The Mule Driver And The Garrulous Mute





Bill had finished panning the concentrates from our last clean-up,

and now the silver ball of amalgam sizzled and fried on the shovel

over the little chip-fire, while we smoked in the sun before the

cabin. Removed from the salivating fumes of the quicksilver, we

watched the yellow tint grow and brighten in the heat.



"There's two diseases which the doctors ain't got any license to

monkey with," began Bill, chewing out blue smoke from his lungs with

each word, "and they're both fevers. After they butt into your

system they stick crossways, like a swallered toothpick; there ain't

any patent medicine that can bust their holt."



I settled against the door-jamb and nodded.



"I've had them both, acute and continuous, since I was old enough

to know my own mind and the taste of tobacco; I hold them mainly

responsible for my present condition." He mournfully viewed his

fever-ridden frame which sprawled a pitiful six-feet-two from the

heels of his gum-boots to the grizzled hair beneath his white Stetson.



"The first and most rabid," he continued, "is horse-racing--and

t'other is the mining fever, which last is a heap insidiouser in its

action and more lingering in its effect.



"It wasn't long after that deal in the Territory that I felt the

symptoms coming on agin, and this time they pinted most emphatic

toward prospecting, so me and 'Kink' Martin loaded our kit onto the

burros and hit West.



"Kink was a terrible good prospector, though all-fired unlucky and

peculiar. Most people called him crazy, 'cause he had fits of goin'

for days without a peep.



"Hosstyle and ornery to the whole world; sort of bulging out and

exploding with silence, as it were.



"We'd been out in the hills for a week on our first trip before he

got one of them death-watch faces on him, and boycotted the English

langwidge. I stood for it three days, trying to jolly a grin on to

him or rattle a word loose, but he just wouldn't jolt.



"One night we packed into camp tired, hungry, and dying for a good

feed.



"I hustled around and produced a supper fit for old Mr. Eppycure.

Knowing that Kink had a weakness for strong coffee that was simply a

hinge in him, I pounded up about a quart of coffee beans in the

corner of a blanket and boiled out a South American liquid that was

nothing but the real Arbuckle mud.



"This wasn't no chafing-dish party either, because the wood was wet

and the smoke chased me round the fire. Then it blazed up in spurts

and fired the bacon-grease, so that when I grabbed the skillet the

handle sizzled the life all out of my callouses. I kicked the fire

down to a nice bed of coals and then the coffee-pot upset and put it

out. Ashes got into the bacon, and--Oh! you know how joyful it is to

cook on a green fire when you're dead tired and your hoodoo's on

vicious.



"When the 'scoffings' were finally ready, I wasn't in what you might

exactly call a mollyfying and tactful mood nor exuding genialness and

enthusiasms anyways noticeable."



"I herded the best in camp towards him, watching for a benevolent

symptom, but he just dogged it in silence and never changed a hair.

That was the limit, so I inquired sort of ominous and gentle, 'Is

that coffee strong enough for ye, Mr. Martin?'



"He give a little impecunious grunt, implying, 'Oh! it'll do,' and

with that I seen little green specks begin to buck and wing in front

of my eyes; reaching back of me, I grabbed the Winchester and throwed

it down on him.



"'Now, you laugh, darn you,' I says, 'in a hurry. Just turn it out

gleeful and infractious.'



"He stared into the nozzle of that Krupp for a minute, then swallered

twice to tune up his reeds, and says, friendly and perlite, but

serious and wheezy:



"'Why, what in hell ails you, William?'



"'Laugh, you old dong-beater,' I yells, rising gradually to the

occasion, 'or I'll bust your cupola like a blue-rock.'



"'I've got to have merriment,' I says. 'I pine for warmth and genial

smiles, and you're due to furnish the sunshine. You emit a few

shreds of mirth with expedition or the upper end of your spinal-cord

is going to catch cold.'



"Say! his jaws squeaked like a screen door when he loosened, but he

belched up a beauty, sort of stagy and artificial it was, but a great

help. After that we got to know each other a heap better. Yes, sir;

soon after that we got real intimate. He knocked the gun out of my

hands, and we began to arbitrate. We plumb ruined that spot for a

camping place; rooted it up in furrows, and tramped each other's

stummicks out of shape. We finally reached an amicable settlement by

me getting him agin a log where I could brand him with the coffee-pot.



"Right there we drawed up a protoplasm, by the terms of which he was

to laugh anyways twice at meal-times.



"He told me that he reckoned he was locoed, and always had been since

a youngster, when the Injuns run in on them down at Frisbee, the time

of the big 'killing.' Kink saw his mother and father both murdered,

and other things, too, which was impressive, but not agreeable for a

growing child. He had formed a sort of antipathy for Injuns at that

time, which he confessed he hadn't rightly been able to overcome.



"Now, he allus found himself planning how to hand Mr. Lo the double

cross and avoid complications.



"We worked down into South Western Arizony to a spot about

thirty-five miles back of Fort Walker and struck a prospect. Sort of

a teaser it was, but worth working on. We'd just got nicely started

when Kink comes into camp one day after taking a passiar around the

butte for game, and says:



"'The queerest thing happened to me just now, Kid.'



"'Well, scream it at me,' I says, sort of smelling trouble in the air.



"'Oh! It wasn't much,' says he. 'I was just working down the big

canyon over there after a deer when I seen two feather-dusters coming

up the trail. I hid behind a rock, watching 'em go past, and I'm

durned if my gun didn't go off accidental and plumb ruin one of 'em.

Then I looks carefuller and seen it wasn't no feather-duster at

all--nothing but an Injun.'



"'What about the other one?'



"'That's the strangest part,' says Kink. 'Pretty soon the other one

turns and hits the back-trail like he'd forgot something; then I seen

him drop off his horse, too, sudden and all togetherish. I'm awful

careless with this here gun,' he says. I hate to see a man laugh

from his tonsils forrard, the way he did. It ain't humorous.



"'See here,' I says, 'I ain't the kind that finds fault with my

pardner, nor saying this to be captious and critical of your play;

but don't you know them Cochises ain't on the warpath? Them Injuns

has been on their reservation for five years, peaceable,

domesticated, and eating from the hand. This means trouble."



"'My old man didn't have no war paint on him one day back at

Frisbee,' whispers Kink, and his voice sounded puckered up and dried,

'and my mother wasn't so darned quarrelsome, either.'



"Then I says, 'Well! them bodies has got to be hid, or we'll have the

tribe and the bluebellies from the fort a scouring these hills till a

red-bug couldn't hide.'



"'To hell with 'em,' says Kink. 'I've done all I'm going to for 'em.

Let the coyotes finish the job.'



"'No, siree,' I replies. 'I don't blame you for having a prejudice

agin savages, but my parents is still robust and husky, and I have

an idea that they'd rather see me back on the ranch than glaring

through the bars for life. I'm going over to bury the meat.'



"Off I went, but when I slid down the gulch, I only found one body.

T'other had disappeared. You can guess how much time I lost getting

back to camp.



"'Kink,' I says, 'we're a straddle of the raggedest proposition in

this country. One of your dusters at this moment is jamming his

cayuse through the horizon between here and the post. Pretty soon

things is going to bust loose. 'Bout to-morrer evening we'll be

eating hog-bosom on Uncle Sam.'



"'Well! Well!' says Kink, 'ain't that a pity. Next time I'll

conquer my natural shyness and hold a post-mortem with a rock.'



"'There won't be no next time, I reckon,' I says, ''cause we can't

make it over into Mexico without being caught up. They'll nail us

sure, seeing as we're the only white men for twenty-five miles

around.'



"'I'd rather put up a good run than a bad stand, anyhow,' says he,

'and I allows, furthermore, there's going to be some hard trails to

foller and a tolable disagreeable fight before I pleads 'not guilty'

to the Colonel. We'll both duck over into the Santa--'



"'Now, don't tell me what route you're going,' I interrupts,' 'cause

I believe I'll stay and bluff it through, rather than sneak for it,

though neither proposition don't appeal to me. I may get raised out

before the draw, but the percentage is just as strong agin your game

as mine.'



"'Boy, if I was backing your system,' says Kink, 'I'd shore copper

this move and play her to lose. You come on with me, and we'll make

it through--mebbe.'



"'No,' I says; 'here I sticks.'



"I made up a pack-strap out of my extry overhalls while he got grub

together, to start south through one hundred miles of the ruggedest

and barrenest country that was ever left unfinished.



"Next noon I was parching some coffee-beans in the frying-pan, when I

heard hoofs down the gully back of me. I never looked up when they

come into the open nor when I heard a feller say 'Halt!'



"'Hello there!' somebody yells. 'You there at the fire.' I kept on

shaking the skillet over the camp-fire.



"'What's the matter with him?' somebody said. A man got off and

walked up behind me.



"'See here, brother,' he says, tapping me on the shoulder; 'this

don't go.'



"I jumped clean over the fire, dropped the pan, and let out a deaf

and dumb holler, 'Ee! Ah!'



"The men began to laugh; it seemed to rile the little leftenant.



"'Cut this out,' says he. 'You can talk as well as I can, and you're

a going to tell us about this Injun killin'. Don't try any fake

business, or I'll roast your little heels over that fire like yams.'



"I just acted the dummy, wiggled my fingers, and handed him the

joyful gaze, heliographing with my teeth as though I was glad to see

visitors. However, I wondered if that runt would really give my

chilblains a treat. He looked like a West Pointer, and I didn't know

but he'd try to haze me.



"Well! they 'klow-towed' around there for an hour looking for clues,

but I'd hid all the signs of Kink, so finally they strapped me onto a

horse and we hit back for the fort.



"The little man tried all kinds of tricks to make me loosen on the

way down, but I just acted wounded innocence and 'Ee'd' and 'Ah'd' at

him till he let me alone.



"When we rode up to the post he says to the Colonel:



"'We've got the only man there is in the mountains back there, sir,

but he's playing dumb. I don't know what his game is.'



"'Dumb, eh?' says the old man, looking me over pretty keen. 'Well! I

guess we'll find his voice if he's got one.'



"He took me inside, and speaking of examinations, probably I didn't

get one. He kept looking at me like he wanted to place me, but I

give him the 'Ee! Ah!' till everybody began to laugh. They tried me

with a pencil and paper, but I balked, laid my ears back, and

buck-jumped. That made the old man sore, and he says: 'Lock him up!

Lock him up; I'll make him talk if I have to skin him.' So I was

dragged to the 'skookum-house,' where I spent the night figuring out

my finish.



"I could feel it coming just as plain, and I begun to see that when I

did open up and prattle after Kink was safe, nobody wouldn't believe

my little story. I had sized the Colonel up as a dead stringy old

proposition, too. He was one of these big-chopped fellers with a

mouth set more'n half way up from his chin and little thin lips like

the edge of a knife blade, and just as full of blood--face, big and

rustic-finished.



"I says to myself, 'Bud, it looks like you wouldn't be forced to

prospect for a living any more this season. If that old sport turns

himself loose you're going to get 'life' three times and a holdover.'



"Next morning they tried every way to make me talk. Once in a while

the old man looked at me puzzled and searching, but I didn't know him

from a sweat-pad, and just paid strict attention to being dumb.



"It was mighty hard, too. I got so nervous my mouth simply ached to

let out a cayoodle. The words kept trying to crawl through my

sesophagus, and when I backed 'em up, they slid down and stood around

in groups, hanging onto the straps, gradually filling me with witful

gems of thought.



"The Colonel talked to me serious and quiet, like I had good ears,

and says, 'My man, you can understand every word I say, I'm sure, and

what your object is in maintaining this ridiculous silence, I don't

know. You're accused of a crime, and it looks serious for you."



"Then he gazes at me queer and intent, and says, 'If you only knew

how bad you are making your case you'd make a clean breast of it.

Come now, let's get at the truth.'



"Them thought jewels and wads of repartee was piling up in me fast,

like tailings from a ground-sluice, till I could feel myself getting

bloated and pussy with langwidge, but I thought, 'No! to-morrow Kink

'll be safe, and then I'll throw a jolt into this man's camp that'll

go down in history. They'll think some Chinaman's been thawing out a

box of giant powder when I let out my roar.'



"I goes to the guard-house again, with a soldier at my back.

Everything would have been all right if we hadn't run into a mule

team.



"They had been freighting from the railroad, and as we left the

barracks we ran afoul of four outfits, three span to the wagon, with

the loads piled on till the teams was all lather and the wheels

complainin' to the gods, trying to pass the corner of the barracks

where there was a narrow opening between the buildings.



"Now a good mule-driver is the littlest, orneriest speck in the human

line that's known to the microscope, but when you get a poor one,

he'd spoil one of them cholera germs you read about just by contact.

The leader of this bunch was worse than the worst; strong on

whip-arm, but surprising weak on judgment. He tried to make the

turn, run plump into the corner of the building, stopped, backed,

swung, and proceeded to get into grief.



"The mules being hot and nervous, he sent them all to the loco patch

instanter. They began to plunge and turn and back and snarl. Before

you could say 'Craps! you lose,' them shave-tails was giving the

grandest exhibition of animal idiocy in the Territory, barring the

teamster. He follered their trail to the madhouse, yanking the

mouths out of them, cruel and vicious.



"Now, one mule can cause a heap of tribulation, and six mules can

break a man's heart, but there wasn't no excuse for that driver to

stand up on his hind legs, close his eyes, and throw thirty foot of

lash into that plunging buckin', white-eyed mess. When he did it,

all the little words inside of me began to foam and fizzle like

sedlitz; out they came, biting, in mouthfuls, and streams, and

squirts, backwards, sideways, and through my nose.



"'Here! you infernal half-spiled, dog-robbing walloper,' I says; 'you

don't know enough to drive puddle ducks to a pond. You quit heaving

that quirt or I'll harm you past healing.'



"He turned his head and grit out something through his teeth that

stimulated my circulation. I skipped over the wheels and put my left

onto his neck, fingering the keys on his blow-pipe like a flute.

Then I give him a toss and gathered up the lines. Say! it was like

the smell of grease-paint to an actor man for me to feel the ribbons

again, and them mules knew they had a chairman who savvied 'em too,

and had mule talk pat, from soda to hock.



"I just intimated things over them with that whip, and talked to them

like they was my own flesh and blood. I starts at the worst words

the English langwidge and the range had produced, to date, and got

steadily and rapidly worse as long as I talked.



"Arizony may be slow in the matter of standing collars and rag-time,

but she leads the world in profanity. Without being swelled on

myself, I'll say, too, that I once had more'n a local reputation in

that line, having originated some quaint and feeling conceits which

has won modest attention, and this day I was certainly trained to the

minute.



"I addressed them brutes fast and earnest for five minutes steady,

and never crossed my trail or repeated a thought.



"It must have been sacred and beautiful. Anyhow, it was strong

enough to soak into their pores so that they strung out straight as a

chalk-line. Then I lifted them into the collars, and we rumbled past

the building, swung in front of the commissary door, cramped and

stopped. With the wheelers on their haunches, I backed up to the

door square as a die.



"I wiped the sweat out of my eyes and looked up into the grinning

face of about fifty swatties, realizing I was a mute--and a prisoner.



"I heard a voice say, 'Bring me that man.' There stood the Colonel

oozing out wrath at every pore.



"I parted from that wagon hesitating and reluctant, but two soldiers

to each leg will bust any man's grip, I lost some clothes, too, after

we hit the ground, but I needed the exercise.



"The old man was alone in his office when they dragged me in, and he

sent my guards out.



"'So you found your voice, did you?' he says.



"'Yes, sir," I answers. 'It came back unexpected, regular miracle.'



"'He drummed on the table for a long time, and then says, sort of

immaterial and irreverent, 'You're a pretty good mule puncher, eh?'



"'It ain't for me to say I'm the best in the Territory,' I says; 'but

I'm curious to meet the feller that claims the title.'



"He continues, 'It reminds me of an exhibition I saw once, back in

New Mexico, long time ago, at the little Flatwater Canyon.'



"'Maybe you've heard tell of the fight there when the Apaches were

up? Yes? Well, I happened to be in that scrimmage.'



"'I was detailed with ten men to convoy a wagon train through to Fort

Lewis. We had no trouble till we came to the end of that canyon,

just where she breaks out onto the flats. There we got it. They

were hidden up on the ridges; we lost two men and one wagon before we

could get out onto the prairie.



"'I got touched up in the neck, first clatter, and was bleeding

pretty badly; still I hung to my horse, and we stood 'em off till the

teams made it out of the gulch; but just as we came out my horse fell

and threw me--broke his leg. I yelled to the boys:



"'"Go on! For God's sake go on!" Any delay there meant loss of the

whole outfit. Besides, the boys had more than they could manage,

Injuns on three sides.



"'We had a young Texan driving the last wagon. When I went down he

swung those six mules of his and came back up that trail into the

gut, where the bullets snapped like grasshoppers.



"'It was the prettiest bit of driving I ever saw, not to mention

nerve. He whirled the outfit between me and the bluff on two wheels,

yelling, "Climb on! Climb on! We ain't going to stay long!" I was

just able to make it onto the seat. In the turn they dropped one of

his wheelers. He ran out on the tongue and cut the brute loose. We

went rattling down the gulch behind five mules. All the time there

came out of that man's lungs the fiercest stream of profanity my ears

ever burned under. I was pretty sick for a few weeks, so I never got

a chance to thank that teamster. He certainly knew the mind of an

army mule, though. His name was--let me see--Wiggins--yes, Wiggins.



"'Oh, no it wasn't,' I breaks in, foolish; 'it was Joyce.'



"Then I stopped and felt like a kid, for the Colonel comes up and

shuts the circulation out of both my hands.



"'I wasn't sure of you, Bill,' he says, 'till I saw you preside over

those mules out there and heard your speech--then I recognized the

gift.' He laughed like a boy, still making free with my hands. 'I'm

darn glad to see you, Bill Joyce. Now then,' he says, 'tell me all

about this killing up in the hills,' and I done so.



"After I finished he never said anything for a long time, just

drummed the desk again and looked thoughtful.



"'It's too bad you didn't speak out, Bill, when you first came in.

Now, you've showed everybody that you can talk--just a little,

anyhow,' and he smiles, 'and they all think you're the man caused the

trouble. I don't see but that you've got to stand trial. I wish I

could help you, Bill.'



"'But see here, Colonel,' I says; 'I couldn't squeal on Kink. We're

pardners. I just had to give him a chance to cut. I played dumb

'cause I knew if I talked at all, being simple and guileless, you all

would twist me up and have the whole thing in a jiffy. That man give

me the last drop of water in his canteen on the Mojave, and him with

his own tongue swelled clean out of his mouth, too. When we was

snowed in, up in the Bitter Roots, with me snow-blind and starving,

he crawled from Sheeps-Horn clean to Miller's--snow twelve foot deep,

too, and nary a snow-shoe in miles, but he brought the outfit in to

where I was lyin' 'bout gone in. He lost some fingers and more toes

wallering through them mountain drifts that day, but he never laid

down till he brought the boys back.



"'Colonel! we've slept on the same blanket, we've et the same grub,

we've made and lost together, and I had to give him a show, that's

all. I'm into this here trouble now. Tell me how I'm going to get

out. What would you do?'



"He turns to the open window and says: 'Partners are partners!

That's my horse out there at that post. If I were you I'd run like

hell.'



"That was the willingest horse I ever rode, and I hated to sell him,

but he was tolable used up when I got across the line."



THE COLONEL AND THE HORSE-THIEF



Those marks on my arm? Oh! I got 'em playin' horse-thief. Yes,

playin'. I wasn't a real one, you know--Well, I s'pose it was sort

of a queer game. Came near bein' my last too, and if Black Hawk

hadn't been the best horse in Texas the old Colonel would've killed

me sure. He chased me six miles as it was--me with one arm full of

his buckshot and anxious to explain, and him strainin' to get in

range again and not wishin' any further particulars.



That was way back in the sixties, when I was as wild a lad as ever

straddled a pony.



You see five of us had gone over into the Crow Nation to race horses

with the Indians, and it was on the way back that the old man and the

bullet holes figger in the story.



At the beginnin' it was Jim Barrett's plan, and it had jest enough

risk and devilment in it to suit a harum-scarum young feller like me;

so we got five of the boys who had good horses, lumped together all

of our money, and rode out to invade the reservation.



You know how an Indian loves to run horses? Well, the Crows had a

good deal of money then, and our scheme was to go over there, get up

a big race, back our horses with all we had, and take down the wealth.



Takin' chances? Don't you believe it. That's where the beauty of

Jim's plan commenced to sort of shine through.



You see, as soon as the money was up and the horses started, every

Indian would be watchin' the race and yellin' at the nags, then, in

the confusion, our boys was to grab the whole pot, Indian's money and

ours too, and we'd make our get away across the river back into Texas.



We figured that we could get a few minutes start of 'em, and, with

the horses we had under us, there wasn't much danger of their gettin'

in range before we crossed back to where they couldn't follow us.



Well, sir! I never see anything work out like that scheme did. Them

Crows was dead anxious to run their ponies and seemed skeered that we

wouldn't let 'em get all their money up.



As we was eatin' supper the night before the race, Donnelly says:

"Boys, I'm sore that we didn't have more coin. If we'd worked 'em

right they'd 'a' give us odds. We could 'a' got five to three

anyhow, and maybe more."



"They shore have got a heap of confidence in them skates of their'n,"

says Kink Martin. "I never see anybody so anxious to play a race in

my life. If it wasn't all planned out the way it is, I'd like to

stick and see which hoss is the best. I'd back Black Hawk agin any

hunk of meat in the Territory, with the Kid here in the saddle."



They'd ribbed it up for me to ride Martin's mare, Black Hawk, while a

little feller named Hollis rode his own horse.



Donnelly's part was to stay in the saddle and keep the other horses

close to Barrett and Martin. They was to stick next to the money,

and one of 'em do the bearin' off of the booty while the other made

the protection play.



We hoped in the excitement to get off without harmin' any of Uncle

Sam's pets, but all three of the boys had been with the Rangers and I

knew if it came to a show down, they wouldn't hesitate to "pot" one

or two in gittin' away.



We rode out from camp the next mornin' to where we'd staked out a

mile track on the prairie and it seemed as if the whole Crow Nation

was there, and nary a white but us five.



They'd entered two pretty good-lookin' horses and had their jockeys

stripped down to breech-clouts, while Hollis and me wore our whole

outfits on our backs, as we didn't exactly figger on dressin' after

the race, leastways, not on that side of the river.



Just before we lined up, Jim says: "Now you ---- all ride like ----,

and when you git to the far turn we'll let the guns loose and

stampede the crowd. Then jest leave the track and make a break fer

the river, everybody fer himself. We'll all meet at them cottonwoods

on the other side, so we can stand 'em off if they try to swim across

after us."



That would have been a sure enough hot race if we had run it out, for

we all four got as pretty a start as I ever see and went down the

line all together with a-bangin' of hoofs and Indian yells ringin' in

our ears.



I had begun to work Black Hawk out of the bunch to get a clear start

across the prairie at the turn, when I heard the guns begin snappin'

like pop-corn.



"They've started already," yelled Hollis, and we turned the rearin'

horses toward the river, three miles away, leavin' them two savages

tearin' down the track like mad.



I glanced back as I turned, but, instead of seein' the boys in the

midst of a decent retreat, the crowd was swarmin' after 'em like a

nest of angry hornets, while Donnelly, with his reins between his

teeth, was blazin' away at three reds who were right at Barrett's

heels as he ran for his horse. Martin was lashin' his jumpin' cayuse

away from the mob which sputtered and spit angry shots after him.

Bucks were runnin' here and there and hastily mountin' their

ponies--while an angry roar came to me, punctuated by the poppin' of

the guns.



Hollis and I reached the river and swam it half a mile ahead of the

others and their yellin' bunch of trailers, so we were able to

protect 'em in their crossin'.



I could see from their actions that Bennett and Martin was both hurt

and I judged the deal hadn't panned out exactly accordin' to

specifications.



The Crows didn't attempt to cross in the teeth of our fire, however,

being satisfied with what they'd done, and the horses safely brought

our three comrades drippin' up the bank to where we lay takin'

pot-shots at every bunch of feathers that approached the opposite

bank.



We got Barrett's arm into a sling, and, as Martin's hurt wasn't

serious, we lost no time in gettin' away.



"They simply beat us to it," complained Barrett, as we rode south.

"You all had jest started when young Long Hair grabs the sack and

ducks through the crowd, and the whole bunch turns loose on us at

once. We wasn't expectin' anything so early in the game, and they

winged me the first clatter. I thought sure it was oft with me when

I got this bullet in the shoulder, but I used the gun in my left hand

and broke for the nearest pony."



"They got me, too, before I saw what was up," added Martin; "but I

tore out of there like a jack-rabbit. It was all done so cussed

quick that the first thing I knew I'd straddled my horse and was

makin' tracks. Who'd a thought them durned Indians was dishonest

enough fer a trick like that?"



Then Donnelly spoke up and says: "Boys, as fur as the coin goes,

we're out an' injured; we jest made a 'Mexican stand-off'--lost our

money, but saved our lives--and mighty lucky at that, from

appearances. What I want to know now is, how we're all goin' to get

home, clean across the State of Texas, without a dollar in the

outfit, and no assets but our guns and the nags."



That was a sure tough proposition, and we had left it teetotally out

of calculations. We'd bet every bean on that race, not seein' how we

could lose. In them days there wasn't a railroad in that section,

ranches were scatterin', and people weren't givin' pink teas to every

stranger that rode up--especially when they were as hard-lookin' as

we were.



"We've got to eat, and so's the horses," says Hollis, "but no rancher

is goin' to welcome with open arms as disreputable an outfit as we

are. Two men shot up, and the rest of us without beddin', grub,

money, or explanations. Them's what we need--explanations. I don't

exactly see how we're goin' to explain our fix to the honest

hay-diggers, either. Everybody'll think some sheriff is after us,

and two to one they'll put some officer on our trail, and we'll have

more trouble. I believe I've had all I want for awhile."



"I'll tell you how we'll work it," I says. "One of us'll be the

sheriff of Guadalupe County, back home, with three deputies, bringin'

back a prisoner that we've chased across the State. We'll ride up to

a ranch an' demand lodgin' for ourselves and prisoner in the name of

the State of Texas and say that we'll pay with vouchers on the county

in the morning."



"No, sir! not fer me," says Martin. "I'm not goin' in fer forgery.

It's all right to practice a little mild deception on our red

brothers, as we figgered on doing, but I'm not goin' to try to

flimflam the State of Texas. Our troubles 'd only be startin' if we

began that game."



"Your plan's all right, Kid," says Bennett to me. "You be the

terrible desperado that I'm bringin' home after a bloody fight, where

you wounded Martin and me, and 'most escaped. You'll have ev'ry

rancher's wife givin' you flowers and weepin' over your youth and

kissin' you good-bye. In the mornin', when we're ready to go and I'm

about to fix up the vouchers for our host, you break away and ride

like the devil. We'll all tear off a few shots and foller in a

hurry, leavin' the farmer hopin' that the villain is recaptured and

the girls tearfully prayin' that the gallunt and misguided youth

escapes."



It seemed to be about our only resort, as the country was full of bad

men, and we were liable to get turned down cold if we didn't have

some story, so we decided to try it on.



We rode up to a ranch 'bout dark, that night, me between the others,

with my hands tied behind me, and Jim called the owner out.



"I want a night's lodgin' fer my deputies and our prisoner," he says.

"I'm the sheriff of Guadalupe County, and I'll fix up the bill in the

mornin'."



"Come in! Come in!" the feller says, callin' a man for the horses.

"Glad to accommodate you. Who's your prisoner?"



"That's Texas Charlie that robbed the Bank of Euclid single-handed,"

answers Jim. "He give us a long run clean across the State, but we

got him jest as he was settin' over into the Indian Territory.

Fought like a tiger."



It worked fine. The feller, whose name was Morgan, give us a good

layout for the night and a bully breakfast next morning.



That desperado game was simply great. The other fellers attended to

the horses, and I jest sat around lookin' vicious, and had my grub

brought to me, while the women acted sorrowful and fed me pie and

watermelon pickles.



When we was ready to leave next morning, Jim says: "Now, Mr. Morgan,

I'll fix up them vouchers with you," and givin' me the wink, I let

out a yell, and jabbin' the spurs into Black Hawk, we cleared the

fence and was off like a puff of dust, with the rest of 'em shootin'

and screamin' after me like mad.



Say! It was lovely--and when the boys overtook me, out of sight of

the house, Morgan would have been astonished to see the sheriff, his

posse, and the terrible desperado doubled up in their saddles

laughin' fit to bust.



Well, sir! we never had a hitch in the proceedings for five days, and

I was gettin' to feel a sort of pride in my record as a bank-robber,

forger, horse-thief, and murderer, accordin' to the way Bennett

presented it. He certainly was the boss liar of the range.



He had a story framed up that painted me as the bloodiest young tough

the Lone Star had ever produced, and it never failed to get me all

the attention there was in the house.



One night we came to the best lookin' place we'd seen, and, in answer

to Jim's summons, out walked an old man, followed by two of the

prettiest girls I ever saw, who joined their father in invitin' us in.



"Glad to be of assistance to you, Mr. Sheriff," he said. "My name is

Purdy, sir! Colonel Purdy, as you may have heard. In the Mexican

War, special mention three times for distinguished conduct. These

are my daughters, sir! Annabel and Marie." As we went in, he

continued: "You say you had a hard time gettin' your prisoner? He

looks young for a criminal. What's he wanted for?"



Somehow, when I saw those girls blushin' and bowin' behind their

father, I didn't care to have my crimes made out any blacker'n

necessary and I tried to give Jim the high-sign to let me off

easy--just make it forgery or arson--but he was lookin' at the

ladies, and evidently believin' in the strength of a good impression,

he said: "Well, yes! He's young but they never was a old man with

half his crimes. He's wanted for a good many things in different

places, but I went after him for horse-stealin' and murder. Killed a

rancher and his little daughter, then set fire to the house and ran

off a bunch o' stock."



"Oh! Oh! How dreadful!" shuddered the girls, backin' off with

horrified glances at me.



I tried to get near Jim to step on his foot, but the old man was

glarin' at me somethin' awful.



"Come to observe him closely, he has a depraved face," says he. "He

looks the thorough criminal in every feature, dead to every decent

impulse, I s'pose."



I could have showed him a live impulse that would have surprised him

about then.



In those days I was considered a pretty handsome feller too, and I

knew I had Jim beat before the draw on looks, but he continues makin'

matters worse.



"Yes, and he's desperate too. One of the worst I ever see. We had

an awful fight with him up here on the line of the Territory. He

shot Martin and me before we got him. Ye see, I wanted to take him

alive, and so I took chances on gettin' hurt.



"Thank ye, Miss; my arm does ache considerable; of course, if you'd

jest as soon dress it--Oh, no! I'm no braver'n anybody else, I

guess. Nice of ye to say so, anyhow," and he went grinnin' out into

the kitchen with the girls to fix up his arm.



The old man insisted on havin' my feet bound together and me fastened

to a chair, and said: "Yes, yes, I know you can watch him, but you're

in my house now, and I feel a share of the responsibility upon me.

I've had experience with desperate characters and I'm goin' to be

sure that this young reprobate don't escape his just punishment. Are

you sure you don't need more help gettin' him home? I'll go with you

if--"



"Thank ye," interrupted Hollis. "We've chased the scoundrel four

hundred miles, and I reckon, now we've got him, we can keep him."



At supper, Jim with his arm in a new sling, sat between the two girls

who cooed over him and took turns feedin' him till it made me sick.



The old man had a nigger move my chair up to the foot of the table

and bring me a plate of coarse grub after they all finished eatin'.



He had tied my ankles to the lower rung of the chair himself, and

when I says to the nigger, "Those cords have plum stopped my

circulation, just ease 'em up a little," he went straight up.



"Don't you touch them knots, Sam!" he roared. "I know how to secure

a man, and don't you try any of your games in my house, either, you

young fiend. I'd never forgive myself if you escaped."



I ate everything I could reach, which wasn't much, and when I asked

for the butter he glared at me and said: "Butter's too good for

horse-thieves; eat what's before you."



Every time I'd catch the eye of one of the girls and kind of grin and

look enticing, she'd shiver and tell Jim that the marks of my

depravity stood out on my face like warts on a toad.



Jim and the boys would all grin like idiots and invent a new crime

for me. On the square, if I'd worked nights from the age of three I

couldn't have done half they blamed me for.



They put it to the old man so strong that when he turned in he

chained me to Sam, the cross-eyed nigger that stood behind me at

supper, and made us sleep on the floor.



I told Sam that I cut a man's throat once because he snored, and that

nigger never closed an eye all night. I was tryin' to get even with

somebody.



After breakfast, when it came time to leave, Donnelly untied my feet

and led me out into the yard, where the girls were hangin' around the

Colonel and Jim, who was preparin' to settle up.



As we rode up the evening before, I had noticed that we turned in

from the road through a lane, and that the fence was too high to

jump, so, when I threw my leg over Black Hawk, I hit Donnelly a swat

in the neck, and, as he did a stage-fall, I swept through the gate

and down the lane.



The old man cut the halter off one of his Mexican war-whoops, and

broke through the house on the run, appearin' at the front door with

his shot-gun just as I checked up to make the turn onto the main road.



As I swung around, doubled over the horse's neck, he let drive with

his old blunderbuss, and I caught two buckshot in my right arm where

you see them marks.



I had sense enough to hang on and ride for my life, because I knew

the old fire-eater would reckon it a pleasure to put an end to such a

wretch as me, if he got half a chance.



I heard him howl, "Come on boys! We'll get him yet," and, over my

shoulder, I saw him jump one of his loose horses standin' in the yard

and come tearin' down the lane, ahead of the befuddled sheriff and

posse, his white hair streamin' and the shot-gun wavin' aloft, as

though chargin' an army of greasers at the head of his regiment.



From the way he drew away from the boys, I wouldn't have placed any

money that he was wrong either.



I've always wondered how the old man ever got through that war with

only three recommendations to the government.



He certainly kept good horses too, for in five minutes we'd left the

posse behind, and I saw him madly urgin' his horse into range,

reloadin' as he came.



As I threw the quirt into the mare with my good arm, I allowed I'd

had about all the horse-stealin' I wanted for a while.



The old devil finally saw he was losin' ground in spite of his best

efforts, and let me have both barrels. I heard the shot patter on

the hard road behind me, and hoped he'd quit and go home, but I'm

blamed if he didn't chase me five miles further before turnin' back,

in hopes I'd cast a shoe or something would happen to me.



I believe I was on the only horse in Texas that could have outrun the

Colonel and his that mornin'.



About noon I stopped at a blacksmith's shop, half dead with pain, and

had my arm dressed and a big jolt of whiskey.



As the posse rode up to me, sittin' in the sun by the lathered flanks

of my horse and nursin' my arm, Jim yells out: "Here he is! Surround

him, boys! You're our prisoner!"



"No! I'm blamed if I am," I says. "You'll have to get another

desperado. After this, I'm the sheriff!"





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