Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library
  PREVIOUSNEXT  

CONTENTS · GENERAL INDEX · QUICK INDEX · SONGS & LYRICS · BIOGRAPHIES
READER’S DIGEST · STUDENT’S COURSE · PORTRAITS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Specimen Jones
By Owen Wister (1860–1938)
 
From ‘Red Men and White’

EPHRAIM, the proprietor of Twenty Mile, had wasted his day in burying a man. He did not know the man. He had found him, or what the Apaches had left of him, sprawled among some charred sticks just outside the Cañon del Oro. It was a useful discovery in its way; for otherwise Ephraim might have gone on hunting his strayed horses near the cañon, and ended among charred sticks himself. Very likely the Indians were far away by this time; but he returned to Twenty Mile with the man tied to his saddle, and his pony nervously snorting. And now the day was done, and the man lay in the earth, and they had even built a fence round him; for the hole was pretty shallow, and coyotes have a way of smelling this sort of thing a long way off when they are hungry, and the man was not in a coffin. They were always short of coffins in Arizona.  1
  Day was done at Twenty Mile, and the customary activity prevailed inside that flat-roofed cube of mud. Sounds of singing, shooting, dancing, and Mexican tunes on the concertina came out of the windows hand in hand, to widen and die among the hills. A limber, pretty boy, who might be nineteen, was dancing energetically; while a grave old gentleman, with tobacco running down his beard, pointed a pistol at the boy’s heels, and shot a hole in the earth now and then to show that the weapon was really loaded. Everybody was quite used to all of this—excepting the boy. He was an Eastern new-comer, passing his first evening at a place of entertainment.  2
  Night in and night out every guest at Twenty Mile was either happy and full of whisky, or else his friends were making arrangements for his funeral. There was water at Twenty Mile—the only water for twoscore of miles. Consequently it was an important station on the road between the southern country and Old Camp Grant, and the new mines north of the Mescal Range. The stunt, liquor-perfumed adobe cabin lay on the gray floor of the desert like an isolated slab of chocolate. A corral, two desolate stable sheds, and the slowly turning windmill, were all else. Here Ephraim and one or two helpers abode, armed against Indians and selling whisky. Variety in their vocation of drinking and killing was brought them by the travelers. These passed and passed through the glaring vacant months: some days only one ragged fortune-hunter, riding a pony; again by twos and threes, with high-loaded burros; and sometimes they came in companies, walking beside their clanking freight wagons. Some were young, and some were old; and all drank whisky, and wore knives and guns to keep each other civil. Most of them were bound for the mines, and some of them sometimes returned. No man trusted the next man; and their names, when they had any, would be O’Rafferty, Angus, Schwartzmeyer, José Maria, and Smith. All stopped for one night; some longer—remaining drunk and profitable to Ephraim; now and then one stayed permanently, and had a fence built round him. Whoever came, and whatever befell them, Twenty Mile was chronically hilarious after sundown,—a dot of riot in the dumb Arizona night.  3
  On this particular evening they had a tenderfoot. The boy, being new in Arizona, still trusted his neighbor. Such people turned up occasionally. This one had paid for everybody’s drink several times, because he felt friendly, and never noticed that nobody ever paid for his. They had played cards with him, stolen his spurs, and now they were making him dance. It was an ancient pastime; yet two or three were glad to stand round and watch it, because it was some time since they had been to the opera. Now the tenderfoot had misunderstood these friends at the beginning, supposing himself to be among good fellows; and they naturally set him down as a fool. But even while dancing you may learn much, and suddenly. The boy, besides being limber, had good tough black hair; and it was not in fear, but with a cold blue eye, that he looked at the old gentleman. The trouble had been that his own revolver had somehow hitched, so he could not pull it from the holster at the necessary moment.  4
  “Tried to draw on me, did yer?” said the old gentleman. “Step higher! Step now, or I’ll crack open yer kneepans, ye robin’s-egg.”  5
  “Thinks he’s having a bad time,” remarked Ephraim. “Wonder how he’d like to have been that man the Injuns had sport with?”  6
  “Weren’t his ear funny?” said one who had helped bury the man.  7
  “Ear?” said Ephraim. “You boys ought to have been along when I found him, and seen the way they’d fixed up his mouth.” Ephraim explained the details simply, and the listeners shivered. But Ephraim was a humorist. “Wonder how it feels,” he continued, “to have—”  8
  Here the boy sickened at his comments and the loud laughter. Yet a few hours earlier these same half-drunken jesters had laid the man to rest with decent humanity. The boy was taking his first dose of Arizona. By no means was everybody looking at his jig. They had seen tenderfeet so often. There was a Mexican game of cards; there was the concertina; and over in the corner sat Specimen Jones, with his back to the company, singing to himself. Nothing had been said or done that entertained him in the least. He had seen everything quite often.  9
  “Higher! skip higher, you elegant calf,” remarked the old gentleman to the tenderfoot. “High-yer!” And he placidly fired a fourth shot that scraped the boy’s boot at the ankle and threw earth over the clock, so that you could not tell the minute from the hour hand.  10
  “‘Drink to me only with thine eyes,’” sang Specimen Jones softly. They did not care much for his songs in Arizona. These lyrics were all, or nearly all, that he retained of the days when he was twenty,—although he was but twenty-six now.  11
  The boy was cutting pigeon-wings, the concertina played ‘Matamoras,’ Jones continued his lyric, when two Mexicans leaped at each other, and the concertina stopped with a quack.  12
  “Quit it!” said Ephraim from behind the bar, covering the two with his weapon. “I don’t want any greasers scrapping round here to-night. We’ve just got cleaned up.”  13
  It had been cards; but the Mexicans made peace, to the regret of Specimen Jones. He had looked round with some hopes of a crisis, and now for the first time he noticed the boy.  14
  “Blamed if he ain’t neat,” he said. But interest faded from his eye, and he turned again to the wall. “‘Lieb Vaterland magst ruhig sein,’” he melodiously observed. His repertory was wide and refined. When he sang he was always grammatical.  15
  “Ye kin stop, kid,” said the old gentleman, not unkindly; and he shoved his pistol into his belt.  16
  The boy ceased. He had been thinking matters over. Being lithe and strong, he was not tired nor much out of breath; but he was trembling with the plan and the prospect he had laid out for himself. “Set ’em up,” he said to Ephraim. “Set ’em up again all round.”  17
  His voice caused Specimen Jones to turn and look once more; while the old gentleman, still benevolent, said, “Yer langwidge means pleasanter than it sounds, kid.” He glanced at the boy’s holster, and knew he need not keep a very sharp watch as to that. Its owner had bungled over it once already. All the old gentleman did was to place himself next the boy on the off side from the holster; any move the tenderfoot’s hand might make for it would be green and unskillful, and easily anticipated. The company lined up along the bar, and the bottle slid from glass to glass. The boy and his tormentor stood together in the middle of the line; and the tormentor, always with half a thought for the holster, handled his drink on the wet counter, waiting till all should be filled and ready to swallow simultaneously, as befits good manners.  18
  “Well, my regards,” he said, seeing the boy raise his glass; and as the old gentleman’s arm lifted in unison, exposing his waist, the boy reached down a lightning hand, caught the old gentleman’s own pistol, and jammed it in his face.  19
  “Now you’ll dance,” said he.  20
  “Whoop!” exclaimed Specimen Jones, delighted. “Blamed if he ain’t neat!” And Jones’s handsome face lighted keenly.  21
  “Hold on!” the boy sang out, for the amazed old gentleman was mechanically drinking his whisky out of sheer fright. The rest had forgotten their drinks. “Not one swallow,” the boy continued. “No, you’ll not put it down either. You’ll keep hold of it, and you’ll dance all round this place. Around and around. And don’t you spill any. And I’ll be thinking what you’ll do after that.”  22
  Specimen Jones eyed the boy with growing esteem. “Why, he ain’t bigger than a pint of cider,” said he.  23
  “Prance away!” commanded the tenderfoot, and fired a shot between the old gentleman’s not widely straddled legs.  24
  “You hev the floor, Mr. Adams,” Jones observed respectfully, at the old gentleman’s agile leap. “I’ll let no man here interrupt you.” So the capering began, and the company stood back to make room. “I’ve saw juicy things in this Territory,” continued Specimen Jones, aloud to himself, “but this combination fills my bill.”  25
  He shook his head sagely, following the black-haired boy with his eye. That youth was steering Mr. Adams round the room with the pistol, proud as a ring-master. Yet not altogether. He was only nineteen; and though his heart beat stoutly, it was beating alone in a strange country. He had come straight to this from hunting squirrels along the Susquehanna, with his mother keeping supper warm for him in the stone farm-house among the trees. He had read books in which hardy heroes saw life, and always triumphed with precision on the last page; but he remembered no receipt for this particular situation. Being good game American blood, he did not think now about the Susquehanna; but he did long with all his might to know what he ought to do next to prove himself a man. His buoyant rage, being glutted with the old gentleman’s fervent skipping, had cooled; and a stress of reaction was falling hard on his brave young nerves. He imagined everybody against him. He had no notion that there was another American wanderer there, whose reserved and whimsical nature he had touched to the heart.  26
  The fickle audience was with him, of course, for the moment,—since he was upper dog and it was a good show; but one in that room was distinctly against him. The old gentleman was dancing with an ugly eye; he had glanced down to see just where his knife hung at his side, and he had made some calculations. He had fired four shots; the boy had fired one. “Four and one hez always made five,” the old gentleman told himself with much secret pleasure, and pretended that he was going to stop his double-shuffle. It was an excellent trap, and the boy fell straight into it. He squandered his last precious bullet on the spittoon near which Mr. Adams happened to be at the moment, and the next moment Mr. Adams had him by the throat. They swayed and gulped for breath, rutting the earth with sharp heels; they rolled to the floor and floundered with legs tight tangled, the boy blindly striking at Mr. Adams with the pistol-butt, and the audience drawing closer to lose nothing, when the bright knife flashed suddenly. It poised—and flew across the room, harmless; for a foot had driven into Mr. Adams’s arm, and he felt a cold ring grooving his temple. It was the smooth, chilly muzzle of Specimen Jones’s six-shooter.  27
  “That’s enough,” said Jones. “More than enough.”  28
  Mr. Adams, being mature in judgment, rose instantly, like a good old sheep, and put his knife back obedient to orders. But in the brain of the overstrained, bewildered boy, universal destruction was whirling. With a face stricken lean with ferocity, he staggered to his feet, plucking at his obstinate holster, and glaring for a foe. His eye fell first on his deliverer, leaning easily against the bar watching him, while the more and more curious audience scattered, and held themselves ready to murder the boy if he should point his pistol their way. He was dragging at it clumsily, and at last it came. Specimen Jones sprang like a cat, and held the barrel vertical, and gripped the boy’s wrist.  29
  “Go easy, son,” said he. “I know how you’re feelin’.”  30
  The boy had been wrenching to get a shot at Jones; and now the quietness of the man’s voice reached his brain, and he looked at Specimen Jones. He felt a potent brotherhood in the eyes that were considering him, and he began to fear he had been a fool. There was his dwarf Eastern revolver, slack in his inefficient fist, and the singular person still holding its barrel and tapping one derisive finger over the end, careless of the risk to his first joint.  31
  “Why, you little —— ——,” said Specimen Jones, caressingly, to the hypnotized youth, “if you was to pop that squirt off at me, I’d turn you up and spank you. Set ’em up, Ephraim.”  32
  But the commercial Ephraim hesitated, and Jones remembered. His last cent was gone. It was his third day at Ephraim’s. He had stopped, having a little money, on his way to Tucson, where a friend had a job for him, and was waiting. He was far too experienced a character ever to sell his horse or his saddle on these occasions, and go on drinking. He looked as if he might, but he never did; and this was what disappointed business men like Ephraim in Specimen Jones.  33
  But now, here was this tenderfoot he had undertaken to see through, and Ephraim reminding him that he had no more of the wherewithal. “Why, so I haven’t,” he said with a short laugh, and his face flushed. “I guess,” he continued hastily, “this is worth a dollar or two.” He drew a chain up from below his flannel shirt-collar and over his head. He drew it a little slowly. It had not been taken off for a number of years,—not, indeed, since it had been placed there originally. “It ain’t brass,” he added lightly, and strewed it along the counter without looking at it. Ephraim did look at it; and being satisfied, began to uncork a new bottle while the punctual audience came up for its drink.  34
  “Won’t you please let me treat?” said the boy unsteadily. “I ain’t likely to meet you again, sir.” Reaction was giving him trouble inside.  35
  “Where are you bound, kid?”  36
  “Oh, just a ways up the country,” answered the boy, keeping a grip on his voice.  37
  “Well, you may get there. Where did you pick up that—that thing? Your pistol, I mean.”  38
  “It’s a present from a friend,” replied the tenderfoot with dignity.  39
  “Farewell gift, wasn’t it, kid? Yes; I thought so. Now I’d hate to get an affair like that from a friend. It would start me wondering if he liked me as well as I’d always thought he did. Put up that money, kid. You’re drinking with me. Say, what’s yer name?”  40
  “Cumnor—J. Cumnor.”  41
  “Well, J. Cumnor, I’m glad to know you. Ephraim, let me make you acquainted with Mr. Cumnor. Mr. Adams, if you’re rested from your quadrille, you can shake hands with my friend. Step around, you Miguels and Serapios and Cristobals, whatever you claim your names are. This is Mr. J. Cumnor.”  42
  The Mexicans did not understand either the letter or the spirit of these American words; but they drank their drink, and the concertina resumed its acrid melody. The boy had taken himself off without being noticed.  43
  “Say, Speç,” said Ephraim to Jones: “I’m no hog. Here’s yer chain. You’ll be along again.”  44
  “Keep it till I’m along again,” said the owner.  45
  “Just as you say, Speç,” answered Ephraim smoothly, and he hung the pledge over an advertisement chromo of a nude cream-colored lady with bright straw hair, holding out a bottle of somebody’s champagne. Specimen Jones sang no more songs, but smoked and leaned in silence on the bar. The company were talking of bed, and Ephraim plunged his glasses into a bucket to clean them for the morrow.  46
  “Know anything about that kid?” inquired Jones abruptly.  47
  Ephraim shook his head as he washed.  48
  “Traveling alone, ain’t he?”  49
  Ephraim nodded.  50
  “Where did you say you found that fellow layin’, the Injuns got?”  51
  “Mile this side the cañon. ’Mong them sand-humps.”  52
  “How long had he been there, do you figure?”  53
  “Three days, anyway.”  54
  Jones watched Ephraim finish his cleansing. “Your clock needs wiping,” he remarked. “A man might suppose it was nine, to see that thing, the way the dirt hides the hands. Look again in half an hour and it’ll say three. That’s the kind of clock gives a man the jams. Sends him crazy.”  55
  “Well, that ain’t a bad thing to be in this country,” said Ephraim, rubbing the glass case and restoring identity to the hands. “If that man had been crazy he’d been livin’ right now. Injuns ’ll never touch lunatics.”  56
  “That band have passed here and gone north,” Jones said. “I saw a smoke among the foot-hills as I come along day before yesterday. I guess they’re aiming to cross the Santa Catalina. Most likely they’re that band from round the San Carlos that were reported as raiding down in Sonora.”  57
  “I seen well enough,” said Ephraim, “when I found him, that they wasn’t going to trouble us any, or they’d have been around by then.”  58
  He was quite right; but Specimen Jones was thinking of something else. He went out to the corral, feeling disturbed and doubtful. He saw the tall white freight-wagon of the Mexicans, looming and silent; and a little way off, the new fence where the man lay. An odd sound startled him, though he knew it was no Indians at this hour; and he looked down into a little dry ditch. It was the boy, hidden away flat on his stomach among the stones, sobbing.  59
  “Oh, snakes!” whispered Specimen Jones, and stepped back. The Latin races embrace and weep, and all goes well; but among Saxons, tears are a horrid event. Jones never knew what to do when it was a woman; but this was truly disgusting. He was well seasoned by the frontier,—had tried a little of anything: town and country, ranches, saloons, stage-driving, marriage occasionally, and latterly mines. He had sundry claims staked out, and always carried pieces of stone in his pockets, discoursing upon their mineral-bearing capacity, which was apt to be very slight. That is why he was called Specimen Jones. He had exhausted all the important sensations, and did not care much for anything more. Perfect health and strength kept him from discovering that he was a saddened, drifting man. He wished to kick the boy for his baby performance; and yet he stepped carefully away from the ditch so the boy should not suspect his presence. He found himself standing still, looking at the dim, broken desert.  60
  “Why, hell,” complained Specimen Jones, “he played the little man to start with. He did so. He scared that old horse-thief Adams just about dead. Then he went to kill me, that kep’ him from bein’ buried early to-morrow. I’ve been wild that way myself, and wantin’ to shoot up the whole outfit.” Jones looked at the place where his middle finger used to be, before a certain evening in Tombstone. “But I never—” He glanced towards the ditch, perplexed. “What’s that mean? Why in the world does he git to cryin’ for now, do you suppose?” Jones took to singing without knowing it. “‘Ye shepherds, tell me, have you seen my Flora pass this way?’” he murmured. Then a thought struck him. “Hello, kid!” he called out. There was no answer.  61
  “Of course,” said Jones. “Now he’s ashamed to hev me see him come out of there.” He walked with elaborate slowness round the corral and behind a shed. “Hello, you kid!” he called again.  62
  “I was thinking of going to sleep,” said the boy, appearing quite suddenly. “I—I’m not used to riding all day. I’ll get used to it, you know,” he hastened to add.  63
  “‘Ha-ve you seen my Flo—’ Say, kid, where you bound, anyway?”  64
  “San Carlos.”  65
  “San Carlos! Oh. Ah. ‘—Flo-ra pass this way?’”  66
  “Is it far, sir?”  67
  “Awful far, sometimes. It’s always liable to be far through the Arivaypa Cañon.”  68
  “I didn’t expect to make it between meals,” remarked Cumnor.  69
  “No. Sure. What made you come this route?”  70
  “A man told me.”  71
  “A man? Oh. Well, it is kind o’ difficult, I admit, for an Arizonan not to lie to a stranger. But I think I’d have told you to go by Tres Alamos and Point of Mountain. It’s the road the man that told you would choose himself every time. Do you like Injuns, kid?”  72
  Cumnor snapped eagerly.  73
  “Of course you do. And you’ve never saw one in the whole minute and a half you’ve been alive. I know all about it.”  74
  “I’m not afraid,” said the boy.  75
  “Not afraid? Of course you ain’t. What’s your idea in going to Carlos? Got town lots there?”  76
  “No,” said the literal youth, to the huge internal diversion of Jones. “There’s a man there I used to know back home. He’s in the cavalry. What sort of a town is it for sport?” asked Cumnor, in a gay-Lothario tone.  77
  “Town?” Specimen Jones caught hold of the top rail of the corral. “Sport? Now I’ll tell you what sort of a town it is. There ain’t no streets. There ain’t no houses. There ain’t any land and water in the usual meaning of them words. There’s Mount Turnbull. It’s pretty near a usual mountain, but you don’t want to go there. The Creator didn’t make San Carlos. It’s a heap older than him. When he got around to it after slickin’ up Paradise and them fruit-trees, he just left it to be as he found it, as a sample of the way they done business before he come along. He ’a’n’t done any work around that spot at all, he ’a’n’t. Mix up a barrel of sand and ashes and thorns, and jam scorpions and rattlesnakes along in, and dump the outfit on stones, and heat yer stones red-hot, and set the United States army loose over the place chasin’ Apaches, and you’ve got San Carlos.”  78
  Cumnor was silent for a moment. “I don’t care,” he said. “I want to chase Apaches.”  79
  “Did you see that man Ephraim found by the cañon?” Jones inquired.  80
  “Didn’t get here in time.”  81
  “Well, there was a hole in his chest made by an arrow. But there’s no harm in that if you die at wunst. That chap didn’t, you see. You heard Ephraim tell about it. They’d done a number of things to the man before he could die. Roastin’ was only one of ’em. Now your road takes you through the mountains where these Injuns hev gone. Kid, come along to Tucson with me,” urged Jones suddenly.  82
  Again Cumnor was silent. “Is my road different from other people’s?” he said, finally.  83
  “Not to Grant, it ain’t. These Mexicans are hauling freight to Grant. But what’s the matter with your coming to Tucson with me?”  84
  “I started to go to San Carlos, and I’m going,” said Cumnor.  85
  “You’re a poor chuckle-headed fool!” burst out Jones in a rage. “And you can go for all I care—you and your Christmas-tree pistol. Like as not you won’t find your cavalry friend at San Carlos. They’ve killed a lot of them soldiers huntin’ Injuns this season. Good-night.”  86
  Specimen Jones was gone. Cumnor walked to his blanket-roll, where his saddle was slung under the shed. The various doings of the evening had bruised his nerves. He spread his blankets among the dry cattle-dung, and sat down, taking off a few clothes slowly. He lumped his coat and overalls under his head for a pillow, and putting the despised pistol alongside, lay between the blankets. No object showed in the night but the tall freight-wagon. The tenderfoot thought he had made altogether a fool of himself upon the first trial trip of his manhood, alone on the open sea of Arizona. No man, not even Jones now, was his friend. A stranger, who could have had nothing against him but his inexperience, had taken the trouble to direct him on the wrong road. He did not mind definite enemies,—he had punched the heads of those in Pennsylvania, and would not object to shooting them here: but this impersonal, surrounding hostility of the unknown was new and bitter; the cruel, assassinating, cowardly Southwest, where prospered those jail-birds whom the vigilantes had driven from California. He thought of the nameless human carcass that lay near, buried that day, and of the jokes about its mutilations. Cumnor was not an innocent boy, either in principles or in practice; but this laughter about a dead body had burned into his young, unhardened soul. He lay watching with hot, dogged eyes the brilliant stars. A passing wind turned the windmill, which creaked a forlorn minute, and ceased. He must have gone to sleep and slept soundly; for the next he knew, it was the cold air of dawn that made him open his eyes. A numb silence lay over all things, and the tenderfoot had that moment of curiosity as to where he was now which comes to those who have journeyed for many days. The Mexicans had already departed with their freight-wagon. It was not entirely light, and the embers, where these early starters had cooked their breakfast, lay glowing in the sand across the road. The boy remembered seeing a wagon where now he saw only chill, distant peaks; and while he lay quiet and warm, shunning full consciousness, there was a stir in the cabin, and at Ephraim’s voice reality broke upon his drowsiness, and he recollected Arizona and the keen stress of shifting for himself. He noted the gray paling round the grave. Indians? He would catch up with the Mexicans, and travel in their company to Grant. Freighters made but fifteen miles in the day, and he could start after breakfast and be with them before they stopped to noon. Six men need not worry about Apaches, Cumnor thought. The voice of Specimen Jones came from the cabin, and sounds of lighting the stove, and the growling conversation of men getting up. Cumnor, lying in his blankets, tried to overhear what Jones was saying, for no better reason than that this was the only man he had met lately who had seemed to care whether he were alive or dead. There was the clink of Ephraim’s whisky-bottles, and the cheerful tones of old Mr. Adams saying, “It’s better’n brushin’ yer teeth;” and then further clinking, and an inquiry from Specimen Jones.  87
  “Whose spurs?” said he.  88
  “Mine.” This from Mr. Adams.  89
  “How long have they been yourn?”  90
  “Since I got ’em, I guess.”  91
  “Well, you’ve enjoyed them spurs long enough.” The voice of Specimen Jones now altered in quality. “And you’ll give ’em back to that kid.”  92
  Muttering followed that the boy could not catch. “You’ll give ’em back,” repeated Jones. “I seen you lift ’em from under that chair when I was in the corner.”  93
  “That’s straight, Mr. Adams,” said Ephraim. “I noticed it myself, though I had no objections, of course. But Mr. Jones has pointed out—”  94
  “Since when have you growed so honest, Jones?” cackled Mr. Adams, seeing that he must lose his little booty. “And why didn’t you raise yer objections when you seen me do it?”  95
  “I didn’t know the kid,” Jones explained. “And if it don’t strike you that game blood deserves respect, why it does strike me.”  96
  Hearing this, the tenderfoot, outside in his shed, thought better of mankind and life in general, arose from his nest, and began preening himself. He had all the correct trappings for the frontier, and his toilet in the shed gave him pleasure. The sun came up, and with a stroke struck the world to crystal. The near sand-hills went into rose; the crabbed yucca and the mesquite turned transparent, with lances and pale films of green, like drapery graciously veiling the desert’s face; and distant violet peaks and edges framed the vast enchantment beneath the liquid exhalations of the sky. The smell of bacon and coffee from open windows filled the heart with bravery and yearning; and Ephraim, putting his head round the corner, called to Cumnor that he had better come in and eat. Jones, already at table, gave him the briefest nod; but the spurs were there, replaced as Cumnor had left them under a chair in the corner. In Arizona they do not say much at any meal, and at breakfast nothing at all; and as Cumnor swallowed and meditated, he noticed the cream-colored lady and the chain, and he made up his mind he should assert his identity with regard to that business, though how and when was not clear to him. He was in no great haste to take up his journey. The society of the Mexicans whom he must sooner or later overtake did not tempt him. When breakfast was done he idled in the cabin, like the other guests, while Ephraim and his assistant busied about the premises. But the morning grew on; and the guests, after a season of smoking and tilted silence against the wall, shook themselves and their effects together, saddled, and were lost among the waste thorny hills. Twenty Mile became hot and torpid. Jones lay on three consecutive chairs, occasionally singing; and old Mr. Adams had not gone away either, but watched him, with more tobacco running down his beard.  97
  “Well,” said Cumnor, “I’ll be going.”  98
  “Nobody’s stopping you,” remarked Jones.  99
  “You’re going to Tucson?” the boy said, with the chain problem still unsolved in his mind. “Good-by, Mr. Jones. I hope I’ll—we’ll—”  100
  “That’ll do,” said Jones; and the tenderfoot, thrown back by this severity, went to get his saddle-horse and his burro.  101
  Presently Jones remarked to Mr. Adams that he wondered what Ephraim was doing, and went out. The old gentleman was left alone in the room, and he swiftly noticed that the belt and pistol of Specimen Jones were left alone with him. The accoutrement lay by the chair its owner had been lounging in. It is an easy thing to remove cartridges from the chambers of a revolver, and replace the weapon in its holster so that everything looks quite natural. The old gentleman was entertained with the notion that somewhere in Tucson, Specimen Jones might have a surprise; and he did not take a minute to prepare this, drop the belt as it lay before, and saunter innocently out of the saloon. Ephraim and Jones were criticizing the tenderfoot’s property as he packed his burro.  102
  “Do you make it a rule to travel with ice-cream?” Jones was inquiring.  103
  “They’re for water,” Cumnor said. “They told me at Tucson I’d need to carry water for three days on some trails.”  104
  It was two good-sized milk-cans that he had; and they bounced about on the little burro’s pack, giving him as much amazement as a jackass can feel. Jones and Ephraim were hilarious.  105
  “Don’t go without your spurs, Mr. Cumnor,” said the voice of old Mr. Adams, as he approached the group. His tone was particularly civil.  106
  The tenderfoot had indeed forgotten his spurs; and he ran back to get them. The cream-colored lady still had the chain hanging upon her, and Cumnor’s problem was suddenly solved. He put the chain in his pocket, and laid the price of one round of drinks for last night’s company on the shelf below the chromo. He returned with his spurs on, and went to his saddle that lay beside that of Specimen Jones under the shed. After a moment he came with his saddle to where the men stood talking by his pony, slung it on, and tightened the cinches; but the chain was now in the saddle-bag of Specimen Jones, mixed up with some tobacco, stale bread, a box of matches, and a hunk of fat bacon. The men at Twenty Mile said good-day to the tenderfoot, with monosyllables and indifference, and watched him depart into the heated desert. Wishing for a last look at Jones, he turned once, and saw the three standing, and the chocolate brick of the cabin, and the windmill white and idle in the sun.  107
  “He’ll be gutted by night,” remarked Mr. Adams.  108
  “I ain’t buryin’ him, then,” said Ephraim.  109
  “Nor I,” said Specimen Jones. “Well, it’s time I was getting to Tucson.”  110
  He went to the saloon, strapped on his pistol, saddled, and rode away. Ephraim and Mr. Adams returned to the cabin; and here is the final conclusion they came to, after three hours of discussion as to who took the chain and who had it just then:—  111
  Ephraim—Jones, he hadn’t no cash.  112
  Mr. Adams—The kid, he hadn’t no sense.  113
  Ephraim—The kid, he lent the cash to Jones.  114
  Mr. Adams—Jones, he goes off with his chain.  115
  Both—What damn fools everybody is, anyway!  116
  And they went to dinner. But Mr. Adams did not mention his relations with Jones’s pistol. Let it be said in extenuation of that performance, that Mr. Adams supposed Jones was going to Tucson, where he said he was going, and where a job and a salary were awaiting him. In Tucson an unloaded pistol, in the holster of so handy a man on the drop as was Specimen, would keep people civil, because they would not know, any more than the owner, that it was unloaded; and the mere possession of it would be sufficient in nine chances out of ten—though it was undoubtedly for the tenth that Mr. Adams had a sneaking hope. But Specimen Jones was not going to Tucson. A contention in his mind as to whether he would do what was good for himself, or what was good for another, had kept him sullen ever since he got up. Now it was settled, and Jones in serene humor again. Of course he had started on the Tucson road, for the benefit of Ephraim and Mr. Adams.  117
  The tenderfoot rode along. The Arizona sun beat down upon the deadly silence; and the world was no longer of crystal, but a mesa, dull and gray and hot. The pony’s hoofs grated in the gravel; and after a time the road dived down and up among lumpy hills of stone and cactus, always nearer the fierce glaring Sierra Santa Catalina. It dipped so abruptly in and out of the shallow sudden ravines, that on coming up from one of these into the sight of the country again, the tenderfoot’s heart jumped at the close apparition of another rider quickly bearing in upon him from gullies where he had been moving unseen. But it was only Specimen Jones.  118
  “Hello!” said he, joining Cumnor. “Hot, ain’t it?”  119
  “Where are you going?” inquired Cumnor.  120
  “Up here a ways.” And Jones jerked his finger generally towards the Sierra, where they were heading.  121
  “Thought you had a job in Tucson.”  122
  “That’s what I have.”  123
  Specimen Jones had no more to say; and they rode for a while, their ponies’ hoofs always grating in the gravel, and the milk-cans lightly clanking on the burro’s pack. The bunched blades of the yuccas bristled steel-stiff; and as far as you could see, it was a gray waste of mounds and ridges sharp and blunt, up to the forbidding boundary walls of the Tortilita one way and the Santa Catalina the other. Cumnor wondered if Jones had found the chain. Jones was capable of not finding it for several weeks, or of finding it at once and saying nothing.  124
  “You’ll excuse my meddling with your business?” the boy hazarded.  125
  Jones looked inquiring.  126
  “Something’s wrong with your saddle-pocket.”  127
  Specimen saw nothing apparently wrong with it; but perceiving Cumnor was grinning, unbuckled the pouch. He looked at the boy rapidly, and looked away again; and as he rode, still in silence, he put the chain back round his neck below the flannel shirt-collar.  128
  “Say, kid,” he remarked after some time, “what does J. stand for?”  129
  “J.? Oh, my name! Jock.”  130
  “Well, Jock, will you explain to me as a friend how you ever come to be such a fool as to leave yer home—wherever and whatever it was—in exchange for this here God-forsaken and iniquitous hole?”  131
  “If you’ll explain to me,” said the boy, greatly heartened, “how you come to be ridin’ in the company of a fool, instead of goin’ to your job at Tucson.”  132
  The explanation was furnished before Specimen Jones had framed his reply. A burning freight-wagon and five dismembered human stumps lay in the road. This was what had happened to the Miguels and Serapios and the concertina. Jones and Cumnor, in their dodging and struggles to exclude all expressions of growing mutual esteem from their speech, had forgotten their journey; and a sudden bend among the rocks where the road had now brought them revealed the blood and fire staring them in the face. The plundered wagon was three parts empty; its splintered, blazing boards slid down as they burned, into the fiery heap on the ground; packages of soda and groceries and medicines slid with them, bursting into chemical spots of green and crimson flame; a wheel crushed in and sank, spilling more packages that flickered and hissed; the garbage of combat and murder littered the earth; and in the air hung an odor that Cumnor knew, though he had never smelled it before. Morsels of dropped booty up among the rocks showed where the Indians had gone; and one horse remained, groaning, with an accidental arrow in his belly.  133
  “We’ll just kill him,” said Jones; and his pistol snapped idly, and snapped again, as his eye caught a motion—a something—two hundred yards up among the bowlders on the hill. He whirled round. The enemy was behind them also. There was no retreat. “Yourn’s no good!” yelled Jones fiercely, for Cumnor was getting out his little foolish revolver. “Oh, what a trick to play on a man! Drop off yer horse, kid; drop, and do like me. Shootin’s no good here, even if I was loaded. They shot, and look at them now. God bless them ice-cream freezers of yourn, kid! Did you ever see a crazy man? If you ’ain’t, make it up as you go along!”  134
  More objects moved up among the bowlders. Specimen Jones ripped off the burro’s pack, and the milk-cans rolled on the ground. The burro began grazing quietly, with now and then a step towards new patches of grass. The horses stood where their riders had left them, their reins over their heads, hanging and dragging. From two hundred yards on the hill the ambushed Apaches showed, their dark, scattered figures appearing cautiously one by one, watching with suspicion. Specimen Jones seized up one milk-can, and Cumnor obediently did the same.  135
  “You kin dance, kid, and I kin sing, and we’ll go to it,” said Jones. He rambled in a wavering loop, and diving eccentrically at Cumnor, clashed the milk-cans together. “‘Es schallt ein Ruf wie Donnerhall,’” he bawled, beginning the song of ‘Die Wacht am Rhein.’ “Why don’t you dance?” he shouted sternly. The boy saw the terrible earnestness of his face, and clashing his milk-cans in turn, he shuffled a sort of jig. The two went over the sand in loops, toe and heel; the donkey continued his quiet grazing, and the flames rose hot and yellow from the freight-wagon. And all the while the stately German hymn pealed among the rocks, and the Apaches crept down nearer the bowing, scraping men. The sun shone bright, and their bodies poured with sweat. Jones flung off his shirt; his damp, matted hair was half in ridges and half glued to his forehead, and the delicate gold chain swung and struck his broad, naked breast. The Apaches drew nearer again, their bows and arrows held uncertainly. They came down the hill, fifteen or twenty, taking a long time, and stopping every few yards. The milk-cans clashed, and Jones thought he felt the boy’s strokes weakening. ‘Die Wacht am Rhein’ was finished, and now it was “‘Ha-ve you seen my Flora pass this way?’” “You mustn’t play out, kid,” said Jones, very gently,—“indeed you mustn’t;” and he at once resumed his song.  136
  The silent Apaches had now reached the bottom of the hill. They stood some twenty yards away, and Cumnor had a good chance to see his first Indians. He saw them move, and the color and slim shape of their bodies, their thin arms, and their long, black hair. It went through his mind that if he had no more clothes on than that, dancing would come easier. His boots were growing heavy to lift, and his overalls seemed to wrap his sinews in wet, strangling thongs. He wondered how long he had been keeping this up. The legs of the Apaches were free, with light moccasins only half-way to the thigh, slenderly held up by strings from the waist. Cumnor envied their unincumbered steps as he saw them again walk nearer to where he was dancing. It was long since he had eaten, and he noticed a singing dullness in his brain, and became frightened at his thoughts, which were running and melting into one fixed idea. This idea was to take off his boots, and offer to trade them for a pair of moccasins. It terrified him—this endless, molten rush of thoughts; he could see them coming in different shapes from different places in his head, but they all joined immediately, and always formed the same fixed idea. He ground his teeth to master this encroaching inebriation of his will and judgment. He clashed his can more loudly to wake him to reality, which he still could recognize and appreciate. For a time he found it a good plan to listen to what Specimen Jones was singing, and tell himself the name of the song, if he knew it. At present it was ‘Yankee Doodle,’ to which Jones was fitting words of his own. These ran, “Now I’m going to try a bluff, And mind you do what I do;” and then again, over and over. Cumnor waited for the word “bluff”; for it was hard and heavy, and fell into his thoughts, and stopped them for a moment. The dance was so long now he had forgotten about that. A numbness had been spreading through his legs, and he was glad to feel a sharp pain in the sole of his foot. It was a piece of gravel that had somehow worked its way in, and was rubbing through the skin into the flesh. “That’s good,” he said aloud. The pebble was eating the numbness away, and Cumnor drove it hard against the raw spot, and relished the tonic of its burning friction.  137
  The Apaches had drawn into a circle. Standing at some interval apart, they entirely surrounded the arena. Shrewd, half convinced, and yet with awe, they watched the dancers, who clashed their cans slowly now in rhythm to Jones’s hoarse, parched singing. He was quite master of himself, and led the jig round the still blazing wreck of the wagon, and circled in figures of eight between the corpses of the Mexicans, clashing the milk-cans above each one. Then, knowing his strength was coming to an end, he approached an Indian whose splendid fillet and trappings denoted him of consequence; and Jones was near shouting with relief when the Indian shrank backward. Suddenly he saw Cumnor let his can drop; and without stopping to see why, he caught it up, and slowly rattling both, approached each Indian in turn with tortuous steps. The circle that had never uttered a sound till now, receded, chanting almost in a whisper some exorcising song which the man with the fillet had begun. They gathered round him, retreating always; and the strain, with its rapid muttered words, rose and fell softly among them. Jones had supposed the boy was overcome by faintness, and looked to see where he lay. But it was not faintness. Cumnor, with his boots off, came by and walked after the Indians in a trance. They saw him, and quickened their pace, often turning to be sure he was not overtaking them. He called to them unintelligibly, stumbling up the sharp hill, and pointing to the boots. Finally he sat down. They continued ascending the mountain, herding close round the man with the feathers, until the rocks and the filmy tangles screened them from sight; and like a wind that hums uncertainly in grass, their chanting died away.  138
  The sun was half behind the western range when Jones next moved. He called, and getting no answer, he crawled painfully to where the boy lay on the hill. Cumnor was sleeping heavily; his head was hot, and he moaned. So Jones crawled down, and fetched blankets and the canteen of water. He spread the blankets over the boy, wet a handkerchief and laid it on his forehead; then he lay down himself.  139
  The earth was again magically smitten to crystal. Again the sharp cactus and the sand turned beautiful, and violet floated among the mountains, and rose-colored orange in the sky above them.  140
  “Jock,” said Specimen at length.  141
  The boy opened his eyes.  142
  “Your foot is awful, Jock. Can you eat?”  143
  “Not with my foot.”  144
  “Ah, God bless you, Jock! You ain’t turruble sick. But can you eat?”  145
  Cumnor shook his head.  146
  “Eatin’s what you need, though. Well, here.” Specimen poured a judicious mixture of whisky and water down the boy’s throat, and wrapped the awful foot in his own flannel shirt. “They’ll fix you over to Grant. It’s maybe twelve miles through the cañon. It ain’t a town any more than Carlos is, but the soldiers ’ll be good to us. As soon as night comes, you and me must somehow git out of this.”  147
  Somehow they did,—Jones walking and leading his horse and the imperturbable little burro, and also holding Cumnor in the saddle. And when Cumnor was getting well in the military hospital at Grant, he listened to Jones recounting to all that chose to hear how useful a weapon an ice-cream freezer can be, and how if you’ll only chase Apaches in your stocking feet they are sure to run away. And then Jones and Cumnor both enlisted; and I suppose Jones’s friend is still expecting him in Tucson.  148
 
 
CONTENTS · GENERAL INDEX · SONGS & LYRICS · BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY
READER’S DIGEST · STUDENT’S COURSE · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  PREVIOUSNEXT  
 

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.