CHAPTER XXVI. MY DEPARTURE FROM TUCSON—ADMONITIONS...


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MY DEPARTURE FROM TUCSON—ADMONITIONS—THE JEHUS OF THE PLAIN—BEN HILL—MIND AND MATTER—A TALE OF LOVE AND WOE—ALL FOR GOLD—THE HIGHWAYMAN.

IT was on the afternoon of the 22nd of December,'77 when I returned to the metropolis of Tucson on ‘‘the home stretch.’’ I had left the camp of the Aztec company the day before with Col. Graham, and was now waiting for the departure of the 2 o'clock stage for Yuma on my return. The objects of my trip had been accomplished, and my note book being replete with Arizona lore, the activity with which my mind reverted to home and friends was an amazing contrast to my four months travel over mountain and desert. As I would close my eyes at dusk visions of the home circle, of nephews and nieces crowding upon my knees with eyes sparkling with the fire of animation, eager to know of those ‘‘awful Indians’’ and those ‘‘great big’’ robbers ‘‘out there,’’ would soften the sterner realities of life, and make the heart bow to the more


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tender affections. These contrasts, I say, were very forcible. In the mining camp on these occasions I evinced some restless anxiety; and through the courtesy and generosity of Col. Boyle and Col. Graham I was escorted to Tucson where I was to await the next stage for California.

The afternoon came, and 2 o'clock P. M. saw me seated on the top of the stage coach beside the driver. There was only one other passenger—a soldier from one of the forts. The street had many spectators to our departure. Very few know, except those acquainted with such cases and scenes, of the interest attached to the arrival and departure of the overland stage in a frontier town. All ready, the mail and express matter deposited, a crack of the whip, and we drove off. As we did so, admonitions came thick and fast, not to be scalped by the Apaché nor taken alive by the highwayman. I had often had such admonitions given me before—in Mexico, and Central America they are the common warning to every traveler—but at this time they came with a peculiar grating on my ear. However, I accounted for this by the strange desert dreariness I had imbibed on several occasions during my tour, and by the knowledge that our way lay in part through the Apaché country. The start was a cheerful one.

The next thing in turn was to find out what kind


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of a fellow my driver was, and to anticipate the associations of the night.

It would be a thankless task for me, or any one, to attempt to explain how one should go to work to find out what the Jehus of our western frontier coaches are. They are as varied as the minds and tempers of men; and one thing I might here pertinently put for the guidance and safety of all travelers with these sturdy guides of the plains and mountains. Be careful how you set about to do it; or else in trying to find them out, they will beat you two to one, and fathom you deeper than your own knowledge runs. They are natural phrenologists or physiognomists. Nor how, nor where, they know not; but, as one confidently said to me on one occasion, ‘‘We know a man as soon as we lay our eyes on 'im.’’ I found my companion on this occasion, as a Jehu, an old and experienced one; but as a man, in the very vigor of life. His acknowledged cool and resolute character in all cases of emergency, suggested in itself, a safe-guard, if not absolute protection, and I at once set about to get his consent to ride outside all night.

‘‘Now! Hill,’’ said I, (Hill, was the name of the driver) ‘‘“Tell me what you know of this vast country, through which you have been traveling night and day, for years, as they tell me.”’’

We had ridden along some distance and had, from


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the first, according to my recollections, and according to Hill's own words, found in each other congenial companions.

‘‘“Tell us of some incidents or experiences of your life on the plains”’’ continued I.

The trip I was now entering out upon, being to take me away from my fields of labor and observation, my mind naturally threw off a certain load. It felt a relief from the sterner objects of my travels, and participated more of the beaux esprit of a careless tourist.

Sitting on the top of the coach, as it jogged along in the cool of the approaching evening, I could now see a beauty in the vast stretching prairie and desert, where before it had been an uninviting trackless waste. Mind had assumed a new relation to matter. I was verifying, it seemed, how the spirit matter made a material thing what it is. A tree is a tree, thought I, and yet what two entirely different things are, a willow which hangs over a mother's grave, and the willow that shades the happy angler, as he sits under its branches by some cooling stream in the joys of recreation, playing with his cunning trout. Is there not as much difference between these two trees, as between incense and gall?

‘‘Well,’’ said Hill, ‘‘“I suppose you want to hear about scalping scenes, highway robberies, or some blood and thunder affair. I never met a traveler yet


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who did not want something of this sort told to him. For my part, I've got tired telling 'em. But”’’ ejaculated he, as if he had seized some happy thought, and then, almost as suddenly, dropped his chin on his breast and was silent for a moment. ‘‘Do you know’’ said he, finally, ‘‘what I have named this country?’’

‘‘Give it up, Hill!’’ said I.

‘‘Well,’’ said he, looking at me sagaciously, ‘‘“I call it the country of disappointed lovers.”’’

‘‘Disappointed lovers,’’ quoted I; and then laughed heartily. ‘‘Why whatever put that in your head?’’

‘‘“Yes, Sir! ‘that's what's the matter.’ Disappointed lovers! Why! every other man you meet here has some story of this kind to tell you.”’’

‘‘I say Hill,’’ said I, with an insinuating grin on my face, ‘‘and are you one of these ‘every other’ men?’’ Hill has not to this day, answered my questions.

I am reminded here of an interview I had with another of these frontiersmen, in the early part of my travels in this land, that somewhat borders upon this subject, and further exemplifies this theory of Mr. Hill's. We were riding out upon the plain and in referring to the grotesqueness of the houses, the following comparisons took place:

‘‘“You have noticed all through your travels, haven't you, my friend?”’’ intervened Joseph (that was the name on the occasion) with an air of having started


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with some terribly convincing evidence. ‘‘“You have noticed how some of the old, broken down, dilapidated mud houses throughout this whole land have a sort of reviving spirit about them. They will have some vines nicely trimmed up against the side of the walls, or some tasty little curtain hung by one of the little holes they call windows in this country; or a few streaks of paint daubed in some conspicuous place on the outside of the building, dashed on in some original style of art, something after the Indian fashion of painting.”’’

‘‘Yes! I have,’’ I answered.

‘‘“Well! Do you know what they remind me of? They remind me of some of these old bachelor codgers—these cock-a-doodles—who wanting in their old age, some congenial spirit (a wife, I mean), put on them-selves all the trimmings mortal man can conceive of—yellow neckties, kid gloves, have their hair cut twice a week and properly greased—or rather improperly so, as it would soil any silk dress it chanced to come in contact with; who, with one hand in his pocket jingling his gold, and in the other, a bunch of roses, he seeks and marries a girl not yet out of her teens. A sweet sixteen as he would call her.”’’

‘‘Well! isn't that all right enough?’’ I enquired.

‘‘Yes, of course it is,’’ said my companion. ‘‘“Of course it is, even if Cupid goes back on him; for


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when a man has outlived what little sense and reason he ever had, and has never been able to find a sensible girl that would have him, I suppose it is all right enough for him to start out and allure some young and inexperienced girl, before she is old enough to know her own mind or realize the dangers of the step she is about to take.”’’

‘‘“But I don't see what bearing this has upon the houses, or the disappointed lovers,”’’ said I.

‘‘“No! but some of these odd and ridiculously festooned houses remind me of these ridiculously bedecked human structures. As for the disappointed, lovers, why they are the ones that get out and come here; for if the young girl has some one that she likes, you know, why the old fellow tells her either that she is too young to have company as young as he is; or else she must drop him, or chuck him overboard on some dark night, and that he has got money enough to heal her sorrows and hide crimes alike.”’’

Another case still had I pointed out to me which would seem to defend both of these gentlemen in their theories and surmises. I was shown in the extreme southern part of the Territory, a certain crude log hut in which dwelt a man of some fifty years. We were passing through the canyon in which it was crested cosily on the borders of a clear mountain stream, and beneath the brow of picturesque hills. It was covered


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with moss and creeping vines seeming jealous to protect their inmate's happiness. The story of this old man, as told me by the driver of the coach was: that while quite young, this ‘‘party’’ had under very peculiar circumstances and of necessity been placed in absolute charge of a young lady whom he thoroughly loved. As jealously and sturdily had he guarded and protected his charge, as he would his own life, or as only a person who honestly, nobly, and unselfishly loved, could have done. The girl was placed under the man's protection by her parents; but a rich. uncle, under whose charge the girl afterwards was put, became so morbidly jealous of the good character the young man was known to possess, forbade the girl from recognizing him at all. The girl had learned so thoroughly to look up to and respect her companion, that she nobly refused to obey her uncle's commands. Seeking to accomplish his end, to his commands he afterwards added offers of large amounts of gold. Being thus tormented by her uncle, the girl sought refuge with her parents, who had recognized the great services rendered by the young man, and from whom she expected defense in favor of he who had been her chosen companion. But the parents being also swayed and influenced by the uncle's gold, and what they conceived to be their daughter's interest (short-sighted interest), the same dire case of ‘‘all for gold’’ was enacted over


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again; for the girl afterwards married against her will, and died a poor drunkard's broken-hearted wife. The man it is said became temporarily deranged, but finally retired to the land of the Apaché, remarking, as it is said he often does, to this day, that the land of the savage is preferable to a society which buys and sells honest virtue with gold.

Darkness finally overcame the land, and at six o'clock, we arrived at Desert station. This meant ‘‘supper.’’ Supper taken, and horses changed, we mounted our box seat, and, tucking our robes about us (for the nights were getting just a little chilly) we were off again. We had tucked ourselves in as snugly as those children did for a ‘‘long winter's nap’’ on a famous Christmas eve, although we did not expect to nap much on this occasion. Darkness was well spread over the earth. The moon had not yet risen, but the stars shone forth in all their brilliancy; and by the aid of the limpid atmosphere, lent an interesting vision to the unaccustomed scenes about us. Before us, behind us; to the right of us, and to the left of us, stretched the boundless desert, sprinkled here and there with small clumps of grease wood and bunch grass, and boarded in the distance by a gray outline of the interminable mountains of Arizona. Not a sound was heard save the smothered tread of our animals in the sand—except our own voices, which would seem to


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have a ring and re-echo in the dreary stillness. Never did my own voice attract my notice so much. As we looked into open space we would sometimes be interested with the phenomenal light peculiar to Arizona, which would break the monotony of our long and. tedious ride. On these occasions we would watch the slight flickering of light pass through the atmosphere. These wave-like effects were very slight and pale, resembling, somewhat, the ‘‘milky way,’’ but seeming to be between you and the sky—not in the sky. They were often so pale that one might suppose it was some effect of the vision, passing, as they did, before you in a thin gauze or mist. I defined it to be some effect of the heat of the desert upon the cooler atmosphere of the evening.

Thus we rode along, not a leaf stirring and not a sound audible save the martial tread of our dumb beasts. What a contrast again, to our lively afternoon's conversation. The gentle jolt of the vehicle had cradled me into a dreamy mood. We had not spoken for some minutes, when suddenly: ‘‘Halt!’’ thundered upon our ears, accompanied with vociferous oaths and calumnies. The echo had scarcely died away when, ‘‘Hold up your hands!” “Throw down your arms!’’ followed the imperative ‘‘Halt!’’ in quick succession. All was done in less time than it takes to tell it. Our blood rushed to our faces. We


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were over-awed by fright, and baffled by surprise. Like one aroused from his slumber, we were for a moment lost to all senses, and did not know our bearings. In front of us stood two men—one with a rifle and the other with a large revolver—levelled directly at us. The horses had undergone some emotion, and had now quieted in a tangled harness. We had no sooner realized our position than: ‘‘Hold up your hands!’’ thundered forth with increased force.

We now thoroughly comprehended our situation. We were in the hands of the highwayman—perhaps of the assassin.

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