A Mountain Woman and Other Stories
The Three Johns
THE equinoctial line itself is not more imaginary than the line which divided the estates
of the three Johns. The herds of the three Johns roamed at will, and nibbled the short
grass far and near without let or hindrance; and the three Johns themselves were utterly
indifferent as to boundary lines. Each of them had filed his application at the office of the
government land-agent; each was engaged in the tedious task of "proving up;" and each
owned one-third of the L-shaped cabin which stood at the point where the three ranches
touched. The hundred and sixty acres which would have completed this quadrangle had
not yet been "taken up."
The three Johns were not anxious to have a neighbor. Indeed, they had made up their
minds that if one appeared on that adjoining "hun'erd an' sixty," it would go hard with
him. For they did not deal in justice very much -- the three Johns. They considered it
effete. It belonged in the East along with other outgrown superstitions. And they had
given it out widely that it would be healthier for land applicants to give them elbow-
room. It took a good many miles of sunburnt prairie to afford elbow-room for the three
They met by accident in Hamilton at the land-office. John Henderson, fresh from
Cincinnati, manifestly unused to the ways of the country, looked at John Gillispie with a
lurking smile. Gillispie wore a sombrero, fresh, white, and expansive. His boots had high
heels, and were of elegant leather and finely arched at the instep. His corduroys
disappeared in them half-way up the thigh. About his waist a sash of blue held a laced
shirt of the same color in place. Henderson puffed at his cigarette, and continued to look a
Suddenly Gillispie walked up to him and said, in a voice of complete suavity, "Damn
yeh, smoke a pipe!"
"Eh?" said Henderson, stupidly.
"Smoke a pipe," said the other. "That thing you have is bad for your complexion."
"I can take care of my complexion," said Henderson, firmly.
The two looked each other straight in the eye.
"You don't go on smoking that thing till you have apologized for that grin you had on
your phiz a moment ago."
"I laugh when I please, and I smoke what I please," said Henderson, hotly, his face
flaming as he realized that he was in for his first "row."