This "The Desire of the Moth; and the Come On" was written by Eugene Manlove Rhodes in English language.
The Desire of the
Moth; and the Come
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Title: The Desire of
the Moth; and The Come On
Author: Eugene Manlove Rhodes
Release Date: April 8, 2004
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THE DESIRE OF THE MOTH AND THE COME
BY EUGENE MANLOVE RHODES
ILLUSTRATIONS BY H.T. DUNN
They were riding hard
THE DESIRE OF THE MOTH
Next Door--her years are few--
Loves me, more than her elders do;
Says, my wrinkles become
Marvels much at the tales I know.
Says, we shall marry when she is grown----"_
happy song stopped short. John Wesley Pringle, at the mesa's last headland, drew rein to adjust
his geography. This was new country to him.
Close behind, Organ Mountain flung up a fantasy
of spires, needle-sharp and bare and golden. The long straight range--saw-toothed limestone
save for this twenty-mile sheer upheaval of the Organ--stretched away to north and south
against the unclouded sky, till distance turned the barren gray to blue-black, to blue, to misty
haze; till the sharp, square-angled masses rounded to hillocks--to a blur--a wavy line--nothing.
More than a hundred miles to the north-west, two midget mountains wavered in the sky. John
Wesley nodded at their unforgotten shapes and pieced this vast landscape to the patchwork
map in his head. Those toy hills were San Mateo and Magdalena. Pringle had passed that way
on a bygone year, headed east. He was going west, now.
"I'm too prosperous here," he had
explained to Beebe and Ballinger, his partners on Rainbow. "I'm tedious to myself. Guess I'll
take a _pasear_ back to Prescott. Railroad? Who, me? Why, son, I like to travel when I go
anywheres. Just starting and arriving don't delight me any. Besides, I don't know that strip along
the border. I'll ride."
It was a tidy step to Prescott--say, as far as from Philadelphia to Savannah,
or from Richmond to Augusta; but John Wesley had made many such rides in the Odyssey of
his wonder years. Some of them had been made in haste. But there was no haste now. Sam
Bass, his corn-fed sorrel, was hardly less sleek and sturdy than at the start, though a third of the
way was behind him. Pringle rode by easy stages, and where he found himself pleased, there he
tarried for a space.
With another friendly nod to the northward hills that marked a day of his past,
Pringle turned his eyes to the westlands, outspread and vast before him. To his right the desert
stretched away, a mighty plain dotted with low hills, rimmed with a curving, jagged range.
Beyond that range was a nothingness, a hiatus that marked the sunken valley of the Rio Grande;
beyond that, a headlong infinity of unknown ranges, tier on tier, yellow or brown or blue; broken,
tumbled, huddled, scattered, with gulfs between to tell of unseen plains and hidden happy
valleys--altogether giving an impression of rushing toward him, resistless, like the waves of a
At his feet the plain broke away sharply, in a series of steplike sandy benches, to
where the Rio Grande bore quartering across the desert, turning to the Mexican sea; the Mesilla
Valley here, a slender ribbon of mossy green, broidered with loops of flashing river--a ribbon six
miles by forty, orchard, woodland, and green field, greener for the desolate gray desert beyond
and the yellow hills of sand edging the valley floor. Below him Las Uvas, chief town of the valley,
lay basking in the sun, tiny square and street bordered with greenery: its domino houses white-
walled in the sun, with larger splashes of red from courthouse or church or school.
Far on the
westering desert, beyond the valley, Pringle saw a white feather of smoke from a toiling train;
beyond that a twisting gap in the blue of the westmost range.
"That's our road." He lifted his
bridle rein. "Amble along, Sam!"
To that amble he crooned to himself, pleasantly, half-dreamily--
as if he voiced indirectly some inner thought--quaint snatches of old song:
_"She came to the
gate and she peeped in--
Grass and the weeds up to her chin;
Said, 'A rake and a hoe and a
Would suit you better than a wife just now.'"_
_"Schooldays are over now,
Lost all our bliss;
But love remembers yet
Quarrel and kiss.
Still, as in days of yore----"_
after a long silence, with a thoughtful earnestness that Rainbow would scarce have credited, he
quoted a verse from what he was wont to call Billy Beebe's Bible:
_"One Moment in
One Moment of the Well of Life to taste--
The Stars are setting, and the
Starts for the Dawn of----Nothing. Oh, make haste!"_
After late dinner at the Gadsden
Purchase, Pringle had tidings of the Motion Picture Palace; and thither he bent his steps. He
was late and the palace was a very small palace indeed; it was with difficulty that he spied in the
semidarkness an empty seat in a side section. A fat lady and a fatter man, in the seats nearest
the aisle, obligingly moved over rather than risk any attempt to squeeze by.
Beyond them, as he
took the end seat, Pringle was dimly aware of a girl who looked at him rather attentively.
turned his mind to the screen, where a natty and noble young man, with a chin, bit off his words
distinctly and smote his extended palm with folded gloves to emphasize the remarks he was
making to a far less natty man with black mustaches. John Wesley rightly concluded that this
second man, who gnashed his teeth so convincingly, and at whom an incredibly beautiful young
lady looked with haughty disdain, was the villain, and foiled.
The blond and shaven hero, with a
magnificent gesture, motioned the villain to begone! That baffled person, after waiting long
enough to register despair, spread his fingers across his brow and be-went; the hero turned,
held out his arms; the scornful young beauty crept into them. Click! On the screen appeared a
Keep Your Seats. Two Minutes to Change
The lights were turned on. Pringle
looked at the crowd--girls, grandmas, mothers with their families, many boys, and few men;
Americans, Mexicans, well-dressed folk and roughly dressed, all together. Many were leaving;
among them Pringle's fat and obliging neighbors rose with a pleasant: "Excuse me, please!"
stream of newcomers trickled in through the door. As Pringle sat down the lights were dimmed
again. Simultaneously the girl he had noticed beyond the fat couple moved over to the seat next
to his own. Pringle did not look at her; and a little later he felt a hand on his sleeve.
said Pringle in a tolerant undertone. "Why, chicken, you're not trying to get gay with your old
Uncle Dudley, are you?"
"John Wesley Pringle!" came the answer in a furious whisper, each
indignant word a missile. "How dare you! How dare you speak to me like that?"
Pringle, peering. "What! Stella Vorhis! I can hardly believe it!"
"But it's oh-so-true!" said Stella,
rising. "Let's go--we can't talk here."
"That was one awful break I made. I most sincerely and
humbly beg your pardon," Pringle said on the sidewalk.
"That's all right--I
understand--forget it! You hadn't looked at me. But I knew you when you first came in--only I
wasn't sure till the lights were turned on. Of course it would be great fun to tease you--pretend to
be shocked and dreadfully angry, and all that--but I haven't got time. And oh, John Wesley, I'm
so delighted to see you again! Let's go over to the park. Not but what I was dreadfully angry,
sure enough, until I had a second to think. Why don't you say you're glad to see me--after five
"Stella! You know I am. Six years, please. But I thought you were still in Prescott?"
came here three years ago. Here's a bench. Now tell it to me!"
But Pringle stood beside and
looked down at her without speech, with a smile unexpected from a face so lean, so brown, so
year-bitten and iron-hard--a smile which happily changed that face, and softened it.
eyes danced at him.
"I'm so glad you've come, John Wesley! Good old Wes!"
"So I am--both
those little things. Six years!" he said slowly. "Dear me--dear both of us! That will make you
twenty-five. You don't look a day over twenty-four! But you're still Stella Vorhis?"
She met his
gaze gravely; then her lids drooped and a wave of red flushed her face.
"I am Stella Vorhis--yet."
"Meaning--for a little while yet?"
"Meaning, for a little while yet. That will come later, John
Wesley. Oh, I'll tell you, but not just now. You tell about John Wesley, first--and remember,
anything you say may be used against you. Where have you been? Were you dead? Why didn't
you write? Has the world used you well? Sit down, Mr. John Wesley Also-Ran Pringle, and give
an account of yourself!"
He sat beside her: she laid her hand across his gnarled brown fingers
with an unconscious caress.
"It's good to see you, old-timer! Begin now--I, John Wesley Pringle,
am come from going to and fro upon the earth and from walking up and down in it. But I didn't
ask you where you were living. Perhaps you have a--home of your own now."
firmly lifted her slim fingers from his hand and as firmly deposited them in her lap.
your hands to yourself, young woman," he said with stately dignity.
"Here is an exact account of
all my time since I saw you: I have been hungry, thirsty, sleepy, tired. To remedy these evils,
upon expert advice I have eaten, drunk, slept, and rested. I have worked and played, been dull
and gay, busy and idle, foolish and unwise. That's all. Oh, yes--I'm living in Rainbow Mountain;
cattle. Two pardners--nice boys but educated. Had another one; he's married now, poor dear--
and just as happy as if he had some sense."
"Not what--happy or married?"
"And I'm not. Now it's your turn. Where do you live? Here in town?"
Dad's got a farm twenty miles up the river and a ranch out on the flat. I just came down on the
morning train to do a little shopping and go back on the four-forty-eight--and I'll have to be
starting soon. You'll walk down to the station with me?"
"But the sad story of your life?" objected
"Oh, I'll tell you that by installments. You're to make us a long, long visit, you know--just
as long as you can stay. You're horseback, of course? Well, then, ride up to-night. Ask for Aden
Station. We live just beyond there."
"But the Major was a very hostile major when I saw him last."
"Oh, father's got all over that. He hadn't heard your side of it then. He often speaks of you now
and he'll be glad to see you."
"To-morrow, then. My horse is tired--I'll stay here to-night."
find dad changed," said the girl. "This is the first time in his life he has ever been at ease about
money matters. He's really quite well-to-do."
"That's good. I'm doing well in that line too. I forgot
to tell you." There was no elation in his voice; he looked back with a pang to the bold and
splendid years of their poverty. "Then the Major will quit wandering round like a lost cat, won't
"I think he likes it here--only for the crazy-mad political feeling; and I think he's settled down
"High time, I think, at his age."
"You needn't talk! Dad's only ten years older than you
are." She leaned her cheek on her hand, she brushed back a little stray tendril of midnight hair
from her dark eyes, and considered him thoughtfully. "Why, John Wesley, I've known you nearly
all my life and you don't look much older now than when I first saw you."
"That was in Virginia
City. You were just six years old and your pony ran away with you. We were great old chums for
a month or so. The next time I saw you was--"
"At Bakersfield--at mother's funeral," said the girl
softly. "Then you came to Prescott, and you had lost your thumb in the meantime; and I was
Little Next Door to you--"
"And Prescott and me, we agreed it was best for both of us that I
should go away."
"Yes; and when you came back you were going to stay. Why didn't you stay,
"I think," said Pringle reflectively, "that I have forgotten that."
"Do you know, John
Wesley, I have never been back to any place we have left once? And of all the people I have
ever known, you are the only one I have ever lost track of and found again. And you're always
just the same old John Wesley; always gay and cheerful; nearly always in trouble; always strong
"How true!" said Pringle. "Yes, yes; go on!"
"Well, you are! And you're so--so
reliable; like Faithful John in the fairy story. You're different from anyone else I know. You're a
good boy; when you are grown up you shall have a yoke of oxen, over and above your wages."
"This is very gratifying indeed," observed Pringle. "But--a sweetly solemn thought comes to me.
You were going to tell me about another boy--the onliest little boy?"
"He's not a boy," said Stella,
flushing hotly. "He's a man--a man's man. You'll like him, John Wesley--he's just your kind. I'm
not going to tell you. You'll see him at our house, with the others. And he'll be the very one you'd
pick out for me yourself. Of course you'll want to tease me by pretending to guess someone else;
but you'll know which one he is, without me telling you. He stands out apart from all other men in
every way. Come on, John Wesley--it's time to go down to the station."
Pringle caught step with
"And how long--if a reliable old faithful John may ask--before you become Stella Some-One-
"At Christmas. And I am a very lucky girl, John. What an absurd convention it is that
people are never supposed to congratulate the girl--as if no man was ever worth having! Silly,
"Very silly. But then, it's a silly world."
"A delightful world," said Stella, her eyes
sparkling. "You don't know how happy I am. Or perhaps you do know. Tell me honestly, did you
ever l--like anyone, this way?"
"I refuse to answer, by advice of counsel," said John Wesley. "I'll
say this much, though. X marks no spot where any Annie Laurie gave me her promise true."
When the train had gone John Wesley wandered disconsolately back to his hotel and rested his
elbows on the bar. The white-aproned attendant hastened to serve him.
"What will it be, sir?"
"Give me a gin pitfall," said John Wesley.
"Horrible!" said Anastacio.
Matthew Lisner, sheriff of Dona Ana, bent a hard eye on his subordinate.
"It's got to be done," he
urged. "To elect our ticket we must have all the respectable and responsible people of the valley.
If we can provoke Foy into an outbreak----"
"Not we--you," corrected Anastacio. "Myself, I do not
"Are you going to lay down on me?"
"If you care to put it that way--yes. Kit Foy is
just the man to leave alone."
"Now, listen!" said the sheriff impatiently. "Half the valley is owned
by newcomers, men of substance, who, with the votes they influence or control, will decide the
election. Foy is half a hero with them, because of these vague old stories. But let him be stirred
up to violence now and you'll see! They won't see any romance in it--just an open outrage; they
will flock to us to the last man. Ours is the party of law and order--"
"Law _to_ order, some say."
The veins swelled in the sheriff's heavy face and thick neck; he regarded his deputy darkly.
"That comes well from you, Barela! Don't you see, with the law on our side all these men of
substance will be with us unconditionally? I tell you, Christopher Foy is the brains of his party.
Once he is discredited--"
"And I tell you that I am the brains of your party and I'll have nothing to
do with your fine plan. 'Tis an old stratagem to call oppression, law, and resistance to
oppression, lawlessness. You tried just that in ninety-six, didn't you? And I never could hear that
our side had any the best of it or that the good name of Dona Ana was in any way bettered by
our wars. Come, Mr. Lisner--the Kingdom of Lady Ann has been quiet now for nearly eight
years. Let us leave it so. For myself, the last row brought me reputation and place, made me
chief deputy under two sheriffs--so I need have the less hesitation in setting forth my passionate
preference for peace."
"You have as much to gain as I have," growled the sheriff. "Besides your
own cinch, you have one of your _gente_ for deputy in every precinct in the county."
And if we have wars again, who but the Barelas would bear the brunt? No, no, Mr. Matt Lisner;
while I may be a merely ornamental chief deputy, it will never be denied that I am a very careful
chief to my _gente_. Be sure that I shall think more than once or twice before I set a man of my
men at a useless hazard to pleasure you--or to reelect you."
"You speak plainly."
"I intend to. I
speak for three hundred--and we vote solid. Make no mistake, Mr. Lisner. You need me in your
business, but I can do nicely without you."
"Perhaps you'd like to be sheriff yourself."
"I might like
it--except that I am not as young and foolish as I was," said Anastacio, smiling. "Now that I am
so old, and so wise and all, it is clear to see that neither myself nor any of the fighting men of the
mad old days--on either side--should be sheriff."
"You were not always so thoughtful of the best
interests of the dear pee-pul," sneered the sheriff.
"That I wasn't. I was as silly and hot-brained a
fool as either side could boast. But you, Sheriff, are neither silly nor hot-headed. In cold blood
you are planning that men shall die; that other men shall rot in prison. Why? For hate and
revenge? Not even that. Oh, a little spice of revenge, perhaps; Foy and his friends made you
something of a laughing stock. But your main motive is--money. And I don't see why. You've got
all the money any one man needs now."
"I notice you get your share."
"I hope so. But, even as a
money-making proposition, your troubled-voters policy is a mistake. All the mountain men want
is to be let alone, and you might be sheriff for life for all they care. But you fan up every little
bicker into a lawsuit--don't I know? Just for the mileage--ten cents a mile each way in a county
that's jam full of miles from one edge to the other; ten cents a mile each way for each and every
arrest and subpoena. You drag them to court twice a year--the farmer at seed time and harvest,
the cowman from the spring and fall round-ups. It hurts, it cripples them, they ride thirty miles to
vote against you; it costs you all the extra mileage money to offset their votes. As a final folly,
you purpose deliberately to stir up the old factions. What was it Napoleon said? 'It is worse than
a crime: it is a blunder.' I'll tell you now, not a Barela nor an Ascarate shall stir a foot in such a
quarrel. If you want to bait Kit Foy, do it yourself--or set your city police on him."
tinge of color came to the clear olive of Anastacio's cheek as he rose.
"But don't promise my
place to any of them, sheriff. I might hear of it."
"Stranger," said Ben Creagan, "you can't play
pool! I can't--and I beat you four straight games. You better toddle your little trotters off to bed."
The words alone might have been mere playfulness; glance and tone made plain the purposed
The after-supper crowd in the hotel barroom had suddenly slipped away, leaving Max
Barkeep, three others, and John Wesley Pringle--the last not unnoting of nudge and whisper
attending the exodus. Since that, Pringle had suffered, unprotesting, more gratuitous insults than
he had met in all the rest of his stormy years. His curiosity was aroused; he played the stupid,
unseeing, patient, and timid person he was so eminently not. Plainly these people desired his
absence; and Pringle highly resolved to know why. He now blinked mildly.
"But I'm not sleepy a-
tall," he objected.
He tried and missed an easy shot; he chalked his cue with assiduous care.
"Here, you! Quit knockin' those balls round!" bawled Max, the bartender. "What you think this is--
"Why, I paid for all the games I lost, didn't I?" asked Pringle, much abashed.
mopped his face. It was warm, though the windows and doors were open.
"Well, nobody's going
to play any more with you," snapped Max. "You bore 'em."
He pyramided the balls and covered
the table. With a sad and lingering backward look Pringle slouched abjectly through the wide-
arched doorway to the bar.
"Come on, fellers--have something."
"Naw!" snarled Jose Espalin.
"I'm a-tryin' to theenk. Shut up, won't you?"
Pringle sighed patiently at the rebuff and stole a timid
glance at the thinker. Espalin was a lean little, dried-up manikin, with legs, arms, and mustaches
disproportionately long for his dwarfish body. His black, wiry hair hung in ragged witchlocks; his
black pin-point eyes were glittering, cold, and venomous. He looked, thought Pringle, very much
like a spider.
"I'm steerin' you right, old man," said Creagan. "You'd better drag it for bed."
sleepy, I tell you."
Espalin leaped up, snarling.
"Say! You lukeing for troubles, maybe? Bell, I
theenk thees _hombre_ got a gun. Shall we freesk him?"
As he flung the query over his shoulder
his beady little eyes did not leave Pringle's.
Bell Applegate got leisurely to his feet--a tall man,
well set up, with a smooth-shaved, florid face and red hair.
"If he has we'll jack him in the jug."
He threw back the lapel of his coat, displaying a silver star.
"But I ain't got no gun," protested
John Wesley meekly. "You-all can see for yourself."
"We will--don't worry! Don't you make one
wrong move or I'll put out your light!"
"Be you the sheriff?"
"Police. Go to him, Ben!"
reported Ben after a swift search of the shrinking captive.
"I done told you so, didn't I?"
good thing for you, old rooster. Gun-toting is strictly barred in Las Uvas. You got to take your
gun off fifteen minutes after you get in from the road and you can't put it on till fifteen minutes
before you take the road again."
"Is that--er--police regulations or state law?"
"State law--and has
been any time these twenty-five years. Say, you doddering old fool, what do you think this is--a
"I--I guess I'll go to bed," said Pringle miserably.
"I--I guess if you come back I'll
throw you out," mimicked Ben with a guffaw.
Pringle made no answer. He shuffled into the hall
and up the stairway to his bedroom. He unlocked the door noisily; he opened it noisily; he took
his sixshooter and belt from the wall quietly and closed the door, noisily again; he locked it--from
the outside. Then he did a curious thing; he sat down very gently and removed his boots.
The four in the barroom listened, grinning. When they heard Pringle's door slam shut Bell
Applegate nodded and Creagan went out on the street. Behind him, at a table near the pool-
room door, the law planned ways and means in a slinking undertone. "You keep in the
background, Joe. Let us do the talking. Foy just naturally despises you--we might not get him to
stay the fifteen minutes out. You stay back there. Remember now, don't shoot till Ben lets him
get his arm loose. _Sabe_?"
"Maybe Meester Ben don't find heem."
"Oh, yes, he will. Ditch
meeting to-night. Ought to be out about now. Setting the time to use the water and assessing
_fatiga_ work. Every last man with a water right will be there, sure, and Foy's got a dozen. Max,
you are to be a witness, remember, and you mustn't be mixed up in it. Got your story straight?"
"Foy he comes in and makes a war-talk about Dick Marr," recited Max. "After we powwow awhile
you see his gun. You tell him he's under arrest for carryin' concealed weapons. You and Ben
grabbed his arm; he jerked loose and went after his gun. And then Joe shot him."
"That's it. We'll
all stick to that. S-st! Here they come!"
There are men whose faces stand out in a crowd, men
you turn to look after on the street. Such--quite apart from his sprightly past--was Christopher
Foy, who now entered with Creagan. He was about thirty, above middle height, every mold and
line of him slender and fine and strong. His face was resolute, vivacious, intelligent; his eyes
were large and brown, pleasant and fearless. A wide black hat, pushed back now, showed a
broad forehead white against crisp coal-black hair and the pleasant tan of neck and cheek. But it
was not his dark, forceful face alone that lent him such distinction. Rather it was the perfect
poise and balance of the man, the ease and unconscious grace of every swift and sure motion.
He wore a working garb now--blue overalls and a blue rowdy. But he wore them with an air that
made him well dressed.
Foy paused for a second; Applegate rose.
"Well, Chris!" he laughed.
"There has been a time when you might not have fancied this particular bunch--hey? All over
now, please the pigs. Come in and give it a name. Beer for mine."
"I'll smoke," said Foy.
too," said Espalin.
He lit a cigar and returned to his chair. Ben Creagan passed behind the bar
and handed over a sixshooter and a cartridge belt.
"Here, Chris--here's the gun I borrowed of
you when I broke mine. Much obliged."
Foy twirled the cylinder to make sure the hammer was
on an empty chamber and buckled the belt under his rowdy.
"My hardware is mostly plows and
scrappers and irrigating hoes nowadays," he remarked. "Good thing too."
"All the same, Foy, I'd
keep a gun with me if I were you. Dick Marr is drinking again--and when he soaks it up he gets
discontented over old times, you know." Applegate lowered his voice, with a significant glance at
Espalin. "He threatened your life to-day. I thought you ought to know it."
Foy considered his
"That's awkward," he replied briefly.
"Chris," said Ben, "this isn't the first time. Dick's heart
is bad to you. I'm sorry. He was my friend and you were not. But you're not looking for any
trouble now. Dick is. And I'm afraid he'll keep on till he gets it. Me and the sheriff we managed to
get him off to bed, but he says he's going to shoot you on sight--and I believe he means it. You
ought to have him bound over to keep the peace."
Foy smiled and shook his head.
"I can't do
that--and it would only make him madder than ever. But I'll get out of his way and keep out of his
way. I'll go up to the Jornado to-night and stay with the Bar Cross boys awhile. He won't come
"You'll enjoy having people tellin' how you run away to keep from meeting Dick Marr?"
said Applegate incredulously.
"Why shouldn't they say it? It will be exactly true," responded Foy
quietly, "and you're authorized to say so. I'm learning some sense now; I'm getting to own quite a
mess of property; I'm going to be married soon; and I don't want to fight anyone. Besides, quite
apart from my own interests, other men will be drawn into it if I shoot it out with Marr. No knowing
where it will stop. No, sir; I'll go punch cows till Marr quiets down. Maybe it's just the whisky
talking. Dick isn't such a bad fellow when he's not fighting booze. Or maybe he'll go away. He
hasn't much to keep him here."
"Say, I could get a job offered to him out in San Simon," said
His eye rested on the clock over the long mirror. He stepped over to the
show case, clipped the end from a cigar and obtained a light from a shapely bronze lady with a
torch. When he came back he fell in on Foy's left; at Foy's right Creagan leaned his elbows on
"Well, I'm obliged to you, boys," said Foy. "This one's on me. Come on, Joe--have a
"Thanks, no," said Espalin. "I not dreenkin' none thees times. Eef I dreenk some I get full,
and loose my job maybe."
"Vichy," said Foy. "Take something yourself, Max."
As Mr. Max
poured the drinks an odd experience befell Mr. Jose Espalin. His tilted chair leaned against the
casing of the billiard-room door. As Max filled the first glass Espalin became suddenly aware of
something round and hard and cold pressed against his right temple. Mr. Espalin felt some
curiosity, but he sat perfectly still. The object shifted a few inches; Mr. Espalin perceived from
the tail of his eye the large, unfeeling muzzle of a sixshooter; beyond it, a glimpse of the
forgotten elderly stranger, Mr. Pringle.
Only Mr. Pringle's fighting face appeared, and that but for
a moment; he laid a finger to lip and crouched, hidden by the partition and by Espalin's body. Mr.
Espalin gathered that Pringle desired no outcry and shunned observation; he sat motionless
accordingly; he felt a hand at his belt, which removed his gun.
"Happy days!" said Foy, and
raised his glass to his lips.
Creagan seized the uplifted wrist with both hands, Applegate
pounced on the other arm. Pringle leaped through the doorway. But something happened swifter
than Pringle's swift rush. Foy's knee shot up to Applegate's stomach. Applegate fell, sprawling.
Foy hurled himself on Creagan and bore him crashing to the floor. Foy whirled over; he rose on
one hand and knee, gun drawn, visibly annoyed; also considerably astonished at the
unexpected advent of Mr. Pringle. Applegate lay groaning on the floor. Pringle kicked his gun
from the holster and set foot upon it; one of his own guns covered the bartender and the other
kept watch on Espalin, silent on his still-tilted chair.
"Who're you!" challenged Foy.
the countersign. Don't shoot! Don't shoot me, anyhow."
Foy rose from hand and knee to knee
and foot. This rescuer, so opportunely arrived from nowhere, seemed to be an ally. But to avoid
mistakes, Foy's gun followed Pringle's motions, at the same time willing and able to blow out
Creagan's brains if advisable. He also acquired Creagan's gun quite subconsciously.
introduce myself, gentlemen," said Pringle. "I'm Jack-in-a-Pinch, Little Friend of the Under Dog--
see Who's This? page two-thirteen. My German friend, come out from behind that bar--hands
up--step lively! Spot yourself! My Mexican friend, join Mr. Max. Move, you poisonous little spider-
-jump! That's better! Gentlemen--be seated! Right there--smack, slapdab on the floor. Sit down
and think. Say! I'm serious. Am I going to have to kill some few of you just because you don't
know who I am? I'll count three! One! two!--That's it. Very good--hold that--register anticipation! I
am a worldly man," said Pringle with emotion, "but this spectacle touches me--it does indeed!"
"I'll get square with you!" gurgled Applegate, as fiercely as his breathless condition would permit.
"George--may I call you George? I don't know your name. You may get square with me, George-
-but you'll never be square with anyone. You are a rhomboidinaltitudinous isosohedronal
George raved unprintably. He made a motion to rise, but reconsidered it
as he noted the tension of Pringle's trigger finger.
"Don't be an old fuss-budget, George," said
Pringle reprovingly. "Because I forgot to tell you--I've got my gun now--and yours. You won't
need to arrest me, though, for I'm hitting the trail in fifteen minutes. But if I wasn't going--and if
you had your gun--you couldn't arrest one side of me. You couldn't arrest one of my old boots!
Listen, George! You heard this Chris-gentleman give his reasons for wanting peace? Yes? Well,
it's oh-so-different here. I hate peace! I loathe, detest, abhor, and abominate peace! My very
soul with strong disgust is stirred--by peace! I'm growing younger every year, I don't own any
property here, I'm not going to be married; I ain't feeling pretty well anyhow; and if you don't think
I'll shoot, try to get up! Just look as if you thought you wanted to wish to try to make an effort to
"How--who----" began Creagan; but Pringle cut him short.
"Ask me no more, sweet! You
have no speaking part here. We'll do the talking. I just love to talk. I am the original tongue-tied
man; I ebb and flow. Don't let me hear a word from any of you! Well, pardner?"
Foy, still kneeling
in fascinated amaze, now rose. Creagan's nose was bleeding profusely.
"That was one awful
wallop you handed our gimlet-eyed friend," said Pringle admiringly. "Neatest bit of work I ever
saw. Sir, to you! My compliments!" He placed a chair near the front door and sat down. "I feel
like a lion in a den of Daniels," he sighed.
"But how did you happen to be here so handy?"
"Didn't happen--I did it on purpose," said John Wesley. "You see, these four birds
tipped their hand. All evening they been instructing me where I got off. They would-ed I had the
wings of a dove, so I might fly far, far away and be at rest. Now, I put it to you, do I look like a
"Not at present," laughed Foy.
"Well, I didn't like it--nobody would. I see there was a hen
on, I knew the lay of the ground from looking after my horse. So I clomped off to bed, got my
good old Excalibur gun--full name X.L.V. Caliber--slipped off my boots, tippytoed down the back
stairs like a Barred Rock cat, oozed in by the side door--and here I be! I overheard their pleasant
little plan to do you. I meant to do the big rescue act, but you mobilize too quick for me. All the
same, maybe it's as well I chipped in, because--take a look at them cartridges in your gun, will
you? Your own gun--the one they borrowed from you."
Foy twisted a bullet from a cartridge.
There was no powder. The four men on the floor looked unhappy under his thoughtful eye.
little plant--what? Do we kill 'em?" said Pringle cheerfully. "I don't know the rules well enough to
break them. What was the big idea? Was they vexed at you, son?"
"It would seem so," said Foy,
smiling. "We had a little war here a spell back. I suspect they wanted to stir it up again for
political effect. Election this fall."
"And you were not in their party? I see!" said Pringle, nodding
intelligently, "Well, they sure had it fixed to make your side lose one vote--fixed good and proper.
The Ben-boy was to let your right hand loose and the Joe-boy was to shoot you as you pulled
your gun. Why, if you had lived to make a statement your own story woulda mighty near let them
"I believe that I am greatly obliged to you, sir."
"I believe you are," said Pringle. "And--but,
also, I know the two gentlemen you were drinking with should be very grateful to you. They had
just half a second more to live--and you beat me to it. Too bad! Well, what next?"
"I guess I'll go up to the Bar Cross wagon, as I intended, till things simmer down. The Las
Uvas warriors seldom ever bother the Bar Cross Range. My horse is hitched up the street.
How'd you like to go along with me, stranger? You and me would make a fair-sized crowd."
like it fine and dandy," said Pringle. "But I got a little visit to make to-morrow. Maybe I'll join you
later. I like Las Uvas," stated John Wesley, beaming. "Nice, lively little place! I think I'll settle
down here after a bit. Some of the young fellows are shy on good manners. But I can teach 'em.
I'd enjoy it.... Now, let's see: If you'll hold these lads a few minutes I'll get my boots and saddle
up and bring my horse to the door; then I'll pay Max my hotel bill and talk to them while you get
your horse; and we'll ride together till we get out in the open. How's that for a lay?"
That was a
good lay, it seemed; and it was carried out--with one addition: After Foy brought his horse he
rang Central and called up the sheriff.
"Hello! That you, Mr. Lisner? This is Kitty Foy," he said
sweetly. "Sheriff, I hate to bother you, but old Nueces River, your chief of police, is out of town.
And I thought you ought to know that the police force is all balled up. They're here at the
Gadsden Purchase. Bell Applegate is sick--seems to be indigestion; Espalin is having a nervous
spell; and Ben Creagan is bleeding from his happiest vein. You'd better come see to 'em. Good-
Pringle smiled benevolently from the door.
"There! I almost forgot to tell you boys. We
disapprove of your actions oh-very-much! You know you were doing what was very, very wrong-
-like three little mice that were playing in the barn though the old mouse said: 'Little mice,
beware! When the owl comes singing "Too-whoo" take care!' If you do it again we shall consider
it deliberately unfriendly of you.... Well, I'll toddle my decrepit old bones out of this. Eleven
o'clock! How time has flown, to be sure! Thank you for a pleasant evening. Good-by, George.
Good-by, all! Be good little boys--go nighty-nighty!"
They raced to the corner, scurried down the
first side street, turned again, and slowed to a gallop. Pringle was in high feather; he caroled
blithesome as he rode:
_"So those three little owls flew back up in the barn--
And they said, 'Those little mice make us feel so nice and warm!'
Then they all began to sing, 'Too-whit! Too-who!'
I don't think much of this song,
But there's one thing about it--'tis certainly true--
Inky, dinky, doodum, day!"_
reached the open; the gallop became a trot.
"I go north here," said Foy at the cross-roads above
the town. "Which way for you?"
"North too," said Pringle. "I don't know just where, but you can
tell me. I go to a railroad station first--Aden. Then to the Vorhis place?"
"Vorhis? I'm going there
myself?" said Foy. "You didn't tell me your name yet."
"What? Not John Wesley
Pringle? Great Scott, man! I've heard Stella talk about you a thousand times. Say, I'm sure glad
to meet you! My name's Foy--Christopher Foy."
"Why, yes," said Pringle. "I think I've heard Stella
speak of you, too."
Being a child must have been great fun--once. Nowadays one
would as lief be a Strasburg goose. When you and I went to school it was not quite so bad. True,
neither of us could now extract a cube root with a stump puller, and it is sad to reflect how little
call life has made for duodecimals. Sometimes it seems that all our struggle with moody verbs
and insubordinate conjunctions was a wicked waste--poor little sleepy puzzleheads! But there
were certain joyous facts which we remember yet. Lake Erie was very like a whale; Lake Ontario
was a seal; and Italy was a boot.
The great Chihuahuan desert is a boot too; a larger boot than
Italy. The leg of it is in Mexico, the toe is in Arizona, the heel in New Mexico; and the Jornado is
in the boot-heel.
El Jornado del Muerto--the Journey of the Dead Man! From what dim old legend
has the name come down? No one knows. The name has outlived the story.
grim, hard-riding Spaniard made his last ride here; weary at last of war, turned his dead face
back to Spain and the pleasant valleys of his childhood. We have a glimpse of him, small in the
mighty silence; his faithful few about him, with fearful backward glances; a gray sea of waving
grama breaking at their feet; the great mountains looking down on them. Plymouth Rock is
unnamed yet.--Then the mist shuts down.
The Santa Fe Trail reaches across the Jornado;
tradition tells of vague, wild battles with Apache and Navajo; there are grave-cairns on lone dim
ridges, whereon each passer casts a stone. Young mothers dreamed over the cradles of those
who now sleep here, undreaming; here is the end of all dreams.
Doniphan passed this way; Kit
Carson rode here; the Texans journeyed north along that old road in '62--to return no more.
These were but passers-by. The history of the Jornado, of indwellers named and known, begins
with six Americans, as follows: Sandoval, a Mexican; Toussaint, a Frenchman; Fest, a German;
Martin, a German; Roullier, a Swiss; and Teagardner, a Welshman.
You might have thought the
Jornado a vast and savage waste or a pleasant place and a various. That depended upon you.
Materials for either opinion were plenty; lava flow, saccaton flats, rolling sand hills sage-brush,
mesquite and yucca, bunch grass and shallow lakes, bench and hill, ridge and groundswell and
wandering draw; always the great mountains round about; the mountains and the warm sun over
A certain rich man desired to be President--to please his wife, perhaps. He was a favorite son
sure of his home-state vote in any grand old national convention. He gave largely to charities
and campaign funds, and his left hand would have been justly astonished to know what his right
hand was about.
Those were bargain-counter days. Fumbling the wares, our candidate saw,
among other things, that New Mexico had six conventional votes: He sent after them.
So the Bar
Cross Cattle Company was founded; range, the Jornado. Our candidate provided the money
and a manager, also ambidextrous with instructions to get those votes and incidentally to double
the money, as a good and faithful manager should.
He got the six votes, but our candidate never
became president. Poor fellow, his millions could not bring him happiness. He died, an
embittered and disappointed man, in the obscurity of the United States Senate.
The Bar Cross