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Title: Off duty: A dozen yarns for soldiers and sailors
Author: - To be updated
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Off duty: A dozen yarns for soldiers and sailors" ***


A Dozen Yarns for Soldiers and Sailors

Compiled by Wilhelmina Harper

Assistant Librarian, Camp Library,

Naval Training Station, Pelham Bay Park, N.Y.




Copyright, 1919, by The Century Co.

Published, August, 1919




In my work here at Pelham Bay Camp with our wounded from abroad,
with our sick boys who did not get “over there,” and with the well
but often lonely men, who frequent our library, I have discovered a
distinct need for some collection of the best stories, especially
adapted to the “genus homo.” To meet this want, I have prepared this
compilation for our soldiers and sailors, and incidentally for all
to read who will.

Work with our American youth is most inspiring because of his open
mind, his courage, and his great appreciation of any service
rendered him. This fact I have learned through becoming acquainted
with the brave lads on the hospital cots at Pelham, who have needed
help in whiling away the long hours of waiting.

In all camps there are many men not acquainted with books. My aim
has been to introduce them to some of our best writers, knowing that
friendship and liking would soon follow. The work has been a
pleasant one, made doubly so because of the willing co-operation
given me by the distinguished authors whose stories are contained
herein; and by the equally generous response which the various
publishers have made to my requests. It was not done for me, but for
the purpose of the compilation. To authors and publishers I hereby
express my gratitude.

                                                      W. H.
                                                      April, 1919.


    Keeping Up With Lizzie -- Irving Bacheller
    The Tide Takes a Hand -- Rex Beach
    The Gay Old Dog -- Edna Ferber
    Ole Skjarsen’s First Touchdown -- George Fitch
    The Outlaw -- Hamlin Garland
    Naza! Naza! Naza! -- Zane Grey
    A Case of Metaphantasmia -- W. D. Howells
    The Outcasts of Poker Flat -- Bret Harte
    The Handbook of Hymen -- O. Henry
    Jack and the King -- Seumas MacManus
    Billy’s Tenderfoot -- Stewart Edward White
    The Nightingale and the Rose -- Oscar Wilde


By Irving Bacheller

From “Keeping Up with Lizzie,” copyright, 1911, by Harper &
Brothers. Used by special permission of the author.

(In part)

“Sam Henshaw’s girl had graduated an’ gone abroad with her mother.
One Sunday ’bout a year later, Sam flew up to the door o’ my house
in his automobile. He lit on the sidewalk an’ struggled up the steps
with two hundred an’ forty-seven pounds o’ meat on him. He walked
like a man carryin’ a barrel o’ pork. He acted as if he was glad to
see me an’ the big arm-chair on the piaz’.

“‘What’s the news?’ I asked.

“‘Lizzie an’ her mother got back this mornin’,’ he gasped. ‘They’ve
been six months in Europe. Lizzie is in love with it. She’s
hobnobbed with kings an’ queens. She talks art beautiful. I wish
you’d come over an’ hear her hold a conversation. It’s wonderful.
She’s goin’ to be a great addition to this community. She’s got me
faded an’ on the run. I ran down to the store for a few minutes this
mornin’, an’ when I got back she says to me:

“‘“Father, you always smell o’ ham an’ mustard. Have you been in
that disgusting store? Go an’ take a bahth at once.” That’s what she
called it--a “bahth.” Talks just like the English people--she’s been
among ’em so long. Get into my car an’ I’ll take ye over an’ fetch
ye back.’

“Sam regarded his humiliation with pride an’ joy. At last Lizzie had
convinced him that her education had paid. My curiosity was excited.
I got in an’ we flew over to his house. Sam yelled up the stairway
kind o’ joyful as we come in, an’ his wife answered at the top o’
the stairs an’ says:

“‘Mr. Henshaw, I wish you wouldn’t shout in this house like a boy
calling the cows.’

“I guess she didn’t know I was there. Sam ran up-stairs an’ back,
an’ then we turned into that splendid parlor o’ his an’ set down.
Purty soon Liz an’ her mother swung in an’ smiled very pleasant an’
shook hands an’ asked how was my family, etc., an’ went right on
talkin’. I saw they didn’t ask for the purpose of gettin’
information. Liz was dressed to kill an’ purty as a picture--cheeks
red as a rooster’s comb an’ waist like a hornet’s. The cover was off
her show-case, an’ there was a diamond sunburst in the middle of it,
an’ the jewels were surrounded by charms to which I am not wholly
insensible even now.

“‘I wanted ye to tell Mr. Potter about yer travels,’ says Sam.

“Lizzie smiled an’ looked out o’ the window a minute an’ fetched a
sigh an’ struck out, lookin’ like Deacon Bristow the day he give ten
dollars to the church. She told about the cities an’ the folks an’
the weather in that queer, English way she had o’ talkin’.

“‘Tell how ye hobnobbed with the Queen o’ Italy,’ Sam says.

“‘Oh, father! Hobnobbed!’ says she. ‘Anybody would think that she
and I had manicured each other’s hands. She only spoke a few words
of Italian and looked very gracious an’ beautiful an’ complimented
my color.’

“Then she lay back in her chair, kind o’ weary, an’ Sam asked me how
was business--just to fill in the gap, I guess. Liz woke up an’
showed how far she’d got ahead in the race.

“‘Business!’ says she, with animation. ‘That’s why I haven’t any
patience with American men. They never sit down for ten minutes
without talking business. Their souls are steeped in commercialism.
Don’t you see how absurd it is, father? There are plenty of lovely
things to talk about.’

“Sam looked guilty, an’ I felt sorry for him. It had cost heavy to
educate his girl up to a p’int where she could give him so much
advice an’ information. The result was natural. She was irritated by
the large cubic capacity--the length, breadth and thickness of his
ignorance and unrefinement; he was dazed by the length, breadth, an’
thickness of her learning an’ her charm. He didn’t say a word. He
bowed his head before this pretty, perfumed casket of erudition.

“‘You like Europe,’ I says.

“‘I love it,’ says she. ‘It’s the only place to live. There one
finds so much of the beautiful in art and music and so many
cultivated people.’

“Lizzie was a handsome girl, an’ had more sense than any o’ the
others that tried to keep up with her. After all, she was Sam’s
fault, an’ Sam was a sin conceived an’ committed by his wife, as ye
might say. She had made him what he was.

“‘Have you seen Dan Pettigrew lately?’ Lizzie asked.

“‘Yes,’ I says. ‘Dan is goin’ to be a farmer.’

“‘A farmer!’ says she, an’ covered her face with her handkerchief
an’ shook with merriment.

“‘Yes,’ I says. ‘Dan has come down out o’ the air. He’s abandoned
folly. He wants to do something to help along.’

“‘Yes, of course,’ says Lizzie, in a lofty manner. ‘Dan is really an
excellent boy--isn’t he?’

“‘Yes, an’ he’s livin’ within his means--that’s the first mile-stone
in the road to success,’ I says. ‘I’m goin’ buy him a thousand acres
o’ land, an’ one o’ these days he’ll own it an’ as much more. You
wait. He’ll have a hundred men in his employ an’ flocks an’ herds
an’ a market of his own in New York. He’ll control prices in this
county, an’ they’re goin’ down. He’ll be a force in the State.’

“They were all sitting up. The faces o’ the Lady Henshaw an’ her
daughter turned red.

“‘I’m very glad to hear it, I’m sure,’ said her Ladyship.

“I wasn’t so sure o’ that as she was, an’ there, for me, was the
milk in the cocoanut. I was joyful.

“‘Why, it’s perfectly lovely!’ says Lizzie, as she fetched her
pretty hands together in her lap.

“‘Yes, you want to cultivate Dan,’ I says. ‘He’s a man to be
reckoned with.’

“‘Oh, indeed!’ says her Ladyship.

“‘Yes, indeed!’ I says, ‘an’ the girls are all after him.’

“I just guessed that. I knew it was unscrupulous, but livin’ here in
this atmosphere does affect the morals even of a lawyer. Lizzie grew
red in the face.

“‘He could marry one o’ the Four Hundred if he wanted to,’ I says.
‘The other evening he was seen in the big red tourin’-car o’ the Van
Alstynes. What do you think o’ that?’

“Now that was true, but the chauffeur had been a college friend of
Dan’s, an’ I didn’t mention that.

“Lizzie had a dreamy smile on her face.

“‘Why, it’s wonderful!’ says she. ‘I didn’t know he’d improved so.’

“‘I hear that his mother is doing her own work,’ says the Lady
Henshaw, with a forced smile.

“‘Yes, think of it,’ I says. ‘The woman is earning her daily
bread--actually helpin’ her husband. Did you ever hear o’ such a
thing! I’ll have to scratch ’em off my list. It’s too uncommon. It
ain’t respectable.’

“Her ladyship began to suspect me an’ retreated with her chin in the
air. She’d had enough.

“I thought that would do an’ drew out o’ the game. Lizzie looked
confident. She seemed to have something up her sleeve besides that
lovely arm o’ hers.

“I went home, an’ two days later Sam looked me up again. Then the
secret came out o’ the bag. He’d heard that I had some money in the
savings-bank over at Bridgeport payin’ me only three and a half per
cent, an’ he wanted to borrow it an’ pay me six per cent. His
generosity surprised me. It was not like Sam.

“‘What’s the matter with you?’ I asked. ‘Is it possible that your
profits have all gone into gasoline an’ rubber an’ silk an’
education an’ hardwood finish an’ human fat?’

“‘Well, it costs so much to live,’ he says, ‘an’ the wholesalers
have kept liftin’ the prices on me. Now there’s the meat
trust--their prices are up thirty-five per cent.’

“‘Of course,’ I says, ‘the directors have to have their luxuries.
You taxed us for yer new house an’ yer automobile an’ yer daughter’s
education, an’ they’re taxin’ you for their steam-yachts an’ private
cars an’ racin’ stables. You can’t expect to do all the taxin’. The
wholesalers learnt about the profits that you an’ others like ye was
makin’, an’ they concluded that they needed a part of ’em. Of course
they had to have their luxuries, an’ they’re taxin’ you--they
couldn’t afford to have ’em if they didn’t. Don’t complain.’

“‘I’ll come out all right,’ he says. ‘I’m goin’ to raise my whole
schedule fifteen per cent.’

“‘The people won’t stand it--they can’t,’ says I. ‘You’ll be
drownin’ the miller. They’ll leave you.’

“‘It won’t do ’em any good,’ says he. ‘Bill an’ Eph will make their
prices agree with mine.’

“‘Folks will go back to the land, as I have,’ says I.

“‘They don’t know enough,’ says Sam. ‘Farmin’ is a lost art here in
the East. You take my word for it--they’ll pay our prices--they’ll
have to--an’ the rich folks, they don’t worry about prices. I pay a
commission to every steward an’ butler in this neighborhood.’

“‘I won’t help you,’ says I. ‘It’s wicked. You ought to have saved
your money.’

“‘In a year from now I’ll have money to burn,’ he says. ‘For one
thing, my daughter’s education is finished, an’ that has cost

“‘How much would it cost to unlearn it?’ I asked. ‘That’s goin’ to
cost more than it did to get it, I’m ’fraid. In my opinion the first
thing to do with her is to uneducate her.’

“That was like a red-hot iron to Sam. It kind o’ het him up.

“‘Why, sir, you don’t appreciate her,’ says he. ‘That girl is far
above us all here in Pointview. She’s a queen.’

“‘Well, Sam,’ I says, ‘if there’s anything you don’t need just now
it’s a queen. If I were you I wouldn’t graft that kind o’ fruit on
the grocery-tree. Hams an’ coronets don’t flourish on the same bush.
They have a different kind of a bouquet. They don’t harmonize. Then,
Sam, what do you want of a girl that’s far above ye? Is it any
comfort to you to be despised in your own home?’

“‘Mr. Potter, I haven’t educated her for my own home or for this
community, but for higher things,’ says Sam.

“‘You hairy old ass! The first you know,’ I says, ‘they’ll have your
skin off an’ layin’ on the front piaz’ for a door-mat.’

“Sam started for the open air. I hated to be ha’sh with him, but he
needed some education himself, an’ it took a beetle an’ wedge to
open his mind for it. He lifted his chin so high that the fat
swelled out on the back of his neck an’ unbuttoned his collar. Then
he turned an’ said: ‘My daughter is too good for this town, an’ I
don’t intend that she shall stay here. She has been asked to marry a
man o’ fortune in the old country.’

“‘So I surmise, an’ I suppose you find that the price o’ husbands
has gone up,’ I says.

“Sam didn’t answer me.

“‘They want you to settle some money on the girl--don’t they?’ I

“‘My wife says it’s the custom in the old country,’ says Sam.

“‘Suppose he ain’t worth the price?’

“‘They say he’s a splendid fellow,’ says Sam.

“‘You let me investigate him,’ I says, ‘an’ if he’s really worth the
price I’ll help ye to pay it.’

“Sam said that was fair, an’ thanked me for the offer, an’ gave me
the young man’s address. He was a Russian by the name of Alexander
Rolanoff, an’ Sam insisted that he belonged to a very old family of
large means an’ noble blood, an’ said that the young man would be in
Pointview that summer. I wrote to the mayor of the city in which he
was said to live, but got no answer.

“Alexander came. He was a costly an’ beautiful young man, about
thirty years old, with red cheeks an’ curly hair an’ polished
finger-nails, an’ wrote poetry. Sometimes ye meet a man that excites
yer worst suspicions. Your right hand no sooner lets go o’ his than
it slides down into your pocket to see if anything has happened; or
maybe you take the arm o’ yer wife or yer daughter an’ walk away.
Aleck leaned a little in both directions. But, sir, Sam didn’t care
to know my opinion of him. Never said another word to me on the
subject, but came again to ask about the money.

“‘Look here, Sam,’ I says. ‘You tell Lizzie that I want to have a
talk with her at four o’clock in this office. If she really wants to
buy this man, I’ll see what can be done about it.’

“‘All right, you talk with her,’ says he, an’ went out.

“In a few minutes Dan showed up.

“‘Have you seen Lizzie?’ says I.

“‘Not to speak to her,’ says Dan. ‘Looks fine, doesn’t she?’

“‘Beautiful,’ I says. ‘How is Marie Benson?’

“‘Oh, the second time I went to see her she was trying to keep up
with Lizzie,’ says he. She’s changed her gait. Was going to New York
after a lot o’ new frills. I suppose she thought that I wanted a
grand lady. That’s the trouble with all the girls here. A man might
as well marry the real thing as an imitation. I wish Lizzie would
get down off her high horse.’

“‘She’s goin’ to swap him for one with still longer legs,’ I says.
‘Lizzie is engaged to a gentleman o’ fortune in the old country.’

“Dan’s face began to stretch out long as if it was made of

“‘It’s too bad,’ says he. ‘Lizzie is a good-hearted girl, if she is

“‘Fine girl!’ I says. ‘An’, Dan, I was in hopes that she would
discover her own folly before it was too late. But she saw that
others had begun to push her in the race an’ that she had to let out
another link or fall behind.’

“‘Well, I wish her happiness,’ says Dan, with a sigh.

“‘Go an’ tell her so,’ I says. ‘Show her that you have some care as
to whether she lives or dies.’

“I could see that his feelin’s had been honed ’til they were sharp
as a razor.

“‘I’ve seen that fellow,’ he says, ‘an’ he’ll never marry Lizzie if
I can prevent it. I hate the looks of him. I shall improve the first
opportunity I have to insult him.’

“‘That might be impossible,’ I suggested.

“‘But I’ll make the effort,’ says Dan.

“As an insulter I wouldn’t wonder if Dan had large capacity when
properly stirred up.

“‘Better let him alone. I have lines out that will bring
information. Be patient.’

“Dan rose and said he would see me soon, an’ left with a rather
stern look on his face.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

“Lizzie was on hand at the hour appointed. We sat down here all by

“‘Lizzie,’ I says, ‘why in the world did you go to Europe for a
husband? It’s a slight to Pointview--a discouragement of home

“‘There was nobody here that seemed to want me,’ she says, blushin’
very sweet.

“She had dropped her princess manner an’ seemed to be ready for
straight talk.

“‘If that’s so, Lizzie, it’s your fault,’ I says.

“‘I don’t understand you,’ says she.

“‘Why, my dear child, it’s this way,’ I says. ‘Your mother an’
father have meant well, but they’ve been foolish. They’ve educated
you for a millionairess, an’ all that’s lackin’ is the millions. You
over-awed the boys here in Pointview. They thought that you felt
above ’em, whether you did or not; an’ the boys on Fifth Avenue were
glad to play with you, but they didn’t care to marry you. I say it
kindly, Lizzie, an’ I’m a friend o’ yer father’s, an’ you can afford
to let me say what I mean. Those young fellows wanted the millions
as well as the millionairess. One of our boys fell in love with ye
an’ tried to keep up, but your pace was too hot for him. His father
got in trouble, an’ the boy had to drop out. Every well-born girl in
the village entered the race with ye. An era of extravagance set in
that threatened the solvency, the honor, o’ this sober old
community. Their fathers had to borrow money to keep agoin’. They
worked overtime, they importuned their creditors, they wallowed in
low finance while their daughters revelled in the higher walks o’
life an’ sang in different languages. Even your father--I tell you
in confidence, for I suppose he wouldn’t have the courage to do
it--is in financial difficulties. Now, Lizzie, I want to be kind to
you, for I believe you’re a good girl at heart, but you ought to
know that all this is what your accomplishments have accomplished.’

“She rose an’ walked across the room, with trembling lips. She had
seized her parachute an’ jumped from her balloon and was slowly
approachin’ the earth. I kept her comin’. ‘These clothes an’ jewels
that you wear, Lizzie--these silks an’ laces, these sunbursts an’
solitaires--don’t seem to harmonize with your father’s desire to
borrow money. Pardon me, but I can’t make ’em look honest. They are
not paid for--or if they are they are paid for with other men’s
money. They seem to accuse you. They’d accuse me if I didn’t speak
out plain to ye.’

“All of a sudden Lizzie dropped into a chair an’ began to cry. She
had lit safely on the ground.

“It made me feel like a murderer, but it had to be. Poor girl! I
wanted to pick her up like a baby an’ kiss her. It wasn’t that I
loved Lizzie less but Rome more. She wasn’t to blame. Every spoilt
woman stands for a fool-man. Most o’ them need--not a _master_--but
a frank counsellor. I locked the door. She grew calm an’ leaned on
my table, her face covered with her hands. My clock shouted the
seconds in the silence. Not a word was said for two or three

“‘I have been brutal,’ I says, by-an’-by. ‘Forgive me.’

“‘Mr. Potter,’ she says, ‘you’ve done me a great kindness. I’ll
never forget it. What shall I do?’

“‘Well, for one thing,’ says I, ‘go back to your old simplicity an’
live within your means.’

“‘I’ll do it,’ she says; ‘but--I--I supposed my father was rich. Oh,
I wish we could have had this talk before!’

“‘Did you know that Dan Pettigrew was in love with you?’ I put it
straight from the shoulder. ‘He wouldn’t dare to tell ye, but you
ought to know it. You are regarded as a kind of a queen here, an’
it’s customary for queens to be approached by ambassadors.’

“Her face lighted up.

“‘In love with me?’ she whispered. ‘Why, Mr. Potter, I never dreamed
of such a thing. Are you sure? How do you know? I thought he felt
above me.’

“‘An’ he thought you felt above him,’ I says.

“‘How absurd! how unfortunate!’ she whispered. ‘I couldn’t marry him
now if he asked me. This thing has gone too far. I wouldn’t treat
any man that way.’

“‘You are engaged to Alexander, are you?’ I says.

“‘Well, there is a sort of understanding, and I think we are to be
married if--if--’

“She paused, and tears came to her eyes again.

“‘You are thinking o’ the money,’ says I.

“‘I am thinking o’ the money,’ says she. ‘It has been promised to
him. He will expect it.’

“‘Do you think he is an honest man? Will he treat you well?’

“‘I suppose so.’

“‘Then let me talk with him. Perhaps he would take you without
anything to boot.’

“‘Please don’t propose that,’ says she. ‘I think he’s getting the
worst of it now. Mr. Potter, would you lend _me_ the money? I ask it
because I don’t want the family to be disgraced or Mr. Rolanoff to
be badly treated. He is to invest the money in my name in a very
promising venture. He says he can double it within three months.’

“It would have been easy for me to laugh, but I didn’t. Lizzie’s
attitude in the whole matter pleased me. I saw that her heart was
sound. I promised to have a talk with her father and see her again.
I looked into his affairs carefully and put him on a new financial
basis with a loan of fifteen thousand dollars.

“One day he came around to my office with Alexander an’ wanted me to
draw up a contract between him an’ the young man. It was a rather
crude proposition, an’ I laughed, an’ Aleck sat with a bored smile
on his face.

“‘Oh, if he’s good enough for your daughter,’ I said, ‘his word
ought to be good enough for you.’

“‘That’s all right,’ says Sam, ‘but business is business. I want it
down in black an’ white that the income from this money is to be
paid to my daughter, and that neither o’ them shall make any further
demand on me.’

“Well, I drew that fool contract, an’, after it was signed, Sam
delivered ten one-thousand-dollar bills to the young man, who was to
become his son-in-law the following month with the assistance of a
caterer and a florist and a string-band, all from New Haven.

“Within half an hour Dan Pettigrew came roarin’ up in front o’ my
office in the big red automobile of his father’s. In a minute he
came in to see me. He out with his business soon as he lit in a

“‘I’ve learned that this man Rolanoff is a scoundrel,’ says he.

“‘A scoundrel!’ says I.

“‘Of purest ray serene,’ says he.

“I put a few questions, but he’d nothing in the way o’ proof to
offer--it was only the statement of a newspaper.

“‘Is that all you know against him?’ I asked.

“‘He won’t fight,’ says Dan. ‘I’ve tried him--begged him to fight.’

“‘Well, I’ve got better evidence than you have,’ I says. ‘It came a
few minutes before you did.’

“I showed him a cablegram from a London barrister that said:

“‘Inquiry complete. The man is pure adventurer, character nil.’

“‘We must act immediately,’ says Dan.

“‘I have telephoned all over the village for Sam,’ I says. ‘They say
he’s out in his car with Aleck an’ Lizzie. I asked them to send him
here as soon as he returns.’

“‘They’re down on the Post Road. I met ’em on my way here,’ says
Dan. ‘We can overtake that car easy.’

“Well, the wedding-day was approaching an’ Aleck had the money, an’
the thought occurred to me that he might give ’em the slip somewhere
on the road an’ get away with it. I left word in the store that if
Sam got back before I saw him he was to wait with Aleck in my office
until I returned, an’ off we started like a baseball on its way from
the box to the catcher.

“An officer on his motor-cycle overhauled us on the Post Road. He
knew me.

“‘It’s a case o’ sickness,’ I says, ‘an’ we’re after Sam Henshaw.’

“‘He’s gone down the road an’ hasn’t come back yet,’ says the

“I passed him a ten-dollar bill.

“‘Keep within sight of us,’ I says. ‘We may need you any minute.’

“He nodded and smiled, an’ away we went.

“‘I’m wonderin’ how we’re agoin’ to get the money,’ I says, havin’
told Dan about it.

“‘I’ll take it away from him,’ says Dan.

“‘That wouldn’t do,’ says I.

“‘Why not?’

“‘Why not?’ says I. ‘You wouldn’t want to be arrested for highway
robbery. Then, too, we must think o’ Lizzie. Poor girl! It’s agoin’
to be hard on her, anyhow. I’ll try a bluff. It’s probable that he’s
worked this game before. If so, we can rob him without violence an’
let him go.’

“Dan grew joyful as we sped along.

“‘Lizzie is mine,’ he says. ‘She wouldn’t marry him now.’

“He told me how fond they had been of each other until they got
accomplishments an’ began to put up the price o’ themselves. He said
that in their own estimation they had riz in value like beef an’
ham, an’ he confessed how foolish he had been. We were excited an’
movin’ fast.

“‘Something’ll happen soon,’ he says.

“An’ it did, within ten minutes from date. We could see a blue car
half a mile ahead.

“I’ll go by that ol’ freight-car o’ the Henshaws’,’ says Dan.
‘They’ll take after me, for Sam is vain of his car. We can halt them
in that narrow cut on the hill beyond the Byron River.’

“We had rounded the turn at Chesterville, when we saw the Henshaw
car just ahead of us, with Aleck at the wheel an’ Lizzie beside him
an’ Sam on the back seat. I saw the peril in the situation.

“The long rivalry between the houses of Henshaw an’ Pettigrew,
reinforced by that of the young men, was nearing its climax.

“‘See me go by that old soap-box o’ the Henshaws’,’ says Dan, as he
pulled out to pass ’em.

“Then Dan an’ Aleck began a duel with automobiles. Each had a
forty-horse-power engine in his hands, with which he was resolved to
humble the other. Dan knew that he was goin’ to bring down the price
o’ Alecks an’ Henshaws. First we got ahead; then they scraped by us,
crumpling our fender on the nigh side. Lizzie an’ I lost our hats in
the scrimmage. We gathered speed an’ ripped off a section o’ their
bulwarks, an’ roared along neck an’ neck with ’em. The broken
fenders rattled like drums in a battle. A hen flew up an’ hit me in
the face, an’ came nigh unhorsin’ me. I hung on. It seemed as if
Fate was tryin’ to halt us, but our horse-power was too high. A dog
went under us. It began to rain a little. We were a length ahead at
the turn by the Byron River. We swung for the bridge an’ skidded an’
struck a telephone pole, an’ I went right on over the stone fence
an’ the clay bank an’ lit on my head in the water. Dan Pettigrew lit
beside me. Then came Lizzie an’ Sam--they fairly rained into the
river. I looked up to see if Aleck was comin’, but he wasn’t. Sam,
bein’ so heavy, had stopped quicker an’ hit in shallow water near
the shore, but, as luck would have it, the bottom was soft an’ he
had come down feet foremost, an’ a broken leg an’ some bad bruises
were all he could boast of. Lizzie was in hysterics, but seemed to
be unhurt. Dan an’ I got ’em out on the shore, an’ left ’em cryin’
side by side, an’ scrambled up the bank to find Aleck. He had aimed
too low an’ hit the wall, an’ was stunned, an’ apparently, for the
time, dead as a herrin’ on the farther side of it. I removed the ten
one-thousand bills from his person to prevent complications an’
tenderly laid him down. Then he came to very sudden.

“‘Stop!’ he murmured. ‘You’re robbin’ me.’

“‘Well, you begun it,’ I says. ‘Don’t judge me hastily. I’m a
philanthropist. I’m goin’ to leave you yer liberty an’ a hundred
dollars. You take it an’ get. If you ever return to Connecticut I’ll
arrest you at sight.’

“I gave him the money an’ called the officer, who had just come up.
A traveller in a large tourin’ car had halted near us.

“‘Put him into that car an’ take him to Chesterville,’ I said.

“He limped to the car an’ left without a word.

“I returned to my friends an’ gently broke the news.

“Sam blubbered. ‘Education done it,’ says he, as he mournfully shook
his head.

“‘Yes,’ I says. ‘Education is responsible for a damned lot of

“‘An’ some foolishness,’ says Sam, as he scraped the mud out of his
hair. ‘Think of our goin’ like that. We ought to have known better.’

“‘We knew better,’ I says, ‘but we had to keep up with Lizzie.’

“Sam turned toward Lizzie an’ moaned in a broken voice, ‘I wish it
had killed me.’

“‘Why so?’ I asked.

“‘It costs so much to live,’ Sam sobbed, in a half-hysterical way.
‘I’ve got an expensive family on my hands.’

“‘You needn’t be afraid o’ havin’ Lizzie on your hands,’ says Dan,
who held the girl in his arms.

“‘What do you mean?’ Sam inquired.

“She’s on my hands an’ she’s goin’ to stay there,’ says the young
man. ‘I’m in love with Lizzie myself. I’ve always been in love with

“‘Your confession is ill-timed,’ says Lizzie, as she pulled away an’
tried to smooth her hair. She began to cry again, an’ added, between
sobs: ‘My heart is about broken, and I must go home and get help for
my poor father.’

“‘I’ll attend to that,’ says Dan; ‘but I warn you that I’m goin’ to
offer a Pettigrew for a Henshaw even. If I had a million dollars I’d
give it all to boot.’

“Sam turned toward me, his face red as a beet.

“‘The money!’ he shouted. ‘Get it, quick!’

“‘Here it is!’ I said, as I put the roll o’ bills in his hand.

“‘Did you take it off him?’

“‘I took it off him.’

“‘Poor Aleck!’ he says, mournfully, as he counted the money. ‘It’s
kind o’ hard on him.’

“Soon we halted a passin’ automobile an’ got Sam up the bank an’
over the wall. It was like movin’ a piano with somebody playin’ on
it, but we managed to seat him on the front floor o’ the car, which
took us all home.

“So the affair ended without disgrace to any one, if not without
violence, and no one knows of the cablegram save the few persons
directly concerned. But the price of Alecks took a big slump in
Pointview. No han’some foreign gent could marry any one in this
village, unless it was a chambermaid in a hotel.

“That was the end of the first heat of the race with Lizzie in


By Rex Beach

From “The Iron Trail”, copyright, 1913, by Harper & Brothers.
By special permission from the publishers.

The ship stole through the darkness with extremest caution, feeling
her way past bay and promontory. Around her was none of that
phosphorescent glow which lies above the open ocean, even on the
darkest night, for the mountains ran down to the channel on either
side. In places they overhung, and where they lay upturned against
the dim sky it could be seen that they were mantled with heavy
timber. All day long the _Nebraska_ had made her way through an
endless succession of straits and sounds, now squeezing through an
inlet so narrow that the somber spruce trees seemed to be within a
short stone’s throw, again plowing across some open reach where the
pulse of the north Pacific could be felt. Out through the openings
to seaward stretched the restless ocean, on across uncounted
leagues, to Saghalien and the rim of Russia’s prison-yard.

Always near at hand was the deep green of the Canadian forests,
denser, darker than a tropic jungle, for this was the land of
“plenty waters.” The hillsides were carpeted knee-deep with moss,
wet to saturation. Out of every gulch came a brawling stream whipped
to milk-white frenzy; snow lay heavy upon the higher levels, while
now and then from farther inland peered a glacier, like some dead
monster crushed between the granite peaks. There were villages, too,
and fishing-stations, and mines and quarries. These burst suddenly
upon the view, then slipped past with dreamlike swiftness. Other
ships swung into sight, rushed by, and were swallowed up in the
labyrinthine maze astern.

Those passengers of the _Nebraska_ who had never before traversed
the “Inside Passage” were loud in the praises of its
picturesqueness, while those to whom the route was familiar seemed
to find an everfresh fascination in its shifting scenes.

Among the latter was Murray O’Neil. The whole north coast from
Flattery to St. Elias was as well mapped in his mind as the face of
an old friend, yet he was forever discovering new vistas, surprising
panoramas, amazing variations of color and topography. The
mysterious rifts and passageways that opened and closed as if to
lure the ship astray, the trackless confusion of islets, the siren
song of the waterfalls, the silent hills and glaciers and
snow-soaked forests--all appealed to him strongly, for he was at
heart a dreamer.

Yet he did not forget that scenery such as this, lovely as it is by
day, may be dangerous at night, for he knew the weakness of steel
hulls. On some sides his experience and business training had made
him sternly practical and prosaic. Ships aroused no manner of
enthusiasm in him except as means to an end. Railroads had no
glamour of romance in his eyes, for, having built a number of them,
he had outlived all poetic notions regarding the “Iron horse,” and
once the rails were laid he was apt to lose interest in them.
Nevertheless, he was almost poetic in his own quiet way,
interweaving practical thoughts with fanciful visions, and he loved
his dreams. He was dreaming now as he leaned upon the bridge rail of
the _Nebraska_, peering into the gloom with watchful eyes. From
somewhere to port came the occasional commands of the officer on
watch, echoed instantly from the inky interior of the wheelhouse. Up
overside rose the whisper of rushing waters; from underfoot came the
rhythmic beat of the engines far below. O’Neil shook off his mood
and began to wonder idly how long it would be before Captain Johnny
would be ready for his “nightcap.”

He always traveled with Johnny Brennan when he could manage it, for
the two men were boon companions. O’Neil was wont to live in
Johnny’s cabin, or on the bridge, and their nightly libation to
friendship had come to be a matter of some ceremony.

The ship’s master soon appeared from the shadows--a short, trim man
with gray hair.

“Come,” he cried. “It’s waiting for us.”

O’Neil followed into Brennan’s luxurious, well-lit quarters, where
on a mahogany sideboard was a tray holding decanter, siphon, and
glasses, together with a bottle of ginger ale. The captain, after he
had mixed a beverage for his passenger, opened the bottle for
himself. They raised their glasses silently.

“Now that you’re past the worst of it,” remarked O’Neil, “I suppose
you’ll turn in. You’re getting old for a hard run like this,

Captain Brennan snorted. “Old? I’m a better man than you, yet. I’m a
teetotaler, that’s why. I discovered long ago that salt water and
whiskey don’t mix.”

O’Neil stretched himself out in one of Brennan’s easy chairs.
“Really,” he said, “I don’t understand why a ship carries a captain.
Now of what earthly use to the line are you, for instance, except
for your beauty, which, no doubt, has its value with the women? I’ll
admit you preside with some grace at the best table in the
dining-salon, but your officers know these channels as well as you
do. They could make the run from Seattle to Juneau with their eyes

“Indeed, they could not; and neither could I.”

“Oh, well, of course I have no respect for you as a man, having seen
you without your uniform.”

The captain grinned in thorough enjoyment of this raillery. “I’ll
say nothing at all of my seamanship,” he said, relapsing into the
faintest of brogues, “but there’s no denying that the master of a
ship has many unpleasant and disgusting duties to perform. He has to
amuse the prominent passengers who can’t amuse themselves, for one
thing, and that takes tact and patience. Why, some people make
themselves at home on the bridge, in the chart-room, and even in my
living-quarters, to say nothing of consuming my expensive wines,
liquors, and cigars.”

“Meaning me?”

“I’m a brutal seafaring man, and you’ll have to make allowances for
my well-known brusqueness. Maybe I did mean you. But I’ll say that
next to you Curtis Gordon is the worst grafter I ever saw.”

“You don’t like Gordon, do you?” O’Neil queried with a change of

“I do not! He went up with me again this spring, and he had his
widow with him, too.”

“His widow?”

“You know who I mean--Mrs. Gerard. They say it’s her money he’s
using in his schemes. Perhaps it’s because of her that I don’t like

“Ah-h! I see.”

“You don’t see, or you wouldn’t grin like an ape. I’m a married man,
I’ll have you know, and I’m still on good terms with Mrs. Brennan,
thank God. But I don’t like men who use women’s money, and that’s
just what our friend Gordon is doing. What money the widow didn’t
put up he’s grabbed from the schoolma’ams and servant-girls and
society matrons in the East. What has he got to show them for it?”

“A railroad project, a copper-mine, some coal claims--”

“Bah! A menagerie of wildcats!”

“You can’t prove that. What’s your reason for distrusting him?”

“Well, for one thing, he knows too much. Why, he knows everything,
he does. Art, literature, politics, law, finance, and draw poker
have no secrets from him. He’s been everywhere--and back--twice; he
speaks a dozen different languages. He out-argued me on
poultry-raising and I know more about that than any man living. He
can handle a drill or a coach-and-four; he can tell all about the
art of ancient Babylon; and he beat me playing cribbage, which shows
that he ain’t on the level. He’s the best informed man outside of a
university, and he drinks tea of an afternoon--with his legs crossed
and the saucer balanced on his heel. Now, it takes years of hard
work for an honest man to make a success at one thing, but Gordon
never failed at anything. I ask you if a living authority on all the
branches of human endeavor and a man who can beat me at ‘crib’
doesn’t make you suspicious.”

“Not at all, I’ve beaten you myself!”

“I was sick,” said Captain Brennan.

“The man is brilliant and well educated and wealthy. It’s only
natural that he should excite the jealousy of a weaker intellect.”

Johnny opened his lips for an explosion, then changed his mind and
agreed sourly.

“He’s got money, all right, and he knows how to spend it. He and his
valet occupied three cabins on this ship. They say his quarters at
Hope are palatial.”

“My dear grampus, the mere love of luxury doesn’t argue that a
person is dishonest.”

“Would _you_ let a hired man help you on with your underclothes?”
demanded the mariner.

“There’s nothing criminal about it.”

“Humph! Mrs. Gerard is different. She’s all class! You don’t mind
her having a maid and speaking French when she runs short of
English. Her daughter is like her.”

“I haven’t seen Miss Gerard.”

“If you’d stir about the ship instead of wearing out my Morris chair
you’d have that pleasure. She was on deck all morning.” Captain
Brennan fell silent and poked with a stubby forefinger at the ice in
his glass.

“Well, out with it!” said O’Neil after a moment.

“I’d like to know the inside story of Curtis Gordon and this girl’s

“Why bother your head about something that doesn’t concern you?” The
speaker rose and began to pace the cabin floor, then, in an altered
tone, inquired, “Tell me, are you going to land me and my horses at
Kyak Bay?”

“That depends on the weather. It’s a rotten harbor; you’ll have to
swim them ashore.”

“Suppose it should be rough?”

“Then we’ll go on, and drop you there coming back. I don’t want to
be caught on that shore with a southerly wind, and that’s the way it
usually blows.”

“I can’t wait,” O’Neil declared. “A week’s delay might ruin me.
Rather than go on I’d swim ashore myself, without the horses.”

“I don’t make the weather at Kyak Bay. Satan himself does that.
Twenty miles offshore it may be calm, and inside it may be blowing a
gale. That’s due to the glaciers. Those ice-fields inland and the
warm air from the Japanese Current offshore kick up some funny
atmospheric pranks. It’s the worst spot on the coast and we’ll lose
a ship there some day. Why, the place isn’t properly charted, let
alone buoyed.”

“That’s nothing unusual for this coast.”

“True for you. This is all a graveyard of ships and there’s been
many a good master’s license lost because of half-baked laws from
Washington. Think of a coast like this with almost no lights, no
beacons nor buoys; and yet we’re supposed to make time. It’s fine in
clear weather, but in the dark we go by guess and by God. I’ve stood
the run longer than most of the skippers, but--”

Even as Brennan spoke the _Nebraska_ seemed to halt, to jerk
backward under his feet. O’Neil, who was standing, flung out an arm
to steady himself; the empty ginger ale bottle fell from the
sideboard with a thump. Loose articles hanging against the side
walls swung to and fro; the heavy draperies over Captain Johnny’s
bed swayed.

Brennan leaped from his chair; his ruddy face was mottled, his eyes
were wide and horror-stricken.

“Damnation!” he gasped. The cabin door crashed open ahead of him and
he was on the bridge, with O’Neil at his heels. They saw the first
officer clinging limply to the rail; from the pilot-house window
came an excited burst of Norwegian, then out of the door rushed a

Brennan cursed, and met the fellow with a blow which drove him
sprawling back.

“Get in there, Swan,” he bellowed, “and take your wheel.”

“The tide swung her in!” exclaimed the mate. “The tide--My God!”

“Sweet Queen Anne!” said Brennan, more quietly. “You’ve ripped her
belly out!”

“It--was the tide,” chattered the officer.

The steady, muffled beating of the machinery ceased, the ship seemed
suddenly to lose her life, but it was plain that she was not
aground, for she kept moving through the gloom. From down forward
came excited voices as the crew poured up out of the forecastle.

Brennan leaped to the telegraph and signaled the engine-room. He was
calm now, and his voice was sharp and steady.

“Go below, Mr. James, and find the extent of the damage,” he
directed, and a moment later the hull began to throb once more to
the thrust of the propeller. Inside the wheelhouse Swan had
recovered from his panic and repeated the master’s orders

The second and third officers arrived upon the bridge now, dressing
as they came, and they were followed by the chief engineer. To them
Johnny spoke, his words crackling like the sparks from a wireless.
In an incredibly short time he had the situation in hand and turned
to O’Neil, who had been a silent witness of the scene.

“Glory be!” exclaimed the captain. “Most of our good passengers are
asleep; the jar would scarcely wake them.”

“Tell me where and how I can help,” Murray offered. His first
thought had been of the possible effect of this catastrophe upon his
plans, for time was pressing. As for danger, he had looked upon it
so often and in so many forms that it had little power to stir him;
but a shipwreck, which would halt his northward rush, was another
matter. Whether the ship sank or floated could make little
difference, now that the damage had been done. She was crippled and
would need assistance. His fellow-passengers, he knew, were safe
enough. Fortunately there were not many of them--a scant two
hundred, perhaps--and if worse came to worst there was room in the
life-boats for all. But the _Nebraska_ had no watertight bulkheads
and the plight of his twenty horses between-decks filled him with
alarm and pity. There were no life-boats for those poor dumb animals
penned down yonder in the rushing waters.

Brennan had stepped into the chart-room, but returned in a moment to

“There’s no place to beach her this side of Halibut Bay.”

“How far is that?”

“Five or six miles.”

“You’ll--have to beach her?”

“I’m afraid so. She feels queer.”

Up from the cabin deck came a handful of men passengers to inquire
what had happened; behind them a woman began calling shrilly for her

“We touched a rock,” the skipper explained briefly. “Kindly go below
and stop that squawking. There’s no danger.”

There followed a harrowing wait of several minutes; then James, the
first officer, came to report. He had regained his nerve and spoke
with swift precision.

“She loosened three plates on her port quarter and she’s filling

“How long will she last?” snapped Brennan.

“Not long, sir. Half an hour, perhaps.”

The captain rang for full speed, and the decks began to strain as
the engine increased its labor. “Get your passengers out and stand
by the boats,” he ordered. “Take it easy and don’t alarm the women.
Have them dress warmly, and don’t allow any crowding by the men. Mr.
Tomlinson, you hold the steerage gang in check. Take your revolver
with you.” He turned to his silent friend, in whose presence he
seemed to feel a cheering sympathy. “I knew it would come sooner or
later, Murray,” he said. “But--magnificent mummies! To touch on a
clear night with the sea like glass!” He sighed dolefully. “It’ll be
tough on my missus.”

O’Neil laid a hand upon his shoulder. “It wasn’t your fault, and
there will be room in the last boat for you. Understand?” Brennan
hesitated, and the other continued, roughly: “No nonsense, now!
Don’t make a damned fool of yourself by sticking to the bridge.

“I promise.”

“Now what do you want me to do?”

“Keep those dear passengers quiet. I’ll run for Halibut Bay, where
there’s a sandy beach. If she won’t make it I’ll turn her into the
rocks. Tell ’em they won’t wet a foot if they keep their heads.”

“Good! I’ll be back to see that you behave yourself.” The speaker
laughed lightly and descended to the deck, where he found an
incipient panic. Stewards were pounding on stateroom doors,
half-clad men were rushing about aimlessly, pallid faces peered
forth from windows, and there was the sound of running feet, of
slamming doors, of shrill, hysterical voices.

O’Neil saw a waiter thumping lustily upon a door and heard him
shout, hoarsely:

“Everybody out! The ship is sinking!” As he turned away Murray
seized him roughly by the arm and thrusting his face close to the
other’s, said harshly:

“If you yell again like that I’ll toss you overboard.”

“God help us, we’re going--”

O’Neil shook the fellow until his teeth rattled; his own
countenance, ordinarily so quiet, was blazing.

“There’s no danger. Act like a man and don’t start a stampede.”

The steward pulled himself together and answered in a calmer tone:

“Very well, sir. I--I’m sorry, sir.”

Murray O’Neil was known to most of the passengers, for his name had
gone up and down the coast, and there were few places from San
Francisco to Nome where his word did not carry weight. As he went
among his fellow-travelers now, smiling, self-contained, unruffled,
his presence had its effect. Women ceased their shrilling, men
stopped their senseless questions and listened to his directions
with some comprehension. In a short time the passengers were
marshaled upon the upper deck where the life-boats hung between
their davits. Each little craft was in charge of its allotted crew,
the electric lights continued to burn brightly, and the panic
gradually wore itself out. Meanwhile the ship was running a
desperate race with the sea, striving with every ounce of steam in
her boilers to find a safe berth for her multilated body before the
inrush of waters drowned her fires. That the race was close even the
dullest understood, for the _Nebraska_ was settling forward, and
plowed into the night head down, like a thing maddened with pain.
She was becoming unmanageable, too, and O’Neil thought with pity of
that little iron-hearted skipper on the bridge who was fighting her
furiously. There was little confusion, little talking upon the upper
deck now; only a child whimpered or a woman sobbed hysterically. But
down forward among the steerage passengers the case was different.
These were mainly Montenegrins, Polacks, or Slavs bound for the
construction camps to the westward, and they surged from side to
side like cattle, requiring Tomlinson’s best efforts to keep them
from rushing aft.

O’Neil had employed thousands of such men; in fact, many of these
very fellows had cashed his timechecks and knew him by sight. He
went forward among them, and his appearance proved instantly
reassuring. He found his two hostlers, and with their aid he soon
reduced the mob to comparative order.

But in spite of his confident bearing he felt a great uneasiness.
The _Nebraska_ seemed upon the point of diving; he judged she must
be settling very fast, and wondered that the forward tilt did not
lift her propeller out of the water. Fortunately, however, the
surface of the sound was like a polished floor and there were no
swells to submerge her.

Over-side to starboard he could see the dim black outlines of
mountains slipping past, but where lay Halibut Bay or what distance
remained to be covered he could but vaguely guess.

In these circumstances the wait became almost unbearable. The race
seemed hours long, the miles stretched into leagues, and with every
moment of suspense the ship sank lower. The end came unexpectedly.
There was a sudden startled outcry as the _Nebraska_ struck for a
second time that night. She rose slightly, rolled and bumped, grated
briefly, then came to rest.

Captain Brennan shouted from the bridge:

“Fill your life-boats, Mr. James, and lower away carefully.”

A cheer rose from the huddled passengers.

The boiler-room was still dry, it seemed, for the incandescent
lights burned without a flicker, even after the grimy oilers and
stokers had come pouring up on deck.

O’Neil climbed to the bridge. “Is this Halibut Bay?” he asked
Captain Johnny.

“It is. But we’re piled up on the reef outside. She may hold fast--I
hope so, for there’s deep water astern, and if she slips off she’ll
go down.”

“I’d like to save my horses,” said the younger man, wistfully.
Through all the strain of the past half-hour or more his uppermost
thought had been for them. But Brennan had no sympathy for such

“Hell’s bells!” he exclaimed. “Don’t talk of horses while we’ve got
women and children aboard.” He hastened away to assist in
transferring his passengers.

Instead of following, O’Neil turned and went below. He found that
the water was knee-deep on the port side of the deck where his
animals were quartered, which showed that the ship had listed
heavily. He judged that she must be much deeper by the head than he
had imagined, and that her nose was crushed in among the rocks.
Until she settled at the stern, therefore, the case was not quite

His appearance, the sound of his voice, were the signals for a
chorus of eager whinnies and a great stamping of hoofs. Heads were
thrust toward him from the stalls, alert ears were pricked forward,
satin muzzles rubbed against him as he calmed their terror. This
blind trust made the man’s throat tighten achingly. He loved animals
as he loved children, and above all he cared for horses. He
understood them, he spoke their language as nearly as any human can
be said to do so. Quivering muscles relaxed beneath his soothing
palm; he called them by name and they answered with gently twitching
lips against his cheek. Some of them even began to eat and switch
their tails contentedly.

He cursed aloud and made his way down the sloping deck to the square
iron door, or port, through which he had loaded them. But he found
that it was jammed, or held fast by the pressure outside, and after
a few moments’ work in water above his knees he climbed to the
starboard side. Here the entrance was obstructed by a huge pile of
baled hay and grain in sacks. It would be no easy task to clear it
away, and he fell to work with desperate energy, for the ship was
slowly changing her level. Her stern, which had been riding high,
was filling; the sea stole in upon him silently. It crept up toward
him until the horses, stabled on the lower side, were belly-deep in
it. Their distress communicated itself to the others. O’Neil knew
that his position might prove perilous if the hulk should slip
backward off the reef, yet he continued to toil, hurling heavy sacks
behind him, bundling awkward bales out of the way, until his hands
were bleeding and his muscles ached. He was perspiring furiously;
the commotion around him was horrible. Then abruptly the lights went
out, leaving him in utter blackness; the last fading yellow gleam
was photographed briefly upon his retina.

Tears mingled with the sweat that drained down his cheeks as he felt
his way slowly out of the place, splashing, stumbling, groping
uncertainly. A horse screamed in a loud, horribly human note, and he
shuddered. He was sobbing curses as he emerged into the cool open
air on the forward deck.

His eyes were accustomed to the darkness now, and he could see
something of his surroundings. He noted numerous lights out on the
placid bosom of the bay, evidently lanterns on the life-boats, and
he heard distant voices. He swept the moisture from his face; then
with a start he realized his situation. He listened intently; his
eyes roved back along the boatdeck; there was no doubt about it--the
ship was deserted. Stepping to the rail, he observed how low the
_Nebraska_ lay and also that her bow was higher than her stern. From
somewhere beneath his feet came a muffled grinding and a movement
which told him that the ship was seeking a more comfortable berth.
He recalled stories of explosions and of the boiling eddies which
sometimes accompany sinking hulls. Turning, he scrambled up to the
cabin-deck and ran swiftly toward his stateroom.


O’Neil felt for the little bracket-lamp on the wall of his stateroom
and lit it. By its light he dragged a life-preserver from the rack
overhead and slipped the tapes about his shoulders, reflecting that
Alaskan waters are disagreeably cold. Then he opened his
traveling-bags and dumped their contents upon the white counterpane
of his berth, selecting out of the confusion certain documents and
trinkets. The latter he thrust into his pockets as he found them,
the former he wrapped in handkerchiefs before stowing them away. The
ship had listed now so that it was difficult to maintain a footing;
the lamp hung at a grotesque angle and certain articles had become
dislodged from their resting places. From outside came the gentle
lapping of waters, a gurgling and hissing as of air escaping through
the decks. He could feel the ship strain. He acknowledged that it
was not pleasant thus to be left alone on a sinking hulk,
particularly on an ink-black night--

All at once he whirled and faced the door with an exclamation of
astonishment, for a voice had addressed him.

There, clinging to the casing, stood a woman--a girl--evidently
drawn out of the darkness by the light which streamed down across
the sloping deck from his stateroom. Plainly she had but just
awakened, for she was clothed in a silken nightrobe. She had flung a
quilted dressing-gown of some sort over her shoulders and with one
bare arm and hand strove to hold it in place. He saw that her pink
feet were thrust into soft, heelless slippers--that her hair, black
in this light, cascaded down to her waist, and that her eyes, which
were very dark and very large, were fixed upon him with a stare like
that of a sleep-walker.

“It is so dark--so strange--so still!” she murmured. “What has

“God! Didn’t they waken you?” he cried in sharp surprise.

“Is the ship--sinking?” Her odd bewilderment of voice and gaze
puzzled him.

He nodded. “We struck a rock. The passengers have been taken off.
We’re the only ones left. In Heaven’s name where have you been?”

“I was asleep.”

He shook his head in astonishment. “How you failed to hear that

“I heard something, but I was ill. My head--I took something to ease
the pain.”

“Ah! Medicine! It hasn’t worn off yet, I see! You shouldn’t have
taken it. Drugs are nothing but poison to young people. Now at my
age there might be some excuse for resorting to them, but you--” He
was talking to cover the panic of his thoughts, for his own
predicament had been serious enough, and her presence rendered it
doubly embarrassing. What in the world to do with her he scarcely
knew. His lips were smiling, but his eyes were grave as they roved
over the cabin and out into the blackness of the night.

“Are we going to drown?” she asked, dully.

“Nonsense!” He laughed in apparent amusement, showing his large
strong teeth.

She came closer, glancing behind her and shrinking from the oily
waters which could be seen over the rail and which had stolen up
nearly to the sill of the door. She steadied herself by laying hold
of him uncertainly. Involuntarily he turned his eyes away, for he
felt shame at profaning her with his gaze. She was very soft and
white, a fragile thing utterly unfit to cope with the night air and
the freezing waters of Halibut Bay.

“I’m wretchedly afraid!” she whispered through white lips.

“None of that,” he said, brusquely. “I’ll see that nothing happens
to you.” He slipped out of his life-preserver and adjusted it over
her shoulders, first drawing her arms through the sleeves of her
dressing-gown and knotting the cord snugly around her waist.

“Just as a matter of precaution!” he assured her.

“We may get wet. Can you swim?”

She shook her head.

“Never mind; I can.” He found another life-belt, fitted it to his
own form, and led her out upon the deck. The scuppers were awash now
and she gasped as the sea licked her bare feet. “Cold, isn’t it?” he
remarked. “But there’s no time to dress, and it’s just as well,
perhaps, for heavy clothes would only hamper you.”

She strove to avoid the icy waters and finally paused, moaning: “I
can’t! I can’t go on!”

Slipping his arm about her, he bore her to the door of the main
cabin and entered. He could feel her warm, soft body quivering
against his own. She had clasped his neck so tightly that he could
scarcely breathe, but, lowering her until her feet were on the dry
carpet, he gently loosed her arms.

“Now, my dear child,” he told her, “you must do exactly as I tell
you. Come! Calm yourself or I won’t take you any farther.” He held
her off by her shoulders. “I may have to swim with you; you mustn’t
cling to me so!”

He heard her gasp and felt her draw away abruptly. Then he led her
by the hand out upon the starboard deck, and together they made
their way forward to the neighborhood of the bridge.

The lights he had seen upon coming from the forward hold were still
in view and he hailed them at the top of his voice. But other voices
were calling through the night, some of them comparatively close at
hand, others answering faintly from far in-shore. The boats first
launched were evidently landing, and those in charge of them were
shouting directions to the ones behind. Some women had started
singing and the chorus floated out to the man and the girl:

    Pull for the shore, sailor,
      Pull for the shore.

It helped to drown their cries for assistance.

O’Neil judged that the ship was at least a quarter of a mile from
the beach, and his heart sank, for he doubted that either he or his
companion could last long in these waters. It occurred to him that
Brennan might be close by, waiting for the _Nebraska_ to sink--it
would be unlike the little captain to forsake his trust until the
last possible moment--but he reasoned that the cargo of lives in the
skipper’s boat would induce him to stand well off to avoid accident.
He called lustily time after time, but no answer came.

Meanwhile the girl stood quietly beside him.

“Can’t we make a raft?” she suggested, timidly, when he ceased to
shout. “I’ve read of such things.”

“There’s no time,” he told her. “Are you very cold?”

She nodded. “Please forgive me for acting so badly just now. It was
all so sudden and--so awful! I think I can behave better. Oh! What
was that?” She clutched him nervously, for from the forward end of
the ship had come a muffled scream, like that of a woman.

“It’s my poor horses,” said the man, and she looked at him
curiously, prompted by the catch in his throat.

There followed a wait which seemed long, but was in reality of but a
few minutes, for the ship was sliding backward and the sea was
creeping upward faster and faster. At last they heard a shuddering
sigh as she parted from the rocks and the air rushed up through the
deck openings with greater force. The _Nebraska_ swung sluggishly
with the tide; then, when her upper structure had settled flush with
the sea, Murray O’Neil took the woman in his arms and leaped clear
of the rail.

The first gasping moment of immersion was fairly paralyzing; after
that the reaction came, and the two began to struggle away from the
sinking ship. But the effect of the reaction soon wore off. The
water was cruelly cold and their bodies ached in every nerve and
fiber. O’Neil did his best to encourage his companion. He talked to
her through his chattering teeth, and once she had recovered from
the mental shock of the first fearful plunge she responded pluckily.
He knew that his own heart was normal and strong, but he feared that
the girl’s might not be equal to the strain. Had he been alone, he
felt sure that he could have gained the shore, but with her upon his
hands he was able to make but little headway. The expanse of waters
seemed immense; it fairly crushed hope out of him. The lights upon
the shore were as distant as fixed stars. This was a country of
heavy tides, he reflected, and he began to fear that the current was
sweeping them out. He turned to look for the ship, but could see no
traces of her, and since it was inconceivable that the _Nebraska_
could have sunk so quietly, her disappearance confirmed his fears.
More than once he fancied he heard an answer to his cries for
help--the rattle of rowlocks or the splash of oars--but his ears
proved unreliable.

After a time the girl began to moan with pain and terror, but as
numbness gradually robbed her of sensation she became quiet. A
little later her grip upon his clothing relaxed and he saw that she
was collapsing. He drew her to him and held her so that her face lay
upturned and her hair floated about his shoulders. In this position
she could not drown, at least while his strength lasted. But he was
rapidly losing control of himself; his teeth were clicking loosely,
his muscles shook and twitched. It required a great effort to shout,
and he thought that his voice did not carry so far as at first.
Therefore he fell silent, paddling with his free arm and kicking, to
keep his blood stirring.

Several times he gave up and floated quietly, but courage was
ingrained in him; deep down beneath his consciousness was a
vitality, an inherited stubborn resistance to death, of which he
knew nothing. It was that unidentified quality of mind which
supports one man through a great sickness or a long period of
privation, while another of more robust physique succumbs. It was
the same quality which brings one man out from desert wastes, or the
white silence of the polar ice, while the bodies of his fellows
remain to mark the trail. This innate power of supreme resistance is
found in chosen individuals throughout the animal kingdom, and it
was due to it alone that Murray O’Neil continued to fight the tide
long after he had ceased to exert conscious control.

At length there came through the man’s dazed sensibilities a sound
different from those he had been hearing: it was a human voice,
mingled with the measured thud of oars in their sockets. It roused
him like an electric current and gave him strength to cry out
hoarsely. Some one answered him; then out of the darkness to seaward
emerged a deeper blot, which loomed up hugely yet proved to be no
more than a life-boat banked full of people. It came to a stop
within an oar’s-length of him. From the babble of voices he
distinguished one that was familiar, and cried the name of Johnny
Brennan. His brain had cleared now, a great dreamlike sense of
thanksgiving warmed him, and he felt equal to any effort. He was
vaguely amazed to find that his limbs refused to obey him.

His own name was being pronounced in shocked tones; the splash from
an oar filled his face and strangled him, but he managed to lay hold
of the blade, and was drawn in until outstretched hands seized him.

An oarsman was saying: “Be careful, there! We can’t take him in
without swamping.”

But Brennan’s voice shouted: “Make room or I’ll bash in your bloody

Another protest arose, and O’Neil saw that the craft was indeed
loaded to the gunwales.

“Take the girl--quick,” he implored. “I’ll hang on. You can tow me.”

The limp form was removed from his side and dragged over the thwarts
while a murmur of excited voices went up.

“Can you hold out for a minute, Murray?” asked Brennan.

“Yes--I think so.”

“I’d give you my place, but you’re too big to be taken in without

“Go ahead,” chattered the man in the water. “Look after the girl
before it’s--too late.”

The captain’s stout hand was in his collar now and he heard him

“Pull, you muscle-bound heathens! Everybody sit still! Now away with
her, men. Keep up your heart, Murray, my boy; remember it takes more
than water to kill a good Irishman. It’s only a foot or two farther,
and they’ve started a fire. Serves you right, you big idiot, for
going overboard, with all those boats. Man dear, but you’re pulling
the arm out of me; it’s stretched out like a garden hose! Hey! Cover
up that girl, and you, lady, rub her feet and hands. Good! Move over
please--so the men can bail.”

The next thing O’Neil knew he was feeling very miserable and very
cold, notwithstanding the fact that he was wrapped in dry clothing
and lay so close to a roaring spruce fire that its heat blistered

Brennan was bending over him with eyes wet. He was swearing, too, in
a weak, faltering way, calling upon all the saints to witness that
the prostrate man was the embodiment of every virtue, and that his
death would be a national calamity. Others were gathered about, men
and women, and among them O’Neil saw the doctor from Sitka whom he
had met on shipboard.

As soon as he was able to speak he inquired for the safety of the
girl he had helped to rescue. Johnny promptly reassured him.

“Man, dear, she’s doing fine. A jigger of brandy brought her to,
gasping like a blessed mermaid.”

“Was anybody lost?”

“Praise God, not a soul! But it’s lucky I stood by to watch the old
tub go down, or we’d be mourning two. You’ll be well by morning, for
there’s a crew for help. And now, my boy, lay yourself down again
and take a sleep, won’t you? It’ll be doing you a lot of good.”

But O’Neil shook his head and struggled to a sitting posture.

“Thanks, Johnny,” said he, “but I couldn’t. I can hear those horses
screaming, and besides--I must make new plans.”


By Edna Ferber

From “Cheerful--By Request,” copyright, 1918, by F. A. Stokes Co.
By special permission from the author.

Those of you who have dwelt--or even lingered--in Chicago, Illinois
(this is not a humorous story), are familiar with the region known
as the Loop. For those others of you to whom Chicago is a transfer
point between New York and San Francisco there is presented this
brief explanation:

The Loop is a clamorous, smoke-infested district embraced by the
iron arms of the elevated tracks. In a city boasting fewer millions,
it would be known familiarly as downtown. From Congress to Lake
Street, from Wabash almost to the river, those thunderous tracks
make a complete circle, or loop. Within it lie the retail shops, the
commercial hotels, the theaters, the restaurants. It is the Fifth
Avenue (diluted) and the Broadway (deleted) of Chicago. And he who
frequents it by night in search of amusement and cheer is known,
vulgarly, as a Loop-hound.

Jo Hertz was a Loop-hound. On the occasion of those sparse first
nights granted the metropolis of the Middle West he was always
present, third row, aisle left. When a new loop café was opened Jo’s
table always commanded an unobstructed view of anything worth
viewing. On entering he was wont to say, “Hello, Gus,” with careless
cordiality to the head waiter, the while his eye roved expertly from
table to table as he removed his gloves. He ordered things under
glass, so that his table, at midnight or thereabouts, resembled a
hot-bed that favors the bell system. The waiters fought for him. He
was the kind of man who mixes his own salad dressing. He liked to
call for a bowl, some cracked ice, lemon, garlic, paprika, salt,
pepper, vinegar, and oil and make a rite of it. People at near-by
tables would lay down their knives and forks to watch, fascinated.
The secret of it seemed to lie in using all the oil in sight and
calling for more.

That was Jo--a plump and lonely bachelor of fifty. A plethoric,
roving-eyed and kindly man, clutching vainly at the garments of a
youth that had long slipped past him. Jo Hertz, in one of those
pinch-waist belted suits and a trench coat and a little green hat,
walking up Michigan Avenue of a bright winter’s afternoon, trying to
take the curb with a jaunty youthfulness against which every one of
his fat-encased muscles rebelled, was a sight for mirth or pity,
depending on one’s vision.

The gay-dog business was a late phase in the life of Jo Hertz. He
had been a quite different sort of canine. The staid and harassed
brother of three unwed and selfish sisters is an under dog. The tale
of how Jo Hertz came to be a Loop-hound should not be compressed
within the limits of a short story. It should be told as are the
photo plays, with frequent throwbacks and many cut-ins. To condense
twenty-three years of a man’s life into some five or six thousand
words requires a verbal economy amounting to parsimony.

At twenty-seven Jo had been the dutiful, hardworking son (in the
wholesale harness business) of a widowed and gummidging mother, who
called him Joey. If you had looked close you would have seen that
now and then a double wrinkle would appear between Jo’s eyes--a
wrinkle that had no business there at twenty-seven. Then Jo’s mother
died, leaving him handicapped by a death-bed promise, the three
sisters and a three-story-and-basement house on Calumet Avenue. Jo’s
wrinkle became a fixture.

Death-bed promises should be broken as lightly as they are seriously
made. The dead have no right to lay their clammy fingers upon the

“Joey,” she had said, in her high, thin voice, “take care of the

“I will, Ma,” Jo had choked.

“Joey,” and the voice was weaker, “promise me you won’t marry till
the girls are all provided for.” Then as Joe had hesitated,
appalled: “Joey, it’s my dying wish. Promise!”

“I promise, Ma,” he had said.

Whereupon his mother had died, comfortably, leaving him with a
completely ruined life.

They were not bad-looking girls, and they had a certain style, too.
That is, Stell and Eva had. Carrie, the middle one, taught school
over on the West Side. In those days it took her almost two hours
each way. She said the kind of costume she required should have been
corrugated steel. But all three knew what was being worn, and they
wore it--or fairly faithful copies of it. Eva, the housekeeping
sister, had a needle knack. She could skim the State Street windows
and come away with a mental photograph of every separate tuck, hem,
yoke, and ribbon. Heads of departments showed her the things they
kept in drawers, and she went home and reproduced them with the aid
of a two-dollar-a-day seamstress. Stell, the youngest, was the
beauty. They called her Babe. She wasn’t really a beauty, but some
one had once told her that she looked like Janice Meredith (it was
when that work of fiction was at the height of popularity). For
years afterward, whenever she went to parties, she affected a
single, fat curl over her right shoulder, with a rose stuck through

Twenty-three years ago one’s sisters did not strain at the household
leash, nor crave a career. Carrie taught school, and hated it. Eva
kept house expertly and complainingly. Babe’s profession was being
the family beauty, and it took all her spare time. Eva always let
her sleep until ten.

This was Jo’s household, and he was the nominal head of it. But it
was an empty title. The three women dominated his life. They weren’t
consciously selfish. If you had called them cruel they would have
put you down as mad. When you are the lone brother of three sisters,
it means that you must constantly be calling for, escorting, or
dropping one of them somewhere. Most men of Jo’s age were standing
before their mirror of a Saturday night, whistling blithely and
abstractedly while they discarded a blue polka-dot for a maroon tie,
whipped off the maroon for a shot-silk in favor of a plain
black-and-white, because she had once said she preferred quiet ties.
Jo, when he should have been preening his feathers for conquest, was

“Well, my God, I am hurrying! Give a man time, can’t you? I just got
home. You girls have been laying around the house all day. No wonder
you’re ready.”

He took a certain pride in seeing his sisters well dressed, at a
time when he should have been revelling in fancy waistcoats and
brilliant-hued socks, according to the style of that day, and the
inalienable right of any unwed male under thirty, in any day. On
those rare occasions when his business necessitated an out-of-town
trip, he would spend half a day floundering about the shops
selecting handkerchiefs, or stockings, or feathers, or fans, or
gloves for the girls. They always turned out to be the wrong kind,
judging by their reception.

From Carrie, “What in the world do I want of a fan!”

“I thought you didn’t have one,” Jo would say.

“I haven’t. I never go to dances.”

Joe would pass a futile hand over the top of his head, as was his
way when disturbed. “I just thought you’d like one. I thought every
girl liked a fan. Just,” feebly, “just to--to have.”

“Oh, for pity’s sake!”

And from Eva or Babe, “I’ve got silk stockings, Jo.” Or, “You
brought me handkerchiefs the last time.”

There was something selfish in his giving, as there always is in any
gift freely and joyfully made. They never suspected the exquisite
pleasure it gave him to select these things; these fine, soft,
silken things. There were many things about this slow-going, amiable
brother of theirs that they never suspected. If you had told them he
was a dreamer of dreams, for example, they would have been amused.
Sometimes, dead-tired by nine o’clock, after a hard day downtown, he
would doze over the evening paper. At intervals he would wake,
red-eyed, to a snatch of conversation such as, “Yes, but if you get
a blue you can wear it anywhere. It’s dressy, and at the same time
it’s quiet, too.” Eva, the expert, wrestling with Carrie over the
problem of the new spring dress. They never guessed that the
commonplace man in the frayed old smoking-jacket had banished them
all from the room long ago; had banished himself, for that matter.
In his place was a tall, debonair, and rather dangerously handsome
man to whom six o’clock spelled evening clothes. The kind of man who
can lean up against a mantel, or propose a toast, or give an order
to a man-servant, or whisper a gallant speech in a lady’s ear with
equal ease. The shabby old house on Calumet Avenue was transformed
into a brocaded and chandeliered rendezvous for the brilliance of
the city. Beauty was here, and wit. But none so beautiful and witty
as She. Mrs.--er--Jo Hertz. There was wine, of course; but no
regular display. There was music; the soft sheen of satin; laughter.
And he the gracious, tactful host, king of his own domain--

“Jo, for heaven’s sake, if you’re going to snore go to bed!”

“Why--did I fall asleep?”

“You haven’t been doing anything else all evening. A person would
think you were fifty instead of thirty.”

And Jo Hertz was again just the dull, gray, commonplace brother of
three well-meaning sisters.

Babe used to say petulantly, “Jo, why don’t you ever bring home any
of your men friends? A girl might as well not have any brother, all
the good you do.”

Jo, conscience-stricken, did his best to make amends. But a man who
has been petticoat-ridden for years loses the knack, somehow, of
comradeship with men. He acquires, too, a knowledge of women, and a
distaste for them, equalled only, perhaps, by that of an
elevator-starter in a department store.

Which brings us to one Sunday in May. Jo came home from a late
Sunday afternoon walk to find company for supper. Carrie often had
in one of her school-teacher friends, or Babe one of her frivolous
intimates, or even Eva a staid guest of the old-girl type. There was
always a Sunday night supper of potato salad, and cold meat, and
coffee, and perhaps a fresh cake. Jo rather enjoyed it, being a
hospitable soul. But he regarded the guests with the undazzled eyes
of a man to whom they were just so many petticoats, timid of the
night streets and requiring escort home. If you had suggested to him
that some of his sisters’ popularity was due to his own presence, or
if you had hinted that the more kittenish of these visitors were
probably making eyes at him, he would have stared in amazement and

This Sunday night it turned out to be one of Carrie’s friends.

“Emily,” said Carrie, “this is my brother, Jo.”

Jo had learned what to expect in Carrie’s friends. Drab-looking
women in the late thirties, whose facial lines all slanted downward.

“Happy to meet you,” said Jo, and looked down at a different sort
altogether. A most surprisingly different sort, for one of Carrie’s
friends. This Emily person was very small, and fluffy, and
blue-eyed, and sort of--well, crinkly looking. You know. The corners
of her mouth when she smiled, and her eyes when she looked up at
you, and her hair, which was brown, but had the miraculous effect,
somehow, of being golden.

Jo shook hands with her. Her hand was incredibly small, and soft, so
that you were afraid of crushing it, until you discovered she had a
firm little grip all her own. It surprised and amused you, that
grip, as does a baby’s unexpected clutch on your patronizing
forefinger. As Jo felt it in his own big clasp, the strangest thing
happened to him. Something inside Jo Hertz stopped working for a
moment, then lurched sickenly, then thumped like mad. It was his
heart. He stood staring down at her, and she up at him, until the
others laughed. Then their hands fell apart, lingeringly.

“Are you a school-teacher, Emily?” he said.

“Kindergarten. It’s my first year. And don’t call me Emily, please.”

“Why not? It’s your name. I think it’s the prettiest name in all the
world.” Which he hadn’t meant to say at all. In fact, he was
perfectly aghast to find himself saying it. But he meant it.

At supper he passed her things, and stared, until everybody laughed
again, and Eva said acidly, “Why don’t you feed her?”

It wasn’t that Emily had an air of helplessness. She just made you
feel you wanted her to be helpless, so that you could help her.

Jo took her home, and from that Sunday night he began to strain at
the leash. He took his sisters out, dutifully, but he would suggest,
with a carelessness that deceived no one, “Don’t you want one of
your girl friends to come along? That little What’s-her-name--Emily,
or something. So long’s I’ve got three of you, I might as well have
a full squad.”

For a long time he didn’t know what was the matter with him. He only
knew he was miserable, and yet happy. Sometimes his heart seemed to
ache with an actual physical ache. He realized that he wanted to do
things for Emily. He wanted to buy things for Emily--useless,
pretty, expensive things that he couldn’t afford. He wanted to buy
everything that Emily needed, and everything that Emily desired. He
wanted to marry Emily. That was it. He discovered that one day, with
a shock, in the midst of a transaction in the harness business. He
stared at the man with whom he was dealing until that startled
person grew uncomfortable.

“What’s the matter, Hertz?”


“You look as if you’d seen a ghost or found a gold mine. I don’t
know which.”

“Gold mine,” said Jo. And then, “No. Ghost.”

For he remembered that high, thin voice, and his promise. And the
harness business was slithering downhill with dreadful rapidity, as
the automobile business began its amazing climb. Jo tried to stop
it. But he was not that kind of business man. It never occurred to
him to jump out of the down-going vehicle and catch the up-going
one. He stayed on, vainly applying brakes that refused to work.

“You know, Emily, I couldn’t support two households now. Not the way
things are. But if you’ll wait. If you’ll only wait. The girls
might--that is, Babe and Carrie--”

She was a sensible little thing, Emily. “Of course I’ll wait. But we
mustn’t just sit back and let the years go by. We’ve got to help.”

She went about it as if she were already a little match-making
matron. She corralled all the men she had ever known and introduced
them to Babe, Carrie, and Eva separately, in pairs, and en masse.
She arranged parties at which Babe could display the curl. She got
up picnics. She stayed home while Jo took the three about. When she
was present she tried to look as plain and obscure as possible, so
that the sisters should show up to advantage. She schemed, and
planned, and contrived, and hoped; and smiled into Jo’s despairing

And three years went by. Three precious years. Carrie taught school,
and hated it. Eva kept house, more and more complainingly as prices
advanced and allowances retreated. Stell was still Babe, the family
beauty; but even she knew that the time was past for curls. Emily’s
hair, somehow, lost its glint and began to look just plain brown.
Her crinkliness began to iron out.

“Now, look here!” Jo argued, desperately, one night. “We could be
happy, anyway. There’s plenty of room at the house. Lots of people
begin that way. Of course, I couldn’t give you all I’d like to, at
first. But maybe, after a while--”

No dreams of salons, and brocade, and velvet-footed servitors, and
satin damask now. Just two rooms, all their own, all alone, and
Emily to work for. That was his dream. But it seemed less possible
than that other absurd one had been.

You know that Emily was as practical a little thing as she looked
fluffy. She knew women. Especially did she know Eva, and Carrie, and
Babe. She tried to imagine herself taking the household affairs and
the housekeeping pocketbook out of Eva’s expert hands. Eva had once
displayed to her a sheaf of aigrettes she had bought with what she
saved out of the housekeeping money. So then she tried to picture
herself allowing the reins of Jo’s house to remain in Eva’s hands.
And everything feminine and normal in her rebelled. Emily knew she’d
want to put away her own freshly laundered linen, and smooth it, and
pat it. She was that kind of woman. She knew she’d want to do her
own delightful haggling with butcher and vegetable pedlar. She knew
she’d want to muss Jo’s hair, and sit on his knee, and even quarrel
with him, if necessary, without the awareness of three ever-present
pairs of maiden eyes and ears.

“No! No! We’d only be miserable. I know. Even if they didn’t object.
And they would, Jo. Wouldn’t they?”

His silence was miserable assent. Then, “But you do love me, don’t
you, Emily?”

“I do, Jo. I love you--and love you--and love you. But, Jo,

“I know it, dear. I knew it all the time, really. I just thought
maybe, somehow--”

The two sat staring for a moment into space, their hands clasped.
Then they both shut their eyes, with a little shudder, as though
what they saw was terrible to look upon. Emily’s hand, the tiny hand
that was so unexpectedly firm, tightened its hold on him, and his
crushed the absurd fingers until she winced with pain.

That was the beginning of the end, and they knew it.

Emily wasn’t the kind of girl who would be left to pine. There are
too many Jo’s in the world whose hearts are prone to lurch and then
thump at the feel of a soft, fluttering, incredibly small hand in
their grip. One year later Emily was married to a young man whose
father owned a large, pie-shaped slice of the prosperous state of

That being safely accomplished, there was something grimly humorous
in the trend taken by affairs in the old house on Calumet. For Eva
married. Of all people, Eva! Married well, too, though he was a
great deal older than she. She went off in a hat she had copied from
a French model at Field’s, and a suit she had contrived with a home
dressmaker, aided by pressing on the part of the little tailor in
the basement over on Thirty-first Street. It was the last of that,
though. The next time they saw her, she had on a hat that even she
would have despaired of copying, and a suit that sort of melted into
your gaze. She moved to the North Side (trust Eva for that), and
Babe assumed the management of the household on Calumet Avenue. It
was rather a pinched little household now, for the harness business
shrank and shrank.

“I don’t see how you can expect me to keep house decently on this!”
Babe would say contemptuously. Babe’s nose, always a little inclined
to sharpness, had whittled down to a point of late. “If you knew
what Ben gives Eva.”

“It’s the best I can do, Sis. Business is something rotten.”

“Ben says if you had the least bit of--” Ben was Eva’s husband, and
quotable, as are all successful men.

“I don’t care what Ben says,” shouted Jo, goaded into rage. “I’m
sick of your everlasting Ben. Go and get a Ben of your own, why
don’t you, if you’re so stuck on the way he does things.”

And Babe did. She made a last desperate drive, aided by Eva, and she
captured a rather surprised young man in the brokerage way, who had
made up his mind not to marry for years and years. Eva wanted to
give her her wedding things, but at that Jo broke into sudden

“No, sir! No Ben is going to buy my sister’s wedding clothes,
understand? I guess I’m not broke--yet. I’ll furnish the money for
her things, and there’ll be enough of them, too.”

Babe had as useless a trousseau, and as filled with extravagant
pink-and-blue and lacy and frilly things as any daughter of doting
parents. Jo seemed to find a grim pleasure in providing them. But it
left him pretty well pinched. After Babe’s marriage (she insisted
that they call her Estelle now) Jo sold the house on Calumet. He and
Carrie took one of those little flats that were springing up,
seemingly over night, all through Chicago’s South Side.

There was nothing domestic about Carrie. She had given up teaching
two years before, and had gone into Social Service work on the West
Side. She had what is known as a legal mind--hard, clear,
orderly--and she made a great success of it. Her dream was to live
at the Settlement House and give all her time to the work. Upon the
little household she bestowed a certain amount of grim, capable
attention. It was the same kind of attention she would have given a
piece of machinery whose oiling and running had been entrusted to
her care. She hated it, and didn’t hesitate to say so.

Jo took to prowling about department store basements, and household
goods sections. He was always sending home a bargain in a ham, or a
sack of potatoes, or fifty pounds of sugar, or a window clamp, or a
new kind of paring knife. He was forever doing odd little jobs that
the janitor should have done. It was the domestic in him claiming
its own.

Then, one night, Carrie came home with a dull glow in her leathery
cheeks, and her eyes alight with resolve. They had what she called a
plain talk.

“Listen, Jo. They’ve offered me the job of first assistant resident
worker. And I’m going to take it. Take it! I know fifty other girls
who’d give their ears for it. I go in next month.”

They were at dinner. Jo looked up from his plate, dully. Then he
glanced around the little dining-room, with its ugly tan walls and
its heavy, dark furniture (the Calumet Avenue pieces fitted
cumbersomely into the five-room flat).

“Away? Away from here, you mean--to live?”

Carrie laid down her fork. “Well, really, Jo! After all that

“But to go over there to live! Why, that neighborhood’s full of
dirt, and disease, and crime, and the Lord knows what all. I can’t
let you do that, Carrie.”

Carrie’s chin came up. She laughed a short little laugh. “Let me!
That’s eighteenth-century talk, Jo. My life’s my own to live. I’m

And she went.

Jo stayed on in the apartment until the lease was up. Then he sold
what furniture he could, stored or gave away the rest, and took a
room on Michigan Avenue in one of the old stone mansions whose
decayed splendor was being put to such purpose.

Jo Hertz was his own master. Free to marry. Free to come and go. And
he found he didn’t even think of marrying. He didn’t want to come or
go, particularly. A rather frumpy old bachelor, with thinning hair
and a thickening neck. Much has been written about the unwed,
middle-aged woman; her fussiness, her primness, her angularity of
mind and body. In the male that same fussiness develops, and a
certain primness, too. But he grows flabby where she grows lean.

Every Thursday evening he took dinner at Eva’s, and on Sunday noon
at Stell’s. He tucked his napkin under his chin and openly enjoyed
the homemade soup and the well-cooked meats. After dinner he tried
to talk business with Eva’s husband, or Stell’s. His business talks
were the old-fashioned kind, beginning:

“Well, now, looka here. Take, f’rinstance your raw hides and

But Ben and George didn’t want to “take, f’rinstance, your raw hides
and leathers.” They wanted, when they took anything at all, to take
golf, or politics or stocks. They were the modern type of business
man who prefers to leave his work out of his play. Business, with
them, was a profession--a finely graded and balanced thing,
differing from Jo’s clumsy, downhill style as completely as does the
method of a great criminal detective differ from that of a village
constable. They would listen, restively, and say, “Uh-uh,” at
intervals, and at the first chance they would sort of fade out of
the room, with a meaning glance at their wives. Eva had two children
now. Girls. They treated Uncle Jo with good-natured tolerance. Stell
had no children. Uncle Jo degenerated, by almost imperceptible
degrees, from the position of honored guest, who is served with
white meat, to that of one who is content with a leg and one of
those obscure and bony sections which, after much turning with a
bewildered and investigating knife and fork, leave one baffled and

Eva and Stell got together and decided that Jo ought to marry.

“It isn’t natural,” Eva told him. “I never saw a man who took so
little interest in women.”

“Me!” protested Jo, almost shyly. “Women!”

“Yes. Of course. You act like a frightened schoolboy.”

So they had in for dinner certain friends and acquaintances of
fitting age. They spoke of them as “splendid girls.” Between
thirty-six and forty. They talked awfully well, in a firm, clear
way, about civics, and classes, and politics, and economics, and
boards. They rather terrified Jo. He didn’t understand much that
they talked about, and he felt humbly inferior, and yet a little
resentful, as if something had passed him by. He escorted them home,
dutifully, though they told him not to bother, and they evidently
meant it. They seemed capable, not only of going home quite
unattended, but of delivering a pointed lecture to any highwayman or
brawler who might molest them.

The following Thursday Eva would say, “How did you like her, Joe?”

“Like who?” Jo would spar feebly.

“Miss Matthews.”

“Who’s she?”

“Now, don’t be funny, Jo. You know very well I mean the girl who was
here for dinner. The one who talked so well on the emigration

“Oh, her! Why, I liked her all right. Seems to be a smart woman.”

“Smart! She’s a perfectly splendid girl.”

“Sure,” Jo would agree cheerfully.

“But didn’t you like her?”

“I can’t say I did, Eve. And I can’t say I didn’t. She made me think
a lot of a teacher I had in the fifth reader. Name of Himes. As I
recall her, she must have been a fine woman. But I never thought of
her as a woman at all. She was just Teacher.”

“You make me tired,” snapped Eva impatiently. “A man of your age.
You don’t expect to marry a girl, do you? A child!”

“I don’t expect to marry anybody,” Jo had answered.

And that was the truth, lonely though he often was.

The following spring Eva moved to Winnetka. Any one who got the
meaning of the Loop knows the significance of a move to a
north-shore suburb, and a house. Eva’s daughter, Ethel, was growing
up, and her mother had an eye on society.

That did away with Jo’s Thursday dinner. Then Stell’s husband bought
a car. They went out into the country every Sunday. Stell said it
was getting so that maids objected to Sunday dinners, anyway.
Besides, they were unhealthy, old-fashioned things. They always
meant to ask Jo to come along, but by the time their friends were
placed, and the lunch, and the boxes, and sweaters, and George’s
camera, and everything, there seemed to be no room for a man of Jo’s
bulk. So that eliminated the Sunday dinners.

“Just drop in any time during the week,” Stell said, “for dinner.
Except Wednesday--that’s our bridge night--and Saturday. And, of
course, Thursday. Cook is out that night. Don’t wait for me to

And so Jo drifted into that sad-eyed, dyspeptic family made up of
those you see dining in second-rate restaurants, their paper propped
up against the bowl of oyster crackers, munching solemnly and with
indifference to the stare of the passer-by surveying them through
the brazen plate-glass window.

And then came the War. The war that spelled death and destruction to
millions. The war that brought a fortune to Jo Hertz, and
transformed him, over night, from a baggy-kneed old bachelor, whose
business was a failure, to a prosperous manufacturer whose only
trouble was the shortage in hides for the making of his
product--leather! The armies of Europe called for it. Harnesses!
More harnesses! Straps! Millions of straps. More! More!

The musty old harness business over on Lake Street was magically
changed from a dust-covered, dead-alive concern to an orderly hive
that hummed and glittered with success. Orders poured in. Jo Hertz
had inside information on the War. He knew about troops and horses.
He walked with French and English and Italian buyers--noblemen, many
of them--commissioned by their countries to get American-made
supplies. And now, when he said to Ben or George, “Take f’rinstance
your raw hides and leathers,” they listened with respectful

And then began the gay-dog business in the life of Jo Hertz. He
developed into a Loop-hound, ever keen on the scent of fresh
pleasure. That side of Jo Hertz which had been repressed and crushed
and ignored began to bloom, unhealthily. At first he spent money on
his rather contemptuous nieces. He sent them gorgeous fans, and
watch bracelets, and velvet bags. He took two expensive rooms at a
downtown hotel, and there was something more tear-compelling than
grotesque about the way he gloated over the luxury of a separate
ice-water tap in the bathroom. He explained it.

“Just turn it on. Ice-water! Any hour of the day or night.”

He bought a car. Naturally. A glittering affair; in color a bright
blue, with pale-blue leather straps and a great deal of gold
fittings, and wire wheels. Eva said it was the kind of thing a
soubrette would use, rather than an elderly business man. You saw
him, too, in the Pompeian room at the Congress Hotel of a Saturday
afternoon when doubtful and roving-eyed matrons in kolinsky capes
are wont to congregate to sip pale amber drinks. Actors grew to
recognize the semi-bald head and the shining, round, good-natured
face looming out at them from the dim well of the parquet, and
sometimes, in a musical show, they directed a quip at him, and he
liked it. He could pick out the critics as they came down the aisle,
and even had a nodding acquaintance with two of them.

“Kelly, of the ‘Herald,’” he would say carelessly. “Bean, of the
‘Trib.’ They’re all afraid of him.”

So he frolicked, ponderously. In New York he might have been called
a Man About Town.

And he was lonesome. He was very lonesome. So he searched about in
his mind and brought from the dim past the memory of the luxuriously
furnished establishment of which he used to dream in the evenings
when he dozed over his paper in the old house on Calumet. So he
rented an apartment, many-roomed and expensive, with a man-servant
in charge, and furnished it in styles and periods ranging through
all the Louises. The living-room was mostly rose color. It was like
an unhealthy and bloated boudoir. And yet there was nothing
sybaritic or uncleanly in the sight of this paunchy, middle-aged man
sinking into the rosy-cushioned luxury of his ridiculous home. It
was a frank and naïve indulgence of long-starved senses, and there
was in it a great resemblance to the rolling-eyed ecstasy of a
schoolboy smacking his lips over an all-day sucker.

The War went on, and on, and on. And the money continued to roll
in--a flood of it. Then, one afternoon, Eva, in town on shopping
bent, entered a small, exclusive, and expensive shop on Michigan
Avenue. Exclusive, that is, in price. Eva’s weakness, you may
remember, was hats. She was seeking a hat now. She described what
she sought with a languid conciseness, and stood looking about her
after the saleswoman had vanished in quest of it. The room was
becomingly rose-illumined and somewhat dim, so that some minutes had
passed before she realized that a man seated on a raspberry brocade
settee not five feet away--a man with a walking stick, and yellow
gloves, and tan spats, and a check suit--was her brother Jo. From
him Eva’s wild-eyed glance leaped to the woman who was trying on
hats before one of the many long mirrors. She was seated, and a
saleswoman was exclaiming discreetly at her elbow.

Eva turned sharply and encountered her own saleswoman returning,
hat-laden. “Not to-day,” she gasped. “I’m feeling ill. Suddenly.”
And almost ran from the room.

That evening she told Stell, relating her news in that telephone
pidgin-English devised by every family of married sisters as
protection against the neighbors and Central. Translated, it ran

“He looked straight at me. My dear, I thought I’d die! But at least
he had sense enough not to speak. She was one of those limp, willowy
creatures with the greediest eyes that she tried to keep softened to
a baby stare, and couldn’t, she was so crazy to get her hands on
those hats. I saw it all in one awful minute. You know the way I do.
I suppose some people would call her pretty. I don’t. And her color!
Well! And the most expensive-looking hats. Aigrettes, and paradise,
and feathers. Not one of them under seventy-five. Isn’t it
disgusting! At his age! Suppose Ethel had been with me!”

The next time it was Stell who saw them. In a restaurant. She said
it spoiled her evening. And the third time it was Ethel. She was one
of the guests at a theater party given by Nicky Overton II. You
know. The North Shore Overtons. Lake Forest. They came in late, and
occupied the entire third row at the opening performance of “Believe
Me!” And Ethel was Nicky’s partner. She was glowing like a rose.
When the lights went up after the first act Ethel saw that her Uncle
Jo was seated just ahead of her with what she afterward described as
a blonde. Then her uncle had turned around, and seeing her, had been
surprised into a smile that spread genially all over his plump and
rubicund face. Then he had turned to face forward again, quickly.

“Who’s the old bird?” Nicky had asked. Ethel had pretended not to
hear, so he had asked again.

“My uncle,” Ethel answered, and flushed all over her delicate face,
and down to her throat. Nicky had looked at the blonde, and his
eyebrows had gone up ever so slightly.

It spoiled Ethel’s evening. More than that, as she told her mother
of it later, weeping, she declared it had spoiled her life.

Eva talked it over with her husband in that intimate, kimonoed hour
that precedes bedtime. She gesticulated heatedly with her hair

“It’s disgusting, that’s what it is. Perfectly disgusting. There’s
no fool like an old fool. Imagine! A creature like that. At his time
of life.”

There exists a strange and loyal kinship among men. “Well, I don’t
know,” Ben said now, and even grinned a little. “I suppose a boy’s
got to sow his wild oats sometime.”

“Don’t be any more vulgar than you can help,” Eva retorted. “And I
think you know, as well as I, what it means to have that Overton boy
interested in Ethel.”

“If he’s interested in her,” Ben blundered, “I guess the fact that
Ethel’s uncle went to the theater with some one who wasn’t Ethel’s
aunt won’t cause a shudder to run up and down his frail young frame,
will it?”

“All right,” Eva retorted. “If you’re not man enough to stop it,
I’ll have to, that’s all. I’m going up there with Stell this week.”

They did not notify Jo of their coming. Eva telephoned his apartment
when she knew he would be out, and asked his man if he expected his
master home to dinner that evening. The man had said yes. Eva
arranged to meet Stell in town. They would drive to Jo’s apartment
together, and wait for him there.

When she reached the city Eva found turmoil there. The first of the
American troops to be sent to France were leaving. Michigan
Boulevard was a billowing, surging mass: flags, pennants, banners,
crowds. All the elements that make for demonstration. And over the
whole--quiet. No holiday crowd, this. A solid, determined mass of
people waiting patient hours to see the khaki-clads go by. Three
years of indefatigable reading had brought them to a clear knowledge
of what these boys were going to.

“Isn’t it dreadful!” Stell gasped.

“Nicky Overton’s only nineteen, thank goodness.”

Their car was caught in the jam. When they moved at all it was by
inches. When at last they reached Jo’s apartment they were flushed,
nervous, apprehensive. But he had not yet come in. So they waited.

No, they were not staying to dinner with their brother, they told
the relieved houseman.

Jo’s home has already been described to you. Stell and Eva, sunk in
rose-colored cushions, viewed it with disgust, and some mirth. They
rather avoided each other’s eyes.

“Carrie ought to be here,” Eva said. They both smiled at the thought
of the austere Carrie in the midst of those rosy cushions, and
hangings, and lamps. Stell rose and began to walk about, restlessly.
She picked up a vase and laid it down; straightened a picture. Eva
got up, too, and wandered into the hall. She stood there a moment,
listening. Then she turned and passed into Jo’s bedroom. And there
you knew Jo for what he was.

This room was as bare as the other had been ornate. It was Jo, the
clean-minded and simple-hearted, in revolt against the cloying
luxury with which he had surrounded himself. The bedroom, of all
rooms in any house, reflects the personality of its occupant. True,
the actual furniture was panelled, cupid-surmounted, and ridiculous.
It had been the fruit of Jo’s first orgy of the senses. But now it
stood out in that stark little room with an air as incongruous and
ashamed as that of a pink tarleton _danseuse_ who finds herself in
a monk’s cell. None of those wall-pictures with which bachelor
bedrooms are reputed to be hung. No satin slippers. No scented
notes. Two plain-backed military brushes on the chiffonier (and he
so nearly hairless). A little orderly stack of books on the table
near the bed. Eva fingered their titles and gave a little gasp. One
of them was on gardening.

“Well, of all things!” exclaimed Stell. A book on the War, by an
Englishman. A detective story of the lurid type that lulls us to
sleep. His shoes ranged in a careful row in the closet, with a
shoe-tree in every one of them. There was something speaking about
them. They looked human. Eva shut the door on them, quickly. Some
bottles on the dresser. A jar of pomade. An ointment such as a man
uses who is growing bald and is panic-stricken too late. An
insurance calendar on the wall. Some rhubarb-and-soda mixture on the
shelf in the bathroom, and a little box of pepsin tablets.

“Eats all kinds of things at all hours of the night,” Eva said, and
wandered out into the rose-colored front room again with the air of
one who is chagrined at her failure to find what she has sought.
Stell followed her furtively.

“Where do you suppose he can be?” she demanded. “It’s”--she glanced
at her wrist--“Why, it’s after six!”

And then there was a little click. The two women sat up, tense. The
door opened. Jo came in. He blinked a little. The two women in the
rosy room stood up.

“Why--Eve! Why, Babe! Well! Why didn’t you let me know?”

“We were just about to leave. We thought you weren’t coming home.”

Jo came in, slowly.

“I was in the jam on Michigan, watching the boys go by.” He sat
down, heavily. The light from the window fell on him. And you saw
that his eyes were red.

And you’ll have to learn why. He had found himself one of the
thousands in the jam on Michigan Avenue, as he said. He had a place
near the curb, where his big frame shut off the view of the
unfortunates behind him. He waited with the placid interest of one
who has subscribed to all the funds and societies to which a
prosperous, middle-aged business man is called upon to subscribe in
war time. Then, just as he was about to leave, impatient at the
delay, the crowd had cried, with a queer, dramatic, exultant note in
its voice, “Here they come! Here come the boys!”

Just at that moment two little, futile, frenzied fists began to beat
a mad tattoo on Jo Hertz’s broad back. Jo tried to turn in the
crowd, all indignant resentment. “Say, looka here!”

The little fists kept up their frantic beating and pushing. And a
voice--a choked, high little voice--cried, “Let me by! I can’t see!
You man, you! You big fat man! My boy’s going by--to war--and I
can’t see! Let me by!”

Jo scrooged around, still keeping his place. He looked down. And
upturned to him in agonized appeal was the face of little Emily.
They stared at each other for what seemed a long, long time. It was
really only the fraction of a second. Then Jo put one great arm
firmly around Emily’s waist and swung her around in front of him.
His great bulk protected her. Emily was clinging to his hand. She
was breathing rapidly, as if she had been running. Her eyes were
straining up the street.

“Why, Emily, how in the world!--”

“I ran away. Fred didn’t want me to come. He said it would excite me
too much.”


“My husband. He made me promise to say good-by to Jo at home.”


“Jo’s my boy. And he’s going to war. So I ran away. I had to see
him. I had to see him go.”

She was dry-eyed. Her gaze was straining up the street.

“Why, sure,” said Jo. “Of course you want to see him.” And then the
crowd gave a great roar. There came over Jo a feeling of weakness.
He was trembling. The boys went marching by.

“There he is!” Emily shrilled, above the din. “There he is! There he
is! There he--” And waved a futile little hand. It wasn’t so much a
wave as a clutching. A clutching after something beyond her reach.

“Which one? Which one, Emily?”

“The handsome one. The handsome one. There!” Her voice quavered and

Jo put a steady hand on her shoulder. “Point him out,” he commanded.
“Show me.” And the next instant. “Never mind. I see him.”

Somehow, miraculously, he had picked him from among the hundreds.
Had picked him as surely as his own father might have. It was
Emily’s boy. He was marching by, rather stiffy. He was nineteen, and
fun-loving, and he had a girl, and he didn’t particularly want to go
to France and--to go to France. But more than he had hated going, he
had hated not to go. So he marched by, looking straight ahead, his
jaw set so that his chin stuck out just a little. Emily’s boy.

Jo looked at him, and his face flushed purple. His eyes, the
hard-boiled eyes of a Loop-hound, took on the look of a sad old man.
And suddenly he was no longer Jo, the sport; old J. Hertz, the gay
dog. He was Jo Hertz, thirty, in love with life, in love with Emily,
and with the stinging blood of young manhood coursing through his

Another minute and the boy had passed on up the broad street--the
fine, flag-bedecked street--just one of a hundred service-hats
bobbing in rhythmic motion like sandy waves lapping a shore and
flowing on.

Then he disappeared altogether.

Emily was clinging to Jo. She was mumbling something, over and over.
“I can’t. I can’t. Don’t ask me to. I can’t let him go. Like that. I

Jo said a queer thing.

“Why, Emily! We wouldn’t have him stay home, would we? We wouldn’t
want him to do anything different, would we? Not our boy. I’m glad
he enlisted. I’m proud of him. So are you glad.”

Little by little he quieted her. He took her to the car that was
waiting, a worried chauffeur in charge. They said good-by,
awkwardly. Emily’s face was a red, swollen mass.

So it was that when Jo entered his own hallway half an hour later he
blinked, dazedly, and when the light from the window fell on him you
saw that his eyes were red.

Eva was not one to beat about the bush. She sat forward in her
chair, clutching her bag rather nervously.

“Now, look here, Jo. Stell and I are here for a reason. We’re here
to tell you that this thing’s got to stop.”

“Thing? Stop?”

“You know very well what I mean. You saw me at the milliner’s that
day. And night before last, Ethel. We’re all disgusted. If you must
go about with people like that, please have some sense of decency.”

Something gathering in Jo’s face should have warned her. But he was
slumped down in his chair in such a huddle, and he looked so old and
fat that she did not heed it. She went on: “You’ve got us to
consider. Your sisters. And your nieces. Not to speak of your own--”

But he got to his feet then, shaking, and at what she saw in his
face even Eva faltered and stopped. It wasn’t at all the face of a
fat, middle-aged sport. It was a face Jovian, terrible.

“You!” he began, low-voiced, ominous. “You!” He raised a great fist
high. “You two murderers! You didn’t consider me, twenty years ago.
You come to me with talk like that. Where’s my boy! You killed him,
you two, twenty years ago. And now he belongs to somebody else.
Where’s my son! that should have gone marching by to-day?” He flung
his arms out in a great gesture of longing. The red veins stood out
on his forehead. “Where’s my son! Answer me that, you two selfish,
miserable women. Where’s my son!” Then, as they huddled together,
frightened, wild-eyed, “Out of my house! Out of my house! Before I
hurt you!”

They fled, terrified. The door banged behind them.

Jo stood, shaking, in the center of the room. Then he reached for a
chair, gropingly, and sat down. He passed one moist, flabby hand
over his forehead and it came away wet. The telephone rang. He sat
still. It sounded far away and unimportant, like something
forgotten. I think he did not even hear it with his conscious ear.
But it rang and rang insistently. Jo liked to answer his telephone,
when at home.

“Hello!” He knew instantly the voice at the other end.

“That you, Jo?” it said.


“How’s my boy?”

“I’m all right.”

“Listen, Jo. The crowd’s coming over to-night. I’ve fixed up a
little poker game for you. Just eight of us.”

“I can’t come to-night, Gert.”

“Can’t! Why not?”

“I’m not feeling so good.”

“You just said you were all right.”

“I am all right. Just kind of tired.”

The voice took on a cooing note. “Is my Joey tired? Then he doesn’t
need to play if he don’t want to. No, sir.”

Jo stood staring at the black mouthpiece of the telephone. He was
seeing a procession go marching by. Boys, hundreds of boys, in

“Hello! Hello!” the voice took on an anxious note. “Are you there?”

“Yes,” wearily.

“Jo, there’s something the matter. You’re sick. I’m coming right


“Why not? You sound as if you’d been sleeping. Look here--”

“Leave me alone!” cried Jo, suddenly, and the receiver clacked onto
the hook. “Leave me alone. Leave me alone.” Long after the
connection had been broken.

He stood staring at the instrument with unseeing eyes. Then he
turned and walked into the front room. All the light had gone out of
it. Dusk had come on. All the light had gone out of everything. The
zest had gone out of life. The game was over--the game he had been
playing against loneliness and disappointment. And he was just a
tired old man. A lonely, tired old man in a ridiculous, rose-colored
room that had grown, all of a sudden, drab.


By George Fitch

From “At Good Old Siwash,” copyright, 1911, by Little, Brown
and Company. By special permission of the author.

Am I going to the game Saturday? Am I? Me? Am I going to eat some
more food this year? Am I going to draw my pay this month? Am I
going to do any more breathing after I get this lungful used up? All
foolish questions, pal. Very silly conversation. Pshaw!

Am I going to the game, you ask me? Is the sun going to get up
to-morrow? You couldn’t keep me away from that game if you put a
protective tariff of seventy-eight per cent ad valorem, whatever
that means, on the front gate. I came out to this town on business,
and I’ll have to take an extra fare train home to make up the time;
but what of that? I’m going to the game, and when the Siwash team
comes out I’m going to get up and give as near a correct imitation
of a Roman mob and a Polish riot as my throat will stand; and if we
put a crimp in the large-footed, humpy-shouldered behemoths we’re
going up against this afternoon, I’m going out to-night and burn the
City Hall. Any Siwash man who is a gentleman would do it. I’ll
probably have to run like thunder to beat some of them to it.

You know how it is, old man. Or maybe you don’t, because you made
all your end runs on the Glee Club. But I played football all
through my college course and the microbe is still there. In the
fall I think football, talk football, dream football. Even though I
go out to the field and see little old Siwash lining up against a
bunch of overgrown hippos from a university with a catalogue as
thick as a city directory, the old mud-and-perspiration smell gets
in my nostrils, and the desire to get under the bunch and feel the
feet jabbing into my ribs boils up so strong that I have to hold on
to myself with both hands. If you’ve never sat on a hard board and
wanted to be between two halfbacks with your hands on their
shoulders, and the quarter ready to sock a ball into your solar
plexus, and eleven men daring you to dodge ’em, and nine thousand
friends and enemies raising Cain and keeping him well propped up in
the grandstands--if you haven’t had that want you wouldn’t know a
healthy, able-bodied want if you ran into it on the street.

Of course, I never got any further along than a scrub. But what’s
the odds? A broken bone feels just as grand to a scrub as to a star.
I sometimes think a scrub gets more real football knowledge than a
varsity man, because he doesn’t have to addle his brain by worrying
about holding his job and keeping his wind, and by dreaming that he
has fumbled a punt and presented ninety-five yards to the hereditary
enemies of his college. I played scrub football five years, four of
’em under Bost, the greatest coach who ever put wings on the heels
of a two-hundred-pound hunk of meat; and while my ribs never lasted
long enough to put me on the team, what I didn’t learn about the
game you could put in the other fellow’s eye.

Say, but it’s great, learning football under a good coach. It’s the
finest training a man can get anywhere on this old globule. Football
is only the smallest thing you learn. You learn how to be patient
when what you want to do is to chew somebody up and spit him into
the gutter. You learn to control your temper when it is on the high
speed, with the throttle jerked wide open and buzzing like a hornet
convention. You learn, by having it told you, just how small and
foolish and insignificant you are, and how well this earth could
stagger along without you if some one were to take a fly-killer and
mash you with it. And you learn all this at the time of life when
your head is swelling up until you mistake it for a planet, and
regard whatever you say as a volcanic disturbance.

I suppose you think, like the rest of the chaps who never came out
to practice but observed the game from the dollar-and-a-half seats,
that being coached in football is like being instructed in German or
calculus. You are told what to do and how to do it, and then you
recite. Far from it, my boy! They don’t bother telling you what to
do and how to do it on a big football field. Mostly they tell you
what to do and how you do it. And they do it artistically, too. They
use plenty of language. A football coach is picked out for his ready
tongue. He must be a conversationalist. He must be able to talk to a
greenhorn, with fine shoulders and a needle-shaped head, until that
greenhorn would pick up the ball and take it through a Sioux war
dance to get away from the conversation. You can’t reason with
football men. They’re not logical, most of them. They are selected
for their heels and shoulders and their leg muscles, and not for
their ability to look at you with luminous eyes and say: “Yes,
Professor, I think I understand.” The way to make ’em understand is
to talk about them. Any man can understand you while you are telling
him that if he were just a little bit slower he would have to be
tied to the earth to keep up with it. That hurts his pride. And when
you hurt his pride he takes it out on whatever is in front of
him--which is the other team. Never get in front of a football
player when you are coaching him.

But this brings me to the subject of Bost again. Bost is still
coaching Siwash. This makes his ’steenth year. I guess he can stay
there forever. He’s coached all these years and has never used the
same adjective to the same man twice. There’s a record for you! He’s
a little man, Bost is. He played end on some Western team when he
only weighed one hundred and forty. Got his football knowledge
there. But where he got his vocabulary is still a mystery. He has a
way of convincing a man that a dill pickle would make a better guard
than he is, and of making that man so jealous of the pickle that he
will perform perfectly unreasonable feats for a week to beat it out
for the place. He has a way of saying “Hurry up,” with a few
descriptive adjectives tacked on, that makes a man rub himself in
the stung place for an hour; and oh, how mad he can make you while
he is telling you pleasantly that while the little fellow playing
against you is only a prep and has sloping shoulders and weighs one
hundred and eleven stripped, he is making you look like a bale of
hay that has been dumped by mistake on an athletic field. And when
he gets a team in the gymnasium between halves, with the game going
wrong, and stands up before them and sizes up their nerve and rubber
backbone and hereditary awkwardness and incredible talent in doing
the wrong thing, to say nothing of describing each individual
blunder in that queer nasal clack of his--well, I’d rather be tied
up in a great big frying-pan over a good hot stove for the same
length of time, any day in the week. The reason Bost is a great
coach is because his men don’t dare play poorly. When they do he
talks to them. If he would only hit them, or skin them by inches, or
shoot at them, they wouldn’t mind it so much; but when you get on
the field with him and realize that if you miss a tackle he is going
to get you out before the whole gang and tell you what a great
mistake the Creator made when He put joints in your arms instead of
letting them stick out stiff as they do any other signpost, you’re
not going to miss that tackle, that’s all.

When Bost came to Siwash he succeeded a line of coaches who had been
telling the fellows to get down low and hit the line hard, and had
been showing them how to do it very patiently. Nice fellows, those
coaches. Perfect gentlemen. Make you proud to associate with them.
They could take a herd of green farmer boys, with wrists like mules’
ankles, and by Thanksgiving they would have them familiar with all
the rudiments of the game. By that time the season would be over and
all the schools in the vicinity would have beaten us by big scores.
The next year the last year’s crop of big farmer boys would stay at
home to husk corn, and the coach would begin all over on a new crop.
The result was, we were a dub school at football. Any school that
could scare up a good rangy halfback and a line that could hold
sheep could get up an adding festival at our expense any time. We
lived in a perpetual state of fear. Some day we felt that the normal
school would come down and beat us. That would be the limit of
disgrace. After that there would be nothing left to do but disband
the college and take to drink to forget the past.

But Bost changed all that in one year. He didn’t care to show any
one how to play football. He was just interested in making the
player afraid not to play it. When you went down the field on a punt
you knew that if you missed your man he would tell you when you came
back that two stone hitching-posts out of three could get past you
in a six-foot alley. If you missed a punt you could expect to be
told that you might catch a haystack by running with your arms wide
open, but that was no way to catch a football. Maybe things like
that don’t sound jabby when two dozen men hear them! They kept us
catching punts between classes, and tackling each other all the way
to our rooms and back. We simply had to play football to keep from
being bawled out. It’s an awful thing to have a coach with a tongue
like a cheese knife swinging away at you, and to know that if you
get mad and quit, no one but the dear old coll. will suffer--but it
gets the results. They use the same system in the East, but there
they only swear at a man, I believe. Siwash is a mighty proper
college and you can’t swear on its campus, whatever else you do.
Swearing is only a lazy man’s substitute for thinking, anyway; and
Bost wasn’t lazy. He preferred the descriptive; he sat up nights
thinking it out.

We began to see the results before Bost had been tracing our
pedigrees for two weeks. First game of the season was with that
little old dinky Normal School which had been scaring us so for the
past five years. We had been satisfied to push some awkward halfback
over the line once, and then hold on to the enemy so tight he
couldn’t run; and we started out that year in the same old way.
First half ended 0 to 0, with our boys pretty satisfied because they
had kept the ball in Normal’s territory. Bost led the team and the
substitutes into the overgrown barn we used for a gymnasium, and
while we were still patting ourselves approvingly in our minds he
cut loose:

“You pasty-faced, overfed, white-livered beanbag experts, what do
you mean by running a beauty show instead of a football game?” he
yelled. “Do you suppose I came out here to be art director of a
statuary exhibit? Does any one of you imagine for a holy minute that
he knows the difference between a football game and ushering in a
church? Don’t fool yourselves. You don’t; you don’t know anything.
All you ever knew about football I could carve on granite and put in
my eye and never feel it. Nothing to nothing against a crowd of
farmer boys who haven’t known a football from a duck’s egg for more
than a week! Bah! If I ever turned the Old Folks’ Home loose on you
doll babies they’d run up a century while you were hunting for your
handkerchiefs. Jackson, what do you suppose a halfback is for? I
don’t want cloak models. I want a man who can stick his head down
and run. Don’t be afraid of that bean of yours; it hasn’t got
anything worth saving in it. When you get the ball you’re supposed
to run with it and not sit around trying to hatch it. You, Saunders!
You held that other guard just like a sweet-pea vine. Where did you
ever learn that sweet, lovely way of falling down on your nose when
a real man sneezes at you? Did you ever hear of sand? Eat it! Eat
it! Fill your self up with it. I want you to get in that line this
half and stop something or I’ll make you play left end in a
fancy-work club. Johnson, the only way to get you around the field
is to put you on wheels and haul you. Next time you grow fast to the
ground I’m going to violate some forestry regulations and take an
axe to you. Same to you, Briggs. You’d make the All-American
boundary posts, but that’s all. Vance, I picked you for a
quarterback, but I made a mistake; you ought to be sorting eggs.
That ball isn’t red hot. You don’t have to let go of it as soon as
you get it. Don’t be afraid, nobody will step on you. This isn’t a
rude game. It’s only a game of post-office. You needn’t act so
nervous about it. Maybe some of the big girls will kiss you, but it
won’t hurt.”

Bost stopped for breath and eyed us. We were a sick-looking crowd.
You could almost see the remarks sticking into us and quivering. We
had come in feeling pretty virtuous, and what we were getting was a
hideous surprise.

“Now I want to tell this tea-party something,” continued Bost.
“Either you’re going out on that field and score thirty points this
last half or I’m going to let the girls of Siwash play your football
for you. I’m tired of coaching men that aren’t good at anything but
falling down scientifically when they’re tackled. There isn’t a
broken nose among you. Every one of you will run back five yards to
pick out a soft spot to fall on. It’s got to stop. You’re going to
hold on to that ball this half and take it places. If some little
fellow from Normal crosses his fingers and says ‘naughty, naughty,’
don’t fall on the ball and yell ‘down’ until they can hear it
uptown. Thirty points is what I want out of you this half, and if
you don’t get ’em--well, you just dare to come back here without
them, that’s all. Now get out on that field and jostle somebody.

Did we git? Well, rather. We were so mad our clothes smoked. We
would have quit the game right there and resigned from the team, but
we didn’t dare to. Bost would have talked to us some more. And we
didn’t dare not to make those thirty points, either. It was an awful
tough job, but we did it with a couple over. We raged like wild
beasts. We scared those gentle Normalites out of their boots. I
can’t imagine how we ever got it into our heads that they could play
football, anyway. When it was all over we went back to the gymnasium
feeling righteously triumphant, and had another hour with Bost in
which he took us all apart without anesthetics, and showed us how
Nature would have done a better job if she had used a better grade
of lumber in our composition.

That day made the Siwash team. The school went wild over the score.
Bost rounded up two or three more good players, and every afternoon
he lashed us around the field with that wire-edged tongue of his. On
Saturdays we played, and oh, how we worked! In the first half we
were afraid of what Bost would say to us when we came off the field.
In the second half we were mad at what he had said. And how he did
drive us down the field in practice! I can remember whole cross
sections of his talk yet:

“Faster, faster, you scows. Line up. Quick! Johnson, are you waiting
for a stone-mason to set you? Snap the ball. Tear into them. Low!
Low! Hi-i! You end, do you think you’re the quarter pole in a horse
race? Nine men went past you that time. If you can’t touch ’em drop
’em a souvenir card. Line up. Faster, faster! Oh, thunder, hurry up!
If you ran a funeral, center, the corpse would spoil on your hands.
Wow! Fumble! Drop on that ball. Drop on it! Hogboom, you’d fumble a
loving-cup. Use your hand instead of your jaw to catch that ball. It
isn’t good to eat. That’s four chances you’ve had. I could lose two
games a day if I had you all the time. Now try that signal
again--low, you linemen; there’s no girls watching you. Snap it;
snap it. Great Scott! Say, Hogboom, come here. When you get that
ball, don’t think we gave it to you to nurse. You’re supposed to
start the same day with the line. We give you that ball to take
forward. Have you got to get a legal permit to start those legs of
yours? You’d make a good vault to store footballs in, but you’re too
stationary for a fullback. Now I’ll give you one more chance--”

And maybe Hogboom wouldn’t go some with that chance!

In a month we had a team that wouldn’t have used past Siwash teams
to hold its sweaters. It was mad all the time, and it played the
game carnivorously. Siwash was delirious with joy. The whole school
turned out for practice, and to see those eleven men snapping
through signals up and down the field as fast as an ordinary man
could run just congested us with happiness. You’ve no idea what a
lovely time of the year autumn is when you can go out after classes
and sit on a pine seat in the soft dusk and watch your college team
pulling off end runs in as pretty formation as if they were chorus
girls, while you discuss lazily with your friends just how many
points it is going to run up on the neighboring schools. I never
expect to be a Captain of Industry, but it couldn’t make me feel any
more contented or powerful or complacent than to be a busted-up
scrub in Siwash, with a team like that to watch. I’m pretty sure of

But, happy as we were, Bost wasn’t nearly content. He had ideals. I
believe one of them must have been to run that team through a couple
of brick flats without spoiling the formation. Nothing satisfied
him. He was particularly distressed about the fullback. Hogboom was
a good fellow and took signal practice perfectly, but he was no
fiend. He lacked the vivacity of a real, first-class Bengal tiger.
He wouldn’t eat any one alive. He’d run until he was pulled down,
but you never expected him to explode in the midst of seven hostiles
and ricochet down the field for forty yards. He never jumped over
two men and on to another, and he never dodged two ways at once and
laid out three men with stiff arms on his way to the goal. It wasn’t
his style. He was good for two and a half yards every time, but that
didn’t suit Bost. He was after statistics, and what does a
three-yard buck amount to when you want 70 to 0 scores?

The result of this dissatisfaction was Ole Skjarsen. Late in
September Bost disappeared for three days and came back leading Ole
by a rope--at least, he was towing him by an old carpet-bag when we
sighted him. Bost found him in a lumber camp, he afterward told us,
and had to explain to him what college was before he would quit his
job. He thought it was something good to eat at first, I believe.
Ole was a timid young Norwegian giant, with a rick of white hair and
a reënforced concrete physique. He escaped from his clothes in all
directions, and was so green and bashful that you would have thought
we were cannibals from the way he shied at us--though, as that was
the year the bright hat-ribbons came in, I can’t blame him. He
wasn’t like anything we had ever seen before in college. He was as
big as a carthorse, as graceful as a dray and as meek as a
missionary. He had a double width smile and a thin little old faded
voice that made you think you could tip him over and shine your
shoes on him with impunity. But I wouldn’t have tried it for a
month’s allowance. His voice and his arms didn’t harmonize worth a
cent. They were as big as ordinary legs--those arms, and they ended
in hands that could have picked up a football and mislaid it among
their fingers.

No wonder Ole was a sensation. He didn’t look exactly like football
material to us, I’ll admit. He seemed more especially designed for
light derrick work. But we trusted Bost implicitly by that time and
we gave him a royal reception. We crowded around him as if he had
been a T. R. capture straight from Africa. Everybody helped him
register third prep, with business-college extras. Then we took him
out, harnessed him in football armor, and set to work to teach him
the game.

Bost went right to work on Ole in a businesslike manner. He tossed
him the football and said, “Catch it.” Ole watched it sail past and
then tore after it like a pup retrieving a stick. He got it in a few
minutes and brought it back to where Bost was raving.

“See here, you overgrown fox terrier,” he shouted, “catch it on the
fly. Here!” He hurled it at him.

“Aye ent seen no fly,” said Ole, allowing the ball to pass on as he

“You cotton-headed Scandinavian cattleship ballast, catch that ball
in your arms when I throw it to you, and don’t let go of it!”
shrieked Bost, shooting it at him again.

“Oll right,” said Ole patiently. He cornered the ball after a short
struggle and stood hugging it faithfully.

“Toss it back, toss it back!” howled Bost, jumping up and down.

“Yu tal me to hold it,” said Ole reproachfully, hugging it tighter
than ever.

“Drop it, you Mammoth Cave of ignorance!” yelled Bost. “If I had
your head I’d sell it for cordwood. Drop it!”

Ole dropped the ball placidly. “Das ban fule game,” he smiled
dazedly. “Aye ent care for it. Eny faller got a Yewsharp?”

That was the opening chapter of Ole’s instruction. The rest were
just like it. You had to tell him to do a thing. You then had to
show him how to do it. You then had to tell him how to stop doing
it. After that you had to explain that he wasn’t to refrain
forever--just until he had to do it again. Then you had to persuade
him to do it again. He was as good-natured as a lost puppy, and just
as hard to reason with. In three nights Bost was so hoarse that he
couldn’t talk. He had called Ole everything in the dictionary that
is fit to print; and the knowledge that Ole didn’t understand more
than a hundredth part of it, and didn’t mind that, was wormwood to
his soul.

For all that, we could see that if any one could teach Ole the game
he would make a fine player. He was as hard as flint and so fast on
his feet that we couldn’t tackle him any more than we could have
tackled a jack-rabbit. He learned to catch the ball in a night, and
as for defense--his one-handed catches of flying players would have
made a National League fielder envious. But with all of it he was
perfectly useless. You had to start him, stop him, back him, speed
him up, throttle him down and run him off the field just as if he
had been a close-coupled next year’s model scootcart. If we could
have rigged up a driver’s seat and chauffeured Ole, it would have
been all right. But every other method of trying to get him to
understand what he was expected to do was a failure. He just
grinned, took orders, executed them, and waited for more. When a
two-hundred-and-twenty-pound man takes a football, wades through
eleven frantic scrubs, shakes them all off, and then stops dead with
a clear field to the goal before him--because his instructions ran
out when he shook the last scrub--you can be pardoned for feeling
hopeless about him.

That was what happened the day before the Muggledorfer game. Bost
had been working Ole at fullback all evening. He and the captain had
steered him up and down the field as carefully as if he had been a
sea-going yacht. It was a wonderful sight. Ole was under perfect
control. He advanced the ball five yards, ten yards, or twenty at
command. Nothing could stop him. The scrubs represented only so many
doormats to him. Every time he made a play he stopped at the latter
end of it for instructions.

When he stopped the last time, with nothing before him but the goal,
and asked placidly, “Vere skoll I take das ball now, Master Bost?” I
thought the coach would expire of the heat. He positively steamed
with suppressed emotion. He swelled and got purple about the face.
We were alarmed and were getting ready to hoop him like a barrel,
when he found his tongue at last.

“You pale-eyed, prehistoric mudhead,” he spluttered, “I’ve spent a
week trying to get through that skull lining of yours. It’s no use,
you field boulder. Where do you keep your brains? Give me a chance
at them. I just want to get into them one minute and stir them up
with my finger. To think that I have to use you to play football
when they are paying five dollars and a half for ox meat in Kansas
City. Skjarsen, do you know anything at all?”

“Aye ban getting gude eddication,” said Ole serenely. “Aye tank I
ban college faller purty sune, I don’t know. I like I skoll
understand all das har big vorts yu make.”

“You’ll understand them, I don’t think,” moaned Bost. “You couldn’t
understand a swift kick in the ribs. You are a fool. Understand
that, muttonhead?”

Ole understood. “Vy for ye call me fule?” he said indignantly. “Aye
du yust vat you say.”

“Ar-r-r-r!” bubbled Bost, walking around himself three or four
times. “You do just what I say! Of course you do. Did I tell you to
stop in the middle of the field? What would Muggledorfer do to you
if you stopped there?”

“Ye ent tal me to go on,” said Ole sullenly. “Aye go on, Aye gass,
pooty qveek den.”

“You bet you’ll go on,” said Bost. “Now, look here, you sausage
material, to-morrow you play fullback. You stop everything that
comes at you from the other side. Hear? You catch the ball when it
comes to you. Hear? And when they give you the ball you take it, and
don’t you dare to stop with it. Get that? Can I get that into your
head without a drill and a blast? If you dare to stop with that ball
I’ll ship you back to the lumber camp in a cattle car. Stop in the
middle of the field--Ow!”

But at this point we took Bost away.

The next afternoon we dressed Ole up in his armor--he invariably got
it on wrong side out if we didn’t help him--and took him out to the
field. We confidently expected to promenade all over
Muggledorfer--their coach was an innocent child beside Bost--and
that was the reason why Ole was going to play. It didn’t matter much
what he did.

Ole was just coming to a boil when we got him into his clothes.
Bost’s remarks had gotten through his hide at last. He was pretty
slow, Ole was, but he had begun getting mad the night before and had
kept at the job all night and all morning. By afternoon he was
seething, mostly in Norwegian. The injustice of being called a
muttonhead all week for not obeying orders, and then being called a
mudhead for stopping for orders, churned his soul, to say nothing of
his language. He only averaged one English word in three, as he told
us on the way out that to-day he was going to do exactly as he had
been told or fill a martyr’s grave--only that wasn’t the way he put

The Muggledorfers were a pruny-looking lot. We had the game won when
our team came out and glared at them. Bost had filled most of the
positions with regular young mammoths, and when you dressed them up
in football armor they were enough to make a Dreadnought a little
nervous. The Muggleses kicked off to our team, and for a few plays
we plowed along five or ten yards at a time. Then Ole was given the
ball. He went twenty-five yards. Any other man would have been
crushed to earth in five. He just waded through the middle of the
line and went down the field, a moving mass of wrigging men. It was
a wonderful play. They disinterred him at last and he started
straight across the field for Bost.

“Aye ent mean to stop, Master Bost,” he shouted. “Dese fallers har,
dey squash me down--”

We hauled him into line and went to work again. Ole had performed so
well that the captain called his signal again. This time I hope I
may be roasted in a subway in July if Ole didn’t run twenty-five
yards with four Muggledorfer men hanging on his legs. We stood up
and yelled until our teeth ached. It took about five minutes to get
Ole dug out, and then he started for Bost again.

“Honest, Master Bost, Aye ent mean to stop,” he said imploringly.
“Aye yust tal you, dese fallers ban devils. Aye fule dem naxt

“Line up and shut up!” the captain shouted. The ball wasn’t over
twenty yards from the line, and as a matter of course the quarter
shot it back to Ole. He put his head down, gave one mad-bull plunge,
laid a windrow of Muggledorfer players out on either side, and shot
over the goal line like a locomotive.

We rose up to cheer a few lines, but stopped to stare. Ole didn’t
stop at the goal line. He didn’t stop at the fence. He put up one
hand, hurdled it, and disappeared across the campus like a young

“He doesn’t know enough to stop!” yelled Bost, rushing up to the
fence. “Hustle up, you fellows, and bring him back!”

Three or four of us jumped the fence, but it was a hopeless game.
Ole was disappearing up the campus and across the street. The
Muggledorfer team was nonplussed and sort of indignant. To be bowled
over by a cyclone, and then to have said cyclone break up the game
by running away with the ball was to them a new idea in football. It
wasn’t to those of us who knew Ole, however. One of us telephoned
down to the “Leader” office where Hinckley, an old team man, worked,
and asked him to head off Ole and send him back. Muggledorfer kindly
consented to call time, and we started after the fugitive ourselves.

Ten minutes later we met Hinckley downtown. He looked as if he had
had a slight argument with a thirteen-inch shell. He was also mad.

“What was that you asked me to stop?” he snorted, pinning himself
together. “Was it a gorilla or a high explosive? When did you
fellows begin importing steam rollers for the team? I asked him to
stop. I ordered him to stop. Then I went around in front of him to
stop him--and he ran right over me. I held on for thirty yards, but
that’s no way to travel. I could have gone to the next town just as
well, though. What sort of a game is this, and where is that
tow-headed holy terror bound for?”

We gave the answer up, but we couldn’t give up Ole. He was too
valuable to lose. How to catch him was the sticker. An awful uproar
in the street gave us an idea. It was Ted Harris in the only auto in
town--one of the earliest brands of sneeze vehicles. In a minute
more four of us were in, and Ted was chiveying the thing up the

If you’ve never chased an escaping fullback in one of those pioneer
automobiles you’ve got something coming. Take it all around, a good,
swift man, running all the time, could almost keep ahead of one. We
pumped up a tire, fixed a wire or two, and cranked up a few times;
and the upshot of it was we were two miles out on the state road
before we caught sight of Ole.

He was trotting briskly when we caught up with him, the ball under
his arm, and that patient, resigned expression on his face that he
always had when Bost cussed him. “Stop, Ole,” I yelled; “this is no
Marathon. Come back. Climb in here with us.”

Ole shook his head and let out a notch of speed.

“Stop, you mullethead,” yelled Simpson above the roar of the
auto--those old machines could roar some, too. “What do you mean by
running off with our ball? You’re not supposed to do hare-and-hounds
in football.”

Ole kept on running. We drove the car on ahead, stopped it across
the road, and jumped out to stop him. When the attempt was over
three of us picked up the fourth and put him aboard. Ole had tramped
on us and had climbed over the auto.

Force wouldn’t do, that was plain. “Where are you going, Ole?” we
pleaded as we tore along beside him.

“Aye ent know,” he panted, laboring up a hill; “das ban fule game,
Aye tenk.”

“Come on back and play some more,” we urged. “Bost won’t like it,
your running all over the country this way.”

“Das ban my orders,” panted Ole. “Aye ent no fule, yentlemen; Aye
know ven Aye ban doing right teng. Master Bost he say ‘Keep on
running!’ Aye gass I run till hal freeze on top. Aye ent know why.
Master Bost he know, I tenk.”

“This is awful,” said Lambert, the manager of the team. “He’s taken
Bost literally again--the chump. He’ll run till he lands up in those
pine woods again. And that ball cost the association five dollars.
Besides, we want him. What are we going to do?”

“I know,” I said. “We’re going back to get Bost. I guess the man who
started him can stop him.”

We left Ole still plugging north and ran back to town. The game was
still hanging fire. Bost was tearing his hair. Of course, the
Muggledorfer fellows could have insisted on playing, but they
weren’t anxious. Ole or no Ole, we could have walked all over them,
and they knew it. Besides, they were having too much fun with Bost.
They were sitting around, Indian-like, in their blankets, and every
three minutes their captain would go and ask Bost with perfect
politeness whether he thought they had better continue the game
there or move it on to the next town in time to catch his fullback
as he came through.

“Of course, we are in no hurry,” he would explain pleasantly; “we’re
just here for amusement, anyway; and it’s as much fun watching you
try to catch your players as it is to get scored on. Why don’t you
hobble them, Mr. Bost? A fifty-yard rope wouldn’t interfere much
with that gay young Percheron of yours, and it would save you lots
of time rounding him up. Do you have to use a lariat when you put
his harness on?”

Fancy Bost having to take all that conversation, with no adequate
reply to make. When I got there he was blue in the face. It didn’t
take him half a second to decide what to do. Telling the captain of
the Siwash team to go ahead and play if Muggledorfer insisted, and
on no account to use that 32 double-X play except on first downs, he
jumped into the machine and we started for Ole.

There were no speed records in those days. Wouldn’t have made any
difference if there were. Harris just turned on all the juice his
old double-opposed motor could soak up, and when we hit the wooden
crossings on the outskirts of town we fellows in the tonneau went up
so high that we changed sides coming down. It wasn’t over twenty
minutes till we sighted a little cloud of dust just beyond a little
town to the north. Pretty soon we saw it was Ole. He was still doing
his six miles per. We caught up and Bost hopped out, still mad.

“Where in Billy-be-blamed are you going, you human trolley car?” he
spluttered, sprinting along beside Skjarsen. “What do you mean by
breaking up a game in the middle and vamoosing with the ball? Do you
think we’re going to win this game on mileage? Turn around, you
chump, and climb into this car.”

Ole looked around him sadly. He kept on running as he did. “Aye ent
care to stop,” he said. “Aye kent suit you, Master Bost. You tal me
Aye skoll du a teng, den you cuss me for duing et. You tal me not to
du a teng and you cuss me some more den. Aye tenk I yust keep on
a-running, lak yu tal me tu last night. Et ent so hard bein’ cussed
ven yu ban running.”

“I tell you to stop, you potato-top,” gasped Bost. By this time he
was fifteen yards behind and losing at every step. He had wasted too
much breath on oratory. We picked him up in the car and set him
alongside of Ole again.

“See here, Ole, I’m tired of this,” he said, sprinting up by him
again. “The game’s waiting. Come on back. You’re making a fool of

“Eny teng Aye du Aye ban beeg fule,” said Ole gloomily. “Aye yust
keep on runnin’. Fallers ent got breath to call me fule ven Aye run.
Aye tenk das best vay.”

We picked Bost up again thirty yards behind. Maybe he would have run
better if he hadn’t choked so in his conversation. In another minute
we landed him abreast of Ole again. He got out and sprinted for the
third time. He wabbled as he did it.

“Ole,” he panted, “I’ve been mistaken in you. You are all right,
Ole. I never saw a more intelligent fellow. I won’t cuss you any
more, Ole. If you’ll stop now we’ll take you back in an
automobile--hold on there a minute; can’t you see I’m all out of

“Aye ban gude faller, den?” asked Ole, letting out another link of

“You are a”--puff-puff--“peach, Ole,” gasped Bost.
“I’ll”--puff-puff--“never cuss you again. Please”--puff-puff--“stop!
Oh, hang it, I’m all in.” And Bost sat down in the road.

A hundred yards on we noticed Ole slacken speed. “It’s sinking
through his skull,” said Harris eagerly. In another minute he had
stopped. We picked up Bost again and ran up to him. He surveyed us
long and critically.

“Das ben qveer masheen,” he said finally. “Aye tenk Aye lak Aye
skoll be riding back in it. Aye ent care for das futball game, Aye
gass. It ban tu much running in it.”

We took Ole back to town in twenty-two minutes, three chickens, a
dog and a back spring. It was close to five o’clock when he ran out
on the field again. The Muggledorfer team was still waiting. Time
was no object to them. They would only play ten minutes, but in that
ten minutes Ole made three scores. Five substitutes stood back of
either goal and asked him with great politeness to stop as he tore
over the line. And he did it. If any one else had run six miles
between halves he would have stopped a good deal short of the line.
But as far as we could see, it hadn’t winded Ole.

Bost went home by himself that night after the game, not stopping
even to assure us that as a team we were beneath his contempt. The
next afternoon he was, if anything, a little more vitriolic than
ever--but not with Ole. Toward the middle of the signal practice he
pulled himself together and touched Ole gently.

“My dear Mr. Skjarsen,” he said apologetically, “if it will not
annoy you too much, would you mind running the same way the rest of
the team does? I don’t insist on it, mind you, but it looks so much
better to the audience, you know.”

“Jas,” said Ole; “Aye ban fule, Aye gass, but yu ban tu polite to
say it.”


By Hamlin Garland

From “They of the High Trails,” copyright, 1916, by Harper
& Brothers. By special permission of the author.


Freeman Ward, geologist for the government, was not altogether easy
in his mind as he led his little pack-train out of Pinedale, a
frontier settlement on the western slope of the Rocky Mountain
divide, for he had permitted the girl of his deepest interest to
accompany him on his expedition.

Alice Mansfield, accustomed to having her way, and in this case
presuming upon Ward’s weakness, insisted on going. Outwardly he had
argued against it, making much of the possible storms, of the rough
trails, of the cold and dampness. But she argued that she was quite
as able to go as Mrs. Adams, the wife of the botanist of the
expedition. So Ward had yielded, and here these women were forming
part of a cavalcade which was headed for Frémont Peak, concerning
whose height and formation the leader wished to inform himself.
Alice was, however, a bit dashed by Ward’s change of manner as he
laid upon his train his final instructions.

“There is to be no skylarking,” he said, “and no back-tracking. Each
one is to exercise great care. We cannot afford to lose a horse nor
waste our provisions. This is not a picnic excursion, but a serious
government enterprise. I cannot turn back because of any discomfort
you may encounter in camp.”

“I am ready for what comes,” Alice answered, smilingly.

But she rode for the rest of the day remarkably silent. There had
been times when she was certain that Ward cared a great deal for
her--not in the impersonal way indicated by his reprimand--but in
the way of a lover, and she was very fond of him, had indeed looked
forward to this trip in his company as one sure to yield hours of
delightful intimacy. On the train he had been very devoted, “almost
lover-like,” Peggy Adams insisted. But now she was dismayed by his
tone of military command.

Their first day’s march brought them to a beautiful water called
Heart Lake, which shone dark and deep amid its martial firs at the
head of one of the streams which descended into the East Fork, and
there the guides advised a camp. They were now above the hunters,
almost above the game, in a region “delightfully primeval,” as the
women put it, and very beautiful and peaceful.

After the tents were in order and the supper eaten, Alice, having
tuned up her little metal banjo, began to twitter tender melodies
(to the moon, of course), and the long face of the man of science
broadened and he seemed less concerned about rocks and fauna and

The camp was maintained at Heart Lake for a day while Ward and his
men explored the various gorges in order to discover a way into
Blizzard Basin, which was their goal. They returned to camp each
time more and more troubled about the question of taking the women
over the divide into the “rough country” which lay to the north.

“It is a totally different world,” Adams explained to his wife. “It
is colder and stormier over there. The forest on the north slopes is
full of down-timber and the cliffs are stupendous. I wish you girls
were back in the settlement,” and in this wish Ward heartily joined.

However, the more they talked the more determined the women were to

It was like a May day the following noon as they left timber-line
and, following the row of tiny monuments set up by the foresters,
entered upon the wide and undulating stretch of low edges which led
to the summit. The air was clear and the verdureless shapes of the
monstrous peaks stood sharp as steel against the sky. The tender
grass was filled with minute glistening flowers. The wind was
gentle, sweet, moist, and cool.

“Pooh!” said Alice, “this is absurdly easy. Freeman has been telling
us dreadful tales all along just to be rid of us.”

But she began to admit that her escort of four strong men was a
comfort, as the guide explained that this “rough country” had long
been known as the retreat of cattle-thieves and outlaws.

“Do you think there are any such men in here now?” asked Mrs. Adams.

“Undoubtedly,” Ward said; “but I don’t think, from the condition of
this trail, that they come in on this side of the range. I suspect
it’s too lonely even for a cattle-thief.”

They unsaddled that night on the bank of a stream near a small
meadow, and around the camp-fire discussed the trail which they were
to take next day. The guides agreed that it was “a holy terror,”
which made Alice the more eager to traverse it.

“I like trails that make men quake. I welcome adventure--that’s what
I came for,” she said.

Early the next forenoon, as they were descending the steep
north-slope trail, Alice gave out a cry of pain, and Adams called to

“Hold on! Allie’s horse is down.”

Ward was not surprised. He rode in continual expectation of trouble.
She was forever trying short cuts and getting snared in the fallen
logs. Once she had been scraped from her saddle by an overhanging
bough, and now, in attempting to find an easier path down a slippery
ridge, her horse had fallen with her. Ward was ungracious enough to

“Precisely what I’ve warned her against,” but he hurried to her
relief, nevertheless.

“Are you badly hurt?” he asked, as she stood before him, striving to
keep back her tears of pain.

“Oh no, not at all badly. My foot was jammed a little. Please help
me on to my horse; I’ll be all right in a minute.”

She put so good a face on her accident that he helped her into her
saddle and ordered the train to move on; but Peggy perceived that
the girl was suffering keenly.

“Sha’n’t we stop, Allie?” she called, a few minutes later.

“No. I’ll be all right in a few minutes.”

She rode on for nearly half an hour, bravely enduring her pain, but
at last she turned to Mrs. Adams and cried out: “I can’t stand it,
Peggy! My foot pains me frightfully!”

Adams again called to Ward and the procession halted, while Ward
came back, all his anger gone.

“We’ll go into camp,” he said, as he examined her bruised foot.
“You’re badly hurt.”

“It’s a poor place to camp, Professor,” protested Gage. “If she can
go on for about fifteen minutes--”

“I’ll try,” she said; “but I can’t bear the stirrup, and my shoe is
full of blood.”

Ward, who was now keenly sympathetic, put her on his own horse and
walked beside her while they slowly crawled down into the small
valley, which held a deep and grassy tarn. Here they went into camp
and the day was lost.

Alice was profoundly mortified to find herself the cause of the
untimely halt, and as she watched the men making camp with anxious,
irritated faces she wept with shame at her folly. She had seized the
worst possible moment, in the most inaccessible spot of their
journey, to commit her crowning indiscretion.

She was ill in every nerve, shivering and weak, and remained for
that day the center of all the activities of the camp. Ward, very
tender even in his chagrin, was constantly at her side, his brow
knotted with care. He knew what it meant to be disabled two hundred
miles from a hospital, with fifty miles of mountain trail between
one’s need and a roof, but Alice buoyed herself up with the belief
that no bones were broken, and that in the clear air of the germless
world her wound would quickly heal.

She lay awake a good part of that night, hearing, above the roar of
the water, the far-off noises of the wild-animal world. A wolf
howled, a cat screamed, and their voices were fear-inspiring.

She began also to worry about the effect of her mishap on the
expedition, for she heard Ward say to Adams: “This delay is very
unfortunate. Our stay is so limited. I fear we will not be able to
proceed for some days, and snow is likely to fall at any time.”

What they said after that Alice could not hear, but she was in full
possession of their trouble. It was not a question of the loss of a
few days; it meant the possible failure of the entire attempt to
reach the Summit.

“Peggy,” she declared, next morning, “the men must push on and leave
you with me here in the camp. I will not permit the expedition to
fail on my account.”

This seemed a heroic resolution at the moment, with the menacing
sounds of the night still fresh in her ears, but it was the most
natural and reasonable thing in the world at the moment, for the sun
was rising warm and clear and the valley was as peaceful and as
beautiful as a park.

Mrs. Adams readily agreed to stay, for she was wholly free from the
ordinary timidities of women, but Ward, though sorely tempted,

“No. We’ll wait a day or two longer and see how you come on.”

At this point one of the guides spoke up, saying: “If the women
would be more comfortable in a cabin, there’s one down here in the
brush by the lake. I found it this morning when I was wranglin’ the

“A cabin! In this wild place?” said Alice.

“Yes, ma’am--must be a ranger’s cabin.”

Ward mused. “If it’s habitable it would be warmer and safer than a
tent. Let’s go see about it.”

He came back jubilant. “It doesn’t seem to have been occupied very
recently, but is in fair shape. We’ll move you right down there.”

The wounded girl welcomed the shelter of a roof, and it was good to
feel solid logs about her helpless self. The interior of the hut was
untidy and very rude, but it stood in a delightful nook on the bank
of a pond just where a small stream fell into the valley, and it
required but a few minutes of Mrs. Adams’ efforts to clear the place
out and make it cozy, and soon Alice, groaning faintly, was
deposited in the rough pole bunk at the dark end of the room. What
an inglorious end to her exalted ride!

Ward seemed to understand her tears as he stood looking down upon
her, but he only said: “I dislike leaving you, even for the day. I
shall give up my trip.”

“No, no! you must go on!” she cried out. “I shall hate myself if you
don’t go on.”

He reluctantly yielded to her demand, but said: “If I find that we
can’t get back to-morrow I will send Gage back. He’s a trusty
fellow. I can’t spare Adams, and Smith and Todd--as you know--are
paying for their trip.”

Mrs. Adams spoke up firmly. “You need not worry about us. We can get
along very well without anybody. If you climb the peak you’ll need
Gage. I’m not afraid. We’re the only people in this valley, and with
this staunch little cabin I feel perfectly at home.”

“That’s quite true,” replied Ward in a relieved tone. “We are above
the hunters--no one ever crosses here now. But it will be lonely.”

“Not at all!” Alice assured him. “We shall enjoy being alone in the

With slow and hesitating feet Ward left the two women and swung into
his saddle. “I guess I’ll send Gage back, anyhow,” he said.

“Don’t think of it!” called Peggy.

As a matter of fact, Alice was glad to have the men pull out. Their
pity, their reproach, irritated her. It was as if they repeated
aloud a scornful phrase--“You’re a lovely and tempting creature, but
you’re a fool-hen just the same.”

The two women spent the day peacefully, save now and then when
Alice’s wounded foot ached and needed care; but as night began to
rise in the cañon like the smoke of some hidden, silent,
subterranean fire, and the high crags glowed in the last rays of the
sun, each of them acknowledged a touch of that immemorial awe of the
darkness with which the race began.

Peggy, seating herself in the doorway, described the scene to her
patient, who could see but little of it. “Oh, but it’s gloriously
uncanny to be here. Only think! We are now alone with God and His
animals, and the night.”

“I hope none of God’s bears is roaming about,” replied Alice,

“There aren’t any bears above the berries. We’re perfectly safe. My
soul! but it’s a mighty country! I wish you could see the glow on
the peaks.”

“I’m taking my punishment,” replied Alice. “Freeman was very angry,
wasn’t he?”

“If it breaks off the match I won’t be surprised,” replied Peggy,
with resigned intonation.

“There wasn’t any match to break off.”

“Well!” replied the other, and as she slowly rose she added: “I
won’t say that he is perfectly distracted about you, but I do know
that he thinks more of you than of any other woman in the world, and
I’ve no doubt he is worrying about you this minute.”


It was deep moonless night when Alice woke with a start. For a few
moments she lay wondering what had roused her--then a bright light
flashed and her companion screamed.

“Who’s there!” demanded the girl.

In that instant flare she saw a man’s face, young, smooth, with dark
eyes gleaming beneath a broad hat. He stood like a figure of bronze
while his match was burning, then exclaimed in breathless wonder:

“Great Peter’s ghost! a woman!” Finally he stepped forward and
looked down upon the white, scared faces as if uncertain of his
senses. “Two of them!” he whispered. As he struck his second match
he gently asked: “Would you mind saying how you got here?”

Alice spoke first. “We came up with a geological survey. I got hurt
and they had to leave us behind.”

“Where’s your party gone?”

“Up to the glaciers.”

“When did they leave?”

“Yesterday morning.”

“When do you expect them back?”

“Not for two or three days.”

He seemed to ponder a moment. “You say you’re hurt? Where?”

“My horse slipped and fell on my foot.”

“Wait a minute,” he commanded. “I’ll rustle a candle. I left one

When his form came out of the dark blur behind his candle Alice
perceived that he was no ordinary hunter. He was young, alert, and
very good-looking, although his face was stern and his mouth bitter.
He laid aside his hat as he approached the bunk in which the two
women were cowering as mice tremble before a cat. For a full minute
he looked down at them, but at last he smiled and said, in a jocular

“You’re sure-enough women, I can see that. You’ll excuse me--but
when a man comes back to a shack in the middle of the night in a
place like this and finds a couple of women in a bunk he’s likely to
think he’s seeing pictures in his sleep.”

“I can understand that,” Alice returned, recovering her
self-command. “You’re the ranger, I suppose? I told my friend here
that you might return.”

“I’m mighty glad I did,” he said, heartily.

“Thank you; you’re very kind.”

He bent a keen glare upon her. “What’s your name?”

“Alice Mansfield.”

“What’s your friend’s name?”

“Mrs. Adams.”

“Are you a missis, too?”

She hesitated. This was impertinent, but then she herself was an
intrusive guest. “No,” she answered, “I am not married.”

“Where are you from?”

“New York City.”

“You’re a long way from home.”

“Yes, I’m feeling that this minute.” She drew the coverlet a little
closer to her chin.

He quickly read this sign. “You needn’t be afraid of me.”

“I’m not.”

“Yes, you are. You’re both all of a tremble and white as two

“It isn’t that,” wailed the girl; “but I’ve twisted my foot again.”
Her moan of pain broke the spell that bound Peggy.

“Would you leave, please, for a moment?” she called to the owner of
the cabin. “I’ve got to get up and doctor my patient.”

“Sure!” he exclaimed, moving toward the door. “If I can do anything
let me know.”

As soon as her patient’s aching foot was eased Peggy opened the door
and peeped out. A faint flare of yellow had come into the east, and
beside the fire, rolled in his blanket, the ranger was sleeping.
Frost covered everything and the air was keen.

“He’s out there on the cold ground--with only one blanket.”

“What a shame! Tell him to come inside--I’m not afraid of him.”

“Neither am I--but I don’t believe he’ll come. It’s ’most morning,
anyway--perhaps I’d better not disturb him.”

“Take one of these quilts to him--that will help some.”

Mrs. Adams lifted one of the coverlets and, stealing softly up, was
spreading it over the sleeper when he woke with a start, a wild
glare of alarm in his eyes.

“Oh, it’s you!” he said in relief. Then he added, as he felt the
extra cover: “That’s mighty white of you. Sure you don’t need it?”

“We can spare it. But won’t you come inside? I’m sorry we drove you
out of your cabin.”

“That’s all right. I’m used to this. Good night. I’m just about dead
for sleep.”

Thus dismissed, Peggy went back and lay down beside Alice. “He says
he’s quite comfortable,” she remarked, “and I hope he is, but he
doesn’t look it.”

When she woke again it was broad daylight and Alice was turning
restlessly on her hard bed. In the blaze of the sun all the mystery
of the night vanished. The incident of the return of the ranger to
his cabin was as natural as the coming of dawn.

“He probably makes regular trips through here,” said Mrs. Adams.

But the wounded girl silently differed, for she had read in the
man’s eyes and voice a great deal more than belonged to the
commonplace character of a forest-ranger. That first vision of his
face burned deep.

She had seen on the wall of the station at “the road” the
description of a train-robber which tallied closely with this man’s
general appearance, and the conviction that she was living in the
hidden hut of an outlaw grew into a certainty. “I must not let him
suspect my discovery,” she thought.

Mrs. Adams (who had not read the placard) treated the young fellow
as if he were one of the forest wardens, manifesting complete
confidence in him.

He deftly helped her about breakfast, and when she invited him into
the cabin he came readily, almost eagerly, but he approached Alice’s
bed with a touch of hesitation, and his glance was softer and his
voice gentler as he said:

“Well, how do you stack up this morning?”

“Much better, thank you.”

“Must have been a jolt--my coming in last night the way I did?”

“I guess the ‘jolt’ was mutual. You looked surprised.”

He smiled again, a faint, swift half-smile. “Surprised! That’s no
name for it. For a minute I thought I’d fallen clear through. I hope
you didn’t get a back-set on account of it.”

“Oh no, thank you.”

“How many men are in your party?”

“Six, counting the guides.”

“Who are the men?”

She named them, and he mused darkly, his eyes on her face. “I reckon
I can’t wait to make their acquaintance. I’m going on down the Green
River to-day. I’m sorry to miss ’em. They must be a nice bunch--to
leave two women alone this way.”

He ate heartily, but with a nicety which betrayed better training
than is usual to men in his position. He remained silent and in deep
thought, though his eyes were often on Alice’s face.

As he rose to go he said to Peggy: “Would you mind doing up a little
grub for me? I don’t know just when I’ll strike another camp.”

“Why, of course! I’ll be glad to. Do you have to go?”

“Yes, I must pull out,” he replied, and while she was preparing his
lunch he rolled a blanket and tied it behind his saddle. At last he
re-entered the cabin and, again advancing to Alice’s bedside,
musingly remarked: “I hate to leave you women here alone. It doesn’t
seem right. Are you sure your party will return to-night?”

“Either to-night or to-morrow. Professor Ward intends to climb
Frémont Peak.”

“Then you won’t see him for three days.” His tone was that of one
who communes with himself. “I reckon I’d better stay till to-morrow.
I don’t like the feeling of the air.”

She explained that Gage, one of the guides, would return in case the
professor wished to remain in the heights.

“Well, I’ll hang around till toward night, anyhow.”

He went away for half an hour, and upon his return presented a
cleanly shaven face and a much less savage look and bearing. He
hovered about the door, apparently listening to Peggy’s chatter, but
having eyes only for the wounded girl. He seized every slightest
excuse to come in, and his voice softened and his manner changed
quite as markedly, and at last, while Mrs. Adams was momentarily
absent, he abruptly said:

“You are afraid of me; I can see it in your eyes. I know why. You
think you know who I am.”

“Yes; I’m sure of it.”

“What makes you think so?”

“I saw your picture in the railway station.”

He regarded her darkly. “Well, I trust you. You won’t give me away.
I’m not so sure of her.” He nodded his head toward the open door.

“What would be the good of my betraying you?”

“Two thousand dollars’ reward is a big temptation.”

“Nonsense! If I told--it would be for other reasons. If I were to
betray your hiding-place it would be because society demands the
punishment of criminals.”

“I’m not a criminal. I never lifted a cent from any man. I didn’t
get a dollar from the express company--but I tried--I want you to
know, anyway,” he continued, “that I wouldn’t rob an individual--and
I wouldn’t have tried this, only I was blind drunk and desperate. I
needed cash, and needed it bad.”

“What did you need it for?” asked Alice, with a steady look.

He hesitated, and a flush crept across his brown face. His eyes
wavered. “Well, you see, the old home was mortgaged--and mother was

“Oh, bosh! Tell me the truth,” she demanded. “The papers said you
did it for a girl. Why not be honest with me?”

“I will,” he responded, impulsively. “Yes, that’s right. I did it
for a girl--and afterward, when I was on the run, what did she do?
Threw me down! Told everything she knew--the little coyote--and here
I am hunted like a wolf on account of it.” His face settled into
savage lines for a moment. But even as he sat thus another light
came into his eyes. His gaze took account of Alice’s lips and the
delicate rounded whiteness of her neck and chin. Her like he had
never met before. The girls he had known giggled; this one smiled.
His sweetheart used slang and talked of cattle like a herder, but
this woman’s voice, so sweet and flexible, made delightfully strange
music to his ears.

Peggy’s return cut short his confidence, and while she was in the
cabin he sat in silence, his eyes always on the girl. He seized
every opportunity to speak to her, and each time his voice betrayed
increasing longing for her favor.

Mrs. Adams, who had conceived a liking for him, ordered him about as
freely as though he were a hired guide, and he made himself useful
on the slightest hint.

Alice, on her part, was profoundly interested in him, and whenever
her foot would permit her to think of anything else, she pitied him.
In the madness of his need, his love, he had committed an act which
made all the world his enemy, and yet, as she studied his form and
expression, her heart filled with regret. He was very attractive in
the Western way, with nothing furtive or evasive about him.

With a directness quite equal to his own she questioned him about
his reckless deed.

“Why did you do it?” she exclaimed in despair of his problem.

“I don’t know. Hanged if I do, especially now. Since seeing you I
think I was crazy--crazy as a loon. If I’d done it for you, now, it
wouldn’t have been so wild. You’re worth a man’s life. I’d die for

This outburst of passion, so fierce and wild, thrilled the girl; she
grew pale with comprehension of his mood. It meant that the sight of
her lying there had replaced the old madness with a new one. She was
unprepared for this furious outflaming of primitive admiration.

“You mustn’t talk like that to me,” she protested, as firmly as she

He sensed her alarm. “Don’t you be scared,” he said, gently. “I
didn’t mean to jar you. I only meant that I didn’t know such women
as you were in the world. I’d trust you. You’ve got steady eyes.
You’d stick by the man that played his whole soul for you, I can see
that. I come of pretty good stock. I reckon that’s why you mean so
much to me. You get hold of me in a way I can’t explain.”

“Why don’t you fly?” she asked him. “Every minute you spend here
increases your danger. The men may return at any moment.”

“That’s funny, too,” he answered, and a look of singular, musing
tenderness fell over his face. “I’d rather sit here with you and
take my chances.”

“But you must not! You are imperiling your life for nothing.”

“You’re mistaken there. I’m getting something every
minute--something that will stay with me all my life. After I leave
you it doesn’t matter. I came into the hills just naturally, the way
the elk does. After that girl reported me, life didn’t count. Seeing
you has changed me. It matters a whole lot to me this minute, and
when I leave you it’s stormy sunset for me, sure thing.”

Alice gazed upon him with steady eyes, but her bosom rose and fell
with the emotion which filled her heart. She debated calling for
Mrs. Adams, but there was something in the droop of the outlaw’s
head, in the tone of his voice, which arrested her. However sudden
and frenzied his admiration might seem to others, it was sincere and
manly, of that she was persuaded. Nevertheless, she was deeply

“I wish you would go,” she entreated at last, huskily. “I don’t want
to see you taken. You have made yourself a criminal and I ought not
to find excuses for you, but I do. You’re so young. It doesn’t seem
as if you knew what you were doing. Why don’t you ride away into the
wild north country and begin a new life somewhere? Can’t you escape
to Canada?”

He seized eagerly upon her suggestion. “Will you write to me if I

“No, I cannot promise that.”

“Why can’t I play the ranger here and wait upon you till the men

“Because Professor Ward read that placard with me. He will know you
instantly. I wish you’d go. Gage may come at any moment now.”

Peggy came in with a disturbed look. “It looks like rain,” she
announced; “the clouds are settling down all over the peaks.”

The outlaw sprang up and went to the door. “It looked bad when I got
up,” he said, as he studied the sky. “I guess we’re in for trouble.
It may be snow.”

His fears were soon realized. Rain began to fall in a thin drizzle,
and at four o’clock the first faint flakes of snow began to flash
amid the gray veils of the water-drops. The women looked at each
other in alarm as the cabin’s interior darkened with the ominous
shadow of the storm.

“I don’t like this a bit,” said Peggy, after a while. “This is no
mountain squall. I wish the men were here.”

“It can’t be anything that will last,” replied Alice. “It isn’t time
for the winter snows.”

“I know,” replied Peggy. “But it’s snowing perfect feather beds now,
and no wind. Lucky this forest-ranger is here. The men may get lost
in this storm.”

“Mercy! Don’t speak of such a thing!” exclaimed Alice; but she knew,
just the same, that Ward and his party were high in the peaks, far,
far above the cabin, and that the storm there would be
proportionately fiercer. She listened with growing thankfulness to
the outlaw’s blows upon the dry limbs of wood that he was chopping
for the fire. He was very capable and would not desert them--of that
she felt assured.

As the man worked on, the women both came to keen realization of the
serious view he took of the storm. He mounted his horse and with his
rope dragged great bundles of fagots from the thickets. As he came
up, laden with one of his bundles of hard-won fuel, Mrs. Adams

“You don’t think it will keep this up, do you?”

“You never can tell what will happen in these mountains. It doesn’t
generally snow much till later, but you can’t bank on anything in
this range.”

Alice called to him and he stepped inside. “What do you think we’d
better do?” she asked.

“There isn’t a thing you can do, miss. It’s just a case of stick it
out. It may let up by sundown; but, as it is, your party can’t get
back to-night, and if you don’t mind I’ll camp down just outside the
door and keep the fire going.”

“You will be a comfort to us,” she replied, “but I feel that--that
you ought to be going. Isn’t it dangerous for you? I mean you will
be shut in here.”

“If I’m shut in, others are shut out,” he answered, with a grim
smile. “My job is to keep fire.” With these words he returned to his
work of breaking limbs from the dead firs.

Alice said: “If it does turn out as this--this ranger says--if the
storm keeps up, you mustn’t let him sleep out in the snow.”

“Of course not,” said Peggy. “He can sleep inside. I trust him
perfectly--and, besides, you have your revolver.”

Alice smiled a little, wondering how Peggy’s trust would stand the
strain of a fuller knowledge concerning their guardian’s stirring


In spite of her knowledge of the mountains and her natural
intrepidity of character the wounded girl’s heart sank as the snow
and the night closed down over the tiny cabin in its covert of firs.
To be on foot in such gloom in the heart of such a wilderness, was
sufficiently awe-inspiring, but to be helpless on a hard bed was to
feel the utter inconsequence of humankind. “Suppose the storm blocks
the trails so that the men cannot return for a week? What will we do
for food?”

Each time she heard the outlaw deliver his burden of wood her heart
warmed to him. He was now her comfort and very present stay. “If it
should happen that the trails become impassable he alone will stand
between us and death,” she thought.

The outlaw came in to say, abruptly, “If you weren’t hurt and if I
weren’t in such a hurry I’d rather enjoy this.”

He slashed his sombrero against his thigh as he spoke, and Mrs.
Adams answered his remark without knowledge of its inner meaning.

“You mustn’t think of sleeping outdoors to-night--Mr.----?”

“Smith. I belong to the big family, the Smiths,” he promptly

“Why don’t you take away that improvised table by the wall and make
your bed there?”

“We’ll need the table,” he responded in a matter-of-fact tone. “I’ll
just crawl under it. What’s giving me most trouble is the question
of grub. They didn’t leave you any too much, did they?”

“But you can kill game, can’t you?” asked Peggy.

“We’re pretty high up for elk, and the blue grouse are scarce this
year, but I reckon I can jump a deer or a ground-hog. We won’t
starve, anyway.”

Alice perceived in his voice a note of exultation. He was glad of
his reprieve, and the thought of being her protector, at least for
the night, filled him with joy. She read his mind easily and the
romance of this relationship stirred her own heart. The dramatic
possibilities of the situation appealed to her. At any moment the
men might return and force her into the rôle of defender. On the
other hand, they might be confined for days together in this little
cabin, and in this enforced intimacy Peggy was sure to discover his
secret and his adoration.

The little hovel was filled with the golden light of the blazing
fagots, and through the open door Alice could see the feathery
crystals falling in a wondrous, glittering curtain across the night.
The stream roared in subdued voice as though oppressed by the snows,
and the shadow of the fugitive as he moved about the fire had a
savage, primal significance which awed the girl into silence.

He was very deft in camp work, and cooked their supper for them
almost as well as they could have done it themselves, but he refused
to sit at the table with Peggy. “I’ll just naturally stick to my
slicker, if you don’t mind. I’m wet and my hands are too grimy to
eat with a lady.”

Alice continued to talk to him, always with an under-current of
meaning which he easily read and adroitly answered. This care, this
double meaning, drew them ever closer in spirit, and the girl took
an unaccountable pleasure in it.

After supper he took his seat in the open doorway, and the girl in
the bunk looked upon him with softened glance. She had no fear of
him now; on the contrary, she mentally leaned upon him. Without him
the night would be a terror, the dawn an uncertainty. The brave
self-reliance of his spirit appeared in stronger light as she
considered that for weeks he had been camping alone, and that but
for this accident to her he would be facing this rayless wintry
night in solitude.

He began again to question her. “I wish you’d tell me more about
yourself,” he said, his dark eyes fixed upon her. “I can’t
understand why any girl like you should come up here with a bunch of
rock-sharps. Are you tied up to the professor?”

If Peggy expected her patient to resent this question she must have
been surprised, for Alice merely smiled as if at the impertinence of
a child.

Mrs. Adams replied: “I can tell you that she is--and a very
fortunate girl her friends think her.”

He turned to her with unmoved face. “You mean he’s got money, I

“Money and brains and good looks and a fine position.”

“That’s about the whole works, ain’t it--leastwise he will have it
all when he gets you. A man like that doesn’t deserve what he’s got.
He’s a chump. Do you suppose I’d go off and leave you alone in a
hole like this with a smashed leg? I’d never bring you into such a
country, in the first place. And I certainly wouldn’t leave you just
to study a shack of ice on the mountainside.”

“I urged him to go, and, besides, Peggy is mistaken; we’re not

“But he left you! That’s what sticks in my crop. He can’t be just
right in his head. If I had any chance of owning you I’d never let
you out of my sight. I wouldn’t take a chance. I don’t understand
these city fellows. I reckon their blood is thinned with ice-water.
If I had you I’d be scared every minute for fear of losing you. I’d
be as dangerous to touch as a silver-tip. If I had any place to take
you I’d steal you right now.”

This was more than banter. Even Mrs. Adams perceived the passion
quivering beneath his easy, low-toned speech. He was in truth
playing with the conception of seizing this half-smiling,
half-musing girl whose helpless body was at once a lure and an
inspiration. It was perfectly evident that he was profoundly

And so was Alice. “What,” she dared ask herself, “will become of


To the outlaw in the Rocky Mountain cabin in that stormy night it
was in every respect the climax of his life. As he sat in the
doorway, looking at the fire and over into the storm beyond, he
realized that he was shaken by a wild, crude lyric of passion. Here
was, to him, the pure emotion of love. All the beautiful things he
had ever heard or read of girlhood, of women, of marriage, rose in
his mind to make this night an almost intolerable blending of joy
and sorrow, hope and despair.

To stay time in its flight, to make this hour his own, to cheat the
law, to hold the future at bay--these were the avid desires, the
vague resolutions, of his brain. So sure as the day came this
happiness would end. To-morrow he must resume his flight, resigning
his new-found jewel into the hands of another. To this thought he
returned again and again, each time with new adoration for the girl
and added fury and hate against his relentless pursuers and himself.
He did not spare himself! “Gad! what a fool I’ve been--and yet, if I
had been less a fool I would not be here and I would never have met
her.” He ended with a glance toward Alice.

Then he arose, closed the door of the cabin, and stood without
beside the fire, so that the women might prepare for bed. His first
thought of suicide came to him. Why not wait with his love as long
as possible--stay till the law’s hand was in the air above his head,
uplifted to strike, and then, in this last moment, die with this
latest, more glorious passion as climax to his career? To flee meant
endless fear, torment. To be captured meant defeat, utter and final

A knock upon the door startled him, and Peggy’s voice cut short his
meditation. “You can come in now, Mr. Smith,” she said.

The broad crystals were still falling thickly and the fire was
hissing and spluttering around a huge root which he had rolled upon
it. In its light the cabin stood hardly higher than a kennel, and
yet it housed the woman whose glance had transformed his world into
something mystical. A man of commonplace ancestry would have felt
only an animal delight in shelter and warmth, but this youth was
stirred to a spiritual exaltation. The girl’s bosom, the rounded
beauty of her neck, appealed to him, but so also did the steady
candor of her gaze and the sweet courage of her lips. Her
helplessness roused his protective instinct, and her words, the
sound of her voice, so precise, so alien-sweet, filled him with
bitter sadness, and he re-entered the house in such spirit of
self-abasement as he had never known before.

He lay down upon the hard floor in silence, his audacity gone, his
reckless courage deep-sunk in gloomy foreboding.

Alice, on her part, could not free her mind from the burden of his
crime. He was so young, and so handsome, to be hunted like a noxious
beast! She had at the moment more concern of him than of Ward, and
in this lay a certain disloyalty. She sighed deeply as she thought
of the outlaw resuming his flight next day. Would it not be better
for him to sacrifice himself to the vengeance of the state at once
and so end it? What right had she to shield him from the law’s
demand? “He is a criminal, after all. He must pay for his rash act.”

She could not sleep, and when he rose to feed the fire she softly
asked, “Does it still storm?”

“No,” he answered in a tone that voiced disappointment; “the sky is

“Isn’t that cheering!” she exclaimed, still in the same hushed

“For you,” he replied. “For me it’s another story.” He felt the
desire for a secret consultation which moved her, and on his way
back to his corner he halted and fixed his eyes upon her in hungry
admiration of her fire-lit face. Then he spoke. “I should have
pulled out before the storm quit. They can trail me now. But no
matter; I’ve known you.”

She still kept to ambiguous speech. “Wouldn’t it be better to give
up and take your--misfortune, and begin again? Professor Ward and I
will do all we can to help you.”

“That’s mighty white of you,” he responded, slowly. “But I can’t
stand the thought of confinement. I’ve been free as an Injun all my
life. Every way of the wind has been open to me. No; just as long as
I can find a wild spot I must keep moving. If it comes to ‘hands
up!’ I take the short cut.” He tapped his revolver as he spoke.

“You mustn’t do that,” she entreated. “Promise me you won’t think of

He made a stride toward her, but a movement of her companion checked

“Is it morning?” Peggy sleepily asked.

“Not quite,” answered the outlaw, “but it’s time for me to be
moving. I’d like to hear from you sometime,” he said to Alice, and
his voice betrayed his sadness and tenderness. “Where could I reach

She gave her address with a curious sense of wrongdoing.

He listened intently. “I’ll remember that,” he said, “when I’ve
forgotten everything else. And now--” He reached his hand to her and
she took it.

“Poor boy! I’m sorry for you!” she whispered.

Her words melted his heart. Dropping on his knees beside her bed, he
pressed her fingers to his lips, then rose. “I’ll see you
again--somewhere--sometime,” he said, brokenly. “Good-by.”

No sooner had the door closed behind the outlaw than Peggy rose in
her place beside Alice and voiced her mystification. “Now what is
the meaning of all that?”

“Don’t ask me,” replied the girl. “I don’t feel like talking, and my
foot is aching dreadfully. Can’t you get up and bathe it? I hate to
ask you--but it hurts me so.”

Peggy sprang up and began to dress, puffing and whistling with
desperation. As soon as she was dressed she ran to the door and
opened it. All was still, a world of green and white. “The fire is
almost out,” she reported, “and I can see Mr. Smith’s horse’s


It was about ten o’clock when a couple of horsemen suddenly rounded
the point of the forest and rode into the clearing. One of them, a
slender, elderly man with gray, curly beard and a skin like red
leather, dismounted and came slowly to the door, and though his eyes
expressed surprise at meeting women in such a place, he was very

“Mornin’, ma’am,” he said, with suave inflection.

“Good morning,” Peggy replied.

“Fine snowy mornin’.”

“It is so.” She was a little irritated by the fixed stare of his
round, gray eyes.

He became more direct. “May I ask who you are and how you happen to
be here, ma’am?”

“You may. I’m Mrs. Adams. I came up here with my husband, Professor

“Where is he?”

“He has gone up the trail toward Frémont. He is a botanist.”

“Is that his horse’s tracks?”

Alice called sharply, “Peggy!”

Mrs. Adams turned abruptly and went in.

The stranger turned a slow gaze upon his companion.

“Well, this beats me. ’Pears like we’re on the wrong trail, Bob. I
reckon we’ve just naturally overhauled a bunch of tourists.”

“Better go in and see what’s inside,” suggested the other man,
slipping from his horse.

“All right. You stay where you are.”

As he stepped to the door and rapped, Peggy opened it, but Alice
took up the inquiry.

“What do you want?” she asked, imperiously.

The man, after looking keenly about, quietly replied: “I’m wonderin’
how you women come to be here alone, but first of all I want to know
who made them tracks outside the door?”

Alice ignored the latter part of his question and set about
satisfying his wonder. “We came up here with a geological survey,
but my horse fell on my foot and I couldn’t ride, so the men had to
leave me behind--”

“Alone?” sharply interrogated the man.

“No; one man stayed.”

“What was his name?”

“I don’t know. We called him Smith.”

“Was he the man that rode away this morning?”

“What does that matter to you?” asked the girl. “Why are you so

He maintained his calm tone of mild authority. “I’m the sheriff of
Uinta County, ma’am, and I’m looking for a man who’s been hiding out
in this basin. I was trailin’ him close when the snow came on
yesterday, and I didn’t know but what these tracks was his.”

Peggy turned toward Alice with an involuntary expression of
enlightenment, and the sheriff read it quickly. Slipping between the
two women, he said:

“Jest a minute, miss. What sort of a looking man was this Smith?”

Alice took up the story. “He was rather small and dark--wasn’t he,

Peggy considered. “I didn’t notice him particularly. Yes, I think he

The man outside called: “Hurry up, Cap. It’s beginning to snow

The sheriff withdrew toward the door. “You’re both lying,” he
remarked without heat, “but it don’t matter. We’ll mighty soon
overhaul this man on the horse--whoever he is. If you’ve been
harboring Hall McCord we’ll have to take you, too.” With that threat
as a farewell he mounted his horse and rode away.

Peggy turned to Alice. “Did you know that young fellow was an

“Yes: I saw his picture and description on a placard in the railway
station. I recognized him at once.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Well, I liked his looks, and, besides, I wanted to find out if he
were really bad or only unfortunate.”

“What has he done?”

“They say he held up a train!”

“Merciful Heavens! a train-robber! What’s his real name?”

“The name on the placard was Hall McCord.”

“And to think he was in the same room with us last night, and you
were chumming with him! I can’t understand you. Are you sure he is
the robber?”

“Yes. He confessed to having tried to rob the express car.”

“He seemed such a nice fellow. How did he come to do it?”

Alice concluded not to honor the other girl by bringing her into the
discussion. “Oh, it is hard to say. Need of money, I suppose. Poor
boy, I pity him.”

“They’ll get him, sure. They can follow his tracks as easy as
anything. I don’t suppose I ought to say it, but I hope he’ll get
away. Don’t you?”

“Yes, I do!” was Alice’s fervent response. “But see! it’s snowing
again. It may cover his trail.”

Peggy went to the door and gazed long and keenly at the peaks. When
she turned her face was solemn. “Allie, this is getting pretty
serious for us. If the men don’t come to-day they may get snowed up

Alice stifled a wail. “Oh, if I were only able to walk I wouldn’t
mind. I could help gather fuel and keep the fire going.”

“There’s plenty of wood for another day, but I’m worried about the
men. Suppose they are up on that glacier?”

“I’m not worried about them, but I know they are worrying about us.
They’ll surely start back this morning; but they may not be able to
reach us till night.”

The light of the morning had turned gray and feeble. The air was
still and the forest soundless, save now and then when a snow-laden
branch creaked with its burden.

There was something majestic as well as menacing in this
all-pervading solemn hush.

Peggy went about her duties as cheerfully as she could, but with a
wider knowledge of mountaineering than Alice had. She was at heart
quite terrified. “We’re going to miss our nice outlaw,” she
remarked. “He was so effective as a purveyor of wood.” Then she went
to the door and looked out. “That sheriff will never keep his
trail,” she said.

“What’s that?” suddenly asked Alice.

Both listened. “I hear it!” whispered Peggy. “It’s a horse--there!
Some one spoke.”

“It’s Freeman!” Alice joyously called out. “Coo-hoo!”

No one replied, and Peggy, rushing to the door, met the young
outlaw, who appeared on the threshold with stern, set face.

“Who’s been here since I left? Your party?”

Peggy recoiled in surprise and alarm, and Alice cried out, “Why did
you come back?”

“Two men on horseback have been here since I left. Who were they?”
His voice was full of haste.

“One of them said--he was the--the sheriff,” Alice replied, faintly.

He smiled then, a kind of terrifying humor in his eyes. “Well, the
chances are he knew. They took my trail, of course, and left in a
hurry. Expected to overhaul me on the summit. They’ve got their work
cut out for ’em.”

“How did they miss you?” the girl asked, huskily.

“Well, you see, when I got up where I could view the sky I was dead
sure we were in for a whooping big snow-storm, and I just couldn’t
leave you girls up here all alone, so I struck right down the cañon
in the bed of the creek--the short cut. I don’t like to backtrail,
anyway; it’s a bad habit to get into. I like to leave as blind a
trail as I can.” His face lightened up, grew boyish again. “They’re
sure up against a cold proposition about now. They’ll lose my track
among the rocks, but they’ll figure I’ve hustled right on over into
Pine Creek, and if they don’t freeze to death in the pass they’ll
come out at Glover’s haymeadow to-morrow night. How’s the wood-pile
holding out?”

“Please go!” cried Alice. “Take your chance now and hurry away.”

“I’m not used to leaving women in such a fix. The moment I saw that
blizzard was beginning all over again I turned back.”

“You haven’t had any breakfast?” said Peggy.

“Nothing to speak of,” he replied, dryly. “I wasn’t thinking of
breakfast when I pulled out.”

“I’ll get you some.”

Alice could not throw off the burden of his danger. “What will you
do when my people return?”

“I don’t know--trust to luck.”

“You are very foolish. They are certain to come to-day.”

“They won’t know who I am if you women don’t give me away.”

“I’m sure Freeman--Professor Ward--will know you, for he also saw
the placard.”

“That’s no sign. Suppose he does--maybe he won’t think it is his job
to interfere. Anyway”--here his voice became decisive--“I won’t
leave you in such a fix as this.” His eyes spoke to her of that
which his tongue could not utter. “I wanted an excuse to come back,
anyway,” he concluded. “No matter what comes now, my job is here to
protect you.”

She did not rebuke him, and Peggy--though she wondered at his
tone--was too grateful for his presence even to question Alice’s
motive in permitting such remarks.

As for Alice, she felt herself more and more involved in the tangled
skein of his mysterious life. His sudden and reckless abandonment of
the old love which had ruined him, and the new and equally
irrational regard which he now professed for her, filled her with a
delicious marveling.

He appealed to a woman’s imagination. He had the spice of the
unknown. In her relationship with Ward there was no danger, no
mystery--his courtship narrowly escaped being commonplace. She had
accepted his attentions and expected to marry him, and yet the
thought of the union produced, at its warmest, merely a glow of
comfort, a sense of security, whereas the hint of being loved and
protected by this Rob Roy of the hills, this reckless Rough Rider of
the wilderness, was instinct with romance. Of course his devotion
was a crazy folly, and yet, lying there in her rough bunk, with an
impenetrable wall of snow shutting out the rest of the world, it was
hard not to feel that this man and his future had become an
inescapable part of her life--a part which grew in danger and in
charm from hour to hour.

Full two miles above the level of her own home, surrounded by peaks
unscalably wild and lonely, deserted by those who should care for
her, was it strange that she should return this man’s adoring gaze
with something of the primal woman’s gratitude and submission?

The noon darkened into dusk as they talked, slowly, with long
pauses, and one by one the stirring facts of the rover’s life came
out. From his boyhood he had always done the reckless thing. He had
known no restraint till, as a member of the Rough Riders, he yielded
a partial obedience to his commanders. When the excitement of the
campaigns was over he had deserted and gone back to the round-up
wagon and the campfire.

In the midst of his confidences he maintained a reserve about his
family which showed more self-mastery than anything else about him.
That he was the black sheep of an honorable flock became
increasingly evident. He had been the kind of lad who finds in the
West a fine field for dare-devil adventure. And yet there were
unstirred depths in the man. He was curious about a small book which
Alice kept upon her bed, and which she read from time to time with
serene meditation on her face.

“What is that?” he asked.

“My Bible.”

“Can I see it?”


He took it carefully and read the title on the back, then turned a
few of the leaves. “I’m not much on reading,” he said, “but I’ve got
a sister that sends me tracts, and the like.” He returned to the

“Is this your name?”


“‘Alice Mansfield,’” he read; “beautiful name! ‘New York City’!
That’s pretty near the other side of the world to me.” He studied
the address with intent look. “I’d like to buy this book. How much
will you take for it?”

“I’ll trade it for your weapon,” she replied.

He looked at her narrowly. “You mean something by that. I reckon I
follow you. No, I can’t do that--not now. If I get into business
over the line I’ll disarm, but in this country a fellow needs to be
protected. I want this book!”

“For the fly-leaf?”

He smiled in return. “You’ve hit it.”

She hesitated. “I’ll give you the book if you’ll promise to read

He clapped the covers together and put the volume in his pocket.
“It’s mine! I’ll read every word of it, if it takes an age, and
here’s my hand on it.”

She gave him her hand, and in this clasp something came to her from
his clutching fingers which sobered her. She drew her hand away
hastily and said: “If you read that book--and think about it--it
will change your whole world.”

He, too, lost his brightness. “Well, I’m not so anxious to keep up
this kind of life. But if anybody changes me it will be you.”

“Hush!” she warned with lifted finger.

He fell back, and after a little silence went out to wait upon the

“It seems to me,” said Peggy, reprovingly, “that you’re too gracious
with this mountaineer; he’s getting presumptuous.”

“He doesn’t mean to be. It’s his unsophisticated way. Anyhow, we
can’t afford to be captious to our host.”

“That’s true,” admitted Peggy.

The night shut down with the snow still falling, but with a growing
chill in the air.

“The flakes are finer,” the outlaw announced, as he came in a little
later. “That is a good sign. It is growing colder and the wind is
changing. It will pinch hard before sun-up, and the worst of it,
there’s no way to warm this cabin. We can’t have the door open
to-night. I’m worried about you,” he said to Alice. “If only those
chumps had left a man-size ax!”

The two women understood that this night was to bring them into
closer intimacy with the stranger than before. He could not remain
outdoors, and though they now knew something of his desperate
character, they had no fear of him. He had shown his chivalry. No
one could have been more considerate of them, for he absented
himself at Peggy’s request instantly and without suggestion of
jocularity, and when he came in and found them both in bed he said:

“I reckon I’ll not make down to-night--you’ll need all your blankets
before morning”; and thereupon without weighing their protests,
proceeded to spread the extra cover over them.

Alice looked up at him in the dim light of the candle and softly
asked: “What will you do? You will suffer with cold!”

“Don’t worry about me; I’m an old campaigner. I still have a blanket
to wrap around my shoulders. I’ll snooze in a corner. If you hear me
moving around don’t be worried; I’m hired to keep the fire going
even if it doesn’t do us much good inside.”

The chill deepened. The wind began to roar, and great masses of
snow, dislodged from the tall trees above the cabin, fell upon its
roof with sounds like those of soft, slow footfalls. Strange noises
of creaking and groaning and rasping penetrated to Alice’s ears, and
she cowered half in fear, half in joy of her shelter and her male
protector. Men were fine animals for the wild.

She fell asleep at last, seeing her knight’s dim form propped
against the wall, wrapped in a blanket Indian-wise, his head bowed
over the book she had given him, a candle smoking in his hand.

She woke when he rose to feed the fire, and the current of cold air
which swept in caused her to cover her mouth with the blanket. He
turned toward her.

“It’s all over for sure, this time,” he said. “It’s cold and goin’
to be colder. How are you standing it? If your feet are cold I can
heat a stone. How is the hurt foot?” He drew near and looked down
upon her anxiously.

“Very much easier, thank you.”

“I’m mighty glad of that. I wish I could take the pain all on

“You have troubles of your own,” she answered, as lightly as she

“That’s true, too,” he agreed in the same tone. “So many that a
little one more or less wouldn’t count.”

“Do you call my wound little?”

“I meant the foot was little--”

She checked him.

“I didn’t mean to make light of it. It sure is no joke.” He added,
“I’ve made a start on the book.”

“How do you like it?”

“I don’t know yet,” he answered, and went back to his corner.

She snuggled under her warm quilts again, remorseful, yet not daring
to suggest a return of the blanket he had lent. When she woke again
he was on his feet, swinging his arms silently. His candle had gone
out, but a faint light was showing in the room.

“Is it morning?” she asked.

“Just about,” he replied, stretching like a cat.

The dawn came gloriously. The sun in far-splashing splendor slanted
from peak to peak, painting purple shadows on the snow and warming
the boles of the tall trees till they shone like fretted gold. The
jays cried out as if in exultation of the ending of the tempest, and
the small stream sang over its icy pebbles with resolute cheer. It
was a land to fill a poet with awe and ecstatic praise--a radiant,
imperial, and merciless landscape. Trackless, almost soundless, the
mountain world lay waiting for the alchemy of the sun.


The morning was well advanced when a far, faint halloo broke through
the silence of the valley. The ranger stood like a statue, while
Peggy cried out:

“It’s one of our men!”

Alice turned to the outlaw with anxious face. “If it’s the sheriff
stay in here with me. Let me plead for you. I want him to know what
you’ve done for us.”

The look that came upon his face turned her cold with fear. “If it
is the sheriff--” He did not finish, but she understood.

The halloo sounded nearer and the outlaw’s face lightened. “It’s one
of your party. He is coming up from below.”

Impatiently they waited for the new-comer to appear, and though he
seemed to draw nearer at every shout, his progress was very slow. At
last the man appeared on the opposite bank of the stream. He was
covered with snow and stumbling along like a man half dead with
hunger and fatigue.

“Why, it’s Gage!” exclaimed Peggy.

It was indeed the old hunter, and as he drew near his gaunt and
bloodless face was like that of a starved and hunted animal. His
first word was an anxious inquiry, “How are ye?”

“All well,” Peggy answered.

“And the crippled girl?”

“Doing nicely. Thanks to Mr. Smith here, we did not freeze. Are you

The guide looked upon the outlaw with glazed, protruding eyes.
“Hungry? I’m done. I’ve been wallerin’ in the snow all night and I’m
just about all in.”

“Where are the others?” called Alice from her bed.

Gage staggered to the door. “They’re up at timber-line. I left them
day before yesterday. I tried to get here, but I lost my bearin’s
and got on the wrong side o’ the creek. ’Pears like I kept on the
wrong side o’ the hog-back. Then my horse gave out, and that set me
afoot. I was plum scared to death about you folks. I sure was.”

Peggy put some food before him and ordered him into silence. “Talk
later,” she said.

The outlaw turned to Alice. “That explains it. Your Professor Ward
trusted to this man to take care of you and stayed in camp. You
can’t blame him.”

Gage seemed to have suddenly become old, almost childish. “I never
was lost before,” he muttered, sadly. “I reckon something must have
went wrong in my head. ’Pears like I’m gettin’ old and foolish.”

Alice exchanged glances with the outlaw. It was plain that he was in
no danger from this dazed and weakened old man who could think of
nothing but the loss of his sense of direction.

As the day advanced the sun burned clear. At noon it was warm enough
to leave the door open, and Alice, catching glimpses of the flaming
world of silver and purple and gold, was filled with a desire to
quit her dark corner.

“I’m going to get up!” she exclaimed. “I won’t lie here any longer.”

“Don’t try it!” protested Peggy.

“I’m going to do it!” she insisted. “I can hobble to the door if you
help me.”

“I’ll carry you,” said the outlaw. “Wrap her up and I’ll get her a

And so, while Mrs. Adams wrapped her patient in a blanket, the
outlaw dragged one of the rough, ax-hewn benches to the door and
covered it with blankets. He put a stone to heat and then re-entered
just as Alice, supported by Peggy, was setting foot to the floor.
Swiftly, unhesitatingly, and very tenderly he put his arms about her
and lifted her to the bench in the doorway before the fire.

It was so sweet to feel that wondrous body in his arms. His daring
to do it surprised her, but her own silent acquiescence, and the
shiver of pleasure which came with the embarrassment of it, confused
and troubled her.

“That’s better,” he said as he dropped to the ground and drew the
blankets close about her feet. “I’ll have a hot stone for you in a

He went about these ministrations with an inward ecstasy which shone
in his eyes and trembled in his voice. But as she furtively studied
his face and observed the tremor of his hands in tender ministration
she lost all fear of him.

After three days in her dark corner of the hut the sunshine was
wondrously inspiring to the girl, although the landscape on which
she gazed was white and wild as December. It was incredible that
only a few hours lay between the flower-strewn valley of her
accident and this silent and desolate, yet beautiful, wilderness of
snow. And so, as she looked into the eyes of the outlaw, it seemed
as though she had known him from spring to winter, and her wish to
help him grew with every hour of their acquaintanceship.

She planned his defense before Ward and Adams. “When they know how
kind and helpful he has been they can but condone his one rash
deed,” she argued in conclusion.

He was sitting at her feet, careless of time, the law, content with
her nearness, and mindful only of her comfort, when a distant
rifle-shot brought him to his feet with the swiftness of the
startled stag.

“That’s your expedition,” he said, “or some one who needs help.”

Again the shots rang out, _one_, _two_, _three_--_one_, _two_,

“It’s a signal! It’s your party!”

Peggy uttered a cry of joy and rushed outside, but Alice turned an
unquiet gaze on the outlaw. “You’d better fly!”

“What is the use?” he answered, bitterly. “The snow is so deep there
is no show to cross the range, and my horse is weak and hungry.”

Gage appeared at the door. “Lemme take your gun, stranger; I want to
answer the signal.”

“Where’s your own?”

“I left it on my horse,” the old man answered, sheepishly.

The young fellow looked at Alice with a keen glitter in his eyes.
“I’ll make answer myself,” he said; “I’m very particular about my

Alice, as she heard his revolver’s answering word leap into the
silent air and bound and rebound along the cliffs, was filled with a
sudden fear that the sheriff might be guided back by the sound--and
this indeed the fugitive himself remarked as he came back to his
seat beside her.

“If he’s anywhere on this side of the divide he’ll sure come back.
But I’ve done my best. The Lord God Almighty has dropped the snow
down here and shut me in with you, and I’m not complaining.”

There was no answer to be made to this fatalism of utterance, and
none to the worship of his eyes.

“Lift me up!” commanded Alice; “I want to look out and see if I can
see anybody.”

The outlaw took her in his arms, supporting her in the threshold in
order that she might see over the vast sea of white. But no human
being was to be seen.

“Take me back--inside,” Alice said to the man who had her in his
arms. “I feel cold here.”

Once again, and with a feeling that it was, perhaps, for the last
time, he carried her back to her bench and re-enveloped her in her

“Stay here with me now,” she whispered to him, as she looked up into
his face.

And the outlaw, filled with gladness and pride, threw himself on the
floor beside her.


The signal pistol-shots came nearer and nearer, but very slowly; and
as the outlaw sat beside Alice’s couch he took her Bible from his
pocket and said:

“I made a stab at reading this last night.”

She smiled. “I saw you. How did you like it?”

“I didn’t exactly get aboard someway.”

“What was the trouble?”

“I guess it was because I kept thinking of you--and my own place in
the game. Three days ago I didn’t care what became of me, but now I
want a chance. I don’t see any chance coming my way, but if I had
I’d make use of it.” He looked at her a moment in silence, then with
sudden intensity broke forth. “Do you know what you mean to me? When
I look at your face and eyes I’m hungry for you.”

She shrank from him and called to Mrs. Adams.

He went on. “Oh, you needn’t be afraid. I just wanted to say it,
that’s all. If there was only some other way to straighten
myself--but I can’t go to jail. I can’t stand up to be clipped like
a poodle-dog, then put on striped clothing and walk lock-step--I
can’t do it! They’ll put me in for ten years. I’d be old when I got
out.” He shuddered. “No, I won’t do that! I’d rather die here in the

She grew white in sympathy. “It is a frightful price to pay for one
insane act, and yet--crime should be punished.”

“I’m getting my punishment now,” he replied, with darkly brooding
glance. “There’s a good old man and two women, my sisters, waiting
for me down the slope. If I could reach home I’d try to live
straight, but it’s a long and dangerous trail between here and

Peggy now ran into the cabin. “It’s the expedition,” she announced.
“I can see Freeman.”

“I reckon this is where I get off,” said the outlaw in a tone of
mingled relief and dismay.

“No, no!” Alice entreated. “Stay till Freeman comes. He will help
you. Let me explain to him. I know he will not betray you.”

He looked at her again with that intent, longing worship in his
eyes, and answered, “I accept the chance for the sake of one more
hour with you.”

The outlaw stepped to the door, and he saw a man at the head of his
train mid-leg deep in snow, leading his horse, breaking the way for
his followers, who were on foot, crawling, stumbling, and twisting
among the down-timber, unmindful of the old trail.

At sight of that big and resolute leader, with flowing black beard
and ruddy face, the outlaw was filled with jealous sadness. To find
Ward a man of superb physical prowess, the kind that measures peaks
for the fun of it, was disturbing, and without defining his feeling
he was plunged into melancholy musing. And when later Ward entered,
and, stooping over the couch, kissed Alice, the end of his idyl
seemed to him announced.

In the bustle of the moment, in the interchange of anxious, hurried
inquiries, the outlaw stood aside in the corner, unnoticed, till
Alice caught Ward’s arm and said:

“Freeman, this is Mr. Smith, to whom we owe a great deal. He has
taken the utmost care of us. We would have frozen but for him.”

Ward shook hands with the outlaw, but wonderingly asked of Alice,
“But where was Gage?”

The outlaw answered, “Gage got lost and only turned up a couple of
hours ago.”

Ward turned to Alice in horror. “Good Lord! And you were here
alone--crippled--in this storm?”

“No--that’s what I’m telling you. Mr. Smith came and took care of
us. He brought our wood, he cooked for us, he kept our fire going.
He gave up his bed, even his blankets, for us. You should be very
generous to him.”

Ward again reached a hearty hand. “I’m tremendously obliged to you.”

The outlaw quailed under all this praise. “There was mighty little
to do,” he answered. “I only shared my fire with them.”

Ward studied him closer. “Haven’t we met before?”

“No, I reckon not.”

“I’m quite sure I’ve see you somewhere. What are you doing up in

Alice interposed. “What are we going to do?”

Ward turned to the outlaw. “What would you advise? I’ve only had one
idea, and that was to reach this cabin. Now what would you do?”

The outlaw was ready. “I would send a part of the men with the
horses down the valley to grass and I’d wait here till Miss
Mansfield is able to ride.”

“Will this snow go off?”

“That’s my notion.”

“It’s certain we can’t camp here--the horses must have grass.”

“I’ll be able to ride in a day or two,” Alice said, bravely.

“We could frame up a portable bed and carry you,” suggested the
outlaw; “but it can’t be done to-night, so you’d better send your
outfit down to the marsh to camp. The horses are worn out and so are
the men.”

“Will you guide them to grass and help them find shelter?”

The outlaw hesitated for an instant, and Alice interposed: “No, no!
Let Gage do that. I want Mr. Smith to remain here.”

Ward perceived in her entreaty something of anxiety and fear, and
after the men and horses had started down the slope he turned to the
outlaw and said: “I’m mighty grateful to you, Mr. Smith. It must
have surprised you to find these women here.”

The outlaw dryly replied, “It did!”

Alice added: “It was in the middle of the night, too; but Mr. Smith
was very nice about it. He slept outdoors without a word of

Ward had figured the situation to conclusion: “Smith is a poacher,”
and though he had a savage dislike of these illicit
game-slaughterers, he could not but be glad of the presence of this
particular outlaw, and resolved to overlook his trade in gratitude
for his cabin and service.

The outlaw helped Adams and Ward to clear away the snow for a tent,
and Alice, seeing the three men thus amicably joined in her defense,
could not find it in her heart to condemn one of them as a criminal.
Here in the white isolation of the peaks the question of crime and
its punishment became personal. To have this man’s fate in her hand
was like grasping the executioner’s sword for herself.

“If women had to punish criminals themselves, with their own hand,”
she asked, “how many of them would do it?”

Peggy came in and whispered to her: “No one else seems to have
recognized him. He may get away safely. I hope he will. Shall we
tell the men who he is?”

“Yes, we shall have to do that soon, but I’m afraid they won’t take
the sentimental view of him that we do. I tremble to think of what
they will do when they know.”

Ward explained to Adams: “Our friend Smith here is a poacher--but as
our account stands I don’t feel it my duty to report him, do you?”

“No; Peggy tells me he has acted like a gentleman all through.”

In this spirit they made themselves comfortable for the night.

The sun set gloriously, but the air bit ever sharper, and while
Peggy went about her cooking, assisted by her husband and the
outlaw, Alice pulled Ward down to her bedside and hurriedly began:

“You remember that placard we read in the station--the one about the


“Well, this is the man--our Mr. Smith.”

Ward looked at her a moment with reflective eyes, then exclaimed:
“You’re right! I thought I’d seen him somewhere.”

“And the sheriff is after him. He was here yesterday morning.”


“Yes. You see, Mr. Smith stayed with us till he thought the storm
was over, then rode away, intending to cross the divide, but when
the snow began again he turned back. He said he couldn’t leave us
alone. He left us just before dawn, and four or five hours afterward
the sheriff came. Of course he saw the poor fellow’s trail and
instantly set off after him.”

“But why didn’t they meet?”

“Because Mr. Smith came back a different way and then the blizzard
came on and covered up his tracks. He thinks the sheriff has gone on
over the divide. You must help him, Freeman. Help him to get away
and find some way to give him a start. Nobody could have been more
considerate, and I can’t see him taken by these cold-blooded men who
want that two thousand dollars’ reward. He really could have
escaped, only for us. He came back to protect us.”

Ward pondered. “The problem is not so easy of solution. A train
robbery is a pretty serious matter. I’m very grateful to him, but to
connive at his escape is itself a punishable act. Why did you tell
me? I could have passed it over--”

“Because I’m afraid the sheriff may come back at any moment.”

Ward’s brow was troubled. “I could ignore his deed and pretend not
to know who he is, but definitely to assist a bandit to escape is a
very serious matter.”

“I know it is; but remember he gave up his chance to cross the
divide in order to keep us from suffering.”

“I wish you hadn’t told me,” he repeated, almost in irritation. “If
the sheriff only keeps on over the range Smith can take care of

As the outlaw re-entered the cabin Alice acknowledged in him
something worth a woman to love. In the older man was power,
security, moral, mental, and physical health, the qualities her
reason demanded in a husband; but in the other was grace and charm,
something wildly admirable. He allured as the warrior, intrepid and
graceful, allured the maiden, as the forest calls the householder.
Something primordial and splendid and very sweet was in her feeling
toward him. There could be no peaceful wedlock there, no security of
home, no comfort, only the exquisite thrill of perilous union, the
madness of a few short weeks--perhaps only a few swift days of
self-surrender, and then, surely, disaster and despair. To yield to
him was impossible, and yet the thought of it was tantalizingly

When she looked toward Ward she perceived herself sitting serenely
in matronly grace behind a shining coffee-urn in a well-ordered,
highly civilized breakfast-room, facing a most considerate husband
who nevertheless was able to read the morning paper in her presence.
When she thought of life with the outlaw all was dark, stormy,
confused, and yet the way was lit by his adoring eyes. A magical
splendor lay in the impulse. His love, sudden as it seemed, was
real--she was certain of that. She felt the burning power, the
conjury of its flame, and it made her future with Ward, at the
moment, seem dull and drab.

“Why, why could not such a man and such a passion come with the
orderly and the ethical?” she asked herself.

At the best he was fitted only for the mine or the ranch, and the
thought of life in a lonely valley, even with his love to lighten
it, made her shudder. On one side she was a very practical and
far-seeing woman. The instant she brought her reason to bear on the
problem she perceived that any further acquaintance with this man
was dangerous. They must part here at this moment, and yet she could
not let him go without in some way making him feel her wish to help


Ward and the outlaw were discussing plans for getting out of the
basin when Adams came in to say, “A couple of other weary wanderers
are turning up.”

“The sheriff!” instantly exclaimed Alice, her face whitening in
swift dismay.

In that moment the forester was transformed. With a weapon in his
hand he stood aside, his eyes on the door, a scowl of battle on his
face. He resembled a wolf with bared fangs ready to die desperately.

Ward, quick to read his purpose, interposed. “Wait!” he commanded.
“Stay here; I’ll see them. Don’t be rash.”

As he passed out into the firelight the outlaw, without relaxing his
vigilance, said in a low voice, “Well, girl, I reckon here’s where I
say good night.”

“Don’t resist,” she pleaded. “Don’t fight, please! Please! What is
the use? Oh, it’s too horrible! If you resist they will kill you!”

There was no fear in his voice as he replied: “They may not; I’m
handy with my gun.”

She was breathless, chilled by the shadow of the impending tragedy.
“But that would be worse. To kill them would only stain your soul
the deeper. You must not fight!”

“It’s self-defense.”

“But they are officers of the law.”

“No matter; I will not be taken alive.”

She moaned in her distress, helplessly wringing her hands. “O God!
Why should I be witness of this?”

“You won’t be. If this is the sheriff I am going to open that door
and make a dash. What happens will happen outside. You need not see
it. I’m sorry you have to hear it. But I give you my word--if you
must hear something I will see to it that you hear as little as

The latch clicked--he stepped back, and again stood waiting, silent,
rigid, ready to act, murderous in design.

Mrs. Adams entered quickly, and, closing the door behind her,
hurriedly whispered: “It’s the sheriff. Hide! The men will hold them
as long as they can. Hide!”

The outlaw looked about and smiled. “Where?” he asked, almost
humorously. “I’m not a squirrel.”

“Under the bunk. See, there is room.”

He shook his head. “No, I refuse to crawl. I won’t sneak. I never
have. I take ’em as they come.”

“For my sake,” pleaded Alice. “I can’t bear to see you killed. Hide
yourself. Go to the door,” she said to Peggy. “Don’t let them in.
Tell Freeman--” She rose and stood unsteadily, forgetful of her own

Mrs. Adams urged her to lie down, but she would not. The moments
passed in suspense almost too great to be endured.

“Listen!” commanded the outlaw. “They’re coming in.”

As they harkened Ward’s voice rose clearly. “You can’t miss the
camp,” he was saying, as if speaking to some one at a distance.
“Just keep the trail in the snow and you’ll find them. I’m sorry we
can’t put you up--but you see how it is.”

“They’re going!” exclaimed Alice. “Thank God, they’re going!”

“It can’t be they’ll go without searching the shack,” the fugitive
muttered, in no measure relaxing his attitude of watchful menace.
“They’re playing a game on us.”

Again the latch clicked, and this time it was Ward who confronted
the outlaw’s revolver mouth.

“It’s all right,” Ward called, instantly understanding the
situation. “They’re gone. The old man was about played out, for
they’ve been fighting snow all day, but I told him we couldn’t take
care of them here and they have gone on down to the camp. He thinks
you got over the divide. You are all right for the present.”

“They’ll come back,” replied the other. “It only puts the deal off a
few hours. They’ll return, trailin’ the whole camp after them. What
can I do? My horse is down there in the herd.”

“That’s bad,” exclaimed Ward. “I wonder if I could get him for you?”

“If I had him he’s weak and hungry, and the high places are feet
deep in drifts. It doesn’t signify. I’m corralled any way you look
at it, and the only thing left is to fight.”

“There’s our trail to the glacier,” Ward musingly suggested; “it’s a
pretty deep furrow--you might make it that way.”

A spark of light leaped into the man’s eyes. “How far up does it
run? Where does it end?”

“In Glacier Basin, just at timber-line.”

The outlaw pondered, speaking his thoughts aloud. “From there across
to the Indian reservation there isn’t a wolf track.... It’s a man’s
job crossing there, almost sure death, but it’s my only show.” He
had replaced his weapon in his belt and was weighing his chance, his
eyes fixed on Alice’s face. To leave this shelter, this warm circle
of light, this sweet girlish presence, and plunge into the dark, the
cold, and the snow, was hard. No one but a man of unconquerable
courage would have considered it. This man was both desperate and
heroic. “It’s my only chance and I’ll take it,” he said, drawing his
breath sharply. “I’ll need your prayers,” he added, grimly, with
eyes that saw only the girl. “If I fail you’ll find me up there. I
carry my sleeping-powder with me.” He touched his revolver as he

Alice’s mind, sweeping out over that desolate expanse, had a
moment’s vision of him as he would appear toiling across those
towering cliffs, minute as a fly, and her heart grew small and sick.

“Why don’t you stay and take your lawful punishment?” she asked.
“You will surely perish up there in the cold. Wait for sunlight at

“I’m ready to stay and to die here, near you,” he replied, with a
significant glance.

“No, no, not that!” she cried out. “Talk to him, Freeman; persuade
him to give himself up. I’ve done my best to influence him. Don’t
let him uselessly sacrifice himself.”

Ward perceived something hidden in her voice, some emotion which was
more than terror, deeper than pity, but his words were grave and
kindly. “It is a frightful risk, young man, but the trail to the
glacier is your only open road. The sheriff is tired. Even if he
finds out that you are here he may not come back to-night. He will
know you cannot escape. You can’t stir without leaving a telltale
mark. If you could only get below the snow on the west slope--”

“Whichever trail I take it’s good-by,” interrupted the fugitive,
still addressing Alice. “If there was anything to live for--if you’d
say the word!”--she knew what he meant--“I’d stay and take my
schooling.” He waited a moment, and she, looking from his asking
face to Ward’s calm brow, could not utter a sound. What could she
promise? The outlaw’s tone softened to entreaty. “If you’ll only say
I may see you again on the other side of the range ’twill keep my
heart warm. Can’t you promise me that? It’s mighty little.”

He was going to almost certain death, and she could not refuse this.
“You may write to me--” she faltered. “You know my address--”

He struck the little book in his pocket. “Yes, I have it safe. Then
I may see you again?”

Alice, supported by Mrs. Adams, unsteadily rose. “Yes, yes, only go.
They are coming back! I can hear them.”

He took her hand. “Good-by,” he said, chokingly. “You’ve given me
heart.” He bent swiftly and kissed her forehead. “I’ll win! You’ll
hear from me.”

“Hurry!” she wildly cried. “I hear voices!”

He caught up his hat and opened the door. As he faced them his lips
were resolute and his eyes glowing. “It’s only good night,” he said,
and closed the door behind him.

“Hold!” shouted Ward. “You must take some food.” He tore the door
open. “Wait--”

Even as he spoke a pistol-shot resounded through the night. It cut
through the deathly silence of the forest like a spiteful curse, and
was answered by another--then, after a short pause, a swift-tearing
volley followed.

“They are killing him!” cried Alice.

They brought him in and laid him at her feet. He had requested this,
but when she bent to peer into his face he had gone beyond speech.
Limp and bloody and motionless he lay, with eyes of unfathomable
regret and longing, staring up at her, and as the men stood about
with uncovered heads she stooped to him, forgetful of all else;
knelt to lay her hand upon his brow.

“Poor boy! Poor boy!” she said, her eyes blinded with tears.

His hand stirred, seeking her own, and she took it and pressed it in
both of hers. “Jesus be merciful!” she prayed, softly.

He smiled faintly in acknowledgment of her presence and her prayer,
and in this consolation died.

Wonderingly, with imperious frown, she rose and confronted the
sheriff. “How is it that you are unhurt? Did he not fight?”

“That’s what I can’t understand, miss,” he answered. “He fired only
once, and then into the air. ’Pears like he wanted to die.”

Alice understood. His thought was of her. “You shall hear as little
as possible,” he had said.

“And you killed him--as he surrendered,” she exclaimed, bitterly,
and turned toward the dead man, whose face was growing very peaceful
now, and with a blinding pain in her eyes she bent and laid a final
caressing hand upon his brow.

As she faced the sheriff again she said, with merciless severity:
“I’d rather be in his place than yours.” Then, with a tired droop in
her voice, she appealed to Ward: “Take me away from here. I’m tired
of this savage world.”


By Zane Grey

From “The Last of the Plainsmen,” copyright, 1908, by
A. C. McClurg & Co. By special permission from the author.

It was a waiting day at Fort Chippewayan. The lonesome, far-northern
Hudson’s Bay Trading Post seldom saw such life. Tepees dotted the
banks of the Slave River and lines of blanketed Indians paraded its
shores. Near the boat landing a group of chiefs, grotesque in
semi-barbaric, semi-civilized splendor, but black-browed,
austere-eyed, stood in savage dignity with folded arms and high-held
heads. Lounging on the grassy bank were white men, traders, trappers
and officials of the post.

All eyes were on the distant curve of the river where, as it lost
itself in a fine-fringed bend of dark green, white-glinting waves
danced and fluttered. A June sky lay blue in the majestic stream;
ragged, spear-topped, dense green trees massed down to the water;
beyond rose bold, bald-knobbed hills, in remote purple relief.

A long Indian arm stretched south. The waiting eyes discerned a
black speck on the green, and watched it grow. A flatboat, with a
man standing to the oars, bore down swiftly.

Not a red hand, nor a white one, offered to help the voyager in the
difficult landing. The oblong, clumsy, heavily laden boat surged
with the current and passed the dock despite the boatman’s efforts.
He swung his craft in below upon a bar and roped it fast to a tree.
The Indians crowded above him on the bank. The boatman raised his
powerful form erect, lifted a bronzed face which seemed set in
craggy hardness, and cast from narrow eyes a keen, cool glance on
those above. The silvery gleam in his fair hair told of years.

Silence, impressive as it was ominous, broke only to the rattle of
camping paraphernalia, which the voyager threw to a level, grassy
beach on the bank. Evidently this unwelcome visitor had journeyed
from afar, and his boat, sunk deep into the water with its load of
barrels, boxes and bags, indicated that the journey had only begun.
Significant, too, were a couple of Winchester rifles shining on a

The cold-faced crowd stirred and parted to permit the passage of a
tall, thin, gray personage of official bearing, in a faded military

“Are you the musk-ox hunter?” he asked, in tones that contained no

The boatman greeted this peremptory interlocutor with a cool
laugh--a strange laugh, in which the muscles of his face appeared
not to play.

“Yes, I am the man,” he said.

“The chiefs of the Chippewayan and Great Slave tribes have been
apprised of your coming. They have held council and are here to
speak with you.”

At a motion from the commandant, the line of chieftains piled down
to the level beach and formed a half-circle before the voyager. To a
man who had stood before grim Sitting Bull and noble Black Thunder
of the Sioux, and faced the falcon-eyed Geronimo, and glanced over
the sights of a rifle at gorgeous-feathered, wild, free Comanches,
this semi-circle of savages--lords of the north--was a sorry
comparison. Bedaubed and betrinketed, slouchy and slovenly, these
low-statured chiefs belied in appearance their scorn-bright eyes and
lofty mien. They made a sad group.

One who spoke in unintelligible language, rolled out a haughty
sonorous voice over the listening multitude. When he had finished, a
half-breed interpreter, in the dress of a white man, spoke at a
signal from the commandant.

“He says listen to the great orator of the Chippewayan. He has
summoned all the chiefs of the tribes south of Great Slave Lake. He
has held council. The cunning of the pale-face, who comes to take
the musk-oxen, is well known. Let the pale-face hunter return to his
own hunting-grounds; let him turn his face from the north. Never
will the chiefs permit the white man to take musk-oxen alive from
their country. The Ageter, the musk-ox, is their god. He gives them
food and fur. He will never come back if he is taken away, and the
reindeer will follow him. The chiefs and their people would starve.
They command the pale-face hunter to go back. They cry Naza! Naza!

“Say, for a thousand miles I’ve heard that word Naza!” returned the
hunter, with mingled curiosity and disgust. “At Edmonton Indian
runners started ahead of me, and every village I struck the redskins
would crowd round me and an old chief would harangue at me, and
motion me back, and point north with Naza! Naza! Naza! What does it

“No white man knows; no Indian will tell,” answered the interpreter.
“The traders think it means the Great Slave, the North Star, the
North Spirit, the North Wind, the North Lights and Ageter, the
musk-ox god.”

“Well, say to the chiefs to tell Ageter I have been four moons on
the way after some of his little Ageters, and I’m going to keep on
after them.”

“Hunter, you are most unwise,” broke in the commandant, in his
officious voice. “The Indians will never permit you to take a
musk-ox alive from the north. They worship him, pray to him. It is a
wonder you have not been stopped.”

“Who’ll stop me?”

“The Indians. They will kill you if you do not turn back.”

“Faugh! to tell an American plainsman that!” The hunter paused a
steady moment, with his eyelids narrowing over slits of blue fire.
“There is no law to keep me out, nothing but Indian superstition and
the greed of the Hudson’s Bay people. And I am an old fox, not to be
fooled by pretty baits. For years the officers of this fur-trading
company have tried to keep out explorers. Even Sir John Franklin, an
Englishman, could not buy food of them. The policy of the company is
to side with the Indians, to keep out traders and trappers. Why? So
they can keep on cheating the poor savages out of clothing and food
by trading a few trinkets and blankets, a little tobacco and rum for
millions of dollars’ worth of furs. Have I failed to hire man after
man, Indian after Indian, not to know why I cannot get a helper?
Have I, a plainsman, come a thousand miles alone to be scared by
you, or a lot of craven Indians? Have I been dreaming of musk-oxen
for forty years, to slink south now, when I begin to feel the north?
Not I.”

Deliberately every chief, with the sound of a hissing snake, spat in
the hunter’s face. He stood immovable while they perpetrated the
outrage, then calmly wiped his cheeks, and in his strange, cool
voice addressed the interpreter.

“Tell them thus they show their true qualities, to insult in
council. Tell them they are not chiefs, but dogs. Tell them they are
not even squaws, only poor, miserable starved dogs. Tell them I turn
my back on them. Tell them the paleface has fought real chiefs,
fierce, bold, like eagles, and he turns his back on dogs. Tell them
he is the one who could teach them to raise the musk-oxen and the
reindeer, and to keep out the cold and the wolf. But they are
blinded. Tell them the hunter goes north.”

Through the council of chiefs ran a low mutter as of gathering

True to his word, the hunter turned his back on them. As he brushed
by, his eye caught a gaunt savage slipping from the boat. At the
hunter’s stern call, the Indian leaped ashore, and started to run.
He had stolen a parcel, and would have succeeded in eluding its
owner but for an unforeseen obstacle, as striking as it was

A white man of colossal stature had stepped in the thief’s passage,
and laid two great hands on him. Instantly the parcel flew from the
Indian, and he spun in the air to fall into the river with a
sounding splash. Yells signaled the surprise and alarm caused by
this unexpected incident. The Indian frantically swam to the shore.
Whereupon the champion of the stranger in a strange land lifted a
bag, which gave forth a musical clink of steel, and throwing it with
the camp articles on the grassy bench, he extended a huge, friendly

“My name is Rea,” said he, in deep, cavernous tones.

“Mine is Jones,” replied the hunter, and right quickly did he grip
the proffered hand. He saw in Rea a giant, of whom he was but a
stunted shadow. Six and one-half feet Rea stood, with yard-wide
shoulders, a hulk of bone and brawn. His ponderous, shaggy head
rested on a bull neck. His broad face, with its low forehead, its
close-shut mastiff under jaw, its big, opaque eyes, pale and cruel
as those of a jaguar, marked him a man of terrible brute force.

“Free-trader!” called the commandant. “Better think twice before you
join fortunes with the musk-ox hunter.”

“To hell with you an’ your rantin’, dog-eared redskins!” cried Rea.
“I’ve run agin a man of my own kind, a man of my own country, an’
I’m goin’ with him.” With this he thrust aside some encroaching,
gaping Indians so unconcernedly and urgently that they sprawled upon
the grass.

Slowly the crowd mounted and once more lined the bank.

Jones realized that by some late-turning stroke of fortune, he had
fallen in with one of the few free-traders of the province. These
free-traders, from the very nature of their calling--which was to
defy the fur company, and to trap and trade on their own
account--were a hardy and intrepid class of men. Rea’s worth to
Jones exceeded that of a dozen ordinary men. He knew the ways of the
north, the language of the tribes, the habits of animals, the
handling of dogs, the uses of food and fuel. Moreover, it soon
appeared that he was a carpenter and blacksmith.

“There’s my kit,” he said, dumping the contents of his bag. It
consisted of a bunch of steel traps, some tools, a broken ax, a box
of miscellaneous things such as trappers used, and a few articles of
flannel. “Thievin’ redskins,” he added, in explanation of his
poverty. “Not much of an outfit. But I’m the man for you. Besides, I
had a pal onct who knew you on the plains, called you ‘Buff’ Jones.
Old Jim Bent he was.”

“I recollect Jim,” said Jones. “He went down in Custer’s last
charge. So you were Jim’s pal. That’d be a recommendation if you
needed one. But the way you chucked the Indian overboard got me.”

Rea soon manifested himself as a man of few words and much action.
With the planks Jones had on board he heightened the stern and bow
of the boat to keep out the beating waves in the rapids; he
fashioned a steering-gear and a less awkward set of oars, and
shifted the cargo so as to make more room in the craft.

“Buff, we’re in for a storm. Set up a tarpaulin an’ make a fire.
We’ll pretend to camp to-night. These Indians won’t dream we’d try
to run the river after dark, and we’ll slip by under cover.”

The sun glazed over; clouds moved up from the north; a cold wind
swept the tips of the spruces, and rain commenced to drive in gusts.
By the time it was dark not an Indian showed himself. They were
housed from the storm. Lights twinkled in the tepees and the big log
cabins of the trading company. Jones scouted round till pitchy black
night, when a freezing, pouring blast sent him back to the
protection of the tarpaulin. When he got there he found that Rea had
taken it down and awaited him. “Off!” said the free-trader; and with
no more noise than a drifting feather the boat swung into the
current and glided down till the twinkling fires no longer
accentuated the darkness.

By night the river, in common with all swift rivers, had a sullen
voice, and murmured its hurry, its restraint, its menace, its
meaning. The two boatmen, one at the steering gear, one at the oars,
faced the pelting rain and watched the dim, dark line of trees. The
craft slid noiselessly onward into the gloom.

And into Jones’ ears, above the storm, poured another sound, a
steady, muffled rumble, like the roll of giant chariot wheels. It
had come to be a familiar roar to him, and the only thing which, in
his long life of hazard, had ever sent the cold, prickling, tight
shudder over his warm skin. Many times on the Athabasca that rumble
had presaged the dangerous and dreaded rapids.

“Hell Bend Rapids!” shouted Rea. “Bad water but no rocks.”

The rumble expanded to a roar, the roar to a boom that charged the
air with heaviness, with a dreamy burr. The whole indistinct world
appeared to be moving to the lash of wind, to the sound of rain, to
the roar of the river. The boat shot down and sailed aloft, met
shock on shock, breasted leaping dim white waves, and in a hollow,
unearthly blend of watery sounds, rode on and on, buffeted, tossed,
pitched into a black chaos that yet gleamed with obscure shrouds of
light. Then the convulsive stream shrieked out a last defiance,
changed its course abruptly to slow down and drown the sound of
rapids in muffling distance. Once more the craft swept on smoothly,
to the drive of the wind and the rush of the rain.

By midnight the storm cleared. Murky clouds split to show shining,
blue-white stars and a fitful moon, that silvered the crests of the
spruces and sometimes hid like a gleaming, black-threaded pearl
behind the dark branches.

Jones, a plainsman all his days, wonderingly watched the
moon-blanched water. He saw it shade and darken under shadowy walls
of granite, where it swelled with hollow song and gurgle. He heard
again the far-off rumble, faint on the night wind. High cliff banks
appeared, walled out the mellow light, and the river suddenly
narrowed. Yawning holes, whirlpools of a second, opened with a
gurgling suck and raced with the boat.

On the craft flew. Far ahead, a long, declining plane of jumping
frosted waves played dark and white with the moonbeams. The Slave
plunged to his freedom, down his riven, stone-spiked bed, knowing no
patient eddy, and white-wreathed his dark, shiny rocks in spume and


By W. D. Howells

From “Between the Dark and the Daylight,” copyright, 1907,
by Harper and Brothers. By special permission from the author.

The stranger was a guest of Halson’s, and Halson himself was a
comparative stranger, for he was of recent election to our
dining-club, and was better known to Minver than to the rest of our
little group, though one could not be sure that he was very well
known to Minver. The stranger had been dining with Halson, and we
had found the two smoking together, with their cups of black coffee
at their elbows, before the smoldering fire in the Turkish room when
we came in from dinner--my friend Wanhope the psychologist, Rulledge
the sentimentalist, Minver the painter, and myself. It struck me for
the first time that a fire on the hearth was out of keeping with a
Turkish room, but I felt that the cups of black coffee restored the
lost balance in some measure.

Before we had settled into our wonted places--in fact, almost as we
entered--Halson looked over his shoulder and said: “Mr. Wanhope, I
want you to hear this story of my friend’s. Go on, Newton--or,
rather, go back and begin again--and I’ll introduce you afterwards.”

The stranger made a becoming show of deprecation. He said he did not
think the story would bear immediate repetition, or was even worth
telling once, but, if we had nothing better to do, perhaps we might
do worse than hear it; the most he could say for it was that the
thing really happened. He wore a large drooping, gray mustache,
which, with the imperial below it, quite hid his mouth, and gave
him, somehow, a martial effect, besides accurately dating him of the
period between the latest sixties and earliest seventies, when his
beard would have been black; I liked his mustache not being stubbed
in the modern manner, but allowed to fall heavily over his lips, and
then branch away from the corners of his mouth as far as it would.
He lighted the cigar which Halson gave him, and, blowing the
bitten-off tip towards the fire, began:

“It was about that time when we first had a ten-o’clock night train
from Boston to New York. Train used to start at nine, and lag along
around by Springfield, and get into the old Twenty-sixth Street
Station here at six in the morning, where they let you sleep as long
as you liked. They call you up now at half-past five, and, if you
don’t turn out, they haul you back to Mott Haven or New Haven, I’m
not sure which. I used to go into Boston and turn in at the old
Worcester Depot, as we called it then, just about the time the train
began to move, and I usually got a fine night’s rest in the course
of the nine or ten hours we were on the way to New York; it didn’t
seem quite the same after we began saying Albany Depot: shortened up
the run, somehow.

“But that night I wasn’t very sleepy, and the porter had got the
place so piping hot with the big stoves, one at each end of the car,
to keep the good, old-fashioned Christmas cold out, that I thought I
should be more comfortable with a smoke before I went to bed; and,
anyhow, I could get away from the heat better in the smoking-room. I
hated to be leaving home on Christmas Eve, for I never had done that
before, and I hated to be leaving my wife alone with the children
and the two girls in our little house in Cambridge. Before I started
in on the old horse-car for Boston, I had helped her to tuck the
young ones in and to fill the stockings hung along the wall over the
register--the nearest we could come to a fireplace--and I thought
those stockings looked very weird, five of them, dangling lumpily
down, and I kept seeing them, and her sitting up sewing in front of
them, and afraid to go to bed on account of burglars. I suppose she
was shyer of burglars than any woman ever was that had never seen a
sign of them. She was always calling me up, to go down-stairs and put
them out, and I used to wander all over the house, from attic to
cellar, in my nighty, with a lamp in one hand and a poker in the
other, so that no burglar could have missed me if he had wanted an
easy mark. I always kept a lamp and a poker handy.”

The stranger heaved a sigh as of fond reminiscence, and looked round
for the sympathy which in our company of bachelors he failed of;
even the sympathetic Rulledge failed of the necessary experience to
move him in compassionate response.

“Well,” the stranger went on, a little damped perhaps by his
failure, but supported apparently by the interest of the fact in
hand, “I had the smoking-room to myself for a while, and then a
fellow put his head in that I thought I knew after I had thought I
didn’t know him. It dawned on me more and more, and I had to
acknowledge to myself, by and by, that it was a man named Melford,
whom I used to room with in Holworthy at Harvard: that is, we had an
apartment of two bedrooms and a study; and I suppose there were
never two fellows knew less of each other than we did at the end of
our four years together. I can’t say what Melford knew of me, but
the most I knew of Melford was his particular brand of nightmare.”

Wanhope gave the first sign of his interest in the matter. He took
his cigar from his lips, and softly emitted an “Ah!”

Rulledge went further and interrogatively repeated the word

“Nightmare,” the stranger continued, firmly. “The curious thing
about it was that I never exactly knew the subject of his nightmare,
and a more curious thing yet was Melford himself never knew it, when
I woke him up. He said he couldn’t make out anything but a kind of
scraping in a door-lock. His theory was that in his childhood it had
been a much completer thing, but that the circumstances had broken
down in a sort of decadence, and now there was nothing left of it
but that scraping in the door-lock, like somebody trying to turn a
misfit key. I used to throw things at his door, and once I tried a
cold-water douche from the pitcher, when he was very hard to waken;
but that was rather brutal, and after a while I used to let him roar
himself awake; he would always do it, if I trusted to nature; and
before our junior year was out I got so that I could sleep through,
pretty calmly; I would just say to myself when he fetched me to the
surface with a yell, ‘That’s Melford dreaming,’ and doze off

“Jove! I don’t see how you could stand it.”

“There’s everything in habit, Rulledge,” Minver put in. “Perhaps our
friend only dreamt that he heard a dream.”

“That’s quite possible,” the stranger owned, politely. “But the case
is superficially as I state it. However, it was all past, long ago,
when I recognized Melford in the smoking-room that night; it must
have been ten or a dozen years. I was wearing a full beard then, and
so was he; we wore as much beard as we could in those days. I had
been through the war since college, and he had been in California,
most of the time, and, as he told me, he had been up north, in
Alaska, just after we bought it, and hurt his eyes--had
snowblindness--and he wore spectacles. In fact, I had to do most of
the recognizing, but after we found out who we were we were rather
comfortable; and I liked him better than I remembered to have liked
him in our college days. I don’t suppose there was ever much harm in
him; it was only my grudge about his nightmare. We talked along and
smoked along for about an hour, and I could hear the porter outside,
making up the berths, and the train rumbled away towards Framingham,
and then towards Worcester, and I began to be sleepy, and to think I
would go to bed myself; and just then the door of the smoking-room
opened, and a young girl put in her face a moment, and said: ‘Oh, I
beg your pardon. I thought it was the stateroom,’ and then she shut
the door, and I realized that she looked like a girl I used to

The stranger stopped, and I fancied from a note in his voice that
this girl was perhaps like an early love. We silently waited for him
to resume how and when he would. He sighed, and after an appreciable
interval he began again. “It is curious how things are related to
one another. My wife had never seen her, and yet, somehow, this girl
that looked like the one I mean brought my mind back to my wife with
a quick turn, after I had forgotten her in my talk with Melford for
the time being. I thought how lonely she was in that little house of
ours in Cambridge, on rather an outlying street, and I knew she was
thinking of me, and hating to have me away on Christmas Eve, which
isn’t such a lively time after you’re grown up and begin to look
back on a good many other Christmas Eves, when you were a child
yourself; in fact, I don’t know a dismaler night in the whole year.
I stepped out on the platform before I began to turn in, for a
mouthful of the night air, and I found it was spitting snow--a
regular Christmas Eve of the true pattern; and I didn’t believe,
from the business feel of those hard little pellets, that it was
going to stop in a hurry, and I thought if we got into New York on
time we should be lucky. The snow made me think of a night when my
wife was sure there were burglars in the house; and in fact I heard
their tramping on the stairs myself--thump, thump, thump, and then a
stop, and then down again. Of course it was the slide and thud of
the snow from the roof of the main part of the house to the roof of
the kitchen, which was in an L, a story lower, but it was as good an
imitation of burglars as I want to hear at one o’clock in the
morning; and the recollection of it made me more anxious about my
wife, not because I believed she was in danger, but because I knew
how frightened she must be.

“When I went into the car, that girl passed me on the way to her
stateroom, and I concluded that she was the only woman on board, and
her friends had taken the stateroom for her, so that she needn’t
feel strange. I usually go to bed in a sleeper as I do in my own
house, but that night I somehow couldn’t. I got to thinking of
accidents, and I thought how disagreeable it would be to turn out
into the snow in my nighty. I ended by turning in with my clothes
on, all except my coat; and, in spite of the red-hot stoves, I
wasn’t any too warm. I had a berth in the middle of the car, and
just as I was parting my curtains to lie down, old Melford came to
take the lower berth opposite. It made me laugh a little, and I was
glad of the relief. ‘Why, hello, Melford,’ said I. ‘This is like the
old Holworthy times.’ ‘Yes, isn’t it?’ said he, and then I asked
something that I had kept myself from asking all through our talk in
the smoking-room, because I knew he was rather sensitive about it,
or used to be. ‘Do you ever have that regulation nightmare of yours
nowadays, Melford?’ He gave a laugh, and said: ‘I haven’t had it, I
suppose, once in ten years. What made you think of it?’ I said: ‘Oh,
I don’t know. It just came into my mind. Well, good-night, old
fellow. I hope you’ll rest well,’ and suddenly I began to feel
light-hearted again, and I went to sleep as gayly as ever I did in
my life.

“... I didn’t go to sleep at once, though I felt so much at peace.
In fact, Melford beat me, and I could hear him far in advance,
steaming and whistling away, in a style that I recalled as
characteristic, over a space of intervening years that I hadn’t
definitely summed up yet. It made me think of a night near
Narragansett Bay, where two friends of mine and I had had a mighty
good dinner at a sort of wild club-house, and had hurried into our
bunks, each one so as to get the start of the others, for the
fellows that were left behind knew they had no chance of sleep after
the first began to get in his work. I laughed, and I suppose I must
have gone to sleep almost simultaneously, for I don’t recollect
anything afterwards till I was wakened by a kind of muffled bellow,
that I remembered only too well. It was the unfailing sign of
Melford’s nightmare.

“I was ready to swear, and I was ashamed for the fellow who had no
more self-control than that: when a fellow snores, or has a
nightmare, you always think first off that he needn’t have had it if
he had tried. As usual, I knew Melford didn’t know what his
nightmare was about, and that made me madder still, to have him
bellowing into the air like that, with no particular aim. All at
once there came a piercing scream from the stateroom, and then I
knew that the girl there had heard Melford, and been scared out of a
year’s growth.”

The stranger made a little break, and Wanhope asked, “Could you make
out what she screamed, or was it quite inarticulate?”

“It was plain enough, and it gave me a clew, somehow, to what
Melford’s nightmare was about. She was calling out ‘Help! help!
help! Burglars!’ till I thought she would raise the roof of the

“And did she wake anybody?” Rulledge inquired.

“That was the strange part of it. Not a soul stirred, and after the
first burst the girl seemed to quiet down again and yield the floor
to Melford, who kept bellowing steadily away. I was so furious that
I reached out across the aisle to shake him, but the attempt was too
much for me. I lost my balance and fell out of my berth onto the
floor. You may imagine the state of mind I was in. I gathered myself
up and pulled Melford’s curtains open and was just going to fall on
him tooth and nail, when I was nearly taken off my feet again by an
apparition: well, it looked like an apparition, but it was a tall
fellow in his nighty--for it was twenty years before pajamas--and he
had a small dark lantern in his hand, such as we used to carry in
those days so as to read in our berths when we couldn’t sleep. He
was gritting his teeth, and growling between them: ‘Out o’ this! Out
o’ this! I’m going to shoot to kill, you blasted thieves!’ I could
see by the strange look in his eyes that he was sleep-walking, and I
didn’t wait to see if he had a pistol. I popped in behind the
curtains, and found myself on top of another fellow, for I had
popped into the wrong berth in my confusion. The man started up and
yelled: ‘Oh, don’t kill me! There’s my watch on the stand, and all
the money in the house is in my pantaloons pocket. The silver’s in
the sideboard down-stairs, and it’s plated, anyway.’ Then I
understood what his complaint was, and I rolled onto the floor
again. By that time every man in the car was out of his berth, too,
except Melford, who was devoting himself strictly to business; and
every man was grabbing some other, and shouting, ‘Police’ or
‘Burglars!’ or ‘Help!’ or ‘Murder!’ just as the fancy took him.”

“Most extraordinary!” Wanhope commented as the stranger paused for

“... Yes,” the stranger owned, “but I don’t know that there wasn’t
something more extraordinary still. From time to time the girl in
the stateroom kept piping up, with a shriek for help. She had got
past the burglar stage, but she wanted to be saved, anyhow, from
some danger which she didn’t specify. It went through me that it was
very strange nobody called the porter, and I set up a shout of
‘Porter!’ on my own account. I decided that if there were burglars
the porter was the man to put them out, and that if there were no
burglars the porter could relieve our groundless fears. Sure enough,
he came rushing in, as soon as I called for him, from the little
corner by the smoking-room where he was blacking boots between
dozes. He was wide enough awake, if having his eyes open meant that,
and he had a shoe on one hand and a shoe-brush in the other. But he
merely joined in the general uproar and shouted for the police.

“... Then I didn’t know what to do, for a minute. The porter was a
pretty thick-headed darky, but he was lion-hearted; and his idea was
to lay hold of a burglar wherever he could find him. There were
plenty of burglars in the aisle there, or people that were afraid of
burglars, and they seemed to think the porter had a good idea. They
had hold of one another already, and now began to pull up and down
the aisles in a way that reminded me of the old-fashioned mesmeric
lectures, when they told their subjects that they were this or that,
and set them to acting the part. I remembered how once when the
mesmerist gave out that they were at a horse-race, and his subjects
all got astride of their chairs, and galloped up and down the hall
like a lot of little boys on laths. I thought of that now, and
although it was rather serious business, for I didn’t know what
minute they would come to blows, I couldn’t help laughing. The sight
was weird enough. Every one looked like a somnambulist as he pulled
and hauled. The young lady in the stateroom was doing her full
share. She was screaming, ‘Won’t somebody let me out?’ and hammering
on the door. I guess it was her screaming and hammering that brought
the conductor at last, or maybe he just came round in the course of
nature to take up the tickets. It was before the time when they took
the tickets at the gate, and you used to stick them into a little
slot at the side of your berth, and the conductor came along and
took them in the night, somewhere between Worcester and Springfield,
I should say.”

“I remember,” Rulledge assented, but very carefully, so as not to
interrupt the flow of the narrative. “Used to wake up everybody in
the car.”

“Exactly,” the stranger said. “But this time they were all wide
awake to receive him, or fast asleep, and dreaming their rôles. He
came along with the wire of his lantern over his arm, the way the
old-time conductors did, and calling out, ‘Tickets!’ just as if it
was broad day, and he believed every man was trying to beat his way
to New York. The oddest thing about it was that the sleep-walkers
all stopped their pulling and hauling a moment, and each man reached
down to the little slot alongside of his berth and handed over his
ticket. Then they took hold and began pulling and hauling again. I
suppose the conductor asked what the matter was; but I couldn’t hear
him, and I couldn’t make out exactly what he did say. But the
passengers understood, and they all shouted ‘Burglars!’ and that
girl in the stateroom gave a shriek that you could have heard from
one end of the train to the other, and hammered on the door, and
wanted to be let out.

“It seemed to take the conductor by surprise, and he faced round
towards the stateroom and let the lantern slip off his arm, and it
dropped onto the floor and went out; I remember thinking what a good
thing it was it didn’t set the car on fire. But there in the
dark--for the car lamps went out at the same time with the
lantern--I could hear those fellows pulling and hauling up and down
the aisle and scuffling over the floor, and through all Melford
bellowing away, like an orchestral accompaniment to a combat in
Wagner opera, but getting quieter and quieter till his bellow died
away altogether. At the same time the row in the aisle of the car
stopped, and there was perfect silence, and I could hear the snow
rattling against my window. Then I went off into a sound sleep, and
never woke till we got into New York.”

The stranger seemed to have reached the end of his story, or at
least to have exhausted the interest it had for him, and he smoked
on, holding his knee between his hands and looking thoughtfully into
the fire.

He had left us rather breathless, or, better said, blank, and each
looked at the other for some initiative; then we united in looking
at Wanhope; that is, Rulledge and I did. Minver rose and stretched
himself with what I must describe as a sardonic yawn; Halson had
stolen away, before the end, as one to whom the end was known.
Wanhope seemed by no means averse to the inquiry delegated to him,
but only to be formulating its terms.

“... I wonder”--he turned to the stranger, who sat absently staring
into the fire--“if you happened to speak to your friend about his
nightmare in the morning, and whether he was by any chance aware of
the participation of the others in it?”

“I certainly spoke to him pretty plain when we got into New York.”

“And what did he say?”

“He said he had never slept better in his life, and he couldn’t
remember having a trace of nightmare. He said he heard _me_ groaning
at one time, but I stopped just as he woke, and so he didn’t rouse
me as he thought of doing. It was at Hartford, and he went to sleep
again, and slept through without a break.”

“And what was your conclusion from that?” Wanhope asked.

“That he was lying, I should say,” Rulledge replied for the

Wanhope still waited, and the stranger said, “I suppose one
conclusion might be that I had dreamed the whole thing myself.”

“Then you wish me to infer,” the psychologist pursued, “that the
entire incident was a figment of your sleeping brain? That there was
no sort of sleeping thought-transference, no metaphantasmia,
no-- Excuse me. Do you remember verifying your impression of being
between Worcester and Springfield when the affair occurred, by
looking at your watch, for instance?”

The stranger suddenly pulled out his watch at the word. “Good
Heavens!” he called out. “It’s twenty minutes of eleven, and I have
to take the eleven-o’clock train to Boston. I must bid you
good-evening, gentlemen. I’ve just time to get it if I can catch a
cab. Good-night. I hope if you come to Boston--eh--Good-night!
Sometimes,” he called over his shoulder, “I’ve thought it might have
been that girl in the stateroom that started the dreaming.”

He had wrung our hands one after another, and now he ran out of the


By Bret Harte

From “Luck of Roaring Camp,” copyright, 1915, by Houghton Mifflin
Company. By special permission from the publishers.

As Mr. John Oakhurst, gambler, stepped into the main street of Poker
Flat on the morning of the twenty-third of November, 1850, he was
conscious of a change in its moral atmosphere since the preceding
night. Two or three men, conversing earnestly together, ceased as he
approached, and exchanged significant glances. There was a Sabbath
lull in the air, which, in a settlement unused to Sabbath
influences, looked ominous.

Mr. Oakhurst’s calm, handsome face betrayed small concern in these
indications. Whether he was conscious of any predisposing cause, was
another question. “I reckon they’re after somebody,” he reflected;
“likely it’s me.” He returned to his pocket the handkerchief with
which he had been whipping away the red dust of Poker Flat from his
neat boots, and quietly discharged his mind of any further

In point of fact, Poker Flat was “after somebody.”

It had lately suffered the loss of several thousand dollars, two
valuable horses, and a prominent citizen. It was experiencing a
spasm of virtuous reaction, quite as lawless and ungovernable as any
of the acts that had provoked it. A secret committee had determined
to rid the town of all improper persons. This was done permanently
in regard of two men who were then hanging from the boughs of a
sycamore in the gulch, and temporarily in the banishment of certain
other objectionable characters. I regret to say that some of these
were ladies. It is but due to the sex, however, to state that their
impropriety was professional, and it was only in such easily
established standards of evil that Poker Flat ventured to sit in

Mr. Oakhurst was right in supposing that he was included in this
category. A few of the committee had urged hanging him as a possible
example, and a sure method of reimbursing themselves from his
pockets of the sums he had won from them. “It’s agin justice,” said
Jim Wheeler, “to let this yer young man from Roaring Camp--an entire
stranger--carry away our money.” But a crude sentiment of equity
residing in the breasts of those who had been fortunate enough to
win from Mr. Oakhurst overruled this narrower local prejudice.

Mr. Oakhurst received his sentence with philosophic calmness, none
the less coolly that he was aware of the hesitation of his judges.
He was too much of a gambler not to accept Fate. With him life was
at best an uncertain game, and he recognized the usual percentage in
favor of the dealer.

A body of armed men accompanied the deported wickedness of Poker
Flat to the outskirts of the settlement. Besides Mr. Oakhurst, who
was known to be a coolly desperate man, and for whose intimidation
the armed escort was intended, the expatriated party consisted of a
young woman familiarly known as “The Duchess”; another, who had won
the title of “Mother Shipton”; and “Uncle Billy,” a suspected
sluice-robber and confirmed drunkard. The cavalcade provoked no
comments from the spectators, nor was any word uttered by the
escort. Only, when the gulch which marked the uttermost limit of
Poker Flat was reached, the leader spoke briefly and to the point.
The exiles were forbidden to return at the peril of their lives.

As the escort disappeared, their pent-up feelings found vent in a
few hysterical tears from the Duchess, some bad language from Mother
Shipton, and a Parthian volley of expletives from Uncle Billy. The
philosophic Oakhurst alone remained silent. He listened calmly to
Mother Shipton’s desire to cut somebody’s heart out, to the repeated
statements of the Duchess that she would die in the road, and to the
alarming oaths that seemed to be bumped out of Uncle Billy as he
rode forward. With the easy good-humor characteristic of his class,
he insisted upon exchanging his own riding-horse, “Five Spot,” for
the sorry mule which the Duchess rode. But even this act did not
draw the party into any closer sympathy. The young woman readjusted
her somewhat draggled plumes with a feeble, faded coquetry; Mother
Shipton eyed the possessor of “Five Spot” with malevolence, and
Uncle Billy included the whole party in one sweeping anathema.

The road to Sandy Bar--a camp that, not having as yet experienced
the regenerating influences of Poker Flat, consequently seemed to
offer some invitation to the emigrants--lay over a steep mountain
range. It was distant a day’s severe travel. In that advanced
season, the party soon passed out of the moist, temperate regions of
the foothills into the dry, cold, bracing air of the Sierras. The
trail was narrow and difficult. At noon the Duchess, rolling out of
her saddle upon the ground, declared her intention of going no
farther, and the party halted.

The spot was singularly wild and impressive. A wooded amphitheater,
surrounded on three sides by precipitous cliffs of naked granite,
sloped gently toward the crest of another precipice that overlooked
the valley. It was, undoubtedly, the most suitable spot for a camp,
had camping been advisable. But Mr. Oakhurst knew that scarcely half
the journey to Sandy Bar was accomplished, and the party were not
equipped or provisioned for delay. This fact he pointed out to his
companions curtly, with a philosophic commentary on the folly of
“throwing up their hand before the game was played out.” But they
were furnished with liquor, which in this emergency stood them in
place of food, fuel, rest, and prescience. In spite of his
remonstrances, it was not long before they were more or less under
its influence. Uncle Billy passed rapidly from a bellicose state
into one of stupor, the Duchess became maudlin, and Mother Shipton
snored. Mr. Oakhurst alone remained erect, leaning against a rock,
calmly surveying them.

Mr. Oakhurst did not drink. It interfered with a profession which
required coolness, impassiveness, and presence of mind, and, in his
own language, he “couldn’t afford it.” As he gazed at his recumbent
fellow-exiles, the loneliness begotten of his pariah-trade, his
habits of life, his very vices, for the first time seriously
oppressed him. He bestirred himself in dusting his black clothes,
washing his hands and face, and other acts characteristic of his
studiously neat habits, and for a moment forgot his annoyance. The
thought of deserting his weaker and more pitiable companions never
perhaps occurred to him. Yet he could not help feeling the want of
that excitement which, singularly enough, was most conducive to that
calm equanimity for which he was notorious. He looked at the gloomy
walls that rose a thousand feet sheer above the circling pines
around him; at the sky, ominously clouded; at the valley below,
already deepening into shadow. And, doing so, suddenly he heard his
own name called.

A horseman slowly ascended the trail. In the fresh, open face of the
new-comer Mr. Oakhurst recognized Tom Simson, otherwise known as
“The Innocent” of Sandy Bar. He had met him some months before over
a “little game,” and had, with perfect equanimity, won the entire
fortune--amounting to some forty dollars--of that guileless youth.
After the game was finished, Mr. Oakhurst drew the youthful
speculator behind the door and thus addressed him: “Tommy, you’re a
good little man, but you can’t gamble worth a cent. Don’t try it
over again.” He then handed him his money back, pushed him gently
from the room, and so made a devoted slave of Tom Simson.

There was a remembrance of this in his boyish and enthusiastic
greeting of Mr. Oakhurst. He had started, he said, to go to Poker
Flat to seek his fortune. “Alone?” No, not exactly alone; in fact (a
giggle), he had run away with Piney Woods. Didn’t Mr. Oakhurst
remember Piney? She that used to wait on the table at the Temperance
House? They had been engaged a long time, but old Jake Woods had
objected, and so they had run away, and were going to Poker Flat to
be married, and here they were. And they were tired out, and how
lucky it was they had found a place to camp and company. All this
the Innocent delivered rapidly, while Piney, a stout, comely damsel
of fifteen, emerged from behind the pine tree, where she had been
blushing unseen, and rode to the side of her lover.

Mr. Oakhurst seldom troubled himself with sentiment, still less with
propriety; but he had a vague idea that the situation was not
fortunate. He retained, however, his presence of mind sufficiently
to kick Uncle Billy, who was about to say something, and Uncle Billy
was sober enough to recognize in Mr. Oakhurst’s kick a superior
power that would not bear trifling. He then endeavored to dissuade
Tom Simson from delaying further, but in vain. He even pointed out
the fact that there was no provision, nor means of making a camp.
But, unluckily, the Innocent met this objection by assuring the
party that he was provided with an extra mule loaded with
provisions, and by the discovery of a rude attempt at a loghouse
near the trail. “Piney can stay with Mrs. Oakhurst,” said the
Innocent, pointing to the Duchess, “and I can shift for myself.”

Nothing but Mr. Oakhurst’s admonishing foot saved Uncle Billy from
bursting into a roar of laughter. As it was, he felt compelled to
retire up the cañon until he could recover his gravity. There he
confided the joke to the tall pine-trees, with many slaps of his
leg, contortions of his face, and the usual profanity. But when he
returned to the party, he found them seated by a fire--for the air
had grown strangely chill and the sky overcast--in apparently
amicable conversation. Piney was actually talking in an impulsive,
girlish fashion to the Duchess, who was listening with an interest
and animation she had not shown for many days. The Innocent was
holding forth, apparently with equal effect, to Mr. Oakhurst and
Mother Shipton, who was actually relaxing into amiability. “Is this
yer a d--d picnic?” said Uncle Billy, with inward scorn, as he
surveyed the sylvan group, the glancing firelight, and the tethered
animals in the foreground. Suddenly an idea mingled with the
alcoholic fumes that disturbed his brain. It was apparently of a
jocular nature, for he felt impelled to slap his leg again and cram
his fist into his mouth.

As the shadows crept slowly up the mountain, a slight breeze rocked
the tops of the pine-trees, and moaned through their long and gloomy
aisles. The ruined cabin, patched and covered with pine-boughs, was
set apart for the ladies. As the lovers parted, they unaffectedly
exchanged a kiss, so honest and sincere that it might have been
heard above the swaying pines. The frail Duchess and the malevolent
Mother Shipton were probably too stunned to remark upon this last
evidence of simplicity, and so turned without a word to the hut. The
fire was replenished, the men lay down before the door, and in a few
minutes were asleep.

Mr. Oakhurst was a light sleeper. Toward morning he awoke benumbed
and cold. As he stirred the dying fire, the wind, which was now
blowing strongly, brought to his cheek that which caused the blood
to leave it,--snow!

He started to his feet with the intention of awakening the sleepers,
for there was no time to lose. But turning to where Uncle Billy had
been lying, he found him gone. A suspicion leaped to his brain and a
curse to his lips. He ran to the spot where the mules had been
tethered; they were no longer there. The tracks were already rapidly
disappearing in the snow.

The momentary excitement brought Mr. Oakhurst back to the fire with
his usual calm. He did not waken the sleepers. The Innocent
slumbered peacefully, with a smile on his good-humored, freckled
face; the virgin Piney slept beside her frailer sisters as sweetly
as though attended by celestial guardians, and Mr. Oakhurst, drawing
his blanket over his shoulders, stroked his mustache and waited for
the dawn. It came slowly in a whirling mist of snow-flakes, that
dazzled and confused the eye. What could be seen of the landscape
appeared magically changed. He looked over the valley, and summed up
the present and future in two words,--“snowed in!”

A careful inventory of the provisions, which, fortunately for the
party, had been stored within the hut, and so escaped the felonious
fingers of Uncle Billy, disclosed the fact that with care and
prudence they might last ten days longer. “That is,” said Mr.
Oakhurst, sotto voce to the Innocent, “if you’re willing to board
us. If you ain’t--and perhaps you’d better not--you can wait till
Uncle Billy gets back with provisions.” For some occult reason, Mr.
Oakhurst could not bring himself to disclose Uncle Billy’s
rascality, and so offered the hypothesis that he had wandered from
the camp and had accidentally stampeded the animals. He dropped a
warning to the Duchess and Mother Shipton, who of course knew the
facts of their associate’s defection. “They’ll find out the truth
about us all when they find out anything,” he added, significantly,
“and there’s no good frightening them now.”

Tom Simson not only put all his worldly store at the disposal of Mr.
Oakhurst, but seemed to enjoy the prospect of their enforced
seclusion. “We’ll have a good camp for a week, and then the snow’ll
melt, and we’ll all go back together.” The cheerful gayety of the
young man, and Mr. Oakhurst’s calm infected the others. The Innocent
with the aid of pine-boughs, extemporized a thatch for the roofless
cabin, and the Duchess directed Piney in the rearrangement of the
interior with a taste and tact that opened the blue eyes of that
provincial maiden to their fullest extent. “I reckon now you’re used
to fine things at Poker Flat,” said Piney. The Duchess turned away
sharply to conceal something that reddened her cheeks through their
professional tint, and Mother Shipton requested Piney not to
“chatter.” But when Mr. Oakhurst returned from a weary search for
the trail, he heard the sound of happy laughter echoed from the
rocks. He stopped in some alarm, and his thoughts first naturally
reverted to the whiskey, which he had prudently cached. “And yet it
don’t somehow sound like whiskey,” said the gambler. It was not
until he caught sight of the blazing fire through the still-blinding
storm and the group around it that he settled to the conviction that
it was “square fun.”

Whether Mr. Oakhurst had cached his cards with the whiskey as
something debarred the free access of the community, I cannot say.
It was certain that, in Mother Shipton’s words, he “didn’t say cards
once” during that evening. Haply the time was beguiled by an
accordion, produced somewhat ostentatiously by Tom Simson from his
pack. Notwithstanding some difficulties attending the manipulation
of this instrument, Piney Woods managed to pluck several reluctant
melodies from its keys, to an accompaniment by the Innocent on a
pair of bone castanets. But the crowning festivity of the evening
was reached in a rude camp-meeting hymn, which the lovers, joining
hands, sang with great earnestness and vociferation. I fear that a
certain defiant tone and Covenanter’s swing to its chorus, rather
than any devotional quality, caused it speedily to infect the
others, who at last joined in the refrain:--

    “‘I’m proud to live in the service of the Lord,
    And I’m bound to die in His army.’”

The pines rocked, the storm eddied and whirled above the miserable
group, and the flames of their altar leaped heaven-ward, as if in
token of the vow.

At midnight the storm abated, the rolling clouds parted, and the
stars glittered keenly above the sleeping camp. Mr. Oakhurst, whose
professional habits had enabled him to live on the smallest possible
amount of sleep, in dividing the watch with Tom Simson, somehow
managed to take upon himself the greater part of that duty. He
excused himself to the Innocent, by saying that he had “often been a
week without sleep.” “Doing what?” asked Tom. “Poker!” replied
Oakhurst, sententiously; “when a man gets a streak of
luck,--nigger-luck,--he don’t get tired. The luck gives in first.
Luck,” continued the gambler, reflectively, “is a mighty queer
thing. All you know about it for certain is that it’s bound to
change. And it’s finding out when it’s going to change that makes
you. We’ve had a streak of bad luck since we left Poker Flat,--you
come along, and slap you get into it, too. If you can hold your
cards right along you’re all right. For,” added the gambler, with
cheerful irrelevance,--

    “‘I’m proud to live in the service of the Lord,
    And I’m bound to die in His army.’”

The third day came, and the sun, looking through the white-curtained
valley, saw the outcasts divide their slowly decreasing store of
provisions for the morning meal. It was one of the peculiarities of
that mountain climate that its rays diffused a kindly warmth over
the wintry landscape, as if in regretful commiseration of the past.
But it revealed drift on drift of snow piled high around the hut,--a
hopeless, uncharted, trackless sea of white lying below the rocky
shores to which the castaways still clung. Through the marvellously
clear air the smoke of the pastoral village of Poker Flat rose miles
away. Mother Shipton saw it, and from a remote pinnacle of her rocky
fastness, hurled in that direction a final malediction. It was her
last vituperative attempt, and perhaps for that reason was invested
with a certain degree of sublimity. It did her good, she privately
informed the Duchess. “Just you go out there and cuss, and see.” She
then set herself to the task of amusing “the child,” as she and the
Duchess were pleased to call Piney. Piney was no chicken, but it was
a soothing and original theory of the pair thus to account for the
fact that she didn’t swear and wasn’t improper.

When night crept up again through the gorges, the reedy notes of the
accordion rose and fell in fitful spasms and long-drawn gasps by the
flickering campfire. But music failed to fill entirely the aching
void left by insufficient food, and a new diversion was proposed by
Piney,--story-telling. Neither Mr. Oakhurst nor his female
companions caring to relate their personal experiences, this plan
would have failed, too, but for the Innocent. Some months before he
had chanced upon a stray copy of Mr. Pope’s ingenious translation of
the “Iliad.” He now proposed to narrate the principal incidents of
that poem--having thoroughly mastered the argument and fairly
forgotten the words--in the current vernacular of Sandy Bar. And so
for the rest of that night the Homeric demigods again walked the
earth. Trojan bully and wily Greek wrestled in the winds, and the
great pines in the cañon seemed to bow to the wrath of the son of
Peleus. Mr. Oakhurst listened with quiet satisfaction. Most
especially was he interested in the fate of “Ash-heels,” as the
Innocent persisted in denominating the “swift-footed Achilles.”

So with small food and much of Homer and the accordion, a week
passed over the heads of the outcasts. The sun again forsook them,
and again from leaden skies the snow-flakes were sifted over the
land. Day by day closer around them drew the snowy circle, until at
last they looked from their prison over drifted walls of dazzling
white, that towered twenty feet above their heads. It became more
and more difficult to replenish their fires, even from the fallen
trees beside them, now half hidden in the drifts. And yet no one
complained. The lovers turned from the dreary prospect and looked
into each other’s eyes, and were happy. Mr. Oakhurst settled himself
coolly to the losing game before him. The Duchess, more cheerful
than she had been, assumed the care of Piney. Only Mother
Shipton--once the strongest of the party--seemed to sicken and fade.
At midnight on the tenth day she called Oakhurst to her side. “I’m
going,” she said, in a voice of querulous weakness, “but don’t say
anything about it. Don’t waken the kids. Take the bundle from under
my head and open it.” Mr. Oakhurst did so. It contained Mother
Shipton’s rations for the last week, untouched. “Give ’em to the
child,” she said, pointing to the sleeping Piney. “You’ve starved
yourself,” said the gambler. “That’s what they call it,” said the
woman, querulously, as she lay down again, and, turning her face to
the wall, passed quietly away.

The accordion and the bones were put aside that day, and Homer was
forgotten. When the body of Mother Shipton had been committed to the
snow, Mr. Oakhurst took the Innocent aside, and showed him a pair of
snow-shoes, which he had fashioned from the old pack-saddle.
“There’s one chance in a hundred to save her yet,” he said, pointing
toward Poker Flat. “If you can reach there in two days she’s safe.”

“And you?” asked Tom Simson. “I’ll stay here,” was the curt reply.

The lovers parted with a long embrace. “You are not going, too?”
said the Duchess, as she saw Mr. Oakhurst apparently waiting to
accompany him. “As far as the cañon,” he replied. He turned
suddenly, and kissed the Duchess, leaving her pallid face aflame,
and her trembling limbs rigid with amazement.

Night came, but not Mr. Oakhurst. It brought the storm again and the
whirling snow. Then the Duchess, feeding the fire, found that some
one had quietly piled beside the hut enough fuel to last a few days
longer. The tears rose to her eyes, but she hid them from Piney.

The women slept but little. In the morning, looking into each
other’s faces, they read their fate. Neither spoke; but Piney,
accepting the position of the stronger, drew near and placed her arm
around the Duchess’s waist. They kept this attitude for the rest of
the day. That night the storm reached its greatest fury, and,
rending asunder the protecting pines, invaded the very hut.

Toward morning they found themselves unable to feed the fire, which
gradually died away. As the embers slowly blackened, the Duchess
crept closer to Piney, and broke the silence of many hours: “Piney,
can you pray?” “No, dear,” said Piney, simply. The Duchess, without
knowing exactly why, felt relieved, and, putting her head upon
Piney’s shoulder, spoke no more. And so reclining, the younger and
purer pillowing the head of her soiled sister upon her virgin
breast, they fell asleep.

The wind lulled as if it feared to waken them. Feathery drifts of
snow, shaken from the long pineboughs, flew like white-winged birds,
and settled about them as they slept. The moon through the rifted
clouds looked down upon what had been the camp. But all human stain,
all trace of earthly travail, was hidden beneath the spotless mantle
mercifully flung from above.

They slept all that day and the next, nor did they waken when voices
and footsteps broke the silence of the camp. And when pitying
fingers brushed the snow from their wan faces, you could scarcely
have told from the equal peace that dwelt upon them, which was she
that had sinned. Even the law of Poker Flat recognized this, and
turned away, leaving them still locked in each other’s arms.

But at the head of the gulch, on one of the largest pine-trees, they
found the deuce of clubs pinned to the bark with a bowie-knife. It
bore the following, written in pencil, in a firm hand:--

       Beneath this tree
         Lies the body
         John Oakhurst,
  Who struck a streak of bad luck
   on the 23d of November, 1850,
     Handed in his checks
   on the 7th December, 1850.

And pulseless and cold, with a Derringer by his side and a bullet in
his heart, though still calm as in life, beneath the snow lay he who
was at once the strongest and yet the weakest of the outcasts of
Poker Flat.


By O. Henry

From “The Heart of the West,” copyright, 1913, by Doubleday,
Page & Co. By special permission from the publishers.

’Tis the opinion of myself, Sanderson Pratt, who sets this down,
that the educational system of the United States should be in the
hands of the weather bureau. I can give you good reasons for it; and
you can’t tell me why our college professors shouldn’t be
transferred to the meteorological department. They have been learned
to read; and they could very easily glance at the morning papers and
then wire in to the main office what kind of weather to expect. But
there’s the other side of the proposition. I am going on to tell you
how the weather furnished me and Idaho Green with an elegant

We was up in the Bitter Root Mountains over the Montana line
prospecting for gold. A chin-whiskered man in Walla-Walla, carrying
a line of hope as excess baggage, had grubstaked us; and there we
was in the foothills pecking away, with enough grub on hand to last
an army through a peace conference. Along one day comes a mail-rider
over the mountains from Carlos, and stops to eat three cans of
greengages, and leave us a newspaper of modern date. This paper
prints a system of premonitions of the weather, and the card it
dealt Bitter Root Mountains from the bottom of the deck was “warmer
and fair, with light westerly breezes.”

That evening it began to snow, with the wind strong in the east. Me
and Idaho moved camp into an old empty cabin higher up the mountain,
thinking it was only a November flurry. But after falling three foot
on a level it went to work in earnest; and we knew we was snowed in.
We got in plenty of firewood before it got deep, and we had grub
enough for two months, so we let the elements rage and cut up all
they thought proper.

If you want to instigate the art of manslaughter just shut two men
up in a eighteen by twenty-foot cabin for a month. Human nature
won’t stand it.

When the first snowflakes fell me and Idaho Green laughed at each
other’s jokes and praised the stuff we turned out of a skillet and
called bread. At the end of three weeks Idaho makes this kind of a
edict to me. Says he:

“I never exactly heard sour milk dropping out of a balloon on the
bottom of a tin pan, but I have an idea it would be music of the
spears compared to this attenuated stream of asphyxiated thought
that emanates out of your organs of conversation. The kind of
half-masticated noises that you emit every day puts me in mind of a
cow’s cud, only she’s lady enough to keep hers to herself, and you

“Mr. Green,” says I, “you having been a friend of mine once, I have
some hesitations in confessing to you that if I had my choice for
society between you and a common yellow, three-legged cur pup, one
of the inmates of this here cabin would be wagging a tail just at

This way we goes on for two or three days, and then we quits
speaking to one another. We divides up the cooking implements, and
Idaho cooks his grub on one side of the fireplace, and me on the
other. The snow is up to the windows, and we have to keep a fire all

You see me and Idaho never had any education beyond reading and
doing “if John had three apples and James five” on a slate. We never
felt any special need for a university degree, though we had
acquired a species of intrinsic intelligence in knocking around the
world that we could use in emergencies. But snowbound in that cabin
in the Bitter Roots, we felt for the first time that if we had
studied Homer or Greek and fractions and the higher branches of
information, we’d have had some resources in the line of meditation
and private thought. I’ve seen them Eastern college fellows working
in camps all through the West, and I never noticed but what
education was less of a drawback to ’em than you would think. Why
once over on Snake River, when Andrew McWilliams’ saddle horse got
the botts, he sent a buckboard ten miles for one of these strangers
that claimed to be a botanist. But that horse died.

One morning Idaho was poking around with a stick on top of a little
shelf that was too high to reach. Two books fell down to the floor.
I started toward ’em, but caught Idaho’s eye. He speaks for the
first time in a week.

“Don’t burn your fingers,” says he. “In spite of the fact that
you’re only fit to be the companion of a sleeping mud-turtle, I’ll
give you a square deal. And that’s more than your parents did when
they turned you loose in the world with the sociability of a
rattlesnake and the bedside manner of a frozen turnip. I’ll play you
a game of seven-up, the winner to pick up his choice of the book,
the loser to take the other.”

We played; and Idaho won. He picked up his book; and I took mine.
Then each of us got on his side of the house and went to reading.

I never was as glad to see a ten-ounce nugget as I was that book.
And Idaho looked at his like a kid looks at a stick of candy.

Mine was a little book about five by six inches called “Herkimer’s
Handbook of Indispensable Information.” I may be wrong, but I think
that was the greatest book that ever was written. I’ve got it
to-day; and I can stump you or any man fifty times in five minutes
with the information in it. Talk about Solomon or the “New York
Tribune”! Herkimer had cases on both of ’em. That man must have put
in fifty years and travelled a million miles to find out all that
stuff. There was the population of all cities in it, and the way to
tell a girl’s age, and the number of teeth a camel has. It told you
the longest tunnel in the world, the number of the stars, how long
it takes for chicken pox to break out, what a lady’s neck ought to
measure, the veto powers of Governors, the dates of the Roman
aqueducts, how many pounds of rice going without three beers a day
would buy, the average annual temperature of Augusta, Maine, the
quantity of seed required to plant an acre of carrots in drills,
antidotes for poisons, the number of hairs on a blond lady’s head,
how to preserve eggs, the height of all the mountains in the world,
and the dates of all wars and battles and how to restore drowned
persons, and sunstroke, and the number of tacks in a pound, and how
to make dynamite and flowers and beds, and what to do before the
doctor comes--and a hundred times as many things besides. If there
was anything Herkimer didn’t know I didn’t miss it out of the book.

I sat and read that book for four hours. All the wonders of
education was compressed in it. I forgot the snow, and I forgot that
me and old Idaho was on the outs. He was sitting still on a stool
reading away with a kind of partly soft and partly mysterious look
shining through his tan-bark whiskers.

“Idaho,” says I, “what kind of a book is yours?”

Idaho must have forgot, too, for he answered moderate, without any
slander or malignity.

“Why,” says he, “this here seems to be a volume by Homer K. M.”

“Homer K. M. what?” I asks.

“Why, just Homer K. M.,” says he.

“You’re a liar,” says I, a little riled that Idaho should try to put
me up a tree. “No man is going ’round signing books with his
initials. If it’s Homer K. M. Spoopendyke, or Homer K. M. McSweeney,
or Homer K. M. Jones, why don’t you say so like a man instead of
bitting off the end of it like a calf chewing off the tail of a
shirt on a clothes-line?”

“I put it to you straight, Sandy,” says Idaho, quiet. “It’s a poem
book,” says he, “by Homer K. M. I couldn’t get color out of it at
first, but there’s a vein if you follow it up. I wouldn’t have
missed this book for a pair of red blankets.”

“You’re welcome to it,” says I. “What I want is a disinterested
statement of facts for the mind to work on, and that’s what I seem
to find in the book I’ve drawn.”

“What you’ve got,” says Idaho, “is statistics, the lowest grade of
information that exists. They’ll poison your mind. Give me old K.
M.’s system of surmises. He seems to be a kind of a wine agent. His
regular toast is ‘nothing doing,’ and he seems to have a grouch, but
he keeps it so well lubricated with booze that his worst kicks sound
like an invitation to split a quart. But it’s poetry,” says Idaho,
“and I have sensations of scorn for that truck of yours that tries
to convey sense in feet and inches. When it comes to explaining the
instinct of philosophy through the art of nature, old K. M. has got
your man beat by drills, rows, paragraphs, chest measurement, and
average annual rainfall.”

So that’s the way me and Idaho had it. Day and night all the
excitement we got was studying our books. That snowstorm sure fixed
us with a fine lot of attainments apiece. By the time the snow
melted, if you had stepped up to me suddenly and said: “Sanderson
Pratt, what would it cost per square foot to lay a roof with
twenty-eight tin at nine dollars and fifty cents per box?” I’d have
told you as quick as light could travel the length of a spade handle
at the rate of one hundred and ninety-two thousand miles per second.
How many can do it? You wake up ’most any man you know in the middle
of the night and ask him quick to tell you the number of bones in
the human skeleton exclusive of the teeth, or what percentage of the
vote of the Nebraska Legislature overrules a veto. Will he tell you?
Try him and see.

About what benefit Idaho got out of his poetry book I didn’t exactly
know. Idaho boosted the wine-agent every time he opened his mouth;
but I wasn’t so sure.

This Homer K. M., from what leaked out of his libretto through
Idaho, seemed to me to be a kind of a dog who looked at life like it
was a tin can tied to his tail. After running himself half to death,
he sits down, hangs his tongue out, and looks at the can and says:

“Oh, well, since we can’t shake the growler, let’s get it filled at
the corner, and all have a drink on me.”

Besides that, it seems he was a Persian; and I never hear of Persia
producing anything worth mentioning unless it was Turkish rugs and
Maltese cats.

That spring me and Idaho struck pay ore. It was a habit of ours to
sell out quick and keep moving. We unloaded on our grubstaker for
eight thousand dollars apiece; and then we drifted down to this
little town of Rosa, on the Salmon River, to rest up, and get some
human grub, and have our whiskers harvested.

Rosa was no mining-camp. It laid in the valley, and was as free of
uproar and pestilence as one of them rural towns in the country.
There was a three-mile trolley line champing its bit in the
environs; and me and Idaho spent a week riding on one of the cars,
dropping off of nights at the Sunset View Hotel. Being now well read
as well as travelled, we was soon _pro re nata_, with the best
society in Rosa, and was invited out to the most dressed-up and
high-toned entertainments. It was at a piano recital and
quail-eating contest in the city hall, for the benefit of the fire
company, that me and Idaho first met Mrs. De Ormond Sampson, the
queen of Rosa society.

Mrs. Sampson was a widow, and owned the only two-story house in
town. It was painted yellow, and whichever way you looked from you
could see it as plain as egg on the chin of an O’Grady on a Friday.
Twenty-two men in Rosa besides me and Idaho was trying to stake a
claim on that yellow house.

There was a dance after the song books and quail bones had been
raked out of the Hall. Twenty-three of the bunch galloped over to
Mrs. Sampson and asked for a dance. I side-stepped the two-step, and
asked permission to escort her home. That’s where I made a hit.

On the way home says she:

“Ain’t the stars lovely and bright to-night, Mr. Pratt?”

“For the chance they’ve got,” says I, “they’re humping themselves in
a mighty creditable way. That big one you see is sixty-six billions
of miles distant. It took thirty-six years for its light to reach
us. With an eighteen-foot telescope you can see forty-three millions
of ’em, including them of the thirteenth magnitude, which, if one
was to go out now, you would keep on seeing it for twenty-seven
hundred years.”

“My!” says Mrs. Sampson. “I never knew that before. How warm it is!
I’m as damp as I can be from dancing so much.”

“That’s easy to account for,” says I, “when you happen to know that
you’ve got two million sweat glands working all at once. If every
one of your perspiratory ducts, which are a quarter of an inch long,
was placed end to end, they would reach a distance of seven miles.”

“Lawsy!” says Mrs. Sampson. “It sounds like an irrigation ditch you
was describing, Mr. Pratt. How do you get all this knowledge of

“From observation, Mrs. Sampson,” I tells her. “I keep my eyes open
when I go about the world.”

“Mr. Pratt,” says she, “I always did admire a man of education.
There are so few scholars among the sap-headed plug-uglies of this
town that it is a real pleasure to converse with a gentleman of
culture. I’d be gratified to have you call at my house whenever you
feel so inclined.”

And that was the way I got the goodwill of the lady in the yellow
house. Every Tuesday and Friday evenings I used to go there and tell
her about the wonders of the universe as discovered, tabulated, and
compiled from nature by Herkimer. Idaho and the other gay Lutherans
of the town got every minute of the rest of the week that they

I never imagined that Idaho was trying to work on Mrs. Sampson with
old K. M.’s rules of courtship till one afternoon when I was on my
way over to take her a basket of wild hog-plums. I met the lady
coming down the lane that led to her house. Her eyes was snapping,
and her hat made a dangerous dip over one eye.

“Mr. Pratt,” she opens up, “this Mr. Green is a friend of yours, I

“For nine years,” says I.

“Cut him out,” says she. “He’s no gentleman!”

“Why, ma’am,” says I, “he’s a plain incumbent of the mountains, with
asperities and the usual failings of a spendthrift and a liar, but I
never on the most momentous occasion had the heart to deny that he
was a gentleman. It may be that in haberdashery and the sense of
arrogance and display Idaho offends the eye, but inside, ma’am, I’ve
found him impervious to the lower grades of crime and obesity. After
nine years of Idaho’s society, Mrs. Sampson,” I winds up, “I should
hate to impute him, and I should hate to see him imputed.”

“It’s right plausible of you, Mr. Pratt,” says Mrs. Sampson, “to
take up the curmudgeons in your friend’s behalf; but it don’t alter
the fact that he has made proposals to me sufficiently obnoxious to
ruffle the ignominy of any lady.”

“Why, now, now, now!” says I. “Old Idaho do that! I could believe it
of myself sooner. I never knew but one thing to deride in him; and a
blizzard was responsible for that. Once while we was snowbound in
the mountains he became a prey to a kind of spurious and uneven
poetry, which may have corrupted his demeanor.”

“It has,” says Mrs. Sampson. “Ever since I knew him he has been
reciting to me a lot of irreligious rhymes by some person he calls
Ruby Ott, and who is no better than she should be, if you judge by
her poetry.”

“Then Idaho has struck a new book,” says I, “for the one he had was
by a man who writes under the nom de plume of K. M.”

“He’d better have stuck to it,” says Mrs. Sampson, “whatever it was.
And to-day he caps the vortex. I get a bunch of flowers from him,
and on ’em is pinned a note. Now, Mr. Pratt, you know a lady when
you see her; and you know how I stand in Rosa society. Do you think
for a moment that I’d skip out to the woods with a man along with a
jug of wine and a loaf of bread, and go singing and cavorting up and
down under the trees with him? I take a little claret with my meals,
but I’m not in the habit of packing a jug of it into the brush and
raising Cain in any such style as that. And of course he’d bring his
book of verses along, too. He said so. Let him go on his scandalous
picnics alone! Or let him take his Ruby Ott with him. I reckon she
wouldn’t kick unless it was on account of there being too much bread
along. And what do you think of your gentleman friend now, Mr.

“Well, ’m,” says I, “it may be that Idaho’s invitation was a kind of
poetry, and meant no harm. May be it belonged to the class of rhymes
they call figurative. They offend law and order, but they get sent
through the mails on the grounds that they mean something that they
don’t say. I’d be glad on Idaho’s account if you’d overlook it,”
says I, “and let us extricate our minds from the low regions of
poetry to the higher planes of fact and fancy. On a beautiful
afternoon like this, Mrs. Sampson,” I goes on, “we should let our
thoughts dwell accordingly. Though it is warm here, we should
remember that at the equator the line of perpetual frost is at an
altitude of fifteen thousand feet. Between the latitudes of forty
degrees and forty-nine degrees it is from four thousand to nine
thousand feet.”

“Oh, Mr. Pratt,” says Mrs. Sampson, “it’s such a comfort to hear you
say them beautiful facts after getting such a jar from that minx of
a Ruby’s poetry!”

“Let us sit on this log at the roadside,” says I, “and forget the
inhumanity and ribaldry of the poets. It is in the glorious columns
of ascertained facts and legalized measures that beauty is to be
found. In this very log we sit upon, Mrs. Sampson,” says I, “is
statistics more wonderful than any poem. The rings show it was sixty
years old. At the depth of two thousand feet it would become coal in
three thousand years. The deepest coal mine in the world is at
Killingworth, near Newcastle. A box four feet long, three feet wide,
and two feet eight inches deep will hold one ton of coal. If an
artery is cut, compress it above the wound. A man’s leg contains
thirty bones. The Tower of London was burned in 1841.”

“Go on, Mr. Pratt,” says Mrs. Sampson. “Them ideas is so original
and soothing. I think statistics are just as lovely as they can be.”

But it wasn’t till two weeks later that I got all that was coming to
me out of Herkimer.

One night I was waked up by folks hollering “Fire!” all around. I
jumped up and dressed and went out of the hotel to enjoy the scene.
When I seen it was Mrs. Sampson’s house, I gave forth a kind of
yell, and I was there in two minutes.

The whole lower story of the yellow house was in flames, and every
masculine, feminine, and canine in Rosa was there, screeching and
barking and getting in the way of the firemen. I saw Idaho trying to
get away from six firemen who were holding him. They was telling him
the whole place was on fire down-stairs, and no man could go in it
and come out alive.

“Where’s Mrs. Sampson?” I asks.

“She hasn’t been seen,” says one of the firemen. “She sleeps
up-stairs. We’ve tried to get in, but we can’t, and our company
hasn’t any ladders yet.”

I runs around to the light of the big blaze, and pulls the Handbook
out of my inside pocket. I kind of laughed when I felt it in my
hands--I reckon I was some daffy with the sensation of excitement.

“Herky, old boy,” I says to it, as I flipped over the pages, “you
ain’t ever lied to me yet, and you ain’t ever throwed me down at a
scratch yet. Tell me what, old boy, tell me what!” says I.

I turned to “What to do in Case of Accidents,” on page 117. I run my
finger down the page, and struck it. Good old Herkimer, he never
overlooked anything! It said:

    Suffocation from Inhaling Smoke or Gas.--There is nothing
    better than flaxseed. Place a few seed in the outer corner
    of the eye.

I shoved the Handbook back in my pocket, and grabbed a boy that was
running by.

“Here,” says I, giving him some money, “run to the drug store and
bring a dollar’s worth of flaxseed. Hurry, and you’ll get another
one for yourself. Now,” I sings out to the crowd, “we’ll have Mrs.
Sampson!” And I throws away my coat and hat.

Four of the firemen and citizens grabs hold of me. It’s sure death,
they say, to go in the house, for the floors was beginning to fall

“How in blazes,” I sings out, kind of laughing yet, but not feeling
like it, “do you expect me to put flaxseed in a eye without the

I jabbed each elbow in a fireman’s face, kicked the bark off of one
citizen’s shin, and tripped the other one with a side hold. And then
I busted into the house. If I die first I’ll write you a letter and
tell you if it’s any worse down there than the inside of that yellow
house was; but don’t believe it yet. I was a heap more cooked than
the hurry-up orders of broiled chicken that you get in restaurants.
The fire and smoke had me down on the floor twice, and was about to
shame Herkimer, but the firemen helped me with their little stream
of water, and I got to Mrs. Sampson’s room. She’d lost consciousness
from the smoke, so I wrapped her in the bed clothes and got her on
my shoulder. Well, the floors wasn’t as bad as they said, or I never
could have done it--not by no means.

I carried her out fifty yards from the house and laid her on the
grass. Then, of course, every one of them other twenty-two
plaintiffs to the lady’s hand crowded around with tin dippers of
water ready to save her. And up runs the boy with the flaxseed.

I unwrapped the covers from Mrs. Sampson’s head. She opened her eyes
and says:

“Is that you, Mr. Pratt?”

“S-s-sh,” says I. “Don’t talk till you’ve had the remedy.”

I runs my arm around her neck and raises her head, gentle, and
breaks the bag of flaxseed with the other hand; and as easy as I
could I bends over and slips three or four of the seeds in the outer
corner of her eye.

Up gallops the village doc by this time, and snorts around, and
grabs at Mrs. Sampson’s pulse, and wants to know what I mean by any
such sandblasted nonsense.

“Well, old Jalap and Jerusalem oakseed,” says I, “I’m no regular
practitioner, but I’ll show you my authority, anyway.”

They fetched my coat, and I gets out the Handbook.

“Look on page 117,” says I, “at the remedy for suffocation by smoke
or gas. Flaxseed in the outer corner of the eye, it says. I don’t
know whether it works as a smoke consumer or whether it hikes the
compound gastro-hippopotamus nerve into action, but Herkimer says
it, and he was called to the case first. If you want to make it a
consultation, there’s no objection.”

Old doc takes the book and looks at it by means of his specs and a
fireman’s lantern.

“Well, Mr. Pratt,” says he, “you evidently got on the wrong line in
reading your diagnosis. The recipe for suffocation says: ‘Get the
patient into fresh air as quickly as possible, and place in a
reclining position.’ The flaxseed remedy is for ‘Dust and Cinders in
the Eye,’ on the line above. But after all--”

“See here,” interrupts Mrs. Sampson, “I reckon I’ve got something to
say in this consultation. That flaxseed done me more good than
anything I ever tried.” And then she raises up her head and lays it
back on my arm again, and says: “Put some in the other eye, Sandy

And so if you was to stop off at Rosa to-morrow, or any other day,
you’d see a fine new yellow house with Mrs. Pratt, that was Mrs.
Sampson, embellishing and adorning it. And if you was to step inside
you’d see on the marble-top center table in the parlor “Herkimer’s
Handbook of Indispensable Information,” all rebound in red morocco,
and ready to be consulted on any subject pertaining to human
happiness and wisdom.


By Seumas MacManus

From “In Chimney Corners,” copyright, 1899, by Doubleday,
Page & Company. By special permission from the author.

Wanst upon a time, when pigs was swine, there was a poor widdy woman
lived all alone with her wan son Jack in a wee hut of a house, that
on a dark night ye might aisily walk over it by mistake, not knowin’
at all, at all, it was there, barrin’ ye’d happen to strike yer toe
again’ it. An’ Jack an’ his mother lived for lee an’ long, as happy
as hard times would allow them, in this wee hut of a house, Jack
sthrivin’ to ’arn a little support for them both by workin’ out, an’
doin’ wee turns back an’ forrid to the neighbors. But there was one
winter, an’ times come to look black enough for them--nothin’ to do,
an’ less to ate, an’ clothe themselves as best they might; an’ the
winther wore on, gettin’ harder an’ harder, till at length when Jack
got up out of his bed on a mornin’, an’ axed his mother to make
ready the drop of stirabout for their little brakwus as usual,
“Musha, Jack,” says his mother, says she, “the male-chist--thanks be
to the Lord!--is as empty as Paddy Ruadh’s donkey that used to ate
his brakwus at supper-time. It stood out long an’ well, but it’s
empty at last, Jack, an’ no sign of how we’re goin’ to get it filled
again--only we trust in the good Lord that niver yet disarted the
widow and the orphan--He’ll not see us wantin’, Jack.”

“The Lord helps them that help themselves, Mother,” says Jack back
again to her.

“Thrue for ye, Jack,” says she, “but I don’t see how we’re goin’ to
help ourselves.”

“He’s a mortial dead mule out an’ out that hasn’t a kick in him,”
says Jack. “An’, Mother, with the help of Providence--not comparin’
the Christian to the brute baste--I have a kick in me yet; if you
thought ye could only manage to sthrive along the best way you could
for a week, or maybe two weeks, till I get back again off a little
journey I’d like to undhertake.”

“An’ may I make bould to ax, Jack,” says his mother to him, “where
would ye be afther makin’ the little journey to?”

“You may that, then, Mother,” says Jack. “It’s this: You know the
King of Munsther is a great jintleman entirely. It’s put on him,
he’s so jintlemanly, that he was niver yet known to make use of a
wrong or disrespectable word. An’ he prides himself on it so much
that he has sent word over all the known airth that he’ll give his
beautiful daughter--the loveliest picthur in all Munsther, an’ maybe
in all Irelan’, if we’d say it--an’ her weight in goold, to any man
that in three trials will make him use the unrespectful word, an’
say, ‘Ye’re a liar!’ But every man that tries him, an’ fails, loses
his head. All sorts and descriptions of people, from prences an’
peers down to bagmen an’ beggars, have come from all parts of the
known world to thry for the great prize, an’ all of them up to this
has failed, an’ by consequence lost their heads. But, Mother dear,”
says Jack, “where’s the use in a head to a man if he can’t get mail
for it to ate? So I’m goin’ to thry me fortune, only axin’ your
blissin’ an’ God’s blissin’ to help me on the way.”

“Why, Jack,” says his mother, “it’s a dangersome task; but as you
remark, where’s the good of the head to ye when ye can’t get mail to
put in it? So, I give ye my blissin’, an’ night, noon, an’ mornin’
I’ll be prayin’ for ye to prosper.”

An’ Jack set out, with his heart as light as his stomach, an’ his
pocket as light as them both together; but a man ’ill not travel far
in ould Irelan’ (thanks be to God!) on the bare-footed stomach--as
we’ll call it--or it’ll be his own fault if he does; an’ Jack didn’t
want for plenty of first-class aitin’ an’ dhrinkin’ lashin’s an’
lavin’s and pressin’ him to more. An’ in this way he thravelled away
before him for five long days till he come to the King of Munsther’s
castle. And when he was comed there he rattled on the gate, an’ out
come the King.

“Well, me man,” says the King, “what might be your business here?”

“I’m come here, your Kingship,” says Jack, mighty polite, an’
pullin’ his forelock, be raison his poor ould mother had always
insthructed him in the heighth of good breedin’--“I’m come here,
your R’yal Highness,” says Jack, “to thry for yer daughter.”

“Hum!” says the King. “Me good young man,” says he, “don’t ye think
it a poor thing to lose yer head?”

“If I lose it,” says Jack, “sure one consolation’ll be that I’ll
lose it in a glorious cause.”

An’ who do ye think would be listenin’ to this same deludherin’
speech of Jack’s, from over the wall, but the King’s beautiful
daughter herself. She took an eyeful out of Jack, an’ right well
plaised she was with his appearance, for,--

“Father,” says she at once, “hasn’t the boy as good a right to get a
chance as another? What’s his head to you? Let the boy in,” says

An’ sure enough, without another word, the King took Jack within the
gates, an’ handin’ him over to the sarvints, tould him to be well
looked afther an’ cared for till mornin’.

Next mornin’ the King took Jack with him an’ fetched him out into
the yard. “Now then, Jack,” says he, “we’re goin’ to begin. We’ll
drop into the stables here, an’ I’ll give you your first chance.”

So he took Jack into the stables an’ showed him some wondherful big
horses, the likes of which poor Jack never saw afore, an’ everyone
of which was the heighth of the side wall of the castle an’ could
step over the castle walls, which were twenty-five feet high,
without strainin’ themselves.

“Them’s purty big horses, Jack,” says the King. “I don’t suppose
ever ye saw as big or as wondherful as them in yer life.”

“Oh, they’re purty big indeed,” says Jack, takin’ it as cool as if
there was nothin’ whatsomever astonishin’ to him about them.
“They’re purty big indeed,” says Jack, “for this counthry. But at
home with us in Donegal we’d only count them little nags, shootable
for the young ladies to dhrive in pony-carriages.”

“What!” says the King, “do ye mane to tell me ye have seen bigger in

“Bigger!” says Jack. “Phew! Blood alive, yer Kingship, I seen horses
in my father’s stable that could step over your horses without
thrippin’. My father owned one big horse--the greatest, I believe,
in the world again.”

“What was he like?” says the King.

“Well, yer Highness,” says Jack, “it’s quite beyond me to tell ye
what he was like. But I know when we wanted to mount it could only
be done by means of a step-laddher, with nine hundred and ninety
steps to it, every step a mile high, an’ you had to jump seven mile
off the topmost step to get on his back. He ate nine ton of turnips,
nine ton of oats, an’ nine ton of hay in the day, an’ it took
ninety-nine men in the daytime, an’ ninety-nine more in the
night-time, carrying his feeds to him; an’ when he wanted a drink,
the ninety-nine men had to lead him to a lough that was nine mile
long, nine mile broad, an’ nine mile deep, an’ he used to drink it
dry every time,” says Jack, an’ then he looked at the King,
expectin’ he’d surely have to make a liar of him for that.

But the King only smiled at Jack, an’ says he, “Jack, that was a
wonderful horse entirely, an’ no mistake.”

Then he took Jack with him out into the garden for his second trial,
an’ showed him a beeskep, the size of the biggest rick of hay ever
Jack had seen; an’ every bee in the skep was the size of a thrush
an’ queeny bee as big as a jackdaw.

“Jack,” says the King, says he, “isn’t them wondherful bees? I’ll
warrant ye, ye never saw anything like them?”

“Oh, they’re middlin’--middlin’ fairish,” says Jack--“for this
counthry. But they’re nothin’ at all to the bees we have in Donegal.
If one of our bees was flying across the fields,” says Jack, “and
one of your bees happened to come in its way, an’ fall into our
bee’s eye our bee would fly to the skep, an’ ax another bee to take
the mote out of his eye.”

“Do you tell me so, Jack?” says the King. “You must have great
monsthers of bees.”

“Monsthers,” says Jack. “Ah, yer Highness, monsthers is no name for
some of them. I remimber,” says he, “a mighty great breed of bees me
father owned. They were that big that when my father’s new castle
was a-buildin’ (in the steddin’ of the old one which he consaived to
be too small for a man of his mains), and when the workmen closed in
the roof, it was found there was a bee inside, an’ the hall door not
bein’ wide enough, they had to toss the side wall to let it out.
Then the queeny bee--ah! she was a wonderful baste entirely!” says
Jack. “Whenever she went out to take the air she used to overturn
all the ditches and hedges in the country; the wind of her wings
tossed houses and castles; she used to swallow whole flower gardens;
an’ one day she flew against a ridge of mountains nineteen thousand
feet high and knocked a piece out from top to bottom, an’ it’s
called Barnesmore Gap to this day. This queeny bee was a great
trouble an’ annoyance to my father, seein’ all the harm she done the
naybours round about; and once she took it in her head to fly over
to England, an’ she created such mischief an’ disolation there that
the King of Englan’ wrote over to my father if he didn’t come
immediately an’ take home his queeny bee that was wrackin’ an’
ruinin’ all afore her he’d come over himself at the head of all his
army, and wipe my father off the face of the airth. So my father
ordhered me to mount our wondherful big horse that I tould ye about,
an’ that could go nineteen mile at every step, an’ go over to
Englan’ an’ bring home our queeny bee. An’ I mounted the horse an’
started, an’ when I come as far as the sea I had to cross to get
over to Englan’, I put the horse’s two fore feet into my hat, an’ in
that way he thrashed the sea dry all the way across an’ landed me
safely. When I come to the King of Englan’ he had to supply me with
nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand men an’ ninety-nine thousand
mile of chains an’ ropes to catch the queeny bee an’ bind her. It
took us nine years to catch her, nine more to tie her, an’ nine
years and nine millions of men to drag her home, an’ the King of
Englan’ was a beggar afther from that day till the day of his death.
Now what do ye think of that bee?” says Jack, thinkin’ he had the
King this time sure enough.

But the King was a cuter one than Jack took him for, an’ he only
smiled again, an’ says he,--

“Well, Jack, that was a wondherful great queeny bee entirely.”

Next, for poor Jack’s third an’ last chance the King took him to
show him a wondherful field of beans he had, with every bean-stalk
fifteen feet high, an’ every bean the size of a goose’s egg.

“Well, Jack,” says the King, says he, “I’ll engage ye never saw more
wondherful bean-stalks than them?”

“Is it them?” says Jack. “Arrah, man yer Kingship,” says he, “they
may be very good--for this counthry; but sure we’d throw them out of
the ground for useless afther-shoots in Donegal. I mind one
bean-stalk in partickler, that my father had for a show an’ a
cur’osity, that he used to show as a great wondher entirely to
sthrangers. It stood on ninety-nine acres of ground, it was nine
hundred mile high, an’ every leaf covered nine acres. It fed nine
thousand horses, nine thousand mules, an’ nine thousand jackasses
for nineteen years. He used to send nine thousand harvestmen up the
stalk in the spring to cut and gather off the soft branches at the
top. They used to cut these off when they’d reach up as far as them
(which was always in the harvest time), an’ throw them down, an’
nine hundred and ninety-nine horses an’ carts were kept busy for
nine months carting the stuff away. Then the harvestmen always
reached down to the foot of the stalk at Christmas again.”

“Faix, Jack,” says the King, “it was a wondherful bean-stalk, that,

“You might say that,” says Jack, trying to make the most of it, for
he was now on his last leg. “You might say that,” says he. “Why, I
mind one year I went up the stalk with the harvestmen, an’ when I
was nine thousand mile up, doesn’t I miss my foot, and down I come.
I fell feet foremost, and sunk up to my chin in a whinstone rock
that was at the foot. There I was in a quandhary--but I was not long
ruminatin’ till I hauled out my knife, an’ cut off my head, an’ sent
it home to look for help. I watched after it, as it went away, an’
lo an’ behould ye, afore it had gone a mile I saw a fox set on it,
and begin to worry it. ‘By this an’ by that,’ says I to meself, ‘but
this is too bad!’--an’ I jumped out an’ away as hard as I could run,
to the assistance of my head. An’ when I come up, I lifted my foot
an’ give the fox three kicks, an’ knocked three kings out of
him--every one of them a nicer an’ a better jintleman than you.”

“Ye’re a liar, an’ a rascally liar,” says the King.

“More power to ye!” says Jack, givin’ three buck leaps clean into
the air, “an’ it’s proud I am to get you to confess it; for I have
won yer daughter.”

Right enough the King had to give up to Jack the daughter--an’ be
the same token, from the first time she clapped her two eyes on Jack
she wasn’t the girl to gainsay him--an’ her weight in goold. An’
they were both of them marrid, an’ had such a weddin’ as surpassed
all the weddin’s ever was heerd tell of afore or since in that
country or in this. An’ Jack lost no time in sendin’ for his poor
ould mother, an’ neither herself nor Jack ever after knew what it
was to be in want. An’ may you an’ I never know that same naither.


By Stewart Edward White

From “Blazed Trail Stories,” copyright, 1904, by Doubleday,
Page & Company. By special permission from the author.

During one spring of the early seventies Billy Knapp ran a species
of road-house and hotel at the crossing of the Deadwood and Big Horn
trails through Custer Valley. Travellers changing from one to the
other frequently stopped there over night. He sold accommodations
for man and beast, the former comprising plenty of whiskey, the
latter plenty of hay. That was the best anyone could say of it. The
hotel was of logs, two-storied, with partitions of sheeting to
insure a certain privacy of sight if not of sound; had three beds
and a number of bunks; and boasted of a woman cook--one of the first
in the Hills. Billy did not run it long. He was too restless. For
the time being, however, he was interested and satisfied.

The personnel of the establishment consisted of Billy and the woman,
already mentioned, and an ancient Pistol of the name of Charley. The
latter wore many firearms, and had a good deal to say, but had
never, as Billy expressed it, “made good.” This in the West could
not be for lack of opportunity. His functions were those of general

One evening Billy sat chair-tilted against the walls of the hotel
waiting for the stage. By and by it drew in. Charley hobbled out,
carrying buckets of water for the horses. The driver flung the reins
from him with the lordly insolence of his privileged class,
descended slowly, and swaggered to the barroom for his drink. Billy
followed to serve it.

“Luck,” said the driver, and crooked his elbow.

“Anything new?” queried Billy.


“Held up?”

“Nope. Black Hank’s over in th’ limestone.”

That exhausted the situation. The two men puffed silently for a
moment at their pipes. In an instant the driver turned to go.

“I got you a tenderfoot,” he remarked then, casually; “I reckon he’s

“Guess I ambles forth and sees what fer a tenderfoot it is,” replied
Billy, hastening from behind the bar.

The tenderfoot was seated on a small trunk just outside the door. As
he held his hat in his hand, Billy could see his dome-like bald
head. Beneath the dome was a little pink-and-white face, and below
that narrow, sloping shoulders, a flat chest, and bandy legs. He
wore a light check suit, and a flannel shirt whose collar was much
too large for him. Billy took this all in while passing. As the
driver climbed to the seat, the hotel-keeper commented.

“Say, Hen,” said he, “would you stuff it or put it under a glass

“I’d serve it, a lay Tooloose,” replied the driver, briefly, and
brought his long lash 8-shaped across the four startled backs of his

Billy turned to the reinspection of his guest, and met a deprecating

“Can I get a room here fer to-night?” he inquired in a high, piping

“You kin,” said Billy, shortly, and began to howl for Charley.

That patriarch appeared around the corner, as did likewise the cook,
a black-eyed, red-cheeked creature, afterward counted by Billy as
one of his eight matrimonial ventures.

“Snake this stranger’s war-bag into th’ shack,” commanded Billy,
“and, Nell, jest nat’rally rustle a few grub.”

The stranger picked up a small hand-satchel and followed Charley
into the building. When, a little later, he reappeared for supper,
he carried the handbag with him, and placed it under the bench which
flanked the table. Afterward he deposited it near his hand while
enjoying a pipe outside. Naturally, all this did not escape Billy.

“Stranger,” said he, “yo’ seems mighty wedded to that thar satchel.”

“Yes, sir,” piped the stranger. Billy snorted at the title. “I has
some personal belongin’s which is valuable to me.” He opened the bag
and produced a cheap portrait of a rather cheap-looking woman. “My
mother that was,” said he.

Billy snorted again and went inside. He hated sentiment of all

The two men sat opposite each other and ate supper, which was served
by the red-cheeked girl. The stranger kept his eyes on his plate
while she was in the room. He perched on the edge of the bench with
his feet tucked under him and resting on the toes. When she
approached, the muscles of his shoulders and upper arms grew rigid
with embarrassment, causing strange awkward movements of the hands.
He answered in monosyllables.

Billy ate expansively and earnestly. Toward the close of the meal
Charley slipped into place beside him. Charley was out of humor, and
found the meat cold.

“Damn yore soul, Nell,” he cried, “this yere ain’t fitten fer a
_hog_ to eat!”

The girl did not mind; nor did Billy. It was the country’s mode of
speech. The stranger dropped his knife.

“I don’t wonder you don’t like it, then,” said he, with a funny
little blaze of anger.

“Meanin’ what?” shouted Charley, threateningly.

“You mustn’t speak to a lady that way,” replied the stranger,
firmly, in his little piping voice.

Billy caught the point and exploded in a mighty guffaw.

“Bully fer you!” he cried, slapping his knee; “struck pyrites (he
pronounced it pie-rights) fer shore that trip, Charley.”

The girl, too, laughed, but quietly. She was just a little touched,
though only this winter she had left Bismarck because the place
would have no more of her.

In the face of Billy’s approval, the patriarch fell silent.

About midnight the four inmates of the frontier hotel were awakened
by a tremendous racket outside. The stranger arose, fully clothed,
from his bunk, and peered through the narrow open window. A dozen
horses were standing grouped in charge of a single mounted man,
indistinguishable in the dark. Out of the open door a broad band of
light streamed from the saloon, whence came the noise of voices and
of boots tramping about.

“It is Black Hank,” said Billy, at his elbow, “Black Hank and his
outfit. He hitches to this yere snubbin’-post occasional.”

Black Hank in the Hills would have translated to Jesse James farther

The stranger turned suddenly energetic.

“Don’t you make no fight?” he asked.

“Fight?” said Billy, wondering. “Fight? Co’se not. Hank don’t
plunder _me_ none. He jest ambles along an’ helps himself, and
leaves th’ dust fer it every time. I jest lays low an’ lets him
operate. I never has no _dealin’s_ with him, understand. He jest
nat’rally waltzes in an’ plants his grub-hooks on what he needs. I
don’t know nothin’ about it. I’m dead asleep.”

He bestowed a shadowy wink on the stranger.

Below, the outlaws moved here and there.

“Billy!” shouted a commanding voice, “Billy Knapp!”

The hotel-keeper looked perplexed.

“Now, what’s he tollin’ _me_ for?” he asked of the man by his side.

“Billy!” shouted the voice again, “come down here, you Siwash. I
want to palaver with you.”

“All right, Hank,” replied Billy.

He went to his “room,” and buckled on a heavy belt; then descended
the steep stairs. The barroom was lighted and filled with men. Some
of them were drinking and eating; others were strapping provisions
into portable form. Against the corner of the bar a tall figure of a
man leaned smoking--a man lithe, active, and muscular, with a keen
dark face, and black eyebrows which met over his nose. Billy walked
silently to this man.

“What is it?” he asked, shortly. “This yere ain’t in th’ agreement.”

“I know that,” replied the stranger.

“Then leave yore dust and vamoose.”

“My dust is there,” replied Black Hank, placing his hand on a
buckskin bag at his side, “and you’re paid, Billy Knapp. I want to
ask you a question. Standing Rock has sent fifty thousand dollars in
greenbacks to Spotted Tail. The messenger went through here to-day.
Have you seen him?”

“Nary messenger,” replied Billy, in relief. “Stage goes empty.”

Charley had crept down the stairs and into the room.

“What in hell are yo’ doin’ yere, yo’ ranikaboo ijit?” inquired
Billy, truculently.

“That thar stage ain’t what you calls _empty_,” observed Charley,

A light broke on Billy’s mind. He remarked the valise which the
stranger had so carefully guarded; and though his common-sense told
him that an inoffensive non-combatant such as the guest would hardly
be chosen as express messenger, still the bare possibility remained.

“Yo’re right,” he agreed, carelessly, “thar is one tenderfoot who
knows as much of ridin’ express as a pig does of a ruffled shirt.”

“I notes he’s almighty particular about that carpetbag of his’n,”
insisted Charley.

The man against the counter had lost nothing of the scene. Billy’s
denial, his hesitation, his half-truth all looked suspicious to him.
With one swift, round sweep of the arm he had Billy covered. Billy’s
hands shot over his head without the necessity of command.

The men ceased their occupations and gathered about. Scenes of this
sort were too common to elicit comment or arouse excitement. They
knew perfectly well the _laissez-faire_ relations which obtained
between the two Westerners.

“Now,” said Black Hank, angrily, in a low tone, “I want to know why
in hell you tried that monkey game.”

Billy, wary and unafraid, replied that he had tried no game, that he
had forgotten the tenderfoot for the moment, and that he did not
believe the latter would prove to be the sought-for express

One of the men, at a signal from his leader, relieved Billy’s heavy
belt of considerable weight. Then the latter was permitted to sit on
a cracker-box. Two more mounted the stairs. In a moment they
returned to report that the upper story contained no human beings,
strange or otherwise, except the girl, but that there remained a
small trunk. Under further orders, they dragged the trunk down into
the barroom. It was broken open and found to contain nothing but
clothes--of the plainsman’s cut, material, and state of wear; a
neatly folded Mexican saddle showing use, and a rawhide quirt.

“Hell of a tenderfoot!” said Black Hank, contemptuously.

The outlaws had already scattered outside to look for the trail. In
this they were unsuccessful, reporting, indeed, that not the
faintest sign indicated escape in any direction.

Billy knew his man. The tightening of Black Hank’s close-knit brows
meant but one thing. One does not gain chieftainship of any kind in
the West without propping his ascendancy with acts of ruthless
decision. Billy leaped from his cracker-box with the suddenness of
the puma, seized Black Hank firmly about the waist, whirled him into
a sort of shield, and began an earnest struggle for the instant
possession of the outlaw’s drawn revolver. It was a gallant attempt,
but an unsuccessful one. In a moment Billy was pinioned to the
floor, and Black Hank was rubbing his abraded forearm. After that
the only question was whether it should be rope or bullet.

Now, when Billy had gone downstairs, the stranger had wasted no
further time at the window. He had in his possession fifty thousand
dollars in greenbacks which he was to deliver as soon as possible to
the Spotted Tail agency in Wyoming. The necessary change of stage
lines had forced him to stay over night at Billy Knapp’s hotel.

The messenger seized his bag and softly ran along through the
canvas-partitioned room wherein Billy slept, to a narrow window
which he had already noticed gave out almost directly into the pine
woods. The window was of oiled paper, and its catch baffled him. He
knew it should slide back; but it refused to slide. He did not dare
break the paper because of the crackling noise. A voice at his
shoulder startled him.

“I’ll show you,” whispered the red-cheeked girl.

She was wrapped loosely in a blanket, her hair falling about her
shoulders, and her bare feet showed beneath her coverings.

The little man suffered at once an agony of embarrassment in which
the thought of his errand was lost. It was recalled to him by the

“There you are,” she whispered, showing him the open window.

“Thank you,” he stammered painfully. “I assure you--I wish--”

The girl laughed under her breath.

“That’s all right,” she said, heartily, “I owe you that for calling
old whiskers off his bronc,” and she kissed him.

The messenger, trembling with self-consciousness, climbed hastily
through the window, ran the broad loop of the satchel up his arm,
and instead of dropping to the ground, as the girl had expected,
swung himself lightly into the branches of a rather large scrub-oak
that grew near. She listened to the rustle of the leaves for a
moment as he neared the trunk, and then, unable to restrain her
curiosity in regard to the doings below, turned to the stairway.

As she did so, two men mounted. They examined the three rooms of the
upper story hastily but carefully, paying scant attention to her,
and departed swearing. In a few moments they returned for the
stranger’s trunk. Nell followed them down the stairs as far as the
doorway. There she heard and saw things, and fled in bitter dismay
to the back of the house when Billy Knapp was overpowered.

At the window she knelt, clasping her hands and sinking her head
between her arms. Women in the West, at least women like Nell, do
not weep. But she came near it. Suddenly she raised her head. A
voice next her ear had addressed her.

She looked here and there and around, but could discover nothing.

“Here, outside,” came the low, guarded voice, “in the tree.”

Then she saw that the little stranger had not stirred from his first

“Beg yore pardon, ma’am, fer startling you or fer addressing you at
all, which I shouldn’t, but--”

“Oh, never mind that,” said the girl, impatiently, shaking back her
hair. So deprecating and timid were the tones, that almost without
an effort of the imagination she could picture the little man’s
blushes and his half-sidling method of delivery. At this supreme
moment his littleness and lack of self-assertion jarred on her mood.
“What’re you doin’ there? Thought you’d vamoosed.”

“It was safer here,” explained the stranger, “I left no trail.”

She nodded comprehension of the common-sense of this.

“But, ma’am, I took the liberty of speakin’ to you because you seems
to be in trouble. Of course, I ain’t got no right to _ask_, an’ if
you don’t care to tell me--”

“They’re goin’ to kill Billy,” broke in Nell, with a sob.

“What for?”

“I don’t just rightly make out. They’s after someone, and they
thinks Billy’s caching him. I reckon it’s you. Billy ain’t caching
nothin’, but they thinks he is.”

“It’s me they’s after, all right. Now, you know where I am, why
don’t you tell them and save Billy?”

The girl started, but her keen Western mind saw the difficulty at

“They thinks Billy pertects you just th’ same.”

“Do you love him?” asked the stranger.

“God knows I’m purty tough,” confessed Nell, sobbing, “but I jest do
that!” and she dropped her head again.

The invisible stranger in the gloom fell silent, considering.

“I’m a pretty rank proposition, myself,” said he at last, as if to
himself, “and I’ve got a job on hand which same I oughta put through
without givin’ attention to anything else. As a usual thing folks
don’t care fer me, and I don’t care much fer folks. Women especial.
They drives me plumb tired. I reckon I don’t stack up very high in
th’ blue chips when it comes to cashin’ in with the gentle sex,
anyhow; but in general they gives me as much notice as they lavishes
on a doodle-bug. I ain’t kickin’, you understand, nary bit; but onct
in a dog’s age I kind of hankers fer a decent look from one of ’em.
I ain’t never had no women-folks of my own, never. Sometimes I
thinks it would be some scrumptious to know a little gal waitin’ fer
me somewhere. They ain’t none. They never will be. I ain’t built
that way. You treated me white to-night. You’re th’ first woman that
ever kissed me of her own accord.”

The girl heard a faint scramble, then the soft _pat_ of someone
landing on his feet. Peering from the window she made out a faint,
shadowy form stealing around the corner of the hotel. She put her
hand to her heart and listened. Her understanding of the stranger’s
motives was vague at best, but she had caught his confession that
her kiss had meant much to him, and even in her anxiety she felt an
inclination to laugh. She had bestowed that caress as she would have
kissed the cold end of a dog’s nose.

The men below stairs had, after some discussion, decided on bullet.
This was out of consideration for Billy’s standing as a
frontiersman. Besides, he had stolen no horses. In order not to
delay matters, the execution was fixed for the present time and
place. Billy stood with his back to the logs of his own hotel, his
hands and feet bound, but his eyes uncovered. He had never lost his
nerve. In the short respite which preparation demanded, he told his
opponents what he thought of them.

“Proud?” he concluded a long soliloquy as if to the reflector of the
lamp. “Proud?” he repeated reflectively. “This yere Hank’s jest that
proud he’s all swelled up like a poisoned pup. Ain’t everyone kin
corall a man sleepin’ and git fifty thousand without turnin’ a

Black Hank distributed three men to do the business. There were no
heroics. The execution of this man was necessary to him, not because
he was particularly angry over the escape of the messenger--he
expected to capture that individual in due time--but in order to
preserve his authority over his men. He was in the act of moving
back to give the shooters room, when he heard behind him the door
open and shut.

He turned. Before the door stood a small consumptive-looking man in
a light check suit. The tenderfoot carried two short-barreled Colt’s
revolvers, one of which he presented directly at Black Hank.

“’Nds up!” he commanded, sharply.

Hank was directly covered, so he obeyed. The new-comer’s eye had a
strangely restless quality. Of the other dozen inmates of the room,
eleven were firmly convinced that the weapon and eye not directly
levelled at their leader were personally concerned with themselves.
The twelfth thought he saw his chance. To the bewildered onlookers
there seemed to be a flash and a bang, instantaneous; then things
were as before. One of the stranger’s weapons still pointed at Black
Hank’s breast; the other at each of the rest.

Only the twelfth man, he who had seen his chance, had collapsed
forward to the floor. No one could assure himself positively that he
had discerned the slightest motion on the part of the stranger.

“Now,” said the latter, sharply, “one at a time, gentlemen. Drop
yore gun,” this last to Black Hank, “muzzle down. Drop it! Correct!”

One of the men in the back of the room stirred slightly on the ball
of his foot.

“Steady, there!” warned the stranger. The man stiffened.

“Next gent,” went on the little man, subtly indicating another. The
latter obeyed without hesitation. “Next. Now you. Now you in th’

One after another the pistols clattered to the floor. Not for an
instant could a single inmate of the apartment, armed or unarmed,
flatter himself that his slightest motion was unobserved. They were
like tigers on the crouch, ready to spring the moment the man’s
guard lowered. It did not lower. The huddled figure on the floor
reminded them of what might happen. They obeyed.

“Step back,” commanded the stranger next. In a moment he had them
standing in a row against the wall, rigid, upright, their hands over
their heads. Then for the first time the stranger moved from his
position by the door.

“Call her,” he said to Billy, “th’ girl.”

Billy raised his voice. “Nell! Oh, Nell!”

In a moment she appeared in the doorway at the foot of the stairs,
without hesitation or fear. When she perceived the state of affairs,
she brightened almost mischievously.

“Would you jest as soon, ma’am, if it ain’t troubling you too much,
jest nat’rally sort of untie Billy?” requested the stranger.

She did so. The hotel-keeper stretched his arms.

“Now, pick up th’ guns, please.”

The two set about it.

“Where’s that damn ol’ reprobate?” inquired Billy, truculently,
looking about for Charley.

The patriarch had quietly slipped away.

“You kin drop them hands,” advised the stranger, lowering the
muzzles of his weapons. The leader started to say something.

“You shut up!” said Billy, selecting his own weapons from the heap.

The stranger suddenly picked up one of the Colt’s single-action
revolvers which lay on the floor, and, holding the trigger back
against the guard, exploded the six charges by hitting the hammer
smartly with the palm of his hand. In the thrusting motion of this
discharge he evidently had design, for the first six wine-glasses on
Billy’s bar were shivered. It was wonderful work, rattling fire,
quicker than a self-cocker even. He selected another weapon. From a
pile of tomato-cans he took one and tossed it into the air. Before
it had fallen he had perforated it twice, and as it rolled along the
floor he helped its progression by four more bullets which left
streams of tomato-juice where they had hit. The room was full of

The group watched, fascinated.

Then the men against the wall grew rigid. Out of the film of smoke
long, vivid streams of fire flashed toward them, now right, now
left, like the alternating steam of a locomotive’s pistons. SMASH,
SMASH! SMASH, SMASH! hit the bullets with regular thud. With the
twelfth discharge the din ceased. Midway in the space between the
heads of each pair of men against the wall was a round hole. No one
was touched.

A silence fell. The smoke lightened and blew slowly through the open
door. The horses, long since deserted by their guardians in favor of
the excitement within, whinnied. The stranger dropped the smoking
Colts, and quietly reproduced his own short-barrelled arms from his
side-pockets, where he had thrust them. Billy broke the silence at

“That’s _shootin’_!” he observed, with a sigh.

“Them fifty thousand is outside,” clicked the stranger. “Do you want

There was no reply.

“I aims to pull out on one of these-yere hosses of yours,” said he.
“Billy he’s all straight. He doesn’t know nothin’ about me.”

He collected the six-shooters from the floor.

“I jest takes these with me for a spell,” he continued. “You’ll find
them, if you look hard enough, along on th’ trail--also yore

He backed toward the door.

“I’m layin’ fer th’ man that sticks his head out that door,” he

“Stranger,” said Black Hank as he neared the door.

The little man paused.

“Might I ask yore name?”

“My name is Alfred,” replied the latter.

Black Hank looked chagrined.

“I’ve hearn tell of you,” he acknowledged.

The stranger’s eye ran over the room, and encountered that of the
girl. He shrank into himself and blushed.

“Good-night,” he said, hastily, and disappeared. A moment later the
beat of hoofs became audible as he led the bunch of horses away.

For a time there was silence. Then Billy, “By God, Hank, I means to
stand in with you, but you let that kid alone, or I plugs you!”

“Kid, huh!” grunted Hank. “Alfred a kid! I’ve hearn tell of him.”

“What’ve you heard?” inquired the girl.

“He’s th’ plumb best scout on th’ southern trail,” replied Black

The year following, Billy Knapp, Alfred, and another man named Jim
Buckley took across to the hills the only wagon-train that dared set
out that summer.


By Oscar Wilde

From “Fairy Tales,” copyright, 1913, by G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
By special permission from the publishers.

“She said that she would dance with me if I brought her red roses,”
cried the young Student; “but in all my garden there is no red

From her nest in the Holm-oak tree the Nightingale heard him, and
she looked out through the leaves, and wondered.

“No red rose in all my garden!” he cried, and his beautiful eyes
filled with tears. “Ah, on what little things does happiness depend.
I have read all the wise men have written and all the secrets of
philosophy are mine, yet for want of a red rose is my life made

“Here at last is a true lover,” said the Nightingale. “Night after
night have I sung of him, though I knew him not; night after night
have I told his story to the stars, and now I see him. His hair is
dark as the hyacinth-blossom, and his lips as red as the rose of his
desire; but passion has made his face like pale ivory, and sorrow
has set her seal upon his brow.”

“The Prince gives a ball to-morrow night,” murmured the young
Student, “and my love will be of the company. If I bring her a red
rose, I shall hold her in my arms, and she will lean her head upon
my shoulder, and her hand will be clasped in mine. But there is no
red rose in my garden, so I shall sit lonely, and she will pass me
by. She will have no heed of me, and my heart will break.”

“Here indeed is the true lover,” said the Nightingale. “What I sing
of, he suffers; what is joy to me, to him is pain. Surely Love is a
wonderful thing. It is more precious than emeralds, and dearer than
fine opals. Pearls and pomegranates cannot buy it, nor is it set
forth in the market-place. It may not be purchased of the merchants,
nor can it be weighed out in the balance for gold.”

“The musicians will sit in their gallery,” said the young Student,
“and play upon their stringed instruments, and my love will dance to
the sound of the harp and violin. She will dance so lightly that her
feet will not touch the floor, and the courtiers in their gay
dresses will throng round her. But with me she will not dance, for I
have no red rose to give her”; and he flung himself down on the
grass, and buried his face in his hands, and wept.

“Why is he weeping?” asked a little Green Lizard, as he ran past him
with his tail in the air.

“Why, indeed?” said a Butterfly, who was fluttering after a sunbeam.

“Why, indeed?” whispered a Daisy to his neighbor, in a soft low

“He is weeping for a red rose,” said the Nightingale.

“For a red rose!” they cried; “how very ridiculous!” and the Lizard,
who was something of a cynic, laughed outright.

But the Nightingale understood the secret of the Student’s sorrow,
and she sat silent in the Oak-tree, and thought about the mystery of

Suddenly she spread her brown wings for flight and soared into the
air. She passed through the grove like a shadow, and like a shadow
she sailed across the garden.

In the center of the grass-plot was standing a beautiful Rose-tree,
and when she saw it she flew over to it, and lit upon a spray.

“Give me a red rose,” she cried, “and I will sing you my sweetest

But the Tree shook its head.

“My roses are white,” it answered; “as white as the foam of the sea
and whiter than the snow upon the mountain. But go to my brother who
grows round the sun-dial, and perhaps he will give you what you

So the Nightingale flew over to the Rose-tree that was growing round
the old sun-dial.

“Give me a red rose,” she cried, “and I will sing you my sweetest

But the Tree shook its head.

“My roses are yellow,” it answered; “as yellow as the hair of the
mermaiden who sits upon an amber throne, and yellower than the
daffodil that blooms in the meadow before the mower comes with his
scythe. But go to my brother who grows beneath the Student’s window,
and perhaps he will give you what you want.”

So the Nightingale flew over to the Rose-tree that was growing
beneath the Student’s window.

“Give me a red rose,” she cried, “and I will sing you my sweetest

But the Tree shook its head.

“My roses are red,” it answered, “as red as the feet of the dove,
and redder than the great fans of coral that wave and wave in the
ocean-cavern. But the winter has chilled my veins, and the frost has
nipped my buds, and the storm has broken my branches, and I shall
have no roses at all this year.”

“One red rose is all I want,” cried the Nightingale, “only one red
rose! Is there no way by which I can get it?”

“There is a way,” answered the Tree; “but it is so terrible that I
dare not tell it to you.”

“Tell it to me,” said the Nightingale; “I am not afraid.”

“If you want a red rose,” said the Tree, “you must build it out of
music by moonlight, and stain it with your own heart’s-blood. You
must sing to me with your breast against a thorn. All night long you
must sing to me, and the thorn must pierce your heart, and your
life-blood must flow into my veins, and become mine.”

“Death is a great price to pay for a red rose,” cried the
Nightingale, “and Life is very dear to all. It is pleasant to sit in
the green wood, and to watch the Sun in his chariot of gold, and the
Moon in her chariot of pearl. Sweet is the scent of the hawthorn,
and sweet are the bluebells that hide in the valley, and the heather
that blows on the hill. Yet Love is better than Life, and what is
the heart of a bird compared to the heart of a man?”

So she spread her brown wings for flight, and soared into the air.
She swept over the garden like a shadow, and like a shadow she
sailed through the grove.

The young Student was still lying on the grass, where she had left
him, and the tears were not yet dry in his beautiful eyes.

“Be happy,” cried the Nightingale, “be happy; you shall have your
red rose. I will build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it
with my own heart’s-blood. All that I ask of you in return is that
you will be a true lover, for Love is wiser than Philosophy, though
she is wise, and mightier than Power, though he is mighty.
Flame-colored are his wings, and colored like flame is his body. His
lips are sweet as honey, and his breath is like frankincense.”

The Student looked up from the grass, and listened, but he could not
understand what the Nightingale was saying to him, for he only knew
the things that are written down in books.

But the Oak-tree understood, and felt sad, for he was very fond of
the little Nightingale, who had built her nest in his branches.

“Sing me one last song,” he whispered; “I shall feel very lonely
when you are gone.”

So the Nightingale sang to the Oak-tree, and her voice was like
water bubbling from a silver jar.

When she had finished her song, the Student got up, and pulled a
note-book and a lead-pencil out of his pocket.

“She has form,” he said to himself, as he walked away through the
grove--“that cannot be denied to her; but has she got feeling? I am
afraid not. In fact, she is like most artists; she is all style,
without any sincerity. She would not sacrifice herself for others.
She thinks merely of music, and everybody knows that the arts are
selfish. Still, it must be admitted that she has some beautiful
notes in her voice. What a pity it is that they do not mean
anything, or do any practical good.” And he went into his room, and
lay down on his little pallet-bed, and began to think of his love;
and, after a time, he fell asleep.

And when the Moon shone in the heavens the Nightingale flew to the
Rose-tree, and set her breast against the thorn. All night long she
sang with her breast against the thorn, and the cold crystal Moon
leaned down and listened. All night long she sang, and the thorn
went deeper and deeper into her breast, and her life blood ebbed
away from her.

She sang first of the birth of love in the heart of a boy and girl.
And on the topmost spray of the Rose-tree there blossomed a
marvellous rose, petal following petal, as song followed song. Pale
was it, at first, as the mist that hangs over the river--pale as the
feet of the morning, and silver as the wings of the dawn. As the
shadow of a rose in a mirror of silver, as the shadow of a rose in a
water-pool, so was the rose that blossomed on the topmost spray of
the Tree.

But the Tree cried to the Nightingale to press closer against the
thorn. “Press closer, little Nightingale,” cried the Tree, “or the
Day will come before the rose is finished.”

So the Nightingale pressed closer against the thorn, and louder and
louder grew her song, for she sang of the birth of passion in the
soul of a man and a maid.

And a delicate flush of pink came into the leaves of the rose, like
the flush in the face of the bridegroom when he kisses the lips of
the bride. But the thorn had not yet reached her heart, so the
rose’s heart remained white, for only a Nightingale’s heart-blood
can crimson the heart of a rose.

And the Tree cried to the Nightingale to press closer against the
thorn. “Press closer, little Nightingale,” cried the Tree, “or the
Day will come before the rose is finished.”

So the Nightingale pressed closer against the thorn, and the thorn
touched her heart, and a fierce pang of pain shot through her.
Bitter, bitter was the pain, and wilder and wilder grew her song,
for she sang of the Love that is perfected by Death, of the Love
that dies not in the tomb.

And the marvellous rose became crimson, like the rose of the eastern
sky. Crimson was the girdle of petals, and crimson as a ruby was the

But the Nightingale’s voice grew fainter, and her little wings began
to beat, and a film came over her eyes. Fainter and fainter grew her
song, and she felt something choking her in her throat.

Then she gave one last burst of music. The white Moon heard it, and
she forgot the dawn, and lingered on in the sky. The red rose heard
it, and it trembled all over with ecstasy, and opened its petals to
the cold morning air. Echo bore it to her purple cavern in the
hills, and woke the sleeping shepherds from their dreams. It floated
through the reeds of the river, and they carried its message to the

“Look, look!” cried the Tree, “the rose is finished now”; but the
Nightingale made no answer, for she was lying dead in the long
grass, with the thorn in her heart.

And at noon the Student opened his window and looked out.

“Why, what a wonderful piece of luck!” he cried; “here is a red
rose! I have never seen any rose like it in all my life. It is so
beautiful that I am sure that it has a long Latin name”; and he
leaned down and plucked it.

Then he put on his hat, and ran up to the Professor’s house with the
rose in his hand.

The daughter of the Professor was sitting in the doorway winding
blue silk on a reel, and her little dog was lying at her feet.

“You said that you would dance with me if I brought you a red rose,”
cried the Student. “Here is the reddest rose in all the world. You
will wear it to-night next your heart, and as we dance together it
will tell you how I love you.”

But the girl frowned.

“I am afraid it will not go with my dress,” she answered; “and
besides, the Chamberlain’s nephew sent me some real jewels, and
everybody knows that jewels cost far more than flowers.”

“Well, upon my word, you are very ungrateful,” said the Student
angrily; and he threw the rose into the street, where it fell into
the gutter, and a cartwheel went over it

“Ungrateful!” said the girl. “I tell you what, you are very rude;
and after all, who are you? Only a Student. Why, I don’t believe you
have even got silver buckles to your shoes as the Chamberlain’s
nephew has”; and she got up from her chair and went into the house.

“What a silly thing Love is,” said the Student as he walked away.
“It is not half as useful as Logic, for it does not prove anything,
and it is always telling one of things that are not going to happen,
and making one believe things that are not true. In fact, it is
quite unpractical, and, as in this age to be practical is
everything, I shall go back to Philosophy and study Metaphysics.”

So he returned to his room and pulled out a great dusty book, and
began to read.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Off duty: A dozen yarns for soldiers and sailors" ***

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