One of them, she conceded, might be worth reading; and this she laid aside. Of the remaining five she correctly guessed the contents of four. Of the fifth she remarked that it would be from a poor feckless dub with a large family who had owed her three hundred dollars for nine years. She said it would tell a new hard-luck tale for non-payment of a note now due for the eighth time. Here she was wrong. The letter inclosed a perfectly new note for four hundred and fifty dollars; and would Mrs. Pettengill send on the extra one hundred and fifty dollars that would enable the debtor to get on his feet and pay all his debts, as there was a good season of hog buying ahead of him!
“I guessed wrong,” admitted the lady. “I certainly did that little man an injustice, not suspecting he could think up something novel after nine years.” Grimly she scanned the new note. “As good as a treaty with Germany!” she murmured and threw it aside, though I knew that the old note and the new hundred and fifty would go forward on the morrow; for she had spoken again of the debtor’s large family. She said it was wonderful what good breeders the shiftless are.
“Ain’t I right, though, about the foolish way people fly at their mail?” she demanded. “You might think they’d get wise after years and years of being fooled; but—no, sir! Take me day after to-morrow, when the next mail comes. I’ll fall on it like I fell on this, with all my old delusions uninjured. There sure does seem to be a lot of human nature in most of us.”
Then she opened the possibly interesting letter that had been put aside. The envelope, at least, was interesting, bearing as it did the stamp of a military censor for the American Expedition to France.
“You remember Squat Tyler, that long cow-puncher working for me when you were here last time?”
I remembered Squat, who was indeed a long cow-puncher—long enough to be known, also, to his intimates as Timberline.
“Well, Squat is over there in the trenches helping to make the world a pleasant place to live in. He’s a good shot, too.”
The lady read the letter hurriedly to herself; then regaled me with bits of it.
“The life here is very,” she read. “That’s all he says, at first—’The life here is very.’ I should judge it might be that from what I read in the papers. Or mebbe he couldn’t just think of the word. Let’s see! What else? Oh, yes—about digging. He says he didn’t take to digging at first, not having gone there for any common purpose, but one day he was told to dig, and while he was thinking up something to say a million guns began to go off; so he dug without saying a word. Hard and fast he says he dug. He says: ’If a badger would of been there he would of been in my way.’ I’ll bet! Squat wouldn’t like to be shot at in all seriousness. What next? Here he says I wouldn’t dream what a big outfit this here U.S. outfit is; he says it’s the biggest outfit he ever worked for—not even excepting Miller & Lux. What next? Oh, yes; here he tells about getting one.