"the ransom of mack" — o. henry ("heart of the west")
Me and old Mack Lonsbury, we got out of that Little Hide-and-Seek gold
mine affair with about $40,000 apiece. I say "old" Mack; but he wasn't
old. Forty-one, I should say; but he always seemed old.
"Andy," he says to me, "I'm tired of hustling. You and me have been
working hard together for three years. Say we knock off for a while,
and spend some of this idle money we've coaxed our way."
"The proposition hits me just right," says I. "Let's be nabobs for a
while and see how it feels. What'll we do — take in the Niagara Falls,
or buck at faro?"
"For a good many years," says Mack, "I've thought that if I ever had
extravagant money I'd rent a two-room cabin somewhere, hire a Chinaman
to cook, and sit in my stocking feet and read Buckle's History of
"That sounds self-indulgent and gratifying without vulgar
ostentation," says I; "and I don't see how money could be better
invested. Give me a cuckoo clock and a Sep Winner's Self-Instructor
for the Banjo, and I'll join you."
A week afterwards me and Mack hits this small town of Pina, about
thirty miles out from Denver, and finds an elegant two-room house that
just suits us. We deposited half-a-peck of money in the Pina bank and
shook hands with every one of the 340 citizens in the town. We brought
along the Chinaman and the cuckoo clock and Buckle and the Instructor
with us from Denver; and they made the cabin seem like home at once.
Never believe it when they tell you riches don't bring happiness. If
you could have seen old Mack sitting in his rocking-chair with his
blue-yarn sock feet up in the window and absorbing in that Buckle
stuff through his specs you'd have seen a picture of content that
would have made Rockefeller jealous. And I was learning to pick out
"Old Zip Coon" on the banjo, and the cuckoo was on time with his
remarks, and Ah Sing was messing up the atmosphere with the handsomest
smell of ham and eggs that ever laid the honeysuckle in the shade.
When it got too dark to make out Buckle's nonsense and the notes in
the Instructor, me and Mack would light our pipes and talk about
science and pearl diving and sciatica and Egypt and spelling and fish
and trade-winds and leather and gratitude and eagles, and a lot of
subjects that we'd never had time to explain our sentiments about
One evening Mack spoke up and asked me if I was much apprised in the
habits and policies of women folks.
"Why, yes," says I, in a tone of voice; "I know 'em from Alfred to
Omaha. The feminine nature and similitude," says I, "is as plain to my
sight as the Rocky Mountains is to a blue-eyed burro. I'm onto all
their little side-steps and punctual discrepancies."
"I tell you, Andy," says Mack, with a kind of sigh, "I never had the
least amount of intersection with their predispositions. Maybe I might
have had a proneness in respect to their vicinity, but I never took
the time. I made my own living since I was fourteen; and I never
seemed to get my ratiocinations equipped with the sentiments usually
depicted toward the sect. I sometimes wish I had," says old Mack.
"They're an adverse study," says I, "and adapted to points of view.
Although they vary in rationale, I have found 'em quite often
obviously differing from each other in divergences of contrast."
"It seems to me," goes on Mack, "that a man had better take 'em in and
secure his inspirations of the sect when he's young and so
preordained. I let my chance go by; and I guess I'm too old now to go
hopping into the curriculum."