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The day book. (Chicago, Ill.) 1911-1917, July 06, 1914, NOON EDITION, Image 18

Image and text provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library, Urbana, IL

Persistent link: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045487/1914-07-06/ed-1/seq-18/

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THE RECKONING. BY JANE ANDERSON
(Copyright, 1914, by the Newspaper
Enterprise Association.)
There are more"pleasant daily oc
cupations than to sit behind bars and
stare into the filthy patio of the coun
ty jail at Cochina, Ariz. Bill Cameron
had done this for five months. When
a man has lived in the saddle for the
better part of thirty years and has
come to understand the desert, this
form of exquisite torture robs the
nether regions of all terror. That Bill
had committed no crime added
piquancy to his position. Somebody
had been guilty of hair-branding a
hundred strays that rightfully belong
ed in the herd of a powerful cattle
man; and somebody had to suffer.
Bill, being a stranger in that section,
and unable to prove a water-tight
alibi, had been sent up for six months.
Somewhere outside, with Bill's bur
ros and prospecting outfit, were two
six-shooters. It was his ambition to
empty one of these into Ramon, the
sheriff.
His hatred centered about Ramon
for two reasons. Added to this, he
hated him instinctively which is
stronger than any reasoning. In the
first place, Bill classed him as a
Cholo ; secondly, Bill believed that he
knew more about the matter of hair
branding than he chose to tell. He
had no grounds for this save that
Ramon had shown him every meager
courtesy possible during his sentence.
In reality, Ramon was high-caste
Castilian, which differs from Cholo
like wine from pulque, and he was
genuinely concerned over the prison
er in Number Ten.
Bill was the only prisoner suffi
ciently dangerous to be locked in a
cell. This was singular, in that he
was the only gringo, at present, un
der the heel of Cochino justice. The
patio was overflowing with Cholos.
Bill had never spoken to the mob
in the patio, although in the first
month he had longed for the appear
ance of a white man's face among
them.
But when there were but two re
maining days of his sentence, trivial
incidents became momentous experi
ences. All morning he watched every
thing with the eager anticipation of
a child. He waited at noon for the
turn of the gate key; it was through
that gate he would enter again the
mysterious outside world. When the
visitors were gone the Cholos crowd
ed back into the patio, gabbling. One,
a lean-faced Yunja, separated himself
from the others and threw himself
down on the floor opposite Number
Ten. He drew from his shirt a roll
of cigarets and a cluster of Mexican
matches.
Bill looked at the straw a"nd paper
Utter in the patio, at the four flimsy
walls inclosing it. "Want to bake us
in here like an ovenful of pigs?" he
asked.
The Yuma ripped off a match from
the cluster. He lighted the cigaret,
inhaling and exhaling luxuriously.
The others looked on with hungry
eyes. They pressed around him en
treatingly, babbling their jargon. He
blew the smoke in their faces and
watched theif quivering nostrils.
Only a mestizo who lights one black
cigaret with another during his wak
ing hours and places a handful of
them within reach of his blanket at
night can understand the frenzy that
descended upon the patio. The men
fell on the Yuma, trampling him and
his treasure under foot. They fought
whatever their hands touched, enemy
or friend, as if every man concealed
under his shirt the treasure they
sought. Bill watched them, grinning.
The lighted cigaret had been kick
ed into a heap of straw, which smok
ed and gradually flickered into flame.
One of the men disentangled himself
and, seeing the .burning wall, stood
beating his hands against his breast,
his mouth hanging open. The smoke
bellowed out into the patio.
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