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THE REHABILITATING OF BUCK
WALTER ARCHER FROST
T WAS ABOUT an terly'unapproachable.
hour past sun-up Then he raised himself impressively I when they reached from the table and three chairs which had
San Peto and deliv- supported him, cast one Jove-like glance ered up the herd. at the common herd before him, and went
The last three days loftily out to regard the common herd had been the worst outside.
ones in the drive, for Being in absolute possession of the the thermometer had stuck around 120, universe, he thought that he ought not to and the desert dust had risen in suffocat- confine his attention to one place, and ing clouds from the feet of the 4,000 he therefore moved; and, as he moved, steers. So, when they were paid off, they from the almost inconceivable altitude of made a break for the nearest thirst-morgue his superiority Buck Smith looked down. and pretty generally went to work.
A circus occupied one of the sun-baked Buck left them for a moment to get a squares, and he strode thither, scurging cup of coffee in a cafe, for, he said, that every one and everything with scornful laid a good foundation, and then he'd glance. join them. They didn't want any founda- The largest crowd was before a table, tion, they said, and he told them they behind which a man was seated, “workdidn't need to wait.
ing” the shells; that is, the operator At the cafe he got his coffee, and then placed first one shell and then another a man invited him to try a strictly local over a single pea, and the on-lookers bet drink.
against him as to the shell which he alBuck said he didn't care how local it lowed to stay over it. was, provided it was wet. It was very Buck Smith observed that, almost inwet, and he approved of it. “My name variably, the operator won. At this, he is Buck Smith,” he said, as he sat down threw back his shoulders until his chest at one of the tables, “and you can bring was nearly horizontal with the ground, me about six of those.”
and frowned even more majestically: When the six were gone, Buck came to poor, dull-witted simpletons that they the conclusion that money was worth only were, these people could not see the trick. what it would buy, and he bought, on that Since all people were his slaves, their loss basis, the strictly local drink.
was his, and he commanded them to deAfter an hour, he made the discovery sist. that the whole shop was his.
But they answered him lightly, and After another hour he leaned back in his some, who had seen him at the cafe, went chair, threw more money across the bar, further: "Shut up! Get out! Go and and confessed that he owned the town. sleep it off. You’re plumb drunk, Buck And at the end of the third hour he be- Smith!” came conscious that he owned the world. “Drunk !” And "Buck Smith.” That
Each acquisition had given him new showed him that they were drunk and that dignity, and he haughtily turned his back their names were Smith. But he was inupon the crowd. It occurred to him that creasingly surprised that no one seemed even them, their manner bordered on the aware of who or what he was. Then, sudfamiliar; he frowned until he became ut denly he understood it! It was not un“Are you
common for rulers now and then to go his right, but it was always left under the among their subjects incognito, and that middle shell; that is, almost always, for was just what he was doing now. He sometimes the operator varied it, and it would tell them later, but for a time he was in pursuit of this variety that Buck would keep his disguise, and it was abso- Smith's "system,” almost completed, was iute. As their ruler, he was, however, in- work. censed against the man who was deceiving At last he solved it: the last six passes them, and he decided to expose the opera- that the operator made were only feints, tor's foolish game before their eyes. made to mislead the eye. Buck knew it
Striding grandly to the table, he cast was six, for he had counted them a great down a handful of bills: “The pea is be- many times. That was the number of neath that one," he thundered, regally fake passes, so all he had to do was count indicating a certain shell. The operator back six, and he would have the shell that looked at him.
sure,” he held the pea. Counting back that way laughed. “It is there," decreed Buck would be confusing, but, after a while, he Smith. “It can be only there," and he had solved that, too: all he had to do hurled down another roll of bills.
to get the right count was to stand rigid “Any other bets ?” asked the operator.
and shut his eyes. Then, no one answering: "It's a pleasant He could not lose now, and he was just day, but some rain wouldn't hurt a bit.” about to bet, when the operator again adAs he spoke he raised the shell Buck dressed the crowd: “Just to show you I Smith had bet on, and there was nothing ain't working a flim-flam game, I'm going under it. With a swift but easy motion he to turn my back, and when you've picked gathered in Buck's bills, then,
your shells, just sing out, and I'll turn threw the shells leisurely, he drawled around.” again: "Come on and make your bets !" Good as his word, the operator turned.
For a moment, Buck Smith stood As he did so, a wiry man in the regulation stunned, and even raised his right hand cowboy rig slipped through from the outto his head. He would have spoken, but skirts of the crowd to the table's edge, he didn't know what to say. King though lifted first one and then another shell, unhe was, he had bet on the wrong shell; it til he found where the pea was, then covwas astounding, but his eyes had been de- ered it again, and as silently resumed his ceived just as those of his subjects had. place.
But, though he had been deceived, one A noiseless laugh went up from those defeat did not conquer him, and he de- who saw it. But there was nothing said. cided to remedy his mistake: he would “All right, pardner,” some one called watch the operator's movements carefully, out. The operator faced them again. “I evolve a system, and that perfected, bet did what I said I would. Now make your once more, and this time make the man's bets." humiliation complete.
There was no hesitation this time, for Quite on the spur of the moment, he every man bet on the shell under which threw his arm around a near-by pole of they had seen the pea lying; that is, the the main tent, still further supporting it second shell to the left. by leaning against it with his chest; this Buck bet on that one, too, though his minimized the effort of standing and gave "system” had said that the pea was under his eye a rock-like steadiness, and from the third shell to the left. The miscalthere he followed every pass that the oper- culation was his own fault, he knew; he ator made.
had opened his eyes too soon. He saw that it was quite simple, after “Any more bets ?” droned the operator. all: the man pushed the pea to the left There was a heavy silence, during which with the shell he held in his right hand, he turned to raise the shell, and a groan and to the right with the shell he held of surprise went up, for the pea was disin his left; after every third push with his covered not under the second, but under left hand he caught the pea with the mid- the first shell to the left. dle ell and ma believe that he had The crowd pressed forward, then sagged rolled it from that to the shell that was at speechlessly back, apparently the most puz
zled of them all the wiry man who had shake this locality with me, and we won't slipped through from the outskirts of the come back again. We'll slide out in about crowd.
half an hour from now. In the meanBuck Smith was baffled; his knees time we're going to round up that conshook and he wondered when his head federate you told about.” had begun to ache. He turned away “Confederate ?" blindly, his senses reeling so that he did “Of course,” said Dead River, calmly, not feel them shoulder him this way and “that chap who stood in with the man that as he staggered through the crowd. that worked the shells, showed where the
It was not the loss of the money which pea was, I mean, when the operator's back preyed so upon him; it was the shock to was turned." his station and prestige; what sort of a Buck stared. “Say, I must have been King was he, if he fell by the same trick pretty bad off not to have thought of that had deceived the common herd? Who that!” would do him homage! How would “You
It wasn't such a bad he— His elevation was now less lofty, game, though, and it seems you wasn't but he still knew who he was.
the only one who didn't see through it. With no definite direction, he walked Come along. If we get a wiggle on we down the dusty street. The by-standers ought to be able to locate that wiry chap.” jeered him, and he was still further dis- It was a much-relieved Buck Smith couraged by the fact that no withering that followed Dead River down the street, retort occurred to him.
and they found the crowd still there, the “What's the matter," he wondered, un- operator still mechanically encouraging conscious that he spoke aloud. A cowboy them to "make their bets." who had been racing toward him forced “Presently,” said Dead River. Then, his horse back upon its haunches, simul- *in a whisper to Buck: “Just squint your taneously anchoring it by throwing its lamps around and point the fellow out!” reins forward over its head. “The mat- "That's him," Buck replied, and in anter with you, Buck Smith, is just bad al- other moment they were beside the opercohol. I've been hunting for you two
ator's ally. hours,” the big cowboy said.
"You're covered," breathed Dead Buck met the speaker's eyes blankly, River. “We've got you spotted, and you then tottered, and the other sprang fore- are going to go up there again, as soon as ward just in time to catch him in his that fellow's back is turned. arms: “Poor old Buck, you don't know ing now," and as he spoke, he pressed the even Dead River Colby, your old pard- muzzle of his Colt against the other's
Straighten that homely phiz of side. "Get a move on, and find the pea, yours, you damned Greaser,” continued but this time you know you're going to Colby to a strolling Mexican, who was let it stay where it is !” looking on amused; “just as he is, he's The crowd understood, though they twice as much man as you. Hide now, or said nothing. As soon as the operator I'll wake him and tell him where you turned his back, the wiry man, now whiteare!” The man obeyed, and in a cloud of faced, and wearing his cowboy clothes dust, Dead River's buckskin carried Buck more awkwardly, went to the table and and his pardner into privacy.
began to lift the shells. It was three hours la er that Buck "Go careful," warned Dead River. The Smith awoke: “Look here, old horse!" man swiftly raised all of them, and not he said to the attendant Dead River, “I've one shell held the pea. sure had the all-firedest dream.”
“Of course not,” said Dead River, “but “Don't bother giving it to me again. you've got half a dozen in your pocket. I know all about it, for you talked some Get busy now and stick one under each for about the first hour you was asleep. I one of the shells. There, you can trot know about how it was. Got that way onct back now, and stand in front of my pardmyself; it was somewhere round this part He'll cover you, remember. I'm of the country, too; comes from the dope going to stay here and keep an eye on they sell down here. You're going to your brother in the chair.”
The operator turned slowly; he may or may not have guessed, but there was little color in his face.
"Have you all picked your shells, gentlemen?"
"I guess so,” replied Dead River, pointing to the table, which was covered with bags of dust and rolls of bills. “Yes, we're all ready. It's up to you. Now go ahead!”
It is not likely that the “shell” game was ever worked with such results before. Even then the operator might have balked, but after one look at Dead River, who stood directly before him, grim, clear
eyed and truculent, the man lifted each shell and every bet was paid.
"It's just that I saw you and went you two or three better," Dead River Colby explained. “And now it ain't necessary for you to stay here any longer, as I look at it. But say, don't never come up into Arizona, for that boy,” indicating Buck Smith, "and I'll be there!"
Buck turned. “Back to Arizona, is it. Dead River ?”
“Yes. You see I've got some money, and it looks like this deal had rehabiler. tated you. And they's a nice, tidy ranch up there I happen to know's for sale."
BY MYRTLE CONGER
Of all the plans I've ever made,
I never yet a hope have held
IN DAYS OF GUN PLAYS
WILL F. GRIFFIN
T WAS DOWN in to think sometimes he was tongue-tied.
Tombstone. The day But he wasn't. Not a bit. It was just
had been blistering his way. I hot, and we were sit- “In his cups he differed from the sober
ting in front of the Bill just in one respect. He always imGrand Central Hotel agined somebody was insulting his friends. enjoying the night
night He would take all sorts of insults about air.
himself and smile 'em off in a weak-fash“When it comes to rapid gun plays, I ioned way; but the minute Bill imagined makes just two exceptions to my old friend any of his friends were gettin' the worst and hunkie, Bill Cummings," said the of it, his eyes would begin to glisten. LikeMajor, as he dropped a pinch of tobacco wise his trigger finger would get itchy. in a slip of brown paper and deftly rolled “Trigger finger ain't quite appropriate in a cigarette. "Them two are Wild Bill this case, because there wasn't any trigger Hickok and the Apache Kid.
on Bill's gun. To have to pull a trigger “Of course,” went on the Major, “there in a quick gun play was too slow work, du may have been others, but if so I never Bill had that obstacle removed. You-all met up with them. Gun plays ain't fash- recalls that the Apache Kid got wise to ionable nowadays, so I reckon you-all that time-saving scheme some time before don't know much about them. But it the sheriff caught him with his guard don't require no mental effort on my part down. You know how it works, don't you? to recall the time when a man had to be You merely pulls the hammer back at the mighty careful what pocket he carried his same time you pulls your gun, then when tobacco in. To reach for tobacco in a you get your bead
let her flicker. And hip pocket looked suspicious, leastwise in right here let me say that Bill's long suit the midst of an argument. I recalls more was in having the hammer back before the than one man who had to quit the trail muzzle of his gun was out of the holster. from an overdose of cold lead because of "Bill was what you-all from the East just such carelessness.
would call a bad man, but he never picked “In the old days of Abilene and Dodge a fight in his life. None whatever. And a man wasn't expected to do much with as I before remarked he would go to the his hands in a bar-room outside of reachin' limit before making any resentment, esin his front pocket for the price of his ob- pecially sober. And then if he made a
a ligation at the bar. Beyond that he was gun play, nine times out of ten it was looked on with suspicion, unless, of course, in behalf of his friends. he was known as a peaceful character, as “Him and me drifted into Dodge one was my friend Bill Cummings, drunk or night just about the time when the evensober. Sober, Bill would sit quietly in a ing was getting ripe. We had been on corner of a dance hall and take in the pro- the round-up with the Circle Bar outfit, ceedings with all the enjoyment of a ten- and had two months' pay in our pockets. year-old kid. Somehow, the scratching of Like all self-respecting cow-punchers the fiddles always had a peculiar influence whose throats had become clogged with on Bill. He didn't want to dance, didn't alkalai dust, we had a wild yearning to want to drink, and didn't care for no let our lips slip over five fingers of the rough house. He just wanted to sit in villainous stuff that was supposed to make an out-of-the-way corner and let the music a man feel like a mine owner and forget soak into his soul. And as for talkin', his troubles. We ties our cayuses in front Bill was a second cousin to a clam. I used of the Green Light dance hall, and