Even in Elkhead there were fires this day. In the Gilead saloon one might have thought that the liquid heat which the men imbibed would serve in place of stoves, but the proprietor, “Pale Annie,” had an eye to form, and when the sky was grey he always lighted the stove.
“Pale Annie” he was called because his real name was Anderson Hawberry Sandringham. That name had been a great aid to him when he was an undertaker in Kansas City; but Anderson Hawberry Sandringham had fallen from the straight and narrow path of good undertakers some years before and he had sought refuge in the mountain-desert, where most things prosper except sheriffs and grass. He was fully six inches more than six feet in height and his face was so long and pale that even Haw-Haw Langley seemed cheerful beside the ex-undertaker. In Kansas City this had been much prized, for that single face could lend solemnity to any funeral. In Elkhead it was hardly less of an asset.
People came out of curiosity to see Pale Annie behind the bar with his tall silk hat—which he could never bring himself to lay aside—among the cobwebs of the rafters. They came out of curiosity and they remained to drink—which is a habit in the mountain-desert. A travelling drummer or a patent medicine man had offered Pale Annie a handsome stake to simply go about with him and lend the sanction of his face to the talk of the drummer, but Pale Annie had discovered a veritable philosopher’s stone in Elkhead and he was literally turning whiskey into gold.
This day was even more prosperous than usual for Pale Annie, for the grey weather and the chilly air made men glad of the warmth, both external and internal, which Pale Annie possessed in his barroom. His dextrous hands were never for a moment still at the bar, either setting out drinks or making change, except when he walked out and threw a fresh feed into the fire, and stirred up the ruddy depths of the stove with a tall poker. It was so long, indeed, that it might have served even Pale Annie for a cane and it was a plain untapered bar of iron which the blacksmith had given him as the price of a drink, on a day. He needed a large poker, however, for there was only the one stove in the entire big room, and it was a giant of its kind, as capacious as a hogshead. This day Pale Annie kept it red hot, so that the warmth might penetrate to the door on the one hand and to the rear of the room where the tables and chairs were, on the other.
Since Pale Annie’s crowd took little exercise except for bending their elbows now and again, and since the majority of them had been in the place fully half the day, by ten in the evening sounds of hilarity began to rise from the saloon. Solemn-faced men who had remained in their places for hour after hour, industriously putting away the red-eye, now showed symptoms of life. Some of them discovered hitherto