And away he rides, chuckling like it was an awful joke on us. Not a single scream of agony about what had been done to him with them stunted mules.
Of course that was all I needed to know. One deadly chill of fear took me from head to foot. I knew perfectly well our trench was mined and the fuse lighted. Up comes this chucklehead of a Sawtelle, and for once in his life he’s puzzled.
“Well,” he says, “you got to give old S.F. credit for one thing. Did you see the way he tried to switch the laugh over on to us, and me with his trusty check right here in my hand? I never would have thought it, but he is certainly one awful good game loser!”
“Game loser nothing!” I says. “He’s just a game winner. Any time you see that old boy acting game he’s won. And he’s won now, no matter how much the known facts look against it. I don’t know how, but he’s won.”
They all begin to tell me I must be mistaken, because look at the price we got for stuff we hadn’t been able to sell at any price before. I says I am looking at that, but I’m also obliged to look at Safety after he’s paid that price, and the laws of Nature certainly ain’t been suspended all at once. I offer to bet ’em what they’ve made on the deal that Safety has run true to form. “Mark my words,” I says, “this is one sad day for the Arrowhead! I don’t know how or why, but we’ll soon find out; and if you don’t believe me, now’s the time to double your money.”
But they hung off on that. They got too much respect for my judgment. And they admitted that Safety’s way of standing the gaff had been downright uncanny. So there was nothing to do but pay over their share of this tainted money and wait for the blow, eight hundred and seventy-five dollars being the amount I split with ’em for their masterly headwork in the depredation.
That very day in the mail comes a letter that has been delayed because this here Government of ours pinches a penny even worse than old Timmins does. Yes, sir; this letter had been mailed at Seattle with a two-cent stamp the day after the Government had boosted the price to three cents. And what does the Government do? Does it say: “Oh, send it along! Why pinch pennies?” Not at all. It takes a printed card and a printed envelope and the time of a clerk and an R.F.D. mail carrier to send me word that I must forward one cent if I want this letter—spends at least two cents to get one cent. Well, it takes two days for that notice to reach me; and of course I let it lie round a couple of days, thinking it’s probably an advertisement; and then two days for my one-cent stamp to go back to this parsimonious postmaster; and two days for the letter to get here; making about eight days, during which things had happened that I should of known about. Yes, sir; it’s a great Government that will worry over one cent and then meet one of these smooth profiteers and loosen up on a million dollars like a cowhand with three months’ pay hitting a wet town. Of course it was all over when I read this letter.