Part 3 out of 7
whole lot worse in running its course. It made men and women do
such fearful and unreasonable things. It was like delirium
tremens, only worse. And if he, Daylight, caught it, he might
have it as badly as any of them. It was lunacy, stark lunacy,
and contagious on top of it all. A half dozen young fellows were
crazy over Freda. They all wanted to marry her. Yet she, in
turn, was crazy over that some other fellow on the other side of
the world, and would have nothing to do with them.
But it was left to the Virgin to give him his final fright. She
was found one morning dead in her cabin. A shot through the head
had done it, and she had left no message, no explanation. Then
came the talk. Some wit, voicing public opinion, called it a
case of too much Daylight. She had killed herself because of
him. Everybody knew this, and said so. The correspondents wrote
it up, and once more Burning Daylight, King of the Klondike, was
sensationally featured in the Sunday supplements of the United
States. The Virgin had straightened up, so the feature-stories
ran, and correctly so. Never had she entered a Dawson City
dance-hall. When she first arrived from Circle City, she had
earned her living by washing clothes. Next, she had bought a
sewing-machine and made men's drill parkas, fur caps, and
moosehide mittens. Then she had gone as a clerk into the First
Yukon Bank. All this, and more, was known and told, though one
and all were agreed that Daylight, while the cause, had been the
innocent cause of her untimely end.
And the worst of it was that Daylight knew it was true. Always
would he remember that last night he had seen her. He had
thought nothing of it at the time; but, looking back, he was
haunted by every little thing that had happened. In the light of
the tragic event, he could understand everything--her quietness,
that calm certitude as if all vexing questions of living had been
smoothed out and were gone, and that certain ethereal sweetness
about all that she had said and done that had been almost
maternal. He remembered the way she had looked at him, how she
had laughed when he narrated Mickey Dolan's mistake in staking
the fraction on Skookum Gulch. Her laughter had been lightly
joyous, while at the same time it had lacked its oldtime
robustness. Not that she had been grave or subdued. On the
contrary, she had been so patently content, so filled with peace.
She had fooled him, fool that he was. He had even thought that
night that her feeling for him had passed, and he had taken
delight in the thought, and caught visions of the satisfying
future friendship that would be theirs with this perturbing love
out of the way.
And then, when he stood at the door, cap in hand, and said good
night. It had struck him at the time as a funny and embarrassing
thing, her bending over his hand and kissing it. He had felt
like a fool, but he shivered now when he looked back on it and
felt again the touch of her lips on his hand. She was saying
good-by, an eternal good-by, and he had never guessed. At that
very moment, and for all the moments of the evening, coolly and
deliberately, as he well knew her way, she had been resolved to
die. If he had only known it! Untouched by the contagious
malady himself, nevertheless he would have married her if he had
had the slightest inkling of what she contemplated. And yet he
knew, furthermore, that hers was a certain stiff-kneed pride that
would not have permitted her to accept marriage as an act of
philanthropy. There had really been no saving her, after all.
The love-disease had fastened upon her, and she had been doomed
from the first to perish of it.
Her one possible chance had been that he, too, should have caught
it. And he had failed to catch it. Most likely, if he had, it
would have been from Freda or some other woman. There was
Dartworthy, the college man who had staked the rich fraction on
Bonanza above Discovery. Everybody knew that old Doolittle's
daughter, Bertha, was madly in love with him. Yet, when he
contracted the disease, of all women, it had been with the wife
of Colonel Walthstone, the great Guggenhammer mining expert.
Result, three lunacy cases: Dartworthy selling out his mine for
one-tenth its value; the poor woman sacrificing her
respectability and sheltered nook in society to flee with him in
an open boat down the Yukon; and Colonel Walthstone, breathing
murder and destruction, taking out after them in another open
boat. The whole impending tragedy had moved on down the muddy
Yukon, passing Forty Mile and Circle and losing itself in the
wilderness beyond. But there it was, love, disorganizing men's
and women's lives, driving toward destruction and death, turning
topsy-turvy everything that was sensible and considerate, making
bawds or suicides out of virtuous women, and scoundrels and
murderers out of men who had always been clean and square.
For the first time in his life Daylight lost his nerve. He was
badly and avowedly frightened. Women were terrible creatures,
and the love-germ was especially plentiful in their neighborhood.
And they were so reckless, so devoid of fear. THEY were not
frightened by what had happened to the Virgin. They held out
their arms to him more seductively than ever. Even without his
fortune, reckoned as a mere man, just past thirty, magnificently
strong and equally good-looking and good-natured, he was a prize
for most normal women. But when to his natural excellences were
added the romance that linked with his name and the enormous
wealth that was his, practically every free woman he encountered
measured him with an appraising and delighted eye, to say nothing
of more than one woman who was not free. Other men might have
been spoiled by this and led to lose their heads; but the only
effect on him was to increase his fright. As a result he refused
most invitations to houses where women might be met, and
frequented bachelor boards and the Moosehorn Saloon, which had no
Six thousand spent the winter of 1897 in Dawson, work on the
creeks went on apace, while beyond the passes it was reported
that one hundred thousand more were waiting for the spring. Late
one brief afternoon, Daylight, on the benches between French Hill
and Skookum Hill, caught a wider vision of things. Beneath him
lay the richest part of Eldorado Creek, while up and down Bonanza
he could see for miles. It was a scene of a vast devastation.
The hills, to their tops, had been shorn of trees, and their
naked sides showed signs of goring and perforating that even the
mantle of snow could not hide. Beneath him, in every direction
were the cabins of men. But not many men were visible. A
blanket of smoke filled the valleys and turned the gray day to
melancholy twilight. Smoke arose from a thousand holes in the
snow, where, deep down on bed-rock, in the frozen muck and
gravel, men crept and scratched and dug, and ever built more
fires to break the grip of the frost. Here and there, where new
shafts were starting, these fires flamed redly. Figures of men
crawled out of the holes, or disappeared into them, or, on raised
platforms of hand-hewn timber, windlassed the thawed gravel to
the surface, where it immediately froze. The wreckage of the
spring washing appeared everywhere--piles of sluice-boxes,
sections of elevated flumes, huge water-wheels,--all the debris
of an army of gold-mad men.
"It-all's plain gophering," Daylight muttered aloud.
He looked at the naked hills and realized the enormous wastage of
wood that had taken place. From this bird's-eye view he
realized the monstrous confusion of their excited workings. It
was a gigantic inadequacy. Each worked for himself, and the
result was chaos. In this richest of diggings it cost out by
their feverish, unthinking methods another dollar was left
hopelessly in the earth. Given another year, and most of the
claims would be worked out, and the sum of the gold taken out
would no more than equal what was left behind.
Organization was what was needed, he decided; and his quick
imagination sketched Eldorado Creek, from mouth to source, and
from mountain top to mountain top, in the hands of one capable
management. Even steam-thawing, as yet untried, but bound to
come, he saw would be a makeshift. What should be done was to
hydraulic the valley sides and benches, and then, on the creek
bottom, to use gold-dredges such as he had heard described as
operating in California.
There was the very chance for another big killing. He had
wondered just what was precisely the reason for the Guggenhammers
and the big English concerns sending in their high-salaried
experts. That was their scheme. That was why they had
approached him for the sale of worked-out claims and tailings.
They were content to let the small mine-owners gopher out what
they could, for there would be millions in the leavings.
And, gazing down on the smoky inferno of crude effort, Daylight
outlined the new game he would play, a game in which the
Guggenhammers and the rest would have to reckon with him. Cut
along with the delight in the new conception came a weariness.
He was tired of the long Arctic years, and he was curious about
the Outside--the great world of which he had heard other men talk
and of which he was as ignorant as a child. There were games out
there to play. It was a larger table, and there was no reason
why he with his millions should not sit in and take a hand. So
it was, that afternoon on Skookum Hill, that he resolved to play
this last best Klondike hand and pull for the Outside.
It took time, however. He put trusted agents to work on the
heels of great experts, and on the creeks where they began to buy
he likewise bought. Wherever they tried to corner a worked-out
creek, they found him standing in the way, owning blocks of
claims or artfully scattered claims that put all their plans to
"I play you-all wide open to win--am I right" he told them once,
in a heated conference.
Followed wars, truces, compromises, victories, and defeats. By
1898, sixty thousand men were on the Klondike and all their
fortunes and affairs rocked back and forth and were affected by
the battles Daylight fought. And more and more the taste for the
larger game urged in Daylight's mouth. Here he was already
locked in grapples with the great Guggenhammers, and winning,
fiercely winning. Possibly the severest struggle was waged on
Ophir, the veriest of moose-pastures, whose low-grade dirt was
valuable only because of its vastness. The ownership of a block
of seven claims in the heart of it gave Daylight his grip and
they could not come to terms. The Guggenhammer experts concluded
that it was too big for him to handle, and when they gave him an
ultimatum to that effect he accepted and bought them out.
The plan was his own, but he sent down to the States for
competent engineers to carry it out. In the Rinkabilly
watershed, eighty miles away, he built his reservoir, and for
eighty miles the huge wooden conduit carried the water across
country to Ophir. Estimated at three millions, the reservoir and
conduit cost nearer four. Nor did he stop with this. Electric
power plants were installed, and his workings were lighted as
well as run by electricity. Other sourdoughs, who had struck it
rich in excess of all their dreams, shook their heads gloomily,
warned him that he would go broke, and declined to invest in so
extravagant a venture.
But Daylight smiled, and sold out the remainder of his town-site
holdings. He sold at the right time, at the height of the placer
boom. When he prophesied to his old cronies, in the Moosehorn
Saloon, that within five years town lots in Dawson could not be
given away, while the cabins would be chopped up for firewood, he
was laughed at roundly, and assured that the mother-lode would be
found ere that time. But he went ahead, when his need for lumber
was finished, selling out his sawmills as well. Likewise, he
to get rid of his scattered holdings on the various creeks, and
without thanks to any one he finished his conduit, built his
dredges, imported his machinery, and made the gold of Ophir
immediately accessible. And he, who five years before had
over the divide from Indian River and threaded the silent
wilderness, his dogs packing Indian fashion, himself living
fashion on straight moose meat, now heard the hoarse whistles
calling his hundreds of laborers to work, and watched them toil
under the white glare of the arc-lamps.
But having done the thing, he was ready to depart. And when he
let the word go out, the Guggenhammers vied with the English
concerns and with a new French company in bidding for Ophir and
all its plant. The Guggenhammers bid highest, and the price they
paid netted Daylight a clean million. It was current rumor that
he was worth anywhere from twenty to thirty millions. But he
alone knew just how he stood, and that, with his last claim sold
and the table swept clean of his winnings, he had ridden his
hunch to the tune of just a trifle over eleven millions.
His departure was a thing that passed into the history of the
Yukon along with his other deeds. All the Yukon was his guest,
Dawson the seat of the festivity. On that one last night no
man's dust save his own was good. Drinks were not to be
purchased. Every saloon ran open, with extra relays of exhausted
bartenders, and the drinks were given away. A man who refused
this hospitality, and persisted in paying, found a dozen fights
on his hands. The veriest chechaquos rose up to defend the name
of Daylight from such insult. And through it all, on moccasined
feet, moved Daylight, hell-roaring Burning Daylight,
over-spilling with good nature and camaraderie, howling his
he-wolf howl and claiming the night as his, bending men's arms
down on the bars, performing feats of strength, his bronzed face
flushed with drink, his black eyes flashing, clad in overalls and
blanket coat, his ear-flaps dangling and his gauntleted mittens
swinging from the cord across the shoulders. But this time it
was neither an ante nor a stake that he threw away, but a mere
marker in the game that he who held so many markers would not
As a night, it eclipsed anything that Dawson had ever seen. It
was Daylight's desire to make it memorable, and his attempt was a
success. A goodly portion of Dawson got drunk that night. The
fall weather was on, and, though the freeze-up of the Yukon still
delayed, the thermometer was down to twenty-five below zero and
falling. Wherefore, it was necessary to organize gangs of
life-savers, who patrolled the streets to pick up drunken men
from where they fell in the snow and where an hour's sleep would
be fatal. Daylight, whose whim it was to make them drunk by
hundreds and by thousands, was the one who initiated this life
saving. He wanted Dawson to have its night, but, in his deeper
processes never careless nor wanton, he saw to it that it was a
night without accident. And, like his olden nights, his ukase
went forth that there should be no quarrelling nor fighting,
offenders to be dealt with by him personally. Nor did he have to
deal with any. Hundreds of devoted followers saw to it that the
evilly disposed were rolled in the snow and hustled off to bed.
In the great world, where great captains of industry die, all
wheels under their erstwhile management are stopped for a minute.
But in the Klondike, such was its hilarious sorrow at the
departure of its captain, that for twenty-four hours no wheels
revolved. Even great Ophir, with its thousand men on the
pay-roll, closed down. On the day after the night there were no
men present or fit to go to work.
Next morning, at break of day, Dawson said good-by. The
thousands that lined the bank wore mittens and their ear-flaps
pulled down and tied. It was thirty below zero, the rim-ice was
thickening, and the Yukon carried a run of mush-ice. From the
deck of the Seattle, Daylight waved and called his farewells. As
the lines were cast off and the steamer swung out into the
current, those near him saw the moisture well up in Daylight's
eyes. In a way, it was to him departure from his native land,
this grim Arctic region which was practically the only land he
had known. He tore off his cap and waved it.
"Good-by, you-all!" he called. "Good-by, you-all!"
In no blaze of glory did Burning Daylight descend upon San
Francisco. Not only had he been forgotten, but the Klondike
along with him. The world was interested in other things, and
Alaskan adventure, like the Spanish War, was an old story. Many
things had happened since then. Exciting things were happening
every day, and the sensation-space of newspapers was limited.
effect of being ignored, however, was an exhilaration. Big man
he had been in the Arctic game, it merely showed how much bigger
was this new game, when a man worth eleven millions, and with a
history such as his, passed unnoticed.
He settled down in St. Francis Hotel, was interviewed by the
cub-reporters on the hotel-run, and received brief paragraphs of
notice for twenty-four hours. He grinned to himself, and began
to look around and get acquainted with the new order of beings
and things. He was very awkward and very self-possessed. In
addition to the stiffening afforded his backbone by the conscious
ownership of eleven millions, he possessed an enormous certitude.
Nothing abashed him, nor was he appalled by the display and
culture and power around him. It was another kind of wilderness,
that was all; and it was for him to learn the ways of it, the
signs and trails and water-holes where good hunting lay, and the
bad stretches of field and flood to be avoided. As usual, he
fought shy of the women. He was still too badly scared to come
to close quarters with the dazzling and resplendent creatures his
own millions made accessible.
They looked and longed, but he so concealed his timidity that he
had all the seeming of moving boldly among them. Nor was it his
wealth alone that attracted them. He was too much a man, and too
much an unusual type of man. Young yet, barely thirty-six,
eminently handsome, magnificently strong, almost bursting with a
splendid virility, his free trail-stride, never learned on
pavements, and his black eyes, hinting of great spaces and
unwearied with the close perspective of the city dwellers, drew
many a curious and wayward feminine glance. He saw, grinned
knowingly to himself, and faced them as so many dangers, with a
cool demeanor that was a far greater personal achievement than
had they been famine, frost, or flood.
He had come down to the States to play the man's game, not the
woman's game; and the men he had not yet learned. They struck
him as soft--soft physically; yet he divined them hard in their
dealings, but hard under an exterior of supple softness. It
struck him that there was something cat-like about them. He met
them in the clubs, and wondered how real was the good-fellowship
they displayed and how quickly they would unsheathe their claws
and gouge and rend. "That's the proposition," he repeated to
himself; "what will they-all do when the play is close and down
to brass tacks?" He felt unwarrantably suspicious of them.
"They're sure slick," was his secret judgment; and from bits of
gossip dropped now and again he felt his judgment well
buttressed. On the other hand, they radiated an atmosphere of
manliness and the fair play that goes with manliness. They might
gouge and rend in a fight--which was no more than natural; but he
felt, somehow, that they would gouge and rend according to rule.
This was the impression he got of them--a generalization tempered
by knowledge that there was bound to be a certain percentage of
scoundrels among them.
Several months passed in San Francisco during which time he
studied the game and its rules, and prepared himself to take a
hand. He even took private instruction in English, and succeeded
in eliminating his worst faults, though in moments of excitement
he was prone to lapse into "you-all," "knowed," "sure," and
similar solecisms. He learned to eat and dress and generally
comport himself after the manner of civilized man; but through it
all he remained himself, not unduly reverential nor
considerative, and never hesitating to stride rough-shod over any
soft-faced convention if it got in his way and the provocation
were great enough. Also, and unlike the average run of weaker
men coming from back countries and far places, he failed to
reverence the particular tin gods worshipped variously by the
civilized tribes of men. He had seen totems before, and knew
them for what they were.
Tiring of being merely an onlooker, he ran up to Nevada, where
the new gold-mining boom was fairly started--"just to try a
flutter," as he phrased it to himself. The flutter on the
Tonopah Stock Exchange lasted just ten days, during which time
his smashing, wild-bull game played ducks and drakes with the
more stereotyped gamblers, and at the end of which time, having
gambled Floridel into his fist, he let go for a net profit of
half a million. Whereupon, smacking his lips, he departed for
San Francisco and the St. Francis Hotel. It tasted good, and
his hunger for the game became more acute.
And once more the papers sensationalized him. BURNING DAYLIGHT
was a big-letter headline again. Interviewers flocked about him.
Old files of magazines and newspapers were searched through, and
the romantic and historic Elam Harnish, Adventurer of the Frost,
King of the Klondike, and father of the Sourdoughs, strode upon
the breakfast table of a million homes along with the toast and
breakfast foods. Even before his elected time, he was forcibly
launched into the game. Financiers and promoters, and all the
flotsam and jetsam of the sea of speculation surged upon the
shores of his eleven millions. In self-defence he was
compelled to open offices. He had made them sit up and take
notice, and now, willy-nilly, they were dealing him hands and
clamoring for him to play. Well, play he would; he'd show 'em;
even despite the elated prophesies made of how swiftly he would
be trimmed--prophesies coupled with descriptions of the bucolic
game he would play and of his wild and woolly appearance.
He dabbled in little things at first--"stalling for time," as he
explained it to Holdsworthy, a friend he had made at the
Alta-Pacific Club. Daylight himself was a member of the club,
and Holdsworthy had proposed him. And it was well that Daylight
played closely at first, for he was astounded by the multitudes
of sharks--"ground-sharks," he called them--that flocked about
He saw through their schemes readily enough, and even marveled
that such numbers of them could find sufficient prey to keep them
going. Their rascality and general dubiousness was so
transparent that he could not understand how any one could be
taken in by them.
And then he found that there were sharks and sharks. Holdsworthy
treated him more like a brother than a mere fellow-clubman,
watching over him, advising him, and introducing him to the
magnates of the local financial world. Holdsworthy's family
lived in a delightful bungalow near Menlo Park, and here Daylight
spent a number of weekends, seeing a fineness and kindness of
home life of which he had never dreamed. Holdsworthy was an
enthusiast over flowers, and a half lunatic over raising prize
poultry; and these engrossing madnesses were a source of
perpetual joy to Daylight, who looked on in tolerant good humor.
Such amiable weaknesses tokened the healthfulness of the man, and
drew Daylight closer to him. A prosperous, successful business
man without great ambition, was Daylight's estimate of him--a man
too easily satisfied with the small stakes of the game ever to
launch out in big play.
On one such week-end visit, Holdsworthy let him in on a good
thing, a good little thing, a brickyard at Glen Ellen. Daylight
listened closely to the other's description of the situation. It
was a most reasonable venture, and Daylight's one objection was
that it was so small a matter and so far out of his line; and he
went into it only as a matter of friendship, Holdsworthy
explaining that he was himself already in a bit, and that while
it was a good thing, he would be compelled to make sacrifices in
other directions in order to develop it. Daylight advanced the
capital, fifty thousand dollars, and, as he laughingly explained
afterward, "I was stung, all right, but it wasn't Holdsworthy
that did it half as much as those blamed chickens and fruit-trees
It was a good lesson, however, for he learned that there were few
faiths in the business world, and that even the simple, homely
faith of breaking bread and eating salt counted for little in the
face of a worthless brickyard and fifty thousand dollars in cash.
But the sharks and sharks of various orders and degrees, he
concluded, were on the surface. Deep down, he divined, were the
integrities and the stabilities. These big captains of industry
and masters of finance, he decided, were the men to work with.
By the very nature of their huge deals and enterprises they had
to play fair. No room there for little sharpers' tricks and
bunco games. It was to be expected that little men should salt
gold-mines with a shotgun and work off worthless brick-yards on
their friends, but in high finance such methods were not worth
while. There the men were engaged in developing the country,
organizing its railroads, opening up its mines, making accessible
its vast natural resources. Their play was bound to be big and
stable. "They sure can't afford tin-horn tactics," was his
So it was that he resolved to leave the little men, the
Holdsworthys, alone; and, while he met them in good-fellowship,
he chummed with none, and formed no deep friendships. He did not
dislike the little men, the men of the Alta-Pacific, for
instance. He merely did not elect to choose them for partners in
the big game in which he intended to play. What that big game
was, even he did not know. He was waiting to find it. And in
the meantime he played small hands, investing in several
arid-lands reclamation projects and keeping his eyes open for the
big chance when it should come along.
And then he met John Dowsett, the great John Dowsett. The whole
thing was fortuitous. This cannot be doubted, as Daylight
himself knew, it was by the merest chance, when in Los Angeles,
that he heard the tuna were running strong at Santa Catalina,
and went over to the island instead of returning directly to San
Francisco as he had planned. There he met John Dowsett, resting
off for several days in the middle of a flying western trip.
Dowsett had of course heard of the spectacular Klondike King and
his rumored thirty millions, and he certainly found himself
interested by the man in the acquaintance that was formed.
Somewhere along in this acquaintanceship the idea must have
popped into his brain. But he did not broach it, preferring to
mature it carefully. So he talked in large general ways, and did
his best to be agreeable and win Daylight's friendship.
It was the first big magnate Daylight had met face to face, and
he was pleased and charmed. There was such a kindly humanness
about the man, such a genial democraticness, that Daylight found
it hard to realize that this was THE John Dowsett, president of
a string of banks, insurance manipulator, reputed ally of the
lieutenants of Standard Oil, and known ally of the Guggenhammers.
Nor did his looks belie his reputation and his manner.
Physically, he guaranteed all that Daylight knew of him. Despite
his sixty years and snow-white hair, his hand-shake was firmly
hearty, and he showed no signs of decrepitude, walking with a
quick, snappy step, making all movements definitely and
decisively. His skin was a healthy pink, and his thin, clean
lips knew the way to writhe heartily over a joke. He had honest
blue eyes of palest blue; they looked out at one keenly and
frankly from under shaggy gray brows. His mind showed itself
disciplined and orderly, and its workings struck Daylight as
having all the certitude of a steel trap. He was a man who
KNEW and who never decorated his knowledge with foolish frills
of sentiment or emotion. That he was accustomed to command was
patent, and every word and gesture tingled with power. Combined
with this was his sympathy and tact, and Daylight could note
easily enough all the earmarks that distinguished him from a
little man of the Holdsworthy caliber. Daylight knew also his
history, the prime old American stock from which he had
descended, his own war record, the John Dowsett before him who
had been one of the banking buttresses of the Cause of the Union,
the Commodore Dowsett of the War of 1812 the General Dowsett of
Revolutionary fame, and that first far Dowsett, owner of lands
and slaves in early New England.
"He's sure the real thing," he told one of his fellow-clubmen
afterwards, in the smoking-room of the Alta-Pacific. "I tell
you, Gallon, he was a genuine surprise to me. I knew the big
ones had to be like that, but I had to see him to really know it.
He's one of the fellows that does things. You can see it
sticking out all over him. He's one in a thousand, that's
straight, a man to tie to. There's no limit to any game he
plays, and you can stack on it that he plays right up to the
handle. I bet he can lose or win half a dozen million without
batting an eye."
Gallon puffed at his cigar, and at the conclusion of the
panegyric regarded the other curiously; but Daylight, ordering
cocktails, failed to note this curious stare.
"Going in with him on some deal, I suppose," Gallon remarked.
"Nope, not the slightest idea. Here's kindness. I was just
explaining that I'd come to understand how these big fellows do
big things. Why, dye know, he gave me such a feeling that he
knew everything, that I was plumb ashamed of myself."
"I guess I could give him cards and spades when it comes to
driving a dog-team, though," Daylight observed, after a
meditative pause. "And I really believe I could put him on to a
few wrinkles in poker and placer mining, and maybe in paddling a
birch canoe. And maybe I stand a better chance to learn the game
he's been playing all his life than he would stand of learning
the game I played up North."
It was not long afterward that Daylight came on to New York. A
letter from John Dowsett had been the cause--a simple little
typewritten letter of several lines. But Daylight had thrilled
as he read it. He remembered the thrill that was his, a callow
youth of fifteen, when, in Tempas Butte, through lack of a fourth
man, Tom Galsworthy, the gambler, had said, "Get in, Kid; take a
hand." That thrill was his now. The bald, typewritten
sentences seemed gorged with mystery. "Our Mr. Howison will
call upon you at your hotel. He is to be trusted. We must not
be seen together. You will understand after we have had our
talk." Daylight conned the words over and over. That was it.
The big game had arrived, and it looked as if he were being
invited to sit in and take a hand. Surely, for no other reason
would one man so peremptorily invite another man to make a
journey across the continent.
They met--thanks to "our" Mr. Howison,--up the Hudson, in a
magnificent country home. Daylight, according to instructions,
arrived in a private motor-car which had been furnished him.
Whose car it was he did not know any more than did he know the
owner of the house, with its generous, rolling, tree-studded
lawns. Dowsett was already there, and another man whom Daylight
recognized before the introduction was begun. It was Nathaniel
Letton, and none other. Daylight had seen his face a score of
times in the magazines and newspapers, and read about his
standing in the financial world and about his endowed University
of Daratona. He, likewise, struck Daylight as a man of power,
though he was puzzled in that he could find no likeness to
Dowsett. Except in the matter of cleanness,--a cleanness that
seemed to go down to the deepest fibers of him,--Nathaniel Letton
was unlike the other in every particular. Thin to emaciation, he
seemed a cold flame of a man, a man of a mysterious, chemic sort
of flame, who, under a glacier-like exterior, conveyed, somehow,
the impression of the ardent heat of a thousand suns. His large
gray eyes were mainly responsible for this feeling, and they
blazed out feverishly from what was almost a death's-head, so
thin was the face, the skin of which was a ghastly, dull, dead
white. Not more than fifty, thatched with a sparse growth of
iron-gray hair, he looked several times the age of Dowsett. Yet
Nathaniel Letton possessed control--Daylight could see that
plainly. He was a thin-faced ascetic, living in a state of high,
attenuated calm--a molten planet under a transcontinental ice
sheet. And yet, above all most of all, Daylight was impressed by
the terrific and almost awful cleanness of the man. There was
no dross in him. He had all the seeming of having been purged by
fire. Daylight had the feeling that a healthy man-oath would be
a deadly offence to his ears, a sacrilege and a blasphemy.
They drank--that is, Nathaniel Letton took mineral water served
by the smoothly operating machine of a lackey who inhabited the
place, while Dowsett took Scotch and soda and Daylight a
cocktail. Nobody seemed to notice the unusualness of a Martini
at midnight, though Daylight looked sharply for that very thing;
for he had long since learned that Martinis had their strictly
appointed times and places. But he liked Martinis, and, being a
natural man, he chose deliberately to drink when and how he
pleased. Others had noticed this peculiar habit of his, but not
so Dowsett and Letton; and Daylight's secret thought was: "They
sure wouldn't bat an eye if I called for a glass of corrosive
Leon Guggenhammer arrived in the midst of the drink, and ordered
Scotch. Daylight studied him curiously. This was one of the
great Guggenhammer family; a younger one, but nevertheless one of
the crowd with which he had locked grapples in the North. Nor
did Leon Guggenhammer fail to mention cognizance of that old
affair. He complimented Daylight on his prowess-"The echoes of
Ophir came down to us, you know. And I must say, Mr.
Mr. Harnish, that you whipped us roundly in that affair."
Echoes! Daylight could not escape the shock of the
had come down to them of the fight into which he had flung all
strength and the strength of his Klondike millions. The
Guggenhammers sure must go some when a fight of that dimension
was no more than a skirmish of which they deigned to hear echoes.
"They sure play an almighty big game down here," was his
conclusion, accompanied by a corresponding elation that it was
just precisely that almighty big game in which he was about to be
invited to play a hand. For the moment he poignantly regretted
that rumor was not true, and that his eleven millions were not
in reality thirty millions. Well, that much he would be frank
about; he would let them know exactly how many stacks of chips he
Leon Guggenhammer was young and fat. Not a day more than thirty,
his face, save for the adumbrated puff sacks under the eyes, was
as smooth and lineless as a boy's. He, too, gave the impression
of cleanness. He showed in the pink of health; his unblemished,
smooth-shaven skin shouted advertisement of his splendid physical
condition. In the face of that perfect skin, his very fatness
and mature, rotund paunch could be nothing other than normal. He
was constituted to be prone to fatness, that was all.
The talk soon centred down to business, though Guggenhammer had
first to say his say about the forthcoming international yacht
race and about his own palatial steam yacht, the Electra, whose
recent engines were already antiquated. Dowsett broached the
plan, aided by an occasional remark from the other two, while
Daylight asked questions. Whatever the proposition was, he was
going into it with his eyes open. And they filled his eyes with
the practical vision of what they had in mind.
"They will never dream you are with us," Guggenhammer
interjected, as the outlining of the matter drew to a close, his
handsome Jewish eyes flashing enthusiastically. "They'll think
you are raiding on your own in proper buccaneer style."
"Of course, you understand, Mr. Harnish, the absolute need for
keeping our alliance in the dark," Nathaniel Letton warned
Daylight nodded his head. "And you also understand," Letton went
on, "that the result can only be productive of good. The thing
is legitimate and right, and the only ones who may be hurt are
the stock gamblers themselves. It is not an attempt to smash the
market. As you see yourself, you are to bull the market. The
honest investor will be the gainer."
"Yes, that's the very thing," Dowsett said. "The commercial need
for copper is continually increasing. Ward Valley Copper, and
all that it stands for,--practically one-quarter of the world's
supply, as I have shown you,--is a big thing, how big, even we
scarcely estimate. Our arrangements are made. We have plenty of
capital ourselves, and yet we want more. Also, there is too much
Ward Valley out to suit our present plans. Thus we kill both
with one stone-"
"And I am the stone," Daylight broke in with a smile.
"Yes, just that. Not only will you bull Ward Valley, but you
will at the same time gather Ward Valley in. This will be of
inestimable advantage to us, while you and all of us will profit
by it as well. And as Mr. Letton has pointed out, the thing is
legitimate and square. On the eighteenth the directors meet,
and, instead of the customary dividend, a double dividend will be
"And where will the shorts be then?" Leon Guggenhammer cried
"The shorts will be the speculators," Nathaniel Letton explained,
"the gamblers, the froth of Wall Street--you understand. The
genuine investors will not be hurt. Furthermore, they will have
learned for the thousandth time to have confidence in Ward
Valley. And with their confidence we can carry through the large
developments we have outlined to you."
"There will be all sorts of rumors on the street," Dowsett warned
Daylight, "but do not let them frighten you. These rumors may
even originate with us. You can see how and why clearly. But
rumors are to be no concern of yours. You are on the inside.
All you have to do is buy, buy, buy, and keep on buying to the
last stroke, when the directors declare the double dividend.
Ward Valley will jump so that it won't be feasible to buy after
"What we want," Letton took up the strain, pausing significantly
to sip his mineral water, "what we want is to take large blocks
of Ward Valley off the hands of the public. We could do this
easily enough by depressing the market and frightening the
holders. And we could do it more cheaply in such fashion. But
we are absolute masters of the situation, and we are fair enough
to buy Ward Valley on a rising market. Not that we are
philanthropists, but that we need the investors in our big
development scheme. Nor do we lose directly by the transaction.
The instant the action of the directors becomes known, Ward
Valley will rush heavenward. In addition, and outside the
legitimate field of the transaction, we will pinch the shorts for
a very large sum. But that is only incidental, you understand,
and in a way, unavoidable. On the other hand, we shall not turn
up our noses at that phase of it. The shorts shall be the
veriest gamblers, of course, and they will get no more than they
"And one other thing, Mr. Harnish," Guggenhammer said, "if you
exceed your available cash, or the amount you care to invest in
the venture, don't fail immediately to call on us. Remember, we
are behind you."
"Yes, we are behind you," Dowsett repeated.
Nathaniel Letton nodded his head in affirmation.
"Now about that double dividend on the eighteenth-" John Dowsett
drew a slip of paper from his note-book and adjusted his glasses.
"Let me show you the figures. Here, you see..."
And thereupon he entered into a long technical and historical
explanation of the earnings and dividends of Ward Valley from the
day of its organization.
The whole conference lasted not more than an hour, during which
time Daylight lived at the topmost of the highest peak of life
that he had ever scaled. These men were big players. They were
powers. True, as he knew himself, they were not the real inner
circle. They did not rank with the Morgans and Harrimans. And
yet they were in touch with those giants and were themselves
lesser giants. He was pleased, too, with their attitude toward
him. They met him deferentially, but not patronizingly. It was
the deference of equality, and Daylight could not escape the
subtle flattery of it; for he was fully aware that in experience
as well as wealth they were far and away beyond him.
"We'll shake up the speculating crowd," Leon Guggenhammer
proclaimed jubilantly, as they rose to go. "And you are the man
to do it, Mr. Harnish. They are bound to think you are on your
own, and their shears are all sharpened for the trimming of
newcomers like you."
"They will certainly be misled," Letton agreed, his eerie gray
eyes blazing out from the voluminous folds of the huge Mueller
with which he was swathing his neck to the ears. "Their minds
run in ruts. It is the unexpected that upsets their stereotyped
calculations--any new combination, any strange factor, any fresh
variant. And you will be all that to them, Mr. Harnish. And I
repeat, they are gamblers, and they will deserve all that befalls
them. They clog and cumber all legitimate enterprise. You have
no idea of the trouble they cause men like us--sometimes, by
gambling tactics, upsetting the soundest plans, even overturning
the stablest institutions."
Dowsett and young Guggenhammer went away in one motor-car, and
Letton by himself in another. Daylight, with still in the
forefront of his consciousness all that had occurred in the
preceding hour, was deeply impressed by the scene at the moment
of departure. The three machines stood like weird night monsters
at the gravelled foot of the wide stairway under the unlighted
porte-cochere. It was a dark night, and the lights of the
motor-cars cut as sharply through the blackness as knives would
cut through solid substance. The obsequious lackey--the
automatic genie of the house which belonged to none of the three
men,--stood like a graven statue after having helped them in.
The fur-coated chauffeurs bulked dimly in their seats. One after
the other, like spurred steeds, the cars leaped into the
blackness, took the curve of the driveway, and were gone.
Daylight's car was the last, and, peering out, he caught a
glimpse of the unlighted house that loomed hugely through the
darkness like a mountain. Whose was it? he wondered. How came
they to use it for their secret conference? Would the lackey
talk? How about the chauffeurs? Were they trusted men like
"our" Mr. Howison? Mystery? The affair was alive with it. And
hand in hand with mystery walked Power. He leaned back and
inhaled his cigarette. Big things were afoot. The cards were
shuffled even the for a mighty deal, and he was in on it. He
remembered back to his poker games with Jack Kearns, and laughed
aloud. He had played for thousands in those days on the turn of
a card; but now he was playing for millions. And on the
eighteenth, when that dividend was declared, he chuckled at the
confusion that would inevitably descend upon the men with the
sharpened shears waiting to trim him--him, Burning Daylight.
Back at his hotel, though nearly two in the morning, he found
the reporters waiting to interview him. Next morning there were
more. And thus, with blare of paper trumpet, was he received by
New York. Once more, with beating of toms-toms and wild
hullaballoo, his picturesque figure strode across the printed
sheet. The King of the Klondike, the hero of the Arctic, the
thirty-million-dollar millionaire of the North, had come to New
York. What had he come for? To trim the New Yorkers as he had
trimmed the Tonopah crowd in Nevada? Wall Street had best watch
out, for the wild man of Klondike had just come to town. Or,
perchance, would Wall Street trim him? Wall Street had trimmed
many wild men; would this be Burning Daylight's fate? Daylight
grinned to himself, and gave out ambiguous interviews. It helped
the game, and he grinned again, as he meditated that Wall Street
would sure have to go some before it trimmed him.
They were prepared for him to play, and, when heavy buying of
Ward Valley began, it was quickly decided that he was the
operator. Financial gossip buzzed and hummed. He was after the
Guggenhammers once more. The story of Ophir was told over again
and sensationalized until even Daylight scarcely recognized it.
Still, it was all grist to his mill. The stock gamblers were
clearly befooled. Each day he increased his buying, and so eager
were the sellers that Ward Valley rose but slowly. "It sure
beats poker," Daylight whispered gleefully to himself, as he
noted the perturbation he was causing. The newspapers hazarded
countless guesses and surmises, and Daylight was constantly
dogged by a small battalion of reporters. His own interviews
were gems. Discovering the delight the newspapers took in his
vernacular, in his "you-alls," and "sures," and "surge-ups," he
even exaggerated these particularities of speech, exploiting the
phrases he had heard other frontiersmen use, and inventing
occasionally a new one of his own.
A wildly exciting time was his during the week preceding Thursday
the eighteenth. Not only was he gambling as he had never gambled
before, but he was gambling at the biggest table in the world and
for stakes so large that even the case-hardened habitues of that
table were compelled to sit up. In spite of the unlimited
selling, his persistent buying compelled Ward Valley steadily to
rise, and as Thursday approached, the situation became acute.
Something had to smash. How much Ward Valley was this Klondike
gambler going to buy? How much could he buy? What was the Ward
Valley crowd doing all this time? Daylight appreciated the
interviews with them that appeared--interviews delightfully
and non-committal. Leon Guggenhammer even hazarded the opinion
that this Northland Croesus might possibly be making a mistake.
But not that they cared, John Dowsett explained. Nor did they
object. While in the dark regarding his intentions, of one thing
they were certain; namely, that he was bulling Ward Valley. And
they did not mind that. No matter what happened to him and his
spectacular operations, Ward Valley was all right, and would
all right, as firm as the Rock of Gibraltar. No; they had no
Valley to sell, thank you. This purely fictitious state of the
market was bound shortly to pass, and Ward Valley was not to be
induced to change the even tenor of its way by any insane stock
exchange flurry. "It is purely gambling from beginning to end,"
were Nathaniel Letton's words; "and we refuse to have anything to
do with it or to take notice of it in any way."
During this time Daylight had several secret meetings with his
partners--one with Leon Guggenhammer, one with John Dowsett, and
two with Mr. Howison. Beyond congratulations, they really
amounted to nothing; for, as he was informed, everything was
But on Tuesday morning a rumor that was disconcerting came to
Daylight's ears. It was also published in the Wall Street
Journal, and it was to the effect, on apparently straight inside
information, that on Thursday, when the directors of Ward Valley
met, instead of the customary dividend being declared, an
assessment would be levied. It was the first check Daylight had
received. It came to him with a shock that if the thing were so
he was a broken man. And it also came to him that all this
colossal operating of his was being done on his own money.
Dowsett, Guggenhammer, and Letton were risking nothing. It was a
panic, short-lived, it was true, but sharp enough while it lasted
to make him remember Holdsworthy and the brick-yard, and to
impel him to cancel all buying orders while he rushed to a
"Nothing in it--only a rumor," came Leon Guggenhammer's throaty
voice in the receiver. "As you know," said Nathaniel Letton, "I
am one of the directors, and I should certainly be aware of it
were such action contemplated. And John Dowsett: "I warned you
against just such rumors. There is not an iota of truth in
it--certainly not. I tell you on my honor as a gentleman."
Heartily ashamed of himself for his temporary loss of nerve,
Daylight returned to his task. The cessation of buying had
turned the Stock Exchange into a bedlam, and down all the line of
stocks the bears were smashing. Ward Valley, as the ape,
received the brunt of the shock, and was already beginning to
tumble. Daylight calmly doubled his buying orders. And all
through Tuesday and Wednesday, and Thursday morning, he went on
buying, while Ward Valley rose triumphantly higher. Still they
sold, and still he bought, exceeding his power to buy many times
over, when delivery was taken into account. What of that? On
this day the double dividend would be declared, he assured
himself. The pinch of delivery would be on the shorts. They
would be making terms with him.
And then the thunderbolt struck. True to the rumor, Ward Valley
levied the assessment. Daylight threw up his arms. He verified
the report and quit. Not alone Ward Valley, but all securities
were being hammered down by the triumphant bears. As for Ward
Valley, Daylight did not even trouble to learn if it had fetched
bottom or was still tumbling. Not stunned, not even bewildered,
while Wall Street went mad, Daylight withdrew from the field to
think it over. After a short conference with his brokers, he
proceeded to his hotel, on the way picking up the evening papers
and glancing at the head-lines. BURNING DAYLIGHT CLEANED OUT, he
read; DAYLIGHT GETS HIS; ANOTHER WESTERNER FAILS TO FIND EASY
MONEY. As he entered his hotel, a later edition announced the
suicide of a young man, a lamb, who had followed Daylight's play.
What in hell did he want to kill himself for? was Daylight's
He passed up to his rooms, ordered a Martini cocktail, took off
his shoes, and sat down to think. After half an hour he roused
himself to take the drink, and as he felt the liquor pass
warmingly through his body, his features relaxed into a slow,
deliberate, yet genuine grin. He was laughing at himself.
"Buncoed, by gosh!" he muttered.
Then the grin died away, and his face grew bleak and serious.
Leaving out his interests in the several Western reclamation
projects (which were still assessing heavily), he was a ruined
man. But harder hit than this was his pride. He had been so
easy. They had gold-bricked him, and he had nothing to show for
it. The simplest farmer would have had documents, while he had
nothing but a gentleman's agreement, and a verbal one at that.
Gentleman's agreement. He snorted over it. John Dowsett's
just as he had heard it in the telephone receiver, sounded in his
ears the words, "On my honor as a gentleman." They were
sneak-thieves and swindlers, that was what they were, and they
had given him the double-cross. The newspapers were right. He
had come to New York to be trimmed, and Messrs. Dowsett, Letton,
and Guggenhammer had done it. He was a little fish, and they had
played with him ten days--ample time in which to swallow him,
along with his eleven millions. Of course, they had been
unloading on him all the time, and now they were buying Ward
Valley back for a song ere the market righted itself. Most
probably, out of his share of the swag, Nathaniel Letton would
erect a couple of new buildings for that university of his. Leon
Guggenhammer would buy new engines for that yacht, or a whole
fleet of yachts. But what the devil Dowsett would do with his
whack, was beyond him--most likely start another string of banks.
And Daylight sat and consumed cocktails and saw back in his life
to Alaska, and lived over the grim years in which he had battled
for his eleven millions. For a while murder ate at his heart,
and wild ideas and sketchy plans of killing his betrayers flashed
through his mind. That was what that young man should have done
instead of killing himself. He should have gone gunning.
Daylight unlocked his grip and took out his automatic pistol--a
big Colt's .44. He released the safety catch with his thumb, and
operating the sliding outer barrel, ran the contents of the clip
through the mechanism. The eight cartridges slid out in a
stream. He refilled the clip, threw a cartridge into the
chamber, and, with the trigger at full cock, thrust up the safety
ratchet. He shoved the weapon into the side pocket of his coat,
ordered another Martini, and resumed his seat.
He thought steadily for an hour, but he grinned no more. Lines
formed in his face, and in those lines were the travail of the
North, the bite of the frost, all that he had achieved and
suffered--the long, unending weeks of trail, the bleak tundra
shore of Point Barrow, the smashing ice-jam of the Yukon, the
battles with animals and men, the lean-dragged days of famine,
the long months of stinging hell among the mosquitoes of the
Koyokuk, the toil of pick and shovel, the scars and mars of
pack-strap and tump-line, the straight meat diet with the dogs,
and all the long procession of twenty full years of toil and
sweat and endeavor.
At ten o'clock he arose and pored over the city directory. Then
he put on his shoes, took a cab, and departed into the night.
Twice he changed cabs, and finally fetched up at the night office
of a detective agency. He superintended the thing himself, laid
down money in advance in profuse quantities, selected the six men
he needed, and gave them their instructions. Never, for so
simple a task, had they been so well paid; for, to each, in
addition to office charges, he gave a five-hundred-dollar bill,
with the promise of another if he succeeded. Some time next day,
he was convinced, if not sooner, his three silent partners would
come together. To each one two of his detectives were to be
attached. Time and place was all he wanted to learn.
"Stop at nothing, boys," were his final instructions. "I must
have this information. Whatever you do, whatever happens, I'll
sure see you through."
Returning to his hotel, he changed cabs as before, went up to his
room, and with one more cocktail for a nightcap, went to bed and
to sleep. In the morning he dressed and shaved, ordered
breakfast and the newspapers sent up, and waited. But he did not
drink. By nine o'clock his telephone began to ring and the
reports to come in. Nathaniel Letton was taking the train at
Tarrytown. John Dowsett was coming down by the subway. Leon
Guggenhammer had not stirred out yet, though he was assuredly
within. And in this fashion, with a map of the city spread out
before him, Daylight followed the movements of his three men as
they drew together. Nathaniel Letton was at his offices in the
Mutual-Solander Building. Next arrived Guggenhammer. Dowsett
was still in his own offices. But at eleven came the word that
he also had arrived, and several minutes later Daylight was in a
hired motor-car and speeding for the Mutual-Solander Building.
Nathaniel Letton was talking when the door opened; he ceased,
and with his two companions gazed with controlled perturbation at
Burning Daylight striding into the room. The free, swinging
movements of the trail-traveler were unconsciously exaggerated in
that stride of his. In truth, it seemed to him that he felt the
trail beneath his feet.
"Howdy, gentlemen, howdy," he remarked, ignoring the unnatural
calm with which they greeted his entrance. He shook hands with
them in turn, striding from one to another and gripping their
hands so heartily that Nathaniel Letton could not forbear to
wince. Daylight flung himself into a massive chair and sprawled
lazily, with an appearance of fatigue. The leather grip he had
brought into the room he dropped carelessly beside him on the
"Goddle mighty, but I've sure been going some," he sighed. "We
sure trimmed them beautiful. It was real slick. And the beauty
of the play never dawned on me till the very end. It was pure
and simple knock down and drag out. And the way they fell for it
The geniality in his lazy Western drawl reassured them. He was
not so formidable, after all. Despite the act that he had
effected an entrance in the face of Letton's instructions to the
outer office, he showed no indication of making a scene or
"Well," Daylight demanded good-humoredly, "ain't you-all got a
good word for your pardner? Or has his sure enough brilliance
plumb dazzled you-all?"
Letton made a dry sound in his throat. Dowsett sat quietly and
waited, while Leon Guggenhammer struggled into articulation.
"You have certainly raised Cain," he said.
Daylight's black eyes flashed in a pleased way.
"Didn't I, though!" he proclaimed jubilantly. "And didn't we
fool'em! I was totally surprised. I never dreamed they would be
"And now," he went on, not permitting the pause to grow awkward,
"we-all might as well have an accounting. I'm pullin' West this
afternoon on that blamed Twentieth Century." He tugged at his
grip, got it open, and dipped into it with both his hands. "But
don't forget, boys, when you-all want me to hornswoggle Wall
Street another flutter, all you-all have to do is whisper the
word. I'll sure be right there with the goods."
His hands emerged, clutching a great mass of stubs, check-books,
and broker's receipts. These he deposited in a heap on the big
table, and dipping again, he fished out the stragglers and added
them to the pile. He consulted a slip of paper, drawn from his
coat pocket, and read aloud:-
"Ten million twenty-seven thousand and forty-two dollars and
sixty-eight cents is my figurin' on my expenses. Of course
that-all's taken from the winnings before we-all get to figurin'
on the whack-up. Where's your figures? It must a' been a Goddle
mighty big clean-up."
The three men looked their bepuzzlement at one another. The man
was a bigger fool than they had imagined, or else he was playing
a game which they could not divine.
Nathaniel Letton moistened his lips and spoke up.
"It will take some hours yet, Mr. Harnish, before the full
accounting can be made. Mr. Howison is at work upon it now.
We--ah--as you say, it has been a gratifying clean-up. Suppose
have lunch together and talk it over. I'll have the clerks work
through the noon hour, so that you will have ample time to catch
Dowsett and Guggenhammer manifested a relief that was almost
obvious. The situation was clearing. It was disconcerting,
under the circumstances, to be pent in the same room with this
heavy-muscled, Indian-like man whom they had robbed. They
remembered unpleasantly the many stories of his strength and
recklessness. If Letton could only put him off long enough for
them to escape into the policed world outside the office door,
all would be well; and Daylight showed all the signs of being put
"I'm real glad to hear that," he said. "I don't want to miss
that train, and you-all have done me proud, gentlemen, letting me
in on this deal. I just do appreciate it without being able to
express my feelings. But I am sure almighty curious, and I'd
like terrible to know, Mr. Letton, what your figures of our
winning is. Can you-all give me a rough estimate?"
Nathaniel Letton did not look appealingly at his two friends, but
in the brief pause they felt that appeal pass out from him.
Dowsett, of sterner mould than the others, began to divine that
the Klondiker was playing. But the other two were still older
the blandishment of his child-like innocence.
"It is extremely--er--difficult," Leon Guggenhammer began. "You
see, Ward Valley has fluctuated so, er--"
"That no estimate can possibly be made in advance," Letton
"Approximate it, approximate it," Daylight counselled cheerfully.
"It don't hurt if you-all are a million or so out one side or the
other. The figures'll straighten that up. But I'm that curious
I'm just itching all over. What d'ye say?"
"Why continue to play at cross purposes?" Dowsett demanded
abruptly and coldly. "Let us have the explanation here and now.
Mr. Harnish is laboring under a false impression, and he should
be set straight. In this deal--"
But Daylight interrupted. He had played too much poker to be
unaware or unappreciative of the psychological factor, and he
headed Dowsett off in order to play the denouncement of the
present game in his own way.
"Speaking of deals," he said, "reminds me of a poker game I once
seen in Reno, Nevada. It wa'n't what you-all would call a
square game. They-all was tin-horns that sat in. But they was a
tenderfoot--short-horns they-all are called out there. He stands
behind the dealer and sees that same dealer give hisself four
aces offen the bottom of the deck. The tenderfoot is sure
shocked. He slides around to the player facin' the dealer across
"'Say,' he whispers, 'I seen the dealer deal hisself four aces.'
"'Well, an' what of it?" says the player.
"'I'm tryin' to tell you-all because I thought you-all ought to
know,' says the tenderfoot. 'I tell you-all I seen him deal
hisself four aces.'
"'Say, mister,' says the player, 'you-all'd better get outa
here. You-all don't understand the game. It's his deal, ain't
The laughter that greeted his story was hollow and perfunctory,
but Daylight appeared not to notice it.
"Your story has some meaning, I suppose," Dowsett said pointedly.
Daylight looked at him innocently and did not reply. He turned
jovially to Nathaniel Letton.
"Fire away," he said. "Give us an approximation of our winning.
As I said before, a million out one way or the other won't
matter, it's bound to be such an almighty big winning." By
this time Letton was stiffened by the attitude Dowsett had taken,
and his answer was prompt and definite.
"I fear you are under a misapprehension, Mr. Harnish. There are
no winnings to be divided with you. Now don't get excited, I beg
of you. I have but to press this button..."
Far from excited, Daylight had all the seeming of being stunned.
He felt absently in his vest pocket for a match, lighted it, and
discovered that he had no cigarette. The three men watched him
with the tense closeness of cats. Now that it had come, they
knew that they had a nasty few minutes before them.
"Do you-all mind saying that over again?" Daylight said. "Seems
to me I ain't got it just exactly right. You-all said...?"
He hung with painful expectancy on Nathaniel Letton's utterance.
"I said you were under a misapprehension, Mr. Harnish, that was
all. You have been stock gambling, and you have been hard hit.
But neither Ward Valley, nor I, nor my associates, feel that we
owe you anything."
Daylight pointed at the heap of receipts and stubs on the table.
"That-all represents ten million twenty-seven thousand and
forty-two dollars and sixty-eight cents, hard cash. Ain't it
good for anything here?"
Letton smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
Daylight looked at Dowsett and murmured:--
"I guess that story of mine had some meaning, after all." He
laughed in a sickly fashion. "It was your deal all right, and
you-all dole them right, too. Well, I ain't kicking. I'm like
the player in that poker game. It was your deal, and you-all had
a right to do your best. And you d-one it-cleaned me out
slicker'n a whistle."
He gazed at the heap on the table with an air of stupefaction.
"And that-all ain't worth the paper it's written on. Gol dast it,
you-all can sure deal 'em 'round when you get a chance.
Oh, no, I ain't a-kicking. It was your deal, and you-all
certainly done me, and a man ain't half a man that squeals on
another man's deal. And now the hand is played out, and the
cards are on the table, and the deal's over, but..."
His hand, dipping swiftly into his inside breast pocket, appeared
with the big Colt's automatic.
"As I was saying, the old deal's finished. Now it's MY deal, and
I'm a-going to see if I can hold them four aces-
"Take your hand away, you whited sepulchre!" he cried sharply.
Nathaniel Letton's hand, creeping toward the push-button on the
desk, was abruptly arrested.
"Change chairs," Daylight commanded. "Take that chair over
there, you gangrene-livered skunk. Jump! By God! or I'll make
you leak till folks'll think your father was a water hydrant and
your mother a sprinkling-cart. You-all move your chair
alongside, Guggenhammer; and you-all Dowsett, sit right there,
while I just irrelevantly explain the virtues of this here
automatic. She's loaded for big game and she goes off eight
times. She's a sure hummer when she gets started.
"Preliminary remarks being over, I now proceed to deal.
Remember, I ain't making no remarks about your deal. You done
your darndest, and it was all right. But this is my deal, and
it's up to me to do my darndest. In the first place, you-all
know me. I'm Burning Daylight--savvee? Ain't afraid of God,
devil, death, nor destruction. Them's my four aces, and they
sure copper your bets. Look at that there living skeleton.
Letton, you're sure afraid to die. Your bones is all rattling
together you're that scared. And look at that fat Jew there.
This little weapon's sure put the fear of God in his heart. He's
yellow as a sick persimmon. Dowsett, you're a cool one. You-all
ain't batted an eye nor turned a hair. That's because you're
great on arithmetic. And that makes you-all dead easy in this
deal of mine. You're sitting there and adding two and two
together, and you-all know I sure got you skinned. You know me,
and that I ain't afraid of nothing. And you-all adds up all your
money and knows you ain't a-going to die if you can help it."
"I'll see you hanged," was Dowsett's retort.
"Not by a damned sight. When the fun starts, you're the first I
plug. I'll hang all right, but you-all won't live to see it.
You-all die here and now while I'll die subject to the law's
delay--savvee? Being dead, with grass growing out of your
carcasses, you won't know when I hang, but I'll sure have the
pleasure a long time of knowing you-all beat me to it."
"You surely wouldn't kill us?" Letton asked in a queer, thin
Daylight shook his head.
"It's sure too expensive. You-all ain't worth it. I'd sooner
have my chips back. And I guess you-all'd sooner give my chips
back than go to the dead-house."
A long silence followed.
"Well, I've done dealt. It's up to you-all to play. But while
you're deliberating, I want to give you-all a warning: if that
door opens and any one of you cusses lets on there's anything
unusual, right here and then I sure start plugging. They ain't a
soul'll get out the room except feet first."
A long session of three hours followed. The deciding factor was
not the big automatic pistol, but the certitude that Daylight
would use it. Not alone were the three men convinced of this,
but Daylight himself was convinced. He was firmly resolved to
kill the men if his money was not forthcoming. It was not an
easy matter, on the spur of the moment, to raise ten millions in
paper currency, and there were vexatious delays. A dozen times
Mr. Howison and the head clerk were summoned into the room. On
these occasions the pistol lay on Daylight's lap, covered
carelessly by a newspaper, while he was usually engaged in
rolling or lighting his brown-paper cigarettes. But in the end,
the thing was accomplished. A suit-case was brought up by one of
the clerks from the waiting motor-car, and Daylight snapped it
shut on the last package of bills. He paused at the door to make
his final remarks.
"There's three several things I sure want to tell you-all. When
I get outside this door, you-all'll be set free to act, and I
just want to warn you-all about what to do. In the first place,
no warrants for my arrest--savvee? This money's mine, and I
robbed you of it. If it gets out how you gave me the
and how I done you back again, the laugh'll be on you, and it'll
sure be an almighty big laugh. You-all can't afford that laugh.
Besides, having got back my stake that you-all robbed me of, if
arrest me and try to rob me a second time, I'll go gunning for
you-all, and I'll sure get you. No little fraid-cat shrimps like
you-all can skin Burning Daylight. If you win you lose, and
there'll sure be some several unexpected funerals around this
Just look me in the eye, and you-all'll savvee I mean business.
Them stubs and receipts on the table is all yourn. Good day."
As the door shut behind him, Nathaniel Letton sprang for the
telephone, and Dowsett intercepted him.
"What are you going to do?" Dowsett demanded.
"The police. It's downright robbery. I won't stand it. I tell
you I won't stand it."
Dowsett smiled grimly, but at the same time bore the slender
financier back and down into his chair.
"We'll talk it over," he said; and in Leon Guggenhammer he found
an anxious ally.
And nothing ever came of it. The thing remained a secret with
the three men. Nor did Daylight ever give the secret away,
though that afternoon, leaning back in his stateroom on the
Twentieth Century, his shoes off, and feet on a chair, he
chuckled long and heartily. New York remained forever puzzled
over the affair; nor could it hit upon a rational explanation.
By all rights, Burning Daylight should have gone broke, yet it
was known that he immediately reappeared in San Francisco
possessing an apparently unimpaired capital. This was evidenced
by the magnitude of the enterprises he engaged in, such as, for
instance, Panama Mail, by sheer weight of money and fighting
power wresting the control away from Shiftily and selling out in
two months to the Harriman interests at a rumored enormous
Back in San Francisco, Daylight quickly added to his reputation
In ways it was not an enviable reputation. Men were afraid of
him. He became known as a fighter, a fiend, a tiger. His play
was a ripping and smashing one, and no one knew where or how his
next blow would fall. The element of surprise was large. He
balked on the unexpected, and, fresh from the wild North, his
mind not operating in stereotyped channels, he was able in
unusual degree to devise new tricks and stratagems. And once he
won the advantage, he pressed it remorselessly. "As relentless
as a Red Indian," was said of him, and it was said truly.
On the other hand, he was known as "square." His word was as
good as his bond, and this despite the fact that he accepted
nobody's word. He always shied at propositions based on
gentlemen's agreements, and a man who ventured his honor as a
gentleman, in dealing with Daylight, inevitably was treated to an
unpleasant time. Daylight never gave his own word unless he held
the whip-hand. It was a case with the other fellow taking it or
Legitimate investment had no place in Daylight's play. It tied
up his money, and reduced the element of risk. It was the
gambling side of business that fascinated him, and to play in his
slashing manner required that his money must be ready to hand.
It was never tied up save for short intervals, for he was
principally engaged in turning it over and over, raiding here,
there, and everywhere, a veritable pirate of the financial main.
A five-per cent safe investment had no attraction for him; but to
risk millions in sharp, harsh skirmish, standing to lose
everything or to win fifty or a hundred per cent, was the savor
of life to him. He played according to the rules of the game,
he played mercilessly. When he got a man or a corporation down
they squealed, he gouged no less hard. Appeals for financial
fell on deaf ears. He was a free lance, and had no friendly
business associations. Such alliances as were formed
from time to time were purely affairs of expediency, and he
regarded his allies as men who would give him the double-cross or
ruin him if a profitable chance presented. In spite of this
point of view, he was faithful to his allies. But he was
faithful just as long as they were and no longer. The treason
had to come from them, and then it was 'Ware Daylight.
The business men and financiers of the Pacific coast never forgot
the lesson of Charles Klinkner and the California & Altamont
Trust Company. Klinkner was the president. In partnership with
Daylight, the pair raided the San Jose Interurban. The powerful
Lake Power & Electric Lighting corporation came to the rescue,
and Klinkner, seeing what he thought was the opportunity, went
over to the enemy in the thick of the pitched battle. Daylight
lost three millions before he was done with it, and before he was
done with it he saw the California & Altamont Trust Company
hopelessly wrecked, and Charles Klinkner a suicide in a felon's
cell. Not only did Daylight lose his grip on San Jose
Interurban, but in the crash of his battle front he lost heavily
all along the line. It was conceded by those competent to judge
that he could have compromised and saved much. But, instead, he
deliberately threw up the battle with San Jose Interurban and
Lake Power, and, apparently defeated, with Napoleonic suddenness
struck at Klinkner. It was the last unexpected thing Klinkner
would have dreamed of, and Daylight knew it. He knew, further,
that the California & Altamont Trust Company has an intrinsically
sound institution, but that just then it was in a precarious
condition due to Klinkner's speculations with its money. He
knew, also, that in a few months the Trust Company would be more
firmly on its feet than ever, thanks to those same speculations,
and that if he were to strike he must strike immediately. "It's
just that much money in pocket and a whole lot more," he was
reported to have said in connection with his heavy losses. "It's
just so much insurance against the future. Henceforth, men who
go in with me on deals will think twice before they try to
double-cross me, and then some."
The reason for his savageness was that he despised the men with
whom he played. He had a conviction that not one in a hundred of
them was intrinsically square; and as for the square ones, he
prophesied that, playing in a crooked game, they were sure to
lose and in the long run go broke. His New York experience had
opened his eyes. He tore the veils of illusion from the business
game, and saw its nakedness. He generalized upon industry and
society somewhat as follows:--
Society, as organized, was a vast bunco game. There were many
hereditary inefficients--men and women who were not weak enough
be confined in feeble-minded homes, but who were not strong
enough to be ought else than hewers of wood and drawers of water.
Then there were the fools who took the organized bunco game
seriously, honoring and respecting it. They were easy game for
the others, who saw clearly and knew the bunco game for what it
Work, legitimate work, was the source of all wealth. That was to
say, whether it was a sack of potatoes, a grand piano, or a
seven-passenger touring car, it came into being only by the
performance of work. Where the bunco came in was in the
distribution of these things after labor had created them. He
failed to see the horny-handed sons of toil enjoying grand pianos
or riding in automobiles. How this came about was explained by
the bunco. By tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands men
sat up nights and schemed how they could get between the workers
and the things the workers produced. These schemers were the
business men. When they got between the worker and his product,
they took a whack out of it for themselves The size of the whack
was determined by no rule of equity; but by their own strength
and swinishness. It was always a case of "all the traffic can
bear." He saw all men in the business game doing this.
One day, in a mellow mood (induced by a string of cocktails and
a hearty lunch), he started a conversation with Jones, the
elevator boy. Jones was a slender, mop-headed, man-grown,
truculent flame of an individual who seemed to go out of his way
to insult his passengers. It was this that attracted Daylight's
interest, and he was not long in finding out what was the matter
with Jones. He was a proletarian, according to his own
aggressive classification, and he had wanted to write for a
living. Failing to win with the magazines, and compelled to find
himself in food and shelter, he had gone to the little valley of
Petacha, not a hundred miles from Los Angeles. Here, toiling in
the day-time, he planned to write and study at night. But the
railroad charged all the traffic would bear. Petacha was a
desert valley, and produced only three things: cattle, fire-wood,
and charcoal. For freight to Los Angeles on a carload of
cattle the railroad charged eight dollars. This, Jones
explained, was due to the fact that the cattle had legs and could
be driven to Los Angeles at a cost equivalent to the charge per
car load. But firewood had no legs, and the railroad charged
just precisely twenty-four dollars a carload.
This was a fine adjustment, for by working hammer-and- tongs
through a twelve-hour day, after freight had been deducted from
the selling price of the wood in Los Angeles, the wood-chopper
received one dollar and sixty cents. Jones had thought to get
ahead of the game by turning his wood into charcoa. His
were satisfactory. But the railroad also made estimates. It
issued a rate of forty-two dollars a car on charcoal. At the end
of three months, Jones went over his figures, and found that he
still making one dollar and sixty cents a day.
"So I quit," Jones concluded. "I went hobbling for a year, and I
got back at the railroads. Leaving out the little things, I came
across the Sierras in the summer and touched a match to the
snow-sheds. They only had a little thirty- thousand-dollar fire.
I guess that squared up all balances due on Petacha."
"Son, ain't you afraid to be turning loose such information?"
Daylight gravely demanded.
"Not on your life," quoth Jones. "They can't prove it. You
could say I said so, and I could say I didn't say so, and a hell
of a lot that evidence would amount to with a jury."
Daylight went into his office and meditated awhile. That was it:
all the traffic would bear. From top to bottom, that was the
rule of the game; and what kept the game going was the fact that
a sucker was born every minute. If a Jones were born every
minute, the game wouldn't last very long. Lucky for the players
that the workers weren't Joneses.
But there were other and larger phases of the game. Little
business men, shopkeepers, and such ilk took what whack they
could out of the product of the worker; but, after all, it was
the large business men who formed the workers through the little
business men. When all was said and done, the latter, like Jones
in Petacha Valley, got no more than wages out of their whack. In
truth, they were hired men for the large business men. Still
again, higher up, were the big fellows. They used vast and
complicated paraphernalia for the purpose, on a large scale of
getting between hundreds of thousands of workers and their
products. These men were not so much mere robbers as gamblers.
And, not content with their direct winnings, being essentially
gamblers, they raided one another. They called this feature of
the game HIGH FINANCE. They were all engaged primarily in
robbing the worker, but every little while they formed
combinations and robbed one another of the accumulated loot.
This explained the fifty-thousand-dollar raid on him by
Holdsworthy and the ten-million-dollar raid on him by Dowsett,
Letton, and Guggenhammer. And when he raided Panama Mail he had
done exactly the same thing. Well, he concluded, it was finer
sport robbing the robbers than robbing the poor stupid workers.
Thus, all unread in philosophy, Daylight preempted for himself
the position and vocation of a twentieth-century superman. He
found, with rare and mythical exceptions, that there was no
noblesse oblige among the business and financial supermen. As
a clever traveler had announced in an after-dinner speech at the
Alta-Pacific, "There was honor amongst thieves, and this was what
distinguished thieves from honest men." That was it. It hit
the nail on the head. These modern supermen were a lot of sordid
banditti who had the successful effrontery to preach a code of
right and wrong to their victims which they themselves did not
practise. With them, a man's word was good just as long as he
was compelled to keep it. THOU SHALT NOT STEAL was only
applicable to the honest worker. They, the supermen, were above
such commandments. They certainly stole and were honored by
their fellows according to the magnitude of their stealings.
The more Daylight played the game, the clearer the situation
grew. Despite the fact that every robber was keen to rob every
other robber, the band was well organized. It practically
controlled the political machinery of society, from the ward
politician up to the Senate of the United States. It passed laws
that gave it privilege to rob. It enforced these laws by means
of the police, the marshals, the militia and regular army, and
the courts. And it was a snap. A superman's chiefest danger was
his fellow-superman. The great stupid mass of the people did not
count. They were constituted of such inferior clay that the
veriest chicanery fooled them. The superman manipulated the
strings, and when robbery of the workers became too slow or
monotonous, they turned loose and robbed one another.
Daylight was philosophical, but not a philosopher. He had never
read the books. He was a hard-headed, practical man, and
farthest from him was any intention of ever reading the books.
He had lived life in the simple, where books were not necessary
for an understanding of life, and now life in the complex
appeared just as simple. He saw through its frauds and fictions,
and found it as elemental as on the Yukon. Men were made of the
same stuff. They had the same passions and desires. Finance was
poker on a larger scale. The men who played were the men who had
stakes. The workers were the fellows toiling for grubstakes. He
saw the game played out according to the everlasting rules, and
he played a hand himself. The gigantic futility of humanity
organized and befuddled by the bandits did not shock him. It was
the natural order. Practically all human endeavors were futile.
He had seen so much of it. His partners had starved and died on
the Stewart. Hundreds of old-timers had failed to locate on
Bonanza and Eldorado, while Swedes and chechaquos had come in
on the moose-pasture and blindly staked millions. It was life,
and life was a savage proposition at best. Men in civilization
robbed because they were so made. They robbed just as cats
scratched, famine pinched, and frost bit.
So it was that Daylight became a successful financier. He did
go in for swindling the workers. Not only did he not have the
heart for it, but it did not strike him as a sporting
proposition. The workers were so easy, so stupid. It was more
like slaughtering fat hand-reared pheasants on the English
preserves he had heard about. The sport to him, was in waylaying
the successful robbers and taking their spoils from them. There
was fun and excitement in that, and sometimes they put up the
very devil of a fight. Like Robin Hood of old, Daylight proceeded
to rob the rich; and, in a small way, to distribute to the needy.
But he was charitable after his own fashion. The great mass of
human misery meant nothing to him. That was part of the
everlasting order. He had no patience with the organized
charities and the professional charity mongers. Nor, on the
other hand, was what he gave a conscience dole. He owed no man,
and restitution was unthinkable. What he gave was a largess, a
free, spontaneous gift; and it was for those about him. He never
contributed to an earthquake fund in Japan nor to an open-air
fund in New York City. Instead, he financed Jones, the elevator
boy, for a year that he might write a book. When he learned that
the wife of his waiter at the St. Francis was suffering from
tuberculosis, he sent her to Arizona, and later, when her case
was declared hopeless, he sent the husband, too, to be with her
to the end. Likewise, he bought a string of horse-hair bridles
from a convict in a Western penitentiary, who spread the good
news until it seemed to Daylight that half the convicts in that
institution were making bridles for him. He bought them all,
paying from twenty to fifty dollars each for them. They were
beautiful and honest things, and he decorated all the available
wall-space of his bedroom with them.
The grim Yukon life had failed to make Daylight hard. It
required civilization to produce this result. In the fierce,
savage game he now played, his habitual geniality imperceptibly
slipped away from him, as did his lazy Western drawl. As his
speech became sharp and nervous, so did his mental processes. In
the swift rush of the game he found less and less time to spend
on being merely good-natured. The change marked his face itself.
The lines grew sterner. Less often appeared the playful curl of
his lips, the smile in the wrinkling corners of his eyes. The
eyes themselves, black and flashing, like an Indian's, betrayed
glints of cruelty and brutal consciousness of power. His
tremendous vitality remained, and radiated from all his being,
but it was vitality under the new aspect of the man-trampling
man-conqueror. His battles with elemental nature had been, in a
way, impersonal; his present battles were wholly with the males
of his species, and the hardships of the trail, the river, and
the frost marred him far less than the bitter keenness of the
struggle with his fellows.
He still had recrudescence of geniality, but they were largely
periodical and forced, and they were usually due to the cocktails
he took prior to meal-time. In the North, he had drunk deeply
and at irregular intervals; but now his drinking became
systematic and disciplined. It was an unconscious development,
but it was based upon physical and mental condition. The
cocktails served as an inhibition. Without reasoning or thinking
about it, the strain of the office, which was essentially due to
the daring and audacity of his ventures, required check or
cessation; and he found, through the weeks and months, that the
cocktails supplied this very thing. They constituted a stone
wall. He never drank during the morning, nor in office hours;
but the instant he left the office he proceeded to rear this wall
of alcoholic inhibition athwart his consciousness. The office
became immediately a closed affair. It ceased to exist. In the
afternoon, after lunch, it lived again for one or two hours,
when, leaving it, he rebuilt the wall of inhibition. Of course,
there were exceptions to this; and, such was the rigor of his
discipline, that if he had a dinner or a conference before him in
which, in a business way, he encountered enemies or allies and
planned or prosecuted campaigns, he abstained from drinking. But
the instant the business was settled, his everlasting call went
out for a Martini, and for a double-Martini at that, served in a
long glass so as not to excite comment.
Into Daylight's life came Dede Mason. She came rather
imperceptibly. He had accepted her impersonally along with the
office furnishing, the office boy, Morrison, the chief,
confidential, and only clerk, and all the rest of the accessories
of a superman's gambling place of business. Had he been asked
time during the first months she was in his employ, he would have
been unable to tell the color of her eyes. From the fact that
was a demiblonde, there resided dimly in his subconsciousness a
conception that she was a brunette. Likewise he had an idea that
she was not thin, while there was an absence in his mind of any
idea that she was fat. As to how she dressed, he had no ideas at
all. He had no trained eye in such matters, nor was he
He took it for granted, in the lack of any impression to the
contrary, that she was dressed some how. He knew her as "Miss
Mason," and that was all, though he was aware that as a
stenographer she seemed quick and accurate. This
impression, however, was quite vague, for he had had no
experience with other stenographers, and naturally believed that
they were all quick and accurate.
One morning, signing up letters, he came upon an I shall.
Glancing quickly over the page for similar constructions, he
found a number of I wills. The I shall was alone. It stood out
conspicuously. He pressed the call-bell twice, and a moment
later Dede Mason entered. "Did I say that, Miss Mason?" he
asked, extending the letter to her and pointing out the criminal
phrase. A shade of annoyance crossed her face. She stood
"My mistake," she said. "I am sorry. But it's not a mistake,
you know," she added quickly.
"How do you make that out?" challenged Daylight. "It sure don't
sound right, in my way of thinking."
She had reached the door by this time, and now turned the
letter in her hand. "It's right just the same."
"But that would make all those I wills wrong, then," he argued.
"It does," was her audacious answer. "Shall I change them?"
"I shall be over to look that affair up on Monday." Daylight
repeated the sentence from the letter aloud. He did it with a
grave, serious air, listening intently to the sound of his own
voice. He shook his head. "It don't sound right, Miss Mason.
It just don't sound right. Why, nobody writes to me that way.
They all say I will--educated men, too, some of them. Ain't that
"Yes," she acknowledged, and passed out to her machine to make
It chanced that day that among the several men with whom he sat
at luncheon was a young Englishman, a mining engineer. Had it
happened any other time it would have passed unnoticed, but,
fresh from the tilt with his stenographer, Daylight was struck
immediately by the Englishman's I shall. Several times, in the
course of the meal, the phrase was repeated, and Daylight was
certain there was no mistake about it.
After luncheon he cornered Macintosh, one of the members whom he
knew to have been a college man, because of his football
"Look here, Bunny," Daylight demanded, "which is right, I shall
be over to look that affair up on Monday, or I will be over to
look that affair up on Monday?"
The ex-football captain debated painfully for a minute. "Blessed
if I know," he confessed. "Which way do I say it?
"Oh, I will, of course."
"Then the other is right, depend upon it. I always was rotten on
On the way back to the office, Daylight dropped into a bookstore
and bought a grammar; and for a solid hour, his feet up on the
desk, he toiled through its pages. "Knock off my head with
little apples if the girl ain't right," he communed aloud at the
end of the session. For the first time it struck him that there
was something about his stenographer. He had accepted her up to
then, as a female creature and a bit of office furnishing. But
now, having demonstrated that she knew more grammar than did
business men and college graduates, she became an individual.
She seemed to stand out in his consciousness as conspicuously as
the I shall had stood out on the typed page, and he began to take
He managed to watch her leaving that afternoon, and he was aware
for the first time that she was well-formed, and that her manner
of dress was satisfying. He knew none of the details of women's
dress, and he saw none of the details of her neat shirt-waist and
well-cut tailor suit. He saw only the effect in a general,
sketchy way. She looked right. This was in the absence of
anything wrong or out of the way.
"She's a trim little good-looker," was his verdict, when the
outer office door closed on her.
The next morning, dictating, he concluded that he liked the way
she did her hair, though for the life of him he could have given
no description of it. The impression was pleasing, that was all.
She sat between him and the window, and he noted that her hair
was light brown, with hints of golden bronze. A pale sun,
shining in, touched the golden bronze into smouldering fires that
were very pleasing to behold. Funny, he thought, that he had
never observed this phenomenon before.
In the midst of the letter he came to the construction which had
caused the trouble the day before. He remembered his wrestle
with the grammar, and dictated.
"I shall meet you halfway this proposition--"
Miss Mason gave a quick look up at him. The action was purely
involuntary, and, in fact, had been half a startle of surprise.
The next instant her eyes had dropped again, and she sat waiting
to go on with the dictation. But in that moment of her glance
Daylight had noted that her eyes were gray. He was later to
learn that at times there were golden lights in those same gray
eyes; but he had seen enough, as it was, to surprise him, for he
became suddenly aware that he had always taken her for a brunette
with brown eyes, as a matter of course.
"You were right, after all," he confessed, with a sheepish grin
that sat incongruously on his stern, Indian-like features.
Again he was rewarded by an upward glance and an acknowledging
smile, and this time he verified the fact that her eyes were
"But it don't sound right, just the same," he complained. At
this she laughed outright.
"I beg your pardon," she hastened to make amends, and then
it by adding, "but you are so funny."
Daylight began to feel a slight awkwardness, and the sun would
persist in setting her hair a-smouldering.
"I didn't mean to be funny," he said.
"That was why I laughed. But it is right, and perfectly good
"All right," he sighed--"I shall meet you halfway in this
proposition--got that?" And the dictation went on. He discovered
that in the intervals, when she had nothing to do, she read books
and magazines, or worked on some sort of feminine fancy work.
Passing her desk, once, he picked up a volume of Kipling's poems
and glanced bepuzzled through the pages. "You like reading, Miss
Mason?" he said, laying the book down.
"Oh, yes," was her answer; "very much."
Another time it was a book of Wells', The Wheels of Change.
"What's it all about?" Daylight asked.
"Oh, it's just a novel, a love-story." She stopped, but he still
stood waiting, and she felt it incumbent to go on.
"It's about a little Cockney draper's assistant, who takes a
vacation on his bicycle, and falls in with a young girl very much
above him. Her mother is a popular writer and all that. And the
situation is very curious, and sad, too, and tragic. Would you
care to read it?"
"Does he get her?" Daylight demanded.
"No; that's the point of it. He wasn't--"
"And he doesn't get her, and you've read all them pages, hundreds
of them, to find that out?" Daylight muttered in amazement.
Miss Mason was nettled as well as amused.
"But you read the mining and financial news by the hour," she
"But I sure get something out of that. It's business, and it's
different. I get money out of it. What do you get out of
"Points of view, new ideas, life."
"Not worth a cent cash."
"But life's worth more than cash," she argued.
"Oh, well," he said, with easy masculine tolerance, "so long as
you enjoy it. That's what counts, I suppose; and there's no
accounting for taste."
Despite his own superior point of view, he had an idea that she
knew a lot, and he experienced a fleeting feeling like that of a
barbarian face to face with the evidence of some tremendous
culture. To Daylight culture was a worthless thing, and yet,
somehow, he was vaguely troubled by a sense that there was more
in culture than he imagined.
Again, on her desk, in passing, he noticed a book with which he
was familiar. This time he did not stop, for he had recognized
the cover. It was a magazine correspondent's book on the
Klondike, and he knew that he and his photograph figured in it
and he knew, also, of a certain sensational chapter concerned
with a woman's suicide, and with one "Too much Daylight."
After that he did not talk with her again about books. He
what erroneous conclusions she had drawn from that particular
chapter, and it stung him the more in that they were undeserved.
Of all unlikely things, to have the reputation of being a
lady-killer,--he, Burning Daylight,--and to have a woman kill
herself out of love for him. He felt that he was a most
unfortunate man and wondered by what luck that one book of all
the thousands of books should have fallen into his stenographer's
hands. For some days afterward he had an uncomfortable sensation
of guiltiness whenever he was in Miss Mason's presence; and once
he was positive that he caught her looking at him with a curious,
intent gaze, as if studying what manner of man he was.
He pumped Morrison, the clerk, who had first to vent his personal
grievance against Miss Mason before he could tell what little he
knew of her.
"She comes from Siskiyou County. She's very nice to work with in
the office, of course, but she's rather stuck on herself--
exclusive, you know."
"How do you make that out?" Daylight queried.
"Well, she thinks too much of herself to associate with those she
works with, in the office here, for instance. She won't have
anything to do with a fellow, you see. I've asked her out
repeatedly, to the theatre and the chutes and such things. But
nothing doing. Says she likes plenty of sleep, and can't stay up
late, and has to go all the way to Berkeley--that's where she
This phase of the report gave Daylight a distinct satisfaction.
She was a bit above the ordinary, and no doubt about it. But
Morrison's next words carried a hurt.
"But that's all hot air. She's running with the University boys,
that's what she's doing. She needs lots of sleep and can't go to
the theatre with me, but she can dance all hours with them. I've
heard it pretty straight that she goes to all their hops and such
things. Rather stylish and high-toned for a stenographer, I'd
say. And she keeps a horse, too. She rides astride all over
those hills out there. I saw her one Sunday myself. Oh, she's a
high-flyer, and I wonder how she does it. Sixty-five a month
don't go far. Then she has a sick brother, too."
"Live with her people?" Daylight asked.
"No; hasn't got any. They were well to do, I've heard. They
must have been, or that brother of hers couldn't have gone to the
University of California. Her father had a big cattle-ranch, but
he got to fooling with mines or something, and went broke before
he died. Her mother died long before that. Her brother must
cost a lot of money. He was a husky once, played football, was
great on hunting and being out in the mountains and such things.
He got his accident breaking horses, and then rheumatism or
something got into him. One leg is shorter than the other and
withered up some. He has to walk on crutches. I saw her out
with him once--crossing the ferry. The doctors have been
experimenting on him for years, and he's in the French Hospital
now, I think."
All of which side-lights on Miss Mason went to increase
Daylight's interest in her. Yet, much as he desired, he failed
to get acquainted with her. He had thoughts of asking her to
luncheon, but his was the innate chivalry of the frontiersman,
and the thoughts never came to anything. He knew a
self-respecting, square-dealing man was not supposed to take his
stenographer to luncheon. Such things did happen, he knew, for
he heard the chaffing gossip of the club; but he did not think
much of such men and felt sorry for the girls. He had a strange
notion that a man had less rights over those he employed than
over mere acquaintances or strangers. Thus, had Miss Mason not
been his employee, he was confident that he would have had her to
luncheon or the theatre in no time. But he felt that it was an
imposition for an employer, because he bought the time of an
employee in working hours, to presume in any way upon any of the
rest of that employee's time. To do so was to act like a bully.
The situation was unfair. It was taking advantage of the fact
that the employee was dependent on one for a livelihood. The
employee might permit the imposition through fear of angering the