I gave it up then, and my heart sank within me, because of course they would come up to scold the Arab. I knew I had to take the rear again. In my sorrow I unconsciously took to my pipe, my only comfort. As I touched the match to it the whole company came lumbering up and crowding my horse's rump and flanks. A whiff of smoke drifted back over my shoulder, and--

"The suffering Moses!"

"Whew!"

"By George, who opened that graveyard?"

"Boys, that Arab's been swallowing something dead!"

Right away there was a gap behind us. Whiff after whiff sailed airily back, and each one widened the breach. Within fifteen seconds the barking, and gasping, and sneezing, and coughing of the boys, and their angry abuse of the Arab guide, had dwindled to a murmur, and Davis and I were alone with the leader. Davis did not know what the matter was, and don't to this day. Occasionally he caught a faint film of the smoke and fell to scolding at the Arab and wondering how long he had been decaying in that way. Our boys kept on dropping back further and further, till at last they were only in hearing, not in sight. And every time they started gingerly forward to reconnoitre or shoot the Arab, as they proposed to do--I let them get within good fair range of my relic (she would carry seventy yards with wonderful precision), and then wafted a whiff among them that sent them gasping and strangling to the rear again. I kept my gun well charged and ready, and twice within the hour I decoyed the boys right up to my horse's tail, and then with one malarious blast emptied the saddles, almost. I never heard an Arab abused so in my life. He really owed his preservation to me, because for one entire hour I stood between him and certain death. The boys would have killed him if they could have got by me.

By and by, when the company were far in the rear, I put away my pipe-- I was getting fearfully dry and crisp about the gills and rather blown with good diligent work--and spurred my animated trance up alongside the Arab and stopped him and asked for water. He unslung his little gourd- shaped earthenware jug, and I put it under my moustache and took a long, glorious, satisfying draught. I was going to scour the mouth of the jug a little, but I saw that I had brought the whole train together once more by my delay, and that they were all anxious to drink too-and would have been long ago if the Arab had not pretended that he was out of water. So I hastened to pass the vessel to Davis. He took a mouthful, and never said a word, but climbed off his horse and lay down calmly in the road. I felt sorry for Davis. It was too late now, though, and Dan was drinking. Dan got down too, and hunted for a soft place. I thought I heard Dan say, "That Arab's friends ought to keep him in alcohol or else take him out and bury him somewhere." All the boys took a drink and climbed down. It is not well to go into further particulars. Let us draw the curtain upon this act.

..............................

Well, now, to think that after three changing years I should hear from that curious old relic again, and see Dan advertising it for sale for the benefit of a benevolent object. Dan is not treating that present right. I gave that pipe to him for a keepsake. However, he probably finds that it keeps away custom and interferes with business. It is the most convincing inanimate object in all this part of the world, perhaps. Dan and I were roommates in all that long "Quaker City" voyage, and whenever I desired to have a little season of privacy I used to fire up on that pipe and persuade Dan to go out; and he seldom waited to change his clothes, either. In about a quarter, or from that to three-quarters of a minute, be would be propping up the smoke-stack on the upper deck and cursing. I wonder how the faithful old relic is going to sell?

A REMINISCENCE OF THE BACK SETTLEMENTS

"Now that corpse [said the undertaker, patting the folded hands of the deceased approvingly] was a brick-every way you took him he was a brick. He was so real accommodating, and so modest-like and simple in his last moments.

Curious Republic of Gondour Page 13

Mark Twain

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Mark Twain
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