The Promised Land
From: The Jimmyjohn Boss And Other Stories
Perhaps there were ten of them--these galloping dots were hard to
count--down in the distant bottom across the river. Their swiftly moving
dust hung with them close, thinning to a yellow veil when they halted
short. They clustered a moment, then parted like beads, and went wide
asunder on the plain. They veered singly over the level, merged in twos
and threes, apparently racing, shrank together like elastic, and broke
ranks again to swerve over the stretching waste. From this visioned
pantomime presently came a sound, a tiny shot. The figures were too
far for discerning which fired it. It evidently did no harm, and was
repeated at once. A babel of diminutive explosions followed, while the
horsemen galloped on in unexpected circles. Soon, for no visible reason,
the dots ran together, bunching compactly. The shooting stopped, the
dust rose thick again from the crowded hoofs, cloaking the group, and so
passed back and was lost among the silent barren hills.
Four emigrants had watched this from the high bleak rim of the Big Bend.
They stood where the flat of the desert broke and tilted down in grooves
and bulges deep to the lurking Columbia. Empty levels lay opposite,
narrowing up into the high country.
"That's the Colville Reservation across the river from us," said the
"Another!" sighed his wife.
"The last Indians we'll strike. Our trail to the Okanagon goes over a
corner of it."
"We're going to those hills?" The mother looked at her little girl and
back where the cloud had gone.
"Only a corner, Liza. The ferry puts us over on it, and we've got to
go by the ferry or stay this side of the Columbia. You wouldn't want to
start a home here?"
They had driven twenty-one hundred miles at a walk. Standing by them
were the six horses with the wagon, and its tunneled roof of canvas
shone duskily on the empty verge of the wilderness. A dry windless
air hung over the table-land of the Big Bend, but a sound rose from
somewhere, floating voluminous upon the silence, and sank again.
"Rapids!" The man pointed far up the giant rut of the stream to where a
streak of white water twinkled at the foot of the hills. "We've struck
the river too high," he added.
"Then we don't cross here?" said the woman, quickly.
"No. By what they told me the cabin and the ferry ought to be five miles
Her face fell. "Only five miles! I was wondering, John--Wouldn't there
be a way round for the children to--"
"Now, mother," interrupted the husband, "that ain't like you. We've
crossed plenty Indian reservations this trip already."
"I don't want to go round," the little girl said. "Father, don't make me
Mart, the boy, with a loose hook of hair hanging down to his eyes from
his hat, did not trouble to speak. He had been disappointed in the
westward journey to find all the Indians peaceful. He knew which way
he should go now, and he went to the wagon to look once again down the
clean barrel of his rifle.
"Why, Nancy, you don't like Indians?" said her mother.
"Yes, I do. I like chiefs."
Mrs. Clallam looked across the river. "It was so strange, John, the way
they acted. It seems to get stranger, thinking about it."
"They didn't see us. They didn't have a notion--"
"But if we're going right over?"
"We're not going over there, Liza. That quick water's the Mahkin Rapids,
and our ferry's clear down below from this place."
"What could they have been after, do you think?"
"Those chaps? Oh, nothing, I guess. They weren't killing anybody."
"Playing cross-tag," said Mart.
"I'd like to know, John, how you know they weren't killing anybody. They
might have been trying to."
"Then we're perfectly safe, Liza. We can set and let 'em kill us all
"Well, I don't think it's any kind of way to behave, running around
shooting right off your horse."
"And Fourth of July over too," said Mart from the wagon. He was putting
cartridges into the magazine of his Winchester. His common-sense told
him that those horsemen would not cross the river, but the notion of a
night attack pleased the imagination of young sixteen.
"It was the children," said Mrs. Clallam. "And nobody's getting me any
wood. How am I going to cook supper? Stir yourselves!"
They had carried water in the wagon, and father and son went for wood.
Some way down the hill they came upon a gully with some dead brush, and
climbed back with this. Supper was eaten on the ground, the horses were
watered, given grain, and turned loose to find what pickings they might
in the lean growth; and dusk had not turned to dark when the emigrants
were in their beds on the soft dust. The noise of the rapids dominated
the air with distant sonority, and the children slept at once, the boy
with his rifle along his blanket's edge. John Clallam lay till the moon
rose hard and brilliant, and then quietly, lest his wife should hear
from her bed by the wagon, went to look across the river. Where the
downward slope began he came upon her. She had been watching for some
time. They were the only objects in that bald moonlight. No shrub grew
anywhere that reached to the waist, and the two figures drew together on
the lonely hill. They stood hand in hand and motionless, except that the
man bent over the woman and kissed her. When she spoke of Iowa they had
left, he talked of the new region of their hopes, the country that lay
behind the void hills opposite, where it would not be a struggle to
live. He dwelt on the home they would make, and her mood followed his
at last, till husband and wife were building distant plans together. The
Dipper had swung low when he remarked that they were a couple of fools,
and they went back to their beds. Cold came over the ground, and their
musings turned to dreams. Next morning both were ashamed of their fears.
By four the wagon was on the move. Inside, Nancy's voice was heard
discussing with her mother whether the school-teacher where they were
going to live now would have a black dog with a white tail, that could
swim with a basket in his mouth. They crawled along the edge of the vast
descent, making slow progress, for at times the valley widened and they
receded far from the river, and then circuitously drew close again where
the slant sank abruptly. When the ferryman's cabin came in sight, the
canvas interior of the wagon was hot in the long-risen sun. The lay of
the land had brought them close above the stream, but no one seemed to
be at the cabin on the other side, nor was there any sign of a ferry.
Groves of trees lay in the narrow folds of the valley, and the water
swept black between untenanted shores. Nothing living could be seen
along the scant levels of the bottom-land. Yet there stood the cabin as
they had been told, the only one between the rapids and the Okanagon;
and bright in the sun the Colville Reservation confronted them. They
came upon tracks going down over the hill, marks of wagons and horses,
plain in the soil, and charred sticks, with empty cans, lying where
camps had been. Heartened by this proof that they were on the right
road, John Clallam turned his horses over the brink. The slant steepened
suddenly in a hundred yards, tilting the wagon so no brake or shoe would
hold it if it moved farther.
"All out!" said Clallam. "Either folks travel light in this country
or they unpack." He went down a little way. "That's the trail too," he
said. "Wheel marks down there, and the little bushes are snapped off."
Nancy slipped out. "I'm unpacked," said she. "Oh, what a splendid hill
to go down! We'll go like anything."
"Yes, that surely is the trail," Clallam pursued. "I can see away down
where somebody's left a wheel among them big stones. But where does he
keep his ferry-boat? And where does he keep himself?"
"Now, John, if it's here we're to go down, don't you get to studying
over something else. It'll be time enough after we're at the bottom.
Nancy, here's your chair." Mrs. Clallam began lifting the lighter things
from the wagon.
"Mart," said the father, "we'll have to chain lock the wheels after
we're empty. I guess we'll start with the worst. You and me'll take the
stove apart and get her down somehow. We're in luck to have open country
and no timber to work through. Drop that bedding mother! Yourself is all
you're going to carry. We'll pack that truck on the horses."
"Then pack it now and let me start first. I'll make two trips while
you're at the stove."
"There's the man!" said Nancy.
A man--a white man--was riding up the other side of the river. Near the
cabin he leaned to see something on the ground. Ten yards more and he
was off the horse and picked up something and threw it away. He loitered
along, picking up and throwing till he was at the door. He pushed it
open and took a survey of the interior. Then he went to his horse, and
when they saw him going away on the road he had come, they set up a
shouting, and Mart fired a signal. The rider dived from his saddle and
made headlong into the cabin, where the door clapped to like a trap.
Nothing happened further, and the horse stood on the bank.
"That's the funniest man I ever saw," said Nancy.
"They're all funny over there," said Mart. "I'll signal him again." But
the cabin remained shut, and the deserted horse turned, took a few first
steels of freedom, then trotted briskly down the river.
"Why, then, he don't belong there at all," said Nancy.
"Wait, child, till we know something about it."
"She's liable to be right, Liza. The horse, anyway, don't belong, or
he'd not run off. That's good judgment, Nancy. Right good for a little
"I am six years old," said Nancy, "and I know lots more than that."
"Well, let's get mother and the bedding started down. It'll be noon
before we know it."
There were two pack-saddles in the wagon, ready against such straits as
this. The rolls were made, balanced as side packs, and circled with the
swing-ropes, loose cloths, clothes, frying-pans, the lantern, and the
axe tossed in to fill the gap in the middle, canvas flung over the
whole, and the diamond-hitch hauled taut on the first pack, when a
second rider appeared across the river. He came out of a space between
the opposite hills, into which the trail seemed to turn, and he was
leading the first man's horse. The heavy work before them was forgotten,
and the Clallams sat down in a row to watch.
"He's stealing it," said Mrs. Clallam.
"Then the other man will come out and catch him," said Nancy.
Mart corrected them. "A man never steals horses that way. He drives them
up in the mountains, where the owner don't travel much."
The new rider had arrived at the bank and came steadily along till
opposite the door, where he paused and looked up and down the river.
"See him stoop," said Clallam the father. "He's seen the tracks don't go
"I guess he's after the other one," added Clallam the son.
"Which of them is the ferry-man?" said Mrs. Clallam.
The man had got off and gone straight inside the cabin. In the black of
the doorway appeared immediately the first man, dangling in the grip of
the other, who kicked him along to the horse. There the victim mounted
his own animal and rode back down the river. The chastiser was returning
to the cabin, when Mart fired his rifle. The man stopped short, saw the
emigrants, and waved his hand. He dismounted and came to the edge of the
water. They could hear he was shouting to them, but it was too far for
the words to carry. From a certain reiterated cadence, he seemed to be
saying one thing. John and Mart tried to show they did not understand,
and indicated their wagon, walking to it and getting aboard. On that the
stranger redoubled his signs and shootings, ran to the cabin, where he
opened and shut the door several times, came back, and pointed to the
"He's going away, and can't ferry us over," said Mrs. Clallam.
"And the other man thought he'd gone," said Nancy, "and he came and
caught him in his house."
"This don't suit me," Clallam remarked. "Mart, we'll go to the shore and
talk to him."
When the man saw them descending the hill, he got on his horse and swam
the stream. It carried him below, but he was waiting for them when they
reached the level. He was tall, shambling, and bony, and roved over them
with a pleasant, restless eye.
"Good-morning," said he. "Fine weather. I was baptized Edward Wilson,
but you inquire for Wild-Goose Jake. Them other names are retired and
pensioned. I expect you seen me kick him?"
"Couldn't help seeing."
"Oh, I ain't blamin' you, son, not a bit, I ain't. He can't bile water
without burnin' it, and his toes turns in, and he's blurry round the
finger-nails. He's jest kultus, he is. Hev some?" With a furtive smile
that often ran across his lips, he pulled out a flat bottle, and all
took an acquaintanceship swallow, while the Clallams explained their
journey. "How many air there of yu' slidin' down the hill?" he inquired,
shifting his eye to the wagon.
"I've got my wife and little girl up there. That's all of us."
"Ladies along! Then I'll step behind this bush." He was dragging his
feet from his waterlogged boots. "Hear them suck now?" he commented.
"Didn't hev to think about a wetting onced. But I ain't young any more.
There, I guess I ain't caught a chill." He had whipped his breeches off
and spread them on the sand. "Now you arrive down this here hill from
Ioway, and says you: 'Where's that ferry? 'Ain't we hit the right
spot?' Well, that's what you hev hit. You're all right, and the spot is
hunky-dory, and it's the durned old boat hez made the mistake, begosh!
A cloud busted in this country, and she tore out fer the coast, and the
joke's on her! You'd ought to hev heerd her cable snap! Whoosh, if that
wire didn't screech! Jest last week it was, and the river come round the
corner on us in a wave four feet high, same as a wall. I was up here
on business, and seen the whole thing. So the ferry she up and bid us
good-bye, and lit out for Astoria with her cargo. Beggin' pardon,
hev you tobacco, for mine's in my wet pants? Twenty-four hogs and the
driver, and two Sheeny drummers bound to the mines with brass jew'lry,
all gone to hell, for they didn't near git to Astoria. They sank in the
sight of all, as we run along the bank. I seen their arms wave, and them
hogs rolling over like 'taters bilin' round in the kettle." Wild-Goose
Jake's words came slow and went more slowly as he looked at the river
and spoke, but rather to himself. "It warn't long, though. I expect it
warn't three minutes till the water was all there was left there. My
stars, what a lot of it! And I might hev been part of that cargo, easy
as not. Freight behind time was all that come between me and them that
went. So, we'd hev gone bobbin' down that flood, me and my piah-chuck."
"Your piah-chuck?" Mart inquired.
The man faced the boy like a rat, but the alertness faded instantly from
his eye, and his lip slackened into a slipshod smile. "Why, yes, sonny,
me and my grub-stake. You've been to school, I'll bet, but they didn't
learn yu' Chinook, now, did they? Chinook's the lingo us white folks
trade in with the Siwashes, and we kinder falls into it, talking along.
I was thinkin' how but for delay me and my grubstake--provisions, ye
know--that was consigned to me clear away at Spokane, might hev been
drownded along with them hogs and Hebrews. That's what the good folks
calls a dispensation of the Sauklee Tyee!--Providence, ye know, in
Chinook. 'One shall be taken and the other left.' And that's what beats
me--they got left; and I'm a bigger sinner than them drummers, for I'm
ten years older than they was. And the poor hogs was better than any of
us. That can't be gainsaid. Oh no! oh no!"
"I mean it, son. Some day such thoughts will come to you." He stared at
the river unsteadily with his light gray eyes.
"Well, if the ferry's gone," said John Clallam, getting on his legs,
"we'll go on down to the next one."
"Hold on! hold on! Did you never hear tell of a raft? I'll put you folks
over this river. Wait till I git my pants on," said he, stalking nimbly
to where they lay.
"It's just this way," Clallam continued; "we're bound for the upper
Okanagon country, and we must get in there to build our cabin before
"Don't you worry about that. It'll take you three days to the next
ferry, while you and me and the boy kin build a raft right here by
to-morrow noon. You hev an axe, I expect? Well, here is timber close,
and your trail takes over to my place on the Okanagon, where you've got
another crossin' to make. And all this time we're keeping the ladies
waitin' up the hill! We'll talk business as we go along; and, see here,
if I don't suit yu', or fail in my bargain, you needn't to pay me a
He began climbing, and on the way they came to an agreement. Wild-Goose
Jake bowed low to Mrs. Clallam, and as low to Nancy, who held her
mother's dress and said nothing, keeping one finger in her mouth.
All began emptying the wagon quickly, and tins of baking-powder, with
rocking-chairs and flowered quilts, lay on the hill. Wild-Goose Jake
worked hard, and sustained a pleasant talk by himself. His fluency was
of an eagerness that parried interruption or inquiry.
"So you've come acrosst the Big Bend! Ain't it a cosey place? Reminds me
of them medicine pictures, 'Before and After Using.' The Big Bend's the
way this world looked before using--before the Bible fixed it up, ye
know. Ever seen specimens of Big Bend produce, ma'am? They send
'em East. Grain and plums and such. The feller that gathered them
curiosities hed hunt forty square miles apiece for 'em. But it's
good-payin' policy, and it fetches lots of settlers to the Territory.
They come here hummin' and walks around the wilderness, and 'Where's the
plums?' says they. 'Can't you see I'm busy?' says the land agent; and
out they goes. But you needn't to worry, ma'am. The country where you're
goin' ain't like that. There's water and timber and rich soil and mines.
Billy Moon has gone there--he's the man run the ferry. When she wrecked,
he pulled his freight for the new mines at Loop Loop."
"Did the man live in the little house?" said Nancy.
"Right there, miss. And nobody lives there any more, so you take it if
you're wantin' a place of your own."
"What made you kick the other man if it wasn't your house?"
"Well, now, if it ain't a good one on him to hev you see that! I'll tell
him a little girl seen that, and maybe he'll feel the disgrace. Only
he's no account, and don't take any experience the reg'lar way. He's
nigh onto thirty, and you'll not believe me, I know, but he ain't never
even learned to spit right."
"Is he yours?" inquired Nancy.
"Gosh! no, miss--beggin' pardon. He's jest workin' for me."
"Did he know you were coming to kick him when he hid?"
"Hid? What's that?" The man's eyes narrowed again into points. "You
folks seen him hide?" he said to Clallam.
"Why, of course; didn't he say anything?"
"He didn't get much chance," muttered Jake. "What did he hide at?"
"I guess so," said Mart. "We took him for the ferry-man, and when he
couldn't hear us--"
"What was he doin'?"
"Just riding along. And so I fired to signal him, and he flew into the
"So you fired, and he flew into the door. Oh, h'm." Jake continued to
pack the second horse, attending carefully to the ropes. "I never knowed
he was that weak in the upper story," he said, in about five minutes.
"Knew his brains was tenas, but didn't suspect he were that weak in the
upper story. You're sure he didn't go in till he heerd your gun?"
"He'd taken a look and was going away," said Mart.
"Now ain't some people jest odd! Now you follow me, and I'll tell you
folks what I'd figured he'd been at. Billy Moon he lived in that cabin,
yu' see. And he had his stuff there, yu, see, and run the ferry, and a
kind of a store. He kept coffee and canned goods and star-plug and this
and that to supply the prospectin' outfits that come acrosst on his
ferry on the trail to the mines. Then a cloud-burst hits his boat and
his job's spoiled on the river, and he quits for the mines, takin' his
stuff along--do you follow me? But he hed to leave some, and he give me
the key, and I was to send the balance after him next freight team that
come along my way. Leander--that's him I was kickin'--he knowed about
it, and he'll steal a hot stove he's that dumb. He knowed there was
stuff here of Billy Moon's. Well, last night we hed some horses stray,
and I says to him, 'Andy, you get up by daylight and find them.' And he
gits. But by seven the horses come in all right of theirselves, and
Mr. Leander he was missin'; and says I to myself, 'I'll ketch you, yu'
blamed hobo.' And I thought I had ketched him, yu' see. Weren't that
reasonable of me? Wouldn't any of you folks hev drawed that conclusion?"
The man had fallen into a wheedling tone as he studied their faces.
"Jest put yourselves in my place," he said.
"Then what was he after?" said Mart.
"Stealin'. But he figured he'd come again."
"He didn't like my gun much."
"Guns always skeers him when he don't know the parties shootin'.
That's his dumbness. Maybe he thought I was after him; he's jest that
distrustful. Begosh! we'll have the laugh on him when he finds he run
from a little girl."
"He didn't wait to see who he was running from," said Mart.
"Of course he didn't. Andy hears your gun and he don't inquire further,
but hits the first hole he kin crawl into. That's Andy! That's the kind
of boy I hev to work for me. All the good ones goes where you're goin',
where the grain grows without irrigation and the blacktail deer comes
out on the hill and asks yu' to shoot 'em for dinner. Who's ready for
the bottom? If I stay talkin' the sun'll go down on us. Don't yu' let
me get started agin. Just you shet me off twiced anyway each twenty-four
He began to descend with his pack-horse and the first load. All
afternoon they went up and down over the hot bare face of the hill,
until the baggage, heavy and light, was transported and dropped
piecemeal on the shore. The torn-out insides of their home littered the
stones with familiar shapes and colors, and Nancy played among them,
visiting each parcel and folded thing.
"There's the red table-cover!" she exclaimed, "and the big
coffee-grinder. And there's our table, and the hole Mart burned in it."
She took a long look at this. "Oh, how I wish I could see our pump!" she
said, and began to cry.
"You talk to her, mother," said Clallam. "She's tuckered out."
The men returned to bring the wagon. With chain-locked wheels, and
tilted half over by the cross slant of the mountain, it came heavily
down, reeling and sliding on the slippery yellow weeds, and grinding
deep ruts across the faces of the shelving beds of gravel. Jake guided
it as he could, straining back on the bits of the two hunched horses
when their hoofs glanced from the stones that rolled to the bottom;
and the others leaned their weight on a pole lodged between the spokes,
making a balance to the wagon, for it leaned the other way so far that
at any jolt the two wheels left the ground. When it was safe at the
level of the stream, dusk had come and a white flat of mist lay along
the river, striping its course among the gaunt hills. They slept without
moving, and rose early to cut logs, which the horses dragged to the
shore. The outside trunks were nailed and lashed with ropes, and sank
almost below the surface with the weight of the wood fastened crosswise
on top. But the whole floated dry with its cargo, and crossed clumsily
on the quick-wrinkled current. Then it brought the wagon; and the six
horses swam. The force of the river had landed them below the cabin,
and when they had repacked there was too little left of day to go on.
Clallam suggested it was a good time to take Moon's leavings over to
the Okanagon, but Wild-Goose Jake said at once that their load was heavy
enough; and about this they could not change his mind. He made a journey
to the cabin by himself, and returned saying that he had managed to lock
"Father," said Mart, as they were harnessing next day, "I've been up
there. I went awful early. There's no lock to the door, and the cabin's
"I guessed that might be."
"There has been a lock pried off pretty lately. There was a lot of
broken bottles around everywheres, inside and out."
"What do you make out of it?" said Mart.
"Nothing yet. He wants to get us away, and I'm with him there. I want to
get up the Okanagon as soon as we can."
"Well, I'm takin' yu' the soonest way," said Wild-Goose Jake, behind
them. From his casual smile there was no telling what he had heard.
"I'll put your stuff acrosst the Okanagon to-morrow mornin'. But
to-night yourselves'll all be over, and the ladies kin sleep in my
The wagon made good time. The trail crossed easy valleys and over
the yellow grass of the hills, while now and then their guide took
a short-cut. He wished to get home, he said, since there could be no
estimating what Leander might be doing. While the sun was still well up
in the sky they came over a round knob and saw the Okanagon, blue in the
bright afternoon, and the cabin on its further bank. This was a roomier
building to see than common, and a hay-field was by it, and a bit
of green pasture, fenced in. Saddle-horses were tied in front, heads
hanging and feet knuckled askew with long waiting, and from inside an
uneven, riotous din whiffled lightly across the river and intervening
meadow to the hill.
"If you'll excuse me," said Jake, "I'll jest git along ahead, and see
what game them folks is puttin' up on Andy. Likely as not he's weighin'
'em out flour at two cents, with it costin' me two and a half on
freightin' alone. I'll hev supper ready time you ketch up."
He was gone at once, getting away at a sharp pace, till presently they
could see him swimming the stream. When he was in the cabin the sounds
changed, dropping off to one at a time, and expired. But when the riders
came out into the air, they leaned and collided at random, whirled their
arms, and, screaming till they gathered heart, charged with wavering
menace at the door. The foremost was flung from the sill, and he shot
along toppling and scraped his length in the dust, while the owner of
the cabin stood in the entrance. The Indian picked himself up, and at
some word of Jake's which the emigrants could half follow by the fierce
lift of his arm, all got on their horses and set up a wailing, like
vultures driven off. They went up the river a little and crossed, but
did not come down this side, and Mrs. Clallam was thankful when their
evil noise had died away up the valley. They had seen the wagon coming,
but gave it no attention. A man soon came over the river from the
cabin, and was lounging against a tree when the emigrants drew up at the
"I don't know what you know," he whined defiantly from the tree, "but
I'm goin' to Cornwall, Connecticut, and I don't care who knows it." He
sent a cowed look at the cabin across the river.
"Get out of the wagon, Nancy," said Clallam. "Mart, help her down."
"I'm going back," said the man, blinking like a scolded dog. "I ain't
stayin' here for nobody. You can tell him I said so, too." Again his eye
slunk sidewise towards the cabin, and instantly back.
"While you're staying," said Mart, "you might as well give a hand here."
He came with alacrity, and made a shift of unhitching the horses. "I was
better off coupling freight cars on the Housatonic," he soon remarked.
His voice came shallow, from no deeper than his throat, and a peevish
apprehension rattled through it. "That was a good job. And I've had
better, too; forty, fifty, sixty dollars better."
"Shall we unpack the wagon?" Clallam inquired.
"I don't know. You ever been to New Milford? I sold shoes there.
Thirty-five dollars and board."
The emigrants attended to their affairs, watering the horses and driving
picket stakes. Leander uselessly followed behind them with conversation,
blinking and with lower lip sagged, showing a couple of teeth. "My
brother's in business in Pittsfield, Massachusetts," said he, "and I can
get a salary in Bridgeport any day I say so. That a Marlin?"
"No," said Mart. "It's a Winchester."
"I had a Marlin. He's took it from me. I'll bet you never got shot at."
"Anybody want to shoot you?" Mart inquired.
"Well and I guess you'll believe they did day before yesterday"
"If you're talking about up at that cabin, it was me."
Leander gave Mart a leer. "That won't do," said he. "He's put you up to
telling me that, and I'm going to Cornwall, Connecticut. I know what's
good for me, I guess."
"I tell you we were looking for the ferry, and I signalled you across
"No, no," said Leander. "I never seen you in my life. Don't you be like
him and take me for a fool."
"All right. Why did they want to murder you?"
"Why?" said the man, shrilly. "Why? Hadn't they broke in and filled
themselves up on his piah-chuck till they were crazy-drunk? And when I
came along didn't they--"
"When you came along they were nowhere near there," said Mart.
"Now you're going to claim it was me drunk it and scattered all them
bottles of his," screamed Leander, backing away. "I tell you I didn't.
I told him I didn't, and he knowed it well, too. But he's just that mean
when he's mad he likes to put a thing on me whether or no, when he never
seen me touch a drop of whiskey, nor any one else, neither. They were
riding and shooting loose over the country like they always do on a
drunk. And I'm glad they stole his stuff. What business had he to keep
it at Billy Moon's old cabin and send me away up there to see it was all
right? Let him do his own dirty work. I ain't going to break the laws on
the salary he pays me."
The Clallam family had gathered round Leander, who was stricken with
volubility. "It ain't once in a while, but it's every day and every
week," he went on, always in a woolly scream. "And the longer he ain't
caught the bolder he gets, and puts everything that goes wrong on to me.
Was it me traded them for that liquor this afternoon? It was his squaw,
Big Tracks, and he knowed it well. He lets that mud-faced baboon run the
house when he's off, and I don't have the keys nor nothing, and never
did have. But of course he had to come in and say it was me just because
he was mad about having you see them Siwashes hollering around. And he
come and shook me where I was sittin', and oh, my, he knowed well the
lie he was acting. I bet I've got the marks on my neck now. See any red
marks?" Leander exhibited the back of his head, but the violence done
him had evidently been fleeting. "He'll be awful good to you, for he's
Leander stood tremulously straight in silence, his lip sagging, as
Wild-Goose Jake called pleasantly from the other bank. "Come to supper,
you folks," said he. "Why, Andy, I told you to bring them across, and
you've let them picket their horses. Was you expectin' Mrs. Clallam to
take your arm and ford six feet of water?" For some reason his voice
sounded kind as he spoke to his assistant.
"Well, mother?" said Clallam.
"If it was not for Nancy, John--"
"I know, I know. Out on the shore here on this side would be a
pleasanter bedroom for you, but" (he looked up the valley) "I guess our
friend's plan is more sensible to-night."
So they decided to leave the wagon behind and cross to the cabin. The
horses put them with not much wetting to the other bank, where Jake,
most eager and friendly, hovered to meet his party, and when they were
safe ashore pervaded his premises in their behalf.
"Turn them horses into the pasture, Andy," said he, "and first feed 'em
a couple of quarts." It may have been hearing himself say this, but
tone and voice dropped to the confidential and his sentences came with a
chuckle. "Quarts to the horses and quarts to the Siwashes and a skookum
pack of trouble all round, Mrs. Clallam! If I hedn't a-came to stop it a
while ago, why about all the spirits that's in stock jest now was bein'
traded off for some blamed ponies the bears hev let hobble on the range
unswallered ever since I settled here. A store on a trail like this
here, ye see, it hez to keep spirits, of course; and--well, well! here's
my room; you ladies'll excuse, and make yourselves at home as well as
It was of a surprising neatness, due all to him, they presently saw; the
log walls covered with a sort of bunting that was also stretched across
to make a ceiling below the shingles of the roof; fresh soap and towels,
china service, a clean floor and bed, on the wall a print of some white
and red village among elms, with a covered bridge and the water running
over an apron-dam just above; and a rich smell of whiskey everywhere.
"Fix up as comfortable as yu' can," the host repeated, "and I'll see how
Mrs. Jake's tossin' the flapjacks. She's Injun, yu' know, and five years
of married life hadn't learned her to toss flapjacks. Now if I was you"
(he was lingering in the doorway) "I wouldn't shet that winder so quick.
It don't smell nice yet for ladies in here, and I'd hev liked to git the
time to do better for ye; but them Siwashes--well, of course, you folks
see how it is. Maybe it ain't always and only white men that patronizes
our goods. Uncle Sam is a long way off, and I don't say we'd ought to,
but when the cat's away, why the mice will, ye know--they most always
There was a rattle of boards outside, at which he shut the door quickly,
and they heard him run. A light muttering came in at the window, and the
mother, peeping out, saw Andy fallen among a rubbish of crates and empty
cans, where he lay staring, while his two fists beat up and down like a
disordered toy. Wild-Goose Jake came, and having lifted him with great
tenderness, was laying him flat as Elizabeth Clallam hurried to his
"No, ma'am," he sighed, "you can't do nothing, I guess."
"Just let me go over and get our medicines."
"Thank you, ma'am," said Jake, and the pain on his face was miserable to
see; "there ain't no medicine. We're kind of used to this, Andy and me.
Maybe, if you wouldn't mind stayin' till he comes to--Why, a sick man
takes comfort at the sight of a lady."
When the fit had passed they helped him to his feet, and Jake led him
Mrs. Jake made her first appearance upon the guests sitting down to
their meal, when she waited on table, passing busily forth from the
kitchen with her dishes. She had but three or four English words, and
her best years were plainly behind her; but her cooking was good,
fried and boiled with sticks of her own chopping, and she served with
industry. Indeed, a squaw is one of the few species of the domestic wife
that survive today upon our continent. Andy seemed now to keep all
his dislike for her, and followed her with a scowling eye, while he
frequented Jake, drawing a chair to sit next him when he smoked by the
wall after supper, and sometimes watching him with a sort of clouded
affection upon his face. He did not talk, and the seizure had evidently
jarred his mind as well as his frame. When the squaw was about lighting
a lamp he brushed her arm in a childish way so that the match went out,
and set him laughing. She poured out a harangue in Chinook, showing the
dead match to Jake, who rose and gravely lighted the lamp himself, Andy
laughing more than ever. When Mrs. Clallam had taken Nancy with her
to bed, Jake walked John Clallam to the river-bank, and looking up and
down, spoke a little of his real mind.
"I guess you see how it is with me. Anyway, I don't commonly hev use
for stranger-folks in this house. But that little girl of yourn started
cryin' about not havin' the pump along that she'd been used to seein' in
the yard at home. And I says to myself, 'Look a-here, Jake, I don't care
if they do ketch on to you and yer blamed whiskey business. They're not
the sort to tell on you.' Gee! but that about the pump got me! And I
says, 'Jake, you're goin' to give them the best you hev got.' Why, that
Big Bend desert and lonesome valley of the Columbia hez chilled my heart
in the days that are gone when I weren't used to things; and the little
girl hed came so fur! And I knowed how she was a-feelin'."
He stopped, and seemed to be turning matters over.
"I'm much obliged to you," said Clallam.
"And your wife was jest beautiful about Andy. You've saw me wicked to
Andy. I am, and often, for I rile turruble quick, and God forgive me!
But when that boy gits at his meanness--yu've seen jest a touch of
it--there's scarcely livin' with him. It seems like he got reg'lar
inspired. Some days he'll lie--make up big lies to the fust man comes
in at the door. They ain't harmless, his lies ain't. Then he'll trick my
woman, that's real good to him; and I believe he'd lick whiskey up off
the dirt. And every drop is poison for him with his complaint. But I'd
ought to remember. You'd surely think I could remember, and forbear.
Most likely he made a big talk to you about that cabin."
John Clallam told him.
"Well, that's all true, for onced. I did think he'd been up to stealin'
that whiskey gradual, 'stead of fishin', the times he was out all day.
And the salary I give him"--Jake laughed a little--"ain't enough to
justify a man's breaking the law. I did take his rifle away when he
tried to shoot my woman. I guess it was Siwashes bruck into that cabin."
"I'm pretty certain of it," said Clallam.
"You? What makes you?"
John began the tale of the galloping dots, and Jake stopped walking to
listen the harder. "Yes," he said; "that's bad. That's jest bad. They
hev carried a lot off to drink. That's the worst."
He had little to say after this, but talked under his tongue as they
went to the house, where he offered a bed to Clallam and Mart. They
would not turn him out, so he showed them over to a haystack, where they
crawled in and went to sleep.
Most white men know when they have had enough whiskey. Most Indians
do not. This is a difference between the races of which government
has taken notice. Government says that "no ardent spirits shall be
introduced under any presence into the Indian country." It also says
that the white man who attempts to break this law "shall be punished by
imprisonment for not more than two years and by a fine of not more than
three hundred dollars." It further says that if any superintendent of
Indian affairs has reason to suspect a man, he may cause the "boats,
stores, packages, wagons, sleds, and places of deposit" of such person
to be searched, and if ardent spirits be found it shall be forfeit,
together with the boats and all other substances with it connected, one
half to the informer and the other half to the use of the United States.
The courts and all legal machines necessary for trial and punishment of
offenders are oiled and ready; two years is a long while in jail; three
hundred dollars and confiscation sounds heavy; altogether the penalty
looks severe on the printed page--and all the while there's no brisker
success in our far West than selling whiskey to Indians. Very few people
know what the whiskey is made of, and the Indian does not care. He
drinks till he drops senseless. If he has killed nobody and nobody him
during the process, it is a good thing, for then the matter ends with
his getting sober and going home to his tent till such happy time when
he can put his hand on some further possession to trade away. The white
offender is caught now and then; but Okanagon County lies pretty snug
from the arm of the law. It's against Canada to the north, and the empty
county of Stevens to the east; south of it rushes the Columbia, with
the naked horrible Big Bend beyond, and to its west rises a domain
of unfooted mountains. There is law up in the top of it at Conconully
sometimes, but not much even to-day, for that is still a new country,
where flow the Methow, the Ashinola, and the Similikameen.
Consequently a cabin like Wild-Goose Jake's was a holiday place. The
blanketed denizens of the reservation crossed to it, and the citizens
who had neighboring cabins along the trail repaired here to spend what
money they had. As Mrs. Clallam lay in her bed she heard customers
arrive. Two or three loud voices spoke in English, and several Indians
and squaws seemed to be with the party, bantering in Chinook. The
visitors were in too strong force for Jake's word about coming some
other night to be of any avail.
"Open your cellar and quit your talk," Elizabeth heard, and next she
heard some door that stuck, pulled open with a shriek of the warped
timber. Next they were gambling, and made not much noise over it at
first; but the Indians in due time began to lose to the soberer whites,
becoming quarrelsome, and raising a clumsy disturbance, though it was
plain the whites had their own way and were feared. The voices rose, and
soon there was no moment that several were not shouting curses at once,
till Mrs. Clallam stopped her ears. She was still for a time, hearing
only in a muffled way, when all at once the smell of drink and tobacco,
that had sifted only a little through the cracks, grew heavy in the
room, and she felt Nancy shrink close to her side.
"Mother, mother," the child whispered, "what's that?"
It had gone beyond card-playing with the company in the saloon; they
seemed now to be having a savage horse-play, those on their feet
tramping in their scuffles upon others on the floor, who bellowed
incoherently. Elizabeth Clallam took Nancy in her arms and told her that
nobody would come where they were.
But the child was shaking. "Yes, they will," she whispered, in terror.
"They are!" And she began a tearless sobbing, holding her mother with
her whole strength.
A little sound came close by the bed, and Elizabeth's senses stopped so
that for half a minute she could not stir. She stayed rigid beneath the
quilt, and Nancy clung to her. Something was moving over the floor. It
came quite near, but turned, and its slight rustle crawled away towards
"Who is that?" demanded Mrs. Clallam, sitting up.
There was no answer, but the slow creeping continued, always close along
the floor, like the folds of stuff rubbing, and hands feeling their way
in short slides against the boards. She had no way to find where her
husband was sleeping, and while she thought of this and whether or not
to rush out at the door, the table was gently shaken, there was a drawer
opened, and some object fell.
"Only a thief," she said to herself, and in a sort of sharp joy cried
out her question again.
The singular broken voice of a woman answered, seemingly in fear.
"Match-es," it said; and "Match-es" said a second voice, pronouncing
with difficulty, like the first. She knew it was some of the squaws, and
sprang from the bed, asking what they were doing there. "Match-es,"
they murmured; and when she had struck a light she saw how the two were
cringing, their blankets huddled round them. Their motionless black eyes
looked up at her from the floor where they lay sprawled, making no offer
to get up. It was clear to her from the pleading fear in the one word
they answered to whatever she said, that they had come here to hide from
the fury of the next room; and as she stood listening to this she would
have let them remain, but their escape had been noticed. A man burst
into the room, and at sight of her and Nancy stopped, and was blundering
excuses, when Jake caught his arm and had dragged him almost out, but he
saw the two on the floor; at this, getting himself free, he half swept
the crouching figures with his boot as they fled out of the room, and
the door was swung shut. Mrs. Clallam heard his violent words to the
squaws for daring to disturb the strangers, and there followed the heavy
lashing of a quirt, with screams and lamenting. No trouble came from the
Indian husbands, for they were stupefied on the ground, and when their
intelligences quickened enough for them to move, the punishment was
long over and no one in the house awake but Elizabeth and Nancy, seated
together in their bed, watching for the day. Mother and daughter heard
them rise to go out one by one, and the hoof-beats of their horses grew
distant up and down the river. As the rustling trees lighted and turned
transparent in the rising sun, Jake roused those that remained and got
them away. Later he knocked at the door.
"I hev a little raft fixed this morning," said he, "and I guess we can
swim the wagon over here."
"Whatever's quickest to take us from this place," Elizabeth answered.
"Breakfast'll be ready, ma'am, whenever you say."
"I am ready now. I shall want to start ferrying our things--Where's Mr.
Clallam? Tell him to come here."
"I will, ma'am. I'm sorry--"
"Tell Mr. Clallam to come here, please."
John had slept sound in his haystack, and heard nothing. "Well," he
said, after comforting his wife and Nancy, "you were better off in the
room, anyway. I'd not blame him so, Liza. How was he going to help it?"
But Elizabeth was a woman, and just now saw one thing alone: if selling
whiskey led to such things in this country, the man who sold it was much
worse than any mere law-breaker. John Clallam, being now a long time
married, made no argument. He was looking absently at the open drawer of
a table. "That's queer," he said, and picked up a tintype.
She had no curiosity for anything in that room, and he laid it in the
drawer again, his thoughts being taken up with the next step of their
journey, and what might be coming to them all.
During breakfast Jake was humble about the fright the ladies had
received in his house, explaining how he thought he had acted for the
best; at which Clallam and Mart said that in a rough country folks must
look for rough doings, and get along as well as they can; but Elizabeth
said nothing. The little raft took all but Nancy over the river to the
wagon, where they set about dividing their belongings in loads that
could be floated back, one at a time, and Jake returned to repair some
of the disorder that remained from the night at the cabin. John and Mart
poled the first cargo across, and while they were on the other side,
Elizabeth looked out of the wagon, where she was working alone, and saw
five Indian riders coming down the valley. The dust hung in the air they
had rushed through, and they swung apart and closed again as she had
seen before; so she looked for a rifle; but the firearms had gone over
the Okanagon with the first load. She got down and stood at the front
wheel of the wagon, confronting the riders when they pulled up their
horses. One climbed unsteadily from his saddle and swayed towards her.
"Drink!" said he, half friendly, and held out a bottle.
Elizabeth shook her head.
"Drink," he grunted again, pushing the bottle at her. "Piah-chuck!
Skookurn!" He had a slugglish animal grin, and when she drew back,
tipped the bottle into his mouth, and directly choked, so that his
friends on their horses laughed loud as he stood coughing. "Heap good,"
he remarked, looking at Elizabeth, who watched his eyes swim with the
plot of the drink. "Where you come back?" he inquired, touching the
wagon. "You cross Okanagon? Me cross you; cross horses; cross all. Heap
cheap. What yes?"
The others nodded. "Heap cheap," they said.
"We don't want you," said Elizabeth.
"No cross? Maybe he going cross you? What yes?"
Again Elizabeth nodded.
"Maybe he Jake?" pursued the Indian.
"Yes, he is. We don't want you."
"We cross you all same. He not."
The Indian spoke loud and thick, and Elizabeth looked over the river
where her husband was running with a rifle, and Jake behind him, holding
a warning hand on his arm. Jake called across to the Indians, who
listened sullenly, but got on their horses and went up the river.
"Now," said Jake to Clallam, "they ain't gone. Get your wife over here
so she kin set in my room till I see what kin be done."
John left him at once, and crossed on the raft. His wife was stepping on
it, when the noise and flight of riders descended along the other bank,
where Jake was waiting. They went in a circle, with hoarse shouts, round
the cabin as Mart with Nancy came from the pasture. The boy no sooner
saw them than he caught his sister up and carried her quickly away among
the corrals and sheds, where the two went out of sight.
"You stay here, Liza," her husband said. "I'll go back over."
But Mrs. Clallam laughed.
"Get ashore," he cried to her. "Quick!"
"Where you go, I go, John."
"What good, what good, in the name--"
"Then I'll get myself over," said she. And he seized her as she would
have jumped into the stream.
While they crossed, the Indians had tied their horses and rambled into
the cabin. Jake came from it to stop the Clallams.
"They're after your contract," said he, quietly. "They say they're going
to have the job of takin' the balance of your stuff that's left acrosst
the Okanagon over to this side."
"What did you say?" asked Mrs. Clallam.
"I set 'em up drinks to gain time."
"Do you want me there?" said Clallam.
"Begosh, no! That would mix things worse."
"Can't you make them go away?" Elizabeth inquired.
"Me and them, ye see, ma'am, we hev a sort of bargain they're to git
certain ferryin'. I can't make 'em savvy how I took charge of you. If
you want them--" He paused.
"We want them!" exclaimed Elizabeth. "If you're joking, it's a poor
"It ain't no joke at all, ma'am." Jake's face grew brooding. "Of course
folks kin say who they'll be ferried by. And you may believe I'd rather
do it. I didn't look for jest this complication; but maybe I kin steer
through; and it's myself I've got to thank. Of course, if them Siwashes
did git your job, they'd sober up gittin' ready. And--"
The emigrants waited, but he did not go on with what was in his mind.
"It's all right," said he, in a brisk tone. "Whatever's a-comin's
a-comin'." He turned abruptly towards the door. "Keep yerselves away
jest now," he added, and went inside.
The parents sought their children, finding Mart had concealed Nancy in
the haystack. They put Mrs. Clallam also in a protected place, as a
loud altercation seemed to be rising at the cabin; this grew as they
listened, and Jake's squaw came running to hide herself. She could tell
them nothing, nor make them understand more than they knew; but she
touched John's rifle, signing to know if it were loaded, and was
greatly relieved when he showed her the magazine full of cartridges.
The quarrelling had fallen silent, but rose in a new gust of fierceness,
sounding as if in the open air and coming their way. No Indian appeared,
however, and the noise passed to the river, where the emigrants soon
could hear wood being split in pieces.
John risked a survey. "It's the raft," he said. "They're smashing it.
Now they're going back. Stay with the children, Liza."
"You're never going to that cabin?" she said.
"He's in a scrape, mother."
John started away, heedless of his wife's despair. At his coming the
Indians shouted and surrounded him, while he heard Jake say, "Drop your
gun and drink with them."
"Drink!" said Andy, laughing with the same screech he had made at the
match going out. "We re all going to Canaan, Connecticut."
Each Indian held a tin cup, and at the instant these were emptied
they were thrust towards Jake, who filled them again, going and coming
through a door that led a step or two down into a dark place which was
half underground. Once he was not quick, or was imagined to be refusing,
for an Indian raised his cup and drunkenly dashed it on Jake's head.
Jake laughed good-humoredly, and filled the cup.
"It's our one chance," said he to John as the Indian, propping himself
by a hand on the wall, offered the whiskey to Clallam.
"We cross you Okanagon," he said. "What yes?"
"Maybe you say no?" said another, pressing the emigrant to the wall.
A third interfered, saying something in their language, at which the
other two disagreed. They talked a moment with threatening rage till
suddenly all drew pistols. At this the two remaining stumbled among the
group, and a shot went into the roof. Jake was there in one step with
a keg, that they no sooner saw than they fell upon it, and the liquor
jetted out as they clinched, wrestling over the room till one lay on
his back with his mouth at the open bung. It was wrenched from him, and
directly there was not a drop more in it. They tilted it, and when none
ran out, flung the keg out of doors and crowded to the door of the dark
place, where Jake barred the way. "Don't take to that yet!" he said to
Clallam, for John was lifting his rifle.
"Piah-chuck!" yelled the Indians, scarcely able to stand. All other
thought had left them, and a new thought came to Jake. He reached for a
fresh keg, while they held their tin cups in the left hand and pistols
in the right, pushing so it was a slow matter to get the keg opened.
They were fast nearing the sodden stage, and one sank on the floor. Jake
glanced in at the door behind him, and filled the cups once again. While
all were drinking he went in the store-room and set more liquor open,
beckoning them to come as they looked up from the rims to which their
lips had been glued. They moved round behind the table, grasping it to
keep on their feet, with the one on the floor crawling among the legs
of the rest. When they were all inside, Jake leaped out and locked the
"They kin sleep now," said he. "Gunpowder won't be needed. Keep wide
away from in front."
There was a minute of stillness within, and then a groveling noise and
struggle. A couple of bullets came harmless through the door. Those
inside fought together as well as they could, while those outside
listened as it grew less, the bodies falling stupefied without further
sound of rising. One or two, still active, began striking at the boards
with what heavy thing they could find, until suddenly the blade of an
axe crashed through.
"Keep away!" cried Jake. But Andy had leaped insanely in front of the
door, and fell dead with a bullet through him. With a terrible scream,
Jake flung himself at the place, and poured six shots through the panel;
then, as Clallam caught him, wrenched at the lock, and they saw inside.
Whiskey and blood dripped together, and no one was moving there. It
was liquor with some, and death with others, and all of it lay upon the
guilty soul of Jake.
"You deserve killing yourself," said Clallam.
"That's been attended to," replied Jake, and he reeled, for during his
fire some Indian had shot once more.
Clallam supported him to the room where his wife and Nancy had passed
the night, and laid him on the bed. "I'll get Mrs. Clallam," said he.
"If she'll be willin' to see me," said the wounded man, humbly.
She came, dazed beyond feeling any horror, or even any joy, and she did
what she could.
"It was seein' 'em hit Andy," said Jake. "Is Andy gone? Yes, I kin tell
he's gone from your face." He shut his eyes, and lay still so long a
time that they thought he might be dying now; but he moved at length,
and looked slowly round the wall till he saw the print of the village
among the elms and the covered bridge. His hand lifted to show them
this. "That's the road," said he. "Andy and me used to go fishin'
acrosst that bridge. Did you ever see the Housatonic River? I've fished
a lot there. Cornwall, Connecticut. The hills are pretty there. Then
Andy got worse. You look in that drawer." John remembered, and when he
got out the tintype, Jake stretched for it eagerly. "His mother and him,
age ten," he explained to Elizabeth, and held it for her to see, then
studied the faces in silence. "You kin tell it's Andy, can't yu'?" She
told him yes. "That was before we knowed he weren't--weren't goin' to
grow up like the other boys he played with. So after a while, when she
was gone, I got ashamed seein' Andy's friends makin' their way when
he couldn't seem to, and so I took him away where nobody hed ever been
acquainted with us. I was layin' money by to get him the best doctor in
Europe. I 'ain't been a good man."
A faintness mastered him, and Elizabeth would have put the picture
on the table, but his hand closed round it. They let him lie so, and
Elizabeth sat there, while John, with Mart, kept Nancy away till the
horror in the outer room was made invisible. They came and went quietly,
and Jake seemed in a deepening torpor, once only rousing suddenly to
call his son's name, and then, upon looking from one to the other, he
recollected, and his eyes closed again. His mind wandered, but very
little, for torpor seemed to be overcoming him. The squaw had stolen in,
and sat cowering and useless. Towards sundown John's heart sickened at
the sound of more horsemen; but it was only two white men, a sheriff and
"Go easy," said John. "He's not going to resist."
"What's up here, anyway? Who are you?"
Clallam explained, and was evidently not so much as half believed.
"If there are Indians killed," said the sheriff, "there's still another
matter for the law to settle with him. We're sent to search for whiskey.
The county's about tired of him."
"You'll find him pretty sick," said John.
"People I find always are pretty sick," said the sheriff, and pushed
his way in, stopping at sight of Mrs. Clallam and the figure on the bed.
"I'm arresting that man, madam," he said, with a shade of apology. "The
county court wants him."
Jake sat up and knew the sheriff. "You're a little late, Proctor," said
he. "The Supreme Court's a-goin' to call my case." Then he fell back,
for his case had been called.
Next: Hank's Woman
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