The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Stories
We all remembered very distinctly Bulger's advent in Rattlesnake Camp. It was during
the rainy season--a season singularly inducive to settled reflective impressions as we sat
and smoked around the stove in Mosby's grocery. Like older and more civilized
communities, we had our periodic waves of sentiment and opinion, with the exception
that they were more evanescent with us, and as we had just passed through a fortnight of
dissipation and extravagance, owing to a visit from some gamblers and speculators, we
were now undergoing a severe moral revulsion, partly induced by reduced finances and
partly by the arrival of two families with grownup daughters on the hill. It was raining,
with occasional warm breaths, through the open window, of the southwest trades,
redolent of the saturated spices of the woods and springing grasses, which perhaps were
slightly inconsistent with the hot stove around which we had congregated. But the stove
was only an excuse for our listless, gregarious gathering; warmth and idleness went well
together, and it was currently accepted that we had caught from the particular reptile
which gave its name to our camp much of its pathetic, lifelong search for warmth, and its
habit of indolently basking in it.
A few of us still went through the affectation of attempting to dry our damp clothes by
the stove, and sizzling our wet boots against it; but as the same individuals calmly
permitted the rain to drive in upon them through the open window without moving, and
seemed to take infinite delight in the amount of steam they generated, even that pretense
dropped. Crotalus himself, with his tail in a muddy ditch, and the sun striking cold fire
from his slit eyes as he basked his head on a warm stone beside it, could not have typified
Percy Briggs took his pipe from his mouth at last and said, with reflective severity:
"Well, gentlemen, if we can't get the wagon road over here, and if we're going to be left
out by the stagecoach company, we can at least straighten up the camp, and not have it
look like a cross between a tenement alley and a broken-down circus. I declare, I was just
sick when these two Baker girls started to make a short cut through the camp. Darned if
they didn't turn round and take to the woods and the rattlers again afore they got halfway.
And that benighted idiot, Tom Rollins, standin' there in the ditch, spattered all over with
slumgullion 'til he looked like a spotted tarrypin, wavin' his fins and sashaying backwards
and forrards and sayin', 'This way, ladies; this way!'"
"I didn't," returned Tom Rollins, quite casually, without looking up from his steaming
boots; "I didn't start in night afore last to dance 'The Green Corn Dance' outer 'Hiawatha,'
with feathers in my hair and a red blanket on my shoulders, round that family's new
potato patch, in order that it might 'increase and multiply.' I didn't sing 'Sabbath Morning
Bells' with an anvil accompaniment until twelve o'clock at night over at the Crossing, so
that they might dream of their Happy Childhood's Home. It seems to me that it wasn't me
did it. I might be mistaken--it was late--but I have the impression that it wasn't me."