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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesJoe's Luck; Or, Always Wide Awake - Chapter 26. A Desperado
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Joe's Luck; Or, Always Wide Awake - Chapter 26. A Desperado Post by :waytogo-store Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :2450

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Joe's Luck; Or, Always Wide Awake - Chapter 26. A Desperado


Mr. Bickford also seemed a little surprised at Joe's coolness. Though not a coward in the face of danger, he had been somewhat impressed by the fierce aspect of the man from Pike County, and really looked upon him as a reckless daredevil who was afraid of nothing. Joe judged him more truly. He decided that a man who boasted so loudly was a sham. If he had talked less, he would have feared him more.

After his last bloodthirsty declaration the man from Pike County temporarily subsided.

He drew out from his pocket a greasy pack of cards, and after skilfully shuffling them inquired:

"What do you say, strangers, to a little game to pass away the time?"

"I never played keards in my life," said Joshua Bickford.

"Where was you raised?" demanded the Pike man contemptuously.

"Pumpkin Hollow, State o' Maine," said Joshua. "Dad's an orthodox deacon. He never let any of us play keards. I don't know one from t'other."

"I'll learn you," said the Pike man condescendingly. "Suppose we have a game of poker?"

"Ain't that a gambling' game?" inquired Joshua.

"We always play for something," said the Pike man. "It's dern foolishness playin' for nothing. Shall we have a game?"

He looked at Joe as he spoke.

"I don't care to play," said our hero. "I don't know much about cards, and I don't want to play for money."

"That's dern foolishness," said the stranger, whose object it was to clean out his new friends, being an expert gambler.

"Perhaps it is," said Joe, "but I only speak for myself. Mr. Bickford may feel differently."

"Will you take a hand, Bickford?" asked the Pike man, thinking it possible that Joshua might have some money of which he could relieve him.

"You kin show me how to play if you want to," said Joshua, "but I won't gamble any."

The Pike man put up his pack of cards in disgust.

"Derned if I ever met sich fellers!" he said. "You're Methodists, ain't you?"

"We generally decline doing what we don't want to do," said Joe.

"Look here, boy," blustered the Pike man, "I reckon you don't know me. I'm from Pike County, Missouri, I am. I'm a rip-tail roarer, I am. I kin whip my weight in wildcats."

"You told us that afore," said Joshua placidly.

"Derned if I don't mean it, too!" exclaimed the Pike County man, with a fierce frown. "Do you know how I served a man last week?"

"No. Tell us, won't you?" said Joshua.

"We was ridin' together over in Alameda County. We'd met permiscuous, like we've met to-day. I was tellin' him how four b'ars attacked me once, and I fit 'em all single-handed, when he laughed, and said he reckoned I'd been drinkin' and saw double. If he'd knowed me better, he wouldn't have done it."

"What did you do?" asked Joshua, interested.

Joe, who was satisfied that the fellow was romancing, did not exhibit any interest.

"What did I do?" echoed the Pike County man fiercely. "I told him he didn't know the man he insulted. I told him I was from Pike County, Missouri, and that I was a rip-tail roarer."

"And could whip your weight in wildcats," suggested Joe.

The Pike man appeared irritated.

"Don't interrupt me, boy," he said. "It ain't healthy."

"After you'd made them remarks what did you do?" inquired Joshua.

"I told him he'd insulted me and must fight. I always do that."

"Did he fight?"

"He had to."

"How did it come out?"

"I shot him through the heart," said the man from Pike County fiercely. "His bones are bleaching in the valley where he fell."

"Sho!" said Joshua.

The Pike County man looked from one to the other to see what effect had been produced by his blood-curdling narration. Joshua looked rather perplexed, as if he didn't quite know what to think, but Joe seemed tranquil.

"I think you said it happened last week," said Joe.

"If I said so, it is so," said the Pike man, who in truth did not remember what time he had mentioned.

"I don't question that. I was only wondering how his bones could begin to bleach so soon after he was killed."

"Just so," said Joshua, to whom this difficulty had not presented itself before.

"Do you doubt my word, stranger?" exclaimed the Pike man, putting his hand to his side and fingering his knife.

"Not at all," said Joe. "But I wanted to understand how it was."

"I don't give no explanations," said the Pike man haughtily, "and I allow no man to doubt my word."

"Look here, my friend," said Joshua, "ain't you rather cantankerous?"

"What's that?" demanded the other suspiciously.

"No offense," said Joshua, "but you take a feller up so we don't know exactly how to talk to you."

"I take no insults," said the Pike man. "Insults must be washed out in blood."

"Soap-suds is better than blood for washin' purposes," said Joshua practically. "Seems to me you're spoilin' for a fight all the time."

"I allow I am," said the Pike man, who regarded this as a compliment. "I was brought up on fightin'. When I was a boy I could whip any boy in school."

"That's why they called you a rip-tail roarer, I guess," said Joshua.

"You're right, stranger," said the Pike man complacently.

"What did you do when the teacher give you a lickin'?" asked Mr. Bickford.

"What did I do?" yelled the Pike County man, with a demoniac frown.

"Exactly so."

"I shot him!" said the Pike man briefly.

"Sho! How many teachers did you shoot when you was a boy?"

"Only one. The rest heard of it and never dared touch me."

"So you could play hookey and cut up all you wanted to?"

"You're right, stranger."

"They didn't manage that way at Pumpkin Hollow," said Mr. Bickford. "Boys ain't quite so handy with shootin'-irons. When the master flogged us we had to stand it."

"Were you afraid of him?" asked the Pike man disdainfully.

"Well, I was," Joshua admitted. "He was a big man with arms just like flails, and the way he used to pound us was a caution."

"I'd have shot him in his tracks," said the Pike man fiercely.

"You'd have got a wallopin' fust, I reckon," said Joshua.

"Do you mean to insult me?" demanded the Pike man.

"Oh, lay down, and don't be so cantankerous," said Joshua. "You're allus thinkin' of bein' insulted."

"We may as well be going," said Joe, who was thoroughly disgusted with their new companion.

"Just as you say, Joe," said Joshua. "Here, you pesky critter, come and let me mount you."

The mustang realized Joe's prediction. After his hearty supper he seemed to be quite tractable and permitted Mr. Bickford to mount him without opposition.

Joe also mounted his horse.

"I'll ride along with you if you've no objections," said the Pike man. "We kin camp together to-night."

So saying, he too mounted the sorry-looking steed which he had recently dismounted.

Joe was not hypocrite enough to say that he was welcome. He thought it best to be candid.

"If you are quite convinced that neither of us wishes to insult you," he said quietly, "you can join us. If you are bent on quarreling, you had better ride on by yourself."

The Pike man frowned fiercely.

"Boy," he said, "I have shot a man for less than that."

"I carry a revolver," said Joe quietly, "but I shan't use it unless it is necessary. If you are so easily offended, you'd better ride on alone."

This the Pike man did not care to do.

"You're a strange boy," he said, "but I reckon you're on the square. I'll go along with you."

"I would rather you'd leave us," thought Joe, but he merely said: "Very well."

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