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The Mule Driver And The Garrulous Mute
by [?]

“Off I went, but when I slid down the gulch, I only found one body. T’other had disappeared. You can guess how much time I lost getting back to camp.

“‘Kink,’ I says, ‘we’re a straddle of the raggedest proposition in this country. One of your dusters at this moment is jamming his cayuse through the horizon between here and the post. Pretty soon things is going to bust loose. ‘Bout to-morrer evening we’ll be eating hog-bosom on Uncle Sam.’

“‘Well! Well!’ says Kink, ‘ain’t that a pity. Next time I’ll conquer my natural shyness and hold a post-mortem with a rock.’

“‘There won’t be no next time, I reckon,’ I says, ”cause we can’t make it over into Mexico without being caught up. They’ll nail us sure, seeing as we’re the only white men for twenty-five miles around.’

“‘I’d rather put up a good run than a bad stand, anyhow,’ says he, ‘and I allows, furthermore, there’s going to be some hard trails to foller and a tolable disagreeable fight before I pleads ‘not guilty’ to the Colonel. We’ll both duck over into the Santa–‘

“‘Now, don’t tell me what route you’re going,’ I interrupts,’ ’cause I believe I’ll stay and bluff it through, rather than sneak for it, though neither proposition don’t appeal to me. I may get raised out before the draw, but the percentage is just as strong agin your game as mine.’

“‘Boy, if I was backing your system,’ says Kink, ‘I’d shore copper this move and play her to lose. You come on with me, and we’ll make it through–mebbe.’

“‘No,’ I says; ‘here I sticks.’

“I made up a pack-strap out of my extry overhalls while he got grub together, to start south through one hundred miles of the ruggedest and barrenest country that was ever left unfinished.

“Next noon I was parching some coffee-beans in the frying-pan, when I heard hoofs down the gully back of me. I never looked up when they come into the open nor when I heard a feller say ‘Halt!’

“‘Hello there!’ somebody yells. ‘You there at the fire.’ I kept on shaking the skillet over the camp-fire.

“‘What’s the matter with him?’ somebody said. A man got off and walked up behind me.

“‘See here, brother,’ he says, tapping me on the shoulder; ‘this don’t go.’

“I jumped clean over the fire, dropped the pan, and let out a deaf and dumb holler, ‘Ee! Ah!’

“The men began to laugh; it seemed to rile the little leftenant.

“‘Cut this out,’ says he. ‘You can talk as well as I can, and you’re a going to tell us about this Injun killin’. Don’t try any fake business, or I’ll roast your little heels over that fire like yams.’

“I just acted the dummy, wiggled my fingers, and handed him the joyful gaze, heliographing with my teeth as though I was glad to see visitors. However, I wondered if that runt would really give my chilblains a treat. He looked like a West Pointer, and I didn’t know but he’d try to haze me.

“Well! they ‘klow-towed’ around there for an hour looking for clues, but I’d hid all the signs of Kink, so finally they strapped me onto a horse and we hit back for the fort.

“The little man tried all kinds of tricks to make me loosen on the way down, but I just acted wounded innocence and ‘Ee’d’ and ‘Ah’d’ at him till he let me alone.

“When we rode up to the post he says to the Colonel:

“‘We’ve got the only man there is in the mountains back there, sir, but he’s playing dumb. I don’t know what his game is.’

“‘Dumb, eh?’ says the old man, looking me over pretty keen. ‘Well! I guess we’ll find his voice if he’s got one.’

“He took me inside, and speaking of examinations, probably I didn’t get one. He kept looking at me like he wanted to place me, but I give him the ‘Ee! Ah!’ till everybody began to laugh. They tried me with a pencil and paper, but I balked, laid my ears back, and buck-jumped. That made the old man sore, and he says: ‘Lock him up! Lock him up; I’ll make him talk if I have to skin him.’ So I was dragged to the ‘skookum-house,’ where I spent the night figuring out my finish.