It is an essence of history. Many years after, I learnt to value and admire it. It is one of the few books that give a just view of things. My father and family differed now and then with La Combe, on religious questions probably: but the good-will and harmony of our home were not disturbed by the debates. That was the case with my great-uncle Woodward, my uncle Grove, and my cousin Mulford. This Chronicle had stories in it which acted upon me with a fascination similar to that which certain animals are said to be subjected to by the serpent, to which they become, in consequence, a prey.
Several pages there were, by every one of which I was filled with horror as soon as ever I ventured to risk a glance at them. Yet never could I venture into the little closet, in which almost the only sources of my amusement were contained, without opening the book at one, or two, or more, of the terrific pages, and receiving the accustomed shock. The book concluded with a description of a variety of monstrous births. I thought the world was coming to an end. My sensibility to all sources of sentiment was extreme, and to sources of terror more particularly so; and these volumes teemed with them.
Lockman was secretary to some associated company, into which my father had contrived to introduce himself; which incident was perhaps the cause of the instruction I was destined to derive from these two sources. He may have given these books to my father. My father had some books: I knew it well; for they sometimes escaped from the receptacle in which he destined them to be buried; the being allowed access to which would have been indeed a pleasure and a privilege to me. I saw them once or twice by accident, but never knew whence they came nor whither they went.
In these I should have found instruction, and most useful instruction: but then the instruction would have had amusement to sweeten it; and that idea was not to be endured. One of my tribulations at this time was the learning Church collects: they used to give me the cholic; but my father insisted on my getting them by heart. There was the poisoning of Curl.
I did not know what to make of it, whether it was true or false, serious or jocular. It excited my sympathy, however; a sort of provisional sympathy. Rapin was a soldier by trade, and his history is a history of throat-cutting on the largest scale, for the sake of plunder; and such throat-cuttings and plunderings he places at the summit of virtue. I followed his conquests in their progress with eager sympathy. My delight grew with the number of provinces given up to him against the will of their inhabitants, and with the number of Frenchmen left dead in the field of battle.
Yet do I remember how great was my mortification when, after Edition: current; Page: [ 13 ] so many victories gained, he had, at the head of one hundred thousand men, advanced to the gates of Paris, which I thereupon expected to find given up to him without a struggle, and all France following its example; instead of that, the termination of his career—of this part of it, at any rate—was the same as that of a certain King of France of whom it is narrated, that he,.
On Calais, too, I could not help thinking that he had bestowed more time than it was worth. Our conquerors, I observed, had, according to the account given of them by the historian, two main instruments by which their conquests were effected: One of these instruments was the sword,—a brilliant instrument, never beheld by me without delight, as it glittered in my eyes; the other instrument was negotiation,—a word which met my eyes too often, and never without annoyance.
Having consigned the sword for a time to the scabbard, Edward betook himself to negotiation; and how it was that so much was to be got by negotiation, and so little, in comparison, by the sword, I could by no means explain to myself, nor find explained. At the sight of the word negotiation, my spirits began to droop; at the sight of the sword, when once more drawn from the sheath, they revived again.
In a victorious king, merit was in the direct ratio of the number of armed men slaughtered by him, and in the inverse ratio of those employed in slaughtering them. At this house, in which my father scarcely ever made a longer stay than from Saturday evening to Monday morning, he had no library of his own.
It was composed, besides the Bible, of two or three books of devotion, so much in use as nearly to have fallen in pieces. These books, not containing any of them the poison of amusement, there could be no objection to my studying them as much as I pleased. One of them was the book of sacred poetry, by Bishop Ken. It began—. I feel even now the sort of melancholy which the sight of it used to infuse into me. Like Godwin, this man infused a tinge of melancholy, though of a different hue, into every book he touched.
There was the poor ideal traveller, toiling up the hill, with Reason and Religion for his guides, and an unfathomable abyss at each side, ready, at the first faux pas, to receive his lacerated corpse; as it actually did those of the greatest part of the travelling population whom I saw toiling towards that summit which so few of them were destined to reach. Every now and then.
Had I had children of my own age to associate with, these gloomy ideas would not have filled Edition: current; Page: [ 14 ] so large a portion as they did of my time. Except once or twice, no such solace was I destined to experience. Another was Thomas Lysen, of the same age, the son of a neighbouring bricklayer, with whom my father had occasional dealings; he came to play with me at minnit, or cricket, once or twice every summer.
Toulon Flood once spent two or three days with me; and Edward Reeve, one day: these two were my schoolfellows at Westminster, and Flood, for a considerable time, my bedfellow. A boy called Shuttleworth came once—but he came in chains—his visit was of no avail: he brought with him his morose tutor—that tutor was our every day usher.
These were the only intruders on the solitude and insipidity of my existence. The list of adult visiters to my father is scarcely more diversified: Two old ladies, contemporaries of my grandmother, used to pay one visit a-year. A Mrs White, with two nieces, one in the state of singleness, the other a Mrs Waldo, a widow bewitched, called once every summer. I was taught, however, to regard him with contempt: I was told he was more my inferior in learning than my superior in age. There was a Mrs Geddes, the widow of a divine of that name, who had been removed, years before, to another, and, let us hope, a better world: I believe he had been the author of a ponderous volume of divinity, which I never read.
Of Mrs White, I only remember that she was distinguished for the strength of her jaws; and, when considerably above seventy years old, no stone of peach, apricot, or nectarine, could resist them. Mrs White excited my astonishment, while she removed a smaller mote from my eye by the introduction of a larger one; it was a round black seed, which she called Oculus Christi; and whether its operation was natural or miraculous, the reader must judge. I can aver that, after its application, the annoyance ceased to trouble me. There was one visiter—rather an unwelcome one—a great-aunt, of the name of Powell, who was received on the footing of a poor relation; she was a sister of my grandmother Bentham, and came across the water from Woolwich.
She had made a disparaging match with an operative in the neighbourhood of the dockyard, and was therefore in disgrace. Of her existence, no traces remain in my memory. About as often was a visit paid by a relation and cotemporary of the same sex, who came from Woodford, and to whom a dinner of ceremony was given. This was a Mrs Archer, to whom I was taught to pay homage, under the appellation of Aunt Archer; the auntship consisting in that her husband had had for a first wife a sister of my grandmother.
She had a maiden sister who sometimes dwelt with her, and sometimes in a small tenement adjoining; at whose death I received an old gold watch and a trifling legacy. They spent little, kept no carriage, no town-house, exhibited no marks of hospitality, had not even to offer us a spare bed, to my no small mortification. Yet the visits interested me: their garden was larger than ours, and had two ponds at different levels. Benjamin, in comparison with John, was a magnificent personage: he was no less than a notarypublic.
He wore a wig of fashion—at any rate of city fashion,—while poor John wore nothing better than a wig of business. In those days, whatever was his profession or rank in life, a man might be distinguished by his wig with little less certainty than a peer by his coronet, or a monarch by his crown. At the outset of our walk, and as evidence of what I had learned in French, my father proposed that, during the whole excursion, a halfpenny should be paid, as a fine, for every word of English spoken.
The joke was, that Mr Bonnet, though a Frenchman born, or, at any rate, educated by a Frenchman born, made the most numerous mistakes; at all events, my pockets were replenished with halfpence. When a very little child, having been escorted by his grandmother from Browning Hill to Andover, Bentham was left in an upper story, and saw, for the first time in his life, that the water in the hand-basin had been converted into a cake of ice. It was the winter season, and ice was everywhere abundant, so that he thought he might indulge the fancy of seeing what would happen if he threw the ice-cake out of the window.
He flung it out. It broke, of course, into a thousand pieces. The association between the ice and the hand-basin was so strong in his mind, that he could not fancy himself blameless; and he was long tormented by the fear of discovery and its consequences. An expression of displeasure from those with whom he associated would at any time have sorely distressed him. His dread of punishment was extreme; and he was never visited by corporeal punishment from any hand whatsoever.
They surrounded a lad named William Sewell and myself, and forced us upon a sort of hostile encounter. He was the son of Sir Thomas Sewell, then or afterwards Master of the Rolls, and whom his father appointed to one of the six clerkships in Chancery. They had, as he stated, marked out their course together by mutual understanding, and for mutual help: Sewell to become a barrister—Bentham senior to be an attorney.
Sewell was a scholar. He wrote an essay on speech and grammar. It had some merit, but not of a transcendent character. He had previously reached some eminence in his profession. Among the presents he received from the hands of his future bride, was a silver cork-screw, wholly inefficient for its intended use, but which he constantly introduced for the sake of telling his guests from whom he received it, its inaptitude for cork-drawing giving him daily occasion to dilate upon it.
It never entered his mind, he said, to think of blaming his father. A second son was a midshipman, who was none of the brightest. He was silent. Sir Thomas, like most of the lawyers of his time, was a man of narrow mind, and of rough, vaunting, and imperious manners. They were among the fruits of the genius of Taylor the architect, father of Michael Angelo Taylor, who had, from these and other buildings, acquired the sobriquet of Ball Taylor. One of these houses was built for Sir Thomas Sewell. It either fell or was burned down, and was then rebuilt in its present form. Many were the changes in the occupiers of these houses; and Mr Burton, an eminent solicitor, succeeded Sir Thomas Sewell.
Lord Kenyon followed Mr Burton. Bentham took no walk into the country as a boy, of which he did not retain a recollection as a man. It was a voyage par terre et par mer. I passed through great perils. It was a memorable day, indeed, whose history I related to the boys at Westminster, when I got back. In crossing the swamp of a meadow, we were attacked by a bull. We had incurred the indignation of his bullship, and my father took me in his arms and threw me over a gate. The bull vented his indignation against the gate; but it passed Edition: current; Page: [ 17 ] harmless by me.
Such was the land adventure; the water adventure was this:—Our boat passed under the rope by which a vessel was moored, and I should have been thrown overboard and drowned if I had not dipped my head. Two awful perils in one day. It were well if anecdotes of childhood were more diligently collected; and if the seemingly unimportant events of early life were more thoughtfully watched and studied, both by parents and observers.
And in the case of Bentham, I scruple the less: as, on the one hand, the accuracy of his recollection was wonderful; and, on the other, his sagacity enabled him to trace the influence of passing, however remote, circumstances upon the whole fabric of his thoughts and feelings. His humanity to animals was among his prominent virtues. Their susceptibilities to pain and pleasure he studied, and made the constant subject of his care.
He knew very well that legislation could not put a stop to many of the sufferings to which they are condemned: but he always insisted on the necessity of applying the powers of legislation, as far as possible, to the diminution of the miseries of the brute creation. One anecdote I will give in his own words:—.
One day, while I was a little boy, I went into the kitchen. Some earwigs were running about. I laid hold of them, and put them into the candle. Martha gave me a sharp rebuke, and asked me, how I should like to be so used myself? The rebuke was not thrown away. About this time, a neighbouring decayed gentleman, of the name of Vernon, came to pay a morning visit to my grandmother. By way of recommending himself to my favour, he brought with him, in his pocket, a toy of his own manufacture.
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It was a cage for the reception of flies, formed by two horizontal slices of cork connected together by uprights composed of pins. All but one were fixed—that one was moveable—and the amusement consisted in catching the miserable animals and cramming them into the cage, till it would hold no more. Sometimes they got in with all their limbs; sometimes with one or all, or any number between one and all, torn off. When I had amused myself with the instrument for some minutes, a train of reflection came across me; the result was an abhorrence of the invention, coupled with a feeling not far short of abhorrence for the inventor and donor.
Bentham mentioned another circumstance, connected with his feelings towards animals, in the following manner:—. A personage, of no small importance in the family, was a dog named Busy. He was a model of the conjunction of fidelity and surliness. A very slight cause sufficed to elicit from him a loud and long-continued growl.
No beggar durst approach the house. I myself stood in no inconsiderable awe of him. One day I thought to find amusement in fomenting a quarrel between him and another dog. While I was thus employed up came my uncle, and reprimanded me for my cruelty. I felt it bitterly; for it was the only token of displeasure I ever experienced from him, from the day of my earliest recollection to the day of his death, which took place in He was one of the gentlest of all human beings, though a lawyer by profession.
Of her supper, I was not permitted to partake, nor was the privation a matter of much regret. I had what I preferred—a portion of gooseberry pie; hers was a scrag of mutton, boiled with parsley and butter. I do not remember any variety. My time of Edition: current; Page: [ 18 ] going to bed was perhaps an hour before hers: but, by way of preparation, I never failed to receive her blessing. There hung on the wall, perpetually in view, a sampler, the produce of the industry and ingenuity of her mother or her grandmother, of which the subject matter was the most important of all theologico-human incidents, the fall of man in paradise.
There was Adam—there was Eve—and there was the serpent. In these there was much to interest and amuse me. One thing alone puzzled me; it was the forbidden fruit. The size was enormous. It was larger than that species of the genus Orangeum which goes by the name of the forbidden fruit in some of our West India settlements. Its size was not less than that of the outer shell of a cocoa nut. All the rest of the objects were, as usual, in plano; this was in alto, indeed in altissimo relievo.
What to make of it, at a time when my mind was unable to distinguish fictions from realities, I knew not. The recollection is strong in me of the mystery which it seemed to be. My grandmother promised me the sampler after her death as a legacy; and the promise was no small gratification: but the promise, with many other promises of jewels and gold coins, was productive of nothing but disappointment.
Her death took place when I was at Oxford. My father went down; and, without consulting me, or giving the slightest intimation of his intention, let the house, and sold to the tenant almost everything that was in it. It was doing as he was wont to do, notwithstanding his undoubted affection for me. In the same way, he sold the estate which he had given to me as a provision on the occasion of his second marriage.
In the mass went some music-books which I had borrowed of Mrs Browne. Not long after, she desired them to be returned. I stood before her like a defenceless culprit, conscious of my inability to make restitution; and, at the same time, such was my state of mental weakness, that I knew not what to say for apology or defence. She was distinguished, however; for, while other matrons of her age and quality had seen many a ghost, she had seen but one. She was, in this particular, on a level with the learned lecturer, afterwards judge, the commentator Blackstone.
But she was heretical, and her belief bordered on Unitarianism. And, by the way, this subject of ghosts has been among the torments of my life. Even now, when sixty or seventy years have passed over my head since my boyhood received the impression which my grandmother gave it, though my judgment is wholly free, my imagination is not wholly so. My infirmity was not unknown to the servants. It was a permanent source of amusement to ply me with horrible phantoms in all imaginable shapes. Under the Pagan dispensation, every object a man could set his eyes on had been the seat of some pleasant adventure.
At Barking, in the almost solitude of which so large a portion of my life was passed, every spot that could be made by any means to answer the purpose was the abode of some spectre or group of spectres. One had for its autocrat no less a personage than Tom Dark; the other was the dwelling-place of Rawhead and Bloody Bones.
I suffered dreadfully in consequence of my fears. I kept away for weeks from the spots I have mentioned; and, when suffering was intolerable, I fled to the fields. So dexterous was the invention of those who worked upon my apprehensions, that they managed to transform a real into a fictitious being. His name was Palethorp; and Palethorp, in my vocabulary, was synonymous with hobgoblin.
One morning, the coachman and the footman took a conjunct walk to a public house kept by a man of the name Palethorp ; they took me with them: it was before I was breeched. They called for a pot of beer; took each of them a sip, and handed the pot to me. On their requisition, I took another; and, when about to depart, the amount was called for. The two servants paid their quota, and I was called on for mine. Nemo dat quod non habet —this maxim, to my no small vexation, I was compelled to exemplify. Mr Palethorp, the landlord, had a visage harsh and ill-favoured, and he insisted on my discharging my debt.
At this very early age, without having put in for my share of the gifts of fortune, I found myself in the state of an insolvent debtor. The demand harassed me so mercilessly, that I could hold out no longer: the door being open, I took to my heels; and, as the way was too plain to be missed, I ran home as fast as they could carry me. Level with the kitchen—level with the landing-place in which the staircase took its commencement—were the usual offices. When my company became troublesome, a sure and continually repeated means of exonerating themselves from it, was for the footman to repair to the adjoining subterraneous apartments, invest his shoulders with some strange covering, and, concealing his countenance, stalk in, with a hollow, menacing, and inarticular tone.
Lest that should not be sufficient, the servants had, stuck by the fireplace, the portraiture of a hobgoblin, to which they had given the name of Palethorp. For some years, I was in the condition of poor Dr Priestley, on whose bodily frame another name, too awful to be mentioned, used to produce a sensation more than mental. Shall I seek excuses for introducing these autobiographical sketches? I think not. They are faithful as pictures; they are interesting as philosophical studies. I was haunted by him. I went to bed; I wanted to sleep. The devil appeared to me in a dream: the imp in his company.
I had—which is not uncommon in dreams, at least with me—a sort of consciousness that it was a dream; with a hope that, with a little exertion, I might spring out of it: I fancied that I did so. Imagine my horror, when I still perceived devil and imp standing before me. It was out of the rain into the river. I made another desperate effort. I tried to be doubly awake; I succeeded. I was in a transport of delight when the illusion altogether vanished: but it was only a temporary relief; for the devil and the imp dwelt in my waking thoughts for many a year afterwards. One emphatic phrase from Ahasuerus to Esther, I well remember:—.
And most amusingly, even at the age of eighty, did Bentham represent the stiffness, gravity, and dignity of the fantoccino of his boyhood. One of my modes was to start up out of my bed at night, and to begin ranting, in a sort of medium state between waking and dreaming. I heard it called light-headedness. The first commencement of it may have been unbidden: but, finding that it attracted attention and afforded amusement, art came and assisted nature. I recollect, on one occasion, I was over-powered with terror. To every life there was a cut. Sylla, after his abdication, was represented in his civic costume, with a long flowing head of white hair.
In several of the pictures the unskilfulness of the artist had produced a ghastly effect; and, in the portait of Sylla this was so much the case, that it wrought upon my morbidly susceptible frame. One night I awoke in horror, with the image of Sylla before me: for many years thereafter did that same image continue its visitations. That night I continued raving for a considerable length of time. In other days, and in a similar state of things, the ravings might have passed for inspiration; and I might have been a prophet, or something more than a prophet—the founder of a new sect.
When I was promoted to the companionship of boys of a higher age, and about to leave the school for the university, the enfantillage evaporated. I became sole occupant of a large unfurnished bedroom—a fit place for the visitation of nocturnal visiters; and then and there it was that the devil and his imp appeared to me. Two or three instances of early aberrations I distinctly remember.
One of these was a subject of long-continuing affliction. On a dresser, not far from the fireplace in the kitchen, was, as I mentioned, a portrait of Palethorp, sketched with a fork on the wainscot, constantly before my eyes. I got chattering with the footman, and, whether in play or in anger, I forget which, as I forget the immediate cause, I took up a pair of scissors which were within reach, and threw them at him. At this time I was not breeched. I took aim but too well: they hit him in the eye.
Whatever was his pain of body, my pain of mind was greater. Sad was the disgrace into which I found myself plunged. My father, though in all his life he never struck me, yet, being fond of power, and of everything that could afford ground or pretence for the exercise of it, exercised on me, on this occasion, this talent of his with little mercy. I was sentenced to banishment. It happened to be migration time; my grandmother was gone to Barking already. Instead of being conducted to my father and mother, at the time of the usual weekly visit, I was sent off, in the middle of the week, with all my infamy on my head.
I remembered this for many years after; and, as for any use that this severity had on me, none can I find. The accident had not its origin in my ill temper; and there was nothing from which the punishment would preserve me. The man was under the care of a Edition: current; Page: [ 21 ] surgeon for days, if not weeks. He recovered; and his sight continued uninjured: but in this, or other ways, my mind was seldom without something gnawing upon it.
His vanity was flattered by the distinctions which Bentham obtained from his earliest years; and he fancied his son would become the stepping-stone to his own elevation. The circumstance of his being condemned to death for saving the capital, was excellent. I was very anxious in his behalf, particularly when chained down by the pigmies.
I was sad when I saw the Laputans in such a condition; and I did not like to see my own species painted as Yahoos. I was indeed comforted to find it was a goat. I always was afraid of the devil; I had seen him sowing tares, in a picture at Boghurst: how should I know it was not a copy from the life?
I had seen the devil too, in a puppet-show; I dreamt about him frequently: he had pinched me several times, and waked me. I had frequent dreams of a desire to go east; but I found interminable lugubrious buildings between me and the Strand, and melancholy creatures walking about. How much less unhappy I should have been, could I have acknowledged my superstitious fears! Now that I know the distinction between the imagination and the judgment, I can own how these things plagued me, without any impeachment of my intellect. It seemed to me strange stuff; there was no coherence.
I often saw the ladies giggling over it. Once my father took it out of my hand. I did not like the allegorical parts or the ballets: they confused me; they were insipid;—I wanted facts. The book looked like something between true and false, and I did not know how much might be true. His mind was essentially ascetic, and he brought nothing new to me—no facts, no chemistry, no electricity—all was gloomy and tasteless.
I knew that his stories of cocks and bulls were not true. Of his studies, Bentham, on another occasion, gave this account:—. The author was physician to a Dutch embassy, and went up to the capital of that island. He was a good botanist, and an intelligent man. Taken altogether, there was a pretty good supply for the three months of each year which I was there. I used to climb a lofty elm, and read in its branches. I was the more fond of this while the labourers were thrashing corn in the neighbourhood, as I was delighted to be in society with which I was not compelled to mix. No situation brought with it more felicity than to hide myself in the tree, and, having read for some time, to descend to gather up wheat for the peasants to thrash, and then to mount again to my leafy throne.
In the summer-house, too, a few books were scattered. So that there was abundance of occupation for me. But I was pleased with the advantage he had over Bishop Stillingfleet, a grandson of whom a proud, pompous fellow was afterwards one of my companions at College. He had the manners of a dogmatical parson, while yet an under-graduate.
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I do not know what became of him. He was short sentenced and clear; the other rolling and inflated. Burnet was one of the best of bishops—a kind, straightforward man. Pepys speaks of the bribes that Clarendon used to take. There was an entrance from the church-yard to the garden, which, with the parsonage-house, was in the occupancy of my cousin Mulford, son to my great-aunt; the minister of the parish living elsewhere. My uncle Grove, a kind and good creature withal, was a man of small mind; but nothing could be more devoid of amusement than his society was, to an ardent, acutely sensitive, and inquisitive boy; so, on every possible occasion, I broke away from Browning Hill, to quarter myself on my cousin Mulford, from whom I always experienced the kindest reception.
His was a very whimsical character. At an early age, between thirty-five and forty, he abandoned a prosperous business to live a single life at the Browning Hill parsonage. His mind was full of knicknackery and conceit; he was familiar with the practice of various handicraft arts: he was a blacksmith, a whitesmith, turner, carpenter, and joiner; he did, in fact, everything that could be done by hand; Edition: current; Page: [ 23 ] he was, at the same time, an amateur surgeon, and practised gratuitously, to a considerable extent, for the benefit of his poor neighbours. He had lived in a low and irregular way; was a sort of rake: but his rakery had been considerably subdued by this his country retreat, where his attentions were confined to one woman—a widow, or a widow bewitched, of a lieutenant in the navy.
Never shall I forget how I was appalled when a Quaker farmer, who was in company with my uncle and cousin Mulford, jeered them, in my presence, on the irregularity of their amours. No suspicion of such irregularity had ever before crossed my mind, and a sad tribulation it must have been to their respective mothers. My cousin was a member of a perpetual drinking club, of which the rule was—that the drinking-room should never for a moment, in the whole year, be empty, so that, by resorting to it, society, such as it was, was always to be found. Drunkenness did not necessarily form a part of the attributes of this club; for, during the sixty years and more that I knew this cousin of mine, I never saw him intoxicated, nor did I ever hear of his being so.
His opinions were extraordinary: he had a notion that whatever was in print was a lie. I asked him whether, if a fact had taken place, the putting it in print would cause it not to have taken place? He thought it a marvellous fine thing to cheat, and I did not fail to observe that the man who had the wit to cheat another, rose immediately in his opinion. I could not divine his motive; for the parsonage gave him all the enjoyments he desired: abundance of game, which he shot without any qualification; he had an aviary stocked with partridges, which he caught with his setting dogs. He was a man, though not of large stature, of remarkable strength: but he once spontaneously told me he had been outmastered by the woman with whom he lived.
I suspect this connexion was the primary cause of his migrating from the personage. My grandmother Grove sometimes visited the widow, and, on one occasion, she took me with her; but told me, on the way, how very reluctant her visits were to a person whose conduct, if closely inquired into, could not bear the test of scrutiny.
To me the visit was very charming.
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Mr Mulford was fond of gardening; and in his library there was, in 3 vols. There were also some medico-chirurgical books, but not of the most modern or most improved choice. He shut up the books in a cupboard. He used to leave the key in: but there was a particular art in managing the lock, so that a stranger could not open it.
I used to play with him at backgammon. His mornings were spent in gathering mushrooms, or gathering nuts. He was a sprightly man. His form was globular. I imagined it was to be mine; and my disappointment was great at finding it disposed of—much more properly—among a multitude of relations; none indeed so near as I was, but, for the most part, poor; and elevated, by the dispersion of this property, into a state of competence. My visits to my cousin were frequent, and generally of two or three weeks at a time; and I became acquainted with such of his neighbours as he was on terms with.
Among these was a Quaker of the name of Harris, an extensive gentleman farmer, inhabiting a nice house, who introduced me to his two sons and two daughters. The eldest of his sons John married one of the many daughters of a Mr. He was the hero of a crim. I remember dining with the said divine on a Sunday, after he had officiated; and his dress was a white coat, faced with black velvet; a white waistcoat; and black velvet small clothes; and in his shoes stone buckles to imitate diamonds. I have often heard Mr Bentham speak of the state of society at that period, and in that district—the elopements of women—the irregularities of men—and the vicissitudes which, in his experience, had followed the greater portion of the families with whom he was acquainted in his boyhood, and whose adventures he had followed in after years.
Some of the details of penury are so distressing, some of the facts of profligacy so disgusting, that I think it best to suppress them. Connexions, relatives, or descendants of these families, no doubt, exist; and I should feel that I was giving pain, with no sufficient balance of good, were I to individualize those cases, which, however they might illustrate the manners of the time, would shock the susceptibility of some, and scandalize the feelings of others.
Of some of his early tastes Bentham, only a short time before he died, gave the following description:—. My aunt Grove was fond of flowers, and had a few geraniums, which she called gerrnums. I loved to gossip with a very fine old man, the gardener at Boghurst. It appeared to me that the gardener treated the beautiful flowers very roughly. So long as I retained my smell, a wall-flower was a memento of Barking, and brought youth to my mind; for the wall-flowers covered the walls, with their roots between the bricks.
It I were a draughtsman I could Edition: current; Page: [ 25 ] give the site of every tree; and, without being a draughtsman, I can describe every particular about the house. On the borders of the garden were honey-suckles trained to standards, tulips in the beds: a noble pear-tree, which covered the whole house; I can remember all. When I was at Oxford, I found there was a botanical garden. A gardener was there, who was very civil to me. His name was Foreman; and he was foreman of the garden, and had been so for fifty years.
He allowed me to take seeds. A little before then, I laughed at botany students. I remember being much delighted at hearing there were Bee Orchises near Oxford, and more delighted still when I discovered one. It is not much like a man after all. When I last went to Oxford, and visited the physic-garden, I found it much degenerated. Many of the things I used to see were gone. I loved botany for the sake of its beauties. Of a wilderness at Ford Abbey—a perfect wilderness—I made a beautiful spot. I have been reading about a former possessor of it—Prideaux, Attorney-general during the Civil Wars—an extortioner.
Bentham frequently drew little sketches of the persons he recollected in his childhood. She dispossessed herself of the greatest part of her property to give to her son, who behaved to her badly and coarsely. Her time was passed in knitting stockings for the poor. She always wore the same simple garb of gray stuff, perhaps with some small mixture of silk. When once I asked her for a token of her remembrance, she knit me a pair of garters, so thick and coarse that they swelled out my small-clothes most inconveniently.
The death of my mother almost broke her heart. Her son was an unbeliever; he knew not why. Then he became a Methodist; and, last of all, a member of the New Jerusalem church, and with about equal reason. He trusted his horses to me, and I sometimes went on one of them to visit an honest attorney, one Tom Martin, who was so fond of spending his money on antiquities, that he was always pulling the devil by the tail.
I was a welcome visiter. He had, among other things, a book of songs, which had belonged to Mary Queen of Scots. Finding him distressed for cash, I put him in the hands of another honest Tom—Payne the bookseller—who was delighted to buy some of his literary treasures. He had little relish for those objects which were pointed out to him as specially deserving his care, and met with no individual in early life whom he could at the same time love for generous affections, and honour for mental superiority.
Yet he gathered up many enjoyments from the many sources of enjoyment which opened upon his susceptible mind; and, in spite of every drawback, the tenor of his existence, from first to last, was in the broad way of felicity. It was, however, principally in the latter portion of his life that his felicity was almost untroubled. The many discomforts of the early half of his existence were often contrasted by him with the quiet and habitual Edition: current; Page: [ 26 ] pleasures of his later years.
Even after he had become known as an author, a sense of his own insignificance pursued him. As it is, I am ashamed of an unrecognised existence. I feel like a cat or a dog that is used to be beaten by everybody it meets. He was accustomed, from his earliest years, to be talked of and to as a prodigy; and if this estimate of him had been wisely used to awaken his ambition, and excite his powers, it might have produced no undesirable result on his timid and retiring spirit.
But he was taught scorn and contempt for other boys. He was perpetually placed in a sort of estrangement, by hearing his companions treated as dunces; and thus his vanity and pride received constant fuel. Bentham had a strong affection for his mother: she died in , and everything exhibits her in the character of a kind and amiable woman.
Bentham was used to say that his family was distinguished by virtues on the female side. His father was exceedingly attached to his wife, and was so affected by her death, that it seemed likely to cause his own. He fancied his father would die too; but change of air, and of scene, and the kindness of friends whom he went to visit in the country, restored him to health. It was vague enough, as such discussions generally are; but Bentham was called upon, by his father and the rest of the company, to tell them his notions of genius.
I looked foolish and humbled, and said nothing; but Dr Markham was a shallow fellow, and Mr Cox, who was there, was a shallow fellow;—they were satisfied with Latin and Greek. Mr Cox was father of the Master in Chancery. Edition: current; Page: [ 27 ] He then lived in a large house in Chancery Lane, having an entrance also from Southampton Buildings.
He was then between six and seven years old. What can I produce? He turned it over in his thoughts: he sought every symptom he could discover in his natural disposition or acquired habits. I gave myself the answer, fearfully and tremblingly—Yes! Many, no doubt, there are who can trace, as I am able to trace, to a single phrase or suggestion, the shifting of the whole mental tendencies.
A solitary maxim has sometimes given a different colouring to a long train of thoughts, feelings, and actions. I had been a short time, being then about eight years old, at Westminster School, boarding with Mrs Morell. The house contained quite as many boarders as it could conveniently hold.
It was a large rumbling edifice, such as I have never seen elsewhere. There was a sort of irregular central spot, with processes, in the anatomical sense, issuing from it in various directions. Some of the rooms were occupied singly by boys belonging to aristocratical families; who, of course, paid in proportion.
One was the son of the then Duke of Portland, named Edward, who occupied as many as two, if not three, rooms. In the room in which I lodged there were three beds. One of these I shared with different bedfellows; who, in the course of a dozen months, were changed perhaps half as many times.
This bed was Edition: current; Page: [ 28 ] on the one side of two windows, between which was stationed a bureau, belonging to one of us; and on the other side of the farthest window was another bed, occupied by two boys, who were from two to four years older than I. One of them was named Mitford, and may, for aught I know, be still living He was the son of an opulent country gentleman; I believe of Suffolk: but having lived rather too fast, both for pocket and constitution, he was glad to accept an office as one of the four chief clerks of the Treasury; in which capacity I often saw him; and he was of considerable use to me in my Panopticon discussions.
His bedfellow was a boy of the name of Cotton; one of the Cottons of Cheshire. Not many years since, I heard of his being alive, in the character of a reverend divine, clothed in one of the rich sinecures to which his lineage gave him so incontestable a title. I had not been long at school, stationed in that same chamber, when, having stood out for the foundation, and obtained admission to it, he became an occasional visiter, sometimes for days together, at the boarding-house, where he had formerly lived, and resumed his former situation of bedfellow to Mitford.
While I was lying in bed, I heard from his mouth, stories which excited the liveliest interest in my mind; stories of his own invention; but in which the heroes and heroines were models of kindness and beneficence. They exhibited the quality to which I afterwards gave the name of effective benevolence; and I became enamoured of that virtue. I remember forming solemn resolutions, that if ever I possessed the means, I would be an example of that excellence, which appeared so attractive to me.
I lost sight of my unconscious instructor in after life: but in my controversies with government on the Panopticon project, I was thrown into contact with a brother of that Cotton; and Mitford was stationed in the very next seat to him. When I was doomed to continual solicitations at the foot of Mr Long, then Master of the Ceremonies at the Treasury Chambers, I bethought myself one day of drawing up, as a last expedient, a letter on the subject of my petition.
I showed it to Mr Ramus, asking him to advise whether I might venture to present such an instrument, and whether the letter I had written would answer the purpose. He mentioned it to other parties at the Treasury, as evidence of transcendent talent and aptitude for business. I never have been so lauded for great things as for this very little thing; and, in truth, it has often been my lot, when my mind has been stretched to accomplish the most important objects on the most important occasions, to have had less encouragement and praise than for some trifling or almost useless performance.
I recollect once, when a question was referred to me, which found me in a state of the most alarming ignorance, I contrived, by a mixture of industry and good fortune, to obtain the reputation of extraordinary learning and knowledge: but a great reputation may be reared on a very narrow foundation. But they found no tenants, except one woman, who was an aunt of Gibbon the Edition: current; Page: [ 29 ] historian. There was considerable opposition to the building of this square, especially on the part of Prebendary Wilson, who was a sort of popular preacher.
My father was a member of the Antiquarian Society; and I, for a pun, was accustomed to call Mr Wilson the Anti-squarian. The anti-squarians were right—the scheme failed; and, when half-a-dozen houses were built, no new funds were forthcoming, and the houses were either pulled down or were left to decay. The consequence was, that most of the loss fell upon Cox, who himself lived in considerable state. But my father would say to me that Cox was a generous man, and that it was strange he did not make the accustomed present when he was selected as godfather to my brother Sam.
I was probably the source of much suffering to this poor Cox; and very, very wretched was I from the thought. If I was involuntarily the instrument of pain to him, how much of anxiety and distress did he unintentionally inflict upon me! It lasted for years; and the memory of it, with all its circumstances, is still vivid in my mind. It was in the year , when I had been about a year and a half at Westminster School, that the circumstance happened. My father had once given me 4s.
I put them into my pocket, and went on spending them, still frightened at what I was doing. I thought there would never be an end of my five guineas; so, as I was fond of chocolate, I ordered a large mess of it; and, having no room to myself, sought a retired place to enjoy it; and the place I fixed on was a staircase leading to a solitary apartment.
I was dreadfully afraid inquiries would be made about my chocolate. I gave some money to a servant. How was I haunted with the dread of being discovered; for, had my father found me out, I should have died with shame and vexation; it being like the sword of Damocles over me, in the shape of terror and remorse. My mind was full of thoughtful struggles, partly with a sense of guilt, partly a conviction of innocence. The money was clearly meant for me; and what did I see in the school? The utmost prosperity on the part of the boys; the utmost destitution on mine.
Time did not remove the pain; I could not, even after I grew up to manhood, have confessed it to my father, so fond was he of invective; and very long did my disquiet remain unsubdued. Often have I heard him speak of this event. Bentham remembered, with extraordinary accuracy, almost every boy and every event connected with Westminster School. It would be too much to give all the details which I have heard from his lips, but I will give an example or two. I remember a boy of the name of Moysey; he was a great scholar, and famous in the school; every eye was turned upon him; yet he turned out good for nothing.
A great reputation at Westminster was quite compatible with worthlessness. There was one dull boy, Hammond, who became a member of the College of Cursitors. There was a son of the Stevens who wrote about Shakespeare; and one Selby, a marvellously stupid chap, who talked of nothing but hounds and horses; he was very like one of the devils calling out for water, in a picture of the Last Judgment. All his conversation was to utter yoix, yoix. I was the least boy in the school but one, who was, I believe, a descendant of the Dearings, of the Civil Wars; and the bigger lads took a pleasure in pitting us one against another.
He left the farm, and returned to it once as a beggar. He had a large quantity of classical knowledge. His business was rather in courting the great than in attending to the school. Any excuse served his purpose for deserting his post. He had a great deal of pomp, especially when he lifted his hand, waved it, and repeated Latin verses.
If the boys performed their tasks well, it was well; if ill, it was not the less well. We stood prodigiously in awe of him; indeed, he was an object of adoration. He published a flaming Tory sermon, which was much animadverted on in its day. Bentham was entered in the upper second form; beneath him were the under first, the upper first, and the petty.
It was then the rule to place the newcomer under another boy, to whose fortunes he was attached; and they were called substance and shadow. The duke came once or twice to see them: the duchess came more frequently. She was the sister of the Duchess of Newcastle, whose husband was that foolish and ignorant duke who was the Minister, and who spent a large fortune in gross eating and drinking, and said he did so for the good of his country, and in the service of his majesty. I have not that honour. I was full of ambition; accustomed to hear myself puffed and praised; and my father was always dinning into my ears the necessity of pushing myself forward—so he hailed this visit as the making of my fortune.
He was a thin, spindle-shanked man; very old. At dinner, my attention was excited by a Mr Trimmer, an humble dependant of the family, who sat at the bottom of the table, and wore gold lace like the rest; for everybody wore gold lace then: but narrow was the gold lace worn by Mr Trimmer. At parting, he put a guinea into my hand. I was to tell the story when I went home. I told the story of the guinea; and the guinea was taken from me for my pains. Many times I dined there afterwards, and always got my guinea; and always told the story; and always lost my guinea on getting home.
I was not indulged with the spending of any of my guineas, though I was indulged with a sight of them, and with being allowed to count them, which my father thought was a better thing; but I thought that what was mine was mine; and once I stole a guinea. They counted those that were left; the theft was discovered; I was in prodigious disgrace and ready to sink into the earth.
My cousin Mulford interceded for me; and, in process of time, my iniquity was forgotten. At seven years old, he was taught to dance, which was a serious punishment to him; for he was so weak that he could not support himself on tiptoes. Attempt upon attempt was made by his father to force the feeble boy to go through the dancing exercise; but the ligaments which join the patella were so weak, that they could scarcely sustain the body.
In later years, the ossification of age overgrew the infirmity. I have often heard Bentham say he was the feeblest of feeble boys; but, sensible of his defects, he supplied them by thought and care, and no one was more alert or active than he. His adroitness served for strength: and physical infirmity was counteracted by intellectual activity. He played at marbles with his thumbnail instead of his knuckle; and was a very tolerable fiddler, by the dexterity of his arm, though he wielded the bow with difficulty.
It was yet more difficult for him to manage a small gun, with which he was supplied by his father, in order to learn the military exercise. The gun was called little and light; but Bentham found it large and heavy. He had no taste for it; and his father provided him with a most incompetent master, Edition: current; Page: [ 32 ] who knew nothing of the rationale of the art.
He was a boy inquiring into the reason of everything; and his master could give him no reasons at all. Of music he was always fond. It was associated with his early recollections and enjoyments. Indeed, of harmony he had an exquisite sense. In playing I was afraid of a keyed instrument: If I touched a false note by accident, I was forced to play the true one. I composed a solo for the fiddle. He often prepared them for his aristocratic companions. There was, however, one boy at Westminister, who played the part of protector to Bentham, and of whom Edition: current; Page: [ 33 ] Bentham always spoke with much affection.
He was of a high family, and talked to Bentham of his descent. Bentham and he had conceived a sort of aversion to each other, which lasted for some time; one day, they mutually confessed their dislike, and each finding the other blameless, they became intimate, and wondered at their former alienation. They used to play at battledore together, and Bentham told me they had once kept up the shuttlecock times. So accurate was his memory of the most trifling occurrences of his boyhood. Yet I fished; I wanted new ideas, and new associations and excitements.
I was a dwarf, and too weak to enjoy it. When sixteen, I grew a head. In youth, Bentham accustomed himself Edition: current; Page: [ 34 ] to write in French, and he wrote with greater facility than in English. He was not embarrassed by the choice of words. His want of a thorough acquaintance with the language he felt to be an advantage, as no difficulties presented themselves in the phraseology. He wrote boldly on; while in English, he was stopping to weigh the value of words, and thus soon got embarrassed.
The scrupulousness of his phraseology will in future times be one of the great recommendations of his style. The fagging system was in full operation when Bentham was at Westminster School. He often spoke of its tyranny and cruelty, of its caprices and its injustice, with strongly excited feelings.
In different departments of the school, the fagging system was different; in some it was more, in some it was less, oppressive; but oppression was everywhere. Of the instruction, discipline, and usages of Westminster School, Bentham always spoke with reprobation. They were taught few useful and many useless things. The teachers were distinguished by their aptitude for some one or other trifle which was valueless. When there was a jingle of verses, Bentham got on very well, but he dreaded the sight and abhorred the labour of committing to memory what he thought was dull and stupid prose; but he learned it to avoid shame or punishment.
What the pain of being punished was, I never knew.
The Authentic Life of Billy, The Kid
My brothers and sisters were sometimes chastised by my grandmother; but I had no such experience. There were, in Westminster School, masters who were perfect sinecurists. The place was kept by one Jerry Hargreaves, and many were the jokes about him and the other Jerrys. He never failed to be present at all feasts and festivals, and especially at the dinner of the 29th July, to which I was sometimes invited.
The Kid and his companion reached the ranch where the Mexican boy awaited them about noon the next day. This messenger was rewarded with a handful of uncounted coin and dismissed. And thus, from one locality after another, was the Kid banished by his bloody deeds and violations of law.
Yet, not so utterly banished. It was his delight to drop down, occasionally, on some of his old haunts, in an unexpected hour, on his gallant gray, pistol in hand, jeer those officers of the law, whose boasts had slain him a hundred times, to watch their trembling limbs and pallid lips, as they blindly rushed to shelter.
And feared "Billy, the Kid. They, however, warned him not to attempt the nearer, and, under ordinary circumstances, more practicable route, by the Guadalupe Mountains, as that country was full of Apache Indians, who always resented encroachments upon their domains. They advised him to follow the mail route, by Tularosa and the plaza of Lincoln. The very scent of dangerous adventure, and the prospect of an encounter with Indians, who were his mortal aversion, served as a spur to drive the Kid to his destination by the most perilous route. Segura used all his powers of persuasion to divert him from his hazardous undertaking, but in vain.
As Segura could not be persuaded to accompany him, they parted again, and for the last time. The Kid now sought a companion bold enough to brave the danger before him, and found one in a young fellow who was known as Tom O'Keefe. He was about the Kid's age, with nerve for almost any adventure. These two boys prepared themselves for the trip at Las Cruces. The Kid left his gray in safe hands, to be sent on to him upon his order. Though the horse was fleet and long-winded, a common Mexican plug would wear him out in the mountains.
So the Kid and O'Keefe procured two hardy mustangs, rode to El Paso, bought a Mexican mule, loaded him with provisions and blankets, and two seventeen-year-old lads started forth to traverse nearly two hundred miles of Indian country, which the oldest and bravest scouts were wont to avoid. The second night in the mountains, they camped at the opening of a deep canon. At daylight in the morning, the Kid started out prospecting. He climbed the canon, and seeing some lofty peaks to the northwest, he labored in their direction, with the intention of scaling one of them to determine his bearings.
He had told Tom he would return by noon. He was back in little more than an hour, and announced that he had struck an Indian trail not three hours old, that he was sure these Indians were making their way to water, not only from the lay of the country, but from the fact that they had poured water out on the ground along the trail. It's close by. Those breech-clouts are going straight to it. I believe a little flare up with twenty or thirty of the sneaking curs would make me forget I was thirsty, while it lasted, and give water the flavor of wine after the brigazee was over.
They'll smell us out ten miles off. I'd rather find them than that they should find us. I am going to have water or blood, perhaps both.
MEMOIRS OF JEREMY BENTHAM; INCLUDING AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL CONVERSATIONS AND CORRESPONDENCE.
They soon struck the Indians' fresh trail and followed it cautiously for an hour, or more, then they suddenly brought up against the bare face of a cliff. The trail was under their feet, leading right up to the rock; but, at its base, a ragged mass of loose stones were seen to be displaced, showing the route of the Indians turning short to the right, and, by following this, they discovered an opening, not more than three feet wide, surrounded and overhung with stunted shrubs and clambering vines.
The Kid dismounted and peered through this opening, but could see only a short distance, as his vision was obscured by curves in the pass. They took the back track a short distance, when, finding a tolerable place of concealment for their animals, they halted. The Kid took their only canteen and prepared to explore the dreaded pass.
He told Tom that he should return on a run, and shouting to leave the mule, bring out the horses, and mount, ready to run; "and," said he, "if I bring water, don't fail to take the canteen from my hand, drink as you run, then throw the canteen away. All Tom's arguments to dissuade the Kid from his purpose were useless. Said he: "I would rather die fighting than to perish from thirst, like a rat in a trap. Crouching low, he noiselessly followed its windings some one hundred yards, as he judged, then he suddenly came to an opening, about thirty feet wide, and stretching away towards the southwest, gradually narrowing until a curve hid its further course from his sight.
The passage and opening were walled with rock, hundreds of feet high. Grass and weeds were growing luxuriantly in this little amphitheatre, and a glance to the left discovered a bubbling mountain spring, gushing forth from a rocky crevice, bright, clear and sparkling. Hugging the base of the cliff, creeping on hands and knees, the Kid, with canteen in readiness, approached the brink of a little basin of rock.
The ground about was beaten by horses' hoofs, and water, recently splashed about the margin of the spring, evidenced that the reds had lately quitted the spot. Face and canteen were quickly plunged into the cool stream. The Kid drank long and deep, his canteen was overflowing, and stealthily he moved away. Entering the passage, he was congratulating himself on his good fortune, when suddenly a fearful Indian yell and a volley of musketry from, almost, directly over his head, on the right, dispelled his vision of safety. His signal cry rang out in answer, then, dashing his canteen in the faces of the Indians, who could only approach singly from the defile, he snatched his six-shooter from its scabbard, wheeled, and swiftly as any Mescalero of them all, plunged into the gorge he had just quitted, pursued by how many savages he did not know, and by yells and showers of lead.
Let us return for a moment to O'Keefe. He heard the Kid's dreaded shouts, and, simultaneously, the rattle of fire-arms and the blood-curdling war cry of the Indians. He followed the Kid's instructions so far as to bring the horses out to the trail, then the irresistible impulse of self-preservation overcame him and he mounted and fled as fast as the sinuous, rugged path would permit. The yells of the bloody Apaches, multiplied by a thousand echoes, seemed to strike upon his ears, not alone from his rear, but from the right of him, the left of him, the front of him, and as it resounded from peak to peak, he was persuaded that myriads of dusky devils were in pursuit, and from every direction.
Spying a cleft in the rocks, on his right, inaccessible to a horse, he threw himself from the saddle, gave the affrighted mustang a parting stroke, which sent him clattering down the steep declivity, then, on hands and knees, crawled into the chasm. Never casting a look behind, he crept on and up, higher and higher, until, as he reached a small level plateau, he thought he had surely attained the very summit of the mountains. The discharge of arms and savage shouts still fell faintly on his ears. Tremblingly he raised to his feet. His hands and limbs were scratched, bruised, and bleeding, and his clothing nearly stripped from his body.
Faint with loss of blood, exertion, and thirst, he cast his blood-shot eyes over the surrounding crags and peaks. For some moments he could discern no sign of life, except here and there a huge bird, startled from his lofty perch by unwonted sounds, lazily circling over the scene of conflict beneath. Tom's eyelids were drooping, and he was about to yield to an uncontrollable stupor, when his unsteady gaze was caught by a weird, to him incomprehensible, sight. Away off to the southeast, right on the face of a seemingly perpendicular mountainside, high up the ragged peak, as though swinging, without support, in mid-air, he descried a moving object, unlike beast or bird, yet rising slowly up, and higher up the dizzy cliff.
His eye once arrested, gazing long and steadily, he could clearly discern that it was the figure of a man. Sometimes hidden by the stunted vegetation, cropping out from clefts of the rock, and sometimes standing erect, in bold relief, he still ascended—slowly, laboriously. Tom could also see masses of rock and earth, as they were dislodged by daring feet, and hear them, too, as they thundered down into the abyss below, awakening a thousand echoes from surrounding mountains. It dawned, at last, upon O'Keefe's bewildered senses that this bold climber could be none other than the Kid, that he had essayed this fearfully perilous ascent as the only means of escape from the Indians.
Again Tom's momentarily aroused intellects deserted him, and, utterly exhausted, he sank down upon the rock and slept profoundly. Let us return to the Kid, whom we left in imminent peril. He had secured a copious draught of water, and felt its refreshing effect. He had left his Winchester with Tom, as he was preparing to run and not to fight. Thus, he had only his trusty six-shooter and a short dirk to make a fight against twenty well-armed savages thirsty for blood.
As the Kid darted into the narrow passage which led back to the spring, the Indians were but a few paces behind; but when they reached the opening, their prey was nowhere to be seen. Instinctively they sought his trail and quickly found it. They followed it for a few moments silently. The moments were precious ones to the Kid. The trail led them straight up to an apparently inaccessible cliff; they voluntarily raised their eyes, and there, as if sailing in open air, high above their heads, they descried their quarry.
The Kid, however, quickly disappeared behind a friendly ledge, while such a yell of baffled rage went up as only an Apache can utter, and lead rained against the mountain side, cutting away the scant herbage and flattening against the resisting rock. In an instant a half-dozen young braves were stripped for the pursuit. One, a lithe and sinewy young fellow, who appeared to possess the climbing qualities of the panther, quickly reached a point but a few feet beneath where the Kid had disappeared.
For one instant an arm and hand projected from the concealing ledge, a flash, a report, and the bold climber poised a moment over the space beneath; then, with arms extended, a death-cry on his lips, he reeled and fell, backward, bounding from ledge to ledge, until he lay, a crushed and lifeless mass, at the feet of the band. The Kid made a feint, as if to leave his concealment, thus drawing the fire of the savages, but ere their guns were brought to bear on him, he darted back to shelter, again quickly appeared, and amidst yells of hate continued his ascent.
Two or three desperate leaps from crag to crag, and he found another uncertain place of concealment. The pursuers, undaunted by the fate of their comrade, held steadily on their way. The Kid's body was now stretched forth from his hiding place in full sight, his gaze directed below, and amidst a shower of bullets his revolver again belched forth a stream of death-laden fire, and another Apache receives a dead-head ticket to the Happy Hunting Grounds.
The inert body of this converted savage caught on a projecting ledge and hung over the chasm. And now our hero seems to scorn concealment and bends all his energies towards mastering the ascent of the precipice, where not even an Apache dared to follow. As he several times paused to breathe, he leaned away out of the yawning gulf beneath, jeered his foes in Spanish, and fired wherever he saw a serape or a feather to shoot at.
Bullets showered around him as he boldly but laboriously won his way, foot by foot. He seemed to bear a charmed life. Not a shot took effect on his person, but he was severely wounded in the face by a fragment of rock rent from the face of the cliff by a bullet. The magic pen of Scott portrays the "frantic chase" of Bertram Risingham, in pursuit of the supposed spirit of Mortham, over "rock, wood and stream.
Sings Scott:. More than once on that mountain side, like Bertram, the Kid trusted his whole weight to his "sinewy hands," and more than once did he dare "an unsupported leap in air. Safely the Kid reached the top of the peak. He felt no fear of pursuit from Indians, as he knew they had abandoned the perilous route himself had taken, and it would require days to make a detour so as to intercept him on the south. Yet his situation was forlorn, not to say desperate. Almost utterly exhausted from exertion, bruised, bleeding, footsore, famishing for food and water, yet sleep was what he most craved, and that blessing was accessible.
Like O'Keefe, he sank down in a shady nook and wooed "balmy sleep, Nature's sweet restorer. The distance between them, air line, was not so far, but there was more than distance intervening. Canons, precipices, crags, and brush to say nothing of a possible band of savages, burning with baffled hate and deadly revenge.
Each speculated on the fate of the other. The Kid made a straight break towards the rising sun, after reaching the valley beneath his last night's resting place, and reached the cow camps on the Rio Pecos in three days. He procured water at long intervals, but no food except wild berries during the whole trip. He had walked the entire distance and was pretty essentially used up when he reached the camps. After a few days rest, having informed himself how his entertainers stood as between the two factions in the Lincoln County War, he made himself known and was immediately armed, mounted, and accompanied to a stronghold of the Murphy-Dolan faction by one of the cattle-owners, where he again met Jesse Evans and his comrades, with whom he had parted on the Rio Grande.
The Kid was very anxious to learn the fate of O'Keefe, and induced two or three of the boys to accompany him again to Las Cruces, intending, should he hear no tidings of him there, to return by the Guadalupe route and try to hunt him up, or, failing in that, to "eat a few Indians," as he expressed it. He never deserted a friend. He had another errand at Las Cruces. His favorite gray was there, and he pined to bestride him once more. Let us go back to O'Keefe in the wild passes of the mountains. Like the Kid, he had slept long and felt refreshed.
But, less fortunate than his fellow, he had failed to get water the day previous, and was suffering intensely, not only from thirst but from hunger. His first impulse was to place the greatest possible distance between himself and the scene of horror which had been enacted so recently; but his sufferings for lack of water were becoming acute. He felt a sort of delirium, and the impulse to return to the spring and procure water was irresistible.
Yet he lingered in concealment, listening in terror and suffering untold agony, until night fell—the moon afforded a little light—and he found both the spring and the canteen. Hastily slaking his thirst and filling the canteen, he returned to the spot where he had left the Kid's horse and the pack-mule. He found the dead body of the horse, pierced with balls, not a dozen yards from where he had last seen him, but there was no sign of the mule, and Tom addressed himself to the task of journeying, on foot, back to the settlements. Throughout the night and long into the following day he plodded on.
Like the Kid, he found a few green berries with which he "fed hunger. Poking about amongst the stones and earth around the pits, he found plenty of half-roasted refuse, which furnished him an ample feast and more than he cared to burden himself with for his after use on the journey. In a few hours the wanderer reached the level prairie at the foot of the mountains in the south. His good luck had not deserted him yet.
In the soft earth he espied the foot prints of his own horse which he had deserted. Night was coming on, but weary as he was, he followed the trail until darkness hid it from view. Just as he was about to seek a "soft place" on which to pass the night, he saw on his right, and a hundred yards distant, a moving object.
To be brief, it was his own horse; he slept in his saddle blankets that night, and, in due time, made his way safely back to the Rio Grande. The Kid's efforts to induce Tom to join him in his Lincoln County enterprise were without avail. He had seen enough of that locality and did not hanker after a second interview with the Mescaleros. It continued for nearly two years, and the robberies and murders consequent thereon would fill a volume. The majority of these outrages were not committed by the principals or participants in the war proper, but the unsettled state of the country caused by these disturbances called the lawless element, horse and cattle thieves, footpads, murderers, escaped convicts, and outlaws from all the frontier states and territories; Lincoln and surrounding counties offered a rich and comparatively safe field for their nefarious operations.
It is not the intention, here, to discuss the merits of the embroglio—to censure or uphold either one faction or the other, but merely to detail such events of the war as the hero of these adventures took part in. The principals in this difficulty were, on one side, John S. McSween and John H. Tunstall as important allies. This latter faction was supported by Hon. Catron, United States attorney for the Territory, a resident and eminent lawyer of Santa Fe, and a considerable cattle-owner in the Valley.
John S. Chisum's herds ranged up and down the Rio Pecos, from Fort Sumner way below the line of Texas, a distance of over two hundred miles, and were estimated to number from 40, to 80, head of full-blood, graded, and Texas cattle. McSween was a successful lawyer at Lincoln, retained by Chisum, besides having other pecuniary interests with him.
John H. Tunstall was an Englishman, who only came to this country in He had ample means at his command, and formed a copartnership with McSween at Lincoln, the firm erecting two fine buildings and establishing a mercantile house and the "Lincoln County Bank," there. Tunstall was a liberal, public-spirited citizen, and seemed destined to become a valuable acquisition to the reliable business men of our country.
He, also, in partnership with McSween, had invested considerably in cattle. This bloody war originated about as follows: The smaller cattle-owners in Pecos Valley charged Chisum with monopolizing, as a right, all this vast range of grazing country—that his great avalanche of hoofs and horns engulfed and swept away their smaller herds, without hope of recovery or compensation—that the big serpent of this modern Moses, swallowed up the lesser serpents of these magicians.
They maintained that at each "round-up" Chisum's vast herd carried with them hundreds of head of cattle belonging to others. On Chisum's part he claimed that these smaller proprietors had combined together to round-up and drive away from the range—selling them at various military posts and elsewhere throughout the country—cattle which were his property and bearing his mark and brand under the system of reprisals.
Collisions between the herders in the employ of the opposing factions were of frequent occurence, and, as above stated, in the winter and spring of the war commenced in earnest. Robbery, murder, and bloody encounters ceased to excite either horror or wonder. Under this state of affairs it was not so requisite that the employees of these stockmen should be experienced vaqueros as that they should possess courage and the will to fight the battles of their employers, even to the death.
The reckless daring, unerring markmanship, and unrivalled horsemanship of the Kid rendered his services a priceless acquisition to the ranks of the faction which could secure them. Throughout the summer and a portion of the fall of , the Kid faithfully followed the fortunes of the party to which he had attached himself. His time was spent on the cattle-ranges of the Pecos Valley, and on the trail, with occasional visits to the plazas, where, with his companions, he indulged, without restraint, in such dissipations as the limited facilities of the little tendejons afforded.
His encounters with those of the opposite party were frequent, and his dauntless courage and skill had won for him name and fame, which admiration, or fear, or both, forced his friends, as well as his enemies, to respect. No noteworthy event occurred during the Kid's adherence to the Murphy-Dolan faction, and he declared that all the uses of his life were "flat, stale, and unprofitable. The Kid was not satisfied. Whether conscientious scruples oppressed his mind, whether he pined for a more exciting existence, or whether policy dictated his resolve, he determined to desert his employers, his companions, and the cause in which he was engaged and in which he had wrought yeoman's service.
He met John H. Tunstall, a leading factor of the opposition. Whether the Kid sought this interview, or Tunstall sought him, or befell by chance is not known. At all events, our hero expressed to Tunstall his regret for the course he had pursued against him and offered him his future services. Tunstall immediately put him under wages and sent him to the Rio Feliz, where he had a herd of cattle.
The Kid rode back to camp and boldly announced to his whilom confederates that he was about to forsake them, and that when they should meet again,. Dark and lowering glances gleamed out from beneath contracted brows at this communication, and the Kid half-dreaded and half-hoped a bloody ending to the interview. Angry expostulation, eager argument, and impassioned entreaty all failed to shake his purpose. Perhaps the presence and intervention of his old and tried friend Jesse Evans stayed the threatened explosion.
Argued Jesse: "Boys, we have slept, drank, feasted, starved, and fought cheek by jowl with the Kid; he has trusted himself alone amongst us, coming like a man to notify us of his intention; he didn't sneak off like a cur, and leave us to find out, when we heard the crack of his Winchester, that he was fighting against us. Let him go. Our time will come.
We shall meet him again, perhaps in fair fight. Come you, Baker, as you are stinking for a fight; you never killed a man you did not shoot in the back; come and fight a man that's looking at you. Red lightnings flashed from the Kid's eyes as he glared on cowering Baker, who answered not a word. With this banter on his lips, our hero slowly wheeled his horse and rode leisurely away, casting one long regretful glance at Jesse, with whom he was loth to part.
He frequently came in contact with his employer and entertained for him strong friendship and deep respect, which was fully reciprocated by Tunstall. He was also ever a welcome guest at the residence of McSween. Both Tunstall and McSween were staunch friends to the Kid, and he was faithful to them to the last. His life passed on uneventfully. Deeds of violence and bloodshed were of frequent occurrence on the Pecos and in other portions of the country, but all was quiet on the Rio Feliz. The Kid had seemed to lose his taste for blood. In the month of February, , William S. Morton said to have had authority as deputy sheriff , with a posse of men composed of cow boys from the Rio Pecos, started out to attach some horses which Tunstall and McSween claimed.
Tunstall was on the ground with some of his employees. On the approach of Morton and his party, Tunstall's men all deserted him—ran away. Morton afterwards claimed that Tunstall fired on him and his posse; at all events, Morton and party fired on Tunstall, killing both him and his horse. One Tom Hill, who was afterwards killed whilst robbing a sheep outfit, rode up as Tunstall was lying on his face, gasping, placed his rifle to the back of his head, fired, and scattered his brains over the ground.
This murder occurred on the 18th day of February, Before night the Kid was apprised of his friends death. His rage was fearful. Breathing vengeance, he quitted his herd, mounted his horse, and from that day to the hour of his death his track was blazed with rapine and blood. The Kid rode to Lincoln and sought McSween. Here he learned that R. Bruer had been sworn in as special constable, was armed with a warrant, and was about to start, with a posse, to arrest the murderers of Tunstall. The Kid joined this party, and they proceeded to the Rio Pecos,.
On the 6th day of March, Bruer and his posse "jumped up" a party of five men below the lower crossing of Rio Penasco and about six miles from the Rio Pecos. They fled and the officer's party pursued. They separated, and the Kid, recognizing Morton and Baker in two of the fugitives who rode in company, took their trail and was followed by his companions.
For fully five miles the desperate flight and pursuit was prolonged. The Kid's Winchester belched fire continually, and his followers were not idle; but distance and the motion of running horses disconcerted their aim, and the fugitives were unharmed. Suddenly, however, their horses stumbled, reeled, and fell, almost at the same instant. Perhaps they were wounded; no one paused to see. A friendly sink-hole in the prairie, close at hand, served the fleeing pair as a breastwork, from which they could have "stood off" twice the force behind them.
And yet the pursuers had the best of it, as the pursued had but two alternatives—to surrender or starve. After considerable parley, Morton said that if the posse would pledge their word and honor to conduct himself and his companion, Baker, to Lincoln in safety, they would surrender.
The Kid strongly opposed giving this pledge. He believed that two of the murderers of Tunstall were in his power, and he thirsted for their blood. He was overruled, the pledge was given, the prisoners were disarmed and taken to Chisum's ranch. The Kid rode in the advance, and, as he mounted, was herd to mutter: "My time will come.
On the 9th day of March, , the officer, with posse and prisoners, left Chisum's for Lincoln. The party numbered thirteen men. The two prisoners, special constable R. Bruer, J. Skurlock, Chas. They stopped at Roswell, five miles from Chisum's, to give Morton the opportunity to mail a letter at the postoffice there. This letter he registered to a cousin, Hon. Marshall, Richmond, Va. A copy of this letter is in the hands of the author, as well as a letter subsequently addressed to the postmaster by Marshall.
Morton descended from the best blood of Virginia, and left many relatives and friends to mourn his loss. Morton and the whole party were well known to the postmaster, M. Upson, and Morton requested him, should any important event transpire, to write to his cousin and inform him of the facts connected therewith. Upson asked him if he apprehended danger to himself on the trip. He replied that he did not, as the posse had pledged themselves to deliver them safely to the authorities at Lincoln, but, in case this pledge was violated, he wished his people to be informed.
McClosky, of the officer's posse, was standing by and rejoined: "Billy, if harm comes to you two, they will have to kill me first. The Kid had nothing to say. He appeared distrait and sullen, evidently "digesting the venom of his spleen. The prisoners were mounted on two inferior horses. This was the last ever seen of these two unfortunates, alive, except by the officer and his posse.
It was nearly ten o'clock in the morning when they left the postoffice. About four o'clock in the evening, Martin Chavez, of Picacho, arrived at Roswell from above, and reported that the trail of the party left the direct road to Lincoln, and turned off in the direction of Agua Negra. This was an unfrequented route to the base of Sierra de la Capitana, and the information at once settled all doubts in the minds of the hearers as to the fate of Morton and Baker.
On the 11th, Frank McNab, one of the posse, returned to Roswell and entered the post-office. Said Upson: "Hallo! McNab; I thought you were in Lincoln by this time. Any news? We had to kill them, or some of us would have been hurt," explained McNab. This tale was too attenuated. Listeners did not believe it. The truth of the matter, as narrated by the Kid, and in which rendering he was supported by several of his comrades, was as follows:. It had been resolved by two or three of the guards to murder Morton and Baker before they reached Lincoln.
It has been stated by newspaper correspondents that the Kid killed McClosky. This report is false. He was not one of the conspirators, nor did he kill McClosky. He cursed Bruer, in no measured terms for giving a pledge of safety to the prisoners, but said, as it had been given, there was no way but to keep their word.
He further expressed his intention to kill them both, and said his time would come to fulfill his threat, but he would not murder an unarmed man. McCloskey and Middleton constantly rode behind the prisoners, as if to protect them; the others brought up the rear, except the Kid and Bowdre, who were considerably in advance. McNab placed his revolver to McClosky's head and said: "Your are the son-of-a-bitch that's got to die before harm can come to these fellows, are you? McClosky rolled from his horse a corpse. The terrified, unarmed prisoners fled as fast as their sorry horses could carry them, pursued by the whole party and a shower of harmless lead.
At the sound of the first shot, the Kid wheeled his horse. All was confusion. He could not take in the situation. He heard fire-arms, and it flashed across his mind that, perhaps, the prisoners had, in some accountable manner, got possession of weapons. He saw his mortal enemies attempting to escape, and as he sank his spurs in his horse's sides, he shouted to them to halt. They held their course, with bullets whistling around them.
A few bounds of the infuriated gray carried him to the front of the pursuers—twice only, his revolver spoke, and a life sped at each report. Thus died McClosky, and thus perished Morton and Baker. The Kid dismounted, turned Morion's face up to the sky, and gazed down on his old companion long and in silence. He asked no questions, and the party rode on to Lincoln, except McNab, who returned to Chisum's ranch.
They left the bodies where they fell. They were buried by some Mexican sheep-herders. Hindman in the Streets of Lincoln. He was a peaceably disposed man, but the murder of his partner aroused all the belligerent passion within him. The Kid still adhered to Bruer's official posse, as hunger for vengeance was, by no means, satiated, and Bruer was still on the trail of Tunstall's murderers.
One of the actors in that tragedy was an ex-soldier named Roberts. Roberts was a splendid shot, an experienced horseman, and as brave as skillful. Bruer and party were soon on their way to attempt his arrest. The Kid knew that he would never be taken alive by this party, with the fate of Morton and Baker, at their hands, so fresh in his memory; and this to the Kid, was a strong incentive to urge the expedition. It was life he wanted, not prisoners. As the party approached the building from the east, Roberts came galloping up from the west.
The Kid espied him, and bringing his Winchester to rest on his thigh, he spurred directly towards him as Bruer demanded a surrender. Roberts' only reply was to the Kid's movements. Like lightning his Winchester was at his shoulder and a ball sang past the Kid's ear. Quick as his foe, the Kid's aim was more accurate, and the ball went crashing through Roberts' body, inflicting a mortal wound. Hurt to the death, this brave fellow was not conquered, but lived to wreak deadly vengeance on the hunters.
Amidst a shower of bullets he dismounted and took refuge in an out-house, from whence, whilst his brief life lasted, he dealt death with his rifle. He barricaded the door of his weak citadel with a mattress and some bed-clothing, which he found therein, and from this defense he fought his last fight. His bullets whistled about the places of concealment, where lurked his foes. Wherever a head, a leg, or an arm protruded, it was a target for his rifle. Charley Bowdry was severely wounded in the side, a belt of cartridges around his body saving his life.
Here Dick Bruer met his death. Blazer's saw-mill is directly across the street from Roberts' hiding place. In front of the mill were lying numerous huge saw-boys. Unseen by Roberts, Bruer had crept behind these, to try and get a shot at him. But no sooner did Bruer raise his head to take an observation than the quick eye of Roberts detected him—but one of Bruer's eyes was exposed-it was enough—a bullet from a Winchester found entrance there, and Bruer rolled over dead behind the boy. The brave fellow's time was short, but to his last gasp his eye was strained to catch sight of another target for his aim, and he died with his trusty rule in his grasp.
To the Kid, the killing of Roberts was neither cause for exultation, nor "one for grief. He swore he would not rest nor stay his murderous hand so long as one of Tunstall's slayers lived. Bruer dead, the command of the squad, by common consent, was conferred upon the Kid. He had little use for the position, however, as throwing around his deeds the protection of law, which he held in disdain.
What he wanted was two or three "free riders" who, without fear or compunction, would take their lives in their hands and follow where he led. On their return to Lincoln, the posse was disbanded, but most of those composing it joined fortunes with the Kid as their accepted leader. With emissaries riding over the country in every direction, he bided his time and opportunity.
He spent most of his time in Lincoln and frequently met adherents of the other faction, which meetings were ever the signal for an affray. Matthews, well known throughout the Territory as "Billy" Matthews, held the Kid in mortal aversion. He was not with the posse who killed Tunstall, but denounced, in no measured terms, the killers of Morton, Baker, and Roberts. He was in Lincoln plaza on the 2 8th day of March, and, by chance, unarmed. He came suddenly face to face with the Kid, who immediately "cut down" on him with his Winchester.
Matthews had his revenge, though, as will hereafter appear. At this time William Brady was sheriff of Lincoln County. Major Brady was an excellent citizen and a brave and honest man. He was a good officer, too, and endeavored to do his duty with impartiality. The objections made against Sheriff Brady were that he was strongly prejudiced in favor of the Murphy-Dolan faction—those gentlemen being his warm personal friends, and that he was lax in the discharge of his duty through fear of giving offence to one party or the other.
Yet the citizens of New Mexico will unite in rendering honor to the memory of an honest, conscientious, kind-hearted gentleman. Sheriff Brady held warrants for the Kid and his associates, charging them with the murders of Morton, Baker, and Roberts. The Kid and his accomplices had evaded arrest by dodging Brady on the plaza and standing guard in the field. They resolved to end this necessity for vigilance, and by a crime which would disgrace the record of an Apache.
The Kid was a monomaniac on the subject of revenge for the death of Tunstall. No deed so dark and damning but he would achieve it to sweep obstacles from the path which led to its accomplishment. Brady with his writs barred the way, and his fate was sealed. In those days of anarchy a man was seldom seen in the plaza or streets of Lincoln without a gun on his shoulder. The sheriff and his attendants each bore a rifle.
The Kid and his companions had cut grooves in the top of the adobe wall in which to rest their guns. As the sheriff came in sight a volley of bullets were poured upon them from the corral, and Brady and Hindman fell, whilst Matthews took shelter behind some old houses on the south side of the street. Brady was killed outright, being riddled with balls. Hindman was mortally wounded, but lived a few moments. Ike Stockton, who was for so long a terror in Rio Arriba County, this Territory, and in Southern Colorado, and who was recently killed at Durango, kept a saloon in Lincoln plaza at the time the above recited event occurred, and was supposed to be a secret ally of the Kid and gang.
He was a witness to the killing of Brady, and, at this moment approached the fallen men. Hindman called faintly for water. The Rio Bonito was close at hand, Stockton brought water to the wounded man in his hat. As he raised his head he discovered Matthews in his concealment. At this moment the Kid and his fellows leaped the corral way and approached with the expressed intention of taking possession of the arms of Brady and Hindman. Ike knew that as soon as they came in view of Matthews, he would fire on them, and he was equally sure that were he to divulge Matthews presence, he would, himself, become a target.
So he "fenced" a little, trying to persuade the Kid that he had not better disturb the arms, or to defer it a while. The Kid was, however, determined, and as he stooped and raised Brady's gun from the ground, a ball from Matthews' rifle dashed it from his hand and plowed a furrow through his side, inflicting a painful though not dangerous wound. For once the Kid was baffled. To approach Matthews' defense was to court death, and it was equally dangerous to persevere in his attempt to possess himself with Brady and Hindman's arms.
Discretion prevailed and the party retired to the house of McSween. Hindman lived but a few moments. This murder was a most dastardly crime on the part of the Kid, and lost him many friends who had, theretofore, excused and screened him. The laws were not administered, and they often dared to enter the plaza in broad day, defying their enemies and entertained by their friends.
For some space Lincoln County had no sheriff. Few were bold enough to attempt the duties of the office. At length, George W. Peppin consented to receive a temporary appointment. He appointed, in his turn, a score of deputies, and during his tenure of office, robbery, murder, arson, and every crime in the calendar united and held high carnival in their midst. The Kid was not idle. Wherever a bold heart, cool judgment, skillful hand, or reckless spirit was required in the interests of his faction, the Kid was in the van.
San Patrick , a small Mexican plaza on the Rio Ruidoso, some seven miles from Lincoln by a trail across the mountain, was a favorite resort for the Kid and his band. Most of the Mexicans there were friendly to him, and kept him well informed as to any movement which might jeopardize his liberty. Jose Miguel Sedillo, a faithful ally of the Kid, brought him information, one day in June about daylight, that Jesse Evans with a party from below were prowling about, probably with the intention of stealing a bunch of horses belonging to Chisum and McSween, and which were in charge of the Kid and party.
Without waiting for breakfast, the Kid started with five men, all who were with him at that time. Skurlock, John Middleton, and Tom O. This latter was a young Texan, bold and unscrupulous, who followed the fortunes of the Kid from the day they first met, literally to the death. At this time he had only been with the gang a few days. Taking Brown with him, the Kid ascended a ridge on the west of the Ruidoso, and followed it up, towards the Bruer ranch, where he had left the horses. He sent Bowdre, in charge of the other three, with instructions to follow the river up on the east bank.
After riding some three miles the Kid heard firing in the direction where Bowdre and his men should be. The shots were scattering, as though a skirmish was in progress. He dismounted and sent Brown on to circle a hill on the left, whilst himself led his gray down the steep declivity towards the river and road and in the direction of the shooting.
With much difficulty he reached the foot of the mountain, crossed the river, and was laboriously climbing a steep ascent on the east when the clatter of a single horse's feet arrested his attention, and, in a moment he descried Brown, through a gap of the hills, riding furiously towards the north, and, at that moment a fusilade of fire-arms saluted his ears. He mounted and then came a most wonderful ride of less than a mile; it was not remarkable for speed, but the wonder is how he made it at all. Through crevices of rock it would seem a coyote could scarce creep, over ragged precipices, through brush, cactus, and zacaton, he made his devious, headlong way, until, leaving the spur of hills he had with such difficulty traversed, another similar elevation lay in front of him, between the two a gorge some half mile across; and, at the foot of the opposite hill, the scene of conflict was in view.
Jesse, with a band of eight men had attacked Bowdre's party; they were fighting and skirmishing amongst the rocks and undergrowth at the foothills, and were so mixed, confused, and hidden, that the Kid could scarce distinguish friends from foes. He spied Bowdre, however, in the hands of the enemy, among whom he recognized Jess. Bowdre's relation of previous events shows how Evans and men attacked him about two miles from the hills. Having an inferior force, he made a run for the foot-hills and took a stand there amongst the rock and brush.
Several shots were fired during the chase. Evans made a detour of the hill to avoid the range of Bowdre's guns, and the skirmish commenced. Bowdre became separated from his men. He saw Brown as he rode to the rescue and sought ambush on the east of the hill. Evans also saw Brown, and sent a shower of lead after him, which was the volley that reached the ears of the Kid and brought him to the scene. Thinking to join Brown, who had not recognized him, Bowdre broke from cover on a run, but fell into the hands of Jesse and four of his men.
He was powerless against numbers, and his only hope was to stand Evans off until assistance arrived. How he prayed for the appearance of the Kid as he shot anxious glances around. No shot was fired. Evans and party covered him with their revolvers, and Jesse's merry blue eyes danced with boyish glee, albeit a little devil lurked about the corners, as he bantered his prisoner:. I expected to meet him this morning. I'm hungry and thought I'd flay and roast the Kid for breakfast.
We all want to hear him bleat. Bowdre choked back the retort which rose to his lips. He was dismounted and his gun taken from the scabbard, where he had replaced it when surprised, but his captors made no motion to relieve him of his revolver. Bowdre stood with his hand resting on his horse's haunch. Three of Evans' men were dismounted, and two of their horses stood heads and tails, each bridle rein thrown over the other's saddle-horn. At this moment it was that the Kid's well-known yell rang out like the cry of a panther. The Evans crowd seemed paralyzed, and Bowdre remarked: "There comes your breakfast, Jess.
Quicker than it can be told, there scarce seemed space to breathe 'till. The gray dashed among the amazed gazers. The Kid's voice rang out: "Mount, Charley, mount. Triumph in his eye, Bowdre had seized his gun, unnoticed, and mounted, ranging himself beside the Kid. This meeting was a sight not soon to be forgotten by those who witnessed it. These two young beardless desperadoes, neither of them yet twenty-one years of age-boyish in appearance, but experienced in crime—of nearly equal size, each had earned a reputation for desperate daring by desperate deeds, which had made their names a terror wherever they were known.
They had slept together on the prairies, by camp fires, in Mexican pueblos, and on the mountain tops; they had fought the bloody Mescaleros and Chiricahuas side by side; they had shared their last dollar and their last chunk of dried deer meat, and had been partners in many other reckless and less creditable adventures, since their earliest boyhood. No one would have thought, from their smiling faces, that these two were mortal foes. Their attitudes were seemingly careless and unconstrained, as they sat their chafing horses, each with a revolver, at full-cock, in his right hand, resting on his thigh.
Though their eyes twinkled with seeming mirth, they were on the alert. Not for an instant did each take his eye from the other's face. As their restless horses champed the bit, advanced, retreated, or wheeled, that steady gaze was never averted. It seemed their horses understood the situation and were eager for the strife.
And thus, for a moment, they gazed. There was a little sternness in the Kid's eye, despite its inevitable smile. Jesse, at length, laughingly broke the silence. What do you want anyhow? Come over to Miguel Sedillo's and take breakfast with me; I've been wanting to have a talk with you for a long time, but I'm powerful hungry. I understood you are hunting the men who killed that Englishman, and I wanted to say to you that neither I nor any of my men were there.
You know if I was I would not deny it to you nor any other man. Why you'd scare a fellow half to death that didn't know you as well as I do. You won't go to breakfast with me then? Well, I'm gone. One word, Jess. There's a party from Seven Rivers lurking about here; they are badly stuck after a bunch of horses which I have been in charge of. The horses are right over the hills there, at Bruer's old ranch. If you meet that crowd, please say to them that they are welcome to the horses, but I shall be there when they receive them, and shall insist that they take Old Gray and some other horses along, as well as me and a few choice friends.
Come, put up your pistol, Jess. With these words the Kid slowly raised his pistol-hand from his thigh, and Jesse as deliberately raised his. The dancing eyes of Jesse were fixed on the Kid, and the darker, pleasant, yet a little sterner eyes of the Kid held Jesse's intently. Simultaneously the muzzles of their pistols were lowered, neither for an instant pointing in the direction of the other, then, with the spontaneous movement of trained soldiers, were dropped into their scabbards. As they raised their hands and rested them on the horns of their saddles, seven breasts heaved a sigh of relief.
No treachery, Jess. If I hear a shot, I shall know which side it comes from. Old Gray does not care in which direction he carries me, and he can run. With these words, the Kid reined his horse towards the Rio Ruidoso, and without turning his head, rode leisurely away. Bowdre sat a moment and watched Evans, whose eyes followed the Kid. Bowdre rejoined the Kid, and in twenty minutes the party of six were reunited and were trotting merrily, with sharpened appetites, to breakfast.
Thus ended this bloodless encounter. It was incomprehensible to their followers that these two leaders could meet without bloodshed; but, per chance, the memory of old times came over them and curbed their bold spirits. Had one act of violence been proffered, by either of the leaders, they would have fought it out to the bloody, fatal end.