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Produced by Al Haines










MR. SCRAGGS

INTRODUCED BY RED SAUNDERS



By

HENRY WALLACE PHILLIPS


Author of "Red Saunders," "Plain Mary Smith," etc.




THE GRAFTON PRESS

PUBLISHERS NEW YORK




Copyright, 1903, 1904, 1905, by The Curtis Publishing Co.
Copyright, 1903, by S. S. McClure Co. Copyright, 1905, by The
Grafton Press

Published January, 1906 Second edition February, 1906




CONTENTS

I. BY PROXY
II. IN THE TOILS
III. ST. NICHOLAS SCRAGGS
IV. THE SIEGE OF THE DRUG STORE
V. THE MOURNFUL NUMBER
VI. MR. SCRAGGS INTERVENES
VII. THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

"Made any other human countenance I ever see look like a
nigger-minstrel show"

"He was disappointed in love - he had to be"

"Scraggsy looked like a forlorn hope lost in a fog"

"'Dearly beloved Brethren,' says I"

"Put up a high-grade article of cat-fight"

"You will talk to my ol' man like that, will you?"

"So we rode in, right cheerful"

"I was all over that Injun"




MR. SCRAGGS

INTRODUCED BY RED SAUNDERS



BY PROXY

I had met Mr. Scraggs, shaken him by the hand, and, in the shallow
sense of the word, knew him. But a man is more than clothes and a
bald head. It is also something of a trick to find out more about
him - particularly in the cow country. One needs an interpreter.
Red furnished the translation. After that, I nurtured Mr.
Scraggs's friendship, for the benefit of humanity and philosophy.
Saunders and I lay under a bit of Bad Lands, soaking in the spring
sun, and enjoying the first cigarette since breakfast. In regard
to things in general, he said:

"Now, there was the time I worked for the Ellis ranch. A ranch is
like a man: it has something that belongs to it, that don't belong
to no other ranch, same as I have just the same number of eyes and
noses and so forth that you drew on your ticket, yet you ain't me
no more'n I'm you. This was a kind of sober-minded concern; it was
a thoughtful sort of a ranch, where everybody went about his work
quiet. I guess it was because the boys was mostly old-timers,
given to arguing about why was this and how come that. Argue!
Caesar! It was a regular debating society. Wind-river Smith
picked up a book in the old man's room that told about the Injuns
bein' Jews 'way back before the big high-water, and how one gang of
'em took to the prairie and the other gang to the bad clothes
business. Well, he and Chawley Tawmson - 'member Chawley and his
tooth? And you'd have time to tail-down and burn a steer before
Chawley got the next word out - well, they got arguin' about whether
this was so, or whether it weren't so. Smithy was for the book,
havin' read it, and Chawley scorned it. The argument lasted a
month, and as neither one of 'em knew anything about an Injun,
except what you can gather from looking at him over a rifle sight,
and as the only Jew either one of 'em ever said two words to was
the one that sold Windriver a hat that melted in the first
rain-storm, and then him and Chawley went to town and made the
Hebrew eat what was left of the hat, after refunding the price, you
can imagine what a contribution to history I listened to. That's
the kind of place the Ellis ranch was, and a nice old farm she was,
too.

"I'd been working there about three months, when along come a man
that looked like old man Trouble's only son. Of all the sorrowful
faces you ever see, his was the longest and thinnest. It made any
other human countenance I ever see look like a nigger-minstrel show.

[Illustration: Made any other human countenance I ever see look
like a nigger-minstrel show.]

"We was short-handed, as the old man had begun to put up hay and
work some of the stock in corrals for the winter, so we took our
new brother on. His name was Ezekiel George Washington
Scraggs - tuneful number for a cow-outfit! - and his name didn't come
anywhere near doin' him justice at that. Ezekiel knew his biz and
turned in a day's work right straight along, but when you'd say,
'Nice day, Scraggs?' he'd heave such a sigh you could feel the
draft all the way acrost the bull-pen, and only shake his head.

"Up to this time Wind-river had enjoyed a cinch on the mournful
act. He'd had a girl sometime durin' the Mexican war, and she'd
borrowed Smith's roll and skipped with another man. So, if we
crowded Smithy too hard in debate, he used to slip behind that girl
and say, 'Oh, well! You fellers will know better when you've had
more experience," although we might have been talkin' about what's
best for frost-bite at the time.

"He noticed this new man Scraggs seemed to hold over him a trifle
in sadness, and he thought he'd find out why.

"'You appear to me like a man that's seen trouble,' says he.

"'Trouble!' says Scraggs. 'Trouble!' Then he spit out of the door
and turned his back deliberate, like there wasn't any use
conversin' on the subject, unless in the presence of an equal.

"Scraggs was a hard man to break into, but Smithy scratched his
head and took a brace.

"'I've met with misfortune myself,' says he.

"'Ah?' says Scraggs. 'What's happened to you?' He sounded as if
he didn't believe it amounted to much, and Smithy warmed up. He
ladled out his woes like a catalogue. How he'd been blew up in
mines; squizzled down a mountain on a snow-slide; chawed by a bear;
caught under a felled tree; sunk on a Missouri River steamboat, and
her afire, so you couldn't tell whether to holler for the
life-savers or the fire-engine; shot up by Injuns and personal
friends; mistook for a horse-thief by the committee, and much else,
closing the list with his right bower. 'And, Mr. Scraggs, I have
put my faith in woman, and she done me to the tune of all I had.'

"'_Have_ you?' says Scraggs, still perfectly polite and
uninterested. "'_Have_ you?' says he, removin' his pipe and
spitting carefully outdoors again. And then he slid the joker
a'top of Smithy's play. 'Well, _I_ have been a Mormon,' says he.

"'What?' says all of us.

"'Yessir!' says Mr. Scraggs, getting his feet under him, and with a
mournful pride I can't give you the least idea of. 'A Mormon; none
of your tinkerin' little Mormonettes. I was ambitious; hence E. G.
W. Scraggs as you now behold him. In most countries a man's
standin' is regulated by the number of wives he ain't got; in Utah
it's just the reverse - and a fair test, too, when you come to think
of it. I wanted to be the head of the hull Mormon kingdom, so I
married right and left. Every time I added to the available supply
of Mrs. Scraggs, I went up a step in the government. I ain't all
the persimmons for personal beauty, so I had to take what was
willin' to take me, and they turned out to be mostly black-eyed
women with peculiar dispositions. Gentlemen, I was once as lively
and happy a little boy as ever did chores on a farm. See me now!
This is the result of mixin' women and politics. If I should tell
you all the kinds of particular and general devilment (to run 'em
alphabetically, as I did to keep track of 'em) that Ann Eliza
Scraggs, and Bridget Scraggs, and Belle Scraggs, and Fanny Scraggs,
and Honoria and Helen Scraggs, and Isabelle Scraggs, and so on up
to zed, raised with me, it would go through any little germs of joy
you may have in your constitutions like Sittin' Bull's gang of
dog-soldiers through an old ladies' sewing bee. Look at me! For
all them years that cussed ambition of mine held me in its deadly
toils. I never heard the sound of blessed silence. Trouble! I'm
bald as a cake of ice; my nerves is ruined. If the wind makes a
noise in the grass like the swish of skirts, I'm a mile up the
track before I get my wits back, sweatin' coldly and profusely,
like a water-cooler.

"'I ain't got anything to tie to but all them women by the name of
Scraggs, and them ties I cut by travelin' fast between daylights.
Wisht I could introduce you to Mrs. Scraggs as she inhabits the
territory of Utah - you'd understand a power of things that may seem
a little misty to you at present. However, I can't do that, nor I
wouldn't neither, if I was to be made general superintendent of the
whole show for my pains. I'll leave the aggregated Mrs. Scraggs in
the hands of Providence, as bein' the only power capable of
handling her. Yet I don't believe in Providence. I don't believe
in no Hereafter, nor Heretofore, nor no Now; I don't believe in no
East nor West, nor Up nor Down, nor Sideways, Lengthways,
'Cross-the-center, Top, Bottom, or Middle. I have lost my faith in
every ram-butted thing a man can hear, see, or touch, includin'
everything I've left out. That's me, Joe Bush.' He stopped a
minute. 'Trouble - ' says he. 'Trouble - I wisht nobody'd mention
that word in my hearin' again.'

"Well, he had us gummed fast, all right. Nobody in our outfit
could push up against such a world-without-end experience as that.

"But Scraggs was a gentleman; he didn't crowd us because we broke.
In fact, now that he'd had his say, he loosened up considerable,
and every now and then he'd even smile.

"Then come to us the queerest thing in that whole curiosity-shop of
a ranch. Its name was Alexander Fulton. I reckon Aleck was about
twenty-one by the almanac, and anywhere's from three to ninety by
the way you figure a man. Aleck stood six foot high _as_ he stood,
but if you ran the tape along his curves he was about six-foot-four.

"He weighed one hundred and twenty pounds, of which twenty-five
went to head and fifty to feet. Feet! You never saw such feet.
They were the grandest feet that ever wore a man; long and high and
wide, and all that feet should be. Chawley said that Alexander had
ground plan enough for a company of nigger soldiers. And hung to
Aleck's running gear, they reminded you of the swinging jigger in a
clock. They almost make me forget his hands. When Aleck laid a
flipper on a cayuse's back, you'd think the critter was blanketed.
And then there was his Adam's apple - he had so many special
features, it's hard to keep track of them. About a foot of Aleck's
protrudin' into air was due to neck. In the center of that neck
was an Adam's apple that any man might be proud of.

"His complexion consisted of freckles; when you spoke to him sudden
he blushed, and then he looked for all the world like a stormy
sunset. His eyes were white, and so was his hair, and so was poor
old Aleck - as white a kid as they make 'em, and, beyond guessing,
the skeeriest - not relatin' to things, but to people. How he come
to drift out into our country was a story all by itself. He was
disappointed in love - he _had_ to be. One look at him and you'd
know why. So he sailed out to the wild West, where he was about as
useful as a trimmed nighty. We always stood between Aleck and the
old man, until the boy got so he'd make straight once out of a
possible five.

[Illustration: He was disappointed in love - he _had_ to be.]

"First off, he was still; then, findin' himself in a confidential
crowd, and bustin' to let us know, his trouble, he told us all
about it. He'd never spoke to the girl, it seems, more'n to say,
'How-d'ye-do, ma'am,' and blush, and sit on his hat, and make
curious moves with them hands and feet; but there come another
feller along, and Alexander quit.

"'You got away?' says Scraggs. 'Permit me to congratulate you,
sir!' And he took hold of as much of Aleck's right wing as he
could gather, and shook it hard. 'Alas!' says he, 'how different
is the tale I have to tell.'

"'But I didn't want to come away!' stutters Alexander.

"'Didn't want to?' cries Scraggs, letting the pipe fall out of his
mouth. Then he turns to me and taps his brow with his finger,
casting a pitying eye on Aleck.

"As time went on Aleck got worse and worse. He had a case of
ingrowing affection; it cut his weight down to ninety pounds. With
him leaving himself at that rate, you could take pencil and paper
and figure to the minute when Alexander Fulton was booked to cross
the big divide. And we liked the kid. In spite of his magnificent
feet, and his homeliness, and his thumb-handsidedness, I got to
feel sort of as if he was my boy - though if ever I have a boy like
Aleck, I put in my vote for marriage being a failure, and
everything lost, honor and all. Probably it was more as if he was
a puppy-dog, or some other little critter that couldn't take care
of itself. Anyhow, we got worked up about the matter, and talked
it over considerable when he was out of hearing. It come to this:
there was no earthly use in trying to get Aleck to go back and make
a play at the girl. He'd ha' fell dead at the thought of it. That
left nothing but to bring the girl to Aleck. You see, we thought
if we told the young woman that here was a decent honest
man - hurrying over the rest of the description - just evaporating
for love of her, that she might be persuaded to come out and marry
him. We weren't going to let our pardner slip away without an
effort anyhow. We couldn't do no less than try. Then come the
problem of who was the proper party to act as messenger. The rest
of us, without bothering him by taking him into our confidence,
decided that Scraggs was the proper man, because, if he didn't know
Women and her Ways, the subject belonged to the lost arts.

"But, man! Didn't he r'ar when we told him!

"'ME go after a woman!' says he. '_ME_!!! - Take another drink!'
But we labored with him. Told about what a horrible time he'd
had - he always liked to hear about it - and how there wasn't anybody
else fit to handle his discard in the little game of matrimony - and
what was the use of sending a man that would break at the first
wire fence? If we was going to do the thing, we wanted to do it;
and so forth and so forth, till we had him saddled and bridled and
standing in the corner of the corral as peaceful as a soldier's
monument, for he was the best-hearted old cuss under his crust that
ever lived.

"'All right,' says he. 'I'll do it, and it's "Get there, Eli!"
when I hook dirt. Poor old Aleck is as good as married, and the
Lord have mercy on his soul! But there's one thing I wish to
state: I'm running the job, and I run it my own way. I don't want
any interfering nor no talk afterward - 's that understood?

"It was. He was to cut loose.

"'All right,' says he. 'Poor Aleck!' So that night E. G. W.
Scraggs took his cayuse and made for the railroad station, bound
east.

"Aleck had give us full details. We knew all about his little town
and about that house in particular; just how the morning-glories
grew over the back porch, looking out on the garden patch, and
where the cistern was, which, with his usual good luck, Aleck had
managed to fall into, whilst they were putting a new cover on it.
Yessir; we knew that little East Dakota town as well as if we'd
been raised there; but we were some shy on details concerning the
girl. I swear I don't believe Aleck had ever looked her full in
the face. She was medium height, plump, blue eyes, brown hair, and
that ended the description,

"We suffered any quantity from impatience before E. G. W. showed
up. You see, there ain't such a lot that happens to other people
occurrin' on a ranch, and we was really more excited over Aleck and
his girl than a tenderfoot would be over a gun fight, and for the
same reason; it was out of our ordinary.

"Scraggsy didn't keep us on the anxious seat. He was the surest
thing I ever saw. Often I've watched him rope a critter; he never
whirled his rope, even when riding - always snapped. And he never
made a quick move - that is, a move that looked in a hurry - all the
same, every time he let go of the rope, there was his meat on the
other end of it. Women was the only thing that did E. G. W.
Scraggs, and that's because he wholesaled the business. That
ambition of his wrecked him. When he trotted around the track for
fun, nobody else in the heat could see him for the dust.

"One evening about half-past eight, when the glow was still strong,
here come Scraggs, prompt to the schedule. He was riding and a
buggy trailed behind him.

"We chased Aleck over to the main house, where the old man, who
stood in on the play, was to keep him busy until called for.

"Then up pulls E. G. W. and the buggy. In the buggy was a young
woman, and a man.

"'Here we are,' says Scraggs, in the tone of one who has done his
painful duty. 'Check the outfit - one girl and one splicer - have
you kept holt of Aleck?'

"'Yes,' I says. 'We've got him - come in, folks.' I was crazy to
hear how he'd pulled it off. Soon's they got inside I lugged him
to the corner, leaving the other boys to welcome the guests. 'Tell
me about it,' I says.

"'Short story,' says he. 'Moment I got off the choo-choo I spotted
the house - couldn't mistake it. Laid low in the daytime and
scouted around as soon as night come. Girl goes down to the barn
and comes back with a pail of milk. I grabbed her and put my hand
over her mouth so's she couldn't holler. "Now listen," I says to
her. "There's a friend of mine wants to marry you. When I let you
go, you'll skip into the house and pick up what clothes is handy,
and you'll vamoose this ranch at quarter of eleven, sharp, so we
can make the next train west. If you ain't there, or if you say a
single word to a human being - you see this?" and I stuck the end of
my hoss-pistol under her nose. "Well, I'll blow the head clean off
your shoulders with it." Then I laid back my ears and rolled my
eyes around. Well, sir, she was scart so's she didn't know
anything but what I said. I hated to treat a lady like that, but
if I've learned anything concerning handlin' the sect, it's
this - you got to be firm. There's where I made my mistake
formerly. Then I let go of her and went back to the deppo. What
she thought I couldn't even guess, but I knew I was goin' to have
company, and, sure enough, 'bout three minutes before train time,
here comes our friend. When I got her safe aboard I told her she
needn't be scart. Lots worse things could happen to her than
marryin' Aleck, and she says "yessir," and she kept on sayin'
"yessir" to all I told her. - Wisht I could have found one like
that, instead of eighty of 'em that stood ready to jump down my
throat the minute I opened my mouth. - She told me she'd had a
middlin' hard time of it and didn't mind a change. That surprised
me a little, because I jedged from Aleck's talk she was an
upstandin' critter - but, pshaw! Aleck would think a worm was a
sassy thing if it squirmed in his direction. Then I telegraphed
Con Foster to have me a buggy and a minister ready for the three
o'clock train, and to keep his yawp calked up. So as soon as I hit
land again, there was the rig complete; we hopped in and started
a-coming at once and fast, and here we are; for which I raise
thanks, and all the curses of the Mormon gods be on the head of the
man that gets me into such a play as this again! Snake old Aleck
out and get the misery done with. That minister's chargin' me
fifty cents an hour, and I don't know whether he's the real thing
or not, at that. Con whispered in my ear that he worked in a
grocery when he first struck town, dealt stud-poker for Johnny
Early, quit that and took to school-teachin', then threw that up
and preached. But what's the difference out here? He's expensive,
anyhow, and all Con could find.'

"So I wagged my legs for the house and trotted Aleck down to the
bull-pen.

"'Friend of yours there,' I told him.

"'That so?' says he. 'Who is it?'

"'Lady,' I says, kind of gay, thinkin' he'd be pleased.

"He stopped in his tracks. Then I remembered who I was talkin' to.

"'Come along, here, now!' says I, and nailed him by the neck. 'You
ain't goin' to miss your happiness if main strength can give it to
you.' His toes touched about once to the rod. I run him into the
pen.

"'There,' says I, 'is somebody you know.'

"Well, sir, old Aleck looked at the gal, and the gal looked at
Aleck, and the rest of us looked at each other. Soon's the kid got
his breath from the shock he yells, 'I never laid eyes on that lady
before!'

"Oh, Hivins, Maria! That was the awfullest minute I ever lived
through. Poor old E. G. W. S.! We all turned away from him, out
of pity. He had the expression of a man that's fell down a
hundred-foot prospect hole and been struck by lightning before he
touched bottom. He grabbed aholt of the minister and swallered and
swallered, unable to chirp.

"At last he rallied. 'You mean to tell me, Aleck,' he says, in a
voice hardly strong enough to get through his mustache, 'that I've
made a mistake?'

"Aleck was always willing to believe he was wrong. 'I'm _pretty_
sure, Zeke - I ain't never seen you, have I, Miss?'

"'No, sir - not that I know of,' answers the girl, with her eyes on
the ground.

"E. G. W. rubbed his brow.

"'Will you make good, anyhow, Aleck?' he coaxed. 'I got the
minister and all right here - it won't take a minute.'

"I'd let go of Aleck in the excitement. At these words he made one
step from where he stood in the house, through the window, to ten
foot out of doors, and a few more steps like that, and he was out
of the question.

"Then the girl put her face in her hands and begun to cry. She was
a mighty pretty, innocent, plump little thing, and we'd rather have
had most anything than that she should stand there cryin'. But we
were all hung by the feet and wandering in our minds. The simple
life of the cow-puncher doesn't fit him to grapple with problems
like that.

"Then, sir, up gets Ezekiel George Washington Scraggs, master of
himself and the situation.

"'Young lady,' says he, 'I have got you out here under false
pretenses. I'm as homely as a hedge fence, and my record is dotted
with marriages worse than a 'Pache outbreak with corpses and
burning homes. I ain't any kind of proposition to tie up to a nice
girl like you, and I swear by my honor that nothing was further
from my thoughts than matrimony - not meanin' any slur on you, for
if I'd found you before, I might have been a happy man - Well, here
I stand: if you'll marry me, say the word!' By thunder, we gave
him a cheer that shook the roof. You can laugh if you like, but it
was a noble deed.

"The girl reached out her left hand - so help me Moses! She liked
him! I took a careful squint at old Scraggsy, in this new light,
and I want to tell you that there was something kind of fine in
that long lean face of his, and when he took the girl's hand he
looked like a gentleman.

"You wouldn't think that holding a gun to her head, and threatenin'
to blow her brains out was just the touch that would set a maiden's
heart tremblin' for a man, but if a woman takes a fancy to you,
your habits and customs, manners and morals, disposition, personal
appearance, financial standing and way of doing things generally is
only a little matter of detail.

"'How will this figger out legally?' E. G. W. asked the minister.

"The minister, he was a cheerful, practical sort of lad, ready to
indorse anything that would smooth the rugged road of life.

"'Do you renounce the Mormon religion?' he asks.

"'Bet your life,' says Scraggs. 'And all its works.'

"'That settles it,' says the minister. 'Besides, I don't think
anybody will ever come poking out here to make trouble - whenever
you say the word.'

"'One minute,' says Scraggs, and he turned to the girl very gentle.
'Are you doing this of your own free will, and not because I lugged
you out here?'

"'Yessir,' says she.

"'You want me, just as I stand?'

"'Yessir.'

"'Keno. I won't forget it.' Then he put his hand on her head,
took off his hat, and raised his face. 'O God!' he prays, 'you
know what a miserable time I've had in this line before. I admit
it was nine-tenths my fault, but now I call for an honest deck and
the hands played above the table. And make me act decent for the
sake of this nice little girl. Amen.' Then he pulled a
twenty-dollar gold piece out of his pocket and plunked her down
before the minister, 'Shoot,' says he. 'You're faded.'

"Well. there old Scraggs - I say 'old,' but the man weren't more
than forty - celebrated his eighty-first marriage in that old
bull-pen, and they lived as happy ever after as any story book.
Which knocks general principles. Probably it was because that no
man was ever treated whiter than she treated him, and no woman was
ever treated whiter than he treated her; he had the knack of bein'
awful good and loving to her, without being foolish. Experience


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