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Title:  The Colognizing Of Kansas
Author: Rex Beach
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 2000581h.html
Language: English
Date first posted:  June 2020
Most recent update: June 2020

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The Colognizing Of Kansas

Rex Beach

Illustrated From Drawings By Martin Justice

It seems like there ain’t but one way to beat a faro game,” said Kink, “and that’s with an ax. I’ve tried them all, and I never had no success but the oncet.”

“Did you ever break the bank?” I inquired.

“I did; with a stick of dynamite.”

We were putting the final touches to the last clean-up, blowing and weighing the gold; Kink drying the wet dust and removing the black sand by blowing it in a scoop, while I attended to the scales. Mrs. Martin had gone to town for the mail, so we had full chance to adventure whither we chose, and our fancies led us idly into the past.

“The play come up like this,” he continued. “I crow-hops into Tularos one day, spurnin’ all things sordid and trivial, for I have four hundred dollars of the realm, eight months of thirst, and a spiritual cordiality for emotion and stimulus. I am that drawed and haggard with onwee that the bartender remarks it.

“‘What’s doin’ in the way of episodes and distractions of mind in this camp?’ says I.

“‘Nothin’,’ says he, ‘except faro and roulette and stud poker.’

“‘Them devices is pueryle and meager. I want something vigorous and man’s-size, something to turn my liver over. I’ve been dead eight months. Ain’t you got no opery house or lynchin’s or rag-time or feuds?’

“‘No,’ says he. ‘This here camp is sure a sylvan refuge for the jaded. There ain’t even been a sheep-herder or a chink massacreed since old man Stubbs had the treemors, and now that he’s took the cure, the future looks dark and unengaging. There’s nothin’ but them mercenary gamblin’ games.’

“I nosed around for an hour, but I never see such a stupefied camp, and, bein’ that bulged out with hunger for emergencies, I am forced agin the green cloth to save my mental balance.

“‘What’s the limit to this snare?’ I asks of the invalid in the operating chair, having found the lay-out.

“‘A dollar,’ says he.

“‘Bein’ twenty-eight years old, with much of my life’s work still undone, I ain’t got time to dribble along that-a-way,’ says I. ‘I intend to annex your bank-roll quick, and spend it before the coin goes out of date or the pictures is wore off of the bills, so if you’ve got a hundred hid out anywhere, I’ll roll you for it, all in a lump.’

“He gropes into the drawer, listless and feeble, but collects a hundred up into a pile and deals the cards. I lose, the first turn. He’s settin’ sideways in his chair and don’t even onfurl his legs.

“‘This fluke only serves to postpone the evil day fer you,’ says I. ‘Turn them fer another hundred.’ Again I lose.

“‘I had figgered on cleanin’ you up, hittin’ you a belt with the surcingle, and lettin’ you go before this, but I don’t begretch the waste of time. You aim to help me get some enthusiasms out of life, don’t you? I appreciate your cooperation. Now, I got you. Let her go.’

“I coppers the bullet and lets the filly run open, for a hundred each. He pushes out the top card, and the next two lays queen, ace. He drags in the hard-earned savings of my last four months without a symptom of joy in his eye, then, when I sets back my chair, he yawns and says :

“‘If you happen into anything that will bust this monotony, lemme know. I’m ’most dead.’

“Naturally, I am some paralyzed at havin’ my anticipations mire down this-a-way inside of three minutes. Yes, I am left at the post, and bein’ young, I am prone to anger. I frisks myself for loose change wherewith to continue the carnage, while my indignities rise up in my nose, but I am disappointed. I am let out complete, thinks I, till I find a lone twenty-dollar gold piece in my vest pocket as I goes out the door. I turns around.

“‘Here! You overlooked this one,’ says I, and I throws it at him as hard as I can. Then I hikes out to the railroad track and sets on a hand-car inventin’ synonyms fer the worst words I knowed. Talk about blues, I am the human wiggle-stick.

‘It’s along about dark when I exhaust all the bad names in three languages and recall  the fact that I ain’t et none sence mornin’ I goes back to the gamblin’ room and braces Mr. Dealer.

“I’m as holler as a gun-bar’l,’ says I. He hands out a dollar, looking sour and grouchy, without even the compliments of the season. The reluctant way he does it offends me, but I swallers my pride for an appetizer and ambles into a grocery across the way to buy an ontree of crackers and cheese; also a salad course of baloony sausage. After I’d substituted my own for the baloony skin, I feel better. Havin’ had the feast of reason, I crave the flow of soul. I hunger for the poets, so I eat a pound of French mixed candies with verses on ’em.

“‘Are you the sport that lost the four hundred this afternoon?’ asks the grocery-creature, full of pryin’ indecencies.

“‘No, sir; I am the isospondylous, malacopterygian sucker who done so. Why?’

“‘Well, nothin’, only that’s a brace game.’

“‘A brace?’ says I.

“‘Sure, it’s a phony box.’

“‘Um-m!’ says I. ‘I might ‘a’ knowed it from the way that tin-horn parted with this supper money. No square sport will begretch a grub-stake to his victims. I begin to fear that my system ain’t had its fill of excitations as yet, none whatever. I am goin’ to squander that money over again, and I promise to enjoy it more the next time.’

“‘What do you mean?’

‘“Um-m!’ says I.

“While I am lookin’ about the store, I spies some pea-soup sticks. Ever see ’em? They are split peas ground up like sawdust and wrapped in greased paper; about eight inches long by an inch in diameter. They look jest like ca’tridges of giant-powder, same size, same color and everything. They’re mighty handy to pack on a trip. All you do is break off a piece and boil it up. I’ve et cords and oceans of it. I have twenty cents left, and I buy one soup ca’tridge, also about four inches of fuse.

‘“What time does Number Ten, the east-bound accommodation pull out?’ I inquires of the man as I leaves.

“‘Ten o’clock,’ says he.

“‘Um-m!’ says I.

“At nine forty-five I stampedes into the gamblin’ joint, which is filled like a spade flush. My hair is mussed up, my collar open, and my eyes sort of riled and locoed. I stand around for a few minutes actin’ queer, twitchin’ my muscles and lickin’ my lips, nervous, till I see that the whole room has spotted my dishybilly, then I edges over to the galaxy at the faro table where my dyspeptic crook is takin’ good money away from some punchers.

‘“Gimme a light,’ says I to one of ’em, and when I have it, I continues to the dealer:

“‘Do you still hunger fer excitement?’

“‘I smacks my lips over it,’ says he, and his eye is on me, cold as a rattler, while he slips his hand into the gun drawer.

“‘Well, here it is,’ I yells, yankin’ out the roll of pea-soup with the fuse hangin’ to it. I touches it off with the blazin’ match, and it begins to sizzle.

“‘We’ll all go up in a bunch,’ I screams, in the tones of a busted tug whistle, givin’ a laugh like the ravin’s of John McCullough, that I heard in a phonygraph once.

“However, the dramatic polish of them merriments goes unheeded, because the crowd is moved by one uncommon impulse, and the sound of their hoofs is like the roar of thunder.

“Noise busted out of them cow-men like they’d blowed off a cylinder-head. They didn’t holler, but horrid discord just pizened the air.

“In a gun fight, a man can hide back of the bar or crawl under the stove or into the neck of a beer bottle, if he’s scared enough, but sech protective stratagems is wholly vain agin dynamite.

“It appeared like everybody got a fair, honest start, because they all run a dead heat to the door, where they met and wedged, then clawed their way out into the night and far away.

“As for the dealer, a cold draught fanned my artificially fevered brow from the window through which he had departed. He ran plum out of town, wearin’ the window-sash for a necktie. Not a soul was left to tell the tale.

“I scooped off the bank roll and stepped to the back door. There was considerable currency lyin’ on the crap table, and silver glittered on the wheel, but I passed them by. It was not fer me. I had busted the bank and was content. For all I knew, the other games was on the square, and mine was only a mission of vengeance.

“Five minutes later I climbed into a side-door Pullman on Number Ten, just as she pulled out from the water-tank.

“Long about daylight, a brakey collected two dollars from me. You see, it’s a custom out there for to charge the blanket-stiffs a regular tariff.

“What’s a blanket-stiff? Why, he’s a half hobo that travels with his beddin’ and is ‘ristocratic in his predilections for box-cars instead of riding a brake-beam. Likewise, he cavils at the blind baggage.

“Well, I’m jest gettin’ fixed to count my money, when we pull into a siding in the foot-hills and stop. I hear a voice outside. “‘Whoa, Balaam!’

 “I see the head of a burro lookin’ in the car door, inquirin’ and sleepy. Somehow, I allus want to laugh when I look a burro in the face, he’s that simple and unassumin’ and ‘Have-you-used-Pear’s-soap?’ lookin’, but I don’t do it, because I know he’s got me sized up, proper, and has divined all my weaknesses and secret faults and is criticizing me from my number twelve feet to my number six hat.

“This one is carryin’ a pack, and there’s a man with him. The feller yanks off the pack-saddle, throws it in the car, then hists Mr. Balaam in and clambers aboard himself. When I get a square look at him, I reco’nize my old friend Mojave Mike Butters, the foot-racer. He’s sure a baleful and horrible sight, all poverty-stricken and destitute, but I don’t say nothin’, just hitch back into the gloom and snore, while he puts his blankets in the other end of the car, leads the animal over, and sets down. I’m holdin’ out on him a-purpose.

“We’re in a big, empty furniture car with both side and end doors. Excelsior is all over the floor, which proves a godsend to Balaam, for he thinks he’s struck some kind of blond bunchgrass.

“By and by the brakeman comes projectin’ through and sees Mike in his corner, with the jack gorging himself all contented and pastural.

“‘How far you goin’?’ says he.

“‘End of the division,’ Mike answers.

“‘Two dollars apiece!’ says he. ‘We charge full fare for mules.’

“‘Two dollars apiece!’ says Mojave. ‘I don’t like your classifications, for Balaam ain’t a mule, nor I ain’t a burro.’

“‘All right, call him a mockin’-bird, only give me four dollars.’

“‘I ain’t got it.’

‘“What! Well, get out of this car. G’wan, now, before I throw you out. What you mean anyhow, crawlin’ in here broke?’

“Mr. Brakeman is some wrathy, but Mike don’t move only to reach out an’ get Balaam by the halter. The brute is still eatin’ succulent bunches of excelsior, dreamy and amiable, while peace and friendship look out of his brown eyes, and his tail swishes with content. All is sunshine for Balaam.

“‘Out you go, you blamed hobo,’ says the railroad man, makin’ for Mike.

“‘Look out! There ain’t goin’ to be doors enough in this car for you,’ says Mike; and givin’ Balaam’s halter a twist, he says, ‘H’ist, Boy!’

“Balaam h’isted. He throwed down his mouse-colored head, and the whole back end of him come loose. He sure severed his connections and cut his home ties. His little hoofs hit the brakeman in the stummick so that the breath come out of him with a ‘Whoof!’ like the squawk of an automobile horn. The gentleman riz up, laid both hands upon Balaam’s tracks, and sat down hard in the other corner, then doubled up like he had only one joint in his back, wrapped his arms around himself three times, and began to kick like a hen with its head cut off, while he made little gasping noises like wind leakin’ into an old pump.

“Mike scratched Balaam, and the little feller waggled his ears sagacious, winkin’ at me, meanwhile chewin’ the juice out of another batch of shavin’s that growed near by.

“‘You sound like you was ripe enough to pick,’ said Mike to the railroader. ‘I don’t like ’em when they go “pank.”’

“It seemed like the man couldn’t reach no amicable settlement with his breath, whatever, and it was ten minutes before he’d arranged a satisfactory workin’ basis with it. Then he crawled out, hiccoughin’ cuss words and threats all hashed up like a beef stew. In mebbe half an hour he come back with his pardner, but Mike was intrenched behind Balaam. The men had sticks and tried to storm him, but that donkey’s buttress was plumb impregnable. Compared to him, Port Arthur was as easy of access as a political meetin’, and Gibraltar had signs of ‘Welcome’ all over it. I never see no real kickin’ before nor since. The air growed congested and thick with it, and there was enough hoof in the atmosphere at any minute to run a glue factory for a year. Mike was actin’ gunner’s mate, findin’ the ranges and aimin’ him like a pivot gun, while the little feller hitch-kicked, drop-kicked, place-kicked, punted, and kicked goal from the field. He kicked the sticks out of their hands, he kicked the taste out of their mouths, and if Mike had let him go, he’d have kicked them so high they’d have starved before they lit. He kicked them together into a pile, kicked them out the end door, and resumed his browsin’.

“‘How’s foot-racin’, Mike?’ says I, crawlin’ forth from my retreat.

“‘Why, hello!’ says he, shaking hands. ‘I’ve just been run out of a little town up here without my hat. Me and Balaam is goin’ East. If you’re broke, too, I’ll let you ride on my ticket — he’s good fer a carload.’

“‘We are quitting the West ourselves,’ says I, tappin’ my wish-bone with dignity, for I feels the bank roll agin my ribs and am filled with figgers of speech.

“‘We,”’ repeats Mike, inquisitive and suspicious. ‘You say “we” like you had money. I seen it in a book oncet that only three people is licensed to say “we,” — kings, editors, and men with tapeworms. I add to it a man with great wealth. Which one of the four are you? Do you mean to say you’ve got money on your disreppitable person and stood by while me and Balaam worked our passage?’

“For repartee, I showed a roll the size of a clothes-bag and told my story. We counted the money, and it totaled five hundred and twenty dollars, to a cent: my original stake and the gambler’s hundred dollars which I would have won from him if I hadn’t been cheated.

“‘This here is our opportunity to forsake the old life and acquire honesties. We’ll go into business,’ says Mojave, declarin’ himself in on the deal immediate. ‘I was cut out for them pursuits natural. I got the ability.’

‘“Does it take that much of a stack to set in on this commercial venture,’ I inquires. ‘I ben aimin’ to assuage this famine fer fun that I’m bloated with.’

‘“It ain’t noways essential,’ Mike admits, ‘and I’m considerable leery of over-capitalization, myself. S’pose we lay by two hundred dollars fer business an’ spend the rest in wassail, thus avoidin’ watered stock and sech perils. I’ve got a scheme where that’s all we need.’

‘“As long as it’s honest, it gets my play,’ says I; ‘but understand, I ain’t goin’ to corner none of the great necessities of life with this money, nor squeeze the widders and orphans.’

‘“No, it’s simply the introduction of western modes and civilization into the jungles of the decayin’ East. We’ll open up in Kansas.’

“Thereupon he gave me the blue print of a plan that assayed eighteen dollars to the ounce, bein’ a total rest from cow-punchin’.

“Well, it’s some three weeks later that the Butters-Martin Mastodon Minstrels busts into Kansas and lays waste with delight every hamlet it plays. It costs nary a cent to see it, which same appeals to farmers of all ranks. Mike is lit up like a Dewey arch, a thousand candles strong, with a long, fur-trimmed overcoat, pointed yaller shoes, tan gaiters, and a pearl-gray felt hat. For a theatrical makeup, he has Henry Irving run under the bed.

“I am Papriky Carramba, the Arizona bandit. You see, I am some black, anyhow, so I encase myself in a greaser habit of speech, a bewhiskered buckskin suit, and am a dangerous desperado.

“Here’s the program. We open with a quartette by the niggers. Oh, yes! I near forgot the niggers. We have four Senegambians from Topeka that sing from all points of the compass to a common center. One of ’em plays ‘Turkey in the Straw’ on the banjo, while the others dance. They cost us fourteen a week.

“Well, after the music, the Mexikin desperado gives exhibitions of throwing the bowie and pistol practice, after which we have more music, and Mike does ‘marvelous, mystifyin’ feats of sleight of hand, too bafflin’ for the mind, and too rapid for the eye.’ Then we have some buck an’ wingin’ by the African team, after which Mike addresses the pacified and radiant hay-diggers as follows:

‘“No doubt, ladies and gents, you have been delighted by our educational entertainment, but to give fleetin’ pleasure ain’t our only mission. We have a higher motive. It is a blessed privilege to make the arduous path more pleasant, and we are here to conduce to them scenic effects by abating the nuisances of life. One man may like music, and his neighbor prefer the screech of a sled-runner on bare ground. This one may have a sweet tooth, while his friend’s is holler, and the nerve exposed; but, dear friends, all the world loves a sweet smell.

“‘We admire the jessamine and would fain preserve the fragrance of the rose. Let us have done with the sordid scents of the stable and imported cheese and tickle our tonsils with the breath of forest flowers. That, ladies and gents, is our sacred errant amongst you. We are the distributin’ agents of the Kansas Cologne Company, Unlimited. Remember, we have nothin’ to sell, we only advertise the perfumery so that you can buy direct from your local druggists. We simply charge a nominal price to cover the cost of the bottles and the hand-painted labels, givin’ you the contents as free as this program, which ain’t yet over.

‘“To conclude this evening’s entertainment, I propose to spar three rounds with Señor Carramba, demonstratin’ in a refined and gentlemanly manner the blows with which I won the title of Middleweight Champeen of the World. This is not a brutal exhibition, but a clean and scientific lesson in that greatest domestic accomplishment, the “man and womanly art of self-defense.” It is endorsed by the leadin’ society ladies of the great cities and has received the highest encomiums from prominent divines. While we are changing to costumes, the four Moorish gentlemen will pass amongst you with free samples of the cologne. After you have smelled it, they will offer for sale the few remainin’ bottles. Remember, four ounces for the ridic’lous sum of fifty cents, hardly enough to cover the cost of the hand-painted labels. Only those parties retaining bottles will be allowed to remain during the pugilistic symposium.’

“Well, sir, you never saw the likes. You’d ‘a’ thought their sense of smell had laid out in the wet and got rusty. They couldn’t get enough of it; four ounces for four bits — ridic’lous cheap, too, when you consider that it stood us eight dollars an ounce in Topeka. That is, the real stuff that the coons carried around did, but of course the four-ounce bottles wasn’t quite so precious, bein’ as we filled them with filtered water and soaked the corks in real cologne durin’ the afternoons when we wasn’t busy. Yes, sir. They sure did like the smell of them corked-up water bottles, and we was doin’ well.

“‘Quick sales and small profits, is our motto,’ says Mike. ‘We make forty-nine cents a bottle, which is small enough, and we sail out of a place as quick as possible. All it takes to run the biz is a barrel of spring water and a little eight-dollar cologne to smell up the corks with. It’s a secret process.’

“We used to drink Kansas cologne with our meals, it was that harmless, and I guess we disposed of several thousand of the ‘few remainin’ bottles.’ Nobody ever left the show before the fight, and they took home cologne to gladden the dull hours after our departure.

“Every night Mike issued a challenge to meet and box all comers, but of course nobody never took him up, except oncet.

“We had drifted through Kansas like a hint of sweet spring, disseminatin’ music, magic, and pseudonymous filtered drinkin’ water till we had colognized the whole state like Bill Penn back East, when one day we landed in a little place called Fowler.

“It seemed like I noticed a good many familiar faces in the audience that night, and I remarked about it to Mike.

“‘It looks like some of our former customers has drove over from the last village. I wonder do they like the show, or have they become so addicted to the cologne that they want more?’

“Our entertainment went off bully that night, every line a scream, and the house as warm as an August camp-meetin’. Moreover, everybody clinched with them four-ounce bottles, egregious, so they could stay and see the fight.

“Me and Mike does our customary stunts, then he steps to the front of the stage and issues his challenge to spar any man present for any sum. Well, sir, I was near strangled at the sight of a farmer about six feet long, who uplifts himself from the boosom of the populace. From the noise of the merry villagers, I sort of detected a sub-rosy feelin’, as though he was some local celebrity. The outline map of this David was ridic’lous, however. He had a kind of long, lead-pipe symmetry to him, except at his joints, where he bulged and looked like the main had been mended; just an animated job of plumbing. ‘Mebbe he’s like consommé, thinks I, ‘thin but good.’

“He was thickened up and turned over at both ends with the turriblest lookin’ hands and feet soldered on that I ever see, and he displayed his bashfulness by crackin’ his knuckles. He’d aggregate them digits up into a parcel and wring them out with the rattle of musketry or the sound of a man splittin’ kindling. Then, to cover his coyness, he’d pull each one separate and make it pop. It reminded me of breakin’ an armful of chair legs.

“He was open and simple to gaze at, though, and appeared to be incapable of deceit, for you could look plumb into and through him by his nasal passages. He was a double-bar’led lookin’ youth from the front, and meetin’ him in the gloom I’d have felt like he had me covered with a breech-loader, for his nose rar’d back and stared you right in the eye. Yes, that was a strange probossy of his’n, and you felt that by flashin’ a dark lantern down its dim and distant vistas you could see plumb back to his secret soul. He seemed devoid of guile, absolute, and I thinks to myself:

‘“Plainly, this poor, bucolic party is too slow in wit and movement to hit Mike with a handful of shot. It’s really a pity to wallop him’; but I senses a sort of thrill through the audience and can hear ’em shiftin’ their feet. We had to split the gloves to get them over the protuberances this youth called hands.

“The Fowler Opery House ain’t built fer no Parsifal productions, and what with the organ, the sleight of hand fixtures, and cologne boxes, we are pinched for room on the stage; however, I place two chairs in opposite corners and call the men out to the center to shake hands.

“Mike is in red tights, while the stranger has took off his shoes and is in sock-feet, with his sleeves rolled up like he is out to beat a carpet.

“‘Gentamen,’ says I, in my Mexikin simulations, ‘you fighta t’ree min’ an’ resta one. Shaka han’. Time!’

“Say, this world is a place of sad surprises. There’s only one thing so deceitful as appearances, and that’s other appearances.

“Mike comes forth, chin down, shoulder up, left foot straight, all in perfect position and aggressive as a grizzly, while the home product hangs his arms loose and sways back and forrad, lookin’ at Mike’s feet like it is milkin’ time and he is afraid of bein’ kicked. Then, of a sudden, he makes a motion with one glove like he is flaggin’ a train. Mike parries and turns loose an upper cut for the farmer’s kitchen that would have broke every dish in his pantry, but somehow the man happens to be out when it arrives, and can’t receive it in person. He shifts his feet at the right instant, and is an inch out of range. Mike drives up with another assortment of wallops, but the Rube isn’t there to sign for ’em. The lamplight grew muddy with Mike’s blows, when all at once Mr. By-Heck reached down, picked up his right hand, piled his knuckles up in a heap on it, and threw it at Mojave.

“It hit him abreast of the lower maxillaries and sounded like a butcher beatin’ steak with a cleaver. When Mike struck the floor, he bounced, and you’d ‘a’ thought it was a Seminole corn-dance from the howl that rose from that audience. I didn’t count him out. He wouldn’t have understood, and them obsequies would have been an extravagance.

“I steps to the front of the stage, liftin’ my voice. I am a good loser, and a smile is always on my face, in adversity.

“‘Lady and genta,’ says I, ‘Señor Hiram Oates winna de fight. Gongratulash—’ then I stops, for Hiram taps me on the shoulder.

“‘You’re next, Papriky.’

“‘Me, what!’ says I.

‘“You’re next!’

‘“No sabe,’ says I, shruggin’my shoulders.

‘“Yes, ye dew. Get into them mittens, for I‘m goin’ to clean up the whole caboodle of you, white, yeller, and black.’

“I appeals to the Roman populace with all the chili con carne accents in my vocabulary, but their thumbs is down. A gray-bearded goat in the rear of the hall hops up and cries:

‘“Hi-ram, kill the dago. The perfume ain’t no good.’

‘“Dago,’ says I, gettin’ sore, ‘I ain’t a dago. I’m as white as you, you old dill pickle.’

‘“Do him up, Hi,’ says a motherly lady in the front row, shakin’ her bonnet, ‘he ain’t no more of a Frenchman than I be.’

“Well, sir I’m gettin’ pretty mad by this time. And yet I don’t hanker none for Hiram and the pillows. No, I ain’t cast in  the heroic mold of a Roman Gladiolus, and the sands of the areeny sets my teeth on edge, but I’m fairly forced into them boxin’ gloves, and we go at it like we was killin’ snakes, Thinks I, ‘I’ve got to rush this Kansas  thistle off his feet. Mike was too gentle with him!’ So I chop up the air around him and remove it to get more room. I swing and jab and counter and cross, but I am unlucky in hittin’ the places he had just left. That boy is too shifty to hit with a shotgun, which is surely a pity, and somehow I don’t connect up with him none whatever. Likewise, he don’t hit me, just keeps a glove in my eyes, or brushes my hair with it, till I have suspicions that he is playin’ with me, and that I’m bein’ put through my paces like a horse. I’m gettin’ tired and wobbly in the legs, and in one of my rushes I run into the organ leavin’ a kneecap and create certain discords on it which don’t sound like the Maiden’s Prayer. Sweat is runnin’ into my eyes, my lungs feel like they had oil tight shoes, while, like the rose that was born to blush unseen, I have wasted all my efforts upon the desert air.

“We have fought mebbe five minutes with never a single blow landed, when I grow desperate and make a last appeal to the audience.

“‘Ladies and gents—’ I pants — ‘for Heaven’s sake, stop this brutality,’ but the old man yells:

“‘Nothin’ but rain water, Hiram’; and then Hiram commenced to go over me like a cooper hoopin’ a bar’l. He sounded me all around to see if I had any holler spots, then he played a xylophone solo on my short ribs, boxed the compass with short arm jabs, and hit me from four directions at oncet so that I fell toward him. He stepped back, shot one into my sink, then crossed to my butler’s pantry, and at last I saw the pretty, pretty fireworks.

“Late that night me and Mike caught the local at the water-tank, and when we was involved amongst the straw, he says, feelin’ the bumps on his head tender and gingery:

“‘Them minstrels had just one weak point, Kink.’

“‘What was it?’ I groans.

“‘We’d ought to have kept Balaam.”


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