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Santa Fe's Partner - Being Some Memorials of Events in a New-Mexican Track-end Town
by Thomas A. Janvier
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Hart was waiting at the deepo, on the chance his aunt would come in on the coach; and when she saw him she give a little squeal, she was so pleased, and hopped down in no time off the box—she was as brisk as a bee in her doings—and took to hugging him and half crying over him just like he was a little boy.

"Oh, William," she said, "I am so happy getting to you! And I'm happier'n I expected to be, finding out how quiet and respectable Palomitas is—not a bit what your letters made me think it was—and such real good people living in it, and everything but the queer country and the queer mud houses just like it is at home. Mr. Hill has been telling me all about it, coming over, and about this new church you're building that you gave the lot for. To think you've never told me! Oh, William, I am so glad and so thankful that out here in this wild region you've kept serious-minded and are turning out such a good man!"

Hart looked so mixed up over the way his aunt was talking, and so sort of hopeless, that Hill cut in quick and give him a lift. "He's not much at blowing about himself, your nephew ain't, ma'am," Hill said. "Why, he not only give the land for the church over there"—and Hill pointed at the freight-house, so Hart could ketch on—"but it was him got the Company to lay them temp'ry tracks, so the building stuff could be took right in. He's going to give a melodeon, too."

"Dear William!" Hart's aunt said. "It rejoices my heart you're doing all these good deeds—and all the others Mr. Hill's been telling me about. I must kiss you again."

"Oh, what I've done ain't nothing," Hart said, pulling himself together while she was kissing him. "Land's cheap, cheap as it can be, out here; and I give the Company such a lot of freight they're more'n willing to oblige me; and as to the melodeon—"

Hart sort of gagged when he got to the melodeon, and Santa Fe Charley—who'd come up while they all was talking away together—reached across the table and played his hand. "As to the melodeon, Mr. Hart," Santa Fe put in, "you said that being in business you could get it at a discount off. But that does not appreciably lessen your generosity, Mr. Hart; and your aunt"—Santa Fe took off his hat and bowed handsome—"is justified in taking pride in your good deeds. I am glad to tell her that in her nephew our struggling church has its stanchest pillar and its strongest stay."

"Yes, that's the way it is about the melodeon, Aunt Maria," Hart said, kind of weak and mournful. "Being in business, I get melodeons at such a discount off that giving 'em away ain't nothing to me at all. And now I guess we'd better be getting along home. It's a mighty mean home to take you to, Aunt Maria; but there's one comfort—as you'll find out when I get the chance to talk to you—you won't have to stay in it long."

There was a lot of the boys standing round on the deepo platform watching the show, and they all took their hats off respectful—following the lead Santa Fe give 'em—as Hart started away up the track, to where his store was, with his aunt on his arm. The town looked like some place East keeping Sunday: the Committee having talked strong as to what they'd do if things wasn't quiet, and having rounded up—and coralled in a back room Denver Jones lent the use of—the few who'd got drunk as usual because they had to, and so had to be took care of that way. It was a June evening, and the sun about setting; and somehow it all was so sort of peaceful and uncommon—with everybody in sight sober, and no fighting anywhere, and that little old lady going along, believing Palomitas was like that always, instead of the hell on earth it was—some of us more'n half believed we'd gone to sleep and got stuck in a dream.

Things was made dreamier by the looks and doings of the Sage-Brush Hen. She was the only lady of the town, the Hen was, who took part in the ceremonies—and likely it was just about as well, for the sake of keeping clear of surprises, the rest of 'em laid low. As Hart and his aunt went off together up the track, the Hen showed up coming along down it; and she was dressed that pretty and quiet—in the plainest sort of a white frock, and wearing a white sun-bonnet—and was looking so demure, like she could when she'd a mind to, nobody knowed at first who she was.

"Being the minister's wife, I've been taking the liberty, Mr. Hart," she said, smiling pleasant, when the three of 'em come together on the track, "of looking around a little up at your place to see that everything has been fixed for your company the way it should be." (She hadn't been nowheres near Hart's place, it turned out—but Gospel truth wasn't just what there was most of that day in Palomitas.) She went right on down the track without stopping, passing on Hart's side, and saying to him: "My husband expects you as usual at the Friendly Aid meeting to-morrow evening, Mr. Hart. We never seem half to get along, you know, when you're not there."

Hart's aunt give a little jump, and said: "Why, William, that must be Mrs. Charles, the minister's wife. What a pleasant-spoken lady she is! We met her husband just as we were driving into town."

Hart said he come pretty near saying back to her, "The hell you did!"—Hart talked that careless way, sometimes—but he said he pulled up before it got out, and all he did say was, "Oh!"

"She must be at the head of the Dorcas Society that Mr. Hill was telling me about," Hart's aunt went on; "and like enough she manages the kindergarten, too. I suppose, William, it's not surprising you haven't said anything in your letters about the Dorcas Society—for all you were so liberal in helping it—but I do think you might have told me about the kindergarten, knowing what a hobby of mine kindergartens are. I want to go and see it to-morrow morning, the first thing."

"It's—it's not in running order just now," Hart said. "Most of the children was took sick with the influenza last week, and there's whooping-cough and measles about, and so the school committee closed it down. And they had to stop, anyway, because they're going to put a new roof on. I guess it won't blow in again for about a month—or maybe more. In fact, I don't know—you see, it wasn't managed well, and got real down unpopular—if it'll blow in again at all. I'm sorry you won't be able to get to it, Aunt Maria. Maybe it'll be running if you happen to come out again next year."

"Why, how queer that is, William!" Hart's aunt said. "Mr. Hill told me it was the best kindergarten in New Mexico. But of course you know. Anyhow, I can see the schoolroom and the school fixtures, and Mrs. Charles can tell me about it when I go to the Dorcas Society—and that'll do most as well. Of course I must get to the Dorcas Society. Mrs. Charles will take me, I'm sure. It meets, Mr. Hill says, every Thursday afternoon."

"Did he say where it was meeting now?" Hart asked. He was getting about desperate, he told Cherry afterwards; and what he wanted most was a chance to mash Hill's fool head for putting him in such a lot of holes.

"Of course he did, William," said Hart's aunt; "and I'm surprised you have to ask—seeing what an interest you take in the Society, and how you've helped it along. It was just lovely of you to give them all those goods out of your store to make up into clothes."

"That—that wasn't anything to do," Hart said. "What's in the store comes with a big discount—same as melodeons. Sometimes I feel as if I was saving money giving things away."

"You can talk about your generosity just as you please, William," she went on. "I think it's noble of you. And Mr. Hill said that Mrs. Major Rogers—who keeps the Forest Queen Hotel, he said, and lets the Society have a room to meet in for nothing—said it was noble of you, too. I want to get to know Mrs. Major Rogers right off. She must be a very fine woman. She's an officer's widow, Mr. Hill says, and a real lady, for all she makes her living keeping a hotel out here on the frontier. If she's a bit like that sweet-looking Mrs. Charles I know we'll get along. I'm surprised, William, you've never told me what pleasant ladies live here. It must make all the difference in the world. Don't you think it would do for me not to be formal, but just to go to Mrs. Major Rogers' hotel to-morrow and call?"

"I guess—well, I guess you hadn't better go right off the first thing in the morning, Aunt Maria," Hart said. Thinking of his aunt going calling at the Forest Queen and running up against Tenderfoot Sal, he said, gave him the regular cold shakes. "And come to think of it," he said, "it's no use your going to-morrow at all. Mrs.—Mrs. Major Rogers, as I happen to know, went up to Denver yesterday; and she won't be back, she told me, before some time on in the end of next week—likely as not, she said, she wouldn't come then."

By that time they'd got along to Hart's store, and Hart said: "Here's where I live, Aunt Maria. You see what sort of a place it is. But I've done my best to fix things for you as well as I know how. Come right along in—and when we've had supper we've got to have a talk."

* * * * *

Along about ten o'clock that night Hart come down to the Forest Queen looking pale and haggard, and he was that broke up he had to get three drinks in him before he could say a word. Everybody was so interested, wanting to hear what he had to tell 'em, he didn't need to ask to have the game stopped—it just stopped of its own accord.

When he'd had his third drink, and was beginning to feel better, he said he couldn't thank everybody enough for the way they'd behaved; and that his aunt had gone to bed tired out; and he'd been talking with her steady for two hours getting things settled; and she'd ended by agreeing she'd start back East with him the next night—he having made out he'd smash in his business if he waited a minute longer—and they was going by the Denver train. And he'd got her fixed he said, so she'd keep quiet through the morning—as she was going right at mending his stockings and things the first thing when she got up; and after that she was full of getting to work with canned peaches and making him a pie.

"But what's going to happen in the afternoon," he said, "the Lord only knows! That blasted fool of a Ben Hill"—Hart spoke just that bitter way about it—"hasn't had no more sense 'n to go and tell her this town's full of kindergartens, and she's so worked up there's no holding her, as kindergartens happens to be the fullest hand she holds. I've allowed we have one—things being as they was, I had to—but I've told her it's out of order, and the children laid up with whooping-cough, and the teacher sick a-bed, and the outfit damaged by a fire we had, and—and the Lord knows what I haven't told her about the damn thing." (Hart was that nervous he couldn't help speaking that way.) "But all I've said hasn't made no difference. She's just dead set on getting to what's left of that kindergarten, and I can't budge her. See it she will, she says; and I guess the upshot of Hill's chuckle-headed talk'll be to waste all the trouble we've took by landing us in the biggest give-away that ever was!" And Hart called for another drink, and had to set down to take it—looking pale.

All the boys felt terrible bad about the hole Hart was in; and they felt worse because none of 'em hadn't no notion what a kindergarten did—when it did anything—and that made 'em more ashamed Palomitas hadn't one to show. Only Becker—Becker'd happened to come over from Santa Cruz that night—sized it up right; and Becker shook his head sort of dismal and said there wasn't no use even thinking about it—and that looked like a settler, because Becker seemed to know. Nobody didn't say nothing for a minute or two; and then Ike Williams spoke up—he was the boss carpenter on the freight-house job, Ike was—and said if what was wanted could be made out of boards, and made in a hurry, he'd lay off the freight-house gang the next morning and engage to have one ready by noon.

Santa Fe Charley'd been sitting still thinking, not saying a word. He let out a big cuss—and Charley wasn't given to cussing—when Ike made his offer; and then he banged his hand down on the table so hard he set the chips to flying, and he said: "Mr. Hart, don't you worry—we're going to put this job through!"

Everybody jumped up at that—some of 'em scrambling for the dropped chips—asking Santa Fe what he meant to do. But Charley wouldn't answer 'em. "Just you trust to Ike and me, Bill," he said. "We'll fix your kindergarten all right—only you keep on telling your aunt it ain't a good one, and how most of it got burned up in the fire. It's luck you let on to her there'd been a fire—that makes it as easy as rolling off a log. All you've got to do is to bring her down here at four o'clock to-morrow afternoon—you'd better till then keep her in the house, mending you up and making you all the pies she has a mind to—and when she gets here the kindergarten'll be here, too!"

"Bring her here—to the Forest Queen?" Hart said, speaking doubtful.

"Bring her here—right here to the Forest Queen," Santa Fe said back to him. "You know pretty well I do things when I say I'll do 'em—and this thing'll be done! Come to think of it," he said, "maybe it'll be better if I go to your place and fetch her along myself. It'll help if I do a little talking to her on the way down. Yes, we'll fix it that way. You and she be ready at four o'clock, and I'll come for you. That'll give her an hour here, and an hour to go home and eat her supper—and that'll get us to train-time, and then the circus'll close down. Now you go home and go to bed, Bill. You're all beat out. Just you leave things to Ike and me and go right home."

Charley wouldn't say another word—so Hart had one more drink, for luck, and then he went home. He looked real relieved.

When Santa Fe went to Hart's place, next afternoon, he had on his best black clothes, with a clean shirt and a fresh white tie; and he was that serious-looking you'd have sized him up for a sure-enough fire-escape anywhere on sight. Hart hadn't had no trouble, it turned out, keeping his aunt to home—she'd been working double tides ever since she got up, he said, making him things to eat and fussing over his clothes. They was all ready when Santa Fe come along, and the three of 'em stepped off down the track together—Hart having his aunt on his arm, and Santa Fe walking on ahead over the ties. Most of the boys was standing about watching the procession; but the girls—the Hen, likely, having told 'em to—was keeping on keeping quiet, and got what they could of it peeping through chinks in the windows and doors.

"Why, where are all the ladies, Mr. Charles?" Hart's aunt asked. "Except that sweet young wife of yours, it's just the mortal truth I haven't seen a single lady since I came into this town!"

"They usually keep in-doors at this time of day, madam," Charley said. "They're attending to their domestic duties—and—and most of them, about now, are wont to be enjoying the tenderest happiness of motherhood in nursing their little babes."

"It's very creditable they're such good housewives, I'm sure," said Hart's aunt; "only I do wish I could have met some of 'em and had a good dish of talk. But we'll be finding your wife at the kindergarten, I s'pose, and I'll have the pleasure of a talk with her. I've been looking forward all day to meeting her, Mr. Charles. She has one of the very sweetest faces I ever saw."

"I deeply regret to tell you, madam," said Santa Fe, "that my wife was called away suddenly last evening by a telegram. She had no choice in the matter. Her call was to minister to a sick relative in Denver, and of course she left immediately on the night train. Her disappointment at not meeting you was great. She had set her heart on showing you over our poor, half-ruined kindergarten—the fire did fearful damage—but her duty was too manifest to be ignored, and she had to leave that pleasant task to me."

"Now that is just too bad!" said Hart's aunt. "At least, Mr. Charles, I don't mean that exactly. It's very kind of you to take her place, and I'm delighted to have you. But I did so like your wife's looks, and I've been hoping she and I really'd have a chance to get to be friends."

That brought 'em to the Forest Queen, and Charley was more'n glad he was let out from making more excuses why his wife had shook her kindergarten job so sudden. "Here we are," he said. "But I must warn you again, madam, that our little kindergarten is only the ghost of what it was before the fire. We are hoping to get a new outfit shortly. On the very morning after the disaster a subscription was started—your nephew, as always, leading in the good work—and that afternoon we telegraphed East our order for fresh supplies. By the time that the epidemic of whooping-cough has abated—I am glad to say that all the children are doing well—we trust that our flock of little ones again can troop gladly to receive the elementary instruction that they delight in, and that my wife delights to impart."

"Why," said Hart's aunt, "the kindergarten's in Mrs. Major Rogers' hotel—the Forest Queen!"

"After the fire, Mrs. Major Rogers most kindly gave us the free use of one of her largest rooms," Santa Fe said; "and we are installed here until our own building can be repaired. I have spared you the sight, madam, of that melancholy ruin. I confess that when I look at it the tears come into my eyes."

"I don't wonder, I'm sure," said Hart's aunt. "I think I'd cry over it myself. But what a real down good woman Mrs. Major Rogers must be! Mr. Hill told me she gives the Dorcas Society the use of a room, too."

"She is a noble, high-toned lady, madam," Santa Fe said. "Since her cruel bereavement she has devoted to good works all the time that she can spare from the arduous duties by which she wins her livelihood. Words fail me to say enough in her praise! Come right in, madam—but be prepared for a sad surprise!"

Hart said he didn't know how much surprised his aunt was—but he said when he got inside the Forest Queen, into the bar-room where Charley's faro layout usually was, he was so surprised himself he felt as if he'd been kicked by a mule!

There was the little tables for drinks, right enough; and out of the way in a corner with a cloth over it, same as usual, was the wheel. (It was used so little, the wheel was—nobody but Mexicans, now and then, caring for it—Santa Fe owned up afterwards he'd forgot it clean!) That much of the place was just as it always was; and the big table, taking up half the room, looked so natural—with the chairs up to it, and layouts of chips at all the places—that Hart was beginning to think Santa Fe was setting up a rig on him: 'till he seen what a lot of queer things besides chips there was on the table—and knowed they wasn't no game layout, and so sized 'em up to be what Charley'd scrambled together when he set out to play his kindergarten hand. And when he noticed the bar was curtained off by sheets he said he stopped worrying—feeling dead certain Charley'd dealt himself all the aces he needed to take him through.

"You don't need to be told, madam, being such an authority on kindergartens," said Santa Fe, "how inadequate is our little outfit for educational purposes. But you must remember that the fire destroyed almost everything, and that we have merely improvised what will serve our purposes until the new supply arrives. We succeeded in saving from the conflagration our large table, and our chairs, and most of the small tables—used by individual children having backward intellects and needing especial care. But nearly all of the other appliances of the school were lost to us, and damage was done to much of what we saved. Here, you see, is a little table with only three legs left, the fourth having been burned." And, sure enough, Hart said, Santa Fe turned up one of the little tables for drinks and one of its legs was burnt off! "All of our slates," he went ahead, "similarly were destroyed—and how much depends on slates in a kindergarten you know, madam, better than I do. Here is all that is left of one of them"—and he showed Hart's aunt a bit of burnt wood that looked like it had been part of a slate-frame afore it got afire.

"Dear me! Dear me!" said Hart's aunt. "It's just pitiful, Mr. Charles! I wonder how you can get along at all."

"It is not easy getting along, madam," Santa Fe said. "But we have managed to supply ourselves with a layout—I—that is—I mean we have provided ourselves with some of the simpler articles of most importance; and with these, for the time being, we keep our little pupils' hands and minds not unprofitably employed. For instance, the ivory disks of various colors—which you see arranged upon the table as the pupils have left them—serve very successfully to elucidate the arithmetical processes of numeration, addition, and subtraction; and the more intelligent children are taught to observe that the disks of varying colors are varyingly numbered—white, 1; red, 5, and blue, 10—and so are encouraged to identify a concrete arbitrary figure with an abstract thought."

"That's something new in kindergartening, Mr. Charles," said Hart's aunt; "and it's as good as it can be. I mean to put it right into use in our kindergarten at home. Do you get the disks at the places where they sell kindergarten supplies?"

"Really, madam, I cannot tell you," Santa Fe said. "You see, we ordered what would be needed through an agent East, and these came along. I must warn you, however, that they are expensive," Hart said, remembering what them chips had cost him, one time and another, he allowed to himself Charley was right and they was about as expensive as they could be!

"Our other little appliances, madam," Santa Fe went on, "are just our own makeshift imitations of what you are familiar with—building-blocks, and alphabet-blocks, and dissected pictures, and that sort of thing. Our local carpenter made the blocks for us, and we put on the lettering ourselves—as, indeed, its poor quality shows. The dissected pictures I am rather proud of, because Mrs. Charles may be said to have invented them." (It really was the Hen who'd made 'em, it turned out.) "The method is simple enough when you have thought of it, of course—and no doubt I value my wife's work unduly because I take so much pride in all that she does. You see, she just pasted pictures from the illustrated papers on boards; and then Mr. Williams—our carpenter, you know—sawed the boards into little pieces. And there you are!"

"Now that was bright of her!" said Hart's aunt. "If you don't mind, I'll put one of the pictures together myself right now. I want to see how it looks, made that home-fashioned way."

"I fear that our time is getting a little short, madam," said Santa Fe, in a hurry. "I've got my sermon to finish this afternoon, and I must be going in a few minutes now." The fact of the matter was he had to call her off quick. It seems the Hen hadn't had anything but Police Gazettes to work on—and while the bits looked all right jumbled up, being put together they wouldn't have suited nohow at all.

"Of course I mustn't keep you," said Hart's aunt. "You've been more than kind, Mr. Charles, to give me so much of your valuable time as it is. I'm just like a child myself, wanting to play with dissected pictures that way! But I must say that her making them is a thing for your wife to be proud of—and I hope you'll tell her so for me."

"I guess we'd better be going now, Aunt Maria," Hart said. "Mr. Charles has his sermon to write, you know, and I want you to have time to eat your supper comfortable before we start down to the train."

"I do suppose we must go," said Hart's aunt. "But I hate to, William, and that's a fact! Just because it's so make-shifty, this is the most interesting kindergarten I've ever been in. When I get home I shall really and truly enjoy telling the folks about it. And I know how pleased they'll be, the same as I am, by finding what earnest-working men and women can do—out here in this rough country—with so little to go on but their wits and their own good hearts!"

And then she faced round sudden on Santa Fe and said: "I see you have your table covered with green, Mr. Charles. What's that for? You've so many good notions about kindergartens that I'd like to know."

"Well, you see, madam, that green cover is a—it's a sort of—" Charley went slow for a minute, and then got a-hold of the card he wanted and put it down as smooth as you please. "That is an invention, madam," he said, "of my good wife's, too. Out here, where the sun is so violent, she said we must have a green cover on the table or the glare would be ruining all our dear little innocent children's eyes. And it has worked, madam, to a charm! Some of the children who had bad eyes to start with actually have got well!"

"Well, I do declare!" said Hart's aunt.

"That wife of yours thinks so sensible she just beats all!"

Santa Fe give Hart a look as much as to say he'd got to get his aunt away somehow—seeing she was liable to break out a'most anywheres, and he'd stood about all he could stand. Hart allowed what Charley wanted was reasonable, and he just grabbed her by the arm and begun to lug her to the door. But she managed to give Santa Fe one more jolt, and a bad one, before she was gone.

"I haven't seen what this is," she said; and she broke off from Hart and went to where the wheel was standing covered up in the corner. "I s'pose I may look at it, Mr. Charles?" she said—and before either of 'em could get a-hold of her to stop her she had off the cloth. "For the land's sake!" she said. "Whatever part of a kindergarten have you got here?"

Hart said afterwards his heart went down into his boots, being sure they'd got to a give-away of the worst sort. Santa Fe said he felt that way for a minute himself; then he said he ciphered on it that Hart's aunt likely wouldn't know what she'd struck—and he braced up and went ahead on that chance.

"Ah," he said—speaking just as cool as if he was calling the deal right among friends at his own table—"that is one of the new German kindergarten appliances that even you, madam, may not have seen. We received it as a present from a rich German merchant in Pueblo, who was grieved by our pitiable plight and wanted to do what he could to help us after the fire."

"But what in the name of common-sense," said Hart's aunt, "do you do with it—with all those numbers around in circles, and that little ball?"



Charley had himself in good shape by that time, and he put down his words as sure as if they was aces—with more, if needed, up his sleeve. "It is used by our most advanced class in arithmetic, madam," he said. "The mechanism, you will observe, is arranged to revolve"—he set it a-going—"in such a way that the small sphere also is put in motion. And as the motion ceases"—it was slowing down to a stop—"the sphere comes to rest on one of the numbers painted legibly on either a black or a red ground. The children, seated around the table, are provided with the numerating disks to which I have already called your attention; and—with a varying rapidity, regulated by their individual intelligence—they severally, as promptly as possible, arrange their disks in piles corresponding with the number indicated by the purely fortuitous resting-place of the sphere. The purpose of this ingenious contrivance, as I scarcely need to point out to you, is to combine the amusement of a species of game with the mental stimulus that the rapid computation of figures imparts. I may add that we arouse a desirable spirit of emulation among our little ones by providing that the child who first correctly arranges his disks to represent the indicated figure is given—until the game is concluded—the disks of the children whose calculation has been slow, or at fault."

"Well, of all things in the world, Mr. Charles," said Hart's aunt, "to think of my finding such a good thing as this out here in New Mexico—when I've time and again been over the best kindergarten-supply places in Boston, and have been reading all I could lay my hands on about kindergartens for twenty years!"

"Oh, we do try not to be too primitive out here, madam," said Santa Fe, taking a long breath over having got through all right; "and I am even vain enough to think that perhaps we manage to keep pretty well up with the times. But I must say that it is a pleasant surprise to me to find that I have been able to give more than one point to a lady like you, who knows every card—I should say, to whom kindergarten processes are so exceptionally well known.

"And now I really must beg your permission to leave you, that I may return to my sermon. I give much time to my sermons; and I am cheered by the conviction—you must not think me boastful—that it is time well employed. When I look around me and perceive the lawless, and even outrageous, conditions which obtain in so many other towns in the Territory, and contrast them with the orderly rectitude of Palomitas, I rejoice that my humble toil in the vineyard has brought so rich a reward. I deeply regret, madam, that your present stay with us must be so short; and with an equal earnestness I hope that it may be my privilege soon again to welcome you to our happy little town."

Hart's aunt—she was just pleased all over—was beginning to make a speech back to him; but Santa Fe looked so wore out Hart didn't give her the chance to go on. He just grabbed her, and got her away in a hurry—and Charley went to fussing with the cover of the wheel, putting it on again, so she couldn't get at him to shake hands for good-bye. He said afterwards he felt that weak, when he fairly was shut of her, all he could do was to flop down into a chair anyway and sing out to Blister Mike to come and get the sheets off the bar quick and give him his own bottle of Bourbon and a tumbler. And he said he never took so many drinks, one right on top of another, since he was born!

There was more'n the usual crowd down at the deepo that night when the Denver train pulled out—with Hart's aunt in the Pullman, and Hart standing on the Pullman platform telling the boys up to the last minute how much he was obliged.

Things went that same Sunday-school way right on to the end of the game; and Hart said his aunt told him—as they was coming along down to the deepo—she never would a-believed there could be such a town as Palomitas was, out in that wild frontier country, if she hadn't seen it with her own eyes. As to the ladies of the town, he said she told him they certainly was the most domestic she'd ever known!

Hart was so grateful—and he had a right to be—he left a hunderd dollars with Tenderfoot Sal and told her to blow off the town for him that night by running a free bar. Sal done it, right enough—and that turned out to be about the hottest night Palomitas ever had. Most of the trouble was in the dance-hall, where it was apt to be, and had its start, as it did generally, right around the Sage-Brush Hen: who kept on being dressed up in her white frock and wearing her white sun-bonnet, and looked as demure as a cotton-tail rabbit, and cut up so reckless I reckon she about made a record for carryings on! Santa Fe had to fix one feller because of her—shooting him like he was used to, through his pants-pocket—and more'n a dozen got hurt in the ordinary way.

Some of the shooting didn't seem quite as if it was needed; but it was allowed afterwards—even if there hadn't been no free bar—there was excuse for it: seeing the town was all strung up and had to work itself off. Santa Fe, of course, had more excuse than anybody, being most strung-upest. Bluffing his way through that kindergarten game, he said, was the biggest strain he'd ever had. But he didn't mind what trouble he'd took, he said, seeing he'd got Hart out of his hole by taking it; and he looked real pleased when Hill spoke up—just about voicing what all the rest of us was thinking—saying he was ready, after the way he'd played his kindergarten hand, to put his pile on Santa Fe Charley to make iced drinks in hell!

Of course Hill oughtn't to have spoke like that. But allowances was to be made for Hill—owing to the ways he'd got into driving mules.



V

BOSTON'S LION-HUNT

As I've said, folks in Palomitas mostly got for names what happened to come handiest and fitted. Likely that dude's cuffs was marked with something he was knowed by; but as most of us wasn't particular what his cuffs was marked, or him either, we just called him Boston—after the town he made out he belonged to—and let it go at that. Big game was what he said he was looking for: and Santa Fe Charley, with Shorty Smith and others helping, saw to it he got all he wanted and some over—but I reckon the exercises would a-been less spirited if the Sage-Brush Hen hadn't chipped in and played a full hand.

He was one of the sporting kind, Boston was, that turned up frequent in the Territory in them days. Most of 'em was friends of officers at some of the posts, with a sprinkling throwed in of sons and nephews of directors of the road. Big game was what they all made out they come for; and they was apt to have about as much use for big game—when they happened to find any—as a cat has for two tails. But they seemed to enjoy letting off ca'tridges—and used to buy what skins was in the market to take home.

Boston turned out to be a nephew—nephews was apt to be worse'n sons for stuck-upness—and he come in one morning in a private car hitched onto the Denver train. He had a colored man along to cook and clean his guns for him—he had more things to shoot with, and of more shapes and sizes, than you ever seen in one place outside of a gun-store—and he was dressed that nice in green corduroys, with new-fangled knives and hunting fixings hanging all over him like he was a Christmas-tree, he might have hired out for a show. He wasn't a bad set-up young feller; but with them green clothes on, and being clean shaved and wearing eye-glasses, he did look just about what he truly was.

Wood had a wire a director's nephew was coming—he was the agent, Wood was—and orders to side-track his car and see he was took care of; and of course Wood passed the word along to the rest of us what sort of a game was on. But he begged so hard, Wood did, the town would hold itself in—saying if rigs was put up on a director's nephew he was dead sure to lose his job—we all allowed we'd give the young feller a day or two to turn round in, anyway; and we promised Wood—who was liked—we'd let the critter get through his hunting picnic without putting up no rigs on him if he made any sort of a show of knowing how to behave. Howsomedever, he didn't—and things started up, and nobody but Boston himself to blame for it, that very first night over in the bar-room at the Forest Queen.

He had Wood in to supper with him in his car, Boston did, the darky cooking it; and Wood said—except it begun with their having pickled green plums, and some sort of messed-up stuff that tasted like spoilt salt fish and made him feel sickish—it was the best supper he ever eat. Each of 'em had a bottle of iced wine, he said; and he said they topped off with coffee that only wanted milk to make it a real wonder, and a drink like rock-and-rye, but chalks better, and such seegars as he'd never smoked in his born days.

All the time they was hashing—and Wood said he reckoned they was at it a'most a full hour—Boston kept a-telling what a hell of a one (that was the sort of careless way Wood put it) he was at big-game hunting; but Wood judged—taking all his talk together—the only thing he'd ever really shot bigger'n a duck or a pa'tridge was a deer the dogs had chased into a pond for him so it hadn't no chance. But it wasn't none of Wood's business to stop a director's nephew from blowing if he felt like it, and so he just let him fan away. Bears wasn't bad sport, he said, and he didn't mind filling in time with 'em if he couldn't get nothing better; but what he'd come to Palomitas for 'special, he said, was mountain-lions—he seemed to have it in his head he'd find 'em walking all over the place, same as cats—and he wanted to know if any'd lately been seen.

Wood told him them animals wasn't met with frequent in them parts (and they wasn't, for a fact, and hadn't been for about a hunderd years, likely) and maybe he'd do better to set his mind on jack-rabbits—which there was enough of out in the sage-brush, Wood told him, to load his car. And then he looked so real down disappointed, seeming to think jack-rabbits wasn't anyways satisfactory, Wood said he told him there was chances some of the boys over at the Forest Queen—they being all the time out in the mountains looking for prospects—might put him on to finding a bear, anyway; and it wouldn't do no harm to go across to the Queen and ask. And so over the both of 'em come.

It was Wood's mistake bringing that green-corduroyed pill right in among the boys without giving notice, and Wood owned up it was later—allowing he'd a-been more careful if the rock-and-rye stuff on top of the wine, not being used to either of 'em, hadn't loaded him more'n he knowed about at the time. Boston didn't seem to be much loaded, likely having the habit of taking such drinks and so being able to carry 'em; but he was that high-horsey—putting on his eye-glasses and staring 'round the place same as if he'd struck a menagerie and the boys was beasts in cages—all hands was set spiteful to him right off.

Things was running about as usual at the Queen: most of the boys setting around the table and Santa Fe dealing; a few of 'em standing back of the others looking on; two or three getting drinks at the bar and talking to Blister; and the girls kicking their heels on the benches, waiting till it come time to start up dancing in the other room. The only touch out of the common was the way the Sage-Brush Hen had fixed herself—she being rigged up in the same white duds she'd wore when Hart's aunt come to town, and looking so real cute and pretty in 'em, and acting demure to suit, nobody'd ever a-sized her for the gay old licketty-split Hen she was.



It was between deals when Wood and Boston come in, and Santa Fe got up from the table and crossed over to 'em—Charley always was that polite you'd a-thought he was a fish-hook with pants on—and told Boston he hoped he seen him well, and was glad he'd come along. Then Wood told how he was after mountain-lions, and wasn't likely to get none; and Charley owned up they was few, and what there was of 'em was so sort of scattered the chances for finding 'em was poor.

Boston didn't say much of nothing at first, seeming to be took up with trying to make out where Santa Fe belonged to—hitching on his eye-glasses and looking him over careful, but only getting puzzleder the more he stared. You see, Charley—in them black clothes and a white tie on—looked for certain sure like he was a minister; and there he was getting up red-hot from dealing faro, and having on each side of where he set at the table a forty-five gun. It was more of a mix-up than Boston could manage, and you could see he didn't know where he was at. Howsomedever, Wood had told him he'd better make out to be friendly, and take just what happened to come along without asking no questions; and I reckon the shoat really meant, as well as he knowed how to, to do what he was told. So he give up trying to size Santa Fe, and said back to him he was obliged and was feeling hearty; and then he took to grinning, like as if he wanted to make things pleasant, and says: "Really, I am very much interested in my surroundings. This place has quite the air of being a barbarian Monte Carlo. It really has, you know."

That was a non-plusser for Charley—and Santa Fe wasn't non-plustered often, and didn't like it when he was—but he pulled himself together and put down what cards he had: telling Boston monte was a game he sometimes played with friends for amusement—which was the everlasting truth, only the friends mostly was less amused than he was—and he'd had a dog named Carlo, he said, when he was a boy.

Boston seemed to think that was funny, and took to snickering sort of superior. He was about a full dose for uppishness, that young feller was: going on as if he'd bought the Territory, and as if the folks in it was the peones he'd took over—Mexican fashion—along with the land. Then he said he guessed Santa Fe did not ketch his meaning, and Monte Carlo was the biggest gambling hell there was.

Being in the business, Santa Fe was apt to get peevish when anybody took to talking about gambling; and Boston's throwing in hell on top of it that way was more'n he cared to stand. He didn't let on—at least not so the fool could see it—his dander was started, setting on himself being one of the things his work trained him to; but the boys noticed he begun to get palish up at the top of his forehead—where there was a white streak between his hair and where his hat come—and all hands knowed that for a bad sign. Boston, of course—being strangers with him—didn't know what Charley's signs was; and he just kept on a-talking as fresh as his green clothes.

"Not less psychologically than sociologically," says he, "is it interesting to find in this slum of the wilderness the degenerate Old-World vices in crude New-World garb. Here," says he, jerking his head across to the table, "is a coarse reproduction of Monaco's essence; and there, I observe, are other repulsive features equally coarse"—and he jerked his head over to where Shorty Smith was setting up drinks for Carrots at the bar.

"If you dare to say one word more about my features, young man," says Carrots—having a pug-nose, Carrots was techy about her features; and she had a temper the same color as her hair—"I'll smack you in the mouth!"

"And Oi'll smack your whole domn head off!" put in Blister Mike. "D'you think Oi'm going to have ladies drinking at my bar insulted by slush like you?" And Blister reached down to where he kept it among the tumblers to get his gun.

It looked as if there was going to be a ruction right off. There was Carrots red-hotter than her hair; and Blister, who was special friends with Carrots, shooting mad at having anybody sassing her; and Santa Fe's forehead getting whiter and whiter; and all hands on their hind legs at having Palomitas called a slum of the wilderness—and likely worse things said about the place in words nobody'd ever heard tell of longer'n your arm. The only one keeping quiet was Wood. He was sure, Wood was, trouble was coming beyond his stopping; and as he knowed which side his bread was buttered, and how he'd be fired from his job if things happened to go serious, he just went and sat down in a corner and swore to himself sorrowful, and was about the miserablest-looking man you ever seen alive. I guess it was more'n anything else being pitiful for Wood made things take the turn they did when the Sage-Brush Hen come into the game.

"Now you all hear me!" the Hen sung out sudden—and as the Hen wasn't much given to no such public speaking, and the boys was used to doing quick what she wanted when she asked for it, everybody stopped talking and Blister put his gun down on the bar. Most of us, I reckon, had a feeling the Hen was going to let things out in some queer way she'd thought of in that funny head of hers—same as she'd done other times when matters was getting serious—and we all was ready to help her with any skylarking she was up to that would put a stop to the rumpus and so get Wood out of his hole. As for Boston—being too much of a fool to know what he'd done to start such a racket—he was all mazed-up by it: staring straight ahead of him like a horse with staggers, and looking like he wished he'd never been born.

"You all hear me, I tell you!" says the Hen, taking a-hold of Boston's arm sort of motherly. "While I am the school-teacher in Palomitas I shall not permit you boys to play your pranks on strangers; and 'specially not on this gentleman—whom I claim as a friend of mine because we both come from the same dear old town."

That was the first time anybody'd ever heard the Hen wasn't hatched-out in Kansas City. But it didn't seem as if calling her hand would be gentlemanly, so nobody said nothing; and off she went again—talking this time to Boston, but winking the eye away from him at the boys.

"It is merely a joke, sir," says the Hen, "that these young men are playing on you—and as silly a joke as silly can be. Sometimes, in spite of my most earnest efforts to stop them, they will go on in this foolish way: pretending to be wild and wicked and murderous and all such nonsense, when in reality there is not a single one among them who willingly would hurt a fly. What Miss Mortimer said about smacking you, as I hardly need to explain, was a joke too. Dear Miss Mortimer! She is as full of fun as a kitten, and as sweet and gentle"—Carrots, not seeing what the Hen was driving at, all the time was looking like a red-headed thunder-storm—"as the kindest-hearted kitten that ever was!

"And now, I assure you, sir, this reprehensible practical joking—for which I beg your indulgence—definitely is ended; and I am glad to promise that you will find in evidence, during the remainder of your stay in Palomitas, only the friendliness and the courtesy which truly are the essential characteristics of our seemingly turbulent little town."

The Hen stopped for a minute to get her wind back—which give the boys a chance to study over what they was told they was, and what kind of a town it turned out to be they was living in—and then off she went again, saying: "I beg that you will pardon me, sir, for addressing you so informally, without waiting for an introduction. We do not always stand strictly on etiquette here in Palomitas; and I saw that I had to put my cards down quick—I mean that I had to intervene hurriedly—to save you from being really annoyed. Now that I have cleared up the trifling misunderstanding, I trust satisfactorily, we will go back to where we ought to have started and I will ask Mr. Charles to introduce us." And round she cracked to Santa Fe and says: "Will you be so kind as to introduce my fellow-townsman to me, Mr. Charles?"

Santa Fe had begun to get a little cooled off by that time; and, like as not—it was a wonder the way them two passed cards to each other—the Hen give him some sort of a look that made him suspicion what her game was. Anyway, into it he come—saying to Boston, talking high-toned and polite like he knowed how to: "I have much pleasure, sir, in presenting you to Miss Sage, who is Palomitas's idol—and a near relative, as you may be interested in knowing, of the eminent Eastern capitalist of the same name. As she herself has mentioned, Miss Sage is our school-teacher; but her modest cheek would be suffused with blushes were I to tell you how much more she is to us—how broadly her generous nature prompts her to construe her duties as the instructress of innocent youth. Only a moment ago you had an opportunity for observing that her word is our law paramount. I am within bounds in saying, sir, that in Palomitas she is universally adored."

"Oh, Mr. Charles! How can you!" says the Hen, kind of turning away and looking as if what Charley'd said really had made her feel like blushing a little. Then she faced round again and shook hands with Boston—who was so rattled he seemed only about half awake, and done it like a pump—and says to him: "Mr. Charles is a born flatterer if ever there was one, sir, and you must pay no attention whatever to his extravagant words. I only try in my poor way, as occasion presents itself"—she let her voice drop down so it went sort of soft and ketchy—"to mollify some of the harsher asperities of our youthfully strenuous community; to apply, as it were, the touchstone of Boston social standards—the standards that you and I, sir, recognize—to the sometimes too rough ways of our rough little frontier settlement. It is true, though, and I am proud to say it, that the boys do like me—of course Mr. Charles's talk about my being an idol and adored is only his nonsense; and it is true that they always are nice about doing what I ask them to do—as they were just now, when they were naughty and I had to make them behave.

"And now, since the formalities have been attended to and we have been introduced properly, and since you and I are fellow-Bostonians and ought to be friendly"—the Hen give him one of them fetching looks of hers—"you must come over to the bar and have a drink on me. And while we are performing this rite of hospitality," says the Hen—pretending not to see the jump he give—"we can discuss your projected lion-hunt: in which, with your permission, I shall take part." Boston give a bigger jump at that; and the Hen says on to him, sort of explaining matters: "You need not fear that I shall not sustain my end of the adventure. As any of the boys here will tell you, I can handle a forty-five or a Winchester about as well as anybody—and big-game hunting really is my forte. Indeed, I may say—using one of our homely but expressive colloquialisms—that when it comes to lion-hunting I am simply hell!"

Boston seemed to be getting worse and worse mixed while the Hen was rattling her stuff off to him—and I reckon, all things considered, he wasn't to be blamed. He'd got a jolt to start with, when he come in and found what he took to be a preacher dealing faro; and he was worse jolted when his fool-talk—and he not knowing how he'd done it—run him so close up against a shooting-scrape. But the Hen was the limit: she looking and acting like the school-ma'am she said she was, and yet tangled up in a bar-room with a lot of gamblers and such as Kerosene Kate and old Tenderfoot Sal and Carrots—and then bringing the two ends together by talking one minute like he was used to East, and the next one wanting to set up drinks for him and telling him she knowed all there was to know about gun-handling and how at lion-hunting she was just hell! I guess he was more'n half excusable, that young feller was, for looking like he couldn't be counted on for telling for certain on which end of him was his heels!

What he did manage to work out clear in that fool head of his was he had the chance to get the drink he needed, and needed bad, to brace him; so over he come with the Hen to the bar and got it—and it seemed to do him some good. Then Carrots—who'd begun to ketch on a little to what the Hen was after—spoke up and told him it was true what Miss Sage had told him about her kittenishness, and she hadn't meant nothing when she was talking about smacking him; and to show he had no hard feeling, she said, he must have one on her. Then Blister Mike, having sized matters up, chipped in too: saying it would make him feel comfortabler—having done some joking himself by talking the way he did and getting his gun out—if they'd all have one on the bar.

As drinks in Palomitas was sighted for a thousand yards, and carried to kill further, by the time Boston had three of 'em in him—on top of the ones he'd had with Wood at supper—he was loaded enough to be careless about what was happening among the sunspots and ready to take things pretty much as they come along. The boys was ready for what might be coming too: allowing for sure the Hen was getting a circus started, and only waiting to follow suit to the cards she put down.

What was needed, it turned out, was stacked with Shorty Smith; and the Hen sort of picked up Shorty with her eyes and says to him: "Your little boy Gustavus—he is such a dear little fellow, and I do love him so!—was telling me at recess to-day, Mr. Smith, that you saw a lion when you were out in the mountains day before yesterday prospecting. I think that very likely you may have seen the fierce creature even more recently; and perhaps you will have the kindness to tell us"—the Hen winked her off eye at Shorty to show him what was wanted—"where he probably may be found at the present time?"

Some of the boys couldn't help snickering right out when the Hen took to loading up Shorty with little Gustavuses; but Boston didn't notice nothing, and Shorty—who had wits as sharp as pin-points, and could be counted on for what cards was needed in the kind of game the Hen was playing—put down the ace she asked for and never turned a hair.

"Gustavus will be tickled out of his little boots, Miss," says Shorty, "when I tell him how nice you've spoke about him; and I'm much obliged myself. He give it to you straight, the kid did, about that lion. I seen him, all right—and so close up it most scared the life out of me! And you're right, Miss, in thinking I've ketched onto him since—seeing I was a blame sight nearer to him than I wanted to be less'n four hours ago. Yes, ma'am, as I was coming in home to-night from the Canada I struck that animal's tracks in the mud down by the ford back of the deepo—he'd been down to the river for a drink, I reckon—and they was so fresh he couldn't a-been more'n five minutes gone. When I got to thinking what likely might a-happened if I'd come along them five minutes sooner, Miss, I had cold creeps crawling all up and down the spine of my back!"

Them statements of Shorty's set the boys to snickering some more—there not being no ford on the Rio Grande this side of La Chamita, and the wagon-bridge being down back of the deepo where he said his ford was—but Shorty paid no attention, and went on as smooth as if he was speaking a piece he'd got by heart.

"As you know, Miss, being such a hunter," says he—making up what happened to be wanted about lions, same as he'd done about fords—"them animals takes a drink every four hours in the night-time as regular as if they looked at their watches. Likely that feller's bedded just a little way back in the chaparral so's to be handy for his next one; and I reckon if this sport here feels he needs lions"—Shorty give his head a jerk over to Boston—"he'll get one by looking for it right now. But for the Lord's sake, Miss, don't you think of taking a hand in tackling him! He's a most a-terrible big one—the out and out biggest I ever seen. The first thing you knowed about it, he'd a-gulped you down whole!"

"How you do go on, Mr. Smith!" says the Hen, laughing pleasant. "Have you so soon forgotten our hunt together last winter—when I came up and shot the grizzly in the ear just as he had you down and was beginning to claw you? And are you not ashamed of yourself, after that, to say that any lion is too big for me?"

Without stopping for Shorty to strain himself trying to remember that bear-hunt, round she cracked to Boston—giving Shorty and Santa Fe a chance to get in a corner and talk quick in a whisper—and says to him: "We just are in luck! These big old ones are the real fighters, you know. Only a year ago there was a gentleman from the East here on a lion-hunt—it was his first, and he did not seem to know quite how to manage matters—and one of these big fierce ones caught him and finished him. It was very horrible! The dreadful creature sprang on him in the dark and almost squeezed him to death, and then tore him to pieces while he still was alive enough to feel it, and ended by eating so much of him that only a few scraps of him were left to send East to his friends. This one seems to be just that kind. Isn't it splendid! What superb sport we shall have in getting him—you and I!"

What the Hen had to say about the way lions done business—'specially their eating hunters like they was sandwiches on a free-lunch counter—seemed to take some of the load off Boston, and as he got soberer he wasn't so careless as he'd been. From his looks it was judged he was thinking a lion some sizes smaller would be a better fit for him; but he couldn't well say so—with the Hen going on about wanting hers as big as they made 'em—so he took a brace, and sort of swelled himself out, and said the bigger this one was the better he'd be pleased.

"But I cannot permit you, my dear young lady," he says, "to share with me the great danger incident to pursuing so ferocious a creature. I alone must deal with it. To-morrow I shall familiarize myself with the locality where Mr. Smith has found its tracks; and to-morrow night, or the night after—as the weather may determine. Of course nothing can be done in case of rain—I will seek the savage brute in its lair. And then we shall find out"—Boston worked up as much as he could of a grin, but it seemed to come hard and didn't fit well—"which of us shall have the other's skin!"

"Danger for me!" says the Hen, giving him another of them looks of hers. "Just as though I would not be as safe, with a brave man like you to protect me, as I am teaching school! And to-morrow night, indeed! Do you think lions are like dentists—only the other way round about the teeth!" and the Hen laughed hearty—"and you can make appointments with them a week ahead! Why, we must be off, you and I, this very minute! I'll run right round home and get my rifle—and meet you at your car as soon as you've got yours. To think of our having a lion this way almost sitting on the front-door step! It's a chance that won't come again in a thousand years!"

Away the Hen went a-kiting; and, there not being no hole he could see to crawl out of, away went Boston—only the schedule he run on was some miles less to the hour. To make sure he didn't try to side-track, Shorty went with him—leaving Santa Fe to fix matters with the Hen, and do what talking was needed to ring in the boys.

Shorty put through his part in good shape: helping Boston get as many of his guns as he thought was wanted to hunt lions with—which was as many as he could pack along with him—and managing sort of casual to slip out the ca'tridges, so he wouldn't hurt nobody. It turned out Shorty needn't a-been so extry-precautious—but of course he couldn't tell. By the time Shorty had him ready, the Hen come a-hustling up—having finished settling things with Santa Fe—and sung out to him to get a move on, or likely the lion would a-had his drink and gone. The move he got wasn't much of a one; but he did come a-creeping out of the car at last, and having such a load of weepons on him as give him some excuse for going slow.

"Good luck to you!" says Shorty, and off he skipped in a hurry to get at the rest of his part of the ceremonies—not paying no attention to Boston's most getting down on his knees to him begging him to come along. Then Boston wanted the colored man to come—who was scared out of his black skin at the notion, and wouldn't; and if the Hen hadn't ended up by grabbing a-hold of him—saying as it was dark, and she knowed the way and he didn't, she'd better lead him—likely she wouldn't a-got him started at all. Pulling him was more like what she did than leading him, the Hen said afterwards; but she didn't kick about his going slow and wanting to stop every minute, she said, because it give Santa Fe and Shorty more time.

The night was the kind that's usual in New Mexico, and just what was wanted. There was no moon, and the starshine—all the stars looked to be about the size of cheeses—give a hazy sort of light that made everything seem twice as big as it really was, and shadows so black and solid you'd think you could cut 'em in slices same as pies. And it was so still you could a-heard a mouse sneezing half a mile off. The rattling all over him of Boston's weepons sounded like there was boilers getting rivetted close by.

The Hen yanked him along easy, but kept him a-moving—and passed the time for him by telling all she could make up about what desprit critters lions was. Starting from where his car was side-tracked, they went round the deepo; and then down the wagon-road pretty near to the bridge, but not so near he could see it; and then across through the sage-brush and clumps of mesquite till they come to the river—where there was a break in the bluff, and a flat place going on down into the water that looked like it was the beginning of a ford. For a fact, it was where the Mexican women come to do their clothes-washing, and just back from the river was a little 'dobe house—flat-topped, and the size and shape of a twelve-foot-square dry-goods box—the women kept their washing things in. But them was particulars the Hen didn't happen to mention to Boston at the time.

When they come to the 'dobe she give him a jerk, to show him he was to stand still there; and then she grabbed him close up to her, so she could whisper, and says: "It was here that Mr. Smith saw the ferocious animal's foot-marks almost precisely four hours ago. The habits of these creatures are so regular, as Mr. Smith mentioned, that this one certainly will return for his next drink when the four hours are ended—and so may be upon us at any moment. I hope that we may see him coming. If he saw us before we saw him—well, it wouldn't be nice at all!"

The Hen let that soak in a little; and then she snuggled up to Boston, all sort of shivery, and says: "I wish that we had taken the precaution to ask Mr. Smith from which direction the tracks came. These lions, you know, have a dreadful way of stealing up close to you and then springing! That was what happened to that poor young man. So far as was known, his first notice of his peril was finding himself crushed to the ground beneath the creature's weight—and the next instant it was tearing him with its teeth and claws. I—I begin to wish I hadn't come!" And the Hen snuggled up closer and shivered bad.

Boston seemed to be doing some shivers on his own account, judging from the way his guns rattled; and his teeth was so chattery his talking come queer. But he managed to get out that if they was inside the house they'd have more chances—and he went to work trying to open the door. When he found he couldn't—it being locked so good there was no budging it—he got worse jolted, and his breath seemed to be coming hard.

The Hen got a-hold of him again and done some more shivers, and then she says: "It all will be over, one way or the other, in a very few moments now. And oh, how thankful I am—since so needlessly and so foolishly I have placed myself in this deadly peril—that I have for my protector a brave man! If salvation is possible, you will save me I am sure!"

Boston tried to say something, but he'd got so he was beyond talking and only gagged; and while he was a-gagging there come a queer noise—sounding like it was a critter crawling around in among the bushes—that made him most jump out of his skin! Down went his guns on the ground all in a clatter; and he was scared so limp he'd a-gone down a-top of 'em if the Hen hadn't got a good grip on him with both arms. They stood that way more'n a minute, with him a-shaking all over and the Hen doing some shaking for company—and then she hiked him round so he pointed right and says: "Look! Look! There by those little bushes! Oh how horrible!" And the Hen give a groan.

What was wanted to be looked at was on hand, right enough—and I reckon it showed to most advantage by about as much light as it got from the stars. All they could make sure of was something alive, moving sort of awkward and jumpy, coming out from a tangle of mesquite bushes not more'n three rods off and heading straight for 'em; and seeing it the way they did—just a black splotch all mixed in with the shadows of the bushes—it looked to be most as big as a cow! Limp as he was—so you'd a-thought there wasn't any yell in him—Boston let off a yell that likely was heard clear across the mesa at San Juan!

"Shoot!" says the Hen. "I can't. I'm too frightened. Shoot quick—or we are lost!" She let go of him, so he could reach down to where he'd spilled his gun-shop and get a weepon; but Boston wasn't on the shoot, and he hadn't no use for weepons just then. All he wanted to do was to run; and if the Hen hadn't got a fresh grip on him and held him—she was a strapping strong woman, the Hen was—he would a-made a bolt for it certain sure.

"No! No! Don't attempt to run!" says the Hen, talking scared and desprit. "In an instant, should we turn our backs on him, the terrible creature would be upon us with one long cruel bound!"

From the way the terrible creature, as the Hen called him, was a-going on—sort of hopping up and down, and not making much headway—it didn't look as if long cruel bounds was what he was most used to. But Boston wasn't studying the matter extra careful, and as the Hen found he took pretty much what she give him she just cracked along.

"To run, I tell you," says the Hen, "is but to court the quicker coming of the torturing death to which we are doomed. It will come quick enough, anyway!"—and she handed out a fresh lot of shivers, and throwed in sobs. Then she give a jump, as if the notion'd just struck her, and says: "There is a chance for us! Up on the roof of this house we may be safe. Lions can spring enormous distances horizontally, you know; but, save in exceptional cases, their vertical jumping powers are restricted to a marked degree. Quick! Put your foot in my hand and let me start you. When you are up, you can pull me up after you. Now then!"—and the Hen reached her hand down so she could get a-hold of Boston's foot and give him a send.

Her using them long words about the way lions did their jumping—being the kind of talk he was used to—seemed to sort of brace him. Anyways—the lion helping hurry things by just then giving another jump or two—he managed to have sense enough to put his foot in the Hen's hand, same as she told him; and then she let out her muscle and give him such an up-start he was landed on the roof of the 'dobe afore he fairly knowed he'd begun to go! Being landed, he just sprawled out flat—and getting the Hen up after him seemed to be about the last thing he had on his mind.

"Help! Help!" sung out the Hen. "The lion is almost on me! Give me your hand!" But Boston wasn't in no shape to give hands to nobody. All he did was to kick his legs about and let off groans.

"Oh, I understand, now," says the Hen in a minute. "You are crying out in the hope of luring the creature into trying to reach you—as he can, if he happens to be one of the exceptional jumpers—and so give me a chance to get away. How noble that is of you! I shall take the chance, my brave preserver, that your self-sacrifice gives me—and I shall collect, and bedew with tears of gratitude, all that the savage monster leaves me of your bones! Heaven bless you—and good-bye!" And away the Hen cut—leaving Boston high and dry on the roof of the 'dobe, so scared he just lay there like a wet rag.

She didn't cut far, the Hen didn't. The rest of us was a-setting around under the mesquite bushes, and she joined the party and set down too—stuffing her handkerchief into her mouth, and holding both hands jammed tight over it, to keep from yelling out with the laugh that was pretty near cracking her sides.

Then we all waited till daylight—with Shorty, who had charge of the lion, working that animal as seemed to be needed whenever Boston quieted down with his groans. All hands really enjoyed theirselves, and it was one of the shortest nights I think I ever knowed.

Daylight comes sudden in them parts. One minute it's so darkish you can't see nothing—and the next minute the sun comes up with a bounce from behind the mountains and things is all clear.

When the sun did his part of the work and give all the light was needed, we done ours—which was coming out from among the mesquite bushes and saying good-morning polite to Boston, up on the roof of the 'dobe, and then taking the hobbles off old man Gutierrez's jackass so it could walk away home.

The Hen felt she needed to have one more shot, and she took it. "My brave preserver!" says the Hen, speaking cheerful. "Come down to me—that I may bedew with tears of gratitude your bones!"



VI

SHORTY SMITH'S HANGING

Some of them summer days in Palomitas was that hot they'd melt the stuffing out of a lightning-rod, and you could cook eggs in the pockets of your pants. When things was that way the town was apt to get quieted down—most being satisfied to take enough drinks early to make it pleasant spending the rest of the day sleeping 'em off somewheres in the shade. Along late in the afternoon, though, the wind always breezed down real cool and pleasant from the mountains—and then the boys would wake up and get a brace on, and whatever was going to happen would begin.

Being that sort of weather, nobody was paying no attention worth speaking of to nothing: and when the Denver train come in—being about three hours late, like it had a way of being, after a wash-out—the place was in such a blister that pretty much all you could hear to show anybody was alive in Palomitas was snores. Besides Wood—who had to be awake to do his work when the train got there—and the clump of Mexicans that always hung around the deepo at train-time, there wasn't half a dozen folks with their eyes open in the whole town.

Santa Fe Charley was one of the few that was awake and sober. He made a point, Santa Fe did, of being on hand when the train come in because there always was chances somebody might be aboard he could do business with; and he had to keep sober, mostly, same as I've said, or he couldn't a-done his work so it would pay. He used to square things up—when he really couldn't stand the strain no longer—by knocking off dealing and having a good one lasting about a week at a time. It was while he was on one of them tears of his, going it worse'n usual, he got cleaned out in Denver Jones's place—and him able, when he hadn't a jag on, to wipe up the floor with Denver!—and then went ahead the next day, being still jagged, and shot poor old Bill Hart. But them is matters that happened a little later, and will be spoke of further on.

* * * * *

When the train pulled in alongside the deepo platform it didn't seem at first there was nobody on it but the usual raft of Mexicans with bundles in the day-coach—who all come a-trooping out, cluttered up with their queer duds, and went to hugging their aunts and uncles who was waiting for 'em in real Mexican style. Charley looked the lot over and seen there was nothing in it worth taking time to; and then he got his Denver paper from the messenger in the express-car and started off to go on back to his room in the Forest Queen.

Down he come along the platform—he was a-looking at his Tribune, and not paying no attention—and just as he got alongside the Pullman a man stepped off it and most plumped into him; and would a-plumped if he hadn't been so beat out by the hot weather he was going slow. He was a little round friendly looking feller, with a red face and little gray side-whiskers; and he was dressed up in black same as Charley was—only he'd a shorter-tailed coat, and hadn't a white tie on, and was wearing a shiny plug hat that looked most extra unsuitable in them parts on that sort of a day.

"I beg your pardon, sir!" says the little man, as he pulled himself up just in time to keep from bumping.

Charley bowed handsome—there was no ketching off Santa Fe when it come to slinging good manners, his being that gentlemanly he could a-give points to a New York bar-keep—and says back: "Sir, I beg yours! Heedlessness is my besetting sin. The fault is mine!" And then he said, keeping on talking the toney way he knowed how to: "I trust, sir, that you are not incommoded by the heat. Even for New Mexico in August, this is a phenomenally hot day."



"Incommoded is no name for it!" says the little man, taking off his shiny hat and mopping away at himself with his pocket-handkerchief. "I've never encountered such heat anywhere. It's hotter than Sahara! In England we have nothing like it at all." Then he mopped himself some more, and went ahead again—seeming glad to have somebody to let out to: "My whole life long I've been finding fault with our August weather in London. I'll never find fault with it again. I'd give fifty pounds to be back there now, even in my office in the City—and I'd give a hundred willingly if I could walk out of this frying-pan into my own home in the Avenue Road! If you know London, sir, you know that St. John's Wood is the coolest part of it, and that the coolest part of St. John's Wood—up by the side of Primrose Hill—is the Avenue Road; and so you can understand why thinking about coming out from the Underground and walking homeward in the cool of the evening almost gives me a pain!"

Santa Fe allowed he wasn't acquainted with that locality; but he said he hadn't no doubt—since you couldn't get a worse one—it was a better place in summer than Palomitas. And then he kind of chucked it in casual that as the little man didn't seem to take much stock in Palomitas maybe he'd a-done as well if he'd stuck at home.

Charley's talking that way brought out he wasn't there because he wanted to be, but because he was sent: coming to look things over for the English stockholders—who was about sick, he said, of dropping assessments in the slot and nothing coming out when they pushed the button—before they chipped in the fresh stake they was asked for to help along with the building of the road. He said he about allowed, though, the call was a square one, what he'd seen being in the road's favor and as much as was claimed for it; but when it come to the country and the people, he said, there was no denying they both was as beastly as they could be. Then he turned round sudden on Santa Fe and says: "I infer from your dress, sir, that you are in Orders; and I therefore assume that you represent what little respectability this town has. Will you kindly tell me if it is possible in this filthy place to procure a brandy-and-soda, and a bath, and any sort of decent food?"

It always sort of tickled Santa Fe, same as I've said, when a tenderfoot took him for a fire-escape; and when it happened that way he give it back to 'em in right-enough parson talk. So he says to the little man, speaking benevolent: "In our poor way, sir, we can satisfy your requirements. At the Forest Queen Hotel, over there, you can procure the liquid refreshment that you name; and also food as good as our little community affords. As for your bath, we can provide it on a scale of truly American magnificence. We can offer you a tub, sir, very nearly two thousand miles long!"

"A tub two thousand miles long?" says the little man. "Oh, come now, you're chaffing me. There can't be a tub like that, you know. There really can't!"

"I refer, sir," says Santa Fe, "to the Rio Grande."

The little man took his time getting there, but when he did ketch up he laughed hearty. "How American that is!" says he. And then he says over again: "How American that is!"—and he laughed some more. Then he said he'd start 'em to getting his grub ready while he was bathing in that two-thousand-mile bath-tub, and he'd have his brandy-and-soda right away; and he asked Charley—speaking doubtful, and looking at his white necktie—if he'd have one too?

Charley said he just would; and it was seeing how sort of surprised the little man looked, he told the boys afterwards, set him to thinking he might as well kill time that hot day trying how much stuffing that sort of a tenderfoot would hold. He said at first he only meant to play a short lone hand for the fun of the thing; and it was the way the little man swallowed whatever was give him, he said, that made the game keep on a-growing—till it ended up by roping in the whole town. So off he went, explaining fatherly how it come that preachers and brandys-and-sodas in Palomitas got along together first class.

"In this wildly lawless and sinful community, sir," says he, "I find that my humble efforts at moral improvement are best advanced by identifying my life as closely as may be with the lives of those whom I would lead to higher planes. At first, in my ignorance, I held aloof from participating in the customs—many of them, seemingly, objectionable—of my parishioners. Naturally, in turn, they held aloof from me. I made no impression upon them. The good seed that I scattered freely fell upon barren ground. Now, as the result of experience, and of much soulful thought, I am wiser. Over a friendly glass at the bar of the Forest Queen, or at other of the various bars in our little town, I can talk to a parishioner with a kindly familiarity that brings him close to me. By taking part in the games of chance which form the main amusement of my flock, I still more closely can identify their interests with my own—and even materially improve, by such winnings as come to me in our friendly encounters, our meagre parish finances. I have as yet taken no share in the gun-fights which too frequently occur in our somewhat tempestuous little community; but I am seriously considering the advisability of still farther strengthening my hold upon the respect and the affection of my parishioners by now and then exchanging shots with them. I am confident that such energetic action on my part will tend still more to endear me to them—and, after all, I must not be too nicely fastidious as to means if I would compass my end of winning their trust and their esteem."

While Santa Fe was talking along so slick about the way he managed his parsoning, the little man's eyes was getting bulgier and bulgier; and when it come to his taking a hand in shooting-scrapes they looked like they was going to jump out of his head. All he could say was: "Good Lord!" Then he kind of gagged, and said he'd be obliged if he could get his brandy-and-soda right off.

Charley steered him across to the Forest Queen, and when he had his drink in him, and another on top of it, he seemed to get some of his grip back. But even after his drinks he seemed like he thought he must be asleep and dreaming; and he said twice over he'd never heard tell of such doings in all his born days.

Santa Fe just give a wink across the bar to Blister Mike—who didn't need much winking, being a wide-awake one—and then he went ahead with some more of the same kind. "No doubt, my dear sir, in the older civilization to which you are accustomed my methods would seem irregular—perhaps even reprehensible. In England, very likely, unfavorable comment would be made upon a pastor who cordially drank with members of his flock at public bars; who also—I do not hesitate, you see, to give our little games of chance their harshest name—in a friendly way gambled with them; and I can imagine that the spectacle of a parish priest engaging with his parishioners, up and down the street of a quiet village, in a fight with six-shooters and Winchesters would be very generally disapproved."

"It is impossible, quite impossible," says the little man, sort of gaspy, "to imagine such a horrible monstrosity!"

"Very likely for you, sir," says Charley, speaking affable, "it is. But you must remember that ours is a young and a vigorous community—too young, too vigorous, to be cramped and trammelled by obsolete conventions and narrow Old-World rules. Life with us, you see, has an uncertain suddenness—owing to our energetic habit of settling our little differences promptly, and in a decisive way. At the last meeting of our Sunshine Club, for instance—as the result of a short but heated argument—Brother Michael, here, felt called upon to shoot a fellow-member. While recognizing that the occurrence was unavoidable, we regretted it keenly—Brother Michael most of all."

"Sure I did that," said Blister, playing out quick to the lead Charley give him. "But your Reverence remembers he drew on me first—and if he'd been sober enough to shoot straight it's meself, and not him, would be by now living out in the cemetery on the mesa; and another'd be serving your drinks to you across this bar. I had the rights on my side."

"Precisely," says Charley. "You see, sir, it was a perfectly fair fight. Brother Michael and his fellow-member exchanged their shots in an honorable manner—and, while we mourn the sudden decease of our friend lost to us, our friend who survives has suffered no diminution of our affectionate regard. Had the shooting been unfair, then the case would have gone into another category—and our community promptly would have manifested the sturdy sense of justice that is inherent in it by hanging the man by whom the unfair shot had been fired. Believe me, sir"—and Santa Fe stood up straight and stuck his chest out—"Palomitas has its own high standards of morality: and it never fails to maintain those standards in its own stern way!"

The little man didn't say nothing back. He looked like he was sort of mazed. All he did was to ask for another brandy-and-soda; and when he'd took it he allowed he'd skip having his bath and get at his eating right away—saying he was feeling faintish, and maybe what he needed was food. Of course that was no time of day to get victuals: but Santa Fe was a good one at managing, and he fixed it up so he had some sort of a hash layout; and before he went at it he give him a wash-up in his own room.

It was while he was hashing, Charley said, the notion come to him how Palomitas might have some real sport with him—the same kind they had when Hart's aunt come on her visit, only twisting things round so it would be the holy terror side of the town that had the show. And he said as he'd started in with the preacher racket, he thought they might keep that up too—and make such an out and out mix-up for the little man as would give cards to any tenderfoot game that ever was played. Santa Fe always was full of his pranks: and this one looked to pan out so well, and was so easy done, that he went right across to the deepo and had a talk with Wood about how things had better be managed; and Wood, who liked fun as much as anybody, caught on quick and agreed to take a hand.

The little man seemed to get a brace when he had his grub inside of him; and over he went to the deepo and give Wood the order he had from the President to see the books—and was real intelligent, Wood said, in finding out how railroading in them parts was done. But when he'd cleaned up his railroad job, and took to asking questions about the Territory, and Palomitas, and things generally—and got the sort of answers Santa Fe had fixed should be give him, with some more throwed in—Wood said his feet showed to be that tender he allowed it would a-hurt him with thick boots on to walk on boiled beans.

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