The Herald Angel
Another “Andy Doolin” Story
If'/* irrote “The Centre of Gravity,” etc.
THIS is me talkin’, Andy Doolin, wunst owner of the Silver Dollar an’ dispenser of spiritual comfort in them old days when the spirit wasn’t weak an’ everybody was willin’ to line up an’ quench their burning thirst an’ think nothin’ of it. An’ the little minin’ camp where yours truly was livin’ an’ movin’ and havin’ his bein’ when these here events was transpirin’ was known all through the Slocan country an’ we calls it Clover Bar here an' now, which same wasn’t its right name but is sufficient unto the day an’ the evil thereof an’ the relatin’ of events aforesaid.
An’ the remark which I rises to make an’ with which I opens is this: The older I gets the more I sure stands amazed complete by the fool plays o’ Youth sittin’ in at the Game o’ Love. Talk about buckin’ the tiger or drawin’ five cards or the ceilin’ bein’ the only deck in the limit! I’ve seen some high play in my time, but nothin’ like this Love layout for bettin’ both ends against the middle an’ windin’ up on the showdown where you aint lookin’ !
They say that little children an’ parties as has gone locoed plumb are guarded by angels; I proceeds to extend same to fool chechakos from the Far East. This here B. Birks aint lookin’ much like an editor when he hits çamp, bein’ covered with terry firma plain dirt ’stead of ink. His whiskers looks like September in the wheatfields. He has been layin’ by the wayside, unprotected from the elements, till he’s all shrunk an’ wrinkled an’ smeared an’ burrèd up an’ his boots has gave out complete. For a piece o’ literachoor he’s sure dog-eared an’' tore an’ thumbed up worse’n any book o’ travels I ever seen.
BUT HE’S sure cheerful. He comes moochin’ into camp Tt>out sundown, which same is light-up in Clover Bar, an’ as is most natural he gravitates into the Silver Dollar just as things is beginnin’ to show the faint stirrin’ of returnin’ consciousness. He don’t lose no time but climbs up on a box an’ holds up one hand for silence, which same falls sudden an’ deep.
“Gentlemen,” he leads, “gaze this way, one an’ all. Behold B. Birks, who has just arrived in your midst, an’ hark ye. You are now privileged to welcome to your fair city the herald angelof the advancin’ tide of emigration. I holds in the hollow o’ my hand the glorious destiny o’ this here future queen city o’ the mountains. I’ve a wonderful announcement to make to you citizens here assembled, one that is goin’ to pave your streets with dollars an’ elevate this here community to a front seat on the Golden Chariot o' prosperity. But 'fore I goes any further I humbly draws attention to the .fact that I’m havin’ difficulty in usin’
my tongue, the which has been in the dry-farming belt for so long that it’s all swole up—!” An’ he chokes an’ swallers an’ gulps an’ looks so longin’ at me that I just waves my arm reckless an’ opens up the sluice, gates for prompt and complete irrigation. An’ the boys scramble over each other gettin’ down the mazuma to buy that poor, delapidated herald o’ civilization enough drinks to float him loose from the sand-bars of abstinence.
When we gits him oiled up finally an’ working smooth, we discovers he’s an editor an’ is gdin’ to start a paper in Clover Bar an’ boost this here camp on to the map good an’ proper. An’ in five minutes this tattered page from the Book o’ Knowledge has a hat full of capital, bein’ subscriptions in advance for “The Clover-Bar Booster,” the same to be printed an’ published in two weeks’ time and from then on intermittent. An’ the whole camp takes to celebratin’ the event an’ things gits hilarious an’ pokes was never looser in Clover Bar, the same bein’ due to the pitchers o’ wealth bein’ painted by this here enthusiastic splinter from the Seat o’ Learnin’.
AN’ then right in the middle o’ this rainbow evenin’ this B. Birks sudclouds up an’ starts thunderin’ an’ lightnin’ an’ comes down on Big Bart Jenkin in big cold flakes. This feller Jenkin was a no-account mule-skinner as couldn’t carry a respectable load o’ licker without curdlin’ for trouble. Bein’ cruel natural, the big hulk steps on a little mongrel puppydog’s tail an’ said pup settin’ up a ki-vi, Jenkin proceeds to> cut off said tail with his sheath-knife, thinkin’ same is the plumb funniest form of* amusement he ever runs acrost.
B. Birks is standin’ on a table, harrangin’ the crowd, when he seen throueh the window what is transpirin’ ontside the Silver Dollar. He stops sudden, jumps over the heads of them surroundin’ him, ducks outside, slips up beside Jenkin, picks gun from said Jenkin’s holster an* tosses same into the street, then goes around in front an’ pastes him atween the eyes.
Jenkin picks hisself up in surprise, takes one look at B. Birks, notes size of said party, then bellows like a bull an’ comes chargin’ with his. knife in the air. B. Birks grabs descendin’ wrist, twists quick to one side an’ hips assailant clean over his head, knockin’ wind out of him complete. Which ends fight for Jenkin.
So the boys knew B. Birks was all right an’ they welcomes him permanent to Clover Bar. An’ when he’s got the wayside dust of o’ his hair an’ a clean flannel shirt on he sure looks some respectable for an editor. An’ he makes good on that subscription lucre, too; for he goes down the line somewheres an picks up a printin’ outfit an* packs same into camp.
“She’s on’y an old Washin’ton belly puncher a long ways from home, Andy,” he admits when he seen me eyin’ same, “but she’ll print, doggone her! She’ll say things, darn her old black heart!” An’ he pats her affectionate, identical a? if he was just in from the timber line an’ she was his pet cayuse.
AN” darned if she didn’t. The citizens donates him a tumbledown shack an’ he tinkers around for a while an’ he gets hold o’ Jake Bellamy’s kid to help him an’ in a couple o’ weeks out comes the first issue of The Clover liar Booster, an’ some of the boys rides off an’ circulates same in every darned camp up an’ down the line an’ Clover Bar whoops her up proper an’ fit
An’ when I sees how B. Birks is doin’ good unto Bellamy’s poor litUe kid, teaehin’ him not to swear so hard an’ layin’ the foundation of a future career along the wide smooth white road o’ journalistic independence an’ printin’ machine tecknik—when I sees that I falls in love complete with the red-cheeked, ginning son-of-a-gun ; for I sure knows he’s white. It’s what I’ve been layin’ out ts do for that kid myself, him bein’ named “Hell” for his plumb cussedness an’ havin’ no home, an’ Bellamy bein’ nothin’ but a drunken old bum of a—
But I’m sort o’ diamond-hitched, roped an’ tied by the fact that said Bellamy runs the rival booze emporium in Clover Bar an’ I got to keep my eye peeled that the boys aint accusin’ me of professional jealousy in what I says an’ does regarding this same Bellamy, his saloon, his kid an’ everythin’ ^that’s his. But I ain’t bein’ prevented from thinkin’ a lot o’ reflectin’ thoughts; for alongside the Silver Dollar this here sink-hole dive Jake Bellamy’s conductin’ aint stackin’ up two-bits. I knows a lot o’ things goin’ on down there among the ruffles o’ recklessness, an’ I records here an’ now as how the Silver Dollar is a clean an’ aboveboard boozerine parlor an’ I aint standin’ for no rough joint where a gentleman aint gettin’ a square run for his money. Ast any o’ the boys what’s what about Andy Doolin anj the Silver Dollar. Then ast ’em wha^they knows about Jake Bellamy
an’ the Bucket-o’-Blood—that’s what he calls his saloon!
Well, as I’s sayin’, I sure takes a fancy to B. Birks an’ helps him every chanst I get, boostin’ the Booster pickin’ up the odd subscriber an’ givin’ him a paid advertisment of the Silver Dollar, the which aint needin’ same so’t you could notice. An’ B. Birks takes to cornin’ over to my place for tips on his editin’ an’ so forth an’ we gets confidential entire.
AlfHICH is how I gets the real facts ™ * on what happened subsequent after the perfect little greenhorn blew into camp. She gets off the train down to the Landin’, floats up the lake with a fisherman an’ teams into camp on a ore wagon, trunks an’ band-boxes an’ valises entact. She’s dressed in black with a big hat on top of her fluffy, doll’s hair an’ she has a veil tied over the hat an’ down under her chin with a big bow of it on one side. An’ she’s got a tinyred bud of a mouth poutin’ for attention an’ big, round innocent eyes an’— Say, she’s sure the Little Lilly from Lollapalooza! She’s a Sweet Whiff o’ Nature blowin’ across th*' Pink Perfume o’ Midnight Delusion: She’s the Dainty Flower bloomin’ fragrant.on the desert air!
But she aint blushin’ unseen. A bunch o’ the boys is standin’ around when she lights an’ their feet is glued an’ their eyes is glued an’ their tongues is glued, till she must ’ve mistook ’em for wooden outposts o’ civilization. She’d ambushed the whole camp; for even old Sim Wilson. ‘ as disseminates the mail at Clover Bar. aint knowin’ a thing about her advent on the scene. Then, while everybody’s wonderin’ who’n blazes she is an’ where’n thunder she’s headin’, along comes old man Ford. He walks right up to her, says somethin’ an’ she pecks him à kiss underneath his eye where the whiskers was least an’ off they goes, leavin’ her baggage to follow when the boys gets through fightin’ to see who’s goin’ to tote same.
Old man Ford’s a broken-down miner what’s livin’ in a shack on the outskirts of Clover Bar. Seems this girl’s his grand niece or somethin’ an’ her aunt havin’ cashed in, she aint got nobody to look after her in the East any more; so she arrives West as aforesaid. We wasn’t much of a surroundin’ at Clover Bar for a lonesome fairy from the Cent-Belt But she ain’t whimperin’ any, bein’ game internal even if she was kind o’ awe-inspirin’ an’ sacred lookin’, approachin’ from the public highway.
An’ ’bout the only galoot in camp as ain’t knowin’ all about this here event cornin’ to pass is B. Birks, who is off up to Sanderson, pickin’ up noos as was mere float compared to this here maih strike in camp.
UP along the mountain about a mile from Clover Bar, there’s a gulch wind? off from the valley an’ twists back into the hills till it gets lost an’ mangled among the teeth o’ the peaks. There’s a brook tinklin’ down like music over the granite droppin’s of a thousand years an’ playin’ hide-’n-seek with deadwood an’ rock rubble in the gorge below. High up on the ledges there’s some cedars dingin’ an’ around the second turn there’s a reg’lar grove where pine-needles an’ fallen cone-husks lays deep an’ fragrant. Here’s where a pair o’ jays has built their nest an’ here’s where this new girl ad-
junct takes to wanderin’ with a book or her do-dad fancy knittin’ an’ for near a week nobody’s disturbed the secluded quiet o’ Nature’s readin’-room.
Then one mornin’ she ain’t no mor’n got herself indented comfortable than she hears some noisy whistlin’ jarrin’ the silence an’ scarin’ her bad for a minute. The whistlin’ stops an’ singin’ starts an’ the intruder sure can warble ’em up an’ down an’ across sideways, though the words is plumb foolish, like this:
The little birds is restin’
In their little downy nest;
There’s feathers on the tails o’ them An’ feathers on their breast.
The girl peeks out cautious an’ sees the feller slippin’ an’ slidin’ around the nearest turn an’ as she’s watchin’ he sudden misses his foot an’ rolls off a rock into the crick for a duckin’. He’s got a fishin’ outfit strapped to his back an’ a whippy lookin’ fishin’-pole, the which snaps off
at one o’ the joints an’ sure danqerizes the party.
“Dogonnit!” he exasperates. "Darn the luck!” an’ he swings the bast et off his back an’ slams her down pretty mad : so’t the lid comes off an’ out rolls what looks like a lunch wrapped up, which same makes for the water same as it wai duck sandwiches. Party grabs it, climts out o’ the wet an’ sudden starts laugtfn’ té beat four of a kind.
THAT makes the girl' giggle aí ain’t so scared. His back's while he’s fixin’ his busted fishin an’ taint till he’s singin’ again an’ hiadin right into the jack pine grove tha|t she gets a look at his face an’ her own white. A
“Kitty!” amazes B. Birks, it beii ’ th identical same party. “Great Bon Bon Where’d you come from? How’d yo i gei here? Oh, you cute little —!” Ar’ th; darn fool drops his fishin’ outfit, let \ ou1
a whoop an’ jumps for her with both arms yawnin' an’ yearnin’ for her.
But she’s standin’ by to repel boarders, y*understand. She has her skirts dosereefed in one hand, ready to scud before the gale. She’s little Miss Porcupine, all drawn up surroundin’ herself. So’t B. Birks passes behind a cloud an’ everythin’s sudden shadow.
“How—how are you, anyway, Kit— Miss Johnson?” he stumbles.
“I am very well, Mr. Birks, thank you,” she steps out, precise.
“Aw, Kitty!” he coaxes. “Let the dead past buy its dead,” he says. “I took you at your word, didn’t I? I come ’way out here to the forsakenest hole I could find on purpose, to try an’ forget all about you, didn’t I? But it ain’t no use,” he adds, ungrammatic. “It ain’t no—” He sees the girl’s foot, tappin’ impatient.
“I believe you are goin’ fishin’, Mr. Birks,” she sayd, significant.
“Well, yes,” admits B. Birks. “I was; but I ain’t. Sayin’ which he slips fish basket off his shoulder an’ sits down deliberate. The girl’s starin’ long, sharp, bowie knives an’ her head is up.
“Must I make my meanin’ clearer?” she demands, haughty. “Leave me to wunst!”
“I ain’t goin’ to do it,” says B. Birks, frank an’ open. “You’re all alone here an’ y’oughtn’t to be. You got to go home.”
THIS here Miss Johnson’s already made up her mind to do that very thing, y’understand ; but bein’ a female, she now sits down—squats right there, preparin’ to die afore she’ll budge from them environs.
“You got to go home,” irritates B. Birks. “Fm goin’ to trail along to see ’t you get back to Mr. Ford’s place safe an’
don’t forget there’s such a thing as nie havin’ my reasons, Miss Johnson.”
She’s some scornful.
“No gentleman can have reasons sufficient for actin’ as you are actin’, Mr. Birks,” she sayd, with the self-poisinin’ manner o’ the purlieus o’ Eastern sassiety.
“P’raps you ain’t heerd as there’s been some tough parties operatin’ in this here neighborhood,” he retorts, leadin’ trump.
The girl just sifts pine needles through her fingers an’ contributes a two-spot laugh.
“I got good reason to believe some o’ the gang’s hangin’ round here yet.”.
“An’ you want me to get scared—is that it?”
“ ’Taint a question o’ that; it’s a question o’ sense. This ain’t Queen’s Park, Kitty. I tell you, you got to go home or else let me be your chaparound.”
When B. Birks sayd that Miss Johnson busts into flame. An’ all the time she’s cuttin’ loose on him, B. Birks stands there admirin’ an’ smilin’, an’ when she finishes she refuses positive to go home till she gets good an’ ready.
, He seen she was tip-toin’ along the edge o’ tears; so he just says: “Alright, little girl. We knows now where we’re at”
He picks up his fishing outfit an’ goes off to sit down on a flat shelf o’ rock an’ smoke his pipe till she’s ready to move. An’ there they was all mornin’ an’ most o’ the afternoon—her readin’ her book upside down an’ him smokin’ or pretendin’ to sleep out in the hot sun.
FINAL the girl thinks he’s really asleep under his big hat an’ she thinks it’ll be the right play for her to skip off an’ leave him there to bake. So she picks up her knittin’ an’ her book an’ proceeds to sneak away noiseless. She gets out o’ the
grove an’ clean dow~n to the first turn in the trail without dislodgin' any stones an’ she’s congratulatin’ herself as she’s roundin’ the second turn. Then at the mouth o’ the ravine she looks back-— an' there’s B. Birks, walkin’ cool into sight, smokin’ his pipe an’ wavin’ his hat, which same sends her dartin' for home, burnin' up with outraged feelin’. There’s a little trail zig-zaggagin’ off to Ford’s shack an’ she stops here an’ waits for him to come up.
“You will at least leave me he re?” she asks like ice. “Or p’raps you’re expectin’ me to invite you into the house for dinner?”
“That’d be great,” he ventures, wistful. “I on’y did what I thought was right, Kitty.” “Remember w e are strangers still an’ forever,” she sayd, conclusive. “Don’t you ever speak to me again ! I thanks you for spoilin’ what would have been a very pleasant mornin’,” says she.
“Oh, that’s alright,” blurts the darn fool. “The pleasure’s all mine, I assures you.” An’ the girl’s gone afore he wakes c up to the fact that he’s printin’ upside down.
An’ that night when B. Birks crawls under his patchwork quilt he’s still kickin’ hisself mental. He lays there with the moonlight spillin’ in across the bunk onto the floor an’ he’s sure wanderin’ far down the Dead Past’s Vista, rustlin’ the faded rose leaves o’ Love.
AN d’you know*all he’d done ’way back past to start this fuss with this here Johnson filly? They was out drivin’, one night, him havin’ it in mind to spark this girl up to the altar, an’ nestle down inside the noose. But he ain’t said nothin’ yet, playin’ circumspect entire. Then this night out drivin’—the moon’s shinin’ an’ the girl’s lookin’ so doggone fascinatin’—his upper stope gets oreyied with moonlight an’ he leans over an’ gives her a little kiss just back o’ the ear where a little curl tickles his nose when he dotes it.
That’s what the sin-smitten son o’ Satan done! An’ this here Skitty Johnson takes it as the most insultin’ smash-up o’ her trust in B. Birks an’ she ain’t speakin’ to him no more all the way home, an’ when they gets to her aunt’s hangout she parts from him permanent. An’ he ain’t able to glue the lovin’ cup together again no matter what he says or does. The Banjo o’ Betrothal is sure busted in ev%ry string an’ them two hearts is boatin’ sep’rate an’ them two souls is thinkin’ about a million thoughts apiece.
It’s about a week later that yours truly is sitting out on the warm planks in
front of the Silver Dollar, with Jimmy lookin’ after things inside, an’ all I’m doin’ is absorbin’ sunshine an’ splinterin’ "A. D.” with a new knife I’d got when I seen four horsemen lopin’ into camp. They belongs to a cow-punch in’ outfit as drifted into tpe upper valley çountry an’ one bucko I knows, bein’ a loud-mouthed, swaggerin’ leather-puller, name o’ Mitch Dake, the which I aint got much use for.
I nods to ’em curt as they rides by, headin’.for Bellamy’s joint, tfej^here Dake party bein’ a partic’lar inend o’ Jake’s. It’s one o’ them sleepy afternoons with the «un glarin’ down steady on the the valley slopes an’ sparklin’ on water an’ tin «ana an’ glitterin’ on busted bottles an’ the like.
A girl turns into Main Street from the trail somewheres an’ I sees it’s this here Miss Johnson from over to Ford’s. She’s walkin’ easy an’ light an’ carryin’ some letters to hand over to Sim Wilson. She goes inside the post-office.
The four bronks, all covered with dust, is standin’ in front o’ Jake’s, heads droopin’. Chet Fraser ambles along with a pail, says “Howdy” an’ goes into the Silver Dollar. Down to Bellamy’s I hears the four punchers laughin’ loud an’ gettin' noisy, buyin’ drinks for a lot o’ loafers as is always hangin’ around that joint.
Then I sees young “Hell,” Bellamy’s kid, cornin’ from the Booster office, follered by a white dog with a lump on the end o’ his tail, bein’ the same Bart Jenkin had been abusin’—same dog, same tail. The pup’s been adopted by the kid, there bein’a sort o’ feller sympathy atween ’em ’cause they’s both homeless, an’ some o’ the boys prompt has named the dog “Damnation.” An’ they sure makes a fine team to have cavortin’ around a noospaperlayout!
But the kid aint doin’ no worryin’ over public opinion. His face is all smeared up with ink an’ his cotton shirt is daubed with same; but he’s »havin’ his heaven right here an’ now an’ he's whistlin’ at full pucker — no partic’lar tune, just whistle. The kid’s just passed his old man’s place when out jostles the four punchers, laughin’ boist’rous an’ wipin’ their mouths on their shirt-sleeves.
“By Hen!” swears Dake. “If ther’ aint a dawg! Drinks is on me, boys, if I can’t knock that ther’ knob off fust crack. Eh? The hell I can’t!”
His hand drops swift to his hip an’ he fires as he draws. Simultaneous with the report there’s a sharp yell an’ Damnation whirls an’ bites at the sting. Just as he’s doin’ so the gun goes off again an’ the dog rolls over, his four legs stickin’ straight up in the air; they twitches convulsive, then sinks quiverin’ to the dust.
THE shots wakens the whole camp. A crowd comes tumblin’ out o’ both saloons an’ the shopkeepers leaveS their counters, follerin’ their customers into
the street an’ joinin’ the on-lookers that has gathered around the dead dog an’ the sobtrin’ kid what owned it. Some tries to comfort him; but ’taint no use an’ soon Jake comes out, grabs him by the ear an’ marches him inside as if he’d done somethin’ he’d ought to be ’shamed of.
Dake an’ his friends stands around, discussin’ the shot an’ everybody gets so interested they aint noticin’ the girl as is walkin’ straight across from the postoffice. They aint seein’ her till she’s right dost up an’ then they notes that her cheeks is pink an’ her eyes snappin’ with anger. I gets up myself an’ dusts off the splinters an’ ambles on down in the general direction; for yours truly aint none too sure but Old Man Trouble is loomin’ in the foreground.
Miss Johnson walks right up to the four punchers who has turned in grinnin’ wonder.
“Which one o’ you done that?” she demands, pointin’ at the dog.
Dake winks at his friends, the same snickerin’ audible. Then he steps forth an’ doffs his Stetson, bowin’ exaggerated an’ grinnin’ till his yeller teeth is bared.
“Please, ma’am, I done it,” he whines, mockin’ an’ twistin’ his hst, playin’ he’s a school kid, scared cold, at which the three remainin’ pardners guffaws aloud. Nobody else aint laughin’ none, I notice; good women is scarce in Clover Bar.
“Oh !” says Miss Johnson, mimickin’ his tone. “You done it, eh? -You’re the brave man as shot the mad dog an’ saved us all from hyderophobia!”
Dake stares. His eyes roves uncertain to the dog an’ comes back to her face more uncertain still. I seen Chet Fraser grinnin’ an’ I grins myself an’ he winks back at me.
“The dawg warn’t mad, ma’am,” Dake
“No? Not mad? Then what did you kill it for?”
“It war an almighty good shot,” says Dake, kind o’ proud. “I’ll leave it to the boys if it warn’t a good shot.” He’s eyin’ the girl careful. This here conversation’s gettin’ away from him an’ he aint sure whether he ought to draw for a flush or a full house.
The girl turns to the crowd.
“You hear what he says,” she states contemptuous. “It was a good shot! He killed that poor little dog there because it was a good shbt ! There’s the big coward who kills harmless little dogs because it’s a good shot! Take a good look at him everybody. It aint often you gets a chance to see such a brave man an’ such a good shooter!”
It’s the crowd’s turn to laugh. The girl pales, sudden realizin’ the number o’ eyes as is lookin’ at her. But she turns quick on Dake an’ points her finger at him, the which he gazes at some fascinated.
"Shame on you'" 8he 5ayd.I "You ought to be horsewhipped until )rou can~ stand up! You ought to be arr~sted ar' put in jail! An' if you aint wat~hin' out pretty clost, that's where you'll nd, Mr. -Mister D~-Kiu~r' I
W ITH that she turns on her heel, cheeks flamin' with modl.ty, an' tossin' her head, she walks aw4y rapid towards home. - j -.
Dake stands starin' after per, his mouth open. Somebody laugh4 Chet Fraser hooks his arm in mine an' we meanders, chucklin'. The loafe$~w piles back into the saloon; but st4 Dake stands there, watchin' the girl, the which I. aint 11km' none too mucl4.
One o' his fnend~ uche5 hhi~ on the elbow.
"Jolt's on us, Mitch. Have 01 Ofl the dawf."
"Cuss the cussedy-cuued da~!~ he growls, bustlin' `em in front of h~m into Bellamy's. "The drinks is on mej boys," he yells. "Line up an' name the( p'isin. Here's to that spry young he4er an' damned if she aint a beaut!" I
They drinkz that toast, noLs3I. lour times. Outside in the street the 4sn~a~e o' the dog lays white in the sun.
"f'AINT. long `fore B. Birks kn4ws all I about the thing. I goes do$n an' tells him myself, knowin' he'll heart about it plenty an' wantin' to warn bim[[sbout this here Dake party's special pon$erosi ties when he's tanked up sufficienti But B. Birks aint agitatin' none w~ien I spreads o)tt the cards. I
"Everjthin's movin' along fine, 4ndy." he smile$ at me quiet-an' the darit fool actually looks happy. But I aint sur misin' his play. How could 1, htn~ bein' from the East so recent an' me iavin' been Westsolong? Aslsaydafolle,the older I gets the more I sure Lands amazed complete by the fool p14'. o' Youth sittin' in at this here Game o' Love! Dake an' his friends hità, the ilver Dollar in the course o' the p~enin' ian' I aint feelin' none too cordial, me Ibein' plumb jealous o' tarniahin' said e4tporium's reputation with a spill o' tr9eble. But that aint preventin' me .lippi~' out a pair o' `45's back o' the bar 4here they're bandy W1~en I seen B. Birks(peah inside, me t1~nki~' more o' protectilt' the
Continued on page 71
The Herald Angel
Continued from page 35
little son-of-a-gun than of avoidin’ trouble aforesaid if same was to take place on my location.
B. Birks sashays acrost to where the big puncher was standin’, yanks him up to the bar an’ buys. I near fell down o' my own weight!
“Can you clear one o’ them private parlors o’ yours back behind. Andy?” enquires the grinnin’ fool. "Men’ Mr. Dake wishes to have a few mopients private an’ undisturbed an’ secluded entire,” he elucidates, which same aint castin’ no great flood o’ light into the obscurity o’ my upper stope, the which I stands there an’ scratches while they passes into retirement
When they present calls for drinks I I brushes Jimmy to one side an’ takes ’em j in my Self an’ lingers, wipin’ the table an’ j pretendin’ I’m havin’ trouble with the j cork an’ so on.
They’s both laughin’ hearty an’ I hears B. Birks sayin’: “You know, Mitch, old boy, I don’t mind confessin’ I sure loves that girl an’ she loves me, on’y she aint waked up to it yet. That’s why it’s up to me to limber her thinkin’ machinery,” he sayd, an' Dake guffaws an’ slaps his leg like he’d heered somethin’ remarkable Tunny;
“An’ seein’ ’» you went an’ killed my dawg this afternoon,” pursues B. Birks, “I kind o’ figured you owes it to me to help ! me out in this little love affair. An’ are j you goin’ to do it or aint you?”
After slappin' his leg again an’ guff’ ¡ awin’ some more Dake says he’d be everj lastin’ doggoned if he wouldn’t. I seen ! they were beginnin’ to notice me hangin’ | around, so I goes out, weak an’ kind ’o sick ! to the stommick. I sure am entertainin’ ! staggerin’ thoughts at that same identical j moment an’ I goes an’ gets a long drink | o’ pure cold water an’ sits down for a while.
AFTER the pow-wow’s over I talks to B. Birks for some considerable time, avoidin’ the main topic for fear he’ll get his brandin’-irons mixed an’ gabbin’ away ’bout things I aint carin’ a hoot about an’ hopin’ all the time hell say j somethin’ as'll give me a chanst to horn j in respectable; till I feels like an old : woman with a shawl over my head! We aint taught to be nosey out West, bein’ o’ the opinion as same aint conducive to long life an’ happiness, an’ I figgers I’ve I already showed this here Eastern party ' the cards face up an’ it’s his lead.
But apparent B. Birks aint recognizin’ no hints, him not sayin' a word ’bout Dake or the girl. An’ when he takes Dake down to the Itooster office to show* him the : layout I know’s he’s gone loco absolute.
Next day he sends Bellamy's kid up to j the gulch to watch a certain pine grove an’ when the kid comes back clumpetyj clump with the alarmin’ intelligence that the young lady from Ford’s has been grabbed by four punchers an’ ridden off w'ith—when that disturbin’ noos reaches B. Birks the fool grins, finishes settin’ some type he’s workin’ at an’ wipes his fingers calm on a piece o’ paper.
“The time has came,” he says.
HE goes out an’ borry’s Chet Fraser’s bronk on’ a couple of six-shooters, the which hé oils an’ loads careful. He puts grub in his saddle-bags an’ that
night after the stars has started to blink, he slips out quiet from Clover Bar, takin’ the up-valley trail.
After joggin’ along comfortable for an hour or two he comes to the Twin Boulders. He’s approachin’ same very careful, gets off the bronk, throwin’ reins over said animal’s head an’ anchorin’ him to the ground thereby. He grabs both guns firm, one in each hand, an’ sneaks cautious into the shadows.
He crawls carefully up the ridge in front o' him. He peeks over. But there aint no glowin’ camp-fire greetin’ his eager gaze. There aint no bold bad “gang” of desperadoes for him to surprise. There aint no girl!
B. Birks sits up straight an’ stiff there in the dark. Mitch has promised him faithful he’d be there with the girl safe an’ sound so’t she could be rescued brave by B. Birks!
The everlastin’ kind-an’-gentle, meekan’-mild milk-imbibin’ idgit!
IN every human bein’ there lays great swearin’ possibilities. In some it aint so dost to the surface as ’tis in others; but it sure is there. Sooner or later there comes a time when the Rock o’ Serenity gets blasted an’ there she lays —a pocket o’ pure gold cuss-words, free’ an’ ready.
B. Birks discovers his great strike as he goes jumpin’ back to where he’s left the bronk. He sure is gushin’ an’ he makes the saddle in one leap, digs in the spurs an’ scoots away through the night like he’s tryin’ to get somewheres ahead o’ hisself.
He knows Dake must’ve kept on up the valley. There’s on’y one .way he could go till he hits the upper trailNill other sideshoots bein’ pockets. So this here rocket o’ rage rides mad till he gets to the upper trail an’ there he has to camp, losin’ three valuable hours, waiting for. daylight to show him which way the punchers was headin’. I
It takes him two days to ccrnie up with ’em. Dake’s makin’ for the^border as fast as he can hike. B. Birks aint had much experience trailin’ in the open an’ he loses the sign frequent, on’y stumblin’ on it again by circlin’ around. He sure is playin’ in luck to overhaul the outfit in two days under them circumstances, special as he aint totin’ much grub an’ aint takin’ time to stop an’ do no huntin’ for anythin’ but hoof-marks.
IT’S late in the afternoon when he sees he’s closin’ in on the quarry an’ he eases up so’s to keep out o’ sight. Dake’s mounts have gave out on ’em anv they’s decided to make camp for the night, feelin’ sure they’s shaken off pursuit by their hard ridin*.
B. Birks is so hoppin’ mad he don’t wait for no manooverin’ but walks right in on ’em behind his two guns. He has the drop on ’em afore they knows he’s there.
The girl screams when she sees him. Fortunate she’s roped an’ tied or she’d ’ve run at B. Birks an’ got in his way. Sarid party aint wastin’ no time.
“You blighted scoundrels!” he yells. “Move an’ I’ll blow you to Kingdom Come! Move, you blankety-blanked skunks!” he implores. “Oh, go on, just move, somebody.” ’An he advances straight for ’em, his face lit with hope for an excuse to let some dyin’ daylight into ’em.
They knows the look that means killin’
an’ they aint hankerin’ for no sieve work They’s most amazin’ anxious to keep their hands up in the air, posin’ rigid.
B. Birks passes cool an’ cold from one to another, relievin’ each man o' his gun an’ tossin’ same off in the grass.
“Now, you fellers listen to m« an' listen good,’* he says final. “If I gave you what you deserve I’d shoot the bunch of you But I’m goin’ to give you one chanst to save your measly hides. Behind me, 'bout five miles, there’s à bunch of red hot citizens of Clover Bar on your trail.” he .sayd. “If you leave immedjit you has a c hanst. If you lingers, I proceeds to shoot you up good an’ sufficient.”
“Now, GIT!” yells B. Birks, flourjshin’ his arguments .
Three o’ them aint interested in the gospel accordin’ to Ananias an’ they slides for their bronks an’ tears away bareback, some anxious an’ sincere.
THIS here Dake party aint so easy convinced. He’s gone to considerable pains to abduct this here beautiful queen an’ he’s some anxious to hang onto the dolly. He fails to see how the citizens o’ Clover Bar could know anythin’ ’bout things this early in the game, knowin* the arrangements with B. Birks calls for a lone hand. Also he's seen where his gun’s layin’ an’ he’s been edgin’ over gradual till he figgers same is right at his feet.
He swoops for it sudden an’ opens fire, knockin’ one of B. Birks’ guns out o’ said tenderfoot’s hand. Surprised an’ gained at this lack of trust, his left arm swingin’ nUmb an* wooden, B.B. pumps lead an’ misses.
Dake jumps for the nearest rock. B Birks lets go another bullet an’ misses.
Dake fires again. Bark flies off log where Birks has fell flat for protection. Girl creeps about in grass, huntin’ for one o’ them guns in the discard, on’y her feet bein’ tied together. Neither o’ the men sees her, bein’ too interested in each other.
Birks makes a bluff play-by elevatin’ his hat on a bit o’ stick an’ draws two more o’ Dake’s bullets ’fore the puncher spots the ancient trick an’ cusses hisself deep an’ turbulent.
“The beggar can shoot,” admits B Birks, admirin’ the two holes in his hat.
He decides he’ll have to get closter to that rock o’ Dake's if he hopes to hit anythin’ an* starts edgin’ along the log towards some brush. He has to cross an open space about four feet wide to make 1 it. H« waits his chanst an’ jumps for it like a scared jackrabbit.
Bang! Ping! The bullet has whined ■ past Birk’s chest as he’s stooped over in full dash an’ it stings him in the arm. It’s • on’y a scratch, though she’s bleeding considerable.
“That’s leavin’ him with only one more shot in that gun,” gloats B. Birks, savage, an’ he starts crawlin’ rapid an’ circlin’ round.
Dake sees what he’s up to an’ comes round the rock as Birks proceeds. His back’s to the girl now an’ he aint seein’ her pick a gun out o’ the grass He’s watchin’ for Birks to cross another open space an’ his thick lips is all snarled back over his yeller teeth an’ he .aint a pleasant sight.
Present he thinks he sees his chanst an’ jumps to his feet for a sure shot.
B. fires! D. fires! G. shuts her eyes an’ fires!
At sound o’ that third shot B. Birks rises up an’ hollers at the girl. He sees her lyin’ still on the ground an’ he rushes
But she’s on’y fainted. Dake’s gun is empty an’ he’s rockin’ back an’ forth, nursin’ a bleedin’ leg where the girl’s bullet plowed through. He grins as B Birks walks over to him, coverin’ him steady.
“You win the pot, son.”
“You’re a heluva man!” reproves B. Birks.
He goes an’ gets water an’ revives Miss Johnson an’ the both of ’em washes Dake’s wound an’ binds same. They catches his ho’se an’ pickets same beside him, lays out his grub handy an’ says farewell.
An’ that there puncher watches them go with feelin’s considerable mixed up.
THERE’S quite a hulabaloo in camp when the two gets back an’ the thinR leaks out. But nothin’s done—at B. Birks’ partic’lar request. Dake has sense enough to stay away.
When I seen B. Birks I proceeds to hand him a talk he aint likely to forget in a hurry; for the words is sure crowdin’ an jostlin’ for expression. But I aint gettin’ no more ’n started when he slaps me on the back.
“We’re engaged, Andy,” grins the darned fool. “It worked, old timer. Aint I the original plotter from Plotsville?” “Yes,” I retorts, him bein’ so happy it’s plumb sickenin’. “Oh, yes! Your plottin’ is so fancy you comes within an ace o’ landin’ a plot in the cemytary! Why the blitherin’ blue blazes aint you takin’ your friends into your confidence?” An’ I’m proceedin’ to skin him alive when he tosses out a letter for me to read.
It’s from a noospaper way down in Toronto an’ it implores him to go back there an’ do editin’ what is editin’ an when I looks up I notes that B. Birks aint grinnin’ quite so free.
“Y’aint goin’, son?” I enquires, hopeful. For there’s them in our camp is sure liking little B. Birks.
“I’m afraid so, Andy. For myself I’d stick right here; but there aint a livin’ for two in the noospaper game in Clover Bar.”
There aint nothin’ to do but nod; so I nods. An’ present we goes down an’ tacks up a sign which he prints:
BIRKS’ BOOSTER BUSTED B’GOSH !
An’ he sells the entire layout for a song to an editor what’s been kicked out of a neighborin’ camp an’ aint particlar where he’s landin’. An’ this new lean specimen arrives in Clover Bar with a burnin’ thirst an’ a meal-ticket full o’ holes. An’ he pays for the Booster with an I.O.U.
B. Birks thereupon takes the little lady an’ together they drifts off into the sunrise.