I. A GLIB YOUNG MAN
"JINGO: one who believes in a warlike foreign policy." So says the dictionary, but though "Jingo's" only policy was warlike, and though he treated most people as though they were foreigners, the people who nicknamed him did not have "foreign policy" in mind. Conjurers, in the old days, just as they were about to perform a trick, would cry out: "Hey, Jingo!" or "Hai, Jingo!" just as at a later date they yelled "Presto!" And out of that expression came the petty oath: "By Jingo!" People had some such thing in mind when they called him "Jingo," for, in fact, he was a fellow to be either sworn at or sworn by.
He was a thing to fill the eye and warm the heart. He was in his early twenties. He was small enough to lose himself in a crowd, and big enough to punch holes in any member of it. He was as handsome as a wild-caught mustang that has sleeked its sides on the mountain grasses and carries the light of the fire-new morning in its eyes. He was cut out of silk, and he was all from one piece. He feared nothing but the devil, and relied only on his own two strong hands.
This was Jingo as he rode into the town of Tower Creek, under the shadow of Tower Mountain, filled with a "war-like foreign policy."
He came on an eager mustang with the head of a thoroughbred and an eye that had a jag of red lightning in it. Like horse, like rider.
But though Jingo liked excitement, he found no gratification in fine clothes. His blue flannel shirt was the regular range brand. His sombrero was battered, and the brim of it had been stiffened by passing a rawhide thong through the edge of it. His trousers were as trousers are on the range. He wore a pair of brown leather chaps scarred white by the claws of cactus and mesquite. He had the usual bandanna of red and white around his throat, and only his boots had been made with costly care, and only the long, spoon-handled spurs were things of beauty and of grace. Nevertheless, he always had a way of looking spick-and-span, as though he had been traveling too fast for the dust to catch up and settle on him.
This was Jingo as he rode into Tower Creek. Older men slowed their steps and smiled faintly as they saw him go by. Younger men frowned a little and went on with a thoughtful expression. Mothers doubted him, but their daughters let their hearts come right up in their eyes when they stared at Jingo. For every girl is tempted to throw herself away when she sees a man whose hands may be strong enough to catch her.
It was a big day in Tower Creek. It was the twentieth anniversary of something or other, and Tower Creek was proud of being twenty years old and still alive to tell about it. There were flags in front of the stores and the saloons. Bunting was strung, fluttering, across the street. And that night there was to be a great dance to which people had come all the way from Blue Water, out of the Blue Water Mountains that looked the color of their name to the north and west, joining the clouds in the sky with the special sheen of snow.
At that particular moment, the best thing that was happening in Tower Creek was a poker game in the back room of Joe Slade's saloon. The most important thing in that game was Wally Rankin, gambler and gunman. And the stakes were piling high, particularly in front of Wally, when Jingo, with an instinct truer than that of a homing pigeon, entered that game with his smiling-face and his warlike policy.
The sky was the limit. Jingo won five hundred dollars in the first ten minutes. At the end of a half hour he was playing in his stocking feet, because he had put up his fine boots and the beautiful spoon-handled spurs that were attached to them. By that time Wally Rankin was smiling faintly, a thing that he rarely allowed himself to do. But, above all things in the world, he loved to "take" a self-confident young fellow. Wally Rankin regarded himself as a moral influence in this world be