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   Chapter 21 No.21

Wolfville Nights By Alfred Henry Lewis Characters: 29903

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

Long Ago on the Rio Grande.

"Which books that a-way," observed the Old Cattleman, "that is, story-books, is onfrequent in Wolfville." He was curiously examining Stevenson's "Treasure Island," that he had taken from my hand. "The nearest approach to a Wolfville cirk'latin' library I recalls is a copy of 'Robinson Crusoe,' an' that don't last long, as one time when Texas Thompson leaves it layin' on a cha'r outside while he enters the Red Light for the usual purpose, a burro who's loafin' loose about the street, smells it, tastes it, approoves of it, an' tharupon devours it a heap. After that I don't notice no volumes in the outfit, onless it's some drug books that Doc Peets has hived over where he camps. It's jest as well, for seein' a gent perusin' a book that a-way, operates frequent to make Dan Boggs gloomy; him bein' oneddicated like I imparts to you-all yeretofore.

"Whatever do we do for amoosements? We visits the Dance Hall; not to dance, sech frivol'ties bein' for younger an' less dignified sports. We goes over thar more to give our countenance an' endorsements to Hamilton who runs the hurdy-gurdy, an' who's a mighty proper citizen. We says 'How!' to Hamilton, libates, an' mebby watches 'em 'balance all,' or 'swing your partners,' a minute or two an' then proceeds. Then thar's Huggins's Bird Cage Op'ry House, an' now an' then we-all floats over thar an' takes in the dramy. But mostly we camps about the Red Light; the same bein' a common stampin'-ground. It's thar we find each other; an' when thar's nothin' doin', we upholds the hours tellin' tales an' gossipin' about cattle an' killin's, an' other topics common to a cow country. Now an' then, thar's a visitin' gent in town who can onfold a story. In sech event he's made a lot of, an' becomes promptly the star of the evenin'.

"Thar's a Major Sayres we meets up with once in Wolfville,-he's thar on cattle matters with old man Enright-an' I recalls how he grows absorbin' touchin' some of his adventures in that War.

"Thar's a passel of us, consistin' of Boggs, Tutt, Cherokee, an' Texas Thompson, an' me, who's projectin' 'round the Red Light when Enright introdooces this Major Sayres. Him an' Enright's been chargin' about over by the Cow Springs an' has jest rode in. This Major is easy an' friendly, an' it ain't longer than the third drink before he shows symptoms of bein' willin' to talk.

"'Which I ain't been in the saddle so long,' says the Major, while him an' Enright is considerin' how far they goes since sunup, 'since Mister Lee surrenders.'

"'You takes your part, Major,' says Enright, who's ropin' for a reminiscence that a-way, 'in the battles of the late war, I believes.'

"'I should shorely say so,' says the Major. 'I'm twenty-two years old, come next grass, when Texas asserts herse'f as part of the confed'racy, an' I picks up a hand an' plays it in common with the other patriotic yooths of my region. Yes, I enters the artillery, but bein' as we don't have no cannon none at the jump I gets detailed as a aide ontil something resemblin' a battery comes pokin' along. I goes through that carnage from soup to nuts, an' while I'm shot up some as days go by, it's allers been a source of felic'tation to me, personal, that I never slays no man myse'f. Shore, I orders my battery to fire, later when I gets a battery; an' ondoubted the bombardments I inaug'rates adds to an' swells the ghost census right along. But of my own hand it's ever been a matter of congratoolations to me that I don't down nobody an' never takes a skelp.

"'As I turns the leaves of days that's gone I don't now remember but one individyooal openin' for blood that ever presents itse'f. An' after considerin' the case in all its b'arin's, I refooses the opportunity an' the chance goes glidin' by. As a result thar's probably one more Yank than otherwise; an' now that peace is yere an' we-all is earnestly settlin' to be brothers No'th and South, I regyards that extra Yank as a advantage. Shore, he's a commoonal asset.'

"'Tell us how you fails to c'llect this Yankee, Major,' says Faro Nell: 'which I'm plumb interested every time that some one don't get killed.'

"'I reecounts that exploit with pleasure,' says, the Major, bowin' p'lite as Noo Orleans first circles an' touchin' his hat to Nell. 'It's one day when we're in a fight. The line of battle is mebby stretched out half a mile. As I su'gests, I'm spraddlin' 'round permiscus with no stated arena of effort, carryin' despatches an' turnin' in at anything that offers, as handy as I can. I'm sent final with a dispatch from the left to the extreme right of our lines.

"'When we goes into this skrimmage we jumps the Lincoln people somewhat onexpected. They has their blankets an' knapsacks on, an' as they frames themse'fs up for the struggle they casts off this yere baggage, an' thar it lays, a windrow of knapsacks, blankets an' haversacks, mighty near a half mile in length across the plain. As we-all rebs has been pushin' the Yankees back a lot, this windrow is now to our r'ar, an' I goes canterin' along it on my mission to the far right.

"'Without a word of warnin' a Yank leaps up from where he's been burrowin' down among this plunder an' snaps a Enfield rifle in my face. I pulls my boss back so he's almost settin' on his hocks; an' between us, gents, that onexpected sortie comes mighty near surprisin' me plumb out of the saddle. But the Enfield don't go off none; an' with that the Yank throws her down an' starts to' run. He shorely does vamos with the velocity of jackrabbits!

"'As soon as me an' my hoss recovers our composure we gives chase. Bein' the pore Yank is afoot, I runs onto him in the first two hundred yards. As I comes up, I've got my six-shooter in my hand. I puts the muzzle on him, sort o' p'intin' between the shoulders for gen'ral results; but when it comes to onhookin' my weepon I jest can't turn the trick. It's too much like murder. Meanwhile, the flyin' Yank is stampedin' along like he ain't got a thing on his mind an' never turnin' his head.

"'I calls on him to surrender. He makes a roode remark over his shoulder at this military manoover an' pelts ahead all onabated. Then I evolves a scheme to whack him on the head with my gun. I pushes my hoss up ontil his nose is right by that No'thern party's y'ear. Steadyin' myse'f, I makes a wallop at him an' misses. I invests so much soul in the blow that missin' that a-way, I comes within' a ace of clubs of goin' off my hoss an' onto my head. An' still that exasperatin' Yank goes rackin' along, an' if anything some faster than before. At that I begins to lose my temper ag'in.

"'I reorganises,-for at the time I nearly makes the dive outen the stirrups, I pulls the hoss to a stop,-an' once more takes up the pursoot of my locoed prey. He's a pris'ner fair enough, only he's too obstinate to admit it. As I closes on him ag'in, I starts for the second time to drill him, but I can't make the landin'. I'm too young; my heart ain't hard enough; I rides along by him for a bit an' for the second time su'gests that he surrender. The Yank ignores me; he keeps on runnin'.

"'Which sech conduct baffles me! It's absolootely ag'in military law. By every roole of the game that Yank's my captive; but defyin' restraint he goes caperin' on like he's free.

"'As I gallops along about four foot to his r'ar I confess I begins to feel a heap he'pless about him. I'm too tender to shoot, an' he won't stop, an' thar we be.

"'While I'm keepin' him company on this retreat, I reflects that even if I downs him, the war would go on jest the same; it wouldn't stop the rebellion none, nor gain the South her independence. The more I considers, too, the war looks bigger an' the life of this flyin' Yank looks smaller. Likewise, it occurs to me that he's headed no'th. If he keeps up his gait an' don't turn or twist he'll have quitted Southern territory by the end of the week.

"'After makin' a complete round-up of the sityooation I begins to lose interest in this Yank; an' at last I leaves him, racin' along alone. By way of stim'lant, as I pauses I cracks off a couple of loads outen my six-shooter into the air. They has a excellent effect; from the jump the Yank makes at the sound I can see the shots puts ten miles more run into him shore. He keeps up his gallop ontil he's out of sight, an' I never after feasts my eyes on him.

"'Which I regyards your conduct, Major, as mighty hoomane,' says Dan

Boggs, raisin' his glass p'litely. 'I approves of it, partic'lar.'

"The Major meets Dan's attentions in the sperit they're proposed.

After a moment Enright speaks of them cannons.

"But you-all got a battery final, Major?' says Enright.

"'Six brass guns,' says the Major, an' his gray eyes beams an' he speaks of 'em like they was six beautiful women. 'Six brass guns, they be,' he says. We captured 'em from the enemy an' I'm put in command. Gents, I've witnessed some successes personal, but I never sees the day when I'm as satisfied an' as contentedly proud as when I finds myse'f in command of them six brass guns. I was like a lover to every one of 'em.

"'I'm that headlong to get action-we're in middle Loosiana at the time-that I hauls a couple of 'em over by the Mississippi an' goes prowlin' 'round ontil I pulls on trouble with a little Yankee gun boat. It lasts two hours, an' I shore sinks that naval outfit an' piles the old Mississippi on top of 'em. I'm so puffed up with this yere exploit that a pigeon looks all sunk in an' consumptif beside me.

"'Thar's one feacher of this dooel with the little gun boat which displeases me, however. Old Butler's got Noo Orleans at the time, an' among other things he's editin' the papers. I reads in one of 'em a month later about me sinkin' that scow. It says I'm a barb'rous villain, the story does, an' shoots up the boat after it surrenders, an' old Butler allows he'll hang me a whole lot the moment ever he gets them remarkable eyes onto me. I don't care none at the time much, only I resents this yere charge. I shore never fires a shot at that gunboat after it gives up; I ain't so opulent of amm'nition as all that. As time goes on, however, thar's a day when I'm goin' to take the determination of old Butler more to heart.

"'Followin' the gun-boat eepisode I'm more locoed than ever to get my battery into a fight. An' at last I has my hopes entirely fulfilled. It's about four o'clock one evenin' when we caroms on about three brigades of Yanks. Thar's mebby twelve thousand of us rebs an' all of fourteen thousand of the Lincoln people. My battery is all the big guns we-all has, while said Yanks is strong with six full batteries.

"'The battle opens up; we're on a old sugar plantation, an' after manooverin' about a while we settles down to work. It's that day I has my dreams of carnage realised in full. I turns loose my six guns with verve an' fervour, an' it ain't time for a second drink before I attracts the warmest attention from every one of the Yankee batteries. She's shore a scandal the way them gents in bloo does shoot me up! Jest to give you-all a idee: the Yankees slams away at me for twenty minutes; they dismounts two of my guns; they kills or creases forty of my sixty-six men; an' when they gets through you-all could plant cotton where my battery stands, it's that ploughed up.

"'It's in the midst of the baile, an' I'm standin' near my number-one gun. Thar's a man comes up with a cartridge. A piece of a shell t'ars him open, an' he falls across the gun, limp as a towel, an' then onto the ground. I orders a party named Williams to the place. Something comes flyin' down outen the heavens above an' smites Williams on top the head; an' he's gone. I orders up another. He assoomes the responsibilities of this p'sition jest in time to get a rifle bullet through the jaw. He lives though; I sees him after the war.

"'As that's no more men for the place, I steps for'ard myse'f. I'm not thar a minute when I sinks down to the ground. I don't feel nothin' an' can't make it out.

"'While I'm revolvin' this yere phenomenon of me wiltin' that a-way an' tryin to form some opinions about it, thar's a explosion like forty battles all in one. For a moment, I reckons that somehow we-all has opened up a volcano inadvertent, an' that from now on Loosiana can boast a Hecla of her own. But it ain't no volcano. It's my ammunition waggons which, with two thousund rounds is standin' about one hundred yards to my r'ar. The Yanks done blows up the whole outfit with one of their shells.

"'It's strictly the thing, however, which lets my battery out. The thick smoke of the two thousand cartridges drifts down an' blankets what's left of us like a fog. The Yanks quits us; they allows most likely they've lifted me an' my six brass guns plumb off the earth. Thar's some roodiments of trooth in the theery for that matter.

"'These last interestin' details sort o' all happens at once. I've jest dropped at the time when my ammunition waggons enters into the sperit of the o'casion like I describes. As I lays thar one of my men comes gropin' along down to me in the smoke.

"'"Be you hurt, Major?" he says.

"'"I don't know," I replies: "my idee is that you better investigate an' see."

"'He t'ars open my coat; thar's no blood on my shirt. He lifts one arm an' then the other; they're sound as gold pieces. Then I lifts up my left laig; I've got on high hoss-man boots.

"'"Pull off this moccasin," I says.

"'He pulls her off an' thar's nothin' the matter thar. I breaks out into a profoose sweat; gents, I'm scared speechless. I begins to fear I ain't plugged at all; that I've fainted away on a field of battle an' doo to become the scandal of two armies. I never feels so weak an' sick!

"'I've got one chance left an' trembles as I plays it; I lifts up my right boot. I win; about a quart of blood runs out. Talk of reprievin' folks who's sentenced to death! Gents, their emotions is only imitations of what I feels when I finds that the Yanks done got me an' nary doubt. It's all right-a rifle bullet through my ankle!

"'That night I'm mowed away, with twenty other wounded folks, in a little cabin off to one side, an' thar's a couple of doctors sizin' up my laig.

"'"Joe," says one, that a-way, "we've got to cut it off."

"'But I votes "no" emphatic; I'm too young to talk about goin shy a laig. With that they ties it up as well as ever they can, warnin' me meanwhile that I've got about one chance in a score to beat the game. Then they imparts a piece of news that's a mighty sight worse than my laig.

"'"Joe," says this doctor, when he's got me bandaged, "our army's got to rustle out of yere a whole lot. She's on the retreat right now. Them Yanks outheld us an' out-played us an' we've got to go stampedin'. The worst is, thar's no way to take you along, an' we'll have to leave you behind."


en the Yanks will corral me?" I asks.

"'"Shore," he replies, "but thar's nothin' else for it."

"'It's then it comes on me about that gunboat an' the promises old Butler makes himse'f about hangin' me when caught. Which these yere reflections infooses new life into me. I makes the doctor who's talkin' go rummagin' about ontil he rounds up a old nigger daddy, a mule an' a two-wheel sugar kyart. It's rainin' by now so's you-all could stand an' wash your face an' hands in it. As that medical sharp loads me in, he gives me a bottle of this yere morphine, an' between jolts an' groans I feeds on said drug until mornin.'

"'That old black daddy is dead game. He drives me all night an' all day an' all night ag'n, an' I'm in Shreveport; my ankle's about the size of a bale of cotton. Thar's one ray through it all, however; I misses meetin' old man Butler an' I looks on that as a triumph which shore borders on relief.'

"'An' I reckons now,' says Dan Boggs, 'you severs your relations with the war?'

"'No,' goes on the Major; 'I keeps up my voylence to the close. When I grows robust enough to ride ag'in I'm in Texas. Thar's a expedition fittin' out to invade an' subdoo Noo Mexico, an' I j'ines dogs with it as chief of the big guns. Thar's thirty-eight hundred bold and buoyant sperits rides outen Austin on these military experiments we plans, an' as evincin' the luck we has, I need only to p'int out that nine months later we returns with a scant eight hundred. Three thousand of 'em killed, wounded an' missin' shows that efforts to list the trip onder the head of "picnics" would be irony.

"'Comin', as we-all does, from one thousand miles away, thar ain't one of us who saveys, practical, as much about the sand-blown desert regions we invades as we does of what goes on in the moon. That Gen'ral Canby, who later gets downed by the Modocs, is on the Rio Grande at Fort Craig. While we're pirootin' about in a blind sort o' fashion we ropes up one of Canby's couriers who's p'intin' no'th for Fort Union with despatches. This Gen'ral Canby makes the followin' facetious alloosion: After mentionin' our oninvited presence in the territory, he says:

"'"But let 'em alone. We'll dig the potatoes when they're ripe."

"'Gents, we was the toobers!' An' yere the Major pauses for a drink. 'We was the potatoes which Canby's exultin' over! We don't onderstand it at the time, but it gets cl'arer as the days drifts by.

"'I'm never in a more desolate stretch of what would be timber only thar ain't no trees. Thar's nothin' for the mules an' hosses; half the time thar ain't even water. An' then it's alkali. An' our days teems an' staggers with disgustin' experiences. Once we're shy water two days. It's the third day about fourth drink time in the evenin'. The sun has two hours yet to go. My battery is toilin' along, sand to the hubs of gun-carriages an' caissons, when I sees the mules p'int their y'ears for'ard with looks of happy surprise. Then the intelligent anamiles begins a song of praise; an' next while we-all is marvellin' thereat an' before ever a gent can stretch hand to bridle to stop 'em, the mules begins to fly. They yanks my field pieces over the desert as busy an' full of patriotic ardour as a drunkard on 'lection day. The whole battery runs away. Gents, the mules smells water. It's two miles away,-a big pond she is,-an' that locoed battery never stops, but rushes plumb in over its y'ears; an' I lose sixteen mules an' two guns before ever I'm safe ag'in on terry firmy.

"'It's shore remarkable,' exclaims the Major, settin' down his glass, 'how time softens the view an' changes bitter to sweet that a-way. As I brings before me in review said details thar's nothin' more harassin' from soda to hock than that campaign on the Rio Grande. Thar's not one ray of sunshine to paint a streak of gold in the picture from frame to frame; all is dark an' gloom an' death. An' yet, lookin' back'ard through the years, the mem'ry of it is pleasant an' refreshing a heap more so than enterprises of greater ease with success instead of failure for the finish.

"'Thar's one partic'lar incident of this explorin' expeditions into Noo Mexico which never recurs to my mind without leavin' my eyes some dim. I don't claim to be no expert on pathos an' I'm far from regyardin' myse'f as a sharp on tears, but thar's folks who sort o' makes sadness a speshulty, women folks lots of 'em, who allows that what I'm about to recount possesses pecooliar elements of sorrow.

"'Thar's a young captain-he ain't more'n a boy-who's brought a troop of lancers along with us. This boy Captain hails from some'ers up 'round Waco, an' thar ain't a handsomer or braver in all Pres'dent Davis's army. This Captain-whose name is Edson,-an' me, bein' we-all is both young, works ourse'fs into a clost friendship for each other; I feels about him like he's my brother. Nacherally, over a camp fire an' mebby a stray bottle an' a piece of roast antelope, him an' me confides about ourse'fs. This Captain Edson back in Waco has got a old widow mother who's some rich for Texas, an' also thar's a sweetheart he aims to marry when the war's over an' done. I reckons him an' me talks of that mother an' sweetheart of his a hundred times.

"'It falls out that where we fords the Pecos we runs up on a Mexican Plaza-the "Plaza Chico" they-all calls it-an' we camps thar by the river a week, givin' our cattle a chance to roll an' recooperate up on the grass an' water.

"'Then we goes p'intin' out for the settin' sun ag'in, allowin' to strike the Rio Grande some'ers below Albuquerque. Captain Edson, while we're pesterin' 'round at the Plaza Chico, attaches to his retinoo a Mexican boy; an' as our boogles begins to sing an' we lines out for that west'ard push, this yere boy rides along with Edson an' the lancers.

"'Our old war chief who has charge of our wanderin's is strictly stern an' hard. An' I reckons now he's the last gent to go makin' soft allowances for any warmth of yooth, or puttin' up with any primrose paths of gentle dalliance, of any an' all who ever buckles on a set of side arms. It thus befalls that when he discovers on the mornin' of the second day that this Mexican boy is a Mexican girl, he goes ragin' into the ambient air like a eagle.

"'The Old Man claps Edson onder arrest an' commands the girl to saddle up an' go streakin' for the Plaza Chico. As it's only a slow day's march an' as these Mexicans knows the country like a coyote, it's a cinch the girl meets no harm an' runs no resks. But it serves to plant the thorns of wrath in the heart of Captain Edson.

"'The Old Man makes him loose an' gives him back his lancers before ever we rides half a day, but it don't work no mollifications with the young Captain. He offers no remarks, bein' too good a soldier; but he never speaks to the Old Man no more, except it's business.

"'"Joe," he says to me, as we rides along, or mebby after we're in camp at night, "I'll never go back to Texas. I've been disgraced at the head of my troop an' I'll take no sech record home."

"'"You oughter not talk that a-way, Ed," I'd say, tryin' to get his sensibilities smoothed down. "If you don't care none for yourse'f or for your footure, you-all should remember thar's something comin' to the loved ones at home. Moreover, it's weak sayin' you-all ain't goin' back to Texas. How be you goin' to he'p it, onless you piles up shore-enough disgrace by desertin' them lancers of yours?"

"'"Which if we has the luck," says this Captain Edson, "to cross up with any Yanks who's capable of aimin' low an' shootin' half way troo, I'll find a way to dodge that goin' back without desertin'."

"'No, I don't make no argyments with him; it's hopeless talkin' to a gent who's melancholly an' who's pride's been jarred; thar's nothing but time can fix things up for him. An' I allers allows that this boy Captain would have emerged from the clouds eventooal, only it happens he don't get the time. His chance comes too soon; an' he shore plays it desperate.

"'Our first offishul act after reachin' the Rio Grande is to lay for a passel of Yank cavalry-thar's two thousand of 'em I reckons. We rides up on these yere lively persons as we sounds a halt for the evenin'. It looks like our boogles is a summons, for they comes buttin' into view through a dry arroya an' out onto the wide green bottoms of the Rio Grande at the first call. They're about a mile away, an' at sight of us they begins in a fashion of idle indifference to throw out a line of battle. They fights on foot, them bloo folks do; dismounting with every fourth man to hold the hosses. They displays a heap of insolence for nothin' but cavalry an' no big guns; but as they fights like infantry an' is armed with Spencer seven-shooters besides, the play ain't so owdacious neither.

"'Thar's mebby a hour of sun an' I'm feelin' mighty surly as I gets my battery into line. I'm disgusted to think we've got to fight for our night's camp, an' swearin' to myse'f in a low tone, so's not to set profane examples to my men, at the idee that these yere Yanks is that preecip'tate they can't wait till mornin' for their war-jig. But I can't he'p myse'f. That proverb about it takin' two to make a fight is all a bluff. It only takes one to make a fight. As far as we-all rebs is concerned that evenin' we ain't honin' for trouble, leastwise, not ontil mornin'; but them inordinate Yanks will have it, an' thar you be. The fight can't be postponed.

"'Thar's no tumblin' hurry about how any of us goes to work. Both sides has got old at the game an' war ain't the novelty she is once. The Yanks is takin' their p'sition, an' we're locatin' our lines an' all as ca'mly an' with no more excitement than if it's dress p'rade. The Yanks is from Colorado. My sergeant speaks of 'em to me the next day an' gives his opinion touchin' their merits.

"'"Where did you say them Yankees comes from, Major?" says my serjeant.

"'"Colorado," I replies.

"'"Which thar's about thirty minutes last evenin'," says my serjeant, "when I shorely thinks they're recrooted in hell," an' my serjeant shakes his head.

"'While I'm linin' up my battery mighty discontented an' disgruntled, an orderly pulls my sleeve.

"'"Look thar, Major!" he says.

"'I turns, an' thar over on our right, all alone, goes Captain Edson an' his lancers. Without waiting an' without commands, Captain Edson has his boogler sound a charge; an' thar goes the lancers stampedin' along like they're a army corps an' cap'ble of sweepin' the two thousand cool an' c'llected Yankees off the Rio Grande.

"'For a moment all we does is stand an' look; the surprise of it leaves no idee of action. The lancers swings across the grassy levels. Thar's not a shot fired; Edson's people ain't got nothin' but them reedic'lous spears, an' the Yanks, who seems to know it, stands like the rest of us without firin' an' watches 'em come. It's like a picture, with the thin bright air an' the settin' sun shinin' sideways over the gray line of mountains fifty miles to the west.

"'I never sees folks more placid than the Yanks an' at the same time so plumb alert. Mountain lions is lethargic to 'em. When Captain Edson an' his lancers charges into 'em the Yanks opens right an' left, each sharp of 'em gettin' outen the way of that partic'lar lancer who's tryin' to spear him; but all in a steady, onruffled fashion that's as threatenin' as it is excellent. The lancers, with Captain Edson, goes through, full charge, twenty rods to the r'ar of the Yankee line. An', gents, never a man comes back.

"'As Edson an' his troop goes through, the Yanks turns an' opens on 'em. The voices of the Spencers sounds like the long roll of a drum. Hoss an' man goes down, dead an' wounded; never a gent of 'em all rides back through that awful Yankee line. Pore Edson shore has his wish; he's cut the trail of folks who's cap'ble of aimin' low an' shootin' half way troo.

"'These sperited moves I've been relatin' don't take no time in the doin'. The hairbrain play of Captain Edson forces our hands. The Old Man orders a charge, an' we pushes the Yanks back onto their hosses an' rescoos what's left of Edson an' his lancers. After skirmishin' a little the Yanks draws away an' leaves us alone on the field. They earns the encomiums of my serjeant, though, before ever they decides to vamos.

"'Edson's been shot hard and frequent; thar's no chance for him. He looks up at me, when we're bringin' him off, an' says:

"'"Joe," an' he smiles an' squeezes my hand, while his tones is plenty feeble, "Joe, you notes don't you that while I ain't goin' back to Texas, I don't have to desert."

"'That night we beds down our boy Captain in a sol'tary Mexican 'doby. He's layin' on a pile of blankets clost by the door while the moon shines down an' makes things light as noonday. He's been talkin' to me an' givin' me messages for his mother an' the rest of his outfit at Waco, an' I promises to carry 'em safe an' deliver 'em when I rides in ag'in on good old Texas. Then he wants his mare brought up where he can pet her muzzle an' say Adios to her.

"'"For, Joe," he says, "I'm doo to go at once now, an' my days is down to minutes."

"'"The medicine man, Ed," I says, "tells me that you-all has hours to live."

"'"But, Joe," he replies, "I knows. I'm a mighty good prophet you recalls about my not goin' back, an' you can gamble I'm not makin' any mistakes now. It's down to minutes, I tells you, an' I wants to see my mare."

"'Which the mare is brought up an' stands thar with her velvet nose in his face; her name's "Ruth," after Edson's sweetheart. The mare is as splendid as a picture; pure blood, an' her speed an' bottom is the wonder of the army. Usual a hoss is locoed by the smell of blood, but it don't stampede this Ruth; an' she stays thar with him as still an' tender as a woman, an' with all the sorrow in her heart of folks. As Edson rubs her nose with his weak hand an' pets her, he asks me to take this Ruth back to his sweetheart with all his love.

"'"Which now I'm goin'," he whispers, "no one's to mention that eepisode of the Pecos an' the little Mexican girl of Plaza Chico!"

"'Edson is still a moment; an' then after sayin' "Good-by," he lets on that he desires me to leave him alone with the mare.

"'"I'll give Ruth yere a kiss an' a extra message for my sweetheart," he says, "an' then I'll sleep some."

"'I camps down outside the 'doby an' looks up at the moon an' begins to let my own thoughts go grazin' off towards Texas. It's perhaps a minute when thar's the quick crack! of a six-shooter, an' the mare Ruth r'ars up an' back'ard ontil she's almost down. But she recovers herse'f an' stands sweatin' an' shiverin' an' her eyes burnin' like she sees a ghost. Shore, it's over; pore Edson won't wait; he's got to his guns, an' thar's a bullet through his head.'"


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