'Miss Campbell's War Against The Demon'

By Phineas Redux

—OOO—

Summary:— Henrietta 'Harry' Knappe and Sally 'Snapshot' Nichols, lovers in 1870's Red Flume, Arizona Territory, USA, struggle against a woman of high moral principal holding strong Temperance views.

Note 1:— Influenced by the 'Wolfville' stories of Alfred Henry Lewis.

Note 2:- The Spurling cap and ball pistol is fictitious.

Copyright:— All characters are copyright ©2018 to the author, and are wholly fictitious representations: the overall local geography may be questionable, too.

—O—

"Drink?"

"Yeah."

"Drink?"

"Sal, I've a'read—"

"When ye sez drink, lady, does ye mean actul drink—as in whisky?"

"Any an' all spirituous liquors', doll." Henrietta sat opposite her amour in the Yellow Knife saloon in Red Flume, Territory of Arizona on this warm morning of June 187-, they both staring rather more intently than usual at their glasses on the table before them. "Rye, corn, malt, rum, wine, whatever ye're choice may be. She's down on the whole lot."

"Includin' beer?"

"Yep, it gets the thumb's-down as a matter o'course, too." Henrietta nodding sadly. "If'n it has any tendency whatever t'make ye happy, jolly, an' jest a smidgin drunk, she's agin it as by honour bound, no exceptions."

"God, she really seems not ter like the whole subjec'?"

"Yeah, ye could say thet, sure."

"So, wha'd'we do?"

Henrietta paused in her morose examination of what might be one of the last glasses of raw whisky she got to drink in Red Flume to raise an eyebrow at her inamorata.

"Standin' back only t'applaud yer enthusiasm in suggestin' I have anythin' o'worth t'contribute t'the present problem, what in hell d'ya think I can do about it, on my lonesome?"

But Sally had other ideas about this; she reveling in the personal certainty that her lover could pull off anything, come what may.

"We might form a Society of our own." Sally musing on the inherent difficulties like a canny politician. "Some sim'lar t'her own Arizona Temperance Society, only headin' in exactly the opposite direction."

Although still early afternoon the Yellow Knife saloon was doing a steady trade, with most of the tables in the wide airy public room occupied by groups or single imbibers; Henrietta and Sally not standing out in this crowd as a result of their being dressed in male attire themselves. Chequered shirts, jean-cotton trousers, boots, gunbelts, and wide-brimmed stetsons. From a distance of more than twenty feet they could not be distinguished from the male customers surrounding them; these as of long custom taking no especial note of the two women. Henrietta, with her Sharps .50 rifle, being widely known as one of the best bear-hunters west of the Pecos; while her loved partner Sally Nichols—sobriquet Snapshot—could shoot the eye out of a playing-card at forty paces with her .38 Smith and Wesson revolvers. They thereby tending not to receive any of the aggravation one would have normally expected in the circumstances.

"Lem'me see, what'd the rules be, thataways?" Henrietta waxing humorous. "Let's all get drunk's as fast as we'all can. Second Rule, free whisky fer everyone over sixteen. Rule Three, saloons ter stay open from morn till night, an' beyond. Rule Four, bein' drunk in public's a state o'mind, not a criminal offence. Rule Five,—"

"Harry, darlin'?"

"Yeah, love o'my life?"

"Give it a rest, there's a good half-sensible gal. With the emphasis on the half, mind yer."

"Hauurh."

—O—

It was Tuesday morning and the setting was the large lobby of the Macdonald Hotel, Red Flume, Arizona Territory, taken over temporarily by Miss Hortense Campbell for her personal purposes. Her audience being made up of some forty women, and a handful of embarrassed looking males of various ages and lengths of beard.

"Ladies, and, er, umm, gentlemen, I'd like to talk this afternoon on the devilish subject of the demon Drink." Her voice was a rich tenor, with a subtle tone as of church bells at a distance. "What greater evil presently haunts and oppresses the nation as a whole? None. Alcohol was invented by the Devil, produced by evil persons out for mean profit, sold by the underdogs of society, and consumed by unsuspecting innocents who become its slave for ever after. What I propose as a solution is the wholesale banning of every form of spirituous liquor across the entire nation. Someone, desirous of same, finding no outlet for their perverted tastes anywhere within the borders of every state and Territory of the United States, and other affiliates."

"Cain't be done. Men'll never allow of sich. A pipe-dream, beggin' yer pardon." From somewhere at the back of the crowd, in a doleful male growl.

"Nonsense." Miss Campbell not crumbling under such feeble protestations. "All it will take is a group of like-minded individuals, with but one purpose—and success will crown our endeavours. Victory will be ours."

Wholesale clapping, from the majority of the audience, drowned out the few lesser voices of disapprobation trying to make themselves heard over the higher registers at work around them; Miss Hortense Campbell raising a hand in fond acknowledgement of their approval.

In this month of June 187-, in the Territory of Arizona, USA, the topic under discussion could hardly be said to be a popular one. The ratio of those who drank beer and whisky, to the ratio of those who consumed water, being around 80 to 1. This including young children down to about 10 years old, and a majority of women. Water, plain, boiled, or mixed with something, being regarded more or less as a health hazard—water being what it was in southern Arizona, dubious at the best.

Miss Campbell herself had an imposing presence. Though young, 25 in fact, she was of a slightly fuller embonpoint; which, dressed as she was in a flowing robe of deep blue cotton with frothy ruffles where frothy ruffles would do the most good, gave her the stature of a Goddess come down from Olympus to chastise the hoi polloi—this, in fact, being more or less the reality of the situation.

She stood 5 feet seven inches in her stout black leather walking boots; faced the world with head held high at all times; despised lowly Man as the weaker sex; and held a firm conviction that she knew best, and the sooner everyone, especially Men, realised this the better for all. Her features were square and handsome, with that quiet pallor associated with ladies who habitually warded-off the clutches of the beating Sun with the aid of a stout parasol. Her conversational style was clipped; her mood positive at all times; her general outlook on all those around her that of a gentle but firm, though if necessary disciplinarian, favourite aunt. Though she would have been somewhat put-out to realise the numbers of those acquainted with her who would rush to disclaim the relation at all costs.

"I have already had great success in Phoenix." Miss Campbell not hesitating to improve on her opening words. "The citizens of that excellent city making no bones about approving my standpoint on the subject under discussion. A sub-office of the Arizona Temperance Society now resides on Main Street there, most excellently run by several women of my acquaintance.—"

"How many's signed up, there-away's, then?" From the same sad bass voice heard earlier. "Jest t'get a feelin' fer the spread o'the dis—, er, concern, an' all."

"The office is still in a most energetic state of expansion, I am happy to report." Miss Campbell stepping back a little on the defensive. "At present there are around thirty or so followers; but this is improving day by day, I assure you."

"Hirrmph." From the anonymous male hidden at the back of the audience.

"So," Miss Campbell hurrying onto happier topics. "my intention is to open a second office here, in Red Flume. I am sure, with your influence today, it will soon become one of the most important concerns in the town. And to start with I cannot over-estimate the importance of getting at least one, preferably two or more, persons onto the Town Council—from which vantage point they will be able to exert personal influence on the findings of the Council on the subject closest to our hearts. With any luck we may eventually see, even within the course of the next year or eighteen months, the complete abasement of saloons and drinking dens throughout the entire town. A most happy conclusion to our heartfelt wishes, indeed."

Her audience here clapped at the conclusion of her speech, though in a half-hearted manner; it seeming they were, the majority, only glad that she had stopped talking at all, rather than saluting the content of her speech. But Hortense Campbell was made of stern stuff; having been seared in the struggle and strife of working in Five Points, New York, to which in contrast Red Flume reflected only as a gentle lamb at play in opposition to the raging bull in the field next door.

"So, if you will allow me to hand out these sheets of facts and figures," Miss Campbell placing a hand over the pile on the desk before her. "They will show you all the relevant statistics involved in the horrible results associated with the wholesale unrestricted imbibement of the dread spirituous liquors of all kinds."

—O—

It was just past midday and Sally and Henrietta were strolling along Howard Street in the centre of the town, taking the air and considering the latest news.

"Seems, from what Agnes Murchison just done told us, this Campbell dame's already infected Phoenix with her notions." Sally's top lip quivering in the beginnings of a sneer. "Who does she think she is, is what I wants ter know. Comin' here, all dolled-up with morals an' ethics an' high-falutin' standards nobody needs. There out'ta be a Law agin' it."

"But there ain't, little lady." Henrietta, walking by her lover's side, taking a stoic view of the matter. "This here bein' Ameriky, she has all the freedom t'spout whatever she wants; only acceptin' the fac' thet, in opposition, folks is free t'throw rotten tomatoes an' old cabbages in the form of their replies t'same, if they so desires. You got any o'sich vegetation to hand, leddy? Might come in useful within an hour or so, y'never knows."

"Har, if'n I had don't think fer a second I wouldn't utilise such, gal."

"Loves it when ye shows yer sidewinder side, my beauty."

Their conversation paused as they came out onto the wide expanse of Main Street, at this time of day seething with activity and pedestrians. Red Flume had in recent years expanded out of all proportion to its undramatic beginnings. Now encompassing an area of at least one and a half square miles, it had all the necessary compliments to an energetic town on the make; dry-goods stores, food-stores, restaurants and eating-places, saloons of all sizes scattered everywhere, stables, Banks, Assay offices—the hills nearby still being sources of silver—and hotels salubrious enough to sate the appetites of the most sybaritic natures. It had a Town Hall, two Churches and two Meeting-Halls, two Schools, a dairy, three butchers, and a Theatre built especial within the last two years able to sit 500 spectators—not remarking the fact there were hardly that number of residents in the town itself. Altogether a thriving community, to which Sally, Henrietta, and a great percentage of the citizens felt that a Temperance Society office was that one step too far, even for America.

"Nope," Sally resuming their chat as they took the covered sidewalk on the right-hand of the wide street. "we'll jest need t'do somethin' about thet dame, is all."

"What, shoot her?"

"Ha-ha." Sally nudged her lover's side with an elbow. "Thinks yer funny, don't yer. Though I got'ta say, if someone else did I wouldn't be all thet much thrown out'ta the gen'ral course o'my day, at all."

"Hard, leddy, very hard."

"Someone in this here partnership's got'ta take the straight road, after all." Sally coming it the righteous one, with chin held high. So much so, in fact, she bumped into a passing stranger. "Hey, ya canterin' around sleep-walkin' or what, mister? Watch where in Hell ye're goin'."

The fact she was packing two Smith and Wesson .38's in plain sight around her waist probably contributed to the gentleman merely taking a glance and then carrying on, out of the danger area, without a word.

"So, where we headed then, sis?"

"The Golden Grove."

"Ah, one o'my favourites." Sally nodding happily at the thought of the well-appointed saloon so named. "What's your poison; I'll cough fer the first drink, being the leddy I am."

"Har." Henrietta clamped her teeth shut on the easy reply hovering on the tip of her tongue. "Think I could go fer a shot o'Red Sorghum—you?"

"Yeah, that'll do, at least to start with."

As they strolled on along the sidewalk Henrietta kept a politic silence; knowing her companion's attitude, when once started, to being told she downed the juice too much.

—O—

The interior of the Golden Grove saloon, on Montgomery Street, was appointed in much classier terms than most of its sister businesses. A long wide main saloon, the floor well covered with wide round tables; while against the left wall stood the long bar, with its shining brass footrail a couple of inches above the wooden floor. Above and behind this, set high on the wall, was a huge mirror some twenty feet in length, its polished surface reflecting the activity in the saloon. At this time in late afternoon there was already quite a crowd of customers; the main attraction being that the owner served whisky at five cents a glass below the general price throughout the town. There was also a faro table in full swing; while at the far end of the room a slightly raised platform—it could hardly be called a stage—allowed for public recitals by both a resident pianist and a variety of female singers. The saloon, consisting of the ground floor alone, didn't cater for any, er, exclusive private parties, so there was no stair to higher environs where who knew what naughtiness might have otherwise gone forward.

As Henrietta and Sally entered the swing doors and strode in, searching for a table near a wall where they could survey their neighbours in comfort, they were met by the noise of the masses having fun and enjoying themselves to the full extent of their capabilities.

"Jeez, cain't hear myself think." Sally shook her head as they wended their way through the ranks of crowded tables. "Over here, this's a good enough table. Park it, baby."

"Harrph."

Having given their orders for their particular brand of firewater to a gaudily clad young woman who tripped over to serve them they sat back to study mankind at play.

"Do you realise when we patronise one o'these places, we're gen'rally the only females present—exceptin' the waitin' gals, o'course."

"Yer point bein'?"

"Only making a social statement, is all." Sally nodded in thanks to the returning woman as the two short glasses and red-labelled bottle were placed on the table. "Ah-ha, here's to you, gal."

Henrietta sipped her drink gracefully, appreciating the flavour, putting her glass back down hardly touched; Sally, on the other hand, swallowed hers in one gulp, smacked her lips in delight, and held the bottle-neck tilted over her glass immediately afterwards.

"See anyone we know?" Spoken as she refilled her glass with due attention to getting as much in as possible without spilling a precious drop.

"Nah—oh, wait, is that Snakelips Donevan over there?"

Sally broke-off sipping her second drink to glance to her left across the room, It was a little difficult to see past the several groups seated round the various tables but finally she saw where Henrietta was gazing.

"Yeah, you're right; Snakelips, in the flesh." She looked at the tall middle-aged man for a few seconds more. "Not out rustling today, apparently."

"He ain't never been caught, annoyin' the doggies, has he?"

"Not in person, no." Sally nodded in agreement. "But everyone knows full-well he dam' well does."

A pause settled in around the ladies' table; they intent on watching the sway of the action going on in the saloon. Over to their right the faro table was doing excellent business, there being a lot of idiots in the town with far too much money—but the faro table generally soon fixed that inequality between the social classes. On the other side of the room, near a corner of the bar, another table supported the quiet action of a poker game; five men, three with their wide-brimmed hats still in place, bent over their cards with anxiety and determination etched in the very muscles of their bodies. The rest of the customers were simply groups of citizens out to have a happy conversational get-together in salubrious surroundings for an hour or so. But their innocent, gentle, diversions were sadly impinged upon with the next person entering the double-doors from the street—Miss Hortense Campbell in person, a bundle of leaflets under her arm and resolve showing in every angle and muscle of her visage.

"Oh-oh, here comes trouble."

Henrietta turned on her chair to see what had grabbed her partner's attention, so was perfectly placed to view the first advance of the battle against the Demon Drink.

Miss Campbell, showing no visible distaste at her surroundings, took a searching glance round the long room; taking in every detail of the scene before her, then marched up to the nearest table and started handing out the pamphlets under her left arm.

"This, gentlemen, is a short exposé I've written abut the harmful nature of alcohol in general." She laid a handful of the single-sheet leaflets on the table before the amazed customers without turning a hair. "I am sure, once you have read it, the degrading influence of those drinks you are presently imbibing will be revealed to you, and you will give up the nasty habit without loss of time."

Before any of the customers at the table could react she had moved on to her next victims, head in the air and the look of a Valkyrie doing what Valkyries do best spread over her features.

"Gentlemen, if you please; after reading this pamphlet I am certain you will be moved to turn to the bracing nature of pure water. These are wholly free, if you wish to join the Arizona Temperance Society at any time we are always open for business at our office in Catania Street."

Then, leaving another pocket of consternation in her wake, Hortense carried on; but this time, unknown to her, she was advancing on the table patronised by Snakelips Donevan who—already somewhat red-faced—was in the process of uncorking his second bottle of whisky.

"Oh-oh, this ain't gon'na end well." Sally made a motion to rise but Henrietta's hand stopped her. "Hey, Donevan's gon'na flatten her fer sure."

"Hang on, let's see what pans out." Henrietta had been looking squarely at Hortense and had seen something in her easy relaxed manner that intrigued her. "Fancy maybe the Campbell ain't so naïve as she looks. Let's see."

And so began the far-famed gunfight known to all histories of the Old West as The Battle of Golden Grove.

—O—

The trigger incident occurred when Hortense, still innocently unaware of the kind of man she was approaching, laid a handful of the leaflets on the table in front of Donevan, smiled politely, and started into her spiel.

"I'm sure that, on reading these leaflets, you will clearly see the errors of your ways as far as drinkin—"

"Say, ain't this jest the cat's paws?" Donevan, grinning evilly, rose from his chair to stand a head over-topping the lady on the other side of the table. "Don't know about talk, or readin' dam' dime novels or sech; but I do know gals gen'rally dances in places like this here saloon. You dance, leddy? Here, lem'me start ye off on the right foot."

Then everything happened at once, amongst swirling clouds of greyish gunsmoke.

Donevan, dressed in dark cotton trousers, dark shirt, and a heavy jacket, took from one of the large pockets of this latter a long-barreled pistol of overwhelming size and—to the distress of all sitting nearby—fired it into the floor at Hortense's feet.

The noise of the explosion, it being something akin to a .45, was so loud it seemed to echo and rumble on in the rafters an appreciable time afterwards. The bullet kicked up splinters by Hortense's left boot; Donevan having come slightly round the intervening table to get a better shot at his target. The whole area about Donevan's table was wrapped in harsh bitter grey smoke for a few seconds, which drifted through the saloon like an malevolent morning mist; but Hortense stood firm, not showing the least consternation at her predicament; then, in an instant so fast no-one saw the details, an evil-looking Derringer was in her right hand and a loud crack followed the blast of Donevan's enormous revolver. He staggered back clutching his arm, the great pistol falling on the floor with a thud allied to the sound of his cries of anger.

"Graagh, ye've dam' shot my arm, so ye have, ye f-ckin' hussy. What in Hell?"

One of the three men seated round the table beside their host now took it into his head to offer assistance to his leader. He jumped to his feet, one hand bringing up from his waist another pistol. Intent on his victim, and some put-out, the next thing heard was another blast as his pistol, still only partly levelled, went off negligently, the bullet thankfully hitting the ceiling in a cloud of plaster. But, almost in synchronisation with his own action, Hortense rounded on him, pointed her small pistol straight at him and fired again.

The pistol, which everyone within range now saw was a four-barreled pepperbox, thus cracked for the second time and her second foe twirled in agony, dropping his weapon as he groaned in agony, the bullet having hit him somewhere low in the waist on his right side. He staggered away, crouching low and gasping in pain as all those within twenty feet dived under their tables for cover. As they did so, the two remaining men at Donevan's table, obviously thinking it more than time to put this harridan from Hell out of business, stood up themselves. One, the taller, pulled a small revolver from the inside of his jacket, while his smaller slower companion appeared tangled up in his own attire, trying to free his own as yet unseen weapon from his clothes.

At this juncture, both Henrietta and Sally deciding it was time to come to the help of all those in distress took a hand. As one, both women stood tall, hands bringing their own weapons to the fore in record time. Henrietta's guns, .45 Colts, were not her usual weapon of choice but she did her best in the circumstances, firing somewhat promiscuously in the general direction of the villains, though making sure Hortense was out of the firing-line. Sally, mistress of her .38 Smith and Wesson's as she was renowned to be, merely pinpointed her targets and fired off her weapons with cold determination and accuracy.

Henrietta, however, experienced some difficulty; her left-hand .45 turning out to have three empty chambers before the bullets showed up, while her right-hand weapon mis-fired on the second shot, refusing to take any further part in the confrontation. But all was well, because Hortense, no whit put out by the surprising escalation of the skirmish, again fired her Derringer at this third opponent.

He, hit by no less than four .38's and Hortense's one further .22,—Henrietta having missed her target entire—took the only recourse open to him; he groaned deeply, wrapped his arms round his chest, and collapsed on the floor a spent force in the lottery of Life. The fourth man, still encumbered by his attire and not yet showing a weapon in view, but taking note of the mayhem all round, did the right thing hauling both arms high in the air and squealing like a pig for mercy—he having done nuthin', or so he violently affirmed. At this critical juncture,—one might say the highlight or climax of the drama,—the street double-doors were flung open to reveal Sheriff Charles Donaldson, in a rage. The Battle of Golden Grove was at an end.

—O—

The Sheriff's small office was crowded as he tried manfully to make head or tail of preceding events in his fair town. While he sat in magnificent splendour behind his desk the floor of the office was occupied by Henrietta, Sally, Hortense, and the sole surviving villain of the battle, one now identified as James 'Cal' Tremlock, a two-bit no-good loser.

"What the f-ck jest happened?" Donaldson determined to take no prisoners; philosophically speaking, though his more mundane intentions were far otherwise. "I got me two wounded guys backaway's in my cells; one dead duck in Doc Martlesham's morgue, an' this twister here apparently unmarked. So, who's willin' ter open proceeding's?"

"Twern't nuthin' but a minor affray." Sally trying to skim the surface like a skater on thin ice.

"Jest a bar-room brawl, y'know the sort'a thing well enough, Sheriff." Henrietta coming it the madam, hoping bluster and a cold tone would cover everything.

"It was a stand-off between a Spurling large caliber single-shot cap and ball revolver, and my Sharps .22 four-barreled Derringer." Hortense, to her audience's surprise, seeming to know just what she was talking about. "What in the name of Lucifer was he doing with an out-dated thing like that? Why, it'd have taken the fool around half an hour to spin the chamber to the second bullet; what did he expect but that I'd come out with my own weapon and blast him t'Kingdom Come, meanwhile? He still alive, by the way?"

Pausing to catch his breath at this display of the New Woman in action Donaldson finally came to life again.

"Yeah, jest a flesh wound; if'n things had jest bin allowed t'peter out at that point none o'the ensuing mayhem would'a occurred." Donaldson covered his entire audience with a beady eye. "So why'd ya decide t'pull a Derringer on Donevan, lady?"

Hortense, standing upright and unashamed, returned the Sheriff's gaze with added interest.

"Sheriff, forgive me if I'm wrong but I believe it is well within the Law—indeed, the expected and acknowledged thing—that when someone shoots at you with a bloody great gun that could stop a bear at a hundred yards, you the defender have every right in Law to pull your own weapon and commence defensive activity. Put me right if I am wrong."

Faced with this mutiny against his position as badge-carrying Lawmaker Donaldson sat back, morosely eyeing the variety of handguns now covering the top of his desk. There were Henrietta's .45 Colts, Sally's .38 Smith and Wesson's, Hortense's .22 Sharps four-barreled Derringer, and a Colt .38 which Tremlock had never managed to free from his encumbering shirt and loose jacket. Added to these were the Spurling cap and ball revolver handled so unsuccessfully by Donevan, and the two Smith and Wesson .32's late the property of the other two villains, one now hardly likely to plead for the return of his weapon.

"What caliber's this bloody great thing, anyway?" Donaldson picked up the Spurling, gazing at its chamber with the interest of a connoisseur.

"Probably point fifty, or thereabouts." Henrietta, expert in heavy artillery, nodded sagely. "Can't really tell, it not bein' made fer ordinary modern ammo. Ye have ter make yer bullets yerself, y'see."

"Huh. Well, Donevan won't be needin' it fer the comin' while; he bein' about ter be sent t'Phoenix fer his trial fer bein' a pain in the ars—er, foot, all ways." Donaldson then proceeded to more important matters, giving Hortense a malevolent look. "I took you fer a Lady, leddy. What for ye feel the need t'walk about the streets loaded fer bear with this here pepperbox?"

"Because of just what happened half an hour ago, Sheriff." She still eyeing the Sheriff with no sign of discomposure. "I grew up and worked in places like Five Points, New York. You ever been there, Sheriff?"

"Nah, but I heard enough about the dam' place."

"Dammed is right." Hortense stuck her chin further in the air than ever. "Once you've walked the streets of that district, trying to get people to see the error of their ways, you pretty soon get to know the benefit of having some armament about your person. I was just defending myself, Sheriff, as all those witnesses in the saloon can easily testify, when asked."

Seeking an easier target Donaldson turned his ire on the errant villain standing silently amongst them this while.

"An' you, yer b-st-rd; what the hell d'ya think y'were doin', eh?" He bared his teeth in a grand snarl. "Trying to frighten a lady, in a public saloon; have you no sense of proportion or common decency, at all?"

Tremlock, surrounded by what he perceived as a raging mob, made the usual excuses.

"It was all dam' Donevan's fault." He looked at his accusers with a cowering shrug. "He was allus real nasty when in drink—"

"Hah." From Hortense, all her moral suspicions confirmed.

"—an' what could I do?" Tremlock continued, unhearing. "Ye got'ta stand up fer yer mates, ain't yer? There she was, jest a woman we was gon'na have a bit o'light-hearted fun with, that's all. An' she goes an' produces a bloody pepperbox an' starts in'ta enfilading the whole dam' saloon. Well, a man's got'ta protect himself, ain't he. Thet's jest what poor John an' Frank were doin', when they got shot t'pieces by these here, er, these, er,—"

"Yeah, we get yer." Donaldson sat back, sighing deeply. "What a bloody mess."

There was a conscious movement amongst his audience to now bring the comedy to a close; Henrietta hitching her waistbelt uncompromisingly, while Sally put a hand on her right hip and gazed meaningfully at the array of weaponry on the desk.

"So, we gon'na get our guns back?" Sally raised her eyebrows in Donaldson's direction. "We all acted to defend ourselves, and everyone else in the dam' saloon. Donevan an' his cronies took the initiative, firing their weapons first. They got what was coming to 'em. So, what's the problem?"

"Ah, dam'." Faced with no way out Donaldson gave up gracefully. "Take yer dam' weapons, the whole spilin' of ye. Women with guns; God, what next, women in the bloody Senate? Get the Hell out'ta here. You, Tremlock, are goin' to visit my nice new cell-block, where I can tell ye ye'll be incarcerated fer some time t'come. An' you lot, take a hike, fer Goodness' sake. Dam' women; all we need's dam' Calamity Jane, an' my cup'll overflow. Get out."

—O—

The next morning no sign of the late gunfight could be seen on the main street of Red Flume,—Main Street, that is. Although, as the three women waited casually near the stagecoach office, several curious glances were aimed in their direction by passers-by. Miss Campbell stood in travelling clothes of long grey skirt and short tight-waisted jacket, with a little cap on her flowing locks, while beside her two large suitcases held her private property.

"So, yer leavin' us, then?" Sally not only stating the obvious but wanting to make surety double sure. "Givin' up the idea of a Temperance Office here in ol' Red, right enough?"

"Yep, one has to use a certain level of common-sense in these things, you understand." Hortense still held her head high, in no way allowing of defeat. "We already have, as I may have mentioned before, a thriving Office in Phoenix; perhaps another, in a border town like the present—and so close to Phoenix—would be too much, at least to begin with. No, I have my sights set on Tucson, as a matter of fact; more scope for my, umm, particular skills, I feel."

"Border town?" Sally still entangled in this phrase, trying to unwind its meaning.

"Oh, look, here comes the stage—only two hours late; Cappie Mackeson's gettin' better every month." Henrietta took this splendid chance to change the topic like a good 'un. "Given some more practice an' he'll be as good as ye, Sal."

"Ha, no-one'll ever be as good as me, gal." Sally shining her own light, as honour bound. "I'm the best six-hoss driver in the Territory, an' thet ain't no boast. Cappie Mackeson, hah; he's a boy, a mere beginner."

Before this argument could escalate further the large stagecoach had drawn up before the Office and commenced unloading its passengers. The women stood well back as the usual mess ensued; passengers crawling out from the interior, like mice into the daylight, stretching their legs and other limbs from their long constriction; helpers busily dumping cargo and luggage from the stage's roof and rear compartment; and the general noise of people loudly complaining about the time it all took, the weather, the lack of good help, the shocking nature of those so obviously intent on damaging the passengers' delicate property; and finally harassing shouting stage officials calling for the new passengers to get a dam' move on and get their luggage and themselves into the dam' stage whiles they still had the chance—it being on a dam' schedule, an' all.

Finally Miss Campbell hoisted herself into the interior of the stage, with the aid of a helping hand from Sally; all officious assistance, though really just wanting to make sure the lady actually did leave. Then Cappie, with a wild roar as of a bear with the toothache, swung his whip high in the air, cracking it viciously over the horses' heads though they, well used to his overacting, took little notice; then the stage began rolling once more.

"Goodbye, so nice to have known you both." Hortense grasping for the proper mode of farewell, and very nearly achieving such. ""We may meet sometime, again. Goodbye."

"Bye, leddy, bye." Sally waving her wide-brimmed hat vigorously in the air, as if she was at a Fair.

Henrietta contented herself with a single wave of her own hat, though in a more restrained manner than her companion; then the women turned to make their way back along Main Street.

"So, that's that."

"Would seem so."

"Suppose all we need's do now is meander round all the saloons in the town, tellin' 'em the dangers over, an' they can start orderin' up their usual monthly supplies of Red Eye an' firewater as they pleases."

This, however, was too much for the conservatively minded bear hunter.

"If'n ye think, fer one second, this here set-up calls fer a world wide expedition round every saloon in the town ye can think agin, leddy." Henrietta cast a troubled glance at her shorter heartmate. "Ye've been guzzlin' the bottles far too much lately, lover. Seems ter me it's jest about thet time we needs ter take a long, expansive stroll in the northern Hills, a'lookin' fer that silver lode we've had our eyes on this two year past."

"Oh, yeah; what brought thet to mind, then?"

"Jest the call o'the wild; the search fer pastures new; an' the certainty thet, whiles we're traipsin' round those dam' Hills, ye'll have no chance, fer months an' months, of makin' the acquaintance of a bottle of whisky, thet's all."

"Dam' yer."

"What was thet, gal? Seems my ears may have bin misleadin' me." Henrietta glanced down her nose at the woman she loved most in all the world. "Did ye say there what I fancies I heerd ye say—or was it a mere dust devil in the sand, or what?"

"Hah, a Devil of some sort, maybe." Sally nodding wisely, just as if she knew herself what she was talking about. "Sorry, lover. So, have we finally exorcised all the dam' Devils in this bedevilled township, d'ye think?"

"Well, two at least."

"Two?"

"We avaunted the Devil of Temperance, fer one."

"Avaunted? What in Hell does thet mean?"

"Stopped. God, did ye never have anything in the way o'an eddication at all, leddy?"

But it would take more than a snappy remark from her lover to halt Sally Nichols in her tracks.

"Two Devils? What's the second, then?"

"Donevan, of course." Henrietta allowed herself to simper gently at her partner. "He's goin' up ter Phoenix t'stand trial, ain't he?"

"So what?"

"So, up there in the capital, they'll be a'waitin' ter thump him with all sorts of other going's-on he's bin the source of over t'that area. Cattle rustlin', various assaults, an', oh, all sorts of gen'ral no-good nastiness. Wouldn't be surprised if'n he ends up with five year or so."

"Oh, well, thet ain't so bad." Sally acknowledging the truth of this statement. "So, we're goin' silver minin' in the Hills, eh?"

"Yep."

"Any chance o'stoppin' at the Yellow Knife, whiles; jest t'wet our whistles, you unnerstan'?" Sally making a last ditch play for what she could get. "After all, we'll need ter keep our strength up fer all thet diggin', won't we?"

"Sally Nichols—"

"Ah, you remembered my name, thet's so nice."

"Button it, gal." Henrietta took on the guise of a sea captain chastising her crew. "Item one, we go pack; item two, we head on out this afternoon fer the Hills; item three, we takes a huge amount o'bacon an' beans on our pack-hosses; item four you do not see the inside of any one o'the multitude o'saloons in this fair town come Hell or high water, or I'll have somethin' ter say on the matter—get me, leddy?"

"Oh, sh-t."

"What was that?"

"Eh, dam', yeah, yeah, I hear's ye—dammit."

"Right." Spoken by Henrietta in the tone of a school-teacher getting the drop on one of her more unwilling pupils. "Let's go, time's a'wastin'."

"Graah."

The End

—O—

Another 'Red Flume' story will arrive shortly.