by Owen Wister
Upon turning over again my diary of that excursion to the Pacific,
I find that I set out from Atlantic waters on the 30th day of a
backward and forlorn April, which had come and done nothing towards
making its share of spring, but had gone, missing its chance, leaving
the trees as bare as it had received them from the winds of March. It
was not bleak weather alone, but care, that I sought to escape by a
change of sky; and I hoped for some fellow-traveller who might begin
to interest my thoughts at once. No such person met me in the several
Pullmans which I inhabited from that afternoon until the forenoon of
the following Friday. Through that long distance, though I had slanted
southwestward across a multitude of States and vegetations, and the
Mississippi lay eleven hundred miles to my rear, the single event is
my purchasing some cat's-eyes of the news-agent at Sierra Blanca. Save
this, my diary contains only neat additions of daily expenses, and
moral reflections of a delicate and restrained melancholy. They were
Pecos cat's-eyes, he told me, obtained in the rocky canyons of that
stream, and destined to be worth little until fashion turned from
foreign jewels to become aware of these fine native stones. And I,
glad to possess the jewels of my country, chose two bracelets and a
necklace of them, paying but twenty dollars for fifteen or sixteen
cat's-eyes, and resolved to give them a setting worthy of their
beauty. The diary continues with moral reflections upon the servility
of our taste before anything European, and the handwriting is clear
and deliberate. It abruptly becomes hurried, and at length well- nigh
illegible. It is best, I think, that you should have this portion as
it comes, unpolished, unamended, unarranged--hot, so to speak, from my
immediate pencil, instead of cold from my subsequent pen. I shall
disguise certain names, but that is all.
Friday forenoon, May 5.--I don't have to gaze at my cat's-eyes to
kill time any more. I'm not the only passenger any more. There's a
lady. She got in at El Paso. She has taken the drawing-room, but sits
outside reading newspaper cuttings and writing letters. She is sixty,
I should say, and has a cap and one gray curl. This comes down over
her left ear as far as a purple ribbon which suspends a medallion at
her throat. She came in wearing a sage-green duster of pongee silk,
pretty nice, only the buttons are as big as those largest mint-drops.
"You porter," she said, "brush this." He put down her many things and
received it. Her dress was sage green, and pretty nice too. "You
porter," said she, "open every window. Why, they are, I declare!
What's the thermometer in this car?" "Ninety-five, ma'am. Folks mostly
travelling--" "That will do, porter. Now you go make me a pitcher of
lemonade right quick." She went into the state-room and shut the door.
When she came out she was dressed in what appeared to be chintz
bedroom curtains. They hang and flow loosely about her, and are
covered with a pattern of pink peonies. She has
slippers--Turkish--that stare up in the air, pretty handsome and
comfortable. But I never before saw any one travel with fly-paper. It
must be hard to pack. But it's quite an idea in this train. Fully a
dozen flies have stuck to it already; and she reads her clippings, and
writes away, and sips another glass of lemonade, all with the most
extreme ap- pearance of leisure, not to say sloth. I can't imagine how
she manages to produce this atmosphere of indolence when in reality
she is steadily occupied. Possibly the way she sits. But I think it's
partly the bedroom curtains.
These notes were interrupted by the entrance of the new conductor.
"If you folks have chartered a private car, just say so," he shouted
instantly at the sight of us. He stood still at the extreme end and
removed his hat, which was acknowledged by the lady. "Travel is surely
very light, Gadsden," she assented, and went on with her writing. But
he remained standing still, and shouting like an orator: "Sprinkle the
floor of this car, Julius, and let the pore passengers get a breath of
cool. My lands!" He fanned himself sweepingly with his hat. He seemed
but little larger than a red squirrel, and precisely that color.
Sorrel hair, sorrel eyebrows, sorrel freckles, light sorrel mustache,
thin aggressive nose, receding chin, and black, attentive, prominent
eyes. He approached, and I gave him my ticket, which is as long as a
neck-tie, and has my height, the color of my eyes and hair, and my
general description, punched in the margin. "Why, you ain't
middle-aged!" he shouted, and a singular croak sounded behind me. But
the lady was writing. "I have been growing younger since I bought that
ticket," I explained. "That's it, that's it," he sang; a man's always
as old as he feels, and a woman--is ever young," he finished. "I see
you are true to the old teachings and the old-time chivalry, Gadsden,"
said the lady, continuously busy. "Yes, ma'am. Jacob served seven
years for Leah and seven more for Rachel." "Such men are raised today
in every worthy Louisiana home, Gadsden, be it ever so humble." "Yes,
ma'am. Give a fresh sprinkle to the floor, Julius, soon as it goes to
get dry. Excuse me, but do you shave yourself, sir?" I told him that I
did, but without excusing him. "You will see that I have a reason for
asking," he consequently pursued, and took out of his coat-tails a
round tin box handsomely labelled "Nat. Fly Paper Co.," so that I
supposed it was thus, of course, that the lady came by her fly-paper.
But this was pure coincidence, and the conductor explained: "That
company's me and a man at Shreveport, but he dissatisfies me right
frequently. You know what heaven a good razor is for a man, and what
you feel about a bad one. Vaseline and ground shells," he said,
opening the box, "and I'm not saying anything except it will last your
lifetime and never hardens. Rub the size of a pea on the fine side of
your strop, spread it to an inch with your thumb. May I beg a favor on
so short a meeting? Join me in the gentlemen's lavatory with your
razorstrop in five minutes. I have to attend to a corpse in the
baggage-car, and will return at once." "Anybody's corpse I know,
Gadsden?" said the lady." No, ma'am. Just a corpse."
When I joined him, for I was now willing to do anything, he was
apologetic again. "'Tis a short acquaintance," he said, "but may I
also beg your razor? Quick as I get out of the National Fly I am going
to register my new label. First there will be Uncle Sam embracing the
world, signifying this mixture is universal, then my name, then the
word Stropine, which is a novelty and carries copyright, and I shall
win comfort and doubtless luxury. The post barber at Fort Bayard took
a dozen off me at sight to retail to the niggers of the Twenty-fourth,
and as he did not happen to have the requisite cash on his person I
charged him two roosters and fifty cents, and both of us done well.
He's after more Stropine, and I got Pullman prices for my roosters,
the buffet-car being out of chicken a la Marengo. There is your razor,
sir, and I appreciate your courtesy." It was beautifully sharpened,
and I bought a box of the Stropine and asked him who the lady was.
"Mrs. Porcher Brewton!" he exclaimed. "Have you never met her
socially? Why she--why she is the most intellectual lady in Bee
Bayou." "Indeed!" I said." Why she visits New Orleans, and Charleston,
and all the principal centres of refinement, and is welcomed in
Washington. She converses freely with our statesmen and is considered
a queen of learning. Why she writes po'try, sir, and is strong-minded.
But a man wouldn't want to pick her up for a fool, all the samey." "I
shouldn't; I don't," said I. "Don't you do it, sir. She's run her
plantation all alone since the Colonel was killed in sixty-two. She
taught me Sunday-school when I was a lad, and she used to catch me at
her pecan-trees 'most every time in Bee Bayou."
He went forward, and I went back with the Stropine in my pocket.
The lady was sipping the last of the lemonade and looking haughtily
over the top of her glass into (I suppose) the world of her thoughts.
Her eyes met mine, however. "Has Gadsden--yes, I perceive he has been
telling about me," she said, in her languid, formidable voice. She set
her glass down and reclined among the folds of the bedroom curtains,
considering me. "Gadsden has always been lavish," she mused,
caressingly. "He seems destined to succeed in life," I hazarded. "ah
n--a!" she sighed, with decision. "He will fail." As she said no more
and as I began to resent the manner in which she surveyed me, I
remarked, "You seem rather sure of his failure." "I am old enough to
be his mother, and yours," said Mrs. Porcher Brewton among her
curtains. "He is a noble-hearted fellow, and would have been a
high-souled Southern gentleman if born to that station. But what
should a conductor earning $103.50 a month be dispersing his attention
on silly patents for? Many's the time I've told him what I think; but
Gadsden will always be flighty. No further observations occurring to
me, I took up my necklace and bracelets from the seat and put them in
my pocket. "Will you permit a meddlesome old woman to inquire what
made you buy those cat's-eyes?" said Mrs. Brewton. "Why--" I dubiously
began. "Never mind," she cried, archly. "If you were thinking of some
one in your Northern home, they will be prized because the thought, at
any rate, was beautiful and genuine. 'Where'er I roam, whatever realms
to see, my heart, untravelled, fondly turns to thee.' Now don't you be
embarrassed by an old woman!" I desired to inform her that I disliked
her, but one can never do those things; and, anxious to learn what was
the matter with the cat's-eyes, I spoke amiably and politely to her.
"Twenty dollars!" she murmured. "And he told you they came from the
Pecos!" She gave that single melodious croak I had heard once before.
Then she sat up with her back as straight as if she was twenty. "My
dear young fellow, never do you buy trash in these trains. Here you
are with your coat full of--what's Gadsden's absurd razor
concoctions--strut--strop --bother! And Chinese paste buttons. Last
summer, on the Northern Pacific, the man offered your cat's-eyes to me
as native gems found exclusively in Dakota. But I just sat and
mentioned to him that I was on my way home from a holiday in China,
and he went right out of the car. The last day I was in Canton I
bought a box of those cat's-eyes at eight cents a dozen." After this
we spoke a little on other subjects, and now she's busy writing again.
She's on business in California, but will read a paper at Los Angeles
at the annual meeting of the Golden Daughters of the West. The meal
station is coming, but we have agreed to--
Later, Friday afternoon.--I have been interrupted again. Gadsden
entered, removed his hat, and shouted: "Sharon. Twenty minutes for
dinner." I was calling the porter to order a buffet lunch in the car
when there tramped in upon us three large men of such appearance that
a flash of thankfulness went through me at having so little
ready-money and only a silver watch. Mrs. Brewton looked at them and
said, "Well, gentlemen?" and they took off their embroidered Mexican
hats. "We've got a baby show here," said one of them, slowly, looking
at me, "and we'd be kind of obliged if you'd hold the box." "There's
lunch put up in a basket for you to take along," said the next, "and a
bottle of wine--champagne. So losing your dinner won't lose you
nothing." "We're looking for somebody raised East and without local
prejudice," said the third. "So we come to the Pullman." I now saw
that so far from purposing to rob us they were in a great and honest
distress of mind. "But I am no judge of a baby," said I; "not being
mar--" "You don't have to be," broke in the first, more slowly and
earnestly. "It's a fair and secret ballot we're striving for. The
votes is wrote out and ready, and all we're shy of is a stranger
without family ties or business interests to hold the box and do the
counting." His deep tones ceased, and he wiped heavy drops from his
forehead with his shirt sleeve. "We'd be kind of awful obliged to
you," he urged. "The town would be liable to make it two bottles,"
said the second. The third brought his fist down on the back of a seat
and said, "I'll make it that now." "But, gentlemen," said I, "five,
six, and seven years ago I was not a stranger in Sharon. If my friend
Dean Drake was still here--" "But he ain't. Now you might as well help
folks, and eat later. This town will trust you. And if you quit us--"
Once more he wiped the heavy drops away, while in a voice full of
appeal his friend finished his thought: "If we lose you, we'll likely
have to wait till this train comes in to-morrow for a man satisfactory
to this town. And the show is costing us a heap." A light hand tapped
my arm, and here was Mrs. Brewton saying: "For shame! Show your
enterprise." "I'll hold this yere train," shouted Gadsden, "if
necessary." Mrs. Brewton rose alertly, and they all hurried me out.
"My slippers will stay right on when I'm down the steps," said Mrs.
Brewton, and Gadsden helped her descend into the blazing dust and sun
of Sharon. "Gracious!" said she, "what a place! But I make it a point
to see everything as I go." Nothing had changed. There, as of old, lay
the flat litter of the town--sheds, stores, and dwellings, a shapeless
congregation in the desert, gaping wide everywhere to the glassy,
quivering immensity; and there, above the roofs, turned the slatted
wind-wheels. But close to the tracks, opposite the hotel, was an
edifice, a sort of tent of bunting, from which brass music issued,
while about a hundred pink and blue sun-bonnets moved and mixed near
the entrance. Little black Mexicans, like charred toys, lounged and
lay staring among the ungraded dunes of sand. "Gracious!" said Mrs.
Brewton again. Her eye lost nothing; and as she made for the tent the
chintz peo- nies flowed around her, and her step was surprisingly
light. We passed through the sunbonnets and entered where the music
played. "The precious blessed darlings!" she exclaimed, clasping her
hands. "This will do for the Golden Daughters," she rapidly added;
"yes, this will distinctly do." And she hastened away from me into the
I had no time to look at much this first general minute. I could
see there were booths, each containing a separate baby. I passed a
whole section of naked babies, and one baby farther along had on
golden wings and a crown, and was bawling frightfully. Their names
were over the booths, and I noticed Lucille, Erskine Wales, Banquo
Lick Nolin, Cuba, Manilla, Ellabelle, Bosco Grady, James J. Corbett
Nash, and Aqua Marine. There was a great sign at the end, painted
"Mrs. Eden's Manna in the Wilderness," and another sign, labelled
"Shot-gun Smith's twins." In the midst of these first few impressions
I found myself seated behind a bare table raised three feet or so,
with two boxes on it, and a quantity of blank paper and pencils, while
one of the men was explaining me the rules and facts. I can't remember
them all now, because I couldn't understand them all then, and Mrs.
Brewton was distant among the sun-bonnets, talking to a gathering
crowd and feeling in the mouths of babies that were being snatched out
of the booths and brought to her. The man was instructing me steadily
all the while, and it occurred to me to nod silently and coldly now
and then, as if I was doing this sort of thing every day. But I
insisted that some one should help me count, and they gave me Gadsden.
Now these facts I do remember very clearly, and shall never forget
them. The babies came from two towns--Sharon, and Rincon its neighbor.
Alone, neither had enough for a good show, though in both it was every
family's pride to have a baby every year. The babies were in three
classes: Six months and under, one prize offered; eighteen months, two
prizes; three years, two prizes. A three-fourths vote of all cast was
necessary to a choice. No one entitled to vote unless of immediate
family of a competing baby. No one entitled to cast more than one
vote. There were rules of entry and fees, but I forget them, except
that no one could have two exhibits in the same class. When I read
this I asked, how about twins? "Well, we didn't kind of foresee that,"
muttered my instructor, painfully; "what would be your idea?" "Look
here, you sir," interposed Mrs. Brewton, "he came in to count votes."
I was very glad to have her back. "That's right, ma'am," admitted the
man; "he needn't to say a thing. We've only got one twins entered," he
pursued, "which we're glad of. Shot-gun--", "Where is this Mr. Smith?"
interrupted Mrs. Brewton. "Uptown, drinking, ma'am." "And who may Mr.
Smith be?" "Most popular citizen of Rincon, ma'am. We had to accept
his twins because--well, he come down here himself, and most of Rincon
come with him, and as we aimed to have everything pass off
pleasant-like--" "I quite comprehend," said Mrs. Brewton. "And I
should consider twins within the rule; or any number born at one time.
But little Aqua Marine is the finest single child in that six months
class. I told her mother she ought to take that splurgy ring off the
poor little thing's thumb. It's most unsafe. But I should vote for
that child myself." "Thank you for your valuable endorse- ment," said
a spruce, slim young man. "But the public is not allowed to vote
here," he added. He was standing on the floor and resting his elbows
on the table. Mrs. Brewton stared down at him. "Are you the father of
the child?" she inquired. "Oh no! I am the agent. I--" "Aqua Marine's
agent?" said Mrs. Brewton, sharply. "Ha, ha!" went the young man. "Ha,
ha! Well, that's good too. She's part of our exhibit. I'm in charge of
the manna-feds, don't you know?" "I don't know," said Mrs. Brewton.
"Why, Mrs. Eden's Manna in the Wilderness! Nourishes, strengthens, and
makes no unhealthy fat. Take a circular, and welcome. I'm travelling
for the manna. I organized this show. I've conducted twenty-eight
similar shows in two years. We hold them in every State and Territory.
Second of last March I gave Denver--you heard of it, probably?" "I did
not," said Mrs. Brewton. "Well! Ha, ha! I thought every person up to
date had heard of Denver's Olympic Offspring Olio." "Is it up to date
to loll your elbows on the table when you're speaking to a lady?"
inquired Mrs. Brewton. He jumped, and then grew scarlet with rage. "I
didn't expect to learn manners in New Mexico," said he. "I doubt if
you will," said Mrs. Brewton, and turned her back on him. He was white
now; but better instincts, or else business, prevailed in his injured
bosom. "Well," said he, "I had no bad intentions. I was going to say
you'd have seen ten thousand people and five hundred babies at Denver.
And our manna-feds won out to beat the band. Three first medals, and
all exclusively manna-fed. We took the costume prize also. Of course
here in Sharon I've simplified. No special medal for weight, beauty,
costume, or decorated perambulator. Well, I must go back to our
exhibit. Glad to have you give us a call up there and see the medals
we're offering, and our fifteen manna-feds, and take a package away
with you." He was gone.
The voters had been now voting in my two boxes for some time, and I
found myself hoping the manna would not win, whoever did; but it
seemed this agent was a very capable person. To begin with, every
family entering a baby drew a package of the manna free, and one
package contained a diamond ring. Then, he had managed to have the
finest babies of all classes in his own exhibit. This was
incontestable, Mrs. Brewton admitted, after returning from a general
inspection; and it seemed to us extraordinary. "That's easy, ma'am,"
said Gadsden; "he came around here a month ago. Don't you see?" I did
not see, but Mrs. Brewton saw at once. He had made a quiet selection
of babies beforehand, and then introduced the manna into those homes.
And everybody in the room was remarking that his show was very
superior, taken as a whole they all added, "taken as a whole"; I heard
them as they came up to vote for the 3-year and the 18-month classes.
The 6-month was to wait till last, because the third box had been
accidentally smashed by Mr. Smith. Gadsden caught several trying to
vote twice. "No, you don't!" he would shout. "I know faces. I'm not a
conductor for nothing." And the victim would fall back amid jeers from
the sun-bonnets. Once the passengers sent over to know when the train
was going. "Tell them to step over here and they'll not feel so
lonesome!" shouted Gadsden; and I think a good many came. The band was
playing "White Wings," with quite a number singing it, when Gadsden
noticed the voting had ceased, and announced this ballot closed. The
music paused for him, and we could suddenly hear how many babies were
in distress; but for a moment only; as we began our counting, "White
Wings" resumed, and the sun-bonnets outsang their progeny. There was
something quite singular in the way they had voted. Here are some of
the 3-year-old tickets: "First choice, Ulysses Grant Blum; 2d choice,
Lewis Hendricks." "First choice, James Redfield; 2d, Lewis Hendricks."
"First, Elk Chester; 2d, Lewis Hendricks." "Can it be?" said the
excited Gadsden. "Finish these quick. I'll open the 18-monthers." But
he swung round to me at once. "See there!" he cried." Read that! and
that!" He plunged among more, and I read: "First choice, Lawrence
Nepton Ford, Jr.; 2d, Iona Judd." "First choice, Mary Louise Kenton;
2d, Iona Judd." "Hurry up!" said Gadsden; "that's it!" And as we
counted, Mrs. Brewton looked over my shoulder and uttered her
melodious croak, for which I saw no reason. "That young
whipper-snapper will go far," she observed; nor did I under- stand
this. But when they stopped the band for me to announce the returns,
one fact did dawn on me even while I was reading: "Three- year-olds:
Whole number of votes cast, 300; necessary to a choice, 225. Second
prize, Lewis Hendricks, receiving 300. First prize, largest number of
votes cast, 11, for Salvisa van Meter. No award. Eighteen-month class:
Whole number of votes cast, 300; necessary to a choice, 225. Second
prize, Iona Judd, receiving 300. Lillian Brown gets 15 for 1st prize.
None awarded." There was a very feeble applause, and then silence for
a second, and then the sun-bonnets rushed together, rushed away to
others, rushed back; and talk swept like hail through the place. Yes,
that is what they had done. They had all voted for Lewis Hendricks and
Iona Judd for second prize, and every family had voted the first prize
to its own baby. The Browns and van Meters happened to be the largest
families present. "He'll go far! he'll go far!" repeated Mrs. Brewton.
Sport glittered in her eye. She gathered her curtains, and was among
the sun-bonnets in a moment. Then it fully dawned on me. The agent for
Mrs. Eden's Manna in the Wilderness was indeed a shrewd strategist,
and knew his people to the roots of the grass. They had never seen a
baby-show. They were innocent. He came among them. He gave away
packages of manna and a diamond ring. He offered the prizes. But he
proposed to win some. Therefore he made that rule about only the
immediate families voting. He foresaw what they would do; and now they
had done it. Whatever happened, two prizes went to his manna-feds.
"They don't see through it in the least, which is just as well," said
Mrs. Brewton, returning. "And it's little matter that only second
prizes go to the best babies. But what's to be done now?" I had no
idea; but it was not necessary that I should.
"You folks of Rincon and Sharon," spoke a deep voice. It was the
first man in the Pullman, and drops were rolling from his forehead,
and his eyes were the eyes of a beleaguered ox. "You fathers and
mothers," he said, and took another breath. They grew quiet. "I'm a
father myself, as is well known." They applauded this. "Salvisa is
mine, and she got my vote. The father that will not support his own
child is not--does not--is worse than if they were orphans." He
breathed again, while they loudly applauded." But, folks, I've got to
get home to Rincon. I've got to. And I'll give up Salvisa if I'm met
fair." "Yes, yes, you'll be met," said voices of men. "Well, here's my
proposition: Mrs. Eden's manna has took two, and I'm satisfied it
should. We voted, and will stay voted." "Yes, yes!" "Well, now, here's
Sharon and Rincon, two of the finest towns in this section, and I say
Sharon and Rincon has equal rights to get something out of this, and
drop private feelings, and everybody back their town. And I say let
this lady and gentleman, who will act elegant and on the square, take
a view and nominate the finest Rincon 3-year-old and the finest Sharon
18-month they can cut out of the herd. And I say let's vote unanimous
on their pick, and let each town hold a first prize and go home in
friendship, feeling it has been treated right."
Universal cheers endorsed him, and he got down panting. The band
played "Union Forever," and I accompanied Mrs. Brewton to the booths.
"You'll remember!" shouted the orator urgently after us; "one apiece."
We nodded. "Don't get mixed," he appealingly insisted. We shook our
heads, and out of the booths rushed two women, and simultaneously
dashed their infants in our faces. "You'll never pass Cuba by!"
entreated one. "This is Bosco Grady," said the other. Cuba wore an
immense garment made of the American flag, but her mother whirled her
out of it in a second. "See them dimples; see them knees!" she said.
"See them feet! Only feel of her toes!" "Look at his arms!" screamed
the mother of Bosco. "Doubled his weight in four months." "Did he
indeed, ma'am?" said Cuba's mother; "well, he hadn't much to double."
"Didn't he, then? Didn't he indeed?" "No at you; he didn't indeed and
indeed! I guess Cuba is known to Sharon. I guess Sharon'll not let
Cuba be slighted." "Well, and I guess Rincon'll see that Bosco Grady
gets his rights." "Ladies," said Mrs. Brewton, towering but poetical
with her curl, "I am a mother myself, and raised five noble boys and
two sweet peerless girls." This stopped them immediately; they stared
at her and her chintz peonies as she put the curl gently away from her
medallion and proceeded: "But never did I think of myself in those
dark weary days of the long ago. I thought of my country and the Lost
Cause." They stared at her, fascinated. "Yes, m'm," whispered they,
quite humbly. "Now," said Mrs. Brewton, "what is more sacred than an
American mother's love? Therefore let her not shame it with anger and
strife. All little boys and girls are precious gems to me and to you.
What is a cold, lifeless medal compared to one of them? Though I would
that all could get the prize! But they can't, you know." "No, m'm."
Many mothers, with their children in their arms, were now dumbly
watching Mrs. Brewton, who held them with a honeyed, convincing smile.
"If I choose only one in this beautiful and encouraging harvest, it is
because I have no other choice. Thank you so much for letting me see
that little hero and that lovely angel," she added, with a yet sweeter
glance to the mothers of Bosco and Cuba. "And I wish them all luck
when their turn comes. I've no say about the 6-month class, you know.
And now a little room, please."
The mothers fell back. But my head swam slightly. The 6-month
class, to be sure! The orator had forgotten all about it. In the
general joy over his wise and fair proposition, nobody had thought of
it. But they would pretty soon. Cuba and Bosco were likely to remind
them. Then we should still be face to face with a state of things
that--I cast a glance behind at those two mothers of Sharon and Rincon
following us, and I asked Mrs. Brewton to look at them. "Don't think
about it now," said she, "it will only mix you. I always like to take
a thing when it comes, and not before." We now reached the 18-month
class. They were the naked ones. The 6-month had stayed nicely in
people's arms; these were crawling hastily everywhere, like crabs
upset in the market, and they screamed fiercely when taken upon the
lap. The mother of Thomas Jefferson Brayin Lucas showed us a framed
letter from the statesman for whom her child was called. The letter
reeked with gratitude, and said that offspring was man's proudest
privilege; that a souvenir sixteen-to-one spoon would have been
cheerfully sent, but 428 babies had been named after Mr. Brayin since
January. It congratulated the swelling army of the People's Cause. But
there was nothing eminent about little Thomas except the letter; and
we selected Reese Moran, a vigorous Sharon baby, who, when they
attempted to set him down and pacify him, stiffened his legs, dashed
his candy to the floor, and burst into lamentation. We were soon. on
our way to the 3-year class, for Mrs. Brewton was rapid and thorough.
As we went by the Manna Exhibit, the agent among his packages and
babies invited us in. He was loudly declaring that he would vote for
Bosco if he could. But when he examined Cuba, he became sure that
Denver had nothing finer than that. Mrs. Brewton took no notice of
him, but bade me admire Aqua Marine as far surpassing any other
6-month child. I proclaimed her splendid (she was a wide-eyed,
contented thing, with a head shaped like a croquet mallet), and the
agent smiled modestly and told the mothers that as for his babies two
prizes was luck enough for them; they didn't want the earth. "If that
thing happened to be brass," said Mrs. Brewton, bending over the ring
that Aqua was still sucking; and again remonstrating with the mother
for this imprudence, she passed on. The three-year-olds were, many of
them, in costume, with extraordinary arrangements of hair; and here
was the child with gold wings and a crown I had seen on arriving. Her
name was Verbena M., and she personated Faith. She had colored
slippers, and was drinking tea from her mother's cup. Another child,
named Broderick McGowan, represented Columbus, and joyfully shouted
"Ki-yi!" every half-minute. One child was attired as a prominent
admiral; another as a prominent general; and one stood in a boat and
was Washington. As Mrs. Brewton examined them and dealt with the
mothers, the names struck me afresh--not so much the boys; Ulysses
Grant and James J. Corbett explained themselves; but I read the names
of five adjacent girls-- Lula, Ocilla, Nila, Cusseta, and Maylene. And
I asked Mrs. Brewton how they got them. "From romances," she told me,
"in papers that we of the upper classes never see." In choosing Horace
Boyd, of Rincon, for his hair, his full set of front teeth well cared
for, and his general beauty, I think both of us were also influenced
by his good sensible name, and his good clean sensible clothes. With
both our selections, once they were settled, were Sharon and Rincon
satisfied. We were turning back to the table to announce our choice
when a sudden clamor arose behind us, and we saw confusion in the
Manna Department. Women were running and shrieking, and I hastened
after Mrs. Brewton to see what was the matter. Aqua Marine had
swallowed the ring on her thumb. "It was gold! it was pure gold!"
wailed the mother, clutching Mrs. Brewton. "It cost a whole dollar in
El Paso." "She must have white of egg instantly," said Mrs. Brewton,
handing me her purse. "Run to the hotel--" "Save your money," said the
agent, springing forward with some eggs in a bowl. "Lord! you don't
catch us without all the appliances handy. We'd run behind the trade
in no time. There, now, there," he added, comfortingly to the mother.
"Will you make her swallow it? Better let me--better let me --And
here's the emetic. Lord! why, we had three swallowed rings at the
Denver Olio, and I got 'em all safe back within ten minutes after time
of swallowing." "You go away," said Mrs. Brewton to me, "and tell them
our nominations." The mothers sympathetically surrounded poor little
Aqua, saying to each other: "She's a beautiful child!" "Sure indeed
she is!" "But the manna-feds has had their turn." "Sure indeed they've
been recognized," and so forth, while I was glad to retire to the
voting table. The music paused for me, and as the crowd cheered my
small speech, some one said, "And now what are you going to do about
me?" It was Bosco Grady back again, and close behind him Cuba. They
had escaped from Mrs. Brewton's eye and had got me alone. But I
pretended in the noise and cheering not to see these mothers. I
noticed a woman hurrying out of the tent, and hoped Aqua was not in
further trouble--she was still surrounded, I could see. Then the
orator made some silence, thanked us in the names of Sharon and
Rincon, and proposed our candidates be voted on by acclamation. This
was done. Rincon voted for Sharon and Reese Moran in a solid roar, and
Sharon voted for Rincon and Horace Boyd in a roar equally solid. So
now each had a prize, and the whole place was applauding happily, and
the band was beginning again, when the mothers with Cuba and Bosco
jumped up beside me on the platform, and the sight of them produced
"There's a good many here has a right to feel satisfied," said Mrs.
Grady, looking about, "and they're welcome to their feelings. But if
this meeting thinks it is through with its business, I can tell it
that it ain't--not if it acts honorable, it ain't. Does those that
have had their chance and those that can take home their prizes expect
us 6-month mothers come here for nothing? Do they expect I brought my
Bosco from Rincon to be insulted, and him the pride of the town?"
"Cuba is known to Sharon," spoke the other lady. "I'll say no more."
"Jumping Jeans!" murmured the orator to himself. "I can't hold this
train much longer," said Gadsden; "she's due at Lordsburg now."
"You'll have made it up by Tucson, Gadsden," spoke Mrs. Brewton,
quietly, across the whole assembly from the Manna Department. "As for
towns," continued Mrs. Grady, "that think anything of a baby that's
only got three teeth--" "Ha! Ha!" laughed Cuba's mother, shrilly.
"Teeth! Well, we're not proud of bald babies in Sharon." Bosco was
certainly bald. All the men were looking wretched, and all the women
were growing more and more like eagles. Moreover, they were separating
into two bands and taking their husbands with them--Sharon and Rincon
drawing to opposite parts of the tent--and what was coming I cannot
say; for we all had to think of something else. A third woman,
bringing a man, mounted the platform. It was she I had seen hurry out.
"My name's Shot-gun Smith," said the man, very carefully, "and I'm
told you've reached my case." He was extremely good-looking, with a
blue eye and a blond mustache, not above thirty, and was trying hard
to be sober, holding himself with dignity. "Are you the judge?" said
he to me. "Hell--" I began. "N-not guilty, your honor," said he. At
this his wife looked anxious. "S-self-defence," he slowly continued;
"told you once already." "Why, Rolfe!" exclaimed his wife, touching
his elbow." Don't you cry, little woman," said he; "this'll come out
all right. Where 're the witnesses?" "Why, Rolfe! Rolfe!" She shook
him as you shake a sleepy child. "Now see here," said he, and wagged a
finger at her af- fectionately, "you promised me you'd not cry if I
let you come." "Rolfe, dear, it's not that to-day; it's the twins."
"It's your twins, Shot-gun, this time," said many men's voices." We
acquitted you all right last month." "Justifiable homicide," said
Gadsden." Don't you remember?" "Twins?" said Shotgun, drowsily. "Oh
yes, mine. Why--" He opened on us his blue eyes that looked about as
innocent as Aqua Marine's, and he grew more awake. Then he blushed
deeply, face and forehead. "I was not coming to this kind of thing,"
he explained. "But she wanted the twins to get something." He put his
hand on her shoulder and straightened himself. "I done a heap of
prospecting before I struck this claim," said he, patting her
shoulder. "We got married last March a year. It's our
first--first--first"--he turned to me with a confiding smile--"it's
our first dividend, judge." "Rolfe! I never! You come right down."
"And now let's go get a prize," he declared, with his confiding
pleasantness. "I remember now! I remember! They claimed twins was
barred. And I kicked down the bars. Take me to those twins. They're
not named yet, judge. After they get the prize we'll name them fine
names, as good as any they got anywhere--Europe, Asia,
Africa--anywhere. My gracious! I wish they was boys. Come on, judge!
You and me'll go give 'em a prize, and then we'll drink to 'em." He
hugged me suddenly and affectionately, and we half fell down the
steps. But Gadsden as suddenly caught him and righted him, and we
proceeded to the twins. Mrs. Smith looked at me helplessly, saying:
"I'm that sorry, sir! I had no idea he was going to be that gamesome."
"Not at all," I said; "not at all!" Under many circumstances I should
have delighted in Shot-gun's society. He seemed so utterly sure that,
now he had explained himself, everybody would rejoice to give the
remaining-medal to his little girls. But Bosco and Cuba had not been
idle. Shotgun did not notice the spread of whispers, nor feel the
divided and jealous currents in the air as he sat, and, in expanding
good-will, talked himself almost sober. To entice him out there was no
way. Several of his friends had tried it. But beneath his innocence
there seemed to lurk something wary, and I grew apprehensive about
holding the box this last time. But Gadsden relieved me as our count
began. "Shot-gun is a splendid man," said he, "and he has trailed more
train-robbers than any deputy in New Mexico. But he has seen too many
friends to-day, and is not quite himself. So when he fell down that
time I just took this off him." He opened the drawer, and there lay a
six-shooter. "It was touch and go," said Gadsden; "but he's thinking
that hard about his twins that he's not missed it yet. 'Twould have
been the act of an enemy to leave that on him to-day.--Well, d'you
say!" he broke off. "Well, well, well!" It was the tickets we took out
of the box that set him exclaiming. I began to read them, and saw that
the agent was no mere politician, but a statesman. His Aqua Marine had
a solid vote. I remembered his extreme praise of both Bosco and Cuba.
This had set Rincon and Sharon bitterly against each other. I
remembered his modesty about Aqua Marine. Of course. Each town, unable
to bear the idea of the other's beating it, had voted for the
manna-fed, who had 299 votes. Shot-gun and his wife had voted for
their twins. I looked towards the Manna Department, and could see that
Aqua Marine was placid once more, and Mrs. Brewton was dancing the
ring before her eyes. I hope I announced the returns in a firm voice.
"What!" said Shot-gun Smith; and at that sound Mrs. Brewton stopped
dancing the ring. He strode to our table. "There's the winner," said
Gadsden, quickly pointing to the Manna Exhibit. "What!" shouted Smith
again; "and they quit me for that hammer-headed son-of-a-gun?" He
whirled around. The men stood ready, and the women fled shrieking and
cowering to their infants in the booths. "Gentlemen! Gentlemen!" cried
Gadsden, "don't hurt him! Look here!" And from the drawer he displayed
Shot-gun's weapon. They understood in a second, and calmly watched the
enraged and disappointed Shot-gun. But he was a man. He saw how he had
frightened the women, and he stood in the middle of the floor with
eyes that did not at all resemble Aqua Marine's at present. "I'm all
right now, boys," he said. "I hope I've harmed no one. Ladies, will
you try and forget about me making such a break? It got ahead of me, I
guess; for I had promised the little woman--" He stopped himself; and
then his eye fell upon the Manna Department. "I guess I don't like one
thing much now. I'm not after prizes. I'd not accept one from a
gold-bug-combine-trust that comes sneaking around stuffing wholesale
concoctions into our children's systems. My twins are not manna-fed.
My twins are raised as nature intended. Perhaps if they were swelled
out with trash that acts like baking-powder, they would have a medal
too--for I notice he has made you vote his way pretty often this
afternoon." I saw the agent at the end of the room look very queer.
"That's so!" said several. "I think I'll clear out his boxes," said
Shot-gun, with rising joy." I feel like I've got to do something
before I go home. Come on, judge!" He swooped towards the manna with a
yell, and the men swooped with him, and Gadsden and I were swooped
with them. Again the women shrieked. But Mrs. Brewton stood out before
the boxes with her curl and her chintz.
"Mr. Smith," said she, "you are not going to do anything like that.
You are going to behave yourself like the gentleman you are, and not
like the wild beast that's inside you." Never in his life before,
probably, had Shot-gun been addressed in such a manner, and he too
became hypnotized, fixing his blue eyes upon the strange lady. "I do
not believe in patent foods for children," said Mrs. Brewton. "We
agree on that, Mr. Smith, and I am a grandmother, and I attend to what
my grandchildren eat. But this highly adroit young man has done you no
harm. If he has the prizes, whose doing is that, please? And who paid
for them? Will you tell me, please? Ah, you are all silent!" And she
croaked melodiously. "Now let him and his manna go along. But I have
enjoyed meeting you all, and I shall not forget you soon. And, Mr.
Smith, I want you to remember me. Will you, please?" She walked to
Mrs. Smith and the twins, and Shot-gun followed her, entirely
hypnotized. She beckoned to me. "Your judge and I," she said,
"consider not only your beautiful twins worthy of a prize, but also
the mother and father that can so proudly claim them." She put her
hand in my pocket. "These cat's-eyes," she said, "you will wear, and
think of me and the judge who presents them." She placed a bracelet on
each twin, and the necklace upon Mrs. Smith's neck." Give him
Gadsden's stuff," she whispered to me. "Do you shave yourself, sir?"
said I, taking out the Stropine. "Vaseline and ground shells, and will
last your life. Rub the size of a pea on your strop and spread it to
an inch." I placed the box in Shot-gun's motionless hand. "And now,
Gadsden, we'll take the train," said Mrs. Brewton. "Here's your lunch!
Here's your wine!" said the orator, forcing a basket upon me." I don't
know what we'd have done without you and your mother." A flash of
indignation crossed Mrs. Brewton's face, but changed to a smile.
"You've forgot to name my girls!" exclaimed Shot-gun, suddenly finding
his voice. "Suppose you try that," said Mrs. Brewton to me, a trifle
viciously. "Thank you," I said to Smith. "Thank you. I--" "Something
handsome," he urged. "How would Cynthia do for one?" I suggested.
"Shucks, no! I've known two Cynthias. You don't want that?" he asked
Mrs. Smith; and she did not at all. "Something extra, something fine,
something not stale," said he. I looked about the room. There was no
time for thought, but my eye fell once more upon Cuba. This reminded
me of Spain, and the Spanish; and my brain leaped. "I have them!" I
cried. "'Armada' and 'Loyola.'" "That's what they're named!" said
Shot-gun; "write it for us." And I did. Once more the band played, and
we left them, all calling, "Good-bye, ma'am. Good-bye, judge," happy
as possible. The train was soon going sixty miles an hour through the
desert. We had passed Lordsburg, San Simon, and were nearly at Benson
before Mrs. Brewton and Gadsden (whom she made sit down with us) and I
finished the lunch and champagne." I wonder how long he'll remember
me?" mused Mrs. Brewton at Tucson, where we were on time. "That woman
is not worth one of his boots."
Saturday afternoon, May 6.--Near Los Angeles. I have been writing
all day, to be sure and get everything in, and now Sharon is
twenty-four hours ago, and here there are roses, gardens, and many
nice houses at the way-stations. Oh, George Washington, father of your
country, what a brindled litter have you sired!
But here the moral reflections begin again, and I copy no more
diary. Mrs. Brewton liked my names for the twins. "They'll pronounce
it Loyo'la," she said, "and that sounds right lovely." Later she sent
me her paper for the Golden Daughters. It is full of poetry and
sentiment and all the things I have missed. She wrote that if she had
been sure the agent had helped Aqua Marine to swallow the ring, she
would have let them smash his boxes. And I think she was a little in
love with Shot-gun Smith. But what a pity we shall soon have no more
Mrs. Brewtons! The causes that produced her--slavery, isolation,
literary tendencies, ad- versity, game blood--that combination is
broken forever. I shall speak to Mr. Howells about her. She ought to