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EUGENE MANLOVE RHODES
THE DESIRE OF
THE COME ON
EUGENE MANLOVE RHODES 1
BRANSFORD OF RAINBOW RANGE,
GOOD MEN AND TRUE,
WEST IS WEST, ETC.
H. T. DUNN
GROSSET & DUNLAP
Copyright, 1910, by
HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
Copyright, 1920, by
.THE H. K. FLY COMPANY
They were riding hard . . . Frontispiece
" Gentlemen be seated! " 38
THE DESIRE OF THE MOTH
"Little Next Door her years are few
Loves me, more than her elders do;
Says, my wrinkles become me so;
Marvels much at the tales I know.
Says, we shall marry when she is grown M
THE little happy song stopped short.
John Wesley Pringle, at the mesa s last
headland, drew rein to adjust his geography.
This was new country to him.
Close behind, Organ Mountain flung up a:
fantasy of spires, needle-sharp and bare and
golden. The long straight range saw-
toothed limestone save for this twenty-mile
sheer upheaval of the Organ stretched away
to north and south against the unclouded sky,
till distance turned the barren gray to blue-
2 The Desire of the Moth
black, to blue, to misty haze; till the sharp,
square-angled masses rounded to hillocks
to a blur a wavy line nothing.
More than a hundred miles to the north
west, two midget mountains wavered in the
sky. John Wesley nodded at their unforgot-
ten shapes and pieced this vast landscape to
the patchwork map in his head. Those toy
hills were San Mateo and Magdalena.
Pringle had passed that way on a bygone
year, headed east. He was going west, now.
" I m too prosperous here," he had ex
plained to Beebe and Ballinger, his partners
on Rainbow. " I m tedious to myself. Guess
I ll take a pasear back to Prescott. Rail
road? Who, me? Why, son, I like to travel
when I go anywheres. Just starting and ar
riving don t delight me any. Besides, I don t
know that strip along the border. I ll ride."
It was a tidy step to Prescott say, as far
as from Philadelphia to Savannah, or from
The Desire of the Moth 3
Richmond to Augusta ; but John Wesley had
made many such rides in the Odyssey of his
wonder years. Some of them had been
made in haste. But there was no haste now.
Sam Bass, his corn-fed sorrel, was hardly
less sleek and sturdy than at the start, though
a third of the way was behind him. Pringle
rode by easy stages, and where he found him
self pleased, there he tarried for a space.
With another friendly nod to the northward
hills that marked a day of his past, Pringle
turned his eyes to the westlands, outspread
and vast before him. To his right the desert
stretched away, a mighty plain dotted with
low hills, rimmed with a curving, jagged
range. Beyond that range was a nothing
ness, a hiatus that marked the sunken valley
of the Rio Grande; beyond that, a headlong
infinity of unknown ranges, tier on tier, yel
low or brown or blue ; broken, tumbled, hud
dled, scattered, with gulfs between to tell of
4 The Desire of the Moth
unseen plains and hidden happy valleys al
together giving an impression of rushing
toward him, resistless, like the waves of a
At his feet the plain broke away sharply,
in a series of steplike sandy benches, to where
the Rio Grande bore quartering across the
desert, turning to the Mexican sea ; the Me-
silla Valley here, a slender ribbon of mossy
green, broidered with loops of flashing river
a ribbon six miles by forty, orchard, wood
land, and green field, greener for the desolate
gray desert beyond and the yellow hills of
sand edging the valley floor. Below him
Las Uvas, chief town of the valley, lay bask
ing in the sun, tiny square and street bordered
with greenery: its domino houses white-
walled in the sun, with larger splashes of red
from courthouse or church or school.
Far on the westering desert, beyond the
valley, Pringle saw a white feather of smoke
The Desire of the Moth 5
from a toiling train; beyond that a twisting
gap in the blue of the westmost range.
" That s our road." He lifted his bridle
rein. " Amble along, Sam ! "
To that amble he crooned to himself, pleas
antly, half-dreamily as if he voiced indi
rectly some inner thought quaint snatches
of old song:
" She came to the gate and she peeped in
Grass and the weeds up to her chin;
Saidj f A rake and a hoe and a fantail plow
Would suit you better than a wife just now. *
" Schooldays are over now,
Lost all our bliss;
But love remembers yet
Quarrel and kiss.
Still, as in days of yore "
Then, after a long silence, with a thought
ful earnestness that Rainbow would scarce
have credited, he quoted a verse from what
he was wont to call Billy Beebe s Bible :
6 The Desire of the Moth
" One Moment in Annihilation s waste,
One Moment of the Well of Life to taste
The Stars are setting, and the Caravan
Starts for the Dawn of Nothing. Oh, make
After late dinner at the Gadsden Purchase,
Pringle had tidings of the Motion Picture
Palace ; and thither he bent his steps. He was
late and the palace was a very small palace
indeed; it was with difficulty that he spied in
the semidarkness an empty seat in a side sec
tion. A fat lady and a fatter man, in the
seats nearest the aisle, obligingly moved over
rather than risk any attempt to squeeze by.
Beyond them, as he took the end seat,
Pringle was dimly aware of a girl who looked
at him rather attentively.
He turned his mind to the screen, where a
natty and noble young man, with a chin, bit
off his words distinctly and smote his extended
palm with folded gloves to emphasize the re
marks he was making to a far less natty man
The Desire of the Moth 7
with black mustaches. John Wesley rightly
concluded that this second man, who gnashed
his teeth so convincingly, and at whom an in
credibly beautiful young lady looked with
haughty disdain, was the villain, and
The blond and shaven hero, with a mag
nificent gesture, motioned the villain to be
gone ! That baffled person, after waiting
long enough to register despair, spread his
fingers across his brow and be-went; the hero
turned, held out his arms; the scornful
young beauty crept into them. Click! On
the screen appeared a scroll:
Keep Your Seats. Two Minutes to Change
The lights were turned on. Pringle looked
at the crowd girls, grandmas, mothers with
their families, many boys, and few men;
Americans, Mexicans, well-dressed folk and
8 The Desire of the Moth
roughly dressed, all together. Many were
leaving; among them Pringle s fat and oblig
ing neighbors rose with a pleasant: " Excuse
me, please ! "
A stream of newcomers trickled in through
the door. As Pringle sat down the lights
were dimmed again. Simultaneously the girl
he had noticed beyond the fat couple moved
over to the seat next to his own. Pringle did
not look at her; and a little later he felt a
hand on his sleeve.
" Tut, tut! " said Pringle in a tolerant un
dertone. " Why, chicken, you re not trying
to get gay with your old Uncle Dudley, are
" John Wesley Pringle ! " came the answer
in a furious whisper, each indignant word a
missile. " How dare you! How dare you
speak to me like that? "
" What ! " said Pringle, peering. " What !
Stella Vorhis ! I can hardly believe it I "
The Desire of the Moth 9
" But it s oh-so-true ! " said Stella, rising.
" Let s go we can t talk here."
* That was one awful break I made. I
most sincerely and humbly beg your pardon,"
Pringle said on the sidewalk.
u That s all right I understand forget
it! You hadn t looked at me. But I knew
you when you first came in only I wasn t
sure till the lights were turned on. Of course
it would be great fun to tease you pretend to
be shocked and dreadfully angry, and all that
but I haven t got time. And oh, John Wes
ley, I m so delighted to see you again ! Let s
go over to the park. Not but what I was
dreadfully angry, sure enough, until I had a
second to thinL Why don t you say you re
glad to see me after five years? "
" Stella 1 You know I am. Six years,
please. But I thought you were still in Pres-
io The Desire of the Moth
" We came here three years ago. Here s a
bench. Now tell it to me ! "
But Pringle stood beside and looked down
at her without speech, with a smile unex
pected from a face so lean, so brown, so year-
bitten and iron-hard a smile which happily
changed that face, and softened it.
The girl s eyes danced at him.
" I m so glad you ve come, John Wesley!
Good old Wes ! "
" So I am both those little things. Six
years!" he said slowly. "Dear me dear
both of us ! That will make you twenty-five.
You don t look a day over twenty-four ! But
you re still Stella Vorhis?"
She met his gaze gravely; then her lids
drooped and a wave of red flushed her face.
" I am Stella Vorhis yet."
" Meaning for a little while yet?"
" Meaning, for a little while yet. That
will come later, John Wesley. Oh, I ll tell
The Desire of the Moth 11
you, but not just now. You tell about John
Wesley, first and remember, anything you
say may be used against you. Where have
you been ? Were you dead ? Why didn t you
write? Has the world used you well? Sit
down, Mr. John Wesley Also-Ran Pringle,
and give an account of yourself! "
He sat beside her: she laid her hand across
his gnarled brown fingers with an uncon
" It s good to see you, old-timer! Begin
now I, John Wesley Pringle, am come from
going to and fro upon the earth and from
walkng up and down in it. But I didn t ask
you where you were living. Perhaps you
have a home of your own now."
John Wesley firmly lifted her slim fingers
from his hand and as firmly deposited them
in her lap.
" Kindly keep your hands to yourself,
young woman," he said with stately dignity.
12 The Desire of the Moth
" Here is an exact account of all my time
since I saw you : I have been hungry, thirsty,
sleepy, tired. To remedy these evils, upon
expert advice I have eaten, drunk, slept, and
rested. I have worked and played, been dull
and gay, busy and idle, foolish and unwise.
That s all. Oh, yes I m living in Rainbow
Mountain ; cattle. Two pardners nice boys
but educated. Had another one; he s mar
ried now, poor dear and just as happy as if
he had some sense."
"You re not?"
" Not what happy or married? "
"Married, silly !"
"And I m not. Now it s your turn*
Where do you live? Here in town? "
" Oh, no. Dad s got a farm twenty miles
up the river and a ranch out on the flat. I
just came down on the morning train to do a
little shopping and go back on the four-forty-
eight and I ll have to be starting soon.
The Desire of the Moth 13
You ll walk down to the station with me?"
"But the sad story of your life?" ob
jected Pr ingle.
u Oh, I ll tell you that by installments.
You re to make us a long, long visit, you
know just as long as you can stay. You re
horseback, of course? Well, then, ride up
to-night. Ask for Aden Station. We live
just beyond there."
" But the Major was a very hostile major
when I saw him last."
" Oh, father s got all over that. He
hadn t heard your side of it then. He often
speaks of you now and he ll be glad to see
" To-morrow, then. My horse is tired
I ll stay here to-night."
" You ll find dad changed," said the girl.
" This is the first time in his life he has ever
been at ease about money matters. He s
really quite well-to-do."
14 The Desire of the Moth
" That s good. I m doing well in that line
too. I forgot to tell you." There was no
elation in his voice; he looked back with a
pang to the bold and splendid years of their
poverty. " Then the Major will quit wander
ing round like a lost cat, won t he?"
" I think he likes it here only for the
crazy-mad political feeling; and I think he s
settled down for good."
" High time, I think, at his age."
1 You needn t talk ! Dad s only ten years
older than you are." She leaned her cheek
on her hand, she brushed back a little stray
tendril of midnight hair from her dark eyes,
and considered him thoughtfully. " Why,
John Wesley, I ve known you nearly all my
life and you don t look much older now than
when I first saw you."
* That was in Virginia City. You were
just six years old and your pony ran away
with you. We were great old chums for a
The Desire of the Moth 15
month or so. The next time I saw you
"At Bakersfield at mother s funeral,"
said the girl softly. " Then you came to
Prescott, and you had lost your thumb in the
meantime; and I was Little Next Door to
" And Prescott and me, we agreed it was
best for both of us that I should go
( Yes ; and when you came back you were
going to stay. Why didn t you stay, John
" I think," said Pringle reflectively, " that
I have forgotten that."
" Do you know, John Wesley, I have never
been back to any place we have left once?
And of all the people I have ever known, you
are the only one I have ever lost track of and
found again. And you re always just the
same old John Wesley; always gay and
1 6 The Desire of the Moth
cheerful; nearly always in trouble; always
strong and resourceful "
"How true!" said Pringle. " Yes, yes;
go on 1 "
Well, you are! And you re so so reli
able; like Faithful John in the fairy story.
You re different from anyone else I know.
You re a good boy; when you are grown up
you shall have a yoke of oxen, over and
above your wages."
" This is very gratifying indeed," observed
Pringle. " But a sweetly solemn thought
comes to me. You were going to tell me
about another boy the onliest little boy?"
" He s not a boy," said Stella, flushing
hotly. " He s a man a man s man. You ll
like him, John Wesley he s just your kind.
I m not going to tell you. You ll see him at
our house, with the others. And he ll be the
very one you d pick out for me yourself. Of
course you ll want to tease me by pretending
The Desire of the Moth 17
to guess someone else ; but you ll know which
one he is, without me telling you. He stands
out apart from all other men in every way.
Come on, John Wesley it s time to go down
to the station."
Pringle caught step with her.
" And how long if a reliable old faithful
John may ask before you become Stella
" At Christmas. And I am a very lucky
girl, John. What an absurd convention it is
that people are never supposed to congratu
late the girl as if no man was ever worth
having! Silly, isn t it?"
" Very silly. But then, it s a silly world."
" A delightful world," said Stella, her eyes
sparkling. u You don t know how happy I
am. Or perhaps you do know. Tell me hon
estly, did you ever 1 like anyone, this way? "
" I refuse to answer, by advice of counsel,"
said John Wesley, " I ll say this much,
1 8 The Desire of the Moth
though. X marks no spot where any Annie
Laurie gave me her promise true."
When the train had gone John Wesley
wandered disconsolately back to his hotel and
rested his elbows on the bar. The white-
aproned attendant hastened to serve him.
"What will it be, sir?"
" Give me a gin pitfall," said John Wesley.
" Horrible ! " said Anastacio.
Matthew Lisner, sheriff of Dona Ana, bent
a hard eye on his subordinate.
11 It s got to be done," he urged. " To elect
our ticket we must have all the respectable
and responsible people of the valley. If we
can provoke Foy into an outbreak "
" Not we you," corrected Anastacio.
" Myself, I do not feel provoking."
u Are you going to lay down on me? "
"If you care to put it that way yes. Kit
Foy is just the man to leave alone."
" Now, listen ! " said the sheriff impa
tiently. " Half the valley is owned by new
comers, men of substance, who, with the
votes they influence or control, will decide
20 The Desire of the Moth
the election. Foy is half a hero with them,
because of these vague old stories. But let
him be stirred up to violence now and you ll
see ! They won t see any romance in it
just an open outrage; they will flock to us to
the last man. Ours is the party of law and
" Law to order, some say."
The veins swelled in the sheriff s heavy
face and thick neck; he regarded his deputy
" That comes well from you, Barela !
Don t you see, with the law on our side all
these men of substance will be with us uncon
ditionally? I tell you, Christopher Foy is
the brains of his party. Once he is dis
" And I tell you that I am the brains of
your party and I ll have nothing to do with
your fine plan. Tis an old stratagem to call
oppression, law, and resistance to oppression,
The Desire of the Moth 21
lawlessness. You tried just that in ninety-
six, didn t you? And I never could hear that
our side had any the best of it or that the
good name of Dona Ana was in any way bet
tered by our wars. Come, Mr. Lisner the
Kingdom of Lady Ann has been quiet now
for nearly eight years. Let us leave it so.
For myself, the last row brought me reputa
tion and place, made me chief deputy under
two sheriffs so I need have the less hesita
tion in setting forth my passionate preference
for peace. "
" You have as much to gain as I have,"
growled the sheriff. " Besides your own
cinch, you have one of your genie for deputy
in every precinct in the county."
" Exactly ! And if we have wars again,
who but the Barelas would bear the brunt?
No, no, Mr. Matt Lisner; while I may be a
merely ornamental chief deputy, it will never
be denied that I am a very careful chief to
22 The Desire of the Moth
my gente. Be sure that I shall think more
than once or twice before I set a man of my
men at a useless hazard to pleasure you-r-
or to reelect you."
" You speak plainly."
" I intend to. I speak for three hundred
and we vote solid. Make no mistake, Mr.
Lisner. You need me in your business, but
I can do nicely without you/
" Perhaps you d like to be sheriff your
" I might like it except that I am not as
young and foolish as I was,." said Anastacio,
smiling. " Now that I am so old, and so wise
and all, it is clear to see that neither my
self nor any of the fighting men of the
mad old days on either side should be
" You were not always so thoughtful of the
best interests of the dear pee-pul," sneered
The Desire of the Moth 23
" That I wasn t. I was as silly and hot-
brained a fool as either side could boast.
But you, Sheriff, are neither silly nor hot
headed. In cold blood you are planning that
men shall die; that other men shall rot in
prison. Why? For hate and revenge ? Not
even that. Oh, a little spice of revenge, per
haps; Foy and his friends made you some
thing of a laughing stock. But your main
motive is money. And I don t see why.
You ve got all the money any one man needs
" I notice you get your share."
" I hope so. But, even as a money-making
proposition, your troubled-voters policy is a
mistake. All the mountain men want is to be
let alone, and you might be sheriff for life
for all they care. But you fan up every little
bicker into a lawsuit don t I know? Just
for the mileage ten cents a mile each way in
a county that s jam full of miles from one
24 The Desire of the MotK
edge to the other; ten cents a mile each way
for each and every arrest and subpoena. You
drag them to court twice a year the farmer
at seed time and harvest, the cowman from
the spring and fall round-ups. It hurts, it
cripples them, they ride thirty miles to vote
against you ; it costs you all the extra mileage
money to offset their votes. As a final folly,
you purpose deliberately to stir up the old
factions. What was it Napoleon said? It
is worse than a crime: it is a blunder. I ll
tell you now, not a Barela nor an Ascarate
shall stir a foot in such a quarrel. If you
want to bait Kit Foy, do it yourself or set
your city police on him."
" I will."
A faint tinge of color came to the
clear olive of Anastacio s cheek as he
" But don t promise my place to any of
them, sheriff. I might hear of it."
The Desire of the Moth 25
" Stranger," said Ben Creagan, " you can t
play pool I I can t and I beat you four
straight games. You better toddle your little
trotters off to bed." The words alone might
have been mere playfulness ; glance and tone
made plain the purposed offense.
The after-supper crowd in the hotel bar
room had suddenly slipped away, leaving
Max Barkeep, three others, and John Wesley
Pringle the last not unnoting of nudge and
whisper attending the exodus. Since that,
Pringle had suffered, unprotesting, more
gratuitous insults than he had met in all the
rest of his stormy years. His curiosity was
aroused; he played the stupid, unseeing, pa
tient, and timid person he was so eminently
not. Plainly these people desired his ab
sence; and Pringle highly resolved to know
why. He now blinked mildly.
"But I m not sleepy a-tall," he ob
26 The Desire of the Moth
He tried and missed an easy shot; he
chalked his cue with assiduous care.
" Here, you ! Quit knockin those balls
round!" bawled Max, the bartender.
" What you think this is a kindergarten?"
" Why, I paid for all the games I lost,
didn t I?" asked Pringle, much abashed.
He mopped his face. It was warm, though
the windows and doors were open.
" Well, nobody s going to play any more
with you," snapped Max. " You bore em."
He pyramided the balls and covered the
table. With a sad and lingering backward
look Pringle slouched abjectly through the
wide-arched doorway to the bar.
" Come on, fellers have something."
"Naw!" snarled Jose Espalin. "I m
a-tryin to theenk. Shut up, won t you ? "
Pringle sighed patiently at the rebuff and
stole a timid glance at the thinker. Espalin
was a lean little, dried-up manikin, with legs,
The Desire of the Moth 27
arms, and mustaches disproportionately long
for his dwarfish body. His black, wiry hair
hung in ragged witchlocks ; his black pin-point
eyes were glittering, cold, and venomous.
He looked, thought Pringle, very much like
" I m steerin you right, old man," said
Creagaru " You d better drag it for bed."
" I ain t sleepy, I tell you."
Espalin leaped up, snarling.
"Say! You lukeing for troubles, maybe?
Bell, I theenk thees hombre got a gun. Shall
we freesk him? "
As he flung the query over his shoulder his
beady little eyes did not leave Pringle s.
Bell Applegate got leisurely to his feet a
tall man, well set up, with a smooth-shaved,
florid face and red hair.
" If he has we ll jack him in the jug." He
threw back the lapel of his coat, displaying
a silver star.
The Desire of the Moth
" But I ain t got no gun," protested John
Wesley meekly. " You-all can see for your-
We will don t worry ! Don t you make
one wrong move or I ll put out your
"Be you the sheriff?"
"Police. Go to him, Ben!"
" No gun," reported Ben after a swift
search of the shrinking captive.
" I done told you so, didn t I? "
" Mighty good thing for you, old rooster.
Gun-toting is strictly barred in Las Uvas.
You got to take your gun off fifteen minutes
after you get in from the road and you can t
put it on till fifteen minutes before you take
the road again."
;< Is that er police regulations or state
14 State law and has been any time these
twenty-five years. Say, you doddering old
The Desire of the Moth 29
fool, what do you think this is a night
" I I guess I ll go to bed," said Pringle
" I I guess if you come back I ll throw
you out," mimicked Ben with a guffaw.
Pringle made no answer. He shuffled into
the hall and up the stairway to his bedroom.
He unlocked the door noisily; he opened it
noisily; he took his sixshooter and belt from
the wall quietly and closed the door, noisily
again ; he locked it from the outside. Then
he did a curious thing; he sat down very gen
tly and removed his boots.
The four in the barroom listened, grinning.
When they heard Pringle s door slam shut
Bell Applegate nodded and Creagan went out
on the street. Behind him, at a table near
the pool-room door, the law planned ways
and means in a slinking undertone.
30 The Desire of the Moth
" You keep in the background, Joe. Let us
do the talking. Foy just naturally despises
you we might not get him to stay the fif
teen minutes out. You stay back there. Re
member now, don t shoot till Ben lets him
get his arm loose. Sabe?"
" Maybe Meester Ben don t find
" Oh, yes, he will. Ditch meeting to-night.
Ought to be out about now. Setting the time
to use the water and assessing fatiga work.
Every last man with a water right will be
there, sure, and Foy s got a dozen. Max,
you are to be a witness, remember, and you
mustn t be mixed up in it. Got your story
" Foy he comes in and makes a war-talk
about Dick Marr," recited Max. " After we
powwow awhile you see his gun. You tell
him he s under arrest for carryin concealed
weapons. You and Ben grabbed his arm; he
The Desire of the Moth 31
jerked loose and went after his gun. And
then Joe shot him."
" That s it. We ll all stick to that. S-sti
Here they come ! "
There are men whose faces stand out in a
crowd, men you turn to look after on the
street. Such quite apart from his sprightly
past was Christopher Foy, who now entered
with Creagan. He was about thirty, above
middle height, every mold and line of him
slender and fine and strong. His face was
resolute, vivacious, intelligent; his eyes were
large and brown, pleasant and fearless. A
wide black hat, pushed back now, showed a
broad forehead white against crisp coal-black
hair and the pleasant tan of neck and cheek.
But it was not his dark, forceful face alone
that lent him such distinction. Rather it was
the perfect poise and balance of the man,
the ease and unconscious grace of every swift
and sure motion. He wore a working garb
32 The Desire of the Moth
now blue overalls and a blue rowdy. But
he wore them with an air that made him well
Foy paused for a second; Applegate rose.
" Well, Chris ! " he laughed. " There has
been a time when you might not have fancied
this particular bunch hey? All over now,
please the pigs. Come in and give it a name.
Beer for mine."
" I ll smoke," said Foy.
" Me too," said Espalin.
He lit a cigar and returned to his chair.
Ben Creagan passed behind the bar and
handed over a sixshooter and a cartridge
" Here, Chris here s the gun I borrowed
of you when I broke mine. Much obliged."
Foy twirled the cylinder to make sure the
hammer was on an empty chamber and
buckled the belt under his rowdy.
" My hardware is mostly plows and scrap-
The Desire of the Moth 33
ers and irrigating hoes nowadays," he re
marked. u Good thing too."
" All the same, Foy, I d keep a gun with
me if I were you. Dick Marr is drinking
again and when he soaks it up he gets dis
contented over old times, you know." Apple-
gate lowered his voice, with a significant
glance at Espalin. " He threatened your life
to-day. I thought you ought to know it."
Foy considered his cigar.
" That s awkward," he replied briefly.
"Chris," said Ben, " this isn t the first
time. Dick s heart is bad to you. I m sorry.
He was my friend and you were not. But
you re not looking for any trouble now.
Dick is. And I m afraid he ll keep on till
he gets it. Me and the sheriff we managed
to get him off to bed, but he says he s going
to shoot you on sight and I believe he means
it. You ought to have him bound over to
keep the peace."
34 The Desire of the Moth
Foy smiled and shook his head.
" I can t do that and it would only make
him madder than ever. But I ll get out of
his way and keep out of his way. I ll go up
to the Jornado to-night and stay with the Bar
Cross boys awhile. He won t come up
" You ll enjoy having people tellin how
you run away to keep from meeting Dick
Marr?" said Applegate incredulously.
"Why shouldn t they say it? It will be
exactly true," responded Foy quietly, " and
you re authorized to say so. I m learning
some sense now; I m getting to own quite a
mess of property; I m going to be married
soon; and I don t want to fight anyone. Be
sides, quite apart from my own interests,
other men will be drawn into it if I shoot it
out with Marr. No knowing where it will
stop. No, sir; I ll go punch cows till Marr
quiets down. Maybe it s just the whisky talk-
The Desire of the Moth 35
ing. Dick isn t such a bad fellow when he s
not fighting booze. Or maybe he ll go away.
He hasn t much to keep him here."
u Say, I could get a job offered to him out
in San Simon," said Applegate, bright
His eye rested on the clock over the long
mirror. He stepped over to the show case,
clipped the end from a cigar and obtained a
light from a shapely bronze lady with a torch.
When he came back he fell in on Foy s left;
at Foy s right Creagan leaned his elbows on
" Well, I m obliged to you, boys," said
Foy. This one s on me. Come on, Joe
have a hoot."
Thanks, no," said Espalin. " I not
dreenkin none thees times. Eef I dreenk
some I get full, and loose my job maybe."
" Vichy," said Foy. " Take something
36 The Desire of the Moth
As Mr. Max poured the drinks an odd ex
perience befell Mr. Jose Espalin. His tilted
chair leaned against the casing of the billiard-
room door. As Max filled the first glass
Espalin became suddenly aware of something
round and hard and cold pressed against his
right temple. Mr. Espalin felt some curios
ity, but he sat perfectly still. The object
shifted a few inches; Mr. Espalin perceived
from the tail of his eye the large, unfeeling
muzzle of a sixshooter; beyond it, a glimpse
of the forgotten elderly stranger, Mr.
Only Mr. Pringle s fighting face appeared,
and that but for a moment; he laid a finger to
lip and crouched, hidden by the partition and
by Espalin s body. Mr. Espalin gathered
that Pringle desired no outcry and shunned
observation; he sat motionless accordingly;
he felt a hand at his belt, which removed his
The Desire of the Moth 37
" Happy days ! " said Foy, and raised his
glass to his lips.
Creagan seized the uplifted wrist with
both hands, Applegate pounced on the other
arm. Pringle leaped through the doorway.
But something happened swifter than
Pringle s swift rush. Foy s knee shot up
to Applegate s stomach. Applegate fell,
sprawling. Foy hurled himself on Creagan
and bore him crashing to the floor. Foy
whirled over; he rose on one hand and knee,
gun drawn, visibly annoyed ; also considerably
astonished at the unexpected advent of Mr.
Pringle. Applegate lay groaning on the floor.
Pringle kicked his gun from the holster and
set foot upon it; one of his own guns covered
the bartender and the other kept watch on
Espalin, silent on his still-tilted chair.
" Who re you ! " challenged Foy.
" Friend with the countersign. Don t
shoot! Don t shoot me, anyhow."
38 The Desire of the Moth
Foy rose from hand and knee to knee and
foot. This rescuer, so opportunely arrived
from nowhere, seemed to be an ally. But
to avoid mistakes, Foy s gun followed
Pringle s motions, at the same time willing
and able to blow out Creagan s brains if ad
visable. He also acquired Creagan s gun
" Let me introduce myself, gentlemen, "
said Pringle. " I m Jack-in-a-Pinch, Little
Friend of the Under Dog see Who s This ?
page two-thirteen. My German friend, come
out from behind that bar hands up step
lively ! Spot yourself ! My Mexican friend,
join Mr. Max. Move, you poisonous little
spider jump! That s better ! Gentlemen
be seated! Right there smack, slapdab
on the floor. Sit down and think. Say!
I m serious. Am I going to have to kill
some few of you just because you don t
know who lam? I ll count three! One!
The Desire of the Moth 39
two! That s it. Very good hold that
register anticipation! I am a worldly man,"
said Pringle with emotion, " but this spec
tacle touches me it does indeed ! "
u I ll get square with you ! " gurgled Ap-
plegate, as fiercely as his breathless condition
"George may I call you George? I
don t know your name. You may get square
with me, George but you ll never be square
with anyone. You are a rhomboidinaltitudin-
ous isosohedronal catawampus, George ! "
George raved unprintably. He made a
motion to rise, but reconsidered it as he noted
the tension of Pringle s trigger finger.
" Don t be an old fuss-budget, George,"
said Pringle reprovingly. " Because I for
got to tell you I ve got my gun now and
yours. You won t need to arrest me, though,
for I m hitting the trail in fifteen minutes.
But if I wasn t going and if you had your
40 The Desire of the Moth
gun you couldn t arrest one side of me.
You couldn t arrest one of my old boots!
Listen, George! You heard this Chris-gen
tleman give his reasons for wanting peace?
Yes? Well, it s oh-so-different here. I hate
peace ! I loathe, detest, abhor, and abominate
peace ! My very soul with strong disgust is
stirred by peace ! I m growing younger
every year, I don t own any property here,
I m not going to be married; I ain t feeling
pretty well anyhow; and if you don t think
I ll shoot, try to get up ! Just look as if you
thought you wanted to wish to try to make
an effort to get up."
"How who " began Creagan; but
Pringle cut him short.
u Ask me no more, sweet! You have no
speaking part here. We ll do the talking. I
just love to talk. I am the original tongue-
tied man; I ebb and flow. Don t let me hear
a word from any of you! Well, pardner? "
The Desire of the Moth 41
Foy, still kneeling in fascinated amaze,
now rose. Creagan s nose was bleeding pro
" That was one awful wallop you handed
our gimlet-eyed friend," said Pringle admir
ingly. " Neatest bit of work I ever saw.
Sir, to you ! My compliments ! " He placed
a chair near the front door and sat down.
" I feel like a lion in a den of Daniels," he
" But how did you happen to be here so
handy?" inquired Foy.
" Didn t happen I did it on purpose,"
said John Wesley. " You see, these four
birds tipped their hand. All evening they
been instructing me where I got off. They
would-ed I had the wings of a dove, so
I might fly far, far away and be at rest.
Now, I put it to you, do I look like a
" Not at present," laughed Foy.
42 The Desire of the Moth
" Well, I didn t like it nobody would. I
see there was a hen on, I knew the lay of the
ground from looking after my horse. So
I clomped off to bed, got my good old Ex-
calibur gun full name X. L. V. Caliber
slipped off my boots, tippytoed down the back
stairs like a Barred Rock cat, oozed in by the
side door and here I be ! I overheard their
pleasant little plan to do you. I meant to do
the big rescue act, but you mobilize too quick
for me. All the same, maybe it s as well I
chipped in, because take a look at them
cartridges in your gun, will you? Your
own gun the one they borrowed from
Foy twisted a bullet from a cartridge.
There was no powder. The four men on the
floor looked unhappy under his thoughtful
"Nice little plant what? Do we kill
em?" said Pringle cheerfully. "I don t
The Desire of the Moth 43
know the rules well enough to break them.
What was the big idea ? Was they vexed at
you, son? "
" It would seem so," said Foy, smiling.
" We had a little war here a spell back. I
suspect they wanted to stir it up again for
political effect. Election this fall."
" And you were not in their party? I
see ! " said Pringle, nodding intelligently.
" Well, they sure had it fixed to make your
side lose one vote fixed good and proper.
The Ben-boy was to let your right hand loose
and the Joe-boy was to shoot you as you
pulled your gun. Why, if you had lived to
make a statement your own story woulda
mighty near let them out."
" I believe that I am greatly obliged to
" I believe you are," said Pringle. " And
but, also, I know the two gentlemen you
were drinking with should be very grateful
44 The Desire of the Moth
to you. They had just half a second more to
live and you beat me to it. Too bad!
Well, what next ?"
Foy pondered a little.
u I guess I ll go up to the Bar Cross
wagon, as I intended, till things simmer
down. The Las Uvas warriors seldom ever
bother the Bar Cross Range. My horse is
hitched up the street. How d you like to
go along with me, stranger? You and me
would make a fair-sized crowd. "
11 I d like it fine and dandy," said Pringle.
u But I got a little visit to make to-morrow.
Maybe I ll join you later. I like Las Uvas,"
stated John Wesley, beaming. " Nice, lively
little place ! I think I ll settle down here
after a bit. Some of the young fellows are
shy on good manners. But I can teach em.
I d enjoy it. ... Now, let s see : If you ll
hold these lads a few minutes I ll get my
boots and saddle up and bring my horse to
The Desire of the Moth 45
the door; then I ll pay Max my hotel bill and
talk to them while you get your horse; and
we ll ride together till we get out in the open.
How s that for a lay?"
That was a good lay, it seemed; and it
was carried out with one addition: After
Foy brought his horse he rang Central and
called up the sheriff.
" Hello! That you, Mr. Lisner? This
is Kitty Foy," he said sweetly. " Sheriff, I
hate to bother you, but old Nueces River,
your chief of police, is out of town. And I
thought you ought to know that the police
force is all balled up. They re here at the
Gadsden Purchase. Bell Applegate is sick
seems to be indigestion; Espalin is having a
nervous spell; and Ben Creagan is bleeding
from his happiest vein. You d better come
see to em. Good-by ! "
Pringle smiled benevolently from the
46 The Desire of the Moth
There ! I almost forgot to tell you boys.
We disapprove of your actions oh-very-
much ! You know you were doing what was
very, very wrong like three little mice that
were playing in the barn though the old
mouse said : * Little mice, beware ! When the
owl comes singing " Too-whoo " take care !
If you do it again we shall consider it de
liberately unfriendly of you. . . . Well, I ll
toddle my decrepit old bones out of this.
Eleven o clock ! How time has flown, to be
sure ! Thank you for a pleasant evening.
Good-by, George. Good-by, all! Be good
little boys go nighty-nighty ! "
They raced to the corner, scurried down
the first side street, turned again, and slowed
to a gallop. Pringle was in high feather; he
caroled blithesome as he rode :
" So those three little oivls Hew back up in the
Inky, dinky, dovdum, day!
The Desire of the Moth 47
And they said, Those little mice make us feel
so nice and warm I
Inky, dinky, doodum, day!
Then they all began to sing, Too-whit! Too-
I don t think much, of this song, do you?
But there s one thing about it tis certainly
Inky, dinky, doodum, day!"
They reached the open; the gallop became
" I go north here," said Foy at the cross
roads above the town. " Which way for
"North too," said Pringle. "I don t
know just where, but you can tell me. I go
to a railroad station first Aden. Then to
the Vorhis place? "
" Vorhis? I m going there myself? " said
Foy. " You didn t tell me your name yet."
"What? Not John Wesley Pringle?
Great Scott, man! I ve heard Stella talk
48 The Desire of the Moth
about you a thousand times. Say, I m sure
glad to meet you ! My name s Foy Christo
" Why, yes," said Pringle. " I think I ve
heard Stella speak of you, too."
BEING a child must have been great fun
once. Nowadays one would as lief be
a Strasburg goose. When you and I went to
school it was not quite so bad. True, neither
of us could now extract a cube root with a
stump puller, and it is sad to reflect how little
call life has made for duodecimals. Some
times it seems that all our struggle with
moody verbs and insubordinate conjunctions
was a wicked waste poor little sleepy puz-
zleheads! But there were certain joyous
facts which we remember yet. Lake Erie
was very like a whale; Lake Ontario was a
seal; and Italy was a boot.
The great Chihuahuan desert is a boot too ;
a larger boot than Italy. The leg of it is
in Mexico, the toe is in Arizona, the heel in
5<3 The Desire of the Moth
New Mexico ; and the Jornado is in the boot-
El Jornado del Muerto the Journey of
the Dead Man ! From what dim old legend
has the name come down? No one knows.
The name has outlived the story.
Perhaps some grim, hard-riding Spaniard
made his last ride here; weary at last of
war, turned his dead face back to Spain
and the pleasant valleys of his childhood.
We have a glimpse of him, small in the
mighty silence; his faithful few about him,
with fearful backward glances; a gray sea of
waving grama breaking at their feet; the
great mountains looking down on them.
Plymouth Rock is unnamed yet. Then the
mist shuts down.
The Santa Fe Trail reaches across the
Jornado; tradition tells of vague, wild bat
tles with Apache and Navajo; there are
grave-cairns on lone dim ridges, whereon
The Desire of the Moth 51
each passer casts a stone. Young mothers
dreamed over the cradles of those who now
sleep here, undreaming; here is the end of
Doniphan passed this way; Kit Carson
rode here; the Texans journeyed north along
that old road in 62 to return no more.
These were but passers-by. The history of
the Jornado, of indwellers named and known,
begins with six Americans, as follows: San-
doval, a Mexican; Toussaint, a Frenchman;
Fest, a German; Martin, a German; Roul-
lier, a Swiss; and Teagardner, a Welshman.
You might have thought the Jornado a
vast and savage waste or a pleasant place and
a various. That depended upon you. Ma
terials for either opinion were plenty; lava
flow, saccaton flats, rolling sand hills sage
brush, mesquite and yucca, bunch grass and
shallow lakes, bench and hill, ridge and
groundswell and wandering draw; always the
52 The Desire of the Moth
great mountains round about; the mountains
and the warm sun over all.
A certain rich man desired to be Presi
dent to please his wife, perhaps. He was a
favorite son sure of his home-state vote in
any grand old national convention. He gave
largely to charities and campaign funds, and
his left hand would have been justly aston
ished to know what his right hand was about.
Those were bargain-counter days. Fum
bling the wares, our candidate saw, among
other things, that New Mexico had six con
ventional votes. He sent after them.
So the Bar Cross Cattle Company was
founded; range, the Jornado. Our candidate
provided the money and a manager, also
ambidextrous with instructions to get those
votes and incidentally to double the money, as
a good and faithful manager should.
He got the six votes, but our candidate
never became president. Poor fellow, his
The Desire of the Moth 53
millions could not bring him happiness. He
died, an embittered and disappointed man, in
the obscurity of the United States Senate.
The Bar Cross brand was the sole fruit
of that ambition. Other ranches had dwin
dled or vanished; favored by environment
the Bar Cross, almost alone, withstood the
devastating march of progress. It was still
a mark of distinction to be a Bar Cross man.
The good old customs and certain bad old
customs, too still held on the Bar Cross
Range, fifty miles by one hundred, on the Jor-
nado. Scattered here and there were smaller
ranches: among them the V H the Vorhis
Stella Vorhis and John Wesley, far out on
the plain, rode through the pleasant after
noon. The V H. Ranch was in sight now,
huddled low before them; beyond, a cluster
of low hills rose from the plain, visible center
of a world fresh, eager, and boundless.
54 The Desire of the Moth
The girl s eye kindled with delight as it
sought the far horizons, the misty parapets
gleaming up through the golden air; she was
one who found dear and beautiful this gray
land, silent and ensunned. She flung up her
"Isn t it wonderful, John Wesley? Do
you know what it makes me think of? This :
. . . Magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn!
" Think, John ! This country hasn t
changed a bit since the day Columbus set
out from Spain."
" How true ! Fine old bird, Columbus he
saw America first. Great head he showed,
too, getting himself named Christopher.
Otherwise you might have said, the day An
tony discovered Cleopatra or something
like that. Wise old Chris ! "
Stella s eyes narrowed reflectively.
The Desire of the Moth 55
" John Wesley, you ve been reading ! You
never used to know anything about Mark
" I cribbed that remark from Billy Beebe
and he swiped it from a magazine. I don t
know much about Mark, even this very yet.
Good old easy Mark! "
" That s the how of it. You ve been ab
sorbing knowledge from those pardners of
yours. Your talk shows it. You re changed
a lot that way. Every other way you re
the same old Wes! "
" Now, that sounds better! " said Pringle
in his most complacent tones. " I want to
talk about myself, always, Stella May Vor-
his; we ve come thirty miles and I ve heard
Christopher Foy, Foy, Foy, all the way ! It s
exasperating! It s sickening! "
But Stella was not to be flustered. She
held her head proudly.
:< It s you that have been talking about
56 The Desire of the Moth
him. I told you you d like him, John Wes
" Yes, you did and I do. He s a self-
starter. He s a peppermist. He s a regular
guy. It wasn t only the way he smashed
those thugs taken by surprise and all
but that he had judgment enough not to
shoot when there was no need for it; that s
what gets me I And then he went and spoiled
" Hiking on up to the ranch with the
Major, without even waking you up. Why,
if it was me, do you s pose I d leave another
man no matter how old and safe he was
to tell such a story as that his own way and
hog all the credit for himself? That Las
Uvas push is a four-flush he needn t stir
a peg for them. No, sir! I d have stayed
right there till you got ready to come and
every time I d narrate that tale about the
The Desire of the Moth 57
scrap it would get scarier and scarier."
" I know, without telling, what my Chris
does is the brave thing, the best thing," said
the girl, with softly shining eyes. " And he
never brags any more than you do, Wes.
You re always making fun of yourself. And
I m afraid you don t know how serious a
menace this Las Uvas gang is. It isn t what
Chris may do or may not do. All they want
is a pretext. Why, John, there are men
down there who are really quite truthful as
men go till they get on the witness stand.
But the minute they re under oath they begin
to lie. Force of habit, I guess. The whole
courthouse ring hates Chris and fears him
especially Matt Lisner, the sheriff. In the
old trouble, whenever he was outwitted or
outfought, Chris did it. Besides She
paused; the color swept to her cheek.
" Besides you. Yes, yes," grumbled
Pringle. " Might have been expected.
58 The Desire of the Moth
These women! Does the Foy-boy
" He knows that Lisner wanted to marry
me," said Stella. Neck and cheek were crim
son now; but it was characteristic that her
level eyes met Pringle s fearlessly. u But be
fore that he he persecuted me, John.
Chris must not know. He would kill him.
But I wanted you to know in case anything
happened to Chris. There is nothing they
will stick at, these men. Lisner is the vilest;
he hates Chris worst of all." She was in
deep distress; there were tears in her eyes as
she smiled at him. " And I wish oh, John
Wesley, you don t know how I wish you were
staying here dear old friend! "
" As a dear and highly valuable old
friend," said Pringle sedately, " let me point
out how shrewd and sensible a plan it would
be for you and your Chris to go on a honey
moon at once and never come back."
The Desire of the Moth 59
" I am beginning to think so. Up to last
night I had only my fears to go on."
u But now you know. We managed to
make a joke of last night but what that
push had in mind was plain murder. I would
dearly like/ said John Wesley, " to visit Las
Uvas some dark night in a Zeppelin."
At the corral gate the Major met them,
with a face so troubled that Stella cried out
" Father! What is it? Chris?"
" Stella be brave ! Dick Marr was killed
at midnight and they re swearing it off on
" But John Wesley was with him."
u That s just it. Applegate and Creagan
tell it that they saw Chris leaving town at
eleven o clock, that he said he was coming
up here, and that he made a war-talk about
Marr. But not a word about Pringle or the
60 The Desire of the Moth
fight at the hotel. Joe Espalin doesn t ap
pear no claim that he saw Foy at all."
" That looks ugly," observed Pringle.
" Ugly ! Your testimony is to be thrown
out as a lie made of whole cloth. Espalin
and the barkeeper don t appear. They re
afraid the Mexican will get tangled up, and
Max will swear he didn t see Chris at all.
It s cut and dried. You are to be canceled.
Marr was found this morning at the first
crossroad above town. His watch was
stopped at ten minutes to twelve mashed, it
seemed, where it hit on a stone when he fell.
If they had told about the mix-up with you
and Chris last night, I might have thought
they really believed Chris killed Marr or
suspected it. As it stands, we know the whole
thing is a black, rotten conspiracy."
"But where s Chris?" demanded Stella,
" We have none of us seen Chris you
The Desire of the Moth 61]
want to remember that. You won t have to
lie, Stella you didn t see him. Pringle, I
bank on you."
" Sure ! I can lie and stick to it, though
I m sadly out of practice," said Pringle.
" But hadn t we better fix up the same history
to tell? And where s your man Hargis that
stays here? Will he do?"
" Unsaddle and I ll tell you. We ve only
got a few minutes. I saw the dust of them
coming down from the north as I drove in
this bunch of saddle horses. Some of them
went up by train to Upham, you know.
Hargis has gone to the round-up, and Pm
just as well pleased. I m not sure he can be
trusted. We are to know not the first word
of what has happened. We haven t seen
Chris and haven t heard of the murder.
Come in we ll start dinner and be taken by
surprise. Pringle, throw your gun over on
the bunk. Stella, get that look off your face.
62 The Desire of the Moth
After you hear the news you can look any old
way and it ll be natural enough. But you ve
got to be unconcerned and unsuspicious when
they first come."
He started a fire. Stella set about prepar
Who brought the news ? " she asked.
" Joe Cowan and a relay. Someone rode
to Jeff Isaack s ranch as fast as ever a horse
could go. Jeff came to Quartzite; Dodd
passed the word on to Goldenburg s and
Cowan came here. At every ranch they
drove all the fresh saddle horses out of the
way, so a posse couldn t get a remount with
out losing time. Kitty Foy has got good
friends, and they don t believe he d shoot any
man in the back."
" And Foy s drifted with Cowan? "
" He hadn t a chance to get clear," said
the Major. :t We had no fresh horses here.
They ve sworn in a small army of deputies.
The Desire of the Moth 63
Nearly a hundred men are out hunting for
him by this time. One posse was to go up the
San Andres on the east, leaving a man at
every waterhole. The sheriff wired for a
special train, took a carload of saddle horses
and dropped a couple of men off at every
station. At Upham the rest of them were to
unload and string out across the Jornado, so
as to cut Chris off from the Bar Cross round
up at Alaman. It s some of that bunch I saw
coming, I guess. And the others were to scat
ter out and come up the middle of the plain.
They ll drag the Jornado with a fine-toothed
" How s he to get away, then? "
" Cowan took Kit s horse and led his own,
which was about give out. He turned back
east, up a draw where he won t be seen un
less somebody s right on top of him. Eight
or ten miles out he ll turn Foy s horse loose ;
he ll carry the extra saddle on a ways and
64 The Desire of the Moth
drop it in a washout. They ll find Foy s
horse and think he s roped a fresh one.
Then Cowan will start up a fresh bunch of
mares and raise big dust. He will ride
straight to the first posse he sees, claiming
he s run his horse down chasing the mares.
That ll let him out maybe."
" We rode my horse double to the edge of
the hills, to where he could walk on a ledge
and leave no tracks," said the Major.
1 Then I went on. I rounded up this bunch
of saddle horses and brought them back. He
went up on Little Thumb Butte. It s all
bluffs and bowlders there. Up on the highest
big cliff, at the very top, is a deep crack that
winds up in a cave like a tunnel. You know
the place, Stella ? "
" Yes. But, dad, they ll hunt out the hills
the first thing."
" They will not! " said the Major trium-
The Desire of the Moth 65
phantly. " They ll read our sign; they ll see
where four shod horses came up the road.
I ll claim one of them was a horse I was lead
ing that ll be that bald-faced roan out in
the corral. We all want to stick to that."
" But he s bigger than any of our horses,"
objected Pringle. " They ll know better by
"Exactly! So they ll find a fresh-shod
track going east a track matching the
fourth track we left on the road. They ll
reason that we re trying to keep them from
following that track. So they ll follow it up;
they ll find Kit s give-out horse and then
they ll know they re right."
" It seems to me," said Pringle reflectively,
" that friend Cowan may have an interesting
time if they get him."
The Major permitted himself a grin.
" He yanked the shoes off his horse before
he left. Once he mixes his tracks up with a
66 The Desire of the Moth
bunch of wild mares he ll be all right. They
may think, but they can t prove anything.
And Foy ll be all right if only the posse fol
lows the plain trail."
" It s too much to hope," said Stella.
" They ll split up. Some of them will hunt
out the hills anyway to-morrow, if not to
u That s my idea of it," said Pringle.
" They won t find the cave if they do," said
Vorhis hopefully. " If he can get to the Bar
Cross they ll see him through, once they hear
his story. Not telling about that clean-up you
and Kit made last night is a dead give
" Any chance of Foy slipping out afoot? "
Too far. But he could stand a siege till
we could get word to his friends if, by any
chance, the posse should find his cave. He
took my rifle. He can see them coming; he ll
have every advantage against attack; and
The Desire of the Moth 67
there s another way out of the cave, up on top
of the hill. There s just one thing against
him. There wasn t even a canteen here. He
took some jerky and canned stuff but only
one measly beer bottle of water. When that s
used up it s going to be a dull time for him.
We can t get water to him very handy with
out leaving some sign. We mustn t get hos
tile with the posse. Take it easy you espe
cially, Pringle. Stella and me, they know
where we stand. But you re a stranger.
Maybe they ll let you go on. If you once get
away bring the Bar Cross boys and they ll
take Foy out of here in broad day."
Very pretty but there s four men in Las
Uvas that know me and three of them are
police. Maybe they ll stay in the city though
being police? "
" No, they won t," said the Major gloom
ily. " They ll be along deputized, of
course. Maybe they won t be in the first
68 The Desire of the Moth
batch though. Your part is to be the disin
terested traveler, wanting to be on your
" It won t work, Major. This is a put-up
job. Even if Applegate and his strikers
aren t along they ve given my description.
Somebody will know I was with Foy last
night, and they ll know I m lying."
The Major sighed. "That s so, too. I m
afraid you re in for trouble."
" I m used to that," said Pringle lightly.
" Once, in Arizona "
" Don t throw it up to me, John," said the
Major a trifle sheepishly. " I ll say this
though : I wouldn t ask for a better man in a
tight than you."
" Thanks so much!" murmured Pringle.
" And that Sir Hubert Stanley thing."
" One more point, John: You don t know
Foy. I do. Foy ll never give up. He s des
perate and he s not pleased. There s no
The Desire of the Moth 69
question of surrender and standing trial; un
derstand that He d be lynched, probably,
if they ever got him in Las Uvas. A trial,
even, would be just lynching under another
name. They don t want to capture him any
way they want a chance to kill him."
" I wouldn t want the job," said Pringle.
" Hush ! " said Stella. " I hear them com
ing. Talk about something else the war in
The Major picked up a paper.
"What do you think about the United
States building a big navy, John? " he asked
Stealthy footsteps rustled without.
" Fine ! " said Pringle. " I m strong for it,
We want dreadnoughts, and lots of em
biggest we can build. But that ain t all.
When we make the navy appropriations we
ought to set by about fifty-some-odd million
and build a big multiple-track railroad, so we
70 The Desire of the Moth
can carry our navy inland in case of war.
The ocean is no place for a battleship these
"Stop your kidding!"
" I m not kidding," said John Wesley in
dignantly. " I never was twice as serious in
my whole life. My plan is sound, statesman
" Shut up, you idiot! I want to read."
" Oh, very well, then! I ll grind the cof
Men crept close to the open door on each
side of the kitchen. Stella slipped a pan of
biscuits in the oven ; she laid the table briskly,
with a merry clatter of tinware; her face was
cheerful and unclouded. The Major leaned
back in one chair, his feet on another; he
was deep in the paper; he puffed his pipe.
John Wesley Pringle twirled the coffee
mill between his knees and sang a merry
The Desire of the Moth 71
" There were three little mice, playing in the
Inky, dinky, doodum, day!
Though they knew they were doing what was
very, very wrong
Inky, dinky, doodum, day!
And the song of the owls, it sounded so nice
That closer and closer crept the three little mice.
And the owls came and gobbled them "
A shadow fell across the floor.
" Hands up ! " said the sheriff of Dona,
Ana. " We want Chris Foy ! "
NAVAJO, Pima, and Hopi enjoy seven
cardinal points north, east, west,
south, up, down, and right here. In these and
any intermediate directions from the Vorhis
Ranch the diligent posse comitatus made
swift and jealous search through the slow
hours of afternoon. It commandeered the
V H Saddle horses in the corral; it searched
for sign in the soft earth of the wandering
draws between the dozen low hills scattered
round Big Thumb Butte and Little Thumb
Butte; it rode circles round the ranch; the
sign of Christopher Foy s shod horse was
found and followed hotfoot by a detachment.
Eight men had arrived in the first bunch, with
the sheriff; others from every angle joined by
twos and threes from hour to hour till the
The Desire of the Moth 73
number rose to above a score. A hasty elec
tion provided a protesting cook and a horse
wrangler; a V H beef was slaughtered.
The posse was rather equally divided be
tween two classes simpletons and fools.
The first unquestionably believed Foy to be a
base and cowardly murderer, out of law,
whom it were most righteous to harry; else,
as the storied juryman put it, " How came he
there?" The other party were of those
who hold that evildoing may permanently
prosper and endure.
In the big living room of the adobe ranch
house much time had been wasted in cross-
questions and foolish answers. Stella Vorhis
had been banished to her own room and
Sheriff Matt Lisner had privately told off a
man to make sure she did not escape.
Lisner and Ben Creagan, Grossest of the
four examiners, had been prepared to meet
by crushing denial an eager and indignant
74 The Desire of the Moth
statement from Pringle, adducing the Gads-
den House affair and his subsequent com-
panying with Foy as proof positive of Foy s
innocence. That no such accusation came
from Pringle set these able but mystified de-
niers entirely at a loss, left the denial high
and dry. Creagan mopped his brow fur
"Vorhis," said Sheriff Matt, red and
angry from an hour s endeavor, " I think
you re telling a pack of lies every word of
it. You know mighty well where Foy is."
The Major s gray goatee quivered.
" Guess I ll tell you lies if I want to," he
" But, Sheriff, he may be telling us the
truth," urged Paul Breslin. " Foy may very
well have ridden here alone before Vorhis
got here. I ve known the Major a long time.
He isn t the man to protect a red-handed
The Desire of the Moth 75
" Aw, bah! How do you know I won t?
How do you know he s a murderer? You
make me sick!" declared the Major hotly.
Breslin was an honest, well-meaning farmer;
the Major was furious to find such a man
allied with Foy s foes certain sign that
other decent blockheads would do likewise.
" Matt Lisner tells you Kit Foy is a murderer
and you believe him implicitly: Matt Lisner
tells you I m a liar but you stumble at that.
Why? Because you think about me that s
why ! Why don t you try that plan about Foy
" But Foy s run away," stammered Breslin,
"Run away, hell! He s not here, you
mean. According to your precious story, Foy
was leaving before Marr was killed or be
fore you say Marr was killed. Why don t
you look for him with the Bar Cross round
up ? There s where he started for, you say ? "
76 The Desire of the Moth
" I wired up and had a trusty man go out
there quietly at once. He s staying there still
quietly," said the sheriff. u Foy isn t there
and the Bar Cross hasn t heard of the kill
ing yet. It won t do, Major. Foy s run
John Wesley Pringle, limp, slack, and rum
pled in his chair, yawned, stretching his arms
This man Foy," he ventured amiably,
" if he really run away, he done a wise little
stunt for himself, I think. Because every
little ever and anon, thin scraps of talk float
in from your cookfire in the yard and there s
a heap of it about ropes and lynching, for in
stance. If he hasn t run away yet, he d bet
ter and I ll tell him so if I sec him. Stubby,
red-faced, spindlin , thickset, jolly little man,
ain t he? Heavy-complected, broad-shoul
dered, dark blond, very tall and slender,
weighs about a hundred and ninety, with a
The Desire- of the Moth 77
pale skin and a hollow-cheeked, plump, seri
ous face? "
At this ill-timed and unthinkable levity
Breslin stared in bewilderment; Lisner
glared, gripping his fist convulsively; and
Mr. Ben Creagan, an uneasy third inquisitor,
breathed hard through his nose. Anastacio
Barela, the fourth and last inquisitor, main
tained unmoved the disinterested attitude he
had held since the interrogation began. Feet
crossed, he lounged in his chair, graceful,
silent, smoking, listening, idly observant of
wall and ceiling.
No answer being forthcoming to his query
Pringle launched another:
" Speaking of faces, Creagan, old sport,
what s happened to you and your nose ? You
look like someone had spread you on the
minutes." He eyed Creagan with solicitous
Mr. Creagan s battered face betrayed emo-
78 The Desire of the Moth
tion. Pringle s shameless mendacity shocked
him. But it was Creagan s sorry plight that
he must affect never to have seen this insolent
Pringle before. The sheriff s face mottled
with wrath. Pringle reflected swiftly: The
sheriff s rage hinted strongly that he was in
Creagan s confidence and hence was no strarx-
ger to last night s mishap at the hotel; their 1
silence proclaimed their treacherous intent.
On the other hand, these two, if not the,
others, knew very well that Pringle had left
town with Foy and had probably stayed with
him; that the Major must know all that Foy
and Pringle knew. Evidently, Pringle de
cided, these two, at least, could expect no
direct information from their persistent ques
tionings; what they hoped for was uncon
scious betrayal by some slip of the tongue.
As for young Breslin, Pringle had long since
sized him up for what the Major knew him
to be a good-hearted, right-meaning simple-
The Desire of the Moth 79
ton. In the indifferent-seeming Anastacio,
Pringle recognized an unknown quantity.
That, for a certainty, Christopher Foy had
not killed Marr, was a positive bit of knowl
edge which Pringle shared only with the mur
derer himself and with that murderer s ac
complices, if any. So much was plain, and
Pringle felt a curiosity, perhaps pardonable,
as to who the murderer really was.
Duty and inclination thus happily wedded,
Pringle set himself to goad ferret-eyed Crea-
gan and the heavy-jawed sheriff into unwise
speech. And inattentive Anastacio had a
shrewd surmise at Pringle s design. He knew
nothing of the fight at the Gadsden House,
but he sensed an unexplained tension and he
knew his chief.
" And this man, too what about him?"
said Breslin, regarding Pringle with a puz
zled face. " Granted that the Major might
have a motive for shielding Foy he may
8o The Desire of the Moth
even believe Foy to be innocent why should
this stranger put himself in danger for Foy? "
" Here, now none of that! " said Pringle
with some asperity. " I may be a stranger to
you, but I m an old friend of the Major s.
I m his guest, eating his grub and drinking
his baccy; if he sees fit to tell any lies I back
him up, of course. Haven t you got any
principle at all? What do you think I am? "
" I know what you are," said the sheriff.
"You re a damned liar! "
" An amateur only," said Pringle modestly.
" I never take money for it." He put by a
wisp of his frosted hair, the better to scruti
nize, with insulting slowness, the sheriff s sav
age face. * Your ears are very large ! " he
murmured at last. " And red ! "
The sheriff leaped up.
" You insolent cur-dog! " he roared.
" L To stand and be still to the Birken ead
drill is a dam tough bullet to chew, " quoted
The Desire of the Moth 81
Pringle evenly. " But he done it old Prin-
gle John Wesley Pringle liar and cur-dog
too ! We ll discuss the cur-dog later. Now,
about the liar. You re mighty certain, seems
tome. Why? How do you know I m lying?
For I am lying I ll not deceive you. I m
lying; you know I m lying; I know that you
know I m lying: and you apprehend clearly
that I am aware that you are cognizant of
the fact that I am fully assured that you
know I am lying. Just like that! What a
very peculiar set of happenstances ! I am a
nervous woman and this makes my head go
" The worst day s work you ever did for
yourself," said the angry sheriff, " was when
you butted into this business."
" Yes, yes; go on. Was this to-day or yes
terday at the hotel?"
"Liar!" roared Lisner. "You never
were at the Gadsden House."
82 The Desire of the Moth
" Who said I was?"
The words cracked like a whiplash. Sim
ultaneously Pringle s tilted chair came down
to its four legs and Pringle sat poised, his
weight on the balls of his feet, ready for a
spring. The sheriff paused midway of a step ;
his mottled face grew ashen. A gurgle very
like a smothered chuckle came from Ana-
stacio. Creagan flung himself into the
u Aw, Matt, let s have the girl in here.
We can t get nothing from these stiff-necked
" Might as well," agreed Lisner in a tone
that tried to be contemptuous but trembled.
" We re wasting time here."
" Lisner," said the Major in his gentlest
tone, " be well advised and leave my daugh
"And if I don t?" sneered Lisner. He
had no real desire to question Stella, but wel-
The Desire of the Moth 83
corned the change of venue as a diversion
from his late indiscretion. u If, in the per
formance of my duty, I put a few civil ques
tions to Miss Vorhis in the presence of her
father, mind you then what? "
" But you won t! " said the Major softly.
" Do you know, Sheriff, I think the Major
has the right idea?" said Pringle. " We
won t bother the young lady."
u Who s going to stop me? "
Anastacio, in his turn, brought his chair to
the floor, at the same time unclasping his
hands from behind his head.
" I ll do that little thing, Sheriff," he an
nounced mildly. " Miss Vorhis has already
told us that she has not seen Foy since yester
day noon. That is quite sufficient."
" This makes me fidgety. Somebody say
something, quick anything!" begged Prin
gle. " All right, then; I will. Let s go back
84 The Desire of the Moth
we ve dropped a stitch. That goes about
me being a liar and a damned one, Sheriff;
but I m hurt to have you think I m a cur-dog.
You re the sheriff, doin your duty, as you so
aptly observed. And you ve done took my
gun away. But if bein a cur-dog should hap
pen to vex me honest, Sheriff, I m that sen
sitive that I ll tell you now not hissing or
gritting or gnashing my teeth just telling
you the first time I meet you in a strictly
private and unofficial way I m goin to remold
you closer to my heart s desire ! "
"You brazen hussy! You know you
"You re still harpin on that, Sheriff?
That doesn t make it any easier to be a cur-
dog. How did you know I lied? You say
so, mighty positive but what are your rea
sons? Why don t you tell your associates?
There is an honest man in this room. I am
not sure there are not two - "
The Desire of the Moth 85
Anastacio s eyes again removed themselves
from the ceiling.
u If you mean me and somehow I am
quite clear as to that "
" I mean Mr. Breslin."
" Oh, him of course ! " said Anastacio in
a shocked voice. " Breslin, by all means, for
the one you were sure of. But the second
man, the one you had hopes of who should
that be but me ? I thank you. I am touched.
I am myself indifferent honest, as Shake-
spere puts it."
The sheriff licked his dry lips.
" If you think I am going to stay here to
be insulted M
" You are ! " taunted John Wesley Pringle.
" You ll stay right here. What? Leave me
here to tell what I have to say to an honest
man and a half? Impossible ! You ll not let
me out of your sight."
" My amateur Ananias," interrupted Ana-
86 The Desire of the Moth
stacio dispassionately, " you are, unintention
ally, perhaps, doing me half of a grave injus
tice. In this particular instance for this day
and date only I am as pure as a new-mown
hay. To prevent all misapprehension let me
say now that I never thought Foy killed Dick
"In heaven s name, why?" demanded
" My honest but thick-skulled friend, let
me put in my oar," implored the Major.
" Let me show you that Matt Lisner never
thought Foy was guilty. Foy said last night,
before the killing, that he was coming up
here, didn t he?"
" Hey, Major hold up ! " cried Pringle.
But Vorhis was not to be stopped.
" Don t you see, you doddering imbecile?
If Foy had really killed Dick Marr he might
have gone to any other place in the world
but he wouldn t have come here."
The Desire of the Moth 87
u Aha! So Foy did come here, hey?"
croaked the sheriff, triumphant in his turn.
"Thanks, Major, for the information,
though I was sure before, humanly speaking,
that he came this way."
" Which is another way of saying that you
don t think Foy did the killing that you
don t even suspect him of it," said Anastacio.
as the Major subsided, crestfallen. " Matt
Lisner, I know that you hate Foy. I know
that you welcome this chance to get rid of
him. Make no mistake, Breslin. I was not
wanted here. I wasn t asked and none of
my people were brought along. I tagged
along, though to wait. It s one of the best
little things I do waiting. And I came to
protect Foy, not to capture him. I came to
keep right at his side, in case he surrendered
without a fight for fear he might be killed
. . . escaping ... on the way back. It s
a way that we have in Las Uvas ! "
88 The Desire of the Moth
Lisner threw a look of hate at his deputy.
You don t mean to tell me there s any
danger of anything like that?" said Breslin,
staggered and aghast.
" Every danger. That s an old gag the
" You lie ! " bawled Creagan. His six-
shooter covered Anastacio.
" That ll keep. Put up your gun, Bennie,"
said Anastacio with great composure. " Sup
per s most ready. Besides, the Barelas
won t like it if you shoot me this way.
There s a lot of the Barelas, Ben. I ll tell
you what I ll do, though I ll slip the idea to
my crowd, and any time you want to kill me
on an even break, no Barela or Ascarate will
take it up. Put it right in your little holster
put it up, I say! That s right. You see,
Breslin? Don t let Foy out of your sight if
he should be taken."
" But he ll never let himself be taken
The Desire of the Moth 89
alive," said Vorhis. " Even if anyone wants
to take him alive. Pass the word to your
friends, Breslin, unless you want them to take
part in a deliberate, foreplanned murder."
" Damn you, what do you mean? " shouted
" By God, sir, I mean just what I say! "
" Why, girls I " said Pringle. " You shock
me ! This is most unladylike. This is scan
dalous talk. Be nice! Please pretty
please ! See, here comes some more pussy
foot posse three, six, eleven hungry men.
Have they got Foy? No; they have not got
Foy. Is he up? He is up. Look who s here
too! Good old Applegate and Brother Es-
palin. I wonder now if they re goin to give
me the cut direct, like Creagan did? You
notice, Mr. Breslin."
The horsemen rode into the corral.
"No; don t go, Sheriff," said Anastacio.
" I m anxious to see if those two will recog-
9O The Desire of the Moth
nize Ananias the Amateur. They ll be here
directly. You, either, Creagan. Else I ll
shoot you both in the back, accidentally, clean
ing my gun."
From without was the sound of spurred
feet in haste ; three men appeared at the open
"Why, if it ain t George! Good old
George ! " cried Pringle, rising with out
stretched arms. " And my dear friend Es-
palin ! What a charming reunion ! "
Applegate s eyes threw a startled question
at his chief and at Creagan; Espalin slipped
swiftly back through the door.
" I don t know you, sir," said Applegate.
" George ! You re never going to disown
me ! Joe s gone, too. Nobody loves me ! "
The third man, a grizzled and bristly old
warrior with a limp, broke in with a roar.
"What in hell s going on here?" he
The Desire of the Moth 91
" You are, for one thing, if you don t mod
erate your voice," said Anastacio. " Nueces,
you bellow like the bulls of Bashan. Mr. Ap-
plegate, meet Mr. Pringle."
" What does he mean, then, by such
monkeyshines ? " demanded the other old
Nueces River, chief of police, ex-ranger, and,
for this occasion, deputy sheriff. " I got no
time for foolishness. And you can t run no
whizzer on me, Barela. Don t you try it! "
" Oh, they re just joking, Nueces," said the
Major. " Tell us how about it. Here, I ll
light the lamp; it s getting dark. Find any
sign of Foy? "
Nueces leveled a belligerent finger at the
" You ve been joking, too ! I ve heard
about you. Lisner, I m ashamed of you !
Let Vorhis pull the wool over your eyes,
while you sit here and jaw all afternoon, do
ing nothing ! "
92 The Desire of the Moth
"Why, what did you find out?"
u A-plenty. Them stiffs you sent out found
Foy s horse, to begin with."
" Sure it was Foy s horse ? " queried Lisner
" Sure I I know the horse that big calico
horse of his."
" Why didn t you follow him up? "
" Follow hell ! Oh, some of the silly fools
are milling round out there going over to
the San Andres to-night to take a big hunt
manana. Not me. That horse was a blind.
They pottered round tryin to find some trace
of Foy blind fools ! till I met up with em.
I d done gathered in that mizzable red
headed Joe Cowan on a give-out horse, claim-
in he d been chousin after broom-tails.
He d planted Foy s horse, I reckon.
But it can t be proved, so I let him go.
He ll have to walk in; that s one good
The Desire of the Moth 93
" But Foy where do you figure Foy s
" Maybe he simply was not," suggested
Pringle, " like Enoch when he was translated
into all European languages, including the
" Pringle, if you say another word I ll have
you gagged ! " said the exasperated sheriff.
" Don t you reckon, Nueces, that Cowan
brought Foy a barefooted horse? He can t
have gone on afoot or you d have seen his
" Sheriff, you certainly are an easy mark! "
returned Nueces, in great disgust. " Foy
didn t go on afoot or horseback, because he
was never there. I ve told you twice : Cowan
left that calico horse on purpose for us to
find. Vorhis is Foy s friend. Can t you see,
if Foy had tried to get away by hard riding
he would have had a fresh horse, not the one
he rode from Las Uvas, and you wouldn t
94 The Desire of the Moth
have found a penful of fresh horses to chase
him with? Not in a thousand years! That
was to make it nice and easy for you to ride
on a six-year-old kid could see through it!
It s a wonder you didn t all fall for it and
chase away. No, sir! Foy either stopped
down on the river and sent his horse on to
fool us or, more likely, he s up in the Buttes.
Did you look there? "
" I sent the boys round to out sign. I did
n t feel justified in hunting out the rough
places till we had more men. Too much
cover for him."
"And none for you, I s pose? Mamma!
but you re a fine sheriff! Look now: After
we started back here we sighted a dust comin
way up north. We went over, and twas
Hargis, the Major s buckaroo, throwin in a
bunch from the round-up. He didn t know
nothin and was not right sure of that till I
mentioned your reward. Soon as ever I men-
The Desire of the Moth 95
tioned twenty-five hundred, he loosened up
" Well? Did he know where Foy was? "
"No; but he knew of the place where I
judge Foy is, this very yet. Gosh ! " said
Nueces River in deep disgust, " it beats hell
what men will do for a little dirty money!
Seems there s a cave near the top of the least
of them two buttes the roughest one a cave
with two mouths, one right on the big top.
Nobody much knows where it is, only the V
Pringle had edged across the room. He
now plucked at Bell Applegate s sleeve.
" Say, is that right about that reward >
twenty-five hundred?" he whispered. His
" Forty-five," said Bell behind his hand.
" The Masons, they put up a thousand, and
Dick s old uncle that would have let Dick
starve or work he tacked on a thousand
96 The Desire of the Moth
more. Dead or alive ! " He looked down at
Pringle s face, at Pringle s working fingers,
opening and shutting avariciously; he sneered.
" Don t you wish you may get it? S-sh!
Hear what the old man s saying."
During the whispered colloquy the old
ranger had kept on :
" There s where he is, a twenty-to-one
shot! He ll lay quiet, likely, thinkin we ll
miss him. Brush growin over both the cave
mouths, Hargis says, so you might pass right
by if you didn t know where to look. These
short nights he couldn t never get clear on
foot. Thirty mile to the next water we d
find his tracks and catch him. But he might
make a break to get away, at that. Never
can tell about a he-man like that. We can t
take no chances. We ll pick a bite of supper
and then we surround that hill, quiet as mice,
and close up on him. He can t see us to shoot
if we re fool enough to make any noise.
The Desire of the Moth 97
Come daylight, we ll have him cornered,
every man behind a bowlder. If he shows
up he s our meat; if he don t we ll starve
" And suppose he isn t there?" said
Creagan. " What would we look like,
watching an empty cave two or three
What do we look like now? Give you
three guesses," retorted Nueces. " And
how d we look rushin that empty cave if it
didn t happen to be empty? Excuse me ! I d
druther get three grand heehaws and a tiger
for bein ridiculous than to have folks tiptoe
by a-whisperin : How natural he looks !
I been a pretty tough old bird in my day but
goin up a tunnel after Kitty Foy ain t my
idea of foresight."
" Some man some good man, too will
have to stay here and stand guard on the
Major and this fresh guy, Pringle," said the
98 The Desire of the Moth
sheriff thoughtfully. " He ll get his slice of
the money, of course."
" You ll find a many glad to take that end
of the job; for," said Nueces River, " it is in
my wise old noddle some of us are going to be
festerin in Abraham s bosom before we earn
that reward money. Leave Applegate he s
in bad shape for climbing anyway; bruise on
his belly big as a washpan."
" Bronc bucked me over on the saddle
horn," explained Applegate. " Sure, I ll stay.
And the Pringle person will be right here
when you get back, too."
" Let the Major take some supper in to
Miss Vorhis," suggested Breslin. " I ll keep
an eye on him. He can eat with her and cheer
her up a little. This is hard lines for a girl."
Lisner shrugged his shoulders.
"We have to keep her here till Foy s
caught. She might bring a sight of trouble
down on us."
The Desire of the Moth 99
" Say, what s the matter with me going out
and eating a few? " asked Pringle.
" You stay here ! You talk too much with
your mouth," replied the sheriff. " I ll send
in a snack for you and Bell. Come on, boys."
They filed out to the cook s fire in the
" George, dear," said Pringle when the
two were left alone, " is that right about
the reward? Cause I sure want to get in
" Damn likely. You knew where Foy was.
You know where he is now. Why didn t you
tell us, if you wanted in on the reward? "
" Why, George, I didn t know there was
any reward. Besides, him and me split up
as soon as we got clear of town."
"You re a damn liar!"
" That s what the sheriff said. Somebody
must a give me away," complained John
Wesley. He rolled a cigarette and walked to
ioo The Desire of the Moth
the table. " All the same, you re making a
mistake. You hadn t ought to roil me. Just
for that, soon as they re all off on their man
hunt, I m goin to study up some scheme to
" I got a picture of you gettin away! "
" George," said John Wesley, " you see
that front door ? Well, that s what we call in
theatrical circles a practical door. Along
toward morning I m going out through that
practical door. You ll see ! "
He raised the lamp, held the cigarette over
the chimney top and puffed till he got a light;
so doing he smoked the chimney. To inspect
the damage he raised the lamp higher.
Swifter than thought he hurled it at his ward
er s head. The blazing lamp struck Apple-
gate between the eyes. Pringle s fist flashed
up and smote him grievously under the jaw;
he fell crashing; the half-drawn gun clattered
from his slackened fingers. Pringle caught it
The Desire of the Moth 101
up and plunged into the dark through the
He ran down the adobe wall of the water
pen; a bullet whizzed by; he turned the cor
ner; he whisked over the wall, back into the
water pen. Shouts, curses, the sound of rush
ing feet without the wall. Pringle crouched
in the deep shadow of the wall, groped his
way to the long row of watering troughs, and
wormed himself under the upper trough,
where the creaking windmill and the splash
ing of water from the supply pipe would
drown out the sound of his labored breath.
Horsemen boiled from the yard gate with
uproar and hullabaloo; Pringle heard their
shouts; he saw the glare of soap weeds, fired
to help their search.
The lights died away; the shouts grew
fainter: they swelled again as the searchers
straggled back, vociferous. Pringle caught
scraps of talk as they watered their horses.
IO2 The Desire of the Moth
" Clean getaway! "
" One bad actor, that hombre! "
" Batting average about thirteen hundred,
I should figger."
"Life-size he-man! Where do you sup
" Saw a lad make just such another break
once in Van Zandt County "
"Say! Who re you crowdin ?"
" Hi, fellers ! Bill s giving some more his
tory of the state of Van Zandt! "
" Applegate s pretty bad hurt."
" in a gopher hole and near broke my
Where d this old geezer come from, any
way? Never heard of him before ! "
" Tain t fair, just when we was all
crowdin up for supper! He might have
" This will be merry hell and repeat if he
The Desire of the Moth 103
hooks up with Foy," said Creagan s voice,
adding a vivid description of Pringle.
Old Nueces answered, raising his voice :
" He s afoot. We got to beat him to it.
Let s ride ! "
"That s right," said the sheriff. "But
we ll grab something to eat first. Saddle up,
Hargis, and lead us to your little old cave.
Robbins, while we snatch a bite you bunch
what canteens we ve got and fill em up.
Then you watch the old man and that girl,
and let Breslin come with us. You can eat
after we ve gone."
" Don t let the girl heave a pillow at you,
Robbins ! " warned a voice.
" Better not stop to eat," urged Nueces.
" We can lope up and get to the foot of
Thumb Butte before Pringle gets halfway
if he s going there at all. Most likely he s
had a hand in the Marr killing and is just
running away to save his own precious
IO4 The Desire of the Moth
neck," said the sheriff. " We ll scatter out
around the hill when we get to the roughs,
and go up afoot till every man can see or
hear his neighbor, so Pringle can t get
through. Then we ll wait till daylight."
" That may suit you," retorted Nueces.
u Me, I don t intend for any man that will
buck a gun with a lamp to throw in with Kit
Foy while I stuff my paunch. That sort is
just the build to do a mile in nothing flat
and it s only three miles to the hill. I m goin
now, and I m goin hellity-larrup ! Come on,
anybody with more brains than belly I m off
to light a line of soap weeds on that hill so
this Mr. Pringle-With-the-Punch don t walk
himself by. If he wants up he ll have to hoof
it around the other side of the hill. We won t
make any light on the north side. That Bar
Cross outfit is too damn inquisitive. The
night herders would see it; they d smell trou
ble; and like as not the whole bilin of em
The Desire of the Moth 105
would come pryin down here by daylight.
Guess they haven t heard about Foy or they d
be here now. They re strong for Foy. Come
on, you waddies ! "
Mr. Pringle-With-the-Punch, squeezed,
cramped, and muddy under the trough, heard
this supperless plan with displeasure ; his hope
had been otherwise. He heard the sound of
hurried mounting; from the thunder of gal
loping hoofs it would seem that a goodly
number of the posse had come up to the speci
fications laid down by the old ranger.
The others clanked away, leaving their
horses standing. The man Robbins grum
bled from saddle to saddle and gathered can
teens. As he filled them from the supply pipe
directly above Mr. Pringle s head, he set
them on the ground within easy reach of Mr.
Pringle s hand. Acting on this hint Mr. Prin
gle s hand withdrew a canteen, quite unos
tentatiously. An unnecessary precaution, as
io6 The Desire of the Moth
it turned out; Mr. Robbins, having filled that
batch, went to the horses farther down the
troughs to look for more canteens. So Prin-
gle wriggled out with his canteen, selected
a horse, and rode quietly through the open
"Going already?" called Robbins as he
Secure under cover of darkness, Pringle
answered in the voice of one who, riding,
"Yes, indeedy; I ain t no hawg. Wasn t
much hungry nohow ! "
AT the foot of Little Thumb Butte a
lengthening semicircle of fire flared
through the night. John Wesley Pringle
swung far out on the plain to circle
" This takes time," he muttered to him
self, " but at least I know where not to go.
That old rip-snorter sure put a spoke in my
wheel ! Looks like Foy might see them lights
and drift out away from this. But he won t,
I guess they said his hidey-hole was right on
top, and the shoulder of the hill will hide
the fires from him. Probably asleep, anyhow,
thinkin he s safe. I slep three hours this
morning at the Major s; but Foy he didn t
sleep any. Even if he did leave, they d
track him up in the morning and get him
io8 The Desire of the Moth
and he knows it. Somebody s goin to be
awfully annoyed when he misses this
He could see the riders, dim-flitting as
they passed between him and the flames.
Once he stopped to listen; he heard the re
maining half of the man-hunt leaving the
ranch. They were riding hard. Thereafter
Pringle had no mercy on his horse. Ride as
he might, those who followed had the inner
circle; when he rounded the fires and struck
the hill his start was perilously slight. While
the footing was soft he urged the wearied
horse up the slope ; at the first rocky space he
abandoned the poor beast lest the floundering
of shod hoofs should betray him. He took
off saddle and bridle; he hung the canteen
over his shoulder and pressed on afoot.
A light breeze had overcast the stars with
thin and fleecy clouds. This made for Prin-
gle s safety; it also made the going harder
The Desire of the Moth 109
and it would have been hard going by day
The slope became steeper; ledges of rock,
little at first, became larger and more fre
quent; he came to bluffs that barred his prog
ress, slow and painful at best; he was forced
to search to left or right for broken places
where he could climb. Bits of rock, dis
lodged by his feet, fell clattering despite his
utmost care ; he heard the like from below, to
the left, to the right. The short night wore
With equal fortune John Wesley should
have maintained his lead. But he found
more than his share of no-thoroughfares.
Before long his ears told him that men were
almost abreast of him on each side. He was
handicapped now, because he must shun any
chance meeting. His immediate neighbors,
however, had no such fear; they edged closer
and closer together as they climbed. At last,
i io The Desire of the Moth
stopped against a perpendicular wall ten feet
high, he heard them creeping toward him
from both sides, with a guarded " Coo-ee ! "
each to the other; John Wesley slipped down
the hill to the nearest bush. His neighbors
came together and held a whispered dis
course. They viewed the barrier with
marked patience, it seemed; they sat down in
friendly fashion and smoked cigarette after
cigarette; the hum of their hushed voices
reached Pringle, murmuring and indistinct.
It might almost be thought that they were
willing for others to precede them in the
place of honor. A faint glow showed in
the east; the moon had thoughts of
After an interminable half-hour the two
worthies passed on to the right. Pringle took
to the left, more swiftly. Time for caution
had passed; moonlight might betray him.
When he found a way up that unlucky wall
The Desire of the Moth in
others of the search party farther to the left
were well beyond him.
Perhaps a quarter of a mile away, the last
sheer cliff, the Thumb which gave the hill its
name, frowned above him, a hundred feet
from base to crest. Pringle bore obliquely
up to the right. Speed was his best safety
now; he pushed on boldly, cheered by the
thought that if seen by any of the posse he
would be taken for one of their own num
ber. But Foy, seeing him, would make the
same mistake ! It was an uncomfortable re
The pitch was less abrupt now, and there
were no more ledges ; instead, bowlders were
strewn along the rounded slope, with bush
and stunted tree between. Through these
Pringle breasted his way, seeking even more
to protect himself from above than from be
low, forced at times to crawl through an open
space exposed to possible fire from both sides;
H2 The Desire of the Moth
so came at last to the masses of splintered
and broken rock at the foot of the cliff, where
he sank breathless and panting.
The tethered constellations paled in the
sky; the moon rose and lit the cliff with silver
fire. The worst was yet to come. Foy
would ask no questions of any prowler, that
was sure; he would reason that a friend
would call out boldly. And John Wesley
had no idea where Foy or his cave might be.
Yet he must be found.
With a hearty swig at the canteen Pringle
crept off to the right. The moonlight beat
full upon the cliff. He had little trouble in
that ruin of broken stone to find cover from
foes below; but at each turn he confidently
looked forward to a bullet from his friend.
"Foy! Foy!" he called softly as he
crawled. " It s Pringle ! Don t shoot I "
After a space he came to an angle where
the cliff turned abruptly west and dwindled
The Desire of the Moth 113
sharply in height. He remembered what
the Major had said the upper entrance of
the cave came out on the highest crest of the
hill. He turned back to retrace his painful
way. The smell of dawn was in the air;
the east sparkled. No sound came from
the ambush all around. The end was
He passed by his starting-point; he crept
on by slide and bush and stone. The moon
magic faded and paled, mingled with the
swift gray of dawn. He held his perilous
way. Cold sweat stood on his brow. If
Foy or a foe of Foy were on the cliff now,
how easy to topple down a stone upon him!
The absolute stillness was painful. A
thought came to him of Stella Vorhis her
laughing eyes, her misty hair, the little hand
that had lingered upon his own. Such a
little, little hand!
Before him a narrow slit opened in the
H4 The Desire of the Moth
wall such a crevice as the Major had de
" Foy! Oh, Foy! " he called. No answer
came. He raised his voice a little louder.
u Foy! Speak if you re there! It s Prin-
A gentle voice answered from the cleft:
" Let us hope, for your sake, that you are
not mistaken about that. I should be dread
fully vexed if you were deceiving me.
The voice is the voice of Pringle, but how
about the face? I can only see your
" I would raise my head, so you could take
a nice look by the well-known cold gray light
of the justly celebrated dawn," rejoined Prin
gle, " if I wasn t reasonably sure that a rifle
shot would promptly mar the classic outlines
of my face. They re all around you, Foy.
Hargis, he gave you away. Don t show a
finger nail of yourself. Let me crawl up be-
The Desire of the Moth 115
hind that big rock ahead and then you can
" It s you, all right," said Foy when Prin-
gle reached the rock and straightened him
u I told you so," said Pringle, peering into
the shadows of the cleft. " I can t see you.
And how am I going to get to you ? There
are twenty men with point-blank range. I m
muddy, scratched, bruised, tired and hungry,
sleepy and cross and there s thirty feet in
the open between here and you, and it nearly
broad daylight. If I try to cross that I ll
run twenty-five hundred pounds to the ton,
pure lead. Well, we can put up a pretty
nifty fight, even so. You go back to the other
outlet of your cave and I ll stay here. I m
kinder lonesome, too. . . . Toss me some
cartridges first. I only got five. I left in a
hurry. You got forty-fives?"
" Plenty. But you can t stay there.
n6 The Desire of the Moth
They ll pot you from the top of the bluff, first
off. Besides, you got a canteen, I see. You
back up to that mountain mahogany bush,
slip under it, and worm down through the
rocks till you come to a little scrub-oak tree
and a big granite bowlder. They ll give you
shelter to cross the ridge into a deep ravine
that leads here where I am. You ll be out
of sight all the way up once you hit the ravine.
I d I d worm along pretty spry if I was you,
going down as far as the scrub oak say,
about as swift as a rattlesnake strikes and
pray any little prayers you happen to remem
ber. And say, Pringle, before you go ...
I m rather obliged to you for coming up here ;
risking taking cold and all. If it ll cheer you
up any I ll undertake that anyone getting you
on the trip will think there s one gosh-awful
"S long!" said Pringle.
He wriggled backward and disappeared.
The Desire of the Moth 117
Ten minutes later he writhed under the bush
at Foy s feet.
" Never saw me ! " he said. " But 111 al
ways sleep in coils after this always sup
posing we got any after this coming to us."
" One more crawl," said Foy, leading the
way. " We ll go up on top. Regular fort up
there. If we ve got to die we ll die in the
He stooped at what seemed the end of the
passage and crawled out of sight under the
low branches of a stunted cedar. Pringle
followed and found himself in the pitch dark.
u Grab hold of my coat tail. I know my
way, feeling the wall. Watch your step or
you ll bark your shins."
The cave floor was smooth underfoot, ex
cept for scattered rocks; it rose and dipped,
but the general trend was sharply upward.
" You re quite an institution, Pringle.
You ve made good Stella s word of you the
ii8 The Desire of the Moth
best ever ! " said Foy as they mounted. " But
you can t do me any good, really. I ll enjoy
your company, but I wish you hadn t
That s all right. I always like to finish
what I begin."
"Well," remarked Foy cheerfully, "I
reckon we ve reached the big finish, both of
us. I don t see any way out. All they ve
got to do is to sit tight till we starve out for
water. Wish you was out of it. It s going
to be tough on Stella, losing her friend and
and me, both at once. How s she making
out? Full of fight and hope to the last, I ll
They had me under herd; but she was
wishing for the Bar Cross buddies to butt in,
I believe. Reckon your sheriff-man guessed
it. He had her under guard, too."
" Nice man, the sheriff ! How d you get
away from your herder?"
The Desire of the Moth 119
" He don t just remember," said Pringle.
"Who was it?"
" Applegate. Dreadful absent-minded,
Applegate is. Ouch ! There went my other
shin. Had any sleep? "
" Most all night. Something woke me up
about two hours ago, and I kept on the look
out ever since."
" That was me, I guess. I had to step
lively. They was crowding me."
" If the Bar Cross happened to get word,"
observed Foy thoughtfully, " we might stand
some hack. But they won t. It s good-
by, vain world, for ours! Say, in case a
miracle happens for you, just make a memo
about the sheriff being a nuisance, will
" I ll tie a string on my finger. Any
* You might stick around and cheer Stella
up a little. I ll do as much for you some-
I2O The Desire of the Moth
time. I m thinking she ll feel pretty bad at
first. Here we are ! "
A faint glimmer showed ahead. They
crawled under low bushes and stumbled out,
in what seemed at first a dazzle of light;
into a small saucer-shaped plat of earth a
few feet across, enclosed by an irregular oval
made by great blocks of stone, man-high.
Below, a succession of little cliffs fell away,
stair fashion, to an exceeding high and nar
row gap which separated Little Thumb Butte
from its greater neighbor, Big Thumb Butte.
" Castle Craney Crow," smiled Foy with a
proprietary wave of his hand. " Just right
for our business, isn t it? Make yourself
at home, while I take a peep around about."
He bent to peer through bush and crack.
" Nothing stirring," he announced. He
leaned his rifle against a walling rock.
" Let s have a look at that water."
He raised the canteen to his lips. Pringle
The Desire of the Moth 121
struck swift and hard to the tilted chin. Foy
dropped like a poled bullock; his head struck
heavily against the sharp corner of a rock.
Pringle pounced on the stricken man. He
threw Foy s sixshooter aside ; he pulled Foy s
wrists behind him and tied them tightly with
a handkerchief. Then he rolled his captive
Foy s eyes opened; they rolled back till
only the whites were visible ; his lips twitched.
Pringle hastily bound his handkerchief to the
gash the stone had made; he sprinkled the
blood-streaked face with water; he spilled
drops of water between the parted lips. Foy
did not revive.
Pringle stuck his hat on the rifle muzzle
and waved it over the parapet of rock.
"Hello!" he shouted. "Bring on your
reward! I ve got Foy! It s me Pringle!
Come get him; and be quick he s bleeding
122 The Desire of the Moth
" Come out, you ! Hands up and no mon
key business! " answered a startled voice not
fifty yards away.
"Who s that? That you, Nueces? Give
me your word and I ll lug him out. No time
to lose he s hurt, and hurt bad."
" You play fair and we will. I give my
word! " shouted Nueces.
" Here goes ! " Pringle pitched the rifle
over. A moment later he staggered out be
tween the rocks, bearing Foy s heavy weight
in his arms. The head hung helpless, blood-
spattered; the body was limp and slack; the
legs dragged sprawling; the dreaded hands
Pringle laid his burden on the grass.
" Here he is, you hyenas I His hands are
tied are you still afraid of him? Damn
you ! The man s bleeding to death ! "
" "\7OU treacherous, dirty hound ! " said
" Of all the low-down skunks I ever seen,
you sure are the skunkiest!" said Nueces.
" The sheriff was right after all. Cur-dog
fits you to a T." He finished washing out
the cut on Foy s head as he spoke. " Now
the bandages, Anastacio. We ll have the
blood stopped in a jiffy. Funny he hasn t
come to. It s been a long while. It ain t the
head ails him. This isn t such a deep cut;
it oughtn t to put him out. Just happened to
strike a vein." He bound up the cut with the
deftness of experience.
" I hit him under the jaw," observed
Pringle. " That s what did the business for
him. He ll be around directly."
124 The Desire of the Moth
Anastacio looked up at Pringle; measure
less contempt was in his eyes.
" Judas Iscariot could have sublet his job
to you at half price if you d been in the
neighborhood. You are the limit, plus! I
hope to see you fry in a New English hell! "
" Oh, that s all right, too," said Pringle
unabashed. " I might just as well have that
forty-five hundred as anyone. It wouldn t
amount to much split amongst all you fel
lows, but it s quite a bundle for one man.
That ll keep the wolf from the well-known
door for quite a while."
" You won t touch a cent of it I " declared
" Won t I though? We ll see about that.
I captured him alone, didn t I ? Oh, I reckon
I ll finger the money, alrighty ! "
"Here, fellows; give him a bait of
whisky," said Creagan.
Breslin, kneeling at Foy s side, took
The Desire of the Moth 1125
extended flask. They administered the
stimulant cautiously, a sip at a time. Foy s
eyes flickered; his breath came freer.
" He s coming! " said Breslin. " Give him
a sip of water now."
u He ll be O. K. in five minutes, far as
settin up goes," said old Nueces, well
pleased; " but he ain t goin to be any too
peart for quite some time not for gettin*
down off o this hill. See he s battin his
eyes and working his hands around. He sure
heard the birdies singl "
" The rest of you boys had just as well go
on down to the shack," directed the sheriff.
" Creagan and Joe and me will take care of
Foy till he s able to move or be moved, and
bring him into camp. You just lead up our
three horses and an extra one for Foy up
as far as you can fetch em. One of you can
ride home behind someone. Call down to
the bunch under the cliff that we ve got era,
126 The Desire of the Moth
and for them to hike out to the ranch and
take a nap. You d better turn old Vorhis
loose and that girl. They can t do any
" Bring my horse, too," said Anastacio.
" I m staying. I want to be sure the invalid
gets . . . proper care."
" Me too," said Breslin.
" And I m staying to kinder superintend,"
said Nueces dryly. " Sheriff," he added, as the
main body of the posse fell off down the hill
u and you, too, Barela I don t just know
what s going on here, but I m stayin with you
to a fare-you-well. You two seem to be buck
ing each other."
No one answered.
"Sulky, hey? Well, anyhow, call it off
long enough to drive this Pringle thing away
from here. He ain t fittin for no man to
" I m staying right with this man Foy till
The Desire of the Moth 127
I get that reward," announced Pringle.
" Those are my superintentions. Much I
care what you think about me ! There s other
places besides this."
Breslin raised his eye from Foy s face and
regarded Pringle without heat a steady,
contemplative look, as of one who studies
some strange and interesting animal. Then
he waved his hand down the pass, where
certain of the departing posse, were bringing
the saddle horses in obedience to the sheriff s
" They ll carry a nice report of you," ob
served Breslin quietly. " What do you sup
pose that little girl will think?"
A flicker of red came to Pringle s hard
brown face. Even the scorn of Espalin and
Creagan had left him unabashed, but now
he winced visibly; and, for once, he had no
reply to make.
Foy gasped, struggled to a sitting position,
128 The Desire of the Moth
aided by his oddly assorted ministrants,
gazed round in a dazed condition and lapsed
back into unconsciousness.
" I ll take my dyin oath it ain t the cut
that ails him," said the ranger, tucking a coat
under Foy s blood-stained head. " That must
have been a horrible jolt on his jaw, Pringle.
You re no kind of a man at all no part of a
man. You re a shameless, black-hearted
traitor ; but I got to hand it to you as a slug
ger. Two knock-outs in one day and such
men as them ! I don t understand it."
" He most keel Applegate," said the Mex
"Aw, it s easy!" said Pringle eagerly.
" There ain t one man in a thousand knows
how to fight. It ain t cussin and gritting
your teeth, and swellin up your biceps and
clenching your fists up tight that does the
trick. You want to hit like there wasn t any
body there. I ll show you sometime."
The Desire of the Moth 129
He paused inquiringly, as if to book any
acceptance of this kindly offer. No such en
gagements being made, Pringle continued:
" Supposin you was throwin a baseball
and your hand struck a man accidentally;
you d hurt him every time only you d break
your arm that way. That ain t the way to
strike. I ll show you."
" That wasn t no olive branch I was hold-
in out," stated Nueces River. " You ll show
me nothin turncoat! "
" It helps a lot, too, when the man you hit
is not expecting it," suggested Anastacio
smoothly. " You might show me sometime
when I m looking for it."
"Now what s biting you?" demanded
Pringle testily. " What did you expect me
to do send em a note by registered mail? "
" I m not speaking about Applegate.
That was all right. I am speaking about
130 The Desire of the Moth
"Here; Kit s coming to life again," said
Kitty Foy rolled over; they propped him
up; he looked round rather wildly from one
to the other. His face cleared. His eye fell
upon Pringle, where it rested with a steady
intentness. When he spoke, at last, he ig
nored the others entirely.
" And I thought you were my friend,
Pringle. I trusted you ! " he said with omi
nous quietness. " I ll make a note of it. I
have a good memory, Pringle and good
friends. Give me some water, someone. I
Espalin brought a canteen.
" Take your time, Chris," said Lisner.
" Tell us when you feel able to go."
" I ll be all right after a little. Say, boys,
it was the queerest feeling coming to, I
mean. I could almost hear your voices, first.
Then I heard them a long ways off but I
The Desire of the Moth 131
couldn t make any sense to the words. Here ;
let me lean my back up against this rock and
sit quiet for a while. Then we ll go. I m
giddy yet. 7
"I ve got it!" announced Nueces a mo
ment later. " Barela, he s hankering to be
sheriff that s the trouble. He wanted to
take Chris himself, to help things along.
That would be quite a feather in any man s
hat done fair. And the sheriff, natural
enough, he don t want nothing of the kind."
That s it," said Anastacio, amusement in
his eyes. " I knew you were a good gunman,
Nueces, but I never suspected you of brains
"What s the matter with that guess?"
said Nueces sulkily. " Kid, you re always
ridin me. Don t you try to use any spurs ! "
" I m in on that," said Pringle, rising
brightly. That s my happy chance to join
in this lovin conversation. Speaking about
132 The Desire of the Moth
gunmen, I m a beaut ! See that hawk screech-
in around up there? Well, watch ! "
The hawk soared high above. Pringle
barely raised Foy s rifle to his shoulder as
he fired; the hawk tumbled headlong. Prin
gle jerked the lever, throwing another cart
ridge into the barrel, as if to fire again at the
falling bird. Inconceivably swift, the cocked
rifle whirled to cover the seated posse.
" Steady!" said Pringle. "I m watchin
you, Nueces! Chris, when you re able to
walk, go on down and pick you a horse from
that bunch. Unsaddle the others and drive
em along a ways as you go." Still speaking,
he edged behind the cover of a high rock.
" I ll address the meetin till you get a good
head start. . . . Steady in the boat! "
" Well, by Heck! " said Nueces.
" And I thought you had betrayed me ! "
" Well, I hadn t. This was the only show
The Desire of the Moth 133
to get off. ... I hate to kill you, Nueces;
but I will if you make a move."
"Hell! I ain t makin no move! What
do you think I am a damn fool?" said
Neuces. " If I moved any it was because I
am about to crack under the justly celebrated
strain. Say, young fellow, it strikes me that
you change sides pretty often."
" Yes; I am the Acrobat of the Breakfast
Table," said Pringle modestly. " Thanks
for the young fellow. That listens good."
" Look out I don t have you performing
on a tight rope yet!" growled the sheriff
hoarsely. " There ll be more to this. You
haven t got out of the country yet."
" That will be all from you, Sheriff. You,
too, Creagan and Espalin. Not a word or
I ll shoot. And I don t care how soon you
begin to talk. That goes ! "
Espalin shriveled up; the sheriff and Crea
gan sat sullen and silent.
134 The Desire of the Moth
Foy got to his feet rather unsteadily.
" Chris, you might slip around and gather
up their guns," said Pringle. " Pick out one
for yourself. I left yours where I threw it
when I picked it out of your belt. I meant
to knock you out, Chris there wasn t any
other way; but I didn t mean to plumb kill
you. You hit your head on a rock when you
fell. It wouldn t have done any good to have
got the drop on you. You had made up your
mind not to surrender. You would have shot
anyhow; and, of course, I couldn t shoot. I d
just have got myself killed for nothing. No
good to play I d taken you prisoner. This
crowd knew you wouldn t be taken except
by treachery. So I played traitor. As it was,
when I knocked you out you didn t look much
like no put-up job. You was bleeding like
a stuck pig."
" Hold on, there, before you try to take
my gun I " warned old Nueces River as Foy
The Desire of the Moth 135
came to him for his gun, collecting. " You
got the big drop on me, Pringle, and I would
n t raise a hand to keep Chris from getting
off anyhow not now. But I used to be a
ranger and the rangers were sworn never
to give up their guns."
" How about it, Pringle ? " asked Foy, who
had already relieved the sheriff and his satel
lites of their guns. " He ll do exactly as he
says both ways."
" I wasn t done talking yet," said Nueces
irritably. " But I ll let Chris take my gun,
on one condition."
"What s that?" inquired Pringle.
Why, if you ain t busy next Saturday I d
like to have you call around about one
o clock, say and kick me good and hard."
" Let him keep his gun. He called me a
young fellow. And I don t want Breslin s,
anyway. He s all right. Not to play any
favorites, let Anastacio keep his. There are
136 The Desire of the Moth
times," said Pringle, " when I have great
hopes of Anastacio. I m thinking some of
taking him in hand to see if I can t make a
man of him."
" Ananias the Amateur," said Anastacio,
" I thank you for those kind words. And I d
like to see you Saturday about two when
you get through with Nueces. I m next on
the waiting list. This will be a lesson to me
never to let my opinion of a man be changed
by anything he may do."
" If you fellows feel that way," said Foy,
" how about me? How do you suppose I
feel? This man has risked his life fifty times
for me and what did I think of him? "
" If you ask me, Christopher," said Ana
stacio, " I think you were quite excusable. It
was all very well to dissemble his love but
I should feel doubtful of any man that
handed me such a wallop as that until the mat
ter had been fully explained."
The Desire of the Moth 137
" What I want to know, Pringle, is, how
the deuce you got up here so slick?" said
" Oh, that s easy! I can run a mile in
"Oh that s it? You hid in the water
" Under the troughs. Bright idea of
yours, them fires ! I knew just where not to
go. After you left I hooked a horse. If
you d had sense enough to go with the sheriff
and eat your supper like a human being I d
a hooked two horses, and Chris and me
would now be getting farther and farther. I
don t want you ever to do that again. Sup
pose Chris had killed me when I tried to
knock him out? Fine large name I would V
left for myself, wouldn t I?"
" If you had fought it out with us," said
Breslin musingly, " you would have been
killed both of you; and you would have
138 The Desire of the Moth
killed others. Mr. Pringle, you have done
a fine thing. I apologize to you."
"Why, that all goes without saying, my
boy. As for my part why, I don t bother
much about a blue tin heaven or a comic-
supplement hell, but I m right smart inter
ested in right here and now. It s a right
nice little old world, take it by and large,
and I like to help out at whatever comes my
way, if it takes fourteen innings. But, so
long as you feel that way about it, maybe
you ll believe me now, when I say that Chris
topher Foy was with me all last night and he
didn t shoot Dick Marr."
" That s right," said Foy. " I don t know
who killed Dick Marr; but I do know that
Creagan, Joe Espalin, and Applegate in
tended to kill me last night. They gave me
back my sixshooter, that Ben Creagan had
borrowed and it was loaded with blanks.
Then they pitched onto me, and if it hadn t
The Desire of the Moth 139
been for Pringle they d have got me sure I
We left town at eleven o clock and rode
straight to the Vorhis Ranch."
" I believe you," said Anastacio. " You
skip along now, Chris. You re fit to ride."
" Why shouldn t I stay and see it out? "
" It won t do. For one thing, your thinker
isn t working as per invoice," said Nueces
River. " You re in no fix to do yourself jus
tice. We ll look after your interests. You
know some of the posse might be coming
back, askin fool questions. Pull your freight
up to the Bar Cross till we send for you."
" Well if you think Pringle isn t running
any risks I ll go."
" We ll take care of Pringle. Guess we ll
make him sheriff next fall, maybe just to
keep Anastacio in his place. Drift! "
" No sheriffin for mine, thanks. Con
tracting is my line. Subcontracting 1 "
" So long, boys ! You know what I d like
140 The Desire of the Moth
to say. You gave me a square deal, you
three chaps," said Foy. " Get word to
Stella as soon as ever you can. She thinks
I m a prisoner, you know. You know what
I want to say there, Pringle tell her for
me. . . . Say! Why don t you all go in
now? You boys all know that Stella s en
gaged to me, don t you? What s the good
of keeping her in suspense? Go on to the
ranch, right away."
" I told you your head wasn t working
just right," jeered Nueces. " We want to
give you a good start. They ll be after you
again, and you re in no fix to do any hard
riding. But one of us will go. Breslin,
Too late," observed Anastacio quietly.
There is Miss Vorhis now, with her father.
They re climbing to the Gap. Go on, Foy."
They ve got a led horse," said Nueces
as Stella and the Major came to the highest
The Desire of the Moth 141
point of the Gap. " Who s that for? Chris?
But they couldn t know about Chris. And
how did they get here so quick? Don t seem
like they ve had hardly time."
Stella dismounted; she pressed on up the
hill to meet her lover. The first sunshafts
struck into the Gap, lit up the narrow walls
with red glory.
"Magic Casements!" thought Pringle.-
"Watch Foy get over the ground! " said
Anastacio. " He ll break his neck before he
gets down. I don t blame him. He s nearly
down. Look the other way, boys ! "
They looked the other way, and there were
none to see that meeting. Unless, perhaps,
the gods looked down from high Olympus
the poor immortals -and turned away, dis
consolate, to the cheerless fields of asphodel.
" But they re not going away," said Bres-
lin after a suitable interval. "They re wait
ing; and the Major s waving his hat at us."
142 The Desire of the Moth
" I ll go see what they want," said Ana-
In a few minutes he was back, rather
breathless and extremely agitated in appear
"Well? Spill it!" said Nueces. "Get
your breath first. What s the trouble ? "
" Applegate s dead. Joe Espalin, I arrest
you for the murder of Richard Marr! Ap-
" He lied ! He lied ! " screamed Espalin.
" I was with Ben till daylight, at the monte
game; they all tell you. The sheriff he try
to make me keel heem he try to buy me to
do eet he keel Dick Marr heemself 1 "
"That s right!" spoke Creagan, sud
denly white and haggard. His voice was a
cringing whine; his eyes groveled. "Marr
was at Lisner s house. We all went over
there after the fight. Lisner waked Marr up
he d been tryin to egg Marr on to kill
The Desire of the Moth 143
Foy all day, but Marr was too drunk. He
was sobering up when we waked him. Lisner
tried to rib him up to go after Foy and way
lay him told him he had been threatening
Foy s life while he was drunk, and that Foy d
kill him if he didn t get Foy first. Dick said
he wouldn t do it -he d go along to help ar
rest Foy, but that s all he d do. The sheriff
and Joe went out together for a powwow.
The sheriff came back alone, black as thun
der him and Dick rode off together "
The sheriff sprang to his feet, his heavy
face bloated and blotched with terror.
" He cursed me; he tried to pull his gun ! "
he wailed. His eyes protruded, glaring; one
hand clutched at his throat, the other spread
out before him as he tottered, stumbling.
"Oh, my God! "he sobbed.
That will do nicely," said Anastacio.
You re guilty as hell ! I ll put your own
handcuffs on you. Oddly enough, the law
144 The Desire of the Moth
provides that when it is necessary to arrest
the sheriff the duty falls to the coroner. It
is very appropriate. You must pardon me,
Mr. Lisner, if I seem unsympathetic. Dick
Marr was your friend! And you have not
been entirely fair with Foy, I fear. . . .
Creagan, we ll hold you and Joe for com
plicity and for conspiracy in Foy s case.
We ll arrest Applegate, too, when we get to
camp. He ll be awfully vexed."
" What! " shrieked the sheriff, raising his
manacled hands. "Liar! Murderer!"
" So Applegate s not dead ? Well, I m just
as well pleased," said Pringle.
" Not even hurt badly. I was after the
Man Lower Down. What the Major told
me was that the Barelas were at the ranch
more than enough to hold Lisner s crowd
down. They come at daylight. I was expect
ing that, and waiting. As I told you, that s
the best thing I do waiting."
The Desire of the Moth 145
"But how did you know?" demanded
" I didn t know, for sure. I had a hunch
and I played it. So I killed poor Apple-
gate temporarily. It worked out just right
and nothing to carry."
" One of the mainest matters with the
widely-known world," said Pringle wearily,
" is that people won t play their hunches.
They haven t spunk enough to believe what
they know. Let me spell it out for you in
words of two cylinders, Breslin : You saw
that I knew Creagan and Applegate, while
they positively refused to know me at any
price; you heard the sheriff deny that I was
at the Gadsden House before I d claimed
anything of the sort. Of course you didn t
know anything about the fight at the Gadsden
House, but that was enough to show you
something wasn t right, just the same. You
had all the material to build a nice plump
146 The Desire of the Moth
hunch. It all went over your head. You put
me in mind of the lightning bug:
" The lightning bug is brilliant,
But it hasn t any mind;
It wanders through creation
With its headlight on behind.
" Come on let s move. I m fair dead for
Just a minute!" said Anastacio. "I
want to call your attention to the big dust off
in the north. I ve been watching it half an
hour. That dust, if I m not mistaken, is the
Bar Cross coming; they ve heard the news! "
" So, Mr. Lisner, you hadn t a chance to
get by with it," said Pringle slowly and
thoughtfully. " If I hadn t balked you, the
Barelas stood ready; if the Barelas failed,
yonder big dust was on the way; half your
own posse would have turned on you for
half a guess at the truth. It s a real nice
little world and it hates a lie. A good
The Desire of the Moth 147
many people lay their fine-drawn plans, but
they mostly don t come off ! Men are but
dust, they tell us. Magnificent dust! This
nice little old world of ours, in the long
run, is going right. You can t beat the
Game ! Once, yes or twice not in the long
run. The Percentage is all against you. You
can t beat the Game ! "
" It s up to you, Sheriff," said Anastacio
briskly. " I can turn you over to the Bar
Cross outfit and they ll hang you now; or I
can turn you over to the Barelas and you
will be hung later. Dick Marr was your
friend ! Take your choice. You go on down,
Pringle, while the sheriff is looking over the
relative advantages of the two propositions.
I think Miss Vorhis may have something to
say to you."
She came to meet him ; Foy and the Major
waited by the horses.
148 The Desire of the Moth
"John!" she said. "Faithful John!"
She sought his hands.
" There now, honey don t take on so !
Don t! It s all right! You know what the
" Cast your bread upon the waters
And you may live to say:
Oh, how I wish I had the crust
That once I threw away!
Her throat was pulsing swiftly; her eyes
were brimming with tears, bruised for lost
"Dearest and kindest friend! When I
think what you have done for me that you
faced shame worse than death guarded by
unprovable honor John ! John ! "
" Why, you mustn t, honey you mustn t
do that! Why, Stella, you re crying for
me! You mustn t do that, Little Next
" If you had been killed, taking Chris or
The Desire of the Moth 149
after you gave him up no one but me would
have ever believed but that you meant it."
"But you believed, Stella?"
" Oh, I knew! I knew!"
" Even when you first heard of it? "
" I never doubted you not one instant ! I
knew what you meant to do. You knew
I loved him. The led horse was for you. I
thought Chris would be gone. Why, John
Wesley, I have known you all my life ! You
couldn t do that! You couldn t! Oh, kiss
me, kiss me faithful John ! "
But he bent and kissed her hands lest,
looking into his eyes, she should read in the
book of his life one long, long chapter that
bore her name.
THE COME ON
THE COME ON
"Fair fellow, said Sir Ector, knowest thou not
in this country any adventures that be here nigh
hand? Sir, said the forester, , . . strike upon
that basin with the butt of thy spear thrice, and
soon after thou shall hear new tidings, and else hast
thou the fairest grace that many a year had ever
knight that passed through this forest. . . . Then
anon Sir Ector beat on the basin as he were wood.
"Ah, take the Cash, and let the Credit ffof
STEVE THOMPSON had sold his cat
tle. El Paso is (was) the Monte Car
lo of America. Therefore The syllogism
may be imperfectly stated, but the conclu
sion is sound. Perhaps there is a premise
suppressed or overlooked somewhere.
Cash in hand, well fortified with paving
material, Thompson descended on the Gate
154 The Come On
City. At the expiration of thirty-six blame
less hours he perceived that he was looking
through a glass darkly, in the Business
Man s Club, intently regarding a neatly-let
tered placard which ambiguously advised
all concerned in this wise:
IF DRINKING INTERFERES
WITH YOUR BUSINESS,
A back-room door was opened. A burst
of merriment smote across the loneliness. A"
head appeared. The tip of its nose quiv
"Hey, old-timer! Will you walk into my
parlor?" it jeered.
Steve walked over with dignity and firmly
closed the door, closing it, through sheer
inadvertence, from the inside. A shout of
welcome greeted him.
With one exception the Transient they
The Come On
were all old friends; the Stockman, the
Judge, alike darkly attractive; the supple-
handed Merchant, with curly hair and nose;
and the strong quiet figure of the Eminent
Person. A wight of high renown and na
tional, this last, who had attained to his
present bad Eminence through superior
longevity. As he was still in the prime of
life, it should perhaps be explained that his
longevity was purely comparative, as con
trasted with that of a number of gentlemen,
eminent in the same line, who had been a
trifle dilatory at critical moments, to them
The Merchant, sometime Banker-by-night,
as now, began evening up chip-stacks.
"How much?" he queried. The Judge and
the Eminent Person hitched along to make
room between them.
"I m not playing to-night," Steve began.
156 The Come On
He was cut short by a torrent of scoffing
advice and information.
"Only one hundred to come in -all you
got to get out."
"Another victim !"
"Bet em high and sleep in the streets!"
"Table stakes. Cuter goes for aces and
"Just give us what you can spare handy
and go to bed. You ll save money and
"Straight flush the best hand. *
"All ties go to the sweaters."
"A man and his money are soon parted!"
"You play the first hand for fun, and all
the rest of the night to get even !" Thus,
and more also, the Five in hilarious chorus.
"Any man caught bluffing loses the pot,"
added the Eminent Person, gravely admoni
tory. "And a Lalla-Cooler can only be
played once a night."
The Come On 1157
"Nary a play play I," said Steve aggriev-
edly. "I stole just one measly horse and
every one s called me a horse-thief ever
since. But I ve played poker, lo! these
many years, and no one ever called me a
gambler once. The best I get is, Clear out,
you blamed sucker. Come back when you
grow a new fleece! and when I get home
the wind moans down the chimney,
O-o-o-gh-h ! wha-a-t have you do-o-one with
your summer s w-a-A-a-ges!"
"Aw, sit down you re delay in* the
game," said the Stockman. The Banker
shoved over three stacks of patriotically as
sorted colors and made a memorandum.
The Five howled mockery and derision, the
cards danced and beckoned luringly in the
mellow lamplight, the Judge pulled his coat-
tail, the Major Premise tugged. Steve sat
down, pulling his sombrero over his eyes.
"He that runneth after fools shall have
158 The Come On
property enough," he quoted inaccurately.
"I ll have some of your black hides on the
fence by morning."
The cards running to him, it was not long
before Steve doubled his "come-in" several
times on quite ordinary hands, largely be
cause his capital was so small that he could
not be bluffed out. The betting was fierce
and furious. Steve, "on velvet," played
brilliantly. But he was in fast company
too fast for his modest means. The Tran
sient seemed to have a bottomless purse.
The Stockman had cattle on a thousand
hills, the Merchant habitually sold goods at
As for the Judge his fine Italian hand
was distinctly traceable in the frenzied re
plies to frenzied attacks upon certain fren
zied financial transactions of his chief, a
frenzied but by no means verdant copper
magnate, to whom he, the Judge, was Pro-
The Come On 159
cureur-General, adviser legal and otherwise.
The Judge took no thought for the morrow,
unless his frequently expressed resolve not
to go home till that date may be so re
The Eminent Person, a Republican for
Revenue Only, had been awarded a remu
nerative Federal position as a tribute to his
ambidextrous versatility in the life strenu
ous, and his known prowess as a "Stand-
Upon all these things Steve reflected.
With caution, some caution, and again cau
tion, a goodly sum might well be abstracted
from these reckless and capricious persons;
provided always that he had money on the
table to play a good hand for what it was
For long his luck held good. Having in
creased his gains manyfold, he was (being
quite a natural person) naturally incensed
160 The Come On
that they were not more. Yielding to his
half-formed resolve, he dug up his herd
of cattle and put them on the table. "I am
now prepared to grab old Opportunity by
the scalp-lock," he announced.
He played on with varying success. Pres
ently, holding aces up, and being persistently
crosslifted by the Eminent One and the
Judge, after a one-card draw all around, he
became obsessed with the fixed idea that
they were both bluffing and afraid to show
down. When this delusion was dispelled,
he noted with chagrin that the spoils of
Egypt had departed, taking with them some
plenty of real money.
That was the turning-point. By midnight
he was hoarse with repeating, parrot-wise,
"That s good give me another stack." His
persistent losses won him sympathy, even
from these hardened plungers.
"Bad luck, old man sure!" purred the
The Come On 161
consolatory Stockman, raking the pot. "I
drawed out on you. Sometimes the cards
run against a fellow a long time, that way,
and then turn right around and get worse."
"Don t you worry about me," retorted
Steve. "You re liable to go home talking to
yourself, yet, if the cards break even."
In the early stages of the game Steve
had been nervous and restless from the fever
in his blood. Now he was smiling, easy, se
rene, his mind working smoothly, like a well-
oiled machine. Collecting all his forces,
counting the chances coolly, he played a
steady, consistent game.
The reckless plunging ceased so far as it
was against him. The others, for most part,
merely called his tentative bets with wary
respect. Men of his type are never so for
midable as in defeat. Things had come to
such a pass that many good hands netted
him little or nothing. Then came a rally;
li 62 The Come On
his pile crept slowly up until he was nearly
With twenty dollars each in a jackpot, the
Eminent Person dealing, the Stockman mod
estly opened for two hundred. The Tran
sient stayed, as did the Merchant and the
Judge, the latter mildly stating that he would
lie low and let some one else play his hand.
"Happy as the dealer in a big jackpot,"
warbled the Eminent Person. "And now
we will take an observation." He scruti
nized his cards, contributed his quota, and
raised for double the amount. "I ll just
play the Judge s hand for him," he re
marked blandly. The Stockman cheerfully
re-raised five hundred.
The Transient, momentarily low in funds,
stayed for all he had before him. "I ve got
a show for this much," he said, pushing back
the side money. "And a pretty good one.
The Come On 163
Bet your fool heads off ! YouVe got to beat
a hectic flush to finger this pot!"
The Merchant laid down three sevens, of
diamonds, spades and clubs. "Any one got
the seven of hearts ?" he wondered. The
Judge called. Steve, squeezing his hand
carefully, drew out the seven of hearts,
flashed it at the Merchant, replaced it, and
The Eminent Person, after due consider
ation, saw the five hundred and raised it to
a thousand. "To dissuade you all from
drawing out on me," he explained, stroking
his mustache with deliberate care.
The Stockman called without comment.
The Judge hesitated, swore ferociously, and
Steve squeezed his cards with both
hands for a final corroborative inspection,
scratched his head and rolled his eye sol
emnly around the festal board.
164 The Come On
"Eleven hundred dollars of my good coin
in there now, and here I sit between the
devil and the deep, blue sea. One thousand
bucks. Much money. Ugh ! One thousand
days, each day of twenty-four golden hours
set with twenty near-diamond minutes 1 Well I
I sure hate to give you fellows this good
"Steve s got one of them things!" sur
mised the Stockman.
"A fellow does hate to lay down a bob
tail straight flush when there s such a chance
for action if he fills," chimed in the Emi
"It s face up, Steve. You d just as well
show us. My boy, you ought to wear a
mustache," said the Judge, critically. "Your
lips get pale and give you away when you
try to screw your courage up. Of course,
you ve got a sweet, little, rosebud mouth;
The Come On 165
but you need a big, ox-horn mustache in this
"Don t show it, Steve," advised the Stock
man. "I judge his Honor s got one of them
same things his black self. You might both
fill and you don t want to let him see how
high yours is."
"If I only don t fill the wrong way," said
Steve. "Want to split the pot or save stakes
with me, Judge?"
"That would be a foolish caper. If I fill
I mean," the Judge corrected himself has
tily "I mean, I ve got the money won now,
unless you draw out, and that s a 52 to i
"Me, too," said the dealer. "We both
got it won. But I ll save out a hundred
with you, Steve. That ll pay your bills and
take you home."
"That ll be nine hundred to draw cards
for a chance at nine thousand and action on
1 66 The Come On
what I got left. Faint heart never won a
jackpot Here goes nothin !" said Steve,
pushing the money in. "One from the top,
when you get to me. If I bet after the
draw, you all needn t call unless you re a
"Got that side money and pot straight?"
queried the dealer lightly. "All right?" He
stretched out a long left arm and flipped the
cards from the pack with a jerk of the wrist.
"Cards and spades? (Tin pat, myself, of
course.) Cards to you? None? Certainly.
None to you, and one to you, one to you,
Steve s card, spinning round as it came,
turned over and lay face up on the table
the three of hearts. (Laymen will please
recall that, as already specified, a straight
flush was, in this game, the Best.) As the
dealer was sliding the next card off to re-
The Come On 167
place it, Steve caught the thin glint of a red
8 on the corner.
With a motion inconceivably swift he was
on his feet, his left hand over the pack.
"Hold on I" he cried. "Look at this !" He
made a motion as if to spread out the four
cards he had retained, checked himself and
"Sit down, Steve. Don t be a fool," said
the Stockman. "You know you ve no right
to an exposed card, and you know he didn t
go to do it."
Steve bunched his four cards carefully and
laid them on the table, face down. "Cer
tainly not. Oh, no ! He didn t go to do it.
But he did it, just the same," he said bitter
ly. "Now, look here! I don t think there s
anything wrong not for a minute. Noth
ing worse n dumb, idiotic thumb-hand-sided-
ness. I specially don t want no one else to
get mixed up in this," with a glance at the
1 68 The Come On
Stockman. "So you and the Judge needn t
feel called upon to act as seconds. But I m
vexed. I m vexed just about nine thousand
dollars worth, likely much more, if my hand
hadn t been tipped. Mira!" addressing the
dealer, who sat quietly holding the pack in
his left hand, his right resting on the table.
"I ve a right to call for my card turned up,
haven t I ?"
"Sure thing," said the dealer equably.
"All right, then. One bad turn deserves
another. But plenty cuidado! If any card
but the eight of hearts turns up, protect
yourself, or somebody s widow ll be in a po
sition to collect life insurance, and I ain t
married! Turn her over." He leaned
lightly on the table with both hands. Their
eyes met in a level gaze.
"Let her zip!" said the Eminent Person.
Without hesitation he dropped the card over.
No slightest motion from either man, no re-
The Come On 169
laxing of those interlocked eyes. A catch
ing of breaths
"The eight of hearts!" This in concert
by the quartette of undisinterested witnesses.
The two Principals looked down, then.
That the Eminent Person s free hand had
remained passive throughout bore eloquent
testimony to nerve and integrity alike. Nev
ertheless, he now ran that hand slowly
through his hair and wiped his forehead.
"That was one long five seconds most a
week, I guess. Did you ever see such a
plumb dam-fool break in your whole life?"
he said, appealingly, to the crowd.
"I guess," said Steve sagely, pushing the
eight-spot in with his other cards "I guess
if you d separated from a thousand big
round dollars to draw a card and then got it
turned over, you wouldn t have cared a
whoop if your left eye was out, either. It is
170 The Come On
v/arm, ain t it?" He sat down with a sigh
The Stockman bunched his cards idly and
tapped the table with them. The Judge
was casually examining the chandelier with
interest and approval. Presently, he looked
down and around.
"Oh, thunder! What are you waiting
for, Thompson? I pass, of course !" he said
Steve shoved in his pile. "As I men
tioned a while ago, you re not obliged to call
this," he said demurely. "Just suit your
One card at a time, with thumb and fore
finger, the Eminent Person turned over his
hand with careful adjustment and alignment.
After much delay, he symmetrically ar
ranged an Ace-full, face up, and regarded it
with profound attention.
"That was a right good-looking hand, too
Tne Come On 171
before the draw," he remarked at last,
sweeping them into the discard.
"Ye-es," assented the Stockman, mildly
dubious. "It might have taken second mon
ey maybe." He tossed in four deuces.
The Transient spread out a club flush.
"Do you know?" he said confidentially "do
you know, I was actually glad to see that
hand when I first picked it up?"
"Won t you fellows never learn to play
poker?" said the Judge severely. "Why
don t you stay out till you get something?"
He laid his hand down. "Four tens and
most five ! The Curse of Scotland and For
ty Miles of Railroad! For-ty miles, before
the draw and gone into the hands of a de
"Oh!" Leaning over, Steve touched the
ten of spades lightly. "So that s why I
couldn t fill my hand!" he remarked inno
172 The Come On
"Get outl" snorted the Judge. "No use
throwing good money after bad. I wouldn t
call you, not if I had five tens !"
He slammed in his hand. The Eminent
Person thoughtfully took out the hundred
he had saved. "Some one press the button,
and I ll do the rest," said Steve. He re
moved the side-money, placidly ignoring the
"pot" of some fifteen hundred dollars, for
which the Transient, having his money all
in, was entitled to a showdown.
The Transient s jaw dropped in unaffected
amazement. Dealer and Stockman drummed
their fingers on the table unconcernedly. And
the Judge saw a great light.
"You, Thompson!" he roared. "Turn
over that hand ! I feel that you have treat
ed this Court with the greatest contempti-
bility!" He pawed the discard with fran
tic haste, producing the seven of hearts.
The Come On 173
"Why, you pink-cheeked, dewy-eyed catama
ran! What have you got, anyway? *
"Why, Judge," said Steve earnestly, "I ve
got a strong case of circumstantial evidence."
He turned over the eight of hearts; then,
after a pause, the ace, king, queen and jack
of spades; and resumed the stacking of his
chips. "I discarded that seven of hearts,"
he said, smiling at the Merchant.
A howl of joyous admiration went up; the
Transient raked in the pot.
"The Crime of the Century!" bellowed
the Judge. "I m the victim of the Accom
plished Fact! Cash my checks! I m going
to join the Ladies Aid!"
"Aw, shut up," gasped the Transient.
"No sleep till morn where youth and booty
meetsh! Give ush nother deck!"
But Steve, having stacked his chips, fold
ed the bills and put them in his pocket.
"What s the matter with you, you old
174 The Come On
fool?" demanded the Eminent Person af
fectionately. "You can t quit now."
Steve rose, bowing to right and left,
spreading his hand over his heart. "Deeply
as I regret and, as I might say, deplore, to
quit a good easy game," he declaimed, "I
must now remove myself from your big
midst. For a Lalla-Cooler can only be
played once in one night. Besides, I ve al
ways heard that no man ever quit ahead of
the game, and I m going to prove the rule.
I will never play another card, never no
"What not in your whole life?" said the
Stockman, chin on hand, raising his eye
brows at the last word.
"Oh in my whole life!" admitted Steve.
He drew a dollar from his pocket, balanced
it on his thumb, and continued: "We will
now invoke the arbitrament of chance to de
cide the destinies of nations. Heads, I or-
The Come On 175
der an assortment of vines and fig trees, go
back to the Jornado and become a cattle-
king. Tails, I proceed to New-York-on-the-
Hudson, by the Ess-Pee at 3:15 this A. M.
presently, and arouse that somnolent city
from its Rip Van Winkle."
The coin went spinning to the ceiling.
"Tails!" said the Merchant, picking it up.
"I must warn my friends on Wall Street.
Hello! this is a bad dollar!"
"I ll keep it for a souvenir of the joyful
occasion," said Steve. "Just one more now,
and we ll all go home!"
"Hold on, you abandoned profligate!"
said the Judge. "You don t know any one
in the Big Burgh, do you? Thought not.
Without there ! Ho, varlet !" He thumped
on the table, demanding writing materials.
"I ll fix you out. Give you a letter to a firm
of mining experts I m in touch with."
After an interval devoted to refreshments,
176 The Come On
the Judge read with all the pride of author
Messrs. Atwood, Strange & Atwood,
25 Broad Street, New York City.
This will introduce to you Mr. Stephen
Thompson, of Dundee, New Mexico. You
will kindly consider yourself in loco parentis
to him, charging same to my account.
On presentation of this letter, please pay
Mr. Thompson s fine or go his bail, as the
case may be, furnish him with pocket-money
and a ticket home, and see him safely on the
Should the matter be more serious, wire me
at once. Periodical insanity can be readily
proved. He has just recovered from a
paroxysm at this writing. He is subject to
these attacks whenever his wishes are
crossed, having been raised a pet. There-
The Come On ; i77
fore, you will be doing yourself a great fa
vor by acceding to any request he may make,
however unreasonable it may seem. It is
unlucky to oppose or thwart him; but he is
amenable to kindness. Kindly apprize mu
nicipal and Federal authorities for the pres
ervation of public safety. t Your loss is our
During the ensuing applause he signed
this production. Steve pocketed it gravely.
"Thank you," he said. "When I get down,
to husks I ll look up my locoed parent."
"The Bird of Time," said the Transient
vociferously, "hash but a little way to flutter.;
Cash inl The bird ish on the wing! To-
morro sh tangle to the winds reshign. Come,
all ye midnight roish-roishterers ! A few
more kindly cupsh for Auld Lang Shine.
Then let ush eshcort thish highwayman to
178 The Come On
the gatesh of the city and cash him forth to
outer darknesh! Let ush shing!
/ stood on a flush at midnight,
When my money was nearly gone,
And two moonsh rosh over the city
Where there shouldn t have been but one.
In Ohio, one of rough appearance, clad in
a fire-new, ready-made suit, began to per
vade Thompson s car; restlessly rushing
from one side to the other in conscientious
effort to see all there was to be seen ; finally
taking to the vestibule as affording better
conveniences for observations. He was,
however, not so absorbed in the scenery but
that he took sharp note of the cowboy s un
sophisticated garb and guileless mien. Later,
when Steve went into the smoker, he struck
up acquaintance with him; initiated by the
mere demand for a light, continued through
The Come On [179
community of interest, as both being evi
A voluble and open-hearted person, the
stranger, displaying much specie during their
not infrequent visits to the buffet for refresh
ment of the jocund grape, where they vied
with each other in liberality, and one who
nai vely imparted his private history without
reticence. A lumberman, who had risen
from the ranks; a Non-Com. of Industry,
so to speak, who, having made his pile, was
now, impelled by filial piety, revisiting
his old New England Home.
This touching confidence so ingratiated
the bluff and hearty son of toil to the un
suspicious cowboy, that he, in turn, began
to ooze information at every pore. Steve
Thompson was his name; miner of Butte,
Montana. He had, after years of struggle
and defeat, made a lucky strike. He had
bonded his mine to New York parties the
ii8o The Come On
Copper-bottom, just to the left of the High
Line Trail from Anaconda to Philipsburgh ;
receiving $10,000 down for a quarter inter
est, giving option on two-thirds remainder
for $50,000, if, after six months develop
ment work, the mine justified its promise. It
had proved all his fancy painted it; he was
on his way to the big town, to be paid the
balance on the sixteenth, at the office of
where is that letter? Oh, yes, here it is
"Atwood, Strange & Atwood, 25 Broad St."
retaining a one-fourth interest. He was
going to see the sights. Possibly he would
take a trip round the world.
Incited by judicious interest of his auditor,
he prattled on and on, till the lumberman
(Dick Barton, the name of him) was pos
sessed with the salient points of his past,
present and future; embellished by a flood
of detail and personal reminiscence. It is to
be regretted that the main points were inao
The Come On 181
curate and apocryphal, the collateral details
gratuitous improvisations, introduced for the
sake of local color.
"For," Steve reasoned, "evidently this
party is a seeker after knowledge; it is bet
ter to siphon than to be pumped. Doubtless
it will be as bread upon the waters."
Freely did he gush and freely buy (the
bulk of his money, in large bills, was safely
wadded at the bottom of the six-shooter
^cabbard under his arm, his .45 on guard
but his well-filled billhook was much in evi
dence). So thoroughly charmed was Barton
that he lamented loud and long that he and
his new acquaintance might not have their
first view of the metropolis in company. But
he had promised his aged parents to come
to them directly, by way of Albany. How
ever, he was a day ahead of his schedule;
neither of them had seen Niagara; if
Thompson would excuse him, he would write
1 82 The Come On
his father, that the letter would go on to
herald the hour of his coming. Then they
both would take one day s lay-over at Buf
falo, visiting the famous cataract entirely at
his, Barton s, expense. Thence, exchanging
addresses, on their respective ways, to meet
in Manhattan later. To which Thompson
agreed with cordiality.
The letter Barton mailed at Buffalo was
J. F. MITCHELL
The Arlington N. Y.
"A goodly, portly man, . faith, and ct corpulent:
of a cheerful look, a pleasing eye, and a most noble
carriage; and, as I think, his age some fifty, or by r
lady, inclining to three score"
IT had been a good morning, thought
Mendenhall. If only more citizens like
this big, talkative, prosperous looking
stranger would settle in Elmsdale! Over a
thousand dollars worth in one bill not bad,
that, for a little rural New York town.
Moreover, the stranger had evinced a taste
in his selection of furniture and carpets
scarcely to be expected from his slightly
overdressed appearance and his loud, domi
nating talk. His choice had been always
swift and certain, wholly unaffected by
prices. Obviously, a self-made man, with a
long purse, this.
184 The Come On
The big man threw up his hands in mock
surrender. Time King s X nuff!" he
bellowed, a pervading and infectious smile
spreading over his broad, jovial, smooth-
shaven face. "Police! Nine eleven
twelve hundred, sixty-eight. I ll pay you
a hundred to bind the No, I ll just pay
you now and have done with it. Don t
want the stuff delivered till some time next
week, though. Wife ll run up to-morrow
or next day to take her choice of the two
houses I ve been looking at. Then, paper-
hanging, mantels, plumbing and all that
Make it even twelve-fifty?" he demanded,
pen poised in a plump, white hand, eying
the dealer with shrewd expectancy.
"Certainly, certainly," Mendenhall mur
mured, rubbing his hands with a thought of
Scratch-tch-ch ! The check was made out
with a flourish. "Here you are. I ll come
The Come On 185
round when I m ready and tell you where
to send the stuff. By the way, where do
you bank? Want to send in checks for
"At the Farmers 1 and Citizens , mostly.
The First National is right around the cor
ner, first turn to your left. Thank you very
much, Mr." he glanced at the check
"Mr. Britt Mr. N. C. Britt. I hope for
the pleasure of your better acquaintance,
"Oh, you will!" laughed Britt. "Nice
little town, here. If I like it as well a year
from now as I do to-day I ll stick!. Time
for an old fellow like me to settle down.
I ve worked hard all my life. But I ve got
enough. What s the good of more? No
dying in the harness for mine. I want to
retire, as they call it, and let the young
bucks do the work."
"Oh, you re not an old man," protested
1 86 The Come On
Mendenhall with reason. "Your amazing
vitality your energetic " Britt pulled
at his luxuriant white hair.
"Oh, good enough for an old has-been!"
He laughed with pardonable vanity.
"Pretty hearty yet, owing to having lived
a clean and wholesome life, thank God; but
aging, sir aging. The evil days draw
nigh F He shook his head with a sober
air, which at once gave way to the satis
fied smile habitual on his round, contented
face. Briskly, he consulted a heavy gold
repeater, replacing it with the quick move
ment of one to whom seconds are valuable.
"Well, well! Twelve-thirty! Been here
all morning, picking and choosing! Take
luncheon with me? No? All right see
you later! * He swung out through the
Turning the corner, he crossed the street
to the First National, bounced in and pre-
The Come On 187
sented himself at the teller s window, light
ing a cigar, puffing like a tugboat. "To
open a small account two of em. Checks
for collection," he announced. Tone and
manner were breezily self-assertive; the
president, from his desk, turned and looked.
He indorsed, blotting with a swift dab, and
a final fillip through the window. "Chi
cago, thirty-three hundred credit to Britt
& Stratton. Here s our signature. Den
ver, eight hundred, to private account H. E.
Stratton. He ll be here next week. I ll
bring him around and identify. Draw on
this by Wednesday? Good! Gimme check
book. Excuse haste; yours truly!" He
The president smiled. "An original
character, apparently," he said. "He
doesn t aim to let grass grow under his
1 88 The Come On
Between two and three Britt bustled into
Mendenhall s, making for the office.
"Oh, I say!" he puffed, as Mendenhall
rose. "Banked that check yet?"
"Not yet," replied the other sedately.
"It is our custom to send the day s checks
for deposit just before three. Nothing
wrong, I trust?"
Britt dropped into a chair, mopping his
face. "Oh, no, nothing wrong; but I m
afraid I ve made a little mistake. I m not
a good business man not systematic
though I worry along. Like the young
wife s bookkeeping Received fifty dol
lars from John spent it all. Fact is, I
never entirely got over the days when a
very short memory was enough to keep
track of all my transactions. Always for
getting to fill out my stubs," he explained.
"So I don t remember what bank I checked
on. But I m pretty sure twas the Com-
The Come On 189
mercial, and my balance there is low not
enough to cover your bill, I m thinking."
He leaned back, his portly sides shaking
with merriment "By Jove!" he roared.
"It would have been a good joke on me if
I hadn t remembered. Nice introduction to
a town where I expect to make my home.
Oh, well, even so, you had the furniture
safe in your warehouse. Guess you
wouldn t have been much scared, eh?" He
poked Mendenhall playfully with a stubby
finger. "Well, let s see about it."
Secretly, the other resented the familiar
ity, deprecated the boisterous publicity with
which the stranger saw fit to do business.
Business, with Mendenhall, was a matter
for dignified and strictly private conference.
With stately precision he took up the neat
bundle of checks which he had just indorsed,
ran them over, slipped one from under the
rubber band, and scanned it with great de-
190 The Come On
liberation. He could not afford to offend a
good customer, but he could thus subtly re
buke such hasty and slipshod methods.
"Yes, it is on the Commercial." He held
it out inquiringly.
"Thought so I" snorted the other.
"Dolt! Imbecile! Ass! I ll apply for a.
guardian. Fix you out this time!" He
whipped out fountain pen and checkbook.
"National Trust Company (guess I ve got
enough there). Pay to J. C. Mendenhall
& Co. how much was that?"
He took the check from the unresisting
Mendenhall, spread it out on the desk with
a sprawling gesture, tore it to strips with
the same impetuous vehemence, and threw
it in the waste-basket. After this brief
outburst of anger his good humor returned.
"Twelve-fifty. Here you are. No mistake
this time. Say, old man, that s the drinks on
me come along!"
The Come On 191
"Thank you, I never drink," returned
Mendenhall primly. He had not relished
the roughness with which the other had
snatched the check from him, though making
allowance for the natural annoyance of one
who had been betrayed into a mortifying
"All the better, all the better. Seldom
do myself, but sometimes Have a ci
gar? No? Well, I must toddle along!"
It may here be mentioned that during
his moment of impulsive vexation Mr. Britt
had inconsiderately substituted for the
"Commercial" check another, precisely sim
ilar save for the important particular that
it lacked the Mendenhall indorsement. The
original had slipped between the leaves of
Britt s check book, under cover of his large
hands. Those hands were most expert in
various amusing and adroit feats of leger
demain, though Mr. Britt s modesty led
192 The Come On
him to a becoming, if unusual, reticence
in this regard. The substitute, as we have
seen, was in the waste-basket.
Just before three Britt ran heavily up
the steps of the First National, puffing
down the corridor, cocking a hasty eye at
the clock as he came.
"Hey, there, sonny! I was almost too
late, wasn t I?" was his irreverent greet
ing to the cashier. "Time to cash this be
fore closing up?" he demanded breathless
ly, but with unabated cheerfulness. He
flopped the check over. "Mendenhall s in
dorsement. Hi! Mr. President! Just a
minute ! I m a stranger here, but if you ll
let us slip in at a side door I ll trot around
and fetch Mendenhall. Need this money
The president took the check from the in
dignant young cashier, nodded at the fa
miliar signature with the cabalistic peculiari-
The Come On 193
ties which attested its authenticity, glanced
indulgently at the bobbing white head in
window, with difficulty suppressing a smile.
"It will not be necessary, Mr. Mr.
Britt," he said courteously. "Not necessary
at all. You have an account here, I be
"It won t be here long," retorted Britt,
with garrulous good nature. "Draw it all
out next week. Eleven, twelve and fifty.
Thanks to you. There goes the clock.
"Quite an odd character, that Mr.
Britt?" said the president casually at the
club that night. "Boyish old chap."
"Yes, isn t he?" said Mendenhall, fold-
ing his paper. "I sold him a pretty stiff bill
of goods this morning. Warmish, I take it.
He s going to settle here."
"Friend of yours?"
"Oh, no, I never saw him before."
194 The Come On
"Why, you indorsed his check for twelve
hundred and fifty," said the president, in
terested, but not alarmed. Doubtless the
man had references. Besides, his face was
a letter of credit in itself.
"Oh, yes," said Mendenhall unsuspicious
ly, thinking of the check sent to the Farm
ers and Citizens Bank. The president,
thinking of the other, was fully reassured,
and was about to pass on. Here the mat
ter might have dropped, and would in most
cases. But Mendenhall, a methodical and
careful man, wished to vindicate his busi
ness prudence by explaining that he had
taken no risk in indorsing for a stranger,
since he retained possession of the goods.
The rest is too painful.
"I do not rhyme for that dull wight"
who does not foresee that New York, Chi
cago and Denver checks were returned in
due course, legibly inscribed with the sad-
The Come On 195
dest words of tongue or pen, "No funds."
Or that Mr. Britt fully justified his self-
given reputation for absence of mind by
neglecting to call for his furniture.
Meanwhile, Mr. Britt unostentatiously
absented his body as well, taking the trol
ley for an inland village. At the time of
Mendenhall s interview with the president
he was speeding southward across country
in a livery rig, catching the Lackawanna lo
cal for Binghamton about the time the wires
were working and he was being searched
for on all Lehigh Valley trains.
"Hello, Kirkland!" he said to the night
clerk at the Arlington. "Back again, like
a bad sixpence ! Have my trunk sent up,
will you? No no supper!"
"Letter for you, Mr. Mitchell. Just
came," said the clerk respectfully. "So we
were expecting you. Haven t seen you for
a long time."
196 The Come On
Britt-Mitchell thrust the letter in his
pocket unopened. "It ll keep till morning.
I m for bed. Good-night, Frank."
He turned in, weary with his exertions
to be sure, but with the pleasing conscious
. . . some one done
Has earned a night s repose.
Elmsdale never learned these particulars,
however. His genial and expansive smile
and the unobtrusive manner of his fading
away are there vaguely associated with Che
shire Puss, of joyful memory, whose disap
pearance, like his, began with the end of
"Therms a franklin in the wilds of Kent, hath
brought three hundred marks with him in gold
. . . a kind of auditor!
IT was quite late when Britt-MitcheJl
arose like a giant refreshed. First
ringing for breakfast, he bathed and shaved
and arrayed himself carefully in glad ha
biliments of quiet taste and cut, in which
he bore slight resemblance to the rough-
and-ready Britt of Elmsdale.
Sitting indolently sideways to the table,
his feet on a chair, he discussed an ex
cellent breakfast leisurely, as one at peace
with the world. His paper was propped
before him; he chuckled as he read. Break
fast finished, he pulled his coffee over, lit a
cigar and puffed luxuriously. Not till then
198 The Come On
did he open the letter taken from the dis
carded coat of yesterday. It read:
Well, old man, I am sending you an easy
one. Crack him hard for me. He s the
rankest sucker yet. I was going to work
the Scholar s Gambit on him, but he ll get
his hooks on a whole bunch of money when
he gets down town, so I turn him over to
you. Fifty thou. to be paid hijn by At-
wood, Strange & Atwood. You know of
them Mining Engineers and Experts, 25
Broad. Let him get the boodle and hand
him a sour one.
Name, Steve Thompson, en route to New
York. Section 5, Sleeper Tonawanda,
Phoebe Snow. Brown, smooth-shaved,
hand-me-down suit, cowboy hat. From
Butte, Montana. Has sold his mine, the
Copper-bottom (on right of trail northeast
The Come On 199
of Anaconda). Former partner, Frank
Short, killed by powder explosion at Boze-
man, two years ago. Appendix subjoined
with partial list of his friends, details about
his mine, his ten years of unsuccessful pros
pecting, etc. Am not so explicit as usual,
because he is such a big-mouthed damfool
he ll tell you all he knows before you get to
Hoboken. Also I am in some haste. I am
to take him to Niagara with me to give you
time to get this and join him at Bingham-
ton, if you are there as planned. If not, I
have wired Jim to meet train at Hoboken
and keep in touch with him till you come,
scraping acquaintance if necessary. Then
he can disappear and leave you to put the
kibosh on him. Jim is all right, but he lacks
your magnetism, and your light, firm touch.
You can beat us all putting up a blue front.
2OO The Come On
Mr. Mitchell rose to instant action. In a
very few minutes his trunk was packed, his
bill paid. He then hied him in haste to
the Carnegie Library, where, till train time,
he fairly saturated himself with informa
tion concerning Butte and vicinity.
When the train pulled out from Bingham-
ton, Mitchell sat across the aisle from
Thompson, deep in his paper. A visorless
black cap adorned his head, beneath which
flowed his reverend white hair; rimless eye
glasses imparted to his unimpeachable re
spectability an eminently aristocratic air.
These glasses he wiped carefully from time
to time with a white silk handkerchief,
which he laid across his ample knees, re
suming his reading, oblivious to all else.
The paper was laid aside and the big
man became immersed in a magazine. The
handkerchief slipped from his knees into the
aisle. Thompson politely restored it.
The Come On 201
"Thank you, young man, thank you,"
said Britt. Then a puzzled look came over
his brow. Polishing the glasses he took an
other sharp look. He leaned across the
"I beg your pardon," he said, with state
ly courtesy. "But I am sure I have met
you somewhere. No, don t tell me. Par
don an old man s harmless vanity, but it is
my weakness to make my memory do its
work unaided, when possible. I have a fa
mous memory generally, and yours is not a
face to be easily forgotten. Let me see not
in New York, I think Philadelphia
Washington? No you would be from the
West, by your hat. LJm-m-Omaha Chica
go, St. Louis? Buttef" he said, with a re
sounding thwack on his knee. "Butte!
Where every prospect pleases, and only
man is vile !"
"Right you are," said the Westerner, well
2O2 The Come On
pleased. "I seem to remember you, too."
"I have it!" said Mitchell. "Don t re-
member your name but you re the very
man Judge Harney pointed out to me as the
unluckiest prospector in Montana. Said
you could locate a claim bounded on all
sides by paying property and gopher
through to China without ever striking ore."
"May I come over there and talk?" said
Steve. "Mighty glad to see some one from
my town. You didn t live there though, or
I should have met you."
"Certainly," said Mitchell, making room.
"Glad to have you. Live there? Oh, no,
I only made a couple of trips. Some asso
ciates of mine were in with Miles Finlen
you know him, I reckon? on the Bird s-
eye proposition, and I took a flyer with
them," he explained. "I lost out. Dropped
several dollars." His face lit up with com
fortable good-humor. "It was a good mine,
The Come On 203
but it got tied up in the courts. Let me see
what did Harney call you Townsend,
"Thompson," said Steve, smiling. "Steve
"So it was so it was. Well, I was get
ting close. Glad to meet you, Mr. Thomp
son. That is my name." He handed over
a bit of pasteboard, inscribed:
MR. J. F. MITCHELL
"On Vesey Street now, just south of Bar
clay Street Ferry. I ll jot down the num
ber you want to come round and look me
up. Sorry I can t ask you to use my house
for headquarters. Wife s away to Bar
Harbor for the summer, and I m camping
out in a hotel. Tell you what, though
you put up at my caravanserai the Cor
nucopia good house, treat you well. I ll
204 The Come On
be busy a day or so catching up after my
trip up-state, but after that I ll show you
around. But perhaps youVe been here be
"Not I," said Steve. "My first trip.
Haven t been out of Montana since I was a
kid. I m sure glad to meet a friend so
"Lots of Montana people here," said
Mitchell cheerily. "We ll look em up.
Probably find some of your old friends.
People here from everywhere. Say Judge
Harney got into a bad mix-up, didn t he?
That young Charley Clark is a devil. I ve
met him up here." With this he launched
into a discussion of Butte, with inquiries as
to various figures of local prominence, from
which Steve was fain to escape by turning
the talk on his final good luck, the sale of
his mine and his rosy prospects. For
Mitchell had "crammed up" on Butte indus-
The Come On 205
triously. Steve lacked his facilities, his sole
source of information being certain long-
past campfire tales of Neighbor Jones.
"Made it at last, did you? Glad to hear
it. Can t keep a good man down, as the
whale said to Jonah," said Mitchell heart
ily. " But with all thy getting, get under
standing, " he quoted with unctuous benev
olence. "The city is full of traps for the
unwary. You can t be too careful, young
man. Don t be drawn into gambling, or
drinking, or fast company, or you ll be
robbed before you know it. Watch out for
pickpockets, and, above all, be chary of
making acquaintance with strangers. They re
sly down here, my boy devilish sly. Have
you any friends in town? If you have, get
them to go around with you till you learn
"Don t know a soul but you," said Steve
truthfully. "But I have a letter here to the
206 The Come On
people who are putting the sale through.
Do you know these people?"
"Atwood, Strange & Atwood," Mitchell
read. "A good, reliable firm. I don t know
them, but I know of em. They will advise
you just as I do."
"But," objected Steve, "I want to see a
good time. That s what I come for. For
instance, I want to see the races. And nat
urally, I want to put up a few dollars to
make it interesting."
"Bad business bad business," admon
ished the elder man wisely. "I don t ob
ject to a quiet game of cards myself, among
friends, and for modest stakes. But I can t
afford to do anything to hurt my business
reputation. Let a man of small means,
like myself, play the ponies, or affect shady
company, and what happens? All the banks
know it at once, and shut down on loans in-
The Come On 207
stanter. They keep tab on all business men
"What s your line?" said Steve, im
"Mainly buying on commission for Mexi
can and South American trade though I
handle a good many orders for country
dealers, too," replied Mitchell. "My spe
cialty is agricultural implements, barbed
wire, machinery and iron stuff generally, for
the export trade. There s things about it
would surprise you. Why, such things,
farm machinery more especially, retail in
Buenos Ayres at from 40 to 60 per cent,
of what they do here, after paying freight
charges and a snug commission to me."
"How can they do it?" asked Steve, in
Mitchell plunged into an explanation of
the workings of the tariff and its effect on
home prices. He had it at his fingers 1 end.
2o8 The Come On
Under his skillful hands the dry subject
became really interesting, embellished with
a wealth of illustration and anecdote. He
was still deep in his exposition, when, be
yond Scranton, a hand was laid on his arm.
A dapper, little, dark man, with twinkling,
black eyes and pointed black beard, stood
in the aisle.
"Well, Mitchell !" he said, with an affec
tionate pat. "Still riding your hobby?"
The fat man jumped up, beaming. "Lor-
ing! by all that s holy! Let me make you
acquainted with my friend. Mr. Thomp
son Mr. Loring. Mr. Loring is one of
our rising young artists."
"The rising young artist," said Loring
with a flash of white teeth, "is trying to get
up a whist game, to pass away the time.
Will you gentlemen assist?" He turned
aside in a paroxysm of coughing.
"Certainly, certainly that is, if Mr.
The Come On 209
Thompson plays. That s a bad cough
you ve got there, Loring."
"Yes caught cold fishing," said the ar
tist. "Will you join us, Mr. Thompson?"
"Glad to," said that worthy. "Only my
game is bumble-puppy. You can hardly call
it whist. Who s the fourth?"
"Yet to be found," laughed Loring. After
a few rebuffs they picked up a drummer,
and adjourned to the smoker, buying a deck
from the train boy. The little dark man
and Steve played against the other two, a
suitcase on their knees serving as a table.
They played a rubber. Steve verified his
statements as to his style of play.
"Well, that s enough nearly in," said
Loring, as they drew near their destination.
"Yes, indeed. I must go back to my car.
We ve had a pleasant game," said the
fourth man, taking his leave.
"Have a smoke you ll find these A! I,"
2io The Come On
said the artist. "Say, Mitchell, I ve learned
a new trick to illustrate the old saying that
the hand is quicker than the eye." Sticking
a cigar in the corner of his mouth, he ran
over the cards swiftly, took out the two red
jacks, and held them up, one in each hand,
backs toward himself, faces to Mitchell and
"Now," he said, "you can put these two
jacks in the deck wherever you wish, shuf
fle them all you please, let me give them
just one riffle, and you ll find them both to
gether. He put his handkerchief to his lips
and turned away to cough, laying the two
jacks face downward on the table.
With a nudge to Steve, Mitchell threw
the jack of hearts under Loring s seat, where
it lay, face up, substituting therefor the five
of clubs from the top of the deck.
Loring held the cards up again. "There
are the two jacks, gentlemen: the two in-
The Come On 211
separable jacks. Put them in for your
selves, and watch me close!"
Steve took the five of clubs and put it in
the middle. Mitchell put in the jack of dia
monds. Both shuffled. Loring cut the pack
into two equal parts, using only the extreme
tip ends of his fingers, and shoved them to
gether in the same fashion. Balancing the
deck on the open palm of his left hand, he
turned the cards carefully with his right
thumb and forefinger, keeping up a running
fire of comment.
"Now watch me ! This trick won t work
with any other cards but the jacks. The rea
son is easy to see. Where you find one
knave there s always another close by. Birds
of a feather flock together, you know. Ah I
here we are !" He turned over the knave of
diamonds, and laid the deck down. "Now,"
he said to Mitchell, "what ll you bet the next
card isn t the knave of hearts?" Here he
212 The Come On
was again attacked by that excruciating
As he turned away Mitchell slyly turned
up the corner of the next card, winking at
Steve. It was the five of clubs. Evidently
Loring had done the trick right, except for
the substituted card.
"I ll bet you five hundred dollars!" said
Mitchell jubilantly. He drew out a billhook
and shook a handful of notes at the artist.
"A thousand, if you like!"
"Nobody wants to rob you, Mitchell,"
laughed Loring. "Put up your money. I
don t need it. I ll do the trick, of course."
Steve was laughing immoderately.
"Rob me! Go ahead! You re welcome !"
said Mitchell, riotously radiant. He waved
the bills before Loring s eyes. "Money
talks ! Yah ! You haven t the nerve to bet
on it," he taunted, his knee touching Steve s
under the table.
The Come On 213,
Loring s black eyes snapped maliciously.
"Oh, well, you insist on it," he said. "I ve
warned you now, remember ! No rebate on
this. How much?" He pulled out a fat
rubber-banded roll and began stripping bills
from the outside.
"A thousand all you want!" shouted
Mitchell, in high glee. "Getting on, Thomp
Steve, still laughing, shook his head. "I ll
be stakeholder," he said in a choking voice.
The black-eyed man shot a malevolent
glance at him as they put up the money in
his hands. For he had a supernumerary jack
of hearts, neatly palmed, to turn up if Steve
"bit." This quickly disappeared, however,
or rather did not appear at all. With an ex
pectant smile the artist turned up from the
top of the deck the five of clubs. He looked
at it in stupefied amazement, which, if not
real, was well invented.
214 The Come On
Mitchell roared and pounded the suitcase. ,
"Oh, Loring!" he gasped, drying his eyes.
"You will teach an old dog new tricks, will
you? My stars, but you re easy!" He took
the cash from the grinning stakeholder,
counted out Loring s half and pushed it over
to that much discomfited gentleman. "I don t
want to rob you!" he quoted mockingly.
"But if I had time I d have kept you on the
anxious seat a while. There s your jack of
hearts, under your feet I"
"Why, you fat, old swindler ! You white-
headed outrage you you Foxy Grandpa!"
cried Loring in blushing chagrin not wholly
dissembled, either. "I ought to make you eat
it. Come, have a drink." He led the way,
the others following with gibe and jeer.
"Why didn t you bet with him, Thomp
son?" demanded Mitchell, still shaking with
Homeric laughter. "Say, I should have kept
The Come On 215
his money, by good rights. Twould have
been the joke of the season I"
Steve raised his glass. "I would," he re
plied innocently, "but I knew you d give it
back, anyhow, so what s the use among
friends? If it had been a stranger, now, I d
a 1 hopped on the band-wagon too quick. I
like a little easy money as well as anybody.
Well, here s to our next meeting!"
"Hello I" said Mitchell. "Here s the tun-
nel and Hoboken. Let s go back to our be
longings. Now, Thompson, business first
and pleasure after, you know. You take the
Barclay Street boat. If I don t get time to
see you before noon to-morrow you run up
to the office and see me. It s only a block
from the Cornucopia. I ve got to go the
other way, and so does Loring at least his
studio s uptown. I say, Loring, tell Mr.
Thompson what s doing at the theatres.
That s in your line."
216 The Come On
Loring named several plays, recommend
ing one as particularly good. In the waiting-
room they parted with warm handshakings
and great good-will.
"Do you suppose he s wise?" said Loring,
on the ferry.
Mitchell guffawed. "That bumpkin?
Not he. The poor, dumb idiot took it all
as a practical joke among friends. Nat
urally, just as he said, he thought I d give
you your money back. Glad you had pres
ence of mind enough to go on through with
the five-spot. It s fine business to be able to
think on your feet, especially for us moon-
minions. Good thing it turned out the way
it did. He s got perfect confidence in me
now he s seen me tried, and knows I m
straight. We ll get more out of him in the
long run." He explained Steve s mining
expectations at length.
"I don t like it much," said Loring. "It s
The Come On 217
a bad sign. My experience is that it s hard
to overreach a man that isn t on the hog
himself. When they re eager to annex
something dishonestly you get em every
time. Maybe you ll lose him. Why didn t
you stay with him? He may not go to the
Cornucopia at all."
"Oh, yes, he will!" said Mitchell con-
dently. "I am going to play him for all he s
worth, and I want him to feel sure I m O.
K. It might make him suspicious if I kept
at his coat tails. Plenty of time. I won t
even look him up to-morrow. Rig the old
joint as my office, and wait there till he
hunts me up. Let him make all the ad
vances, d ye see? Teach him bridge, on
the square, at night. Let him win a little
just enough to keep him satisfied with him
self you?\\ see. Wait till he draws his
wad, and we ll throw the gaff in him to the
queen s taste. If he won t nibble at one hooli
2i 8 The Come On
try another. But, I say, Billy, you ll have
to furnish the scads for bait, in case he don t
rise to something easy. I know you re flush
from that Manning job."
Meantime, with unspoiled and sparkling
eye, the inlander saw, broad sweeping be
fore him, mist-bordered, dream-vast, dim-
seen beneath the lowering sky, the magic
city whose pulsings send and call a nation s
The salt tang of the sea was in his nos
trils; greetings, many-keyed, hoarse-whistled
by plying craft, were in his ears; creamy-
foamed wakes of turbulent keels, swift-sent
or laboring, boiled their swirling splendor
against the black water. Mysterious, cou-
chant, straining, the bulwarked city rode the
waves; a mighty ship, her funnels the great
buildings beyond, where sullen streamers of
smoke trailed motionless and darkling; the
The Come On 219
indescribable, multitudinous hum of the
city s blended voices for purring of monster
engines, deep in her hold; bold and high,
her restless prow swung seaward in majes
tic curve, impatient to beat to open main.
This simple young man actually found
impressiveness, glamour, even beauty, in this
eye-filling canvas; the crowding of crashing
lights and interwoven shadows, massed, in
numerable, bewildering; the turmoil of con
fused and broken line, sprawled with tre
mendous carelessness for a giant s delight.
Plainer proof of his utter unsophistica-
tion could not be. For it is traditional with,
all "correct" and well-informed folk that
New York is hopelessly ugly. It gives one
such a superior air to disprize with easy
scorn this greatest of the Gateways of the
"A good plot, good friends, and full of expecta
tion: an excellent plot, very good friends."
STEVE went, not to a theatre, but to
bed. In the morning, after a few in
quiries, he sauntered round to get his bear
ings. He made these explorations afoot,
opining that, at first, the use of street cars
or the "L" would tend to confuse his orien
tation. He contented himself with locat
ing 25 Broad Street, without presenting his
letter. Incidentally, he left most of his cash
in a safe-deposit drawer. "For," he mused,
"the touching attachment of my open-hand
ed, prepossessing friend may not always ad
here to the lofty plane recognized by busi
ness ethics. He may, at any time, abandon
the refined and artistic methods of high fi-
The Come On 221
nance for primitive, crude and direct means
unworthy of his talents. The safe side of a
safe is the inside of a safe."
So back by the water-front, where he
spent a pleasant and interesting forenoon.
At one o clock there were still no signs of
Mitchell. So Steve, Mahomet-like, sought
The mise-en-scene was admirable. A well-
littered desk, two phones, code-book, direc
tory, typewriter, file-books, a busy book
keeper, a fair stenographer no detail was
omitted. Mitchell, pacing the floor, paused
in his dictation to give him a cheerful greet
"Hello, Thompson up already? Just sit
down till I m through here, will you? Most
done. How d you like to walk around the
docks? That ought to interest you. All
right thought it would. I ve got some
business at No. 4. Make yourself at home.
222 The Come On
There s the papers Ready, Miss Stanley?"
Clearing his throat, he put a hand under his
coat-tails and resumed dictation:
" Melquiades Sandoval y Hijos, Monte-
vidio. Gentlemen: Your order shipped to
day by steamer Escobar as per your esteemed
favor of the 5th. Invoices inclosed. In the
item of mowing machines, was unable to fill
order with Nonpareil as desired. Have
taken liberty of substituting fifty Micas, the
Mica being the same in every respect except
the name plate. In fact, the two firms, with
others, have a "gentleman s agreement"
sharing patents, keeping up separate plants
only to preserve the appearance of compe
tition. (Confound it excuse me, Miss
Stanley there s my hobby again. Shouldn t
have said that, but let it go.) Trusting you,
will find this satisfactory in every particu
lar, and hoping to be favored by your future
orders, I am, etc. Got that? Next!
The Come On 223
" Brown, Small & VanRiper, Hartford,
Ct. Gentlemen: Inclosed find my check
for $27,000, to be used in the matter we
discussed the other day. Kindly send pa
pers to my lawyers, Reed, Reed, Perkins &
" Am sorry I cannot more largely avail
myself of the privilege so kindly extended
me. At the present, however, my capital is
tied up in various enterprises, and I am real
ly crowding myself to raise this. Thanking
you for past favors, etc. Here s the last.
Mr. Joseph Yates, Rehobeth Beach, Dela
ware. Dear old Joe: Sorry to hear of
your undeserved bad luck. While not ex
actly a financial Napoleon these days, I am
able to accommodate you, and glad to do
so. Have not forgotten the time you helped
me out of a mighty tight place. Draw on
me for $10,000 through the Marine. Take
your time for repayment. If this is not
224 The Come On
enough, let me know. Kind regards to the
wife and take care of yourself, old man.
In haste, your old friend
"Pound those off, Miss Stanley. Jim"
this to the silently industrious bookkeeper
"how much have we got at the Marine?"
After swift search in a little black book
the bookkeeper looked up "Seven thousand
six hundred-twenty, sir," he replied respect
"I ll give you enough to make out ten
thousand to honor old Joe s draft," rumi
nated Mitchell, twirling the safe-knobs deft
ly. "You take it round and deposit it. On
your way back jack Stevens up about those
plows. Tell him if he don t get em round
on time he loses one big customer and
that s me." Counting out the required
amount, he stuffed the slight remainder in
his pocket, slammed shut the safe, signed his
The Come On 225
letters briskly, and took up his hat. "Come
on, Thompson, we ll be off."
"Now then," he resumed, in the elevator,
"IVe got to go down to slip No. 4, to see
about some stuff I m shipping to Mexico.
Walk or ride? It s only a little ways."
"Let s walk, then," said Steve. "You
can tell me about the boats as we go. That s
what takes my eye. What s that big one
"Rotterdammer. The one behind her is
a coaster Menacho, Puig & Co. Look up
stream there s a big Cunarder just swing
ing out. Hello, there s the Rosenthal and
Montoya stuff now!"
A string of heavily-laden drays moved
slowly down the rock-paved street. "Lights
out! Protect yourself!" thought Steve. "I
feel a presentiment that there ll be a heavy
transportation bill on that stuff and that my
friend won t have enough cash to settle it.
226 The Come On
Perhaps he will accept a temporary accom
modation from me. Thompson, he pays the
This unworthy suspicion proved unfound
ed. As they watched the rumbling wagons
they were joined by one of businesslike ap
pearance and swift step.
"Going down, Mitchell? That s your
Argentine freights, I suppose? At least, I
recognize your foreman. "
Mitchell introduced him: Mr. Archibald,
of the Bowring and Archibald line, in the
coastwise and southern trade.
"Just going down to your place, Archie.
We were going to walk, but if you re in a
"Not at all. Have a cigar ?" said the
"You can show my young friend over the
boats, if you will," said Mitchell. "Rank
inlander, Thompson. Rather look at a boat
The Come On 227
than eat. Been talking boat, boat, boat to
me ever since we left the office."
"Happy to do so," said the merchant-
mariner. "You d better take a little trip
with us, Mr. Thompson say a run down
to Havana. Any friend of Mr.
Mitchell s "
A young man came tearing across the
street at a great rate. "Mitchell!" he
shouted. "Mitchell! Look here!" He
thrust a telegram into Mitchell s hand.
"Just reached me by A. D. T. from the
Carlton. Let me have some money, will
you? About three thousand. Just got time
to catch the next Pennsylvania train and
make connections at Baltimore."
Mitchell spread out the yellow slip and
read it aloud. "H m! Tonce de Leon St
Augustine Florida John E Bickford The
Carlton New York Come at once Father
worse Doctor orders to Egypt Jennie. Why
228 The Come On
sure, my boy. Here s what cash I got, and
I ll give you a check. Too bad, too bad!
By George, I hope your dad pulls through.
What! Blame it, I mean dammit, I ve come
off without my checkbook. Got yours,
Archie patted his pockets. "No, I
haven t. Left it in the office. Got a couple
of hundred cash you re welcome to, though."
The young man looked nervously at his
watch. Mitchell turned hesitatingly toward
Thompson. But the Westerner did not wait
for an appeal to his generosity. He volun
teered, eager to oblige a man of such large
affairs as his substantial friend.
"I ll write you a check. You can just run
in to the nearest bank with me and indorse
it, Mr. Mitchell. Sorry I haven t the cash
with me." Thus Steve, his clumsy innocence
eluding the toils with all the grace of an
The Come On 229
The grafters glanced at each other. But
Mitchell was equal to the emergency.
"No need to bother you, Mr. Thompson,
thanks, all the same," he said suavely.
"Archibald, just give me what youVe got
and I ll run over to Jersey City with John.
Traffic Manager of the Pennsylvania is a
friend of mine. If he s in his office I ll get
it of him. Otherwise, I ll start John on,
and wire balance to him at St. Augustine
when I get back. Wait a minute, John.
Got plenty of time to catch the boat. Look
here, Archie you re not busy, are you? 1
"I m always busy," said the shipowner
gayly, "but no more so to-day than any
other day. Why?"
"Oh, well, you can get off. I promised
Thompson, here, to do him the honors, and
now I ve got to help John out. Oh, you two
are not acquainted, are you? Excuse me!
Mr. Archibald, Mr. Bickford Mr. Thomp-
230 The Come On
son, Mr. Bickford. Mr. Bickford s father
was a dear old friend of mine. Once very
wealthy, too, but has had reverses. Bless
me, how I do ramble on! Old age, sir, old
age ! Osier was half right. Now, Archie,
phone up to your office that you re unavoid
ably detained and all the rest of it, like a
good fellow, and take my place as cicerone.
Never mind your dinky little boats take
him up and show him the big fellows the
"But," objected Archibald, "I ve got to go
down to the office to get some money.
You ve broke me, you shanghaier."
"So I have, so I have!" He peeled off a
hundred-dollar-bill, ignoring Steve s protest.
"That enough? I ll fix John up, some way.
You re at Mr. Thompson s orders. Mind,
his money isn t any good. I pay for both
of you. Wish it was more, but you see how
I m hooked up. You ll have a better time
The Come On 231
with a young fellow like Archie than you
would with an old fogy like me, anyhow.
Here, we ll be left!" He made for the fer
ry slips with the anxious Bickford.
Thus did the wily Mr. Mitchell justify
his headship. In these profuse strains of
unpremeditated art, apparently the merest
of rambling commonplace, he had plainly
conveyed to his henchmen that, though foiled
by the countryman s straightforward single-
mindedness, they were not to adopt a policy
of scuttle, but persevere in the paths of man
ifest destiny to benevolent assimilation; at
the same time adroitly extricating his embar
rassed lieutenant from a very present pre
dicament. Because "Archibald" felt a cer
tain reluctance about accompanying Steve to
Pier Number 4 in the capacity of owner,
for the sufficiently obvious reason that he
might be summarily kicked off. Such a con
tretemps might give cause for conjecture
232 The Come On
even in one so green as his companion, re
He saluted with easy grace. "Orders,
captain? Happy to oblige. My friend s
friend is my friend."
Steve saw the big steamships. Thence, at
his artless suggestion, they went to Brooklyn
Bridge. Followed rides on the Subway and
Elevated, a viewing of skyscrapers and such
innocent and exhilarating delights. Noting
Archibald s well-groomed and natty appear
ance, Steve naively asked his advice in mat
ters sartorial, purchasing much raiment and
leaving an order with a fashionable tailor.
But, after an amazing dinner at an uptown
house of call, Archibald took the reins into
his own guidance, and led him forth to quite
other distractions in the agricultural quar
ter of the city, where that popular and ever-
blooming cereal, wild oats, is sown by night
and by day.
The Come On 233
Behind them the plausible Mr. Mitchell
and his old friend s son held high commune.
"Why, the lantern-jawed, bug-eyed, rub
ber-necked, double-jointed, knock-kneed,
splay-foot, hair-lipped, putty-brained country
Jake! Did you see him sidestep that?" de
manded the aggrieved Bickford, forgetting,
in his pique, his stricken father. "What you
want to do to him is to sandbag him, give
him knockout drops, stab him under the fifth
rib! He s too elusive the devil-sent "
He was proceeding to further particulars
when Mitchell checked him.
"I want you to bear in mind that this is
no strong-arm gang, and I m neither dip
nor climber." His emphasis was withering.
"My credit is involved in this affair now,
and I m going through with it. If he d had
the dough with him he d handed it out just
like he did the check. He floundered out
through pure, unadulterated innocence. I ll
234 The Come On
land him yet. Next time I won t leave the
shirt to his back. I tried him with covetous-
ness. I ve tried him with distress. Now
I ll tempt him with a business opportunity
one that he ll have to have cash for. Keep
your eye on your uncle. He ll see you
The next day being Sunday, Mitchell took
the cowboy to the Speedway, and back
through Central Park, in an auto, frankly
"I can hardly afford to set up one," he
confided. "And anyway, I haven t much
leisure. Of course, when a good fellow like
you comes along I can take a day off, once in
a way. But generally my nose is down to
On their way home he pointed out a fine
building, ornamented with a "To Let" sign
in the window. "There s a place I used to
own, Thompson," he said. "Belongs to a
The Come On 235
friend of mine, young Post. One of the best
families but, poor fellow, he s in trouble
now." He dismissed the subject with a be
nevolent sigh. "Would you like to go in and
look at it? The caretaker will show it to
you. He ll think you re a prospective buyer.
You needn t tell him so, but then again you
needn t tell him any different. There s no
harm and it s well worth seeing."
Thompson, nothing loth, agreed. It was
a fine house, as Mitchell had guessed.
"Gracious!" said Steve, when the inspec
tion was over. "What s such a house
"I sold it for forty thousand. It s worth
Steve gazed at him wide-eyed. "My! I
shouldn t have thought it worth that much."
(It was, in fact, worth a great deal more.)
"It s the ground that makes it cost so,"
explained Mitchell. "That s why the value
236 The Come On
has increased. The house itself is not worth
as much as when I had it, but land values are
coming up by leaps and bounds. Young
man, the ground valuation alone of the six
square miles adjoining Central Park is more
than the value of all real estate in the great
commonwealth of Missouri. And it is going
higher every year."
"I don t understand it," said Steve, much
"Do you understand the philosophy of an
artesian well? Yes? Then you understand
this. Every farm cleared, every acre plant
ed, every mine developed, every baby born,
enhances the value of all city property and
New York s got the biggest standpipe. The
back country soaks up the rain and it is de
livered conveniently at our doors through
underground channels, between the unleak-
ing walls that confine its flow; our price on
the surplus you have to sell and our price
The Come On 237
on the necessities you buy. Every city taps
this flow, be the pipe large or small; and as
I said before, New York has the biggest
"We ve got the money. So you may do
the work and we allow you to get enough
to sustain life, and just as little more as pos
sible. Sell at our price, buy at our price
we ve got you coming and going. You can t
"You re poor, you take what you can get
to pay your debts. That keeps down prices
on what you sell. YouVe got families,
you ve got to play. Yes, yes, quite right,
the rules are not entirely fair; we ll revise
them to-morrow, maybe, some time. Let
you do it? Tut, tut, no, no! Why, you
object to em! That won t do at all. Let
the rules be revised by their friends and
beneficiaries, to-morrow, next day, by and
by; busy to-day, stockholders meeting, divi-
238 The Come On
dend declared, good-by! You 1 re virtually
peons. Fourth of July, elections and war
times you re the sovereign people, Tommy
this and Tommy-rot; but for all practical
purposes you re peons.
"We re rich, we can afford a scratch-my-
back-and-I ll-scratch-yours tariff that keeps
our prices up arbitrarily, that takes fifty
dollars out of your pockets to put in ours
for every dollar it puts into the national
"If the tariff was repealed," said Steve
diffidently, "if we raised money for the
National Government, just as we do for
county government "
"Hush-sh!" said Mitchell, shocked.
"That s High Treason that s Unconstitu
tional ! Some one will hear you ! Then
there s another. You sell at a sacrifice to
pay your debts. If we get in debt that s ex
actly what we won t do. A poor man goes
The Come On 239
broke, but a rich man goes bankrupt. Ever
think of that?
"That baby I spoke of will grow up, pro
duce corn, cotton, cattle or copper, maybe -
but the net result of his life will be to enrich
the rich. If, by any means industry, op
portunity, invention, speculation, dishonesty,
chance or inheritance he gets on top, then
the workers will be working for him by the
same law. The fact remains that every dol
lar s worth of betterment in the country in
creases the value of city property one dol
lar, without effort to the owner. A city is
an artesian well. Take it from me, Thomp
son, a man of your ability ought to make
connections and get your little tin pail un
"A man so various that he seemed to be
Not one, but all mankind s epitome."
THOMPSON sat in his room alone,
meditating on Mitchell, statesman and
Political Economist. On the table lay his
letter of introduction and his bad "Souvenir"
"The meeting will please come to order!"
he said, rapping the table smartly. "The
Gentleman from Montana has the floor."
"I move you, Mr. Chairman," said the
Gentleman from Montana, "that the letter
of introduction be laid upon the table, and
that this House do now go into Committee
of putting the other fellows in the Hole."
No objection being heard, this was done.
Steve stared at the tabled letter with a puz-
The Come On 241:
"Gentlemen, the Chair awaits your pleas
ure," he announced, at last. "Have you any
suggestions to make?"
The Gentleman from Montana again ob
"Mr. Speaker, I see here present an exy
member, my alter ego, Mr. Reuben Rubber-
Neck, who once parted with six months
wages on another man s game. Mr. Rub
ber-Neck is a graduate of the celebrated and
expensive school of Experience, of which it
is written that a large and influential class
will learn of no other. As an ex-Member,
he is entitled to the privilege of the floor. I,
for one, would like to have his counsels at
Thus appealed to, Mr. Rubber-Neck got
stumblingly to his feet with a gawky and
"Mr. Chairman, it is not a theory but a
hell of a condition that confronts us," he
242 The Come On
said, uncertainly. "I think that we should
use the letter so providentially er um
provided to make friends with the mammon
of righteousness. Two heads are proverbi
ally better than one, if one is an Expert.
It behooves us, for the sake of the near and
dear kinsmen, the Mark brothers, that we
should so bear ourselves toward our gener
ous hosts as to make them feel that they
have entertained a devil unawares. Avenge
now the innumerable wrongs of me and my
likes. Before deciding on our line of action,
however, I should like to hear from a
learned gentleman in our midst, whose brain
is ever fertile in expedients. I refer to the
only one of us who has been through college
in at the front door and out the back. I
call on the representative of the class of
He sat down amid vociferous cries of
The Come On 243
The Bookman arose gracefully. "While
I thank the gentleman who has preceded me
for his encomiums," he said, with depreca
tory modesty, "yet I can lay no claim for
scholastic honors, owing to an unfortunate
difference of opinion with the Faculty in the
scorching question of turning state s evidence
concerning the ebullition of class feeling, in
which I was implicated by a black eye or so.
I fought the good fight, I kept the faith, but
I did not finish my course. But to return
to our sheep.
"In every crisis, I have always found
precedent for action in the words of the
immortal Swan of Avon. What does Will
say? He says:
Put monetf in thy purse!
"Follows naturally the advice of the mel
ancholy Dane, bearing directly on the case
in hand :
244 The Come On
Let It work.
For tis the sport to see the engineer-
Hoist with his own petard
: " Again,
Look on this picture, then on that!
" Where is that counterfeit, anyhow? * He
took from his pocket a good silver dollar,
compared it thoughtfully with the bad one
on the table, and continued.
"What else? Why, this:
Art thou not horribly afeared? . . . Could the
world pick thee three such enemies again as that
fend Douglas, that spirit Percy, and that devil
"Having thus pointed out the danger, he
plainly indicates the remedy:
Where shall I find one that will steal well? Of
for a fine thief of the age of two-or-three and
twenty! I am heinously unprovided.
The Come On 245
"Gentlemen, in my opinion we need three
things. First, the services of a skillful and
discreet silversmith. Second, a pair of eye
glasses fitted with a powerful microscopic
lens, able to distinguish good from evil.
Third, a confederate who can steal well,
such as we can doubtless find in or about
Broad Street. By these simple and feasible
means we shall be enabled to whip-saw our
redoubtable opponents or, to use the local
term, give em the double-cross.
He sat down amid boisterous applause.
"The Watch-dog of the Treasury!" said
Steve icily. The Watch-dog stood apologeti
cally, twisting nervous fingers together. "It
strikes me, Mr. Speaker," he stammered,
"that my eminent colleague might aptly have
quoted from the same high authority two
maxims in praise of prudence, discretion
is the better part of valor, he says, and also,
246 The Come On
He who fights and runs away
Will live to fight another day?
"It appears to me the part of pru
Here he was howled down by disapprov
"The Chair will take great pleasure in
recognizing the Gentleman from New Mex
ico," suggested Steve, with a gracious nod.
Wildcat Thompson, cowboy, sprang to his
feet; lithe, active, eager. Swiftness, alert
ness, poise, certainty were in every line of his
splendid body. His was the assured, re
sourceful bearing of the man of action,
whose hands have kept his head, contrasting
sharply with the Miner s heavy and tenta
tive slowness, the awkward self-conscious
ness of the Easy One, the Objector s furtive
and apprehensive manner, or the Near-Col
legian s languid affectation of dilettantism.
"Be a sport!" He threw out a hand, his
The Come On 247
confident voice ringing with decision. "We
are seven! (or at least we will be when we
pick up a financier at Atwood s). Get to
gether! Let us adopt our learned brother s
ingenious device. Should fraud fail, we can.
always fall back on
the simple plan
That each should take who hath the power
And he should keep that can.
"As alternative, or, I should say, as re
serve, I offer this!" A swift gleam of
silver and steel: he laid a cocked .45 beside
the other exhibits.
"The sword of Brennus! Woe to the
vanquished!" murmured the School-man,
when the cheering had abated. "Mr. Chair
man, the amendment is accepted."
The entire meeting then lit a cigarette.
The Chair arose, using the six-shooter as
gavel. "Gentlemen, have you anything more
248 The Come On
to offer? If not will you hear the question?
Is it the sense of this meeting that united
we fall upon this infamous coalition with
the jaw bone of an ass and get their money;
dishonestly if we can, and if not, then by
main strength and awkwardness? Those in
favor of the motion will please rise. I am
unanimous, and it is so ordered. This reso
lution will be spread all over the minutes,
right off. The Chair will appoint as com
mittee to get a move on, Mr. Stephen
Thompson of Montana; the earnest Shake
spearian student, Mr. Thompson-Stephen;
Mr. Wildcat Thompson of New Mexico;
and myself. Having no further use for a
sucker or a quitter, the other two gentlemen
may go to the devil, and I hereby stand ad
So saying, he gathered up his resources
The Come On 249
At a later hour Steve presented himself
in a body to the senior Atwood, with his let
ter from the Judge as credentials.
Bless my soul!" ejaculated that person,
when he had read a few lines. His eyes
dropped to the signature. "Oh the
Judge!" he said, enlightened, and read on,
He wheeled his chair around. "Well,
Mr. Thompson, what is it fine or bail?"
"I want to borrow a man," Steve began
mildly. Here he was interrupted. The
ante-room door opened. One entered no,
floated in faultlessly arrayed, with an air
at once languid and gloomy.
"Wyatt!" said Atwood, cordially. "Man!
You re good for sore eyes ! What fair wind
blows you here?"
Wyatt sank into a chair. "Doldwums.
Nothing at all," he said listlessly. "Mewest
250 The Come On
chawnce, I assuah you. Fawct is, I was er
howwidly boahed, y know. It s no good.
All of it!" He spread out his immaculate
pink palm in a comprehensive gesture. "All
wot ! Dinnahs and dawnces and bwidge, the
hawse-show and ah all the west of it.
Vahnity fawr, y know. If you have what-
evah you want diwectly, of cow se you cawnt
want anything you daunt have, y know.
Doocid unpleasant. I find myself like the
boy that wanted to leah n to shivah and
shake, y 1 know. Needin the excitement of
what this fellah ah at Washington, y
know PToosevelt! of what Woosevelt
calls the stwenuous life. Saht in the club
thinkin it ovah, and decided to sally fowth
to seek adventuah "
"Adventure ! You ?" Atwood threw baclc
his head and roared.
" adventuah. In a hansom," returned
the new-comer placidly. "So the dwivah
The Come On 251
ahsked me Whah to? y know. I was feel-
in nawsty enough, so I told him To
pwugatowy! like that! He was ah a
vewy litewal-minded puhson." There was a
faint flicker of amusement in his gray eyes.
"He ah bwought me to the Stock Ex
change. Aftah I got out, y know, I we-
membahed that you ah did something
heah. So I thought I d just wun ovah and
see you." He relapsed into moody silence.
"YouVe come to the right shop, I do be
lieve/ said Atwood. "Mr. Thompson, let
me make you acquainted with my old friend
"Chawmed, I m suah!" muttered Wyatt,
adjusting his monocle.
"You have probably heard of him," pur
sued Atwood. "He appears regularly in
the Sunday Supplements as a Horrible Ex
ample Anson Walworth Wyatt, nephew to
his uncle. But for all he seems such a silly,
252 The Come On
supercilious ass, he s a good old chap at
heart, a weal lion in an ass-skin. Mr.
Thompson, have I permission to share this
letter with my friend?"
"Why not?" said Steve.
"This is a Western man s business letter,"
explained Atwood. The clubman listened
with a well-bred stony stare.
"Aw!" he said. "How vewy extwaohdi-
"Now, old fellow, Mr. Thompson was
just about to negotiate the loan of a man
from me when you came. Here we have
the adventure seeking the man, and the man
seeking the adventure. It sounds promising.
Of course, I shall expect a commission both
ways. Now give us your plans and specifi
cations, Mr. Thompson."
"I want to borrow a young man, as I said
before, of good appearance" with a glance
at Wyatt s sumptuous apparel "and some
The Come On 253
little brains" another and a sharper glance.
"One who will obey orders if he breaks own
ers, who will stand without being tied, and
who doesn t especially care whether school
keeps or not. I would particularly request
that he leave his money, his memory, ac
quired good habits, if any, and his con
science, in your safe -keeping till he is re
"That sounds like the makings of a pretty
adventure, Wyatt," said Atwood, delighted.
"Are you for loan, old chap?"
Wyatt laid his affectation aside. "That
depends on the interest, the security, and
length of the term. It certainly appears, from
your very flattering description, that you
were searching for me, Mr. Thompson."
His eyes were dancing.
"Interest from the word Go. The secur
ity s all right, too, if you take a gun," said
Steve reassuringly. "You might get a long
254 The Come On
term, but it can be avoided with luck and
good management. I think the parties con
cerned will hardly make a complaint."
"You are not contemplating anything il
legal, I trust?" Atwood was enjoying him
self to the full.
"I don t know. Really hadn t given it
much attention," returned the Committee,
simply. "But now you mention it, I think
probably I am."
"Will you allow my accomplice and myself
to use your private room for executive ses
sion?" asked Wyatt.
"But why don t you have them arrested?"
"Arrested? O no!" cried Steve, in pained
surprise. "That wouldn t be fair. That
isn t done! Besides, don t you see, that
wouldn t hurt their feelings like this?"
"I see," said Wyatt. "I m your man.
And I say, old chap, before I go back to my
The Come On 255
Cholly-talk again, advise me. Would I look
any more idiotic, do you think, if I should
suck my cane? I don t want to disappoint
"I would not," said Steve. "You re too
good to be true, without that."
"Wouldn t you naturally suppose," sighed
Wyatt, "that people would know that no
man could be as big a fool as I am, unless
he did it on purpose? But they don t. They,
swallow it, hook, bob and sinker!"
"If the bowl had been stronger
My tale had been longer"
STEVE entered Mitchell s office with the
painful uprightness and precise carriage
of one who has lunched not wisely but rather
too well. His speech, too, was of ponder
ous brevity. The man of affairs chided him
with fatherly kindness.
"This won t do, my boy this won t do.
I like you, Thompson. I m sorry I m
pained to see this. Don t go in for this sort
of thing, or your good fortune will prove
a curse in disguise."
Steve hung his head, muttering something
incoherent about not being used to wine and
that he d soon get over it.
The Come On 257
"Oh, young men will be young men, I sup
pose," sighed Mitchell tolerantly. "Tell you
what. Archibald s going for a spin over to
East New York. I ll just phone him to
drop by on his way and take us along. Fresh
air ll do you good."
Steve assented, and fell to poring over the
immense wall map of New York with pre
But Mitchell s benevolent plan was
doomed to be frustrated. Hardly had
Archibald arrived and the employees been
dismissed, when the sordid, busy, money-
making city intruded in the person of Loring.
There were merry greetings all around.
The artist was much pleased to renew his
acquaintance with Thompson, to whom he
had taken a fancy. Loring, it seemed, was
an old friend of Archibald s and was
promptly invited to make one of the party.
"Oh, I can t," demurred Loring. "And I
258 The Come On
hate to spoil sport, but I ve got a good thing
which must be put through to-night or not
at all. I ran in to get Mitchell to handle it
for me. IVe got the opportunity, but not
the wherewithal." He made the candid ad
mission with a delightful smile.
"I fear that you are leaning on a mighty
nearly broken reed," said Mitchell. "I m all
tied up in money matters this week. But spit
it out, anyhow. I ve got six or seven thou
sand loose. If it s more than that perhaps
Archie can swing it if it s a safe proposi
"Safe as United States bonds, and good
for thirty per cent, profit. Come back,
Thompson!" Steve was making for the
cloor, with apologies. "You re not in the
way a bit. Sit down, man! Your six thou
sand won t be a starter, Joe. I ve got some
four thousand myself, in red, red gold. All
I have in the world wish it was more." His
The Come On 259
blithe insouciance was irresistibly charming.
"Get down to business, old fellow," said
Archibald. " What s the lay?"
"This is all confidential, between gentle
men, you understand?" All nodded. "You
know young Post is in hiding? Well, I ve
been in touch with him all along. He s tired
of skulking and wants me to sell that house
his mother left him, strictly on the Q. T.
He s got a chance to slip away on a private
yacht to-night. Said I could have all I could
get over thirty thousand. It s worth fifty,
at least. I know where I could get forty-
five, but I dare not approach those people
now, because they are unfriendly to Post
and would make him trouble. Once he is
safely away " He waved his hand.
"That ought to be a good thing," said
Archibald thoughtfully. "It rents for six
thousand a year, and values going up. I ve
a good mind to go into it for a permanent
260 The Come On
investment. Let s see he d want spot cash,
wouldn t he?"
"Naturally. Cash on the nail. He could
hardly afford to be identified, you know."
""Can t raise that much to-day," said the
shipowner. "Maybe, by borrowing from
my partner, I could get enough to pool with
you and Mitchell. What s your proposi
tion? About cutting profits, I mean."
"I think I should have ten per cent, net,
besides the proportionate earning of my
four thousand for giving you fellows the
first chance. There s plenty would jump
"That s fair enough," said Archibald.
"Mr. Thompson, you will excuse us? Our
trip will only be postponed. I ll have to fly
around to rustle ready money. I ll see
"Hold on," said Mitchell. "Why don t
The Come On 261
you let my friend in on this? He s got the
scads, and he s a good fellow."
"Oh, he would have to go and see the
place," objected Archibald, his eye evident
ly on the main chance.
"No, he won t. We looked it over yes
terday. I showed it to him because I used
to live there. Don t be selfish, Archie.
There s plenty of chances for you to make
money. Get your pail, Thompson!"
"We-11," said Archibald grudgingly. "So
long as it s not sure that Bowring can spare
me the money, let him take over a third if
he wants to."
"Sure I do," grinned the prospective buy
er, highly elated, "and much obliged to you,
too, Mr. Archibald.
"That s all right," said that person gruff
ly. "Now then, Loring, come out of it!
Time s flying. Where? When? How?
262 The Come On
Never saw an artist yet that could think on
straight lines," he grumbled.
"All of you get your money, meet at
Mitchell s rooms. I ll let Post know and
join you there later. We ll wait till dark,
get a tried and acquitted notary of my ac
quaintance, slip around to Post s lair after
dark and do the deed. I ll stand a ripping
dinner for the bunch out of my ten per cent.
Put deed on record to-morrow morning.
That ll give him start enough. Is that all
"Clear as a bell. I m off!" said Archi
"Archie s a good sort, but he does hate to
let a dollar get by him." The artist laughed
indulgently. "I say, Thompson, did you see
how he stuck on letting you have a whack at
"Where do you bank?" inquired MitchelL
Steve told him where his money was depose
The Come On 263
ited. Mitchell shook his head. "I was
hoping we would go the same way, but I
Ten minutes after they left the industri
ous bookkeeper returned with navvies and
draymen, and removed the office furniture
to parts unknown.
When the four financiers got together in
Mitchell s room Steve proposed to continue
his lessons in the fascinating game of bridge.
He drank freely and his game was the
apotheosis of bumble-puppy. Archibald, his
partner, was much irritated by his stupidity.
A bellboy came to the door. A gentle
man in the parlor would like to see Mr.
Mr. Thompson looked at the card. "Mr.
3V. W. Wyatt," he announced sneeringly.
"You can tell Mr. A. W. Wyatt, if he wants
264 The Come On
to see me, he can just naturally mosey him
self up here."
"Not the A. W. Wyatt Anson Wai-
worth Wyatt?" asked Loring. "I know
him I mean, I know him by sight."
"I believe it is," said Steve with surly in
difference. "If you know him, you know
an overbearing jabberwock. He s head
devil of the push that bought the Copper-
bottom and I don t like his style even a lit
tle bit. He seems to think I m the dirt under
his feet. I ll show him. 7 know what he
wants, and that s the other fourth of my
mine." He thumped the table viciously.
"He ll pay for all he gets from me y I ll tell
Mr. Wyatt was ushered in; irreproach
able, flawless, exquisite. ("It s him!"
breathed Loring.) He remained standing,
hat in hand, fitted his glass with vacuous
care and surveyed the room with deliberate-
The Come On 265
ly insolent scrutiny. Thompson kept his
seat, fairly prickling with antagonism. The
others rose with exemplary good breeding.
"Aw!" said the newcomer, after an elo
quent pause. "Mistah er Townsend,
cawn I have a few moments of quite pwi-
vate convehsation with you?"
"No, you cawnt!" retorted Thompson
truculently. "Sit down, boys, Sit down, I
say! These gentlemen are my friends.
Anything you got to say? If there is, say
it. And my name s Thompson, if you
"Aw! what an extwemely wemahkable
ahttitude !" Wyatt fixed his monocle on the
offending miner with bland and exasperat
ing condescension. "Weally, you quite in-
tewest me, y know! I appwoach you, quite
civilly, y* know, with an offah decidedly to
youah ahdvahntage, Mistah ah Tomlin-
son, and you tweat it "
266 The Come On
"Thompson!! By Heavens, you say Tom-
linson again and I ll pound your face into*
shape!" roared the misnamed one, jumping
up. Mitchell and Loring vainly tried to
"Weally, I shall be obwiged to wefeh you
to my lawyehs " Wyatt began.
"Refer me you animated outrage you
libel ! Turn me loose, you fellows I / don t
want to see you or your durn lawyers! I
know what you want, well enough. You
want to bamboozle me into selling my in
terest in the Copper-bottom for less than
it s worth. Here s my last word to you
Mr. ah White I If you want my fourth
at forty thousand, to-day, all right. It s
worth more it s paid from the grass-roots
down. But that ll make me the round six
figures, and that s enough. 7 can make
money / know my little way about," he
boasted, with insufferable complacency.
The Come On 267
"Nobody left me my pile! Put up or shut
"Mr. Wyatt," said Mitchell, "pardon
me, but may I suggest that you call at a
more favorable time?" He made, behind
Thompson s back, the motion significant of
an emptied glass.
"Aw! I see I see! Thawnks awfully
for the hint. Good-evening, gentlemen
and ah Mistah Tomkins !"
Thompson broke away, shaking his fist in
Wyatt s face. "Say that again and I ll
brain you pawdon me, I should say, I ll
smash your head in. Thompson s my name
T-h-o-m-p-s-o-n, Thompson! And
you trade with me, now or never !"
"You see, gentlemen?" Wyatt appealed.
"Mistah ah Tawmson, I offahed you
twenty-five thousand on my own wesponsi-
bility, as a ah business pwoposition. My
< ah associawates in this undehtaking aw
268 The Come On
all fwiends, quite congenwial, y know, and
I felt suah they would sanction that. I do
not cyah to go futheh lengths without ah
a confewence with them, as I believe that
pwice quite ahmple, y know. But if I could
awwange fo an option "
"You pay me twenty thousand, cash, in
this room, at eight o clock to-night, and I ll
give you an option for one week at forty
thousand," persisted the morose miner.
"After that, the price goes up."
"Fifty pehcentum down on an option I
This is uttehly unpwecedented, y know. I
must wemonstwate, weally!"
"It s all the option you ll get from me,
you jackanapes." He snapped contemptu
ous fingers under Wyatt s nose.
Wyatt buttoned his coat with dignity.
"Weally, this pahsses all bounds !" he ejacu
lated. "Gentlemen, I accept this ah
puhson s offeh. I cannot enduah such an
The Come On 269
associwate. You ah all witnesses. May I
ahsk you-ah names, and may I wequest
youah pwesence to-night, both to ensuah the
ar fulfillment of the vehbal contwact
which you have heahd, and to pwevent the
wepetition of this scandalous scene?" He
opened the door. "Aw wevoah, gentle
men !" By this time he was in the elevator.
From this coign of vantage he sent a Parth
"Till eight o clock, Mistah ah Tom-
The three held the raging Thompson
with some mutual dishevelment. They
soothed him with flattery, stayed him with
flagons, for he yearned for blood with a
"Listen to your friends, boy," urged
Mitchell. "Take his money, and don t do
anything you ll be sorry for. Make out
your papers and pay no attention to what
270 The Come On
he says. Come, brace up! It ll be time
for dinner in a jiffy. Promise us not to
drink any more, and not to make any trou
ble, or we ll phone him not to come."
Steve allowed himself to be pacified at
last, but he regarded his mitigators with a
"Here s what I owe you on bridge,
Mitchell twenty-three dollars," he said
sullenly. "Archibald can settle with Loring.
I don t want no dinner I m going to
"Oh, come on now, that s a good fellow,"
purred Mitchell, picking up the two bills
and the coins. "Say, old man you haven t
turned counterfeiter, have you?" he said
good-naturedly. "This one s N. G."
Steve took it clumsily. "It s no such
thing," he blurted. "Good as gold. Take
it or leave it. I don t care."
"Oh, very well," said Mitchell, humoring
The Come On 271
him. Then he reflected. The indications
were that their projected coup might fail if
Steve s surly humor kept up. Why not im
prove the shining hour? The coin was ob
"I ll take it before it gets you into trou
ble," he insinuated.
Steve lurched to his feet, thrusting an un-
decorative face over the table. "You think
it s bad?" he queried darkly. "You think
I m a fool?" He flung a packet of bills on
the table. "Cover that, if you dare," he
said. "There s the money for the Post
place ten thousand dollars. It says that s
a good dollar. Put up or shut up!"
"You ll lose your money!" warned
Mitchell. "Then you ll say I took advan
tage of you."
"I know what you think," said Steve
shrewdly. "You think I m drunk, but I m
not. / know a good thing when I see it.
272 The Come On
Don t you don t you lose no sleep about
me. I m I m all right, you bet! Now
what ll you do or take water?" he fleered.
Surreptitiously Loring had tried the coin
with his penknife during this controversy.
The metal was quite soft the knife left a
great scar, which he flashed at Mitchell.
"Well if you insist," said Mitchell re
luctantly. He counted out ten one-thousand-
dollar bills. "Who ll be the judge?"
"Anybody. Archie. I ve got you skinned
a mile anyway."
"I am sorry, Mr. Thompson," said Archi
bald, "but this dollar seems to be pewter,
or something of that general description.
Aw, give him back his money, Mitchell
he s drinking.
"I won t!" said Mitchell stubbornly.
"He forced me into it. He wouldn t have
given it back to me if I d lost."
"Sure I wouldn t," assented Steve. "I m
The Come On 273
no boy. / play for keeps, me. Don t be so
fast, if you please. This money ain t won
yet. Cut into that dollar! I was from
Missouri before ever I saw Montana."
"Cut it, Loring," said Mitchell. "Show;
Loring scratched it with the penknife
point. "You see? soft as cheese rotten,"
he said. And then the knife struck some
thing hard. A chill crept over him. Stu
pefied, he scraped the base metal back, re
vealing a portion of an irrefutably good
The dismayed rascals looked up. In
Thompson s hand a large, businesslike gun
wavered portentously from one head to the
"Go on!" he admonished. His tone was
not particularly pleasant. "Peel her off!
Yah! You puling infants! You cheap,
trading-stamp crooks!" He raked off the
274 The Come On
money. "Be tran-tranquil ! You doddering
idiots, I d shoot your heads off for two bits!
Try to rob a countryman, will you? Why,
gentle shepherds all, I ve been on to such
curves as yours ever since Hec was a pup !
You and your scout Loring and your Bick-
ford and your Post!" he scoffed. "Don t
open your heads. Bah! Here, you
skunks!" He threw an ostentatiously bad
dollar on the table. "Take that, and break
even if you can. That patronizing half-
baked tailor s dummy that called me out of
my name will be back bimeby, with his
pockets full. I d like to see him taken down
a peg, but I dassent spoil the sale of my
mine. Tell him I m in bed, full, but ll be
out in an hour or so. He ll come again to
buy me out. Hates me like poison, he does.
If you can get him to bite, go it! But I
doubt if you ll find even that saphead as
rank as you three wise guys. Anyway, I
The Come On 275
don t want to see him while I feel this way.
My head aches, and I suppose there s some
sort of law against shooting the likes of
him or you. I m leavin for another ho
tel, right now. Don t you fellows bother
me if you value your hides. If you can skin
that puppy, why, sic em, Towse ! and the
devil take the hindmost! Oh, you Smart
He backed out with a traditional wiggle
of his fingers.
It is to be regretted that the stringent
regulations of the postal authorities will not
permit us any report of the heart-to-heart
talk that followed his departure, other than
the baldest summary. It was marked by
earnestness, sincerity, even by some petu
lance, interspersed with frank and spirited
repartee. Mutual recrimination resulted.
Subdued and chastened, Mr. Mitchell was
reduced to the ranks; Loring, by virtue of
276 The Come On
his own and Mitchell s vote, replacing him.
Archibald s preference was for a third per
son still namely, himself and he acqui
esced with ill grace.
They had but little over ten thousand dol
lars remaining for the return match; and
this, as Loring pointed out with just indig
nation, would only put them even. They
knew that Wyatt would have at least twice
that much with him. So they scurried forth
and made such good use of the scant time
left them, by borrowing, by squeezing both
Bickford and the hard-working bookkeeper,
and by resource to certain nest-eggs laid by
for case of extreme urgency (known among
themselves as "fix money"), they scraped
together some six thousand more. The
"ripping" dinner went untasted. They were
hardened, but human.
All ravages of carking care were
smoothed away, and they were disposed in
The Come On 277
luxuriant and contented ease when Wyatt
"Aw, gentlemen, I am punctual, you see 1"
he announced gayly. "It is weally vewy
kind of you to be so obliging I m suah. Is
the ah mining puhson in?"
Mr. Loring, speaking for the trio, affably
regretted that their young friend was not,
in fact, at his best during Mr. Wyatt s pre
vious call. They had remonstrated with
him for his injurious conduct. At present
he was sleeping off the effects of his slight
exhilaration: they thought it would not be
at all judicious to disturb him: they felt
sure that, on awakening, he would prove
amenable to reason. Meanwhile, the night
was young; if Mr. Wyatt cared to join them
in a friendly rubber they would be delighted.
"Chawmed, I m suahl" said Wyatt. "I
do not desiah any contwovewsy with that
vewy wuffianly puhson while he is ah
278 The Come On
wuffled. So I shall wait and shall be happy
to join you."
The score was close; it was only through
ingenious manipulation by their opponents
that Wyatt and his partner were forced to
win a small sum.
"Weally, gentlemen," drawled Wyatt,
looking at his watch, "I shall be fowced to
leave you. I have an engagement at eleven,
and I weally feah ouah Mr. Townshend will
be, as I might say, hors de combat foh the
night. I have to thawnk you fow a vewy
agweeable evening, nevahtheless."
He was carelessly sweeping the money in
to his pocket when Mitchell, his partner,
"I beg your pardon, but is that not a bad
dollar?" he said.
"Oh, no mattah no consequence at all, I
assuah you," said Wyatt liberally. He
would have pocketed the piece, but Loring,
The Come On 279
who had paid it, gave him another, and
flung the slighted coin over to Mitchell.
"If you re so set on this dollar being
bad," he said angrily, "I ll bet you what you
dare it s not bad."
"Done with you for twenty!" Mitchell
covered it promptly.
Loring drew out a handful of bills.
"Here you are. Any one else want any of
this?" he inquired captiously.
Archibald shook his head and laughed.
Wyatt screwed his monocle into his eye, re
garded both sides of the coin attentively, and
laid it down.
"Quite bad, I assuah you," he said. "I
should pwonounce it about the wohst speci
"Maybe you d like to bet on it?" said
Loring, flaunting the big bills.
Wyatt was evidently nettled. "Weally,
you aw wong I assuah you," he said stiffly.
280 The Come On
"If you aw pawdon me quite able to lose
that money without ah inconvenience I am
weady to covah it, at least, as fah as what
I have with me goes."
"Done!" said Loring. This was not so
bad, after all.
"How much? . . . Aw! Seventeen thou
sand. Exactly. The bet is made, gentlemen.
I ah propose that we wing the bell foh
the pwopwietah and, shahl we say, the clahk,
to act as judge and stakeholdeh."
"That will be satisfactory," said Loring.
"Allow me, in turn, to make a suggestion,
Mr. Wyatt. Put the money in your bill-
book, hand it to the stakeholder, and let him
give it, unopened, to the winner. Of course,
you will first take out your other money.
There is no heed for them to know that
more than a trivial sum is at stake. We do
not want to court unpleasant notoriety."
The Come On 28 1,
"Quite twue! An excellent suggestion,"
said Wyatt gravely. He proceeded to put
it in effect.
The summoned dignitaries arrived, the
situation was explained, and Wyatt, handing
the money to the proprietor and the ques
tionable dollar to the clerk, requested judg
The clerk looked at the coin, rubbed it,
rang it. It gave out a dull and leaden sound.
"Bad, beyond a doubt," he said.
"Try it with your knife," said Loring
The clerk complied. By mischance he
bore on too hard. The knife went through
to the table.
>A sound of mirth swept to them. With
horror frozen on their faces, the three ras
cals were aware of Thompson, leaning in
the doorway unmistakably sober, given
282 The Come On
up to reprehensible levity, holding out a
bright tin pail with an expectant air.
Let us give even the devil his due. For
ZANE GREY S NOVELS
May be imd wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap s list
THE LIGHT OF WESTERN STARS
A New York society girl buys a ranch which becomes < the center of frontier war
fare. > Her loyal superintendent rescues her when she is captured by bandits. A
Surprising- climax brings the story to a delightful close.
THE RAINBOW TRAIL
The story of a young: clergyman who becomes a wanderer in the great western I
aplands until at last love and faith awake.
The story describes the recent uprising 1 along 1 the border, and ends with the finding 1
of the gold which two prospectors had willed to the girl who is the story s heroine.
RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE
A picturesque romance of Utah of some forty years ago when Mormon authority
tuled. The prosecution of Jane Withersteen is the theme of the story.
THE LAST OF THE PLAINSMEN
lais is the record of a trip which the author took with Buffalo Jones, known as the
preserver of the American bison, across the Arizona desert and of a hunt in "that
wonderful country of d^ep canons and giant pines."
THE HERITAGE OF THE DESERT
A lovely girl, who has been reared among 1 Mormons, learns to love a young 1 New
Englander. The Mormon religion, however, demands that the girl shall become
the second wife of one of the Mormons Well, that s the problem of this great story.
THE SHORT STOP
The young 1 hero, tiring- of his factory grind, starts out to win fame and fortune as
a professional ball player. His hard knocks at the start are followed by such success
as clean sportsmanship, courage and honesty ought to win.
This story tells of the bravery and heroism of Betty, the beautiful young sister of
old Colonel Zane, one of the bravest pioneers.
THE LONE STAR RANGER
After killing a man in self defense, Buck Diiane becomes an outlaw along the
Texas border. In a camp on the Mexican side of the river, he finds a young girl held
prisoner, and in attempting to rescue her, brings down upon himself the wrath of her
captors and henceforth is hunted on one side by honest men, on the other by outlaws.
THE BORDER LEGION
Joan Randle, in a spirit of anger, sent Jim Cleve out to a lawless Western mining
camp, to prove his mettle. Then realizing that she loved him she followed him out.
On her way, she is captured by a bandit band, and trouble begins when she shoots
Kells, the leader and nurses him to health again. Here enters another romance
when Joan, disguised as an outlaw, observes Jim, in the throes of dissipation. A gold
strike, a thrilling robbery gambling and gun play carry you along breathlessly.
THE LAST OF THE GREAT"SCOUTS,
By Helen Cody Wetmore and Zane Grey
The life story of Colonel William F. Cody, " Buffalo Bill," as told by his sister and
Zane Grey. It begins with his boyhood in Iowa and his first encounter with an In
dian. We see " Bill" as a pony express rider, then near Fort humter as Chief of
the Scouts, and later engaged in the most dangerous Indian campaigns. There*
also a very interesting account of the travels of "The Wild We? f " Show. No char
acter In public life makes a stronger appeal to the imagination of America than
" Buffalo Bill," whose daring and bravery made him famous. __
GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK
THE NOVELS OF
MARY ROBERTS RINEHART
Maylje had wherever books are sold. Ask for Srosset ft Dunlap < list.
K. LeMoyne, famous surgeon, drops out of the world that
has known him, and goes to live in a little town where
beautiful Sidney Page lives. She is in training to become a
nurse. The joys and troubles of their young love are told
with that keen and sympathetic appreciation which has
made the author famous.
THE MAN IN LOWER TEN.
Illustrated by Howard Chandler Christy.
An absorbing detective story woven around the mysteri
ous death of the "Man in Lower Ten." The strongest
elements of Mrs. Rinehart s success are found in this book.
WHEN A MAN MARRIES.
Illustrated by Harrison Fisher and Mayo Bunker.
A young artist, whose wife had recently divorced him;
finds that his aunt is soon to visit him. The aunt, who
contribute to the family income and who has never seen
the wife, knows nothing of the domestic upheaval. How
the young man met the situation is humorously and most
THE CIRCULAR STAIRCASE. Hhw. by Leeter Ralph
The summer occupants of "Sunnyside" find the dead
body of Arnold Armstrong, the son of the owner, on the cir
cular staircase. Following the murder a bank failure is an
nounced. Around these two events is woven a plot ot
THE STREET OF SEVEN STARS. -
Illustrated (Photo Play Edition.)
Harmony Wells, studying hi Vienna to be a great vlo
linist, suddenly realizes that her money is almost gone. She
meets a young ambitious doctor who offers her chivalry and
sympathy, and together with world- worn Dr. Anna and
Jimmie, the wai/, they share their love and slender means.
QROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK
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re or the mo
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