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A Border Ruffian ... »


By Thomas Allibone Janvier

United States – Social life and customs – 19th century – Fiction

Thomas Allibone Janvier

A Border Ruffian

1891

by Harper & Brothers

I.–WEST.

The Incident of the Boston Young Lady, the Commercial Traveller, and the Desperado.

I.

Throughout the whole of the habitable globe there nowhere is to be found more delightful or more invigorating air than that which every traveller through New Mexico, from Albuquerque, past Las Vegas, to the Raton Mountains, is free to breathe.

Miss Grace Winthrop, of Boston, and also Miss Winthrop, her paternal aunt, and also Mr. Hutchinson Port, of Philadelphia, her maternal uncle–all of whom were but forty hours removed from the Alkali Desert west of the Continental Divide–felt in the very depths of their several beings how entirely good this air was; and, as their several natures moved them, they betrayed their lively appreciation of its excellence.

Miss Grace Winthrop, having contrived for herself, with the intelligent assistance of the porter, a most comfortable nest of pillows, suffered her novel to remain forgotten upon her knees; and, as she leaned her pretty blond head against the wood—work separating her section from that adjoining it, looked out upon the brown mountains, and accorded to those largely—grand objects of nature the rare privilege of being reflected upon the retina of her very blue eyes. Yet the mountains could not flatter themselves with the conviction that contemplation of them wholly filled her mind, for occasionally she smiled a most delightful smile.

Miss Winthrop, retired from the gaze of the world in the cell that the Pullman—car people euphemistically style a state—room, ignored all such casual excrescences upon the face of nature as mountains, and seriously read her morning chapter of Emerson.

Mr. Hutchinson Port, lulled by the easy, jog—trot motion of the car, and soothed by the air from Paradise that, for his virtues, he was being permitted to breathe, lapsed into calm and grateful slumber: and dreamed (nor could a worthy Philadelphian desire a better dream) of a certain meeting of the Saturday Night Club, in December, 1875, whereat the terrapin was remarkable, even for Philadelphia.

Miss Winthrop, absorbed in her Emersonian devotions, and Mr. Hutchinson Port, absorbed in slumber, did not perceive that the slow motion of the train gradually became slower, and finally entirely ceased; and even Grace, lost in her pleasant daydream, scarcely observed that the unsightly buildings of a little way—station had thrust themselves into the foreground of her landscape–for this foreground she ignored, keeping her blue eyes serenely fixed upon the great brown mountains beyond. Nor was she more than dimly conscious of the appearance upon the station platform of a tall, broad—shouldered young man clad in corduroy, wearing a wide—brimmed felt—hat, and girded about with a belt, stuck full of cartridges, from which depended a very big revolver. In a vague way she was conscious of this young man’s existence, and of an undefined feeling that, as the type of a dangerous and interesting class, his appearance was opportune in a part of the country which she had been led to believe was inhabited almost exclusively by cut—throats and outlaws.

In a minute or two the train went on again, and as it started Grace was aroused and shocked by the appearance at the forward end of the car of the ruffianly character whom she had but half seen from the car window. For a moment she believed that the train—robbery, that she had been confidently expecting over since her departure from San Francisco, was about to take place. Her heart beat hard, and her breath came quickly. But before these symptoms had time to become alarming the desperado had passed harmlessly to the rear end of the car, and after him had come the porter carrying his valise and a Winchester rifle.

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