PEAKSLOW GETS A QUIRK IN HIS HEAD.
Peakslow had finished greasing his
wheels, and was about harnessing a pair of horses
which Zeph held by their halters at the door of a
log-stable. One of the horses was Snowfoot.
“Please wait a minute, Mr. Peakslow,”
said Jack, turning pale at the sight. “I’ve
brought a witness to prove my property.”
Peakslow looked at his neighbor Wiggett,
and gave a grunt.
“So you’ve come to interfere in this business,
Mr. Wiggett made no reply, but walked
up to Snowfoot, stroked his sides, examined the scars,
looked at him before and behind, and nodded slowly
several times. Then he spoke.
“I hain’t come over to
interfere in nobody’s business, Mr. Peakslow.
But I happen to know this yer young man; and I know
this yer hoss. At his request, I’ve come
over to say so. I could pick out that animal,
and sw’ar to him, among ten thousan’.”
“What can you swear to?”
Peakslow demanded, poising a harness.
“I can sw’ar this is the
hoss the young man druv the day he come over to find
my section corner.”
“Isn’t that enough?” said Jack.
“No!” said Peakslow, and
threw the rattling harness upon Snowfoot’s back.
“It don’t prove the hoss belonged to you,
if ye did drive him. And, even though he did
belong to you, it don’t prove but what ye sold
him arterward, and then pretended he was stole, to
cheat some honest man out of his prop’ty.
Hurry up, boy! buckle them hames.” And he
went to throw on the other harness.
Jack stepped in Zeph’s way.
“This is my horse, and I’ve a word to say
about buckling those hames.”
“Ye mean to hender my work?”
roared Peakslow, turning upon him. “Ye mean
to git me mad?”
Jack had before been hardly able to
speak, for his rising wrath and beating heart; but
he was now getting control of himself.
“I don’t see the need
of anybody’s getting mad, Mr. Peakslow.
There’s a right and a wrong in this case; and
if we both want the right, we shall agree.”
“Every man has his own way o’
lookin’ at the right,” said Peakslow,
slightly mollified. “The right, to your
notion, is that I shall give ye up the hoss.
I’ve got possession of the hoss, and I mean to
keep possession; and that’s what’s about
right, to my notion.”
“I want only what is lawfully
my own,” Jack answered, firmly. “If
you want what isn’t yours, that’s not
right, but wrong. There’s such a thing
as justice, aside from our personal interest in a matter.”
Probably Peakslow had never thought of that.
“Wal, what ye goin’ to do about it?”
“I am going to have my horse,”
replied Jack. “If you let me take him peaceably,
very well. If you compel me to go to law, I shall
have him all the same, and you will have the costs
Peakslow winced. The threat of costs touched
him in his tenderest spot.
“How’s that?” he anxiously asked.
“I haven’t been about
the country looking for my horse, without knowing
something of the law for the recovery of stolen property,”
replied Jack. “If I find him in your hands,
and you give him up, I’ve no action against
you. If you hold on to him, I can do one of two
things. I can go to a magistrate, and by giving
bonds to an amount that will cover all damages to
you or anybody else if I fail to make good my claim,
get out a writ of replevin, and send a sheriff
with it to take the horse. Or I can let you keep
him, and sue you for damages. In either case,
the one who is beaten will have the costs to pay,”
Jack insisted, turning the screw again where he saw
The swarthy brow was covered with perspiration, as Peakslow
answered, making a show of bluster,
“I can fight ye with the law,
or any other way, ’s long’s you want to
fight. I’ve got money. Ye can’t
scare me with your sheriffs and writs. But jest
look at it. I’m to be throwed out of a hoss
at a busy time o’ year. You wouldn’t
like that, Mr. Wiggett you nor nobody else.”
“No,” said Mr. Wiggett,
who stood looking on in an impartial way, “it
moutn’t feel good, I allow. And it don’t
seem like it would feel much better, to have to stan’
by and see a hoss that was stole from me, bein’
worked by a neighbor. This yer young man tells
a straightfor’ard story, and there’s no
doubt of its bein’ his hoss. You’ve
no doubt on’t in your own mind, Dudley Peakslow.
If he goes to law, he’ll bring his proofs, he’s
got friends to back him, and you’ll
lose. Then why not come to a right understanding
and save right smart o’ trouble and cost.
I ’low that’ll be best for both.”
“Wal, what’s your idée
of a right understandin’?” said Peakslow,
flushed and troubled, turning to Jack. “My
hoss is in Chicago that is, if this
hoss ain’t mine. I might go in and see about
gittin’ on him back, but I don’t want
to spend the time, ‘thout I can take in a little
jag o’ stuff; and how can I do that, if you
break up my team?”
“Mr. Peakslow,” replied
Jack, quickly making up his mind what he would do,
“while I ask for my rights, I don’t wish
to put you or any man to an inconvenience.”
He took Snowfoot by the bridle. “Here is
my horse; and, with Mr. Wiggett for a witness, I make
you this offer: you may keep him one week, and
do any light work with him you please. You may
drive him to Chicago, and use him in recovering your
horse from the truckman. But mind, you are to
be responsible for him, and bring him back with you.
Is that a fair proposal?”
“Wal, I do’no’ but what ’t
is; I’ll think on ’t.”
“I want you to say now, in Mr.
Wiggett’s presence, whether you accept it.”
“I’ll agree to bring him
back; but I do’no’ ‘bout deliverin’
on him up to you,” said Peakslow.
“Leave it so, then,” replied
Jack, with a confident smile. “I call you
to witness, Mr. Wiggett, that the horse is in my possession
now” (he still held Snowfoot by the bridle),
“and that I lend him to Mr. Peakslow. Now
you can buckle the hames, Zeph,” letting go the
bridle, and stepping back.
“Gi’ me a copy o’
that handbill,” said Peakslow. “I
shall want that, and I ought to have a witness besides,
to make the truckman hear to reason.”
“If he happens to be an unreasonable
man,” said Jack, with a smile, “you have
the same remedy which I have, a suit for
damages. I don’t believe he will wait for
that. I’ll see you in one week. Good-day,
“Looks like you was takin’
a big resk, to let him drive the hoss to Chicago,”
Mr. Wiggett remarked confidentially, following Jack
out of the yard.
“I don’t see that it is,”
Jack replied, wiping the sweat from his forehead.
“I didn’t wish to be hard on him.
It does men good, sometimes, to trust them.”
“Mabbe. But Dud Peakslow
ain’t like no other man ye ever see. He’s
got some quirk in his head, or he never’d have
agreed to be responsible for the hoss and bring him
back; ye may bet on that. He means to take some
advantage. Now I’m interested in the case,
and I shall hate to see you swindled.”
Jack thanked the old man warmly; but
he failed to see what advantage Peakslow could hope
“I know him a heap better ’n
you dew,” said Mr. Wiggett. “Now,
it struck me, when he said he might need a witness,
I’d offer to go with him to Chicago. I
could help him with the truckman, and mabbe find out
what new trick he’s up tew. Anyhow, I could
look arter your hoss a little.”
“That would oblige me ever so
much!” exclaimed Jack. “But I see
no reason why you should take that trouble for me.”
“I take a notion tew ye, in
the fust place. Next place, I’ve been gwine
to Chicago for the past tew weeks, but couldn’t
somehow git started. Now, banged if I won’t
go in with Peakslow!”
Having parted with Jack, the old man returned to propose the
arrangement to his neighbor. He was just in time to hear Peakslow say to
“I see a twist in this matter
’t he don’t, shrewd as he thinks he is.
If I lose a good bargain, I’m bound to make
it up ’fore ever this hoss goes out of my hands.
You ag’in, Wiggett?”
It was Mr. Wiggett, who concluded
that he was quite right in saying that Peakslow had
a quirk in his head.