Read CHAPTER IV - VENDETTA of Ma Pettengill, free online book, by Harry Leon Wilson, on

By the evening lamp in the Arrowhead living room I did my bit, for the moment, by holding a hank of gray wool for Ma Pettengill to wind.  While this minor war measure went forward the day’s mail came.  From a canvas sack Lew Wee spilled letters and papers on the table.  Whereupon the yarn was laid by while Ma Pettengill eagerly shuffled the letters.  She thought fit to extenuate this eagerness.  She said if people lived forever they would still get foolishly excited over their mail; whereas everyone knew well enough that nothing important ever came in it.  To prove this she sketched a rapid and entirely unexciting summary of the six unopened letters she held.

One of them, she conceded, might be worth reading; and this she laid aside.  Of the remaining five she correctly guessed the contents of four.  Of the fifth she remarked that it would be from a poor feckless dub with a large family who had owed her three hundred dollars for nine years.  She said it would tell a new hard-luck tale for non-payment of a note now due for the eighth time.  Here she was wrong.  The letter inclosed a perfectly new note for four hundred and fifty dollars; and would Mrs. Pettengill send on the extra one hundred and fifty dollars that would enable the debtor to get on his feet and pay all his debts, as there was a good season of hog buying ahead of him!

“I guessed wrong,” admitted the lady.  “I certainly did that little man an injustice, not suspecting he could think up something novel after nine years.”  Grimly she scanned the new note.  “As good as a treaty with Germany!” she murmured and threw it aside, though I knew that the old note and the new hundred and fifty would go forward on the morrow; for she had spoken again of the debtor’s large family.  She said it was wonderful what good breeders the shiftless are.

“Ain’t I right, though, about the foolish way people fly at their mail?” she demanded.  “You might think they’d get wise after years and years of being fooled; but ­no, sir!  Take me day after to-morrow, when the next mail comes.  I’ll fall on it like I fell on this, with all my old delusions uninjured.  There sure does seem to be a lot of human nature in most of us.”

Then she opened the possibly interesting letter that had been put aside.  The envelope, at least, was interesting, bearing as it did the stamp of a military censor for the American Expedition to France.

“You remember Squat Tyler, that long cow-puncher working for me when you were here last time?”

I remembered Squat, who was indeed a long cow-puncher ­long enough to be known, also, to his intimates as Timberline.

“Well, Squat is over there in the trenches helping to make the world a pleasant place to live in.  He’s a good shot, too.”

The lady read the letter hurriedly to herself; then regaled me with bits of it.

“The life here is very,” she read.  “That’s all he says, at first ­’The life here is very.’  I should judge it might be that from what I read in the papers.  Or mebbe he couldn’t just think of the word.  Let’s see!  What else?  Oh, yes ­about digging.  He says he didn’t take to digging at first, not having gone there for any common purpose, but one day he was told to dig, and while he was thinking up something to say a million guns began to go off; so he dug without saying a word.  Hard and fast he says he dug.  He says:  ’If a badger would of been there he would of been in my way.’  I’ll bet!  Squat wouldn’t like to be shot at in all seriousness.  What next?  Here he says I wouldn’t dream what a big outfit this here U.S. outfit is; he says it’s the biggest outfit he ever worked for ­not even excepting Miller & Lux.  What next?  Oh, yes; here he tells about getting one.

“’Last night I captured a big fat enemy; you know ­a Heinie.  It was as dark as a cave, but I heard one snooping close.  I says to my pardner I keep hearing one snoop close; and he says forget it, because my hive is swarming or something; and I says no; I will go out there and molest that German.  So I sneaked over the bank and through our barbed-wire fence that everyone puts up here, and out a little ways to where I had heard one snoop; and, sure enough ­what do you think?  He seen me first and knocked my gun out of my hands with the butt of his.  It got me mad, because it is a new gun and I am taking fine care of it; so I clanched him’ ­that’s what Squat says, clanched.  ’And, first, he run his finger into my right eye, clear up to the knuckle it felt like; so I didn’t say a word, but hauled off quick and landed a hard right on the side of his jaw and dropped him just like that.  It was one peach I handed him and he slumped down like a sack of mush.  I am here to tell you it was just one punch, though a dandy; but he had tried to start a fight, so it was his own fault.  So I took all his weapons away and when he come alive I kicked him a few times and made him go into the U.S. trenches.  He didn’t turn out to be much ­only a piano tuner from Milwaukee; and I wish it had of been a general I caught snooping.  I certainly did molest him a-plenty, all right.  Just one punch and I brought him down out of control.  Ha!  Ha!  The life here is very different.’

“There; that must of been what he tried to say at the beginning ­’The life here is very different.’  I should think he’d find it so, seeing the only danger that boy was ever in here was the sleeping sickness.”

Hereupon the lady removed the wrapper from a trade journal and scanned certain market quotations.  They pleased her little.  She said it was darned queer that the war should send every price in the world up but the price of beef, beef quotations being just where the war had found them.  Not that she wanted to rob any one!  Still and all, why give everyone a chance but cattle raisers?  She muttered hugely of this discrimination and a moment later seemed to be knitting her remarks into a gray sock.  The mutterings had gradually achieved the coherence of remarks.  And I presently became aware that the uninflated price of beef was no longer their burden.

They now concerned the singular reticence of all losers of fist fights.  Take Squat’s German.  Squat would be telling for the rest of his life how he put that Wisconsin alien out with one punch.  But if I guessed the German would be telling it as often as Squat told it I was plumb foolish.  He wouldn’t tell it at all.  Losers never do.  Any one might think that parties getting licked lost their powers of speech.  Not so with the winners of fights; not so at all!

At this very minute, while we sat there in that room at a quarter past eight, all over the wide world modest-seeming men were telling how they had licked the other man with one punch, or two or three at the most.  It was being told in Kulanche County, Washington, and in Patagonia and Philadelphia and Africa and China, and them places; in clubs and lumber camps and Pullman cars and ships and saloons ­in states that remained free of the hydrant-headed monster, Prohibition ­in tents and palaces; in burning deserts and icy wastes.  At that very second, in an ice hut up by the North Pole, a modest Eskimo was telling and showing his admiring wife and relatives just how he had put out another Eskimo that had come round and tried to start something.  Which was another mystery, the man winning the fight being always put upon and invariably in the right.  In every one of these world-wide encounters justice always prevailed and only the winner talked about it afterward.

“And lots of times,” continued the lady, “this talkative winner has been set upon by as many as three others.  But he licks ’em all.  Sometimes he admits he had a little luck with the third man; but he gets two of the cowards easy.  Why, down in Red Gap only the other night I saw a kind of a slight young man in a full-dress suit lick three big huskies that set on him.  He put two out with a punch apiece and got the third after about one round of sparring.  There he stood winner over all three, and hardly his hair mussed; and you wouldn’t of thought in the beginning that he could lick one of the bunch.  It was a good picture, all right, with this fight coming in the first reel to start things off lively.  But what I want to know is why, out of these million fights that come off, you never hear a word out of a loser!  I’ll bet all my Liberty Bonds right now that you never yet heard a man tell about how he was licked in a fair fight.”

I had to decline the wager.  The most I could submit was that I had heard some plausible excuses.  The lady waved her entire knitting in deprecation.

“Oh, excuses!  You hear ’em a-plenty when the loser can’t deny he was licked.  Most losers will odd things along till they sound even.  I heard a lovely excuse down in Red Gap.  Hyman Leftowitz, who does business there as Abercrombie, the Quality Tailor, made a suit for Eddie Pierce that drives the depot hack, and Eddie was slow pay.  So Hyman lost his native tact one night and dunned Eddie when he was walking down Fourth Street with his girl.  Eddie left his girl in at the Owl Drug Store and went back and used Hyman hard; and all Hyman did was to yell ‘Help!’ and ‘Murder!’ I was in his shop for a fitting next day and Hyman’s face arrested the attention much more than usual.  It showed that Eddie had done something with him.  So I says:  ’Why didn’t you fight back?  What was your fists for?’ And Hyman says:  ’I pledge you my word I didn’t know it was a fight.’  Oh, excuses ­sure!  But that ain’t what I’m getting at.  You’ve heard the winners talk, like we all have, how they did it with the good old right hook to the jaw, or how they landed one straight left and all was over; but did you ever hear any talk from a loser without excuses, one who come out plain and said he was licked by a better man?”

We debated this briefly.  We agreed that the reticence of losers is due to something basic in human nature; a determination of the noblest sort to disregard failure ­that is, Ma Pettengill said you couldn’t expect everything of human nature when it had its earrings in, and I agreed in as few words as would suffice.  I had suddenly become aware that the woman was holding something back.  The signs in her discourse are not to be mistaken.  I taxed her with this.  She denied it.  Then she said that, even if she was holding back something, it was nothing to rave about.  Just an anecdote that this here talk about fighting characters had reminded her of.  She wouldn’t of thought of it even now if Ben Steptoe hadn’t told her last spring why he didn’t lick his Cousin Ed that last time.  And this here Ed Steptoe was the only honest male she had ever known.  But that was because something was wrong in his head, he being a born nut.  And it wasn’t really worth going back over; but ­well ­she didn’t know.  Possibly.  Anyway ­

These Steptoe cousins come from a family back in the East that was remote kin to mine and they looked me up in Red Gap when they come out into the great boundless West to carve out a name for themselves.  About fifteen years ago they come.  Ben was dark and short and hulky, with his head jammed down between his shoulders.  Ed was blond and like a cat, being quick.  Ben had a simple but emphatic personality, seeing what he wanted and going for it, and that never being more than one thing at a time.  Ed was all over the place with his own aspirations and never anything long at a time; kind of a romantic temperament, or, like they say in stories, a creature of moods.  He was agent for the Home Queen sewing machine when he first come out.  But that didn’t mean sewing machines was his life work.  He’d done a lot of things before that, like lecturing for a patent-medicine professor and canvassing for crayon portraits with a gold frame, and giving lessons in hypnotism, and owning one-half or a two-headed pig that went great at county fairs.

Ben had come along the year before Ed and got a steady job as brakeman on the railroad, over on the Coeur d’Alene Branch.  He told me he was going to make railroading his life work and had started in at the bottom, which was smart of him, seeing he’d just come off a farm.  They probably wouldn’t of let him start in at the top.  Anyway, he was holding down his job as brakeman when Ed sailed in, taking orders for the Home Queen, and taking ’em in plenty, too, being not only persuasive in his methods but a wizard on this here sewing machine.  He could make it do everything but play accompaniments for songs ­hemming, tucking, frilling, fancy embroidering.  He knew every last little dingus that went on it; things I certainly have never learned in all my life, having other matters on my mind.  He’d take a piece of silk ribbon and embroider a woman’s initials on it in no time at all, leaving her dead set to have this household treasure.

But Ed had tired of sewing machines, like he had of hypnotism and the double-headed Berkshire; and he never kept at anything a minute after it quit exciting him.  Ben come down to Red Gap to see his cousin and they had quite a confab about what Ed should next take up for his life work.  Ben said it was railroading for his, and some day he’d be a general manager, riding round in his private car and giving orders right and left, though nothing but a humble brakeman now, and finally he talked Ed into the same exalted ambitions.  Ed said he had often wanted to ride in a private car himself, and if it didn’t take too long from the time you started in he might give railroading a chance to show what it could do for him.  Ben said all right, come over with him and he’d get him started as brakeman, with a fine chance to work up to the top.

So, after infesting a few more houses with the Home Queen, Ed went into his new profession.  He told me, the last thing, that, even if he didn’t stick till he got to the top, it was, anyway, a fine chance for adventure, which was really the thing he had come west of Chicago for.  He said night and day he pined for adventure.

He got his adventure right soon after the company’s pay roll was adorned with his name.  He’d been twisting up brakes on freight cars for ten days till the life looked tame to him, even with a private car at the end, and then all his wildest dreams of adventure was glutted in something like four minutes and thirty seconds.  On this eleventh day after he’d begun at the bottom he started to let two big freight cars loaded with concentrates down the spur track, from one of the mines at Burke, having orders to put ’em where the regular train for Wallace could pick ’em up.  Burke is seven miles up the canon from Wallace and the grade drops two hundred and thirty-five feet to the mile, being a masterpiece of engineering.  Ed gets his two cars to the main line, all right, whistling a careless ditty.  Then when they should of stopped they did not.  They kept sneaking and creaking along on him.  He couldn’t get the brake of the forward car up very tight, and in setting the brake of the rear car, with a brakeman’s stick for a lever, he broke the chain.  Then his two cars really started out looking for adventure.

Ed admits that he had the thrill of his life for seven miles.  I guess his wildest cravings for adventure was appeased for the time.  He flattened out at the rear end of the last car and let the scenery flash by.  He said afterward it looked just one blurred mess to him.  His two cars dropped the sixteen hundred and forty-five feet and made the seven-mile distance in four and one-half minutes by standard railroad time.  Ed was feeling fairly good, never having rode so fast in his life before, and he was hoping nothing serious would get in the way before the cars slowed up on a level somewhere.  He didn’t have long to hope this.  His cars struck a frog at the upper end of the Wallace yard and left the track.  The forward ends plowed into the ground and the rear ends swung over.  Ed was shot through the air two hundred and thirty-five feet, as afterward measured by a conscientious employee of the road, and landed in a dump of sawdust by the ice house.

It seems Ben was working in the Wallace yard that day and was the first man to look things over.  He put a report on the wire promptly and had a wrecking outfit there to minister to these two injured box cars, and a gang of Swedes repairing the track in no time at all.  Then someone with presence of mind said they ought to look for Ed, and Ben agreed; so everybody searched and they found him in this sawdust.  He looked extremely ruined and like this little adventure had effected structural modifications in him.  He certainly had been brought down out of control, like Squat says, but he was still breathing; so they took him over to the Wallace Hospital on a chance that he could be put together again, like a puzzle.  A doctor got to work and set a lot of bones and did much plain and fancy sewing on Ed the adventurer.

So there he was, bedfast for about three months; but, of course, he begun to enjoy his accident long before that ­almost as soon as he come to, in fact.  It seemed to Ed that there had never been so good an accident as that in the whole history of railroading, and he was the sole hero of it.  He passed his time telling the doctor all about it, and anyone else that would drop in to listen:  just how he felt when the cars started downhill; how his whole past life flashed before him and just what he was thinking about when the cars poured him off.  He was remembering every second of it by the time he was able to get on crutches.  He never used that old saying about making a long story short.

First thing he did when he could hobble was to take a man from the resident engineer’s office out to the point where he’d left the rails and tape his flight, finding it to be two hundred and thirty-five feet.  That hurt his story, because he had been estimating it at five hundred feet; but he was strictly honest and accepted the new figures like a little man.

That night Ben come in, who’d been up round Spokane mostly since the accident, and Ed told him all about it; how his flight was two hundred and thirty-five feet.  And wasn’t it the greatest accident that ever happened to anybody?

Ed noticed that Ben didn’t seem to be excited about it the way he had ought to be.  He was sympathetic enough for Ed’s bone crashes, but he said it was all in the day’s work for a railroad man; and he told Ed about some other accidents that was right in a class along with his and mebbe even a shade better.  Ed was peeved at this; so Ben tried to soothe him.  He said, yes, indeed, all hands had been lucky ­especially the company.  He said if them two cars hadn’t happened to strike soft ground that took the wheels they’d been smashed to kindling; whereas the damage was trifling.  This sounded pretty cold to Ed. He said this railroad company didn’t seem to set any exaggerated value on human life.  Ben said no railroad company could let mere sentiment interfere with business if it wanted to pay dividends, and most of them did.  He said it was a matter of dollars and cents like any other business, and Ed had already cost ’em a lot of good hard cash for doctor’s bills.  Then he admitted that the accident had been a good thing for him, in a way, he being there on the spot and the first to make a report over to the superintendent at Tekoa.

“I bet you made a jim-dandy good report,” says Ed, taking heart again after this sordid dollars-and-cents talk.  “It was certainly a fine chance to write something exciting if a man had any imagination.  You probably won’t have another chance like that in all your career.”

“My report pleased the Old Man all right,” says Ben.  “He’s kind of had his eye on me ever since.  He said the way I worded that report showed I wasn’t one to lose my head and get hysterical, the way he had known some green hands to do.”

“I’ll certainly have to have a look at that report,” says Ed.  “Probably you did get a little bit hysterical at that seeing there was lots of excuse for it.”

Ben says no, he can’t remember that he was hysterical any, because the high-class railroad man must always keep his head in emergencies.  Ed says, anyway he knows it must of been a corking good report, and he’ll sure have a look at it when he gets to stepping again.

All the same, it begun to look to Ed like his accident wasn’t being made enough of.  It come over him gradually.  Of course he’d got to be an old story round the hospital and people was beginning to duck when he started talking.  Then, after he got on crutches he’d hobble about the fatal spot, pointing out his route to parties that would stay by him, and getting ’em to walk over two hundred and thirty-five feet to where he was picked up lifeless.  And pretty soon even this outside trade fell off.  And right after that he begun to meet new trainmen and others that had never heard a word about the accident and looked at him like they thought he was a liar when he told the details.  He was coming to be a grouchy nuisance round Wallace.  Even the doctor said he’d be glad when Ed got entirely well again.

Ed couldn’t understand it.  He must of thought the company should stop all trains for five minutes every day at the hour of his mix-up, or at the very least that the president of the road and the board of directors ought to come down in a special car and have their pictures taken with him; and a brass tablet should be put up on the ice house, showing where his lifeless carcass was recovered.  And of course they would send him a solid gold engraved pass, good for life between all stations on all divisions.  But these proper attentions was being strangely withheld.  So far as Ed could see, the road had gone right on doing business as usual.

He couldn’t understand it at all.  It seemed like he must be dreaming.  He wrote to Ben, who was still up the line, that this here fine report he had made must of got lost; anyway, it seemed like the company had never got round to reading it or they wouldn’t have took things so placid.  By now he was pinning all his hopes to this report of Ben’s if any justice was going to be done him in this world.  He’d tell parties who doubted his story that he guessed they’d believe him fast enough if they ever got an eye on Ben’s report, which was made on the spot, and was so good a report, though not hysterical, that it had drawn compliments from the division superintendent.

It occurs to him one day that he ought to have a copy of this report if he is ever going to be set right before the world.  He suspects crooked work by this time.  He suspects mebbe the company is keeping the thing quiet on purpose, not wanting the public to know that such wonderful accidents could happen to its faithful employees.  So he talks to Charlie Holzman, the conductor of Number 18, and wants to know would it be possible to sneak this report of Ben’s out of the files over at Tekoa.  Charlie says that wouldn’t be possible, but he’s going to lay over at Tekoa the very next night and he’ll be glad to make a copy of the report.

Ed says he hates to keep Charlie setting up half the night writing, or mebbe all night, because Ben has told him the report was a good one.  Charlie says he’ll get help if necessary.  Ed says get all the help necessary and he’ll pay the bill, and not to leave out even the longer descriptive parts, because if it’s as well written as Ben says it is he may have it printed in a little volume for sending round to his friends.

The next day Ed is sunning himself on the station platform when Number 18 steams in.  He’s told a lot of people that Charlie is bringing this report and he’s aiming to read it aloud, just to show ’em what a man can pass through and live to tell of it.  Charlie swings down and hands him one folded sheet of yellow paper.  Ed says, what’s the matter ­couldn’t he get to copy the report?  Charlie says the report is all there on that sheet, every word of it.  One sheet!  And Ed had been expecting at least forty pages of able narrative, even without hysteria.  Even before he looks at it Ed says there is crooked work somewhere.

Then he read Ben’s report.  It didn’t fill even the one sheet ­not more than half of it.  It merely says:  “Brakeman Steptoe had trouble holding two cars of concentrates he was letting down from the Tiger-Poorman mine at Burke.  Cars ran to Wallace and left track.  Steptoe thrown some distance.  Right leg and arm broken; left shoulder dislocated; head cut some.  Not serious.”

It was unbelievable; so Ed did the simple thing and didn’t believe it.  Not for one minute!  He says to Charlie Holzman:  “Charlie, I know you’re honest; and, furthermore, you are a brother Moose.  You’ve brought me what’s on file in that office; so now I know there’s a conspiracy to hush my accident up.  I’ve thought so a long time ­the way people acted round here.  Now I know it.  Don’t say a word; but I’m going to take it up with Ben at once.  Good old Ben!  Won’t he be in a frenzy when he finds this paltry insult has been sneaked into the files in place of his report on me!” So into the station he goes and wires Ben up the line to come there at once on account of something serious.

Ben gets in that night.  He thought Ed must be dying and had got a lay-off.  He goes over to the hospital and is a mite disappointed to find Ed ain’t even worse, but is almost well and using only one crutch.

Ed first makes sure no one can overhear, then tells Ben about this conspiracy, showing him the false report that has been smuggled into the files in place of the real one Ben had sent in.  It takes Ben a couple of minutes to get the idea of what Ed is so worked up over.  But he finally does get it.  He then sweeps all ideas of a conspiracy out of Ed’s mind forever.  He says his talk is all nonsense; that this here is the very report he made, every word of it; and, as to that, if he had it to write over again he could shorten it by at least six words, but he must of been excited at the time.  He says he has already told Ed that the Old Man complimented him on it because he hadn’t lost his head and got hysterical, showing he had the makings of a good railroad man in him.  And what had Ed expected, anyway?  Didn’t he know that your superiors want the simple facts in cases of this kind and no fancy work, wanting chiefly to know about damage to the rolling stock and how long before the main line will be open?  Ed must be crazy, making him get a lay-off just for this!  Had he looked for some verses of poetry about his accident, or a novel?  Ben wasn’t any novelist and wouldn’t be one if you give him a chance.  He was just a brakeman, with a bright future before him.

Ben was quite indignant himself by this time thinking of two days’ pay lost, and Ed could hardly believe his own ears.  He just set there, swelling up like a toad in a very feverish way.  “But ‘some distance,’” says Ed in low tones of awe.  “You say I was thrown ‘some distance,’ like it was a casual remark.  Is that any way to talk about a man hurled two hundred and thirty-five feet from start to finish? ­which I can prove by the man that taped it.  Why, any one would think them two cheap box cars was the real heroes of this accident.  No one would dream that a precious human life was at stake.  And ‘Not serious!’ And ‘Head cut some!’ Great suffering cats!  Was that any way to talk about a fellowman ­not to say a first cousin?”

Ben was pretty mad himself now and swore right out ­at least the only oath he ever swears, which is “By doggie!” He says, by doggie, it ain’t his fault that Ed was so brittle!  And, by doggie, he wasn’t going to let family affection interfere none with his career, because it wouldn’t be right by the children he hopes some day to be the father of!  Then he got his temper back and tried patiently to explain once more to Ed that what a railroad company wants in such cases is facts and figures, and not poetry ­chiefly about the rolling stock.  He says Ed can’t expect a great corporation, with heavy freight and passenger traffic, to take any deep personal interest in the bone troubles of a mere brakeman.

It was about here, I guess, that Ed’s feelings must of overcome him.  He saw it was no use bandying words any more; so he started to do foul murder.  He committed several acts of frightfulness on Ben with his crutch, seeming quite active for a cripple.  Ben finally got out of range and went and had some stitches took in his own scalp.  He swore, by doggie, he was through with that maniac forever!  But he wasn’t through.  Not by no means!

Ed was now well enough to stand shipping; so he come down to Red Gap and started to work.  He couldn’t get round with his machines yet; so he got a new Home Queen and parked himself in the doorway of a vacant store and made embroidered hat marks for the multitude at one dollar a throw.  Yes, sir; he congested traffic there on Fourth Street for about two weeks, taking a strip of satin ribbon and embroidering people’s initials on it, so they could sew it in their hats and know whose hat it was.  Hardly a hat in town that didn’t have one, with thrilled crowds looking on while he done it.

I begged him to take it easy and stay at my house till he was strong again; but he wouldn’t.  He said he had to do something just to keep from thinking.  Of course the poor lollop had never been able to think under any circumstances; but it sounded good.  And, of course, he told me his trouble.  I don’t believe he held back the least little thing from the beginning of the accident down to the time he lammed Ben with his crutch.  He now blamed everything on Ben.  He said neither the company nor any one else could take his accident seriously after that lying report Ben put in.  No wonder there hadn’t been any real excitement about it.  He was right bitter.

“‘Some distance’ Ben says I was thrown.  I should think it was some distance!  I’ll bet it’s farther than any other man was ever thrown on their whole rotten system.  And ‘Not serious’!  Great Jeeminetty!  What would have to happen to a person before he’d call it serious?  Oh, I’ll make him take that back if ever I get to be the man I once was!  The only trouble with Ben is, he hasn’t anything here and he hasn’t anything here” ­Ed put his hand first on his head and next on his heart, to show me where Ben hadn’t got anything ­“and that kind of trash may make fine railroad men, but they hadn’t ought to be classed with human beings.  Just wait till I get firmly knitted together again!  You’ll see!  I’ll certainly interfere with that man’s career a-plenty.  ‘Not serious!’ He won’t make any such report about himself when I get through fussing with him.  He certainly does need handling ­that Ben Steptoe.”

And so on for half an hour at a time, while he might be stitching G. W. G. in purple letters on a strip of yellow satin ribbon.  I used to stop on purpose to hear some more about what he was going to do to Ben when he got to be the man he once was.

Pretty soon he had identified all the hats in Red Gap; so he moved over to Colfax with his Home Queen, and then on to other towns.  It was spring again before he seemed to be the man he once was.  He wrote me from Tekoa that if I read in the papers about something sad happening to Ben I wasn’t to be alarmed, because, though it would be serious enough, it would probably not prove fatal if he had skilled nursing.  So I watched the papers, but couldn’t find any crime of interest.  And a few days later Ed come over to Red Gap again.  He looked pretty good, except for an overripe spot round his left eye.

“Well, did you lick Ben?” I says.

“No; Ben licked me,” he says.

I’d never heard such a simple and astounding speech from any man on earth before.  I started to find out what his excuse was ­whether he wasn’t in good shape yet, or his foot slipped, or Ben took a coupling pin to him, or something.  But he didn’t have a single word of excuse.  He ought to of been locked up in a glass case in a museum right there.  He said he was in fine shape and it had been a fair fight, and Ben had nearly knocked his head off.

I says what is he going to do now; and he says oh, he’ll wait a while and give Cousin Ben another go.

I says:  “Mebbe you can’t lick Ben.”

He says:  “Possibly so; but I can keep on trying.  I have to protect my honour, don’t I?”

That’s how it seemed to the poor fish by this time ­his honour!  And I knew he was going to keep on trying, like he had said.  If he had made the usual excuses that men put up when they’ve had the worst of it I’d of known he’d been well licked, and once would be a-plenty.  But, seeing that he was probably the only man who had been honest under such conditions since the world began, I had a feeling he would keep on.  He was sure going to annoy Ben from time to time, even if he didn’t panic him much.  He was just as turbulent as ever.  Now he went off and joined a circus, being engaged to lecture in front of the side show about the world’s smallest midget, and Lulu the snake empress, and the sheep-headed twins from Ecuador.  And Ben could devote the whole summer to his career without worry.  I saw him over at Colfax one day.

“Mark my words; that lad was never cut out for a railroad man,” says Ben.  “He lets his emotions excite his head too much.  Oh, I give him a good talking to, by doggie!  I says to him:  ’Why, you poor little hopeless, slant-headed, weak-minded idiot, you’ ­you know I always talk to Ed like he was my own brother ­’what did you expect?’ I says.  ’I’m quite sorry for your injuries; but that was the first chance I’d ever had to make a report and I couldn’t write one of these continuous stories about you.  You ought to see that.’  And what does he do but revile me for this commonsense talk!  Tightminded ­that’s what he is; self-headed, not to say mulish, by doggie!  And then pestering round me to have a fist altercation till I had to give in to keep him quiet, though I’m not a fighting character.  I settled him, all right.  I don’t know where he is now; but I hope he has three doctors at his bedside, all looking doubtful.  That little cuss always did contrary me.”

I told him Ed had gone with this circus side show.  “Side show!” he says.  “That’s just where he belongs.  He ought to be setting right up with the other freaks, because he’s a worse freak than the living skeleton or a lady with a full beard ­that’s what he is.  And yet he’s sane on every subject but that.  Sometimes he’ll talk along for ten minutes as rational as you or me; but let him hear the word accident and off he goes.  But, by doggie, he won’t bother me again after what I give him back of the Wallace freight shed.”  “He solemnly promised he would,” I says, “when I saw him last.  He was still some turbulent.”

And he did bother Ben again, late that fall.  When the circus closed he travelled back a thousand miles in a check suit and a red necktie, just to get another good licking.  Ben must of been quite aggravated by that time, for he wound up by throwing Ed into the crick in all his proud clothes.

Ed was just as honest about it as before.  He says Ben licked him fair.  But it hadn’t changed his mind.  He felt that Ben’s report had knocked his just celebrity and he was still hostile.

“Mebbe you can’t lick Ben,” I says to him again.  “I can keep on doing my endeavours,” he says.  “I had to come off in a friend of mine’s coat because my own was practically destroyed; but I’ll be back again before Ben has clumb very high on that ladder of his career.”

The adventurer was interned at my house for ten days, till his bruises lost their purple glow and he looked a little less like a bad case of erysipelas.  Then he started out again, crazy as a loon!  I didn’t hear from him for nearly two years.  Then I got a letter telling about his life of adventure down on the Border.  It seems he’d got in with a good capable stockman down there and they was engaged in the cattle business.  The business was to go over into Mexico, attracting as little notice as possible, cut out a bunch of cattle, and drive ’em across into the land of the free.  Naturally what they sold for was clear profit.

Ed said he was out for adventure and this had a-plenty.  He said I wouldn’t believe how exciting it could be at times.  He wanted to know what Ben was promoted to by this time, and was he looking as hearty as ever?  Some day he was coming back and force Ben to set him right before the world.

About a year later he writes that the cattle business is getting too tame.  He’s done it so much that all the excitement has gone.  He says I wouldn’t believe how tame it can be, with hardly any risk of getting shot.  He says he wouldn’t keep on running off these Mexican cattle if it wasn’t for the money in it; and, furthermore, it sometimes seems to him when he’s riding along in the beautiful still night, with only God’s stars for companions, that there’s something about it that ain’t right.

But it’s another year before he writes that he has disposed of his stock interests and is coming North to lick Ben proper.  He does come North.  He was correct to that extent.  He outfitted at the Chicago Store in Tucson, getting the best all-wool ready-made suit in Arizona, with fine fruit and flower and vegetable effects, shading from mustard yellow to beet colour; and patent-leather ties, with plaid socks ­and so on.  He stopped off at Red Gap on his way up to do this outrage.  His face was baked a rich red brown; so I saw it wouldn’t show up marks as legibly as when he was pale.

He said Ben wasn’t a right bad fellow and he had no personal grudge against him, except he needed to have his head beat off on account of his inhumanity.

I told him Ben had worked up from yardmaster at Wallace to assistant division superintendent at Tekoa, where he would probably find him; and I wished him God-speed.

He said he rejoiced to know of Ben’s promotion, because he had probably softened some, setting round an office.  He promised to let me know the result at once.  He did.  It was the same old result.  The fight had gone a few more rounds, I gathered, but Ed still gave the decision against himself in the same conscientious way.  He said Ben had licked him fair.  It was uncanny the way he took these defeats.  No other human being but would of made some little excuse.  He came back in another suit and a bit blemished in the face, and said Ben seemed to be getting a fair amount of exercise in spite of his confining office duties; but ­mark his words ­that indoor work would get him in time.  He’d never seen a man yet that could set at a desk all day and keep in shape to resent fighting talk, even from a lighter man by twenty pounds.  He said he might have to wait till Ben was general manager, or something; but his day was coming, and it would be nothing for Ben to cheer about when it got here.  He now once more drifted out over the high horizon, only one eye being much help to him in seeing the way.

Then Ben come down and had a wholehearted session with me.  He said I ought to have a talk with Ed and reason him out of his folly.  I said Ed would listen to a number of things, but not to reason.  He said he knew it; that the poor coot should be in some good institution right now, where the state could look after him.  He said he couldn’t answer for the consequences if Ed kept on in this mad way.  He said here he was, climbing up in his profession, and yet with this scandal in his private life that might crop out any time and blast his career; and, by doggie, it was a shame!  He said it was hanging over him like a doom and sometimes he even woke up in the night and wished he had made a different report about the accident ­one with a little hysterics or description in it, like this maniac had seemed to crave.

“It ain’t that I can’t lick him,” says Ben ­“I’ve proved that three times; but having to do it every so often, which is beneath the dignity of a high railroad official.  I might as well be a common rowdy and be done with it, by doggie!  And no telling what will happen if he don’t get his mind back.  The little devil is an awful scrapper.  I noticed it more than ever this last time.  One of these times he might get me.  He might get me good.”

“You better let him, then,” I says, “and have it over.  That’s the only thing which will ever stop him.  You take a man that says he was licked fair, but still keeps at it, and he’s deadly.  Next time he comes along you lay down after making a decent resistance.  Then he’ll probably be your friend for life, especially if you tell him you been thinking about his accident and it now seems like the most horrible accident that ever happened to man.”

It was the most encouragement I could give and he went off gloomy.  Ben was certainly one conscientious objector.

Nothing come from Ed for over a year.  Then he writes that he has give up the cattle business for good, because Mexico is in a state of downright anarchy and he has been shot through the shoulder.  He put it well.  He said he had been shot from ambush by a cowardly Mexican and I wouldn’t believe how lawless that country was.  So now he was going to take up mining in God’s own country, where a man could get a square deal if he kept out of railroading.  And was Ben keeping up his exercise?

He stayed under the surface for about three years.  Neither Ben nor I heard a word from him.  I told Ben it was many chances to one that he had gone under at the hands of someone that wanted to keep his cattle or his mine or something.  Ben looked solemn and relieved at this suggestion.  He said if the Grim Reaper had done its work, well and good!  Life was full of danger for the best of us, with people dropping off every day or so; and why should Ed have hoped to be above the common lot?

But the very next week comes a letter from the deceased wanting to know whether Ben has been promoted some more and how he is looking by this time.  Is he vigorous and hearty, or does office work seem to be sapping his vitality?  It was the same old Ed. He goes on to say that the reason he writes is that the other night in Globe, Arizona, he licked a man in the Miners’ Rest saloon that looked enough like Ben to be his twin; not only looked the image of him but had his style of infighting.  And he had licked him right and made him quit.  He said the gent finally fled, going through the little swinging doors with such force that they kept swinging for three minutes afterward.  So now is the time for him to come up and have another go at Ben.

Of course he ain’t superstitious, but it does seem like Providence has taken this means of pointing out the time to him.  But he is in reduced circumstances at this moment, owing to complications it would take too long to explain; so will I lend him about two hundred and fifty dollars to make the trip on?  And he will have Ben off his mind forever and be able to settle down to some life work.  Just as sane as ever ­Ed was.

I sent the letter to Ben, not wishing him to rest in false security.  But I wrote Ed firmly that I couldn’t see my money’s worth in his proposition.  I told him Ben was keeping in splendid condition, having the glow of health in his cheeks and a grip like an osteopath, and I’d be darned if I was going to back a three-time loser in the same old fight.  I said he wasn’t the only sensitive person in the world.  I was a little fussy myself about what people might think of my judgment.  And I gave him some good advice which was to forget his nonsense and settle down to something permanent before he died of penury.

He wrote a kind, forgiving answer.  He said he couldn’t blame me for turning against him after his repeated failures to lick Ben, but his nature was one I should never understand.  He said he would amass the money by slow grinding toil, and when he next come North and got through handling Ben I would be the very first to grasp him by the hand and confess that I had wronged him.  It was as nutty a letter as Ed ever wrote; which is some tribute.  I sent it on to Ben and I believe it was right after that he ordered one of these exercising machines put up in his bedroom, with a book showing how to become a Greek god by pulling the weights five minutes, morning and evening.

But this time come silence so long that I guess even Ben forgot he had a doom hanging above his head by a single hair.  I know I did.  Let’s see.  It must of been a good five years before I hear from Ed again.  It was another hard-luck letter.  He had just worked a whole season for a contractor that blew up and left him with one span of mules in place of his summer’s wages; which was a great disappointment, because he had been looking forward to an active reunion with Ben.  How was Ben, anyway?  And did he show the ravages of time?

And no one had wanted these mules, because they was inferior mules; but when he was on the point of shooting them to stop their feed bill along come two men that had a prospect over in the Bradshaw Mountains and offered him a one third interest in it for his span.  So he had sawed the mules off onto these poor dubs and told ’em all right about the third interest in their claim, and forget it; but they insisted on his taking it.  So he did, and was now working in the B.&.B. store at Prescott, selling saddles and jewellery and molasses and canned fruit and lumber, and such things.  He didn’t care much for the life, but it was neck-meat or nothing with him now.

No wonder these men that cheated him out of his mules had made him take a third interest in their claim.  It was now taking all his salary to pay assessments and other expenses on it.  But he was trying to trade this third interest off for something that wouldn’t be a burden to him; then he should have a chance to put his money by and come up to give Ben what he was sooner or later bound to get if there was a just God in Heaven.  He spoke as freshly about Ben as if his trouble had begun the day before.  You wouldn’t think twelve years had gone by.  He was now saying Ben had put a stigma on him.  It had got to be a stigma by this time, though he probably hadn’t any idea what a stigma really is.  He’d read it somewhere.

Then the waves closed over the injured man for about three years more.  This time it looked as if he’d gone down for good, stigma and all.  Ben thought the same.  He said it was a great relief not to be looking forward any more to these brutal affrays that Ed insisted on perpetrating.  And high time, too, because he was now in line for general manager, and how would it look for him to be mixed up in brawls?

And everything was serene till the papers broke out into headlines about a big strike made in the Bradshaw Mountains of Arizona by three partners, of whom one was named Steptoe.  They seemed to have found all the valuable minerals in that claim of theirs except platinum.  Ben tried first to believe it was someone else named Steptoe; but no such luck.  We read that a half interest in the property had been sold to an Eastern syndicate for three million dollars and a company organized of which Edward J. Steptoe was president.

“It may be all for the best, anyway,” Ben says to me.  “Now that he’s a big mining man he’ll probably have other aims in life than being a thug.”

You could see he was hoping to make a separate peace with the new millionaire, who would forget the grudge of his old days when he had to work for what he got, or at least run the risk of getting shot for it.  But I wasn’t so sure.  I reminded Ben that Ed had never yet done anything you’d think a human being would do, so why expect him to begin now, when he had abundant leisure?  I advised him to give deep thought to the matter of his defense, and if the battle went against him to withdraw to a position previously prepared, like the war reports say.  Ben said a few warm things about Ed, by doggie, that no cousin ought to say of another cousin, and went off, hoping against hope.

And, sure enough, Ed came promptly to the front.  It seems he waited only long enough to get a new suit and an assorted lot of the snappiest diamond jewellery he could find.  Then he wired me he was coming to right the wrongs of a lifetime.  Reaching San Francisco, it occurred to him that he could put it all over Ben in another way that would cut him to the heart; so he there chartered the largest, goldest, and most expensive private car on the market, having boudoirs and shower baths and conservatories and ballrooms, and so on; something that would make Ben’s dinky little private car look like a nester’s shack or a place for a construction gang to bunk in.  And in this rolling palace Ed invaded our peaceful country, getting lots of notice.  The papers said this new mining millionaire was looking us over with an eye to investment in our rich lands.  Little they knew he merely meant to pull off a brutal fist altercation with a prominent railroad official that was somewhat out of condition.

Ben was one worried man, especially after he heard of Ed’s private car.  It was one thing to lick an exbrakeman, but entirely different to have an affray with a prominent capitalist that come after you regardless of expense.  Furthermore, this was the time for the annual tour of inspection by the officers of the road, and they was now on the way to Ben’s division, with him hoping to create a fine impression by showing his miracles of management.  And here was Ed, meaning to start something scandalous at sight!  No wonder Ben lost his nerve and tried to run out on his antagonist.  He was trying to put it off at least till after his officials had come and gone.

So for six days he kept about thirty miles of standard-gauge track between his car and Ed’s.  Ed would get word that he was at such a station and have his car dropped there, only to find that Ben had gone on.  Ed would follow on the next train, or mebbe hire a special engine; and Ben would hide off on some blind spur track.  They covered the whole division about three times without clashing, thanks to Ben’s superior information bureau; it being no trick at all to keep track of this wheeled apartment house of Ed’s.

Ed couldn’t understand it at first.  Here he’d come up to lick Ben, and Ben was acting queer about it.  Ed would send messages every day wanting to know when and where he could have a nice quiet chat with Ben that would not be interfered with by bystanders; and Ben would wire back that his time wasn’t his own and company business was keeping him on the jump, but as soon as this rush was over he would arrange an interview; and kind regards, and so on.  Or he might say he would be at some station all the following day; which would be a clumsy falsehood, because he was at that moment pulling out, as Ed would find when he got there.  The operating department must of thought them a couple of very busy men, wanting so much to meet, yet never seeming able to get together.

Ed got peeved at last by the way Ben was putting him off.  It wasn’t square and it wasn’t businesslike.  He had large mining interests in charge and here was Ben acting like he had all summer to devote just to this one little matter.  He called Ben’s attention to this by telegraph, but Ben continued to be somewhere else from where he said he was going to be.

After a week of this pussy-wants-a-corner stuff Ed got wise that the thing had come to be a mere vulgar chase, and that his private car was hampering him by being so easy to keep track of.  So he disguised himself by taking off his diamond ornaments and leaving his private car at Colfax, and started out to stalk Ben as a common private citizen in a day coach.  He got results that way, Ben supposing he was still with his car.  After a couple of scouting trips up and down the line he gets reliable word that Ben, with his bunch of high officials, is over at Wallace.

So much the better, thinks Ed. It will be fine to have this next disturbance right on the spot where a great wrong was done him fifteen years before.  So he starts for Wallace, wiring for his car to follow him there.  He’d found this car poor for the bloodhound stuff, but he wanted Ben to have a good look at it and eat his heart out with envy, either before or after what was going to happen to him.

He gets to Wallace on the noon train and finds that Ben with his officials has gone up the canon, past Burke, on the president’s private car, to return in about an hour.  After Ed’s inquiries the agent kindly wires up to Ben that his cousin from Arizona is waiting for him.  Ed spends the time walking round Ben’s shabby little private car and sneering at it.  He has his plans all made, now that he has run his man to earth.  He won’t pull anything rough before the officials, but about twenty miles out on the line is a siding with a shipping corral beside it and nothing else in sight but vistas.  They’ll get an engine to run the two cars out there that night and leave ’em, and everything can be done decently and in order.  No hurry and no worry and no scandal.

Ed is just playing the coming fight over in his mind for the fifth time, correcting some of his blows here and there, when he hears a whistle up the canon and in comes the special.  The officials pile off and Ben comes rushing up to Ed with a glad smile and effusive greetings and hearty slaps on the back; and how is everything, old man? ­and so on ­with a highly worried look lurking just back of it all; and says what rare good luck to find Ed here, because he’s the very man they been talking about all the way down from Burke.

Ed says if they come down as fast as he did one time they didn’t get a chance to say much about him; but Ben is introducing him to the president of the road and the general manager and the chief engineer and three or four directors, and they all shake hands with him till it seems like quite a reception.  The president says is this really the gentleman who has made that last big strike in Arizona!  And if it is he knows something still more interesting about him, because he has just listened to a most remarkable tale of his early days as a brakeman on this very line.  Their division superintendent has been telling of his terrific drop down the canon and his incredible flight through the air of three hundred and thirty-five feet.

“How far did he say I was hurled?” says Ed, and the president again says three hundred and thirty-five feet, which was a hundred more than Ed had ever claimed; so he looks over at Ben pretty sharp.

Ben is still talking hurriedly about the historic accident, saying that in all his years of railroad experience he never heard of anything approaching it, and if they will step up the track a piece he will show them just where the cars left the rails.  Ben must of done a lot of quick thinking that day.  He had the bunch over to see the exact spot, and they all stood and looked over to the ice house and said it was incredible; and a director from Boston said it was perfectly preposterous; really now!  And Ben kept on reciting rapidly about the details.  He said Ed had come down the seven miles in less than three minutes, which was lopping a minute and a half off the official time; and that when picked up he hadn’t a whole bone left in his body, which was also a lie; and that his cousin never could of survived if he hadn’t probably had the most marvellous constitution a man was ever endowed with.  He then made the bunch go over to the ice house to see the other exact spot, and they looked back to where he started from, and again said it was incredible and preposterous.

I don’t know.  Mebbe they wouldn’t of thought it preposterous that a mere brakeman was hurled that far, but Ed was a capitalist now.  Anyway, the president had him into his car for lunch with the party, and they might possibly of got to talking about other things of less importance, but Ben wouldn’t have any thing else.  He made ’em insist that Ed should tell his version of the whole thing; how he felt when the cars started, and how the scenery was blurred, and how his whole past life flashed before him, and the last thing he remembered before he hit the sawdust.  And Ben set there looking so proud of Ed, like a mother having her little tot recite something.  And when Ed had finally lit, Ben made him tell about his slow recovery.  And after Ed got himself well again Ben would go back to the start and ask for more details, such as whether he hadn’t wanted to jump off on the way down, or whether he had been conscious while going through the air for nearly four hundred feet.

Ed got little food; but much he cared!  He’d come into his own at last.  And suddenly he was surprised by finding a warm glow in his heart for Ben, especially after Ben had said for about the third time:  “I was certainly a green hand in those days; so green that I didn’t begin to realize what a whale of an occurrence this was.”  Ed was getting a new light on Ben.

After lunch Ed’s own car got in from Colfax and he had the party over there for cigars and more talk about himself, which was skillfully led by Ben.  Then the president invited Ed to hitch his car on and come along with them for a little trip, and talk over mining and investments, and so on, and what the outlook was in the Southwest.  So Ed went with ’em and continued to hear talk of his accident.  Ben would bring it up and harp back to it, and bring it forward and sandwich it in whenever the conversation had an open moment.  It was either the wild thoughts Ed must of had sliding down the canon, or the preposterous constitution he had been endowed with, or the greenness of himself for not recognizing it as the prize accident of the ages.  And I don’t wonder Ben went on that way for the next two days.  He knew what a tenacious idiot Ed was, and that he had come miles out of his way to try something he had often tried before.  The most he could hope for was to stave off the collision till his officials got away.

And it looked, the second night, like he wasn’t going to be able to do even this much.  He’d been detecting cold looks from Ed all day, in spite of his putting on another record about the accident every ten minutes or so.  They was laid out at some little station, and just before dinner Ed give Ben the office that he wanted a word private with him.  Ben thinks to himself it’s coming now in spite of all his efforts to smooth it over.  But he leaves the car with Ed and they walk a piece up the track, Ben hoping they can make the lee of a freight car before Ed starts his crime of violence.  He makes up his mind quick.  If Ed jumps him there in the open he will certainly do his best to win the contest.  But if he waits till they get this freight car between them and the public, then he will let Ed win the fight and get the scandal out of his life forever.

Ben walks quite briskly, but Ed begins to slow up when they ain’t more than a hundred yards from the president’s car.  Finally Ed stops short.

“The little foci is going to pull the fight here in the open!” thinks Ben; so he gets ready to do his best.

Then Ed says: 

“Say, Ben, what’s the matter with you, anyway?  Are you losing your mind?  It ain’t so much on my account; I could make allowance for you.  But here’s these officials of yours, and you want to make a good impression on ’em; instead of which you are making yourself the grandest bore that ever needed strangling for continuous talk on one subject.”

Ben didn’t get him yet.  He says come on up the other side of them freight cars, where they can be more private for their consultation.

Ed says no; this is far enough to tell him for his own good not to be such a bore; an’ Ben says how is he a bore?

“A bore?” says Ed.  “Why, for forty-eight hours you ain’t been able to talk about anything but that stale old accident of mine, and you got me so sick of it I could jump on you every time you begin.  You got everybody in the party sick of it.  Don’t you see how they all try to get away from you?  For the Lord’s sake, can’t you think up something else to talk about now and then ­at least for five minutes, just to give your silly chatter a little different flavour?  I never been so sick of anything in my life as I am of this everlasting prattle of yours about something that was over and forgotten fifteen long years ago!  What’s got into you to keep dragging that accident up out of the dead past that way?  Anyway, you better cut it out.  I have to listen because you’re my cousin; but these officials don’t.  Your next pay check is liable to be your last on this road if you don’t think up some other kind of gossip.  Darned if it don’t seem like you had been getting weak-minded in your old age!”

Ben had got his bearings by this time.  He apologized warmly to Ed; he said it was true this magnificent catastrophe had lately taken possession of his mind, but now that he finds Ed is so sensitive about it he’ll try to keep it out of his talk, and he hopes Ed won’t cherish hard feelings against him.

Ed says no, he won’t cherish anything if Ben will only quit his loathsome gushing about the accident; and Ben says he will quit.  And so they shook hands on it.

That’s the way the feud ended.  The champion grudge hoarder of the universe had been dosed to a finish with his own medicine.  It showed Ben has a weakness for diplomacy; kind of an iron hand in a velvet glove, or something.

Ed is still a nut, though.  There was a piece in a Sunday paper not long ago about this new mining millionaire.  He spoke some noble words to the youth of our land.  He said young American manhood could still make its fortune in this glorious country of opportunity by strict attention to industry and good habits and honest dealing and native pluck ­him that had had these mules forced on him in the first place, and then his interest in this claim forced on him for the mules, and then hadn’t been able to get shut of the claim.  Ain’t it lovely how men will dig up a license to give themselves all credit for hog luck they couldn’t help!

Ma Pettengill busied herself with a final cigarette and remarked that she never knew when to stop talking.  Some parties did, but not her; and she having to be up and on the way to Horsefly Mountain by six-thirty in the A.M.!  Her last apology was for a longing she had not been able to conquer:  She couldn’t help a debased wish to know how that last fight would of come out.

“Of course it ain’t nice to want men to act like the brutes,” said the lady.  “Still, I can’t help wondering; not that I’m inquisitive, but just out of curiosity.”