20. MY DELIVERER


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ONE DAY, in the early autumn, as the “Gila” touched at Ehrenberg, on her way down river, Captain Mellon called Jack on to the boat, and, pointing to a young woman, who was about to go ashore, said: ‘‘“Now, there's a girl I think will do for your wife. She imagines she has bronchial troubles, and some doctor has ordered her to Tucson. She comes from up North somewhere. Her money has given out, and she thinks I am going to leave her here. Of course, you know I would not do that; I can take her on down to Yuma, but I thought your wife might like to have her, so I've told her she could not travel on this boat any farther without she could pay her fare. Speak to her: she looks to me like a nice sort of a girl.”’’

In the meantime, the young woman had gone ashore and was sitting upon her trunk' gazing hopelessly about. Jack approached, offered her a home and good wages, and brought her to me.

I could have hugged her for very joy, but I restrained myself and advised her to stay with us for awhile, saying the Ehrenberg climate was quite as good as that of Tucson.

She remarked quietly: ‘‘“You do not look as if it agreed with you very well, ma'am.”’’


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Then I told her of my young child, and my hard journeys, and she decided to stay until she could earn enough to reach Tucson.

And so Ellen became a member of our Ehrenberg family. She was a fine, strong girl, and a very good cook, and seemed to be in perfect health. She said, however, that she had had an obstinate cough which nothing would reach, and that was why she came to Arizona. From that time, things went more smoothly. Some yeast was procured from the Mexican bake-shop, and Ellen baked bread and other things, which seemed like the greatest luxuries to us. We sent the soldier back to his company at Fort Yuma, and began to live with a degree of comfort.

I looked at Ellen as my deliverer, and regarded her coming as a special providence, the kind I had heard about all my life in New England, but had never much believed in.

After a few weeks, Ellen was one evening seized with a dreadful toothache, which grew so severe that she declared she could not endure it another hour: she must have the tooth out. ‘‘“Was there a dentist in the place?”’’

I looked at Jack: he looked at me: Ellen groaned with pain.

‘‘“Why, yes! of course there is,”’’ said this man for emergencies; ‘‘“Fisher takes out teeth, he told me so the other day.”’’

Now I did not believe that Fisher knew any more


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about extracting teeth than I did myself, but I breathed a prayer to the Recording Angel, and said naught.

‘‘“I'll go get Fisher,”’’ said Jack.

Now Fisher was the steamboat agent. He stood six feet in his stockings, had a powerful physique and a determined eye. Men in those countries had to be determined; for if they once lost their nerve, Heaven save them. Fisher had handsome black eyes.

When they came in, I said: ‘‘“Can you attend to this business, Mr. Fisher?”’’

‘‘“I think so,”’’ he replied, quietly. ‘‘“The Quartermaster says he has some forceps.”’’

I gasped. Jack, who had left the room, now appeared, a box of instruments in his hand, his eyes shining with joy and triumph.

Fisher took the box, and scanned it. ‘‘“I guess they'll do,”’’ said he.

So we placed Ellen in a chair, a stiff barrack chair, with a raw-hide seat, and no arms.

It was evening.

‘‘“Mattie, you must hold the candle,”’’ said Jack. ‘‘“I'll hold Ellen, and, Fisher, you pull the tooth.”’’

So I lighted the candle, and held it, while Ellen tried, by its flickering light, to show Fisher the tooth that ached.

Fisher looked again at the box of instruments. ‘‘“Why,”’’ said he, ‘‘“these are lower jaw rollers, the


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kind used a hundred years ago; and her tooth is an upper jaw.”’’

‘‘“Never mind,”’’ answered the Lieutenant, ‘‘“the instruments are all right. Fisher, you can get the tooth out, that's all you want, isn't it?”’’

The Lieutenant was impatient; and besides he did not wish any slur cast upon his precious instruments.

So Fisher took up the forceps, and clattered around amongst Ellen's sound white teeth. His hand shook, great beads of perspiration gathered on his face, and I perceived a very strong odor of Cocomonga wine. He had evidently braced for the occasion.

It was, however, too late to protest. He fastened onto a molar, and with the lion's strength which lay in his gigantic frame, he wrenched it out.

Ellen put up her hand and felt the place. ‘‘“My God! you've pulled the wrong tooth!”’’ cried she, and so he had.

I seized a jug of red wine which stood near by, and poured out a gobletful, which she drank. The blood came freely from her mouth, and I feared something dreadful had happened.

Fisher declared she had shown him the wrong tooth, and was perfectly willing to try again. I could not witness the second attempt, so I put the candle down and fled.

The stout-hearted and confiding girl allowed the second trial, and between the steamboat agent, the


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Lieutenant, and the red wine, the ailing molar was finally extracted.

This was a serious and painful occurrence. It did not cause any of us to laugh, at the time. I am sure that Ellen, at least, never saw the comical side of it.

When it was all over, I thanked Fisher, and Jack beamed upon me with: ‘‘“You see, Mattie, my case of instruments did come in handy, after all.”’’

Encouraged by success, he applied for a pannier of medicines, and the Ehrenberg citizens soon regarded him as a healer. At a certain hour in the morning, the sick ones came to his office, and he dispensed simple drugs to them and was enabled to do much good. He seemed to have a sort of intuitive knowledge about medicines and performed some miraculous cures, but acquired little of no facility in the use of the language.

I was often called in as interpreter, and with the help of the sign language, and the little I knew of Spanish, we managed to get an idea of the ailments of these poor people.

And so our life flowed on in that desolate spot, by the banks of the Great Colorado.

I rarely went outside the enclosure, except for my bath in the river at daylight, or for some urgent matter. The one street along the river was hot and sandy and neglected. One had not only to wade through the sand, but to step over the dried heads or horns or bones of animals left there to whiten


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where they died, of thrown out, possibly, when some one killed a sheep of beef. Nothing decayed there, but dried and baked hard in that wonderful air and sun.

Then, the groups of Indians, squaws and half-breeds loafing around the village and the store! One never felt sure what one was to meet, and although by this time I tolerated about everything that I had been taught to think wicked or immoral, still, in Ehrenberg, the limit was reached, in the sights I saw on the village streets, too bold and too rude to be described in these pages.

The few white men there led respectable lives enough for that country. The standard was not high, and when I thought of the dreary years they had already spent there without their families, and the years they must look forward to remaining there, I was willing to reserve my judgment.

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