From VOA Learning English, this is American Stories.
Our story is called “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky.” It was written by Stephen Crane. Today, we will hear the second and final part of the story.
“Don’t know whether there will be a fight or not,” answered one man firmly, “but there’ll be some shooting -- some good shooting.”
The young man who had warned them waved his hand. “Oh, there’ll be a fight fast enough, if anyone wants it. Anybody can get in a fight out there in the street. There’s a fight just waiting.”
The salesman seemed to be realizing the possibility of personal danger.
“What did you say his name was?” he asked.
“Scratchy Wilson,” voices answered together.
“And will he kill anybody? What are you going to do? Does this happen often? Can he break in that door?”
“No, he can’t break in that door,” replied the saloon-keeper. “He’s tried it three times. But when he comes you’d better lie down on the floor, stranger. He’s sure to shoot at the door, and a bullet may come through.”
After that, the salesman watched the door steadily. The time had not yet come for him to drop to the floor, but he carefully moved near the wall.
“Will he kill anybody?” he asked again. The men laughed, without humor, at the question.
“He’s here to shoot, and he’s here for trouble. I don’t see any good in experimenting with him.”
“But what do you do in a situation like this? What can you do?”
A man answered, “Well, he and Jack Potter -- ”
“But,” the other men interrupted together, “Jack Potter’s in San Antonio.”
“Well, who is he? What’s he got to do with this?” “Oh, he’s the town policeman. He goes out and fights Scratchy when he starts acting this way.”
A nervous, waiting silence was upon them. The salesman saw that the saloon-keeper, without a sound, had taken a gun from a hiding place. Then he saw the man signal to him, so he moved across the room.
“You’d better come with me behind this table.”
“No, thanks,” said the salesman. “I’d rather be where I can get out the back door.”
At that, the saloon-keeper made a kindly but forceful motion. The salesman obeyed, and found himself seated on a box with his head below the level of the table. The saloon-keeper sat comfortably upon a box nearby.
“You see,” he whispered, “Scratchy Wilson is a wonder with a gun -- a perfect wonder. And when he gets excited, everyone gets out of his path. He’s a terror when he’s drunk. When he’s not drinking he’s all right -- wouldn’t hurt anything—nicest fellow in town. But when he’s drunk -- be careful!”
There were periods of stillness. “I wish Jack Potter were back from San Antonio,” said the saloon-keeper. “He shot Wilson once, in the leg. He’d come in and take care of this thing.
”Soon they heard from a distance the sound of a shot, followed by three wild screams. The men looked at each other.
“Here he comes,” they said. A man in a red shirt turned a corner and walked into the middle of the main street of Yellow Sky.
In each hand the man held a long, heavy, blue black gun. Often he screamed, and these cries rang through the seemingly deserted village.
The screams sounded sharply over the roofs with a power that seemed to have no relation to the ordinary strength of a man’s voice. These fierce cries rang against walls of silence.
The man’s face flamed in a hot anger born of whiskey. His eyes rolling but watchful, hunted the still doorways and windows. He walked with the movement of a midnight cat. As the thoughts came to him, he roared threatening information.
The long guns hung from his hands like feathers, they were moved with electric speed. The muscles of his neck straightened and sank, straightened and sank, as passion moved him.
The only sounds were his terrible invitations to battle. The calm houses preserved their dignity at the passing of this small thing in the middle of the street.
There was no offer of fight -- no offer of fight. The man called to the sky. There were no answers. He screamed and shouted and waved his guns here and everywhere.
Finally, the man was at the closed door of the saloon. He went to it, and beating upon it with his gun, demanded drink. The door remained closed.
He picked up a bit of paper from the street and nailed it to the frame of the door with a knife. He then turned his back upon this place and walked to the opposite side of the street. Turning quickly and easily, he fired the guns at the bit of paper. He missed it by a half an inch.
He cursed at himself, and went away. Later, he comfortably shot out all the windows of the house of his best friend. Scratchy was playing with this town. It was a toy for him.
But still there was no offer of fight. The name of Jack Potter, his ancient enemy, entered his mind. He decided that it would be a good thing if he went to Potter’s house, and by shooting at it make him come out and fight. He moved in the direction of his desire, singing some sort of war song.
When he arrived at it, Potter’s house presented the same still front as had the other homes. Taking a good position, the man screamed an invitation to battle.
But this house regarded him as a great, stone god might have done. It gave no sign. After a little wait, the man screamed more invitations, mixing them with wonderful curses.
After a while came the sight of a man working himself into deepest anger over the stillness of a house. He screamed at it. He shot again and again. He paused only for breath or to reload his guns.
Potter and his bride walked rapidly. Sometimes they laughed together, quietly and a little foolishly.
“Next corner, dear,” he said finally.
They put forth the efforts of a pair walking against a strong wind. Potter was ready to point the first appearance of the new home. Then, as they turned the corner, they came face to face with the man in the red shirt, who was feverishly loading a large gun.
Immediately the man dropped his empty gun to the ground and, like lightning, pulled out another. The second gun was aimed at Potter’s chest.
There was a silence. Potter couldn’t open his mouth. Quickly he loosened his arm from the woman’s grasp, and dropped the bag to the sand.
As for the bride, her face had become the color of an old cloth. She was motionless. The two men faced each other at a distance of nine feet.
Behind the gun, Wilson smiled with a new and quiet cruelty.
“Tried to surprise me,” he said. “Tried to surprise me!” His eyes grew more evil. As Potter made a slight movement, the man pushed his gun sharply forward.
“No, don’t you do it, Jack Potter. Don’t you move a finger toward a gun yet. Don’t you move a muscle. The time has come for me to settle with you, and I’m going to do it my own way -- slowly, with no interruption. So just listen to what I tell you.”
Potter looked at his enemy. “I haven’t got a gun with me, Scratchy,” he said. “Honest, I haven’t.” He was stiffening and steadying, but at the back of his mind floated a picture of the beautiful car on the train. He thought of the glory of the wedding, the spirit of his new life.
“You know I fight when I have to fight, Scratchy Wilson. But I haven’t got a gun with me. You’ll have to do all the shooting yourself.”
His enemy’s face turned pale with anger. He stepped forward and whipped his gun back and forth before Potter’s chest.
“Don’t you tell me you haven’t got a gun with you, you dog. Don’t tell me a lie like that. There isn’t a man in Texas who ever saw you without a gun. Don’t think I’m a kid.” His eyes burned with anger and his breath came heavily.
“I don’t think you’re a kid,” answered Potter. His feet had not moved an inch backward. “I think you’re a complete fool. I tell you I haven’t got a gun, and I haven’t. If you’re going to shoot me, you’d better begin now; you’ll never get a chance like this again.”
So much enforced reasoning had weakened Wilson’s anger. He was calmer. “If you haven’t got a gun, why haven’t you got a gun?,” he asked. “Been to church?”
“I haven’t got a gun because I’ve just come from San Antonio with my wife. I’m married,” said Potter. “And if I had thought there’d be a fool like you here when I brought my wife home, I would have had a gun, and don’t you forget it.”
“Married!” said Scratchy, not at all understanding.
“Yes, married. I’m married,” said Potter, clearly.
“Married?” said Scratchy. Seemingly for the first time, he saw the pale, frightened woman at the other side. “No!” he said.
He was like a creature allowed a glance at another world. He moved a pace backward, and his arm, with the gun, dropped to his side.
“Is this the lady?” he asked.
“Yes, this is the lady,” answered Potter.
There was another period of silence.
“Well,” said Wilson at last, slowly. “I suppose we won’t fight now.”
“We won’t if you say so, Scratchy. You know I didn’t make the trouble.”
Potter lifted the bag.
“Well, I guess we won’t fight, Jack,” said Wilson. He was looking at the ground.
He was not a student of good manners. It was merely that in the presence of this foreign condition he was a simple child of the wildlands. He picked up his fallen gun, and he went away. His feet made deep tracks in the heavy sand.
Try this Listening Quiz to check your understanding.
Words in this story
feverishly - adv. done in a way that involves intense emotion or activity : feeling or showing great or extreme excitement
muscle - n. a body tissue that can contract and produce movement
Old West / Wild West - expression. the western United States in its frontier period characterized by roughness and lawlessness
pace - n. a single step or the length of a single step
passion - n. a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something
saloon - n. a business where alcoholic drinks are served
saloon-keeper – n. a person who runs a bar; a bartender
whiskey - n. a strong alcoholic drink made from a grain (such as rye, corn, or barley)
Teachers, here is a lesson plan for this story: