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Wolfville By Alfred Henry Lewis Characters: 20630

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03

"If my mem'ry's dealin' a squar' game," remarked the Old Cattleman, as he moved his chair a bit more into the shade, "it's some'ers over in the foot-hills of, the Floridas when Enright vouchsafes why he hates Mexicans."

The morning was drowsy. Conversation between us had in a sleepy way ranged a wide field. As had grown to be our habit we at last settled on Wolfville and its volatile inhabitants. I asked to be enlightened as to the sage Enright, and was informed that, aside from his courage and love of strict justice, the prominent characteristic of our Wolfville Lycurgus was his wrath against Mexicans.

"Not that Enright loathes so much as he deplores 'em, "continued the old gentleman. "However, I don't aim to be held as sayin' he indorses their existence a little bit; none whatever.

"Enright's tellin' of this tale arises outen a trivial incident which a Mexican is the marrow of. We're out on the spring round-up, an' combin' the draws an' dry ARROYAS over between the cow springs an' the Floridas, when one night a Mexican runs off a passel of our ponies. The hoss-hustler is asleep, I reckons, at the time this Mexican stacks in. He says himse'f he's lyin' along the back of his bronco gazin' at the stars when this robber jumps at the ponies an' flaps a blanket or somethin', an' away patters every hoof in the band.

"This yere Mexican don't run off with only about a handful; I takes it he can't round up no more in the dark. When you-all stampedes a bunch of ponies that a-way they don't hold together like cattle, but plunges off diffusive. It's every bronco for himse'f, disdainful of all else, an' when it's sun-up you finds 'em spattered all over the scene an' not regardin' of each other much.

"But this yere Mexican, after he stampedes 'em, huddles what he can together-as I says mebby it's a dozen-an' p'ints off into the hills.

"Of course it ain't no time after the sun shows the tracks when Enright, Jack Moore, an' myse'f is on the trail. Tutt an' Dan Boggs wants in on the play, but we can't spar' so many from the round-up.

"It's one of the stolen ponies tips this Greaser's hand. It's the second day, an' we-alls loses the trail for mebby it's fifteen minutes. We're smellin' along a canyon to find it ag'in, when from over a p'int of rocks we hears a bronco nicker. He gets the scent of an acquaintance which Moore's ridin' on, an' says 'How!' pony- fashion.

"Thar's no need goin' into wearyin' details. Followin' the nicker we comes surgin' in on our prey, an' it's over in a minute. Thar's two Mexicans,-our criminal trackin' up with a pard that mornin'. But of course we-alls knows he's thar long hours back by the tracks, so it ain't no s'prise.

"This yere second Mexican is downed on the run-in. He shows a heap of interest in our comin', an' takes to shootin' us up mighty vivid with a Winchester at the time; an' so Enright, who's close in, jumps some lead into him an' stretches him. He don't manage to do no harm, nohow, more'n he creases my hoss a little. However, as this yere hoss is amazin' low-sperited, an' as bein' burnt that a-way with a bullet sorter livens him up a heap, I don't complain none. Still Enright's all-wise enough to copper the Greaser, for thar ain't no sayin' what luck the felon has with that little old gun of his if he keeps on shootin'. Which, as I observes, Enright downs him, an' his powder-burnin' an' hoss-rustlin' stops immediate.

"As for the other Mexican, which he's the party who jumps our ponies in the first place, he throws up his hands an' allows he cashes in his chips for whatever the bank says.

"We-alls ropes out our captive; sorter hog-ties him hand an' foot, wrist an' fetlock, an' then goes into camp all comfortable, where we runs up on our game.

"Jack Moore drops the loop of his lariat over the off moccasin of the deceased Mexican, an' canters his pony down the draw with him, so's we ain't offended none by the vision of him spraddled out that a-way dead. This yere's thoughtful of Jack, an' shows he's nacherally refined an' objects to remainders lyin' 'round loose.

"'No, it ain't so much I'm refined,' says Jack, when I compliments him that he exhibits his bringin' up, an' him bein' too modest that a-way to accept; 'it ain't that I'm refined none-which my nacher is shore coarse-I jest sorter protests in my bosom ag'in havin' a corpse idlin' 'round that a-way where I'm camped. Tharfore I takes my rope an' snatches deceased off where he ain't noticeable on the scenery.'

"Jack does it that gentle an' considerate, too, that when we passes the Mexican next day on our way in, except he's some raveled an' frayed coastin' along where it's rocky, an' which can't be he'ped none, he's as excellent a corpse as when he comes off the shelf, warm as the rifle Enright throws him with.

"'Whatever be we goin' to do with this yere hoss-thief pris'ner of ours?' says Jack Moore to Enright the next day, when we're saddlin' up an' organizin' to pull our freight. 'He's shore due to bother us a lot. We're plumb sixty miles from Tutt an' the boys, an' ridin' herd on this yere saddle-colored gent, a-keepin' of him from lopin' off, is mighty likely to be a heap exhaustin'. I knows men,' Jack remarks at the close, lookin' wistful at Enright, 'as would beef him right yere an' leave him as a companion piece to that compadre of his you downs.'

"'Nachers as would execute a pris'ner in cold blood,' says Enright, 'is roode an' oncivilized. Which I don't mean they is low neither; but it's onconsiderate that a-way to go an' ca'mly kill a pris'ner, an' no co't nor committee authorizin' the same. I never knows of it bein' done but once. It's Mexicans who does it then; which is why they ain't none pop'lar with me since.'

"'It's shore what you calls a mighty indurated play,' says Jack, shakin' his head, 'to go shootin' some he'pless gent you've took; but, as I states, it's a cinch it'll be a heap fatiguin' keepin' cases on this yere Mexican till we meets up with a quorum of the committee. Still it's our dooty, an' of course we don't double-deal, nor put back kyards on what's our plain dooty.'

"'What you-all states,' says Enright,'`is to your credit, but I'll tell you. Thar ain't no harm mountin' this marauder on a slow pony that a-way; an' bein' humane s'fficient to leave his hands an' feet ontied. Of course if he takes advantage of our leniency an' goes stampedin' off to make his escape some'ers along the trail, I reckons you'll shorely have to shoot. Thar's no pass-out then but down him, an' we sadly treads tharin. An',' goes on Enright, some thoughtful, if this yere Mexican, after we-alls is that patient an' liberal with him, abuses our confidences an' escapes, we leaves it a lone-hand play to you. My eyes is gettin' some old an' off, any way; an' besides, if we three takes to bangin' away simooltaneous, in the ardor of competition some of us might shoot the pony. So if this yere captive runs-which he looks tame, an' I don't expect none he will-we leaves the detainin' of him, Jack, to you entire."

"In spite of Enright's faith it shore turns out this Mexican is ornery enough, where the trail skirts the river, to wheel sudden an' go plungin' across. But Jack gets him in midstream. As he goes over the bronco's shoulder, hat first, he swings on the bridle long enough with his dyin' hand to turn the pony so it comes out ag'in on our side.

"Which I'm glad he lives s'fficient to head that hoss our way,' says jack. "It saves splashin' across after him an' wettin' your leggins a lot."

"It's that night in camp when jack brings up what Enright says about the time the Mexicans downs a pris'ner, an' tharby fixes his views of 'em.

"'It's a long trail back,' says Enright,' an' I don't like this yarn enough to find myse'f relatin' it to any excessive degrees. It draws the cinch some tight an' painful, an' I don't teach my mind to dwell on it no more'n is necessary.

"'This is all when I'm a boy; mebby I ain't twenty years yet. It's durin' the Mexican war. I gets a stack of white chips an' stands in on the deal in a boyish way. All I saveys of the war is it's ag'in the Mexicans, which, while I ain't got no feud with 'em personal at the time, makes it plenty satisfactory to me.

"'It's down off two days to the west of Chihuahua, an' seven of us is projectin' 'round seein' whatever can we tie down an' brand, when some Mexicans gets us out on a limb. It ain't a squar' deal; still I reckons it's squar' enough, too; only bein' what you-alls calls strategic, it's offensive an' sneakin' as a play.

"'This yere lieutenant who's leadin' us 'round permiscus, looks like he's some romantic about a young Mexican female, who's called the Princess of Casa Grande. Which the repoote of this yere Princess woman is bad, an' I strikes a story several times of how she's that incensed ag'in Americans she once saws off a thimbleful of loco on a captain in some whiskey he's allowin' to drink, an' he goes plumb crazy an' dies.

"'But loco or no loco, this yere Princess person is shore that good lookin' a pinto pony don't compare tharwith; an' when she gets her black eyes on our lieutenant,

that settles it; we rounds up at her hacienda an' goes into camp. "'Besides

the lieutenant thar's six of us. One of 'em's a shorthorn who matches me for age; which his name's Willis-Jim Willis. "'Now I ain't out

to make no descriptions of the friendship which goes on between this yere Willis an' me. I sees a show one time when I'm pesterin' 'round back in St. Looey-an' I'm yere to remark I don't go that far east

no more-which takes on about a couple of sports who's named Damon an' Pythias. Them two people's all right, an' game. An' they shore deems high of one another. But at the time I sees this yere Damon an'

Pythias, I says to myse'f, an' ever since I makes onhesitatin' assertion

tharof, that the brotherly views them two gents entertains ain't a

marker to Jim Willis an' me. "'This yere Jim I knows since we're yearlin's. We-alls jumps outen the corral together back in Tennessee, an' goes off into this Mexican war like twins. An' bein' two boys that a-way

among a band of men, I allows thar ain't nothin' before, nor then, nor after. which I loves like Jim. "'As I observes, Jim an' me's in


e outfit when this yere lieutenant comes trackin' 'round that Princess of Casa Grande; which her love for him is a bluff an' a deadfall; an' the same gets all of us before we're through. An' it gets my Jim Willis speshul. "Mebby it's the third mornin' after we- alls meanders into this nest of Mexicans, an' the lieutenant gets lined out for that Princess of Casa Grande. We ain't been turnin' out early nohow, thar bein' nothin'

to turn out about; but this third mornin' somebody arouses us a heap vigorous, like they aims to transact some business with us. Which they shorely does; it's an outfit of Greaser guerillas, an' we-alls ain't nothin' more or less than captives. "'The ornery an' ongrateful part is that the Princess sends one of her own peonies scoutin' 'round in the hills to bring in this band of cattle-eaters onto us. "'When the lieutenant hears of the perfidy of the Princess female, he's that mortified he gets a pistol the first jump he makes an' blows off the top of his head; which if he only blows off the top of hers it would have gone a heap further with the rest of us. If he'd consulted any of us, it would have shorely been advised. But he makes an impulsive play that

a-way; an' is that sore an' chagrined he jest grabs a gun in a frenzied way an' cashes his chips abrupt. "'No, as I states,' says Enright, musin' to himse'f, 'if the lieutenant had only downed that Princess who plays us in as pris'ners so smooth an' easy, it would have been

regarded. He could have gone caperin' over the brink after her with the bridle off the next second, an' we-alls would still talk well of him. "'As it is, however, this riotous female don't last two months. Which it's also a fact that takin' us that time must have been a heap

on. lucky for them Greasers. Thar's nine of 'em, an' every last man dies in the next five months; an' never a one, nor yet the Princess, knows what they're ag'inst when they quits; or what breeze blows their light out. I knows, because me an' a party whose name is Tate- -Bill Tate-never leaves them hills till the last of that outfit's got his heap of rocks piled up, with its little pine cross stickin' outen the peak tharof, showin' he's done jumped this earthly game for good. "'This Bill Tate an' me breaks camp on them Greasers together while they're tankin' up on mescal, mebby it's two days later; an' they never gets their lariats on us no more. "'"You ain't got no dates, nor speshul engagements with nobody in the States, have you?" says Tate to me when

we're safe outen them Mexican's hands. "'"No,"says I,"whatever makes you ask? "'"Oh, nothin',"says Tate lookin' at the sky sorter black an' ugly, "only since you-all has the leesure, what for a play would it be to make a long camp back in these hills by some water-hole some'ers,

an' stand pat ontil we downs these yere Greasers-squaws an' all- who's had us treed? It oughter be did; an' if we-ails don't do it none, it's a heap likely it's goin' to be neglected complete. It's easy as a play; every hoss-thief of 'em lives right in these yere valleys, for I hears 'em talk. All we has to do is sa'nter back in the hills, make a camp; an' by bein' slow an' shore, an' takin' time an' pains, we bushwhacks an' kills the last one." "'The way I feels about Willis makes the prospect

mighty allurin,' an' tharupon Tate an' me opens a game with them Mexicans it takes five months to deal. "'But it's plumb dealt out, an' we win. When Tate crosses the Rio Grande with the army goin' back, he shorely has the skelp of every Mexican incloosive of said Princess. "'But I wanders from Willis. Where was I at when I bogs down? As I says, this

lieutenant nabs a pistol an' goes flutterin' from his limb. But this don't do them Greasers. They puts up a claim that some Americans tracks up on one of their outfit an' kills him off, they says, five days before.

They allows that, breakin' even on the deal, one of us is due to die. Tate offers to let 'em count the lieutenant, but they shakes their heads till the little bells on their sombreros tinkles, an' declines the lieutenant emphatic. "'They p'ints out this yere lieutenant dies in his own game, on his own deal. It's no racket of theirs, an' it don't go to match the man they're shy. "`One of us six who's left has to die to count even for this Greaser who's been called in them five days ago. Tate can't move 'em; all he says is no use; so he quits,

an' as he's been talkin' Spanish-which the same is too muddy a language for the rest of us-Tate turns in an' tells us how the thing sizes up. "`"One of us is shorely elected to trail out after the lieutenant,"says Tate. "The rest they holds as pris'ners. Either way it's a hard, deep crossin', an' one's about as rough a toss as the other." "'This last

Tate stacks in to mebby win out a little comfort for the one the Mexicans cuts outen our bunch to kill. "`After a brief pow-wow the Greaser who's actin' range-boss for the outfit puts six beans in a buckskin bag. Five is white an' one's black. Them Greasers is on the gamble bigger'n wolves, an' they crowds up plenty gleeful to see us take a gambler's chance for our lives. The one of us who draws a black bean is to p'int out after the lieutenant. "`Sayin' somethin' in Spanish which most

likely means" Age before beauty,"the Mexicans makes Willis an' me stand back while the four others searches one after the other into the bag for his bean. "`Tate goes first an' wins a white bean. "`Then a shiftless, no-account party whom we-alls calls "Chicken Bill" reaches in. I shorely hopes, seein' it's bound to be somebody, that this Chicken Bill acquires the black bean. But luck's ag'in us; Chicken Bill backs off with a white bean. "`When the third gent turns out a white bean the shadow begins to fall across Jim Willis an' me. I looks at Jim; an' I gives it to you straight when I says that I ain't at that time thinkin' of myse'f so much as about Jim. To see this yere deal, black as midnight, closin' in on Jim, is what's hurtin'; it don't somehow occur to me I'm likewise up ag'in the iron my se'f. "`"Looks like this yere amiable deevice is out to run its brand onto one of us,"says Jim to me; an' I looks at him. "`An' then, as the fourth finds a white bean in the bag, an' draws a deep sigh an' stands back, Jim says: "Well, Sam, it's up to us." Then Jim looks at me keen an' steady a whole lot, an' the Mexicans, bein' rather pleased with the situation, ain't goadin' of us to hurry up none.

"`When it's to Jim an' me they selects me out as the one to pull for the next bean. Jim's still lookin' at me hard, an' I sees the water in his eye.'

"`"Let me have your draw, Sam," he says.

"`"Shore,"I replies, standin' a step off from the bag." It's yours too quick."

"` But the Mexicans don't see it that a-way. It's my turn an' my draw, an' Jim has to take what's left. So the Mexicans tells Tate to send me after my bean ag'in.

"`"Hold on a second, Sam," says Jim, an' by this time he's steady as a church. "Sam," he goes on, "thar's no use you-all gettin' the short end of this. Thar's reasons for you livin', which my case is void tharof. Now let me ask you: be you up on beans? Can you tell a black from a white bean by the feel? "

"`"No," I says, "beans is all a heap the same to me."

"'"That's what I allows," goes on this Jim. "Now yere's where my sooperior knowledge gets in. If these Mexicans had let me draw for you I'd fixed it, but it looks like they has scrooples. But listen, an' you beats the deal as it is. Thar's a difference in beans same as in ponies. Black beans is rough like a cactus compared to white beans, which said last vegetable is shorely as smooth as glass. Now yere's what you-all does; jest grp[e an' scout 'round in that bag until you picks out the smooth bean. That's your bean; that's the white bean. Cinch the smooth bean an' the black one comes to me."

"When Jim says all this it seems like I'm in a daze an' sorter woozy. I never doubts him for a moment. Of course I don't take no advantage of what he says. I recalls the advice my old mother gives me; it's long enough ago now. The old lady says: "Samyool, never let me hear of you weakenin'. Be a man, or a mouse, or a long-tail rat." So when Jim lays it off about them two beans bein' smooth an' rough that a-way, an' the white bein' the smooth bean, I nacherally searches out the rough bean, allowin' she'll shore be black; which shows my intellects can't cope with Jim's none.

"`The bean I brings to the surface is white. I'm pale as a ghost. My heart wilts like water inside of me, an' I feels white as the bean where it lays in my hand. Of course I'm some young them days, an' it don't need so much to stagger me. "`I recollects like it was in a vision hearin' Jim laugh. "Sam," he says, "I reads you like so much sunshine. An' I shorely fools you up a lot. Don't you reckon I allows you'll double on the trail, p'intin' south if I says 'north' at a show like this? The white bean is allers a rough, sandy bean; allers was an' allers will be; an' never let no one fool you that a- way ag'in. An' now, Sam, ADIOS."

"'I'm standin' lookin' at the white bean. I feels Jim grip my other hand as lie says "ADIOS," an' the next is the" bang! "of the Mexicans's guns. Jim's dead then; he's out in a second; never bats an eye nor wags a y'ear.

"'Which now,' says Enright at the end, as he yanks his saddle 'round so he makes a place for his head, 'which now that you-alls is fully informed why I appears averse to Greasers, I reckons I'll slumber some. I never does see one, I don't think of that boy, Jim Willis; an' I never thinks of Jim but I wants to murder a Mexican.'

"Enright don't say no more; sorter rolls up in his blankets, drops his head on his saddle, an' lays a long time quiet, like he's asleep. Jack Moore an' me ain't sayin' nothin'; merely settin' thar peerin' into the fire an' listenin' to the coyotes. At last Enright lifts his head off the saddle.

"'Mebby it's twenty years ago when a party over on the Rio Grande allows as how Jim's aimin' to cold-deck me when he onfolds about the habits of them beans. It takes seven months, a iron constitootion, an' three medicine-sharps-an' each as good as Doc Peets,-before that Rio Grande party is regarded as outen danger.'"

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