Laughing Bill Hyde

Rex Beach
Laughing Bill Hyde

The Project Gutenberg eBook, Laughing Bill Hyde and Other Stories,
by Rex Beach
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Title: Laughing Bill Hyde and Other Stories
Author: Rex Beach
Release Date: March 16, 2004 [eBook #11501]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
E-text prepared by Kevin Handy, Dave Maddock, Josephine Paolucci,
and the Project Gutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading Team

And Other Stories

"Rainbow's End," "Heart of the Sunset," "The Spoilers," Etc.


Mr. William Hyde was discharged from Deer Lodge Penitentiary a
changed man. That was quite in line with the accepted theory of
criminal jurisprudence, the warden's discipline, and the chaplain's
prayers. Yes, Mr. Hyde was changed, and the change had bitten deep;
his humorous contempt for the law had turned to abiding hatred; his
sunburned cheeks were pallid, his lungs were weak, and he coughed
considerably. Balanced against these results, to be sure, were the
benefits accruing from three years of corrective discipline at the State's
expense; the knack of conversing through stone walls, which Mr. Hyde
had mastered, and the plaiting of wonderful horsehair bridles, which he
had learned. Otherwise he was the same "Laughing Bill" his friends
had known, neither more nor less regenerate.
Since the name of Montana promised to associate itself with unpleasant
memories, Mr. Hyde determined at once to bury his past and begin life
anew in a climate more suited to weak lungs. To that end he stuck up a
peaceful citizen of Butte who was hurrying homeward with an armful
of bundles, and in the warm dusk of a pleasant evening relieved him of
eighty-three dollars, a Swiss watch with an elk's-tooth fob, a
pearl-handled penknife, a key-ring, and a bottle of digestive tablets.
Three wasted years of industry had not robbed Mr. Hyde of the
technique of his trade, hence there was nothing amateurish or
uproarious about the procedure. He merely back-heeled the pedestrian

against a bill-board, held him erect and speechless by placing his left
hand upon his victim's shoulder and pressing his left forearm firmly
across the gentleman's apple, the while with his own dexterous right
mit he placed the eighty-three dollars in circulation. During the
transaction he laughed constantly. An hour later he was en route for the
sunny South, there being good and sufficient reasons why he preferred
that direction to any other.
Arizona helped Mr. Hyde's lungs, for the random town which he
selected was high and dry, but, unfortunately, so was Laughing Bill
soon after his arrival, and in consequence he was forced to engage
promptly in a new business enterprise. This time he raised a pay-roll. It
was an easy task, for the custodian of the pay-roll was a small man with
a kindly and unsuspicious nature. As a result of this operation Bill was
enabled to maintain himself, for some six weeks, in a luxury to which
of late he had been unaccustomed. At the end of this time the original
bearer of the payroll tottered forth from the hospital and, chancing to
overhear Mr. Hyde in altercation with a faro dealer, he was struck by
some haunting note in the former's laughter, and lost no time in
shuffling his painful way to the sheriff's office.
Seeing the man go, Laughing Bill realized that his health again
demanded a change of climate, and since it lacked nearly an hour of
train time he was forced to leave on horseback. Luckily for him he
found a horse convenient. It was a wild horse, with nothing whatever to
indicate that it belonged to any one, except the fact that it carried a
silver-mounted saddle and bridle, the reins of which were fastened to a
post in front of a saloon.
Mr. Hyde enjoyed the ride, for it kept him out in the open air. It grieved
him to part with the horse, a few hours later, but being prodigal with
personal property he presented the animal to a poor Mexican woman,
leaving her to face any resulting embarrassments. Ten minutes later he
swung himself under a west-bound freight, and in due time arrived in
California, somewhat dirty and fatigued, but in excellent humor.
Laughing Bill's adventures and his aliases during his slow progress up
the coast form no part of this story. It might be said, with a great deal of

truth, that he was missed, if not mourned, in many towns.
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