Grasping his companion by the arm, Battersleigh stepped outside the house, and strode off with long steps across the prairie. “Come,” he said, as one who commanded alike secrecy and despatch. Humouring him, Franklin followed for a quarter of a mile. Then, bending his gaze in the direction of the march, he saw afar, fluttering like a signal of distress in the engulfing sea about, a little whipping flag of white, which was upheld by the gaunt hand of a ragged sage bush. This, as he drew near, he discovered to be a portion of an old flour sack, washed clean and left bleaching in the sun and wind until it had assumed a colour a shade more pure than its original dinginess.
Battersleigh made dramatic approach. “There!” said he, pointing with triumphant dignity to the fluttering rag.
“Yes, I see,” said Franklin, “but what do you want of this piece of sack?”
“Sack!” cried Battersleigh, offended. “‘Sack!’ say you, but I say, ‘White!’ Look ye, the history of a man is something sacred. ‘Sack!’ say you, but I say, ‘White!’ A strip of this at me neck and at me wrist; me hat, an’ me sabre and me ridin’ whip—I r-ride up to the dure. I dismount. I throw me rein to the man. I inter the hall and place me hat and gloves in order as they should be. I appear—Battersleigh, a gintleman, appears, standin’ in the dure, the eyes of all upon him. I bow, salutin’, standin’ there, alone, short on allowance, but nate and with me own silf-respect. Battersleigh, a bit low in kit and in allowance, with white at neck and wrist, bows, and he says, ’Ladies and gintlemen, Battersleigh is here!’”
THE FIRST BALL AT ELLISVILLE
The wife of the section boss sat in conscious dignity, as became a leader of society. She was gowned in purple, newly starched, and upon her bosom rose and fell the cross that Jerry gave her long ago. Below her in order of station came Nora, the head waiter, and the red-headed waiter girl, and the littlest waiter girl, and the wife of the new grocery man. These sat silent and unhappy at one part of the long row of chairs that lined the side of the hall. Opposite to them, equally silent and equally unhappy, sat a little row of men. Jerry, the section boss, made no claim to social distinction. He was a simple, plain, hard-working man, whose main concern was in his work, and whose great pride was in the social triumphs of his wife. Jerry was short and broad and sturdy, and his face was very, very red. Near to Jerry sat the new grocery man, and Curly the cowboy, and Del Hickman, another cowboy, and several other cowboys, and Sam, the stage-driver. They were all silent and very miserable. The lights of the big hanging kerosene lamps flickered and cast great shadows, showing the women all with heads very high and backs straight and stiff, the men in various attitudes of jellyfish, with heads hanging and feet screwed under their chairs in search of moral support.