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Hostages To Momus
by [?]

I

I never got inside of the legitimate line of graft but once. But, one time, as I say, I reversed the decision of the revised statutes and undertook a thing that I’d have to apologize for even under the New Jersey trust laws.

Me and Caligula Polk, of Muskogee in the Creek Nation, was down in the Mexican State of Tamaulipas running a peripatetic lottery and monte game. Now, selling lottery tickets is a government graft in Mexico, just like selling forty-eight cents’ worth of postage-stamps for forty-nine cents is over here. So Uncle Porfirio he instructs the /rurales/ to attend to our case.

/Rurales/? They’re a sort of country police; but don’t draw any mental crayon portraits of the worthy constables with a tin star and a gray goatee. The /rurales/–well, if we’d mount our Supreme Court on broncos, arm ’em with Winchesters, and start ’em out after John Doe /et al/., we’d have about the same thing.

When the /rurales/ started for us we started for the States. They chased us as far as Matamoras. We hid in a brickyard; and that night we swum the Rio Grande, Caligula with a brick in each hand, absent- minded, which he drops upon the soil of Texas, forgetting he had ’em.

From there we emigrated to San Antone, and then over to New Orleans, where we took a rest. And in that town of cotton bales and other adjuncts to female beauty we made the acquaintance of drinks invented by the Creoles during the period of Louey Cans, in which they are still served at the side doors. The most I can remember of this town is that me and Caligula and a Frenchman named McCarty–wait a minute; Adolph McCarty–was trying to make the French Quarter pay up the back trading-stamps due on the Louisiana Purchase, when somebody hollers that the johndarms are coming. I have an insufficient recollection of buying two yellow tickets through a window; and I seemed to see a man swing a lantern and say “All aboard!” I remembered no more, except that the train butcher was covering me and Caligula up with Augusta J. Evans’s works and figs.

When we become revised, we find that we have collided up against the State of Georgia at a spot hitherto unaccounted for in time tables except by an asterisk, which means that trains stop every other Thursday on signal by tearing up a rail. We was waked up in a yellow pine hotel by the noise of flowers and the smell of birds. Yes, sir, for the wind was banging sunflowers as big as buggy wheels against the weatherboarding and the chicken coop was right under the window. Me and Caligula dressed and went down-stairs. The landlord was shelling peas on the front porch. He was six feet of chills and fever, and Hongkong in complexion though in other respects he seemed amenable in the exercise of his sentiments and features.

Caligula, who is a spokesman by birth, and a small man, though red- haired and impatient of painfulness of any kind, speaks up.

“Pardner,” says he, “good-morning, and be darned to you. Would you mind telling us why we are at? We know the reason we are where, but can’t exactly figure out on account of at what place.”

“Well, gentlemen,” says the landlord, “I reckoned you-all would be inquiring this morning. You-all dropped off of the nine-thirty train here last night; and you was right tight. Yes, you was right smart in liquor. I can inform you that you are now in the town of Mountain Valley, in the State of Georgia.”

“On top of that,” says Caligula, “don’t say that we can’t have anything to eat.”

“Sit down, gentlemen,” says the landlord, “and in twenty minutes I’ll call you to the best breakfast you can get anywhere in town.”

That breakfast turned out to be composed of fried bacon and a yellowish edifice that proved up something between pound cake and flexible sandstone. The landlord calls it corn pone; and then he sets out a dish of the exaggerated breakfast food known as hominy; and so me and Caligula makes the acquaintance of the celebrated food that enabled every Johnny Reb to lick one and two-thirds Yankees for nearly four years at a stretch.