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   Chapter 11 No.11

Wolfville Nights By Alfred Henry Lewis Characters: 16554

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


Tucson Jennie's Correction.

"Doc Peets, son," said the Old Cattleman, while his face wore the look of decent gravity it ever donned when that man of medicine was named, "Doc Peets has his several uses. Aside from him bein' a profound sharp on drugs, an' partic'lar cowboy drugs, he's plenty learned in a gen'ral way, an' knows where every kyard lays in nacher's deck, from them star-flecked heavens above to the earth beneath, an'-as Scripter puts it-to the 'waters onder the earth.' It's a good scheme to have a brace of highly eddicated gents, same as Colonel Sterett an' Doc Peets, sort o' idlin' 'round your camp. Thar's times when a scientist, or say, a lit'rary sport comes bluffin' into Wolfville; an' sech folks is a mighty sight too deep for Boggs an' me an' Tutt. If we're left plumb alone with a band of them book-read shorthorns like I deescribes, you-all sees yourse'f, they're bound to go spraddlin' East ag'in, an' report how darkened Wolfville is. But not after they locks horns with Doc Peets or Colonel Sterett. Wherefore, whenever the camp's invaded by any over-enlightened people who's gone too far in schools for the rest of us to break even with, we ups an' plays Doc Peets or Colonel Sterett onto 'em; an' the way either of them gents would turn in an' tangle said visitors up mental don't bother 'em a bit. That's straight; Peets an' the Colonel is our refooge; they're our protectors; an' many a time an' oft, have I beheld 'em lay for some vain-glorious savant who's got a notion the Southwest, that a-way, is a region of savagery where the folks can't even read an' write none, an' they'd rope, throw, an' hawgtie him-verbal, I means-an' brand his mem'ry with the red-hot fact that he's wrong an' been wadin' in error up to the saddle-girths touchin' the intellectooal attainments of good old Arizona. Shore,-Doc Peets has other uses than drugs, an' he discharges 'em.

"Now that I thinks of the matter, it's Doc Peets who restores Dave Tutt to full standin' with Tucson Jennie, the time she begins to neglect Dave. You see, the trouble is this a-way: It really starts-leastwise I allers so believes-in Dave's beginnin' wrong with Tucson Jennie. Troo, as I confesses to you frequent yeretofore, I ain't married none myse'f; still, I've been livin' a likely number of years, an' has nacherally witnessed a whole lot touchin' other gents an' their wives; an' sech experiences is bound to breed concloosions. An' while I may be wrong, for these yere views is nothin' more than a passel of ontested theeries with me, it's my beliefs that thar's two attitoodes, speakin' gen'ral, which a gent assoomes toward his bride. Either he deals with her on what we-all will call the buck-squaw system, or he turns the game about complete, an' organises his play on the gentleman-lady system. In the latter, the gent waits on his wife; he comes an' he goes, steps high or soft, exactly as she commands. She gives the orders; an' he rides a pony to death execootin' 'em, an' no reemonstrances nor queries. That wife is range an' round-up boss for her outfit.

"But the buck-squaw system is after all more hooman an' satisfactory. It's opposite to the other. The gent is reesponsible for beef on the hook an' flour in the bar'l. He's got to provide the blankets, make good ag'in the household's hunger, an' see to it thar's allers wood an' water within easy throw of every camp he pitches. Beyond that, however, the gent who's playin' the buck-squaw system don't wander. When he's in camp, he distinguishes himse'f by doin' nothin'. He wrops himse'f in his blankets, camps down by the fire, while his wife rustles his chuck an' fills his pipe for him. At first glance, this yere buck-squaw system might strike a neeophyte as a mighty brootal scheme. Jest the same, it'll eemerge winner twenty times to the gentleman-lady system's once. The women folks like it. Which they'll pretend they prefers the gentleman-lady system, where they sets still an' the gent attends on 'em; but don't you credit it, none whatever. It's the good old patriarchal, buck-squaw idee, where the gent does nothin' an' the lady goes prancin' about like the ministerin' angel which she is, that tickles her to death. I states ag'in, that it's my notion, Dave who begins with Tucson Jennie-they bein' man an' wife-on the gentleman-lady system, tharby hatches cold neglect for himse'f. An' if it ain't for the smooth savey of Doc Peets, thar's no sport who could foretell the disastrous end. Dave, himse'f thinks he'd have had eventool to resign his p'sition as Jennie's husband an' quit.

"Which I've onfolded to you prior of Jennie's gettin' jealous of Dave touchin' that English towerist female; but this yere last trouble ain't no likeness nor kin to that. Them gusts of jealousy don't do no harm nohow; nor last the day. They're like thunder showers; brief an' black enough, but soon over an' leavin' the world brighter.

"This last attitoode of Jennie towards Dave is one of abandonment an' onthinkin' indifference that a-way. It begins hard on the fetlocks of that interestin' event, thrillin' to every proud Wolfville heart, the birth of Dave's only infant son, Enright Peets Tutt. Which I never does cross up with no one who deems more of her progeny than Jennie does of the yoothful Enright Peets. A cow's solicitoode concernin' her calf is chill regyard compared tharwith. Jennie hangs over Enright Peets like some dew-jewelled hollyhock over a gyarden fence; you'd think he's a roast apple; an' I don't reckon now, followin' that child's advent, she ever sees another thing in Arizona but jest Enright Peets. He's the whole check-rack-the one bet that wins on the layout of the possible-an' Jennie proceeds to conduct herse'f accordin'. It's a good thing mebby for Enright Peets; I won't set camped yere an' say it ain't; but it's mighty hard on Dave.

"Jennie not only neglects Dave, she turns herse'f loose frequent an'

assails him. If he shows up in his wigwam walkin' some emphatic,

Jennie'll be down on him like a fallin' star an' accoose him of wakin'

Enright Peets.

"'An' if you-all wakes him,' says Jennie to Dave, sort o' domineerin' at him with her forefinger, 'he'll be sick; an' if he gets sick, he'll die; an' if he dies, you'll be a murderer-the heartless deestroyer of your own he'pless offspring,-which awful deed I sometimes thinks you're p'intin' out to pull off.' An' then Jennie would put her apron over her head an' shed tears a heap; while Dave-all harrowed up an' onstrung-would come stampedin' down to the Red Light an' get consolation from Black Jack by the quart.

"That's the idee, son; it's impossible to go into painful details, 'cause I ain't in Dave's or Jennie's confidence enough to round 'em up; but you onderstands what I means. Jennie's forever hectorin' an' pesterin' Dave about Enright Peets; an' beyond that she don't pay no more heed, an' don't have him no more on her mind, than if he's one of these yere little jimcrow ground-owls you-all sees inhabitin' about dissoloote an' permiscus with prairie-dogs. What's the result? Dave's sperits begins to sink; he takes to droopin' about listless an' onregyardful; an' he's that low an' onhappy his nosepaint don't bring him no more of comfort than if he's a graven image. Why, it's the saddest thing I ever sees in Wolfville!

"We-all observes how Dave's dwindlin' an' pinin' an' most of us has a foggy onderstandin' of the trooth. But what can we do? If thar's ever a aggregation of sports who's powerless, utter, to come to the rescoo of a comrade in a hole, it's Enright an' Moore an' Boggs an' Texas Thompson an' Cherokee an' me, doorin' them days when that neglect of Tucson Jennie's is makin' pore Dave's burdens more'n he can b'ar. Shore, we consults; but that don't come to nothin' ontil the o'casion when Doc Peets takes the tangle in ser'ous hand.

"Thar's a day dawns when Missis Rucker gets exasperated over Dave's ill-yoosage. Missis Rucker is a sperited person an' she canters over an' onloads her opinions on Tucson Jennie. Commonly, these yere ladies can't think too much of one another; but on this one division of the house of Tutt, Missis Rucker goes out on Dave's angle of the game. An' you-all should have seen the terror it inspires when Missi

s Rucker declar's her hostile intentions.

"It's in the O.K. restauraw, when Missis Rucker, who's feedin' us our mornin' flap-jacks an' salt hoss as usual, turns to Old Man Enright, an' says:

"'As soon as ever I've got the last drunkard fed an' outen the house, I'm goin' to put on my shaker an' go an' tell that Tucson Jennie Tutt what's on my mind. I shore never sees a woman change more than Jennie since the days when she cooks for me in this yere very restauraw an' lays plans an' plots to lure Dave into wedlock. I will say that Jennie, nacheral, is a good wife; but the fashion, wherein she tromples on Dave an' his rights is a disgrace to her sex, an' I'm goin' to deevote a hour this mornin' to callin' Jennie's attention tharunto.'

"'Missis Rucker is a mighty intrepid lady,' says Enright, when we goes over to the New York store followin' feed. 'I'd no more embrace them chances she's out to tackle than I'd go dallyin' about a wronged grizzly. But jest the same, I'd give a stack of reds if Peets is here! When did he say he'd be back from Tucson?'

"'The Doc don't allow he'll come trailin' in ag'in,' says Dan Boggs, 'ontil day after to-morry. Which this female dooel will be plumb over by then, an' most likely the camp a wrack.'

"While we-all stands thar gazin' on each other, enable to su'gest anything to meet the emergency, Texas Thompson's pony is brought up from the corral, saddled an' bridled, an' ready for the trail.

"'Well, gents,' says Texas, when he sees his hoss is come, 'I reckons

I'll say adios an' pull my freight. I'll be back in a week.'

"'Wherever be you p'intin' for?' asks Cherokee Hall. 'Ain't this goin' of yours some sudden?'

"'It is a trifle hasty,' says Texas; 'but do you cimmarons think I'm goin' to linger yere after Missis Rucker gives notice she's preparin' to burn the ground around Tucson Jennie about Dave? Gents, I don't pack the nerve! I ain't lived three years with my former wife who gets that Laredo divorce I once or twice adverts to, an' not know enough not to get caught out on no sech limb as this. No, sir; I sees enough of woman an' her ways to teach me that now ain't no time to be standin' about irresoloote an' ondecided, an' I'm goin' to dig out for Tucson, you bet, ontil this uprisin' subsides.'

"This example of Texas scares us up a whole lot; the fact is, it stampedes us; an' without a further word of argyment, the whole band makes a break for the corral, throws saddles onto the swiftest ponies, an' in two minutes we're lost in that cloud of alkali dust we kicks up down the trail toward the no'th.

"'Which I won't say that this exodus is necessary,' observes Enright, when ten miles out we slows up to a road gait to breathe our ponies, 'but I thinks on the whole it's safer. Besides, I oughter go over to Tucson anyway on business.'

"The rest of us don't make no remarks nor excooses; but every gent is feelin' like a great personal peril has blown by.

"The next day, we rounds up Doc Peets, an' he encourages us so that we concloods to return an' make a size-up of results.

"'I shore hopes we finds Dave safe.' says Dan Boggs.

"'It's even money,' says Jack Moore, 'that Dave pulls through. Dave's a mighty wary sport when worst comes to worst; an' as game as redhead ants.'

"'That's all right about Dave bein' game,' retorts Dan, 'but this yere's a time when Dave ain't got no show. I says ag'in, I trust he retains decision of character sufficient to go hide out doorin' the storm. It ain't no credit to us that we forgets to bring him along.'

"'No; thar wasn't no harm done,' says Faro Nell, who reports progress to us after we rounds up in the Red Light followin' our return. Nell's a brave girl an' stands a pat hand when the rest of us vamosed that time. 'Thar ain't no real trouble. Missis Rucker merely sets fire to Jennie about the way she maltreats Dave; an' she says Jennie's drivin' him locoed, an' no wonder. Also, she lets on she don't see whatever Dave marries Jennie for anyhow!

"'At that, Jennie comes back an' reminds Missis Rucker how she herse'f done treats Mister Rucker that turrible he goes cavortin' off an' seeks safety among the Apaches. An' so they keeps on slingin' it back'ards an' for'ards for mebby two hours, an' me ha'ntin' about to chunk in a word. Then, final, they cries an' makes up; an' then they both concedes that one way an' another they're the best two people each other ever sees. At this juncture,' concloods Nell, 'I declar's myse'f in on the play; an' we-all three sets down an' admires Enright Peets an' visits an' has a splendid afternoon.'

"'An' wherever doorin' this emute is Dave?' asks Enright.

"'Oh, Dave?' says Nell. 'Why he's lurkin' about outside som'ers in a furtive, surreptitious way; but he don't molest us none. Which, now I remembers, Dave don't even come near us none at all.'

"'I should say not!' says Texas Thompson, plenty emphatic. 'Dave ain't quite that witless.'

"'Now, gents,' remarks Doc Peets, when Nell is done, an' his tones is confident like he's certain of his foothold, 'since things has gone thus far I'll sa'nter into the midst of these domestic difficulties an' adjust 'em some. I've thought up a s'lootion; an' it's apples to ashes that inside of twenty-four hours I has Jennie pettin' an' cossetin' Dave to beat four of a kind. Leave this yere matter to me entire.'

"We-all can't see jest how Peets is goin' to work these mir'cles; still, sech is our faith, we believes. We decides among ourse'fs, however, that if Peets does turn this pacific trick it'll ondoubted be the crownin' glory of his c'reer.

"After Peets hangs up his bluff, we goes about strainin' eyes an' y'ears for any yells or signal smokes that denotes the advent of said changes. An', son, hard as it is to credit, it comes to pass like Peets prognosticates. By next evenin' a great current of tenderness for Dave goes over Jennie all at once. She begins to call him 'Davy'-a onheard of weakness!-an' hovers about him askin' whatever he thinks he needs; in fact, she becomes that devoted, it looks like the little Enright Peets'll want he'p next to play his hand for him. That's the trooth: Jennie goes mighty clost to forgettin' Enright Peets now an' then in her wifely anxieties concernin' Dave.

"As for Dave himse'f, he don't onderstand his sudden an' onmerited pop'larity; but wearin' a dazed grin of satisfied ignorance, that a-way, he accepts the sityooation without askin' reasons, an' proceeds to profit tharby. That household is the most reeconciled model fam'ly outfit in all broad Arizona. An' it so continyoos to the end.

"'Whatever did you do or say, Doc?' asks Enright a month later, as we-all from across the street observes how Jennie kisses Dave good-bye at the door an' then stands an' looks after him like she can't b'ar to have him leave her sight; 'what's the secret of this second honeymoon of Dave's?'

"'Which I don't say much,' says Peets. 'I merely takes Jennie one side an' exhorts her to brace up an' show herse'f a brave lady. Then I explains that while I ain't told Dave none-as his knowin' wouldn't do no good-I regyards it as my medical dooty to inform her so's she'll be ready to meet the shock. "The trooth is, Missis Tutt," I says, "pore Dave's got heart disease, an' is booked to cash in any moment. I can't say when he'll die exactly; the only shore thing is he can't survive a year." She sheds torrents of tears; an' then I warns her she mustn't let Dave see her grief or bushwhack anything but smiles on her face, or mightly likely it'll stop his clock right thar. "Can't nothin' be done for Dave?" she asks. "Nothin'," I replies, "except be tender an' lovin' an' make Dave's last days as pleasant an' easy as you can. We must jump in an' smooth the path to his totterin' moccasins with gentleness an' love," I says, "an' be ready, when the blow does fall, to b'ar it with what fortitoode we may." That's all I tells her. However, it looks like it's becomin' a case of overplay in one partic'lar; our pore young namesake, Enright Peets, is himse'f gettin' a trifle the worst of it, an' I'm figgerin' that to-morry, mebby, I'll look that infant over, an' vouchsafe the news thar's something mighty grievous the matter with his lungs.'"

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