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   Chapter 5 No.5

Wolfville Days By Alfred Henry Lewis Characters: 8342

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04

Toothpick Johnson's Ostracism.

"You sees," observed the Old Cattleman, as he moved into the deeper shade; "you sees this yere Toothpick disgraces Wolfville; that's how it is. Downs a party, Toothpick Johnson does, an' no gun on the gent, the same bein' out of roole entire. Nacherally, while no one blames Toothpick, who makes the play what you-all calls 'bony fidis,' the public sort o' longs for his eelopement. An' that settles it; Toothpick has to hunt out for different stampin' grounds.

"It all comes from Toothpick bein' by nacher one of these yere over- zealous people, an' prematoorely prone that a-way. He's born eager, Toothpick is, an' can't he'p it none.

"You-all has tracked up on that breed of cimmaron plenty frequent now. They're the kind who picks up a poker hand, kyard by kyard, as they comes. They're that for'ard,-that headlong to get outer the present an' into the footure, they jest can't wait for things to have a chance to happen.

"'Whyever do you pull in your kyards that a-way?' I says to Toothpick, reprovin' of him. 'Why can't you let 'em lay till the hand's dealt?'

"'Which I'm shorely that locoed to look if I ain't got three aces or some sech,' says Toothpick, 'I must turn 'em up to see.'

"'Well,' says I, an' the same is wisdom every time, 'you-all would appear more like a dead cold sport to let 'em be, an' pick up your whole hand together. Likewise, you'd display a mighty sight more savey if you keeps your eyes on the dealer till he lays down the deck. You'd be less afflicted by disagreeable surprises if you'd freeze to the last idee; an' you'd lay up money besides.'

"But that's the notion I'm aimin' to convey; Toothpick is too quick. His intellects, it looks like, is on eternal tip-toe to get in a stack.

"'He's too simooltaneous, is Toothpick,' says Jack Moore once, when him an' Boggs is discoursin' together, sizin' up Toothpick. 'He's that simooltaneous he comes mighty near bein' a whole lot too adjacent.'

"What does Toothpick do that time we-all disapproves an' stampedes him? It's a accidental killin'.

"It's second drink time in the evenin', an' the Tucson stage is in. Thar's a passel of us who has roped up our mail, an' now we're standin' 'round in front of the Red Light, breakin' into letters an' papers, an' a-makin' of comments, when along wanders a party who's been picnicin' with the camp. As the deal turns, he never does stay long nohow; never long enough to become a 'genial 'quaintance an' a fav'rite of all.'

"This party who comes sidlin' up is, as we hears, late from Red Dog; an' doorin' them four hours wherein he confers his society onto us, he stays drunk habityooal an' never does lapse into bein' sober for a second. It's shore remark'ble, now, how all them Red Dog people stays intox'cated while they sojourns in Wolfville. Never knows it to fail; an' I allows, as a s'lootion that a-way, it's owin' to the sooperior merits of our nose-paint. It's a compliment they pays us.

"However, this Red Dog gent's drinkin' is his own affairs. An' his earnestness about licker may have been his system; then ag'in it may not; I don't go pryin' none to determine. But bein' he's plumb drunk, as you readily discerns, it keeps up a barrier ag'in growin' intimate with this party; an' ontil Toothpick opens on him, his intercourse with Wolfville is nacherally only formal.

"This visitor from Red Dog-which Red Dog itse'f is about as low- flung a bunch of crim'nals as ever gets rounded up an' called a camp-but, as I'm sayin', this totterin' wreck I mentions comes stragglin' up, more or less permiscus an' vague, an', without sayin' a word or makin' a sign, or even shakin' a bush, stands about lariat distance away an' star's at Toothpick, blinkin' his eyes mighty malevolent.

"It ain't no time when this yere bluff on the part of the drinkin'

Red Dog gent attracts Toothpick, who's been skirmishin' 'round among

us where we're standin', an' is at that time mentionin' Freighter's

Stew, as a good thing to eat, to Dave Tutt.

"'Who be you-all admirin' now?' asks Toothpick of the Red Dog party, who's glarin' towards him. It's then I notes the lights b

egin to dance in Toothpick's eyes; with that impulsive sperit of his, he's doo to become abrupt with our visitor at the drop of the hat.

"That Red Dog gent don't make no retort, but stands thar with his eyes picketed on Toothpick like he's found a victim. Toothpick is fidgetin' on his feet, with his thumbs stuck in his belt; which this last is a bad symptom, as it leaves a gent's artillery easy to reach.

"It strikes me at the time that it's even money thar's goin' to be some shootin'. I don't then nor now know why none. But that ignorance is common about shootin's; two times in three nobody ever does know why.

"I reckons now it's Toothpick's fidgetin' makes me suspicious he's on the brink of rousin' the o'casion with his six-shooter. Which if he's cool an' ca'm, it would never come to me that a-way; a cool gent never pulls the first gun, leastways never when the pretext is friv'lous an' don't come onder the head of 'Must'.

"'Well.' savs Toothpick ag'in, 'whatever be you-all gloatin' over, I asks? Or, mebby you're thinkin' of 'doptin' me as a son or somethin'?' says Toothpick.

"Still the party from Red Dog don't say nothin'. As Toothpick ceases, however, this Red Dog person makes a move, which is reasonable quick, for his hip. He's got on a long coat, an' while no gent can see, thar's none of us has doubts but he is fully dressed, an' that he's searchin' out his Colt's.

"That's what Toothpick allows; an' the Red Dog party's hand ain't traveled two inches onder his surtoot, when Toothpick cuts free his '44, an' the Red Dog party hits the ground, face down, like a kyard jest dealt.

"Yes, he's dead enough; never does kick or flutter once. It's shorely a shot in the cross.

"`Do you-all note how he tries to fill his hand on me?' asks

Toothpick, mighty cheerful.

"Toothpick stoops down for the Red Dog man's gun, an' what do you- all think? He don't have no weapon, none whatever; nothin' more vig'rous than a peaceful flask of whiskey, which the same is still all safe in his r'ar pocket.

"'He warn't heeled!' says Toothpick, straightenin' up an' lookin' at us apol'getic an' disgusted.

"It's jestice to Toothpick to say, I never yet overtakes that gent who's more abashed an' discouraged than he is when he finds this person ain't packin' no gun. He surveys the remainder a second, an' says:

"'Gents, if ever the licker for the camp is on Toothpick Johnson, it's now. But thar's one last dooty to perform touchin' deceased. It's evident, departed is about to ask me to drink. It's this yere motion he makes for his whiskey which I mistakes for a gun play. Thar I errs, an' stacks up this Red Dog person wrong. Now that I onderstands, while acknowledgin' my fal'cies, the least I can do is to respect deceased's last wishes. I tharfore," says Toothpick, raisin' the Red Dog party's flask, "complies with what, if I hadn't interrupted him, would have been his last requests. An' regrettin' I don't savey sooner, I drinks to him."

"No," concluded the Old Cattleman, "as I intimates at the go-off, Toothpick don't stay long after that. No one talks of stringin' him for what's a plain case of bad jedgment, an' nothin' more. But still, Wolfville takes a notion ag'in him, an' don't want him 'round none. So he has to freight out.

"'You are all right, Toothpick, speakin' gen'ral,' says Old Man Enright, when him an' Doc Peets an' Jack Moore comes up on Toothpick to notify him it's the Stranglers' idee he'd better pack his wagons an' hit the trail, "but you don't hold your six-shooter enough in what Doc Peets yere calls 'abeyance.' Without puttin' no stain on your character, it's right to say you ain't sedentary enough, an' that you-all is a heap too soon besides. In view, tharfore, of what I states, an' of you droppin' this yere Red Dog gent-not an ounce of iron on him at the time!-while we exonerates, we decides without a dissentin' vote to sort o' look 'round the camp for you to-morry, say at sundown, an' hang you some, should you then be present yere. That's how the herd is grazin', Toothpick: an' if you're out to commit sooicide, you'll be partic'lar to be with us at the hour I names.'"

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