Part 2 out of 5
Afterward, when the lost cantatrice appeared not, the aid of the
authorities was invoked. The President at once set the army, the
police and all citizens to the search. Not one clue to Mlle. Giraud's
disappearance was found. The Alcazar left to fill engagements farther
down the coast.
On the way back the steamer stopped at Macuto and the manager made
anxious inquiry. Not a trace of the lady had been discovered. The
Alcazar could do no more. The personal belongings of the missing lady
were stored in the hotel against her possible later reappearance and
the opera company continued upon its homeward voyage to New Orleans.
* * * * *
On the camino real along the beach the two saddle mules and the four
pack mules of Don Señor Johnny Armstrong stood, patiently awaiting the
crack of the whip of the _arriero_, Luis. That would be the signal for
the start on another long journey into the mountains. The pack mules
were loaded with a varied assortment of hardware and cutlery. These
articles Don Johnny traded to the interior Indians for the gold dust
that they washed from the Andean streams and stored in quills and bags
against his coming. It was a profitable business, and Señor Armstrong
expected soon to be able to purchase the coffee plantation that he
Armstrong stood on the narrow sidewalk, exchanging garbled Spanish
with old Peralto, the rich native merchant who had just charged him
four prices for half a gross of pot-metal hatchets, and abridged
English with Rucker, the little German who was Consul for the United
"Take with you, señor," said Peralto, "the blessings of the saints
upon your journey."
"Better try quinine," growled Rucker through his pipe. "Take two
grains every night. And don't make your trip too long, Johnny,
because we haf needs of you. It is ein villainous game dot Melville
play of whist, and dere is no oder substitute. _Auf wiedersehen_, und
keep your eyes dot mule's ears between when you on der edge of der
The bells of Luis's mule jingled and the pack train filed after the
warning note. Armstrong, waved a good-bye and took his place at the
tail of the procession. Up the narrow street they turned, and passed
the two-story wooden Hotel Ingles, where Ives and Dawson and Richards
and the rest of the chaps were dawdling on the broad piazza, reading
week-old newspapers. They crowded to the railing and shouted many
friendly and wise and foolish farewells after him. Across the plaza
they trotted slowly past the bronze statue of Guzman Blanco, within
its fence of bayoneted rifles captured from revolutionists, and out
of the town between the rows of thatched huts swarming with the
unclothed youth of Macuto. They plunged into the damp coolness of
banana groves at length to emerge upon a bright stream, where brown
women in scant raiment laundered clothes destructively upon the rocks.
Then the pack train, fording the stream, attacked the sudden ascent,
and bade adieu to such civilization as the coast afforded.
For weeks Armstrong, guided by Luis, followed his regular route among
the mountains. After he had collected an arroba of the precious
metal, winning a profit of nearly $5,000, the heads of the lightened
mules were turned down-trail again. Where the head of the Guarico
River springs from a great gash in the mountain-side, Luis halted the
"Half a day's journey from here, Señor," said he, "is the village of
Tacuzama, which we have never visited. I think many ounces of gold may
be procured there. It is worth the trial."
Armstrong concurred, and they turned again upward toward Tacuzama.
The trail was abrupt and precipitous, mounting through a dense
forest. As night fell, dark and gloomy, Luis once more halted.
Before them was a black chasm, bisecting the path as far as they could
Luis dismounted. "There should be a bridge," he called, and ran along
the cleft a distance. "It is here," he cried, and remounting, led the
way. In a few moments Armstrong, heard a sound as though a thunderous
drum were beating somewhere in the dark. It was the falling of the
mules' hoofs upon the bridge made of strong hides lashed to poles and
stretched across the chasm. Half a mile further was Tacuzama. The
village was a congregation of rock and mud huts set in the
profundity of an obscure wood. As they rode in a sound inconsistent
with that brooding solitude met their ears. From a long, low mud hut
that they were nearing rose the glorious voice of a woman in song.
The words were English, the air familiar to Armstrong's memory, but
not to his musical knowledge.
He slipped from his mule and stole to a narrow window in one end of
the house. Peering cautiously inside, he saw, within three feet of
him, a woman of marvellous, imposing beauty, clothed in a splendid
loose robe of leopard skins. The hut was packed close to the small
space in which she stood with the squatting figures of Indians.
The woman finished her song and seated herself close to the little
window, as if grateful for the unpolluted air that entered it.
When she had ceased several of the audience rose and cast little
softly-falling bags at her feet. A harsh murmur--no doubt a
barbarous kind of applause and comment--went through the grim
Armstrong, was used to seizing opportunities promptly. Taking
advantage of the noise he called to the woman in a low but distinct
voice: "Do not turn your head this way, but listen. I am an American.
If you need assistance tell me how I can render it. Answer as briefly
as you can."
The woman was worthy of his boldness. Only by a sudden flush of her
pale cheek did she acknowledge understanding of his words. Then she
spoke, scarcely moving her lips.
"I am held a prisoner by these Indians. God knows I need help. In
two hours come to the little hut twenty yards toward the Mountainside.
There will be a light and a red curtain in the window. There is
always a guard at the door, whom you will have to overcome. For the
love of heaven, do not fail to come."
The story seems to shrink from adventure and rescue and mystery. The
theme is one too gentle for those brave and quickening tones. And yet
it reaches as far back as time itself. It has been named
"environment," which is as weak a word as any to express the
unnameable kinship of man to nature, that queer fraternity that causes
stones and trees and salt water and clouds to play upon our emotions.
Why are we made serious and solemn and sublime by mountain heights,
grave and contemplative by an abundance of overhanging trees,
reduced to inconstancy and monkey capers by the ripples on a sandy
beach? Did the protoplasm--but enough. The chemists are looking
into the matter, and before long they will have all life in the table
of the symbols.
Briefly, then, in order to confine the story within scientific bounds,
John Armstrong, went to the hut, choked the Indian guard and carried
away Mlle. Giraud. With her was also conveyed a number of pounds of
gold dust she had collected during her six months' forced engagement
in Tacuzama. The Carabobo Indians are easily the most enthusiastic
lovers of music between the equator and the French Opera House in New
Orleans. They are also strong believers that the advice of Emerson
was good when he said: "The thing thou wantest, O discontented man
--take it, and pay the price." A number of them had attended the
performance of the Alcazar Opera Company in Macuto, and found Mlle.
Giraud's style and technique satisfactory. They wanted her, so they
took her one evening suddenly and without any fuss. They treated her
with much consideration, exacting only one song recital each day. She
was quite pleased at being rescued by Mr. Armstrong. So much for
mystery and adventure. Now to resume the theory of the protoplasm.
John Armstrong and Mlle. Giraud rode among the Andean peaks, enveloped
in their greatness and sublimity. The mightiest cousins, furthest
removed, in nature's great family become conscious of the tie. Among
those huge piles of primordial upheaval, amid those gigantic silences
and elongated fields of distance the littlenesses of men are
precipitated as one chemical throws down a sediment from another.
They moved reverently, as in a temple. Their souls were uplifted in
unison with the stately heights. They travelled in a zone of majesty
To Armstrong the woman seemed almost a holy thing. Yet bathed in the
white, still dignity of her martyrdom that purified her earthly beauty
and gave out, it seemed, an aura of transcendent loveliness, in those
first hours of companionship she drew from him an adoration that was
half human love, half the worship of a descended goddess.
Never yet since her rescue had she smiled. Over her dress she still
wore the robe of leopard skins, for the mountain air was cold. She
looked to be some splendid princess belonging to those wild and
awesome altitudes. The spirit of the region chimed with hers. Her
eyes were always turned upon the sombre cliffs, the blue gorges and
the snow-clad turrets, looking a sublime melancholy equal to their
own. At times on the journey she sang thrilling te deums and
misereres that struck the true note of the hills, and made their
route seem like a solemn march down a cathedral aisle. The rescued
one spoke but seldom, her mood partaking of the hush of nature that
surrounded them. Armstrong looked upon her as an angel. He could not
bring himself to the sacrilege of attempting to woo her as other
women may be wooed.
On the third day they had descended as far as the _tierra templada_,
the zona of the table lands and foot hills. The mountains were
receding in their rear, but still towered, exhibiting yet impressively
their formidable heads. Here they met signs of man. They saw the
white houses of coffee plantations gleam across the clearings. They
struck into a road where they met travellers and pack-mules. Cattle
were grazing on the slopes. They passed a little village where the
round-eyed _niños_ shrieked and called at sight of them.
Mlle. Giraud laid aside her leopard-skin robe. It seemed to be a
trifle incongruous now. In the mountains it had appeared fitting
and natural. And if Armstrong was not mistaken she laid aside with
it something of the high dignity of her demeanour. As the country
became more populous and significant of comfortable life he saw, with
a feeling of joy, that the exalted princess and priestess of the
Andean peaks was changing to a woman--an earth woman, but no less
enticing. A little colour crept to the surface of her marble cheek.
She arranged the conventional dress that the removal of the robe now
disclosed with the solicitous touch of one who is conscious of the
eyes of others. She smoothed the careless sweep of her hair. A
mundane interest, long latent in the chilling atmosphere of the
ascetic peaks, showed in her eyes.
This thaw in his divinity sent Armstrong's heart going faster. So
might an Arctic explorer thrill at his first ken of green fields and
liquescent waters. They were on a lower plane of earth and life and
were succumbing to its peculiar, subtle influence. The austerity of
the hills no longer thinned the air they breathed. About them was the
breath of fruit and corn and builded homes, the comfortable smell of
smoke and warm earth and the consolations man has placed between
himself and the dust of his brother earth from which he sprung.
While traversing those awful mountains, Mile. Giraud had seemed to
be wrapped in their spirit of reverent reserve. Was this that same
woman--now palpitating, warm, eager, throbbing with conscious life and
charm, feminine to her finger-tips? Pondering over this, Armstrong
felt certain misgivings intrude upon his thoughts. He wished he could
stop there with this changing creature, descending no farther. Here
was the elevation and environment to which her nature seemed to
respond with its best. He feared to go down upon the man-dominated
levels. Would her spirit not yield still further in that artificial
zone to which they were descending?
Now from a little plateau they saw the sea flash at the edge of the
green lowlands. Mile. Giraud gave a little, catching sigh.
"Oh! look, Mr. Armstrong, there is the sea! Isn't it lovely? I'm so
tired of mountains." She heaved a pretty shoulder in a gesture of
repugnance. "Those horrid Indians! Just think of what I suffered!
Although I suppose I attained my ambition of becoming a stellar
attraction, I wouldn't care to repeat the engagement. It was very
nice of you to bring me away. Tell me, Mr. Armstrong--honestly, now
--do I look such an awful, awful fright? I haven't looked into a
mirror, you know, for months."
Armstrong made answer according to his changed moods. Also he laid
his hand upon hers as it rested upon the horn of her saddle. Luis was
at the head of the pack train and could not see. She allowed it to
remain there, and her eyes smiled frankly into his.
Then at sundown they dropped upon the coast level under the palms and
lemons among the vivid greens and scarlets and ochres of the _tierra
caliente_. They rode into Macuto, and saw the line of volatile bathers
frolicking in the surf. The mountains were very far away.
Mlle. Giraud's eyes were shining with a joy that could not have
existed under the chaperonage of the mountain-tops. There were other
spirits calling to her--nymphs of the orange groves, pixies from the
chattering surf, imps, born of the music, the perfumes, colours and
the insinuating presence of humanity. She laughed aloud, musically,
at a sudden thought.
"Won't there be a sensation?" she called to Armstrong. "Don't I wish
I had an engagement just now, though! What a picnic the press agent
would have! 'Held a prisoner by a band of savage Indians subdued by
the spell of her wonderful voice'--wouldn't that make great stuff?
But I guess I quit the game winner, anyhow--there ought to be a
couple of thousand dollars in that sack of gold dust I collected as
encores, don't you think?"
He left her at the door of the little Hotel de Buen Descansar, where
she had stopped before. Two hours later he returned to the hotel. He
glanced in at the open door of the little combined reception room and
Half a dozen of Macuto's representative social and official
_caballeros_ were distributed about the room. Señor Villablanca, the
wealthy rubber concessionist, reposed his fat figure on two chairs,
with an emollient smile beaming upon his chocolate-coloured face.
Guilbert, the French mining engineer, leered through his polished
nose-glasses. Colonel Mendez, of the regular army, in gold-laced
uniform and fatuous grin, was busily extracting corks from champagne
bottles. Other patterns of Macutian gallantry and fashion pranced and
posed. The air was hazy with cigarette smoke. Wine dripped upon the
Perched upon a table in the centre of the room in an attitude of easy
preëminence was Mlle. Giraud. A chic costume of white lawn and cherry
ribbons supplanted her travelling garb. There was a suggestion of
lace, and a frill or two, with a discreet, small implication of
hand-embroidered pink hosiery. Upon her lap rested a guitar. In her
face was the light of resurrection, the peace of elysium attained
through fire and suffering. She was singing to a lively accompaniment
a little song:
"When you see de big round moon
Comin' up like a balloon,
Dis nigger skips fur to kiss de lips
Ob his stylish, black-faced coon."
The singer caught sight of Armstrong.
"Hi! there, Johnny," she called; "I've been expecting you for an
hour. What kept you? Gee! but these smoked guys are the slowest you
ever saw. They ain't on, at all. Come along in, and I'll make this
coffee-coloured old sport with the gold epaulettes open one for you
right off the ice."
"Thank you," said Armstrong; "not just now, I believe. I've several
things to attend to."
He walked out and down the street, and met Rucker coming up from the
"Play you a game of billiards," said Armstrong. "I want something to
take the taste of the sea level out of my mouth."
In gilt letters on the ground glass of the door of room No. 962 were
the words: "Robbins & Hartley, Brokers." The clerks had gone. It was
past five, and with the solid tramp of a drove of prize Percherons,
scrub-women were invading the cloud-capped twenty-story office
building. A puff of red-hot air flavoured with lemon peelings,
soft-coal smoke and train oil came in through the half-open windows.
Robbins, fifty, something of an overweight beau, and addicted to first
nights and hotel palm-rooms, pretended to be envious of his partner's
"Going to be something doing in the humidity line to-night," he said.
"You out-of-town chaps will be the people, with your katydids and
moonlight and long drinks and things out on the front porch."
Hartley, twenty-nine, serious, thin, good-looking, nervous, sighed
and frowned a little.
"Yes," said he, "we always have cool nights in Floralhurst, especially
in the winter."
A man with an air of mystery came in the door and went up to Hartley.
"I've found where she lives," he announced in the portentous
half-whisper that makes the detective at work a marked being to his
Hartley scowled him into a state of dramatic silence and quietude.
But by that time Robbins had got his cane and set his tie pin to his
liking, and with a debonair nod went out to his metropolitan
"Here is the address," said the detective in a natural tone, being
deprived of an audience to foil.
Hartley took the leaf torn out of the sleuth's dingy memorandum book.
On it were pencilled the words "Vivienne Arlington, No. 341 East
----th Street, care of Mrs. McComus."
"Moved there a week ago," said the detective. "Now, if you want any
shadowing done, Mr. Hartley, I can do you as fine a job in that line
as anybody in the city. It will be only $7 a day and expenses. Can
send in a daily typewritten report, covering--"
"You needn't go on," interrupted the broker. "It isn't a case of that
kind. I merely wanted the address. How much shall I pay you?"
"One day's work," said the sleuth. "A tenner will cover it."
Hartley paid the man and dismissed him. Then he left the office and
boarded a Broadway car. At the first large crosstown artery of travel
he took an eastbound car that deposited him in a decaying avenue,
whose ancient structures once sheltered the pride and glory of the
Walking a few squares, he came to the building that he sought. It was
a new flathouse, bearing carved upon its cheap stone portal its
sonorous name, "The Vallambrosa." Fire-escapes zigzagged down its
front--these laden with household goods, drying clothes, and
squalling children evicted by the midsummer heat. Here and there a
pale rubber plant peeped from the miscellaneous mass, as if wondering
to what kingdom it belonged--vegetable, animal or artificial.
Hartley pressed the "McComus" button. The door latch clicked
spasmodically--now hospitably, now doubtfully, as though in
anxiety whether it might be admitting friends or duns. Hartley
entered and began to climb the stairs after the manner of those who
seek their friends in city flat-houses--which is the manner of a boy
who climbs an apple-tree, stopping when he comes upon what he wants.
On the fourth floor he saw Vivienne standing in an open door. She
invited him inside, with a nod and a bright, genuine smile. She
placed a chair for him near a window, and poised herself gracefully
upon the edge of one of those Jekyll-and-Hyde pieces of furniture that
are masked and mysteriously hooded, unguessable bulks by day and
inquisitorial racks of torture by night.
Hartley cast a quick, critical, appreciative glance at her before
speaking, and told himself that his taste in choosing had been
Vivienne was about twenty-one. She was of the purest Saxon type. Her
hair was a ruddy golden, each filament of the neatly gathered mass
shining with its own lustre and delicate graduation of colour. In
perfect harmony were her ivory-clear complexion and deep sea-blue eyes
that looked upon the world with the ingenuous calmness of a mermaid or
the pixie of an undiscovered mountain stream. Her frame was strong
and yet possessed the grace of absolute naturalness. And yet with all
her Northern clearness and frankness of line and colouring, there
seemed to be something of the tropics in her--something of languor
in the droop of her pose, of love of ease in her ingenious complacency
of satisfaction and comfort in the mere act of breathing--something
that seemed to claim for her a right as a perfect work of nature to
exist and be admired equally with a rare flower or some beautiful,
milk-white dove among its sober-hued companions.
She was dressed in a white waist and dark skirt--that discreet
masquerade of goose-girl and duchess.
"Vivienne," said Hartley, looking at her pleadingly, "you did not
answer my last letter. It was only by nearly a week's search that I
found where you had moved to. Why have you kept me in suspense when
you knew how anxiously I was waiting to see you and hear from you?"
The girl looked out the window dreamily.
"Mr. Hartley," she said hesitatingly, "I hardly know what to say to
you. I realize all the advantages of your offer, and sometimes I feel
sure that I could be contented with you. But, again, I am doubtful.
I was born a city girl, and I am afraid to bind myself to a quiet
"My dear girl," said Hartley, ardently, "have I not told you that you
shall have everything that your heart can desire that is in my power
to give you? You shall come to the city for the theatres, for
shopping and to visit your friends as often as you care to. You can
trust me, can you not?"
"To the fullest," she said, turning her frank eyes upon him with a
smile. "I know you are the kindest of men, and that the girl you get
will be a lucky one. I learned all about you when I was at the
"Ah!" exclaimed Hartley, with a tender, reminiscent light in his eye;
"I remember well the evening I first saw you at the Montgomerys'.
Mrs. Montgomery was sounding your praises to me all the evening.
And she hardly did you justice. I shall never forget that supper.
Come, Vivienne, promise me. I want you. You'll never regret coming
with me. No one else will ever give you as pleasant a home."
The girl sighed and looked down at her folded hands.
A sudden jealous suspicion seized Hartley.
"Tell me, Vivienne," he asked, regarding her keenly, "is there
another--is there some one else ?"
A rosy flush crept slowly over her fair cheeks and neck.
"You shouldn't ask that, Mr. Hartley," she said, in some confusion.
"But I will tell you. There is one other--but he has no right--I
have promised him nothing."
"His name?" demanded Hartley, sternly.
"Rafford Townsend!" exclaimed Hartley, with a grim tightening of his
jaw. "How did that man come to know you? After all I've done for
"His auto has just stopped below," said Vivienne, bending over the
window-sill. "He's coming for his answer. Oh I don't know what to
The bell in the flat kitchen whirred. Vivienne hurried to press the
"Stay here," said Hartley. "I will meet him in the hall."
Townsend, looking like a Spanish grandee in his light tweeds, Panama
hat and curling black mustache, came up the stairs three at a time.
He stopped at sight of Hartley and looked foolish.
"Go back," said Hartley, firmly, pointing downstairs with his
"Hullo!" said Townsend, feigning surprise. "What's up? What are you
doing here, old man?"
"Go back," repeated Hartley, inflexibly. "The Law of the Jungle. Do
you want the Pack to tear you in pieces? The kill is mine."
"I came here to see a plumber about the bathroom connections," said
"All right," said Hartley. "You shall have that lying plaster to
stick upon your traitorous soul. But, go back." Townsend went
downstairs, leaving a bitter word to be wafted up the draught of the
staircase. Hartley went back to his wooing.
"Vivienne," said he, masterfully. "I have got to have you. I will
take no more refusals or dilly-dallying."
"When do you want me?" she asked.
"Now. As soon as you can get ready."
She stood calmly before him and looked him in the eye.
"Do you think for one moment," she said, "that I would enter your home
while Héloise is there?"
Hartley cringed as if from an unexpected blow. He folded his arms and
paced the carpet once or twice.
"She shall go," he declared grimly. Drops stood upon his brow. "Why
should I let that woman make my life miserable? Never have I seen one
day of freedom from trouble since I have known her. You are right,
Vivienne. Héloise must be sent away before I can take you home. But
she shall go. I have decided. I will turn her from my doors."
"When will you do this?" asked the girl.
Hartley clinched his teeth and bent his brows together.
"To-night," he said, resolutely. "I will send her away to-night."
"Then," said Vivienne, "my answer is 'yes.' Come for me when you
She looked into his eyes with a sweet, sincere light in her own.
Hartley could scarcely believe that her surrender was true, it was
so swift and complete.
"Promise me," he said feelingly, "on your word and honour."
"On my word and honour," repeated Vivienne, softly.
At the door he turned and gazed at her happily, but yet as one who
scarcely trusts the foundations of his joy.
"To-morrow," he said, with a forefinger of reminder uplifted.
"To-morrow," she repeated with a smile of truth and candour.
In an hour and forty minutes Hartley stepped off the train at
Floralhurst. A brisk walk of ten minutes brought him to the gate of a
handsome two-story cottage set upon a wide and well-tended lawn.
Halfway to the house he was met by a woman with jet-black braided hair
and flowing white summer gown, who half strangled him without apparent
When they stepped into the hall she said:
"Mamma's here. The auto is coming for her in half an hour. She came
to dinner, but there's no dinner."
"I've something to tell you," said Hartley. "I thought to break it to
you gently, but since your mother is here we may as well out with it."
He stooped and whispered something at her ear.
His wife screamed. Her mother came running into the hall. The
dark-haired woman screamed again--the joyful scream of a well-beloved
and petted woman.
"Oh, mamma!" she cried ecstatically, "what do you think? Vivienne is
coming to cook for us! She is the one that stayed with the
Montgomerys a whole year. And now, Billy, dear," she concluded, "you
must go right down into the kitchen and discharge Héloise. She has
been drunk again the whole day long."
SOCIOLOGY IN SERGE AND STRAW
The season of irresponsibility is at hand. Come, let us twine round
our brows wreaths of poison ivy (that is for idiocy), and wander hand
in hand with sociology in the summer fields.
Likely as not the world is flat. The wise men have tried to prove
that it is round, with indifferent success. They pointed out to us a
ship going to sea, and bade us observe that, at length, the convexity
of the earth hid from our view all but the vessel's topmast. But we
picked up a telescope and looked, and saw the decks and hull again.
Then the wise men said: "Oh, pshaw! anyhow, the variation of the
intersection of the equator and the ecliptic proves it." We could not
see this through our telescope, so we remained silent. But it stands
to reason that, if the world were round, the queues of Chinamen
would stand straight up from their heads instead of hanging down their
backs, as travellers assure us they do.
Another hot-weather corroboration of the flat theory is the fact that
all of life, as we know it, moves in little, unavailing circles.
More justly than to anything else, it can be likened to the game
of baseball. Crack! we hit the ball, and away we go. If we earn a
run (in life we call it success) we get back to the home plate and
sit upon a bench. If we are thrown out, we walk back to the home
plate--and sit upon a bench.
The circumnavigators of the alleged globe may have sailed the rim of a
watery circle back to the same port again. The truly great return at
the high tide of their attainments to the simplicity of a child. The
billionaire sits down at his mahogany to his bowl of bread and milk.
When you reach the end of your career, just take down the sign "Goal"
and look at the other side of it. You will find "Beginning Point"
there. It has been reversed while you were going around the track.
But this is humour, and must be stopped. Let us get back to the
serious questions that arise whenever Sociology turns summer boarder.
You are invited to consider the scene of the story--wild, Atlantic
waves, thundering against a wooded and rock-bound shore--in the
Greater City of New York.
The town of Fishampton, on the south shore of Long Island, is noted
for its clam fritters and the summer residence of the Van Plushvelts.
The Van Plushvelts have a hundred million dollars, and their name is a
household word with tradesmen and photographers.
On the fifteenth of June the Van Plushvelts boarded up the front door
of their city house, carefully deposited their cat on the sidewalk,
instructed the caretaker not to allow it to eat any of the ivy on the
walls, and whizzed away in a 40-horse-power to Fishampton to stray
alone in the shade--Amaryllis not being in their class. If you are a
subscriber to the _Toadies' Magazine_, you have often--You say you are
not? Well, you buy it at a news-stand, thinking that the newsdealer
is not wise to you. But he knows about it all. HE knows--HE knows!
I say that you have often seen in the _Toadies' Magazine_ pictures of
the Van Plushvelts' summer home; so it will not be described here.
Our business is with young Haywood Van Plushvelt, sixteen years old,
heir to the century of millions, darling of the financial gods and
great grandson of Peter Van Plushvelt, former owner of a particularly
fine cabbage patch that has been ruined by an intrusive lot of
One afternoon young Haywood Van Plushvelt strolled out between the
granite gate posts of "Dolce far Niente"--that's what they called
the place; and it was an improvement on dolce Far Rockaway, I can
Haywood walked down into the village. He was human, after all, and
his prospective millions weighed upon him. Wealth had wreaked upon
him its direfullest. He was the product of private tutors. Even under
his first hobby-horse had tan bark been strewn. He had been born with
a gold spoon, lobster fork and fish-set in his mouth. For which I
hope, later, to submit justification, I must ask your consideration of
his haberdashery and tailoring.
Young Fortunatus was dressed in a neat suit of dark blue serge, a
neat, white straw hat, neat low-cut tan shoes, of the well-known
"immaculate" trade mark, a neat, narrow four-in-hand tie, and carried
a slender, neat, bamboo cane.
Down Persimmon Street (there's never tree north of Hagerstown, Md.)
came from the village "Smoky" Dodson, fifteen and a half, worst boy in
Fishampton. "Smoky" was dressed in a ragged red sweater, wrecked and
weather-worn golf cap, run-over shoes, and trousers of the
"serviceable" brand. Dust, clinging to the moisture induced by free
exercise, darkened wide areas of his face. "Smoky" carried a baseball
bat, and a league ball that advertised itself in the rotundity of his
trousers pocket. Haywood stopped and passed the time of day.
"Going to play ball?" he asked.
"Smoky's" eyes and countenance confronted him with a frank
"Me?" he said, with deadly mildness; "sure not. Can't you see I've
got a divin' suit on? I'm goin' up in a submarine balloon to catch
butterflies with a two-inch auger.
"Excuse me," said Haywood, with the insulting politeness of his
caste, "for mistaking you for a gentleman. I might have known
"How might you have known better if you thought I was one?" said
"Smoky," unconsciously a logician.
"By your appearance," said Haywood. "No gentleman is dirty, ragged
and a liar."
"Smoky" hooted once like a ferry-boat, spat on his hand, got a firm
grip on his baseball bat and then dropped it against the fence.
"Say," said he, "I knows you. You're the pup that belongs in that
swell private summer sanitarium for city-guys over there. I seen you
come out of the gate. You can't bluff nobody because you're rich.
And because you got on swell clothes. Arabella! Yah!"
"Ragamuffin!" said Haywood.
"Smoky" picked up a fence-rail splinter and laid it on his shoulder.
"Dare you to knock it off," he challenged.
"I wouldn't soil my hands with you," said the aristocrat.
"'Fraid," said "Smoky" concisely. "Youse city-ducks ain't got the I
sand. I kin lick you with one-hand."
"I don't wish to have any trouble with you," said Haywood. "I asked
you a civil question; and you replied, like a--like a--a cad."
"Wot's a cad?" asked "Smoky."
"A cad is a disagreeable person," answered Haywood, "who lacks manners
and doesn't know his place. They sometimes play baseball."
"I can tell you what a mollycoddle is," said "Smoky." "It's a monkey
dressed up by its mother and sent out to pick daisies on the lawn."
"When you have the honour to refer to the members of my family," said
Haywood, with some dim ideas of a code in his mind, "you'd better
leave the ladies out of your remarks."
"Ho! ladies!" mocked the rude one. "I say ladies! I know what them
rich women in the city does. They, drink cocktails and swear and give
parties to gorillas. The papers say so."
Then Haywood knew that it must be. He took off his coat, folded it
neatly and laid it on the roadside grass, placed his hat upon it and
began to unknot his blue silk tie.
"Hadn't yer better ring fer yer maid, Arabella?" taunted "Smoky."
"Wot yer going to do--go to bed?"
"I'm going to give you a good trouncing," said the hero. He did not
hesitate, although the enemy was far beneath him socially. He
remembered that his father once thrashed a cabman, and the papers gave
it two columns, first page. And the _Toadies' Magazine_ had a special
article on Upper Cuts by the Upper Classes, and ran new pictures of
the Van Plushvelt country seat, at Fishampton.
"Wot's trouncing?" asked "Smoky," suspiciously. "I don't want your
old clothes. I'm no--oh, you mean to scrap! My, my! I won't do a
thing to mamma's pet. Criminy! I'd hate to be a hand-laundered thing
"Smoky" waited with some awkwardness for his adversary to prepare for
battle. His own decks were always clear for action. When he should
spit upon the palm of his terrible right it was equivalent to "You may
fire now, Gridley."
The hated patrician advanced, with his shirt sleeves neatly rolled up.
"Smoky" waited, in an attitude of ease, expecting the affair to be
conducted according to Fishampton's rules of war. These allowed
combat to be prefaced by stigma, recrimination, epithet, abuse and
insult gradually increasing in emphasis and degree. After a round of
these "you're anothers" would come the chip knocked from the shoulder,
or the advance across the "dare" line drawn with a toe on the ground.
Next light taps given and taken, these also increasing in force until
finally the blood was up and fists going at their best.
But Haywood did not know Fishampton's rules. Noblesse oblige kept a
faint smile on his face as he walked slowly up to "Smoky" and said:
"Going to play ball?"
"Smoky" quickly understood this to be a putting of the previous
question, giving him the chance to make practical apology by answering
it with civility and relevance.
"Listen this time," said he. "I'm goin' skatin' on the river. Don't
you see me automobile with Chinese lanterns on it standin' and waitin'
Haywood knocked him down.
"Smoky" felt wronged. To thus deprive him of preliminary wrangle and
objurgation was to send an armoured knight full tilt against a
crashing lance without permitting him first to caracole around the
list to the flourish of trumpets. But he scrambled up and fell upon
his foe, head, feet and fists.
The fight lasted one round of an hour and ten minutes. It was
lengthened until it was more like a war or a family feud than a fight.
Haywood had learned some of the science of boxing and wrestling from
his tutors, but these he discarded for the more instinctive methods of
battle handed down by the cave-dwelling Van Plushvelts.
So, when he found himself, during the mêlée, seated upon the kicking
and roaring "Smoky's" chest, he improved the opportunity by vigorously
kneading handfuls of sand and soil into his adversary's ears, eyes
and mouth, and when "Smoky" got the proper leg hold and "turned" him,
he fastened both hands in the Plushvelt hair and pounded the Plushvelt
head against the lap of mother earth. Of course, the strife was not
incessantly active. There were seasons when one sat upon the other,
holding him down, while each blew like a grampus, spat out the more
inconveniently large sections of gravel and earth and strove to subdue
the spirit of his opponent with a frightful and soul-paralyzing glare.
At last, it seemed that in the language of the ring, their efforts
lacked steam. They broke away, and each disappeared in a cloud as he
brushed away the dust of the conflict. As soon as his breath
permitted, Haywood walked close to "Smoky" and said:
"Going to play ball?"
"Smoky" looked pensively at the sky, at his bat lying on the ground,
and at the "leaguer" rounding his pocket.
"Sure," he said, offhandedly. "The 'Yellowjackets' plays the 'Long
Islands.' I'm cap'n of the 'Long Islands.'"
"I guess I didn't mean to say you were ragged," said Haywood. "But
you are dirty, you know."
"Sure," said "Smoky." "Yer get that way knockin' around. Say, I
don't believe them New York papers about ladies drinkin' and havin'
monkeys dinin' at the table with 'em. I guess they're lies, like they
print about people eatin' out of silver plates, and ownin' dogs that
"Certainly," said Haywood. "What do you play on your team?"
"Ketcher. Ever play any?"
"Never in my life," said Haywood. "I've never known any fellows
except one or two of my cousins."
"Jer like to learn? We're goin' to have a practice-game before the
match. Wanter come along? I'll put yer in left-field, and yer won't
be long ketchin' on."
"I'd like it bully," said Haywood. "I've always wanted to play
The ladies' maids of New York and the families of Western mine owners
with social ambitions will remember well the sensation that was
created by the report that the young multi-millionaire, Haywood Van
Plushvelt, was playing ball with the village youths of Fishampton. It
was conceded that the millennium of democracy had come. Reporters and
photographers swarmed to the island. The papers printed half-page
pictures of him as short-stop stopping a hot grounder. The _Toadies'
Magazine_ got out a Bat and Ball number that covered the subject
historically, beginning with the vampire bat and ending with the
Patriarchs' ball--illustrated with interior views of the Van
Plushvelt country seat. Ministers, educators and sociologists
everywhere hailed the event as the tocsin call that proclaimed the
universal brotherhood of man.
One afternoon I was reclining under the trees near the shore at
Fishampton in the esteemed company of an eminent, bald-headed young
sociologist. By way of note it may be inserted that all sociologists
are more or less bald, and exactly thirty-two. Look 'em over.
The sociologist was citing the Van Plushvelt case as the most
important "uplift" symptom of a generation, and as an excuse for his
Immediately before us were the village baseball grounds. And now came
the sportive youth of Fishampton and distributed themselves, shouting,
about the diamond.
"There," said the sociologist, pointing, "there is young Van
I raised myself (so far a cosycophant with Mary Ann) and gazed.
Young Van Plushvelt sat upon the ground. He was dressed in a ragged
red sweater, wrecked and weather-worn golf cap, run-over shoes, and
trousers of the "serviceable" brand. Dust clinging to the moisture
induced by free exercise, darkened wide areas of his face.
"That is he," repeated the sociologist. If he had said "him" I could
have been less vindictive.
On a bench, with an air, sat the young millionaire's chum.
He was dressed in a neat suit of dark blue serge, a neat white straw
hat, neat low-cut tan shoes, linen of the well-known "immaculate"
trade mark, a neat, narrow four-in-hand tie, and carried a slender,
neat bamboo cane.
I laughed loudly and vulgarly.
"What you want to do," said I to the sociologist, "is to establish a
reformatory for the Logical Vicious Circle. Or else I've got wheels.
It looks to me as if things are running round and round in circles
instead of getting anywhere."
"What do you mean?" asked the man of progress.
"Why, look what he has done to 'Smoky'," I replied.
"You will always be a fool," said my friend, the sociologist,
getting up and walking away.
THE RANSOM OF RED CHIEF
It looked like a good thing: but wait till I tell you. We were down
South, in Alabama--Bill Driscoll and myself--when this kidnapping
idea struck us. It was, as Bill afterward expressed it, "during a
moment of temporary mental apparition"; but we didn't find that out
There was a town down there, as flat as a flannel-cake, and called
Summit, of course. It contained inhabitants of as undeleterious and
self-satisfied a class of peasantry as ever clustered around a
Bill and me had a joint capital of about six hundred dollars, and
we needed just two thousand dollars more to pull off a fraudulent
town-lot scheme in Western Illinois with. We talked it over on the
front steps of the hotel. Philoprogenitiveness, says we, is strong
in semi-rural communities; therefore and for other reasons, a
kidnapping project ought to do better there than in the radius of
newspapers that send reporters out in plain clothes to stir up talk
about such things. We knew that Summit couldn't get after us with
anything stronger than constables and maybe some lackadaisical
bloodhounds and a diatribe or two in the _Weekly Farmers' Budget_.
So, it looked good.
We selected for our victim the only child of a prominent citizen named
Ebenezer Dorset. The father was respectable and tight, a mortgage
fancier and a stern, upright collection-plate passer and forecloser.
The kid was a boy of ten, with bas-relief freckles, and hair the
colour of the cover of the magazine you buy at the news-stand when you
want to catch a train. Bill and me figured that Ebenezer would melt
down for a ransom of two thousand dollars to a cent. But wait till I
About two miles from Summit was a little mountain, covered with a
dense cedar brake. On the rear elevation of this mountain was a cave.
There we stored provisions. One evening after sundown, we drove in a
buggy past old Dorset's house. The kid was in the street, throwing
rocks at a kitten on the opposite fence.
"Hey, little boy!" says Bill, "would you like to have a bag of candy
and a nice ride?"
The boy catches Bill neatly in the eye with a piece of brick.
"That will cost the old man an extra five hundred dollars," says Bill,
climbing over the wheel.
That boy put up a fight like a welter-weight cinnamon bear; but, at
last, we got him down in the bottom of the buggy and drove away. We
took him up to the cave and I hitched the horse in the cedar brake.
After dark I drove the buggy to the little village, three miles away,
where we had hired it, and walked back to the mountain.
Bill was pasting court-plaster over the scratches and bruises on his
features. There was a fire burning behind the big rock at the entrance
of the cave, and the boy was watching a pot of boiling coffee, with
two buzzard tail-feathers stuck in his red hair. He points a stick
at me when I come up, and says:
"Ha! cursed paleface, do you dare to enter the camp of Red Chief, the
terror of the plains?
"He's all right now," says Bill, rolling up his trousers and examining
some bruises on his shins. "We're playing Indian. We're making
Buffalo Bill's show look like magic-lantern views of Palestine in the
town hall. I'm Old Hank, the Trapper, Red Chief's captive, and I'm to
be scalped at daybreak. By Geronimo! that kid can kick hard."
Yes, sir, that boy seemed to be having the time of his life. The fun
of camping out in a cave had made him forget that he was a captive
himself. He immediately christened me Snake-eye, the Spy, and
announced that, when his braves returned from the warpath, I was to be
broiled at the stake at the rising of the sun.
Then we had supper; and he filled his mouth full of bacon and bread
and gravy, and began to talk. He made a during-dinner speech
something like this:
"I like this fine. I never camped out before; but I had a pet 'possum
once, and I was nine last birthday. I hate to go to school. Rats ate
up sixteen of Jimmy Talbot's aunt's speckled hen's eggs. Are there
any real Indians in these woods? I want some more gravy. Does the
trees moving make the wind blow? We had five puppies. What makes your
nose so red, Hank? My father has lots of money. Are the stars hot? I
whipped Ed Walker twice, Saturday. I don't like girls. You dassent
catch toads unless with a string. Do oxen make any noise? Why are
oranges round? Have you got beds to sleep on in this cave? Amos Murray
has got six toes. A parrot can talk, but a monkey or a fish can't.
How many does it take to make twelve?"
Every few minutes he would remember that he was a pesky redskin, and
pick up his stick rifle and tiptoe to the mouth of the cave to rubber
for the scouts of the hated paleface. Now and then he would let out a
war-whoop that made Old Hank the Trapper shiver. That boy had Bill
terrorized from the start.
"Red Chief," says I to the kid, "would you like to go home?"
"Aw, what for?" says he. "I don't have any fun at home. I hate to
go to school. I like to camp out. You won't take me back home again,
Snake-eye, will you?"
"Not right away," says I. "We'll stay here in the cave a while."
"All right!" says he. "That'll be fine. I never had such fun in all
We went to bed about eleven o'clock. We spread down some wide
blankets and quilts and put Red Chief between us. We weren't afraid
he'd run away. He kept us awake for three hours, jumping up and
reaching for his rifle and screeching: "Hist! pard," in mine and
Bill's ears, as the fancied crackle of a twig or the rustle of a leaf
revealed to his young imagination the stealthy approach of the outlaw
band. At last, I fell into a troubled sleep, and dreamed that I had
been kidnapped and chained to a tree by a ferocious pirate with red
Just at daybreak, I was awakened by a series of awful screams from
Bill. They weren't yells, or howls, or shouts, or whoops, or yawps,
such as you'd expect from a manly set of vocal organs--they were
simply indecent, terrifying, humiliating screams, such as women emit
when they see ghosts or caterpillars. It's an awful thing to hear a
strong, desperate, fat man scream incontinently in a cave at daybreak.
I jumped up to see what the matter was. Red Chief was sitting on
Bill's chest, with one hand twined in Bill's hair. In the other he
had the sharp case-knife we used for slicing bacon; and he was
industriously and realistically trying to take Bill's scalp, according
to the sentence that had been pronounced upon him the evening before.
I got the knife away from the kid and made him lie down again. But,
from that moment, Bill's spirit was broken. He laid down on his side
of the bed, but he never closed an eye again in sleep as long as that
boy was with us. I dozed off for a while, but along toward sun-up I
remembered that Red Chief had said I was to be burned at the stake
at the rising of the sun. I wasn't nervous or afraid; but I sat up
and lit my pipe and leaned against a rock.
"What you getting up so soon for, Sam?" asked Bill.
"Me?" says I. "Oh, I got a kind of a pain in my shoulder. I thought
sitting up would rest it."
"You're a liar!" says Bill. "You're afraid. You was to be burned at
sunrise, and you was afraid he'd do it. And he would, too, if he
could find a match. Ain't it awful, Sam? Do you think anybody will pay
out money to get a little imp like that back home?"
"Sure," said I. "A rowdy kid like that is just the kind that parents
dote on. Now, you and the Chief get up and cook breakfast, while I go
up on the top of this mountain and reconnoitre."
I went up on the peak of the little mountain and ran my eye over the
contiguous vicinity. Over toward Summit I expected to see the sturdy
yeomanry of the village armed with scythes and pitchforks beating the
countryside for the dastardly kidnappers. But what I saw was a
peaceful landscape dotted with one man ploughing with a dun mule.
Nobody was dragging the creek; no couriers dashed hither and yon,
bringing tidings of no news to the distracted parents. There was a
sylvan attitude of somnolent sleepiness pervading that section of the
external outward surface of Alabama that lay exposed to my view.
"Perhaps," says I to myself, "it has not yet been discovered that
the wolves have borne away the tender lambkin from the fold. Heaven
help the wolves!" says I, and I went down the mountain to breakfast.
When I got to the cave I found Bill backed up against the side of it,
breathing hard, and the boy threatening to smash him with a rock half
as big as a cocoanut.
"He put a red-hot boiled potato down my back," explained Bill, "and
then mashed it with his foot; and I boxed his ears. Have you got a gun
about you, Sam?"
I took the rock away from the boy and kind of patched up the argument.
"I'll fix you," says the kid to Bill. "No man ever yet struck the Red
Chief but what he got paid for it. You better beware!"
After breakfast the kid takes a piece of leather with strings wrapped
around it out of his pocket and goes outside the cave unwinding it.
"What's he up to now?" says Bill, anxiously. "You don't think he'll
run away, do you, Sam?"
"No fear of it," says I. "He don't seem to be much of a home body.
But we've got to fix up some plan about the ransom. There don't seem
to be much excitement around Summit on account of his disappearance;
but maybe they haven't realized yet that he's gone. His folks may
think he's spending the night with Aunt Jane or one of the neighbours.
Anyhow, he'll be missed to-day. To-night we must get a message to his
father demanding the two thousand dollars for his return."
Just then we heard a kind Of war-whoop, such as David might have
emitted when he knocked out the champion Goliath. It was a sling that
Red Chief had pulled out of his pocket, and he was whirling it around
I dodged, and heard a heavy thud and a kind of a sigh from Bill, like
a horse gives out when you take his saddle off. A niggerhead rock the
size of an egg had caught Bill just behind his left ear. He loosened
himself all over and fell in the fire across the frying pan of hot
water for washing the dishes. I dragged him out and poured cold water
on his head for half an hour.
By and by, Bill sits up and feels behind his ear and says: "Sam, do
you know who my favourite Biblical character is?"
"Take it easy," says I. "You'll come to your senses presently."
"King Herod," says he. "You won't go away and leave me here alone,
will you, Sam?"
I went out and caught that boy and shook him until his freckles
"If you don't behave," says I, "I'll take you straight home. Now, are
you going to be good, or not?"
"I was only funning," says he sullenly. "I didn't mean to hurt Old
Hank. But what did he hit me for? I'll behave, Snake-eye, if you
won't send me home, and if you'll let me play the Black Scout to-day."
"I don't know the game," says I. "That's for you and Mr. Bill to
decide. He's your playmate for the day. I'm going away for a while,
on business. Now, you come in and make friends with him and say you
are sorry for hurting him, or home you go, at once."
I made him and Bill shake hands, and then I took Bill aside and told
him I was going to Poplar Cove, a little village three miles from the
cave, and find out what I could about how the kidnapping had been
regarded in Summit. Also, I thought it best to send a peremptory
letter to old man Dorset that day, demanding the ransom and dictating
how it should be paid.
"You know, Sam," says Bill, "I've stood by you without batting an
eye in earthquakes, fire and flood--in poker games, dynamite
outrages, police raids, train robberies and cyclones. I never lost my
nerve yet till we kidnapped that two-legged skyrocket of a kid. He's
got me going. You won't leave me long with him, will you, Sam?"
"I'll be back some time this afternoon," says I. "You must keep the
boy amused and quiet till I return. And now we'll write the letter to
Bill and I got paper and pencil and worked on the letter while Red
Chief, with a blanket wrapped around him, strutted up and down,
guarding the mouth of the cave. Bill begged me tearfully to make the
ransom fifteen hundred dollars instead of two thousand. "I ain't
attempting," says he, "to decry the celebrated moral aspect of
parental affection, but we're dealing with humans, and it ain't human
for anybody to give up two thousand dollars for that forty-pound chunk
of freckled wildcat. I'm willing to take a chance at fifteen hundred
dollars. You can charge the difference up to me."
So, to relieve Bill, I acceded, and we collaborated a letter that ran
_Ebenezer Dorset, Esq.:_
We have your boy concealed in a place far from Summit. It is useless
for you or the most skilful detectives to attempt to find him.
Absolutely, the only terms on which you can have him restored to you
are these: We demand fifteen hundred dollars in large bills for his
return; the money to be left at midnight to-night at the same spot
and in the same box as your reply--as hereinafter described. If
you agree to these terms, send your answer in writing by a solitary
messenger to-night at half-past eight o'clock. After crossing Owl
Creek, on the road to Poplar Cove, there are three large trees about
a hundred yards apart, close to the fence of the wheat field on the
right-hand side. At the bottom of the fence-post, opposite the
third tree, will be found a small pasteboard box.
The messenger will place the answer in this box and return
immediately to Summit.
If you attempt any treachery or fail to comply with our demand as
stated, you will never see your boy again.
If you pay the money as demanded, he will be returned to you safe
and well within three hours. These terms are final, and if you do
not accede to them no further communication will be attempted.
TWO DESPERATE MEN.
I addressed this letter to Dorset, and put it in my pocket. As I was
about to start, the kid comes up to me and says:
"Aw, Snake-eye, you said I could play the Black Scout while you was
"Play it, of course," says I. "Mr. Bill will play with you. What
kind of a game is it?"
"I'm the Black Scout," says Red Chief, "and I have to ride to the
stockade to warn the settlers that the Indians are coming. I'm tired
of playing Indian myself. I want to be the Black Scout."
"All right," says I. "It sounds harmless to me. I guess Mr. Bill will
help you foil the pesky savages."
"What am I to do?" asks Bill, looking at the kid suspiciously.
"You are the hoss," says Black Scout. "Get down on your hands and
knees. How can I ride to the stockade without a hoss?"
"You'd better keep him interested," said I, "till we get the scheme
going. Loosen up."
Bill gets down on his all fours, and a look comes in his eye like a
rabbit's when you catch it in a trap.
"How far is it to the stockade, kid?" he asks, in a husky manner of
"Ninety miles," says the Black Scout. "And you have to hump yourself
to get there on time. Whoa, now!"
The Black Scout jumps on Bill's back and digs his heels in his side.
"For Heaven's sake," says Bill, "hurry back, Sam, as soon as you can.
I wish we hadn't made the ransom more than a thousand. Say, you quit
kicking me or I'll get up and warm you good."
I walked over to Poplar Cove and sat around the postoffice and
store, talking with the chawbacons that came in to trade. One
whiskerando says that he hears Summit is all upset on account of Elder
Ebenezer Dorset's boy having been lost or stolen. That was all I
wanted to know. I bought some smoking tobacco, referred casually to
the price of black-eyed peas, posted my letter surreptitiously and
came away. The postmaster said the mail-carrier would come by in an
hour to take the mail on to Summit.
When I got back to the cave Bill and the boy were not to be found. I
explored the vicinity of the cave, and risked a yodel or two, but
there was no response.
So I lighted my pipe and sat down on a mossy bank to await
In about half an hour I heard the bushes rustle, and Bill wabbled out
into the little glade in front of the cave. Behind him was the kid,
stepping softly like a scout, with a broad grin on his face. Bill
stopped, took off his hat and wiped his face with a red handkerchief.
The kid stopped about eight feet behind him.
"Sam," says Bill, "I suppose you'll think I'm a renegade, but I
couldn't help it. I'm a grown person with masculine proclivities and
habits of self-defense, but there is a time when all systems of
egotism and predominance fail. The boy is gone. I have sent him
home. All is off. There was martyrs in old times," goes on Bill,
"that suffered death rather than give up the particular graft they
enjoyed. None of 'em ever was subjugated to such supernatural
tortures as I have been. I tried to be faithful to our articles of
depredation; but there came a limit."
"What's the trouble, Bill?" I asks him.
"I was rode," says Bill, "the ninety miles to the stockade, not
barring an inch. Then, when the settlers was rescued, I was given
oats. Sand ain't a palatable substitute. And then, for an hour I
had to try to explain to him why there was nothin' in holes, how
a road can run both ways and what makes the grass green. I tell
you, Sam, a human can only stand so much. I takes him by the neck
of his clothes and drags him down the mountain. On the way he
kicks my legs black-and-blue from the knees down; and I've got to
have two or three bites on my thumb and hand cauterized.
"But he's gone"--continues Bill--"gone home. I showed him the
road to Summit and kicked him about eight feet nearer there at one
kick. I'm sorry we lose the ransom; but it was either that or Bill
Driscoll to the madhouse."
Bill is puffing and blowing, but there is a look of ineffable peace
and growing content on his rose-pink features.
"Bill," says I, "there isn't any heart disease in your family, is
"No," says Bill, "nothing chronic except malaria and accidents. Why?"
"Then you might turn around," says I, "and have a took behind you."
Bill turns and sees the boy, and loses his complexion and sits down
plump on the round and begins to pluck aimlessly at grass and little
sticks. For an hour I was afraid for his mind. And then I told him
that my scheme was to put the whole job through immediately and that
we would get the ransom and be off with it by midnight if old Dorset
fell in with our proposition. So Bill braced up enough to give the
kid a weak sort of a smile and a promise to play the Russian in a
Japanese war with him is soon as he felt a little better.
I had a scheme for collecting that ransom without danger of being
caught by counterplots that ought to commend itself to professional
kidnappers. The tree under which the answer was to be left--and the
money later on--was close to the road fence with big, bare fields on
all sides. If a gang of constables should be watching for any one to
come for the note they could see him a long way off crossing the
fields or in the road. But no, sirree! At half-past eight I was up in
that tree as well hidden as a tree toad, waiting for the messenger to
Exactly on time, a half-grown boy rides up the road on a bicycle,
locates the pasteboard box at the foot of the fence-post, slips a
folded piece of paper into it and pedals away again back toward
I waited an hour and then concluded the thing was square. I slid down
the tree, got the note, slipped along the fence till I struck the
woods, and was back at the cave in another half an hour. I opened the
note, got near the lantern and read it to Bill. It was written with a
pen in a crabbed hand, and the sum and substance of it was this:
_Two Desperate Men.
Gentlemen:_ I received your letter to-day by post, in regard to the
ransom you ask for the return of my son. I think you are a little
high in your demands, and I hereby make you a counter-proposition,
which I am inclined to believe you will accept. You bring Johnny
home and pay me two hundred and fifty dollars in cash, and I agree
to take him off your hands. You had better come at night, for the
neighbours believe he is lost, and I couldn't be responsible for
what they would do to anybody they saw bringing him back. Very
"Great pirates of Penzance!" says I; "of all the impudent--"
But I glanced at Bill, and hesitated. He had the most appealing look
in his eyes I ever saw on the face of a dumb or a talking brute.
"Sam," says he, "what's two hundred and fifty dollars, after all?
We've got the money. One more night of this kid will send me to a bed
in Bedlam. Besides being a thorough gentleman, I think Mr. Dorset is
a spendthrift for making us such a liberal offer. You ain't going
to let the chance go, are you?"
"Tell you the truth, Bill," says I, "this little he ewe lamb has
somewhat got on my nerves too. We'll take him home, pay the ransom
and make our get-away."
We took him home that night. We got him to go by telling him that his
father had bought a silver-mounted rifle and a pair of moccasins for
him, and we were going to hunt bears the next day.
It was just twelve o'clock when we knocked at Ebenezer's front door.
Just at the moment when I should have been abstracting the fifteen
hundred dollars from the box under the tree, according to the original
proposition, Bill was counting out two hundred and fifty dollars into
When the kid found out we were going to leave him at home he started
up a howl like a calliope and fastened himself as tight as a leech to
Bill's leg. His father peeled him away gradually, like a porous
"How long can you hold him?" asks Bill.
"I'm not as strong as I used to be," says old Dorset, "but I think I
can promise you ten minutes."
"Enough," says Bill. "In ten minutes I shall cross the Central,
Southern and Middle Western States, and be legging it trippingly for
the Canadian border."
And, as dark as it was, and as fat as Bill was, and as good a runner
as I am, he was a good mile and a half out of Summit before I could
catch up with him.
THE MARRY MONTH OF MAY
Prithee, smite the poet in the eye when he would sing to you praises
of the month of May. It is a month presided over by the spirits of
mischief and madness. Pixies and flibbertigibbets haunt the budding
woods: Puck and his train of midgets are busy in town and country.
In May nature holds up at us a chiding finger, bidding us remember
that we are not gods, but overconceited members of her own great
family. She reminds us that we are brothers to the chowder-doomed
clam and the donkey; lineal scions of the pansy and the chimpanzee,
and but cousins-german to the cooing doves, the quacking ducks and the
housemaids and policemen in the parks.
In May Cupid shoots blindfolded--millionaires marry stenographers;
wise professors woo white-aproned gum-chewers behind quick-lunch
counters; schoolma'ams make big bad boys remain after school; lads
with ladders steal lightly over lawns where Juliet waits in her
trellissed window with her telescope packed; young couples out for a
walk come home married; old chaps put on white spats and promenade
near the Normal School; even married men, grown unwontedly tender and
sentimental, whack their spouses on the back and growl: "How goes it,
This May, who is no goddess, but Circe, masquerading at the dance
given in honour of the fair débutante, Summer, puts the kibosh on us
Old Mr. Coulson groaned a little, and then sat up straight in his
invalid's chair. He had the gout very bad in one foot, a house near
Gramercy Park, half a million dollars and a daughter. And he had a
housekeeper, Mrs. Widdup. The fact and the name deserve a sentence
each. They have it.
When May poked Mr. Coulson he became elder brother to the turtle-dove.
In the window near which he sat were boxes of jonquils, of hyacinths,
geraniums and pansies. The breeze brought their odour into the room.
Immediately there was a well-contested round between the breath of the
flowers and the able and active effluvium from gout liniment. The
liniment won easily; but not before the flowers got an uppercut to
old Mr. Coulson's nose. The deadly work of the implacable, false
enchantress May was done.
Across the park to the olfactories of Mr. Coulson came other
unmistakable, characteristic, copyrighted smells of spring that belong
to the-big-city-above-the-Subway, alone. The smells of hot asphalt,
underground caverns, gasoline, patchouli, orange peel, sewer gas,
Albany grabs, Egyptian cigarettes, mortar and the undried ink on
newspapers. The inblowing air was sweet and mild. Sparrows wrangled
happily everywhere outdoors. Never trust May.
Mr. Coulson twisted the ends of his white mustache, cursed his foot,
and pounded a bell on the table by his side.
In came Mrs. Widdup. She was comely to the eye, fair, flustered,
forty and foxy.
"Higgins is out, sir," she said, with a smile suggestive of vibratory
massage. "He went to post a letter. Can I do anything for you, sir?"
"It's time for my aconite," said old Mr. Coulson. "Drop it for me.
The bottle's there. Three drops. In water. D---- that is, confound
Higgins! There's nobody in this house cares if I die here in this
chair for want of attention."
Mrs. Widdup sighed deeply.
"Don't be saying that, sir," she said. "There's them that would care
more than any one knows. Thirteen drops, you said, sir?"
"Three," said old man Coulson.
He took his dose and then Mrs. Widdup's hand. She blushed. Oh, yes,
it can be done. Just hold your breath and compress the diaphragm.
"Mrs. Widdup," said Mr. Coulson, "the springtime's full upon us."
"Ain't that right?" said Mrs. Widdup. "The air's real warm. And
there's bock-beer signs on every corner. And the park's all yaller and
pink and blue with flowers; and I have such shooting pains up my legs
"'In the spring,'" quoted Mr. Coulson, curling his mustache, "'a y----
that is, a man's--fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.'"
"Lawsy, now!" exclaimed Mrs. Widdup; "ain't that right? Seems like
it's in the air."
"'In the spring,'" continued old Mr. Coulson, "'a livelier iris shines
upon the burnished dove.'"
"They do be lively, the Irish," sighed Mrs. Widdup pensively.
"Mrs. Widdup," said Mr. Coulson, making a face at a twinge of his gouty
foot, "this would be a lonesome house without you. I'm an--that is,
I'm an elderly man--but I'm worth a comfortable lot of money. If half
a million dollars' worth of Government bonds and the true affection of
a heart that, though no longer beating with the first ardour of youth,
can still throb with genuine--"
The loud noise of an overturned chair near the portières of the
adjoining room interrupted the venerable and scarcely suspecting
victim of May.
In stalked Miss Van Meeker Constantia Coulson, bony, durable, tall,
high-nosed, frigid, well-bred, thirty-five, in-the-neighbourhood-of-
Gramercy-Parkish. She put up a lorgnette. Mrs. Widdup hastily
stooped and arranged the bandages on Mr. Coulson's gouty foot.
"I thought Higgins was with you," said Miss Van Meeker Constantia.
"Higgins went out," explained her father, "and Mrs. Widdup answered
the bell. That is better now, Mrs. Widdup, thank you. No; there is
nothing else I require."
The housekeeper retired, pink under the cool, inquiring stare of Miss
"This spring weather is lovely, isn't it, daughter?" said the old man,
"That's just it," replied Miss Van Meeker Constantia Coulson, somewhat
obscurely. "When does Mrs. Widdup start on her vacation, papa?"
"I believe she said a week from to-day," said Mr. Coulson.
Miss Van Meeker Constantia stood for a minute at the window gazing,
toward the little park, flooded with the mellow afternoon sunlight.
With the eye of a botanist she viewed the flowers--most potent
weapons of insidious May. With the cool pulses of a virgin of
Cologne she withstood the attack of the ethereal mildness. The arrows
of the pleasant sunshine fell back, frostbitten, from the cold panoply
of her unthrilled bosom. The odour of the flowers waked no soft
sentiments in the unexplored recesses of her dormant heart. The chirp
of the sparrows gave her a pain. She mocked at May.
But although Miss Coulson was proof against the season, she was
keen enough to estimate its power. She knew that elderly men and
thick-waisted women jumped as educated fleas in the ridiculous train
of May, the merry mocker of the months. She had heard of foolish old
gentlemen marrying their housekeepers before. What a humiliating
thing, after all, was this feeling called love!
The next morning at 8 o'clock, when the iceman called, the cook told
him that Miss Coulson wanted to see him in the basement.
"Well, ain't I the Olcott and Depew; not mentioning the first name at
all?" said the iceman, admiringly, of himself.
As a concession he rolled his sleeves down, dropped his icehooks on a
syringa and went back. When Miss Van Meeker Constantia Coulson
addressed him he took off his hat.
"There is a rear entrance to this basement," said Miss Coulson, "which
can be reached by driving into the vacant lot next door, where they
are excavating for a building. I want you to bring in that way within
two hours 1,000 pounds of ice. You may have to bring another man or
two to help you. I will show you where I want it placed. I also want
1,000 pounds a day delivered the same way for the next four days.
Your company may charge the ice on our regular bill. This is for your
Miss Coulson tendered a ten-dollar bill. The iceman bowed, and held
his hat in his two hands behind him.
"Not if you'll excuse me, lady. It'll be a pleasure to fix things up
for you any way you please."
Alas for May!
About noon Mr. Coulson knocked two glasses off his table, broke the
spring of his bell and yelled for Higgins at the same time.
"Bring an axe," commanded Mr. Coulson, sardonically, "or send out
for a quart of prussic acid, or have a policeman come in and shoot me.
I'd rather that than be frozen to death."
"It does seem to be getting cool, Sir," said Higgins. "I hadn't
noticed it before. I'll close the window, Sir."
"Do," said Mr. Coulson. "They call this spring, do they? If it keeps
up long I'll go back to Palm Beach. House feels like a morgue."
Later Miss Coulson dutifully came in to inquire how the gout was
"'Stantia," said the old man, "how is the weather outdoors?"
"Bright," answered Miss Coulson, "but chilly."
"Feels like the dead of winter to me," said Mr. Coulson.
"An instance," said Constantia, gazing abstractedly out the window,
"of 'winter lingering in the lap of spring,' though the metaphor is
not in the most refined taste."
A little later she walked down by the side of the little park and on
westward to Broadway to accomplish a little shopping.
A little later than that Mrs. Widdup entered the invalid's room.
"Did you ring, Sir?" she asked, dimpling in many places. "I asked
Higgins to go to the drug store, and I thought I heard your bell."
"I did not," said Mr. Coulson.
"I'm afraid," said Mrs. Widdup, "I interrupted you sir, yesterday when
you were about to say something."
"How comes it, Mrs. Widdup," said old man Coulson sternly, "that I
find it so cold in this house?"
"Cold, Sir?" said the housekeeper, "why, now, since you speak of it
it do seem cold in this room. But, outdoors it's as warm and fine
as June, sir. And how this weather do seem to make one's heart jump
out of one's shirt waist, sir. And the ivy all leaved out on the side
of the house, and the hand-organs playing, and the children dancing on
the sidewalk--'tis a great time for speaking out what's in the
heart. You were saying yesterday, sir--"
"Woman!" roared Mr. Coulson; "you are a fool. I pay you to take care
of this house. I am freezing to death in my own room, and you come in
and drivel to me about ivy and hand-organs. Get me an overcoat at
once. See that all doors and windows are closed below. An old, fat,
irresponsible, one-sided object like you prating about springtime
and flowers in the middle of winter! When Higgins comes back, tell him
to bring me a hot rum punch. And now get out!"
But who shall shame the bright face of May? Rogue though she be and
disturber of sane men's peace, no wise virgins cunning nor cold
storage shall make her bow her head in the bright galaxy of months.
Oh, yes, the story was not quite finished.
A night passed, and Higgins helped old man Coulson in the morning to
his chair by the window. The cold of the room was gone. Heavenly
odours and fragrant mildness entered.
In hurried Mrs. Widdup, and stood by his chair. Mr. Coulson reached
his bony hand and grasped her plump one.
"Mrs. Widdup," he said, "this house would be no home without you. I
have half a million dollars. If that and the true affection of a
heart no longer in its youthful prime, but still not cold, could--"
"I found out what made it cold," said Mrs. Widdup, leanin' against his
chair. "'Twas ice--tons of it--in the basement and in the furnace
room, everywhere. I shut off the registers that it was coming through
into your room, Mr. Coulson, poor soul! And now it's Maytime again."
"A true heart," went on old man Coulson, a little wanderingly, "that
the springtime has brought to life again, and--but what will my
daughter say, Mrs. Widdup?"
"Never fear, sir," said Mrs. Widdup, cheerfully. "Miss Coulson, she
ran away with the iceman last night, sir!"
A TECHNICAL ERROR
I never cared especially for feuds, believing them to be even more
overrated products of our country than grapefruit, scrapple, or
honeymoons. Nevertheless, if I may be allowed, I will tell you of an
Indian Territory feud of which I was press-agent, camp-follower, and
inaccessory during the fact.
I was on a visit to Sam Durkee's ranch, where I had a great time
falling off unmanicured ponies and waving my bare hand at the lower
jaws of wolves about two miles away. Sam was a hardened person of
about twenty-five, with a reputation for going home in the dark with
perfect equanimity, though often with reluctance.
Over in the Creek Nation was a family bearing the name of Tatum. I
was told that the Durkees and Tatums had been feuding for years.
Several of each family had bitten the grass, and it was expected that
more Nebuchadnezzars would follow. A younger generation of each
family was growing up, and the grass was keeping pace with them. But I
gathered that they had fought fairly; that they had not lain in
cornfields and aimed at the division of their enemies' suspenders in
the back--partly, perhaps, because there were no cornfields, and
nobody wore more than one suspender. Nor had any woman or child of
either house ever been harmed. In those days--and you will find it
so yet--their women were safe.
Sam Durkee had a girl. (If it were an all-fiction magazine that I
expect to sell this story to, I should say, "Mr. Durkee rejoiced in a
fiancée.") Her name was Ella Baynes. They appeared to be devoted to
each other, and to have perfect confidence in each other, as all
couples do who are and have or aren't and haven't. She was tolerably
pretty, with a heavy mass of brown hair that helped her along. He
introduced me to her, which seemed not to lessen her preference for
him; so I reasoned that they were surely soul-mates.
Miss Baynes lived in Kingfisher, twenty miles from the ranch. Sam
lived on a gallop between the two places.
One day there came to Kingfisher a courageous young man, rather small,
with smooth face and regular features. He made many inquiries about
the business of the town, and especially of the inhabitants
cognominally. He said he was from Muscogee, and he looked it, with
his yellow shoes and crocheted four-in-hand. I met him once when I
rode in for the mail. He said his name was Beverly Travers, which
seemed rather improbable.
There were active times on the ranch, just then, and Sam was too busy
to go to town often. As an incompetent and generally worthless guest,
it devolved upon me to ride in for little things such as post cards,
barrels of flour, baking-powder, smoking-tobacco, and--letters from
One day, when I was messenger for half a gross of cigarette papers
and a couple of wagon tires, I saw the alleged Beverly Travers in a
yellow-wheeled buggy with Ella Baynes, driving about town as
ostentatiously as the black, waxy mud would permit. I knew that
this information would bring no balm of Gilead to Sam's soul, so I
refrained from including it in the news of the city that I retailed
on my return. But on the next afternoon an elongated ex-cowboy of
the name of Simmons, an old-time pal of Sam's, who kept a feed store
in Kingfisher, rode out to the ranch and rolled and burned many
cigarettes before he would talk. When he did make oration, his words
"Say, Sam, there's been a description of a galoot miscallin' himself
Bevel-edged Travels impairing the atmospheric air of Kingfisher for
the past two weeks. You know who he was? He was not otherwise than
Ben Tatum, from the Creek Nation, son of old Gopher Tatum that your
Uncle Newt shot last February. You know what he done this morning?
He killed your brother Lester--shot him in the co't-house yard."
I wondered if Sam had heard. He pulled a twig from a mesquite bush,
chewed it gravely, and said:
"He did, did he? He killed Lester?"
"The same," said Simmons. "And he did more. He run away with your
girl, the same as to say Miss Ella Baynes. I thought you might like
to know, so I rode out to impart the information."
"I am much obliged, Jim," said Sam, taking the chewed twig from his
mouth. "Yes, I'm glad you rode Out. Yes, I'm right glad."
"Well, I'll be ridin' back, I reckon. That boy I left in the feed
store don't know hay from oats. He shot Lester in the back."
"Shot him in the back?"
"Yes, while he was hitchin' his hoss."
"I'm much obliged, Jim."
"I kind of thought you'd like to know as soon as you could."
"Come in and have some coffee before you ride back, Jim?"
"Why, no, I reckon not; I must get back to the store."
"And you say--"
"Yes, Sam. Everybody seen 'em drive away together in a buckboard,
with a big bundle, like clothes, tied up in the back of it. He was
drivin' the team he brought over with him from Muscogee. They'll be
hard to overtake right away."
"I was goin' on to tell you. They left on the Guthrie road; but
there's no tellin' which forks they'll take--you know that."
"All right, Jim; much obliged."
"You're welcome, Sam."
Simmons rolled a cigarette and stabbed his pony with both heels.
Twenty yards away he reined up and called back:
"You don't want no--assistance, as you might say?"
"Not any, thanks."
"I didn't think you would. Well, so long!"
Sam took out and opened a bone-handled pocket-knife and scraped a
dried piece of mud from his left boot. I thought at first he was
going to swear a vendetta on the blade of it, or recite "The Gipsy's
Curse." The few feuds I had ever seen or read about usually opened
that way. This one seemed to be presented with a new treatment.
Thus offered on the stage, it would have been hissed off, and one of
Belasco's thrilling melodramas demanded instead.
"I wonder," said Sam, with a profoundly thoughtful expression, "if the
cook has any cold beans left over!"
He called Wash, the Negro cook, and finding that he had some, ordered
him to heat up the pot and make some strong coffee. Then we went into
Sam's private room, where he slept, and kept his armoury, dogs, and the
saddles of his favourite mounts. He took three or four six-shooters
out of a bookcase and began to look them over, whistling "The Cowboy's
Lament" abstractedly. Afterward he ordered the two best horses on the
ranch saddled and tied to the hitching-post.
Now, in the feud business, in all sections of the country, I have
observed that in one particular there is a delicate but strict
etiquette belonging. You must not mention the word or refer to the
subject in the presence of a feudist. It would be more reprehensible
than commenting upon the mole on the chin of your rich aunt. I found,
later on, that there is another unwritten rule, but I think that
belongs solely to the West.
It yet lacked two hours to supper-time; but in twenty minutes Sam and
I were plunging deep into the reheated beans, hot coffee, and cold
"Nothing like a good meal before a long ride," said Sam. "Eat hearty."
I had a sudden suspicion.
"Why did you have two horses saddled?" I asked.
"One, two--one, two," said Sam. "You can count, can't you?"
His mathematics carried with it a momentary qualm and a lesson. The
thought had not occurred to him that the thought could possibly occur
to me not to ride at his side on that red road to revenge and justice.
It was the higher calculus. I was booked for the trail. I began to
eat more beans.
In an hour we set forth at a steady gallop eastward. Our horses were
Kentucky-bred, strengthened by the mesquite grass of the west. Ben
Tatum's steeds may have been swifter, and he had a good lead; but if
he had heard the punctual thuds of the hoofs of those trailers of
ours, born in the heart of feudland, he might have felt that
retribution was creeping up on the hoof-prints of his dapper nags.
I knew that Ben Tatum's card to play was flight--flight until he
came within the safer territory of his own henchmen and supporters.
He knew that the man pursuing him would follow the trail to any end
where it might lead.
During the ride Sam talked of the prospect for rain, of the price of
beef, and of the musical glasses. You would have thought he had never
had a brother or a sweetheart or an enemy on earth. There are some
subjects too big even for the words in the "Unabridged." Knowing
this phase of the feud code, but not having practised it sufficiently,
I overdid the thing by telling some slightly funny anecdotes. Sam
laughed at exactly the right place--laughed with his mouth. When I
caught sight of his mouth, I wished I had been blessed with enough
sense of humour to have suppressed those anecdotes.
Our first sight of them we had in Guthrie. Tired and hungry, we
stumbled, unwashed, into a little yellow-pine hotel and sat at a
table. In the opposite corner we saw the fugitives. They were bent
upon their meal, but looked around at times uneasily.
The girl was dressed in brown--one of these smooth, half-shiny,
silky-looking affairs with lace collar and cuffs, and what I believe
they call an accordion-plaited skirt. She wore a thick brown veil down
to her nose, and a broad-brimmed straw hat with some kind of feathers
adorning it. The man wore plain, dark clothes, and his hair was
trimmed very short. He was such a man as you might see anywhere.
There they were--the murderer and the woman he had stolen. There we
were--the rightful avenger, according to the code, and the
supernumerary who writes these words.
For one time, at least, in the heart of the supernumerary there rose
the killing instinct. For one moment he joined the force of
"What are you waiting for, Sam?" I said in a whisper. "Let him have
Sam gave a melancholy sigh.
"You don't understand; but _he_ does," he said. "_He_ knows. Mr.
Tenderfoot, there's a rule out here among white men in the Nation that
you can't shoot a man when he's with a woman. I never knew it to be
broke yet. You _can't_ do it. You've got to get him in a gang of men or
by himself. That's why. He knows it, too. We all know. So, that's
Mr. Ben Tatum! One of the 'pretty men'! I'll cut him out of the herd
before they leave the hotel, and regulate his account!"
After supper the flying pair disappeared quickly. Although Sam haunted
lobby and stairway and halls half the night, in some mysterious way
the fugitives eluded him; and in the morning the veiled lady in the
brown dress with the accordion-plaited skirt and the dapper young man
with the close-clipped hair, and the buckboard with the prancing nags,
It is a monotonous story, that of the ride; so it shall be
curtailed. Once again we overtook them on a road. We were about
fifty yards behind. They turned in the buckboard and looked at us;
then drove on without whipping up their horses. Their safety no
longer lay in speed. Ben Tatum knew. He knew that the only rock of
safety left to him was the code. There is no doubt that, had he
been alone, the matter would have been settled quickly with Sam
Durkee in the usual way; but he had something at his side that
kept still the trigger-finger of both. It seemed likely that he
was no coward.
So, you may perceive that woman, on occasions, may postpone instead of
precipitating conflict between man and man. But not willingly or
consciously. She is oblivious of codes.
Five miles farther, we came upon the future great Western city of
Chandler. The horses of pursuers and pursued were starved and weary.
There was one hotel that offered danger to man and entertainment to
beast; so the four of us met again in the dining room at the ringing
of a bell so resonant and large that it had cracked the welkin long
ago. The dining room was not as large as the one at Guthrie.
Just as we were eating apple pie--how Ben Davises and tragedy
impinge upon each other!--I noticed Sam looking with keen
intentness at our quarry where they were seated at a table across the
room. The girl still wore the brown dress with lace collar and cuffs,
and the veil drawn down to her nose. The man bent over his plate,
with his close cropped head held low.
"There's a code," I heard Sam say, either to me or to himself, "that
won't let you shoot a man in the company of a woman; but, by thunder,
there ain't one to keep you from killing a woman in the company of a
And, quicker than my mind could follow his argument, he whipped a
Colt's automatic from under his left arm and pumped six bullets into
the body that the brown dress covered--the brown dress with the lace
collar and cuffs and the accordion-plaited skirt.
The young person in the dark sack suit, from whose head and from whose
life a woman's glory had been clipped, laid her head on her arms
stretched upon the table; while people came running to raise Ben Tatum
from the floor in his feminine masquerade that had given Sam the
opportunity to set aside, technically, the obligations of the code.
SUITE HOMES AND THEIR ROMANCE
Few young couples in the Big-City-of-Bluff began their married
existence with greater promise of happiness than did Mr. and Mrs.
Claude Turpin. They felt no especial animosity toward each other;
they were comfortably established in a handsome apartment house that
had a name and accommodations like those of a sleeping-car; they were
living as expensively as the couple on the next floor above who had
twice their income; and their marriage had occurred on a wager, a
ferry-boat and first acquaintance, thus securing a sensational
newspaper notice with their names attached to pictures of the Queen of
Roumania and M. Santos-Dumont.
Turpin's income was $200 per month. On pay day, after calculating the
amounts due for rent, instalments on furniture and piano, gas, and
bills owed to the florist, confectioner, milliner, tailor, wine
merchant and cab company, the Turpins would find that they still had
$200 left to spend. How to do this is one of the secrets of
The domestic life of the Turpins was a beautiful picture to see. But
you couldn't gaze upon it as you could at an oleograph of "Don't Wake
Grandma," or "Brooklyn by Moonlight."
You had to blink when looked at it; and you heard a fizzing sound just
like the machine with a "scope" at the end of it. Yes; there wasn't
much repose about the picture of the Turpins' domestic life. It was
something like "Spearing Salmon in the Columbia River," or "Japanese
Artillery in Action."
Every day was just like another; as the days are in New York. In the
morning Turpin would take bromo-seltzer, his pocket change from under
the clock, his hat, no breakfast and his departure for the office. At
noon Mrs. Turpin would get out of bed and humour, put on a kimono,
airs, and the water to boil for coffee.
Turpin lunched downtown. He came home at 6 to dress for dinner. They
always dined out. They strayed from the chop-house to chop-sueydom,
from terrace to table d'hôte, from rathskeller to roadhouse, from café
to casino, from Maria's to the Martha Washington. Such is domestic
life in the great city. Your vine is the mistletoe; your fig tree
bears dates. Your household gods are Mercury and John Howard Payne.
For the wedding march you now hear only "Come with the Gypsy Bride."
You rarely dine at the same place twice in succession. You tire of
the food; and, besides, you want to give them time for the question of
that souvenir silver sugar bowl to blow over.
The Turpins were therefore happy. They made many warm and delightful
friends, some of whom they remembered the next day. Their home life
was an ideal one, according to the rules and regulations of the Book
There came a time when it dawned upon Turpin that his wife was getting
away with too much money. If you belong to the near-swell class in the
Big City, and your income is $200 per month, and you find at the end
of the month, after looking over the bills for current expenses, that
you, yourself, have spent $150, you very naturally wonder what has
become of the other $50. So you suspect your wife. And perhaps you
give her a hint that something needs explanation.
"I say, Vivien," said Turpin, one afternoon when they were enjoying in
rapt silence the peace and quiet of their cozy apartment, "you've been
creating a hiatus big enough for a dog to crawl through in this
month's honorarium. You haven't been paying your dressmaker
anything on account, have you?"
There was a moment's silence. No sounds could be heard except the
breathing of the fox terrier, and the subdued, monotonous sizzling of
Vivien's fulvous locks against the insensate curling irons. Claude
Turpin, sitting upon a pillow that he had thoughtfully placed upon the
convolutions of the apartment sofa, narrowly watched the riante,
lovely face of his wife.
"Claudie, dear," said she, touching her finger to her ruby tongue and
testing the unresponsive curling irons, "you do me an injustice. Mme.
Toinette has not seen a cent of mine since the day you paid your
tailor ten dollars on account."
Turpin's suspicions were allayed for the time. But one day soon there
came an anonymous letter to him that read:
"Watch your wife. She is blowing in your money secretly. I was
a sufferer just as you are. The place is No. 345 Blank Street.
A word to the wise, etc.
A MAN WHO KNOWS"
Turpin took this letter to the captain of police of the precinct that
he lived in.
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