O'henry — hostages to momus

HOSTAGES TO MOMUS

I

I never got inside of the legitimate line of graft but once. But, one
time, as I say, I reversed the decision of the revised statutes and
undertook a thing that I'd have to apologize for even under the New
Jersey trust laws.

Me and Caligula Polk, of Muskogee in the Creek Nation, was down in the
Mexican State of Tamaulipas running a peripatetic lottery and monte
game. Now, selling lottery tickets is a government graft in Mexico,
just like selling forty-eight cents' worth of postage-stamps for
forty-nine cents is over here. So Uncle Porfirio he instructs the
_rurales_ to attend to our case.

_Rurales_? They're a sort of country police; but don't draw any mental
crayon portraits of the worthy constables with a tin star and a gray
goatee. The _rurales_ — well, if we'd mount our Supreme Court on
broncos, arm 'em with Winchesters, and start 'em out after John Doe
_et al_. we'd have about the same thing.

When the _rurales_ started for us we started for the States. They
chased us as far as Matamoras. We hid in a brickyard; and that night we
swum the Rio Grande, Caligula with a brick in each hand, absent-minded,
which he drops upon the soil of Texas, forgetting he had 'em.

From there we emigrated to San Antone, and then over to New Orleans,
where we took a rest. And in that town of cotton bales and other
adjuncts to female beauty we made the acquaintance of drinks invented
by the Creoles during the period of Louey Cans, in which they are
still served at the side doors. The most I can remember of this town
is that me and Caligula and a Frenchman named McCarty — wait a minute;
Adolph McCarty — was trying to make the French Quarter pay up the back
trading-stamps due on the Louisiana Purchase, when somebody hollers
that the johndarms are coming. I have an insufficient recollection of
buying two yellow tickets through a window; and I seemed to see a man
swing a lantern and say "All aboard!" I remembered no more, except
that the train butcher was covering me and Caligula up with Augusta J.
Evans's works and figs.

When we become revised, we find that we have collided up against the
State of Georgia at a spot hitherto unaccounted for in time tables
except by an asterisk, which means that trains stop every other
Thursday on signal by tearing up a rail. We was waked up in a yellow
pine hotel by the noise of flowers and the smell of birds. Yes, sir,
for the wind was banging sunflowers as big as buggy wheels against the
weatherboarding and the chicken coop was right under the window. Me
and Caligula dressed and went down-stairs. The landlord was shelling
peas on the front porch. He was six feet of chills and fever, and
Hongkong in complexion though in other respects he seemed amenable in
the exercise of his sentiments and features.

Caligula, who is a spokesman by birth, and a small man, though
red-haired and impatient of painfulness of any kind, speaks up.

"Pardner," says he, "good-morning, and be darned to you. Would you
mind telling us why we are at? We know the reason we are where, but
can't exactly figure out on account of at what place."

"Well, gentlemen," says the landlord, "I reckoned you-all would be
inquiring this morning. You-all dropped off of the nine-thirty train
here last night; and you was right tight. Yes, you was right smart
in liquor. I can inform you that you are now in the town of Mountain
Valley, in the State of Georgia."

"On top of that," says Caligula, "don't say that we can't have
anything to eat."