Entewa — 2


Looks more like a hero than a villain

I told you about Barkley, the hero of Entewa; the Mountain Bird. Now I’ll tell you about the villain.

He is Spendower (first name unknown, like Barkley), who goes by the nickname “Old Cub,” a name acquired from his “apparent indolence and stupidity.” (Which seems a slur on bear cubs.) He always seems to have money and a jug of whiskey with him, but no sees him engaged in mining or any other lawful occupation.

As the author tells his readers in the second chapter, “Old Cub” is the leader of a band of outlaws who rob miners and camps in the guise of Indians. There is absolutely no suspense here. You would think that the author would lead his readers on with an attack or two by the “Indians” and then let the hero uncover the deception, much to the readers’ astonishment. But no, we know from the first that this is the villain’s modus operandi. No surprises lay in store.

Barkley doubts Old Cub’s stories of Indian depredations from their very first meeting, on that “dark and stormy night,” because Barkley is sober and perceptive. But everyone else in the cabin that night believes him, and falls in with his plans for Indian extermination. And the men of the mining camp do indeed carry out an attack on an Indian village, killing innocent women and children, while Barkley is out hunting elsewhere.

While hunting, Barkley and his two companions, Mike the Irishman and Giles the young backwoodsman, come across the robber’s roost, where the bandits are getting into the whiskey stores while their leader Old Cub is away.


Detail from Charles Nahl’s Sunday Morning in the Mines

Thus commenced one of their drunken orgies. By the time the sun had reached the meridian, the repeated draughts had unbared their bosoms, shook off restraint, and showed the real demon, stalking in human shape. The pale glimmerings of the freshly fed fires, flashing in the sickening gaze of these reckless devils, who laughed and yelled, and sung their uncouth songs, with most unnatural howls, made them appear horrible, — too horrible.


Now that they know where the bandits’ hideout is, the good guys can see that they are brought to justice. Time to organize a posse and root out the evil lurking in the mountains!

But first, Barkley will have to meet Entewa at last. Stay tuned.


About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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