Henry Wallace Phillips
Part 2 out of 2
"'Villain!' says she haughtily. 'How dast you put your evil hands
"'Hadds,' says I, 'leggo the lady. We pass. Let us retire behind
the prescription counter and bear up like men. There's only one
thing on earth that E. G. W. Scraggs is willin' to admit has him
trimmed to a peak, and you see that same before you now. 'Twas
ever thus since childhood's hour, when my maiden Aunt Susan took
the raisin' of me. Take any form thou wilt but this, and my firm
nerve ain't goin' to tremble; but stacked again this form, my nerve
is floppin' like a hotel wash in a hurricane.'
"So I slung Hadds over my shoulder and we went behind the
"I tried to distract his mind by tellin' him a funny story.
However, the rip-split-smash outside kind of jumbled three yarns
into one. Besides, Hadds was foamin' so it was all I could do to
keep him from goin' over and kickin' the Major, who still was
oblivious to surroundings, and enwrapped in the gentle art of
sneezin'. Then there come a fearful bump from outside. I knew by
that a showcase was no more.
"'Zeke!' yells Hadds, 'think of somethin' before that woman has us
"'Haddsy, old horse,' I says, 'we've only got one show. If we can
create a diversion we win. My head's that rumpled, the only thing
strikes me is for us to go out there and play cat-fight. Holler,
and meaowl, and spit, and screech, and jump around till she can't
help but look at us. That's the way I uset to amuse the twins when
they needed killin'; of course we'll look like a pair of fools----'
"'Yes!' hollers Hadds. 'What do we look like now? You get three
"'Come along!' says I.
"Well, dear friends and brothers, our hearts was in that diversion,
let alone the stake we'd invested in the store. If you don't think
one bald-headed E. G. W. Scraggs and one red-headed Tommy Hadds put
up a high-grade article of cat-fight I don't know how I'm goin' to
prove to the contrary; but it was so.
[Illustration: "Put up a high-grade article of cat-fight."]
"Why, we buck-jumped four foot in the air, sideways, edgeways and
straight pitch-and-teeter; we mi-auwed, and scratched, and tore and
rolled over, and kicked with our hind legs, and such yells was
never heard in a human habitation before nor since.
"It worked. The Mayoress stopped and leaned over the counter.
"'Warm it up, Hadds!' I whispers. 'We got her lookin'!'
"So then we rollicked for a ramps. I see the Majoress smile; she
p'inted her finger toward us.
"'S-sick 'em!' says she. 'Sick 'em, Towser!'
"It would have been all right; we was playin' on velvet, and could
have led that woman out of the store as easy as anything if that
concussed Major hadn't 'a' come to in the wrong place.
"I caught one glimpse of him holdin' tight with both hands to a
shelf, with his eyes jumpin' out of his head and his face as white
"Of course no man would really believe that the spectacle of two
grown men playin' cat-fight in the ruins of a drug store, whilest
his own wife looked on and said 'Sick 'em!' was anything but an
optickle delusion, caused by reasons he was familiar with.
"'It's never come like this before!' hollers the Major, and then he
goes down backward for the final touch, carryin' away a kerosene
lamp, and the same landin' in a barrel of varnish.
"Well, sir, what with the stuff that was loose around there and the
varnish, my coat tails was afire when I lugged the Major out to
where Hadds was industriously savin' the Mayoress' life.
"The two hose companies got out in good shape, but a most
unforchinit dispute over who was to claim first water on the fire
led 'em to use axes and spanner wrenches and sections of hose on
each other whilst our drug store burned green and purple and pink,
neglected. Inside of ten minutes eight firemen was ready for the
hospital; a good citizen took the Major and Majoress in for the
night, and all that was left of our promisin' business enterprise
was a small heap of wood ashes and a very bad smell.
"'Well,' says I, 'shake, Hadds; it's all over.'
"He grabbed my hand, weepin'.
"'No, it ain't, Scraggsy, Old Man Rocks,' says he. 'You stood by
me noble, and I'll do the same by you.' He fumbled in his pocket.
'I've saved a complete equipment from the wreck,' says he, and with
that he hauls out a couple of decks of cards and a box of poker
chips. 'All is lost save honor, Zeke," says he, 'but I reckon we
can raise a dollar or two on that.'
"I was so moved in my feelin's I could only shake his manly hand.
"When I could speak, says I, 'We'll rise like a couple of them
Fenian birds from the ashes, pard.'
"And hope springin' eternal once more in our chests, we took a
little drink at Jimmy's place and went to bed happy."
THE MOURNFUL NUMBER
"It's a great misfortune to be superstishyous," said Mr. Scraggs.
"Such a thing would never have troubled me if I hadn't a-learnt
from experience that facts carried out the idee. Now, you take
that number thirteen. There's reason for believin' it's unlucky.
One reason is, when things is all walkin' backwards folks says
they're at sixes and sevens. Well, six and seven makes thirteen,
so there you are."
"I ain't much more than arrived," replied Red, rubbing his head
"I'm comin' fast," said Charley; "but don't wait for me, Zeke."
"Well, that's only speculation, anyhow," continued Mr. Scraggs
indulgently; "and speculation has made heaps of trouble for piles
of people if I'm to believe what I read, which I don't. But here's
cold facts. I was born on the thirteenth of April, at a time when
me and the country was both younger than we are now. Hadn't been
for that I'd dodged considerable mishaps. It was on the thirteenth
of October last, in the early mornin', that I mistook that
rattlesnake for a chunk of wood and heaved him in the stove."
"Well, where's the bad luck in that?" asked Charley.
"Inquire of the snake," said Mr. Scraggs; "besides, he smelt awful.
I don't seem to be able to bring back any mornin' I cared less for
breakfast than that one. Suppose you was a happy rattlesnake,
Charley, with a large and promisin' fambly; suppose, now, on a
frosty thirteenth of October you crawled under the cook-stove to
get warm the minute the camp cook opened the door, and, before you
limbered up enough to bite him, cooky lays cold and unfeelin' hands
upon you and Jams you into the stove--ain't the number thirteen
goin' to carry unpleasant recollections for you from that on? Bet
your life. Howsomever, these are only small details. My main
proof that the number thirteen ain't any better than it orter be
lies in the fact that one day I married the thirteenth in Mrs.
Scraggs. If I'd never'd hearn of such a thing I'd know'd thirteen
was no good from that time on. This ain't to cast reflections on
the other Mrs. Scraggses, neither. I will say for them wimmen that
anything simple-heartedness could do to prepare a man to meet his
end cheerful they done. But Mehitabel the Thirteenth, of the
reignin' family of Scraggs, was a genius. Uncle Peter Paisley uset
to say that a genius was a person that could take a cork and a
dryness of the throat, and with them simple ingrejents construct a
case of jim-jams. More than one-quarter of the time Uncle Pete
knew what he was talkin' about, too, and the rest of it he was too
happy to care. Mehitabel was a sure-enough genius: she could make
a domestic difficulty out of a shoestring, she could draw a fambly
jar through a hole in a sock, and she could bring on civil war over
the question of whether there was anything to quar'l about,
"Come Christmastime, I thought I'd leave home for a spell. There
was an old friend of mine holdin' down a mine out in the hills. I
knew he wouldn't have no company around, and I pined for solitude.
There is a time in the affairs of men, as Shakespeare says, when a
pair of cold feet beats any hands in the deck. Keno Jim said
Shakespeare said so, and Shakespeare's too dead to argue.
"'So I puts on a pair of them long, slidin' snowshoes they call
'skees' and slips for William Pemberton and the lonesome mountains.
People don't call a thing 'skee' unless they hev good reason for
it. Before I caught the hang of them durn disconnected bob-sleds I
saw where the 'skee' come in. The feller that loaned 'em to me
kindly explained that you slid down the hills on 'em, and it was
great sport. When I clumb the first hill and stood perspirin' on
top I felt entitled to a little sport. 'Hooray!' says I, and
pushed loose. It was a long, wide, high hill with trees and things
on it. Some time after I started, say about three seconds, I
thought I'd like to slack a bit and view the scenery. The way I
was travelin' the scenery looked like the spokes of a flywheel. I
left my stummick and my immortal soul about ten rods behind me.
You could play checkers on my coat-tail, as the sayin' is. Man!
And I pushed up a hurricane. It cut my eyes so I cried icicles a
foot long. _Roar-row-roor-s-s-wish_! we went in the open, and
_me-a-arrr_! we ripped through the timber. I crossed a downed log
unexpected and flew thirty foot in the air. Whilst aloft I see a
creek dead ahead of me. There wasn't nothin' to do but jump when I
come to it, so I jumped. I don't care a cuss whether you believe
me or not, dear friends and brothers, but I want to tell you right
now that I cleared the creek with something like one hundred and
eighty feet to spare! At which I took to throwin' summersaults. I
threw one solid quarter-mile of summersaults before that suddent
cravin' was satisfied.
"'Y-a-as,' says I when I picked myself up. 'Well, I reckon I've
done enough of this here skeedaddlin' for one mornin'. So after
that I went along quiet and dignified to William Pemberton's.
"I hit his cabin on Christmas Eve, findin' him very low-spirited.
It seems that he was expectin' an attack from some people anxious
to jump the claims, thereby gettin' the mill standin' on the
property. The feller that hired Billy as watchman promised him
everything and forgot it. Billy was almighty faithful but
"'Think of it!' says he to me. 'I gets word two days ago that the
gang is comin' to hop me, and old man Davis ain't even sent me a
rifle, like he agreed. What does he expect? Does he have
illusions that when they come squirtin' lead at me I'm goin' to peg
at 'em with snowballs?'
"Then he laid back, fightin' for breath, and kickin' out with his
legs till I loosened his collar. It was a terrible strain, bein'
watchman of a mill under them conditions, with a disposition like
this. I pitched in to make him feel better. After I'd narrated
some incidents that went to make up livin' with Mrs. Scraggs he
chirped up considerable. 'Well, sir! This _is_ a gay world, ain't
it?' says he. 'I wisht I could offer you something to drown your
sorrers in, Zeke, but unless you happen to have brought along the
makings of a flowing bowl we can't put an end to 'em at this ranch.'
"Well, now, that was sorrerful tidin's. I reckon William took
notice of my face--Christmas Eve, alone on top of a God-forsaken
mountain and not a smell of anything to make the sun rise in our
"'I feel awful bad about this, Zeke,' says he.
"'Don't mention it,' says I as soon's I could tune my pipes to a
cheerful lie. 'Your presence is sufficient.'
"'But I have an idee,' says he, pushing his finger agin my ribs.
'Don't git excited, Zeke, only to be cast down the harder, but
there's a chance. All last summer we had stockholders'
investigation meetings, and the way old man Davis led 'em to make
investigations through a glass darkly was a sin and a scandal. The
altytood was too altytoodinous for strangers, says old man Davis,
and therefore they must take a drink; and it was too cold and too
hot, too wet and too dry, and if everything else failed it was too
cussed mejium for them to live through it without takin' a drink.
The consequence was that all I remember about a stockholder is that
he's a kind of man with wibbly-wabbly knees and feet that wants to
swap sides, who spends his time hiccupin' up and down the mine
trails, findin' specimens when and where old man Davis wills.'
"William Pemberton smote his forehead with the flat of his
hand--everything took hold of William _so_ vi'lent. 'I give you my
word, Zeke,' says he, 'that them horse-car busters picked hunks of
red serpentine, loaded with gold from the Texas Star, out of our
white quartz ledges that never see gold since Adam played tag, and
believed it was all right--just the same as the gent pulls a rabbit
out of your hat at the show, and you're convinced that rabbit was
there all the time unbeknownst to you. And to think--' he says.
"'Sit down, William, sit down,' says I. 'I don't know what to do
"'Well, I'll sit down to oblige you, Zeke; but to think of them
flappy-footed yawps puttin' away good liquor by the
pailful--pailful?' yells William scornful.
"'Well,' says I hastily, 'you was sayin' you had an idee?'
"'Oh, yes!' says he. 'It don't stand in reason they rounded up
every last bottle, so it occurred to me that if we hunted we might
"'Why, so we could!' I hollers loud and hearty, with more notion of
creatin' a diversion, however, than any rank faith in my havin' a
good time off what old man Davis overlooked. 'It'll be like
hide-and-go-seek of a Christmas Eve when we was kids, William.'
"So we scrimmaged round here and there till there was only one
closet in the cabin left.
"'I saved it till the last--it's the most likely,' says William.
'Shine a light on our departing hopes, Ezekiel.'
"He put his hand very careful toward the back. 'E. G. W., says
he,' 'my fingers have teched something cold and smooth, just like a
bottle--pull hard, Ezekiel.'
"I took a long breath and pulled hard.
"'It _is_ round,' says William Pemberton. 'It _is_ a bottle.'
"Nothin' could be heard but the beatin' of our hearts.
"'Is it--is it--_heavy_, William?' I falters. Then you couldn't
hear nothin', for our hearts had cease to beat. He let loose of a
roar same as a lion that's skipped atop of his prey.
'Ezekiel G. W. Scraggs!' he shrieks, 'she's full!'
"'I wish no better luck myself,' says I. 'Trot her out!'
"When the light of the lantern fell upon that bottle we got a
shock. Instead of the cheerin' color that usually fills useful
bottles, the contents of this here one was green--green as grass
off a June hillside.
"'Well!' says William, 'what in--where in--why, it's perfumery!' he
hollers, and raises it for a smash.
"'Hold, William! Hold!' says I. 'It's got red sealin'-wax on the
top. If you break it before we take a sample you and me is the
best of friends parted in the middle, not to mention the
disturbance we'll make in this room.'
"So I took it away from him and looked at it in the candle-light.
Sure enough, there was the inspirin' words on it, 'Liqueur--Creme
de Menthe.' A furreign way of spellin' liquor, to be sure, but
what's a letter or two out of the way, so long as the results is in
"'William,' says I, 'L-i-q, lick, u-e-u-r, er--licker. Get
glasses, William, and let us be joyful.'
"William mumbled somethin' about green not bein' a joyful color,
but he went and did as I told him.
"That stuff smelt of perpemint, fearful. It was a young ladies'
bevridge if ever I hit one. We sot opposite each other, filled a
tumbler apiece, says, 'Here's how,' and waited. We waited quite
"'Ezekiel, do you notice anythin'?' says William. Well, to tell
the truth, I hadn't; yet it might only been fancy, so I says,
'Seems to me I _do_, William--nothin' vi'lent, nor musical, nor
humorous--but a kind of a tranquil, preliminary,
what-you-might-call-indication of somethin' to follow.'
"'Huh,' says William, 'let's try another.
"We was careful to load to the brim this time. After five minutes
I says, 'Are you sure you don't notice nothin,' William?' I
observed a risin' color in his face.
"'U-m-m--y-a-as,' says he most sarcastical; 'I notice somethin',
Ezekiel--a strong smell of peppermint--not escaped you, perhaps?
Well, there's just one more swig of green paint goin' to force
itself into the midst of William Pemberton, and if there ain't more
to show for it than the present odor and a sensation 'sif I'd been
turned inside out and exposed to the wintry blasts you'll hear from
me, Ezekiel. I've stood,' says William, 'about all I'm prepared to
stand. The next act will be for me to proceed to get a move on.'
"Knowin' what a powerful disposition he had I most sincerely hoped
our next glass would bring about satisfactory conclusions. I
downed her, but it had got to be all I could do, I felt a freezin'
cold in my vitals, like William had complained of, instead of the
warmth and comfort for which I looked. Y-a-as, I swallered that
glass by main strength, like a snake would a hop-toad--kinder
lengthened myself until I was outside of it.
"'Tick-tick-tick,' remarks William's clock on the wall. When it
had arranged its hands before its mild countenance in such a way as
to inform me that twenty minutes, mountain time, had done all the
elapsin' possible, I slid my anxious gaze on William. He held to
his chair with both hands, and white spots showed in his cheeks,
the way he chawed his teeth together.
"'Ahem,' says I, clearin' my throat, 'Hum--ah, do you--er--do you
"I got no farther. William leant over and bent his finger double
agin my chest. 'Full well,' says he in a tone of v'ice not loud
but so loaded with meanin' it bumped on his teeth--'full well,
Ezekiel George Washington Scraggs, do I assimerlate what the
results of such a course will be, but if you should persume to ast
me any more if I notice anything I shall at once arise and bat you
in the eye--I am beyond carin' for conserquences.'
"'Now, now, now! What is the use of gettin' so excited? Take a
drink of water--you'll bust your b'iler, foamin' like that,' I says.
"'Water!' says William. 'Ha, ha, ha.' It wasn't no giggle, that
laugh of his. It was one of them blood-curdlers you read about.
"'All right," says he, brisk, 'to oblige you--remember that.' He
turned the dipper upside down, then heaved it through the window.
'Sufferin' Ike'' says he, "I can't even taste it--nothin' but cold,
cold. Went down my gullet like a buckshot down a ten-foot shaft.'
He struggled for air and continued; 'Here am I,' says he, 'William
Pemberton, celebratin' Christmas by dyeing my linin' green and
smellin' like a recess in a country school.' His ventilation give
out again, whilest he worked his face into knots and flew his hands
around. 'You come along with me,' says he, 'and I'll show you a
"I grabbed him. 'William,' I says, 'your eye is desperate. You
explain to me before you scuff a foot.'
"'Leggo me,' he says; 'I tell you, leggo me, Zeke Scraggs. I'm
goin' to have my revenge. I'm goin' to take ten cases of giant
powder and blow the mill of Honorable John Lawson Davis, Member of
Congress, Champion Double-Jointed, Ground-and-Lofty,
Collar-and-Elbow, Skin and Liar, so high in the air that folks'll
think there's a new comet, predictin' war and trouble.'
"'William,' I says 'you ain't goin' to do no such thing--that's
wicked, that is.' I tried to speak stern, but this here Christmas
hadn't amounted to much so far, and I never had seen a stamp mill
blew up, so I couldn't help wonderin' how it would look.
"'See here!' says he, 'I'll admit many a time you've licked me in a
friendly way, Ezekiel, and I'm obliged to you; but, now, be you, or
ben't you, my guest?'
"'I be,' says I.
"'Then don't let's hear no more out of you,' he says, 'but come
"'The powder'll be friz,' I hints, still tryin' to switch him off.
"'Not much,' he says. 'She's down a cellar twenty foot deep--come
"'Just as you say, William,' I remarks--the only thing to do.
"So we toted ten cases of giant to the bottom of the mill, fixed
the cap and fuse careful, touched her off, and walked away from
"Whilest I wouldn't have you think for a minute, dear friends and
brothers, that I uphold any conduct like that, for my part I'm
willin' to admit there's things less exhileratin' than standin' on
a small rise, of a clear, fine, moonlight winter night, waitin' to
see a fifty-stamp mill go off,
"And she went. Let me repeat it: she went. We first ketched a
smack on the soles of our feet, and then that mill flew to a fiery
finish. Jeehoopidderammity! It was simply gorgeous.
"We didn't have time to take it all in, howsomever, for after the
first blast a big, black thing sailed over our heads with the
fearfullest screech that ever scart a man to death.
"'Zeke,' says William, hangin' on to my neck, 'did I hear
somethin', or is it that cussed green ink workin'?'
"'I thought I observed a sound,' says I; 'and whatever it was lit
yonder. Let's go see.
"William hadn't intended to go and see at all. In fact, I dragged
him by the hair and belt the hull distance--not that I was exactly
afraid, but nothin' is so lonesome when you have company.
"There was a hole in a snowbank where whatever it was went in. I
started to paw down, but William was for bunchin' it.
"'I tell you, let it be and hump yourself out'n here,' says he.
'It's after me because I blew up the mill; it's the devil, that's
what it is.'
"'Is it?' says I. 'Well, let's have a look at him. My veins is
full of cream de menthy, and I'll knock his horns off'n him if he
gives me any lip.'
"Just then the snowbank heaved up. It wasn't no devil--that is,
not exactly. It was a lady. I'd a bet on it if I'd had time to
think. I might have known there was no place on top of this
footstool where E. G. W. Scraggs could rest his weary feet without
some female happenin' in the same spot at the same time. I should
have took William's advice, but it was now too late.
"We stood around kinder awk'ard, with her brushin' snow from
herself, till I says, 'Well, good-evenin', ma'am.'
"First off she says good-evenin', too, out of surprise. Then she
begun to talk altogether different. She described William and me
by sections, goin' into particulars, and nobuddy'd loaned us money
on her recommend. I was used to this at home, so I spoke up nice
and silent in our defense. There ain't quite so much noise when
only one is talkin.'
"Finally, when her breath give out, William says very humble,
'Would you mind informin' us, ma'am, how you come to be in these
parts just now?'
"She explained fully that, in answer to an advertisement in the
paper, she was slidin' over to Squaw Creek. The advertisement
called for a wife for a farmer, to be forty years old, or
thereabouts, able to cook, plow, do washing and light blacksmith's
work, and to have a capital of five hundred dollars to invest in
"'An' now,' says she, beginning to weep, 'I'd camped in that mill,
an' I was only for steppin' out to git a bit of a stick to cook me
soopper, an' I was on me way back, when a-r-rur-BOOMP! it ses, an'
where's the five hoondred dollars that I left there, I dunno?
Agghh woosha-woosha the day, ye divils, ye! An' me hoopled t'rough
the air like a ol' hat--bad cess to yer ugly faces! The cuss o'
Crom'll lie heavy on ye for mistreatin' a poor, lone widdy woman!'
"'Well, ma'am,' says I, 'I wouldn't take the loss of the money to
heart. When the gentleman sees your face he won't care.' Usually,
you can kinder edge around the rough places with that game of talk.
But it didn't go here.
"'Aggh, g'wan, ye bald-headed ol' pepper-mint lozenger!' she
hollers. 'D'ye s'pose I niwer see a lookin'-glass? Where's the
man'll marry me widout me money? "Me face is me forchune, sor,"
sez she. "Tek it to the gravel bank an' have it cashed, then," sez
he. Where's the man that'll have me, face an' all, lackin' the
coin? Woora, woora, answer me that!'
"Well, as usual, it was up to me. There wasn't no escapin' it. A
man might just as well meet his fate smilin' as trailin' his lip on
the ground, for my experiences teaches, dear friends and brothers,
that Fate just naturally don't care a wooden-legged tinker's dam.
"'Madam,' says I, removin' my hat and bowin', 'the honorable name
of Scraggs is at your disposal.'
"'Eh?' says she. 'What's that you're sayin'?'
"'I repeat, plainly and sadly, ma'am, that one-fourteenth of my
heart and hands is at your disposal.'
"'Heh?' says she again. 'An' what's the one-foorteeneth mane?'
"'I have now,' I replies, 'thirteen wives--'Before I could get
another word out she was ra'rin.'
"'Oh!' she yells, 'ye villyan! Ye long-legged blaggard! Ye
hairless ol' scoundrel of the world! How dast ye?' She begun
lookin' around for a club, so I talked fast.
"'It's my religion, ma'am,' says I. 'I'm a Mormon by profession,
mixed with accident. Think a minute before you do somethin'
that'll cause general regret.'
"'Well,' she says, calmin' down, 'is there e'er an Oirish leddy in
"'Not one, up till this joyful present,' I answers. 'I don't
rightly know what country they hail from, but I can truthfully add
that I'm not thinkin' of takin' up homestead rights there.'
"'Aggh, g'long wid yer jokin',' says she, as kittenish as anything.
'Yer only foolin', ye are.' "'Ma'am,' says I, 'if you say the word
I shall at once proceed to get my fiery, untamed skees and go
gallopin' over the mountains to make you the fourteenth Mrs.
Scraggs with all speed and celery possible. You have only to speak
to turn this dreadful uncertainty into a horrible fact. I pay for
what I break; that's me, Jo Bush.'
"'Well, ain't this suddent!' she says. 'But I'll not stop ye from
yer intentions--men is that set in their ways! Run along, now,
loike a good choild!'
"'Well, good-by, William!' I says when we started, 'You see how it
"He cried on my coat collar. I honest believe that grass-juice had
a jump or two in it, so darned insijous a man wouldn't notice.
"'To think it was me brought this on,' he hollers. 'Me an' my
revengeful nature! You try to forgive me, Ezekiel. And we
everlastingly did wind up that mill, anyhow!'
"'William,' says I, 'take no heed. No man is above what happens to
him, unless like he'd been atop of the mill when she dispersed. I
Mr. Scraggs puffed his pipe thoughtfully. "Thirteen," he
ruminated, and shook his head. "Tell me not them mournful numbers."
"But," interrupted Charley, "I don't see as you was any worse off
"Me?" replied Mr. Scraggs in surprise. "Me? No, _I_ wasn't any
worse off. But, as I said before, inquire of the snake.
"Mrs. Mehitabel Thirteenth Scraggs opened up on me a few mornings
after that, and my latest acquisition instantly laid hold of her by
the hair of her head and beat her with a fryin'-pan till Number
Thirteen had to take to her feet and stay that way for a week.
"'You _will_ talk to my ol' man like that, will _you_?' says
Bridget. 'Well, mind you this, now! If he nades batin' _I'll_
bate him, but fur anny skimpy, yaller critter like yerself to so
much as give him a sassy look I'll construe as a mortial offense.
Run along, now, run along, and git him his breakfas', or I'll
strangle ye with me foot!'
[Illustration: "You _will_ talk to my ol' man like that, will
"No," said Mr. Scraggs, sadly. "I wasn't no worse off. If so it
hadn't 'a' been Bridget took a drop too much at the drug-store one
night, and another drop too much over the edge of the canon on the
way home, I reckon I'd had some good out of life. But it wasn't to
be, it wasn't to be. Drowned in the bud by the inflooence of that
cussed unlucky number, thirteen."
MR. SCRAGGS INTERVENES
"There was a man," said Mr. Scraggs, "who said, 'Deliver me from my
friends.' Now, I ain't goin' so far as to say I indorse that
statement, nor I ain't standin' still so strong as to say I don't.
But I know this: An enemy will do something for you every time,
whilest most friends won't, and, moreover, I ain't ever had any
enemy who furnished me with as much light entertainment as my
"I am speakin' from this here point of view. The real joyousness
of life consists of being busy. We won't take no vote on the
subjeck; we'll just admit it. Hence an enemy, that is an enemy,
when you be in good health and able for to look after the enemy
part from your side, is a great source of innercent amusement. A
man gets so durn practical, he don't take no interest in all the
pleasant rocks and bushes strewed over the country by the
beneficent hand of Providence. He shacks along on his little old
cayuse, with his mind occupied on how many things he can't do next,
and he gits plumb disgusted. But suppose there's a chance of an
able-bodied enemy, aided and abetted with a gun, a-hidin' behind
each and every one of them rocks and bushes? Don't life take on an
interest? I bet you money! The imaginations of that man's mind
gets started up. Life becomes full of chances. The man, he's
interested in his life because the other feller wants to take it
away from him. A good enemy in a lonesome country means more to
that man than her best friend's widower means to a maiden aunt.
"Red and me differs there, I know, but his idees gets sifted
through that crop of red alfalfa he wears, whilest I present a
clean proposition to any idee that comes boundin' o'er the lee, or
to wind'ard, or any direction she chooses to bound. Yessir; when I
begin to feel that life ain't worth livin' give me an enemy or a
friend like Pete Douglass.
"It ain't for me to poke no fun at Pete's looks. There's a place
where a humarious turn of mind orter stop. Pete's looks was too
serious for any man to get comic about. It appeared as if his
features had been blowed on to his face by a gale of wind; his
whiskers had a horrified expression, like they'd made their escape
if they hadn't been fastened on, and he was double-jointed in every
point of the compass. When he stood up straight he give you more
the impression of sittin' down then a man sick a-bed could. I
dunno how it come, but everything old Pete looked like, seemed
precisely the reverse.
"The way I got acquainted with Pete was when he put his hard coin
agin a French tin-horn's race-track game. There was little horses
running around a board, and you put your money where you thought it
would win, but you never thought right, because the Dago had a
stick under the table that pulled them races to suit his fancy.
"It stood to reason that taking money off'n a man who'd play such a
game was inhumanity in the first degree, so when Pete's last dollar
departed I entered that horse-race with a gun, just as I had no
business to, and I says to the tin-horn, 'Look-a-here, you put that
money across the board, or I'll play a tune on you,' and so he
shouldn't think I was interferin' out of an idle curiosity, I
pointed the weapon at him.
"'O-rrr righ'!' says he; 'Tooty-sweet.' I lost a good deal of
patience on the spot. You see, it seemed like he was tryin' to be
entertaining. I say, by way of an amoosin' remark, that I'm goin'
to play a tune on that tin-horn, and he gayly tells me to toot
sweet! Well, I don't want to harrow your feelin's. Anyway, Pete
got his money and Frenchy returned to the land where his style of
remarks was more appreciated, a little later.
"So Pete, he grasps my hand with tears in his eyes and considerable
blood on his nose, where I'd accidently hit him with the Dago, and
he says I'm his friend forever, and he'll show me what friendship
really means. That's why I'm inclined to say that for rest and
recreation I'll take an enemy. Whether our friend and brother, Mr.
Douglass, was the luckiest or unluckiest man on earth, I've never
been able to figger out. He personally explored the bottom of
every old prospeck hole in the country. He was romantic by
disposition, Pete was, and loved to go for walks at night. If he
didn't turn up for breakfast I took down the coil of rope and
proceeded until I found the right hole, because you could bet as
safe that he was at the bottom of one of 'em as you could that the
bottom itself was there.
"When I asked him, 'How come you to do it, Pete?' he allus
answered, 'I dunno; I got to thinkin' about somethin'.' If
anything valooable had occurred to Pete, whilest he was in one of
them thinking spells, he'd have been one of these here geniuses.
"When a saw mill sent a slab sailin', or bust a belt, Pete was at
the center of the disturbed districk. He fell off every foot log
in ten miles; why, he was drowned fourteen times in three weeks!
"The bar we was workin' had a tunnel about a hundred foot long.
Follerin' the pay streak made us turn at right angles, so it was
dark back there. One day Mr. Pete was pushin' the car whilest I
got dinner and his candle burned out. He takes a stick of giant
powder, puts cap and fuse on it, lights it careful, jabs it in a
frame for a candle, and trots for outdoors with the car--never
knowin' anything onusual had took place. Just as I slapped the
last flapjack and straightened up to yell, 'Come and get it!' here
come Pete and the car like magic right acrosst the creek, followed
by the most dust I ever see in my life.
"I watched him end-over-ending as he come, and I couldn't get near
enough to the happenings to even wonder why.
"He landed on top of a quakin' asp and the car rolled over the
"I ain't declarin' that I was perfectly reasonable; I was
surprised. When I was young and soople I've done twenty-odd foot
in a running jump, but to see a man jump two hundred foot and carry
a hand-car along with him was a branch of sport new to me, and
perticler when done by a man like Pete.
"'Why,' says I, as I climb the tree and helped him down, 'however
did you come to do it?'
"'I dunno, Zeke,' says he, 'honest to Gosh'--Pete never used a
cuss-word--'honest to Gosh,' says he; 'I dunno. The last I
remember was thinkin' why this here law of gravitation couldn't be
made to work as a man wanted it, when "bump" says somethin' behind
me, and I went right along, as you see. I tried to figger it out,
comin', but turning handsprings made me dizzy.'
"These are points to show life as lived by my friend Pete Douglass.
His autogeography would be plumb full of happenin's. At first
sight, lookin' careless, you'd say, 'Why, here's the most
unforchinit cuss I ever heard about,' but on a sober thought, to a
man accustomed to havin' sober thoughts, it seemed as if there was
luck in the bank, to pull through such performances and live to
tell the tale.
"I mentioned this idee to Pete.
"'Why'' says he, 'I should holler horray every time I'm most
killed,' he says. 'Is that what you mean?'
"'Look-a-here,' says I, 'I'm able to mean all I'm capable of
meanin' without any outside help. I mean you're the great human
paradox--less human and more paradox then I've seen advertised at a
circus--and whilest you're perpetual dodging one horn or t'other of
a dilemma, any friend of yours is getting bunked square between the
two. If anything 'ud keep a man from being selfish, you would,'
says I. 'D----d if I ain't spent two-thirds of my time and drawed
some on the last, fishin' you out of messes. Now,' I says to him,
'why don't you get married and settle up?'
"Dear friends and brothers, that was just a piece of pursyflage. I
know women better than any man I ever met that I felt knew less.
I've seen wimmen so foolish I wouldn't believe anything more
foolish could exist, if it hadn't a-been I'd seen still more
foolish wimmen with these same eyes. But a woman who'd marry Pete
was beyond my expectations. It took a lady with a turble
brain-power and a deliberate intention to arrive at that state of
mind; so when Pete says to me, 'That's just what I be goin' to do,
Zeke,' he had me swallowing my breath.
"I gathered my fadin' strength and gained perticlers.
"Seems there was a lady 'bout thirty or forty years older than she
oncet had been, who did plain washin' for the Royal Soverign Prince
boys. The R. S. P. mine was run rather irregular. The boys took
the clean-ups for wages, and the owner took the proceeds from stock
he sold as dividends. I may mention there was less in clean-ups
than there was in stock, so the future Mrs. P. Douglass was buckin'
fate in the shape of a brace game. They was an awful nice set of
boys, the Royal Soverign Princes, but when you divide thirty
dollars and fifty cents amongst fifteen men for a month's wages,
the washer-lady can't expect city prices.
"Pete had gained a holt on this lady's affections by falling into
the flume and allowin' himself to be piped over the waste-gate.
She took care of him for three weeks, at the end of which time Pete
arose, renewed, refreshed, and more full of determined uselessness
than ever. Any woman will love any man that bothers her enough. A
man's idee of romance is to do what he wants to, or to be
comfortable; a woman's idee of romance is to feel that she's
obliged to do what she really wants to do, under such circumstances
as will allow her to call it a great sackerfice, or to be made
uncomfortable, which is her real notion of comfort. You have only
to look at a woman's housekeepin' to reelize the restfulness she
finds in keepin' things disturbed all the time. I have looked upon
the housekeepin' of enough Mrs. Scraggses to be able to speak with
the v'ice of experience, if not the v'ice of wisdom.
"So Mrs. Maggy Watson, the lady of which I heretofore speak, become
unamored of Pete during the time he was such a pesky nuisance
around the place, an' when he writ her, later, that he thought
they'd orter form a close corporation an' issue the holy bonds of
matrimony, why, she writ him straight back again that the scheme
had been in her mind for some time, and she'd 'a' mentioned it to
him only it seemed like meddlin' in his personal affairs.
"First off, it seems a-kind of unjustitude that a man like me
should have a load of Mrs. Scraggses forced on him, whilest a man
like Pete gets the kindest and obliginest sort of woman; but after
all, I was able to take care of myself, and that bunch of wild
cats, too, for a while, and Pete certainly needed a lady with a
good disposition. You'll allus find, on investigatin' things, that
they ain't a mite worse than you thought they was. Mighty often it
is the horny-handed foot of misfortune that kicks a man into the
green pastures of prosperity--the only question is: kin he eat
"So it come about with Pete, all along the line. He'd gone and got
married so ordinary it wouldn't attracted nobuddy's attention, only
he was so overjoyed to find that I took sides with him that he
sasshayed gayly forth for firewood and cut himself in the small of
the back with the ax. Don't ask me how he done it, It's the only
case on record. Pete was thinkin' of somethin' at the time, and
could only remember a sudden pain in the back. So Pete was laid on
the bed of sufferin' oncet more, him bein' so uset to it he took it
without a holler, only this time he thought it was prutty serious.
"'Zeke,' says he, 'I've come to the cash-up so frequent I dunno
just what's about to happen, but if it should be I was goin' to die
for fair this time, I want Maggy to git my money, and I want you to
take it to her.'
"'All right, Pete, I will,' says I.
"'Shack along, then,' says he.
"Pete mixed me some. 'I ain't goin' to leave you like this,' I
"'Yes, you be, too,' he says, sassy as thunder. 'The only time I
kin git what I want is when I'm sick a-bed. I ain't goin' to rest
happy nor do nothin'--not eat nor drink--till I know that woman has
the chink. I can't say I've made a great job of livin', but I'm
goin' to die like a house a-fire, if so the play comes that way,'
he says. 'You put a little grub and water nigh me, and I'll just
figger on being a full-sized man for oncet; you don't understand
what a power of good it does me to think about it,' says he.
"Well, he had me to a standstill. It was cussed to leave a hurt
man all alone, but I could easy appreciate the way he felt. If a
man can't take no pride in himself the hull blamed business comes
down to shovelin' dirt for nothin'.
"'Pete, I'll do it,' I says, and I shook hands with him.
"'Now, see that!' says he. 'That's the first time you've ever
treated me like an ekal, Zeke; and I can tell you I don't like to
be pitied no more'n any other man. God knows there wouldn't 'a'
been a perter monkey in the bunch, if so it hadn't come I was
scart, or thinkin' of somethin' else, when a hot-box arrived. The
good Lord took the trouble to make me, and it seems kind of
onjustifiable for me to prove He plumb wasted His time. You tell
Maggy I done it for her. I ain't hidin' my light under a bushel,
because I need it to see by. Ouch!' says he. 'This racket hurts!'
"I reckon it did. I sewed him up with a piece of deer-sinew and a
darning-needle. Never was a great hand at tailorin', nohow, and
Pete's hide was that tough I mostly had to pound the needle through
with a chunk of wood.
"Well, I fixed him comfortable as I could, and prepared to start.
"'Zeke,' says he, 'don't'--he kinder swallered hard--'don't be no
longer'n you kin help,' says he. There come a tear in his eye.
'An' take my respects to Maggy,' says he.
"'Shaw, Pete!' says I. 'Now, don't you go borrowin' no
trouble--that's so easy to git without collaterial, it ain't worth
the time. I'll be back imejate.' I patted him on the shoulder and
he squeezed my hand hard.
"'No man could be a better pardner than you be, Zeke,' says he. 'I
ain't a mite afraid of nothin' when that bald head of your'n is in
sight, an' you understand a feller--it's a tough play for a rooster
that don't come by sand natural.'
"'You got plenty of sand, Pete,' says I, 'all the trouble is, you
let it git choked in your hoppers. By-by.' And away I went,
slopin' fast, with Pete's forty-eight dollars down in my jeans.
"I was so took up with his affairs I didn't watch out careful, and
that ain't wise in a hard-luck country. All of a suddent I hears a
v'ice say, 'Puttee hands light uppee!' Sounds like I'd struck a
day nursery, but that ain't so, for just before I hears them words
there popped out from behind a rock a Chinaman--not, by no means,
one of these here little Charlie-boys that does your wash and gives
you a ticket with picters of strange insecks painted on it, but a
whoopin', smashin' old Tartar pirate, seven foot by three, with
mustaches like two tails of a small hoss, and cheekbones you could
hang your hat on. More'n that, he was armed and equipped with two
hoss-pistols as required by circumstances.
"That tired feelin' come over me, and I stretched; yessir, the
hands of E. G. W. Scraggs went up toward the sky.
"My yaller friend next requested me to produce. Well, now, that
was Pete's money. I'd 'a' took a chance at v'ilent physicule
exercises, but I see the time had come to talk.
"'My Christian friend and brother,' says I, 'before we converse
upon the root of all evil, let me put you on to the fact that my
name is E. G. W. Scraggs.'
"'Ah!' says he, backin' up, 'Sclaggsee!'
"'Sclaggsee!' I hollers, and we near met on the spot. 'Don't you
say that agin!'
"'Ah!' says he.
"I noticed his guns was wobblin'.
"'Ah!' says I. 'You're darned right. Now, I'll make you this
proposition. I got forty-eight dollars in my pocket that don't
belong to me. If we let things slide by as if they had not
happened I'll give you two dollars for the use of that money until
Tuesday next--pay you fifty dollars next Tuesday, at Jimmy Holt's
"'Gettee money now,' says he, cunnin'.
"'_P'raps_,' says I, 'but you won't be in condition to spend it for
some time.' He rolled his eye off'n me, and at that instant Mary
Ann, the faithfullest gun that ever stood between me and a
gentleman whose intentions weren't good, appeared upon the scene.
"'Don'tee shootee, Sclaggsee!' he screeches.
"'You call me "Sclaggsee" oncet more, and I won't leave nothin' of
you but a rim,' says I. 'As for the other proposition, it
goes--Tuesday next. Jimmy Holt's place, I put you in hand fifty
dollars, you cock-eyed, yaller, mispronouncin' blasphemy on a
heathen idol! Although I ain't been near enough to a cherry tree
to cut one down, the word of Ezekiel George Washington Scraggs is
as good as the Father of his Country,' says I. 'He beat me at that
last game, but I can stick to my sayin' like a porous plaster. You
get the money; I will lie for the fun of the thing, but not for no
dirty fifty dollars,' says I. 'You goin' toward town?'
"'Yes,' says he.
"'Well, git your plug, and we'll amble along together.'
"So we rode in, right cheerful, instead of quar'lin'. I made him
come along to Maggy's cabin, to show it weren't a bluff about the
[Illustration: "So we rode in, right cheerful."]
"Poor Maggy, she wipes her eye on her apron, and says she'll start
for our camp at oncet.
"I called the Chinaman aside, confidential. "'You take care of
lady!' I shrieks at him. 'Lady--you take care!' I dunno why it is
you think if you holler loud enough you can make a man understand
anything, but it's a fact.
"My chink bobs his head. 'Take clare laly,' he says.
"'Yaas!' says I. 'I rustley monnellee!'
"He bobs his head again.
"'Lusselleemonellee!' he answers, kind of vacant.
"I sot down. 'Twas clear he didn't have no idee of my
conversation. So we went over it for two hours, me drawin' maps
and wigglin' my fingers, and makin' faces to illustrate a man with
an ax-cut in the small of his back, and a lone widder-woman takin'
care of him, till at last, by bringin' hands, face, and feet all
into the game, with a small hunk of kerfoozled English language
here and there, a light broke on his heathen soul. He near bobbed
his head off.
"'Me makee all lightee for Sclaggsee, you bettee, hellee dammee!'
"He was that earnest I overlooked the name. 'Good,' says I. 'Now,
Charlie, you cut wood, haul water, and keep things goin' out there
and your fifty is waitin' for you on Tuesday.'
"Maggy did a crow-hop when she found she had to travel with the
chink, but I told her it was O.K., so she got aboard an Injin pony
and off they goes to Pete.
"Well, dear friends and brothers, I sincerely hope you've never had
to raise fifty dollars in a busted camp. The boys done the best
they could, but a can of corn had to stand for fifty cents, and a
pair of pants that would take Tartar Charlie somewheres about the
knees drew a credit of two-fifty. Four iron knives and a busted
coffee-pot stood for a case, and a pair of scissors with one blade
broke half off, and a mouth-organ that only sounded in spots, was
equal to two iron dollars. I got eighteen fifty in cash and the
balance was junk.
"'Well,' says I, 'he's no better'n a road-agent, and I can't help
"For all that, I sot in Jim Holt's place of a Tuesday afternoon
feelin' low-spirited when I looked at the heap, when who comes
sailin' in at the door but Tartar Charlie, wearin' a grin that took
two turns and a half around his face.
"'Laly comee!' says he. 'Petee comee!'
"'On what?' says I, ashamed to show surprise to a yaller Chinaman.
"'Joss man fetchee!' says he.
"'Certainly!' says I. 'That's what he ought to do; don't get
excited.' I did my wonderin' about the joss man in private. 'Sit
"So Charlie, he sot down and watched me rifflin' the cards.
"'Playee poker?' says he.
"'As a relaxiation, Charles,' says I. 'Poker is a business for
gentlemen of means--gottee nomonee!'
"'Me stakee you,' says he. 'Likee poker.'
"So Jim and some of the other boys come over, and Charlie and me
begun to draw cards. After we dubbed through a few deals, gettin'
on to each other's play, I see Charlie stow away a pair of aces.
Now, ordinarly, I'd complained, but, under the circumstances, it
didn't appear to me to be the decent thing to do, so I motioned to
Jim, and he slid me a pack with the same sort of backs.
"After that you never in all your borned days see such hands on a
poker table. Why, a king-full wasn't worth raisin' back on. A set
of fours was the least a man could have confidence in, and only if
it was on his own deal, at that.
"Howsomever, havin' a hull pack at my disposal, whilest Charlie
could only use his hold-outs, I worked him down to tin cans of
vegetables, the busted coffee-pot, and the pants.
"He, bein' as game as any white man, jack-potted the lot. It was
just draw cards and show down for the money. Darned if he didn't
get the best of me.' How I come to pick out the queen of diamonds
to match a straight club flush is one of them things that won't be
revealed till Judgment Day. There wasn't nobuddy more surprised
than me. This brought us down to even Stevens, and I felt
irritated, so I come back at him with one play for the bunch. He
agreed, and I dealt him four aces, pat. I was going to draw to
fill my straight color. I snaked out the three I had on my knee,
and was just goin' to insert 'em where they'd do the most good,
when Pete's v'ice says: 'Well, Zeke!'
"It was a joyful v'ice, but I knowed he'd seen my play. I dropped
"'One minute, Pete,' says I. I called across the table to Charlie,
'Show openers and win!' And when he laid down them bullets I'd give
him with my own hands, my heart broke inside me. But I couldn't
stand for a crooked play seen by Old Pete.
"I hopped up from the table and shook his hand, I shook Maggy's
hand, where she stood, smilin' bashful, and then I shook the hand
of a strange gent in black clothes, whose name was Mr.
"Pete explained to me that the gent was a minister travelin'
through the country, who'd offered him and Maggy a ride to town.
'We thought we might as well get hitched at the same time,' says
Pete, 'and I sure wanted to see you, Zeke.'
"'Yes,' says Maggy. 'It wouldn't seem right to get married without
you bein' there, Mr. Scraggs. To think of what you've done for
Pete! And that Charley High-ball there is just the blessedest
angel that ever was! Why, he got some stuff in the woods and put
it on Pete's back, and made him well in a minute, you might say.
And there warn't nothin' he wouldn't do for us. And I'm just the
happiest woman ever was,' says Maggy, wipin' her eyes on her apron
"'Well!' says I, brisk, tryin' to forgit that lost fifty. 'Why
don't you and Pete sign the pledge right here and now?--how's that,
friend?' I asks the minister.
"'Why, ah! says he. 'Ah! It doesn't seem quite the proper place--'
"'What's the matter with this place?' says Jim. He took a great
pride in his saloon. He had glass mirrors up that cost him a
hundred plunks apiece. 'If you think,' says he, 'that there's a
prettier little joint in town than this, why, don't let me keep
"That minister was cut out fer the business. He hedged his bet so
quick, I admired him.
"'That's just it,' he says loud and hearty. 'I look upon matrimony
as a solemn affair, and I was afraid our friends would be
distracted from the seriousness of the ceremony by the
"'Don't say a word!' says Jim, wavin' his hand. 'You have put the
next round on me; but I guess Pete and Maggy has had seriousnesses
enough, just as she slides--heh?'
"'You're talkin' blue checks, Jim,' says Maggy, through her apron.
'I don't reckon I'll ever get too gay to hurt me, nor Pete, nuther.'
"'Very well,' says the minister--and we had the weddin'. Charlie
High-ball burnt punk that smelled strong but fine, and swung his
arms, Jim and the rest of the boys sayin' 'amen' every time there
come a stop, and all the proceedin's goin' on grand, till the
preacher got to the last of it, and then Pete broke in:
"'I copper that statement,' says he. 'I wouldn't run against you
for the world, old man, but here I got to. We ain't "man" and
wife, for I ain't never been a man since I growed up: Maggy, she's
the man and wife both. Say "husband and wife," to oblige.'
"The preacher looked at Pete mighty kind.
"'Husband and wife,' says he. Then Maggy busted out, 'He's the
best man that ever lived!' says she.
"'May you live long and happy years together,' says the preacher,
and he had a different look on his face--more's if it was a
pleasure instead of business he was attendin' to.
"Whilest we stood there, kinder awk'ard, Charley made a high play.
He gathered all his winnings in a heap. 'For laly,' says he,
makin' her a bow.
"Maggy, she cried. Everybody'd been so good to her, she said, and
she weren't able to turn a hand for her part, and so forth, and we
was all kind of pleasantly miserable for a while, till Jim sings
out, 'Here, this ain't no weddin' hilarity--guide right to the bar!'
"There we all lined up, Charlie High-ball and all.
"'What'll you have, sir?' says Jim, askin' the minister first out
"'The same as the rest,' says the minister like a man.
"'Mr. Scraggs?' says Jim.
"'Ginger ale, says I. And every man and woman took ginger ale,
which is a beverage that 'ud drive a man to drink. Howsomever, we
showed that preacher he didn't hold over us, speck nor color, when
it come to a showdown. And he savvied the play, too. He watched
the line drinkin' its ginger ale.
"'Gentlemen,' says he, 'I'm glad to know you--I think I'll stay in
your town a while, but now'--and he kind of twinkled around the
eyes--'I hope you will excuse me.' With that he vanished, leaving
us to take a little antidote for that there ginger ale.
"And Pete and Maggy? Well, dear friends and brothers, you never
saw nothin' like it--they think as much of each other as two men
would! And the way Pete can iron a b'iled shirt is a wonder. . . .
Yaas; he found his job at last; plain and decorative ironin'.
Often I've seen Maggy, holdin' up a batch of clo's, with pride just
oozin' out of her, and heard her say, 'There ain't a person in
these here United States that kin slip a flatiron over dry-goods
the way my Pete kin.'"
THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH
"Once upon a time," said Mr. Scraggs, "there come a profound peace
on my household. It was 'Zeke, what kin I give you for dinner
to-day?' and 'Zeke' this and that, until I says to myself, 'We're
going to have cyclones followed by a heavy frost if I tarry here,'
so I pulled my freight to Arizona, till this unnatural condition of
things passed away. I understand Mrs. Scraggs in her war-paint,
but Mrs. Scraggs with her eyes uprolled to Heaven and a white dove
perched on each and every ear is a thing I'm not goin' to witness
the spoilin' of, if I kin help it.
"I loafed around a little town, wearin' the counters shiny,
entertainin' myself every minute by wonderin' what in thunder I'd
do with the next one, till Fate, that's always seemed ready and
eager to butt into my affairs, sent me down to the railroad station
"There got off'n the train a little stout man, with a clean baby
skin and clean baby eyes. He looked as if he'd got born into this
wicked world with a bald spot, gray side-whiskers and a pair of
gold-rimmed specks. He made me feel sad--not that he weren't
cheerful enough, but his rig was that of a parson, and a parson
naturally reminded me of matrimony, and there was only one thing
worse than loafing around Jim Creek, and that was matrimony.
'Yes,' I says to myself, lookin' at that nice, clean old gentleman,
'he little knows the trouble he's made in this world. And yet,'
thinks I, willing to be square, 'I don't know as you could have
kept 'em apart, even if there weren't no ministers. Man is born to
trouble as a powder-mill is to fly upward. Male and female He made
'em, after their kind; and it's only reasonable that they've been
after their kind ever since. And more'n that, that gentleman would
have checked my wild career--he'd have held me down to one. So why
should I wish to walk on his collar?'
"Whilest I was Hamlettin' to myself like that the old boy talked to
the station agent. Billy leaned on the truck and pointed to me.
'There's your man right now,' says he; 'Mr. E. G. Washington
Scraggs, the most famous guide and hunter in Arizona. I ain't got
a doubt you can secure his services,' and off goes Billy.
"Railroad men get used to takin' life on the run, from eatin' to
jokes. Bill never waited to see the effect of his little spring on
"My friend comes up to me. 'Is this Mr. Scraggs?' he says.
"'I am a modest man by nature,' says I; 'and yet I cannot deny it.'
"He made me a bow. I made him a bow.
"'I am told, Mr. Scraggs,' says he, 'that you are a celebrated
guide and hunter?'
"'If you go through this land believing all that's told you,' says
I, 'you'll have a queer sensation in your head. However, I can do
plain guiding and hunting, all right. What am I to guide, and who
am I to hunt?'
"'I shall explain to you," says he, taking off his specks and
tapping his hand with 'em--he was a nice, home-raised old
gentleman, but he sure did think his own affairs was interesting.
'It is this way,' says he: 'my ministerial labors
have--er--exhausted, that is to say, prostrated me. My physician
insisted I should come to this climate, where I am told it is
exceedingly dry and healthful, and live entirely out-of-doors; to
return to our healing mother, Nature; to salute the rosy youth of
Morning from a couch of sod, to bid farewell to Day from some
yearning height, far from the petty madness of cities--what did you
say, Mr. Scraggs?'
"'I said "Ya-a-s,"' says I, quick, because I'd forgot myself a
"'Ah!' says he, waving his specks in enthusiasm. 'The abiding
peace of a life like yours!--I beg your pardon?'
"'I have an attack of this here bronco-kitus,' says I. 'I cough
almost like conversation--go on.'
"'To live,' says he, 'in the great peace of these enormous
spaces--to spread God's clean sky above you and pass into a sleep
where this sweet air shall hush me through the night, like the wind
from angels' wings. With what a sick longing have I looked for
"'That's it!' says I. 'Pardner, you've struck it. There ain't one
man in a thousand thinks of tuckin' the sky around him when he
turns in, but many a time when I've shoveled the last batch of
centipedes and tarantulas into the fire, petted a side-winder
good-night, and fired a farewell shot at a scalplock vanishin' over
the hill, I've thought that same thing. Oh! the soothin'
gooley-woo of windin' yourself up in a bright-colored sunset and
lyin' down to peaceful dreams! I sleep too hard to remember about
the angels' wings.'
"I spoke so earnest he swallowed me whole. 'Centipedes and
tarantulas,' says he, musin' (evidently he hadn't figured on 'em);
'an' what is a "side-winder," Mr. Scraggs?'
"'A "side-winder," sir,' says I, 'is a rattlesnake who travels on
the bias, as I've heard my wife remark about her clothes--he's a
kind of Freemason; he lets you in on the level and out on the
"'Rattlesnake?' says he; 'ha--hum--rattlesnake, yes, yes, yes--not
dangerous, I hope?'
"'Oh, no!' says I. 'He bites you up somewhat, but it's only play.'
"Right here he got off a joke. It took some time--I see it comin.'
"Rather dangerous _play_, that, Mr. Scraggs, heh?' says he. 'Ha,
"Well, I reckon I enjoyed that joke as much as he did--the two of
us laughed for five minutes. But, somehow, he looked so simple and
innocent and foolish, my heart bucked on guyin' him. There wasn't
no bad pretensions about him; it was only that the old ladies had
told him he was a wonder so long, he'd been more'n a man if he
hadn't come to believe it--it's pretty medium hard to keep to cases
under them conditions. That's what made him cough so deep and
important, and stand there with a frown on his brow, lookin' as if
he knew a heap more than he could understand.
"I side-stepped. 'I gather,' says I, 'you want to go campin',' and
you want me to pilot you?'
"He just beamed on having the puzzle solved so simple, 'That's it
exactly,' says he.
"'I guessed it almost from the first,' says I. 'Well, we want a
team and blankets and a camp kit; that'll cost something.'
"'It isn't a question of cost,' said he, pulling out a cucumber and
skinnin' much money off the top of it. 'You take that and secure
what we need.'
"'I'll do what's right by you,' says I, and meant it. That
afternoon the Rev. Percival Mervin and Mr. E. G. W. Scraggs pulled
out with a team of mules for parts unknown. I had no more idee
what kind of land we were runnin' into than Percival himself;
howsomever, one country's a great deal like another, after all.
But I gave him the history as we journeyed--oh, sure! Hadn't he
come out for pleasure?
"'There,' says I, p'inting with the whip, 'is Dooley's Pillar, so
called because a man by the name of Dooley, helped only by his
widow, stood off eight ravagin', tearin' savages there for three
"'Good-ness gra-cious!' says Percival. 'And did they escape?'
"'The Injuns? Oh, yes; they got away.'
"'No, I mean the Dooleys.'
"'Yes, they got away, too; everybody got out all right--only the
"'I should have thought there would have been bloodshed,' says he,
astonished and a little disappointed, too, for all he was such a
kind-hearted little man.
"'It come mighty near it,' says I; 'mighty. The only reason there
weren't was because the Injuns couldn't get at 'em--don't you
notice that cliff at the bottom?'
"'Well, that goes completely around, and it ain't climbable, so the
Injuns had to stay down.'
"'I see,' says he; and we rode three mile before he said: 'But how
did the Dooleys get there?'
"'They was ketched by a tornado in Sore-toe Canon, over yonder,'
says I, 'and blowed right to the top--the Injuns chasin' 'em
horseback and shootin' at 'em on the wing.'
"Percival he cleaned his glasses, looked hard at Dooley's Pillar,
and give me his honest opinion.
"'It,' says he, 'is very remarkable.'
"I looked at him. It was; but too much like taking a loan out of a
blind beggar's hat. 'F I'd been a decent man I'd quit. There was
a fatal fascination about Percival, though--you wondered how much
he _would_ swaller--kind of spurred you up to heave something at
him he'd see wasn't so. It needed a better man than me to do it.
You never in all your life heard of such things as took place along
that route. As he said, it made him glad to think he'd got holt of
a man who had the history of the country at his fingers' ends.
"He showed nothing but a thirst for information when I pointed out
Grant's Leap--the place where General Grant hopped to safety with
three Apache arrows sticking in the fulness of his pants.
"'Why!' says Percival, 'I never heard that General Grant was out in
"I shook my head wise. 'No,' says I; 'he kept it dark.'
"'Nothing against his good name, I hope?' says he, anxious.
"'Not at all,' says I, warm. 'He done it to oblige a friend--it
was told me in confidence, so I can't say more.'
"Just then we made a turn that brought Grant's Leap into better
view. I'd thought it was a narrer slit, but it 'ud be a good
horse-pistol that could carry across.
"'General Grant must have been very agile as a young man,' says
"'Not at all,' says I. 'It ain't mor'n fifty feet, and that was
before he was all wore out runnin' for the Presidency.'
"'Oh, I see,' says Percival. 'Don't think I meant to doubt you.'
"'I didn't,' says I, my conscience biting me again.
"There was no help for it, though; he had to have a story of every
queer-looking hole, rock, tree, or mud-puddle we saw. There was
one spooky-looking tree, dead on one side. 'Now,' thinks I, 'I
shall lay you out and quit.'
"So I told him about how the vigilantes had wrongly suspected a man
who peddled rubber hose of a murder, overtook him under that very
tree, and, lacking rope, strung him with a section of his own
goods, riding away without a look behind them. When the poor lad
was yanked off the horse the hose stretched so his feet touched the
ground: he gave a jump, went up high enough to loose the strain,
swallowed a mouthful of air, and so forth. His hands being
strapped behind him he couldn't help himself, but for three days he
hopped up and down there, securing light refreshment by biting the
leaves off the tree, which, strange to say, never put out green
leaves on that side again.
"'And then he was rescued? Who did it?'
"'He was--the vigilantes did it. The reason they suspected him was
that they found a receipted bill for fifty feet of garden hose in
Ike's, the murdered man's, pocket. Knowing perfectly well that Ike
never paid a bill in his life, that looked suspicious, but when
they come to look at it closer they see the bill was made out to
another man, and they hustled back. The pedler was game, though
weary. They raised an ax to free him, but he hollers--one word to
"Percival put his hand on my shoulder. I thought my little effort
would receive at least a smile, and was preparin' to join in, when
"'Think of the state of that innocent man's mind for those three
"Well, I tried to, to oblige Percival, but I just naturally
couldn't; if it hadn't been a nut come loose under the wagon
there'd been nothing left for me but to die right there.
"Only one thing marred the trip. We run across a man who asked
where we was going.
"'Oh, out a little way!' says I.
"He looked at Percival. 'Here a minute!' says he. I went over to
him. 'Look out for your eye!' he whispered. 'The 'Paches are up.'
"Well, I never paid any more attention to a man predictin' Injun
troubles than I do to a farmer's kickin' about the weather, so I
thanked him and we strolled on. I explained to Percival that the
man was the well-known desperado, James Despard, of the Bloody
Hand, and he was askin' me if I'd met any of his enemies.
"'He didn't look fierce,' says Percival.
"'That's his lay,' says I; 'he goes up to a man and don't look
fierce, and the first thing you know there's a funeral.'
"About sunset we hit the place we aimed for: a nice, high spot with
a pool of water, overlooking the valley for miles. It was straight
on three sides, and a hard pull for the mules on the other; but a
patch of grass to the back, timber handy, and the lookout it gave
you, together with the water, made it worth the climb. Besides, it
was the very spot where the Roosian Prince Porkandbeansky camped,
time I guided him ten years before. I told Percival all about the
Prince whilest I was cooking supper, thus giving him a line on the
proper way to behave. It was enough to say the Prince done
so-and-so--or didn't--to bring Percival into line easy for the rest
of the trip.
"Well, we couldn't get under that blue coverlid of Percival's any
too quick that night. I didn't mind a blanket thrown in, nor him,
neither, for it was colder'n sin. We was good and tired. Broad
sun-up when we woke.
"Percival, he flew around like a cock-sparrer. Happy! The Lord
save us! He sung little hymns, and trotted every step he took, his
sun-burnt little nose gleamin' with joy. It done you good to look
at him. I took as much pride in him as though he was my sister's
eldest--taught him to do this and that, till he was fit to bust
with the glory of bein' such a camper. And forty times a day he'd
explain to me how glad he was that I'd been his guide; how much
he'd have missed otherwise. I suppose them yarns I told him had
added to his romantic ideas about living uncomfortably
out-of-doors, but every time he said it I felt mean again.
"Still, Satan mischief always finds for idle hands to do. After
about five days of loafin' I turned the conversation to the
uncertainty of things in general; we talked a good deal about it.
I gradual come to particulars, and producin' a pack of
playin'-cards, proceeded to show Percival how odd five of 'em dealt
at a time would come out. He was interested, and I suggested that
he sh'd take five, too, and he did; and the first thing you know I
had everything that Percival owned, owin' to his misjudging the way
them cards would fall. Then we divided again and went at it. At
the end of the next week I was proud of Percival. He fronted me
out of a plump jackpot without a tremble of a gray whisker, but, to
save me, I couldn't get him to play cards. He said it was wicked
and led to gamblin'--I dunno but what he's right at that. We had
lots of fun with the Uncertainty of Things, anyhow, and saved our
"At the end of three weeks us two was twin brothers. Old Percy
told me in confidence he hadn't had a real friend for years before.
And I liked him, you bet. We all has got our faults--why, even
Mrs. Scraggs isn't free from 'em--but you scratch them off the top
of Percival and you found a white man--the most trusting little
critter in God and man, the kindest-hearted and the best-natured
that ever lived. Honest, I couldn't sleep nights sometimes,
thinking of the lies I told him, and if I'd never slept I couldn't
'a' quit--it was like leaving a starvin' nigger in charge of a
"So things ambled along--not a jar. No rain, no crawling thing to
spoil our fun, till one day just before dinner--Percy and me
sittin' there with the blankets between us and our beans counted
out at the side, raisin' and cross-liftin' each other, him having
drawed one card whilest I took two to a pair of tens and a kicker,
and made four tens--a shadder fell on the blanket. Percy was too
busy wondering whether he'd better see my last raise to notice, but
your Uncle Zeke has lived so long in lonesome and sometimes
unhealthy places that the chill of that shadder, comin' so
noiseless and unexpected, fell on his soul. Before I raised my
eyes I looked at the shadder close; yes, there was a gun, and it
was also an Injun.
"There ain't anything an Injun likes better than to sit tight and
enjoy a cinch. He won't kill you as long as he can get some fun
out of you.
"I ain't savin' what I felt, but old pink-and-white Percival was
there, babe in the woods dependin' on me, and me covered by an
"'How!' says I, throwin' it careless over my shoulder.
"There was a still second. Then the Injun answers, 'Huh!'
"Percy looked up, pleased and surprised.
"'Why, there's an Indian!' says he.
"'Go on with the game,' says I, cross. 'Don't stare at him--he has
"Percy got red. 'I beg your pardon!' he says to the Injun--then to
me: 'What does he want?'
"I made up my mind Percy wasn't goin' to be scart if I could help
it. If he _had_ to go let him go quick, without waiting. They
made me wait once, and while it didn't come to nothing, I don't
think I should ever really care for it.
"'He wants to rassel me,' I answers. 'Great people for sports,
Injuns, and curious how they go at it. He expects me to surprise
him--let's see, how many have you got there?'
"I bent over, to get my legs loose, so I could jump, and also to
get a quick peep at circumstances. There wasn't but the lone buck.
I worked the cat racket. You know how a cat does? She sits still,
thinkin' 'I'm goin' to move fast in a minute--I sure _am_ goin' to
move fast in a minute,' until she gets such a head of steam on,
she's off before she knows it. That's just what I done, exactly.
I was all over that Injun, kicked his gun out of reach and heaved
him over the steepest side before you could say 'Keno.'
[Illustration: "I was all over that Injun."]
"Percy was surprised and displeased. He put on his specks and
trotted quick to the edge.
"'Washington,' says he, 'you have hurt that man!'
"'Oh, I guess not,' says I. 'He's used to this country.'
"I hadn't hurt him half as much as I'd liked. If you slapped a
white man straight down a hundred foot on top of a pile of rocks
he'd depart like a Christian, but my red friend and brother
promptly wriggled off behind the boulders.
"I dassen't shoot. There might be a twenty of 'em in hearing, and,
besides, no need of worryin' poor Percy, trustin' E. G. W., any
sooner than I had to.
"'It seems to me, Washington,' says Percy, 'that's _very_ rough
"'Percy,' says I, 'as you may have read, an Injun don't care so
much about being hurt as he does for supportin' his family pride.
If I'd only chucked him fifteen foot or so he'd thought I didn't
respect his powers of endurance proper, and like enough wouldn't
'a' spoke to me if we met.'
"'Well, of course, _you_ know all about these things,' he says.
'But to me it is very surprising.'
"'Percy,' says I to him again, real earnest, 'if a man took note of
all the things in this world that are surprisin' it wouldn't be no
time before every tree in the forest looked like an exclamation
mark to him.'
"'I suppose,' says Percy, waggin' his head, wise, 'that's quite
"And if there'd been fifty million Injuns ready to fricassee us the
next minute I couldn't 'a' helped havin' another attack of that
bronco-kitus that troubled me so.
"But your Uncle Zeke wasn't so cussed hilarious for the next four
days. I expected that Injun back with his friends every minute,
and what with watchin' all night and joshin' Percy all day I was
plumb wore out. He made me kind of mad by not noticin' things was
wrong, although that's the impression I'd labored to create upon
him, as he'd say.
"The Injun didn't come, and he didn't come till I got mad at him,
too. How was I to know that he finished up my idee by fallin'
over, further down? So I fumed and I fussed, and I yearned inside
of me to get square with somebody. And at last my chance come.
"Afternoon, hot and clear as usual. Percy asleep under a rock, and
then, horses' footsteps! I jumped for the edge, and, boys, for a
minute my sight give out. It wasn't Injuns; it was a lot of Uncle
Sam's durned soldiers. I never expected to be so glad to see a
soldier; I thought I despised 'em.
"I looked at 'em for a full half minute, thinking,' God bless old
Percy's blistered nose, he's safe!' and then I done what I hadn't
orter did out of that, desire to get even. I slid down the
mountain and whanged away over their heads. It was like pokin'
your finger in a hornets' nest. Up comes them soldiers, workin'
the finest of Injun sneaks up the hill. If there ever was a grand
sight in Nature it's a two-hundred-pound soldier entirely concealed
by a rock twice the size of my fist.
"Y-a-as, here they come; and I flitted my red handkercher like it
was a 'Pache's head-dress, leadin' 'em on to where Percy was. I
got there first and crawled into a cave where I could watch. I
looked at Percy, sleeping, remarkin' 'whooo-whisssh!' at regular
intervals, his little baby face surrounded by his white
handkercher, his little fat hands folded on his little fat stomach,
and I could scarcely wait for the time when them soldiers' eyes
should fall upon their treacherous, fierce, and implackibble foe.
"The lieutenant was a kid, just gradooated--one of the kind that
thinks it's glorious to get killed and read about it in the papers.
He led his men into the simple quiet of our camp, crouched and
tur'ble, a gun in each hand . . . and there was the United States
army and there was the sleepin' Percy, face to face!
"'What . . . !' says the lieutenant, falling back ten foot. 'What
. . . !' says he, falling back twenty feet and losin' his voice.
'What . . . !'says he, gatherin'himself; 'what is this?
"And then I come out of the cave and rolled on the ground.
"The lieutenant walked over and patted me on the back with a
"'What d'ye mean, you s-c-c-coundrel!' he says. 'Stop that
laughing or I'll shoot the pair of you!'
"I come to quick when I heard that. 'Look a' here, young feller,'
I says, 'you can beat me as much as you feel like, but if you make
a crooked play at Percy I'll wrap you up in your diploma and send
you home to your ma.'
"It just happened their half-breed scout knew me.
"'I wouldn't rile Mr. Scraggs, Lieutenant,' says he; 'it's bad
"Of course there was more talk, but the lieutenant was a good
enough kid, and when he see all the boys laughin' he give in and
"'Well, you long-legged statue of melancholy,' says he, 'I suppose
I'll have to let it go, but I'll shoot you, sure as there is
shootin', if you ever play a trick like that on me again. What
kind of a fool are you to stay here in the middle of an outbreak,
anyhow? Now wake up your friend and come with us.'
"'Thanky,' says I; 'but hold--is the road safe to town?'
'"Sure; we've cleaned 'em, all but one bunch.'
"'Well,' says I, 'then Percy and me'll just amble back together the
way we come. I don't want him to know nothing about any trouble.'
"After chewin' for a while he consented, and away went the army.
"So bimeby Percy woke up and said he'd had a nice nap and felt
refreshed and--um--invigorated, and him and me went back to town,
and he never suspicioned ther'd been an Injun risin', soldiers nor
nothin'. I have felt like offering one hundred dollars' reward to
the person who'd produce something that Percy would suspect. And
whenever I think of that my spirits lift to that extent I could
almost go out and get married again.
"And this here ticker I set great store by, because it come from
Percy and says inside of it, 'To E. G. Washington Scraggs, in
memory of our beautiful friendship, from Percival Mervin'--and that
to a tough old Mormon like me! Well, he was one darned nice little
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