Roads of Destiny
Part 6 out of 6
to be broken."
"Oh, that was last night," said Eighteen. "Sir Percival and the girl
drove up in a cream-coloured motor-car, and had dinner in the
Rindslosh. 'The same table, Billy,' I heard her say as they went up. I
waited on 'em. We've got a new halberdier now, a bow-legged guy with a
face like a sheep. As they came down-stairs Sir Percival passes him a
ten-case note. The new halberdier drops his halberd, and it falls on
the cigar-case. That's how that happened."
In the Gate City of the South the Confederate Veterans were reuniting;
and I stood to see them march, beneath the tangled flags of the great
conflict, to the hall of their oratory and commemoration.
While the irregular and halting line was passing I made onslaught upon
it and dragged from the ranks my friend Barnard O'Keefe, who had no
right to be there. For he was a Northerner born and bred; and what
should he be doing halloing for the Stars and Bars among those gray
and moribund veterans? And why should he be trudging, with his
shining, martial, humorous, broad face, among those warriors of a
previous and alien generation?
I say I dragged him forth, and held him till the last hickory leg and
waving goatee had stumbled past. And then I hustled him out of the
crowd into a cool interior; for the Gate City was stirred that day,
and the hand-organs wisely eliminated "Marching Through Georgia" from
"Now, what deviltry are you up to?" I asked of O'Keefe when there were
a table and things in glasses between us.
O'Keefe wiped his heated face and instigated a commotion among the
floating ice in his glass before he chose to answer.
"I am assisting at the wake," said he, "of the only nation on earth
that ever did me a good turn. As one gentleman to another, I am
ratifying and celebrating the foreign policy of the late Jefferson
Davis, as fine a statesman as ever settled the financial question of a
country. Equal ratio--that was his platform--a barrel of money for a
barrel of flour--a pair of $20 bills for a pair of boots--a hatful of
currency for a new hat--say, ain't that simple compared with W. J. B's
little old oxidized plank?"
"What talk is this?" I asked. "Your financial digression is merely a
subterfuge. Why were you marching in the ranks of the Confederate
"Because, my lad," answered O'Keefe, "the Confederate Government in
its might and power interposed to protect and defend Barnard O'Keefe
against immediate and dangerous assassination at the hands of a blood-
thirsty foreign country after the Unites States of America had
overruled his appeal for protection, and had instructed Private
Secretary Cortelyou to reduce his estimate of the Republican majority
for 1905 by one vote."
"Come, Barney," said I, "the Confederate States of America has been
out of existence nearly forty years. You do not look older yourself.
When was it that the deceased government exerted its foreign policy in
"Four months ago," said O'Keefe, promptly. "The infamous foreign power
I alluded to is still staggering from the official blow dealt it by
Mr. Davis's contraband aggregation of states. That's why you see me
cake-walking with the ex-rebs to the illegitimate tune about 'simmon-
seeds and cotton. I vote for the Great Father in Washington, but I am
not going back on Mars' Jeff. You say the Confederacy has been dead
forty years? Well, if it hadn't been for it, I'd have been breathing
to-day with soul so dead I couldn't have whispered a single cuss-word
about my native land. The O'Keefes are not overburdened with
I must have looked bewildered. "The war was over," I said vacantly,
O'Keefe laughed loudly, scattering my thoughts.
"Ask old Doc Millikin if the war is over!" he shouted, hugely
diverted. "Oh, no! Doc hasn't surrendered yet. And the Confederate
States! Well, I just told you they bucked officially and solidly and
nationally against a foreign government four months ago and kept me
from being shot. Old Jeff's country stepped in and brought me off
under its wing while Roosevelt was having a gunboat repainted and
waiting for the National Campaign Committee to look up whether I had
ever scratched the ticket."
"Isn't there a story in this, Barney?" I asked.
"No," said O'Keefe; "but I'll give you the facts. You know I went down
to Panama when this irritation about a canal began. I thought I'd get
in on the ground floor. I did, and had to sleep on it, and drink water
with little zoos in it; so, of course, I got the Chagres fever. That
was in a little town called San Juan on the coast.
"After I got the fever hard enough to kill a Port-au-Prince nigger, I
had a relapse in the shape of Doc Millikin.
"There was a doctor to attend a sick man! If Doc Millikin had your
case, he made the terrors of death seem like an invitation to a
donkey-party. He had the bedside manners of a Piute medicine-man and
the soothing presence of a dray loaded with iron bridge-girders. When
he laid his hand on your fevered brow you felt like Cap John Smith
just before Pocahontas went his bail.
"Well, this old medical outrage floated down to my shack when I sent
for him. He was build like a shad, and his eyebrows was black, and his
white whiskers trickled down from his chin like milk coming out of a
sprinkling-pot. He had a nigger boy along carrying an old tomato-can
full of calomel, and a saw.
"Doc felt my pulse, and then he began to mess up some calomel with an
agricultural implement that belonged to the trowel class.
"'I don't want any death-mask made yet, Doc,' I says, 'nor my liver
put in a plaster-of-Paris cast. I'm sick; and it's medicine I need,
"'You're a blame Yankee, ain't you?' asked Doc, going on mixing up his
"'I'm from the North,' says I, 'but I'm a plain man, and don't care
for mural decorations. When you get the Isthmus all asphalted over
with that boll-weevil prescription, would you mind giving me a dose of
pain-killer, or a little strychnine on toast to ease up this feeling
of unhealthiness that I have got?"
"'They was all sassy, just like you,' says old Doc, 'but we lowered
their temperature considerable. Yes, sir, I reckon we sent a good many
of ye over to old /mortuis nisi bonum/. Look at Antietam and Bull Run
and Seven Pines and around Nashville! There never was a battle where
we didn't lick ye unless you was ten to our one. I knew you were a
blame Yankee the minute I laid eyes on you.'
"'Don't reopen the chasm, Doc,' I begs him. 'Any Yankeeness I may have
is geographical; and, as far as I am concerned, a Southerner is as
good as a Filipino any day. I'm feeling to bad too argue. Let's have
secession without misrepresentation, if you say so; but what I need is
more laudanum and less Lundy's Lane. If you're mixing that compound
gefloxide of gefloxicum for me, please fill my ears with it before you
get around to the battle of Gettysburg, for there is a subject full of
"By this time Doc Millikin had thrown up a line of fortifications on
square pieces of paper; and he says to me: 'Yank, take one of these
powders every two hours. They won't kill you. I'll be around again
about sundown to see if you're alive.'
"Old Doc's powders knocked the chagres. I stayed in San Juan, and got
to knowing him better. He was from Mississippi, and the red-hottest
Southerner that ever smelled mint. He made Stonewall Jackson and R. E.
Lee look like Abolitionists. He had a family somewhere down near Yazoo
City; but he stayed away from the States on account of an
uncontrollable liking he had for the absence of a Yankee government.
Him and me got as thick personally as the Emperor of Russia and the
dove of peace, but sectionally we didn't amalgamate.
"'Twas a beautiful system of medical practice introduced by old Doc
into that isthmus of land. He'd take that bracket-saw and the mild
chloride and his hypodermic, and treat anything from yellow fever to a
"Besides his other liabilities Doc could play a flute for a minute or
two. He was guilty of two tunes--'Dixie' and another one that was
mighty close to the 'Suwanee River'--you might say one of its
tributaries. He used to come down and sit with me while I was getting
well, and aggrieve his flute and say unreconstructed things about the
North. You'd have thought that the smoke from the first gun at Fort
Sumter was still floating around in the air.
"You know that was about the time they staged them property
revolutions down there, that wound up in the fifth act with the
thrilling canal scene where Uncle Sam has nine curtain-calls holding
Miss Panama by the hand, while the bloodhounds keep Senator Morgan
treed up in a cocoanut-palm.
"That's the way it wound up; but at first it seemed as if Colombia was
going to make Panama look like one of the $3.98 kind, with dents made
in it in the factory, like they wear at North Beach fish fries. For
mine, I played the straw-hat crowd to win; and they gave me a
colonel's commission over a brigade of twenty-seven men in the left
wing and second joint of the insurgent army.
"The Colombian troops were awfully rude to us. One day when I had my
brigade in a sandy spot, with its shoes off doing a battalion drill by
squads, the Government army rushed from behind a bush at us, acting as
noisy and disagreeable as they could.
"My troops enfiladed, left-faced, and left the spot. After enticing
the enemy for three miles or so we struck a brier-patch and had to sit
down. When we were ordered to throw up our toes and surrender we
obeyed. Five of my best staff-officers fell, suffering extremely with
"Then and there those Colombians took your friend Barney, sir,
stripped him of the insignia of his rank, consisting of a pair of
brass knuckles and a canteen of rum, and dragged him before a military
court. The presiding general went through the usual legal formalities
that sometimes cause a case to hang on the calendar of a South
American military court as long as ten minutes. He asked me my age,
and then sentenced me to be shot.
"They woke up the court interpreter, an American named Jenks, who was
in the rum business and vice versa, and told him to translate the
"Jenks stretched himself and took a morphine tablet.
"'You've got to back up against th' 'dobe, old man,' says he to me.
'Three weeks, I believe, you get. Haven't got a chew of fine-cut on
you, have you?'
"'Translate that again, with foot-notes and a glossary,' says I. 'I
don't know whether I'm discharged, condemned, or handed over to the
"'Oh,' says Jenks, 'don't you understand? You're to be stood up
against a 'dobe wall and shot in two or three weeks--three, I think,
"'Would you mind asking 'em which?' says I. 'A week don't amount to
much after you're dead, but it seems a real nice long spell while you
"'It's two weeks,' says the interpreter, after inquiring in Spanish of
the court. 'Shall I ask 'em again?'
"'Let be,' says I. 'Let's have a stationary verdict. If I keep on
appealing this way they'll have me shot about ten days before I was
captured. No, I haven't got any fine-cut.'
"They sends me over to the /calaboza/ with a detachment of coloured
postal-telegraph boys carrying Enfield rifles, and I am locked up in a
kind of brick bakery. The temperature in there was just about the kind
mentioned in the cooking recipes that call for a quick oven.
"Then I gives a silver dollar to one of the guards to send for the
United States consul. He comes around in pajamas, with a pair of
glasses on his nose and a dozen or two inside of him.
"'I'm to be shot in two weeks,' says I. 'And although I've made a
memorandum of it, I don't seem to get it off my mind. You want to call
up Uncle Sam on the cable as quick as you can and get him all worked
up about it. Have 'em send the /Kentucky/ and the /Kearsage/ and the
/Oregon/ down right away. That'll be about enough battleships; but it
wouldn't hurt to have a couple of cruisers and a torpedo-boat
destroyer, too. And--say, if Dewey isn't busy, better have him come
along on the fastest one of the fleet.'
"'Now, see here, O'Keefe,' says the consul, getting the best of a
hiccup, 'what do you want to bother the State Department about this
"'Didn't you hear me?' says I; 'I'm to be shot in two weeks. Did you
think I said I was going to a lawn-party? And it wouldn't hurt of
Roosevelt could get the Japs to send down the /Yellowyamtiskookum/ or
the /Ogotosingsing/ or some other first-class cruisers to help. It
would make me feel safer.'
"'Now, what you want,' says the consul, 'is not to get excited. I'll
send you over some chewing tobacco and some banana fritters when I go
back. The United States can't interfere in this. You know you were
caught insurging against the government, and you're subject to the
laws of this country. To tell the truth, I've had an intimation from
the State Department--unofficially, of course--that whenever a soldier
of fortune demands a fleet of gunboats in a case of revolutionary
/katzenjammer/, I should cut the cable, give him all the tobacco he
wants, and after he's shot take his clothes, if they fit me, for part
payment of my salary.'
"'Consul,' says I to him, 'this is a serious question. You are
representing Uncle Sam. This ain't any little international
tomfoolery, like a universal peace congress or the christening of the
/Shamrock IV/. I'm an American citizen and I demand protection. I
demand the Mosquito fleet, and Schley, and the Atlantic squadron, and
Bob Evans, and General E. Byrd Grubb, and two or three protocols. What
are you going to do about it?'
"'Nothing doing,' says the consul.
"'Be off with you, then,' says I, out of patience with him, 'and send
me Doc Millikin. Ask Doc to come and see me.'
"Doc comes and looks through the bars at me, surrounded by dirty
soldiers, with even my shoes and canteen confiscated, and he looks
"'Hello, Yank,' says he, 'getting a little taste of Johnson's Island,
now, ain't ye?'
"'Doc,' says I, 'I've just had an interview with the U.S. consul. I
gather from his remarks that I might just as well have been caught
selling suspenders in Kishineff under the name of Rosenstein as to be
in my present condition. It seems that the only maritime aid I am to
receive from the United States is some navy-plug to chew. Doc,' says
I, 'can't you suspend hostility on the slavery question long enough to
do something for me?'
"'It ain't been my habit,' Doc Millikin answers, 'to do any painless
dentistry when I find a Yank cutting an eye-tooth. So the Stars and
Stripes ain't lending any marines to shell the huts of the Colombian
cannibals, hey? Oh, say, can you see by the dawn's early light the
star-spangled banner has fluked in the fight? What's the matter with
the War Department, hey? It's a great thing to be a citizen of a gold-
standard nation, ain't it?'
"'Rub it in, Doc, all you want,' says I. 'I guess we're weak on
"'For a Yank,' says Doc, putting on his specs and talking more mild,
'you ain't so bad. If you had come from below the line I reckon I
would have liked you right smart. Now since your country has gone back
on you, you have to come to the old doctor whose cotton you burned and
whose mules who stole and whose niggers you freed to help you. Ain't
that so, Yank?'
"'It is,' says I heartily, 'and let's have a diagnosis of the case
right away, for in two weeks' time all you can do is to hold an
autopsy and I don't want to be amputated if I can help it.'
"'Now,' says Doc, business-like, 'it's easy enough for you to get out
of this scrape. Money'll do it. You've got to pay a long string of 'em
from General Pomposo down to this anthropoid ape guarding your door.
About $10,000 will do the trick. Have you got the money?'
"'Me?' says I. 'I've got one Chili dollar, two /real/ pieces, and a
"'Then if you've any last words, utter 'em,' says that old reb. 'The
roster of your financial budget sounds quite much to be like the noise
of a requiem.'
"'Change the treatment,' says I. 'I admit that I'm short. Call a
consultation or use radium or smuggle me in some saws or something.'
"'Yank,' says Doc Millikin, 'I've a good notion to help you. There's
only one government in the world that can get you out of this
difficulty; and that's the Confederate States of America, the grandest
nation that ever existed.'
"Just as you said to me I says to Doc; 'Why, the Confederacy ain't a
nation. It's been absolved forty years ago.'
"'That's a campaign lie,' says Doc. 'She's running along as solid as
the Roman Empire. She's the only hope you've got. Now, you, being a
Yank, have got to go through with some preliminary obsequies before
you can get official aid. You've got to take the oath of allegiance to
the Confederate Government. Then I'll guarantee she does all she can
for you. What do you say, Yank?--it's your last chance.'
"'If you're fooling with me, Doc,' I answers, 'you're no better than
the United States. But as you say it's the last chance, hurry up and
swear me. I always did like the corn whisky and 'possum anyhow. I
believe I'm half Southerner by nature. I'm willing to try the Klu-klux
in place of the khaki. Get brisk.'
"Doc Millikin thinks awhile, and then he offers me this oath of
allegiance to take without any kind of a chaser:
"'I, Barnard O'Keefe, Yank, being of sound body but a Republican mind,
hereby swear to transfer my fealty, respect, and allegiance to the
Confederate States of America, and the government thereof in
consideration of said government, through its official acts and
powers, obtaining my freedom and release from confinement and sentence
of death brought about by the exuberance of my Irish proclivities and
my general pizenness as a Yank.'
"I repeated these words after Doc, but they seemed to me a kind of
hocus-pocus; and I don't believe any life-insurance company in the
world would have issued me a policy on the strength of 'em.
"Doc went away saying he would communicate with his government
"Say--you can imagine how I felt--me to be shot in two weeks and my
only hope for help being in a government that's been dead so long that
it isn't even remembered except on Decoration Day and when Joe Wheeler
signs the voucher for his pay-check. But it was all there was in
sight; and somehow I thought Doc Millikin had something up his old
alpaca sleeve that wasn't all foolishness.
"Around to the jail comes old Doc again in about a week. I was flea-
bitten, a mite sarcastic, and fundamentally hungry.
"'Any Confederate ironclads in the offing?' I asks. 'Do you notice any
sounds resembling the approach of Jeb Stewart's cavalry overland or
Stonewall Jackson sneaking up in the rear? If you do, I wish you'd say
"'It's too soon yet for help to come,' says Doc.
"'The sooner the better,' says I. 'I don't care if it gets in fully
fifteen minutes before I am shot; and if you happen to lay eyes on
Beauregard or Albert Sidney Johnston or any of the relief corps, wig-
wag 'em to hike along.'
"'There's been no answer received yet,' says Doc.
"'Don't forget,' says I, 'that there's only four days more. I don't
know how you propose to work this thing, Doc,' I says to him; 'but it
seems to me I'd sleep better if you had got a government that was
alive and on the map--like Afghanistan or Great Britain, or old man
Kruger's kingdom, to take this matter up. I don't mean any disrespect
to your Confederate States, but I can't help feeling that my chances
of being pulled out of this scrape was decidedly weakened when General
"'It's your only chance,' said Doc; 'don't quarrel with it. What did
your own country do for you?'
"It was only two days before the morning I was to be shot, when Doc
Millikin came around again.
"'All right, Yank,' says he. 'Help's come. The Confederate States of
America is going to apply for your release. The representatives of the
government arrived on a fruit-steamer last night.'
"'Bully!' says I--'bully for you, Doc! I suppose it's marines with a
Gatling. I'm going to love your country all I can for this.'
"'Negotiations,' says old Doc, 'will be opened between the two
governments at once. You will know later to-day if they are
"About four in the afternoon a soldier in red trousers brings a paper
round to the jail, and they unlocks the door and I walks out. The
guard at the door bows and I bows, and I steps into the grass and
wades around to Doc Millikin's shack.
"Doc was sitting in his hammock playing 'Dixie,' soft and low and out
of tune, on his flute. I interrupted him at 'Look away! look away!'
and shook his hand for five minutes.
"'I never thought,' says Doc, taking a chew fretfully, 'that I'd ever
try to save any blame Yank's life. But, Mr. O'Keefe, I don't see but
what you are entitled to be considered part human, anyhow. I never
thought Yanks had any of the rudiments of decorum and laudability
about them. I reckon I might have been too aggregative in my
tabulation. But it ain't me you want to thank--it's the Confederate
States of America.'
"'And I'm much obliged to 'em,' says I. 'It's a poor man that wouldn't
be patriotic with a country that's saved his life. I'll drink to the
Stars and Bars whenever there's a flagstaff and a glass convenient.
But where,' says I, 'are the rescuing troops? If there was a gun fired
or a shell burst, I didn't hear it.'
"Doc Millikin raises up and points out the window with his flute at
the banana-steamer loading with fruit.
"'Yank,' says he, 'there's a steamer that's going to sail in the
morning. If I was you, I'd sail on it. The Confederate Government's
done all it can for you. There wasn't a gun fired. The negotiations
were carried on secretly between the two nations by the purser of that
steamer. I got him to do it because I didn't want to appear in it.
Twelve thousand dollars was paid to the officials in bribes to let you
"'Man!' says I, sitting down hard--'twelve thousand--how will I ever--
who could have--where did the money come from?'
"'Yazoo City,' says Doc Millikin: 'I've got a little saved up there.
Two barrels full. It looks good to these Colombians. 'Twas Confederate
money, every dollar of it. Now do you see why you'd better leave
before they try to pass some of it on an expert?'
"'I do,' says I.
"'Now let's hear you give the password,' says Doc Millikin.
"'Hurrah for Jeff Davis!' says I.
"'Correct,' says Doc. 'And let me tell you something: The next tune I
learn on my flute is going to be "Yankee Doodle." I reckon there's
some Yanks that are not so pizen. Or, if you was me, would you try
"The Red, White, and Blue"?'"
THE LONESOME ROAD
Brown as a coffee-berry, rugged, pistoled, spurred, wary,
indefeasible, I saw my old friend, Deputy-Marshal Buck Caperton,
stumble, with jingling rowels, into a chair in the marshal's outer
And because the court-house was almost deserted at that hour, and
because Buck would sometimes relate to me things that were out of
print, I followed him in and tricked him into talk through knowledge
of a weakness he had. For, cigarettes rolled with sweet corn husk were
as honey to Buck's palate; and though he could finger the trigger of a
forty-five with skill and suddenness, he never could learn to roll a
It was through no fault of mine (for I rolled the cigarettes tight and
smooth), but the upshot of some whim of his own, that instead of to an
Odyssey of the chaparral, I listened to--a dissertation upon
matrimony! This from Buck Caperton! But I maintain that the cigarettes
were impeccable, and crave absolution for myself.
"We just brought in Jim and Bud Granberry," said Buck. "Train robbing,
you know. Held up the Aransas Pass last month. We caught 'em in the
Twenty-Mile pear flat, south of the Nueces."
"Have much trouble corralling them?" I asked, for here was the meat
that my hunger for epics craved.
"Some," said Buck; and then, during a little pause, his thoughts
stampeded off the trail. "It's kind of queer about women," he went on,
"and the place they're supposed to occupy in botany. If I was asked to
classify them I'd say they was a human loco weed. Ever see a bronc
that had been chewing loco? Ride him up to a puddle of water two feet
wide, and he'll give a snort and fall back on you. It looks as big as
the Mississippi River to him. Next trip he'd walk into a canon a
thousand feet deep thinking it was a prairie-dog hole. Same way with a
"I was thinking of Perry Rountree, that used to be my sidekicker
before he committed matrimony. In them days me and Perry hated
indisturbances of any kind. We roamed around considerable, stirring up
the echoes and making 'em attend to business. Why, when me and Perry
wanted to have some fun in a town it was a picnic for the census
takers. They just counted the marshal's posse that it took to subdue
us, and there was your population. But then there came along this
Mariana Goodnight girl and looked at Perry sideways, and he was all
bridle-wise and saddle-broke before you could skin a yearling.
"I wasn't even asked to the wedding. I reckon the bride had my
pedigree and the front elevation of my habits all mapped out, and she
decided that Perry would trot better in double harness without any
unconverted mustang like Buck Caperton whickering around on the
matrimonial range. So it was six months before I saw Perry again.
"One day I was passing on the edge of town, and I see something like a
man in a little yard by a little house with a sprinkling-pot squirting
water on a rose-bush. Seemed to me, I'd seen something like it before,
and I stopped at the gate, trying to figure out its brands. 'Twas not
Perry Rountree, but 'twas the kind of a curdled jellyfish matrimony
had made out of him.
"Homicide was what that Mariana had perpetrated. He was looking well
enough, but he had on a white collar and shoes, and you could tell in
a minute that he'd speak polite and pay taxes and stick his little
finger out while drinking, just like a sheep man or a citizen. Great
skyrockets! but I hated to see Perry all corrupted and Willie-ized
"He came out to the gate, and shook hands; and I says, with scorn, and
speaking like a paroquet with the pip: 'Beg pardon--Mr. Rountree, I
believe. Seems to me I sagatiated in your associations once, if I am
"'Oh, go to the devil, Buck,' says Perry, polite, as I was afraid he'd
"'Well, then,' says I, 'you poor, contaminated adjunct of a
sprinkling-pot and degraded household pet, what did you go and do it
for? Look at you, all decent and unriotous, and only fit to sit on
juries and mend the wood-house door. You was a man once. I have
hostility for all such acts. Why don't you go in the house and count
the tidies or set the clock, and not stand out here in the atmosphere?
A jack-rabbit might come along and bite you.'
"'Now, Buck,' says Perry, speaking mild, and some sorrowful, 'you
don't understand. A married man has got to be different. He feels
different from a tough old cloudburst like you. It's sinful to waste
time pulling up towns just to look at their roots, and playing faro
and looking upon red liquor, and such restless policies as them.'
"'There was a time,' I says, and I expect I sighed when I mentioned
it, 'when a certain domesticated little Mary's lamb I could name was
some instructed himself in the line of pernicious sprightliness. I
never expected, Perry, to see you reduced down from a full-grown
pestilence to such a frivolous fraction of a man. Why,' says I,
'you've got a necktie on; and you speak a senseless kind of indoor
drivel that reminds me of a storekeeper or a lady. You look to me like
you might tote an umbrella and wear suspenders, and go home of
"'The little woman,' says Perry, 'has made some improvements, I
believe. You can't understand, Buck. I haven't been away from the
house at night since we was married.'
"We talked on a while, me and Perry, and, as sure as I live, that man
interrupted me in the middle of my talk to tell me about six tomato
plants he had growing in his garden. Shoved his agricultural
degradation right up under my nose while I was telling him about the
fun we had tarring and feathering that faro dealer at California
Pete's layout! But by and by Perry shows a flicker of sense.
"'Buck,' says he, 'I'll have to admit that it is a little dull at
times. Not that I'm not perfectly happy with the little woman, but a
man seems to require some excitement now and then. Now, I'll tell you:
Mariana's gone visiting this afternoon, and she won't be home till
seven o'clock. Neither of us ever stays out a minute after that time
unless we are together. Now, I'm glad you came along, Buck,' says
Perry, 'for I'm feeling just like having one more rip-roaring razoo
with you for the sake of old times. What you say to us putting in the
afternoon having fun--I'd like it fine,' says Perry.
"I slapped that old captive range-rider half across his little garden.
"'Get your hat, you old dried-up alligator,' I shouts, 'you ain't dead
yet. You're part human, anyhow, if you did get all bogged up in
matrimony. We'll take this town to pieces and see what makes it tick.
We'll make all kinds of profligate demands upon the science of cork
pulling. You'll grow horns yet, old muley cow,' says I, punching Perry
in the ribs, 'if you trot around on the trail of vice with your Uncle
"'I'll have to be home by seven, you know,' says Perry again.
"'Oh, yes,' says I, winking to myself, for I knew the kind of seven
o'clocks Perry Rountree got back by after he once got to passing
repartee with the bartenders.
"We goes down to the Gray Mule saloon--that old 'dobe building by the
"'Give it a name,' says I, as soon as we got one hoof on the foot-
"'Sarsaparilla,' says Perry.
"You could have knocked me down with a lemon peeling.
"'Insult me as much as you want to,' I says to Perry, 'but don't
startle the bartender. He may have heart-disease. Come on, now; your
tongue got twisted. The tall glasses,' I orders, 'and the bottle in
the left-hand corner of the ice-chest.'
"'Sarsaparilla,' repeats Perry, and then his eyes get animated, and I
see he's got some great scheme in his mind he wants to emit.
"'Buck,' says he, all interested, 'I'll tell you what! I want to make
this a red-letter day. I've been keeping close at home, and I want to
turn myself a-loose. We'll have the highest old time you ever saw.
We'll go in the back room here and play checkers till half-past six.'
"I leaned against the bar, and I says to Gotch-eared Mike, who was on
"'For God's sake don't mention this. You know what Perry used to be.
He's had the fever, and the doctor says we must humour him.'
"'Give us the checker-board and the men, Mike,' says Perry. 'Come on,
Buck, I'm just wild to have some excitement.'
"I went in the back room with Perry. Before we closed the door, I says
"'Don't ever let it straggle out from under your hat that you seen
Buck Caperton fraternal with sarsaparilla or /persona grata/ with a
checker-board, or I'll make a swallow-fork in your other ear.'
"I locked the door and me and Perry played checkers. To see that poor
old humiliated piece of household bric-a-brac sitting there and
sniggering out loud whenever he jumped a man, and all obnoxious with
animation when he got into my king row, would have made a sheep-dog
sick with mortification. Him that was once satisfied only when he was
pegging six boards at keno or giving the faro dealers nervous
prostration--to see him pushing them checkers about like Sally Louisa
at a school-children's party--why, I was all smothered up with
"And I sits there playing the black men, all sweating for fear
somebody I knew would find it out. And I thinks to myself some about
this marrying business, and how it seems to be the same kind of a game
as that Mrs. Delilah played. She give her old man a hair cut, and
everybody knows what a man's head looks like after a woman cuts his
hair. And then when the Pharisees came around to guy him he was so
'shamed that he went to work and kicked the whole house down on top of
the whole outfit. 'Them married men,' thinks I, 'lose all their spirit
and instinct for riot and foolishness. They won't drink, they won't
buck the tiger, they won't even fight. What do they want to go and
stay married for?' I asks myself.
"But Perry seems to be having hilarity in considerable quantities.
"'Buck old hoss,' says he, 'isn't this just the hell-roaringest time
we ever had in our lives? I don't know when I've been stirred up so.
You see, I've been sticking pretty close to home since I married, and
I haven't been on a spree in a long time.'
"'Spree!' Yes, that's what he called it. Playing checkers in the back
room of the Gray Mule! I suppose it did seem to him a little more
immoral and nearer to a prolonged debauch than standing over six
tomato plants with a sprinkling-pot.
"Every little bit Perry looks at his watch and says:
"'I got to be home, you know, Buck, at seven.'
"'All right,' I'd say. 'Romp along and move. This here excitement's
killing me. If I don't reform some, and loosen up the strain of this
checkered dissipation I won't have a nerve left.'
"It might have been half-past six when commotions began to go on
outside in the street. We heard a yelling and a six-shootering, and a
lot of galloping and manoeuvres.
"'What's that?' I wonders.
"'Oh, some nonsense outside,' says Perry. 'It's your move. We just got
time to play this game.'
"'I'll just take a peep through the window,' says I, 'and see. You
can't expect a mere mortal to stand the excitement of having a king
jumped and listen to an unidentified conflict going on at the same
"The Gray Mule saloon was one of them old Spanish 'dobe buildings, and
the back room only had two little windows a foot wide, with iron bars
in 'em. I looked out one, and I see the cause of the rucus.
"There was the Trimble gang--ten of 'em--the worst outfit of
desperadoes and horse-thieves in Texas, coming up the street shooting
right and left. They was coming right straight for the Gray Mule. Then
they got past the range of my sight, but we heard 'em ride up to the
front door, and then they socked the place full of lead. We heard the
big looking-glass behind the bar knocked all to pieces and the bottles
crashing. We could see Gotch-eared Mike in his apron running across
the plaza like a coyote, with the bullets puffing up dust all around
him. Then the gang went to work in the saloon, drinking what they
wanted and smashing what they didn't.
"Me and Petty both knew that gang, and they knew us. The year before
Perry married, him and me was in the same ranger company--and we
fought that outfit down on the San Miguel, and brought back Ben
Trimble and two others for murder.
"'We can't get out,' says I. 'We'll have to stay in here till they
"Perry looked at his watch.
"'Twenty-five to seven,' says he. 'We can finish that game. I got two
men on you. It's your move, Buck. I got to be home at seven, you
"We sat down and went on playing. The Trimble gang had a roughhouse
for sure. They were getting good and drunk. They'd drink a while and
holler a while, and then they'd shoot up a few bottles and glasses.
Two or three times they came and tried to open our door. Then there
was some more shooting outside, and I looked out the window again. Ham
Gossett, the town marshal, had a posse in the houses and stores across
the street, and was trying to bag a Trimble or two through the
"I lost that game of checkers. I'm free in saying that I lost three
kings that I might have saved if I had been corralled in a more
peaceful pasture. But that drivelling married man sat there and
cackled when he won a man like an unintelligent hen picking up a grain
"When the game was over Perry gets up and looks at his watch.
"'I've had a glorious time, Buck,' says he, 'but I'll have to be going
now. It's a quarter to seven, and I got to be home by seven, you
"I thought he was joking.
"'They'll clear out or be dead drunk in half an hour or an hour,' says
I. 'You ain't that tired of being married that you want to commit any
more sudden suicide, are you?' says I, giving him the laugh.
"'One time,' says Perry, 'I was half an hour late getting home. I met
Mariana on the street looking for me. If you could have seen her, Buck
--but you don't understand. She knows what a wild kind of a snoozer
I've been, and she's afraid something will happen. I'll never be late
getting home again. I'll say good-bye to you now, Buck.'
"I got between him and the door.
"'Married man,' says I, 'I know you was christened a fool the minute
the preacher tangled you up, but don't you never sometimes think one
little think on a human basis? There's ten of that gang in there, and
they're pizen with whisky and desire for murder. They'll drink you up
like a bottle of booze before you get half-way to the door. Be
intelligent, now, and use at least wild-hog sense. Sit down and wait
till we have some chance to get out without being carried in baskets.'
"'I got to be home by seven, Buck,' repeats this hen-pecked thing of
little wisdom, like an unthinking poll parrot. 'Mariana,' says he,
'will be out looking for me.' And he reaches down and pulls a leg out
of the checker table. 'I'll go through this Trimble outfit,' says he,
'like a cottontail through a brush corral. I'm not pestered any more
with a desire to engage in rucuses, but I got to be home by seven. You
lock the door after me, Buck. And don't you forget--I won three out of
them five games. I'd play longer, but Mariana--'
"'Hush up, you old locoed road runner,' I interrupts. 'Did you ever
notice your Uncle Buck locking doors against trouble? I'm not
married,' says I, 'but I'm as big a d----n fool as any Mormon. One
from four leaves three,' says I, and I gathers out another leg of the
table. 'We'll get home by seven,' says I, 'whether it's the heavenly
one or the other. May I see you home?' says I, 'you sarsaparilla-
drinking, checker-playing glutton for death and destruction.'
"We opened the door easy, and then stampeded for the front. Part of
the gang was lined up at the bar; part of 'em was passing over the
drinks, and two or three was peeping out the door and window and
taking shots at the marshal's crowd. The room was so full of smoke we
got half-way to the front door before they noticed us. Then I heard
Berry Trimble's voice somewhere yell out:
"'How'd that Buck Caperton get in here?' and he skinned the side of my
neck with a bullet. I reckon he felt bad over that miss, for Berry's
the best shot south of the Southern Pacific Railroad. But the smoke in
the saloon was some too thick for good shooting.
"Me and Perry smashed over two of the gang with our table legs, which
didn't miss like the guns did, and as we run out the door I grabbed a
Winchester from a fellow who was watching the outside, and I turned
and regulated the account of Mr. Berry.
"Me and Perry got out and around the corner all right. I never much
expected to get out, but I wasn't going to be intimidated by that
married man. According to Perry's idea, checkers was the event of the
day, but if I am any judge of gentle recreations that little table-leg
parade through the Gray Mule saloon deserved the head-lines in the
bill of particulars.
"'Walk fast,' says Perry, 'it's two minutes to seven, and I got to be
"'Oh, shut up,' says I. 'I had an appointment as chief performer at an
inquest at seven, and I'm not kicking about not keeping it.'
"I had to pass by Perry's little house. His Mariana was standing at
the gate. We got there at five minutes past seven. She had on a blue
wrapper, and her hair was pulled back smooth like little girls do when
they want to look grown-folksy. She didn't see us till we got close,
for she was gazing up the other way. Then she backed around, and saw
Perry, and a kind of a look scooted around over her face--danged if I
can describe it. I heard her breathe long, just like a cow when you
turn her calf in the lot, and she says: 'You're late, Perry.'
"'Five minutes,' says Perry, cheerful. 'Me and old Buck was having a
game of checkers.'
"Perry introduces me to Mariana, and they ask me to come in. No,
sir-ee. I'd had enough truck with married folks for that day. I says
I'll be going along, and that I've spent a very pleasant afternoon
with my old partner--'especially,' says I, just to jostle Perry,
'during that game when the table legs came all loose.' But I'd
promised him not to let her know anything.
"I've been worrying over that business ever since it happened,"
continued Buck. "There's one thing about it that's got me all twisted
up, and I can't figure it out."
"What was that?" I asked, as I rolled and handed Buck the last
"Why, I'll tell you: When I saw the look that little woman gave Perry
when she turned round and saw him coming back to the ranch safe--why
was it I got the idea all in a minute that that look of hers was worth
more than the whole caboodle of us--sarsaparilla, checkers, and all,
and that the d----n fool in the game wasn't named Perry Rountree at
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