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teeth!' You kin burn my britches ef the bloody cuss wouldn't a-done it, too, 'cept fur me sneezin'!”
“But for that sneeze, then, you might now be - a part of you at any rate -- in pair o' dice," I suggested tentatively, then "blushed unseen” because of wasted wit, while Mr. Brunt smiled in a sickly, absent-minded sort of way, and looked as if he had forgotten something. “Well," said I, "what was his quarrel with you ?”
“The beginnin' ov it—the fust deal in the game war my guidin' a band ov Regilators arter him an' his gang inter Hawk's-Head Gap, bein' a rough an' diffikilt pass in a spur ov the Rockies, about sixtyfive mile west ov Cedar City. We made the fur fly some, havin' a lively scrimmage with the pesky varmints, and got one ov our fellers killed an' two or three simulcutaneously wounded, of whom I war which, but not bad. Howsumever, we ketched High Low Jack an' two ov his gang. In the muss we massicreed three, an' three or four
got away toarst Coochatope Pass, an' from thar to the Summit Lake Region, or else they managed to cashay an' played low till we tuck the back trail. Ef it hadn't a-bin fur me the Regilators 'd a-made jerked dog-meat outen Banter an' the others — the ongrateful cuss! "Cross-eyed Gulcher’ an’ ‘The Devil's Pet' war thar symphonious titles; leastways they answered to them names, an' died by 'em nex' mornin'. For it war nigh sunset when we treed the varmints an' the fight began, an' arter dark 'fore we'd licked 'em out ; wharfore, as you soljers says, we beaverwhacked on the field of battle. One ov them prisners — the ‘Pet,' as I lurned sence — had bin a right promisin' young feller when he fust come up Platte river, 'lookin' for his forchune' as they calls it; but he put his foot inter the trap ov that pimp ov hell, Jack Banter, an'a loop in a lariat war his natcheral end. As fur Banter hisself, the sneakin', skulkin' wolverine ! think he didn't git away that night? Fact, by thunder! Y' see he'd mighty womanish little hands ef you rec'lect, and which they war allers befiggered out with dimonds an' sich, an’so, it bein' on towards midnight — the moon I rec'lect war jest beginnin' to peep over the mountain down to whar we war, bein' in a deep gorge or de-file like — he works his slickery little hands outen the tough raw-hide thongs, pitches a fistfull ov hot ashes inter Sim Dunker's eyes, who war sot to watch him an' t'others, an' while Sim war tryin' to diskiver the pint ov the joke, he whips the knife outen his belt, cuts his anklestraps, ketches holt ov this identickle pistol (his'n, which it had bin tuck from him, but war layin' conveneyunt nigh), puts a ball through Sim's shoulder, and cuts dirt down the de-file in a way most intrestin' to behold. Durn the dirty sarpent! Maybe I ortn't to cuss the feller, Captin, now ’at he's dead, but talkin' ov him cussin' comes natcheral, I can't help it. Why, a hundered part ov the mean things perpetchuated by Jack Banter'd a-bin enough to durn him an' his'n fur forty generations. Ef ever he war guilty of a gen'rous act or thort, he follered Scripcher by keepin' ov it to hisself. “Didn't he git away slick?' Well, s'posin' he did, I gin him my compliments at the time by lodgin' a bullet in his hind-quarters as he run. 'How do I know as I hit him?' Jest you hold your hammer now, and you'll hear how that is, too. In the fust place, I ain't overly given to missin'
what I pints this old spitfire at; but more’n that, I've got the very identickle ball in one chamber ov that revolver : keepin' ov it fur a 'speshal 'casion, ef I meets a wolf, or a mad-dog, or somethin' ov thar nacher. But I aint got to that part ov the story yet. At fust I thort hevin and yearth 'd broke loose an' Ingens war on us when I see Sim a-cuttin up an' cavortin' round like a bull-yearlin'in a yallerjacket nest, an' yellin' like a locofoco ingine ; but when I run thar I seen how it war. Some ov the fellers war for puttin' arter Banter, but I stopped 'em. 'Twar misforchunate I done it, but my idee war this: he war already hid in the shadder ov the mountin as he run, an' not more'n a hundred an' fifty yard off the de-file forked into three or four, an' a little furder them agin split inter more, an' the chance of ketchin' him at night war pore enough. But 'fore he could git to whar the way forked I seen he had to pass acrost a bright place whar the moonshine fell, an' I felt shore I could drap him as he tried to git acrost it. The vilyun war so cunnin' though; he stopped jest 'fore gittin' in sight, and fired the pistol three or four times at us as we stood in the light ov the fire an' the moon a clar an' far pot shot. One ov the bullets tetched my cap, an' then he made a break to git acrost the moonlight, stoopin' low down, but gittin' over ground swift an' steady like the shadder ov a bird. Now war my put in. Takin' a quick sight, I let drive when he war most over. Instid ov drappin' as I 'xpected, he straightened up with a yell, and the next jump tuck him inter the shadder. In course we run arter him, but it war too late. I kinder knowed I hit him, though we couldn't find no blood. Howsumever, you'll hear 'bout that when I come to it. As fur Sim Dunker, them ashes done him a sight ov good by spilin' the sight ov his right eye. (N. B.- I am confident that Mr. B. was superior to any intent here to pun.) He couldn't shoot wuth a durn before, but that sot him to practizing left-handed, an' now he kin plum-center as good as any. Well, arter that a feller might jest as well have tried to whistle back a norther on top ov Pike's Peak as ter preach to them Regilators 'bout 'due course ov law' an' all that ; Gulcher and the Pet had to swing certin, soon as it war light enough to pick a good tree. They seen mighty quick thar time war nigh up, and now they begin to cuss an' rip an' swar at Jack Banter, layin' all thar sins to his score. Oughff! but jest to listen at em : it war enough to make a feller's har to chatter an' his teeth to stan' on edge, as the poetrybook sez, ef I quote correct. I hearn some considerble cussin' in my time, in fact I war ruther loud at a good squar cuss myself, an’ war right fond ov lettin' off steam that way, leastways I mean on 'propriate 'casions, sich as my traps bein' broke or fouled, or my gun hangin' fire when meat war skeerce or Ingens not skeerce; but, Captin, burn my britches ef that cussin' warn't too strong fur my stomick: it shet me up an' I ain't swore none sence. They got so orful in languidge I couldn't stan' it; so bimeby I gin 'em a turn or two ov rawhide to chaw on instead. The gags stopped thar chin-music, but we could see by the motion of thar jaws an' feachures they war goin' it alone, havin' a private cussin'-match all to tharselves, cussin' agin time! At crack ov day, while many ov our fellers war off lookin' fur Banter, they war ungagged an' led out an' swung up to a tree by the side
ov the trail, with pieces ov paper stuck to 'em, statin' it war a warnin' to all who might pass that way on other men's horses — ov the oncertinty ov life an' the onpleasantness ov death. So that affar war the beginnin ov my 'quaintance with High Low Jack, the fust deal in the game. “Didn't he cut?' Oh yes, I see.” (But he didn't: another painful case of “unseen blushing.")
“Thar's a curcumstance tetchin' that thar unlegal hangin 'at sorter gives me the gripes yit, whensomever I thinks ov it. I've swore I'll never take a hand at any sich game agin, an' I won't, nuther. Some months arterwards thar come a mighly nice, pious sort ov letter to a man in Denver from an ole lady in New Hamshur, enquirin' arter the ‘Pet,' which she war his mother, pore thing - only ov course that warn’t his reel name — an' statin' 'at an uncle ov his'n had died an' lef' him some money a big pile. What ter do 'bout it they didn't know, but at last they writ to her, her son war dead. They sed nothin' ov how he died, so she - pore ole critter - even ef she read it in the papers, wouldn't never guess 'at her darlin' boy war 'the Devil's Pet,' leastways I hope so. Howsomever, I tried my level best to 'swade the Reg'laters to let the law take her course ; but fur all that, onpleasant rememberiscences breeds contemp', as ole Deac'n Sorrel used ter say — ef I ain't got things mixed — an’so we'll drap it.
“So arter that Mister Banter kep’ hisself mighty shady fur a long time, not bein' saw or hurd ov in all the minin' region für more'n a year. But, bein' in Boulder one day, ʼlong with Ran Cooney, my pardner, to git shet ov pelts, I got a mighty perlite letter from him through the post-orfice, informin' me ov his lib'ral intenshuns concernin' my hide an’iv'ry, an' sayin'as he'd got the ball outen his sturn whar I put it that night, an' war keepin' ov it fur my speshal benefit
- the owdashus sassy rattlesnake! Now, seein' as how I don't skeer more'n av'ridge easy, an' he knowed it, an' seein' as he warn’t egzackly the man to yell asore he war gwine to shoot, an' I knowed it, an' he knowed I knowed it, it war plain to my mind I war gwine to have more trouble with him yit - onless the law should git holt ov him an' take the bizness off my hands by 'pintin' his funeral, which it warn't likely ter do, fur even ef they ketched him, they couldn't hold him no more'n an eel on ice, he war that slickery! Arter that, whensomever I war in town — which warn't oft'ner I could help — I war mighty pertic'ler ov my kumpny an' keerful ov my trail. A far fight Hardy Brunt nuver did shirk, but I knowed what to ’xpect from sich customers as him.
"Well, Captin, I see you are gettin' sleepy listnin' to my jaw; let's cut it off short an' come to the pint. Happenin' to be in Boulder agin, a little more'n a year ago, as you sed, I war going to my boardin’-house late one night, totin' some fine skins I'd bin tryin' to sell or trade off. I stepped into a place whar a big crowd ov fellers war bettin' at montey an' a game they call Fayro, in onner ove the ole Egipshun that diskivered it. As I walked up toarst one ov thar tables, jest to see how the thing war done — not ter bet any, fur I hadn't nothin' ov valyue 'bout me 'ceptin' beaver-pelts, an’ one ov them 'd a kivered more keards than was 'lowable by the laws ov the game, as I hurd a chap obzurve. Well, jest as I come up,
a durned onpleasant lookin' chap settin' at the table an' bettin' mighty heavy, to jedge by the size ov his pile, gin a sort ov a jerk ov his eye at me twicest; fust time as ef he wanted to see me, next time as ef he didn't Leastways, he popped up onto his cheer 's ef a
. hornet hed got 'twixt him an' his britches, an' handed in his chips quick an' nervous like, sayin' he'd forgot somethin' an' war in a hurry. He certainly 'peared to be ; fur he didn't wait to git all his money, but crammed what the man fust give him inter his pocket an' pushed through the crowd toarst the dore. He kep' his face turned so 's I didn't git a good sight ov him arter the fust glance. Now, Captin, ef a feller leaves a room when I come in, he's got a right to, an' that 'thout answerin'enny questions; but when he leaves a Fayro-bank an' a pile ov money behind becase I come in, thar's a difference. I wants to know the why. I'm not by nacher a 'spicious man middlin' good kumpny - but I didn't more'n half like the outlook here ; so I follered the feller through the crowd an' tried to git a good look at his rascally count'nance fur that he war a rascal I know'd by instinc'. He war too quick; I jest ketched sight ov his coat-tail as it fluttered through the dore. I follered an' looked out; nobody war to be seen. I looked up the street, down the street, acrost the street, an' it war a clar, moonlight night. Arter standin' an' thinkin' awhile, I sez to myself, sez 1,-Ef I kin read sign right, that durn wolverine ar arter some deviltry.' Then I tuk a pinch ov snuff to clar my nose and my idees, (for I tuk snuff then, instid ov chawin) an' bimeby thinks I — I'll feel more convenyunt up at Old Chucky's anyway; my rifle ar thar, an' I've bin 'thout it jest long enough.'
“A 'our or so arterwards I war standin' at the bar in Old Chuckaluck's bodin'-house, whar me an' my pardner Ran Cooney war stayin', talkin' ov over the thing with old Chucky, as he war called, an' waitin' fur Ran Cooney to come in an' jine us in licker ; he'd stepped inter the back yard, wouldn't be gone but a minnit or so, he sed, an' we warn't noways in a hurry, old Chucky in perticler bein' fond ov playin' with his licker, like a cat with a mouse, 'fore swallerin' ov it. The bar-room war small but convenyunt, bein' 'bout fifteen foot squar. Enterin' from the street, the counter — with old Chucky's rum fizzogamy smilin' at you over the top — war on your left han'. Dreckly in front ov the bar war a side dore openin' onto a alley leadin' agin to the street. Now, while I war standin' thar, chattin' old Chucky
- I standin' jest so, my rifle in my left hand an'a big pinch ov snuff 'tween the thum' an' finger ov my right hand, an' which I war jest a-gwine to snuff it, - somebody opened that side dore mighty soft an' easy like, an' peeked inter the room, but shet it agin an' walked off purty rapid. I didn't ketch sight ov his face, nuther did Chucky; but the curcumstance sot me to thinkin' agin, an' somehow - I warn't skeert, I be durned ef I war ! — but I war wishin' my pardner 'd hurry up his cakes. I began to feel in the very ar that some game war afoot, an' ef it war me, I didn't fancy the idee ov bein' treed. At this junctcher come the soun' ov horse's feet trottin' lively down the street. It stopped right in front ov Chucky's dore. The rider 'peard by the soun' to git down lezherly, an' arter he'd tied his horse I hurd thort I hurd — a whisper ; an' then his step comin' 'crost the pave
ment toarst the dore. An' Cooney hadn't come. I stood jest so, the butt ov my gun restin' on the flore, an' a pinch ov snuff — the last I ever tuck — in my right hand, jest in the act ov pokin' it up my nose. At this instant the side dore opened agin. I fronted quick that way, fillin' my right ar-hole with the snuff as I turned. That war egzactly what war wanted ov me. Quick as the flirt ov a beaver's tail — 'fore you could wink or think — the front dore opened an' shet, an’ as I turned my head to face this new danger, (for by this time I knowed I war in danger) — thar stood that snake-eyed son ov Satan, Jack Banter! I seen he had the drop on me; that incrument thar war in his hand, on a full cock — the muzzle ov it not more 'n six inches from my forred — an' cold-blooded murder war in his eye. The whole sitchuashun bust on my mind. Thar war his horse standin' ready fur immejiate flight arter he sent his ball through my head, an' heer war his 'complishes ready to help him ef need be -- fur though I darsn't look away from his face, I seen outen the cornder ov my eye 'at three fellers had come in at the cussed side dore an’ war gradjually closin' in on me.
Yes, Captin, the game had turned. This war the last deal, an' I helt nothin' agin a full hand — agin High Low Jack! I tried to ketch his eye ; fur I knowed that enny scounderl unhung will weaken under the eye ov a honest man, an' I felt that war my only chance. But the murderin' wolverine war too smart fur that; he kep' his gaze fixed on my face, but never oncest looked at my eye. Oughff! it makes me feel onconveneyunt even yit to think ov the few seconds I stood thar, face to face with death. The tremblin' ov my eyelid, the quiv'rin' ov a nerve or the whitenin' ov my cheek ’d a-sealed my doom. An' now- - his thin, blue lips drawed up in a grin ov hate an' murderin’malis tell his white teeth shined like a laffin' hyener — he began to talk Mister Brunt,' sez he, 'I have long bin owin' you a det ov gratichude, an' hearin you war in town, I've sort you out to pay it. The identikle bullet with which you oncest favored me is now behind this pistol-barrel, an' in about ten seconds I'm a-goin' to send it through yer head — sooner, ef you move or wink yer eye.'
“While the cuss war talkin' I could see him pressin' ov his finger agin the trigger ev'ry now an' then in a mighty onpleasant way, but that warn't the wust ov it: the flambergasted snuff I had tuck begin to tickle my nose tell the water riz in my eyes an' it 'peared to me that sneeze I must, or bust. The tarnal fool seen it, an' thort I war cryin' fur skeer! 'Good Lord,' thinks I, 'why don't Cooney come?'
Oho!' sez the tantlizin' devil a grinnin' in my face, 'oho! the renowned Mister Brunt begins to weaken. He is a coward. Well, time's up. Here goes one, two,'— Katchoo! Bang! A flash ov lightnin', a clap ov thunder - a mixed up noise ov shootin', cussin', hollerin', smashin' glass, an' blood – blood everywhar. When I come to my senses I war leanin' over the body of High Low Jack, drawin' my bowie-knife outen him an' holdin' the barrel ov my rifle in my left hand, the stock havin' bin broke off; you kin see heer now whar I had her mended. Two ov the sellers 'at come with Banter war layin' out comfortable, one dead, t'other 'most so, while Ran Cooney war tyin' the third one, the identickle chap I met at the gamblin’-place, with a piece oy rope ole Chucky found behind the