Old Sam Enright's "Romance."
"It mebby is, that romances comes to pass on the range when I'm thar," remarked the Old Cattleman, meditatively, "but if so be, I never notes 'em. They shorely gets plumb by me in the night."
The old gentleman had just thrown down a daily paper, and even as he spoke I read on the upturned page the glaring headline: "Romance in Real Life." His recent literature was the evident cause of his reflections.
"Of course," continued the Old Cattleman, turning for comfort to his inevitable tobacco pipe, "of course, at sech epocks as some degraded sharp takes to dealin' double in a poker game, or the kyards begins to come two at a clatter at faro-bank, the proceedin's frequent takes on what you-all might call a hue of romance; an' I admits they was likely to get some hectic, myse'f. But as I states, for what you-all would brand as clean-strain romance, I ain't recallin' none."
"How about those love affairs of your youth?" I ventured.
"Which I don't deny," replied the old gentleman, between puffs, "that back in Tennessee, as I onfolds before, I has my flower-scented days. But I don't wed nothin', as you-all knows, an' even while I'm ridin' an' ropin' at them young female persons, thar's never no romance to it, onless it's in the fact that they all escapes.
"But speakin' of love-tangles, Old Man Enright once recounts a story; which the same shows how female fancy is rootless an' onstable that a-way.
"'Allers copper a female.' says Cherokee Hall, one day, when Texas Thompson is relatin' how his wife maltreats him, an' rounds up a divorce from him down at Laredo. 'Allers play 'em to lose. Nell, yere,' goes on Cherokee, as he runs his hand over the curls of Faro Nell, who's lookout for Cherokee, 'Nelly, yere, is the only one I ever meets who can be depended on to come winner every trip.'
"'Which females,' says Old Man Enright, who's settin' thar at the time, 'an' partic'lar, young females, is a heap frivolous, nacheral. A rainbow will stampede most of 'em. For myse'f, I'd shorely prefer to try an' hold a bunch of five hundred ponies on a bad night, than ride herd on the heart of one lady. Between gent an' gent that a-way, I more'n half figger the 'ffections of a female is migratory, same as buffaloes was before they was killed, an' sorter goes north like in the spring, an' south ag'in in the winter.'
"'As for me; says Texas Thompson, who's moody touchin' them divorce plays his wife is makin', 'you-alls can gamble I passes all females up. No matter how strong I holds, it looks like on the showdowns they outlucks me every time. Wherefore I quits 'em cold, an' any gent who wants my chance with females can shorely have the same.'
"'Oh, I don't know!' remarks Doc Peets, gettin' in on what's a general play, 'I've been all through the herd, an' I must say I deems women good people every time; a heap finer folks than men, an' faithfuller.'
"'Which I don't deny females is fine folks,' says Texas, 'but what I'm allowin' is, they's fitful. They don't stay none. You-alls can hobble an' sideline 'em both at night; an' when you rolls out in the mornin', they's gone.'
"'What do you-all think, Nell?' says Doc Peets to Faro Nell, who's perched up on her stool by Cherokee's shoulder. 'What do you-all reckon now of Texas yere, a-malignin' of your sex? Why don't you p'int him to Dave Tutt an' Tucson Jennie? Which they gets married, an' thar they be, gettin' along as peaceful as two six-shooters on the same belt.'
"'I don't mind what Texas says, none,' replies Faro Nell. 'Texas is all right, an' on the square'. I shouldn't wonder none if this yere Missis Thompson does saw it off on him some shabby, gettin' that sep'ration, an' I don't marvel at his remarks. But as long as Cherokee yere thinks I'm right, I don't let nobody's views pester me a little bit, so thar.'
"'It's what I says awhile back,' interrupts Enright. 'Texas Thompson's wife's motives mighty likely ain't invidious none. It's a heap probable if the trooth is known, that she ain't aimin' nothin' speshul at Texas; she only changes her mind. About the earliest event I remembers,' goes on Enright, 'is concernin' a woman who changes her mind. It's years ago when I'm a yearlin'. Our company is makin' a round-up at a camp called Warwhoop Crossin', in Tennessee, organizin' to embark in the Mexican war a whole lot, an' thin out the Greasers. No one ever does know why I, personal, declar's myse'f in on this yere imbroglio. I ain't bigger 'n a charge of powder, an' that limited as to laigs I has to clamber onto a log to mount my pony.
"'But as I'm tellin', we-alls comes together at Warwhoop to make the start. I reckons now thar's five hundred people thar. Which the occasion, an' the interest the public takes in the business, jest combs the region of folks for miles about.
"'Thar's a heap of hand-shakin' an' well-wishin' goin' on; mothers an' sisters, an' sweethearts is kissin' us good-bye; an' while thar's some hilarity thar's more sobs. It's not, as I looks back'ard, what you-alls would call a gay affair.
"'While all this yere love an' tears is flowin', thar's a gent—he's our Captain—who's settin' off alone in his saddle, an' ain't takin' no hand. Thar's no sweetheart, no mother, no sister for him.
"'No one about Warwhoop knows this yere party much; more'n his name is Bent. He's captain with the Gov'nor's commission, an' comes from 'way-off yonder some'ers. An' so he sets thar, grim an' solid in his saddle, lookin' vague-like off at where the trees meets the sky, while the rest of us is goin' about permiscus, finishin' up our kissin'.
"‘"Ain't he got no sweetheart to wish goodbye to him?" asks a girl of me. "Ain't thar no one to kiss him for good luck as he rides away?"
"'This yere maiden's name is Sanders, an' it's a shore fact she's the prettiest young female to ever make a moccasin track in West Tennessee. I'd a-killed my pony an' gone afoot to bring sech a look into her eyes, as shines thar when she gazes at the Captain where he's silent an' sol'tary on his hoss.
"‘"No," I replies, "he's a orphan, I reckons. He's plumb abandoned that a-way, an' so thar's nobody yere to kiss him, or shake his hand."
"'This yere pretty Sanders girl—an' I'm pausin' ag'in to state she's a human sunflower, that a-way—this Sanders beauty, I'm sayin', looks at this party by himse'f for a moment, an' then the big tears begins to well in her blue eyes. She blushes like a sunset, an' walks over to this yere lone gent.
"‘"Mister Captain," she says, raisin' her face to him like a rose, "I'm shore sorry you ain't got no sweetheart to say 'good-bye;' an' bein' you're lonesome, that a-way, I'll kiss you an' say adios myse'f."
"‘"Will you, my little lady?" says the lonesome Captain, as he swings from his saddle to the ground by her side; an' thar's sunshine in his eyes.
"‘"I'll think of you every day for that," he says, when he kisses her, "an' if I gets back when the war's done, I'll shorely look for you yere."
"'The little Sanders girl—she is shorely as handsome as a ace full on kings—blushes a heap vivid at what she's done, an' looks warm an' tender. Which, while the play is some onusual an' out of line, everybody agrees it's all right; bein' that we-alls is goin' to a war, that a-way.
"'Now yere,' goes on Enright, at the same time callin' for red-eye all 'round, 'is what you-alls agrees is a mighty romantic deal. Yere's a love affair gets launched.'
"'Does this yere lone-hand gent who gets kissed by the Sanders lady outlive the war?' asks Texas Thompson, who has braced up an' gets mighty vivacious listenin' to the story.
"'Which he shorely outlives that conflict,' replies Enright. 'An' you can gamble he's in the thick of the stampede, too, every time. I will say for this yere Captain, that while I ain't with him plumb through, he's as game a sport as ever fought up hill. He's the sort which fights an goes for'ard to his man at the same time. Thar's no white feathers on that kind; they's game as badgers. An' bad.'
"'Which if he don't get downed none,' says Texas Thompson, 'an' hits Tennessee alive, I offers ten to one he leads this yere Sanders female to the altar.'
"'Which you'd lose, a whole lot,' says Enright, at the same time raisin' his whiskey glass. 'That's what I states when I trails out on this yere romance. Females is frivolous an' plumb light of fancy. This Captain party comes back to Warwhoop, say, it's two years an' a half later, an' what do you-alls reckon? That Sanders girl's been married mighty nigh two years, an' has an infant child as big as a b'ar cub, which is beginnin' to make a bluff at walkin.'
"'Now, on the squar', an' I'm as s'prised about it as you be—I'm more'n s'prised, I'm pained—I don't allow, lookin' over results an' recallin' the fact of that b'ar-cub infant child, that for all her blushin', an' all her tears, an' kissin' that Captain party good-by that a-way, that the Sanders girl cares a hoss-h'ar rope for him in a week. An' it all proves what I remarks, that while females ain't malev'lent malicious, an' don't do these yere things to pierce a gent with grief, their 'ffections is always honin' for the trail, an' is shorely prone to move camp. But, bless 'em! they can't he'p it none if their hearts be quicksands, an' I libates to 'em ag'in.'
"Whereat we-alls drinks with Enright; feelin' a heap sim'lar.
"'Whatever becomes of this yere pore Captain party?' asks Faro Nell.
"'Well, the fact about that Captain,' replies Enright, settin' down his glass, 'while the same is mere incident, an' don't have no direct bearin' on what I relates; the fact in his case is he's wedded already. Nacherally after sayin' "howdy!" to the little Sanders girl, an' applaudin' of her progeny—which it looks like he fully endorses that a-way—this yere Captain gent hits the trail for Nashville, where his wife's been keepin' camp an' waitin' for him all the time.'"