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The Ravelin’ Wolf
by [?]

When the draft came to our town as it came to all towns it enmeshed Jeff Poindexter, who to look at him might be any age between twenty-one and forty-one. Jeff had a complexion admirably adapted for hiding the wear and tear of carking years and as for those telltale wrinkles which betray care he had none, seeing that care rarely abode with him for longer than twenty-four hours on a stretch. Did worry knock at the front door Jeff had a way of excusing himself out of the back window. But this dread thing they called a draft was a worry which just opened the door and walked right in–and outside the window stood a jealous Government, all organized to start a rookus if anybody so much as stepped sideways.

Jeff had no ambition to engage in the jar and crash of actual combat; neither did the idea of serving in a labor battalion overseas appeal to one of his habits. The uniform had its lure, to be sure, but the responsibilities presaged by the putting on of the uniform beguiled him not a whipstitch. Anyhow, his ways were the ways of peace. As a diplomat he had indubitable gifts; as a warrior he felt that he would be out of his proper element. So when answering a summons which was not to be disregarded Jeff appeared before the draft board he was not noticeably happy.

“Unmarried, eh?” inquired his chief inquisitor.

“Yas, suh–I means, naw, suh,” stated Jeff. “I ain’t never been much of a hand fur marryin’ round.”

He forced an ingratiating smile. The smile fell as seed on barren soil–fell and died there.

“Mother and father? Either one or both of them living?”

Never had Jeff looked more the orphan than as he stood there confessing himself one. He fumbled his hat in his hands.

“No dependents at all then, I take it?”

“Yas, suh, dey shorely is,” answered Jeff smartly, hope rekindling within him.

“Well, who is it that you help support–if it’s anybody?”

“Hit’s Jedge Priest–tha’s who. Jedge, he jes’ natchelly couldn’t git ‘long noways ‘thout me lookin’ after him, suh. The older he git the more it seem lak he leans heavy on me.”

“Well, Judge Priest may have to lean on himself for a while. Uncle Sam needs every able-bodied man he can get these times and you look to be as strong as a mule. Here, take this card and go on through that door yonder to the second room down the hall and let Doctor Dismukes look you over.”

Jeff cheered up slightly. He knew Doctor Dismukes–knew him mighty well. In Doctor Dismukes’ hands he would be in the hands of a friend. Beyond question the doctor would understand the situation as this strange and most unsympathetic white man undoubtedly did not.

But Doctor Dismukes, all snap and smartness, went over him as though he had never seen him before in all his life. If Jeff had been a horse for sale and the doctor a professional horse coper, scarcely could the examination have been carried forward with a more businesslike dispatch.

“Jeff,” said the doctor when he had finished and the other was rearranging his wardrobe, “you ought to be ashamed of yourself for being so healthy. Take your teeth now–your teeth are splendid. I only wish I had a set like ’em.”

“Is dey?” said Jeff despondently, for the first time in his life regretting his unblemished ivory.

“They certainly are. You wouldn’t need a gun, not with those teeth you wouldn’t–you could just naturally bite a German in two.”

Jeff shivered. The very suggestion was abhorrent to his nature.

“Please suh, don’t–don’t talk lak that,” he entreated. “I ain’t cravin’ to bite nobody a-tall, ‘specially ’tis Germans. Live an’ let live–tha’s my sayin’.”

“Yep,” went on the doctor, prolonging the agony for the victim, “your teeth are perfect and your lungs are sound, your heart action is splendid and I know something about your appetite myself, having seen you eat. Black boy, listen to me! In every respect you are absolutely qualified physically to make a regular man-eating bearcat of a soldier”–he paused–“in every respect excepting one–no, two.”