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The Snow Man
by [?]

This is no story, you say; well, let it begin.

There was a knock at the door (is the opening not full of context and reminiscence oh, best buyers of best sellers?).

We drew the latch, and in stumbled Etienne Girod (as he afterward named himself). But just then he was no more than a worm struggling for life, enveloped in a killing white chrysalis.

We dug down through snow, overcoats, mufflers, and waterproofs, and dragged forth a living thing with a Van Dyck beard and marvellous diamond rings. We put it through the approved curriculum of snow- rubbing, hot milk, and teaspoonful doses of whiskey, working him up to a graduating class entitled to a diploma of three fingers of rye in half a glassful of hot water. One of the ranch boys had already come from the quarters at Ross’s bugle-like yell and kicked the stranger’s staggering pony to some sheltered corral where beasts were entertained.

Let a paragraphic biography of Girod intervene.

Etienne was an opera singer originally, we gathered; but adversity and the snow had made him ~non compos vocis~. The adversity consisted of the stranded San Salvador Opera Company, a period of hotel second- story work, and then a career as a professional palmist, jumping from town to town. For, like other professional palmists, every time he worked the Heart Line too strongly he immediately moved along the Line of Least Resistance. Though Etienne did not confide this to us, we surmised that he had moved out into the dusk about twenty minutes ahead of a constable, and had thus encountered the snow. In his most sacred blue language he dilated upon the subject of snow; for Etienne was Paris-born and loved the snow with the same passion that an orchid does.

“Mee-ser-rhable!” commented Etienne, and took another three fingers.

“Complete, cast-iron, pussy-footed, blank… blank!” said Ross, and followed suit.

“Rotten,” said I.

The cook said nothing. He stood in the door weighing our outburst; and insistently from behind that frozen visage I got two messages (via the M. A. M wireless). One was that George considered our vituperation against the snow childish; the other was that George did not love Dagoes. Inasmuch as Etienne was a Frenchman, I concluded I had the message wrong. So I queried the other: “Bright eyes, you don’t really mean Dagoes, do you?” and over the wireless came three deathly, psychic taps: “Yes.” Then I reflected that to George all foreigners were probably “Dagoes.” I had once known another camp cook who had thought Mons., Sig., and Millie (Trans-Mississippi for Mlle.) were Italian given names; this cook used to marvel therefore at the paucity of Neo-Roman precognomens, and therefore why not–

I have said that snow is a test of men. For one day, two days, Etienne stood at the window, Fletcherizing his finger nails and shrieking and moaning at the monotony. To me, Etienne was just about as unbearable as the snow; and so, seeking relief, I went out on the second day to look at my horse, slipped on a stone, broke my collarbone, and thereafter underwent not the snow test, but the test of flat-on-the-back. A test that comes once too often for any man to stand.

However, I bore up cheerfully. I was now merely a spectator, and from my couch in the big room I could lie and watch the human interplay with that detached, impassive, impersonal feeling which French writers tell us is so valuable to the litterateur, and American writers to the faro-dealer.

“I shall go crazy in this abominable, mee-ser-rhable place!” was Etienne’s constant prediction.

“Never knew Mark Twain to bore me before,” said Ross, over and over. He sat by the other window, hour after hour, a box of Pittsburg stogies of the length, strength, and odor of a Pittsburg graft scandal deposited on one side of him, and “Roughing It,” “The Jumping Frog,” and “Life on the Mississippi” on the other. For every chapter he lit a new stogy, puffing furiously. This in time, gave him a recurrent premonition of cramps, gastritis, smoker’s colic or whatever it is they have in Pittsburg after a too deep indulgence in graft scandals. To fend off the colic, Ross resorted time and again to Old Doctor Still’s Amber-Colored U. S. A. Colic Cure. Result, after forty-eight hours–nerves.