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Transcriber notes:For the benefit of certain readers, explanatory names have been added tosome illustration tags and these have been identified with an asterisk.
A list of contents was not in the original book and has been added.
THE BUSTED EX-TEXANAND OTHER STORIES
W. H. H. MURRAY
W. H. H. Murray]
W. H. H. MURRAY
AUTHOR OF "DAYLIGHT LAND," "THE STORY THE KEG TOLD ME,""ADIRONDACK ADVENTURES," ETC.
PHOTOGRAVURE PORTRAIT AND EIGHT FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONSBY THOS. WORTH.
BOSTONDE WOLFE, FISKE & CO., PUBLISHERS1890
COPYRIGHT 1889 BY W. H. H. MURRAY.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
The Busted Ex-Texan
How Deacon Tubman And Parson Whitney Celebrated New Year's.
The Leaf Of Red Rose
I. "I AM A BUSTED EX-TEXAN."
II. "PRACTICALLY INSIDE THE PAIL."
III. "AND WHEN I CAME DOWN."
IV. "LAY ABOARD OF THE OLD CUSS."
V. "LUFF HER UP--LUFF HER UP."
VI. THE DEACON AND PARSON.
VII. THE RACE.
VIII. THE FIRST PRIZE FOR THE _Wickedest Cow_.
THE BUSTED EX-TEXAN.
THE BUSTED EX-TEXAN.
We were camped amid the foot-hills on the trail which led up to theKicking Horse Pass. The sun had already passed from sight, beyond thewhite summits above us, and the shadow of the monstrous mountain rangedarkened the prairie to the east, to the horizon's rim. Our bivouac wasmade in a grove of lofty firs, six or eight in number; and a littlerivulet, trickling from the upper slopes, fell, with soft, lapsingsound, within a few feet of our camp-fire. We did not even pitch a tent,for the sky was mild, and above us the monstrous trees lifted theirprotecting canopy of stems. The hammocks were swung for the ladies, andeach gentleman "preempted" the claim that suited him best, by depositinghis blanket and rifle upon it. The entire party were in the best ofspirits, and nature responded to our happiness in its kindest mood.Laughter sounded pleasantly at intervals from the busy groups, eachworking at some self-appointed industry. The hum of cheerfulconversation mingled with the murmurs of the brook; and now and then thesnatch of some sweet song would break from tuneful lips, brief,spirited, melodious as a bobolink's, dashing upward from theclover-heads. And before the mighty shadow lying gloomily on the greatprairie plain, which stretched eastward for a thousand miles, had grownto darkness, the active, happy workers had given to the bivouac thatlook of designed orderliness which a trained party always give to anyspot they select in which to make a camp or pass a night. An hourbefore, there was nothing to distinguish that grove of trees, or theground beneath them, from any other spot or hill within the reach ofeye. But now it commanded the landscape; and, had you been trailingover the vast plain, the bright firelight, the group of men and womenmoving to and fro, the picketed horses, the fluttering bits of colorhere and there, would have caught your gaze ten miles away; and were youtired or hungry, or even lonesome, you would have naturally turned yourhorse's head toward that camp as toward a cheerful reception and a home;for wherever is happy human life, to it all lonely life is drawn as by amagnet.
And this was demonstrated by our experience then and there. For,scarcely had we done with supper,--and by this time the gloom had grownto darkness, and the half-light of evening held the landscape,--when outof the semi-gloom there came a call,--the call of a man hailing a camp.Indeed, we were not sure he had not hailed several times before we heardhim; for, to tell the truth, we were a very merry crowd, and as light ofheart as if there was not a worry or care in all the world,--at leastfor us,--and the smallest spark of a joke exploded us like a battery.Indeed, so rollicking was our mood that our laughter was nearlycontinuous, and it is quite possible that the stranger may have hailedus more than once without our hearing him. And this was the more likelybecause the man's voice was not of the loudest, nor was it positive inthe energy of its appeal.
Indeed, there was a certain feebleness or timidity in the stranger'shail, as if he was mistrustful that any good fortune could respond tohim, and, hence, deprecated the necessity of the resort. But hear him wedid at last, and he was greeted with a chorus of voices to "Come in!Come in! You're welcome!" And partly because we had finished our repast,and partly from courtesy and the natural promptings of gentlefolk togive a visitor courteous greeting, we all arose and received himstanding. And, certainly, had the kindly act been unusual with us, notone of our group would have regretted the extra condescension bestowedupon him at his coming, after he had entered the circle of ourfirelight, and we saw the expression of his features.
What a mirror the human face is! Looking into it, how we behold thesoul, the accidents that have befallen it and the disappointments it hasborne! Are not the faces of men as carved tablets on which we read therecords of their lives? The face of childhood is smoothly beautiful,like a white page on which neither with ink of red or black has any pendrawn character. But, as the years go on, the pen begins to move and thefatal tracery to grow,--that tracery which means and tells so much. Andthe face of this man,--this waif, so to speak,--this waif that had cometo us from the stretch of the prairie, whose southern line is thesouthern gulf; this stranger, who had come so suddenly to the circle ofour light, and so plaintively sought admission to its comfort and itscheer, was a face which one might read at a glance. Not one in ourcircle that did not instantly feel that he embodied some overwhelmingcalamity. A look of sadness, of a mild, continuous sorrow, overspreadhis face. There was a pitiful expression about the mouth, as if bravedetermination had withdrawn its lines from it forever. From his eyes acertain mistrustfulness looked forth,--not mistrustfulness of others,but of himself,--as if confidence in his own powers had received anoverwhelming shock. The man's appearance made an instant andunmistakable impression upon the entire company. The ladies--God blesstheir sweet and sympathetic natures!--were profoundly moved at thepitiful aspect of our guest. Their bosoms thrilled with sympathy for oneupon whose devoted head evil fortune had so evidently emptied itsquiver. Nor were our less sensitive masculine natures untouched by hisforlorn appearance.
"A target for evil fortune," whispered Dick to the major.
"A regular bull's-eye!" was the solemn response. "A bull's-eye, by gad!at the end of the score."
It was not a poetic expression. I wish the reader to note that I do notrecord it as such. I only preserve it as evidence of the major'shumanity, and of the unaffected sympathy for the stranger, which at thatmoment filled all hearts.
Naturally, as it can well be imagined, the gayety of our company hadbeen utterly checked by the coming of our sad guest. In the presence ofsuch a wreck of human happiness, perhaps of human hope, what person ofany sensibility could maintain a lightsome mood? Had it not been for onepeculiarity,--a peculiarity, I am confident, all of us observed,--thedepression of our spirits would have been as profound as it wasuniversal. This peculiarity was the stranger's appetite. This,fortunately, had remained unimpaired,--an oasis in the Sahara of hislife.
"The one remnant left him from the wreck of his fortunes," whisperedDick.
"A perfect remnant!" returned the major, sententiously.
For myself, acting as host to this appetite, and being natu
rally of aphilosophic turn, I watched its development with the keenest interest,not to say with a growing curiosity. "Here is something," I said tomyself, "that is unique. That fine law of recompense which is kindlydistributed through the universe finds here," I reflected, "a mostinstructive and conclusive demonstration. Robbed, by an adverse fate, ofall that made life agreeable, this man, this pilgrim of time, thiswayfarer to eternity, this companion of mine on the road of life, hashad bestowed upon him an extraordinary solace, has been permitted toretain a commensurate satisfaction. Surely, life cannot have lost itsattractions for one whose stomach still preserves such aspirations."And, prompted by the benevolence of my mood, and the anticipations of awise forecast, I collected in front of me whatever edibles remained onthe table, that, if the supply of our hospitality should proveinsufficient, the exhibition of its spirit should at least beconclusive.
But, if the countenance of the stranger was of a most melancholy