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The Mule Driver And The Garrulous Mute
by [?]

“‘Why, what in hell ails you, William?’

“‘Laugh, you old dong-beater,’ I yells, rising gradually to the occasion, ‘or I’ll bust your cupola like a blue-rock.’

“‘I’ve got to have merriment,’ I says. ‘I pine for warmth and genial smiles, and you’re due to furnish the sunshine. You emit a few shreds of mirth with expedition or the upper end of your spinal-cord is going to catch cold.’

“Say! his jaws squeaked like a screen door when he loosened, but he belched up a beauty, sort of stagy and artificial it was, but a great help. After that we got to know each other a heap better. Yes, sir; soon after that we got real intimate. He knocked the gun out of my hands, and we began to arbitrate. We plumb ruined that spot for a camping place; rooted it up in furrows, and tramped each other’s stummicks out of shape. We finally reached an amicable settlement by me getting him agin a log where I could brand him with the coffee-pot.

“Right there we drawed up a protoplasm, by the terms of which he was to laugh anyways twice at meal-times.

“He told me that he reckoned he was locoed, and always had been since a youngster, when the Injuns run in on them down at Frisbee, the time of the big ‘killing.’ Kink saw his mother and father both murdered, and other things, too, which was impressive, but not agreeable for a growing child. He had formed a sort of antipathy for Injuns at that time, which he confessed he hadn’t rightly been able to overcome.

“Now, he allus found himself planning how to hand Mr. Lo the double cross and avoid complications.

“We worked down into South Western Arizony to a spot about thirty-five miles back of Fort Walker and struck a prospect. Sort of a teaser it was, but worth working on. We’d just got nicely started when Kink comes into camp one day after taking a passiar around the butte for game, and says:

“‘The queerest thing happened to me just now, Kid.’

“‘Well, scream it at me,’ I says, sort of smelling trouble in the air.

“‘Oh! It wasn’t much,’ says he. ‘I was just working down the big canyon over there after a deer when I seen two feather-dusters coming up the trail. I hid behind a rock, watching ’em go past, and I’m durned if my gun didn’t go off accidental and plumb ruin one of ’em. Then I looks carefuller and seen it wasn’t no feather-duster at all–nothing but an Injun.’

“‘What about the other one?’

“‘That’s the strangest part,’ says Kink. ‘Pretty soon the other one turns and hits the back-trail like he’d forgot something; then I seen him drop off his horse, too, sudden and all togetherish. I’m awful careless with this here gun,’ he says. I hate to see a man laugh from his tonsils forrard, the way he did. It ain’t humorous.

“‘See here,’ I says, ‘I ain’t the kind that finds fault with my pardner, nor saying this to be captious and critical of your play; but don’t you know them Cochises ain’t on the warpath? Them Injuns has been on their reservation for five years, peaceable, domesticated, and eating from the hand. This means trouble.”

“‘My old man didn’t have no war paint on him one day back at Frisbee,’ whispers Kink, and his voice sounded puckered up and dried, ‘and my mother wasn’t so darned quarrelsome, either.’

“Then I says, ‘Well! them bodies has got to be hid, or we’ll have the tribe and the bluebellies from the fort a scouring these hills till a red-bug couldn’t hide.’

“‘To hell with ’em,’ says Kink. ‘I’ve done all I’m going to for ’em. Let the coyotes finish the job.’

“‘No, siree,’ I replies. ‘I don’t blame you for having a prejudice agin savages, but my parents is still robust and husky, and I have an idea that they’d rather see me back on the ranch than glaring through the bars for life. I’m going over to bury the meat.’