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   Chapter 13 JACKS UP ON EIGHTS.

Wolfville By Alfred Henry Lewis Characters: 13219

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03


"No; you can hazard your wealth a lot, thar's no sooperstition lurkin' 'round in me or my environs; none whatever. I attaches no importance to what you-all calls omens."

Somebody had undertaken a disquisition on dreams, and attempted to cite instances where the future had been indicated in these hazy visions of our sleep. This had served to turn the Old Cattleman's train of thought upon the weird.

"Thar's signs, of course, to which I'd shorely bow, not to say pay absorbin' heed. If some gent with whom I chooses to differ touchin' some matter that's a heap relevant at the time, ups an' reaches for his gun abrupt, it fills me full of preemonitions that the near future is mighty liable to become loaded with lead an' interest for me. Now thar's an omen I don't discount. But after all I ain't consentin' to call them apprehensions of mine the froot of no sooperstition, neither. I'm merely chary; that's all.

"It's Cherokee Hall who is what I onhesitatin'ly describes as sooperstitious. Cherokee is afflicted by more signs an' omens in carryin' on his business than an almanac. It's a way kyardsharps gets into, I reckons; sorter grows outen their trade. Leastwise I never creeps up on one yet who ain't bein' guided by all sorts of miracles an' warnin's that a-way. An' sometimes it does look like they acquires a p'inter that comes to 'em on straight lines. As 'llustratin' this yere last, it returns to me some vivid how Cherokee an' Boggs gets to prophesyin' one day, an' how they calls off the play between 'em so plumb c'rrect that a-way, it's more than amazin'; it's sinister.

"It's a hot August day, this occasion I has in mind, an' while not possessin' one of them heat-gauges to say ackerate, I'm allowin' it's ridin' hard on sech weather as this. A band of us is at the post-office a-wrastlin' our letters, when in trails Cherokee Hall lookin' some moody, an' sets himse'f down on a box.

"'Which you-all no doubt allows you'll take some missives yourse'f this mornin',' says Doc Peets, a-noticin' of his gloom, an' aimin' to p'int his idees up some other trail. Doc, himse'f, is feelin' some gala. 'Pass over them documents for Cherokee Hall, an' don't hold out nothin' onto us. We-alls is 'way too peevish to stand any offishul gaieties to-day.'

"'Thar's no one weak-minded 'nough to write to me none,' says Cherokee. `Which I remarks this yere phenomenon with pleasure. Mail- bags packs more grief than joy, an' I ain't honin' for no hand in the game whatever. It's fifteen years since I buys a stamp or gets a letter, an' all thirst tharfor is assuaged complete.'

"'Fifteen years is shore a long time,' says Enright, sorter to himse'f, an' then we-alls hops into our letters ag'in. Finally Cherokee breaks in once more.

"` I ain't aimin' to invest Wolfville in no sooperstitious fears,' says Cherokee, 'an' I merely chronicles as a current event how I was settin' into a little poker last night, an' three times straight I picks up "the hand the dead man held," jacks up on eights, an' it wins every time.'

"`Who lose to it?' asks Dan Boggs.

"'Why,' says Cherokee, 'it's every time that old longhorn as comes in from Tucson back some two weeks ago.'

"'That settles it,' says Boggs, mighty decided. 'You can bet your saddle an' throw the pony in, Death is fixin' his sights for him right now. It's shorely a warnin', an' I'm plumb glad it ain't none of the boys; that's all.'

"You see this yere stranger who Cherokee alloods at comes over from Tucson a little while before. He has long white ha'r an' beard, an', jedgin' from the rings on his horns, he's mebby a-comin' sixty. He seems like he's plenty of money, an' we takes it he's all right. His leavin' Tucson shows he has sense, so we cashes him in at his figger. Of course we-alls never asks his name none, as askin' names an' lookin' at the brands on a pony is speshul roode in the West, an' shows your bringin' up; but he allows he's called 'Old Bill Gentry ' to the boys, an' he an' Faro Nell's partic'lar friendly.

"'Talkin' to him,' says Nell, ' is like layin' in the shade. He knows everythin', too; all about books an' things all over the world. He was a-tellin' me, too, as how he had a daughter like me that died 'way back some'ers about when I was a yearlin'. He feels a heap bad about it yet, an' I gets so sorry for him; so old an' white-ha'red.'

"'An' you can gamble,' says Dave Tutt, 'if Nell likes him, he's all right.'

"'If Nell likes him, that makes him all right,' says Cherokee.

"We-alls is still talkin' an' readin over our mail in the post- office, when all at once we hears Jack Moore outside.

"'What's this yere literatoor as affronts my eyes, pasted onto the outside of Uncle Sam's wickeyup?' says Jack, mighty truculent. We. alls goes out, an' thar, shore-'nough, is a notice offerin' fifteen hundred dollars reward for some sharp who's been a-standin' up the stage over towards Prescott.

"'Whoever tacks this up? I wonder,' says Enright. `It never is yere ten minutes ago.'

"'Well, jest you-all hover 'round an' watch the glory of its comin' down,' says Jack, a-cuttin' of it loose with his bowie, an' tearin' it up. 'I yerewith furnishes the information cold, this camp of Wolfville knows its business an' don't have to be notified of nothin'. This yere outfit has a vig'lance committee all reg'lar, which I'm kettle-tender tharfor, an' when it comes nacheral to announce some notice to the public, you-alls will perceive me a- pervadin' of the scenery on a hoss an' promulgatin' of said notice viver voce. Am I right, Enright?'

"'Right as preachin', Jack,' says Enright. 'You speaks trooth like a runnin' brook.'

"'But whoever sticks that notice?-that's the information I pants for,' says Boggs, pickin' up an' readin' of the piece. "'I reckons I posts that notice some myse'f,' says a big, squar'-built gent we- alls don't know, an' who comes in the other mornin' with Old Monte on the stage. As he says this he's sa'nterin' about the suburbs of the crowd, listenin' to the talk.

"'Well, don't do it no more, partner,' says Jack, mighty grave. 'As a commoonity Wolfville's no doubt 'way wrong, but we-alls has our prides an' our own pecooliar little notions, that a-way, about what looks good; so, after now, don't alter the landscape none 'round yere till you c'lects our views.'

"'I'm offerin' even money, postin' notices don't hurt this yere camp a little bit,' says the stranger.

"'Comin' right to cases,' says Enright, 'it don't hurt none, but it grates a whole lot. The idee of a mere stranger a-strollin' in an' a-pastin' up of

notices, like he's standin' a pat hand on what he knows an' we not in it, is a heap onpleasant. So don't do it no more.'

"'Which I don't aim to do it no more,' says the squar'-built gent, 'but I still clings to my idee that notices ain't no set-back to this camp.'

"'The same bein' a mere theery,' says Doc Peets, 'personal to yourse'f, I holds it would be onp'lite to discuss it; so let's all wheel onder cover for a drink.'

"At this we-alls lines up on the Red Light bar an' nacherally drinks ends the talk, as they allers ought.

"Along towards sundown we-alls gets some cooler, an' by second-drink time in the evenin' every one is movin' about, an', as it happens, quite a band is in the Red Light; some drinkin' an' exchangin' of views, an' some buckin' the various games which is goin' wide open all 'round. Cherokee's settin' behind his box, an' Faro Nell is up at his shoulder on the lookout stool. The game's goin' plenty lively when along comes Old Gentry. Cherokee takes a glance at him an' seems worried a little, reflectin', no doubt, of them 'hands the dead man held,' but he goes on dealin' without a word.

"'Where's you-all done been all day?' says Nell to the old man. 'I ain't seen you none whatever since yesterday.'

"'Why, I gets tired an' done up a lot, settin ag'inst Cherokee last night,' says the old man, 'an' so I prowls down in my blankets an' sleeps some till about an hour ago.'

"The old man buys a stack of blues an' sets 'em on the ten. It's jest then in comes the squar'-built gent, who's been postin' of the notice former, an' p'ints a six-shooter at Gentry an' says

"'Put your hands up! put 'em up quick or I'll drill you! Old as you be, I don't take no chances.'

"'At the first word Nell comes off her stool like a small landslide, while Cherokee brings a gun into play on the instant. The old man's up even with the proceedin's, too; an' stands thar, his gun in his hand, his eyes a-glitterin' an' his white beard a-curlin' like a cat's. He's clean strain.

"'Let me get a word in, gents,' says Cherokee, plenty ca'm, 'an' don't no one set in his stack on. less he's got a hand. I does business yere my way, an' I'm due to down the first hold-up who shoots across any layout of mine. Don't make no mistake, or the next census'll be shy, shore.'

"'What be you-alls aimin' to cel'brate anyhow?' says Jack Moore, gettin' the squar'-built gent's gun while Boggs corrals Gentry's. ' Who's Wolfville entertainin' yere, I'd like for to know?'

"'I'm a Wells-Fargo detective,' says the squar'-built gent, 'an' this yere,' p'intin' to Old Gentry, 'is Jim Yates, the biggest hold- up an' stage-robber between hell an' 'Frisco. That old tarrapin'll stop a stage like a young-one would a clock, merely to see what's into it. He's the party I'm pastin' up the notice for this mornin."

"'He's a liar!' says the old man, a-gettin' uglier every minute. `Give us our six-shooters an throw us loose, an' if I don't lance the roof of his lyin' mouth with the front sight of my gun, I'll cash in for a hold-up or whatever else you-alls says.'

"'What do you say, Enright?' says Jack. 'Let's give 'em their jewelry an' let 'em lope. I've got money as says the Wells-Fargo bill-paster can't take this old' Cimmaron a little bit.'

"'Which I trails in,' says Boggs, 'with a few chips on the same kyard.'

"'No,' says Enright, 'if this yere party's rustlin' the mails, we- alls can't call his hand too quick. Wolfville's a straight camp an' don't back no crim'nal plays; none whatever.'

"Enright tharupon calls a meetin' of the Stranglers, an' we-alls lines out for the New York Store to talk it over. Before we done pow-wows two minutes up comes Old Monte, with the stage, all dust an' cuss-words, an' allows he's been stood up out by the cow springs six hours before, an' is behind the mail-bag an' the Adams Company's box on the deal. We-alls looks at Old Man Gentry, an' he shorely seems to cripple down. "'Gentry,' says Peets, after Old Monte tells his adventures, 'I hears you tell Nell you was sleepin' all day. S'pose you takes this yere committee to your budwer an' exhibits to us how it looks some.'

"'The turn's ag'in me,' says the old man, 'an' I lose. I'll cut it short for you-alls. I holds up that stage this afternoon myse'f.'

"'This yere's straight goods, I takes it,' says Enright, 'an' our dooty is plain. Go over to the corral an' get a lariat, Jack.'

"'Don't let Enright hang the old man, Cherokee,' says Nell, beginnin' to weep a whole lot. 'Please don't let 'em hang him.'

"'This holdin' a gun on your friends ain't no picnic,' whispers Cherokee to Nell, an' flushin' up an' then turnin' pale, 'but your word goes with me, Nell.' Then Cherokee thinks a minute. 'Now, this yere is the way we does,' he says at last. 'I'll make 'em a long talk. You-all run over to the corral an' bring the best hoss you sees saddled. I'll be talkin' when you comes back, an' you creep up an' whisper to the old man to make a jump for the pony while I covers the deal with my six-shooter. It's playin' it low on Enright an' Doc Peets an' the rest, but I'll do it for you, Nell. It all comes from them jacks up on eights.'

"With this, Cherokee tells Nell 'good-by,' an' squar's himse'f. He begins to talk, an' Nell makes a quiet little break for the corral.

"But no hoss is ever needed. Cherokee don't talk a minute when Old Gentry comes buckin' offen his chair in a 'pleptic fit. A 'pleptic fit is permiscus an' tryin', an' when Old Gentry gets through an' comes to himse'f, he's camped jest this side of the dead line. He can only whisper.

"'Come yere,' says he, motionin' to Cherokee. 'Thar's a stack of blues where I sets 'em on the ten open, which you ain't turned for none yet: Take all I has besides an' put with it. If it lose, it's yours; if it win, give it to the little girl.'

"This is all Old Gentry says, an' he cashes in the very next second on the list.

"Enright goes through'em, an' thar's over two thousand dollars in his war-bags; an', obeyin' them last behests, we-alls goes over to the Red Light an' puts it on the ten along of the stack of blues. It's over the limit, but Cherokee proceeds with the deal, an' when it comes I'm blessed if the ten ain't loser an' Cherokee gets it all.

"'But I won't win none ag'in a dead man; says Cherokee. An' he gives it to Nell, who ain't sooperstitious.

"'Do you-alls b'ar in mind,' says Boggs, as we takes a drink later, 'how I foresees this yere racket the minute I hears Cherokee a- tellin' about his "Jacks up on eights"-the "hand the dead man holds?"'"

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