8:20 am - Wednesday July 18, 2018

The Hiding Of Black Bill-by O Henry-Novel and Ebooks

Novel Name:The Hiding Of Black Bill

Written by:O Henry

Category:Adventure

Page 1:

A lank, strong, red-faced man with a Wellington beak and small, fiery eyes tempered by flaxen lashes, sat on the station platform at Los Pinos swinging his legs to and fro. At his side sat another man, fat, melancholy, and seedy, who seemed to be his friend. They had the appearance of men to whom life had appeared as a reversible coat– seamy on both sides.

“Ain’t seen you in about four years, Ham,” said the seedy man. “Which way you been travelling?”

“Texas,” said the red-faced man. “It was too cold in Alaska for me. And I found it warm in Texas. I’ll tell you about one hot spell I went through there.

“One morning I steps off the International at a water-tank and lets it go on without me. ‘Twas a ranch country, and fuller of spite-houses than New York City. Only out there they build ’em twenty miles away so you can’t smell what they’ve got for dinner, instead of running ’em up two inches from their neighbors’ windows.

“There wasn’t any roads in sight, so I footed it ‘cross country. The grass was shoe-top deep, and the mesquite timber looked just like a peach orchard. It was so much like a gentleman’s private estate that every minute you expected a kennelful of bulldogs to run out and bite you. But I must have walked twenty miles before I came in sight of a ranch-house. It was a little one, about as big as an elevated- railroad station.

“There was a little man in a white shirt and brown overalls and a pink handkerchief around his neck rolling cigarettes under a tree in front of the door.

“‘Greetings,’ says I. ‘Any refreshment, welcome, emoluments, or even work for a comparative stranger?’

“‘Oh, come in,’ says he, in a refined tone. ‘Sit down on that stool, please. I didn’t hear your horse coming.’

“‘He isn’t near enough yet,’ says I. ‘I walked. I don’t want to be a burden, but I wonder if you have three or four gallons of water handy.’

“‘You do look pretty dusty,’ says he; ‘but our bathing arrangements–‘

“‘It’s a drink I want,’ says I. ‘Never mind the dust that’s on the outside.’

“He gets me a dipper of water out of a red jar hanging up, and then goes on:

“‘Do you want work?’

“‘For a time,’ says I. ‘This is a rather quiet section of the country, isn’t it?’

“‘It is,’ says he. ‘Sometimes–so I have been told–one sees no human being pass for weeks at a time. I’ve been here only a month. I bought the ranch from an old settler who wanted to move farther west.’

“‘It suits me,’ says I. ‘Quiet and retirement are good for a man sometimes. And I need a job. I can tend bar, salt mines, lecture, float stock, do a little middle-weight slugging, and play the piano.’

“‘Can you herd sheep ?’ asks the little ranch-man.

“‘Do you mean have I heard sheep?’ says I.

“‘Can you herd ’em–take charge of a flock of ’em ?’ says he.

“‘Oh,’ says I, ‘now I understand. You mean chase ’em around and bark at ’em like collie dogs. Well, I might,’ says I. ‘I’ve never exactly done any sheep-herding, but I’ve often seen ’em from car windows masticating daisies, and they don’t look dangerous.’

“‘I’m short a herder,’ says the ranchman. ‘You never can depend on the Mexicans. I’ve only got two flocks. You may take out my bunch of muttons–there are only eight hundred of ’em–in the morning, if you like. The pay is twelve dollars a month and your rations furnished. You camp in a tent on the prairie with your sheep. You do your own cooking, but wood and water are brought to your camp. It’s an easy job.’

“‘I’m on,’ says I. ‘I’ll take the job even if I have to garland my brow and hold on to a crook and wear a loose-effect and play on a pipe like the shepherds do in pictures.’

“So the next morning the little ranchman helps me drive the flock of muttons from the corral to about two miles out and let ’em graze on a little hillside on the prairie. He gives me a lot of instructions about not letting bunches of them stray off from the herd, and driving ’em down to a water-hole to drink at noon.

“‘I’ll bring out your tent and camping outfit and rations in the buckboard before night,’ says he.

“‘Fine,’ says I. ‘And don’t forget the rations. Nor the camping outfit. And be sure to bring the tent. Your name’s Zollicoffer, ain’t it?”

“‘My name,’ says he, ‘is Henry Ogden.’

“‘All right, Mr. Ogden,’ says I. ‘Mine is Mr. Percival Saint Clair.’

“I herded sheep for five days on the Rancho Chiquito; and then the wool entered my soul. That getting next to Nature certainly got next to me. I was lonesomer than Crusoe’s goat. I’ve seen a lot of persons more entertaining as companions than those sheep were. I’d drive ’em to the corral and pen ’em every evening, and then cook my corn-bread and mutton and coffee, and lie down in a tent the size of a table-cloth, and listen to the coyotes and whippoorwills singing around the camp.

“The fifth evening, after I had corralled my costly but uncongenial muttons, I walked over to the ranch-house and stepped in the door.

“‘Mr. Ogden,’ says I, ‘you and me have got to get sociable. Sheep are all very well to dot the landscape and furnish eight-dollar cotton suitings for man, but for table-talk and fireside companions they rank along with five-o’clock teazers. If you’ve got a deck of cards, or a parcheesi outfit, or a game of authors, get ’em out, and let’s get on a mental basis. I’ve got to do something in an intellectual line, if it’s only to knock somebody’s brains out.’

“This Henry Ogden was a peculiar kind of ranchman. He wore finger- rings and a big gold watch and careful neckties. And his face was calm, and his nose-spectacles was kept very shiny. I saw once, in Muscogee, an outlaw hung for murdering six men, who was a dead ringer for him. But I knew a preacher in Arkansas that you would have taken to be his brother. I didn’t care much for him either way; what I wanted was some fellowship and communion with holy saints or lost sinners–anything sheepless would do.

“‘Well, Saint Clair,’ says he, laying down the book he was reading, ‘I guess it must be pretty lonesome for you at first. And I don’t deny that it’s monotonous for me. Are you sure you corralled your sheep so they won’t stray out ?

“‘They’re shut up as tight as the jury of a millionaire murderer,’ says I. ‘And I’ll be back with them long before they’ll need their trained nurse.’

“So Ogden digs up a deck of cards, and we play casino. After five days and nights of my sheep-camp it was like a toot on Broadway. When I caught big casino I felt as excited as if I had made a million in Trinity. And when H. O. loosened up a little and told the story about the lady in the Pullman car I laughed for five minutes.

“That showed what a comparative thing life is. A man may see so much that he’d be bored to turn his head to look at a $3,000,000 fire or Joe Weber or the Adriatic Sea. But let him herd sheep for a spell, and you’ll see him splitting his ribs laughing at ‘Curfew Shall Not Ring To-night,’ or really enjoying himself playing cards with ladies.

“By-and-by Ogden gets out a decanter of Bourbon, and then there is a total eclipse of sheep.

“‘Do you remember reading in the papers, about a month ago,’ says he, ‘about a train hold-up on the M. K. & T.? The express agent was shot through the shoulder, and about $15,000 in currency taken. And it’s said that only one man did the job.’

“‘Seems to me I do,’ says I. ‘But such things happen so often they don’t linger long in the human Texas mind. Did they overtake, overhaul, seize, or lay hands upon the despoiler?’

“‘He escaped,’ says Ogden. ‘And I was just reading in a paper to-day that the officers have tracked him down into this part of the country. It seems the bills the robber got were all the first issue of currency to the Second National Bank of Espinosa City. And so they’ve followed the trail where they’ve been spent, and it leads this way.’

“Ogden pours out some more Bourbon, and shoves me the bottle.

“‘I imagine,’ says I, after ingurgitating another modicum of the royal boose, ‘that it wouldn’t be at all a disingenuous idea for a train robber to run down into this part of the country to hide for a spell. A sheep-ranch, now,’ says I, would be the finest kind of a place. Who’d ever expect to find such a desperate character among these song- birds and muttons and wild flowers? And, by the way,’ says I, kind of looking H. Ogden over, ‘was there any description mentioned of this single-handed terror? Was his lineaments or height and thickness or teeth fillings or style of habiliments set forth in print ?’

“‘Why, no,’ says Ogden; ‘they say nobody got a good sight of him because he wore a mask. But they know it was a train-robber called Black Bill, because he always works alone and because he dropped a handkerchief in the express-car that had his name on it.’

“‘All right,’ says I. ‘I approve of Black Bill’s retreat to the sheep-ranges. I guess they won’t find him.’

“‘There’s one thousand dollars reward for his capture,’ says Ogden.

“‘I don’t need that kind of money,’ says I, looking Mr. Sheepman straight in the eye. ‘The twelve dollars a month you pay me is enough. I need a rest, and I can save up until I get enough to pay my fare to Texarkana, where my widowed mother lives. If Black Bill,’ I goes on, looking significantly at Ogden, was to have come down this way–say, a month ago–and bought a little sheep-ranch and–‘

“‘Stop,’ says Ogden, getting out of his chair and looking pretty vicious. ‘Do you mean to insinuate–‘

“‘Nothing,’ says I; ‘no insinuations. I’m stating a hypodermical case. I say, if Black Bill had come down here and bought a sheep- ranch and hired me to Little-Boy-Blue ’em and treated me square and friendly, as you’ve done, he’d never have anything to fear from me. A man is a man, regardless of any complications he may have with sheep or railroad trains. Now you know where I stand.’

“Ogden looks black as camp-coffee for nine seconds, and then he laughs, amused.

“‘You’ll do, Saint Clair,’ says he. ‘If I was Black Bill I wouldn’t be afraid to trust you. Let’s have a game or two of seven-up to- night. That is, if you don’t mind playing with a train-robber.’

“‘I’ve told you,’ says I, ‘my oral sentiments, and there’s no strings to ’em.’

“While I was shuffling after the first hand, I asks Ogden, as if the idea was a kind of a casualty, where he was from.

“‘Oh,’ says he, ‘from the Mississippi Valley.’

“‘That’s a nice little place,’ says I. ‘I’ve often stopped over there. But didn’t you find the sheets a little damp and the food poor? Now, I hail,’ says I, ‘from the Pacific Slope. Ever put up there?’

“‘Too draughty,’ says Ogden. ‘But if you’ve ever in the Middle West just mention my name, and you’ll get foot-warmers and dripped coffee.’

“‘Well,’ says I, ‘I wasn’t exactly fishing for your private telephone number and the middle name of your aunt that carried off the Cumberland Presbyterian minister. It don’t matter. I just want you to know you are safe in the hands of your shepherd. Now, don’t play hearts on spades, and don’t get nervous.’

“‘Still harping,’ says Ogden, laughing again. ‘Don’t you suppose that if I was Black Bill and thought you suspected me, I’d put a Winchester bullet into you and stop my nervousness, if I had any?’

“‘Not any,’ says I. ‘A man who’s got the nerve to hold up a train single-handed wouldn’t do a trick like that. I’ve knocked about enough to know that them are the kind of men who put a value on a friend. Not that I can claim being a friend of yours, Mr. Ogden,’ says I, ‘being only your sheep-herder; but under more expeditious circumstances we might have been.’

“‘Forget the sheep temporarily, I beg,’ says Ogden, ‘and cut for deal.’

“About four days afterward, while my muttons was nooning on the water- hole and I deep in the interstices of making a pot of coffee, up rides softly on the grass a mysterious person in the garb of the being he wished to represent. He was dressed somewhere between a Kansas City detective, Buffalo Bill, and the town dog-catcher of Baton Rouge. His chin and eye wasn’t molded on fighting lines, so I knew he was only a scout.

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