Ma Pettengill busied herself with a final cigarette and remarked that she never knew when to stop talking. Some parties did, but not her; and she having to be up and on the way to Horsefly Mountain by six-thirty in the A.M.! Her last apology was for a longing she had not been able to conquer: She couldn’t help a debased wish to know how that last fight would of come out.
“Of course it ain’t nice to want men to act like the brutes,” said the lady. “Still, I can’t help wondering; not that I’m inquisitive, but just out of curiosity.”
ONE ARROWHEAD DAY
It began with the wonted incitement to murder. A wooden staff projects some five feet above the topmost roof peak of the Arrowhead ranch house, and to this staff is affixed a bell of brazen malignity. At five-thirty each morning the cord controlling this engine of discord is jerked madly and forever by Lew Wee, our Chinese chef. It is believed by those compelled to obey the horrid summons that this is Lew Wee’s one moment of gladness in a spoiled life. The sound of the noon bell, the caressing call of the night bell—these he must know to be welcome. The morning clangour he must know to be a tragedy of foulest import. It is undeniably rung with a keener relish. There will be some effort at rhythm with the other bells, but that morning bell jangles in a broken frenzy of clangs, ruthlessly prolonged, devilish to the last insulting stroke. Surely one without malice could manage this waking bell more tactfully.
A reckless Chinaman, then, takes his life in his hands each morning at five-thirty. Something like a dozen men are alarmed from deep sleep to half-awakened incredulity, in which they believe the bell to be a dream bell and try to dream on of something noiseless. Ten seconds later these startled men have become demons, with their nice warm feet on the icy floor of the bunk-house, and with prayers of simple fervour that the so-and-so Chink may be struck dead while his hand is still on the rope. This prayer is never answered; so something like a dozen men dress hurriedly and reach the Arrowhead kitchen hurriedly, meaning to perform instantly there a gracious deed which Providence has thus far unaccountably left undone.
That the Arrowhead annals are, as yet, unspiced with a crime of violence is due, I consider, to Lew Wee’s superb control of his facial muscles. His expression when he maniacally yanks the bell cord is believed by his victims to be one of hellish glee; so they eagerly seek each morning for one little remaining trace of this. The tiniest hint would suffice. But they encounter only a rather sad-faced, middle-aged Chinaman, with immovable eyes and a strained devotion to delicate tasks, of whom it is impossible to believe that ever a ray of joy gladdened his life.