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The Persuasive Eloquence of John Wesley Cuff

You've all read in books an' newspapers about certain men bein' such orators that they could move their audiences to laughter or tears by the magic of their voice. I heard once that Bob Ingersoll was such a man, and I went to hear him, but he didn't move me any. He's a good talker, is Bob, but do you know, that instead of movin' me along with him he kinder grated on my sensibilities, for I was farmer born an' bred, and it rasped me up an' down the back the way he pitched into all that I'd been taught to hold sacred.

I heard Phillips Brooks once, too, but he was no orator. Prob'ly the best speaker I ever heard was old Sir John MacDonald. I never agreed with Sir John in politics, but I must own he could tell his side of the story in a way to convince anybody not born a Grit.

The speakers that we read about don't 'mount to so much when we actually hear 'em, and I must confess I never met but one man who could simply toy with the human emotions, and that man was a chap by the name of John Wesley Cuff, or, as he was more commonly called, Wess Cuff.

Wess wasn't a particularly strikin' individual, but he wasn't bad lookin' an' had a good figure. He was a driver for a livery stable; not a high position, but one which he made the most of. He'd a low, soft, sweet voice for a man, with tones in it like the purr of a cat. With this voice always went a magical smile. I say magical, for it was really magical. He could smile with either his eyes, his mouth, his forehead or his cheeks, without disturbin' the other parts, or he could unite 'em all in one marvellous smirk that 'ud enchant an' captivate the unwary.

Jimmy O'Shay, the old deer hunter, introduced me to John Wesley Cuff. Jimmy had hired Wess to go back with him to Whistlin' Coon Lake, a distance of fifty miles from the borders of civilization, after a load of deer which he'd shot several weeks before an' left hangin' in the woods out of reach of bears an' wolves.

Jimmy O'Shay was a character, too, but this story isn't about him. I'll only say that Jimmy had a particularly soft heart that went well with his snow-white hair; that he loved bravery an' despised meanness, and that he was the most famous swearer between Toronto an' Montreal. Oaths fairly rippled from the lips of Jimmy O'Shay, and it could truthfully be said that he exuded profanity; but the strange part of it was that you seldom noticed that he was swearin', he did it so natural like.

I'd never been back in the real wilderness, so when Jimmy invited me to accompany him on his trip, I accepted with spirit, for I wanted to see the back country. I saw it, and I don't want to see it again. Once is enough for me.

Well, we got started all right, with a fine team of gray horses an' a big bobsleigh with the bottom full of straw to keep our feet warm. Between Jimmy an' Wess they kept the conversation lively. They couldn't agree on a single point, and refused to be convinced when I decided a point one way or t'other. They knowed everybody who'd ever lived for miles an' miles around, and each had a positive opinion to express.

Jimmy 'ud say to Wess: —

"Wess," he'd say, "what's the good o' you talkin' to me, when I know that every word rollin' out yer throat's a lie!"

And Wess 'ud return:

"Jimmy," he'd say, "there ain't a man far an' near as I respect more'n I do you. You've been like a father to me, Jimmy, but I must say that, for a man of your age, you've the most distorted notion of facts of any man alive. I don't say you lie, Jimmy — remember that. I honor age; but I do say that you don't know what you're talkin' about half the time."

Then Jimmy 'ud breathe profanity on the frosty air an' start all over again.

We passed the jumpin'-off place at noon of the second day, and then had to pick a road as best we could along a blazed trail, which wasn't difficult as long as the light held out. It was the intention of my companions to reach the home of the Bheels, a family of backwoods farmers, before dark, but the night fairly dropped on us before we was within five miles of the Bheels' clearin', and we had to pick our way cautious like 'long among the stumps an' trees.

We was half frozen when we caught the first glimmer of light ahead, and sure enough, it turned out to be the cabin of the Bheels.

Wess drove up before the door with a flourish. A couple of half-starved curs come yelpin' round the corner of the house, and Wess lifted up his voice in a cheery "Hallo!"

The cabin door opened an' I saw a stout woman in the entry, with half a dozen eager faces peerin' over her shoulders.

"The Queen of the Woods' an' her fairies, by all the gods!" cried Wess, standin' up in the sleigh an' bowin' profoundly.

"It's that there Wess Cuff," I heard the "Queen" say, as she turned to her attendant fairies, and then she called: —

"Is that you, Wess, sure enough?"

"It's me, mother, — just poor little me an' Jimmy an' a young feller out for his health. Can you put us up?"

We didn't wait for a reply, but bundled out into the snow, and gatherin' up an armful of blankets an' provender each, we entered the house.

It was a log house, one story an' a sixteenth high. The parlor, dinin'-room, spare bedroom, library, kitchen an' woodhouse was all on the first floor. There was no partitions between these rooms. The family bedrooms was in bunks along the south wall of the cabin, and the room for guests an' dogs was on the floor behind the cook-stove, — that is, if the guests didn't choose to crawl up a ladder into the loft an' run the risk of losin' their lives in collision with bundles of seed corn on the ear, suspended from the rafters. There was a bare table in the combination room, several rough wooden chairs, a cupboard with a few dishes, and the rest of the furnishin's was human or animal.

First, there was father Bheel, a weak-eyed man, slender an' stooped, who might be any age you could guess. He chawed terbacker earnestly an' spit into the damper from any point in the room with a directness that would have made his fortune on the variety stage. He was a man given to silence.

Second, there was mother Bheel — a large woman, rugged an' mighty in her massiveness of strength. She pervaded the cabin with form an' voice. She was certainly a woman that made her presence felt. I'd not call her face handsome; it was far from that. It wasn't a motherly face either, but for all it was a strong and genuinely feminine face. She was a tireless talker, but her voice run to harshness, caused likely by the high pitch at which she kept it.

Third, there was Bobby Bheel — a young man, p'raps twenty-one, with a natural growth of whiskers an' brains. He likewise was an expert marksman, although I've see him miss, — somethin' his father never did.

Fourth, there was the girls — Minnie, Ellen an' Mamie — twenty, eighteen, sixteen, — blonde, with faded brown hair; blonde, with very much faded brown hair; blonde, with bright red hair. Passable-homely — pretty. All wore short dresses an' was bare-footed. All had outgrown their dresses, as could be seen from the free play given their wrists an' hands, and all preferred safety pins to buttons, as was likewise exteriorly manifested. All was bashful — all was curious, and all thought John Wesley Cuff was the most delightful man in the world.

Fifth, there was the dogs — Jerry an' Stingo — friends an' lovers; passionately fond of one another's ears; sharp-eyed hound pups, with sweet dispositions an' very accommodatin' when requested to give place by the stove to another member of the family.

After supper — I won't describe that supper. It was what reporters call " unfit for publication." After supper Jimmy an' I decided that the air of the general room wasn't good for us, and that we'd crawl up into the attic an' go to sleep. This we did, but we didn't go to sleep, for every word said below could plainly be heard by us.

The family, with Wess seated between Minnie an' Mamie on a bench, immediately at the rear of the stove, evidently had no intention of retirin' before dawn. The conversation was all interestin', but I only want to tell you that part which shows up the wonderful persuasiveness of John Wesley Cuff.

"Bobby," says Wess, in his softest, sweetest tone, — "Bobby," says he, "when I come in to-night I was a little surprised at you, Bobby. When your father told you to run an' put up the horses, you didn't jump at the word, Bobby," says he, "the way a smart, active boy like you should. You hung 'round the fire, Bobby, and let your poor old father go first — now, didn't you?"

"Naw, I didn't," says Bobby in a muffled tone.

"Yes, you did, drat you!" yells the old man. "Don't answer me back! You — shut up, there, or I'll swat you!"

Silence for a moment, and then Wess's gentle voice: — "Bobby, how would you like to see your dear old father laid out in his coffin, — arms folded, eyes shut, with coppers on 'em, and the hearse standin' outside the door to bear his body away to the grave! Wouldn't you think then of your dear old father, Bobby? — of how he raised you from a boy, and worked an' sweat for you to give you a livin' and an education? Wouldn't it just break your heart, Bobby, to recall the many times you've let your father do the chores which you could have done as well an' saved his dear old back? Ah, yes! — you'll think of that, Bobby, when your dear old father's gray hairs are laid away an' his back's straightened out in death!"

The audible grief of the family could now be distinctly heard, and comin' from between sobs which shook Mrs. Bheel's powerful, maternal bosom, was these words: 

"Say you will, Bobby!" — a big sob "say you will, Bobby!"

"I don't wanter see'm dead, and I never said I did," says Bobby, defiantly.

"Oh, Bobby! you're horrid!" snaps Minnie.

"I ain't, neither!" says Bobby.

"Shet up there, you! Don't you sass your sister!" cries his father. "A bad, undutiful son you are, and you know it."

"I ain't, neither!" says Bobby.

"Shet up! — shet up! — or I'll swat you!" again scolds the old man.

Then Wess glides into the discord with: "Bobby, you're a good boy. I ain't down on you, Bobby. I always told your dear mother you was a bright boy. 'Mrs. Bheel,' I says to her many's an' many's a time, 'Bobby'll be a handsome man, Mrs. Bheel, and look just like you, Mrs. Bheel.' Now, didn't I say them words, mother?"

"That you did, Mr. Cuff," replied the flattered mother, with pride in her voice. "You said them very words, Mr. Cuff, and Bobby's a handsome boy, though wouldn't want to go away an' leave 'em. So, Bobby, when you see your father move to'ards the barn, you must jump in ahead of him an' have the chores all done before he passes the woodpile. It's in you to do it, Bobby, — now ain't it?"

"I like to be good," says Bobby, quite plaintive.

"Yes, he does," says his father. "Bobby is a 'tarnal good boy. Why, only last ploughin' I says to John Chinneck, as I handed him a chaw of terbacker — 'John,' says I, 'if you only had a boy like my Bobby, 'twould be easier for you,' and John 'lowed it would."

"Now, that's what I always thought," says Wess. "So here we are, all happy an' lovin' an' admirin' of one 'nother."

Then says he: "Mamie," he says, "do you go to school now?"

"Not in winter time, Mr. Cuff," says Mamie.

"Can you read an' write?" says he.

"Can Mamie read an' write!" cries Mrs. Bheel. "You jest show him what you can do, Mamie. Why, she's the scholar of the family!"

"Now, mother, go slow — go slow," says Wess. " Remember, you ain't talkin' to Jimmy O'Shay now," says he. " Don't I know these girls, one an' all? Haven't I known 'em for years? Don't you go to disparagin' your oldest daughters, Mrs. Bheel, just because they ain't attendin' ladies' colleges or havin' the priv'lege of three months' schoolin' each summer, the same's Mamie."

"I ain't disparagin' 'em," says Mrs. Bheel.

"Well, it sounds very much like it, when you go an' set up your youngest child as the scholar of the family right over the heads of her beautiful sisters."

Minnie an' Ellen was now in tears. I could plainly hear 'em sobbin' and Mrs. Bheel evidently felt very uncomfortable.

"It's a terrible thing, Mrs. Bheel," continues Wess, "to flaunt one child over another. It breeds discord an' envy. Don't cry, Minnie. Cheer up, Ellen; don't take it so to heart. Even if your mother does go back on you an' put up Mamie as the only child she loves, I'll stand by you, and so will your father an' Bobby. You'll be all right yet when you go out front an' marry a handsome, rich man apiece, and then won't your mother miss you!

"I never said I didn't love them girls!" sobs Mrs. Bheel.

"Well, well," says Wess, "we won't argue it any further. I'm waitin' for Mamie to read for me."

"I won't read for you!" says Mamie, with a pout.

"Mamie," says Wess, "you'll fall off the bench if you move any further away, and Ellen will slip in between you an' me. Come here to my side. Now, Mamie, look me in the eyes. You're angry at me, Mamie, 'cause I stuck up for your sisters. Did I say, Mamie, that you wasn't the cutest little girl back of Cloyne? Did I say that you wasn't so blame handsome, with them black eyes an' red lips of yours, that if you'd dare to step your foot out front the fellers wouldn't make a dead set for you? — now, did I, Mamie?"

"No, you didn't," says Mamie, mild as a kitten.

"Then read to me," says Wess.

She read, or stumbled over a lesson from the Second Reader about "Silver-locks an' the Bears," and when she'd done, Wess clapped his hands.

"A kiss for reward!" he cried, and I heard the smack plainly.

Everything was quiet now for a few minutes, and no sound broke the stillness save the sizzlin' in the fire when father Bheel struck the bulls'-eye.

Then Wess began again at Bobby:

"Bobby," he says, "is it actually true that you'll set here by the stove burnin' the soles off your boots, while your dear, kind mother carries in the wood? You may think, Bobby, that I don't notice, but I do."

"She never asks me," says Bobby, with a growl.

"He wouldn't do it if I did ask him," returns his mother.

"He makes us carry all the water, too," says the girls in chorus.

"It ain't no sech thing," says Bobby, fidgetin'.

"Shet up, or I'll swat your face!" cries Mr. Bheel, wakin' up. "Shet up, you unnatural son, you!"

"Ah, me!" says Wess, "that's the way with boys. Here's Bobby, a great, strap-pin' feller capable of doin' two men's work, and yet he sits by the fire and lets his father do the chores, his delicate mother carry in the wood an' his sweet sisters bend their frail backs luggin' water. You'd ought to be ashamed, Bobby — that's what you had. You'd ought to feel too mean to hold up your head."

"He's a lazy, good-for-nothin'," says Mrs. Bheel. "All he can do is shovel in sauerkraut an' salt pork. He's an ungrateful boy, and I always said it."

"Now, you know I ain't, mother," says Bobby, chokin' up.

"Yes, you be!" yells the old man, — "yes, you be, you lazy lummicks! Don't open your mouth to me, sir, or I'll swat your face!"

"I don't see why you're all down on me!" sobs Bobby.

"'Cause you're a bad, ungrateful boy," says his mother.

A few minutes of painful silence now ensued; then I heard the voice of John Wesley Cuff, and by its tone I felt he was goin' to calm the storm.

"Bobby," says he, "there ain't no doubt that you've let your mother carry in wood, but I don't believe you'll ever do it again. You musn't let her do it, Bobby. It makes her bend her back, Bobby, and if she keeps it up, it'll spoil her figure, which mustn't be; for, Bobby, do you ever realize what a handsome, young-lookin' mother you have, and that she's generally considered the finest-built woman back of Cloyne?

"Think how you'd miss her, Bobby, were she to break her back one day over a pine knot! Who'd sew earlappers into your cap then? Who'd darn your mittens then, Bobby, and knit new feet into your socks? Who'd make the sauerkraut an' dried apple pie, which you love so well, if your mother was turned into an angel an' flew away?

"Look at her now, Bobby, sittin' by your side, and then think of your loss!"

"You praise me too high, Mr. Cuff — you certainly do," says Mrs. Bheel, but I knew that her heart was glad in her.

"You're so modest," says Wess. "Girls," says he, "just look at your mother; see her blush. Ain't she handsome now? Girls, listen to me: Try to avoid bein' as over modest an' humble as your mother is. If you don't, you'll not get far in the world." Then he took Bobby up where he'd temporarily abandoned him.

"Bobby," says he, "I believe you have a genuinely good heart, and no matter what anyone says they can't make me believe to the contrary. You will now stop to think, and when you see your mother make a motion for wood, you just jump, Bobby, and have an armful beside the stove in a jiffy. And the same with your delicate sisters, who are just blossomin' out like young cherry trees — grab the water pail from their hands an' fly to the pump.

"It would have been the makin' of me, Bobby, if I'd been brought up with three such lovely girls as these. I wouldn't have been half as selfish as I am. So promise me, Bobby, that you won't do it again."

"I'll promise anything," says Bobby.

"You hear that, Mrs. Bheel?" says Wess. "Bobby promises to be good. Now I want you to forgive him."

"I do forgive him," says Mrs. Bheel. "Bobby's a mighty good boy, and I do love him."

"Do you forgive your only brother, girls? says Wess.

"We ain't got nothin' agin him," they said in one voice.

"Now, you see, Bobby," says Wess, "I've fixed you out all right, an' you can start fresh. Always remember I'm your friend, Bobby."

And so it went on. I could hear Jimmy turnin' nervously every now an' then, and swearin' softly to himself. I didn't believe I'd ever get to sleep, for the moment I'd make up my mind that the conversation down stairs was over an' compose myself for slumber, that moment would bring the soft, insinuatin' voice of John Wesley Cuff up through the cracks, and I was forced to listen to a new line of argument. Before midnight he had the old man worked up to the point of apply-in' for a divorce from his wife. This he smoothed down in a few minutes. He had Minnie bitterly jealous of Ellen, and Mamie hatin' every other member of the family who was said to be keepin' this wild rose down.

Bobby was mauled in harrowin' style, and once when his father raised a stick of stove wood to throw at his son, Wess calmed the storm, and in a minute more father an' son was on the best of terms.

I haven't exaggerated a single point. Wess's power was wonderful. The last thing I remember, he had the girls tellin' him just what they'd do if they had a hundred dollars each to spend as they liked.

In the mornin' Wess kissed all the ladies good-bye an' shook hands warmly with Bobby an' his father. Mrs. Bheel told me in strict confidence, while Wess was hitchin' up, that he was her ideal of a man; that God Almighty may have made smarter men an' pleasanter men to meet than Wess Cuff, but she'd never met 'em. Wess gave each of the girls a brightly-polished brass ring, and to Bobby he gave an equally attractive jewsharp.

If they'd been Pagan-bred, the Bheels would have made a god to represent John Wesley Cuff an' worshipped it with heartfelt adoration.

On our return with the deer, we only stopped at the Bheels to warm. Wess improved this opportunity by invitin' the whole family to come an' stay with him any time they happened in town. Neither the girls or Bobby had ever seen the cars, and Mrs. Bheel had only heard them at a distance. So they listened eagerly while Wess dilated on the sights of the town.

When we got under way again, Jimmy O'Shay turned to Wess an' said: —

"Wess Cuff, you're the low downdest, meanest cuss I ever see — leadin' them poor, foolish people on to thinkin' that they really 'mount to somethin' in the world. What good does it do you, man, to lie an' deceive so?"

" Why, Jimmy, it ain't lyin' an' deceit," says Wess. "I was jest jollyin' 'em along, you know. You ain't got no fun in you, Jimmy — not a blame bit. Why, the other night, when I had 'em all lovin' one another one minute an' ready to fight the next, I don't believe I ever had a better time. It was better'n any show I was ever to."

About five miles the other side of Cloyne, Wess claimed he was feelin' faint, and pulled up before a rather respectable, small frame farmhouse, statin' that he was goin' to ask for a glass of milk. Both me an' Jimmy O'Shay felt that a few minutes' warmin' wouldn't do us any harm; so we tied the horses an' marched to the house in a body.

The farmer was away, but his wife was at home, and she proved mighty hospitable, givin' us all the milk we wanted an' apologizin' for not bein' able to entertain us better. She was a young, fine-lookin' woman of about thirty, plump as a partridge an' very sociable. As we sat by the stove, warmin', Wess as usual kept up a lively conversation with her, and discovered her weakest point to be a passionate love for jewelry.

Now, Wess never went anywhere without his pockets full of cheap chains an' rings, which he was accustomed to work off on the rustics, much to the disgust of that honest Irishman — Jimmy O'Shay.

He produced from his vest pocket a small chamois bag, from which he took a long, glitterin', ladies' watch-chain, and fondled it lovin'ly in his hand.

"Your speakin' of jewelry, ma'am, reminded me of this lovely chain," he says, smilin' at the woman.

She eyed the chain covetously.

"I shouldn't have brought so expensive a chain as this with me," says Wess, seriously. "But I daren't leave it at home for fear of its bein' stolen while I was away."

"Did you buy it for your wife?" says the woman.

"No, I didn't," says Wess. "She has one now, — not so good a chain, of course, but one that fills the bill all right. She wanted this chain an' begged like a baby for it, but I really couldn't afford the pleasure of givin' it to her. I got it fairly cheap, however, from a drummer. Where he got it, I don't know an' didn't inquire. He was hard up, — I guess he'd been playin' the game an' had to part with it. Now, how much d'ye think this chain might be worth, ma'am?"

Wess stretched the chain from one hand to the other an' then dangled it before the woman's eyes. She made a motion to take it, but he evidently had no intention of grantin' her the pleasure of fondlin' it.

"It might have cost ten dollars," says she.

"Why, lady!" cries Wess in an injured tone. "You don't really mean that! Look at this beautiful chain again. See how the links are all double locked. I thought you could guess better than that."

"Well, I ain't much of a judge of price," says the woman, much abashed, as she saw she'd hurt his feelin's in puttin' the price so low. "We don't see such lovely things back here very often," she says. " I know it's a beautiful chain, and must have cost a lot of money, — may be twenty-five dollars."

"That's better," says Wess, "and if you'd just make a little sum by settin' twenty-five down on the slate, puttin' two under it an' sayin' twice five is ten — ought an' carry one — twice two is four an' one to carry makes five,' you'd have fifty dollars; and that's about what the chain cost originally, though I will own I didn't pay quite that for it."

I heard Jimmy swearin' softly into the damper. Jimmy was a terrible polite man before women.

"Why, I never had as much as fifty dollars in my life," says the woman.

"It's a big sum," says Wess, and he started to put away the chain.

"Won't you let me hold it in my hands?" says the woman.

Wess looked at her an' then enveloped her in his wonderful smile, all the features joinin' in.

"Just like a child," he says. "I always did say women is jest like children. Can't see a thing but they must have their hands on it." Then he lightly tossed the chain about the woman's neck.

She blushed red an' dangled the part that hung down.

"Oh, it's so lovely!" says she.

Wess gazed at her, then at the chain, smilin' all the while, and presently the question came that he waited for.

"What's the very least you'd take for it?" says she.

"I'm afraid it's too expensive for you," says he.

"I might afford it," says she, "and John would buy it, I know, if he was here. John gets me everything I want."

"Have you got forty dollars?" says Wess, — (you must remember the chain was worth probably seventy-five cents. )

"No, I haven't any money," says she, "but I've got a cow."

"Well, we'll start with the cow," says Wess. "Put the cow down for twenty dollars," says he. "It's a big price, but seein' you want the chain so badly I'm inclined to be liberal."

"Then I've got a dozen geese," says she, smilin' silly like.

"Twelve geese at seventy-five cents each, — say a dollar," says he. "That makes twelve dollars. Twenty an' twelve is thirty-two. Come again," says he.

"I ain't got nothin' more but a shoat," says she, "and John wouldn't want to part with the shoat."

"One shoat, five dollars," says Wess. "Thirty-two an' five is thirty-seven. Three dollars shy; but I'm generous. Give me the cow, the twelve geese an' the shoat, and the chain is yours."

"Oh, I couldn't part with the shoat," says she, very sad. "I couldn't part with the shoat," says she. "It's John's shoat an' he wants to winter it."

"Well, I'm afraid we can't trade, then," says Wess, the smile dyin' out of his face as he reached his hand for the chain.

The woman slowly took the chain from about her neck, as if it was tearin' her heart strings to do so.

"I jest dasn't part with the shoat," says she, still holdin' the chain.

Wess still held out his hand.

"You couldn't think of lettin' me keep the shoat?" says she.

"Not possibly," says Wess.

She dropped the chain reluctantly into his hand.

"John would be mad if I let the shoat go," says she. "I couldn't do it. He'd grieve about it."

We thanked the woman for her hospitality. Jimmy gave her a quarter, and I slipped another quarter into the hand which had so lovin'ly toyed with Wess's brass chain. Not a word was spoken until we was a mile or so from the house. Then Jimmy began to melt the icicles clustered on his gray mustache with a torrid stream of red-hot cuss words.

"Wess Cuff," says he, "you've driven me for the last time. You're a dangerous man to be with," says he, "and you an' I part after this trip. You contemptible scoundrel! — tryin' to sell a poor lone woman a cheap brass chain for her only cow, her feather-bed geese and her husband's shoat! You scoundrel!" says he.

Wess only laughed, and chirped to the horses.

"A cow, twelve geese an' a shoat," says Jimmy indignantly. "You villain!"

Wess never said a word; only kept a chucklin' to himself.

There was silence for p'raps five minutes, and then Jimmy began to splutter again. He evidently was worryin' over somethin', because he kept repeatin' the items of the proposition.

"Tell me, Wess Cuff, you scoundrel!" says he, "what made you stick out for the shoat?"

Wess continued to chuckle, but didn't reply.

"The shoat couldn't have been worth more'n two dollars," says Jimmy. "Why in thunderation did you balk at the shoat?"

"Jimmy," says Wess in splendid good nature, — "Jimmy," he says, "you're a fine feller, and you're a mighty good shot with a rifle; you're a blame good feller, Jimmy, but you ain't got as much sense of humor as one of your hound pups. Your brains has all run to seed, Jimmy; you're growin' as blind as a bat in your mind an' you can't see through a wire fence."

"Oh, yes! — go on an' abuse me," says Jimmy, but much more meekly, for he felt that Wess had somethin' up his sleeve. "Go on an' abuse me," he says, "but first tell me one thing — why you stuck on the shoat?" The repeated question sent Wess into a roar of laughter.

"Oh my trousies!" says he, "but Jimmy's goin' into mental decline! Do somethin' for it, Jimmy," he says, "or I see the asylum before you!"

"Didn't you really mean to trade after all?" says Jimmy, quite humble now, "and was you just stickin' out for the shoat as a bluff?" says he.

Wess winked at me.

"Jimmy's beginnin' to think," says he. "Jimmy's beginnin' to reason."

"But tell me!" says Jimmy, angrily.

"You tell me first," says Wess, "how much you give the woman for entertainin' you?"

"I give her a quarter," says Jimmy, proudly.

"Well, I give her the chain," says Wess, and then he laughed louder'n ever, while Jimmy sunk into his fur coat an' never opened his mouth till we reached home.

He did. He give her the chain when we wasn't lookin'. I never knew a more remarkable man than John Wesley Cuff.

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