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Title: Members of the Family
Author: Wister, Owen
Language: English
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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.

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                         MEMBERS OF THE FAMILY


                         THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                      NEW YORK · BOSTON · CHICAGO
                             SAN FRANCISCO

                       MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED
                      LONDON · BOMBAY · CALCUTTA

                   THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.

          [Illustration: “Pie like mother made,” said Scipio]

                         MEMBERS OF THE FAMILY

                              OWEN WISTER

                   WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY H. T. DUNN

                               New York
                         THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

                         _All rights reserved_

                           COPYRIGHT, 1901,
                     BY THE COSMOPOLITAN MAGAZINE.

                           COPYRIGHT, 1903,
                       BY P. F. COLLIER AND SON.

                  COPYRIGHT, 1902, 1908, 1909, 1911,

                           COPYRIGHT, 1911,
                       BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.

             Set up and electrotyped. Published May, 1911.

                             Norwood Press
                J. S. Cushing Co.--Berwick & Smith Co.
                        Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.


                         HORACE HOWARD FURNESS

                      OF LINDENSHADE, WALLINGFORD

                            _That is my home of love: if I have rang’d,
                            Like him that travels, I return again._
                                            --SONNET CIX.


When this October comes, twenty years will be sped since the author of
these Western tales sat down one evening to begin his first tale of the
West, and--will you forgive him a preamble of gossip, of retrospection?
Time steps in between the now that is and the then that was with a
vengeance; it blocks the way for us all; we cannot go back. When the old
corner, the old place, the old house, wear the remembered look, beckon
to the memory as if to say, No change here! then verily is the change
worst, the shell most empty, the cheat well-nigh too piercing. In a
certain garden I used to plunder in 1866, the smell to-day of warm,
dusty strawberries.... But did we admit to our companionship ghosts
only, what would living be? I continue to eat strawberries. As for
smells, they’re worse than old melodies, I think. Lately I was the sport
of one. My train was trundling over the plains--a true train of the
past, half freight, half passenger, cars of an obsolete build, big
smoke-stack on the archaic engine, stops for meals, inveterate news-boy
with bad candy, bad novels, bad bananas--a dear old horrible train, when
magic was suddenly wrought. It came in through the open window, its
wand touched me, and the evoked spirits rose. With closed eyes I saw
them once more, standing there out in the alkali, the antelope by scores
and hundreds, only a little way off, a sort of color between cinnamon
and amber in the morning sun, transparent and phantom-like, with pale
legs. Only a little way off. Eyes closed, I watched them, as in 1885
with open ones I beheld them first from the train. Now they were
running; I saw the bobbing dots of their white receding rears, and
through me passed the ghost of that first thrill at first seeing
antelope yesterday--it seemed yesterday: only a little way off. I opened
my eyes; there was the train as it ought to look, there were the plains,
the alkali, the dry gullies, the mounds, the flats, the enormous
sunlight, the virgin air like the first five measures of
_Lohengrin_--but where were the antelope? So natural did everything
continue to look, surely they must be just over that next rise! No; over
the one beyond that? No; only a little, little way off, but gone for
evermore! And magic smote me once again through the window. Thousands of
cattle were there, with horsemen. Were they not there? Not over the next
rise? No; gone for evermore. What was this magic that came in through
the window? The smell of the sage-brush. After several years it was
greeting me again. All day long it breathed a welcome and a sigh, as if
the desert whispered: Yes, I look as if I were here; but I am a ghost,
too, there’s no coming back. All day long the whiffs of sage-brush
conjured old sights before me, till my heart ran over with homesickness
for what was no more, and the desert seemed to whisper: It’s not I
you’re seeking, you’re straining your eyes to see yourself,--you as you
were in your early twenties, with your illusion that I, the happy
hunting-ground of your young irresponsibility, was going to be
permanent. You must shut your eyes to see yourself and me and the
antelope as we all used to be. Why, if Adam and Eve had evaded the angel
and got back into the garden, do you think they would have found it the
same after Cain and Abel? Thus moralized the desert, and I thought, How
many things we have to shut our eyes to see!

Permanent! Living men, not very old yet, have seen the Indian on the
war-path, the buffalo stopping the train, the cow-boy driving his
cattle, the herder watching his sheep, the government irrigation dam,
and the automobile--have seen every one of these slides which progress
puts for a moment into its magic-lantern and removes to replace with a
new one. The final tale in this book could not possibly have happened in
the day of the first tale, although scarcely twenty years separate the
new, present Wyoming from that cow-boy Wyoming which then flourished so
boisterously, and is now like the antelope. Steam and electricity make
short work of epochs. We don’t know how many centuries the Indian and
the buffalo enjoyed before the trapper and pioneer arrived. These latter
had fifty or sixty good years of it, pushing westward until no west was
left to push to; a little beyond Ogden in 1869, the driving of that
golden spike which riveted the rails between New York and San Francisco,
rang out the old, rang in the new, and progress began to work its
magic-lantern faster. The soldier of the frontier, the frontier
post--gone; the cattle-range--gone; the sheep episode just come, yet
going already, or at any rate already mixed, diluted, with the farm, the
truck garden, the poultry yard, the wife, the telephone, the summer
boarder, and the Victor playing the latest Broadway “records” in valleys
where the august wilderness reigned silent--yesterday. The nomadic,
bachelor West is over, the housed, married West is established. This
rush of change, this speed we live at everywhere (only faster in some
places than in others) has led some one to remark sententiously that
when a Western baby is born, it immediately makes its will, while when a
New York baby is born, it merely applies for a divorce.

But what changes can ever efface that early vision which began with the
antelope? Wyoming burst upon the tenderfoot resplendent, like all the
story-books, like Cooper and Irving and Parkman come true again; here,
actually going on, was that something which the boy runs away from
school to find, that land safe and far from Monday morning, nine
o’clock, and the spelling-book; here was Saturday eternal, where you
slept out-of-doors, hunted big animals, rode a horse, roped steers, and
wore deadly weapons. Make no mistake: fire-arms were at times practical
and imperative, but this was not the whole reason for sporting them on
your hip; you had escaped from civilization’s school-room, an air never
breathed before filled your lungs, and you were become one large shout
of joy. College-boy, farm-boy, street-boy, this West melted you all down
to the same first principles. Were you seeking fortune? Perhaps,
incidentally, but money was not the point; you had escaped from school.
This holiday was leavened by hard bodily work, manly deeds, and deeds
heroic, and beneath all the bright brave ripple moved the ground-swell
of tragedy. Something of promise, also, was in the air, promise of a
democracy which the East had missed:--

“With no spread-eagle brag do I gather conviction each year that we
Americans, judged not hastily, are sound at heart, kind, courageous,
often of the truest delicacy, and always ultimately of excellent good
sense. With such belief, or, rather, knowledge, it is sorrowful to see
our fatal complacence, our as yet undisciplined folly, in sending to our
State Legislatures and to that general business office of ours at
Washington, a herd of mismanagers that seems each year to grow more
inefficient and contemptible, whether branded Republican or Democrat.
But I take heart, because oftener and oftener I hear upon my journey the
citizens high and low muttering, ‘There’s too much politics in this
country’; and we shake hands.”

Such “insurgent” sentiments did I in 1895, some time before insurgency’s
day, speak out in the preface to my first book of Western tales; to-day
my faith begins to be justified. In the West, where the heart of our
country has been this long while, and where the head may be pretty soon,
the citizens are awakening to the fact that our first century of “self”
government merely substituted the divine right of corporations for the
divine right of Kings. Surprising it is not, that a people whose genius
for machinery has always been paramount should expect more from
constitutions and institutions than these mere mechanisms of government
can of themselves perform; the initiative, referendum, and recall are
excellent inventions, but if left to run alone, as all our other patent
devices have been, they will grind out nothing for us: By his very creed
is the American dedicated to eternal vigilance. This we forgot for so
long that learning it anew is both painful and slow. We have further to
remember that prosperity is something of a curse in disguise; it is the
poor governments in history that have always been the purest; where
there is much to steal, there will be many to steal it. We must
discern, too, the illusion of “natural rights,” once an inspiration, now
a shell from which life has passed on into new formulas. A “right” has
no existence, save in its potential exercise; it does not proceed from
within, it is permitted from without, and “natural rights” is a phrase
empty of other meaning than to denote whatever primitive or acquired
inclinations of man each individual is by common consent allowed to
realize. These permissions have varied, and will vary, with the ages.
Polygamy would be called a natural right now in some parts of the world;
to the criminal and the diseased one wife will presently be forbidden in
many places. Let this single illustration serve. No argument based upon
the dogmatic premise of natural rights can end anywhere save in drifting
fog. We see this whenever a meeting of anarchists leads a judge or an
editor into the trap of attempting to define the “right” of free speech.
In fact, all government, all liberty, reduces itself to one man saying
to another: You may do _this_; but if you do _that_, I will kill you.
This power Democracy vests in “the people,” and our final lesson to
learn is that in a Democracy there is no such separate thing as “the
people”; all of us are the people. Truly his creed compels the American
to eternal vigilance! Will he learn to live up to it?

From the West the tenderfoot took home with him the health he had
sought, and an enthusiasm his friends fled from; what was Wyoming to
them or they to Wyoming? In 1885 the Eastern notion of the West was
“Alkali Ike” and smoking pistols. No kind of serious art had presented
the frontier as yet. Fresh visits but served to deepen the tenderfoot’s
enthusiasm and whet his impatience that so much splendid indigenous
material should literally be wasting its sweetness on the desert air. It
is likely always to be true that in each hundred of mankind ninety-nine
can see nothing new until the hundredth shakes it in their faces--and he
must keep shaking it. No plan of shaking was yet in the tenderfoot’s
mind, he was dedicated to other calling; but he besieged the ears of our
great painter and our great novelist. He told the painter of the strong,
strange shapes of the buttes, the epic landscape, the color, the
marvellous light, the red men blanketed, the white men in chapareros,
the little bronze Indian children; particularly does he recall--in 1887
or 1888--an occasion about two o’clock in the morning in a certain
beloved club in Boston, when he had been preaching to the painter. A
lesser painter (he is long dead) sat by, unbelieving. No, he said, don’t
go. I’m sure it’s all crude, repulsive, no beauty. But John Sargent did
believe. Other work waited him; his path lay elsewhere, he said, but he
was sure the tenderfoot spoke truth. Other work awaited the novelist,
too; both painter and novelist were wiser than to leave what they knew
to be their own for unknown fields. But would no one, then, disperse
the Alkali Ikes and bring the West into American art and letters?

It was a happy day for the tenderfoot when he read the first sage-brush
story by Mary Hallock Foote. At last a voice was lifted to honor the
cattle country and not to libel it. Almost at the same moment Charles
King opened for us the door upon frontier military life. He brought
spirited army scenes to our ken, Mrs. Foote more generally clothed the
civilian frontier with serious and tender art. They (so far as I know)
were the first that ever burst into that silent sea. Next, Mr. Roosevelt
began to publish his vivid, robust accounts of Montana life. But words
alone, no matter how skilfully used, were not of themselves adequate to
present to the public a picture so strange and new. Another art was
needed, and most luckily the man with the seeing eye and shaping hand

A monument to Frederic Remington will undoubtedly rise some day; the
artist who more than any one has gathered up in a grand grasp an entire
era of this country’s history, and handed it down visible, living,
picturesque, for coming generations to see--such man will have a
monument. But in the manner of commemorating national benefactors, I
would we resembled the French who celebrate their great ones--not
soldiers and statesmen alone, but all their great ones--by naming public
places in their honor: the Quai Voltaire, the Rue Bizet, the Rue
Auber--to mention the first that come to memory. Everywhere in France
you will meet with these instances of a good custom. In this country we
seem to value even third-rate politicians more than first-rate men of
art and letters. If Paris can by her streets perpetuate the memory of
the composers of _Carmen_ and _Fra Diavolo_, would it not be fitting
that Denver, Cheyenne, Tucson, and other western cities, should have a
Remington street? I am glad I did not wait until he was dead to pay my
tribute to him. The two opportunities that came to me in his life I
took, nor has my opinion of his work changed since then. If he never
quite found himself in color, he was an incomparable draftsman; best of
all, he was a great wholesome force making for independence, and he
taught to our over-imitative American painters the needed lesson that
their own country furnishes subjects as worthy as any that Delacroix or
Millet ever saw. I have lived to see what I did not expect, the desert
on canvas; for which I thank Fernand Lungren. Tributes to the dead seem
late to me, and I shall take this chance to acknowledge my debt to some
more of the living.

Four years after that night vigil with Sargent, the tenderfoot had still
written no word about the West. It was in 1891, after repeated
sojournings in camp, ranch, and military post, that his saturation with
the whole thing ran over, so to speak, in the form of fiction. Writing
had been a constant pastime since the school paper; in 1884 Mr. Howells
(how kind he was!) had felt my literary pulse and pronounced it
promising; a quickening came from the pages of Stevenson; a far stronger
shove next from the genius of _Plain Tales from the Hills_; during an
unusually long and broad wandering through the Platte valley, Powder
River, Buffalo, Cheyenne, Fort Washakie, Jackson’s Hole, and the Park,
the final push happened to be given by Prosper Mérimée; I had the volume
containing _Carmen_ with me. After reading it in the Park I straightway
invented a traveller’s tale. This was written down after I got home--I
left some good company at a club dinner table one night to go off to a
lonely library and begin it. A second followed, both were sent to
Franklin Square and accepted by Mr. Alden. Then I found my pretty
faithfully-kept Western diaries (they would now fill a shelf) to be a
reservoir of suggestion--and at times a source of despair; as, for
instance, when I unearthed the following abbreviations: Be sure to
remember Green-hides--perpendicular--sediment--Tuesdays as a rule.

Aware of Mérimée’snot highly expansive nature, I should hesitate, were
he alive, to disclose my debt to his _Carmen_--my favorite of all short
stories; but Mr. Howells and Mr. Kipling will be indulgent, and there is
another who will have to bear with my gratitude. In 1896 I sat with him
and he went over my first book, patiently, minutely pointing out many
things. Everything that he said I could repeat this moment, and his own
pages have continued to give me hints without end. That the pupil in one
or two matters ventures to disagree with his benefactor may be from much
lingering ignorance, or because no two ever think wholly alike: _tot
homines quot sententiæ_, as the Latin grammar used so incontrovertibly
to remark. It is significant to note how this master seems to be
teaching a numerous young generation. Often do I pick up some popular
magazine and read a story (one even of murder, it may be, in tropic seas
or city slums) where some canny bit of foreshortening, of presentation,
reveals the spreading influence, and I say, Ah, my friend, never would
you have found out how to do that if Henry James hadn’t set you

It can happen, says Montesquieu, that the individual through pursuing
his own welfare contributes to the general good; Mr. Herbert Croly
admirably and sagaciously applies this thought to the case of the artist
and the writer. Their way to be worthy citizens and serve the State, he
says, is to see to it that their work be reverently thorough, for thus
they set high the standard of national excellence. To which I would add,
that a writer can easily take himself too seriously, but he can never
take his art too seriously. In our country, the painter and writer have
far outstripped the working-man in their ideal of honest work. This is
(partly) because painter and writer have to turn out a good product to
survive, while the working-man manages to survive with the least
possible of personal effort and skill. Did I offer my publisher such
work as the plumber and carpenter offer me, I should feel myself
disgraced. Are we to see the day when the slovenly, lazy poet shall
enact that the careful, industrious poet must work no longer and sell no
more than he?

Editors have at times lamented to me that good work isn’t distinguished
from bad by our multifarious millions. I have the happiness to know the
editors to be wrong. Let the subject of a piece of fiction contain a
simple, broad appeal, and the better its art, the greater its success;
although the noble army of readers will not suspect that their pleasure
is largely due to the skill. Such a book as _The Egoist_, where the
subject is rarefied and complex, of course no height of art will render
acceptable, save to the rehearsed few. Thanks to certain of our more
robust editors, the noble army grows daily more rehearsed, reads
“harder” books than it did, accepts plainer speech and wider range of
subject than the skittish spinster generation of a while ago. But mark
here an underlying principle. The plain speech in Richardson was in his
day nothing to start back from; to-day it is inhibited by a change in
our circumambient reticence. The circumambient reticence varies in
degree with each race, and almost with every generation of each race.
Something like a natural law, it sets the limits for what can be said
aloud in grown-up company--and Art is speaking aloud in grown-up
company; it consists no more of the professional secrets of the doctor
than it does of the prattle of the nursery. Its business is indeed to
take notice of everything in life, but always subject to the
circumambient reticence. Those gentlemen (and ladies) who utter that
gaseous shibboleth about Art for Art (as well cry Beefsteak for
Beefsteak) and would have our books and plays be foul because Ben Jonson
frequently was and Anatole France frequently is, are out of their
reckoning; and generally they may be suspected not so much of an
abstract passion for truth as of a concrete letch for animalism. Almost
the only advice for the beginner is, Clearly feel what you intend to
express, and then go ahead, listening to nobody, unless to one who also
perceives clearly your intention. Great and small things does this rule
fit. Once in an early tale I sought to make our poor alphabet express
the sound of cow-bells, and I wrote that they _tankled_ on the hillside.
In the margin I stated my spelling to be intentional. Back it came in
the galley, tinkled. A revised proof being necessary, I restored my word
with emphasis--and lo, tinkle was returned me again. I appealed to the
veteran and well-loved sage at the head of _Harper’s Magazine_. He
supported me. Well, in the new Oxford dictionary, behold Tankle and me,
two flies in amber, perpetuated by that Supreme Court; I have coined a
new acknowledged word for the English language. This should not be told,
but for its small moral, and if I could not render a final set of thanks
to the living. Countless blunders have been saved me by the watchful eye
of the printer and proofreader, those friends I never see, whose names I
do not know. For twenty years they have marked places where through
carelessness or fatigue I have slipped; may some of them know through
this page that I appreciate their service.

This book is three years late; the first tale designed for it was
published in 1901. Its follower should even now be ready. It is not yet
begun; it exists merely in notes and intentions. Give me health and a
day, sighs Emerson; and I am sorry for all who have to say that. When
you see the new moon over your left shoulder, wish always for health;
never mind all the other things. I own to an attachment for the members
of this family; I would fain follow their lives a little more, into
twentieth century Wyoming, which knows not the cow-boy, and where the
cow-boy feels at times more lost than ever he was on the range. Of all
the ills that harass writing, plans deferred seem at times the worst;
yet great pleasures offset them--the sight of one’s pages in a foreign
tongue, meeting horses in the Rocky Mountains named after the members
of one’s family, being asked from across the world for further news of
some member. Lately a suggestion full of allurement came from one who
had read of Sir Francis, the duchess, and the countess, in the _Saturday
Evening Post_. (There, by the way, is an intrepid editor!) Why not add,
said the reader, a third lady to the group in Jimsy’s pond, and see what
they would all do then? Only consider the possibilities! But I dare not.
Life, without whose gifts none of us could have a story to tell--not
even Scheherezadè--life presented to me Sir Francis and his adoring
household. Never could I risk trusting to invention in a matter so
delicate. Would the duchess and the countess unite to draw the line at
the added sister? Would Sir Francis rise to the emergency? and if so,
what line would he take? The added sister might prove a lamb, a minx, or
a vixen. You see the possibilities. Dearly should I like to return this
summer to the singing waters of Buffalo Horn, and place a third lady in
that pond of Jimsy’s; then we might have another story if others are
ever to be. My science in the third tale is of course out of date; since
Kelvin, energy is immortal no longer, and a _lower_ form of it was
transmitted to the Secretary than was originally stored in Captain



   I. HAPPY-TEETH                                                     27

  II. SPIT-CAT CREEK                                                  67

 III. IN THE BACK                                                     89

  IV. TIMBERLINE                                                     124

   V. THE GIFT HORSE                                                 159

  VI. EXTRA DRY                                                      207

 VII. WHERE IT WAS                                                   229

VIII. THE DRAKE WHO HAD MEANS OF HIS OWN                             276


“‘Pie like Mother made,’ said Scipio”                      _Frontispiece_

                                                             FACING PAGE

“High Bear galloped away into the dusk”                               56

“Out of the door he flew,--squaws and bucks flapped after
him like poultry”                                                     66

“‘Is Sistah Stone heah?’ Leonidas inquired”                          108

“‘If that I was where I would be, then should I be where I am
not’”                                                                126

“_Waiting for nothing_ was stamped plain upon him from head
to foot”                                                             140

“The stage rattled up as I sat”                                      171

“I found nothing new--the plain, the sage-brush, the dry
ground--no more”                                                     188

“He shuffled the shells straight at the freighter as if he were
making love to him”                                                  216

“How could he know that Bellyful had only become a road-agent
in the last ten minutes?”                                            226

“‘My, but it’s turrable easy to get married’”                        284

“‘Well, Jimsy, are you going to get me any wood for this stove--or
ain’t you?’”                                                         296



Scipio Le Moyne lay in bed, held together with bandages. His body had
need for many bandages. A Bar-Circle-Zee three-year-old had done him
violent mischief at the forks of Stinking Water.[1] But for the fence,
Scipio might have swung clear of the wild, rearing animal. When they
lifted his wrecked frame from the ground one of them had said:--

“A spade’s all he’ll need now.”

Overhearing this with some still unconquered piece of his mind, Scipio
made one last remark: “I ain’t going to die for years and years.”

Upon this his head had rolled over, and no further statements came from
him for--I forget how long. Yet somehow, we all believed that last
remark of his.

“Since I’ve known him,” said the Virginian, “I have found him a truthful

“Which don’t mean,” Honey Wiggin put in, “that he can’t lie when he
ought to.”

Judge Henry always sent his hurt cow-punchers to the nearest surgical
aid, which in this case was the hospital on the reservation. Here then,
one afternoon, Scipio lay, his body still bound tight at a number of
places, but his brain needing no bandages whatever; he was able to see
one friend for a little while each day. It was almost time for this
day’s visitor to go, and the visitor looked at his watch.

“Oh, don’t do that!” pleaded the man in bed. “I’m not sick any more.”

“You will be sick some more if you keep talking,” replied the Virginian.

“Thinkin’ is a heap more dangerous, if y’u can’t let it out,” Scipio
urged. “I’m not half through tellin’ y’u about Horacles.”

“Did his mother name him that?” inquired the Virginian.

“Naw! but his mother brought it on him. Didn’t y’u know? Of course you
don’t often get so far north in the Basin as the Agency. His name is
Horace Pericles Byram. Well, the Agent wasn’t going to call his
assistant store-clerk all that, y’u know, not even if he _has_ got an
uncle in the Senate of the United States. Couldn’t spare the time. Days
not long enough. Not even in June. So everybody calls him Horacles now.
He’s reconciled to it. But I ain’t. It’s too good for him. A heap too
good. I’ve knowed him all my life, and I can’t think of a name that’s
not less foolish than he is. Well, where was I? I was tellin’ y’u how
back in Gallipol_eece_ he couldn’t understand anything. Not dogs. Not
horses. Not girls.”

“Do you understand girls?” the Virginian interrupted.

“Better’n Horacles. Well, now it seems he can’t understand Indians. Here
he is sellin’ goods to ’em across the counter at the Agency store. I
could sell twiced what he does, from what they tell me. I guess the
Agent has begun to discover what a trick the Uncle played him when he
unloaded Horacles on him. Now why did the Uncle do that?”

Scipio stopped in his rambling discourse, and his brows knitted as he
began to think about the Uncle. The Virginian once again looked at his
watch, but Scipio, deep in his thoughts, did not notice him. “Uncle,” he
resumed to himself, half aloud, “Uncle was the damnedest scoundrel in
Gallipol_eece_.--Say!” he exclaimed suddenly, and made an eager movement
to sit up. “Oh Lord!” he groaned, sinking back. “I forgot.--What’s your

But the Virginian had seen the pain transfix his friend’s face, and
though that face had instantly smiled, it was white. He stood up. “I’d
ought to get kicked from here to the ranch,” he said, remorsefully.
“I’ll get the doctor.”

Vainly the man in bed protested; his visitor was already at the door.

“I’ve not told y’u about his false teeth!” shrieked Scipio, hoping this
would detain him. “And he does tricks with a rabbit and a bowl of fish.”

But the guest was gone. In his place presently the Post surgeon came,
and was not pleased. Indeed, this excellent army doctor swore. Still, it
was not the first time that he had done so, nor did it prove the last;
and Scipio, it soon appeared, had given himself no hurt. But in answer
to a severe threat, he whined:--

“Oh, ain’t y’u goin’ to let me see him to-morro’?”

“You’ll see nobody to-morrow except me.”

“Well, that’ll be seein’ nobody,” whined Scipio, more grievously.

The doctor grinned. “In some ways you’re incurable. Better go to sleep
now.” And he left him.

Scipio did not go to sleep then, though by morning he had slept ten
healthful hours, waking with the Uncle still at the centre of his
thoughts. It made him again knit his brows.

“No, you can’t see him to-day,” said the doctor, in reply to a request.

“But I hadn’t finished sayin’ something to him,” Scipio protested. “And
I’m well enough to see my dead grandmother.”

“That I’ll not forbid,” answered the doctor. And he added that the
Virginian had gone back to Sunk Creek with some horses.

“Oh, yes,” said Scipio. “I’d forgot. Well, he’ll be coming through on
his way to Billings next week. You been up to the Agency lately?
Yesterday? Well, there’s going to be something new happen. Agent seem
worried or anything?”

“Not that I noticed. Are the Indians going on the war-path?”

“Nothing like that. But why does a senator of the United States put his
nephew in that store? Y’u needn’t to tell me it’s to provide for him,
for it don’t provide. I thought I had it figured out last night, but
Horacles don’t fit. I can’t make him fit. He don’t understand Injuns.
That’s my trouble. Now the Uncle must know Horacles don’t understand.
But if he didn’t know?” pursued Scipio, and fell to thinking.

“Well,” said the doctor indulgently, as he rose, “it’s good you can
invent these romances. Keeps you from fretting, shut up here alone.”

“There’d be no romances here,” retorted Scipio. “Uncle is exclusively
hard cash.” The doctor departed.

At his visit next morning, he was pleased with his patient’s condition.
“Keep on,” said he, “and I’ll let you sit up Monday for ten minutes. Any
more romances?”

“Been thinkin’ of my past life,” said Scipio.

The doctor laughed long. “Why, how old are you, anyhow?” he asked at

“Oh, there’s some lovely years still to come before I’m thirty. But I’ve
got a whole lot of past life, all the same.” Then he pointed a solemn,
oracular finger at the doctor. “What white man savvys the Injun? Not
you. Not me. And I’ve drifted around some, too. The map of the United
States has been my home. Been in Arizona and New Mexico and among the
Siwashes--seen all kinds of Injun--but I don’t savvy ’em. I know most
any Injun’s better’n most any white man till he meets the white man. Not
smarter, y’u know, but better. And I do know this: You take an Injun and
let him be a warrior and a chief and a grandfather who has killed heaps
of white men in his day--but all that don’t make him grown up. Not like
we’re grown up. He stays a child in some respects till he’s dead. He’ll
believe things and be scared at things that ain’t nothin’ to you and me.
You take Old High Bear right on this reservation. He’s got hair like
snow and eyes like an eagle’s and he can sing a war-song about fights
that happened when our fathers were kids. But if you want to deal with
him, you got to remember he’s a child of five.”

“I do know all this,” said the doctor, interested. “I’ve not been twenty
years on the frontier for nothing.”

“Horacles don’t know it,” said Scipio. “I’ve saw him in the store all

“Well,” said the doctor, “see you to-morrow. I’ve some new patients in
the ward.”



“Guess I know why they’re here.”

“Oh, yes,” sighed the doctor. “You know. Few come here for any other
reason.” The doctor held views about how a military post should be
regulated, which popular sentiment will never share. “Can I do anything
for you?” he inquired.

“If I could have some newspapers?” said Scipio.

“Why didn’t you tell me before?” said the doctor. After that he saw to
it that Scipio had them liberally.

With newspapers the patient sat surrounded deep, when the Virginian,
passing north on his way to Billings, looked in for a moment to give his
friend the good word. That is what he came for, but what he said was:--

“So he has got false teeth?”

Scipio, hearing the voice at the door, looked over the top of his paper
at the visitor.

“Yes,” he replied, precisely as if the visitor had never been out of the

“What d’ y’u know?” inquired the Virginian.

“Nothing; what do you?”


After all, such brief greetings cover the ground.

“Better sit down,” suggested Scipio.

The Virginian sat, and took up a paper. Thus for a little while they
both read in silence.

“Did y’u stop at the Agency as y’u came along?” asked Scipio, not
looking up from his paper.


There was silence again as they continued reading. The Virginian, just
come from Sunk Creek, had seen no newspapers as recent as these. When
two friends on meeting after absence can sit together for half an hour
without a word passing between them, it is proof that they really enjoy
each other’s company. The gentle air came in the window, bringing the
tonic odor of the sage-brush. Outside the window stretched a yellow
world to distant golden hills. The talkative voice of a magpie somewhere
near at hand was the only sound.

“Nothing in the newspapers in particular,” said Scipio, finally.

“You expaictin’ something particular?” the Virginian asked.


“Mind sayin’ what it is?”

“Wish I knew what it is.”

“Always Horacles?”

“Always him--and Uncle. I’d like to spot Uncle.”

Mess call sounded from the parade ground. It recalled the flight of time
to the Virginian.

“When you get back from Billings,” said Scipio, “you’re liable to find
me up and around.”

“Hope so. Maybe you’ll be well enough to go with me to the ranch.”

But when the Virginian returned, a great deal had happened all at once,
as is the custom of events.

Scipio’s vigorous convalescence brought him in the next few days to
sitting about in the open air, and then enlarged his freedom to a
crutch. He hobbled hither and yon, paying visits, many of them to the
doctor. The doctor it was, and no newspaper, who gave to Scipio the
first grain of that “something particular” which he had been daily
seeking and never found. He mentioned a new building that was being put
up rather far away down in the corner of the reservation. The rumor in
the air was that it had something to do with the Quartermaster’s
department. The odd thing was that the Quartermaster himself had heard
nothing about it. The Agent up at the Agency store considered this
extremely odd. But a profound absence of further explanations seemed to
prevail. What possible need for a building was there at that
inconvenient, isolated spot?

Scipio slapped his leg. “I guess what y’u call my romance is about to

“Well,” the doctor admitted, “it may be. Curious things are done upon
Indian reservations. Our management of them may be likened to putting
the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments into a bag and crushing them
to powder. Let our statesmen at Washington get their hands on an Indian
reservation, and not even honor among thieves remains.”

“Say, doc,” said Scipio, “when d’ y’u guess I can get off?”

“Don’t be in too much of a hurry,” the doctor cautioned him. “If you go
to Sunk Creek--”

“Sunk Creek! I only want to go to the Agency.”

“Oh, well, you could do that to-day--but don’t you want to see the
entertainment? Conjuring tricks are promised.”

“I want to see Horacles.”

“But he is the entertainment. Supper comes after he’s through.”

Scipio stayed. He was not repaid, he thought. “A poor show,” was his
comment as he went to bed. He came later to be very glad indeed that he
had gone to that entertainment.

The next day found him seated in the Agency store, being warmly greeted
by his friends the Indians. They knew him well; perhaps he understood
them better than he had said. By Horacles he was not warmly greeted;
perhaps Horacles did not wish to be understood--and then, Scipio, in his
comings and goings through the reservation, had played with Horacles for
the benefit of bystanders. There is no doubt whatever that Horacles did
not understand Scipio. He was sorry to notice how the Agent, his
employer, shook Scipio’s hand and invited him to come and stop with him
till he was fit to return to his work. And Scipio accepted this
invitation. He sat him down in the store, and made himself at home. Legs
stretched out on one chair, crutch within reach, hands comfortably
clasped round the arms of the chair he sat in, head tilted back, eyes
apparently studying the goods which hung from the beams overhead, he
visibly sniffed the air.

“Smell anything you don’t like?” inquired the clerk, tartly--and

“Nothin’ except you, Horacles,” was the perfectly amiable
rejoinder.--“It’s good,” Scipio then confessed, “to be smellin’ buckskin
and leather and groceries instead of ether and iodoform.”

“Guess you were pretty sick,” observed the clerk, with relish.

“Yes. Oh, yes. I was pretty sick. That’s right. Yes.” Scipio had
continued through these slowly drawled remarks to look at the ceiling.
Then his glance dropped to the level of Horacles, and keenly fixed that
unconscious youth’s plump little form, pink little face, and mean little
mustache. Behind one ear stuck a pen, behind the other a pencil, as the
assistant clerk was arranging some tins of Arbuckle’s Arioso coffee.
Then Scipio took aim and fired: “So you’re going to quit your job?”

Horacles whirled round. “Who says so?”

The chance shot--if there ever is such a thing, if such shots are not
always the result of visions and perceptions which lie beyond our
present knowledge--this chance shot had hit.

“First I’ve heard of it,” then said Horacles sulkily. “Guess you’re
delirious still.” He returned to his coffee, and life grew more
interesting than ever to Scipio.

Instead of trickling back, health began to rush back into his long
imprisoned body, and though he could not fully use it yet, and though if
he hobbled a hundred yards he was compelled to rest it, his wiry mind
knew no fatigue. How athletic his brains were was easily perceived by
the Indian Agent. The convalescent would hobble over to the store after
breakfast and hail the assistant clerk at once. “Morning, Horacles,” he
would begin; “how’s Uncle?”--“Oh, when are you going to give us a new
joke?” the worried Horacles would retort.--“Just as soon as you give us
a new Uncle, Horacles. Or any other relation to make us feel proud we
know you. What did his letter last night say?” The second or third time
this had been asked still found Horacles with no better repartee than
angry silence. “Didn’t he send me his love?” Scipio then said; and still
the hapless Horacles said nothing. “Well, y’u give him mine when you
write him this afternoon.”--“I ain’t writing this afternoon,” snapped
the clerk.--“You’re not! Why, I thought you wrote each other every
day!” This was so near the truth that Horacles flared out: “I’d be
ashamed if I’d nothing better to do than spy on other people’s mails.”

Thus by dinner-time generally an audience would be gathered round Scipio
where he sat with his legs on the chair, and Horacles over his ledger
would be furiously muttering that “Some day they would all see.”

Horacles asked for a couple of days’ holiday, and got it. He wished to
hunt, he said. But the Agent happened to find that he had been to the
railroad about some freight. This he mentioned to Scipio. “I don’t know
what he’s up to,” he said. He had found that worrying Horacles was
merely one of the things that Scipio’s brains were good for; Scipio had
advised him prudently about a sale of beeves, and had introduced a
simple contrivance for luring to the store the customers whom Horacles
failed to attract. It was merely a free lunch counter,--cheese and
crackers every day, and deviled ham on pay-day,--but it put up the daily

And next, one evening after the mail was in, Scipio, sitting alone in
the front of the store, saw the Agent, sitting alone in the back of the
store, spring suddenly from his chair, crush a newspaper into his
pocket, and stride out to his house. At breakfast the Agent spoke thus
to Scipio:--

“I must go to Washington. I shall be back before they let you and your
leg run loose. Will you do something for me?”

“Name it. Just name it.”

“Run the store while I’m gone.”

“D’ y’u think I can?”

“I know you can. There’ll be no trouble under you. You understand

“But suppose something turns up?”

“I don’t think anything will before I’m back. I’d sooner leave you than
Horacles in charge here. Will you do it and take two dollars a day?”

“Do it for nothing. Horacles’ll be compensation enough.”

“No, he won’t.--And see here, he can’t help being himself.”

“Enough said. I’ll strive to pity him. None of us was consulted about
being born. And I’ll keep remembering that we was both raised at
Gallipol_eece_, Ohio, and that he inherited a bigger outrage of a name
than I did. That’s what comes of havin’ a French ancestor.--Only, he
used to steal my lunch at school.” And Scipio’s bleached blue eye grew
cold. Later injuries one may forgive, but school ones never.

“Didn’t you whale him?” asked the Agent.

“Every time,” said Scipio, “till he told Uncle. Uncle was mayor of
Gallipol_eece_ then. So I wasn’t ready to get expelled,--I got ready
later; nothin’ is easier than gettin’ expelled,--but I locked up my
lunch after that.”

“Uncle’s pretty good to him,” muttered the Agent. “Got him this
position.--Well, nobody will expel you here. Look after things. I’ll
feel easy to think you’re on hand.”

For that newspaper which the Agent had crushed into his pocket, Scipio
searched cracks and corners, but searched in vain. A fear quite
unreasoning possessed him for a while: could he but learn what was in
the paper that had so stirred his patron, perhaps he could avert
whatever the thing was that he felt in the air, threatening some sort of
injury. He knew himself resourceful. Dislike of Horacles and Uncle had
been enough to start his wish to thwart them--if there was anything to
thwart; but now pride and gratitude fired him; he had been trusted; he
cared more to be trusted than for anything on earth; he must rise equal
to it now! The Agent had evidently taken the paper away with him--and so
Scipio absurdly read all the papers. He collected old ones, and laid his
hands upon the new the moment they were out of the mail-bag. It may be
said that he lived daily in a wrapping of newspapers.

“Why, you have got Horacles laughing at you.”

This the observant Virginian pointed out to Scipio immediately on his
arrival from Billings. Scipio turned a sickened look upon his friend.
The look was accompanied by a cold wave in his stomach.

“Y’u cert’nly have,” the remorseless friend pursued. “I reckon he must
have had a plumb happy time watchin’ y’u still-hunt them newspapers. Now
who’d ever have foretold you would afford Horacles enjoyment?”

In a weak voice Scipio essayed to fight it off. “Don’t you try to
hoodwink me with any of your frog lies.”

“No need,” said the Virginian. “From the door as I came in I saw him at
his desk lookin’ at y’u easy-like. ’Twas a right quaint pictyeh--him
smilin’ at the desk, and your nose tight agaynst the Omaha _Bee_. I
thought first y’u didn’t have a handkerchief.”

“I wonder if he has me beat?” muttered poor Scipio.

The Virginian now had a word of consolation. “Don’t y’u see,” he again
pointed out, “that no newspaper could have helped you? If it could why
did he go away to Washington without tellin’ you? He don’t look for you
to deal with troubles he don’t mention to you.”

“I wonder if Horacles has me beat?” said Scipio once more.

The Virginian standing by the seated, brooding man clapped him twice on
the shoulders, gently. It was enough. They were very fast friends.

“I know,” said Scipio in response. “Thank y’u. But I’d hate for him to
have me beat.”

It was the doctor who now furnished information that would have relieved
any reasonable man from a sense of failure. The doctor was excited
because his view of our faith in Indian matters was again justified by a
further instance.

“Oh, yes!” he said. “Just give those people at Washington time, and
every step they’ve taken from the start will be in the mud puddle of a
lie. Uncle’s in the game all right. He’s been meditating how to serve
his country and increase his income. There’s a railroad at the big end
of his notion, but the entering wedge seems only to be a new store down
in the corner of this reservation. You see, it has been long settled by
the sacredest compacts that two stores shall be enough here--the
Post-trader’s and the Agent’s--but the dear Indians need a third, Uncle
says. He has told the Senate and the Interior Department and the White
House that a lot of them have to travel too far for supplies. So now
Washington is sure the Indians need a third store. The Post-trader and
the Agent are stopping at the Post to-night. They got East too late to
hold up the job. If Horacles opens that new store, the Agent might just
as well shut up his own.”

“Ain’t y’u going to look at my leg?” was all the reply that Scipio made.

The doctor laughed. It was to examine the leg that he had come, and he
had forgotten all about it. “You can forget all about it, too,” he told
Scipio when he had finished. “Go back to Sunk Creek when you like. Go
back to full work next week, say. Your wicked body is sound again. A
better man would unquestionably have died.”

But the cheery doctor could not cheer the unreasonable Scipio. In the
morning the complacent little Horacles made known to all the world his
perfected arrangements. Directly the Agent had safely turned his back
and gone to Washington, his disloyal clerk had become doubly busy. He
had at once perceived that this was a comfortable time for him to hurry
his new rival store into readiness and be securely established behind
its counter before his betrayed employer should return. In this last he
might not quite succeed; the Agent had come back a day or two sooner
than Horacles had calculated, but it was a trifle; after all, he had
carried through the small part of his uncle’s scheme which he had been
sent here to do. Inside that building in the far corner of the
reservation, once rumored to be connected with the Quartermaster’s
department, he would now sell luxuries and necessities to the Indians at
a price cheaper than his employer’s, and his employer’s store would
henceforth be empty of customers. Perhaps the sweetest moment that
Horacles had known for many weeks was when he said to Scipio:--

“I’m writing Uncle about it to-day.”

That this should have gone on under his nose while he sat searching the
papers was to Scipio utterly unbearable. His mind was in a turmoil,
feeling about helplessly but furiously for vengeance; and the
Virginian’s sane question--What could he have done to stop it if he had
discovered it?--comforted him not at all. They were outside the store,
sitting under a tree, waiting for the returning Agent to appear. But he
did not come, and the suspense added to Scipio’s wretchedness.

“He put me in charge,” he kept repeating.

“The driver ain’t responsible when a stage is held up,” reasoned the

Scipio hardly heard him. “He put me in charge,” he said. Then he worked
round to Horacles again. “He ain’t got strength. He ain’t got beauty. He
ain’t got riches. He ain’t got brains. He’s just got sense enough for
parlor conjuring tricks--not good ones, either. And yet he has me beat.”

“He’s got an uncle in the Senate,” said the Virginian.

The disconsolate Scipio took a pull at his cigar,--he had taken one
between every sentence. “Damn his false teeth.”

The Virginian looked grave. “Don’t be hasty. Maybe the day will come
when you and me’ll need ’em to chew our tenderloin.”

“We’ll be old. Horacles is twenty-five.”

“Twenty-five is certainly young to commence eatin’ by machinery,”
admitted the Virginian.

“And he’s proud of ’em,” whined Scipio. “Proud! Opens his bone box and
sticks ’em out at y’u on the end of his tongue.”

“I hate an immodest man,” said the Virginian.

“Why, he hadn’t any better sense than to do it over to the officers’
club right before the ladies and everybody the other night. The K. O.’s
wife said it gave her the creeps--and she don’t look sensitive.”

“Well,” said the Virginian, “if I weighed three hundred pounds I’d be
turrable sensitive.”

“She had to leave,” pursued Scipio. “Had to take her little girl away
from the show. Them teeth comin’ out of Horacles’es mouth the way they
did sent the child into hysterics. Y’u could hear her screechin’ half
way down the line.”

The Virginian looked at his watch. “I wonder if that Agent is coming
here at all to-day?”

Scipio’s worried face darkened again. “What can I do? What _can_ I?” he
demanded. And he rose and limped up and down where the ponies were tied
in front of the store. The fickle Indians would soon be tying these
ponies in front of the rival store. “I received this business in good
shape,” continued Scipio, “and I’ll hand it back in bad.”

Horacles looked out of the door. He wore his hat tilted to make him look
like the dare-devil that he was not; dare-devils seldom have soft pink
hands, red eyelids, and a fluffy mustache. He smiled at Scipio, and
Scipio smiled at him, sweetly and dangerously.

“Would you mind keeping store while I’m off?” inquired Horacles.

“Sure not!” cried Scipio, with heartiness. “Goin’ to have your grand
opening this afternoon?”

“Well, I _was_,” Horacles replied, enjoying himself every moment. “But
Mr. Forsythe” (this was the Agent) “can’t get over from the Post in time
to be present this afternoon. It’s very kind of him to want to be
present when I start my new enterprise, and I appreciate it, boys, I can
tell you. So I sent him word I wouldn’t think of opening without him,
and it’s to be to-morrow morning.”

While Horacles was speaking thus, the Indians had gathered about to
listen. It was plain that they understood that this was a white man’s
war; their great, grave, watching faces showed it. Young squaws,
half-hooded in their shawls, looked on with bright eyes; a boy who had
been sitting out on the steps playing a pipe, stopped his music, and
came in; the aged Pounded Meat, wrapped in scarlet and shrunk with years
to the appearance of a dried apple, watched with eyes that still had in
them the primal fire of life; tall in a corner stood the silver-haired
High Bear, watching too. Did they understand the white man’s war lying
behind the complacent smile of Horacles and the dangerous smile of the
lounging Scipio? The red man is grave when war is in question; all the
Indians were perfectly still.

“Wish you boys could be there to give me a good send-off,” continued

The pipe-playing Indian boy must have caught some flash of something
beneath Scipio’s smile, for his eye went to Scipio’s pistol--but it
returned to Scipio’s face.

Horacles spoke on. “Fine line of fresh Eastern goods, dry goods,
candies, and--hee-hee!--free lunch. Mr. Le Moyne, I want to thank you
publicly for that idea.”

“Y’u’re welcome to it. Guess I’ll hardly be over to-morrow, though. With
such a competitor as you, I expect I’ll have to stay with my job and

“Ah, well,” simpered Horacles, “I couldn’t have done it by myself. My
Uncle--say, boys!” (Horacles in the elation of victory now melted to
pure good-will) “do come see me to-morrow. It’s all business, this, you
know. There’s no hard feelings?”

The pipe boy couldn’t help looking at the pistol again.

“Not a feeling!” cried Scipio. And he clapped Horacles between his
little round shoulders. With head on one side, he looked down along his
lengthy, jocular nose at Horacles for a moment. Then his eye shone upon
the company like the edge of a knife--and they laughed at him because he
was laughing so contagiously at them; a soft laugh, like the fall of
moccasins. Often the Indian will join, like a child, in mirth which he
does not comprehend. High Bear’s smile shone from his corner at young
Scipio, whom he fancied so much that he had offered him his fourteenth
daughter to wed as soon as his leg should be well. But Scipio had
sorrowfully explained to the father that he was already married--which
was true, but which I fear would in former days have proved no
impediment to him. Perhaps some day I may tell you of the early
marriages of Scipio as Scipio in hospital narrated them to me.

“Hey!” said High Bear now, to Scipio. “New store. Pretty good. Heap

“Yes, High Bear. Heap cheap. You savvy why?”

With a long arm and an outstretched finger, Scipio suddenly pointed to
Horacles. At this the Virginian’s hitherto unchanging face wakened to
curiosity and attention. Scipio was now impressively and mysteriously
nodding at the silver-haired chief in his bright, green blanket, and his
long, fringed, yellow, soft buckskins.

“No savvy,” said High Bear, after a pause, with a tinge of caution. He
had followed Scipio’s pointing finger to where Horacles was happily
practising a trick with a glass and a silver dollar behind the counter.

“Heap cheap,” repeated Scipio, “because” (here he leaned close to High
Bear and whispered) “because his uncle medicine-man. He big
medicine-man, too.”

High Bear’s eyes rested for a moment on Horacles. Then he shook his
head. “Ah, nah,” he grunted. “He not medicine-man. He fall off horse. He
no catch horse. My little girl catch him. Ah, nah!” High Bear laughed
profusely at “Sippo’s” joke. “Sippo” was the Indians’ English name for
their vivacious friend. In their own language they called him something
complimentary in several syllables, but it was altogether too intimate
and too plain-spoken for me to repeat aloud. Into his whisper Scipio now
put more electricity. “He’s big medicine-man,” he hissed again, and he
drilled his bleached blue eye into the brown one of the savage. “See him
now!” He stretched out a vibrating finger.

It was a pack of cards that Horacles was lightly manipulating. He
fluttered it open in the air and fluttered it shut again, drawing it out
like a concertina and pushing it flat like an opera hat--nor did a card
fall to the ground.

High Bear watched it hard; but soon High Bear laughed. “He pretty good,”
he declared. “All same tin-horn monte-man. I see one Miles City.”

“Maybe monte-man medicine-man too,” suggested Scipio.

“Ah, nah!” said High Bear. Yet nevertheless Scipio saw him shoot one or
two more doubtful glances at Horacles as that happy clerk continued his

Horacles had an audience (which he liked), and he held his audience--and
who could help liking that? The bucks and squaws watched him, sometimes
nudging one another, and they smiled and grunted their satisfaction at
his news. Cheaper prices was something which their primitive minds could
take in as well as any of us.

“Why you not sell cheap like him?” they asked their friend “Sippo.” “We
stay then. Not go his store.” This was the burden of their chorus, soft,
laughing, a little mocking, floating among them like a breeze, voice
after voice:--

“We like buy everything you, we like buy everything cheap.”

“You make cheap, we buy heap shirts.”

“Buy heap tobacco.”

“Heap cartridge.”

“You not sell cheap, we go.”


The chorus laughed like pleased children.

Scipio looked at them solemnly. He explained how much he would like to
sell cheap, if only he were a medicine-man like Horacles.

“You medicine-man?” they asked the assistant clerk.

“Yes,” said Horacles, pleased. “I big medicine-man.”

“Ah, nah!” The soft, mocking words ran among them like the flight of a

Soon with their hoods over their heads they began to go home on their
ponies, blanketed, feathered, many-colored, moving and dispersing wide
across the sage-brush to their far-scattered tepees.

High Bear lingered last. For a long while he had been standing silent
and motionless. When the chorus spoke he had not; when the chorus
laughed he had not. Now his head moved; he looked about him and saw that
for a moment he was alone in a way. He saw the Virginian reading a
newspaper, and his friend “Sippo” bending down and attending to his leg.
Horacles had gone into an inner room. Left on the counter lay the pack
of cards. High Bear went quickly to the cards, touched them, lifted
them, set them down, and looked about him again. But the Virginian was

[Illustration: High Bear galloped away into the dusk]

reading still, and Scipio was still bent down, having some trouble with
his boot. High Bear looked at the cards, shook his head sceptically,
laughed a little, grunted once, and went out where his pony was tied. As
he was throwing his soft buckskin leg over the saddle, there was
Scipio’s head thrust out of the door and nodding strangely at him.

“Good night, High Bear. He big medicine-man.”

High Bear gave a quick slash to his pony, and galloped away into the

Then Scipio limped back into the store, sank into the first chair he
came to, and doubled over. The Virginian looked up from his paper at
this mirth, scowled, and turned back to his reading. If he was to be
“left out” of the joke, he would make it plain that he was not in the
least interested in it.

Scipio now sat up straight, bursting to share what was in his mind; but
he instantly perceived how it was with the Virginian. At this he
redoubled his silent symptoms of delight. In a moment Horacles had come
back from the inner room with his hair wet with ornamental brushing.

“Well, Horacles,” began Scipio in the voice of a purring cat, “I expect
y’u have me beat.”

The flattered clerk could only nod and show his bright, false teeth.

“Y’u have me beat,” repeated Scipio. “Y’u have for a fact.”

“Not you, Mr. Le Moyne. It’s not you I’m making war on. I do hope
there’s no hard feelings--”

“Not a feelin’, Horacles! How can y’u entertain such an idea?” Scipio
shook him by the hand and smiled like an angel at him--a fallen angel.
“What’s the use of me keepin’ this store open to-morrow? Nobody’ll be
here to spend a cent. Guess I’ll shut up, Horacles, and come watch the
Injuns all shoppin’ like Christmas over to your place.”

The Virginian sustained his indifference, and added to Scipio’s
pleasure. But during breakfast the Virginian broke down.

“Reckon you’re ready to start to-day?” he said.

“Start? Where for?”

“Sunk Creek, y’u fool! Where else?”

“I’m beyond y’u! I’m sure beyond y’u for once!” screeched Scipio,
beating his crutch on the floor.

“Oh, eat your grub, y’u fool.”

“I’d have told y’u last night,” said Scipio, remorselessly, “only y’u
were so awful anxious not to _be_ told.”

As the Virginian drove him across the sage-brush, not to Sunk Creek, but
to the new store, the suspense was once more too much for the
Southerner’s curiosity. He pulled up the horses as the inspiration
struck him.

“You’re going to tell the Indians you’ll under-sell him!” he declared,

“Oh, drive on, y’u fool,” said Scipio.

The baffled Virginian grinned. “I’ll throw you out,” he said, “and break
all your laigs and bones and things fresh.”

“I wish Uncle was going to be there,” said Scipio.

Nearly everybody else was there: the Agent, bearing his ill fortune like
a philosopher; some officers from the Post, and the doctor; some
enlisted men, blue-legged with yellow stripes; civilians male and
female, honorable and shady; and then the Indians. Wagons were drawn up,
ponies stood about, the littered plain was populous. Horacles moved
behind the counter, busy and happy; his little mustache was combed, his
ornamental hair was damp. He smiled and talked, and handled and
displayed his abundance: the bright calicoes, the shining knives, the
clean six-shooters and rifles, the bridles, the fishing-tackle, the
gum-drops and chocolates--all his plenty and its cheapness.

Squaws and bucks young and old thronged his establishment, their soft
footfalls and voices made a gentle continuous sound, while their green
and yellow blankets bent and stood straight as they inspected and
purchased. High Bear held an earthen crock with a luxury in it--a dozen
of fresh eggs. “Hey!” he said when he saw his friend “Sippo” enter.
“Heap cheap.” And he showed the eggs to Scipio. He cherished the crock
with one hand and arm while with the other hand he helped himself to the
free lunch.

To Scipio Horacles “extended” a special welcome; he made it ostentatious
in order that all the world might know how perfectly absent “hard
feelings” were. And Scipio on his side wore openly the radiance of
brotherhood and well-wishing. He went about admiring everything,
exclaiming now and then over the excellence of the goods, or the
cheapness of their price. His presence was soon no longer a cause of
curiosity, and they forgot to watch him--all of them except the
Virginian. The hours passed on, the little fires, where various noon
meals were cooked, burnt out, satisfied individuals began to depart
after an entertaining day, the Agent himself was sauntering toward his

“What’s your hurry?” said Scipio.

“Well, the show is over,” said the Agent.

“Oh, no, it ain’t. Horacles is goin’ to entertain us a whole lot.”

“Better stay,” said the Virginian.

The Agent looked from one to the other. Then he spoke anxiously. “I
don’t want anything done to Horacles.”

“Nothing will be done,” stated Scipio.

The Agent stayed. The magnetic current of expectancy passed, none could
say how, through the assembled people. No one departed after this, and
the mere loitering of spectators turned to waiting. Particularly
expectant was the Virginian, and this he betrayed by mechanically
droning in his strongest accent a little song that bore no reference to
the present occasion:--

    “Of all my fatheh’s familee
       I love myself the baist,
     And if Gawd will just look afteh me
       The devil may take the raist.”

The sun grew lower. The world outside was still full of light, but
dimness had begun its subtle pervasion of the store. Horacles thanked
the Indians and every one for their generous patronage on this his
opening day, and intimated that it was time to close. Scipio rushed up
and whispered to him:--

“My goodness, Horacles! You ain’t going to send your friends home like

Horacles was taken aback. “Why,” he stammered, “what’s wrong?”

“Where’s your vanishing handkerchief, Horacles? Get it out and entertain
’em some. Show you’re grateful. Where’s that trick dollar? Get ’em
quick.--I tell you,” he declaimed aloud to the Indians, “he big
medicine-man. Make come. Make go. You no see. Nobody see. Make
jack-rabbit in hat--”

“I couldn’t to-night,” simpered Horacles. “Needs preparation, you know.”
And he winked at Scipio.

Scipio struggled upon the counter, and stood up above their heads to
finish his speech. “No jack-rabbit this time,” he said.

“Ah, nah!” laughed the Indians. “No catch um.”

“Yes, catch um any time. Catch anything. Make anything. Make all this
store”--Scipio moved his arms about--“that’s how make heap cheap. See
that!” He stopped dramatically, and clasped his hands together. Horacles
tossed a handkerchief in the air, caught it, shut his hand upon it with
a kneading motion, and opened the hand empty. “His fingers swallow it,
all same mouth!” shouted Scipio. “He big medicine-man. You see. Now
other hand spit out.” But Horacles varied the trick. Success and the
staring crowd elated him; he was going to do his best. He opened both
hands empty, felt about him in the air, clutched space suddenly, and
drew two silver dollars from it. Then he threw them back into space,
again felt about for them in the air, made a dive at High Bear’s eggs,
and brought handkerchief and dollars out of them.

“Ho!” went High Bear, catching his breath. He backed away from the reach
of Horacles. He peered down into the crock among his eggs. Horacles
whispered to Scipio:--

“Keep talking till I’m ready.”

“Oh, I’ll talk. Go get ready quick,--High Bear, what I tell you?” But
High Bear’s eye was now fixedly watching the door through which
Horacles had withdrawn; he did not listen as Scipio proceeded. “What I
tell everybody? He do handkerchief. He do dollar. He do heap more. See
me. I no can do like him. I not medicine-man. I throw handkerchief and
dollar in the air, look! See! they tumble on floor no good,--thank you,
my kind noble friend from Virginia, you pick my fool dollar and my fool
handkerchief up for me, _muy pronto_. Oh, thank you, black-haired,
green-eyed son of Dixie, you have the manners of a queen, but I no
medicine-man, I shall never turn a skunk into a watermelon, I innocent,
I young, I helpless babe, I suck bottle when I can get it. Fire and
water will not obey me. Old man Makes-the-Thunder does not know my name
and address. He spit on me Wednesday night last, and there are no
dollars in this man’s hair.” (The Virginian winced beneath Scipio’s
vicious snatch at his scalp, and the Agent and the doctor retired to a
dark corner and laid their heads in each other’s waistcoats.) “Ha! he
comes! Big medicine-man comes. See him, High Bear! His father, his
mother, his aunts all twins, he ninth dog-pup in three sets of triplets,
and the great white Ram-of-the-Mountains fed him on punkin-seed.--Sick
’em, Horacles.”

The burning eye of High Bear now blazed with distended fascination,
riveted upon Horacles, whom it never left. Darkness was gathering in the

“Hand all same foot,” shouted Scipio, with gestures, “mouth all same
hand. Can eat fire. Can throw ear mile off and listen you talk.” Here
Horacles removed a dollar from the hair of High Bear’s fourteenth
daughter, threw it into one boot, and brought it out of the other. The
daughter screamed and burrowed behind her sire. All the Indians had
drawn close together, away from the counter, while Scipio on top of the
counter talked high and low, and made gestures without ceasing. “Hand
all same mouth. Foot all same head. Take off head, throw it out window,
it jump in door. See him, see big medicine-man!” And Scipio gave a great

A gasp went among the Indians; red fire was blowing from the jaws of
Horacles. It ceased, and after it came slowly, horribly, a long red
tongue, and riding on the tongue’s end glittered a row of teeth. There
was a crash upon the floor. It was High Bear’s crock. The old chief was
gone. Out of the door he flew, his blanket over his face, and up on his
horse he sprang, wildly beating the animal. Squaws and bucks flapped
after him like poultry, rushing over the ground, leaping on their
ponies, melting away into the dusk. In a moment no sign of them was left
but the broken eggs, oozing about on the deserted floor.

The white men there stood tearful, dazed, and weak with laughter.

“‘Happy-Teeth’ should be his name,” said the Virginian. “It sounds
Injun.” And Happy-Teeth it was. But Horacles did not remain long in the
neighborhood after he realized what he had done; for never again did an
Indian enter, or even come near, that den of flames and magic. They
would not even ride past it; they circled it widely. The idle
merchandise that filled it was at last bought by the Agent at a

“Well,” said Scipio bashfully to the Agent, “I’d have sure hated to hand
y’u back a ruined business. But he’ll never understand Injuns.”

[Illustration: Out of the door he flew,--squaws and bucks flapped after
him like poultry]



The cabin on Spit-Cat Creek lies lonely among the high pastures, and
looks down to further loneliness across many slanting levels of
pine-tops. These descend successively in smooth, odorous, evergreen
miles until they reach the open valley. Here runs the stage road, if you
can discern it, from the railway to the continuously jubilant cow-town
of Likely, Wyoming; and here, when viewed from the cabin through a
field-glass, you can readily distinguish an antelope from a stone in the
clear atmosphere which commonly prevails. The windows of the cabin are
three, and looking in through any of them you can see the stove, the
table, and the ingenuous structure which does duty as a bed. During the
season of snow, from November until May, the cabin (in the days of which
I speak) was dwelt in by no one; while through the open weather some
person of honesty and resource would be sent thither from the
headquarters ranch on Sunk Creek two or three times, to stay no longer
than his duties required, and to come back with his report as soon as
they should be performed. Such a man would live here with canned food
and the small stove, seldom having other company than his own, and, if
he had ears for the music of nature, the singing pines would often
companion him, he could hear now and again some unseen bird crying as it
passed among them, and always the voice of Spit-Cat. This stream foamed
by the cabin to fall and wander deviously away into the great, distant
silence of the mountains. Likely was eighteen miles distant, and to this
place the man could ride in four hours by a recently discovered trail,
which was the shorter one, and followed the smaller tributary stream of
Spit-Kitten; and sometimes the man did so ride for his mail, or for more
canned food, or for a game of chance and female company, in the
continuously jubilant cow-town of Likely, Wyoming.

Upon a midday in June, had you secretly peered through any of the
windows in the cabin, you could have seen a seated man, tightly curved
over the table and apparently dying in convulsions brought on by poison;
for the signs of a newly finished meal were near him. There was a
coffee-pot, and a dish of bacon, and three quarters of a pie. But it was
merely Scipio Le Moyne endeavoring to write a letter; and no task more
excruciating was known to this young man.

“Dear friend,” he had begun, “i got no dictionery, but--”

At this point a heavy blot had intervened as he was changing the
personal pronoun into a capital I.

“Oh, gosh!” he sighed, and for a while could spell no more. He sat back,
staring at the paper. “It’s not to a girl,” he presently muttered. “I
guess I’ll not start a fresh sheet.” And while the perspiring Scipio
laid his nose to his pen and dragged himself onward from word to word, a
bad old gentleman with a black coat and a white beard was coming
stealthily up from the valley through the thick pines. He was still some
miles away, and he meant to look in at one of the windows, and regulate
his conduct according to what he should then see. He was by no means
sure that Scipio had what he wanted, which was as much money as he could
get, or any fraction thereof; but he had a shrewd suspicion that he
could ascertain this without any extreme use of deadly weapons.

Scipio Le Moyne was making his first stay in the Spit-Cat cabin, and in
his mind there welled a complacency not to be justified; for when a
thick roll of money is in a man’s trousers, and the man’s trousers are
upon the man, and the man is writing a letter at a table, you see at
once how unsafe the money is if the man’s six-shooter is lying out of
reach on the bed behind him. It should be hanging at his hip, or in the
armhole of his waistcoat, or stuck elsewhere handily about his immediate
person. And so it would have been on any ordinary day of Scipio’s life;
but alas! on this day he was writing a letter, and was therefore not
quite accountable. There were many things that he did not
enjoy--cooking, for example, or a bucking pony, or gun trouble in a
saloon; but these worries he could usually meet. The only crisis which
invariably disturbed him (except, of course, having to talk to Eastern
ladies when they visited the Judge’s ranch) was to be face to face with
ink and a pen. After his midday meal this noon he had reclined upon his
bed, putting off the hateful moment. Thus recumbent he had unbuckled his
belt for comfort and got none, for the letter made him restless. At
length, with a mind absent from everything save the coming ink and pen,
he had gone to them, forgetting his revolver among the rumpled blankets.

Complacency welled in his mind because of errands accomplished. He had
been trusted, and he had a pride in it deeper than any words he was
willing to utter, and a gratitude which he would express by inference
alone. He would do everything that they had given him to do so well that
it could not be done better; that is how he would thank his friend, the
Sunk Creek foreman, for giving him this chance to show his
abilities--and his radical honesty. (Scipio was not in the least honest
on the surface.) He would take no man’s word for an inch of the work
that he had been sent to oversee on both sides of the mountain; he would
visit the various camps when he was not expected; every cow to be bought
should be bought on his own inspection and not on the seller’s
assurances. But these trusts were little compared with the heavy wages
that he was carrying to pay off certain men when certain work should be
finished. He had hoped to be rid of this at once, but late snows and
high water had delayed the work.

Scipio Le Moyne was among the newcomers at the headquarters ranch on
Sunk Creek. His character had not yet been tested by a year’s scrutiny.
He was known to ride and rope well, and to cook indifferently, and to
return from town having behaved himself less ill than the worst; but
Judge Henry had drawn back from putting in his hands a temptation so
potent as the wages. Much ready money is a burning argument for a
disappearance. To these cautious sentiments of the Judge his foreman had
replied scarcely more than “I have studied Scipio mighty thorough.” To
Scipio himself, the friend for whose character he was thus pledging his
good judgment, he merely remarked, “Stay with the money.”

“Stay with it!” exclaimed Scipio, nearly overcome by his feelings. He
wanted to hug the foreman; and lest his eyes should betray something, he
narrowed them to a wicked slit, and put on the disguise of jocularity.
“If y’u say so, I’ll stay with it till I come home with it.”

The usually sharp-witted foreman was at a loss.

“Sure!” Scipio explained. “I’ll pay the boys what they’re owed, and take
’em into Likely and win it back off ’em. Why, it’s the kind of plan y’u
might think of yourself.”

“You’re cert’nly shameless,” murmured the foreman.

“So my enemies all say,” retorted Scipio. Thus had he departed to Sunk

And now, having done well most things he was sent to do, his heart was
so grateful to his friend that he would conquer his distaste for the
pen, and write a long letter without a single word of thanks in it--the
thanks would merely be between every line. The truly heavy load of
responsibility was still with him, but safe with him; that money would
go into the hands of the men at the Flat Iron outfit to-morrow, and
surprise them. Had he not been adroit? No one suspected he was the
paymaster. Visiting Likely once for his mail and some supplies, he had
been obliged to spend the night there. His prudence as to whiskey and
general abstemiousness of conduct that night might point, he feared, to
the fact that he carried money he was “staying with.” He even felt a
certain observation to attend his movements. He therefore began to speak
deceitfully to the company he sat among. Had anybody else, he inquired,
been through here from Sunk Creek? Nobody else had, it appeared; and
Scipio smoked for a while.

“Well,” he remarked at length, with a certain gloom, like one who speaks
from an offended heart, “a man don’t enjoy bein’ mistrusted. Not if
there’s never been nothing to justify it.” He said no more, waiting for
some one to draw the desired inference from this utterance.

After a matter of some five minutes the inference was appreciated, and
he received a counter-offer, so to speak, a trifle too obviously aimed.
“Them hands at the Flat Iron,” said the offerer, “has most finished
their job, ain’t they?”

“I don’t know about them,” said Scipio, keeping in the land of
inference. “I’ve finished mine, I know.” Then, after a proper pause and
with proper bitterness, he finished: “If folks can’t trust me they can’t
hire me.”

It was lightly handled, and it did its work in Likely. All Likely
gossiped next day about how Judge Henry would not let Scipio handle the
Flat Iron money, and how Scipio let his feelings be shown too plain for
self-respect--all Likely, save one close observer. The old gentleman
with the black coat and the white beard thought that it was odd in
Scipio to behave so carefully during his night in town, odd and
interesting to drink nothing and go to bed early in the hotel. “That
kind don’t,” he said to himself; “not usually when they’re mad at their
employer and goin’ to quit their job.” The old gentleman did not gossip,
but grew thoughtful. One morning he got on his old pink mare, and took a
quiet trail for Spit-Cat. He thought he knew the way, but lost himself,
and luckily met a man on the stage road who directed him up the old,
established trail. Or rather, it was lucky that he lost himself, else he
would have arrived before Scipio had unbuckled his pistol and forgotten
everything in the world but this letter he was knee-deep in.

“_Dear friend_ I got no dictionery but if any of my spelling raises your
suspicions you can borrow a dictionery at your end and theirby correct
my statements which are otherwise garranteed to be strictly accurite.
Hope you are well I am same. Have a good notion not to sine this for you
will know my tracks without more information. Well buisniss first and I
will try run in a little pleasure for you if my nerve holds out but that
blot will tell you I am not myself just now. You said I was shameless
but you are dead wrong about me. To think of the way you lied to those
poor boys about the frogs has made me blush in bed after many a day when
my own concience was at piece. I have looked after the new ditches I
had to attend to them a whole lot they are all right now but they were
not the young yellowleg who calls himself a civil engineer I guess
because he looks at a grade through a machine on three sticks instead of
with his naked eye was making trouble. He was arranging for the water
from Crow Canyon to run up hill. We got it started the right way
yesterday but that civil engineer does too much fingering with his
pencil to suit me he has a whole box full of sums in arrithmetic. The
fences are satisfactory. I was oblidged to turn half the cattle back the
man thought I was one of those who do not know a cow when they see one
but he has gone home realizing his poor judgment. And now that is all
except I am paying off the extra hands at the Flat Iron outfit to-morrow
or next day sure and now for pleasure as my hand has got limbered up
wonderful and no longer oblidged to blast out every word with giant
powder like I had to all around the start where you see those blots. I
guess the words are going to get to chasing each other off this pen
before I am through telling you something.

“I have noticed a thing. Be the first to tell a joke on yourself it
deadens the blow. Well Honey Wiggin has found out about this so I am
going to hurry up and get ahead of his news. Likely is the town here as
you know and twenty hours is still the record for driving to it from the
railroad but there is a new trail from here to Likely by Spit-Kitten it
saves an hour so I am living an hour nearer the fashion than you told me
I would be when you gave me this job. But it was by no means to be
fashionable that I had to go over to Likely though it is a good place
for a man who wants to and this cabin is not fashionable a little bit
but my flour gave out. The last of it was eat up by Honey Wiggin who
stopped here one night and told me about the trail by Spit-Kitten witch
he claimed was easy except in one place by what they call the Little
Pasture. You come on the fence on the side hill up among the trees where
they have been cut down some and Honey said follow the fence a good ways
maybe three miles he thought but not more and you would see the place
where the trail took off down the hill through the same kind of trees
pretty thin growing and pines mostly till you would come to the edge and
see the town down below about half an hour more riding. Honey went over
the mountain to Flat Iron and I caught up my horse and started for
Likely. The trail was all right unless for a horse packed heavy and I
did not hurry any for I knew I had the night to put in in town and I was
in no haste to get there because I could have no enjoyment when I did on
account of the money. I was invited a lot when I got there but though I
have been going to bed the same day I got up for many weeks I was taking
no risk. But that is not my point it is the Little Pasture I want to
speak of. It got shady while I was following the fence which I struck
all right but I did not mind and I was studying up something to tell any
folks that might inquire about the money for Flat Iron for I have to
practiss lying I am not quick at it like you. Well sir I went along
getting up some remarks and then picking out them I considered to be the
most promissing but after a while I says to myself it must be most three
miles I have come along this fence. But Honey Wiggin is not special
close about distances, and so I went along rejecting some of the remarks
I had picked out and putting stronger ones in their place and pretty
soon I knew I must have come five miles anyway for Japan can walk three
miles an hour and I had looked at my watch. I made Japan lope and then
I made him gallup and then something struck me like a flash and I got
off him and I tied my hankerchef to the fence and me and Japan gallupped
like we was both crazy and it was not twenty minnits till we came round
to my hankerchef again. I expect the pasture is three miles round but
cannot say how many times I circled her. I struck out for myself then
and come to another fence and that was the one Honey meant, only he says
now he told me to look out and not take the first fence.

“In Likely I went to bed the same day I got up and I slept in my pants
with the money and can say I will be glad when--”

Here Scipio Le Moyne looked up from his letter, for the old gentleman
stood in the door and wished him good morning. It was not morning, but
let that go. The old gentleman had taken his observations through the
window behind Scipio and had been much pleased to notice the six-shooter
among the blankets. He had observed everything: the pie, the letter, all
things inside the cabin, and also that outside the cabin Scipio’s horse
was grazing in the little field, and therefore not instantly
serviceable. His own animal he had tied to a tree a little distance
within the timber.

“Good morning,” he said.

Scipio’s entire inward arrangements gave a monstrous leap, but his
outward start was very slight. “Hello, Uncle Pasco!” said he cheerfully.
“Are y’u lost?” And he sat in his chair quite still.

Uncle Pasco stood blinking in his usual way. “No,” he returned. “Not
lost. Just off trappin’. That’s what.” His voice was an old man’s, dry
and chirping, and his sentences proceeded in short hops. He had seen
Scipio’s one-quarter inch of movement, and he read that movement with
admirable insight: it had been a quickly arrested and choked impulse to
get to those blankets. And Scipio had done some reading, too. He saw
Uncle Pasco’s eye measuring distances, and he could discern no sign
whatever of pistol upon the old gentleman. This rendered him extremely
cautious, and his thoughts worked at a remarkable speed. Uncle Pasco did
not have to think so quickly, for he had begun his meditations in Likely
several days ago, and they were all finished as far as they could be up
to the present juncture. Even the most ripened strategist must leave
some moves to be determined by the fluctuations of the battle.

“Been off trapping’,” repeated Uncle Pasco.

“What luck?” Scipio inquired.

“Poor. Poor. Beaver gettin’ cleaned out of this country. That’s what.”

“Better sit down and eat,” said Scipio. “Take your coat off and stay a

Uncle Pasco’s glance rested on the pie a moment, and then upon Scipio’s
ink-covered sheets. “M--well,” he said doubtfully, for Scipio’s ease had
now put him in doubt, “I got to get back to Likely. Pie looks good. Pie
like mother made. That’s what. M--well, you’re busy. Guess you want to
write your letter.”

Scipio now looked at his letter, and drew inspiration from it, a forlorn
hope of inspiration. “Why, you don’t need to start for Likely so soon,”
he remarked with a persuasive whine. “What was the use in stoppin’ at
all? Eat the balance of the pie and take the new trail--if your packs
are not loaded heavy.”

“Spit-Kitten?” said Uncle Pasco.

“Yep,” said Scipio. “Saves an hour.”

“Ain’t been over it,” said Uncle Pasco.

“Can’t miss it,” said Scipio. “Your pack’s light?”

“M--well,” answered Uncle Pasco, doubtfully, “fairly light.”

“Sit down,” said Scipio. “I’ll tell y’u about the trail while you’re
eatin’ the pie.” He made as if to rise and offer the only chair in the
room to Uncle Pasco. This brought Uncle Pasco immediately to his side.

“Keep a-sittin’,” the old gentleman urged. “Keep a-sittin’, and draw me
a map. That’s what. Map of Spit-Kitten.”

“Here,” began Scipio, wriggling his pen across a blank sheet, “runs
Spit-Cat. This here cross is this cabin. Stream’s runnin’ this way.

“That’s plain,” said Uncle Pasco.

“Here,” and Scipio wriggled his pen at right angles to the first
wriggle, “comes Spit-Kitten into the main creek--right above this cabin.
See? Well. Now.” Scipio began dotting lines. “You follow the little
creek up, _so_. Then you cross over to the left bank, _so_. And you go
right up out of a little canyon (you can’t if your packs is heavy
loaded, for it’s awful steep and slippery for pretty near a hundred
yards) and you come out on top clear going--gosh! I’ve got to take
another sheet of paper--well, now y’u go down easy a mile or two and
keep swinging to your right, and about here”--Scipio now sprinkled some
points on the paper--“the trees begin gettin’ scattery and you look out
for a fence on your left. You follow that fence for--well, I’d not say
whether it’s three miles or four--it’s that noo pasture the Seventy-six
outfit calls their Little Pasture, and before y’u come to the corner
where there’s a gate by a gushin’ creek I don’t know the name of, you’ll
notice the hill goin’ down to your right all over good grass and mighty
few trees, and if it’s dark you’ll see the lights of the town below and
the trail takes off right about where you’ll be standing this way”
(Scipio scratched an arrow), “and don’t y’u mind if it looks like a
little-worn trail, for that’s the way it is, and y’u can’t miss it on
that hillside. See?”

“That’s plain as day,” said Uncle Pasco, accepting the two sheets of the
map and sliding them into his own pocket. He still stood beside Scipio,
irresolutely, considering the lumpy appearance of Scipio’s pocket. A
handkerchief with a bag of tobacco might produce such a bulge.

“Fine day,” said Scipio. “Better stay a while.”

“Good weather right along now,” said Uncle Pasco.

“Time it was,” said Scipio, “after the wettin’ the month of May gave us.
Boys doin’ anything in town lately?”

“Oh, gay, gay,” returned Uncle Pasco. And he ran a pistol against
Scipio’s head. “Out with it,” he commanded. “Cough up.”

It is possible, under these circumstances, to refuse to cough, and to
perform instead some rapid athletics which result in a bullet-hole in
the wall or ceiling, to be forever after pointed to. But the odds are so
heavy that the hole will be in neither the wall nor the ceiling that
many people of undoubted valor have found coughing more discreet. Scipio

“Uncle Pasco,” said he gracefully, “I didn’t know you were that

Uncle Pasco now marched to the bed, and appropriated Scipio’s pistol.
“Just for the present,” he explained.

“Uncle Pasco,” resumed Scipio, mild as a dove, and never stirring from
his chair, “you have learned me something to-day. It’s expensive
education. I’ll not say it ain’t. But I’m goin’ to tell y’u where I went
wrong. I’d ought to have acted more careless in Likely that night. I’d
ought to have taken a whirl somewheres. Bein’ so quiet exposed my hand
to y’u. But, see here, I had everybody fooled but you.”

“You’re a kid,” responded Uncle Pasco, but with indulgence. “You be
good. Keep a-sittin’ right there. Pie like mother made.” And with the
pie in one hand and his pistol in the other he made a comfortable lunch.

“It _was_ my over-carefulness, warn’t it?” persisted Scipio. “I have
sure paid y’u good to know!”

“You’re a kid,” Uncle Pasco, with unchanged indulgence, repeated.
“You’ll do in time. Keep studying seasoned men. That’s what.” And he
finished his meal. “You’ll find your six-shooter in the place where I’ll
put it.”

The old gentleman opened the door, and, leaving Scipio in the chair,
walked briskly by the corral into the trees and mounted his old pink
mare. From the door of the cabin Scipio watched him amble away along the
banks of Spit-Cat.

“Pie like mother made!” he muttered. “You patch-sewed bread-basket! Why,
you fringy-panted walking delegate, I’ll agitate your system till your
back teeth are chewin’ your own sweetbreads” He seized up a rope and
began walking to where his horse was pasturing. “I could forgive him
takin’ the money,” he continued. “He outplayed me. But--” Scipio was
silent for a few yards, and then, “Pie like mother made!” he burst out

And now, reader, please rise with me in the air and look down like a
bird at the trail of Spit-Kitten. The afternoon has grown late, and
shadow is ascending among the thin pines by the Little Pasture. There
goes Uncle Pasco, ambling easily along. He counts his money, and slaps
his bad old leg with joy. With all those dollars he can render the next
several months more than comfortable. Now he consults Scipio’s map, and
here, sure enough, he comes to the fence, just as Scipio said he would
come; that fence he was to follow for three miles, perhaps, or four.
Uncle Pasco slaps his leg again, and gives a horrid, unconscientious
cackle. And now he hangs Scipio’s pistol on a post of the fence and
proceeds. While pleasing thoughts of San Francisco and champagne fill
his mind as he rides, there comes Scipio along the trail after him at a
nicely set interval. All is working with the agreeable precision of a
clock. Scipio recovers his pistol, and after tying his horse out of
sight a little way down the hill, he runs back and sits snug behind a
tree close to the fence, waiting. He looks at his watch. “It took Japan
and me twenty minutes to go around at a gallop,” he observes. “Uncle
Pasco ain’t goin’ half that fast.” Scipio continues to wait with his
six-shooter ready. In due time he pricks up his ears and rises upon his
feet behind the tree. Next, he steps forth with his smile of an
angel--but a fallen angel.

“Pie like mother made,” he remarks musically.

Why tell of Uncle Pasco’s cruel surprise? It is not known if he had gone
round the fence more than once; but the town of Likely saw the dreadful
condition of his clothes as he rode in that night. It was almost no

At that hour Scipio was finishing his letter to the foreman:--

“--this risponsibillity is shed,” had been the unwritten fragment of his
sentence when it was cut short, and he now completed it, and went on:--

“Quite a little thing has took place just now about that money. Don’t
jump for I am staying with it as you said to and I am liable to be
staying with it as long as necessary but an old hobo held me up and got
it off me and kept it for most three hours when I got it back off the
old fool. I would not have throwed him around like I did if he had been
content to lift the cash but he had to insult me too said I was pie and
next time he’ll know a man should be civil no matter what his employment

“I have noticed another thing. To shoot strait always go to bed the same
day you get up and to think strait use same pollicy.

“Your friend,


“P.S. I am awful oblidged to you.”



Force, as you may know, is like the King, and never dies. It endlessly
transmits itself through the same or some other shape. Drop a stone in a
pond, and the wave-rings may seem to expire as they widen, but they do
not; through friction or impact or something, they merely become
invisible. You can stop a cannon-ball, but you cannot kill its speed;
its speed is immortal and undergoes instant resurrection, taking the new
shape of heat. The cannon-ball becomes red hot and sends heat waves off
into infinity. Scientific men have told you all this as they have told
me, and judging from the delightful events which I shall proceed to
narrate, I should not wonder if the scientific men were right.


Once upon a time the army had a wet-nurse instead of a secretary of war.
The nurse fed our soldiers upon speeches, milk-and-sugar speeches, all
over the country. He told them he was going to right their wrongs. Now,
as they didn’t know that they had any wrongs, this both surprised and
pleased them. They liked to hear him inform them that it was they who
from the first had won our battles upon land and sea. “Who” (he would
ask rhetorically), “who endured the bitter cold, the frozen snow, at
Valley Forge?” And as they hadn’t the slightest idea, what more
agreeable than to learn it was themselves? “Let us honor George
Washington” (he would exclaim), “let us not forget that great and good
man! but let us remember also the honest soldier without whose aid
George Washington could never have durriven the Burritish tyrant from
our beloved shores of furreedom!”

He always spoke of the “honest” soldier, and therefore the average
enlisted man very naturally felt that somehow George Washington, Andrew
Jackson and Ulysses Grant were all well enough in their way, but that
you must keep your eye on them, and that the Secretary was the man to
put them in their proper place. The Secretary quite rightly omitted to
state that generals are apt to carry a responsibility which would iron
the average enlisted man flatter than a pair of pressed trousers; he
omitted this statement because it would have been the whole truth, and
the whole truth is often very tiresome, particularly for a politician.
Do not, as you read this, think evil of the Secretary; he had a large
family of daughters and sons with whom he was frequently photographed,
seated on the vine-clad porch of the old white homestead, and these
photographs were at once widely given to the public press. Moreover, his
private life was known to be chaste by every lady in the land, though
how they ascertained this I am at a loss to explain. He was also a
highly gifted man; gifted with the voice that matches a political
frock-coat. At will he could make this so impressive, that if he
remarked it was a fine day, for the time of year, it convinced the
audience that something of the utmost importance had been announced. He
was gifted, too, with a face impervious to vulgar scrutiny, and he had
the most deeply religious chinbeard in Apple-Jack county. I have already
mentioned that he possessed the gift of tears, when such phenomenon was
timely, and besides all these things, he owned some extensive
salt-marshes on a bay. These were too wet for private persons to buy,
but he was going to be happy to sell them to the government for a naval
station when he should be Senator, after his present office had
expired. Meanwhile he went about busily with his basket, collecting
popularity from the humblest dumping lot.

If there was one kind of audience that the Secretary liked above all
others, it was an audience of fresh, bright, brave, young recruits. He
missed no chance to tell them so. Their earnest faces, he was apt to say
if there was a flag anywhere in sight, stirred his heart more, much more
than the stars upon Old Glory waving yonder. Then he would point to Old
Glory, and get results from the gallery as satisfactory as any actor
could wish. Indeed, the Secretary could have made the drama as lucrative
as he made politics. He could tell a story and make you laugh, tell
another and make you cry, and a really excellent second-rate actor was
lost in him. In the good old days of which I write, many of our
political patriots resembled the Secretary.

Recruits after his own heart sat close before him one afternoon at
McPherson, gathered from various Southern States.

“Let those young men come up front!” he had commanded from the platform
in his deepest frock-coat basso. “Let them see me and let me see them.
We understand each other, for we are comrades.”

Accordingly, the recruits occupied the front benches, while the mustache
of Captain Stone, who sat in the rear of the hall, began to look like
the back of a dog’s neck when the dog is not pleased. The captain took
down one leg that had been crossed over the other, and began sliding one
hand up and down the yellow stripe of his trousers. To his brother
officers and to his favorite sergeant, Jones, this hand sliding was
another sign, like the singular behavior of the mustache. Nobody knew
whether it was the hair itself that rose, or whether he did it with his
upper lip; but when the whole thing stood straight out beyond his nose,
everybody knew at a hundred yards’ range what it meant, no matter how it
was done. It was the hurricane signal and you steered your course

“You never’ll get a better captain, Jock,” Sergeant Jones would often
remark to Corporal Cumnor. “But you want to catch his profile at morning
stables. If the muss-tash is merely standing attention, clear weather’s
to be looked for. But if she’s deployed in extended order of
skirmish-line, don’t you go nowheres without your slicker.”

On the present occasion the sergeant was also in the hall listening to
the Secretary. To him had fallen the responsibility of conducting some
of the recruits to Fort Chiricahua in Arizona, to which post they had
been assigned. Captain Stone was on leave, and had no responsibilities
whatever until in a few weeks he should return to that same post after a
honeymoon which he and his bride were completing by a visit to the
lady’s parents. She was a pastor’s daughter and played the melodeon.

“We are comrades,” repeated the Secretary of War to the recruits, “and
that means you and I are going to stand by each other through thick and
thin.” It sounded so well that the recruits all cheered.

The captain’s mustache lifted a couple of hairs more, Sergeant Jones in
another part of the hall whispered to himself two words which I cannot
repeat, and the Secretary looked about to see if there was a flag
anywhere convenient for his popular climax about earnest faces and the
stars in Old Glory. But there was no flag, and he therefore selected
another of the many strings to his oratorical bow. He gave them his
great “What I am for” speech, the speech which had brought the gallery
down at Albany on Decoration Day, had caught the crowd at Terre Haute on
the Fourth of July, swept Minneapolis on Labor Day and turned Dallas,
Texas, hoarse on Washington’s Birthday. In it the Secretary asked, “What
am I for?” and then answered the question. He was to watch over the
enlisted man, he was to be his father and protect him from military
tyranny. Superior officers were to cease their despotic methods. Was
this not a republic where one man was as good as another? The very term
“superior officer” was repugnant to the American idea, and no offender
of any grade should hide behind it as long as he was Secretary of War.
To hear him you would have supposed that until he stepped into the
Cabinet the slave under the lash knew a better lot than the American
soldier. To be sure, he did not always say these remarkable things in
the same way. At Boston, for instance, he would draw it milder than at
Billings, Montana. At Boston he mentioned other duties of the Secretary
of War besides that of tucking the enlisted man in his bed every night;
but he seldom spoke in Boston, because he preferred a warm,
heart-to-heart audience.

He knew at sight that he had one here. His practised eye ran the
recruits over and read their wholesome vacant up-country faces, noted
their big rosy wrists, appraised their untrained juicy agricultural
shapelessness as they sat beneath him like rows of cantaloupes and
watermelons. With such innocence as this, he knew that he could spread
it thick; and very soon after the preliminary details about his always
having cherished a peculiar affection for this part of the country, and
how General Lee had had no warmer admirer than himself, he was spreading
it unmistakably thick. By the time he had informed them that it was not
colonels and generals to whom he bowed the knee, but the enlisted man,
the so-called common soldier, whose bleeding feet had blazed the trail
for liberty with fearless shouts of triumph, Sergeant Jones was
muttering to his neighbor, “How long more d’yu figure he’ll slobber?”
and the captain’s mustache was standing out from his face like a shelf.

“That is what I am for!” perorated the wet-nurse. “I am for the enlisted
man. The country looks to our beloved Purresident, but you look to me.
Go forth, young men, for I am behind every one of you. No so-called
military regulations shall insult your American manhood or grind you
down while I stand sentinel at my post. If you are troubled, come to me
and you shall have your rights. Go forth then, you who outshine their
vaunted Cæsars, their licentious Alexanders, their pagan Plutos and
Aspasias! Go forth to be the bulwarks and imperishable heroes of our
gullorious country!”

The watermelons cheered, the wet-nurse stepped down to let them shake
his hand, and Captain Stone went home with his bride, in a speechless
rage. He was able to speak presently.

“Still, Joshua,” she mildly insisted, “young soldiers have so many sad
temptations, I am glad he has their welfare at heart.”

“Nonsense, Gwendolen,” said the captain. “You’ll soon know the army, and
you’ll see then that such talk as his merely turns contented men into
discontented babies.”

“Nobody could ever be discontented with you, Joshua, I am sure,” the
bride, with sweet emotion, murmured.

She was nineteen, the captain was forty-five, and upon gazing at the
rosy cheeks of his Gwendolen he would frequently assert that a man was
always as young as he felt.

The Secretary, after inspecting the military post, dined with the mayor
of the neighboring town. At this meal, when a cold bottle had been
finished, the mayor went so far as to inquire: “Say, who was Aspasia?”

But the Secretary answered: “What a wonderful land is ours and what a
beautiful city is yours.”


The expectations of Sergeant Jones were entirely unfulfilled. Much
experience in taking charge of recruits upon long railway journeys had
taught him that their earnest faces were not always more stirring than
the stars upon Old Glory; he knew that you do not invariably find that
sort of face for thirteen dollars a month. He had generally been obliged
to watch their purchases at way stations, he had not seldom been forced
to remove bottles of strong spirits from their possession, and he had
almost always found it necessary to teach some of them a lesson in
obedience. Judge therefore of the sergeant’s amazement when, after the
first half day of journey, a long overgrown ruddy boy approached him and
asked in unsoiled Southern accents: “Please, sah, can we sing?”

“Sing?” said Jones. “Sing what?”

“‘Pull foah the shoah, sailah.’ We have learned to do it in parts back
in our home.”

“Yes,” said Jones, “I guess you can sing that--in parts or as a whole.”

“We sing it as a whole in parts, sah,” explained the recruit with

“Your name Anniston?” Jones inquired, abruptly suspicious.

“Bateau, sah. Leonidas Bateau. My cousin, Xerxes Anniston, sits over
yonder by the watahcoolah.”

“Oh,” said Jones.

“Yes, sah. Xerx he sings bass in our choir back in our home. Sistah

“Who?” said the sergeant.

“Sistah Smith, sah, the wife of our ministah, Tullius C. Smith.”

“Oh,” said the sergeant.

“She is leadah of our choir back in our home. She is our best soprano,
Sistah Mingory is our best alto, and Brother Macon Lafayette Young gets
two notes lowah than any of our basses. He keeps the choicest grocery in
town and is president of our Y. M. C. A. You’d ought to heard our
quartet in the prayer from ‘Moses in Egypt,’ arranged by Sistah Mingory
last Eastah Sunday.”

The thoroughly good heart of Jones now warmed to this recruit. (I cannot
hope that you will remember Jones. He was Specimen Jones long ago,
before he joined the Army. Some of his doings are chronicled elsewhere.
He is an old member of the family.) “Made Moses hum, did y’u?” said he.
“I’ll bet the girls would sooner have a solo from you than from Brother
what’s-his-name Lafayette.”

“Sistah Smith,” replied Leonidas, blushing like the innocent watermelon
that he was, “did say that she couldn’t see how they were going to get
along without my uppah registah.”

Jones settled back in his seat. “Sing away,” said he.

Many songs were sung through Alabama and Louisiana and Texas; virtuous
songs with no offending or even convivial word, and none so frequently
demanded by the passengers as a solo from Leonidas,

    How little do I love this vale of tears,

through which the chorus crooned a murmuring accompaniment. West of San
Antonio, they played a game of riddles, and when Cousin Xerxes (who
seemed the wit of the party) asked, “Why is Dass’s solo like Texas?
Because it’s all in flats,” and the recruits were convulsed with
merriment by this, Sergeant Jones, listening to them in his seat behind,
muttered with compassion: “Their mothers could hear every word they
say.” And friendliness was established between him and the recruits.
They confided many things to him.

Yes; not a drop of vice’s poison flowed in them, but at El Paso, while
they waited, Leonidas, on saying to Jones, “What an elegant speech the
Secretary of War gave us!” was astonished to hear the sergeant burst
into strong language.

“That hypercrite!” exclaimed Jones. And the shocked Leonidas answered

And now began to fall the first chill upon their friendliness. The
recruits were clean from vice, but the Secretary’s poison was at work,
the sugar of self-pity he had given them to swallow, the false sentiment
over themselves, the sick notion they were objects of special sympathy,
instead of stout young lads beginning life with about as many helps and
hindrances as other stout young lads.

“Yes, he did say so!” declared Leonidas. “Yes, he did, sah. He said he’d
take care we was treated like gentlemen. He said he was behind us. And I
guess he’s the man to back up his word.”

“Well,” said Jones, making a final try, “I’ll tell y’u.” And he laid a
hand on the young man’s shoulder. “A man enlists to be a
soldier--nothin’ else. Not to be a gentleman, but just a soldier who
obeys his orders--and nothin’ else. I obey the captain, and he obeys the
colonel, and he obeys the commanding general of the department, and so
it goes clean to the top, and we’re all soldiers obeyin’ the President
of the United States, and if bein’ a gentleman consists in makin’ things
as pleasant and easy for others as y’u can, why, the chap in the army
who obeys best is the best gentleman. There’s remedies for injustice all
right, but you keep thinkin’ about your duties and you’ll not need to
think about your remedies. Understand?”

“Yes, sah,” said Leonidas, without the faintest sign of comprehension.
“But the Secretary is at the top and it’s right in him to say the top
should nevah forget to recognize the onaliable rights of the bottom. He
said he was behind us.”

“Oh, go sit down and give us some of your upper register!” cried Jones.

Thus did friendliness give place to estrangement. The watermelons laid
their heads together and assured Leonidas that he had acted in a proper
and spirited manner. In Sergeant Jones they confided no longer, for
which he was man enough to lay the blame where it belonged. He
handsomely cursed the Secretary of War, but what good did that do?

Arrived at Fort Chiricahua, the recruits fell into safe hands, though
not perhaps entirely wise ones. The post chaplain was an earnest
preacher of the same denomination as the Rev. Tullius C. Smith, and
delighted to surround Leonidas and his band with the same customs and
influences which they had known at home. They were soon known throughout
the post as “The Shouters.” This epithet came from their choir singing,
which was no whit lessened by their new and not wholly religious
environment. If Sergeant Jones or Captain Stone had looked for
insubordination as a result of the Secretary’s speech, it was an
agreeable disappointment. The recruits were punctual, they were clean,
they were assiduous at drill, they showed intelligence, they were
model, both as youths and soldiers, and nothing kept them from a more
than common popularity in their various troops unless it was that they
were a little too model for the taste of the average enlisted man. The
parade-ground was constantly melodious with their week-day practising
for Sabbath exercises. Sister Smith had sent them much music from home,
and the post learned to admire “Moses in Egypt” as arranged by Sister
Mingory and interpreted by the upper register of Leonidas.

One person there was whom the strains of psalmody, as they floated from
the open windows of the school-room, did not wholly please. Captain
Stone disapproved of his Gwendolen’s spending so much time alone with
the melodeon and Leonidas. Almost as fittingly might a Senator’s wife
sing duets with her coachman, and all the ladies of the Post knew
this--excepting Gwendolen! But he could not forbid her, at least not
yet. Was she not his bride of scarce three months? In this new army
world, where he had brought her so far from everything that she had
always known, how could he deprive her of one great resource, he who had
cut her off from so many? Time would steadily teach her the conduct
suitable for an officer’s wife, and then of her own accord she would put
the proper distance between herself and the enlisted men.

“It is so unexpected, Joshua,” she said once, “such an unexpected joy to
be able to keep a good influence around those poor boys.”

“What do you call them poor boys for?” inquired the captain.

“To come into so many temptations so far from home!” she exclaimed.

“They’re not going to have you and the chaplain and the organ all their
lives, Gwendolen.”

“Now, Joshua, keep your mustache down! The Secretary of War--don’t swear
so dreadfully, darling! Don’t!” And the bride stopped her lord’s lips
with her hand. “I won’t mention him any more,” she promised. “I must run
now, or I’ll be late for practising next Sunday’s anthem with Leonidas

Left on the porch of his quarters, the captain made the same remark
about next Sunday’s anthem that he had made about the Secretary of War;
but Gwendolen, having departed, did not hear him, and soon from the open
windows of the school-house floated the chords of the melodeon with a
chorus led by Cousin Xerxes, and a solo on an upper register,

    How little do I love this vale of teahs.

Would Gwendolen have been so eager to redeem some dried-up middle-aged
sinner? I don’t know. At any rate, in her solicitude for the spotless
Leonidas, she was abreast with the advanced Philanthropy which holds
prevention better than cure. Of course, not even to the most evil-minded
could scandal arise from any of this. But when you see a wife of
nineteen playing the organ for a trooper of twenty-two, and a husband of
forty-five constantly remarking that a man is always as young as he
feels, why, then you are at no great distance from comedy, and the joke
draws nearer when the wife is anxious that the trooper should not feel
the want of his mother, and the trooper retains the limpid innocence of
the watermelon. The ladies of the Post tried to be indignant that an
officer’s wife should so much associate herself with enlisted men, but
they could only laugh--and hush when the captain came by, and the men in
barracks laughed--and hushed when the captain came by, and the poor
captain knew it all. Meanwhile, the melodeon played on, the watermelons
lifted their harmless hymns, and in the heart of Leonidas the
Secretary’s speech dwelled like honey but like gall in the heart of the
captain. Had Captain Stone dreamed what sweet familiarity the hymns were
breeding, he--but he did not dream, hence was his awakening all the more

The day it came had made an ill beginning with him. He had walked
unexpectedly into the kitchen before breakfast, and found there his
Chinaman putting a finishing crust on the breakfast rolls. He had never
been aware of such a process. He had always particularly enjoyed the
crust. The Chinaman had just reached the point where he withdrew the hot
rolls from the oven and sprayed them suddenly with cold water from his
mouth. There had ensued a dreadful time in the kitchen, and no rolls for
breakfast and no Chinaman for dinner, and even as late as five o’clock
the captain’s mustache had not completely flattened down. Leonidas
should have observed this as he came up the captain’s steps with a
message from the chaplain for the captain’s wife. They were waiting for
her to come over and play the melodeon for Sunday’s anthem.

“Is Sistah Stone here?” Leonidas inquired.

“WHO?” said the captain, rising from his chair, which fell backward with
the movement.

“Is Sistah Stone here?” repeated Leonidas, mildly. “The chaplain says--”

You will meet the most conflicting accounts of the spot where Leonidas
first landed on firm ground after leaving the captain’s boot. The
colonel’s orderly, who was standing in front of the colonel’s gate four
houses farther up the line, deposed that he “thought he heard a
something but didn’t see what made it.” Mrs. Phillips declared she was
sitting on her porch two houses down the line, and “it looked just like
diving from a spring-board.” These were the only two disinterested
witnesses. The afflicted Leonidas claimed that he had gone from the
porch clean over the front gate, and Captain Stone said that he didn’t
know and didn’t care, but that if the gate story was true, then he had
projected one hundred and sixty pounds forty measured feet and felt
younger than ever.

The version which Jones gave has (to me) always seemed wholly
satisfactory. “Don’t y’u go sittin’ up nights over it,” said Jones.
“Nobody’ll never prove where he struck. But what

[Illustration: “Is Sistah Stone heah?” Leonidas inquired]

I seen was the captain come ragin’ out of his gate. He went over to the
officers’ club and I knowed it was particular, for y’u could have stood
a vase of flowers on his muss-tash without spillin’ a drop. And next
comes Leonidas a-flyin’ by me, a-screechin’, ‘The Secretary shall hear
of this!’ And I seen the mark on his pants and he tells me. ‘Hard
brushin’ will remove it,’ I says to him, and he says, ‘The Secretary
shall hear of it!’ And I says, ‘Well, Leonidas, it sure ain’t your upper
register that’s damaged.’ ‘The Secretary,’ says he, but I got tired. ‘If
you was figuring to be the captain’s brother-in-law,’ I says, ‘you
should have bruck it to him gently.’”


And what did the afflicted Leonidas do now? Sunday’s anthem was dashed
from his mind. They waited for him, but he never came back, nor was the
melodeon again played by Sister Stone. Leonidas, without waiting to
brush off anything, hastened to his own troop commander, told of the
insult to American manhood and displayed the grievous traces upon his
trousers. When his captain found that he was not demented, he meditated
briefly and spoke.

“Bateau, this is unfortunate, but it seems to me out of military

Leonidas mentioned the Secretary of War for the third or fourth time,
and asked permission to complain to the post commander.

“Think this over for a day,” said his troop commander, “and I’ll see
Captain Stone.” On the next day he resumed, “Captain Stone confirms
every statement that you make, except--er--the distance.”

“It was ovah the gate,” repeated Leonidas. “But I would feel just the
same if it was not.”

The troop commander was wise. “Very well. You have my permission to make
your complaint.”

Private Bateau stated his case in the Adjutant’s office at Fort
Chiricahua. The post commander duly investigated the affair, and private
Bateau was duly informed that his complaint was deemed out of military
cognizance. Private Bateau, thoroughly booked on the machinery, now
appealed to the Department Commander. He called in no clerk to draft his
grievance for him; with Cousin Xerxes to help, he wrote:

“FORT CHIRICAHUA, A. T., Nov. 30, 188-.

“THE ADJUTANT-GENERAL, Department of Arizona,
Whipple Barracks, A. T. (Through Military

     “_Sir._--For the information of the commanding general of the
     department, I wish to report Captain Joshua Stone of E Troop 4th
     Cavalry for using brutal conduct toward me at 5 p.m. 26th inst., at
     witch hour he insulted me with his foot behaiving like no officer
     and gentleman in a way I will not rite down. All I did was bring
     word our choir was waiting for Mrs. Stone to play like she always
     done on the melodeum for church practiss wensday afternoons and
     saturday nights.”

              “Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

            “LEONIDAS BATEAU Private, Troop I, 4th Cav’y.”

This document Leonidas handed to the first sergeant of his troop, who
took it with the daily morning report to the captain, who indorsed it,
“Respectfully forwarded to the Adjutant-General Department of Arizona
(through Post Commander). The facts in this case are as follows,” etc.,
and duly signed the indorsement, and forwarded it the next day to the
Post Commander, who indorsed it, “Respectfully forwarded to the
Adjutant-General Department of Arizona, Whipple Barracks, A. T. I find
upon investigation,” etc, “and I have cautioned Private Leonidas Bateau
that he ought to be more guarded in his language when referring to an
officer’s wife, and I recommend that no further action be taken in this

Do you perceive the wheels beginning to go round? The letter of
Leonidas, thus twice indorsed and signed by the captain of his troop and
the colonel commanding Fort Chiricahua, now flew forth and upward,
directing its course duly to the headquarters of the Department of
Arizona, and even while it was upon its way, a new song was heard among
the enlisted men on all sides at the post. It was fitted to the tune of
“Stables,” its author was unknown, and it went something like this:

    SAY, have you seen my sister?
    I GUESS that I must have missed her,
    I’ll SHOW you a handsome blister, etc.

It went something like that (sing it and you will see how glove-like it
fits the tune), and it contributed nothing to the happiness of Leonidas;
but it made him glad that nobody save Cousin Xerxes knew of the long,
long letter which he had written to the Secretary of War and mailed
outside the post.

And now the wheels began to turn at Whipple Barracks while Private
Bateau was waiting for the Secretary of War to answer his private
letter, and stand behind him. The Department Commander knew all about
the Secretary of War; moreover, he was enlightened concerning this case
by his favorite staff-officer, Lieutenant Jimmy St. Michael, of Kings
Port, South Carolina. Jimmy received from a brother lieutenant at Fort
Chiricahua an intimate and spirited account of the whole deplorable
misadventure, describing Gwendolen at length, and Captain Stone at
length, and the melodeon, and the choir practices, not omitting a sketch
of Leonidas and Cousin Xerxes. This letter kept the young officers up
until past midnight, for Jimmy gave them a choir practice upon his
banjo, impersonating now Sistah Stone and now Leonidas. But, as I have
said, the Commanding General of the Department knew the Secretary of War
and therefore deemed a plentiful investigation into the affairs of
Leonidas the wisest course. He would not accept the views of the post
commander, as was his usual habit; there must be an inspector. Now his
Inspector-General was off inspecting something at Fort Apache; and so,
that time should not be lost, he summoned Jimmy St. Michael and directed
him to proceed to Fort Chiricahua. Jimmy departed with a valise, a
letter official to the colonel, a message unofficial to the same
officer, and his banjo, which he rarely left behind him. With the
solemnity proper to all inspectors, he arrived upon the scene of the
tragedy, and not even the joy of the club could unbend him. He was
implored to give at least “But he didn’t saw the wood,” that song which
had left a trail of gayety from Klamath and Bidwell to Meade and San
Carlos. Jimmy remained deaf to everything but duty. His slim figure
became every inch an inspector, his neat hair was severe, his black eyes
almost funereal. He made many inquiries, he investigated everybody, and
he seldom uttered any longer comment than “H’m, h’m!” He knew how rare
it is for an inspector to say more than this.

His old friends would have thought him engaged to be married or
otherwise grievously changed for the worse, had he not, on the night his
mission was ended, taken the cover off his banjo. He gave the second
entirely original poem which the misfortunes of Leonidas had inspired.
He sang it to a tune heard in a popular play, and here it is:

    Of War I am the popular Secretaree--O.
    I am the popularest man in all the show.
    There were one or two or three
    More popular than me
    Till I received my portofolee--O.

    George Washington, they say, was popular long ago.
    His name to-day is sometimes mentioned still, I know.
    But where d’you think he’ll be
    If he’s compared with me,
    When I resign my portofolee--O?

    The very day that I into the White House go
    My friends shall see my gratitude is never slow;
    And chief of all their clan
    Shall be the enlisted man,
    For he shall have my portofolee--O!

Even Joshua smiled, and Joshua was a solemn man, not to speak of his
delicate position regarding Leonidas. He sat up late, drank to the
health of Jimmy St. Michael, and remarked that he doubted if Jimmy felt
any younger than he did.

But the hour for poor Leonidas to smile had not yet come. There was
silence most unaccountable from the Secretary of War, and the
encouragement given by having an inspector come several hundred miles
received presently a rude shock.

Jimmy St. Michael returned to Whipple Barracks and made a carefully
solemn report to the Commanding General; but at the end of it, seeing
that the Commanding General’s solemnity was less careful, he ceased to
be an inspector, and said with his engaging Kings Port accent:

“General, did you ever put sugar on a raw oyster and try to swallow it?”

“It can’t be done!” declared the General. “I’ve known that since I was
at the Military Academy.”

“It can be done, sir, if you will pardon my contradicting you. I did it
myself on a bet at the Military Academy.”

“Good Lord!” said the General. “What was it like?”

“I realized, sir, that the combination does not belong in Nature’s plan,
any more than mixing politics with the United States Army.”

“Ha, ha!” went the General. “Ha, ha! Not in Nature’s plan!” And he
proceeded to drop the necessary lemon-juice upon the Secretary’s
luckless raw oyster.

To poor Leonidas’s original letter was now added a third duly dated
indorsement: “Respectfully returned to the commanding officer, Fort
Chiricahua, A. T. The Commanding General approves of your action in this
case. The provoking speech of Priv’t Leonidas Bateau, Troop I, 4th
Cav’y, on the occasion of his visiting the quarters of his troop
commander being considered sufficient grounds for the harsh treatment
administered.” This, with the signature of the Assistant
Adjutant-General, arrived at Fort Chiricahua, and was followed by a
fourth indorsement dated there and signed by the Post Adjutant:
“Respectfully returned to the commanding officer, Troop I, 4th Cav’y,
inviting attention to the 2d and 3d indorsements hereon, the contents of
which will be communicated to Pvt. Leonidas Bateau, Troop I, 4th Cav. By
order of,” etc.

The wheels of redress had turned, all the wheels, and ground out
nothing. His troop commander sent for Leonidas and read him the
indorsements. Leonidas, being instructed by a “guard-house lawyer,”
demanded his papers, which were delivered to him, as was his right.
These now went with his appeal to Washington. For Leonidas had written
home to Sistah Smith, who had written to a Congressman, who had replied
that he was ever for justice. Thus, with a long new letter from Leonidas
to the Secretary of War (whose silence still remained unaccountable),
did official tidings of the outrage to American manhood at length,
through the Adjutant General’s Department, come to the man of the

Buttons were pressed and clerks despatched with messages; and there
ensued a conference between the Congressman, the Adjutant-General, the
Secretary of War, and the Lieutenant-General himself. The Congressman
stated the case; the Secretary was quite uneasy, and talked a great
deal, taking care not to express a single idea; but the
Lieutenant-General was quite easy and talked only thus much:

“Called her his sister? Got kicked? I should think so!”

“General, this is good in you to help us,” said the Secretary, with
symptoms of relief. “I did not wish to reach this conclusion without
your corroboration.”

Thus ended the conference. The original letter of Leonidas with its four
indorsements pasted on it, and making quite a budget, now started its
return course bearing a fifth indorsement containing the Secretary of
War’s opinion signed by one of the Assistant Adjutants-General. It
travelled through the back channels that you know, passing Whipple
Barracks and reaching the hungry, unsated Leonidas many weeks after all
traces had vanished from his trousers. During these weeks his life had
been made a sorry thing by that song about the blister. Not even the
sympathy of Cousin Xerxes could sweeten his embittered days. They were
wholesome for him, to be sure; they began to cure him of being a
watermelon; they even gave him gradually a just estimate of the
Secretary’s speech at McPherson, and he grew into a strapping young
trooper with many of the trooper’s habits in moderation. The only
profane language that he used was in connection with the Secretary of
War, whose tricky official language in his indorsement had utterly
dodged his promise to stand behind him. But Leonidas could not
comfortably live in a place where everybody remembered how he had (as
Jones put it) “run around showing his pants.” He took his discharge at
the first opportunity, and became an eminent cow-boy in the
neighborhood, with a man’s full strength in his sinews, and a man’s
anger silent in his heart. The hour for him to smile had not yet come.


You will doubtless have perceived the flaw in the Secretary’s conduct
before I can point it out to you. He should have written a letter to
poor Leonidas with his own hand. It might not have been the easiest kind
of letter for you or for me to compose; but for a statesman of the
Secretary’s ripeness it ought to have been the affair of five minutes. A
few words of deep sympathy, a few words of hot indignation, a few words
of sincere regret that he had not yet had time to remove all the
obstructions which a despotic tradition set between him and the enlisted
man--and, best of all, a few words of promise to see Leonidas on his
coming tour through the Southwest--such a letter as this would have made
Leonidas proud and happy, and comforted forever the tingling sensations
that pierced him whenever he thought of his final choir practice. But as
Leonidas seemed no longer of any possible use to the Secretary, the
Secretary forgot all about him!

It was not understood at the ranch where Leonidas was now employed, why
he so eagerly followed the printed chronicle of the Secretary’s
approach. Indeed, had you asked him to explain it himself, I doubt if he
could have done so: the needle seeks the pole--but why? He would pore
over the Tucson paper and learn how the Secretary had visited San
Antonio and spoken to the soldiers there; how he had paused at El Paso,
and spoken to the soldiers there; how he had visited Bayard, Bowie, and
Grant, and spoken at all three; and how he was expected on the train
from Benson on the very next day, and would get off at Chiricahua
station and drive to the post; how he would return thence and proceed to
Lowell Barracks on his way to Yuma and Los Angeles.

All this programme was of natural interest to the officers and men at
Fort Chiricahua, but it seemed of unnatural interest to Leonidas.
Concerning his absorption the other cow-boys passed comments among
themselves, but made none to him, because he had altogether ceased to be
a watermelon.

The smoke of a train in that country is to be sighted from a great
distance and for some time before you can see the train, because the
smoke is very black and the train goes very slowly. Also, the dust of a
horseman or a vehicle can be descried from afar. As the smoke of the
Secretary’s train approached the Chiricahua station, the dust of a
seemly military escort drew near from the direction of the post, and the
dust of a galloping cow-boy came along the road from the ranch where
Leonidas was employed. By the platform of the station was assembled a
little group of citizens hoping for a speech; and by the time the train
made its deliberate arrival complete, the escort was arrayed with due
military precision, the ambulance was at hand near by, for the Secretary
to step into when he should feel ready, and a captain with two
lieutenants was preparing to salute the eminent statesman as he alighted
from the car. He returned their greeting, and as he stepped forward to
the end of the platform from which elevation he desired to say a few
cordial and timely words to those waiting in the surrounding dust, the
cow-boy entered the ticket office, but came out again on the platform,
which was natural, since the ticket window was at the moment closed. The
sight of the Secretary produced an immediate effect upon the appearance
of the cow-boy. He seemed to grow larger.

“Friends and soldiers,” said the Secretary, “I am always moved when I
see an enlisted man--” and even with the words, he was moved
conspicuously through the air and came down in the dust in a seated
position. The leg of Leonidas had grown exceedingly muscular. Before
anybody had regained his senses, the cow-boy was seen to dash away
shouting on his horse across the railroad track, and pursuit did not
overtake him. I am not sure if this was the fault of Captain Stone or
Sergeant Jones, both of whom were in the chase.

It gravely damaged the Secretary’s visit for him, but rendered it for
many others a memorable success, especially for Captain Stone and
Sergeant Jones. And Jones made so bold as to remark to Stone: “I think,
if the captain pleases, that the Secretary won’t never stand behind
Leonidas like Leonidas has stood behind him.”

“It is a great thing for a man to feel young,” replied Captain Stone.
His mustache was flat, smiling and serene.

Nobody knows whether or not the Secretary considered this mixing of
politics and the army to be in Nature’s plan.



It was a yellow poster, still wet with the rain. Against the wet, dark
boards of the shed on which it was pasted, its color glared like a patch
of flame.

A monstrous thunderstorm had left all space dumb and bruised, as it
were, with the heavy blows of its noise. Outside the station in the
washed, fresh air I sat waiting, staring idly at the poster. The damp
seemed to make the yellow paper yellower, the black letters blacker. A
dollar-sign, figures and zeros, exclamation points, and the two blackest
words of all, _reward_ and _murder_, were what stood out of the yellow.
Reward and Murder had been printed big and could be seen far. Two feet
away, on the same shed, was another poster, white, concerning some
stallion, his place of residence, and the fee for his service. This also
I had read, with equal inattention and idleness, but my eyes had been
drawn to the yellow spot and held by it.

Not by its news; the news was now old, since at every cabin and station
dotted along our lonely road the same poster had appeared. They had
discussed it, and whether he would be caught, and how much money he had
got from his victim. At Lost Soldier they knew he had got ten thousand
dollars, at Bull Spring they knew he had got twenty, at Crook’s Gap it
was more like twenty-five, while at Sweetwater Bridge he had got nothing
at all. What they did agree about was that he would not be caught. Too
much start. Body hadn’t been found on Owl Creek for a good many weeks.
Funny his friend hadn’t turned up. If they’d killed him, why wasn’t his
body on Owl Creek, too? If he’d got away, why didn’t he turn up? Such
comments, with many more, were they making at Lost Soldier, Bull Spring,
Crook’s Gap, and Sweetwater Bridge, and it was not the news on the
poster that drew my eye, but its mere yellow vibrations. These, in some
way, caught my brain in a net and held it still, so that thinking
stopped, and I was under a spell, torpid as any plant or
sponge--passive, perhaps, is the truer word for my state.

When I was abruptly wakened from this open-eyed sleep, I knew that I had
been hearing a song for some time:--

    If that I was where I would be,
      Then should I be where I am not;
    Here am I where I must be,
      And where I would be I cannot.

It was the neigh of some horse in the stable, loud and sudden, that had
burst the shell of my trance, causing thought to start to life again, as
if with a leap; there I sat in the wagon, waiting for Scipio Le Moyne to
come out of the house; there in my nostrils was the smell of the wet
sage-brush and of the wet straw and manure, and there, against the gray
sky, was an after-image of the yellow poster, square, huge, and blue.
The smaller print was not reproduced, but Reward and Murder stood out
clear, floating in the air. It moved with my eyes as I turned them to
get rid of the annoying vision, and it at last slowly dissolved away
over the head of the figure sitting on the corral with its back to me,
the stock-tender of this stage station. It wore out as I listened to his
song, and looked at him. He sang his song again, and I found that I now
knew it by heart.

    If that I was where I would be,
      Then should I be where I am not;
    Here am I where I must be,
      And where I would be I cannot.

[Illustration: “If that was where I would be, then should I be where I
am not”]

In the mountains, beyond the sage-brush, the thunderstorm was still
splitting the dark cañons open with fierce strokes of light; the light
seemed close, but it was a long time before its crashes and echoes came
to us through the wet air. I could not see the figure’s face, or that he
moved. One boot was twisted between the bars of the corral to hold him
steady, its trodden heel was worn to a slant; from one seat-pocket a
soiled rag protruded, and through a hole below this a piece of his red
shirt or drawers stuck out. A coat much too large for him hung from his
neck rather than from his shoulders, and the damp, limp hat that he
wore, with its spotted, unraveled hatband, somehow completed the
suggestion that he was not alive at all, but had been tied together and
stuffed and set out in joke. Certainly there were no birds here, or
crops to frighten birds from; empty bottles were the only thing that man
had sown the desert with at Rongis.[2] These lay everywhere. As the
figure sat and repeated its song beneath the still wrecked and stricken
sky, its back and its hat and its voice gave an impression of
loneliness, poignant and helpless. A windmill turned and turned and
creaked near the corral, adding its note of forlornness to the song.

A man put his head out of the house. “Stop it,” he said, and shut the
door again.

The figure obediently climbed down and went over to the windmill, took
hold of the rope hanging from its rudder, and turned the contrivance
slowly out of the wind, until the wheel ceased revolving. I saw then
that he was a boy.

The man put his head out of the house, this second time speaking louder:
“I didn’t say stop _that_, I said stop _it_; stop your damned singing.”
He withdrew his head immediately.

The boy--the mild, new yellow hair on his face was the unshaven growth
of adolescence--stood a long while looking at the door in silence, with
eyes and mouth expressing futile injury. Finally he thrust his hands
into bunchy pockets, and said:--

“I ain’t no two-bit man.”

He watched the door, as if daring it to deny this; then, as nothing
happened, he slowly drew his hands from the bunchy pockets, climbed the
corral at the spot nearest him, twisted the boot between the bars, and
sat as before, only without singing.

The cloud and the thunder were farther away, but around us still, from
unseen places, roofs and corners, dropped the leavings of the downpour.
We faced each other, saying nothing; we had nothing to say. In the East
we would have talked, but here in the Rocky Mountains an admirable habit
of silence was generally observed under such conditions.

Thus we sat waiting, I for Scipio to come out of the house with the
information he had gone in for, while the boy waited for nothing.
_Waiting for nothing_ was stamped plain upon him from head to foot, as
it is stamped upon certain figures all the world over--figures seated in
clubs, standing at corners, leaning against railroad stations and boxes
of freight, staring out of windows. Those in the clubs die at last, and
it is mentioned; the others of course die, too, only it is not
mentioned. This boy’s eyebrows were insufficient, and his front was as
ragged as his back.

Presently the same man put his head out of the door. “You after sheep?”

I nodded.

“I could a-showed you sheep. Rams. Horns as big as your thigh--bigger’n
_your_ thigh. That was before tenderfeet came in and spoiled this
country. Counted seven thousand on that there butte one morning before
breakfast. Seven thousand and twenty-three, if you want exact figgers.
Set on this porch and killed sheep whenever I wanted to. Some of ’em
used to come on the roof. Counted eight rams on the roof one morning
before breakfast. Quit your staring!” This was addressed to the boy on
the corral. “Why, you’re not a-going without another?” This convivial
question was to Scipio, who now came out of the house and across to me
with news of failure.

“I could a-showed you sheep--” resumed the man, but I was attending to

“He don’t know anything,” said Scipio, “nor any of ’em in there. But we
haven’t got this country rounded up yet. He’s just come out of a week of
snake fits, and, by the way it looks, he’ll enter on another about
to-morrow morning. But whiskey can’t stop _him_ lying.”

“Bad weather,” said the man, watching us make ready to continue our long
drive. “Lots o’ lightning loose in the air right now. Kind o’ weather
you’re liable to see fire on the horns of the stock some night.”

This sounded like such a promising invention that I encouraged him. “We
have nothing like that in the East.”

“H’m. Guess you’ve not. Guess you never seen sixteen thousand steers
with a light at the end of every horn in the herd.”

“Are they going to catch that man?” inquired Scipio, pointing to the
yellow poster.

“Catch him? Them? No! But I could tell ’em where he’s went. He’s went to

“Thought the ’76 outfit had sold Auctioneer,” Scipio continued

“That stallion? No! But I could tell ’em they’d ought to.” This was his
good-by to us; he removed himself and his alcoholic omniscience into the

“Wait,” I said to Scipio, as he got in and took the reins from me. “I’m
going to deal some magic to you. Look at that poster. No, not the
stallion, the yellow one. Keep looking at it hard.” While he obeyed me I
made solemn passes with my hands over his head. I kept it up, and the
boy sat on the corral bars, watching stupidly. “Now look anywhere you

Scipio looked across the corral at the gray sky. A slight stiffening of
his figure ensued, and he knit his brows. Then he rubbed a hand over his
eyes and looked again.

“You after sheep?” It was the boy sitting on the corral. We paid him no

“It’s about gone,” said Scipio, rubbing his eyes again. “Did you do that
to me? Of course y’u didn’t! What did?”

I adopted the manner of the professor who lectured on light to me when I
was nineteen. “The eye being normal in structure and focus, the color of
an after-image of the negative variety is complementary to that of the
object causing it. If, for instance, a yellow disk (or lozenge in this
case) be attentively observed, the yellow-perceiving elements of the
retina become fatigued. Hence, when the mixed rays which constitute
white light fall upon that portion of the retina which has thus been
fatigued, the rays which produce the sensation of yellow will cause less
effect than the other rays for which the eye has not been fatigued.
Therefore, white light to an eye fatigued for yellow will appear
blue--blue being yellow’s complementary color. Shall I go on?”

“Don’t y’u!” Scipio begged. “I’d sooner believe y’u done it to me.”

“I can show you sheep.” It was the boy again. We had not noticed him
come from the corral to our wagon, by which he now stood. His eyes were
now eagerly fixed upon me; as they looked into mine they seemed almost
burning with some sort of appeal.

“Hello, Timberline!” said Scipio, not at all unkindly. “Still holding
your job here? Well, you better stick to it. You’re inclined to drift

He touched the horses, and we left the boy standing and looking after
us, lonely and baffled. But when a joke was born in Scipio it must out:

“Say, Timberline,” he called back, “better insure your clothes. Y’u
couldn’t replace ’em.”

“I’m no two-bit man,” retorted the boy with anger--that pitiful anger
which feels a blow but cannot give one.

We drove away along the empty stage-road, with the mountains and the
dying storm, in which a piece of setting sun would redly glow and
vanish, making our leftward horizon, and to our right the great
undulations of a world so large as to seem the universe itself. The air
was wet still, and full of the wet sage-brush smell, and the ground was
wet, but it could not be so long in this sandy region. Three hours would
see us to the next house, unless we camped short of this upon Broke Axle

“Why Timberline?” I asked after several miles.

“Well, he came into this country the long, lanky, innocent kid like you
saw him, and he’d always get too tall in the legs for his latest pair of
pants. They’d be half up to his knees. So we called him that. Guess he’s
most forgot his real name.”

“What is his real name?”

“I’ve quite forgot.”

This much talk did for us for two or three miles more.

“Must it be yellow?” Scipio asked then.

“Red’ll do it, too,” I answered. “Only you see green then, I think. And
there are others.”

“H’m,” observed Scipio. “Most as queer as chemistry. D’ y’u know

“Why, what do you know?”

“Just the embalmin’ side. Didn’t y’u know I assisted an undertaker wunst
in Kansas City?”

“What’s that?” I interrupted sharply, for something out in the darkness
had jumped.

“Does a stray steer scare you like that to-night? Now, that embalmin’
trick give me a notion I’ll work out some time. What do you miss worst
in camp grub?”

“Eggs,” said I, immediately.

“That’s you. Well, I’m going to invent embalmed eggs--somehow.”

“Hope you do,” said I. “Do you believe I’m going to get sheep this time?
It’s all I came for.”

“You’ll get sheep,” Scipio declared, “or I’ll lose my job at Sunk Creek
ranch.” Judge Henry had lent him to me for my hunting trip. “Of course
I’d not _call_ ’em embalmed eggs,” he finished.

“Condensed,” I suggested. “Like the milk. Do you suppose the man really
did go to Idaho?”

“They do go there--and they go everywheres else that’s
convenient--Canada, San Francisco, some Indian reservation. He’ll never
get found. I expect like as not he killed the confederate along with the
victims--it’s claimed there was a cook along, too. He’s never showed up.
It’s a bad proposition to get tangled up with a murderer.”

I sat thinking of this and that and the other.

“That was a superior lie about the lights on the steers’ horns,” I
remarked next.

Scipio shoved one hand under his hat and scratched his head. “They say
that’s _so_,” he said. “I’ve heard it. Never seen it. But--tell y’u--he
ain’t got brains enough to invent a thing like that. And he’s too
conceited to tell another man’s lie.”

“Well,” I pondered, “there’s Saint Elmo’s fire. That’s genuine.”

Scipio desired to know about this, and I told him of the lights that are
seen at the ends of the yards and spars of ships at sea in atmospheric
conditions of a certain kind. He let me also tell him of the old Breton
sailor belief that these lights are the souls of dead sailor-men come
back to pray for the living in peril; but he stopped me soon when I
attempted to speak of charged thunder clouds, and the positive, and the
negative, and conductors, and Leyden jars. “That’s a heap worse than the
other stuff about yellow and blue,” he objected. “Here’s Broke Axle. D’
y’u say camp here, or make it in to the station?”

“Well, if that filthy woman still keeps the station--”

“She does. She’s a buck-skinned son-of-a-gun. We’ll camp here,

Scipio had first called me by this name before he knew me, in Colonel
Cyrus Jones’s Eating Palace in Omaha, intending no compliment by the
term. Since that day many adventures and surprises shared together had
changed it to a word of familiar regard; he used it sparingly, and as a
rule only upon occasions of discomfort or mischance. “You’ll get sheep,
Professor,” he now repeated in a voice of reassurance, and went his way
to attend to the horses for the night.

The earth had dried, the plenteous stars were bright in the sky, we
needed no tent over us, and merely spread my rubber blanket and the
buffalo robes, and so beneath light covers waited for sleep to the
gurgle, sluggish and musical, of Broke Axle. Scipio’s sleep was superior
to mine, coming sooner and burying him deeper from the world of
wakefulness. Thus he did not become aware of a figure sitting by our
little fire of embers, whose presence penetrated my thinner sleep until
my eyes opened and saw it. Such things give me a shock, which, I
suppose, must be fear, but it is not at all fear of the mind. I lay
still, drawing my gun stealthily into a good position and thinking what
were best to do; but he must have heard me.

“Lemme me show you sheep.”

“What’s that?” It was Scipio starting to life and action.

“Don’t shoot Timberline,” I said. “He’s come to show us sheep.”

Scipio sat staring stupefied at the figure by the embers, and then he
slowly turned his head round to me, and I thought he was going to pour
out one of those long, corrosive streams of comment that usually burst
from him when he was enough surprised. But he was too much surprised.
“His name is Henry Hall,” he said to me very mildly. “I’ve just
remembered it.”

The patient figure by the embers rose. “There’s sheep in the Washakie
Needles. Lots and lots and lots. I seen ’em myself in the spring. I can
take you right to ’em. Don’t make me go back and be stock-tender.” He
recited all this in a sort of rising wail until the last sentence, in
which the entreaty shook his voice.

“Washakie Needles is the nearest likely place,” muttered Scipio.

“If you don’t get any, you needn’t to pay me any,” urged the boy; and he
stretched out an arm to mark his words and his prayer.

We sat in our beds and he stood waiting by the embers to hear his fate,
while nothing made a sound but Broke Axle.

“Why not?” I said. “We were talking of a third man.”

“A man,” said Scipio. “Yes.”

“I can cook, I can pack, I can cook good bread, and I can show you
sheep, and if I don’t you needn’t to pay me a cent,” entreated the boy.

“He sure means what he says,” Scipio commented. “It’s your trip.”

Thus it was I came to hire Timberline.

Dawn showed him in the same miserable rags he wore on my first sight of
him at the corral, and these proved his sole visible property of any
kind; he didn’t possess a change of anything, he hadn’t brought away
from Rongis so much as a handkerchief tied up with things inside it;
most wonderful of all, he owned not even a horse--and in that country in
those days five dollars’ worth of horse was within the means of almost

But he was not unclean, as I had feared. He washed his one set of rags,
and his skin-and-bones body, by the light of the first sunrise on Broke
Axle, and this proved a not too rare habit with him, which made all the
more strange his neglect to throw the rags away and wear the new clothes
I bought and gave him as we passed through Lander.

“Timberline,” said Scipio the next day, “if Anthony Comstock came up in
this country he’d jail you.”

“Who’s he?” screamed Timberline, sharply.

“He lives in Noo York, and he’s agin the nood. That costume of yours is
getting close on to what they claim Venus and other immoral Greek
statuary used to wear.”

After this Timberline put on the Lander clothes, but on one of his
wash-days we discovered that he kept the rags next his skin! This
clinging to such worthless things seemed probably the result of
destitution, of having had nothing, day after day and month after month.
His poor little pay at Rongis, which we gradually learned they had
always got back from him by one trick or another, was less than half
what I now gave him for his services, and I offered to advance him some
of this at places where it could be spent; but he told me to keep it
until he had earned the whole of it.

[Illustration: _Waiting for nothing_ was stamped plain upon him from
head to foot]

Yet he did not seem a miser; his willingness to help at anything in camp
was unchanging, and a surer test of not being stingy was the
indifference he showed to losing or winning the little sums we played at
cards for after supper and before bed. The score I kept in my diary
showed him to belong to the losing class. His help in camp was real, not
merely well meant; the curious haze or blur in which his mind had seemed
to be at the corral cleared away, and he was worth his wages. What he
had said he could do, he did, and more. And yet, when I looked at him,
he was somehow forever pitiful.

“Do you think anything is the matter with him?” I asked Scipio.

“Only just one thing. He’d oughtn’t never to have been born.”

“That probably applies to several million people all over this planet.”

“Sure,” assented Scipio cheerfully. He was not one of these.

“He’s so eternally silent!” I said presently.

“A man don’t ask to be born,” pursued Scipio.

“Parents can’t stop to think of that,” I returned.

“H’m,” mused Scipio. “Somebody or something has taken good care they’ll

We continued along the trail, engrossed in our several thoughts, and I
could hear Timberline, behind us with the pack horses, singing:--

    If that I was where I would be,
      Then should I be where I am not.

Our mode of travel had changed at Fort Washakie. There we had left the
wagon and put ourselves and our baggage upon horses, because we should
presently be in a country where wagons could not go. I suppose that more
advice is offered and less taken than of any other free commodity in the
world. Before I had settled where to go for sheep, nobody could tell me
where to go; now almost every one advised some other than the place I
had chosen. “Washakie Needles?” they would repeat unfavorably; “Union
Peak’s nearer;” or, “You go up Jakey’s Fork;” or “Red Creek’s half as
far, and twice as many sheep;” or, “Last spring I seen a ram up
Dinwiddie big as a horse.”

This discouragement, strung along our road, had small weight with me
because it was just the idle talk of those dingy loafers of the Western
cabin and saloon who never hunted, never did anything but sit still and
assume to know your own business better than you knew it yourself; it
was only once that the vigorous words of some by-passer on a horse
caused Scipio and me to discuss dropping the Washakie Needles in favor
of the country at the head of Green River. We were below Bull Lake at
the forking of the ways; none of us had ever been in the Green River
country, while Timberline evidently knew the Washakie Needles well, and
this was what finally decided us. But Timberline had been thrown into
the strangest agitation by our uncertainty. He had said nothing, but he
walked about, coming near, going away, sitting down, getting up, instead
of placidly watching his fire and cooking; until at last I told him not
to worry, that wherever we went I should keep him and pay him in any
case. Then he spoke:--

“I didn’t hire to go to Green River.”

“What have you got against Green River?”

“I hired to go to the Washakie Needles.”

His agitation left him immediately upon our turning our faces in that
direction. What had so disturbed him we could not guess; but later that
day Scipio rode up to me, bursting with a solution. He had visited a
freighter’s camp, a hundred yards off the road in the sage-brush (we
were following the Embar trail), and the freighter, upon learning our
destination, had said he supposed we were “after the reward.” It did not
get through my head at once, but when Scipio reminded me of the yellow
poster and the murder, it got through fast enough: the body had been
found on Owl Creek, and the middle fork of Owl Creek headed among the
Washakie Needles. There might be another body,--the other Eastern man
who had never been seen since,--and there was a possible third, the
confederate, the cook; many held it was the murderer’s best policy to
destroy him as well.

Owl Creek had yielded no more bodies after that one first found. Perhaps
the victims had been killed separately. Before starting on their last
journey in this world, they had let it get out somewhere down on the
railroad that they carried money; this was their awful mistake,
conducting death to them in the shape of the man who had offered himself
as their guide, and whom they had engaged without more knowledge of him
than he disclosed to them himself. Red Dog was his name in Colorado,
where he was “wanted.” The all-day sitters and drinkers in the cabins
along the road had their omniscient word as to this also: _they_ could
have told those Easterners not to hire Red Dog!

So now we had Timberline accounted for satisfactorily to ourselves; he
was “after the reward.” We never said this to him, but we worked out his
steps from the start. As stock-tender at Rongis he had seen that yellow
poster pasted up, and had read it, day after day, with its promise of
what to him was a fortune. To Owl Creek he could not go alone, having no
money to buy a horse, and being afraid, too, perhaps. If he could only
find that missing dead man--or the two of them--he might find a clew. My
sheep hunt had dropped like a Providence into his hand.

We got across the hot country where rattlesnakes were thick where
neither man lived nor water ran, and came to the first lone habitation
in this new part of the world--a new set of mountains, a new set of
creeks. A man stood at the door watching us come.

“Know him?” I asked Scipio.

“I’ve heard of him,” said Scipio. “He married a squaw.”

We were now opposite the man’s door. “You folks after the reward?” said

“After mountain sheep,” I replied, somewhat angry.

We camped some ten miles beyond him, and the next day crossed a low
range, stopping near another cabin for noon. They gave us a quantity of
berries they had picked, and we gave them some potatoes.

“After the reward?” said one of them as we rode away, and I contradicted
him with temper.

“Lie to ’em,” said Scipio. “Say yes.” He developed his theory of
truthfulness; it was not real falsehood to answer as you chose questions
people had no right to ask; in fact, the only real lie was when you
denied something wrong you had done. “And I’ve told hundreds of them,
too,” he concluded pensively.

Something had begun to weigh upon our cheerfulness in this new country.
The reward dogged us, and we saw strange actions of people twice. We
came upon some hot sulphur springs[3] and camped near them, with a wide
stream between us and another camp. Those people--two men and two
women--emerged from their tent, surveyed us, nodded to us, and settled
down again. Next morning they had vanished; we could see the gleam of
empty bottles on the bank opposite where they had been. And once, riding
out of a little valley, we sighted close to us through cottonwoods a
horseman leading a pack horse out of the next little valley.

He did not nod to us, but pursued his parallel course some three hundred
yards off, until a rise in the ground hid him for a while; when this was
passed he was no longer where he should have been, abreast of us, but
far to the front, galloping away. That was our last sight of him. We
spoke of these actions a little. Did these people suspect us, or were
they afraid we suspected them?

All we ever knew was that suspicion had now gradually been wafted
through the whole air and filled it like a coming change of weather. I
could no longer look at a rock or a clump of trees without a
disagreeable thought: was something, or somebody, behind the clump of
trees and the rock? would they come out or wait until we had passed?
This influence seemed to gather even more thick and chill as we turned
up the middle fork of Owl Creek; magpies, that I had always liked to
watch and listen to, had become part of the general increasing
uncomfortableness, and their cries sounded no longer cheerful, but harsh
and unfriendly.

As we rode up the narrowing cañon of Owl Creek, the Washakie Needles,
those twin spires of naked rock, rose into view high above the clustered
mountain-tops, closing the cañon in, shutting out the setting sun. But
the nearness of my goal and my sheep hunt brought me no elation. Those
miserable questions about reward, the strange conduct of those unknown
people, dwelt in my mind. I saw in memory the floating image of that
poster; I wondered if I, in my clambering for sheep, should stumble upon
signs--evidence--an old camp--ashes--tent-pegs--or the horrible objects
that had come here alive and never gone hence. I could not drive these
fancies from me amid the austere silence of the place where _it_ had

“He _can_ talk when he wants to.”

It made me start, this remark of Scipio’s as he rode behind me.

“What has Timberline been telling you?”

“Nothing. But he’s been telling himself a heap of something.” In the
rear of our single-file party Timberline rode, and I could hear him
rambling on in a rising and falling voice. He ceased once or twice while
I listened, breaking out again as if there had been no interruption. It
was a relief to have a practical trouble threatening us; if the boy was
going off his head, we should have something real to deal with. But when
I had chosen a camp and we were unsaddling and throwing the packs on the
ground, Timberline was in his customary silence. After supper I walked
off with Scipio where our horses were.

“Do you think he’s sick?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” said Scipio. And that was all we said, for we liked the
subject too little to pursue it.

Next morning I was over at the creek washing before breakfast. The sun
was coming in through the open east end of our cañon, the shaking leaves
of the quaking-asp twinkled in a blithe air, and a night’s sleep had
brought me back to a much robuster mood. I had my field-glasses with me,
and far up, far up among patches of snow and green grass, I could see
sheep on both sides of the valley.

“So you sleep well?” said Scipio.

“Like a log. You?”

“Like another. Somebody in camp didn’t.”

I turned and looked at Timberline cooking over at camp.

“Looking for the horses early this morning,” pursued Scipio, “I found
his tracks up and down all over everywheres.”

“Perhaps he has found the reward.”

Scipio laughed, and I laughed. It was the only thing to do. How much had
the boy walked in the darkness?

“I think I’ll take him with us,” I then said. “I’d rather have him with

During breakfast we discussed which hill we should ascend, and, this
decided on, I was about to tell Timberline his company was expected,
when he saved me the trouble by requesting to be allowed to go himself.
His usually pale, harmless eyes were full of some sort of glitter: did
his fingers feel that they were about to clutch the reward?

That was the thirtieth of August; a quarter of a century and more has
passed; my age is double what it was; but to-day, on any thirtieth of
August, if I think of the date, the Washakie Needles stand in my
eyes,--twin spires of naked rock,--and I see what happened there.

The three of us left camp. It was warm summer in the valley by the
streaming channel of our creek, and the quiet day smelled of the pines.
We should not have taken horses, they served us so little in such a
climb as that. On the level top our legs and breathing got relief, and
far away up the next valley were sheep. This second top we reached, but
they were gone to the next beyond, where we saw them across a mile or so
of space. In the bottom below us ran the north fork of Owl Creek like a
fine white wire drawn through the distant green of the pines. Up in this
world peaks and knife-edged ridges bristled to our north away and away
beyond sight.

We now made a new descent and ascent, but had no luck, and by three
o’clock we stood upon a lofty, wet, slipping ledge that fell away on
three sides, sheer or broken, to the summer and the warmth that lay
thousands of feet below. Here it began to be very cold, and to the west
the sky now clotted into advancing lumps of thick thundercloud, black,
weaving and merging heavily and swiftly in a fierce, rising wind. We got
away from this promontory to follow a sheep trail, and as we went along
the backbone of the mountain, two or three valleys off to the right,
long, black streamers let down from the cloud. They hung and wavered
mistily close over the pines that did not grow within a thousand feet of
our high level. I gazed at the streamers, and discerned water, or
something, pouring down in them. Above our heads the day was still
serene, and we had a chance to make camp without a wetting. This I
suggested we should do, since the day’s promise of sport had failed.

“No! no!” said Timberline, hoarsely. “See there! We can get them. We’re
above them. They don’t see us!”

I saw no sheep where he pointed, but I saw him. His eyes looked red-hot.
He insisted the sheep had merely moved behind a rock, and so we went on.
The strip of clear sky narrowed, and gray bars of rain were falling
between us and the pieces of woodland that, but a moment since, had been
unblurred. Blasts of frozen wind rose about us, causing me to put on my
rubber coat before my fingers should grow too numb to button it. We
moved forward to a junction of the knife-ridges upon which a second
storm was hastening from the southwest over deep valleys that we turned
our backs upon, and kept slowly urging our horses near the Great
Washakie Needle.

We stopped at the base of its top pinnacle, glad to reach this slanting
platform of comparative safety. No sheep were anywhere, but I had ceased
to care about sheep. Jutting stones, all but their upturned points and
edges buried in the ground, made this platform a rough place to pick
one’s way over--but this was a trifle. From these jutting points a
humming sound now began to rise, a sort of droning, which at first ran
about here and there among them, with a flickering, æolian
capriciousness, then settled to a steady chord: the influence of the
electric storm had encircled us. We all looked at each other, but turned
immediately again to watch the portentous, sublime scene.

At the edge of our platform the world fell straight a thousand feet down
to a valley like the bottom of a cauldron; on the far side of the
cauldron the air, like a stroke of magic, became thick white, and
through it leaped the first lightning, a blinding violet. An arm of the
storm reached over to us, the cauldron sank from sight in a white sea,
and the hail cut my face so I bowed it down. Mixed with the hail fell
softer flakes, which, as they touched the earth, glowed for a moment
like tiny bulbs, and went out. On the ground I saw what looked like a
tangle of old, human footprints in the hard-crusted mud. These the
pellets of the swarming hail soon filled. This tempest of flying ice
struck my body, my horse, raced over the ground like spray on the crest
of breaking waves, and drove me to dismount and sit under the horse,
huddled together even as he was huddled against the fury and the biting
pain of the hail.

From under the horse’s belly I looked out upon a chaos of shooting,
hissing white, through which, in every direction, lightning flashed and
leaped, while the fearful crashes behind the curtain of the hail sounded
as if I should see a destroyed world when the curtain lifted. The place
was so flooded with electricity that I gave up the shelter of my horse,
and left my rifle on the ground and moved away from the vicinity of
these points of attraction. Of my companions I had not thought; I now
noticed them, crouching separately, much as I crouched.

So I sat--I know not how long--chilled from spine to brisket, my stiff
boots growing wet, my discarded gloves a pulp, like my hat, and melted
hail trickling from the rubber coat to my legs. At length the
hail-stones fell more gently, the near view opened, revealing white
winter on all save the steep, gray Needles; the thick, white curtain of
hail departed slowly; the hail where I was fell more scantily still.

It was slowly going away,--the great low-prowling cloud,--we should
presently be left in peace unscathed, though it was at its tricks still.
Its brimming, spilling-over electricity was now playing a new
prank--mocking my ears with crackling noises, as of a camp-fire
somewhere on earth, or in air. While I listened curiously to these, my
eye fell on Timberline. He was turning, leaning, crouching, listening
too. When he crouched, it was to peer at those old footprints I had
noticed. There was something frightful in the sight of his face, shrunk
to half its size, and I called to reassure him, and beckoned that it was
all right, that we were all right. I doubt if he saw or heard me.

Something somewhere near my head set up a delicate sound. It seemed in
my hat. I rose and began to wander, bewildered by this. The hail was now
falling very fine and gentle, when suddenly I was aware of its stinging
behind my ear more sharply than it had done at all. I turned my face in
its direction and found its blows harmless, while the stinging in my ear
grew sharper. The hissing continued close to my head whenever I walked.
It resembled the little watery escape of gas from a charged bottle whose
cork is being slowly drawn.

I was now more really disturbed than I had been during the storm’s
worst, and meeting Scipio, who was also wandering, I asked if he felt
anything. He nodded uneasily, when, suddenly--I know not why--I snatched
my hat off. The hissing was in the brim, and it died out as I looked at
the leather binding and the stitches. I expected to see some insect
there, or some visible reason for the noise. I saw nothing, but the
pricking behind my ear had also stopped. Then I knew my wet hat had been
charged like a Leyden jar with electricity. Scipio, who had watched me,
jerked his hat off also.

“Lights on steer horns are nothing to this,” I began, when a piercing
scream cut me short.

Timberline, at the other side of the stony platform, had clapped his
hands to his head.

“Take off your hat,” I shouted.

But he had fallen on his knees, and was ripping, tearing his clothes. He
plucked and dragged at the old rags next his skin. Then he flung his
hands to the sky.

“O God!” he screamed. “Oh, Jesus! Keep him off me! Oh, save me!” His
glaring face now seemed fixed on something close to him. “Leave me go! I
didn’t push you over. You know he made me push you. I meant nothing. I
knowed nothing, I was only the cook. Why, I liked you--you was kind to
me. Oh, why did I ever go! There! Take it back! There’s your money! He
give it to me when you was dead to make me hush up. There! I never spent
a cent of it!”

He tore from his rags the hush-money that had been sewed in them, and
scattered the fluttering bills in the air. Then once more he clapped his
hands to his head as he kneeled.

“Take off your hat!” I cried again.

He rose, stared wildly, and screamed: “I tell you you’ve got it all.
It’s all he gave to me!”

The next moment he plunged into the cauldron, a thousand feet below.

On the following day we found the two bodies--that second victim the
country had wondered about, and the boy. And we counted the money, the
guilty money that had for a while closed the boy’s innocent mouth: five
ten-dollar bills! Not much to hide murder for, not much to draw a
tortured soul back to the scene of another’s crime. The true murderer
was not caught, and no one ever claimed the reward.



High up the mountain amid white Winter I sat, and looked far down where
still the yellow Autumn stayed, looked at Wind River shrunk to map-size,
a basking valley, a drowsy country, tawny and warm, winding
southeastward away to the tawny plain, and there dissolving with air and
earth in one deep, hazy, golden sleep. Somewhere in that slumberous haze
beyond the buttes and utmost foothills, and burrowed into the vast
unfeatured level, lay my problem, Still Hunt Spring.

I had inquired much about Still Hunt Spring. Every man seemed to know of
it, but no man you talked with had been to it. Description of it always
came to me at second hand. Scipio I except; Scipio assured me he had
once been to it. It was no easy spot to find; a man might pass it close
and come back and pass it on the other side, yet never know it was at
his elbow: so they said. The Indians believed a supernatural thing about
it--that it was not there every day, and few of them would talk readily
about it; yet it was they who had first showed it to the white man. And
because they repeated concerning a valley two hundred feet deep, a mile
long, and a quarter-mile wide at its widest, this haunted legend of
presence and absence, its name now possessed my mind. Like a strain of
music it recurred to my thoughts each day of my November hunting in the
mountains of Wind River. Still Hunt Spring; down there, somewhere in
that drowsy distance, it lay. One trail alone led into it; from one end
of the secret ravine to the other--they said--grew a single file of
trees lank and tall as if they stood on stilts to see out over the top,
and at the further end was a spring, small, cold, and sweet; though it
welled up in the midst of sage-brush desert, there was no alkali--they
said--in that water. Still Hunt Spring!

That night I announced to my two camp companions my new project: next
summer I should see Still Hunt Spring for myself.

“Alone?” Scipio inquired.

“Not if you will come.”

“It is no tenderfoot’s trail.”

“Then if I find it I shall cease to be a tenderfoot.”

“Go on,” said Scipio, with indulgence. “We’ll not let you stay lost.”

“It is no tenderfoot’s place,” the cook now muttered.

“Then you have been there?” I asked him.

He shook his head. “I am in this country for my health,” he drawled. On
this a certain look passed between my companions, and a certain laugh. A
sudden suspicion came to me, which I kept to myself until next afternoon
when we had broken this camp where no game save health seemed plentiful,
and were down the mountains at Horse Creek and Wind River.

“I don’t believe there is any such place as Still Hunt Spring.”

This I said sitting with a company in the cabin known later on the
Postal Route map as Dubois. The nearest post-office then was
seventy-five miles away. No one spoke until a minute after, I suppose,
when a man slowly remarked: “Some call that place Blind Spring.”

He was presently followed by another, speaking equally slowly: “I’ve
heard it called Arapaho Spring.”

“Still Hunt Spring is right.” This was a heavy, rosy-faced man, of
hearty and capable appearance. His clothes were strong and good, made
of whipcord, but his maroon-colored straw hat so late in the season was
the noticeable point in his dress. His voice was assertive, having in it
something of authority, if not of menace. “Some claim there’s such a
place,” he continued, eying me steadily and curiously, “and some claim
there’s not.” (Here he made a pause.) “But I tell you there is.”

He still held his eye upon me with no friendliness. Were they all merely
playing on my tenderfoot credulity, or what was it? I was framing a
retort when sounds of trouble came from outside.

“Man down in the corral,” exclaimed somebody. “It’s that wild horse.”

Scipio met us, running. “No doctor here?” he panted. “McDonough has
bruck his leg, looks like.”

But the doctor was seventy-five miles away--like the post-office.

“Who’s McDonough?” inquired the rosy-faced man with the straw hat.

A young fellow from Colorado, they told him, a new settler on Wind River
this summer. He had taken up a ranch on North Fork and built him a
cabin. Hard luck if he had broken his leg; he had a bunch of horses;
was going to raise horses; he had good horses. Hard luck!

We found young McDonough lying in the corral, propped against a
neighbor’s kindly knee. The wild horse was snorting and showing us red
nostrils and white eyes in a far corner; he had reared and fallen
backward while being roped, and the bars had prevented dodging in time.
Dirt was ground into McDonough’s flaxen hair, the skin was tight on his
cheeks, and his tips were as white as his large, thick nails; but he
smiled at us, and his strange blue eyes twinkled with the full spark of
undaunted humor.

“Ain’t I a son of a--?” he began, and shook his head over himself and
his clumsiness. Further speech was stopped by violent retching, and I
was enough of a doctor to fear that this augured a worse hurt than a
broken leg. But no blood came up, and he was soon talking to us again,
applying to himself sundry jocular epithets which were very well in that
rough corral, but must stay there.

He was lifted to the only bed in the cabin, no sound escaping him,
though his lips remained white, and when he thought himself unobserved
he shut his eyes; but kept them open and twinkling at any one’s
approach. They were strange, perplexed eyes, evidently large, but
deep-set, their lids screwed together; later that evening I noticed that
he held his playing-cards close to them, and slightly to one side,
Scipio called him “skew-bald,” but I could see no such defect. He was
not injured internally, it proved later, but his right leg was broken
above the ankle. We had to cut his boot off, so swollen already was the
limb. The heavy man with the straw hat advised getting him to the
hospital at the post without delay, and regretted he himself had not
come up the river in his wagon; he could have given the patient a lift.
With this he departed upon a tall roan horse, with an air about him of
business and dispatch uncommon in these parts. Wind River horsemen
mostly looked and acted as if there was no such thing as being behind
time, there being no such thing as time.

“Who is he?” I asked, looking after the broad back of whipcord and the
unseasonable straw hat.

All were surprised. What? Not know Lem Speed? Biggest cattleman in the
country. Store and a bank in Lander. House in Salt Lake. Wife in Los
Angeles. Son at Yale.

“Up here looking after his interests?” I pursued.

“Up here looking after his interests.” My exact words were repeated in
that particular tone which showed I was again left out of something.

“What’s the matter with my questions?” I asked.

“What’s the matter with our answers?” said a man. Truly, mine had been a
tenderfoot speech, and I sat silent.

McDonough’s white lips regained no color that night, and the skin drew
tighter over the bones of his face as the hours wore on. He was proof
against complaining, but no stoic endurance could hide such pain as he
was in. Beneath the sunburn on his thick hand the flesh was blanched,
yet never did he once ask if the hay wagon was not come for him. They
had expected to get him off in it by seven, but it did not arrive until
ten minutes before midnight; they had found it fifteen miles up the
river, instead of two. Sitting up, twisted uncomfortably, he played
cards until one of the company, with that lovable tact of the frontier,
took the cards from him, remarking, “You’ll lose all you’ve got,” and,
with his consent, played his hand and made bets for him. McDonough then
sank flat, watching the game with his perplexed, half-shut eyes.

What I could do for him I did; it was but little. Finding his leg
burning and his hand cold, I got my brandy--their whiskey was too
doubtful--and laid wet rags on the leg, keeping them wet. He accepted my
offices and my brandy without a sign; this was like most of them, and
did not mean that he was not grateful, but only that he knew no way to
say so. Laudanum alone among my few drugs seemed applicable, and he took
twenty drops with dumb acquiescence, but it brought him neither sleep
nor doze. More I was afraid in my ignorance to give him, and so he bore,
unpalliated, what must have become well-nigh agony by midnight, when we
lifted him into the wagon. So useless had I been, and his screwed-up
eyes, with their valiant sparkle, and his stoic restraint, made me feel
so sorry for him, that while they were making his travelling bed as soft
as they could I scrawled a message to the army surgeon at the Post. “Do
everything you can for him,” I wrote, “and as I doubt if he has five
dollars to his name, hold me responsible.” This I gave McDonough without
telling him its contents. Off they drove him in the cold, mute night; I
could hear the heavy jolts of the wagon a long way. Six rocky fords lay
between here and Washakie, and Scipio thus summed up the seventy-five
miles the patient had before him: “I don’t expect he’ll improve any on
the road.”

In new camps among other mountains I now tried my luck through deeper
snow, thicker ice, and colder days, coming out at length lean and
limber, and ravenous for every good that flesh is heir to, yet reluctant
to turn eastward to that city life which would unfailingly tarnish the
bright, hard steel of health. Of Still Hunt Spring I spoke no more, but
thought often, and with undiscouraged plans to visit it. I mentioned it
but once again. Old Washakie, chief of the Shoshone tribe, did me the
honor to dine with me at the military post which bore his name. Words
cannot describe the face and presence of that old man; ragged clothes
abated nothing of his dignity. A past like the world’s beginning looked
from his eyes; his jaw and long white hair made you silent as tall
mountains make you silent. After we had dined and I had made him
presents, he drew pictures in the sand for me with his finger. Not as I
expected, almost to my disappointment, this Indian betrayed no mystery
concerning the object of my quest.

“Hé!” he said (it was like a shrug). “No hard find. You want see him?
Water pretty good, yes. Trees heap big. You make ranch maybe?”

When he heard my desire was merely to see Still Hunt Spring, I am not
certain he understood me, or if so, believed me. “Hé!” he exclaimed
again, and laughed because I laughed. “You go this way,” he said,
beginning to trace a groove in the sand. “So.” He laid a match here and
there and pinched up little hillocks, and presently he had it all set
forth. I tore off a piece of wrapping-paper from the stove and copied
the map carefully, with his comments. The place was less distant than I
had thought. I thanked him, spoke of returning “after one snow” to see
him and Still Hunt Spring. “Hé!” he shrugged. Then he mounted his pony,
and rode off without any “good-by,” Indian fashion. I counted it a
treasure I had got from him.

McDonough’s leg had knit well, and I met him on crutches crossing the
parade ground. He was discharged from hospital, and (I will not deny it)
his mere nod of greeting seemed somewhat too scant acknowledgment of the
good will I had certainly tried to show him. Yet his smile was very
pleasant, and while I noted his face, no longer embrowned with sun and
riding, but pale from confinement, I noted also the unsubdued twinkle in
his perplexed eyes. After all, why should I need thanks? As he hobbled
away with his yellow hair sticking out in a cowlick under his hat
behind, I smiled at my own smallness, and wished him good luck heartily.

The doctor, whose hospitable acquaintance I had made on first coming
through the Post this year, would not listen to my paying him anything
for his services to McDonough. Army surgeons were expected, he said, to
render what aid they could to civilians, as well as to soldiers, in the
hospital; he good-humoredly forbade all the remonstrance I attempted.
When civilians could pay him themselves, he let them do so according to
their means; it was just as well that the surrounding country should not
grow accustomed to treating “Uncle Sam” as a purely charitable
institution. McDonough had offered to pay, when he could, what he could
afford. The doctor had thought it due to me to let him know the contents
of my note, and that no such arrangement could be allowed.

“And what said he to that?” I asked.

“Nothing, as usual.”

“Disgusted, perhaps?”

“Not in the least. His myopic eyes were just as cheerful then as they
were the second before he fainted away under my surgical attentions. He
scorned ether.”

“Poor fellow! He’s a good fellow!” I exclaimed.

“M’m,” went the doctor, doubtfully.

“Know anything against him?” I asked.

“Know his kind. All the way from Assiniboine to Lowell Barracks.”

“It has made you hard to please,” I declared.

“M’m,” went the doctor again.

“Think he’ll not pay you?”

“May. May not.”

“Well, good-by, Cynic.”

“Good-by, Tenderfoot.”

The next morning, had there been time to catch the doctor, I could have
proved to him that he was hard to please. At the moment of my stepping
into the early stage I had a surprise. McDonough had been at breakfast
at the hotel, and had said nothing to me; a nod sufficed him, as
usual--it was as much social intercourse as

[Illustration: The stage rattled up as I sat]

was customary at breakfast, or, indeed, at any of the meals. The stage
rattled up as I sat, and I, its only passenger, rose and spoke a
farewell syllable to McDonough, who repeated his curt nod. My next few
minutes were spent in paying the bill, seeing my baggage roped on behind
the stage, and in bidding Scipio good-by. One foot was up to get into
the vehicle when a voice behind said, “So you’re going.”

There was McDonough, hobbled out after me to the fence. He stood
awkwardly at the open gate, smiling his pleasant smile. I replied yes,
and still he stood.

“Coming next year?”

Again I said yes, and again he stood silent, smiling and awkward. Then
it was uttered; the difficult word which shyness had choked: “If you
come, you shall have the best horse on the river.”

Before I could answer he was hobbling back to the hotel. Thus from his
heart his untrained lips at last had spoken.

I drove away, triumphing over the doctor, and in my thoughts my holiday
passed in review,--my camps, and Scipio, and Still Hunt Spring, and most
of all this fellow with his broken leg and perplexed eyes.

At Lander, they said, had I come two days earlier, I should have had the
company of Lem Speed. So he and his maroon straw hat came into my
thoughts too. He had started for California, I heard from the driver,
whose society I sought on the box. He assured me that Lem Speed was
rich, but that I carried better whiskey. Trouble was “due” in this
country, he said (after more of my whiskey), “pretty near” the sort of
trouble they were having on Powder River. For his part he did not wonder
that poor men got tired of rich men; not that he objected to riches, but
only to hogs. He had nothing against Lem Speed. Temptation to steal
stock had never come his way, but he could understand how poor men might
get tired of the big cattlemen--some poor men, anyhow. Yes, trouble was
“sure due”; what brought Lem Speed up here so long after the beef
round-up? Still, he “guessed” he hadn’t told Lem Speed anything that
would hurt a poor fellow. Lem Speed had “claimed” he was up here about
his bank. If so, why had he gone up Wind River, and all around Big
Muddy, and over to the Embar? The bank was not there. No, sir; the big
cattlemen were going to “demonstrate” over here as they had on the Dry
Cheyenne and Box Elder. I perceived “demonstration” to be the driver’s
word for the sudden hanging of somebody without due process of law, and
I expressed a doubt as to its being needed here; I had heard nothing of
cattle or horses being stolen. This he received in silence, presently
repeating that Lem Speed hadn’t got anything from _him_. We broke off
this subject for mines, and after mines we touched on topic after topic,
until I confided to him the story of McDonough.

“Of course I would never accept the horse,” I finished.

“Why not?”

“Well--well--it would hardly be suitable.”

“Please yourself,” said the driver, curtly, and looking away. “Such
treatment would not please me.”

“You mean, ‘never look a gift horse in the mouth,’ as we say?”

“I don’t know as I ever said that.” A steep gulley in the road obliged
him to put on the break and release it before he continued: “I’d not
consider I had the right to do a man a good turn if I wasn’t willing for
him to do _me_ one.”

“But I really did nothing for him.”

“Please yourself. Maybe folks are different East.”

“Well,” I ended, laughing, “I understand you, and am not the hopeless
snob I sound like, and I’ll take his horse next summer if you will take
a drink now.”

We finished our journey in amity.

The intervening months, whatever drafts they made upon my Rocky Mountain
health, weakened my designs not a whit; late June found me again in the
stagecoach, taking with eagerness that drive of thirty-two jolting
hours. Roped behind were my camp belongings, and treasured in my pocket
was Chief Washakie’s trail to Still Hunt Spring. My friend, the driver,
was on the down stage; and so, to my regret, we could not resume our
talk where we had left it; but I again encountered at once that
atmosphere of hinted doings and misdoings which had encompassed me as I
went out of the country. At the station called Crook’s Gap I came upon
new rumors of Lem Speed, and asked, had he come about his bank again?

“You and him acquainted?” inquired a man on a horse. And, on my
answering that I was not, he cursed Lem Speed slow and long, looking
about for contradiction; then, as none present took it up, he rode
sullenly away, leaving silence behind him.

When I alighted next afternoon at the Washakie post-trader’s store and
walked back to the private office of the building whither I was wont
always to repair, what I saw in that private room, through a sort of
lattice which screened it off from the general public, was a close-drawn
knot of men round a table, and on a chair a maroon-colored straw hat!
Rather hastily the post-trader came out, and, shaking my hand warmly,
drew me away from the lattice. After a few cordial questions he said:
“Come back this evening.”

“Does he never get a new hat?” I asked.

“Hat? Who? What? Oh; yes, to be sure!” laughed the post-trader. “I’ll
tell him he ought to.”

I sought out the doctor, soon learning from him that McDonough had paid
him for his services. But this had not softened his opinion of the young
fellow, though he had heard nothing against him, nor even any mention of
his name; he repeated his formula that he had known McDonough’s kind all
the way from Assiniboine to Lowell Barracks, whereupon I again called
him “cynic,” and he retorted with “tenderfoot,” and thus amicably I left
him for my postponed gossip with the post-trader. Him I found
hospitable, but preoccupied, holding a long cigar unlighted between his
taciturn lips. Each topic that I started soon died away: my Eastern
news; my summer plans to ramble with Scipio across the Divide on Gros
Ventre and Snake; the proposed extension of the Yellowstone
Park--everything failed.

“That was quite a company you had this afternoon,” I said, reaching the
end of my resources.

“Yes. Nice gentlemen. Yes.” And he rolled the long, unlighted cigar
between his lips.

“Cattlemen, I suppose?”

“Cattlemen. Yes.”

“Business all right, I hope?”

“Well, no worse than usual.”

Here again we came to an end, and I rose to go.

“Seen your friend McDonough yet?” said he, still sitting.

“Why, how do you know he’s a friend of mine?”

“Says so every time he comes into the Post.”

“Well, the doctor’s all wrong about him!” I exclaimed, and gave my
views. The post-trader watched me in his tilted chair, with a
half-whimsical smile, rolling his eternal cigar, and I finished with the
story of the horse. Then the smile left his face. He got up slowly, and
slowly took a number of turns round his office, pottered with some
papers on his desk, and finally looked at me again.

“Tell me if he does,” he said.

“Offer the horse? I shall not remind him--and I should take it only as a

“You tell me if he does,” repeated the post-trader, now smiling again,
and so we parted.

“I wonder what he didn’t say?” I thought as I proceeded to the hotel;
for he had plainly pondered some remarks and decided upon silence.
Between them, he and the doctor had driven me to a strong hope that
McDonough would vindicate my opinion of him by making good his word. At
breakfast next morning at the hotel one of the invariable characters at
such breakfasts, an unshaven person in tattered overalls, with
rope-scarred fists and grimy knuckles, to me unknown, asked:--

“Figure on meeting your friend McDonough?”

“Not if he doesn’t figure on meeting me.”

They all took quiet turns at looking at me until some one remarked:--

“He ain’t been in town lately.”

“I’m glad his leg’s all right,” I said.

“Oh, his leg’s all right.”

The tone of this caused me to look at them. “Well, I hope he’s _all_

Not immediately came the answer: “By latest reports he was enjoying good

Truly they were a hopeless people to get anything direct from.
Indirectness is by some falsely supposed to be a property of only the
highly civilized; but these latter merely put a brighter and harder
polish on it.

That afternoon I drove with my camp things out of town in a
“buggy,”--very different from the Eastern vehicle which bears this
name,--and the next afternoon between Dinwiddie and Red Creek, on a
waste stretch high above the river, who should join me but McDonough. He
was riding down the mountain apparently from nowhere, and my pleasure at
seeing him was keen. His words were few and halting, as they had been
the year before, and in his pleasant, round face the blue eyes twinkled,
screwed up and as perplexed as ever. I abstained from more than
glancing at the fine sorrel that he rode, lest I should seem to be

“Water pretty low for this season,” he said.

“Was there not much snow?”

“Next to none, and went early.”

I turned from my direct course and camped at his cabin on North Fork.

“What’s your hurry?” he said next morning, when I was preparing to go.

There was no hurry; those days had no hurry in them, and I bless their
memory for it. I sat on a stump, smoking a “Missouri meerschaum,” and
unfolding to him my plans. To the geography of my route he listened
intently--very intently.

“So you’re going to keep over the other side the mountains?” he said.

“Even to Idaho,” I answered, “and home that way.”

“Not back this way?”

“Not this year.”

He thought a little while. “You’re settled as to that?”


He rose, and put some wood into the stove in his cabin; then he returned
to me where I sat on the stump. “Sure you’re quite settled you’ll keep
on the west side of the Divide?”

“Goodness!” I laughed, “why should I lie to you?”

Again he pondered in silence, and I could not imagine what he had in his
mind. What had my being east or being west of the mountains to do with

He now jerked his head toward the corral. “Like him?” he inquired
gruffly. It was the sorrel horse that he meant, and I perceived that it
was standing saddled. I said nothing. The fellow’s embarrassment
embarrassed me. “Like him?” he repeated.

“Looks good to me,” I replied, adopting his gruffness.

He rose and brought the horse to me. “Get on.”

“Hulloa! You’ve got my saddle on him.”

“Get on. He ain’t the one that bruck my leg.”

I obeyed. Thus was the gift offered and accepted. I rode the horse down
and up the level river bottom. “How shall I get him back to you?” I

McDonough’s face fell. “He’ll be all right in the East,” he protested.

I smiled. “No, my good friend. Not that. Let me send him back with the

We compromised on this, and caught trout for the rest of the day, also
shooting some young sage chickens. The sorrel proved a fine animal.
Again McDonough delayed my departure. “I can broil those chickens fine,”
he said, “and--and you’ll not be back this way.”

He would not look at me as he said this, but busied himself with the
fire. He was lonely, and liked my company, and couldn’t say so. Dense
doctor! I reflected, not to have been warmed by this nature. But later
this friendless fellow touched my heart more acutely. A fine thought had
come to me during the evening: to leave my wagon here, to leave a note
for Scipio at the E-A outfit, to descend Wind River to the Sand Gulch,
strike Washakie’s trail to the northeast of Crow Heart Butte, and on my
vigorous sorrel find Still Hunt Spring by myself. The whole ride need
take but two days. I think I must have swelled with pride at the
prospect of this secret achievement, to be divulged, when accomplished,
to the admiring dwellers on Wind River. But I intended to have the
pleasure of divulging it to McDonough at once, and I forthwith composed
a jeering note to Scipio Le Moyne.

“Esteemed friend” (this would anger him immediately); “come and find me
at Still Hunt Spring, if you don’t fear getting lost. If you do, avoid
the risk, and I will tell you all about it Friday evening. Yours,

I pushed this over to McDonough, who was practising various cuts with a
pack of cards. “That will make Scipio jump,” I said.

Somewhat to my disappointment, it did not have this or any effect upon
McDonough. He held the paper close to his eyes, shutting them still more
to follow the writing, and handed it back to me, saying merely, “Pretty

“I’ll leave it over at the E-A for him,” I explained. “He thinks I’m
afraid to go there alone.”

“Yes. Pretty good,” said McDonough, as if I were venturing nothing. Was
all Wind River going to treat it as such a trifle? Or--could it be that
McDonough alone among white men and red hereabouts knew nothing of the
mystery and menace by which Still Hunt Spring was encircled?

Next morning my perplexity was cleared. I made an early start, tying
some food and a kettle and my “slicker” to the saddle. McDonough
watched me curiously.

“Leavin’ your wagon and truck?” he inquired.

“Why, yes, of course. I’ll be back for it. I’m going to the E-A now. Are
you a poet?” I continued. “I’ve begun a thing.” And I handed him some
unfinished lines, which I had entitled “At Gift Horse Ranch.” “You don’t
object to that?”

“Object to what?”

“Why, the title, ‘At Gift Horse Ranch.’”

He took the paper down from his eyes, and I saw that his face had
suddenly turned scarlet. He stood blinking for a moment, and then he

“I’d kind of like to hear it.”

“But that’s all there is to hear--so far!” I exclaimed, feeling somehow

He put the verses close to his eyes once more. Then he held them out to
me, and stood blinking in his odd, characteristic way. “Won’t y’u read
’em to me?” he at length managed to say. “I’ll not fool _you_.”

For yet one moment more I was dull, and did not understand.

“I can’t read,” he stated simply.

“Oh!” I murmured in mortification. And so I read the lines to him.

He stretched out his hand for the scribbled envelope on which I had
pencilled the fragment. “May I keep that?”

“Wait till I have it finished.”

“I’d kind of like to have the start to keep.” He took it and shoved it
awkwardly inside his coat. “I can’t read or write,” he said, more at his
ease now the truth was out. “Nobody ever taught me nothin’.”

But I was not at ease. “Well, that stuff of mine is not worth reading!”
I said. Cards had a meaning for him--kings, queens, ten-spots--these had
been the fellow’s only books! He went on, “Never had any folks, y’u
see--to know ’em, that is.--Well, so-long till you’re back.” He turned
to his cabin, and I touched my horse.

The sorrel had gone but a few steps when I looked over my shoulder, and
there stood the solitary figure, watching me from the cabin door.
Suddenly it occurred to me that, as he had not been able to read my
letter to Scipio, he knew nothing of my project. _This_ was why he had
manifested no surprise! “Do you think,” I called back, laughing, “that
your horse can take me to Still Hunt Spring?”

I am now sure that a flash of some totally different expression crossed
his face, but at the time I was not sure; he was instantly smiling.
“Take y’u anywhere,” he called. “Take y’u to Mexico, take y’u to Hell!”

“Oh, not yet!” I responded, and cantered away. So he thought I would not
dare to go alone to Still Hunt Spring! Well and good; they should all
believe it by Friday evening.

My cantering ceased soon,--it had been for dramatic effect,--and as I
had before me a long ride, it behooved me to walk the first miles. Yet I
was soon up the easy ascent from North Fork, and though my descent to
the main river from the dividing ridge was through precipitous red
bluffs, and accomplished with caution, I reached the E-A ranch (where it
used to be twenty-five years ago) in less than two hours. To leave my
note there for Scipio took but a minute, and now on the level trail down
Wind River I made good time, so that before ten o’clock I had crossed
back over it above the Blue Holes, skirted by where the Circle fence is
to-day, crossed North Fork here, gone up a gulch, and dropped down
again upon Wind River below its abrupt bend, and reached the desolate
Sand Gulch. I nooned at the spring which lies, no bigger than a hat,
about seven miles up the Sand Gulch on its north side. This was the
starting-point of the trail that old Washakie had drawn for me; here I
crossed the threshold of the mysterious and the untrodden.

The sense of this heightened the elation which my ride through the
bracing hours of dawn had brought me, and as I turned out of the Sand
Gulch it was as if some last tie of restraint had stepped from my
spirit, leaving it on wings free and rejoicing. This gleamy, unfooted
country always looked monotonous from the bluffs of Wind River, but I
found no tedium in it; its delicious loneliness was thrilled at each new
stage of the trail by recognizing the successive signs and landmarks
which Washakie had bidden me look for. The first was a great dull red
stone, carved rudely by some ancient savage hand to represent a
tortoise. Perhaps in another mood, the grim appearance of this monster
might have seemed a symbol of menace, but when I came upon the stone
just where my map indicated that it was to be expected, I hailed it with
triumph. Nor did the caked and naked earth of the region through which
I next traced my way dry up my ardor. Gullies sometimes hid all views
from me, and again from mounds and rises I could see for fifty miles.
Should this ever meet the eye of some reader familiar with Wind River,
he will know my whereabouts by learning that far off, but constantly in
plain sight to my left, were Black Mountain and Spring Mountain; that I
must have been headed toward a point about midway between where the mail
camp now is and the pass over to Embar; that I crossed Crow Creek and (I
think) Dry Creek, and that I saw both Steamboat Butte and Tea Pot Butte
at different points. Even to write these names is a pleasure, for I
loved that country so; and sometimes it seems as if I must go there and
smell the sage-brush again--or die!

After the tortoise came several guiding signs: a big gash in the soil,
cut by a cloud-burst; an old corral where I turned sharp to the left; a
pile of white buffalo bones five miles onward; until at length I passed
through a belt of low hills, bare and baked and colored, some pink, like
tooth-powder, and others magenta, and entered a more level region
covered with sparse grass and sage-brush. Great white patches of
alkali, acres in extent, lay upon this plain. There was no water
(Washakie had told me there would be none), and the gleamy waste
stretched away on all sides; endlessly in front, and right and left to
long lines of distant mountains, full of light and silence. Let the
reader who is susceptible to tone combinations listen to the following
dissonant, unresolved measures, played slowly over and over:--


their brooding harmonies will picture or at least convey that landscape
better than any words. I think it was really a mournful landscape, grand
and grave with suggestion of ages unknown, of eras when the sea was not
where it is now, and animals never seen by man wandered over the
half-made world. Earth did not seem one’s own here, but alien, but
aloof, as if, through some sudden translation, one had lit upon another
planet, perhaps a dying one. Yet during these hours of nearing my goal
no such melancholy fancies

[Illustration: I found nothing new--the plain, the sage-brush, the dry
ground--no more]

overtook me; I rode forward like some explorer, and I tried to complete
the verses which I had begun at McDonough’s:--

    Would I might prison in these words,
      And so keep with me all the year
    Some inch of this bright wilderness
      Of freedom that I move in here.

But nothing resulted from it, unless a surprisingly swift flight of
time. I was aware all at once that day was gone, that the rose and
saffron heavens would soon be a field of stars. I had matched one by one
the signs on my map with the realities around me, and now had reached
the map’s last word; I was to stop when I found myself on a line between
a hollow dip in the mountains to the left and a circular patch of forest
high up on those to the right. On this line I was to travel to the right
“a little way,” said Washakie. This I began to do, wondering if the
twilight would last, and for the first time anxious. After “a little
way” I found nothing new--the plain, the sage-brush, the dry ground--no
more; and again a little further it was the same, while the twilight was
sinking, and disquiet grew within me. Lost I could not well be, but I
could fail; food would give out, and before this the sorrel and I must
retrace our way to water at the Sand Gulch, seven hours behind us. The
twilight deepened. Had I passed it? Should I ride in a circle? Rueful
thoughts of a “dry camp” began to assert themselves, and my demoralized
hand grew doubtful on the reins, when I gradually discovered that the
sorrel _knew where he was_. There was no mistaking the increasing
alertness that passed through him.

As this extraordinary fact became a certainty the chasm opened at my
feet; the sorrel was trotting quickly along the brink of Still Hunt
Spring! In broad day I should have seen it a moment sooner, and the
suddenness with which, in the semi-obscurity, it had leaped into my view
close beside me produced a startling effect. The success of my quest did
not bring the unmixed pleasure that I had looked for; the dying day, the
desolate shapes of the hills, the unbefriending hush of the plain, the
odd alertness of the sorrel--all this for a while flavored my triumph
with something akin to apprehension, and it seemed as if the ravine
beneath me had been lurking in a sort of ambush until I should be fully
within its power. The Indian legend was now easy to account for; indeed,
I have met often enough, among our unlettered and rustic white
population, with minds that would have believed, after such a shock as I
had just received, that they had beheld the earth open supernaturally.
The sorrel’s trot had become a canter as we continued to skirt the
brink. Looking down I discovered in shadowy form the line of tall
cottonwoods, spindled from their usual shape to the gaunt figures
described as being on stilts; then the horse turned into the entrance.
This steep and narrow trail was barred at a suitable place by a barrier
of brush, which I replaced after passing it. A haunting uneasiness
caused me to regret that I had not arrived in full daylight, but this I
presently overcame. Before we reached the bottom I saw a number of
horses grazing down among the trees, and they set up a great running
about and kicking their heels at the sight of a human visitor. There
must have been twenty or thirty.

Lassitude and satisfaction now divided my sensations as I made my way to
the spring, whose cool, sweet water fulfilled all expectation. My good
map served me to the last; with it I lighted my cooking fire, addressing
it aloud as I did so, “Burn! your work is done!” I needed no map to go
back! I had mastered the trail! In my recovered spirits I quite forgot
how much I owed to the sorrel. While picking up dry sticks I stumbled
upon what turned out to be a number of branding irons, which were quite
consistent with the presence of the horses and the barrier at the
entrance. Evidently the place sometimes served as a natural pasture and
corral for stock gathered on the round-up and far strayed from where
they belonged. Perhaps some one was camping here now. I shouted several
times; but my unanswered voice merely made the silence more profound,
and for a while the influence of the magic legend returned. With this my
fancy played not unpleasingly while the kettle--or rather the
coffee-pot--was boiling. The naturalness of building a fire, of making
camp, of preparing a meal, helped common sense to drive out and keep out
those featureless fears which had assailed me. What stories could be
made about this place by a skilful writer! The lost traveller stumbles
upon it, enters, suspects himself to be not alone, calls out, and
immediately the haunted walls close and he is shut within the bowels of
the earth. How release him? Therein would be the story. Or--the lost
traveller, well-nigh dead of thirst, hastens to the spring amid the
frolicsome gambols of the horses. No sooner has he drunk than he becomes
a horse himself, and the others neigh loud greetings to a brother
victim. Then a giant red man appears and brands him. How release all the
horses from the spell?

As I lay by my little cooking fire in the warm night, after some bacon
and several cups of good tea made in the coffee-pot, I was too contented
to do aught in the way of exploration, and I continued to recline,
hearing no sound but the grazing horses, and seeing nothing but the
nearer trees, the dark sides of the valley, and the open piece of sky
with its stars. My saddle-blanket and “slicker” served me for what bed I
needed, the saddle with my coat supplied a pillow, and the cups of tea
could not keep me from immediate and deep slumber.

I opened my eyes in sunlight, and the first object that they rested upon
was a maroon-colored straw hat. With the mental confusion that
frequently attends a traveller upon first waking in a new place, I lay
considering the hat and wondering where I was, until at a sound I turned
to see the hat’s owner stooping to the spring. Instantly Lem Speed,
cattleman and owner of a store and bank in Lander, a house in Salt
Lake, a wife in Los Angeles, and a son at Yale, was covering me with a

“Stay still,” was his remark.

Not a suspicion that it was anything but a joke entered my head. I lay
there and I smiled. “I could not hurt you if I wished to.”

“You will never hurt me any more.”

Another voice then added: “He is not going to hurt any of us any more.”

“Stay still!” sharply reiterated Lem Speed, for at the second voice I
had half risen.

“For whom do you take me?” I asked.

“For one of the people we want.”

I continued to be amused. “I’ll be glad to know what you want me for.
I’ll be glad to know what damage I’ve done. I’ll be happy to make it
good. I came over here last night for--”

“Go on. What did you come for?”

“Nothing. Simply to see this place. I’ve wanted to see it for a year. I
wanted to see if I could find it by myself.” And I told them who I was
and where I lived.

“That’s a good one, ain’t it?” said a third man to Lem Speed.

“And so,” said he, “you, claiming you’re an Eastern tenderfoot, found
this place, first trip, all by yourself across fifty miles of country
old-timers get lost in?”

“No. Washakie gave me a map.”

“Let’s see your map.”

“I lighted my fire with it.”

Somebody laughed. There were now five or six of them standing round me.

“If some of you gentlemen will condescend to tell me what you think my
name is, and what you think I have done--”

“We don’t know what your name is, and we don’t care. As to what you’ve
done, that’s as well known to you as it is to us, and you’ve got gall to
ask, when we’ve caught you right on the spot, branding-irons and all.”

“Well, I’m beginning to understand. You think you’ve caught a cattle

“Horse thief,” corrected one.

“Both, probably,” added another.

“I’ll not ask you to believe me any more,” I now said. “Don’t I see the
post-trader over there among those horses?”


“Very well, take me to him at Washakie. He has known me for years. I
demand it.”

“We’ll not take you anywhere. We’re going to leave you here.”

And now the truth, the appalling, incredible truth, which my brain had
totally failed to take in, burst like a blast of heat or ice over my
whole being, penetrating the innermost recesses of my soul with a
blinding glare. They intended to put me to death at once; their minds
were as stone vaults closed against all explanation. Here in this hidden
crack of the wilderness my body would be left hanging, and far away my
family and friends would never know by what hideous outrage I had
perished. Slowly they would become anxious at getting no news of me;
there would be an inquiry, a mystery, then sorrow, and finally
acceptance of my unknown fate. Broken visions of home, incongruous
minglings of loved faces and commonplace objects, like my room with its
table and chairs, rushed upon me. Had I not been seated, I must have
fallen at the first shock of this stroke. They stood watching me.

“But,” I began, feeling that my very appearance was telling against me,
while my own voice sounded guilty to my ears, “but it’s not true.”

“What’s the use in him talking any more to us?” said a man to Lem

Lem Speed addressed me. “You claim this: you’re an Eastern traveller.
You come here--out of curiosity. You risk getting lost in the hardest
country around here--out of curiosity. But you come all straight because
an Indian’s map guides you, only you’ve burnt it. And you’re a stranger,
ignorant that this is a _cache_ for rustlers. That’s what you claim. It
don’t sound like much against these facts: last year you and another man
that’s wanted in several places and that we’re after now--you and him
was known to be thick. You offered to pay his doctor’s bill. You come
back to the country where he’s been operating right along, and first
thing you do you come over to this _cache_ when he’s got stolen horses
right in it, and you ride a stolen horse that’s known to have been in
his possession, and that’s got on it now the brand of the outfit this
gentleman here represents--all out of curiosity.”

“We’ve just found six more of our stock in here,” said the gentleman
indicated by Speed.

I repeated my story in a raised voice--I had not yet had time to regain
composure. I accounted for each of my movements from the beginning until
now, vehemently reasserting my ignorance and innocence. But I saw that
they were not even attending to me any longer; they looked at me only
now and then, they spoke low to each other, pointing to the other end of
the valley, and turned, while I was still talking, to receive the report
of another man, who came from among the stolen horses.

Then I fell silent. I sat by my saddle, locking my hands round my knees,
and turning my eyes first upon the men, and then upon the whole place. A
strange crystal desolation descended upon me, quiet and cold. The early
sunlight showed every object in an extraordinary and delicate
distinctness; the stones high up the sides of the valley, the separate
leaves on the small high branches of the cottonwoods; the interstices on
the bark on lower trunks some distance away; the fine sand and grass of
the valley’s level bottom, with little wild rose bushes here and there;
all these things I noticed, and more, and then my eyes came back to my
little dead fire, and the blackened coffee-pot in which I had made the
tea. “Your friend McDonough,” they had said to me at Washakie, and I had
wondered what was behind their reticence when I inquired about him.
They were always ready, I bitterly reflected, to feed lies to a
tenderfoot, but a syllable of truth about McDonough’s suspected
dishonesty, which would have saved me from this, they were unwilling to
speak. It was natural, of course; everything was natural. I saw also why
McDonough had been so precise in asking which way I expected to travel.
Over on Snake River, and in Idaho, the sorrel was in no danger of
identification, and therefore I should be safe. But even with the whole
chain of evidence: the doctor’s bill, the corral, my unlucky tale of a
map which I could not prove, and the branding-irons with which they
believed I was going to alter the legitimate brands--what right had they
to deny me the chance I asked?

The last two of them now came from the horses to make their report:
“Five brands. Thirty-two head. N lazy Y, Bar Circle Zee, Goose Egg,
Pitch Fork, Seventy-Six, and V R.”

“Not one of you,” I broke out, “knows a word against me, except some
appearances which the post-trader will set right in one minute. I demand
to be taken to him.”

“Ain’t we better be getting along, Lem?” said one.

“Most eight o’clock,” said another, looking at his watch.

“Stand up,” said Lem Speed.

Upon being thus ordered, like a felon, my utterance was suddenly choked,
and it was with difficulty that I mastered the tears which welled hotly
to my eyes.

“Any message you want to write--”

“No!” I shouted.

“Then let’s be getting along,” said the first man.

“Any message I wrote you would not deliver; it would put a rope round
your neck, too. And, Mr. Lem Speed, with your store, and bank, and
house, and wife, and son, I hope you will live to see them come to ruin
and disgrace.”

I wish that I had never spoken these weak, discreditable words; but he
who has not been tested cannot know the bitterness of such a test as

A horse was led to me, and I got on without aid, a man on each side of
me. Memory after this records nothing. We must have been some time--I
think we walked--in reaching the other end of the valley, yet I cannot
recall what was spoken around me, or whether or not anything was
spoken; I can recall only the sides of the valley passing, and the
warmer sense of the sun on my shoulders, and the vivid scent of the
sage-brush. What firmness or lack of firmness I might have displayed at
the very end I can never know. Before we halted at the fatal tree of
execution, and while my rage was still sustaining me, a noise of
rattling stones caused us all to look upward, and there, galloping down
the steep trail, wildly waving and shouting to us, was Scipio Le Moyne.
It reeled through me! I was saved!

He plunged into the midst of us at breakneck speed, drew up so short
that his horse slid, and burst out furiously--not to my captors, but to
me. “You need a nurse!” he cried hoarsely. “Any travelling you do should
be in a baby coach.”

Breath failed him, he sat in his saddle, bowed over and panting, hands
shaking, face dripping with sweat, shirt drenched, as was his trembling
horse. After a minute he looked at Speed. “So I’m in time, my God! I’ve
ridden all night. I’d have been here an hour sooner only I forgot about
the turn at the corral. Here. That’s the way I knowed it.”

He handed over my letter, left for him at the E-A ranch. This, with a
few words from him, cleared me. All that I had declared was verified;
they saw what they had been about to do.

“Well, now, well!” exclaimed one, grinning.

“To think of us getting fooled that way!” another remarked, grinning.

“But it’s all right now,” said a third, grinning.

“That’s so!” a fourth agreed. “No harm done. But we had a close shave,
didn’t we?” And he grinned too.

Lem Speed approached me. “No hard feelings,” he said jocularly, and he
held out his hand.

But is it a true joke--this American attempt at shirking responsibility
under a bluff of facetiousness? It masquerades as humor every day--a
pretty mongrel humor, more like true cowardice.

I turned to Scipio. “Tell this man that anything he wishes to say to me
he will say through you.”

Speed flushed darkly. Had he kept his temper, he could easily have
turned my speech to ridicule. But such a manner of meeting him was novel
to a man used to having his own brutal way wherever he went, and he was
disconcerted. He spoke loudly and with bluster:--

“You said some things about my wife and son that don’t go now.”

This delivered him into my hands. Again I addressed Scipio. “Say that I
wish his family no further misfortune; they have enough in having him
for husband and father.”

I think he would have shot me, but the others were now laughing. “He’s
called the turn on you, Lem. Leave him be. He’s been annoyed some this

They now made ready to depart with their recovered property.

“You and your friend will come along with us?” one said to Scipio.

“Thank you,” I answered. “I have seen all that I ever wish to see of any
of you.”

And then suddenly I folded over and slid like a sack of flour from my
horse. It had lasted longer than my nerves were good for; darkness
engulfed me on the ground.

They had disappeared when I waked; Scipio and I were the only human
tenants of the valley. He sat watching me, and I nodded to him; then
silently shook my head at his question if I wanted anything. I lay
gazing at the rocks and trees, the tall trees with their leaves gently
stirring. It was a beautiful, serene spot and I regarded it with the
languid pleasure of a man recovering from a serious illness. We began to
talk presently, and I learned that they had taken away their stolen
horses, except the sorrel, which had been left at my complete disposal.
But from that party I would accept no amends; I would ride the sorrel
back to Wind River, and then I would send a check to the proper person,
as if I had hired the horse. This intention I may say at once that I
duly carried out. Scipio upbraided me with the spirit I was showing;
they had meant no harm to _me_, he argued; they were doing their best
now--but I turned upon him.

“Oh, their best! Do you think they’ll not break out in a new place,
condemn some other man who looks guilty to their almighty minds? I asked
to see the post-trader. Don’t forget that. There’s got to be lynching
where there’s no law, but--”

To these unfinished words Scipio could find no answer, but he remained
unconvinced, muttering that “tenderfeet shouldn’t monkey with this
country by themselves;” and in this sentiment I heartily concurred.

We spent the day and night at Still Hunt Spring. There was nothing to
call us away, and I found my physical powers more inclined to rest than
to a long ride. Scipio dried out his clothes beside the spring, and
refreshed his lank body from the perspiration and dust which had covered
it. He narrated how it had been whispered that the cattlemen were on the
eve of “demonstrating”; how McDonough’s practices and associates had
been gradually ascertained; how it was known that Still Hunt Spring had
become a hiding-place for stolen stock. Therefore my bragging letter,
written in a spirit so light, had given him what he described as
“considerable of a jolt.” He had not found it until evening, and had
instantly galloped forth into the dark, not knowing what he might find
at Still Hunt Spring.

“Then McDonough is a thief,” I sighed.

“Oh, he’s a thief all right,” said Scipio, easily.

But it made me very sad. I closed my eyes and could see McDonough as he
stood by my horse, embarrassed, reaching out his hand for that envelope
with my verses on it.

I slept more soundly and longer even than on the preceding night.
Scipio, after his hard ride, slept like me; we did not wake until the
sun was high and warm. After breakfast--it was the last morsel we had
between us--I took a final drink at the gentle and lovely pool where I
had undergone such terrible emotions, and we rode slowly and silently
down the long line of trees toward the exit of the valley. Suddenly the
sorrel jerked his head up, stopped stiff with a snort, and began to
tremble. Ahead of us there, from the branch destined for me, hung a dead
man, McDonough. This they had done while we over-slept by the spring at
the upper end of the valley. They had surprised him coming to his

Scipio and I sat still for a while. A wind in the branches now set the
body slightly swaying; it seemed worse when it moved; it turned halfway
round, and I saw its eyes. “I think--couldn’t we bury it?” I said.

Scipio shook his head. “It’s left there for some of his partners to

“Well--I think we might close the eyes.”

“That’s no harm,” said Scipio, “if you want.”

“Yes; I do want.”

So we dismounted. Yes; cards were all McDonough knew how to read; no one
had ever taught him anything; this was his first lesson.

“There,” said Scipio, “that does look better.” Then we rode away from
Still Hunt Spring.



Mile-high in space circled a dark speck, a Mexican eagle, alone in the
empty sky. He was looking down upon four hundred square miles of Arizona
sand, called Repose Valley. He saw clots of cactus, thickets of
mesquite, stunt oak bush, and white skeletons of cattle, but not a thing
to eat. He also saw Aaron Tace, the shell-game man, in a Mexican hat. He
saw also a man who, drifting lately to Tucson, had said his name was
Belleville; but somebody in Tucson had pronounced this “Bellyful”; it
was then vain to insist upon any other pronunciation.

Up in the sky sailed the eagle; along the desert road Aaron Tace was
slowly riding; and on the ground lay Bellyful, near where the road
forked to the mines. Aaron was going to Push Root. In that town a
_fiesta_ was being held; horses raced, liquors drunk, ladies courted,
cards dealt, silver and gold lost by many and won by few, all to music.
Bellyful was bound presently for Push Root, too. Now he lay off the
road under some mesquite, thinking, while Aaron approached. Made of
thorns, slender rods, and gauze foliage, Bellyful’s bushes cast little
more shade than mosquito nets, but they cast all the shade there was. He
was resting his starved, weak horse, whose legs must somehow walk the
five more miles to Push Root. He, himself, with scant breakfast inside,
had led the horse to the thin shade. The poor beast stood over him; now
and then Bellyful reached up and stroked its nose. At sunrise the
softened mountains had glowed like jewels, or ripe nectarines, or wine;
cooling shadows had flowed from them upon the valley. Later morning had
changed these peaks to gray, hot teeth, and the sand to a gray, hot
floor. The horse rested, Aaron Tace was half a mile nearer, the eagle
sailed, and Bellyful lay thinking of his luck.

He had known none in fifteen months. Misfortune bulged from the seams of
his shirt and trousers and boots. Of his gold watch, his two pins, his
ring, his sundry small possessions, only his gun remained: he could not
pawn the seat of life. He had been earning and spending easily, when the
first illness that he had ever known put him to bed, and almost in his
grave. Coming back to strength, he found hard times. No one, no
railroad, ranch, restaurant, saloon, stage company--nothing--had
employment for him. He had sought it from San Marcial, over in New
Mexico, westward to Yuma, hundreds of miles. He had parted early with
his real name. On a freight train at Bowie the conductor found him
stealing a ride, and kicked him off, calling him a hobo. The epithet
hurt worse than the kick. In fact, hiding on the brake-beam under
another car (for in spite of the conductor he carried out his plan of
riding free to Willcox) he shed tears, the bitter tears of pride
departing; he _was_ a hobo. By the time he reached Willcox, Belleville
was his name. No tramp should be called what his mother had named him.

Such his life had been; dust, thirst, hunger, repulse--and onward to
more. Existence shook her head at him with a changeless “No.” Latterly,
in Tucson, a pretty woman had shown him kindness which she should not,
since he was not her husband and she had one. She fell in love with the
April bloom of his years and with his hard luck--and this was the single
instance of human interest in him which had touched his life in fifteen
months. It lay light upon his roving conscience, was nothing but joy
and pride to him; but his code forbade continued acceptance of her money
that there seemed no chance to repay. Quitting Tucson, he took from her,
as a final loan, enough to buy a wretched horse, with a trifle over. If
none in Push Root would employ him, the mines were left; if these should
fail, then he would have knocked at the door of every trade in Arizona,
except robbery, which was undoubtedly the territory’s chief industry.

Bellyful slid down a hand to his pocket’s bottom. One by one he fingered
seven coins therein, his whole fortune, in fractional currency--it
summed up to a dollar and four bits. He drew out the coins and
attentively read their dates. These he already knew. He was not thinking
of the coins, but of the Universe, and how successfully it resisted
explanation. A voice stopped him; Aaron Tace was nearly opposite his
clump of mesquite. The shell-game man was talking to himself.

“Remember, gentlemen, the hand is quicker than the eye.” This he said
over and over, while his hands were ceaselessly moving. Bellyful rose
with astonishment, and stared. Aaron Tace could easily have seen him,
but was too busy. He was making quick turns and passes, and talking the

“Remember, gentlemen, the hand is quicker than the eye.” Nothing but
that, while his hands paused, shuffled, and paused again.

“Remember, gentlemen--” It was like a player polishing his lines. Aaron
rehearsed all the tones that express complete candor and friendly
warning, with a touch of “dare you to try it!” thrown in. The reins hung
on the horse’s neck. Fitted to the saddle-horn (a very neat piece of
work) was a smooth, wooden tray, and upon this three walnut shells in a
line. These Aaron Tace would shift from right to left and back, or half
back, exchanging their positions, sliding them among each other, lifting
them up and setting them down--a pretty thing to see. Only one slip he
made, due to a stumble of his horse. The little pebble, or pea, which
the shifted shells concealed by turns to allure the bets of onlookers,
rolled to the ground. Aaron sprang off limberly, found it, and was on
again, busily rehearsing while his horse walked onward. He had now
passed by, and a rock hid him from view; but for a long time still
Bellyful could hear the rising and falling cadence of his “Remember,
gentlemen, the hand is quicker than the eye,” even after the syllables
ceased to be distinguishable. Thus Aaron proceeded toward the Push Root
_fiesta_, happy and busy, until his distant cadences died away.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” said Bellyful.

For perhaps an hour he lay, looking upward through the filmy mesquite,
himself a piece of the vast silence. But this new light on the shell
game helped little to render the Universe more susceptible of
explanation. By and by he took his slow way along the road, and nothing
living was left at the Forks. Far in the huge, blue, hot sky the eagle
sailed, hunting his prey.

       *       *       *       *       *

Bellyful found the town of Push Root full of good nature. Indeed, there
was more good nature than town; it spilled over the edges in strains of
music, strains of language, and gentlemen overcome in the brush. But it
was beyond the livery stable’s good nature to trust any such looking
owner of any such looking horse; Bellyful paid in advance. He inquired
for employment at the stage office, the hardware store, the other store,
the Palace Hotel, the other hotel, the Can-Can Restaurant, the Fashion
Saloon, the four other saloons, and the three private houses. These
were locked because their owners were out, practising good nature. That
finished it; there was no employment here. The horse could never make
the mines without two meals and a night’s rest--paid for already. No
duty now hindered Bellyful from being good-natured himself. He still had
three coins of slight importance to do it with, and his absent-minded
fingers rubbed them over in his pocket.

Push Root teemed with strangers from ranch and mine, wandering joyously
between drinks in search of new games. Through the many sounds Aaron’s
voice held its own, and, reaching Bellyful, waked his brooding mind,
which had long forgotten Aaron. Some games he knew about, but this one
had hitherto not been closely studied by him. Was the eye always slower
than the hand? Practice makes perfect, but--? With this dawn of
scientific doubt Bellyful stood looking at the cluster of patrons which
screened Aaron where he shuffled his three walnut shells and chanted his
“Remember, gentlemen.” A disordered-looking patron now emerged from the
group, perceived Bellyful, lurched toward him, leaned against him
confidingly, and remarked with tears:--

“Say, are you married? I am. Some people are fools all the time. I am.
All people are fools some of the time. I am. And when I get home I’ll
get hell.” He untied an old horse and rode desolately out of town.

Through the air, like a call, came Aaron’s jaunty voice. Bellyful joined
the patrons at once. Aaron shot over him a travelled, measuring eye, of
which the not untravelled Bellyful took prompt note. He stood in the
front row, staring with as simple an expression as he could command,
slowly fumbling the poor little coins in his pocket. Soon the man next
him won three dollars on a dime. Bellyful came near whistling, but
repressed it in order to maintain his simple expression. Thirty to one!
This game paid thirty to one! And the dawn of scientific doubt grew

“Try yourn.” This suggestion somebody made to a youth of prosperous
appearance, with an English neatness, and a cap and waistcoat of the
horse-stable variety.

“Thanks, no, ye know. Seen it with thimbles at home, ye know.”

None present was aware that this accent had been heard in no part of the
British Isles at any time. Yet, after a look at him, Bellyful’s
scientific doubt dawned a trifle clearer.

“Win three dollars?” cried an astonished freighter.

“Remember, gentlemen, the hand is quicker than the eye,” said Aaron,

He shuffled his shells. The freighter’s hairy fist made a “jeans dive.”
This well-known reach for money in the “pants” is composed of two
gestures: the hand shoots down into the pocket, while the head tilts
skyward. It is common where hay grows, and often foretells that the
owner and his money will soon be parted. Bellyful now forgot all about
his empty stomach. The freighter touched a shell, put down five cents,
and won a dollar and a half.

“Megod!” exclaimed British Isles. He risked a quarter, and lost.

“Aw, now!” he lamented. “Good-by, all.”

They rallied him, chaffed him, told him to come back and be a man; so,
not to shame old England in a foreign country (as he explained), he
doubled his quarter, and lost again.

“Remember, gentlemen,” chanted Aaron, “the hand is quicker than the

He shuffled the shells straight at the freighter, as if he were making
love to him. The freighter’s eyes bulged; he dredged from his pocket a
sort of bun of bills, greasy old rags pressed to a lump, gazed at them,
touched them, smoothed them, and at last, amid general laughter, shoved
them lingeringly back into his jeans. But his eyes seemed unrestful, and
he mopped his brow.

“She’s there!” bet British Isles, touching a shell.

“Take you,” said Aaron.

British Isles put a dollar down. The pea was under the shell. Everybody
saw the thirty dollars paid to British Isles. Aaron shuffled his shells

“She’s there!” thundered the freighter. His hand shot down, his head
tilted up, and out came the bun again. A neighbor moved a gentle elbow
against the freighter’s ribs, and silently indicated another shell. In
his excitement Bellyful now nearly forgot to keep looking innocent. The
dawn of scientific doubt showed signs of sunrise; if this freighter
should _lose_, all would be known to Bellyful but one last detail. If
the freighter should _win_--why, then, a splendid theory went up in

The neighbor pushed a little harder with his

[Illustration: He shuffled the shells straight at the freighter as if he
were making love to him]

elbow. This time the freighter felt it. He backed away from the neighbor
with glaring indignation.

“Ho, no, young man!” he exclaimed loudly. “Keep your tips for greenhorns
that ain’t on to this game.” He flayed twenty dollars off his bun.
“She’s under there,” he declared, tapping his own shell again.

“Take you,” said Aaron. He lifted the shell. No pea was there!

“Aw!” commented British Isles sympathetically. “Come again, sir. You’ll
be apt to swat him next time.”

But the unhappy freighter stood still in an ox-like bewilderment,
turning large, rueful eyes now upon the shuffling shells and now upon
the neighbor, whose lip curled with a cold, wise smile.

Scientific doubt was rosy everywhere; full knowledge might break at any
minute. Bellyful knew now that the freighter was too innocent to be
true, that he was in it with Aaron, in it with British Isles, that the
three of them had a united eye upon some fat quarry, and were playing a
game to bag him. Who was it? Bellyful looked at every man.

“Are you on yet?” whispered the neighbor, edging up. While the bets and
shuffling went on, he whispered wisdom behind his hand to Bellyful.
Aaron won steadily in a small way till a lull in business came; this he
cured by losing sixty well-timed dollars to British Isles. Small
business picked up at once. Some people are fools all the time, all
people are fools some of the time--but when was the fat quarry coming?
Every little while the neighbor dropped more expert wisdom into
Bellyful’s ear. “A bad thing,” he whispered, “ever to take your eye off
the shells. While that hayseed freighter was looking at the sky, just
now, the shells had been changed round. Hard to prove it, too, even if
you thought you saw it. Best way of all was, keep your hand on the shell
you bet on. Don’t let him move it and talk, for even if the pea was
under it he could get it away. He’d never let you win if he didn’t want
you to. Keep your hand on your shell.”

“H’m,” answered Bellyful.

“Here’s the real trick,” continued the expert neighbor. “He shuffles
till he sees by your eye you’ve spotted a shell. Maybe he leads you on
to spot a shell by playing awkward. And he claps down the shell.”

“H’m,” responded Bellyful again.

“No. I hadn’t finished,” explained the expert. “Of course the pea is not
under that shell. Where is it? Nestling in his little right finger. Some
of ’em is both-handed and can work two peas. So, when you bet, no pea is
under any shell. You’re bound to lose, see? And see how he holds his
shells with them two end fingers crooked in and how he stoops over ’em
close to the edge of the table now and then.”

“H’m,” unchangeably remarked Bellyful.

“Yes, but you ain’t watching,” complained the expert. “When he scrapes a
shell close to the edge, that’s when the pea’s liable to tumble into his
little finger. I’m going after him in a minute.”

A flash came into Bellyful’s eye. He turned his head for one look at the
expert. It satisfied him.

“I guess you’re catching on now,” said the expert. “There! The pea’s in
his finger. Watch me.”

Bellyful watched.

The expert had gold pieces, plenty of them, all sizes. He put down five
dollars. “I’ll pick up,” he said, “the two shells the pea’s not under.”

“Take you,” said Aaron.

The expert quickly picked up two shells. But the pea was under one of

“You win,” said Aaron instantly, and instantly caught up all three
shells and shuffled them. One hundred and fifty dollars to the expert,
though he had really lost! “See what that means?” he whispered to
Bellyful. “He paid me not to expose him.”

“H’m,” replied Bellyful.

“Watch me again,” urged the expert.

Indeed, Bellyful did. Scientific doubt was over; the full sun had risen.

Once more the shuffled shells came to rest, enticing bets, when violent
voices arose off to the left. Aaron quite--oh, quite!--forgot, and
looked away to see what the noise was. The freighter quickly lifted a
shell. The pea was there. He clapped the shell down.

“Put your hand on that, young man,” he commanded. “She’s there,” he
shouted to Aaron, whose eye had now come back. The disturbance had been
some brief trouble between British Isles and a man near him; it was
quieted. The freighter bet the rest of his money--that large bun. The
expert, with his hand on the shell, bet all his gold--it made several

“Take you,” said Aaron.

The pea wasn’t beneath the shell!

“Too bad, gentlemen,” said Aaron, gathering promptly all the money and
the shells, and shoving everything into his pockets. “Well, I told you
the hand was quicker than the eye. Good-by! Better luck next time!” He
nodded kindly, and was gone.

The game was done, the patrons dispersed. British Isles and the
freighter no longer to be seen, everybody melted away among the wagons,
the horses, the people, the sounds, the shows, the music of the general
_fiesta_. On the deserted spot stood the expert and Bellyful, looking at
each other.

“What are you trembling about?” demanded the expert, sharply.

“I don’t know,” said Bellyful. He didn’t know.

“Five hundred and thirty-five dollars,” muttered the expert, hoarsely.
“That freighter got the pea out when he scraped that shell down.”

“They were, all three, laying for you from the start,” said Bellyful. He
couldn’t stop trembling. Perhaps it was want of food.

“Five hundred and thirty-five dollars,” wailed the expert.

After that, he, too, melted away.

       *       *       *       *       *

Five miles out of Push Root, where the road forks to the mines, nothing
had changed, except the name of the day. Repose Valley had not aged in
twenty-four hours; it may be doubted if Repose Valley could have looked
older in twenty-four million hours. Its sand was hot and gray, its
mountains were hot and gray, its sunlight glared like a curse. No
breeze, no water, no shade; gauze mesquite, stiff cactus, white cattle
bones--four hundred square miles of this, quite as usual. It might just
as well have been yesterday, but for its name. All the days of the week
here might have sat for each other’s photographs. Only the Creator could
have told them apart. Up in the blue air sailed the eagle. Evidently he
must find meals in Repose Valley, else he wouldn’t be here, sailing and
watching. He saw the same horse and the same Bellyful resting beneath
the same mesquite. He saw also, away off, the same Aaron riding slowly
along the road toward the Forks--only, this morning, Aaron was coming
from Push Root instead of going to it. This proved it wasn’t yesterday.
Aaron had out his practice-table, and his hands were industrious.

Again Bellyful lay thinking. His horse was better for the hay and corn
and eighteen hours of rest; but the mines were further than Push Root,
and he must get there, there was nowhere else left to get--except _out_!
As he lay under the mesquite, Bellyful made one gesture--he shook his
fist at the sky. They might put him out, but he wouldn’t get out.

It might be said that the only difference between the Bellyful of
yesterday and him of to-day was the difference of one dollar and four
bits. He had nothing now in his pocket; those last coins had paid for
what food they could buy him. But there was another difference. It had
been wrought during the night hours, wrought while he lay in the stable,
unable to sleep, possibly wrought also, even in the sleep he at length
fell into just before daylight; for, while he slept, his heart went on
beating, of course, and what was his soul doing?

After his single gesture he lay under the mesquite motionless, gazing up
through the filmy branches, quiet as a stone, deep sunk in the heart of
Repose Valley silence. Stretched so, still beneath the same mesquite, he
looked as if he had been there since yesterday, as if in all the
to-morrows he might be there, keeping the cattle bones company. But the
whole boy--every inch of flesh and spirit--was alive, very much alive,
not at all in a moderate, everyday fashion; in fact, Bellyful was a
powder magazine, needing nothing but a match. Existence had shaken her
head at him once too often.

He didn’t suspect his own state until the match was applied. Aaron’s
approaching voice reached him. Even the eagle, a mile up in the air,
stopped hunting to witness the sudden proceedings. Bellyful leaped to
his feet, looked at the rock which blocked him and his horse from
Aaron’s view, moved the passive beast a few paces back, looked at the
rock again, was satisfied, ran like wild game behind the rock, and
waited. His pistol was always in excellent order, a clean-polished,
incongruous gleam to flash forth from such a rusty scarecrow.

The talking Aaron came along, happy and busy. His head bent over his
shuffled shells; the rise and fall of his cadences grew clearer, the
sounds began to take to themselves syllables; first “hand” and “eye”
came out distinct, then the links between filled in, and the whole
sentence rang perfect through the unstirred air.

“Remember, gentlemen, the hand is quicker than the eye.”

Such rehearsals as this must have helped many a monotonous journey to
pass pleasantly for Aaron--not to speak of placing him in the foremost
ranks of Art.

“Remember, gentlemen, the hand is quicker than the eye.”

“Not this morning.”

The shells smashed in Aaron’s horrified grasp. The little pea rolled to
the ground.

“Going to the mines?” pursued Bellyful. All his words were sweet and

Then Aaron saw behind the pistol who it was.

“That kid a road-agent!” he thought. “Why didn’t I spot him yesterday?”
And he blamed his own blindness, miserably and quite unjustly, because
how could he know that Bellyful had only become a road-agent in the last
ten minutes?

“Strip,” said Bellyful.

Aaron was slow about it.

A flash, a smoke, and a hole through Aaron’s Mexican hat cleared every

“You’re mature, I see,” remarked Aaron, and offered his unbuckled

“The other one now,” commanded Bellyful. This was a guess, but a
correct one. “Leave ’em both drop down.”

Both dropped down.

“Go on strippin’.”

The money followed, a good deal of it, and Aaron made a gesture of

“That all?”

“Yes, indeed, young man.”

“Then I want the rest of it.”

“You’ve got the rest. You’ve got the whole. The game ain’t what it used
to be, and I have partners; they--”

“I’ll partner you. Get down. Get down quick.”

Evidently a compromise was the very most a poor shell-game man in this
hapless crisis could hope for. Aaron got down and addressed the

“See here, beau,” he began, “you and me oughtn’t to be hostile. In our
trade we can’t afford it. You and me’s brothers.”

“Don’t you call me brother. I don’t lie. I say ‘hand it over’ and folks
ain’t deceived. I’m an outlaw and, maybe, my life is forfeit. But you
pretend you’re an honest man and that your dirty game is square. Throw
it all down, or I’ll tear it out of you.”

[Illustration: How could he know that Bellyful had only become a
road-agent in the last ten minutes?]

Aaron threw it all down. Then he was allowed to go his ways, seeking
more fools to cheat.

Up in the air the eagle sailed. He was still looking down upon clots of
cactus, thickets of mesquite, and skeletons of cattle. He also saw a
horseman going slowly one way, and a horseman going slowly the other. In
time many miles lay between them, and the forks of the road were as
silent and empty of motion as the rest of Repose Valley.

       *       *       *       *       *

To me, listening, Scipio Le Moyne narrated the foregoing anecdote while
he lay in hospital, badly crumpled up by a bad horse. Upon the day
following I brought him my written version.

“Yes,” he said musingly, when I had finished reading it to him,
“that--happened--eight--years--ago. You’ve told it about correct--as to

“What’s wrong, then?”

“Oh--I ain’t competent to pass on your language. The facts are correct.
What are you lookin’ at me about?”

“Well--the ending.”


“Well--I don’t like the way Bellyful just went off and prospered and--”

“But he did.”

“And never felt sorry or--”

“But he didn’t.”


“D’you claim he’d oughtn’t? Think of him! Will y’u please to think of
him after that shell game? He begging honest work and denied all over,
everywhere, till his hat and his clothes and his boots were in holes,
and his body was pretty near in holes--think of him, just a kind of
hollo’ vessel of hunger lying in that stable while the shell-game cheat
goes off with his pockets full of gold.” Scipio spoke with heat.

“Yes, I know. But, if Bellyful afterward could only feel sorry and

“Are you figuring to fix that up?”--he was still hotter--“because I
forbid you to monkey with the truth. Because I _never_ was sorry.”


“I was Bellyful,” said Scipio, becoming quiet. “Yes, that was eight
years ago.” He mused still more, his eyes grew wistful. “I was nineteen
then. God, what good times I have had!”



When Scipio had brought to an end the edifying anecdote, he lay in his
hospital bed, silent and a little tired after so sustained a recital.

“Why not write,” I inquired, “a book, and call it Tales From My Past?”

He looked at me suspiciously, but suspicion melted into what immediately
sparkled in the tones of his reply. “In spite of my ancestors, I don’t
know French.”

For an instant I was stupid--I have many such instants.

“You’ve often told me,” he had to explain, “that in France y’u can print

“Oh, well!” I laughed, “quite a number of yours are harmless
enough--even for our magazines. This one for instance.”

But his thoughts had gone on; he was gazing through the open window with
a craving eye. All out-of-doors was his true home, his hearth and bed,
his natural workshop and playground; indoors had been merely his
occasional resort--a place where a man went for a brief visit when he
felt like spending his money. “I’m goin’ to get well,” he said, still
watching the far-off, golden hills. “I _am_ getting well. And wunst I’m
on my legs I’ll start makin’ a lot more Past.”

“Do!” I exclaimed. “Do. It isn’t everybody who can, even when they try.”

He grunted. “Huh! I ain’t never tried much. Didn’t have to. Things just
kind o’ seem to happen when I’m around.”

“Did you lie just now?” I asked.

“Lie? When?”

“Didn’t you fix up the ending?”

“Fix up nothin’! That’s what them two old junipers actually did.”

“You’ll remember,” I persisted, “you forbade me the other day to ‘monkey
with the facts,’ when I told you I didn’t like the ending of Bellyful’s
adventure in Repose Valley.”

“Sure! Us Western men don’t care about fixed-up things when we know how
things are--when we’ve been the things ourselves. And will you tell
me”--Scipio grew earnest--“what’s the point of a book lyin’ about life
the way more’n half of ’em do? The way I wouldn’t let y’u do about

“Oh, our sincere and pious public is determined that virtue shall
triumph in print, anyhow--and that nothing naked is true until draped.”

“Not me. I don’t want any of them bib-and-tucker-and-safety-pin stories
they hand you out. What made y’u think I’d lied?”

“Well, it seemed too good, too virtuous, too right.”

He grinned, and I perceived this to be at my expense--he had caught _me_
taking divergent postures toward life and toward print.

“I surrender!” I laughed. “I’m a liar too!”

His grin now faded. “Now and then, y’u know, people do act decent. I’ve
met several besides them two old men. Even along the Rio Grande. Why,
I’ve acted decent myself at times.” He seemed to review his recent
anecdote. “The point was,” he said next, “_they_ always thought they
were madder than they _were_. Now _I’m_ just the other way. I’m that
good-natured that I’m frequently madder than I feel--and it’s the other
man finds that out!”

“Get out of here!” said the post doctor, entering. “Look at your
victim’s eyes!”

So I went out, ashamed of myself at having led poor Scipio to talk so
much. I needn’t change a syllable of as many as I recollect in his
anecdote. His impression of the Thowmet Valley as it had been in those
earlier days--before apples, before the Great Northern, before
anything--shall not be “fixed up” by me.

       *       *       *       *       *

I’d been seein’ a lot of country, clear up from Mazatlan to the Big
Bend--driftin’ through Old Mexico and California and Awregon, and over
for a little while to Boisé, and up through the Palouse where the dust
puffed up from the ploughs and trailed like a freight-train’s smoke does
on the Southern Pacific for a half-hour after she’s went by; and I’d
crossed the God-awful Big Bend--but I’ll skip that--and I’d crossed the
stinkin’, vicious Columbia on a chain ferry--but I’ll skip that--and I
was kind o’ tired. Didn’t want no mines either. There was mines up there
and folks crowdin’ to ’em, thick from everywheres. But I was tired.
Figured I’d put in the balance of the fall--and the winter, too,
maybe--in some pleasant place, if they could direct me to such a thing.
So they told me there was women--wives, I mean--and children and homes
and neighbors over on the Thowmet. So I headed for there. Went in with
a Siwash over the Chillowisp trail. Him and me couldn’t talk much, but
we could nod and point and grunt when his English and my Chinook gave
out. He carried the mail in wunst a week, except when the snow wouldn’t
let him. That proved to be often. Oh, but I liked the Thowmet Valley’s
looks that first sight! And it stayed pleasant to me. Why did I leave
it? Don’t know. Just got curious to see some more country.

There wasn’t any homes to see as the Injun and me rode down the hill.
But trees that could shade you, and grass a horse could eat, and water
not runnin’ like it wanted to kill you, but friendly water. And the
mountains all around was pleasant too--timber on ’em. Snow not on ’em
yet, except a dozen or so high-up, far-back patches, lyin’ around white
like wash-day. So we rode along up the valley and camped, and next day
struck a cabin, and corral and haystacks. Sure enough! Married man with
wife and kids. Kids had regular Texas-colored hair. But the most homes
was farther up the river, they said, near the Forks and store; and so I
went along with the Siwash, who was bound for the store with his
mail-sack. The store was the post-office, of course--Beekman was its
name. We passed by a tent ‘side of the road, and voices was screechin’
inside the tent, and the Siwash he started to laugh. So I asked him what
he knowed about it. Let me see. What did he say? I don’t have use any
more for the Chinook I learned up there. Oh, yes! He said:--

“_Klaska tenas man, klaska hyas pilton._”

So I didn’t know what that meant, and there wasn’t much good mentioning
this to him; but I didn’t have to, for they came a-rushin’ out of the
tent, no hats on.

“How does a coyote walk?” screeched out the littlest one, aimin’ his
finger at me.

Well, I felt huffy--never’d saw him before or his partner
neither--didn’t catch the joke--but he wasn’t jokin’. The big one
arrives and he yells:--

“Don’t he walk separate?”

“He walks together, don’t he?” yells the little one.

Little one had scrambled hair, white, and it hadn’t been cut lately. Big
partner had left his hair behind him somewheres along life’s journey.
They was glarin’ up at me for an answer.

So I said: “Tell me what you mean.”

So they did. They was trappers. One claimed you could always tell a
coyote’s tracks by the way he put his right foot and his left foot down
in different places, so you could tell he was a four-footed animal; and
the other he said that was the way the bobcat and the link and the
mountain-lion walked. And then the first one he yelled out that they
struck one foot right in the other foot’s track, so it looked like a
two-footed animal had been walkin’ there.

“That’s all easy,” I said; for I’ve trapped some myself.

So I set ’em straight as to the facts. Thing was, they quieted down
right off and took my say-so. But that was their way, I found--get up a
regular state-of-things that would mean trouble, you’d suppose, and drop
it as if nobody’d said a word.

“Come and finish dinner,” says the little one to the big one.

“Dinner!” says the big one. “Quit your dining. You’ve eet enough to wake
the dead.”

So they starts back to their tent like twins. I expect they were sixty,
or seventy, or eighty--I don’t know how long they’d lasted in this
world--and one had boots, and the other had his feet tied in gunnysack,
and both looked like two-bits’ worth of God-help-us.

But they didn’t get to their tent that time. Down the road comes a
nice-lookin’ girl on a calico horse with one blue eye--the horse
had--and the little one he sees her and he whirls around and aims his
finger at her, same as he done to me.

“No, you don’t!” says he, loud up in the air. “I’ve told you I won’t.”

“I had no intention of speaking about it again,” says she, rather quiet,
but smilin’. “But when you find that there’s no coal really there--”

Well, what d’y’u think? It set ’em wild. Both of ’em went plumb wild. I
couldn’t hear for a while what the trouble was, because they scrambled
their words just like the little one’s hair, talkin’ to the girl and me
and the Siwash and each other. But the Siwash he gave another laugh and
rode away--he had his mail. I stayed. I hadn’t got used to ’em yet.
Thought maybe she’d better have a man around. But they was absolutely
harmless. And then I began to understand.

The girl she sat there indulgin’ ’em. Told ’em she wasn’t goin’ to
worry ’em about it any more. They told her there was coal there and they
was goin’ to supply the whole valley, and it was better than a
gold-mine. She might just as well have worried ’em instead of sittin’ so
peaceful on the calico horse, because they would never have noticed any
worryin’ she could do--they was that busy with the worry they were
keepin’ up all by themselves. She was a school-teacher and up to now
she’d kept school in a tent. But the valley was going to build a
school-house and the best location for it happened to be on some land
they’d filed on. Any other place would be too far for somebody’s kids,
or for everybody’s, or else hadn’t water convenient. But it seemed they
wouldn’t hear of it. I suppose whoever put it to ’em first had put it
wrong, and now all y’u had to do was say “school-house” in their
hearing, and have a circus prompt.

“Mr. Edmund,” says she to me, “says that if their idea of other minerals
is like their idea of coal, it’s no wonder they have found trapping more
profitable. But no one can persuade them, and it’s truly a pity about
the school-house.” Mr. Edmund kept the store at Beekman.

“If it’s not coal,” says I, “what is it?”

“Oh, slate, or graphite, or something--and just a tiny ledge, and too
far from transportation.”

“Well, then, it don’t burn.”

“You can’t reason with them,” says she. And she smiles down at them two
quarrelin’, fussin’ old men. It would have brought me to reason, her
smile would, but she never gave it to me.

Yes, she indulged ’em. The valley indulged ’em right along. They was so
old and so harmless. Kultus Jake and Frisco Baldy was their names--all
the names I ever heard for ’em--and they’d been most everywheres before
other people had. Been acrost the Isthmus and round the Horn, they
claimed--not together, y’u know, but they had met when they was young.
Their trails had crossed somewheres in Sonora. Then they’d met again on
the Santa Fé trail, when they was still young. And so now and then
they’d kep’ a-meetin’ and a-growin’ less young. Been through the gold
excitement of ’49. Drifted up to Portland. Got separated at Klamath
about the time of the Modoc War. Didn’t see each other again till both
come face to face over in the Okanogan country--and then they was old.
They remembered former days, and it tied ’em together. They was goin’ to
Africa next time they felt like they needed a change of air. Kultus
Jake’s hair was all the moss he’d ever gathered, and Frisco Baldy he
seemed to have gathered nothin’ whatever. But they packed around a big
harvest of years--no one ever knowed the sum of it. Wunst in a while
they would speak of something they had done together long ago. Then y’u
knew the silent tie between ’em. I don’t wish to live that long and have
to look backward when I want to see anything of promise. It’s awful when
everybody has to indulge y’u--time to quit then. But y’u needn’t to pity
Kultus Jake and Frisco Baldy, for they was just as set and cheerful
about goin’ to Africa as young rich folks talkin’ over what waterin’
place they’ll visit next summer. Liveliest old junipers that ever I see!

_Kultus_, y’u know, is Chinook, and it’s used for most anything that
don’t amount to nothin’. And while we’re on Chinook, here’s something
funny. _Potlatch_ means a gift. Now you’d suppose _kultus potlatch_
would be a poor gift--counterfeit dollar or a dozen rotten eggs, for
instance. Well, you’re wrong. You give a man a bridle, or a hindquarter
of venison, or anything y’u choose, and say nothin’ when y’u give
it--that’s just a plain common _potlatch_, and it means he’s expected
by all the rules to give you something pretty soon, something as good as
your bridle or your deer. But you say “_Kultus potlatch_” to him, and
then he’ll be genuinely grateful, for that means you’re just makin’ him
a real present out of the warmness of your heart, and don’t expect him
to come back at y’u with a huckleberry for your persimmon. Why, when a
Siwash--the custom came from them--gave me somethin’ in silence, it used
to worry me ’most to death.

What the mail-carrier said to me the first day, when the two old men was
screechin’ inside their tent, was that they were children and fools. But
he was an Injun and did not have indulgent feelings. I saw more of ’em
and didn’t mind ’em. I fell into a job at the Forks. Mr. Edmund wanted
somebody else in the store, and I could write a plain hand and add
figures fairly correct. He was kind of mad about the school-house,
havin’ the interests of the valley at heart, and he used to watch the
days gettin’ shorter. Mr. Edmund had everything at heart--too much at
heart--other folks’ troubles as well as his own. He would lecture me
about them in his deep-down voice. School wouldn’t do in a tent after
snow came, and he saw that this would come down to havin’ school in his
own cabin if the children was to get any teachin’ at all. He was the
only one that didn’t leave ’em alone about their coal-mine. Offered to
buy it off ’em wunst, and they screeched for ten minutes. Threatened to
write to Washington and have him removed for takin’ advantage of his

“Why, you don’t know where Washington is,” says he, with his voice down
in the cellar.

“Washington, D.C.?” screeches Kultus Jake. “I don’t know? I been there!”

“Washington, D.C.,” repeats Edmund slow, like Fate a-comin’. “You don’t
know where it is.” That was Edmund all over. His way o’ jokin’.

“It’s in Maryland,” says Frisco Baldy.

“Virginia, y’u singed porcupine!” yells Kultus Jake. “Don’t I tell y’u I
been there?”

And I seen they both meant it. And I seen this really grieved Edmund
instead of pleasin’ him. He took it to heart. Well, sir, I just went
acrost the store and lay down on the flour-sacks. Kicked up my heels.
Guess I made more noise than the old men did. After a minute I lifted up
to see what Edmund was doin’, and he’d pushed his spectacles up high on
his forehead and was lookin’ at the two scrappin’ about Washington,
D.C., out of his awful solemn eyes; so I laid down again flat. If Edmund
had talked I couldn’t have heard him, but as a matter of fact he just
let ’em go it alone; and they, like they pretty much always done, got
switched off on to somethin’ else--this time it was the traps. There was
some number fours hanging there, and they both happened to agree it was
number fours they would take when they started into the mountains to
trap for the winter. So traps made ’em forget about Washington, D.C.,
and _it_ had made ’em forget about exposin’ Edmund, which had made ’em
forget the coal-mine and the school-house, and so they departed entirely
peaceful out of the store and over the Thowmet to their tent, which they
had moved up to the Forks. Then I looks up from the sacks again. There
stands Edmund behind his desk, same as ever, spectacles away up on his
forehead, only now his solemn eyes was fixed on me. And I looks at him,
not knowin’ what on earth he’s goin’ to say or whether he’s mad or ain’t
mad--for y’u couldn’t often tell from his face. For a young man--and he
was young--he was a lot growed up. I expect he knew sorrow early. Both
of us was quite silent.

“I didn’t know they didn’t know,” says Edmund, like he was breaking the
news of a death to y’u.

And I lays right down again on the sacks.

“Good Lord!” says Edmund, “what ignorance. The capital of their

But I could only fight for my breath, and cry and cry.

Next time I could see anything, there was Edmund sittin’ on the counter
clost alongside of me, legs danglin’ against the sacks. But that time
when I looked at him he laughed--laughed all through fit to kill
himself, same as I’d been doin’. And it was at himself, y’u know, as
well as at the whole thing; he included himself in the show.

“You’re quite right,” says he.

That was what made y’u love Edmund. When a thing like Washington, D.C.,
came up, he’d most always get it wrong first--see the bad side of it too
big and the good side too small--he had a heap of misplaced seriousness
in his system to conquer. But he’d sure conquer it every time if y’u
gave him time. It took me the whole first week I worked for him in the
store to find this out. Edmund was the squarest man I have ever known.
Too square. And about the finest. He was from an Eastern college and
entirely wasted on the Thowmet Valley, where nobody but him had any
education or understood honesty as he understood it.

“But they’re obstacles to the public good here, all the same,” said he
next; and I had to think back before I saw he meant the old men was
obstructin’ the school-house and thereby withholdin’ light from the
young hope of the great empire of the Northwest.

He came back to it too, several days after that, while the
school-teacher was orderin’ slate-pencils.

“Oh, leave them alone,” says she. “Mr. Edmund, you’ll just make ’em

But he was in for an argument. He settled those eyes of his on her with
his regular May-God-have-mercy-on-your-soul expression, and he told her
she’d ought to know better. But she didn’t mind him any more’n I did.
She liked him.

“You know as well as I do,” says he, “that children should be an
improvement on their parents, especially when those parents come from
Texas. Texas is a large place,” he goes on, “and I am willin’ to believe
that it contains thousands of enlightened and refined persons--but they
don’t come here. If your scholars don’t learn to read and write, where’s
any progress to come from?”

“Well, Mr. Edmund,” says she, “all I know is that you will never help
me, or the school-house, or progress, by calling Kultus Jake and Frisco
Baldy a pair of inspected and condemned mules to their faces.”

I didn’t know he’d called ’em that. Must have been outside the store
somewheres. Edmund could turn his tongue wrong-side-out when he felt
like it. “That’s what they are,” says he, laughin’ at his own words,
which he had forgotten. “But as for this valley, it was inhabited by
better citizens when the wild animals lived here. I prefer a
black-tailed deer to a Texan. Don’t waste your money on those
chocolates, Miss Carey.”

“Why, what’s wrong with them?” says she, with the box in her hand.

“There’s no chocolate in ’em,” says Edmund. “The wholesale house cheated
me. I’d send ’em back, but I’d sold too much before I found out. This
candy here,” says he, showin’ her some more, “seems to be what it claims
to be.”

And then, while she seemed to hesitate over the chocolates, what do y’u
suppose he does? Takes the box sudden out of her hand, walks out to the
river bank and throws the whole outfit plop into the water!

“Isn’t that just like him!” says she to me, very quiet, while he was out
on the bank. And it was. Yes, Edmund is the only fool I ever loved.

She kept starin’ out at him, and in a minute we heard the noise of a
boat bein’ rowed acrost the Thowmet. Edmund he stands watchin’ whoever
it was below. Next minute up the bank comes Kultus Jake.

“No use your divin’ for that candy,” says Edmund; “it’s all melted by

But Jake didn’t know about the candy and he had somethin’ on his mind.
His old innocent blue eyes was troubled.

“Decided where Washington, D.C., is?” says Edmund, walkin’ ahead of him
into the store.

But that didn’t faze Jake; he’d come to say somethin’. I thought
Washington, D.C., was a thing of the past. As a matter of fact it
hadn’t scarcely begun; it was bidin’ its time for all of us, though none
of us could ever suspect that.

“Well, where’s your partner this afternoon?” says Edmund.

Kultus Jake he walks around the store blinkin’ at the various goods, and
he touches a trap here and a blanket there and after a while he

“Oh, he’s over to Pipestone Cañon.” And he walks around and touches some
more goods.

“Figure you’ll get into the mountains this season?” says Edmund.

“Yes,” says Jake. “Next week.” Then he walks up close to Edmund.
“Baldy’s over to Pipestone Cañon,” says he. “We’re goin’ to start next
week. Don’t want the snow to get ahead of us. Mink and marten reported
plentiful up Robinson Creek. One man seen a silver-gray fox. Guess we’ll
do pretty well this winter. Live in Robinson Cabin--it ain’t fallen down
like they claimed.” And he took another turn around by the door. Well,
all this wasn’t much to tell people. We knowed all that ourselves--but
Jake just then made up his mind quick to say what he’d come to say.

“Don’t you josh Baldy,” says he, comin’ back close up to Edmund. “Don’t
you do it any more. I don’t mind joshin’, but Baldy--he’s old.”

And out he goes. He went down the bank, and next y’u could hear the
knockin’ of his oars, as he rowed himself back over the Thowmet to their
tent. Miss Carey she looked at the door where he’d gone out, smilin’
very pretty. It takes a woman to understand them feelin’s men has, but

“Well, I must be getting home for supper,” says she. She boarded a
little ways up the North Fork with some folks that had quite a family.
But when she’s outside, just startin’ to untie her horse, “Why, here
comes Frisco Baldy!” says she, and waits for him.

Frisco Baldy was comin’, sure enough, ridin’ up the river quite slow,
and lookin’ acrost at where their tent was in the flat land this side o’
the blacksmith’s cabin. Then we knowed Jake had spied him and that was
what made him speak out so quick.

Baldy he arrives and gets down. “Been over to Pipestone Cañon,” says he.
“We’ll be startin’ for the Robinson Cabin next week, I guess. Snow’s not
meltin’ on the mountain tops any more. She’s liable to come down here
for keeps any day. Well--we’ll be needin’ a lot o’ truck off you. Beans
and pork and coffee, and stuff in general--me and Jake’ll be over to see
you about it. Guess you’ll have to let us pay you in furs when we come
out in the spring. Old man Parrigin seen a silver-gray fox. Say!” And
Baldy walks clost up to Edmund. “Don’t you josh Jake. He’s old.”

And out he goes!

I looks at Miss Carey--just in time to catch her whippin’ her
handkerchief away from her eye.

“Well,” begins Edmund--but she bursts right out on him.

“Don’t you say anything! Don’t say a thing!” she cries. “They’re just
two poor, quaint, dear, helpless old waifs.” Oh, she looked at Edmund
perfectly ragin’.

I didn’t know what Edmund would do about that. He had an awful quick
temper. But he gives a smile pretty near as lovely as hern had been, and
his solemn brown eyes merely looked kind o’ surprised.

“Why,” says he, “I was goin’ to say I would grubstake ’em for nothin’.
They needn’t give me any furs.”

It pulled her right up short and I don’t know what she would have said,
for there was Frisco Baldy on the bank, hollerin’ and throwin’ his arms
up and down. I run out. I thought somebody was in trouble. Just in the
bend there below where the North Fork comes in, there’s a big deep hole.
Well, nobody was in no trouble. Jake was rowin’ himself over to our side
again, and Baldy appeared not to want him over on our side. So he kept
a-bellerin’ and throwin’ his arms, and Jake he came along over, not
mindin’ about Baldy on the bank. He landed and clumb up the bank right
past Baldy, and Baldy he yells out:--

“Didn’t y’u see me tellin’ y’u to stay over there?”

“Yes, I seen y’u and I come,” says Jake, not yellin’, but in his nat’ral
voice. And he starts past him.

“Didn’t y’u see I’ve got the horse and can cross at the ford without

That starts Jake and he yells back: “I didn’t come for you; I came for a
box of matches, y’u bawlin’ bobcat.”

So there they was at it again, scrappin’ about nothin’ at all. And Jake
he bought his matches, mad, and cleared out to his boat; and old Baldy
he got on his horse, mad, and cleared out to the ford; and I don’t
know, when they got to their tent, whether they went on with that
partic’lar dissension or whether they’d forgot all about it and had to
start up a new one to keep ’em from feelin’ lost. Oh, they’d contracted
the habit o’ disagreement, I suppose, same as a man gets to depend on
havin’ a quid of tobacco in his cheek. But while speakin’ to Edmund
about his joshin’, the eyes of both of ’em had given away the store they
set by each other.

Miss Carey she went home with her slate-pencils ordered and some candy
Edmund’s conscience was willin’ for him to recommend, and me and Edmund
was left alone in the store. I wanted to say somethin’ about Kultus Jake
and Frisco Baldy’s latest unpleasantness, and somethin’ about the way
each one had sneaked in to ask Edmund not to josh the other one any
more; and I had things to say about the bad chocolates, and about
Edmund’s plan of grubstakin’ the old junipers when they should start
into the mountains for a winter’s trappin’--I was full of conversation,
but Edmund wasn’t. He was loaded plumb to the gills with silence. I
could tell that from his looks. I had come to know by hard experience
that there was spells when Edmund not only didn’t want to say a word
himself, but didn’t want you to, either. And if y’u happened to say
anythin’--don’t care what--he’d fly at y’u. I said wunst it was goin’ to
rain, and just merely this started Edmund roundin’ me up for the
inattentive way I had of lettin’ my mind wander from my business. It did
rain, too. So now I wondered for a while what he’d say when he felt like
speakin’ once more. It was generally some very peculiar remark y’u
couldn’t foresee. Of course Edmund was college-raised, but it wasn’t no
college-raisin’ made him Edmund. I’ve saw heaps of graduates and
undergraduates and they’re just like other people when y’u come to know
’em. But I’d forgot wonderin’ by the time Edmund did speak. He made me

“I am the oldest man in this valley.”

That is what he said in the store long after dark with two lamps. He was
makin’ out an order to send to Seattle by the mail next day--a big
order, because it was likely to be the last lot of goods we could send
for that year. Freight teams couldn’t get into the valley after the
heavy snow came.

Well, I didn’t say anythin’, for I wasn’t full of conversation any more.
Edmund he stands back of his desk and shoves his spectacles up on his
forehead, and his eyes was lookin’ at me so y’u’d have thought I’d
committed--well, most anythin’.

“Very much the oldest man in this valley,” says Edmund, lookin’ more
serious--if possible.

“All right,” says I.

“I will be twenty-five,” says Edmund, “next fourteenth of July. I’m
going to bed.”

So he marched out with his lamp and left me in the store with all the
shadows and things, and the sound of the North Fork rapids under the
bridge. One lamp made awful little light in that store. D’y’u think I
laughed at Edmund then, like I so often did? Not a bit. I sat down on
the counter and thought him over. And for the first time I expect I saw
him clear. Saw him alone in that valley, unlike anybody or anythin’ that
was there, or likely to come there. And him with his college mates and
all men and women who set store by him miles and miles and miles away in
the East. It made me feel old and lonesome myself! And then--throwin’
those chocolates into the river! Maybe he was the oldest man in the
valley, for Jake and Baldy had crossed the line into childhood.

But I laughed at him next mornin’. The Siwash had started down the
valley with the mail and no one had come to the store yet that early--it
was dark. So Edmund had nothin’ to do, and he was weighin’ himself on
the scales.

“I don’t gain,” says he, disgusted. “Not a pound in a year.”

“Y’u don’t think the thoughts that make a man fat,” says I.

“A hundred and forty,” says he, and jumps down.

Well, I did weigh a hundred and sixty, stripped, right along--and we was
pretty near of a height. Maybe I had half an inch the better of him.
“But,” I tells him for consolation, “it’s your great age. You’ll be
twenty-five next July and I was only twenty-four last June.” It was
November we was in, y’u know. So I laughs.

“Yes!” he says. “You twenty-four! You stopped maturing at six.” And he
laughs, too.

The Siwash was late comin’ back with the mail over the Chillowisp. Snow
must have been three foot deep in the mountains, and it lay for quite a
while in the valley, so we thought Kultus Jake and Frisco Baldy had
waited too late and would lose their chance to get to their trappin’.
They did lose it, too, but not exactly that way--but I’ll come to that
point when I get there. Snow druv school indoors. Miss Carey she had to
quit the tent--and sure enough it turned out like I told y’u. Edmund’s
sittin’-room was filled up with Texan kids--Edmund’s private room, which
he had so nicely fixed up with all his college things: mugs, flags, an
oar, pictures of his friends, a whole heap of stuff. It had to be used
for the school, bein’ the only possible place, or school had to stop
till spring come round and the tent could serve again. Well, Edmund
wasn’t willin’ to cut off the hope of the empire of the Northwest for
five whole months. Of course they wasn’t there Saturdays and Sundays, or
at night, or at hours when he really needed his room--he was in the
store durin’ school-time--but every day, after the kids had gone home,
poor Edmund he had to open all the windows of his pet room. He caught
Miss Carey sweepin’ it of their leavin’s and scolded her savage for
that. Insisted on sweepin’ it himself. Would have his way. My sakes, but
he was a cross man every day while he was sweepin’! Then the kids they
bruck one or two of his souvenirs, touchin’ and meddlin’ with them, and
Miss Carey was wild. Edmund didn’t mind half as much. She spoke to me
as we was takin’ a ride together one Sunday, when the snow had melted
most off again. Guess it was early in December. She wanted her folks
back in Orange, New Jersey, to buy new things and send ’em out. She was
earnest about it. She was a nice-lookin’ girl. I remember that ride.
Tamaracks was all yello’ and sheddin’, makin’ yello’ patches on the snow
with their needles, but the pines was that green they was black a little
ways off, and the wind smelt of ’em strong.

“I wanted particularly to replace the glass decanter,” she says, “but it
only made him rude to me. I had to tell him it was a very strange thing
that the only gentleman in the valley should be the one person who had
been rude.”

“Goodness to gracious!” I shouts out, “what did he say?”

“That I was the only lady in the valley, and that explained it.”

“Well,” I says, “he’s never apologized as handsome as that to me.” So we
both laughs.

“But,” she says just before we got home, “he ought not to tease those
poor old men.”

“Well, he’s not done it lately--not in my hearin’,” I says.

It happened Edmund had done it. Couldn’t keep his mouth shut about the
school-house question. It was the old men’s duty, he claimed, to give
their land for the school-house. Edmund was awful about people’s duty.
He brung it up, though, in a new way. He thought he was makin’ a joke.
Hands out the pieces of the decanter to Jake and Baldy, and tells ’em
they done that damage and it was their business to make it good; so when
they, who had never seen the decanter before, didn’t make out what he
was drivin’ at, Edmund tells ’em they’re the final cause. He explains
how if they’d given their land, the school-house would have been built
and no accidents would have occurred. Edmund meant that to be funny, but
Jake and Baldy went off cursin’ him and the school and the whole valley,
and wasn’t a bit grateful for learnin’ what a final cause is.

But back they comes in a day or two as usual, as if no words had passed,
and they buy their truck to go trappin’. Takes ’em all day, but Edmund
is wonderful patient. So they can’t start that day. So they comes back
next day to pack up and start. And it was then that Washington, D.C.,
comes up again. The Siwash was a day overdue with the mail, and some of
the Texans was assembled at the store to see the mail arrive. They
expected no letters, but it was somethin’ to do and they always done
it--assembled and stood around inside the store and out. Then to-day
they had more to do, for there was Kultus Jake and Frisco Baldy and
their horses, packin’ up their stuff. That gave everybody a chance to
make remarks and be wise. They hardly noticed the mail when it did come
about ten o’clock, they was so busy tellin’ the old men the best way to
do everythin’--best trap, best bait, best way to make a set--when Edmund
he begins to lecture. He comes out with a letter in his hand and holds
it up. That’s the subject of the lecture. Letter has come to the wrong
Beekman. It was mailed at Portland, Awregon, and addressed to “Beekman,
Massachusetts,” and it has come out of its way to “Beekman, Washington,”
thereby losin’ a lot of time, of course. For it had went over the
Northern Pacific on its right way as far as Spokane, and then had come
back through Coulee City away up here, and it would get to Beekman,
Massachusetts, about two weeks late.

“It all comes,” says Edmund, “of havin’ places of the same name. That
ought to be against the law.” He told us there was nine Beekmans. He
took it to heart heavy, as usual. “As the country grows and settles up,”
he says, “they’ll keep on namin’ places Beekman. There’ll be a hundred
Beekmans before we’re through. It ought to be a state’s prison offence.”

“In that case,” says a Texas parent, “you couldn’t call this territory

“I guess this is a free country,” says another.

“I guess,” says another, “the folks that live in a place has the right
to call that place what they see fit.”

Poor Edmund! It wasn’t no use him explainin’ the confusion it made.

“There’s forty-eight places named Washington now,” says he. “I’ve looked
it up. There ought to be just one. The capital of the United States. And
the map is pitted with ’em like smallpox.”

“Washington, D.C., Maryland,” says Frisco Baldy, haulin’ in slack on the
diamond hitch.

“Virginia,” says Kultus Jake, on the other side of the pack.

Edmund he just give ’em both a witherin’ look, and he whirls back into
the store and gets to work at his desk. Wouldn’t come out to tell the
old men good-by when they started off up the river, although he was
grubstakin’ ’em for nothin’. They didn’t know that, of course. Expected
to pay him in furs when they come back in the spring.

“You’ll not get very far to-day,” says an onlooker to the departin’
junipers. “You’re makin’ a late start.”

“Camp at Early Winter,” one of ’em says. Early Winter was a creek that
come into the main stream about halfway to the Robinson Cabin.

“_Wake la-le hyas cole snass_,” says the Siwash mail-carrier.

“Oh, no, it ain’t,” says a Texan, lookin’ the weather up and down.

“Well, I think maybe it will,” says another, sweepin’ his eyes around
the sky. “And maybe it won’t.”

So that sets ’em discussin’ the probabilities of a big snow and if
Siwashes knowed about such things more’n white men did. They concluded
Siwashes was inferior to white men in every respect, and it wasn’t goin’
to snow.

“Good luck!” one of ’em calls out. But Kultus Jake and Frisco Baldy was
by that time on the bridge over the North Fork, and couldn’t hear him.

No more events took place that day. The kids finished their school and
went home. Miss Carey she went home. Edmund opened the windows and swept
the floor. A few folks bought things durin’ the day, or came to buy and
didn’t, and some had letters to go out next day. There was always a
little more hustle round mailtimes. But a lonesome winter softness
filled the valley and seemed to make y’u hear the stove plainer. The
trunks of the trees kind of appeared more silent. Everythin’ was
quieter. I remember Edmund looked out of the door about sundown and said
the Siwash had been right, there was goin’ to be a big snow. Even his
voice sounded quieter in the clouded-over light, and Edmund’s voice was
always deep--the voice of a man who was all man. Lyin’ in bed that night
I never knowed the dark could be so still. Funny thing was, I heard the
rapids under the bridge all of a sudden. Of course they’d been goin’
right on all the time. What makes y’u notice things and not notice ’em?
It got very solemn, that room did, in the dark. Those old men was too
old to go off into the mountains. Then I heard the little sound of the
snowflakes around on the cabin. They must have started fallin’ pretty
late, for next mornin’ it wasn’t deep, not four inches yet, but it was
keepin’ on. Old man Parrigin come in about nine, and he says he had told
everybody yesterday a storm was comin’. As a matter of fact, he’d been
one of the surest no storm was comin’. It makes Edmund look sour at him.
And bye and bye another prophet drops in, and he says he had offered to
bet it would snow. And by eleven o’clock the fifth Texan had come along
to sit around the stove; and he says--like every one of ’em had done
before him--that anybody could have told it was goin’ to snow. Oh, not
one of ’em had ever doubted it for a minute! It gets too much for Edmund
to bear, and he pushes up his spectacles high on his forehead and looks
at me, mournful as anythin’.

“Last Fourth of July,” says he to me, “I said it was going to snow

Old man Parrigin he starts laughin’ at that. He come from New York state
and he could see a joke, even when Edmund made it. But when y’u make
that kind of a joke to a Texan--the kind of Texan that moves away from
Texas--he says you’re insultin’ him. Around the stove they all looks
dignified and spits without words. We could hear the rapids, and indoors
the kids was singin’ some kind of Christmas chorus Miss Carey was
teachin’ to ’em. Their voices come to us through a couple of shut doors.
One of the Texans as had been insulted by Edmund’s joke now asserts his
self-respect by changin’ the subject.

“Washington, D.C.,” says he, “is in Pennsylvania.”

Edmund he sighs heavy and goes on postin’ up his ledger.

Old man Parrigin gives me a nudge. “I wonder if Miss Carey would hold a
night-school?” says he, and winks.

The fellars around the stove they spits some more. They was afraid.
That’s what was the matter. Plain it was there had been talk among ’em,
ridin’ away yesterday after Edmund’s remarks. Maybe some of ’em knowed
their geography correct on that point, but they didn’t feel they knowed
it correct enough to insist upon it in the presence of witnesses. Anyway
they drops it now, and after some further spittin’ they changes the
subject again.

“There’ll be plenty snow at the Robinson Cabin,” says one.

“Plenty at Early Winter by now,” another says.

“Oh, they’ll get through,” says a third.

“I wonder if they’ll get my silver-gray fox,” says old man Parrigin. So
the talk turns for a while on trappin’, and dies down till the rapids
was the only noise; and then a Texan got up and stretched himself, and
said he’d be late for dinner, he guessed, if he didn’t begin to think
some about startin’ home. So he began to think, I suppose, though it
didn’t show none on his face. Edmund kep’ a-writin’ up his ledger. Y’u
could hear the rapids just as if they had come clost up outside. And the
snow was fallin’ and fallin’.

Old man Parrigin holds up his hand. “What’s that?” he says. So we all
pricks up our ears.

The snow had the valley pretty well muffled, but there did seem to be
somethin’. So a fellar looks out and he says it’s somebody comin’ acrost
the bridge. Hard to tell who it was for the snow. But next minute he got
nearer, and it was Frisco Baldy, walkin’ his horse turrable slow.

“My God!” says somebody, “somethin’s happened.” And we all crowds out.

“More horses on the bridge,” says Parrigin.

We could all see ’em. It was packhorses creepin’ along. Behind ’em
trailed a man ridin’, and that was Kultus Jake.

“Then what has happened?” somebody says.

Baldy he arrives first, snow on his hat two inches deep. He gets down
and jumps some to shake off the snow, and then walks in through us and
goes to the stove and takes a chair. Not a word said. Packhorses they
arrives and stands around all over snow--stand sad and hangdog, like
they was guilty and had gave up denyin’ it. Jake comes along a mile an
hour, same as Baldy; and he gets down and jumps the snow off, and same
as Baldy, he passes through us and goes to the stove. But he puts it
between him and Baldy. Sits down and don’t look at Baldy. So we all
comes back in and sits down, too--except Edmund. He goes behind his desk
and stands up there with his spectacles pushed high.

“Well?” he says.

Baldy’s lips move, but nothin’ sounds.

“Well?” Edmund repeats. “Was the trail snowed up? Anybody dead?”

Jake clears his throat, but that’s all.

Then Baldy manages to talk. “No,” he says kind of croakin’; “trail
wasn’t snowed up.”

“Not then, it wasn’t,” says Jake. “Nobody’s dead.”

Up flares Edmund’s temper. He swings a big hammer down on the counter
with a bang, and he lets out one swear as thorough and bad as any
Western man. Y’u’d been scared yourself if he’d aimed it at you. After
all, Edmund had grubstaked ’em, though they didn’t know it.

The hammer and the oath dislodges Jake’s voice. “That man,” says he,
noddin’ contemptuous acrost the stove at Baldy--“that man claims it’s in

I have explained to y’u that Edmund was an unexpected person in his
ways. I looked for more hammer and more blasphemy. They had let
Washington, D.C., break up their winter’s trappin’. But Edmund he slowly
relaxes on the hammer, and he just stands and stands and keeps a-lookin’
at ’em, merely inter-ested--more and more inter-ested. And they sits
blinkin’ at him. Won’t look at each other.

Then a Texan speaks. “I have said right along that it was in

There’s times when things get altogether beyond any daily feelin’s a man
commonly has. I didn’t want to lay down on the flour sacks this time.
Didn’t want to laugh at all. And Edmund wasn’t a bit mad. Even old man
Parrigin makes no symptoms except of further inquiry. And the Texans, of
course, was merely anxious to have a point settled that some of ’em had
been disputin’ over.

“I wish you would tell me all about it,” says Edmund. Violets ain’t
milder than he was.

Well, that was exactly what they couldn’t do, y’u see. When they first
come in and saw how we was all anxious over watchin’ ’em arrive I expect
it came home to ’em, I expect it shamed ’em. They took in then the way
they and their actions would look to the valley, and talkin’ came hard
to ’em. But once they got started, they was soon screechin’ at each
other as usual, and forgot appearances. They had got to Early Winter,
they had camped at Early Winter, but on the way there the argument had
come up. Must have growed pretty warm by bedtime, for it had lasted
through their sleep so they wasn’t speakin’ to each other at breakfast.
Y’u see, alone up there with the snow there wasn’t nothin’ new to change
the subject for ’em. It stayed right with ’em, and after breakfast it
bruck out worse than ever, Jake for Virginia and Baldy for Maryland,
and they had it all the time they was packin’, givin’ each other proofs
where it was; and when they was ready to go they wouldn’t live with each
other any more, wouldn’t camp, wouldn’t trap, wouldn’t speak--and so
they had come home!

So there they was, and there we was, and there it was. They’d simmered
down again now, after tearin’ loose and tellin’ all about it. They was
quiet. They sat with the stove between ’em and just blinked on and on.
Snow fallin’; rapids soundin’; nothin’ else durin’ it must have been all
of a minute--and it felt like ten.

The strain got too severe for that Texan, and he spoke with the
gentlest, anxiousest voice, like a child pleadin’ for somethin’:--

“Say, ain’t it in Pennsylvania?”

And outside in the snow one o’ them horses gives a long, weary, hungry

That horse breakin’ in bust somethin’ inside of me and Parrigin and
Edmund. Edmund he gives a kind of youp! Parrigin curls over on the
counter, and I’d have laid right down on the sacks, only I wasn’t near
’em, and so I leaned up against the shelves. Nobody else did nothin’
because Jake and Baldy hadn’t any heart left after seem’ themselves in
their true light, and the other Texans they was bein’ very careful now
about their geography--they were savin’ it up, they wasn’t givin’ any of
it away, not even to charity.

But after his youp Edmund pulls himself up and he takes charge of the
meetin’, and when me and Parrigin hears him beginnin’ a speech we comes
to and listens.

“This is a great valley,” says Edmund, behind his desk. “It has song and
story whipped to a finish.” Then he fixes his big glum eyes on Kultus
Jake and Frisco Baldy. “Don’t think,” says he, “you’ll draw me into your
argument. But you hold the record. Wherever Washington is, it would have
stayed there till spring. Your words haven’t moved it anywhere else. But
you have lost your winter over this. Couldn’t you have waited and come
home with your load of furs, and been a success instead of a failure?
For you can’t turn around and go back into the mountains now; you’d
never get halfway, and unless unusual weather follows this soon, the
passes will be choked for the next three months.”

Edmund stops with that. It was fairly hard on the poor old blinkin’
junipers--but y’u’ll notice Edmund hadn’t told ’em a word about the
grubstakin’. “If everybody will come in here,” he says, “perhaps we can
find some child to settle the question.”

He opens the door and we all shambles in through after him to the
school-room. Miss Carey she rises from her chair, and of course she
don’t know what to make of it.

“Miss Carey,” says Edmund, “will some of your scholars kindly tell us
what the capital of the United States is, and where it is?”

Miss Carey she looks at the kids sittin’ around the table fixed for ’em.
Gosh, y’u’d ought to have seen the hands fly up all over the room!

“Everybody may answer,” says Miss Carey.

And out they yells it. It was like the chorus they was practisin’ for
Christmas. Oh, she had ’em trained!

There was long breaths of relief drawn among the men standin’ sheepish
by the door--two or three regular sighs come out from that crowd.

“Thank you, Miss Carey,” says Edmund, “and please excuse us for
troubling you.” So he leads the way back into the store and goes behind
his desk. If anybody expected him to make another speech they was
disappointed. Edmund looked cold and ca’m, and just as unconcerned as
though he’d been addin’ sums or readin’ a two-weeks-old newspaper. He
starts writin’ at his ledger.

“Well, I’ll be late for dinner,” says the Texan.

“I told y’u where it was,” says another.

One by one they shuffles out, Jake and Baldy mixed in with them, and
they swings up on to their horses and slowly goes away--up the river and
down the river and acrost the bridge--till y’u could see none of em no
more through the fallin’ snow; and in the store was just Edmund writin’,
and me lookin’ at him, and the sound of the rapids.

Did Edmund talk then? That wouldn’t have been Edmund. Nothin’ was said
in that store by him or me for--well, it must have been quite a while
before the door opened and Miss Carey she pokes her head in and wants to
know if she may be so bold as to inquire what all that meant in the
school-room. The kids had gone home early for fear of the snow. So
Edmund he smiles perfectly peaceful and tells her about it. So, of
course, she thinks it very comic and she laughs hearty--but all of a
sudden she remembers and expresses sympathy for Edmund’s misplaced

“Don’t let that trouble you,” says he, gay enough. “I meant to
grubstake ’em, and I will. It shall not cost ’em a cent. Don’t tell the
poor old idiots.”

So that was that. But the poor old idiots had somethin’ more to say.
They had a thought. It snowed away all that night--a great big snow--but
next mornin’ it had quit and there was promise of its turnin’ into a
fine large day. The kids had come to school pretty late, but they come.
And then into the store walks Kultus Jake and Frisco Baldy. For a while
they walks around and just inspects all the goods they knowed by heart

“Well?” says Edmund. And they looks at each other.

“Could we step into the school-room just a minute?” says Jake then.

Edmund he looks surprised, but asks no questions, and in we all goes.
Miss Carey she gets up again.

“Any more information?” says she, pleasant.

“No,” says Jake.

“Not to-day,” says Baldy.

“We,” says Jake, “well--we--we’d--”

Baldy gets restless and he steps up. “Put your school-house on our
land,” says he.

“We want to give it to y’u,” says Baldy.

“Coal and all,” says Jake.

There was a pink color went over Miss Carey’s face--all over it--and she
didn’t say a word for a while; she looks quick at Edmund and then she
looks back at the two old men, and her eyes has tears in ’em.

“Folks ought to know geography,” says Jake.

“We want the kids in this valley to know it,” says Baldy.

“Knowledge will save ’em from mistakes,” says Jake.

And then Miss Carey she speaks at last. “Thank you,” she says.

“Is this _potlatch_?” inquires Edmund, jokin’.

“_Kultus potlatch!_” says both of ’em together.

Would y’u think it?--after that day I never heard ’em scrappin’ together
again. Maybe they did sometimes, but not in my hearin’. Their experience
seemed to have changed ’em somehow. In the store I’d catch ’em lookin’
at each other. Their eyes was gentle. I think--yes, I think they knowed
that it was coming, that good-by was on its way to them. The
school-house was built in the spring; and after the school got into it,
now and again Jake and Baldy would sneak up to the door, look in and
take a back seat. And one of ’em would say he’d like to ask the kids a
question: Where was Washington, D.C.? And when the answer came, Jake and
Baldy they’d laugh like they’d split and sneak out again. One day in the
store we heard the knockin’ sound of a boat bein’ rowed over the river,
and Baldy came into the store alone. He walks to Edmund, but he looks
down on the floor.

“Jake’s sick,” says he. “Jake’s sick.” Oh, he knowed what it meant.

There was no doctor in the valley, but what could a doctor do? In about
three days we had Baldy sick, too. The tie between ’em was the tie of
life, and Jake died of a Saturday and Baldy died Monday.

“They must be buried by the school-house,” says Miss Carey. And
everybody went. And then up comes the question what to put on the
headboard? It brought up something none of us had thought of.

“Why, we don’t even know their names!” says Miss Carey, very soft.

We didn’t know anything. They had come into the valley, they had made
the valley laugh, they were gone. That was all. Not a fact or a
birthplace or anythin’ to put over them that would tell who they had
been. But Miss Carey wasn’t goin’ to let it be like that. She took it in
charge and she got it right. She found a bit of poetry and she had the
board painted, and it was this way: “Jake and Baldy. Our Friends. Their
heart was free from malice, and all their anger was excess of love.”

And then along in July Edmund got married to Miss Carey. They was sure a
happy two!

“Are y’u still the oldest man in the valley?” I asks Edmund one day in
the store.

“About three and a half,” says Edmund, solemn and deep. But then he

Oh, yes, their happiness filled that store, filled the whole cabin,
crowded it. Maybe that’s why I left the valley.



Scipio sat beside the table--Mrs. Culloden’s still very new,
wedding-present table--arguing on and on, and I forgot all about him.
When he slapped the Wyoming game laws for that year down on the table
hard, and complained that I was not listening to him, I continued to
look out of the ranch window at the pond and merely said:--

“Just hear those ducks.”

He stared at me with disgust and scorn. “Ducks!” he then muttered.

“Well, but hear them,” I urged.

“Well, they’re quackin’,” he said. “A duck does.” He picked up the game
laws and resumed: “As I was telling you, it says--page 12, section 25--”

But I gave him no attention and still looked out at the pond.

So then he remarked bitterly: “I suppose ducks crow back East--or

He was perfectly welcome to all the satire he could invent; I was not to
be turned from my curiosity about the clamor in the water outside, and
as I watched I said aloud: “There’s something behind it.”

This brought him to the window, where, as he stood silent beside me, I
could feel his impatience as definitely as if it had been a radiator.
The matter was that he had his mind running on something and I had my
mind running on something--and they weren’t the same things; and each of
us wished the other to be interested in his own thing.

“Something behind it,” echoed Scipio slightingly. “Behind every quack
you’ll find a duck.”

To this I returned no answer.

“Maybe they have forgot themselves and laid eggs in the water,”
suggested Scipio.

“Do your Western ducks lay much in September?” I inquired, with chill.

The noise in the pond, which had died down for an instant, was now set
up again--loud, remonstrant, voluble; the two birds sat in the middle of
the water and lifted up their heads and screamed to the sky.

“That’s what they’ve done,” said Scipio; “and they can’t locate the
eggs. Well, it’d make me holler too. Say,” he pleaded, “what’s the point
in your point, anyhow? I want to show you about those game laws.”

“Must I hear it all over again and must I say it all over again?” I
responded, not taking my eye from the pond.

“You’ve never heard it wunst yet, for you’ve never listened.”

“I did. I didn’t begin to wander till you began repeating the whole
thing for the third time. And now I’ll say, for the fourth time, it’s a
close season till 1912. There they go out of the pond, single
file--Duchess in the lead. The Duchess has purple in her wings; the
Countess has none.”

“Oh, soap fat!” said Scipio.

“And they’ve gone to feed on the grain in the haystack. There’s Sir
Francis waiting for them by the woodpile. He’s the drake.”

“Oh, soap fat!” repeated Scipio.

I followed the ducks until they had waddled out of sight.

“Every now and then, during the day,” I said, “they go through that same
performance: sit in the water and scream louder each minute, then come
out and head for the haystack in the most orderly, quiet manner, just
after having given every symptom of falling into convulsions. Now I’m
going to find out what that means. And what I am wondering at,” I
continued, “is why you do not suggest that they are screaming at the
game laws.”

Well, we sat down then and had it out about those game laws; and it is
but right to confess that they were more important to poor Scipio than
the ducks were to me. First we took section 25 to pieces, dug its
sentences to the bottom, and carefully lifted out every scrap which gave
promise of containing sense. It was no child’s task. You didn’t reach
the first full stop for a hundred and twelve words--nothing but commas;
it was like being lost in the sage-brush--and, by the time the full stop
did come, your head--but let me quote the sentence:--

“It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to kill any antelope
until the open season for other game animals in 1915, when only one
antelope may be killed by any person hunting legally, or to kill any
moose, elk or mountain sheep until the open season for other game
animals, in 1912, when only one male moose may be killed by any person
hunting legally, or to kill any elk or mountain sheep in any part of
this state, except in Fremont County, Uinta County, Carbon County and
that part of Bighorn County and Park County west of the Bighorn River,
until the open season for game animals in 1915.”

To tell you all that we said before we had finished with this would be
worse than useless--it would be profane; enough that I stuck to the
conclusion I had reached when I read the section in the East--no hunting
anything anywhere for anybody until 1912. On the strength of it I had
left my rifle at home and brought only my fishing rod.

“If it is your way,” said Scipio, “what do you make of section 26? ‘It
shall be unlawful for any person or persons to hunt, pursue or kill any
elk, deer or mountain sheep except from September twenty-fifth to
November thirtieth of _each year_.’” He yelled the last two words at me.

But I merely clapped my hands to my brow.

“And if it is your way,” Scipio pursued, playing his ace, “what do you
make of Honey Wiggin taking a party out next Monday for six weeks?”

“Why, they’ll simply all be arrested.”

“No; they’ll not. I’ve saw Honey’s license with this year stamped in red
figures right acrost it, just as plain as headlines.”

What could one reply to that? I picked up the pamphlet and stared at the

Scipio ruminated. “Will you tell me,” he said, “why, in a country where
everybody’s born equal, the legislature should be a bigger fool than
anybody else?”

“It’s a free country,” I reminded him. “Every man has the right to be an
ass here.”

But Scipio still brooded. “Well,” he said, “if I was a legislator--” he

“You’re not qualified,” said I.


“You haven’t sufficient command of the English language.”

“_What!_” cried Scipio; for vocabulary is his chief pride and I had
actually touched him.

“No. You couldn’t cook up two paragraphs of your mother tongue that
would defy any sane human intelligence.”

“They have done worse than that to me,” he said ruefully. “They have
lost me my season’s job. The party I was to take out read them laws same
as you did, and they stayed back East and made other plans. That’s what
I got in last night’s mail”

“Well, I haven’t stayed back East,” I said. “The fishing’s about done,
but I want an excuse for another month or two of outing. My things can
get here in twelve days--we’ll hunt, and I’ll be your season’s job.
And,” I added, “now I shall have time to study the ducks.”

We launched then into discussion of horses and camp outfit, copiously
arguing what the legislature would let a man hunt, pursue, or kill in a
season it declared to be open for no big game at all, until from eleven
the clock went round to noon; and in the kitchen the voice of Mrs.
Culloden was heard, calling clearly to her young bridegroom in the
corral--calling too clearly.

“Well, Jimsy,” the voice said, “are you going to get me any wood for
this stove--or ain’t you?”

Our discussion dropped; we sat still; it was time for Scipio to be
getting back across the river to his own cabin and dinner. He rose, put
on his hat, and stood looking at me for a moment. Then he took his hat
off and scratched his head, glancing toward the kitchen.

“Jimsy, did you hear me telling you about that wood?” came the voice of
the young bride, a trifle clearer. “I seem to have to remind you of

Scipio’s bleached blue eye and his long, eccentric nose turned slowly
once more on me. “My, but it’s turrable easy to get married,” was his
word. He shoved his hat on again and was out of the door and on his
horse; and I watched him ride down to the river and ford it. As he grew
distant, my three ducks waddled back from the haystack to the pond. The
Duchess led, the Countess followed; Sir Francis brought up the rear. But
how could I attend to them while the following reached me through the
door from the kitchen?

“If dinner’s late you can thank yourself, Jimsy.”

“Why, May, I split the wood for you right after breakfast. That corral

“Split the wood and leave me to carry it!”

“Well, I’ve been about as busy as I could be on the ditch; and that gate

“Never mind. Wash your hands and get ready now. Kiss me first.”

At this point it seemed best to go out of the sitting-room door and come
presently into the kitchen by the other way, at the moment when my
hostess was placing the hot food upon the table. It was good food, well
cooked; and all the spoons and things were bright and clean. Bright and
clean too, and very pretty, was the little bride. She was not twenty
yet; Jimsy was not twenty-four; and as he sat down to his meal I saw her
look at him with a look which I understood plainly: had no stranger been
there to see, some more kissing would have occurred. Yet, what did she
now find to say to him--she that so visibly adored him?

“Jimsy Culloden! Well, I guess you’ll never learn to brush your hair!”

Jimsy suddenly grinned. “Others have enjoyed it pretty well this way,”
said he. “Tangled their hands all through it.” And his gray eyes
twinkled at me. But the little woman’s blue eyes flashed and she sat up
very stiff. “Before I asked you, that was,” Jimsy added.

Have I ever told you how Jimsy became married? I believe not--but it
would take too long now; it will have to wait. His bachelor liveliness
had not contributed to his mother’s peace of mind, but all was now well;
the poker chips had gone I don’t know where; our beloved old card-table
of past years stood now in the bridal bedroom, stifled in feminine
drapery beyond

[Illustration: “My, but it’s turrable easy to get married”]

recognition; the bottles that in these days lay empty beyond the corral
had contained merely tomato ketchup and such things; and here was Jimsy
Culloden a stable citizen, an anchored man, county commissioner, selling
vegetables, alfalfa, and horses, with me for a paying boarder in that
new-established Wyoming industry which is locally termed dude-wrangling.
The eastern “dude” is destined to replace Hereford cattle in
Wyoming--and sheep also.

Jimsy was an anchored man, to be sure: might he possibly some day drag
his anchor? I glanced at his blue-eyed May, so fair and competent, and I
hoped her voice would not grow much clearer. I glanced at Jimsy, quietly
eating, and wondered if a new look lately lurking in his eye--a look of
slight bewilderment--would increase or pass.

“Didn’t I see Scipio Le Moyne ride away?” he asked me.

“Yes. It was dinner-time.”

“Couldn’t he stay here and eat?”

“There you go, Jimsy Culloden; wanting to feed this whole valley every
day, just like you was rich!”

Jimsy’s gray eyes blinked and he attended to his plate. The failure of
that little joke about tangled hair was the probable cause of his
present silence, and the bride appealed to me.

“Ain’t that so?” she said. “You’ve been here before. You know how folks
loaf around up and down this valley and stop to dinner, and stay for
supper, and just eat people up!”

She was so perfectly right in principle that my only refuge from the
perilous error of taking sides was the somewhat lame remark: “Well,
Scipio isn’t a dead-beat, you know.”

“There!” cried Jimsy, triumphantly.

“Mr. Culloden would have fed a dead-beat just the same,” returned the
lady promptly.

Again she was entirely right. From good heart and long habit Jimsy made
welcome every passing traveler and his horse. When Wyoming was young and
its ranches lay wide, desert miles apart, such hospitality was the
natural, unwritten law; but now, in this day of increasing settlements
and of rainbowed folders of railroads painting a promised land for all
comers, a young ranchman could easily be kept poor by the perpetual
drain on his groceries and his oats. Jimsy’s wife was stepping between
him and his bachelor shiftlessness in all directions, and the propitious
signs oi her influence were everywhere. Indoors and out, a crisp, new
appearance of things harbingered good fortune. Why, she had actually
started him on reforming his gates! Did you ever see the thing they were
frequently satisfied to call a gate in Wyoming? A sordid wreck of barbed
wire and rotten wood, hung across the fence-gap by a rusty loop,
raggedly dangling like the ribs of a broken umbrella.

The telephone bell called Mrs. Culloden to the sitting-room near the end
of dinner.

Mrs. Sedlaw, her dear friend and schoolmate living five miles up the
valley, was inviting them to dinner next day to eat roast grouse.

“Let’s go,” said Jimsy.

“And you quit your ditch and me quit my ironing?” answered the clear
voice. “Thank you ever so much, Susie; we’d just love to, but Jimsy
can’t go off the ranch this week and I’d not like to leave him all
alone, even if I wasn’t as busy as I can be with our wash.” There
followed exchange of gossip and laughter over it, and much love sent to
and fro--and the receiver was hung up.

“As for grouse,” I said to Jimsy, for his silence was on my nerves, “I
will now go and catch you some trout superior to any bird that flies.”

Sir Francis, the snow-white drake, stood by the woodpile as I crossed
the enclosure on my way to the river. In the pond the lady ducks were
loudly quacking, but I passed them by. I desired the solitude of Buffalo
Horn, its pools, its cottonwoods, its quiet presiding mountains; and I
walked up its stream for a mile, safe from that clear voice and from the
bewildered eye of Jimsy, my once blithe, careless friend.

Unless it be from respect for Izaak Walton and tradition, I know not why
I ever carry in my fly-book, or ever use, a brown-hackle; it has wasted
hours of fishing time for me. The hours this afternoon it did not waste,
because, under the spell of the large day that shone upon the valley, my
thoughts dwelt not on fish, but with delicious vagueness upon matrimony,
the game laws and those ducks. With the waters of Buffalo Horn talking
near by and singing far off, I watched all things rather than my line
and often wholly stopped to smell the wild, clean odor of the sage-brush
and draw the beauty of everything into my very depths. So from pool to
pool I waded down the south fork of Buffalo Horn and had caught nothing
when I reached Sheep Creek, by Scipio’s ranch. Here I changed to a
grizzly king and soon had killed four trout.

Scipio was out in his meadow gathering horses, and he came to the bank
with a question:--

“Find the eggs them ducks laid in the water?”

“Jimsy wanted to know why you didn’t stay to dinner,” was my answer.

“Huh!” Scipio watched me land a half-pound fish. Then: “They ain’t been
married a year yet.”

I cast below a sunken log and took a small trout, which I threw back,
while Scipio resumed:

“Why I didn’t stop to dinner! Huh! Say, when did they quit havin’
several wives at wunst?”

“Who quit?”

“Why, them sheep-men back in the Bible--Laban and Solomon and them
old-timers. What made ’em quit?”

“They didn’t all quit. There, you’ve made me lose that fish. Are you
thinking two wives would be twice as bad as one?”

“You’ll get another fish. I’m thinking they wouldn’t be half as bad as

Certain passages in Scipio’s earlier days came into my mind, but I did
not mention them to him. Possibly he was thinking of them himself.

“Two at once is not considered moral in this country,” I said.

Scipio mused. “I’m not sure I’ve ever clearly understood about morals,”
he muttered. “Are you going to keep that whitefish?”

“I always keep a few for the hens. Makes ’em lay.”

This caused Scipio to look frowningly across Buffalo Horn to where the
Culloden Ranch buildings lay clear in the blue crystal of the afternoon
light. “Marriage ain’t learned in a day,” he remarked, “any more than
ropin’ stock is. He ain’t learned how to _be_ married yet.”

Again I thought of Scipio’s past adventures and remembered that the best
critics are they who have failed in art.

“Did you mean what you said about hunting with me?” Scipio now inquired.

“Sure thing!” I returned, “if you’re right about Honey Wiggin.”

“Oh, I’m right enough. You’ll see him come by here Monday.”

“Then I’ll send East for my things,” I said.

“Well, I’ll be looking for a man to cook and horse-wrangle,” said

As I approached the ranch across the level pasture with my fish, I could
hear from afar the quack of the ducks, invisible in the pond, and could
see from afar the snow-white figure of the drake, stationary by the
woodpile. Now for the first time the idea glimmered upon me that he had
something to do with it. But what? I came to the breast of the little
pond and stood upon it to watch the Countess and the Duchess. They were
making a great noise; but over what? Sometimes they sat still and
screamed together; a punctuation of silence would then follow. Next one
or the other would take it up alone. Was it a sort of service they were
holding to celebrate the sunset? I looked up at the lustrous crimson on
the mountain wall--a mile of giant battlements sending forth a rose glow
as if from within, like something in a legend; birds and beasts might
well celebrate such a marvel--but the Countess and Duchess were doing
this at other hours, when nothing particular seemed to be happening. I
looked at the drake by the woodpile. He had not moved a quarter of an
inch. He stood in profile, most becomingly. His neat, spotless white,
his lemon-colored bill, his orange-colored legs, his benign yet
confident attitude, as if of personal achievement taken for granted but
not thrust forward--all this put me in mind of something, but so faintly
that I could not just then make out what it was. Shouts from the
Duchess at the top of her voice hastily recalled my attention to the

I expected to find something sudden was wrong. Not at all. The water was
without a wrinkle, the ducks floated motionless: yet there had been a
note, a quality, urgent, piercingly remonstrant, in those quacks of the
Duchess. She might have been calling for the constabulary, the fire
brigade, and the health department. And then, without change for better
or for worse in anything around us that I could see, the two birds swam
placidly to land. They got out on the bank, wiggled their tails, stood
on their toes to flap their wings, and, this brief drying process being
over, they took their way to the drake. He stood by the woodpile,
stock-still in profile; he had not yet moved a quarter of an inch; it
seemed to me--but I was not certain--that his ladies raced as they drew
near him. When they reached him he turned with gravity and headed for
the haystack. They fell in behind him and the three waddled and wobbled
solemnly toward their goal, squeezed under the fence and were lost to

I took in my trout to Mrs. Culloden, who praised their size and my
skill. On the subject of giving her hens a diet of whitefish, she told
me it was her great ambition so to manage that before the moulting fowls
should wholly stop laying the spring pullets should have begun to lay.

“Jimsy is real fond of eggs,” she explained, “and I want him to have

I further learned that whitefish cooked were better than whitefish raw,
which often tainted the eggs with a fishy taste. I stood high in the
little bride’s favor because I was helping her to please Jimsy. Lying
abed that night in my one-room cabin, I said aloud, abruptly: “That was
a protest.”

I know nothing about what they call our subconscious workings, save that
I am choke-full of them; I meant the Duchess. Apparently my subconscious
works had been dealing with her ever since the scene at the pond. Thus a
conclusion had popped out of my mouth full-fledged before I knew it was
there. “Yes,” I repeated; “she was protesting. They both were.”

The works, however, must have stopped after that for the night--or
turned to other activity--for next morning I went down to the pond with
nothing beyond the two theories of yesterday: that it was protest and
that the drake was somehow at the bottom of it. But I scored no advance
in my knowledge. All three birds were in the water and did not come out
while I remained there; nothing more of their plan of life was revealed
to me. Still, I saw one new thing. Sir Francis swam about, with the
Duchess and Countess in a suite, following close, but never crowding
him. What they did do was crowd each other. A struggle for place
occurred between them from time to time; and, although all the rest of
the time they were like sisters, when the struggle was on it was bitter.

I must have stayed watching them for half an hour to make sure of this
and I know that there were moments when they would have gladly killed
each other. Sir Francis never took the slightest notice of it, though he
must have been well aware of it, since it always went on some six inches
behind his back. The Countess would attempt to swim up closer to him, at
which the Duchess would instantly crook her neck sidewise at her and,
savagely undulating her head, would utter quick, poisonous sounds that
trembled with fury. To these the Countess would retort, crooking and
undulating too; thus they would swim with their necks at right angles,
raging at each other and crowding for place. Sometimes the Duchess
darted her bill out and bit the Countess, who was of a milder nature, I
gradually discerned. The admirable ignorance which Sir Francis preserved
of all this testified plainly to his moral balance, and filled me with
curiosity and respect. Whatever was going on behind him, whether peace
or war, he swam quietly on or stopped as it pleased him, with never a
change in the urbanity of his eye and carriage.

It came to me that afternoon what his attitude at the woodpile
essentially was. He stood there again alone--the ducks were quacking in
the pond--and as I looked at his neat white body and the lemon-colored
bill and orange-colored legs, all presented in the same dignified
profile, I saw that his was by instinct the historical portrait
attitude: Perry after Lake Erie, Webster before replying
to Hayne, Washington on being notified of his appointment as
Commander-in-Chief--you will understand what I mean. And if you smile at
my absorption in these little straws from the farmyard you have never
known the blessing of true leisure. To drop clean out of my mind for a
while the law and investment of trust funds and the self-induced
hysterics of Wall Street, and study a perfectly irrelevant, unuseful
trifle, such as the family life of Sir Francis and his ladies, brings a
pastoral health to the spirit and to the biliary duct.

There was an error in my conclusions about the Countess and Duchess
which I did not have a chance to perceive for a day or two, because our
domestic harmony was mysteriously disturbed. That clear note in May’s
voice waked up again, this time a tone or so higher; and it was kept
awake by one thing after another. It began after a wagonful of people
had passed the ranch on its way down the valley to town. I was off by
the river when they stopped a few minutes on the road outside the fence.
One could not see who they were at that distance. Jimsy left his ditch
work and talked to them and when they had gone returned to it. At our
next meal Jimsy’s eye was bewildered--and something more--and May’s
voice was bad for digestion. As soon as my last mouthful was swallowed I
sought the solitude of my cabin and read a book until bedtime. How
should one connect that wagonload of people with the new and higher tide
of unrest? Nothing was more the custom than this stopping

[Illustration: “Well, Jimsy, are you going to get me any wood for this
stove--or ain’t you?”]

of neighbors to chat over the fence. May’s voice and Jimsy’s eye kept me
as often and as far from their neighborhood as I could get.

It was Scipio, the next time I saw him, who began at once: “Did you see
Mrs. Faxon?”

“Who’s she?”

“Gracious! I thought everybody in this country knowed her. She’s an
alfalfa widow.”

“Well, I seem to have somehow missed her.”

“She went down to town the other day. Pity you’ve missed her. Awful

“Well, I’ll try to meet her.”

“Her and Jimsy used to meet a whole heap,” said Scipio.

“Oh!” said I. “H’m! All the same May’s a fool.”

“Did she get mad? Did she get mad?” demanded Scipio, vivaciously.

“Lord!” said I, thinking of it. I told Scipio how Jimsy had talked over
the fence to the scarlet fragment of his past for perhaps three minutes
in the safe presence of a wagonload of witnesses, and how in consequence
May had gone up into the air. “To love acceptably needs tact,” I
moralized; but while I expatiated on this, Scipio’s attention wandered.

“You saw Honey Wiggin go up the river with his dudes?”

“Oh, yes.”

“And two other parties go up?”


“Any further notions about the game laws?”

“Nothing--except it’s the merest charity to assume they made them when
they were drunk.”

“Sure thing! I guess I’ll have a cook when your camping stuff comes.”

My stuff was due in not many days; and as I walked home from Scipio’s
cabin I felt gratitude to the game laws for the part they had played in
delaying me in this valley where each day seemed the essence distilled
from the beauty of seven usual days. Even as I waded Buffalo Horn I
stopped to look up and down the course that it made between its
bordering cottonwoods. A week ago these had been green; but autumn had
come one night and now here was Buffalo Horn unwinding its golden miles
between the castle walls of the mountains. Amid all this august serenity
I walked the slower through fear of having it marred by the voice of
May. I lingered outside the house and it was the voice of the Duchess
that I heard. Yes, I was grateful to the game laws. They, too, caused
me to learn the whole truth about Sir Francis.

On this particular evening I saw where had been my error regarding the
Countess and Duchess. I have spoken of the Countess’ milder nature,
which I thought always put her behind the Duchess in their struggle for
precedence. It did not. Quite often she made up in skill what she lacked
in force and I now saw the first example of it. They were all coming to
the pond for their evening swim, the two ducks scolding and walking with
their necks at right angles. Sir Francis was in the lead, his head
gently inclined toward the water. As he got in the Duchess made an
evident miscalculation. She thought he was going to swim to the right,
and she splashed hastily in that direction. But he swam to the left. The
Countess was there in a flash. She got herself next to him and held her
place round and round the pond, crooking her neck and quacking backward
at the enraged, defeated Duchess.

Twice in the following forenoon I saw this recur; and before supper I
knew that it was a part of their daily lives. Sometimes it happened on
land, sometimes in the water, and always in the same way--a
miscalculation as to which way the drake was going to turn. It was the
duck who had been nearest to him that always made the miscalculation,
and she invariably lost her place by it. Then she would rage in the rear
while the other scoffed back at her. Neither of them could have been
entirely a lady or they would have known how to conduct their quarrel
without all this displeasing publicity. But there can be no doubt that
Sir Francis was a perfect gentleman. Not only was he never aware of what
was happening, but he so bore himself as wholly to avoid being made
ridiculous. That the Duchess was a little near-sighted I learned when I
took to feeding them with toast brought from breakfast.

My time was growing short and I began to fear that I might be gone
hunting before I had penetrated the mystery of the historical portrait
attitude near the woodpile and the protests of the ducks in the water.
This was going on straight along, only I had never managed to see the
beginning of it. Therefore I fed them on toast to draw closer to them,
and I tried to give each a piece, turn about; but only too often, when
toast meant for the Duchess had fallen in the water directly under her
nose, she would peer helplessly about and the Countess would dip down
quickly and get it. Sometimes the Duchess saw it one second too late,
when their heads would literally collide, and the Duchess, under the
impression she had got it, would snap her bill two or three times on
nothing, and then perceive the Countess chewing the morsel. At this she
always savagely bit the Countess; and still, through it all, the drake
sustained his admirable ignorance. My feeding device triumphed. I did
learn about the woodpile.

This is what I saw. They had been swimming for a while after eating the
toast. Sir Francis had finally swallowed a last hard bit of crust after
repeatedly soaking it in the water. He looked about and evidently
decided it was time for the haystack. He got out on the bank, but the
ladies did not. He turned and looked at them; they continued swimming.
Then he walked slowly away in silence, and as he grew distant their
swimming became agitated. Reaching the woodpile, he turned and stood in
bland, eminent profile. Then the ducks in the pond began. The Duchess
quacked; the Countess quacked; their voices rose and became positively
wild. A person who did not know would have hastened to see if they
needed assistance. This performance lasted four minutes by my watch--the
drake statuesque by the woodpile, the ducks screaming in the water.
Then, as I have before described, they succumbed to the power at the
woodpile. They swam ashore, flapped to dry themselves, and made for Sir
Francis like people catching a train. He did not move until they had
reached him, when all sought the haystack.

So now I understood clearly that it was he who made their plans, timed
all their comings and goings, and that they, bitterly as they disliked
leaving the water until they were ready, nevertheless had to leave it
when he was ready. Of course, if either of them had had any real mind,
they would have realized long before that it was of no use to attempt to
cope with him and they would have got out quickly when he did, instead
of making this scene several times every day. But why did they get out
at all when they didn’t want to? Why didn’t they let him go to the
haystack by himself? What was the secret of his power? It was they who
were always fighting and biting; his serenity was flawless.

I stood on the breast of the pond, turning this over. If you have outrun
me and arrived at the truth, it just shows once again how superior
readers are to writers in intelligence. I was not destined to fathom it.
Many a problem has taken two to solve it and it was Jimsy who--but let
that wait. Jimsy came across from the stable and spoke to me now:--

“What are you studying?”

“I have been studying your ducks.”

He looked over at the cabin, where May could be seen moving about in the
kitchen, and I saw his face grow suddenly tender. “They’re hers,” he
said softly. “She kind o’ wanted ducks round here and so one day I
brought ’em to her from town. Then I made this pond for ’em--just dammed
the creek across this little gully. Nothing’s wrong with ’em?”

“Oh, no. But they’ve set me guessing.”

He did not believe my story, though he listened with his gray eyes fixed
on mine. “That’s wonderful,” he said; “but you’ve made it up. I’d have
noticed a thing like that.”

“I don’t think you would. You’re working all day with your stock and
your ditches. Think what a loafer I am.”

“It’s most too extraordinary,” he said, and stood looking at the
woodpile. He was not really thinking about what I had told him; I could
feel that.

“Well, Jimsy!”

We both started a little. It was May, who had come round the corner of
the house, and the setting sun shone upon her and made her quite lovely,
where she stood shading her eyes, with a little hair floating one side
of her forehead.

“Well, Jimsy! Dreaming again! Do you know what time it is? The way
you’ve took to dreaming is something terrible!”

Jimsy went into the house.

I was glad that two days more would see me out of this.

Next morning I stood justified--oh, more than justified--in Jimsy’s
eyes. No one could have anticipated such a performance at the pond as I
was able to show him--it bore me out and surpassed anything I had told
him--and no one could have foretold that it would fire Jimsy with a
curiosity equal to mine.

The ceremony of the toast was in progress when Jimsy, crossing to the
corral, saw me thus engaged. He stuck his hands into his pockets and
strolled across to the water’s edge, wearing a broad grin of

“Awful busy, you are!” said he.

“Just watch them,” said I.

“Oh, I’ve got a day’s work to do.”

“I’m aware,” I retorted, “that scientific observation doesn’t look like
work to the ignorant.”

“What’re you trying to find out?”

“I told you last night. I can’t see how that drake keeps those ducks in

“Oh, I guess he don’t keep ’em in order.”

“I tell you he has them under his thumb.”

Jimsy cast a careless eye upon the birds. They had finished the toast
and were swimming about. The quacks of the Duchess were merely quacks to
him; he did not hear that she was saying to the Countess: “Hah, Hah,
Hah! How do you fancy a back seat this morning?”

“One feels mortified, of course,” I explained to Jimsy, “that she should
betray her spite so crudely--a sad but common thing in our country.”

“In the name of God, what are you talking about?” demanded Jimsy.

“Oh, I’m not in the least crazy. New York stinks with people like that.”

At this moment the usual thing happened in the pond--the Duchess made a
miscalculation. The drake swam suddenly left instead of right, and the
Countess jumped to the favored place. Now it was she who quacked
backward at her discountenanced rival.

“She is really the sweeter nature of the two,” I said. But Jimsy was
attending to the ducks with an awakened interest; in fact, he was now
caught in the same fascination that had held me for so many days. He
took his hands out of his pockets and followed the ducks keenly.

“I believe you weren’t lyin’ to me,” he remarked presently.

“You wait! Just you wait!” I exclaimed.

He watched a little longer. “D’you suppose,” he said, “it’s his feathers
they love so?”

“His feathers?” I repeated.

“Those two curly ones in his tail. They’re crooked plumb enticing, like
they were saying, ‘Come, girls!’”

This reminded me of Jimsy’s unbrushed mound of hair and May’s coldness
at his reference to it. “Feathers would hardly account for everything,”
I said.

A last spark of doubt flickered in Jimsy. “Are you joshing about this
thing?” he asked.

“Just you wait,” I said again.

We did not have to wait. In the judgment of the drake it was time for
the haystack; the ducks thought it too soon. All began as usual. Sir
Francis had reached the woodpile and taken his attitude, the first
protesting scream from the pond had risen to the sky, Jimsy’s face was
causing me acute pleasure, when the Duchess did an entirely new thing.
She swam to the inlet and began to waddle slowly up the trickling
stream. Then I perceived a few yards beyond her the cleanings of some
fish which had been thrown out. It was for these she was making.

“She has ruined everything!” I lamented.

“Wait!” said Jimsy. He whispered it. His new faith was completer than

The Duchess heavily proceeded. In my childhood I used sometimes to see
old ladies walking slowly, shod in soft, wide, heelless things made of
silk or satin--certainly not of leather, except the soles--which seem to
have gone out. The Duchess trod as if she had these same mid-Victorian
feet and she began gobbling the fish. If this was any strain upon the
drake, he did not show it. The Countess now discerned from the pond what
the Duchess was doing and she was instantly riven with contending
emotions. The waves from her legs agitated the whole pond as she swam
wildly; sometimes she looked at the drake, sometimes at the fish, and
between the looks she quacked as if she would die. Then she, too, got
out and went toward the fish. I looked apprehensively at the figure by
the woodpile, but it might have been a painted figure in very truth. I
think Jimsy was holding his breath. When a moral conflict becomes
visible to the naked eye there is something in it that far outmatches
any mere thumping of fists; here was Sir Francis battling for his empire
in silence and immobility, with his ladies getting all the fish. And
just then the Countess wavered. She saw Sir Francis, white and
monumental, thirty yards away; and she saw the Duchess and the fish
about three more steps from her nose. She stood still and then she broke
down. She turned and fled back to her lord. It cannot be known what the
more forcible Duchess would have done but for this. As it was, she
looked up and saw the Countess--and immediately went to pieces herself.
I had not known that she had it in her to run so.

I cannot repeat Jimsy’s first oath as he stared at the triumphant drake
leading his family to the haystack. After silence he turned to me.
“Wouldn’t that kill you?” he said very quietly; and said no more, but
began to walk slowly away.

“Now,” I called after him, “will you tell me how he manages to keep head
of his house like that?”

If Jimsy had any hypothesis to offer then, he did not offer it, and
before he had reached the corral May appeared. I’ll not report her talk
this time, it was the usual nursery governess affair: did Jimsy know
that he had wasted half an hour when he ought to have hitched up and
gone for wood up Dead Timber Creek, and didn’t he know there was wood
for just one day left and it would take him the whole day? I escaped to
my fishing before she had done and I took my dinner with Scipio.

It is wicked to fish in October, but we ate the trout; and I must tell
you of a discovery: when artificial flies fail, and frost has finished
the grasshoppers, the housefly is a deadly bait! I am glad at last to
have accounted for the presence of the housefly in a universe of
infinite love.

At supper I was sorry that Scipio and I had not got off to the mountains
that day. Jimsy was still out. He had brought, it appeared, one load of
wood from Dead Timber Creek and had gone for another. It was May’s
opinion that he should have returned by now. I hardly thought so, but
this made small difference to May. She was up from table and listening
at the open door three times before our restless meal was over. Next she
lighted a lantern and hung it out upon a gate-post of one of the outer
corrals, that Jimsy might be guided home from afar. In the following
thirty minutes she went out twice again to listen and soon after this
she sent me out to the lantern to make sure it was burning brightly.

“He would see the windows at any rate,” I told her.

But now she had begun to be frightened and could not sit in her chair
for more than a few moments at a time.

“What o’clock is it?” she asked me.

It was seven forty-five and I think she fancied it was midnight. If
Jimsy had been six years old and a perfect fool to boot she could not
have been more distracted than she presently became.

“Why, Mrs. Culloden,” I remonstrated, “Jimsy was raised in this valley.
He knows his way about.”

She did not hear me and now she seized the telephone. Into the ears of
one neighbor after another she poured questions up and down the valley.
It was idle to remind her that Dead Timber Creek was five miles to the
south of us and that the Whitlows, who lived six miles to the north,
were not likely to have seen Jimsy. The whole valley quickly learned
that he had not come back with his second load of wood by eight o’clock
and that she was asking them all if they knew anything about it. In the
space of twenty minutes with the telephone she had made him ridiculous
throughout the precinct; and then at ten minutes past eight, while she
was ringing up her friend Mrs. Sedlaw for the second time, in came
Jimsy. The wood and the wagon were safe in the corral, he was safe in
the house and hungry; and, of course, she hadn’t heard him arrive
because of the noise of the telephone. He had been at the stable for the
last ten minutes, attending to the horses.

“And you never had the sense to tell me!” she cried.

“Tell you what?” He had not taken it in. “Gosh, but that chicken looks
good! What’s that lantern out there for?” He was now seated and helping
himself to the food.

“And that’s all you’ve got to say to me!” she said. And then the deluge
came--not of tears, but words.

Somewhere inside of Jimsy was an angel, whatever else he contained.
Throughout that foolish, galling scene made in my presence before I
could escape, never a syllable of what he must have been feeling came
from him, but only good-natured ejaculations--not many and rather brief,
to be sure. When he learned the reason for the lantern he laughed aloud.
This set her off and she rushed into the story of her telephoning. Then,
and then alone, it was on the verge of being too much for him. He laid
down his knife and fork and leaned back for a second, but the angel won.
He resumed his meal; only a brick-red sunset of color spread from his
collar to his hair--and his eyes were not gray, but black.

That was what I saw after I had got away to my cabin and was in bed: the
man’s black eyes fixed on his plate and the pretty girl standing by the
stove and working off her needless fright in an unbearable harangue.

Audibly I sighed, sighed with audible relief, when the Culloden Ranch
lay a mile behind Scipio and me and our packhorses the next day. Jimsy
had been as self-controlled in the morning as on the night
before--except that no man can control the color of his eyes. The murky
storm that hung in Jimsy’s eyes was the kind that does not blow over,
but breaks. Was May blind to such a sign? At breakfast she told him that
the next time he went for wood she would go to see that he got back for
supper! I told Scipio that if things were not different when we returned
I should move over to his cabin.

“You’d never have figured a girl could get Jimsy buffaloed!” said

“He’s not buffaloed a little bit,” I returned.

“Ain’t he goin’ to do nothin’?”

“I don’t know what he’ll do.”

Scipio rode for a while, thinking it over. “If I had a wife,” he said,
“and she got to thinkin’ she was my mother, I’d take a dally with her.”
His meaning was not clear; but he made it so: “I’d take her--well, not
_on_ my knee, but acrost it.”

This I doubted, but said nothing. By and by we were passing the Sedlaw
Ranch and Mrs. Sedlaw came running out rather hastily--and began
speaking before she reached the gate.

“Oh, howdy-do?” said she; and she stood looking at me.

“Isn’t it perfect weather?” said I.

“Yes, indeed. And so you’re going hunting?”

“Yes. Want to come?”

“Why, wouldn’t that be nice! I thought Jimsy and May might be going with

“Oh, they’re too busy. Good-by.”

She stood looking after me for some time and I saw her walk back to the
house quite slowly.

There’s no need to tell of our hunting, or of the games of Cœur d’Alène
Solo which Scipio and I and the useful cook played at night. In twenty
days the snow drove us out of the mountains and we came down to human
habitations--and to rife rumors. I don’t recall what we heard at the
first cabin--or the second or the others--but we heard something
everywhere. The valley was agog over Jimsy and May. Amid the wealth of
details, I shall never know precisely what did happen. Jimsy had left
her and gone to Alaska. He hadn’t gone to Alaska, but to New York, with
Mrs. Faxon, the alfalfa widow. May had gone to her mother in Iowa. She
hadn’t gone to Iowa; she was under the protection of Mrs. Sedlaw. Jimsy
and the widow were living in open shame at the ranch. The ranch was shut
up and old man Birdsall had seen Jimsy in town, driving a companion who
wore splendid feathers. There was more, much more, but the only
certainty seemed to be that Jimsy had broken loose and gone
somewhere--and over this somewhere hovered an episodic bigamy. But where
was Jimsy now? And May? Had the explosion blown them asunder forever?
Was their marriage lying in fragments? On our last night in camp we
talked of this more than we played Cœur d’Alène Solo. If anybody could
tell me the true state of things it would be Mrs. Sedlaw, and at her
door I knocked as I passed the next morning.

“Oh, howdy-do?” said I; and she sat looking at me for some moments.

“What luck?” said she. “Get an elk?”

“Yes,” said I. “How are things in general?”

“Elegant,” said she. “Give my love to dear May.”

“Thank you,” said I, not very appropriately.

The lady followed me to my horse. “Seems like only yesterday you came
by,” was her parting word. She had certainly squared our accounts.

As we drew in sight of the Culloden Ranch you may imagine how I wondered
what we should find there. A peaceful smoke rose from the kitchen
chimney into the quiet air. Through the window I saw--yes, it was
May!--most domestically preparing food. Outside by the pond a figure
stood. It was Jimsy. He was feeding the ducks. I swung off my horse and
hurried to Jimsy. Sir Francis was eating from his hand.

“How!” said he in cheerful greeting.

“How!” I returned.

“Get an elk?”





“You--you’re--you’re feeding the ducks.”

“Sure thing!--Say, I’ve found out his game.”

I pointed to Sir Francis. “His control, you mean?--how he keeps his

“Sure thing!” Jimsy pointed to the ducks. “Has ’em competin’ for him.
Keeps ’em a-guessing. That’s his game.”

It stunned me for a second. Of course he didn’t know that the valley had
talked to me.

“Why, how do you do?” cried May, cheerfully, coming out of the house.

Then I took it all in and I broke into scandalous, irredeemable

A bright flash came into Jimsy’s eyes as _he_ took it all in--then he
also gave way, but he blushed heavily.

“Whatever are you two laughing at?” exclaimed May. She looked radiant.
That clear note was all melted from her voice. “Mr. Le Moyne, aren’t you
going to stay to dinner?”

“Why, thank you!” said Scipio--polite, and embarrassed almost to

To Sir Francis Jimsy gave the last piece of toast. It was a large one.
If the drake was aware of the tie between Jimsy’s marital methods and
his own, he betrayed it as little as he betrayed knowledge of all things
which it is best never to notice.

Yes, I am grateful to the game laws. The next legislature made them

       *       *       *       *       *

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Philosophy Four

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“Owen Wister is a born story-teller. If you have ever read any of his
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story of undergraduate life at Harvard, Mr. Wister has shown that he has
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       *       *       *       *       *



The Colonel’s Story

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For those who have a tenderness for the old days of the South, or who
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Wandering Ghosts

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It is uncommonly interesting that the last volume to be added to the
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Klaus Hinrich Baas

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64-66 Fifth Avenue, New York


[1] Lately changed to Shoshone River by act of legislature. While we
miss the old name, derived from certain sulphur springs, we agree that
like the Indian and the cow-boy it belongs to the past.

[2] For reasons, those who in 188--named this place after its chief
inhabitant, wished to disguise his name. This they accomplished by
changing the order of the letters which spelled it.

[3] To-day the flourishing resort Thermopolis, connected with both
north and south by an important line of railway. In those days this
lonely spot must have been two hundred miles from any railway.

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