Part 2 out of 5
and went down to the corral.
Day was slowly going as I took my pony to the water. Corncliff Mesa,
Crowheart Butte, these shone in the rays that came through the canyon. The
canyon's sides lifted like tawny castles in the same light. Where I walked
the odor of thousands of wild roses hung over the margin where the
thickets grew. High in the upper air, magpies were sailing across the
silent blue. Somewhere I could hear Tommy explaining loudly how he and
General Crook had pumped lead into hundreds of Indians; and when supper-
time brought us all back to the door he was finishing the account to Mrs.
Taylor. Molly and the Virginian arrived bearing flowers, and he was
saying that few cow-punchers had any reason for saving their money.
"But when you get old?" said she.
"We mostly don't live long enough to get old, ma'am," said he, simply.
"But I have a reason, and I am saving."
"Give me the flowers," said Molly. And she left him to arrange them on
the table as Lin came hurrying out.
"I've told her," said he to the Southerner and me, "that I've asked her
twiced, and I'm going to let her have one more chance. And I've told her
that if it's a log cabin she's marryin', why Tommy is a sure good wooden
piece of furniture to put inside it. And I guess she knows there's not
much wooden furniture about me. I want to speak to you." He took the
Virginian round the corner. But though he would not confide in me, I
began to discern something quite definite at supper.
"Cattle men will lose stock if the Crows get down as far as this," he
said, casually, and Mrs. Taylor suppressed a titter.
"Ain't it hawses the're repawted as running off?" said the Virginian.
"Chap come into the round-up this afternoon," said Lin. "But he was
rattled, and told a heap o' facts that wouldn't square."
"Of course they wouldn't," said Tommy, haughtily.
"Oh, there's nothing in it," said Lin, dismissing the subject.
"Have yu' been to the opera since we went to Cheyenne, Mrs. Taylor?"
Mrs. Taylor had not.
"Lin," said the Virginian, "did yu ever see that opera Cyarmen?"
"You bet. Fellow's girl quits him for a bullfighter. Gets him up in the
mountains, and quits him. He wasn't much good--not in her class o'
sports, smugglin' and such."
"I reckon she was doubtful of him from the start. Took him to the
mount'ins to experiment, where they'd not have interruption," said the
"Talking of mountains," said Tommy, "this range here used to be a great
place for Indians till we ran 'em out with Terry. Pumped lead into the
"You bet," said Lin. "Do yu' figure that girl tired of her bull-fighter
and quit him, too?"
"I reckon," replied the Virginian, "that the bull-fighter wore better."
"Fans and taverns and gypsies and sportin'," said Lin. "My! but I'd like
to see them countries with oranges and bull-fights! Only I expect Spain,
maybe, ain't keepin' it up so gay as when 'Carmen' happened."
The table-talk soon left romance and turned upon steers and alfalfa, a
grass but lately introduced in the country. No further mention was made
of the hostile Crows, and from this I drew the false conclusion that
Tommy had not come up to their hopes in the matter of reciting his
campaigns. But when the hour came for those visitors who were not
spending the night to take their leave, Taylor drew Tommy aside with me,
and I noticed the Virginian speaking with Molly Wood, whose face showed
"Don't seem to make anything of it," whispered Taylor to Tommy, "but the
ladies have got their minds on this Indian truck."
"Why, I'll just explain--" began Tommy.
"Don't," whispered Lin, joining us. "Yu' know how women are. Once they
take a notion, why, the more yu' deny the surer they get. Now, yu' see,
him and me" (he jerked his elbow towards the Virginian) "must go back to
camp, for we're on second relief."
"And the ladies would sleep better knowing there was another man in the
house," said Taylor.
"In that case," said Tommy, "I--"
"Yu' see," said Lin, "they've been told about Ten Sleep being burned two
"It ain't!" cried Tommy.
"Why, of course it ain't," drawled the ingenious Lin. "But that's what I
say. You and I know Ten Sleep's all right, but we can't report from our
own knowledge seeing it all right, and there it is. They get these
"Just don't appear to make anything special of not going back to
Riverside," repeated Taylor, "but--"
"But just kind of stay here," said Lin.
"I will!" exclaimed Tommy. "Of course, I'm glad to oblige."
I suppose I was slow-sighted. All this pains seemed to me larger than its
results. They had imposed upon Tommy, yes. But what of that? He was to be
kept from going back to Riverside until morning. Unless they proposed to
visit his empty cabin and play tricks--but that would be too childish,
even for Lin McLean, to say nothing of the Virginian, his occasional
partner in mischief.
"In spite of the Crows," I satirically told the ladies, "I shall sleep
outside, as I intended. I've no use for houses at this season."
The cinches of the horses were tightened, Lin and the Virginian laid a
hand on their saddle-horns, swung up, and soon all sound of the galloping
horses had ceased. Molly Wood declined to be nervous and crossed to her
little neighbor cabin; we all parted, and (as always in that blessed
country) deep sleep quickly came to me.
I don't know how long after it was that I sprang from my blankets in
half-doubting fright. But I had dreamed nothing. A second long, wild yell
now gave me (I must own to it) a horrible chill. I had no pistol--
nothing. In the hateful brightness of the moon my single thought was
"House! House!" and I fled across the lane in my underclothes to the
cabin, when round the corner whirled the two cow-punchers, and I
understood. I saw the Virginian catch sight of me in my shirt, and saw
his teeth as he smiled. I hastened to my blankets, and returned more
decent to stand and watch the two go shooting and yelling round the
cabin, crazy with their youth. The door was opened, and Taylor
courageously emerged, bearing a Winchester. He fired at the sky
"B' gosh!" he roared. "That's one." He fired again. "Out and at 'em.
At this, duly came Mrs. Taylor in white with a pistol, and Miss Peck in
white, staring and stolid. But no Tommy. Noise prevailed without, shots
by the stable and shots by the creek. The two cow-punchers dismounted and
joined Taylor. Maniac delight seized me, and I, too, rushed about with
them, helping the din.
"Oh, Mr. Taylor!" said a voice. "I didn't think it of you." It was Molly
Wood, come from her cabin, very pretty in a hood-and-cloak arrangement.
She stood by the fence, laughing, but more at us than with us.
"Stop, friends!" said Taylor, gasping. "She teaches my Bobbie his A B C.
I'd hate to have Bobbie--"
"Speak to your papa," said Molly, and held her scholar up on the fence.
"Well, I'll be gol-darned," said Taylor, surveying his costume, "if Lin
McLean hasn't made a fool of me to-night!"
"Where has Tommy got?" said Mrs. Taylor.
"Didn't yus see him?" said the biscuit-shooter speaking her first word in
We followed her into the kitchen. The table was covered with tin plates.
Beneath it, wedged knelt Tommy with a pistol firm in his hand; but the
plates were rattling up and down like castanets.
There was a silence among us, and I wondered what we were going to do.
"Well," murmured the Virginian to himself, "if I could have foresaw, I'd
not--it makes yu' feel humiliated yu'self."
He marched out, got on his horse, and rode away. Lin followed him, but
perhaps less penitently. We all dispersed without saying anything, and
presently from my blankets I saw poor Tommy come out of the silent cabin,
mount, and slowly, very slowly, ride away. He would spend the night at
Riverside, after all.
Of course we recovered from our unexpected shame, and the tale of the
table and the dancing plates was not told as a sad one. But it is a sad
one when you think of it.
I was not there to see Lin get his bride. I learned from the Virginian
how the victorious puncher had ridden away across the sunny sagebrush,
bearing the biscuit-shooter with him to the nearest justice of the peace.
She was astride the horse he had brought for her.
"Yes, he beat Tommy," said the Virginian. "Some folks, anyway, get what
they want in this hyeh world."
From which I inferred that Miss Molly Wood was harder to beat than Tommy.
LIN McLEAN'S HONEY-MOON
Rain had not fallen for some sixty days, and for some sixty more there
was no necessity that it should fall. It is spells of weather like this
that set the Western editor writing praise and prophecy of the boundless
fertility of the soil--when irrigated, and of what an Eden it can be
made--with irrigation; but the spells annoy the people who are trying to
raise the Eden. We always told the transient Eastern visitor, when he
arrived at Cheyenne and criticised the desert, that anything would grow
here--with irrigation; and sometimes he replied, unsympathetically, that
anything could fly--with wings. Then we would lead such a man out and
show him six, eight, ten square miles of green crops; and he, if he was
thoroughly nasty, would mention that Wyoming contained ninety-five
thousand square miles, all waiting for irrigation and Eden. One of these
Eastern supercivilized hostiles from New York was breakfasting with the
Governor and me at the Cheyenne Club, and we were explaining to him the
glorious future, the coming empire, of the Western country. Now the
Governor was about thirty-two, and until twenty-five had never gone West
far enough to see over the top of the Alleghany Mountains. I was not a
pioneer myself; and why both of us should have pitied the New-Yorker's
narrowness so hard I cannot see. But we did. We spoke to him of the size
of the country. We told him that his State could rattle round inside
Wyoming's stomach without any inconvenience to Wyoming, and he told us
that this was because Wyoming's stomach was empty. Altogether I began to
feel almost sorry that I had asked him to come out for a hunt, and had
travelled in haste all the way from Bear Creek to Cheyenne expressly to
"For purposes of amusement," he said, "I'll admit anything you claim for
this place. Ranches, cowboys, elk; it's all splendid. Only, as an
investment I prefer the East. Am I to see any cowboys?"
"You shall," I said; and I distinctly hoped some of them might do
something to him "for purposes of amusement."
"You fellows come up with me to my office," said the Governor. "I'll look
at my mail, and show you round." So we went with him through the heat and
"What's that?" inquired the New-Yorker, whom I shall call James Ogden.
"That is our park," said I. "Of course it's merely in embryo. It's
wonderful how quickly any shade tree will grow here wi--" I checked
But Ogden said "with irrigation" for me, and I was entirely sorry he had
We reached the Governor's office, and sat down while he looked his
"Here you are, Ogden," said he. "Here's the way we hump ahead out here."
And he read us the following:
"MAGAW, KANSAS, July 5, 188--
"Hon. Amory W. Baker:
"Sir,--Understanding that your district is suffering from a prolonged
drought, I write to say that for necessary expenses paid I will be glad
to furnish you with a reasonably shower. I have operated successfully in
Australia, Mexico, and several States of the Union, and am anxious to
exhibit my system. If your Legislature will appropriate a sum to cover,
as I said, merely my necessary expenses--say $350 (three hundred and
fifty dollars)--for half an inch I will guarantee you that quantity of
rain or forfeit the money. If I fail to give you the smallest fraction of
the amount contracted for, there is to be no pay. Kindly advise me of
what date will be most convenient for you to have the shower. I require
twenty-four hours' preparation. Hoping a favorable reply,
"I am, respectfully yours,
"Will the Legislature do it?" inquired Ogden in good faith.
The Governor laughed boisterously. "I guess it wouldn't be
constitutional," said he.
"Oh, bother!" said Ogden.
"My dear man," the Governor protested, "I know we're new, and our women
vote, and we're a good deal of a joke, but we're not so progressively
funny as all that. The people wouldn't stand it. Senator Warren would fly
right into my back hair." Barker was also new as Governor.
"Do you have Senators here too?" said Ogden, raising his eyebrows. "What
do they look like? Are they females?" And the Governor grew more
boisterous than ever, slapping his knee and declaring that these Eastern
men were certainly "out of sight". Ogden, however, was thoughtful.
"I'd have been willing to chip in for that rain myself," he said.
"That's an idea!" cried the Governor. "Nothing unconstitutional about
that. Let's see. Three hundred and fifty dollars--"
"I'll put up a hundred," said Ogden, promptly. "I'm out for a Western
vacation, and I'll pay for a good specimen."
The Governor and I subscribed more modestly, and by noon, with the help
of some lively minded gentlemen of Cheyenne, we had the purse raised. "He
won't care," said the Governor, "whether it's a private enterprise or a
municipal step, so long as he gets his money."
"He won't get it, I'm afraid," said Ogden. "But if he succeeds in
tempting Providence to that extent, I consider it cheap. Now what do you
call those people there on the horses?"
We were walking along the track of the Cheyenne and Northern, and looking
out over the plain toward Fort Russell. "That is a cow-puncher and his
bride," I answered, recognizing the couple.
"Quite. The puncher's name is Lin McLean."
"I'm afraid so."
"She's riding straddle!" exclaimed the delighted Ogden, adjusting his
glasses. "Why do you object to their union being holy?"
I explained that my friend Lin had lately married an eating-house lady
precipitately and against my advice.
"I suppose he knew his business," observed Ogden.
"That's what he said to me at the time. But you ought to see her--and
Ogden was going to. Husband and wife were coming our way. Husband nodded
to me his familiar offish nod, which concealed his satisfaction at
meeting with an old friend. Wife did not look at me at all. But I looked
at her, and I instantly knew that Lin--the fool!--had confided to her my
disapproval of their marriage. The most delicate specialty upon earth is
your standing with your old friend's new wife.
"Good-day, Mr. McLean," said the Governor to the cow-puncher on his
"How're are yu', doctor," said Lin. During his early days in Wyoming the
Governor, when as yet a private citizen, had set Mr. McLean's broken leg
at Drybone. "Let me make yu' known to Mrs. McLean," pursued the husband.
The lady, at a loss how convention prescribes the greeting of a bride to
a Governor, gave a waddle on the pony's back, then sat up stiff, gazed
haughtily at the air, and did not speak or show any more sign than a cow
would under like circumstances. So the Governor marched cheerfully at
her, extending his hand, and when she slightly moved out toward him her
big, dumb, red fist, he took it and shook it, and made her a series of
compliments, she maintaining always the scrupulous reserve of the cow.
"I say," Ogden whispered to me while Barker was pumping the hand of the
flesh image, "I'm glad I came." The appearance of the puncher-bridegroom
also interested Ogden, and he looked hard at Lin's leather chaps and
cartridge-belt and so forth. Lin stared at the New-Yorker, and his high
white collar and good scarf. He had seen such things quite often, of
course, but they always filled him with the same distrust of the man that
"Well," said he, "I guess we'll be pulling for a hotel. Any show in town?
Circus come yet?"
"No," said I. "Are you going to make a long stay?"
The cow-puncher glanced at the image, his bride of three weeks. "Till
we're tired of it, I guess," said he, with hesitation. It was the first
time that I had ever seen my gay friend look timidly at any one, and I
felt a rising hate for the ruby-checked, large-eyed eating-house lady,
the biscuit-shooter whose influence was dimming this jaunty,
irrepressible spirit. I looked at her. Her bulky bloom had ensnared him,
and now she was going to tame and spoil him. The Governor was looking at
her too, thoughtfully.
"Say, Lin," I said, "if you stay here long enough you'll see a big show."
And his eye livened into something of its native jocularity as I told him
of the rain-maker.
"Shucks!" said he, springing from his horse impetuously, and hugely
entertained at our venture. "Three hundred and fifty dollars? Let me come
in"; and before I could tell him that we had all the money raised, he was
hauling out a wadded lump of bills.
"Well, I ain't going to starve here in the road, I guess," spoke the
image, with the suddenness of a miracle. I think we all jumped, and I
know that Lin did. The image continued: "Some folks and their money are
soon parted"--she meant me; her searching tones came straight at me; I
was sure from the first that she knew all about me and my unfavorable
opinion of her--"but it ain't going to be you this time, Lin McLean. Ged
ap!" This last was to the horse, I maintain, though the Governor says the
husband immediately started off on a run.
At any rate, they were gone to their hotel, and Ogden was seated on some
railroad ties, exclaiming: "Oh, I like Wyoming! I am certainly glad I
"That's who she is!" said the Governor, remembering Mrs. McLean all at
once. "I know her. She used to be at Sidney. She's got another husband
somewhere. She's one of the boys. Oh, that's nothing in this country!" he
continued to the amazed Ogden, who had ejaculated "Bigamy!" "Lots of them
marry, live together awhile, get tired and quit, travel, catch on to a
new man, marry him, get tired and quit, travel, catch on--"
"One moment, I beg," said Ogden, adjusting his glasses. "What does the
"Law?" said the Governor. "Look at that place!" He swept his hand towards
the vast plains and the mountains. "Ninety-five thousand square miles of
that, and sixty thousand people in it. We haven't got policemen yet on
top of the Rocky Mountains."
"I see," said the New-Yorker. "But--but--well let A and B represent
first and second husbands, and X represent the woman. Now, does A know
about B? or does B know about A? And what do they do about it?"
"Can't say," the Governor answered, jovially. "Can't generalize. Depends
on heaps of things-- love--money-- Did you go to college? Well, let A
minus X equal B plus X, then if A and B get squared--"
"Oh, come to lunch," I said. "Barker, do you really know the first
husband is alive?"
"Wasn't dead last winter." And Barker gave us the particulars. Miss Katie
Peck had not served long in the restaurant before she was wooed and won
by a man who had been a ranch cook, a sheep-herder, a bar-tender, a
freight hand, and was then hauling poles for the government. During his
necessary absences from home she, too, went out-of-doors. This he often
discovered, and would beat her, and she would then also beat him. After
the beatings one of them would always leave the other forever. Thus was
Sidney kept in small-talk until Mrs. Lusk one day really did not come
back. "Lusk," said the Governor, finishing his story, "cried around the
saloons for a couple of days, and then went on hauling poles for the
government, till at last he said he'd heard of a better job south, and
next we knew of him he was round Leavenworth. Lusk was a pretty poor
bird. Owes me ten dollars."
"Well," I said, "none of us ever knew about him when she came to stay
with Mrs. Taylor on Bear Creek. She was Miss Peck when Lin made her Mrs.
"You'll notice," said the Governor, "how she has got him under in three
weeks. Old hand, you see."
"Poor Lin!" I said.
"Lucky, I call him," said the Governor. "He can quit her."
"Supposing McLean does not want to quit her?"
"She's educating him to want to right now, and I think he'll learn pretty
quick. I guess Mr. Lin's romance wasn't very ideal this trip. Hello! here
comes Jode. Jode, won't you lunch with us? Mr. Ogden, of New York, Mr.
Jode. Mr. Jode is our signal-service officer, Mr. Ogden." The Governor's
eyes were sparkling hilariously, and he winked at me.
"Gentlemen, good-morning. Mr. Ogden, I am honored to make your
acquaintance," said the signal-service officer.
"Jode, when is it going to rain?" said the Governor, anxiously.
Now Jode is the most extraordinarily solemn man I have ever known. He has
the solemnity of all science, added to the unspeakable weight of
representing five of the oldest families in South Carolina. The Jodes
themselves were not old in South Carolina, but immensely so in--I think
he told me it was Long Island. His name is Poinsett Middleton Manigault
Jode. He used to weigh a hundred and twenty-eight pounds then, but his
health has strengthened in that climate. His clothes were black; his face
was white, with black eyes sharp as a pin; he had the shape of a spout--
the same narrow size all the way down--and his voice was as dry and light
as an egg-shell. In his first days at Cheyenne he had constantly
challenged large cowboys for taking familiarities with his dignity, and
they, after one moment's bewilderment, had concocted apologies that
entirely met his exactions, and gave them much satisfaction also. Nobody
would have hurt Jode for the world. In time he came to see that Wyoming
was a game invented after his book of rules was published, and he looked
on, but could not play the game. He had fallen, along with other
incongruities, into the roaring Western hotch-pot, and he passed his
careful, precise days with barometers and weather-charts.
He answered the Governor with official and South Carolina impressiveness.
"There is no indication of diminution of the prevailing pressure," he
"Well, that's what I thought," said the joyous Governor, "so I'm going to
whoop her up."
"What do you expect to whoop up, sir?"
"Atmosphere, and all that," said the Governor. "Whole business has got to
get a move on. I've sent for a rain-maker."
"Governor, you are certainly a wag, sir," said Jode, who enjoyed Barker
as some people enjoy a symphony, without understanding it. But after we
had reached the club and were lunching, and Jode realized that a letter
had actually been written telling Hilbrun to come and bring his showers
with him, the punctilious signal-service officer stated his position.
"Have your joke, sir," he said, waving a thin, clean hand, "but I decline
to meet him."
"Hilbrun?" said the Governor, staring.
"If that's his name--yes, sir. As a member of the Weather Bureau and the
Meteorological Society I can have nothing to do with the fellow."
"Glory!" said the Governor. "Well, I suppose not. I see your point, Jode.
I'll be careful to keep you apart. As a member of the College of
Physicians I've felt that way about homeopathy and the faith-cure. All
very well if patients will call 'em in, but can't meet 'em in
consultation. But three months' drought annually, Jode! It's slow--too
slow. The Western people feel that this conservative method the Zodiac
does its business by is out of date."
"I am quite serious, sir," said Jode. "And let me express my
gratification that you do see my point." So we changed the subject.
Our weather scheme did not at first greatly move the public. Beyond those
who made up the purse, few of our acquaintances expressed curiosity about
Hilbrun, and next afternoon Lin McLean told me in the street that he was
disgusted with Cheyenne's coldness toward the enterprise. "But the boys
would fly right at it and stay with it if the round-up was near town, you
bet," said he.
He was walking alone. "How's Mrs. McLean to-day?" I inquired.
"She's well," said Lin, turning his eye from mine. "Who's your friend all
bugged up in English clothes?"
"About as good a man as you," said I, "and more cautious."
"Him and his eye-glasses!" said the sceptical puncher, still looking away
from me and surveying Ogden, who was approaching with the Governor. That
excellent man, still at long range, broke out smiling till his teeth
shone, and he waved a yellow paper at us.
"Telegram from Hilbrun," he shouted; "be here to-morrow"; and he hastened
"Says he wants a cart at the depot, and a small building where he can be
private," added Ogden. "Great, isn't it?"
"You bet!" said Lin, brightening. The New Yorker's urbane but obvious
excitement mollified Mr. McLean. "Ever seen rain made, Mr. Ogden?" said
"Never. Have you?"
Lin had not. Ogden offered him a cigar, which the puncher pronounced
excellent, and we all agreed to see Hilbrun arrive.
"We're going to show the telegram to Jode," said the Governor; and he and
Ogden departed on this mission to the signal service.
"Well, I must be getting along myself," said Lin; but he continued
walking slowly with me. "Where're yu' bound?" he said.
"Nowhere in particular," said I. And we paced the board sidewalks a
"You're going to meet the train to-morrow?" said he.
"The train? Oh yes. Hilbrun's. To-morrow. You'll be there?"
"Yes, I'll be there. It's sure been a dry spell, ain't it?"
"Yes. Just like last year. In fact, like all the years."
"Yes. I've never saw it rain any to speak of in summer. I expect it's the
rule. Don't you?"
"I shouldn't wonder."
"I don't guess any man knows enough to break such a rule. Do you?"
"No. But it'll be fun to see him try."
"Sure fun! Well, I must be getting along. See yu' to-morrow."
"See you to-morrow, Lin."
He left me at a corner, and I stood watching his tall, depressed figure.
A hundred yards down the street he turned, and seeing me looking after
him, pretended he had not turned; and then I took my steps toward the
club, telling myself that I had been something of a skunk; for I had
inquired for Mrs. McLean in a certain tone, and I had hinted to Lin that
he had lacked caution; and this was nothing but a way of saying "I told
you so" to the man that is down. Down Lin certainly was, although it had
not come so home to me until our little walk together just now along the
At the club I found the Governor teaching Ogden a Cheyenne specialty--a
particular drink, the Allston cocktail. "It's the bitters that does the
trick," he was saying, but saw me and called out: "You ought to have been
with us and seen Jode. I showed him the telegram, you know. He read it
through, and just handed it back to me, and went on monkeying with his
anemometer. Ever seen his instruments? Every fresh jigger they get out he
sends for. Well, he monkeyed away, and wouldn't say a word, so I said,
'You understand, Jode, this telegram comes from Hilbrun.' And Jode, he
quit his anemometer and said, 'I make no doubt, sir, that your despatch
is genuwine.' Oh, South Carolina's indignant at me!" And the Governor
slapped his knee. "Why, he's so set against Hilbrun," he continued, "I
guess if he knew of something he could explode to stop rain he'd let her
"No, he wouldn't," said I. "He'd not consider that honorable."
"That's so," the Governor assented. "Jode'll play fair."
It was thus we had come to look at our enterprise--a game between a
well-established, respectable weather bureau and an upstart charlatan.
And it was the charlatan had our sympathy--as all charlatans, whether
religious, military, medical, political, or what not, have with the
average American. We met him at the station. That is, Ogden, McLean, and
I; and the Governor, being engaged, sent (unofficially) his secretary and
the requested cart. Lin was anxious to see what would be put in the cart,
and I was curious about how a rain-maker would look. But he turned out an
unassuming, quiet man in blue serge, with a face you could not remember
afterwards, and a few civil, ordinary remarks. He even said it was a hot
day, as if he had no relations with the weather; and what he put into the
cart were only two packing-boxes of no special significance to the eye.
He desired no lodging at the hotel, but to sleep with his apparatus in
the building provided for him; and we set out for it at once. It was an
untenanted barn, and he asked that he and his assistant might cut a hole
in the roof, upon which we noticed the assistant for the first time--a
tallish, good-looking young man, but with a weak mouth. "This is Mr.
Lusk," said the rain-maker; and we shook hands, Ogden and I exchanging a
glance. Ourselves and the cart marched up Hill Street--or Capitol Avenue,
as it has become named since Cheyenne has grown fuller of pomp and
emptier of prosperity--and I thought we made an unusual procession: the
Governor's secretary, unofficially leading the way to the barn; the cart,
and the rain-maker beside it, guarding his packed-up mysteries; McLean
and Lusk, walking together in unconscious bigamy; and in the rear, Odgen
nudging me in the ribs. That it was the correct Lusk we had with us I
felt sure from his incompetent, healthy, vacant appearance, strong-bodied
and shiftless--the sort of man to weary of one trade and another, and
make a failure of wife beating between whiles. In Twenty-fourth Street--
the town's uttermost rim--the Governor met us, and stared at Lusk.
"Christopher!" was his single observation; but he never forgets a face--
cannot afford to, now that he is in politics; and, besides, Lusk
remembered him. You seldom really forget a man to whom you owe ten
"So you've quit hauling poles?" said the Governor.
"Nothing in it, sir," said Lusk.
"Is there any objection to my having a hole in the roof?" asked the
rain-maker; for this the secretary had been unable to tell him.
"What! going to throw your bombs through it?" said the Governor, smiling
But the rain-maker explained at once that his was not the bomb system,
but a method attended by more rain and less disturbance. "Not that the
bomb don't produce first-class results at times and under circumstances,"
he said, "but it's uncertain and costly."
The Governor hesitated about the hole in the roof, which Hilbrun told us
was for a metal pipe to conduct his generated gases into the air. The
owner of the barn had gone to Laramie. However, we found a stove-pipe
hole, which saved delay. "And what day would you prefer the shower?" said
Hilbrun, after we had gone over our contract with him.
"Any day would do," the Governor said.
This was Thursday; and Sunday was chosen, as a day when no one had
business to detain him from witnessing the shower--though it seemed to me
that on week-days, too, business in Cheyenne was not so inexorable as
this. We gave the strangers some information about the town, and left
them. The sun went away in a cloudless sky, and came so again when the
stars had finished their untarnished shining. Friday was clear and dry
and hot, like the dynasty of blazing days that had gone before.
I saw a sorry spectacle in the street--the bridegroom and the bride
shopping together; or, rather, he with his wad of bills was obediently
paying for what she bought; and when I met them he was carrying a scarlet
parasol and a bonnet-box. His biscuit-shooter, with the lust of purchase
on her, was brilliantly dressed, and pervaded the street with splendor,
like an escaped parrot. Lin walked beside her, but it might as well have
been behind, and his bearing was so different from his wonted
happy-go-luckiness that I had a mind to take off my hat and say,
"Good-morning, Mrs. Lusk." But it was "Mrs. McLean" I said, of course.
She gave me a remote, imperious nod, and said, "Come on, Lin," something
like a cross nurse, while he, out of sheer decency, made her a
good-humored, jocular answer, and said to me, "It takes a woman to know
what to buy for house-keepin,"; which poor piece of hypocrisy endeared
him to me more than ever. The puncher was not of the fibre to succeed in
keeping appearances, but he deserved success, which the angels consider
to be enough. I wondered if disenchantment had set in, or if this were
only the preliminary stage of surprise and wounding, and I felt that but
one test could show, namely, a coming face to face of Mr. and Mrs. Lusk,
perhaps not to be desired. Neither was it likely. The assistant
rain-maker kept himself steadfastly inside or near the barn, at the north
corner of Cheyenne, while the bride, when she was in the street at all,
haunted the shops clear across town diagonally.
On this Friday noon the appearance of the metal tube above the blind
building spread some excitement. It moved several of the citizens to pay
the place a visit and ask to see the machine. These callers, of course,
sustained a polite refusal, and returned among their friends with a
contempt for such quackery, and a greatly heightened curiosity; so that
pretty soon you could hear discussions at the street corners, and by
Saturday morning Cheyenne was talking of little else. The town prowled
about the barn and its oracular metal tube, and heard and saw nothing.
The Governor and I (let it be confessed) went there ourselves, since the
twenty-four hours of required preparation were now begun. We smelled for
chemicals, and he thought there was a something, but having been bred a
doctor, distrusted his imagination. I could not be sure myself whether
there was anything or not, although I walked three times round the barn,
snuffing as dispassionately as I knew how. It might possibly be chlorine,
the Governor said, or some gas for which ammonia was in part responsible;
and this was all he could say, and we left the place. The world was as
still and the hard, sharp hills as clear and near as ever; and the sky
over Sahara is not more dry and enduring than was ours. This tenacity in
the elements plainly gave Jode a malicious official pleasure. We could
tell it by his talk at lunch; and when the Governor reminded him that no
rain was contracted for until the next day, he mentioned that the
approach of a storm is something that modern science is able to ascertain
long in advance; and he bade us come to his office whenever we pleased,
and see for ourselves what science said. This was, at any rate, something
to fill the afternoon with, and we went to him about five. Lin McLean
joined us on the way. I came upon him lingering alone in the street, and
he told me that Mrs. McLean was calling on friends. I saw that he did not
know how to spend the short recess or holiday he was having. He seemed to
cling to the society of others, and with them for the time regain his
gayer mind. He had become converted to Ogden, and the New-Yorker, on his
side, found pleasant and refreshing this democracy of Governors and
cow-punchers. Jode received us at the signal-service office, and began to
show us his instruments with the careful pride of an orchid-collector.
"A hair hygrometer," he said to me, waving his wax-like hand over it.
"The indications are obtained from the expansion and contraction of a
prepared human hair, transferred to an index needle traversing the
divided arc of--"
"What oil do you put on the human hair Jode?" called out the Governor,
who had left our group, and was gamboling about by himself among the
tubes and dials. "What will this one do?" he asked, and poked at a wet
paper disc. But before the courteous Jode could explain that it had to do
with evaporation and the dew-point, the Governor's attention wandered,
and he was blowing at a little fan-wheel. This instantly revolved and set
a number of dial hands going different ways. "Hi!" said the Governor,
delighted. "Seen 'em like that down mines. Register air velocity in feet.
Put it away, Jode. You don't want that to-morrow. What you'll need,
Hilbrun says, is a big old rain-gauge and rubber shoes."
"I shall require nothing of the sort, Governor," Jode retorted at once.
"And you can go to church without your umbrella in safety, sir. See
there." He pointed to a storm-glass, which was certainly as clear as
crystal. "An old-fashioned test, you will doubtless say, gentlemen," Jode
continued--though none of us would have said anything like that--"but
unjustly discredited; and, furthermore, its testimony is well
corroborated, as you will find you must admit." Jode's voice was almost
threatening, and he fetched one corroborator after another. I looked
passively at wet and dry bulbs, at self-recording, dotted registers; I
caught the fleeting sound of words like "meniscus" and "terrestrial
minimum thermometer," and I nodded punctually when Jode went through some
calculation. At last I heard something that I could understand--a series
of telegraphic replies to Jode from brother signal-service officers all
over the United States. He read each one through from date of signature,
and they all made any rain to-morrow entirely impossible. "And I tell
you," Jode concluded, in his high, egg-shell voice, "there's no chance of
precipitation now, sir. I tell you, sir,"--he was shrieking jubilantly--
"there's not a damn' thing to precipitate!"
We left him in his triumph among his glass and mercury. "Gee whiz!" said
the Governor. "I guess we'd better go and tell Hilbrun it's no use."
We went, and Hilbrun smiled with a certain compassion for the antiquated
scientist. "That's what they all say," he said. "I'll do my talking
"If any of you gentlemen, or your friends," said Assistant Lusk, stepping
up, "feel like doing a little business on this, I am ready to accommodate
"What do yu' want this evenin'?" said Lin McLean, promptly.
"Five to one," said Lusk.
"Go yu' in twenties," said the impetuous puncher; and I now perceived
this was to be a sporting event. Lin had his wad of bills out--or what of
it still survived his bride's shopping. "Will you hold stakes, doctor?"
he said to the Governor.
But that official looked at the clear sky, and thought he would do five
to one in twenties himself. Lusk accommodated him, and then Ogden, and
then me. None of us could very well be stake-holder, but we registered
our bets, and promised to procure an uninterested man by eight next
morning. I have seldom had so much trouble, and I never saw such a
universal search for ready money. Every man we asked to hold stakes
instantly whipped out his own pocketbook, went in search of Lusk, and
disqualified himself. It was Jode helped us out. He would not bet, but
was anxious to serve, and thus punish the bragging Lusk.
Sunday was, as usual, chronically fine, with no cloud or breeze anywhere,
and by the time the church-bells were ringing, ten to one was freely
offered. The biscuit-shooter went to church with her friends, so she
might wear her fine clothes in a worthy place, while her furloughed
husband rushed about Cheyenne, entirely his own old self again, his wad
of money staked and in Jode's keeping. Many citizens bitterly lamented
their lack of ready money. But it was a good thing for these people that
it was Sunday, and the banks closed.
The church-bells ceased; the congregations sat inside, but outside the
hot town showed no Sunday emptiness or quiet. The metal tube, the
possible smell, Jode's sustained and haughty indignation, the
extraordinary assurance of Lusk, all this had ended by turning every one
restless and eccentric. A citizen came down the street with an umbrella.
In a moment the by-standers had reduced it to a sordid tangle of ribs.
Old Judge Burrage attempted to address us at the corner about the vast
progress of science. The postmaster pinned a card on his back with the
well-known legend, "I am somewhat of a liar myself." And all the while
the sun shone high and hot, while Jode grew quieter and colder under the
certainty of victory. It was after twelve o'clock when the people came
from church, and no change or sign was to be seen. Jode told us, with a
chill smile, that he had visited his instruments and found no new
indications. Fifteen minutes after that the sky was brown. Sudden,
padded, dropsical clouds were born in the blue above our heads. They
blackened, and a smart shower, the first in two months, wet us all, and
ceased. The sun blazed out, and the sky came blue again, like those
rapid, unconvincing weather changes of the drama.
Amazement at what I saw happening in the heavens took me from things on
earth, and I was unaware of the universal fit that now seized upon
Cheyenne until I heard the high cry of Jode at my ear. His usual
punctilious bearing had forsaken him, and he shouted alike to stranger
and acquaintance: "It is no half-inch, sir! Don't you tell me"' And the
crowd would swallow him, but you could mark his vociferous course as he
went proclaiming to the world. "A failure, sir! The fellow's an impostor,
as I well knew. It's no half-inch!" Which was true.
"What have you got to say to that?" we asked Hilbrun, swarming around
"If you'll just keep cool," said he--"it's only the first instalment. In
about two hours and a half I'll give you the rest."
Soon after four the dropsical clouds materialized once again above
open-mouthed Cheyenne. No school let out for an unexpected holiday, no
herd of stampeded range cattle, conducts itself more miscellaneously.
Gray, respectable men, with daughters married, leaped over fences and
sprang back, prominent legislators hopped howling up and down door-steps,
women waved handkerchiefs from windows and porches, the chattering Jode
flew from anemometer to rain-gauge, and old Judge Burrage apostrophized
Providence in his front yard, with the postmaster's label still pinned to
his back. Nobody minded the sluicing downpour--this second instalment was
much more of a thing than the first--and Hilbrun alone kept a calm
exterior--the face of the man who lifts a heavy dumb-bell and throws an
impressive glance at the audience. Assistant Lusk was by no means thus
proof against success I saw him put a bottle back in his pocket, his face
already disintegrated with a tipsy leer. Judge Burrage, perceiving the
rain-maker, came out of his gate and proceeded toward him, extending the
hand of congratulation. "Mr. Hilbrun," said he, "I am Judge Burrage--the
Honorable T. Coleman Burrage--and I will say that I am most favorably
impressed with your shower."
"His shower!" yelped Jode, flourishing measurements.
"Why, yu' don't claim it's yourn, do yu'?" said Lin McLean, grinning.
"I tell you it's no half-inch yet, gentlemen," said Jode, ignoring the
"You're mistaken," said Hilbrun, sharply.
"It's a plumb big show, half-inch or no half-inch," said Lin.
"If he's short he don't get his money," said some ignoble subscriber
"Yes, he will," said the Governor, "or I'm a short. He's earned it."
"You bet "' said Lin. "Fair and square. If they're goin' back on yu',
doctor, I'll chip--Shucks!" Lin's hand fell from the empty pocket; he
remembered his wad in the stake-holder's hands, and that he now possessed
possibly two dollars in silver, all told. "I can't chip in, doctor," he
said. "That hobo over there has won my cash, an' he's filling up on the
prospect right now. I don't care! It's the biggest show I've ever saw.
You're a dandy, Mr. Hilbrun! Whoop!" And Lin clapped the rain-maker on
the shoulder, exulting. He had been too well entertained to care what he
had in his pocket, and his wife had not yet occurred to him.
They were disputing about the rainfall, which had been slightly under
half an inch in a few spots, but over it in many others; and while we
stood talking in the renewed sunlight, more telegrams were brought to
Jode, saying that there was no moisture anywhere, and simultaneously with
these, riders dashed into town with the news that twelve miles out the
rain had flattened the grain crop. We had more of such reports from as
far as thirty miles, and beyond that there had not been a drop or a
cloud. It staggered one's reason; the brain was numb with surprise.
"Well, gentlemen," said the rain-maker, "I'm packed up, and my train'll
be along soon--would have been along by this, only it's late. What's the
word as to my three hundred and fifty dollars?"
Even still there were objections expressed. He had not entirely performed
his side of the contract.
"I think different, gentlemen," said he. "But I'll unpack and let that
train go. I can't have the law on you, I suppose. But if you don't pay
me" (the rain-maker put his hands in his pockets and leaned against the
fence) "I'll flood your town."
In earthquakes and eruptions people end by expecting anything; and in the
total eclipse that was now over all Cheyenne's ordinary standards and
precedents the bewildered community saw in this threat nothing more
unusual than if he had said twice two made four. The purse was handed
"I'm obliged," said Hilbrun, simply.
"If I had foreseen, gentlemen," said Jode, too deeply grieved now to feel
anger, "that I would even be indirectly associated with your losing your
money through this--this absurd occurrence, I would have declined to help
you. It becomes my duty," he continued, turning coldly to the inebriated
Lusk, "to hand this to you, sir." And the assistant lurchingly stuffed
his stakes away.
"It's worth it," said Lin. "He's welcome to my cash."
"What's that you say, Lin McLean?" It was the biscuit-shooter, and she
surged to the front.
"I'm broke. He's got it. That's all," said Lin, briefly.
"Broke! You!" She glared at her athletic young lord, and she uttered a
At that long-lost cry Lusk turned his silly face. "It's my darling Kate,"
he said. "Why, Kate!"
The next thing that I knew Ogden and I were grappling with Lin McLean;
for everything had happened at once. The bride had swooped upon her first
wedded love and burst into tears on the man's neck, which Lin was trying
to break in consequence. We do not always recognize our benefactors at
sight. They all came to the ground, and we hauled the second husband off.
The lady and Lusk remained in a heap, he foolish, tearful, and
affectionate; she turned furiously at bay, his guardian angel,
indifferent to the onlooking crowd, and hurling righteous defiance at
Lin. "Don't yus dare lay yer finger on my husband, you sage-brush
bigamist!" is what the marvelous female said.
"Bigamist?" repeated Lin, dazed at this charge. "I ain't," he said to
Ogden and me. "I never did. I've never married any of 'em before her."
"Little good that'll do yus, Lin McLean! Me and him was man and wife
before ever I come acrosst yus."
"You and him?" murmured the puncher.
"Her and me," whimpered Lusk. "Sidney." He sat up with a limp, confiding
stare at everybody.
"Sidney who?" said Lin.
"No, no," corrected Lusk, crossly--"Sidney, Nebraska."
The stakes at this point fell from his pocket which he did not notice.
But the bride had them in safe-keeping at once.
"Who are yu', anyway--when yu' ain't drunk?" demanded Lin.
"He's as good a man as you, and better," snorted the guardian angel.
"Give him a pistol, and he'll make you hard to find."
"Well, you listen to me, Sidney Nebraska--" Lin began.
"No, no," corrected Lusk once more, as a distant whistle blew--"Jim."
"Good-bye, gentlemen," said the rain-maker. "That's the west-bound. I'm
perfectly satisfied with my experiment here, and I'm off to repeat it at
Salt Lake City."
"You are?" shouted Lin McLean. "Him and Jim's going to work it again! For
goodness' sake, somebody lend me twenty-five dollars!"
At this there was an instantaneous rush. Ten minutes later, in front of
the ticket-windows there was a line of citizens buying tickets for Salt
Lake as if it had been Madame Bernhardt. Some rock had been smitten, and
ready money had flowed forth. The Governor saw us off, sad that his
duties should detain him. But Jode went!
"Betting is the fool's argument, gentlemen," said he to Ogden, McLean,
and me, "and it's a weary time since I have had the pleasure."
"Which way are yu' bettin'?" Lin asked.
"With my principles, sir," answered the little signal-service officer.
"I expect I ain't got any," said the puncher. "It's Jim I'm backin' this
"See here," said I; "I want to talk to you." We went into another car,
and I did.
"And so yu' knowed about Lusk when we was on them board walks?" the
"Do you mean I ought to have--"
"Shucks! no. Yu' couldn't. Nobody couldn't. It's a queer world, all the
same. Yu' have good friends, and all that." He looked out of the window."
Laramie already!" he commented, and got out and walked by himself on the
platform until we had started again. "Yu' have good friends," he pursued,
settling himself so his long legs were stretched and comfortable, "and
they tell yu' things, and you tell them things. And when it don't make no
particular matter one way or the other, yu' give 'em your honest opinion
and talk straight to 'em, and they'll come to you the same way. So that
when yu're ridin' the range alone sometimes, and thinkin' a lot o' things
over on top maybe of some dog-goned hill, you'll say to yourself about
some fellow yu' know mighty well, 'There's a man is a good friend of
mine.' And yu' mean it. And it's so. Yet when matters is serious, as
onced in a while they're bound to get, and yu're in a plumb hole, where
is the man then--your good friend? Why, he's where yu' want him to be.
Standin' off, keepin' his mouth shut, and lettin' yu' find your own trail
out. If he tried to show it to yu', yu'd likely hit him. But shucks!
Circumstances have showed me the trail this time, you bet!" And the
puncher's face, which had been sombre, grew lively, and he laid a
friendly hand on my knee.
"The trail's pretty simple," said I.
"You bet! But it's sure a queer world. Tell yu'," said Lin, with the air
of having made a discovery, "when a man gets down to bed-rock affairs in
this life he's got to do his travellin' alone, same as he does his dyin'.
I expect even married men has thoughts and hopes they don't tell their
"Never was married," said I.
"Well--no more was I. Let's go to bed." And Lin shook my hand, and gave
me a singular, rather melancholy smile.
At Salt Lake City, which Ogden was glad to include in his Western
holiday, we found both Mormon and Gentile ready to give us odds against
rain--only I noticed that those of the true faith were less free. Indeed;
the Mormon, the Quaker, and most sects of an isolated doctrine have a
nice prudence in money. During our brief stay we visited the sights:
floating in the lake, listening to pins drop in the gallery of the
Tabernacle, seeing frescos of saints in robes speaking from heaven to
Joseph Smith in the Sunday clothes of a modern farm-hand, and in the
street we heard at a distance a strenuous domestic talk between the
new--or perhaps I should say the original--husband and wife.
"She's corralled Sidney's cash!" said the delighted Lin. "He can't bet
nothing on this shower."
And then, after all, this time--it didn't rain!
Stripped of money both ways, Cheyenne, having most fortunately purchased
a return ticket, sought its home. The perplexed rain-maker went somewhere
else, without his assistant. Lusk's exulting wife, having the money,
retained him with her.
"Good luck to yu', Sidney!" said Lin, speaking to him for the first time
since Cheyenne. "I feel a heap better since I've saw yu' married." He
paid no attention to the biscuit-shooter, or the horrible language that
she threw after him.
Jode also felt "a heap better." Legitimate science had triumphed. To-day,
most of Cheyenne believes with Jode that it was all a coincidence. South
Carolina had bet on her principles, and won from Lin the few dollars that
I had lent the puncher.
"And what will you do now?" I said to Lin.
"Join the beef round-up. Balaam's payin' forty dollars. I guess that'll
keep a single man."
A JOURNEY IN SEARCH OF CHRISTMAS
The Governor descended the steps of the Capitol slowly and with pauses,
lifting a list frequently to his eye. He had intermittently pencilled it
between stages of the forenoon's public business, and his gait grew
absent as he recurred now to his jottings in their accumulation, with a
slight pain at their number, and the definite fear that they would be
more in seasons to come. They were the names of his friends' children to
whom his excellent heart moved him to give Christmas presents. He had put
off this regenerating evil until the latest day, as was his custom, and
now he was setting forth to do the whole thing at a blow, entirely
planless among the guns and rocking-horses that would presently surround
him. As he reached the highway he heard himself familiarly addressed from
a distance, and, turning, saw four sons of the alkali jogging into town
from the plain. One who had shouted to him galloped out from the others,
rounded the Capitol's enclosure, and, approaching with radiant
countenance leaned to reach the hand of the Governor, and once again
greeted him with a hilarious "Hello, Doc!"
Governor Barker, M.D., seeing Mr. McLean unexpectedly after several
years, hailed the horseman with frank and lively pleasure, and, inquiring
who might be the other riders behind, was told that they were Shorty,
Chalkeye, and Dollar Bill, come for Christmas. "And dandies to hit town
with," Mr. McLean added. "Red-hot."
"I am acquainted with them," assented his Excellency.
"We've been ridin' trail for twelve weeks," the cow-puncher continued,
"makin' our beds down anywheres, and eatin' the same old chuck every day.
So we've shook fried beef and heifer's delight, and we're goin' to feed
Then Mr. McLean overflowed with talk and pungent confidences, for the
holidays already rioted in his spirit, and his tongue was loosed over
their coming rites.
"We've soured on scenery," he finished, in his drastic idiom. "We're sick
of moonlight and cow-dung, and we're heeled for a big time."
"Call on me," remarked the Governor, cheerily, "when you're ready for
bromides and sulphates."
"I ain't box-headed no more," protested Mr. McLean; "I've got maturity,
Doc, since I seen yu' at the rain-making, and I'm a heap older than them
hospital days when I bust my leg on yu'. Three or four glasses and quit.
That's my rule."
"That your rule, too?" inquired the Governor of Shorty, Chalkeye, and
Dollar Bill. These gentlemen of the saddle were sitting quite
expressionless upon their horses.
"We ain't talkin', we're waitin'," observed Chalkeye; and the three
cynics smiled amiably.
"Well, Doc, see yu' again," said Mr. McLean. He turned to accompany his
brother cow-punchers, but in that particular moment Fate descended or
came up from whatever place she dwells in and entered the body of the
"What's your hurry?" said Fate, speaking in the official's hearty manner.
"Come along with me."
"Can't do it. Where are yu' goin'?"
"Christmasing," replied Fate.
"Well, I've got to feed my horse. Christmasing, yu' say?"
"Yes; I'm buying toys."
"Toys! You? What for?"
"Oh, some kids."
"Yourn?" screeched Lin, precipitately.
His Excellency the jovial Governor opened his teeth in pleasure at this,
for he was a bachelor, and there were fifteen upon his list, which he
held up for the edification of the hasty McLean. "Not mine, I'm happy to
say. My friends keep marrying and settling, and their kids call me uncle,
and climb around and bother, and I forget their names, and think it's a
girl, and the mother gets mad. Why, if I didn't remember these little
folks at Christmas they'd be wondering--not the kids, they just break
your toys and don't notice; but the mother would wonder--'What's the
matter with Dr. Barker? Has Governor Barker gone back on us?'--that's
where the strain comes!" he broke off, facing Mr. McLean with another
But the cow-puncher had ceased to smile, and now, while Barker ran on
exuberantly, McLean's wide-open eyes rested upon him, singular and
intent, and in their hazel depths the last gleam of jocularity went out.
"That's where the strain comes, you see. Two sets of acquaintances.
Grateful patients and loyal voters, and I've got to keep solid with both
outfits, especially the wives and mothers. They're the people. So it's
drums, and dolls, and sheep on wheels, and games, and monkeys on a stick,
and the saleslady shows you a mechanical bear, and it costs too much, and
you forget whether the Judge's second girl is Nellie or Susie, and--well,
I'm just in for my annual circus this afternoon! You're in luck.
Christmas don't trouble a chap fixed like you."
Lin McLean prolonged the sentence like a distant echo.
"A chap fixed like you!" The cow-puncher said it slowly to himself. "No,
sure." He seemed to be watching Shorty, and Chalkeye, and Dollar Bill
going down the road. "That's a new idea--Christmas," he murmured, for it
was one of his oldest, and he was recalling the Christmas when he wore
his first long trousers.
"Comes once a year pretty regular," remarked the prosperous Governor.
"Seems often when you pay the bill."
"I haven't made a Christmas gift," pursued the cow-puncher, dreamily,
"not for--for--Lord! it's a hundred years, I guess. I don't know anybody
that has any right to look for such a thing from me." This was indeed a
new idea, and it did not stop the chill that was spreading in his heart.
"Gee whiz!" said Barker, briskly, "there goes twelve o'clock. I've got to
make a start. Sorry you can't come and help me. Good-bye!"
His Excellency left the rider sitting motionless, and forgot him at once
in his own preoccupation. He hastened upon his journey to the shops with
the list, not in his pocket, but held firmly, like a plank in the
imminence of shipwreck. The Nellies and Susies pervaded his mind, and he
struggled with the presentiment that in a day or two he would recall some
omitted and wretchedly important child. Quick hoof-beats made him look
up, and Mr. McLean passed like a wind. The Governor absently watched him
go, and saw the pony hunch and stiffen in the check of his speed when Lin
overtook his companions. Down there in the distance they took a side
street, and Barker rejoicingly remembered one more name and wrote it as
he walked. In a few minutes he had come to the shops, and met face to
face with Mr. McLean.
"The boys are seein' after my horse," Lin rapidly began, "and I've got to
meet 'em sharp at one. We're twelve weeks shy on a square meal, yu' see,
and this first has been a date from 'way back. I'd like to--" Here Mr.
McLean cleared his throat, and his speech went less smoothly. "Doc, I'd
like just for a while to watch yu' gettin'--them monkeys, yu' know."
The Governor expressed his agreeable surprise at this change of mind, and
was glad of McLean's company and judgment during the impending
selections. A picture of a cow-puncher and himself discussing a couple of
dolls rose nimbly in Barker's mental eye, and it was with an imperfect
honesty that he said, "You'll help me a heap."
And Lin, quite sincere, replied, "Thank yu'."
So together these two went Christmasing in the throng. Wyoming's Chief
Executive knocked elbows with the spurred and jingling waif, one man as
good as another in that raw, hopeful, full-blooded cattle era, which now
the sobered West remembers as the days of its fond youth. For one man has
been as good as another in three places--Paradise before the Fall; the
Rocky Mountains before the wire fence; and the Declaration of
Independence. And then this Governor, beside being young, almost as young
as Lin McLean or the Chief Justice (who lately had celebrated his
thirty-second birthday), had in his doctoring days at Drybone known the
cow-puncher with that familiarity which lasts a lifetime without breeding
contempt; accordingly he now laid a hand on Lin's tall shoulder and drew
him among the petticoats and toys.
Christmas filled the windows and Christmas stirred in mankind. Cheyenne,
not over-zealous in doctrine or litanies, and with the opinion that a
world in the hand is worth two in the bush, nevertheless was flocking
together, neighbor to think of neighbor, and every one to remember the
children; a sacred assembly, after all, gathered to rehearse unwittingly
the articles of its belief, the Creed and Doctrine of the Child. Lin saw
them hurry and smile among the paper fairies; they questioned and
hesitated, crowded and made decisions, failed utterly to find the right
thing, forgot and hastened back, suffered all the various desperations of
the eleventh hour, and turned homeward, dropping their parcels with that
undimmed good-will that once a year makes gracious the universal human
face. This brotherhood swam and beamed before the cow-puncher's brooding
eyes, and in his ears the greeting of the season sang. Children escaped
from their mothers and ran chirping behind the counters to touch and
meddle in places forbidden. Friends dashed against each other with
rabbits and magic lanterns, greeted in haste, and were gone, amid the
sound of musical boxes.
Through this tinkle and bleating of little machinery the murmur of the
human heart drifted in and out of McLean's hearing; fragments of home
talk, tendernesses, economies, intimate first names, and dinner hours,
and whether it was joy or sadness, it was in common; the world seemed
knit in a single skein of home ties. Two or three came by whose purses
must have been slender, and whose purchases were humble and chosen after
much nice adjustment; and when one plain man dropped a word about both
ends meeting, and the woman with him laid a hand on his arm, saying that
his children must not feel this year was different, Lin made a step
toward them. There were hours and spots where he could readily have
descended upon them at that, played the role of clinking affluence, waved
thanks aside with competent blasphemy, and tossing off some infamous
whiskey, cantered away in the full self-conscious strut of the frontier.
But here was not the moment; the abashed cow-puncher could make no such
parade in this place. The people brushed by him back and forth, busy upon
their errands, and aware of him scarcely more than if he had been a
spirit looking on from the helpless dead; and so, while these weaving
needs and kindnesses of man were within arm's touch of him, he was locked
outside with his impulses. Barker had, in the natural press of customers,
long parted from him, to become immersed in choosing and rejecting; and
now, with a fair part of his mission accomplished, he was ready to go on
to the next place, and turned to beckon McLean. He found him obliterated
in a corner beside a life-sized image of Santa Claus, standing as still
as the frosty saint.
"He looks livelier than you do," said the hearty Governor. "'Fraid it's
been slow waiting."
"No," replied the cow-puncher, thoughtfully. "No, I guess not."
This uncertainty was expressed with such gentleness that Barker roared.
"You never did lie to me," he said, "long as I've known you. Well, never
mind. I've got some real advice to ask you now."
At this Mr. McLean's face grew more alert. "Say Doc," said he, "what do
yu' want for Christmas that nobody's likely to give yu'?"
"A big practice--big enough to interfere with my politics."
"What else? Things and truck, I mean."
"Oh--nothing I'll get. People don't give things much to fellows like me."
"Don't they? Don't they?"
"Why, you and Santa Claus weren't putting up any scheme on my stocking?"
"I believe you're in earnest!" cried his Excellency. "That's simply
rich!" Here was a thing to relish! The Frontier comes to town "heeled for
a big time," finds that presents are all the rage, and must immediately
give somebody something. Oh, childlike, miscellaneous Frontier! So
thought the good-hearted Governor; and it seems a venial misconception.
"My dear fellow," he added, meaning as well as possible, "I don't want
you to spend your money on me."
"I've got plenty all right," said Lin, shortly.
"Plenty's not the point. I'll take as many drinks as you please with you.
You didn't expect anything from me?"
"That ain't--that don't--"
"There! Of course you didn't. Then, what are you getting proud about?
Here's our shop." They stepped in from the street to new crowds and
counters. "Now," pursued the Governor, "this is for a very particular
friend of mine. Here they are. Now, which of those do you like best?"
They were sets of Tennyson in cases holding little volumes equal in
number, but the binding various, and Mr. McLean reached his decision
after one look. "That," said he, and laid a large muscular hand upon the
Laureate. The young lady behind the counter spoke out acidly, and Lin
pulled the abject hand away. His taste, however, happened to be sound,
or, at least, it was at one with the Governor's; but now they learned
that there was a distressing variance in the matter of price.
The Governor stared at the delicate article of his choice. "I know that
Tennyson is what she--is what's wanted," he muttered; and, feeling
himself nudged, looked around and saw Lin's extended fist. This gesture
he took for a facetious sympathy, and, dolorously grasping the hand,
found himself holding a lump of bills. Sheer amazement relaxed him, and
the cow-puncher's matted wealth tumbled on the floor in sight of all
people. Barker picked it up and gave it back. "No, no, no!" he said,
mirthful over his own inclination to be annoyed; "you can't do that. I'm
just as much obliged, Lin," he added.
"Just as a loan, Doc--some of it. I'm grass-bellied with spot-cash."
A giggle behind the counter disturbed them both, but the sharp young lady
was only dusting. The Governor at once paid haughtily for Tennyson's
expensive works, and the cow-puncher pushed his discountenanced savings
back into his clothes. Making haste to leave the book department of this
shop, they regained a mutual ease, and the Governor became waggish over
Lin's concern at being too rich. He suggested to him the list of
delinquent taxpayers and the latest census from which to select indigent
persons. He had patients, too, whose inveterate pennilessness he could
swear cheerfully to--"since you want to bolt from your own money," he
"Yes, I'm a green horse," assented Mr. McLean, gallantly; "ain't used to
the looks of a twenty-dollar bill, and I shy at 'em."
From his face--that jocular mask--one might have counted him the most
serene and careless of vagrants, and in his words only the ordinary
voice of banter spoke to the Governor. A good woman, it may well be,
would have guessed before this the sensitive soul in the blundering body,
but Barker saw just the familiar, whimsical, happy-go-lucky McLean of old
days, and so he went gayly and innocently on, treading upon holy ground.
"I've got it!" he exclaimed; "give your wife something."
The ruddy cow-puncher grinned. He had passed through the world of woman
with but few delays, rejoicing in informal and transient entanglements,
and he welcomed the turn which the conversation seemed now to be taking.
"If you'll give me her name and address," said he, with the future
entirely in his mind.
"Why, Laramie!" and the Governor feigned surprise.
"Say, Doc," said Lin, uneasily, "none of 'em ain't married me since I saw
"Then she hasn't written from Laramie," said the hilarious Governor, and
Mr. McLean understood and winced in his spirit deep down. "Gee whiz!"
went on Barker, "I'll never forget you and Lusk that day!"
But the mask fell now. "You're talking of his wife, not mine," said the
cow-puncher very quietly, and smiling no more; "and, Doc, I'm going to
say a word to yu', for I know yu've always been my good friend. I'll
never forget that day myself--but I don't want to be reminded of it."
"I'm a fool, Lin," said the Governor, generous instantly. "I never
"I know yu' didn't, Doc. It ain't you that's the fool. And in a way--in a
way--" Lin's speech ended among his crowding memories, and Barker, seeing
how wistful his face had turned, waited. "But I ain't quite the same fool
I was before that happened to me," the cow-puncher resumed, "though maybe
my actions don't show to be wiser. I know that there was better luck than
a man like me had any call to look for."
The sobered Barker said, simply, "Yes, Lin." He was put to thinking by
these words from the unsuspected inner man.
Out in the Bow Leg country Lin McLean had met a woman with thick, red
cheeks, calling herself by a maiden name; and this was his whole
knowledge of her when he put her one morning astride a Mexican saddle and
took her fifty miles to a magistrate and made her his lawful wife to the
best of his ability and belief. His sage-brush intimates were confident
he would never have done it but for a rival. Racing the rival and beating
him had swept Mr. McLean past his own intentions, and the marriage was an
inadvertence. "He jest bumped into it before he could pull up," they
explained; and this casualty, resulting from Mr. McLean's sporting blood,
had entertained several hundred square miles of alkali. For the new-made
husband the joke soon died. In the immediate weeks that came upon him he
tasted a bitterness worse than in all his life before, and learned also
how deep the woman, when once she begins, can sink beneath the man in
baseness. That was a knowledge of which he had lived innocent until this
time. But he carried his outward self serenely, so that citizens in
Cheyenne who saw the cow-puncher with his bride argued shrewdly that men
of that sort liked women of that sort; and before the strain had broken
his endurance an unexpected first husband, named Lusk, had appeared one
Sunday in the street, prosperous, forgiving, and exceedingly drunk. To
the arms of Lusk she went back in the public street, deserting McLean in
the presence of Cheyenne; and when Cheyenne saw this, and learned how she
had been Mrs. Lusk for eight long, if intermittent, years, Cheyenne
laughed loudly. Lin McLean laughed, too, and went about his business,
ready to swagger at the necessary moment, and with the necessary kind of
joke always ready to shield his hurt spirit. And soon, of course, the
matter grew stale, seldom raked up in the Bow Leg country where Lin had
been at work; so lately he had begun to remember other things beside the
"Is she with him?" he asked Barker, and musingly listened while Barker
told him. The Governor had thought to make it a racy story, with the
moral that the joke was now on Lusk; but that inner man had spoken and
revealed the cow-puncher to him in a new and complicated light; hence he
quieted the proposed lively cadence and vocabulary of his anecdote about
the house of Lusk, but instead of narrating how Mrs. beat Mr. on Mondays,
Wednesdays, and Fridays, and Mr. took his turn the odd days, thus getting
one ahead of his lady, while the kid Lusk had outlined his opinion of the
family by recently skipping to parts unknown, Barker detailed these
incidents more gravely, adding that Laramie believed Mrs. Lusk addicted
"I don't guess I'll leave my card on 'em," said McLean, grimly, "if I
"You don't mind my saying I think you're well out of that scrape?" Barker
"Shucks, no! That's all right, Doc. Only--yu' see now. A man gets tired
pretending--onced in a while."
Time had gone while they were in talk, and it was now half after one and
Mr. McLean late for that long-plotted first square meal. So the friends
shook hands, wishing each other Merry Christmas, and the cow-puncher
hastened toward his chosen companions through the stirring cheerfulness
of the season. His play-hour had made a dull beginning among the toys. He
had come upon people engaged in a pleasant game, and waited, shy and well
disposed, for some bidding to join, but they had gone on playing with
each other and left him out. And now he went along in a sort of hurry to
escape from that loneliness where his human promptings had been lodged
with him useless. Here was Cheyenne, full of holiday for sale, and he
with his pockets full of money to buy; and when he thought of Shorty, and
Chalkeye, and Dollar Bill, those dandies to hit a town with, he stepped
out with a brisk, false hope. It was with a mental hurrah and a foretaste
of a good time coming that he put on his town clothes, after shaving and
admiring himself, and sat down to the square meal. He ate away and drank
with a robust imitation of enjoyment that took in even himself at first.
But the sorrowful process of his spirit went on, for all he could do. As
he groped for the contentment which he saw around him he began to receive
the jokes with counterfeit mirth. Memories took the place of
anticipation, and through their moody shiftings he began to feel a
distaste for the company of his friends and a shrinking from their lively
voices. He blamed them for this at once. He was surprised to think he had
never recognized before how light a weight was Shorty; and here was
Chalkeye, who knew better, talking religion after two glasses. Presently
this attack of noticing his friends' shortcomings mastered him, and his
mind, according to its wont, changed at a stroke. "I'm celebrating no
Christmas with this crowd," said the inner man; and when they had next
remembered Lin McLean in their hilarity he was gone.
Governor Barker, finishing his purchases at half-past three, went to meet
a friend come from Evanston. Mr. McLean was at the railway station,
buying a ticket for Denver.
"Denver!" exclaimed the amazed Governor.
"That's what I said," stated Mr. McLean, doggedly.
"Gee whiz!" went his Excellency. "What are you going to do there?"
"Get good and drunk."
"Can't you find enough whiskey in Cheyenne?"
"I'm drinking champagne this trip."
The cow-puncher went out on the platform and got aboard, and the train
moved off. Barker had walked out too in his surprise, and as he stared
after the last car, Mr. McLean waved his wide hat defiantly and went
inside the door.
"And he says he's got maturity," Barker muttered. "I've known him since
seventy-nine, and he's kept about eight years old right along." The
Governor was cross, and sorry, and presently crosser. His jokes about
Lin's marriage came back to him and put him in a rage with the departed
fool. "Yes, about eight. Or six," said his Excellency, justifying himself
by the past. For he had first known Lin, the boy of nineteen, supreme in
length of limb and recklessness, breaking horses and feeling for an early
mustache. Next, when the mustache was nearly accomplished, he had mended
the boy's badly broken thigh at Drybone. His skill (and Lin's utter
health) had wrought so swift a healing that the surgeon overflowed with
the pride of science, and over the bandages would explain the human body
technically to his wild-eyed and flattered patient. Thus young Lin heard
all about tibia, and comminuted, and other glorious new words, and when
sleepless would rehearse them. Then, with the bone so nearly knit that
the patient might leave the ward on crutches to sit each morning in
Barker's room as a privilege, the disobedient child of twenty-one had
slipped out of the hospital and hobbled hastily to the hog ranch, where
whiskey and variety waited for a languishing convalescent. Here he grew
gay, and was soon carried back with the leg refractured. Yet Barker's
surgical rage was disarmed, the patient was so forlorn over his doctor's
"I suppose it ain't no better this morning, Doc?" he had said, humbly,
after a new week of bed and weights.
"Your right leg's going to be shorter. That's all."
"Oh, gosh! I've been and spoiled your comminuted fee-mur! Ain't I a
You could not chide such a boy as this; and in time's due course he had
walked jauntily out into the world with legs of equal length after all
and in his stride the slightest halt possible. And Doctor Barker had
missed the child's conversation. To-day his mustache was a perfected
thing, and he in the late end of his twenties.
"He'll wake up about noon to-morrow in a dive, without a cent," said
Barker. "Then he'll come back on a freight and begin over again."
At the Denver station Lin McLean passed through the shoutings and
omnibuses, and came to the beginning of Seventeenth Street, where is the
first saloon. A customer was ordering Hot Scotch; and because he liked
the smell and had not thought of the mixture for a number of years, Lin
took Hot Scotch. Coming out upon the pavement, he looked across and saw a
saloon opposite with brighter globes and windows more prosperous. That
should have been his choice; lemon peel would undoubtedly be fresher over
there; and over he went at once, to begin the whole thing properly. In
such frozen weather no drink could be more timely, and he sat, to enjoy
without haste its mellow fitness. Once again on the pavement, he looked
along the street toward up-town beneath the crisp, cold electric lights,
and three little bootblacks gathered where he stood and cried "Shine?
Shine?" at him. Remembering that you took the third turn to the right to
get the best dinner in Denver, Lin hit on the skilful plan of stopping at
all Hot Scotches between; but the next occurred within a few yards, and
it was across the street. This one being attained and appreciated, he
found that he must cross back again or skip number four. At this rate he
would not be dining in time to see much of the theatre, and he stopped to
consider. It was a German place he had just quitted, and a huge light
poured out on him from its window, which the proprietor's father-land
sentiment had made into a show. Lights shone among a well-set pine
forest, where beery, jovial gnomes sat on roots and reached upward to
Santa Claus; he, grinning, fat, and Teutonic, held in his right hand
forever a foaming glass, and forever in his left a string of sausages
that dangled down among the gnomes. With his American back to this, the
cow-puncher, wearing the same serious, absent face he had not changed
since he ran away from himself at Cheyenne, considered carefully the Hot
Scotch question, and which side of the road to take and stick to, while
the little bootblacks found him once more and cried, "Shine? Shine?"
monotonous as snow-birds. He settled to stay over here with the
south-side Scotches, and the little one-note song reaching his attention,
he suddenly shoved his foot at the nearest boy, who lightly sprang away.
"Dare you to touch him!" piped a snow-bird, dangerously. They were in
short trousers, and the eldest enemy, it may be, was ten.
"Don't hit me," said Mr. McLean "I'm innocent."
"Well, you leave him be," said one.
"What's he layin' to kick you for, Billy? 'Tain't yer pop, is it?"
"New!" said Billy, in scorn. "Father never kicked me. Don't know who he
"He's a special!" shrilled the leading bird, sensationally. "He's got a
badge, and he's goin' to arrest yer."
Two of them hopped instantly to the safe middle of the street, and
scattered with practiced strategy; but Billy stood his ground. "Dare you
to arrest me!" said he.
"What'll you give me not to?" inquired Lin, and he put his hands in his
pockets, arms akimbo.
"Nothing; I've done nothing," announced Billy, firmly. But even in the
last syllable his voice suddenly failed, a terror filled his eyes, and
he, too, sped into the middle of the street.
"What's he claim you lifted?" inquired the leader, with eagerness. "Tell
him you haven't been inside a store to-day. We can prove it!" they
screamed to the special officer.
"Say," said the slow-spoken Lin from the pavement, "you're poor judges of
a badge, you fellows."
His tone pleased them where they stood, wide apart from each other.
Mr. McLean also remained stationary in the bluish illumination of the
window. "Why, if any policeman was caught wearin' this here," said he,
following his sprightly invention, "he'd get arrested himself."
This struck them extremely. They began to draw together, Billy lingering
"If it's your idea," pursued Mr. McLean, alluringly, as the three took
cautious steps nearer the curb, "that blue, clasped hands in a circle of
red stars gives the bearer the right to put folks in the jug--why, I'll
get somebody else to black my boots for a dollar."
The three made a swift rush, fell on simultaneous knees, and clattering
their boxes down, began to spit in an industrious circle.
"Easy!" wheedled Mr. McLean, and they looked up at him, staring and
fascinated. "Not having three feet," said the cow-puncher, always grave
and slow, "I can only give two this here job."
"He's got a big pistol and a belt!" exulted the leader, who had
precociously felt beneath Lin's coat.
"You're a smart boy," said Lin, considering him, "and yu' find a man out
right away. Now you stand off and tell me all about myself while they fix
the boots--and a dollar goes to the quickest through."
Young Billy and his tow-headed competitor flattened down, each to a boot,
with all their might, while the leader ruefully contemplated Mr. McLean.
"That's a Colt .45 you've got," ventured he.
"Right again. Some day, maybe, you'll be wearing one of your own, if the
angels don't pull yu' before you're ripe."
"I'm through!" sang out Towhead, rising in haste.
Small Billy was struggling still, but leaped at that, the two heads
bobbing to a level together; and Mr. McLean, looking down, saw that the
arrangement had not been a good one for the boots.
"Will you kindly referee," said he, forgivingly, to the leader, "and
decide which of them smears is the awfulest?"
But the leader looked the other way and played upon a mouth-organ.
"Well, that saves me money," said Mr. McLean, jingling his pocket. "I
guess you've both won." He handed each of them a dollar. "Now," he
continued, "I just dassent show these boots uptown; so this time it's a
dollar for the best shine."
The two went palpitating at their brushes again, and the leader played
his mouth-organ with brilliant unconcern. Lin, tall and brooding leaned
against the jutting sill of the window, a figure somehow plainly strange
in town, while through the bright plate-glass Santa Claus, holding out
his beer and sausages, perpetually beamed.
Billy was laboring gallantly, but it was labor, the cow-puncher
perceived, and Billy no seasoned expert. "See here," said Lin, stooping,
"I'll show yu' how it's done. He's playin' that toon cross-eyed enough to
steer anybody crooked. There. Keep your blacking soft, and work with a
"Lemme," said Billy. "I've got to learn." So he finished the boot his own
way with wiry determination, breathing and repolishing; and this event
was also adjudged a dead heat, with results gratifying to both parties.
So here was their work done, and more money in their pockets than from
all the other boots and shoes of this day; and Towhead and Billy did not
wish for further trade, but to spend this handsome fortune as soon as
might be. Yet they delayed in the brightness of the window, drawn by
curiosity near this new kind of man whose voice held them and whose
remarks dropped them into constant uncertainty. Even the omitted leader
had been unable to go away and nurse his pride alone.
"Is that a secret society?" inquired Towhead, lifting a finger at the
Mr. McLean nodded. "Turruble," said he.
"You're a Wells & Fargo detective," asserted the leader.
"Play your harp," said Lin.
"Are you a--a desperaydo?" whispered Towhead.
"Oh, my!" observed Mr. McLean, sadly; "what has our Jack been readin'?"
"He's a cattle-man!" cried Billy. "I seen his heels."
"That's you!" said the discovered puncher, with approval. "You'll do. But
I bet you can't tell me what we wearers of this badge have sworn to do
At this they craned their necks and glared at him.
"We--are--sworn--don't yu' jump, now, and give me away--sworn--to--blow
off three bootblacks to a dinner."
"Ah, pshaw!" They backed away, bristling with distrust.
"That's the oath, fellows. Yu' may as well make your minds up--for I have
it to do!"
"Dare you to! Ah!"
"And after dinner it's the Opera-house, to see 'The Children of Captain
They screamed shrilly at him, keeping off beyond the curb.
"I can't waste my time on such smart boys," said Mr. McLean, rising
lazily to his full height from the window-sill. "I am goin' somewhere to
find boys that ain't so turruble quick stampeded by a roast turkey."
He began to lounge slowly away, serious as he had been throughout, and
they, stopping their noise short, swiftly picked up their boxes, and
followed him. Some change in the current of electricity that fed the
window disturbed its sparkling light, so that Santa Claus, with his arms
stretched out behind the departing cow-puncher seemed to be smiling more
broadly from the midst of his flickering brilliance.
On their way to turkey, the host and his guests exchanged but few
remarks. He was full of good-will, and threw off a comment or two that
would have led to conversation under almost any circumstances save these;
but the minds of the guests were too distracted by this whole state of
things for them to be capable of more than keeping after Mr. McLean in
silence, at a wary interval, and with their mouths, during most of the
journey, open. The badge, the pistol, their patron's talk, and the
unusual dollars, wakened wide their bent for the unexpected, their street
affinity for the spur of the moment; they believed slimly in the turkey
part of it, but what this man might do next, to be there when he did it,
and not to be trapped, kept their wits jumping deliciously; so when they
saw him stop, they stopped instantly too, ten feet out of reach. This was
Denver's most civilized restaurant--that one which Mr. McLean had
remembered, with foreign dishes and private rooms, where he had promised
himself, among other things, champagne. Mr. McLean had never been inside
it, but heard a tale from a friend; and now he caught a sudden sight of
people among geraniums, with plumes and white shirt-fronts, very elegant.
It must have been several minutes that he stood contemplating the
entrance and the luxurious couples who went in.
"Plumb French!" he observed at length; and then, "Shucks!" in a key less
confident, while his guests ten feet away watched him narrowly. "They're
eatin' patty de parley-voo in there," he muttered, and the three
bootblacks came beside him. "Say, fellows," said Lin, confidingly, "I
wasn't raised good enough for them dude dishes. What do yu' say! I'm
after a place where yu' can mention oyster stoo without givin' anybody a
fit. What do yu' say, boys?"
That lighted the divine spark of brotherhood!
"Ah, you come along with us--we'll take yer! You don't want to go in
there. We'll show yer the boss place in Market Street. We won't lose yer."
So, shouting together in their shrill little city trebles, they clustered
about him, and one pulled at his coat to start him. He started
obediently, and walked in their charge, they leading the way.
"Christmas is comin' now, sure," said Lin, grinning to himself. "It ain't
exactly what I figured on." It was the first time he had laughed since
Cheyenne, and he brushed a hand over his eyes, that were dim with the new
warmth in his heart.
Believing at length in him and his turkey, the alert street faces, so
suspicious of the unknown, looked at him with ready intimacy as they went
along; and soon, in the friendly desire to make him acquainted with
Denver, the three were patronizing him. Only Billy, perhaps, now and then
stole at him a doubtful look.
The large Country Mouse listened solemnly to his three Town Mice, who
presently introduced him to the place in Market Street. It was not boss,
precisely, and Denver knows better neighborhoods; but the turkey and the
oyster stew were there, with catsup and vegetables in season, and several
choices of pie. Here the Country Mouse became again efficient; and to
witness his liberal mastery of ordering and imagine his pocket and its
wealth, which they had heard and partly seen, renewed in the guests a
transient awe. As they dined, however, and found the host as frankly
ravenous as themselves, this reticence evaporated, and they all grew
fluent with oaths and opinions. At one or two words, indeed, Mr. McLean
stared and had a slight sense of blushing.
"Have a cigarette?" said the leader, over his pie.
"Thank yu'," said Lin. "I won't smoke, if yu'll excuse me." He had
devised a wholesome meal, with water to drink.
"Chewin's no good at meals," continued the boy. "Don't you use tobaccer?"
"Onced in a while."
The leader spat brightly. "He ain't learned yet," said he, slanting his
elbows at Billy and sliding a match over his rump. "But beer, now--I
never seen anything in it." He and Towhead soon left Billy and his callow
profanities behind, and engaged in a town conversation that silenced him,
and set him listening with all his admiring young might. Nor did Mr.
McLean join in the talk, but sat embarrassed by this knowledge, which
seemed about as much as he knew himself.
"I'll be goshed," he thought, "if I'd caught on to half that when I was
streakin' around in short pants! Maybe they grow up quicker now." But now
the Country Mouse perceived Billy's eager and attentive apprenticeship.
"Hello, boys!" he said, "that theatre's got a big start on us."
They had all forgotten he had said anything about theatre, and other
topics left their impatient minds, while the Country Mouse paid the bill
and asked to be guided to the Opera-house. "This man here will look out
for your blackin' and truck, and let yu' have it in the morning."
They were very late. The spectacle had advanced far into passages of the
highest thrill, and Denver's eyes were riveted upon a ship and some
icebergs. The party found its seats during several beautiful lime-light
effects, and that remarkable fly-buzzing of violins which is pronounced so
helpful in times of peril and sentiment. The children of Captain Grant
had been tracking their father all over the equator and other scenic
spots, and now the north pole was about to impale them. The Captain's
youngest child, perceiving a hummock rushing at them with a sudden
motion, loudly shouted, "Sister, the ice is closing in!" and she replied,
chastely, "Then let us pray." It was a superb tableau: the ice split, and
the sun rose and joggled at once to the zenith. The act-drop fell, and
male Denver, wrung to its religious deeps, went out to the rum-shop.
Of course Mr. McLean and his party did not do this. The party had
applauded exceedingly the defeat of the elements, and the leader, with
Towhead, discussed the probable chances of the ship's getting farther
south in the next act. Until lately Billy's doubt of the cow-puncher had
lingered; but during this intermission whatever had been holding out in
him seemed won, and in his eyes, that he turned stealthily upon his
unconscious, quiet neighbor, shone the beginnings of hero-worship.
"Don't you think this is splendid?" said he.
"Splendid," Lin replied, a trifle remotely.
"Don't you like it when they all get balled up and get out that way?"
"Humming," said Lin.
"Don't you guess it's just girls, though, that do that?"
"What, young fellow?"
"Why, all that prayer-saying an' stuff."
"I guess it must be."
"She said to do it when the ice scared her, an' of course a man had to do
what she wanted him."
"Well, do you believe they'd 'a' done it if she hadn't been on that boat,
and clung around an' cried an' everything, an' made her friends feel
"I hardly expect they would," replied the honest Lin, and then, suddenly
mindful of Billy, "except there wasn't nothin' else they could think of,"
he added, wishing to speak favorably of the custom.
"Why, that chunk of ice weren't so awful big anyhow. I'd 'a' shoved her
off with a pole. Wouldn't you?"
"Butted her like a ram," exclaimed Mr. McLean.
"Well, I don't say my prayers any more. I told Mr. Perkins I wasn't
a-going to, an' he--I think he is a flubdub anyway."
"I'll bet he is!" said Lin, sympathetically. He was scarcely a prudent
"I told him straight, an' he looked at me an' down he flops on his knees.
An' he made 'em all flop, but I told him I didn't care for them putting
up any camp-meeting over me; an' he says, 'I'll lick you,' an' I says,
'Dare you to!' I told him mother kep' a-licking me for nothing, an' I'd
not pray for her, not in Sunday-school or anywheres else. Do you pray
"No," replied Lin, uneasily.
"There! I told him a man didn't, an' he said then a man went to hell.
'You lie; father ain't going to hell,' I says, and you'd ought to heard
the first class laugh right out loud, girls an' boys. An' he was that
mad! But I didn't care. I came here with fifty cents."
"Yu' must have felt like a millionaire."
"Ah, I felt all right! I bought papers an' sold 'em, an' got more an'
saved, ant got my box an' blacking outfit. I weren't going to be licked
by her just because she felt like it, an' she feeling like it most any
time. Lemme see your pistol."
"You wait," said Lin. "After this show is through I'll put it on you."
"Will you, honest? Belt an' everything? Did you ever shoot a bear?"
"Silver-tips, cinnamon, black; and I roped a cub onced."
"O-h! I never shot a bear."
"You'd ought to try it."
"I'm a-going to. I'm a-going to camp out in the mountains. I'd like to
see you when you camp. I'd like to camp with you. Mightn't I some time?"
Billy had drawn nearer to Lin, and was looking up at him adoringly.
"You bet!" said Lin; and though he did not, perhaps, entirely mean this,
it was with a curiously softened face that he began to look at Billy. As
with dogs and his horse, so always he played with what children he met--
the few in his sage-brush world; but this was ceasing to be quite play
for him, and his hand went to the boy's shoulder.
"Father took me camping with him once, the time mother was off. Father
gets awful drunk, too. I've quit Laramie for good."
Lin sat up, and his hand gripped the boy. "Laramie!" said he, almost
shouting it. "Yu'--yu'--is your name Lusk?"
But the boy had shrunk from him instantly. "You're not going to take me
home?" he piteously wailed.
"Heaven and heavens!" murmured Lin McLean. "So you're her kid!"
He relaxed again, down in his chair, his legs stretched their straight
length below the chair in front. He was waked from his bewilderment by a
brushing under him, and there was young Billy diving for escape to the
aisle, like the cornered city mouse that he was. Lin nipped that poor
little attempt and had the limp Billy seated inside again before the two
in discussion beyond had seen anything. He had said not a word to the
boy, and now watched his unhappy eyes seizing upon the various exits and
dispositions of the theatre; nor could he imagine anything to tell him
that should restore the perished confidence. "Why did yu' lead him off?"
he asked himself unexpectedly, and found that he did not seem to know;
but as he watched the restless and estranged runaway he grew more and
more sorrowful. "I just hate him to think that of me," he reflected. The
curtain rose, and he saw Billy make up his mind to wait until they should
all be going out in the crowd. While the children of Captain Grant grew
hotter and hotter upon their father's geographic trail, Lin sat saying to
himself a number of contradictions. "He's nothing to me; what's any of
them to me?" Driven to bay by his bewilderment, he restated the facts of
the past. "Why, she'd deserted him and Lusk before she'd ever laid eyes
on me. I needn't to bother myself. He wasn't never even my step-kid." The
past, however, brought no guidance. "Lord, what's the thing to do about
this? If I had any home-- This is a stinkin' world in some respects,"
said Mr. McLean, aloud, unknowingly. The lady in the chair beneath which
the cow-puncher had his legs nudged her husband. They took it for emotion
over the sad fortune of Captain Grant, and their backs shook. Presently
each turned, and saw the singular man with untamed, wide-open eyes
glowering at the stage, and both backs shook again.
Once more his hand was laid on Billy. "Say!" The boy glanced at him, and
"Look at me, and listen."
Billy swervingly obeyed.
"I ain't after yu', and never was. This here's your business, not mine.
Are yu' listenin' good?"
The boy made a nod, and Lin proceeded, whispering: "You've got no call to
believe what I say to yu'--yu've been lied to, I guess, pretty often. So
I'll not stop yu' runnin' and hidin', and I'll never give it away I saw
yu', but yu' keep doin' what yu' please. I'll just go now. I've saw all I
want, but you and your friends stay with it till it quits. If yu' happen
to wish to speak to me about that pistol or bears, yu' come around to
Smith's Palace--that's the boss hotel here, ain't it?--and if yu' don't
come too late I'll not be gone to bed. But this time of night I'm liable
to get sleepy. Tell your friends good-bye for me, and be good to
yourself. I've appreciated your company."
Mr. McLean entered Smith's Palace, and, engaging a room with two beds in
it, did a little delicate lying by means of the truth. "It's a lost boy--
a runaway," he told the clerk. "He'll not be extra clean, I expect, if
he does come. Maybe he'll give me the slip, and I'll have a job cut out
to-morrow. I'll thank yu' to put my money in your safe."
The clerk placed himself at the disposal of the secret service, and Lin
walked up and down, looking at the railroad photographs for some ten
minutes, when Master Billy peered in from the street.
"Hello!" said Mr. McLean, casually, and returned to a fine picture of
Billy observed him for a space, and, receiving no further attention, came
stepping along. "I'm not a-going back to Laramie," he stated, warningly.
"I wouldn't," said Lin. "It ain't half the town Denver is. Well,
good-night. Sorry yu' couldn't call sooner--I'm dead sleepy."
"O-h!" Billy stood blank. "I wish I'd shook the darned old show. Say,
lemme black your boots in the morning?"
"Not sure my train don't go too early."
"I'm up! I'm up! I get around to all of 'em."
"Where do yu' sleep?"
"Sleeping with the engine-man now. Why can't you put that on me
"Goin' up-stairs. This gentleman wouldn't let you go up-stairs."
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