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Cabin Fever by B. M. Bower

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June 12.

Bud got out and got breakfast again. Then started off on Pete
to hunt trail that makes short cut 18 miles to Bend. Roofed the
kitchen. Bud got back about 1:30, being gone 6 hours. Found trail
& two good ledges. Cora & colt came for water. Other burros did
not. Brought in specimens from ledge up creek that showed very
rich gold in tests. Burros came in at 9:30. Bud got up and tied
them up.

June 13.

Bud gets breakfast. I took Sway & brought in load of wood. Bud
went out and found a wash lined with good looking ledges. Hung up
white rags on bushes to identify same. Found large ledge of good
quartz showing fine in tests about one mile down wash. Bud
dressed Daddy's back. Located a claim west of Thompson's. Burros
did not come in except Cora & colt. Pete & Monte came separated.

June 14.

Bud got breakfast & dressed Daddy's back. Very hot day. Stock
came in about 2. Tied up Billy Maud & Cora. Bud has had headache.
Monte & Pete did not come in. Bud went after them & found them 4
miles away where we killed the Gila monster. Sent 2 samples from
big ledge to Tucson for assay. Daddy better.

June 15.

Up 2.30. Bud left for Bend at 4. Walked down to flat but could
not see stock. About 3 Cora & Colt came in for water & Sway & Ed
from the south about 5. No Monte. Monte got in about midnight &
went past kitchen to creek on run. Got up, found him very nervous
& frightened & tied him up.

June 17.

Bud got back 4 P.M. in gale of wind & sand. Burros did not come
in for water. Very hot. Bud brought canned stuff. Rigged gallows
for No. 2 shaft also block & tackle & pail for drinking water,
also washed clothes. While drying went around in cap undershirt &

June 18.

Burros came in during night for water. Hot as nether depths of
infernal regions. Went up on hill a mile away. Seamed with veins
similar to shaft No. 2 ore. Blew in two faces & got good looking
ore seamed with a black incrustation, oxide of something, but
what could not determine. Could find neither silver nor copper in
it. Monte & Pete came in about 1 & tied them up. Very hot.
Hottest day yet, even the breeze scorching. Test of ore showed
best yet. One half of solution in tube turning to chloride of
gold, 3 tests showing same. Burros except Ed & Cora do not come
in days any more. Bud made a gate for kitchen to keep burros out.

The next morning it was that Cash cut the ball of his right
thumb open on the sharp edge of a tomato can. He wanted the diary
to go on as usual. He had promised, he said, to keep one for the
widow who wanted a record of the way the work was carried on, and
the progress made. Bud could not see that there had been much
progress, except as a matter of miles. Put a speedometer on one
of his legs, he told Cash, and he'd bet it would register more
mileage chasing after them fool burros than his auto stage could
show after a full season. As for working the widow's claim, it
was not worth working, from all he could judge of it. And if it
were full of gold as the United States treasury, the burros took
up all their time so they couldn't do much. Between doggone stock
drinking or not drinking and the darn fool diary that had to be
kept, Bud opined that they needed an extra hand or two. Bud was
peevish, these days. Gila Bend had exasperated him because it was
not the town it called itself, but a huddle of adobe huts. He had
come away in the sour mood of a thirsty man who finds an alkali
spring sparkling deceptively under a rock. Furthermore, the
nights had been hot and the mosquitoes a humming torment. And as
a last affliction he was called upon to keep the diary going. He
did it, faithfully enough but in a fashion of his own.

First he read back a few pages to get the hang of the thing.
Then he shook down Cash's fountain pen, that dried quickly in
that heat. Then he read another page as a model, and wrote:

June 19.

Mosquitoes last night was worse than the heat and that was
worse than Gila Bend's great white way. Hunted up the burros.
Pete and Monte came in and drank. Monte had colic. We fed them
and turned them loose but the blamed fools hung around all day
and eat up some sour beans I throwed out. Cash was peeved and
swore they couldn't have another grain of feed. But Monte come to
the shack and watched Cash through a knothole the size of one eye
till Cash opened up his heart and the bag. Cash cut his thumb
opening tomatoes. The tomatoes wasn't hurt any.

June 20.

Got breakfast. Bill and harem did not come to water. Cash done
the regular hike after them. His thumb don't hurt him for hazing
donkeys. Bill and harem come in after Cash left. They must of saw
him go. Cash was out four hours and come in mad. Shot a
hidrophobia skunk out by the creek. Nothing doing. Too hot.

June 21.

The sun would blister a mud turtle so he'd holler. Cash put in
most of day holding a parasol over his garden patch. Burros did
not miss their daily drink. Night brings mosquitoes with their
wings singed but their stingers O.K. They must hole up daytimes
or they would fry.

June 22.

Thought I know what heat was. I never did before. Cash took a
bath. It was his first. Burros did not come to water. Cash and I
tried to sleep on kitchen roof but the darned mosquitoes fed up
on us and then played heavenly choir all night.

June 25.

Cash got back from Bend. Thumb is better and he can have this
job any time now. He hustled up a widow that made a couple of
mosquito bags to go over our heads. No shape (bags, not widow)
but help keep flies and mosquitoes from chewing on us all day and
all night. Training for hades. I can stand the heat as well as
the old boy with the pitch-fork. Ain't got used to brimstone yet,
but I'd trade mosquitoes for sulphur smoke and give some boot.
Worried about Cash. He took a bath today again, using water I had
packed for mine. Heat must be getting him.

June 26.

Cash opened up thumb again, trying to brain Pete with rock.
Pete got halfway into kitchen and eat biggest part of a pie I
made. Cash threw jagged rock, hit Pete in side of jaw. Cut big
gash. Swelled now like a punkin. Cash and I tangled over same.
I'm going to quit. I have had enough of this darn country.
Creek's drying up, and mosquitoes have found way to crawl under
bags. Cash wants me to stay till we find good claim, but Cash can
go to thunder.

Then Cash's record goes on:

June 27.

Bud very sick & out of head. Think it is heat, which is
terrible. Talked all night about burros, gasoline, & camphor
balls which he seemed wanting to buy in gunny sack. No sleep for
either. Burros came in for water about daylight. Picketed Monte &
Pete as may need doctor if Bud grows worse. Thumb nearly well.

June 27.
Bud same, slept most of day. Gave liver pills & made gruel of
cornmeal, best could do with present stores. Burros came at about
3 but could not drink owing to bees around water hold. Monte got
stung and kicked over water cans & buckets I had salted for
burros. Burros put for hills again. No way of driving off bees.

June 28.

Burros came & drank in night. Cooler breeze, Bud some better &
slept. Sway has badly swollen neck. May be rattler bite or
perhaps bee. Bud wanted cigarettes but smoked last the day before
he took sick. Gave him more liver pills & sponge off with water
every hour. Best can do under circumstances. Have not prospected
account Bud's sickness.

June 29.

Very hot all day, breeze like blast from furnace. Burros refuse
to leave flat. Bees better, as can't fly well in this wind. Bud
worse. High fever & very restless & flighty. Imagines much
trouble with automobile, talk very technical & can't make head or
tail of it. Monte & Pete did not come in, left soon as turned
loose. No feed for them here & figured Bud too sick to travel or
stay alone so horses useless at present. Sponged frequently with
coolest water can get, seems to give some relief as he is quieter

July 4th.

Monte & Pete came in the night & hung around all day. Drove
them away from vicinity of shack several times but they returned
& moped in shade of house. Terrible hot, strong gusty wind. Bud
sat up part of day, slept rest of time. Looks very thin and great
hollows under eyes, but chief trouble seems to be, no cigarettes.
Shade over radishes & lettice works all right. Watered copiously
at daylight & again at dusk. Doing fine. Fixed fence which M & P.
broke down while tramping around. Prospected west of ranche.
Found enormous ledge of black quartz, looks like sulphur stem
during volcanic era but may be iron. Strong gold & heavy
precipitate in test, silver test poor but on filtering showed
like white of egg in tube (unusual). Clearing iron out showed for
gold the highest yet made, being more pronounced with
Fenosulphate than $1500 rock have seen. Immense ledge of it &
slightest estimate from test at least $10. Did not tell Bud as
keeping for surprise when he is able to visit ledge. Very
monotonous since Bud has been sick. Bud woke up & said Hell of a
Fourth & turned over & went to sleep again with mosquito net over
head to keep off flies. Burros came in after dark, all but Cora &
Colt, which arrived about midnight. Daddy gone since yesterday
morning leaving no trace.

July 5.

Miserable hot night. Burros trickled in sometime during night.
Bud better, managed to walk to big ledge after sundown. Suggests
we call it the Burro Lode. His idea of wit, claims we have
occupied camp all summer for sake of timing burros when they come
to waterhole. Wish to call it Columbia mine for patriotic reasons
having found it on Fourth. Will settle it soon so as to put up
location. Put in 2 shots & pulpel samples for assay. Rigged
windows on shack to keep out bees, nats & flies & mosquitoes. Bud
objects because it keeps out air as well. Took them off. Sick
folks must be humored. Hot, miserable and sleepless. Bud very

July 6.

Cool wind makes weather endurable, but bees terrible in kitchen
& around water-hole. Flipped a dollar to settle name of big
ledge. Bud won tails, Burro lode. Must cultivate my sense of
humor so as to see the joke. Bud agrees to stay & help develop
claim. Still very weak, puttered around house all day cleaning &
baking bread & stewing fruit which brought bees by millions so we
could not eat same till after dark when they subsided. Bud got
stung twice in kitchen. Very peevish & full of cuss. Says
positively must make trip to Bend & get cigarettes tomorrow or
will blow up whole outfit. Has already blowed up same several
times today with no damage. Burros came in about 5. Monte & Pete
later, tied them up with grain. Pete has very bad eye. Bud will
ride Monte if not too hot for trip. Still no sign of daddy, think
must be dead or stolen though nobody to steal same in country.

July 7.

Put in 2 shots on Burro Lode & got her down to required depth.
Hot. Bud finds old location on widow's claim, upturns all
previous calculation & information given me by her. Wrote letter
explaining same, which Bud will mail. Bud left 4 P.M. should make
Bend by midnight. Much better but still weak Burros came in late
& hung around water hole. Put up monument at Burro Lode. Sent off
samples to assay at Tucson. Killed rattler near shack, making 16
so far killed.


"Well, here come them darn burros, Cash. Cora's colt ain't with
'em though. Poor little devils--say, Cash, they look like hard
sleddin', and that's a fact. I'll tell the world they've got
about as much pep as a flat tire."

"Maybe we better grain 'em again." Cash looked up from studying
the last assay report of the Burro Lode, and his look was not
pleasant. "But it'll cost a good deal, in both time and money.
The feed around here is played out"

"Well, when it comes to that--" Bud cast a glum glance at the
paper Cash was holding.

"Yeah. Looks like everything's about played out. Promising
ledge, too. Like some people, though. Most all its good points is
right on the surface. Nothing to back it up."

"She's sure running light, all right Now," Bud added
sardonically, but with the whimsical quirk withal, "if it was
like a carburetor, and you could give it a richer mixture--"

"Yeah. What do you make of it, Bud?"

"Well--aw, there comes that durn colt, bringing up the drag.
Say Cash, that colt's just about all in. Cora's nothing but a bag
of bones, too. They'll never winter--not on this range, they

Cash got up and went to the doorway, looking out over Bud's
shoulder at the spiritless donkeys trailing in to water. Beyond
them the desert baked in its rim of hot, treeless hills. Above
them the sky glared a brassy blue with never a could. Over a low
ridge came Monte and Pete, walking with heads drooping. Their hip
bones lifted above their ridged paunches, their backbones, peaked
sharp above, their withers were lean and pinched looking. In
August the desert herbage has lost what little succulence it ever
possessed, and the gleanings are scarce worth the walking after.

"They're pretty thin," Cash observed speculatively, as though
be was measuring them mentally for some particular need.

"We'd have to grain 'em heavy till we struck better feed. And
pack light." Bud answered his thought.

"The question is, where shall we head for, Bud? Have you any
particular idea?" Cash looked slightingly down at the assayer's
report. "Such as she is, we've done all we can do to the Burro
Lode, for a year at least," he said. "The assessment work is all
done--or will be when we muck out after that last shot. The
claim is filed--I don't know what more we can do right away.
Do you?"

"Sure thing," grinned Bud. "We can get outa here and go some
place where it's green."

"Yeah." Cash meditated, absently eyeing the burros. "Where it's
green." He looked at the near hills, and at the desert, and at
the dreary march of the starved animals. "It's a long way to
green. country," he said.

They looked at the burros.

"They're tough little devils," Bud observed hopefully. "We
could take it easy, traveling when it's coolest. And by packing
light, and graining the whole bunch--"

"Yeah. We con ease 'em through, I guess. It does seem as
though it would be foolish to hang on here any longer." Carefully
as he made his tests, Cash weighed the question of their going.
"This last report kills any chance of interesting capital to the
extent of developing the claim on a large enough scale to make it
profitable. It's too long a haul to take the ore out, and it's
too spotted to justify any great investment in machinery to
handle it on the ground. And," he added with an undernote of
fierceness, "it's a terrible place for man or beast to stay in,
unless the object to be attained is great enough to justify
enduring the hardships."

"You said a mouthful, Cash. Well, can you leave your seven
radishes and three hunches of lettuce and pull out--say at
daybreak?" Bud turned to him with some eagerness.

Cash grinned sourly. "When it's time to go, seven radishes
can't stop me. No, nor a whole row of 'em--if there was a
whole row."

"And you watered 'em copiously too," Bud murmured, with the
corners of his mouth twitching. "Well, I guess we might as well
tie up the livestock. I'm going to give 'em all a feed of
rolled oats, Cash. We can get along without, and they've got to
have something to put a little heart in 'em. There's a moon to-
night--how about starting along about midnight? That would put
us in the Bend early in the forenoon to-morrow."

"Suits me," said Cash. "Now I've made up my mind about going, I
can't go too soon."

"You're on. Midnight sees us started." Bud went out with ropes
to catch and tie up the burros and their two saddle horses. And
as he went, for the first time in two months he whistled; a
detail which Cash noted with a queer kind of smile.

Midnight and the moon riding high in the purple bowl of sky
sprinkled thick with stars; with a little, warm wind stirring the
parched weeds as they passed; with the burros shuffling single
file along the dim trail which was the short cut through the
hills to the Bend, Ed taking the lead, with the camp kitchen
wabbling lumpily on his back, Cora bringing up the rear with her
skinny colt trying its best to keep up, and with no pack at all;
so they started on the long, long journey to the green country.

A silent journey it was for the most part. The moon and the
starry bowl of sky had laid their spell upon the desert, and the
two men rode wordlessly, filled with vague, unreasoning regret
that they must go. Months they had spent with the desert,
learning well every little varying mood; cursing it for its
blistering heat and its sand storms and its parched thirst and
its utter, blank loneliness. Loving it too, without ever dreaming
that they loved. To-morrow they would face the future with the
past dropping farther and farther behind. To-night it rode with

Three months in that little, rough-walled hut had lent it an
atmosphere of home, which a man instinctively responds to with a
certain clinging affection, however crude may be the shelter he
calls his own. Cash secretly regretted the thirsty death of his
radishes and lettuce which he had planted and tended with such
optimistic care. Bud wondered if Daddy might not stray half-
starved into the shack, and find them gone. While they were
there, he had agreed with Cash that the dog must be dead. But now
he felt uneasily doubtful It would be fierce if Daddy did come
beck now. He would starve. He never could make the trip to the
Bend alone, even if he could track them.

There was, also, the disappointment in the Burro Lode claim. As
Bud planned it, the Burro was packing a very light load--far
lighter than had seemed possible with that strong indication on
the surface. Cash's "enormous black ledge" had shown less and
less gold as they went into it, though it still seemed worth
while, if they had the capital to develop it further. Wherefore
they had done generous assessment work and had recorded their
claim and built their monuments to mark its boundaries. It would
be safe for a year, and by that time--Quien sabe?

The Thompson claim, too, had not justified any enthusiasm
whatever. They had found it, had relocated it, and worked out the
assessment for the widow. Cash had her check for all they had
earned, and he had declared profanely that he would not give his
share of the check for the whole claim.

They would go on prospecting, using the check for a grubstake,
That much they had decided without argument. The gambling
instinct was wide awake in Bud's nature--and as for Cash, he
would hunt gold as long as he could carry pick and pan. They
would prospect as long as their money held out. When that was
gone, they would get more and go on prospecting. But they would
prospect in a green country where wood and water were not so
precious as in the desert and where, Cash averred, the chance of
striking it rich was just as good; better, because they could
kill game and make their grubstake last longer.

Wherefore. they waited in Gila Bend for three days, to
strengthen the weakened animals with rest and good hay and grain.
Then they took again to the trail, traveling as lightly as they
could, with food for themselves and grain for the stock to last
them until they reached Needles. From there with fresh supplies
they pushed on up to Goldfield, found that camp in the throes of
labor disputes, and went on to Tonopah.

There they found work for themselves and the burros, packing
winter supplies to a mine lying back in the hills. They made
money at it, and during the winter they made more. With the
opening of spring they outfitted again and took the trail, their
goal the high mountains south of Honey Lake. They did not hurry.
Wherever the land they traveled through seemed to promise gold,
they would stop and prospect. Many a pan of likely looking dirt
they washed beside some stream where the burros stopped to drink
and feed a little on the grassy banks,

So, late in June, they reached Reno; outfitted and went on
again, traveling to the north, to the green country for which
they yearned, though now they were fairly in it and would have
stopped if any tempting ledge or bar had come in their way. They
prospected every gulch that showed any mineral signs at all. It
was a carefree kind of life, with just enough of variety to hold
Bud's interest to the adventuring. The nomad in him responded
easily to this leisurely pilgrimage. There was no stampede
anywhere to stir their blood with the thought of quick wealth.
There was hope enough, on the other hand, to keep them going.
Cash had prospected and trapped for more than fifteen years now,
and he preached the doctrine of freedom and the great outdoors.

Of what use was a house and lot--and taxes and trouble with
the plumbing? he would chuckle. A tent and blankets and a frying
pan and grub; two good legs and wild country to travel; a gold
pan and a pick--these things, to Cash, spelled independence
and the joy of living. The burros and the two horses were
luxuries, he declared. When they once got located on a good claim
they would sell off everything but a couple of burros--Sway
and Ed, most likely. The others would bring enough for a winter
grubstake, and would prolong their freedom and their independence
just that much. That is, supposing they did not strike a good
claim before then. Cash had learned, he said, to hope high but
keep an eye on the grubstake.

Late in August they came upon a mountain village perched
beside a swift stream and walled in on three sided by pine-
covered mountains. A branch railroad linked the place more or
less precariously with civilization, and every day--unless
there was a washout somewhere, or a snowslide, or drifts too deep
--a train passed over the road. One day it would go up-stream,
and the next day it would come back. And the houses stood drawn
up in a row alongside the track to watch for these passings.

Miners came in with burros or with horses, packed flour and
bacon and tea and coffee across their middles, got drunk, perhaps
as a parting ceremony, and went away into the hills. Cash watched
them for a day or so; saw the size of their grubstakes, asked few
questions and listened to a good deal of small-town gossip, and
nodded his head contentedly. There was gold in these hills. Not
enough, perhaps, to start a stampede with--but enough to keep
wise old hermits burrowing after it.

So one day Bud sold the two horses and one of the saddles, and
Cash bought flour and bacon and beans and coffee, and added other
things quite as desirable but not so necessary. Then they too
went away into the hills.

Fifteen miles from Alpine, as a cannon would shoot; high up in
the hills, where a creek flowed down through a saucerlike basin
under beetling ledges fringed all around with forest, they came,
after much wandering, upon an old log cabin whose dirt roof still
held in spite of the snows that heaped upon it through many a
winter. The ledge showed the scars of old prospect holes, and in
the sand of the creek they found "colors" strong enough to make
it seem worth while to stop here--for awhile, at least.

They cleaned out the cabin and took possession of it, and the
next time they went to town Cash made cautious inquiries about
the place. It was, he learned, an old abandoned claim. Abandoned
chiefly because the old miner who had lived there died one day,
and left behind him all the marks of having died from starvation,
mostly. A cursory examination of his few belongings had revealed
much want, but no gold save a little coarse dust in a small

"About enough to fill a rifle ca'tridge," detailed the teller
of the tale. "He'd pecked around that draw for two, three year
mebby. Never showed no gold much, for all the time he spent
there. Trapped some in winter--coyotes and bobcats and skunks,
mostly. Kinda off in the upper story, old Nelson was. I guess he
just stayed there because he happened to light there and didn't
have gumption enough to git out. Hills is full of old fellers
like him. They live off to the'rselves, and peck around and git a
pocket now and then that keeps 'm in grub and tobacco. If you
want to use the cabin, I guess nobody's goin' to care. Nelson
never had any folks, that anybody knows of. Nobody ever bothered
about takin' up the claim after he cashed in, either. Didn't seem
worth nothin' much. Went back to the gov'ment."

"Trapped, you say. Any game around there now?"

"Oh, shore! Game everywhere in these hills, from weasels up to
bear and mountain lion. If you want to trap, that's as good a
place as any, I guess."

So Cash and Bud sold the burros and bought traps and more
supplies, and two window sashes and a crosscut saw and some
wedges and a double-bitted axe, and settled down in Nelson Flat
to find what old Dame Fortune had tucked away in this little side
pocket and forgotten.


The heavy boom of a dynamite blast rolled across the fiat to
the hills that flung it back in a tardy echo like a spent ball of
sound. A blob of blue smoke curled out of a hole the size of a
hogshead in a steep bank overhung with alders. Outside, the wind
caught the smoke and carried streamers of it away to play with. A
startled bluejay, on a limb high up on the bank, lifted his slaty
crest and teetered forward, clinging with his toe nails to the
branch while he scolded down at the men who had scared him so. A
rattle of clods and small rocks fell from their high flight into
the sweet air of a mountain sunset.

"Good execution, that was," Cash remarked, craning his neck
toward the hole. "If you're a mind to go on ahead and cook
supper, I'll stay and see if we opened up anything. Or you can
stay, just as you please."

Dynamite smoke invariably made Bud's head ache splittingly.
Cash was not so susceptible. Bud chose the cooking, and went away
down the flat, the bluejay screaming insults after him. He was
frying bacon when Cash came in, a hatful of broken rock riding in
the hollow of his arm.

"Got something pretty good here, Bud--if she don't turn out
like that dang Burro Lode ledge. Look here. Best looking quartz
we've struck yet. What do you think of it?"

He dumped the rock out on the oilcloth behind the sugar can and
directly under the little square window through which the sun was
pouring a lavish yellow flood of light before it dropped behind
the peak. Bud set the bacon back where it would not burn, and
bent over the table to look.

"Gee, but it's heavy!" he cried, picking up a fragment the size
of an egg, and balancing it in his hands. "I don't know a lot
about gold-bearing quartz, but she looks good to me, all right."

"Yeah. It is good, unless I'm badly mistaken. I'll test some
after supper. Old Nelson couldn't have used powder at all, or
he'd have uncovered enough of this, I should think, to show the
rest what he had. Or maybe he died just when he had started that
hole. Seems queer he never struck pay dirt in this flat. Well,
let's eat if it's ready, Bud. Then we'll see."

"Seems kinda queer, don't it, Cash, that nobody stepped in and
filed on any claims here?" Bud dumped half a kettle of boiled
beans into a basin and set it on the table. "Want any prunes to-
night, Cash?"

Cash did not want prunes, which was just as well, seeing there
were none cooked. He sat down and ate, with his mind and his eyes
clinging to the grayish, veined fragments of rock lying on the
table beside his plate.

"We'll send some of that down to Sacramento right away," he
observed, "and have it assayed. And we won't let out anything
about it, Bud--good or bad. I like this flat. I don't want it
mucked over with a lot of gold-crazy lunatics."

Bud laughed and reached for the bacon. "We ain't been followed
up with stampedes so far," he pointed out. "Burro Lode never
caused a ripple in the Bend, you recollect. And I'll tell a
sinful world it looked awful good, too."

"Yeah. Well, Arizona's hard to excite. They've had so dang much
strenuosity all their lives, and then the climate's against
violent effort, either mental or physical. I was calm, perfectly
calm when I discovered that big ledge. It is just as well--
seeing how it petered out."

"What'll you bet this pans out the same?"

"I never bet. No one but a fool will gamble." Cash pressed his
lips together in a way that drove the color from there.

"Oh, yuh don't! Say, you're the king bee of all gamblers. Been
prospecting for fifteen years, according to you--and then
you've got the nerve to say you don't gamble!"

Cash ignored the charge. He picked up a piece of rock and held
it to the fading light. "It looks good," he said again. "Better
than that placer ground down by the creek. That's all right, too.
We can wash enough gold there to keep us going while we develop
this. That is, if this proves as good as it looks."

Bud looked across at him enigmatically. "Well, here's hoping
she's worth a million. You go ahead with your tests, Cash. I'll
wash the dishes."

"Of course," Cash began to conserve his enthusiasm, "there's
nothing so sure as an assay. And it was too dark in the hole to
see how much was uncovered. This may be just a freak deposit.
There may not be any real vein of it. You can't tell until it's
developed further. But it looks good. Awful good."

His makeshift tests confirmed his opinion. Bud started out next
day with three different samples for the assayer, and an air
castle or two to keep him company. He would like to find himself
half owner of a mine worth about a million, he mused. Maybe Marie
would wish then that she had thought twice about quitting him
just on her mother's say-so. He'd like to go buzzing into San
Jose behind the wheel of a car like the one Foster had fooled him
into stealing. And meet Marie, and her mother too, and let them
get an eyeful. He guessed the old lady would have to swallow what
she had said about him being lazy--just because he couldn't
run an auto-stage in the winter to Big Basin! What was the matter
with the old woman, anyway? Didn't he keep Maria in comfort.
Well, he'd like to see her face when he drove along the street in
a big new Sussex. She'd wish she had let him and Marie alone.
They would have made out all right if they had been let alone. He
ought to have taken Marie to some other town, where her mother
couldn't nag at her every day about him. Marie wasn't such a bad
kid, if she were left alone. They might have been happy--

He tried then to shake himself free of thoughts of her. That
was the trouble with him, he brooded morosely. He couldn't let
his thoughts ride free, any more. They kept heading straight for
Marie. He could not see why she should cling so to his memory; he
had not wronged her--unless it was by letting her go without
making a bigger fight for their home. Still, she had gone of her
own free will. He was the one that had been wronged--why,
hadn't they lied about him in court and to the gossipy neighbors?
Hadn't they broke him? No. If the mine panned out big as Cash
seemed to think was likely, the best thing he could do was steer
clear of San Jose. And whether it panned out or not, the best
thing he could do was forget that such girl as Marie had ever

Which was all very well, as far as it went. The trouble was
that resolving not to think of Marie, calling up all the
bitterness he could muster against her memory, did no more toward
blotting her image from his mind than did the miles and the
months he had put between them.

He reached the town in a dour mood of unrest, spite of the
promise of wealth he carried in his pocket. He mailed the package
and the letter, and went to a saloon and had a highball. He was
not a drinking man--at least, he never had been one, beyond a
convivial glass or two with his fellows--but he felt that day
the need of a little push toward optimism. In the back part of
the room three men were playing freeze-out. Bud went over and
stood with his hands in his pockets and watched them, because
there was nothing else to do, and because he was still having
some trouble with his thoughts. He was lonely, without quite
knowing what ailed him. He hungered for friends to hail him with
that cordial, "Hello, Bud!" when they saw him coming.

No one in Alpine had said hello, Bud, when he came walking in
that day. The postmaster bad given him one measuring glance when
he had weighed the package of ore, but he had not spoken except
to name the amount of postage required. The bartender had made
some remark about the weather, and had smiled with a surface
friendliness that did not deceive Bud for a moment. He knew too
well that the smile was not for him, but for his patronage.

He watched the game. And when the man opposite him pushed back
his chair and, looking up at Bud, asked if he wanted to sit in,
Bud went and sat down, buying a dollar's worth of chips as an
evidence of his intention to play. His interest in the game was
not keen. He played for the feeling it gave him of being one of
the bunch, a man among his friends; or if not friends, at least
acquaintances. And, such was his varying luck with the cards, he
played for an hour or so without having won enough to irritate
his companions. Wherefore he rose from the table at supper time
calling one young fellow Frank quite naturally. They went to the
Alpine House and had supper together, and after that they sat in
the office and talked about automobiles for an hour, which gave
Bud a comforting sense of having fallen among friends.

Later they strolled over to a picture show which ran films two
years behind their first release, and charged fifteen cents for
the privilege of watching them. It was the first theater Bud had
entered since he left San Jose, and at the last minute he
hesitated, tempted to turn back. He hated moving pictures. They
always had love scenes somewhere in the story, and love scenes
hurt. But Frank had already bought two tickets, and it seemed
unfriendly to turn back now. He went inside to the jangling of a
player-piano in dire need of a tuner's service, and sat down near
the back of the hall with his hat upon his lifted knees which
could have used more space between the seats.

While they waited for the program they talked in low tones, a
mumble of commonplaces. Bud forgot for the moment his distaste
for such places, and let himself slip easily back into the old
thought channels, the old habits of relaxation after a day's work
was done. He laughed at the one-reel comedy that had for its
climax a chase of housemaids, policemen, and outraged fruit
vendors after a well-meaning but unfortunate lover. He saw the
lover pulled ignominiously out of a duck pond and soused
relentlessly into a watering trough, and laughed with Frank and
called it some picture.

He eyed a succession of "current events" long since gone stale
out where the world moved swifter than here in the mountains, and
he felt as though he had come once more into close touch with
life. All the dull months he had spent with Cash and the burros
dwarfed into a pointless, irrelevant incident of his life. He
felt that he ought to be out in the world, doing bigger things
than hunting gold that somehow always refused at the last minute
to be found. He stirred restlessly. He was free--there was
nothing to hold him if he wanted to go. The war--he believed
he would go over and take a hand. He could drive an ambulance or
a truck--

Current Events, however, came abruptly to an end; and presently
Bud's vagrant, half-formed desire for achievement merged into
biting recollections. Here was a love drama, three reels of it.
At first Bud watched it with only a vague, disquieting sense of
familiarity. Then abruptly he recalled too vividly the time and
circumstance of his first sight of the picture. It was in San
Jose, at the Liberty. He and Marie had been married two days, and
were living in that glamorous world of the honeymoon, so
poignantly sweet, so marvelous--and so fleeting. He had
whispered that the girl looked like her, and she had leaned
heavily against his shoulder. In the dusk of lowered lights their
hands had groped and found each other, and clung.

The girl did look like Marie. When she turned her head with
that little tilt of the chin, when she smiled, she was like
Marie. Bud leaned forward, staring, his brows drawn together,
breathing the short, quick breaths of emotion focussed upon one
object, excluding all else. Once, when Frank moved his body a
little in the next seat, Bud's hand went out that way
involuntarily. The touch of Frank's rough coat sleeve recalled
him brutally, so that he drew away with a wincing movement as
though he bad been hurt.

All those months in the desert; all those months of the slow
journeying northward; all the fought battles with memory, when he
thought that he had won--all gone for nothing, their slow
anodyne serving but to sharpen now the bite of merciless
remembering. His hand shook upon his knee. Small beads of
moisture oozed out upon his forehead. He sat stunned before the
amazing revelation of how little time and distance had done to
heal his hurt.

He wanted Marie. He wanted her more than he had ever wanted her
in the old days, with a tenderness, an impulse to shield her from
her own weaknesses, her own mistakes. Then--in those old days
--there had been the glamor of mystery that is called romance.
That was gone, worn away by the close intimacies of matrimony. He
knew her faults, he knew how she looked when she was angry and
petulant. He knew how little the real Marie resembled the
speciously amiable, altogether attractive Marie who faced a
smiling world when she went pleasuring. He knew, but--he
wanted her just the same. He wanted to tell her so many things
about the burros, and about the desert--things that would make
her laugh, and things that would make her blink back the tears.
He was homesick for her as he had never been homesick in his life
before. The picture flickered on through scene after scene that
Bud did not see at all, though he was staring unwinkingly at the
screen all the while. The love scenes at the last were poignantly
real, but they passed before his eyes unnoticed. Bud's mind was
dwelling upon certain love scenes of his own. He was feeling
Marie's presence beside him there in the dusk.

"Poor kid--she wasn't so much to blame," he muttered just
above his breath, when the screen was swept clean and blank at
the end of the last reel.

"Huh? Oh, he was the big mutt, right from the start," Frank
replied with the assured air of a connoisseur. "He didn't have
the brains of a bluejay, or he'd have known all the time she was
strong for him."

"I guess that's right," Bud mumbled, but he did not mean what
Frank thought he meant. "Let's go. I want a drink."

Frank was willing enough; too willing, if the truth were known.
They went out into the cool starlight, and hurried across the
side street that was no more than a dusty roadway, to the saloon
where they had spent the afternoon. Bud called for whisky, and
helped himself twice from the bottle which the bartender placed
between them. He did not speak until the second glass was
emptied, and then he turned to Frank with a purple glare in his

"Let's have a game of pool or something," he suggested.

"There's a good poker game going, back there," vouchsafed the
bartender, turning his thumb toward the rear, where half a dozen
men were gathered in a close group around a table. "There's some
real money in sight, to-night."

"All right, let's go see." Bud turned that way, Frank following
like a pet dog at his heels.

At dawn the next morning, Bud got up stiffly from the chair
where he had spent the night. His eyeballs showed a network of
tiny red veins, swollen with the surge of alcohol in his blood
and with the strain of staring all night at the cards. Beneath
his eyes were puffy ridges. His cheekbones flamed with the whisky
flush. He cashed in a double-handful of chips, stuffed the money
he had won into his coat pocket, walked, with that stiff
precision of gait by which a drunken man strives to hide his
drunkenness, to the bar and had another drink. Frank was at his
elbow. Frank was staggering, garrulous, laughing a great deal
over very small jokes.

"I'm going to bed," said Bud, his tongue forming the words with
a slow carefulness.

"Come over to my shack, Bud--rotten hotel. My bed's clean,
anyway." Frank laughed and plucked him by the sleeve.

"All right," Bud consented gravely. "We'll take a bottle


A man's mind is a tricky thing--or, speaking more exactly, a
man's emotions are tricky things. Love has come rushing to the
beck of a tip-tilted chin, or the tone of a voice, or the droop
of an eyelid. It has fled for cause as slight. Sometimes it runs
before resentment for a real or fancied wrong, but then, if you
have observed it closely, you will see that quite frequently,
when anger grows slow of foot, or dies of slow starvation, love
steals back, all unsuspected and unbidden--and mayhap causes
much distress by his return. It is like a sudden resurrection of
all the loved, long-mourned dead that sleep so serenely in their
tended plots. Loved though they were and long mourned, think of
the consternation if they all came trooping back to take their
old places in life! The old places that have been filled, most of
them, by others who are loved as dearly, who would be mourned if
they were taken away.

Psychologists will tell us all about the subconscious mind, the
hidden loves and hates and longings which we believe are dead and
long forgotten. When one of those emotions suddenly comes alive
and stands, terribly real and intrusive, between our souls and
our everyday lives, the strongest and the best of us may stumble
and grope blindly after content, or reparation, or forgetfulness,
or whatever seems most likely to give relief.

I am apologizing now for Bud, who had spent a good many months
in pushing all thoughts of Marie out of his mind, all hunger for
her out of his heart. He had kept away from towns, from women,
lest he be reminded too keenly of his matrimonial wreck. He had
stayed with Cash and had hunted gold, partly because Cash never
seemed conscious of any need of a home or love or wife or
children, and therefore never reminded Bud of the home and the
wife and the love and the child he had lost out of his own life.
Cash seldom mentioned women at all, and when he did it was in a
purely general way, as women touched some other subject he was
discussing. He never paid any attention to the children they met
casually in their travels. He seemed absolutely self-sufficient,
interested only in the prospect of finding a paying claim. What
he would do with wealth, if so be he attained it, he never seemed
to know or care. He never asked Bud any questions about his
private affairs, never seemed to care how Bud had lived, or
where. And Bud thankfully left his past behind the wall of
silence. So he had come to believe that he was almost as emotion-
proof as Cash appeared to be, and had let it go at that.

Now here be was, with his heart and his mind full of Marie--
after more than a year and a half of forgetting her! Getting
drunk and playing poker all night did not help him at all, for
when he woke it was from a sweet, intimate dream of her, and it
was to a tormenting desire for her, that gnawed at his mind as
hunger gnaws at the stomach. Bud could not understand it. Nothing
like that had ever happened to him before. By all his simple
rules of reckoning he ought to be "over it" by now. He had been,
until he saw that picture.

He was so very far from being over his trouble that he was
under it; a beaten dog wincing under the blows of memory, stung
by the lash of his longing. He groaned, and Frank thought it was
the usual "morning after" headache, and laughed ruefully.

"Same here," he said. "I've got one like a barrel, and I
didn't punish half the booze you did."

Bud did not say anything, but he reached for the bottle, tilted
it and swallowed three times before he stopped.

"Gee!" whispered Frank, a little enviously.

Bud glanced somberly across at Frank, who was sitting by the
stove with his jaws between his palms and his hair toweled,
regarding his guest speculatively.

"I'm going to get drunk again," Bud announced bluntly. "If you
don't want to, you'd better duck. You're too easy led--I saw
that last night. You follow anybody's lead that you happen to be
with. If you follow my lead to-day, you'll be petrified by night.
You better git, and let me go it alone."

Frank laughed uneasily. "Aw, I guess you ain't all that fatal,
Bud. Let's go over and have some breakfast--only it'll be

"You go, if you want to." Bud tilted the bottle again, his eyes
half closed while he swallowed. When he had finished, he
shuddered violently at the taste of the whisky. He got up, went
to the water bucket and drank half a dipper of water. "Good
glory! I hate whisky," he grumbled. "Takes a barrel to have any
effect on me too." He turned and looked down at Frank with a
morose kind of pity. "You go on and get your breakfast, kid. I
don't want any. I'll stay here for awhile."

He sat down on the side of the cheap, iron bedstead, and
emptied his pockets on the top quilt. He straightened the
crumpled bills and counted them, and sorted the silver pieces.
All told, he had sixty-three dollars and twenty cents. He sat
fingering the money absently, his mind upon other things. Upon
Marie and the baby, to be exact. He was fighting the impulse to
send Marie the money. She might need it for the kid. If he was
sure her mother wouldn't get any of it... A year and a half was
quite a while, and fifteen hundred dollars wasn't much to live on
these days. She couldn't work, with the baby on her hands...

Frank watched him curiously, his jaws still resting between his
two palms, his eyes red-rimmed and swollen, his lips loose and
trembling. A dollar alarm clock ticked resonantly, punctuated now
and then by the dull clink of silver as Bud lifted a coin and let
it drop on the little pile.

"Pretty good luck you had last night," Frank ventured wishfully.
"They cleaned me."

Bud straightened his drooping shoulders and scooped the money
into his hand. He laughed recklessly, and got up. "We'll try her
another whirl, and see if luck'll bring luck. Come on--let's
go hunt up some of them marks that got all the dough last night.
We'll split, fifty-fifty, and the same with what we win. Huh?"

"You're on, bo--let's go." Bud had gauged him correctly--
Frank would follow any one who would lead. He got up and came to
the table where Bud was dividing the money into two equal sums,
as nearly as he could make change. What was left over--and
that was the three dollars and twenty cents--he tossed into the
can of tobacco on a shelf.

"We'll let that ride--to sober up on, if we go broke," he
grunted. "Come on--let's get action."

Action, of a sort, they proceeded to get. Luck brought luck of
the same complexion. They won in fluctuating spells of good cards
and judicious teamwork. They did not cheat, though Frank was
ready if Bud had led him that way. Frank was ready for anything
that Bud suggested. He drank when Bud drank, went from the first
saloon to the one farther down and across the street, returned to
the first with cheerful alacrity and much meaningless laughter
when Bud signified a desire to change. It soothed Bud and
irritated him by turns, this ready acquiescence of Frank's. He
began to take a malicious delight in testing that acquiescence.
He began to try whether he could not find the end of Frank's
endurance in staying awake, his capacity for drink, his good
nature, his credulity--he ran the scale of Frank's various
qualifications, seeking always to establish a well-defined
limitation somewhere.

But Frank was utterly, absolutely plastic. He laughed and drank
when Bud suggested that they drink. He laughed and played
whatever game Bud urged him into. He laughed and agreed with Bud
when Bud made statements to test the credulity of anyman. He
laughed and said,"Sure. Let's go!" when Bud pined for a change of

On the third day Bud suddenly stopped in the midst of a game of
pool which neither was steady enough to play, and gravely
inspected the chalked end of his cue.

"That's about enough of this," he said. "We're drunk. We're so
drunk we don't know a pocket from a prospect hole. I'm tired of
being a hog. I'm going to go get another drink and sober up. And
if you're the dog Fido you've been so far, you'll do the same."
He leaned heavily upon the table, and regarded Frank with stern,
bloodshot blue eyes.

Frank laughed and slid his cue the length of the table. He also
leaned a bit heavily. "Sure," he said. "I'm ready, any time you

"Some of these days," Bud stated with drunken deliberation,
"they'll take and hang you, Frank, for being such an agreeable
cuss." He took Frank gravely by the arm and walked him to the
bar, paid for two beers with almost his last dollar, and, still
holding Frank firmly, walked him out of doors and down the street
to Frank's cabin. He pushed him inside and stood looking in upon
him with a sour appraisement.

"You are the derndest fool I ever run across--but at that
you're a good scout too," he informed Frank. "You sober up now,
like I said. You ought to know better 'n to act the way you've
been acting. I'm sure ashamed of you, Frank. Adios--I'm going
to hit the trail for camp." With that he pulled the door shut and
walked away, with that same circumspect exactness in his stride
which marks the drunken man as surely as does a stagger.

He remembered what it was that had brought him to town--
which is more than most men in his condition would have done. He
went to the pest office and inquired for mail, got what proved to
be the assayer's report, and went on. He bought half a dozen
bananas which did not remind him of that night when he had waited
on the Oakland pier for the mysterious Foster, though they might
have recalled the incident vividly to mind had he been sober. He
had been wooing forgetfulness, and for the time being he had won.

Walking up the steep, winding trail that led to Nelson Flat
cleared a little his fogged brain. He began to remember what it
was that he had been fighting to forget. Marie's face floated
sometimes before him, but the vision was misty and remote, like
distant woodland seen through the gray film of a storm. The
thought of her filled him with a vague discomfort now when his
emotions were dulled by the terrific strain he had wilfully put
upon brain and body. Resentment crept into the foreground again.
Marie had made him suffer. Marie was to blame for this beastly
fit of intoxication. He did not love Marie--he hated her. He
did not want to see her, he did not want to think of her. She had
done nothing for him but bring him trouble. Marie, forsooth!
(Only, Bud put it in a slightly different way.)

Halfway to the flat, he met Cash walking down the slope where
the trail seemed tunneled through deep green, so thick stood the
young spruce. Cash was swinging his arms in that free stride of
the man who has learned how to walk with the least effort. He did
not halt when he saw Bud plodding slowly up the trail, but came
on steadily, his keen, blue-gray eyes peering sharply from
beneath his forward tilted hat brim. He came up to within ten
feet of Bud, and stopped.

"Well!" He stood eyeing Bud appraisingly, much as Bud had eyed
Frank a couple of hours before. "I was just starting out to see
what had become of you," he added, his voice carrying the full
weight of reproach that the words only hinted at.

"Well, get an eyeful, if that's what you come for. I'm here--
and lookin's cheap." Bud's anger flared at the disapproval he
read in Cash's eyes, his voice, the set of his lips.

But Cash did not take the challenge. "Did the report come?" he
asked, as though that was the only matter worth discussing.

Bud pulled the letter sullenly from his pocket and gave it to
Cash. He stood moodily waiting while Cash opened and read and
returned it.

"Yeah. About what I thought--only it runs lighter in gold,
with a higher percentage of copper. It'll pay to go on and see
what's at bed rock. If the copper holds up to this all along,
we'll be figuring on the gold to pay for getting the copper. This
is copper country, Bud. Looks like we'd found us a copper mine."
He turned and walked on beside Bud. "I dug in to quite a rich
streak of sand while you was gone," he volunteered after a
silence. "Coarse gold, as high as fifteen cents a pan. I figure
we better work that while the weather's good, and run our tunnel
in on this other when snow comes."

Bud turned his head and looked at Cash intently for a minute.
"I've been drunker'n a fool for three days," he announced

"Yeah. You look it," was Cash's dry retort, while he stared
straight ahead, up the steep, shadowed trail.


For a month Bud worked and forced himself to cheerfulness, and
tried to forget. Sometimes it was easy enough, but there were
other times when he must get away by himself and walk and walk,
with his rifle over his shoulder as a mild pretense that he was
hunting game. But if he brought any back camp it was because the
game walked up and waited to he shot; half the time Bud did not
know where he was going, much less whether there were deer within
ten rods or ten miles.

During those spells of heartsickness he would sit all the
evening and smoke and stare at some object which his mind failed
to register. Cash would sit and watch him furtively; but Bud was
too engrossed with his own misery to notice it. Then, quite
unexpectedly, reaction would come and leave Bud in a peace that
was more than half a torpid refusal of his mind to worry much
over anything.

He worked then, and talked much with Cash, and made plans for
the development of their mine. In that month they had come to
call it a mine, and they had filed and recorded their claim, and
had drawn up an agreement of partnership in it. They would "sit
tight" and work on it through the winter, and when spring came
they hoped to have something tangible upon which to raise
sufficient capital to develop it properly. Or, times when they
had done unusually well with their sandbank, they would talk
optimistically about washing enough gold out of that claim to
develop the other, and keep the title all in their own hands.

Then, one night Bud dreamed again of Marie, and awoke with an
insistent craving for the oblivion of drunkenness. He got up and
cooked the breakfast, washed the dishes and swept the cabin, and
measured out two ounces of gold from what they had saved.

"You're keeping tabs on everything, Cash," he said shortly.
"Just charge this up to me. I'm going to town."

Cash looked up at him from under a slanted eye. brow. His lips
had a twist of pained disapproval.

"Yeah. I figured you was about due in town," he said

"Aw, lay off that told-you-so stuff," Bud growled. "You never
figured anything of the kind, and you know it." He pulled his
heavy sweater down off a nail and put it on, scowling because the
sleeves had to be pulled in place on his arms.

"Too bad you can't wait a day. I figured we'd have a clean-up
to-morrow, maybe. She's been running pretty heavy---"

"Well, go ahead and clean up, then. You can do it alone. Or
wait till I get back."

Cash laughed, as a retort cutting, and not because he was
amused. Bud swore and went out, slamming the door behind him.

It was exactly five days alter that when he opened it again.
Cash was mixing a batch of sour-dough bread into loaves, and he
did not say anything at all when Bud came in and stood beside the
stove, warming his hands and glowering around the, room. He
merely looked up, and then went on with his bread making.

Bud was not a pretty sight. Four days and nights of trying to
see how much whisky he could drink, and how long he could play
poker without going to sleep or going broke, had left their mark
on his face and his trembling hands. His eyes were puffy and red,
and his cheeks were mottled, and his lips were fevered and had
lost any sign of a humorous quirk at the corners. He looked ugly;
as if he would like nothing better than an excuse to quarrel with
Cash--since Cash was the only person at hand to quarrel with.

But Cash had not knocked around the world for nothing. He had
seen men in that mood before, and he had no hankering for trouble
which is vastly easier to start than it is to stop. He paid no
attention to Bud. He made his loaves, tucked them into the pan
and greased the top with bacon grease saved in a tomato can for
such use. He set the pan on a shelf behind the stove, covered it
with a clean flour sack, opened the stove door, and slid in two

"She's getting cold," he observed casually. "It'll be winter
now before we know it."

Bud grunted, pulled an empty box toward him by the simple
expedient of hooking his toes behind the corner, and sat down. He
set his elbows on his thighs and buried his face in his hands.
His hat dropped off his head and lay crown down beside him. He
made a pathetic figure of miserable manhood, of strength
mistreated. His fine, brown hair fell in heavy locks down over
his fingers that rested on his forehead. Five minutes so, and he
lifted his head and glanced around him apathetically. "Gee-man-
ee, I've got a headache!" he muttered, dropping his forehead into
his spread palms again.

Cash hesitated, derision hiding in the back of his eyes. Then
he pushed the dented coffeepot forward on the stove.

"Try a cup of coffee straight," he said unemotionally, "and
then lay down. You'll sleep it off in a few hours."

Bud did not look up, or make any move to show that he heard.
But presently he rose and went heavily over to his bunk. "I don't
want any darn coffee," he growled, and sprawled himself stomach
down on the bed, with his face turned from the light.

Cash eyed him coldly, with the corner of his upper lip lifted a
little. Whatever weaknesses he possessed, drinking and gambling
had no place in the list. Nor had he any patience with those
faults in others. Had Bud walked down drunk to Cash's camp, that
evening when they first met, he might have received a little food
doled out to him grudgingly, but he assuredly would not have
slept in Cash's bed that night. That he tolerated drunkenness in
Bud now would have been rather surprising to any one who knew
Cash well. Perhaps he had a vague understanding of the deeps
through which Bud was struggling, and so was constrained to hide
his disapproval, hoping that the moral let-down was merely a
temporary one.

He finished his strictly utilitarian household labor and went
off up the flat to the sluice boxes. Bud had not moved from his
first position on the bed, but he did not breathe like a sleeping
man. Not at first; after an hour or so he did sleep, heavily and
with queer, muddled dreams that had no sequence and left only a
disturbed sense of discomfort behind then.

At noon or a little after Cash returned to the cabin, cast a
sour look of contempt at the recumbent Bud, and built a fire in
the old cookstove. He got his dinner, ate it, and washed his
dishes with never a word to Bud, who had wakened and lay with his
eyes half open, sluggishly miserable and staring dully at the
rough spruce logs of the wall.

Cash put on his cap, looked at Bud and gave a snort, and went
off again to his work. Bud lay still for awhile longer, staring
dully at the wall. Finally he raised up, swung his feet to the
floor, and sat there staring around the little cabin as though he
had never before seen it.

"Huh! You'd think, the way he highbrows me, that Cash never
done wrong in his life! Tin angel, him--I don't think. Next
time, I'll tell a pinheaded world I'll have to bring home a quart
or two, and put on a show right!"

Just what he meant by that remained rather obscure, even to
Bud. He got up, shut his eyes very tight and then opened them
wide to clear his vision, shook himself into his clothes and went
over to the stove. Cash had not left the coffeepot on the stove
but had, with malicious intent--or so Bud believed--put it
away on the shelf so that what coffee remained was stone cold.
Bud muttered and threw out the coffee, grounds and all--a bit
of bachelor extravagance which only anger could drive him to--
and made fresh coffee, and made it strong. He did not want it. He
drank it for the work of physical regeneration it would do for

He lay down afterwards, and this time he dropped into a more
nearly normal sleep, which lasted until Cash returned at dusk
After that he lay with his face hidden, awake and thinking.
Thinking, for the most part, of how dull and purposeless life
was, and wondering why the world was made, or the people in it
--since nobody was happy, and few even pretended to be. Did God
really make the world, and man, just to play with--for a
pastime? Then why bother about feeling ashamed for anything one
did that was contrary to God's laws?

Why be puffed up with pride for keeping one or two of them
unbroken--like Cash, for instance. Just because Cash never
drank or played cards, what right had he to charge the whole
atmosphere of the cabin with his contempt and his disapproval of
Bud, who chose to do both?

On the other hand, why did he choose a spree as a relief from
his particular bunch of ghosts? Trading one misery for another
was all you could call it. Doing exactly the things that Marie's
mother had predicted he would do, committing the very sins that
Marie was always a little afraid he would commit--there must
be some sort of twisted revenge in that, he thought, but for the
life of him he could not quite see any real, permanent
satisfaction in it--especially since Marie and her mother
would never get to hear of it.

For that matter, he was not so sure that they would not get to
hear. He remembered meeting, just on the first edge of his spree,
one Joe De Barr, a cigar salesman whom he had known in San Jose.
Joe knew Marie--in fact, Joe had paid her a little attention
before Bud came into her life. Joe had been in Alpine between
trains, taking orders for goods from the two saloons and the
hotel. He had seen Bud drinking. Bud knew perfectly well how much
Joe had seen him drinking, and he knew perfectly well that Joe
was surprised to the point of amazement--and, Bud suspected,
secretly gratified as well. Wherefore Bud had deliberately done
what he could do to stimulate and emphasize both the surprise and
the gratification. Why is it that most human beings feel a
sneaking satisfaction in the downfall of another? Especially
another who is, or has been at sometime, a rival in love or in

Bud had no delusions concerning Joe De Barr. If Joe should
happen to meet Marie, he would manage somehow to let her know
that Bud was going to the dogs--on the toboggan--down and
out--whatever it suited Joe to declare him. It made Bud sore
now to think of Joe standing so smug and so well dressed and so
immaculate beside the bar, smiling and twisting the ends of his
little brown mustache while he watched Bud make such a consummate
fool of himself. At the time, though, Bud had taken a perverse
delight in making himself appear more soddenly drunken, more
boisterous and reckless than he really was.

Oh, well, what was the odds? Marie couldn't think any worse of
him than she already thought. And whatever she thought, their
trails had parted, and they would never cross again--not if
Bud could help it. Probably Marie would say amen to that. He
would like to know how she was getting along--and the baby,
too. Though the baby had never seemed quite real to Bud, or as if
it were a permanent member of the household. It was a leather-
lunged, red-faced, squirming little mite, and in his heart of
hearts Bud had not felt as though it belonged to him at all. He
had never rocked it, for instance, or carried it in his arms. He
had been afraid he might drop it, or squeeze it too hard, or
break it somehow with his man's strength. When he thought of
Marie he did not necessarily think of the baby, though sometimes
he did, wondering vaguely how much it had grown, and if it still
hollered for its bottle, all hours of the day and night.

Coming back to Marie and Joe--it was not at all certain that
they would meet; or that Joe would mention him, even if they did.
A wrecked home is always a touchy subject, so touchy that Joe had
never intimated in his few remarks to Bud that there had ever
been a Marie, and Bud, drunk as he had been, was still not too
drunk to held back the question that clamored to be spoken.

Whether he admitted it to himself or not, the sober Bud Moore
who lay on his bunk nursing a headache and a grouch against the
world was ashamed of the drunken Bud Moore who had paraded his
drunkenness before the man who knew Marie. He did not want Marie
to hear what Joe might tell There was no use, he told himself
miserably, in making Marie despise him as well as hate him. There
was a difference. She might think him a brute, and she might
accuse him of failing to be a kind and loving husband; but she
could not, unless Joe told of his spree, say that she had ever
heard of his carousing around. That it would be his own fault if
she did hear, served only to embitter his mood.

He rolled over and glared at Cash, who had cooked his supper
and was sitting down to eat it alone. Cash was looking
particularly misanthropic as he bent his head to meet the upward
journey of his coffee cup, and his eyes, when they lifted
involuntarily with Bud's sudden movement. had still that hard
look of bottled-up rancor that had impressed itself upon Bud
earlier in the day.

Neither man spoke, or made any sign of friendly recognition.
Bud would not have talked to any one in his present state of
self-disgust, but for all that Cash's silence rankled. A moment
their eyes met and held; then with shifted glances the souls of
them drew apart--farther apart than they had ever been, even
when they quarreled over Pete, down in Arizona.

When Cash had finished and was filing his pipe, Bud got up and
reheated the coffee, and fried more bacon and potatoes, Cash
having cooked just enough for himself. Cash smoked and gave no
heed, and Bud retorted by eating in silence and in straightway
washing his own cup, plate, knife, and fork and wiping clean the
side of the table where he always sat. He did not look at Cash,
but he felt morbidly that Cash was regarding him with that
hateful sneer hidden under his beard. He knew that it was silly
to keep that stony silence, but he kept telling himself that if
Cash wanted to talk, he had a tongue, and it was not tied.
Besides, Cash had registered pretty plainly his intentions and
his wishes when he excluded Bud from his supper.

It was a foolish quarrel, but it was that kind of foolish
quarrel which is very apt to harden into a lasting one.


Domestic wrecks may be a subject taboo in polite conversation,
but Joe De Barr was not excessively polite, and he had, moreover,
a very likely hope that Marie would yet choose to regard him with
more favor than she had shown in the past. He did not chance to
see her at once, but as soon as his work would permit he made it
a point to meet her. He went about it with beautiful directness.
He made bold to call her up on "long distance" from San
Francisco, told her that he would be in San Jose that night, and
invited her to a show.

Marie accepted without enthusiasm--and her listlessness was
not lost over forty miles of telephone wire. Enough of it seeped
to Joe's ears to make him twist his mustache quite furiously when
he came out of the telephone booth. If she was still stuck on
that fellow Bud, and couldn't see anybody else, it was high time
she was told a few things about him. It was queer how a nice girl
like Marie would hang on to some cheap guy like Bud Moore.
Regular fellows didn't stand any show--unless they played what
cards happened to fall their way. Joe, warned by her
indifference, set himself very seriously to the problem of
playing his cards to the best advantage.

He went into a flower store--disdaining the banked
loveliness upon the corners--and bought Marie a dozen great,
heavy-headed chrysanthemums, whose color he could not name to
save his life, so called them pink and let it go at that. They
were not pink, and they were not sweet--Joe held the bunch
well away from his protesting olfactory nerves which were not
educated to tantalizing odors--but they were more expensive
than roses, and he knew that women raved over them. He expected
Marie to rave over them, whether she liked them or not.

Fortified by these, groomed and perfumed and as prosperous
looking as a tobacco salesman with a generous expense account may
be, he went to San Jose on an early evening train that carried a
parlor car in which Joe made himself comfortable. He fooled even
the sophisticated porter into thinking him a millionaire,
wherefore he arrived in a glow of self-esteem, which bred much

Marie was impressed--at least with his assurance and the
chrysanthemums, over which she was sufficiently enthusiastic to
satisfy even Joe. Since he had driven to the house in a hired
automobile, he presently had the added satisfaction of handing
Marie into the tonneau as though she were a queen entering the
royal chariot, and of ordering the driver to take them out around
the golf links, since it was still very early. Then, settling
back with what purported to be a sigh of bliss, he regarded Marie
sitting small and still and listless beside him. The glow of the
chrysanthemums had already faded. Marie, with all the girlish
prettiness she had ever possessed, and with an added charm that
was very elusive and hard to analyze, seemed to have lost all of
her old animation.

Joe tried the weather, and the small gossip of the film world,
and a judiciously expurgated sketch of his life since he had last
seen her. Marie answered him whenever his monologue required
answer, but she was unresponsive, uninterested--bored. Joe
twisted his mustache, eyed her aslant and took the plunge.

"I guess joy-ridin' kinda calls up old times, ay?" he began
insidiously. "Maybe I shouldn't have brought you out for a ride;
maybe it brings back painful memories, as the song goes."

"Oh, no," said Marie spiritlessly. "I don't see why it should."

"No? Well, that's good to hear you say so, girlie. I was kinda
afraid maybe trouble had hit you hard. A sensitive, big-hearted
little person like you. But if you've put it all outa your mind,
why, that's where you're dead right. Personally, I was glad to
see you saw where you'd made a mistake, and backed up. That takes
grit and brains. Of course, we all make mistakes--you wasn't
to blame--innocent little kid like you--"

"Yes," said Marie, "I guess I made a mistake, all right."

"Sure! But you seen it and backed up. And a good thing you did.
Look what he'd of brought you to by now, if you'd stuck!"

Marie tilted back her head and looked up at the tall row of
eucalyptus trees feathered against the stars. "What?" she asked

"Well--I don't want to knock, especially a fellow that's on
the toboggan already. But I know a little girl that's aw-fully
lucky, and I'm honest enough to say so."

"Why?" asked Marie obligingly. "Why--in particular?"

"Why in particular?" Joe leaned toward her. "Say, you must of
heard how Bud's going to the dogs. If you haven't, I don't

"No, I hadn't heard," said Marie, looking up at the Big Dipper
so that her profile, dainty and girlish still, was revealed like
a cameo to Joe. "Is he? I love to watch the stars, don't you?"

"I love to watch a star," Joe breathed softly. "So you hadn't
heard how Bud's turned out to be a regular souse? Honest, didn't
you know it?"

"No, I didn't know it," said Marie boredly. "Has he?"

"Well, say! You couldn't tell it from the real thing! Believe
me, Buds some pickled bum, these days. I run across him up in the
mountains, a month or so ago. Honest, I was knocked plumb
silly--much as I knew about Bud that you never knew, I never
thought he'd turn out quite so--" Joe paused, with a perfect
imitation of distaste for his subject. "Say, this is great, out
here," he murmured, tucking the robe around her with that tender
protectiveness which stops just short of being proprietary.
"Honest, Marie, do you like it?"

"Why, sure, I like it, Joe." Marie smiled at him in the star-
light. "It's great, don't you think? I don't get out very often,
any more. I'm working, you know--and evenings and Sundays baby
takes up all my time."

"You working? Say, that's a darned shame! Don't Bud send you
any money?"

"He left some," said Marie frankly. "But I'm keeping that for
baby, when he grows up and needs it. He don't send any."

"Well, say! As long as he's in the State, you can make him dig
up. For the kid's support, anyway. Why don't you get after him?"

Marie looked down over the golf links, as the car swung around
the long curve at the head of the slope. "I don't know where he
is," she said tonelessly. "Where did you see him, Joe?"

Joe's hesitation lasted but long enough for him to give his
mustache end a twist. Marie certainly seemed to be well "over
it." There could be no harm in telling.

"Well, when I saw him he was at Alpine; that's a little burg up
in the edge of the mountains, on the W. P. He didn't look none
too prosperous, at that. But he had money--he was playing
poker and that kind of thing. And he was drunk as a boiled owl,
and getting drunker just as fast as he knew how. Seemed to be
kind of a stranger there; at least he didn't throw in with the
bunch like a native would. But that was more than a month ago,
Marie. He might not be there now. I could write up and find out
for you."

Marie settled back against the cushions as though she had
already dismissed the subject from her mind.

"Oh, don't bother about it, Joe. I don't suppose he's got any
money, anyway. Let's forget him."

"You said it, Marie. Stacked up to me like a guy that's got
just enough dough for a good big souse. He ain't hard to forget
--is he, girlie?"

Marie laughed assentingly. And if she did not quite attain her
old bubbling spirits during the evening, at least she sent Joe
back to San Francisco feeling very well satisfied with himself.
He must have been satisfied with himself. He must have been
satisfied with his wooing also, because he strolled into a
jewelry store the next morning and priced several rings which he
judged would be perfectly suitable for engagement rings. He might
have gone so far as to buy one, if he had been sure of the size
and of Marie's preference in stones. Since he lacked detailed
information, he decided to wait, but he intimated plainly to the
clerk that he would return in a few days.

It was just as well that he did decide to wait, for when he
tried again to see Marie he failed altogether. Marie had left
town. Her mother, with an acrid tone of resentment, declared that
she did not know any more than the man in the moon where Marie
had gone, but that she "suspicioned" that some fool had told
Marie where Bud was, and that Marie had gone traipsing after him.
She had taken the baby along, which was another piece of
foolishness which her mother would never have permitted had she
been at home when Marie left.

Joe did not take the matter seriously, though he was
disappointed at having made a fruitless trip to San Jose. He did
not believe that Marie had done anything more than take a
vacation from her mother's sharp-tongued rule, and for that he
could not blame her, after having listened for fifteen minutes to
the lady's monologue upon the subject of selfish, inconsiderate,
ungrateful daughters. Remembering Marie's attitude toward Bud, he
did not believe that she had gone hunting him.

Yet Marie had done that very thing. True, she had spent a
sleepless night fighting the impulse, and a harassed day trying
to make up her mind whether to write first, or whether to go and
trust to the element of surprise to help plead her cause with
Bud; whether to take Lovin Child with her, or leave him with her

She definitely decided to write Bud a short note and ask him if
he remembered having had a wife and baby, once upon a time, and
if he never wished that he bad them still. She wrote the letter,
crying a little over it along toward the last, as women will. But
it sounded cold-blooded and condemnatory. She wrote another,
letting a little of her real self into the lines. But that
sounded sentimental and moving-pictury, and she knew how Bud
hated cheap sentimentalism.

So she tore them both up and put them in the little heating
stove, and lighted a match and set them burning, and watched them
until they withered down to gray ash, and then broke up the ashes
and scattered them amongst the cinders. Marie, you must know, had
learned a good many things, one of which was the unwisdom of
whetting the curiosity of a curious woman.

After that she proceeded to pack a suit case for herself and
Lovin Child, seizing the opportunity while her mother was
visiting a friend in Santa Clara. Once the packing was began,
Marie worked with a feverish intensity of purpose and an
eagerness that was amazing, considering her usual apathy toward
everything in her life as she was living it.

Everything but Lovin Child. Him she loved and gloried in. He
was like Bud--so much like him that Marie could not have loved
him so much if she had managed to hate Bud as she tried sometimes
to hate him. Lovin Child was a husky youngster, and he already
had the promise of being as tall and straight-limbed and square-
shouldered as his father. Deep in his eyes there lurked always a
twinkle, as though he knew a joke that would make you laugh--
if only he dared tell it; a quizzical, secretly amused little
twinkle, as exactly like Bud's as it was possible for a two-year-
old twinkle to be. To go with the twinkle, he had a quirky little
smile. And to better the smile, he had the jolliest little
chuckle that ever came through a pair of baby lips.

He came trotting up to the suit case which Marie had spread
wide open on the bed, stood up on his tippy toes, and peered in.
The quirky smile was twitching his lips, and the look he turned
toward Marie's back was full of twinkle. He reached into the suit
case, clutched a clean handkerchief and blew his nose with solemn
precision; put the handkerchief back all crumpled, grabbed a silk
stocking and drew it around his neck, and was straining to reach
his little red Brownie cap when Marie turned and caught him up in
her arms.

"No, no, Lovin Child! Baby mustn't. Marie is going to take her
lovin' baby boy to find--" She glanced hastily over her
shoulder to make sure there was no one to hear, buried her face
in the baby's fat neck and whispered the wonder. "--to find
hims daddy Bud! Does Lovin Man want to see hims daddy Bud? I bet
he does want! I bet hims daddy Bud will be glad--Now you sit
right still, and Marie will get him a cracker, an' then he can
watch Marie pack him little shirt, and hims little bunny suit,
and hims wooh-wooh, and hims 'tockins--"

It is a pity that Bud could not have seen the two of them in
the next hour, wherein Marie flew to her hopeful task of packing
her suit case, and Lovin Child was quite as busy pulling things
out of it, and getting stepped on, and having to be comforted,
and insisting upon having on his bunny suit, and then howling to
go before Marie was ready. Bud would have learned enough to ease
the ache in his heart--enough to humble him and fill him with
an abiding reverence for a love that will live, as Marie's had
lived, on bitterness and regret.

Nearly distracted under the lash of her own eagerness and the
fear that her mother would return too soon and bully her into
giving up her wild plan, Marie, carrying Lovin Child on one arm
and lugging the suit case in the other hand, and half running,
managed to catch a street car and climb aboard all out of breath
and with her hat tilted over one ear. She deposited the baby on
the seat beside her, fumbled for a nickel, and asked the
conductor pantingly if she would be in time to catch the four-
five to the city. It maddened her to watch the bored deliberation
of the man as he pulled out his watch and regarded it

"You'll catch it--if you're lucky about your transfer," he
said, and rang up her fare and went off to the rear platform,
just as if it were not a matter of life and death at all. Marie
could have shaken him for his indifference; and as for the
motorman, she was convinced that he ran as slow as he dared, just
to drive her crazy. But even with these two inhuman monsters
doing their best to make her miss the train, and with the street
car she wanted to transfer to running off and leaving her at the
very last minute, and with Lovin Child suddenly discovering that
he wanted to be carried, and that he emphatically did not want
her to carry the suit case at all, Marie actually reached the
depot ahead of the four-five train. Much disheveled and flushed
with nervousness and her exertions, she dragged Lovin Child up
the steps by one arm, found a seat in the chair car and, a few
minutes later, suddenly realized that she was really on her way
to an unknown little town in an unknown part of the country, in
quest of a man who very likely did not want to be found by her.

Two tears rolled down her cheeks, and were traced to the
corners of her mouth by the fat, investigative finger of Lovin
Child before Marie could find her handkerchief and wipe them
away. Was any one in this world ever so utterly, absolutely
miserable? She doubted it. What if she found Bud--drunk, as
Joe had described him? Or, worse than that, what if she did not
find him at all? She tried not to cry, but it seemed as though
she must cry or scream. Fast as she wiped them away, other tears
dropped over her eyelids upon her cheeks, and were given the
absorbed attention of Lovin Child, who tried to catch each one
with his finger. To distract him, she turned him around face to
the window.

"See all the--pitty cows," she urged, her lips trembling so
much that they would scarcely form the words. And when Lovin
Child flattened a finger tip against the window and chuckled, and
said "Ee? Ee?"--which was his way of saying see--Marie
dropped her face down upon his fuzzy red "bunny" cap, hugged him
close to her, and cried, from sheer, nervous reaction.


Bud Moore woke on a certain morning with a distinct and well-
defined grouch against the world as he had found it; a grouch
quite different from the sullen imp of contrariness that had
possessed him lately. He did not know just what had caused the
grouch, and he did not care. He did know, however, that he
objected to the look of Cash's overshoes that stood pigeon-toed
beside Cash's bed on the opposite side of the room, where Bud had
not set his foot for three weeks and more. He disliked the
audible yawn with which Cash manifested his return from the
deathlike unconsciousness of sleep. He disliked the look of
Cash's rough coat and sweater and cap, that hung on a nail over
Cash's bunk. He disliked the thought of getting up in the
cold--and more, the sure knowledge that unless he did get up, and
that speedily, Cash would be dressed ahead of him, and starting a
fire in the cookstove. Which meant that Cash would be the first
to cook and eat his breakfast, and that the warped ethics of
their dumb quarrel would demand that Bud pretend to be asleep
until Cash had fried his bacon and his hotcakes and had carried
them to his end of the oilcloth-covered table.

When, by certain well-known sounds, Bud was sure that Cash was
eating, he could, without loss of dignity or without suspicion of
making any overtures toward friendliness, get up and dress and
cook his own breakfast, and eat it at his own end of the table.
Bud wondered how long Cash, the old fool, would sulk like that
Not that he gave a darn--he just wondered, is all. For all he
cared, Cash could go on forever cooking his own meals and living
on his own side of the shack. Bud certainly would not interrupt
him in acting the fool, and if Cash wanted to keep it up till
spring, Cash was perfectly welcome to do so. It just showed how
ornery a man could be when he was let to go. So far as he was
concerned, he would just as soon as not have that dead line
painted down the middle of the cabin floor.

Nor did its presence there trouble him in the least. Just this
morning, however, the fact of Cash's stubbornness in keeping to
his own side of the line irritated Bud. He wanted to get back at
the old hound somehow--without giving in an inch in the mute
deadlock. Furthermore, he was hungry, and he did not propose to
lie there and starve while old Cash pottered around the stove.
He'd tell the world he was going to have his own breakfast first,
and if Cash didn't want to set in on the cooking, Cash could lie
in bed till he was paralyzed, and be darned.

At that moment Cash pushed back the blankets that had been
banked to his ears. Simultaneously, Bud swung his feet to the
cold floor with a thump designed solely to inform Cash that Bud
was getting up. Cash turned over with his back to the room and
pulled up the blankets. Bud grinned maliciously and dressed as
deliberately as the cold of the cabin would let him. To be sure,
there was the disadvantage of having to start his own fire, but
that disagreeable task was offset by the pleasure he would get in
messing around as long as he could, cooking his breakfast. He
even thought of frying potatoes and onions after he cooked his
bacon. Potatoes and onions fried together have a lovely tendency
to stick to the frying pan, especially if there is not too much
grease, and if they are fried very slowly. Cash would have to do
some washing and scraping, when it came his turn to cook. Bud
knew just about how mad that would make Cash, and he dwelt upon
the prospect relishfully.

Bud never wanted potatoes for his breakfast. Coffee, bacon, and
hotcakes suited him perfectly. But just for meanness, because he
felt mean and he wanted to act mean, he sliced the potatoes and
the onions into the frying pan, and, to make his work
artistically complete, he let them burn and stick to the pan,--
after he had his bacon and hotcakes fried, of course!

He sat down and began to eat. And presently Cash crawled out
into the warm room filled with the odor of frying onions, and
dressed himself with the detached calm of the chronically sulky
individual. Not once did the manner of either man betray any
consciousness of the other's presence. Unless some detail of the
day's work compelled them to speech, not once for more than three
weeks had either seemed conscious of the other.

Cash washed his face and his hands, took the side of bacon, and
cut three slices with the precision of long practice. Bud sopped
his last hotcake in a pool of syrup and watched him from the
corner of his eyes, without turning his head an inch toward Cash.
His keenest desire, just then, was to see Cash when he tackled
the frying pan.

But Cash disappointed him there. He took a pie tin off the
shelf and laid his strips of bacon on it, and set it in the oven;
which is a very good way of cooking breakfast bacon, as Bud well
knew. Cash then took down the little square baking pan, greased
from the last baking of bread, and in that he fried his hot
cakes. As if that were not sufficiently exasperating, he gave
absolutely no sign of being conscious of the frying pan any more
than he was conscious of Bud. He did not overdo it by whistling,
or even humming a tune--which would have given Bud an excuse
to say something almost as mean as his mood. Abstractedness rode
upon Cash's lined brow. Placid meditation shone forth from his
keen old blue-gray eyes.

The bacon came from the oven juicy-crisp and curled at the
edges and delicately browned. The cakes came out of the baking
pan brown and thick and light. Cash sat down at his end of the
table, pulled his own can of sugar and his own cup of sirup and
his own square of butter toward him; poured his coffee, that he
had made in a small lard pail, and began to eat his breakfast
exactly as though he was alone in that cabin.

A great resentment filled Bud's soul to bursting, The old
hound! Bud believed now that Cash was capable of leaving that
frying pan dirty for the rest of the day! A man like that would
do anything! If it wasn't for that claim, he'd walk off and
forget to come back.

Thinking of that seemed to crystallize into definite purpose
what had been muddling his mind with vague impulses to let his
mood find expression. He would go to Alpine that day. He would
hunt up Frank and see if he couldn't jar him into showing that
he had a mind of his own. Twice since that first unexpected
spree, he had spent a good deal of time and gold dust and
consumed a good deal of bad whisky and beer, in testing the
inherent obligingness of Frank. The last attempt had been the
cause of the final break between him and Cash. Cash had reminded
Bud harshly that they would need that gold to develop their
quartz claim, and he had further stated that he wanted no "truck"
with a gambler and a drunkard, and that Bud had better straighten
up if he wanted to keep friends with Cash.

Bud had retorted that Cash might as well remember that Bud had
a half interest in the two claims, and that he would certainly
stay with it. Meantime, he would tell the world he was his own
boss, and Cash needn't think for a minute that Bud was going to
ask permission for what he did or did not do. Cash needn't have
any truck with him, either. It suited Bud very well to keep on
his own side of the cabin, and he'd thank Cash to mind his own
business and not step over the dead line.

Cash had laughed disagreeably and asked Bud what he was going
to do--draw a chalk mark, maybe?

Bud, half drunk and unable to use ordinary good sense, had said
yes, by thunder, he'd draw a chalk line if he wanted to, and if
he did, Cash had better not step over it either, unless he wanted
to be kicked back.

Wherefore the broad, black line down the middle of the floor to
where the table stood. Obviously, he could not well divide the
stove and the teakettle and the frying pan and coffeepot. The
line stopped abruptly with a big blob of lampblack mixed with
coal oil, just where necessity compelled them both to use the
same floor space.

The next day Bud had been ashamed of the performance, but his
shame could not override his stubbornness. The black line stared
up at him accusingly. Cash, keeping scrupulously upon his own
side of it, went coldly about his own affairs and never yielded
so much as a glance at Bud. And Bud grew more moody and
dissatisfied with himself, but he would not yield, either.
Perversely he waited for Cash to apologize for what he had said
about gamblers and drunkards, and tried to believe that upon Cash
rested all of the blame.

Now he washed his own breakfast dishes, including the frying
pan, spread the blankets smooth on his bunk, swept as much of the
floor as lay upon his side of the dead line. Because the wind was
in the storm quarter and the lowering clouds promised more snow,
he carried in three big armfuls of wood and placed them upon his
corner of the fireplace, to provide warmth when he returned. Cash
would not touch that wood while Bud was gone, and Bud knew it.
Cash would freeze first. But there was small chance of that,
because a small, silent rivalry had grown from the quarrel; a
rivalry to see which kept the best supply of wood, which swept
cleanest under his bunk and up to the black line, which washed
his dishes cleanest, and kept his shelf in the cupboard the
tidiest. Before the fireplace in an evening Cash would put on
wood, and when next it was needed, Bud would get up and put on
wood. Neither would stoop to stinting or to shirking, neither
would give the other an inch of ground for complaint. It was not
enlivening to live together that way, but it worked well toward
keeping the cabin ship shape.

So Bud, knowing that it was going to storm, and perhaps
dreading a little the long monotony of being housed with a man as
stubborn as himself, buttoned a coat over his gray, roughneck
sweater, pulled a pair of mail-order mittens over his mail-order
gloves, stamped his feet into heavy, three-buckled overshoes, and
set out to tramp fifteen miles through the snow, seeking the kind
of pleasure which turns to pain with the finding.

He knew that Cash, out by the woodpile, let the axe blade
linger in the cut while he stared after him. He knew that Cash
would be lonesome without him, whether Cash ever admitted it or
not. He knew that Cash would be passively anxious until he
returned--for the months they had spent together had linked
them closer than either would confess. Like a married couple who
bicker and nag continually when together, but are miserable when
apart, close association had become a deeply grooved habit not
easily thrust aside. Cabin fever might grip them and impel them
to absurdities such as the dead line down the middle of their
floor and the silence that neither desired but both were too
stubborn to break; but it could not break the habit of being
together. So Bud was perfectly aware of the fact that he would be
missed, and he was ill-humored enough to be glad of it. Frank, if
he met Bud that day, was likely to have his amiability tested to
its limit.

Bud tramped along through the snow, wishing it was not so deep,
or else deep enough to make snow-shoeing practicable in the
timber; thinking too of Cash and how he hoped Cash would get his
fill of silence, and of Frank, and wondering where ho would find
him. He had covered perhaps two miles of the fifteen, and had
walked off a little of his grouch, and had stopped to unbutton
his coat, when he heard the crunching of feet in the snow, just
beyond a thick clump of young spruce.

Bud was not particularly cautious, nor was he averse to meeting
people in the trail. He stood still though, and waited to see who
was coming that way--since travelers on that trail were few
enough to be noticeable.

In a minute more a fat old squaw rounded the spruce grove and
shied off startled when she glimpsed Bud. Bud grunted and started
on, and the squaw stepped clear of the faintly defined trail to
let him pass. Moreover, she swung her shapeless body around so
that she half faced him as he passed. Bud's lips tightened, and
he gave her only a glance. He hated fat old squaws that were
dirty and wore their hair straggling down over their crafty,
black eyes. They burlesqued womanhood in a way that stirred
always a smoldering resentment against them. This particular
squaw had nothing to commend her to his notice. She had a dirty
red bandanna tied over her dirty, matted hair and under her grimy
double chin. A grimy gray blanket was draped closely over her
squat shoulders and formed a pouch behind, wherein the plump form
of a papoose was cradled, a little red cap pulled down over its

Bud strode on, his nose lifted at the odor of stale smoke that
pervaded the air as he passed. The squaw, giving him a furtive
stare, turned and started on, bent under her burden.

Then quite suddenly a wholly unexpected sound pursued Bud and
halted him in the trail; the high, insistent howl of a child that
has been denied its dearest desire of the moment. Bud looked back
inquiringly. The squaw was hurrying on, and but for the
straightness of the trail just there, her fat old canvas-wrapped
legs would have carried her speedily out of sight. Of course,
papooses did yell once in awhile, Bud supposed, though he did not
remember ever hearing one howl like that on the trail. But what
made the squaw in such a deuce of a hurry all at once?

Bud's theory of her kind was simple enough: If they fled from
you, it was because they had stolen something and were afraid you
would catch them at it. He swung around forthwith in the trail
and went after her--whereat she waddled faster through the
snow like a frightened duck.

"Hey! You come back here a minute! What's all the rush?" Bud's
voice and his long legs pursued, and presently he overtook her
and halted her by the simple expedient of grasping her shoulder
firmly. The high-keyed howling ceased as suddenly as it had
begun, and Bud, peering under the rolled edge of the red stocking
cap, felt his jaw go slack with surprise.

The baby was smiling at him delightedly, with a quirk of the
lips and a twinkle lodged deep somewhere in its eyes. It worked
one hand free of its odorous wrappings, spread four fat fingers
wide apart over one eye, and chirped, "Pik-k?" and chuckled
infectiously deep in its throat.

Bud gulped and stared and felt a warm rush of blood from his
heart up into his head. A white baby, with eyes that laughed, and
quirky red lips that laughed with the eyes, and a chuckling voice
like that, riding on the back of that old squaw, struck him dumb
with astonishment.

"Good glory!" he blurted, as though the words had been jolted
from him by the shock. Where-upon the baby reached out its hand
to him and said haltingly, as though its lips had not yet grown
really familiar with the words:


The squaw tried to jerk away, and Bud gave her a jerk to let
her know who was boss. "Say, where'd you git that kid?" he
demanded aggressively.

She moved her wrapped feet uneasily in the snow, flickered a
filmy, black eyed glance at Bud's uncompromising face, and waved
a dirty paw vaguely in a wide sweep that would have kept a
compass needle revolving if it tried to follow and was not
calculated to be particularly enlightening.

"Lo-ong ways," she crooned, and her voice was the first
attractive thing Bud had discovered about her. It was pure
melody, soft and pensive as the cooing of a wood dove.

"Who belongs to it?" Bud was plainly suspicious. The shake of
the squaw's bandannaed head was more artfully vague than her
gesture. "Don' know--modder die--fadder die--ketchum
long ways--off."

"Well, what's its name?" Bud's voice harshened with his growing
interest and bewilderment. The baby was again covering one
twinkling eye with its spread, pink palm, and was saying "Pik-k?"
and laughing with the funniest little squint to its nose that Bud
had ever seen. It was so absolutely demoralizing that to relieve
himself Bud gave the squaw a shake. This tickled the baby so much
that the chuckle burst into a rollicking laugh, with a catch of
the breath after each crescendo tone that made it absolutely
individual and like none other--save one.

"What's his name?" Bud bullied the squaw, though his eyes were
on the baby.

"Don't know "

"Take--Uvin--Chal," the baby demanded imperiously.

"Uh--uh--uh? Take!"

"Uvin Chal? Now what'd yuh mean by that, oletimer?" Bud obeyed
an overpowering impulse to reach out and touch the baby's cheek
with a mittened thumb. The baby responded instantly by again
demanding that Bud should take.

"Pik-k?" said Bud, a mitten over one eye.

"Pik-k?" said the baby, spreading his fat hand again and
twinkling at Bud between his fingers. But immediately afterwards

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