His birth, and parentage, and education,
I know but little of.
RICHARD H. BARHAM, The Ingoldsby Legends,
"The Ghost," stanza 5, line 5
Philip Schuyler Warne,(1) about whom nothing was known for many years except that he was a New Orleans writer, contributed regularly to the Beadle publications from 1875 to 1890. Apparently he stopped sending in regular contributions in the latter year, for although a lone story appeared in the Dime Library in 1894, this may have represented a manuscript that had been on hand for some years. Later tales in the Banner Weekly and the Libraries are reprints.
After Warne's death it was reported that he was a New Orleans negro. Whitson(2) said that Ingraham told him that he had heard that Warne was a negro, and Horace Seymour Keller(3) said: "Phil Warne, the New Orleans colored writer, did some great stunts, blew a hole through his head," and added that few knew at the time that he was a negro. Apparently none of these men knew the fact personally, and none mentioned the source of his information. Gilbert Patten,(4) however, had first-hand information. He said: "Philip S. Warne was the name of a negro who lived in New Orleans. This is on the authority of Orville J. Victor, the veteran editor for Beadle. One day Warne appeared in Victor's office and introduced himself, to Mr. Victor's amazement. . . . Warne went up into Connecticut, where he shortly thereafter shot himself." And later Patten wrote: "I received the information about Warne directly from Mr. Victor . . . who told me personally about Philip S. Warne being a negro."
A search through the New Orleans Directories failed to reveal any Philip S. Warne living in that city. Patten suggested that the name may possibly have been a pen name. If so, that would account for the failure to find a notice of his death in the Connecticut newspapers and the listing of his name in New Orleans. More probably, however, it was his real name. †Manning, in a letter dated June 2, 1918, and now in my possession, said: "Philip S. Warne was a nom de plume, but what its user's real name was I cannot remember. . . . When I try to recall his name, Nolan flashes to my mind. But pray keep it firmly in mind that it would be very, very unsafe to use Nolan on my vague impression. I never met him, but somebody once told me, back 25 or more years ago, a whole lot about Warne. I don't remember a thing. I've written to Harbaugh and asked him if Warne was named Nolan. He briefly replied 'I think he was.' I wish, instead of jogging Harbaugh's memory, I had forced him to consider the point unaided.
Warne was a versatile and clever writer, and his stories of the Mississippi River and adjacent states show that he was familiar with the region about which he wrote. Besides writing for Beadle, he contributed also to the Fireside Companion.
Saturday Journal. Nos. 271, 434, 455, 469, 504, 574
Banner Weekly. Nos. 387, 458, 470, 500
Fireside Library. Nos. 64, 67, 69
Starr's New York Library. Nos. 1, 4
Dime Library. Nos. 1, 4, 29, 54, 80, 114, 171, 207, 251, 280, 299, 338, 359, 380, 404, 431, 472, 502, 522, 544, 567, 583, 802, 1030, 1032, 1033, 1088
Half-Dime Library. Nos. 67, 175, 193, 219, 338, 363, 373, 388, 401, 408, 431, 451, 480, 517, 527, 547, 556, 574, 593, 599, 613, 635, 643, 664, 1143
Waverley Library (quarto). Nos. 163, 204, 208
Pocket Library. Nos. 51, 140, 159. 211, 313, 332, 341, 361
SPECIMEN OF PHILIP S. WARNE'S STYLE
"Patent-leather Joe; or, Old Rattlesnake, the Charmer. A Rocky Mountain Romance." Half-Dime Library No. 67, pp. 1-2.
"Now, gents, you had better be born lucky than rich. Who's the next candidate for the smiles of the fickle jade? Why soil your hands and make your back ache, grubbing a few grains of the filthy out of the earth, when it's as free as the air you breathe, by only exercising your wits? Now, gentlemen, do you, or don't you? Take it while it's going. Ah! This gent wins. Here you are, sir. I never quarrel with a man's luck! Who's the next lucky man?"
His dress was decidedly "loud," his plaid pantaloons being very wide in the legs, his "b'iled" shirt displaying what might or might not be a diamond, and an immense seal ring decorating his finger.
After the manner of his like, he was called Patent-leather Joe.
The "next lucky man" at the moment we open our story, was a "greeny"—that is to say, one who has just come to Virginia City from the "States," knowing as yet only so much of mining and the life of a miner as he had picked up in the newspapers.
Arthur Hamilton had already "tried his luck" at Patent-leather Joe's "little game," until he had only five dollars left. Then he had sat down in a corner in rather rueful cogitation.
Evidently his meditation had been productive of some idea; for he now advanced again to the gambler's table.
"Is there any limitation to the amount of bets in your game?" he asked.
"No. Anything not less than ten cents, or more than my pile."
"And how much is that?"
"Say five hundred dollars. Can you see it?"
The question was sarcastic.
"No, not now," replied Arthur; "but that's not saying I won't be able to before the night is over."
"That's so, stranger. If you clean me out, you won't be the first, or last, I reckon. You're welcome to try."
"Will you play with this understanding—I can bet much or little, as I please; and, no matter how luck runs, who wins or who loses, neither can stop without the consent of the other, until one is deadbroke?"
Again Patent-leather Joe smiled.
"All right," he replied; "I'll agree to that."
"Suppose we write it down, so that there will be no misunderstanding."
And Arthur put the agreement in writing.
"That's all right, is it?"
Patent-leather Joe ran his eye carelessly over the paper.
"That's square," he assented.
"Gentlemen," said Arthur, addressing the spectators, "you all hear?"
With awakening interest, the crown indicated assent.
Then the game began.
Arthur bet ten cents—and lost.
He bet twenty—and lost again.
He bet forty—with the same result.
He bet eighty. This time he won.
Beginning again, he bet ten cents, and won.
Once more he bet ten cents—and lost; twenty—and lost; forty—won.
Pocketing his winnings, he returned to his first stake of ten cents.
You may well believe it did not take Patent-leather Joe long to drop to this little game.
"Hold on, stranger," he said, "you ain't giving me any show."
"Why, every time you lose you double, so that, when you win—and you're bound to win first or last—you're just ten cents ahead."
"Well, at that rate you can skin me, ten cents at a time."
"What of that?"
"Why, that ain't fair. You don't give me no show."
"Certainly I do."
"I don't see it."
"Suppose that you had such a run of luck that you kept winning until I could double no longer? You'd rake my pile, wouldn't you?"
"Suppose the heavens should fall! I reckon one side can't win more than half a dozen times running."
"I see nothing to prevent it, if you're lucky enough."
The crowd began to grin.
Patent-leather Joe frowned angrily.
"It's a doggone slim show!" he muttered, proceeding with the game.
Arthur won steadily until the gambler's patience was completely exhausted.
Suddenly he stopped.
"Look a-hyar, stranger," he said, "this won't do!"
"I might as well give you my money out and out, as to fool away my time letting you have it by driblets."
"I want your money only as I win it."
"That'll do for talk; but the long and short of it is, you've got the dead open and shut on me. You're bound to give me a show, or you can't take my money."
"But, as I showed you, you still have the chance of breaking me by an unusual run of luck."
"Yes, a doggoned unusual run o' luck! A run o' luck that never happens to anybody. No, boss, that won't go down. You're bound to give me a show that is a show."
"Let me see," said Arthur, referring to the agreement. "I am to bet as much or little, as I choose, not under ten cents, not over your pile; and neither is to stop without the consent of the other, until one is dead-broke. I see nothing about giving any show in that."
"Oh, well, that's understood, of course."
"Nothing is understood which is not expressed, in a written agreement."
"Confound your written agreement! Do you suppose I'm going to let any galoot beat me out o' my money in this way?"
"I suppose you're going to stand by the terms of the agreement."
"Blast me if I do, if that's the way you make it out! Stranger, you're welcome to what you've got; and you've learnt me a lesson. But I reckon, now you've got your money back, I say quits."
"Hold on, boss! This thing hain't played out yet. A go's a go; and you've got to stand to it until you're bu'sted. You hear me—Flash Lightning, miner and prospector!"
Everybody looked surprised, and then smiled.
The bold challenger was a boy of not more than seventeen years of age.
As he spoke, he drew a pistol and cocked it in immediate readiness for use.
Patent-leather Joe stared at his young antagonist.
"Who are you, and what do you mean?" he demanded.
"Cap," said the boy, carelessly, "I've just give you my handle—Flash Lightning, miner and prospector. That's who I am. And I mean business!"
"You're a doggoned meddling fool; and you mean to git your mouth slapped!" amended the gambler.
The boy laughed.
"Now I reckon, Cap," he said, "you'd jest like to break me in two. Perhaps you could do it, if it come to muscle. But these little trinkets"—referring to his weapons—"make big and little even, if you only know how to handle 'em. And I allow I can hold my own with the best man in the mines. Boss, I reckon you'll have to cave."
With a fierce oath Patent-leather Joe reached for his own revolver.
"Cheese it, cully!" commanded Flash Lightning, bringing his weapon into line with his eye and the gambler's heart.
Patent-leather Joe was nobody's fool. A glance showed him that the crowd was against him, while this determined boy "held the drop on him."
He yielded to stern necessity, with such grace as he could command.
"I reckon you're the gent I've got my business with," he said, sullenly, to Arthur Hamilton. "Of course, you want to do the fair thing?"
"Yes, I want to stand by our agreement," said the young man, quietly.
The gambler scowled.
"That's a clean beat," he said.
"It was a fair bargain."
The gambler thought a moment.
"Stranger," he said, presently, "you've got me. I cave. But of course, you don't want to be too hard on me. The agreement says that either can stop, if the other is willing?"
"You've won back all the money you lost with me?"
"Suppose I give you as much more, and then call the thing off?"
It was now Arthur's turn to make terms.
"Wait until we investigate this thing a bit," he said. "I suppose you will admit that where men bet at random, as they ordinarily do, this game is all in your favor? Although it looks fair, the fact is you are bound to win."
"A man may be lucky enough—"
"No, luck or no luck, from the nature of the game, the odds are all in your favor."
"Well, they may be."
"In fact, is! on the other hand, the way I have played I am sure to win all of your money, if we play long enough."
"That's just what makes the thing a beat."
"At any rate, under the terms of this agreement, I can take all of your pile, if I choose!"
"And if I let you off short of that, I am giving you just so much money."
"I suppose you can call it that."
"How much money have you beat these men out of, when the sure-thing was on your side?"
"I may have won a hundred dollars, perhaps."
"How much had you when you began?"
"A little over four hundred."
"Well, this is how I will let you off—pay these men back their money, and give me two hundred."
"I'm blowed if I do!"
"Very well, then! We'll go on with the game."
"Hold on, pardner! You don't want to skin me like that?"
"I've offered to give you a clean two hundred and over, when I can take the lot just as well as not."
There was no other way out of it. Everybody who had lost money to Patent-leather Joe was immensely in favor of the plan, for a very obvious reason.
"Blast my eyes!" cried one. "I think the gent's doin' a mighty white thing. Blow me if I wouldn't gobble the whole pile if it was my chance."
"Divy up, Joe!" laughed another. "The greeny's got you foul, sure."
A dead-white pallor overspread Patent-leather Joe's face, and set about his tightly compressed lips. His eyes began to glitter, and his nostrils quivered with suppressed passion.
Without another word he spread his money out before him on the table, and began to pay back the several amounts he had won from different miners.
† Correction made as per Volume 3.
|1||The middle name is given in Banner Weekly No. 458 and No. 470.|
|2||John H. Whitson, June 29, 1932, in a letter.|
|3||H. S. Keller, October 24, 1913, in a letter to Dr. F. P. O'Brien.|
|4||Gilbert Patten, in letters to me March 13, and March 24, 1943.|