Blue-John and
Lee went up front to his icebox and brought back a jar of milk. The cream had been skimmed from it.

I said, "This tastes like blue-John to me."

Rooster took my cup and put it on the floor and a fat brindle cat appeared out of the darkness where the bunks were and came over to lap up the milk. Rooster said, "The General is not so hard to please." The cat's name was General Sterling Price. Lee served some honey cakes for dessert and Rooster spread butter and preserves all over his like a small child. He had a "sweet tooth."

I offered to clean things up and they took me at my word. The pump and the washstand were outside. The cat followed me out for the scraps. I did the best I could on the enamelware plates with a rag and yellow soap and cold water. When I got back inside Rooster and Lee were playing cards on the table.

Rooster said, "Let me have my cup." I gave it to him and he poured some whiskey in it from a demijohn. Lee smoked a long pipe.

I said, "What about my proposition?"

Rooster said, "I am thinking on it."

"What is that you are playing?"

"Seven-up. Do you want a hand?"

"I don't know how to play it. I know how to play bid whist."

"We don't play bid whist."

I said, "It sounds like a mighty easy way to make fifty dollars to me. You would just be doing your job anyway, and getting extra pay besides."

"Don't crowd me," said he, "I am thinking about expenses."

I watched them and kept quiet except for blowing my nose now and again. After a time I said, "I don't see how you can play cards and drink whiskey and think about this detective business all at the same time."

He said, "If I'm going up against Ned Pepper I will need a hundred dollars. I have figured out that much. I will want fifty dollars in advance."

"You are trying to take advantage of me."

"I am giving you my children's rate," he said. "It will not be a easy job of work, smoking Ned out. He will be holed up down there in the hills in the Choctaw Nation. There will be expenses."

"I hope you don't think I am going to keep you in whiskey."

"I don't have to buy that, I confiscate it. You might try a little touch of it for your cold."

"No, thank you."

"This is the real article. It is double-rectified bust-head from Madison County, aged in the keg. A little spoonful would do you a power of good."

"I would not put a thief in my mouth to steal my brains."

"Oh, you wouldn't, would you?"

"No, I wouldn't."

"Well, a hundred dollars is my price, sis. There it is."

"For that kind of money I would want a guarantee. I would want to be pretty sure of what I was getting."

"I have not yet seen the color of your money."

"I will have the money in a day or two. I will think about your proposition and talk to you again. Now I want to go to the Monarch boardinghouse. You had better walk over there with me."

"Are you scared of the dark?"

"I never was scared of the dark."

"If I had a big horse pistol like yours I would not be scared of any booger-man."

"I am not scared of the booger-man. I don't know the way over there."

"You are a lot of trouble. Wait until I finish this hand. You cannot tell what a Chinaman is thinking. That is how they beat you at cards."

They were betting money on the play and Rooster was not winning. I kept after him but he would only say, "One more hand," and pretty soon I was asleep with my head on the table.

--- From True Grit
Charles Portis
©1968 Simon & Schuster
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