Drift from Two Shores
Part 2 out of 4
dastardly"--but here a diminuendo so long drawn as to appear a
striking imitation of the Colonel's own apoplectic sentences
drowned his voice with shrieks of laughter.
It must not be supposed that during this performance a vigorous
attempt was not made to oust Jinny from the platform. But all in
vain. Equally demoralizing in either extremity, Jinny speedily
cleared a circle with her flying hoofs, smashed the speaker's table
and water pitcher, sent the railing flying in fragments over the
cheering crowd, and only succumbed to two blankets, in which, with
her head concealed, she was finally dragged, half captive, half
victor, from the field. Even then a muffled and supplemental bray
that came from the woods at intervals drew half the crowd away and
reduced the other half to mere perfunctory hearers. The
demoralized meeting was adjourned; Colonel Starbottle's withering
reply remained unuttered, and the Bungstarter party were
For the rest of the evening Jinny was the heroine of the hour, but
no cajolery nor flattery could induce her to again exhibit her
powers. In vain did Dean of Angel's extemporize a short harangue
in the hope that Jinny would be tempted to reply; in vain was every
provocation offered that might sting her sensitive nature to
eloquent revolt. She replied only with her heels. Whether or not
this was simple caprice, or whether she was satisfied with her
maiden effort, or indignant at her subsequent treatment, she
remained silent. "She made her little game," said Dan, who was a
political adherent of Starbottle's, and who yet from that day
enjoyed the great speaker's undying hatred, "and even if me and her
don't agree on politics--YOU let her alone." Alas, it would have
been well for Dan if he could have been true to his instincts, but
the offer of one hundred dollars from the Bungstarter party proved
too tempting. She passed irrevocably from his hands into those of
the enemy. But any reader of these lines will, I trust, rejoice to
hear that this attempt to restrain free political expression in the
foot-hills failed signally. For, although she was again covertly
introduced on the platform by the Bungstarters, and placed face to
face with Colonel Starbottle at Murphy's Camp, she was dumb. Even
a brass band failed to excite her emulation. Either she had become
disgusted with politics or the higher prices paid by the party to
other and less effective speakers aroused her jealousy and shocked
her self-esteem, but she remained a passive spectator. When the
Hon. Sylvester Rourback, who received, for the use of his political
faculties for a single night, double the sum for which she was
purchased outright, appeared on the same platform with herself, she
forsook it hurriedly and took to the woods. Here she might have
starved but for the intervention of one McCarty, a poor market
gardener, who found her, and gave her food and shelter under the
implied contract that she should forsake politics and go to work.
The latter she for a long time resisted, but as she was considered
large enough by this time to draw a cart, McCarty broke her to
single harness, with a severe fracture of his leg and the loss of
four teeth and a small spring wagon. At length, when she could be
trusted to carry his wares to Murphy's Camp, and could be checked
from entering a shop with the cart attached to her,--a fact of
which she always affected perfect disbelief,--her education was
considered as complete as that of the average California donkey.
It was still unsafe to leave her alone, as she disliked solitude,
and always made it a point to join any group of loungers with her
unnecessary cart, and even to follow some good-looking miner to his
cabin. The first time this peculiarity was discovered by her owner
was on his return to the street after driving a bargain within the
walls of the Temperance Hotel. Jinny was nowhere to be seen. Her
devious course, however, was pleasingly indicated by vegetables
that strewed the road until she was at last tracked to the veranda
of the Arcade saloon, where she was found looking through the
window at a game of euchre, and only deterred by the impeding cart
from entering the building. A visit one Sunday to the little
Catholic chapel at French Camp, where she attempted to introduce an
antiphonal service and the cart, brought shame and disgrace upon
her unlucky master. For the cart contained freshly-gathered
vegetables, and the fact that McCarty had been Sabbath-breaking was
painfully evident. Father Sullivan was quick to turn an incident
that provoked only the risibilities of his audience into a moral
lesson. "It's the poor dumb beast that has a more Christian sowl
than Michael," he commented; but here Jinny assented so positively
that they were fain to drag her away by main force.
To her eccentric and thoughtless youth succeeded a calm maturity in
which her conservative sagacity was steadily developed. She now
worked for her living, subject, however, to a nice discrimination
by which she limited herself to a certain amount of work, beyond
which neither threats, beatings, nor cajoleries would force her.
At certain hours she would start for the stable with or without the
incumbrances of the cart or Michael, turning two long and deaf ears
on all expostulation or entreaty. "Now, God be good to me," said
Michael, one day picking himself out from a ditch as he gazed
sorrowfully after the flying heels of Jinny, "but it's only the
second load of cabbages I'm bringin' the day, and if she's shtruck
NOW, it's ruined I am entoirely." But he was mistaken; after two
hours of rumination Jinny returned of her own free will, having
evidently mistaken the time, and it is said even consented to draw
an extra load to make up the deficiency. It may be imagined from
this and other circumstances that Michael stood a little in awe of
Jinny's superior intellect, and that Jinny occasionally, with the
instinct of her sex, presumed upon it. After the Sunday episode,
already referred to, she was given her liberty on that day, a
privilege she gracefully recognized by somewhat unbending her usual
austerity in the indulgence of a saturnine humor. She would visit
the mining camps, and, grazing lazily and thoughtfully before the
cabins, would, by various artifices and coquetries known to the
female heart, induce some credulous stranger to approach her with
the intention of taking a ride. She would submit hesitatingly to a
halter, allow him to mount her back, and, with every expression of
timid and fearful reluctance, at last permit him to guide her in a
laborious trot out of sight of human habitation. What happened
then was never clearly known. In a few moments the camp would be
aroused by shouts and execrations, and the spectacle of Jinny
tearing by at a frightful pace, with the stranger clinging with his
arms around her neck, afraid to slip off, from terror of her
circumvolving heels, and vainly imploring assistance. Again and
again she would dash by the applauding groups, adding the
aggravation of her voice to the danger of her heels, until suddenly
wheeling, she would gallop to Carter's Pond, and deposit her
luckless freight in the muddy ditch. This practical joke was
repeated until one Sunday she was approached by Juan Ramirez, a
Mexican vaquero, booted and spurred, and carrying a riata. A crowd
was assembled to see her discomfiture. But, to the intense
disappointment of the camp, Jinny, after quietly surveying the
stranger, uttered a sardonic bray, and ambled away to the little
cemetery on the hill, whose tangled chapparal effectually prevented
all pursuit by her skilled antagonist. From that day she forsook
the camp, and spent her Sabbaths in mortuary reflections among the
pine head-boards and cold "hic jacets" of the dead.
Happy would it have been if this circumstance, which resulted in
the one poetic episode of her life, had occurred earlier; for the
cemetery was the favorite resort of Miss Jessie Lawton, a gentle
invalid from San Francisco, who had sought the foot-hills for the
balsam of pine and fir, and in the faint hope that the freshness of
the wild roses might call back her own. The extended views from
the cemetery satisfied Miss Lawton's artistic taste, and here
frequently, with her sketch-book in hand, she indulged that taste
and a certain shy reserve which kept her from contact with
strangers. On one of the leaves of that sketch-book appears a
study of a donkey's head, being none other than the grave features
of Jinny, as once projected timidly over the artist's shoulder.
The preliminaries of this intimacy have never transpired, nor is it
a settled fact if Jinny made the first advances. The result was
only known to the men of Sawyer's Bar by a vision which remained
fresh in their memories long after the gentle lady and her four-
footed friend had passed beyond their voices. As two of the
tunnel-men were returning from work one evening, they chanced to
look up the little trail, kept sacred from secular intrusion, that
led from the cemetery to the settlement. In the dim twilight,
against a sunset sky, they beheld a pale-faced girl riding slowly
toward them. With a delicate instinct, new to those rough men,
they drew closer in the shadow of the bushes until she passed.
There was no mistaking the familiar grotesqueness of Jinny; there
was no mistaking the languid grace of Miss Lawton. But a wreath of
wild roses was around Jinny's neck, from her long ears floated Miss
Jessie's hat ribbons, and a mischievous, girlish smile was upon
Miss Jessie's face, as fresh as the azaleas in her hair. By the
next day the story of this gentle apparition was known to a dozen
miners in camp, and all were sworn to secrecy. But the next
evening, and the next, from the safe shadows of the woods they
watched and drank in the beauty of that fanciful and all
unconscious procession. They kept their secret, and never a
whisper or footfall from these rough men broke its charm or
betrayed their presence. The man who could have shocked the
sensitive reserve of the young girl would have paid for it with his
And then one day the character of the procession changed, and this
little incident having been told, it was permitted that Jinny
should follow her friend, caparisoned even as before, but this time
by the rougher but no less loving hands of men. When the cortege
reached the ferry where the gentle girl was to begin her silent
journey to the sea, Jinny broke from those who held her, and after
a frantic effort to mount the barge fell into the swiftly rushing
Stanislaus. A dozen stout arms were stretched to save her, and a
rope skilfully thrown was caught around her feet. For an instant
she was passive, and, as it seemed, saved. But the next moment her
dominant instinct returned, and with one stroke of her powerful
heel she snapped the rope in twain and so drifted with her mistress
to the sea.
ROGER CATRON'S FRIEND
I think that, from the beginning, we all knew how it would end. He
had always been so quiet and conventional, although by nature an
impulsive man; always so temperate and abstemious, although a man
with a quick appreciation of pleasure; always so cautious and
practical, although an imaginative man, that when, at last, one by
one he loosed these bands, and gave himself up to a life, perhaps
not worse than other lives which the world has accepted as the
natural expression of their various owners, we at once decided that
the case was a hopeless one. And when one night we picked him up
out of the Union Ditch, a begrimed and weather-worn drunkard, a
hopeless debtor, a self-confessed spendthrift, and a half-
conscious, maudlin imbecile, we knew that the end had come. The
wife he had abandoned had in turn deserted him; the woman he had
misled had already realized her folly, and left him with her
reproaches; the associates of his reckless life, who had used and
abused him, had found him no longer of service, or even amusement,
and clearly there was nothing left to do but to hand him over to
the state, and we took him to the nearest penitential asylum.
Conscious of the Samaritan deed, we went back to our respective
wives, and told his story. It is only just to say that these
sympathetic creatures were more interested in the philanthropy of
their respective husbands than in its miserable object. "It was
good and kind in you, dear," said loving Mrs. Maston to her spouse,
as returning home that night he flung his coat on a chair with an
air of fatigued righteousness; "it was like your kind heart to care
for that beast; but after he left that good wife of his--that
perfect saint--to take up with that awful woman, I think I'd have
left him to die in the ditch. Only to think of it, dear, a woman
that you wouldn't speak to!" Here Mr. Maston coughed slightly,
colored a little, mumbled something about "women not understanding
some things," "that men were men," etc., and then went comfortably
to sleep, leaving the outcast, happily oblivious of all things, and
especially this criticism, locked up in Hangtown Jail.
For the next twelve hours he lay there, apathetic and half-
conscious. Recovering from this after a while, he became furious,
vengeful, and unmanageable, filling the cell and corridor with
maledictions of friend and enemy; and again sullen, morose, and
watchful. Then he refused food, and did not sleep, pacing his
limits with the incessant, feverish tread of a caged tiger. Two
physicians, diagnosing his case from the scant facts, pronounced
him insane, and he was accordingly transported to Sacramento. But
on the way thither he managed to elude the vigilance of his guards,
and escaped. The alarm was given, a hue and cry followed him, the
best detectives of San Francisco were on his track, and finally
recovered his dead body--emaciated and wasted by exhaustion and
fever--in the Stanislaus Marshes, identified it, and, receiving the
reward of $1,000 offered by his surviving relatives and family,
assisted in legally establishing the end we had predicted.
Unfortunately for the moral, the facts were somewhat inconsistent
with the theory. A day or two after the remains were discovered
and identified, the real body of "Roger Catron, aged 52 years,
slight, iron-gray hair, and shabby in apparel," as the
advertisement read, dragged itself, travel-worn, trembling, and
disheveled, up the steep slope of Deadwood Hill. How he should do
it, he had long since determined,--ever since he had hidden his
Derringer, a mere baby pistol, from the vigilance of his keepers.
Where he should do it, he had settled within his mind only within
the last few moments. Deadwood Hill was seldom frequented; his
body might lie there for months before it was discovered. He had
once thought of the river, but he remembered it had an ugly way of
exposing its secrets on sandbar and shallow, and that the body of
Whisky Jim, bloated and disfigured almost beyond recognition, had
been once delivered to the eyes of Sandy Bar, before breakfast, on
the left bank of the Stanislaus. He toiled up through the chimisal
that clothed the southern slope of the hill until he reached the
bald, storm-scarred cap of the mountain, ironically decked with the
picked, featherless plumes of a few dying pines. One, stripped of
all but two lateral branches, brought a boyish recollection to his
fevered brain. Against a background of dull sunset fire, it
extended two gaunt arms--black, rigid, and pathetic. Calvary!
With the very word upon his lips, he threw himself, face downwards,
on the ground beneath it, and, with his fingers clutched in the
soil, lay there for some moments, silent and still. In this
attitude, albeit a skeptic and unorthodox man, he prayed. I cannot
say--indeed I DARE not say--that his prayer was heard, or that God
visited him thus. Let us rather hope that all there was of God in
him, in this crucial moment of agony and shame, strove outward and
upward. Howbeit, when the moon rose he rose too, perhaps a trifle
less steady than the planet, and began to descend the hill with
feverish haste, yet with this marked difference between his present
haste and his former recklessness, that it seemed to have a well-
defined purpose. When he reached the road again, he struck into a
well-worn trail, where, in the distance, a light faintly twinkled.
Following this beacon, he kept on, and at last flung himself
heavily against the door of the little cabin from whose window the
light had shone. As he did so, it opened upon the figure of a
square, thickset man, who, in the impetuosity of Catron's onset,
received him, literally, in his arms.
"Captain Dick," said Roger Catron, hoarsely, "Captain Dick, save
me! For God's sake, save me!"
Captain Dick, without a word, placed a large, protecting hand upon
Catron's shoulder, allowed it to slip to his waist, and then drew
his visitor quietly, but firmly, within the cabin. Yet, in the
very movement, he had managed to gently and unobtrusively possess
himself of Catron's pistol.
"Save ye! From which?" asked Captain Dick, as quietly and
unobtrusively dropping the Derringer in a flour sack.
"From everything," gasped Catron, "from the men that are hounding
me, from my family, from my friends, but most of all--from, from--
He had, in turn, grasped Captain Dick, and forced him frenziedly
against the wall. The captain released himself, and, taking the
hands of his excited visitor, said slowly,--
"Ye wan some blue mass--suthin' to unload your liver. I'll get it
up for ye."
"But, Captain Dick, I'm an outcast, shamed, disgraced--"
"Two on them pills taken now, and two in the morning," continued
the captain, gravely, rolling a bolus in his fingers, "will bring
yer head to the wind again. Yer fallin' to leeward all the time,
and ye want to brace up."
"But, Captain," continued the agonized man, again clutching the
sinewy arms of his host, and forcing his livid face and fixed eyes
within a few inches of Captain Dick's, "hear me! You must and
shall hear me. I've been in jail--do you hear?--in jail, like a
common felon. I've been sent to the asylum, like a demented
"Two now, and two in the morning," continued the captain, quietly
releasing one hand only to place two enormous pills in the mouth of
the excited Catron, "thar now--a drink o' whisky--thar, that'll do--
just enough to take the taste out of yer mouth, wash it down, and
belay it, so to speak. And how are the mills running, gin'rally,
over at the Bar?"
"Captain Dick, hear me--if you ARE my friend, for God's sake hear
me! An hour ago I should have been a dead man--"
"They say that Sam Bolin hez sold out of the Excelsior--"
"Captain Dick! Listen, for God's sake; I have suffered--"
But Captain Dick was engaged in critically examining his man. "I
guess I'll ladle ye out some o' that soothin' mixture I bought down
at Simpson's t' other day," he said, reflectively. "And I
onderstand the boys up on the Bar think the rains will set in
But here Nature was omnipotent. Worn by exhaustion, excitement,
and fever, and possibly a little affected by Captain Dick's later
potion, Roger Catron turned white, and lapsed against the wall. In
an instant Captain Dick had caught him, as a child, lifted him in
his stalwart arms, wrapped a blanket around him, and deposited him
in his bunk. Yet, even in his prostration, Catron made one more
despairing appeal for mental sympathy from his host.
"I know I'm sick--dying, perhaps," he gasped, from under the
blankets; "but promise me, whatever comes, tell my wife--say to--"
"It has been lookin' consid'ble like rain, lately, hereabouts,"
continued the captain, coolly, in a kind of amphibious slang,
characteristic of the man, "but in these yer latitudes no man kin
set up to be a weather sharp."
"Captain! will you hear me?"
"Yer goin' to sleep, now," said the captain, potentially.
"But, Captain, they are pursuing me! If they should track me
"Thar is a rifle over thar, and yer's my navy revolver. When I've
emptied them, and want you to bear a hand, I'll call ye. Just now
your lay is to turn in. It's my watch."
There was something so positive, strong, assuring, and a little
awesome in the captain's manner, that the trembling, nervously-
prostrated man beneath the blankets forbore to question further.
In a few moments his breathing, albeit hurried and irregular,
announced that he slept. The captain then arose, for a moment
critically examined the sleeping man, holding his head a little on
one side, whistling softly, and stepping backwards to get a good
perspective, but always with contemplative good humor, as if Catron
were a work of art, which he (the captain) had created, yet one
that he was not yet entirely satisfied with. Then he put a large
pea-jacket over his flannel blouse, dragged a Mexican serape from
the corner, and putting it over his shoulders, opened the cabin
door, sat down on the doorstep, and leaning back against the door-
post, composed himself to meditation. The moon lifted herself
slowly over the crest of Deadwood Hill, and looked down, not
unkindly, on his broad, white, shaven face, round and smooth as her
own disc, encircled with a thin fringe of white hair and whiskers.
Indeed, he looked so like the prevailing caricatures in a comic
almanac of planets, with dimly outlined features, that the moon
would have been quite justified in flirting with him, as she
clearly did, insinuating a twinkle into his keen, gray eyes, making
the shadow of a dimple on his broad, fat chin, and otherwise
idealizing him after the fashion of her hero-worshiping sex.
Touched by these benign influences, Captain Dick presently broke
forth in melody. His song was various, but chiefly, I think,
confined to the recital of the exploits of one "Lorenzo," who, as
related by himself,--
"Shipped on board of a Liner,
'Renzo, boys, Renzo,"--
a fact that seemed to have deprived him at once of all metre,
grammar, or even the power of coherent narration. At times a groan
or a half-articulate cry would come from the "bunk" whereon Roger
Catron lay, a circumstance that always seemed to excite Captain
Dick to greater effort and more rapid vocalization. Toward
morning, in the midst of a prolonged howl from the captain, who was
finishing the "Starboard Watch, ahoy!" in three different keys,
Roger Catron's voice broke suddenly and sharply from his en-
"Dry up, you d--d old fool, will you?"
Captain Dick stopped instantly. Rising to his feet, and looking
over the landscape, he took all nature into his confidence in one
inconceivably arch and crafty wink. "He's coming up to the wind,"
he said softly, rubbing his hands. "The pills is fetchin' him.
Steady now, boys, steady. Steady as she goes on her course," and
with another wink of ineffable wisdom, he entered the cabin and
locked the door.
Meanwhile, the best society of Sandy Bar was kind to the newly-made
widow. Without being definitely expressed, it was generally felt
that sympathy with her was now safe, and carried no moral
responsibility with it. Even practical and pecuniary aid, which
before had been withheld, lest it should be diverted from its
proper intent, and, perhaps through the weakness of the wife, made
to minister to the wickedness of the husband,--even that was now
openly suggested. Everybody felt that somebody should do something
for the widow. A few did it. Her own sex rallied to her side,
generally with large sympathy, but, unfortunately, small pecuniary
or practical result. At last, when the feasibility of her taking a
boarding-house in San Francisco, and identifying herself with that
large class of American gentlewomen who have seen better days, but
clearly are on the road never to see them again, was suggested, a
few of her own and her husband's rich relatives came to the front
to rehabilitate her. It was easier to take her into their homes as
an equal than to refuse to call upon her as the mistress of a
lodging-house in the adjoining street. And upon inspection it was
found that she was still quite an eligible partie, prepossessing,
and withal, in her widow's weeds, a kind of poetical and
sentimental presence, as necessary in a wealthy and fashionable
American family as a work of art. "Yes, poor Caroline has had a
sad, sad history," the languid Mrs. Walker Catron would say, "and
we all sympathize with her deeply; Walker always regards her as a
sister." What was this dark history never came out, but its very
mystery always thrilled the visitor, and seemed to indicate plainly
the respectability of the hostess. An American family without a
genteel skeleton in its closet could scarcely add to that gossip
which keeps society from forgetting its members. Nor was it
altogether unnatural that presently Mrs. Roger Catron lent herself
to this sentimental deception, and began to think that she really
was a more exquisitely aggrieved woman than she had imagined. At
times, when this vague load of iniquity put upon her dead husband
assumed, through the mystery of her friends, the rumor of murder
and highway robbery, and even an attempt upon her own life, she
went to her room, a little frightened, and had "a good cry,"
reappearing more mournful and pathetic than ever, and corroborating
the suspicions of her friends. Indeed, one or two impulsive
gentlemen, fired by her pathetic eyelids, openly regretted that the
deceased had not been hanged, to which Mrs. Walker Catron responded
that, "Thank Heaven, they were spared at least that disgrace!" and
so sent conviction into the minds of her hearers.
It was scarcely two months after this painful close of her
matrimonial life that one rainy February morning the servant
brought a card to Mrs. Roger Catron, bearing the following
"Richard Graeme Macleod."
Women are more readily affected by names than we are, and there was
a certain Highland respectability about this that, albeit, not
knowing its possessor, impelled Mrs. Catron to send word that she
"would be down in a few moments." At the end of this femininely
indefinite period,--a quarter of an hour by the French clock on the
mantel-piece,--Mrs. Roger Catron made her appearance in the
reception-room. It was a dull, wet day, as I have said before, but
on the Contra Costa hills the greens and a few flowers were already
showing a promise of rejuvenescence and an early spring. There was
something of this, I think, in Mrs. Catron's presence, shown
perhaps in the coquettish bow of a ribbon, in a larger and more
delicate ruche, in a tighter belting of her black cashmere gown;
but still there was a suggestion of recent rain in the eyes, and
threatening weather. As she entered the room, the sun came out,
too, and revealed the prettiness and delicacy of her figure, and I
regret to state, also, the somewhat obtrusive plainness of her
"I knew ye'd be sorter disapp'inted at first, not gettin' the
regular bearings o' my name, but I'm 'Captain Dick.' Mebbe ye've
heard your husband--that is, your husband ez waz, Roger Catron--
speak o' me?"
Mrs. Catron, feeling herself outraged and deceived in belt, ruche,
and ribbon, freezingly admitted that she had heard of him before.
"In course," said the captain; "why, Lord love ye, Mrs. Catron,--ez
waz,--he used to be all the time talkin' of ye. And allers in a
free, easy, confidential way. Why, one night--don't ye remember?--
when he came home, carryin', mebbee, more canvas than was
seamanlike, and you shet him out the house, and laid for him with a
broomstick, or one o' them crokay mallets, I disremember which, and
he kem over to me, ole Captain Dick, and I sez to him, sez I, 'Why,
Roger, them's only love pats, and yer condishun is such ez to make
any woman mad-like.' Why, Lord bless ye! there ain't enny of them
mootool differences you and him hed ez I doesn't knows on, and
didn't always stand by, and lend ye a hand, and heave in a word or
two of advice when called on."
Mrs. Catron, ice everywhere but in her pink cheeks, was glad that
Mr. Catron seemed to have always a friend to whom he confided
EVERYTHING, even the base falsehoods he had invented.
"Mebbe now they WAZ falsehoods," said the captain, thoughtfully.
"But don't ye go to think," he added conscientiously, "that he kept
on that tack all the time. Why, that day he made a raise,
gambling, I think, over at Dutch Flat, and give ye them bracelets,--
regular solid gold,--why, it would have done your heart good to
have heard him talk about you--said you had the prettiest arm in
Californy. Well," said the captain, looking around for a suitable
climax, "well, you'd have thought that he was sorter proud of ye!
Why, I woz with him in 'Frisco when he bought that A 1 prize bonnet
for ye for $75, and not hevin' over $50 in his pocket, borryed the
other $25 outer me. Mebbe it was a little fancy for a bonnet; but
I allers thought he took it a little too much to heart when you
swopped it off for that Dollar Varden dress, just because that
Lawyer Maxwell said the Dollar Vardens was becomin' to ye. Ye
know, I reckon, he was always sorter jealous of that thar shark--"
"May I venture to ask what your business is with me?" interrupted
Mrs. Catron, sharply.
"In course," said the captain, rising. "Ye see," he said,
apologetically, "we got to talking o' Roger and ole times, and I
got a little out o' my course. It's a matter of--" he began to
fumble in his pockets, and finally produced a small memorandum-
book, which he glanced over--"it's a matter of $250."
"I don't understand you," said Mrs. Catron, in indignant
"On the 15th of July," said the captain, consulting his memorandum-
book, "Roger sold his claim at Nye's Ford for $1,500. Now, le's
see. Thar was nigh on $350 ez he admitted to me he lost at poker,
and we'll add $50 to that for treating, suppers, and drinks
gin'rally--put Roger down for $400. Then there was YOU. Now you
spent $250 on your trip to 'Frisco thet summer; then $200 went for
them presents you sent your Aunt Jane, and thar was $400 for house
expenses. Well, thet foots up $1,250. Now, what's become of thet
Mrs. Catron's woman's impulse to retaliate sharply overcame her
first natural indignation at her visitor's impudence.
Therein she lost, woman-like, her ground of vantage.
"Perhaps the woman he fled with can tell you," she said savagely.
"Thet," said the captain, slowly, "is a good, a reasonable idee.
But it ain't true; from all I can gather SHE lent HIM money. It
didn't go THAR."
"Roger Catron left me penniless," said Mrs. Catron, hotly.
"Thet's jist what gets me. You oughter have $250 somewhar lying
Mrs. Catron saw her error. "May I ask what right you have to
question me? If you have any, I must refer you to my lawyer or my
brother-in-law; if you have none, I hope you will not oblige me to
call the servants to put you from the house."
"Thet sounds reasonable and square, too," said the captain,
thoughtfully; "I've a power of attorney from Roger Catron to settle
up his affairs and pay his debts, given a week afore them
detectives handed ye over his dead body. But I thought that you
and me might save lawyer's fees and all fuss and feathers, ef, in a
sociable, sad-like way,--lookin' back sorter on Roger ez you and me
once knew him,--we had a quiet talk together."
"Good morning, sir," said Mrs. Catron, rising stiffly. The captain
hesitated a moment, a slight flush of color came in his face as he
at last rose as the lady backed out of the room. "Good morning,
ma'am," said the captain, and departed.
Very little was known of this interview except the general
impression in the family that Mrs. Catron had successfully resisted
a vague attempt at blackmail from one of her husband's former
dissolute companions. Yet it is only fair to say that Mrs. Catron
snapped up, quite savagely, two male sympathizers on this subject,
and cried a good deal for two days afterward, and once, in the
hearing of her sister-in-law, to that lady's great horror, "wished
she was dead."
A week after this interview, as Lawyer Phillips sat in his office,
he was visited by Macleod. Recognizing, possibly, some practical
difference between the widow and the lawyer, Captain Dick this time
first produced his credentials,--a "power of attorney." "I need
not tell you," said Phillips, "that the death of your principal
renders this instrument invalid, and I suppose you know that,
leaving no will, and no property, his estate has not been
"Mebbe it is, and mebbe it isn't. But I hain't askin' for anythin'
but information. There was a bit o' prop'ty and a mill onto it,
over at Heavytree, ez sold for $10,000. I don't see," said the
captain, consulting his memorandum-book, "ez HE got anything out of
"It was mortgaged for $7,000," said the lawyer, quickly, and the
interest and fees amount to about $3,000 more."
"The mortgage was given as security for a note?"
"Yes, a gambling debt," said the lawyer, sharply.
"Thet's so, and my belief ez that it wasn't a square game. He
shouldn't hev given no note. Why, don't ye mind, 'way back in '60,
when you and me waz in Marysville, that night that you bucked agin
faro, and lost seving hundred dollars, and then refoosed to take up
your checks, saying it was fraud and a gambling debt? And don't ye
mind when that chap kicked ye, and I helped to drag him off ye--
"I'm busy now, Mr. Macleod," said Phillips, hastily; "my clerk will
give you all the information you require. Good morning."
"It's mighty queer," said the captain, thoughtfully, as he
descended the stairs, "but the moment the conversation gets limber
and sociable-like, and I gets to runnin' free under easy sail, it's
always 'Good morning, Captain,' and we're becalmed."
By some occult influence, all the foregoing conversation, slightly
exaggerated, and the whole interview of the captain with the widow
with sundry additions, became the common property of Sandy Bar, to
the great delight of the boys. There was scarcely a person who had
ever had business or social relations with Roger Catron, whom "The
Frozen Truth," as Sandy Bar delighted to designate the captain, had
not "interviewed," as simply and directly. It is said that he
closed a conversation with one of the San Francisco detectives, who
had found Roger Catron's body, in these words: "And now hevin' got
throo' bizness, I was goin' to ask ye what's gone of Matt. Jones,
who was with ye in the bush in Austraily. Lord, how he got me
quite interested in ye, telling me how you and him got out on a
ticket-of-leave, and was chased by them milishy guards, and at last
swam out to a San Francisco bark and escaped;" but here the
inevitable pressure of previous business always stopped the
captain's conversational flow. The natural result of this was a
singular reaction in favor of the late Roger Catron in the public
sentiment of Sandy Bar, so strong, indeed, as to induce the Rev.
Mr. Joshua McSnagly, the next Sunday, to combat it with the moral
of Catron's life. After the service, he was approached in the
vestibule, and in the hearing of some of his audience, by Captain
Dick, with the following compliment: "In many pints ye hed jess got
Roger Catron down to a hair. I knew ye'd do it: why, Lord love ye,
you and him had pints in common; and when he giv' ye that hundred
dollars arter the fire in Sacramento, to help ye rebuild the
parsonage, he said to me,--me not likin' ye on account o' my being
on the committee that invited ye to resign from Marysville all
along o' that affair with Deacon Pursell's darter; and a piece she
was, parson! eh?--well, Roger, he ups and sez to me, 'Every man hez
his faults,' sez he; and sez he, 'there's no reason why a parson
ain't a human being like us, and that gal o' Pursell's is pizen, ez
I know.' So ye see, I seed that ye was hittin' yourself over
Catron's shoulder, like them early martyrs." But here, as Captain
Dick was clearly blocking up all egress from the church, the sexton
obliged him to move on, and again he was stopped in his
But only for a time. Before long, it was whispered that Captain
Dick had ordered a meeting of the creditors, debtors, and friends
of Roger Catron at Robinson's Hall. It was suggested, with some
show of reason, that this had been done at the instigation of
various practical jokers of Sandy Bar, who had imposed on the
simple directness of the captain, and the attendance that night
certainly indicated something more than a mere business meeting.
All of Sandy Bar crowded into Robinson's Hall, and long before
Captain Dick made his appearance on the platform, with his
inevitable memorandum-book, every inch of floor was crowded.
The captain began to read the expenditures of Roger Catron with
relentless fidelity of detail. The several losses by poker, the
whisky bills, and the record of a "jamboree" at Tooley's, the vague
expenses whereof footed up $275, were received with enthusiastic
cheers by the audience. A single milliner's bill for $125 was
hailed with delight; $100 expended in treating the Vestal Virgin
Combination Troupe almost canonized his memory; $50 for a simple
buggy ride with Deacon Fisk brought down the house; $500 advanced,
without security, and unpaid, for the electioneering expenses of
Assemblyman Jones, who had recently introduced a bill to prevent
gambling and the sale of lager beer on Sundays, was received with
an ominous groan. One or two other items of money loaned
occasioned the withdrawal of several gentlemen from the audience
amidst the hisses or ironical cheers of the others.
At last Captain Dick stopped and advanced to the footlights.
"Gentlemen and friends," he said, slowly. "I foots up $25,000 as
Roger Catron hez MADE, fair and square, in this yer county. I
foots up $27,000 ez he has SPENT in this yer county. I puts it to
you ez men,--far-minded men,--ef this man was a pauper and debtor?
I put it to you ez far-minded men,--ez free and easy men,--ez
political economists,--ez this the kind of men to impoverish a
An overwhelming and instantaneous "No!" almost drowned the last
utterance of the speaker.
"Thar is only one item," said Captain Dick, slowly, "only one item,
that ez men,--ez far-minded men,--ez political economists,--it
seems to me we hez the right to question. It's this: Thar is an
item, read to you by me, of $2,000 paid to certing San Francisco
detectives, paid out o' the assets o' Roger Catron, for the finding
of Roger Catron's body. Gentlemen of Sandy Bar and friends, I
found that body, and yer it is!"
And Roger Catron, a little pale and nervous, but palpably in the
flesh, stepped upon the platform.
Of course the newspapers were full of it the next day. Of course,
in due time, it appeared as a garbled and romantic item in the San
Francisco press. Of course Mrs. Catron, on reading it, fainted,
and for two days said that this last cruel blow ended all relations
between her husband and herself. On the third day she expressed
her belief that, if he had had the slightest feeling for her, he
would, long since, for the sake of mere decency, have communicated
with her. On the fourth day she thought she had been, perhaps,
badly advised, had an open quarrel with her relatives, and
intimated that a wife had certain obligations, etc. On the sixth
day, still not hearing from him, she quoted Scripture, spoke of a
seventy-times-seven forgiveness, and went generally into mild
hysterics. On the seventh, she left in the morning train for Sandy
And really I don't know as I have anything more to tell. I dined
with them recently, and, upon my word, a more decorous, correct,
conventional, and dull dinner I never ate in my life.
"WHO WAS MY QUIET FRIEND?"
The voice was not loud, but clear and penetrating. I looked vainly
up and down the narrow, darkening trail. No one in the fringe of
alder ahead; no one on the gullied slope behind.
This time a little impatiently. The California classical vocative,
"O," always meant business.
I looked up, and perceived for the first time on the ledge, thirty
feet above me, another trail parallel with my own, and looking down
upon me through the buckeye bushes a small man on a black horse.
Five things to be here noted by the circumspect mountaineer.
FIRST, the locality,--lonely and inaccessible, and away from the
regular faring of teamsters and miners. SECONDLY, the stranger's
superior knowledge of the road, from the fact that the other trail
was unknown to the ordinary traveler. THIRDLY, that he was well
armed and equipped. FOURTHLY, that he was better mounted.
FIFTHLY, that any distrust or timidity arising from the
contemplation of these facts had better be kept to one's self.
All this passed rapidly through my mind as I returned his
"Got any tobacco?" he asked.
I had, and signified the fact, holding up the pouch inquiringly.
"All right, I'll come down. Ride on, and I'll jine ye on the
"The slide!" Here was a new geographical discovery as odd as the
second trail. I had ridden over the trail a dozen times, and seen
no communication between the ledge and trail. Nevertheless, I went
on a hundred yards or so, when there was a sharp crackling in the
underbrush, a shower of stones on the trail, and my friend plunged
through the bushes to my side, down a grade that I should scarcely
have dared to lead my horse. There was no doubt he was an
accomplished rider,--another fact to be noted.
As he ranged beside me, I found I was not mistaken as to his size;
he was quite under the medium height, and but for a pair of cold,
gray eyes, was rather commonplace in feature.
"You've got a good horse there," I suggested.
He was filling his pipe from my pouch, but looked up a little
surprised, and said, "Of course." He then puffed away with the
nervous eagerness of a man long deprived of that sedative.
Finally, between the puffs, he asked me whence I came.
I replied, "From Lagrange."
He looked at me a few moments curiously, but on my adding that I
had only halted there for a few hours, he said: "I thought I knew
every man between Lagrange and Indian Spring, but somehow I sorter
disremember your face and your name."
Not particularly caring that he should remember either, I replied
half laughingly, that, as I lived the other side of Indian Spring,
it was quite natural. He took the rebuff, if such it was, so
quietly that as an act of mere perfunctory politeness I asked him
where he came from.
"And you are going to--"
"Well! that depends pretty much on how things pan out, and whether
I can make the riffle." He let his hand rest quite unconsciously
on the leathern holster of his dragoon revolver, yet with a strong
suggestion to me of his ability "to make the riffle" if he wanted
to, and added: "But just now I was reck'nin' on taking a little
pasear with you."
There was nothing offensive in his speech save its familiarity, and
the reflection, perhaps, that whether I objected or not, he was
quite able to do as he said. I only replied that if our pasear was
prolonged beyond Heavytree Hill, I should have to borrow his beast.
To my surprise he replied quietly, "That's so," adding that the
horse was at my disposal when he wasn't using it, and HALF of it
when he was. "Dick has carried double many a time before this," he
continued, "and kin do it again; when your mustang gives out I'll
give you a lift and room to spare."
I could not help smiling at the idea of appearing before the boys
at Red Gulch en croupe with the stranger; but neither could I help
being oddly affected by the suggestion that his horse had done
double duty before. "On what occasion, and why?" was a question I
kept to myself. We were ascending the long, rocky flank of the
divide; the narrowness of the trail obliged us to proceed slowly,
and in file, so that there was little chance for conversation, had
he been disposed to satisfy my curiosity.
We toiled on in silence, the buckeye giving way to chimisal, the
westering sun, reflected again from the blank walls beside us,
blinding our eyes with its glare. The pines in the canyon below
were olive gulfs of heat, over which a hawk here and there drifted
lazily, or, rising to our level, cast a weird and gigantic shadow
of slowly moving wings on the mountain side. The superiority of
the stranger's horse led him often far in advance, and made me hope
that he might forget me entirely, or push on, growing weary of
waiting. But regularly he would halt by a bowlder, or reappear
from some chimisal, where he had patiently halted. I was beginning
to hate him mildly, when at one of those reappearances he drew up
to my side, and asked me how I liked Dickens!
Had he asked my opinion of Huxley or Darwin, I could not have been
more astonished. Thinking it were possible that he referred to
some local celebrity of Lagrange, I said, hesitatingly:--
"Charles Dickens. Of course you've read him? Which of his books
do you like best?"
I replied with considerable embarrassment that I liked them all,--
as I certainly did.
He grasped my hand for a moment with a fervor quite unlike his
usual phlegm, and said, "That's me, old man. Dickens ain't no
slouch. You can count on him pretty much all the time."
With this rough preface, he launched into a criticism of the
novelist, which for intelligent sympathy and hearty appreciation I
had rarely heard equaled. Not only did he dwell upon the
exuberance of his humor, but upon the power of his pathos and the
all-pervading element of his poetry. I looked at the man in
astonishment. I had considered myself a rather diligent student of
the great master of fiction, but the stranger's felicity of
quotation and illustration staggered me. It is true, that his
thought was not always clothed in the best language, and often
appeared in the slouching, slangy undress of the place and period,
yet it never was rustic nor homespun, and sometimes struck me with
its precision and fitness. Considerably softened toward him, I
tried him with other literature. But vainly. Beyond a few of the
lyrical and emotional poets, he knew nothing. Under the influence
and enthusiasm of his own speech, he himself had softened
considerably; offered to change horses with me, readjusted my
saddle with professional skill, transferred my pack to his own
horse, insisted upon my sharing the contents of his whisky flask,
and, noticing that I was unarmed, pressed upon me a silver-mounted
Derringer, which he assured me he could "warrant." These various
offices of good will and the diversion of his talk beguiled me from
noticing the fact that the trail was beginning to become obscure
and unrecognizable. We were evidently pursuing a route unknown
before to me. I pointed out the fact to my companion, a little
impatiently. He instantly resumed his old manner and dialect.
"Well, I reckon one trail's as good as another, and what hev ye got
to say about it?"
I pointed out, with some dignity, that I preferred the old trail.
"Mebbe you did. But you're jiss now takin' a pasear with ME. This
yer trail will bring you right into Indian Spring, and ONNOTICED,
and no questions asked. Don't you mind now, I'll see you through."
It was necessary here to make some stand against my strange
companion. I said firmly, yet as politely as I could, that I had
proposed stopping over night with a friend.
I hesitated. The friend was an eccentric Eastern man, well known
in the locality for his fastidiousness and his habits as a recluse.
A misanthrope, of ample family and ample means, he had chosen a
secluded but picturesque valley in the Sierras where he could rail
against the world without opposition. "Lone Valley," or "Boston
Ranch," as it was familiarly called, was the one spot that the
average miner both respected and feared. Mr. Sylvester, its
proprietor, had never affiliated with "the boys," nor had he ever
lost their respect by any active opposition to their ideas. If
seclusion had been his object, he certainly was gratified.
Nevertheless, in the darkening shadows of the night, and on a
lonely and unknown trail, I hesitated a little at repeating his
name to a stranger of whom I knew so little. But my mysterious
companion took the matter out of my hands.
"Look yar," he said, suddenly, "thar ain't but one place twixt yer
and Indian Spring whar ye can stop, and that is Sylvester's."
I assented, a little sullenly.
"Well," said the stranger, quietly, and with a slight suggestion of
conferring a favor on me, "ef yer pointed for Sylvester's--why--I
DON'T MIND STOPPING THAR WITH YE. It's a little off the road--I'll
lose some time--but taking it by and large, I don't much mind."
I stated, as rapidly and as strongly as I could, that my
acquaintance with Mr. Sylvester did not justify the introduction of
a stranger to his hospitality; that he was unlike most of the
people here,--in short, that he was a queer man, etc., etc.
To my surprise my companion answered quietly: "Oh, that's all
right. I've heerd of him. Ef you don't feel like checking me
through, or if you'd rather put 'C. O. D.' on my back, why it's all
the same to me. I'll play it alone. Only you just count me in.
Say 'Sylvester' all the time. That's me!"
What could I oppose to this man's quiet assurance? I felt myself
growing red with anger and nervous with embarrassment. What would
the correct Sylvester say to me? What would the girls,--I was a
young man then, and had won an entree to their domestic circle by
my reserve,--known by a less complimentary adjective among "the
boys,"--what would they say to my new acquaintance? Yet I
certainly could not object to his assuming all risks on his own
personal recognizances, nor could I resist a certain feeling of
shame at my embarrassment.
We were beginning to descend. In the distance below us already
twinkled the lights in the solitary rancho of Lone Valley. I
turned to my companion. "But you have forgotten that I don't even
know your name. What am I to call you?"
"That's so," he said, musingly. "Now, let's see. 'Kearney' would
be a good name. It's short and easy like. Thar's a street in
'Frisco the same title; Kearney it is."
"But--" I began impatiently.
"Now you leave all that to me," he interrupted, with a superb self-
confidence that I could not but admire. "The name ain't no
account. It's the man that's responsible. Ef I was to lay for a
man that I reckoned was named Jones, and after I fetched him I
found out on the inquest that his real name was Smith, that
wouldn't make no matter, as long as I got the man."
The illustration, forcible as it was, did not strike me as offering
a prepossessing introduction, but we were already at the rancho.
The barking of dogs brought Sylvester to the door of the pretty
little cottage which his taste had adorned.
I briefly introduced Mr. Kearney. "Kearney will do--Kearney's good
enough for me," commented the soi-disant Kearney half-aloud, to my
own horror and Sylvester's evident mystification, and then he
blandly excused himself for a moment that he might personally
supervise the care of his own beast. When he was out of ear-shot I
drew the puzzled Sylvester aside.
"I have picked up--I mean I have been picked up on the road by a
gentle maniac, whose name is not Kearney. He is well armed and
quotes Dickens. With care, acquiescence in his views on all
subjects, and general submission to his commands, he may be
placated. Doubtless the spectacle of your helpless family, the
contemplation of your daughter's beauty and innocence, may touch
his fine sense of humor and pathos. Meanwhile, Heaven help you,
and forgive me."
I ran upstairs to the little den that my hospitable host had kept
always reserved for me in my wanderings. I lingered some time over
my ablutions, hearing the languid, gentlemanly drawl of Sylvester
below, mingled with the equally cool, easy slang of my mysterious
acquaintance. When I came down to the sitting-room I was
surprised, however, to find the self-styled Kearney quietly seated
on the sofa, the gentle May Sylvester, the "Lily of Lone Valley,"
sitting with maidenly awe and unaffected interest on one side of
him, while on the other that arrant flirt, her cousin Kate, was
practicing the pitiless archery of her eyes, with an excitement
that seemed almost real.
"Who is your deliciously cool friend?" she managed to whisper to me
at supper, as I sat utterly dazed and bewildered between the enrapt
May Sylvester, who seemed to hang upon his words, and this giddy
girl of the period, who was emptying the battery of her charms in
active rivalry upon him. "Of course we know his name isn't
Kearney. But how romantic! And isn't he perfectly lovely? And
who is he?"
I replied with severe irony that I was not aware what foreign
potentate was then traveling incognito in the Sierras of
California, but that when his royal highness was pleased to inform
me, I should be glad to introduce him properly. "Until then," I
added, "I fear the acquaintance must be Morganatic."
"You're only jealous of him," she said pertly. "Look at May--she
is completely fascinated. And her father, too." And actually, the
languid, world-sick, cynical Sylvester was regarding him with a
boyish interest and enthusiasm almost incompatible with his nature.
Yet I submit honestly to the clear-headed reason of my own sex,
that I could see nothing more in the man than I have already
delivered to the reader.
In the middle of an exciting story of adventure, of which he, to
the already prejudiced mind of his fair auditors, was evidently the
hero, he stopped suddenly.
"It's only some pack train passing the bridge on the lower trail,"
explained Sylvester; "go on."
"It may be my horse is a trifle oneasy in the stable," said the
alleged Kearney; "he ain't used to boards and covering." Heaven
only knows what wild and delicious revelation lay in the statement
of this fact, but the girls looked at each other with cheeks pink
with excitement as Kearney arose, and, with quiet absence of
ceremony, quitted the table.
"Ain't he just lovely?" said Kate, gasping for breath, "and so
"Witty!" said the gentle May, with just the slightest trace of
defiance in her sweet voice; "witty, my dear? why, don't you see
that his heart is just breaking with pathos? Witty, indeed; why,
when he was speaking of that poor Mexican woman that was hung, I
saw the tears gather in his eyes. Witty, indeed!"
"Tears," laughed the cynical Sylvester, "tears, idle tears. Why,
you silly children, the man is a man of the world, a philosopher,
quiet, observant, unassuming."
"Unassuming!" Was Sylvester intoxicated, or had the mysterious
stranger mixed the "insane verb" with the family pottage? He
returned before I could answer this self-asked inquiry, and resumed
coolly his broken narrative. Finding myself forgotten in the man I
had so long hesitated to introduce to my friends, I retired to rest
early, only to hear, through the thin partitions, two hours later,
enthusiastic praises of the new guest from the voluble lips of the
girls, as they chatted in the next room before retiring.
At midnight I was startled by the sound of horses' hoofs and the
jingling of spurs below. A conversation between my host and some
mysterious personage in the darkness was carried on in such a low
tone that I could not learn its import. As the cavalcade rode away
I raised the window.
"What's the matter?"
"Nothing," said Sylvester, coolly, "only another one of those
playful homicidal freaks peculiar to the country. A man was shot
by Cherokee Jack over at Lagrange this morning, and that was the
sheriff of Calaveras and his posse hunting him. I told him I'd
seen nobody but you and your friend. By the way, I hope the cursed
noise hasn't disturbed him. The poor fellow looked as if he wanted
I thought so, too. Nevertheless, I went softly to his room. It
was empty. My impression was that he had distanced the sheriff of
Calaveras about two hours.
A GHOST OF THE SIERRAS
It was a vast silence of pines, redolent with balsamic breath, and
muffled with the dry dust of dead bark and matted mosses. Lying on
our backs, we looked upward through a hundred feet of clear,
unbroken interval to the first lateral branches that formed the
flat canopy above us. Here and there the fierce sun, from whose
active persecution we had just escaped, searched for us through the
woods, but its keen blade was dulled and turned aside by
intercostal boughs, and its brightness dissipated in nebulous mists
throughout the roofing of the dim, brown aisles around us. We were
in another atmosphere, under another sky; indeed, in another world
than the dazzling one we had just quitted. The grave silence
seemed so much a part of the grateful coolness, that we hesitated
to speak, and for some moments lay quietly outstretched on the pine
tassels where we had first thrown ourselves. Finally, a voice
broke the silence:--
"Ask the old Major; he knows all about it!"
The person here alluded to under that military title was myself. I
hardly need explain to any Californian that it by no means followed
that I was a "Major," or that I was "old," or that I knew anything
about "it," or indeed what "it" referred to. The whole remark was
merely one of the usual conventional feelers to conversation,--a
kind of social preamble, quite common to our slangy camp
intercourse. Nevertheless, as I was always known as the Major,
perhaps for no better reason than that the speaker, an old
journalist, was always called Doctor, I recognized the fact so far
as to kick aside an intervening saddle, so that I could see the
speaker's face on a level with my own, and said nothing.
"About ghosts!" said the Doctor, after a pause, which nobody broke
or was expected to break. "Ghosts, sir! That's what we want to
know. What are we doing here in this blanked old mausoleum of
Calaveras County, if it isn't to find out something about 'em, eh?"
"Thar's that haunted house at Cave City. Can't be more than a mile
or two away, anyhow. Used to be just off the trail."
A dead silence.
The Doctor (addressing space generally) "Yes, sir; it WAS a mighty
Still the same reposeful indifference. We all knew the Doctor's
skill as a raconteur; we all knew that a story was coming, and we
all knew that any interruption would be fatal. Time and time
again, in our prospecting experience, had a word of polite
encouragement, a rash expression of interest, even a too eager
attitude of silent expectancy, brought the Doctor to a sudden
change of subject. Time and time again have we seen the unwary
stranger stand amazed and bewildered between our own indifference
and the sudden termination of a promising anecdote, through his own
unlucky interference. So we said nothing. "The Judge"--another
instance of arbitrary nomenclature--pretended to sleep. Jack began
to twist a cigarrito. Thornton bit off the ends of pine needles
"Yes, sir," continued the Doctor, coolly resting the back of his
head on the palms of his hands, "it WAS rather curious. All except
the murder. THAT'S what gets me, for the murder had no new points,
no fancy touches, no sentiment, no mystery. Was just one of the
old style, 'sub-head' paragraphs. Old-fashioned miner scrubs along
on hardtack and beans, and saves up a little money to go home and
see relations. Old-fashioned assassin sharpens up knife, old
style; loads old flint-lock, brass-mounted pistol; walks in on old-
fashioned miner one dark night, sends him home to his relations
away back to several generations, and walks off with the swag. No
mystery THERE; nothing to clear up; subsequent revelations only
impertinence. Nothing for any ghost to do--who meant business.
More than that, over forty murders, same old kind, committed every
year in Calaveras, and no spiritual post obits coming due every
anniversary; no assessments made on the peace and quiet of the
surviving community. I tell you what, boys, I've always been
inclined to throw off on the Cave City ghost for that alone. It's
a bad precedent, sir. If that kind o' thing is going to obtain in
the foot-hills, we'll have the trails full of chaps formerly
knocked over by Mexicans and road agents; every little camp and
grocery will have stock enough on hand to go into business, and
where's there any security for surviving life and property, eh?
What's your opinion, Judge, as a fair-minded legislator?"
Of course there was no response. Yet it was part of the Doctor's
system of aggravation to become discursive at these moments, in the
hope of interruption, and he continued for some moments to dwell on
the terrible possibility of a state of affairs in which a gentleman
could no longer settle a dispute with an enemy without being
subjected to succeeding spiritual embarrassment. But all this
digression fell upon apparently inattentive ears.
"Well, sir, after the murder, the cabin stood for a long time
deserted and tenantless. Popular opinion was against it. One day
a ragged prospector, savage with hard labor and harder luck, came
to the camp, looking for a place to live and a chance to prospect.
After the boys had taken his measure, they concluded that he'd
already tackled so much in the way of difficulties that a ghost
more or less wouldn't be of much account. So they sent him to the
haunted cabin. He had a big yellow dog with him, about as ugly and
as savage as himself; and the boys sort o' congratulated
themselves, from a practical view-point, that while they were
giving the old ruffian a shelter, they were helping in the cause of
Christianity against ghosts and goblins. They had little faith in
the old man, but went their whole pile on that dog. That's where
they were mistaken.
"The house stood almost three hundred feet from the nearest cave,
and on dark nights, being in a hollow, was as lonely as if it had
been on the top of Shasta. If you ever saw the spot when there was
just moon enough to bring out the little surrounding clumps of
chapparal until they looked like crouching figures, and make the
bits of broken quartz glisten like skulls, you'd begin to
understand how big a contract that man and that yellow dog
"They went into possession that afternoon, and old Hard Times set
out to cook his supper. When it was over he sat down by the embers
and lit his pipe, the yellow dog lying at his feet. Suddenly 'Rap!
rap!' comes from the door. 'Come in,' says the man, gruffly.
'Rap!' again. 'Come in and be d--d to you,' says the man, who has
no idea of getting up to open the door. But no one responded, and
the next moment smash goes the only sound pane in the only window.
Seeing this, old Hard Times gets up, with the devil in his eye, and
a revolver in his hand, followed by the yellow dog, with every
tooth showing, and swings open the door. No one there! But as the
man opened the door, that yellow dog, that had been so chipper
before, suddenly begins to crouch and step backward, step by step,
trembling and shivering, and at last crouches down in the chimney,
without even so much as looking at his master. The man slams the
door shut again, but there comes another smash.
This time it seems to come from inside the cabin, and it isn't
until the man looks around and sees everything quiet that he gets
up, without speaking, and makes a dash for the door, and tears
round outside the cabin like mad, but finds nothing but silence and
darkness. Then he comes back swearing and calls the dog. But that
great yellow dog that the boys would have staked all their money on
is crouching under the bunk, and has to be dragged out like a coon
from a hollow tree, and lies there, his eyes starting from their
sockets; every limb and muscle quivering with fear, and his very
hair drawn up in bristling ridges. The man calls him to the door.
He drags himself a few steps, stops, sniffs, and refuses to go
further. The man calls him again, with an oath and a threat.
Then, what does that yellow dog do? He crawls edgewise towards the
door, crouching himself against the bunk till he's flatter than a
knife blade; then, half way, he stops. Then that d--d yellow dog
begins to walk gingerly--lifting each foot up in the air, one after
the other, still trembling in every limb. Then he stops again.
Then he crouches. Then he gives one little shuddering leap--not
straight forward, but up,--clearing the floor about six inches, as
"Over something," interrupted the Judge, hastily, lifting himself
on his elbow.
The Doctor stopped instantly. "Juan," he said coolly, to one of
the Mexican packers, "quit foolin' with that riata. You'll have
that stake out and that mule loose in another minute. Come over
The Mexican turned a scared, white face to the Doctor, muttering
something, and let go the deer-skin hide. We all up-raised our
voices with one accord, the Judge most penitently and
apologetically, and implored the Doctor to go on. "I'll shoot the
first man who interrupts you again," added Thornton; persuasively.
But the Doctor, with his hands languidly under his head, had lost
his interest. "Well, the dog ran off to the hills, and neither the
threats nor cajoleries of his master could ever make him enter the
cabin again. The next day the man left the camp. What time is it?
Getting on to sundown, ain't it? Keep off my leg, will you, you
d--d Greaser, and stop stumbling round there! Lie down."
But we knew that the Doctor had not completely finished his story,
and we waited patiently for the conclusion. Meanwhile the old,
gray silence of the woods again asserted itself, but shadows were
now beginning to gather in the heavy beams of the roof above, and
the dim aisles seemed to be narrowing and closing in around us.
Presently the Doctor recommenced lazily, as if no interruption had
"As I said before, I never put much faith in that story, and
shouldn't have told it, but for a rather curious experience of my
own. It was in the spring of '62, and I was one of a party of
four, coming up from O'Neill's, when we had been snowed up. It was
awful weather; the snow had changed to sleet and rain after we
crossed the divide, and the water was out everywhere; every ditch
was a creek, every creek a river. We had lost two horses on the
North Fork, we were dead beat, off the trail, and sloshing round,
with night coming on, and the level hail like shot in our faces.
Things were looking bleak and scary when, riding a little ahead of
the party, I saw a light twinkling in a hollow beyond. My horse
was still fresh, and calling out to the boys to follow me and bear
for the light, I struck out for it. In another moment I was before
a little cabin that half burrowed in the black chapparal; I
dismounted and rapped at the door. There was no response. I then
tried to force the door, but it was fastened securely from within.
I was all the more surprised when one of the boys, who had
overtaken me, told me that he had just seen through a window a man
reading by the fire. Indignant at this inhospitality, we both made
a resolute onset against the door, at the same time raising our
angry voices to a yell. Suddenly there was a quick response, the
hurried withdrawing of a bolt, and the door opened.
"The occupant was a short, thick-set man, with a pale, careworn
face, whose prevailing expression was one of gentle good humor and
patient suffering. When we entered, he asked us hastily why we had
not 'sung out' before.
"'But we KNOCKED!' I said, impatiently, 'and almost drove your door
"'That's nothing,' he said, patiently. 'I'm used to THAT.'
"I looked again at the man's patient, fateful face, and then around
the cabin. In an instant the whole situation flashed before me.
'Are we not near Cave City?' I asked.
"'Yes,' he replied, 'it's just below. You must have passed it in
"'I see.' I again looked around the cabin. 'Isn't this what they
call the haunted house?'
"He looked at me curiously. 'It is,' he said, simply.
"You can imagine my delight! Here was an opportunity to test the
whole story, to work down to the bed rock, and see how it would pan
out! We were too many and too well armed to fear tricks or dangers
from outsiders. If--as one theory had been held--the disturbance
was kept up by a band of concealed marauders or road agents, whose
purpose was to preserve their haunts from intrusion, we were quite
able to pay them back in kind for any assault. I need not say that
the boys were delighted with this prospect when the fact was
revealed to them. The only one doubtful or apathetic spirit there
was our host, who quietly resumed his seat and his book, with his
old expression of patient martyrdom. It would have been easy for
me to have drawn him out, but I felt that I did not want to
corroborate anybody else's experience; only to record my own. And
I thought it better to keep the boys from any predisposing terrors.
"We ate our supper, and then sat, patiently and expectant, around
the fire. An hour slipped away, but no disturbance; another hour
passed as monotonously. Our host read his book; only the dash of
hail against the roof broke the silence. But--"
The Doctor stopped. Since the last interruption, I noticed he had
changed the easy slangy style of his story to a more perfect,
artistic, and even studied manner. He dropped now suddenly into
his old colloquial speech, and quietly said: "If you don't quit
stumbling over those riatas, Juan, I'll hobble YOU. Come here,
there; lie down, will you?"
We all turned fiercely on the cause of this second dangerous
interruption, but a sight of the poor fellow's pale and frightened
face withheld our vindictive tongues. And the Doctor, happily, of
his own accord, went on:--
"But I had forgotten that it was no easy matter to keep these high-
spirited boys, bent on a row, in decent subjection; and after the
third hour passed without a supernatural exhibition, I observed,
from certain winks and whispers, that they were determined to get
up indications of their own. In a few moments violent rappings
were heard from all parts of the cabin; large stones (adroitly
thrown up the chimney) fell with a heavy thud on the roof. Strange
groans and ominous yells seemed to come from the outside (where the
interstices between the logs were wide enough). Yet, through all
this uproar, our host sat still and patient, with no sign of
indignation or reproach upon his good-humored but haggard features.
Before long it became evident that this exhibition was exclusively
for HIS benefit. Under the thin disguise of asking him to assist
them in discovering the disturbers OUTSIDE the cabin, those inside
took advantage of his absence to turn the cabin topsy-turvy.
"'You see what the spirits have done, old man,' said the arch
leader of this mischief. 'They've upset that there flour barrel
while we wasn't looking, and then kicked over the water jug and
spilled all the water!'
"The patient man lifted his head and looked at the flour-strewn
walls. Then he glanced down at the floor, but drew back with a
"'It ain't water!' he said, quietly.
"'What is it, then?'
"'It's BLOOD! Look!'
"The nearest man gave a sudden start and sank back white as a
"For there, gentlemen, on the floor, just before the door, where
the old man had seen the dog hesitate and lift his feet, there!
there!--gentlemen--upon my honor, slowly widened and broadened a
dark red pool of human blood! Stop him! Quick! Stop him, I say!"
There was a blinding flash that lit up the dark woods, and a sharp
report! When we reached the Doctor's side he was holding the
smoking pistol, just discharged, in one hand, while with the other
he was pointing to the rapidly disappearing figure of Juan, our
"Missed him! by G-d!" said the Doctor. "But did you hear him? Did
you see his livid face as he rose up at the name of blood? Did you
see his guilty conscience in his face. Eh? Why don't you speak?
What are you staring at?"
"Was it the murdered man's ghost, Doctor?" we all panted in one
"Ghost be d--d! No! But in that Mexican vaquero--that cursed Juan
Ramirez!--I saw and shot at his murderer!"
THE HOODLUM BAND
THE BOY CHIEF, THE INFANT POLITICIAN, AND THE PIRATE PRODIGY
BY JACK WHACKAWAY
Author of "The Boy Slaver," "The Immature Incendiary," "The
Precocious Pugilist," etc., etc.
It was a quiet New England village. Nowhere in the valley of the
Connecticut the autumn sun shone upon a more peaceful, pastoral,
manufacturing community. The wooden nutmegs were slowly ripening
on the trees, and the white pine hams for Western consumption were
gradually rounding into form under the deft manipulation of the
hardy American artisan. The honest Connecticut farmer was quietly
gathering from his threshing floor the shoe-pegs, which, when
intermixed with a fair proportion of oats, offered a pleasing
substitute for fodder to the effete civilizations of Europe. An
almost Sabbath-like stillness prevailed. Doemville was only seven
miles from Hartford, and the surrounding landscape smiled with the
conviction of being fully insured.
Few would have thought that this peaceful village was the home of
the three young heroes whose exploits would hereafter--but we
Doemville Academy was the principal seat of learning in the county.
Under the grave and gentle administration of the venerable Doctor
Context, it had attained just popularity. Yet the increasing
infirmities of age obliged the doctor to relinquish much of his
trust to his assistants, who, it is needless to say, abused his
confidence. Before long their brutal tyranny and deep-laid
malevolence became apparent. Boys were absolutely forced to study
their lessons. The sickening fact will hardly be believed, but
during school hours they were obliged to remain in their seats with
the appearance at least of discipline. It is stated by good
authority that the rolling of croquet balls across the floor during
recitation was objected to, under the fiendish excuse of its
interfering with their studies. The breaking of windows by base
balls, and the beating of small scholars with bats, were declared
against. At last, bloated and arrogant with success, the under-
teachers threw aside all disguise and revealed themselves in their
true colors. A cigar was actually taken out of a day scholar's
mouth during prayers! A flask of whisky was dragged from another's
desk, and then thrown out of the window. And finally, Profanity,
Hazing, Theft, and Lying were almost discouraged!
Could the youth of America, conscious of their power and a
literature of their own, tamely submit to this tyranny? Never! We
repeat it firmly. Never! We repeat it to parents and guardians.
Never! But the fiendish tutors, chuckling in their glee, little
knew what was passing through the cold, haughty intellect of
Charles Fanuel Hall Golightly, aged ten; what curled the lip of
Benjamin Franklin Jenkins, aged seven; or what shone in the bold
blue eyes of Bromley Chitterlings, aged six and a half, as they sat
in the corner of the playground at recess. Their only other
companion and confidant was the negro porter and janitor of the
school, known as "Pirate Jim."
Fitly, indeed, was he named, as the secrets of his early wild
career--confessed freely to his noble young friends--plainly
showed. A slaver at the age of seventeen, the ringleader of a
mutiny on the African Coast at the age of twenty, a privateersman
during the last war with England, the commander of a fire-ship and
its sole survivor at twenty-five, with a wild intermediate career
of unmixed piracy, until the Rebellion called him to civil service
again as a blockade-runner, and peace and a desire for rural repose
led him to seek the janitorship of the Doemville Academy, where no
questions were asked and references not exchanged: he was, indeed,
a fit mentor for our daring youth. Although a man whose days had
exceeded the usual space allotted to humanity, the various episodes
of his career footing his age up to nearly one hundred and fifty-
nine years, he scarcely looked it, and was still hale and vigorous.
"Yes," continued Pirate Jim, critically, "I don't think he was any
bigger nor you, Master Chitterlings, if as big, when he stood on
the fork'stle of my ship, and shot the captain o' that East Injymen
dead. We used to call him little Weevils, he was so young-like.
But, bless your hearts, boys! he wa'n't anything to little Sammy
Barlow, ez once crep' up inter the captain's stateroom on a Rooshin
frigate, stabbed him to the heart with a jack-knife, then put on
the captain's uniform and his cocked hat, took command of the ship
and fout her hisself."
"Wasn't the captain's clothes big for him?" asked B. Franklin
The janitor eyed young Jenkins with pained dignity.
"Didn't I say the Rooshin captain was a small, a very small man?
Rooshins is small, likewise Greeks."
A noble enthusiasm beamed in the faces of the youthful heroes.
"Was Barlow as large as me?" asked C. F. Hall Golightly, lifting
his curls from his Jove-like brow.
"Yes; but then he hed hed, so to speak, experiences. It was
allowed that he had pizened his schoolmaster afore he went to sea.
But it's dry talking, boys."
Golightly drew a flask from his jacket and handed it to the
janitor. It was his father's best brandy. The heart of the honest
old seaman was touched.
"Bless ye, my own pirate boy!" he said, in a voice suffocating with
"I've got some tobacco," said the youthful Jenkins, "but it's fine-
cut; I use only that now."
"I kin buy some plug at the corner grocery," said Pirate Jim, "only
I left my port-money at home."
"Take this watch," said young Golightly; "it is my father's. Since
he became a tyrant and usurper, and forced me to join a corsair's
band, I've began by dividing the property."
"This is idle trifling," said young Chitterlings, mildly. "Every
moment is precious. Is this an hour to give to wine and wassail?
Ha, we want action--action! We must strike the blow for freedom
to-night--aye, this very night. The scow is already anchored in
the mill-dam, freighted with provisions for a three months' voyage.
I have a black flag in my pocket. Why, then, this cowardly delay?"
The two elder youths turned with a slight feeling of awe and shame
to gaze on the glowing cheeks, and high, haughty crest of their
youngest comrade--the bright, the beautiful Bromley Chitterlings.
Alas! that very moment of forgetfulness and mutual admiration was
fraught with danger. A thin, dyspeptic, half-starved tutor
"It is time to resume your studies, young gentlemen," he said, with
They were his last words on earth.
"Down, tyrant!" screamed Chitterlings.
"Sic him--I mean, Sic semper tyrannis!" said the classical
A heavy blow on the head from a base-ball bat, and the rapid
projection of a base ball against his empty stomach, brought the
tutor a limp and lifeless mass to the ground. Golightly shuddered.
Let not my young readers blame him too rashly. It was his first
"Search his pockets," said the practical Jenkins.
They did so, and found nothing but a Harvard Triennial Catalogue.
"Let us fly," said Jenkins.
"Forward to the boats!" cried the enthusiastic Chitterlings.
But C. F. Hall Golightly stood gazing thoughtfully at the prostrate
"This," he said calmly, "is the result of a too free government and
the common school system. What the country needs is reform. I
cannot go with you, boys."
"Traitor!" screamed the others.
C. F. H. Golightly smiled sadly.
"You know me not. I shall not become a pirate--but a Congressman!"
Jenkins and Chitterlings turned pale.
"I have already organized two caucuses in a base ball club, and
bribed the delegates of another. Nay, turn not away. Let us be
friends, pursuing through various ways one common end. Farewell!"
They shook hands.
"But where is Pirate Jim?" asked Jenkins.
"He left us but for a moment to raise money on the watch to
purchase armament for the scow. Farewell!"
And so the gallant, youthful spirits parted, bright with the
sunrise of hope.
That night a conflagration raged in Doemville. The Doemville
Academy, mysteriously fired, first fell a victim to the devouring
element. The candy shop and cigar store, both holding heavy
liabilities against the academy, quickly followed. By the lurid
gleams of the flames, a long, low, sloop-rigged scow, with every
mast gone except one, slowly worked her way out of the mill-dam
towards the Sound. The next day three boys were missing--C. F.
Hall Golightly, B. F. Jenkins, and Bromley Chitterlings. Had they
perished in the flames who shall say? Enough that never more under
these names did they again appear in the homes of their ancestors.
Happy, indeed, would it have been for Doemville had the mystery
ended here. But a darker interest and scandal rested upon the
peaceful village. During that awful night the boarding-school of
Madam Brimborion was visited stealthily, and two of the fairest
heiresses of Connecticut--daughters of the president of a savings
bank, and insurance director--were the next morning found to have
eloped. With them also disappeared the entire contents of the
Savings Bank. and on the following day the Flamingo Fire Insurance
Let my young readers now sail with me to warmer and more hospitable
climes. Off the coast of Patagonia a long, low, black schooner
proudly rides the seas, that breaks softly upon the vine-clad
shores of that luxuriant land. Who is this that, wrapped in
Persian rugs, and dressed in the most expensive manner, calmly
reclines on the quarter-deck of the schooner, toying lightly ever
and anon with the luscious fruits of the vicinity, held in baskets
of solid gold by Nubian slaves? or at intervals, with daring grace,
guides an ebony velocipede over the polished black walnut decks,
and in and out the intricacies of the rigging. Who is it? well may
be asked. What name is it that blanches with terror the cheeks of
the Patagonian navy? Who but the Pirate Prodigy--the relentless
Boy Scourer of Patagonian seas? Voyagers slowly drifting by the
Silurian beach, coasters along the Devonian shore, still shudder at
the name of Bromley Chitterlings--the Boy Avenger, late of
It has been often asked by the idly curious, Why Avenger, and of
what? Let us not seek to disclose the awful secret hidden under
that youthful jacket. Enough that there may have been that of
bitterness in his past life that he
"Whose soul would sicken o'er the heaving wave,"
or "whose soul would heave above the sickening wave," did not
understand. Only one knew him, perhaps too well--a queen of the
Amazons, taken prisoner off Terra del Fuego a week previous. She
loved the Boy Avenger. But in vain; his youthful heart seemed
"Hear me," at last he said, when she had for the seventh time
wildly proffered her hand and her kingdom in marriage, "and know
once and forever why I must decline your flattering proposal: I
With a wild, despairing cry, she leaped into the sea, but was
instantly rescued by the Pirate Prodigy. Yet, even in that supreme
moment, such was his coolness that on his way to the surface he
captured a mermaid, and, placing her in charge of his steward, with
directions to give her a stateroom, with hot and cold water, calmly
resumed his place by the Amazon's side. When the cabin door closed
on his faithful servant, bringing champagne and ices to the
interesting stranger, Chitterlings resumed his narrative with a
"When I first fled from the roof of a tyrannical parent, I loved
the beautiful and accomplished Eliza J. Sniffen. Her father was
president of the Workingmen's Savings Bank, and it was perfectly
understood that in the course of time the entire deposits would be
his. But, like a vain fool, I wished to anticipate the future, and
in a wild moment persuaded Miss Sniffen to elope with me; and, with
the entire cash assets of the bank, we fled together." He paused,
overcome with emotion. "But fate decreed it otherwise. In my
feverish haste, I had forgotten to place among the stores of my
pirate craft that peculiar kind of chocolate caramel to which Eliza
Jane was most partial. We were obliged to put into New Rochelle on
the second day out, to enable Miss Sniffen to procure that delicacy
at the nearest confectioner's, and match some zephyr worsteds at
the first fancy shop. Fatal mistake. She went--she never
returned!" In a moment he resumed in a choking voice, "After a
week's weary waiting, I was obliged to put to sea again, bearing a
broken heart and the broken bank of her father. I have never seen
"And you still love her?" asked the Amazon queen, excitedly.
"Noble youth. Here take the reward of thy fidelity, for know,
Bromley Chitterlings, that I am Eliza Jane. Wearied with waiting,
I embarked on a Peruvian guano ship--but it's a long story, dear."
"And altogether too thin," said the Boy Avenger, fiercely,
releasing himself from her encircling arms. "Eliza Jane's age, a
year ago, was only thirteen, and you are forty, if a day."
"True," she returned, sadly, "but I have suffered much, and time
passes rapidly, and I've grown. You would scarcely believe that
this is my own hair."
"I know not," he replied, in gloomy abstraction.
"Forgive my deceit," she returned. "If you are affianced to
another, let me at least be--a mother to you."
The Pirate Prodigy started, and tears came to his eyes. The scene
was affecting in the extreme. Several of the oldest seamen--men
who had gone through scenes of suffering with tearless eyes and
unblanched cheeks--now retired to the spirit-room to conceal their
emotion. A few went into caucus in the forecastle, and returned
with the request that the Amazonian queen should hereafter be known
as the "Queen of the Pirates' Isle."
"Mother!" gasped the Pirate Prodigy.
"My son!" screamed the Amazonian queen.
They embraced. At the same moment a loud flop was heard on the
quarter-deck. It was the forgotten mermaid, who, emerging from her
state-room and ascending the companion-way at that moment, had
fainted at the spectacle. The Pirate Prodigy rushed to her side
with a bottle of smelling-salts.
She recovered slowly. "Permit me," she said, rising with dignity,
"to leave the ship. I am unaccustomed to such conduct."
"Hear me--she is my mother!"
"She certainly is old enough to be," replied the mermaid; "and to
speak of that being her own hair!" she added with a scornful laugh,
as she rearranged her own luxuriant tresses with characteristic
grace, a comb, and a small hand-mirror.
"If I couldn't afford any other clothes, I might wear a switch,
too!" hissed the Amazonian queen. "I suppose you don't dye it on
account of the salt water. But perhaps you prefer green, dear?"
"A little salt water might improve your own complexion, love."
"Fishwoman!" screamed the Amazonian queen.
"Bloomerite!" shrieked the mermaid.
In another instant they had seized each other.
"Mutiny! Overboard with them!" cried the Pirate Prodigy, rising to
the occasion, and casting aside all human affection in the peril of
A plank was brought and two women placed upon it.
"After you, dear," said the mermaid, significantly, to the
Amazonian queen; "you're the oldest."
"Thank you!" said the Amazonian queen, stepping back. "Fish is
always served first."
Stung by the insult, with a wild scream of rage, the mermaid
grappled her in her arms and leaped into the sea.
As the waters closed over them forever, the Pirate Prodigy sprang
to his feet. "Up with the black flag, and bear away for New
London," he shouted in trumpet-like tones. "Ha, ha! Once more the
Rover is free!"
Indeed it was too true. In that fatal moment he had again loosed
himself from the trammels of human feeling, and was once more the
Again I must ask my young friends to mount my hippogriff and hie
with me to the almost inaccessible heights of the Rocky Mountains.
There, for years, a band of wild and untamable savages, known as
the "Pigeon Feet," had resisted the blankets and Bibles of
civilization. For years the trails leading to their camp were
marked by the bones of teamsters and broken wagons, and the trees
were decked with the drying scalp locks of women and children. The
boldest of military leaders hesitated to attack them in their
fortresses, and prudently left the scalping knives, rifles, powder,
and shot, provided by a paternal government for their welfare,
lying on the ground a few miles from their encampment, with the
request that they were not to be used until the military had safely
retired. Hitherto, save an occasional incursion into the territory
of the "Knock-knees," a rival tribe, they had limited their
depredations to the vicinity.
But lately a baleful change had come over them. Acting under some
evil influence, they now pushed their warfare into the white
settlements, carrying fire and destruction with them. Again and
again had the government offered them a free pass to Washington and
the privilege of being photographed, but under the same evil
guidance they refused. There was a singular mystery in their mode
of aggression. School-houses were always burned, the schoolmasters
taken into captivity, and never again heard from. A palace car on
the Union Pacific Railway, containing an excursion party of
teachers en route to San Francisco, was surrounded, its inmates
captured, and--their vacancies in the school catalogue never again
filled. Even a Board of Educational Examiners, proceeding to
Cheyenne, were taken prisoners, and obliged to answer questions
they themselves had proposed, amidst horrible tortures. By degrees
these atrocities were traced to the malign influence of a new chief
of the tribe. As yet little was known of him but through his
baleful appellations, "Young Man who Goes for his Teacher," and "He
Lifts the Hair of the School Marm." He was said to be small and
exceedingly youthful in appearance. Indeed, his earlier
appellative, "He Wipes his Nose on his Sleeve," was said to have
been given to him to indicate his still boy-like habits.
It was night in the encampment and among the lodges of the "Pigeon
Toes." Dusky maidens flitted in and out among the camp-fires like
brown moths, cooking the toothsome buffalo hump, frying the
fragrant bear's meat, and stewing the esculent bean for the braves.
For a few favored ones spitted grasshoppers were reserved as a rare
delicacy, although the proud Spartan soul of their chief scorned
all such luxuries.
He was seated alone in his wigwam, attended only by the gentle
Mushymush, fairest of the "Pigeon Feet" maidens. Nowhere were the
characteristics of her great tribe more plainly shown than in the
little feet that lapped over each other in walking. A single
glance at the chief was sufficient to show the truth of the wild
rumors respecting his youth. He was scarcely twelve, of proud and
lofty bearing, and clad completely in wrappings of various-colored
scalloped cloths, which gave him the appearance of a somewhat
extra-sized pen-wiper. An enormous eagle's feather, torn from the
wing of a bald eagle who once attempted to carry him away,
completed his attire. It was also the memento of one of his most
superhuman feats of courage. He would undoubtedly have scalped the
eagle but that nature had anticipated him.
"Why is the Great Chief sad?" asked Mushymush, softly. "Does his
soul still yearn for the blood of the pale-faced teachers? Did not
the scalping of two professors of geology in the Yale exploring
party satisfy his warrior's heart yesterday? Has he forgotten that
Hayden and Clarence King are still to follow? Shall his own
Mushymush bring him a botanist to-morrow? Speak, for the silence
of my brother lies on my heart like the snow on the mountain, and
checks the flow of my speech."
Still the proud Boy Chief sat silent. Suddenly he said: "Hist!"
and rose to his feet. Taking a long rifle from the ground he
adjusted its sight. Exactly seven miles away on the slope of the
mountain the figure of a man was seen walking. The Boy Chief
raised the rifle to his unerring eye and fired. The man fell.
A scout was dispatched to scalp and search the body. He presently
"Who was the pale face?" eagerly asked the chief.
"A life insurance agent."
A dark scowl settled on the face of the chief.
"I thought it was a book-peddler."
"Why is my brother's heart sore against the book-peddler?" asked
"Because," said the Boy Chief, fiercely, "I am again without my
regular dime novel, and I thought he might have one in his pack.
Hear me, Mushymush; the United States mails no longer bring me my
'Young America,' or my 'Boys' and Girls' Weekly.' I find it
impossible, even with my fastest scouts, to keep up with the rear
of General Howard, and replenish my literature from the sutler's
wagon. Without a dime novel or a 'Young America,' how am I to keep
up this Injin business?"
Mushymush remained in meditation a single moment. Then she looked
"My brother has spoken. It is well. He shall have his dime novel.
He shall know what kind of a hair-pin his sister Mushymush is."
And she arose and gamboled lightly as the fawn out of his presence.
In two hours she returned. In one hand she held three small flaxen
scalps, in the other "The Boy Marauder," complete in one volume,
price ten cents.
"Three pale-faced children," she gasped, "were reading it in the
tail end of an emigrant wagon. I crept up to them softly. Their
parents are still unaware of the accident," and she sank helpless
at his feet.
"Noble girl!" said the Boy Chief, gazing proudly on her prostrate
form; "and these are the people that a military despotism expects
But the capture of several wagon-loads of commissary whisky, and
the destruction of two tons of stationery intended for the general
commanding, which interfered with his regular correspondence with
the War Department, at last awakened the United States military
authorities to active exertion. A quantity of troops were massed
before the "Pigeon Feet" encampment, and an attack was hourly
"Shine your boots, sir?"
It was the voice of a youth in humble attire, standing before the
flap of the commanding general's tent.
The General raised his head from his correspondence.
"Ah," he said, looking down on the humble boy, "I see; I shall
write that the appliances of civilization move steadily forward
with the army. Yes," he added, "you may shine my military boots.
You understand, however, that to get your pay you must first--"
"Make a requisition on the commissary-general, have it certified to
by the quartermaster, countersigned by the post-adjutant, and
submitted by you to the War Department--"
"And charged as stationery," added the General, gently. "You are,
I see, an intelligent and thoughtful boy. I trust you neither use
whisky, tobacco, nor are ever profane?"
"I promised my sainted mother--"
"Enough! Go on with your blacking; I have to lead the attack on
the 'Pigeon Feet' at eight precisely. It is now half-past seven,"
said the General, consulting a large kitchen clock that stood in
the corner of his tent.
The little boot-black looked up; the General was absorbed in his
correspondence. The boot-black drew a tin putty blower from his
pocket, took unerring aim, and nailed in a single shot the minute
hand to the dial. Going on with his blacking, yet stopping ever
and anon to glance over the General's plan of campaign, spread on
the table before him, he was at last interrupted by the entrance of
"Everything is ready for the attack, General. It is now eight
"Impossible! It is only half-past seven."
"But my watch and the watches of your staff--"
"Are regulated by my kitchen clock, that has been in my family for
years. Enough! It is only half-past seven."
The officer retired; the boot-black had finished one boot. Another
"Instead of attacking the enemy, General, we are attacked
ourselves. Our pickets are already driven in."
"Military pickets should not differ from other pickets,"
interrupted the boot-black, modestly. "To stand firmly they should
be well driven in."
"Ha! there is something in that," said the General, thoughtfully.
"But who are you, who speak thus?"
Rising to his full height, the boot-black threw off his outer rags,
and revealed the figure of the Boy Chief of the "Pigeon Feet."
"Treason!" shrieked the General; "order an advance along the whole
But in vain. The next moment he fell beneath the tomahawk of the
Boy Chief, and within the next quarter of an hour the United States
Army was dispersed. Thus ended the battle of Boot-black Creek.
And yet the Boy Chief was not entirely happy. Indeed, at times he
seriously thought of accepting the invitation extended by the Great
Chief at Washington, immediately after the massacre of the
soldiers, and once more revisiting the haunts of civilization. His
soul sickened in feverish inactivity; schoolmasters palled on his
taste; he had introduced base ball, blind hooky, marbles, and peg-
top among his Indian subjects, but only with indifferent success.
The squaws insisted in boring holes through the china alleys and
wearing them as necklaces; his warriors stuck spikes in their base
ball bats and made war clubs of them. He could not but feel, too,
that the gentle Mushymush, although devoted to her pale-faced
brother, was deficient in culinary education. Her mince pies were
abominable; her jam far inferior to that made by his Aunt Sally of
Doemville. Only an unexpected incident kept him equally from the
extreme of listless Sybaritic indulgence, or of morbid cynicism.
Indeed, at the age of twelve, he already had become disgusted with
He had returned to his wigwam after an exhausting buffalo hunt in
which he had slain two hundred and seventy-five buffalos with his
own hand, not counting the individual buffalo on which he had
leaped so as to join the herd, and which he afterward led into the
camp a captive and a present to the lovely Mushymush. He had
scalped two express riders and a correspondent of the "New York
Herald"; had despoiled the Overland Mail Stage of a quantity of
vouchers which enabled him to draw double rations from the
government, and was reclining on a bear skin, smoking and thinking
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