Deadwood Dick's Doom; or, Calamity Jane's Last Adventure
THE STRANGERS SING.
HANK SHAKESPEARE was one of the ruling spirits of Death Notch,
inasmuch as he was the bully over all, and always ripe for a quarrel or
One by one he had worsted each of the residents of the town, down
to the captain, Piute Dave, in a fair and square fight, and that fact
had by no means lessened his esteem of his own prowess, so that he was
never backward about waltzing right into a quarrel.
His word, next to that of Piute Dave, was regarded as law, and
the majority of the roughs would have followed him in case of a split
rather than the captain, who was of even a worse disposition than his
bull-dog companion, for he was ever too ready to draw a weapon and shoot
down a fellow at little or no offense.
Therefore when Shakespeare proposed to have a concert from the
newly-arrived songsters, no one offered demur thereat, bemuse to arouse
ire of the burly bullwhacker, was to give the signal for a fight, "from
the word go."
Therefore after supper, a gang headed by the festive Shakespeare,
who had imbibed more "bootlegs" than was good for accurate locomotion,
made a precipitate descent into the Poker House, and ordered the drinks,
while the poet with his "smile" in hand, mounted the deal table nearest
the bar, and addressed the uncouth assemblage around him:
"Feller-citizens! Noble representatives of the moral town o'
Death Notch! It becomes my duty ter rise in front o' ye like a bellowin'
buff'ler bull ter make an announcement. Ay, my noble guzzlers, I've a
great bit o' news fer ye. We're on ther eve o' a great event. We have in
our midst a human phenomen-as Shakespeare, Sr., sed:
'A maiden fair wi' voice like a dream-er,
Yes, ye long-eared pilgrims, yer 'umble sarvint has jest made the
diskivery that Sara Bernhardt Nillson, the famous singer is hyer in
Death Notch-she who has appeared afore all ther crowned heads o' Europe
She sings an' she plays -- s'e's a reg'lar screamer.'
"An' what d're think, my noble councilmen and tax-payers? What
d'ye surmise this distinguished singist perposes ter do? Why!
thunderation, sirs! she calculates ter give our critical city o' Death
Notch ther death shake, an' not open her vocal bugle short o' Hell-ener.
Now, then, my prickly pears o' ther desert, I rise to promulgate the
extemporaneous question-aire we ter be snubbed like this? Aire we to be
cheated out o' heerin ther singist vocalize in our own aristocratic
sphere? I say no! -- in clarion notes I scream nay! Sum immortal poet in
past ages hez sed very skientifially
'It pleases mortal man ter feast--
an' hyar's ther very beast as requires music ter anoint ther ragged
volcanic edge o' his errupted buzzom. What d'ye ray, galoots- we invite
ther gal ter favor us wi' some o' her fu'st class tunes?"
Musick alone ter soothe ther savage beast;'
A cheer was the answer.
The idea was favored by all that rough assemblage.
"Then will I fotch forth ther great warbler from her
conservatory!" the bullwhacker cried, and leaping from the table, and
drawing a pair of revolvers, he left the room.
Up the stairs two steps at a time, he went and rapped at the door
of Miss Verner's room, peremptorily.
The young woman opened it in great surprise her face paling as
she saw the great gaunt bullwhacker.
"'Scuse me, mum," he said, bowing, "but ye see ther b'yees hev
found out they ye're a singist, an' they allow thet ther likeliest thing
ye kin do is ter comedown an' sing fer 'em. They're dead for music, and'
tho, they're ruther a rough lot, ef ye sing yer purtiest, an' ther
nigger too, I opine you'll be all right."
"Oh! sir, you must excuse me," Virgie cried in distress, "I
cannot sing, to-night -- really I cannot."
"But you must, mum. Ye see how ther boys aire all on the squi
vive ter heer ye vocalize, an' app'inted me as a delegate ter represent
'em an' say ef ye don't waltze down an' sing fer 'em, I am ter shoot ye
on ther spot. Ye perseeve we're old business, we daisies o' Death Notch;
when a mule gits balky we allus drap him wi'out any prelima'ary parley;
thatfore, we allow thet ef ye edify us wi' a few songs, an' the nigger,
too, yer safety will be an assured fact, an' ef ye don't, we'll hev ter
speck fer a parson ter preech yer funeral sermon, ter-morrer."
"Oh! Nic, what shall we do?" Miss Verner said, turning to the
darky, pale and trembling.
"What shall we do?"
"'Spec's de bestest t'ing we can do is to gub 'em some music,
rather dan git de top of our heads blowed off. Bress dis yar Chile ef
he's qwine to git in trouble when de banjo will git him out. Jos' you
git youh gittar, Miss Virgie, an' I'se a raccoon if we can't stir 'em
"Perhaps you are right, Nic, but I wish we had never come here!"
the girl said, as she procured a handsome guitar from her trunk, and
then she and the darky, who was armed with a banjo, followed the
bullwhacker down the stairs into the crowded bar-room.
A loud cheer greeted their advent, from the ruffian assemblage
among whom were many of the most bold and lawless desperadoes on the
border-men who had waded in crime and ruffianism all their lives, and
had lost all sense of manliness or feeling, further than for their own
"Hyar' ther stage, mum!" Shakespeare said, indicating the bar
counter. "Shall I help ye up?"
"You need not trouble yourself," Virgie replied, stepping upon a
chair, thence upon a table, and then to the bar, where three chairs had
Nicodemus followed, and likewise the bullwhacker Shakespeare, who
had evidently assumed the self-appointed position of master of
ceremonies, for he arose when the two singers were seated, and glanced
his audience over, with an important "ahem!" as if to call attention to
the fact that he was the central figure of the forthcoming
"Feller citerzens," he began, "this is an awe-inspiring and
sublime occasion, when with swelling bosom of pride, I am enabled to
present for your approval ther stars of two countries, Europe and
Africa, consolerdated inter one stupendous aggravation. Et does me
proud, my noble pack o' guzzlers, ter represent this great phalanx o'
talent, and in commemoration o' this great occasion my poetical brain
hat conceived a versical offering, which I beg leave ter precipitate at
ye, as a prelude o' ther cat-wattling immediately ter foller. Et is
entitled 'Ther B'iled Shirt,' an' was founded on true incerdents."
Then clearing big threat, the bullwhacker laid one hand
dramatically across his breast and began
"Et war six years ago ter-day
When Deadwood, furst, thar struck,
A tender-fut from Jarsey Cit',
Togged out in spotless duck.
Oh! ye bet he war a gallus pill!
But ov money, run a-muck!
He waltzed inter ther' Flush,' ker-slap-
Ther Flask 'war squar' fer deal,
Tho' that war sum who sed that Pete
War up ter sundry steal.
But I could never quite believe,
Thet Pete would stoop ter 'feel.'
Down by their board ther 'tender' sat;
I see'd 'twer desprit in his eye,
As on his snow-flake kids he spat
An' sed -- Wi' me it's rocks or -- die!'
An' tho' no pig-tail cuss war he
I thort o' poor Bill Nye.
Sez he ter Pete -- his words war low
Old Pards, I'm broke -- I hev no "dirt;"
But I'm so dry-give me a show
Jest, go a V. agin' my shirt
Et's b'iled an' clean, so don't be mean;
Ter lose et, would my feelin's hurt.'
The keerds was split upon ther 'put'
An' dealt-the tender he war low,
Fer Pete he held an orful hand,
An' scooped his jags o' ev'ry show,
He raked a trick
Fer every throw.
We laid the tender-fut ter rest;
O' arsenic he'd tuck a bowl;
He lost ther b'iled shirt from his breast,
An' then hed sought another goal.
We did ther 'white,' ye see, at best-
We chucked him in a 'prospect hole!'"
A tremendous cheer greeted the conclusion of the bullwhacker's
recitation, for the sentiment of the rude effusion hit the rough
audience in a tender spot. Any man guilty of wearing a b'iled shirt had
no sympathy from them, no matter what his troubles.
"Now we'll hear from the nigger!" Shakespeare said, jumping down
from his counter, among the crowd. "After ther nigger, the gal."
"I'se no niggah, sah!" Nicodemus retorted, arising and glaring
down at his audience. "I'se Nicodemus Johnsing a cullud gentleman."
This elicited a roar of laughter, but when the darky took hold of
the banjo and began to pound it in a wonderfully scientific manner,
accompanying the music with burlesque songs, he held his audience
No such banjo playing had they ever heard or seen, for he would
toss the homely instrument and catch it again without interrupting the
current of his playing, and besides his songs were laughable and
original absurdities, well rendered.
Encore after encore greeted his artistic efforts, and each time
he responded with something a little better.
It was during the darky's playing that the door opened and a now-
comer strode into the room.
A murmur of "The Captain" and "Piute Dave" passed among those who
noticed his entrance, and several nodded to him, and then toward Miss
Vernon, who sat beside her sable companion with a pale face, and eyes
that flashed with indignation at being thus forced to serve as a
staring-block for a crowd of ruffians, who had neither pity nor respect
Piute Dave was fully on a part with his townsmen, as far as being
villainous-looking was concerned. He was a tall, heavy-set man of some
five-and thirty years, and looked like one who it would be hard to
handle, in a struggle.
In race he was dark, bloated and sinister, with shaggy brows,
cold gray eyes of evil expression, a sensual mouth shaded by a bristling
black mustache, and a thick neck and chin, the latter ornamented with a
He was attired in knee-boots, light-colored trowsers, red shirt
open at the throat, corduroy jacket, and wide-rimmed hat, while a belt
about his waist contained a brace of handsomely trimmed revolvers.
He paused not far from the door, and with his hands thrust in his
pockets, fixed his gaze upon the girl upon the bar-a gaze intense in its
Virgie felt it, by some instinct, and turned to glance at the
man-met the gaze and then shudderingly averted her eyes.
Though terrible to her were the glances of the others, the eyes
of this man sent a thrill of horror through her being. She felt that in
him she had a designing villain to cope with-and she was not wrong.
Piute Dave was a villain-a fierce, self-willed ruffian, who
hesitated at no dark and terrible deed that would further his purpose.
More than one of those who had come to Death Notch to avoid Judge
Lynch's noose, had fallen by his hand, for a trivial offense, and there
was not a man in the town who did not stand in fear of him, even
including the poetical Shakespeare.
After his singing nearly a dozen different comic songs, the
audience seemed to grow tired of Nicodemus and a call was made for the
girl to sing!
"Yes, gal, let's heer frum you," the bullwhacker ordered, rubbing
his bands together, greedily. "You're ther very nightingale w'at our
ears acheth to hear. Give us a sorter o' Methodist tune-suthin' what'll
make us feel solemncolly like. As my late lamented namesake,
Shakespeare, has been known on several occasions to remark:
'Ketch a bird on ther wing,
Virgie saw that there was nothing left for her to do but to comply with
the demand of her rough audience, as she was alone, with the exception
of Nick, among strangers, and without defense.
And force it ter sing,
An' all in god time,
You'll hev music sublime.'"
She had already made up her mind to get through the concert as
best she could, and afterward attempt to escape from the town.
Therefore, tuning her guitar, which was a fine-toned instrument,
she selected a ballad from her repertory entitled- "My Dear Old Mother
Face," and sung it through in a sweet, pathetic voice.
Every man in the room stood in utter silence as though
spellbound, until she had finished, when there was a tremendous outburst
of applause. Rude and uncouth though the auditors, they could but
appreciate the beautiful song, heartily.
"Hip! hip! hooray! three cheers for ther bar schangled spanner!
bow! wow! wow!" at this juncture bellowed Bulldog Ben, elbowing
forward from the vicinity of a temporary bar, where he had been
imbibing numerous "bootlegs." "Thet war splendiferous, old gal thet war
a reg'lar old hymn right frum Halifax, harketh I, Bulldog Benjamin,
ther majestic mastiff o' Death Notch. Sweeter by far than ary essence o'
eslysium war thet old song about my old mother. I can now see her
s'archin' fer her inebriate son, along ther shady banks Other
Mississippi, you bet, an' ef evyer I did a noble act in my life I'm
goin' ter kiss yer fer remindin' ther Bulldog of his old main Bulldog --
bow! wow! wow! barketh I!"
And the ruffian bounded nimbly upon the bar.
Virgie sprung to her feet with a cry of horror, but before the
wretch could lay a hand upon her there was the sharp crack of a
revolver, and he fell, bleeding, at her feet.