I have arrived safely in Denver, and will soon be departing for the Hot Springs. You will be pleased to learn that my health is much improved, I breathe more easily, and that I am more comfortable with each passing day. Doctor Humphries prescription to travel west is a grand success.
I hired two most able men as guides, and factotum. Their names are Thaddeus Jones and Joshua Smith, and I can assure you of their high morals and reliability. They are a 'two-for-one' package, so I am not spending more than I would for one guide. I intend to adhere to the allowance you send me, and give you my word I shall not request additional funds. They appear to have a modicum of education, and their speech is not as garbled as it is with most of the population I have come across. The natives do not approach our level of 'society' but, bless them, they make attempts at civility, etc.
Do you like the artistry of this card I send you? They were sold me by a poor widow woman who is making her way as best she can with odd jobs until she re-marries. I truly felt a tug at my heart-strings(not in a romantic way, I assure you!) on witnessing her feeble efforts, and so purchased these hand-drawn efforts. The designs are local wildflowers, and very feminine, I think, so you see your son is doing his best to please you.
I miss you. Please write to the postal address at the hot springs you have. No one has more desire to hear from you than
Your most dutiful son,
Sorry for the flowery card, but when I tell you how I and why I bought 'em, you'll appreciate them more, even if the artwork is pitiable poor.
The absolutely most lovely creature was hawking these, so how could I not buy a set? She had claims to being a poor widow, but then most woman of her sort employed in the horizontal manner we enjoy, make similar claims. I was my most charming; wined and dined the creature, and had high hopes for a cheap, but satisfying evening. Didn't quite turn out as I wished, got my face slapped, but the creature was adorable, stamping her petite foot. Couldn't help but smile at that, which made her all the angrier.
Jones said I deserved it, not all women out here were 'like that,' and I was a greenhorn. He doesn't know me as you do, my friend. Haven't writ you about Jones yet. He and Smith (do you like the names?) are my 'hired hands.' Good sound sturdy fellows, who know a thing or two. They will be my guides for the rest of my western adventure.
My lungs feel tip-top now, but don't let the mater or governor know, or they will call me back, and I intend to make the most of my time away. I am back to my smokes; shared some good cigars with Jones and Smith sitting in front of the hotel(all the hotels here seem to be amply supplied with broad porches and rocking chairs or they abut the boardwalks with same rocking chairs). This seems to be the natives manner of spending the evening, and a most enjoyable one, if you ask me. I was going to buy cheap smokes for my servants, but Smith knows his cigars, so what could I do? Don't chide me, old fellow, servants are treated like equals here; all the rage, I suppose. Anyway, these fellow are worth a few good cigars.
Write me, old chap, at the address I enclose,
I have followed your instructions to the letter. I have hired two guides(for the price of one, Sir), and will travel from Denver to the Springs on the schedule we agreed upon.
I have not gambled, smoked, or womanized, and am leading the regular life prescribed by Humphries. I have kept within the budget you set.
Your obedient son,
Had a regular bout of a night. Woke up with a gloriously aching head, a sure indicator of a night well-spent. Poured on a pitcher of water and all was well once more.
Jones, Smith and I were a superb trio of men about town. Smith has an uncanny sense of unearthing the best drinking and gambling establishments. Faro and poker are all the rage here, all the games and women are fast at night, and everything satisfyingly splendid.
We had trouble with a sore loser, but Jones cleared that up in a pinch in the best western manner. By that I mean he could draw his gun faster than our opponent. He wears a gun openly, as does Smith, and as a matter of fact, most men on the streets here at night. Refreshing, isn't it? One feels positively sneaky, wearing a holster under his coat. Smith and Jones are regular fellows, dressed in the manner of ranch hands. They wear there gun belts low, which adds an air of menace, and which Smith assured me was done for 'show' to keep Riff-Raff from bothering them. But after last night I can see that it is more than mere 'show.' My admiration for Jones has more than doubled.
Smith seems to be an inveterate gambler of which I highly approve. Your companionship is much missed. If you were here what a foursome we would make. Back to Smith, excellent man at the tables, not afraid of high stakes, bland 'poker face' as they call it here. We all took a turn at the winnings, but I confess Smith 'raked-in' the most; a grand time was had by all. Then upstairs with the 'ladies' some of whom are actually almost pretty.
On the way back to our hotel, I was complemented by Jones and Smith for being an all around good fella, which as you know, I am.
I am writing at breakfast. Smith is across from me, somewhat hungover and worse for the wear. I believe he is managing to absorb some very black coffee. Jones has now arrived. You would find this most amusing. He stared at me for some time and finally said, "you're writin'? This early in the mornin'?." Then he looked at Smith and said, "he's writin', and don't look nothin' like us. He's sittin' there, eatin' and writin'. Didn't he drink more than we did? It ain't fair, he looks, well, he looks..."
Smith groaned. It was too funny. Then he finished his friend's sentence: "Chipper? I know it isn't right, somehow. I think he drank more than both of us put together."
I do believe I have earned their respect. Have to sign-off, old fellow. I'm a day behind the governor's schedule. I should be at the Hot Springs.
RufusDear Mother and Father,
Have arrived at the Hot Springs. Received your letter with all your sage advise, and promise to follow it to the letter, and most obediently.
I am coming along. The doctor at the Springs has assured me that a month here, followed by some months travel through the drier regions of the west will set me up. I was sorry to hear that as I miss you both, and my deepest desire is to return home as quickly as possible. However, I have been advised that if I return too prematurely, I will suffer complete remission.
Mother, I am delighted that you approve of the cards I am sending you, and my charitable reason for their purchase. I can indeed see them in my mind's eye on the parlor table. I only wish I could provide you with some genuine western adventure to display. You would be the envy of all your friends. But, I positively refuse to stray from the straight and narrow, as it is doing me so much good.
Could you send an advance on my allowance? It is not for myself I ask. Poor Jones was taken ill, and hasn't the means to provide for a doctor and medicine, so I have supplied all.
Purchased the most amazing horse for my future travels. The horse is the envy of all. I did take some advice from Jones and Smith, as the qualities required for a good western mount are different than back east. Out here what one wants is a good sturdy pony, not a showy stallion. My pony will see me through my future adventures. Also purchased a fine pack mule. Up a notch with Jones and Smith as they seemed to think Easterners don't understand horseflesh.
Knowing the governor as you do, you no doubt wonder as to the means with which I made this purchase. The gambling has paid some premiums, and father has kindly advanced monies to pay for Jones' medical care. I didn't tell you the poor fellow was ill, did I? Rest assured, he has recovered splendidly. In fact, he recovered as soon as the money arrived.
We head for the closest fort tomorrow, as I wish to see some of our western troopers. I would like to meet some Indians as well. Jones thinks the idea is 'weird.' The way those two have tried to talk me out of visiting a fort is something you wouldn't believe. I think they are afraid of being drafted into service. I really can't imagine why else they would be so reluctant.
Continue to write to this postal address. I will arrange to for pick-up and delivery of my correspondence.
Tell your lovely sister, I still adore her, and worship the ground she treads on,
Oddest incident yesterday. We were progressing towards fort. Passed through a small town. Very western, and enjoyed all the atmosphere, etc. Wanted to meet the sheriff. I swear, Jones positively glared at me. Smith quickly brought my attention to himself. Said something about them having met plenty of sheriffs, and they weren't really interested, but I could go if I wished. He was acting nonchalant, but something felt not quite right, if you understand what I mean.
So I did. Friendly chap, and we lunched together. Told me some of his adventures with outlaws, but confessed that most of his time was spent in collecting taxes and rounding up stray dogs.
Told Smith and Jones they missed a great lunch. They seemed somewhat stiff about it all, and made up some patently false excuses about work they had to do for me, etc. You know me, as the master of false excuses and alibis, I can recognize when another chap is playing loose with the truth. But it wouldn't be 'on' to tell them so.
I simply told them that Sheriff Abbott was a splendid fellow. What a change! You could absolutely feel the air of oppression lift. 'Abbott?' they said. "We haven't met a Sheriff Abbott," from Jones. "I don't believe we have," said Smith. He turns to me and says, "you see, most of the sheriffs we've met are dull fellas. But we take your word for it if you say this Sheriff Abbott is different, don't we, partner?"
There you have it. We were out and on the town that night, having a splendid time as before, but it is a bit of a puzzle, don't you agree?
Quick note to tell you something really is up with my guides. Next town we stayed in they weaseled and finagled me into entering the Sheriff's office and scurried to the hotel. Of course, I didn't let on that I knew they were attempting to manipulate me. On arriving at our rooms, I had an amusing time stalling on providing the name of the sheriff to see their reactions. Smith had his poker face on, and Jones attempted his, but I've learned about them, you see. Jones picked up his gun and started to polish it, a sure sign he was uneasy. Finally I 'let slip' the name, and again, the relief was palpable.
What do you think? I suppose they 'have a past.' But, so many men out here do. They must be worried that I will find out they have committed some small infraction or other and will release them from my employ.
RufusDear Mother and Father,
I do apologize for my irregular writing. I know how Mother looks forward to receiving my cards, and displaying them prominently on the parlor table. I should be writing more frequently, you are absolutely correct, I have neglected you, and severely feel my shortcomings. I am 'letting you down.' I promise to write more frequently in the future.
I confess, and I didn't wish to write this as I know it would worry you both, I have had a slight relapse. The doctor told me to keep to my bed and rest. Jones and Smith have been regular soldiers about it. Great fellows. I am in good hands, I assure you. They take the best care of me. I should be up and about soon.
Mustn't exert self further,
Your loving and dutiful son,
Arrived at the fort. The officers are splendid fellows, West Pointers mostly. The enlisted men are of the lowest type of man, and delightfully unpolished. A great many are Germans and speak rotten English. Others are Irish, and you know what they are like. A considerable number use aliases, I have been told, and I fully believe that. The worst of them are as bad as Bowery Boys, and in fact, that is what they are called.
Finally met an Indian up close. He scouts for the army, and wears a uniform, which would be disappointing if he didn't work it up in true Indian manner with beads, feathers, moccasins, and so forth. I wrote Mother of this adventure and I am certain the card will be prominently displayed on the parlor table. Visit and take a look for me. Say you will, old chum.
Jones, Smith, and I had had a pleasant enough meal with the officers.
We had a rip-roaring time with the Bowery Boys. Caroused until dawn with a few that were on leave for a couple of days. One of them, a chap by the name of Hank Folsom, if indeed, that is his name, recognized my fellows. "Hays," he called out addressing Smith. True to their nature recently, Jones and Smith cut him off. They insisted he had called out 'Hey.' I allowed the incident to pass. I must say, however, that they are both observing me out of the corners of their eyes, even as I write this brilliant epistle.
It would certainly be a coup of they were genuine western outlaws, but I doubt there is a modicum of a chance of that, is there?
Before falling into a well-deserved slumber, I mulled over the name Hays, but I confess, the only Hays I could come up with was that Texas Ranger fellow, and if he isn't dead, he must be on the hoary side of ancient by now.
Yours truly will be returning sooner than anticipated. Received a most aggravating letter from the governor. That fool of a horse dealer sent him a copy of the receipt.
I cannot blame him entirely. I foolishly kept the governor's portion of the payment in the envelope Father had sent, which of course, had his address printed on it as it is his personal stationary. You will think me a block-head, and you would be correct.
I have lost my guides as well, so I suppose my return is for the best
I will relate this most interesting occurrence. I had purchased some well-read dime novels from a soldier for the marked-down price of a penny each. Jones couldn't hide his interest in them. Smith informed me dime novels are Jones' favorite reading material. I was pleasantly surprised he took the time to read at all, as I wasn't certain if he could read more than his name up to this point. On the other hand Smith is/was an avid reader. Read the newspapers I bought, and borrowed several books.
The subject matter of most of the novels concerned outlaws, so I suppose that held Jones interest. I let him shuffle through the batch and select some.
I read one before bed; extremely melodramatic about its subject: Sam Spade.
Next morning my guides had skedaddled as the low-lifes say. No, I know what you are thinking, they didn't steal a thing. Courteously left behind my books, horse, saddle and all, even the dime novels.
Then Father's pleasant note arrived recalling me, while attacking me with all sort of scurrilous imagined wrong-doings. I was preoccupied with my own concerns during the day, primarily as to how to calm the old man down if he is still irate on my arrival. Certainly hope he doesn't expect me to actually work for a living.
Before retiring to bed, I read a second novelette, one I had loaned to Jones. It was about Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes.
Food for thought, I realize
Here I am thinking Hays. Ponder the matter over my fine fellow. Is it remotely possible my guides and factotums were two of the most notorious outlaws in the West?
I have the following theory:
I think they are petty criminals, who are using aliases. Smith is actually named Hays, but is not Heyes. They realized I had become aware they were using false identities, and the dime novels were simply too much. The last straw. Afraid I would read the name Heyes, so Jones 'borrowed' that particular novel. then I wouldn't have the opportunity to read it last night, and perhaps reach a false conclusion that would create trouble for them. My boon companions now gone. Can't imagine they would believe that I would believe they were wanted outlaws.
After all, what are the odds they were actually the Hannibal Heyes and the Kid Curry?