Tom frowned in perturbation. “Well, I was goin’ to spring her on you about to-night, up at the Lone Star,” said he; “but I couldn’t wait. Ain’t she a yaller flower? Say, I played her every night from Vegas down for five nights—Pecos Crossin’, Salt Wells, Maxwell’s, Hocradle Canon, Jack’s Peak—all the way. After I’d get my horses hobbled out and get my bed made down, I’d set her up on the front seat and turn her loose. Coyotes—you’d ought to heard ’em! When you wind her up plumb tight and turn the horn the right direction, you can hear her about a mile.”
“That,” said Dan Anderson, “must have been a gladsome journey.”
“For sure,” said Tom Osby. “Look at the reecords—whole box of ’em. Some of the stylishest singers in the business are in here. Some of ’em’s Dago, I reckon. Here’s one, ‘Ah, no Ginger.’”
“That, probably,” said Dan Anderson, “is ‘Ah, non Giunge.’ Yes, it’s Dago, but not bad for a lady with a four-story voice.”
“Here’s another,” said Tom; “‘Down Mobile.’”
“I know that one,” said Curly.
“Let me see it,” said the impresario in charge. “Ah, as I thought; it’s ‘La Donna e Mobile.’ This, bein’ translated, means that any lady can change her mind occasionally, whether she comes from Mobile or not.”
“That’s no dream,” said Curly. “Onct on the Brazos—”
“Never mind, Curly. Just feed that ‘Donna’ into the machine, Tom, and let’s hear how it sounds once more.”
And so Tom Osby, proud in his new possession, played for his audience, there in the adobe by the arroyo; played all his records, or nearly all; played them over and over again. It was nearly night when we left the place.
“Excuse me,” said Dan Anderson to me, with a motion as though adjusting a cravat upon my neck, “but your white tie is slipping around under your ear again.” And as we walked, I was sure that I saw an opera hat under his arm, though sober reason convinced me that we both were wearing overalls, and not evening clothes.
“But did you notice,” said Curly, after a while, “Tom, he’s holdin’ out on us. That there music, it’s all tangled up in my hair.” He removed his hat and ran a questioning hand through the matted tangle on his curly front. “But,” he resumed, “there was one piece he didn’t play. I seen him slip it under the blankets on the bed.”
“How could he!” said Dan Anderson. But memories sufficient came trooping upon him to cause him to forget. He fell to whistling “La Donna e Mobile” dreamily.
ART AT HEART’S DESIRE
How Tom Osby, Common Carrier, caused Trouble with a Portable Annie Laurie
The shadows of night had fallen when at length Tom Osby crept stealthily to his door and looked around. The street seemed deserted and silent, as usual. Tom Osby stepped to the side of the bed and withdrew from under the blankets the bit of gutta-percha which Curly had noticed him conceal. He adjusted the record in the machine and sprung the catch. Then he sat and listened, intent, absorbed, hearkening to the wonderful voice of one of the world’s great contraltos. It was an old, old melody she sang,—the song of “Annie Laurie.”