Heart of the West
Part 4 out of 5
With his courtliest smile upon his heavy but classic features, Judge
Menefee advanced, and took the apple, as if to examine it, from the
hand of Dunwoody. In his hand it became Exhibit A.
"A fine apple," he said, approvingly. "Really, my dear Mr. Dudwindy,
you have eclipsed all of us as a forager. But I have an idea. This
apple shall become an emblem, a token, a symbol, a prize bestowed by
the mind and heart of beauty upon the most deserving."
The audience, except one, applauded. "Good on the stump, ain't he?"
commented the passenger who was nobody in particular to the young man
who had an Agency.
The unresponsive one was the windmill man. He saw himself reduced to
the ranks. Never would the thought have occurred to him to declare his
apple an emblem. He had intended, after it had been divided and eaten,
to create diversion by sticking the seeds against his forehead and
naming them for young ladies of his acquaintance. One he was going to
name Mrs. McFarland. The seed that fell off first would be--but 'twas
too late now.
"The apple," continued Judge Menefee, charging his jury, "in modern
days occupies, though undeservedly, a lowly place in our esteem.
Indeed, it is so constantly associated with the culinary and the
commercial that it is hardly to be classed among the polite fruits.
But in ancient times this was not so. Biblical, historical, and
mythological lore abounds with evidences that the apple was the
aristocrat of fruits. We still say 'the apple of the eye' when we wish
to describe something superlatively precious. We find in Proverbs the
comparison to 'apples of silver.' No other product of tree or vine has
been so utilised in figurative speech. Who has not heard of and longed
for the 'apples of the Hesperides'? I need not call your attention to
the most tremendous and significant instance of the apple's ancient
prestige when its consumption by our first parents occasioned the fall
of man from his state of goodness and perfection."
"Apples like them," said the windmill man, lingering with the
objective article, "are worth $3.50 a barrel in the Chicago market."
"Now, what I have to propose," said Judge Menefee, conceding an
indulgent smile to his interrupter, "is this: We must remain here,
perforce, until morning. We have wood in plenty to keep us warm. Our
next need is to entertain ourselves as best we can, in order that the
time shall not pass too slowly. I propose that we place this apple in
the hands of Miss Garland. It is no longer a fruit, but, as I said, a
prize, in award, representing a great human idea. Miss Garland,
herself, shall cease to be an individual--but only temporarily, I am
happy to add"--(a low bow, full of the old-time grace). "She shall
represent her sex; she shall be the embodiment, the epitome of
womankind--the heart and brain, I may say, of God's masterpiece of
creation. In this guise she shall judge and decide the question which
"But a few minutes ago our friend, Mr. Rose, favoured us with an
entertaining but fragmentary sketch of the romance in the life of the
former professor of this habitation. The few facts that we have
learned seem to me to open up a fascinating field for conjecture, for
the study of human hearts, for the exercise of the imagination--in
short, for story-telling. Let us make use of the opportunity. Let each
one of us relate his own version of the story of Redruth, the hermit,
and his lady-love, beginning where Mr. Rose's narrative ends--at the
parting of the lovers at the gate. This much should be assumed and
conceded--that the young lady was not necessarily to blame for
Redruth's becoming a crazed and world-hating hermit. When we have
done, Miss Garland shall render the JUDGEMENT OF WOMAN. As the Spirit
of her Sex she shall decide which version of the story best and most
truly depicts human and love interest, and most faithfully estimates
the character and acts of Redruth's betrothed according to the
feminine view. The apple shall be bestowed upon him who is awarded the
decision. If you are all agreed, we shall be pleased to hear the first
story from Mr. Dinwiddie."
The last sentence captured the windmill man. He was not one to linger
in the dumps.
"That's a first-rate scheme, Judge," he said, heartily. "Be a regular
short-story vaudeville, won't it? I used to be correspondent for a
paper in Springfield, and when there wasn't any news I faked it. Guess
I can do my turn all right."
"I think the idea is charming," said the lady passenger, brightly. "It
will be almost like a game."
Judge Menefee stepped forward and placed the apple in her hand
"In olden days," he said, orotundly, "Paris awarded the golden apple
to the most beautiful."
"I was at the Exposition," remarked the windmill man, now cheerful
again, "but I never heard of it. And I was on the Midway, too, all the
time I wasn't at the machinery exhibit."
"But now," continued the Judge, "the fruit shall translate to us the
mystery and wisdom of the feminine heart. Take the apple, Miss
Garland. Hear our modest tales of romance, and then award the prize as
you may deem it just."
The lady passenger smiled sweetly. The apple lay in her lap beneath
her robes and wraps. She reclined against her protecting bulwark,
brightly and cosily at ease. But for the voices and the wind one might
have listened hopefully to hear her purr. Someone cast fresh logs upon
the fire. Judge Menefee nodded suavely. "Will you oblige us with the
initial story?" he asked.
The windmill man sat as sits a Turk, with his hat well back on his
head on account of the draughts.
"Well," he began, without any embarrassment, "this is about the way I
size up the difficulty: Of course Redruth was jostled a good deal by
this duck who had money to play ball with who tried to cut him out of
his girl. So he goes around, naturally, and asks her if the game is
still square. Well, nobody wants a guy cutting in with buggies and
gold bonds when he's got an option on a girl. Well, he goes around to
see her. Well, maybe he's hot, and talks like the proprietor, and
forgets that an engagement ain't always a lead-pipe cinch. Well, I
guess that makes Alice warm under the lacy yoke. Well, she answers
back sharp. Well, he--"
"Say!" interrupted the passenger who was nobody in particular, "if you
could put up a windmill on every one of them 'wells' you're using,
you'd be able to retire from business, wouldn't you?"
The windmill man grinned good-naturedly.
"Oh, I ain't no /Guy de Mopassong/," he said, cheerfully. "I'm giving
it to you in straight American. Well, she says something like this:
'Mr. Gold Bonds is only a friend,' says she; 'but he takes me riding
and buys me theatre tickets, and that's what you never do. Ain't I to
never have any pleasure in life while I can?' 'Pass this chatfield-
chatfield thing along,' says Redruth;--'hand out the mitt to the
Willie with creases in it or you don't put your slippers under my
"Now that kind of train orders don't go with a girl that's got any
spirit. I bet that girl loved her honey all the time. Maybe she only
wanted, as girls do, to work the good thing for a little fun and
caramels before she settled down to patch George's other pair, and be
a good wife. But he is glued to the high horse, and won't come down.
Well, she hands him back the ring, proper enough; and George goes away
and hits the booze. Yep. That's what done it. I bet that girl fired
the cornucopia with the fancy vest two days after her steady left.
George boards a freight and checks his bag of crackers for parts
unknown. He sticks to Old Booze for a number of years; and then the
aniline and aquafortis gets the decision. 'Me for the hermit's hut,'
says George, 'and the long whiskers, and the buried can of money that
"But that Alice, in my mind, was on the level. She never married, but
took up typewriting as soon as the wrinkles began to show, and kept a
cat that came when you said 'weeny--weeny--weeny!' I got too much
faith in good women to believe they throw down the fellow they're
stuck on every time for the dough." The windmill man ceased.
"I think," said the lady passenger, slightly moving upon her lowly
throne, "that that is a char--"
"Oh, Miss Garland!" interposed Judge Menefee, with uplifted hand, "I
beg of you, no comments! It would not be fair to the other
contestants. Mr.--er--will you take the next turn?" The Judge
addressed the young man who had the Agency.
"My version of the romance," began the young man, diffidently clasping
his hands, "would be this: They did not quarrel when they parted. Mr.
Redruth bade her good-by and went out into the world to seek his
fortune. He knew his love would remain true to him. He scorned the
thought that his rival could make an impression upon a heart so fond
and faithful. I would say that Mr. Redruth went out to the Rocky
Mountains in Wyoming to seek for gold. One day a crew of pirates
landed and captured him while at work, and--"
"Hey! what's that?" sharply called the passenger who was nobody in
particular--"a crew of pirates landed in the Rocky Mountains! Will you
tell us how they sailed--"
"Landed from a train," said the narrator, quietly and not without some
readiness. "They kept him prisoner in a cave for months, and then they
took him hundreds of miles away to the forests of Alaska. There a
beautiful Indian girl fell in love with him, but he remained true to
Alice. After another year of wandering in the woods, he set out with
"What diamonds?" asked the unimportant passenger, almost with
"The ones the saddlemaker showed him in the Peruvian temple," said the
other, somewhat obscurely. "When he reached home, Alice's mother led
him, weeping, to a green mound under a willow tree. 'Her heart was
broken when you left,' said her mother. 'And what of my rival--of
Chester McIntosh?' asked Mr. Redruth, as he knelt sadly by Alice's
grave. 'When he found out,' she answered, 'that her heart was yours,
he pined away day by day until, at length, he started a furniture
store in Grand Rapids. We heard lately that he was bitten to death by
an infuriated moose near South Bend, Ind., where he had gone to try to
forget scenes of civilisation.' With which, Mr. Redruth forsook the
face of mankind and became a hermit, as we have seen.
"My story," concluded the young man with an Agency, "may lack the
literary quality; but what I wanted it to show is that the young lady
remained true. She cared nothing for wealth in comparison with true
affection. I admire and believe in the fair sex too much to think
The narrator ceased, with a sidelong glance at the corner where
reclined the lady passenger.
Bildad Rose was next invited by Judge Menefee to contribute his story
in the contest for the apple of judgment. The stage-driver's essay was
"I'm not one of them lobo wolves," he said, "who are always blaming on
women the calamities of life. My testimony in regards to the fiction
story you ask for, Judge, will be about as follows: What ailed Redruth
was pure laziness. If he had up and slugged this Percival De Lacey
that tried to give him the outside of the road, and had kept Alice in
the grape-vine swing with the blind-bridle on, all would have been
well. The woman you want is sure worth taking pains for.
"'Send for me if you want me again,' says Redruth, and hoists his
Stetson, and walks off. He'd have called it pride, but the
nixycomlogical name for it is laziness. No woman don't like to run
after a man. 'Let him come back, hisself,' says the girl; and I'll be
bound she tells the boy with the pay ore to trot; and then spends her
time watching out the window for the man with the empty pocket-book
and the tickly moustache.
"I reckon Redruth waits about nine year expecting her to send him a
note by a nigger asking him to forgive her. But she don't. 'This game
won't work,' says Redruth; 'then so won't I.' And he goes in the
hermit business and raises whiskers. Yes; laziness and whiskers was
what done the trick. They travel together. You ever hear of a man with
long whiskers and hair striking a bonanza? No. Look at the Duke of
Marlborough and this Standard Oil snoozer. Have they got 'em?
"Now, this Alice didn't never marry, I'll bet a hoss. If Redruth had
married somebody else she might have done so, too. But he never turns
up. She has these here things they call fond memories, and maybe a
lock of hair and a corset steel that he broke, treasured up. Them sort
of articles is as good as a husband to some women. I'd say she played
out a lone hand. I don't blame no woman for old man Redruth's
abandonment of barber shops and clean shirts."
Next in order came the passenger who was nobody in particular.
Nameless to us, he travels the road from Paradise to Sunrise City.
But him you shall see, if the firelight be not too dim, as he responds
to the Judge's call.
A lean form, in rusty-brown clothing, sitting like a frog, his arms
wrapped about his legs, his chin resting upon his knees. Smooth,
oakum-coloured hair; long nose; mouth like a satyr's, with upturned,
tobacco-stained corners. An eye like a fish's; a red necktie with a
horseshoe pin. He began with a rasping chuckle that gradually formed
itself into words.
"Everybody wrong so far. What! a romance without any orange blossoms!
Ho, ho! My money on the lad with the butterfly tie and the certified
checks in his trouserings.
"Take 'em as they parted at the gate? All right. 'You never loved me,'
says Redruth, wildly, 'or you wouldn't speak to a man who can buy you
the ice-cream.' 'I hate him,' says she. 'I loathe his side-bar buggy;
I despise the elegant cream bonbons he sends me in gilt boxes covered
with real lace; I feel that I could stab him to the heart when he
presents me with a solid medallion locket with turquoises and pearls
running in a vine around the border. Away with him! 'Tis only you I
love.' 'Back to the cosey corner!' says Redruth. 'Was I bound and
lettered in East Aurora? Get platonic, if you please. No jack-pots for
mine. Go and hate your friend some more. For me the Nickerson girl on
Avenue B, and gum, and a trolley ride.'
"Around that night comes John W. Croesus. 'What! tears?' says he,
arranging his pearl pin. 'You have driven my lover away,' says little
Alice, sobbing: 'I hate the sight of you.' 'Marry me, then,' says John
W., lighting a Henry Clay. 'What!' she cries indignantly, 'marry you!
Never,' she says, 'until this blows over, and I can do some shopping,
and you see about the licence. There's a telephone next door if you
want to call up the county clerk.'"
The narrator paused to give vent to his cynical chuckle.
"Did they marry?" he continued. "Did the duck swallow the June-bug?
And then I take up the case of Old Boy Redruth. There's where you are
all wrong again, according to my theory. What turned him into a
hermit? One says laziness; one says remorse; one says booze. I say
women did it. How old is the old man now?" asked the speaker, turning
to Bildad Rose.
"I should say about sixty-five."
"All right. He conducted his hermit shop here for twenty years. Say he
was twenty-five when he took off his hat at the gate. That leaves
twenty years for him to account for, or else be docked. Where did he
spend that ten and two fives? I'll give you my idea. Up for bigamy.
Say there was the fat blonde in Saint Jo, and the panatela brunette at
Skillet Ridge, and the gold tooth down in the Kaw valley. Redruth gets
his cases mixed, and they send him up the road. He gets out after they
are through with him, and says: 'Any line for me except the crinoline.
The hermit trade is not overdone, and the stenographers never apply to
'em for work. The jolly hermit's life for me. No more long hairs in
the comb or dill pickles lying around in the cigar tray.' You tell me
they pinched old Redruth for the noodle villa just because he said he
was King Solomon? Figs! He /was/ Solomon. That's all of mine. I guess
it don't call for any apples. Enclosed find stamps. It don't sound
much like a prize winner."
Respecting the stricture laid by Judge Menefee against comments upon
the stories, all were silent when the passenger who was nobody in
particular had concluded. And then the ingenious originator of the
contest cleared his throat to begin the ultimate entry for the prize.
Though seated with small comfort upon the floor, you might search in
vain for any abatement of dignity in Judge Menefee. The now
diminishing firelight played softly upon his face, as clearly
chiselled as a Roman emperor's on some old coin, and upon the thick
waves of his honourable grey hair.
"A woman's heart!" he began, in even but thrilling tones--"who can
hope to fathom it? The ways and desires of men are various. I think
that the hearts of all women beat with the same rhythm, and to the
same old tune of love. Love, to a woman, means sacrifice. If she be
worthy of the name, no gold or rank will outweigh with her a genuine
"Gentlemen of the--er--I should say, my friends, the case of Redruth
/versus/ love and affection has been called. Yet, who is on trial? Not
Redruth, for he has been punished. Not those immortal passions that
clothe our lives with the joy of the angels. Then who? Each man of us
here to-night stands at the bar to answer if chivalry or darkness
inhabits his bosom. To judge us sits womankind in the form of one of
its fairest flowers. In her hand she holds the prize, intrinsically
insignificant, but worthy of our noblest efforts to win as a guerdon
of approval from so worthy a representative of feminine judgment and
"In taking up the imaginary history of Redruth and the fair being to
whom he gave his heart, I must, in the beginning, raise my voice
against the unworthy insinuation that the selfishness or perfidy or
love of luxury of any woman drove him to renounce the world. I have
not found woman to be so unspiritual or venal. We must seek elsewhere,
among man's baser nature and lower motives for the cause.
"There was, in all probability, a lover's quarrel as they stood at the
gate on that memorable day. Tormented by jealousy, young Redruth
vanished from his native haunts. But had he just cause to do so? There
is no evidence for or against. But there is something higher than
evidence; there is the grand, eternal belief in woman's goodness, in
her steadfastness against temptation, in her loyalty even in the face
of proffered riches.
"I picture to myself the rash lover, wandering, self-tortured, about
the world. I picture his gradual descent, and, finally, his complete
despair when he realises that he has lost the most precious gift life
had to offer him. Then his withdrawal from the world of sorrow and the
subsequent derangement of his faculties becomes intelligible.
"But what do I see on the other hand? A lonely woman fading away as
the years roll by; still faithful, still waiting, still watching for a
form and listening for a step that will come no more. She is old now.
Her hair is white and smoothly banded. Each day she sits at the door
and gazes longingly down the dusty road. In spirit she is waiting
there at the gate, just as he left her--his forever, but not here
below. Yes; my belief in woman paints that picture in my mind. Parted
forever on earth, but waiting! She in anticipation of a meeting in
Elysium; he in the Slough of Despond."
"I thought he was in the bughouse," said the passenger who was nobody
Judge Menefee stirred, a little impatiently. The men sat, drooping, in
grotesque attitudes. The wind had abated its violence; coming now in
fitful, virulent puffs. The fire had burned to a mass of red coals
which shed but a dim light within the room. The lady passenger in her
cosey nook looked to be but a formless dark bulk, crowned by a mass of
coiled, sleek hair and showing but a small space of snowy forehead
above her clinging boa.
Judge Menefee got stiffly to his feet.
"And now, Miss Garland," he announced, "we have concluded. It is for
you to award the prize to the one of us whose argument--especially, I
may say, in regard to his estimate of true womanhood--approaches
nearest to your own conception."
No answer came from the lady passenger. Judge Menefee bent over
solicitously. The passenger who was nobody in particular laughed low
and harshly. The lady was sleeping sweetly. The Judge essayed to take
her hand to awaken her. In doing so he touched a small, cold, round,
irregular something in her lap.
"She has eaten the apple," announced Judge Menefee, in awed tones, as
he held up the core for them to see.
THE MISSING CHORD
I stopped overnight at the sheep-ranch of Rush Kinney, on the Sandy
Fork of the Nueces. Mr. Kinney and I had been strangers up to the time
when I called "Hallo!" at his hitching-rack; but from that moment
until my departure on the next morning we were, according to the Texas
code, undeniable friends.
After supper the ranchman and I lugged our chairs outside the two-room
house, to its floorless gallery roofed with chaparral and sacuista
grass. With the rear legs of our chairs sinking deep into the
hardpacked loam, each of us reposed against an elm pillar of the
structure and smoked El Toro tobacco, while we wrangled amicably
concerning the affairs of the rest of the world.
As for conveying adequate conception of the engaging charm of that
prairie evening, despair waits upon it. It is a bold chronicler who
will undertake the description of a Texas night in the early spring.
An inventory must suffice.
The ranch rested upon the summit of a lenient slope. The ambient
prairie, diversified by arroyos and murky patches of brush and pear,
lay around us like a darkened bowl at the bottom of which we reposed
as dregs. Like a turquoise cover the sky pinned us there. The
miraculous air, heady with ozone and made memorably sweet by leagues
of wild flowerets, gave tang and savour to the breath. In the sky was
a great, round, mellow searchlight which we knew to be no moon, but
the dark lantern of summer, who came to hunt northward the cowering
spring. In the nearest corral a flock of sheep lay silent until a
groundless panic would send a squad of them huddling together with a
drumming rush. For other sounds a shrill family of coyotes yapped
beyond the shearing-pen, and whippoorwills twittered in the long
grass. But even these dissonances hardly rippled the clear torrent of
the mocking-birds' notes that fell from a dozen neighbouring shrubs
and trees. It would not have been preposterous for one to tiptoe and
essay to touch the stars, they hung so bright and imminent.
Mr. Kinney's wife, a young and capable woman, we had left in the
house. She remained to busy herself with the domestic round of duties,
in which I had observed that she seemed to take a buoyant and
contented pride. In one room we had supped. Presently, from the other,
as Kinney and I sat without, there burst a volume of sudden and
brilliant music. If I could justly estimate the art of piano-playing,
the construer of that rollicking fantasia had creditably mastered the
secrets of the keyboard. A piano, and one so well played, seemed to me
to be an unusual thing to find in that small and unpromising ranch-
house. I must have looked my surprise at Rush Kinney, for he laughed
in his soft, Southern way, and nodded at me through the moonlit haze
of our cigarettes.
"You don't often hear as agreeable a noise as that on a sheep-ranch,"
he remarked; "but I never see any reason for not playing up to the
arts and graces just because we happen to live out in the brush. It's
a lonesome life for a woman; and if a little music can make it any
better, why not have it? That's the way I look at it."
"A wise and generous theory," I assented. "And Mrs. Kinney plays well.
I am not learned in the science of music, but I should call her an
uncommonly good performer. She has technic and more than ordinary
The moon was very bright, you will understand, and I saw upon Kinney's
face a sort of amused and pregnant expression, as though there were
things behind it that might be expounded.
"You came up the trail from the Double-Elm Fork," he said promisingly.
"As you crossed it you must have seen an old deserted /jacal/ to your
left under a comma mott."
"I did," said I. "There was a drove of /javalis/ rooting around it. I
could see by the broken corrals that no one lived there."
"That's where this music proposition started," said Kinney. "I don't
mind telling you about it while we smoke. That's where old Cal Adams
lived. He had about eight hundred graded merinos and a daughter that
was solid silk and as handsome as a new stake-rope on a thirty-dollar
pony. And I don't mind telling you that I was guilty in the second
degree of hanging around old Cal's ranch all the time I could spare
away from lambing and shearing. Miss Marilla was her name; and I had
figured it out by the rule of two that she was destined to become the
chatelaine and lady superior of Rancho Lomito, belonging to R. Kinney,
Esq., where you are now a welcome and honoured guest.
"I will say that old Cal wasn't distinguished as a sheepman. He was a
little, old stoop-shouldered /hombre/ about as big as a gun scabbard,
with scraggy white whiskers, and condemned to the continuous use of
language. Old Cal was so obscure in his chosen profession that he
wasn't even hated by the cowmen. And when a sheepman don't get eminent
enough to acquire the hostility of the cattlemen, he is mighty apt to
die unwept and considerably unsung.
"But that Marilla girl was a benefit to the eye. And she was the most
elegant kind of a housekeeper. I was the nearest neighbour, and I used
to ride over to the Double-Elm anywhere from nine to sixteen times a
week with fresh butter or a quarter of venison or a sample of new
sheep-dip just as a frivolous excuse to see Marilla. Marilla and me
got to be extensively inveigled with each other, and I was pretty sure
I was going to get my rope around her neck and lead her over to the
Lomito. Only she was so everlastingly permeated with filial sentiments
toward old Cal that I never could get her to talk about serious
"You never saw anybody in your life that was as full of knowledge and
had less sense than old Cal. He was advised about all the branches of
information contained in learning, and he was up to all the rudiments
of doctrines and enlightenment. You couldn't advance him any ideas on
any of the parts of speech or lines of thought. You would have thought
he was a professor of the weather and politics and chemistry and
natural history and the origin of derivations. Any subject you brought
up old Cal could give you an abundant synopsis of it from the Greek
root up to the time it was sacked and on the market.
"One day just after the fall shearing I rides over to the Double-Elm
with a lady's magazine about fashions for Marilla and a scientific
paper for old Cal.
"While I was tying my pony to a mesquite, out runs Marilla, 'tickled
to death' with some news that couldn't wait.
"'Oh, Rush,' she says, all flushed up with esteem and gratification,
'what do you think! Dad's going to buy me a piano. Ain't it grand? I
never dreamed I'd ever have one."
"'It's sure joyful,' says I. 'I always admired the agreeable uproar of
a piano. It'll be lots of company for you. That's mighty good of Uncle
Cal to do that.'
"'I'm all undecided,' says Marilla, 'between a piano and an organ. A
parlour organ is nice.'
"'Either of 'em,' says I, 'is first-class for mitigating the lack of
noise around a sheep-ranch. For my part,' I says, 'I shouldn't like
anything better than to ride home of an evening and listen to a few
waltzes and jigs, with somebody about your size sitting on the piano-
stool and rounding up the notes.'
"'Oh, hush about that,' says Marilla, 'and go on in the house. Dad
hasn't rode out to-day. He's not feeling well.'
"Old Cal was inside, lying on a cot. He had a pretty bad cold and
cough. I stayed to supper.
"'Going to get Marilla a piano, I hear,' says I to him.
"'Why, yes, something of the kind, Rush,' says he. 'She's been
hankering for music for a long spell; and I allow to fix her up with
something in that line right away. The sheep sheared six pounds all
round this fall; and I'm going to get Marilla an instrument if it
takes the price of the whole clip to do it.'
"'/Star wayno/,' says I. 'The little girl deserves it.'
"'I'm going to San Antone on the last load of wool,' says Uncle Cal,
'and select an instrument for her myself.'
"'Wouldn't it be better,' I suggests, 'to take Marilla along and let
her pick out one that she likes?'
"I might have known that would set Uncle Cal going. Of course, a man
like him, that knew everything about everything, would look at that as
a reflection on his attainments.
"'No, sir, it wouldn't,' says he, pulling at his white whiskers.
'There ain't a better judge of musical instruments in the whole world
than what I am. I had an uncle,' says he, 'that was a partner in a
piano-factory, and I've seen thousands of 'em put together. I know all
about musical instruments from a pipe-organ to a corn-stalk fiddle.
There ain't a man lives, sir, that can tell me any news about any
instrument that has to be pounded, blowed, scraped, grinded, picked,
or wound with a key.'
"'You get me what you like, dad,' says Marilla, who couldn't keep her
feet on the floor from joy. 'Of course you know what to select. I'd
just as lief it was a piano or a organ or what.'
"'I see in St. Louis once what they call a orchestrion,' says Uncle
Cal, 'that I judged was about the finest thing in the way of music
ever invented. But there ain't room in this house for one. Anyway, I
imagine they'd cost a thousand dollars. I reckon something in the
piano line would suit Marilla the best. She took lessons in that
respect for two years over at Birdstail. I wouldn't trust the buying
of an instrument to anybody else but myself. I reckon if I hadn't took
up sheep-raising I'd have been one of the finest composers or piano-
and-organ manufacturers in the world.'
"That was Uncle Cal's style. But I never lost any patience with him,
on account of his thinking so much of Marilla. And she thought just as
much of him. He sent her to the academy over at Birdstail for two
years when it took nearly every pound of wool to pay the expenses.
"Along about Tuesday Uncle Cal put out for San Antone on the last
wagonload of wool. Marilla's uncle Ben, who lived in Birdstail, come
over and stayed at the ranch while Uncle Cal was gone.
"It was ninety miles to San Antone, and forty to the nearest railroad-
station, so Uncle Cal was gone about four days. I was over at the
Double-Elm when he came rolling back one evening about sundown. And up
there in the wagon, sure enough, was a piano or a organ--we couldn't
tell which--all wrapped up in woolsacks, with a wagon-sheet tied over
it in case of rain. And out skips Marilla, hollering, 'Oh, oh!' with
her eyes shining and her hair a-flying. 'Dad--dad,' she sings out,
'have you brought it--have you brought it?'--and it right there before
her eyes, as women will do.
"'Finest piano in San Antone,' says Uncle Cal, waving his hand, proud.
'Genuine rosewood, and the finest, loudest tone you ever listened to.
I heard the storekeeper play it, and I took it on the spot and paid
"Me and Ben and Uncle Cal and a Mexican lifted it out of the wagon and
carried it in the house and set it in a corner. It was one of them
upright instruments, and not very heavy or very big.
"And then all of a sudden Uncle Cal flops over and says he's mighty
sick. He's got a high fever, and he complains of his lungs. He gets
into bed, while me and Ben goes out to unhitch and put the horses in
the pasture, and Marilla flies around to get Uncle Cal something hot
to drink. But first she puts both arms on that piano and hugs it with
a soft kind of a smile, like you see kids doing with their Christmas
"When I came in from the pasture, Marilla was in the room where the
piano was. I could see by the strings and woolsacks on the floor that
she had had it unwrapped. But now she was tying the wagon-sheet over
it again, and there was a kind of solemn, whitish look on her face.
"'Ain't wrapping up the music again, are you, Marilla?' I asks.
'What's the matter with just a couple of tunes for to see how she goes
under the saddle?'
"'Not to-night, Rush,' says she. 'I don't want to play any to-night.
Dad's too sick. Just think, Rush, he paid three hundred dollars for it
--nearly a third of what the wool-clip brought!'
"'Well, it ain't anyways in the neighbourhood of a third of what you
are worth,' I told her. 'And I don't think Uncle Cal is too sick to
hear a little agitation of the piano-keys just to christen the
"'Not to-night, Rush,' says Marilla, in a way that she had when she
wanted to settle things.
"But it seems that Uncle Cal was plenty sick, after all. He got so bad
that Ben saddled up and rode over to Birdstail for Doc Simpson. I
stayed around to see if I'd be needed for anything.
"When Uncle Cal's pain let up on him a little he called Marilla and
says to her: 'Did you look at your instrument, honey? And do you like
"'It's lovely, dad,' says she, leaning down by his pillow; 'I never
saw one so pretty. How dear and good it was of you to buy it for me!'
"'I haven't heard you play on it any yet,' says Uncle Cal; 'and I've
been listening. My side don't hurt quite so bad now--won't you play a
"But no; she puts Uncle Cal off and soothes him down like you've seen
women do with a kid. It seems she's made up her mind not to touch that
piano at present.
"When Doc Simpson comes over he tells us that Uncle Cal has pneumonia
the worst kind; and as the old man was past sixty and nearly on the
lift anyhow, the odds was against his walking on grass any more.
"On the fourth day of his sickness he calls for Marilla again and
wants to talk piano. Doc Simpson was there, and so was Ben and Mrs.
Ben, trying to do all they could.
"'I'd have made a wonderful success in anything connected with music,'
says Uncle Cal. 'I got the finest instrument for the money in San
Antone. Ain't that piano all right in every respect, Marilla?'
"'It's just perfect, dad,' says she. 'It's got the finest tone I ever
heard. But don't you think you could sleep a little while now, dad?'
"'No, I don't,' says Uncle Cal. 'I want to hear that piano. I don't
believe you've even tried it yet. I went all the way to San Antone and
picked it out for you myself. It took a third of the fall clip to buy
it; but I don't mind that if it makes my good girl happier. Won't you
play a little bit for dad, Marilla?'
"Doc Simpson beckoned Marilla to one side and recommended her to do
what Uncle Cal wanted, so it would get him quieted. And her uncle Ben
and his wife asked her, too.
"'Why not hit out a tune or two with the soft pedal on?' I asks
Marilla. 'Uncle Cal has begged you so often. It would please him a
good deal to hear you touch up the piano he's bought for you. Don't
you think you might?'
"But Marilla stands there with big tears rolling down from her eyes
and says nothing. And then she runs over and slips her arm under Uncle
Cal's neck and hugs him tight.
"'Why, last night, dad,' we heard her say, 'I played it ever so much.
Honest--I have been playing it. And it's such a splendid instrument,
you don't know how I love it. Last night I played "Bonnie Dundee" and
the "Anvil Polka" and the "Blue Danube"--and lots of pieces. You must
surely have heard me playing a little, didn't you, dad? I didn't like
to play loud when you was so sick.'
"'Well, well,' says Uncle Cal, 'maybe I did. Maybe I did and forgot
about it. My head is a little cranky at times. I heard the man in the
store play it fine. I'm mighty glad you like it, Marilla. Yes, I
believe I could go to sleep a while if you'll stay right beside me
till I do.'
"There was where Marilla had me guessing. Much as she thought of that
old man, she wouldn't strike a note on that piano that he'd bought
her. I couldn't imagine why she told him she'd been playing it, for
the wagon-sheet hadn't ever been off of it since she put it back on
the same day it come. I knew she could play a little anyhow, for I'd
once heard her snatch some pretty fair dance-music out of an old piano
at the Charco Largo Ranch.
"Well, in about a week the pneumonia got the best of Uncle Cal. They
had the funeral over at Birdstail, and all of us went over. I brought
Marilla back home in my buckboard. Her uncle Ben and his wife were
going to stay there a few days with her.
"That night Marilla takes me in the room where the piano was, while
the others were out on the gallery.
"'Come here, Rush,' says she; 'I want you to see this now.'
"She unties the rope, and drags off the wagon-sheet.
"If you ever rode a saddle without a horse, or fired off a gun that
wasn't loaded, or took a drink out of an empty bottle, why, then you
might have been able to scare an opera or two out of the instrument
Uncle Cal had bought.
"Instead of a piano, it was one of the machines they've invented to
play the piano with. By itself it was about as musical as the holes of
a flute without the flute.
"And that was the piano that Uncle Cal had selected; and standing by
it was the good, fine, all-wool girl that never let him know it.
"And what you heard playing a while ago," concluded Mr. Kinney, "was
that same deputy-piano machine; only just at present it's shoved up
against a six-hundred-dollar piano that I bought for Marilla as soon
as we was married."
A CALL LOAN
In those days the cattlemen were the anointed. They were the grandees
of the grass, kings of the kine, lords of the lea, barons of beef and
bone. They might have ridden in golden chariots had their tastes so
inclined. The cattleman was caught in a stampede of dollars. It seemed
to him that he had more money than was decent. But when he had bought
a watch with precious stones set in the case so large that they hurt
his ribs, and a California saddle with silver nails and Angora skin
/suaderos/, and ordered everybody up to the bar for whisky--what else
was there for him to spend money for?
Not so circumscribed in expedient for the reduction of surplus wealth
were those lairds of the lariat who had womenfolk to their name. In
the breast of the rib-sprung sex the genius of purse lightening may
slumber through years of inopportunity, but never, my brothers, does
it become extinct.
So, out of the chaparral came Long Bill Longley from the Bar Circle
Branch on the Frio--a wife-driven man--to taste the urban joys of
success. Something like half a million dollars he had, with an income
Long Bill was a graduate of the camp and trail. Luck and thrift, a
cool head, and a telescopic eye for mavericks had raised him from
cowboy to be a cowman. Then came the boom in cattle, and Fortune,
stepping gingerly among the cactus thorns, came and emptied her
cornucopia at the doorstep of the ranch.
In the little frontier city of Chaparosa, Longley built a costly
residence. Here he became a captive, bound to the chariot of social
existence. He was doomed to become a leading citizen. He struggled for
a time like a mustang in his first corral, and then he hung up his
quirt and spurs. Time hung heavily on his hands. He organised the
First National Bank of Chaparosa, and was elected its president.
One day a dyspeptic man, wearing double-magnifying glasses, inserted
an official-looking card between the bars of the cashier's window of
the First National Bank. Five minutes later the bank force was dancing
at the beck and call of a national bank examiner.
This examiner, Mr. J. Edgar Todd, proved to be a thorough one.
At the end of it all the examiner put on his hat, and called the
president, Mr. William R. Longley, into the private office.
"Well, how do you find things?" asked Longley, in his slow, deep
tones. "Any brands in the round-up you didn't like the looks of?"
"The bank checks up all right, Mr. Longley," said Todd; "and I find
your loans in very good shape--with one exception. You are carrying
one very bad bit of paper--one that is so bad that I have been
thinking that you surely do not realise the serious position it places
you in. I refer to a call loan of $10,000 made to Thomas Merwin. Not
only is the amount in excess of the maximum sum the bank can loan any
individual legally, but it is absolutely without endorsement or
security. Thus you have doubly violated the national banking laws, and
have laid yourself open to criminal prosecution by the Government. A
report of the matter to the Comptroller of the Currency--which I am
bound to make--would, I am sure, result in the matter being turned
over to the Department of Justice for action. You see what a serious
thing it is."
Bill Longley was leaning his lengthy, slowly moving frame back in his
swivel chair. His hands were clasped behind his head, and he turned a
little to look the examiner in the face. The examiner was surprised to
see a smile creep about the rugged mouth of the banker, and a kindly
twinkle in his light-blue eyes. If he saw the seriousness of the
affair, it did not show in his countenance.
"Of course, you don't know Tom Merwin," said Longley, almost genially.
"Yes, I know about that loan. It hasn't any security except Tom
Merwin's word. Somehow, I've always found that when a man's word is
good it's the best security there is. Oh, yes, I know the Government
doesn't think so. I guess I'll see Tom about that note."
Mr. Todd's dyspepsia seemed to grow suddenly worse. He looked at the
chaparral banker through his double-magnifying glasses in amazement.
"You see," said Longley, easily explaining the thing away, "Tom heard
of 2000 head of two-year-olds down near Rocky Ford on the Rio Grande
that could be had for $8 a head. I reckon 'twas one of old Leandro
Garcia's outfits that he had smuggled over, and he wanted to make a
quick turn on 'em. Those cattle are worth $15 on the hoof in Kansas
City. Tom knew it and I knew it. He had $6,000, and I let him have
the $10,000 to make the deal with. His brother Ed took 'em on to
market three weeks ago. He ought to be back 'most any day now with the
money. When he comes Tom'll pay that note."
The bank examiner was shocked. It was, perhaps, his duty to step out
to the telegraph office and wire the situation to the Comptroller. But
he did not. He talked pointedly and effectively to Longley for three
minutes. He succeeded in making the banker understand that he stood
upon the border of a catastrophe. And then he offered a tiny loophole
"I am going to Hilldale's to-night," he told Longley, "to examine a
bank there. I will pass through Chaparosa on my way back. At twelve
o'clock to-morrow I shall call at this bank. If this loan has been
cleared out of the way by that time it will not be mentioned in my
report. If not--I will have to do my duty."
With that the examiner bowed and departed.
The President of the First National lounged in his chair half an hour
longer, and then he lit a mild cigar, and went over to Tom Merwin's
house. Merwin, a ranchman in brown duck, with a contemplative eye, sat
with his feet upon a table, plaiting a rawhide quirt.
"Tom," said Longley, leaning against the table, "you heard anything
from Ed yet?"
"Not yet," said Merwin, continuing his plaiting. "I guess Ed'll be
along back now in a few days."
"There was a bank examiner," said Longley, "nosing around our place
to-day, and he bucked a sight about that note of yours. You know I
know it's all right, but the thing /is/ against the banking laws. I
was pretty sure you'd have paid it off before the bank was examined
again, but the son-of-a-gun slipped in on us, Tom. Now, I'm short of
cash myself just now, or I'd let you have the money to take it up
with. I've got till twelve o'clock to-morrow, and then I've got to
show the cash in place of that note or--"
"Or what, Bill?" asked Merwin, as Longley hesitated.
"Well, I suppose it means be jumped on with both of Uncle Sam's feet."
"I'll try to raise the money for you on time," said Merwin, interested
in his plaiting.
"All right, Tom," concluded Longley, as he turned toward the door; "I
knew you would if you could."
Merwin threw down his whip and went to the only other bank in town, a
private one, run by Cooper & Craig.
"Cooper," he said, to the partner by that name, "I've got to have
$10,000 to-day or to-morrow. I've got a house and lot there that's
worth about $6,000 and that's all the actual collateral. But I've got
a cattle deal on that's sure to bring me in more than that much profit
within a few days."
Cooper began to cough.
"Now, for God's sake don't say no," said Merwin. "I owe that much
money on a call loan. It's been called, and the man that called it is
a man I've laid on the same blanket with in cow-camps and ranger-camps
for ten years. He can call anything I've got. He can call the blood
out of my veins and it'll come. He's got to have the money. He's in a
devil of a--Well, he needs the money, and I've got to get it for him.
You know my word's good, Cooper."
"No doubt of it," assented Cooper, urbanely, "but I've a partner, you
know. I'm not free in making loans. And even if you had the best
security in your hands, Merwin, we couldn't accommodate you in less
than a week. We're just making a shipment of $15,000 to Myer Brothers
in Rockdell, to buy cotton with. It goes down on the narrow-gauge
to-night. That leaves our cash quite short at present. Sorry we can't
arrange it for you."
Merwin went back to his little bare office and plaited at his quirt
again. About four o'clock in the afternoon he went to the First
National Bank and leaned over the railing of Longley's desk.
"I'll try to get that money for you to-night--I mean to-morrow, Bill."
"All right, Tom," said Longley quietly.
At nine o'clock that night Tom Merwin stepped cautiously out of the
small frame house in which he lived. It was near the edge of the
little town, and few citizens were in the neighbourhood at that hour.
Merwin wore two six-shooters in a belt, and a slouch hat. He moved
swiftly down a lonely street, and then followed the sandy road that
ran parallel to the narrow-gauge track until he reached the water-
tank, two miles below the town. There Tom Merwin stopped, tied a black
silk handkerchief about the lower part of his face, and pulled his hat
In ten minutes the night train for Rockdell pulled up at the tank,
having come from Chaparosa.
With a gun in each hand Merwin raised himself from behind a clump of
chaparral and started for the engine. But before he had taken three
steps, two long, strong arms clasped him from behind, and he was
lifted from his feet and thrown, face downward upon the grass. There
was a heavy knee pressing against his back, and an iron hand grasping
each of his wrists. He was held thus, like a child, until the engine
had taken water, and until the train had moved, with accelerating
speed, out of sight. Then he was released, and rose to his feet to
face Bill Longley.
"The case never needed to be fixed up this way, Tom," said Longley. "I
saw Cooper this evening, and he told me what you and him talked about.
Then I went down to your house to-night and saw you come out with your
guns on, and I followed you. Let's go back, Tom."
They walked away together, side by side.
"'Twas the only chance I saw," said Merwin presently. "You called your
loan, and I tried to answer you. Now, what'll you do, Bill, if they
sock it to you?"
"What would you have done if they'd socked it to you?" was the answer
"I never thought I'd lay in a bush to stick up a train," remarked
Merwin; "but a call loan's different. A call's a call with me. We've
got twelve hours yet, Bill, before this spy jumps onto you. We've got
to raise them spondulicks somehow. Maybe we can--Great Sam Houston! do
you hear that?"
Merwin broke into a run, and Longley kept with him, hearing only a
rather pleasing whistle somewhere in the night rendering the
lugubrious air of "The Cowboy's Lament."
"It's the only tune he knows," shouted Merwin, as he ran. "I'll bet--"
They were at the door of Merwin's house. He kicked it open and fell
over an old valise lying in the middle of the floor. A sunburned,
firm-jawed youth, stained by travel, lay upon the bed puffing at a
"What's the word, Ed?" gasped Merwin.
"So, so," drawled that capable youngster. "Just got in on the 9:30.
Sold the bunch for fifteen, straight. Now, buddy, you want to quit
kickin' a valise around that's got $29,000 in greenbacks in its
THE PRINCESS AND THE PUMA
There had to be a king and queen, of course. The king was a terrible
old man who wore six-shooters and spurs, and shouted in such a
tremendous voice that the rattlers on the prairie would run into their
holes under the prickly pear. Before there was a royal family they
called the man "Whispering Ben." When he came to own 50,000 acres of
land and more cattle than he could count, they called him O'Donnell
"the Cattle King."
The queen had been a Mexican girl from Laredo. She made a good, mild,
Colorado-claro wife, and even succeeded in teaching Ben to modify his
voice sufficiently while in the house to keep the dishes from being
broken. When Ben got to be king she would sit on the gallery of
Espinosa Ranch and weave rush mats. When wealth became so irresistible
and oppressive that upholstered chairs and a centre table were brought
down from San Antone in the wagons, she bowed her smooth, dark head,
and shared the fate of the Danae.
To avoid /lese-majeste/ you have been presented first to the king and
queen. They do not enter the story, which might be called "The
Chronicle of the Princess, the Happy Thought, and the Lion that
Bungled his Job."
Josefa O'Donnell was the surviving daughter, the princess. From her
mother she inherited warmth of nature and a dusky, semi-tropic beauty.
From Ben O'Donnell the royal she acquired a store of intrepidity,
common sense, and the faculty of ruling. The combination was one worth
going miles to see. Josefa while riding her pony at a gallop could put
five out of six bullets through a tomato-can swinging at the end of a
string. She could play for hours with a white kitten she owned,
dressing it in all manner of absurd clothes. Scorning a pencil, she
could tell you out of her head what 1545 two-year-olds would bring on
the hoof, at $8.50 per head. Roughly speaking, the Espinosa Ranch is
forty miles long and thirty broad--but mostly leased land. Josefa, on
her pony, had prospected over every mile of it. Every cow-puncher on
the range knew her by sight and was a loyal vassal. Ripley Givens,
foreman of one of the Espinosa outfits, saw her one day, and made up
his mind to form a royal matrimonial alliance. Presumptuous? No. In
those days in the Nueces country a man was a man. And, after all, the
title of cattle king does not presuppose blood royalty. Often it only
signifies that its owner wears the crown in token of his magnificent
qualities in the art of cattle stealing.
One day Ripley Givens rode over to the Double Elm Ranch to inquire
about a bunch of strayed yearlings. He was late in setting out on his
return trip, and it was sundown when he struck the White Horse
Crossing of the Nueces. From there to his own camp it was sixteen
miles. To the Espinosa ranch it was twelve. Givens was tired. He
decided to pass the night at the Crossing.
There was a fine water hole in the river-bed. The banks were thickly
covered with great trees, undergrown with brush. Back from the water
hole fifty yards was a stretch of curly mesquite grass--supper for his
horse and bed for himself. Givens staked his horse, and spread out his
saddle blankets to dry. He sat down with his back against a tree and
rolled a cigarette. From somewhere in the dense timber along the river
came a sudden, rageful, shivering wail. The pony danced at the end of
his rope and blew a whistling snort of comprehending fear. Givens
puffed at his cigarette, but he reached leisurely for his pistol-belt,
which lay on the grass, and twirled the cylinder of his weapon
tentatively. A great gar plunged with a loud splash into the water
hole. A little brown rabbit skipped around a bunch of catclaw and sat
twitching his whiskers and looking humorously at Givens. The pony went
on eating grass.
It is well to be reasonably watchful when a Mexican lion sings soprano
along the arroyos at sundown. The burden of his song may be that young
calves and fat lambs are scarce, and that he has a carnivorous desire
for your acquaintance.
In the grass lay an empty fruit can, cast there by some former
sojourner. Givens caught sight of it with a grunt of satisfaction. In
his coat pocket tied behind his saddle was a handful or two of ground
coffee. Black coffee and cigarettes! What ranchero could desire more?
In two minutes he had a little fire going clearly. He started, with
his can, for the water hole. When within fifteen yards of its edge he
saw, between the bushes, a side-saddled pony with down-dropped reins
cropping grass a little distance to his left. Just rising from her
hands and knees on the brink of the water hole was Josefa O'Donnell.
She had been drinking water, and she brushed the sand from the palms
of her hands. Ten yards away, to her right, half concealed by a clump
of sacuista, Givens saw the crouching form of the Mexican lion. His
amber eyeballs glared hungrily; six feet from them was the tip of the
tail stretched straight, like a pointer's. His hind-quarters rocked
with the motion of the cat tribe preliminary to leaping.
Givens did what he could. His six-shooter was thirty-five yards away
lying on the grass. He gave a loud yell, and dashed between the lion
and the princess.
The "rucus," as Givens called it afterward, was brief and somewhat
confused. When he arrived on the line of attack he saw a dim streak in
the air, and heard a couple of faint cracks. Then a hundred pounds of
Mexican lion plumped down upon his head and flattened him, with a
heavy jar, to the ground. He remembered calling out: "Let up, now--no
fair gouging!" and then he crawled from under the lion like a worm,
with his mouth full of grass and dirt, and a big lump on the back of
his head where it had struck the root of a water-elm. The lion lay
motionless. Givens, feeling aggrieved, and suspicious of fouls, shook
his fist at the lion, and shouted: "I'll rastle you again for
twenty--" and then he got back to himself.
Josefa was standing in her tracks, quietly reloading her silver-
mounted .38. It had not been a difficult shot. The lion's head made an
easier mark than a tomato-can swinging at the end of a string. There
was a provoking, teasing, maddening smile upon her mouth and in her
dark eyes. The would-be-rescuing knight felt the fire of his fiasco
burn down to his soul. Here had been his chance, the chance that he
had dreamed of; and Momus, and not Cupid, had presided over it. The
satyrs in the wood were, no doubt, holding their sides in hilarious,
silent laughter. There had been something like vaudeville--say Signor
Givens and his funny knockabout act with the stuffed lion.
"Is that you, Mr. Givens?" said Josefa, in her deliberate, saccharine
contralto. "You nearly spoilt my shot when you yelled. Did you hurt
your head when you fell?"
"Oh, no," said Givens, quietly; "that didn't hurt." He stooped
ignominiously and dragged his best Stetson hat from under the beast.
It was crushed and wrinkled to a fine comedy effect. Then he knelt
down and softly stroked the fierce, open-jawed head of the dead lion.
"Poor old Bill!" he exclaimed mournfully.
"What's that?" asked Josefa, sharply.
"Of course you didn't know, Miss Josefa," said Givens, with an air of
one allowing magnanimity to triumph over grief. "Nobody can blame you.
I tried to save him, but I couldn't let you know in time."
"Why, Bill. I've been looking for him all day. You see, he's been our
camp pet for two years. Poor old fellow, he wouldn't have hurt a
cottontail rabbit. It'll break the boys all up when they hear about
it. But you couldn't tell, of course, that Bill was just trying to
play with you."
Josefa's black eyes burned steadily upon him. Ripley Givens met the
test successfully. He stood rumpling the yellow-brown curls on his
head pensively. In his eye was regret, not unmingled with a gentle
reproach. His smooth features were set to a pattern of indisputable
sorrow. Josefa wavered.
"What was your pet doing here?" she asked, making a last stand.
"There's no camp near the White Horse Crossing."
"The old rascal ran away from camp yesterday," answered Givens
readily. "It's a wonder the coyotes didn't scare him to death. You
see, Jim Webster, our horse wrangler, brought a little terrier pup
into camp last week. The pup made life miserable for Bill--he used to
chase him around and chew his hind legs for hours at a time. Every
night when bedtime came Bill would sneak under one of the boy's
blankets and sleep to keep the pup from finding him. I reckon he must
have been worried pretty desperate or he wouldn't have run away. He
was always afraid to get out of sight of camp."
Josefa looked at the body of the fierce animal. Givens gently patted
one of the formidable paws that could have killed a yearling calf with
one blow. Slowly a red flush widened upon the dark olive face of the
girl. Was it the signal of shame of the true sportsman who has brought
down ignoble quarry? Her eyes grew softer, and the lowered lids drove
away all their bright mockery.
"I'm very sorry," she said humbly; "but he looked so big, and jumped
so high that--"
"Poor old Bill was hungry," interrupted Givens, in quick defence of
the deceased. "We always made him jump for his supper in camp. He
would lie down and roll over for a piece of meat. When he saw you he
thought he was going to get something to eat from you."
Suddenly Josefa's eyes opened wide.
"I might have shot you!" she exclaimed. "You ran right in between. You
risked your life to save your pet! That was fine, Mr. Givens. I like a
man who is kind to animals."
Yes; there was even admiration in her gaze now. After all, there was a
hero rising out of the ruins of the anti-climax. The look on Givens's
face would have secured him a high position in the S.P.C.A.
"I always loved 'em," said he; "horses, dogs, Mexican lions, cows,
"I hate alligators," instantly demurred Josefa; "crawly, muddy
"Did I say alligators?" said Givens. "I meant antelopes, of course."
Josefa's conscience drove her to make further amends. She held out her
hand penitently. There was a bright, unshed drop in each of her eyes.
"Please forgive me, Mr. Givens, won't you? I'm only a girl, you know,
and I was frightened at first. I'm very, very sorry I shot Bill. You
don't know how ashamed I feel. I wouldn't have done it for anything."
Givens took the proffered hand. He held it for a time while he allowed
the generosity of his nature to overcome his grief at the loss of
Bill. At last it was clear that he had forgiven her.
"Please don't speak of it any more, Miss Josefa. 'Twas enough to
frighten any young lady the way Bill looked. I'll explain it all right
to the boys."
"Are you really sure you don't hate me?" Josefa came closer to him
impulsively. Her eyes were sweet--oh, sweet and pleading with gracious
penitence. "I would hate anyone who would kill my kitten. And how
daring and kind of you to risk being shot when you tried to save him!
How very few men would have done that!" Victory wrested from defeat!
Vaudeville turned into drama! Bravo, Ripley Givens!
It was now twilight. Of course Miss Josefa could not be allowed to
ride on to the ranch-house alone. Givens resaddled his pony in spite
of that animal's reproachful glances, and rode with her. Side by side
they galloped across the smooth grass, the princess and the man who
was kind to animals. The prairie odours of fruitful earth and delicate
bloom were thick and sweet around them. Coyotes yelping over there on
the hill! No fear. And yet--
Josefa rode closer. A little hand seemed to grope. Givens found it
with his own. The ponies kept an even gait. The hands lingered
together, and the owner of one explained:
"I never was frightened before, but just think! How terrible it would
be to meet a really wild lion! Poor Bill! I'm so glad you came with
O'Donnell was sitting on the ranch gallery.
"Hello, Rip!" he shouted--"that you?"
"He rode in with me," said Josefa. "I lost my way and was late."
"Much obliged," called the cattle king. "Stop over, Rip, and ride to
camp in the morning."
But Givens would not. He would push on to camp. There was a bunch of
steers to start off on the trail at daybreak. He said good-night, and
An hour later, when the lights were out, Josefa, in her night-robe,
came to her door and called to the king in his own room across the
"Say, pop, you know that old Mexican lion they call the 'Gotch-eared
Devil'--the one that killed Gonzales, Mr. Martin's sheep herder, and
about fifty calves on the Salado range? Well, I settled his hash this
afternoon over at the White Horse Crossing. Put two balls in his head
with my .38 while he was on the jump. I knew him by the slice gone
from his left ear that old Gonzales cut off with his machete. You
couldn't have made a better shot yourself, daddy."
"Bully for you!" thundered Whispering Ben from the darkness of the
THE INDIAN SUMMER OF DRY VALLEY JOHNSON
Dry Valley Johnson shook the bottle. You have to shake the bottle
before using; for sulphur will not dissolve. Then Dry Valley saturated
a small sponge with the liquid and rubbed it carefully into the roots
of his hair. Besides sulphur there was sugar of lead in it and
tincture of nux vomica and bay rum. Dry Valley found the recipe in a
Sunday newspaper. You must next be told why a strong man came to fall
a victim to a Beauty Hint.
Dry Valley had been a sheepman. His real name was Hector, but he had
been rechristened after his range to distinguish him from "Elm Creek"
Johnson, who ran sheep further down the Frio.
Many years of living face to face with sheep on their own terms
wearied Dry Valley Johnson. So, he sold his ranch for eighteen
thousand dollars and moved to Santa Rosa to live a life of gentlemanly
ease. Being a silent and melancholy person of thirty-five--or perhaps
thirty-eight--he soon became that cursed and earth-cumbering thing--an
elderlyish bachelor with a hobby. Some one gave him his first
strawberry to eat, and he was done for.
Dry Valley bought a four-room cottage in the village, and a library on
strawberry culture. Behind the cottage was a garden of which he made a
strawberry patch. In his old grey woolen shirt, his brown duck
trousers, and high-heeled boots he sprawled all day on a canvas cot
under a live-oak tree at his back door studying the history of the
seductive, scarlet berry.
The school teacher, Miss De Witt, spoke of him as "a fine, presentable
man, for all his middle age." But, the focus of Dry Valley's eyes
embraced no women. They were merely beings who flew skirts as a signal
for him to lift awkwardly his heavy, round-crowned, broad-brimmed felt
Stetson whenever he met them, and then hurry past to get back to his
And all this recitative by the chorus is only to bring us to the point
where you may be told why Dry Valley shook up the insoluble sulphur in
the bottle. So long-drawn and inconsequential a thing is history--the
anamorphous shadow of a milestone reaching down the road between us
and the setting sun.
When his strawberries were beginning to ripen Dry Valley bought the
heaviest buggy whip in the Santa Rosa store. He sat for many hours
under the live oak tree plaiting and weaving in an extension to its
lash. When it was done he could snip a leaf from a bush twenty feet
away with the cracker. For the bright, predatory eyes of Santa Rosa
youth were watching the ripening berries, and Dry Valley was arming
himself against their expected raids. No greater care had he taken of
his tender lambs during his ranching days than he did of his cherished
fruit, warding it from the hungry wolves that whistled and howled and
shot their marbles and peered through the fence that surrounded his
In the house next to Dry Valley's lived a widow with a pack of
children that gave the husbandman frequent anxious misgivings. In the
woman there was a strain of the Spanish. She had wedded one of the
name of O'Brien. Dry Valley was a connoisseur in cross strains; and he
foresaw trouble in the offspring of this union.
Between the two homesteads ran a crazy picket fence overgrown with
morning glory and wild gourd vines. Often he could see little heads
with mops of black hair and flashing dark eyes dodging in and out
between the pickets, keeping tabs on the reddening berries.
Late one afternoon Dry Valley went to the post office. When he came
back, like Mother Hubbard he found the deuce to pay. The descendants
of Iberian bandits and Hibernian cattle raiders had swooped down upon
his strawberry patch. To the outraged vision of Dry Valley there
seemed to be a sheep corral full of them; perhaps they numbered five
or six. Between the rows of green plants they were stooped, hopping
about like toads, gobbling silently and voraciously his finest fruit.
Dry Valley slipped into the house, got his whip, and charged the
marauders. The lash curled about the legs of the nearest--a greedy
ten-year-old--before they knew they were discovered. His screech gave
warning; and the flock scampered for the fence like a drove of
/javelis/ flushed in the chaparral. Dry Valley's whip drew a toll of
two more elfin shrieks before they dived through the vine-clad fence
Dry Valley, less fleet, followed them nearly to the pickets. Checking
his useless pursuit, he rounded a bush, dropped his whip and stood,
voiceless, motionless, the capacity of his powers consumed by the act
of breathing and preserving the perpendicular.
Behind the bush stood Panchita O'Brien, scorning to fly. She was
nineteen, the oldest of the raiders. Her night-black hair was gathered
back in a wild mass and tied with a scarlet ribbon. She stood, with
reluctant feet, yet nearer the brook than to the river; for childhood
had environed and detained her.
She looked at Dry Valley Johnson for a moment with magnificent
insolence, and before his eyes slowly crunched a luscious berry
between her white teeth. Then she turned and walked slowly to the
fence with a swaying, conscious motion, such as a duchess might make
use of in leading a promenade. There she turned again and grilled Dry
Valley Johnson once more in the dark flame of her audacious eyes,
laughed a trifle school-girlishly, and twisted herself with pantherish
quickness between the pickets to the O'Brien side of the wild gourd
Dry Valley picked up his whip and went into his house. He stumbled as
he went up the two wooden steps. The old Mexican woman who cooked his
meals and swept his house called him to supper as he went through the
rooms. Dry Valley went on, stumbled down the front steps, out the gate
and down the road into a mesquite thicket at the edge of town. He sat
down in the grass and laboriously plucked the spines from a prickly
pear, one by one. This was his attitude of thought, acquired in the
days when his problems were only those of wind and wool and water.
A thing had happened to the man--a thing that, if you are eligible,
you must pray may pass you by. He had become enveloped in the Indian
Summer of the Soul.
Dry Valley had had no youth. Even his childhood had been one of
dignity and seriousness. At six he had viewed the frivolous gambols of
the lambs on his father's ranch with silent disapproval. His life as a
young man had been wasted. The divine fires and impulses, the glorious
exaltations and despairs, the glow and enchantment of youth had passed
above his head. Never a thrill of Romeo had he known; he was but a
melancholy Jaques of the forest with a ruder philosophy, lacking the
bitter-sweet flavour of experience that tempered the veteran years of
the rugged ranger of Arden. And now in his sere and yellow leaf one
scornful look from the eyes of Panchita O'Brien had flooded the
autumnal landscape with a tardy and delusive summer heat.
But a sheepman is a hardy animal. Dry Valley Johnson had weathered too
many northers to turn his back on a late summer, spiritual or real.
Old? He would show them.
By the next mail went an order to San Antonio for an outfit of the
latest clothes, colours and styles and prices no object. The next day
went the recipe for the hair restorer clipped from a newspaper; for
Dry Valley's sunburned auburn hair was beginning to turn silvery above
Dry Valley kept indoors closely for a week except for frequent sallies
after youthful strawberry snatchers. Then, a few days later, he
suddenly emerged brilliantly radiant in the hectic glow of his belated
A jay-bird-blue tennis suit covered him outwardly, almost as far as
his wrists and ankles. His shirt was ox-blood; his collar winged and
tall; his necktie a floating oriflamme; his shoes a venomous bright
tan, pointed and shaped on penitential lasts. A little flat straw hat
with a striped band desecrated his weather-beaten head. Lemon-coloured
kid gloves protected his oak-tough hands from the benignant May
sunshine. This sad and optic-smiting creature teetered out of its den,
smiling foolishly and smoothing its gloves for men and angels to see.
To such a pass had Dry Valley Johnson been brought by Cupid, who
always shoots game that is out of season with an arrow from the quiver
of Momus. Reconstructing mythology, he had risen, a prismatic macaw,
from the ashes of the grey-brown phoenix that had folded its tired
wings to roost under the trees of Santa Rosa.
Dry Valley paused in the street to allow Santa Rosans within sight of
him to be stunned; and then deliberately and slowly, as his shoes
required, entered Mrs. O'Brien's gate.
Not until the eleven months' drought did Santa Rosa cease talking
about Dry Valley Johnson's courtship of Panchita O'Brien. It was an
unclassifiable procedure; something like a combination of cake-
walking, deaf-and-dumb oratory, postage stamp flirtation and parlour
charades. It lasted two weeks and then came to a sudden end.
Of course Mrs. O'Brien favoured the match as soon as Dry Valley's
intentions were disclosed. Being the mother of a woman child, and
therefore a charter member of the Ancient Order of the Rat-trap, she
joyfully decked out Panchita for the sacrifice. The girl was
temporarily dazzled by having her dresses lengthened and her hair
piled up on her head, and came near forgetting that she was only a
slice of cheese. It was nice, too, to have as good a match as Mr.
Johnson paying you attentions and to see the other girls fluttering
the curtains at their windows to see you go by with him.
Dry Valley bought a buggy with yellow wheels and a fine trotter in San
Antonio. Every day he drove out with Panchita. He was never seen to
speak to her when they were walking or driving. The consciousness of
his clothes kept his mind busy; the knowledge that he could say
nothing of interest kept him dumb; the feeling that Panchita was there
kept him happy.
He took her to parties and dances, and to church. He tried--oh, no man
ever tried so hard to be young as Dry Valley did. He could not dance;
but he invented a smile which he wore on these joyous occasions, a
smile that, in him, was as great a concession to mirth and gaiety as
turning hand-springs would be in another. He began to seek the company
of the young men in the town--even of the boys. They accepted him as a
decided damper, for his attempts at sportiveness were so forced that
they might as well have essayed their games in a cathedral. Neither he
nor any other could estimate what progress he had made with Panchita.
The end came suddenly in one day, as often disappears the false
afterglow before a November sky and wind.
Dry Valley was to call for the girl one afternoon at six for a walk.
An afternoon walk in Santa Rosa was a feature of social life that
called for the pink of one's wardrobe. So Dry Valley began gorgeously
to array himself; and so early that he finished early, and went over
to the O'Brien cottage. As he neared the porch on the crooked walk
from the gate he heard sounds of revelry within. He stopped and looked
through the honeysuckle vines in the open door.
Panchita was amusing her younger brothers and sisters. She wore a
man's clothes--no doubt those of the late Mr. O'Brien. On her head was
the smallest brother's straw hat decorated with an ink-striped paper
band. On her hands were flapping yellow cloth gloves, roughly cut out
and sewn for the masquerade. The same material covered her shoes,
giving them the semblance of tan leather. High collar and flowing
necktie were not omitted.
Panchita was an actress. Dry Valley saw his affectedly youthful gait,
his limp where the right shoe hurt him, his forced smile, his awkward
simulation of a gallant air, all reproduced with startling fidelity.
For the first time a mirror had been held up to him. The corroboration
of one of the youngsters calling, "Mamma, come and see Pancha do like
Mr. Johnson," was not needed.
As softly as the caricatured tans would permit, Dry Valley tiptoed
back to the gate and home again.
Twenty minutes after the time appointed for the walk Panchita tripped
demurely out of her gate in a thin, trim white lawn and sailor hat.
She strolled up the sidewalk and slowed her steps at Dry Valley's
gate, her manner expressing wonder at his unusual delinquency.
Then out of his door and down the walk strode--not the polychromatic
victim of a lost summertime, but the sheepman, rehabilitated. He wore
his old grey woolen shirt, open at the throat, his brown duck trousers
stuffed into his run-over boots, and his white felt sombrero on the
back of his head. Twenty years or fifty he might look; Dry Valley
cared not. His light blue eyes met Panchita's dark ones with a cold
flash in them. He came as far as the gate. He pointed with his long
arm to her house.
"Go home," said Dry Valley. "Go home to your mother. I wonder
lightnin' don't strike a fool like me. Go home and play in the sand.
What business have you got cavortin' around with grown men? I reckon I
was locoed to be makin' a he poll-parrot out of myself for a kid like
you. Go home and don't let me see you no more. Why I done it, will
somebody tell me? Go home, and let me try and forget it."
Panchita obeyed and walked slowly toward her home, saying nothing. For
some distance she kept her head turned and her large eyes fixed
intrepidly upon Dry Valley's. At her gate she stood for a moment
looking back at him, then ran suddenly and swiftly into the house.
Old Antonia was building a fire in the kitchen stove. Dry Valley
stopped at the door and laughed harshly.
"I'm a pretty looking old rhinoceros to be gettin' stuck on a kid,
ain't I, 'Tonia?" said he.
"Not verree good thing," agreed Antonia, sagely, "for too much old man
to likee /muchacha/."
"You bet it ain't," said Dry Valley, grimly. "It's dum foolishness;
and, besides, it hurts."
He brought at one armful the regalia of his aberration--the blue
tennis suit, shoes, hat, gloves and all, and threw them in a pile at
"Give them to your old man," said he, "to hunt antelope in."
Just as the first star presided palely over the twilight Dry Valley
got his biggest strawberry book and sat on the back steps to catch the
last of the reading light. He thought he saw the figure of someone in
his strawberry patch. He laid aside the book, got his whip and hurried
forth to see.
It was Panchita. She had slipped through the picket fence and was
half-way across the patch. She stopped when she saw him and looked at
him without wavering.
A sudden rage--a humiliating flush of unreasoning wrath--came over Dry
Valley. For this child he had made himself a motley to the view. He
had tried to bribe Time to turn backward for himself; he had--been
made a fool of. At last he had seen his folly. There was a gulf
between him and youth over which he could not build a bridge even with
yellow gloves to protect his hands. And the sight of his torment
coming to pester him with her elfin pranks--coming to plunder his
strawberry vines like a mischievous schoolboy--roused all his anger.
"I told you to keep away from here," said Dry Valley. "Go back to your
Panchita moved slowly toward him.
Dry Valley cracked his whip.
"Go back home," said Dry Valley, savagely, "and play theatricals some
more. You'd make a fine man. You've made a fine one of me."
She came a step nearer, silent, and with that strange, defiant, steady
shine in her eyes that had always puzzled him. Now it stirred his
His whiplash whistled through the air. He saw a red streak suddenly
come out through her white dress above her knee where it had struck.
Without flinching and with the same unchanging dark glow in her eyes,
Panchita came steadily toward him through the strawberry vines. Dry
Valley's trembling hand released his whip handle. When within a yard
of him Panchita stretched out her arms.
"God, kid!" stammered Dry Valley, "do you mean--?"
But the seasons are versatile; and it may have been Springtime, after
all, instead of Indian Summer, that struck Dry Valley Johnson.
CHRISTMAS BY INJUNCTION
Cherokee was the civic father of Yellowhammer. Yellowhammer was a new
mining town constructed mainly of canvas and undressed pine. Cherokee
was a prospector. One day while his burro was eating quartz and pine
burrs Cherokee turned up with his pick a nugget, weighing thirty
ounces. He staked his claim and then, being a man of breadth and
hospitality, sent out invitations to his friends in three States to
drop in and share his luck.
Not one of the invited guests sent regrets. They rolled in from the
Gila country, from Salt River, from the Pecos, from Albuquerque and
Phoenix and Santa Fe, and from the camps intervening.
When a thousand citizens had arrived and taken up claims they named
the town Yellowhammer, appointed a vigilance committee, and presented
Cherokee with a watch-chain made of nuggets.
Three hours after the presentation ceremonies Cherokee's claim played
out. He had located a pocket instead of a vein. He abandoned it and
staked others one by one. Luck had kissed her hand to him. Never
afterward did he turn up enough dust in Yellowhammer to pay his bar
bill. But his thousand invited guests were mostly prospering, and
Cherokee smiled and congratulated them.
Yellowhammer was made up of men who took off their hats to a smiling
loser; so they invited Cherokee to say what he wanted.
"Me?" said Cherokee, "oh, grubstakes will be about the thing. I reckon
I'll prospect along up in the Mariposas. If I strike it up there I
will most certainly let you all know about the facts. I never was any
hand to hold out cards on my friends."
In May Cherokee packed his burro and turned its thoughtful, mouse-
coloured forehead to the north. Many citizens escorted him to the
undefined limits of Yellowhammer and bestowed upon him shouts of
commendation and farewells. Five pocket flasks without an air bubble
between contents and cork were forced upon him; and he was bidden to
consider Yellowhammer in perpetual commission for his bed, bacon and
eggs, and hot water for shaving in the event that luck did not see fit
to warm her hands by his campfire in the Mariposas.
The name of the father of Yellowhammer was given him by the gold
hunters in accordance with their popular system of nomenclature. It
was not necessary for a citizen to exhibit his baptismal certificate
in order to acquire a cognomen. A man's name was his personal
property. For convenience in calling him up to the bar and in
designating him among other blue-shirted bipeds, a temporary
appellation, title, or epithet was conferred upon him by the public.
Personal peculiarities formed the source of the majority of such
informal baptisms. Many were easily dubbed geographically from the
regions from which they confessed to have hailed. Some announced
themselves to be "Thompsons," and "Adamses," and the like, with a
brazenness and loudness that cast a cloud upon their titles. A few
vaingloriously and shamelessly uncovered their proper and indisputable
names. This was held to be unduly arrogant, and did not win
popularity. One man who said he was Chesterton L. C. Belmont, and
proved it by letters, was given till sundown to leave the town. Such
names as "Shorty," "Bow-legs," "Texas," "Lazy Bill," "Thirsty Rogers,"
"Limping Riley," "The Judge," and "California Ed" were in favour.
Cherokee derived his title from the fact that he claimed to have lived
for a time with that tribe in the Indian Nation.
On the twentieth day of December Baldy, the mail rider, brought
Yellowhammer a piece of news.
"What do I see in Albuquerque," said Baldy, to the patrons of the bar,
"but Cherokee all embellished and festooned up like the Czar of
Turkey, and lavishin' money in bulk. Him and me seen the elephant and
the owl, and we had specimens of this seidlitz powder wine; and
Cherokee he audits all the bills, C.O.D. His pockets looked like a
pool table's after a fifteen-ball run.
"Cherokee must have struck pay ore," remarked California Ed. "Well,
he's white. I'm much obliged to him for his success."
"Seems like Cherokee would ramble down to Yellowhammer and see his
friends," said another, slightly aggrieved. "But that's the way.
Prosperity is the finest cure there is for lost forgetfulness."
"You wait," said Baldy; "I'm comin' to that. Cherokee strikes a three-
foot vein up in the Mariposas that assays a trip to Europe to the ton,
and he closes it out to a syndicate outfit for a hundred thousand
hasty dollars in cash. Then he buys himself a baby sealskin overcoat
and a red sleigh, and what do you think he takes it in his head to do
"Chuck-a-luck," said Texas, whose ideas of recreation were the
"Come and Kiss Me, Ma Honey," sang Shorty, who carried tintypes in his
pocket and wore a red necktie while working on his claim.
"Bought a saloon?" suggested Thirsty Rogers.
"Cherokee took me to a room," continued Baldy, "and showed me. He's
got that room full of drums and dolls and skates and bags of candy and
jumping-jacks and toy lambs and whistles and such infantile truck. And
what do you think he's goin' to do with them inefficacious knick-
knacks? Don't surmise none--Cherokee told me. He's goin' to lead 'em
up in his red sleigh and--wait a minute, don't order no drinks yet--
he's goin' to drive down here to Yellowhammer and give the kids--the
kids of this here town--the biggest Christmas tree and the biggest
cryin' doll and Little Giant Boys' Tool Chest blowout that was ever
seen west of the Cape Hatteras."
Two minutes of absolute silence ticked away in the wake of Baldy's
words. It was broken by the House, who, happily conceiving the moment
to be ripe for extending hospitality, sent a dozen whisky glasses
spinning down the bar, with the slower travelling bottle bringing up
"Didn't you tell him?" asked the miner called Trinidad.
"Well, no," answered Baldy, pensively; "I never exactly seen my way
"You see, Cherokee had this Christmas mess already bought and paid
for; and he was all flattered up with self-esteem over his idea; and
we had in a way flew the flume with that fizzy wine I speak of; so I
never let on."
"I cannot refrain from a certain amount of surprise," said the Judge,
as he hung his ivory-handled cane on the bar, "that our friend
Cherokee should possess such an erroneous conception of--ah--his, as
it were, own town."
"Oh, it ain't the eighth wonder of the terrestrial world," said Baldy.
"Cherokee's been gone from Yellowhammer over seven months. Lots of
things could happen in that time. How's he to know that there ain't a
single kid in this town, and so far as emigration is concerned, none
"Come to think of it," remarked California Ed, "it's funny some ain't
drifted in. Town ain't settled enough yet for to bring in the rubber-
ring brigade, I reckon."
"To top off this Christmas-tree splurge of Cherokee's," went on Baldy,
"he's goin' to give an imitation of Santa Claus. He's got a white wig
and whiskers that disfigure him up exactly like the pictures of this
William Cullen Longfellow in the books, and a red suit of fur-trimmed
outside underwear, and eight-ounce gloves, and a stand-up, lay-down
croshayed red cap. Ain't it a shame that a outfit like that can't get
a chance to connect with a Annie and Willie's prayer layout?"
"When does Cherokee allow to come over with his truck?" inquired
"Mornin' before Christmas," said Baldy. "And he wants you folks to
have a room fixed up and a tree hauled and ready. And such ladies to
assist as can stop breathin' long enough to let it be a surprise for
The unblessed condition of Yellowhammer had been truly described. The
voice of childhood had never gladdened its flimsy structures; the
patter of restless little feet had never consecrated the one rugged
highway between the two rows of tents and rough buildings. Later they
would come. But now Yellowhammer was but a mountain camp, and nowhere
in it were the roguish, expectant eyes, opening wide at dawn of the
enchanting day; the eager, small hands to reach for Santa's
bewildering hoard; the elated, childish voicings of the season's joy,
such as the coming good things of the warm-hearted Cherokee deserved.
Of women there were five in Yellowhammer. The assayer's wife, the
proprietress of the Lucky Strike Hotel, and a laundress whose washtub
panned out an ounce of dust a day. These were the permanent feminines;
the remaining two were the Spangler Sisters, Misses Fanchon and Erma,
of the Transcontinental Comedy Company, then playing in repertoire at
the (improvised) Empire Theatre. But of children there were none.
Sometimes Miss Fanchon enacted with spirit and address the part of
robustious childhood; but between her delineation and the visions of
adolescence that the fancy offered as eligible recipients of
Cherokee's holiday stores there seemed to be fixed a gulf.
Christmas would come on Thursday. On Tuesday morning Trinidad, instead
of going to work, sought the Judge at the Lucky Strike Hotel.
"It'll be a disgrace to Yellowhammer," said Trinidad, "if it throws
Cherokee down on his Christmas tree blowout. You might say that that
man made this town. For one, I'm goin' to see what can be done to give
Santa Claus a square deal."
"My co-operation," said the Judge, "would be gladly forthcoming. I am
indebted to Cherokee for past favours. But, I do not see--I have
heretofore regarded the absence of children rather as a luxury--but in
this instance--still, I do not see--"
"Look at me," said Trinidad, "and you'll see old Ways and Means with
the fur on. I'm goin' to hitch up a team and rustle a load of kids for
Cherokee's Santa Claus act, if I have to rob an orphan asylum."
"Eureka!" cried the Judge, enthusiastically.
"No, you didn't," said Trinidad, decidedly. "I found it myself. I
learned about that Latin word at school."
"I will accompany you," declared the Judge, waving his cane. "Perhaps
such eloquence and gift of language as I possess will be of benefit in
persuading our young friends to lend themselves to our project."
Within an hour Yellowhammer was acquainted with the scheme of Trinidad
and the Judge, and approved it. Citizens who knew of families with
offspring within a forty-mile radius of Yellowhammer came forward and
contributed their information. Trinidad made careful notes of all
such, and then hastened to secure a vehicle and team.
The first stop scheduled was at a double log-house fifteen miles out
from Yellowhammer. A man opened the door at Trinidad's hail, and then
came down and leaned upon the rickety gate. The doorway was filled
with a close mass of youngsters, some ragged, all full of curiosity
"It's this way," explained Trinidad. "We're from Yellowhammer, and we
come kidnappin' in a gentle kind of a way. One of our leading citizens
is stung with the Santa Claus affliction, and he's due in town
to-morrow with half the folderols that's painted red and made in
Germany. The youngest kid we got in Yellowhammer packs a forty-five
and a safety razor. Consequently we're mighty shy on anybody to say
'Oh' and 'Ah' when we light the candles on the Christmas tree. Now,
partner, if you'll loan us a few kids we guarantee to return 'em safe
and sound on Christmas Day. And they'll come back loaded down with a
good time and Swiss Family Robinsons and cornucopias and red drums and
similar testimonials. What do you say?"
"In other words," said the Judge, "we have discovered for the first
time in our embryonic but progressive little city the inconveniences
of the absence of adolescence. The season of the year having
approximately arrived during which it is a custom to bestow frivolous
but often appreciated gifts upon the young and tender--"
"I understand," said the parent, packing his pipe with a forefinger.
"I guess I needn't detain you gentlemen. Me and the old woman have got
seven kids, so to speak; and, runnin' my mind over the bunch, I don't
appear to hit upon none that we could spare for you to take over to
your doin's. The old woman has got some popcorn candy and rag dolls
hid in the clothes chest, and we allow to give Christmas a little
whirl of our own in a insignificant sort of style. No, I couldn't,
with any degree of avidity, seem to fall in with the idea of lettin'
none of 'em go. Thank you kindly, gentlemen."
Down the slope they drove and up another foothill to the ranch-house
of Wiley Wilson. Trinidad recited his appeal and the Judge boomed out
his ponderous antiphony. Mrs. Wiley gathered her two rosy-cheeked
youngsters close to her skirts and did not smile until she had seen
Wiley laugh and shake his head. Again a refusal.
Trinidad and the Judge vainly exhausted more than half their list
before twilight set in among the hills. They spent the night at a
stage road hostelry, and set out again early the next morning. The
wagon had not acquired a single passenger.
"It's creepin' upon my faculties," remarked Trinidad, "that borrowin'
kids at Christmas is somethin' like tryin' to steal butter from a man
that's got hot pancakes a-comin'."
"It is undoubtedly an indisputable fact," said the Judge, "that the--
ah--family ties seem to be more coherent and assertive at that period
of the year."
On the day before Christmas they drove thirty miles, making four
fruitless halts and appeals. Everywhere they found "kids" at a
The sun was low when the wife of a section boss on a lonely railroad
huddled her unavailable progeny behind her and said:
"There's a woman that's just took charge of the railroad eatin' house
down at Granite Junction. I hear she's got a little boy. Maybe she
might let him go."
Trinidad pulled up his mules at Granite Junction at five o'clock in
the afternoon. The train had just departed with its load of fed and
On the steps of the eating house they found a thin and glowering boy
of ten smoking a cigarette. The dining-room had been left in chaos by
the peripatetic appetites. A youngish woman reclined, exhausted, in a
chair. Her face wore sharp lines of worry. She had once possessed a
certain style of beauty that would never wholly leave her and would
never wholly return. Trinidad set forth his mission.
"I'd count it a mercy if you'd take Bobby for a while," she said,
wearily. "I'm on the go from morning till night, and I don't have time
to 'tend to him. He's learning bad habits from the men. It'll be the
only chance he'll have to get any Christmas."
The men went outside and conferred with Bobby. Trinidad pictured the
glories of the Christmas tree and presents in lively colours.
"And, moreover, my young friend," added the Judge, "Santa Claus
himself will personally distribute the offerings that will typify the
gifts conveyed by the shepherds of Bethlehem to--"
"Aw, come off," said the boy, squinting his small eyes. "I ain't no
kid. There ain't any Santa Claus. It's your folks that buys toys and
sneaks 'em in when you're asleep. And they make marks in the soot in
the chimney with the tongs to look like Santa's sleigh tracks."
"That might be so," argued Trinidad, "but Christmas trees ain't no
fairy tale. This one's goin' to look like the ten-cent store in
Albuquerque, all strung up in a redwood. There's tops and drums and
Noah's arks and--"
"Oh, rats!" said Bobby, wearily. "I cut them out long ago. I'd like to
have a rifle--not a target one--a real one, to shoot wildcats with;
but I guess you won't have any of them on your old tree."
"Well, I can't say for sure," said Trinidad diplomatically; "it might
be. You go along with us and see."
The hope thus held out, though faint, won the boy's hesitating consent
to go. With this solitary beneficiary for Cherokee's holiday bounty,
the canvassers spun along the homeward road.
In Yellowhammer the empty storeroom had been transformed into what
might have passed as the bower of an Arizona fairy. The ladies had
done their work well. A tall Christmas tree, covered to the topmost
branch with candles, spangles, and toys sufficient for more than a
score of children, stood in the centre of the floor. Near sunset
anxious eyes had begun to scan the street for the returning team of
the child-providers. At noon that day Cherokee had dashed into town
with his new sleigh piled high with bundles and boxes and bales of all
sizes and shapes. So intent was he upon the arrangements for his
altruistic plans that the dearth of children did not receive his
notice. No one gave away the humiliating state of Yellowhammer, for
the efforts of Trinidad and the Judge were expected to supply the
When the sun went down Cherokee, with many wings and arch grins on his
seasoned face, went into retirement with the bundle containing the
Santa Claus raiment and a pack containing special and undisclosed
"When the kids are rounded up," he instructed the volunteer
arrangement committee, "light up the candles on the tree and set 'em
to playin' 'Pussy Wants a Corner' and 'King William.' When they get
good and at it, why--old Santa'll slide in the door. I reckon there'll
be plenty of gifts to go 'round."
The ladies were flitting about the tree, giving it final touches that
were never final. The Spangled Sisters were there in costume as Lady
Violet de Vere and Marie, the maid, in their new drama, "The Miner's
Bride." The theatre did not open until nine, and they were welcome
assistants of the Christmas tree committee. Every minute heads would
pop out the door to look and listen for the approach of Trinidad's
team. And now this became an anxious function, for night had fallen
and it would soon be necessary to light the candles on the tree, and
Cherokee was apt to make an irruption at any time in his Kriss Kringle
At length the wagon of the child "rustlers" rattled down the street to
the door. The ladies, with little screams of excitement, flew to the
lighting of the candles. The men of Yellowhammer passed in and out
restlessly or stood about the room in embarrassed groups.
Trinidad and the Judge, bearing the marks of protracted travel,
entered, conducting between them a single impish boy, who stared with
sullen, pessimistic eyes at the gaudy tree.
"Where are the other children?" asked the assayer's wife, the
acknowledged leader of all social functions.
"Ma'am," said Trinidad with a sigh, "prospectin' for kids at Christmas
time is like huntin' in a limestone for silver. This parental business
is one that I haven't no chance to comprehend. It seems that fathers
and mothers are willin' for their offsprings to be drownded, stole,
fed on poison oak, and et by catamounts 364 days in the year; but on
Christmas Day they insists on enjoyin' the exclusive mortification of
their company. This here young biped, ma'am, is all that washes out of
our two days' manoeuvres."
"Oh, the sweet little boy!" cooed Miss Erma, trailing her De Vere
robes to centre of stage.
"Aw, shut up," said Bobby, with a scowl. "Who's a kid? You ain't, you
"Fresh brat!" breathed Miss Erma, beneath her enamelled smile.
"We done the best we could," said Trinidad. "It's tough on Cherokee,
but it can't be helped."
Then the door opened and Cherokee entered in the conventional dress of
Saint Nick. A white rippling beard and flowing hair covered his face
almost to his dark and shining eyes. Over his shoulder he carried a
No one stirred as he came in. Even the Spangler Sisters ceased their
coquettish poses and stared curiously at the tall figure. Bobby stood
with his hands in his pockets gazing gloomily at the effeminate and
childish tree. Cherokee put down his pack and looked wonderingly about
the room. Perhaps he fancied that a bevy of eager children were being
herded somewhere, to be loosed upon his entrance. He went up to Bobby
and extended his red-mittened hand.
"Merry Christmas, little boy," said Cherokee. "Anything on the tree
you want they'll get it down for you. Won't you shake hands with Santa
"There ain't any Santa Claus," whined the boy. "You've got old false
billy goat's whiskers on your face. I ain't no kid. What do I want
with dolls and tin horses? The driver said you'd have a rifle, and you
haven't. I want to go home."
Trinidad stepped into the breach. He shook Cherokee's hand in warm
"I'm sorry, Cherokee," he explained. "There never was a kid in
Yellowhammer. We tried to rustle a bunch of 'em for your swaree, but
this sardine was all we could catch. He's a atheist, and he don't
believe in Santa Claus. It's a shame for you to be out all this truck.
But me and the Judge was sure we could round up a wagonful of
candidates for your gimcracks."
"That's all right," said Cherokee gravely. "The expense don't amount
to nothin' worth mentionin'. We can dump the stuff down a shaft or
throw it away. I don't know what I was thinkin' about; but it never
occurred to my cogitations that there wasn't any kids in
Meanwhile the company had relaxed into a hollow but praiseworthy
imitation of a pleasure gathering.
Bobby had retreated to a distant chair, and was coldly regarding the
scene with ennui plastered thick upon him. Cherokee, lingering with
his original idea, went over and sat beside him.
"Where do you live, little boy?" he asked respectfully.
"Granite Junction," said Bobby without emphasis.
The room was warm. Cherokee took off his cap, and then removed his
beard and wig.
"Say!" exclaimed Bobby, with a show of interest, "I know your mug, all
"Did you ever see me before?" asked Cherokee.
"I don't know; but I've seen your picture lots of times."
Back to Full Books