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Blister Gives Advice








From: The Fighting Edge

Blister Haines, J. P., was by way of being a character. His waggish
viewpoint was emphasized by a slight stutter.

"S-so you want to h-hitch up to double trouble, do you?" he asked.

"We want to get married," Bob said.

"S-same thing," the fat man wheezed, grinning. "C-come right in an' I'll
tie you tighter 'n a d-drum."

"I've only got six dollars," the bridegroom explained.

"No matter a-tall. My f-fee is jus' six d-dollars," the justice announced
promptly.

Bob hesitated. June nudged him and whispered. The husband-elect listened,
nodded, and spoke up.

"I'll pay you two dollars."

Blister looked at the bride reproachfully. "L-lady, if you ain't worth
s-six dollars to him you ain't worth a c-cent. But I'll show you how good
a sport I am. I'll m-make you a wedding present of the j-job. Got any
witnesses?"

"Do we have to have witnesses?" asked Bob helplessly. Getting married was
a more formidable and formal affair than he had supposed.

"Sure. I'll dig 'em up."

The justice waddled to the door of the saloon adjoining and stuck his
head inside. A row of cowpunchers were lined up in front of the bar.

"Y-you, Dud Hollister an' Tom Reeves, I'm servin' a subpoena on you lads
as w-witnesses at a w-weddin'," he said in the high wheeze that sounded
so funny coming from his immense bulk.

"Whose wedding?" demanded Reeves, a lank youth with a brick-red face, the
nose of which had been broken.

"N-none of yore darned business."

"Do we get to kiss the bride?"

"You h-hotfoot it right to my office or I'll throw you in the c-calaboose
for c-contempt of court, Tom Reeves."

The puncher turned to Hollister, grinning. "Come along, Dud. Might 's
well learn how it's done, ol' Sure-Shot."

The range-riders jingled into the office at the heels of the justice.
Blister inquired for the names of the principals and introduced the
witnesses to them. The gayety and the audacity of the punchers had
vanished. They ducked their heads and drew back a foot each in a scrape
that was meant to be a bow. They were almost as embarrassed as June and
Bob. Which is saying a good deal.

June had not realized what an ordeal it would be to stand up before
strangers in her dingy dress and heavy cracked brogans while she promised
to love, honor, and obey. She was acutely conscious of her awkwardness,
of the flying, rebellious hair, of a hole in a stocking she tried to keep
concealed. And for the first time, too, she became aware of the solemnity
of what she was doing. The replies she gave were low and confused.

Before she knew it the ceremony was over.

Blister closed the book and dropped it on a chair.

"Kiss yore wife, man," he admonished, chuckling.

Bob flushed to the roots of his hair. He slid a look at June, not sure
whether she would want him to do that. Her long dark lashes had fallen to
the dusky cheeks and hid the downcast eyes.

His awkward peck caught her just below the ear.

The bridegroom offered the justice two dollars. Blister took it and
handed it to June.

"You keep it, ma'am, an' buy yorese'f somethin' for a p-pretty. I'd jes'
b-blow it anyhow. Hope you'll be r-real happy. If this yere young
s-scalawag don't treat you h-handsome, Tom an' Dud'll be glad to ride
over an' beat him up proper 'most any time you give 'em the high sign. Am
I right, boys?"

"Sure are," they said, grinning bashfully.

"As j-justice of the peace for Garfield County, S-state of C-colorado,
I'm entitled to k-kiss the bride, but mos' generally I give her one o'
these heart-to-heart talks instead, onloadin' from my chest some f-free
gratis g-good advice," the fat man explained in his hoarse wheeze. "You
got to r-remember, ma'am, that m-marriage ain't duck soup for n-neither
the one nor the other of the h-high contractin' parties thereto. It's a
g-game of give an' take, an' at that a h-heap more give than take."

"Yes, sir," murmured June tremulously, looking down at the hole in her
stocking.

"Whilst I n-never yet c-committed matrimony in my own p-person, me being
ample provided with t-trouble an' satisfied with what griefs I already
got, yet I've run cows off an' on, an' so have had workin' for me several
of this sex you've now got tangled up with, ma'am," Blister sailed on
cheerfully. "I'll say the best way to keep 'em contented is to feed 'em
good, treat 'em as if they was human, an' in general give 'em a more or
less free rein, dependin' on their g-general habits an' cussedness. If
that don't suit a p-puncher I most usually h-hand him his hat an' say,
'So long, son, you 'n' me ain't c-consanguineously constructed to ride
the same range; no hard feelin's, but if you're w-wishful to jog on to
another outfit I'll say adios without no tears.' You can't g-get rid of
yore husband that easy, ma'am, so I'll recommend the g-good grub,
s-seventy-five s-smiles per diem, an' the aforesaid more or less f-free
rein."

Again June whispered, "Yes, sir," but this time her honest eyes lifted
and went straight into his.

"An' you." The justice turned his batteries on the groom. "You w-wanta
recollect that this r-road you've done chose ain't no easy one to
t-travel. Tenderfoot come in the other day an' w-wanted to know what kind
of a road it was to S-stinking Creek. I tell him it's a g-good road.
Yesterday he come rarin' in to f-find out what I told him that for.
'Fellow,' I says, 'Fellow, any r-road you can g-get over is a good road
in this country.' It's t-thataway with marriage, son, an' don't you
forget it a h-holy minute. Another thing, this being u-united in wedlock
ain't no sinecure."

"Ain't no which kind of a sin?" inquired Reeves.

Dud Hollister grinned admiringly. "Blister sure ropes an' hogties a heap
of longhorn words."

The justice scratched his bald poll and elucidated. "A s-sinecure, boys,
is when a f-fellow rides the g-grub line habitual an' don't rope no
d-dogies for his stack o' wheats an' c-coffee." He wagged a fat
forefinger at Bob. "You gotta quit hellin' around now an' behave yorese'f
like a respectable m-married man. You gotta dig in an' work. At that you
'n' the little lady will have yore flareups. When you do, give her the
best of it an' you'll never be sorry. Tha's all."

Blister slid a hand furtively into a drawer of the desk, groped for a
moment, then flung a handful of rice over bride and groom.

The newly married couple left the office hurriedly. They did not look at
each other. An acute shyness had swept over both of them. They walked to
the buckboard, still without speaking.

June opened a perspiring little brown palm in which lay two warm silver
dollars. "Here's yore money," she said.

"It's yours. He gave it to you," Bob answered, swallowing hard. "For a
weddin' present."

"Well, I ain't no pockets. You keep it for me."

The transfer was accomplished, neither of them looking into the eyes of
the other.

Blister Haines, flanked on each side by one of the witnesses, rolled past
on his way to the bar of the Bear Cat House. His throat was dry and he
proposed to liquidate his unusual exertion. He always celebrated a
wedding by taking a few drinks. Any excuse was a good excuse for that. He
waved a hand toward the newlyweds in greeting.

Bob answered by lifting his own. He had not taken three drinks in his
life, but he felt that he would like one now. It might cheer him up a
little.

What in the world was he to do with June? Where could he take her for the
night? And after that what would they do? He had not money enough to pay
stage fare to get them away. He did not know anybody from whom he could
borrow any. Yet even if he found work in Bear Cat, they dared not stay
here. Houck would come "rip-raring" down from the hills and probably
murder him.

Anyhow, it would not do for him to act as though he were stumped. He
managed a smile.

"We'd better take the team to the corral, then go get something to eat,
June. I'm sure enough hungry. Ain't you?"

She nodded. Even to go to the hotel or a restaurant for dinner was an
adventure for her, so little of experience had her life offered.

As they walked from the barn to the Bear Cat House, the girl-bride was
still dumb. The marriage ceremony had brought home to her the solemnity
of what she had done. She had promised to love, honor, and obey this boy,
to care for him in sickness and in health, till death came to part them.

What did she know about him? What manner of man had she married? The
consequences of the step they had taken began to appall her. She would
have to live with him in all the intimacies of married life, cook for
him, wash his clothes, sit opposite him at the table three times a day
for fifty years. He was to be the father of her children, and she knew
nothing whatever about him except that he was gentle and friendly.

From under long curving lashes she stole a shy look at him. He was her
husband, this stranger. Would she be able to please him? June thought of
what Blister Haines had said. She was a pretty good cook. That was one
thing. And she would try not to let herself sulk or be a spitfire. Maybe
he would not get tired of her if she worked real hard to suit him.

The hotel was an adobe building. In the doorway stood a woman leaning
against the jamb. She was smoking a cigar. June looked twice at her
before she believed her eyes.

The woman took the cigar from between her lips. "Are you the children
Blister Haines just married?" she asked bluntly.

"We--we've just been married by Mr. Haines," Bob replied with an attempt
at dignity.

The blue eyes of the woman softened as she looked at June--softened
indescribably. They read instantly the doubt and loneliness of the child.
She threw the cigar into the street and moved swiftly toward the bride. A
moment before she had been hard and sexless, in June's virgin eyes almost
a monstrosity. Now she was all mother, filled with the protective
instinct.

"I'm Mollie Gillespie--keep the hotel here," she explained. "You come
right in an' I'll fix up a nice room for you, my dearie. You can wash up
after yore ride and you'll feel a lot better. I'll have Chung Lung cook
you both a bit of supper soon as he comes back to the kitchen. A good
steak an' some nice French frys, say. With some of the mince pie left
from dinner and a good cup of coffee." Mollie's arm was round June,
petting and comforting her.

June felt and repressed an impulse to tears. "You're mighty good," she
gulped.

The landlady of the Bear Cat House bustled the girl into a room and began
to mother her. Bob hung around the door. He did not know whether he was
expected to come in or stay out, though he knew which he wanted to do.

Mollie sent him about his business. "Scat!" she snapped. "Get outa here,
Mr. Husband, an' don't you show up till five o'clock prompt. Hear me?"

Bob heard and vanished like a tin-canned pup. He was the most relieved
youth in Bear Cat. At least he had a reprieve. Mrs. Gillespie would know
what to do and how to do it.

If being a married man was like this, he did not wonder that Dud
Hollister and Blister Haines felt the way they did toward that holy
estate.





Next: The White Feather

Previous: An Elopement



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