Poker Jim, Gentleman and other Tales and Sketches
Other Tales and Sketches
G. FRANK LYDSTON
MONARCH BOOK COMPANY
COPYRIGHT 1906 BY
MONARCH BOOK COMPANY
The Most Indulgent of My Friends
And the Least Charitable of My Critics
This Book will Give Joy.
To Them I Dedicate It.
|“JIM, THIS YER’S DOC WEYMOUTH”||Frontispiece|
|JIM WAS BOUNDING TOWARD THE OPEN DOOR, LEAVING HIS INSULTER LYING UPON THE FLOOR WITH A CLEAN CUT IN HIS CHEST||42|
|THERE WAS A SHORT, SHARP STRUGGLE, A HARMLESS SHOT, AND JIM’S INSULTER WAS LYING ON THE FLOOR WITH A CLEAN CUT IN HIS CHEST||63|
|JOHNNY GOT A STRANGLE HOLD ON THE FILIPINO’S THROAT WITH HIS LEFT HAND, WHILE WITH HIS RIGHT HE DREW HIS KNIFE||143|
|A ROPE WAS SPEEDILY FOUND AND TIED ABOUT MY NECK||202|
|A WISE CHILD||216|
|“IS MY COUSIN JUAN A COWARD, THAT HE LIES IN AMBUSH?”||286|
|Poker Jim, Gentleman||1|
|Tommy the Outcast||81|
|My Friend the Undertaker||160|
|A Grim Memento||182|
|A Wise Child||216|
|Leaves from a Suicide’s Diary||247|
|A Dead Ideal||297|
|A Matter of Professional Secrecy||323|
|A Legend of the Yosemite||351|
|A Great City’s Shame||372|
It requires some assurance to step out of theconventional in story writing. Especially doesit require courage on the part of one whoseideals of what a story should be are far beyondwhat his productions can ever attain. Butthe physician, who gets closer to things humanthan others do, may perhaps be forgivenunorthodox subjects and methods of expression.Surely, also, he will be excused for drawingupon his own field of work for his subjectmatter.
I have this to say of my material characters—theyare all taken from life. Even Tommythe Outcast was the genuine article of hero.He crept into my life through a hole in mycellar window one furiously stormy night.He went out of it via a dose of poison, meantfor his hereditary foes—the rats. Talk? No,he did not talk, but I’m sure he used to think—hardand often—and I fancy no one will upbraidme for trying in my feeble way to readviiihis mind and act as his proxy in the expressionof the things he thought, and in telling thesad story of his life.
The mythical red hero and the golden hairedgoddess of the Yosemite are the more beautifulfor being unsubstantial. The pretty little legendon which their story was founded was anonymouslypublished nearly fifty years ago insome eastern magazine, the name of whichescapes me. I found it among the rubbishof my grandfather’s attic, when a lad. It seemsthat the legend was originally obtained froman old Indian warrior, who related it essentiallyas it had descended to him through manygenerations of ancestors. Like many otherbeautiful traditions of our American aborigines,the legend of the Yosemite has been buried inthe mists of obscurity and the dust of forgetfulness.I trust that my amplified version isnot unworthy of the original. It will at leastserve to resurrect from the Valley of the Losta bit of beautiful sentiment that deserved abetter fate. I hope this may not be its secondburial, and that the paleface may find somethingsweetly sentimental in the mythical taleof Tis-sa-ack and Tu-toch-a-nu-lah. For thebenefit of those who may chance to discern inixthe hero of the Yosemite a slight tinge of FrederickCozzens’ ancient legend of the Palisades,I freely acknowledge the debt I owe to the “BigPappoose.”
Most of the incidents related in the variousstories in this volume are authentic. Thoseupon which the story of the Dead Ideal isfounded come back to me vividly from mystudent days with all the halo of bright romancewhich they then possessed. To this day I havelonged to know who and what the beautifulsubject was. He who could not weave romanceabout that fair unfortunate must needs be thevictim of that worst of fates—soul death.
Nearly all the characters in Poker Jim arereal. There was no dearth of material fromwhich to select subjects. I was born amid theCalifornia Sierras in the placer mines of Tuolumne.Some of the years of my early childhoodwere spent in the mountains of Calaveras.Here in the midst of a rude mining populationwere to be found interesting characters aplenty.
A few—alas! how very few—of those rugged,homely, adventurous spirits whom I knew inmy boyhood are still living. I have withina few months past been privileged to claspxtheir dear old hands and listen to their ofttold tales of the romantic early days of mynative state.
I recently spent several hours at the houseof a friend in San Francisco, watching the playof emotion on the wrinkled face of an aged Argonautas he listened while our host and I werediscussing the various characters of the storyof Poker Jim. Needless to say, old time memorieswere revived in the mind of the poor oldman. I shall never forget his tear dimmedeyes as he looked up at me and said, reverently,“Doc, I knowed ’em well—your pa, an’ yourgran’pa, an’ Poker Jim an’ all on ’em.”
As I sit here in my quiet study harkingback to my last trip to the mountains andvalleys of Tuolumne and Calaveras, there appearsbefore my mind’s eye a picture of theold golden days brought down to the year 1900.In the foreground, at the door of his rude logcabin, stands that dear old octogenarian,“French Tom” of Tuolumne, gazing towardthe green verdured hills on the opposite bankof the river, just where Moccasin Creek debouchesinto the swift running crystal watersof the Tuolumne. He shades his poor oldeyes with his hand, and looks long and earnxiestlyat a man who is slowly passing along theold Yosemite trail. When he reached thesummit of the hill the man turned and stoodlimned against the brilliant morning sky, aghost of happier days.
Long past three score and ten, bent andwithered, crippled with the “rheumatiz,” withpick on shoulder and pan and grub walletby his side, “Dixie” was still pursuing the GoldenFleece. On the morrow—Sunday—Tom andDixie would meet and talk it all over, and telleach other the same old wonderful lies ofenormous golden finds, and “saltings” of thetenderfoot, that they had been exchangingsince ’49.
“Good luck, old pard!” and “The same toyou!” were wafted gently down the beautifulvalley to the heart-full wanderer who hadcome home after so many years.
Dixie vanished over the brow of the hill,and Tom dove into his tumble-down shack toprepare the breakfast of fish fresh from theriver to which he had invited his doctor friend.
And the picture that my memory paints isno longer possible, for dear old Dixie has goneover the Divide, to dig for gold at the foot ofeternal rainbows in the placers of the GreatxiiBeyond. And I am glad that I went in quest ofchildhood’s memories while it was yet time.
Out of the Valley of Shadows, Mnemosyne—mostpuissant goddess of them all—leads fortha procession of misty familiar shapes that bringthe warmth of affection to my heart and thesmile of welcome to my lips. And they smileback at me in that quiet way which friendlyshadows have.
As the vague and unsubstantial forms flitsilently past me from out the ivory portalswhere Memory’s golden scepter holds undisputedsway, I recognize a host of my boyhood’sfriends; “Poker Jim”, “Boston”, “Toppy,”“Big” Brown, “Yankee”, “Jersey”, “Link”Spears, Tom Chandler, Dave Smuggins, IkeDessler, Bill Loveless, and many more of thebronzed, deep-chested, red-shirted, hair-triggeredKnights of the Golden Fleece smile backat me from the ghostly file.
Last, but not least, comes my boyhood’shero, that Turpin of the border, “Three FingeredJack” of Calaveras, who has been servedup to us in so many and various forms ofliterary hash that I shall one day write his truehistory as a matter of pious duty.
G. Frank Lydston.
POKER JIM, GENTLEMAN
POKER JIM, GENTLEMAN
It was in the spring of 1860, that the facultyof the University of Pennsylvania concluded toconfer the degree of Doctor of Medicine uponyour humble servant. Whether the faculty ofthat now famous school allowed me to graduateon the principle that actuated the performers ina western band, who implored their audiencesnot to shoot, as they were doing the best theycould, I cannot say, but graduate I did, andas with all other students of medicine, it wasthen that my troubles began. I was not longin discovering that the piece of crisp parchmentwhich the members of the faculty had endorsedas showing the scientific qualifications of WilliamWeymouth, M. D. and which entitled him topractice medicine, was no open sesame to fameand prosperity.
My parents were at that time living inKentucky, in a small town that offered littleencouragement to a young man beginning practice.The confidence of one’s old neighborsis of even slower growth than the beard for2which the young doctor yearns, as a badge ofwisdom and learning that he who runs mayread.
The country in which I spent my boyhood—Iwas born in the state of Maine—was even lessinviting than the state of my adoption. It ispossible that I entertained a little of my mother’sprejudice against Yankeedom in those days.She was a native of Kentucky, and had neverbecome thoroughly reconciled to the countryto which my father had taken her soon after hermarriage. It was in acquiescence to her homesickpleadings that my father finally moved toKentucky, and settled in the little townwherein my parents lived for the rest of theirdays in such happiness as people of modestmeans can secure only among the warm hearted,generous people south of Mason and Dixon’sline.
Had my home surroundings offered anyinducements to the professional career I hadplanned for myself, I should certainly havereturned home to practice. My parents wereliving alone, and my natural impulse was toreturn to them and do the best I could atpractice, as long as they should live. It waswith some twinges of conscience, therefore, that3I finally decided against going back to Kentuckyto locate.
There were but three of us children, a brother,younger than myself, and a sister, two yearsolder. My sister had married a gentleman fromMemphis, and had long since gone to that cityto live. My young brother had left home someyears before I graduated, and no one knew whathad become of him, much to my regret and tothe sorrow of his parents, whose favorite, I mustadmit, the boy had ever been.
Jim had always been a wild lad, and wasstamped as an incorrigible almost as soon as hecould toddle