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Title: Cupid From Bear Creek
Author: Robert E. Howard
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eBook No.: 0608631.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: November 2006
Date most recently updated: November 2006

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Cupid From Bear Creek
Robert E. Howard

Some day, maybe, when I'm a old man, I'll have sense enough to
stay away from these new mining camps which springs up overnight like
mushroomers. There was that time in Teton Gulch, for instance. It was
a ill-advised moment when I stopped there on my way back to the
Humbolts from the Yavapai country. I was a sheep for the shearing and
I was shore plenty. And if some of the shearers got fatally hurt in
the process, they needn't to blame me. I was acting in self-defense
all the way through.

At first I aimed to pass right through Teton Gulch without
stopping. I was in a hurry to git back to my home-country and find out
was any misguided idjits trying to court Dolly Rixby, the belle of War
Paint, in my absence. I hadn't heard from her since I left Bear Creek,
five weeks before, which warn't surprizing, seeing as how she couldn't
write, nor none of her family, and I couldn't of read it if they had.
But they was a lot of young bucks around War Paint which could be
counted on to start shining around her the minute my back was turnt.

But my thirst got the best of me, and I stopped in the camp. I was
drinking me a dram at the bar of the Yaller Dawg Saloon and Hotel,
when the bar-keep says, after studying me a spell, he says: "You must
be Breckinridge Elkins, of Bear Creek."

I give the matter due consideration, and 'lowed as how I was.

"How come you knowed me?" I inquired suspiciously, because I
hadn't never been in Teton Gulch before, and he says: "Well, I've
heard tell of Breckinridge Elkins, and when I seen you, I figgered you
must be him, because I don't see how they can be two men in the world
that big. By the way, there's a friend of yore'n upstairs--Blink
Wiltshaw, from War Paint. I've heered him brag about knowin' you
personal. He's upstairs now, fourth door from the stair-head, on the

Now that there news interested me, because Blink was the most
persistent of all them young mavericks which was trying to spark Dolly
Rixby. Just the night before I left for Yavapai, I catched him coming
out of her house, and was fixing to sweep the street with him when
Dolly come out and stopped me and made us shake hands.

It suited me fine for him to be in Teton Gulch, or anywheres just
so he warn't no-wheres nigh Dolly Rixby, so I thought I'd pass the
time of day with him.

I went upstairs and knocked on the door, and _bam!_ went a gun
inside and a .45 slug ripped through the door and taken a nick out of
my off-ear. Getting shot in the ear always did irritate me, so without
waiting for no more exhibitions of hospitality, I give voice to my
displeasure in a deafening beller and knocked the door off its hinges
and busted into the room over its ruins.

For a second I didn't see nobody, but then I heard a kind of
gurgle going on, and happened to remember that the door seemed kind of
squishy underfoot when I tromped over it, so I knowed that whoever was
in the room had got pinned under the door when I knocked it down.

So I reached under it and got him by the collar and hauled him
out, and shore enough it was Blink Wiltshaw. He was limp as a lariat,
and glassy-eyed and pale, and was still kind of trying to shoot me
with his six-shooter when I taken it away from him.

"What the hell's the matter with you?" I demanded sternly,
dangling him by the collar with one hand, whilst shaking him till his
teeth rattled. "Didn't Dolly make us shake hands? What you mean by
tryin' to 'sasserinate me through a hotel door?"

"Lemme down, Breck," he gasped. "I didn't know it was you. I
thought it was Rattlesnake Harrison comin' after my gold."

SO I SOT HIM DOWN. HE grabbed a jug of licker and taken a swig,
and his hand shook so he spilled half of it down his neck.

"Well?" I demanded. "Ain't you goin' to offer me a snort, dern

"Excuse me, Breckinridge," he apolergized. "I'm so derned jumpy I
dunno what I'm doin'. You see them buckskin pokes?" says he, p'inting
at some bags on the bed. "Them is plumb full of nuggets. I been minin'
up the Gulch, and I hit a regular bonanza the first week. But it ain't
doin' me no good."

"What you mean?" I demanded.

"These mountains is full of outlaws," says he. "They robs, and
murders every man which makes a strike. The stagecoach has been stuck
up so often nobody sends their dust out on it no more. When a man
makes a pile he sneaks out through the mountains at night, with his
gold on pack-mules. I aimed to do that last night. But them outlaws
has got spies all over the camp, and I know they got me spotted.
Rattlesnake Harrison's their chief, and he's a ring-tailed he-devil. I
been squattin' over this here gold with my pistol in fear and
tremblin', expectin' 'em to come right into camp after me. I'm dern
nigh loco!"

And he shivered and cussed kind of whimpery, and taken another
dram, and cocked his pistol and sot there shaking like he'd saw a
ghost or two.

"You got to help me, Breckinridge," he said desperately. "_You_
take this here gold out for me, willya? The outlaws don't know you.
You could hit the old Injun path south of the camp and foller it to
Hell-Wind Pass. The Chawed-Ear--Wahpeton stage goes through there
about sun-down. You could put the gold on the stage there, and they'd
take it on to Wahpeton. Harrison wouldn't never think of holdin' it up
_after_ it left Hell-Wind. They always holds it up this side of the

"What I want to risk my neck for you for?" I demanded bitterly,
memories of Dolly Rixby rising up before me. "If you ain't got the
guts to tote out yore own gold--"

"T'ain't altogether the gold, Breck," says he. "I'm tryin' to git
married, and--"

_"Married?"_ says I. "Here? In Teton Gulch? To a gal in Teton

"Married to a gal in Teton Gulch," he avowed. "I was aimin' to git
hitched tomorrer, but they ain't a preacher or justice of the peace in
camp to tie the knot. But her uncle the Reverant Rembrandt Brockton is
a circuit rider, and he's due to pass through Hell-Wind on his way to
Wahpeton today. I was aimin' to sneak out last night, hide in the
hills till the stage come through, then put the gold on the stage and
bring Brother Rembrandt back with me. But yesterday I learnt
Harrison's spies was watchin' me, and I'm scairt to go. Now Brother
Rembrandt will go on to Wahpeton, not knowin' he's needed here, and no
tellin' when I'll be able to git married--"

"Hold on," I said hurried, doing some quick thinking. I didn't
want this here wedding to fall through. The more Blink was married to
some gal in Teton, the less he could marry Dolly Rixby.

"Blink," I said, grasping his hand warmly, "let it never be said
that a Elkins ever turned down a friend in distress. I'll take yore
gold to Hell-Wind Pass and bring back Brother Rembrandt."

Blink fell onto my neck and wept with joy. "I'll never forgit
this, Breckinridge," says he, "and I bet you won't neither! My hoss
and pack-mule are in the stables behind the saloon."

"I don't need no pack-mule," I says. "Cap'n Kidd can pack the dust

CAP'N KIDD WAS GETTING fed out in the corral next to the hotel. I
went out there and got my saddle-bags, which is a lot bigger'n most
saddle-bags, because all my plunder has to be made to fit my size.
They're made outa three-ply elkskin, stitched with rawhide thongs, and
a wildcat couldn't claw his way out of 'em.

I noticed quite a bunch of men standing around the corral looking
at Cap'n Kidd, but thought nothing of it, because he is a hoss which
naturally attracts attention. But whilst I was getting my saddle-bags,
a long lanky cuss with long yaller whiskers come up and said, says he:
"Is that yore hoss in the corral?"

If he ain't he ain't nobody's," I says.

"Well, he looks a whole lot like a hoss that was stole off my
ranch six months ago," he said, and I seen ten or fifteen hard-looking
hombres gathering around me. I laid down my saddle-bags sudden-like
and reached for my guns, when it occurred to me that if I had a fight
there I might git arrested and it would interfere with me bringing
Brother Rembrandt in for the wedding.

"If that there is yore hoss," I said, "you ought to be able to
lead him out of that there corral."

"Shore I can," he says with a oath. "And what's more, I aim'ta."

He looked at me suspiciously, but he taken up a rope and clumb the
fence and started toward Cap'n Kidd which was chawing on a block of
hay in the middle of the corral. Cap'n Kidd throwed up his head and
laid back his ears and showed his teeth, and Jake stopped sudden and
turned pale.

"I--I don't believe that there _is_ my hoss, after all!" says he.

"Put that lasso on him!" I roared, pulling my right-hand gun. "You
say he's yore'n; I say he's mine. One of us is a liar and a hoss-
thief, and I aim to prove which. Gwan, before I festoons yore system
with lead polka-dots!"

He looked at me and he looked at Cap'n Kidd, and he turned bright
green all over. He looked agen at my .45 which I now had cocked and
p'inted at his long neck, which his adam's apple was going up and down
like a monkey on a pole, and he begun to aidge toward Cap'n Kidd
again, holding the rope behind him and sticking out one hand.

"Whoa, boy," he says kind of shudderingly. "Whoa--good old
feller--nice hossie--whoa, boy--_ow!_"

He let out a awful howl as Cap'n Kidd made a snap and bit a chunk
out of his hide. He turned to run but Cap'n Kidd wheeled and let fly
both heels which caught Jake in the seat of the britches, and his
shriek of despair was horrible to hear as he went head-first through
the corral fence into a hoss-trough on the other side. From this he
ariz dripping water, blood and profanity, and he shook a quivering
fist at me and croaked: "You derned murderer! I'll have yore life for

"I don't hold no conversation with hoss-thieves," I snorted, and
picked up my saddle-bags and stalked through the crowd which give back
in a hurry.

I TAKEN THE SADDLE-BAGS up to Blink's room, and told him about
Jake, thinking he'd be amoosed, but got a case of aggers again, and
said: "That was one of Harrison's men! He meant to take yore hoss.
It's a old trick, and honest folks don't dare interfere. Now they got
you spotted! What'll you do?"

"Time, tide and a Elkins waits for no man!" I snorted, dumping the
gold into the saddle-bags. "If that yaller-whiskered coyote wants any
trouble, he can git a bellyfull. Don't worry, yore gold will be safe
in my saddle-bags. It's as good as in the Wahpeton stage right now.
And by midnight I'll be back with Brother Rembrandt Brockton to hitch
you up with his niece."

"Don't yell so loud," begged Blink. "The cussed camp's full of
spies. Some of 'em may be downstairs now, listenin'."

"I warn't speakin' above a whisper," I said indignantly.

"That bull's beller may pass for a whisper on Bear Creek," says
he, wiping off the sweat, "but I bet they can hear it from one end of
the Gulch to the other, at least."

It's a pitable sight to see a man with a case of the scairts; I
shook hands with him and left him pouring red licker down his gullet
like it was water, and I swung the saddle-bags over my shoulder and
went downstairs, and the bar-keep leaned over the bar and whispered to
me: "Look out for Jake Roman! He was in here a minute ago, lookin' for
trouble. He pulled out just before you come down, but he won't be
forgittin' what yore hoss done to him!"

"Not when he tries to set down, he won't," I agreed, and went on
out to the corral, and they was a crowd of men watching Cap'n Kidd eat
his hay, and one of 'em seen me and hollered: "Hey, boys, here comes
the giant! He's goin' to saddle that man-eatin' monster! Hey, Bill!
Tell the boys at the bar!"

And here come a whole passel of fellers running out of all the
saloons, and they lined the corral fence solid, and started laying
bets whether I'd git the saddle on Cap'n Kidd or git my brains kicked
out. I thought miners must all be crazy. They ought've knowed I was
able to saddle my own hoss.

Well, I saddled him and throwed on the saddle-bags and clumb
aboard, and he pitched about ten jumps like he always does when I
first fork him--t'warn't nothing, but them miners hollered like wild
Injuns. And when he accidentally bucked hisself and me through the
fence and knocked down a section of it along with fifteen men which
was setting on the top-rail, the way they howled you'd of thought
something terrible had happened. Me and Cap'n Kidd don't generally
bother about gates. We usually makes our own through whatever happens
to be in front of us. But them miners is a weakly breed, because as I
rode out of town I seen the crowd dipping four or five of 'em into a
hoss-trough to bring 'em to, on account of Cap'n Kidd having
accidentally tromped on 'em.

WELL, I RODE OUT OF THE Gulch and up the ravine to the south, and
come out into the high timbered country, and hit the old Injun trail
Blink had told me about. It warn't traveled much. I didn't meet nobody
after I left the Gulch. I figgered to hit Hell-Wind Pass at least a
hour before sun-down which would give me plenty of time. Blink said
the stage passed through there about sun-down. I'd have to bring back
Brother Rembrandt on Cap'n Kidd, I reckoned, but that there hoss can
carry double and still out-run and out-last any other hoss in the
State of Nevada. I figgered on getting back to Teton about midnight or
maybe a little later.

After I'd went several miles I come to Apache Canyon, which was a
deep, narrer gorge, with a river at the bottom which went roaring and
foaming along betwixt rock walls a hundred and fifty feet high. The
old trail hit the rim at a place where the canyon warn't only about
seventy foot wide, and somebody had felled a whopping big pine tree on
one side so it fell acrost and made a foot-bridge, where a man could
walk acrost. They'd once been a gold strike in Apache Canyon, and a
big camp there, but now it was plumb abandoned and nobody lived
anywheres near it.

I turned east and follered the rim for about half a mile. Here I
come into a old wagon road which was just about growed up with
saplings now, but it run down into a ravine into the bed of the
canyon, and they was a bridge acrost the river which had been built
during the days of the gold rush. Most of it had done been washed away
by head-rises, but a man could still ride a horse across what was
left. So I done so and rode up a ravine on the other side, and come
out on high ground again.

I'd rode a few hundred yards past the ravine when somebody said:
"Hey!" and I wheeled with both guns in my hands. Out of the bresh
s'antered a tall gent in a long frock tail coat and broad-brimmed hat.

"Who air you and what the hell you mean by hollerin' 'Hey!' at
me?" I demanded courteously, p'inting my guns at him. A Elkins is
always perlite.

"I am the Reverant Rembrandt Brockton, my good man," says he. "I
am on my way to Teton Gulch to unite my niece and a young man of that
camp in the bonds of holy matrimony."

"The he--you don't say!" I says. "Afoot?"

"I alit from the stage-coach at--ah--Hades-Wind Pass," says he.
"Some very agreeable cowboys happened to be awaiting the stage there,
and they offered to escort me to Teton."

"How come you knowed yore niece was wantin' to be united in
acrimony?" I ast.

"The cowboys informed me that such was the case," says he.

"Where-at are they now?" I next inquore.

"The mount with which they supplied me went lame a little while
ago," says he. "They left me here while they went to procure another
from a near-by ranch-house."

"I dunno who'd have a ranch anywheres near here," I muttered.
"They ain't got much sense leavin' you here by yore high lonesome."

"You mean to imply there is danger?" says he, blinking mildly at

"These here mountains is lousy with outlaws which would as soon
kyarve a preacher's gullet as anybody's," I said, and then I thought
of something else. "Hey!" I says. "I thought the stage didn't come
through the Pass till sun-down?"

"Such was the case," says he. "But the schedule has been altered."

"Heck!" I says. "I was aimin' to put this here gold on it which my
saddle-bags is full of. Now I'll have to take it back to Teton with
me. Well, I'll bring it out tomorrer and catch the stage then. Brother
Rembrandt, I'm Breckinridge Elkins, of Bear Creek, and I come out here
to meet you and escort you back to the Gulch, so's you could unite
yore niece and Blink Wiltshaw in the holy bounds of alimony. Come on.
We'll ride double."

"But I must await my cowboy friends!" he said. "Ah, here they come

I looked over to the east and seen about fifteen men ride into
sight out of the bresh and move toward us. One was leading a hoss
without no saddle onto it.

"Ah, my good friends!" beamed Brother Rembrandt. "They have
procured a mount for me, even as they promised."

He hauled a saddle out of the bresh, and says: "Would you please
saddle my horse for me when they get here? I should be delighted to
hold your rifle while you did so."

I started to hand him my Winchester, when the snap of a twig under
a hoss's hoof made me whirl quick. A feller had just rode out of a
thicket about a hundred yards south of me, and he was raising a
Winchester to his shoulder. I recognized him instantly. If us Bear
Creek folks didn't have eyes like a hawk, we'd never live to git
growed. It was Jake Roman!

Our Winchesters banged together. His lead fanned my ear and mine
knocked him end-ways out of his saddle.

"Cowboys, hell!" I roared. "Them's Harrison's outlaws! I'll save
you, Brother Rembrandt!"

I SWOOPED HIM UP WITH one arm and gouged Cap'n Kidd with the spurs
and he went from there like a thunderbolt with its tail on fire. Them
outlaws come on with wild yells. I ain't in the habit of running from
people, but I was afeared they might do the Reverant harm if it come
to a close fight, and if he stopped a hunk of lead, Blink might not
git to marry his niece, and might git disgusted and go back to War
Paint and start sparking Dolly Rixby again.

I was heading back for the canyon, aiming to make a stand in the
ravine if I had to, and them outlaws was killing their hosses trying
to git to the bend of the trail ahead of me, and cut me off. Cap'n
Kidd was running with his belly to the ground, but I'll admit Brother
Rembrandt warn't helping me much. He was laying acrost my saddle with
his arms and laigs waving wildly because I hadn't had time to set him
comfortable, and when the horn jobbed him in the belly he uttered some
words I wouldn't of expected to hear spoke by a minister of the

Guns begun to crack and lead hummed past us, and Brother Rembrandt
twisted his head around and screamed: "Stop that shootin', you--sons
of--! You'll hit me!"

I thought it was kind of selfish of Brother Rembrandt not to
mention me, too, but I said: "T'ain't no use to remonstrate with them
skunks, Reverant. They ain't got no respeck for a preacher even."

But to my amazement the shooting stopped, though them bandits
yelled louder'n ever and flogged their cayuses. But about that time I
seen they had me cut off from the lower canyon crossing, so I wrenched
Cap'n Kidd into the old Injun trace and headed straight for the canyon
rim as hard as he could hammer, with the bresh lashing and snapping
around us and slapping Brother Rembrandt in the face when it whipped
back. The outlaws yelled and wheeled in behind us, but Cap'n Kidd
drawed away from them with every stride, and the canyon rim loomed
just ahead of us.

"Pull up, you jack-eared son of Baliol!" howled Brother Rembrandt.
"You'll go over the edge!"

"Be at ease, Reverant," I reassured him. "We're goin' over the

"Lord have mercy on my soul!" he squalled, and shet his eyes and
grabbed a stirrup leather with both hands, and then Cap'n Kidd went
over that log like thunder rolling on Jedgment Day.

I doubt if they is another hoss west of the Pecos which would bolt
out onto a log foot-bridge acrost a canyon a hundred fifty foot deep
like that, but they ain't nothing in this world Cap'n Kidd's scairt of
except maybe me. He didn't slacken his speed none. He streaked acrost
that log like it was a quarter-track, with the bark and splinters
flying from under his hoofs, and if one foot had slipped a inch, it
would of been Sally bar the door. But he didn't slip, and we was over
and on the other side almost before you could catch yore breath.

"You can open yore eyes now, Brother Rembrandt," I said kindly,
but he didn't say nothing. He'd fainted. I shook him to wake him up,
and in a flash he come to and give a shriek and grabbed my laig like a
b'ar trap. I reckon he thought we was still on the log. I was trying
to pry him loose when Cap'n Kidd chose that moment to run under a low-
hanging oak tree limb. That's his idee of a joke. That there hoss has
got a great sense of humor.

I looked up just in time to see the limb coming, but not in time
to dodge it. It was as big around as my thigh, and it took me smack
acrost the wish-bone. We was going full speed, and something had to
give way. It was the girths--both of 'em. Cap'n Kidd went out from
under me, and me and Brother Rembrandt and the saddle hit the ground

I JUMPED UP BUT BROTHER Rembrandt laid there going: "Wug wug wug!"
like water running out of a busted jug. And then I seen them outlaws
had dismounted off of their hosses and was corning acrost the bridge
single file, with their Winchesters in their hands.

I didn't waste no time shooting them misguided idjits. I run to
the end of the foot-bridge, ignoring the slugs they slung at me. It
was purty pore shooting, because they warn't shore of their footing,
and didn't aim good. So I only got one bullet in the hind laig and was
creased three or four other unimportant places--not enough to bother

I bent my knees and got hold of the end of the tree and heaved up
with it, and them outlaws hollered and fell along it like ten pins,
and dropped their Winchesters and grabbed holt of the log. I given it
a shake and shook some of 'em off like persimmons off a limb after a
frost, and then I swung the butt around clear of the rim and let go,
and it went down end over end into the river a hundred and fifty feet
below, with a dozen men still hanging onto it and yelling blue murder.

A regular geyser of water splashed up when they hit, and the last
I seen of 'em they was all swirling down the river together in a
thrashing tangle of arms and laigs and heads.

I remember Brother Rembrandt and run back to where he'd fell, but
was already onto his feet. He was kind of pale and wild-eyed and his
laigs kept bending under him, but he had hold of the saddle-bags and
was trying to drag 'em into a thicket, mumbling kind of dizzily to

"It's all right now, Brother Rembrandt," I said kindly. "Them
outlaws is plumb horse-de-combat now, as the French say. Blink's gold
is safe."

"--!" says Brother Rembrandt, pulling two guns from under his coat
tails, and if I hadn't grabbed him, he would of undoubtedly shot me.
We rassled around and I protested: "Hold on, Brother Rembrandt! I
ain't no outlaw. I'm yore friend, Breckinridge Elkins. Don't you

His only reply was a promise to eat my heart without no seasoning,
and he then sunk his teeth into my ear and started to chaw it off,
whilst gouging for my eyes with both thumbs and spurring me severely
in the hind laigs. I seen he was out of his head from fright and the
fall he got, so I said sorrerfully: "Brother Rembrandt, I hate to do
this. It hurts me more'n it does you, but we cain't waste time like
this. Blink is waitin' to git married." And with a sigh I busted him
over the head with the butt of my six-shooter, and he fell over and
twitched a few times and then lay limp.

"Pore Brother Rembrandt," I sighed sadly. "All I hope is I ain't
addled yore brains so you've forgot the weddin' ceremony."

So as not to have no more trouble with him when, and if, he come
to, I tied his arms and laigs with pieces of my lariat, and taken his
weppins which was most surprizing arms for a circuit rider. His
pistols had the triggers out of 'em, and they was three notches on the
butt of one, and four on the other'n. Moreover he had a bowie knife in
his boot, and a deck of marked kyards and a pair of loaded dice in his
hip-pocket. But that warn't none of my business.

About the time I finished tying him up, Cap'n Kidd come back to
see if he'd killed me or just crippled me for life. To show him I can
take a joke too, I give him a kick in the belly, and when he could git
his breath again, and undouble hisself, I throwed the saddle on him. I
spliced the girths with the rest of my lariat, and put Brother
Rembrandt in the saddle and clumb on behind and we headed for Teton

After a hour or so Brother Rembrandt come to and says kind of
dizzily: "Was anybody saved from the typhoon?"

"Yo're all right, Brother Rembrandt," I assured him. "I'm takin'
you to Teton Gulch."

"I remember," he muttered. "It all comes back to me. Damn Jake
Roman! I thought it was a good idea, but it seems I was mistaken. I
thought we had an ordinary human being to deal with. I know when I'm
licked. I'll give you a thousand dollars to let me go."

"Take it easy, Brother Rembrandt," I soothed, seeing he was still
delirious. "We'll be to Teton in no time."

"I don't want to go to Teton!" he hollered.

"You got to," I said. "You got to unite yore niece and Blink
Wiltshaw in the holy bums of parsimony."

"To hell with Blink Wiltshaw and my--niece!" he yelled.

"You ought to be ashamed usin' sech langwidge, and you a minister
of the gospel," I reproved him sternly. His reply would of curled a
Piute's hair.

I was so scandalized I made no reply. I was just fixing to untie
him, so's he could ride more comfortable, but I thought if he was that
crazy, I better not. So I give no heed to his ravings which growed
more and more unbearable. In all my born days I never seen such a

IT WAS SHORE A RELIEF to me to sight Teton at last. It was night
when we rode down the ravine into the Gulch, and the dance halls and
saloons was going full blast. I rode up behind the Yaller Dawg Saloon
and hauled Brother Rembrandt off with me and sot him on his feet, and
he said, kind of despairingly: "For the last time, listen to reason. I
got fifty thousand dollars cached up in the hills. I'll give you every
cent if you'll untie me."

"I don't want no money," I said. "All I want is for you to marry
yore niece and Blink Wiltshaw. I'll untie you then."

"All right," he said. "All right! But untie me now!"

I was just fixing to do it, when the bar-keep come out with a
lantern and he shone it on our faces and said in a startled tone: "Who
the hell is that with you, Elkins?"

"You wouldn't never suspect it from his langwidge," I says, "but
it's the Reverant Rembrandt Brockton."

"Are you crazy?" says the bar-keep. "That's Rattlesnake Harrison!"

"I give up," said my prisoner. "I'm Harrison. I'm licked. Lock me
up somewhere away from this lunatic."

I was standing in a kind of daze, with my mouth open, but now I
woke up and bellered: "_What?_ Yo're Harrison? I see it all now! Jake
Roman overheard me talkin' to Blink Wiltshaw, and rode off and fixed
it with you to fool me like you done, so's to git Blink's gold! That's
why you wanted to hold my Winchester whilst I saddled yore cayuse."

"How'd you ever guess it?" he sneered. "We ought to have shot you
from ambush like I wanted to, but Jake wanted to catch you alive and
torture you to death account of your horse bitin' him. The fool must
have lost his head at the last minute and decided to shoot you after
all. If you hadn't recognized him we'd had you surrounded and stuck up
before you knew what was happening."

"But now the real preacher's gone on to Wahpeton!" I hollered. "I
got to foller him and bring him back--"

"Why, he's here," said one of the men which was gathering around
us. "He come in with his niece a hour ago on the stage from War

"War Paint?" I howled, hit in the belly by a premonition. I run
into the saloon, where they was a lot of people, and there was Blink
and a gal holding hands in front of a old man with a long white beard,
and he had a book in his hand, and t'other'in lifted in the air. He
was saying: "--And I now pronounces you-all man and wife. Them which
God had j'ined together let no snake-hunter put asunder."

_"Dolly!"_ I yelled. Both of 'em jumped about four foot and
whirled, and Dolly Rixby jumped in front of Blink and spread her arms
like she was shooing chickens.

"Don't you tech him, Breckinridge Elkins!" she hollered. "I just
married him and I don't aim for no Humbolt grizzly to spile him!"

"But I don't _sabe_ all this--" I said dizzily, nervously fumbling
with my guns which is a habit of mine when upsot.

Everybody in the wedding party started ducking out of line, and
Blink said hurriedly: "It's this way, Breck. When I made my pile so
onexpectedly quick, I sent for Dolly to come and marry me like she'd
promised the day after you left for the Yavapai. I _was_ aimin' to
take my gold out today, like I told you, so me and Dolly could go to
San Francisco on our honeymoon, but I learnt Harrison's gang was
watchin' me, just like I told you. I wanted to git my gold out, and I
wanted to git you out of the way before Dolly and her uncle got here
on the War Paint stage, so I told you that lie about Brother Rembrandt
bein' on the Wahpeton stage. It was the only lie."

"You said you was marryin' a gal in Teton," I accused fiercely.

"Well," says he, "I did marry her in Teton. You know, Breck, all's
fair in love and war."

"Now, now, boys," said Brother Rembrandt--the real one, I mean.
"The gal's married, yore rivalry is over, and they's no use holdin'
grudges. Shake hands and be friends."

"All right," I said heavily. No man cain't say I ain't a good
loser. I was cut deep but I concealed my busted heart.

Leastways I concealed it all I was able to. Them folks which says
I crippled Blink Wiltshaw with malice aforethought is liars which I'll
sweep the road with when I catches 'em. When my emotions is wrought up
I unconsciously uses more of my strength than I realizes. I didn't aim
to break Blink's arm when I shook hands with him; it was just the
stress of my emotions. Likewise it was Dolly's fault that her Uncle
Rembrandt got throwed out a winder and some others got their heads
banged. When she busted me with that cuspidor I knew that our love was
dead forever. Tears come into my eyes as I waded through the crowd,
and I had to move fast to keep from making a fool of myself. Them that
was flang out of my way ought to have knowed it was done more in
sorrer than in anger.


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