Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything
- Going Some - 1/36 -
A ROMANCE OF STRENUOUS AFFECTION
SUGGESTED BY THE PLAY BY REX BEACH AND PAUL ARMSTRONG
ILLUSTRATED BY MARK FENDERSON
Four cowboys inclined their bodies over the barbed-wire fence which marked the dividing-line between the Centipede Ranch and their own, staring mournfully into a summer night such as only the far southwestern country knows. Big yellow stars hung thick and low-so low that it seemed they might almost be plucked by an upstretched hand-and a silent air blew across thousands of open miles of land lying crisp and fragrant under the velvet dark.
And as the four inclined their bodies, they inclined also their ears, after the strained manner of listeners who feel anguish at what they hear. A voice, shrill and human, pierced the night like a needle, then, with a wail of a tortured soul, died away amid discordant raspings: the voice of a phonograph. It was their own, or had been until one overconfident day, when the Flying Heart Ranch had risked it as a wager in a foot-race with the neighboring Centipede, and their own man had been too slow. As it had been their pride, it remained their disgrace. Dearly had they loved, and dearly lost it. It meant something that looked like honor, and though there were ten thousand thousand phonographs, in all the world there was not one that could take its place.
The sound ceased, there was an approving distant murmur of men's voices, and then the song began:
"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Lift up your voice and sing--"
Higher and higher the voice mounted until it reached again its first thin, ear-splitting pitch.
"Still Bill" Stover stirred uneasily in the darkness. "Why 'n 'ell don't they keep her wound up?" he complained. "Gallagher's got the soul of a wart-hog. It's criminal the way he massacres that hymn."
From a rod farther down the wire fence Willie answered him, in a boy's falsetto:
"I wonder if he does it to spite me?"
"He don't know you're here," said Stover.
The other came out of the gloom, a little stoop-shouldered man with spectacles.
"I ain't noways sure," he piped, peering up at his lanky foreman. "Why do you reckon he allus lets Mrs. Melby peter out on my favorite record? He done the same thing last night. It looks like an insult."
"It's nothing but ignorance," Stover replied. "He don't want no trouble with you. None of 'em do."
"I'd like to know for certain." The small man seemed torn by doubt. "If I only knew he done it a-purpose, I'd git him. I bet I could do it from here."
Stover's voice was gruff as he commanded: "Forget it! Ain't it bad enough for us fellers to hang around like this every night without advertising our idiocy by a gun-play?"
"They ain't got no right to that phonograph," Willie averred, darkly.
"Oh yes, they have; they won it fair and square."
"Fair and square! Do you mean to say Humpy Joe run that foot-race on the square?"
"I never said nothin' like that whatever. I mean we bet it, and we lost it. Listen! There goes Carara's piece!"
Out past the corral floated the announcement in a man's metallic syllables:
"_The Baggage Coach Ahead,_ as sung by Helena Mora for the Echo Phonograph, of New York and Pa-a-aris!"
From the dusk to the right of the two listeners now issued soft Spanish phrases.
"_Madre de Dios!_ 'The Baggage Car in Front!' T'adora Mora! God bless 'er!"
During the rendition of this affecting ballad the two cow-men remained draped uncomfortably over the barbed-wire barrier, lost in rapturous enjoyment. When the last note had died away, Stover roused himself reluctantly.
"It's time we was turnin' in." He called softly, "Hey, Mex!"
"Come on, you and Cloudy. _Vamos!_ It's ten o'clock."
He turned his back on the Centipede Ranch that housed the treasure, and in company with Willie, made his way to the ponies. Two other figures joined them, one humming in a musical baritone the strains of the song just ended.
"Cut that out, Mex! They'll hear us," Stover cautioned.
"_Caramba!_ This t'ing is brek my 'eart," said the Mexican, sadly. "It seem like the Senorita Mora is sing that song to me. Mebbe she knows I'm set out 'ere on cactus an' listen to her. Ah, I love that Senorita ver' much."
The little man with the glasses began to swear in his high falsetto. His ear had caught the phonograph operator in another musical mistake.
"That horn-toad let Mrs. Melby die again to-night," said he. "It's sure comin' to a runnacaboo between him and me. If somebody don't kill him pretty soon, he'll wear out that machine before we git it back."
"Humph! It don't look like we'd ever get it back," said Stover.
One of the four sighed audibly, then vaulting into his saddle, went loping away without waiting for his companions.
"Cloudy's sore because they didn't play _Navajo,"_ said Willie. "Well, I don't blame 'em none for omittin' that war- dance. It ain't got the class of them other pieces. While it's devised to suit the intellect of an Injun, perhaps; it ain't in the runnin' with _The Holy City,_ which tune is the sweetest and sacredest ever sung."
Carara paused with a hand upon the neck of his cayuse.
"Eet is not so fine as _The Baggage Car in Front,"_ he declared.
"It's got it beat a mile!" Willie flashed back, harshly.
"Here you!" exclaimed Stover, "no arguments. We all have our favorites, and it ain't up to no individual to force his likes and dislikes down no other feller's throat." The two men he addressed mounted their broncos stiffly.
"I repeat," said Willie: "_The Holy City_, as sung by Mrs. Melby, is the swellest tune that ever hit these parts."
Carara muttered something in Spanish which the others could not understand.
"They're all fine pieces," Stover observed, placatingly, when fairly out of hearing of the ranch-houses. "You boys have each got your preference. Cloudy, bein' an Injun, has got his, and I rise to state that I like that monologue, _Silas on Fifth Avenoo_, better than all of 'em, which ain't nothin' ag'inst my judgment nor yours. When Silas says, 'The girl opened her valise, took our her purse, closed her valise, opened her purse, took out a dime, closed her purse, opened her valise, put in her purse, closed her valise, give the dime to the conductor, got a nickel in change, then opened her valise, took out her purse, closed her valise-'" Stover began to rock in his saddle, then burst into a loud guffaw, followed by his companions. "Gosh! That's awful funny!"
"_Si! si!_" acknowledged Carara, his white teeth showing through the gloom.
"An' it's just like a fool woman," tittered Willie. "That's sure one ridic'lous line of talk."
"Still Bill" wiped his eyes with the back of a bony hand. "I know that hull monologue by heart, but I can't never get past that spot to save my soul. Right there I bog down, complete." Again he burst into wild laughter, followed by his companions. "I don't see how folks can be so dam' funny!" he gasped.
"It's natural to 'em, like warts," said Willie; "they're born with it, the same as I was born to shoot straight with either hand, and the same as the Mex was born to throw a rope. He don't know how he does it, and neither do I. Some folks can say funny things, some can sing, like Missus Melby; some can run foot- races, like that Centipede cook--" Carara breathed an eloquent Mexican oath.
"Do you reckon he fixed that race with Humpy Joe?" inquired
1 2 3 4 5 6 10 20 30 36
Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything