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Drawn by F. R. Gruger
from Rock Hill. Bashful Bob merely wrote, "Nothing worth mentioning this week."
"It is too bad." The red-headed foreman shook his head with a sympathetic sigh. "He is simply worrying himself to death over that girl."
Next Wednesday Simpson was looking over the mail. "What in the world!" He exclaimed, picking up a thick letter from Rock Hill. The printer slipped off his stool and came to the desk eager and excited.
"What do you suppose has happened? Reckon she has come back?"
The editor glanced rapidly down the first page. "Struck lead!" he exclaimed. "Lead on Bashful Bob's farm! Was digging a well-wild excitement-land doubled in value all over the neighborhood in twenty-four hours."
"How does he know it is lead?" Beets was always skeptical of financial good for
Monday the mining expert from Joplin, who first discovered that lead ore was being thrown out at every blast in the well, offered Jerry Coleman ten thousand dollars for his eighty acres. We understand Mr. Coleman has agreed to sell. No doubt he is foolish, for the land will probably be worth three or four times that; but he has been anxious to get away for some time, and thinks a bird in the hand is better than lead in the ground.
"He is going to the city," said Beets. "He has figured that he can have a better show with her if he can move to the city."
Simpson thought of Jerry Coleman's good fortune many times during the day; but the oftener he thought of it, the less sure he felt. A shade of doubt crept in. And as further details of the discovery reached the county-seat from the Rock Hill vicinity, the doubt in his mind deepened, and with it came a vague uneasiness that Coleman was in some way being de
"Here is the proof." Simpson read ceived. from the news-article:
He was pretty sure that Bashful Bob
would come to Wahoo City before the deal was closed, and asked the landlord at the hotel and the liveryman to let him. know when Coleman came.
Monday afternoon, as the editor passed the livery-barn, Dawkins called to him:
"Say, Simpson, that fellow Coleman you were inquiring about was here this morning; but I clear forgot that you wanted to see him."
"Has he gone?"
"Yes. Left about noon."
"Do you happen to know what he came for?"
"Why, yes." Dawkins laughed. "He was so full of it, and feeling so good, he had to tell somebody, so he told me. He came in to get some money to put that trade through."
"Money?" Simpson was suddenly alarmed. "What did he want with money? I thought he was selling."
"He is; but, you see, he agreed to sell to that first fellow for ten thousand. But since the excitement got so high, another mining-man came along, and has offered him thirty thousand. But the first fellow did not want to let him off; he finally agreed, however, to release Coleman from his agreement for two thousand. And the young fellow came in to get it. He had five hundred in the bank, he said, and was going to borrow the rest."
'Hitch the fastest team you have, and hurry!" ordered Simpson, and turned back to the office almost on a run.
"They are skinning Jerry Coleman," he said, dashing in breathless. "That lead discovery is all bogus."
"How is that?" stool with a crash.
Beets came off his
Simpson explained rapidly. He was at the telephone, ringing violently for central.
"It is that old swindle. One man came along and offered ten thousand; another came on a few days later and offered thirty. The first finally agrees to let him off if Coleman will give him two thousand. Jerry's got the money,-borrowed most of it, and of course he'll never hear of either one of them again. Unless I can get him over the 'phone I'm going to drive. He's been gone nearly two hours."
"I expect it will be too late," said Beets, anxiously. "He's more than half
way, and that shark will likely come to meet him."
Simpson got central, and asked for somebody-anybody about ten miles down the Rock Hill road. He was connected with a farm-house.
"Who is this?" he called hurriedly. "Mason? Well, say, Mr. Mason, have you seen Jerry Coleman go by on his way home? How long ago? Whose is the next 'phone down the road?"
"Passed about ten minutes ago," the editor explained to Beets as he rang off and called to central for another connection.
The line was busy, and it was nearly five minutes before he got the farm-house he wanted.
"Is this Johnson's? Has Jerry Coleman passed?"
There was a moment's wait while the farmer inquired of his family.
"He 's just gone by," the farmer said. "He is still in the lane, but too far to be called back. Who is it wants him?"
"The editor of the 'Wahoo Sun," " called back Simpson.
"Oh, I thought maybe it was the man that called awhile ago-some one down at Warren's who is waiting for him 'phoned a few minutes ago to know if he had passed."
"How far is it from your place to Warren's?" Simpson was shifting from foot to foot.
"Just a mile down the road."
The editor rang off with a jerk. “That rascal is waiting for him at the next house," he explained excitedly to Beets.
"Central," he called in feverish impatience, "get Warren's for me-quickdown the Rock Hill road. For Heaven's sake, hurry! It means-everything."
Again the line was busy, and the minutes slipped by. Jerry had had time to get there-almost. Simpson was in a sweat of anxiety.
Finally the connection was made.
"Is this Warren's? Has Jerry Coleman come yet?" The questions were hurled into the receiver.
They said he was just hitching his horse.
"Say," broke in Simpson, "don't let on to the man who is waiting for him, but, for Heaven's sake, get Coleman to the 'phone quick! Don't let him be with that
man a minute until I speak to him. I'll hold the 'phone."
Then they waited, Simpson and Beets both standing by the 'phone, Simpson with the transmitter to his ear.
One, two, three minutes passed. Had they failed to tell Coleman? Had the rascal met him at the gate? Had Coleman refused to answer the 'phone until he had finished the business?
"Hello!" It was a good hearty call, which made both men jump.
"This is the 'Wahoo Sun' office," said Simpson. "Is this you, Coleman? All right. This is the editor speaking. Coleman, drop that deal hot. I've discovered those fellows are rascals, and neither intend to buy the land. When they get your two thousand, you will never hear of them again. Don't do it, Jerry! For goodness' sake, let them alone! They are skinning you."
"Did he say he would n't?" Beets asked anxiously as the editor hung up the receiver.
"Did n't say," answered Simpson; "but that is all we can do."
Nothing was heard until Wednesday, when the Rock Hill correspondence came in as usual.
"Good!" The editor gave his desk a thump of relief as he read the first item:
The deal for Jerry Coleman's farm is off. Jerry says if it is real lead, he wants it all;
There was no news-letter from Rock Hill the next week; but the week following brought an unusually long one.
It seemed that everything was of interest -that the weather and the crops and the neighbors and the State of Missouri and politics were all in prime condition.
"Here it is," said Beets, and fairly glowed and chuckled as he read the item he had been searching for:
Miss Ida Lane, who has been employed as stenographer in Kansas City, will return home the first of October. Miss Ida says there is no place in the world like good old Rock Hill for her.
"Hurrah for Bashful Bob!" The redheaded printer did a dance that threatened to pi all the type in the shop. "Simpson, how much are you in on a weddingpresent?"
THE MINSTREL PEOPLE
HOLERA was reported at the head waters of the Candayra, and cholera up the Candayra means cholera in the capital in two months. Previous efforts to check it there had been failures, because the hill tribes have their own conceptions of cholera. They are a sullen, secretive, and savage people, and they know nothing
of science. But this time there sat in the governor-general's palace a man who had no patience with failures. He called in two young cavalry captains from the troops at the post.
"You'll go up the Candayra with your troops and the surgeons we 'll send-you to Boc-boc, Smith, and you to Bato, Wen
dell. This cholera can be stopped if the surgeons have a show. You may reconcentrate those hill people, you may do anything the end seems to justify,—always remembering that you are Americans,but you will stop this cholera thing. That's all, gentlemen."
It was something of an order. It placed the power of an absolute monarch over some thousands of twisted little aborigines in the hands of the two youngsters, and prophecy and speculation and wonder were rife in the official and military colony. This was the concensus of the three:
"They'll stop it, all right; but Smith 'll ruin his troop. It's a ghastly country and a terrible task. He realizes that and his importance. He 'll nag his men into a funk; they'll desert, they'll get cholera and die, and the troop will come back here a wreck. Now, Wendell will be different. He'll jolly his men, he'll blarney and bullyrag 'em; they 'll do their work, and they'll come out of that pestiferous hole as fit as fiddles."
Now, as this is precisely what did not happen, it is worth a paragraph.
Smith marched his troop to Boc-boc, lined them up in the plaza, and there, under the sweltering sun, with the tired men sitting cramped upon the worn-out horses, he read them a two-hours' lecture, couched in terms they did not understand, about the terror of their task and his own determination.
"Men," he finished, "I have a will of iron and a hand of steel. See that you never give me cause to show it." Then the troop filed off to dismount and unsaddle, sullen, sore, angry, and thoroughly rebellious. Smith could not but feel their air of resentment, and he countered against it immediately. The Boc-boc day had started miserably, and it ended stormily when the captain came down to inspect his commandeered barracks at sunset. He heard a rhythmic clatter of feet on the polished floor that kept clever cadence with a shrill "Turkey in the Straw," whistled in chorus, and indescribably enunciated words to the same tune:
The song was lost in a clattering breakdown and a roar of good-natured laughter. Smith bounded angrily up the steps.
There was no doubt of the perpetrator. The troop was sitting in a grinning circle on the bare floor, and in the center, his crooked mouth half open in startled surprise, his body still crouched in the final posture of the "pigeon-wing" he had triumphantly finished, his cockatoo's crest of stubbly mouse-colored hair comically erect, stood Private Dornikee, late of Whoknows-where. Upon him his captain's wrath descended in a torrent of angry words.
"You 're a tramp and a bummer," he said, among other things. "I know all about you. You were a hobo before you enlisted-a homeless, feckless hobo. You sing songs, you joke from morning to night, you laugh and giggle and smirk, and fools laugh at you." The fire of Smith's anger was gradually dying in the face of the ludicrous caricature of fear in the round, freckled visage and china-blue eyes of Private Dornikee. 'Seriousness is not in you. To my knowledge, you have never passed an inspection. You lose your equipment, your uniform is in tatters, you are not, and never will be, a soldier.
"If it were n't that you take good care of your horse, I'd have gotten rid of you long ago. Now I'll give you a fair warning, Dornikee. Be a soldier if you can; but every time you miss a stroke, I'm going to send you before the summary court. The law says that when you have been there five times, out you go from the service-a military convict. It's your last chance, Dornikee. I give you three months' time to hang yourself. That 's all."
There was no routine in the cholera fight at Boc-boc. It was a succession of nightmares. It is impossible to describe the morbid effect of jungle service upon white men unless the country has been seen; then a faint glimmering of understanding may come.
The Candayra River, running through the hills by Boc-boc and Bato, is flanked by forests; but they are not such forests as America knows anything about. Great
"Oh, there was a metal skeezicks, and he mahogany- and nara-trees, twice as high
had a metal mitt,
But you had to be a guard-house bird to get a look at it—”
as the tallest pines, rise out of a perennial ooze that is slimy black with decaying leaves, and pitted with dark pools and
tarns. Their foliage lies like a blanket overhead, and beneath it the sun never for a moment strikes; but in that gloom the rank air steams venomously, long creepers hang in moss-bearded festoons, and all underfoot is enmeshed with brakes of giant grass and opener spaces covered with clinging, thorny vines or thickets of bamboo, and crisscrossing it all, like a great tangle of struggling serpents and lizards and scale-backed monsters, the roots of the trees stand high from the earth in weird and uncanny convolutions.
This was the country where the troop worked, herding the naked people in villages, dragging them sometimes by force, persuading them sometimes by promises, but bringing them always. Here, or in the villages, where the plague was fiercest, the men slaved night and day, cleaning, burying, or directing the funeral-parties that made the night hideous under the trees, howling over their dead their ceremonial and propitiating chants to the gods that send the cholera. A day of this was strange and fascinating, a week was uncanny, and then the horror and dread of it began to strike in on the men's nerves. They were physically exhausted, ill-fed, and in constant danger of an unseen and unfightable death.
Captain Smith was tireless, and he spared himself not at all, working side by side with his men, and longer and harder than any of them. But he did exactly as had been foretold: he treated his toiling troop like children, he nagged and hectored them early and late. He exaggerated and cried against faults, and he was blind to virtue and good work. From a day under his eye the men always came back to quarters sullen and rebellious-all save one. In Dornikee, Smith could see no good.
The man was utterly careless and quite irresponsible, and he stood before the summary court three times in as many weeks, once for failing to prevent an isolated suspect-she was a very frightened mother-from seeing her three-year-old, naked, brown baby. Dornikee pleaded guilty without a word of explanation, once, while on patrol, for allowing a child to eat a mango that had not been sterilized, and once for smiling while being reprimanded by a sergeant. The repri
mand had been:
"Herd yerself together, Dornikee! Herd yerself! Yer belt 's unbuckled, one of yer spurs is gone, they 's a hole in yer hat, an' yer hair 's stickin' through it. Sure, if pride o' bearin' in you was strychnine, it would n't poison a louse."
To this Captain Smith had added advice: "This is the third time, Dornikee; only two more chances for you. As sure as you stand there, I'll show you no mercy. You 're no soldier. You 're a trifler and worthless, a disgrace to the troop and a thorn in my side."
But the men would gather about Pri vate Dornikee when he returned from these interviews to hear his whimsical, wistful accounts of them, given in dialect, with much gesture and mimicry. Then they would shriek with laughter, and forget their own aching bones and lacerated feelings, while Dornikee, who was irrepressible and tireless, sang for them, or danced out the whole history of a ballgame or the matrimonial infelicities of Misther and Missis O'Flaherty. He could play any instrument of strings or stops or pistons. He had a clear, sweet voice and a perfect genius for mimicry. Attention and appreciation seemed as necessary and as grateful to him as the air he breathed. His troubles lay lightly across his shoulders. If Smith sent the men to quarters in the doldrums, Dornikee laughed them out again in thirty minutes of tomfoolery, and his side remarks on the work of the day as it progressed were something that the men waited and listened for always. But his own work was boggled, and the older men began to fear for him.