In Camp, February 2nd. DEAR MOTHER:--
We have stopped by the side of a trail for a while and I will take the chance it gives me to tell you what I have been doing. After Tyler and I returned to camp, we had a day of rest before Captain Hardie arrived. He is a young, red-moustached, pointed-bearded chap with light blue eyes, rough with living in the West but most kind hearted and enthusiastic. He treats me as though I were his son which is rather absurd as he is only up to my shoulder. It is so hot I cannot make the words go straight and you must not mind if I wander. We are hugging a fence for all the shade there is and the horses and men have all crawled to the dark side of it and are sleeping or swearing at the sun. It is about two o'clock and we have been riding since half-past seven. I have had a first rate time but I do not see that there has been much in it to interest any one but myself and where Harper Brothers or the "gentle reader" comes in, I am afraid I cannot see, and if I cannot see it I fear he will be in a bad way. It has pleased and interested me to see how I could get along under difficult circumstances and with so much discomfort but as I say I was not sent out here to improve my temper or my health or to make me more content with my good things in the East. If we could have a fight or something that would excuse and make a climax for all this marching and reconnoitering and discomfort the story would have a suitable finale and a raison d'etre. However, I may get something out of it if only to abuse the Government for their stupidity in chasing a jack rabbit with a brass band or by praising the men for doing their duty when they know there is no duty to be done. This country is more like the ocean than anything else and drives one crazy with its monotony and desolation. And to think we went to war with Mexico for it-- To-day is my tenth day with the troops in the camp and in the field and I will leave them as soon as this scout is over which will be in three days at the most. Then I will go to Corpus Christi and from there to the ranches but I will wait until I get baths, hair cuts and a dinner and cool things to drink-- One thing has pleased me very much and that is that I, with Tyler and the Mexican Scout made the second best riding record of the troop since they have been in the field this winter. The others rode 115 miles in 32 hours, four of them under the first Sergeant, after revolutionists, and we made 110 miles in 33 hours. The rest of the detachment made 90 miles and our having the extra thirty to our credit was an accident. On the 31st Hardie sent out the scout and two troopers, of which Tyler was one, to get a trail and as I had been resting and loafing for three days, I went out with them. We left at eight after breakfast and returned at seven, having made thirty miles. When we got in we found that a detachment was going out on information sent in while we were out. Tyler was in it and so we got fresh horses and put out at nine o'clock by moonlight. That was to keep the people in the ranch from knowing we were going out. We rode until half-past three in the morning and then camped at the side of the road until half--past six, when we rode on until five in the afternoon. The men who were watching to see me give up grew more and more interested as the miles rolled out and the First Sergeant was very fearful for his record for which he has been recommended for the certificate of merit. The Captain was very much pleased and all the men came and spoke to me. It must have been a good ride for Tyler who is a fifth year man was so tired that he paid a man to do his sentry duty. We slept at Captain Hunter's camp that last night and we both came on this morning, riding thirty miles up to two o'clock to-day. From here we go on into the brush again. I am very proud of that riding record and of my beard which is fine. I will finish this when we get near a post-office.
February 4th-- We rode forty miles through the brush but saw nothing of Garza, who was supposed to be in it. But we captured 3 revolutionists, one of whom ran away but the scout got him. Hardie, Tyler, who is his orderly, and the scout and I took them in because the rest of the column was lagging in the rear and the Lieutenant got bally hooly for it. Tyler disarmed one and I took away the other chaps things. Then we took a fourth in and let them all go for want of evidence and after some of the ranch men had identified them.
We ended our scout yesterday, and camped at Captain Hunter's last night-- Mother can now rest her soul in peace as I have done with scoutings and have replaced the free and easy belt and revolver for the black silk suspenders and the fire badge of civilization. I am still covered with 11 days dirt but will get lots of good things to eat and drink and smoke at Corpus Christi to night, where I will stay for two days. I am writing this on the car and a ranger is shooting splinters out of the telegraph poles from the window in front and has a New York drummer in a state of absolute nervous prostration. I met the Rangers last night as we came into camp and find them quite the most interesting things yet. They are just what I expected to find here and have not disappointed me. Everything else is either what we know it to be and know all about or else is disappointingly commonplace. I mean we know certain things are picturesque and I find them so but they have been "done" to death and new material seems so scarce. I am sometimes very fearful of the success of the letters-- However, the Rangers I simply loved. They were gentle voiced and did not swear as the soldiers do and some of them were as handsome men as I ever saw and SO BIG. And such children. They showed me all their tricks at the request of the Adjutant General, who looks upon them as his special property. They shot four shots into a tree with a revolver, going at full gallop, hit a mark with both hands at once, shot with the pistol upside down and the Captain put eight shots into a board with a Winchester, while I was putting two into the field around it. We got along very well indeed and they were quite keen for me to go back and chase Garza. They are sure they have him now. I gave the Captain permission to put four shots into my white helmet. He only put two and the rest of the company thinking their reputations were at stake whipped out their guns and snatched up their rifles and blazed away until they danced the hat all over the ranch. Then remorse overcame them and they proposed taking up a collection to get me a sombrero, which I stopped. So Nora's hat is gone but I am going to get another and save myself from sunstroke again. The last part of the ride was enlivened by the presence of three Mexican murderers handcuffed and chained with iron bands around the neck, that is Texas civilization isn't it--
I have had my dinner and a fine dinner it was with fresh fish and duck and oysters and segars which I have not had for a week. I am finishing this at Constantine's and will be here for two days to write things and will then go on to King's ranch and from there to San Antonio, where I will also rest a week. I will just about get through my schedule in the ten weeks at this rate. I had a good time in the bush and am enjoying it very much though it is lonely now and then-- Still, it is very interesting and if the stories amount to anything I will be pleased but I am constantly wondering how on earth Chas stood it as he did. He is a hero to me for I have some hope of getting back and he had not-- He is a sport-- How I will sleep to night--a real bed and sheets and pajamas, after the ground and the same clothes for eleven days.
While Richard was travelling in the West, his second volume of short stories, "Van Bibber and Others," was published. The volume was dedicated to my father, who wrote Richard the following letter:
PHILADELPHIA, February 15, 1892. MY DEAR OWN DICK:
I have not been the complete letter writer I should have been, as I told you on Saturday, but I know you will understand. Your two good letters came this evening, one to Mamma and one to Nora. They were a good deal to us all, most, of course, to your dear mother and sister, who have a fond, foolish fancy or love for you--strange--isn't it? Yes, dear boy, I liked the new story very, very much. It was in your best book and in fine spirit, and I liked, too, the dedication of the book--its meaning and its manner. I am glad to be associated with my dear boy and with his work even in that brief way. You may not yet thought about it after this fashion, but I have thought a good deal about it. Reports come to me of you from many sources, and they are all good, and they all reflect honor upon me-- Upon me as I'm getting ready to salute the world, as our French friends say. It is very pleasant to me as I think it over to feel and to know that my boy has honored my name, that he has done something good and useful in the world and for the world. I have something more than pride in you. I am grateful to you. If this is a little prosie, dear old fellow, forgive it. It is late at night and I am a little tired, and being tired stupid. You saw The Atlantic notice of your work. I wish you could have heard Nora on the author of it, who would not have been happy in his mind if he had unhappily heard her. She went for that Heathen Chinee like a wild cat. No disrespect to her, but, all the same, like a wild cat. To me it was interesting. I did not agree with it, but here and there I saw the flash of truth even in the adverse praise. I should have had more respect for the author's opinion if he had liked that vital speck, Raegen. If he could not see the divine, human spark in that--a flash from Calvary, what is the use of considering him? My greatest pride in you, that which has added some sweetness and joy to my life, has been the recognition that something of the divine element was given you, and that your voice rang out sweet and pure at a time when other voices were sounding the fascinations of impurity. That, like Christ, you taught humanity. Don't be afraid of being thought "fresh," fear to be thought "knowing." Life isn't much worth at best,--it is worth nothing at all unless some good be done in it---the more, the better. Don't make it too serious either. Enjoy it as you go, but after a fashion that will bring no reproach to your manhood. Don't be afraid to preach the truth and above all the religion of humanity. Good night, dear boy. I'm a little tired to night. With great love,