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THE Predicament of Thornhill


I [AM, KISMTS uiBni ] I THE Predicament of Thornhill Bt JAMES BARB. j ijLsAsr of'" Undw the Eaves of Night:" Langiiing Through a Wilderness," &c. j I Whom Lord Ruig returned from big-game shooticg i. Portuguese West Africa, he made direct to his place in Suffolk to spend a 4puat week with his family. Before that Week had come to an end he sat down and ^rtste a letter to each of six especial friends, 'enclosing an invitation to meet him at din- ■er at the Carlton Hotel, London, when ad- voiltures could be recounted and experiences discussed. He wrote to Captain Abbey, newly returned from years spent on the Chinese frontier of Burma; to Cock, who had lost himself for eleven months in the vast forests of the Amazon; to Dalrymple, the explorer of the copper mines; to Wylie of Patagonia, Burchell of the Soudan, and Passmore of Lapland and the Solomon Islands. Lord Ruig considered himself fortunate in that all these adventurers were in England at the same time. But then it was December, and the English Christmas turns the steps of the Matiro homeward. It 80 befel that the tenth of December was a clear cold day, and as darkness came down a Northern wind sprang up which struck at the marrow. Lord Buig felt keenly the aorting breath of winter. As he walked along Piccadilly in company with Dalrymple, whom he had met at the club, he turned up the collar of his fur-lined coat and shoved his gloved hands deep into his pockets. Dal- rymple laughed. This is broiling mid- summer to the bad lands of Canada," he Mid. ilto two walked in silence for some minutes •ad swung into the Haymarket, but had taken not more than a score of steps along that thoroughfare before Lord Buig, with a Aart, laid his hand on Dalrymple's arm. The two stopped short and stared in undis- guised astonishment at a pedestrian who was Esinfully making his way towards Piccadilly ircus. At length Dalrymple gasped: "Did ever you see such a sight? There goes » wan." He has looked into the soul of death. The •ight of him makes me think. We, Dal- wymple, have played at one end of the game m Life-and-Death, and that the Life end. That poor fellow has played at the Death tmd; quite a different proposition from ours. What a tale he could tell us." Why not ask the man to dine with us and fcare his story?" asked Dalrymple. That's an inspiration We'll have him Lord Buig stopped short. Which way did ..r:o?" If we can find our way through the jungles of the world and track down the denizens thereof, surely we can locate a maa Ad that stamp in London. I'll take Coventry- street, you take Piccadilly." "Man or no man, be at the Carlton is twenty minutes," said Lord Ruig as they separated. It was not till he had come opposite Bur- lington House that Lord Buig overtook the limping stranger. Hia lordship touched the Siia on the shoulder. "I beg your pardon, but a friend and I saw you pass along the Haymarket." "That does not strike me as remarkable, geeing that I have just passed along the Haymarket, and that you have two eyes." "No, I suppose it is not strange, but what wished to say is- "I know what you think strange. Yo. think my appearance strange. I read your thoughts, so there is no need for you to beat about the bush. Now, what about it?" "To out with it, my friend and I were on our way to a little dinner I am giving to friends, all of whom are big-game shooters. We dine at the Carlton Hotel. I am Lord Buig, and have just returned from a sport- ing trip in Africa. My friend, Dalrymple, •ad I instantly recognised in you a man of at least one extraordinary experience. Will you dine with us and tell us your story?" The stranger threw open his thin overcoat sjid glanced at his threadbare clothes. "This does not look Carlton style," he said grimly, "If dress is the only objection please come •long with me. We dine in a private room ad dress does not count with sportsmen." "A good dinner will do me no harm," he oaid. Together the two walked along Piccadilly, and as they passed many pedestrians paused to cast a glance at the remarkable couple, the one so handsome and richly dressed, the other-so different, and when Lord Ruig ushered his unknown guest into the gorgeous hotel his lordship's friends were thunder- struck. The stranger, first giving his name as Irv- ing Thornhill, shook hands with each without laying pretence to great enthusiasm at meet- ing any one of them. Indeed, even the opera- tion of shaking hands was not an unqualified success, from the fact that his right arm was twisted so that when it hung by his side uis -palm faced away from him. However, his one Aye, the left, flashed rather humorously. His lower jaw was slewed round in such a manner ma to have endangered t.he balance of his face had it not been that his nose was flattened as definitely to the other side. His right ear seamed to have been pared 3mall, and his Isft, a huge one, sat perched high up among his shaggy hair. One shoulder was a foot higher than its brother and both were stooped, his- backbone described a sweeping otir,re to the left, his legs touched at the knees and from there shot downward at an acqoe of. twenty degrees ending in big feet, the toes of which faced each other after the manner of a Bed Indian. As if to accentuate oil these eccentricities his head and face con- stated of the most outrageous bumps and bellows. At sight of him each of Lord Ruig's guests acknowledged that their host had dis- covered a man among ten millions. Dinner was served at once and Lord Buig placed the stranger on his right. Many ad- rentures were recounted, but every man felt that big game stories lacked human interest when told in presence of this strange stranger. The stranger devoted himself ts the dinner with all his might, and each ad- venturer realised that Irving Thornhill set no store by the tales. He ate his dinner as a man who had known what it was to dine well, but who, for many moons, had lived on scanty fare. All through the dinner he stuck to claret, and the claret was good. After Lord Buig had had the chef up and all had drunk a glass of wine to the honour af that artist, and when coffee and cigars were passed round, a silence fell upon the com- pany. This silence the stranger rightly inter- preted. He brightened perceptibly, and It,r the first,tiir;o, spoke pleasantly. Inmw sajoysd your hospitality in. mmwmfijr Loci guig," he mid. HI mm hommuod by your company and your H replied the host. f*Mxf I teN the distinguished gentleman an siveeiimm of sain* I" asked the man. JLml R*tg bowed. "I weadev if anyone of you happened to o&onkw,o it in Wyoming, say, twenty years age? Not Ah, it was a region to avoid. goes*tjr was not mixed, it was all bad. There saay fears been some folk so eccentric as to its m their beds, but, if so, it must have been INiDs to an oversight on the part of their .e At the time of which I tell you there were two staple industries in Wyoming, mining and saloon-keeping, the latter being tho payiag industry. I was mining. urhø camp had been named before I struck it, but that is about all, for I was one of the early arrivals. They called it 'Pay Dirt.' The name was good as long as the town lasted, sad the town lasted as long as the dirt was pay, in all about six years. "Whan the place got into full swing it was found to eouaist of one drinking house to every tpn miners, which worked out at about O- saloon to each twenty-five inhabitants, counting in the gamblers, Indians, and out- laws generally. Providing a man could con- trive to keep alive he was bound to see life in Pay Dirt. I kept alive. I do- not know. whether any of you hava grren th. matter a thought, but it strikes ma like this: An £ iigii»hman stands for law and order. He joys in the very difficulties of keeping within the law, and his chief recrea- tion i# watching that everybody else keeps within the law. Now an Irishman is a dif- ferent preposition altogether. He looks upon laws as handcuffs. He lights against the making of laws, he breaks the laws when they •re made, and if yon attempt to repeal those laws he will fight you on that point as heartily as on ary other. Differing alike from Englishman and Irishmaa is the Yankee. He takes an Englishman's delight in making laws, and an Irishman's in breaking them. Until the law is made he stands for law and order. After it is passed he becomes an out- law. The different attitudes towards law were exemplified during the first election for mayor held in Pay Dirt. "There never would have been an election in the camp, but that amongst the hundreds of characters who congregated on the gold field were two dozen Englishmer.. Like all expatriated Englishmen we of Pay Dirt yearned to die quietly at 'home' and be buried in ihe peaceful graveyards that are dotted up and down the country from Corn- wall to Cumberland. To accomplish this purpose we found that it would be necessary to establish some sort of rule in Pay Dirt. This necessity was impressed upon us by the fate of Jack Bartle. Bartle was in the habit of dropping into O'Hagan's saloon occasion- ally. One evening O'Hagan happened to be full of a great patriotism which had sidled into him in company with many glasses of whiskey, and demanded of Bartle the exact location of the town of Belmullet. Bartle had never heard of Belmullet and flabber- gasted the saloon keeper by asserting that he did not care whether it was an Indian en- campment or merely an Italian cathedral town. An instant after O'Hagan caught his breath Bartle was carried out of the saloon on a shutter and buried on the hill side. As a national element had entered into the dis- cussion the rest of us English drew lots and the 'job fell Belliiigham. Belliiighain disliked the business, but having taken the matter in hand finished it off in first-class workman style, O'Hagan being buried alongside Bartle. Having avenged his compatriot Bellingham faded into the landscape to the West and was seen no more. The death of O'Hagan stirred Pay Dirt to its very centre. The saloon keepers swore they could not allow one of themselves to be inconvenienced jiist because he had caused the sudden exit of a common miner, and an Englishman at that. There must be pro- portion in all things. We English held that we were not in Wyoming to pass examina- tions in. Emerald Isle geography. The drink purveyors threatened reprisals. We vowed to keep the game even. There had been many shootings in Pay Dirt before the Bartle-O'Hagan episode, but never a sequence which gave such promise of leading up to a vendetta or extermination match, ana folks, however case-hardened, fear a vendetta. It was when matters threatened to develop into a vendetta that Bill Page and I put our heads together. We decided that the time was ripe for the introduction of law and order into Pay Dirt. We held that certain formalities should be gone through before even an Englishman was launched into the ambient air without support other than a rope. You may believe that we did not dare to breathe such a heresy. Tho saloon keepers had most of the guns and the only bit of servicable rope in camp. After long discussion, Bill and I pinned our faith in having a mayor elected. It struck us that if a man found himself in a mayoralty chair he would want to assert some sort of authority, and that most likely the authority aimed at would be the trying of men before hanging. We would have a mayor elected. "Next we, Bill Page and I, decided to do the trick by proclamation. The two of us sat in my tepee one night and drew up No. 1. It read: PROCLAMATION. The state of things in Pay Dirt is Ii rotten. "The state of things has got to change sudden "To change the state of things sudden, a. Mayor will be elected to take care of law and order. Election day a week from date, to wit June 17. By order of the Committee. "When the coast was clear that night, Pap and I stole out of my tent, having first fixed the proclamation upon a board nailed to a stake. This stake we drove into the mud in front of the most prominent saloon in the camp, Flaanigan's. "Wild excitement reigned next morning. The saloon keepers caught up the notion at the first bite, for election ifever runs in Irish blood. That very forenoon they held a caucus, and Flannigan himself secured the nomination as their candidate for Mayor. At the same time word passed round that the nomination of a second candidate would be an act of aiiperorogation on the part of the citizens of Pay Dirt, as no other citizen but Flannigan could be assured of living till poll day, life being notoriously fleeting. Now, when we issued pur first proclamation it was not our intention that a saloon-keeper should quietly annex the chair. Flannigan was notoriously ajiti-ex-erythin- that was good,, and we felt confident that if but another candidate of strata one cut above a drink-seller could be induced to risk it, and if he survived, there would be enough voters forward to elect him over Flfomigran's head. Page and I let a couple of days slip by &ad then prepared a second proclamation. Before issuiiig it, however, we felt bound ts I clear the ground, for we did not desire a nuissacre to follow our literary effort. So Bill Page took bis life in his hand, left his gun behind, and dropped in to Flaa- sigsn's saloon at a time when that exalted citizen happened to be alone. j 'Mister Flannigan,' says Page, 'I have j dropped in to see you about a matter that will interest you.' ) Have a dhrink,' says Flannigan. My treat,' says Bill, flisging down ffro dollars, although he knew that no change was given. They drank. Have wan wid me,' says Flannigan. Bill had one. "'It stands this way,' says Page. 'You are to be first mayor of Pay Dirt.' Oi take it that you haven't come here to tell me that Oi'm not?' I'm here to tell you that you are, and that it's an honour that anyone might be proud of.' «' A-n<^ Oi'm proud av it/ says Flannigan. And Pay Dirt's proud of you,' says Page. But are your friends going the right way to work? That's what I'm asking. Will you, Mister Flannigan, get all the honour there is in this election out of it?' Thrust me friends for knowing the game,' says Flannigan. They know the game all right enough, but have they not overlooked a little matter which might add to your honour and dignity? It seems to me that you require just one thing more to make you a proud man the day they carry you to the mayoralty chair. Mister Flannigan.' And what might that wan thing be?' asks Flannigan. Opposition,' says Page. "'Opposition is it! Perhaps you would loike to stand agin me?' 'You bet I wouldn't,' said Bill hastily. Flaunigan laughed. ^'Have a dhrink,' he says. They drank. Have you ever been on a racecourse. Mister Flannigan?' asks Page. 'Have Oi!' says Flannigan. 'Then you have seen a horse walk over for a race. Did you ever hear any cheering when it cantered past the winning post?' 'Oi have not,' admits Flannigan. You catch the idea?' says Billy Page. 'Mister Flannigan, you can sweep this camp. No one has a chance against you. Why not be the Grant of Pay Dirt and win against opposition, rather than the Sultan of Turkey and inherit the position? The boys want the fun of electing you, Mister Flannigan.' 'And Oi would loike the boys to havo their fun, but—but Oi can't whip up opposi- tion to meself.' 'That's all right. I want you to give me permission to say that you disdain opposi- tion, and that if anyone likes to step forward you will welcome a contest. Some fool may take it on, and when you are elected no one can point at you and say your revolvers and whiskey carried you to the chair. Say the word, Mister Flannigan.' '"Go it, me boy,' says Flannigan. Havs a dhrink.' "Page came over to where I was working on my claim. There and then we concocted pro- clamation No. 2. V "Voters of Pay Dirt! Notice! This is a solemn occasion. Pat Flannigan is not a fit and proper person to be elected Mayor. "The Committee in Council assembled have chosen the Hon. Jim Carson, late of Deadwood and elsewhere, a gent of sand and probity. "Citizens will vote for Jim. "Pat Flannigan says he disdains opposl- t tion, and gives his word that he will not I shoot. I "By order of the Committee. "This Jim Carson ran the faro table in O'Keeffe's saloon. The only time he opened his mouth was when he wished to stick the end of a cigar between his teeth, and as he never lighted the cigar, it was not often that he needed to open his mouth. He always slept late, and consequently the proclamation would be read and accepted by the public be- fore Carson had wind of it, by which time it would be too late to back out without lossof caste. We thought it most likely that Jim would see the thing through, and he did. "By the time Bill and I turned out next morning tile town was already divided into two opposing camps. Flannigan's saloon was full of sympathisers muttering all sorts of things, yet unnerved at finding that Flanni- gan would not give them the word to run Carson out of town. The gamblers, choosing O'Keeffe's as headquarters, were not to be intimidated. Their loyalty to craft had been touched, and they formed in procession QLd marched to the shanty where Jim Carson slept. T-liat gent was not to be caught nap- ping. When the leaders of the procession shoved into his room they found Jim with his back against the wall and a revolver in each hand ready for business. At the sight of his friends unarmed and smiling, Carson allowed them to shoulder him and never uttered a word, although he must have wondered why this sudden great popularity. They deposited him on top of O'Keeffe's bar and shouted for a speech. "Carson ran his cold, steely eye over the faces before him and his hand displayed a tendency to whip round to his hip pocket. He thought they were playing a practical joke on him because of his known disinclination to speak. 'The future Mayor of Pay Dirt must say something,' shouted a miner from the back nf the crowd. Jim Carson's eyes flashed as the truth dawned upon his quick brain. He stood for a moment in indecision, then clipped out:- Set 'em up all round.' That was his one public oration, but be- hind that dry cigar of his he ran such a red hot campaign against Flannigan that the saloon party's hair stood on end. Playing cardig were used as voting papers, a red card counting for Flannigan and a black for Carson, ^nd when these were counted the blacks outcounted the reds by a huge majority. Carson was Mayor of Pay Dirt. Bill Page was one of the first men to vote, after which he hurried back to my wigwam. I I'm off prospecting,' he said. Pay Dirt will be no place for me when the votes are counted I'm known. Ypu are not, Thornhill, so you hang round and tell me what happens.' "That niirht I turned in early. Every- thing was quiet, so I soon fell asleep. On i sudden I found myself struggling to get my head out of the blanket which was smother- ing me. As I wrenched about to clear my- ,4.-If I was appalled to hear a hoarse voice mutter, One shout t-nd I'll shove a knife through you.' Helpless, I felt myself being wrapt about as securely as an Egyptian mummy, thsn picked up and thrown across the back of a horse which at once moved oil', • man holding my legs to keep me in posi- tion. Half an hour passed before the ani- mal stopped; I was rudely jerked to the ground, the blanket torn off me, and rough 1;u;.aAIi bcracd me to a stake. When my eyes became accustomed to the dim light of two iawtc-rns I made out that I was a prisoner in a shanty in which were four men, not one of wliom I had ever seen before. "Finding tongue I at once demanded to kno-Y why the outrage on my liberty. Âak Bill Page,' said one, while the of hers laughed. I assumed ignorance. Looking about me I said; u I do not see Page here?' irwh ye did,' answered the facetious man. But why am I here?' u ç Flannigan will tell ye,' answered the spokesman, and that was all the satisfaction I could get. Whatever was in store for me Flannigan had found out that I aided and abetied Bill Page in his campaign. .,I stood bound to the stake for quite twenty minutes before the door flew open and into the shanty stepped Flannigan. Have m got him,' demanded the de- feated candidate.. feated candidate.. We have/ answered the others. "Flannigaa cast no one look at me, But glanced aboat him. In one corner of the shanty lay two rusty pick-axes. Knock aft; the heads,' said Flannigan, kicking these to- wards his henchmen. They soon had tha handles out. Flannigan took lirst one then the other and hefted them carefully. One he flung from him, the other he made play a the air. This will do foine/ he muttered, then quickly confronted me. "For the first time the two of us stood face to face. Slowly Flannigan ran his eyes over me. He began with my eyes, then quickly switched to my head, and from there slowly worked down to my toes, then as slowly back again to the top of my head. Moike/ he said, and I thought his voice had lost something of its aggressiveness, Moike bring the lantern closer.' He examined me with the minutest care, and at length his eyes again met mine. I On me sowl, if Oi could discover a place on ye Oi could smash widout improving yer looks I Oi would hit it. Oity place Oi bash in would only make ye better looking In the name of all the saints what's shtruck ye? How is it yer jaw's unhinged, yer oi out, yer head bathered in, and the rest of yiz all broke up?' t 'Mr. Flannigan,' I said, I I will tell you the truth. I was born this way.' I You were born that way?' I was.' No wan broke yer jaw r Born broken.' "No wan bashed thim lumps en yer head?' 'Born that way.' Nor shtuck the legs av ye on like willow tent poles?' Came the- world "with those legs/ "Flannigan tossed the pick handle away from him. He sighed. '6.6 The Powers Above having finished wid ye its not for the loiks av me to begin. Boys, let this derelict drift-' "They undid me arid allowed me to ride the horse back to camp. And that, my lord and gentlemen, is how it happens that I am in ths form and shape you find me to-night. ) "You were really born as you now are f" asked Lord Ruig. "Yes, Lord Buig." The stranger got; upon his unsteady raet. I am sorry, Lord Buig, to be obliged to leave such pleasant company, but I must I hurry off. When you stopped me I was on my way home to write a story for a magazine, and, to tell the truth, for the life of me could not hit upon a satisfactory idea. Your dinner inspired me. What do you think of the story? Will it do? It strikes me that Pay Dirt is a pretty good name for a mining camp, and that Wyoming is a safe place to locate the fiction T" "Then you have not been a miner in I Wyoming?" said Lord Buig. "Never was farther than Boulogne," answered Thornhill. "Good night," said Lord Ruig. "Good night all," said the remarkable man.


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