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   Chapter 3 No.3

The Girl of the Golden West By David Belasco Characters: 32348

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


The Polka Saloon!

How the name stirs the blood and rouses the imagination!

No need to be a Forty-Niner to picture it all as if there that night: the great high and square room lighted by candles and the warm, yellow light of kerosene lamps; the fireplace with its huge logs blazing and roaring; the faro tables with the little rings of miners around them; and the long, pine bar behind which a typical barkeeper of the period was busily engaged in passing the bottle to the men clamorous for whisky in which to drink the health of the Girl.

And the spirit of the place! When and where was there ever such a fine fellowship-transforming as it unquestionably did an ordinary saloon into a veritable haven of good cheer for miners weary after a long and often discouraging day in the gulches?

In a word, the Polka was a marvellous tribute to its girl-proprietor's sense of domesticity. Nothing that could insure the comfort for her patrons was omitted. Nothing, it would seem, could occur that would disturb the harmonious aspect of the scene.

But alas! the night was yet young.

Now the moment for which not a few of that good-humoured and musically-inclined company were waiting arrived. Clear above the babel of voices sounded a chord, and the poor old concertina player began singing in a voice that was as wheezy as his instrument:

"Camp town ladies sing this song

Dooda! Dooda!

Camp town race track five miles long

Dooda! Dooda! Day!"

Throughout the solo nothing more nerve-racking or explosive than an occasional hilarious whoop punctuated the melody. For once, at any rate, it seemed likely to go the distance; but no sooner did the chorus, which had been taken up, to a man, by the motley crowd and was rip-roaring along at a great rate, reach the second line than there sounded the reports of a fusillade of gun-shots from the direction of the street. The effect was magical: every voice trailed off into uncertainty and then ceased.

Instantly the atmosphere became charged with tension; a hush fell upon the room, the joyous light of battle in every eye, if nothing else, attesting the approach of the foe; while all present, after listening contemptuously to a series of wild and unearthly yells which announced an immediate arrival, sprang to their feet and concentrated their glances on the entrance of the saloon through which there presently burst a party of lively boys from The Ridge.

A psychological moment followed, during which the occupants of The Polka Saloon glared fiercely at the newcomers, who, needless to say, returned their hostile stares. The chances of war, judging from past performances, far outnumbered those of peace. But as often happens in affairs of this kind when neither side is unprepared, the desire for gun-play gave way to mirthless laughter, and, presently, the hilarious crowd from the rival camp, turning abruptly on their heels, betook themselves en masse into the dance-hall.

For the briefest of periods, there was a look of keen disappointment on the faces of the Cloudy Mountain boys as they gazed upon the receding figures of their sworn enemies; but almost in as little time as it takes to tell it there was a tumultuous lining up at the bar, the flat surface of which soon resounded with the heavy blows dealt it by the fists of the men desirous of accentuating the rhythm when roaring out:

"Gwine to run all night,

Gwine to run all day,

Bet my money on a bob-tail nag,

Somebody bet on the bay!"

Among those standing at the bar, and looking out of bleared eyes at a flashy lithograph tacked upon the wall which pictured a Spanish woman in short skirts and advertised "Espaniola Cigaroos," were two miners: one with curly hair and a pink-and-white complexion; the other, tall, loose-limbed and good-natured looking. They were known respectively as Handsome Charlie and Happy Halliday, and had been arguing in a maudlin fashion over the relative merits of Spanish and American beauties. The moment the song was concluded they banged their glasses significantly on the bar; but since it was an unbroken rule of the house that at the close of the musician's performance he should be rewarded by a drink, which was always passed up to him, they needs must wait. The little barkeeper paid no attention to their demands until he had satisfied the thirst of the old concertina player who, presently, could be seen drawing aside the bear-pelt curtain and passing through the small, square opening of the partition which separated the Polka Saloon from its dance-hall.

"Not goin', old Dooda Day, are you?" The question, almost a bellow, which, needless to say, was unanswered, came from Sonora Slim who, with his great pal Trinidad Joe, was playing faro at a table on one side of the room. Apparently, both were losing steadily to the dealer whose chair, placed up against the pine-boarded wall, was slightly raised above the floor. This last individual was as fat and unctuous looking as his confederate, the Look-out, was thin and sneaky; moreover, he bore the sobriquet of The Sidney Duck and, obviously, was from Australia.

"Say, what did the last eight do?" Sonora now asked, turning to the case-keeper.

"Lose."

"Well, let the tail go with the hide," returned Sonora, resignedly.

"And the ace-how many times did it win?" inquired Trinidad.

"Four times," was the case-keeper's answer.

All this time a full-blooded Indian with long, blue-black hair, very thick and oily, had been watching the game with excited eyes. His dress was part Indian and part American, and he wore all kinds of imitation jewelry including a huge scarf-pin which flashed from his vivid red tie. Furthermore, he possessed a watch,-a large, brassy-looking article,-which he brought out on every possible occasion. When not engaged in helping himself to the dregs that remained in the glasses carelessly left about the room, he was generally to be found squatted down on the floor and playing a solitaire of his own devising. But now he reached over Sonora's shoulder and put some coins on the table in front of the dealer.

"Give Billy Jackrabbit fer two dolla' Mexican chip," he demanded in a guttural voice.

The Sidney Duck did as requested. While he was shuffling the cards for a new deal, the players beat time with their feet to the music that floated in from the dance-hall. The tune seemed to have an unusually exhilarating effect on Happy Halliday, for letting out a series of whoops he staggered off towards the adjoining room with the evident intention of getting his fill of the music, not forgetting to yell back just before he disappeared:

"Root hog or die, boys!"

Happy's boisterous exit caused a peculiar expression to appear immediately on Handsome's face, which might be interpreted as one of envy at his friend's exuberant condition; at all events, he proceeded forthwith to order several drinks, gulping them down in rapid succession.

Meanwhile, at the faro table, the luck was going decidedly against the boys. In fact, so much so, that there was a dangerous note in Sonora's voice when, presently, he blurted out:

"See here, gambolier Sid, you're too lucky!"

"You bet!" approved Trinidad, and then added:

"More chips, Australier!"

But Trinidad's comment, as well as his request, only brought forth the oily smile that The Sidney Duck always smiled when any reference was made to his game. It was his policy to fawn upon all and never permit himself to think that an insult was intended. So he gathered in Trinidad's money and gave him chips in return. For some seconds the men played on without anything disturbing the game except the loud voice of the caller of the wheel-of-fortune in the dance-hall. But the boys were to hear something more from there besides, "Round goes the wheel!" For, all at once there came to their ears the sounds of an altercation in which it was not difficult to recognise the penetrating voice of Happy Halliday.

"Now, git, you loafer!" he was saying in tones that left no doubt in the minds of his friends that Happy was hot under the collar over something.

A shot followed.

"Missed, by the Lord Harry!" ejaculated Happy, deeply humiliated at his failure to increase the mortuary record of the camp.

The incident, however, passed unnoticed by the faro players; not a man within sound of the shot, for that matter, inquired what the trouble was about; and even Nick, picking up his tray filled with glasses and a bottle, walked straightway into the dance-hall looking as if the matter were not worth a moment's thought.

At Nick's going the Indian's face brightened; it gave him the opportunity for which he had been waiting. Nobly he maintained his reputation as a thief by quietly going behind the bar and lifting from a box four cigars which he stowed away in his pockets. But even that, apparently did not satisfy him, for when he espied the butt of a cigar, flung into the sawdust on the floor by a man who had just come in, he picked it up before squatting down again to resume his card playing.

The newcomer, a man of, say, forty years, came slowly into the room without a word of salutation to anyone. In common with his fellow-miners, he wore a flannel shirt and boots. The latter gave every evidence of age as did his clothes which, nevertheless, were neat. His face wore a mild, gentle look and would have said that he was companionable enough; yet it was impossible not to see that he was not willingly seeking the cheer of the saloon but came there solely because he had no other place to go. In a word, he had every appearance of a man down on his luck.

Men were continually coming in and going out, but no one paid the slightest attention to him, even though a succession of audible sighs escaped his lips. At length he went over to the counter and took a sheet or two of the paper,-which was kept there for the few who desired to write home,-a quill-pen and ink; and picking up a small wooden box he seated himself upon it before a desk-which had been built from a rude packing-case-and began wearily and laboriously to write.

"The lone star now rises!"

It was the stentorian voice of the caller of the wheel-of-fortune. One would have thought that the sound would have had the effect of a thunder-clap upon the figure at the desk; but he gave no sign whatever of having heard it; nor did he see the suspicious glance which Nick, entering at that moment, shot at Billy Jackrabbit who was stealing noiselessly towards the dance-hall where the whoops were becoming so frequent and evincing such exuberance of spirits that the ubiquitous, if generally unconcerned, Nick felt it incumbent to give an explanation of them.

"Boys from The Ridge cuttin' up a bit," he tendered apologetically, and took up a position at the end of the bar where he could command a view of both rooms.

As a partial acknowledgment that he had heard Nick's communication, Sonora turned round slightly in his seat at the faro table and shot a glance towards the dance-hall. Contempt showed on his rugged features when he turned round again and addressed the stocky, little man sitting at his elbow.

"Well, I don't dance with men for partners! When I shassay, Trin, I want a feminine piece of flesh an' blood"-he sneered, and then went on to amplify-"with garters on."

"You bet!" agreed his faithful, if laconic pal, on feeling the other's playful dig in his ribs.

The subject of men dancing together was a never-ceasing topic of conversation between these two cronies. But whatever the attitude of others Sonora knew that Trinidad would never fail him when it came to nice discriminations of this sort. His reference to an article of feminine apparel, however, was responsible for his recalling the fact that he had not as yet received his daily assurance from the presiding genius of the bar that he stood well in the estimation of the only lady in the camp. Therefore, leaving the table, he went over to Nick and whispered:

"Has the Girl said anythin' about me to-day, Nick?"

Now the role of confidential adviser to the boys was not a new one to the barkeeper, nor was anyone in the camp more familiar than he with their good qualities as well as their failings. Every morning before going to work in the placers it was their custom to stop in at The Polka for their first drink-which was, generally, "on the house." Invariably, Nick received them in his shirt-sleeves,-for that matter he was the proud possessor of the sole "biled shirt" in the camp,-and what with his red flannel undershirt that extended far below the line of his cuffs, his brilliantly-coloured waistcoat and tie, and his hair combed down very low in a cow-lick over his forehead, he was indeed an odd little figure of a man as he listened patiently to the boys' grievances and doled out sympathy to them. On the other hand, absolutely devoted to the fair proprietress of the saloon,-though solely in the character of a good comrade,-he never ceased trying to advance her interests; and since one and all of her customers believed themselves to be in love with her, one of his most successful methods was to flatter each one in turn into thinking that he had made a tremendous impression upon her. It was not a difficult thing to do inasmuch as long custom and repetition had made him an adept at highly-coloured lying.

"Well, you got the first chance," asseverated Nick, dropping his voice to a whisper.

Sonora grinned from ear to ear; he expanded his broad chest and held his head proudly; and waving his hand in lordly fashion he sung out:

"Cigars for all hands and drinks, too, Nick!"

The genial prevaricator could scarcely restrain himself from laughing outright as he watched the other return to his place at the faro table; and when, in due course, he served the concoctions and passed around the high-priced cigars, there was a smile on his face which said as plainly as if spoken that Sonora was not the only person present that had reason to be pleased with himself.

Then occurred one of those terpsichorean performances which never failed to shock old Sonora's sense of the fitness of things. For the next moment two Ridge boys, dancing together, waltzed through the opening between the two rooms and, letting out ear-piercing whoops with every rotation, whirled round and round the room until they brought up against the bar where they, breathlessly, called for drinks.

An angry lull fell upon the room; the card game stopped. However, before anyone seated there could give vent to his resentment at this boisterous intrusion of the men from the rival camp, the smooth, oily and inviting voice of the unprincipled Sidney Duck, scenting easy prey because of their inebriated condition, called out in its cockney accent:

"'Ello, boys-'ow's things at The Ridge?"

"Wipes this camp off the earth!" returned a voice that was provocative in the extreme-a reply that instantly brought every man at the faro table to his feet. For a time, at least, it seemed as if the boys from The Ridge would get the trouble they were looking for.

A murmur of angry amazement arose, while Sonora, his watery blue eyes glinting, followed up his explosive, "What!" with a suggestive movement towards his hip. But quick as he was Nick was still quicker and had The Ridge boy, as well as Sonora, covered before their hands had even reached their guns.

"You…!" the little barkeeper's sentence was bristled out and contained along with the expletives some comparatively mild words which gave the would-be combatants to understand that any such foolishness would not be tolerated in The Polka unless he himself "'lowed it to be ne'ssary."

Not unnaturally The Ridge boys failed to see anything offensive in language that had a gun behind it; and realising the futility of any further attempt to get away with a successful disturbance they wisely yielded to superior quickness at the draw. With a whoop of resignation they rushed back to the dance-hall where the voice of the caller was exhorting the gents-whose partners were mostly big, husky, hairy-faced men clumsily enacting part

s generally assigned to members of the gentler sex-to swing:

"With the right-hand gent, first partner swing with the left-hand gent, first partner swing with the right-hand gent; first partner swing with the left-hand gent, and the partner in the centre, and gents all around!"

Back at the faro table now,-the incident having passed quickly into oblivion,-Sonora called to the dealer for "a slug's worth of chips"-a request that was promptly acceded to. But they had played only a few minutes when a thin but somewhat sweet tenor voice was heard singing:

"Wait for the waggon,

Wait for the waggon,

Wait for the waggon,

And we'll all take a ride.

Wait for the waggon-"

"Here he is, gentlemen, just back from his triumphs of The Ridge!" broke in Nick, whose province it was to act as master of ceremonies; and coming forward as the singer emerged from the dance-hall he introduced him to the assembled company in the most approved music-hall manner:

"Allow me to present to you, Jake Wallace the Camp favour-ite!" he said with an exaggeratedly low bow.

"How-dy, Jake! Hello, Jake, old man! How be you, Jake!" were some of the greetings that were hurled at the Minstrel who, robed in a long linen duster, his face half-blacked, and banjo in hand, acknowledged the words of welcome with a broad grin as he stood bowing in the centre of the room.

That Jake Wallace was a typical camp minstrel from the top of his dusty stove-pipe hat to the sole of his flapping negro shoes, one could see with half an eye as he made his way to a small platform-a musician's stand-at one end of the bar; nor could there be any question about his being a prudent one, for the musician did not seat himself until he had carefully examined the sheet-iron shield inside the railing, which was attached in such a way that it could be sprung up by working a spring in the floor and render him fairly safe from a chance shot during a fracas.

"My first selection, friends, will be 'The Little-'," announced the Minstrel with a smile as he begun to tune his instrument.

"Aw, give us 'Old Dog Tray,'" cut in Sonora, impatiently from his seat at the card table.

Jake bowed his ready acquiescence to the request and kept right on tuning up.

"I say, Nick, have you saw the Girl?" asked Trinidad in a low voice, taking advantage of the interval to stroll over to the bar.

Mysteriously, Nick's eyes wandered about the room to see if anyone was listening; at length, with marvellous insincerity, he said:

"You've got the first chance, Trin; I gave 'er your message."

Trinidad Joe fairly beamed upon him.

"Whisky for everybody, Nick!" he ordered bumptuously; and as before the little barkeeper's face wore an expression of pleasure not a whit less than that of the man whom, presently, he followed to the faro table with a bottle and four glasses.

As soon as Trinidad had seated himself the Minstrel struck a chord and announced impressively:

"'Old Dog Tray,' gents, 'or Echoes from Home'!" He cleared his throat, and the next instant in quavering tones he warbled:

"How of-ten do I pic-ture

The old folks down at home,

And of-ten wonder if they think of me,

Would an-gel mother know me,

If back there I did roam,

Would old dog Tray re-member me."

At the first few words of his song the man at the desk who, up to this time, had been wholly oblivious to what was taking place, arose from his seat, put the ink-bottle back on the bar, opened a cigar-box there and took from it a stamp, which he put on his letter. This he carried to a mail-box attached to the door; then, returning, he threw himself dejectedly down in a chair and put his head in his hands, where it remained throughout the song.

At the conclusion of his solo, the Minstrel's emotions were seemingly deeply stirred by his own melodious voice and he gasped audibly; whereupon, Nick came to his relief with a stiff drink which, apparently, went to the right spot, for presently the singer's voice rang out vigorously: "Now, boys!"

No second invitation was needed, and the chorus was taken up by all, the singers beating time with their feet and chips.

ALL.

"Oh, mother, an-gel mother, are you waitin'

there beside the lit-tle cottage on the lea-"

JAKE.

"On the lea-"

ALL.

"How of-ten would she bless me

in all them days so fair-

Would old dog Tray re-member me-"

SONORA.

"Re-member me."

All the while the miners had been singing, the sad and morose-looking individual had been steadily growing more and more disconsolate; and when Sonora rumbled out the last deep note in his big, bass voice, he heaved a great sob and broke down completely.

In surprised consternation everyone turned in the direction from whence had come the sound. But it was Sonora who, affected both by the pathos of the song and the sight of the pathetic figure before them, quietly went over and laid a hand upon the other's arm.

"Why, Larkins-Jim-what's the trouble-what's the matter?" he asked, a thousand thoughts fluttering within his breast. "I wouldn't feel so bad."

With a desperate effort Larkins, his face twitching perceptibly, the lines about his eyes deepening, struggled to control himself. At last, after taking in the astonished faces about him, he plunged into his tale of woe.

"Say, boys, I'm homesick-I'm broke-and what's more, I don't care who knows it." He paused, his fingers opening and closing spasmodically, and for a moment it seemed as if he could not continue-a moment of silence in which the Minstrel began to pick gently on his banjo the air of Old Dog Tray.

"I want to go home!" suddenly burst from the unfortunate man's lips. "I'm tired o' drillin' rocks; I want to be in the fields again; I want to see the grain growin'; I want the dirt in the furrows at home; I want old Pensylvanny; I want my folks; I'm done, boys, I'm done, I'm done …!" And with these words he buried his face in his hands.

"Oh, mother, an-gel mother, are you waitin'-"

sang the Minstrel, dolefully.

Men looked at one another and were distressingly affected; The Polka had never witnessed a more painful episode. Throwing a coin at the Minstrel, Sonora stopped him with an impatient gesture; the latter nodded understandingly at the same time that Nick, apparently indifferent to Larkin's collapse, began to dance a jig behind the bar. A look of scowling reproach instantly appeared on Sonora's face. It was uncalled-for since, far from being heartless and indifferent to the man's misfortunes, the little barkeeper had taken this means to distract the miners' attention from the pitiful sight.

"Boys, Jim Larkins 'lows he's goin' back East," announced Sonora. "Chip in every mother's son o' you."

Immediately every man at the faro table demanded cash from The Sidney Duck; a moment later they, as well as the men who were not playing cards, threw their money into the hat which Sonora passed around. It was indeed a well-filled hat that Sonora held out to the weeping man.

"Here you are, Jim," he said simply.

The sudden transition from poverty to comparative affluence was too much for Larkins! Looking through tear-dimmed eyes at Sonora he struggled for words with which to express his gratitude, but they refused to come; and at last with a sob he turned away. At the door, however, he stopped and choked out: "Thank you, boys, thank you."

The next moment he was gone.

At once a wave of relief swept over the room. Indeed, the incident was forgotten before the unfortunate man had gone ten paces from The Polka, for then it was that Trinidad suddenly rose in his seat, lunged across the table for The Sidney Duck's card-box, and cried out angrily:

"You're cheatin'! That ain't a square deal! You're a cheat!"

In a moment the place was in an uproar. Every man at the table sprung to his feet; chairs were kicked over; chips flew in every direction; guns came from every belt; and so occupied were the men in watching The Sidney Duck that no one perceived the Lookout sneak out through the door save Nick, who was returning from the dance-hall with a tray of empty glasses. But whether or not he was aware that the Australian's confederate was bent upon running away he made no attempt to stop him, for in common with every man present, including Sonora and Trinidad, who had seized the gambler and brought him out in front of his card-table, Nick's eyes were fastened upon another man whom none had seen enter, but whose remarkable personality, now as often, made itself felt even though he spoke not a word.

"Lift his hand!" cried Sonora, looking as if for sanction at the newcomer, who stood in the centre of the room, calmly smoking a huge cigar.

Forcing up The Sidney Duck's arms, Trinidad threw upon the table a deck of cards which he had found concealed about the other's person, bursting out with:

"There! Look at that, the infernal, good-for-nothin' cheat!"

"String 'im up!" suggested Sonora, and as before he shot a questioning look at the man, who was regarding the scene with bored interest.

"You bet!" shouted Trinidad, pulling at the Australian's arm.

"For 'eaven's sake, don't, don't, don't!" wailed The Sidney Duck, terror-stricken.

The Sheriff of Manzaneta County, for such was the newcomer's office, raised his steely grey eyes inquisitorially to Nick's who, with a hostile stare at the Australian, emitted:

"Chicken lifter!"

"String 'im! String 'im!" insisted Trinidad, at the same time dragging the culprit towards the door.

"No, boys, no!" cried the unfortunate wretch, struggling uselessly to break away from his captors.

At this stage the Sheriff of Manzaneta County took a hand in the proceedings, and drawled out:

"Well, gentlemen-" He stopped short and seemingly became reflective.

Instantly, as was their wont whenever the Sheriff spoke, all eyes fixed themselves upon him. Indeed, it needed but a second glance at this cool, deliberate individual to see how great was his influence upon them. He was tall,-fully six feet one,-thin, and angular; his hair and moustache were black enough to bring out strongly the unhealthy pallor of his face; his eyes were steel grey and were heavily fringed and arched; his nose straight and his mouth hard, determined, but just, the lips of which were thin and drawn tightly over brilliantly-white teeth; and his soft, pale hands were almost feminine looking except for the unusual length of his fingers. On his head was a black beaver hat with a straight brim; a black broadcloth suit-cut after the "'Frisco" fashion of the day-gave every evidence that its owner paid not a little attention to it. From the bosom of his white, puffed shirt an enormous diamond, held in place by side gold chains, flashed forth; while glittering on his fingers was another stone almost as large. Below his trousers could plainly be seen the highly-polished boots; the heels and instep being higher than those generally in use. In a word, it was impossible not to get the impression that he was scrupulously immaculate and careful about his attire. And his voice-the voice that tells character as nothing else does-was smooth and drawling, though fearlessness and sincerity could easily be detected in it. Such was Mr. Jack Rance, Gambler and Sheriff of Manzaneta County.

"This is a case for you, Jack Rance," suddenly spoke up Sonora.

"Yes," chimed in Trinidad; and then as he gave the Australian a rough shake, he added: "Here's the Sheriff to take charge of you."

But Mr. Jack Rance, the Sheriff of Manzaneta County, was never known to move otherwise than slowly, deliberately. Taking from his pocket a smoothly-creased handkerchief he proceeded to dust languidly first one and then the other of his boots; and not until he had succeeded in flicking the last grain of dust from them did he take up the business in hand.

"Gentlemen, what's wrong with the cyards?" he now began in his peculiar drawling voice.

Sonora pointed to the faro table.

"The Sidney Duck's cheated!" he said-an accusation which was responsible for a renewal of outcries and caused a number of men to pounce upon the faro dealer.

Trinidad ran a significant hand around his collar.

"String 'im! Come on, you-!" once more he cried. But on seeing the Sheriff raise a restraining hand he desisted from pulling the Australian along.

"Wait a minute!" commanded the Sheriff.

The miners with the prisoner in their midst stood stock-still. Now the Sheriff's features lost some of their usual inscrutability and for a moment became hard and stern. Slowly he let his eyes wander comprehensively about the saloon: first, they travelled to a small balcony-reached by a ladder drawn down or up at will-decorated with red calico curtains, garlands of cedar and bittersweet, while the railing was ornamented with a wildcat's skin and a stuffed fawn's head; from the ceiling with its strings of red peppers, onions and apples they fell on a stuffed grizzly bear, which stood at the entrance to the dance-hall, with a little green parasol in its paw and an old silk hat upon its head; from it they shifted to the gaudy bar with its paraphernalia of fancy glasses, show-cases of coloured liquors and its pair of scales for weighing the gold dust; and from that to a keg, the top of which could be withdrawn without engendering the slightest suspicion that it represented other than an ordinary receptacle for liquor. Two notices tacked upon the wall also caught and held his glance, his eyes dwelling most affectionately on the one reading: "A Real Home For The Boys."

That there was such a thing as sentiment in the make-up of the Sheriff of Manzaneta County few people, perhaps, would have believed. Nevertheless, at the thought that this placard inspired, he dismissed whatever inclination he might have had to deal leniently with the culprit, and calmly observed:

"There is no reason, gentlemen, of being in a hurry. I've got something to say about this. I don't forget, although I am the Sheriff of Manzaneta County, that I'm running four games. But it's men like The Sidney Duck here that casts reflections on square-minded, sporting men like myself. And worse-far worse, gentlemen, he casts reflections on The Polka, the establishment of the one decent woman in Cloudy."

"You bet!" affirmed Nick, indignantly.

"Yes, a lady, d'you hear me?" stormed Sonora, addressing the prisoner; then: "You lily-livered skunk!"

"Oh, let's string 'im up!" urged Trinidad.

"Yes, come on, you…!" was Handsome's ejaculation, contriving, at last, to get his hands on the faro dealer.

But again the Sheriff would have none of it.

"Hold on, hold on-" he began and paused to philosophise: "After all, gents, what's death? A kick and you're off;" and then went on: "I've thought of a worse punishment. Give him his coat."

Surprised and perplexed at this order, Handsome, reluctantly, assisted the culprit into his coat.

"Put him over there," the Sheriff now ordered.

Whereupon, obedient to the instructions of that personage, The Sidney Duck was roughly put down into a chair; and while he was firmly held into it, Rance strolled nonchalantly over to the faro table and picked out a card from the deck there. Returning, he quickly plucked a stick-pin from the prisoner's scarf, saying, while he suited his action to his words:

"See, now I place the deuce of spades over his heart as a warning. He can't leave the camp, and he never plays cyards again-see?" And while the men, awed to silence, stood looking at one another, he instructed Handsome to pass the word through the camp.

"Ow, now, don't si that! Don't si that!" bawled out the card sharp.

The sentence met with universal approval. Rance waved an authoritative hand towards the door; and the incident, a few seconds later, passed into its place in the camp records. Albeit, in those seconds, and while the men were engrossed in the agreeable task of ejecting The Sidney Duck, The Polka harboured another guest, no less unwelcome, who made his way unobserved through the saloon to become an unobtrusive spectator of the doings in the dance-hall.

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