Ruggles of Red Gap
Harry Leon Wilson
Part 2 out of 6
But the other seemed obdurate.
"Start her up, Professor, when I give the word!" he called to the
proprietor, and handed him one of the French banknotes. "Play it all
out!" he directed, as this person gasped with amazement.
Cousin Egbert then proceeded to the head of the beast.
"You'll have to blind him," he said.
"Sure!" replied the other, and with loud and profane cries to the
animal they bound a handkerchief about his eyes.
"I can tell he's going to be a twister," warned Cousin Egbert. "I
better ear him," and to my increased amazement he took one of the
beast's leather ears between his teeth and held it tightly. Then with
soothing words to the supposedly dangerous animal, the Tuttle person
"Let him go!" he called to Cousin Egbert, who released the ear from
between his teeth.
"Wait!" called the latter. "We're all going with you," whereupon he
insisted that the cabby and I should enter a sort of swan-boat
directly in the rear. I felt a silly fool, but I saw there was nothing
else to be done. Cousin Egbert himself mounted a horse he had called a
"blue roan," waved his hand to the proprietor, who switched a lever,
the "Marseillaise" blared forth, and the platform began to revolve. As
we moved, the Tuttle person whisked the handkerchief from off the eyes
of his mount and with loud, shrill cries began to beat the sides of
its head with his soft hat, bobbing about in his saddle, moreover, as
if the beast were most unruly and like to dismount him. Cousin Egbert
joined in the yelling, I am sorry to say, and lashed his beast as if
he would overtake his companion. The cabman also became excited and
shouted his utmost, apparently in the way of encouragement. Strange to
say, I presume on account of the motion, I felt the thing was becoming
infectious and was absurdly moved to join in the shouts, restraining
myself with difficulty. I could distinctly imagine we were in the
hunting field and riding the tails off the hounds, as one might say.
In view of what was later most unjustly alleged of me, I think it as
well to record now that, though I had partaken freely of the
stimulants since our meeting with the Tuttle person, I was not
intoxicated, nor until this moment had I felt even the slightest
elation. Now, however, I did begin to feel conscious of a mild
exhilaration, and to be aware that I was viewing the behaviour of my
companions with a sort of superior but amused tolerance. I can account
for this only by supposing that the swift revolutions of the carrousel
had in some occult manner intensified or consummated, as one might
say, the effect of my previous potations. I mean to say, the continued
swirling about gave me a frothy feeling that was not unpleasant.
As the contrivance came to rest, Cousin Egbert ran to the Tuttle
person, who had dismounted, and warmly shook his hand, as did the
"I certainly thought he had you there once, Jeff," said Cousin Egbert.
"Of all the twisters I ever saw, that outlaw is the worst."
"Wanted to roll me," said the other, "but I learned him something."
It may not be credited, but at this moment I found myself examining
the beast and saying: "He's crocked himself up, sir--he's gone tender
at the heel." I knew perfectly, it must be understood, that this was
silly, and yet I further added, "I fancy he's picked up a stone." I
mean to say, it was the most utter rot, pretending seriously that way.
"You come away," said Cousin Egbert. "Next thing you'll be thinking
you can ride him yourself." I did in truth experience an earnest
craving for more of the revolutions and said as much, adding that I
rode at twelve stone.
"Let him break his neck if he wants to," urged the Tuttle person.
"It wouldn't be right," replied Cousin Egbert, "not in his condition.
Let's see if we can't find something gentle for him. Not the roan--I
found she ain't bridle-wise. How about that pheasant?"
"It's an ostrich, sir," I corrected him, as indeed it most distinctly
was, though at my words they both indulged in loud laughter, affecting
to consider that I had misnamed the creature.
"Ostrich!" they shouted. "Poor old Bill--he thinks it's an ostrich!"
"Quite so, sir," I said, pleasantly but firmly, determining not to be
"Don't drivel that way," said the Tuttle person.
"Leave it to the driver, Jeff--maybe he'll believe _him_," said
Cousin Egbert almost sadly, whereupon the other addressed the cabby:
"Hey, Frank," he began, and continued with some French words, among
which I caught "vooley-vous, ally caffy, foomer"; and something that
sounded much like "kafoozleum," at which the cabby spoke at some
length in his native language concerning the ostrich. When he had
done, the Tuttle person turned to me with a superior frown.
"Now I guess you're satisfied," he remarked. "You heard what Frank
said--it's an Arabian muffin bird." Of course I was perfectly certain
that the chap had said nothing of the sort, but I resolved to enter
into the spirit of the thing, so I merely said: "Yes, sir; my error;
it was only at first glance that it seemed to be an ostrich."
"Come along," said Cousin Egbert. "I won't let him ride anything he
can't guess the name of. It wouldn't be right to his folks."
"Well, what's that, then?" demanded the other, pointing full at the
"It's a bally ant-eater, sir," I replied, divining that I should be
wise not to seem too obvious in naming the beast.
"Well, well, so it is!" exclaimed the Tuttle person delightedly.
"He's got the eye with him this time," said Cousin Egbert admiringly.
"He's sure a wonder," said the other. "That thing had me fooled; I
thought at first it was a Russian mouse hound."
"Well, let him ride it, then," said Cousin Egbert, and I was
practically lifted into the saddle by the pair of them.
"One moment," said Cousin Egbert. "Can't you see the poor thing has a
sore throat? Wait till I fix him." And forthwith he removed his spats
and in another moment had buckled them securely high about the throat
of the giraffe. It will be seen that I was not myself when I say that
this performance did not shock me as it should have done, though I
was, of course, less entertained by it than were the remainder of our
party and a circle of the French lower classes that had formed about
"Give him his head! Let's see what time you can make!" shouted Cousin
Egbert as the affair began once more to revolve. I saw that both my
companions held opened watches in their hands.
It here becomes difficult for me to be lucid about the succeeding
events of the day. I was conscious of a mounting exhilaration as my
beast swept me around the circle, and of a marked impatience with many
of the proprieties of behaviour that ordinarily with me matter
enormously. I swung my cap and joyously urged my strange steed to a
faster pace, being conscious of loud applause each time I passed my
companions. For certain lapses of memory thereafter I must wholly
blame this insidious motion.
For example, though I believed myself to be still mounted and whirling
(indeed I was strongly aware of the motion), I found myself seated
again at the corner public house and rapping smartly for drink, which
I paid for. I was feeling remarkably fit, and suffered only a mild
wonder that I should have left the carrousel without observing it.
Having drained my glass, I then remember asking Cousin Egbert if he
would consent to change hats with the cabby, which he willingly did.
It was a top-hat of some strange, hard material brightly glazed.
Although many unjust things were said of me later, this is the sole
incident of the day which causes me to admit that I might have taken a
glass too much, especially as I undoubtedly praised Cousin Egbert's
appearance when the exchange had been made, and was heard to wish that
we might all have hats so smart.
It was directly after this that young Mr. Elmer, the art student,
invited us to his studio, though I had not before remarked his
presence, and cannot recall now where we met him. The occurrence in
the studio, however, was entirely natural. I wished to please my
friends and made no demur whatever when asked to don the things--a
trouserish affair, of sheep's wool, which they called "chapps," a
flannel shirt of blue (they knotted a scarlet handkerchief around my
neck), and a wide-brimmed white hat with four indentations in the
crown, such as one may see worn in the cinema dramas by cow-persons
and other western-coast desperadoes. When they had strapped around my
waist a large pistol in a leather jacket, I considered the effect
picturesque in the extreme, and my friends were loud in their approval
I repeat, it was an occasion when it would have been boorish in me to
refuse to meet them halfway. I even told them an excellent wheeze I
had long known, which I thought they might not, have heard. It runs:
"Why is Charing Cross? Because the Strand runs into it." I mean to
say, this is comic providing one enters wholly into the spirit of it,
as there is required a certain nimbleness of mind to get the point, as
one might say. In the present instance some needed element was
lacking, for they actually drew aloof from me and conversed in low
tones among themselves, pointedly ignoring me. I repeated the thing to
make sure they should see it, whereat I heard Cousin Egbert say.
"Better not irritate him--he'll get mad if we don't laugh," after
which they burst into laughter so extravagant that I knew it to be
feigned. Hereupon, feeling quite drowsy, I resolved to have forty
winks, and with due apologies reclined upon the couch, where I drifted
into a refreshing slumber.
Later I inferred that I must have slept for some hours. I was awakened
by a light flashed in my eyes, and beheld Cousin Egbert and the Tuttle
person, the latter wishing to know how late I expected to keep them
up. I was on my feet at once with apologies, but they instantly
hustled me to the door, down a flight of steps, through a court-yard,
and into the waiting cab. It was then I noticed that I was wearing the
curious hat of the American Far-West, but when I would have gone back
to leave it, and secure my own, they protested vehemently, wishing to
know if I had not given them trouble enough that day.
In the cab I was still somewhat drowsy, but gathered that my
companions had left me, to dine and attend a public dance-hall with
the cubbish art student. They had not seemed to need sleep and were
still wakeful, for they sang from time to time, and Cousin Egbert
lifted the cabby's hat, which he still wore, bowing to imaginary
throngs along the street who were supposed to be applauding him. I at
once became conscience-stricken at the thought of Mrs. Effie's
feelings when she should discover him to be in this state, and was on
the point of suggesting that he seek another apartment for the night,
when the cab pulled up in front of our own hotel.
Though I protest that I was now entirely recovered from any effect
that the alcohol might have had upon me, it was not until this moment
that I most horribly discovered myself to be in the full cow-person's
regalia I had donned in the studio in a spirit of pure frolic. I mean
to say, I had never intended to wear the things beyond the door and
could not have been hired to do so. What was my amazement then to find
my companions laboriously lifting me from the cab in this impossible
tenue. I objected vehemently, but little good it did me.
"Get a policeman if he starts any of that rough stuff," said the
Tuttle person, and in sheer horror of a scandal I subsided, while one
on either side they hustled me through the hotel lounge--happily
vacant of every one but a tariff manager--and into the lift. And now I
perceived that they were once more pretending to themselves that I was
in a bad way from drink, though I could not at once suspect the full
iniquity of their design.
As we reached our own floor, one of them still seeming to support me
on either side, they began loud and excited admonitions to me to be
still, to come along as quickly as possible, to stop singing, and not
to shoot. I mean to say, I was entirely quiet, I was coming along as
quickly as they would let me, I had not sung, and did not wish to
shoot, yet they persisted in making this loud ado over my supposed
intoxication, aimlessly as I thought, until the door of the Floud
drawing-room opened and Mrs. Effie appeared in the hallway. At this
they redoubled their absurd violence with me, and by dint of tripping
me they actually made it appear that I was scarce able to walk, nor do
I imagine that the costume I wore was any testimonial to my sobriety.
"Now we got him safe," panted Cousin Egbert, pushing open the door of
"Get his gun, first!" warned the Tuttle person, and this being taken
from me, I was unceremoniously shoved inside.
"What does all this mean?" demanded Mrs. Effie, coming rapidly down
the hall. "Where have you been till this time of night? I bet it's
your fault, Jeff Tuttle--you've been getting him going."
They were both voluble with denials of this, and though I could scarce
believe my ears, they proceeded to tell a story that laid the blame
entirely on me.
"No, ma'am, Mis' Effie," began the Tuttle person. "It ain't that way
at all. You wrong me if ever a man was wronged."
"You just seen what state he was in, didn't you?" asked Cousin Egbert
in tones of deep injury. "Do you want to take another look at him?"
and he made as if to push the door farther open upon me.
"Don't do it--don't get him started again!" warned the Tuttle person.
"I've had trouble enough with that man to-day."
"I seen it coming this morning," said Cousin Egbert, "when we was at
the art gallery. He had a kind of wild look in his eyes, and I says
right then: 'There's a man ought to be watched,' and, well, one thing
led to another--look at this hat he made me wear--nothing would
satisfy him but I should trade hats with some cab-driver----"
"I was coming along from looking at two or three good churches," broke
in the Tuttle person, "when I seen Sour-dough here having a kind of a
mix-up with this man because of him insisting he must ride a kangaroo
or something on a merry-go-round, and wanting Sour-dough to ride an
ostrich with him, and then when we got him quieted down a little,
nothing would do him but he's got to be a cowboy--you seen his
clothes, didn't you? And of course I wanted to get back to Addie and
the girls, but I seen Sour-dough here was in trouble, so I stayed
right by him, and between us we got the maniac here."
"He's one of them should never touch liquor," said Cousin Egbert; "it
makes a demon of him."
"I got his knife away from him early in the game," said the other.
"I don't suppose I got to wear this cabman's hat just because he told
me to, have I?" demanded Cousin Egbert.
"And here I'd been looking forward to a quiet day seeing some
well-known objects of interest," came from the other, "after I got my
tooth pulled, that is."
"And me with a tooth, too, that nearly drove me out of my mind," said
Cousin Egbert suddenly.
I could not see Mrs. Effie, but she had evidently listened to this
outrageous tale with more or less belief, though not wholly credulous.
"You men have both been drinking yourselves," she said shrewdly.
"We had to take a little; he made us," declared the Tuttle person
"He got so he insisted on our taking something every time he did,"
added Cousin Egbert. "And, anyway, I didn't care so much, with this
tooth of mine aching like it does."
"You come right out with me and around to that dentist I went to this
morning," said the Tuttle person. "You'll suffer all night if you
"Maybe I'd better," said Cousin Egbert, "though I hate to leave this
comfortable hotel and go out into the night air again."
"I'll have the right of this in the morning," said Mrs. Effie. "Don't
think it's going to stop here!" At this my door was pulled to and the
key turned in the lock.
Frankly I am aware that what I have put down above is incredible, yet
not a single detail have I distorted. With a quite devilish ingenuity
they had fastened upon some true bits: I had suggested the change of
hats with the cabby, I had wished to ride the giraffe, and the Tuttle
person had secured my knife, but how monstrously untrue of me was the
impression conveyed by these isolated facts. I could believe now quite
all the tales I had ever heard of the queerness of Americans.
Queerness, indeed! I went to bed resolving to let the morrow take care
Again I was awakened by a light flashing in my eyes, and became aware
that Cousin Egbert stood in the middle of the room. He was reading
from his notebook of art criticisms, with something of an oratorical
effect. Through the half-drawn curtains I could see that dawn was
breaking. Cousin Egbert was no longer wearing the cabby's hat. It was
now the flat cap of the Paris constable or policeman.
The sight was a fair crumpler after the outrageous slander that had
been put upon me by this elderly inebriate and his accomplice. I sat
up at once, prepared to bully him down a bit. Although I was not sure
that I engaged his attention, I told him that his reading could be
very well done without and that he might take himself off. At this he
became silent and regarded me solemnly.
"Why did Charing Cross the Strand? Because three rousing cheers," said
Of course he had the wheeze all wrong and I saw that he should be in
bed. So with gentle words I lured him to his own chamber. Here, with a
quite unexpected perversity, he accused me of having kept him up the
night long and begged now to be allowed to retire. This he did with
muttered complaints of my behaviour, and was almost instantly asleep.
I concealed the constable's cap in one of his boxes, for I feared that
he had not come by this honestly. I then returned to my own room,
where for a long time I meditated profoundly upon the situation that
now confronted me.
It seemed probable that I should be shopped by Mrs. Effie for what she
had been led to believe was my rowdyish behaviour. However dastardly
the injustice to me, it was a solution of the problem that I saw I
could bring myself to meet with considerable philosophy. It meant a
return to the quiet service of the Honourable George and that I need
no longer face the distressing vicissitudes of life in the back blocks
of unexplored America. I would not be obliged to muddle along in the
blind fashion of the last two days, feeling a frightful fool. Mrs.
Effie would surely not keep me on, and that was all about it. I had
merely to make no defence of myself. And even if I chose to make one I
was not certain that she would believe me, so cunning had been the
accusations against me, with that tiny thread of fact which I make no
doubt has so often enabled historians to give a false colouring to
their recitals without stating downright untruths. Indeed, my
shameless appearance in the garb of a cow person would alone have cast
doubt upon the truth as I knew it to be.
Then suddenly I suffered an illumination. I perceived all at once that
to make any sort of defence of myself would not be cricket. I mean to
say, I saw the proceedings of the previous day in a new light. It is
well known that I do not hold with the abuse of alcoholic stimulants,
and yet on the day before, in moments that I now confess to have been
slightly elevated, I had been conscious of a certain feeling of
fellowship with my two companions that was rather wonderful. Though
obviously they were not university men, they seemed to belong to what
in America would be called the landed gentry, and yet I had felt
myself on terms of undoubted equality with them. It may be believed or
not, but there had been brief spaces when I forgot that I was a
gentleman's man. Astoundingly I had experienced the confident ease of
a gentleman among his equals. I was obliged to admit now that this
might have been a mere delusion of the cup, and yet I wondered, too,
if perchance I might not have caught something of that American spirit
of equality which is said to be peculiar to republics. Needless to say
I had never believed in the existence of this spirit, but had
considered it rather a ghastly jest, having been a reader of our own
periodical press since earliest youth. I mean to say, there could
hardly be a stable society in which one had no superiors, because in
that case one would not know who were one's inferiors. Nevertheless, I
repeat that I had felt a most novel enlargement of myself; had, in
fact, felt that I was a gentleman among gentlemen, using the word in
its strictly technical sense. And so vividly did this conviction
remain with me that I now saw any defence of my course to be out of
I perceived that my companions had meant to have me on toast from the
first. I mean to say, they had started a rag with me--a bit of
chaff--and I now found myself rather preposterously enjoying the
manner in which they had chivied me. I mean to say, I felt myself
taking it as one gentleman would take a rag from other gentlemen--not
as a bit of a sneak who would tell the truth to save his face. A
couple of chaffing old beggars they were, but they had found me a
topping dead sportsman of their own sort. Be it remembered I was still
uncertain whether I had caught something of that alleged American
spirit, or whether the drink had made me feel equal at least to
Americans. Whatever it might be, it was rather great, and I was
prepared to face Mrs. Effie without a tremor--to face her, of course,
as one overtaken by a weakness for spirits.
When the bell at last rang I donned my service coat and, assuming a
look of profound remorse, I went to the drawing-room to serve the
morning coffee. As I suspected, only Mrs. Effie was present. I believe
it has been before remarked that she is a person of commanding
presence, with a manner of marked determination. She favoured me with
a brief but chilling glance, and for some moments thereafter affected
quite to ignore me. Obviously she had been completely greened the
night before and was treating me with a proper contempt. I saw that it
was no use grousing at fate and that it was better for me not to go
into the American wilderness, since a rolling stone gathers no moss. I
was prepared to accept instant dismissal without a character.
She began upon me, however, after her first cup of coffee, more mildly
than I had expected.
"Ruggles, I'm horribly disappointed in you."
"Not more so than I myself, Madam," I replied.
"I am more disappointed," she continued, "because I felt that Cousin
Egbert had something in him----"
"Something in him, yes, Madam," I murmured sympathetically.
"And that you were the man to bring it out. I was quite hopeful after
you got him into those new clothes. I don't believe any one else could
have done it. And now it turns out that you have this weakness for
drink. Not only that, but you have a mania for insisting that other
men drink with you. Think of those two poor fellows trailing you over
Paris yesterday trying to save you from yourself."
"I shall never forget it, Madam," I said.
"Of course I don't believe that Jeff Tuttle always has to have it
forced on him. Jeff Tuttle is an Indian. But Cousin Egbert is
different. You tore him away from that art gallery where he was
improving his mind, and led him into places that must have been
disgusting to him. All he wanted was to study the world's masterpieces
in canvas and marble, yet you put a cabman's hat on him and made him
ride an antelope, or whatever the thing was. I can't think where you
got such ideas."
"I was not myself. I can only say that I seemed to be subject to an
attack." And the Tuttle person was one of their Indians! This
explained so much about him.
"You don't look like a periodical souse," she remarked.
"Quite so, Madam."
"But you must be a wonder when you do start. The point is: am I doing
right to intrust Cousin Egbert to you again?"
"Quite so, Madam."
"It seems doubtful if you are the person to develop his higher
Against my better judgment I here felt obliged to protest that I had
always been given the highest character for quietness and general
behaviour and that I could safely promise that I should be guilty of
no further lapses of this kind. Frankly, I was wishing to be shopped,
and yet I could not resist making this mild defence of myself. Such I
have found to be the way of human nature. To my surprise I found that
Mrs. Effie was more than half persuaded by these words and was on the
point of giving me another trial. I cannot say that I was delighted at
this. I was ready to give up all Americans as problems one too many
for me, and yet I was strangely a little warmed at thinking I might
not have seen the last of Cousin Egbert, whom I had just given a
"You shall have your chance," she said at last, "and just to show you
that I'm not narrow, you can go over to the sideboard there and pour
yourself out a little one. It ought to be a lifesaver to you, feeling
the way you must this morning."
"Thank you, Madam," and I did as she suggested. I was feeling
especially fit, but I knew that I ought to play in character, as one
"Three rousing cheers!" I said, having gathered the previous day that
this was a popular American toast. She stared at me rather oddly, but
made no comment other than to announce her departure on a shopping
tour. Her bonnet, I noted, was quite wrong. Too extremely modish it
was, accenting its own lines at the expense of a face to which less
attention should have been called. This is a mistake common to the
sex, however. They little dream how sadly they mock and betray their
own faces. Nothing I think is more pathetic than their trustful
unconsciousness of the tragedy--the rather plainish face under the
contemptuous structure that points to it and shrieks derision. The
rather plain woman who knows what to put upon her head is a woman of
genius. I have seen three, perhaps.
I now went to the room of Cousin Egbert. I found him awake and
cheerful, but disinclined to arise. It was hard for me to realize that
his simple, kindly face could mask the guile he had displayed the
night before. He showed no sign of regret for the false light in which
he had placed me. Indeed he was sitting up in bed as cheerful and
independent as if he had paid two-pence for a park chair.
"I fancy," he began, "that we ought to spend a peaceful day indoors.
The trouble with these foreign parts is that they don't have enough
home life. If it isn't one thing it's another."
"Sometimes it's both, sir," I said, and he saw at once that I was not
to be wheedled. Thereupon he grinned brazenly at me, and demanded:
"What did she say?"
"Well, sir," I said, "she was highly indignant at me for taking you
and Mr. Tuttle into public houses and forcing you to drink liquor, but
she was good enough, after I had expressed my great regret and
promised to do better in the future, to promise that I should have
another chance. It was more than I could have hoped, sir, after the
outrageous manner in which I behaved."
He grinned again at this, and in spite of my resentment I found myself
grinning with him. I am aware that this was a most undignified
submission to the injustice he had put upon me, and it was far from
the line of stern rebuke that I had fully meant to adopt with him, but
there seemed no other way. I mean to say, I couldn't help it.
"I'm glad to hear you talk that way," he said. "It shows you may have
something in you after all. What you want to do is to learn to say no.
Then you won't be so much trouble to those who have to look after
"Yes, sir," I said, "I shall try, sir."
"Then I'll give you another chance," he said sternly.
I mean to say, it was all spoofing, the way we talked. I am certain he
knew it as well as I did, and I am sure we both enjoyed it. I am not
one of those who think it shows a lack of dignity to unbend in this
manner on occasion. True, it is not with every one I could afford to
do so, but Cousin Egbert seemed to be an exception to almost every
rule of conduct.
At his earnest request I now procured for him another carafe of iced
water (he seemed already to have consumed two of these), after which
he suggested that I read to him. The book he had was the well-known
story, "Robinson Crusoe," and I began a chapter which describes some
of the hero's adventures on his lonely island.
Cousin Egbert, I was glad to note, was soon sleeping soundly, so I
left him and retired to my own room for a bit of needed rest. The
story of "Robinson Crusoe" is one in which many interesting facts are
conveyed regarding life upon remote islands where there are
practically no modern conveniences and one is put to all sorts of
crude makeshifts, but for me the narrative contains too little
For the remainder of the day I was left to myself, a period of peace
that I found most welcome. Not until evening did I meet any of the
family except Cousin Egbert, who partook of some light nourishment
late in the afternoon. Then it was that Mrs. Effie summoned me when
she had dressed for dinner, to say:
"We are sailing for home the day after to-morrow. See that Cousin
Egbert has everything he needs."
The following day was a busy one, for there were many boxes to be
packed against the morrow's sailing, and much shopping to do for
Cousin Egbert, although he was much against this.
"It's all nonsense," he insisted, "her saying all that truck helps to
'finish' me. Look at me! I've been in Europe darned near four months
and I can't see that I'm a lick more finished than when I left Red
Gap. Of course it may show on me so other people can see it, but I
don't believe it does, at that." Nevertheless, I bought him no end of
suits and smart haberdashery.
When the last box had been strapped I hastened to our old lodgings on
the chance of seeing the Honourable George once more. I found him
dejectedly studying an ancient copy of the "Referee." Too evidently he
had dined that night in a costume which would, I am sure, have
offended even Cousin Egbert. Above his dress trousers he wore a
golfing waistcoat and a shooting jacket. However, I could not allow
myself to be distressed by this. Indeed, I knew that worse would come.
I forebore to comment upon the extraordinary choice of garments he had
made. I knew it was quite useless. From any word that he let fall
during our chat, he might have supposed himself to be dressed as an
English gentleman should be.
He bade me seat myself, and for some time we smoked our pipes in a
friendly silence. I had feared that, as on the last occasion, he would
row me for having deserted him, but he no longer seemed to harbour
this unjust thought. We spoke of America, and I suggested that he
might some time come out to shoot big game along the Ohio or the
Mississippi. He replied moodily, after a long interval, that if he
ever did come out it would be to set up a cattle plantation. It was
rather agreed that he would come should I send for him. "Can't sit
around forever waiting for old Nevil's toast crumbs," said he.
We chatted for a time of home politics, which was, of course, in a
wretched state. There was a time when we might both have been won to a
sane and reasoned liberalism, but the present so-called government was
coming it a bit too thick for us. We said some sharp things about the
little Welsh attorney who was beginning to be England's humiliation.
Then it was time for me to go.
The moment was rather awkward, for the Honourable George, to my great
embarrassment, pressed upon me his dispatch-case, one that we had
carried during all our travels and into which tidily fitted a quart
flask. Brandy we usually carried in it. I managed to accept it with a
word of thanks, and then amazingly he shook hands twice with me as we
said good-night. I had never dreamed he could be so greatly affected.
Indeed, I had always supposed that there was nothing of the
sentimentalist about him.
So the Honourable George and I were definitely apart for the first
time in our lives.
It was with mingled emotions that I set sail next day for the foreign
land to which I had been exiled by a turn of the cards. Not only was I
off to a wilderness where a life of daily adventure was the normal
life, but I was to mingle with foreigners who promised to be quite
almost impossibly queer, if the family of Flouds could be taken as a
sample of the native American--knowing Indians like the Tuttle person;
that sort of thing. If some would be less queer, others would be even
more queer, with queerness of a sort to tax even my _savoir
faire_, something which had been sorely taxed, I need hardly say,
since that fatal evening when the Honourable George's intuitions had
played him false in the game of drawing poker. I was not the first of
my countrymen, however, to find himself in desperate straits, and I
resolved to behave as England expects us to.
I have said that I was viewing the prospect with mingled emotions.
Before we had been out many hours they became so mingled that, having
crossed the Channel many times, I could no longer pretend to ignore
their true nature. For three days I was at the mercy of the elements,
and it was then I discovered a certain hardness in the nature of
Cousin Egbert which I had not before suspected. It was only by
speaking in the sharpest manner to him that I was able to secure the
nursing my condition demanded. I made no doubt he would actually have
left me to the care of a steward had I not been firm with him. I have
known him leave my bedside for an hour at a time when it seemed
probable that I would pass away at any moment. And more than once,
when I summoned him in the night to administer one of the remedies
with which I had provided myself, or perhaps to question him if the
ship were out of danger, he exhibited something very like irritation.
Indeed he was never properly impressed by my suffering, and at times
when he would answer my call it was plain to be seen that he had been
passing idle moments in the smoke-room or elsewhere, quite as if the
situation were an ordinary one.
It is only fair to say, however, that toward the end of my long and
interesting illness I had quite broken his spirit and brought him to
be as attentive as even I could wish. By the time I was able with his
assistance to go upon deck again he was bringing me nutritive wines
and jellies without being told, and so attentive did he remain that
I overheard a fellow-passenger address him as Florence Nightingale.
I also overheard the Senator tell him that I had got his sheep,
whatever that may have meant--a sheep or a goat--some domestic animal.
Yet with all his willingness he was clumsy in his handling of me; he
seemed to take nothing with any proper seriousness, and in spite of my
sharpest warning he would never wear the proper clothes, so that I
always felt he was attracting undue attention to us. Indeed, I should
hardly care to cross with him again, and this I told him straight.
Of the so-called joys of ship-life, concerning which the boat
companies speak so enthusiastically in their folders, the less said
the better. It is a childish mind, I think, that can be impressed by
the mere wabbly bulk of water. It is undoubtedly tremendous, but
nothing to kick up such a row about. The truth is that the prospect
from a ship's deck lacks that variety which one may enjoy from almost
any English hillside. One sees merely water, and that's all about it.
It will be understood, therefore, that I hailed our approach to the
shores of foreign America with relief if not with enthusiasm. Even
this was better than an ocean which has only size in its favour and
has been quite too foolishly overrated.
We were soon steaming into the harbour of one of their large cities.
Chicago, I had fancied it to be, until the chance remark of an
American who looked to be a well-informed fellow identified it as New
York. I was much annoyed now at the behaviour of Cousin Egbert, who
burst into silly cheers at the slightest excuse, a passing steamer, a
green hill, or a rusty statue of quite ungainly height which seemed to
be made of crude iron. Do as I would, I could not restrain him from
these unseemly shouts. I could not help contrasting his boisterousness
with the fine reserve which, for example, the Honourable George would
have maintained under these circumstances.
A further relief it was, therefore, when we were on the dock and his
mind was diverted to other matters. A long time we were detained by
customs officials who seemed rather overwhelmed by the gowns and
millinery of Mrs. Effie, but we were at last free and taken through
the streets of the crude new American city of New York to a hotel
overlooking what I dare say in their simplicity they call their Hyde
I must admit that at this inn they did things quite nicely, doubtless
because it seemed to be almost entirely staffed by foreigners. One
would scarce have known within its walls that one had come out to
North America, nor that savage wilderness surrounded one on every
hand. Indeed I was surprised to learn that we were quite at the edge
of the rough Western frontier, for in but one night's journey we were
to reach the American mountains to visit some people who inhabited a
camp in their dense wilds.
A bit of romantic thrill I felt in this adventure, for we should
encounter, I inferred, people of the hardy pioneer stock that has
pushed the American civilization, such as it is, ever westward. I
pictured the stalwart woodsman, axe in hand, braving the forest to
fell trees for his rustic home, while at night the red savages prowled
about to scalp any who might stray from the blazing campfire. On the
day of our landing I had read something of this--of depredations
committed by their Indians at Arizona.
From what would, I take it, be their Victoria station, we three began
our journey in one of the Pullman night coaches, the Senator of this
family having proceeded to their home settlement of Red Gap with word
that he must "look after his fences," referring, doubtless, to those
about his cattle plantation.
As our train moved out Mrs. Effie summoned me for a serious talk
concerning the significance of our present visit; not of the
wilderness dangers to which we might be exposed, but of its social
aspects, which seemed to be of prime importance. We were to visit, I
learned, one Charles Belknap-Jackson of Boston and Red Gap, he being a
person who mattered enormously, coming from one of the very oldest
families of Boston, a port on their east coast, and a place, I
gathered, in which some decent attention is given to the matter of who
has been one's family. A bit of a shock it was to learn that in this
rough land they had their castes and precedences. I saw I had been
right to suspect that even a crude society could not exist without its
rules for separating one's superiors from the lower sorts. I began to
feel at once more at home and I attended the discourse of Mrs. Effie
with close attention.
The Boston person, in one of those irresponsibly romantic moments that
sometimes trap the best of us, had married far beneath him, espousing
the simple daughter of one of the crude, old-settling families of Red
Gap. Further, so inattentive to details had he been, he had neglected
to secure an ante-nuptial settlement as our own men so wisely make it
their rule to do, and was now suffering a painful embarrassment from
this folly; for the mother-in-law, controlling the rather sizable
family fortune, had harshly insisted that the pair reside in Red Gap,
permitting no more than an occasional summer visit to his native
Boston, whose inhabitants she affected not to admire.
"Of course the poor fellow suffers frightfully," explained Mrs. Effie,
"shut off there away from all he'd been brought up to, but good has
come of it, for his presence has simply done wonders for us. Before he
came our social life was too awful for words--oh, a _mixture_!
Practically every one in town attended our dances; no one had ever
told us any better. The Bohemian set mingled freely with the very
oldest families--oh, in a way that would never be tolerated in London
society, I'm sure. And everything so crude! Why, I can remember when
no one thought of putting doilies under the finger-bowls. No tone to
it at all. For years we had no country club, if you can believe that.
And even now, in spite of the efforts of Charles and a few of us,
there are still some of the older families that are simply sloppy in
their entertaining. And promiscuous. The trouble I've had with the
Senator and Cousin Egbert!"
"The Flouds are an old family?" I suggested, wishing to understand
these matters deeply.
"The Flouds," she answered impressively, "were living in Red Gap
before the spur track was ever run out to the canning factory--and I
guess you know what that means!"
"Quite so, Madam," I suggested; and, indeed, though it puzzled me a
bit, it sounded rather tremendous, as meaning with us something like
since the battle of Hastings.
"But, as I say, Charles at once gave us a glimpse of the better
things. Thanks to him, the Bohemian set and the North Side set are now
fairly distinct. The scraps we've had with that Bohemian set! He has a
real genius for leadership, Charles has, but I know he often finds it
so discouraging, getting people to know their places. Even his own
mother-in-law, Mrs. Lysander John Pettengill--but you'll see to-morrow
how impossible she is, poor old soul! I shouldn't talk about her, I
really shouldn't. Awfully good heart the poor old dear has, but--well,
I don't see why I shouldn't tell you the exact truth in plain
words--you'd find it out soon enough. She is simply a confirmed
_mixer_. The trial she's been and is to poor Charles! Almost no
respect for any of the higher things he stands for--and temper? Well,
I've heard her swear at him till you'd have thought it was Jeff Tuttle
packing a green cayuse for the first time. Words? Talk about words!
And Cousin Egbert always standing in with her. He's been another awful
trial, refusing to play tennis at the country club, or to take up
golf, or do any of those smart things, though I got him a beautiful
lot of sticks. But no: when he isn't out in the hills, he'd rather sit
down in that back room at the Silver Dollar saloon, playing cribbage
all day with a lot of drunken loafers. But I'm so hoping that will be
changed, now that I've made him see there are better things in life.
Don't you really think he's another man?"
"To an extent, Madam, I dare say," I replied cautiously.
"It's chiefly what I got you for," she went on. "And then, in a
general way you will give tone to our establishment. The moment I saw
you I knew you could be an influence for good among us. No one there
has ever had anything like you. Not even Charles. He's tried to have
American valets, but you never can get them to understand their place.
Charles finds them so offensively familiar. They don't seem to
realize. But of course you realize."
I inclined my head in sympathetic understanding.
"I'm looking forward to Charles meeting you. I guess he'll be a little
put out at our having you, but there's no harm letting him see I'm to
be reckoned with. Naturally his wife, Millie, is more or less
mentioned as a social leader, but I never could see that she is really
any more prominent than I am. In fact, last year after our Bazaar of
All Nations our pictures in costume were in the Spokane paper as 'Red
Gap's Rival Society Queens,' and I suppose that's what we are, though
we work together pretty well as a rule. Still, I must say, having you
puts me a couple of notches ahead of her. Only, for heaven's sake,
keep your eye on Cousin Egbert!"
"I shall do my duty, Madam," I returned, thinking it all rather
morbidly interesting, these weird details about their county families.
"I'm sure you will," she said at parting. "I feel that we shall do
things right this year. Last year the Sunday Spokane paper used to
have nearly a column under the heading 'Social Doings of Red Gap's
Smart Set.' This year we'll have a good two columns, if I don't miss
In the smoking-compartment I found Cousin Egbert staring gloomily into
vacancy, as one might say, the reason I knew being that he had vainly
pleaded with Mrs. Effie to be allowed to spend this time at their
Coney Island, which is a sort of Brighton. He transferred his stare to
me, but it lost none of its gloom.
"Hell begins to pop!" said he.
"Referring to what, sir?" I rejoined with some severity, for I have
never held with profanity.
"Referring to Charles Belknap Hyphen Jackson of Boston, Mass.," said
he, "the greatest little trouble-maker that ever crossed the
hills--with a bracelet on one wrist and a watch on the other and a
one-shot eyeglass and a gold cigareet case and key chains, rings,
bangles, and jewellery till he'd sink like lead if he ever fell into
the crick with all that metal on."
"You are speaking, sir, about a person who matters enormously," I
"If I hadn't been afraid of getting arrested I'd have shot him long
"It's not done, sir," I said, quite horrified by his rash words.
"It's liable to be," he insisted. "I bet Ma Pettengill will go in with
me on it any time I give her the word. Say, listen! there's one good
"The confirmed Mixer, sir?" For I remembered the term.
"The best ever. Any one can set into her game that's got a stack of
chips." He uttered this with deep feeling, whatever it might exactly
"I can be pushed just so far," he insisted sullenly. It struck me then
that he should perhaps have been kept longer in one of the European
capitals. I feared his brief contact with those refining influences
had left him less polished than Mrs. Effie seemed to hope. I wondered
uneasily if he might not cause her to miss her guess. Yet I saw he was
in no mood to be reasoned with, and I retired to my bed which the
blackamoor guard had done out. Here I meditated profoundly for some
time before I slept.
Morning found our coach shunted to a siding at a backwoods settlement
on the borders of an inland sea. The scene was wild beyond
description, where quite almost anything might be expected to happen,
though I was a bit reassured by the presence of a number of persons of
both sexes who appeared to make little of the dangers by which we were
surrounded. I mean to say since they thus took their women into the
wilds so freely, I would still be a dead sportsman.
After a brief wait at a rude quay we embarked on a launch and steamed
out over the water. Mile after mile we passed wooded shores that
sloped up to mountains of prodigious height. Indeed the description of
the Rocky Mountains, of which I take these to be a part, have not been
overdrawn. From time to time, at the edge of the primeval forest, I
could make out the rude shelters of hunter and trapper who braved
these perils for the sake of a scanty livelihood for their hardy wives
and little ones.
Cousin Egbert, beside me, seemed unimpressed, making no outcry at the
fearsome wildness of the scene, and when I spoke of the terrific
height of the mountains he merely admonished me to "quit my kidding."
The sole interest he had thus far displayed was in the title of our
"Think of the guy's imagination, naming this here chafing dish the
_Storm King_!" said he; but I was impatient of levity at so
solemn a moment, and promptly rebuked him for having donned a cravat
that I had warned him was for town wear alone; whereat he subsided and
did not again intrude upon me.
Far ahead, at length, I could descry an open glade at the forest edge,
and above this I soon spied floating the North American flag, or
national emblem. It is, of course, known to us that the natives are
given to making rather a silly noise over this flag of theirs, but in
this instance--the pioneer fighting his way into the wilderness and
hoisting it above his frontier home--I felt strangely indisposed to
criticise. I understood that he could be greatly cheered by the flag
of the country he had left behind.
We now neared a small dock from which two ladies brandished
handkerchiefs at us, and were presently welcomed by them. I had no
difficulty in identifying the Mrs. Charles Belknap-Jackson, a lively
featured brunette of neutral tints, rather stubby as to figure, but
modishly done out in white flannels. She surveyed us interestedly
through a lorgnon, observing which Mrs. Effie was quick with her own.
I surmised that neither of them was skilled with this form of glass
(which must really be raised with an air or it's no good); also that
each was not a little chagrined to note that the other possessed one.
Nor was it less evident that the other lady was the mother of Mrs.
Belknap-Jackson; I mean to say, the confirmed Mixer--an elderly person
of immense bulk in gray walking-skirt, heavy boots, and a flowered
blouse that was overwhelming. Her face, under her grayish thatch of
hair, was broad and smiling, the eyes keen, the mouth wide, and the
nose rather a bit blobby. Although at every point she was far from
vogue, she impressed me not unpleasantly. Even her voice, a
magnificently hoarse rumble, was primed with a sort of uncouth
good-will which one might accept in the States. Of course it would
never do with us.
I fancied I could at once detect why they had called her the "Mixer."
She embraced Mrs. Effie with an air of being about to strangle the
woman; she affectionately wrung the hands of Cousin Egbert, and had
grasped my own tightly before I could evade her, not having looked for
that sort of thing.
"That's Cousin Egbert's man!" called Mrs. Effie. But even then the
powerful creature would not release me until her daughter had called
sharply, "Maw! Don't you hear? He's a _man_!" Nevertheless she
gave my hand a parting shake before turning to the others.
"Glad to see a human face at last!" she boomed. "Here I've been a
month in this dinky hole," which I thought strange, since we were
surrounded by league upon league of the primal wilderness. "Cooped up
like a hen in a barrel," she added in tones that must have carried
well out over the lake.
"Cousin Egbert's man," repeated Mrs. Effie, a little ostentatiously, I
thought. "Poor Egbert's so dependent on him--quite helpless without
Cousin Egbert muttered sullenly to himself as he assisted me with the
bags. Then he straightened himself to address them.
"Won him in a game of freeze-out," he remarked quite viciously.
"Does he doll Sour-dough up like that all the time?" demanded the
Mixer, "or has he just come from a masquerade? What's he represent,
anyway?" And these words when I had taken especial pains and resorted
to all manner of threats to turn him smartly out in the walking-suit
of a pioneer!
"Maw!" cried our hostess, "do try to forget that dreadful nickname of
"I sure will if he keeps his disguise on," she rumbled back. "The old
horned toad is most as funny as Jackson."
Really, I mean to say, they talked most amazingly. I was but too glad
when they moved on and we could follow with the bags.
"Calls her 'Maw' all right now," hissed Cousin Egbert in my ear, "but
when that begoshed husband of hers is around the house she calls her
His tone was vastly bitter. He continued to mutter sullenly to
himself--a way he had--until we had disposed of the luggage and I was
laying out his afternoon and evening wear in one of the small detached
houses to which we had been assigned. Nor did he sink his grievance on
the arrival of the Mixer a few moments later. He now addressed her as
"Ma" and asked if she had "the makings," which puzzled me until she
drew from the pocket of her skirt a small cloth sack of tobacco and
some bits of brown paper, from which they both fashioned cigarettes.
"The smart set of Red Gap is holding its first annual meeting for the
election of officers back there," she began after she had emitted twin
jets of smoke from the widely separated corners of her set mouth.
"I say, you know, where's Hyphen old top?" demanded Cousin Egbert in a
quite vile imitation of one speaking in the correct manner.
"Fishing," answered the Mixer with a grin. "In a thousand dollars'
worth of clothes. These here Eastern trout won't notice you unless you
dress right." I thought this strange indeed, but Cousin Egbert merely
grinned in his turn.
"How'd he get you into this awfully horrid rough place?" he next
"Made him. 'This or Red Gap for yours,' I says. The two weeks in New
York wasn't so bad, what with Millie and me getting new clothes,
though him and her both jumped on me that I'm getting too gay about
clothes for a party of my age. 'What's age to me,' I says, 'when I
like bright colours?' Then we tried his home-folks in Boston, but I
played that string out in a week.
"Two old-maid sisters, thin noses and knitted shawls! Stick around in
the back parlour talking about families--whether it was Aunt Lucy's
Abigail or the Concord cousin's Hester that married an Adams in '78
and moved out west to Buffalo. I thought first I could liven them up
some, _you_ know. Looked like it would help a lot for them to get
out in a hack and get a few shots of hooch under their belts, stop at
a few roadhouses, take in a good variety show; get 'em to feeling
good, understand? No use. Wouldn't start. Darn it! they held off from
me. Don't know why. I sure wore clothes for them. Yes, sir. I'd get
dressed up like a broken arm every afternoon; and, say, I got one
sheath skirt, black and white striped, that just has to be looked at.
Never phased them, though.
"I got to thinking mebbe it was because I made my own smokes instead
of using those vegetable cigarettes of Jackson's, or maybe because I'd
get parched and demand a slug of booze before supper. Like a Sunday
afternoon all the time, when you eat a big dinner and everybody's
sleepy and mad because they can't take a nap, and have to set around
and play a few church tunes on the organ or look through the album
"Ain't that right? Don't it fade you?" murmured Cousin Egbert with
"And little Lysander, my only grandson, poor kid, getting the fidgets
because they try to make him talk different, and raise hell every time
he knocks over a vase or busts a window. Say, would you believe it?
they wanted to keep him there--yes, sir--make him refined. Not for me!
'His father's about all he can survive in those respects,' I says.
What do you think? Wanted to let his hair grow so he'd have curls.
Some dames, yes? I bet they'd have give the kid lovely days. 'Boston
may be all O.K. for grandfathers,' I says; 'not for grandsons,
"Then Jackson was set on Bar Harbor, and I had to be firm again. Darn
it! that man is always making me be firm. So here we are. He said it
was a camp, and that sounded good. But my lands! he wears his full
evening dress suit for supper every night, and you had ought to heard
him go on one day when the patent ice-machine went bad."
"My good gosh!" said Cousin Egbert quite simply.
I had now finished laying out his things and was about to withdraw.
"Is he always like that?" suddenly demanded the Mixer, pointing at me.
"Oh, Bill's all right when you get him out with a crowd," explained
the other. "Bill's really got the makings of one fine little mixer."
They both regarded me genially. It was vastly puzzling. I mean to say,
I was at a loss how to take it, for, of course, that sort of thing
would never do with us. And yet I felt a queer, confused sort of
pleasure in the talk. Absurd though it may seem, I felt there might
come moments in which America would appear almost not impossible.
As I went out Cousin Egbert was telling her of Paris. I lingered to
hear him disclose that all Frenchmen have "M" for their first
initial, and that the Louer family must be one of their wealthiest,
the name "A. Louer" being conspicuous on millions of dollars' worth of
their real estate. This family, he said, must be like the Rothschilds.
Of course the poor soul was absurdly wrong. I mean to say, the letter
"M" merely indicates "Monsieur," which is their foreign way of
spelling Mister, while "A Louer" signifies "to let." I resolved to
explain this to him at the first opportunity, not thinking it right
that he should spread such gross error among a race still but
Having now a bit of time to myself, I observed the construction of
this rude homestead, a dozen or more detached or semi-detached
structures of the native log, yet with the interiors more smartly done
out than I had supposed was common even with the most prosperous of
their scouts and trappers. I suspected a false idea of this rude life
had been given by the cinema dramas. I mean to say, with pianos,
ice-machines, telephones, objects of art, and servants, one saw that
these woodsmen were not primitive in any true sense of the word.
The butler proved to be a genuine blackamoor, a Mr. Waterman, he
informed me, his wife, also a black, being the cook. An elderly
creature of the utmost gravity of bearing, he brought to his
professional duties a finish, a dignity, a manner in short that I have
scarce known excelled among our own serving people. And a creature he
was of the most eventful past, as he informed me at our first
encounter. As a slave he had commanded an immensely high price, some
twenty thousand dollars, as the American money is called, and two
prominent slaveholders had once fought a duel to the death over his
possession. Not many, he assured me, had been so eagerly sought after,
they being for the most part held cheaper--"common black trash," he
Early tiring of the life of slavery, he had fled to the wilds and for
some years led a desperate band of outlaws whose crimes soon put a
price upon his head. He spoke frankly and with considerable regret of
these lawless years. At the outbreak of the American war, however,
with a reward of fifty thousand dollars offered for his body, he had
boldly surrendered to their Secretary of State for War, receiving a
full pardon for his crimes on condition that he assist in directing
the military operations against the slaveholding aristocracy.
Invaluable he had been in this service, I gathered, two generals,
named respectively Grant and Sherman, having repeatedly assured him
that but for his aid they would more than once in sheer despair have
laid down their swords.
I could readily imagine that after these years of strife he had been
glad to embrace the peaceful calling in which I found him engaged. He
was, as I have intimated, a person of lofty demeanour, with a vein of
high seriousness. Yet he would unbend at moments as frankly as a child
and play at a simple game of chance with a pair of dice. This he was
good enough to teach to myself and gained from me quite a number of
shillings that I chanced to have. For his consort, a person of
tremendous bulk named Clarice, he showed a most chivalric
consideration, and even what I might have mistaken for timidity in one
not a confessed desperado. In truth, he rather flinched when she
interrupted our chat from the kitchen doorway by roundly calling him
"an old black liar." I saw that his must indeed be a complex nature.
From this encounter I chanced upon two lads who seemed to present the
marks of the backwoods life as I had conceived it. Strolling up a
woodland path, I discovered a tent pitched among the trees, before it
a smouldering campfire, over which a cooking-pot hung. The two lads,
of ten years or so, rushed from the tent to regard me, both attired in
shirts and leggings of deerskin profusely fringed after the manner in
which the red Indians decorate their outing or lounge-suits. They were
armed with sheath knives and revolvers, and the taller bore a rifle.
"Howdy, stranger?" exclaimed this one, and the other repeated the
simple American phrase of greeting. Responding in kind, I was bade to
seat myself on a fallen log, which I did. For some moments they
appeared to ignore me, excitedly discussing an adventure of the night
before, and addressing each other as Dead Shot and Hawk Eye. From
their quaint backwoods speech I gathered that Dead Shot, the taller
lad, had the day before been captured by a band of hostile redskins
who would have burned him at the stake but for the happy chance that
the chieftain's daughter had become enamoured of him and cut his
They now planned to return to the encampment at nightfall to fetch
away the daughter, whose name was White Fawn, and cleaned and oiled
their weapons for the enterprise. Dead Shot was vindictive in the
extreme, swearing to engage the chieftain in mortal combat and to cut
his heart out, the same chieftain in former years having led his
savage band against the forest home of Dead Shot while he was yet too
young to defend it, and scalped both of his parents. "I was a mere
stripling then, but now the coward will feel my steel!" he coldly
It had become absurdly evident as I listened that the whole thing was
but spoofing of a silly sort that lads of this age will indulge in,
for I had seen the younger one take his seat at the luncheon table.
But now they spoke of a raid on the settlement to procure "grub," as
the American slang for food has it. Bidding me stop on there and to
utter the cry of the great horned owl if danger threatened, they
stealthily crept toward the buildings of the camp. Presently came a
scream, followed by a hoarse shout of rage. A second later the two
dashed by me into the dense woods, Hawk Eye bearing a plucked fowl.
Soon Mr. Waterman panted up the path brandishing a barge pole and
demanding to know the whereabouts of the marauders. As he had
apparently for the moment reverted to his primal African savagery, I
deliberately misled him by indicating a false direction, upon which he
went off, muttering the most frightful threats.
The two culprits returned, put their fowl in the pot to boil, and
swore me eternal fidelity for having saved them. They declared I
should thereafter be known as Keen Knife, and that, needing a service,
I might call upon them freely.
"Dead Shot never forgets a friend," affirmed the taller lad, whereupon
I formally shook hands with the pair and left them to their childish
devices. They were plotting as I left to capture "that nigger," as
they called him, and put him to death by slow torture.
But I was now shrewd enough to suspect that I might still be far from
the western frontier of America. The evidence had been cumulative but
was no longer questionable. I mean to say, one might do here somewhat
after the way of our own people at a country house in the shires. I
resolved at the first opportunity to have a look at a good map of our
Late in the afternoon our party gathered upon the small dock and I
understood that our host now returned from his trouting. Along the
shore of the lake he came, propelled in a native canoe by a hairy
backwoods person quite wretchedly gotten up, even for a wilderness.
Our host himself, I was quick to observe, was vogue to the last
detail, with a sense of dress and equipment that can never be
acquired, having to be born in one. As he stepped from his frail craft
I saw that he was rather slight of stature, dark, with slender
moustaches, a finely sensitive nose, and eyes of an almost austere
repose. That he had much of the real manner was at once apparent. He
greeted the Flouds and his own family with just that faint touch of
easy superiority which would stamp him to the trained eye as one that
really mattered. Mrs. Effie beckoned me to the group.
"Let Ruggles take your things--Cousin Egbert's man," she was saying.
After a startled glance at Cousin Egbert, our host turned to regard me
with flattering interest for a moment, then transferred to me his
oddments of fishing machinery: his rod, his creel, his luncheon
hamper, landing net, small scales, ointment for warding off midges, a
jar of cold cream, a case containing smoked glasses, a rolled map, a
camera, a book of flies. As I was stowing these he explained that his
sport had been wretched; no fish had been hooked because his guide had
not known where to find them. I here glanced at the backwoods person
referred to and at once did not like the look in his eyes. He winked
swiftly at Cousin Egbert, who coughed rather formally.
"Let Ruggles help you to change," continued Mrs. Effie. "He's awfully
handy. Poor Cousin Egbert is perfectly helpless now without him."
So I followed our host to his own detached hut, though feeling a bit
queer at being passed about in this manner, I mean to say, as if I
were a basket of fruit. Yet I found it a grateful change to be serving
one who knew our respective places and what I should do for him. His
manner of speech, also, was less barbarous than that of the others,
suggesting that he might have lived among our own people a fortnight
or so and have tried earnestly to correct his deficiencies. In fact he
remarked to me after a bit: "I fancy I talk rather like one of
yourselves, what?" and was pleased as Punch when I assured him that I
had observed this. He questioned me at length regarding my association
with the Honourable George, and the houses at which we would have
stayed, being immensely particular about names and titles.
"You'll find us vastly different here," he said with a sigh, as I held
his coat for him. "Crude, I may say. In truth, Red Gap, where my
interests largely confine me, is a town of impossible persons. You'll
see in no time what I mean."
"I can already imagine it, sir," I said sympathetically.
"It's not for want of example," he added. "Scores of times I show them
better ways, but they're eaten up with commercialism--money-grubbing."
I perceived him to be a person of profound and interesting views, and
it was with regret I left him to bully Cousin Egbert into evening
dress. It is undoubtedly true that he will never wear this except it
have the look of having been forced upon him by several persons of
superior physical strength.
The evening passed in a refined manner with cards and music, the
latter being emitted from a phonograph which I was asked to attend to
and upon which I reproduced many of their quaint North American
folksongs, such as "Everybody Is Doing It," which has a rare native
rhythm. At ten o'clock, it being noticed by the three playing dummy
bridge that Cousin Egbert and the Mixer were absent, I accompanied our
host in search of them. In Cousin Egbert's hut we found them, seated
at a bare table, playing at cards--a game called seven-upwards, I
learned. Cousin Egbert had removed his coat, collar, and cravat, and
his sleeves were rolled to his elbows like a navvy's. Both smoked the
brown paper cigarettes.
"You see?" murmured Mr. Belknap-Jackson as we looked in upon them.
"Quite so, sir," I said discreetly.
The Mixer regarded her son-in-law with some annoyance, I thought.
"Run off to bed, Jackson!" she directed. "We're busy. I'm putting a
nick in Sour-dough's bank roll."
Our host turned away with a contemptuous shrug that I dare say might
have offended her had she observed it, but she was now speaking to
Cousin Egbert, who had stared at us brazenly.
"Ring that bell for the coon, Sour-dough. I'll split a bottle of
Scotch with you."
It queerly occurred to me that she made this monstrous suggestion in a
spirit of bravado to annoy Mr. Belknap-Jackson.
There are times when all Nature seems to smile, yet when to the
sensitive mind it will be faintly brought that the possibilities are
quite tremendously otherwise if one will consider them pro and con. I
mean to say, one often suspects things may happen when it doesn't look
The succeeding three days passed with so ordered a calm that little
would any but a profound thinker have fancied tragedy to lurk so near
their placid surface. Mrs. Effie and Mrs. Belknap-Jackson continued to
plan the approaching social campaign at Red Gap. Cousin Egbert and the
Mixer continued their card game for the trifling stake of a shilling a
game, or "two bits," as it is known in the American monetary system.
And our host continued his recreation.
Each morning I turned him out in the smartest of fishing costumes and
each evening I assisted him to change. It is true I was now compelled
to observe at these times a certain lofty irritability in his
character, yet I more than half fancied this to be queerly assumed in
order to inform me that he was not unaccustomed to services such as I
rendered him. There was that about him. I mean to say, when he sharply
rebuked me for clumsiness or cried out "Stupid!" it had a perfunctory
languor, as if meant to show me he could address a servant in what he
believed to be the grand manner. In this, to be sure, he was so oddly
wrong that the pathos of it quite drowned what I might otherwise have
felt of resentment.
But I next observed that he was sharp in the same manner with the
hairy backwoods person who took him to fish each day, using words to
him which I, for one, would have employed, had I thought them merited,
only after the gravest hesitation. I have before remarked that I did
not like the gleam in this person's eyes: he was very apparently a not
quite nice person. Also I more than once observed him to wink at
Cousin Egbert in an evil manner.
As I have so truly said, how close may tragedy be to us when life
seems most correct! It was Belknap-Jackson's custom to raise a view
halloo each evening when he returned down the lake, so that we might
gather at the dock to oversee his landing. I must admit that he
disembarked with somewhat the manner of a visiting royalty, demanding
much attention and assistance with his impedimenta. Undoubtedly he
liked to be looked at. This was what one rather felt. And I can fancy
that this very human trait of his had in a manner worn upon the
probably undisciplined nerves of the backwoods josser--had, in fact,
deprived him of his "goat," as the native people have it.
Be this as it may, we gathered at the dock on the afternoon of the
third day of our stay to assist at the return. As the native log craft
neared the dock our host daringly arose to a graceful kneeling posture
in the bow and saluted us charmingly, the woods person in the stern
wielding his single oar in gloomy silence. At the moment a most poetic
image occurred to me--that he was like a dull grim figure of Fate that
fetches us low at the moment of our highest seeming. I mean to say, it
was a silly thought, perhaps, yet I afterward recalled it most
Holding his creel aloft our host hailed us:
"Full to-day, thanks to going where I wished and paying no attention
to silly guides' talk." He beamed upon us in an unquestionably
superior manner, and again from the moody figure at the stern I
intercepted the flash of a wink to Cousin Egbert. Then as the frail
craft had all but touched the dock and our host had half risen, there
was a sharp dipping of the thing and he was ejected into the chilling
waters, where he almost instantly sank. There were loud cries of alarm
from all, including the woodsman himself, who had kept the craft
upright, and in these Mr. Belknap-Jackson heartily joined the moment
his head appeared above the surface, calling "Help!" in the quite
loudest of tones, which was thoughtless enough, as we were close at
hand and could easily have heard his ordinary speaking voice.
The woods person now stepped to the dock, and firmly grasping the
collar of the drowning man hauled him out with but little effort, at
the same time becoming voluble with apologies and sympathy. The
rescued man, however, was quite off his head with rage and bluntly
berated the fellow for having tried to assassinate him. Indeed he put
forth rather a torrent of execration, but to all of this the fellow
merely repeated his crude protestations of regret and astonishment,
seeming to be sincerely grieved that his intentions should have been
From his friends about him the unfortunate man was receiving the most
urgent advice to seek dry garments lest he perish of chill, whereupon
he turned abruptly to me and cried: "Well, Stupid, don't you see the
state that fellow has put me in? What are you doing? Have you lost
Now I had suffered a very proper alarm and solicitude for him, but the
injustice of this got a bit on me. I mean to say, I suddenly felt a
bit of temper myself, though to be sure retaining my control.
"Yes, sir; quite so, sir," I replied smoothly. "I'll have you right as
rain in no time at all, sir," and started to conduct him off the dock.
But now, having gone a little distance, he began to utter the most
violent threats against the woods person, declaring, in fact, he would
pull the fellow's nose. However, I restrained him from rushing back,
as I subtly felt I was wished to do, and he at length consented again
to be led toward his hut.
But now the woods person called out: "You're forgetting all your
pretties!" By which I saw him to mean the fishing impedimenta he had
placed on the dock. And most unreasonably at this Mr. Belknap-Jackson
again turned upon me, wishing anew to be told if I had lost my wits
and directing me to fetch the stuff. Again I was conscious of that
within me which no gentleman's man should confess to. I mean to say, I
felt like shaking him. But I hastened back to fetch the rod, the
creel, the luncheon hamper, the midge ointment, the camera, and other
articles which the woods fellow handed me.
With these somewhat awkwardly carried, I returned to our still
turbulent host. More like a volcano he was than a man who has had a
narrow squeak from drowning, and before we had gone a dozen feet more
he again turned and declared he would "go back and thrash the
unspeakable cad within an inch of his life." Their relative sizes
rendering an attempt of this sort quite too unwise, I was conscious of
renewed irritation toward him; indeed, the vulgar words, "Oh, stow
that piffle!" swiftly formed in the back of my mind, but again I
controlled myself, as the chap was now sneezing violently.
"Best hurry on, sir," I said with exemplary tact. "One might contract
a severe head-cold from such a wetting," and further endeavoured to
sooth him while I started ahead to lead him away from the fellow. Then
there happened that which fulfilled my direst premonitions. Looking
back from a moment of calm, the psychology of the crisis is of a
Enraged beyond measure at the woods person, Mr. Belknap-Jackson yet
retained a fine native caution which counselled him to attempt no
violence upon that offender; but his mental tension was such that it
could be relieved only by his attacking some one; preferably some one
forbidden to retaliate. I walked there temptingly but a pace ahead of
him, after my well-meant word of advice.
I make no defence of my own course. I am aware there can be none. I
can only plead that I had already been vexed not a little by his
unjust accusations of stupidity, and dismiss with as few words as
possible an incident that will ever seem to me quite too indecently
criminal. Briefly, then, with my well-intended "Best not lower
yourself, sir," Mr. Belknap-Jackson forgot himself and I forgot
myself. It will be recalled that I was in front of him, but I turned
rather quickly. (His belongings I had carried were widely
Instantly there were wild outcries from the others, who had started
toward the main, or living house.
"He's killed Charles!" I heard Mrs. Belknap-Jackson scream; then came
the deep-chested rumble of the Mixer, "Jackson kicked him first!" They
ran for us. They had reached us while our host was down, even while my
fist was still clenched. Now again the unfortunate man cried "Help!"
as his wife assisted him to his feet.
"Send for an officer!" cried she.
"The man's an anarchist!" shouted her husband.
"Nonsense!" boomed the Mixer. "Jackson got what he was looking for. Do
it myself if he kicked me!"
"Oh, Maw! Oh, Mater!" cried her daughter tearfully.
"Gee! He done it in one punch!" I heard Cousin Egbert say with what I
was aghast to suspect was admiration.
Mrs. Effie, trembling, could but glare at me and gasp. Mercifully she
was beyond speech for the moment.
Mr. Belknap-Jackson was now painfully rubbing his right eye, which was
not what he should have done, and I said as much.
"Beg pardon, sir, but one does better with a bit of raw beef."
"How dare you, you great hulking brute!" cried his wife, and made as
if to shield her husband from another attack from me, which I submit
"Bill's right," said Cousin Egbert casually. "Put a piece of raw steak
on it. Gee! with one wallop!" And then, quite strangely, for a moment
we all amiably discussed whether cold compresses might not be better.
Presently our host was led off by his wife. Mrs. Effie followed them,
moaning: "Oh, oh, oh!" in the keenest distress.
At this I took to my own room in dire confusion, making no doubt I
would presently be given in charge and left to languish in gaol,
perhaps given six months' hard.
Cousin Egbert came to me in a little while and laughed heartily at my
fear that anything legal would be done. He also made some ill-timed
compliments on the neatness of the blow I had dealt Mr.
Belknap-Jackson, but these I found in wretched taste and was begging
him to desist, when the Mixer entered and began to speak much in the
"Don't you ever dare do a thing like that again," she warned me,
"unless I got a ringside seat," to which I remained severely silent,
for I felt my offence should not be made light of.
"Three rousing cheers!" exclaimed Cousin Egbert, whereat the two most
unfeelingly went through a vivid pantomime of cheering.
Our host, I understood, had his dinner in bed that night, and
throughout the evening, as I sat solitary in remorse, came the mocking
strains of another of their American folksongs with the refrain:
"You made me what I am to-day,
I hope you're satisfied!"
I conceived it to be the Mixer and Cousin Egbert who did this and,
considering the plight of our host, I thought it in the worst possible
taste. I had raised my hand against the one American I had met who was
at all times vogue. And not only this: For I now recalled a certain
phrase I had flung out as I stood over him, ranting indeed no better
than an anarchist, a phrase which showed my poor culture to be the
Late in the night, as I lay looking back on the frightful scene, I
recalled with wonder a swift picture of Cousin Egbert caught as I once
looked back to the dock. He had most amazingly shaken the woods person
by the hand, quickly but with marked cordiality. And yet I am quite
certain he had never been presented to the fellow.
Promptly the next morning came the dreaded summons to meet Mrs. Effie.
I was of course prepared to accept instant dismissal without a
character, if indeed I were not to be given in charge. I found her
wearing an expression of the utmost sternness, erect and formidable by
the now silent phonograph. Cousin Egbert, who was present, also wore
an expression of sternness, though I perceived him to wink at me.
"I really don't know what we're to do with you, Ruggles," began the
stricken woman, and so done out she plainly was that I at once felt
the warmest sympathy for her as she continued: "First you lead poor
Cousin Egbert into a drunken debauch----"
Cousin Egbert here coughed nervously and eyed me with strong
"--then you behave like a murderer. What have you to say for
At this I saw there was little I could say, except that I had coarsely
given way to the brute in me, and yet I knew I should try to explain.
"I dare say, Madam, it may have been because Mr. Belknap-Jackson was
quite sober at the unfortunate moment."
"Of course Charles was sober. The idea! What of it?"
"I was remembering an occasion at Chaynes-Wotten when Lord Ivor
Cradleigh behaved toward me somewhat as Mr. Belknap-Jackson did last
night and when my own deportment was quite all that could be wished.
It occurs to me now that it was because his lordship was, how shall I
say?--quite far gone in liquor at the time, so that I could without
loss of dignity pass it off as a mere prank. Indeed, he regarded it as
such himself, performing the act with a good nature that I found quite
irresistible, and I am certain that neither his lordship nor I have
ever thought the less of each other because of it. I revert to this
merely to show that I have not always acted in a ruffianly manner
under these circumstances. It seems rather to depend upon how the
thing is done--the mood of the performer--his mental state. Had Mr.
Belknap-Jackson been--pardon me--quite drunk, I feel that the outcome
would have been happier for us all. So far as I have thought along
these lines, it seems to me that if one is to be kicked at all, one
must be kicked good-naturedly. I mean to say, with a certain
camaraderie, a lightness, a gayety, a genuine good-will that for the
moment expresses itself uncouthly--an element, I regret to say, that
was conspicuously lacking from the brief activities of Mr.
"I never heard such crazy talk," responded Mrs. Effie, "and really I
never saw such a man as you are for wanting people to become
disgustingly drunk. You made poor Cousin Egbert and Jeff Tuttle act
like beasts, and now nothing will satisfy you but that Charles should
roll in the gutter. Such dissipated talk I never did hear, and poor
Charles rarely taking anything but a single glass of wine, it upsets
him so; even our reception punch he finds too stimulating!"
I mean to say, the woman had cleanly missed my point, for never have I
advocated the use of fermented liquors to excess; but I saw it was no
good trying to tell her this.
"And the worst of it," she went rapidly on, "Cousin Egbert here is
acting stranger than I ever knew him to act. He swears if he can't
keep you he'll never have another man, and you know yourself what that
means in his case--and Mrs. Pettengill saying she means to employ you
herself if we let you go. Heaven knows what the poor woman can be
thinking of! Oh, it's awful--and everything was going so beautifully.
Of course Charles would simply never be brought to accept an
"I am only too anxious to make one," I submitted.
"Here's the poor fellow now," said Cousin Egbert almost gleefully, and
our host entered. He carried a patch over his right eye and was not
attired for sport on the lake, but in a dark morning suit of quietly
beautiful lines that I thought showed a fine sense of the situation.
He shot me one superior glance from his left eye and turned to Mrs.
"I see you still harbour the ruffian?"
"I've just given him a call-down," said Mrs. Effie, plainly ill at
ease, "and he says it was all because you were sober; that if you'd
been in the state Lord Ivor Cradleigh was the time it happened at
Chaynes-Wotten he wouldn't have done anything to you, probably."
"What's this, what's this? Lord Ivor Cradleigh--Chaynes-Wotten?" The
man seemed to be curiously interested by the mere names, in spite of
himself. "His lordship was at Chaynes-Wotten for the shooting, I
suppose?" This, most amazingly, to me.
"A house party at Whitsuntide, sir," I explained.
"Ah! And you say his lordship was----"
"Oh, quite, quite in his cups, sir. If I might explain, it was that,
sir--its being done under circumstances and in a certain entirely
genial spirit of irritation to which I could take no offence, sir. His
lordship is a very decent sort, sir. I've known him intimately for
"Dear, dear!" he replied. "Too bad, too bad! And I dare say you
thought me out of temper last night? Nothing of the sort. You should
have taken it in quite the same spirit as you did from Lord Ivor
"It seemed different, sir," I said firmly. "If I may take the liberty
of putting it so, I felt quite offended by your manner. I missed from
it at the most critical moment, as one might say, a certain urbanity
that I found in his lordship, sir."
"Well, well, well! It's too bad, really. I'm quite aware that I show a
sort of brusqueness at times, but mind you, it's all on the surface.
Had you known me as long as you've known his lordship, I dare say
you'd have noticed the same rough urbanity in me as well. I rather
fancy some of us over here don't do those things so very differently.
A few of us, at least."
"I'm glad, indeed, to hear it, sir. It's only necessary to understand
that there is a certain mood in which one really cannot permit one's
self to be--you perceive, I trust."
"Perfectly, perfectly," said he, "and I can only express my regret
that you should have mistaken my own mood, which, I am confident, was
exactly the thing his lordship might have felt."
"I gladly accept your apology, sir," I returned quickly, "as I should
have accepted his lordship's had his manner permitted any
misapprehension on my part. And in return I wish to apologize most
contritely for the phrase I applied to you just after it happened,
sir. I rarely use strong language, but----"
"I remember hearing none," said he.
"I regret to say, sir, that I called you a blighted little mug----"
"You needn't have mentioned it," he replied with just a trace of
sharpness, "and I trust that in future----"
"I am sure, sir, that in future you will give me no occasion to
misunderstand your intentions--no more than would his lordship," I
added as he raised his brows.
Thus in a manner wholly unexpected was a frightful situation eased
"I'm so glad it's settled!" cried Mrs. Effie, who had listened almost
breathlessly to our exchange.
"I fancy I settled it as Cradleigh would have--eh, Ruggles?" And the
man actually smiled at me.
"Entirely so, sir," said I.
"If only it doesn't get out," said Mrs. Effie now. "We shouldn't want
it known in Red Gap. Think of the talk!"
"Certainly," rejoined Mr. Belknap-Jackson jauntily, "we are all here
above gossip about an affair of that sort. I am sure--" He broke off
and looked uneasily at Cousin Egbert, who coughed into his hand and
looked out over the lake before he spoke.
"What would I want to tell a thing like that for?" he demanded
indignantly, as if an accusation had been made against him. But I saw
his eyes glitter with an evil light.
An hour later I chanced to be with him in our detached hut, when the
"What happened?" she demanded.
"What do you reckon happened?" returned Cousin Egbert. "They get to
talking about Lord Ivy Craddles, or some guy, and before we know it
Mr. Belknap Hyphen Jackson is apologizing to Bill here."
"No?" bellowed the Mixer.
"Sure did he!" affirmed Cousin Egbert.
Here they grasped each other's arms and did a rude native dance about
the room, nor did they desist when I sought to explain that the name
was not at all Ivy Craddles.
Now once more it seemed that for a time I might lead a sanely ordered
existence. Not for long did I hope it. I think I had become resigned
to the unending series of shocks that seemed to compose the daily life
in North America. Few had been my peaceful hours since that fatal
evening in Paris. And the shocks had become increasingly violent. When
I tried to picture what the next might be I found myself shuddering.
For the present, like a stag that has eluded the hounds but hears
their distant baying, I lay panting in momentary security, gathering
breath for some new course. I mean to say, one couldn't tell what
might happen next. Again and again I found myself coming all over
Wholly restored I was now in the esteem of Mr. Belknap-Jackson, who
never tired of discussing with me our own life and people. Indeed he
was quite the most intelligent foreigner I had encountered. I may seem
to exaggerate in the American fashion, but I doubt if a single one of
the others could have named the counties of England or the present
Lord Mayor of London. Our host was not like that. Also he early gave
me to know that he felt quite as we do concerning the rebellion of our
American colonies, holding it a matter for the deepest regret; and
justly proud he was of the circumstance that at the time of that
rebellion his own family had put all possible obstacles in the way of
the traitorous Washington. To be sure, I dare say he may have boasted
a bit in this.
It was during the long journey across America which we now set out
upon that I came to this sympathetic understanding of his character
and of the chagrin he constantly felt at being compelled to live among
people with whom he could have as little sympathy as I myself had.
This journey began pleasantly enough, and through the farming counties
of Philadelphia, Ohio, and Chicago was not without interest. Beyond
came an incredibly large region, much like the steppes of Siberia, I
fancy: vast uninhabited stretches of heath and down, with but here and
there some rude settlement about which the poor peasants would eagerly
assemble as our train passed through. I could not wonder that our own
travellers have always spoken so disparagingly of the American
civilization. It is a country that would never do with us.
Although we lived in this train a matter of nearly four days, I fancy
not a single person dressed for dinner as one would on shipboard. Even
Belknap-Jackson dined in a lounge-suit, though he wore gloves
constantly by day, which was more than I could get Cousin Egbert to
As we went ever farther over these leagues of fen and fell and rolling
veldt, I could but speculate unquietly as to what sort of place the
Red Gap must be. A residential town for gentlemen and families, I had
understood, with a little colony of people that really mattered, as I
had gathered from Mrs. Effie. And yet I was unable to divine their
object in going so far away to live. One goes to distant places for
the winter sports or for big game shooting, but this seemed rather
Little did I then dream of the spiritual agencies that were to insure
my gradual understanding of the town and its people. Unsuspectingly I
fronted a future so wildly improbable that no power could have made me
credit it had it then been foretold by the most rarely endowed gypsy.
It is always now with a sort of terror that I look back to those last
moments before my destiny had unfolded far enough to be actually
alarming. I was as one floating in fancied security down the calm
river above their famous Niagara Falls--to be presently dashed without
warning over the horrible verge. I mean to say, I never suspected.
Our last day of travel arrived. We were now in a roughened and most
untidy welter of mountain and jungle and glen, with violent tarns and
bleak bits of moorland that had all too evidently never known the
calming touch of the landscape gardener; a region, moreover, peopled
by a much more lawless appearing peasantry than I had observed back in
the Chicago counties, people for the most part quite wretchedly gotten
up and distinctly of the lower or working classes.
Late in the afternoon our train wound out of a narrow cutting and into
a valley that broadened away on every hand to distant mountains.
Beyond doubt this prospect could, in a loose way of speaking, be
called scenery, but of too violent a character it was for cultivated
tastes. Then, as my eye caught the vague outlines of a settlement or
village in the midst of this valley, Cousin Egbert, who also looked
from, the coach window, amazed me by crying out:
"There she is--little old Red Gap! The fastest growing town in the
State, if any one should ask you."
"Yes, sir; I'll try to remember, sir," I said, wondering why I should
be asked this.
"Garden spot of the world," he added in a kind of ecstasy, to which I
made no response, for this was too preposterous. Nearing the place our
train passed an immense hoarding erected by the roadway, a score of
feet high, I should say, and at least a dozen times as long, upon
which was emblazoned in mammoth red letters on a black ground,
"_Keep Your Eye on Red Gap!_" At either end of this lettering was
painted a gigantic staring human eye. Regarding this monstrosity with
startled interest, I heard myself addressed by Belknap-Jackson:
"The sort of vulgarity I'm obliged to contend with," said he, with a
contemptuous gesture toward the hoarding. Indeed the thing lacked
refinement in its diction, while the painted eyes were not Art in any
true sense of the word. "The work of our precious Chamber of
Commerce," he added, "though I pleaded with them for days and days."
"It's a sort of thing would never do with us, sir," I said.
"It's what one has to expect from a commercialized bourgeoise," he
returned bitterly. "And even our association, 'The City Beautiful,' of
which I was president, helped to erect the thing. Of course I resigned
"Naturally, sir; the colours are atrocious."
"And the words a mere blatant boast!" He groaned and left me, for we
were now well into a suburb of detached villas, many of them of a
squalid character, and presently we had halted at the station. About
this bleak affair was the usual gathering of peasantry and the common
people, villagers, agricultural labourers, and the like, and these at
once showed a tremendous interest in our party, many of them hailing
various members of us with a quite offensive familiarity.
Belknap-Jackson, of course, bore himself through this with a proper
aloofness, as did his wife and Mrs. Effie, but I heard the Mixer
booming salutations right and left. It was Cousin Egbert, however, who
most embarrassed me by the freedom of his manner with these persons.
He shook hands warmly with at least a dozen of them and these hailed
him with rude shouts, dealt him smart blows on the back and, forming a
circle about him, escorted him to a carriage where Mrs. Effie and I
awaited him. Here the driver, a loutish and familiar youth, also
seized his hand and, with some crude effect of oratory, shouted to the
"What's the matter with Sour-dough?" To this, with a flourish of their
impossible hats, they quickly responded in unison,
"He's all right!" accenting the first word terrifically.
Then, to the immense relief of Mrs. Effie and myself, he was released
and we were driven quickly off from the raffish set. Through their
Regent and Bond streets we went, though I mean to say they were on an
unbelievably small or village scale, to an outlying region of detached
villas that doubtless would be their St. John's Wood, but my efforts
to observe closely were distracted by the extraordinary freedom with
which our driver essayed to chat with us, saying he "guessed" we were
glad to get back to God's country, and things of a similar intimate
nature. This was even more embarrassing to Mrs. Effie than it was to
me, since she more than once felt obliged to answer the fellow with a
Relieved I was when we drew up before the town house of the Flouds.
Set well back from the driveway in a faded stretch of common, it was
of rather a garbled architecture, with the Tudor, late Gothic, and
French Renaissance so intermixed that one was puzzled to separate the
periods. Nor was the result so vast as this might sound. Hardly would
the thing have made a wing of the manor house at Chaynes-Wotten. The
common or small park before it was shielded from the main thoroughfare
by a fence of iron palings, and back of this on either side of a
gravelled walk that led to the main entrance were two life-sized stags
not badly sculptured from metal.
Once inside I began to suspect that my position was going to be more
than a bit dicky. I mean to say, it was not an establishment in our
sense of the word, being staffed, apparently, by two China persons who
performed the functions of cook, housemaids, footmen, butler, and
housekeeper. There was not even a billiard room.
During the ensuing hour, marked by the arrival of our luggage and the
unpacking of boxes, I meditated profoundly over the difficulties of my
situation. In a wilderness, beyond the confines of civilization, I
would undoubtedly be compelled to endure the hardships of the pioneer;
yet for the present I resolved to let no inkling of my dismay escape.
The evening meal over--dinner in but the barest technical sense--I sat
alone in my own room, meditating thus darkly. Nor was I at all cheered
by the voice of Cousin Egbert, who sang in his own room adjoining. I
had found this to be a habit of his, and his songs are always dolorous
to the last degree. Now, for example, while life seemed all too black
to me, he sang a favourite of his, the pathetic ballad of two small
children evidently begging in a business thoroughfare:
"Lone and weary through the streets we wander,
For we have no place to lay our head;
Not a friend is left on earth to shelter us,
For both our parents now are dead."
It was a fair crumpler in my then mood. It made me wish to be out of
North America--made me long for London; London with a yellow fog and
its greasy pavements, where one knew what to apprehend. I wanted him
to stop, but still he atrociously sang in his high, cracked voice:
"Dear mother died when we were both young,
And father built for us a home,
But now he's killed by falling timbers,
And we are left here all alone."
I dare say I should have rushed madly into the night had there been
another verse, but now he was still. A moment later, however, he
entered nay room with the suggestion that I stroll about the village
streets with him, he having a mission to perform for Mrs. Effie. I had
already heard her confide this to him. He was to proceed to the office
of their newspaper and there leave with the press chap a notice of our
arrival which from day to day she had been composing on the train.
"I just got to leave this here piece for the _Recorder_," he
said; "then we can sasshay up and down for a while and meet some of
How profoundly may our whole destiny be affected by the mood of an
idle moment; by some superficial indecision, mere fruit of a transient
unrest. We lightly debate, we hesitate, we yawn, unconscious of the
brink. We half-heartedly decline a suggested course, then lightly
accept from sheer ennui, and "life," as I have read in a quite
meritorious poem, "is never the same again." It was thus I now toyed
there with my fate in my hands, as might a child have toyed with a
bauble. I mean to say, I was looking for nothing thick.
"She's wrote a very fancy piece for that newspaper," Cousin Egbert
went on, handing me the sheets of manuscript. Idly I glanced down the
"Yesterday saw the return to Red Gap of Mrs. Senator James Knox Floud
and Egbert G. Floud from their extensive European tour," it began.
Farther I caught vagrant lines, salient phrases: "--the well-known
social leader of our North Side set ... planning a series of
entertainments for the approaching social season that promise to
eclipse all previous gayeties of Red Gap's smart set ... holding the
reins of social leadership with a firm grasp ... distinguished for her
social graces and tact as a hostess ... their palatial home on Ophir
Avenue, the scene of so much of the smart social life that has
distinguished our beautiful city."
It left me rather unmoved from my depression, even the concluding
note: "The Flouds are accompanied by their English manservant, secured
through the kind offices of the brother of his lordship Earl of
Brinstead, the well-known English peer, who will no doubt do much to
impart to the coming functions that air of smartness which
distinguishes the highest social circles of London, Paris, and other
capitals of the great world of fashion."
"Some mess of words, that," observed Cousin Egbert, and it did indeed
seem to be rather intimately phrased.
"Better come along with me," he again urged. There was a moment's
fateful silence, then, quite mechanically, I arose and prepared to
accompany him. In the hall below I handed him his evening stick and
gloves, which he absently took from me, and we presently traversed
that street of houses much in the fashion of the Floud house and
nearly all boasting some sculptured bit of wild life on their
It was a calm night of late summer; all Nature seemed at peace. I
looked aloft and reflected that the same stars were shining upon the
civilization I had left so far behind. As we walked I lost myself in
musing pensively upon this curious astronomical fact and upon the
further vicissitudes to which I would surely be exposed. I compared
myself whimsically to an explorer chap who has ventured among a tribe
of natives and who must seem to adopt their weird manners and customs
to save himself from their fanatic violence.
From this I was aroused by Cousin Egbert, who, with sudden dismay
regarding his stick and gloves, uttered a low cry of anguish and
thrust them into my hands before I had divined his purpose.
"You'll have to tote them there things," he swiftly explained. "I
forgot where I was." I demurred sharply, but he would not listen.
"I didn't mind it so much in Paris and Europe, where I ain't so very
well known, but my good gosh! man, this is my home town. You'll have
to take them. People won't notice it in you so much, you being a
Without further objection I wearily took them, finding a desperate
drollery in being regarded as a foreigner, whereas I was simply alone
among foreigners; but I knew that Cousin Egbert lacked the subtlety to
grasp this point of view and made no effort to lay it before him. It
was clear to me then, I think, that he would forever remain socially
impossible, though perhaps no bad sort from a mere human point of
We continued our stroll, turning presently from this residential
avenue to a street of small unlighted shops, and from this into a
wider and brilliantly lighted thoroughfare of larger shops, where my
companion presently began to greet native acquaintances. And now once
more he affected that fashion of presenting me to his friends that I
had so deplored in Paris. His own greeting made, he would call out
heartily: "Shake hands with my friend Colonel Ruggles!" Nor would he
heed my protests at this, so that in sheer desperation I presently
ceased making them, reflecting that after all we were encountering the
street classes of the town.
At a score of such casual meetings I was thus presented, for he seemed
to know quite almost every one and at times there would be a group of
natives about us on the pavement. Twice we went into "saloons," as
they rather pretentiously style their public houses, where Cousin
Egbert would stand the drinks for all present, not omitting each time
to present me formally to the bar-man. In all these instances I was at
once asked what I thought of their town, which was at first rather
Back to Full Books