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   Chapter 9 CHEROKEE HALL.

Wolfville By Alfred Henry Lewis Characters: 12002

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03


"An' you can't schedoole too much good about him," remarked the Old Cattleman. Here he threw away the remnant of the principe, and, securing his pipe, beat the ashes there-out and carefully reloaded with cut plug. Inevitably the old gentleman must smoke. His tone and air as he made the remark quoted were those of a man whose convictions touching the one discussed were not to be shaken. "No, sir," he continued; "when I looks back'ard down the trail of life, if thar's one gent who aforetime holds forth in Wolfville on whom I reflects with satisfaction, it's this yere Cherokee Hall."

"To judge from his conduct," I said, "in the hard case of the Wilkins girl, as well as his remark as she left on the stage, I should hold him to be a person of sensibilities as well as benevolent impulse."

It was my purpose to coax the old gentleman to further reminiscence.

"Benev'lent!" retorted the old man. "Which I should shore admit it! What he does for this yere young Wilkins female ain't a marker. Thar's the Red Dog man he lets out. Thar's the Stingin' Lizard's nephy; he stakes said yooth from infancy. 'Benev'lent!' says you. This party Cherokee is that benev'lent he'd give away a poker hand. I've done set an' see him give away his hand in a jack-pot for two hundred dollars to some gent 'cross the table who's organizin' to go ag'in him an' can't afford to lose. An' you can onderscore it; a winnin' poker hand, an' him holdin' it, is the last thing a thoroughbred kyard-sharp'll give away. But as I says, I sees this Cherokee do it when the opp'sition is settin' in hard luck an' couldn't stand to lose.

"How would he give his hand away? Throw it in the diskyard an' not play it none; jest nacherally let the gent who's needy that a-way rake in the chips on the low hand. Cherokee mebby does it this fashion so's he don't wound the feelin's of this yere victim of his gen'rosity. Thar's folks who turns sens'tive an' ain't out to take alms none, who's feelin's he spar's that a-way by losin' to 'em at poker what they declines with scorn direct. "'Benev'lent,' is the way you puts it! Son, 'benev'lent' ain't the word. This sport Cherokee Hall ain't nothin' short of char'table.

"Speakin' wide flung an' onrestrained, Cherokee, as I mentions to you before, is the modestest, decentest longhorn as ever shakes his antlers in Arizona. He is slim an' light, an' a ondoubted kyard- sharp from his moccasins up. An' I never knows him to have a peso he don't gamble for. Nothin' common, though; I sees him one night when he sets ca'mly into some four-handed poker, five thousand dollars table stake, an' he's sanguine an' hopeful about landin' on his feet as a Cimmaron sheep. Of course times is plenty flush in them days, an' five thousand don't seem no sech mammoth sum. Trade is eager an' values high; aces-up frequent callin' for five hundred dollars before the draw. Still we ain't none of us makin' cigarettes of no sech roll as five thousand. The days ain't quite so halcyon as all that neither.

"But what I likes speshul in Cherokee Hall is his jedgement. He's every time right. He ain't talkin' much, an' he ain't needin' advice neither, more'n a steer needs a saddle-blanket. But when he concloodes to do things, you can gamble he's got it plenty right.

"One time this Cherokee an' Texas Thompson is comin' in from Tucson on the stage. Besides Cherokee an' Texas, along comes a female, close-herdin' of two young-ones; which them infants might have been t'rant'lers an' every one a heap happier. Sorter as range-boss of the whole out. fit is a lean gent in a black coat. Well, they hops in, an' Cherokee gives 'em the two back seats on account of the female an' the yearlin's.

"'My name is Jones,' says the gent in the black coat, when he gets settled back an' the stage is goin', I an' I'm an exhortin' evangelist. I plucks brands from the burnin'.'

"'I'm powerful glad to know it,' says Texas, who likes talk. 'Them games of chance which has vogue in this yere clime is some various, an' I did think I shorely tests 'em all; but if ever the device you names is open in Wolfville I overlooks the same complete.'

"'Pore, sinkin' soul!' says the black-coat gent to the female; 'he's a-flounderin' in the mire of sin. Don't you know,' he goes on to Texas, 'my perishin' friend, you are bein' swept downward in the river of your own sinful life till your soul will be drowned in the abyss?"

"'Well, no,' says Texas, 'I don't. I allows I'm makin' a mighty dry ford of it.'

"'Lost! lost! lost!' says the black-coat gent, a-leanin' back like he's plumb dejected that a-way an' hopeless. 'It is a stiff-necked gen'ration an' sorely perverse a lot.'

"The stage jolts along two or three miles, an' nothin' more bein' said. The black-coat gent he groans occasionally, which worries Texas; an' the two infants, gettin' restless, comes tumblin' over onto Cherokee an' is searchin' of his pockets for mementoes. Which this is about as refreshin' to Cherokee as bein' burned at the stake. But the mother she leans back an' smiles, an' of course he's plumb he'pless. Finally the black. coat gent p'ints in for another talk.

"'What is your name, my pore worm?' says the black-coat gent, addressin' of Texas; 'an' whatever avocation has you an' your lost companion?'

"I Why,' says Texas, 'this yere's Hall-Cherokee Hall. He turns faro in the Red Light; an',' continues Texas, a-lowerin' of his voice, 'he's as squar' a gent as ever counted a deck. Actooally, pard, you might not think it, but all that gent knows about settin' up kyards, or dealin' double, or anv sech sinful scheme, is mere tradition.' "'Brother,' says the female, bristlin' up an' tacklin' the black- coat gent, 'don't talk to them persons no more. Them's gamblers, an' mighty awful men;' an' with that she snatches away the yearlin's like they's contam'nated.

'This is relief to Cherokee, but the young-ones howls like coyotes, an' wants to come back an' finish pillagin' him. But the mother

she spanks 'em, an' when Texas is goin' to give 'em some cartridges outen his belt to amoose 'em, she sasses him scand'lous, an' allows she ain't needin' no attentions from him. Then she snorts at Texas an' Cherokee contemptuous. The young-ones keeps on yellin' in a mighty onmelodious way, an' while Cherokee is ca'm an' don't seem like he minds it much, Texas gets some nervous. At last Texas lugs out a bottle, aimin' to compose his feelins', which they's some harrowed by now.

"`Well, I never!' shouts the woman; 'I shorely sees inebriates ere now, but at least they has the decency not to pull a bottle that a- way

before a lady.' "This stampedes Texas complete, an' he throws the whiskey

outen the stage an' don't get no drink. "It's along late in the mornin' when the stage strikes the upper end of Apache Canyon. This yere canyon

is lately reckoned some bad. Nothin' ever happens on the line, but

them is the days when Cochise is cavortin' 'round plenty loose, an' it's mighty possible to stir up Apaches any time a-layin' in the hills

along the trail to Tucson. If they ever gets a notion to stand up the stage, they's shore due to be in this canyon; wherefore Cherokee an' Texas an' Old Monte who's drivin' regards it s'picious. "'Send 'em through on the jump, Monte,' says Cherokee, stickin' out his head. "The six hosses lines out at a ten-mile gait, which rattles things, an' makes the black-coat gent sigh, while the young-ones pours forth some appallin' shrieks. The female gets speshul mad at this, allowin'

they's playin' it low down on her fam'ly. But she takes it out in cuffin' the yearlin's now an' then, jest to keep 'em yellin', an' don't say nothin'. "Which the stage is about half through the canyon, when up on both sides a select assortment of Winchesters begins to bang an' jump permiscus; the same goin' hand-in-hand with whoops of onusual merit. With the first shot Old Monte pours the leather into the team, an' them hosses surges into the collars like cyclones. "It's lucky aborigines ain't no shots. They never yet gets the phelosophy of a

hind sight none, an' generally you can't reach their bullets with a ten-foot pole, they's that high above your head. The only thing as

gets hit this time is Texas. About the beginnin', a little cloud of dust flies outen the shoulder of his coat, his face turns pale, an' Cherokee knows he's creased. "'Did they get you, Old Man?' says Cherokee, some anxious. "'No,' says Texas, tryin' to brace himse'f. 'I'll be

on velvet ag'in in a second. I now longs, however, for that whiskey I hurls overboard so graceful.' "The Apaches comes tumblin' down onto the trail an' gives chase, a-shootin' an' a-yellin' a heap zealous. As they's on foot, an' as Old Monte is makin' fifteen miles an hour by now, they merely manages to hold their own in the race, about forty yards to the r'ar.

"This don't go on long when Cherokee, after thinkin', says to Texas, 'This yere is the way I figgers it, If we-alls keeps on, them Injuns is that fervent they runs in on us at the ford. With half luck they's due to down either a hoss or Monte-mebby both; in which event the stage shorely stops, an' it's a fight. This bein' troo, an' as I'm 'lected for war anyhow, I'm goin' to caper out right yere, an' pull on the baile myse'f. This'll stop the chase, an' between us, pard, it's about the last chance in the box this pore female an' her offsprings has. An' I plays it for 'em, win or lose.'

"'Them's my motives; says Texas, tryin' to pull himse'f together. 'Shall we take this he-shorthorn along?' An' he p'ints where them four tenderfoots is mixed up together in the back of the stage.

"'He wouldn't be worth a white chip,' says Cherokee, 'an' you-all is too hard hit to go, Texas, yourse'f. So take my regards to Enright an' the boys, an' smooth this all you know for Faro Nell. I makes the trip alone.'

"'Not much,' says Texas. 'My stack goes to the center, too.'

"But it don't, though, 'cause Texas has bled more'n he thinks. The first move he makes he tips over in a faint.

"Cherokee picks up his Winchester, an', openin' the door of the stage, jumps plumb free, an' they leaves him thar on the trail.

"'It's mebby an hour later when the stage comes into Wolfville on the lope. Texas is still in a fog, speakin' mental, an' about bled to death; while them exhortin' people is outen their minds entire.

"In no time thar's a dozen of us lined out for Cherokee. Do we locate him? Which I should say we shorely discovers him. Thar's a bullet through his laig, an' thar he is with his back ag'in a rock wall, his Winchester to the front, his eyes glitterin', a-holdin' the canyon. Thar never is no Injun gets by him. Of course they stampedes prompt when they hears us a-comin', so we don't get no fight.

"'I hopes you nails one, Cherokee,' says Enright; 'playin' even on this yere laig they shoots.'

"'I win once, I reckons', says Cherokee, 'over behind that big rock to the left.'

"'Shore enough he's got one Injun spread out; an', comin' along a little, Jack Moore turns up a second.

"'Yere's another,' says Jack, 'which breaks even on the bullet in

Texas.'

"'That's right,' says Cherokee, 'I remembers now than is two. The kyards is comin' some Tast, an' I overlooks a bet.'

"We-alls gets Cherokee in all right, an' next day 'round comes the female tenderfoot to see him.

"'I wants to thank my defender,' she says.

"'You ain't onder no obligations, whatever, ma'am', says Cherokee, risin' up a little, while Faro Nell puts another goose-h'ar piller onder him. 'I simply prefers to do my fightin' in the canyon to doin' it at the ford; that's all. It's only a matter of straight business; nothin' more'n a preference I has. Another thing, ma'am; you-all forgives it, seein' I'm a gent onused to childish ways: but when I makes the play you names, I simply seizes on them savages that a-way as an excuse to get loose from them blessed children of your'n a whole lot.'"

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