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Dandy Ferguson

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I do not believe that Quasomodo was a more pitiably-deformed oreature, or , Quilp a more hideously unnatural ing object, than was Dandy Ferguson , when I saw him the first time, that calm, summer afternoon, laughing and , joking with a crowd of boon companions in the cool shade of an awning at Quartz Mountain. His face was seamed and distorted by peculiarly-glossy scars - the ineradicable evidence of close and long contact with that shriveling element, fire. His ! body was bent, and he walked with j ling movement. He was a sickening j spectacle at first sight, suggesting ful suffering in the past, and my curiosity in regard to him was thoroughly aroused. "Who is that man?" I asked, ing a teil, blue-shirted miner, who was j standing in front of the postoffice. "Don't you knowhim? " answered the man; "why, that's Dandy Ferguson. I thought everybody knowed Dandy Ferguson." " Why do you cali him Dandy Ferguson?" " Because - well, because he used to be a dandy - a regular out-an'-out sport. When Dandy Ferguson first came to this camp he was a gilt-edged I man, an' no mistake. He wore a plug, j an' flashed a spark in liia biled , i front as big as a peanut. He put on ! i more dog 'n a mine superintendent, an' moot of the boys was down on him from j the start. Thet was about three years j ago, an' he come up here from the bay i to get a whiff o' fresh air an' make nature an' the pines give him back what he'd lost spreein' 'round with them i sharps an' young bloods o' Frisco. " Ño, he don't look like he was more'n half human, that's a fact ; but I'd rather have them scars o' his than wear the clothes of the richest man in Californy - that is, ef I'd gone through what he has and suffered what he did. Proud of 'em ! Mister, thar ain't a man in this yer county - no, sir, nor in this yer ouite - no is pruuuer u uniiuy a'ciusuu 1 of what other men might grieve over ', an' sigh about, an' no man's got a better right to be proud, either. When he ! first carne to Quartz Mountain he used to parade the streets with his nose cocked up so; he'd hydraulic himself ' with pat chouly an' smell-water tül you couldn't get within a mile of him. He was a delicate-looking cuss, an' his hands were as soft as a barber's. The i s boys used to bet that if big Bridget j ! Sullivan - our washerwoman - was to take it into her head to jump him, she'd ' uiock the spots out o' him in derned ' hort order. That was our opinión of ! ïim when he played his small cards in his y er cimp - buthe showed down both owers and the ace before he quit the ' jame, you bet your life. D'ye see that I ] [uartz mili over thar on the side-hill ? ' ■ Chat's the Chaparral mine, ye tnow, an' ! ' t's thar that Dandy Ferguson showed j us what sand was. " One night, about a month after Ferjuson got here, somebody out there relied ' Fire ! ' an' the camp turned out. The h'istin' works was in a light blaze, ! an' the flamea shootin' high up in the dark. We all ruslied to the spot like a I pack o' mad animala - you know how a fire stirs men up an' excites 'em. Of oourse, nobody knew what to do, an', for a minute, we all stood lookin' at the fire creepin' along the eaves, an' the burnin' shingles droppin' down the shaft. Purty soon soine one says : : ' What ! ' kinder sharp an' fierce-like. Then there was a little movement in the orowd, an' a man as pale as death springs away from the mouth o' the shaft yellin' frantic: 'Water! Water! For the love o' God turn on the water- the night shift's in the lower drift.' "There was an awful agony in that man's voice; he had jist remembered that his brother was down there, and that the fire under the biler of the engine was banked, thet the cage was too heavy to work by hand, an' the timbeni in the shaft piteh pine an' dry as abone, with great sparks droppin' down like flakes in a snow-storm. You've heered how fast a man thinks in times of danger. Jim Slocum thoiighf of his brother, the dry timbers, the engine, the cage, an' water all in a second, but thet ! was all. He didn't hev time to think of the f act thet there wasn't a bar'l of water j within a mile of the mine. . "Somebody ruslied up to the tank - ther was about a tubful there. The fire j was playin' round the biler, an' the 1 gineer lied turned the safety eocks to let thet out. They all rushed every which way, yellin' fur ropes, ladders, j anything - as ef ladders could reach i down 200 feet to where the men -nas. They was clean gone with excitement, an' didn't know what to do, an' the lire ! roarin' and cracklin' like the devil's own blaze. "Some rushed one way an' some another, while some of them stood starin' into the hot, black smoke an' . yaller fire, dazed, scared, helpless. - Quicker'n it takes a man to teil it, a man jumped throxigh the door of the histin' works an' caught hold of tho. . chains. His coat and hat was gone, an' he looked like an angel - almost - as he swung over the shaft in his white-frilled shirt an' his long, yaller hair. "It was Dandy Ferguson. "He didn't wait for nobody, but i jammed a big scantlin', that two men y couldn't a lifted, down over the shaft. Then he yelled for a rope an' told some men near the door to fetcli him the ol' win'lass thet was lyin' outside, near the dummy. "You never see men work like they did as soon as ther was a head. The 1 rope an' the win'lass was bronght into i the works on the jump, an' fastened to the seantlin'. Down went tlie rope and Ferguson shoutin' after it, ' I'm here, boys, an' 111 stay till I roast.' Then he grabbed the crank an' spun the rope round the bar'l faster'n it ever was rolled before. He used one hand flrst, an' when she tightened he laid the other on. "Si Holden wanted to help him, but he wouldnt hev no interference. ' Time enough,' says Ferguson, ' when I drop.' It wasn't long before a half-naked body came up, an' they got the rope off as quick as they could, draggin' Harry Miller out of the works more dead'n alive, tremblin' like a leaf. They thought at the time that he was scared at the danger he'd been in, an' didn't notice how much exhausted he was, but they found out afterward thet he'd played it down in thet shaft as mean as one man can play it on another in sich a time. "You see, there was five of 'em in the lower drift, and, when the burnin' tirnbers of the upper works began to drop down, they all made a rush for the main shaft. The cage was on, and they couldn't get out till a rope came down. They eould see a flicker of light abo-fe, and yelled till they was hoarse, watchin' thet glimmer growin' brighter'n brighter ev'ry minute, an' knowin' thet the sliaftin' timber'd blaze mighty soon an' cut oiF all hope of their ever gittin' out. "It was a terrible thought, an' you can't blame Bill Slocum fur grabbin' the rope as soon as it dropped down to 'em. Harry Miller jumped 'longside of him, yeliin' : " ' Let go, n ye, let go ! They can't lift two of us.' " ' Let go yourself ! ' shouts Slocum, turnin' round on him like a tiger. " ' Mymother'swaitin'upthere,'yelled Slocum, pointin' up the shaft. " ' My wifc's waitin' fur me,' liowls Miller. " ' An' with that he knocks Slocum ! down in the drift, an' goes up the rope j hand over hand before the others could I stop him - they'd've killed hiin on the spot ef he hadn't climbed the rope as he did. Sarved him right! Kerrect, mister, they'd a sarved him mighty well, I an' no mistake, but he beat thet game. 1 He'd just strength enongh to tie the slack round his waist, w'en he gave way all at once an' hung to the end of the rore like dead weistht, an' Dandy guson a liaulin' hiin out of the fiery jaws o' deatli. "Down went the rope again, and j cnm was tied on an' hauled up, , guson workin' the win'lass like a giant. The cords stood out on his neck like blacksnake whips, an' the sweat poured off Mr HVo a aluioG stream. Two . Oornishmen stood by liim tryin' to make him let them roll up the rope while he rested, but he onseed 'em and told 'em to dry up ; he said he was at the wheel, an' he'd stay there ef he died j fur it. Wen Slocum came up, the fire I was all around an' over the win'lass, an' two Cornishmen grabbed Bill an' carried him out - they eouldn't stan' the ! heat. Ferguson sent down the rope j agin, an' up come Sam Hildreth, wiih jist strength enough to make for the j door. The roof over the biler and the j pitch on the door-posts was ohokin'. Jist as the rope went down for the j fourth time, an' we lofin' round on the outside watehin' every minute to see him drop, an' not a man with gumption enough to think of what was wanted, a woman rushes into the fiery furnace an' j slings a wet blanket over the bravest, best man in the State o' Californy. " ' Thet's the ticket,' shouted Ferguson. ' You're a trump, whoever yon are, an' I won't forget ye, live or die.' "An' he didn't. It was Sam Hildreth's sister Maggie, an' when she carne , out o' the smoke and flame with her j dress in a blaze she calis out sharp to j the men : " ' Keep that blanket wet. Ther's water in the tank. 111 marry the fust man that throws a buck et o' water over Dandy Ferguson - I'll marry hiin ef he's ■ a Chinaman.' "Them's her identical words, mister. The men didn't need no further orders, ; 'cause, you see, Maggie Hild-reth was the i hnn'aomest girl in the country, an' the best, an' hed ev'ry young buck fur miles i aroun' close at her heels all the time, : handicappin' each other fur smiles. But j her brother Sam saved her from them galoots- saved her fur a better man, by j wettin' the blanket himself. " About this time the heat was terrible ; one man in the drift, an' another half way up, erawim siowiy 10 me ragm ftirnace on top, crawlin' fast enough in ordinary circnmstanoes, btit hardly fast i enough with death racin' down on his savior at a two-forty gait. Wen Jack j Harmon cameout o' the shaft he stood a ■ minute on the scantlin' swayiu' back an' forth like a drunken man, blinded by i smoke an' bewildered, an' ef Ferguson hadn't caught him lie'd gone back again. " Two more of us lied got in with buckets of water - 'bout all ther was in the tank ; but it seemed to dry off as fast as we poured it on, fur the blanket [ was smokin', Wen the rope went down j f nr the last time, to haul up Joe Harper, the scantlin' was bumin', an' the upper j timbers was beginnin' to blaze. The whirlin' smoke hid Fergnsoii from us, ; but we knowed if he didn't come out purty soon the whole shebang'd give way and bury him ; the sides was in a light blaze, an' the place where the win'lass stood was the only spot where even Dandy Ferguson conld a worked. It must a bin an awful strain on him - the last pull - but he never owned it, an' bimeby up comes Joe, the bravest man in the camp, I reckon, barrin' Dandy Ferguson, 'cause, you see, he wouldn't ! tech the rope till they'd all bin hauled i up; he tiert every man on exoept the coward, Miller, an' then came through the blazin' shaft himself, watchin' the little tongues o' fire shoot out from the ! side ev'ry once in a white, as if they'd j lick the life-thread in two. "As Joe grabbed the upper chains the 1 shaft lit up with a hiss an' a roar, as if the fire was mad at losing its prey. Joo got out an' Ferguson staggered away from the win'lass, but his luck went Í back on him at the lastf minute. He j sturnbled an' feil jest as he come to the ! tramway at the door, an' the whole side ! o' the buildin' come down 011 him with j a crash. A hundred men forgot danger an' death, an' rushed into the flames ; but Miller, the man that played it so sneakin' mean down in the shaft, got to liini first, an' dragged him out. "Everybody thought he was dead, an' the crowd carried him an' Miller- who dropped insensible after he'd got Ferguson out - to camp. But Dandy Ferguson lived through it, though f ur weeks he lay between life on' death, an' fur months'ho didn't stir out of a dark room. But there wasn't no lack o' help au' prayera an' faithful mirses to bring bim round. No,sir; there wasn't a man, woman, or child -within 100 miles o' the Chaparral mine thet wouldn't a crawled on thcir liands an' knees to watch one hour at bis bedside, an' tbonght it onc o' the biggest kind o' honors- you ken bet your life on thet. Yes, sir ; Dandy Ferguson is a king in this yer country - he's better'n four kings most o' the time, 'cause any man that knows him 'd lay down four Irallets any day if he held them against Ferguson ; it 'd be like takin' an advantage, ye see, to Lola 'em out on him. He can hev anything or do anything he likes. Wed send him to Congress ef he'd go, but he won't. We've got him here, thougli, an' I guess he'll never leave ; I wish I was one o' them poetry writers ; I'd write the bulliest poems about Dandy Ferguson you ever read, you hear me? "Yes, he' married. Got married after he carne out. " Talk about weddin's ! That was a weddin' ; ev'rybody got an invite, and ev'rybody piled in to see the gamest man in the State tied to the gamest woman on God's footstool. Who was she? Why, Maggie Hildreth, óf course. .Who else"'ed it be, Fd liko to know? What became of Harry Miüer '. vv en, that's purty goorl. Miller, ye see, carne out all right, and you bet he didn't rest till he'd begged Bill Slocum's pardin f or leavin' liim in the sliaf t as he did ; but Bill wouldn't hev it ; said that Miller 'd balanced accounts by savin' the life o' Ferguson, the man that saved him. But thet's played. " You want to know what become of him. Well - say, look here, mister, I don't like to own it, but I'm the cuss - I'm Harry Miller. Interdooce ye to Dandy Ferguson? Of eourse I will, an' ye'll never get an interduction to a gamer man or one it's more honorable to know. " An', mister, if ye ever teil about the Chaparral shaft, an' how Dandy Ferguson stood by thet win'lass in the red-hot h'istin' works, jest throw in it somewhere thet he's better'n four kings in tuis camp - it'll top off the story fust rate, an', besides, you bet, it's no more'n the solid truth."


Old News
Michigan Argus