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- WOLFVILLE - 4/44 -


story. I don't reckon now he's much of a preacher neither; for he gives Wolfville one whirl for luck over in the warehouse back of the New York Store, an' I shore hears 'em as makes a mighty sight more noise, an' bangs the Bible twice as hard, back in the States. I says so to Cherokee; but he puts it up he don't bank none on his preachin'.

"'What I aims at,' says Cherokee, 'is someone who rides herd on the boy all right, an' don't let him stampede off none into vicious ways.'

"'Why don't you keep the camp informed of this yere orphan an' the play you makes?' says Enright, at the time it's explained to the committee,--the time they trees Cherokee about them stages.

"'It's that benev'lent an' mushy,' says Cherokee, 'I'm plumb ashamed of the deal, an' don't allow to go postin' no notices tharof. But along comes this yere hold-up business, an', all inadvertent, tips my hand; which the same I stands, however, jest the same.'

"'It's all right,' says Enright, some disgusted though; 'but the next time you makes them foundlin' asylum trips, don't walk in the water so much. Leave your trail so Wolfville sees it, an' then folks ain't so likely to jump your camp in the dark an' take to shootin' you up for Injuns an' sim'lar hostiles.'

"'But one thing more,' continues Enright, an' then we orders the drinks. Jack Moore is yereby instructed to present the compliments of the committee to Rucker, when he trails in from Tucson; which he also notifies him to hobble his wife yereafter durin' sessions of this body. She's not to go draggin' her lariat 'round loose no more, settin' law an' order at defiance durin' sech hours as is given to business by the Stranglers."

CHAPTER III.

THE STORY OF WILKINS

"No; I don't reckon I ever cuts the trail of this yere Wilson you mentions, once. If I does, the fact's done pulled its picket-pin an' strayed from my recollections."

I had recalled the name of a former friend, one Wilson, who, sore given to liquor, had drifted to Arizona many years before and disappeared. Suggesting "Wilson" to the Old Cattleman, I asked if he had met with such a name and character in his Wolfville rambles.

As often chanced, however, the question bore fruit in a story. It frequently needed but a slight blow from the rod of casual inquiry, and the fountains of my old friend's reminiscences gushed forth.

"No, I never crosses up with him," observed the old Cattleman; "but speakin' of Wilson puts in my mind a gent by the name of Wilkins, who it's some likely is as disrepootable as your old pard Wilson."

"What about Wilkins?" I asked.

"Nothin' thrillin', "answered the old gentleman; "nothin' you'd stay up nights to hear, I don't reckon. It's Wilkins's daughter who is the only redeemin' thing about the old Cimmaron; an' it's a heap likely right now it's her I remembers about instead of him.

"Not at all," he continued, "I don't mind onfoldin' as to Wilkins, nor yet of an' concernin' his daughter. You see this Wilkins is herdin' 'round Wolfville when I first trails in. I never does know where he hails from. I don't reckon' though, he ever grades no ways high, an' at the crisis I'm mentionin' his speshul play is gettin' drunk mostly; an' not allowin' to hurt himse'f none with work.

"'Workin' with your fins,' says this Wilkins, 'is low an' onendoorin' to a gent with pride to wound. It ain't no use neither. I knows folks as works, an' folks as don't, an' you can't tell one from which. They gets along entirely sim'lar.

"'But how you goin' to live?' says Dave Tutt, when he makes this remark, an' who is fussin' with Wilkins for bein' so reedic'lous an' shiftless.

"'That's all right about my livin',' says Wilkins; 'don't you-all pass no restless nights on my account. Go read your Scriptures; read that bluff about feedin' the young ravens an' sparrers. Well, that's me this trip. I'm goin' to rap for a show-down on them promises an' see what's in 'em.'

"'This camp ain't strong on Holy Writ, nohow,' says Dave Tutt, 'an' I'm partic'lar puny that a-way. It's your game though, an' your American jedgement goes soopreme as to how you plays it.'

"This Wilkins lives in a wickeyup out on the aige of the town, an' a girl, which she's his daughter, about 19 years old, keeps camp for him. No one knows her well. She stays on her reservation mighty close, an' never seems visible much. I notices her in the New York Store once, buyin' some salt hoss, an'she ain't no dream of loveliness neither as to looks.

"Her face makes you feel she's good people though, with her big soft eyes. They has a tired, broke-down look, like somehow she's been packed more'n she can carry, an' has two or three notions about layin' down with the load.

"It's mebby two weeks after Dave Tutt's talk with Wilkins, when we're all in the Red Light takin' our forty drops, an' Sam Enright brings up this yere Wilkins.

"'It has been a question with me,' he says, 'how this old shorthorn and his girl manages for to make out; an' while I care none whatever for Wilkins, it ain't no credit to a live camp like this to permit a young female to suffer, an' I pauses yere to add, it ain't goin' to occur no more. Yesterday, allowin' to bushwhack some trooth about 'em, I waits till old Wilkins drifts over to the corral, an' then I goes projectin' 'round for facts. I works it plenty cunnin', an' sorter happens up to the old man's tepee. I calls the girl out an' puts it up I wants to see her paw a heap on some business.

"'"I wants to see him speshul,"' I says.

"'"Well, he ain't here now,"' says the girl, "so whatever'll you do?"'

"'"I don't reckon you could prance 'round some an' find him for me, could you, Miss?"' I says.

"'So the girl,' continues Enright, 'which her name is Susan, puts on her shaker an' goes stampedin' off; an' while she's gone I injuns an' spies 'round a whole lot; an', comin' down to the turn, Wilkins an' that girl ain't got nothin' to eat. The question now is, what action does Wolfville 'naugerate at a juncture sech as this?' "'What's the matter with takin' up a donation like they does for a preacher, an' saw it onto the girl?' says Dan Boggs.

"'You couldn't open your game that a-way, nohow,' says Doc Peets. 'That's accordin' to Hoyle for sky-pilots an' missionary people; but a young female a-hoidin' of herse'f high spurns your money. Thar's nothin' ketches me like a female of my species in distress, an' I recalls offerin' to stake a lady, who's lost her money somehow, back in St. Looey once. This yere female was strange to me entire, but if she'd knowed me from 'way back she couldn't a-blazed up more frightful. The minute I pulls my bankroll on her, she goes cavortin' off too hostile to talk. It takes ten minutes to get her back to the agency to hear me 'pologize, an' even then she glares an' snorts like she's liable to stampede ag'in. No; you don't want to try an' give this girl no money. What we-alls needs is to hunt up somethin' for her to work at an' pay her.'

"'The Doc's right,' says Enright, 'an' the thing is to find somethin' for this yere lady to do. Any gent with a notion on the subject can't speak too quick.'

"'No party need take my remarks as personal,' says Burns, who runs the Red Light, 'as nothin' invidjous is intended; but I rises to say that a heap of my business is on credit. A gent comes in free an' sociable, names his sozodont, an' gets it. If he pays cash, all right; if he wants credit, all right. "You names your day to drink, an' you names your day to pay," is my motto, as you-alls knows. This bein' troo, onder present exigences what for a scheme would it be for me to get an outfit of books,--day-books, week-books, ledgers, an' the rest of the layout,--an' let this yere maiden keep 'em a whole lot? I throws this out as a su'gestion.'

"'I ain't meanin' nothin' ag'inst Burns's su'gestion,' says Texas Thompson, 'but in my opinion this camp ain't ripe for keepin' books as yet. Things like that has to be come to by degrees. I've knowed a heap of trouble arise from keepin' books, an' as long as this yere's a peaceful camp let's keep it that a-way.'

"'That settles it,' says Burns, 'thar's enough said, an' I don't keep no books.'

"'You-alls present knows me,' says Cherokee Hall, who, as I says previous, is turnin' faro in the Red Light, 'an' most of you has met me frequent in a business way. Thar's my game goin' every night reg'lar. Thar's nothin' tin-horn about it. It ain't no skin game neither. Any gent with doubts can step over an' test my box, which he'll find all comfortable on the layout awaitin' his convenience. It ain't been usual for me to blow my own bazoo to any extent, an' I only does it now as bein' preliminary to the statement that my game ain't no deadfall, an' is one as a respectable an' virchus female person could set in on with perfect safetytood to her reputation. This yere lady in question needs light, reg'lar employment, an' I lets it fly that if she wants in on any sech deal I'll go her a blue stack a week to hold down the chair as look-out for my game.'

"'Cherokee's offer is all right,' says Enright; 'it's good talk from a squar' man. Women, however, is partic'lar, an' like hosses they shies at things thar ain't no danger in. You sees how that is; a woman don't reason nothin', she feels an' mighty likely this young person is loaded to the gyards with sech notions ag'in gamblin' as would send her flyin' at the bare mention. The fact is, I thinks of somethin' sim'lar, but has to give it up. I figgers, first dash out o' the box, that a safe, easy trail to high ground is to give her a table an' let her deal a little stud for the boys. This yere wouldn't be no resk, an' the rake is a shore thing for nine or ten dollars a night. Bein' a benev'lence, I knows the boys would set in mighty free, an' the trouble would be corraled right thar. With this yere in my mind I taps her gently about our various games when I calls for her paw; an' to put it straight, she takes it reluctant


WOLFVILLE - 4/44

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