The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Stories
The Idyl Of Red Gulch
Sandy was very drunk. He was lying under an azalea bush, in pretty much the same
attitude in which he had fallen some hours before. How long he had been lying there he
could not tell, and didn't care; how long he should lie there was a matter equally
indefinite and unconsidered. A tranquil philosophy, born of his physical condition,
suffused and saturated his moral being.
The spectacle of a drunken man, and of this drunken man in particular, was not, I grieve
to say, of sufficient novelty in Red Gulch to attract attention. Earlier in the day some
local satirist had erected a temporary tombstone at Sandy's head, bearing the inscription,
"Effects of McCorkle's whisky--kills at forty rods," with a hand pointing to McCorkle's
saloon. But this, I imagine, was, like most local satire, personal; and was a reflection
upon the unfairness of the process rather than a commentary upon the impropriety of the
result. With this facetious exception, Sandy had been undisturbed. A wandering mule,
released from his pack, had cropped the scant herbage beside him, and sniffed curiously
at the prostrate man; a vagabond dog, with that deep sympathy which the species have for
drunken men, had licked his dusty boots, and curled himself up at his feet, and lay there,
blinking one eye in the sunlight, with a simulation of dissipation that was ingenious and
doglike in its implied flattery of the unconscious man beside him.
Meanwhile the shadows of the pine trees had slowly swung around until they crossed the
road, and their trunks barred the open meadow with gigantic parallels of black and
yellow. Little puffs of red dust, lifted by the plunging hoofs of passing teams, dispersed
in a grimy shower upon the recumbent man. The sun sank lower and lower; and still
Sandy stirred not. And then the repose of this philosopher was disturbed, as other
philosophers have been, by the intrusion of an unphilosophical sex.
"Miss Mary," as she was known to the little flock that she had just dismissed from the log
schoolhouse beyond the pines, was taking her afternoon walk. Observing an unusually
fine cluster of blossoms on the azalea bush opposite, she crossed the road to pluck it--
picking her way through the red dust, not without certain fierce little shivers of disgust
and some feline circumlocution. And then she came suddenly upon Sandy!
Of course she uttered the little staccato cry of her sex. But when she had paid that tribute
to her physical weakness she became overbold, and halted for a moment--at least six feet
from this prostrate monster--with her white skirts gathered in her hand, ready for flight.
But neither sound nor motion came from the bush. With one little foot she then
overturned the satirical headboard, and muttered "Beasts!"--an epithet which probably, at
that moment, conveniently classified in her mind the entire male population of Red
Gulch. For Miss Mary, being possessed of certain rigid notions of her own, had not,
perhaps, properly appreciated the demonstrative gallantry for which the Californian has
been so justly celebrated by his brother Californians, and had, as a newcomer, perhaps
fairly earned the reputation of being "stuck-up."