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   Chapter 5 No.5

Wolfville Nights By Alfred Henry Lewis Characters: 26619

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

The Queerness of Dave Tutt.

"Which these queernesses of Dave's," observed the Old Cattleman, "has already been harrowin' an' harassin' up the camp for mighty likely she's two months, when his myster'ous actions one evenin' in the Red Light brings things to a climax, an' a over-strained public, feelin' like it can b'ar no more, begins to talk.

"It's plumb easy to remember this Red Light o'casion, for jest prior to Dave alarmin' us by becomin' melodious, furtive-melody bein' wholly onnacheral to Dave, that a-way-thar's a callow pin-feather party comes caperin' in an' takin' Old Man Enright one side, asks can he yootilise Wolfville as a strategic p'int in a elopement he's goin' to pull off.

"'Which I'm out to elope a whole lot from Tucson,' explains this pin-feather party to Enright, 'an' I aims to cinch the play. I'm a mighty cautious sport, an' before ever I hooks up for actooal freightin' over any trail, I rides her once or twice to locate wood and water, an' pick out my camps. Said system may seem timorous, but it's shore safer a heap. So I asks ag'in whether you-all folks has any objections to me elopin' into Wolfville with my beloved, like I suggests. I ain't out to spring no bridals on a onprotected outfit, wherefore I precedes the play with these queries.'

"'But whatever's the call for you to elope at all?' remonstrates Enright. 'The simple way now would be to round up this lady's paternal gent, an' get his consent.'

"'Seein' the old gent,' says the pin-feather party, ''speshully when you lays it smoothly off like that, shore does seem simplicity itse'f. But if you was to prance out an' try it some, it would be found plenty complex. See yere!' goes on the pin-feather party, beginnin' to roll up his sleeve, 'you-all impresses me as more or less a jedge of casyooalities. Whatever now do you think of this? 'An' the pin-feather party exhibits a bullet wound in his left fore-arm, the same bein' about half healed.

"'Colt's six-shooter,' says Enright.

"'That's straight,' says the pin-feather party, buttonin' up his sleeve; 'you calls the turn. I wins out that abrasion pleadin' with the old gent. Which I tackles him twice. The first time he opens on me with his 44-gun before ever I ends the sentence. But he misses. Nacherally, I abandons them marital intentions for what you-all might call the "nonce" to sort o' look over my hand ag'in an' see be I right. Do my best I can't on earth discern no reasons ag'in the nuptials. Moreover, the lady-who takes after her old gent a heap-cuts in on the play with a bluff that while she don't aim none to crowd my hand, she's doo to begin shootin' me up herse'f if I don't show more passionate anxiety about leadin' her to the altar. It's then, not seein' why the old gent should go entertainin' notions ag'in me, an' deemin' mebby that when he blazes away that time he's merely pettish and don't really mean said bullet none, that I fronts up ag'in.'

"'An' then,' asks Enright, 'whatever does this locoed parent do?'

"'Which I jest shows you what,' says the pin-feather party. 'He gets the range before ever I opens my mouth, an' plugs me. At that I begins to half despair of winnin' his indorsements. I leaves it to you-all; be I right?'

"'Why,' says Enright, rubbin' his fore'erd some doobious, 'it would look like the old gent is a leetle set ag'in you. Still, as the responsible chief of this camp, I would like to hear why you reckons Wolfville is a good place to elope to. I don't s'ppose it's on account of them drunkards over in Tucson makin' free with our good repoote an' lettin' on we're light an' immoral that a-way?'

"'None whatever!' says the pin-feather party. 'It's on account of you wolves bein' regyarded as peaceful, staid, an' law abidin' that I first considers you. Then ag'in, thar ain't a multitood of places clost about Tucson to elope to nohow; an' I can't elope far on account of my roll.'

"The replies of this pin-feather party soothes Enright an' engages him on that side, so he ups an' tells the 'swain,' as Colonel Sterett calls him later in the Coyote, to grab off his inamorata an' come a-runnin'.

"'Which, givin' my consent,' says Enright when explainin' about it later, 'is needed to protect this tempest-tossed lover in the possession of his skelp. The old gent an' that maiden fa'r has got him between 'em, an' onless we opens up Wolfville as a refooge, it looks like they'll cross-lift him into the promised land.'

"But to go back to Dave."

Here my old friend paused and called for refreshments. I seized the advantage of his silence over a glass of peach and honey, to suggest an eagerness for the finale of the Tucson love match.

"No," responded my frosty friend, setting down his glass, "we'll pursoo the queernesses of Dave. That Tucson elopement 'is another story a heap,' as some wise maverick says some'ers, an' I'll onload it on you on some other day.

"When Dave evolves the cadencies in the Red Light that evenin', thar's

Enright, Moore an' me along with Dan Boggs, bein' entertained by

hearin' Cherokee Hall tell us about a brace game he gets ag'inst in Las

Vegas one time.

"'This deadfall-this brace I'm mentionin',' says Cherokee, 'is over on the Plaza. Of course, I calls this crooked game a "brace" in speakin' tharof to you-all sports who ain't really gamblers none. That's to be p'lite. But between us, among a'credited kyard sharps, a brace game is allers allooded to as "the old thing." If you refers to a game of chance as "the old thing," they knows at once that every chance is 'liminated an' said deevice rigged for murder.'

"'That's splendid, Cherokee,' says Faro Nell, from her lookout's roost by his shoulder; 'give 'em a lecture on the perils of gamblin' with strangers.'

"Thar's no game goin' at this epock an' Cherokee signifies his willin'ness to become instructive.

"'Not that I'm no beacon, neither,' says Cherokee, 'on the rocky wreck-sown shores of sport; an' not that I ever resorts to onderhand an' doobious deals myse'f; still, I'm cap'ble of p'intin' out the dangers. Scientists of my sort, no matter how troo an' faithful to the p'int of honour, is bound to savey all kyard dooplicities in their uttermost depths, or get left dead on the field of finance. Every gent should be honest. But more than honest-speshully if he's out to buck faro-bank or set in on casyooal games of short-kyards-every gent should be wise. In the amoosements I mentions to be merely honest can't be considered a complete equipment. Wherefore, while I never makes a crooked play an' don't pack the par'fernalia so to do, I'm plenty astoote as to how said tricks is turned.

"'Which sports has speshulties same as other folks. Thar's Texas Thompson, his speshulty is ridin' a hoss; while Peets's speshulty is shootin' a derringer, Colonel Sterett's is pol'tics, Enright's is jestice, Dave's is bein' married, Jack Moore's is upholdin' law an' order, Boggs's is bein' sooperstitious, Missis Rucker's is composin' bakin' powder biscuits, an' Huggins's is strong drink.'

"'Whatever is my speshulty, Cherokee?' asks Faro Nell, who's as immersed as the rest in these settin's forth; 'what do you-all reckon now is my speshulty?'

"'Bein' the loveliest of your sex,' says Cherokee, a heap emphatic, an' on that p'int we-all strings our game with his.

"'That puts the ambrosia on me,' says Faro Nell, blushin' with pleasure, an' she calls to Black Jack.

"'As I observes,' goes on Cherokee, 'every sport has his speshulty.

Thar's Casino Joe; his is that he can "tell the last four."

Nacherally, bein' thus gifted, a game of casino is like so much money

in the bank for Joe. Still, his gifts ain't crooked, they're genius;

Joe's simply born able to "tell the last four."

"'Which, you gents is familiar by repoote at least with the several plans for redoocin' draw-poker to the prosaic level of shore-things. Thar's the "bug" an' the "foot-move" an' the "sleeve holdout" an' dozens of kindred schemes for playin' a cold hand. An' thar's optimists, when the game is easy, who depends wholly on a handkerchief in their laps to cover their nefariousness. If I'm driven to counsel a gent concernin' poker it would be to never play with strangers; an' partic'lar to never spec'late with a gent who sneezes a lot, or turns his head an' talks of draughts of cold air invading' the place, or says his foot's asleep an' gets up to stampede about the room after a hand is dealt an' prior to the same bein' played. It's four to one this afflicted sharp is workin' a holdout. Then that's the "punch" to mark a deck, an' the "lookin' glass" to catch the kyards as they're dealt. Then thar's sech manoovers as stockin' a deck, an' shiftin' a cut, an' dealin' double. Thar's gents who does their work from the bottom of a deck--puts up a hand on the bottom, an' confers it on a pard or on themse'fs as dovetails with their moods. He's a one-arm party-shy his right arm, he is-who deals a hand from the bottom the best I ever beholds.

"'No, I don't regyard crooked folks as dangerous at poker, only you've got to watch 'em. So long as your eye is on 'em a heap attentive they're powerless to perform their partic'lar miracle, an' as a result, since that's the one end an' aim of their efforts, they becomes mighty inocuous. As a roole, crooked people ain't good players on the squar', an' as long as you makes 'em play squar', they're yours.

"'But speakin' of this devious person on the Las Vegas Plaza that time: The outfit is onknown to me-I'm only a pilgrim an' a stranger an' don't intend to tarry none-when I sets up to the lay-out. I ain't got a bet down, however, before I sees the gent who's dealin', sign-up the seven to the case-keep, an' instanter I feels like I'd known that bevy of bandits since long before the war. Also, I realises their methods after I takes a good hard look. That dealer's got what post gradyooates in faro-bank robbery calls a "end squeeze" box; the deck is trimmed-"wedges" is the name-to put the odds ag'in the evens, an' sanded so as to let two kyards come at a clatter whenever said pheenomenon is demanded by the exigencies of their crimes; an' thar you be. No, it's a fifty-two-kyard deck all right, an' the dealer depends on "puttin' back" to keep all straight. An' I'm driven to concede that the put-back work of said party is like a romance; puttin' back's his speshulty. His left hand would sort o' settle as light as a dead leaf over the kyard he's after that a-way-not a tenth part of a second-an' that pasteboard would come along, palmed, an' as his hand floats over the box as he's goin' to make the next turn the kyard would reassoome its cunnin' place inside. An' all as smoothly serene as pray'r meetin's.'

"'An', nacherally, you denounces this felon,' says Colonel Sterett, who's come in an' who's integrity is of the active sort.

"'Nacherally, I don't say a word,' retorts Cherokee. 'I ain't for years inhabited these roode an' sand-blown regions, remote as they be from best ideals an' high examples of the East, not to long before have learned the excellence of that maxim about lettin' every man kill his own snakes. I says nothin'; I merely looks about to locate the victim of them machinations with a view of goin' ag'inst his play.'

"It's when Cherokee arrives at this place in his recitals that Dave evolves his interruptions. He's camped by himse'f in a reemote corner of the room, an' he ain't been noticin' nobody an' nobody's been noticin' him. All at once, in tones which is low but a heap discordant, Dave hums to himse'f something that sounds like:

'Bye O babe, lie still in slumber,

Holy angels gyard thy bed.'

"At this, Cherokee in a horrified way stops, an' we-all looks at each other. Enright makes a dispar'in' gesture towards Dave an' says:

"'Gents, first callin' your attention to the fact that Dave ain't over-drinkt an' that no nosepaint theery is possible in accountin' for his acts, I asks you for your opinions. As you knows, this thing's been goin' for'ard for some time, an' I desires to hear if from any standp'int of public interest do you-all figger that steps should be took?'

"In order to fully onderstand Enright in all he means, I oughter lay bar' that Dave's been conductin' himse'f in a manner not to be explained for mighty likely she's eight weeks. Yeretofore, thar's no more sociable sport an' none whose system is easier to follow in all Wolfville than Dave. While holdin' himse'f at what you might call 'par' on all o'casions, Dave is still plenty minglesome an' fraternal with the balance of the herd, an' would no more think of donnin' airs or puttin' on dog than he'd think of blastin' away at one of us with his gun. Yet eight weeks prior thar shorely dawns a change.

"Which the first symptom-the advance gyard as it were of Dave's gettin' queer-is when Dave's standin' in front of the post-office. Thar's a faraway look to Dave at the time, like he's tryin' to settle whether he's behind or ahead on some deal. While thus wropped in this fit of abstraction Dan Boggs comes hybernatin' along an' asks Dave to p'int into the Red Light for a smell of Valley Tan. Dave sort o' rouses up at this an' fastens on Dan with his eyes, half truculent an' half amazed, same as if he's s

hocked at Dan's familiarity. Then he shakes his head decisive.

"'Don't try to braid this mule's tail none!' says Dave, an' at that he strides off with his muzzle in the air. Boggs is abashed.

"'Which these insultin' bluffs of Dave's,' says Boggs, as we canvasses the play a bit later, 'would cut me to the quick, but I knows it ain't on the level, Dave ain't himse'f when he declines said nosepaint-his intellects ain't in camp.'

"This ontoward an' onmerited rebuke to Boggs is followed, by further breaks as hard to savey. Dave ain't no two days alike. One time he's that haughty he actooally passes Enright himse'f in the street an' no more heed or recognition than if Wolfville's chief is the last Mexican to come no'th of the line. Then later Dave is effoosive an' goes about riotin' in the s'ciety of every gent whereof he cuts the trail. One day he won't drink; an' the next he's tippin' the canteen from sun-up till he's claimed by sleep. Which he gets us mighty near distracted; no one can keep a tab on him. What with them silences an' volyoobilities, sobrieties an' days of drink, an' all in bewilderin' alternations, he's shore got us goin' four ways at once.

"'In spite of the fact,' continyooes Dan Boggs when we're turnin' Dave's conduct over in our minds an' rummagin' about for reasons; 'in spite of the fact, I says, that I'm plenty posted in advance that I'm up ag'inst a gen'ral shout of derision on account of me bein' sooperstitious, I'm yere to offer two to one Dave's hoodooed. Moreover, I can name the hoodoo.'

"'Whatever is it then?' asks Texas Thompson; 'cut her freely loose an' be shore of our solemn consid'ration.'

"'It's opals,' says Boggs. 'Them gems as every well-instructed gent is aware is the very spent of bad luck. Dave's wearin' one in his shirt right now. It's that opal pin wherewith he decks himse'f recent while he's relaxin' with nosepaint in Tucson. I'm with him at the time an' I says to him: "Dave, I wouldn't mount that opal none. Which all opals is implacable hoodoos, an' it'll likely conjure up your rooin." But I might as well have addressed that counsel to a buffalo bull for all the respectful heed I gains. Dave gives me a grin, shets one eye plenty cunnin', an' retorts: "Dan, you're envious; you wants that ornament yourse'f an' you're out to try an make me diskyard it in your favour. Sech schemes, Dan, can't make the landin'. Opals that a-way is as harmless as bull snakes. Also, I knows what becomes my looks; an' while I ain't vain, still, bein' married as you're aware, it's wisdom in me to seize every openin' for enhancin' my pulcritoode. The better I looks, the longer Tucson Jennie loves me; an' I'm out to reetain that lady's heart at any cost." No, I don't onbend in no response,' goes on Boggs. 'Them accoosations of Dave about me honin' for said bauble is oncalled for. I'd no more pack a opal than I'd cut for deal an' embark on a game of seven-up with a ghost. As I states, the luck of opals is black.'

"'I was wont to think so,' says Enright, 'but thar once chances a play, the same comin' off onder my personal notice, that shakes my convictions on that p'int. Thar's a broke-down sport-this yere's long ago while I'm briefly sojournin' in Socorro-who's got a opal, an' he one day puts it in hock with a kyard sharp for a small stake. The kyard gent says he ain't alarmed none by these charges made of opals bein' bad luck. It's a ring, an' he sticks it on his little finger. Two days later he goes broke ag'in four jacks.

"'This terrifies him; he begins to believe in the evil innocences of opals. He presents the jewelry to a bar-keep, who puts it up, since his game limits itse'f to sellin' licker an', him bein' plenty careful not to drink none himse'f, his contracted destinies don't offer no field for opals an' their malign effects. In less time than a week, however, his wife leaves him; an' also that drink-shop wherein he officiates is blown down by a high wind.

"'That bar-keep emerges from the rooms of his domestic hopes an' the desolation of that gin mill, an' endows a lady of his acquaintance with this opal ornament. It ain't twenty-four hours when she cuts loose an' weds a Mexican.

"'Which by this time, excitement is runnin' high, an' you-all couldn't have found that citizen in Socorro with a search warrant who declines to believe in opals bein' bad luck. On the hocks of these catastrophes it's the common notion that nobody better own that opal; an' said malev'lent stone in the dooal capac'ty of a cur'osity an' a warnin' is put in the seegyar case at the Early Rose s'loon. The first day it's thar, a jeweller sharp come in for his daily drinks-he runs the jewelry store of that meetropolis an' knows about diamonds an' sim'lar jimcracks same as Peets does about drugs-an' he considers this talisman, scrootinisin' it a heap clost. "Do you-all believe in the bad luck of opals?" asks a pard who's with him. "This thing ain't no opal," says the jeweller sharp, lookin' up; "it's glass."

"'An' so it is: that baleful gewgaw has been sailin' onder a alias; it ain't no opal more'n a Colt's cartridge is a poker chip. An', of course, it's plain the divers an' several disasters, from the loss of that kyard gent's bank-roll down to the Mexican nuptials of the ill-advised lady to whom I alloodes, can't be laid to its charge. The whole racket shocks an' shakes me to that degree,' concloods Enright, 'that to-day I ain't got no settled views on opals', none whatever.'

"'Jest the same, I thinks it's opals that's the trouble with Dave,' declar's Boggs, plenty stubborn an' while the rest of us don't yoonite with him, we receives his view serious an' respectful so's not to jolt Boggs's feelin's.

"Goin' back, however, to when Dave sets up the warble of 'Bye O baby!' that a-way, we-all, followin' Enright's s'licitation for our thoughts, abides a heap still an' makes no response. Enright asks ag'in: 'What do you-all think?'

"At last Boggs, who as I sets forth frequent is a nervous gent, an' one on whom silence soon begins to prey, ag'in speaks up. Bein' doubtful an' mindful of Enright's argyment ag'in his opal bluff, however, Boggs don't advance his concloosions this time at all emphatic. In a tone like he's out ridin' for information himse'f, Boggs says:

"'Mebby, if it ain't opals, it's a case of straight loco.'

"'While I wouldn't want to readily think Dave locoed,' says Enright, 'seein' he's oncommon firm on his mental feet, still he's shore got something on his mind. An' bein' it is something, it's possible as you says that Dave's intellects is onhossed.'

"'Whatever for a play would it be,' says Cherokee, 'to go an' ask Dave himse'f right now?'

"'I'd be some slow about propoundin' sech surmises to Dave,' says Boggs. 'He might get hostile; you can put a wager on it, he'd turn out disagree'ble to a degree, if he did. No, you-all has got to handle a loonatic with gloves. I knows a gent who entangles himse'f with a loonatic, askin' questions, an' he gets all shot up.'

"'I reckons, however,' says Cherokee, 'that I'll assoome the resk. Dave an' me's friends; an' I allows if I goes after him in ways both soft an' careless, so as not to call forth no suspicions, he'll take it good-humoured even if he is locoed.'

"We-all sets breathless while Cherokee sa'nters down to where Dave's still wropped in them melodies.

"'Whatever be you hummin' toones for, Dave?' asks Cherokee all accidental like.

"'Which I'm rehearsin',' says Dave, an' he shows he's made impatient. 'Don't come infringin' about me with no questions,' goes on Dave. 'I'm like the ancient Romans, I've got troubles of my own; an' no sport who calls himse'f my friend will go aggravatin' me with ontimely inquis'tiveness.' Then Dave gets up an' pulls his freight an' leaves us more onsettled than at first.

"For a full hour, we does nothin' but canvass this yere question of Dave's aberrations. At last a idee seizes us. Thar's times when Dave's been seen caucusin' with Missis Rucker an' Doc Peets. Most likely one of 'em would be able to shed a ray on Dave. By a excellent coincidence, an' as if to he'p us out, Peets comes in as Texas Thompson su'gests that mebby the Doc's qualified to onravel the myst'ry.

"'Tell you-all folks what's the matter with Dave?' says Peets. 'Pards, it's simply not in the deck. Meanin' no disrespects-for you gents knows me too well to dream of me harborin' anything but feelin's of the highest regyards for one an' all-I'll have to leave you camped in original darkness. It would be breakin' professional confidences. Shore, I saveys Dave's troubles an' the causes of these vagaries of his; jest the same the traditions of the medical game forces me to hold 'em sacred an' secret.'

"'Tell us at least, Doc,' says Enright, 'whether Dave's likely to grow voylent. If he is, it's only proper that we arranges to tie him down.'

"'Dave may be boisterous later,' says Peets, an' his reply comes slow an' thoughtful, like he's considerin'; 'he may make a joyful uproar, but he won't wax dangerous.' This yere's as far as Peets'll go; he declines to talk longer, on professional grounds.

"'Which suspense, this a-way,' says Boggs, after Peets is gone, 'an' us no wiser than when he shows in the door, makes me desp'rate. I'll offer the motion: Let's prance over in a bunch, an' demand a explanation of Missis Rucker. Dave's been talkin' to her as much as ever he has to Peets, an' thar's no professional hobbles on the lady; she's footloose, an' free to speak.'

"'We waits on you, Marm,' says Enright, when ten minutes later Boggs, Cherokee, Texas Thompson an' he is in the kitchen of the O. K. Restauraw where Missis Rucker is slicin' salt hoss an' layin' the fragrant foundations of supper; 'we waits on you-all to ask your advice. Dave Tutt's been carryin' on in a manner an' form at once doobious an' threatenin'. It ain't too much to say that we-all fears the worst. We comes now to invite you to tell us all you knows of Dave an' whatever it is that so onsettles him. Our idee is that you onderstands a heap about it.'

"'See yere, Sam Enright,' retorts Missis Rucker, pausin' over the salt hoss, 'you ain't doin' yourse'f proud. You better round up this herd of inebriates an' get 'em back to the Red Light. Thar's nothin' the matter with Dave; leastwise if it was the matter with you, you'd be some improved. Dave Tutt's a credit to this camp; never more so than now; the same bein' a mighty sight more'n I could say of any of you-all an' stick to the trooth.'

"'Then you does know, Missis Rucker,' says Enright, 'the secret that's gnawin' at Dave.'

"'Know it,' replies Misses Rucker, 'of course, I knows it. But I don't propose to discuss it none with you tarrapins. I ain't got no patience with sech dolts! Now that you-all is yere, however, I'll give you notice that to-morry you can begin to do your own cookin' till you hears further word from me. I'm goin' to be otherwise an' more congenially engaged. Most likely I'll be back in my kitchen ag'in in a day or two; but I makes no promises. An' ontil sech time as I shows up, you-all can go scuffle for yourse'fs. I've got more important dooties jest now on my hands than cookin' chuck for sots.'

"As Missis Rucker speaks up mighty vigorous, an' as none of us has the nerve to ask her further an' take the resk of turnin' loose her temper, we lines out ag'in for the Red Light no cl'arer than what we was.

"'I could ask her more questions,' says Enright, 'but, gents, I didn't deem it wise. Missis Rucker is a most admirable character; but I'm sooperstitious about crowdin' her too clost. Like Boggs says about opals, thar's plenty of bad luck lurkin' about Missis Rucker's environs if you only goes about its deevelopment the right way.'

"'The sityooation is too many for me,' says Boggs, goin' up to the bar for a drink, 'I gives it up. I ain't got a notion left, onless it is that Dave's runnin' for office; that is, I might entertain sech a thought only thar ain't no office.'

"'The next day Missis Rucker abandons her post; an' we tharupon finds that feedin' ourse'fs keeps us busy an' we don't have much time to discuss Dave. Also, Dave disappears;-in fact, both Dave an' Missis Rucker fades from view.

"It's about fo'rth drink time the evenin' of the third day, an' most of us is in the Red Light. Thar's a gloom overhangs us like a fog. Mebby it's the oncertainties which envelops Dave, mebby it's because Missis Rucker's done deserted an' left us to rustle for ourse'fs or starve. Most of us is full of present'ments that something's due to happen.

"All at once, an' onexpected, Dave walks in. A sigh of relief goes up,

for the glance we gives him shows he's all right-sane as

Enright-clothed an' in his right mind as set fo'th in holy writ.

Also, his countenance is a wrinkle of glee.

"'Gents,' says Dave, an' his air is that patronisin' it would have been exasperatin' only we're so relieved, 'gents, I'm come to seek congratyoolations an' set 'em up. Peets an' that motherly angel, Missis Rucker, allows I'll be of more use yere than in my own house, whereat I nacherally floats over. Coupled with a su'gestion that we drinks, I wants to say that he's a boy, an' that I brands him "Enright Peets Tutt."'"

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