O'henry — a tempered wind
A TEMPERED WIND
The first time my optical nerves was disturbed by the sight of
Buckingham Skinner was in Kansas City. I was standing on a corner when
I see Buck stick his straw-colored head out of a third-story window of
a business block and holler, "Whoa, there! Whoa!" like you would in
endeavoring to assuage a team of runaway mules.
I looked around; but all the animals I see in sight is a policeman,
having his shoes shined, and a couple of delivery wagons hitched to
posts. Then in a minute downstairs tumbles this Buckingham Skinner,
and runs to the corner, and stands and gazes down the other street at
the imaginary dust kicked up by the fabulous hoofs of the fictitious
team of chimerical quadrupeds. And then B. Skinner goes back up to the
third-story room again, and I see that the lettering on the window is
"The Farmers' Friend Loan Company."
By and by Straw-top comes down again, and I crossed the street to meet
him, for I had my ideas. Yes, sir, when I got close I could see where
he overdone it. He was Reub all right as far as his blue jeans and
cowhide boots went, but he had a matinee actor's hands, and the rye
straw stuck over his ear looked like it belonged to the property man
of the Old Homestead Co. Curiosity to know what his graft was got the
best of me.
"Was that your team broke away and run just now?" I asks him, polite.
"I tried to stop 'em," says I, "but I couldn't. I guess they're half
way back to the farm by now."
"Gosh blame them darned mules," says Straw-top, in a voice so good
that I nearly apologized; "they're a'lus bustin' loose." And then he
looks at me close, and then he takes off his hayseed hat, and says, in
a different voice: "I'd like to shake hands with Parleyvoo Pickens,
the greatest street man in the West, barring only Montague Silver,
which you can no more than allow."
I let him shake hands with me.
"I learned under Silver," I said; "I don't begrudge him the lead.
But what's your graft, son? I admit that the phantom flight of the
non-existing animals at which you remarked 'Whoa!' has puzzled me
somewhat. How do you win out on the trick?"
Buckingham Skinner blushed.
"Pocket money," says he; "that's all. I am temporarily unfinanced.
This little coup de rye straw is good for forty dollars in a town of
this size. How do I work it? Why, I involve myself, as you perceive,
in the loathsome apparel of the rural dub. Thus embalmed I am Jonas
Stubblefield — a name impossible to improve upon. I repair noisily
to the office of some loan company conveniently located in the
third-floor, front. There I lay my hat and yarn gloves on the floor
and ask to mortgage my farm for $2,000 to pay for my sister's musical
education in Europe. Loans like that always suit the loan companies.
It's ten to one that when the note falls due the foreclosure will be
leading the semiquavers by a couple of lengths.
"Well, sir, I reach in my pocket for the abstract of title; but I
suddenly hear my team running away. I run to the window and emit the
word — or exclamation, which-ever it may be — viz, 'Whoa!' Then I rush
down-stairs and down the street, returning in a few minutes. 'Dang
them mules,' I says; 'they done run away and busted the doubletree and
two traces. Now I got to hoof it home, for I never brought no money
along. Reckon we'll talk about that loan some other time, gen'lemen.'
"Then I spreads out my tarpaulin, like the Israelites, and waits for
the manna to drop.
"'Why, no, Mr. Stubblefield,' says the lobster-colored party in the