Cattle Brands: A Collection of Western Camp-Fire StoriesAndy Adams
Produced by Leah Moser and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
A Collection of Western Camp-fire Stories
TO MR. AND MRS. HENRY RUSSELL WRAY
I. DRIFTING NORTH
II. SEIGERMAN'S PER CENT
III. "BAD MEDICINE"
IV. A WINTER ROUND-UP
V. A COLLEGE VAGABOND
VI. THE DOUBLE TRAIL
VIII. AT COMANCHE FORD
IX. AROUND THE SPADE WAGON
X. THE RANSOM OF DON RAMON MORA
XI. THE PASSING OF PEG-LEG
XII. IN THE HANDS OF HIS FRIENDS
XIII. A QUESTION OF POSSESSION
XIV. THE STORY OF A POKER STEER
"The Passing of Peg-Leg" and "A Question of Possession" appearedoriginally in _Leslie's Monthly_, and are here reprinted by permissionof the publishers of that magazine.
] Bar X bar.
] Barb wire.
] Diamond tail.
] Johnson & Hosmer
] United States.
] Dead tree.
] Tin cup.
] Bar Z bar.
] Running W.
] Three circle.
] Two bars.
] Broken arrow.
] Four D.
] Turkey track.
] Owned by "Barbecue" Campbell.
] "Inspected and condemned."
] Flower pot.
] Frying pan.
] Laurel leaf.
] X bar two.
[Footnote 1: These three belong to the United States Government.]
It was a wet, bad year on the Old Western Trail. From Red River northand all along was herd after herd waterbound by high water in therivers. Our outfit lay over nearly a week on the South Canadian, butwe were not alone, for there were five other herds waiting for theriver to go down. This river had tumbled over her banks for severaldays, and the driftwood that was coming down would have made itdangerous swimming for cattle.
We were expected to arrive in Dodge early in June, but when we reachedthe North Fork of the Canadian, we were two weeks behind time.
Old George Carter, the owner of the herd, was growing very impatientabout us, for he had had no word from us after we had crossed RedRiver at Doan's crossing. Other cowmen lying around Dodge, who hadherds on the trail, could hear nothing from their men, but in theirexperience and confidence in their outfits guessed the cause--it waswater. Our surprise when we came opposite Camp Supply to have Carterand a stranger ride out to meet us was not to be measured. They hadgot impatient waiting, and had taken the mail buckboard to Supply,making inquiries along the route for the _Hat_ herd, which had notpassed up the trail, so they were assured. Carter was so impatientthat he could not wait, as he had a prospective buyer on his hands,and the delay in the appearing of the herd was very annoying to him.Old George was as tickled as a little boy to meet us all.
The cattle were looking as fine as silk. The lay-overs had restedthem. The horses were in good trim, considering the amount of wetweather we had had. Here and there was a nigger brand, but thesesaddle galls were unavoidable when using wet blankets. The cattle weretwos and threes. We had left western Texas with a few over thirty-twohundred head and were none shy. We could have counted out more, but onsome of them the Hat brand had possibly faded out. We went into acosy camp early in the evening. Everything needful was at hand, wood,water, and grass. Cowmen in those days prided themselves on theiroutfits, and Carter was a trifle gone on his men.
With the cattle on hand, drinking was out of the question, so the onlyway to show us any regard was to bring us a box of cigars. He musthave brought those cigars from Texas, for they were wrapped in a copyof the Fort Worth "Gazette." It was a month old and full of news.Every man in the outfit read and reread it. There were several trainrobberies reported in it, but that was common in those days. They hadnominated for Governor "The Little Cavalryman," Sol Ross, and thispaper estimated that his majority would be at least two hundredthousand. We were all anxious to get home in time to vote for him.
Theodore Baughman was foreman of our outfit. Baugh was a typicaltrail-boss. He had learned to take things as they came, play the cardsas they fell, and not fret himself about little things that could notbe helped. If we had been a month behind he would never have thoughtto explain the why or wherefore to old man Carter. Several years afterthis, when he was scouting for the army, he rode up to a herd over onthe Chisholm trail and asked one of the tail men: "Son, have youseen anything of about three hundred nigger soldiers?" "No," said thecowboy. "Well," said Baugh, "I've lost about that many."
That night around camp the smoke was curling upward from those cigarsin clouds. When supper was over and the guards arranged for the night,story-telling was in order. This cattle-buyer with us lived in KansasCity and gave us several good ones. He told us of an attempted robberyof a bank which had occurred a few days before in a western town. As aprelude to the tale, he gave us the history of the robbers.
"Cow Springs, Kansas," said he, "earned the reputation honestly ofbeing a hard cow-town. When it became the terminus of one of the manyeastern trails, it was at its worst. The death-rate amongst its citymarshals--always due to a six-shooter in the hands of some man whonever hesitated to use it--made the office not over desirable. Theoffice was vacated so frequently in this manner that at last no localman could be found who would have it. Then the city fathers sent toTexas for a man who had the reputation of being a killer. He kept hisrecord a vivid green by shooting first and asking questions afterward.
"Well, the first few months he filled the office of marshal he killedtwo white men and an Indian, and had the people thoroughly buffaloed.When the cattle season had ended and winter came on, the little towngrew tame and listless. There was no man to dare him to shoot, andhe longed for other worlds to conquer. He had won his way into publicconfidence with his little gun. But this confidence reposed in him wasmisplaced, for he proved his own double both in morals and courage.
"To show you the limit of the confidence he enjoyed: the treasurer ofthe Cherokee Strip Cattle Association paid rent money to that tribe,at their capital, fifty thousand dollars quarterly. The capital isnot located on any railroad; so the funds in currency were taken inregularly by the treasurer, and turned over to the tribal authorities.This trip was always made with secrecy, and the marshal was takenalong as a trusted guard. It was an extremely dangerous trip to make,as it was through a country infested with robbers and the capital atleast a hundred miles from the railroad. Strange no one ever attemptedto rob the stage or private conveyance, though this sum was taken inregularly for several years. The average robber was careful of hisperson, and could not be induced to make a target of himself for anymoney consideration, where there was danger of a gun in the hands of aman that would shoot rapidly and carelessly.
e herds began to reach as far north, the marshal and hisdeputy gave some excuse and disappeared for a few days, which wasquite common and caused no comment. One fine morning the good peopleof the town where the robbery was attempted were thrown into an uproarby shooting in their bank, just at the opening hour. The robbers werenone other than our trusted marshal, his deputy, and a cow-puncherwho had been led into the deal. When they ordered the officials ofthe bank to stand in a row with hands up, they were nonplused at theirrefusal to comply. The attacked party unearthed ugly looking guns andopened fire on the hold-ups instead.
"This proved bad policy, for when the smoke cleared away the cashier,a very popular man, was found dead, while an assistant was dangerouslywounded. The shooting, however, had aroused the town to the situation,and men were seen running to and fro with guns. This unexpectedrefusal and the consequent shooting spoiled the plans of the robbers,so that they abandoned the robbery and ran to their horses.
"After mounting they parleyed with each other a moment and seemedbewildered as to which way they should ride, finally riding southtoward what seemed a broken country. Very few minutes elapsed beforeevery man who could find a horse was joining the posse that wasforming to pursue them. Before they were out of sight the posse hadstarted after them. They were well mounted and as determined a set ofmen as were ever called upon to meet a similar emergency. They had thedecided advantage of the robbers, as their horses were fresh, and themen knew every foot of the country.
"The broken country to which the hold-ups headed was a delusion as faras safety was concerned. They were never for a moment out of sight ofthe pursuers, and this broken country ended in a deep coulee. Whenthe posse saw them enter this they knew that their capture was only amatter of time. Nature seemed against the robbers, for as they enteredthe coulee their horses bogged down in a springy rivulet, and theywere so hard pressed that they hastily dismounted, and sought shelterin some shrubbery that grew about. The pursuing party, now swollen toquite a number, had spread out and by this time surrounded the men.They were seen to take shelter in a clump of wild plum brush, and theposse closed in on them. Seeing the numbers against them, they cameout on demand and surrendered. Neither the posse nor themselves knewat this time that the shooting in the bank had killed the cashier.Less than an hour's time had elapsed between the shooting and thecapture. When the posse reached town on their return, they learned ofthe death of the cashier, and the identity of the prisoners was soonestablished by citizens who knew the marshal and his deputy. Thelatter admitted their identity.
"That afternoon they were photographed, and later in the day weregiven a chance to write to any friends to whom they wished to saygood-by. The cow-puncher was the only one who availed himself of theopportunity. He wrote to his parents. He was the only one of the triowho had the nerve to write, and seemed the only one who realized theenormity of his crime, and that he would never see the sun of anotherday.
"As darkness settled over the town, the mob assembled. There was nodemonstration. The men were taken quietly out and hanged. At the finalmoment there was a remarkable variety of nerve shown. The marshal anddeputy were limp, unable to stand on their feet. With piteous appealsand tears they pleaded for mercy, something they themselves had nevershown their own victims. The boy who had that day written his parentshis last letter met his fate with Indian stoicism. He cursed thecrouching figures of his pardners for enticing him into this crime,and begged them not to die like curs, but to meet bravely the fatewhich he admitted they all deserved. Several of the men in the mobcame forward and shook hands with him, and with no appeal to man orhis Maker, he was swung into the great Unknown at the end of a rope.Such nerve is seldom met in life, and those that are supposed to haveit, when they come face to face with their end, are found lackingthat quality. It is a common anomaly in life that the bad man withhis record often shows the white feather when he meets his fate at thehands of an outraged community."
We all took a friendly liking to the cattle-buyer. He was aninteresting talker. While he was a city man, he mixed with us witha certain freedom and abandon that was easy and natural. We allregretted it the next day when he and the old man left us.
"I've heard my father tell about those Cherokees," said Port Cole."They used to live in Georgia, those Indians. They must have beenhonest people, for my father told us boys at home, that once in theold State while the Cherokees lived there, his father hired one oftheir tribe to guide him over the mountains. There was a pass throughthe mountains that was used and known only to these Indians. It wouldtake six weeks to go and come, and to attend to the business in view.My father was a small boy at the time, and says that his father hiredthe guide for the entire trip for forty dollars in gold. One conditionwas that the money was to be paid in advance. The morning was set forthe start, and my grandfather took my father along on the trip.
"Before starting from the Indian's cabin my grandfather took out hispurse and paid the Indian four ten-dollar gold pieces. The Indianwalked over to the corner of the cabin, and in the presence of otherIndians laid this gold, in plain sight of all, on the end of a logthat projected where they cross outside, and got on his horse to begone six weeks. They made the trip on time, and my father said hisfirst thought, on their return to the Indian village, was to see ifthe money was untouched. It was. You couldn't risk white folks thatway."
"Oh, I don't know," said one of the boys. "Suppose you save your wagesthis summer and try it next year when we start up the trail, just tosee how it will work."
"Well, if it's just the same to you," replied Port, lighting a freshcigar, "I'll not try, for I'm well enough satisfied as to how it wouldturn out, without testing it."
"Isn't it strange," said Bat Shaw, "that if you trust a man or putconfidence in him he won't betray you. Now, that marshal--one monthhe was guarding money at the risk of his life, and the next was losinghis life trying to rob some one. I remember a similar case down onthe Rio Grande. It was during the boom in sheep a few years ago, whenevery one got crazy over sheep.
"A couple of Americans came down on the river to buy sheep. Theybrought their money with them. It was before the time of anyrailroads. The man they deposited their money with had lived amongstthese Mexicans till he had forgotten where he did belong, though hewas a Yankee. These sheep-buyers asked their banker to get them a manwho spoke Spanish and knew the country, as a guide. The banker sentand got a man that he could trust. He was a swarthy-looking nativewhose appearance would not recommend him anywhere. He was accepted,and they set out to be gone over a month.
"They bought a band of sheep, and it was necessary to pay for themat a point some forty miles further up the river. There had been somerobbing along the river, and these men felt uneasy about carryingthe money to this place to pay for the sheep. The banker came to therescue by advising them to send the money by the Mexican, who couldtake it through in a single night. No one would ever suspect him ofever having a dollar on his person. It looked risky, but the bankerwho knew the nature of the native urged it as the better way, assuringthem that the Mexican was perfectly trustworthy. The peon was broughtin, the situation was explained to him, and he was ordered to be inreadiness at nightfall to start on his errand.
"He carried the money over forty miles that night, and delivered itsafely in the morning to the proper parties. This act of his arousedthe admiration of these sheep men beyond a point of safety. They paidfor the sheep, were gone for a few months, sold out their flocks togood advantage, and came back to buy more. This second time they didnot take the precaution to have the banker hire the man, but did sothemselves, intending to deposit their money with a different housefarther up the river. They confided to him that they had quite asum of money with them, and that they would deposit it with the samemerchant to whom he had carried the money before. The first night theycamped the Mexican murdered them both, took the money, and crossedinto Mexico. He hid their bodies, and it was months before they weremissed, and a year before their bones were found. He had plentyof time to go to the end
s of the earth before his crime would bediscovered.
"Now that Mexican would never think of betraying the banker, his oldfriend and patron, his _muy bueno amigo_. There were obligations thathe could not think of breaking with the banker; but these fool sheepmen, supposing it was simple honesty, paid the penalty of theirconfidence with their lives. Now, when he rode over this same roadalone, a few months before, with over five thousand dollars in moneybelonging to these same men, all he would need to have done was toride across the river. When there were no obligations binding, he waswilling to add murder to robbery. Some folks say that Mexicans aregood people; it is the climate, possibly, but they can always bedepended on to assay high in treachery."
"What guard are you going to put me on to-night?" inquired old manCarter of Baugh.
"This outfit," said Baugh, in reply, "don't allow any tenderfootaround the cattle,--at night, at least. You'd better play you'recompany; somebody that's come. If you're so very anxious to dosomething, the cook may let you rustle wood or carry water. We'll fixyou up a bed after a little, and see that you get into it where youcan sleep and be harmless.
"Colonel," added Baugh, "why is it that you never tell that experienceyou had once amongst the greasers?"
"Well, there was nothing funny in it to me," said Carter, "and theysay I never tell it twice alike."
"Why, certainly, tell us," said the cattle-buyer. "I've never heardit. Don't throw off to-night."
"It was a good many years ago," began old man George, "but theincident is very clear in my mind. I was working for a month's wagesthen myself. We were driving cattle out of Mexico. The people Iwas working for contracted for a herd down in Chihuahua, about fourhundred miles south of El Paso. We sent in our own outfit, wagon,horses, and men, two weeks before. I was kept behind to take in thefunds to pay for the cattle. The day before I started, my people drewout of the bank twenty-eight thousand dollars, mostly large bills.They wired ahead and engaged a rig to take me from the station where Ileft the railroad to the ranch, something like ninety miles.
"I remember I bought a new mole-skin suit, which was very popularabout then. I had nothing but a small hand-bag, and it contained onlya six-shooter. I bought a book to read on the train and on the roadout, called 'Other People's Money.' The title caught my fancy, and itwas very interesting. It was written by a Frenchman,--full of loveand thrilling situations. I had the money belted on me securely, andstarted out with flying colors. The railroad runs through a drearycountry, not worth a second look, so I read my new book. When Iarrived at the station I found the conveyance awaiting me. The planwas to drive halfway, and stay over night at a certain hacienda.
"The driver insisted on starting at once, telling me that we couldreach the Hacienda Grande by ten o'clock that night, which would behalf my journey. We had a double-seated buckboard and covered thecountry rapidly. There were two Mexicans on the front seat, while Ihad the rear one all to myself. Once on the road I interested myselfin 'Other People's Money,' almost forgetful of the fact that at thatvery time I had enough of other people's money on my person to set allthe bandits in Mexico on my trail. There was nothing of incident thatevening, until an hour before sundown. We reached a small ranchito,where we spent an hour changing horses, had coffee and a rather lightlunch.
"Before leaving I noticed a Pinto horse hitched to a tree somedistance in the rear of the house, and as we were expecting to buy anumber of horses, I walked back and looked this one carefully over.He was very peculiarly color-marked in the mane. I inquired for hisowner, but they told me that he was not about at present. It wasgrowing dusk when we started out again. The evening was warm andsultry and threatening rain. We had been on our way about an hourwhen I realized we had left the main road and were bumping along on aby-road. I asked the driver his reason for this, and he explained thatit was a cut-off, and that by taking it we would save three miles andhalf an hour's time. As a further reason he expressed his opinion thatwe would have rain that night, and that he was anxious to reach thehacienda in good time. I encouraged him to drive faster, which he did.Within another hour I noticed we were going down a dry arroyo, withmesquite brush on both sides of the road, which was little better thana trail. My suspicions were never aroused sufficiently to open thelittle hand-bag and belt on the six-shooter. I was dreaming alongwhen we came to a sudden stop before what seemed a deserted jacal.The Mexicans mumbled something to each other over some disappointment,when the driver said to me:--
"'Here's where we stay all night. This is the hacienda.' They both gotout and insisted on my getting out, but I refused to do so. I reacheddown and picked up my little grip and was in the act of opening it,when one of them grabbed my arm and jerked me out of the seat to theground. I realized then for the first time that I was in for it inearnest. I never knew before that I could put up such a fine defense,for inside a minute I had them both blinded in their own blood. Igathered up rocks and had them flying when I heard a clatter of hoofscoming down the arroyo like a squadron of cavalry. They were so closeon to me that I took to the brush, without hat, coat, or pistol. Menthat pack a gun all their lives never have it when they need it; thatwas exactly my fix. Darkness was in my favor, but I had no more ideawhere I was or which way I was going than a baby. One thing sure, Iwas trying to get away from there as fast as I could. The night wasterribly dark, and about ten o'clock it began to rain a deluge. I keptgoing all night, but must have been circling.
"Towards morning I came to an arroyo which was running full of water.My idea was to get that between me and the scene of my trouble, soI took off my boots to wade it. When about one third way across, Ieither stepped off a bluff bank or into a well, for I went under anddropped the boots. When I came to the surface I made a few strokesswimming and landed in a clump of mesquite brush, to which I clung,got on my feet, and waded out to the opposite bank more scared thanhurt. Right there I lay until daybreak.
"The thing that I remember best now was the peculiar odor of the wetmole-skin. If there had been a strolling artist about looking fora picture of Despair, I certainly would have filled the bill. Thesleeves were torn out of my shirt, and my face and arms were scratchedand bleeding from the thorns of the mesquite. No one who could haveseen me then would ever have dreamed that I was a walking depositaryof 'Other People's Money.' When it got good daylight I started outand kept the shelter of the brush to hide me. After nearly an hour'stravel, I came out on a divide, and about a mile off I saw what lookedlike a jacal. Directly I noticed a smoke arise, and I knew then it wasa habitation. My appearance was not what I desired, but I approachedit.
"In answer to my knock at the door a woman opened it about two inchesand seemed to be more interested in examination of my anatomy than inlistening to my troubles. After I had made an earnest sincere talk sheasked me, 'No estay loco tu?' I assured her that I was perfectly sane,and that all I needed was food and clothing, for which I would pay herwell. It must have been my appearance that aroused her sympathy, forshe admitted me and fed me.
"The woman had a little girl of probably ten years of age. This littlegirl brought me water to wash myself, while the mother prepared mesomething to eat. I was so anxious to pay these people that I found afive-dollar gold piece in one of my pockets and gave it to the littlegirl, who in turn gave it to her mother. While I was drinking thecoffee and eating my breakfast, the woman saw me looking at a pictureof the Virgin Mary which was hanging on the adobe wall opposite me.She asked me if I was a Catholic, which I admitted. Then she broughtout a shirt and offered it to me.
"Suddenly the barking of a dog attracted her to the door. She returnedbreathless, and said in good Spanish: 'For God's sake, run! Fly! Don'tlet my husband and brother catch you here, for they are coming home.'She thrust the shirt into my hand and pointed out the direction inwhich I should go. From a concealed point of the brush I saw two menride up to the jacal and dismount. One of them was riding the Pintohorse I had seen the day before.
"I kept the brush for an hour or so, and finally came out on the mesa.Here
I found a flock of sheep and a pastore. From this shepherd Ilearned that I was about ten miles from the main road. He tookthe sandals from his own feet and fastened them on mine, gave medirections, and about night I reached the hacienda, where I was kindlyreceived and cared for. This ranchero sent after officers and had thecountry scoured for the robbers. I was detained nearly a week, to seeif I could identify my drivers, without result. They even brought inthe owner of the Pinto horse, and no doubt husband of the woman whosaved my life.
"After a week's time I joined our own outfit, and I never heard alanguage that sounded so sweet as the English of my own tongue. Iwould have gone back and testified against the owner of the spottedhorse if it hadn't been for a woman and a little girl who depended onhim, robber that he was."
"Now, girls," said Baugh, addressing Carter and the stranger, "I'vemade you a bed out of the wagon-sheet, and rustled a few blanketsfrom the boys. You'll find the bed under the wagon-tongue, and we'vestretched a fly over it to keep the dew off you, besides addingprivacy to your apartments. So you can turn in when you run out ofstories or get sleepy."
"Haven't you got one for us?" inquired the cattle-buyer of Baugh."This is no time to throw off, or refuse to be sociable."
"Well, now, that bank robbery that you were telling the boys about,"said Baugh, as he bit the tip from a fresh cigar, "reminds me of ahold-up that I was in up in the San Juan mining country in Colorado.We had driven into that mining camp a small bunch of beef and hadsold them to fine advantage. The outfit had gone back, and I remainedbehind to collect for the cattle, expecting to take the stage andovertake the outfit down on the river. I had neglected to book mypassage in advance, so when the stage was ready to start I had tocontent myself with a seat on top. I don't remember the amount ofmoney I had. It was the proceeds of something like one hundred andfifty beeves, in a small bag along of some old clothes. There wasn't acent of it mine, still I was supposed to look after it.
"The driver answered to the name of South-Paw, drove six horses, andwe had a jolly crowd on top. Near midnight we were swinging along, andas we rounded a turn in the road, we noticed a flickering light aheadsome distance which looked like the embers of a camp-fire. As we camenearly opposite the light, the leaders shied at some object in theroad in front of them. South-Paw uncurled his whip, and was in the actof pouring the leather into them, when that light was uncovered as bigas the head-light of an engine. An empty five-gallon oil-can had beencut in half and used as a reflector, throwing full light into theroad sufficient to cover the entire coach. Then came a round oforders which meant business. 'Shoot them leaders if they cross thatobstruction!' 'Kill any one that gets off on the opposite side!''Driver, move up a few feet farther!' 'A few feet farther, please.''That'll do; thank you, sir.' 'Now, every son-of-a-horse-thief, getout on this side of the coach, please, and be quick about it!'
"The man giving these orders stood a few feet behind the lamp andout of sight, but the muzzle of a Winchester was plainly visible andseemed to cover every man on the stage. It is needless to say that weobeyed, got down in the full glare of the light, and lined up withour backs to the robber, hands in the air. There was a heavily veiledwoman on the stage, whom he begged to hold the light for him, assuringher that he never robbed a woman. This veiled person disappeared atthe time, and was supposed to have been a confederate. When the lightwas held for him, he drew a black cap over each one of us, searchingeverybody for weapons. Then he proceeded to rob us, and at last wentthrough the mail. It took him over an hour to do the job; he seemed inno hurry.
"It was not known what he got out of the mail, but the passengersyielded about nine hundred revenue to him, while there was three timesthat amount on top the coach in my grip, wrapped in a dirty flannelshirt. When he disappeared we were the cheapest lot of men imaginable.It was amusing to hear the excuses, threats, and the like; but thefact remained the same, that a dozen of us had been robbed by a lonehighwayman. I felt good over it, as the money in the grip had beenoverlooked.
"Well, we cleared out the obstruction in the road, and got aboard thecoach once more. About four o'clock in the morning we arrived at ourdestination, only two hours late. In the hotel office where the stagestopped was the very man who had robbed us. He had got in an hourahead of us, and was a very much interested listener to the incidentas retold. There was an early train out of town that morning, and ata place where they stopped for breakfast he sat at the table withseveral drummers who were in the hold-up, a most attentive listener.
"He was captured the same day. He had hired a horse out of a liverystable the day before, to ride out to look at a ranch he thought ofbuying. The liveryman noticed that he limped slightly. He had collidedwith lead in Texas, as was learned afterward. The horse which had beenhired to the ranch-buyer of the day before was returned to the corralof the livery barn at an unknown hour during the night, and suspicionsettled on the lame man. When he got off the train at Pueblo, hewalked into the arms of officers. The limp had marked him clearly.
"In a grip which he carried were a number of sacks, which he supposedcontained gold dust, but held only taulk on its way to assayers inDenver. These he had gotten out of the express the night before,supposing they were valuable. We were all detained as witnesses. Hewas tried for robbing the mails, and was the coolest man in the courtroom. He was a tall, awkward-looking fellow, light complexioned, witha mild blue eye. His voice, when not disguised, would mark him amongsta thousand men. It was peculiarly mild and soft, and would lure a babefrom its mother's arms.
"At the trial he never tried to hide his past, and you couldn't helpliking the fellow for his frank answers.
"'Were you ever charged with any crime before?' asked the prosecution.'If so, when and where?'
"'Yes,' said the prisoner, 'in Texas, for robbing the mails in '77.'
"'What was the result?' continued the prosecution.
"'They sent me over the road for ninety-nine years.'
"'Then how does it come that you are at liberty?' quizzed theattorney.
"'Well, you see the President of the United States at that time wasa warm personal friend of mine, though we had drifted apart somewhat.When he learned that the Federal authorities had interfered with myliberties, he pardoned me out instantly.'
"'What did you do then?' asked the attorney.
"'Well, I went back to Texas, and was attending to my own business,when I got into a little trouble and had to kill a man. Lawyers downthere won't do anything for you without you have money, and as Ididn't have any for them, I came up to this country to try and make anhonest dollar.'
"He went over the road a second time, and wasn't in the Federal prisona year before he was released through influence. Prison walls werenever made to hold as cool a rascal as he was. Have you a match?"
* * * * *
It was an ideal night. Millions of stars flecked the sky overhead.No one seemed willing to sleep. We had heard the evening gun and thetrumpets sounding tattoo over at the fort, but their warnings of theclosing day were not for us. The guards changed, the cattle sleepinglike babes in a trundle-bed. Finally one by one the boys sought theirblankets, while sleep and night wrapped these children of the plainsin her arms.