“What the d-d-deuce are you laughing at?” he asked, turning upon them savagely, his loud voice and threatening manner frightening those who stood nearest, so that they instinctively stepped back a pace or two.
“No offence, Doc,” said one of them; “but you couldn’t get him.”
“Couldn’t get him! Why couldn’t I g-g-get him?”
“Pious! What do I care?”
“Well, these here pious Quakers are stiff in their notions. But you kin jedge fer yourself ‘bout his talkin’, fer there’s goin’ ter be an appinted Quaker meetin’ to-morrow night, and he’ll speak. You kin go an’ listen, if you want to.”
“I’ll be there, boys, and d-d-don’t you forget it. I’ll hook him! Never saw anything I couldn’t buy if I had a little of the p-p-proper stuff about me. Drink to my l-l-luck, boys, and watch me!”
The landlord filled their glasses once more, and low gurglings, smothered swallows, and loud smacking of lips filled the interim of interrupted conversation.
“I say, Doc, that daughter of yours knows her biz when it comes to telling fortunes,” ventured a young dandy, whose head had been turned by Pepeeta’s beauty.
“D-d-daughter!” snapped the quack, turning sharply upon him; “she’s not my daughter, she’s my wife!”
“Wife! Gosh! You don’t say?” exclaimed the crestfallen dandy.
“Yes, wife! And I’ll j-j-just warn any of you young f-f-fellers that if I catch you trying to p-p-plow with my heifer, you’ll be food for buzzards before sun-up!”
He swept his eyes savagely round the circle as he spoke, and the subject dropped.
The conversation turned into other channels, and flowed in a maudlin, sluggish manner far into the night. Every member of the bibulous party was as happy as he knew how to be. The landlord’s till was full of money, the loafers were full of liquor, and the doctor’s heart was full of vanity and trust in himself.
“Steal! to be
sure they may; and egad, serve your best thoughts as
gypsies do stolen children,—disfigure them to make them pass for
In order to comprehend the relationship of this strangely mated pair, we must go back five or six years to a certain day when this same Doctor Aesculapius rode slowly down the main street of a small city in Western Pennsylvania, and then out along a rugged country highway. A couple of miles brought him to the camp of a band of gypsies.
A thin column of smoke ascending from a fire which seemed almost too lazy to burn, curled slowly into the air.