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Title: Bearly Reasonable

Author: W. C. Tuttle

Release date: August 9, 2021 [eBook #66024]

Language: English

Original publication: United States: The Ridgway Company, 1917

Credits: Roger Frank and Sue Clark


Bearly Reasonable

by W. C. Tuttle
Author of “Magpie, Diplomat,” and “Sixteen to One on Friday,” etc.

“Ike,” sez Magpie Simpkins, pointin’ down th’ trail, “th’ feller what said, ‘Th’ worst is yet to come,’ must ’a’ meant that outfit comin’ our way.”

I takes uh good look and agrees. In th’ lead is Ricky Henderson, on his calico bronc, and behind him is three figgers on burrows. Th’ leadin’ one looks like uh cross between uh Holy Roller proselyte and uh fence picket. Th’ legs of th’ critter is bent back at th’ knees to keep its feet off th’ ground, an th’ rest of its body ’pears to have been soaked in starch before it seasoned.

It’s wearin’ uh swaller-tailed coat, buttoned at th’ top, makin’ it swell in th’ breeze like th’ wings of uh turkey-buzzard, and th’ peaked, side-whiskered face which bobs at th’ top is crowned with uh hard hat. It is also wearin’ black-rimmed specs, and enough black ribbon floats from th’ top to furnish mournin’ fer uh wake.

Th’ next in line is uh fe-male person, and uh glance shows that she ain’t built fer neither speed nor comfort. Th’ pore li’l burrow she’s ridin’ is wig-waggin’ uh distress signal with its ears, and threatens to cave in at th’ knees in uh short time.

Th’ next in line is one uh them human carbuncles. He’s so danged fat that his clothes ache, and he has to lift his yaller eyebrows plumb to th’ top of his bald head to git his eyes open. When I first sees his face I’m inclined to git th’ skin of uh aig to put on it and draw it to uh head.

Behind this caravan loiters five burros and they’re so danged loaded down with plunder that all yuh can see is their ears. While me and Magpie stands on th’ steps of our cabin, at th’ Silver Threads mine, this aggregation peerades to uh standstill before us, and that she-packin’ burro hee-haws with relief.

“Here we are,” states Ricky, turnin’ in his saddle and grinnin’ at his followers.

“Thank goodness!” snorts th’ fe-male. “I feel that I’m jolted to a shadow. Shall we dismount?”

“Ricky, yuh might make us used to yore friends, and tell us why you terminates th’ peerade at this point,” sez Magpie.

“This person,” sez Ricky, pointin’ at th’ lean critter, “is Perfessor Phinney. Th’ lady is his wife, and this here robust party is Doctor Doolittle. They’re from th’ East—” and then he turns to them:

“Ladies and gentlemen, this slender party with th’ hairy upper lip is Magpie Simpkins, and th’ bow-legged party beside him is Ike Harper, his mate. Now that yo’re properly introduced I’ll pilgrim back. Au revoir.

“Yuh will—in uh hearse,” snaps Magpie. “Come back here, yuh blamed coyote and explain why yuh shirks yore duty. What’s th’ great idea?”

“My duty is done,” states Ricky. “These here persons desire to hire competent persons so I brings’ em up here. Every man in Piperock holds up their hands and swears that they ain’t competent, so what could I do? You and Ike shore must be. I reckon th’ perfessor can tell yuh what he wants, Magpie. I hates to deprive yuh of my company, but I’m uh right busy man.”

“No depravity, Ricky,” sez Magpie. “Run right along home.”

And then he turns to th’ outfit. Th’ three of ’em are off their mounts, and busy rubbin’ th’ circulation back into their legs. I feels that th’ perfessor has some chore, ’cause he has quite uh strip uh country to hear from.

“I—er—shall try and explain in a few words,” sez th’ perfessor, peekin’ at us over th’ tops of his specs. “I am up here to settle an argument between myself and Professor Manning. Isn’t it queer what an argument between friends will bring forth?”

“Uh-huh,” agrees Magpie. “She shore is. I’ve knowed six good men to git killed on th’ spot, four more in th’ pen, and dozens who have been crippled fer life over friendly arguments.”

“How unique!” exclaims th’ perfessor’s heavier half. “How unique.”

“Yes’m,” agrees Magpie, “two of ’em was, but th’ rest was jist common ordinary arguments.”

“As I was—er—saying,” continues th’ perfessor, “I am up here to settle a friendly argument.”

“Th’ question is?” asks Magpie.

“Do rattlesnakes and prairie-dogs live together in harmony, and will a female grizzly recognize its own offspring after it has been away from, it for twenty-four hours.”

“That’s uh —— of uh reason fer comin’ way up here!” snorts Magpie.

“Why didn’t yuh write to me? I’d ’a’ told yuh.”

“That’s what I said,” cuts in th’ human carbuncle. “When you told me about it I——”

“Doctor,” pipes th’ perfessor, “there’s no use arguing with me. This is a serious question. Professor Manning’s theory is wrong, and I am going to prove it.”

“Yuh can’t prove nothin’ by uh rattler,” objects Magpie. “Also, yuh got uh sweet chore on yore hands when yuh tries to git uh female grizzly to let yuh take its cub and——”

“Can’t I believe my own eyes?” wails th’ ol’ pelican. “Can’t I see these things?”

“My husband, being a scientist, is very observing,” states Mrs. Perfessor.

“Also set in his ways,” states th’ doc, lightin’ one uh them dude cigarets, which smells like th’ place where uh circus has jist moved away. “All I hope is that I get some good shooting.”

“If th’ perfessor interviews uh fe-male grizzly and fambly, yuh shore stand uh good chance uh gittin’ yore wish,” sez I. “Unpack them long-sufferin’ jackasses and make yoreself to home. Th’ hills is yours.”

“Unpack?” asks th’ perfessor. “Do you mean to remove the impedimenta from the backs of our beasts of burden?”

“Bein’ funny is a art,” states Magpie, “but art ain’t appreciated here in th’ hills. Jist take th’ plunder off them canaries, and settle down.”

“But, my man, that’s your duty. That’s part of what I’m paying you for.”

Magpie looks foolish like at me and then back at th’ perfessor. Th’ doc lifts his eyebrows to th’ eaves of his face and manages to wiggle one eyelid until uh person would almost admit it was uh wink.

“Perfessor,” sez Magpie, “I ain’t yore man. I never seen yuh before, and I ain’t worryin’ about yuh in th’ future. I never hired out to yuh, and I ain’t acquainted with yore rollin’ stock to th’ extent that I wishes to remove their loads. Who wished yuh on to us anyway and why?”

Th’ perfessor removes his hard hat and squints at Magpie.

“The—er—person who brought us up here informed me that you were perfectly competent. Was we misinformed?”

“Misinformed? No, ol’-timer, you was lied to. Sabe?”

“Th’ fact of th’ matter is this,” states th’ doc. “Professor Phinney wants to engage the services of you and Mister Harper. He is willing to pay you a reasonable amount for your services, and is also able to offer a substantial bonus in case you can help him prove or disprove his contention. Am I right, Professor?”

“Yeaus,” drawls th’ ol’ coot.

He’s uh funny ol’ rooster. He allus sez “Yeaus” instead uh “Uh-huh.” I don’t reckon he ever figgered that th’ Lord only give him one set uh vocal cords, or else he didn’t care if he did wear ’em out early in life. Every danged word he orates sounds like th’ letters had been carved out uh granite, and he was afraid to let ’em all fall to oncet fer fear some of ’em might git scratched or busted.

“Yuh might explain th’ bonus part,” sez Magpie.

“You see,” sez th’ perfessor, “for my own personal satisfaction I would observe the home life of the rattlesnake and prairie-dog, but the most important is the test of the maternal instinct in the grizzly bear.

“I shall expect you to furnish me with the opportunity to carry out this experiment to a satisfactory conclusion, and in case you can do so to my satisfaction, I am willing to remunerate you to the extent of two hundred dollars each. Of course I am prepared to pay you each five dollars per day. Do you feel competent to assist me?”

Magpie sticks his thumbs into his belt, shifts his weight on to one leg, and squints at them burros.

“Ike,” sez he, “remove th’—er—imped— imped—th’ packs off them beasts uh burden.”

And then to th’ perfessor:

“Competent is my middle name. When it comes to th’ maternal instinct of grizzly bears I feels as competent as uh hungry coyote in uh herd uh sick sheep. Ike is a authority on snakes and gophers, so between us I reckon you’ll git enough material to last yuh a lifetime. What do yuh know about grizzlies?”

“Nothing at all,” sez th’ perfessor. “I fear that I wouldn’t know one if I were to meet it. I’ll admit it was a foolish argument, when neither Professor Manning nor myself are at all familiar with natural history, but it is things like this that lend zest to life. Am I right, Mister Simpson?”

“Simpkins,” sez Magpie. “Uh-huh, I reckon it does. Yessir, I’d shore agree that it might. But, Perfessor, if I was in yore place, not bein’ familiar with grizzlies, I’d shore side-step anythin’ I met that wasn’t familiar. There’s one redeemin’ feature about uh grizzly—he don’t stop to argue. One or two uh them square-heads would put enough zest in uh man’s life to keep him supplied fer right smart of uh time.”

Well, that shore was some outfit. Them packs looks like uh travelin’ banquet. There’s three foldin’ bunks, sleepin’ bags, rubber bathtubs and most everything that uh man can’t use in th’ hills. Also there is enough fancy grub to feed uh roundup. I manages to git them things off th’ jacks, and Magpie comes over and looks ’em over.

“My Gawd,” sez he. “This is th’ limit, hammered to uh sharp point. What’ll we do with ’em, Ike?”

“Yore uh competent,” sez I. “Don’t ask me what to do, Magpie Simpson. Is th’ perfessor’s squaw goin’ to git supper?”

“She is not, and yuh might call me by my right name. Th’ perfessor sez that he was informed by Mister Henderson that Mister Harper is th’ best culinary artist in th’ State. Uh culinary artist is uh polite name fer uh bull cook, Ike.”

“Sounds re-fined, anyway,” I agrees. “But some uh these day’s I’m goin’ to git my meat-hooks on Ricky Henderson, and there’s goin’ to be sorrow in th’ Henderson tribe. Culinary artist ——! Can’t th’ doctor cook?”

“Th’ doctor can’t do nothin’, Ike. He informs me that th’ one ambition in life is to hit somethin’ with his shotgun. Sez he never had and never expects to, but he’s game to keep on tryin’.”

Pretty soon th’ doc comes down from th’ cabin, and sets down on one of th’ packs. He dusts th’ end of uh cigaret on his hand, and grins at me and Magpie.

“Some outfit, eh?” he sez. “What do yuh think of it?”

“Well,” sez Magpie, “I knowed uh feller oncet what got hung fer sayin’ what he thought, so with this one short remark I’ll close—awful!”

“Exactly,” agrees th’ doc, explodin’ uh cloud uh smoke that would asphyxiate uh gila monster. “I quite agrees with you. You see th’ professor has a lot more money than any ordinary professor ought to have and if he wishes to spend it on a proposition like this it’s none of our funeral.”

“Th’ first part of yore oration sounds sensible,” sez Magpie, “but th’ last line ain’t exactly true. Knowin’ th’ natcheral disposition of uh fe-male grizzly, I’d say that it might be our funeral. Jist because we’re merely accessories to th’ fact don’t affect th’ gray matter in th’ skull of uh she-grizzly.

“All men looks alike to her. Mebby she’d shy at th’ perfessor, but I’m bettin’ that uh rear view of th’ ol’ boy goin’ up uh tree or doin’ th’ vanishin’ act over uh hill might fool uh mad grizzly into thinkin’ she was chasin’ uh real, honest-to-grandma man. Uh course she’d find out her mistake, but by that time it’s too late to rectify it. No self-respectin’ rattler’d bite him, either, but yuh got to figger that nobody ever met uh self-respectin’ rattler. No, sir, I reckon we got to close-herd th’ perfessor.”

“I’d be there with my shotgun,” grins th’ doc. “Mebby I could hit uh bear with it. That would be some satisfaction.”

“And it wouldn’t bother th’ bear,” sez I. “If yuh feels like tryin’ out that two-tunneled spray-weapon on uh bear, take this advice: Try one barrel on th’ bear and th’ other on yoreself. Mebby it’s jist uh li’l out uh place fer uh stranger to tell uh feller how to pass out uh this here vale uh tears, but uh scatter-gun don’t compare with uh grizzly when it comes to messy-lookin’ corpses. Them animiles shore do admire to take yuh apart.”

I cooked supper that night. One thing in my favor was th’ fact that th’ perfessor’s wife is too hungry and tired to make any suggestions. I ain’t no dog-gone French cook, but I shore hates to have uh fe-male person tell me how to cook beans. We worries through supper without no casualties, and after we gits through, Mrs. Per-fessor goes to bed on my bunk, and th’ rest of us sets out in front of th’ cabin and smokes uh while.

“My man,” sez th’ perfessor to Magpie, “it is my desire to investigate the grizzly theory tomorrow morning. I suppose you are prepared to guide me to the lair of a fairly good specimen?”

“Shore,” sez Magpie. “Uh course I’ll have to look over my field notes uh while before I can locate edzactly th’ specimen yuh needs. Uh course yuh wants uh grizzly with uh grizzly offspring.”

“Yeaus,” drawls th’ ol’ pelican. “Yeaus, certainly. Quite naturally a grizzly would have a grizzly offspring.”

“Natcherally,” agrees Magpie. “But yuh often finds ’em with black or brown cubs. Yuh see, Perfessor, uh she-grizzly is uh motherly ol’ thing, and when she finds uh female black or brown bear which don’t treat their li’l ones properly she jist natcherally adopts ’em.”

“Quite commendable,” nods th’ perfessor. “I must make a note of it. Such information is quite valuable. But don’t the other bears object to losing the custody of their offsprings?”

“Quite useless,” drawls Magpie. “As I remarked before, uh grizzly won’t argue.”

“I have a feeling that this trip is going to furnish some material for the scientists to ponder over,” laughs th’ doc, gittin’ up and throwin’ away his camel-hair cigaret. “I must see that my shotgun is in good working order.”

“Did yuh ever shoot any fool-hens?” I asks.

Th’ doc grins at me in uh wise sort of uh way and replies:

“Mister Harper, I may be a poor shot, but I’m not that much of a tenderfoot, so don’t try that old joke on me, please.”

Most of ’em won’t bite on th’ fool-hen stunt, fer th’ simple reason that there ain’t no joke about fool-hens. Now, if yuh spoke about snow-snakes they’d stay all Winter to git uh specimen.

It wa’n’t edzactly what you’d call chivalry that prompts us to give up our cabin to our employers that night. When uh two hundred and fifty pound fe-male occupies yore three by six bunk, and fills th’ air with snores which resembles th’ grunts of uh hungry bear trying to coax uh fat grub out of uh rotten stump, it’s jist human nature to grab uh blanket and move out in th’ brush. Th’ doc crawls into his sleepin’-bag alongside th’ cabin, but me and Magpie holes up down near th’ crick.

That night I wonders out-loud, in Magpie’s hearin’, what are we goin’ to do? Also I mentions in my oration that any man what ain’t got no more sense than to tie up with uh rattle-headed pardner, not mentionin’ any names, but givin’ uh fair description, ought to die early in life in self-defense.

“Field book!” I howls at th’ Big Dipper. “He’s got uh field book what shows th’ dwellin’-place of suitable female grizzlies. Them records will show jist which said grizzly has bears by adoption and which has ’em by maternal instinct. I’m a expert on sidewinders and gophers, eh? Shore. All my life I’ve laid on my belly and observed th’ home life uh said whistlin’ diggers and crippled crawlers. I’ve allus crawled in th’ best society uh Prairie Dog town. Accordin’ to th’ latest reports I’m livin’ in uh dug-out and cultivatin’ fangs. Pretty soon I’m due to coil up and bite somebody.”

Magpie don’t say uh word all th’ time I’m reflectin’ out loud, but after I rolls up in my blanket and drowses off to sleep he grabs me by th’ shoulder and hisses in my ear—

“Ike, I’ve got it!”

“Keep it,” sez I. “I don’t care if we are pardners, Magpie, I don’t wish to share it with yuh. I know you’ve had it fer uh long time, ol’ trapper, but I never mentioned it to anybody. If it hurts yuh worse than usual, I’d advise uh cold compress on yore dome.”

“‘Mighty’ Jones,” he yells joyful like. “By cripes. I can see it all!”

Sometimes when uh feller gits to ravin’ thataway he sez things about folks that he don’t like, so I don’t comment on him mentionin’ Mighty Jones.

Uh course his right name ain’t Mighty. He’s uh pore li’l runty person, with corn-colored hair, and whiskers which makes him resemble uh mountain goat gone to seed. One day he gits into a argument with uh whale of uh jasper named “Buzzard” Bell. Buzzard is big enough to tie Jones in uh bow-knot, and he grins down at Jones and informs him of th’ fact. Jones takes off his coat, throws it on th’ floor, jumps on it with both boots, spits on his hands and yells:

“I’m small but I’m Gawd A’mighty Jones!” That’s how he gits th’ cognomen.

He’s livin’ up in uh li’l cabin at th’ forks of Plenty Stone crick, and he ain’t noways friendly nor confidential. He’s plumb afraid that somebody will jump his alleged copper claim, which don’t assay enough per ton to plate uh twenty-two cartridge shell.

“She’s goin’ to work out to uh gnat’s eyebrow, Ike,” states Magpie when I don’t seem uh heap concerned over his former joyful declaration.

“Yuh might tell uh man yore troubles,” sez I.

Magpie sets up in his blankets and rolls uh cigaret.

“Yessir,” sez he, after th’ smoke is goin’, “that’s th’ solution—partly. Ike, we could use Mighty Jones’s bear fer this here scientific experiment.”

“Uh-huh,” I agrees. “We shore could, only fer several reasons. Mighty’s animile happens to be uh brown bear and, bein’ as its name is Abe, it don’t stand to reason that its got any maternal instinct, much less uh cub. And what is uh heap more to th’ point, Magpie: Mighty would perforate anybody what bothered that brute. If Mighty had about twice as much sense as he’s got he’d be half-witted, and I argues that uh fool and uh shotgun is dangerous. Them’s my sentiments, Magpie. Th’ whole thing is crazy. Yore all crazy, Magpie. Th’ perfessor is loco, th’ doc is likewise afflicted and Mrs. Perfessor is showin’ symptoms. You been crazy fer years and years, Magpie, and I’m gittin’ suspicious uh myself. Let’s put some cyanide in their coffee in th’ morning, and then you and me will go down in Death Valley and dig fer coconuts, Magpie. And besides we ain’t got no cub fer Abie.”

“Objextions all overruled, Ike. In th’ first place, Perfessor Phinney nor any of them wouldn’t know uh brown bear from uh grizzly, and in th’ second place, we’ll go down cautious like and rent Mighty’s bear.”

“What’ll we do fer uh cub?”

“——!” snorts Magpie. “We’re sharin’ fifty-fifty in this here ain’t we? Well, I done furnished my part. I got th’ mother grizzly didn’t I? Well, you git th’ cub. Sabe?”

“Loan me yore field notes on cubs, will yuh? I’m uh snake specialist and——”

Didn’t Magpie tell th’ perfessor he had one? Shore did. That’s what makes Magpie’s conduct so danged inconsistent. He didn’t have no right to git sore about it. Anyway, it’s showin’ danged little knowledge uh social etikette when uh feller hits yuh on th’ head with uh rock as big as yore fist—especially when yore in bed. Uh course I returns it in th’ proper spirit, but my feelin’s is soarin’ and I shoots high.

Did yuh ever hear half uh dozen long-eared, flea-bitten jackasses split th’ stillness of th’ night with their melodjus voices? Don’t tell me that animiles like that don’t talk to each other. They shore must or they couldn’t know jist when to cut loose all to oncet thataway, and make th’ short hair on th’ back uh yore neck crawl right over and tickle yuh under th’ chin.

That herd of Rocky Mountain canaries cuts loose right over our recumbent forms and scares delirious delight out of our feelin’s fer uh minute. They jist orates one short, “Ha-a-aaw!” and then quits cold.

We stands erect in our blankets and sez things to them jacks, but they jist nods in th’ gloom, and wiggles their ears. They sorta surrounds us, and won’t go away. Not bein’ in need uh any more music, we gits peevish like.

“Let’s go over across th’ crick,” sez Magpie. “Them blasted animile Carusos is too friendly, and it’s uh cinch they’ll stay on this side of th’ crick.”

We ambles down toward th’ crick, still wrapped in our blankets, like uh pair uh Injuns, when all to oncet we gits another sensation.

“Whang! Zee-e-e-e! Whang! Zee-e-e-e!”

Th’ gentle evenin’ is shattered. It’s bad enough to have yore ear-drums shattered, but when each shatter is followed by uh handful uh bird-shot, which “skees” and “zees” across yore form and fills yore eyes with lint from yore blanket, it’s time to investigate. Magpie is near th’ crick bank when it happens, and I looks up jist in time to see Magpie disappear over th’ bank, and uh splash informs me that he is in th’ wet.

“My ——!” I hears uh voice opine. “I believe I hit them. I wish I had some buckshot, but I haven’t and——”

“Bung! Zee-e-e-e!” goes that scatter-gun ag’in, only this time it’s both barrels. I hears Magpie spit out uh personal cuss word and splash back into th’ crick.

“Heaven is my home,” states uh voice in th’ gloom, which I recognizes as bein’ that of th’ doctor, and I hears him rastlin’ around in th’ brush.

“Where’s that blamed gun, anyway?” he whines. “I never shot two loads to once before, and after this——”

“Cut—cut—cut it out, yuh blamed maverick!” quavers Magpie, and I sees his arms wavin’ over th’ bank of th’ crick in uh signal uh distress.

“Gracious! Did I hit you? Did it go past you?” yells th’ doc.

Magpie raises his string-bean carcass on th’ bank, shakes th’ water out of his hair, and whoops:

“What went past? Yuh blasted, overfed, red-faced porkypine. What do yuh reckon yo’re tryin’ to do?”

“Calm yourself,” advises th’ doc. “If it hadn’t been for me you all might be dead. What do you think of that?”

“Fine,” sez Magpie. “I’m like Patrick Henry thataway. If I can’t have liberty I’ll take uh li’l death. When fellers like you are pesticatin’ around uh feller’s liberty is shore restricted. What was yuh tryin’ to kill, anyway?”

“What made that noise?” hedges th’ doc. “What made it, eh? I heard it, and comes out to investigate. I saw what I took to be two skulking animals, so I gave each one a load of shot. One of them jumped into the creek, but I gave it both barrels as it went out the other side. This gun kicked so hard that it was impossible for me to determine what my execution was. I hope it was deadly.”

“If I ever has uh hand in it, Doc, it shore will,” sez Magpie. “Better go on back to bed.”

Th’ doc ambles back to his bed, and we recovers Magpie’s blanket. It jist missed uh watery grave.

“Gosh,” sez Magpie. “Missed with both barrels at ninety feet. Let’s go over in th’ brush and sleep. Mebby them jacks will wail ag’in, and yuh can’t expect uh feller to miss every time with uh scatter-gun.”

“Was it uh female?” asks uh husky voice behind us, and there stands th’ perfessor in uh white nightie, on one foot, while he industriously picks cactus out of th’ other. He looks like th’ ghost of some hy-iu white crane.

“What you heard, Perfessor,” sez Magpie, “was uh fool! Better git back to bed before he mistakes yuh fer uh white owl.”

“Yeaus. Exactly,” agrees th’ ol’ coot, and he limps back. Magpie is uh bit damp, but th’ night is warm, so he states that he’d rather sleep thataway than to take uh chance on goin’ near th’ cabin.

We sleeps some late th’ next mornin’, and th’ first thing we hears is that blamed shotgun. Somewhere up th’ gulch th’ doc is tearin’ holes in th’ solitude. We ambles up to th’ cabin, and finds Mrs. Perfessor settin’ on th’ steps. Honest to grandma, she’s uh sight. That person wa’n’t no beautiful vi’let last night, but this mornin’ she don’t qualify a-tall.

Klahowya,” sez Magpie. “Did yuh sleep well, ma’am?”

“Oh, there you are,” sez she, ignorin’ Magpie’s salutation, and lookin’ at me. “When do I get some hot water?”

“Drink or laundry?” I asks.

She bristles up as much as uh fat woman like her can bristle after uh night on uh real hard bunk, and snorts—

“Do you expect me to wash in cold water?”

“Ma’am,” sez I, “when it comes to expectin’ things I pass up wimmen. Not havin’ known me only uh few hours, and most uh them at night, I don’t see why my expectations should interest yuh so much. In this country uh person don’t git so awful dirty jist sleepin’, so we figger that anybody what is so much of uh dude as to want to wash in th’ mornin’ can do it in cold water.”

“I want some hot water and I want it immediately!” she howls, and waddles into th’ cabin.

“I’d say that th’ perfessor is more to be pitied than censured,” sez Magpie. “After listenin’ to her, and observin’ her face and figger, I can’t believe th’ perfessor’s statement that he’s ignorant uh natural history. She’s shore uh bear, Ike, and I’d——”

“Is that water ready for my ablution?” sez Mrs. Perfessor, stickin’ her head out of th’ door.

“Right away,” sez I, goin’ over and pickin’ up some sticks.

I don’t aim to invade her boodwah. Our stove ain’t five feet from my bunk, so I makes our li’l fire outside. Magpie follers me over with uh can uh water and puts it on th’ fire.

“Cripes!” sez he. “Ain’t uh woman uh queer proposition, Ike? She said at first that she wants to wash her face and——”

“She said she wanted to wash. She didn’t designate her face, Magpie.”

“That’s right. What is a ablution, Ike?”

“How do I know,” I snorts. “I ain’t no ladies’ maid, Magpie. If yuh wanted to know about rattlesnakes I’d be up on that.”

I gives her th’ can uh hot water and she operates in th’ cabin, so we don’t know yet what she done. I jist gits breakfast on th’ fire when th’ doc shows up. He does uh double shuffle in th’ trail when he gits in sight and seems tickled all over about somethin’.

“You haven’t got breakfast ready yet have you?” he whoops, as he leans his shotgun ag’in th’ cabin. “Heaven is my home! At last I have hit something.”

He digs down in th’ pockets of his huntin’ coat, and dumps uh pile uh birds on th’ ground.

“Blue grouse,” he pronounces. “I found a fine flock of them up th’ gulch. Can we have them for breakfast, Mister Harper?”

“How perfectly lovely,” gurgles Mrs. Perfessor. “I adore wild game. This will be a breakfast to remember. It must be wonderful to live in a country like this where you can go out and kill your meals.”

“Yeaus,” agrees th’ perfessor. “I’ll have mine grilled, if you don’t mind.”

I looks at Magpie, who is rollin’ uh cigaret and lookin’ at th’ ground, and sez to him—

“How would you like yore’s, Mister Simpkins?”

“Never eat meat fer breakfast,” he states. “I’ll jist take some mush and bacon. Anyway, there ain’t more’n enough fer our guests.”

“I can go and git some more,” sez th’ happy sawbones. “Greatest sport I ever had. They’re not a bit wild. I’m going to enjoy this meal because it’s the first one I ever furnished in this way.”

It was th’ only one of its kind I ever cooked, that’s uh cinch. They ate ’em, but there was’n’t much joy over that meal. Th’ Doc rastles one of ’em around fer uh while and gits up enough appetite to eat flap-jacks. When he finishes he lights one uh them burn-easy cigarets and opines to me that blue grouse is overrated as uh delicacy. I ain’t got th’ heart to disagree with him, and Magpie jist nods and turns away to light uh cigaret. Moose birds ain’t edzactly what you’d call “sweet and tender.”

“Are yuh ready to go with me?” asks Magpie, when we’re alone ag’in.

“Go where?”

“Down to see Mighty Jones.”

“It ain’t goin’ to take two of us to bring that tame ol’ bear back here, Magpie, and besides I’m goin’ to be uh heap busy tryin’ to locate uh offspring fer it.”

“We ain’t goin’ to bring it back here, Ike. Ain’t yuh got no imagination a-tall? Th’ perfessor orates that he desires uh wild grizzly, and it’s uh cinch he ain’t ignorant enough to accept uh domestic bear. We got to produce this here animile in his native haunts to make th’ play come right.”

All th’ time we’re pilgrimin’ down to Mighty’s wickiup he’s ponderin’ on uh place to stake out that bear.

“Better git th’ cub and it’s mama before yuh rents uh bungaloo fer ’em,” I advises. “I feels that there’s liable to be many uh slip from th’ grizzly to th’ perfessor. I needs that two hundred, Magpie, but when it comes to gittin’ into trouble, Ike Harper is neutral.”

This here li’l ol’ goat-headed Jones party sticks his head out of his cabin door and stares at me and Magpie. He don’t look friendly a-tall.

“We come down to git yer bear,” sez Magpie. “In th’ interests uh science I asks yuh to——”

Mighty must uh had that shotgun in his hand behind th’ door, ’cause Magpie only gits uh runnin’ start on his oration when we’re gazin’ down uh two-barreled muzzle-loader.

“Git!” sez Mighty.

Magpie looks right past Mighty’s off ear and yells—

“Don’t hit him with that club!”

I reckon Mighty must uh been excited to fall fer uh trick as ol’ as that, but he did. He whirls that ol’ gun around, an th’ next thing he knowed, Magpie has him pinned to th’ floor and I’m removin’ the caps off that gun.

“Now,” sez Magpie, “mebby you’ll listen to reason.”

“I will like ——!” snaps Mighty. “I’ll listen to what Magpie Simpkins has to say, but I’ll be teetotally danged if I’ll agree that it’s reason.”

“We comes on uh peaceful mission and meets uh armed force,” states Magpie. “If yuh wants visitors to carry uh flag uh truce, why don’t yuh advertise th’ fact, Mighty?”

“I minds my own business,” snorts Mighty. “Go ahead and talk, and I’ll listen if it chokes me.”

Magpie sets on Mighty’s floatin’ ribs, and tells him our troubles.

“But my bear ain’t no fe-male and I ain’t got no cub,” protests Mighty. “Anyway, ol’ Abe is sick. I reckon he’s gittin’ too blamed ol’. Seems like he don’t harbor nothin’ but uh bellyache, Magpie. I been dopin’ th’ ol’ sinner fer weeks to keep him on his feet. Dog-gone, he’s th’ only friend I got left. I tries to give him uh dose uh castor ile yesterday, and he tore my shirt off and swallers th’ whole bottle. I don’t reckon it’ll do him any good thataway do you?”

“If yuh knowed jist what part uh his anatomy it’s reposin’ in yuh might kick him and loosen th’ cork,” I suggests, but Mighty shakes his head.

“It can’t be done, Ike. Th’ cork was broke off short.”

“Where is he now?” asks Magpie, risin’ from Mighty’s carcass, and settin’ on th’ bunk.

Mighty rubs th’ creases out of his skin, and rolls uh smoke.

“He’s up on th’ hill back uh my stable, I reckon. Danged ol’ toothless walloper’s done formed uh friendship with uh badger. Can yuh beat it? Them two sets up there on uh rock in th’ sun and snoozes all day.”

“Heavenly dove!” whoops Magpie, grab-bin’ Mighty by th’ wishbone. “Do yuh suppose they’re up there now?”

“I reckon,” gasps Mighty. “Leggo my neck, dog-gone yuh. What’s there to git excited about?”

“Do yuh reckon we could ketch that badger?” askes Magpie.

“I reckon yuh could. He ain’t uh bit wild. I pretty nigh puts my hands on him yesterday when I goes up to try and feed Abe some liver pills. I leaves some fer th’ badger but I don’t reckon he took ’em.”

“Tell yuh what I’ll do,” sez Magpie. “If you’ll rent us yore bear and help us take him over to that ol’ tunnel uh Big Foot Smith’s and let us use him fer uh few days I’ll give yuh ten dollars. We’ll guarantee not to hurt th’ ol’ feller none.”

“That’s reasonable, Magpie, but I don’t sabe what yuh wants th’ badger fer.”

“If we can pass ol’ Abe off as uh fe-male grizzly, I don’t reckon we’ll have much trouble in passin’ that badger off fer its cub. Dog-gone it, they look uh heap like uh li’l bear, at that, Mighty.”

“How yuh goin’ to ketch him?” I asks.

“That’s yore chore, Ike. Git uh rope and make good.”

Th’ Harper tribe allus was noted fer their gameness. I gits Mighty’s rope and ambles up back of th’ stable. I sees th’ bear. He’s sunnin’ out there on uh ledge uh rock, and don’t pay no attention to me a-tall. I reckon he’s got troubles of his own which keeps him occupied. I sneaks around behind him, and there I sees Mister Badger. He’s shore uh whopper, and he’s stretched out on th’ rock with his head turned th’ other way.

I gits th’ loop to swingin’ right, and braces my feet. I ain’t what you’d call a expert with uh rope. In fact I’m of th’ garden variety when it comes to swingin’ th’ rope, but I’m game. I gives th’ rope uh last whirl and lets her go. Did I git that badger? I’d tell uh man I did! Also, I gits th’ bear.

Uh bear and uh badger may be good pals when they’re separated, but friendship ceases when yuh pulls ’em together in th’ loop of uh rope. Also they makes it uncomfortable fer th’ party on th’ other end of th’ rope.

When I stops at th’ cabin I ain’t wearin’ no pants, but I got uh’ strangle holt on that ol’ badger. Pore ol’ Abie gits loose about half-way home, and he shore moves spry-like to th’ top of th’ cabin, where he orates his displeasure and shows symptoms uh liver trouble. They helps me hog-tie that badger, and then Mighty complains uh heap about his pet.

“Ike, yuh ought to be careful about Abe,” sez he. “There wa’n’t no sense in gittin’ him all excited thataway. Mebby he’ll have uh relapse, and I ain’t got uh liver pill left. He’s uh sick animile.”

“Th’ —— he is!” sez I. “He tore my pants off, and almost clears th’ cabin in one jump, so I don’t reckon he’s so danged bad off. We got female folks at our house, so I reckon yuh better loan me uh pair uh pants to go home in, Mighty.”

He ain’t got nothin’ but uh pair uh overalls, which don’t meet by six inches at th’ waist and lingers jist below th’ knee, but I puts ’em on. We ties th’ badger to uh pole, which me and Magpie packs, and Mighty leads Abe and his bellyache with uh rope. Big Foot’s prospect ain’t been worked fer so long that it’s all grown up ag’in and looks like uh natcheral cave.

“Here’s th’ idea,” states Magpie. “We’ll put th’ bear and badger in th’ ol’ tunnel. Then we’ll git th’ perfessor and his outfit to come over and see us separate them. We’ll keep that alleged cub over to th’ cabin long enough to satisfy th’ perfessor. Sabe?”

“You got another think comin’ if you thinks that Abe and that ol’ badger is goin’ to hibernate peaceful like in that hole while yu goes over to head th’ peerade,” objects Mighty. “Since Ike stirred ’em up thataway, Abe ain’t acted noways friendly toward th’ badger, and said badger ain’t got no love fer nobody after ridin’ upside down on uh pole fer two miles. How am I goin’ to know how Abie’s bellyache is, all this time. I can’t stay with him.”

“Do you think I’m goin’ to lose all that money jist because there ain’t no love lost between two dumb brutes?” snorts Magpie. “Big Foot must uh been afraid that somebody was goin’ to invade his ol’ prospect when he built that door at th’ entrance, but he shore simplified things fer us. We’ll stick Abe and his imitation cub inside an’ block th’ door. By th’ time we git back they’ll be friendly ag’in.”

“Abie’s bellyache—” begins Mighty, but Magpie shuts him up.

“Gosh A’mighty, you gives me uh pain! No wonder that pore bear’s got uh stummick ache. You’d give uh wooden Injun th’ pip, Mighty. Mebby if yuh quits givin’ him all them patent medicines he’d be uh heap better bear and last longer. That stuff’s causin’ all his hair to come out. If yuh don’t quit he won’t even make uh decent rug.”

Abie goes in plumb willin’ but the badger objects. He tries to squeeze out, but twistin’ uh stick in his hide sorta disgusts him and he retires. Mighty pilgrims off home, and me and Magpie goes back to our cabin.

“Ike,” orates Magpie, “this is uh cinch. That badger resembles uh li’l bear uh heap, don’t yuh know it? Also, Abie is so shy on hair that nobody could prove whether he’s black, brown or gray. Let’s be glad.”

“Lets be glad uh li’l later on,” I suggests. “I’m strong on this here gladsome stuff, Magpie, but this here idea uh countin’ yore scientific experiments before they’re done experimentin’ is uh heap like lightin’ yore last match to see if it’s uh good one before yuh goes to th’ trouble uh makin’ uh cigaret.”

Th’ perfessor is sunnin’ hisself by th’ cabin when we gits back, and th’ doc is fussin’ with uh pho-tygraft apparatus. They welcomes us real heartily, and th’ perfessor is uh heap excited and pleased to know that we’re ready fer th’ experiment.

“I hope I can get some good action in a bear picture,” states th’ doc. “It will help in provin’ th’ perfessor’s experiments.”

That was some pilgrimage. We strings out in single file, with Magpie in th’ lead and th’ perfessor next. We places th’ fe-male next in line, allowin’ considerable space between her and th’ doc, in case she should rear up and fall over backwards on some of th’ steep pitches. Also, fer safety sake I packs th’ doc’s shotgun. When we reaches the alleged bear den we finds Mighty settin’ at th’ door.

“Abe’s ailin’ ag’in,” sez he, solemn like, lookin’ th’ outfit over.

“Who is Abe?” asks th’ doc.

“His pardner,” states Magpie, winkin’ hard at Mighty. “He seems to have pains in his stummick most of th’ time.”

“Appendicitis,” pronounces th’ doc. “May need an operation.”

“Doctor,” sez th’ perfessor, “this is no time to talk of operations. Prepare your camera and try and picture the proceedings.” And then he asks Magpie—

“Are you sure that the mother and young are in the cave?”

“Pore ol’ Abe comes to th’ door and—” complains Mighty, but th’ doc pats him on th’ shoulder and sez:

“Never mind. Just as soon as possible I will diagnose his case. I may have to remove his appendix.”

“I don’t reckon that’s what ails him a-tall,” states Mighty. “Yuh see he’s been used to havin’ his meat cut up fer him but, bein’ as I ain’t no Daniel, I didn’t care to center th’ den, so I jist throws in uh saddle uh venison to him and slams th’ door. Mebby he overeats.”

“Unique way to treat a patient, isn’t it, Doctor?” puffs Mrs. Perfessor, from where she rests her bulk on uh log.

“It is,” agrees th’ doc, reprovin’ like. “You should have given him some broth.”

“Never had none,” sez Mighty. “Patent medicines don’t help him none, anyway. Say, Magpie, I got to worryin’ about Abe and his roommate gittin’ in uh fight so I comes over after you left and tied th’ cub to uh timber in there.”

That made it plumb easy. All we has to do is go inside, lead th’ cub out and shut th’ door. Ol’ Abe pokes his head out and wails uh few stanzas, and th’ doc snaps his pitcher machine.

“Wonderful!” whoops th’ perfessor. “You men have earned that bonus right now. You have shown yourselves so competent that I am willing to chance the rest of it. Do you suppose your friend here, with the sick partner, would accept a small remuneration for his services?”

“Without uh doubt,” sez Mighty, before Magpie has uh chance to open his mouth and th’ perfessor slips Mighty a yaller-backed bill.

“Thanks, ol’-timer,” sez Mighty. “That’ll buy me one uh them things what yuh grind meat up in. Yuh see, Abe’s teeth ain’t what they used to be, and when he eats meat he gits them pains and he’s liable to bite or claw ——, I begs yore pardon, ma’am, out uh me.”

“Not appendicitis symptoms,” states th’ doc. “Does he have hallucinations?”

“No,” sez Mighty. “Leastwise I don’t reckon he has. He’s showed symptoms uh St. Vitus dance and th’ bellyache and has moulted most of his hair, but I reckon that ol’ age sneakin’ up on him makes him thataway more’n anythin’ else.”

“How old is he?” asks Mrs. Perfessor.

“Don’t know edzactly, ma’am. I killed his mother when he was comin’ uh year ol’ but I don’t remember what year that was. He’s had uh lot uh sickness, ma’am, and most all th’ hair’s rubbed off his belly, which uh course makes him look older than he really is. Sabe?”

Mebby she don’t sabe, but anyway, she don’t ask no more questions. She takes uh sixty hoss-power look at Mighty, and ambles right off up th’ trail. Th’ doc looks sorta surprised at Mighty, but th’ perfessor don’t pay no attention. He’s busy gloatin’ over that badger.

“Gracious,” sez he. “The young of the grizzly surely do mature young. Doctor, just look at those claws. Do they lose that stripe on the back like a young deer loses it’s spots?”

“Uh-huh,” sez Magpie. “All bears is striped when they’re born, except black ones and they’re purple”.

Me and Magpie has to pack that badger all th’ way over to our cabin. We tries to lead it, but that wasn’t a success. It starts all right, but th’ perfessor is in th’ road, figgerin’ in his note-book. That rope gits familiar with his long legs, and he’s some strung out when we gits ’em separated, but he don’t mind. He sets there on th’ ground and figgers in his note-book, while we untangles th’ rope off his feet, and never pays no attention a-tall.

When we gits home we ties th’ badger to uh tree. Me and Magpie figgers that our labors is over fer uh while, so we aims to take life easy fer uh spell. Th’ doc is busy shootin’ up th’ tin cans around camp, Mrs. Perfessor is croshayin’ what looks like uh pair uh ear-muffs fer uh blacktail deer, and th’ perfessor is studyin’ th’ actions of uh peeved badger, so me and Magpie goes down on th’ crick, where we got some bedrock stripped.

We’re busy pannin’ out some dirt about an hour later when we hears an uproar back at th’ cabin.

“Now, somebody has gone and raised ——” snorts Magpie. “Them is natcherally quiet folks, Ike, and not given to loud nor unseemly noises, so there must be uh good reason. Mebby that danged badger’s got away.”

“More likely th’ doc’s hit somethin’,” I orates. “Mebby he mistakes th’ perfessor’s wife fer uh tin can. She’s built thataway.”

We hikes back to camp and finds things considerable disturbed. Th’ doc is settin’ on th’ steps of th’ cabin, wearin’ uh injured expression and uh torn shirt. Mrs. Perfessor is limpin’ around th’ place like uh hound pup cuttin’ circles to find uh place to lay down. Perfessor Phinney is still settin’ there studyin’ th’ badger, which seems considerable riled over somethin’.

“What’s th’ trouble?” asks Magpie.

“Maternal instinct!” snorts th’ doc.

“Nothing to get excited about,” wheezes th’ lady, tearin’ uh strip uh cloth off her skirt, and cinchin’ up uh cut on her wrist. “Perhaps it wasn’t a complete success, Doctor, but we’ll have to do it again sooner or later. It was merely a humane act.”

“Then I’m not very strong for humanity. Hereafter I draw the line to playing wet nurse to a grizzly.”

“We overlooked one point,” states Mrs. Perfessor, wise like. “To remove an offspring of that age from its mother is like taking the sunshine from the flowers or the dew from the grass. Know what I mean?”

“She means,” states th’ doc, fingerin’ th’ long gash in his pant leg. “She means that th’ blasted brute needs milk to prolong its young life, and she induces me to help her let it imbibe condensed milk from a can.”

“It was interesting to note that condensed milk did not appeal to its palate,” remarks th’ perfessor, makin’ more notes in his book.

“My ——,” sez Magpie. “Did yuh try to feed it cold canned milk?”

“Yes, did it need warming?” asks th’ lady.

“Shore thing. They won’t eat it cold. Next time yuh wants to set th’ can on the stove fer about fifteen minutes.”

“Live and learn,” quotes th’ doc. “I knew something was wrong.”

That night Mighty Jones comes over to git somethin’ fer uh tooth ache.

“Gol’ A’mighty,” sez he. “I got to have somethin’ or lose my mind.”

“If that’s all, yuh ain’t so danged bad off,” sez Magpie. “But rather than see yuh lose somethin’ yuh never had I’ll let yuh take our Jap oil bottle. Rub uh li’l on th’ tooth, and she’ll be better than new.”

Mighty takes th’ bottle and goes off down th’ trail holdin’ on to his jaw. Did yuh ever hear of Jap oil? It’s th’ concentrated essense uh dynamite, hell’s fire and asphyxiation. It cures anything. Never knew anybody to ask fer uh second helpin’, but it shore is uh whole medicine chest fer uh prospector. It’s jist as good fer penumonia as it is fer uh busted leg, and I knowed uh feller oncet who kept th’ pack-rats out of his cabin by jist pastin’ th’ label off uh bottle on his front door. Achin’ teeth is jist uh vacation chore to that medicine.

Th’ next mornin’ me and Magpie goes over to do uh li’l work on th’ crick, and th’ doc goes off across th’ hills with his shotgun. Th’ perfessor and th’ badger gits busy watchin’ each, other ag’in. Long about ten o’clock we decides to drift back to camp to see how things is progressin’.

We’re up on uh point above th’ shack where we can git uh clear view uh th’ country, and about two hundred yards below th’ cabin we sees th’ doc. He’s doin’ uh reg’-lar Injun sneak in some bull-pines. We watches him sorta sad like fer uh while, figgerin’ that he won’t hit what he’s sneakin’ on, when we happens to see what he’s after. Up th’ creek bottom comes Mighty Jones and Abe. Abe is humpin’ along about ten feet ahead uh Mighty. Mighty seems uh heap sore at th’ bear, and anxious to overtake him.

“Blasted ol’ ossified porkypine,” wails Magpie. “Bringin’ that moth-eaten, alleged grizzly right over where it spoils our whole game. Let’s git down there and stop him in th’ brush.”

We breaks down past camp. Th’ perfessor is still studyin’ th’ badger. Mrs. Perfessor sticks her head out of th’ door and yells somethin’ at us as we goes past, but we don’t stop—not a-tall. We’re jist passin’ th’ cabin, when:

“Blam! Blam!” goes doc’s shotgun down in th’ timber.

“Come on, Ike!” pants Magpie, stretchin’ out his long legs like uh bull elk goin’ to water, and hurdlin’ everythin’ except the lodge-pole. He didn’t need to waste his wind thataway. I’m with him.

We busts into uh li’l clearin’, where we first sees th’ doc doin’ his sneak, and we runs into th’ queerest bunch uh misery I ever seen. I’ve seen uh cougar with th’ St. Vitus dance and an ulcerated tooth, and I’ve beheld uh jack-rabbit which was shot in th’ north end with uh load uh rock-salt, but by th’ whisperin’ wolves, this here exhibition makes ’em all look like uh stachoo uh peaceful moments. Right there in th’ clearin’ is pore ol’ Abe, and he shore is adjustin’ hisself to suit local conditions.

First he puts his head down between his front legs and does uh lot uh contortion work that would stump uh snake. He whizzes across th’ clearin’ like uh fur pin-wheel, uncouples hisself and comes back with his nose in th’ dirt and sorrow in his soul.

He’s jist about half-way back, and me and Magpie is standin’ there with our jaw-bones restin’ on our chests, when:

“Bling! Bling!” goes uh six-gun.

Not knowin’ th’ angle uh them shots, we immediate and soon assumes uh reclinin position.

Mebby them shots was uh heap opportune, cause if we hadn’t uh laid down of our own accord, ol’ Abe shore would have spread us some.

He didn’t seem to pay no attention to them shots, but somethin’ in his carcass seems to say, “Go east, ol’ bear, go east,” and Abie shore heeds th’ summons, and hurries right across us.

He plants one foot on th’ part uh my carcass where uh civilized man wears his rear collar button, and his long toe-nails seems to shake dice all th’ way down my vertebray.

We arises too late to see him leave, but he’s shore pointed toward our happy home.

“Abie seems to have hit his second childhood,” yawns Magpie. “I’d ——”

“Did I hit it?” yells uh voice across th’ clearin’, and there stands th’ doc.

He shore is uh sight. He sets there, hangin’ onto uh tree, and tries to watch four directions to oncet. His hat is gone along with uh lot of his clothes, and his respect as uh big game hunter seems to leak out of every pore.

“There was two,” he wails. “I shot one, and before I could see whether I had killed it or not, the other one walked all over me. I didn’t know they went in flocks. I lost my gun. I wonder if I hit it?”

“You did,” states uh voice behind us, and there stands Mighty Jones. He’s standin’ sorta bent forward at th’ waist line, while one hand explores th’ rear of his pants.

“Did I hit it?” asks th’ Doc, ag’in, sorta eager like, and Mighty replies more in sorrow than in anger:

“You shore did. Both loads, dad bust yore soul—and me without no drawers on. I tries to smear yuh with my six-gun, but finds that all I’m shootin’ at is yore hat and part uh yore shirt on uh bush.”

“Say, Mighty,” sez Magpie, gittin’ around on th’ windward side of th’ ol’ jasper, “you must uh took uh bath in that Jap oil. You shore are odoriferous, ol’-timer. Whew!”

“It slopped uh li’l,” sez Mighty. Abe was ailin’ somethin’ awful over in that ol’ prospect, and I figgers that th’ doc would relieve him uh heap if I brings him over. I reads th’ epitaph on that bottle and it orates that it’s good fer cramps.

“I tries to give some to Abe but he don’t warm up to th’ smell a-tall. In fact he won’t even associate with me, and ambles ahead uh me all th’ way over. Down here uh li’l ways I manages to overhaul him and shoves th’ whole works down his blamed neck. It shore animates him uh heap, Magpie. I’m watchin’ him go spry like and loudly off into the brush, when all to oncet two loads uh bird-shot comes along and hives into th’ seat uh my pants. It riles me uh heap. I’ll leave it to you if bird-shot ain’t aggravatin’, Magpie.”

Th’ doc gits enough of th’ conversation to learn that he’s shot Mighty, and he seems uh heap concerned. He’s still hangin’ onto that tree, but he holds up his other hand and sez:

“No more, I’m through using a gun. Mister Jones, would you accept that gun as a present?”

“Now, ain’t that ——?” wails Mighty. “Ain’t it, Magpie? Here I been wantin’ uh britch loader shotgun fer years, and jist when somebody gives me one I’ve already tied th’ danged thing around uh tree so it won’t never shoot no more. Ain’t that cheerin’?”

“Well,” sez I, “lets go up to th’ cabin and see how things is shapin’ up there. I has uh feelin’ that all our good works is ravelin’ out.”

We gits almost to th’ cabin when we sees th’ perfessor. He’s settin’ on th’ ground near where th’ badger was tied to uh tree, but there ain’t no sign of th’ badger, and Abe ain’t in sight.

Th’ perfessor’s black coat is split up th’ back, and his hard hat is circlin’ his arm like uh band uh crape. There’s uh scratch th’ whole length uh his face, but he’s still grinnin’ and tryin’ to write on one leaf uh that li’l book. Th’ rest is some tore up and scattered.

“I was right!” he squeaks. “I told Professor Manning that the parent bear would seek and find its young. They went away together. I had untied the cub to take it down to the creek for a drink, when the outraged mother came along and forcibly freed her baby. She——”


From th’ inside of th’ cabin comes th’ report of uh heavy shootin’ iron, and Mrs. Perfessor spills out of th’ door, and skates her three hundred pounds off th’ porch. She sets there and claws th’ hair out of her eyes.

“Remarkable performance!” exclaims th’ perfessor. “She never fired a shot before.”

“It—it—it buh—buh—busted,” she stutters, pointin’ at th’ cabin.

“Wimmin ought to let guns alone—also some men,” states Mighty, still prospectin’ fer lead on th’ rear of his personal property.

“Gun,” snorts th’ injured lady. “It wasn’t no gun.”

“What was it, my dear?” asks th’ Perfessor.

“Milk,” she snaps. “Milk for the bear. It just got hot and blew up.”

“My ——,” gasps Magpie. “Ain’t that jist like uh woman. She forgot to punch uh hole in th’ top of th’ can.”

“Never mind, my dear,” consoles th’ perfessor. “My contention is proved, and we can leave at once. We’ll adjust matters with our employees and go home.”

“What about th’ snake theory, Perfessor?” I asks.

“Do they or don’t they?” he asks, haulin’ out th’ remains uh that li’l book.

“They don’t,” sez I. “They never have and never will.”

“At least I can point with pride to the fact that I hit something,” remarks th’ doc with uh grin, when he gits on his burro and lights another one uh them stinkin’ rolls. “I’m sorry I didn’t have a rifle, I might have killed a bear.”

“If yuh can see this far, and sabe th’ direction, yuh might point with pride to th’ fact that I can’t set down fer uh week,” orates Mighty.

“Perfessor,” sez Magpie, “would yuh mind tellin’ me jist edzactly what competent means?”

Th’ perfessor adjusts th’ remains uh that hard hat on his peaked head, and squints at Magpie over th’ top uh them funereal-rimmed glasses. “Why,—er—it means, adequate or sufficient.”

“Thanks,” sez Magpie. “It shore is and we have had. Adios.

“It stands to reason—” begins Magpie, as th’ caravan goes off down th’ trail, with Mrs. Perfessor’s burro squeakin’ and groanin’ at th’ rear, but Mighty ceases scratchin’ long enough to snort:

“Reason, eh? By cripes, Magpie, that’s uh fightin’ word with th’ Jones fambly from now on and ever more. I listened to reason oncet, and look what she done to me. I got to sneak up on my belly to dinner, and pore ol’ Abe’s——”

“Abe,” sez Magpie, “is either uh bear angel by now or uh fugitive from Jap oil. Here’s an extra ten dollars, Mighty. Be glad.”

“That’s shore reasonable,” sez Mighty.


Transcriber’s Note: This story appeared in the August, 1917 issue of Adventure magazine.