MoboReader > Literature > Wolfville

   Chapter 19 MACE BOWMAN, SHERIFF.

Wolfville By Alfred Henry Lewis Characters: 10418

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03


"And so you think the trouble lies with the man and not with the whiskey?" I said.

The Old Cattleman and I were discussing "temperance."

"Right you be. This yere whiskey-drinkin'," continued the old gentleman as he toyed with his empty glass, "is a mighty cur'ous play. I knows gents as can tamper with their little old forty drops frequent an' reg'lar. As far as hurtin' of 'em is concerned, it don't come to throwin' water on a drowned rat. Then, ag'in, I've cut gents's trails as drinkin' whiskey is like playin' a harp with a hammer. Which we-alls ain't all upholstered alike; that's whatever. We don't all show the same brands an' y'earmarks nohow: What's med'cine for one is p'isen for t'other; an' thar you be.

"Bein' a reg'lar, reliable drunkard that a-way comes mighty near bein' a disease. It ain't no question of nerve, neither. Some dead- game gents I knows-an' who's that obstinate they wouldn't move camp for a prairie-fire-couldn't pester a little bit with whiskey.

"Thar's my friend, Mace Bowman. Mace is clean strain cl'ar through, an' yet I don't reckon he ever gets to a show-down with whiskey once which he ain't outheld. But for grim nerve as'll never shiver, this yere Bowman is at par every time.

"Bowman dies a prey to his ambition. He starts in once to drink all the whiskey in Wolfville. By his partic'lar request most of the white male people of the camp stands in on the deal, a-backin' his play for to make Wolfville a dry camp. At the close of them two lurid weeks Mace lasts, good jedges, like Enright an' Doc Peets, allows he's shorely made it scarce some.

"But Wolfville's too big for him. Any other gent but Mace would have roped at a smaller outfit, but that wouldn't be Mace nohow. If thar's a bigger camp than Wolfville anywhere about, that's where he'd been. He's mighty high-hearted an' ambitious that a-way, an' it's kill a bull or nothin' when he lines out for buffalo.

"But the thirteenth day, he strikes in on the big trail, where you never meets no outfits comin' back, an' that settles it. The boys, not havin' no leader, with Mace petered, gives up the game, an' the big raid on nose-paint in Wolfville is only hist'ry now.

"When I knows Bowman first he's sheriff over in northeast New Mexico. A good sheriff Mace is, too. Thar ain't nothin' gets run off while he's sheriff, you bet. When he allows anythin's his dooty, he lays for it permiscus. He's a plumb sincere offishul that a-way.

"One time I recalls as how a wagon-train with households of folks into it camps two or three days where Mace is sheriff. These yere people's headin' for some'ers down on the Rio Grande, aimin' to settle a whole lot. Mebby it's the third mornin' along of sun-up when they strings out on the trail, an' we-alls thinks no more of 'em. It's gettin' about third-drink time when back rides a gent, sorter fretful like, an' allows he's done shy a boy.

"'When do you-all see this yere infant last?' says Mace.

"'Why,' says the gent, 'I shorely has him yesterday, 'cause my old woman done rounds 'em up an' counts.'

"'What time is that yesterday?'

"'Bout first-drink time,' says the bereaved party.

"'How many of these yere offsprings, corral count, do you-all lay claim to anyway?' asks Mace.

"'Which I've got my brand onto 'leven of 'em,' says the pore parent, beginnin' to sob a whole lot. 'Of course this yere young-one gettin' strayed this a-way leaves me short one. It makes it a mighty rough crossin', stranger, after bringin' that boy so far. The old woman, she bogs right down when she knows, an' I don't reckon she'll be the same he'pmeet to me onless I finds him ag'in.'

"'Oh, well,' says Mace, tryin' to cheer this bereft person up, 'we lose kyards in the shuffle which the same turns up all right in the deal; an' I reckons we-alls walks down this yearlin' of yours ag'in, too. What for brands or y'earmarks, does he show, so I'll know him.'

"'As to brands an' y'earmarks,' says the party, a-wipin' of his eye, 'he's shy a couple of teeth, bein' milk-teeth as he's shed; an' thar's a mark on his for'ard where his mother swipes him with a dipper, that a-way, bringin' him up proper. That's all I remembers quick.'

"Mace tells the party to take a cinch on his feelin's, an' stampedes over to the Mexican part of camp, which is called Chilili, on a scout for the boy. Whatever do you-all reckon's become of him, son? I'm a wolf if a Mexican ain't somehow cut him out of the herd an' stole him. Takes him in, same as you mavericks a calf. Why in the name of hoss-stealin' he ever yearns for that young-one is allers too many for me.

"When the abductor hears how Mace is on his trail, which he does from other Mexicans, he swings onto his bronco an' begins p'intin' out, takin' boy an' all. But Mace has got too far up on him, an' stops him mighty handy with a rifle. Mace could work a Winchester like you'd whirl a rope, an' the way he gets a bullet onder that black-an'-tan's left wing don't worry him a little bit. The bullet tears a hole through his lungs, an' the same bein' no further use for him to breathe with, he comes tumblin' like a shot pigeon, bringin' the party's offspring with him.

"Which this yere

is almighty flatterin' to Mace as a shot, an' it plumb tickles the boy's sire. He allows he's lived in Arkansaw, an' shorely knows good shootin', an' this yere's speshul good. An' then he corrals the Greaser's skelp to take back with him.

"'It'll come handy to humor up the old woman with, when I gets back to camp,' he says; so he tucks the skelp into his war-bags an' thanks Mace for the interest he takes in his household.

"'That's all right,' says Mace; 'no trouble to curry a little short hoss like that.'

"He shakes hands with the Arkansaw gent, an' we-alls rounds up to

Bob Step's an' gets a drink.

"But the cat has quite a tail jest the same. A Mexican that a-way is plenty oncertain. For instance: You're settin' in on a little game of monte all free an' sociable, an' one of 'em comes crowdin' 'round for trouble, an' you downs him. All good enough, says you. No other Mexican seems like he wants to assoome no pressure personal; no one goes browsin' 'round to no sheriff; an' thar you be deluded into theeries that said killin's quit bein' a question. That's where you- all is the victim of error.

"Which in this case the Mexican Mace stretches has uncles or somethin' down off Chaperita. Them relatives is rich. In a week-no one never saveys how-everybody knows that thar's five thousand dollars up for the first party who kills Mace. I speaks to him about it myse'f, allowin' he'd oughter be careful how he goes spraddlin' about permiscus. Mebby, when he's lookin' north some time, somebody gets him from the south.

"'I ain't worryin' none,' says Mace; 'I ain't got no friends as would down me, nohow; an' my enemies ain't likely none to think it's enough dinero. Killin' me is liable to come mighty high.'

"After which announcements he goes romancin' along in his cheerful, light-hearted way, drinkin' his whiskey an' bein' sheriff, mingled, an' in a week or so we-alls begins to forget about them rewards. One day a little Mexican girl who Mace calls Bonita-she'd shorely give a hoss for a smile from him any time-scouts over an' whispers to Mace as how three Greasers from down around Anton Chico is in camp on a hunt for his ha'r. Them murderers is out for the five thousand; they's over in Chilili right then.

"'Whereabouts in Chilili be them Mexicans?' asks Mace, kinder interested.

"'Over camped in old Santa Anna's dance. hall, a-drinkin' of mescal an' waitin' for dark,' says the girl.

"'All right,' says Mace; 'I'll prance over poco tiempo, an' it's mighty likely them aliens from Anton Chico is goin' to have a fitful time.'

"Mace kisses the little Bonita girl, an' tells her not to chirp nothin' to no Mexican; an' with the caress that a-way her black eyes gets blacker an' brighter, an' the red comes in her cheek, an' bats could see she'd swap the whole Mexican outfit for a word from Mace, an' throw herse'f in for laniyap.

"Mace p'ints out to get another gun; which is proper enough, for he's only one in his belt, an' in a case like this yere he's mighty likely to need two a lot.

"'Some of us oughter go over with Mace, I reckons,' says a party named Benson, sorter general to the crowd. 'What do you-alls think yourse'fs?'

"'Go nothin'!' retorts a gent who's called Driscoll, an' who's up to the hocks into a game of poker, an' don't like to see it break up an' him behind. 'The hand Mace holds don't need no he'p. If Mace is out after two or three of the boys now, it would be plenty different; but whoever hears of a white man's wantin' he'p that a- way to down three Greasers, an' him to open the game? Mace could bring back all the skelps in Chilili if he's that f'rocious an' wants to, an' not half try.'

"This seems to be the general idee, an', aside of some bets which is made, no one takes no interest. Bob Short puts it up he'd bet a hundred dollars even Mace gets one of 'em; a hundred to two hundred he gets two, an' a hundred to five hundred he gets 'em all; an' some short-kyard sharp who's up from Socorro, after figgerin' it all silent to himse'f, takes 'em all.

"'Now I don't reckon, stranger,' says Benson, sorter reproachful, to the short-kyard party, 'you knows Mace Bowman mighty well? If you- all did you wouldn't go up ag'in a shore thing like that.'

"We never gets anythin' but Mace's story for it. He tells later how he sa'nters into Santa Anna's an' finds his three Anton Chico felons all settin' alone at a table. They knows him, he says, an' he camps down over opp'site an' calls for a drink. They's watchin' Mace, an' him doin' sim'lar by them. Final, he says, one of 'em makes a play for his gun, an', seein' thar's nothin' to be made waitin', Mace jumps up with a six-shooter in each hand, an' thar's some noise an' a heap of smoke, an' them three Mexicans is eliminated in a bunch.

"When he plays his hand out Mace comes back over to us-no other Mexicans allowin' for to call him-an' relates how it is, an' nacheral we says it's all right, which it shorely is. I asks old Santa Anna for the details of the shake-up later, but he spreads his hands, an' shrugs his shoulders, an' whines

"'No quien sabe.'

"An', of course, as I can't tell, an' as Santa Anna don't, I gives' up askin'."

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares