صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

ties with two old horseshoes on the anvil.) “ Jack pulls a bracelet from his pocket and says, 'Do you know that bracelet ?' Culpepper says, 'I do not,' quite cool-like and easy. Jack says, You gave it to my sister.' Culpepper says, still cool as you please, ‘I did not.' Jack says, “You lie, G-d d-n you, and draws his derringer. Culpepper jumps forward about here” (reference is made to the diagram) “and Jack fires. Nobody hit. It's a mighty cur'o's thing, gentlemen,” continued the blacksmith, dropping suddenly into the abstract, and leaning meditatively on his anvil,— “it's a mighty cur’o's thing that nobody gets hit so often. You and me empties our revolvers sociably at each other over a little game, and the room full, and nobody gets hit! That's what gets me.

“Never mind, Thompson,” chimed in Bill Masters, there's another and a better world where we shall know all that, and — become better shots. Go on with your story.”

“Well, some grabs Culpepper and some grabs Jack, and so separates them. Then Jack tells 'em as how he had seen his sister wear a bracelet which he knew was one that had been given to Dolores by Colonel Star

bottle. That Miss Jo would n't say where she got it, but owned up to having seen Culpepper that day. Then the most cur'o's thing of it yet, what does Culpepper do but rise up and takes all back that he said, and allows that he did give her the bracelet. Now my opinion, gentlemen, is that he lied; it ain't like that man to give a gal that he respects anything off that piece, Dolores. But it's all the same now, and there's but one thing to be done."

The way this one thing was done belongs to the record of Madroño Hollow. The morning was bright and clear; the air was slightly chill, but that was from the mist which arose along the banks of the river. As early as six o'clock the designated ground — a little opening in the madroño grove - was occupied by Culpepper Starbottle, Colonel Starbottle, his second, and the surgeon.

The Colonel was exalted and excited, albeit in a rather imposing, dignified way, and pointed out to the surgeon the excellence of the ground, which at that hour was wholly shaded from the sun, whose steady stare is more or less discomposing to your duellist. The surgeon threw himself on the grass and smoked his cigar. Culpep

per, quiet and thoughtful, leaned against a tree and gazed up the river. There was a strange suggestion of a picnic about the group, which was heightened when the Colonel drew a bottle from his coat-tails, and, taking a preliminary draught, offered it to the others. “ Cocktails, sir,” he explained with dignified precision. “A gentleman, sir, should never go out without 'em. Keeps off the morning chill. I remember going out in '53 with Hank Boompointer. Good ged, sir, the man had to put on his overcoat, and was shot in it. Fact!”

But the noise of wheels drowned the Colonel's reminiscences, and a rapidly driven buggy, containing Jack Folinsbee, Calhoun Bungstarter, his second, and Bill Masters, drew up on the ground. Jack Folinsbee leaped out gayly. “I had the jolliest work to get away without the governor's hearing,” he began, addressing the group before him with the greatest volubility. Calhoun Bungstarter touched his arm, and the young man blushed. It was his first duel.

“ If you are ready, gentlemen,” said Mr. Bungstarter, “ we had better proceed to business. I believe it is understood that no apology will be offered or accepted. We

upon the

may as well settle preliminaries at once, or I fear we shall be interrupted. There is a rumor in town that the Vigilance Committee are seeking our friends the Starbottles, and I believe, as their fellow-countryman, I have the honor to be included in their warrant.'

At this probability of interruption, that gravity which had hitherto been wanting fell

group. The preliminaries were soon arranged and the principals placed in position. Then there was a silence.

To a spectator from the hill, impressed with the picnic suggestion, what might have been the popping of two champagne corks broke the stillness.

Culpepper had fired in the air. Colonel Starbottle uttered a low curse. John Folinsbee sulkily demanded another shot.

Again the parties stood opposed to each other. Again the word was given, and what seemed to be the simultaneous report of both pistols rose upon the air. But after an interval of a few seconds all were surprised to see Culpepper slowly raise his unexploded weapon and fire it harmlessly above his head. Then, throwing the pistol upon the ground, he walked to a tree and leaned silently against it.

Jack Folinsbee flew into a paroxysm of fury. Colonel Starbottle raved and swore. Mr. Bungstarter was properly shocked at their conduct. “Really, gentlemen, if Mr. Culpepper Starbottle declines another shot, I do not see how we can proceed.”

But the Colonel's blood was up, and Jack Folinsbee was equally implacable. A hurried consultation ensued, which ended by Colonel Starbottle taking his nephew's place as principal, Bill Masters acting as second, vice Mr. Bungstarter, who declined all further connection with the affair.

Two distinct reports rang through the Hollow. Jack Folinsbee dropped his smoking pistol, took a step forward, and then dropped heavily upon his face.

In a moment the surgeon was at his side. The confusion was heightened by the trampling of hoofs, and the voice of the blacksmith bidding them flee for their lives before the coming storm. A moment more and the ground was cleared, and the surgeon, looking up, beheld only the white face of Culpepper bending over him. “ Can you save him ?”

Hold

up

his head a moment, while I run to the buggy."

“I cannot say.

« السابقةمتابعة »