Such he will ever be. So I introduced him to Nettie and
asked if he had this here song on a phonograph record. He had. He had it
on two records. 'One by a barytone gentleman, and one by a
mezzo-soprano,' says Wilbur. I set myself back for both. He also had it
with variations on one of these punched rolls. He played that for us. It
took him three minutes to get set right at the piano and to dust his
fingers with a white silk handkerchief which he wore up his sleeve. And
he played with great expression and agony and bending exercises, ever
and anon tossing back his rebellious locks and fixing us with a look of
pained ecstasy. Of course it sounded better than the banjo, but you got
to have the voice with that song if you're meaning to do any crooked
work. Nettie was much taken with it even so, and Wilbur played it
another way. What he said was that it was another school of
interpretation. It seemed to have its points with him, though he
favoured the first school, he said, because of a certain almost rugged
fidelity. He said the other school was marked by a tendency to idealism,
and he pulled some of the handles to show how it was done. I'm merely
telling you how Wilbur talked.

"Nettie listened very serious. There was a new look in her eyes. 'That
song has got to her even on a machinery piano,' I says, 'but wait till
we get the voice, with she and Chester out in the mischievous
moonlight.' Wasn't I the wily old hound! Nettie sort of lingered to hear
Wilbur, who was going good by this time. 'One must be the soul behind
the wood and wire,' he says; 'one rather feels just that, or one remains
merely a brutal mechanic.'

"'I understand,' says Nettie. 'How you must have studied!'

"'Oh, studied!' says Wilbur, and tossed his mane back and laughed in a
lofty and suffering manner. Studied! He'd gone one year to a business
college in Seattle after he got out of high school!

"'I understand,' says Nettie, looking all reverent and buffaloed.

"'It is the price one must pay for technique,' says Wilbur. 'And to-day
you found me in the mood. I am not always in the mood.'

"'I understand,' says Nettie.

"I'm just giving you an idea, understand. Then Wilbur says, 'I will
bring these records up this evening if I may. The mezzo-soprano requires
a radically different adjustment from the barytone.' 'My God!' thinks I,
'has he got technique on the phonograph, too!' But I says he must come
by all means, thinking he could tend the machine while Nettie and
Chester is out on the porch getting wise to each other.

"'There's another teep for you,' I says to Nettie when we got out of the
place. 'He certainly is marked by tendencies,' I says. I meant it for a
nasty slam at Wilbur's painful deficiencies as a human being, but she
took it as serious as Wilbur took himself--which is some!

"'Ah, yes, the artist teep,' says she,'the most complex, the most
baffling of all.'

"That was a kind of a sickish jolt to me--the idea that something as low
in the animal kingdom as Wilbur could baffle anyone--but I thinks,
'Shucks! Wait till he lines up alongside of a regular human man like
Chet Timmins!'

"I had Chet up to supper again. He still choked on words of one
syllable if Nettie so much as glanced at him, and turned all sorts of
painful colours like a cheap rug. But I keep thinking the piece will fix
that all right.

"At eight o'clock Wilbur sifted in with his records and something else
flat and thin, done up in paper that I didn't notice much at the time.
My dear heart, how serious he was! As serious as--well, I chanced to be
present at the house of mourning when the barber come to shave old Judge
Armstead after he'd passed away--you know what I mean--kind of like him
Wilbur was, talking subdued and cat-footing round very solemn and
professional. I thought he'd never get that machine going. He cleaned
it, and he oiled it, and he had great trouble picking out the right
fibre needle, holding six or eight of 'em up to the light, doing secret
things to the machine's inwards, looking at us sharp as if we oughtn't
to be talking even then, and when she did move off I'm darned if he
didn't hang in a strained manner over that box, like he was the one that
was doing it all and it wouldn't get the notes right if he took his
attention off.

"It was a first-class record, I'll say that. It was the male
barytone--one of them pleading voices that get all into you. It wasn't
half over before I seen Nettie was strongly moved, as they say, only she
was staring at Wilbur, who by now was leading the orchestra with one
graceful arm and looking absorbed and sodden, like he done it
unconsciously. Chester just set there with his mouth open, like
something you see at one of these here aquariums.

"We moved round some when it was over, while Wilbur was picking out just
the right needle for the other record, and so I managed to cut that lump
of a Chester out of the bunch and hold him on the porch till I got
Nettie out, too. Then I said 'Sh-h-h!' so they wouldn't move when Wilbur
let the mezzo-soprano start. And they had to stay out there in the
golden moonlight with love's young dream and everything. The lady singer
was good, too. No use in talking, that song must have done a lot of
heart work right among our very best families. It had me going again so
I plumb forgot my couple outside. I even forgot Wilbur, standing by the
box showing the lady how to sing.

"It come to the last--you know how it ends--'To kiss the cross,
sweetheart, to kiss the cross!' There was a rich and silent moment and I
says, 'If that Chet Timmins hasn't shown himself to be a regular male
teep by this time--' And here come Chet's voice, choking as usual, 'Yes,
paw switched to Durhams and Herefords over ten years ago--you see
Holsteins was too light; they don't carry the meat--' Honest! I'm
telling you what I heard. And yet when they come in I could see that
Chester had had tears in his eyes from that song, so still I didn't give
in, especially as Nettie herself looked very exalted, like she wasn't at
that minute giving two whoops in the bad place for the New Dawn.

[Illustration: "CHESTER JUST SET THERE WITH HIS MOUTH OPEN, LIKE
SOMETHING YOU SEE AT ONE OF THESE HERE AQUARIUMS"]

"Nettie made for Wilbur, who was pushing back his hair with a weak but
graceful sweep of the arm--it had got down before his face like a
portière--and I took Chet into a corner and tried to get some of the
just wrath of God into his heart; but, my lands! You'd have said he
didn't know there was such a thing as a girl in the whole Kulanche
Valley. He didn't seem to hear me. He talked other matters.

"'Paw thinks,' he says, 'that he might manage to take them hundred and
fifty bull calves off your hands.' 'Oh, indeed!' I says. 'And does he
think of buying 'em--as is often done in the cattle business--or is he
merely aiming to do me a favour?' I was that mad at the poor worm, but
he never knew. 'Why, now, paw says "You tell Maw Pettengill I might be
willing to take 'em off her hands at fifty dollars a head,"' he says. 'I
should think he might be,' I says, 'but they ain't bothering my hands
the least little mite. I like to have 'em on my hands at anything less
than sixty a head,' I says. 'Your pa,' I went on, 'is the man that
started this here safety-first cry. Others may claim the honour, but it
belongs solely to him.' 'He never said anything about that,' says poor
Chester. 'He just said you was going to be short of range this summer.'
'Be that all too true, as it may be,' I says, 'but I still got my
business faculties--' And I was going on some more, but just then I seen
Nettie and Wilbur was awful thick over something he'd unwrapped from the
other package he'd brought. It was neither more nor less than a big
photo of C. Wilbur Todd. Yes, sir, he'd brought her one.

"'I think the artist has caught a bit of the real just there, if you
know what I mean,' says Wilbur, laying a pale thumb across the upper
part of the horrible thing.

"'I understand,' says Nettie, 'the real you was expressing itself.'

"'Perhaps,' concedes Wilbur kind of nobly. 'I dare say he caught me in
one of my rarer moods. You don't think it too idealized?'

"'Don't jest,' says she, very pretty and severe. And they both gazed
spellbound.

"'Chester,' I says in low but venomous tones, 'you been hanging round
that girl worse than Grant hung round Richmond, but you got to remember
that Grant was more than a hanger. He made moves, Chester, moves! Do you
get me?'

"'About them calves,' says Chester, 'pa told me it's his honest
opinion--'

"Well, that was enough for once. I busted up that party sudden and firm.

"'It has meant much to me,' says Wilbur at parting.

"'I understand,' says Nettie.

"'When you come up to the ranch, Miss Nettie,' says Chester, 'you want
to ride over to the Lazy Eight, and see that there tame coyote I got. It
licks your hand like a dog.'

"But what could I do, more than what I had done? Nettie was looking at
the photograph when I shut the door on 'em. 'The soul behind the wood
and wire,' she murmurs. I looked closer then and what do you reckon it
was? Just as true as I set here, it was Wilbur, leaning forward all
negligent and patronizing on a twelve-hundred-dollar grand piano, his
hair well forward and his eyes masterful, like that there noble
instrument was his bond slave. But wait! And underneath he'd writ a bar
of music with notes running up and down, and signed his name to it--not
plain, mind you, though he can write a good business hand if he wants
to, but all scrawly like some one important, so you couldn't tell if it
was meant for Dutch or English. Could you beat that for nerve--in a day,
in a million years?

"'What's Wilbur writing that kind of music for?' I asks in a cold voice.
'He don't know that kind. What he had ought to of written is a bunch of
them hollow slats and squares like they punch in the only kind of music
he plays,' I says.

"'Hush!' says Nettie. 'It's that last divine phrase, "To kiss the
cross!"'

"I choked up myself then. And I went to bed and thought. And this is
what I thought: When you think you got the winning hand, keep on
raising. To call is to admit you got no faith in your judgment. Better
lay down than call. So I resolve not to say another word to the girl
about Chester, but simply to press the song in on her. Already it had
made her act like a human person. Of course I didn't worry none about
Wilbur. The wisdom of the ages couldn't have done that. But I seen I had
got to have a real first-class human voice in that song, like the one I
had heard in New York City. They'll just have to clench, I think, when
they hear a good A-number-one voice in it.

"Next day I look in on Wilbur and say, 'What about this concert and
musical entertainment the North Side set is talking about giving for the
starving Belgians?'

"'The plans are maturing,' he says, 'but I'm getting up a Brahms
concerto that I have promised to play--you know how terrifically
difficult Brahms is--so the date hasn't been set yet.'

"'Well, set it and let's get to work,' I says. 'There'll be you, and the
North Side Ladies' String Quartet, and Ed Bughalter with a bass solo,
and Mrs. Dr. Percy Hailey Martingale with the "Jewel Song" from Faust,
and I been thinking,' I says, 'that we had ought to get a good
professional lady concert singer down from Spokane.'

"'I'm afraid the expenses would go over our receipts,' says Wilbur, and
I can see him figuring that this concert will cost the Belgians money
instead of helping 'em; so right off I says, 'If you can get a
good-looking, sad-faced contralto, with a low-cut black dress, that can
sing "The Rosary" like it had ought to be sung, why, you can touch me
for that part of the evening's entertainment.'

"Wilbur says I'm too good, not suspicioning I'm just being wily, so he
says he'll write up and fix it. And a couple days later he says the lady
professional is engaged, and it'll cost me fifty, and he shows me her
picture and the dress is all right, and she had a sad, powerful face,
and the date is set and everything.

"Meantime, I keep them two records het up for the benefit of my
reluctant couple: daytime for Nettie--she standing dreamy-eyed while it
was doing, showing she was coming more and more human, understand--and
evenings for both of 'em, when Chester Timmins would call. And Chet
himself about the third night begins to get a new look in his eyes, kind
of absent and desperate, so I thinks this here lady professional will
simply goad him to a frenzy. Oh, we had some sad musical week before
that concert! That was when this crazy Chink of mine got took by the
song. He don't know yet what it means, but it took him all right; he got
regular besotted with it, keeping the kitchen door open all the time, so
he wouldn't miss a single turn. It took his mind off his work, too. Talk
about the Yellow Peril! He got so locoed with that song one day, what
does he do but peel and cook up twelve dollars' worth of the Piedmont
Queen dahlia bulbs I'd ordered for the front yard. Sure! Served 'em with
cream sauce, and we et 'em, thinking they was some kind of a Chinese
vegetable.

"But I was saying about this new look in Chester's eyes, kind of far-off
and criminal, when that song was playing. And then something give me a
pause, as they say. Chet showed up one evening with his nails all
manicured; yes, sir, polished till you needed smoked glasses to look at
'em. I knew all right where he'd been. I may as well tell you that Henry
Lehman was giving Red Gap a flash of form with his new barber
shop--tiled floor, plate-glass front, exposed plumbing, and a manicure
girl from Seattle; yes, sir, just like in the great wicked cities. It
had already turned some of our very best homes into domestic hells, and
no wonder! Decent, God-fearing men, who'd led regular lives and had
whiskers and grown children, setting down to a little spindle-legged
table with this creature, dipping their clumsy old hands into a pink
saucedish of suds and then going brazenly back to their innocent
families with their nails glittering like piano keys. Oh, that young
dame was bound to be a social pet among the ladies of the town, yes--no?
She was pretty and neat figured, with very careful hair, though its
colour had been tampered with unsuccessfully, and she wore little,
blue-striped shirtwaists that fitted very close--you know--with low
collars. It was said that she was a good conversationalist and would
talk in low, eager tones to them whose fingers she tooled.

"Still, I didn't think anything of Chester resorting to that sanitary
den of vice. All I think is that he's trying to pretty himself up for
Nettie and maybe show her he can be a man-about-town, like them she has
known in Spokane and in Yonkers, New York, at the select home of Mrs.
W.B. Hemingway and her husband. How little we think when we had ought
to be thinking our darndest! Me? I just went on playing them two
records, the male barytone and the lady mezzo, and trying to curse that
Chinaman into keeping the kitchen door shut on his cooking, with Wilbur
dropping in now and then so him and Nettie could look at his photo,
which was propped up against a book on the centre table--one of them
large three-dollar books that you get stuck with by an agent and never
read--and Nettie dropping into his store now and then to hear him
practise over difficult bits from his piece that he was going to render
at the musical entertainment for the Belgians, with him asking her if
she thought he shaded the staccato passage a mite too heavy, or some
guff like that.

"So here come the concert, with every seat sold and the hall draped
pretty with flags and cut flowers. Some of the boys was down from the
ranch, and you bet I made 'em all come across for tickets, and old
Safety First--Chet's father--I stuck him for a dollar one, though he had
an evil look in his eyes. That's how the boys got so crazy about this
here song. They brought that record back with 'em. And Buck Devine, that
I met on the street that very day of the concert, he give me another
kind of a little jolt. He'd been gossiping round town, the vicious way
men do, and he says to me:

"'That Chester lad is taking awful chances for a man that needs his two
hands at his work. Of course if he was a foot-racer or something like
that, where he didn't need hands--' 'What's all this?' I asks. 'Why,'
says Buck, 'he's had his nails rasped down to the quick till he almost
screams if they touch anything, and he goes back for more every single
day. It's a wonder they ain't mortified on him already; and say, it
costs him six bits a throw and, of course, he don't take no change from
a dollar--he leaves the extra two bits for a tip. Gee! A dollar a day
for keeping your nails tuned up--and I ain't sure he don't have 'em done
twice on Sundays. Mine ain't never had a file teched to 'em yet,' he
says. 'I see that,' I says. 'If any foul-minded person ever accuses you
of it, you got abundant proofs of your innocence right there with you.
As for Chester,' I says, 'he has an object.' 'He has,' says Buck. 'Not
what you think,' I says. 'Very different from that. It's true,' I
concedes, 'that he ought to take that money and go to some good
osteopath and have his head treated, but he's all right at that. Don't
you set up nights worrying about it.' And I sent Buck slinking off
shamefaced but unconvinced, I could see. But I wasn't a bit scared.

"Chet et supper with us the night of the concert and took Nettie and I
to the hall, and you bet I wedged them two close in next each other when
we got to our seats. This was my star play. If they didn't fall for each
other now--Shucks! They had to. And I noticed they was more confidential
already, with Nettie looking at him sometimes almost respectfully.

"Well, the concert went fine, with the hired lady professional singer
giving us some operatic gems in various foreign languages in the first
part, and Ed Bughalter singing "A King of the Desert Am I, Ha, Ha!" very
bass--Ed always sounds to me like moving heavy furniture round that
ain't got any casters under it--and Mrs. Dr. Percy Hailey Martingale
with the "Jewel Song" from Faust, that she learned in a musical
conservatory at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and "Coming Through the Rye"
for an encore--holding the music rolled up in her hands, though the Lord
knows she knew every word and note of it by heart--and the North Side
Ladies' String Quartet, and Wilbur Todd, of course, putting on more airs
than as if he was the only son of old man Piano himself, while he
shifted the gears and pumped, and Nettie whispering that he always slept
two hours before performing in public and took no nourishment but one
cup of warm milk--just a bundle of nerves that way--and she sent him up
a bunch of lilies tied with lavender ribbon while he was bowing and
scraping, but I didn't pay no attention to that, for now it was coming.

"Yes, sir, the last thing was this here lady professional, getting up
stern and kind of sweetish sad in her low-cut black dress to sing the
song of songs. I was awful excited for a party of my age, and I see they
was, too. Nettie nudged Chet and whispered, 'Don't you just love it?'
And Chet actually says, 'I love it,' so no wonder I felt sure, when up
to that time he'd hardly been able to say a word except about his pa
being willing to take them calves for almost nothing. Then I seen his
eyes glaze and point off across the hall, and darned if there wasn't
this manicure party in a cheek little hat and tailored gown, setting
with Mrs. Henry Lehman and her husband. But still I felt all right,
because him and Nettie was nudging each other intimately again when
Professor Gluckstein started in on the accompaniment--I bet Wilbur
thinks the prof is awful old-fashioned, playing with his fingers that
way; I know they don't speak on the street.

"So this lady just floated into that piece with all the heart stops
pulled out, and after one line I didn't begrudge her a cent of my fifty.
I just set there and thrilled. I could feel Nettie and Chet thrilling,
too, and I says, 'There's nothing to it--not from now on.'

"The applause didn't bust loose till almost a minute after she'd kissed
the cross in that rich brown voice of hers, and even then my couple
didn't join in. Nettie set still, all frozen and star-eyed, and Chester
was choking and sniffling awful emotionally. 'I've sure nailed the young
fools,' I thinks. And, of course, this lady had to sing it again, and
not half through was she when, sure enough, I glanced down sideways and
Chet's right hand and her left hand is squirming together till they look
like a bunch of eels. 'All over but the rice,' I says, and at that I
felt so good and thrilled! I was thinking back to my own time when I was
just husband-high, though that wasn't so little, Lysander John being a
scant six foot three--and our wedding tour to the Centennial and the
trip to Niagara Falls--just soaking in old memories that bless and bind
that this lady singer was calling up--well, you could have had anything
from me right then when she kissed that cross a second time, just
pouring her torn heart out. 'Worth every cent of that fifty,' I says.

"Then everybody was standing up and moving out--wiping their eyes a lot
of 'em was--so I push on ahead quick, aiming to be more wily than ever
and leave my couple alone. They don't miss me, either. When I look back,
darned if they ain't kind of shaking hands right there in the hall.
'Quick work!' I says. 'You got to hand it to that song.' Even then I
noticed Nettie was looking back to where Wilbur was tripping down from
the platform, and Chester had his eyes glazed over on this manicure
party. Still, they was gripping each other's hands right there before
folks, and I think they're just a bit embarrassed. My old heart went
right on echoing that song as I pushed forward--not looking back again,
I was that certain.

"And to show you the mushy state I was in, here is old Safety First
himself leering at me down by the door, with a clean shave and his other
clothes on, and he says all about how it was a grand evening's musical
entertainment and how much will the Belgians get in cold cash, anyway,
and how about them hundred and fifty head of bull calves that he was
willing to take off my hands, and me, all mushed up by that song as I
am telling you, saying to him in a hearty manner, 'They're yours, Dave!
Take 'em at your own price, old friend.' Honest, I said it just that
way, so you can see. 'Oh, I'll be stuck on 'em at fifty a head,' says
Dave, 'but I knew you'd listen to reason, we being such old neighbours.'
'I ain't heard reason since that last song,' I says. I'm listening to my
heart, and it's a grand pity yours never learned to talk.' 'Fifty a
head,' says the old robber.

"So, thus throwing away at least fifteen hundred dollars like it was a
mere bagatelle or something, I walk out into the romantic night and beat
it for home, wanting to be in before my happy couple reached there, so
they'd feel free to linger over their parting. My, but I did feel
responsible and dangerous, directing human destinies so brashly the way
I had."

There was a pause, eloquent with unworded emotions.

Then "Human destinies, hell!" the lady at length intoned.

Hereupon I amazingly saw that she believed her tale to be done. I
permitted the silence to go a minute, perhaps, while she fingered the
cigarette paper and loose tobacco.

"And of course, then," I hinted, as the twin jets of smoke were rather
viciously expelled.

"I should say so--'of course, then'--you got it. But I didn't get it for
near an hour yet. I set up to my bedroom window in the dark, waiting
excitedly, and pretty soon they slowly floated up to the front gate,
talking in hushed tones and gurgles. 'Male and female created He them,'
I says, flushed with triumph. The moon wasn't up yet, but you hadn't any
trouble making out they was such. He was acting outrageously like a male
and she was suffering it with the splendid courage which has long
distinguished our helpless sex. And there I set, warming my old heart in
it and expanding like one of them little squeezed-up sponges you see in
the drug-store window which swells up so astonishing when you put it in
water. I wasn't impatient for them to quit, oh, no! They seemed to
clench and unclench and clench again, as if they had all the time in the
world--with me doing nothing but applaud silently.

"After spending about twenty years out there they loitered softly up the
walk and round to the side door where I'd left the light burning, and I
slipped over to the side window, which was also open, and looked down on
the dim fond pair, and she finally opened the door softly and the light
shone out."

Again Ma Pettengill paused, her elbows on the arms of her chair, her
shoulders forward, her gray old head low between them. She drew a long
breath and rumbled fiercely:

"And the mushy fool me, forcing that herd of calves on old Dave at that
scandalous price--after all, that's what really gaffed me the worst! My
stars! If I could have seen that degenerate old crook again that
night--but of course a trade's a trade, and I'd said it. Ain't I the old
silly!"

"The door opened and the light shone out--"

I gently prompted.

She erected herself in the chair, threw back her shoulders, and her wide
mouth curved and lifted at the corners with the humour that never long
deserts this woman.

"Yep! That light flooded out its golden rays on the reprehensible person
of C. Wilbur Todd," she crisply announced. "And like they say in the
stories, little remains to be told.

"I let out a kind of strangled yell, and Wilbur beat it right across my
new lawn, and I beat it downstairs. But that girl was like a
sleepwalker--not to be talked to, I mean, like you could talk to
persons.

"'Aunty,' she says in creepy tones, 'I have brought myself to the
ultimate surrender. I know the chains are about me, already I feel the
shackles, but I glory in them.' She kind of gasped and shivered in
horrible delight. 'I've kissed the cross at last,' she mutters.

"I was so weak I dropped into a chair and I just looked at her. At first
I couldn't speak, then I saw it was no good speaking. She was free,
white, and twenty-one. So I never let on. I've had to take a jolt or two
in my time. I've learned how. But finally I did manage to ask how about
Chet Timmins.

"'I wronged dear Chester,' she says. 'I admit it freely. He has a heart
of gold and a nature in a thousand. But, of course, there could never be
anything between him and a nature like mine; our egos function on
different planes,' she says. 'Dear Chester came to see it, too. It's
only in the last week we've come to understand each other. It was really
that wonderful song that brought us to our mutual knowledge. It helped
us to understand our mutual depths better than all the ages of eternity
could have achieved.' On she goes with this mutual stuff, till you'd
have thought she was reading a composition or something. 'And dear
Chester is so radiant in his own new-found happiness,' she says. 'What!'
I yells, for this was indeed some jolt.

"'He has come into his own,' she says. 'They have eloped to Spokane,
though I promised to observe secrecy until the train had gone. A very
worthy creature I gather from what Chester tells me, a Miss
Macgillicuddy--'

"'Not the manicure party?' I yells again.

"'I believe she has been a wage-earner,' says Nettie. 'And dear Chester
is so grateful about that song. It was her favourite song, too, and it
seemed to bring them together, just as it opened my own soul to Wilbur.
He says she sings the song very charmingly herself, and he thought it
preferable that they be wed in Spokane before his father objected. And
oh, aunty, I do see how blind I was to my destiny, and how kind you were
to me in my blindness--you who had led the fuller life as I shall lead
it at Wilbur's side.'

"'You beat it to your room,' I orders her, very savage and disorganized.
For I had stood about all the jolts in one day that God had meant me
to. And so they was married, Chester and his bride attending the
ceremony and Oscar Teetz' five-piece orchestra playing the--" She
broke off, with a suddenly blazing glance at the disk, and seized it
from the table rather purposefully. With a hand firmly at both edges she
stared inscrutably at it a long moment.

"I hate to break the darned thing," she said musingly at last. "I guess
I'll just lock it up. Maybe some time I'll be feeling the need to hear
it again. I know I can still be had by it if all the circumstances is
right."

Still she stared at the thing curiously.

"Gee! It was hot getting them calves out to-day, and old Safety First
moaning about all over the place how he's being stuck with 'em, till
more than once I come near forgetting I was a lady--and, oh, yes"--she
brightened--"I was going to tell you. After it was all over, Wilbur, the
gallant young tone poet, comes gushing up to me and says, 'Now, aunty,
always when you are in town you must drop round and break bread with
us.' Aunty, mind you, right off the reel. 'Well,' I says, 'if I drop
round to break any bread your wife bakes I'll be sure to bring a
hammer.' I couldn't help it. He'll make a home for the girl all right,
but he does something sinful to my nerves every time he opens his face.
And then coming back here, where I looked for God's peace and quiet, and
being made to hear that darned song every time I turned round!

"I give orders plain enough, but say, it's like a brush fire--you never
know when you got it stamped out."

From the kitchen came the sound of a dropped armful of stove wood. Hard
upon this, the unctuous whining tenor of Jimmie Time:

    Oh-h-h mem-o-reez thu-hat blu-hess and bu-hurn!

"You, Jimmie Time!" It is a voice meant for Greek tragedy and a theatre
open to the heavens. I could feel the terror of the aged vassal.

"Yes, ma'am!" The tone crawled abasingly. "I forgot myself."

I was glad, and I dare say he had the wit to be, that he had not to face
the menace of her glare.



III

THE REAL PERUVIAN DOUGHNUTS


The affairs of Arrowhead Ranch are administered by its owner, Mrs.
Lysander John Pettengill, through a score or so of hired experts. As a
trout-fishing guest of the castle I found the retainers of this
excellent feudalism interesting enough and generally explicable. But
standing out among them, both as a spectacle and by reason of his
peculiar activities, is a shrunken little man whom I would hear
addressed as Jimmie Time. He alone piqued as well as interested. There
was a tang to all the surmises he prompted in me.

I have said he is a man; but wait! The years have had him, have scoured
and rasped and withered him; yet his face is curiously but the face of a
boy, his eyes but the fresh, inquiring, hurt eyes of a boy who has been
misused for years threescore. Time has basely done all but age him. So
much for the wastrel as Nature has left him. But Art has furthered the
piquant values of him as a spectacle.

In dress, speech, and demeanour Jimmie seems to be of the West,
Western--of the old, bad West of informal vendetta, when a man's
increase of years might lie squarely on his quickness in the "draw";
when he went abundantly armed by day and slept lightly at
night--trigger fingers instinctively crooked. Of course such days have
very definitely passed; wherefore the engaging puzzle of certain
survivals in Jimmie Time--for I found him still a two-gun man. He wore
them rather consciously sagging from his lean hips--almost pompously, it
seemed. Nor did he appear properly unconscious of his remaining
attire--of the broad-brimmed hat, its band of rattlesnake skin; of the
fringed buckskin shirt, opening gallantly across his pinched throat; of
his corduroy trousers, fitting bedraggled; of his beautiful beaded
moccasins.

He was perfect in detail--and yet he at once struck me as being too
acutely aware of himself. Could this suspicion ensue, I wondered, from
the circumstance that the light duties he discharged in and about the
Arrowhead Ranch house were of a semidomestic character; from a marked
incongruity in the sight of him, full panoplied for homicide, bearing
armfuls of wood to the house; or, with his wicked hat pulled desperately
over a scowling brow, and still with his flaunt of weapons, engaging a
sinkful of soiled dishes in the kitchen under the eyes of a mere unarmed
Chinaman who sat by and smoked an easy cigarette at him, scornful of
firearms?

There were times, to be sure, when Jimmie's behaviour was in nice accord
with his dreadful appearance--as when I chanced to observe him late the
second afternoon of my arrival. Solitary in front of the bunk house, he
rapidly drew and snapped his side arms at an imaginary foe some paces
in front of him. They would be simultaneously withdrawn from their
holsters, fired from the hip and replaced, the performer snarling
viciously the while. The weapons were unloaded, but I inferred that the
foe crumpled each time.

Then the old man varied the drama, vastly increasing the advantage of
the foe and the peril of his own emergency by turning a careless back on
the scene. The carelessness was only seeming. Swiftly he wheeled, and
even as he did so twin volleys came from the hip. It was spirited--the
weapons seemed to smoke; the smile of the marksman was evil and
masterly. Beyond all question the foe had crumpled again, despite his
tremendous advantage of approach.

I drew gently near before the arms were again holstered and permitted
the full exposure of my admiration for this readiness of retort under
difficulties. The puissant one looked up at me with suspicion, hostile
yet embarrassed. I stood admiring ingenuously, stubborn in my
fascination. Slowly I won him. The coldness in his bright little eyes
warmed to awkward but friendly apology.

"A gun fighter lets hisself git stiff," he winningly began; "then, first
thing he knows, some fine day--crack! Like that! All his own fault, too,
'cause he ain't kep' in trim." He jauntily twirled one of the heavy
revolvers on a forefinger. "Not me, though, pard! Keep m'self up and
comin', you bet! Ketch me not ready to fan the old forty-four! I guess
not! Some has thought they could. Oh, yes; plenty has thought they
could. Crack! Like that!" He wheeled, this time fatally intercepting the
foe as he treacherously crept round a corner of the bunk house. "Buryin'
ground for you, mister! That's all--bury-in' ground!"

The desperado replaced one of the weapons and patted the other with
grisly affection. In the excess of my admiration I made bold to reach
for it. He relinquished it to me with a mother's yearning. And all too
legible in the polished butt of the thing were notches! Nine sinister
notches I counted--not fresh notches, but emphatic, eloquent, chilling.
I thrust the bloody record back on its gladdened owner.

"Never think it to look at me?" said he as our eyes hung above that grim
bit of bookkeeping.

"Never!" I warmly admitted.

"Me--I always been one of them quiet, mild-mannered ones that you
wouldn't think butter would melt in their mouth--jest up to a certain
point. Lots of 'em fooled that way about me--jest up to a certain point,
mind you--then, crack! Buryin' ground--that's all! Never go huntin'
trouble--understand? But when it's put on me--say!"

He lovingly replaced the weapon--with its mortuary statistics--doffed
the broad-brimmed hat with its snake-skin garniture, and placed a
forefinger athwart an area of his shining scalp which is said by a
certain pseudoscience to shield several of man's more spiritual
attributes. The finger traced an ancient but still evil looking scar.

"One creased me there," he confessed--"a depity marshal--that time they
had a reward out for me, dead or alive."

I was for details.

"What did you do?"

Jimmie Time stayed laconic.

"Left him there--that's all!"

It was arid, yet somehow informing. It conveyed to me that a marshal had
been cleverly put to needing a new deputy.

"Burying ground?" I guessed.

"That's all!" He laughed venomously--a short, dry, restrained laugh.
"They give me a nickname," said he. "They called me Little Sure Shot. No
wonder they did! Ho! I should think they would of called me something
like that." He lifted his voice. "Hey! Boogles!"

I had been conscious of a stooping figure in the adjacent vegetable
garden. It now became erect, a figure of no distinction--short, rounded,
decked in carelessly worn garments of no elegance. It slouched
inquiringly toward us between rows of sprouted corn. Then I saw that the
head surmounting it was a noble head. It was uncovered, burnished to a
half circle of grayish fringe; but it was shaped in the grand manner and
well borne, and the full face of it was beautified by features of a very
Roman perfection. It was the face of a judge of the Supreme Court or
the face of an ideal senator. His large grave eyes bathed us in a
friendly regard; his full lips of an orator parted with leisurely and
promising unction. I awaited courtly phrases, richly rounded periods.

"A regular hell-cat--what he is!"

Thus vocalized the able lips. Jimmie Time glowed modestly.

"Show him how I can shoot," said he.

The amazing Boogies waddled--yet with dignity--to a point ten paces
distant, drew a coin from the pocket of his dingy overalls, and spun it
to the blue of heaven. Ere it fell the deadly weapon bore swiftly on it
and snapped.

"Crack!" said the marksman grimly.

His assistant recovered the coin, scrutinized it closely, rubbed a fat
thumb over its supposedly dented surface, and again spun it. The
desperado had turned his back. He drew as he wheeled, and again I was
given to understand that his aim had been faultless.

"Good Little Sure Shot!" declaimed Boogies fulsomely.

"Hold it in your hand oncet," directed Little Sure Shot. The intrepid
assistant gallantly extended the half dollar at arm's length between
thumb and finger and averted his statesman's face with practiced
apprehension. "Crack!" said Little Sure Shot, and the coin seemed to be
struck from the unscathed hand. "Only nicked the aidge of it," said he,
genially deprecating. "I don't like to take no chancet with the lad's
mitt."

It had indeed been a pretty display of sharpshooting--and noiseless.

"Had me nervous, you bet, first time he tried that," called Boogles.
"Didn't know his work then. Thought sure he'd wing me."

Jimmie Time loftily ejected imaginary shells from his trusty firearm and
seemed to expel smoke from its delicate interior. Boogies waddled his
approach.

"Any time they back Little Sure Shot up against the wall they want to
duck," said he warmly. "He has 'em hard to find in about a minute. Tell
him about that fresh depity marshal, Jimmie."

"I already did," said Jimmie.

"Ain't he the hell-cat?" demanded Boogles, mopping a brow that Daniel
Webster would have observed with instant and perhaps envious respect.

"I been a holy terror in my time, all right, all right!" admitted the
hero. "Never think it to look at me though. One o' the deceivin' kind
till I'm put upon; then--good-night!"

"Jest like that!" murmured Boogles.

"Buryin' ground--that's all." The lips of the bad man shut grimly on
this.

"Say," demanded Boogles, "on the level, ain't he the real Peruvian
doughnuts? Don't he jest make 'em all hunt their--" The tribute was
unfinished.

"You ol' Jim! You ol' Jim Time!" Shrilly this came from Lew Wee, Chinese
cook of the Arrowhead framed in the kitchen doorway of the ranch house.
He brandished a scornful and commanding dish towel at the bad man, who
instantly and almost cravenly cowered under the distant assault. The
garment of his old bad past fell from him, leaving him as one exposed in
the market-place to the scornful towels of Chinamen. "You run, ol' Jim
Time! How you think catch 'um din' not have wood?"

"Now I was jest goin' to," mumbled Jimmie Time; and he amazingly slunk
from the scene of his late triumphs toward the open front of a
woodhouse.

His insulter turned back to the kitchen with a final affronting flourish
of the towel. The whisper of Boogles came hoarsely to me: "Some of these
days Little Sure Shot'll put a dose o' cold lead through that Chink's
heart."

"Is he really dangerous?" I demanded.

"Dangerous!" Boogles choked warmly on this. "Let me tell you, that old
boy is the real Peruvian doughnuts, and no mistake! Some day there won't
be so many Chinks round this dump. No, sir-ee! That little cutthroat'll
have another notch in his gun."

The situation did indeed seem to brim with the cheerfullest promise; yet
something told me that Little Sure Shot was too good, too perfect.
Something warned me that he suffered delusions of grandeur--that he
fell, in fact, somewhat short of being the real doughnuts, either of a
Peruvian or any other valued sort.

Nor had many hours passed ere it befell emphatically even so. There had
been the evening meal, followed by an hour or so of the always pleasing
and often instructive talk of my hostess, Mrs. Lysander John Pettengill,
who has largely known life for sixty years and found it entertaining and
good. And we had parted at an early nine, both tired from the work and
the play that had respectively engaged us the day long.

My candle had just been extinguished when three closely fired shots
cracked the vast stillness of the night. Ensued vocal explosions of a
curdling shrillness from the back of the house. One instantly knew them
to be indignant and Chinese. Caucasian ears gathered this much. I looked
from an open window as the impassioned cries came nearer. The lucent
moon of the mountains flooded that side of the house, and starkly into
its light from round the nearest corner struggled Lew Wee, the Chinaman.
He shone refulgent, being yet in the white or full-dress uniform of his
calling.

In one hand he held the best gun of Jimmie Time; in the other--there
seemed to be a well-gripped connection with the slack of a buckskin
shirt--writhed the alleged real doughnuts of a possibly Peruvian
character. The captor looked aloft and remained vocal, waving the gun,
waving Jimmie Time, playing them together as cymbals, never loosening
them. It was fine. It filled the eye and appeased the deepest longings
of the ear.

Then from a neighbouring window projected the heroic head and shoulders
of my hostess, and there boomed into the already vivacious libretto a
passionate barytone, or thereabout, of sterling timbre.

"What in the name of--"

I leave it there. To do so is not only kind but necessary. The most
indulgent censor that ever guarded the columns of a print intended for
young and old about the evening lamp would swiftly delete from this
invocation, if not the name of Deity itself, at least the greater number
of the attributes with which she endowed it. A few were conventional
enough, but they served only to accentuate others that were too hastily
selected in the heat of this crisis. Enough to say that the lady
overbore by sheer mass of tone production the strident soprano of Lew
Wee, controlling it at length to a lucid disclosure of his grievance.

From the doorway of his kitchen, inoffensively proffering a final
cigarette to the radiant night, he had been the target of three shots
with intent to kill. He submitted the weapon. He submitted the writhing
assassin.

"I catch 'um!" he said effectively, and rested his case.

"Now--I aimed over his head." It was Jimmie Time alias Little Sure Shot,
and he whimpered the words. "I jest went to play a sell on him."

The voice of the judge boomed wrathfully on this:

"You darned pestering mischief, you! Ain't I forbid you time and again
ever to load them guns? Where'd you get the ca'tridges?"

"Now--I found 'em," pleaded the bad man. "I did so; I found 'em."

"Cooned 'em, you mean!" thundered the judge. "You cooned 'em from Buck
or Sandy. Don't tell me, you young reprobate!"

"He all like bad man," submitted the prosecution. "I tell 'um catch
stlovewood; he tell 'um me: 'You go to haitch!' I tell 'um: 'You ownself
go to haitch! He say: 'I flan you my gun plitty soon!' He do."

"I aimed over the coward's head," protested the defendant.

"Can happen!" sanely objected the prosecution.

"Ain't I told you what I'd do if you loaded them guns?" roared the
judge. "Gentle, limping, baldheaded--" [Deleted by censor.] "How many
more times I got to tell you? Now you know what you'll get. You'll get
your needings--that's what you'll get! All day to-morrow! You hear me?
You'll wear 'em all day to-morrow! Put 'em on first thing in the morning
and wear 'em till sundown. No hiding out, neither! Wear 'em where folks
can see what a bad boy you are. And swearing, too! I got to be 'shamed
of you! Yes, sir! Everybody'll know how 'shamed I am to have a tough kid
like you on the place. I won't be able to hold my head up. You wear
'em!"

"I--I--I aimed above--" Jimmie Time broke down. He was weeping bitterly.
His captor released him with a final shake, and he brought a forearm to
his streaming eyes.

"You'll wear 'em all day to-morrow!" again thundered the judge as the
culprit sobbed a stumbling way into obscurity.

"You'self go to haitch!" the unrelenting complainant called after him.

The judge effected a rumbling withdrawal. The night was again calm. Then
I slept on the problem of the Arrowhead's two-gun bad man. It seemed now
pretty certain that the fatuous Boogles had grossly overpraised him. I
must question his being the real doughnuts of any sort--even the
mildest--much less the real Peruvian. But what was "'em" that in
degrading punishment and to the public shame of the Arrowhead he must
wear on the morrow? What, indeed, could "'em" be?

I woke, still pondering the mystery. Nor could I be enlightened during
my breakfast, for this was solitary, my hostess being long abroad to far
places of the Arrowhead, and the stolid mask of Lew Wee inviting no
questions.

Breakfast over, I stationed myself in the bracing sunlight that warmed
the east porch and aimlessly overhauled a book of flies. To three that
had proved most popular in the neighbouring stream I did small bits of
mending, ever with a questing eye on adjacent outbuildings, where Little
Sure Shot--_née_ Time--might be expected to show himself, wearing "'em."

A blank hour elapsed. I no longer affected occupation with the flies.
Jimmie Time was irritating me. Had he not been specifically warned to
"wear 'em" full shamefully in the public eye? Was not the public eye
present, avid? Boogles I saw intermittently among beanpoles in the
garden. He appeared to putter, to have no care or system in his labour.
And at moments I noticed he was dropping all pretense of this to stand
motionless, staring intently at the shut door of the stable.

Could his fallen idol be there, I wondered? Purposefully I also watched
the door of the stable. Presently it opened slightly; then, with evident
infinite caution, it was pushed outward until it hung half yawning. A
palpitant moment we gazed, Boogles and I. Then shot from the stable
gloom an astounding figure in headlong flight. Its goal appeared to be
the bunk house fifty yards distant; but its course was devious, laid
clearly with a view to securing such incidental brief shelter as would
be afforded by the corral wall, by a meagre clump of buck-brush, by a
wagon, by a stack of hay. Good time was made, however. The fugitive
vanished into the bunk house and the door of that structure was slammed
to. But now the small puzzle I had thought to solve had grown to be, in
that brief space--easily under eight seconds--a mystery of enormous, of
sheerly inhuman dimensions. For the swift and winged one had been all
too plainly a correctly uniformed messenger boy of the Western Union
Telegraph Company--that blue uniform with metal buttons, with the
corded red at the trouser sides, the flat cap fronted by a badge of
nickel--unthinkable, yet there. And the speedy bearer of this scenic
investiture had been the desperate, blood-letting, two-gun bad man of
the Arrowhead.

It was a complication not to be borne with any restraint. I hastened to
stand before the shut door of the sanctuary. It slept in an unpromising
stillness. Invincibly reticent it seemed, even when the anguished face
of Jimmie Time, under that incredible cap with its nickeled badge,
wavered an instant back of the grimy window--wavered and vanished with
an effect of very stubborn finality. I would risk no defeat there. I
passed resolutely on to Boogles, who now most diligently trained up
tender young bean vines in the way they should go.

"Why does he hide in there?" I demanded in a loud, indignant voice. I
was to have no nonsense about it.

Boogles turned on me the slow, lofty, considering regard of a United
States senator submitting to photography for publication in a press that
has no respect for private rights. He lacked but a few clothes and the
portico of a capitol. Speech became immanent in him. One should not have
been surprised to hear him utter decorative words meant for the
rejoicing and incitement of voters. Yet he only said--or started to say:

"Little Sure Shot'll get that Chink yet! I tell you, now, that old boy
is sure the real Peruvian--"

This was absurdly too much. I then and there opened on Boogles, opened
flooding gates of wrath and scorn on him--for him and for his idol of
clay who, I flatly told him, could not be the real doughnuts of any
sort. As for his being the real Peruvian--Faugh!

Often I had wished to test in speech the widely alleged merits of this
vocable. I found it do all that has been claimed for it. Its effect on
Boogles was so withering that I used it repeatedly in the next three
minutes. I even faughed him twice in succession, which is very insulting
and beneficial indeed, and has a pleasant feel on the lips.

"And now then," I said, "if you don't give me the truth of this matter
here and now, one of us two is going to be mighty sorry for it."

In the early moments of my violence Boogles had protested weakly; then
he began to quiver perilously. On this I soothed him, and at the
precisely right moment I cajoled. I lured him to the bench by the corral
gate, and there I conferred costly cigarettes on him as man to man.
Discreetly then I sounded for the origins of a certain bad man who had a
way--even though they might crease him--of leaving deputy marshals where
he found them. Boogles smoked one of the cigarettes before he succumbed;
but first:

"Let me git my work," said he, and was off to the bunk house.

I observed his part in an extended parley before the door was opened to
him. He came to me on the bench a moment later, bearing a ball of
scarlet yarn, a large crochet hook of bone, and something begun in the
zephyr but as yet without form.

"I'm making the madam a red one for her birthday," he confided.

He bent his statesman's head above the task and wrought with nimble
fingers the while he talked. It was difficult, this talk of his,
scattered, fragmentary; and his mind would go from it, his voice expire
untimely. He must be prompted, recalled, questioned. His hands worked
with a very certain skill, but in his narrative he dropped stitches.
Made to pick these up, the result was still a droning monotony burdened
with many irrelevancies. I am loath to transcribe his speech. It were
better reported with an eye strictly to salience.

You may see, then--and I hope with less difficulty than I had in
seeing--Jimmie Time and Boogles on night duty at the front of the little
Western Union Office off Park Row in the far city of New York. The law
of that city is tender to the human young. Night messenger boys must be
adults. It is one of the preliminary shocks to the visitor--to ring for
the messenger boy of tradition and behold in his uniform a venerable
gentleman with perhaps a flowing white beard. I still think Jimmie Time
and Boogles were beating the law--on a technicality. Of course Jimmie
was far descended into the vale of years, and even Boogles was
forty--but adults!

It is three o'clock of a warm spring morning. The two legal adults
converse in whispers, like bad boys kept after school. They whisper so
as not to waken the manager, a blasé, mature youth of twenty who sleeps
expertly in the big chair back of the railing. They whisper of the
terrific hazards and the precarious rewards of their adventurous
calling. The hazards are nearly all provided by the youngsters who come
on the day watch--hardy ruffians of sixteen or so who not only "pick on"
these two but, with sportive affectations, often rob them, when they
change from uniform to civilian attire, of any spoil the night may have
brought them. They are powerless against these aggressions. They can but
whisper their indignation.

Boogles eyed the sleeping manager.

"I struck it fine to-night, Jimmie!" he whispered. Jimmie mutely
questioned. "Got a whole case note. You know that guy over to the
newspaper office--the one that's such a tank drama--he had to send a
note up to a girl in a show that he couldn't be there."

"That tank drama? Sure, I know him. He kids me every time he's stewed."

"He kids me, too, something fierce; and he give me the case note."

"Them strong arms'll cop it on you when they get here," warned Jimmie.

"Took my collar off and hid her on the inside of it. Oh, I know tricks!"

"Chee! You're all to the Wall Street!"

"I got to look out for my stepmother, too. She'd crown me with a chair
if she thought I held out on her. Beans me about every day just for
nothing anyway."

"Don't you stand for it!"

"Yah! All right for you to talk. You're the lucky guy. You're an orphan.
S'pose you had a stepmother! I wish I was an orphan."

Jimmie swelled with the pride of orphanship.

"Yes; I'd hate to have any parents knocking me round," he said. "But if
it ain't a stepmother then it's somebody else that beans you. A guy in
this burg is always getting knocked round by somebody."

"Read some more of the novel," pleaded Boogles, to change the
distressing topic.

Jimmie drew a tattered paper romance from the pocket of his faded coat
and pushed the cap back from his seamed old forehead. It went back
easily, having been built for a larger head than his. He found the place
he had marked at the end of his previous half-hour with literature.
Boogles leaned eagerly toward him. He loved being read to. Doing it
himself was too slow and painful:

"'No,' said our hero in a clear, ringing voice; 'all your tainted gold
would not keep me here in the foul, crowded city. I must have the free,
wild life of the plains, the canter after the Texas steers, and the
fierce battles with my peers. For me the boundless, the glorious West!'"

"Chee! It must be something grand--that wild life!" interrupted
Boogles. "That's the real stuff--the cowboy and trapper on them
peraries, hunting bufflers and Injuns. I seen a film--"

Jimmie Time frowned at this. He did not like interruptions. He firmly
resumed the tale:

"With a gesture of disdain our hero waved aside the proffered gold of
the scoundrelly millionaire and dashed down the stairway of the proud
mansion to where his gallant steed, Midnight, was champing at the
hitching post. At that moment--"

Romance was snatched from the hands of Jimmie Time. The manager towered
above him.

"Ain't I told you guys not to be taking up the company's time with them
novels?" he demanded. He sternly returned to his big chair behind the
railing, where he no less sternly took up his own perusal of the
confiscated tale.

"The big stiff!" muttered Jimmie. "That's the third one he's copped on
me this week. A kid in this choint ain't got no rights! I got a good
notion to throw 'em down cold and go with the Postal people."

"Never mind! I'll blow you to an ice cream after work," consoled
Boogles.

"Ice cream!" Jimmie Time was contemptuous. "I want the free, wild life
of the boundless peraries. I want b'ar steaks br'iled on the glowing
coals of the camp fire. I want to be Little Sure Shot, trapper, scout,
and guide--"

"Next out!" yelled the manager. "Hustle now!"

Jimmie Time was next out. He hustled sullenly.

Boogles, alone, slept fitfully on his bench until the young thugs of the
day watch straggled in. Then he achieved the change of his uniform to
civilian garments, with only the accustomed minor maltreatment at the
hands of these tormentors. True, with sportive affectations--yet with
deadly intentness--they searched him for possible loot; but only his
pockets. His dollar bill, folded inside his collar, went unfound. With
assumed jauntiness he strolled from the outlaws' den and safely reached
the street.

The gilding on the castellated towers of the tallest building in the
world dazzled his blinking, foolish eyes. That was a glorious summit
which sang to the new sun, but no higher than his own elation at the
moment. Had he not come off with his dollar? He found balm and a tender
stimulus in the morning air--an air for dreams and revolt. Boogles felt
this as thousands of others must have felt it who were yet tamely
issuing from subway caverns and the Brooklyn Bridge to be wage slaves.

A block away from the office he encountered Jimmie Time, who seemed to
await him importantly. He seethed with excitement.

"I got one, too!" he called. "That tank drama he sent another note
uptown to a restaurant where a party was, and he give me a case note,
too."

He revealed it; and when Boogles withdrew his own treasure the two were
lovingly compared and admired. Nothing in all the world can be so foul
to the touch as the dollar bill that circulates in New York, but these
two were intrepidly fondled.

"I ain't going back to change," said Jimmie Time. "Them other kids would
cop it on me."

"Have some cigarettes," urged Boogies, and royally bought them--with
gilded tips, in a beautiful casket.

"I had about enough of their helling," declared Jimmie, still glowing
with a fine desperation.

They sought the William Street Tunnel under the Brooklyn Bridge. It was
cool and dark there. One might smoke and take his ease. And plan! They
sprawled on the stone pavement and smoked largely.

"Chee! If we could get out West and do all them fine things!" mused
Boogies.

"Let's!" said Jimmie Time.

"Huh!" Boogies gasped blankly at this.

"Let's beat it!"

"Chee!" said Boogies. He stared at this bolder spirit with startled
admiration.

"Me--I'm going," declared Jimmie Time stoutly, and waited.

Boogies wavered a tremulous moment.

"I'm going with you," he managed at last.

He blurted the words. They had to rush out to beat down his native
caution with quick blows.

"Listen!" said Jimmie Time impressively. "We got money enough to start.
Then we just strike out for the peraries."

"Like the guy in the story!" Boogies glowed at the adept who before his
very eyes was turning a beautiful dream into stark reality. He was
praying that his own courage to face it would endure.

"You hurry home," commanded Jimmie, "and cop an axe and all the grub you
can lay your hands on."

Boogies fell from the heights as he had feared he would.

"Aw, chee!" he said sanely. "And s'pose me stepmother gets her lamps on
me! Wouldn't she bean me? Sure she would!"

"Bind her and gag her," said Jimmie promptly. "What's one weak woman?"

"Yah! She's a hellion and you know it."

"Listen!" said Jimmie sternly. "If you're going into the wild and
lawless life of the peraries with me you got to learn to get things.
Jesse James or Morgan's men could get me that axe and that grub, and not
make one-two-three of it."

"Them guys had practice--and likely they never had to go against their
stepmothers."

"Do I go alone, then?"

"Well, now--"

"Will you or won't you?"

Boogies drew a fateful breath.

"I'll take a chance. You wait here. If I ain't back in one hour you'll
know I been murdered."

"Good, my man!" said Jimmie Time with the air of an outlaw chief. "Be
off at once."

Boogies was off. And Boogies was back in less than the hour with a
delectable bulging meal sack. He was trembling but radiant.

"She seen me gitting away and she yelled her head off," he gasped; "but
you bet I never stopped. I just thought of Jesse James and General
Grant, and run like hell!"

"Good, my man!" said Jimmie Time; and then, with a sudden gleam of the
practical, he inventoried the commissary and quartermaster supplies in
the sack. He found them to be: One hatchet; one well-used boiled
hambone; six greasy sugared crullers; four dill pickles; a bottle of
catchup; two tomatoes all but obliterated in transit; two loaves of
bread; a flatiron.

Jimmie cast the last item from him.

"Wh'd you bring that for?" he demanded.

"I don't know," confessed Boogies. "I just put it in. Mebbe I was afraid
she'd throw it at me when I was making my getaway. It'll be good for
cracking nuts if we find any on the peraries. I bet they have nuts!"

"All right, then. You can carry it if you want to, pard."

Jimmie thrust the bundle into Boogies' arms and valiantly led a
desperate way to the North River. Boogies panted under his burden as
they dodged impatient taxicabs. So they came into the maze of dock
traffic by way of Desbrosses Street. The eyes of both were lit by
adventure. Jimmie pushed through the crowd on the wharf to a ticket
office. A glimpse through a door of the huge shed had given him
inspiration. No common ferryboats for them! He had seen the stately
river steamer, _Robert Fulton_, gay with flags and bunting, awaiting the
throng of excursionists. He recklessly bought tickets. So far, so good.
A momentous start had been made.

At this very interesting point in his discourse to me, however, Boogies
began to miss explosions too frequently. From the disorderly jumble of
his narrative to this moment I believe I have brought something like the
truth; I have caused the widely scattered parts to cohere. After this I
could make little of his maunderings.

They were on the crowded boat and the boat steamed up the Hudson River;
and they disembarked at a thriving Western town--which, I gather, was
Yonkers--because Boogies feared his stepmother might trace him to this
boat, and because Jimmie Time became convinced that detectives were on
his track, wanting him for the embezzlement of a worn but still
practicable uniform of the Western Union Telegraph Company. So it was
agreed that they should take to the trackless forest, where there are
ways of throwing one's pursuers off the scent; where they would travel
by night, guided by the stars, and lay up by day, subsisting on spring
water and a little pemmican--source undisclosed. They were not going to
be taken alive--that was understood.

They hurried through the streets of this thriving Western town,
ultimately boarding an electric car--with a shrewd eye out for the
hellhounds of the law; and the car took them to the beginning of the
frontier, where they found the trackless forest. They reached the depths
of this forest after climbing a stone wall; and Jimmie Time said the
West looked good to him and that he could already smell the "b'ar steaks
br'iling."

Plain enough still, perhaps; but immediately it seemed that a princess
had for some time been sharing this great adventure. She was a beautiful
golden-haired princess, though quite small, and had flowers in her hair
and put some in the cap of Jimmie Time--behind the nickel badge--and
said she would make him her court dwarf or jester or knight, or
something; only the scout who was with her said this was rather silly
and that they had better be getting home or they knew very well what
would happen to them. But when they got lost Jimmie Time looked at this
scout's rifle and said it was a first-class rifle, and would knock an
Indian or a wild animal silly.

And the scout smoked a cigarette and got sick by it, and cried something
fierce; so they made a fire, and the princess didn't get sick when she
smoked hers, but told them a couple of bully stories, like reading in a
book, and ate every one of the greasy sugared crullers, because she was
a genuine princess, and Boogies thought at this time that maybe the
boundless West wasn't what it was cracked up to be; so, after they met
the madam, the madam said, well, if they was wanting to go out West they
might as well come along here; and they said all right--as long as they
was wanting to go out West anyway, why, they might as well come along
with her as with anybody else.

And that Chink would mighty soon find out if Little Sure Shot wasn't the
real Peruvian doughnuts, because that old murderer would sure have him
hard to find, come sundown; still, he was glad he had come along with
the madam, because back there it wasn't any job for you, account of
getting too fat for the uniform, with every one giving you the laugh
that way--and they wouldn't get you a bigger one--.

I left Boogies then, though he seemed not to know it. His needle worked
swiftly on the red one he was making for the madam, and his aimless,
random phrases seemed to flow as before; but I knew now where to apply
for the details that had been too many for his slender gift of
narrative.

At four that afternoon Mrs. Lysander John Pettengill, accompanied by one
Buck Devine, a valued retainer, rode into the yard and dismounted. She
at once looked searchingly about her. Then she raised her voice, which
is a carrying voice even when not raised: "You, Jimmie Time!"

Once was enough. The door of the bunk house swung slowly open and the
disgraced one appeared in all his shameful panoply. The cap was pulled
well down over a face hopelessly embittered. The shrunken little figure
drooped.

"None of that hiding out!" admonished his judge. "You keep standing
round out here where decent folks can look at you and see what a bad
boy you are."

With a glance she identified me as one of the decent she would have
edified. Jimmie Time muttered evilly in undertones and slouched forward,
head down.

"Ain't he the hostile wretch?" called Buck Devine, who stood with the
horses. He spoke with a florid but false admiration.

Jimmie Time, snarling, turned on him: "You go to--."

I perceived that Lew Wee the night before had delicately indicated by a
mere initial letter a bad word that could fall trippingly from the lips
of Jimmie.

"Sure!" agreed Buck Devine cordially. "And say, take this here telegram
up to the corner of Broadway and Harlem; and move lively now--don't you
stop to read any of them nickel liberries."

I saw what a gentleman should do. I turned my back on the piteous figure
of Jimmie Time. I moved idly off, as if the spectacle of his ignominy
had never even briefly engaged me.

"Shoot up a good cook, will you?" said the lady grimly. "I'll give you
your needings." She followed me to the house.

On the west porch, when she had exchanged the laced boots, khaki riding
breeches, and army shirt for a most absurdly feminine house gown, we had
tea. Her nose was powdered, and her slippers were bronzed leather and
monstrous small. She mingled Scotch whiskey with the tea and drank her
first cupful from a capacious saucer.

"That fresh bunch of campers!" she began. "What you reckon they did last
night? Cut my wire fence in two places over on the west flat--yes,
sir!--had a pair of wire clippers in the whip socket. What I didn't give
'em! Say, ain't it a downright wonder I still retain my girlish
laughter?"

But then, after she had refused my made cigarette for one of her own
deft handiwork, she spoke as I wished her to:

"Yes; three years ago. Me visiting a week at the home of Mrs. W.B.
Hemingway and her husband, just outside of Yonkers, back in York State.
A very nice swell home, with a nice front yard and everything. And also
Mrs. W.B.'s sister and her little boy, visiting her from Albany, the
sister's name being Mrs. L.H. Cummins, and the boy being nine years old
and named Rupert Cummins, Junior; and very junior he was for his age,
too--I will say that. He was a perfectly handsome little boy; but you
might call him a blubberhead if you wanted to, him always being scared
silly and pestered and rough-housed out of his senses by his little girl
cousin, Margery Hemingway--Mrs. W.B.'s little girl, you understand--and
her only seven, or two years younger than Junior, but leading him round
into all kinds of musses till his own mother was that demoralized after
a couple of days she said if that Margery child was hers she'd have her
put away in some good institution.

"Of course she only told that to me, not to Margery's mother. I don't
know--mebbe she would of put her away, she was that frightened little
Margery would get Junior killed off in some horrible manner, like the
time she got him to see how high he dast jump out of the apple tree
from, or like the time she told him, one ironing day, that if he drank a
whole bowlful of starch it would make him have whiskers like his pa in
fifteen minutes. Things like that--not fatal, mebbe, but wearing.

"Well, this day come a telegram about nine A.M. for Mrs. W.B., that her
aunt, with money, is very sick in New Jersey, which is near Yonkers; so
she and Mrs. L.H. Cummins, her sister, must go to see about this
aunt--and would I stay and look after the two kids and not let them get
poisoned or killed or anything serious? And they might have to stay
overnight, because the aunt was eccentric and often thought she was
sick; but this time she might be right. She was worth all the way from
three to four hundred thousand dollars.

"So I said I'd love to stay and look after the little ones. I wanted to
stay. Shopping in New York City the day before, two bargain sales--one
being hand-embroidered Swiss waists from two-ninety-eight upward--I felt
as if a stampede of longhorns had caught me. Darned near bedfast I was!
Say, talk about the pale, weak, nervous city woman with exhausted
vitality! See 'em in action first, say I. There was a corn-fed hussy in
a plush bonnet with forget-me-nots, two hundred and thirty or forty on
the hoof, that exhausted my vitality all right--no holds barred, an arm
like first-growth hick'ry across my windpipe, and me up against a solid
pillar of structural ironwork! Once I was wrastled by a cinnamon bear
that had lately become a mother; but the poor old thing would have lost
her life with this dame after the hand-embroidereds. Gee! I was lame in
places I'd lived fifty-eight years and never knew I had.

"So off went these ladies, with Mrs. L.H. Cummins giving me special and
private warning to be sure and keep Junior well out of it in case little
mischievous Margery started anything that would be likely to kill her.
And I looked forward to a quiet day on the lounge, where I could ache in
peace and read the 'Famous Crimes of History,' which the W.B.'s had in
twelve volumes--you wouldn't have thought there was that many, would
you? I dressed soft, out of respect to my corpse, and picked out a
corking volume of these here Crimes and lay on the big lounge by an open
window where the breeze could soothe me and where I could keep tabs on
the little ones at their sports; and everything went as right as if I
had been in some A-Number-One hospital where I had ought to of been.

"Lunchtime come before I knew it; and I had mine brought to my bed of
pain by the Swede on a tray, while the kids et theirs in an orderly and
uproarious manner in the dining-room. Rupert, Junior, was dressed like
one of these boy scouts and had his air gun at the table with him, and
little Margery was telling him there was, too, fairy princes all round
in different places; and she bet she could find one any day she wanted
to. They seemed to be all safe enough, so I took up my Crimes again.
Really, ain't history the limit?--the things they done in it and got
away with--never even being arrested or fined or anything!

"Pretty soon I could hear the merry prattle of the little ones again out
in the side yard. Ain't it funny how they get the gambling spirit so
young? I'd hear little Margery say: 'I bet you can't!' And Rupert,
Junior, would say:' I bet I can, too!' And off they'd go ninety miles on
a straight track: 'I bet you'd be afraid to!'--'I bet I wouldn't
be!'--'I bet you'd run as fast!'--'I bet I never would!' Ever see such
natural-born gamblers? And it's all about what Rupert, Junior, would do
if he seen a big tiger in some woods--Rupert betting he'd shoot it dead,
right between the eyes, and Margery taking the other end. She has by far
the best end of it, I think, it being at least a forty-to-one shot that
Rupert, the boy scout, is talking high and wide. And I drop into the
Crimes again at a good, murderous place with stilettos.

"I can't tell even now how it happened. All I know is that it was two
o'clock, and all at once it was five-thirty P.M. by a fussy gold clock
over on the mantel with a gold young lady, wearing a spear, standing on
top of it. I woke up without ever suspicioning that I'd been asleep.
Anyway, I think I'm feeling better, and I stretch, though careful,
account of the dame in the plush bonnet with forget-me-nots; and I lie
there thinking mebbe I'll enter the ring again to-morrow for some other
truck I was needing, and thinking how quiet and peaceful it is--how
awful quiet! I got it then, all right. That quiet! If you'd known little
Margery better you'd know how sick that quiet made me all at once. My
gizzard or something turned clean over.

"I let out a yell for them kids right where I lay. Then I bounded to my
feet and run through the rooms downstairs yelling. No sign of 'em! And
out into the kitchen--and here was Tillie, the maid, and Yetta, the
cook, both saying it's queer, but they ain't heard a sound of 'em
either, for near an hour. So I yelled out back to an old hick of a
gardener that's deef, and he comes running; but he don't know a thing on
earth about the kids or anything else. Then I am sick! I send Tillie one
way along the street and the gardener the other way to find out if any
neighbours had seen 'em. Then in a minute this here Yetta, the cook,
says: 'Why, now, Miss Margery was saying she'd go downtown to buy some
candy,' and Yetta says: 'You know, Miss Margery, your mother never 'ets
you have candy.' And Margery says: 'Well, she might change her mind any
minute--you can't tell; and it's best to have some on hand in case she
does.' And she'd got some poker chips out of the box to buy the candy
with--five blue chips she had, knowing they was nearly money anyway.

"And when Yetta seen it was only poker chips she knew the kid couldn't
buy candy with 'em--not even in Yonkers; so she didn't think any more
about it until it come over her--just like that--how quiet everything
was. Oh, that Yetta would certainly be found bone clear to the centre if
her skull was ever drilled--the same stuff they slaughter the poor
elephants for over in Africa--going so far away, with Yetta right there
to their hands, as you might say. And I'm getting sicker and sicker! I'd
have retained my calm mind, mind you, if they had been my own kids--but
kids of others I'd been sacredly trusted with!

"And then down the back stairs comes this here sandy-complected,
horse-faced plumber that had been frittering away his time all day up in
a bathroom over one little leak, and looking as sad and mournful as if
he hadn't just won eight dollars, or whatever it was. He must have been
born that way--not even being a plumber had cheered him up.

"'Blackhanders!'" he says right off, kind of brightening a little bit.

"I like to fainted for fair! He says they had lured the kids off with
candy and popcorn, and would hold 'em in a tenement house for ten
thousand dollars, to be left on a certain spot at twelve P.M. He seemed
to know a lot about their ways.

"'They got the Honourable Simon T. Griffenbaugh's youngest that way,'
he says, 'only a month ago. Likely the same gang got these two.'

"'How do you know?' I asks him.

"'Well,' he says, 'they's a gang of over two hundred of these I-talian
Blackhanders working right now on a sewer job something about two miles
up the road. That's how I know,' he says. 'That's plain enough, ain't
it? It's as plain as the back of my hand. What chance would them two
defenceless little children have with a gang of two hundred
Blackhanders?'

"But that looked foolish, even to me. 'Shucks!' I says. 'That don't
stand to reason.' But then I got another scare. 'How about water?' I
says. 'Any places round here they could fall into and get drownded?'

"He'd looked glum again when I said two hundred Blackhanders didn't
sound reasonable; but he cheers up at this and says: 'Oh, yes; lots of
places they could drownd--cricks and rivers and lakes and ponds and
tanks--any number of places they could fall into and never come up
again.' Say, he made that whole neighbourhood sound like Venice, Italy.
You wondered how folks ever got round without gondolas or something.
'One of Dr. George F. Maybury's two kids was nearly drownded last
Tuesday--only the older one saved him; a wonder it was they didn't have
to drag the river and find 'em on the bottom locked in each other's
arms! And a boy by the name of Clifford Something, only the other day,
playing down by the railroad tracks--'

"I shut him off, you bet! I told him to get out quick and go to his home
if he had one.

"'I certainly hope I won't have to read anything horrible in to-morrow's
paper!' he says as he goes down the back stoop. 'Only last week they was
a nigger caught--'

"I shut the door on him. Rattled good and plenty I was by then. Back
comes this silly old gardener--he'd gone with his hoe and was still
gripping it. The neighbours down that way hadn't seen the kids. Back
comes Tillie. One neighbour where she'd been had seen 'em climb on to a
street car--only it wasn't going downtown but into the country; and this
neighbour had said to herself that the boy would be likely to let some
one have it in the eye with his gun, the careless way he was lugging it.

"Thank the Lord, that was a trace! I telephoned to the police and told
'em all about it. And I telephoned for a motor car for me and got into
some clothes. Good and scared--yes! I caught sight of my face in the
looking-glass, and, my! but it was pasty--it looked like one of these
cheap apple pies you see in the window of a two-bit lunch place! And
while I'm waiting for this motor car, what should come but a telegram
from Mr. W.B. himself saying that the aunt was worse and he would go to
New Jersey himself for the night! Some said this aunt was worth a good
deal more than she was supposed to be. And I not knowing the name of
this town in Jersey where they would all be!--it was East Something or
West Something, and hard to remember, and I'd forgot it.

"I called the police again and they said descriptions was being sent
out, and that probably I'd better not worry, because they often had
cases like this. And I offered to bet them they hadn't a case since
Yonkers was first thought of that had meant so much spot cash to 'em as
this one would mean the minute I got a good grip on them kids. So this
cop said mebbe they had better worry a little, after all, and they'd
send out two cars of their own and scour the country, and try to find
the conductor of this street car that the neighbour woman had seen the
kids get on to.

"I r'ared round that house till the auto come that I'd ordered. It was
late coming, naturally, and nearly dark when it got there; but we
covered a lot of miles while the daylight lasted, with the man looking
sharp out along the road, too, because he had three kids of his own that
would do any living thing sometimes, though safe at home and asleep at
that minute, thank God!

"It was moisting when we started, and pretty soon it clouded up and the
dark came on, and I felt beat. We got fair locoed. We'd go down one road
and then back the same way. We stopped to ask everybody. Then we found
the two autos sent out by the police. I told the cops again what would
happen to 'em from me the minute the kids was found--the kids or their
bodies. I was so despairing--what with that damned plumber and
everything! I'll bet he's the merry chatterbox in his own home. The
police said cheer up--nothing like that, with the country as safe as a
church. But we went over to this Blackhanders' construction camp, just
the same, to make sure, and none of the men was missing, the boss said,
and no children had been seen; and anyway his men was ordinary decent
wops and not Blackhanders--and blamed if about fifty of 'em didn't turn
out to help look! Yes, sir, there they was--foreigners to the last man
except the boss, who was Irish--and acting just like human beings.

"It was near ten o'clock now; so we went to a country saloon to
telephone police headquarters, and they had found the car conductor, he
remembering because he had threatened to put the boy scout off the car
if he didn't quit pointing his gun straight at an old man with gold
spectacles setting across the aisle. And finally they had got off
themselves about three miles down the road; he'd watched 'em climb over
a stone wall and start up a hill into some woods that was there. And he
was Conductor Number Twenty-seven, if we wanted to know that.

"We beat it to that spot after I'd powdered my nose and we'd had a quick
round of drinks. The policemen knew where it was. It wasn't moisting any
more--it was raining for fair; and we done some ground-and-lofty
skidding before we got there. We found the stone wall all right and the
slope leading up to the woods; but, my Lord, there was a good half mile
of it! We strung out--four cops and my driver and me--hundreds of yards
apart and all yelling, so maybe the poor lost things would hear us.

"We made up to the woods without raising a sign; and, my lands, wasn't
it dark inside the woods! I worked forward, trying to keep straight from
tree to tree; but I stumbled and tore my clothes and sprained my wrist,
and blacked one eye the prettiest you'd want to see--mighty near being a
blubberhead myself, I was--it not being my kids, you understand. Oh, I
kept to it though! I'd have gone straight up the grand old state of New
York into Lake Erie if something hadn't stopped me.

"It was a light off through the pine and oak trees, and down in a kind
of little draw--not a lamplight but a fire blazing up. I yelled to both
sides toward the others. I can yell good when I'm put to it. Then I
started for the light. I could make out figures round the fire. Mebbe
it's a Blackhanders' camp, I think; so I didn't yell any more. I
cat-footed. And in a minute I was up close and seen 'em--there in the
dripping rain.

"Rupert, Junior, was asleep, leaned setting up against a tree, with a
messenger boy's cap on. And Margery was asleep on a pile of leaves, with
her cheek on one hand and something over her. And a fat man was asleep
on his back, with his mouth open, making an awful fuss about it. And the
only one that wasn't asleep was a funny little old man setting against
another tree. He had on the scout's campaign hat and he held the gun
across his chest in the crook of his arm. He hadn't any coat on. Then I
see his coat was what was over Margery; and I looked closer and it was a
messenger boy's coat.

"I was more floored than ever when I took that in. I made a little move,
and this funny old man must have heard me--he looked like one of them
silly little critters that play hob with Rip Van Winkle out on the
mountain before he goes to sleep. And he cocks his ears this way and
that; then he jumped to his feet, and I come forward where he could see
me. And darned if he didn't up with this here air gun of Rupert's, like
a flash, and plunk me with a buckshot it carried--right on my sprained
wrist, too!

"Say, I let out a yell, and I had him by the neck of his shirt in one
grab. I was still shaking him when the others come to. The fat man set
up and rubbed his eyes and blinked. That's all he done. Rupert woke up
the same minute and begun to cry like a baby; and Margery woke up, but
she didn't cry. She took a good look at me and she says: 'You let him
alone! He's my knight--he slays all the dragons. He's a good knight!'

"There I was, still shaking the little old man--I'd forgot all about
him. So I dropped him on the ground and reached for Margery; and I was
so afraid I was going to blubber like Rupert, the scout, that I let out
some words to keep from it. Yes, sir; I admit it.

"'Oh! Oh! Oh! Swearing!' says Rupert. I shall tell mother and Aunt Hilda
just what you said!'

"Mebby you can get Rupert's number from that. I did anyway. I stood up
from Margery and cuffed him. He went on sobbing, but not without reason.

"'Margery Hemingway,' I says, 'how dare you!' And she looks up all cool
and cunning, and says: 'Ho! I bet I know worse words than what you said!
See if I don't.' So then I shut her off mighty quick. But still she
didn't cry. 'I s'pose I must go back home,' she says. 'And perhaps it is
all for the best. I have a very beautiful home. Perhaps I should stay
there oftener.'

"I turned on the Blackhanders.

"'Did these brutes entice you away with candy?' I demanded. 'Was they
holding you here for ransom?'

"'Huh! I should think not!' she says. 'They are a couple of 'fraid-cats.
They were afraid as anything when we all got lost in these woods and
wanted to keep on finding our way out. And I said I bet they were awful
cowards, and the fat one said of course he was; but this old one became
very, very indignant and said he bet he wasn't any more of a coward than
I am, but we simply ought to go where there were more houses. And so I
consented and we got lost worse than ever--about a hundred miles, I
think--in this dense forest and we couldn't return to our beautiful
homes. And this one said he was a trapper, scout, and guide; so he built
this lovely fire and I ate a lot of crullers the silly things had
brought with them. And then this old one flung his robe over me because
I was a princess, and it made me invisible to prowling wolves; and
anyway he sat up to shoot them with his deadly rifle that he took away
from Cousin Rupert. And Cousin Rupert became very tearful indeed; so we
took his hat away, too, because it's a truly scout hat.'

"'And she smoked a cigarette,' says Rupert, still sobbing.

"'He smoked one, too, and I mean to tell his mother,' says Margery.
'It's something I think she ought to know.'

"'It made me sick,' says Rupert. 'It was a poison cigarette; I nearly
died.'

"'Mine never made me sick,' says Margery--'only it was kind of sting-y
to the tongue and I swallowed smoke through my nose repeatedly. And
first, this old one wouldn't give us the cigarettes at all, until I
threatened to cast a spell on him and turn him into a toad forever. I
never did that to any one, but I bet I could. And the fat one cried like
anything and begged me not to turn the old one into a toad, and the old
one said he didn't think I could in a thousand years, but he wouldn't
take any chances in the Far West; so he gave us the cigarettes, and
Rupert only smoked half of his and then he acted in a very common way, I
must say. And this old one said we would have br'iled b'ar steaks for
breakfast. What is a br'iled b'ar steak? I'm hungry.'

"Such was little angel-faced Margery. Does she promise to make life
interesting for those who love her, or does she not?

"Well, that's all. Of course these cops when they come up said the two
men was desperate crooks wanted in every state in the Union; but I swore
I knew them both well and they was harmless; and I made it right with
'em about the reward as soon as I got back to a check book. After that
they'd have believed anything I said. And I sent something over to the
Blackhanders that had turned out to help look, and something to
Conductor Number Twenty-seven. And the next day I squared myself with
Mrs. W.B. Hemingway and her husband, and Mrs. L.H. Cummins, when they
come back, the aunt not having been sick but only eccentric again.

"And them two poor homeless boys--they kind of got me, I admit, after
I'd questioned 'em awhile. So I coaxed 'em out here where they could
lead the wild, free life. Kind of sad and pathetic, almost, they was.
The fat one I found was just a kind of natural-born one--a feeb you
understand--and the old one had a scar that the doctor said explained
him all right--you must have noticed it up over his temple. It's where
his old man laid him out once, when he was a kid, with a stovelifter. It
seemed to stop his works.

"Yes; they're pretty good boys. Boogies was never bad but once, account
of two custard pies off the kitchen window sill. I threatened him with
his stepmother and he hid under the house for twenty-four hours. The
other one is pretty good, too. This is only the second time I had to
punish him for fooling with live ca'tridges. There! It's sundown and
he's got on his Wild Wests again."

Jimmie Time swaggered from the bunk house in his fearsome regalia. Under
the awed observation of Boogles he wheeled, drew, and shot from the hip
one who had cravenly sought to attack him from the rear.

"My, but he's hostile!" murmured my hostess. "Ain't he just the hostile
little wretch?"



IV

ONCE A SCOTCHMAN, ALWAYS


Terrific sound waves beat upon the Arrowhead ranch house this night. At
five o'clock a hundred and twenty Hereford calves had been torn from
their anguished mothers for the first time and shut into a too adjacent
feeding pen. Mothers and offspring, kept a hundred yards apart by two
stout fences, unceasingly bawled their grief, a noble chorus of yearning
and despair. The calves projected a high, full-throated barytone, with
here and there a wailing tenor against the rumbling bass of their dams.
And ever and again pealed distantly into the chorus the flute obbligato
of an emotional coyote down on the flat. There was never a diminuendo.
The fortissimo had been steadily maintained for three hours and would
endure the night long, perhaps for two other nights.

At eight o'clock I sleepily wondered how I should sleep. And thus
wondering, I marvelled at the indifference to the racket of my hostess,
Mrs. Lysander John Pettengill. Through dinner and now as she read a San
Francisco newspaper she had betrayed no consciousness of it. She read
her paper and from time to time she chuckled.

"How do you like it?" I demanded, referring to the monstrous din.

"It's great," she said, plainly referring to something else. "One of
them real upty-up weddings in high life, with orchestras and bowers of
orchids and the bride a vision of loveliness--"

"I mean the noise."

"What noise?" She put the paper aside and stared at me, listening
intently. I saw that she was honestly puzzled, even as the chorus
swelled to unbelievable volume. I merely waved a hand. The coyote was
then doing a most difficult tremolo high above the clamour.

"Oh, that!" said my enlightened hostess. "That's nothing; just a little
bunch of calves being weaned. We never notice that--and say, they got
the groom's mother in here, too. Yes, sir, Ellabelle in all her tiaras
and sunbursts and dog collars and diamond chest protectors--Mrs. Angus
McDonald, mother of groom, in a stunning creation! I bet they didn't
need any flashlight when they took her, not with them stones all over
her person. They could have took her in a coal cellar."

"How do you expect to sleep with all that going on?" I insisted.

"All what? Oh, them calves. That's nothing! Angus says to her when they
first got money: 'Whatever you economize in, let it not be in diamonds!'
He says nothing looks so poverty-stricken as a person that can only
afford a few. Better wear none at all than just a mere handful, he
says. What do you think of that talk from a man named Angus McDonald?
You'd think a Scotchman and his money was soon parted, but I heard him
say it from the heart out. And yet Ellabelle never does seem to get him.
Only a year ago, when I was at this here rich place down from San
Francisco where they got the new marble palace, there was a lovely
blow-up and Ellabelle says to me in her hysteria: 'Once a Scotchman,
always a Scotchman!' Oh, she was hysteric all right! She was like what I
seen about one of the movie actresses, 'the empress of stormy emotion.'
Of course she feels better now, after the wedding and all this newspaper
guff. And it was a funny blow-up. I don't know as I blamed her at the
time."

I now closed a window and a door upon the noisy September night. It
helped a little. I went back to a chair nearer to this woman with ears
trained in rejection. That helped more. I could hear her now, save in
the more passionate intervals of the chorus.

"All right, then. What was the funny blow-up?" She caught the
significance of the closed door and window.

"But that's music," she insisted. "Why, I'd like to have a good record
of about two hundred of them white-faced beauties being weaned, so I
could play it on a phonograph when I'm off visiting--only it would make
me too homesick." She glanced at the closed door and window in a way
that I found sinister.

"I couldn't hear you," I suggested.

"Oh, all right!" She listened wistfully a moment to the now slightly
dulled oratorio, then: "Yes, Angus McDonald is his name; but there are
two kinds of Scotch, and Angus is the other kind. Of course he's one of
the big millionaires now, with money enough to blind any kind of a
Scotchman, but he was the other kind even when he first come out to us,
a good thirty years ago, without a cent. He's a kind of second or third
cousin of mine by marriage or something--I never could quite work it
out--and he'd learned his trade back in Ohio; but he felt that the East
didn't have any future to speak of, so he decided to come West. He was a
painter and grainer and kalsominer and paperhanger, that kind of
thing--a good, quiet boy about twenty-five, not saying much, chunky and
slow-moving but sure, with a round Scotch head and a snub nose, and one
heavy eyebrow that run clean across his face--not cut in two like most
are.

"He landed on the ranch and slowly looked things over and let on after a
few days that he mebbe would be a cowboy on account of it taking him
outdoors more than kalsomining would. Lysander John was pretty busy, but
he said all right, and gave him a saddle and bridle and a pair of bull
pants and warned him about a couple of cinch-binders that he mustn't try
to ride or they would murder him. And so one morning Angus asked a
little bronch-squeezer we had, named Everett Sloan, to pick him out
something safe to ride, and Everett done so. Brought him up a nice old
rope horse that would have been as safe as a supreme-court judge, but
the canny Angus says: 'No, none of your tricks now! That beast has the
very devil in his eye, and you wish to sit by and laugh your fool head
off when he displaces me.' 'Is that so?' says Everett. 'I suspect you,'
says Angus. 'I've read plentifully about the tricks of you cowlads.'
'Pick your own horse, then,' says Everett. 'I'd better,' says Angus, and
picks one over by the corral gate that was asleep standing up, with a
wisp of hay hanging out of his mouth like he'd been too tired to finish
eating it. 'This steed is more to my eye,' says Angus. 'He's old and
withered and he has no evil ambitions. But maybe I can wake him up.'
'Maybe you can,' says Everett, 'but are you dead sure you want to?'
Angus was dead sure. 'I shall thwart your murderous design,' says he. So
Everett with a stung look helped him saddle this one. He had his alibi
all right, and besides, nothing ever did worry that buckaroo as long as
his fingers wasn't too cold to roll a cigarette.

"The beast was still asleep when Angus forked him. Without seeming to
wake up much he at once traded ends, poured Angus out of the saddle, and
stacked him up in some mud that was providentially there--mud soft
enough to mire your shadow. Angus got promptly up, landed a strong kick
in the ribs of the outlaw which had gone to sleep again before he lit,
shook hands warmly with Everett and says: 'What does a man need with two
trades anyway? Good-bye!'

"But when Lysander John hears about it he says Angus has just the right
stuff in him for a cowman. He says he has never known one yet that you
could tell anything to before he found it out for himself, and Angus
must sure have the makings of a good one, so he persuades him to stay
round for a while, working at easy jobs that couldn't stack him up, and
later he sent him to Omaha with the bunch in charge of a trainload of
steers.

"The trip back was when his romance begun. Angus had kept fancy-free up
to that time, being willing enough but thoroughly cautious. Do you
remember the eating-house at North Platte, Nebraska? The night train
from Omaha would reach there at breakfast time and you'd get out in the
frosty air, hungry as a confirmed dyspeptic, and rush into the big red
building past the man that was rapidly beating on a gong with one of
these soft-ended bass-drum sticks. My, the good hot smells inside!
Tables already loaded with ham and eggs and fried oysters and fried
chicken and sausage and fried potatoes and steaks and hot biscuits and
corn bread and hot cakes and regular coffee--till you didn't know which
to begin on, and first thing you knew you had your plate loaded with too
many things--but how you did eat!--and yes, thank you, another cup of
coffee, and please pass the sirup this way. And no worry about the
train pulling out, because there the conductor is at that other table
and it can't go without him, so take your time--and about three more of
them big fried oysters, the only good fried ones I ever had in the
world! To this day I get hungry thinking of that North Platte breakfast,
and mad when I go into the dining-car as we pass there and try to get
the languid mulatto to show a little enthusiasm.

"Well, they had girls at that eating-house. Of course no one ever
noticed 'em much, being too famished and busy. You only knew in a
general way that females was passing the food along. But Angus actually
did notice Ellabelle, though it must have been at the end of the meal,
mebbe when she was pouring the third cup. Ellabelle was never right
pretty to my notion, but she had some figure and kind of a sad dignity,
and her brown hair lacked the towers and minarets and golden domes that
the other girls built with their own or theirs by right of purchase. And
she seems to have noticed Angus from the very first. Angus saw that when
she wasn't passing the fried chicken or the hot biscuits along, even for
half a minute, she'd pick up a book from the window sill and glance
studiously at its pages. He saw the book was called 'Lucile.' And he
looked her over some more--between mouthfuls, of course--the
neat-fitting black dress revealing every line of her lithe young figure,
like these magazine stories say, the starched white apron and the look
of sad dignity that had probably come of fresh drummers trying to teach
her how to take a joke, and the smooth brown hair--he'd probably got
wise to the other kind back in the social centres of Ohio--and all at
once he saw there was something about her. He couldn't tell what it was,
but he knew it was there. He heard one of the over-haired ones call her
Ellabelle, and he committed the name to memory.

"He also remembered the book she was reading. He come back with a copy
he'd bought at Spokane and kept it on his bureau. Not that he read it
much. It was harder to get into than 'Peck's Bad Boy,' which was his
favourite reading just then.

"Pretty soon another load of steers is ready--my sakes, what scrubby
runts we sent off the range in them days compared to now!--and Angus
pleads to go, so Lysander John makes a place for him and, coming back,
here's Ellabelle handing the hot things along same as ever, with
'Lucile' at hand for idle moments. This time Angus again made certain
there was something about her. He cross-examined her, I suppose, between
the last ham and eggs and the first hot cakes. Her folks was corn
farmers over in Iowa and she'd gone to high school and had meant to be a
teacher, but took this job because with her it was anything to get out
of Iowa, which she spoke of in a warm, harsh way.

"Angus nearly lost the train that time, making certain there was
something about her. He told her to be sure and stay there till he
showed up again. He told me about her when he got back. 'There's
something about her,' he says. 'I suspect it's her eyes, though it might
be something else.'

"Me? I suspected there was something about her, too; only I thought it
was just that North Platte breakfast and his appetite. No meal can ever
be like breakfast to them that's two-fisted, and Angus was. He'd think
there was something about any girl, I says to myself, seeing her through
the romantic golden haze of them North Platte breakfast victuals. Of
course I didn't suggest any such base notion to Angus, knowing how
little good it does to talk sense to a man when he thinks there's
something about a girl. He tried to read 'Lucile' again, but couldn't
seem to strike any funny parts.

"Next time he went to Omaha, a month later, he took his other suit and
his new boots. 'I shall fling caution to the winds and seal my fate,' he
says. 'There's something about her, and some depraved scoundrel might
find it out.' 'All right, go ahead and seal,' I says. 'You can't expect
us to be shipping steers every month just to give you twenty minutes
with a North Platte waiter girl.' 'Will she think me impetuous?' says
he. 'Better that than have her think you ain't,' I warns him. 'Men have
been turned down for ten million reasons, and being impetuous is about
the only one that was never numbered among them. It will be strange
o'clock when that happens.' 'She's different,' says Angus. 'Of course,'
I says. 'We're all different. That's what makes us so much alike.' 'You
might know,' says he doubtfully.

"He proved I did, on the trip back. He marched up to Ellabelle's end of
the table in his other suit and his new boots and a startling necktie
he'd bought at a place near the stockyards in South Omaha, and proposed
honourable marriage to her, probably after the first bite of sausage and
while she was setting his coffee down. 'And you've only twenty minutes,'
he says, 'so hurry and pack your grip. We'll be wed when we get off the
train.' 'You're too impetuous,' says Ellabelle, looking more than ever
as if there was something about her. 'There, I was afraid I'd be,' says
Angus, quitting on some steak and breaking out into scarlet rash. 'What
did you think I am?' demands Ellabelle. 'Did you think I would answer
your beck and call or your lightest nod as if I were your slave or
something? Little you know me,' she says, tossing her head indignantly.
'I apologize bitterly,' says Angus. 'The very idea is monstrous,' says
she. 'Twenty minutes--and with all my packing! You will wait over till
the four-thirty-two this afternoon,' she goes on, very stern and
nervous, 'or all is over between us.' 'I'll wait as long as that for
you,' says Angus, going to the steak again. 'Are the other meals here as
good as breakfast?' 'There's one up the street,' says Ellabelle; 'a
Presbyterian.' 'I would prefer a Presbyterian,' says Angus. 'Are those
fried oysters I see up there?'

"That was about the way of it, I gathered later. Anyway, Angus brought
her back, eating on the way a whole wicker suitcase full of lunch that
she put up. And she seemed a good, capable girl, all right. She told me
there was something about Angus. She'd seen that from the first. Even
so, she said, she hadn't let him sweep her off her feet like he had
meant to, but had forced him to give her time to do her packing and
consider the grave step she was taking for better or worse, like every
true, serious-minded woman ought to.

"Angus now said he couldn't afford to fritter away any more time in the
cattle business, having a wife to support in the style she had been
accustomed to, so he would go to work at his trade. He picked out
Wallace, just over in Idaho, as a young and growing town where he could
do well. He rented a nice four-room cottage there, with an icebox out on
the back porch and a hammock in the front yard, and begun to paper and
paint and grain and kalsomine and made good money from the start.
Ellabelle was a crackajack housekeeper and had plenty of time to lie out
in the hammock and read 'Lucile' of afternoons.

"By and by Angus had some money saved up, and what should he do with
bits of it now and then but grubstake old Snowstorm Hickey, who'd been
scratching mountainsides all his life and never found a thing and likely
never would--a grouchy old hardshell with white hair and whiskers
whirling about his head in such quantities that a body just naturally
called him Snowstorm without thinking. It made him highly indignant,
but he never would get the things cut. Well, and what does this old
snow-scene-in-the-Alps do after about a year but mush along up the cañon
past Mullan and find a high-grade proposition so rich it was scandalous!
They didn't know how rich at first, of course, but Angus got assays and
they looked so good they must be a mistake, so they sunk a shaft and
drifted in a tunnel, and the assays got better, and people with money
was pretty soon taking notice.

"One day Snowstorm come grouching down to Angus and tells about a
capitalist that had brought two experts with him and nosed over the
workings for three days. Snowstorm was awful dejected. He had hated the
capitalist right off. 'He wears a gold watch chain and silk underclothes
like one of these fly city dames,' says Snowstorm, who was a knowing old
scoundrel, 'and he says his syndicate on the reports of these two
thieving experts will pay twelve hundred for it and not a cent more.
What do you think of that for nerve?'

"'Is that all?' says Angus, working away at his job in the new
International Hotel at Wallace. Graining a door in the dining-room he
was, with a ham rind and a stocking over one thumb nail, doing little
curlicues in the brown wet paint to make it look like what the wood was
at first before it was painted at all. 'Well,' he says, 'I suspected
from the assays that we might get a bit more, but if he had experts
with him you better let him have it for twelve hundred. After all,
twelve hundred dollars is a good bit of money.'

"'Twelve hundred thousand,' says Snowstorm, still grouchy.

"'Oh,' says Angus. 'In that case don't let him have it. If the shark
offers that it'll be worth more. I'll go into the mining business myself
as soon as I've done this door and the wainscoting and give them their
varnish.'

"He did so. He had the International finished in three more days, turned
down a job in the new bank building cold, and went into the mining
business just like he'd do anything else--slow and sure, yet impetuous
here and there. It wasn't a hard proposition, the stuff being there
nearly from the grass roots, and the money soon come a-plenty. Snowstorm
not only got things trimmed up but had 'em dyed black as a crow's wing
and retired to a life of sinful ease in Spokane, eating bacon and beans
and cocoanut custard pie three times a day till the doctors found out
what a lot of expensive things he had the matter with him.

"Angus not only kept on the job but branched out into other mines that
he bought up, and pretty soon he quit counting his money. You know what
that would mean to most of his race. It fazed him a mite at first. He
tried faithfully to act like a crazy fool with his money, experimenting
with revelry and champagne for breakfast, and buying up the Sans Soosy
dance hall every Saturday night for his friends and admirers. But he
wasn't gaited to go on that track long. Even Ellabelle wasn't worried
the least bit, and in fact she thought something of the kind was due his
position. And she was busy herself buying the things that are champagne
to a woman, only they're kept on the outside. That was when Angus told
her if she was going in for diamonds at all to get enough so she could
appear to be wasteful and contemptuous of them. Two thousand she give
for one little diamond circlet to pin her napkin up on her chest with.
It was her own idea.

"Then Angus for a time complicated his amateur debauchery with fast
horses. He got him a pair of matched pacing stallions that would go
anywhere, he said. And he frequently put them there when he had the main
chandelier lighted. In driving them over a watering-trough one night an
accident of some sort happened. Angus didn't come to till after his leg
was set and the stitches in--eight in one place, six in another, and so
on; I wonder why they're always so careful to count the stitches in a
person that way--and he wished to know if his new side-bar buggy was
safe and they told him it wasn't, and he wanted to know where his team
was, but nobody knew that for three days, so he says to the doctors and
Ellabelle: 'Hereafter I suspect I shall take only soft drinks like beer
and sherry. Champagne has a bonnier look but it's too enterprising. I
might get into trouble some time.' And he's done so to this day. Oh,
I've seen him take a sip or two of champagne to some one's health, or
as much Scotch whiskey in a tumbler of water as you could dribble from a
medium-boilered fountain pen. But that's a high riot with him. He'll eat
one of these corned peaches in brandy, and mebbe take a cream pitcher of
beer on his oatmeal of a morning when his stomach don't feel just right,
but he's never been a willing performer since that experiment in
hurdling.

"When he could walk again him and Ellabelle moved to the International
Hotel, where she wouldn't have to cook or split kindling and could make
a brutal display of diamonds at every meal, and we went down to see
them. That was when Angus give Lysander John the scarfpin he'd sent
clear to New York for--a big gold bull's head with ruby eyes and in its
mouth a nugget of platinum set with three diamonds. Of course Lysander
John never dast wear it except when Angus was going to see it.

"Then along comes Angus, Junior, though poor Ellabelle thinks for
several days that he's Elwin. We'd gone down so I could be with her.

"'Elwin is the name I have chosen for my son,' says she to Angus the
third day.

"'Not so,' says Angus, slumping down his one eyebrow clear across in a
firm manner. 'You're too late. My son is already named. I named him
Angus the night before he was born.'

"'How could you do that when you didn't know the sex?' demands Ellabelle
with a frightened air of triumph.

"'I did it, didn't I?' says Angus. 'Then why ask how I could?' And he
curved the eyebrow up one side and down the other in a fighting way.

"Ellabelle had been wedded wife of Angus long enough to know when the
Scotch curse was on him. 'Very well,' she says, though turning her face
to the wall. Angus straightened the eyebrow. 'Like we might have two
now, one of each kind,' says he quite soft, 'you'd name your daughter as
you liked, with perhaps no more than a bit of a suggestion from me, to
be taken or not by you, unless we'd contend amiably about it for a
length of time till we had it settled right as it should be. But a
son--my son--why, look at the chest on him already, projecting outward
like a clock shelf--and you would name him--but no matter! I was
forehanded, thank God.' Oh, you saw plainly that in case a girl ever
come along Ellabelle would have the privilege of naming it anything in
the world she wanted to that Angus thought suitable.

"So that was settled reasonably, and Angus went on showing what to do
with your mine instead of selling it to a shark, and the baby fatted up,
being stall-fed, and Ellabelle got out into the world again, with more
money than ever to spend, but fewer things to buy, because in Wallace
she couldn't think of any more. Trust her, though! First the
International Hotel wasn't good enough. Angus said they'd have a
mansion, the biggest in Wallace, only without slippery hardwood floors,
because he felt brittle after his accident. Ellabelle says Wallace
itself ain't big enough for the mansion that ought to be a home to his
only son. She was learning how to get to Angus without seeming to. He
thought there might be something in that, still he didn't like to trust
the child away from him, and he had to stick there for a while.

"So Ellabelle's health broke down. Yes, sir, she got to be a total
wreck. Of course the fool doctor in Wallace couldn't find it out. She
tried him and he told her she was strong as a horse and ought to be
doing a tub of washing that very minute. Which was no way to talk to the
wife of a rich mining man, so he lost quite a piece of money by it.
Ellabelle then went to Spokane and consulted a specialist. That's the
difference. You only see a doctor, but a specialist you consult. This
one confirmed her fears about herself in a very gentlemanly way and
reaped his reward on the spot. Ellabelle's came after she had convinced
Angus that even if she did have such a good appetite it wasn't a normal
one, but it was, in fact, one of her worst symptoms and threatened her
with a complete nervous breakdown. After about a year of this, when
Angus had horned his way into a few more mines--he said he might as well
have a bunch of them since he couldn't be there on the spot anyway--they
went to New York City. Angus had never been there except to pass from a
Clyde liner to Jersey City, and they do say that when he heard the
rates, exclusive of board, at the one Ellabelle had picked out from
reading the papers, he timidly asked her if they hadn't ought to go to
the other hotel. She told him there wasn't any other--not for them. She
told him further it was part of her mission to broaden his horizon, and
she firmly meant to do it if God would only vouchsafe her a remnant of
her once magnificent vitality.

"She didn't have to work so hard either. Angus begun to get a broader
horizon in just a few days, corrupting every waiter he came in contact
with, and there was a report round the hotel the summer I was there that
a hat-boy had actually tried to reason with him, thinking he was a
foreigner making mistakes with his money by giving up a dollar bill
every time for having his hat snatched from him. As a matter of fact,
Angus can't believe to this day that dollar bills are money. He feels
apologetic when he gives 'em away. All the same I never believed that
report about the hat-boy till someone explained to me that he wasn't
allowed to keep his loot, not only having clothes made special without
pockets but being searched to the hide every night like them poor
unfortunate Zulus that toil in the diamond mines of Africa. Of course I
could see then that this boy had become merely enraged like a wild-cat
at having a dollar crowded onto him for some one else every time a head
waiter grovelled Angus out of the restaurant.

"The novelty of that life wore off after about a year, even with side
trips to resorts where the prices were sufficiently outrageous to charm
Ellabelle. She'd begun right off to broaden her own horizon. After only
one week in New York she put her diamond napkin pincher to doing other
work, and after six months she dressed about as well as them prominent
society ladies that drift round the corridors of this hotel waiting for
parties that never seem on time, and looking none too austere while they
wait.

"So Ellabelle, having in the meantime taken up art and literature and
gone to lectures where the professor would show sights and scenes in
foreign lands with his magic lantern, begun to feel the call of the Old
World. She'd got far beyond 'Lucile'--though 'Peck's Bad Boy' was still
the favourite of Angus when he got time for any serious reading--- and
was coming to loathe the crudities of our so-called American
civilization. So she said. She begun to let out to Angus that they
wasn't doing right by the little one, bringing him up in a hole like New
York City where he'd catch the American accent--though God knows where
she ever noticed that danger there!--and it was only fair to the child
to get him to England or Paris or some such place where he could have
decent advantages. I gather that Angus let out a holler at first so that
Ellabelle had to consult another specialist and have little Angus
consult one, too. They both said: 'Certainly, don't delay another day if
you value the child's life or your own,' and of course Angus had to give
in. I reckon that was the last real fight he ever put up till the time
I'm going to tell you about.

"They went to England and bought a castle that had never known the
profane touch of a plumber, having been built in the time of the first
earl or something, and after that they had to get another castle in
France, account of little Angus having a weak throat that Ellabelle got
another gentlemanly specialist to find out about him; and so it went,
with Ellabelle hovering on the very edge of a nervous breakdown, and
taking up art and literature at different spots where fashion gathered,
going to Italy and India's coral strand to study the dead past, and so
forth, and learning to address her inferiors in a refined and hostile
manner, with little Angus having a maid and a governess and something
new the matter with him every time Ellabelle felt the need of a change.

"At first Angus used to make two trips back every year, then he cut them
down to one, and at last he'd only come every two or three years, having
his hirelings come to him instead. He'd branched out a lot, even at that
distance, getting into copper and such, and being president of banks and
trusts here and there and equitable cooperative companies and all such
things that help to keep the lower classes trimmed proper. For a whole
lot of years I didn't see either of 'em. I sort of lost track of the
outfit, except as I'd see the name of Angus heading a new board of
directors after the reorganization, or renting the north half of
Scotland for the sage-hen and coyote shooting, or whatever the game is
there. Of course it took genius to do this with Angus, and I've never
denied that Ellabelle has it. I bet there wasn't a day in all them years
that Angus didn't believe himself to be a stubborn, domineering brute,
riding roughshod over the poor little wreck of a woman. If he didn't it
wasn't for want of his wife accusing him of it in so many words--and
perhaps a few more.

"I guess she got to feeling so sure of herself she let her work coarsen
up. Anyway, when little Angus come to be eighteen his pa shocked her one
day by saying he must go back home to some good college. 'You mean
England,' says Ellabelle, they being at the time on some other foreign
domains.

"'I do not,' says Angus, 'nor Sweden nor Japan nor East Africa. I mean
the United States.' 'You're jesting,' says she. 'You wrong me cruelly,'
says Angus. 'The lad's eighteen and threatening to be a foreigner.
Should he stay here longer it would set in his blood.' 'Remember his
weak throat,' says Ellabelle. 'I did,' says Angus. 'To save you trouble
I sent for a specialist to look him over. He says the lad has never a
flaw in his throat. We'll go soon.'

"Of course it was dirty work on the part of Angus, getting to the
specialist first, but she saw she had to take it. She knew it was like
the time they agreed on his name--she could see the Scotch blood leaping
in his veins. So she gave in with never a mutter that Angus could hear.
That's part of the genius of Ellabelle, knowing when she can and when
she positively cannot, and making no foolish struggle in the latter
event.

"Back they come to New York and young Angus went to the swellest college
Ellabelle could learn about, and they had a town house and a country
house and Ellabelle prepared to dazzle New York society, having met
frayed ends of it in her years abroad. But she couldn't seem to put it
over. Lots of male and female society foreigners that she'd met would
come and put up with her and linger on in the most friendly manner, but
Ellabelle never fools herself so very much. She knew she wasn't making
the least dent in New York itself. She got uncomfortable there. I bet
she had that feeling you get when you're riding your horse over soft
ground and all at once he begins to bog down.

"Anyway, they come West after a year or so, where Angus had more drag
and Ellabelle could feel more important. Not back to Wallace, of course.
Ellabelle had forgotten the name of that town, and also they come over a
road that misses the thriving little town of North Platte by several
hundred miles. And pretty soon they got into this darned swell little
suburb out from San Francisco, through knowing one of the old families
that had lived there man and boy for upward of four years. It's a town
where I believe they won't let you get off the train unless you got a
visitor's card and a valet.

"Here at last Ellabelle felt she might come into her own, for parties
seemed to recognize her true worth at once. Some of them indeed she
could buffalo right on the spot, for she hadn't lived in Europe and such
places all them years for nothing. So, camping in a miserable rented
shack that never cost a penny over seventy thousand dollars, with only
thirty-eight rooms and no proper space for the servants, they set to
work building their present marble palace--there's inside and outside
pictures of it in a magazine somewhere round here--bigger than the state
insane asylum and very tasty and expensive, with hand-painted ceilings
and pergolas and cafés and hot and cold water and everything.

"It was then I first see Ellabelle after all the years, and I want to
tell you she was impressive. She looked like the descendant of a long
line of ancestry or something and she spoke as good as any reciter you
ever heard in a hall. Last time I had seen her she was still forgetting
about the r's--she'd say: 'Oh, there-urr you ah!' thus showing she was
at least half Iowa in breed--but nothing like that now. She could give
the English cards and spades and beat them at their own game. Her face
looked a little bit overmassaged and she was having trouble keeping her
hips down, and wore a patent chin-squeezer nights, and her hair couldn't
be trusted to itself long at a time; but she knew how to dress and she'd
learned decency in the use of the diamond except when it was really
proper to break out all over with 'em. You'd look at her twice in any
show ring. Ain't women the wonders! Gazing at Ellabelle when she had
everything on, you'd never dream that she'd come up from the vilest
dregs only a few years before--helping cook for the harvest hands in
Iowa, feeding Union Pacific passengers at twenty-two a month, or
splitting her own kindling at Wallace, Idaho, and dreaming about a new
silk dress for next year, or mebbe the year after if things went well.

"Men ain't that way. Angus had took no care of his figure, which was now
pouchy, his hair was gray, and he was either shedding or had been
reached, and he had lines of care and food in his face, and took no
pains whatever with his accent--or with what he said, for that matter. I
never saw a man yet that could hide a disgraceful past like a woman can.
They don't seem to have any pride. Most of 'em act like they don't care
a hoot whether people find it out on 'em or not.

"Angus was always reckless that way, adding to his wife's burden of
anxiety. She'd got her own vile past well buried, but she never knew
when his was going to stick its ugly head up out of its grave. He'd go
along all right for a while like one of the best set had ought to--then
Zooey! We was out to dinner at another millionaire's one night--in that
town you're either a millionaire or drawing wages from one--and Angus
talked along with his host for half an hour about the impossibility of
getting a decent valet on this side of the water, Americans not knowing
their place like the English do, till you'd have thought he was born to
it, and then all at once he breaks out about the hardwood finish to the
dining-room, and how the art of graining has perished and ought to be
revived. 'And I wish I had a silver dollar,' he says, 'for every door
like that one there that I've grained to resemble the natural wood so
cunningly you'd never guess it--hardly.'

"At that his break didn't faze any one but Ellabelle. The host was an
old train-robber who'd cut your throat for two bits--I'll bet he
couldn't play an honest game of solitaire--and he let out himself right
off that he had once worked in a livery stable and was proud of it; but
poor Ellabelle, who'd been talking about the dear Countess of Comtessa
or somebody, and the dukes and earls that was just one-two-three with
her on the other side, she blushed up till it almost showed through the
second coating. Angus was certainly poison ivy to her on occasion, and
he'd refuse to listen to reason when she called him down about it. He'd
do most of the things she asked him to about food and clothes and so
forth--like the time he had the two gold teeth took out and replaced by
real porcelain nature fakers--but he never could understand why he
wasn't free to chat about the days when he earned what money he had.

"It was this time that I first saw little Angus since he had changed
from a governess to a governor--or whatever they call the he-teacher of
a millionaire's brat. He was home for the summer vacation. Naturally I'd
been prejudiced against him not only by his mother's praise but by his
father's steady coppering of the same. Judiciously comparing the two, I
was led to expect a kind of cross between Little Lord Fauntleroy and the
late Sitting Bull, with the vices of each and the virtues of neither.
Instead of which I found him a winsome whelp of six-foot or so with
Scotch eyes and his mother's nose and chin and a good, big, straight
mouth, and full of the most engaging bedevilments for one and all. He
didn't seem to be any brighter in his studies than a brute of that age
should be, and though there was something easy and grand in his manner
that his pa and ma never had, he wasn't really any more foreign than
what I be. Of course he spoke Eastern American instead of Western, but
you forgive him that after a few minutes when you see how nice he
naturally meant to be. I admit we took to each other from the start.
They often say I'm a good mixer, but it took no talent to get next to
that boy. I woke up the first night thinking I knew what old silly would
do her darndest to adopt him if ever his poor pa and ma was to get
buttered over the right of way in some railroad accident.

"And yet I didn't see Angus, Junior, one bit the way either of his
parents saw him. Ellabelle seemed to look on him merely as a smart
dresser and social know-it-all that would be a 98 cent credit to her in
the position of society queen for which the good God had always intended
her. And his father said he wasn't any good except to idle away his time
and spend money, and would come to a bad end by manslaughter in a
high-powered car; or in the alcoholic ward of some hospital; that he
was, in fact, a mere helling scapegrace that would have been put in some
good detention home years before if he hadn't been born to a father that
was all kinds of a so-and-so old Scotch fool. There you get Angus,
_fills_, from three different slants, and I ain't saying there wasn't
justification for the other two besides mine. The boy could act in a
crowd of tea-drinking women with a finish that made his father look like
some one edging in to ask where they wanted the load of coal dumped. But
also Angus, _peer_, was merely painting the lily, as they say, when he'd
tell all the different kinds of Indian the boy was. That very summer
before he went back to the educational centre where they teach such
arts, he helped wreck a road house a few miles up the line till it
looked like one of them pictures of what a Zeppelin does to a rare old
English drug store in London. And a week later he lost a race with the
Los Angeles flyer, account of not having as good a roadbed to run on as
the train had, and having to take too short a turn with his new car.

"I remember we three was wondering where he could be that night the
telephone rung from the place where kindly strangers had hauled him for
first aid to the foolish. But it was the boy himself that was able to
talk and tell his anxious parents to forget all about it. His father
took the message and as soon as he got the sense of it he begun to get
hopeful that the kid had broke at least one leg--thinking, he must have
been, of the matched pacing stallions that once did himself such a good
turn without meaning to. His disappointment was pitiful as he turned to
us after learning that he had lit on his head but only sustained a few
bruises and sprains and concussions, with the wall-paper scraped off
here and there.

"'Struck on his head, the only part of him that seems invulnerable,'
says the fond father. 'What's that?' he yells, for the boy was talking
again. He listened a minute, and it was right entertaining to watch his
face work as the words come along. It registered all the evil that
Scotland has suffered from her oppressors since they first thought up
the name for it. Finally he begun to splutter back--it must have sounded
fine at the other end--but he had to hang up, he was that emotional.
After he got his face human again he says to us:

"'Would either of you think now that you could guess at what might have
been his dying speech? Would you guess it might be words of cheer to the
bereaved mother that nursed him, or even a word of comfort to the idiot
father that never touched whipleather to his back while he was still
husky enough to get by with it? Well, you'd guess wild. He's but
inflamed with indignation over the state of the road where he passed out
for some minutes. He says it's a disgrace to any civilized community,
and he means to make trouble about it with the county supervisor, who
must be a murderer at heart, and then he'll take it up to the supreme
court and see if we can't have roads in this country as good as
Napoleon the First made them build in France, so a gentleman can speed
up a bit over five miles an hour without breaking every bone in his
body, to say nothing of totally ruining a car costing forty-eight
hundred dollars of his good money, with the ink on the check for it
scarce dry. He was going on to say that he had the race for the crossing
as good as won and had just waved mockingly at the engineer of the
defeated train who was pretending to feel indifferent about it--but I
hung up on him. My strength was waning. Was he here this minute I make
no doubt I'd go to the mat with him, unequal as we are in prowess.' He
dribbled off into vicious mutterings of what he'd say to the boy if he
was to come to the door.

"Then dear Ellabelle pipes up: 'And doesn't the dear boy say who was
with him in this prank?'

"Angus snorted horribly at the word 'prank,' just like he'd never had
one single advantage of foreign travel. 'He does indeed--one of those
Hammersmith twin louts was with him--the speckled devil with the lisp, I
gather--and praise God his bones, at least, are broke in two places!'

"Ellabelle's eyes shined up at this with real delight. 'How terrible!'
she says, not looking it. 'That's Gerald Hammersmith, son of Mrs. St.
John Hammersmith, leader of the most exclusive set here--oh, she's quite
in the lead of everything that has class! And after this we must know
each other far, far better than we have in the past. She has never
called up to this time. I must inquire after her poor boy directly
to-morrow comes.' That is Ellabelle. Trust her not to overlook a single
bet.

"Angus again snorted in a common way. 'St. John Hammersmith!' says he,
steaming up, 'When he trammed ore for three-fifty a day and went to bed
with his clothes on any night he'd the price of a quart of gin-and-beer
mixed--liking to get his quick--his name was naked 'John' with never a
Saint to it, which his widow tacked on a dozen years later. And speaking
of names, Mrs. McDonald, I sorely regret you didn't name your own son
after your first willful fancy. It was no good day for his father when
you put my own name to him.'

"But Ellabelle paid no attention whatever to this rough stuff, being
already engaged in courting the Hammersmith dame for the good of her
social importance. I make no doubt before the maid finished rubbing in
the complexion cream that night she had reduced this upstart to the
ranks and stepped into her place as leader of the most exclusive social
set between South San Francisco and old Henry Miller's ranch house at
Gilroy. Anyway, she kept talking to herself about it, almost over the
mangled remains of her own son, as you might say.

"A year later the new mansion was done, setting in the centre of sixty
acres of well-manicured land as flat as a floor and naturally called
Hillcrest. Angus asked me down for another visit. There had been grand
doings to open the new house, and Ellabelle felt she was on the way to
ruling things social with an iron hand if she was just careful and
didn't overbet her cards. Angus, not being ashamed of his scandalous
past, was really all that kept her nerves strung up. It seems he'd give
her trouble while the painters and decorators was at work, hanging round
'em fascinated and telling 'em how he'd had to work ten hours a day in
his time and how he could grain a door till it looked exactly like the
natural wood, so they'd say it wasn't painted at all. And one day he
become so inflamed with evil desire that Ellabelle, escorting a bunch of
the real triple-platers through the mansion, found him with his coat off
learning how to rub down a hardwood panel with oil and pumice stone.
Gee! Wouldn't I like to of been there! I suppose I got a lower nature as
well as the rest of us.

"After I'd been there a few days, along comes Angus, _fills_, out into
the world from college to make a name for himself. By ingenuity or
native brute force he had contrived to graduate. He was nice as ever and
told me he was going to look about a bit until he could decide what his
field of endeavour should be. Apparently it was breaking his neck in
outdoor sports, including loop-the-loop in his new car on roads not
meant for it, and delighting Ellabelle because he was a fine social drag
in her favour, and enraging his father by the same reasons. Ellabelle
was especially thrilled by his making up to a girl that was daughter to
this here old train-robber I mentioned. It was looking like he might
form an alliance, as they say, with this old family which had lived
quite a decent life since they actually got it. The girl looked to me
nice enough even for Angus, Junior, but his pa denounced her as a
yellow-haired pest with none but frivolous aims in life, who wouldn't
know whether a kitchen was a room in a house or a little woolly animal
from Paraguay. We had some nice, friendly breakfasts, I believe not,
whilst they discussed this poisonous topic, old Angus being only further
embittered when it comes out that the train-robber is also dead set
against this here alliance because his only daughter needs a decent,
reputable man who would come home nights from some low mahogany den in a
bank building, and not a worthless young hound that couldn't make a
dollar of his own and had displayed no talent except for winning the
notice of head waiters and policemen. Old Angus says he knows well
enough his son can be arrested out of most crowds just on that
description alone, but who is this So-and-So old thug to be saying it in
public?

"And so it went, with Ellabelle living in high hopes and young Angus
busy inventing new ways to bump himself off, and old Angus getting more
and more seething--quiet enough outside, but so desperate inside that it
wasn't any time at all till I saw he was just waiting for a good chance
to make some horrible Scotch exhibition of himself.

"Then comes the fatal polo doings, with young Angus playing on the side
that won, and Ellabelle being set up higher than ever till she actually
begins to snub people here and there at the game that look like they'd
swallow it, and old Angus ashamed and proud and glaring round as if he'd
like to hear some one besides himself call his son a worthless young
hound--if they wanted to start something.

"And the polo victory of course had to be celebrated by a banquet at the
hotel, attended by all the players and their huskiest ruffian friends.
They didn't have the ponies there, but I guess they would of if they'd
thought of it. It must have been a good banquet, with vintages and song
and that sort of thing--I believe they even tried to have food at
first--and hearty indoor sports with the china and silver and chairs
that had been thoughtlessly provided and a couple of big mirrors that
looked as if you could throw a catsup bottle clear through them, only
you couldn't, because it would stop there after merely breaking the
glass, and spatter in a helpless way.

"And of course there was speeches. The best one, as far as I could
learn, was made by the owner of the outraged premises at a late
hour--when the party was breaking up--as you might put it. He said the
bill would be about eighteen hundred dollars, as near as he could tell
at first glance. He was greeted with hearty laughter and applause from
the high-spirited young incendiaries and retired hastily through an
unsuspected door to the pantry as they rushed for him. It was then they
found out what to do with the rest of the catsup--and did it--so the
walls and ceiling wouldn't look so monotonous, and fixed the windows so
they would let out the foul tobacco smoke, and completed a large
painting of the Yosemite that hung on the wall, doing several things to
it that hadn't occurred to the artist in his hurry, and performed a
serious operation on the piano without the use of gas. The tables, I
believe, was left flat on their backs.

"Angus, _fills_, was fetched home in a car by a gang of his roguish
young playmates. They stopped down on the stately drive under my window
and a quartet sung a pathetic song that run:

    "Don't forget your parents,
    Think all they done for you!

"Then young Angus ascended the marble steps to the top one, bared his
agreeable head to the moonlight, and made them a nice speech. He said
the campaign now in progress, fellow-citizens, marked the gravest crisis
in the affairs of our grand old state that an intelligent constituency
had ever been called upon to vote down, but that he felt they were on
the eve of a sweeping victory that would sweep the corrupt hell-hounds
of a venal opposition into an ignominy from which they would never be
swept by any base act of his while they honoured him with their
suffrages, because his life was an open book and he challenged any
son-of-a-gun within sound of his voice to challenge this to his face or
take the consequences of being swept into oblivion by the high tide of
a people's indignation that would sweep everything before it on the
third day of November next, having been aroused in its might at last
from the debasing sloth into which the corrupt hell-hounds of a venal
opposition had swept them, but a brighter day had dawned, which would
sweep the onrushing hordes of petty chicanery to where they would get
theirs; and, as one who had heard the call of an oppressed people, he
would accept this fitting testimonial, not for its intrinsic worth but
for the spirit in which it was tendered. As for the nefarious tariff on
watch springs, sawed lumber, and indigo, he would defer his masterly
discussion of these burning issues to a more fitting time because a man
had to get a little sleep now and then or he wasn't any good next day.
In the meantime he thanked them one and all, and so, gentlemen,
good-night.

"The audience cheered hoarsely and drove off. I guess the speech would
have been longer if a light hadn't showed in the east wing of the castle
where Angus, _peer_, slept. And then all was peace and quiet till the
storm broke on a rocky coast next day. It didn't really break until
evening, but suspicious clouds no bigger than a man's hand might have
been observed earlier. If young Angus took any breakfast that morning it
was done in the privacy of his apartment under the pitying glances of a
valet or something. But here he was at lunch, blithe as ever, and full
of merry details about the late disaster. He spoke with much humour
about a wider use for tomato catsup than was ever encouraged by the old
school of house decorators. Old Angus listened respectfully, taking only
a few bites of food but chewing them long and thoughtfully. Ellabelle
was chiefly interested in the names of the hearty young vandals. She was
delighted to learn that they was all of the right set, and her eyes
glowed with pride. The eyes of Angus, _peer_, was now glowing with what
I could see was something else, though I couldn't make out just what it
was. He never once exploded like you'd of thought he was due to.

"Then come a note for the boy which the perfect-mannered Englishman that
was tending us said was brought by a messenger. Young Angus glanced at
the page and broke out indignantly. 'The thieving old pirate!' he says.
'Last night he thought it would be about eighteen hundred dollars, and
that sounded hysterical enough for the few little things we'd scratched
or mussed up. I told him he would doubtless feel better this morning,
but in any event to send the bill to me and I would pay it.'

"'Quite right of you,' says Ellabelle proudly.

"'And now the scoundrel sends me one for twenty-three hundred and odd.
He's a robber, net!'

"Old Angus said never a word, but chewed slowly, whilst various puzzling
expressions chased themselves acrost his eloquent face. I couldn't make
a thing out of any of them.

"'Never patronize the fellow again,' says Ellabelle warmly.

"'As to that,' says her son, 'he hinted something last night about
having me arrested if I ever tried to patronize him again, but that
isn't the point. He's robbing me now.'

"'Oh, money!' says Ellabelle in a low tone of disgust and with a gesture
like she was rebuking her son for mentioning such a thing before the
servant.

"'But I don't like to be taken advantage of,' says he, looking very
annoyed and grand. Then old Angus swallowed something he'd been chewing
for eight minutes and spoke up with an entirely new expression that
puzzled me more than ever.

"'If you're sure you have the right of it, don't you submit to the
outrage.'

"Angus, Junior, backed up a little bit at this, not knowing quite how to
take the old man's mildness. 'Oh, of course the fellow might win out if
he took it into court,' he says. 'Every one knows the courts are just a
mass of corruption.'

"'True, I've heard gossip to that effect,' says his father. 'Yet there
must be some way to thwart the crook. I'm feeling strangely ingenious at
the moment.' He was very mild, and yet there was something sinister and
Scotch about him that the boy felt.

"'Of course I'd pay it out of my own money,' he remarks generously.

"'Even so, I hate to see you cheated,' says his father kindly. 'I hate
to have you pay unjust extortions out of the mere pittance your
tight-fisted old father allows you.'

"Young Angus said nothing to this, but blushed and coughed
uncomfortably.

"'If you hurt that hotel anything like twenty-three hundred dollars'
worth, it must be an interesting sight,' his father goes on brightly.

"'Oh, it was funny at the time,' says Angus boy, cheering up again.

"'Things often are,' says old Angus. 'I'll have a look.'

"'At the bill?'

"'No, at the wreck,' says he. The old boy was still quiet on the
outside, but was plainly under great excitement, for he now folded his
napkin with care, a crime of which I knew Ellabelle had broken him the
first week in New York, years before. I noticed their butler had the
fine feeling to look steadily away at the wall during this obscenity.
The offender then made a pleasant remark about the beauty of the day and
left the palatial apartment swiftly. Young Angus and his mother looked
at each other and strolled after him softly over rugs costing about
eighty thousand dollars. The husband and father was being driven off by
a man he could trust in a car they had let him have for his own use.
Later Ellabelle confides to me that she mistrusts old Angus is
contemplating some bit of his national deviltry. 'He had a strange look
on his face,' says she, 'and you know--once a Scotchman, always a
Scotchman! Oh, it would be pitiful if he did anything peculiarly Scotch
just at our most critical period here!' Then she felt of her face to
see if there was any nervous lines come into it, and there was, and she
beat it for the maid to have 'em rubbed out ere they set.

"Yet at dinner that night everything seemed fine, with old Angus as
jovial as I'd ever seen him, and the meal come to a cheerful end and we
was having coffee in the Looey de Medisee saloon, I think it is, before
a word was said about this here injured hotel.

"'You were far too modest this morning, you sly dog!' says Angus,
_peer_, at last, chuckling delightedly. 'You misled me grievously. That
job of wrecking shows genius of a quality that was all too rare in my
time. I suspect it's the college that does it. I shouldn't wonder now if
going through college is as good as a liberal education. I don't believe
mere uneducated house-wreckers could have done so pretty a job in twice
the time, and there's clever little touches they never would have
thought of at all.'

"'It did look thorough when we left,' says young Angus, not quite
knowing whether to laugh.

"'It's nothing short of sublime,' says his father proudly. 'I stood in
that deserted banquet hall, though it looks never a bit like one, with
ruin and desolation on every hand as far as the eye could reach. It
inspired such awe in the bereaved owner and me that we instinctively
spoke in hushed whispers. I've had no such gripping sensation as that
since I gazed upon the dead city of Pompeii. No longer can it be said
that Europe possesses all the impressive ruins.'

"Angus boy grinned cheerfully now, feeling that this tribute was
heartfelt.

"'I suspect now,' goes on the old boy, 'that when the wreckage is
cleared away we shall find the mangled bodies of several that perished
when the bolts descended from a clear sky upon the gay scene.'

"'Perhaps under the tables,' says young Angus, chirking up still more at
this geniality. 'Two or three went down early and may still be there.'

"'Yet twenty-three hundred for it is a monstrous outrage,' says the old
man, changing his voice just a mite. 'Too well I know the cost of such
repairs. Fifteen hundred at most would make the place better than
ever--and to think that you, struggling along to keep up appearances on
the little I give you, should be imposed upon by a crook that
undoubtedly has the law on his side! I could endure no thought of it, so
I foiled him.'

"'How?' says young Angus, kind of alarmed.

"Angus, _peer_, yawned and got up. 'It's a long story and would hardly
interest you,' says he, moving over to the door. 'Besides, I must be to
bed against the morrow, which will be a long, hard day for me.' His
voice had tightened up.

"'What have you done?' demands Ellabelle passionately.

"'Saved your son eight hundred dollars,' says Angus, 'or the equivalent
of his own earnings for something like eight hundred years at current
prices for labour.'

"'I've a right to know,' says Ellabelle through her teeth and stiffening
in her chair. Young Angus just set there with his mouth open.

"'So you have,' says old Angus, and he goes on as crisp as a bunch of
celery: 'I told you I felt ingenious. I've kept this money in the family
by the simple device of taking the job. I've engaged two other painters
and decorators besides myself, a carpenter, an electrician, a glazier,
and a few proletariats of minor talent for clearing away the wreckage. I
shall be on the job at eight. The loafers won't start at seven, as I
used to. Don't think I'd see any son of mine robbed before my very eyes.
My new overalls are laid out and my valet has instructions to get me
into them at seven, though he persists in believing I'm to attend a
fancy-dress ball at some strangely fashionable hour. So I bid you all
good evening.'

"Well, I guess that was the first time Ellabelle had really let go of
herself since she was four years old or thereabouts. Talk about the
empress of stormy emotion! For ten minutes the room sounded like a
torture chamber of the dark Middle Ages. But the doctor reached there at
last in a swift car, and him and the two maids managed to get her laid
out all comfortable and moaning, though still with outbreaks about every
twenty minutes that I could hear clear over on my side of the house.

"And down below my window on the marble porch Angus, _fills_, was
walking swiftly up and down for about one hour. He made no speech like
the night before. He just walked and walked. The part that struck me was
that neither of them had ever seemed to have the slightest notion of
pleading old Angus out of his mad folly. They both seemed to know the
Scotch when it did break out.

"At seven-thirty the next morning the old boy in overalls and jumper and
a cap was driven to his job in a car as big as an apartment house. The
curtains to Ellabelle's Looey Seez boudoir remained drawn, with hourly
bulletins from the two Swiss maids that she was passing away in great
agony. Angus, Junior, was off early, too, in his snakiest car. A few
minutes later they got a telephone from him sixty miles away that he
would not be home to lunch. Old Angus had taken his own lunch with him
in a tin pail he'd bought the day before, with a little cupola on top
for the cup to put the bottle of cold coffee in.

"It was a joyous home that day, if you don't care how you talk. All it
needed was a crêpe necktie on the knob of the front door. That ornery
old hound, Angus, got in from his work at six, spotty with paint and
smelling of oil and turpentine, but cheerful as a new father. He washed
up, ridding himself of at least a third of the paint smell, looked in at
Ellabelle's door to say, 'What! Not feeling well, mamma? Now, that's too
bad!' ate a hearty dinner with me, young Angus not having been heard
from further, and fell asleep in a gold armchair at ten minutes past
nine.

"He was off again next morning. Ellabelle's health was still breaking
down, but young Angus sneaked in and partook of a meagre lunch with me.
He was highly vexed with his pa. 'He's nothing but a scoundrelly old
liar,' he says to me, 'saying that he gives me but a pittance. He's
always given me a whale of an allowance. Why, actually, I've more than
once had money left over at the end of the quarter. And now his talk
about saving money! I tell you he has some other reason than money for
breaking the mater's heart.' The boy looked very shrewd as he said this.

"That night at quitting time he was strangely down at the place with his
own car to fetch his father home. 'I'll trust you this once,' says the
old man, getting in and looking more then ever like a dissolute working
man. On the way they passed this here yellow-haired daughter of the old
train-robber that there had been talk of the boy making a match with.
She was driving her own car and looked neither to right nor left.

"'Not speaking?' says old Angus.

"'She didn't see us,' says the boy.

"'She's ashamed of your father,' says the old man.

"'She's not,' says the boy.

"'You know it,' says the old scoundrel.

"'I'll show her,' says his son.

"Well, we had another cheerful evening, with Ellabelle sending word to
old Angus that she wanted me to have the necklace of brilliants with the
sapphire pendant, and the two faithful maids was to get suitable
keepsakes out of the rest of her jewels, and would her son always wear
the seal ring with her hair in it that she had given him when he was
twenty? And the old devil started in to tell how much he could have
saved by taking charge of the work in his own house, and how a union man
nowadays would do just enough to keep within the law, and so on; but he
got to yawning his head off and retired at nine, complaining that his
valet that morning had cleaned and pressed his overalls. Young Angus
looked very shrewd at me and again says: 'The old liar! He has some
other reason than money. He can't fool me.'

"I kind of gathered from both of them the truth of what happened the
next day. Young Angus himself showed up at the job about nine A.M., with
a bundle under his arm. 'Where's the old man?' his father heard him
demand of the carpenter, he usually speaking of old Angus as the
governor.

"'Here,' says he from the top of a stepladder in the entry which looked
as if a glacier had passed through it.

"'Could you put me to work?' says the boy.

"'Don't get me to shaking with laughter up here,' says the old brute.
'Can't you see I'd be in peril of falling off?'

"Young Angus undoes his bundle and reveals overalls and a jumper which
he gets into quickly. 'What do I do first?' says he.

"His father went on kalsomining and took never a look at him more. 'The
time has largely passed here,' says he, 'for men that haven't learned to
do something, but you might take some of the burnt umber there and work
it well into a big gob of that putty till it's brown enough to match the
woodwork. Should you display the least talent for that we may see later
if you've any knack with a putty knife.'

"The new hand had brought no lunch with him, but his father spared him a
few scraps from his own, and they all swigged beer from a pail of it
they sent out for. So the scandal was now complete in all its details.
The palatial dining-room that night, being a copy of a good church or
something from ancient Italy, smelled like a paint shop indeed--and
sounded like one through dinner. 'That woodwork will be fit to
second-coat first thing in the morning,' says old Angus. 'I'll have it
sandpapered in no time,' says the boy. 'Your sandpapering ain't bad,'
says the other, 'though you have next to no skill with a brush.' 'I
thought I was pretty good with that flat one though.' 'Oh, fair; just
fair! First-coating needs little finesse. There! I forgot to order more
rubbing varnish. Maybe the men will think of it.' And so on till they
both yawned themselves off to their Scotch Renaysence apartments.
Ellabelle had not yet learned the worst. It seemed to be felt that she
had a right to perish without suffering the added ignominy of knowing
her son was acting like a common wage slave.

"They was both on the job next day. Of course the disgraceful affair had
by now penetrated to the remotest outlying marble shack. Several male
millionaires this day appeared on the scene to josh Angus, _peer_, and
Angus, _fills_, as they toiled at their degrading tasks. Not much
attention was paid to 'em, it appears, not even to the old train-robber
who come to jest and remained to cross-examine Angus about how much he
was really going to clear on the job, seriously now. Anything like that
was bound to fascinate the old crook.

"And next day, close to quitting time, what happens but this here robber
chieftain's petted daughter coming in and hanging round and begging to
be let to help because it was such jolly fun. I believe she did get hold
of a square of sandpaper with which she daintily tried to remove some
fresh varnish that should have been let strictly alone; and when they
both ordered her out in a frenzy of rage, what does she do but wait for
'em with her car which she made them enter and drove them to their abode
like they belonged to the better class of people that one would care to
know. The two fools was both kind of excited about this that night.

"The next day she breezes in again and tries to get them to knock off an
hour early so she can take them to the country club for tea, but they
refuse this, so she makes little putty statues of them both and drove a
few nails where they would do no good and upset a bucket of paste and
leaned a two-hundred-dollar lace thing against a varnished wall to the
detriment of both, and fell off a stepladder. Old Angus caught her and
boxed her ears soundly. And again she drove them through the avenues of
a colony of fine old families with money a little bit older, by a few
days, and up the drive to their own door.

"Ellabelle was peeking between the plush curtains on this occasion, for
some heartless busybody during the day had told her that her son and
husband was both renegades now. And strangely enough, she begun to get
back her strength from that very moment--seeing that exclusive and
well-known young debby-tant consorting in public with the reprobates.
I'm darned if she didn't have the genius after that to treat the whole
thing as a practical joke, especially when she finds out that none of
them exclusives had had it long enough to look down on another
millionaire merely for pinching a penny now and then. Old Angus as a
matter of fact had become just a little more important than she had ever
been and could have snubbed any one he wanted to. The only single one in
the whole place that throwed him down was his own English valet. He was
found helpless drunk in a greenhouse the third day, having ruined nine
thousand dollars' worth of orchids he'd gone to sleep amongst, and he
resigned his position with bitter dignity the moment he recovered
consciousness.

"Moreover, young Angus and this girl clenched without further
opposition. Her train-robber father said the boy must have something in
him even if he didn't look it, and old Angus said he still believed the
girl to be nothing but a yellow-haired soubrette; but what should we
expect of a woman, after all?

"The night the job was finished we had the jolliest dinner of my visit,
with a whole gang of exclusive-setters at the groaning board, including
this girl and her folks, and champagne, of which Angus, _peer_, consumed
near one of the cut-glass vases full.

"I caught him with young Angus in the deserted library later, while the
rest was one-stepping in the Henry Quatter ballroom or dance hall. The
old man had his arms pretty well upon the boy's shoulders. Yes, sir, he
was almost actually hugging him. The boy fled to this gilded café where
the rest was, and old Angus, with his eyes shining very queer, he grabs
me by the arm and says, 'Once when he was very small--though unusually
large for his age of three, mind you--he had a way of scratching my face
something painful with his little nails, and all in laughing play, you
know. I tried to warn him, but he couldn't understand, of course; so,
not knowing how else to instruct him, I scratched back one day, laughing
myself like he was, but sinking my nails right fierce into the back of
his little fat neck. He relaxed the tension in his own fingers. He was
hurt, for the tears started, but he never cried. He just looked puzzled
and kept on laughing, being bright to see I could play the game, too.
Only he saw it wasn't so good a game as he'd thought. I wonder what
made me think of that, now! I don't know. Come--from yonder doorway we
can see him as he dances.'

"And Ellabelle was saying gently to one and all, with her merry peal of
laughter, 'Ah, yes--once a Scotchman, always--'

"My land! It's ten o'clock. Don't them little white-faced beauties make
the music! Honestly I'd like to have a cot out in the corral. We miss a
lot of it in here."



V

NON PLUSH ULTRA


Sunday and a driving rain had combined to keep Ma Pettengill within the
Arrowhead ranch house. Neither could have done this alone. The rain
would merely have added a slicker to her business costume of khaki
riding breeches, laced boots, and flannel shirt as she rode abroad;
while a clement Sabbath would have seen her "resting," as she would put
it, in and round the various outbuildings, feeding-pens, blacksmith
shop, harness-room, branding-chute, or what not, issuing orders to
attentive henchmen from time to time; diagnosing the gray mule's
barbed-wire cut; compounding a tonic for Adolph, the big milk-strain
Durham bull, who has been ailing; wishing to be told why in something
the water hadn't been turned into that south ditch; and, like a
competent general, disposing her forces and munitions for the campaign
of the coming week. But Sunday--and a wildly rainy Sunday--had housed
her utterly.

Being one who can idle with no grace whatever she was engaged in what
she called putting the place to rights. This meant taking out the
contents of bureau drawers and wardrobes and putting them back again,
massing the litter on the big table in the living-room into an involved
geometry of neat piles that would endure for all of an hour,
straightening pictures on the walls, eliminating the home-circles of
spiders long unmolested, loudly calling upon Lew Wee, the Chinaman, who
affrightedly fled farther and farther after each call, and ever and
again booming pained surmises through the house as to what fearful state
it would get to be in if she didn't fight it to a clean finish once in a
dog's age.

The woman dumped a wastebasket of varied rubbish into the open fire,
leaned a broom against the mantel, readjusted the towel that protected
her gray hair from the dust--hair on week days exposed with never a
qualm to all manner of dust--cursed all Chinamen on land or sea with an
especial and piquant blight invoked upon the one now in hiding, then
took from the back of a chair where she had hung it the moment before a
riding skirt come to feebleness and decrepitude. She held it up before
critical eyes as one scanning the morning paper for headlines of
significance.

"Ruined!" she murmured. Even her murmur must have reached Lew Wee, how
remote soever his isle of safety. "Worn one time and all ruined up!
That's what happens for trying to get something for nothing. You'd think
women would learn. You would if you didn't know a few. Hetty Daggett,
her that was Hetty Tipton, orders this by catalogue, No. 3456 or
something, from the mail-order house in Chicago. I was down in Red Gap
when it come. 'Isn't it simply wonderful what you can get for three
thirty-eight!' says she with gleaming eyes, laying this thing out before
me. 'I don't see how they can ever do it for the money.' She found out
the next day when she rode up here in it with me and Mr. Burchell
Daggett, her husband. Nothing but ruin! Seams all busted, sleazy cloth
wore through. But Hetty just looks it over cheerfully and says: 'Oh,
well, what can you expect for three thirty-eight?' Is that like a woman
or is it like something science has not yet discovered?

"That Hetty child is sure one woman. This skirt would never have held
together to ride back in, so she goes down as far as the narrow gauge in
the wagon with Buck Devine, wearing a charming afternoon frock of pale
blue charmeuse rather than get into a pair of my khakis and ride back
with her own lawful-wedded husband; yes, sir; married to him safe as
anything, but wouldn't forget her womanhood. Only once did she ever come
near it. I saved her then because she hadn't snared Mr. Burchell Daggett
yet, and of course a girl has to be a little careful. And she took my
counsels so much to heart she's been careful ever since. 'Why, I should
simply die of mortification if my dear mate were to witness me in
those,' says she when I'm telling her to take a chance for once and get
into these here riding pants of mine because it would be uncomfortable
going down in that wagon. 'But what is my comfort compared to dear
Burchell's peace of mind?' says she.

"Ain't we the goods, though, when we do once learn a thing? Of course
most of us don't have to learn stuff like this. Born in us. I shouldn't
wonder if they was something in the talk of this man Shaw or Shavian--I
see the name spelled both ways in the papers. I can't read his pieces
myself because he rasps me, being not only a smarty but a vegetarian. I
don't know. I might stand one or the other purebred, but the cross seems
to bring out the worst strain in both. I once got a line on his beliefs
and customs though--like it appears he don't believe anything ought to
be done for its own sake but only for some good purpose. It was one day
I got caught at a meeting of the Onward and Upward Club in Red Gap and
Mrs. Alonzo Price read a paper about his meaning. I hope she didn't
wrong him. I hope she was justified in all she said he really means in
his secret heart. No one ought to talk that way about any one if they
ain't got the goods on 'em. One thing I might have listened to with some
patience if the man et steaks and talked more like some one you'd care
to have in your own home. In fact, I listened to it anyway. Maybe he
took it from some book he read--about woman and her true nature.
According to Henrietta Templeton Price, as near as I could get her, this
Shaw or Shavian believes that women is merely a flock of men-hawks
circling above the herd till they see a nice fat little lamb of a man,
then one fell swoop and all is over but the screams of the victim dying
out horribly. They bear him off to their nest in a blasted pine and pick
the meat from his bones at leisure. Of course that ain't the way ladies
was spoken of in the Aunt Patty Little Helper Series I got out of the
Presbyterian Sabbath-school library back in Fredonia, New York, when I
was thirteen--and yet--and yet--as they say on the stage in these plays
of high or English life."

It sounded promising enough, and the dust had now settled so that I
could dimly make out the noble lines of my hostess. I begged for more.

"Well, go on--Mrs. Burchell Daggett once nearly forgot her womanhood.
Certainly, go on, if it's anything that would be told outside of a
smoking-car."

The lady grinned.

"Many of us has forgot our womanhood in the dear, dead past," she
confessed. "Me? Sure! Where's that photo album. Where did I put that
album anyway? That's the way in this house. Get things straightened up
once, you can't find a single one you want. Look where I put it now!"
She demolished an obelisk of books on the table, one she had lately
constructed with some pains, and brought the album that had been its
pedestal. "Get me there, do you?"

It was the photograph of a handsome young woman in the voluminous riding
skirt of years gone by, before the side-saddle became extinct. She held
a crop and wore an astoundingly plumed bonnet. Despite the offensive
disguise, one saw provocation for the course adopted by the late
Lysander John Pettengill at about that period.

"Very well--now get me here, after I'd been on the ranch only a month."
It was the same young woman in the not too foppish garb of a cowboy. In
wide-brimmed hat, flannel shirt, woolly chaps, quirt in hand, she
bestrode a horse that looked capable and daring.

"Yes, sir, I hadn't been here only a month when I forgot my womanhood
like that. Gee! How good it felt to get into 'em and banish that
sideshow tent of a skirt. I'd never known a free moment before and I
blessed Lysander John for putting me up to it. Then, proud as Punch,
what do I do but send one of these photos back to dear old Aunt
Waitstill, in Fredonia, thinking she would rejoice at the wild, free
life I was now leading in the Far West. And what do I get for it but a
tear-spotted letter of eighteen pages, with a side-kick from her pastor,
the Reverend Abner Hemingway, saying he wishes to indorse every word of
Sister Baxter's appeal to me--asking why do I parade myself shamelessly
in this garb of a fallen woman, and can nothing be said to recall me to
the true nobility that must still be in my nature but which I am
forgetting in these licentious habiliments, and so on! The picture had
been burned after giving the Reverend his own horrified flash of it, and
they would both pray daily that I might get up out of this degradation
and be once more a good, true woman that some pure little child would
not be ashamed to call the sacred name of mother.

"Such was Aunt Waitstill--what names them poor old girls had to stand
for! I had another aunt named Obedience, only she proved to be a regular
cinch-binder. Her name was never mentioned in the family after she slid
down a rainspout one night and eloped to marry a depraved scoundrel who
drove through there on a red wagon with tinware inside that he would
trade for old rags. I'm just telling you how times have changed in spite
of the best efforts of a sanctified ministry. I cried over that letter
at first. Then I showed it to Lysander John, who said 'Oh, hell!' being
a man of few words, so I felt better and went right on forgetting my
womanhood in that shameless garb of a so-and-so--though where aunty had
got her ideas of such I never could make out--and it got to be so much a
matter of course and I had so many things to think of besides my
womanhood that I plumb forgot the whole thing until this social upheaval
in Red Gap a few years ago.

"I got to tell you that the wild and lawless West, in all matters
relating to proper dress for ladies, is the most conservative and
hidebound section of our great land of the free and home of the
brave--if you can get by with it. Out here the women see by the Sunday
papers that it's being wore that way publicly in New York and no one
arrested for it, but they don't hardly believe it at that, and they
wouldn't show themselves in one, not if you begged them to on your
bended knees, and what is society coming to anyway? You might as well
dress like one of them barefooted dancers, only calling 'em barefooted
must be meant like sarcasm--and they'd die before they'd let a daughter
of theirs make a show of herself like that for odious beasts of men to
leer at, and so on--until a couple years later Mrs. Henrietta Templeton
Price gets a regular one and wears it down Main Street, and nothing
objectionable happens; so then they all hustle to get one--not quite so
extreme, of course, but after all, why not, since only the evil-minded
could criticise? Pretty soon they're all wearing it exactly like New
York did two years ago, with mebbe the limit raised a bit here and there
by some one who makes her own. But again they're saying that the latest
one New York is wearing is so bad that it must be confined to a certain
class of women, even if they do get taken from left to right at Asbury
Park and Newport and other colonies of wealth and fashion, because the
vilest dregs can go there if they have the price, which they often do.

"Red Gap is like that. With me out here on the ranch it didn't matter
what I wore because it was mostly only men that saw me; but I can well
remember the social upheaval when our smartest young matrons and
well-known society belles flung modesty to the chinook wind and took to
divided skirts for horseback riding. My, the brazen hussies! It ain't so
many years ago. Up to that time any female over the age of nine caught
riding a horse cross-saddle would have lost her character good and
quick. And these pioneers lost any of theirs that wasn't cemented good
and hard with proved respectability. I remember hearing Jeff Tuttle tell
what he'd do to any of his womenfolks that so far forgot the sacred
names of home and mother. It was startling enough, but Jeff somehow
never done it. And if he was to hear Addie or one of the girls talking
about a side-saddle to-day he'd think she was nutty or mebbe wanting one
for the state museum. So it goes with us. My hunch is that so it will
ever go.

"The years passed, and that thrill of viciousness at wearing divided
skirts in public got all rubbed off--that thrill that every last one of
us adores to feel if only it don't get her talked about--too much--by
evil-minded gossips. Then comes this here next upheaval over riding
pants for ladies--or them that set themselves up to be such. Of course
we'd long known that the things were worn in New York and even in such
modern Babylons as Spokane and Seattle; but no woman in Red Gap had ever
forgot she had a position to keep up, until summer before last, when we
saw just how low one of our sex could fall, right out on the public
street.

"She was the wife of a botanist from some Eastern college and him and
her rode a good bit and dressed just alike in khaki things. My, the
infamies that was intimated about that poor creature! She was bony and
had plainly seen forty, very severe-featured, with scraggly hair and a
sharp nose and spectacles, and looked as if she had never had a moment
of the most innocent pleasure in all her life; but them riding pants
fixed her good in the minds of our lady porch-knockers. And the men just
as bad, though they could hardly bear to look twice at her, she was that
discouraging to the eye; they agreed with their wives that she must be
one of that sort.

"But things seem to pile up all at once in our town. That very summer
the fashion magazines was handed round with pages turned down at the
more daring spots where ladies were shown in such things. It wasn't felt
that they were anything for the little ones to see. But still, after
all, wasn't it sensible, now really, when you come right down to it? and
as a matter of fact isn't a modest woman modest in anything?--it isn't
what she wears but how she conducts herself in public, or don't you
think so, Mrs. Ballard?--and you might as well be dead as out of style,
and would Lehman, the Square Tailor, be able to make up anything like
that one there?--but no, because how would he get your measure?--and
surely no modest woman could give him hers even if she did take it
herself--anyway, you'd be insulted by all the street rowdies as you rode
by, to say nothing of being ogled by men without a particle of fineness
in their natures--but there's always something to be said on both sides,
and it's time woman came into her own, anyway, if she is ever to be
anything but man's toy for his idle moments--still it would never do to
go to extremes in a narrow little town like this with every one just
looking for an excuse to talk--but it would be different if all the best
people got together and agreed to do it, only most of them would
probably back out at the last moment and that smarty on the _Recorder_
would try to be funny about it--now that one with the long coat doesn't
look so terrible, does it? or do you think so?--of course it's almost
the same as a skirt except when you climb on or something--a woman has
to think of those things--wouldn't Daisy Estelle look rather stunning in
that?--she has just the figure for it. Here's this No. 9872 with the
Norfolk jacket in this mail-order catalogue--do you think that looks too
theatrical, or don't you? Of course for some figures, but I've always
been able to wear--And so forth, for a month or so.

"Late in the fall Henrietta Templeton Price done it. You may not know
what that meant to Alonzo Price, Choice Villa Sites and Price's Addition
to Red Gap. Alonzo is this kind: I met him the day Gussie Himebaugh had
her accident when the mules she was driving to the mowing machine run
away out on Himebaugh's east forty. Alonzo had took Doc Maybury out and
passes me coming back. 'How bad was she hurt?' I asks. The poor thing
looks down greatly embarrassed and mumbles: 'She has broken a limb.'
'Leg or arm?' I blurts out, forgetting all delicacy. You'd think I had
him pinned down, wouldn't you? Not Lon, though. 'A lower limb,' says he,
coughing and looking away.

"You see how men are till we put a spike collar and chain on 'em. When
Henrietta declared herself Alonzo read the riot act and declared marital
law. But there was Henrietta with the collar and chain and pretty soon
Lon was saying: 'You're quite right, Pettikins, and you ought to have
the thanks of the community for showing our ladies how to dress
rationally on horseback. It's not only sensible and safe but it's
modest--a plain pair of riding breeches, no coquetry, no frills, nothing
but stern utility--of course I agree.'

"'I hoped you would, darling,' says Henrietta. She went to Miss
Gunslaugh and had her make the costume, being one who rarely does things
by halves. It was of blue velvet corduroy, with a fetching little bolero
jacket, and the things themselves were fitted, if you know what I mean.
And stern utility! That suit with its rosettes and bows and frogs and
braid had about the same stern utility as those pretty little tin tongs
that come on top of a box of candy--ever see anybody use one of those?
When Henrietta got dressed for her first ride and had put on the Cuban
Pink Face Balm she looked like one of the gypsy chorus in the Bohemian
Girl opera.

"Alonzo gulped several times in rapid succession when he saw her, but
the little man never starts anything he don't aim to finish, and it was
too late to start it then. Henrietta brazened her way through Main
Street and out to the country club and back, and next day she put them
on again so Otto Hirsch, of the E-light Studio, could come up and take
her standing by the horse out in front of the Price mansion. Then they
was laid away until the Grand Annual Masquerade Ball of the Order of the
Eastern Star, which is a kind of hen Masons, when she again gave us a
flash of what New York society ladies was riding their horse in. As a
matter of fact, Henrietta hates a horse like a rattlesnake, but she had
done her pioneer work for once and all.

"Every one was now laughing and sneering at the old-fashioned divided
skirt with which woman had endangered her life on a horse, and wondering
how they had endured the clumsy things so long; and come spring all the
prominent young society buds and younger matrons of the most exclusive
set who could stay on a horse at all was getting theirs ready for the
approaching season, Red Gap being like London in having its gayest
season in the summer, when people can get out more. Even Mis' Judge
Ballard fell for it, though hers was made of severe black with a long
coat. She looked exactly like that Methodist minister, the old one, that
we had three years ago.

"Most of the younger set used the mail-order catalogue, their figures
still permitting it. And maybe there wasn't a lot of trying on behind
drawn blinds pretty soon, and delighted giggles and innocent girlish
wonderings about whether the lowest type of man really ogles as much
under certain circumstances as he's said to. And the minute the roads
got good the telephone of Pierce's Livery, Feed, and Sale Stable was
kept on the ring. Then the social upheaval was on. Of course any of 'em
looked quiet after Henrietta's costume, for none of the girls but Beryl
Mae Macomber, a prominent young society bud, aged seventeen, had done
anything like that. But it was the idea of the thing.

"A certain element on the South Side made a lot of talk and stirred
things up and wrote letters to the president of the Civic Purity League,
who was Mis' Judge Ballard herself, asking where this unspeakable
disrobing business was going to end and calling her attention to the
fate that befell Sodom and Gomorrah. But Mis' Ballard she's mixed on
names and gets the idea these parties mean Samson and Delilah instead of
a couple of twin cities, like St. Paul and Minneapolis, and she writes
back saying what have these Bible characters got to do with a lady
riding on horseback--in trousers, it is true, but with a coat falling
modestly to the knee on each side, and certain people had better be a
little more fussy about things that really matter in life before they
begin to talk. She knew who she was hitting at all right, too. Trust
Mis' Ballard!

"It was found that there was almost the expected amount of ogling from
sidewalk loafers, at first. As Daisy Estelle Maybury said, it seemed as
if a girl couldn't show herself on the public thoroughfare without being
subjected to insult. Poor Daisy Estelle! She had been a very popular
young society belle, and was considered one of the most attractive girls
in Red Gap until this happened. No one had ever suspected it of her in
the least degree up to that time. Of course it was too late after she
was once seen off her horse. Them that didn't see was told in full
detail by them that did. Most of the others was luckier. Beryl Mae
Macomber in her sport shirt and trouserettes complained constantly about
the odious wretches along Main Street and Fourth, where the post office
was. She couldn't stop even twenty minutes in front of the post office,
minding her own business and waiting for some one she knew to come along
and get her mail for her, without having dozens of men stop and ogle
her. That, of course, was during the first two weeks after she took to
going for the mail, though the eternal feminine in Beryl Mae probably
thought the insulting glances was going to keep up forever.

"I watched the poor child one day along in the third week, waiting there
in front of the post office after the four o'clock mail, and no one
hardly ogled her at all except some rude children out from school. What
made it more pitiful, leaning right there against the post office front
was Jack Shiels, Sammie Hamilton, and little old Elmer Cox, Red Gap's
three town rowdies that ain't done a stroke of work since the canning
factory closed down the fall before, creatures that by rights should
have been leering at the poor child In all her striking beauty. But, no;
the brutes stand there looking at nothing much until Jack Shiels stares
a minute at this horse Beryl Mae is on and pipes up: 'Why, say, I
thought Pierce let that little bay runt go to the guy that was in here
after polo ponies last Thursday. I sure did.' And Sam Hamilton wakes up
and says: 'No, sir; not this one. He got rid of a little mare that had
shoulders like this, but she was a roan with kind of mule ears and one
froze off.' And little old Elmer Cox, ignoring this defenceless young
girl with his impudent eyes, he says: 'Yes, Sam's right for once. Pierce
tried to let this one go, too, but ain't you took a look at his hocks!'
Then along comes Dean Duke, the ratty old foreman in Pierce's stable,
and he don't ogle a bit, either, like you'd expect one of his debased
calibre to, but just stops and talks this horse over with 'em and says
yes, it was his bad hocks that lost the sale, and he tells 'em how he
had told Pierce just what to do to get him shaped up for a quick sale,
but Pierce wouldn't listen to him, thinking he knew it all himself; and
there the four stood and gassed about this horse without even seeing
Beryl Mae, let alone leering at her. I bet she was close to shedding
tears of girlish mortification as she rode off without ever waiting for
the mail. Things was getting to a pretty pass. If low creatures lost to
all decent instincts, like these four, wouldn't ogle a girl when she was
out for it, what could be expected of the better element of the town?
Still, of course, now and then one or the other of the girls would have
a bit of luck to tell of.

"Well, now we come to the crookedest bit of work I ever been guilty of,
though first telling you about Mr. Burchell Daggett, an Eastern society
man from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that had come to Red Gap that spring to be
assistant cashier in the First National, through his uncle having stock
in the thing. He was a very pleasant kind of youngish gentleman, about
thirty-four, I reckon, with dark, parted whiskers and gold eyeglasses
and very good habits. He took his place among our very best people right
off, teaching the Bible class in the M.E. Sabbath-school and belonging
to the Chamber of Commerce and the City Beautiful Association, of which
he was made vice-president, and being prominent at all functions held in
our best homes. He wasn't at all one of them that lead a double life by
stopping in at the Family Liquor Store for a gin fizz or two after work
hours, or going downtown after supper to play Kelly pool at the
Temperance Billiard Parlours and drink steam beer, or getting in with
the bunch that gathers in the back room of the Owl Cigar Store of an
evening and tells these here suggestive stories. Not that he was
hide-bound. If he felt the need for a shot of something he'd go into the
United States Grill and have a glass of sherry and bitters brought to
him at a table and eat a cracker with it, and he'd take in every show,
even the Dizzy Belles of Gotham Big Blonde Beauty Show. He was refined
and even moral in the best sense of the word, but still human.

"Our prominent young society buds took the keenest notice of him at
once, as would naturally happen, he being a society bachelor of means
and by long odds the best catch in Red Gap since old Potter Knapp, of
the Loan and Trust Company, had broke his period of mourning for his
third wife by marrying Myrtle Wade that waited on table at the
Occidental Hotel, with the black band still on his left coat sleeve.
It's no exaggeration to say that Mr. Burchell Daggett became the most
sought-after social favourite among Reg Gap's hoot mondy in less than a
week after he unpacked his trunk. But it was very soon discovered by the
bright-eyed little gangsters of the best circles that he wasn't going to
be an easy one to disable. Naturally when a man has fought 'em off to
his age he has learned much of woodcraft and the hunter's cunning wiles,
and this one had sure developed timber sense. He beat 'em at their own
game for three months by the simple old device of not playing any
favourite for one single minute, and very, very seldom getting alone
with one where the foul stroke can be dealt by the frailest hand with
muscular precision. If he took Daisy Estelle Maybury to the chicken pie
supper to get a new carpet for the Presbyterian parsonage, he'd up and
take Beryl Mae and her aunt, or Gussie Himebaugh, or Luella Stultz, to
the lawn feet at Judge Ballard's for new uniforms for the band boys. At
the Bazaar of All Nations he bought as many chances of one girl as he
did of another, and if he hadn't any more luck than a rabbit and won
something--a hanging lamp or a celluloid manicure set in a plush-lined
box--he'd simply put it up to be raffled off again for the good of the
cause. And none of that moonlight loitering along shaded streets for
him, where the dirk is so often drove stealthily between a man's ribs,
and him thinking all the time he's only indulging in a little playful
nonsense. Often as not he'd take two girls at once, where all could be
merry without danger of anything happening.

"It was no time at all till this was found out on him. It was seen that
under a pleasing exterior, looking all too easy to overcome by any girl
in her right mind, he had powers of resistance and evasion that was like
steel. Of course this only stirred the proud beauties on to renewed and
crookeder efforts. Every darned one of 'em felt that her innocent young
girlhood was challenged, and would she let it go at that? Not so. My
lands! What snares and deadfalls was set for this wise old timber wolf
that didn't look it, with his smiling ways and seemingly careless
response to merry banter, and so forth!

"And of course every one of these shrinking little scoundrels thought at
once of her new riding costume, so no time at all was lost in organizing
the North Side Riding and Sports Club, which Mr. Burchell Daggett gladly
joined, having, as he said, an eye for a horse and liking to get out
after banking hours to where all Nature seems to smile and you can let
your mount out a bit over the firm, smooth road. Them that had held off
until now, on account of the gossip and leering, hurried up and got into
line with No. 9872 in the mail-order catalogue, or went to Miss
Gunslaugh, who by this time had a female wax dummy in her window in a
neat brown suit and puttees, with a coat just opening and one foot
advanced carelessly, with gauntlets and a riding crop, and a fetching
little cap over the wind-blown hair and the clear, wonderful blue eyes.
Oh, you can bet every last girl of the bunch was seeing herself send
back picture postals to her rivals telling what a royal time they was
having at Palm or Rockaway Beach or some place, and seeing the engraved
cards--'Mr. and Mrs. Burchell Daggett, at Home After the Tenth, Ophir
Avenue, Red Gap, Wash.'

"Ain't we good when you really get us, if you ever do--because some
don't. Many, indeed! I reckon there never was a woman yet outside of a
feeb' home that didn't believe she could be an A. No. 1 siren if she only
had the nerve to dress the part; never one that didn't just ache to sway
men to her lightest whim, and believe she could--not for any evil
purpose, mind you, but just to show her power. Think of the tender
hearts that must have shuddered over the damage they could and actually
might do in one of them French bathing suits like you are said to
witness in Paris and Atlantic City and other sinks of iniquity. And here
was these well-known society favourites wrought up by this legible
party, as the French say, till each one was ready to go just as far as
the Civic Purity League would let her in order to sweep him off his feet
in one mad moment. Quite right, too. It all depends on what the object
is, don't it; and wasn't theirs honourable matrimony with an
establishment and a lawn in front of it with a couple of cast-iron
moose, mebbe?

"And amid all this quaint girlish enterprise and secret infamy was the
problem of Hetty Tipton. Hetty had been a friend and a problem of mine
for seven years, or ever since she come back from normal to teach in the
third-grade grammar school; a fine, clean, honest, true-blue girl, mebbe
not as pretty you'd say at first as some others, but you like her better
after you look a few times more, and with not the slightest nonsense
about her. That last was Hetty's one curse. I ask you, what chance has a
girl got with no nonsense about her? Hetty won my sympathy right at the
start by this infirmity of hers, which was easily detected, and for
seven years I'd been trying to cure her of it, but no use. Oh, she was
always took out regular enough and well liked, but the gilded youth of
Red Gap never fought for her smiles. They'd take her to parties and
dances, turn and turn about, but they always respected her, which is the
greatest blight a man can put on one of us, if you know what I mean.
Every man at a party was always careful to dance a decent number of
times with Hetty and see that she got back to her seat; and wasn't it
warm in here this evening, yes, it was; and wouldn't she have a glass of
the punch--No, thank you--then he'd gallop off to have some fun with a
mere shallow-pated fool that had known how from the cradle. It was
always a puzzle to me, because Hetty dressed a lot better than most of
them, knowing what to wear and how, and could take a joke if it come
slow, and laid herself out to be amiable to one and all. I kind of think
it must be something about her mentality. Maybe it is too mental. I
can't put her to you any plainer than to say that every single girl in
town, young and old, just loved her, and not one of them up to this time
had ever said an unkind or feminine thing about her. I guess you know
what that would mean of any woman.

"Hetty was now coming twenty-nine--we never spoke of this, but I could
count back--and it's my firm belief that no man had ever proposed
marriage or anything else on earth to her. Wilbur Todd had once
endeavoured to hold her hand out on the porch at a country-club dance
and she had repulsed him in all kindness but firmly. She told him she
couldn't bring herself to permit a familiarity of that sort except to
the man who would one day lead her to the altar, which is something I
believe she got from writing to a magazine about a young girl's
perplexities. And here, in spite of her record, this poor thing had
dared to raise her eyes to none other than this Mr. Burchell Daggett.
There was something kind of grand and despairing about the impudence of
it when you remember these here trained efficiency experts she was
competing with. Yet so it was. She would drop in on me after school for
a cup of tea and tell me frankly how distinguished his manner was and
what shapely features he had and what fine eyes, and how there was a
certain note in his voice at times, and had I ever noticed that one
stubborn lock of hair that stuck out back of his left ear? Of course
that last item settled it. When they notice that lock of hair you know
the ship has struck the reef and all hands are perishing.

"And it seemed that the cuss had not only shown her more than a little
attention at evening functions but had escorted her to the midspring
production of 'Hamlet' by the Red Gap Amateur Theatrical and Dramatic
Society. True, he had conducted himself like a perfect gentleman every
minute they was alone together, even when they had to go home in Eddie
Pierce's hack because it was raining when the show let out--but would I,
or would I not, suspect from all this that he was in the least degree
thinking of her in a way that--you know!

"Poor child of twenty-eight, with her hungry eyes and flushed face while
she was showing down her hand to me! I seen the scoundrel's play at
once. Hetty was the one safe bet for him in Red Gap's social whirl. He
was wise, all right--this Mr. D. He'd known in a second he could trust
himself alone with that girl and be as safe as a babe in its mother's
arms. Of course I couldn't say this to Hetty. I just said he was a man
that seemed to know his own mind very clearly, whatever it was, and
Hetty blushed some more and said that something within her responded to
a certain note in his voice. We let it go at that.

"So I think and ponder about poor Hetty, trying to invent some
conspiracy that would fix it right, because she was the ideal mate for
an assistant cashier that had a certain position to keep up. For that
matter she was good enough for any man. Then I hear she has joined the
riding club, and an all day's ride has been planned for the next
Saturday up to Stender's Spring, with a basket lunch and a romantic ride
back by moonlight. Of course, I don't believe in any of this
spiritualist stuff, but you can't tell me there ain't something in it,
mind-reading or something, with the hunches you get when parties is in
some grave danger.

"Stella Ballard it was tells me about the picnic, calling me in as I
passed their house to show me her natty new riding togs that had just
come from the mail-order house. She called from back of a curtain, and
when I got into the parlour she had them on, pleased as all get-out.
Pretty they was, too--riding breeches and puttees and a man's flannel
shirt and a neat-fitting Norfolk jacket, and Stella being a fine,
upstanding figure.

"'They may cause considerable talk,' says she, smoothing down one leg
where it wrinkled a bit, 'but really I think they look perfectly
stunning on me, and wasn't it lucky they fit me so beautifully? They're
called the Non Plush Ultra.'

"'The what?' I says.

"'The Non Plush Ultra,' she answers. 'That's the name of them sewed in
the band.'

"'What's that mean?' I wanted to know.

"'Why,' says Stella, 'that's Latin or Greek, I forget which, and it
means they're the best, I believe. Oh, let me see! Why, it means nothing
beyond, or something like that; the farthest you can go, I think. One
forgets all that sort of thing after leaving high school.'

"'Well,' I says, 'they fit fine, and it's the only modest rig for a
woman to ride a horse in, but they certainly are non plush, all right.
That thin goods will never wear long against saddle leather, take my
word for it.'

"But of course this made no impression on Stella--she was standing on
the centre table by now, so she could lamp herself in the glass over the
mantel--and then she tells me about the excursion for Saturday and how
Mr. Burchell Daggett is enthused about it, him being a superb horseman
himself, and, if I know what she means, don't I think she carries
herself in the saddle almost better than any girl in her set, and won't
her style show better than ever in this duck of a costume, and she must
get her tan shoes polished, and do I think Mr. Daggett really meant
anything when he said he'd expect her some day to return the masonic pin
she had lifted off his vest the other night at the dance, and so on.

"It was while she was babbling this stuff that I get the strange hunch
that Hetty Tipton is in grave danger and I ought to run to her; it
seemed almost I could hear her calling on me to save her from some
horrible fate. So I tell Stella yes, she's by far the finest rider in
the whole Kulanche Valley, and she ought to get anything she wants with
that suit on, and then I beat it quick over to the Ezra Button house
where Hetty boards.

"You can laugh all you want to, but that hunch of mine was the God's
truth. Hetty was in the gravest danger she'd faced since one time in
early infancy when she got give morphine for quinine. What made it more
horrible, she hadn't the least notion of her danger. Quite the contrary.

"'Thank the stars I've come in time!' I gasps as I rushes in on her, for
there's the poor girl before her mirror in a pair of these same Non
Plush Ultras and looking as pleased with herself as if she had some
reason to be.

"'Back into your skirts quick!' I says. 'I'm a strong woman and all
that, but still I can be affected more than you'd think.'

"Poor Hetty stutters and turns red and her chin begins to quiver, so I
gentled her down and tried to explain, though seeing quick that I must
tell her everything but the truth. I reckon nothing in this world can
look funnier than a woman wearing them things that had never ought to
for one reason or another. There was more reasons than that in Hetty's
case. Dignity was the first safe bet I could think of with her, so I
tried that.

"'I know all you would say,' says the poor thing in answer, 'but isn't
it true that men rather like one to be--oh, well, you know--just the
least bit daring?'

"'Truest thing in the world,' I says, 'but bless your heart, did you
suspicion riding breeches was daring on a woman? Not so. A girl wearing
'em can't be any more daring after the first quick shock is over
than--well, you read the magazines, don't you? You've seen those
pictures of family life in darkest Africa that the explorers and monkey
hunters bring home, where the wives, mothers, and sweethearts, God bless
'em! wear only what the scorching climate demands. Didn't it strike you
that one of them women without anything on would have a hard time if she
tried to be daring--or did it? No woman can be daring without the proper
clothes for it,' I says firmly, 'and as for you, I tell you plain, get
into the most daring and immodest thing that was ever invented for
woman--which is the well-known skirt.'

"'Oh, Ma Pettengill,' cries the poor thing, 'I never meant anything
horrid and primitive when I said daring. As a matter of fact, I think
these are quite modest to the intelligent eye.'

"'Just what I'm trying to tell you,' I says. 'Exactly that; they're
modest to any eye whatever. But here you are embarked on a difficult
enterprise, with a band of flinty-hearted cutthroats trying to beat you
to it, and, my dear child, you have a staunch nature and a heart of
gold, but you simply can't afford to be modest.'

"'I don't understand,' says she, looking at herself in the glass again.

"'Trust me, anyway,' I implores. 'Let others wear their Non Plush
Ultras which are No. 9872'--she tries to correct my pronunciation, but I
wouldn't stop for that. 'Never mind how it's pronounced,' I says,
'because I know well the meaning of it in a foreign language. It means
the limit, and it's a very desirable limit for many, but for you,' I
says plainly, 'it's different. Your Non Plush Ultra will have to be a
neat, ankle-length riding skirt. You got one, haven't you?'

"'I have,' says she, 'a very pretty one of tan corduroy, almost new, but
I had looked forward to these, and I don't see yet--'

"Then I thought of another way I might get to her without blurting out
the truth. 'Listen, Hetty,' I says, 'and remember not only that I'm your
friend but that I know a heap more about this fool world than you do.
I've had bitter experiences, and one of them got me at the time I first
begun to wear riding pants myself, which must have been about the time
you was beginning to bite dents into your silver mug that Aunt Caroline
sent. I was a handsome young hellion, I don't mind telling you, and they
looked well on me, and when Lysander John urged me to be brave and wear
'em outside I was afraid all the men within a day's ride was going to
sneak round to stare at me. My! I was so embarrassed, also with that
same feeling you got in your heart this minute that it was taking an
unfair advantage of any man--you know! I felt like I was using all the
power of my young beauty for unworthy ends.

"'Well, do you know what I got when I first rode out on the ranch? I
got just about the once-over from every brute there, and that was all.
If one of them ranch hands had ever ogled me a second time I'd have
known it all right, but I never caught one of the scoundrels at it.
First I said: "Now, ain't that fine and chivalrous?" Then I got wise. It
wasn't none of this here boasted Western chivalry, but just plain lack
of interest. I admit it made me mad at first. Any man on the place was
only too glad to look me over when I had regular clothes on, but dress
me like Lysander John and they didn't look at me any oftener than they
did him. Not as often, of course, because as a plain human being and
man's equal I wasn't near as interesting as he was.'

"'But then, too,' says Hetty, who had only been about half listening to
my lecture, 'I thought it might be striking a blow at the same time for
the freedom of woman.'

"Well, you know how that freedom-of-the-sex talk always gets me going. I
was mad enough for a minute to spank her just as she stood there in them
Non Plush Ultras she was so proud of. And I did let out some high talk.
Mrs. Dutton told her afterward she thought sure we was having words.

"'Freedom from skirts,' I says, 'is the last thing your sex wants.
Skirts is the final refuge of immodesty, to which women will cling like
grim death. They will do any possible thing to a skirt--slit it, thin
it, shorten it, hike it up one side--people are setting up nights right
now thinking up some new thing to do to it--but women won't give it up
and dress modestly as men do because it's the only unfair drag they got
left with the men. I see one of our offended sex is daily asking right
out in a newspaper: "Are women people?" I'd just like to whisper to her
that no one yet knows.

"'If they'll quit their skirts, dress as decently as a man does so they
won't have any but a legitimate pull with him, we'd have a chance to
find out if they're good for anything else. As a matter of fact, they
don't want to be people and dress modestly and wear hats you couldn't
pay over eight dollars for. I believe there was one once, but the poor
thing never got any notice from either sex after she became--a people,
as you might say.'

"Well, I was going on to get off a few more things I'd got madded up to,
but I caught the look in poor Hetty's face, and it would have melted a
stone. Poor child! There she was, wanting a certain man and willing to
wear or not wear anything on earth that would nail him, and not knowing
what would do it, and complicating her ignorance with meaningless
worries about modesty and daringness and the freedom of her poor sex,
that ain't ever even deuce-low with one woman in a million.

"And right then, watching her distress, all at once I get my big
inspiration--it just flooded me like the sun coming up. I don't know if
I'm like other folks, but things do come to me that way. And not only
was it a great truth, but it got me out of the hole of having to tell
Hetty certain truths about herself that these Non Plush Ultras made all
too glaring.

"'Listen,' I says: 'You believe I'm your friend, don't you? And you
believe anything I tell you is from the heart out and will probably have
a grain of sense in it. Well, here is an inspired thought: Women won't
ever dress modestly like men do because men don't want 'em to. I never
saw a man yet that did if he'd tell the truth, and so this here dark
city stranger won't be any exception. Now, then, what do we see on
Saturday next? Why, we see this here gay throng sally forth for
Stender's Spring, the youth and beauty of Red Gap, including Mr. D.,
with his nice refined odour of Russia leather and bank bills of large
size--from fifties up--that haven't been handled much. The crowd is of
all sexes, technically, like you might say; a lot of nice, sweet girls
along but dressed to be mere jolly young roughnecks, and just as
interesting to the said stranger as the regular boys that will be
present--hardly more so. And now, as for poor little meek you--you will
look wild and Western, understand me, but feminine; exactly like the
coloured cigarette picture that says under it "Rocky Mountain Cow Girl."
You will be in your pretty tan skirt--be sure to have it pressed--and a
blue-striped sport bloose that I just saw in the La Mode window, and
you'll get some other rough Western stuff there, too: a blue silk
neckerchief and a natty little cow-girl sombrero--the La Mode is showing
a good one called the La Parisienne for four fifty-eight--and the
daintiest pair of tan kid gauntlets you can find, and don't forget a
pair of tan silk stockings--'

"'They won't show in my riding boots,' says Hetty, looking as if she was
coming to life a little.

"'Tush for the great, coarse, commonsense riding boots,' I says firmly;
'you will wear precisely that neat little pair of almost new tan pumps
with the yellow bows that you're standing in now. Do you get me?'

"'But that would be too dainty and absurd,' says Hetty.

"'Exactly!' I says, shutting my mouth hard.

"'Why, I almost believe I do get you,' says she, looking religiously up
into the future like that lady saint playing the organ in the picture.

"'Another thing,' I says: 'You are deathly afraid of a horse and was
hardly ever on one but once when you were a teeny girl, but you do love
the open life, so you just nerved yourself up to come.'

"'I believe I see more clearly than ever,' says Hetty. She grew up on a
ranch, knows more about a horse than the horse himself does, and would
be a top rider most places, with the cheap help we get nowadays that can
hardly set a saddle.

"'Also from time to time,' I goes on, 'you want to ask this Mr. D.
little, timid, silly questions that will just tickle him to death and
make him feel superior. Ask him to tell you which legs of a horse the
chaps go on, and other things like that; ask him if the sash that holds
the horrid old saddle on isn't so tight it's hurting your horse. After
the lunch is et, go over to the horse all alone and stroke his nose and
call him a dear and be found by the gent when he follows you over trying
to feed the noble animal a hard-boiled egg and a couple of pickles or
something. Take my word for it, he'll be over all right and have a
hearty laugh at your confusion, and begin to wonder what it is about
you.

"'How about falling off and spraining my ankle on the way back?' demands
the awakening vestal with a gleam in her eye.

"'No good,' I says; 'pretty enough for a minute, but it would make
trouble if you kept up the bluff, and if there's one thing a man hates
more than another it's to have a woman round that makes any trouble.'

"'You have me started on a strange new train of thought,' says Hetty.

"'I think it's a good one,' I tells her, 'but remember there are risks.
For one thing, you know how popular you have always been with all the
girls. Well, after this day none of 'em will hardly speak to you because
of your low-lifed, deceitful game, and the things they'll say of
you--such things as only woman can say of woman!'

"'I shall not count the cost,' says she firmly. 'And now I must hurry
down for that sport bloose--blue-striped, you said?'

"'Something on that order,' I says, 'that fits only too well. You can
do almost anything you want to with your neck and arms, but remember
strictly--a skirt is your one and only Non Plush Ultra.'

"So I went home all flushed and eager, thinking joyously how little
men--the poor dubs--ever suspect how it's put over on 'em, and the next
day, which was Friday, I thought of a few more underhand things she
could do. So when she run in to see me that afternoon, the excitement of
the chase in her eye, she wanted I should go along on this picnic. I
says yes, I will, being that excited myself and wanting to see really if
I was a double-faced genius or wasn't I? Henrietta Price couldn't go on
account of being still lame from her ride of a week ago, so I could go
as chaperone, and anyway I knew the dear girls would all be glad to have
me because I would look so different from them--like a genial old ranch
foreman going out on rodeo--and the boys was always glad to see me along
anyway. 'I'll be there,' I says to Hetty. 'And here--don't forget at all
times to-morrow to carry this little real lace handkerchief I'm giving
you.'

"I was at the meeting-place next morning at nine. None of the other
girls was on time, of course, but that was just as well, because Aggie
Tuttle had got her father to come down to the sale yard to pack a mule
with the hampers of lunch. Jeff Tuttle is a good packer all right, but
too inflamed in the case of a mule, which he hates. They always know up
and down that street when he's packing one; ladies drag their children
by as fast as they can. But Jeff had the hitch all throwed before any of
the girls showed up, and all began in a lovely manner, the crowd of
about fifteen getting off not more than an hour late; Mr. Burchell in
the lead and a bevy of these jolly young rascals in their Non Plush
Ultras riding herd on him.

"Every girl cast cordial glances of pity at poor Hetty when she showed
up in her neat skirt and silly tan pumps with the ridiculous silk
stockings and the close-fitting blue-striped thing, free at the neck,
and her pretty hair all neated under the La Parisienne cow-girl hat. Oh,
they felt kinder than ever before to poor old Hetty when they saw her as
little daring as that, cheering her with a hearty uproar, slapping their
Non Plush Ultras with their caps or gloves, and then giggling
confidentially to one another. Hetty accepted their applause with what
they call a pretty show of confusion and gored her horse with her heel
on the off side so it looked as if the vicious brute was running away
and she might fall off any minute, but somehow she didn't, and got him
soothed with frightened words and by taking the hidden heel out of his
slats--though not until Mr. D. had noticed her good and then looked
again once or twice.

"And so the party moved on for an hour or two, with the roguish young
roughnecks cutting up merrily at all times, pretending to be cowboys
coming to town on pay day, swinging their hats, giving the long yell,
and doing roughriding to cut each other away from the side of Mr. D.
every now and then, with a noisy laugh of good nature to hide the
poisoned dagger. Daisy Estelle Maybury is an awful good rider, too, and
got next to the hero about every time she wanted to. Poor thing, if she
only knew that once she gets off a horse in 'em it makes all the
difference in the world.

"The dark city stranger seemed to enjoy it fine, all this noise and
cutting up and cowboy antics like they was just a lot of high-spirited
young men together, but I never weakened in my faith for one minute.
'Laugh on, my proud beauties,' I says, 'but a time will come, just as
sure as you look and act like a passel of healthy boys.' And you bet it
did.

"We hadn't got halfway to Stender's Spring till Mr. D. got off to
tighten his cinch, and then he sort of drifted back to where Hetty and I
was. I dropped back still farther to where a good chaperone ought to be
and he rode in beside Hetty. The trail was too narrow then for the rest
to come back after their prey, so they had to carry on the rough work
among themselves.

"Hetty acted perfect. She had a pensive, withdrawn look--'aloof,' I
guess the word is--like she was too tender a flower, too fine for this
rough stuff, and had ought to be in the home that minute telling a fairy
story to the little ones gathered at her decently clad knee. I don't
know how she done it, but she put that impression over. And she tells
Mr. D. that in spite of her quiet, studious tastes she had resolved to
come on this picnic because she loves Nature oh! so dearly, the birds
and the wild flowers and the great rugged trees that have their message
for man if he will but listen with an understanding heart--didn't Mr. D.
think so, or did he? But not too much of this dear old Nature stuff,
which can be easy overdone with a healthy man; just enough to show there
was hidden depths in her nature that every one couldn't find.

"Then on to silly questions about does a horse lie down when it goes to
sleep each night after its hard day's labour, and isn't her horse's sash
too tight, and what a pretty fetlock he has, so long and thick and
brown--Oh, do you call that the mane? How absurd of poor little me! Mr.
Daggett knows just everything, doesn't he? He's perfectly terrifying.
And where in the world did he ever learn to ride so stunningly, like one
of those dare-devils in a Wild West entertainment? If her own naughty,
naughty horse tries to throw her on the ground again where he can bite
her she'll just have Mr. D. ride the nassy ole sing and teach him better
manners, so she will. There now! He must have heard that--just see him
move his funny ears--don't tell her that horses can't understand things
that are said. And, seriously now, where did Mr. D. ever get his superb
athletic training, because, oh! how all too rare it is to see a
brain-worker of strong mentality and a splendid athlete in one and the
same man. Oh, how pathetically she had wished and wished to be a man and
take her place out in the world fighting its battles, instead of poor
little me who could never be anything but a homebody to worship the
great, strong, red-blooded men who did the fighting and carried on great
industries--not even an athletic girl like those dear things up
ahead--and this horse is bobbing up and down like that on purpose, just
to make poor little me giddy, and so forth. Holding her bridle rein
daintily she was with the lace handkerchief I'd give her that cost me
twelve fifty.

"Mr. D. took it all like a real man. He said her ignorance of a horse
was adorable and laughed heartily at it. And he smiled in a deeply
modest and masterful way and said 'But, really, that's nothing--nothing
at all, I assure you,' when she said about how he was a corking
athlete--and then kept still to see if she was going on to say more
about it. But she didn't, having the God-given wisdom to leave him
wanting. And then he would be laughing again at her poor-little-me horse
talk.

"I never had a minute's doubt after that, for it was the eyes of one
fascinated to a finish that he turned back on me half an hour later as
he says: 'Really, Mrs. Pettengill, our Miss Hester is feminine to her
finger tips, is she not?' 'She is, she is,' I answers. 'If you only knew
the trouble I had with the chit about that horrible old riding skirt of
hers when all her girl friends are wearing a sensible costume!' Hetty
blushed good and proper at this, not knowing how indecent I might
become, and Mr. D. caught her at it. Aggie Tuttle and Stella Ballard at
this minute is pretending to be shooting up a town with the couple of
revolvers they'd brought along in their cunning little holsters. Mr. D.
turns his glazed eyes to me once more. 'The real womanly woman,' says he
in a hushed voice, 'is God's best gift to man.' Just like that.

"'Landed!' I says to myself. 'Throw him up on the bank and light a
fire.'

"And mebbe you think this tet-à-tet had not been noticed by the merry
throng up front. Not so. The shouting and songs had died a natural
death, and the last three miles of that trail was covered in a gloomy
silence, except for the low voices of Hetty and the male she had so
neatly pronged. I could see puzzled glances cast back at them and catch
mutterings of bewilderment where the trail would turn on itself. But the
poor young things didn't yet realize that their prey was hanging back
there for reasons over which he hadn't any control. They thought, of
course, he was just being polite or something.

"When we got to the picnic place, though, they soon saw that all was not
well. There was some resumption of the merrymaking as they dismounted
and the girls put one stirrup over the saddle-horn and eased the cinch
like the boys did, and proud of their knowledge, but the glances they
now shot at Hetty wasn't bewildered any more. They was glances of pure
fright. Hetty, in the first place, had to be lifted off her horse, and
Mr. D. done it in a masterly way to show her what a mere feather she
was in his giant's grasp. Then with her feet on the ground she reeled a
mite, so he had to support her. She grasped his great strong arm firmly
and says: 'It's nothing--I shall be right presently--leave me please, go
and help those other girls.' They had some low, heated language about
his leaving her at such a crisis, with her gripping his arm till I bet
it showed for an hour. But finally they broke and he loosened her
horse's sash, as she kept quaintly calling it, and she recovered
completely and said it had been but a moment's giddiness anyway, and
what strength he had in those arms, and yet could use it so gently, and
he said she was a brave, game little woman, and the picnic was served to
one and all, with looks of hearty suspicion and rage now being shot at
Hetty from every other girl there.

"And now I see that my hunch has been even better than I thought. Not
only does the star male hover about Hetty, cutely perched on a fallen
log with her dainty, gleaming ankles crossed, and looking so fresh and
nifty and feminine, but I'm darned if three or four of the other males
don't catch the contagion of her woman's presence and hang round her,
too, fetching her food of every kind there, feeding her spoonfuls of
Aggie Tuttle's plum preserves, and all like that, one comical thing
after another. Yes, sir; here was Mac Gordon and Riley Hardin and
Charlie Dickman and Roth Hyde, men about town of the younger dancing
set, that had knowed Hetty for years and hardly ever looked at
her--here they was paying attentions to her now like she was some prize
beauty, come down from Spokane for over Sunday, to say nothing of
Mr. D., who hardly ever left her side except to get her another sardine
sandwich or a paper cup of coffee. It was then I see the scientific
explanation of it, like these high-school professors always say that
science is at the bottom of everything. The science of this here was
that they was all devoting themselves to Hetty for the simple reason
that she was the one and only woman there present.

"Of course these girls in their modest Non Plush Ultras didn't get the
scientific secret of this fact. They was still too obsessed with the
idea that they ought to be ogled on account of them by any male beast in
his right senses. But they knew they'd got in wrong somehow. By this
time they was kind of bunching together and telling each other things in
low tones, while not seeming to look at Hetty and her dupes, at which
all would giggle in the most venemous manner. Daisy Estelle left the
bunch once and made a coy bid for the notice of Mr. D. by snatching his
cap and running merrily off with it about six feet. If there was any one
in the world--except Hetty--could make a man hate the idea of riding
pants for women, she was it. I could see the cold, flinty look come into
his eyes as he turned away from her to Hetty with the pitcher of
lemonade. And then Beryl Mae Macomber, she gets over close enough for
Mr. D. to hear it, and says conditions is made very inharmonious at home
for a girl of her temperament, and she's just liable any minute to chuck
everything and either take up literary work or go into the movies, she
don't know which and don't care--all kind of desperate so Mr. D. will
feel alarmed about a beautiful young thing like that out in the world
alone and unprotected and at the mercy of every designing scoundrel. But
I don't think Mr. D. hears a word of it, he's so intently listening to
Hetty who says here in this beautiful mountain glade where all is peace
how one can't scarcely believe that there is any evil in the world
anywhere, and what a difference it does make when one comes to see life
truly. Then she crossed and recrossed her silken ankles, slightly
adjusted her daring tan skirt, and raised her eyes wistfully to the
treetops, and I bet there wasn't a man there didn't feel that she
belonged in the home circle with the little ones gathered about, telling
'em an awfully exciting story about the naughty, naughty, bad little
white kitten and the ball of mamma's yarn.

"Yes, sir; Hetty was as much of a revelation to me in one way as she
would of been to that party in another if I hadn't saved her from it.
She must have had the correct female instinct all these years, only no
one had ever started her before on a track where there was no other
entries. With those other girls dressed like she was Hetty would of been
leaning over some one's shoulder to fork up her own sandwiches, and no
one taking hardly any notice whether she'd had some of the hot coffee or
whether she hadn't. And the looks she got throughout the afternoon! Say,
I wouldn't of trusted that girl at the edge of a cliff with a single
pair of those No. 9872's anywhere near.

"After the lunch things was packed up there was faint attempts at fun
and frolic with songs and chorus--Riley Hardin has a magnificent bass
voice at times and Mac Gordon and Charlie Dickman and Roth Hyde wouldn't
be so bad if they'd let these Turkish cigarettes alone--and the boys got
together and sung some of their good old business-college songs, with
the girls coming in while they murdered Hetty with their beautiful eyes.
But Hetty and Mr. D. sort of withdrew from the noisy enjoyment and
talked about the serious aspects of life and how one could get along
almost any place if only they had their favourite authors. And Mr. D.
says doesn't she sing at all, and she says, Oh! in a way; that her voice
has a certain parlour charm, she has been told, and she sings at--you
can't really call it singing--two or three of the old Scotch songs of
homely sentiment like the Scotch seem to get into their songs as no
other nation can, or doesn't he think so, and he does, indeed. And he's
reading a wonderful new novel in which there is much of Nature with its
lessons for each of us, but in which love conquers all at the end, and
the girl in it reminds him strongly of her, and perhaps she'll be good
enough to sing for him--just for him alone in the dusk--if he brings
this book up to-morrow night so he can show her some good places in it.

"At first she is sure she has a horrid old engagement for to-morrow
night and is so sorry, but another time, perhaps--Ain't it a marvel the
crooked tricks that girl had learned in one day! And then she remembers
that her engagement is for Tuesday night--what could she have been
thinking of!--and come by all means--only too charmed--and how rarely
nowadays does one meet one on one's own level of culture, or perhaps
that is too awful a word to use--so hackneyed--but anyway he knows what
she means, or doesn't he? He does.

"Pretty soon she gets up and goes over to her horse, picking her way
daintily in the silly little tan pumps, and seems to be offering the
beast something. The stricken man follows her the second he can without
being too raw about it, and there is the adorably feminine thing with a
big dill pickle, two deviled eggs, and a half of one of these Camelbert
cheeses for her horse. Mr. D. has a good masterly laugh at her idea of
horse fodder and calls her 'But, my dear child!' and she looks prettily
offended and offers this chuck to the horse and he gulps it all down and
noses round for more of the same. It was an old horse named Croppy that
she'd known from childhood and would eat anything on earth. She rode him
up here once and he nabbed a bar of laundry soap off the back porch and
chewed the whole thing down with tears of ecstasy in his eyes and
frothing at the mouth like a mad dog. Well, so Hetty gives mister man a
look of dainty superiority as she flicks crumbs from her white fingers
with my real lace handkerchief, and he stops his hearty laughter and
just stares, and she says what nonsense to think the poor horses don't
like food as well as any one. Them little moments have their effect on a
man in a certain condition. He knew there probably wasn't another horse
in the world would touch that truck, but he couldn't help feeling a
strange new respect for her in addition to that glorious masculine
protection she'd had him wallowing in all day.

"The ride home, at least on the part of the Non Plush Ultra cut-ups, was
like they had laid a loved one to final rest out there on the lone
mountainside. The handsome stranger and Hetty brought up the rear,
conversing eagerly about themselves and other serious topics. I believe
he give her to understand that he'd been pretty wild at one time in his
life and wasn't any too darned well over it yet, but that some good
womanly woman who would study his ways could still take him and make a
man of him; and her answering that she knew he must have suffered beyond
human endurance in that horrible conflict with his lower nature. He said
he had.

"Of course the rabid young hoydens up ahead made a feeble effort now and
then to carry it off lightly, and from time to time sang 'My Bonnie Lies
Over the Ocean,' or 'Merrily We Roll Along,' with the high, squeaky
tenor of Roth Hyde sounding above the others very pretty in the
moonlight, but it was poor work as far as these enraged vestals was
concerned. If I'd been Hetty and had got a strange box of candy through
the mail the next week, directed in a disguised woman's hand, I'd of
rushed right off to the police with it, not waiting for any analysis.
And she, poor thing, would get so frightened at bad spots, with the
fierce old horse bobbing about so dangerous, that she just has to be
held on. And once she wrenched her ankle against a horrid old tree on
the trail--she hadn't been able to resist a little one--and bit her
under lip as the spasm of pain passed over her refined features. But she
was all right in a minute and begged Mr. D. not to think of bathing it
in cold water because it was nothing--nothing at all, really now--and he
would embarrass her frightfully if he said one more word about it. And
Mr. D. again remarked that she was feminine to her finger tips, a brave,
game little woman, one of the gamest he ever knew. And pretty soon--what
was she thinking about now? Why, she was merely wondering if horses
think in the true sense of the word or only have animal instinct, as it
is called. And wasn't she a strange, puzzling creature to be thinking on
deep subjects like that at such a time! Yes, she had been called
puzzling as a child, but she didn't like it one bit. She wanted to be
like other girls, if he knew what she meant. He seemed to.

"They took Hetty home first on account of her poor little ankle and
sung 'Good Night, Ladies,' at the gate. And so ended a day that was
wreck and ruin for most of our sex there present.

"And to show you what a good, deep, scientific cause I had discovered,
the next night at Hetty's who shows up one by one but these four men
about town, each with a pound of mixed from the Bon Ton Handy Kitchen,
and there they're all setting at the feet of Hetty, as it were, in her
new light summer gown with the blue bows, when Mr. D. blows in with a
two-pound box and the novel in which love conquered all. So excited she
was when she tells me about it next day. The luck of that girl! But
after all it wasn't luck, because she'd laid her foundations the day
before, hadn't she? Always look a little bit back of anything that seems
to be luck, say I.

"And Hetty with shining eyes entertained one and all with the wit and
sparkle a woman can show only when there's four or five men at her at
once--it's the only time we ever rise to our best. But she got a chance
for a few words alone with Mr. D., who took his hat finally when he sees
the other four was going to set him out; enough words to confide to him
how she loathed this continual social racket to which she was constantly
subjected, with never a let-up so one could get to one's books and to
one's real thoughts. But perhaps he would venture up again some time
next week or the week after--not getting coarse in her work, understand,
even with him flopping around there out on the bank--and he give her one
long, meaning look and said why not to-morrow night, and she carelessly
said that would be charming, she was sure--she didn't think of any
engagement at this minute--and it was ever so nice of him to think of
poor little me.

"Then she went back and gave the social evening of their life to them
four boys that had stayed. She said she couldn't thank them enough for
coming this evening--which is probably the only time she had told the
truth in thirty-six hours--and they all made merry. Roth Hyde sang
'Sally in Our Alley' so good on the high notes that the Duttons was all
out in the hall listening; and Riley Hardin singing 'Down, Diver, Down,
'Neath the Deep Blue Waves!' and Mac Gordon singing his everlasting
German songs in their native language, and Charlie Dickman singing a new
sentimental one called 'Ain't There at Least One Gentleman Here?' about
a fair young lady dancer being insulted in a gilded café in some large
city; and one and all voted it was a jolly evening and said how about
coming back to-morrow night, but Hetty said no, it was her one evening
for study and she couldn't be bothered with them, which was a plain,
downright so-and-so and well she knew it, because that girl's study was
over for good and all.

"Well, why string it out? I've give you the facts. And my lands! Will
you look at that clock now? Here's the morning gone and this room still
looking like the inside of a sheep-herder's wagon! Oh, yes, and when
Hetty was up here this time that she wouldn't wear my riding pants
down, she says. 'Not only that, but I'm scrupulously careful in all
ways. Why, I never even allow dear Burchell to observe me in one of
those lace boudoir caps that so many women cover up their hair with when
it's their best feature but they won't take time to do it.'

"Now was that spoken like a wise woman or like the two-horned Galumpsis
Caladensis of East India, whose habits are little known to man? My Lord!
Won't I ever learn to stop? Where did I put that dusting cloth?"



VI

COUSIN EGBERT INTERVENES


"It takes all kinds of foreigners to make a world," said Ma
Pettengill--irrelevantly I thought, because the remark seemed to be
inspired merely by the announcement of Sandy Sawtelle that the mule
Jerry's hip had been laid open by a kick from the mule Alice, and that
the bearer of the news had found fourteen stitches needed to mend the
rent.

Sandy brought his news to the owner of the Arrowhead as she relaxed in
my company on the west veranda of the ranch house and scented the golden
dusk with burning tobacco of an inferior but popular brand. I listened
but idly to the minute details of the catastrophe, discovering more
entertainment in the solemn wake of light a dulled sun was leaving as it
slipped over the sagging rim of Arrowhead Pass. And yet, through my
absorption with the shadows that now played far off among the folded
hills, there did come sharply the impression that this Sawtelle person
was dwelling too insistently upon the precise number of stitches
required by the breach in Jerry's hide.

"Fourteen--yes, ma'am; fourteen stitches. That there Alice mule sure
needs handling. Fourteen regular ones. I'd certainly show her where to
head in at, like now she was my personal property. Me, I'd abuse her
shamefully. Only eleven I took last time in poor old Jerry; and here now
it's plumb fourteen--yes, ma'am; fourteen good ones. Say, you get
fourteen of them stitches in your hide, and I bet--thought, at first, I
could make twelve do, but it takes full fourteen, with old Jerry nearly
tearing the chute down while I was taking these fourteen--"

I began to see numbers black against that glowing panorama in the west.
A monstrous 14 repeated itself stubbornly along the gorgeous reach of
it.

"Yes, ma'am--fourteen; you can go out right now and count 'em yourself.
And like mebbe I'll have to go down to town to-morrow for some more of
that King of Pain Liniment, on account of Lazarus and Bryan getting good
and lamed in this same mix-up, and me letting fall the last bottle we
had on the place and busting her wide open--"

"Don't you bother to bust any more!" broke in his employer in a tone
that I found crisp with warning. "There's a whole new case of King of
Pain in the storeroom."

"Huh!" exclaimed the surgeon, ably conveying disappointment thereby.
"And like now if I did go down I could get the new parts for that there
mower--"

"That's something for me to worry about exclusively. I'll begin when we
got something to mow." There was finished coldness in this.

"Huh!" The primitive vocable now conveyed a lively resentment, but
there was the pleading of a patient sufferer in what followed. "And like
at the same time, having to make the trip anyway for these here supplies
and things, I could stop just a minute at Doc Martingale's and have this
old tooth of mine took out, that's been achin' like a knife stuck in me
fur the last fourteen--well, fur about a week now--achin' night and
day--no sleep at all now fur seven, eight nights; so painful I get
regular delirious, let me tell you. And, of course, all wore out the way
I am, I won't be any good on the place till my agony's relieved. Why,
what with me suffering so horrible, I just wouldn't hardly know my own
name sometimes if you was to come up and ask me!"

The woman's tone became more than ever repellent.

"Never you mind about not knowing your own name. I got it on the pay
roll, and it'll still be there to-morrow if you're helping Buck get out
the rest of them fence posts like I told you. If you happen to get stuck
for your name when I ain't round, and the inquiring parties won't wait,
just ask the Chinaman; he never forgets anything he's learned once. Or
I'll write it out on a card, so you can show it to anybody who rides up
and wants to know it in a hurry!"

"Huh!"

The powers of this brief utterance had not yet been exhausted. It now
conveyed despair. With bowed head the speaker dully turned and withdrew
from our presence. As he went I distinctly heard him mutter:

"Huh! Four-teen! Four-teen! And seven! And twenty-eight!"

"Say, there!" his callous employer called after him. "Why don't you get
Boogles to embroider that name of yours on the front of your shirt? He'd
adore to do it. And you can still read, can't you, in the midst of your
agonies?"

There was no response to this taunt. The suffering one faded slowly down
the path to the bunk house and was lost in its blackness. A light shone
out and presently came sombre chords from a guitar, followed by the
voice of Sandy in gloomy song: "There's a broken heart for every light
on Broadway--"

I was not a little pained to discover this unsuspected vein of cruelty
in a woman I had long admired. And the woman merely became irrelevant
with her apothegm about foreigners. I ignored it.

"What about that sufferer down there in the bunk house?" I demanded.
"Didn't you ever have toothache?"

"No; neither did Sandy Sawtelle. He ain't a sufferer; he's just a liar."

"Why?"

"So I'll let him go to town and play the number of them stitches on the
wheel. Sure! He'd run a horse to death getting there, make for the back
room of the Turf Club Saloon, where they run games whenever the town
ain't lidded too tight, and play roulette till either him or the game
had to close down. Yes, sir; he'd string his bets along on fourteen and
seven and twenty-eight and thirty-five, and if he didn't make a killing
he'd believe all his life that the wheel was crooked. Stitches in a
mule's hide is his bug. He could stitch up any horse on the place and
never have the least hunch; but let it be a mule--Say! Down there right
now he's thinking about the thousand dollars or so I'm keeping him out
of. I judge from his song that he'd figured on a trip East to New York
City or Denver. At that, I don't know as I blame him. Yes, sir; that's
what reminded me of foreigners and bazaars and vice, and so on--and poor
Egbert Floud."

My hostess drew about her impressive shoulders a blanket of Indian weave
that dulled the splendours of the western sky, and rolled a slender
cigarette from the tobacco and papers at her side. By the ensuing flame
of a match I saw that her eyes gleamed with the light of pure narration.

"Foreigners, bazaars, vice, and Egbert Floud?" I murmured, wishing these
to be related more plausibly one to another.

"I'm coming to it," said the lady; and, after two sustaining inhalations
from the new cigarette, forthwith she did:

       *       *       *       *       *

It was late last winter, while I was still in Red Gap. The talk went
round that we'd ought to have another something for the Belgians. We'd
had a concert, the proceeds of which run up into two figures after all
expenses was paid; but it was felt something more could be
done--something in the nature of a bazaar, where all could get together.
The Mes-dames Henrietta Templeton Price and Judge Ballard were appointed
a committee to do some advance scouting.

That was where Egbert Floud come in, though after it was all over any
one could see that he was more to be pitied than censured. These
well-known leaders consulted him among others, and Cousin Egbert says
right off that, sure, he'll help 'em get up something if they'll agree
to spend a third of the loot for tobacco for the poor soldiers, because
a Belgian or any one else don't worry so much about going hungry if they
can have a smoke from time to time, and he's been reading about where
tobacco is sorely needed in the trenches. He felt strong about it,
because one time out on the trail he lost all his own and had to smoke
poplar bark or something for two weeks, nearly burning his flues out.

The two Mes-dames agreed to this, knowing from their menfolk that
tobacco is one of the great human needs, both in war and in peace, and
knowing that Cousin Egbert will be sure to donate handsomely himself, he
always having been the easiest mark in town; so they said they was much
obliged for his timely suggestion and would he think up some novel
feature for the bazaar; and he said he would if he could, and they went
on to other men of influence.

Henrietta's husband, when he heard the money wouldn't all be spent for
mere food, said he'd put up a choice lot in Price's Addition to be
raffled off--a lot that would at some future date be worth five thousand
dollars of anybody's money, and that was all right; and some of the
merchants come through liberal with articles of use and adornment to be
took chances on.

Even old Proctor Knapp, the richest man in town, actually give up
something after they pestered him for an hour. He owns the People's
Traction Company and he turned over a dollar's worth of street-car
tickets to be raffled for, though saying he regarded gambling as a very
objectionable and uncertain vice, and a person shouldn't go into
anything without being sure they was dead certain to make something out
of it, war or no war, he knowing all about it. Why wouldn't he, having
started life as a poor, ragged boy and working his way up to where
parties that know him is always very careful indeed when they do any
business with him?

Some of the ladies they consulted was hostile about the tobacco end of
it. Mrs. Tracy Bangs said that no victim of the weed could keep up his
mentality, and that she, for one, would rather see her Tracy lying in
his casket than smoking vile tobacco that would destroy his intellect
and make him a loathsome object in the home. She said she knew perfectly
well that if the countries at war had picked their soldiers from
non-smokers it would have been all over in just a few days--and didn't
that show you that the tobacco demon was as bad as the rum demon?

Mrs. Leonard Wales was not only bitter about tobacco but about any help
at all. She said our hard storms of that winter had been caused by the
general hatred in Europe which created evil waves of malignity; so let
'em shoot each other till they got sense enough to dwell together in
love and amity--only we shouldn't prolong the war by sending 'em soup
and cigarettes, and so on. Her idea seemed to be that if Red Gap would
just stand firm in the matter the war would die a natural death. Still,
if a bazaar was really going to be held, she would consent to pose in a
tableau if they insisted on it, and mebbe she could thus inject into the
evil atmosphere of Europe some of the peace and good will that sets the
United States apart from other nations.

Trust Cora Wales not to overlook a bet like that. She's a tall,
sandy-haired party, with very extravagant contours, and the thing she
loves best on earth is to get under a pasteboard crown, with gilt stars
on it, and drape herself in the flag of her country, with one fat arm
bare, while Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and the rest
is gathered about and looking up to her for protection. Mebbe she don't
look so bad as the Goddess of Liberty on a float in the middle of one of
our wide streets when the Chamber of Commerce is giving a Greater Red
Gap pageant; but take her in a hall, where you set close up to the
platform, and she looks more like our boasted liberty has degenerated
into license, or something like that. Anyway, the committee had to
promise her she could do something in her flag and crown and talcum
powder, because they knew she'd knock the show if they didn't.

This reminded 'em they had to have a program of entertainment; so they
got me on the committee with the other Mes-dames to think up things, me
always being an easy mark. I find out right off that we're a lot of
foreigners and you got to be darned careful not to hurt anybody's
feelings. Little Bertha Lehman's pa would let her be a state--Colorado
or Nebraska, or something--but he wouldn't let her sing unless it would
be a German song in the original; and Hobbs, the English baker, said his
Tillie would have to sing "Britannia Rules the Waves," or nothing; and
two or three others said what they would and wouldn't do, and it looked
like Red Gap itself was going to be dug up into trenches. I had to get
little Magnesia Waterman, daughter of the coons that work in the U.S.
Grill, to do the main singing. She seemed to be about the only American
child soprano we had. She sings right well for a kid, mostly these sad
songs about heaven; but we picked out a good live one for her that
seemed to be neutral.

It was delicate work, let me tell you, turning down folks that wanted to
sing patriotic songs or recite war poetry that would be sure to start
something, with Professor Gluckstein wishing to get up and tell how the
cowardly British had left the crew of a German submarine to perish after
shooting it up when it was only trying to sink their cruiser by fair
and lawful methods; and Henry Lehman wanting to read a piece from a
German newspaper about how the United States was a nation of vile
money-grubbers that would sell ammunition to the enemy just because they
had the ships to take it away, and wouldn't sell a dollar's worth to the
Fatherland, showing we had been bought up by British gold--and so on.

But I kept neutral. I even turned down an Englishman named Ruggles, that
keeps the U.S. Grill and is well thought of, though he swore that all he
would do was to get off a few comical riddles, and such. He'd just got a
new one that goes: "Why is an elephant like a corkscrew? Because there's
a 'b' in both." I didn't see it at first, till he explained with hearty
laughter--because there's a "b" in both--the word "both." See? Of course
there's no sense to it. He admitted there wasn't, but said it was a
jolly wheeze just the same. I might have took a chance with him, but he
went on to say that he'd sent this wheeze to the brave lads in the
trenches, along with a lot of cigars and tobacco, and had got about
fifty postcards from 'em saying it was the funniest thing they'd heard
since the war begun. And in a minute more he was explaining, with much
feeling, just what low-down nation it was that started the war--it not
being England, by any means--and I saw he wasn't to be trusted on his
feet.

So I smoothed him down till he promised to donate all the lemonade for
Aggie Tuttle, who was to be Rebekkah at the Well; and I smoothed Henry
Lehman till he said he'd let his folks come and buy chances on things,
even if the country was getting overrun by foreigners, with an Italian
barber shop just opened in the same block with his sanitary shaving
parlour; though--thank goodness--the Italian hadn't had much to do yet
but play on a mandolin. And I smoothed Professor Gluckstein down till he
agreed to furnish the music for us and let the war take care of itself.

The Prof's a good old scout when he ain't got his war bonnet on. He was
darned near crying into his meerschaum pipe with a carved fat lady on it
when I got through telling him about the poor soldiers in the wet and
cold without a thing to smoke. He says: "You're right, madam; with Jake
Frost in the trenches and no tobacco, all men should be brothers under
their hides." And I got that printed in the _Recorder_ for a slogan, and
other foreigners come into line; and things looked pretty good.

Also, I got Doc Sulloway, who happened to be in town, to promise he'd
come and tell some funny anecdotes. He ain't a regular doctor--he just
took it up; a guy with long black curls and a big moustache and a big
hat and diamond pin, that goes round selling Indian Snake Oil off a
wagon. Doc said he'd have his musician, Ed Bemis, come, too. He said Ed
was known far and wide as the world's challenge cornetist. I says all
right, if he'll play something neutral; and Doc says he'll play "Listen
to the Mocking Bird," with variations, and play it so swell you'll
think you're perched right up in the treetops listening to Nature's own
feathered songsters.

That about made up my show, including, of course, the Spanish dance by
Beryl Mae Macomber. Red Gap always expects that and Beryl Mae never
disappoints 'em--makes no difference what the occasion is. Mebbe it's an
Evening with Shakespeare, or the Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers, or that
Oratorio by Elijah somebody, but Beryl Mae is right there with her
girlish young beauty and her tambourine. You see, I didn't want it a
long show--just enough to make the two-bits admission seem a little
short of robbery. Our real graft, of course, was to be where the young
society débutantes and heiresses in charge of the booths would wheedle
money out of the dazed throng for chances on the junk that would be
donated.

[Illustration: "ALL SUNNED UP LIKE A MAN THAT KNOWS THE WORLD IS HIS
OYSTER AND EVERY MONTH'S GOT AN 'R' IN IT"]

Well, about three days before the show I went up to Masonic Hall to see
about the stage decorations, and I was waiting while some one went down
to the Turf Exchange to get the key off Tim Mahoney, the janitor--Tim
had lately had to do janitor work for a B'nai B'rith lodge that was
holding meetings there, and it had made him gloomy and dissolute--and,
while I was waiting, who should come tripping along but Egbert Floud,
all sunned up like a man that knows the world is his oyster and every
month's got an "r" in it. Usually he's a kind of sad, meek coot, looking
neglected and put upon; but now he was actually giggling to himself
as he come up the stairs two at a time.

"Well, Old-Timer, what has took the droop out of your face?" I ask him.

"Why," he says, twinkling all over the place, "I'm aiming to keep it a
secret, but I don't mind hinting to an old friend that my part of the
evening's entertainment is going to be so good it'll make the whole show
top-heavy. Them ladies said they'd rely on me to think up something
novel, and I said I would if I could, and I did--that's all. I'd seen
enough of these shows where you ladies pike along with pincushions and
fancy lemonade and infants' wear--and mebbe a red plush chair, with gold
legs, that plays 'Alice, Where Art Thou?' when a person sets down on
it--with little girls speaking a few pieces about the flowers and lambs,
and so on, and cleaning up about eleven-twenty-nine on the evening's
revel--or it would be that, only you find you forgot to pay the Golden
Rule Cash Store for the red-and-blue bunting, and they're howling for
their money like a wild-cat. Yes, sir; that's been the way of it with
woman at the helium. I wouldn't wish to be a Belgian at all under
present circumstances; but if I did have to be one I'd hate to think my
regular meals was depending on any crooked work you ladies has done up
to date."

"You'd cheer me strangely," I says, "only I been a diligent reader of
history, and somehow I can't just recall your name being connected up
with any cataclysms of finance. I don't remember you ever starting one
of these here panics--or stopping one, for that matter. I did hear that
you'd had your pocket picked down to the San Francisco Fair."

I was prodding him along, understand, so he'd flare up and tell me what
his secret enterprise was that would make women's operations look silly
and feminine. I seen his eyes kind of glisten when I said this about him
being touched.

"That's right," he says. "Some lad nicked me for my roll and my return
ticket, and my gold watch and chain, and my horseshoe scarfpin with the
diamonds in it."

"You stood a lot of pawing over," I says, "for a man that's the keen
financial genius you tell about being. This lad must of been a new hand
at it. Likely he'd took lessons from a correspondence school. At least,
with you standing tied and blinded that way, a good professional one
would have tried for your gold tooth--or, anyway, your collar button. I
see your secret though," I go on as sarcastically as possible: "You got
the lad's address and you're going to have him here Saturday night to
glide among the throng and ply his evil trade. Am I right or wrong?"

"You are not," he says. "I never thought of that. But I won't say you
ain't warm in your guess. Yes, you certainly are warm, because what I'm
going to do is just as dastardly, without being so darned illegal,
except to an extent."

Well, it was very exasperating, but that was all I could get out of
him. When I ask for details he just clams up.

"But, mark my words," says the old smarty, "I'll show you it takes
brains in addition to woman's wiles and artwork to make a decent
clean-up in this little one-cylinder town."

"If you just had a little more self-confidence," I says, "you might of
gone to the top; lack of faith in yourself is all that's kept you back.
Too bad!"

"All right for you to kid me," he says; "but I'd be almost willing to
give you two dollars for every dollar that goes out of this hall
Saturday night."

Well, it was kind of pathetic and disgusting the way this poor old dub
was leaning on his certainty; so I let him alone and went on about my
work, thinking mebbe he really had framed up something crooked that
would bring at least a few dollars to the cause.

Every time I met him for the next three days after that he'd be so
puffed up, like a toad, with importance and low remarks about woman
that, at last, I just ignored him, pretending I hadn't the least
curiosity about his evil secret. It hurt his feelings when I quit
pestering him about it, but he'd been outraging mine right along; so we
split even.

He'd had a good-sized room just down the hall turned over to him, and a
lot of stuff of some kind carried in there in the night, and men
working, with the door locked all the time; so I and the other ladies
went calmly on about our own business, decorating the main hall with
the flags of all nations, fixing up the platform and the booths very
pretty, and giving Mr. Smarty Egbert Floud nothing but haughty glances
about his hidden novelty. Even when his men was hammering away in there
at their work he'd have something hung over the keyhole--as insulting to
us as only a man can be.

Saturday night come and we had a good crowd. Cousin Egbert was after me
the minute I got my things off to come and see his dastardly secret; but
I had my revenge. I told him I had no curiosity about it and was going
to be awful busy with my show, but I'd try as a personal favour to give
him a look over before I went home. Yes, sir; I just turned him down
with one superior look, and got my curtains slid back on Mrs. Leonard
Wales, dressed up like a superdreadnought in a naval parade and
surrounded by every little girl in town that had a white dress. They
wasn't states this time, but Columbia's Choicest Heritage, with a second
line on the program saying, "Future Buds and Débutantes From Society's
Home Galleries." It was a line we found under some babies' photos on the
society page of a great newspaper printed in New York City. Professor
Gluckstein and his son Rudolph played the "Star-Spangled Banner" on the
piano and fiddle during this feature.

Then little Magnesia Waterman, dressed to represent the Queen of Sheba,
come forward and sung the song we'd picked out for her, with the people
joining in the chorus:

    We're for you, Woodrow Wilson,
      One Hundred Million Strong!
    We put you in the White House
      And we know you can't do wrong.

It was very successful, barring hisses from all the Germans and English
present; but they was soon hushed up. Then Doc Sulloway come out and
told some funny anecdotes about two Irishmen named Pat and Mike, lately
landed in this country and looking for work, and imitated two cats in a
backyard, and drawing a glass of soda water, and sawing a plank in two;
and winding up with the announcement that he had donated a dozen bottles
of the great Indian Snake Oil Remedy for man and beast that had been
imparted to him in secret by old Rumpatunk, the celebrated medicine man,
who is supposed to have had it from the Great Spirit; and Ed Bemis, the
World's Challenge Cornetist, entertained one and all; and Beryl Mae done
her Spanish dance that I'd last seen her give at the Queen Esther
Cantata in the M.E. Church. And that was the end of the show; just
enough to start 'em buying things at the booths.

At least, we thought it would be. But what does a lot of the crowd do,
after looking round a little, but drift out into the hall and down to
this room where Cousin Egbert had his foul enterprise, whatever it was.
I didn't know yet, having held aloof, as you might say, owing to the old
hound's offensive manner. But I had heard three or four parties kind of
gasping to each other, had they seen what that Egbert Floud was doing in
the other room?--with looks of horror and delight on their faces. That
made me feel more superior than ever to the old smarty; so I didn't go
near the place yet, but herded people back to the raffles wherever I
could.

The first thing was Lon Price's corner lot, for which a hundred chances
had been sold. Lon had a blueprint showing the very lot; also a picture
of a choice dwelling or bungalow, like the one he has painted on the
drop curtain of Knapp's Opera House, under the line, "Price's Addition
to Red Gap; Big Lots, Little Payments." It's a very fancy house with
porches and bay windows and towers and front steps, and everything,
painted blue and green and yellow; and a blond lady in a purple gown,
with two golden-haired tots at her side, is waving good-bye to a tall,
handsome man with brown whiskers as he hurries out to the waiting street
car--though the car line ain't built out there yet by any means.

However, Lon got up and said it was a Paradise on earth, a Heaven of
Homes; that in future he would sell lots there to any native Belgian at
a 20 per cent. discount; and he hoped the lucky winner of this lot would
at once erect a handsome and commodious mansion on it, such as the
artist had here depicted; and it would be only nine blocks from the
swell little Carnegie Library when that, also, had been built, the
plans for it now being in his office safe.

Quite a few of the crowd had stayed for this, and they cheered Lon and
voted that little Magnesia Waterman was honest enough to draw the
numbers out of a hat. They was then drawn and read by Lon in an exciting
silence--except for Mrs. Leonard Wales, who was breathing heavily and
talking to herself after each number. She and Leonard had took a chance
for a dollar and everybody there knew it by now. She was dead sure they
would get the lot. She kept telling people so, right and left. She said
they was bound to get it if the drawing was honest. As near as I could
make out, she'd been taking a course of lessons from a professor in
Chicago about how to control your destiny by the psychic force that
dwells within you. It seems all you got to do is to will things to come
your way and they have to come. No way out of it. You step on this here
psychic gas and get what you ask for.

"I already see our little home," says Mrs. Wales in a hoarse whisper. "I
see it objectively. It is mine. I claim it out of the boundless
all-good. I have put myself in the correct mental attitude of reception;
I am holding to the perfect All. My own will come to me."

And so on, till parties round her begun to get nervous. Yes, sir; she
kept this stuff going in low, tense tones till she had every one in
hearing buffaloed; they was ready to give her the lot right there and
tear up their own tickets. She was like a crapshooter when he keeps
calling to the dice: "Come, seven--come on, come on!" All right for the
psychics, but that's what she reminded me of.

And in just another minute everybody there thought she'd cheated by
taking these here lessons that she got from Chicago for twelve dollars;
for you can believe it or not but her number won the lot. Yes, sir;
thirty-three took the deed and Lon filled in her name on it right there.
Many a cold look was shot at her as she rushed over to embrace her
husband, a big lump of a man that's all right as far up as his Adam's
apple, and has been clerking in the Owl Cigar Store ever since he can
remember. He tells her she is certainly a wonder and she calls him a
silly boy; says it's just a power she has developed through
concentration, and now she must claim from the all-good a dear little
home of seven rooms and bath, to be built on this lot; and she knows it
will come if she goes into the silence and demands it. Say! People with
any valuables on 'em begun to edge off, not knowing just how this
strange power of hers might work.

Then I look round and see the other booths ain't creating near the
excitement they had ought to be, only a few here and there taking
two-bit chances on things if Mrs. Wales ain't going in on 'em, too;
several of the most attractive booths was plumb deserted, with the girls
in charge looking mad or chagrined, as you might say. So I remember this
hidden evil of Egbert Floud's and that the crowd has gone there; and
while I'm deciding to give in and gratify my morbid curiosity, here
comes Cousin Egbert himself, romping along in his dinner-jacket suit and
tan shoes, like a wild mustang.

"What was I telling you?" he demands. "Didn't I tell you the rest of
this show was going to die standing up? Yes, sir; she's going to pass
out on her feet." And he waved a sneering arm round at the deserted
booths. "What does parties want of this truck when they can come down to
my joint and get real entertainment for their money? Why, they're
breaking their ankles now to get in there!"

It sure looked like he was right for once in his life; so I says:

"What is it you've done?"

"Simple enough," says he, "to a thinking man. It comes to me like a
flash or inspiration, or something, from being down to that fair in San
Francisco, California. Yes, sir; they had a deadfall there, with every
kind of vice rampant that has ever been legalized any place, and several
kinds that ain't ever been; they done everything, from strong-arm work
to short changing, and they was getting by with it by reason of calling
it Ye Olde Tyme Mining Camp of '49, or something poetical like that.
That was where I got nicked for my roll, in addition to about fifty I
lost at a crooked wheel. I think the workers was mostly ex-convicts, and
not so darned ex- at that. Anyway, their stuff got too raw even for the
managers of an exposition, so they had to close down in spite of their
name. That's where I get my idee when these ladies said think up
something novel and pleasing. Just come and see how I'm taking it off of
'em." And, with that, he grabs me by the arm and rushes me down to this
joint of his.

At the side of the doorway he had two signs stuck up. One says, Ye Olde
Tyme Saloone; and the other says, Ye Olde Tyme Gambling Denne. You could
of pushed me over with one finger when I looked in. He'd drew the crowd,
all right. I knew then that Aggie Tuttle might just as well close down
her Rebekkah-at-the-Well dive, and that no one was going to take any
more chances on pincushions and tidies and knitted bed slippers.

About a third of the crowd was edged up to the bar and keeping Louis
Meyer and his father busy with drink orders, and the other two-thirds
was huddled round a roulette layout across the room. They was wedged in
so tight I couldn't see the table, but I could hear the little ball
click when it slowed up, and the rattle of chips, and squeals from them
that won, and hoarse mutters from the losers.

Cousin Egbert rubbed his hands and giggled, waiting for me to bedeck him
with floral tributes.

"I suppose you got a crooked wheel," I says.

"Shucks, no!" says he. "I did think of it, but I'd of had to send out of
town for one and they're a lot of trouble to put in, what with the
electric wiring and all; and besides, the straightest roulette wheel
ever made is crooked enough for any man of decent instincts. I don't
begrudge 'em a little excitement for their money. I got these old bar
fixings out of the Spilmer place that was being tore down, and we're
charging two bits a drink for whatever, and that'll be a help; and it
looks to me like you ladies would of thought you needed a man's brain in
these shows long before this. Come on in and have a shot. I'll buy."

So we squeezed in and had one. It was an old-time saloon, all
right--that is, fairly old; about 1889, with a brass foot rail, and back
of the bar a stuffed eagle and a cash register. A gang of ladies was
taking claret lemonades and saying how delightfully Bohemian it all was;
and Miss Metta Bigler, that gives lessons in oil painting and burnt
wood, said it brought back very forcibly to her the Latin Quarter of
Chicago, where she finished her art course. Henrietta Templeton Price,
with one foot on the railing, was shaking dice with three other
prominent society matrons for the next round, and saying she had always
been a Bohemian at heart, only you couldn't go very far in a small town
like this without causing unfavourable comment among a certain element.

It was a merry scene, with the cash register playing like the Swiss
Family Bellringers. Even the new Episcopalian minister come along, with
old Proctor Knapp, and read the signs and said they was undeniably
quaint, and took a slug of rye and said it was undeniably delightful;
though old Proctor roared like a maddened bull when he found what the
price was. I guess you can be an Episcopalian one without its
interfering much with man's natural habits and innocent recreations.
Then he went over and lost a two-bit piece on the double-o, and laughed
heartily over the occurrence, saying it was undeniably piquant with old
Proctor plunging ten cents on the red and losing it quick, and saying a
fool and his money was soon parted--yes, and I wish I had as much money
as that old crook ain't foolish; but no matter.

Beryl Mae Macomber was aiding the Belgians by running out in the big
room to drum up the stragglers. She was now being Little Nugget, the
Miners' Pet; and when she wasn't chasing in easy money she'd loll at one
end of the bar with a leer on her flowerlike features to entice honest
workingmen in to lose their all at the gaming tables. There was
chuck-a-luck and a crap game going, and going every minute, too, with
Cousin Egbert trying to start three-card monte at another table--only
they all seemed wise to that. Even the little innocent children give him
the laugh.

I went over to the roulette table and lost a few dollars, not being able
to stick long, because other women would keep goring me with their
elbows. Yes, sir; that layout was ringed with women four deep. All that
the men could do was stand on the outside and pass over their loose
silver to the fair ones. Sure! Women are the only real natural-born
gamblers in the world. Take a man that seems to be one and it's only
because he's got a big streak of woman in him, even if it don't show any
other way. Men, of course, will gamble for the fun of it; but it ain't
ever funny to a woman, not even when she wins. It brings out the natural
wolf in her like nothing else does. It was being proved this night all
you'd want to see anything proved. If the men got near enough and won a
bet they'd think it was a good joke and stick round till they lost it.
Not so my own sex. Every last one of 'em saw herself growing rich on
Cousin Egbert's money--and let the Belgians look out for themselves.

Mrs. Tracy Bangs, for instance, fought her way out of the mob, looking
as wild as any person in a crazy house, choking twenty-eight dollars to
death in her two fists that she win off two bits. She crowds this onto
Tracy and makes him swear by the sacred memory of his mother that he
will positively not give her back a cent of it to gamble with if the
fever comes on her again--not even if she begs him to on her bended
knees. And fifteen minutes later the poor little shark nearly has
hysterics because Tracy won't give her back just five of it to gamble
again with. Sure! A very feminine woman she is.

Tracy is a pretty good little sport himself. He says, No, and that'll be
all, please, not only on account of the sacred memory of his mother but
because the poor Belgians has got to catch it going if they don't catch
it coming; and he's beat it out to a booth and bought the
twenty-five-dollar gold clock with chimes, with the other three dollars
going for the dozen bottles of Snake Oil and the twenty street-car
tickets.

And now let there be no further words about it, but there was when she
hears this horrible disclosure--lots of words, and the brute won't even
give her the street-car tickets, which she could play in for a dollar,
and she has to go to the retiring room to bathe her temples, and treats
Tracy all the rest of the evening like a crippled stepchild, thinking of
all she could of won if he hadn't acted like a snake in the grass toward
her!

Right after this Mrs. Leonard Wales, in her flag and powder, begun to
stick up out of the scene, though not risking any money as yet. She'd
just stand there like one petrified while cash was being paid in and
out, keeping away about three women of regular size that would like to
get their silver down. I caught the gleam in her eye, and the way she
drawed in her breath when the lucky number was called out, kind of
shrinking her upper lip every time in a bloodthirsty manner. Yes, sir;
in the presence of actual money that dame reminded me of the great
saber-toothed tiger that you see terrible pictures of in the animal
books.

Pretty soon she mowed down a lot of her sister gamblers and got out to
where Leonard was standing, to tell him all about how she'd have won a
lot of money if she'd only put some chips down at the right time, the
way she would of done if she'd had any; and Leonard said what a shame!
And they drifted into a corner, talking low. I bet she was asking him if
she couldn't make a claim to these here bets she'd won in her mind, and
if this wasn't the magic time to get the little home or bungalow on the
new lot she'd won by finding out from the Chicago professor how to mould
her destiny.

Then I lose track of the two for a minute, because Judge Ballard comes
in escorting his sister from South Carolina, that's visiting them, and
invites every one to take something in her honour. She was a frail
little old lady, very old-fashioned indeed, with white hair built up in
a waterfall and curls over both ears, and a flowered silk dress that I
bet was made in Civil War times, and black lace mitts. Say! She looked
like one of the ladies that would of been setting in the front of a box
at Ford's Theatre the night President Lincoln was shot up!

She seemed a mite rattled when she found herself in a common barroom,
having failed to read Cousin Egbert's undeniably quaint signs; but the
Judge introduced her to some that hadn't met her yet, and when he asked
her what her refreshment would be she said in a very brazen way that she
would take a drop of anisette cordial. Louis Meyer says they ain't
keeping that, and she says, Oh, dear! she's too old-fashioned! So Cousin
Egbert says, why, then she should take an old-fashioned cocktail, which
she does and sips it with no sign of relish. Then she says she will
help the cause by wagering a coin on yonder game of chance.

The Judge paws out a place for her and I go along to watch. She pries
open a bead reticule that my mother had one like and gets out a knitted
silk purse, and takes a five-dollar gold piece into her little bony
white fingers and drops it on a number, and says: "Now that is well
over!" But it wasn't over. There was excitement right off, because,
outside of some silver dollars I'd lost myself, I hadn't seen anything
bigger than a two-bit piece played there that night. Right over my
shoulder I heard heavy breathing and I didn't have to turn round to know
it was Cora Wales. When the ball slowed up she quit breathing entirely
till it settled.

It must of been a horrible strain on her, for the man was raking in all
the little bets and leaving the five-dollar one that win. Say! That
woman gripped an arm of mine till I thought it was caught in machinery
of some kind! And Mrs. Doc Martingale, that she gripped on the other
side, let out a yell of agony. But that wasn't the worst of Cora Wales'
torture. No, sir! She had to stand there and watch this little
old-fashioned sport from South Carolina refuse the money!

"But I can't accept it from you good people," says she in her thin
little voice. "I intended to help the cause of those poor sufferers, and
to profit by the mere inadvertence of your toy there would be
unspeakable--really no!"

And she pushed back the five and the hundred and seventy-five that the
dealer had counted out for her, dusted her little fingers with a little
lace handkerchief smelling of lavender, and asked the Judge to show her
a game that wasn't so noisy.

I guess Cora Wales was lost from that moment. She had Len over in a
corner again, telling him how easy it was to win, and how this poor
demented creature had left all hers there because Judge Ballard probably
didn't want to create a scene by making her take it; and mustn't they
have a lot of trouble looking after the weak-minded thing all the time!
And I could hear her say if one person could do it another could,
especially if they had learned how to get in tune with the Infinite. Len
says all right, how much does she want to risk? And that scares her
plumb stiff again, in spite of her uncanny powers. She says it wouldn't
be right to risk one cent unless she could be sure the number was going
to win.

Of course if you made your claim on the Universal, your own was bound to
come to you; still, you couldn't be so sure as you ought to be with a
roulette wheel, because several times the ball had gone into numbers
that she wasn't holding for with her psychic grip, and the uncertainty
was killing her; and why didn't he say something to help her, instead of
standing there silent and letting their little home slip from her grasp?

Cousin Egbert comes up just then, still happy and puffed up; so I put
him wise to this Wales conspiracy against his game.

"Mebbe you can win back that lot from her," I says, "and raffle it over
again for the fund. She's getting worked up to where she'll take a
chance."

"Good work!" says he. "I'll approach her in the matter."

So over he goes and tries to interest her in the dice games; but no, she
thinks dice is low and a mere coloured person's game. So then he says to
set down to the card table and play this here Canfield solitaire; she's
to be paid five dollars for every card she gets up and a whole thousand
if she gets 'em all up. That listens good to her till she finds she has
to give fifty-two dollars for the deck first. She says she knew there
must be some catch about it. Still, she tries out a couple of deals just
to see what would happen, and on the first she would have won thirteen
dollars and on the second eight dollars. She figures then that by all
moral rights Cousin Egbert owes her twenty-one dollars, and at least
eight dollars to a certainty, because she was really playing for money
the second time and merely forgot to mention it to him.

And while they sort of squabble about this, with Cousin Egbert very
pig-headed or adamant, who should come in but this Sandy Sawtelle,
that's now sobbing out his heart in song down there; and with him is
Buck Devine. It seems they been looking for a game, and they give
squeals of joy when they see this one. In just two minutes Sandy is
collecting thirty-five dollars for one that he had carefully placed on
No. 11. He gives a glad shout at this, and Leonard Wales and lady move
over to see what it's all about. Sandy is neatly stacking his red chips
and plays No. 11 once more, but No. 22 comes up.

"Gee!" says Sandy. "I forgot. Twenty-two, of course, and likewise
thirty-three."

So he now puts dollar bets on all three numbers, and after a couple more
turns he's collecting on 33, and the next time 22 comes again. He don't
hardly have time to stack his chips, they come so fast; and then it's
No. 11 once more, amid rising excitement from all present. Cora Wales is
panting like the Dying Gamekeeper I once saw in the Eden Musée in New
York City. Sandy quits now for a moment.

"Let every man, woman, and child, come one, come all, across the room
and crook the convivial elbow on my ill-gotten gains!" he calls out.

So everybody orders something; Tim Mahoney going in behind the bar to
help out. Even Cora Wales come over when she understood no expense was
attached to so doing, though taking a plain lemonade, because she said
alcohol would get one's vibrations all fussed up, or something like
that.

Cousin Egbert was still chipper after this reverse, though it had swept
away about all he was to the good up to that time.

"Three rousing cheers!" says he. "And remember the little ball still
rolls for any sport that thinks he can Dutch up the game!"

While this drink is going on amid the general glad feeling that always
prevails when some spendthrift has ordered for the house, Leonard Wales
gets Buck Devine to one side and says how did Sandy do it? So Buck tells
him and Cora that Sandy took eleven stitches in Jerry's hide yesterday
afternoon and he was playing this hunch, which he had reason to feel was
a first-class one.

"If I could only feel it was a cosmic certainty--" says Cora.

"Oh, she's cosmic, all right!" says Buck. "I never seen anything
cosmicker. Look what she's done already, and Sandy only begun! Just
watch him! He'll cosmic this here game to a standstill. He'll have Sour
Dough there touching him for two-bits breakfast money--see if he don't."

"But eleven came only twice," says the conservative Cora.

"Sure! But did you notice Nos. 22 and 33?" says Buck. "You got to humour
any good hunch to a certain extent, cosmic or no cosmic."

"I see," says Cora with gleaming eyes; "and No. 33 is not only what drew
our beautiful building lot but it is also the precise number of my years
on the earth plane."

Cousin Egbert overheard this and snorted like no gentleman had ought to,
even in the lowest gambling den.

"Thirty-three!" says he to me. "Did you hear the big cheat? Say! No
gambling house on earth would have the nerve to put her right age on a
wheel! The chances is ruinous enough now without running 'em up to
forty-eight or so. I bet that's about what you'd find if you was to
tooth her."

Sandy has now gone back, followed by the crowd, and wins another bet on
No. 11. This is too much for Cora's Standard Oil instincts. She never
trusts Leonard with any money, but she goes over into a corner, hikes
the flag of her country up over one red stocking for a minute, and comes
back with a two-dollar bill, which she splits on 22 and 33; and when 33
wins she's mad clean through because 22 didn't also win, and she's
wasted a whole dollar, like throwing it into the Atlantic Ocean.

"Too bad, Pettie!" says Leonard, who was crowded in by her. "But you
mustn't expect to have all the luck"--which is about the height of
Leonard's mental reach.

"It was not luck; it was simple lack of faith," says Cora. "I put myself
in tune with the Infinite and make my claim upon the all-good--and then
I waver. The loss of that dollar was a punishment to me."

Now she stakes a dollar on No. 33 alone, and when it comes double-o she
cries out that the man had leaned his hand on the edge of the table
while the ball was rolling and thereby mushed up her cosmic vibrations,
even if he didn't do something a good deal more crooked. Then she
switches to No. 22, and that wins.

She now gets suspicious of the chips and has 'em turned into real
money, which she stuffs into her consort's pockets for the time being,
all but two dollars that go on Nos. 11 and 33. And No. 22 comes up
again. She nearly fainted and didn't recover in time to get anything
down for the next roll--and I'm darned if 11 don't show! She turns
savagely on her husband at this. The poor hulk only says:

"But, Pettie, you're playing the game--I ain't."

She replies bitterly:

"Oh, ain't that just like a man! I knew you were going to say
that!"--and seemed to think she had him well licked.

Then the single-o come. She says:

"Oh, dear! It seems that, even with the higher consciousness, one can't
be always certain of one's numbers at this dreadful game."

And while she was further reproaching her husband, taking time to do it
good and keeping one very damp dollar safe in her hand, what comes up
but old 33 again!

It looked like hysterics then, especially when she noticed Buck Devine
helping pile Sandy's chips up in front of him till they looked like a
great old English castle, with towers and minarets, and so on, Sandy
having played his hunch strong and steady. She waited for another turn
that come nothing important to any of 'em; then she drew Leonard out and
made him take her for a glass of lemonade out where Aggie Tuttle was
being Rebekkah at the Well, because they charged two bits for it at the
bar and Aggie's was only a dime. The sale made forty cents Aggie had
took in on the evening.

Racing back to Ye Olde Tyme Gambling Denne, she gets another hard blow;
for Sandy has not only win another of his magic numbers but has bought
up the bar for the evening, inviting all hands to brim a cup at his
expense, whenever they crave it--nobody's money good but his; so Cora is
not only out what she would of made by following his play but the ten
cents cash she has paid Aggie Tuttle. She was not a woman to be trifled
with then. She took another lemonade because it was free, and made Len
take one that he didn't want. Then she draws three dollars from him and
covers the three numbers with reckless and noble sweeps of her powerful
arms. The game was on again.

Cousin Egbert by now was looking slightly disturbed, or _outré_, as the
French put it, but tries to conceal same under an air of sparkling
gayety, laughing freely at every little thing in a girlish or painful
manner.

"Yes," says he coquettishly; "that Sandy scoundrel is taking it fast out
of one pocket, but he's putting it right back into the other. The
wheel's loss is the bar's gain."

I looked over to size Sandy's chips and I could see four or five markers
that go a hundred apiece.

"I admire your roguish manner that don't fool any one," I says; "but if
we was to drink the half of Sandy's winnings, even at your robber
prices, we'd all be submerged to the periscope. It looks to me," I goes
on, "like the bazaar-robbing genius is not exclusively a male attribute
or tendency."

"How many of them knitted crawdabs you sold out there at your booths?"
he demands. "Not enough to buy a single Belgian a T-bone steak and fried
potatoes."

"Is that so, indeed?" I says. "Excuse me a minute. Standing here in the
blinding light of your triumph, I forgot a little matter of detail such
as our sex is always wasting its energies on."

So I call Sandy and Buck away from their Belgian atrocities and speak
sharply to 'em.

"You boys ought to be ashamed of yourselves," I says--"winning all that
money and then acting like old Gaspard the Miser in the Chimes of
Normandy! Can't you forget your natural avarice and loosen up some?"

"I bought the bar, didn't I?" asks Sandy. "I can't do no more, can I?"

"You can," I says. "Out in that big room is about eighteen tired maids
and matrons of Red Gap's most exclusive inner circles yawning their
heads off over goods, wares, and merchandise that no one will look at
while this sinful game is running. If you got a spark of manhood in you
go on out and trade a little with 'em, just to take the curse off your
depredations in here."

"Why, sure!" says Sandy. He goes back to the layout and loads Buck's
hat full of red and blue chips at one and two dollars each. "Go buy the
place clean," he says to Buck. "Do it good; don't leave a single object
of use or luxury. My instructions is sweeping, understand. And if
there's a harness booth there you order a solid gold collar for old
Jerry, heavily incrusted with jewels and his initials and mine
surrounded by a wreath. Also, send out a pint of wine for every one of
these here maids and matrons. Meantime, I shall stick here and keep an
eye on my large financial interests."

So Buck romps off on his joyous mission, singing a little ballad that
goes: "To hell with the man that works!" And Sandy moves quickly back to
the wheel.

I followed and found Cora barely surviving because she's lost nine of
her three-dollar bets while Sandy was away, leaving her only about a
hundred winner. Len was telling her to "be brave, Pettie!" and she was
saying it was entirely his fault that they hadn't already got their neat
little home; but she would have it before she left the place or know the
reason why.

It just did seem as if them three numbers had been resting while Sandy
was away talking to me. They begin to show up again the minute he
resumed his bets, and Cora was crowding onto the same with a rising
temperature. Yes, sir, it seemed downright uncanny or miraculous the way
one or the other of 'em showed up, with Sandy saying it was a shame to
take the money, and Cora saying it was a shame she had to bet on all
three numbers and get paid only on one.

Of course others was also crowding these numbers, though not so many as
you'd think, because every one said the run must be at an end, and
they'd be a fool to play 'em any farther; and them that did play 'em was
mostly making ten-cent bets to be on the safe side. Only Sandy and Cora
kept right on showing up one Egbert Floud as a party that had much to
learn about pulling off a good bazaar.

It's a sad tale. Cousin Egbert had to send out twice for more cash, Cora
Wales refusing to take his check on the Farmers and Merchants National
for hers. She said she was afraid there would be some catch about it. I
met Egbert out in the hall after the second time she'd made him send and
he'd lost much of his sparkle.

"I never thought it was right to strike a lady without cause," he says
bitterly; "but I'd certainly hate to trust myself with that frail out in
some lonely spot, like Price's Addition, where her screams couldn't be
heard."

"That's right," I says; "take it out on the poor woman that's trying to
win a nice bungalow with big sawed corners sticking out all over it,
when that cut-throat Sandy Sawtelle has win about twice as much! That
ain't the light of pure reason I had the right to expect from the Bazaar
King of Red Gap."

"That's neither here nor there," says he with petulance. "Sandy would
of been just as happy if he'd lost the whole eighteen dollars him and
Buck come in here with."

"Well," I warns him, "it looks to me like you'd have to apply them other
drastic methods you met with in this deadfall at the San Francisco
Fair--strong-arm work or medicine in the drinks of the winners, or
something like that--if you want to keep a mortgage off the old home. Of
course I won't crowd you for that two dollars you promised me for every
one that goes out of the hall. You can have any reasonable time you want
to pay that," I says.

"That's neither here nor there," he says. "Luck's got to turn. The wheel
ain't ever been made that could stand that strain much longer."

And here Luella Stultz comes up and says Mrs. Wales wants to know how
much she could bet all at once if she happened to want to. I could just
see Cora having a sharp pain in the heart like a knife thrust when she
thought what she would of win by betting ten dollars instead of one.
Cousin Egbert answers Luella quite viciously.

"Tell that dame the ceiling sets the limit now," says he; "but if that
ain't lofty enough I'll have a skylight sawed into it for her."

Then he goes over to watch, himself, being all ruined up by these
plungers. Leonard was saying: "Now don't be rash, Pettie!" And Pettie
was telling him it was his negative mind that had kept her from betting
five dollars every clip, and look what that would mean to their pile!

Cousin Egbert give 'em one look and says, right out loud, Leonard Wales
is the biggest ham that was ever smoked, and he'd like to meet him, man
to man, outside; then he goes off muttering that he can be pushed so
far, but in the excitement of the play no one pays the least attention
to him. A little later I see him all alone out in the hall again. He was
scrunched painfully up in a chair till he looked just like this here
French metal statue called _Lee Penser_, which in our language means
"The Thinker." I let him think, not having the heart to prong him again
so quick.

And the game goes merrily on, with Sandy collecting steadily on his
hunch and Cora Wales telling her husband the truth about himself every
time one of these three numbers didn't win; she exposed some very
distressing facts about his nature the time she put five apiece on the
three numbers and the single-o come up. It was a mad life, that last
hour, with a lot of other enraged ladies round the layout, some being
mad because they hadn't had money to play the hunch with, and others
because they hadn't had the nerve.

Then somebody found it was near midnight and the crowd begun to fall
away. Cousin Egbert strolls by and says don't quit on his account--that
they can stick there and play their hunch till the bad place freezes
over, for all he cares; and he goes over to the bar and takes a drink
all by himself, which in him is a sign of great mental disturbance.

Then, for about twenty minutes, I was chatting with the Mes-dames
Ballard and Price about what a grand success our part had been, owing to
Sandy acting the fool with Cousin Egbert's money, which the latter ain't
wise to yet. When I next notice the game a halt has been called by Cora
Wales. It seems the hunch has quit working. Neither of 'em has won a bet
for twenty minutes and Cora is calling the game crooked.

"It looks very, very queer," says she, "that our numbers should so
suddenly stop winning; very queer and suspicious indeed!" And she glared
at Cousin Egbert with rage and distrust splitting fifty-fifty in her
fevered eyes.

Cousin Egbert replied quickly, but he kind of sputtered and so couldn't
have been arrested for it.

"Oh, I've no doubt you can explain it very glibly," says Cora; "but it
seems very queer indeed to Leonard and I, especially coming at this
peculiar time, when our little home is almost within my grasp."

Cousin Egbert just walked off, though opening and shutting his hands in
a nervous way, like, in fancy free, he had her out on her own lot in
Price's Addition and was there abusing her fatally.

"Very well!" says Cora with great majesty. "He may evade giving me a
satisfactory explanation of this extraordinary change, but I shall
certainly not remain in this place and permit myself to be fleeced.
Here, darling!"

And she stuffs some loose silver into darling's last pocket that will
hold any more. He was already wadded with bills and sagging with coin,
till it didn't look like the same suit of clothes. Then she stood there
with a cynical smile and watched Sandy still playing his hunch, ten
dollars to a number, and never winning a bet.

"You poor dupe!" says she when Sandy himself finally got tired and quit.
"It's especially awkward," she adds, "because while we have saved enough
to start our little nook, it will have to be far less pretentious than I
was planning to make it while the game seemed to be played honestly."

Cousin Egbert gets this and says, as polite as a stinging lizard, that
he stands ready to give her a chance at any game she can think of, from
mumblety-peg up. He says if she'll turn him and Leonard loose in a
cellar that he'll give her fifty dollars for every one she's winner if
he don't have Len screaming for help inside of one minute--or make it
fifteen seconds. Len, who's about the size of a freight car, smiles kind
of sickish at this, and says he hopes there's no hard feelings among old
friends and lodge brothers; and Egbert says, Oh, no! It would just be in
the nature of a friendly contest, which he feels very much like having
one, since he can be pushed just so far; but Cora says gambling has
brutalized him.

Then she sees the cards on the table and asks again about this game
where you play cards with yourself and mebbe win a thousand dollars
cold. She wants to know if you actually get the thousand in cash, and
Egbert says:

"Sure! A thousand that any bank in town would accept at par."

She picks up the deck and almost falls, but thinks better of it.

"Could I play with my own cards?" she wants to know, looking suspicious
at these. Egbert says she sure can. "And in my own home?" asks Cora.

"Your own house or any place else," says Egbert, "and any hour of the
day or night. Just call me up when you feel lucky."

"We could embellish our little nook with many needful things," says
Cora. "A thousand dollars spent sensibly would do marvels." But after
fiddling a bit more with the cards she laid 'em down with a pitiful
sigh.

Cousin Egbert just looked at her, then looked away quick, as if he
couldn't stand it any more, and says: "War is certainly what that man
Sherman said it was."

Then he watches Sandy Sawtelle cashing in his chips and is kind of
figuring up his total losses; so I can't resist handing him another.

"I don't know what us Mes-dames would of done without your master mind,"
I says; "and yet I'd hate to be a Belgian with the tobacco habit and
have to depend on you to gratify it."

"Well," he answers, very mad, "I don't see so many of 'em getting
tobacco heart with the proceeds of your fancy truck out in them booths
either!"

"Don't you indeed?" I says, and just at the right moment, too. "Then you
better take another look or get your eyes fixed or something."

For just then Sandy stands up on a chair and says:

"Ladies and gents, a big pile of valuable presents is piled just at the
right of the main entrance as you go out, and I hope you will one and
all accept same with the welcome compliments of me and old Jerry, that I
had to take eleven stitches in the hide of. As you will pass out in an
orderly manner, let every lady help herself to two objects that attract
her, and every gent help himself to one object; and no crowding or
pulling I trust, because some of the objects would break, like the
moustache cup and saucer, or the drainpipe, with painted posies on it,
to hold your umbrels. Remember my words--every lady two objects and
every gent one only. There is also a new washboiler full of lemonade
that you can partake of at will, though I guess you won't want any--and
thanking you one and all!"

So they cheer Sandy like mad and beat it out to get first grab at the
plunder; and just as Cousin Egbert thinks he now knows the worst, in
comes the girls that had the booths, bringing all the chips Buck Devine
had paid 'em--two hundred and seventy-eight dollars' worth that Egbert
has to dig down for after he thinks all is over.

"Ain't it jolly," I says to him while he was writing another check on
the end of the bar. "This is the first time us ladies ever did clean out
every last object at a bazaar. Not a thing left; and I wish we'd got in
twice as much, because Sandy don't do things by halves when his money
comes easy from some poor dub that has thought highly of himself as a
thinker about money matters." He pretends not to hear me because of
signing his name very carefully to the check. "And what a sweet little
home you'll build for the Wales family!" I says. "I can see it now, all
ornamented up, and with one of these fancy bungalow names up over the
front gate--probably they'll call it The Breakers!"

But he wouldn't come back; so I left him surrounded by the wreck of his
former smartiness and went home. At the door where the treasures had
been massed not a solitary thing was left but a plush holder for a whisk
broom, with hand-painted pansies on the front; and I decided I could
live without that. Tim Mahoney was there, grouching round about having
to light up the hall next night for the B'nai B'rith; and I told him to
take it for himself. He already had six drawnwork doilies and a vanity
box with white and red powder in it.

As I go by the Hong Kong Quick Lunch, Sandy and three or four others is
up on stools; the Chinaman, cooking things behind the counter, is
wearing a lavender-striped silk dressing sacque and a lace boudoir cap
with pink ribbons in it. Yes; we'd all had a purple night of it!

Next day about noon I'm downtown and catch sight of Cousin Egbert
setting in the United States Grill having breakfast; so I feel mean
enough to go in and gloat over him some more. I think to find him all
madded up and mortified; but he's strangely cheerful for one who has
suffered. He was bearing up so wonderful that I asked why.

"Ain't you heard?" says he, blotting round in his steak platter with a
slice of bread. "Well, I got even with that Wales outfit just before
daylight--that's all!"

"Talk on," I beg, quite incredulous.

"I didn't get to bed till about two," he says, "and at three I was woke
up by the telephone. It's this big stiff Len Wales, that had ought to
have his head taken off because it only absorbs nourishment from his
system and gives nothing in return. He's laughing in a childish frenzy
and says is this me? I says it is, but that's neither here nor there,
and what does he want at this hour? 'It's a good joke on you,' he says,
'for the little woman got it on the third trial.' 'Got what?' I wanted
to know. 'Got that solitaire,' he yells. 'And it's a good joke on you,
all right, because now you owe her the thousand dollars; and I hate to
bother you, but you know how some women are that have a delicate,
high-strung organization. She says she won't be able to sleep a wink if
you don't bring it up to her so she can have all our little treasure
under her pillow; and I think, myself, it's better to have it all
settled and satisfactory while the iron's hot, and you'd probably prefer
it that way, too; and she says she won't mind, this time, taking your
check, though the actual money would be far more satisfactory, because
you know what women are--"

"Say! He raves on like this for three minutes, stopping to laugh like a
maniac about every three words, before I can get a word in to tell him
that I'm a delicate, high-strung organization myself, if you come right
down to it, and I can't stand there in my nightgown listening to a
string of nonsense. He chokes and says: 'What nonsense?' And I ask him
does he think I'd pay a thousand dollars out on a game I hadn't
overlooked? And he says didn't I agree to in the presence of witnesses,
and the cards is laid out right there now on the dining-room table if I
got the least suspicion the game wasn't played fair, and will I come up
and look for myself! And I says 'Not in a thousand years!' Because what
does he think I am!

"So then Mis' Wales she breaks in and says: 'Listen, Mr. Floud! You are
taking a most peculiar attitude in this matter. You perhaps don't
understand that it means a great deal to dear Leonard and me--try to
think calmly and summon your finer instincts. You said I could not only
play with my own cards at any hour of the night or day, but in my own
home; and I chose to play here, because conditions are more harmonious
to my psychic powers--' And so on and so on; and she can't understand my
peculiar attitude once more, till I thought I'd bust.

"It was lucky she had the telephone between us or I should certainly of
been pinched for a crime of violence. But I got kind of collected in my
senses and I told her I already had been pushed as far as I could be;
and then I think of a good one: I ask her does she know what General
Sherman said war was? So she says, 'No; but what has that got to do with
it?' 'Well, listen carefully!' I says. 'You tell dear Leonard that I am
now saying my last word in this matter by telling you both to go to
war--and then ask him to tell you right out what Sherman said war was.'

"I listened a minute longer for her scream, and when it come, like sweet
music or something, I went to bed again and slept happy. Yes, sir; I got
even with them sharks all right, though she's telling all over town this
morning that I have repudiated a debt of honour and she's going to have
that thousand if there's any law in the land; and anyway, she'll get me
took up for conducting a common gambling house. Gee! It makes me feel
good!"

That's the way with this old Egbert boy; nothing ever seems to faze him
long.

"How much do you lose on the night?" I ask him.

"Well, the bar was a great help," he says, very chipper; "so I only lose
about fourteen hundred all told. It'll make a nice bunch for the
Belgians, and the few dollars you ladies made at your cheap booths will
help some."

"How will your fourteen hundred lost be any help to the Belgians?" I
wanted to know; and he looked at me very superior and as crafty as a
fox.

"Simple enough!" he says in a lofty manner. "I was going to give what I
win, wasn't I? So why wouldn't I give what I lose? That's plain enough
for any one but a woman to see, ain't it? I give Mis' Ballard, the
treasurer, a check for fourteen hundred not an hour ago. I told you I
knew how to run one of these grafts, didn't I? Didn't I, now?"

Wasn't that just like the old smarty? You never know when you got him
nailed. And feeling so good over getting even with the Wales couple that
had about a thousand dollars of his money that very minute!

       *       *       *       *       *

Still from the dimly lighted bunk house came the wail of Sandy Sawtelle
to make vibrant the night. He had returned to his earlier song after
intermittent trifling with an extensive repertoire:

    There's a broken heart for every light on Broadway,
    A million tears for every gleam, they say.
    Those lights above you think nothing of you;
    It's those who love you that have to pay....

It was the wail of one thwarted and perishing. "Ain't it the sobbing
tenor?" remarked his employer. "But you can't blame him after the
killing he made before. Of course he'll get to town sooner or later and
play this fourteen number, being that the new reform administration,
with Lon Price as Mayor, is now safely elected and the game has opened
up again. Yes, sir; he's nutty about stitches in a mule. I wouldn't put
it past him that he had old Jerry kicked on purpose to-day!"



VII

KATE; OR, UP FROM THE DEPTHS


This day I fared abroad with Ma Pettengill over wide spaces of the
Arrowhead Ranch. Between fields along the river bottom were gates
distressingly crude; clumsy, hingeless panels of board fence, which I
must dismount and lift about by sheer brawn of shoulder. Such gates
combine the greatest weight with the least possible exercise of man's
inventive faculties, and are named, not too subtly, the Armstrong gate.
This, indeed, is the American beauty of ranch humour, a flower of
imperishable fragrance handed to the visitor--who does the lifting with
guarded drollery or triumphant snicker, as may be. Buck Devine or Sandy
Sawtelle will achieve the mot with an aloof austerity that abates no jot
unto the hundredth repetition; while Lew Wee, Chinese cook of the
Arrowhead, fails not to brighten it with a nervous giggle, impairing its
vocal correctness, moreover, by calling it the "Armcatchum" gate.

Ma Pettengill was more versatile this day. The first gate I struggled
with she called Armstrong in a manner dryly descriptive; for the second
she managed a humorous leer to illumine the term; for the third,
secured with a garland of barbed wire that must be painfully untwisted,
she employed a still broader humour. Even a child would then have known
that calling this criminal device the Armstrong gate was a joke of
uncommon richness.

As I remounted, staunching the inevitable wound from barbed wire, I
began to speak in the bitterly superior tones of an efficiency expert as
we traversed a field where hundreds of white-faced Herefords were
putting on flesh to their own ruin. I said to my hostess that I vastly
enjoyed lifting a hundred-pound gate--and what was the loss of a little
blood between old friends, even when aggravated by probable tetanus
germs? But had she ever paused to compute the money value of time lost
by her henchmen in dismounting to open these clumsy makeshifts? I
suggested that, even appraising the one reliable ranch joke in all the
world at a high figure, she would still profit considerably by putting
in gates that were gates, in place of contrivances that could be handled
ideally only by a retired weight lifter in barbed-wire-proof armour.

I rapidly calculated, with the seeming high regard for accuracy that
marks all efficiency experts, that these wretched devices cost her
twenty-eight cents and a half each _per diem_. Estimating the total of
them on the ranch at one hundred, this meant to her a loss of
twenty-eight dollars and a half _per diem_. I used _per diem_ twice to
impress the woman. I added that it was pretty slipshod business for a
going concern, supposing--sarcastically now--that the Arrowhead was a
going concern. Of course, if it were merely a toy for the idle rich--

She had let me talk, as she will now and then, affecting to be engrossed
with her stock.

"Look at them white-faced darlings!" she murmured. "Two years old and
weighing eleven hundred this minute if they weigh a pound!"

Then I saw we approached a gate that amazingly was a gate. Hinges, yes;
and mechanical complications, and a pendant cord on each side. I tugged
at one and the gate magically opened. As we passed through I tugged at
the other and it magically closed. This was luxury ineffable to one who
had laboured with things that seemed to be kept merely for the sake of a
jest that was never of the best and was staling with use. It would also
be, I hoped, an object lesson to my hostess. I performed the simple rite
in silence, yet with a manner that I meant to be eloquent, even
provocative. It was.

"Oh, sure!" spoke Ma Pettengill. "That there's one of your _per-diem_
gates; and there's another leading out of this field, and about six
beyond--all of 'em just as _per diem_ as this one; and, also, this here
ranch you're on now is one of your going concerns." She chuckled at this
and repeated it in a subterranean rumble: "A going concern--my sakes,
yes! It moved so fast you could see it go, and now it's went." Noisily
she relished this bit of verbal finesse; then permitted her fancy again
to trifle with it. "Yes, sir; this here going concern is plumb gone!"

With active malice I asked no question, maintaining a dignified silence
as I lightly manipulated a second paragon of gates. The lady now rumbled
confidentially to herself, and I caught piquant phrases; yet still I
forbore to question, since the woman so plainly sought to intrigue me.
Even when we skirted a clump of cottonwoods and came--through another
perfect gate--upon a most amazing small collection of ranch buildings,
dying of desertion, I retained perfect control of a rising curiosity.

By unspoken agreement we drew rein to survey a desolation that was still
immaculate. Stables and outbuildings were trim and new, and pure with
paint. All had been swept and garnished; no unsightly litter marred the
scene. The house was a suburban villa of marked pretension and would
have excited no comment on Long Island. In this valley of the mountains
it was nothing short of spectacular. Only one item of decoration hinted
an attempt to adapt itself to environment: in the noble stone chimney
that reared itself between two spacious wings a branding iron had been
embedded. Thus did it proclaim itself to the incredulous hills as a
ranch house.

Flowers had been planted along a gravelled walk. While I reminded myself
that the gravel must have been imported from a spot at least ten miles
distant, I was further shocked by discovering a most improbable golf
green, in gloomy survival. Then I detected a series of kennels facing a
wired dog run. This was overwhelming in a country of simple, steadfast
devotion to the rearing of cattle for market.

Ma Pettengill now spoke in a tone that, for her, could be called hushed,
though it reached me twenty feet away.

"An art bungalow!" she said, and gazed upon it with seeming awe. Then
she waved a quirt to indicate this and the painfully neat outbuildings.
"A toy for the idle rich--was that it? Well, you said something. This
was one little _per-diem_ going concern, all right. They even had the
name somewhere round here worked out in yellow flowers--Broadmoor it
was. You could read it for five miles when the posies got up. There it
is over on that lawn. You can't read it now because the letters are all
overgrown. My Chinaman got delirious about that when he first seen it
and wanted me to plant Arrowhead out in front of our house, and was
quite hurt when I told him I was just a business woman--and a tired
business woman at that. He done what he could, though, to show we was
some class. The first time these folks come over to our place to lunch
he picked all my pink carnations to make a mat on the table, and spelled
out Arrowhead round it in ripe olives, with a neat frame of celery
inclosing same. Yes, sir!"

This was too much. It now seemed time to ask questions, and I did so in
a winning manner; but so deaf in her backward musing was the woman that
I saw it must all come in its own way.

"We got to make up over that bench yet," she said at last; and we rode
out past the ideal stable--its natty weather vane forever pointing the
wind to the profit of no man--through another gate of superb cunning,
and so once more to an understandable landscape, where sane cattle
grazed. Here I threw off the depression that comes upon one in places
where our humankind so plainly have been and are not. Again I questioned
of Broadmoor and its vanished people.

The immediate results were fragmentary, serving to pique rather than
satisfy; a series of _hors d'oeuvres_ that I began to suspect must form
the whole repast. On the verge of coherence the woman would break off to
gloat over a herd of thoroughbred Durhams or a bunch of sportive
Hereford calves or a field teeming with the prized fruits of
intermarriage between these breeds. Or she found diversion in stupendous
stacks of last summer's hay, well fenced from pillage; or grounds for
criticising the sloth of certain of her henchmen, who had been told as
plain as anything that "that there line fance" had to be finished by
Saturday; no two ways about it! She repeated the language in which she
had conveyed this decision. There could have been no grounds for
misunderstanding it.

And thus the annals of Broadmoor began to dribble to me, overlaid too
frequently for my taste with philosophic reflections at large upon what
a lone, defenceless woman could expect in this world--irrelevant,
pointed wonderings as to whether a party letting on he was a good ranch
hand really expected to perform any labour for his fifty a month, or
just set round smoking his head off and see which could tell the biggest
lie; or mebbe make an excuse for some light job like oiling the
twenty-two sets of mule harness over again, when they had already been
oiled right after haying. Furthermore, any woman not a born fool would
get out of the business the first chance she got, this one often being
willing to sell for a mutilated dollar, except for not wishing financial
ruin or insanity to other parties.

Yet a few details definitely emerged. "Her" name was called Posnett,
though a party would never guess this if he saw it in print, because it
was spelled Postlethwaite. Yes, sir! All on account of having gone to
England from Boston and found out that was how you said it, though
Cousin Egbert Floud had tried to be funny about it when shown the name
in the Red Gap _Recorder_. The item said the family had taken apartments
at Red Gap's premier hotel _de luxe_, the American House; and Cousin
Egbert, being told a million dollars was bet that he never could guess
how the name was pronounced in English, he up and said you couldn't fool
him; that it was pronounced Chumley, which was just like the old
smarty--only he give in that he was surprised when told how it really
was pronounced; and he said if a party's name was Postlethwaite why
couldn't they come out and say so like a man, instead of beating round
the bush like that? All of which was promising enough; but then came the
Hereford yearlings to effect a breach of continuity.

These being enough admired, I had next to be told that I wouldn't
believe how many folks was certain she had retired to the country
because she was lazy, just keeping a few head of cattle for
diversion--she that had six thousand acres of land under fence, and had
made a going concern _per diem_ of it for thirty years, even if parties
did make cracks about her gates; but hardly ever getting a good night's
sleep through having a "passel" of men to run it that you couldn't
depend on--though God only knew where you could find any other sort--the
minute your back was turned.

A fat, sleek, prosperous male, clad in expensive garments, and wearing a
derby hat and too much jewellery, became somehow personified in this
tirade. I was led to picture him a residuary legatee who had never done
a stroke of work in his life, and believed that no one else ever did
except from a sportive perversity. I was made to hear him tell her that
she, Mrs. Lysander John Pettengill, was leading the ideal life on her
country place; and, by Jove! he often thought of doing the same thing
himself--get a nice little spot in this beautiful country, with some
green meadows, and have bands of large handsome cattle strolling about
in the sunlight, so he could forget the world and its strife in the same
idyllic peace she must be finding. Or if he didn't tell her this, then
he was sure to have a worthless son or nephew that her ranch would be
just the place for; and, of course, she would be glad to take him on and
make something of him--that is, so the lady now regrettably put it, as
he had shown he wasn't worth a damn for anything else, why couldn't she
make a cattleman of him?

"Yes, sir; that's what I get from these here visitors that are enchanted
by the view. Either they think my ranch is a reform school for poor
chinless Chester, that got led away by bad companions and can't say no,
or they think, like you said, that it's just a toy for the idle rich.
Show 'em a shoe factory or a steel works and they can understand it's a
business proposition; but a ranch--Shucks! They think I've done my day's
work when I ride out on a gentle horse and look pleased at the
landscape."

Again were we diverted. A dozen alien beeves fed upon the Arrowhead
preserves. Did I see that wattle brand--the jug-handle split? That was
the Timmins brand--old Safety First Timmins. There must be a break in
his fence at the upper end of the field. Made it himself likely.
Wouldn't she give the old penny-pincher hell if she had him here? She
would, indeed! Continuous muttering of a rugged character for half a
mile of jog trot.

Then again:

"Cousin Egbert got all fussed up in his mind about the name and always
called her Postle-nut. He don't seem to have a brain for such things.
But she didn't mind. I give her credit for that. She was fifty if she
was a day, but very, very blond; laboratory stuff, of course. You'd of
called her a superblonde, I guess. And haggard and wrinkled in the face;
but she took good care of that, too--artist's materials.

"You know old Pete--that Indian you see cutting up wood back on the
place. Pete took a long look at her and named her the Painted Desert.
You always hear say an Indian hasn't got any sense of humour. I don't
know; Pete was sure being either a humourist or a poet. However, this
here lady handed me a new one about my business. She thought it was
merely an outdoor sport. I never could get that out of her head. Even
when she left she says she knows it's ripping good sport, but it's such
a terrific drain on one's income, and I must be quite mad about ranching
to keep it up. I said, yes; I got quite mad about it sometimes, and let
it go at that. What was the use?"

A voiceless interval while we climbed a trail to the timbered bench
where fence posts were being cut by half a dozen of the Arrowhead
forces. Two of these were swiftly detached and bade to repair the break
in the fence by which one Timmins was now profiting, the entire six
being first regaled with a brief but pithy character analysis of the
offender, portraying him as a loathsome biological freak; headless, I
gathered, and with the acquisitive instincts of a trade rat.

Then we rounded back on our way to the Arrow head ranch house. Five
miles up the narrowing valley we could see its outposts and its smoke.
Far below us the spick-and-span buildings of deserted Broadmoor
glittered newly, demanding that I be told more of them. Yet for the
five-mile ride I added, as I thought, no item to my slender stock.
Instead, when we had descended from the bench and were again in fields
where the gates might be opened only by galling effort, I learned
apparently irrelevant facts concerning Egbert Floud's pet kitten.

"Yes, sir; he's just like any old maid with that cat. 'Kitty!' here and
'Kitty!' there; and 'Poor Kitty, did I forget to warm its milk?' And so
on. It was give to him two years ago by Jeff Tuttle's littlest girl,
Irene; and he didn't want it at first, but him and Irene is great
friends, so he pretended he was crazy about it and took it off in his
overcoat pocket, thinking it would die anyway, because it was only skin
and bones. Whenever it tried to purr you'd think it was going to shake
all its timbers loose. His house is just over on the other side of
Arrowhead Pass there, and I saw the kitten the first day he brought it
up, kind of light brown and yellow in colour, with some gray on the left
shoulder.

"Well, the minute I see these markings I recognized 'em and remembered
something, and I says right off that he's got some cat there; and he
says how do I know? And I tell him that there kitten has got at least a
quarter wildcat in it. Its grandmother, or mebbe its great-grandmother,
was took up to the Tuttle Ranch when there wasn't another cat within
forty miles, and it got to running round nights; and quite a long time
after that they found it with a mess of kittens in a box out in the
harness room. One look at their feet and ears was all you'd want to see
that their pa was a bobcat. They all become famous fighting characters,
and was marked just like this descendant of theirs that Cousin Egbert
has. And, say, I was going on like this, not suspecting anything except
that I was giving him some interesting news about the family history of
this pet of his, when he grabs the beast up and cuddles it, and says I
had ought to be ashamed of myself, talking that way about a poor little
innocent kitten that never done me a stroke of harm. Yes, sir; he was
right fiery.

"I don't know how he come to take it that cross way, for he hadn't
thought highly of the thing up to that moment. But some way it seemed to
him I was talking scandal about his pet--kind of clouding up its
ancestry, if you know what I mean. He didn't seem to get any broad view
of it at all. You'd almost think I'd been reporting an indiscretion in
some member of his family. Can you beat it? Heating up that way over a
puny kitten, six inches from tip to tip, that he'd been thinking of as a
pest and only taken to please Irene Tuttle! So he starts in from that
minute to doctor it up and nurture it with canned soup and delicacies;
and every time I see him after that he'd look indignant and say what
great hands for spreading gossip us women are, and his kitten ain't got
no more bobcat in its veins than what I have.

"He's a stubborn old toad. Irene had told him the kitten's name was
Kate; so he kept right on calling it that even after it become
incongruous, as you might say. Judge Ballard was up here on a fishing
trip one time and heard him calling it Kate, and he says to Egbert: Why
call it Kate when it ain't? Egbert says that was the name little Irene
give it and it's too much trouble to think up another. The Judge says,
Oh, no; not so much trouble, being that he could just change the name
swiftly from Kate to Cato, thus meeting all conventional requirements
with but slight added labour. But Egbert says there's the sentiment to
think of--whatever he meant by that; and if you was to go over there
to-day and he was home you'd likely hear him say: 'Yes; Kate is
certainly some cat! Why, he's at least half bobcat--mebbe
three-quarters; and the fightingest devil!' What's that? Yes; he's
changed completely round about the wildcat strain. He's proud of it. If
I was to say now it was only a quarter bob he'd be as mad as he was at
first; he says anybody can see it's at least half bob. What changed him?
Oh, well, we're too near home. Some other time."

So it befell that not until we sat out for a splendid sunset that
evening did I learn in an orderly manner of Postlethwaite vicissitudes.
Ma Pettengill built her first cigarette with tender solicitude; and
this, in consideration of her day's hard ride, I permitted her to burn
in relaxed silence. But when her trained fingers began to combine paper
and tobacco for the second I mentioned Broadmoor, Postlethwaite,
Posnett, and parties in general that come round the tired business
woman, harassed with the countless vexations of a large cattle ranch,
telling her how wise she has been to retire to this sylvan quietude,
where she can dream away her life in peace. She started easily:

"That's it; they always intimate that running a ranch is mere cream
puffs compared to a regular business, and they'd like to do the same
thing to-morrow if only they was ready to retire from active life. Mebbe
they get the idea from these here back-to-nature stories about a
brokendown bookkeeper, sixty-seven years old, with neuritis and gastric
complications and bum eyesight, and a wife that ain't ever seen a well
day; so they take every cent of their life savings of eighty-three
dollars and settle on an abandoned farm in Connecticut and clear nine
thousand dollars the first year raising the Little Giant caper for
boiled mutton. There certainly ought to be a law against such romantic
trifling. In the first place, think of a Connecticut farmer abandoning
anything worth money! Old Timmins comes from Connecticut. Any time that
old leech abandons a thing, bookkeepers and all other parties will do
well to ride right along with him. I tell you now--"

The second cigarette was under way, and suddenly, without modulation,
the performer was again on the theme, Posnett _née_ Postlethwaite.

"Met her two years ago in Boston, where I was suffering a brief visit
with my son-in-law's aunts. She was the sole widow of a large woolen
mill. That's about all I could ever make out--couldn't get any line on
him to speak of. The first time I called on her--she was in pink silk
pyjamas, smoking a perfecto cigar, and unpacking a bale of lion and
tiger skins she'd shot in Africa, or some place--she said she believed
there would be fewer unhappy marriages in this world if women would only
try more earnestly to make a companion of their husbands; she said she'd
tried hard to make one of hers, but never could get him interested in
her pursuits and pastimes, he preferring to set sullenly at his desk
making money. She said to the day of his death he'd never even had a
polo mallet in his hand. And wasn't that pitiful!

"And right now she wanted to visit a snappy little volcano she'd heard
about in South America--only she had a grown son and daughter she was
trying to make companions of, so they would love and trust her; and
they'd begged her to do something nearer home that was less fatiguing;
and mebbe she would. And how did I find ranching now? Was I awfully keen
about it and was it ripping good sport? I said yes, to an extent. She
said she thought it must be ripping, what with chasing the wild cattle
over hill and dale to lasso them, and firing off revolvers in company
with lawless cowboys inflamed by drink. She went on to give me some more
details of ranch life, and got so worked up about it that we settled
things right there, she being a lady of swift decisions. She said it
wouldn't be very exciting for her, but it might be fine for son and
daughter, and bring them all together in a more sacred companionship.

"So I come back and got that place down the creek for her, and she sent
out a professional architect and a landscape gardener, and some other
experts that would know how to build a ranch _de luxe_, and the thing
was soon done. And she sent son on ahead to get slightly acquainted with
the wild life. He was a tall bent thing, about thirty, with a long
squinted face and going hair, and soft, innocent, ginger-coloured
whiskers, and hips so narrow they'd hardly hold his belt up. That rowdy
mother of his, in trying to make a companion of him, had near scared him
to death. He was permanently frightened. What he really wanted to do, I
found out, was to study insect life and botany and geography and
arithmetic, and so on, and raise orchids, instead of being killed off in
a sudden manner by his rough-neck parent. He loved to ride a horse the
same way a cat loves to ride a going stove.

"I started out with him one morning to show him over the valley. He got
into the saddle all right and he meant well, but that don't go any too
far with a horse. Pretty soon, down on the level here, I started to
canter a bit. He grabbed for the saddle horn and caught a handful of
bunch grass fifteen feet to the left of the trail. He was game enough.
He found his glasses and wiped 'em off, and said it was too bad the
mater couldn't have seen him, because it would have been a bright spot
in her life.

"Then he got on again and we took that steep trail up the side of the
cañon that goes over Arrowhead, me meaning to please him with some
beautiful and rugged scenery, where one false step might cause utter
ruin. It didn't work, though. After we got pretty well up to the rim of
the cañon he looks down and says he supposes they could recover one if
one fell over there. I says: 'Oh, yes; they could recover one. They'd
get you, all right. Of course you wouldn't look like anything!'

"He shudders at that and gets off to lead his horse, begging me to do
the same. I said I never tried to do anything a horse could do better,
and stayed on. Then he got confidential and told me a lot of interesting
crimes this mater of his had committed in her mad efforts to make a
companion of him. Once she'd tramped on the gas of a ninety-horsepower
racer and socked him against a stone wall at a turn some fool had made
in the road; and another time she near drowned him in the Arctic Ocean
when she was off there for the polar-bear hunting; and she'd got him
well clawed by a spotted leopard in India, that was now almost the best
skin in her collection; and once in Switzerland he fell off the side of
an Alp she was making him climb, causing her to be very short with him
all day because it delayed the trip. Tied to a rope he was and hanging
out there over nothing for about fifteen minutes--he must have looked
like a sash weight.

"Then he told about learning to run a motor car all by himself, just to
please the mater. The first time he made the sharp turns round their
country house he took nine shingles off the corner and crumpled a fender
like it was tissue paper; but he stuck to it till he got the score down
to two or three shingles only. He seemed right proud of that, like it
was bogey for the course, as you might say. He wasn't the greatest
humourist in the world, being too high-minded, but he appealed to all my
better instincts; he was trying so hard to make the grade out of respect
for his bedizened and homicidal mother.

"And his poor sister, that come along later, was very much like him,
being severe of outline and wearing the same kind of spectacles, and not
fussing much about the fripperies of dress that engross so many of our
empty-headed sex and get 'em the notice of the male. Her complexion was
brutally honest, which was about all her very best-wishers could say for
it, but she was kind-hearted and earnest, and thought a good deal about
the real or inner meaning of life. What she really yearned for was to
stay in Boston and go to concerts, holding the music on her lap and
checking off the notes with a gold pencil when the fiddlers played them.
I watched her do it one night. I don't know what her notion was, keeping
cases on the orchestra that way; but it seemed to give her a secret
satisfaction. She was also interested in bird life and other studies of
a high character, and she didn't want to be made a companion of by her
rabid parent any more than brother did. They was just a couple of
lambkins born to a tiger.

"Pretty soon the ranch buildings was all complete and varnished and
polished, like you seen to-day, and the family moved in with all kinds
of uniformed servants that looked unhappy and desperate. They had a
pained butler in a dress suit that never once set foot outside the house
the whole five months they was here. He'd of been thought too gloomy for
good taste, even at a funeral. He had me nervous every time I went
there, thinking any minute he was going to break down and sob.

"And this lady loses no time making companions of her children that
didn't want to be. First she tried to make 'em chase steers on
horseback. A fact! That was one of her ideas of ranch life. When I asked
her what she was going to stock her ranch with she said didn't I have
some good heads of stock I could sell her? And I said yes, I had some
good heads, and showed her a bunch of my thoroughbreds, thinking none
but the best would satisfy her. She looked 'em over with a glittering
eye and said they was too fat to run well. I didn't get her. I said it
was true; I hadn't raised 'em for speed. I said I didn't have an animal
on the place that could hit better than three miles an hour, and not
that for long. I cheerfully admitted I didn't have a thoroughbred on
the place that wouldn't be a joke on any track in the country; but I
wanted to know what of it.

"'How do you get any sport out of them,' demands the lady, 'if they
can't give you a jolly good chase?'

"That's what she asked me in so many words. I says, does she aim to
breed racing cattle? And she says, where will the sport be with
creatures all out of condition with fat, like mine are? It took me about
ten minutes to get her idea, it was that heinous or criminal. When I did
get it I sent her to old Safety First; and what does she do but buy a
herd of twenty yearling steers from the old crook! Scrubby little runts
that had been raised out in the hills and was all bone and muscle, and
any one of 'em able to do a mile in four minutes flat, I guess.

"Old Safety was tickled to death at first when he put off this refuse on
her at a price not much more than double what they would have brought in
a tanyard, which was all they'd ever be good for except bone fertilizer,
mebbe; but he was sick unto death when he found they was just what she
wanted, the skinnier the better and he could have got anything he asked
for 'em. He says to me afterward why don't I train some of mine and trim
her good? But I told him I'm cinched for hell, anyway, and don't have to
make it tighter by torturing poor dumb brutes.

"That's what it amounted to. Having got Angora chaps and cowboy hats for
herself and offsprings, what do they do but get on ponies and chase
this herd all over creation, whirling their ropes, yelling, shooting in
the air--just like you see on any well-conducted ranch. Once in a while
the old lady herself, being a demon rider, would rope an animal and
fetch it down; but brother and sister was very careful not to tangle
their own ropes on anything. They didn't shoot their guns with any
proper spirit, either; and when they tried to yip like cowboys they
sounded like rabbits. And brother having to smoke brown-paper
cigarettes, which he hated like poison and had trouble in rolling!

"Mother could roll 'em, all right--do it with one hand. And she urged
sister to; but sister rebelled for once. The old lady admitted this was
due to a fault in her early training. It seems her grandmother had been
one of the old-fashioned sort; and, having studied the modern young
woman of society in Boston and New York, she'd promised sister a string
of pearls if she didn't either smoke or drink till her twenty-first
birthday. Sister had not only won the pearls but had come on to
twenty-eight without being like other young girls of the day, and wasn't
going to begin now. So ma and brother had to do all the smoking.

"After a fine morning's run following the steers they'd like as not have
a little branding in the afternoon, the old-fashioned kind that ain't
done in the higher ranch circles any more, where a couple of silly
punchers rope an animal fore and aft and throw it, thereby setting it
back at least four months in its growth. The old lady was puzzled again
by me having my branding done in a chute, where the poor things ain't
worried more than is necessary. I bet she thought I was a short sport,
not doing a thing on my place that would look well in a moving picture.
She got a lot of ripping sport out of this branding. Made no difference
if they was already branded, they got it again; she'd brand 'em over and
over. Two or three of that herd got it so often that they looked like
these leather suitcases parties bring back from Europe stuck all over
with hotel labels.

"Well, this branch of sport lasted quite a while, with them steers
developing speed every day till they got too fast for any one but the
old lady. Brother and sister would be left far behind, or mebbe get
stacked up and discouraged or sprained for the day. The old dame said it
was disheartening, indeed, trying to make companions of one's children
when they showed such a low order of intelligence for it. Still, she was
fair-minded; so she had a golf links made, and put 'em at that. She
wouldn't play herself, saying it was an effeminate game, good for fat
old men or schoolboys, but mebbe her chits would benefit by it and get a
taste for proper sports, where you can break a bone now and then by not
using care.

"But golf wasn't much better. Sister would carry a book of poetry with
her and read it as she loafed from one hit to another. The old lady near
shed tears at the sight. And brother was about as bad, getting
hypnotized by passing insect life and forgetting his score while
prodding some new kind of bug.

"The old lady said I'd never believe what a care and responsibility
children was. She had wanted 'em to go in for ranching and be awfully
keen about it, and look how they acted! Still, she wouldn't give up. She
suggested polo next; but sister said it wasn't a lady's game, making no
demand upon the higher attributes of womanhood, and brother said he
might go in for it if she'd let him play his on a bicycle, as being more
reliable or stauncher than a pony.

"So she throws up her hands in despair, but thinks hard again; and at
last she says she has the right sport for 'em and why didn't she think
of it before! This new idea is to bring up her pack of prize-winning
beagles, the sport being full of excitement, and yet safe enough for all
concerned if they'll look where they walk and not stop to read slushy
poems or collect insect life. Sister and brother said beagles, by all
means, like drowning sailors clutching at a straw or something; and the
old lady sent off a telegram.

"I admit I didn't know what kind of a game beagles was, but I didn't
betray the fact when she told me about it. I was over to Egbert Floud's
place next day and I asked him. But he didn't know and he couldn't even
get the name right. He says: 'You mean beetles.' I says, 'Not at all';
that it's beagles. Then he says I must of got the name twisted, and
probably it's one of these curly horns. That's as close as he ever did
come to the name; and until he actually saw the things he insisted they
was either something to blow on or something that crawled. 'Mark my
words,' he says,'they're either a horn or a bug; and I wonder what this
here blond guy will be doing next.' So I saw nothing sensible was to be
had out of him, and I left him there, doddering.

"Then in about ten days, which was days of peace for brother and sister,
because they didn't have to go in keenly for any new way of killing
themselves off, what comes up but several crates of beagles, in charge
of their valet or tutor! I'd looked forward to something of a thrilling
or unknown character, and they turned out to be mere dogs; just little
brown-and-white dogs that you wouldn't notice if you hadn't been excited
by their names; kind of yapping mutts that some parties would poison off
if they lived in the same neighbourhood with 'em. They all had names
like Rex II and Lady Blessington, and so on; and each one had cost more
than any three steers I had on the place. What do you think of that?
They was yapping in their kennels when I first seen 'em, with the old
lady as excited as they was, and brother and sister trying to look
excited in order to please mother, and at least looking relieved because
no fatalities was in immediate prospect.

"I listened to the noise a while and acted nice by saying they was
undoubtedly the very finest beagles I'd ever laid eyes on--which was the
simple God's truth; and then I says won't she take one out of the cage
and let him beagle some, me not having any idea what it would be like?
But the old lady says not yet, because the costumes ain't come. I
thought at first it was the pups that had to be dressed up, but it seems
it was costumes for her and brother and sister to wear; so I asked a few
more silly questions and found out the mystery. It seemed the secret of
a beagle's existence was rabbits. Yes, sir; they was mad about rabbits
and went in keenly for 'em. Only they wouldn't notice one, I gathered,
if the parties that followed 'em wasn't dressed proper for it.

"Then we went in where we could hear each other without screaming, and
the lady tells me more about it, and how beagles is her last hope of her
chits ever amounting to anything in the great world of sport. If they
don't go in keenly for beagles she'll just have to give up and let
Nature take its course with the poor things. And she said these was
A-Number-One beagles, being sure to get a rabbit if one was in the
country. She'd just had 'em at a big fashionable country resort down
South, some place where the sport attracted much notice from the
simple-minded peasantry, and it hadn't been a good country for rabbits;
so the beagles had trooped into a backyard and destroyed a Belgian hare
that had belonged to a little boy, whose father come out and swore at
the costumed hunters in a very common manner, and offered to lick any
three of 'em at once.

"And in hurrying acrost a field to get away from this rowdy, that
seemed liable to forget himself and do something they'd all regret
later, they was put up a tree by a bull that was sensitive about
costumes, and had to stay there two hours, with the bull trying to grub
up the tree, and would of done so if his owner hadn't come along and
rescued 'em.

"She made it sound like an exciting sport, all right, yet nothing I
thought I'd ever go in keenly for. It didn't seem like anything I'd get
up in the night to indulge myself in. And I agreed with her that if her
chits found beagling too adventurous, then all hope was gone and she
might as well let 'em die peacefully in their beds.

"Two days later the costumes come along and I was kindly sent word to
show up the next morning if I wanted to see some ripping sport that I'd
be quite mad about and go in for keenly, and all that sort of thing, by
Jove! Of course I go over, on account of this dame's atrocities never
yet having failed to interest me, and I didn't think she'd fall down
now. I felt strangely out of it, though, when I seen the costumes. Ma
and sister had, from the top down, black velvet jockey caps; green
velvet coats with gold buttons; white pique skirts, coming to the knee;
black silk stockings; and neat black shoes with white spats. Brother had
been abused the same, barring the white skirt, which left him looking
like something out of a collection called The Dolls of All Nations.

"I saw right off that all these clothes must be necessary--they looked
so careful and expensive. Yes, Sir; that lady would no more of went out
beagling without being draped for it than she'd of gone steer hunting
without a vanity-box lashed to her saddle horn.

"I sort of hung back with the awe-stricken help when the start was made.
They was all out in front except the butler, who lurked in the entry
looking like he'd passed a night of grief at the new-made grave of his
mother.

"The beagles surged all over the place the minute they was let loose,
and then made for down in the willows below the house. And, sure enough,
they started a cottontail down there and went in for him keenly,
followed by ma and brother and sister. Brother started to yell 'Yoicks!
Yoicks!' But ma shut him off with a good deal of severity that caused
him to blush at his words. It seems Yoicks is a cry you give at some
other critical juncture in life. When beagles start you must yell 'Gone
away!' in a clear, ringing voice. Brother meant well, but didn't know.

"Anyhow, they followed those pups, and I trailed along at a decent
distance on my horse; and pretty soon they got the rabbit which had been
fool enough to come round in a wide circle back to where it started
from. Say! It was mere child's play for that plucky little band of nine
dogs to clean up that rabbit. They never had a minute's fear of it and
the rabbit didn't have the least chance of winning the fight, not at
any stage. Yes, sir! any time you see nine beagles setting on a tuckered
rabbit--I don't care how wild he is--you'll know how to put your money
down.

"I never did see a rabbit put up a worse fight than that one did. I rode
up to its fragments, and the old lady was saying how ripping it was and
calling sister a mollycoddle, because here was sister crying like a baby
over the rabbit's fate--a rabbit she'd never set eyes on before in her
life. Brother didn't look like he had gone in keenly for the sport,
either. He was kind of green and yellow, like one of these parties on
shipboard about the time he's saying he don't feel the boat's motion the
least bit; and, anyway, he's got a sure-fire remedy for it if anything
does happen. I just kind of stood around, neutral and revolted.

"Pretty soon the pack beagles off again with glad cries; and this time,
up on the hillside, what do they start but a little spike buck that has
been down to a salt lick on the creek flat! They wasn't any more afraid
of him than they had been of the rabbit and started to chase him out of
the country. Of course they didn't do well after they got him
interested. The last I saw of the race he was making 'em look like they
was in reverse gear and backing up full speed. Anyway, that seemed to
end the sport for the day, because the dogs and the buck must of been
over near the county line in ten minutes. The old lady was mad and
blamed it on the valet, who come up and had to take as sweet a roasting
as you ever heard a man get from a lady word painter. It seems he'd
ought to have taught 'em to ignore deer.

"Then I lied like a lady and said it was a ripping sport that I would
sure go in keenly for if I had time; and we all went back to the house
and sat down to what they called a hunt breakfast. Ma said at last her
chits could hold up their heads in the world of sport and not be a
reproach to her training. The chits looked very thoughtful, indeed.
Sister still had red eyes and couldn't eat a mouthful of hunt breakfast,
and brother just toyed with little dabs of it.

"Next day I learned the pack didn't get back till late that evening,
straggling in one by one, and the valet having to go out and look for
the last two with a lantern. Also, these last two had been treated
brutally by some denizen of the wildwood. Rex II had darn near lost his
eyesight and Lady Blessington was clawed something scandalous. Brother
said mebbe a rabbit mad with hydrophobia had turned on 'em. He said it
in hopeful tones, and sister cheered right up and said if these two had
it they would give it to the rest of the pack, and shouldn't they all be
shot at once?

"Mother said what jolly nonsense; that they'd merely been scratched by
thorns. I thought, myself, that mebbe they'd gone out of their class and
tackled a jack rabbit; but I didn't say it, seeing that the owner was
sensitive. Afterward she showed me a lot of silver things her pets had
won--eye-cups and custard dishes, and coffee urns and things, about a
dozen, with their names engraved on 'em. She said it was very annoying
to have 'em take after deer that way. What she wanted 'em to do was to
butcher rabbits where parties in the right garments could stand and look
on.

"Next day they tried again; and one fool rabbit was soon gone in for
keenly to the renewed sound of sister's bitter sobs, and brother looking
like he'd been in jail two years--no colour left at all in his face. But
pretty soon the pack took up the scent of a deer again, and that was the
end of another day's sport. Brother and sister looked glad and resumed
their peaceful sports. He hunted butterflies with a net, and she set
down and looked at birds through an opera glass and wrote down things
about their personal appearance in a notebook. The old lady changed to
her cowboy suit and went out and roped three steers--just to work her
mad off, I guess.

"Well, this time the beagles not only limped in at a shocking hour of
the night but three of the others had had their beauty marred by a demon
rabbit or something. They had been licked very thoroughly, indeed; and
the old lady now said it must be a grizzly bear, and brother and sister
beamed on her and said: 'What a shame!' And would they hunt again next
day? For the first time they seemed quite mad about the sport. Mother
said they better wait till she went out and shot the grizzly, but I told
her we hadn't had any grizzlies round here for years; so she said, all
right, they could lick anything less than a grizzly. And they beagled
again next day, with terrible and inspiring results, not only to Rex II
and Lady Blessington again, but to two of the others that hadn't been
touched before.

"This left only two of the pack that hadn't been horribly abused by some
unknown varmint; so a halt had to be called for three days while Red
Cross work was done. Brother and sister tried to look regretful and
complained about this break in the ripping sport; but their manner was
artificial. They spent the time riding peacefully round up in the cañon,
pretending to look for the wild creature that had chewed their little
pets. They come back one day and cheered their mother a whole lot by
telling her the pack had been over the pass as far as the house of a
worthy rancher, Mr. Floud by name. They said Mr. Floud didn't believe
there was any bears round, and further said he greatly admired the
beagles, even though at first they seriously annoyed his pet kitten.

"The old lady said this was ripping of Mr. Floud, to take it in such a
sporting way, because many people in the past had tried to make all
sorts of nasty rows when her pets had happened to kill their kittens.
Brother said, yes; Mr. Floud took the whole thing in a true sporting
way, and he hoped the pack would soon be well enough to hunt again.
Right then I detected falsity in his manner; I couldn't make out what
it was, but I knew he was putting something over on mother.

"Two days later the dogs was fit again, and another gay hunt was had,
with a rabbit to the good in the first twenty minutes, and then the
usual break, when they struck a deer scent. Brother said he'd follow on
his horse this time and try to get whatever was bothering 'em. He
didn't. He said he lost 'em. They crawled back at night, well chewed;
and mother was now frantic.

"There had to be another three days in bed for the cunning little
murderers, after which brother and sister both went out with 'em on
horseback, with the same mysterious results--except that Rex II didn't
get in till next day and looked like he'd come through a feed chopper.
For the next hunt, four days after that, the old lady went, too, all of
'em on horseback; but the same slinking marauder got at the pack before
they could come up with it, and two of 'em had to be brought back in
arms. They all stopped here on the way home to tell about the mystery.
Brother and sister was very cheerful and mad about the sport, but their
manner was falser than ever. Mother says the pack is being ruined, and
she wouldn't continue the sport, except it has roused the first gleam of
interest her chits has ever showed in anything worth while. I caught the
chits looking at each other in a guilty manner when she says this, and
my curiosity wakes up. I says next time they go out I will be pleased to
go with 'em; and the old lady thanks me and says mebbe I can solve this
reprehensible mystery.

"In another three days they come by for me. The beagles was looking an
awful lot different from what I had first seen 'em. They was not only
beautifully scarred but they acted kind of timid and reproachful, and
their yapping had a note of caution in it that I hadn't noticed before.
So I got on my pony and went along to help probe the crime. We worked up
the cañon trail and over the pass, with the pack staying meekly behind
most of the time. Just the other side of the pass they actually got a
rabbit, though not working with their old-time recklessness, I thought.
Of course we had to stop and watch this. Brother looked the other way
and sister just set there biting her lips, with an evil gleam in her
pale-blue eyes. Not a beagle in the pack would have trusted himself
alone with her at that minute if he'd known his business.

"Then we rode on down toward Cousin Egbert's shack, with nothing further
happening and the pups staying back in a highly conservative manner.
Brother says that yonder is the Mr. Floud's place he had spoken of, and
ma wants to know if he, too, goes in for ranching, and I says yes, he's
awfully keen about it; so she says we'll ride over and chat with him and
perhaps he can suggest some solution of the mystery in hand. I said all
right, and we ride up.

"Cousin Egbert is tipped back in a chair outside the door, reading a
Sunday paper. Whenever he gets one up here he always reads it clean
through, from murders to want ads. And he'd got into this about as far
as the beauty hints and secrets of the toilet. Well, he was very polite
and awkward, and asked us into his dinky little shack; and the old lady
says she hears he is quite mad about ranching, and he says, Oh,
yes--only it don't help matters any to get mad; and he finds a chair for
her, and the rest of us set on stools and the bed; and just then she
notices that the beagle pack has halted about thirty feet from the door,
and some of 'em is milling and acting like they think of starting for
home at once.

"So out she goes and orders the little pets up. They didn't want to come
one bit; it seemed like they was afraid of something, but they was well
disciplined and they finally crawled forward, looking like they didn't
know what minute something cruel might happen.

"The old lady petted 'em and made 'em lie down, and asked Cousin Egbert
if he'd ever seen better ones, or even as good; and he said No, ma'am;
they was sure fine beetles. Then she begun to tell him about some wild
animal that had been attacking 'em, a grizzly, or mebbe a mountain lion,
with cubs; and he is saying in a very false manner that he can't think
what would want to harm such playful little pets, and so on. All this
time the pets is in fine attitudes of watchful waiting, and I'm just
beginning to suspect a certain possibility when it actually happens.

"There was an open window high up in the log wall acrost from the door,
and old Kate jumps up onto the sill from the outside. He was one fierce
object, let me tell you; weighing about thirty pounds, all muscle, with
one ear gone, and an eye missing that a porcupine quill got into, and a
lot of fresh new battle scars. We all got a good look at him while he
crouched there for a second, purring like a twelve-cylinder car and
twitching his whiskers at us in a lazy way, like he wanted to have folks
make a fuss over him. And then, all at once, catching sight of the dogs,
he changed to a demon; his back up, his whiskers in a stiff tremble, and
his half of a tail grown double in girth.

"I looked quick to the dogs, and they was froze stiff with horror for at
least another second. Then they made one scramble for the open door, and
Kate made a beautiful spring for the bunch, landing on the back of the
last one with a yell of triumph. Mother shrieked, too, and we all rushed
to the door to see one of the prettiest chases you'd want to look at,
with old Kate handing out the side wipes every time he could get near
one of the dogs. They fled down over the creek bank and a minute later
we could see the pack legging it up the other side to beat the cars,
losing Kate--I guess because he didn't like to get his hide wet.

"When the first shock of this wore off, here was silly old Egbert, in a
weak voice, calling: 'Kitty, Kitty, Kitty! Here, Kitty! Here, Kitty!'
Then we notice brother and sister. Brother is waving his hat in the air
and yelling 'Yoicks!' and 'Gone away!' and 'Fair sport, by Jove!'--just
like some crazy man; and sister, with her chest going up and down, is
clapping her hands and yelling 'Goody! Goody! Goody!' and squealing with
helpless laughter. Mother just stood gazing at 'em in horrible silence.
Pretty soon they felt it and stopped, looking like a couple of kids that
know it's spanking time.

"'So!' says mother. That's all she said--just, 'So!'

"But she stuffed the simple word with eloquence; she left it pregnant
with meaning, as they say. Then she stalked loftily out and got on her
horse, brother and sister slinking after her. I guess I slunk, too,
though it was none of my doings. Cousin Egbert kind of sidled along,
mumbling about Kitty:

"'Kitty was quite frightened of the pets first time he seen 'em; but
someway to-day it seemed like he had lost much of his fear--seemed more
like he had wanted to play with 'em, or something.'

"Nobody listened to the doddering old wretch, but I caught brother
winking at him behind mother's back. Then we all rode off in lofty
silence, headed by mother, who never once looked back to her late host,
even if he was mad about ranching. We got up over the pass and the pack
of ruined beagles begun to straggle out of the underbrush. A good big
buck rabbit with any nerve could have put 'em all on the run again. You
could tell that. They slunk along at the tail of the parade. I dropped
out informally when it passed the place here. It seemed like something
might happen where they'd want only near members of the family present.

"I don't hear anything from Broadmoor next day; so the morning after
that I ride over to Cousin Egbert's to see if I couldn't get a better
line on the recent tragedy. He was still on his Sunday paper, having
finished an article telling that man had once been scaly, like a fish;
and was just beginning the fashion notes, with pictures showing that the
smart frock was now patterned like an awning. Old Kate was lying on a
bench in the sun, trying to lick a new puncture he'd got in his chest.

"I started right in on the old reprobate. I said it was a pretty
how-de-do if a distinguished lady amateur, trying to raise ranching to
the dignity of a sport, couldn't turn loose a few prize beagles without
having 'em taken for a hunt breakfast by a nefarious beast that ought to
be in a stout cage in a circus this minute! I thought, of course, this
would insult him; but he sunned right up and admitted that Kate was
about half to three-quarters bobcat; and wasn't he a fine specimen? And
if he could only get about eight more as good he'd have a pack of
beagle-cats that would be the envy of the whole sporting world.

"'It ain't done!' I remarked, aiming to crush him.

"'It is, too!' Egbert says. 'I did it myself. Look what I already done,
just with Kitty alone!'

"'How'd it start?' I asked him.

"'Easy! says he. 'They took Kate for a rabbit and Kate took them for
rabbits. It was a mutual error. They found out theirs right soon; but I
bet Kate ain't found out his, even to this day. I bet he thinks they're
just a new kind of rabbit that's been started. The first day they broke
in here he was loafin' round out in front, and naturally he started for
'em, though probably surprised to see rabbits travelling in a bunch.
Also, they see Kate and start for him, which must of startled him good
and plenty. He'd never had rabbits make for him before. He pulled up so
quick he skidded. I could see his mind working. Don't tell me that cat
ain't got brains like a human! He was saying to himself: "Is this here a
new kind of rabbits, or is it a joke--or what? Mebbe I better not try
anything rash till I find out."

"'They was still coming for him acrost the flat, with their tongues out;
so he soopled himself up a bit with a few jumps and made for that there
big down spruce. He lands on the trunk and runs along it to where the
top begins. He has it all worked out. He's saying: "If this here is a
joke, all right; but if it ain't a joke I better have some place back of
me for a kind of refuge."

"'So up come these strange rabbits and started to jump for him on the
trunk of the spruce; but it's pretty high and they can't quite make it.
And in a minute they sort of suspicion something on their part, because
Kate has rared his back and is giving 'em a line of abuse they never
heard from any rabbit yet. Awful wicked it was, and they sure got
puzzled. I could hear one of 'em saying: "Aw, come on! That ain't no
regular rabbit; he don't look like a rabbit, and he don't talk like a
rabbit, and he don't act like a rabbit!" Then another would say: "What
of it? What do we care if he's a regular rabbit or not? Let's get him,
anyway, and take him apart!"

"'So they all begin to jump again and can't quite make it till their
leader says he'll show 'em a real jump. He backs off a little to get a
run and lands right on the log. Then he wished he hadn't. Old Kate
worked so quick I couldn't hardly follow it. In about three seconds this
leader lands on his back down in the bunch, squealing like one of these
Italian sopranos when the flute follows her up. He crawls off on his
stomach, still howling, and I see he's had a couple of wipes over the
eye, and one of his ears is shredded.

"'A couple of the others come over to ask him how it happened, and what
he quit for, and did his foot slip; and he says: "Mark my words,
gentlemen; we got our work cut out for us here. That animal is acting
less and less like a rabbit every minute. He's more turbulent and he's
got spurs on." He goes on talking this way while the others bark at
Kate, and Kate dares any one of 'em to come on up there and have it out,
man to man. Finally another lands on the tree trunk and gets what the
first one got. I could see it this time. Kate done some dandy shortarm
work in the clinches and hurled him off on his back like the other one;
then he stands there sharpening his claws on the bark and grinning in a
masterful way. He was saying: "You will, will you?"

"'Then one of these beetles must of said, "Come on, boys--all together
now!" for four of 'em landed up on the trunk all to once. And Kate
wasn't there. He'd had the top of this fallen tree at his back, and he
kites up a limb about ten feet above their heads and stretches out for a
rest, cool as anything, licking his paws and purring like he enjoyed the
beautiful summer day, and wasn't everything calm and lovely? It was
awful insulting the way he looked down on 'em, with his eyes half shut.
And you never seen beetles so astonished in your life. They just
couldn't believe their eyes, seeing a rabbit act that way! The leader
limps over and says: "There! What did I tell you, smarties? I guess next
time you'll take my word for it. I guess you can see plain enough now he
ain't no rabbit, the way he skinned up that tree."

"'They calm down a mite at this, and one or two says they thought he was
right from the first; and some others says: "Well, it wouldn't make no
difference what he was, rabbit or no rabbit, if he'd just come down and
meet the bunch of us fair and square; but the dirty coward is afraid to
fight us, except one at a time." The leader is very firm, though. He
tells 'em that if this here object ain't a rabbit they got no right to
molest him, and if he is a rabbit he's gone crazy, and wouldn't be good
to eat, anyway; so they better go find one that acts sensible. And he
gets 'em away, all talking about it excitedly.

"'Well, sir, you wouldn't believe how tickled Kate was all that day. It
was like he'd found a new interest in life. And next time these beetles
come up they pull off another grand scrap. Kate laid for 'em just this
side of the creek and let 'ern chase him back to his tree. He skun up
three others that day, still pursuin' his cowardly tactics of fighting
'em one at a time, and retirin' to his perch when three or four would
come at once. Also, when they give him up again and started off he come
down and chased 'em to the creek bank, like you seen the other day,
telling 'em to be sure and not forget the number, because he ain't had
so much fun since he met up with a woodchuck. The next time they showed
up he'd got so contemptuous of 'em that he'd leap down and engage one
that had got separated from the pack. He had two of 'em darn' near out
before they was rescued by their friends.

"'Then, a few days later, along comes the pack again--only this time
they're being herded by the lad with the ginger-coloured whiskers. He
gets off his horse and says how do I do, and what lovely weather, and
how bracing the air is; and I says what pretty beetles he has; and he
says it's ripping sport; and I says, yes; Kate has ripped up a number of
'em, but I hope he don't blame me none, because my Kitty has to defend
himself. Say, this guy brightened up and like to took me off my feet! He
grabs both my hands and shakes 'em warmly for a long time and says do I
think my cat can put the whole bunch on the blink?--or words to that
effect. And I says it's the surest thing in the world; but why? And he
says, then the sooner the better, because it's a barbarous sport and
every last beetle ought to be thoroughly killed; and when they are, in
case his mother don't find out the crooked work, mebbe he'll be let to
raise orchids or do something useful in the world, instead of frittering
his life away in the vain pursuit of pleasure.

"'Oh, he was the chatty lad, all right! And I felt kind of sorry for
him; so I says Kate would dearly love to wipe these beetles out one by
one; and he says: 'Capital, by Jove!' And I call Kitty and we pull off
another nice little scrap on the fallen tree, though it's hard to make
the beetles take much interest in it now, except in the way of
self-defense. Even at that, they're kept plenty occupied.

"'Say, this guy is the happiest you ever see one when Kate has about
four more of 'em licked to a standstill in jigtime. He says he has one
more favour to ask of me: Will I allow his sister to come up some day
and see the lovely carnage? And I says, Sure! Kate will be glad to
oblige any time. He says he'll fetch her up the first time the pack is
able to get out again, and he keeps on chattering like a child that's
found a new play-pretty.

"'I can't hardly get him off the place, he's so greatful to me. He tells
me his biography and about how this here blond guy has been roughing
him all over Europe and Asia, and how it had got to stop right here,
because a man has a right to live his own life, after all; and then he
branches off in a nutty way to tell me that he always takes a cold
shower every morning, winter and summer, and he never could read a line
of Sir Walter Scott, and why don't some genius invent a fountain pen
that will work at all times? and so on, till it sounded delirious. But
he left at last.

"'And we had some good ripping sport when him and sister come up. I
never seen such a blood-thirsty female. She'd nearly laugh her head off
when Kitty was gouging the eye out of one of these cunning little
scamps. She said if I'd ever seen the nasty curs pile on to one poor
defenseless little bunny I'd understand why she was so keen about my
beetle-cat. That's what she called Kate.

"'Kate, he got kind of bored with the whole business after that. He
hadn't actually eat one yet, and mebbe that was all that kept him
going--wanting to see if they'd taste any better than regular rabbits.
But you bet they knew now that Kate wasn't any kind of a rabbit. They
didn't have any more arguments on that point--they knew darn' well he
didn't have a drop of rabbit blood in his veins. Oh, he's some
beetle-cat, all right!'

"That's Cousin Egbert for you! Can you beat him--changing round and
being proud of this mixed marriage that he had formerly held to be a
scandal!

"Well, I go back home, and here is mother waiting for me. And she's a
changed woman. She's actually give up trying to make anything out of her
chits, because after considerable browbeating and third-degree stuff,
they've come through with the whole evil conspiracy--how they'd got her
prize-winning beagles licked by a common cat that wouldn't be let into
any bench show on earth! Her spirit was broke.

"'My poor son,' she says, 'I shall allow to go his silly way after this
outrageous bit of double-dealing. I think it useless to strive further
with him. He has not only confessed all the foul details, but he came
brazenly out with the assertion that a man has a right to lead his own
life--and he barely thirty!'

"She goes on to say that it's this terrible twentieth-century modernism
that has infected him. She says that, first woman sets up a claim to
live her own life, and now men are claiming the same right, even one as
carefully raised and guarded as her boy has been; and what are we coming
to? But, anyway, she did her best for him.

"Pretty soon Broadmoor was closed like you seen it to-day. Sister is now
back in Boston, keeping tabs on orchestras and attending lectures on the
higher birds; and brother at last has his orchid ranch somewhere down in
California. He's got one pet orchid that I heard cost twelve thousand
dollars--I don't know why. But he's very happy living his own life. The
last I heard of mother she was exploring the headwaters of the Amazon
River, hunting crocodiles and jaguars and natives, and so on.

"She was a good old sport, though. She showed that by the way she
simmered down about Cousin Egbert's cat before she left. At first, she
wanted to lay for it and put a bullet through its cowardly heart. Then
she must of seen the laugh was on her, all right; for what did she do?
Why, the last thing she done was to box up all these silver cups her
beagles had won and send 'em over to Kate, in care of his owner--all the
eye-cups and custard bowls, and so on. Cousin Egbert shows 'em off to
every one.

"'Just a few cups that Kate won,' he'll say. 'I want to tell you he's
some beetle-cat! Look what he's come up to--and out of nothing, you
might say!'"



VIII

PETE'S B'OTHER-IN-LAW


On the Arrowhead Ranch it was noon by the bell that Lew Wee loves to
clang. It may have been half an hour earlier or later on other ranches,
for Lew Wee is no petty precisian. Ma Pettengill had ridden off at dawn;
and, rather than eat luncheon in solitary state, I joined her retainers
for the meal in the big kitchen, which is one of my prized privileges. A
dozen of us sat at the long oilcloth-covered table and assuaged the more
urgent pangs of hunger in a haste that was speechless and far from
hygienic. No man of us chewed the new beef a proper number of times; he
swallowed intently and reached for more. It was rather like twenty
minutes for dinner at what our railway laureates call an eating house.
Lew Wee shuffled in bored nonchalance between range and table. It was an
old story to him.

The meal might have gone to a silent end, though moderating in pace; but
we had with us to-day--as a toastmaster will put it--the young
veterinary from Spokane. This made for talk after actual starvation had
been averted--fragmentary gossip of the great city; of neighbouring
ranches in the valley, where professional duty had called him; of
Adolph, our milk-strain Durham bull, whose indisposition had brought him
several times to Arrowhead; and then of Squat, our youngest cowboy, from
whose fair brow the intrepid veterinary, on his last previous visit, had
removed a sizable and embarrassing wen with what looked to me like a
pair of pruning shears.

The feat had excited much uncheerful comment among Squat's _confrères_,
bets being freely offered that he would be disfigured for life, even if
he survived; and what was the sense of monkeying with a thing like that
when you could pull your hat down over it? Of course you couldn't wear a
derby with it; but no one but a darned town dude would ever want to wear
a derby hat, anyway, and the trouble with Squat was, he wished to be
pretty. It was dollars to doughnuts the thing would come right back
again, twice as big as ever, and better well enough alone. But Squat,
who is also known as Timberline, and is, therefore, a lanky six feet
three, is young and sensitive and hopeful, and the veterinary is a
matchless optimist; and the thing had been brought to a happy
conclusion.

Squat, being now warmly urged, blushingly turned his head from side to
side that all might remark how neatly his scar had healed. The
veterinary said it had healed by first intention; that it was as pretty
a job as he'd ever done on man or beast; and that Squat would be more of
a hit then ever with the ladies because of this interesting chapter in
his young life. Then something like envy shone in the eyes of those who
had lately disparaged Squat for presuming to thwart the will of God; I
detected in more than one man there the secret wish that he had
something for this ardent expert to eliminate. Squat continued to blush
pleasurably and to bolt his food until another topic diverted this
entirely respectful attention from him. The veterinary asked if we had
heard about the Indian ruction down at Kulanche last night--Kulanche
Springs being the only pretense to a town between our ranch and Red
Gap--a post-office, three general stores, a score of dwellings, and a
low drinking place known as The Swede's. The news had not come to us; so
the veterinary obliged. A dozen Indians, drifting into the valley for
the haying about to begin, had tarried near Kulanche and bought whiskey
of the Swede. The selling of this was a lawless proceeding and the
consumption of it by the purchasers had been hazardous in the extreme.
Briefly, the result had been what is called in newspaper headlines a
stabbing affray. I quote from our guest's recital:

     "Then, after they got calmed down and hid their knives, and it
     looked peaceful again, they decided to start all over; but the
     liquor was out, so that old scar-faced Pyann jumps on a pony and
     rides over from the camp for a fresh supply. He pulled up out in
     front of the Swede's and yelled for three bottles to be brought out
     to him, pronto! If he'd sneaked round to the back door and
     whispered he'd have got it all right, but this was a little too
     brash, because there were about a dozen men in the bar and the
     Swede was afraid to sell an Injin whiskey so openly. All he could
     do was go to the door and tell this pickled aborigine that he never
     sold whiskey to Injins and to get the hell out of there! Pyann
     called the Swede a liar and some other things, mentioning dates,
     and started to climb off his pony, very ugly.

     "The Swede wasn't going to argue about it, because we'd all come
     out in front to listen; so he pulled his gun and let it off over
     Pyann's head; and a couple of the boys did the same thing, and that
     started the rest--about six others had guns--till it sounded like a
     bunch of giant crackers going off. Old Pyann left in haste, all
     right. He was flattened out on his pony till he looked like a
     plaster.

     "We didn't hear any more of him last night, but coming up here this
     morning I found out he'd done a regular Paul Revere ride to save
     his people; he rode clear up as far as that last camp, just below
     here, on your place, yelling to every Injin he passed that they'd
     better take to the brush, because the whites had broken out at
     Kulanche. At that, the Swede ought to be sent up, knowing they'll
     fight every time he sells them whiskey. Two of these last night
     were bad cut in this rumpus."

"Yes; and he'd ought to be sent up for life for selling it to white men,
too--the kind he sells." This was Sandy Sawtelle, speaking as one who
knew and with every sign of conviction. "It sure is enterprising
whiskey. Three drinks of it make a decent man want to kill his little
golden-haired baby sister with an axe. Say, here's a good one--lemme
tell you! I remember the first time, about three, four years ago--"

The speaker was interrupted--it seemed to me with intentional rudeness.
One man hurriedly wished to know who did the cutting last night;
another, if the wounded would recover; and a third, if Pete, an aged red
vassal of our own ranch, had been involved. Each of the three flashed a
bored glance at Sandy as he again tried for speech:

"Well, as I was saying, I remember the first time, about three, four
years ago--"

"If old Pete was down there I bet his brother-in-law did most of the
knifework," put in Buck Devine firmly.

It was to be seen that they all knew what Sandy remembered the first
time and wished not to hear it again. Others of them now sought to
stifle the memoir, while Sandy waited doggedly for the tide to ebb. I
gathered that our Pete had not been one of the restive convives, he
being known to have spent a quiet home evening with his mahala and their
numerous descendants, in their camp back of the wood lot; I also
gathered that Pete's brother-in-law had committed no crime since Pete
quit drinking two years before. There was veiled mystery in these
allusions to the brother-in-law of Pete. It was almost plain that the
brother-in-law was a lawless person for whose offenses Pete had more
than once been unjustly blamed. I awaited details; but meantime--

"Well, as I was saying, I remember the first time, about three, four
years ago--"

Sandy had again dodged through a breach in the talk, quite as if nothing
had happened. Buck Devine groaned as if in unbearable anguish. The
others also groaned as if in unbearable anguish. Only the veterinary and
I were polite.

"Oh, let him get it offen his chest," urged Buck wearily. "He'll perish
if he don't--having two men here that never heard him tell it." He
turned upon the raconteur, with a large sweetness of manner: "Excuse me,
Mr. Sawtelle! Pray do go on with your thrilling reminiscence. I could
just die listening to you. I believe you was wishing to entertain the
company with one of them anecdotes or lies of which you have so rich a
store in that there peaked dome of yours. Gents, a moment's silence
while this rare personality unfolds hisself to us!"

"Say, lemme tell you--here's a good one!" resumed the still placid
Sandy. "I remember the first time, about three, four years ago, I ever
went into The Swede's. A stranger goes in just ahead of me and gets to
the bar before I do, kind of a solemn-looking, sandy-complected little
runt in black clothes.

"'A little of your best cooking whiskey,' says he to the Swede, while
I'm waiting beside him for my own drink.

"The Swede sets out the bottle and glass and a whisk broom on the bar.
That was sure a new combination on me. 'Why the whisk broom?' I says to
myself. 'I been in lots of swell dives and never see no whisk broom
served with a drink before.' So I watch. Well, this sad-looking sot
pours out his liquor, shoots it into him with one tip of the glass; and,
like he'd been shot, he falls flat on the floor, all bent up in a
convulsion--yes, sir; just like that! And the Swede not even looking
over the bar at him!

"In a minute he comes out of this here fit, gets on his feet and up to
the bar, grabs the whisk broom, brushes the dust off his clothes where
he's rolled on the floor, puts back the whisk broom, says, 'So long,
Ed!' to the Swede--and goes out in a very businesslike manner.

"Then the Swede shoves the bottle and a glass and the whisk broom over
in front of me, but I says: 'No, thanks! I just come in to pass the time
of day. Lovely weather we're having, ain't it?' Yes, sir; down he goes
like he's shot, wriggles a minute, jumps up, dusts hisself off, flies
out the door; and the Swede passing me the same bottle and the same
broom, and me saying: 'Oh, I just come in to pass the time of--'"

The veterinary and I had been gravely attentive. The faces of the others
wore not even the tribute of pretended ennui. They had betrayed an
elaborate deafness. They now affected to believe that Sandy Sawtelle
had not related an anecdote. They spoke casually and with an effect of
polished ease while yet here capitulated, as tale-tellers so often will.

"I remember a kid, name of Henry Lippincott, used to set in front of me
at school," began Buck Devine, with the air of delicately breaking a
long silence; "he'd wiggle his ears and get me to laughing out loud, and
then I'd be called up for it by teacher and like as not kept in at
recess."

"You ought to seen that bunch of tame alligators down to the San
Francisco Fair," observed Squat genially. "The old boy that had 'em says
'Oh, yes, they would make fine pets, and don't I want a couple for ten
dollars to take home to the little ones?' But I don't. You come right
down to household pets--I ruther have me a white rabbit or a canary bird
than an alligator you could step on in the dark some night and get all
bit up, and mebbe blood poison set in."

"I recollect same as if it was yesterday," began Uncle Abner quickly.
"We was coming up through northern Arizona one fall, with a bunch of
longhorns and we make this here water hole about four P.M.--or mebbe a
mite after that or a little before; but, anyway, I says to Jeff Bradley,
'Jeff,' I says to him, 'it looks to me almighty like--'"

Sandy Sawtelle savagely demanded a cup of coffee, gulped it heroically,
rose in a virtuous hurry, and at the door wondered loudly if he was
leaving a bunch of rich millionaires that had nothing to do but loaf in
their club all the afternoon and lie their heads off, or just a passell
of lazy no-good cowhands that laid down on the job the minute the boss
stepped off the place. Whereupon, it being felt that the rabid
anecdotist had been sufficiently rebuked, we all went out to help the
veterinary look at Adolph for twenty minutes more.

Adolph is four years old and weighs one ton. He has a frowning and
fearsome front and the spirit of a friendly puppy. The Arrowhead force
loafed about in the corral and imparted of its own lore to the
veterinary while he took Adolph's temperature. Then Adolph, after nosing
three of the men to have his head rubbed, went to stand in the
rush-grown pool at the far end of the corral, which the gallery took to
mean that he still had a bit of fever, no matter what the glass thing
said.

The veterinary opposed a masterly silence to this majority diagnosis,
and in the absence of argument about it there seemed nothing left for
the Arrowhead retainers but the toil for which they were paid. They went
to it lingeringly, one by one, seeming to feel that perhaps they wronged
the ailing Adolph by not staying there to talk him over.

Uncle Abner, who is the Arrowhead blacksmith, was the last to leave--or
think of leaving--though he had mule shoes to shape and many mules to
shoe. He glanced wistfully again at Adolph, in cool water to his knees,
tugged at his yellowish-white beard, said it was a dog's life, if any
one should ask me, and was about to slump mournfully off to his
shop--when his eye suddenly brightened.

"Will you look once at that poor degraded red heathen, acting like a
whirlwind over in the woodlot?"

I looked once. Pete, our Indian, was apparently the sole being on the
ranch at that moment who was honestly earning his wage. No one knows how
many more than eighty years Pete has lived; but from where we stood he
was the figure of puissant youth, rhythmically flashing his axe into
bits of wood that flew apart at its touch. Uncle Abner, beside me, had
again shrugged off the dread incubus of duty. He let himself go
restfully against the corral bars and chuckled a note of harsh derision.

"Ain't it disgusting! I bet he never saw the boss when she rode off this
A.M. Yes, sir; that poor benighted pagan must think she's still in the
house--prob'ly watching him out of the east winder this very minute."

"What's this about his brother-in-law?" I asked.

"Oh, I dunno; some silly game he tries to come the roots over folks
with. Say, he's a regular old murderer, and not an honest hair in his
head! Look at the old cheat letting on to be a good steady worker
because he thinks the boss is in the house there, keeping an eye on him.
Ain't it downright disgusting!"

Uncle Abner said this as one supremely conscious of his own virtue. He
himself was descending to no foul pretense.

"A murderer, is he?"

I opened my cigarette case to the man of probity. He took two, crumpled
the tobacco from the papers and stuffed it into his calabash pipe.

"Sure is he a murderer! A tough one, too."

The speaker moved round a corner of the barn and relaxed to a sitting
posture on the platform of the pump. It brought him into the sun; but it
also brought him where he could see far down the road upon which his
returning employer would eventually appear. His eyes ever haunted the
far vistas of that road; otherwise he remained blissfully static.

It should perhaps be frankly admitted that Uncle Abner is not the
blacksmith of song and story and lithographed art treasure, suitable for
framing. That I have never beheld this traditional smith--the rugged,
upstanding tower of brawn with muscles like iron bands--is beside the
point. I have not looked upon all the blacksmiths in the world, and he
may exist. But Uncle Abner can't pose for him. He weighs a hundred and
twenty pounds without his hammer, is lean to scrawniness, and his arms
are those of the boys you see at the track meet of Lincoln Grammar
School Number Seven. The mutilated derby hat he now wore, a hat that had
been weathered from plum colour to a poisonous green--a shred of peacock
feather stuck in the band--lent his face no dignity whatever.

In truth, his was not an easy face to lend dignity to. It would still
look foolish, no matter what was lent it. He has a smug fringe of white
curls about the back and sides of his head, the beard of a prophet, and
the ready speech of a town bore. The blacksmith we read of can look the
whole world in the face, fears not any man, and would far rather do
honest smithing any day in the week--except Sunday--than live the life
of sinful ease that Uncle Abner was leading for the moment.

Uncle Abner may have feared no man; but he feared a woman. It was easy
to see this as he chatted the golden hours away to me. His pale eyes
seldom left the road where it came over a distant hill. When the woman
did arrive--Oh, surely the merry clang of the hammer on the anvil would
be heard in Abner's shop, where he led a dog's life. But, for a time at
least--

"So he's one of these tough murderers, is he?"

"You said it! Always a-creating of disturbances up on the reservation,
where he rightly belongs. Mebbe that's why they let him go off. Anyway,
he never stays there. Even in his young days they tell me he wouldn't
stay put. He'd disappear for a month and always come back with a new
wife. Talk about your Mormons! One time they sent out a new agent to the
reservation, and he hears talk back and forth of Pete philandering
thisaway; and he had his orders from the Gov'ment at Washington, D.C.,
to stamp out this here poly-gamy--or whatever you call it; so he orders
Pete up on the carpet and says to him: 'Look here now, Pete! You got a
regular wife, ain't you?' Pete says sure he has; and how could he say
anything else--the old liar! 'Well,' says Mr. Agent, 'I want you to get
this one regular wife of yours and lead a decent, orderly home life with
her; and don't let me hear no more scandalous reports about your goings
on.'

"Pete says all right; but he allows he'll have to have help in getting
her back home, because she's got kind of antagonistic and left him. The
agent says he'll put a stop to that if Pete'll just point her out. So
they ride down about a mile from the agency to a shack where they's a
young squaw out in front graining a deerhide and minding her own
business. She looked up when they come and started to jaw Pete something
fierce; but the agent tells her the Gov'ment frowns on wives running
off, and Pete grabbed her; and the agent he helps, with her screeching
and biting and clawing like a female demon. The agent is going to see
that Pete has his rights, even if it don't seem like a joyous household;
and finally they get her scrambled onto Pete's horse in front of him and
off they go up the trail. The agent yells after 'em that Pete is to
remember that this is his regular wife and he'd better behave himself
from now on.

"And then about sunup next morning this agent is woke up by a pounding
on his door. He goes down and here's Pete clawed to a frazzle and
whimpering for the law's protection because his squaw has chased him
over the reservation all night trying to kill him. She'd near done it,
too. They say old Pete was so scared the agent had to soothe him like a
mother."

Uncle Abner paused to relight his pipe, meantime negotiating a doubly
vigilant survey of the distant road. But I considered that he had told
me nothing to the discredit of Pete, and now said as much.

"You couldn't blame the man for wanting his wife back, could you?" I
demanded. "Of course he might have been more tactful."

"Tactful's the word," agreed Uncle Abner cordially. "You see, this
wasn't Pete's wife at all. She was just a young squaw he'd took a fancy
to."

"Oh!" Nothing else seemed quite so fitting to say.

"'Nother time," resumed the honest blacksmith, "the Gov'ment at
Washington, D.C., sent out orders for all the Injun kids to be sent off
to school. Lots of the fathers made trouble about this, but Pete was the
worst of all--the old scoundrel! The agent said to him would Pete send
his kids peaceful; and Pete said not by no means. So the agent says in
that case they'll have to take 'em by force. Pete says he'll be right
there a-plenty when they're took by force. So next day the agent and his
helper go down to Pete's tepee. It's pitched up on a bank just off the
road and they's a low barrier of brush acrost the front of it. They look
close at this and see the muzzle of a rifle peeking down at 'em; also,
they can hear little scramblings and squealings of about a dozen or
fourteen kids in the tepee that was likely nestled up round the old
murderer like a bunch of young quail.

"Well, they was something kind of cold and cheerless about the muzzle of
this rifle poked through the brush at 'em; so the agent starts in and
makes a regular agent speech to Pete. He says the Great White Father at
Washington, D.C., has wished his children to be give an English
education and learnt to write a good business hand, and all like that;
and read books, and so on; and the Great White Father will be peeved if
Pete takes it in this rough way. And the agent is disappointed in him,
too, and will never again think the same of his old friend, and why
can't he be nice and submit to the decencies of civilization--and so
on--a lot of guff like that; but all the time he talks this here rifle
is pointing right into his chest, so you can bet he don't make no false
motions.

"At last, when he's told Pete all the reasons he can think up and
guesses mebbe he's got the old boy going, he winds up by saying: 'And
now what shall I tell the Great White Father at Washington you say to
his kind words?' Old Pete, still not moving the rifle a hair's breadth,
he calls out: 'You tell the Great White Father at Washington to go to
hell!' Yes, sir; just like that he says it; and I guess that shows you
what kind of a murderer he is. And what I allus say is, 'what's the use
of spending us taxpayers' good money trying to educate trash like that,
when they ain't got no sense of decency in the first place, and the
minute they learn to talk English they begin to curse and swear as bad
as a white man? They got no wish to improve their condition, which is
what I allus have said and what I allus will say.

"Anyway, this agent didn't waste no more time on Pete's brats. He come
right away from there, though telling his helper it was a great pity
they couldn't have got a good look into the tepee, because then they'd
have known for the first time just what kids round there Pete really
considered his. Of course he hadn't felt he should lay down his life in
the interests of this trifling information, and I don't blame him one
bit. I wouldn't have done it myself. You can't tell me a reservation
with Pete on it would be any nice place. Look at the old crook now,
still lamming that axe round to beat the cars because he thinks he's
being watched! I bet he'll be mad down to his moccasins when he finds
out the Old Lady's been off all day."

Uncle Abner yawned and stretched his sun-baked form with weary
rectitude. Then he looked with pleased dismay into the face of his
silver watch.

"Now, I snum! Here she's two-thirty! Don't it beat all how time flits
by, as it were, when you meet a good conversationalist and get started
on various topics! Well, I guess like as not I better amble along over
toward the little shop and see if they ain't some little thing to be
puttered at round there. Yes, sir; all play and no work makes Jack a
dull boy, as the saying is."

The honest fellow achieved a few faltering paces in the general
direction of his shop. Then he turned brightly.

"A joke's a joke, all right; but, after all, I hate to see old Pete
working hisself into the grave that way, even if he ain't a regular
human being. Suppose you loaf over there and put him wise that the
Madam's been off the place since sunup. The laugh's on him enough
already."

Which showed that Uncle Abner had not really a bad heart. And I did even
as he had said.

       *       *       *       *       *

Pete was instantly stilled by my brief but informing speech. He leaned
upon his axe and gazed at me with shocked wonder. The face of the
American Indian is said to be unrevealing--to be a stoic mask under
which his emotions are ever hidden. For a second time this day I found
tradition at fault. Pete's face was lively and eloquent under his shock
of dead-black hair--dead black but for half a dozen gray or grayish
strands, for Pete's eighty years have told upon him, even if he is not
yet sufficiently gray at the temples to be a hero in a magazine costing
over fifteen cents. His face is a richly burnished mahogany and tells
little of his years until he smiles; then from brow to pointed chin it
cracks into a million tiny wrinkles, an intricate network of them
framing his little black eyes, which are lashless, and radiating from
the small mouth to the high cheek bones of his race.

His look as he eyed me became utter consternation; then humour slowly
lightened the little eyes. He lifted the eyes straight into the glare of
the undimmed sun; nor did they blink as they noted the hour. "My good
gosh!" he muttered; then stalked slowly round the pile of stove wood
that had been spreading since morning. He seemed aggrieved--yet
humorously aggrieved--as he noted its noble dimensions. He cast away the
axe and retrieved some outflung sticks, which he cunningly adjusted to
the main pile to make it appear still larger to the casual eye.

"My good gosh!" he muttered again. "My old mahala she tell me Old Lady
Pettengill go off early this morning; but I think she make one big
mistake. Now what you know about that?" He smiled winningly now and
became a very old man indeed, the smile lighting the myriad minute
wrinkles that instantly came to life. Again he ruefully surveyed the
morning's work. "I think that caps the climax," said he, and grimanced
humorous dismay for the entertainment of us both.

I opened my cigarette case to him. Like his late critic, Pete availed
himself of two, though he had not the excuse of a pipe to be filled. One
he coyly tucked above his left ear and one he lighted. Then he sat
gracefully back upon his heels and drew smoke into his innermost
recesses, a shrunken little figure of a man in a calico shirt of gay
stripes, faded blue overalls, and shoes that were remarkable as ruins.
With a pointed chip in the slender fingers of one lean brown hand--a
narrow hand of quite feminine delicacy--he cleared the ground of other
chips and drew small figures in the earth.

"Some of your people cut up in a fight down at Kulanche last night," I
remarked after a moment of courteous waiting.

"Mebbe," said Pete, noncommittal.

"Were you down there?"

"I never kill a man with a knife," said Pete; "that ain't my belief."

He left an opening that tempted, but I thought it wise to ignore that
for the moment.

"You an old man, Pete?"

"Mebbe."

"How old?"

"Oh, so-so."

"You remember a long time ago--how long?"

He drew a square in his cleared patch of earth, subdivided it into
little squares, and dotted each of these in the centre before he spoke.

"When Modocs have big soldier fight."

"You a Modoc?"

"B'lieve me!"

"When Captain Jack fought the soldiers over in the Lava Beds?"

"Some fight--b'lieve me!" said Pete, erasing his square and starting a
circle.

"You fight, too?"

"Too small; I do little odd jobs--when big Injin kill soldier I skin um
head."

I begged for further items, but Pete seemed to feel that he had been
already verbose. He dismissed the historic action with a wise saying:

"Killing soldiers all right; but it don't settle nothing." He drew a
triangle.

Indelicately then I pried into his spiritual life.

"You a Christian, Pete?"

"Injin-Christian," he amended--as one would say
"Progressive-Republican."

"Believe in God?"

"Two." This was a guarded admission; I caught his side glance.

"Which ones?" I asked it cordially; and Pete smiled as one who detects a
brother liberal in theology.

"Injin God; Christian God. Injin God go like this--" He brushed out his
latest figure and drew a straight line a foot long. And Christian God go
so--he drew a second straight line perpendicular to the first. I was
made to see the line of his own God extending over the earth some fifty
feet above its surface, while the line of the Christian God went
straight and endlessly into the heavens. "Injin God stay
close--Christian God go straight up. Whoosh!" He looked toward the
zenith to indicate the vanishing line. "I think mebbe both O.K. You
think both O.K.?"

"Mebbe," I said.

Pete retraced the horizontal line of his own God and the perpendicular
line of the other.

"Funny business," said he tolerantly.

"Funny business," I echoed. And then--the moment seeming ripe for
intimate personal research: "Pete, how about that brother-in-law of
yours? Is he a one-God Christian or a two-God, like you?"

He hurriedly brushed out his lines, flashed me one of his uneasy side
glances, and seemed not to have heard my question. He sprang lightly
from his heels, affected to scan a murky cloud-bank to the south,
ignited his second cigarette from the first, and seemed relieved by the
actual diversion of Laura, his present lawful consort, now plodding
along the road just outside the fence.

Laura is ponderous and billowy, and her moonlike face of rusty bronze is
lined to show that she, too, has gone down a little into the vale of
years. She was swathed in many skirts, her shoulders enveloped by a
neutral-tinted shawl, and upon her head was a modist toque of light
straw, garlanded with pink roses. This may have been her hunt constume,
for the carcasses of two slain rabbits swung jauntily from her girdle.
She undulated by us with no sign. Pete's glistening little eyes lingered
in appraisal upon her noble rotundities and her dangling quarry. Then,
with a graceful flourish of the new cigarette, he paid tribute to the
ancient fair.

"That old mahala of mine, she not able to chew much now; but she's some
swell chicken--b'lieve me!"

I persisted in the impertinence he had sought to turn.

"How about this brother-in-law of yours, Pete?"

Again he was deaf. He picked up his axe, appearing to weigh the
resumption of his task against a reply to this straight question. He
must have found the alternative too dreadful; he leaned upon the axe,
thus winning something of the dignity of labour, with none of its pains,
and grudgingly asked:

"Mebbe some liars tell you in conversation about that old
b'other-in-law?"

"Of course! Many nice people tell me every day. They tell me all about
him. I rather hear you tell me. Is he a Christian?"

"He's one son-of-gun, pure and simple--that old feller. He caps the
climax."

"Yes; I know all about that. He's a bad man. I hear everything about
him. Now you tell me again. You can tell better than liars."

"One genuine son-of-gun!" persisted Pete, shrewdly keeping to general
terms.

"Oh, very well!" I rose from the log I was sitting on, yawning my
indifference. "I know everything he ever did. Other people tell me all
the time."

I moved off a few steps under the watchful side glance. It worked. One
of Pete's slim, womanish hands fluttered up in a movement of arrest.

"Those liars tell you about one time he shoot white man off horse going
by?"

"Certainly!"

"That white man still have smallpox to give all Injins he travel to; so
they go 'n' vote who kill him off quick, and my b'other-in-law he win
it."

I tried to look as if this were a bit of stale gossip.

"Then whites raise hell to say Pete he do same. What you know about
that? My old b'other-in-law send word he do same--twenty, fifty Injin
witness tell he said so--and now he gon' hide far off. Dep'ty sheriff
can't find him. That son-of-gun come back next year, raise big fight
over one span mules with Injin named Walter that steal my mules out of
pasture; and Walter not get well from it--so whites say yes, old Pete
done that same killing scrape to have his mules again; plain as the nose
on the face old Pete do same. But I catch plenty Injin witness see my
b'other-in-law do same, and I think they can't catch him another time
once more, because they look in all places he ain't. I think plenty too
much trouble he make all time for me--perform something not nice and get
found out about it; and all people say, Oh, yes--that old Pete he's at
tricks again; he better get sent to Walla Walla, learn some good trade
in prison for eighteen years. That b'other-in-law cap the climax! He
know all good place to hide from dep'ty sheriff, so not be found when
badly wanted--the son-of-gun!"

Pete's face now told that, despite the proper loathing inspired by his
misdeeds, this brother-in-law compelled a certain horrid admiration for
his gift of elusiveness.

"What's your brother-in-law's name?"

Pete deliberated gravely.

"In my opinion his name Edward; mebbe Sam, mebbe Charlie; I think more
it's Albert."

"Well, what about that next time he broke out?"

"Whoosh! Damn no-good squaw man get all Injins drunk on whiskey; then
play poker with four aces. 'What you got? No good--four aces--hard
luck--deal 'em up!'" Pete's flexible wrists here flashed in pantomime.
"Pretty soon Injin got no mules, no blanket, no spring wagon, no gun, no
new boots, no nine dollars my old mahala gets paid for three bushel wild
plums from Old Lady Pettengill to make canned goods of--only got one big
sick head from all night; see four aces, four kings, four jacks. 'What
you got, Pete? No good. Full house here. Hard luck--my deal. Have
another drink, old top!'"

"Well, what did your brother-in-law do when he heard about this?"

"Something!"

"Shoot?"

"Naw; got no gun left. Choke him on the neck--I think this way."

The supple hands of Pete here clutched his corded throat, fingertips
meeting at the back, and two potent thumbs uniting in a sinister
pressure upon his Adam's apple. To further enlarge my understanding he
contorted his face unprettily. From rolling eyes and outthrust tongue it
was apparent that the squaw man had survived long enough to regret the
inveteracy of his good luck at cards.

"Then what?"

"Man tell you before?" He eyed me with frank suspicion.

"Certainly; you tell, too!"

"That b'other-in-law he win everything back this poor squaw man don't
need no more, and son-of-gun beat it quick; so all liars say Old Pete
turn that trick, but can't prove same, because my b'other-in-law do same
in solitude. And old judge say: 'Oh, well, can't prove same in
courthouse, and only good squaw man is dead squaw man; so
what-the-bad-place!' I think mebbe."

"Go on; what about that next time?"

"You know already," said Pete firmly.

"You tell, too."

He pondered this, his keen little eyes searching my face as he pensively
fondled the axe.

"You know about this time that son-of-gun go 'n' kill a bright lawyer in
Red Gap? I think that cap the climax!"

"Certainly, I know!" This with bored impatience.

"I think, then, you tell me." His seamed face was radiant with cunning.

"What's the use? You know it already."

He countered swiftly:

"What's use I tell you--you know already."

I yawned again flagrantly.

"Now you tell in your own way how this trouble first begin," persisted
Pete rather astonishingly. He seemed to quote from memory.

Once more I yawned, turning coldly away.

"You tell in your own words," he was again gently urging; but on the
instant his axe began to rain blows upon the log at his feet.

Sounds of honest toil were once more to be heard in the wood lot; and,
though I could not hear the other, I surmised that the sledge of Uncle
Abner now rang merrily upon his anvil. Both he and Pete had doubtless
noted at the same moment the approach of Mrs. Lysander John Pettengill,
who was spurring her jaded roan up the long rise from the creek bottom.

       *       *       *       *       *

My stalwart hostess, entirely masculine to the eye from a little
distance, strode up from the corral, waved a quirt at me in greeting,
indicated by another gesture that she was dusty and tired, and vanished
briskly within the ranch house. Half an hour later she joined me in the
living-room, where I had trifled with ancient magazines and stock
journals on the big table. Laced boots, riding breeches, and army shirt
had gone for a polychrome and trailing tea gown, black satin slippers,
flashing rhinestone rosettes, and silk stockings of a sinful scarlet.
She wore a lace boudoir cap, plenteously beribboned, and her sunburned
nose had been lavishly powdered. She looked now merely like an indulged
matron whose most poignant worry would be a sick Pomeranian or
overnight losses at bridge. She wished to know whether I would have tea
with her. I would.

Tea consisted of bottled beer from the spring house, half a ham, and a
loaf of bread. It should be said that her behaviour toward these
dainties, when they had been assembled, made her seem much less the worn
social leader. There was practically no talk for ten active minutes. A
high-geared camera would have caught everything of value in the scene.
It was only as I decanted a second bottle of beer for the woman that she
seemed to regain consciousness of her surroundings. The spirit of her
first attack upon the food had waned. She did fashion another sandwich
of a rugged pattern, but there was a hint of the dilettante in her work.

And now she spoke. Her gaze upon the magazines of yesteryear massed at
the lower end of the table, she declared they must all be scrapped,
because they too painfully reminded her of a dentist's waiting-room. She
wondered if there mustn't be a law against a dentist having in his
possession a magazine less than ten years old. She suspected as much.

"There I'll be sitting in Doc Martingale's office waiting for him to
kill me by inches, and I pick up a magazine to get my mind off my fate
and find I'm reading a timely article, with illustrations, about
Cervera's fleet being bottled up in the Harbour of Santiago. I bet he's
got Godey's Lady's Book for 1862 round there, if you looked for it."

Now a brief interlude for the ingestion of malt liquor, followed by a
pained recital of certain complications of the morning.

"That darned one-horse post-office down to Kulanche! What do you think?
I wanted to send a postal card to the North American Cleaning and Dye
Works, at Red Gap, for some stuff they been holding out on me a month,
and that office didn't have a single card in stock--nothing but some of
these fancy ones in a rack over on the grocery counter; horrible things
with pictures of brides and grooms on 'em in coloured costumes, with
sickening smiles on their faces, and others with wedding bells ringing
out or two doves swinging in a wreath of flowers--all of 'em having
mushy messages underneath; and me having to send this card to the North
American Cleaning and Dye Works, which is run by Otto Birdsall, a
smirking old widower, that uses hair oil and perfumery, and imagines
every woman in town is mad about him.

"The mildest card I could find was covered with red and purple
cauliflowers or something, and it said in silver print: 'With fondest
remembrance!' Think of that going through the Red Gap post-office to be
read by old Mis' Terwilliger, that some say will even open letters that
look interesting--to say nothing of its going to this fresh old Otto
Birdsall, that tried to hold my hand once not so many years ago.

"You bet I made the written part strong enough not to give him or any
other party a wrong notion of my sentiments toward him. At that, I guess
Otto wouldn't make any mistake since the time I give him hell last
summer for putting my evening gowns in his show window every time he'd
clean one, just to show off his work. It looked so kind of indelicate
seeing an empty dress hung up there that every soul in town knew
belonged to me.

"What's that? Oh, I wrote on the card that if this stuff of mine don't
come up on the next stage I'll be right down there, and when I'm through
handling him he'll be able to say truthfully that he ain't got a gray
hair in his head. I guess Otto will know my intentions are honest, in
spite of that 'fondest remembrance.'

"Then, on top of that, I had a run-in with the Swede for selling his
rotten whiskey to them poor Injin boys that had a fight last night after
they got tight on it. The Swede laughs and says nobody can prove he sold
'em a drop, and I says that's probably true. I says it's always hard to
prove things. 'For instance,' I says, 'if they's another drop of liquor
sold to an Injin during this haying time, and a couple or three nights
after that your nasty dump here is set fire to in six places, and some
cowardly assassin out in the brush picks you off with a rifle when you
rush out--it will be mighty hard to prove that anybody did that, too;
and you not caring whether it's proved or not, for that matter.

[Illustration: "THE SWEDE BRISTLES UP AND SAYS: 'THAT SOUNDS LIKE
FIGHTING TALK!' I SAYS: 'YOUR HEARING IS PERFECT.'"]

"'In fact,' I says, 'I don't suppose anybody would take the trouble to
prove it, even if it could be easy proved. You'd note a singular lack of
public interest in it--if you was spared to us. I guess about as far as
an investigation would ever get--the coroner's jury would say it was the
work of Pete's brother-in-law; and you know what that would mean.' The
Swede bristles up and says: 'That sounds like fighting talk!' I says:
'Your hearing is perfect.' I left him thinking hard."

"Pete's brother-in-law? That reminds me," I said. "Pete was telling me
about him just--I mean during his lunch hour; but he had to go to work
again just at the beginning of something that sounded good--about the
time he was going to kill a bright lawyer. What was that?"

The glass was drained and Ma Pettengill eyed the inconsiderable remains
of the ham with something like repugnance. She averted her face from it,
lay back in the armchair she had chosen, and rolled a cigarette, while I
brought a hassock for the jewelled slippers and the scarlet silken
ankles, so ill-befitting one of her age. The cigarette was presently
burning.

"I guess Pete's b'other-in-law, as he calls him, won't come into these
parts again. He had a kind of narrow squeak this last time. Pete done
something pretty raw, even for this liberal-minded community. He got
scared about it himself and left the country for a couple of
months--looking for his brother-in-law, he said. He beat it up North and
got in with a bunch of other Injins that was being took down to New York
City to advertise a railroad, Pete looking like what folks think an
Injin ought to look when he's dressed for the part. But he got homesick;
and, anyway, he didn't like the job.

"This passenger agent that took 'em East put 'em up at one of the big
hotels all right, but he subjects 'em to hardships they ain't used to.
He wouldn't let 'em talk much English, except to say, 'Ugh! Ugh!'--like
Injins are supposed to--with a few remarks about the Great Spirit; and
not only that, but he makes 'em wear blankets and paint their faces--an
Injin without paint and blanket and some beadwork seeming to a general
passenger agent like a state capitol without a dome. And on top of these
outrages he puts it up with the press agent of this big hotel to have
the poor things sleep up on the roof, right in the open air, so them jay
New York newspapers would fall for it and print articles about these
hardy sons of the forest, the last of a vanishing race, being stifled by
walls--with the names of the railroad and the hotel coming out good and
strong all through the piece.

"Three of the poor things got pneumonia, not being used to such
exposure; and Pete himself took a bad cold, and got mad and quit the
job. They find him a couple of days later, in a check suit and white
shoes and a golf cap, playing pool in a saloon over on Eighth Avenue,
and ship him back as a disgrace to the Far West and a great common
carrier.

"He got in here one night, me being his best friend, and we talked it
over. I advised him to go down and give himself up and have it over;
and he agreed, and went down to Red Gap the next day in his new clothes
and knocked at the jail door. He made a long talk about how his
brother-in-law was the man that really done it, and he's been searching
for him clear over to the rising sun, but can't find him; so he's come
to give himself up, even if they ain't got the least grounds to suspect
him--and can he have his trial for murder over that afternoon, so he can
come back up here the next day and go to work?

"They locked him up and Judge Ballard appointed J. Waldo Snyder to
defend him. He was a new young lawyer from the East that had just come
to Red Gap, highly ambitious and full of devices for showing that
parties couldn't have been in their right mind when they committed the
deed--see the State against Jamstucker, New York Reports Number 23,
pages 19 to 78 inclusive.

"Oh, he told me all about it up in his office one day--how he was going
to get Pete off. Ain't lawyers the goods, though! And doctors? This J.W.
Snyder had a doctor ready to swear that Pete was nutty when he fired the
shot, even if not before nor after. When I was a kid at school, back in
Fredonia, New York State, we used to have debates about which does the
most harm--fire or water? Nowadays I bet they'd have: Which does the
most harm--doctors or lawyers? Well, anyway, there Pete was in
jail--"

"Please tell in your own simple words just how this trouble began," I
broke in. "What did Pete fire the shot for and who stopped it? Now
then!"

"What! Don't you know about that? Well, well! So you never heard about
Pete sending this medicine man over the one-way trail? I'll have to tell
you, then. It was three years ago. Pete was camped about nine miles the
other side of Kulanche, on the Corporation Ranch, and his little
year-old boy was took badly sick. I never did know with what.
Diphtheria, I guess. And I got to tell you Pete is crazy about babies.
Always has been. Thirty years ago, when my own baby hadn't been but a
few weeks born, Lysander John had to be in Red Gap with a smashed leg
and arm, and I was here alone with Pete for two months of one winter.
Say, he was better than any trained nurse with both of us, even if my
papoose was only a girl one! Folks used to wonder afterward if I hadn't
been afraid with just Pete round. Good lands! If they'd ever seen him
cuddle that mite and sing songs to it in Injin about the rain and the
grass! Anyway, I got to know Pete so well that winter I never blamed him
much for what come off.

"Well, this yearling of his got bad and Pete was in two minds. He
believed in white doctors with his good sense, but he believed in Injin
doctors with his superstition, which was older. So he tried to have one
of each. There was an old rogue of a medicine man round here then from
the reservation up north. He'd been doing a little work at haying on
the Corporation, but he was getting his main graft selling the Injins
charms and making spells over their sick; a crafty old crook playing on
their ignorance--understand? And Pete, having got the white doctor from
Kulanche, thought he'd cinch matters by getting the medicine man, too.
At that, I guess one would of been about as useful as the other, the
Kulanche doctor knowing more about anthrax and blackleg than he did
about sick Injin babies.

"The medicine man sees right off how scared Pete is for his kid and
thinks here's a chance to make some big money. He looks at the little
patient and says yes, he can cure him, sure; but it'll be a hard job and
he can't undertake it unless Pete comes through with forty dollars and
his span of mules. But Pete ain't got forty dollars or forty cents, and
the Kulanche doctor has got to the mules already, having a lien on 'em
for twenty-five.

"Pete hurried over and put the proposition up to me. He says his little
chief is badly sick and he's got a fine white doctor, but will I stake
him to enough to get this fine Injin doctor?--thus making a cure
certain. Well, I tore into the old fool for wanting to let this depraved
old medicine man tamper with his baby, and I warned him the Kulanche
doctor probably wasn't much better. Then I tell him he's to send down
for the best doctor in Red Gap at my expense and keep him with the child
till it's well. I tell him he can have the whole ranch if it would cure
his child, but not one cent for the Injin.

"Well, the poor boy is about half convinced I'm right, but he's been an
Injin too long to believe it all through. He went off and sent for the
Red Gap doctor, but he can't resist making another try for the Injin
one; and that old scoundrel holds out for his price. Pete wants him to
wait for his pay till haying is over; but he won't because he thinks
Pete can get the money from me now if he really has to have it. Pete
must of been crazy for fair about that time.

"'All right,' says he; 'you can cure my little chief?'

"The crook says he can if the money is in his hand.

"'All right,' says Pete again; 'but if my little chief dies something
bad is going to happen to you.'

"That's about all they ever found out concerning this threat of Pete's,
though another Injin who heard it said that Pete said his brother-in-law
would make the trouble--not Pete himself. Which was likely true enough.

"Pete's little chief died the night the Red Gap doctor got up here. Ten
minutes later this medicine man had hitched up his team, loaded his
plunder into a wagon, and was pouring leather into his horses to get
back home quick. He knew Pete never talks just to hear himself talk.
They found him about thirty miles on his way--slumped down in the wagon
bed, his team hitched by the roadside. There had been just one careful
shot. As he hadn't been robbed--he had over" a hundred dollars in gold
on him--it pointed a mite too strong at Pete after his threat.

"A deputy sheriff come up. Pete said his brother-in-law had been
hanging round lately and had talked very dangerous about the medicine
man. He said the brother-in-law had probably done the job. But Pete had
pulled this too often before when in difficulties. The deputy said he'd
better come along down to Red Gap and tell the district attorney about
it. Pete said all right and crawled into his tepee for his coat and
hat--crawled right on out the back and into the brush while the deputy
rolled a cigarette.

"That was when he joined this bunch of noble redmen to advertise the
vanishing romance of the Great West--being helped out of the country, I
shouldn't wonder, by some lawless old hound that had feelings for him
and showed it when he come along in the night to the ranch where he'd
nursed her and her baby. They looked for him a little while, then
dropped it; in fact, everybody was kind of glad he'd got off and kind of
satisfied that he'd put this bad Injin, with his skull-duggery, over the
big jump.

"Then he got homesick, like I told you, and showed up here at the door;
and I saw it was better for him to give himself up and get out of it by
fair and legal means. Now! You got it straight that far?"

I nodded.

"So Pete took my advice, and a couple days later I hurried down to Red
Gap and had a talk with Judge Ballard and the district attorney. The
judge said it had been embarrassing to justice to have my old Injin
walk in on 'em, because every one knew he was guilty. Why couldn't he of
stayed up here where the keen-eyed officers of the law could of
pretended not to know he was? And the old fool was only making things
worse with his everlasting chatter about his brother-in-law, every one
knowing there wasn't such a person in existence--old Pete having had
dozens of every kind of relation in the world but a brother-in-law. But
they're going to have this bright young lawyer defend him, and they have
hopes.

"Then I talked some. I said it was true that everybody knew Pete bumped
off this old crook that had it coming to him, but they could never prove
it, because Pete had come to my place and set up with me all night, when
I had lumbago or something, the very night this crime was done
thirty-odd miles distant by some person or persons unknown--except it
could be known they had good taste about who needed killing.

"At this Judge Ballard jumps up and calls me an old liar and shook hands
warmly with me; and Cale Jordan, that was district attorney then, says
if Mrs. Pettengill will give him her word of honour to go on the witness
stand and perjure herself to this effect then he don't see no use of
even putting Kulanche County, State of Washington, to the expense of a
trial, the said county already being deep in the hole for its new
courthouse--but for mercy's sake to stop the old idiot babbling about
his brother-in-law, that every one knows he never had one, because such
a joke is too great an affront to the dignity of the law in such cases
made and provided--to wit: tell the old fool to say nothing except 'No,
he never done it.' And he shakes hands with me, too, and says he'll have
an important talk with Myron Bughalter, the sheriff.

"I says that's the best way out of it, being myself a heavy taxpayer;
and I go see this Snyder lawyer, and then over to the jail and get into
Pete's cell, where he's having a high old time with a sack of peppermint
candy and a copy of the Scientific American. I tell him to cut out the
brother-in-law stuff and just say 'No' to any question whatever. He said
he would, and I went off home to rest up after my hard ride.

"Judge Ballard calls that night and says everything is fixed. No use
putting the county to the expense of a trial when Pete has such a classy
perjured alibi as I would give him. Myron Bughalter is to go out of the
jail in a careless manner at nine-thirty that night, leaving all cells
unlocked and the door wide open so Pete can make his escape without
doing any damage to the new building. It seems the only other prisoner
is old Sing Wah, that they're willing to save money on, too. He'd got
full of perfumed port and raw gin a few nights before, announced himself
as a prize-hatchet man, and started a tong war in the laundry of one of
his cousins. But Sing was sober now and would stay so until the next New
Year's; so they was going to let him walk out with Pete. The judge said
Pete would probably be at the Arrowhead by sunup, and if he'd behave
himself from now on the law would let bygones be bygones. I thanked the
judge and went to bed feeling easy about old Pete.

"But at seven the next morning I'm waked up by the telephone--wanted
down to the jail in a hurry. I go there soon as I can get a drink of hot
coffee and find that poor Myron Bughalter is having his troubles. He'd
got there at seven, thinking, of course, to find both his prisoners
gone; and here in the corridor is Pete setting on the chest of Sing Wah,
where he'd been all night, I guess! He tells Myron he's a fool sheriff
to leave his door wide open that way, because this bad Chinaman tried to
walk out as soon as he'd gone, and would of done so it Pete hadn't
jumped him.

"It leaves Myron plenty embarrassed, but he finally says to Pete he can
go free, anyway, now, for being such an honest jailbird; and old Sing
Wah can go, too, having been punished enough by Pete's handling. Sing
Wah slides out quickly enough at this, promising to send Myron a dozen
silk handkerchiefs and a pound of tea. But not Pete. No, sir! He tells
Myron he's give himself up to be tried, and he wants that trial and
won't budge till he gets it.

"Then Myron telephoned for the judge and the district attorney, and for
me. We get there and tell Pete to beat it quick. But the old mule isn't
going to move one step without that trial. He's fled back to his cell
and stands there as dignified as if he was going to lay a cornerstone.
He's a grave rebuke to the whole situation, as you might say. Then the
Judge and Cale go through some kind of a hocus-pocus talk, winding up
with both of them saying 'Not guilty!' in a loud voice; and Myron says
to Pete: 'There! You had your trial; now get out of my jail this
minute.'

"But canny old Pete is still balking. He says you can't have a trial
except in the courthouse, which is upstairs, and they're trying to cheat
a poor old Injin. He's talking loud by this time, and Judge Ballard
says, all right, they must humour the poor child of Nature. So Myron
takes Pete by the wrist in a firm manner--though Pete's insisting he
ought to have the silver handcuffs on him--and marches him out the jail
door, round to the front marble steps of the new courthouse, up the
steps, down the marble hall and into the courtroom, with the judge and
Cale Jordan and me marching behind.

"We ain't the whole procession, either. Out in front of the jail was
about fifteen of Pete's friends and relatives, male and female, that had
been hanging round for two days waiting to attend his coming-out party.
Mebbe that's why Pete had been so strong for the real courthouse,
wanting to give these friends something swell for their trouble. Anyway,
these Injins fall in behind us when we come out and march up into the
courtroom, where they set down in great ecstasy. Every last one of 'em
has a sack of peppermint candy and a bag of popcorn or peanuts, and
they all begin to eat busily. The steam heat had been turned on and that
hall of justice in three minutes smelt like a cheap orphan asylum on
Christmas-morning.

"Then, before they can put up another bluff at giving Pete his trial,
with Judge Ballard setting up in his chair with his specs on and looking
fierce, who rushes in but this J. Waldo person that is Pete's lawyer.
He's seen the procession from across the street and fears some low-down
trick is being played on his defenseless client.

"He comes storming down the aisle exclaiming; 'Your Honour, I protest
against this grossly irregular proceeding!' The judge pounds on his desk
with his little croquet mallet and Myron Bughalter tells Snyder, out of
the corner of his mouth, to shut up. But he won't shut up for some
minutes. This is the first case he'd had and he's probably looked
forward to a grand speech to the jury that would make 'em all blubber
and acquit Pete without leaving the box, on the grounds of emotional or
erratic insanity--or whatever it is that murderers get let off on when
their folks are well fixed. He sputters quite a lot about this monstrous
travesty on justice before they can drill the real facts into his head;
and even then he keeps coming back to Pete's being crazy.

"Then Pete, who hears this view of his case for the first time, begins
to glare at his lawyer in a very nasty way and starts to interrupt; so
the judge has to knock wood some more to get 'em all quiet. When they
do get still--with Pete looking blacker than ever at his lawyer--Cale
Jordan says: 'Pete, did you do this killing?' Pete started to say mebbe
his brother-in-law did, but caught himself in time and said 'No!' at the
same time starting for J. Waldo, that had called him crazy. Myron
Bughalter shoves him back in his chair, and Cale Jordan says: 'Your
Honour, you have heard the evidence, which is conclusive. I now ask that
the prisoner at the bar be released.' Judge Ballard frowns at Pete very
stern and says: 'The motion is granted. Turn him loose, quick, and get
the rest of that smelly bunch out of here and give the place a good
airing. I have to hold court here at ten o'clock.'

"Pete was kind of convinced now that he'd had a sure-enough trial, and
his friends had seen the marble walls and red carpet and varnished
furniture, and everything; so he consented to be set free--not in any
rush, but like he was willing to do 'em a favour.

"And all the time he's keeping a bad little eye on J. Waldo. The minute
he gets down from the stand he makes for him and says what does he mean
by saying he was crazy when he done this killing? J. Waldo tries to
explain that this was his only defense and was going on to tell what an
elegant defense it was; but Pete gets madder and madder. I guess he'd
been called everything in the world before, but never crazy; that's the
very worst thing you can tell an Injin.

"They work out toward the front door; and then I hear Pete say: 'You
know what? You said I'm crazy. My b'other-in-law's going to make
something happen to you in the night.' Pete was seeing red by that time.
The judge tells Myron to hurry and get the room cleared and open some
windows. Myron didn't have to clear it of J.W. Snyder. That bright young
lawyer dashed out and was fifty feet ahead of the bunch when they got to
the front door.

"So Pete was a free man once more, without a stain on his character
except to them that knew him well. But the old fool had lost me a
tenant. Yes, sir; this J.W. Snyder young man, with the sign hardly dry
on the glass door of his office in the Pettengill Block, had a nervous
temperament to start with, and on top of that he'd gone fully into
Pete's life history and found out that parties his brother-in-law was
displeased with didn't thrive long. He packed up his law library that
afternoon and left for another town that night.

"Yes, Pete's a wonder! Watch him slaving away out there. And he must of
been working hard all day, even with me not here to keep tabs on him.
Just look at the size of that pile of wood he's done up, when he might
easy of been loafing on the job!"



IX

LITTLE OLD NEW YORK


Monday's mail for the Arrowhead was brought in by the Chinaman while Ma
Pettengill and I loitered to the close of the evening meal: a canvas
sack of letters and newspapers with three bulky packages of merchandise
that had come by parcels post. The latter evoked a passing storm from my
hostess. Hadn't she warned folks time and again to send all her stuff by
express instead of by parcels post, which would sure get her gunned some
day by the stage driver who got nothing extra for hauling such matter?
She had so!

We trifled now with a fruity desert and the lady regaled me with a brief
exposure of our great parcels-post system as a piece of the nerviest
penny pinching she had ever known our Government guilty of. Because why?
Because these here poor R.F.D. stage drivers had to do the extra hauling
for nothing.

"Here's old Harvey Steptoe with the mail contract for sixty dollars a
month, three trips a week between Red Gap and Surprise Valley,
forty-five miles each way, barely making enough extra on express matter
and local freight to come out even after buying horse-feed. Then comes
parcels post, and parties that had had to pay him four bits or a dollar
for a large package, or two bits for a small one, can have 'em brought
in by mail for nothing. Of course most of us eased up on him after we
understood the hellish injustice of it. We took pains not to have things
sent parcels post and when they come unbeknown to us, like these here
to-night, we'd always pay him anyway, just like they was express. It was
only fair and, besides, we would live longer, Harvey Steptoe being
morose and sudden.

"Like when old Safety First Timmins got the idea he could have all his
supplies sent from Red Gap for almost nothing by putting stamps on 'em.
He was tickled to death with the notion until, after the second load of
about a hundred pounds, some cowardly assassin shot at him from the
brush one morning about the time the stage usually went down past his
ranch. The charge missed him by about four inches and went into the barn
door. He dug it out and found a bullet and two buckshot. Old Safety
First ain't any Sherlock Holmes, but even Doctor Watson could of solved
this murderous crime. When Harvey come by the next night he went out and
says to him, 'Ain't you got one of them old Mississippi Yaegers about
seventy-five years old that carries a bullet and two buckshot?' Harvey
thought back earnestly for a minute, then says,'Not now I ain't. I used
to have one of them old hairlooms around the house but I found they
ain't reliable when you want to do fine work from a safe distance; so I
threw her away yesterday morning and got me this nice new 30-30 down to
Goshook & Dale's hardware store.'

"He pulled the new gun out and patted it tenderly in the sight of old
Timmins. 'Ain't it a cunning little implement?' he says; 'I tried it out
coming up this afternoon. I could split a hair with it as far, say, as
from that clump of buck-brush over to your barn. And by the way, Mr.
Timmins,' he says, 'I got some more stuff for you here from the Square
Deal Grocery--stuff all gummed up with postage stamps.' He leans his new
toy against the seat and dumps out a sack of flour and a sack of dried
fruit and one or two other things. 'This parcels post is a grand thing,
ain't it?' says he.

"'Well--yes and no, now that you speak of it,' says old Safety First.
'The fact is I'm kind of prejudiced against it; I ain't going to have
things come to me any more all stuck over with them trifling little
postage stamps. It don't look dignified.' 'No?' says Harvey. 'No,' says
Safety First in a firm tone. 'I won't ever have another single thing
come by mail if I can help it.' 'I bet you're superstitious,' says
Harvey, climbing back to his seat and petting the new gun again. 'I bet
you're so superstitious you'd take this here shiny new implement off my
hands at cost if I hinted I'd part with it.' 'I almost believe I would,'
says Safety First. 'Well, it don't seem like I'd have much use for it
after all,' says Harvey. 'Of course I can always get a new one if my
fancy happens to run that way again.'

"So old Safety First buys a new loaded rifle that he ain't got a use on
earth for. It would of looked to outsiders like he was throwing his
money away on fripperies, but he knew it was a prime necessity of life
all right. The parcels post ain't done him a bit of good since, though I
send him marked pieces in the papers every now and then telling how the
postmaster general thinks it's a great boon to the ultimate consumer.
And I mustn't forget to send Harvey six bits for them three packages
that come to-night. That's what we do. Otherwise, him being morose and
turbulent, he'd get a new gun and make ultimate consumers out of all of
us. Darned ultimate! I reckon we got a glorious Government, like
candidates always tell us, but a postmaster general that expected stage
drivers to do three times the hauling they had been doing with no extra
pay wouldn't last long out at the tail of an ... route. There'd be
pieces in the paper telling about how he rose to prominence from the
time he got a lot of delegates sewed up for the people's choice and how
his place will be hard to fill. It certainly would be hard to fill out
here. Old Timmins, for one, would turn a deaf ear to his country's
call."

Lew Wee having now cleared the table of all but coffee, we lingered for
a leisurely overhauling of the mail sack. Ma Pettengill slit envelopes
and read letters to an accompanying rumble of protest. She several times
wished to know what certain parties took her for--and they'd be fooled
if they did; and now and again she dwelt upon the insoluble mystery of
her not being in the poorhouse at that moment; yes, and she'd of been
there long ago if she had let these parties run her business like they
thought they could. But what could a lone defenceless woman expect?
She'd show them, though! Been showing 'em for thirty years now, and
still had her health, hadn't she?

Letters and bills were at last neatly stacked and the poor weak woman
fell upon the newspapers. The Red Gap Recorder was shorn of its wrapper.
Being first a woman she turned to the fourth page to flash a practised
eye over that department which is headed "Life's Stages--At the
Altar--In the Cradle!--To the Tomb." Having gleaned recent vital
statistics she turned next to the column carrying the market quotations
on beef cattle, for after being a woman she is a rancher. Prices for
that day must have pleased her immensely for she grudgingly mumbled that
they were less ruinous than she had expected. In the elation of which
this admission was a sign she next refreshed me with various personal
items from a column headed "Social Gleanings--by Madame On Dit."

I learned that at the last regular meeting of the Ladies' Friday
Afternoon Shakespeare Club, Mrs. Dr. Percy Hailey Martingale had read a
paper entitled "My Trip to the Panama-Pacific Exposition," after which a
dainty collation was served by mine hostess Mrs. Judge Ballard; that
Miss Beryl Mae Macomber, the well-known young society heiress, was
visiting friends in Spokane where rumour hath it that she would take a
course of lessons in elocution; and that Mrs. Cora Hartwick Wales,
prominent society matron and leader of the ultra smart set of Price's
Addition, had on Thursday afternoon at her charming new bungalow, corner
of Bella Vista Street and Prospect Avenue, entertained a number of her
inmates at tea. Ma Pettengill and I here quickly agreed that the
proofreading on the Recorder was not all it should be. Then she
unctuously read me a longer item from another column which was signed
"The Lounger in the Lobby":

"Mr. Benjamin P. Sutton, the wealthy capitalist of Nome, Alaska, and a
prince of good fellows, is again in our midst for his annual visit to
His Honour Alonzo Price, Red Gap's present mayor, of whom he is an
old-time friend and associate. Mr. Sutton, who is the picture of health,
brings glowing reports from the North and is firm in his belief that
Alaska will at no distant day become the garden spot of the world. In
the course of a brief interview he confided to ye scribe that on his
present trip to the outside he would not again revisit his birthplace,
the city of New York, as he did last year. 'Once was enough, for many
reasons,' said Mr. Sutton grimly. 'They call it "Little old New York,"
but it isn't little and it isn't old. It's big and it's new--we have
older buildings right in Nome than any you can find on Broadway. Since
my brief sojourn there last year I have decided that our people before
going to New York should see America first."

"Now what do you think of that?" demanded the lady. I said I would be
able to think little of it unless I were told the precise reasons for
this rather brutal abuse of a great city. What, indeed, were the "many
reasons" that Mr. Sutton had grimly not confided to ye scribe?

Ma Pettengill chuckled and reread parts of the indictment. Thereafter
she again chuckled fluently and uttered broken phrases to herself.
"Horse-car" was one; "the only born New Yorker alive" was another. It
became necessary for me to remind the woman that a guest was present. I
did this by shifting my chair to face the stone fireplace in which a
pine chunk glowed, and by coughing in a delicate and expectant manner.

"Poor Ben!" she murmured--"going all the day down there just to get one
romantic look at his old home after being gone twenty-five years. I
don't blame him for talking rough about the town, nor for his criminal
act--stealing a street-car track."

It sounded piquant--a noble theft indeed! I now murmured a bit myself,
striving to convey an active incredulity that yet might be vanquished by
facts. The lady quite ignored this, diverging to her own opinion of New
York. She tore the wrapper from a Sunday issue of a famous metropolitan
daily and flaunted its comic supplement at me. "That's how I always
think of New York," said she--"a kind of a comic supplement to the rest
of this great country. Here--see these two comical little tots standing
on their uncle's stomach and chopping his heart out with their
axes--after you got the town sized up it's just that funny and horrible.
It's like the music I heard that time at a higher concert I was drug to
in Boston--ingenious but unpleasant."

But this was not what I would sit up for after a hard day's
fishing--this coarse disparagement of something the poor creature was
unfitted to comprehend.

"Ben Sutton," I remarked firmly.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The inhabitants of New York are divided fifty-fifty between them that
are trying to get what you got and them that think you're trying to get
what they got."

"Ben Sutton," I repeated, trying to make it sullen.

"Ask a man on the street in New York where such and such a building is
and he'll edge out of reaching distance, with his hand on his watch,
before he tells you he don't know. In Denver, or San Francisco now, the
man will most likely walk a block or two with you just to make sure you
get the directions right."

"Ben Sutton!"

"They'll fall for raw stuff, though. I know a slick mining promoter from
Arizona that stops at the biggest hotel on Fifth Avenue and has himself
paged by the boys about twenty times a day so folks will know how
important he is. He'll get up from his table in the restaurant and
follow the boy out in a way to make 'em think that nine million dollars
is at stake. He tells me it helps him a lot in landing the wise ones."

"Stole a street-car track," I muttered desperately.

"The typical New Yorker, like they call him, was born in Haverhill,
Massachusetts, and sleeps in New Rochelle, going in on the 8:12 and
coming out on the--"

"I had a pretty fight landing that biggest one this afternoon, from that
pool under the falls up above the big bend. Twice I thought I'd lost
him, but he was only hiding--and then I found I'd forgotten my landing
net. Say, did I ever tell you about the time I was fishing for steel
head down in Oregon, and the bear--" The lady hereupon raised a hushing
hand.

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, as I was saying, Ben Sutton blew into town early last September
and after shaking hands with his old confederate, Lon Price, he says how
is the good wife and is she at home and Lon says no; that Pettikins has
been up at Silver Springs resting for a couple weeks; so Ben says it's
too bad he'll miss the little lady, as in that case he has something
good to suggest, which is, what's the matter with him and Lon taking a
swift hike down to New York which Ben ain't seen since 1892, though he
was born there, and he'd now like to have a look at the old home in
Lon's company. Lon says it's too bad Pettikins ain't there to go along,
but if they start at once she wouldn't have time to join them, and Ben
says he can start near enough at once for that, so hurry and pack the
suitcase. Lon does it, leaving a delayed telegram to Henrietta to be
sent after they start, begging her to join them if not too late, which
it would be.

While they are in Louis Meyer's Place feeling good over this coop, in
comes the ever care-free Jeff Tuttle and Jeff says he wouldn't mind
going out on rodeo himself with 'em, at least as far as Jersey City
where he has a dear old aunt living--or she did live there when he was a
little boy and was always very nice to him and he ain't done right in
not going to see her for thirty years--and if he's that close to the big
town he could run over from Jersey City for a look--see.

Lon and Ben hail his generous decision with cheers and on the way to
another place they meet me, just down from the ranch. And why don't I
come along with the bunch? Ben has it all fixed in ten seconds, he being
one of these talkers that will odd things along till they sound even,
and the other two chiming in with him and wanting to buy my ticket right
then. But I hesitated some. Lon and Ben Sutton was all right to go with,
but Jeff Tuttle was a different kittle of fish. Jeff is a decent man in
many respects and seems real refined when you first meet him if it's in
some one's parlour, but he ain't one you'd care to follow step by step
through the mazes and pitfalls and palmrooms of a great city if you're
sensitive to public notice. Still, they was all so hearty in their
urging, Ben saying I was the only lady in the world he could travel that
far with and not want to strangle, and Lon says he'd rather have me than
most of the men he knew, and Jeff says if I'll consent to go he'll take
his full-dress suit so as to escort me to operas and lectures in a
classy manner, and at last I give up. I said I'd horn in on their party
since none of 'em seemed hostile.

I'd meant to go a little later anyway, for some gowns I needed and some
shopping I'd promised to do for Lizzie Gunslaugh. You got to hand it to
New York for shopping. Why, I'd as soon buy an evening gown in Los
Angeles as in Portland or San Francisco. Take this same Lizzie
Gunslaugh. She used to make a bare living, with her sign reading "Plain
and Fashionable Dressmaking." But I took that girl down to New York
twice with me and showed her how and what to buy there, instead of going
to Spokane for her styles, and to-day she's got a thriving little
business with a bully sign that we copied from them in the East
--"Madame Elizabeth, Robes et Manteaux." Yes, sir; New York has at least
one real reason for taking up room. That's a thing I always try to get
into Ben Sutton's head, that he'd ought to buy his clothes down there
instead of getting 'em from a reckless devil-dare of a tailor up in
Seattle that will do anything in the world Ben tells him to--and he
tells him a plenty, believe me. He won't ever wear a dress suit,
either, because he says that costume makes all men look alike and he
ain't going to stifle his individuality. If you seen Ben's figure once
you'd know that nothing could make him look like any one else, him being
built on the lines of a grain elevator and having individuality no
clothes on earth could stifle. He's the very last man on earth that
should have coloured braid on his check suits. However!

My trunk is packed in a hurry and I'm down to the 6:10 on time. Lon is
very scared and jubilant over deserting Henrietta in this furtive way,
and Ben is all ebullient in a new suit that looks like a lodge regalia
and Jeff Tuttle in plain clothes is as happy as a child. When I get
there he's already begun to give his imitation of a Sioux squaw with a
hare lip reciting "Curfew Shall Not Ring To-night" in her native
language, which he pulls on all occasions when he's feeling too good.
It's some imitation. The Sioux language, even when spoken by a trained
elocutionist, can't be anything dulcet. Jeff's stunt makes it sound like
grinding coffee and shovelling coal into a cellar at the same time.
Anyway, our journey begun happily and proved to be a good one, the days
passing pleasantly while we talked over old times and played ten-cent
limit in my stateroom, though Jeff Tuttle is so untravelled that he'll
actually complain about the food and service in a dining-car. The poor
puzzled old cow-man still thinks you ought to get a good meal in one,
like the pretty bill of fare says you can.

Then one morning we was in New York and Ben Sutton got his first shock.
He believed he was still on the other side of the river because he
hadn't rid in a ferryboat yet. He had to be told sharply by parties in
uniform. But we got him safe to a nice tall hotel on Broadway at last.
Talk about your hicks from the brush--Ben was it, coming back to this
here birthplace of his. He fell into a daze on the short ride to the
hotel--after insisting hotly that we should go to one that was pulled
down ten years ago--and he never did get out of it all that day.

Lon and Jeff was dazed, too. The city filled 'em with awe and they made
no pretense to the contrary. About all they did that day was to buy
picture cards and a few drinks. They was afraid to wander very far from
the hotel for fear they'd get run over or arrested or fall into the new
subway or something calamitous like that. Of course New York was looking
as usual, the streets being full of tired voters tearing up the
car-tracks and digging first-line trenches and so forth.

It was a quiet day for all of us, though I got my shopping started, and
at night we met at the hotel and had a lonesome dinner. We was all too
dazed and tired to feel like larking about any, and poor Ben was so
downright depressed it was pathetic. Ever read the story about a man
going to sleep and waking up in a glass case in a museum a thousand
years later? That was Ben coming back to his old town after only
twenty-five years. He hadn't been able to find a single old friend nor
any familiar faces. He ordered a porterhouse steak, family style, for
himself, but he was so mournful he couldn't eat more than about two
dollars' worth of it. He kept forgetting himself in dismal
reminiscences. The onlysright thing he'd found was the men tearing up
the streets. That was just like they used to be, he said. He maundered
on to us about how horse-cars was running on Broadway when he left and
how they hardly bothered to light the lamps north of Forty-second
Street, and he wished he could have some fish balls like the old
Sinclair House used to have for its free lunch, and how in them golden
days people that had been born right here in New York was seen so
frequently that they created no sensation.

He was feeling awful desolate about this. He pointed out different
parties at tables around us, saying they was merchant princes from
Sandusky or prominent Elks from Omaha or roystering blades from
Pittsburgh or boulevardeers from Bucyrus--not a New Yorker in sight. He
said he'd been reading where a wealthy nut had seat out an expedition to
the North Pole to capture a certain kind of Arctic flea that haunts only
a certain rare fox--but he'd bet a born New Yorker was harder to find.
He said what this millionaire defective ought to of done with his
inherited wealth was to find a male and female born here and have 'em
stuffed and mounted under glass in a fire-proof museum, which would be a
far more exciting spectacle than any flea on earth, however scarce and
arctic. He said he'd asked at least forty men that day where they was
born--waiters, taxi-drivers, hotel clerks, bartenders, and just anybody
that would stop and take one with him, and not a soul had been born
nearer to the old town than Scranton, Pennsylvania. "It's
heart-rending," he says, "to reflect that I'm alone here in this big
city of outlanders. I haven't even had the nerve to go down to West
Ninth Street for a look at the old home that shelters my boyhood
memories. If I could find only one born New Yorker it would brace me up
a whole lot."

It was one dull evening, under this cloud that enveloped Ben. We didn't
even go to a show, but turned in early. Lon Price sent a picture card of
the Flatiron Building to Henrietta telling her he was having a dreary
time and he was now glad he'd been disappointed about her not coming, so
love and kisses from her lonesome boy. It was what he would of sent her
anyway, but it happened to be the truth so far.

Well, I got the long night's rest that was coming to me and started out
early in the A.M. to pit my cunning against the wiles of the New York
department stores, having had my evil desires inflamed the day before by
an afternoon gown in chiffon velvet and Georgette crepe with silver
embroidery and fur trimming that I'd seen in a window marked down to
$198.98. I fell for that all right, and for an all-silk jersey sport
suit at $29.98 and a demi-tailored walking suit for a mere bagatelle,
and a white corduroy sport blouse and a couple of imported evening
gowns they robbed me on--but I didn't mind. You expect to be robbed for
anything really good in New York, only the imitation stuff that's worn
by the idle poor being cheaper than elsewhere. And I was so busy in this
whirl of extortion that I forgot all about the boys and their troubles
till I got back to the hotel at five o'clock.

I find 'em in the palm grill, or whatever it's called, drinking
stingers. But now they was not only more cheerful than they had been the
night before but they was getting a little bit contemptuous and Western
about the great city. Lon had met a brother real estate shark from Salt
Lake and Jeff had fell in with a sheep man from Laramie--and treated him
like an equal because of meeting him so far from home in a strange town
where no one would find it out on him--and Ben Sutton had met up with
his old friend Jake Berger, also from Nome. That's one nice thing about
New York; you keep meeting people from out your way that are lonesome,
too. Lon's friend and Jeff's sheep man had had to leave, being
encumbered by watchful-waiting wives that were having 'em paged every
three minutes and wouldn't believe the boy when he said they was out.
But Ben's friend, Jake Berger, was still at the table. Jake is a good
soul, kind of a short, round, silent man, never opening his head for any
length of time. He seems to bring the silence of the frozen North down
with him except for brief words to the waiter ever and anon.

As I say, the boys was all more cheerful and contemptuous about New
York by this time. Ben had spent another day asking casual parties if
they was born in New York and having no more luck than a rabbit, but it
seemed like he'd got hardened to these disappointments. He said he might
leave his own self to a museum in due time, so future generations would
know at least what the male New Yorker looked like. As for the female,
he said any of these blondes along Broadway could be made to look near
enough like his mate by a skilled taxidermist. Jeff Tuttle here says
that they wasn't all blondes because he'd seen a certain brunette that
afternoon right in this palm grill that was certainly worth preserving
for all eternity in the grandest museum on earth--which showed that Jeff
had chirked up a lot since landing in town. Ben said he had used the
term "blonde" merely to designate a species and they let it go at that.

Lon Price then said he'd been talking a little himself to people he met
in different places and they might not be born New Yorkers but they
certainly didn't know anything beyond the city limits. At this he looks
around at the crowded tables in this palm grill and says very bitterly
that he'll give any of us fifty to one they ain't a person in the place
that ever so much as even heard of Price's Addition to Red Gap. And so
the talk went for a little, with Jake Berger ever and again crooning to
the waiter for another round of stingers. I'd had two, so I stayed out
on the last round. I told Jake I enjoyed his hospitality but two would
be all I could think under till they learned to leave the dash of
chloroform out of mine. Jake just looked kindly at me. He's as chatty as
Mount McKinley.

But I was glad to see the boys more cheerful, so I said I'd get my
lumpiest jewels out of the safe and put a maid and hairdresser to work
on me so I'd be a credit to 'em at dinner and then we'd spend a jolly
evening at some show. Jeff said he'd also doll up in his dress suit and
get shaved and manicured and everything, so he'd look like one in my own
walk of life. Ben was already dressed for evening. He had on a totally
new suit of large black and white checks looking like a hotel floor from
a little distance, bound with braid of a quiet brown, and with a vest of
wide stripes in green and mustard colour. It was a suit that the
automobile law in some states would have compelled him to put dimmers
on; it made him look egregious, if that's the word; but I knew it was no
good appealing to his better nature. He said he'd have dinner ordered
for us in another palm grill that had more palms in it.

Jake Berger spoke up for the first time to any one but a waiter. He
asked why a palm room necessarily? He said the tropic influence of these
palms must affect the waiters that had to stand under 'em all day,
because they wouldn't take his orders fast enough. He said the
languorous Southern atmosphere give 'em pellagra or something. Jeff
Tuttle says Jake must be mistaken because the pellagra is a kind of a
Spanish dance, he believes. Jake said maybe so; maybe it was tropic
neurasthenia the waiters got. Ben said he'd sure look out for a fresh
waiter that hadn't been infected yet. When I left 'em Jake was holding a
split-second watch on the waiter he'd just given an order to.

By seven P.M. I'd been made into a work of art by the hotel help and
might of been observed progressing through the palatial lobby with my
purple and gold opera cloak sort of falling away from the shoulders.
Jeff Tuttle observed me for one. He was in his dress suit all right,
standing over in a corner having a bell-hop tie his tie for him that he
never can learn to do himself. That's the way with Jeff; he simply
wasn't born for the higher hotel life. In his dress suit he looks
exactly like this here society burglar you're always seeing a picture of
in the papers. However, I let him trail me along into this jewelled palm
room with tapestries and onyx pillars and prices for food like the town
had been three years beleagured by an invading army. Jake Berger is
alone at our table sipping a stinger and looking embarrassed because
he'll have to say something. He gets it over as soon as he can. He says
Ben has ordered dinner and stepped out and that Lon has stepped out to
look for him but they'll both be back in a minute, so set down and order
one before this new waiter is overcome by the tropic miasma. We do the
same, and in comes Lon looking very excited in the dress suit he was
married in back about 1884.

"Ben's found one," he squeals excitedly--"a real genuine one that was
born right here in New York and is still living in the same house he was
born in. What do you know about that? Ben is frantic with delight and is
going to bring him to dine with us as soon as he gets him brushed off
down in the wash room and maybe a drink or two thrown into him to revive
him from the shock of Ben running across him. Ain't it good, though!
Poor old Ben, looking for a born one and thinking he'd never find him
and now he has!"

We all said how glad we was for Ben's sake and Lon called over a titled
aristocrat of foreign birth and ordered him to lay another place at the
table. Then he tells us how the encounter happened. Ben had stepped out
on Broadway to buy an evening paper and coming back he was sneaking a
look at his new suit in a plate-glass window, walking blindly ahead at
the same time. That's the difference between the sexes in front of a
plate-glass window. A woman is entirely honest and shameless; she'll
stop dead and look herself over and touch up anything that needs it as
cool as if she was the last human on earth; while man, the coward, walks
by slow and takes a long sly look at himself, turning his head more and
more till he gets swore at by some one he's tramped on. This is how Ben
had run across the only genuine New Yorker that seemed to be left. He'd
run across his left instep and then bore him to the ground like one of
these juggernuts or whatever they are. Still, at that, it seemed kind of
a romantic meeting, like mebbe the hand of fate was in it. We chatted
along, waiting for the happy pair, and Jake ordered again to be on the
safe side because the waiter would be sure to contract hookworm or
sleeping sickness in this tropic jungle before the evening was over.
Jeff Tuttle said this was called the Louis Château room and he liked it.
He also said, looking over the people that come in, that he bet every
dress suit in town was hired to-night. Then in a minute or two more,
after Jake Berger sent a bill over to the orchestra leader with a card
asking him to play all quick tunes so the waiters could fight better
against jungle fever, in comes Ben Sutton driving his captive New Yorker
before him and looking as flushed and proud as if he'd discovered a
strange new vest pattern.

The captive wasn't so much to look at. He was kind of neat, dressed in
one of the nobby suits that look like ninety dollars in the picture and
cost eighteen; he had one of these smooth ironed faces that made him
look thirty or forty years old, like all New York men, and he had the
conventional glue on his hair. He was limping noticeably where Ben had
run across him, and I could see he was highly suspicious of the whole
gang of us, including the man who had treated him like he was a
cockroach. But Ben had been persuasive and imperious--took him off his
feet, like you might say--so he shook hands all around and ventured to
set down with us. He had the same cold, slippery cautious hand that
every New York man gives you the first time so I says to myself he's a
real one all right and we fell to the new round of stingers Jake had
motioned for, and to the nouveaux art-work food that now came along.

Naturally Ben and the New Yorker done most of the talking at first;
about how the good old town had changed; how they was just putting up
the Cable Building at Houston Street when Ben left in '92, and wasn't
the old Everett House a good place for lunch, and did the other one
remember Barnum's Museum at Broadway and Ann, and Niblo's Garden was
still there when Ben was, and a lot of fascinating memories like that.
The New Yorker didn't relax much at first and got distinctly nervous
when he saw the costly food and heard Ben order vintage champagne which
he always picks out by the price on the wine list. I could see him plain
as day wondering just what kind of crooks we could be, what our game was
and how soon we'd spring it on him--or would we mebbe stick him for the
dinner check? He didn't have a bit good time at first, so us four others
kind of left Ben to fawn upon him and enjoyed ourselves in our own way.

It was all quite elevating or vicious, what with the orchestra and the
singers and the dancing and the waiters with vitality still unimpaired.
And New York has improved a lot, I'll say that. The time I was there
before they wouldn't let a lady smoke except in the very lowest table
d'hotes of the underworld at sixty cents with wine. And now the only one
in the whole room that didn't light a cigarette from time to time was a
nervous dame in a high-necked black silk and a hat that was never made
farther east than Altoona, that looked like she might be taking notes
for a club paper on the attractions or iniquities of a great metropolis.
Jeff Tuttle was fascinated by the dancing; he called it the "tangle" and
some of it did look like that. And he claimed to be shocked by the
flagrant way women opened up little silver boxes and applied the paints,
oils, and putty in full view of the audience. He said he'd just as lief
see a woman take out a manicure set and do her nails in public, and I
assured him he probably would see it if he come down again next year,
the way things was going--him talking that way that had had his white
tie done in the open lobby; but men are such. Jake Berger just looked
around kindly and didn't open his head till near the end of the meal. I
thought he wasn't noticing anything at all till the orchestra put on a
shadow number with dim purple lights.

"You'll notice they do that," says Jake, "whenever a lot of these people
are ready to pay their checks. It saves fights, because no one can see
if they're added right or not." That was pretty gabby for Jake. Then I
listened again to Ben and his little pet. They was talking their way up
the Bowery from Atlantic Garden and over to Harry Hill's Place which,
it seemed the New Yorker didn't remember, and Ben then recalled an old
leper with gray whiskers and a skull cap that kept a drug store in
Bleecker Street when Ben was a kid and spent most of his time watering
down the sidewalk in front of his place with a hose so that ladies going
by would have to raise their skirts out of the wet. His eyes was quite
dim as he recalled these sacred boyhood memories.

The New Yorker had unbent a mite like he was going to see the mad
adventure through at all costs, though still plainly worried about the
dinner check. Ben now said that they two ought to found a New York club.
He said there was all other kinds of clubs here--Ohio clubs and Southern
clubs and Nebraska societies and Michigan circles and so on, that give
large dinners every year, so why shouldn't there be a New York club;
maybe they could scare up three or four others that was born here if
they advertised. It would of course be the smallest club in the city or
in the whole world for that matter. The New Yorker was kind of cold
toward this. It must of sounded like the scheme to get money out of him
that he'd been expecting all along. Then the waiter brought the check,
during another shadow number with red and purple lights, and this lad
pulled out a change purse and said in a feeble voice that he supposed we
was all paying share and share alike and would the waiter kindly figure
out what his share was. Ben didn't even hear him. He peeled a large
bill off a roll that made his new suit a bad fit in one place and he
left a five on the plate when the change come. The watchful New Yorker
now made his first full-hearted speech of the evening. He said that Ben
was foolish not to of added up the check to see if it was right, and
that half a dollar tip would of been ample for the waiter. Ben pretended
not to hear this either, and started again on the dear old times. I says
to myself I guess this one is a real New Yorker all right.

Lon Prince now says what's the matter with going to some corking good
show because nothing good has come to Red Gap since the Parisian Blond
Widows over a year ago and he's eager for entertainment. Ben says "Fine!
And here's the wise boy that will steer us right. I bet he knows every
show in town."

The New Yorker says he does and has just the play in mind for us, one
that he had meant to see himself this very night because it has been
endorsed by the drama league of which he is a regular member. Well, that
sounded important, so Ben says "What did I tell you? Ain't we lucky to
have a good old New Yorker to put us right on shows our first night out.
We might have wasted our evening on a dead one."

So we're all delighted and go out and get in a couple of taxicabs, Ben
and this city man going in the first one. When ours gets to the theatre
Ben is paying the driver while the New Yorker feebly protests that he
ought to pay his half of the bill, but Ben don't hear him and don't hear
him again when he wants to pay for his own seat in the theatre. I got
my first suspicion of this guy right there; for a genuine New Yorker he
was too darned conscientious about paying his mere share of everything.
You can say lots of things about New Yorkers, but all that I've ever met
have been keenly and instantly sensitive to the presence of a determined
buyer. Still I didn't think so much about it at that moment. This one
looked the part all right, with his slim clothes and his natty cloth hat
and the thin gold cigarette case held gracefully open. Then we get into
the theatre. Of course Ben had bought a box, that being the only place,
he says, that a gentleman can set, owing to the skimpy notions of
theatre-seat builders. And we was all prepared for a merry evening at
this entertainment which the wise New Yorker would be sure to know was a
good one.

But that curtain hadn't been up three minutes before I get my next shock
of disbelief about this well-known club man. You know what a good play
means in New York: a rattling musical comedy with lively songs, a tenor
naval lieutenant in a white uniform, some real funny comedians, and a
lot of girls without their stockings on, and so forth. Any one that
thinks of a play in New York thinks of that, don't he? And what do we
get here and now? Why, we get a gruesome thing about a ruined home with
the owner going bankrupt over the telephone that's connected with Wall
Street, and a fluffy wife that has a magnetic gentleman friend in a
sport suit, and a lady crook that has had husband in her toils, only he
sees it all now, and tears and strangulations and divorce, and a
faithful old butler that suffers keenly and would go on doing it without
a cent of wages if he could only bring every one together again, and a
shot up in the bathroom or somewhere and gripping moments and so
forth--I want to tell you we was all painfully shocked by this break of
the knowing New Yorker. We could hardly believe it was true during the
first act. Jeff Tuttle kept wanting to know when the girls was coming
on, and didn't they have a muscle dancer in the piece. Ben himself was
highly embarrassed and even suspicious for a minute. He looks at the New
Yorker sharply and says ain't that a crocheted necktie he's wearing, and
the New Yorker says it is and was made for him by his aunt. But Ben
ain't got the heart to question him any further. He puts away his base
suspicions and tries to get the New Yorker to tell us all about what a
good play this is so we'll feel more entertained. So the lad tells us
the leading woman is a sterling actress of legitimate methods--all too
hard to find in this day of sensationalism, and the play is a triumph of
advanced realism written by a serious student of the drama that is
trying to save our stage from commercial degradation. He explained a lot
about the lesson of the play. Near as I could make out the lesson was
that divorce, nowadays, is darned near as uncertain as marriage itself.

"The husband," explains the lad kindly, "is suspected by his wife to
have been leading a double life, though of course he was never guilty of
more than an indiscretion--"

Jake Berger here exploded rudely into speech again. "Thai wife is
leading a double chin," says Jake.

"Say, people," says Lon Price, "mebbe it ain't too late to go to a show
this evening."

But the curtain went up for the second act and nobody had the nerve to
escape. There continued to be low murmurs of rebellion, just the same,
and we all lost track of this here infamy that was occurring on the
stage.

"I'm sure going to beat it in one minute," says Jeff Tuttle, "if one of
'em don't exclaim: 'Oh, girls, here comes the little dancer!'"

"I know a black-face turn that could put this show on its feet," says
Lon Price, "and that Waldo in the sport suit ain't any real reason why
wives leave home--you can't tell me!"

"I dare say this leading woman needs a better vehicle," says the New
Yorker in a hoarse whisper.

"I dare say it, too," says Jeff Tuttle in a still hoarser whisper. "A
better vehicle! She needs a motor truck, and I'd order one quick if I
thought she'd take it."

Of course this was not refined of Jeff. The New Yorker winced and loyal
Ben glares at all of us that has been muttering, so we had to set there
till the curtain went down on the ruined home where all was lost save
honour--and looking like that would have to go, too, in the next act.
But Ben saw it wasn't safe to push us any further so he now said this
powerful play was too powerful for a bunch of low-brows like us and we
all rushed out into the open air. Everybody cheered up a lot when we got
there--seeing the nice orderly street traffic without a gripping moment
in it. Lon Price said it was too late to go to a theatre, so what could
we do to pass the time till morning? Ben says he has a grand idea and we
can carry it out fine with this New York man to guide us. His grand idea
is that we all go down on the Bowery and visit tough dives where the
foul creatures of the underworld consort and crime happens every minute
or two. We was still mad enough about that play to like the idea. A good
legitimate murder would of done wonders for our drooping spirits. So Ben
puts it up to the New Yorker and he says yes, he knows a vicious resort
on the Bowery, but we'd ought to have a detective from central office
along to protect us from assault. Ben says not at all--no
detective--unless the joints has toughened up a lot since he used to
infest 'em, and we all said we'd take a chance, so again we was in
taxicabs. Us four in the second cab was now highly cynical about Ben's
New Yorker. The general feeling was that sooner or later he would sink
the ship.

Then we reach the dive he has picked out; a very dismal dive with a room
back of the bar that had a few tables and a piano in it and a
sweet-singing waiter. He was singing a song about home and mother, that
in mem-o-ree he seemed to see, when we got to our table. A very gloomy
and respectable haunt of vice it was, indeed. There was about a dozen
male and female creatures of the underworld present sadly enjoying this
here ballad and scowling at us for talking when we come in.

Jake Berger ordered, though finding you couldn't get stingers here and
having to take two miner's inches of red whiskey, and the New Yorker
begun to warn us in low tones that we was surrounded by danger on every
hand--that we'd better pour our drink on the floor because it would be
drugged, after which we would be robbed if not murdered and thrown out
into the alley where we would then be arrested by grafting policemen.
Even Ben was shocked by this warning. He asks the New Yorker again if he
is sure he was born in the old town, and the lad says honest he was and
has been living right here all these years in the same house he was born
in. Ben is persuaded by these words and gives the singing waiter a five
and tells him to try and lighten the gloom with a few crimes of violence
or something. The New Yorker continued to set stiff in his chair, one
hand on his watch and one on the pocket where his change purse was that
he'd tried to pay his share of the taxicabs out of.

The gloom-stricken piano player now rattled off some ragtime and the
depraved denizens about us got sadly up and danced to it. Say, it was
the most formal and sedate dancing you ever see, with these gun men
holding their guilty partners off at arm's length and their faces all
drawn down in lines of misery. They looked like they might be a bunch of
strict Presbyterians that had resolved to throw all moral teaching to
the winds for one purple moment let come what might. I want to tell you
these depraved creatures of the underworld was darned near as depressing
as that play had been. Even the second round of drinks didn't liven us
up none because the waiter threw down his cigarette and sung another
tearful song. This one was about a travelling man going into a gilded
cabaret and ordering a port wine and a fair young girl come out to sing
in short skirts that he recognized to be his boyhood's sweetheart Nell;
so he sent a waiter to ask her if she had forgot the song she once did
sing at her dear old mother's knee, or knees, and she hadn't forgot it
and proved she hadn't, because the chorus was "Nearer My God to Thee"
sung to ragtime; then the travelling man said she must be good and pure,
so come on let's leave this place and they'd be wed.

Yes, sir; that's what Ben had got for his five, so this time he give the
waiter a twenty not to sing any more at all. The New Yorker was
horrified at the sight of a man giving away money, but it was well spent
and we begun to cheer up a little. Ben told the New Yorker about the
time his dog team won the All Alaska Sweepstake Race, two hundred and
six miles from Nome to Candle and back, the time being 76 hours, 16
minutes, and 28 seconds, and showed him the picture of his lead dog
pasted in the back of his watch. And Jake Berger got real gabby at last
and told the story about the old musher going up the White Horse Trail
in a blizzard and meeting the Bishop, only he didn't know it was the
Bishop. And the Bishop says, "How's the trail back of you, my friend?"
and the old musher just swore with the utmost profanity for three
straight minutes. Then he says to the Bishop, "And what's it like back
of you?" and the Bishop says, "Just like that!" Jake here got
embarrassed from talking so much and ordered another round of this
squirrel poison we was getting, and Jeff Tuttle begun his imitation of
the Sioux squaw with a hare lip reciting "Curfew Shall Not Ring
To-night." It was a pretty severe ordeal for the rest of us, but we was
ready to endure much if it would make this low den seem more homelike.
Only when Jeff got about halfway through the singing waiter comes up,
greatly shocked, and says none of that in here because they run an
orderly place, and we been talking too loud anyway. This waiter had a
skull exactly like a picture of one in a book I got that was dug up
after three hundred thousand years and the scientific world couldn't
ever agree whether it was an early man or a late ape. I decided I didn't
care to linger in a place where a being with a head like this could pass
on my diversions and offenses so I made a move to go. Jeff Tuttle says
to this waiter, "Fie, fie upon you, Roscoe! We shall go to some
respectable place where we can loosen up without being called for it."
The waiter said he was sorry, but the Bowery wasn't Broadway. And the
New Yorker whispered that it was just as well because we was lucky to
get out of this dive with our lives and property--and even after that
this anthropoid waiter come hurrying out to the taxis after us with my
fur piece and my solid gold vanity-box that I'd left behind on a chair.
This was a bitter blow to all of us after we'd been led to hope for
outrages of an illegal character. The New Yorker was certainly making a
misdeal every time he got the cards. None of us trusted him any more,
though Ben was still loyal and sensitive about him, like he was an only
child and from birth had not been like other children.

The lad now wanted to steer us into an Allied Bazaar that would still be
open, because he'd promised to sell twenty tickets to it and had 'em on
him untouched. But we shut down firmly on this. Even Ben was firm. He
said the last bazaar he'd survived was their big church fair in Nome
that lasted two nights and one day and the champagne booth alone took in
six thousand dollars, and even the beer booth took in something like
twelve hundred, and he didn't feel equal to another affair like that
just yet.

So we landed uptown at a very swell joint full of tables and orchestras
around a dancing floor and more palms--which is the national flower of
New York--and about eighty or a hundred slightly inebriated débutantes
and well-known Broadway social favourites and their gentlemen friends.
And here everything seemed satisfactory at last, except to the New
Yorker who said that the prices would be something shameful. However, no
one was paying any attention to him by now. None of us but Ben cared a
hoot where he had been born and most of us was sorry he had been at all.

Jake Berger bought a table for ten dollars, which was seven more than it
had ever cost the owner, and Ben ordered stuff for us, including a
vintage champagne that the price of stuck out far enough beyond other
prices on the wine list, and a porterhouse steak, family style, for
himself, and everything seemed on a sane and rational basis again. It
looked as if we might have a little enjoyment during the evening after
all. It was a good lively place, with all these brilliant society people
mingling up in the dance in a way that would of got 'em thrown out of
that gangsters' haunt on the Bowery. Lon Price said he'd never witnessed
so many human shoulder blades in his whole history and Jeff Tuttle sent
off a lot of picture cards of this here ballroom or saloon that a waiter
give him. The one he sent Egbert Floud showed the floor full of
beautiful reckless women in the dance and prominent society matrons
drinking highballs, and Jeff wrote on it, "This is my room; wish you was
here." Jeff was getting right into the spirit of this bohemian night
life; you could tell that. Lon Price also. In ten minutes Lon had made
the acquaintance of a New York social leader at the next table and was
dancing with her in an ardent or ribald manner before Ben had finished
his steak.

I now noticed that the New Yorker was looking at his gun-metal watch
about every two minutes with an expression of alarm. Jake Berger noticed
it, too, and again leaned heavily on the conversation. "Not keeping you
up, are we?" says Jake. And this continual watch business must of been
getting on Ben's nerves, too, for now, having fought his steak to a
finish, he says to his little guest that they two should put up their
watches and match coins for 'em. The New Yorker was suspicious right off
and looked Ben's watch over very carefully when Ben handed it to him. It
was one of these thin gold ones that can be had any place for a hundred
dollars and up. You could just see that New Yorker saying to himself,
"So this is their game, is it?" But he works his nerve up to take a
chance and gets a two-bit piece out of his change purse and they match.
Ben wins the first time, which was to of settled it, but Ben says right
quick that of course he had meant the best two out of three, which the
New Yorker doesn't dispute for a minute, and they match again and Ben
wins that, too, so there's nothing to do but take the New Yorker's watch
away from him. He removes it carefully off a leather fob with a gilt
acorn on it and hands it slowly to Ben. It was one of these extra
superior dollar watches that cost three dollars. The New Yorker looked
very stung, indeed. You could hear him saying to himself, "Serves me
right for gambling with a stranger!" Ben feels these suspicions and is
hurt by 'em so he says to Jeff, just to show the New Yorker he's an
honest sport, that he'll stake his two watches against Jeff's solid
silver watch that he won in a bucking contest in 1890. Jeff says he's
on; so they match and Ben wins again, now having three watches. Then Lon
Price comes back from cavorting with this amiable jade of the younger
dancing set at the next table and Ben makes him put up his gold
seven-jewelled hunting-case watch against the three and Ben wins again,
now having four watches.

Lon says "Easy come, easy go!" and moves over to the next table again to
help out with the silver bucket of champagne he's ordered, taking Jeff
Tuttle with him to present to his old friends that he's known for all of
twenty minutes. The New Yorker is now more suspicious then ever of Ben;
his wan beauty is marred by a cynical smile and his hair has come
unglued in a couple of places. Ben is more sensitive than ever to these
suspicions of his new pal so he calls on Jake Berger to match his watch
against the four. Jake takes out his split-second repeater and him and
Ben match coins and this time Ben is lucky enough to lose, thereby
showing his dear old New Yorker that he ain't a crook after all. But the
New Yorker still looks very shrewd and robbed and begins to gulp the
champagne in a greedy manner. You can hear him calling Jake a
confederate. Jake sees it plain enough, that the lad thinks he's been
high-graded, so he calls over our waiter and crowds all five watches
onto him. "Take these home to the little ones," says Jake, and dismisses
the matter from his mind by putting a wine glass up to his ear and
listening into it with a rapt expression that shows he's hearing the
roar of the ocean up on Alaska's rockbound coast.

The New Yorker is a mite puzzled by this, but I can see it don't take
him long to figure out that the waiter is also a confederate. Anyway,
he's been robbed of his watch forever and falls to the champagne again
very eager and moody. It was plain he didn't know what a high-powered
drink he was trifling with. And Ben was moody, too, by now. He quit
recalling old times and sacred memories to the New Yorker. If the latter
had tried to break up the party by leaving at this point I guess Ben
would of let him go. But he didn't try; he just set there soggily
drinking champagne to drown the memory of his lost watch. And pretty
soon Ben has to order another quart of this twelve-dollar beverage. The
New Yorker keeps right on with the new bottle, daring it to do its worst
and it does; he was soon speaking out of a dense fog when he spoke at
all.

With his old pal falling into this absent mood Ben throws off his own
depression and mingles a bit with the table of old New York families
where Lon Price is now paying the checks. They was the real New Yorkers;
they'd never had a moment's distrust of Lon after he ordered the first
time and told the waiter to keep the glasses brimming. Jeff Tuttle was
now dancing in an extreme manner with a haggard society bud aged
thirty-five, and only Jake and me was left at our table. We didn't count
the New Yorker any longer; he was merely raising his glass to his lips
at regular intervals. He moved something like an automatic chess player
I once saw. The time passed rapidly for a couple hours more, with Jake
Berger keeping up his ceaseless chatter as usual. He did speak once,
though, after an hour's silence. He said in an audible tone that the New
Yorker was a human hangnail, no matter where he was born.

And so the golden moments flitted by, with me watching the crazy crowd,
until they began to fall away and the waiters was piling chairs on the
naked tables at the back of the room. Then with some difficulty we
wrenched Ben and Lon and Jeff from the next table and got out into the
crisp air of dawn. The New Yorker was now sunk deep in a trance and just
stood where he was put, with his hat on the wrong way. The other boys
had cheered up a lot owing to their late social career. Jeff Tuttle said
it was all nonsense about its being hard to break into New York society,
because look what he'd done in one brief evening without trying--and he
flashed three cards on which telephone numbers is written in dainty
feminine hands. He said if a modest and retiring stranger like himself
could do that much, just think what an out-and-out social climber might
achieve!

Right then I was ready to call it an absorbing and instructive evening
and get to bed. But no! Ben Sutton at sight of his now dazed New Yorker
has resumed his brooding and suddenly announces that we must all make a
pilgrimage to West Ninth Street and romantically view his old home which
his father told him to get out of twenty-five years ago, and which we
can observe by the first tender rays of dawn. He says he has been having
precious illusions shattered all evening, but this will be a holy moment
that nothing can queer--not even a born New Yorker that hasn't made the
grade and is at this moment so vitrified that he'd be a mere glass crash
if some one pushed him over.

I didn't want to go a bit. I could see that Jeff Tuttle would soon begin
dragging a hip, and the streets at that hour was no place for Lon Price,
with his naturally daring nature emphasized, as it were, from drinking
this here imprisoned laughter of the man that owned the joint we had
just left. But Ben was pleading in a broken voice for one sight of the
old home with its boyhood memories clustering about its modest front and
I was afraid he'd get to crying, so I give in wearily and we was once
more encased in taxicabs and on our way to the sacred scene. Ben had
quite an argument with the drivers when he give 'em the address. They
kept telling him there wasn't a thing open down there, but he finally
got his aim understood. The New Yorker's petrified remains was carefully
tucked into the cab with Ben.

And Ben suffered another cruel blow at the end of the ride. He climbed
out of the cab in a reverent manner, hoping to be overcome by the sight
of the cherished old home, and what did he find? He just couldn't
believe it at first. The dear old house had completely disappeared and
in its place was a granite office building eighteen stories high. Ben
just stood off and looked up at it, too overcome for words. Up near the
top a monster brass sign in writing caught the silver light of dawn. The
sign sprawled clear across the building and said PANTS EXCLUSIVELY.
Still above this was the firm's name in the same medium--looking like a
couple of them hard-lettered towns that get evacuated up in Poland.

Poor stricken Ben looked in silence a long time. We all felt his
suffering and kept silent, too. Even Jeff Tuttle kept still--who all the
way down had been singing about old Bill Bailey who played the Ukelele
in Honolulu Town. It was a solemn moment. After a few more minutes of
silent grief Ben drew himself together and walked off without saying a
word. I thought walking would be a good idea for all of us, especially
Lon and Jeff, so Jake paid the taxi drivers and we followed on foot
after the chief mourner. The fragile New Yorker had been exhumed and
placed in an upright position and he walked, too, when he understood
what was wanted of him; he didn't say a word, just did what was told him
like one of these boys that the professor hypnotizes on the stage. I
herded the bunch along about half a block back of Ben, feeling it was
delicate to let him wallow alone in his emotions.

We got over to Broadway, turned up that, and worked on through that
dinky little grass plot they call a square, kind of aimless like and
wondering where Ben in his grief would lead us. The day was well begun
by this time and the passing cars was full of very quiet people on their
way to early work. Jake Berger said these New Yorkers would pay for it
sooner or later, burning the candle at both ends this way--dancing all
night and then starting off to work.

Then up a little way we catch sight of a regular old-fashioned horse-car
going crosstown. Ben has stopped this and is talking excitedly to the
driver so we hurry up and find he's trying to buy the car from the
driver. Yes, sir; he says its the last remnant of New York when it was
little and old and he wants to take it back to Nome as a souvenir.
Anybody might of thought he'd been drinking. He's got his roll out and
wants to pay for the car right there. The driver is a cold-looking old
boy with gray chin whiskers showing between his cap and his comforter
and he's indignantly telling Ben it can't be done. By the time we get
there the conductor has come around and wants to know what they're
losing all this time for. He also says they can't sell Ben the car and
says further that we'd all better go home and sleep it off, so Ben hands
'em each a ten spot, the driver lets off his brake, and the old ark
rattles on while Ben's eyes is suffused with a suspicious moisture, as
they say.

Ben now says we must stand right on this corner to watch these cars go
by--about once every hour. We argued with him whilst we shivered in the
bracing winelike air, but Ben was stubborn. We might of been there yet
if something hadn't diverted him from this evil design. It was a string
of about fifty Italians that just then come out of a subway entrance.
They very plainly belonged to the lower or labouring classes and I
judged they was meant for work on the up-and-down street we stood on,
that being already torn up recklessly till it looked like most other
streets in the same town. They stood around talking in a delirious or
Italian manner till their foreman unlocked a couple of big piano boxes.
Out of these they took crowbars, axes, shovels, and other instruments of
their calling. Ben Sutton has been standing there soddenly waiting for
another dear old horse-car to come by, but suddenly he takes notice of
these bandits with the tools and I see an evil gleam come into his tired
eyes. He assumes a businesslike air, struts over to the foreman of the
bunch, and has some quick words with him, making sweeping motions of the
arm up and down the cross street where the horse-cars run. After a
minute of this I'm darned if the whole bunch didn't scatter out and
begin to tear up the pavement along the car-track on this cross street.
Ben tripped back to us looking cheerful once more.

"They wouldn't sell me the car," he says, "so I'm going to take back a
bunch of the dear old rails. They'll be something to remind me of the
dead past. Just think! I rode over those very rails when I was a tot."

We was all kind of took back at this, and I promptly warned Ben that
we'd better beat it before we got pinched. But Ben is confident. He says
no crime could be safer in New York than setting a bunch of Italians to
tearing up a street-car track; that no one could ever possibly suspect
it wasn't all right, though he might have to be underhanded to some
extent in getting his souvenir rails hauled off. He said he had told the
foreman that he was the contractor's brother and had been sent with this
new order and the foreman had naturally believed it, Ben looking like a
rich contractor himself.

And there they was at work, busy as beavers, gouging up the very last
remnant of little old New York when it was that. Ben rubbed his hands in
ecstasy and pranced up and down watching 'em for awhile. Then he went
over and told the foreman there'd be extra pay for all hands if they got
a whole block tore up by noon, because this was a rush job. Hundreds of
people was passing, mind you, including a policeman now and then, but no
one took any notice of a sight so usual. All the same the rest of us
edged north about half a block, ready to make a quick getaway. Ben kept
telling us we was foolishly scared. He offered to bet any one in the
party ten to one in thousands that he could switch his gang over to
Broadway and have a block of that track up before any one got wise.
There was no takers.

Ben was now so pleased with himself and his little band of faithful
workers that he even begun to feel kindly again toward his New Yorker
who was still standing in one spot with glazed eyes. He goes up and
tries to engage him in conversation, but the lad can't hear any more
than he can see. Ben's efforts, however, finally start him to muttering
something. He says it over and over to himself and at last we make out
what it is. He is saying: "I'd like to buy a little drink for the party
m'self."

"The poor creature is delirious," says Jake Berger.

But Ben slaps him on the back and tells him he's a good sport and he'll
give him a couple of these rails to take to his old New York home; he
says they can be crossed over the mantel and will look very quaint. The
lad kind of shivered under Ben's hearty blow and seemed to struggle out
of his trance for a minute. His eyes unglazed and he looks around and
says how did he get here and where is it? Ben tells him he's among
friends and that they two are the only born New Yorkers left in the
world, and so on, when the lad reaches into the pocket of his natty
topcoat for a handkerchief and pulls out with it a string of funny
little tickets--about two feet of 'em. Ben grabs these up with a strange
look in his eyes.

"Bridge tickets!" he yells. Then he grabs his born New Yorker by the
shoulders and shakes him still further out of dreamland.

"What street in New York is your old home on?" he demands savagely. The
lad blinks his fishy eyes and fixes his hat on that Ben has shook loose.

"Cranberry Street," says he.

"Cranberry Street! Hell, that's Brooklyn, and you claimed New York,"
says Ben, shaking the hat loose again.

"Greater New York," says the lad pathetically, and pulls his hat firmly
down over his ears.

Ben looked at the imposter with horror in his eyes. "Brooklyn!" he
muttered--"the city of the unburied dead! So that was the secret of your
strange behaviour? And me warming you in my bosom, you viper!"

But the crook couldn't hear him again, haying lapsed into his trance and
become entirely rigid and foolish. In the cold light of day his face now
looked like a plaster cast of itself. Ben turned to us with a hunted
look. "Blow after blow has fallen upon me to-night," he says tearfully,
"but this is the most cruel of all. I can't believe in anything after
this. I can't even believe them street-car rails are the originals.
Probably they were put down last week."

"Then let's get out of this quick," I says to him. "We been exposing
ourselves to arrest here long enough for a bit of false sentiment on
your part."

"I gladly go," says Ben, "but wait one second." He stealthily approaches
the Greater New Yorker and shivers him to wakefulness with another
hearty wallop on the back. "Listen carefully," says Ben as the lad
struggles out of the dense fog. "Do you see those workmen tearing up
that car-track?"

"Yes, I see it," says the lad distinctly. "I've often seen it."

"Very well. Listen to me and remember your life may hang on it. You go
over there and stand right by them till they get that track up and don't
you let any one stop them. Do you hear? Stand right there and make them
work, and if a policeman or any one tries to make trouble you soak him.
Remember! I'm leaving those men in your charge. I shall hold you
personally responsible for them."

The lad doesn't say a word but begins to walk in a brittle manner toward
the labourers. We saw him stop and point a threatening finger at them,
then instantly freeze once more. It was our last look at him. We got
everybody on a north-bound car with some trouble. Lon Price had gone to
sleep standing up and Jeff Tuttle, who was now looking like the society
burglar after a tough night's work at his trade, was getting turbulent
and thirsty. He didn't want to ride on a common street car. "I want a
tashicrab," he says, "and I want to go back to that Louis Château room
and dance the tangle." But we persuaded him and got safe up to a
restaurant on Sixth Avenue where breakfast was had by all without
further adventure. Jeff strongly objected to this restaurant at first,
though, because he couldn't hear an orchestra in it. He said he couldn't
eat his breakfast without an orchestra. He did, however, ordering apple
pie and ice cream and a gin fizz to come. Lon Price was soon sleeping
like a tired child over his ham and eggs, and Jeff went night-night,
too, before his second gin fizz arrived.

Ben ordered a porterhouse steak, family style, consuming it in a moody
rage like a man that has been ground-sluiced at every turn. He said he
felt like ending it all and sometimes wished he'd been in the cab that
plunged into one of the forty-foot holes in Broadway a couple of nights
before. Jake Berger had ordered catfish and waffles, with a glass of
Invalid port. He burst into speech once more, too. He said the nights in
New York were too short to get much done. That if they only had nights
as long as Alaska the town might become famous. "As it is," he says, "I
don't mind flirting with this city now and then, but I wouldn't want to
marry it."

Well, that about finished the evening, with Lon and Jeff making the room
sound like a Pullman palace car at midnight. Oh, yes; there was one
thing more. On the day after the events recorded in the last chapter, as
it says in novels, there was a piece in one of the live newspapers
telling that a well-dressed man of thirty-five, calling himself Clifford
J. Hotchkiss and giving a Brooklyn address, was picked up in a dazed
condition by patrolman Cohen who had found him attempting to direct the
operations of a gang of workmen engaged in repairing a crosstown-car
track. He had been sent to the detention ward of Bellevue to await
examination as to his sanity, though insisting that he was the victim
of a gang of footpads who had plied him with liquor and robbed him of
his watch. I showed the piece to Ben Sutton and Ben sent him up a pillow
of forget-me-nots with "Rest" spelled on it--without the sender's card.

No; not a word in it about the street-car track being wrongfully tore
up. I guess it was like Ben said; no one ever would find out about that
in New York. My lands! here it is ten-thirty and I got to be on the job
when them hayers start to-morrow A.M. A body would think I hadn't a care
on earth when I get started on anecdotes of my past.





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