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Wolfville By Alfred Henry Lewis Characters: 17032

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03

"An' between us," remarked the Old Cattle man, the observation being relevant to the subject of our conversation on the occasion of one of our many confabs, "between you an' me, I ain't none shore about the merits of what you-all calls law an' order. Now a pains-takin' an' discreet vig'lance committee is my notion of a bulwark. Let any outfit take a bale of rope an' a week off, an' if their camp ain't weeded down to right principles an' a quiet life at the end tharof, then I've passed my days as vain as any coyote which ever yelps.

"Of course thar dawns a time when Wolfville has to come to it, same as others. They takes to diggin' for copper; an' they builds the Bird Cage Op'ry House, an' puts in improvements general. We even culminates in a paper, which Doc Peets assures us is the flower of our progress. Nacherally on the heels of all them outbursts we gives up our simple schemes, organizes, an' pulls off an 'lection. But as Old Man Enright is made alcalde tharby, with Jack Moore marshal, the jolt is not severe nor the change so full of notice.

"It's not long prior to these yere stampedes into a higher moonicipal life, however, when quite a b'ilin' of us is in the Red Light discussin' some sech future. Our rival, Red Dog, is allowin' it's goin' to have a mayor or somethin', an' we sorter feels like our hands is forced.

"'For myse'f,' says Old Man Enright, when the topic is circ'latin', with the whiskey followin' suit, an' each gent is airin' his idees an' paintin' his nose accordin' to his taste, 'for myse'f, I can see it comin'. Thar's to be law yere an' 'lections; an' while at first it's mighty likely both is goin' to turn out disturbin' elements, still I looks on their approach without fear. Wolfville is too strong, an' Wolfville intelligence is too well founded, to let any law loco it or set it to millin'.'

"'Still,' says Dan Boggs, 'I must remark I prefers a dooly authorized band of Stranglers. A vig'lance committee gets my game right along. They's more honest than any of these yere lawsharps who's 'lected to be a jedge; an' they's a heap more zealous, which last is important.'

"'Boggs is right,' replies Enright. 'It may not become me, who is head of the local body of that sort, to make boasts of the excellence of a vig'lance committee; but I ain't bluffin' on a four- flush when I challenges any gent to put his tongue to an event where a vig'lance committee stretches a party who ain't in need tharof; or which goes wastin' its lariats on the desert air. I puts it to you- alls without heat or pride, gents; Jedge Lynch is right every time.'

"'Put me down,' says Doc Peets, at the same time makin' signs for the barkeep to remember his mission on earth, 'put me down as coincidin' in them sentiments. An' I says further, that any party who's lookin' for the place where the bad man is scarce, an' a law- abidin' gent has the fullest liberty, pegged out to the shorest safetytood, let him locate where he finds the most lynchin's, an' where a vig'lance committee is steadily engaged discriminatin' 'round through the community.

Which a camp thus provided is a model of heavenly peace.'

"'You can gamble, if anybody's plumb aware of these yore trooths, it's me,' says Texas Thompson.

'When I'm down in the South Paloduro country, workin' a passel of Bar-K-7 cattle, I aids in an effort to 'lect a jedge an' institoot reg'lar shore-'nough law; an' the same comes mighty near leavin' the entire hamlet a howlin' waste. It deciminates a heap of our best citizens.

"'This yere misguided bluff comes to pass peculiar; an' I allers allows if it ain't for the onforeseen way wherein things stacks up, an' the muddle we-alls gets into tryin' to find a trail, the Plaza Paloduro would have been a scene of bleatin' peace that day, instead of a stric'ly corpse-an'-cartridge occasion. The death rate rises to that degree in fact that the next roundup is shy on men; an' thar ain't enough cartridges in camp, when the smoke blows away, to be seed for a second crop. On the squar', gents, that 'lection day on the South Paloduro was what you-alls might term a massacre, an' get it right every time.'

"'Well, what of this yere toomultuous 'lection?' demands Dave Tutt, who gets impatient while Texas refreshes himse'f in his glass. 'You- all reminds me a mighty sight, Texas, of the Tucson preacher who pulls his freight the other day. They puts it to him, the Tucson folks do, that he talks an' he talks, but he don't p'int out; an' he argufies an' he argufies, but he never shows wherein. A party who's goin' to make a pulpit-play, or shine in Arizona as a racontoor, has done got to cult'vate a direct, incisive style.'

"'That's all c'rect,' remarks Texas, some savage, as he recovers his nose outen his glass; 'never you fret me none about my style not bein' incisive. Thar be other plays where any gent who comes puttin' it all over me with roode an' intemp'rate remarks will find me plenty incisive; not to say some soon:

"'Yere!' interrupts Enright, quick an' sharp. 'This is plumb outside the line. Texas ain't got no call to wake up so malignant over what's most likely nothin' worse than humor on Tutt's part; an', Tutt, it ain't up to you none neither, to go spurrin' Texas in the shoulder in the midst of what I'm yere to maintain is a mighty thrillin' narration.'

"'Texas is good people,' says Dave, 'an' the last gent with which I thirsts to dig up the war-axe. Which I'm proud to be his friend; an' I means no offense when I su'gests that he whirl a smaller loop when he onbosoms himse'f of a tale. I yere tenders Texas my hand, assurin' of him that I means my language an' ain't holdin' out nothin'. Shake!' An' at this Dave reaches his pistol-hand to Texas Thompson, an' the same is seized prompt an' friendly.

"`This yere is my fault,' says Texas. 'I reckons now my wife recoverin' that Laredo divorce I'm mentionin' to you-alls, sorter leaves me a heap petulant, that a-way. But to go back to this war- jig I was relatin' about down at Plaza Paloduro.

"'It's this a-way: No, Nellie; thar's no female in it. This yere grows from a business transaction; an' the effort tharfrom to improve on present conditions, institoot a reign of law, an' lect a jedge.

"'Which the comin' of a miscreant named Cimmaron Pete, from some'ers over near the 'Doby Walls, is the beginnin' of the deal. This Cimmaron Pete comes trailin' in one day; an' a shorthorn called Glidden, who runs a store at the ford, comes ropin' at Cimmaron Pete to race ponies. "'"What for stakes do you-all aim to race for?" demands this Cimmaron Pete.

"'"I'll run you for hoss an' saddle," says Glidden.

"'"Say hoss ag'in hoss," says Cimmaron Pete, "an' I'm liable to go you. Saddles is hard to get, an' I won't resk mine. Ponies, however, is easy. I can get 'em every moonlight night."

"'When them sports is racin',-which the run is to be a quarter of a mile, only they never finishes,-jest as Cimmaron begins to pull ahead, his pony bein' a shade suddener than Glidden's, whatever does the latter do but rope this Cimmaron Pete's pony by the feet an' down him.

"'It's shore fine work with a lariat, but it comes high for Glidden. For, as he stampedes by, this Cimmaron turns loose his six-shooter from where he's tangled up with his bronco on the ground; an' as the first bullet gets Glidden in the back of his head, his light goes out like a candle.

"'When the committee looks into the play they jestifies this Cimmaron. "While on the surface," they says, "the deal seems a little florid; still, when a gent armed with nothin' but a cold sense of jestice comes to pirootin' plumb through the affair with a lantern, he's due to emerge a lot with the conviction that Glidden's wrong." So Cimmaron is free in a minute.

"'But thar's Glidden's store! Thar's nobody to claim it; thar bein' no fam'ly to Glidden nohow; not even a hired man.

"'"Which, as it seems to be a case open to doubt," observes this yere Cimmaron, "I nacherally takes this Glidden party's store an' deals his game myse'f."

"'It ain't much of a store; an' bein' as the rest of us is havin' all we-alls can ride herd on for ourse'fs, no gent makes objections, an' Cimmaron turns himse'f loose in Glidden's store, an' begins to sell things a whole lot. He's shorely doin' well, I reckons, when mebby it's a week later he comes chargin' over to a passel of us an' allows he wants the committee to settle some trouble which has cut his trail.

"'"It's about the deb

ts of this yere Glidden, deceased," says Cimmaron. "I succeeds to the business of course; which it's little enough for departed ropin' my pony that time. But you-alls can gamble I ain't goin' 'way back on this yere dead person's trail, an' settle all his gray an' hoary indebtnesses. Would it be right, gents? I puts it to you-alls on the squar'; do I immerse myse'f, I'd like for to be told, in deceased's liabilities merely for resentin' of his wrongs ag'in me with my gun? If a gent can go blindly shootin' himse'f into bankruptcy that a-way, the American gov'ment is a rank loser, an' the State of Texas is plumb played out."

When we-alls proceeds to ferret into this yere myst'ry, we finds thar's a sharp come up from Dallas who claims that Cimmaron's got to pay him what Glidden owes. This yere Dallas party puts said indebtednesses at five stacks of blues.

"'An' this yere longhorn's got 'em to make good, "says the Dallas sharp, p'intin' at Cimmaron, "'cause he inherits the store."

"'Now, whatever do you-alls think of that?" says Cimmaron, appealin' to us. "Yere I've told this perverse sport that Glidden's done cashed in an' quit; an' now he lays for me with them indebtednesses. It shorely wearies me."

"'It don't take the vig'lance committee no time to agree it ain't got nothin' to say in the case.

"'" It's only on killin's, an' hoss-rustlin's, an' sim'lar breaks." explains Old Monroe, who's chief of the Paloduro Stranglers, "where we-alls gets kyards. We ain't in on what's a mere open-an'-shet case of debt."

"'But this Dallas sharp stays right with Cimmaron. He gives it out cold he's goin' to c'lect. He puts it up he'll shore sue Cimmaron a lot.

"'You-alls don't mean to say thar ain't no jedge yere?" remarks the Dallas sharp, when Old Monroe explains we ain't organized none for sech games as law cases. "Well, this yere Plaza Paloduro is for certain the locodest camp of which I ever cuts the trail! You-alls better get a hustle on right now an' 'lect a jedge. If I goes back to Dallas an' tells this story of how you-alls ain't got no jedge nor no law yere, they won't let this Plaza Paloduro get close enough to 'em in business to hand 'em a ripe peach. If thar's enough sense in this camp to make bakin'-powder biscuit, you-alls will have a jedge 'lected ready for me to have law cases with by second-drink time to-morrow mornin'."

"'After hangin' up this bluff the Dallas sharp, puttin' on a heap of hawtoor an' dog, walks over to the tavern ag'in, an' leaves us to size up the play at our lcesure.

"'What this obdurate party from Dallas says," finally remarks Old Monroe, "is not with. out what the Comanches calls tum-tum. Thar's savey an' jestice in them observations. It's my idee, that thar bein' no jedge yere, that a-way, to make a money round-up for a gent when his debtor don't make good, is mighty likely a palin' offen our fence. I shorely thinks we better rectify them omissions an' 'lect a jedge at once."

"'Which I'm opposed to these proceedin's," interrupts Cimmaron. "I'm plumb adverse to co'ts. Them law-wolves gets into 'em, an' when they can't find no gate to come at you, they ups an' pushes down a panel of fence, an' lays for you, cross-lots. I'm dead ag'in these proceedin's."

"'See yere," says Old Monroe, turnin' on this Cimmaron," you-all is becomin' too apparent in this camp; what I might describe as a heap too obvious. Now if you gets your stack in ag'in when it ain't your turn; or picks up anybody's hand but your own, I'll find a short way of knockin' your horns off. You don't seem gifted enough to realize that you're lucky to be alive right now."

"'Bar Cimmaron, who lapses into silence after Old Monroe gives him notice, the entire camp lines up fav'rable on the idee to 'lect a jedge. They sends over to the corral an' gets a nose-bag for to deposit the votes; an' it's decided that Old Monroe an' a Cross-Z party named Randall has got to do the runnin'. Randall is plenty p'lite, an' allows he don't want to be jedge none nohow, an' says, give it to Old Monroe; but the latter gent, who is organizin' the play, insists that it wouldn't be legal.

"'"Thar's got to be two gents to do the runnin'," so Old Monroe says, "or it don't go. The 'lection ain't legal that a-way onless thar's two candidates."

"'They puts Bronco Charlie an' a sport named Ormsby in to be 'lection supervisors. They was to hold the nose-bag; an' as votes is dropped in, they's to count 'em out accordin' to Hoyle, so we-alls can tell where the play's headin'. Bronco Charlie is jedge for Randall, an' Ormsby fronts up all sim'lar for Old Monroe. The 'lection we-alls decides to hold in the Lone Star Saloon, so's to be conducted with comfort.

"'"Make your game, now, gents," says Old Monroe, when everythin' is shorely ready. "Get in your votes. These yere polls is open for one hour."

"'"One for Randall," says Bronco Charlie as Old Monroe votes.

"'"An' one for Old Monroe," remarks Ormsby when Randall votes next.

"'This gives the deal tone to have Randall an' Old Monroe p'int out by votin' for each other that a-way, and thar ain't one of us who don't feel more respectable by it.

"'It's the opinion of level-headed gents even yet, that the Plaza Paloduro could have pulled off this 'lection an' got plumb away, an' never had no friction, if it ain't for a Greaser from San Antonio who tries to ring in on us. Thar's twenty-one of us has voted, an' it stands nine for Randall an' twelve for Old Monroe; when up lopes this yere Mexican an' allows he's locoed to vote. "'Who do you-all think you're goin' to vote for?" asks Ormsby.

"'"Senior Monroe," says the Mexican, p'intin' at Old Monroe.

"'Stop this deal," yells Bronco Charlie, "'I challenges that vote.

Mexicans is barred."

"'Which Mexicans is not barred," replies Ormsby. "An' the vote of this yere enlightened maverick from south of the Rio Grande goes. Thirteen for Old Monroe."

"'Twelve for Old Monroe," remonstrates Bronco Charlie, feelin' for his gun.

"'Thirteen for Old Monroe," retorts Ormsby, as his Colt's comes into action an' he busts Bronco's arm at the elbow.

"'As his obstinacy has destroyed the further efficiency of my colleague," goes on Ormsby, as he shakes down the ballots in the nose-bag, "I'll now conduct these yere polls alone. Gents who haven't voted will please come a-runnin'. As I states a moment ago, she stands thirteen for Old Monroe."

"'An' I says she's twelve for Old Monroe," shouts Red River Tom, crowdin' for'ard. "'You-all can't ring in Mexicans an' snake no play on us. This yere 'lection's goin' to be on the squar', or it's goin' to come off in the smoke."

"'With this, Red River, who's been sorter domineerin' at Ormsby with his six-shooter while he's freein' his mind, slams her loose. Red River over-shoots, an' Ormsby downs him with a bullet in his laig.

"'Thirteen for Old Monroe," says Ormsby.

"'But that's where the 'lection ends. Followin' the subsidence of

Red River Tom, the air is as full of lead as a bag of bullets.

Through the smoke, an' the flashes, an' the noise, you can hear

Ormsby whoopin'

"'Thirteen for Old Monroe."

"'You can gamble Ormsby's as squar' a 'lection jedge as any gent could ask. You gets a play for your money with Ormsby; but he dies the next day, so he never is 'lection jedge no more. Five gents gets downed, an' a whole corralfull is hurt. I, myse'f, reaps some lead in the shoulder; an' even at that I never goes nearer than the suburbs of the fight.

"'No; Cimmaron Pete claws off all sound, an' no new holes in him. But as the Dallas party, who comes caperin' over with the first shot, is layin' at the windup outside the Lone Star door, plumb defunct, thar's an end to the root of the disorder.

"'The 'lection itse'f is looked on as a draw. Old Monroe allows that, all things considered, he don't regard himse'f as 'lected none; and Randall, who a doctor is feelin' 'round in for a bullet at the time, sends over word that he indorses Old Monroe's p'sition; an' that as long as the Dallas sharp hits the trail after Glidden, an' is tharby able to look after his debts himse'f, he, Randall, holds it's no use disturbin' of a returned sereenity, an' to let everythin' go as it lays.

"'An' that,' concloods Texas Thompson, as he reaches for his licker, 'is what comes of an effort at law an' order in Plaza Paloduro. I ain't over-statin' it, gents, when I says, that that 'lection leaves me plumb gun-shy for over a year.'"

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