Read CHAPTER X - AS TO HERMAN WAGNER of Ma Pettengill, free online book, by Harry Leon Wilson, on ReadCentral.com.

It had been a toilsome day for Ma Pettengill and me.  Since sunup we had ridden more than a score of mountain miles on horses that could seldom exceed a crawl in pace.  At dawn we had left the flatlands along the little timbered river, climbed to the lava beds of the first mesa, traversed a sad stretch of these where even the sage grew scant, and come, by way of a winding defile that was soon a mounting canon, into big hills unending.

Here for many hours we had laboured over furtive, tortuous trails, aimless and lost, it might have seemed, but that ever and again we came upon small bands of cattle moving one way.  These showed that we had a mission and knew, after all, what we were about.  These cattle were knowingly bent toward the valley and home.  They went with much of a businesslike air, stopping only at intervals to snatch at the sparse short grass that grows about the roots of the sagebrush.  They had come a long journey from their grazing places, starting when the range went bad and water holes dried, and now seemed glad indeed to give up the wild free life of a short summer and become tended creatures again, where strangely thoughtful humans would lavish cut grass upon them for certain obscure but doubtless benevolent purposes of their own.

It was our mission this day to have a look-see, mebbe as far as Horsefly Mountain, and get a general idée of how many head was already coming down to eat up the so-and-so shortest hay crop that had ever been stacked on the Arrowhead since the dry winter of ’98, when beef fell to two cents a pound, with darned few takers at that.

It was really a day of scenic delight, if one hadn’t to reflect sorely upon the exigencies of the beef-cattle profession, and at least one of us was free of this thrall.

What we reached at last were small mountains rather than big hills; vast exclamatory remnants of shattered granite and limestone, thickly timbered, reckless of line, sharp of peak.  One minute canon we viewed from above was quite preposterous in its ambitions, having colour and depth and riot of line in due proportions and quite worthy of the grand scale.  It wasn’t a Grand Canon, but at least it was a baby grand, and I loitered on its brink until reminded sharply that I’d better pour leather into that there skate if I wanted to make home that night.

I devoutly did wish to make home that night, for the spot we were on was barren of those little conveniences I am accustomed to.  Moreover, the air was keen and a hunger, all day in the building, called for strong meats.  So I not too reluctantly passed on from this scenic miniature of parlour dimensions ­and from the study of a curious boulder thereby which had intrigued me not a little.

Now we were home and relaxed by the Arrowhead fireside, after a moving repast of baked young sage hens.  The already superior dynamics of the meal, moreover, had been appreciably heightened by a bottle of Uncle Henry’s homemade grape wine, which he warmly recommends for colds or parties, or anything like that.  It had proved to be a wine of almost a too-recent cru.  Ma Pettengill said that if Uncle Henry was aiming to put it on the market in quantity production he had ought to name it the Stingaree brand, because it was sure some stuff, making for malevolence even to the lengths of matricide, if that’s what killing your mother is called.  She said, even at a Polish wedding down across the tracks of a big city, it would have the ambulances and patrol wagons clanging up a good half hour quicker than usual.

Be that as it may, or is, when I had expected sleep to steal swiftly to the mending of the day’s ravages I merely found myself wakeful and wondering.  This stuff of Uncle Henry’s is an able ferment.  I wondered about a lot of things.  And at the same time I wondered interminably about that remarkable boulder at the side of the Tom Thumb Grand Canon.  I was even wakeful enough and discursive enough ­my hostess had taken but one glass from the bottle ­to wonder delightedly about all rocks and stones, and geology, and that sort of thing.  It was almost scientific, the way I wondered, as I sat there idly toying with my half-filled glass.

Take this particular boulder, for example.  It had once been mere star dust, hadn’t it?  Some time ago, I mean, or thereabouts.  But it had been star dust; and then, next thing it knew, it got to be a kind of cosmic stew, such as leisurely foreigners patch out highways with, and looking no more like a granite boulder than anything.

Then something happened, like someone letting the furnace fire go out the night of the big freeze; and this stuff I’m talking about grew cold and discouraged, and quit flat, apparently not caring a hoot what shape it would be found in years and years later, the result being that it was found merely in the general shape of rocks or boulders ­to use the more scientific term ­which is practically no shape at all, as you might say, being quite any shape that happens, or the shape of rocks and boulders as they may be seen on almost every hand by those of us who have learned to see in the true sense of the word.

I have had to be brief in this shorter science course on the earth’s history before the time of man, because more important matters claim my attention and other speakers are waiting.  The point is that this boulder up there by the dwarf canon had survived from unremembered chaos; had been melted, stewed, baked, and chilled until it had no mind of its own left; then bumped round by careless glaciers until it didn’t care where it came to rest; and at last, after a few hundred million years of stony unconcern for its ultimate fate, here it had been drawn by the cunning hand of man sprang into the complex mechanism of our industrial human scramble.

That is to say, this boulder I speak of, the size of a city hall, lying there in noble neglect since long before wise old water animals were warning their children that this here fool talk about how you could go up out of the water and walk round on dry land would get folks into trouble, because how could a body breathe up there when there wasn’t any water to breathe in?  And the fools that tried it would soon find out; and serve ’em right!  Well, I mean to say, this boulder that had lain inert and indifferent while the ages wrought man from a thing of one cell ­and not much of a cell at that ­bore across that face of it nearest the winding trail, a lettered appeal, as from one man to another.  The letters were large and neatly done in white paint and the brushwork was recent.  And the letters said, with a good deal of pathos, it seemed to me: 

Wagner’s sylvan glen, only thirty-two milesHerman Wagner, sole prop.

Let this teach us, one and all, this morning, that everything in Nature has its use if we but search diligently.  I mean, even big rocks like this, which are too big to build homes or even courthouses of.  May we not, at least, paint things on them in plain letters with periods and commas, and so on, and so give added impetus to whatever is happening to us?

But the evening wears on and the whipping mental urge of grape juice meddled with by Uncle Henry wears off.  And so, before it all ends, what about Herman Wagner, Sole Prop. of Wagner’s Sylvan Glen?

I know it has been a hard day, but let us try to get the thing in order.  Why not begin cautiously with a series of whys?  Why any particular sylvan glen in a country where everything is continuously and overwhelmingly sylvan and you can’t heave a rock without hitting a glen?  Really, you can’t walk fifty yards out there without stepping on a glen ­or in a glen; it doesn’t matter.  What I am earnestly trying to get at is, if this Herman Wagner wanted to be sole prop. of a sylvan glen, why should he have gone thirty-two miles farther for one?  Why didn’t he have it right there?  Why insanely push thirty-two miles on in a country where miles mean something serious?  Up-and-down miles, tilted horribly or standing on edge!

It didn’t seem astute.  And Herman achieved simply no persuasion whatever with me by stocking in that “only.”  He could have put only all over the rock and it would still have been thirty-two miles, wouldn’t it?  Only indeed!  You might think the man was saying “Only ten minutes’ walk from the post office” ­or something with a real meaning like that.  I claimed then and I claim now that he should have omitted the only and come out blunt with the truth.  There are times in this world when the straight and bitter truth is better without any word-lace.  This Wagner person was a sophist.  So I said to him, now, as a man will at times: 

“All right, Herman, old top!  But you’ll have to think up something better than only to put before those thirty-two miles.  If you had said ’Only two miles’ it might have had its message for me.  But thirty more than that!  Be reasonable!  Why not pick out a good glen that parties can slip off to for a quiet evening without breaking up a whole week?  Frankly, I don’t understand you and your glen.  But you can bet I’ll find out about it!”

So, right away, I said to Ma Pettengill, who by this time had a lot of bills and papers and ledgers and stuff out on her desk, and was talking hotly to all of them ­I said to her that there was nearly half a bottle of Uncle Henry’s wine left, his rare old grape wine laid down well over a month ago; so she had better toss off a foamy beaker of it ­yes, it still foamed ­and answer me a few questions.

It was then she said the things about that there wine being able to inflate the casualty lists, even of Polish weddings, which are already the highest known to the society page of our police-court records.  She said, further, that she had took just enough of the stuff at dinner to make her think she wasn’t entirely bankrupt, and she wanted to give these here accounts a thorough going-over while the sensation lasted.

Not wishing to hurt Uncle Henry’s feelings, even if he didn’t catch me at it, I partook again of the fervent stuff, and fell into new wonder at the seeming imbecility of Herman Wagner.  I found myself not a little moved by the pathos of him.  It was little enough I could get from Ma Pettengill at first.  She spoke almost shortly to me when I asked her things she had to stop adding silly figures to answer.

What I found out was mostly my own work, putting two and two in their fit relationship.  Even the mention of Herman Wagner’s full name brought nothing about himself.  I found it most annoying.  I would say:  “Come on, now; what about this Herman Wagner that paints wheedling messages across the face of Nature?” And to this fair, plain query I would merely have more of the woman’s endless help troubles.  All that come looking for work these days was stormy pétrels, not caring if they worked or not ­just asking for it out of habit.

Didn’t she have a singing teacher, a painless dentist, a crayon-portrait artist and a condemned murderer on her payroll this very minute, all because the able-bodied punchers had gone over to see that nasty little Belgium didn’t ever again attack Germany in that ruthless way?  She had read that it cost between thirty and thirty-five thousand dollars to wound a soldier in battle.  Was that so?  Well, she’d tell me that she stood ready to wound any of these that was left behind for between thirty and thirty-five cents, on easy payments.  Wound ’em severely, too!  Not mere scratches.

Presently again I would utter Herman Wagner, only to be told that these dry cows she was letting go for sixty dollars ­you come to cut ’em up for beef and you’d have to grease the saw first.  Or I heard what a scandal it was that lambs actually brought five-fifty, and the Government at Washington, D.C., setting back idly under the outrage!

Then I heard, with perfect irrelevance to Herman Wagner, that she wouldn’t have a puncher on the place that owned his own horse.  Because why?  Because he’d use him gentle all day and steal grain for him at night.  Also, that she had some kind of rheumatiz in her left shoulder; but she’d rather be a Christian Scientist and fool herself than pay a doctor to do the same.  It may all have been true, but it was not important; not germane to the issue, as we so often say in writing editorials.

It looked so much like a blank for Herman Wagner that I quit asking for a time and let the woman toil at her foolish ruinous tasks.

After half an hour of it she began to rumble a stanza of By Cool Siloam’s Shady Rill; so I chanced it again, remarking on the sign I had observed that day.  So she left her desk for a seat before the fire and said yes, and they was other signs of Herman’s hid off in the mountains where no one but cows, that can’t read a line, would see ’em.  She also divulged that Herman, himself, wasn’t anything you’d want a bronze statue of to put up in Courthouse Square.

Well then, come on, now!  What about him?  No, sir; not by a darned sight!  With that there desk full of work, she simply could not stop to talk now.  She did.

Is that the only sign of Herman’s you saw?  He’s got others along them trails.  You’ll see an arrow in white paint, pointing to his sylvan glen, and warnings not to go to other glens till you’ve tried his.  One says:  You’ve tried the rest; now try the best!  Another says:  Try Wagner’s Sylvan Glen for Boating, Bathing, and Fishing.  Meals at all hours!  And he’s got one that shows he studied American advertising as soon as he landed in this country.  It says:  Wagner’s Sylvan Glen ­Not How Good, But How Cheap!

I don’t know.  I ain’t made up my mind about Herman, even yet.  If it wasn’t for why he had to leave Nevada and if I knew there could be more than one kind of German, then I’d almost say Herman was the other kind.  But, of course, there can’t be but one kind, and he showed the Prussian strain fast enough in why he come up from Reno.  Still and all, he’s got his engaging points as a pure imbecile or something.

He don’t tell me why he left Reno for a long time after he gets here; not till I’d won his confidence by showing I was a German sympathizer.  It was when Sandy Sawtelle had a plan for a kind of grand war measure.  His grand war measure was to get some secret agents into Germany and kill off all the women under fifty.  He said if you done this the stock would die out, because look at the game laws against killing does!  He told this to everybody.  He told it to Herman; but Herman knew enough to remain noncommittal ’bout it.  He told it to me, and I saw right off it probably couldn’t be managed right; and, even if it could be, I said to Sandy, it seemed to me somehow like it would be sort of inhuman.

Herman heard me say this and got the idea I was a pacifist and a secret friend of his country; so he confided to me the secret of why he left Reno to keep from having his heart cut out by Manuel Romares.  But no matter!

Anyway, last year in the spring this Herman dropped by, looking for work.  He hadn’t been in America long, having stopped with his uncle in Cincinnati a while, and then coming West on a life of adventure and to take up a career.  He said now he’d come up from Nevada, where he’d been working on a sheep ranch, and he acted like he wanted to get into something respectable and lead a decent life again.

Well, it had got so I hired everything that come along; so why not Herman?  I grabbed at him.  The boys heard he was a German alien and acted, at first, like a bunch of hogs with a bear about; but I’d of hired old Hinderburg himself if he’d offered and put him to doing something worth while.

This Herman was the first man ever worked here in side whiskers.  He told me, after I showed myself a German sympathizer, that in the beginning of the war he’d wore one of them moustaches like the Kaiser puts up in tin fasteners every night after he’s said his prayers; but this had made him an object of unpleasant remark, including missiles.  So he had growed this flowering border round it to take off the curse.

They was beautiful shiny side whiskers and entirely innocent-looking.  In the right clothes Herman could of gone into any Sabbath school in the land and said he was glad to see so many bright little faces there this morning, and now what was to-day’s golden text, and so on.  That’s what he looked like.  These things fell like portieres each side of his face, leaving his chin as naked as the day he was born.  He didn’t have any too much under his mouth either; so I guess the whiskers was really a mercy to his face.

He admitted he didn’t know too much about the cow business, but said he was willing to learn; so I put him on the payroll.  We found he was willing to try anything that looked easy; for instance, like setting on colts for the first time.  The first morning he went to work it was rainy, with the ground pretty wet, and he was out to the corral watching Sandy Sawtelle break a colt.  That’s the best time to handle colts that has never been set on.  They start to act up and pour someone out of the saddle; then they slip and slide, helpless, and get the idea a régler demon of a rider is up there, and give in.  So the boys give Herman a fussy two-year-old, and Herman got away with it not so bad.

Of course he was set off a few times, but not hard; and the colt, slicking over this wet ground, must of thought another star rider had come to town.  Two days later, though, when the ground was dry, Herman got on the same wild animal again, and it wasn’t there when he come down from his first trip aloft.  It traded ends with him neatly and was off in a corner saying.  “Well, looks like that German ain’t such a dandy rider after all!  I couldn’t pull that old one with him yesterday, but I certainly done it good to-day.”

I wasn’t near enough to hear what Herman said when he picked himself up; but I’m a good lip reader since I been going to these moving pictures, and I’m way mistaken if he hadn’t learned two or three good things in English to call a horse at certain times.

He walked for several days with trench feet, and his morale was low indeed.  He was just that simple.  He’d try things that sane punchers wouldn’t go looking for, if sober; in fact, he was so simple you might call him simple-minded and not get took up for malicious slander.

So it come to where we seen he wasn’t good for anything on this ranch but chore boy.  And naturally we needed a chore boy, like we needed everything else.  He could get up wood, and feed the pigs we was fattening, and milk the three dairy cows, and make butter, and help in the kitchen.  But as for being a cow hand, he wasn’t even the first joint on your little finger.  He was willing, but his Maker had stopped right at that point with him.  And he had a right happy time being chore boy.

Of course the boys kidded him a lot after they found out he could positively not be enraged by the foulest aspersions on the character of the Kaiser and his oldest son.  They seen he was just an innocent dreamer, mooning round the place at his humble tasks.  They spent a lot of good time thinking up things for him.

He’d brought a German shotgun with silver trimmings with him, which he called a fowling piece, and he wanted to hunt in his few leisure moments; so the boys told him all the kinds of game that run wild on the place.

There was the cross-feathered snee, I remember, which was said by the bird books to be really the same as the sidehill mooney.  It has one leg shorter than the other and can be captured by hand if driven to level ground, where it falls over on its side in a foolish manner when it tries to run.  Herman looked forward to having one of these that he could stuff and send to his uncle in Cincinnati, who wrote that he had never seen such a bird.

Also, he spent a lot of time down on the crick flat looking for a mu, which is the same as a sneeze-duck, except for the parallel stripes.  It has but one foot webbed; so it swims in a circle and can be easy shot by the sportsman, who first baits it with snuff that it will go miles to get.  Another wild beast they had him hunting was the filo, which is like the ruffle snake, except that it has a thing like a table leg in its ear.  It gets up on a hill and peeks over at you, but will never come in to lunch.  The boys said they nearly had one over on Grizzly Peak one time, but it swallowed its tail and become invisible to the human eye, though they could still hear its low note of pleading.  Also, they had Herman looking for a mated couple of the spinach bug for which the Smithsonian Institution had offered a reward of five hundred dollars, cash.

Herman fell for it all ­all this old stuff that I had kicked the slats out of my trundle-bed laughing at.  And in between exciting adventures with his fowling piece he’d write himself some pieces of poetry in a notebook, all about the cows and the clouds and other natural objects.  He would also recite poetry written by other Germans, if let.  And at night he’d play on a native instrument shaped like a potato, by blowing into one cavity and stopping up other cavities to make the notes.  It would be slow music and make you think of the quiet old churchyard where your troubles would be o’er; and why not get there as soon as possible?  Sad music!

So Herman was looked on as a harmless imbecile by one and all till Eloise Plummer come over to help in the kitchen while the haying crew was here last summer.  And Eloise looked on him as something else.  She looked on Herman as one of them that make it unsafe for girls to leave home.  She had good reason to.

Eloise is in the prime of young womanhood; but this is just exactly as fur as any fair-minded judge would go to say of her as a spectacle.  Her warmest adherents couldn’t hardly get any warmer than that if put under oath.  She has a heart of gold undoubtedly, but a large and powerful face that would belong rightly to the head director of a steel corporation that’s worked his way up from the bottom.

It is not a face that has ever got Eloise pestered with odious attentions from the men.  Instead of making ’em smirk and act rough, but playful, it made ’em think that life, after all, is more serious than most of us suspect in our idle moments.  It certainly is a face to make men think.  And inspiring this black mood in men had kind of reacted on Eloise till they couldn’t quite see what they was ever intended for.  It was natural.

I don’t say the girl could of cooked all winter in a lumber camp and not been insulted a time or two; but it wasn’t fur from that with her.

So you can imagine how bitter she was when this Herman nut tried to make up to her.  Herman was a whirlwind wooer; I’ll say that for him.  He told her right off that she was beautiful as the morning star and tried to kiss her hand.  None of these foolish preliminaries for Herman, like “Lovely weather we’re having!” or “What’s your favourite flower?”

Eloise was quick-natured, too.  She put him out of the kitchen with a coal shovel, after which Herman told her through a crack of the door that she was a Lorelei.

Eloise, at first, misunderstood this term entirely, and wasn’t much less insulted when she found it meant one of these German hussies that hang round creeks for no good purpose.  Not that her attitude discouraged Herman any; he played under her window that night, and also sang a rich custard sort of tenor in his native tongue, till I had to threaten him with the bastile to get any sleep myself.

Next day he fetched her regal gifts, consisting of two polished abalone shells, a picture of the Crown Prince in a brass frame, and a polished-wood paper knife with Greetings from Reno! on it.

Eloise was now like an enraged goddess or something; and if Herman hadn’t been a quick bender and light on his feet she wouldn’t of missed him with his gifts.  As it was, he ducked in time and went out to the spring house to write a poem on her beauty, which he later read to her in German through a kitchen window that was raised.  The window was screened; so he read it all.  Later he gets Sandy Sawtelle to tell her this poem is all about how coy she is.  Every once in a while you could get an idea partway over on Herman.  He was almost certain Eloise was coy.

By the end of that second day, after Herman threw kisses to her for ten minutes from on top of the woodshed, where he was safe, she telephoned her brother to come over here quick, if he had the soul of a man in his frame, and kill Herman like he would a mad dog.

But Eloise left the next morning, without waiting for anything suitable to be pulled off by her family.  It was because, when she went to bed that night, she found a letter from Herman pinned to her pillow.  It had a red heart on it, pierced by a dagger that was dropping red drops very sentimentally; and it said would she not hasten to take her vast beauty out in the moonlight, to walk with Herman under the quiet trees while the nightingale warbled and the snee, or sidehill mooney, called to its lovemate?  And here, as they walked, they could plan their beautiful future together.

This was beyond Eloise even with a full battery of kitchen utensils at hand.  She left before breakfast; and Herman had to come in and wash dishes.

The next excitement was Herman committing suicide, out in the woodshed, with a rope he’d took off a new packsaddle.  Something interrupted him after he got the noose adjusted and was ready to step off the chopping block he stood on.  I believe it was one more farewell note to the woman that sent him to his grave.  Only he got interested in it and put in a lot more of his own poetry and run out of paper, and had to get more from the house; and he must of forgot what he went to the woodshed for because an hour after that he committed an entirely new suicide with his fowling piece.

Near as I could gather, he was all ready to pull the trigger, looking down into this here frowning muzzle before a mirror; and then something about his whiskers in the mirror must of caught his eye.  Anyway, another work of self-destruction was off.  So he come in and helped with lunch.  Then he told me he’d like to take some time off, because he was going up to the deep pool to drown himself.

I said was he really bent on it?  He said it was requisite, because away from this beautiful lady, who had torn his heart out and danced on it, he could not continue to live, even for one day.  So I come down on Herman.  I told him that, hard up as I was for help, I positively would not have a man on the place who was always knocking off work to kill himself.  It et into his time, and also it took the attention of others who longed to see him do it.

I said I might stand for a suicide or two ­say, once a month, on a quiet Sunday ­but I couldn’t stand this here German thoroughness that kept it up continual.  At least, if he hoped to keep on drawing pay from me, he’d have to make way with himself in his own leisure moments and not on my time.

Herman says I don’t know the depths of the human heart.  I says I know what I pay him a month, and that’s all I’m needing to know in this emergency.  I thought, of course, he’d calm down and forget his nonsense; but not so.  He moped and mooned, and muttered German poetry to himself for another day, without ever laying a violent hand on himself; but then he come and said it was no good.  He says, however, he will no longer commit suicide at this place, where none have sympathy with him and many jeer.  Instead, he will take his fowling piece to some far place in the great still mountains and there, at last, do the right thing by himself.

I felt quite snubbed, but my patience was wore out; so I give Herman the money that was coming to him, wished him every success in his undertaking, and let him go.

The boys scouted round quite a bit the next few days, listening for the shot and hoping to come on what was left; but they soon forgot it.  Me?  I knew one side of Herman by that time.  I knew he would be the most careful boy in every suicide he committed.  If I’d been a life-insurance company it wouldn’t have counted against him so much as the coffee habit or going without rubbers.

And ­sure enough ­about two months later the dead one come to life.  Herman rollicked in one night with news that he had wandered far into the hills till he found the fairest spot on earth; that quickly made him forget his great sorrow.  His fairest spot was a half section of bad land a hopeful nester had took up back in the hills.  It had a little two-by-four lake on it and a grove of spruce round the lake; and Herman had fell in love with it like with Eloise.

He’d stay with the nester, who was half dead with lonesomeness, so that even a German looked good to him, and wrote to his uncle in Cincinnati for money to buy the place.  And now I’d better hurry over and see it, because it was Wagner’s Sylvan Glen, with rowing, bathing, fishing, and basket parties welcome.  Yes, sir!  It goes to show you can’t judge a German like you would a human.

I laughed at first; but no one ever got to Herman that way.  He was firm and delighted.  That Sylvan Glen was just the finest resort anywhere round!  Why, if it was within five miles of Cincinnati or Munich it would be worth a million dollars!  And so on.  It done no good to tell him it was not within five miles of these towns and never would be.  And it done less good to ask him where his customers was coming from, there not being a soul nearer him than twenty miles, and then only scattered ranchers that has got their own idea of a good time after the day’s work is over, which positively is not riding off to anybody’s glen, no matter how sylvan.

“The good people will come soon enough.  You’ll see!” says Herman.  “They soon find out the only place for miles round where they can get a good pig’s knuckle, or blood sausage and a glass Rhine wine ­or maybe beer ­after a hard day’s work.  I got a fine boat on the lake ­they can row and push all round over the water; and I’m getting a house put up with vines on it, like a fairy palace, and little tables outside!  You see!  The people will come when they hear!”

That was Herman.  He never stopped to ask where they was coming from.  He’d make the place look like a Dutch beer garden and they’d just have to come from somewhere, because what German ever saw a beer garden that didn’t have people coming to it?  I reckoned up that Herman would have enough custom to make the place pay, the quick rate our country is growing, in about two hundred and forty-five or fifty years.

So that’s Wagner’s Sylvan Glen you seen advertised.  It’s there all right; and Herman is there, waiting for trade, with a card back of his little bar that says, in big letters:  Keep Smiling!  I bet if you dropped in this minute you’d find him in a black jacket and white apron, with a bill of fare wrote in purple ink.  He thinks people will soon drop in from twenty miles off to get a cheese sandwich or a dill pickle, or something.

Two of the boys was over this last June when he had his grand opening.  They was the only person there except a man from Surprise Valley that was looking for stock and got lost.  Buck Devine says the place looked as swell as something you’d see round Chicago.

Herman has a scow on the pond, and a dozen little green tables outside under the spruce trees, with all the trees white-washed neatly round the bottoms, and white-washed stones along the driveway, and a rustic gate with Welcome to Wagner’s Sylvan Glen! over it.  And he’s got some green tubs with young spruces planted in ’em, standing under the big spruces, and everything as neat as a pin.

Everyone thinks he’s plumb crazy now, even if they didn’t when he said Eloise Plummer was as beautiful as the morning star.  But you can’t tell.  He’s getting money every month from his uncle in Cincinnati to improve the place.  He’s sent the uncle a photo of it and it must look good back in Cincinnati, where you can’t see the surrounding country.

Maybe Herman merely wants to lead a quiet life with the German poets, and has thought up something to make the uncle come through.  On the other hand, mebbe he’s a spy.  Of course he’s got a brain.  He’s either kidding the uncle, or else Wagner’s Sylvan Glen now covers a concrete gun foundation.

In either case he’s due for harsh words some day ­either from the uncle when he finds there ain’t any roadhouse patrons for twenty miles round, or from the German War Office when they find out there ain’t even anything to shoot at.

The lady paused; then remarked that, even at a church sociable, Uncle Henry’s idée of wine would probably make trouble to a police extent.  Here it had made her talkative long after bedtime, and she hadn’t yet found out just how few dollars stood between her and the poorhouse.

I allowed her to sort papers for a moment.  As she scanned them under drawn brows beside a lamp that was dimming, she again rumbled into song.  She now sang:  “What fierce diseases wait around to hurry mortals home!” It is, musically, the crudest sort of thing.  And it clashed with my mood; for I now wished to know how Herman had revealed Prussian guile by his manner of leaving Reno.  Only after another verse of the hymn could I be told.  It seems worth setting down here: 

Well, Herman is working on a sheep ranch out of Reno, as I’m telling you, and has trouble with a fellow outcast named Manuel Romares.  Herman was vague about what started the trouble, except that they didn’t understand each other’s talk very well and one of ’em thought the other was making fun of him.  Anyway, it resulted in a brutal fist affray, greatly to Herman’s surprise.  He had supposed that no man, Mexican or otherwise, would dare to attack a German single-handed, because he would of heard all about Germans being invincible, that nation having licked two nations ­Serbia and Belgium ­at once.

So, not suspecting any such cowardly attack, Herman was took unprepared by Manuel Romares, who did a lot of things to him in the way of ruthless devastation.  Furthermore, Herman was clear-minded enough to see that Manuel could do these things to him any time he wanted to.  In that coarse kind of fighting with the fists he was Herman’s superior.  So Herman drawed off and planned a strategic coop.

First thing he done was to make a peace offer, at which the trouble should be discussed on a fair basis to both sides.  Manuel not being one to nurse a grudge after he’d licked a man in jig time, and being of a sunny nature anyway, I judge, met him halfway.  Then, at this peace conference, Herman acted much unlike a German, if he was honest.  He said he had been all to blame in this disturbance and his conscience hurt him; so he couldn’t rest till he had paid Manuel an indemnity.

Manuel is tickled and says what does Herman think of paying him?  Herman shows up his month’s pay and says how would it suit Manuel if they go in to Reno that night and spend every cent of this money in all the lovely ways which could be thought up by a Mexican sheep herder that had just come in from a six weeks’ cross-country tour with two thousand of the horrible animals.

Manuel wanted to kiss Herman.  Herman says he did cry large tears of gladness.  And they started for town.

So they got to Reno, and did not proceed to the Public Library, or the Metallurgical Institute, or the Historical Museum.  They proceeded to the Railroad Exchange Saloon, where they loitered and loitered and loitered before the bar, at Herman’s expense, telling how much they thought of each other and eating of salt fish from time to time, which is intended by the proprietor to make even sheep herders more thirsty than normal.

Herman sipped only a little beer; but Manuel thought of many new beverages that had heretofore been beyond his humble purse, and every new one he took made him think of another new one.  It was a grand moment for Manuel ­having anything he could think of set before him in this beautiful cafe or saloon, crowded with other men who were also having grand moments.

After a while Herman says to Manuel to come outside, because he wants to tell him something good he has thought of.  So he leads him outside by an arm and can hardly tell what he has to say because it’s so funny he has to laugh when he thinks of it.  They go up an alley where they won’t be overheard, and Herman at last manages to keep his laughter down long enough to tell it.  It’s a comical antic he wants Manuel to commit.

Manuel don’t get the idea, at first, but Herman laughs so hard that at last Manuel thinks it’s just got to be funny and pretty soon he’s laughing at it as hard as Herman is.

So they go back to the saloon to do this funny thing, which is to be a joke on the big crowd of men in there.  Herman says he won’t be able to do it good himself, because he’s got a bad cold and can’t yell loud; but Manuel’s voice is getting better with every new drink.  Manuel is just busting with mirth, thinking of this good joke he’s going to play on the Americans.

They have one more drink, Manuel taking peach brandy with honey, which Herman says costs thirty cents; then he looks over the men standing there and he yells good and loud: 

“To hell with the President!  Hurrah for the Kaiser!”

You know, when Herman told me that, I wondered right off if he hadn’t been educated in some school for German secret agents.  Didn’t it show guile of their kind?  I’ll never be amazed if he does turn out to be a spy that’s simply went wrong on detail.

Of course he was safe out of town long before Manuel limped from the hospital looking for him with a knife.  And yet Herman seemed so silly!  First thing when he got on the place he wanted to know where the engine was that pumped the windmill.

Furthermore, if you ask me, that there wine won’t be made safe for democracy until Uncle Henry has been years and years laid away to rest.