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Wolfville By Alfred Henry Lewis Characters: 12892

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03

"Does Jack Moore have sand? Son, is this yere query meant for humor by you? Which for mere sand the Mohave desert is a fool to Jack."

The Old Cattleman's face was full of an earnest, fine sincerity. It was plain, too, that my question nettled the old fellow a bit; as might a doubt cast at an idol. But the sharpness had passed from his tone when he resumed

"Not only is Jack long on sand that a-way, but he's plumb loaded with what you-alls calls 'nitiative. Leastwise that's what one of these yere fernologists allows, who straggles into camp an' goes to thumbin' our bumps one day.

"'Which this young person,' says the bumpsharp, while his fingers is caperin' about on Jack's head, I is remarkable for his 'nitiative. He's the sort of gent who builds his fire before he gets his wood; an' issues more invites to drink than he receives. Which his weakness, speakin' general, is he overplays.'

"Which this yere bump party might have gone wrong in his wagers a heap of times; but he shorely calls the turn on Jack when he says he's some strong on 'nitiative.

"An' it's this yere proneness for the prematoor, an' nacheral willin'ness to open any pot that a-way, that makes Jack sech a slam- up offishul. Bein' full of 'nitiative, like this fernologist states, Jack don't idle along ontil somethin's happened. Not much; he abates it in the bud.

"Once when most of the outfit's over in Tucson, an' Jack is sorter holdin' down the camp alone, a band of rustlers comes trackin' in, allowin' they'll run Wolfville some. Which, that's where Jack's 'nitiative shows up big. He goes after 'em readily, like they's antelope. Them hold-ups is a long majority over Jack, an' heeled; but that Jack stands thar-right up ag'in the iron-an' he tells 'em what he thinks an' why he thinks it for; makes his minority report onto 'em all free, like he outnumbers 'em two to one; an' winds up by backin' the game with his gun in a way that commands confidence.

"'You-alls hears my remarks,' he says at the close, briefly flashin' his six-shooters on the outfit; 'thar ain't no band of bad men in Arizona can tree this town an' me informed. Now go slow, or I'll jest stretch a few of you for luck. It's sech consoomin' toil, a- diggin' of sepulchers in this yere rock-ribbed landscape, or I'd do it anyhow.'

"An' tharupon them rustlers, notin' Jack's got the drop on 'em, kicks up a dense cloud of dust an is seen no more.

"But bein' replete with sand an' 'nitiative, that a-way, don't state all thar is good of Jack. Let any pore, he'pless party cut Jack's trail, an' he's plumb tender. On sech times Jack's a dove; leastwise he's a dove a whole lot.

"One hot afternoon, Enright an' Doc Peets is away about some cattle I reckons. Which the rest of us is noomerous enough; an' we're sorter revolvin' 'round the post-office, a-waitin' for Old Monte an' the stage. Yere she comes, final, a-rattlin' an' a-creakin'; that old drunkard Monte a-poppin' of his whip, the six hosses on the canter, an' the whole sheebang puttin' on more dog than a Mexican officer of revenoo. When the stage draws up, Old Monte throws off the mailbags an' the Wells-Fargo box, an' gets down an' opens the door. But nobody emerges out.

"'Well, I'm a coyote! ' says Monte, a heap disgusted, `wherever is the female?'

"Then we-alls peers into the stage an' thar's only a baby, with mebby a ten-months' start down this vale of tears, inside; an' no mother nor nothin' along. Jack Moore, jest as I says when I begins, reaches in an' gets him. The baby ain't sayin' nothin', an' sorter takes it out in smilin' on Jack; which last pleases him excessive.

"'He knows me for a hundred dollars!' says Jack. 'I'm an Apache if he ain't allowin' he knows me! Wherever did you get him, Monte?'

"'Give me a drink,' says Monte, p'intin' along into the Red Light.

'This yere makes me sick.'

"After Old Monte gets about four fingers of carnation onder his belt, he turns in an' explains as how the mother starts along in the stage all right enough from Tucson. The last time he sees her, so he puts it up, is at the last station back some twenty miles in the hills; an' he s'poses all the time later, she's inside ridin' herd on her progeny, ontil now.

"'I don't reckon,' says Old Monte, lookin' gloomy-like at the infant, 'that lady is aimin' to saw this yore young-one onto the stage company none?'

"'Don't upset your whiskey frettin' about the company,' says Jack, a-plantin' of the infant on the bar, while we-alls crowds in for a look at him. `The camp'll play this hand; an' the company ain't goin' to be in it a little bit.'

"'I wish Enright an' Peets was yere,' says Cherokee Hall, 'to be heard hereon; which I shore deems this a grave occasion. Yere we- alls finds ourse'fs possessed of an onexpected child of tender years; an' the question nacheral enough is, whatever'll we do with it?'

"'Let's maverick it,' says Dan Boggs, who's a mighty good man, but onthinkful that a-way.

"'No,' says Cherokee; 'its mother'll come hoppin' along to-morrow, a-yellin'. This yere sot Monte has jest done drove off an' left her some'ers up the trail; she'll come romancin' along in time.'

"'Meanwhile,' says Jack, 'the infant's got to be took care of, to which dooty I volunteers. Thar's a tenderfoot a-sleepin' in the room back of the dance-hall, an' he's that 'feminate an' effeet, he's got a shore-'nough bed an' some goose-ha'r pillers; which the same I do yereby confiscate to public use to take care of this yearlin'. Is the sentiment pleasin'?'

"'Jack's scheme is right,' says Boggs; 'an' I'm present to announce he's allers right. Let the shorthorn go sleep onder a mesquite-bush; it'll do him good a whole lot.'

"'I'm some doobersome of this play,' says Cherokee. 'Small infants is mighty myster'ous people, an' no livin' gent is ever onto their game an' able to foresee their needs. Do you-all reckon now you can take care of this yere young-one, Jack? Be you equal to it?'

"'Take care of a small baby like this' says Jack, plenty scornful; 'which the same ain't weighin' twenty pounds? Well, it'll be some funny if I can't. I could break even with him if he's four times as big. All I asks is for you-alls to stand by in crisises an' back the play; an', that settled, you can go make side bets we-alls comes out winners on the deal.'

'I ain't absolootly shore,' says Dave Tutt, 'bein' some shy of practice with infants myse'f, b

ut jedgin' by his lookin' smooth an' silky, I offers fifty dollars even he ain't weaned none yet.'

"'I won't bet none on his bein' weaned complete; says Jack, 'but

I'll hang up fifty he drinks outen a bottle as easy as Old Monte!

"'I'll go you once,' says Tutt; 'it's fifty dollars even he grows contemptuous at a bottle, an' disdains it.'

"Which we-alls talks it over an' decides that Jack's to nurse said infant; after which a passel of us proceed's to make a procession for the tenderfoot's bed, which he shorely resigns without a struggle. We packs it back to Jack; an' Cherokee Hall an' Boggs then goes over to the corral an' lays for a goat to milk her. This yere goat is mighty reluctant, an' refuses to enter into the sperit of the thing; but they swings an' rastles with her, makes their p'int right along, an' after a frightful time comes back with'most a dipper-full.

"'That's all right,' says Jack, who's done camped in a room back of the Red Light, 'now hop out an' tell the barkeep to give you a pint bottle. We-alls has this yere game payin' div'dends in two minutes.'

"Jack gets his bottle an' fills her up with goat's milk; an' makes a stopper outen cotton cloth an' molasses for the infant to draw it through. Which it's about this time the infant puts up a yell, an' refuses peace ag'in till Jack gives him his six-shooter to play with.

"'Which shows my confidence in him,' says Jack. 'Thar's only a few folks left I'll pass my gun to.'

"Jack gets along with him first-rate, a-feedin' of him the goat's milk, which he goes for with avidity; tharby nettin' Jack that fifty from Dave Tutt. Boggs builds a fire so Jack keeps the milk warm. Jack turns loose that earnest he don't even go for no grub; jest nacherally has 'em pack it to him.

"'We-alls'll have to stand night gyards on this yere foundlin' to- night, I reckons?" asks Boggs of Jack, when he's bringin' Jack things.

"'I s'pose most likely we'll have to make a play that a-way,' says


"'All right,' says Boggs, tappin' his shirt with his pistol-finger; 'you-all knows me an' Cherokee. We're in on this yere any time you says.'

"So a band of us sorter camps along with Jack an' the infant ontil mebby it's second-drink time at night. The infant don't raise the war-yell once; jest takes it out in goat's milk; an' in laughin', an' playin' with Jack's gun.

"'Excuse me, gents,' finally says Jack, mighty dignified, 'but I've been figgerin' this thing, an' I allows it's time to bed this yere young-one down for the night. If you-alls will withdraw some, I'll see how near I comes to makin' runnin' of it. Stay within whoopin' distance, though; so if he tries to stampede or takes to millin' I can get he'p.'

"We-alls lines out an' leaves Jack an' the infant, an' turns in on faro an' poker an' sim'lar devices which is bein' waged in the Red Light. Mebby it's an hour when Jack comes in.

"'Boggs,' he says; 's'pose you-all sets in an' plays my hand a minute with that infant child, while I goes over an' adjourns them frivolities in the dance-hall. It looks like this yere camp is speshul toomultuous to-night.'

"Boggs goes in with the infant, an' Jack proceeds to the baile house an' states the case.

"'I don't want to onsettle the reg'lar programme,' says Jack, 'but this yere young-one I'm responsible for, gets that engaged in the sounds of these yere revels, it don't look like he's goin' to sleep none. So if you-alls will call the last waltz, an' wind her up for to-night, it'll shorely be a he'p. The kid's mother'll be yere by sun-up; which her advent that a-way alters the play all 'round, an' matters then goes back to old lines.'

"'Enough said,' says Jim Hamilton, who runs the dance-hall. 'You can gamble this temple of mirth ain't layin' down on what's right, an' tonight's shindig closes right yere. All promenade to the bar. We takes a drink on the house, quits, an' calls it a day.'

"Then Jack comes back, a heap grave with his cares, an' relieves

Boggs; who's on watch, straddled of a chair, a-eyein' of the infant,

who, a-settin' up ag'in a goose-ha'r piller, is likewise a-eyein' of


"'He's a 'way up good infant, Jack,' says Boggs, givin' up his seat.

"'You can bet your life he's a good infant,' says Jack; 'but it shore looks like he don't aim to turn in an' slumber none. Mebby the goat's milk is too invigeratin' for 'him, an' keeps him awake that a-way.'

"About another hour goes by, an' out comes Jack into the Red Light ag'in.

"'I ain't aimin' to disturb you-alls none,' he says, 'but, gents, if you-alls could close these games yere, an' shet up the store, I'll take it as a personal favor. He can hear the click of the chips, an' it's too many for him. Don't go away; jest close up an' sorter camp 'round quiet.'

"Which we-alls does as Jack says; closes the games, an' then sets 'round in our chairs an' keeps quiet, a-waitin' for the infant to turn in. A half-hour later Jack appears ag'in.

"'It ain't no use, gents,' he says, goin' back of the bar an' gettin' a big drink; 'that child is onto us. He won't have it. You can gamble, he's fixed it up with himse'f that he ain't goin' to sleep none to-night. I allows it's 'cause he's among rank strangers, an' he figgers it's a good safe play to lookout his game for himse'f.'

"'I wonder couldn't we sing him to sleep,' says Cherokee Hall.

"'Nothin' ag'in a try,' says Jack, some desp'rate, wipin' his lips after the drink.

"'S'pose we-alls gives him "The Dyin' Ranger" an' "Sandy Land" for an hour or so, an' see,' says Boggs.

"In we trails. Cherokee lines up on one side of the infant, an' Jack on t'other; an' the rest of us takes chairs an' camps 'round, We starts in an' shore sings him all we knows; an' we keeps it up for hours. All the time, that child is a-settin' thar, a-battin' his eyes an' a-starin', sleepless as owls. The last I remembers is Boggs's voice on 'Sandy Land'

"'Great big taters on sandy land,

Get thar, Eli, if you can.'

"The next thing I'm aware of, thar's a whoop an' a yell outside. We- alls wakes up-all except the infant, who's wide awake all along- an' yere it is; four o'clock in the mornin', an' the mother has come. Comes over on a speshul buckboard from the station where that old inebriate, Monte, drove off an' left her. Well, son, everybody's plumb willin' an' glad to see her. An' for that matter, splittin' even, so's the infant."

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