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   Chapter 13 No.13

Wolfville Nights By Alfred Henry Lewis Characters: 17409

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


When Tutt first saw Tucson.

"An' speakin' of dooels," remarked the Old Cattleman, apropos of an anecdote of the field of honour wherewith I regaled his fancy, "speakin' of dooels, I reckons now the encounter Dave Tutt involves himse'f with when he first sees Tucson takes onchallenged preecedence for utter bloodlessness. She's shore the most lamb's-wool form of single combat to which my notice is ever drawn. Dave enlightens us concernin' its details himse'f, bein' incited tharunto by hearin' Texas Thompson relate about the Austin shootin' match of that Deaf Smith.

"'Which this yere is 'way back yonder on the trail of time,' explains Dave, 'an' I'm hardened a heap since then. I've jest come buttin' into Tucson an' it's easy money I'm the tenderest an' most ontaught party that ever wears store-moccasins. What I misses knowin' would make as husky a library,-if it's printed down in books,-as ever lines up on shelves. Also, I'm freighted to the limit with the tenderfoot's usual outfit of misinformation. It's sad, yet troo! that as I casts my gaze r'arward I identifies myse'f as the balmiest brand of shorthorn who ever leaves his parents' shelterin' roof.'

"'All the same,' says Dan Boggs, plenty conceited, 'I'll gamble a hoss I'm a bigger eediot when I quits Missouri to roam the cow country than ever you-all can boast of bein' in your most drivelin' hour.'

"'Do they lock you up?' asks Dave.

"'No,' says Dan, 'they don't lock me up none, but--'

"'Then you lose,' insists Dave, mighty prompt.

"'But hold on,' says Dan; 'don't get your chips down so quick. As I starts to explain, I ain't locked up; but it's because I'm in a camp like Wolfville yere that ain't sunk to the level of no calaboose. But what comes to be the same, I'm taken captive an' held as sech ontil the roodiments of Western sense is done beat into me. It takes the yoonited efforts of four of the soonest sharps that ever happens; an' final, they succeeds to a p'int that I'm deemed cap'ble of goin' about alone.'

"'Well,' retorts Dave, 'I won't dispoote with you; an' even at that I regyards your present attitoode as one of bluff. I thinks you're shore the cunnin'est wolf in the territory, Dan, an' allers is. But, as I'm sayin', when I first begins to infest Tucson, I'm so ignorant it's a stain on that meetropolis. At this yere epock, Tucson ain't spraddled to its present proud dimensions. A gent might have thrown the loop of a lariat about the outfit an' drug it after him with a pony. No one, however, performs this labour, as the camp is as petyoolant as a t'rant'ler an' any onauthorised dalliance with its sensibilities would have led to vivid plays. Still, she ain't big, Tucson ain't; an' I learns my way about from centre to suburbs in the first ten minutes.

"'At the beginnin' I'm a heap timid. I suffers from the common eastern theery an' looks on Arizona as a region where it's murder straight an' lynchin' for a place. You-all may jedge from that how erroneous is my idees. Then, as now, the distinguishin' feacher of Tucson existence is a heavenly ca'm. Troo, thar's moments when the air nacherally fills up with bullets like they're a passel of swallow-birds, an' they hums an' sings their merry madrigals. However, these busy seasons don't set in so often nor last so long but peaceful folks has ample chance to breathe.

"'Never does I b'ar witness to as many as seven contemporaneous remainders but once; and then thar's cause. It's in a poker game; an' the barkeep brings the dealer a cold deck onder a tray whereon he purveys the drinks. Which the discovery of this yere solecism, as you-all well imagines, arouses interest, earnest an' widespread like I deescribes. I counts up when the smoke lifts an' finds that seven has sought eternal peace. Commonly two is the number; three bein' quite a shipment. Shore, it's speshul sickly when as many as seven quits out together!

"'Bein' timid an' ignorant I takes good advice. It's in the Oriental.

Thar's that old gray cimmaron hibernatin' about the bar whose name is

Jeffords.

"'"Be you-all conversant with that gun you packs?" asks Jeffords.

"'I feels the hot blush mountin' in my tender cheeks, but I concedes I ain't. "Pard," I replies, "speakin' confidenshul an' between gent an' gent, this yere weepon is plumb novel to me."

"'"Which I allows as much," he says, "from the egreegious way you fidges with it. Now let me pass you-all a p'inter from the peaks of experience. You caper back to the tavern an' take that weepon off. Or what's as well, you pass it across to the barkeep. If you-all goes romancin' 'round with hardware at your belt it's even money it'll get you beefed. Allers remember while in Arizona that you'll never get plugged-onless by inadvertence-as long as you wander about in onheeled innocence. No gunless gent gets downed; sech is the onbreakable roole."

"'After that I goes guiltless of arms; I ain't hungerin' for immortality abrupt.

"'Old Jeffords is shore right; in the Southwest if you aims to b'ar a charmed life, never wear a six-shooter. This maxim goes anywhere this side of the Mississippi; east of that mighty river it's the other way.

"'Bein' nimble-blooded in them days, I'm a heap arduous about the dance-hall. I gets infatyooated with the good fellowship of that hurdygurdy; an' even after I leaves Tucson an' is camped some miles away, I saddles up every other evenin', rides in an', as says the poet, "shakes ontirin' laig even into the wee small hours."

"'Right yere, gents,' an' Dave pauses like he's prounced on by a solemn thought, 'I don't reckon I has to caution none of you-all not to go repeatin' these mem'ries of gay days done an' gone, where my wife Tucson Jennie cuts their trail. I ain't afraid of Jennie; she's a kind, troo he'pmeet; but ever since that onfortunate entanglement with the English towerist lady her suspicions sets up nervous in their blankets at the mere mention of frivolities wherein she hears my name. I asks you, tharfore, not to go sayin' things to feed her doubts. With Tucson Jennie, my first business is to live down my past.'

"'You-all can bet,' says Texas Thompson, while his brow clouds, 'that I learns enough while enjoyin' the advantages of livin' with my former wife to make sech requests sooperfluous in my case. Speshully since if it ain't for what the neighbours done tells the lady she'd never go ropin' 'round for that divorce. No Dave; your secrets is plumb safe with a gent who's suffered.

"'Which I saveys I'm safe with all of you,' says Dave, his confidence, which the thoughts of Tucson Jennie sort o' stampedes, beginnin' to return. 'But now an' then them gusts of apprehensions frequent with married gents sweeps over me an' I feels weak. But comin' back to the dance-hall: As I su'gests thar's many a serene hour I whiles away tharin. Your days an' your dinero shore flows plenty swift in that temple of merriment; an' chilled though I be with the stiff dignity of a wedded middle age, if it ain't for my infant son, Enright Peets Tutt, to whom I'm strivin' to set examples, I'd admire to prance out an' live ag'in them halcyon hours; that's whatever!

"'Thar's quite a sprinklin' of the elite of Tucson in the dance-hall the evenin' I has in mind. The bar is busy; while up an' down each side sech refreshin' pastimes as farobank, monte an' roulette holds prosperous sway. Thar's no quadrille goin' at the moment, an' a lady to the r'ar is carollin' "Rosalie, the Prairie Flower."

"Fair as a lily bloomin' in May,

Sweeter than roses, bright as the day!

Everyone who knows her feels her gentle power,

Rosalie the Prairie Flower."

"'On this yere o'casion I'm so far fortunate as to be five drinks ahead an' tharfore would sooner listen to myse'f talk than to the warblin' of the cantatrice. As it is, I'm conversin' with a gent who's standin' hard by.

"'At my elbow is posted a shaggy an' forbiddin' outlaw whose name is

Yuba Tom, an' who's more harmonious than me. He wants to listen to

"Rosalie the Prairie Flower." Of a sudden, he w'irls about, plenty

peevish.

"'Stick a period to that pow-wow," observes Yuba; "I wants to hear this prima donna sing."

"'Bein' gala with the five libations, I turns on Yuba haughty. "If you're sobbin' to hear this songstress," I says, "go for'ard an' camp down at her feet. But don't come pawin' your way into no conversations with me. An' don't hang up no bluff."

"'Which if you disturbs me further," retorts Yuba, "I'll turn loose for shore an' crawl your hump a lot."

"'Them foolhardy sports," I replies, "who has yeretofore attempted that enterprise sleeps in onknown graves; so don't you-all pester m

e, for the outlook's dark."

"'It's now that Yuba,-who's a mighty cautious sport, forethoughtful an' prone to look ahead,-regyards the talk as down to cases an' makes a flash for his gun. It's concealed by his surtoot an' I ain't noticed it none before. If I had, most likely I'd pitched the conversation in a lower key. However, by this time, I'm quarrelsome as a badger; an' a willin'ness for trouble subdooes an' sets its feet on my nacheral cowardice an' holds her down.'

"'Dave, you-all makes me nervous,' says Boggs, with a flash of heat, 'settin' thar lyin' about your timidity that a-way. You're about as reluctant for trouble as a grizzly bar, an' you couldn't fool no gent yere on that p'int for so much as one white chip.'

"'Jest the same,' says Dave, mighty dogmatic, 'I still asserts that in a concealed, inborn fashion, I'm timid absoloote. If you has ever beheld me stand up ag'in the iron it's because I'm 'shamed to quit. I'd wilt out like a jack-rabbit if I ain't held by pride.

"'"You're plenty ready with that Colt's," I says to Yuba, an' my tones is severe. "That's because you sees me weeponless. If I has a gun now, I'd make you yell like a coyote."

"'"S'pose you ain't heeled," reemonstrates Yuba, "that don't give you no license to stand thar aboosin' me. Be I to blame because your toilet ain't complete? You go frame yourse'f up, an' I'll wait;" an' with that, this Yuba takes his hand from his artillery.

"'Thar's a footile party who keeps the dancehall an' who signs the books as Colonel Boone. He's called the "King of the Cowboys"; most likely in a sperit of facetiousness since he's more like a deuce than a king. This Boone's packin' a most excellent six-shooter loose in the waistband of his laiggin's. Boone's passin' by as Yuba lets fly his taunts an' this piece of ordnance is in easy reach. With one motion I secures it an' the moment followin' the muzzle is pressin' ag'inst a white pearl button on Yuba's bloo shirt.

"'"Bein' now equipped," I says, "this war-dance may proceed."

"'I'm that scared I fairly hankers for the privilege of howlin', but I realises acootely that havin' come this far towards homicide I must needs go through if Yuba crowds my hand. But he don't; he's forbearin' an' stands silent an' still. Likewise, I sees his nose, yeretofore the colour of a over-ripe violin, begin to turn sear an' gray. I recovers sperit at this as I saveys I'm saved. Still I keeps the artillery on him. It's the innocence of the gun that holds Yuba spellbound an' affects his nose, an' I feels shore if I relaxes he'll be all over me like a baggage waggon.'

"'Which I should say so!' says Jack Moore, drawin' a deep breath. 'You takes every chance, Dave, when you don't cut loose that time!'

"'When Boone beholds me,' says Dave, 'annex his gun he almost c'lapses into a fit. He makes a backward leap that shows he ain't lived among rattlesnakes in vain. Then he stretches his hand towards me an' Yuba, an' says, "Don't shoot! Let's take a drink; it's on the house!"

"'Yuba, with his nose still a peaceful gray, turns from the gun an' sidles for the bar; I follows along, thirsty, but alert. When we-all is assembled, Boone makes a wailin' request for his six-shooter.

"'"Get his," I says, at the same time, animadvertin' at Yuba with the muzzle.

"'Yuba passes his weepons over the bar an' I follows suit with Boone's.

Then we drinks with our eyes on each other in silent scorn.

"'"Which we-all will see about this later,' growls Yuba, as he leaves the bar.

"'"Go as far as you like, old sport," I retorts, for this last edition, as Colonel Sterett would term it, of Valley Tan makes me that brave I'm miseratin' for a riot.

"'It's the next day before ever I'm firm enough, to come ag'in to Tucson. This stage-wait in the tragedy is doo to fear excloosive. I hears how Yuba is plumb bad; how he's got two notches on his stick; how he's filed the sights off his gun; an' how in all reespects he's a murderer of merit an' renown. Sech news makes me timid two ways: I'm afraid Yuba'll down me some; an' then ag'in I'm afraid he's so popular I'll be lynched if I downs him. Shore, that felon Yuba begins to assoome in my apprehensions the stern teachers of a whipsaw. At last I'm preyed on to that degree I'm desperate; an' I makes up my mind to invade Tucson, cross up with Yuba an' let him come a runnin'. The nervousness of extreme yooth doubtless is what goads me to this decision.

"'It's about second drink time in the afternoon when, havin' donned my weepons, I rides into Tucson. After leavin' my pony at the corral, I turns into the main street. It's scorchin' hot an' barrin' a dead burro thar's hardly anybody in sight. Up in front of the Oriental, as luck has it, stands Yuba and a party of doobious morals who slays hay for the gov'ment, an' is addressed as Lon Gilette. As I swings into the causeway, Gilette gets his eye on me an' straightway fades into the Oriental leavin' Yuba alone in the street. This yere strikes me as mighty ominous; I feels the beads of water come onder my hatband, an' begins to crowd my gun a leetle for'ard on the belt. I'm walkin' up on the opp'site side from Yuba who stands watchin' my approach with a serene mien.

"'"It's the ca'mness of the tiger crouchin' for a spring," thinks I.

"'As I arrives opp'site, Yuba stretches out his hand. "Come on over," he sings out.

"'"Which he's assoomin' airs of friendship," I roominates, "to get me off my gyard."

"'I starts across to Yuba. I'm watchin' like a lynx; an' I'm that harrowed, if Yuba so much as sneezes or drops his hat or makes a r'arward move of his hand, I'm doo to open on him. But he stands still as a hill an' nothin' more menacin' than grins. As I comes clost he offers his hand. It's prior to my shootin' quick an' ackerate with my left hand, so I don't give Yuba my right, holdin' the same in reserve for emergencies an' in case thar's a change of weather. But Yuba, who can see it's fear that a-way, is too p'lite to make comments. He shakes my left hand with well-bred enthoosiasm an' turns an' heads the way into the Oriental.

"'As we fronts the bar an' demands nosepaint Yuba gives up his arms; an' full of a jocund lightheartedness as I realises that I ain't marked for instant slaughter I likewise yields up mine. We then has four drinks in happy an' successful alternation, an' next we seeks a table an' subsides into seven-up.

"'"Then thar ain't goin' to be no dooel between us?" I says to Yuba. It's at a moment when he's turned jack an' I figgers he'll be more soft an' leenient. "It's to be a evenin' of friendly peace?"

"'"An' why not?" says Yuba. "I've shore took all the skelps that's comin' to me; an' as for you-all, you're young an' my counsel is to never begin. That pooerile spat we has don't count. I'm drinkin' at the time, an' I don't reckon now you attaches importance to what a gent says when he's in licker?"

"'"Not to what he says," I replies; "but I does to what he shoots. I looks with gravity on the gun-plays of any gent, an' the drunker he is the more ser'ous I regyards the eepisode."

"'"Well, she's a thing of the past now," explains Yuba, "an' this evenin' you're as pop'lar with me as a demijohn at a camp-meetin'."

"'Both our bosoms so wells with joy, settin' thar as we do in a atmosphere of onexpected yet perfect fraternalism an' complete peace, that Yuba an' me drinks a whole lot. It gets so, final, I refooses to return to my own camp; I won't be sep'rated from Yuba. When we can no longer drink, we turns in at Yuba's wickeyup an' sleeps. The next mornin' we picks up the work of reeconciliation where it slips from our tired hands the evenin' before. I does intend to reepair to my camp when we rolls out; but after the third conj'int drink both me an' Yuba sees so many reasons why it's a fool play I gives up the idee utter.

"'Gents, it's no avail to pursoo me an' Yuba throughout them four feverish days. We drifts from one drink-shop to the other, arm in arm, as peaceful an' pleased a pair of sots as ever disturbs the better element. Which we're the scandal of Tucson; we-all is that thickly amiable it's a insult to other men. Thus ends my first dooel; a conflict as bloodless as she is victorious. How long it would have took me an' Yuba to thoroughly cement our friendships will never be known. At the finish, we-all is torn asunder by the Tucson marshal an' I'm returned to my camp onder gyard. Me an' Yuba before nor since never does wax that friendly with any other gent; we'd be like brothers yet, only the Stranglers over to Shakespear seizes on pore Yuba one mornin' about a hoss an' heads him for his home on high.'"

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