A Cool Million

A Cool Million by Nathanael West

Book: A Cool Million by Nathanael West Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nathanael West
his red shirt, coarse
leather breeches and brown, not overclean skin, he
certainly didn’t look much like a gentleman in the conventional sense of the
    “It’s well enough to be a gentleman,
if you’ve got money to fall back on,” remarked Lem sensibly but not offensively.
    “Is that personal?” demanded the
Pike County man, scowling and half rising from the ground.
    “It’s personal to me,” said Lem quietly.
    “I accept the apology,” said the
Missourian fiercely. “But you’d better not rile me, stranger, for I’m powerful
bad. You don’t know me, you don’t. I’m a rip-tail roarer and a ring-tail squealer, I am. I always kills the man what riles me.”
    After this last bloodthirsty
declaration, the man from Pike County temporarily subsided. He partook quietly
of the coffee and cake which Betty served him. Suddenly he flared up again.
    “ Hain’t that an Injun?” he shouted, pointing at Jake Raven and reaching for his gun.
    Lem stepped hastily in front of the redskin, while Shagpoke grabbed the ruffian’s wrist.
    “He’s a good friend of ours,” said
    “I don’t give a darn,” said the
ring-tail squealer. “Turn me loose and I’ll massacree the Banged aboriginee .”
    Jake Raven, however, could take care
of himself. He pulled his own revolver and pointing it at the bad man said, “Rascal
shut up or me kill um pronto quick .”
    At the sight of the Indian’s drawn
gun, the ruffian calmed down.
    “All right,” he said, “but it’s my
policy always to shoot an Injun on sight. The only good Injun is a dead one, is
what I alluz say.”
    Mr. Whipple sent Jake Raven away
from the fire and there was a long silence, during which everyone stared at the
cheery flames. Finally the man from Pike County again broke into speech, this
time addressing Lem .
    “How about a game of cards, sport?”
he asked. With these words he drew a greasy pack out of his pocket and shuffled
them with great skill.
    “I have never played cards in my
life,” said our hero. “Where was you raised?” demanded
the Missourian contemptuously.
    “Ottsville, State of Vermont,” said Lem . “I don’t know one card from another, and don’t want to
    In no way abashed, the Pike man
said, “I’ll larn you. How about a
game of poker?”
    Mr. Whipple spoke up. “We do not
permit gambling in this camp,” he said firmly.
    “That’s durn foolishness,” said the stranger, whose object it was to victimize his new
friends, being an expert gambler.
    “Perhaps it is,” said Mr. Whipple. “But
that’s our business.”
    “Look here, hombre,” blustered the
bully. “I reckon you don’t realize who you’re a-talking to. ‘ Tarnal death and massacreeation ,
I’m the rip-tail roarer , I am.”
    “You told us that before,” said Mr.
Whipple quietly.
    “Blood and massacreeation ,
if I don’t mean it, too,” exclaimed the Missourian with a fierce scowl. “Do you
know how I treated a man last week?”
    “No,” said Mr. Whipple, truthfully.
    “We was ridin ’ together over in Almeda County. We’d, met permiscuous , like we’ve met
tonight. I was tellin ’ him how four b’ars attacked me to oncet ,
and how I fit ‘ em all single-handed, when he laughed
and said he reckoned I’d been drinkin ’ and seed
double. If he’d a- know’d me better he wouldn’t have
done it.”
    “What did you do?” asked Betty in
    “What did I do, madam?” echoed the
Pike County man ferociously. “I told him he didn’t realize who he’d insulted. I
told him I was a ring-tail squealer and a rip-tail roarer .
I told him that he had to fight, and asked him how it would be. Foot and fist, or tooth and nail, or claw and mudscraper ,
or knife, gun and tommyhawk .”
    “Did he fight?” asked Lem .
    “He had to.”
    “How did it come out?”
    “I shot him through the heart,” said
the Missourian coldly. “His bones are bleachin ’ in
the canyon where he fell.”

    The next day, the Pike

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