The Project Gutenberg eBook of In self-defense

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Title: In self-defense

Author: W. C. Tuttle

Release date: August 25, 2022 [eBook #68832]

Language: English

Original publication: United States: The Ridgway Company, 1917

Credits: Roger Frank and Sue Clark


In Self Defense

by W. C. Tuttle
Author of “For the Love of Annibel,” “All Wool,” etc.

“Prohibition,” remarked Ike Harper, loosening up a notch in his belt and rolling a fresh smoke, “is goin’ to make two roses bloom in this country where only one bloomed before. ’Cause why? One drink uh bootleg hooch will bring blossoms to th’ face of uh wooden Injun, and also it’s goin’ to work uh hardship on real old maids and homely females of all descriptions. Lissen, and I’ll orate how I knows.”

Ren Merton was uh trouble-huntin’ fool of uh puncher, and Sig Watson was his first assistant. I might say that Sig was his aid-de-camp, secretary and treasurer. Them two hombres punched cows fer uh livin’ and hunted trouble fer pastime.

If th’ combined brains of th’ two was turned to powder and put into uh .22 ca’tridge shell it wouldn’t blow th’ bullet out of uh six-inch pistol barrel, and if it was black powder it wouldn’t foul th’ shell.

They punched fer th’ Triangle outfit all one summer, and then decides to go into th’ cattle business fer themselves. Not havin’ saved enough between ’em to buy uh green hide, they decides to go into th’ business anyway.

Magpie Simpkins was th’ sheriff at th’ time and, havin’ uh real friendly feelin’ fer th’ boys, he don’t arrest ’em a-tall. He jist shoots th’ hot cinch ring out of Ren’s hand, cuts th’ heifer loose and fergets th’ whole affair.

They rides back to town, where Ren gits prodigal with his six-gun ammunition, with th’ result that th’ atmosphere gits too warm fer comfort, and they grabs their hosses and fogs off to th’ Seven A ranch and go to work again.

Well, fer th’ next month they behaves fine—said month bein’ spent on th’ roundup out in th’ Sweetgrass hills, so far from town that it takes two days hard ridin’ to find anything except personal animosities, which ain’t sufficient.

Th’ nearest town is Piperock. Piperock ain’t what you’d call uh thrivin’ city—not havin’ uh Chamber of Commerce or an Ad Club, but she manages to angle along anyway. It contains about uh hundred human beings and a Greaser settlement.

Well, as I said before, Ren and Sig works steady fer uh while and then collects their stipend, rolls their war-sacks and moseys to town to revel amid th’ bright lights and enjoy th’ fruits of their labor.

They says “Klahowya” to Buck Masterson, th’ saloon keeper, and proceeds to pay rent on th’ saloon fixtures.

“Boys,” says Buck, “curb yore feelin’s fer this time. There’s uh heap uh sentiment agin’ yuh both here, and if yuh behave it’s bound to die out in uh little while. That Chink is still in th’ hospital at Helena.”

“Pshaw!” exclaims Ren. “That’s too danged bad. But I asks yuh, Buck, how was I to know that th’ Chink was behind that box, too? That Greaser ducks behind it and I never once thinks that there’s room fer two people. It surprises me so I lets th’ Greaser git away.”

“I allus told yuh,” stated Sig, “that you depends too much on th’ jump of that ol’ .41. Now, uh .45 is heavy enough that she don’t jump. To illustrate my point clearly——”

Right then Buck cuts in and talks ’em out of it. Uh six-gun demonstration ain’t no pink tea, especially when th’ demonstrator has about six scoops uh hooch under his belt.

They has a few more drinks and then decides to eat, so they ambles across th’ street to Jimmy Peyton’s Boston Chop House, th’ only eatin’ place in th’ town. There ain’t nobody in sight, so Ren yells—

“Jimmy, yuh lop-eared son-of-uh-sea-cook, bring us uh meenoo!”

Right then they gits uh surprise. Instead of Jimmy, with his dirty apron and a half-smoked cigaret hangin’ out uh one side of his mouth, out waltzes th’ swellest lookin’ female person they ever saw, and she single-foots right up to ’em with uh smile, and then out comes another she person, but this last one ain’t noways in th’ same class as Number One.

They’re both wearin’ li’l dinky white aprons and uh head full uh hair, but here th’ similarity ceases some abrupt. Th’ first one is packin’ class by th’ ton. She’s—well, she looks uh lot like th’ lady on th’ Empire Packin’ Company’s calendar, which ol’ man Padden has hangin’ over his bunk.

Th’ other is older by twenty years and seems sort-a sprung in th’ knees. She’s got uh forearm like Jefferies and needs uh shave. Th’ first one leans over th’ table and hands uh printed bill uh fare, but Ren don’t read it a-tall. He says, “Thanks, ma’am,” and puts it in his pocket.

Th’ older one grins at Sig and says, “Nice day.”

“Uh-huh,” agrees Sig. “It shore is. Don’t hardly look like it might rain.”

Ren just sits there lookin’ at th’ pretty one, like uh chickadee lookin’ at uh rattler. He ain’t able to even wink.

“Soup?” asks th’ lady.

“Are we?” asks Ren, turnin’ to Sig, who is also industriously sizin’ up th’ beauty show.

“Intensely,” agrees Sig, and th’ two females beat it fer th’ kitchen.

“Do you gentlemen live here?” asks th’ pretty one, when she deposits th’ soup on th’ table.

“We—huh—yes’m I reckon yuh might say we do,” stammers Ren, tryin’ to eat soup with his fork and keep both hands out of sight.

“We don’t usually live here,” amended Sig. “But we can. You livin’ here?”

Th’ other female has jist come out of th’ kitchen and she answers:

“My cousin and I bought this place a week ago from Mr. Peyton. I am Miss Matilda Beebee, and my cousin here is Miss Rosalind Madeline McGuire.”

Ren spilt his soup gittin’ up and reaches out his hand.

“Pleased to meet yuh,” says he, sayin’ th’ same thing to both of them. “I’m Sigismund Alexander Watson, and my friend here is Ren Merton.”

“Christened,” says Ren, “Renley St. Clair Merton. I welcomes yuh to Piperock.”

“Ren,” says Sig, when they had managed to tear themselves away from th’ eatin’ house, “where did you git that l-e-y on Ren, and also that St. Clair?”

“Slick-eared ’em,” grinned Ren, “jist like you did i-s-m-u-n-d and Alexander. Do you think fer uh minute that I eats dust from any bow-legged cow trailer when it comes to names? Not a-tall. Sabe?”

“Some filly!” states Sig. “Mama mine! Some filly!”

“We’re goin’ to have preachin’ tonight in Piperock,” states Buck, as he slides th’ poison vial down th’ bar to th’ boys.

“What for is this preachin’?” asks Ren. “Somebody dead?”

“Nope. Jist common Gospel. I figgers to take one of th’ girls across th’ street.”

“Asked her yet?” asks Sig, with uh grin.

Buck polished off the bar and replaced the bottles before he replied—

“Nope—not yet.”

They imbibes their drinks and wanders out on th’ porch.

“Dog-gone!” exclaims Sig. “I reckon I leaves my quirt over to th’ restaurant. Better go and git it.”

“Th’ walk will do us good,” grins Ren. “Come on.”

“Quirt?” asks th’ pretty one. “Oh yes, you mean that thing hangin’ on your wrist don’t you?”

“I—I reckon I plumb overlooked it,” stammers Sig. “Much obliged.”

“I jist come over, ma’am,” says Ren, “to see if you’d go to th’ Gospel meetin’ with me tonight.” He looks up and he’s gazin’ into th’ eyes of Matilda Beebee.

“Charmed,” says Matilda. “Yore pardner, Mr. Watson, might care to go with Rosalind.”

“Ma’am,” chuckles Sig, “I takes off my hat to you as uh mind reader. That lost quirt was jist an excuse to git over here, Sabe? I agreed to let Ren have first choice, ma’am, and yuh shore can depend on Ren to make no mistakes on th’ draw. Why I’ve seen that hombre discard one small pair to git uh chance to——”

“Sig,” says Ren sort-a hard like, “if we’re goin’ to church we’d better stable them broncs.”

And when he gits Sig outside he continues:

“You dog-goned, ossified, bow-legged, paralytic son of— Sig, what did I ever do to you, eh?”

“Haw! Haw! Haw!” roared Sig, leanin against his horse and laughin’ so hard he almost pushes th’ bronc off its feet. “Mama mine, Renley, when it comes to pickin’ ’em yo’re there! ‘Charmed,’ says she and yore face looked like you’d been caught stealin’ uh sheep.”

Well, they takes th’ gentle sex to th’ meetin’, which is held in th’ old Mint dance hall, and, while Sig sits there and smiles into Rosalind’s face like uh dyin’ calf in uh mud-hole, and gittin’ hated fluently by th’ male portion of Piperock, pore old Ren is fidgitin’ alongside uh Matilda. Yuh could light uh match on his ears every time he hears anybody clear their throat, and it shore did seem as though every one in church had uh frog in their throats.

After th’ preacher gives th’ crowd th’ exit sign, Ren sort-a stalls around with Matilda and lets th’ crowd drift out ahead. Th’ preacher, bein’ uh stranger, shakes hands with Ren and asks his name.

“Ah,” says he. “And this is Mrs. Merton. Well, well, I shore am pleased. May I call?”

“Shore,” grunts Ren, “What yuh got?”

“Ha, ha!” laughs th’ preacher. “Men will have their little jokes, Mrs. Merton. You see I understand a few poker terms. Ha, ha!”

He slaps Ren on th’ shoulder, and hurries to round up another prospect.

“Ha, ha!” snorts Ren, “—— of uh—I beg yore pardon, ma’am. You see I didn’t——”

“How quaint,” sighs Matilda, like uh turtle-dove with uh full crop. “Didn’t it seem comfy to be mistaken fer married folks, Renley? Isn’t th’ moon lovely tonight. Let’s take a little walk, Renley, it’s too lovely to go inside.”

“That moon,” says Ren, “shore is lovely. It’s full. I wish I—shore I’d enjoy uh walk.”

An hour later Ren climbed th’ rickety stairs of Holt’s hotel and busted th’ lock off their door gittin’ in. Sig is lyin’ on th’ bed, with his leg draped over th’ foot and he’s playin’ “Good Night, Beloved, Good Night,” sort-a soft like on his mouth harp. He rolls his eyes at Ren and lets th’ organ slip out of his hands and slide under th’ bed. He turns over and points at his six-shooter hangin’ on th’ wall.

“Don’t, Ren!” says he sort-a sad like, “I’m unarmed.”

“Yo’re safe,” groans Ren, sinkin’ into uh chair. “I ain’t in no killin’ mood, Sig. I’m borderin’ on uh fit of despondency and I needs sympathy and advice like uh calf needs milk. Honest, I feel like uh Digger Injun would if somebody washed his neck and ears. My liver ain’t noways fresh an’ I feels that my lights is burnin’ low.”

“When I used to be uh lawless character,” stated Sig, as he fumbled under the bed for th’ mouth harp, “‘preachin’ allus affected me thataway. Gospel truths seem to—don’t strike me, Renley!”

Ren slumped down in the chair and held his head in his hands.

“I knowed it, I knowed it! Dang it all, them last two drinks—”

“Did she accept yuh?” grinned Sig.

“Accept me!” wailed Ren. “Dog-gone it, Sig, she didn’t wait fer that. She took me fer granted! She said—oh Lord! She said she didn’t care if I did used to act wild and shoot Chinamen and Greasers. Can yuh beat it, Sig? She gits me by th’ arm and leads me ’way off down th’ road—it was awful hot in that church and th’ hooch gits to bubblin’, and I ain’t noways to blame—leads me to that old cottonwood tree, which th’ lightnin’ hit last summer, and sits me down on uh log. Cripes! Why can’t lightnin’ hit twice in th’ same place? Then she—aw, I dunno—I do know that in th’ argument I didn’t have no more chance than uh snowball in Yuma!”

“Goin’ to marry her, Ren?”

“Not by a danged sight!” wailed Ren. “Mebby she’ll marry me though.”

Sig took a deep breath and the strains uh “Moonlight” permeated the room. Ren slipped his boot off sort-a unconcerned like and, “Bing!” Sig saw it comin’ and ducked off the other side and the boot hit the other side and started the nails.

“Hey!” yelled the voice of the harness drummer who was in the next room. “Cut out th’ orchestra practise, you drunken sheep-herders!”

“That,” states Ren, “makes me forget personal animosities, Sig. Here’s yore gun. Pull jist below that bunch uh cauliflower pitchers on th’ wall paper and it’ll jist about rake his bunk. Ready?”

Th’ door of th’ opposite room closed quickly and th’ drummer padded off down stairs and slept in uh chair.

“Sig,” says Ren, as he rolls into bed, “I’ll allus blame my downfall on uh quirt.”

“Misspelled,” mumbled Sig. “Should ’a’ been ‘quart.’”

The next mornin’ Sig saddled his horse and sat down in the stable door to roll a smoke.

“Ren, yo’re uh lucky devil,” he stated.

Ren dropped his latigo strap and stared at Sig.

“What do yuh mean?”

“Have another aig, Renley?” mimicked Sig. “Them cakes is all cold. Let me git yuh some hot ones, Renley. Take all th’ cream yuh can use, there’s a-plenty. Have some more nice maple sirup, Renley.”

“Sig!” Ren snapped his cinch hook and walked over to th’ door.

“When it comes to bowels of compassion, you don’t show uh gut. If you was uh real friend you’d be figgerin’ some way to save me, instead of passin’ out low comedy.”

“She ain’t much to look at,” agreed Sig, as he swung into th’ saddle, “but many uh kind word is often hidden by sparse whiskers.”

“——!” snorts Ren. “There’s Matilda, of th’ angel face, wavin’ at me to come back. I wonder what she wants?”

“She probably wants to know whether you prefers uh Methodist or uh Baptist preacher. Tell her yore folks raised yuh in th’ Mormon faith, Ren, and you can’t consider no other. That’ll delay proceedin’s until she can send to Utah and——”

But Ren was on his way out of town, and Sig followed suit.

Well, they goes back to th’ Seven A and goes to work again. Th’ boss, Old Man Padden, sends Sig with uh couple of other punchers to ride th’ breaks of th’ Shell River after strays, and he keeps Ren at home where there ain’t nothin’ to do but water some stock and go to town after th’ mail. Sig is away fer ten days, and when he returns he’s plumb lonesome fer company—Rosalind’s especially.

Ren is sittin’ on th’ corral fence braidin’ uh quirt when Sig rides in.

“How’s Old Man Merton’s boy Renley?” greets Sig, yankin’ his saddle off and hazin’ his bronc into th’ pasture. “How’s everything?”

“She’s fine,” grins Ren. “I seen her and Ricky Henderson ridin’ along th’ Dancin’ Prairie trail twice this week, and I hears that she’s furnishin’ Buck Masterson with uh clean napkin at each meal. Buck’s uh changed man, Sigismund. He’s usin’ ba’r ile on his boots and bay rum on his head.”

“That ol’ pelican?” yells Sig. “If that’s all that’s tryin’ to beat my time I’m as good as married right now.”

“I hates to tell yuh,” states Ren sadly, “but them Piperock fellers, takin’ em as uh tribe, are shore beatin’ yore time with Rosalind. I reckon you made uh hit th’ first time she ever saw yuh, but she’s heard too much agin’ yuh since. I done talked with her and I finds out that she’s partial to heroes. Sabe? Nothin’ but uh heero need apply, and, Sig, there ain’t no use you tryin’ to be one uh them.

“Anyway, yuh can’t see her before Monday. She went down to Curlew uh few days ago, and said she would be back Monday afternoon on th’ stage.”

“Likes heroes, eh?” mused Sig. “Jist about what causes uh man to be uh hero?”

“Uh heero,” states Ren, “is uh feller who does jist what any one else would have done in his place, but he beat ’em to it. Sabe? He allus saves th’ girl.”

“Saves th’ girl, eh?” Sig runs his fingers down th’ creases in his chaps and thinks deeply.

“Ren, I got a idea.”


“I’ll save Rosalind.”

“Huh!” Ren spat his cigaret out and stared at Sig. “Save her from what?”

“You,” stated Sig, eagerlike.

“Haw! Haw! Haw! Save her from me! That’s uh hy-iu idea, Ren. What am I supposed to be?”

“Uh desperado. Lissen. Art Miller carries money sometimes on th’ stage and almost every trip he has uh passenger or two what would assay six bits or uh dollar, and they’re liable to be held up any trip. Here’s th’ big idea:

“Remember them big rocks on this side of th’ Hell Gate crossin’? Peach of uh place fer uh holdup, Ren. Now, on Monday afternoon, you be up in them rocks, with uh mask on, and when Art drives out of th’ ford you throw down on him with yore rifle and yell, ‘Hands up!’ Mebby yuh better shoot once or twice so as to make th’ play good. We’ll pull th’ bullets out of some ca’tridges so nobody won’t git hurt. When you yells and shoots uh few times, here I comes across th’ ford ridin’ like th’ devil and starts throwin’ lead and you ducks, sabe? I’ll save th’ stage from bein’ held up and, bein’ as Rosalind is on th’ stage, I’ll be uh hero. Ren, are yuh game to help uh needin’ friend?”

“And mebby go to Deer Lodge and wear uh number like uh box-car,” objected Ren sarcastically.

“Nobody’ll know yuh,” pleads Sig. “Don’t throw me down, Ren. How many times you been to Piperock since I left?”

“Every day,” grinned Ren.

“Gosh! When is it comin’ off?”

Ren shook his head and looked thoughtful.

“There’s th’ cook yellin’ ‘supper’ now. Let’s eat.”

Ren slid off the fence and looked at Sig.

“Are yuh goin’ to help me out?” he asked pleadingly.

“I’ve decided to give it uh whirl,” stated Ren. “To make th’ play good I’ll go to Curlew on Sunday mornin’ and circle th’ stage from there in the mornin’, after givin’ it out that I’m on my way to Mica. Sabe th’ play, Sig? I’ll also hint that when I comes down th’ trail I sees uh person who looks like Pete Melcher to me. Pete is holed up somewhere in th’ west part of th’ state, but he’s liable to start operatin’ over here any old time.”

“Good stuff!” yells Sig “It’s shore white of you, Ren. Dog-gone, there ain’t no chance of uh slip-up and me, I’ll be th’ li’l hero and save th’ girl, eh?”

“Don’t worry about th’ slips in th’ game,” states Ren. “If Art Miller does rim me with his ol’ riot gun, or if I gits uh free ride to Deer Lodge, I won’t have to marry—huh! Every cloud has uh silver linin’, Sigismund Alexander.”

Th’ next mornin’, bein’ Sunday, Ren throws his saddle on his brown mare and points off across th’ hills towards Curlew, and on Monday mornin’ Sig puts his ridin’ gear on Old Man Padden’s best lookin’ bronc, polishes up his boots and slips off across th’ hills towards Hell Gate Cañon.

Sig breezes across th’ hills with joy in his heart, so much joy that he thumbs that bronc, with th’ result that he almost gits set on foot. He has time to burn, so he decides to go out of his way to say “hello” to Pete Gonyer. Pete lives in uh li’l cabin up in Roarin’ Gulch, and Sig ain’t been up that way fer some time. It will give him an excuse fer bein’ seen in th’ Hell Gate hills.

He finds that Pete ain’t home, so he ambles down th’ gulch, ties up his bronc and takes uh nap under uh bush. He sleeps about an hour and then moves on. He ain’t got no watch, but th’ sun looks about one o’clock, so he drops off th’ hills to th’ road and turns back towards Piperock.

He jogs along slow ’till he gits to th’ spring near th’ Rock of Ages, and he swings off to git uh drink. Right there he spies uh letter layin’ near th’ spring under uh bush, and nacherally he picks it up and looks it over.

“Huh!” says he. “Addressed to Jack Elberton, Helena. I reckon Art must ’a’ lost it goin’ out.”

And then like anybody else would, he opens it to see who to send it back to. He reads it through twice, takes off his hat and reads it again. It says:

Mr. Elberton:

In reply to your letter I can say that you’ve got more nerve than a mule. Just because I let you kiss me don’t prove conclusively that I love you. Also your statement (or hint) that I’ve got a perfectly good husband in the land of the living doesn’t feaze me either.

Your threat to come to Piperock to see me is amusing. I’ve made a hit with a big cowboy up here, who would take you apart like a picture puzzle if I said the word. Take my advice, Jackie and forget that you ever knew


Sig looks at th’ letter for uh while and then stares at th’ road. He gits up suddenly and looks at th’ hoss tracks in the road and then hops for his bronc.

“Gosh!” says he. “Th’ stage is past!”

And he spurs up th’ hill and throws th’ quirt into that bronc and fogs th’ hills. He’s plumb miscalculated th’ time, and by racin’ fer three miles across th’ hills he’s got uh chance to cut in ahead of th’ stage.

“Lord A’mighty!” he whoops, when he hits th’ road agin and sees uh cloud uh dust still hangin’ around th’ first turn of th’ road. “Mebby I’ll catch ’em yet. I shore got to do somethin’ to crab this hold-up play! I can’t let Ren take uh chance like this now. Cripes! Mebby Art is lookin’ fer uh play of this kind and he’ll fill Ren full uh buck-shot. Git a-goin’ yuh buzzard-headed, bunch uh coyote bait! If I can git close enough to attract Art’s attention before he drives out of th’ ford, Ren will sabe that somethin’ has gone wrong and keep out-a sight.”

The four hosses of th’ stage had jist finished drinkin’ as Sig races in sight, and as they starts out th’ other side Sig waves his rifle and starts shootin’.

That bronc wasn’t noways gun broke, so it starts sun-fishin’ at th’ first shot and bores straight fer th’ stage. Sig sees Art Miller stand up in his seat and throw th’ whip to his leaders with one hand and fire both barrels of his riot gun with th’ other.

Sig ducks jist in time to save his life. Art shoots uh li’l high and when Sig ducks all he gits is th’ rakins of about six shot across his shoulder. One shot punctures th’ brone’s ear and it shore moves up and down a-plenty.

Th’ stage is rockin’ and swayin’ up th’ road as fast as four scared and whipped cayuses can yank it and Art Miller is bracin’ hisself and throwin’ leather promiscuous. Sig lost his rifle and is now ridin’ with both hands.

Art drops his whip, wraps his lines around his arm and, in tryin’ to put more shells in his gun, swings his team off th’ road. They go good for about ten jumps and then they’re into th’ timber.

Natcherally th’ leaders goes on opposite sides of uh tree, with th’ result that th’ wheelers skid to one side and th’ stage turns uh handspring. I reckon that Sig’s bronc thinks it’s uh real party fer its benefit, ’cause it pitches right into th’ tangle and Sig lights sittin’ down through th’ glass door of th’ stage, which is reposin’ serenely on its side when he arrives.

Sig sits there fer uh few minutes collectin’ his thoughts, when he discovers that he’s sittin’ on somebody’s head.

“Rosalind!” is th’ first thought that comes into his head, so he slides part way out and takes said head between his hands.

“Rosalind!” he wails. “My Gawd!”

He can’t see very plain until he climbs out and leans over th’ casing. “Speak to me, Rosalind!” he sobs. “Hu-honey, I wants yuh to—the devil!”

A figger rises up from th’ coach, looks him in th’ eye and spits out three perfectly good teeth.

“I begs yore pardon,” says Sig, in a dazed sort of uh way.

“Yo’re welcome,” says th’ other party, puttin’ his finger into th’ place where his teeth used to be, and lookin’ foolish.

“Uh—hu—huh!” says a voice behind them, and there stands Art Miller.

Most of his clothes are missin’ and he’s nursin’ uh skinned elbow and leanin’ agin’ uh wheel fer support.

“What happened, driver?” asks th’ party of th’ missin’ teeth.

Art looks over th’ wreck and then back at th’ bald head stickin’ out of th’ stage.

“If it was yore eyes instead of yore teeth I might take th’ trouble to explain,” he snaps. “Take uh look and form yore own conclusions.”

“We—huh—seem to have wrecked.”

“We—huh—have!” snapped Art, and then to Sig: “What do yuh mean by stampedin’ my outfit thataway, eh? Comin’ along a-shootin’ like uh crazy half-breed!”

“Art,” says Sig, “I shore begs yore pardon if I done wrong, but I’d almost swear that I hears somebody yell ‘Hands up!’ at you, when you pulls out of th’ ford, and I comes to yore rescue. Dog-gone it all, that’s allus th’ way. When yuh tries to do uh feller uh favor he don’t appreciate it.”

Sig looks sorry fer himself and rolls uh smoke.

“Yore hearin’ is fine,” states Art, after thinkin’ fer uh minute. “Jist as we pulls out of th’ ford, that rattle-headed, Roman-nosed, off leader uh mine leans back and lets th’ pinto wheeler into th’ stretchers. What I yells was—I begs yore pardon, preacher, did you speak?”

“Please,” mumbles th’ party of th’ missin’ teeth. “Things are bad enough without repeatin’ your former exclamations.”

“Preacher,” wonders Sig out loud. “Another preacher in th’ country? We done got one in Piperock now, Art. One with all his teeth, too.”

“Uh-huh,” agreed Art. “But he’s uh Baptist. This’n is uh Presbyterian. Miss Beebee’s uh Presbyterian, and she insists on her own tribe fer th’ marriage wau-wau. Sabe?

“When is this event due to happen?” grins Sig.

“Tonight,” states Art. “And I’ll bet Buck Masterson is runnin’ rings around himself right now. We’re due.”

“Buck Masterson?” mumbles Sig. “I don’t see——”

“Nobody does either,” chuckles Art. “Ain’t he gittin’ uh prize package?”

Sig grunts and wonders if some of th’ buck-shot didn’t go deeper than just through th’ skin. He feels dazed like. Art Miller is fumblin’ inside his shirt and finally produces a wrinkled envelope.

“I jist happened to remember it, Sig. I sees Ren Merton yesterday in Curlew and he sends you this. Wrote it too late to mail. Li’l surprise.”

He finished with a wink at th’ preacher person, who is huntin’ around inside th’ wrecked stage fer his teeth.

Sig opened th’ envelope and read th’ followin’ aloud:

“Deer Sigismund:

Me and Rosalind were married here today and send you our best wishes. I hated to double-cross you but I told her about our plans and she said that heroes were born and not made and that I’d be one if I saved her from a certain bow-legged person we both know. I asks your pardon and wishes to state that I wouldn’t have done it if I had of been sober. You can have that new quirt which is hangin’ over my bunk. You know how a feller loses his head when he’s spifflikated.

Yours respy
Renley St. Clair Merton & wife.

P.S. The preacher what tied the not is in the stage and can tell you all about it. I hope you don’t kill him during the rescue ’cause he never asked fer a cent.”

“You—you performed a marriage in Curlew last night?” asked Sig, and th’ preacher nods.

“Yeth thir,” he states, with his tongue explorin’ where his teeth used to bed down. “But I never wath paid a thent.”

Sig fumbled around in his pocket for a moment and then hauled out a small roll of bills.

“Here’s uh ten spot with my compliments, old-timer.”

“Wath he a friend of yours?” asks th’ preacher.

“Well,” says Sig, feelin’ of th’ two envelopes in his chaps pocket, “he don’t think so, but he don’t know it all. If uh man would ask me I’d say, yes.”

Sig recovers his horse and pulls out fer Piperock, after promisin’ Art that he’ll send help out to them. Buck is standin’ in front of th’ saloon and as Sig rides up he yells—

“Seen anythin’ of th’ stage, Sig?”

Sig tells him about th’ smash-up and then goes in and drapes himself over th’ bar. Ricky Henderson is there and they crooks elbows numerous.

“Where’s Ren?” asks Ricky. “I ain’t seen him since Saturday. Him and that Rosalind person is thicker than axle grease in January. Been out ridin’ every day last week. I thought you had aspirations thataway, Sig.’”

“Not me, Ricky. Yore uncle Siggie knows when he’s safe. I’m goin’ over to congratulate th’ bride, and then I’m goin’ to come back and fill my hide with some more absent-minded juice. So long.”

He ambles across th’ street to th’ restaurant and finds Miss Matilda tellin’ th’ Chink what to have fer supper.

“Howdy,” says Sig. “I reckon I can congratulate you on yore marriage to Buck.”

Matilda blushes through her whiskers and smooths her skirt.

“Thanks, Sigismund. I had hopes that you and Rosalind could stand up with us, but she’s in Curlew and won’t be back. I’ll have to git Miss Harris. Would you like to stand up with her?”

“Ma’am,” says Sig, “while I admires such functions uh heap, I’d uh lot rather jist sit on th’ bench and watch ’em. Rosalind is uh real nice girl, I reckon, but her and me ain’t——”

Miss Beebee pats Sig on th’ shoulder in uh motherly way.

“Rosalind is uh nice girl but she’s got uh temper that would, when it busts, make uh stick of dynamite sound like th’ scratchin’ of uh sulfur match. She told me that she liked yore looks th’ first time she ever seen yuh, Sigismund, but it’s money she wants—not love.”

“She’s done married Ren,” states Sig sarcastically.

“Already? My, my, she shore didn’t take any chances. I’ll tell you uh secret Ricky Henderson told.”

Sig looked foolishly at her and scratched his head.

“Ricky did, eh? Jist about how much did that hombre e-lucidate?”

“He came in here the other day after Renley had gone, and he told us all about Renley being the real owner of the Triangle cattle and also havin’ uh big interest in th’ Seven A. Oh, he told us all about Renley. Ricky had been drinkin’, I think.”

“So Rosalind——”

“Jist a moment, Sigismund. I want to make a little confession. Her name is not Rosalind, but Matilda. We traded names when we came up here because mine fits her better than her own. Of course all our friends outside of Piperock know that my name is Rosalind. Of course when she found out all about Renley——”

“Yes’m,” agreed Sig. “She marries him fer his money. Honest, ma’am, I feels fer both of them.”

Sig walks back across th’ street in uh dazed sort-a way and leans against th’ bar.

“Rosalind, eh?” he snorts to himself. “Well, don’t that beat four of uh kind. Renley is th’ owner of th’— Gosh! There’s goin’ to be uh noise like uh ton of dynamite in that li’l ol’ honeymoon. Huh! That Elberton person must shore be uh collector uh knick-knacks and—I wonder if he was drunk, too?”

Buck Masterson walks in from th’ front and ranges alongside of Sig.

“I’ve sent fer th’ preacher,” he states.

But Sig jist grunts. He’s tryin’ to visualize th’ face on Jack Elberton, which would want to come clear to Piperock to kiss Miss Beebee.

“Did you know her name was Rosalind?” asks Sig.

“Shee,” says Buck, and then he gits confidential and talks in uh low tone. “Dog-gone th’ luck, Sig, I shore wish it was all over. It’s got me so danged jumpy that I flinches at everything. I wish—huh—I wish—say, Sig, uh feller hadn’t ought to drink whisky a-tall. He hadn’t ought to take even one li’l friendly drink. I’ll——”

“Say,” snorts Sig, “You don’t mean to tell me that you was full when you——”

“Fuller’n uh shepherd,” states Buck solemnly. “By cripes, I was so full that I’d have proposed to uh—say, where yuh goin’?”

“Me?” asks Sig, turnin’ around in th’ doorway, and holdin’ up his right hand. “I’m goin’ out to meet that preacher person and I’m—goin’—to—sign—th’ pledge! Sabe? Self-preservation is th’ first law of nature, and I’d rather be preserved than pickled. It’s safer.”


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