NEW YORK BY CAMP FIRE LIGHT
by O. Henry
Away out in the Creek Nation we learned things about
We were on a hunting trip, and were camped one night
on the bank of a little stream. Bud Kingsbury was our
skilled hunter and guide, and it was from his lips
that we had explanations of Manhattan and the queer
folks that inhabit it. Bud had once spent a month in
the metropolis, and a week or two at other times, and
he was pleased to discourse to us of what he had seen.
Fifty yards away from our camp was pitched the teepee
of a wandering family of Indians that had come up and
settled there for the night. An old, old Indian woman
was trying to build a fire under an iron pot hung upon
Bud went over to her assistance, and soon had her fire
going. When he came back we complimented him playfully
upon his gallantry.
"Oh," said Bud, "don't mention it. It's a way I have.
Whenever I see a lady trying to cook things in a pot
and having trouble I always go to the rescue. I done
the same thing once in a high-toned house in New York
City. Heap big society teepee on Fifth Avenue. That
Injun lady kind of recalled it to my mind. Yes, I
endeavors to be polite and help the ladies out."
The camp demanded the particulars.
"I was manager of the Triangle B Ranch in the Panhandle,"
said Bud. "It was owned at that time by old man Sterling,
of New York. He wanted to sell out, and he wrote for me
to come on to New York and explain the ranch to the
syndicate that wanted to buy. So I sends to Fort Worth
and has a forty-dollar suit of clothes made, and hits
the trail for the big village.
"Well, when I got there, old man Sterling and his outfit
certainly laid themselves out to be agreeable. We had
business and pleasure so mixed up that you couldn't tell
whether it was a treat or a trade half the time. We had
trolley rides, and cigars, and theatre round-ups, and
"Rubber parties?" said a listener, inquiringly.
"Sure," said Bud. "Didn't you never attend 'em? You walk
around and try to look at the tops of the skyscrapers.
Well, we sold the ranch, and old man Sterling asks me
'round to his house to take grub on the night before I
started back. It wasn't any high-collared affair--just
me and the old man and his wife and daughter. But they
was a fine-haired outfit all right, and the lilies of
the field wasn't in it. They made my Fort Worth clothes
carpenter look like a dealer in horse blankets and gee
strings. And then the table was all pompous with flowers,
and there was a whole kit of tools laid out beside
everybody's plate. You'd have thought you was fixed out
to burglarize a restaurant before you could get your grub.
But I'd been in New York over a week then, and I was
getting on to stylish ways. I kind of trailed behind and
watched the others use the hardware supplies, and then I
tackled the chuck with the same weapons. It ain't much
trouble to travel with the high-flyers after you find
out their gait. I got along fine. I was feeling cool
and agreeable, and pretty soon I was talking away fluent
as you please, all about the ranch and the West, and
telling 'em how the Indians eat grasshopper stew and
snakes, and you never saw people so interested.
"But the real joy of that feast was that Miss Sterling.
Just a little trick she was, not bigger than two bits'
worth of chewing plug; but she had a way about her that
seemed to say she was the people, and you believed it.
And yet, she never put on any airs, and she smiled at
me the same as if I was a millionaire while I was
telling about a Creek dog feast and listened like it
was news from home.
"By and by, after we had eat oysters and some watery
soup and truck that never was in my repertory, a
Methodist preacher brings in a kind of camp stove
arrangement, all silver, on long legs, with a lamp
"Miss Sterling lights up and begins to do some cooking
right on the supper table. I wondered why old man
Sterling didn't hire a cook, with all the money he
had. Pretty soon she dished out some cheesy tasting
truck that she said was rabbit, but I swear there had
never been a Molly cotton tail in a mile of it.
"The last thing on the programme was lemonade. It was
brought around in little flat glass bowls and set by
your plate. I was pretty thirsty, and I picked up mine
and took a big swig of it. Right there was where the
little lady had made a mistake. She had put in the
lemon all right, but she'd forgot the sugar. The best
housekeepers slip up sometime. I thought maybe Miss
Sterling was just learning to keep house and cook--that
rabbit would surely make you think so--and I says to
myself, 'Little lady, sugar or no sugar I'll stand by
you,' and I raises up my bowl again and drinks the last
drop of the lemonade. And then all the balance of 'em
picks up their bowls and does the same. And then I gives
Miss Sterling the laugh proper, just to carry it off
like a joke, so she wouldn't feel bad about the mistake.
"After we all went into the sitting room she sat down
and talked to me quite awhile.
"'It was so kind of you, Mr. Kingsbury,' says she,
'to bring my blunder off so nicely. It was so stupid
of me to forget the sugar.'
"'Never you mind,' says I, 'some lucky man will throw
his rope over a mighty elegant little housekeeper some
day, not far from here.'
"'If you mean me, Mr. Kingsbury,' says she, laughing
out loud, 'I hope he will be as lenient with my poor
housekeeping as you have been.'
"'Don't mention it,' says I. 'Anything to oblige the
Bud ceased his reminiscences. And then someone asked
him what he considered the most striking and prominent
trait of New Yorkers.
"The most visible and peculiar trait of New York folks,"
answered Bud, "is New York. Most of 'em has New York on
the brain. They have heard of other places, such as Waco,
and Paris, and Hot Springs, and London; but they don't
believe in 'em. They think that town is all Merino. Now
to show you how much they care for their village I'll
tell you about one of 'em that strayed out as far as
the Triangle B while I was working there.
"This New Yorker come out there looking for a job on
the ranch. He said he was a good horseback rider, and
there were pieces of tanbark hanging on his clothes yet
from his riding school.
"Well, for a while they put him to keeping books in the
ranch store, for he was a devil at figures. But he got
tired of that, and asked for something more in the line
of activity. The boys on the ranch liked him all right,
but he made us tired shouting New York all the time.
Every night he'd tell us about East River and J.P.
Morgan and the Eden Musee and Hetty Green and Central
Park till we used to throw tin plates and branding irons
"One day this chap gets on a pitching pony, and the
pony kind of sidled up his back and went to eating
grass while the New Yorker was coming down.
"He come down on his head on a chunk of mesquit wood,
and he didn't show any designs toward getting up again.
We laid him out in a tent, and he begun to look pretty
dead. So Gideon Pease saddles up and burns the wind
for old Doc Sleeper's residence in Dogtown, thirty
"The doctor comes over and he investigates the patient.
"'Boys,' says he, 'you might as well go to playing
seven-up for his saddle and clothes, for his head's
fractured and if he lives ten minutes it will be a
remarkable case of longevity.'
"Of course we didn't gamble for the poor rooster's
saddle--that was one of Doc's jokes. But we stood
around feeling solemn, and all of us forgive him
for having talked us to death about New York.
"I never saw anybody about to hand in his checks act
more peaceful than this fellow. His eyes were fixed
'way up in the air, and he was using rambling words
to himself all about sweet music and beautiful streets
and white-robed forms, and he was smiling like dying
was a pleasure.
"'He's about gone now,' said Doc. 'Whenever they begin
to think they see heaven it's all off.'
"Blamed if that New York man didn't sit right up when
he heard the Doc say that.
"'Say,' says he, kind of disappointed, 'was that heaven?
Confound it all, I thought it was Broadway. Some of you
fellows get my clothes. I'm going to get up.'
"And I'll be blamed," concluded Bud, "if he wasn't on
the train with a ticket for New York in his pocket four
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~