Baldy Woods reached for the bottle, and got it. Whenever Baldy went
for anything he usually--but this is not Baldy`s story. He poured out
a third drink that was larger by a finger than the first and second.
Baldy was in consultation; and the consultee is worthy of his hire.
"I`d be king if I was you," said Baldy, so positively that his holster
creaked and his spurs rattled.
Webb Yeager pushed back his flat-brimmed Stetson, and made further
disorder in his straw-coloured hair. The tonsorial recourse being
, he followed the liquid example of the more resourceful
"If a man marries a queen, it oughtn`t to make him a two-spot,"
declared Webb, epitomising his grievances.
"Sure not," said Baldy, sympathetic, still thirsty, and genuinely
solicitous concerning the relative value of the cards. "By rights
you`re a king. If I was you, I`d call for a new deal. The cards have
been stacked on you--I`ll tell you what you are, Webb Yeager."
"What?" asked Webb, with a hopeful look in his pale-blue eyes.
"You`re a prince-consort."
"Go easy," said Webb. "I never blackguarded you none." "It`s a title," explained Baldy, "up among the picture-cards; but it
don`t take no tricks.
I`ll tell you, Webb. It`s a brand they`re got
for certain animals in Europe. Say that you or me or one of them Dutch
dukes marries in a royal family. Well, by and by our wife gets to be
queen. Are we king? Not in a million years. At the coronation
ceremonies we march between little casino and the Ninth Grand
Custodian of the Royal Hall Bedchamber. The only use we are is to
appear in photographs, and accept the responsibility for the heir-
apparent. That ain`t any square deal. Yes, sir, Webb, you`re a prince-
consort; and if I was you, I`d start a interregnum or a habeus corpus
or somethin`; and I`d be king if I had to turn from the bottom of the
Baldy emptied his glass to the ratification of his Warwick pose.
"Baldy," said Webb, solemnly, "me and you punched cows in the same
outfit for years. We been runnin` on the same range, and ridin` the
same trails since we was boys. I wouldn`t talk about my family affairs
to nobody but you. You was line-rider on the Nopalito Ranch when I
married Santa McAllister. I was foreman then; but what am I now? I
don`t amount to a knot in a stake rope.
"When old McAllister was the cattle king of West Texas," continued
Baldy with Satanic sweetness, "you was some tallow.
You had as much to
say on the ranch as he did."
"I did," admitted Webb, "up to the time he found out I was tryin` to
get my rope over Santa`s head. Then he kept me out on the range as far
from the ranch-house as he could. When the old man died they commenced
to call Santa the `cattle queen.` I`m boss of the cattle--that`s all.
She `tends to all the business; she handles all the money; I can`t
sell even a beef-steer to a party of campers, myself. Santa`s the
`queen`; and I`m Mr. Nobody."
"I`d be king if I was you," repeated Baldy Woods, the royalist. "When
a man marries a queen he ought to grade up with her--on the hoof--
--any old way from the chaparral to the packing-
house. Lots of folks thinks it`s funny, Webb, that you don`t have the
say-so on the Nopalito. I ain`t reflectin` none on Miz Yeager--she`s
the finest little lady between the Rio Grande and next Christmas--but
a man ought to be boss of his own camp."
The smooth, brown face of Yeager lengthened to a mask of wounded
melancholy. With that expression, and his rumpled yellow hair and
guileless blue eyes, he might have been likened to a schoolboy whose
leadership had been usurped by a youngster of superior strength. But
his active and sinewy seventy-two inches, and his girded revolvers
forbade the comparison.
"What was that you called me, Baldy?" he asked. "What kind of a
concert was it?"
"A `consort,`" corrected Baldy--"a `prince-consort.` It`s a kind of
short-card pseudonym. You come in sort of between Jack-high and a
Webb Yeager sighed, and gathered the strap of his Winchester scabbard
from the floor.
"I`m ridin` back to the ranch to-day," he said half-heartedly. "I`ve
got to start a bunch of beeves for San Antone in the morning."
"I`m your company as far as Dry Lake," announced Baldy. "I`ve got a
round-up camp on the San Marcos cuttin` out two-year-olds."
The two /companeros/
mounted their ponies and trotted away from the
little railroad settlement, where they had foregathered in the thirsty
(Hearts and Crosses - O Henry)