"telemachus, friend" — o. henry ("heart of the west")
Returning from a hunting trip, I waited at the little town of Los
Pinos, in New Mexico, for the south-bound train, which was one hour
late. I sat on the porch of the Summit House and discussed the
functions of life with Telemachus Hicks, the hotel proprietor.
Perceiving that personalities were not out of order, I asked him what
species of beast had long ago twisted and mutilated his left ear.
Being a hunter, I was concerned in the evils that may befall one in
the pursuit of game.
"That ear," says Hicks, "is the relic of true friendship."
"An accident?" I persisted.
"No friendship is an accident," said Telemachus; and I was silent.
"The only perfect case of true friendship I ever knew," went on my
host, "was a cordial intent between a Connecticut man and a monkey.
The monkey climbed palms in Barranquilla and threw down cocoanuts to
the man. The man sawed them in two and made dippers, which he sold for
two /reales/ each and bought rum. The monkey drank the milk of the
nuts. Through each being satisfied with his own share of the graft,
they lived like brothers.
"But in the case of human beings, friendship is a transitory art,
subject to discontinuance without further notice.
"I had a friend once, of the entitlement of Paisley Fish, that I
imagined was sealed to me for an endless space of time. Side by side
for seven years we had mined, ranched, sold patent churns, herded
sheep, took photographs and other things, built wire fences, and
picked prunes. Thinks I, neither homocide nor flattery nor riches nor
sophistry nor drink can make trouble between me and Paisley Fish. We
was friends an amount you could hardly guess at. We was friends in
business, and we let our amicable qualities lap over and season our
hours of recreation and folly. We certainly had days of Damon and
nights of Pythias.
"One summer me and Paisley gallops down into these San Andres
mountains for the purpose of a month's surcease and levity, dressed in
the natural store habiliments of man. We hit this town of Los Pinos,
which certainly was a roof-garden spot of the world, and flowing with
condensed milk and honey. It had a street or two, and air, and hens,
and a eating-house; and that was enough for us.
"We strikes the town after supper-time, and we concludes to sample
whatever efficacy there is in this eating-house down by the railroad
tracks. By the time we had set down and pried up our plates with a
knife from the red oil-cloth, along intrudes Widow Jessup with the hot
biscuit and the fried liver.
"Now, there was a woman that would have tempted an anchovy to forget
his vows. She was not so small as she was large; and a kind of welcome
air seemed to mitigate her vicinity. The pink of her face was the /in
hoc signo/ of a culinary temper and a warm disposition, and her smile
would have brought out the dogwood blossoms in December.
"Widow Jessup talks to us a lot of garrulousness about the climate and
history and Tennyson and prunes and the scarcity of mutton, and
finally wants to know where we came from.
"'Spring Valley,' says I.
"'Big Spring Valley,' chips in Paisley, out of a lot of potatoes and
knuckle-bone of ham in his mouth.
"That was the first sign I noticed that the old /fidus Diogenes/
business between me and Paisley Fish was ended forever. He knew how I
hated a talkative person, and yet he stampedes into the conversation
with his amendments and addendums of syntax. On the map it was Big
Spring Valley; but I had heard Paisley himself call it Spring Valley a