dies but this here Arkansaw skunk is mad right along, and it don’t seem to interfere with his business in other respects. Well, suppose you’re camping out, and suppose it’s a hot night, or you’re in a hurry, and you’ve made camp late, or anyway you haven’t got inside any tent, but you have just bedded down in the open. Skunk comes travelling along and walks on your blankets. You’re warm. He likes that, same as a cat does. And he tramps with pleasure and comfort, same as a cat. And you move. You get bit, that’s all. And you die of hydrophobia. Ask anybody.” “Most extraordinary!” said I. “But did you ever see a person die from this?” “No, sir. Never happened to. My cousin at Bald Knob did.” “Died?” “No, sir. Saw a man.” “But how do you know they’re not sick skunks?” “No, sir! They’re well skunks. Well as anything. You’ll not meet skunks in any state of the Union more robust than them in Arkansaw. And thick.” “That’s awful true,” sighed another. “I have buried hundreds of dollars’ worth of clothes in Arkansaw.” “Why didn’t yu’ travel in a sponge bag?” inquired Scipio. And this brought a slight silence.

“Speakin’ of bites,” spoke up a new man, “how’s that?” He held up his thumb.

“My!” breathed Scipio. “Must have been a lion.” The man wore a wounded look. “I was huntin’ owl eggs for a botanist from Boston,” he explained to me.

“Chiropodist, weren’t he?” said Scipio. “Or maybe a sonnabulator?” “No, honest,” protested the man with the thumb; so that I was sorry for him, and begged him to go on.

“I’ll listen to you,” I assured him. And I wondered wily this politeness of mine should throw one or two of them into stifled mirth. Scipio, on the other hand, gave me a disgusted look and sat back sullenly for a moment, and then took himself out on the platform, where the Virginian was lounging.

“The young feller wore knee-pants and ever so thick spectacles with a half-moon cut in ’em,” resumed the narrator, “and he carried a tin box strung to a strap I took for his lunch till it flew open on him and a horn toad hustled out. Then I was sure he was a botanist--or whatever yu’ say they’re called. Well, he would have owl eggs--them little prairie-owl that some claim can turn their head clean around and keep a-watchin’ yu’, only that’s nonsense. We was ridin’ through that prairie-dog town, used to be on the flat just after yu’ crossed the south fork of Powder River on the Buffalo trail, and I said I’d dig an owl nest out for him if he was willing to camp till I’d dug it. I wanted to know about them owls some myself-- if they did live with the dogs and snakes, yu’ know,” he broke off, appealing to me. “Oh, yes,” I told him eagerly.

“So while the botanist went glarin’ around the town with his glasses to see if he could spot a prairie-dog and an owl usin’ the same hole, I was diggin’ in a hole I’d seen an owl run down. And that’s what I got.” He held up his thumb again.

“The snake!” I exclaimed.

“Yes, sir. Mr. Rattler was keepin’ house that day. Took me right there. I hauled him out of the hole hangin’ to me. Eight rattles.” “Eight!” said I. “A big one.” “Yes, sir. Thought I was dead. But the woman--”

“The woman?” said I.

“Yes, woman. Didn’t I tell yu’ the botanist had his wife along? Well, he did. And she acted better than the man, for he was rosin’ his head, and shoutin’ he had no whiskey, and he didn’t guess his knife was sharp enough to amputate my thumb, and none of us chewed, and the doctor was twenty miles away, and if he had only remembered to bring his ammonia--well, he was screeching out ’most everything he knew in the world, and without arranging it any, neither. But she just clawed his pocket and burrowed and kep’ yelling, ‘Give him the stone, Augustus!’ And she whipped out one of them Injun medicine- stones,--first one I ever seen,--and she clapped it on to my thumb, and it started in right away.” “What did it do?” said I.

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.