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A Tragedy Of Nobodies
by [?]

At Fort Latrobe sentiment was not of the most refined kind. Local customs were pronounced and crude in outline; language was often highly coloured, and action was occasionally accentuated by a pistol shot. For the first few months of its life the place was honoured by the presence of neither wife, nor sister, nor mother. Yet women lived there.

When some men did bring wives and children, it was noticed that the girl Blanche was seldom seen in the streets. And, however it was, there grew among the men a faint respect for her. They did not talk of it to each other, but it existed. It was known that Blanche resented even the most casual notice from those men who had wives and homes. She gave the impression that she had a remnant of conscience.

“Go home,” she said to Harry Delong, who asked her to drink with him on New Year’s Day. “Go home, and thank God that you’ve got a home–and a wife.”

After Jacques, the long-time friend of Pretty Pierre, came to Fort Latrobe, with his sulky eye and scrupulously neat attire, Blanche appeared to withdraw still more from public gaze, though no one saw any connection between these events. The girl also became fastidious in her dress, and lost all her former dash and smart aggression of manner. She shrank from the women of her class, for which, as might be expected, she was duly reviled. But the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, nor has it been written that a woman may not close her ears, and bury herself in darkness, and travel alone in the desert with her people–those ghosts of herself, whose name is legion, and whose slow white fingers mock more than the world dare at its worst.

Suddenly, she was found behind the bar of Weir’s Tavern at Cedar Point, the resort most frequented by Jacques. Word went about among the men that Blanche was taking a turn at religion, or, otherwise, reformation. Soldier Joe was something sceptical on this point from the fact that she had developed a very uncertain temper. This appeared especially noticeable in her treatment of Jacques. She made him the target for her sharpest sarcasm. Though a peculiar glow came to his eyes at times, he was never roused from his exasperating coolness. When her shafts were unusually direct and biting, and the temptation to resent was keen, he merely shrugged his shoulders, almost gently, and said: “Eh, such women!”

Nevertheless, there were men at Fort Latrobe who prophesied trouble, for they knew there was a deep strain of malice in the French half-breed which could be the more deadly because of its rare use. He was not easily moved, he viewed life from the heights of a philosophy which could separate the petty from the prodigious. His reputation was not wholly disquieting; he was of the goats, he had sometimes been found with the sheep, he preferred to be numbered with the transgressors. Like Pierre, his one passion was gambling. There were legends that once or twice in his life he had had another passion, but that some Gorgon drew out his heartstrings painfully, one by one, and left him inhabited by a pale spirit now called Irony, now Indifference–under either name a fret and an anger to women.

At last Blanche’s attacks on Jacques called out anxious protests from men like rollicking Soldier Joe, who said to her one night, “Blanche, there’s a devil in Jacques. Some day you’ll startle him, and then he’ll shoot you as cool as he empties the pockets of Freddy Tarlton over there.”

And Blanche replied: “When he does that, what will you do, Joe?”

“Do? Do?” The man stroked his beard softly. “Why, give him ditto–cold.”

“Well, then, there’s nothing to row about, is there?” And Soldier Joe was not on the instant clever enough to answer her sophistry; but when she left him and he had thought awhile, he said, convincingly: