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Bulger’s Reputation
by [?]

We all remembered very distinctly Bulger’s advent in Rattlesnake Camp. It was during the rainy season–a season singularly inducive to settled reflective impressions as we sat and smoked around the stove in Mosby’s grocery. Like older and more civilized communities, we had our periodic waves of sentiment and opinion, with the exception that they were more evanescent with us, and as we had just passed through a fortnight of dissipation and extravagance, owing to a visit from some gamblers and speculators, we were now undergoing a severe moral revulsion, partly induced by reduced finances and partly by the arrival of two families with grownup daughters on the hill. It was raining, with occasional warm breaths, through the open window, of the southwest trades, redolent of the saturated spices of the woods and springing grasses, which perhaps were slightly inconsistent with the hot stove around which we had congregated. But the stove was only an excuse for our listless, gregarious gathering; warmth and idleness went well together, and it was currently accepted that we had caught from the particular reptile which gave its name to our camp much of its pathetic, lifelong search for warmth, and its habit of indolently basking in it.

A few of us still went through the affectation of attempting to dry our damp clothes by the stove, and sizzling our wet boots against it; but as the same individuals calmly permitted the rain to drive in upon them through the open window without moving, and seemed to take infinite delight in the amount of steam they generated, even that pretense dropped. Crotalus himself, with his tail in a muddy ditch, and the sun striking cold fire from his slit eyes as he basked his head on a warm stone beside it, could not have typified us better.

Percy Briggs took his pipe from his mouth at last and said, with reflective severity:

“Well, gentlemen, if we can’t get the wagon road over here, and if we’re going to be left out by the stagecoach company, we can at least straighten up the camp, and not have it look like a cross between a tenement alley and a broken-down circus. I declare, I was just sick when these two Baker girls started to make a short cut through the camp. Darned if they didn’t turn round and take to the woods and the rattlers again afore they got halfway. And that benighted idiot, Tom Rollins, standin’ there in the ditch, spattered all over with slumgullion ’til he looked like a spotted tarrypin, wavin’ his fins and sashaying backwards and forrards and sayin’, ‘This way, ladies; this way!'”

“I didn’t,” returned Tom Rollins, quite casually, without looking up from his steaming boots; “I didn’t start in night afore last to dance ‘The Green Corn Dance’ outer ‘Hiawatha,’ with feathers in my hair and a red blanket on my shoulders, round that family’s new potato patch, in order that it might ‘increase and multiply.’ I didn’t sing ‘Sabbath Morning Bells’ with an anvil accompaniment until twelve o’clock at night over at the Crossing, so that they might dream of their Happy Childhood’s Home. It seems to me that it wasn’t me did it. I might be mistaken–it was late–but I have the impression that it wasn’t me.”

From the silence that followed, this would seem to have been clearly a recent performance of the previous speaker, who, however, responded quite cheerfully:

“An evenin’ o’ simple, childish gaiety don’t count. We’ve got to start in again FAIR. What we want here is to clear up and encourage decent immigration, and get rid o’ gamblers and blatherskites that are makin’ this yer camp their happy hunting- ground. We don’t want any more permiskus shootin’. We don’t want any more paintin’ the town red. We don’t want any more swaggerin’ galoots ridin’ up to this grocery and emptyin’ their six-shooters in the air afore they ‘light. We want to put a stop to it peacefully and without a row–and we kin. We ain’t got no bullies of our own to fight back, and they know it, so they know they won’t get no credit bullyin’ us; they’ll leave, if we’re only firm. It’s all along of our cussed fool good-nature; they see it amuses us, and they’ll keep it up as long as the whisky’s free. What we want to do is, when the next man comes waltzin’ along–“