home | authors | books | about

Home -> O. Henry -> The Snow Man

The Snow Man

Short Stories


A Bird of Bagdad

A Blackjack Bargainer

A Call Loan

A Chaparral Christmas Gift

A Chaparral Prince

A Comedy in Rubber

A Cosmopolite in a Cafe

A Departmental Case

A Dinner at--------*

A Double-Dyed Deceiver

A Fog in Santone

A Harlem Tragedy

A Lickpenny Lover

A Little Local Colour

A Little Talk about Mobs

A Madison Square Arabian Night

A Matter of Mean Elevation

A Midsummer Knight's Dream

A Midsummer Masquerade

A Municipal Report

A Newspaper Story

A Night in New Arabia

A Philistine in Bohemia

A Poor Rule

A Ramble in Aphasia

A Retrieved Reformation

A Ruler of Men

A Sacrifice Hit

A Service of Love

A Snapshot at the President

A Strange Story

A Technical Error

A Tempered Wind

According to Their Lights

After Twenty Years

An Adjustment of Nature

An Afternoon Miracle

An Apology

An Unfinished Christmas Story

An Unfinished Story

Aristocracy Versus Hash

Art and the Bronco

At Arms With Morpheus

Babes in the Jungle


Between Rounds

Bexar Scrip No. 2692

Blind Man's Holiday

Brickdust Row

Buried Treasure

By Courier

Calloway's Code


Cherchez La Femme

Christmas by Injunction

Compliments of the Season

Confessions of a Humorist

Conscience in Art

Cupid a La Carte

Cupid's Exile Number Two


Dougherty's Eye-Opener

Elsie in New York

Extradited from Bohemia

Fickle Fortune or How Gladys Hustled

Friends in San Rosario

From Each According to His Ability

From the Cabby's Seat

Georgia's Ruling


He Also Serves

Hearts and Crosses

Hearts and Hands

Helping the Other Fellow

Holding Up a Train

Hostages to Momus

Hygeia at the Solito

Innocents of Broadway

Jeff Peters as a Personal Magnet

Jimmy Hayes and Muriel

Law and Order

Let Me Feel Your Pulse

Little Speck in Garnered Fruit

Lord Oakhurst's Curse

Lost on Dress Parade

Madame Bo-Peep, of the Ranches

Makes the Whole World Kin

Mammon and the Archer

Man About Town

Masters of Arts

Memoirs of a Yellow Dog

Modern Rural Sports

Money Maze

Nemesis and the Candy Man

New York by Camp Fire Light

Next to Reading Matter

No Story

October and June

On Behalf of the Management

One Dollar's Worth

One Thousand Dollars

Out of Nazareth

Past One at Rooney's


Proof of the Pudding

Psyche and the Pskyscraper

Queries and Answers

Roads of Destiny

Roses, Ruses and Romance

Rouge et Noir

Round the Circle

Rus in Urbe

Schools and Schools

Seats of the Haughty

Shearing the Wolf



Sisters of the Golden Circle


Sociology in Serge and Straw

Sound and Fury

Springtime a La Carte

Squaring the Circle

Strictly Business

Strictly Business

Suite Homes and Their Romance

Telemachus, Friend

The Admiral

The Adventures of Shamrock Jolnes

The Assessor of Success

The Atavism of John Tom Little Bear

The Badge of Policeman O'Roon

The Brief Debut of Tildy

The Buyer From Cactus City

The Caballero's Way

The Cactus

The Caliph and the Cad

The Caliph, Cupid and the Clock

The Call of the Tame

The Chair of Philanthromathematics

The Champion of the Weather

The Church with an Overshot-Wheel

The City of Dreadful Night

The Clarion Call

The Coming-Out of Maggie

The Complete Life of John Hopkins

The Cop and the Anthem

The Count and the Wedding Guest

The Country of Elusion

The Day Resurgent

The Day We Celebrate

The Defeat of the City

The Detective Detector

The Diamond of Kali

The Discounters of Money

The Dog and the Playlet

The Door of Unrest

The Dream

The Duel

The Duplicity of Hargraves

The Easter of the Soul

The Emancipation of Billy

The Enchanted Kiss

The Enchanted Profile

The Ethics of Pig

The Exact Science of Matrimony

The Ferry of Unfulfilment

The Fifth Wheel

The Flag Paramount

The Fool-Killer

The Foreign Policy of Company 99

The Fourth in Salvador

The Friendly Call

The Furnished Room

The Gift of the Magi

The Girl and the Graft

The Girl and the Habit

The Gold That Glittered

The Greater Coney

The Green Door

The Guardian of the Accolade

The Guilty Party - An East Side Tragedy

The Halberdier of the Little Rheinschloss

The Hand that Riles the World

The Handbook of Hymen

The Harbinger

The Head-Hunter

The Hiding of Black Bill

The Higher Abdication

The Higher Pragmatism

The Hypotheses of Failure

The Indian Summer of Dry Valley Johnson

The Lady Higher Up

The Last Leaf

The Last of the Troubadours

The Lonesome Road

The Lost Blend

The Lotus And The Bottle

The Love-Philtre of Ikey Schoenstein

The Making of a New Yorker

The Man Higher Up

The Marionettes

The Marquis and Miss Sally

The Marry Month of May

The Memento

The Missing Chord

The Moment of Victory

The Octopus Marooned

The Passing of Black Eagle

The Pendulum

The Phonograph and the Graft

The Pimienta Pancakes

The Plutonian Fire

The Poet and the Peasant

The Pride of the Cities

The Princess and the Puma

The Prisoner of Zembla

The Proem

The Purple Dress

The Ransom of Mack

The Ransom of Red Chief

The Rathskeller and the Rose

The Red Roses of Tonia

The Reformation of Calliope

The Remnants of the Code

The Renaissance at Charleroi

The Roads We Take

The Robe of Peace

The Romance of a Busy Broker

The Rose of Dixie

The Rubaiyat of a Scotch Highball

The Rubber Plant's Story

The Shamrock and the Palm

The Shocks of Doom

The Skylight Room

The Sleuths

The Snow Man

The Social Triangle

The Song and the Sergeant

The Sparrows in Madison Square

The Sphinx Apple

The Tale of a Tainted Tenner

The Theory and the Hound

The Thing's the Play

The Third Ingredient

The Trimmed Lamp

The Unknown Quantity

The Unprofitable Servant

The Venturers

The Vitagraphoscope

The Voice of the City

The Whirligig of Life

The World and the Door

Thimble, Thimble


To Him Who Waits

Tobin's Palm

Tommy's Burglar

Tracked to Doom

Transformation of Martin Burney

Transients in Arcadia

Two Recalls

Two Renegades

Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen

Ulysses and the Dogman

Vanity and Some Sables

What You Want

While the Auto Waits

Whistling Dick's Christmas Stocking

Witches' Loaves

When he realized that he could do no more {it was his lifelong habit
to write with a pencil, never dictating to a stenographer), O. Henry
told in detail the remainder of The Snow Man to Harris Merton Lyon,
whom he had often spoken of as one of the most effective short-story
writers of the present time. Mr. Porter had delineated all of the
characters, leaving only the rounding out of the plot in the final
pages to Mr. Lyon.~

Housed and windowpaned from it, the greatest wonder to little
children is the snow. To men, it is something like a crucible in
which their world melts into a white star ten million miles away.
The man who can stand the test is a Snow Man; and this is his reading
by Fahrenheit, Reaumur, or Moses's carven tablets of stone.

Night had fluttered a sable pinion above the canyon of Big Lost River,
and I urged my horse toward the Bay Horse Ranch because the snow was
deepening. The flakes were as large as an hour's circular tatting by
Miss Wilkins's ablest spinster, betokening a heavy snowfall and less
entertainment and more adventure than the completion of the tatting
could promise. I knew Ross Curtis of the Bay Horse, and that I would
be welcome as a snow-bound pilgrim, both for hospitality's sake and
because Ross had few chances to confide in living creatures who did
not neigh, bellow, bleat, yelp, or howl during his discourse.

The ranch house was just within the jaws of the canyon where its
builder may have fatuously fancied that the timbered and rocky walls
on both sides would have protected it from the wintry Colorado winds;
but I feared the drift. Even now through the endless, bottomless rift
in the hills--the speaking tube of the four winds--came roaring the
voice of the proprietor to the little room on the top floor.

At my "hello," a ranch hand came from an outer building and received
my thankful horse. In another minute, Ross and I sat by a stove in
the dining-room of the four-room ranch house, while the big, simple
welcome of the household lay at my disposal. Fanned by the whizzing
norther, the fine, dry snow was sifted and bolted through the cracks
and knotholes of the logs. The cook room, without a separating door,

In there I could see a short, sturdy, leisurely and weather-beaten
man moving with professional sureness about his red-hot stove.
His face was stolid and unreadable--something like that of a great
thinker, or of one who had no thoughts to conceal. I thought his
eye seemed unwarrantably superior to the elements and to the man,
but quickly attributed that to the characteristic self-importance
of a petty chef. "Camp cook" was the niche that I gave him in the
Hall of Types; and he fitted it as an apple fits a dumpling.

Cold it was in spite of the glowing stove; and Ross and I sat and
talked, shuddering frequently, half from nerves and half from the
freezing draughts. So he brought the bottle and the cook brought
boiling water, and we made prodigious hot toddies against the attacks
of Boreas. We clinked glasses often. They sounded like icicles
dropping from the eaves, or like the tinkle of a thousand prisms on
a Louis XIV chandelier that I once heard at a boarder's dance in the
parlor of a ten-a-week boarding-house in Gramercy Square. ~Sic

Silence in the terrible beauty of the snow and of the Sphinx and of
the stars; but they who believe that all things, from a without-wine
table d'hote to the crucifixion, may be interpreted through music,
might have found a nocturne or a symphony to express the isolation of
that blotted-out world. The clink of glass and bottle, the aeolian
chorus of the wind in the house crannies, its deeper trombone through
the canyon below, and the Wagnerian crash of the cook's pots and pans,
united in a fit, discordant melody, I thought. No less welcome an
accompaniment was the sizzling of broiling ham and venison cutlet
indorsed by the solvent fumes of true Java, bringing rich promises
of comfort to our yearning souls.

The cook brought the smoking supper to the table. He nodded to me
democratically as he cast the heavy plates around as though he were
pitching quoits or hurling the discus. I looked at him with some
appraisement and curiosity and much conciliation. There was no
prophet to tell us when that drifting evil outside might cease to
fall; and it is well, when snow-bound, to stand somewhere within the
radius of the cook's favorable consideration. But I could read
neither favor nor disapproval in the face and manner of our

He was about five feet nine inches, and two hundred pounds of
commonplace, bull-necked, pink-faced, callous calm. He wore brown
duck trousers too tight and too short, and a blue flannel shirt with
sleeves rolled above his elbows. There was a sort of grim, steady
scowl on his features that looked to me as though he had fixed it
there purposely as a protection against the weakness of an inherent
amiability that, he fancied, were better concealed. And then I let
supper usurp his brief occupancy of my thoughts.

"Draw up, George," said Ross. "Let's all eat while the grub's hot."

"You fellows go on and chew," answered the cook. "I ate mine in the
kitchen before sun-down."

"Think it'll be a big snow, George?" asked the ranchman.

George had turned to reenter the cook room. He moved slowly around
and, looking at his face, it seemed to me that he was turning over
the wisdom and knowledge of centuries in his head.

"It might," was his delayed reply.

At the door of the kitchen he stopped and looked back at us. Both
Ross and I held our knives and forks poised and gave him our regard.
Some men have the power of drawing the attention of others without
speaking a word. Their attitude is more effective than a shout.

"And again it mightn't," said George, and went back to his stove.

After we had eaten, he came in and gathered the emptied dishes. He
stood for a moment, while his spurious frown deepened.

"It might stop any minute," he said, "or it might keep up for days."

At the farther end of the cook room I saw George pour hot water into
his dishpan, light his pipe, and put the tableware through its
required lavation. He then carefully unwrapped from a piece of old
saddle blanket a paperback book, and settled himself to read by his
dim oil lamp.

And then the ranchman threw tobacco on the cleared table and set
forth again the bottles and glasses; and I saw that I stood in a deep
channel through which the long dammed flood of his discourse would
soon be booming. But I was half content, comparing my fate with that
of the late Thomas Tucker, who had to sing for his supper, thus
doubling the burdens of both himself and his host.

"Snow is a hell of a thing," said Ross, by way of a foreword. "It
ain't, somehow, it seems to me, salubrious. I can stand water and
mud and two inches below zero and a hundred and ten in the shade and
medium-sized cyclones, but this here fuzzy white stuff naturally gets
me all locoed. I reckon the reason it rattles you is because it
changes the look of things so much. It's like you had a wife and
left her in the morning with the same old blue cotton wrapper on, and
rides in of a night and runs across her all outfitted in a white silk
evening frock, waving an ostrich-feather fan, and monkeying with a
posy of lily flowers. Wouldn't it make you look for your pocket
compass? You'd be liable to kiss her before you collected your
presence of mind."

By and by, the flood of Ross's talk was drawn up into the clouds (so
it pleased me to fancy) and there condensed into the finer snowflakes
of thought; and we sat silent about the stove, as good friends and
bitter enemies will do. I thought of Boss's preamble about the
mysterious influence upon man exerted by that ermine-lined monster
that now covered our little world, and knew he was right.

Of all the curious knickknacks, mysteries, puzzles, Indian gifts,
rat-traps, and well-disguised blessings that the gods chuck down to
us from the Olympian peaks, the most disquieting and evil-bringing
is the snow. By scientific analysis it is absolute beauty and purity
--so, at the beginning we look doubtfully at chemistry.

It falls upon the world, and lo! we live in another. It hides in a
night the old scars and familiar places with which we have grown
heart-sick or enamored. So, as quietly as we can, we hustle on our
embroidered robes and hie us on Prince Camaralzaman's horse or in the
reindeer sleigh into the white country where the seven colors converge.
This is when our fancy can overcome the bane of it.

But in certain spots of the earth comes the snow-madness, made known
by people turned wild and distracted by the bewildering veil that has
obscured the only world they know. In the cities, the white fairy who
sets the brains of her dupes whirling by a wave of her wand is cast
for the comedy role. Her diamond shoe buckles glitter like frost;
with a pirouette she invites the spotless carnival.

But in the waste places the snow is sardonic. Sponging out the world
of the outliers, it gives no foothold on another sphere in return.
It makes of the earth a firmament under foot; it leaves us clawing
and stumbling in space in an inimical fifth element whose evil outdoes
its strangeness and beauty, There Nature, low comedienne, plays her
tricks on man. Though she has put him forth as her highest product,
it appears that she has fashioned him with what seems almost
incredible carelessness and indexterity. One-sided and without
balance, with his two halves unequally fashioned and joined, must he
ever jog his eccentric way. The snow falls, the darkness caps it,
and the ridiculous man-biped strays in accurate circles until he
succumbs in the ruins of his defective architecture.

In the throat of the thirsty the snow is vitriol. In appearance as
plausible as the breakfast food of the angels, it is as hot in the
mouth as ginger, increasing the pangs of the water-famished. It is
a derivative from water, air, and some cold, uncanny fire from which
the caloric has been extracted. Good has been said of it; even the
poets, crazed by its spell and shivering in their attics under its
touch, have indited permanent melodies commemorative of its beauty.

Still, to the saddest overcoated optimist it is a plague--a corroding
plague that Pharaoh successfully side-stepped. It beneficently covers
the wheat fields, swelling the crop--and the Flour Trust gets us by
the throat like a sudden quinsy. It spreads the tail of its white
kirtle over the red seams of the rugged north--and the Alaskan short
story is born. Etiolated perfidy, it shelters the mountain traveler
burrowing from the icy air--and, melting to-morrow, drowns his
brother in the valley below.

At its worst it is lock and key and crucible, and the wand of Circe.
When it corrals man in lonely ranches, mountain cabins, and forest
huts, the snow makes apes and tigers of the hardiest. It turns the
bosoms of weaker ones to glass, their tongues to infants' rattles,
their hearts to lawlessness and spleen. It is not all from the
isolation; the snow is not merely a blockader; it is a Chemical Test.
It is a good man who can show a reaction that is not chiefly composed
of a drachm or two of potash and magnesia, with traces of Adam,
Ananias, Nebuchadnezzar, and the fretful porcupine.

This is no story, you say; well, let it begin.

There was a knock at the door (is the opening not full of context and
reminiscence oh, best buyers of best sellers?).

We drew the latch, and in stumbled Etienne Girod (as he afterward
named himself). But just then he was no more than a worm struggling
for life, enveloped in a killing white chrysalis.

We dug down through snow, overcoats, mufflers, and waterproofs, and
dragged forth a living thing with a Van Dyck beard and marvellous
diamond rings. We put it through the approved curriculum of snow-
rubbing, hot milk, and teaspoonful doses of whiskey, working him up
to a graduating class entitled to a diploma of three fingers of rye
in half a glassful of hot water. One of the ranch boys had already
come from the quarters at Ross's bugle-like yell and kicked the
stranger's staggering pony to some sheltered corral where beasts were

Let a paragraphic biography of Girod intervene.

Etienne was an opera singer originally, we gathered; but adversity
and the snow had made him ~non compos vocis~. The adversity consisted
of the stranded San Salvador Opera Company, a period of hotel second-
story work, and then a career as a professional palmist, jumping from
town to town. For, like other professional palmists, every time he
worked the Heart Line too strongly he immediately moved along the Line
of Least Resistance. Though Etienne did not confide this to us, we
surmised that he had moved out into the dusk about twenty minutes
ahead of a constable, and had thus encountered the snow. In his most
sacred blue language he dilated upon the subject of snow; for Etienne
was Paris-born and loved the snow with the same passion that an orchid

"Mee-ser-rhable!" commented Etienne, and took another three fingers.

"Complete, cast-iron, pussy-footed, blank... blank!" said Ross, and
followed suit.

"Rotten," said I.

The cook said nothing. He stood in the door weighing our outburst;
and insistently from behind that frozen visage I got two messages
(via the M. A. M wireless). One was that George considered our
vituperation against the snow childish; the other was that George did
not love Dagoes. Inasmuch as Etienne was a Frenchman, I concluded I
had the message wrong. So I queried the other: "Bright eyes, you
don't really mean Dagoes, do you?" and over the wireless came three
deathly, psychic taps: "Yes." Then I reflected that to George all
foreigners were probably "Dagoes." I had once known another camp
cook who had thought Mons., Sig., and Millie (Trans-Mississippi for
Mlle.) were Italian given names; this cook used to marvel therefore
at the paucity of Neo-Roman precognomens, and therefore why not--

I have said that snow is a test of men. For one day, two days,
Etienne stood at the window, Fletcherizing his finger nails and
shrieking and moaning at the monotony. To me, Etienne was just
about as unbearable as the snow; and so, seeking relief, I went out
on the second day to look at my horse, slipped on a stone, broke my
collarbone, and thereafter underwent not the snow test, but the test
of flat-on-the-back. A test that comes once too often for any man to

However, I bore up cheerfully. I was now merely a spectator, and
from my couch in the big room I could lie and watch the human
interplay with that detached, impassive, impersonal feeling which
French writers tell us is so valuable to the litterateur, and American
writers to the faro-dealer.

"I shall go crazy in this abominable, mee-ser-rhable place!" was
Etienne's constant prediction.

"Never knew Mark Twain to bore me before," said Ross, over and over.
He sat by the other window, hour after hour, a box of Pittsburg
stogies of the length, strength, and odor of a Pittsburg graft scandal
deposited on one side of him, and "Roughing It," "The Jumping Frog,"
and "Life on the Mississippi" on the other. For every chapter he lit
a new stogy, puffing furiously. This in time, gave him a recurrent
premonition of cramps, gastritis, smoker's colic or whatever it is
they have in Pittsburg after a too deep indulgence in graft scandals.
To fend off the colic, Ross resorted time and again to Old Doctor
Still's Amber-Colored U. S. A. Colic Cure. Result, after forty-eight

"Positive fact I never knew Mark Twain to make me tired before.
Positive fact." Ross slammed "Roughing It" on the floor. "When
you're snowbound this-away you want tragedy, I guess. Humor just
seems to bring out all your cussedness. You read a man's poor,
pitiful attempts to be funny and it makes you so nervous you want to
tear the book up, get out your bandana, and have a good, long cry."

At the other end of the room, the Frenchman took his finger nails out
of his mouth long enough to exclaim: "Humor! Humor at such a time
as thees! My God, I shall go crazy in thees abominable--"

"Supper," announced George.

These meals were not the meals of Rabelais who said, "the great God
makes the planets and we make the platters neat." By that time, the
ranch-house meals were not affairs of gusto; they were mental
distraction, not bodily provender. What they were to be later shall
never be forgotten by Ross or me or Etienne.

After supper, the stogies and finger nails began again. My shoulder
ached wretchedly, and with half-closed eyes I tried to forget it by
watching the deft movements of the stolid cook.

Suddenly I saw him cock his ear, like a dog. Then, with a swift
step, he moved to the door, threw it open, and stood there.

The rest of us had heard nothing.

"What is it, George?" asked Ross.

The cook reached out his hand into the darkness alongside the jamb.
With careful precision he prodded something. Then he made one
careful step into the snow. His back muscles bulged a little under
the arms as he stooped and lightly lifted a burden. Another step
inside the door, which he shut methodically behind him, and he dumped
the burden at a safe distance from the fire.

He stood up and fixed us with a solemn eye. None of us moved under
that Orphic suspense until,

"A woman," remarked George.

Miss Willie Adams was her name. Vocation, school-teacher. Present
avocation, getting lost in the snow. Age, yum-yum (the Persian
for twenty). Take to the woods if you would describe Miss Adams.
A willow for grace; a hickory for fibre; a birch for the clear
whiteness of her skin; for eyes, the blue sky seen through treetops;
the silk in cocoons for her hair; her voice, the murmur of the evening
June wind in the leaves; her mouth, the berries of the wintergreen;
fingers as light as ferns; her toe as small as a deer track. General
impression upon the dazed beholder--you could not see the forest for
the trees.

Psychology, with a capital P and the foot of a lynx, at this juncture
stalks into the ranch house. Three men, a cook, a pretty young woman
--all snowbound. Count me out of it, as I did not count, anyway. I
never did, with women. Count the cook out, if you like. But note the
effect upon Ross and Etienne Girod.

Ross dumped Mark Twain in a trunk and locked the trunk. Also, he
discarded the Pittsburg scandals. Also, he shaved off a three days'

Etienne, being French, began on the beard first. He pomaded it, from
a little tube of grease Hongroise in his vest pocket. He combed it
with a little aluminum comb from the same vest pocket. He trimmed it
with manicure scissors from the same vest pocket. His light and
Gallic spirits underwent a sudden, miraculous change. He hummed a
blithe San Salvador Opera Company tune; he grinned, smirked, bowed,
pirouetted, twiddled, twaddled, twisted, and tooralooed. Gayly, the
notorious troubadour, could not have equalled Etienne.

Ross's method of advance was brusque, domineering. "Little woman,"
he said, "you're welcome here!"--and with what he thought subtle
double meaning--"welcome to stay here as long as you like, snow or
no snow."

Miss Adams thanked him a little wildly, some of the wintergreen
berries creeping into the birch bark. She looked around hurriedly as
if seeking escape. But there was none, save the kitchen and the room
allotted her. She made an excuse and disappeared into her own room.

Later I, feigning sleep, heard the following:

"Mees Adams, I was almost to perislh-die-of monotony w'en your fair
and beautiful face appear in thees mee-ser-rhable house." I opened my
starboard eye. The beard was being curled furiously around a finger,
the Svengali eye was rolling, the chair was being hunched closer to
the school-teacher's. "I am French--you see--temperamental--nervous!
I cannot endure thees dull hours in thees ranch house; but--a woman
comes! Ah!" The shoulders gave nine 'rahs and a tiger. "What a
difference! All is light and gay; ever'ting smile w'en you smile.
You have 'eart, beauty, grace. My 'eart comes back to me w'en I feel
your 'eart. So!" He laid his hand upon his vest pocket. From this
vantage point he suddenly snatched at the school-teacher's own hand,
"Ah! Mees Adams, if I could only tell you how I ad--"

"Dinner," remarked George. He was standing just behind the
Frenchman's ear. His eyes looked straight into the school-teacher's
eyes. After thirty seconds of survey, his lips moved, deep in the
flinty, frozen maelstrom of his face: "Dinner," he concluded, "will
be ready in two minutes."

Miss Adams jumped to her feet, relieved. "I must get ready for
dinner," she said brightly, and went into her room.

Ross came in fifteen minutes late. After the dishes had been cleaned
away, I waited until a propitious time when the room was temporarily
ours alone, and told him what had happened.

He became so excited that he lit a stogy without thinking. "Yeller-
hided, unwashed, palm-readin' skunk," he said under his breath. "I'll
shoot him full o' holes if he don't watch out--talkin' that way to my

I gave a jump that set my collarbone back another week. "Your wife!"
I gasped.

"Well, I mean to make her that," he announced.

The air in the ranch house the rest of that day was tense with pent-up
emotions, oh, best buyers of best sellers.

Ross watched Miss Adams as a hawk does a hen; he watched Etienne as
a hawk does a scarecrow, Etienne watched Miss Adams as a weasel does
a henhouse. He paid no attention to Ross.

The condition of Miss Adams, in the role of sought-after, was
feverish. Lately escaped from the agony and long torture of the white
cold, where for hours Nature had kept the little school-teacher's
vision locked in and turned upon herself, nobody knows through what
profound feminine introspections she had gone. Now, suddenly cast
among men, instead of finding relief and security, she beheld herself
plunged anew into other discomforts. Even in her own room she could
hear the loud voices of her imposed suitors. "I'll blow you full o'
holes!" shouted Ross. "Witnesses," shrieked Etienne, waving his
hand at the cook and me. She could not have known the previous
harassed condition of the men, fretting under indoor conditions. All
she knew was, that where she had expected the frank freemasonry of
the West, she found the subtle tangle of two men's minds, bent upon
exacting whatever romance there might be in her situation.

She tried to dodge Ross and the Frenchman by spells of nursing me.
They also came over to help nurse. This combination aroused such a
natural state of invalid cussedness on my part that they were all
forced to retire. Once she did manage to whisper: "I am so worried
here. I don't know what to do."

To which I replied, gently, hitching up my shoulder, that I was a
hunch-savant and that the Eighth House under this sign, the Moon being
in Virgo, showed that everything would turn out all right.

But twenty minutes later I saw Etienne reading her palm and felt that
perhaps I might have to recast her horoscope, and try for a dark man
coming with a bundle.

Toward sunset, Etienne left the house for a few moments and Ross, who
had been sitting taciturn and morose, having unlocked Mark Twain, made
another dash. It was typical Ross talk.

He stood in front of her and looked down majestically at that cool
and perfect spot where Miss Adams' forehead met the neat part in her
fragrant hair. First, however, he cast a desperate glance at me. I
was in a profound slumber.

"Little woman," he began, "it's certainly tough for a man like me to
see you bothered this way. You"--gulp--"you have been alone in this
world too long. You need a protector. I might say that at a time
like this you need a protector the worst kind--a protector who would
take a three-ring delight in smashing the saffron-colored kisser off
of any yeller-skinned skunk that made himself obnoxious to you. Hem.
Hem. I am a lonely man, Miss Adams. I have so far had to carry on
my life without the"--gulp--"sweet radiance"--gulp--"of a woman around
the house. I feel especially doggoned lonely at a time like this,
when I am pretty near locoed from havin' to stall indoors, and hence
it was with delight I welcomed your first appearance in this here
shack. Since then I have been packed jam full of more different kinds
of feelings, ornery, mean, dizzy, and superb, than has fallen my way
in years."

Miss Adams made a useless movement toward escape. The Ross chin stuck
firm. "I don't want to annoy you, Miss Adams, but, by heck, if it
comes to that you'll have to be annoyed. And I'll have to have my
say. This palm-ticklin' slob of a Frenchman ought to be kicked off
the place and if you'll say the word, off he goes. But I don't want
to do the wrong thing. You've got to show a preference. I'm gettin'
around to the point, Miss--Miss Willie, in my own brick fashion. I've
stood about all I can stand these last two days and somethin's got to
happen. The suspense hereabouts is enough to hang a sheepherder.
Miss Willie"--he lassooed her hand by main force--"just say the word.
You need somebody to take your part all your life long. Will you

"Supper," remarked George, tersely, from the kitchen door.

Miss Adams hurried away.

Ross turned angrily. "You--"

"I have been revolving it in my head," said George.

He brought the coffee pot forward heavily. Then bravely the big
platter of pork and beans. Then somberly the potatoes. Then
profoundly the biscuits. "I have been revolving it in my mind.
There ain't no use waitin' any longer for Swengalley. Might as
well eat now."

>From my excellent vantage-point on the couch I watched the progress
of that meal. Ross, muddled, glowering, disappointed; Etienne,
eternally blandishing, attentive, ogling; Miss Adams, nervous, picking
at her food, hesitant about answering questions, almost hysterical;
now and then the solid, flitting shadow of the cook, passing behind
their backs like a Dreadnaught in a fog.

I used to own a clock which gurgled in its throat three minutes
before it struck the hour. I know, therefore, the slow freight of
Anticipation. For I have awakened at three in the morning, heard the
clock gurgle, and waited those three minutes for the three strokes I
knew were to come. ~Alors~. In Ross's ranch house that night the
slow freight of Climax whistled in the distance.

Etienne began it after supper. Miss Aclams had suddenly displayed a
lively interest in the kitchen layout and I could see her in there,
chatting brightly at George--not with him--the while he ducked his
head and rattled his pans.

"My fren'," said Etienne, exhaling a large cloud from his cigarette
and patting Ross lightly on the shoulder with a bediamonded hand
which, hung limp from a yard or more of bony arm, "I see I mus' be
frank with you. Firs', because we are rivals; second, because you
take these matters so serious. I--I am Frenchman. I love the women"
--he threw back his curls, bared his yellow teeth, and blew an
unsavory kiss toward the kitchen. "It is, I suppose, a trait of my
nation. All Frenchmen love the women--pretty women. Now, look:
Here I am!" He spread out his arms. "Cold outside! I detes' the
col-l-l! Snow! I abominate the mees-ser-rhable snow! Two men!
This--" pointing to me--"an' this!" Pointing to' Ross. "I am
distracted! For two whole days I stan' at the window an' tear my
'air! I am nervous, upset, pr-r-ro-foun'ly distress inside my 'ead!
An' suddenly--be'old! A woman, a nice, pretty, charming, innocen'
young woman! I, naturally, rejoice. I become myself again--gay,
light-'earted, "appy. I address myself to mademoiselle; it passes
the time. That, m'sieu', is wot the women are for--pass the time!
Entertainment--like the music, like the wine!

"They appeal to the mood, the caprice, the temperamen'. To play with
thees woman, follow her through her humor, pursue her--ah! that is
the mos' delightful way to sen' the hours about their business."

Ross banged the table. "Shut up, you miserable yeller pup!" he
roared. "I object to your pursuin' anything or anybody in my house.
Now, you listen to me, you--" He picked up the box of stogies and
used it on the table as an emphasizer. The noise of it awoke the
attention of the girl in the kitchen. Unheeded, she crept into the
room. "I don't know anything about your French ways of lovemakin' an'
I don't care. In my section of the country, it's the best man wins.
And I'm the best man here, and don't you forget it! This girl's goin'
to be mine. There ain't g'oing to be any playing, or philandering,
or palm reading about it. I've made up my mind I'll have this girl,
and that settles it. My word is the law in this neck o' the woods.
She's mine, and as soon as she says she's mine, you pull out." The
box made one final, tremendous punctuation point.

Etienne's bravado was unruffled. "Ah! that is no way to win a woman,"
he smiled, easily. "I make prophecy you will never win 'er that way.
No. Not thees woman. She mus' be played along an' then keessed, this
charming, delicious little creature. One kees! An' then you 'ave
her." Again he displayed his unpleasant teeth. "I make you a bet I
will kees her--"

As a cheerful chronicler of deeds done well, it joys me to relate
that the hand which fell upon Etienne's amorous lips was not his own.
There was one sudden sound, as of a mule kicking a lath fence, and
then--through the swinging doors of oblivion for Etienne.

I had seen this blow delivered. It was an aloof, unstudied, almost
absent-minded affair. I had thought the cook was rehearsing the
proper method of turning a flapjack.

Silently, lost in thought, he stood there scratching his head. Then
he began rolling down his sleeves.

"You'd better get your things on, Miss, and we'll get out of here,"
he decided. "Wrap up warm."

I heard her heave a little sigh of relief as she went to get her
cloak, sweater, and hat.

Ross jumped to his feet, and said: "George, what are you goin'
to do?"

George, who had been headed in my direction, slowly swivelled around
and faced his employer. "Bein' a camp cook, I ain't over-burdened
with hosses," George enlightened us. "Therefore, I am going to try
to borrow this feller's here."

For the first time in four days my soul gave a genuine cheer. "If
it's for Lochinvar purposes, go as far as you like," I said, grandly.

The cook studied me a moment, as if trying to find an insult in my
words. "No," he replied. "It's for mine and the young lady's
purposes, and we'll go only three miles--to Hicksville. Now let me
tell you somethin', Ross." Suddenly I was confronted with the cook's
chunky back and I heard a low, curt, carrying voice shoot through the
room at my host. George had wheeled just as Ross started to speak.
"You're nutty. That's what's the matter with you. You can't stand
the snow. You're getting nervouser, and nuttier every day. That and
this Dago"--he jerked a thumb at the half-dead Frenchman in the
corner--"has got you to the point where I thought I better horn in.
I got to revolving it around in my mind and I seen if somethin'
wasn't done, and done soon, there'd be murder around here and maybe"
--his head gave an imperceptible list toward the girl's room--"worse."

He stopped, but he held up a stubby finger to keep any one else from
speaking. Then he plowed slowly through the drift of his ideas.
"About this here woman. I know you, Ross, and I know what you reely
think about women. If she hadn't happened in here durin' this here
snow, you'd never have given two thoughts to the whole woman question.
Likewise, when the storm clears, and you and the boys go hustlin' out,
this here whole business 'll clear out of your head and you won't
think of a skirt again until Kingdom Come. Just because o' this snow
here, don't forget you're living in the selfsame world you was in four
days ago. And you're the same man, too. Now, what's the use o'
getting all snarled up over four days of stickin' in the house? That
there's what I been revolvin' in my mind and this here's the decision
I've come to."

He plodded to the door and shouted to one of the ranch hands to saddle
my horse.

Ross lit a stogy and stood thoughtful in the middle of the room. Then
he began: "I've a durn good notion, George, to knock your confounded
head off and throw you into that snowbank, if--"

"You're wrong, mister. That ain't a durned good notion you've got.
It's durned bad. Look here!" He pointed steadily out of doors until
we were both forced to follow his finger. "You're in here for more'n
a week yet." After allowing this fact to sink in, he barked out at
Ross: "Can you cook?" Then at me: "Can you cook?" Then he looked
at the wreck of Etienne and sniffed.

There was an embarrassing silence as Ross and I thought solemnly of
a foodless week.

"If you just use hoss sense," concluded George, "and don't go for to
hurt my feelin's, all I want to do is to take this young gal down to
Hicksville; and then I'll head back here and cook fer you."

The horse and Miss Adams arrived simultaneously, both of them very
serious and quiet. The horse because he knew what he had before him
in that weather; the girl because of what she had left behind.

Then all at once I awoke to a realization of what the cook was doing.
"My God, man!" I cried, "aren't you afraid to go out in that snow?"

Behind my back I heard Ross mutter, "Not him."

George lifted the girl daintily up behind the saddle, drew on his
gloves, put his foot in the stirrup, and turned to inspect me

As I passed slowly in his review, I saw in my mind's eye the
algebraic equation of Snow, the equals sign, and the answer in
the man before me.

"Snow is my last name," said George. He swung into the saddle
and they started cautiously out into the darkening swirl of fresh
new currency just issuing from the Snowdrop Mint. The girl, to keep
her place, clung happily to the sturdy figure of the camp cook.

I brought three things away from Ross Curtis's ranch house--yes,
four. One was the appreciation of snow, which I have so humbly
tried here to render; (2) was a collarbone, of which I am extra
careful; (3) was a memory of what it is to eat very extremely bad
food for a week; and (4) was the cause of (3) a little note delivered
at the end of the week and hand-painted in blue pencil on a sheet of
meat paper.

"I cannot come back there to that there job. Mrs. Snow say no,
George. I been revolvin' it in my mind; considerin' circumstances
she's right."

© Art Branch Inc. | English Dictionary