Dominated by his eye and voice, the pack slunk into the bed-room. Upon Mary’s once comely face the purple weals were criss-crossed; and sores had broken out wherever the cactus spines had pierced the flesh. A groan escaped the men who had wrought this evil, and glancing at each in turn, I caught a glimpse of a quickening remorse, of a horror about to assume colossal dimensions. The Cock-a-whoop cowboy was seized with a palsy; great tears rolled down the cheeks of the gaunt Missourian; one man began to swear incoherently, cursing himself and his fellows; another prayed aloud.
“He’s dead!” shrieked Charlie.
At the grim word, moved by a common impulse, whipped to unreasonable panic as they had been whipped to unreasoning cruelty, the pack broke headlong from the room—and fled!
Long after they had gone, Mary opened his eyes.
“Coon Dogs coming?” he muttered. “Heap bad men!”
“They have come and gone,” said Ajax. “They’ll never come again, Mary. It’s all right. Go to sleep.”
Mary obediently closed his eyes.
“He’ll recover,” Ajax said. And he did.
OLD MAN BOBO’S MANDY
Old man Bobo was the sole survivor of a once famous trio. Two out of the three, Doc Dickson and Pap Spooner, had passed to the shades, and the legend ran that when their disembodied spirits reached the banks of Styx, the ruling passion of their lives asserted itself for the last time. They demurred loudly, impatiently, at the exorbitant fee, ten cents, demanded by Charon.
“We weigh light,” said Pap Spooner, “awful light! Call it, mister, fifteen cents for the two!”
“Ten cents apiece,” replied the ferryman, “or three for a quarter.”
Thereupon the worthy couple seated themselves in Cimmerian darkness, and vowed their intention of awaiting old man Bobo.
“He’ll soon be along,” they remarked. “He must be awful lonesome.”
But the old gentleman kept them out of Hades for full five years.
He lived alone with his grand-daughter and a stable helper in the tumble-down adobe just to the left of the San Lorenzo race track. The girl cooked, baked, and washed for him. Twice a week she peddled fruit and garden stuff in San Lorenzo. Of these sales her grandsire exacted the most rigorous accounting, and occasionally, in recognition of her services, would fling her a nickel. The old man himself rarely left home, and might be seen at all hours hobbling around his garden and corrals, keenly interested in his own belongings, halter-breaking his colts, anxiously watching the growth of his lettuce, counting the oranges, and beguiling the fruitful hours with delightful calculation.
“It’s all profit,” he has often said to me. “We buy nothin’ an’ we sell every durned thing we raise.”
Then he would chuckle and rub together his yellow, wrinkled hands. Ajax said that whenever Mr. Bobo laughed it behooved other folk to look grave.