Part 1 out of 4
STORIES IN LIGHT AND SHADOW
From: "ARGONAUT EDITION" OF THE WORKS OF BRET HARTE, VOL. 13
P. F. COLLIER & SON
UNCLE JIM AND UNCLE BILLY
THE DESBOROUGH CONNECTIONS
SALOMY JANE'S KISS
THE MAN AND THE MOUNTAIN
THE PASSING OF ENRIQUEZ
STORIES IN LIGHT AND SHADOW
The American consul for Schlachtstadt had just turned out of the
broad Konig's Allee into the little square that held his consulate.
Its residences always seemed to him to wear that singularly
uninhabited air peculiar to a street scene in a theatre. The
facades, with their stiff, striped wooden awnings over the windows,
were of the regularity, color, and pattern only seen on the stage,
and conversation carried on in the street below always seemed to be
invested with that perfect confidence and security which surrounds
the actor in his painted desert of urban perspective. Yet it was a
peaceful change to the other byways and highways of Schlachtstadt
which were always filled with an equally unreal and mechanical
soldiery, who appeared to be daily taken out of their boxes of
"caserne" or "depot" and loosely scattered all over the pretty
linden-haunted German town. There were soldiers standing on street
corners; soldiers staring woodenly into shop windows; soldiers
halted suddenly into stone, like lizards, at the approach of
Offiziere; Offiziere lounging stiffly four abreast, sweeping the
pavement with their trailing sabres all at one angle. There were
cavalcades of red hussars, cavalcades of blue hussars, cavalcades
of Uhlans, with glittering lances and pennons--with or without a
band--formally parading; there were straggling "fatigues" or
"details" coming round the corners; there were dusty, businesslike
columns of infantry, going nowhere and to no purpose. And they one
and all seemed to be WOUND UP--for that service--and apparently
always in the same place. In the band of their caps--invariably of
one pattern--was a button, in the centre of which was a square
opening or keyhole. The consul was always convinced that through
this keyhole opening, by means of a key, the humblest caporal wound
up his file, the Hauptmann controlled his lieutenants and non-
commissioned officers, and even the general himself, wearing the
same cap, was subject through his cap to a higher moving power. In
the suburbs, when the supply of soldiers gave out, there were
sentry-boxes; when these dropped off, there were "caissons," or
commissary wagons. And, lest the military idea should ever fail
from out the Schlachtstadt's burgher's mind, there were police in
uniform, street-sweepers in uniform; the ticket-takers, guards, and
sweepers at the Bahnhof were in uniform,--but all wearing the same
kind of cap, with the probability of having been wound up freshly
each morning for their daily work. Even the postman delivered
peaceful invoices to the consul with his side-arms and the air of
bringing dispatches from the field of battle; and the consul
saluted, and felt for a few moments the whole weight of his
Yet, in spite of this military precedence, it did not seem in the
least inconsistent with the decidedly peaceful character of the
town, and this again suggested its utter unreality; wandering cows
sometimes got mixed up with squadrons of cavalry, and did not seem
to mind it; sheep passed singly between files of infantry, or
preceded them in a flock when on the march; indeed, nothing could
be more delightful and innocent than to see a regiment of infantry
in heavy marching order, laden with every conceivable thing they
could want for a week, returning after a cheerful search for an
invisible enemy in the suburbs, to bivouac peacefully among the
cabbages in the market-place. Nobody was ever imposed upon for a
moment by their tremendous energy and severe display; drums might
beat, trumpets blow, dragoons charge furiously all over the
Exercier Platz, or suddenly flash their naked swords in the streets
to the guttural command of an officer--nobody seemed to mind it.
People glanced up to recognize Rudolf or Max "doing their service,"
nodded, and went about their business. And although the officers
always wore their side-arms, and at the most peaceful of social
dinners only relinquished their swords in the hall, apparently that
they might be ready to buckle them on again and rush out to do
battle for the Fatherland between the courses, the other guests
only looked upon these weapons in the light of sticks and
umbrellas, and possessed their souls in peace. And when, added to
this singular incongruity, many of these warriors were spectacled,
studious men, and, despite their lethal weapons, wore a slightly
professional air, and were--to a man--deeply sentimental and
singularly simple, their attitude in this eternal Kriegspiel seemed
to the consul more puzzling than ever.
As he entered his consulate he was confronted with another aspect
of Schlachtstadt quite as wonderful, yet already familiar to him.
For, in spite of these "alarums without," which, however, never
seem to penetrate beyond the town itself, Schlachtstadt and its
suburbs were known all over the world for the manufactures of
certain beautiful textile fabrics, and many of the rank and file of
those warriors had built up the fame and prosperity of the district
over their peaceful looms in wayside cottages. There were great
depots and counting-houses, larger than even the cavalry barracks,
where no other uniform but that of the postman was known. Hence it
was that the consul's chief duty was to uphold the flag of his own
country by the examination and certification of divers invoices
sent to his office by the manufacturers. But, oddly enough, these
business messengers were chiefly women,--not clerks, but ordinary
household servants, and, on busy days, the consulate might have
been mistaken for a female registry office, so filled and possessed
it was by waiting Madchen. Here it was that Gretchen, Lieschen,
and Clarchen, in the cleanest of blue gowns, and stoutly but
smartly shod, brought their invoices in a piece of clean paper, or
folded in a blue handkerchief, and laid them, with fingers more or
less worn and stubby from hard service, before the consul for his
signature. Once, in the case of a very young Madchen, that
signature was blotted by the sweep of a flaxen braid upon it as the
child turned to go; but generally there was a grave, serious
business instinct and sense of responsibility in these girls of
ordinary peasant origin which, equally with their sisters of
France, were unknown to the English or American woman of any class.
That morning, however, there was a slight stir among those who,
with their knitting, were waiting their turn in the outer office as
the vice-consul ushered the police inspector into the consul's
private office. He was in uniform, of course, and it took him a
moment to recover from his habitual stiff, military salute,--a
little stiffer than that of the actual soldier.
It was a matter of importance! A stranger had that morning been
arrested in the town and identified as a military deserter. He
claimed to be an American citizen; he was now in the outer office,
waiting the consul's interrogation.
The consul knew, however, that the ominous accusation had only a
mild significance here. The term "military deserter" included any
one who had in youth emigrated to a foreign country without first
fulfilling his military duty to his fatherland. His first
experiences of these cases had been tedious and difficult,--
involving a reference to his Minister at Berlin, a correspondence
with the American State Department, a condition of unpleasant
tension, and finally the prolonged detention of some innocent
German--naturalized--American citizen, who had forgotten to bring
his papers with him in revisiting his own native country. It so
chanced, however, that the consul enjoyed the friendship and
confidence of the General Adlerkreutz, who commanded the 20th
Division, and it further chanced that the same Adlerkreutz was as
gallant a soldier as ever cried Vorwarts! at the head of his men,
as profound a military strategist and organizer as ever carried his
own and his enemy's plans in his iron head and spiked helmet, and
yet with as simple and unaffected a soul breathing under his gray
mustache as ever issued from the lips of a child. So this grim but
gentle veteran had arranged with the consul that in cases where the
presumption of nationality was strong, although the evidence was
not present, he would take the consul's parole for the appearance
of the "deserter" or his papers, without the aid of prolonged
diplomacy. In this way the consul had saved to Milwaukee a worthy
but imprudent brewer, and to New York an excellent sausage butcher
and possible alderman; but had returned to martial duty one or two
tramps or journeymen who had never seen America except from the
decks of the ships in which they were "stowaways," and on which
they were returned,--and thus the temper and peace of two great
nations were preserved.
"He says," said the inspector severely, "that he is an American
citizen, but has lost his naturalization papers. Yet he has made
the damaging admission to others that he lived several years in
Rome! And," continued the inspector, looking over his shoulder at
the closed door as he placed his finger beside his nose, "he says
he has relations living at Palmyra, whom he frequently visited.
Ach! Observe this unheard-of-and-not-to-be-trusted statement!"
The consul, however, smiled with a slight flash of intelligence.
"Let me see him," he said.
They passed into the outer office; another policeman and a corporal
of infantry saluted and rose. In the centre of an admiring and
sympathetic crowd of Dienstmadchen sat the culprit, the least
concerned of the party; a stripling--a boy--scarcely out of his
teens! Indeed, it was impossible to conceive of a more innocent,
bucolic, and almost angelic looking derelict. With a skin that had
the peculiar white and rosiness of fresh pork, he had blue eyes,
celestially wide open and staring, and the thick flocculent yellow
curls of the sun god! He might have been an overgrown and badly
dressed Cupid who had innocently wandered from Paphian shores. He
smiled as the consul entered, and wiped from his full red lips with
the back of his hand the traces of a sausage he was eating. The
consul recognized the flavor at once,--he had smelled it before in
Lieschen's little hand-basket.
"You say you lived at Rome?" began the consul pleasantly. "Did you
take out your first declaration of your intention of becoming an
American citizen there?"
The inspector cast an approving glance at the consul, fixed a stern
eye on the cherubic prisoner, and leaned back in his chair to hear
the reply to this terrible question.
"I don't remember," said the culprit, knitting his brows in infantine
thought. "It was either there, or at Madrid or Syracuse."
The inspector was about to rise; this was really trifling with the
dignity of the municipality. But the consul laid his hand on the
official's sleeve, and, opening an American atlas to a map of the
State of New York, said to the prisoner, as he placed the
inspector's hand on the sheet, "I see you know the names of the
TOWNS on the Erie and New York Central Railroad. But"--
"I can tell you the number of people in each town and what are the
manufactures," interrupted the young fellow, with youthful vanity.
"Madrid has six thousand, and there are over sixty thousand in"--
"That will do," said the consul, as a murmur of Wunderschon! went
round the group of listening servant girls, while glances of
admiration were shot at the beaming accused. "But you ought to
remember the name of the town where your naturalization papers were
"But I was a citizen from the moment I made my declaration," said
the stranger smiling, and looking triumphantly at his admirers,
"and I could vote!"
The inspector, since he had come to grief over American geographical
nomenclature, was grimly taciturn. The consul, however, was by no
means certain of his victory. His alleged fellow citizen was too
encyclopaedic in his knowledge: a clever youth might have crammed
for this with a textbook, but then he did not LOOK at all clever;
indeed, he had rather the stupidity of the mythological subject he
represented. "Leave him with me," said the consul. The inspector
handed him a precis of the case. The cherub's name was Karl
Schwartz, an orphan, missing from Schlachtstadt since the age of
twelve. Relations not living, or in emigration. Identity
established by prisoner's admission and record.
"Now, Karl," said the consul cheerfully, as the door of his private
office closed upon them, "what is your little game? Have you EVER
had any papers? And if you were clever enough to study the map of
New York State, why weren't you clever enough to see that it
wouldn't stand you in place of your papers?"
"Dot's joost it," said Karl in English; "but you see dot if I haf
declairet mine intention of begomming a citizen, it's all the same,
"By no means, for you seem to have no evidence of the DECLARATION;
no papers at all."
"Zo!" said Karl. Nevertheless, he pushed his small, rosy, pickled-
pig's-feet of fingers through his fleecy curls and beamed
pleasantly at the consul. "Dot's vot's der matter," he said, as if
taking a kindly interest in some private trouble of the consul's.
"Dot's vere you vos, eh?"
The consul looked steadily at him for a moment. Such stupidity was
by no means phenomenal, nor at all inconsistent with his
appearance. "And," continued the consul gravely, "I must tell you
that, unless you have other proofs than you have shown, it will be
my duty to give you up to the authorities."
"Dot means I shall serve my time, eh?" said Karl, with an unchanged
"Exactly so," returned the consul.
"Zo!" said karl. "Dese town--dose Schlachtstadt--is fine town, eh?
Fine vomens. Goot men. Und beer und sausage. Blenty to eat and
drink, eh? Und," looking around the room, "you and te poys haf a
"Yes," said the consul shortly, turning away. But he presently
faced round again on the unfettered Karl, who was evidently
indulging in a gormandizing reverie.
"What on earth brought you here, anyway?"
"Was it das?"
"What brought you here from America, or wherever you ran away from?"
"To see der, volks."
"But you are an ORPHAN, you know, and you have no folks living
"But all Shermany is mine volks,--de whole gountry, don't it? Pet
your poots! How's dot, eh?"
The consul turned back to his desk and wrote a short note to
General Adlerkreutz in his own American German. He did not think
it his duty in the present case to interfere with the authorities
or to offer his parole for Karl Schwartz. But he would claim that,
as the offender was evidently an innocent emigrant and still young,
any punishment or military degradation be omitted, and he be
allowed to take his place like any other recruit in the ranks. If
he might have the temerity to the undoubted, far-seeing military
authority of suggestion making here, he would suggest that Karl was
for the commissariat fitted! Of course, he still retained the
right, on production of satisfactory proof, his discharge to claim.
The consul read this aloud to Karl. The cherubic youth smiled and
said, "Zo!" Then, extending his hand, he added the word "Zshake!"
The consul shook his hand a little remorsefully, and, preceding him
to the outer room, resigned him with the note into the inspector's
hands. A universal sigh went up from the girls, and glances of
appeal sought the consul; but he wisely concluded that it would be
well, for a while, that Karl--a helpless orphan--should be under
some sort of discipline! And the securer business of certifying
Late that afternoon he received a folded bit of blue paper from the
waistbelt of an orderly, which contained in English characters and
as a single word "Alright," followed by certain jagged pen-marks,
which he recognized as Adlerkreutz's signature. But it was not
until a week later that he learned anything definite. He was
returning one night to his lodgings in the residential part of the
city, and, in opening the door with his pass-key, perceived in the
rear of the hall his handmaiden Trudschen, attended by the usual
blue or yellow or red shadow. He was passing by them with the
local 'n' Abend! on his lips when the soldier turned his face and
saluted. The consul stopped. It was the cherub Karl in uniform!
But it had not subdued a single one of his characteristics. His
hair had been cropped a little more closely under his cap, but
there was its color and woolliness still intact; his plump figure
was girt by belt and buttons, but he only looked the more unreal,
and more like a combination of pen-wiper and pincushion, until his
puffy breast and shoulders seemed to offer a positive invitation to
any one who had picked up a pin. But, wonderful!--according to his
brief story--he had been so proficient in the goose step that he
had been put in uniform already, and allowed certain small
privileges,--among them, evidently the present one. The consul
smiled and passed on. But it seemed strange to him that Trudschen,
who was a tall strapping girl, exceedingly popular with the
military, and who had never looked lower than a corporal at least,
should accept the attentions of an Einjahriger like that. Later he
Ach! it was only Unser Karl! And the consul knew he was Amerikanisch!
"Yes! It was such a tearful story!"
"Tell me what it is," said the consul, with a faint hope that Karl
had volunteered some communication of his past.
"Ach Gott! There in America he was a man, and could 'vote,' make
laws, and, God willing, become a town councilor,--or Ober
Intendant,--and here he was nothing but a soldier for years. And
this America was a fine country. Wunderschon? There were such big
cities, and one 'Booflo'--could hold all Schlachtstadt, and had of
people five hundred thousand!"
The consul sighed. Karl had evidently not yet got off the line of
the New York Central and Erie roads. "But does he remember yet
what he did with his papers?" said the consul persuasively.
"Ach! What does he want with PAPERS when he could make the laws?
They were dumb, stupid things--these papers--to him."
"But his appetite remains good, I hope?" suggested the consul.
This closed the conversation, although Karl came on many other
nights, and his toy figure quite supplanted the tall corporal of
hussars in the remote shadows of the hall. One night, however, the
consul returned home from a visit to a neighboring town a day
earlier than he was expected. As he neared his house he was a
little surprised to find the windows of his sitting-room lit up,
and that there were no signs of Trudschen in the lower hall or
passages. He made his way upstairs in the dark and pushed open the
door of his apartment. To his astonishment, Karl was sitting
comfortably in his own chair, his cap off before a student-lamp on
the table, deeply engaged in apparent study. So profound was his
abstraction that it was a moment before he looked up, and the
consul had a good look at his usually beaming and responsive face,
which, however, now struck him as wearing a singular air of thought
and concentration. When their eyes at last met, he rose instantly
and saluted, and his beaming smile returned. But, either from his
natural phlegm or extraordinary self-control he betrayed neither
embarrassment nor alarm.
The explanation he gave was direct and simple. Trudschen had gone
out with the Corporal Fritz for a short walk, and had asked him to
"keep house" during their absence. He had no books, no papers,
nothing to read in the barracks, and no chance to improve his mind.
He thought the Herr Consul would not object to his looking at his
books. The consul was touched; it was really a trivial indiscretion
and as much Trudschen's fault as Karl's! And if the poor fellow had
any mind to improve,--his recent attitude certainly suggested
thought and reflection,--the consul were a brute to reprove him. He
smiled pleasantly as Karl returned a stubby bit of pencil and some
greasy memoranda to his breast pocket, and glanced at the table.
But to his surprise it was a large map that Karl had been studying,
and, to his still greater surprise, a map of the consul's own
"You seem to be fond of map-studying," said the consul pleasantly.
"You are not thinking of emigrating again?"
"Ach, no!" said Karl simply; "it is my cousine vot haf lif near
here. I find her."
But he left on Trudschen's return, and the consul was surprised to
see that, while Karl's attitude towards her had not changed, the
girl exhibited less effusiveness than before. Believing it to be
partly the effect of the return of the corporal, the consul taxed
her with faithlessness. But Trudschen looked grave.
"Ah! He has new friends, this Karl of ours. He cares no more for
poor girls like us. When fine ladies like the old Frau von Wimpfel
make much of him, what will you?"
It appeared, indeed, from Trudschen's account, that the widow of a
wealthy shopkeeper had made a kind of protege of the young soldier,
and given him presents. Furthermore, that the wife of his colonel
had employed him to act as page or attendant at an afternoon
Gesellschaft, and that since then the wives of other officers had
sought him. Did not the Herr Consul think it was dreadful that
this American, who could vote and make laws, should be subjected to
The consul did not know what to think. It seemed to him, however,
that Karl was "getting on," and that he was not in need of his
assistance. It was in the expectation of hearing more about him,
however, that he cheerfully accepted an invitation from Adlerkreutz
to dine at the Caserne one evening with the staff. Here he found,
somewhat to his embarrassment, that the dinner was partly in his
own honor, and at the close of five courses, and the emptying of
many bottles, his health was proposed by the gallant veteran
Adlerkreutz in a neat address of many syllables containing all the
parts of speech and a single verb. It was to the effect that in
his soul-friend the Herr Consul and himself was the never-to-be-
severed union of Germania and Columbia, and in their perfect
understanding was the war-defying alliance of two great nations,
and that in the consul's noble restoration of Unser Karl to the
German army there was the astute diplomacy of a great mind. He was
satisfied that himself and the Herr Consul still united in the
great future, looking down upon a common brotherhood,--the great
Germanic-American Confederation,--would feel satisfied with
themselves and each other and their never-to-be-forgotten earth-
labors. Cries of "Hoch! Hoch!" resounded through the apartment
with the grinding roll of heavy-bottomed beer-glasses, and the
consul, tremulous with emotion and a reserve verb in his pocket,
rose to reply. Fully embarked upon this perilous voyage, and
steering wide and clear of any treacherous shore of intelligence or
fancied harbor of understanding and rest, he kept boldly out at
sea. He said that, while his loving adversary in this battle of
compliment had disarmed him and left him no words to reply to his
generous panegyric, he could not but join with that gallant soldier
in his heartfelt aspirations for the peaceful alliance of both
countries. But while he fully reciprocated all his host's broader
and higher sentiments, he must point out to this gallant assembly,
this glorious brotherhood, that even a greater tie of sympathy
knitted him to the general,--the tie of kinship! For while it was
well known to the present company that their gallant commander had
married an Englishwoman, he, the consul, although always an
American, would now for the first time confess to them that he
HIMSELF was of Dutch descent on his mother's side! He would say no
more, but confidently leave them in possession of the tremendous
significance of this until-then-unknown fact! He sat down, with
the forgotten verb still in his pocket, but the applause that
followed this perfectly conclusive, satisfying, and logical climax
convinced him of his success. His hand was grasped eagerly by
successive warriors; the general turned and embraced him before the
breathless assembly; there were tears in the consul's eyes.
As the festivities progressed, however, he found to his surprise
that Karl had not only become the fashion as a military page, but
that his naive stupidity and sublime simplicity was the wondering
theme and inexhaustible delight of the whole barracks. Stories
were told of his genius for blundering which rivaled Handy Andy's;
old stories of fatuous ignorance were rearranged and fitted to "our
Karl." It was "our Karl" who, on receiving a tip of two marks from
the hands of a young lady to whom he had brought the bouquet of a
gallant lieutenant, exhibited some hesitation, and finally said,
"Yes, but, gnadiges Fraulein, that COST us nine marks!" It was
"our Karl" who, interrupting the regrets of another lady that she
was unable to accept his master's invitation, said politely, "Ah!
what matter, Gnadigste? I have still a letter for Fraulein Kopp
[her rival], and I was told that I must not invite you both." It
was "our Karl" who astonished the hostess to whom he was sent at
the last moment with apologies from an officer, unexpectedly
detained at barrack duty, by suggesting that he should bring that
unfortunate officer his dinner from the just served table. Nor
were these charming infelicities confined to his social and
domestic service. Although ready, mechanical, and invariably
docile in the manual and physical duties of a soldier,--which
endeared him to the German drill-master,--he was still invincibly
ignorant as to its purport, or even the meaning and structure of
the military instruments he handled or vacantly looked upon. It
was "our Karl" who suggested to his instructors that in field-
firing it was quicker and easier to load his musket to the muzzle
at once, and get rid of its death-dealing contents at a single
discharge, than to load and fire consecutively. It was "our Karl"
who nearly killed the instructor at sentry drill by adhering to the
letter of his instructions when that instructor had forgotten the
password. It was the same Karl who, severely admonished for his
recklessness, the next time added to his challenge the precaution,
"Unless you instantly say 'Fatherland' I'll fire!" Yet his perfect
good humor and childlike curiosity were unmistakable throughout,
and incited his comrades and his superiors to show him everything
in the hope of getting some characteristic comment from him.
Everything and everybody were open to Karl and his good-humored
That evening, as the general accompanied the consul down to the
gateway and the waiting carriage, a figure in uniform ran
spontaneously before them and shouted "Heraus!" to the sentries.
But the general promptly checked "the turning out" of the guard
with a paternal shake of his finger to the over-zealous soldier, in
whom the consul recognized Karl. "He is my Bursche now," said the
general explanatorily. "My wife has taken a fancy to him. Ach! he
is very popular with these women." The consul was still more
surprised. The Frau Generalin Adlerkreutz he knew to be a
pronounced Englishwoman,--carrying out her English ways,
proprieties, and prejudices in the very heart of Schlachtstadt,
uncompromisingly, without fear and without reproach. That she
should follow a merely foreign society craze, or alter her English
household so as to admit the impossible Karl, struck him oddly.
A month or two elapsed without further news of Karl, when one
afternoon he suddenly turned up at the consulate. He had again
sought the consular quiet to write a few letters home; he had no
chance in the confinement of the barracks.
"But by this time you must be in the family of a field-marshal, at
least," suggested the consul pleasantly.
"Not to-day, but next week," said Karl, with sublime simplicity;
"THEN I am going to serve with the governor commandant of
The consul smiled, motioned him to a seat at a table in the outer
office, and left him undisturbed to his correspondence.
Returning later, he found Karl, his letters finished, gazing with
childish curiosity and admiration at some thick official envelopes,
bearing the stamp of the consulate, which were lying on the table.
He was evidently struck with the contrast between them and the
thin, flimsy affairs he was holding in his hand. He appeared still
more impressed when the consul told him what they were.
"Arc you writing to your friends?" continued the consul, touched by
"Ach ja!" said Karl eagerly.
"Would you like to put your letter in one of these envelopes?"
continued the official.
The beaming face and eyes of Karl were a sufficient answer. After
all, it was a small favor granted to this odd waif, who seemed to
still cling to the consular protection. He handed him the envelope
and left him addressing it in boyish pride.
It was Karl's last visit to the consulate. He appeared to have
spoken truly, and the consul presently learned that he had indeed
been transferred, through some high official manipulation, to the
personal service of the governor of Rheinfestung. There was
weeping among the Dienstmadchen of Schlachtstadt, and a distinct
loss of originality and lightness in the gatherings of the gentler
Hausfrauen. His memory still survived in the barracks through the
later editions of his former delightful stupidities,--many of them,
it is to be feared, were inventions,--and stories that were
supposed to have come from Rheinfestung were described in the slang
of the Offiziere as being "colossal." But the consul remembered
Rheinfestung, and could not imagine it as a home for Karl, or in
any way fostering his peculiar qualities. For it was eminently a
fortress of fortresses, a magazine of magazines, a depot of depots.
It was the key of the Rhine, the citadel of Westphalia, the
"Clapham Junction" of German railways, but defended, fortified,
encompassed, and controlled by the newest as well as the oldest
devices of military strategy and science. Even in the pipingest
time of peace, whole railway trains went into it like a rat in a
trap, and might have never come out of it; it stretched out an
inviting hand and arm across the river that might in the twinkling
of an eye be changed into a closed fist of menace. You "defiled"
into it, commanded at every step by enfilading walls; you
"debouched" out of it, as you thought, and found yourself only
before the walls; you "reentered" it at every possible angle; you
did everything apparently but pass through it. You thought
yourself well out of it, and were stopped by a bastion. Its
circumvallations haunted you until you came to the next station.
It had pressed even the current of the river into its defensive
service. There were secrets of its foundations and mines that only
the highest military despots knew and kept to themselves. In a
word--it was impregnable.
That such a place could not be trifled with or misunderstood in its
right-and-acute-angled severities seemed plain to every one. But
set on by his companions, who were showing him its defensive
foundations, or in his own idle curiosity, Karl managed to fall
into the Rhine and was fished out with difficulty. The immersion
may have chilled his military ardor or soured his good humor, for
later the consul heard that he had visited the American consular
agent at an adjacent town with the old story of his American
citizenship. "He seemed," said the consul's colleague, "to be well
posted about American railways and American towns, but he had no
papers. He lounged around the office for a while and"--
"Wrote letters home?" suggested the consul, with a flash of
"Yes, the poor chap had no privacy at the barracks, and I reckon
was overlooked or bedeviled."
This was the last the consul heard of Karl Schwartz directly; for a
week or two later he again fell into the Rhine, this time so
fatally and effectually that in spite of the efforts of his
companions he was swept away by the rapid current, and thus ended
his service to his country. His body was never recovered.
A few months before the consul was transferred from Schlachtstadt
to another post his memory of the departed Karl was revived by a
visit from Adlerkreutz. The general looked grave.
"You remember Unser Karl?" he said.
"Do you think he was an impostor?"
"As regards his American citizenship, yes! But I could not say
"So!" said the general. "A very singular thing has happened," he
added, twirling his mustache. "The Inspector of police has
notified us of the arrival of a Karl Schwartz in this town. It
appears he is the REAL Karl Schwartz, identified by his sister as
the only one. The other, who was drowned, was an impostor. Hein?"
"Then you have secured another recruit?" said the consul smilingly.
"No. For this one has already served his time in Elsass, where he
went when he left here as a boy. But, Donnerwetter, why should
that dumb fool take his name?"
"By chance, I fancy. Then he stupidly stuck to it, and had to take
the responsibilities with it. Don't you see?" said the consul,
pleased with his own cleverness.
"Zo-o!" said the general slowly, in his deepest voice. But the
German exclamation has a variety of significance, according to the
inflection, and Adlerkreutz's ejaculation seemed to contain them
. . . . . .
It was in Paris, where the consul had lingered on his way to his
new post. He was sitting in a well-known cafe, among whose
habitues were several military officers of high rank. A group of
them were gathered round a table near him. He was idly watching
them with an odd recollection of Schlachtstadt in his mind, and as
idly glancing from them to the more attractive Boulevard without.
The consul was getting a little tired of soldiers.
Suddenly there was a slight stir in the gesticulating group and a
cry of greeting. The consul looked up mechanically, and then his
eyes remained fixed and staring at the newcomer. For it was the
dead Karl; Karl, surely! Karl!--his plump figure belted in a
French officer's tunic; his flaxen hair clipped a little closer,
but still its fleece showing under his kepi. Karl, his cheeks more
cherubic than ever--unchanged but for a tiny yellow toy mustache
curling up over the corners of his full lips. Karl, beaming at his
companions in his old way, but rattling off French vivacities
without the faintest trace of accent. Could he be mistaken? Was
it some phenomenal resemblance, or had the soul of the German
private been transmigrated to the French officer.
The consul hurriedly called the garcon. "Who is that officer who
has just arrived?"
"It is the Captain Christian, of the Intelligence Bureau," said the
waiter, with proud alacrity. "A famous officer, brave as a
rabbit,--un fier lapin,--and one of our best clients. So drole,
too, such a farceur and mimic. M'sieur would be ravished to hear
"But he looks like a German; and his name!"
"Ah, he is from Alsace. But not a German!" said the waiter,
absolutely whitening with indignation. "He was at Belfort. So
was I. Mon Dieu! No, a thousand times no!"
"But has he been living here long?" said the consul.
"In Paris, a few months. But his Department, M'sieur understands,
takes him EVERYWHERE! Everywhere where he can gain information."
The consul's eyes were still on the Captain Christian. Presently
the officer, perhaps instinctively conscious of the scrutiny,
looked towards him. Their eyes met. To the consul's surprise, the
ci-devant Karl beamed upon him, and advanced with outstretched
But the consul stiffened slightly, and remained so with his glass
in his hand. At which Captain Christian brought his own easily to
a military salute, and said politely:--
"Monsieur le Consul has been promoted from his post. Permit me to
"You have heard, then?" said the consul dryly.
"Otherwise I should not presume. For our Department makes it a
business--in Monsieur le Consul's case it becomes a pleasure--to
"Did your Department know that the real Karl Schwartz has
returned?" said the consul dryly.
Captain Christian shrugged his shoulders. "Then it appears that
the sham Karl died none too soon," he said lightly. "And yet"--he
bent his eyes with mischievous reproach upon the consul.
"Yet what?" demanded the consul sternly.
"Monsieur le Consul might have saved the unfortunate man by
accepting him as an American citizen and not helping to force him
into the German service."
The consul saw in a flash the full military significance of this
logic, and could not repress a smile. At which Captain Christian
dropped easily into a chair beside him, and as easily into broken
"Und," he went on, "dees town--dees Schlachtstadt is fine town, eh?
Fine womens? Goot men? Und peer and sausage? Blenty to eat and
trink, eh? Und you und te poys haf a gay times?"
The consul tried to recover his dignity. The waiter behind him,
recognizing only the delightful mimicry of this adorable officer,
was in fits of laughter. Nevertheless, the consul managed to say
"And the barracks, the magazines, the commissariat, the details,
the reserves of Schlachtstadt were very interesting?"
"And Rheinfestung--its plans--its details, even its dangerous
foundations by the river--they were to a soldier singularly
"You have reason to say so," said Captain Christian, curling his
"And the fortress--you think?"
The consul remembered General Adlerkreutz's "Zo-o," and wondered.
UNCLE JIM AND UNCLE BILLY
They were partners. The avuncular title was bestowed on them by
Cedar Camp, possibly in recognition of a certain matured good
humor, quite distinct from the spasmodic exuberant spirits of its
other members, and possibly from what, to its youthful sense,
seemed their advanced ages--which must have been at least forty!
They had also set habits even in their improvidence, lost
incalculable and unpayable sums to each other over euchre regularly
every evening, and inspected their sluice-boxes punctually every
Saturday for repairs--which they never made. They even got to
resemble each other, after the fashion of old married couples, or,
rather, as in matrimonial partnerships, were subject to the
domination of the stronger character; although in their case it is
to be feared that it was the feminine Uncle Billy--enthusiastic,
imaginative, and loquacious--who swayed the masculine, steady-
going, and practical Uncle Jim. They had lived in the camp since
its foundation in 1849; there seemed to be no reason why they
should not remain there until its inevitable evolution into a
mining-town. The younger members might leave through restless
ambition or a desire for change or novelty; they were subject to no
such trifling mutation. Yet Cedar Camp was surprised one day to
hear that Uncle Billy was going away.
The rain was softly falling on the bark thatch of the cabin with a
muffled murmur, like a sound heard through sleep. The southwest
trades were warm even at that altitude, as the open door testified,
although a fire of pine bark was flickering on the adobe hearth and
striking out answering fires from the freshly scoured culinary
utensils on the rude sideboard, which Uncle Jim had cleaned that
morning with his usual serious persistency. Their best clothes,
which were interchangeable and worn alternately by each other on
festal occasions, hung on the walls, which were covered with a
coarse sailcloth canvas instead of lath-and-plaster, and were
diversified by pictures from illustrated papers and stains from the
exterior weather. Two "bunks," like ships' berths,--an upper and
lower one,--occupied the gable-end of this single apartment, and on
beds of coarse sacking, filled with dry moss, were carefully rolled
their respective blankets and pillows. They were the only articles
not used in common, and whose individuality was respected.
Uncle Jim, who had been sitting before the fire, rose as the square
bulk of his partner appeared at the doorway with an armful of wood
for the evening stove. By that sign he knew it was nine o'clock:
for the last six years Uncle Billy had regularly brought in the
wood at that hour, and Uncle Jim had as regularly closed the door
after him, and set out their single table, containing a greasy pack
of cards taken from its drawer, a bottle of whiskey, and two tin
drinking-cups. To this was added a ragged memorandum-book and a
stick of pencil. The two men drew their stools to the table.
"Hol' on a minit," said Uncle Billy.
His partner laid down the cards as Uncle Billy extracted from his
pocket a pill-box, and, opening it, gravely took a pill. This was
clearly an innovation on their regular proceedings, for Uncle Billy
was always in perfect health.
"What's this for?" asked Uncle Jim half scornfully.
"You ain't got no ager," said Uncle Jim, with the assurance of
intimate cognizance of his partner's physical condition.
"But it's a pow'ful preventive! Quinine! Saw this box at Riley's
store, and laid out a quarter on it. We kin keep it here,
comfortable, for evenings. It's mighty soothin' arter a man's done
a hard day's work on the river-bar. Take one."
Uncle Jim gravely took a pill and swallowed it, and handed the box
back to his partner.
"We'll leave it on the table, sociable like, in case any of the
boys come in," said Uncle Billy, taking up the cards. "Well. How
do we stand?"
Uncle Jim consulted the memorandum-book. "You were owin' me sixty-
two thousand dollars on the last game, and the limit's seventy-five
"Je whillikins!" ejaculated Uncle Billy. "Let me see."
He examined the book, feebly attempted to challenge the additions,
but with no effect on the total. "We oughter hev made the limit a
hundred thousand," he said seriously; "seventy-five thousand is
only triflin' in a game like ours. And you've set down my claim at
Angel's?" he continued.
"I allowed you ten thousand dollars for that," said Uncle Jim, with
equal gravity, "and it's a fancy price too."
The claim in question being an unprospected hillside ten miles
distant, which Uncle Jim had never seen, and Uncle Billy had not
visited for years, the statement was probably true; nevertheless,
Uncle Billy retorted:--
"Ye kin never tell how these things will pan out. Why, only this
mornin' I was taking a turn round Shot Up Hill, that ye know is
just rotten with quartz and gold, and I couldn't help thinkin' how
much it was like my ole claim at Angel's. I must take a day off to
go on there and strike a pick in it, if only for luck."
Suddenly he paused and said, "Strange, ain't it, you should speak
of it to-night? Now I call that queer!"
He laid down his cards and gazed mysteriously at his companion.
Uncle Jim knew perfectly that Uncle Billy had regularly once a week
for many years declared his final determination to go over to
Angel's and prospect his claim, yet nevertheless he half responded
to his partner's suggestion of mystery, and a look of fatuous
wonder crept into his eyes. But he contented himself by saying
cautiously, "You spoke of it first."
"That's the more sing'lar," said Uncle Billy confidently. "And
I've been thinking about it, and kinder seeing myself thar all day.
It's mighty queer!" He got up and began to rummage among some torn
and coverless books in the corner.
"Where's that 'Dream Book' gone to?"
"The Carson boys borrowed it," replied Uncle Jim. "Anyhow, yours
wasn't no dream--only a kind o' vision, and the book don't take no
stock in visions." Nevertheless, he watched his partner with some
sympathy, and added, "That reminds me that I had a dream the other
night of being in 'Frisco at a small hotel, with heaps o' money,
and all the time being sort o' scared and bewildered over it."
"No?" queried his partner eagerly yet reproachfully. "You never
let on anything about it to ME! It's mighty queer you havin' these
strange feelin's, for I've had 'em myself. And only to-night,
comin' up from the spring, I saw two crows hopping in the trail,
and I says, 'If I see another, it's luck, sure!' And you'll think
I'm lyin', but when I went to the wood-pile just now there was the
THIRD one sittin' up on a log as plain as I see you. Tell 'e what
folks ken laugh--but that's just what Jim Filgee saw the night
before he made the big strike!"
They were both smiling, yet with an underlying credulity and
seriousness as singularly pathetic as it seemed incongruous to
their years and intelligence. Small wonder, however, that in their
occupation and environment--living daily in an atmosphere of hope,
expectation, and chance, looking forward each morning to the blind
stroke of a pick that might bring fortune--they should see signs in
nature and hear mystic voices in the trackless woods that
surrounded them. Still less strange that they were peculiarly
susceptible to the more recognized diversions of chance, and were
gamblers on the turning of a card who trusted to the revelation of
a shovelful of upturned earth.
It was quite natural, therefore, that they should return from their
abstract form of divination to the table and their cards. But they
were scarcely seated before they heard a crackling step in the
brush outside, and the free latch of their door was lifted. A
younger member of the camp entered. He uttered a peevish "Halloo!"
which might have passed for a greeting, or might have been a slight
protest at finding the door closed, drew the stool from which Uncle
Jim had just risen before the fire, shook his wet clothes like a
Newfoundland dog, and sat down. Yet he was by no means churlish
nor coarse-looking, and this act was rather one of easy-going,
selfish, youthful familiarity than of rudeness. The cabin of
Uncles Billy and Jim was considered a public right or "common" of
the camp. Conferences between individual miners were appointed
there. "I'll meet you at Uncle Billy's" was a common tryst. Added
to this was a tacit claim upon the partners' arbitrative powers, or
the equal right to request them to step outside if the interviews
were of a private nature. Yet there was never any objection on the
part of the partners, and to-night there was not a shadow of
resentment of this intrusion in the patient, good-humored, tolerant
eyes of Uncles Jim and Billy as they gazed at their guest. Perhaps
there was a slight gleam of relief in Uncle Jim's when he found
that the guest was unaccompanied by any one, and that it was not a
tryst. It would have been unpleasant for the two partners to have
stayed out in the rain while their guests were exchanging private
confidences in their cabin. While there might have been no limit
to their good will, there might have been some to their capacity
Uncle Jim drew a huge log from beside the hearth and sat on the
driest end of it, while their guest occupied the stool. The young
man, without turning away from his discontented, peevish brooding
over the fire, vaguely reached backward for the whiskey-bottle and
Uncle Billy's tin cup, to which he was assisted by the latter's
hospitable hand. But on setting down the cup his eye caught sight
of the pill-box.
"Wot's that?" he said, with gloomy scorn. "Rat poison?"
"Quinine pills--agin ager," said Uncle Jim. "The newest thing out.
Keeps out damp like Injin-rubber! Take one to follow yer whiskey.
Me and Uncle Billy wouldn't think o' settin' down, quiet like, in
the evening arter work, without 'em. Take one--ye 'r' welcome! We
keep 'em out here for the boys."
Accustomed as the partners were to adopt and wear each other's
opinions before folks, as they did each other's clothing, Uncle
Billy was, nevertheless, astonished and delighted at Uncle Jim's
enthusiasm over HIS pills. The guest took one and swallowed it.
"Mighty bitter!" he said, glancing at his hosts with the quick
Californian suspicion of some practical joke. But the honest faces
of the partners reassured him.
"That bitterness ye taste," said Uncle Jim quickly, "is whar the
thing's gittin' in its work. Sorter sickenin' the malaria--and
kinder water-proofin' the insides all to onct and at the same lick!
Don't yer see? Put another in yer vest pocket; you'll be cryin'
for 'em like a child afore ye get home. Thar! Well, how's things
agoin' on your claim, Dick? Boomin', eh?"
The guest raised his head and turned it sufficiently to fling his
answer back over his shoulder at his hosts. "I don't know what
YOU'D call' boomin','" he said gloomily; "I suppose you two men
sitting here comfortably by the fire, without caring whether school
keeps or not, would call two feet of backwater over one's claim
'boomin';' I reckon YOU'D consider a hundred and fifty feet of
sluicing carried away, and drifting to thunder down the South Fork,
something in the way of advertising to your old camp! I suppose
YOU'd think it was an inducement to investors! I shouldn't
wonder," he added still more gloomily, as a sudden dash of rain
down the wide-throated chimney dropped in his tin cup--"and it
would be just like you two chaps, sittin' there gormandizing over
your quinine--if yer said this rain that's lasted three weeks was
something to be proud of!"
It was the cheerful and the satisfying custom of the rest of the
camp, for no reason whatever, to hold Uncle Jim and Uncle Billy
responsible for its present location, its vicissitudes, the
weather, or any convulsion of nature; and it was equally the
partners' habit, for no reason whatever, to accept these
animadversions and apologize.
"It's a rain that's soft and mellowin'," said Uncle Billy gently,
"and supplin' to the sinews and muscles. Did ye ever notice, Jim"--
ostentatiously to his partner--"did ye ever notice that you get
inter a kind o' sweaty lather workin' in it? Sorter openin' to the
"Fetches 'em every time," said Uncle Billy. "Better nor fancy
Their guest laughed bitterly. "Well, I'm going to leave it to you.
I reckon to cut the whole concern to-morrow, and 'lite' out for
something new. It can't be worse than this."
The two partners looked grieved, albeit they were accustomed to
these outbursts. Everybody who thought of going away from Cedar
Camp used it first as a threat to these patient men, after the
fashion of runaway nephews, or made an exemplary scene of their
"Better think twice afore ye go," said Uncle Billy.
"I've seen worse weather afore ye came," said Uncle Jim slowly.
"Water all over the Bar; the mud so deep ye couldn't get to Angel's
for a sack o' flour, and we had to grub on pine nuts and jackass-
rabbits. And yet--we stuck by the camp, and here we are!"
The mild answer apparently goaded their guest to fury. He rose
from his seat, threw back his long dripping hair from his handsome
but querulous face, and scattered a few drops on the partners.
"Yes, that's just it. That's what gets me! Here you stick, and
here you are! And here you'll stick and rust until you starve or
drown! Here you are,--two men who ought to be out in the world,
playing your part as grown men,--stuck here like children 'playing
house' in the woods; playing work in your wretched mud-pie ditches,
and content. Two men not so old that you mightn't be taking your
part in the fun of the world, going to balls or theatres, or paying
attention to girls, and yet old enough to have married and have
your families around you, content to stay in this God-forsaken
place; old bachelors, pigging together like poorhouse paupers.
That's what gets me! Say you LIKE it? Say you expect by hanging
on to make a strike--and what does that amount to? What are YOUR
chances? How many of us have made, or are making, more than grub
wages? Say you're willing to share and share alike as you do--have
you got enough for two? Aren't you actually living off each other?
Aren't you grinding each other down, choking each other's
struggles, as you sink together deeper and deeper in the mud of
this cussed camp? And while you're doing this, aren't you, by your
age and position here, holding out hopes to others that you know
cannot be fulfilled?"
Accustomed as they were to the half-querulous, half-humorous, but
always extravagant, criticism of the others, there was something so
new in this arraignment of themselves that the partners for a
moment sat silent. There was a slight flush on Uncle Billy's
cheek, there was a slight paleness on Uncle Jim's. He was the
first to reply. But he did so with a certain dignity which neither
his partner nor their guest had ever seen on his face before.
"As it's OUR fire that's warmed ye up like this, Dick Bullen," he
said, slowly rising, with his hand resting on Uncle Billy's
shoulder, "and as it's OUR whiskey that's loosened your tongue, I
reckon we must put up with what ye 'r' saying, just as we've
managed to put up with our own way o' living, and not quo'll with
ye under our own roof."
The young fellow saw the change in Uncle Jim's face and quickly
extended his hand, with an apologetic backward shake of his long
hair. "Hang it all, old man," he said, with a laugh of mingled
contrition and amusement, "you mustn't mind what I said just now.
I've been so worried thinking of things about MYSELF, and, maybe, a
little about you, that I quite forgot I hadn't a call to preach to
anybody--least of all to you. So we part friends, Uncle Jim, and
you too, Uncle Billy, and you'll forget what I said. In fact, I
don't know why I spoke at all--only I was passing your claim just
now, and wondering how much longer your old sluice-boxes would hold
out, and where in thunder you'd get others when they caved in! I
reckon that sent me off. That's all, old chap!"
Uncle Billy's face broke into a beaming smile of relief, and it was
HIS hand that first grasped his guest's; Uncle Jim quickly followed
with as honest a pressure, but with eyes that did not seem to be
looking at Bullen, though all trace of resentment had died out of
them. He walked to the door with him, again shook hands, but
remained looking out in the darkness some time after Dick Bullen's
tangled hair and broad shoulders had disappeared.
Meantime, Uncle Billy had resumed his seat and was chuckling and
reminiscent as he cleaned out his pipe.
"Kinder reminds me of Jo Sharp, when he was cleaned out at poker by
his own partners in his own cabin, comin' up here and bedevilin' US
about it! What was it you lint him?"
But Uncle Jim did not reply; and Uncle Billy, taking up the cards,
began to shuffle them, smiling vaguely, yet at the same time
somewhat painfully. "Arter all, Dick was mighty cut up about what
he said, and I felt kinder sorry for him. And, you know, I rather
cotton to a man that speaks his mind. Sorter clears him out, you
know, of all the slumgullion that's in him. It's just like washin'
out a pan o' prospecting: you pour in the water, and keep slushing
it round and round, and out comes first the mud and dirt, and then
the gravel, and then the black sand, and then--it's all out, and
there's a speck o' gold glistenin' at the bottom!"
"Then you think there WAS suthin' in what he said?" said Uncle Jim,
facing about slowly.
An odd tone in his voice made Uncle Billy look up. "No," he said
quickly, shying with the instinct of an easy pleasure-loving nature
from a possible grave situation. "No, I don't think he ever got
the color! But wot are ye moonin' about for? Ain't ye goin' to
play? It's mor' 'n half past nine now."
Thus adjured, Uncle Jim moved up to the table and sat down, while
Uncle Billy dealt the cards, turning up the Jack or right bower--
but WITHOUT that exclamation of delight which always accompanied
his good fortune, nor did Uncle Jim respond with the usual
corresponding simulation of deep disgust. Such a circumstance had
not occurred before in the history of their partnership. They both
played in silence--a silence only interrupted by a larger splash of
raindrops down the chimney.
"We orter put a couple of stones on the chimney-top, edgewise, like
Jack Curtis does. It keeps out the rain without interferin' with
the draft," said Uncle Billy musingly.
"What's the use if"--
"If what?" said Uncle Billy quietly.
"If we don't make it broader," said Uncle Jim half wearily.
They both stared at the chimney, but Uncle Jim's eye followed the
wall around to the bunks. There were many discolorations on the
canvas, and a picture of the Goddess of Liberty from an illustrated
paper had broken out in a kind of damp, measly eruption. "I'll
stick that funny handbill of the 'Washin' Soda' I got at the
grocery store the other day right over the Liberty gal. It's a
mighty perty woman washin' with short sleeves," said Uncle Billy.
"That's the comfort of them picters, you kin always get somethin'
new, and it adds thickness to the wall."
Uncle Jim went back to the cards in silence. After a moment he
rose again, and hung his overcoat against the door.
"Wind's comin' in," he said briefly.
"Yes," said Uncle Billy cheerfully, "but it wouldn't seem nat'ral
if there wasn't that crack in the door to let the sunlight in o
mornin's. Makes a kind o' sundial, you know. When the streak o'
light's in that corner, I says 'six o'clock!' when it's across the
chimney I say 'seven!' and so 'tis!"
It certainly had grown chilly, and the wind was rising. The candle
guttered and flickered; the embers on the hearth brightened
occasionally, as if trying to dispel the gathering shadows, but
always ineffectually. The game was frequently interrupted by the
necessity of stirring the fire. After an interval of gloom, in
which each partner successively drew the candle to his side to
examine his cards, Uncle Jim said:--
"Well!" responded Uncle Billy.
"Are you sure you saw that third crow on the wood-pile?"
"Sure as I see you now--and a darned sight plainer. Why?"
"Nothin', I was just thinkin'. Look here! How do we stand now?"
Uncle Billy was still losing. "Nevertheless," he said cheerfully,
"I'm owin' you a matter of sixty thousand dollars."
Uncle Jim examined the book abstractedly. "Suppose," he said
slowly, but without looking at his partner, "suppose, as it's
gettin' late now, we play for my half share of the claim agin the
limit--seventy thousand--to square up."
"Your half share!" repeated Uncle Billy, with amused incredulity.
"My half share of the claim,--of this yer house, you know,--one
half of all that Dick Bullen calls our rotten starvation property,"
reiterated Uncle Jim, with a half smile.
Uncle Billy laughed. It was a novel idea; it was, of course, "all
in the air," like the rest of their game, yet even then he had an
odd feeling that he would have liked Dick Bullen to have known it.
"Wade in, old pard," he said. "I'm on it."
Uncle Jim lit another candle to reinforce the fading light, and the
deal fell to Uncle Billy. He turned up Jack of clubs. He also
turned a little redder as he took up his cards, looked at them, and
glanced hastily at his partner. "It's no use playing," he said.
"Look here!" He laid down his cards on the table. They were the
ace, king and queen of clubs, and Jack of spades,--or left bower,--
which, with the turned-up Jack of clubs,--or right bower,--
comprised ALL the winning cards!
"By jingo! If we'd been playin' four-handed, say you an' me agin
some other ducks, we'd have made 'four' in that deal, and h'isted
some money--eh?" and his eyes sparkled. Uncle Jim, also, had a
slight tremulous light in his own.
"Oh no! I didn't see no three crows this afternoon," added Uncle
Billy gleefully, as his partner, in turn, began to shuffle the
cards with laborious and conscientious exactitude. Then dealing,
he turned up a heart for trumps. Uncle Billy took up his cards one
by one, but when he had finished his face had become as pale as it
had been red before. "What's the matter?" said Uncle Jim quickly,
his own face growing white.
Uncle Billy slowly and with breathless awe laid down his cards,
face up on the table. It was exactly the same sequence IN HEARTS,
with the knave of diamonds added. He could again take every trick.
They stared at each other with vacant faces and a half-drawn smile
of fear. They could hear the wind moaning in the trees beyond;
there was a sudden rattling at the door. Uncle Billy started to
his feet, but Uncle Jim caught his arm. "DON'T LEAVE THE CARDS!
It's only the wind; sit down," he said in a low awe-hushed voice,
"it's your deal; you were two before, and two now, that makes your
four; you've only one point to make to win the game. Go on."
They both poured out a cup of whiskey, smiling vaguely, yet with a
certain terror in their eyes. Their hands were cold; the cards
slipped from Uncle Billy's benumbed fingers; when he had shuffled
them he passed them to his partner to shuffle them also, but did
not speak. When Uncle Jim had shuffled them methodically he handed
them back fatefully to his partner. Uncle Billy dealt them with a
trembling hand. He turned up a club. "If you are sure of these
tricks you know you've won," said Uncle Jim in a voice that was
scarcely audible. Uncle Billy did not reply, but tremulously laid
down the ace and right and left bowers.
He had won!
A feeling of relief came over each, and they laughed hysterically
and discordantly. Ridiculous and childish as their contest might
have seemed to a looker-on, to each the tension had been as great
as that of the greatest gambler, without the gambler's trained
restraint, coolness, and composure. Uncle Billy nervously took up
the cards again.
"Don't," said Uncle Jim gravely; "it's no use--the luck's gone now."
"Just one more deal," pleaded his partner.
Uncle Jim looked at the fire, Uncle Billy hastily dealt, and threw
the two hands face up on the table. They were the ordinary average
cards. He dealt again, with the same result. "I told you so,"
said Uncle Jim, without looking up.
It certainly seemed a tame performance after their wonderful hands,
and after another trial Uncle Billy threw the cards aside and drew
his stool before the fire. "Mighty queer, warn't it?" he said,
with reminiscent awe. "Three times running. Do you know, I felt a
kind o' creepy feelin' down my back all the time. Criky! what
luck! None of the boys would believe it if we told 'em--least of
all that Dick Bullen, who don't believe in luck, anyway. Wonder
what he'd have said! and, Lord! how he'd have looked! Wall! what
are you starin' so for?"
Uncle Jim had faced around, and was gazing at Uncle Billy's good-
humored, simple face. "Nothin'!" he said briefly, and his eyes
again sought the fire.
"Then don't look as if you was seein' suthin'--you give me the
creeps," returned Uncle Billy a little petulantly. "Let's turn in,
afore the fire goes out!"
The fateful cards were put back into the drawer, the table shoved
against the wall. The operation of undressing was quickly got
over, the clothes they wore being put on top of their blankets.
Uncle Billy yawned, "I wonder what kind of a dream I'll have
tonight--it oughter be suthin' to explain that luck." This was his
"good-night" to his partner. In a few moments he was sound asleep.
Not so Uncle Jim. He heard the wind gradually go down, and in the
oppressive silence that followed could detect the deep breathing of
his companion and the far-off yelp of a coyote. His eyesight
becoming accustomed to the semi-darkness, broken only by the
scintillation of the dying embers of their fire, he could take in
every detail of their sordid cabin and the rude environment in
which they had lived so long. The dismal patches on the bark roof,
the wretched makeshifts of each day, the dreary prolongation of
discomfort, were all plain to him now, without the sanguine hope
that had made them bearable. And when he shut his eyes upon them,
it was only to travel in fancy down the steep mountain side that he
had trodden so often to the dreary claim on the overflowed river,
to the heaps of "tailings" that encumbered it, like empty shells of
the hollow, profitless days spent there, which they were always
waiting for the stroke of good fortune to clear away. He saw again
the rotten "sluicing," through whose hopeless rifts and holes even
their scant daily earnings had become scantier. At last he arose,
and with infinite gentleness let himself down from his berth
without disturbing his sleeping partner, and wrapping himself in
his blanket, went to the door, which he noiselessly opened. From
the position of a few stars that were glittering in the northern
sky he knew that it was yet scarcely midnight; there were still
long, restless hours before the day! In the feverish state into
which he had gradually worked himself it seemed to him impossible
to wait the coming of the dawn.
But he was mistaken. For even as he stood there all nature seemed
to invade his humble cabin with its free and fragrant breath, and
invest him with its great companionship. He felt again, in that
breath, that strange sense of freedom, that mystic touch of
partnership with the birds and beasts, the shrubs and trees, in
this greater home before him. It was this vague communion that had
kept him there, that still held these world-sick, weary workers in
their rude cabins on the slopes around him; and he felt upon his
brow that balm that had nightly lulled him and them to sleep and
forgetfulness. He closed the door, turned away, crept as
noiselessly as before into his bunk again, and presently fell into
a profound slumber.
But when Uncle Billy awoke the next morning he saw it was late; for
the sun, piercing the crack of the closed door, was sending a
pencil of light across the cold hearth, like a match to rekindle
its dead embers. His first thought was of his strange luck the
night before, and of disappointment that he had not had the dream
of divination that he had looked for. He sprang to the floor, but
as he stood upright his glance fell on Uncle Jim's bunk. It was
empty. Not only that, but his BLANKETS--Uncle Jim's own particular
A sudden revelation of his partner's manner the night before struck
him now with the cruelty of a blow; a sudden intelligence, perhaps
the very divination he had sought, flashed upon him like lightning!
He glanced wildly around the cabin. The table was drawn out from
the wall a little ostentatiously, as if to catch his eye. On it
was lying the stained chamois-skin purse in which they had kept the
few grains of gold remaining from their last week's "clean up."
The grains had been carefully divided, and half had been taken!
But near it lay the little memorandum-book, open, with the stick of
pencil lying across it. A deep line was drawn across the page on
which was recorded their imaginary extravagant gains and losses,
even to the entry of Uncle Jim's half share of the claim which he
had risked and lost! Underneath were hurriedly scrawled the
"Settled by YOUR luck, last night, old pard.--JAMES FOSTER."
It was nearly a month before Cedar Camp was convinced that Uncle
Billy and Uncle Jim had dissolved partnership. Pride had prevented
Uncle Billy from revealing his suspicions of the truth, or of
relating the events that preceded Uncle Jim's clandestine flight,
and Dick Bullen had gone to Sacramento by stage-coach the same
morning. He briefly gave out that his partner had been called to
San Francisco on important business of their own, that indeed might
necessitate his own removal there later. In this he was singularly
assisted by a letter from the absent Jim, dated at San Francisco,
begging him not to be anxious about his success, as he had hopes of
presently entering into a profitable business, but with no further
allusions to his precipitate departure, nor any suggestion of a
reason for it. For two or three days Uncle Billy was staggered and
bewildered; in his profound simplicity he wondered if his
extraordinary good fortune that night had made him deaf to some
explanation of his partner's, or, more terrible, if he had shown
some "low" and incredible intimation of taking his partner's
extravagant bet as REAL and binding. In this distress he wrote to
Uncle Jim an appealing and apologetic letter, albeit somewhat
incoherent and inaccurate, and bristling with misspelling, camp
slang, and old partnership jibes. But to this elaborate epistle he
received only Uncle Jim's repeated assurances of his own bright
prospects, and his hopes that his old partner would be more
fortunate, single-handed, on the old claim. For a whole week or
two Uncle Billy sulked, but his invincible optimism and good humor
got the better of him, and he thought only of his old partner's
good fortune. He wrote him regularly, but always to one address--a
box at the San Francisco post-office, which to the simple-minded
Uncle Billy suggested a certain official importance. To these
letters Uncle Jim responded regularly but briefly.
From a certain intuitive pride in his partner and his affection,
Uncle Billy did not show these letters openly to the camp, although
he spoke freely of his former partner's promising future, and even
read them short extracts. It is needless to say that the camp did
not accept Uncle Billy's story with unsuspecting confidence. On
the contrary, a hundred surmises, humorous or serious, but always
extravagant, were afloat in Cedar Camp. The partners had quarreled
over their clothes--Uncle Jim, who was taller than Uncle Billy, had
refused to wear his partner's trousers. They had quarreled over
cards--Uncle Jim had discovered that Uncle Billy was in possession
of a "cold deck," or marked pack. They had quarreled over Uncle
Billy's carelessness in grinding up half a box of "bilious pills"
in the morning's coffee. A gloomily imaginative mule-driver had
darkly suggested that, as no one had really seen Uncle Jim leave
the camp, he was still there, and his bones would yet be found in
one of the ditches; while a still more credulous miner averred that
what he had thought was the cry of a screech-owl the night previous
to Uncle Jim's disappearance, might have been the agonized
utterance of that murdered man. It was highly characteristic of
that camp--and, indeed, of others in California--that nobody, not
even the ingenious theorists themselves, believed their story, and
that no one took the slightest pains to verify or disprove it.
Happily, Uncle Billy never knew it, and moved all unconsciously in
this atmosphere of burlesque suspicion. And then a singular change
took place in the attitude of the camp towards him and the
disrupted partnership. Hitherto, for no reason whatever, all had
agreed to put the blame upon Billy--possibly because he was present
to receive it. As days passed that slight reticence and dejection
in his manner, which they had at first attributed to remorse and a
guilty conscience, now began to tell as absurdly in his favor.
Here was poor Uncle Billy toiling though the ditches, while his
selfish partner was lolling in the lap of luxury in San Francisco!
Uncle Billy's glowing accounts of Uncle Jim's success only
contributed to the sympathy now fully given in his behalf and their
execration of the absconding partner. It was proposed at Biggs's
store that a letter expressing the indignation of the camp over his
heartless conduct to his late partner, William Fall, should be
forwarded to him. Condolences were offered to Uncle Billy, and
uncouth attempts were made to cheer his loneliness. A procession
of half a dozen men twice a week to his cabin, carrying their own
whiskey and winding up with a "stag dance" before the premises, was
sufficient to lighten his eclipsed gayety and remind him of a
happier past. "Surprise" working parties visited his claim with
spasmodic essays towards helping him, and great good humor and
hilarity prevailed. It was not an unusual thing for an honest
miner to arise from an idle gathering in some cabin and excuse
himself with the remark that he "reckoned he'd put in an hour's
work in Uncle Billy's tailings!" And yet, as before, it was very
improbable if any of these reckless benefactors REALLY believed in
their own earnestness or in the gravity of the situation. Indeed,
a kind of hopeful cynicism ran through their performances. "Like
as not, Uncle Billy is still in 'cahoots' [i. e., shares] with his
old pard, and is just laughin' at us as he's sendin' him accounts
of our tomfoolin'."
And so the winter passed and the rains, and the days of cloudless
skies and chill starlit nights began. There were still freshets
from the snow reservoirs piled high in the Sierran passes, and the
Bar was flooded, but that passed too, and only the sunshine
remained. Monotonous as the seasons were, there was a faint
movement in the camp with the stirring of the sap in the pines and
cedars. And then, one day, there was a strange excitement on the
Bar. Men were seen running hither and thither, but mainly
gathering in a crowd on Uncle Billy's claim, that still retained
the old partners' names in "The Fall and Foster." To add to the
excitement, there was the quickly repeated report of a revolver, to
all appearance aimlessly exploded in the air by some one on the
outskirts of the assemblage. As the crowd opened, Uncle Billy
appeared, pale, hysterical, breathless, and staggering a little
under the back-slapping and hand-shaking of the whole camp. For
Uncle Billy had "struck it rich"--had just discovered a "pocket,"
roughly estimated to be worth fifteen thousand dollars!
Although in that supreme moment he missed the face of his old
partner, he could not help seeing the unaffected delight and
happiness shining in the eyes of all who surrounded him. It was
characteristic of that sanguine but uncertain life that success and
good fortune brought no jealousy nor envy to the unfortunate, but
was rather a promise and prophecy of the fulfillment of their own
hopes. The gold was there--Nature but yielded up her secret.
There was no prescribed limit to her bounty. So strong was this
conviction that a long-suffering but still hopeful miner, in the
enthusiasm of the moment, stooped down and patted a large boulder
with the apostrophic "Good old gal!"
Then followed a night of jubilee, a next morning of hurried
consultation with a mining expert and speculator lured to the camp
by the good tidings; and then the very next night--to the utter
astonishment of Cedar Camp--Uncle Billy, with a draft for twenty
thousand dollars in his pocket, started for San Francisco, and took
leave of his claim and the camp forever!
. . . . . .
When Uncle Billy landed at the wharves of San Francisco he was a
little bewildered. The Golden Gate beyond was obliterated by the
incoming sea-fog, which had also roofed in the whole city, and
lights already glittered along the gray streets that climbed the
grayer sand-hills. As a Western man, brought up by inland rivers,
he was fascinated and thrilled by the tall-masted seagoing ships,
and he felt a strange sense of the remoter mysterious ocean, which
he had never seen. But he was impressed and startled by smartly
dressed men and women, the passing of carriages, and a sudden
conviction that he was strange and foreign to what he saw. It had
been his cherished intention to call upon his old partner in his
working clothes, and then clap down on the table before him a draft
for ten thousand dollars as HIS share of their old claim. But in
the face of these brilliant strangers a sudden and unexpected
timidity came upon him. He had heard of a cheap popular hotel,
much frequented by the returning gold-miner, who entered its
hospitable doors--which held an easy access to shops--and emerged
in a few hours a gorgeous butterfly of fashion, leaving his old
chrysalis behind him. Thence he inquired his way; hence he
afterwards issued in garments glaringly new and ill fitting. But
he had not sacrificed his beard, and there was still something fine
and original in his handsome weak face that overcame the cheap
convention of his clothes. Making his way to the post-office, he
was again discomfited by the great size of the building, and
bewildered by the array of little square letter-boxes behind glass
which occupied one whole wall, and an equal number of opaque and
locked wooden ones legibly numbered. His heart leaped; he
remembered the number, and before him was a window with a clerk
behind it. Uncle Billy leaned forward.
"Kin you tell me if the man that box 690 b'longs to is in?"
The clerk stared, made him repeat the question, and then turned
away. But he returned almost instantly, with two or three grinning
heads besides his own, apparently set behind his shoulders. Uncle
Billy was again asked to repeat his question. He did so.
"Why don't you go and see if 690 is in his box?" said the first
clerk, turning with affected asperity to one of the others.
The clerk went away, returned, and said with singular gravity, "He
was there a moment ago, but he's gone out to stretch his legs.
It's rather crampin' at first; and he can't stand it more than ten
hours at a time, you know."
But simplicity has its limits. Uncle Billy had already guessed his
real error in believing his partner was officially connected with
the building; his cheek had flushed and then paled again. The
pupils of his blue eyes had contracted into suggestive black
points. "Ef you'll let me in at that winder, young fellers," he
said, with equal gravity, "I'll show yer how I kin make YOU small
enough to go in a box without crampin'! But I only wanted to know
where Jim Foster LIVED."
At which the first clerk became perfunctory again, but civil. "A
letter left in his box would get you that information," he said,
"and here's paper and pencil to write it now."
Uncle Billy took the paper and began to write, "Just got here.
Come and see me at"-- He paused. A brilliant idea had struck him;
He could impress both his old partner and the upstarts at the
window; he would put in the name of the latest "swell" hotel in San
Francisco, said to be a fairy dream of opulence. He added "The
Oriental," and without folding the paper shoved it in the window.
"Don't you want an envelope?" asked the clerk.
"Put a stamp on the corner of it," responded Uncle Billy, laying
down a coin, "and she'll go through." The clerk smiled, but
affixed the stamp, and Uncle Billy turned away.
But it was a short-lived triumph. The disappointment at finding
Uncle Jim's address conveyed no idea of his habitation seemed to
remove him farther away, and lose his identity in the great city.
Besides, he must now make good his own address, and seek rooms at
the Oriental. He went thither. The furniture and decorations,
even in these early days of hotel-building in San Francisco, were
extravagant and over-strained, and Uncle Billy felt lost and lonely
in his strange surroundings. But he took a handsome suite of
rooms, paid for them in advance on the spot, and then, half
frightened, walked out of them to ramble vaguely through the city
in the feverish hope of meeting his old partner. At night his
inquietude increased; he could not face the long row of tables in
the pillared dining-room, filled with smartly dressed men and
women; he evaded his bedroom, with its brocaded satin chairs and
its gilt bedstead, and fled to his modest lodgings at the Good
Cheer House, and appeased his hunger at its cheap restaurant, in
the company of retired miners and freshly arrived Eastern
emigrants. Two or three days passed thus in this quaint double
existence. Three or four times a day he would enter the gorgeous
Oriental with affected ease and carelessness, demand his key from
the hotel-clerk, ask for the letter that did not come, go to his
room, gaze vaguely from his window on the passing crowd below for
the partner he could not find, and then return to the Good Cheer
House for rest and sustenance. On the fourth day he received a
short note from Uncle Jim; it was couched in his usual sanguine but
brief and businesslike style. He was very sorry, but important and
profitable business took him out of town, but he trusted to return
soon and welcome his old partner. He was also, for the first time,
jocose, and hoped that Uncle Billy would not "see all the sights"
before he, Uncle Jim, returned. Disappointing as this
procrastination was to Uncle Billy, a gleam of hope irradiated it:
the letter had bridged over that gulf which seemed to yawn between
them at the post-office. His old partner had accepted his visit to
San Francisco without question, and had alluded to a renewal of
their old intimacy. For Uncle Billy, with all his trustful
simplicity, had been tortured by two harrowing doubts: one, whether
Uncle Jim in his new-fledged smartness as a "city" man--such as he
saw in the streets--would care for his rough companionship; the
other, whether he, Uncle Billy, ought not to tell him at once of
his changed fortune. But, like all weak, unreasoning men, he clung
desperately to a detail--he could not forego his old idea of
astounding Uncle Jim by giving him his share of the "strike" as his
first intimation of it, and he doubted, with more reason perhaps,
if Jim would see him after he had heard of his good fortune. For
Uncle Billy had still a frightened recollection of Uncle Jim's
sudden stroke for independence, and that rigid punctiliousness
which had made him doggedly accept the responsibility of his
extravagant stake at euchre.
With a view of educating himself for Uncle Jim's company, he "saw
the sights" of San Francisco--as an overgrown and somewhat stupid
child might have seen them--with great curiosity, but little
contamination or corruption. But I think he was chiefly pleased
with watching the arrival of the Sacramento and Stockton steamers
at the wharves, in the hope of discovering his old partner among
the passengers on the gang-plank. Here, with his old superstitious
tendency and gambler's instinct, he would augur great success in
his search that day if any one of the passengers bore the least
resemblance to Uncle Jim, if a man or woman stepped off first, or
if he met a single person's questioning eye. Indeed, this got to
be the real occupation of the day, which he would on no account
have omitted, and to a certain extent revived each day in his mind
the morning's work of their old partnership. He would say to
himself, "It's time to go and look up Jim," and put off what he was
pleased to think were his pleasures until this act of duty was
In this singleness of purpose he made very few and no entangling
acquaintances, nor did he impart to any one the secret of his
fortune, loyally reserving it for his partner's first knowledge.
To a man of his natural frankness and simplicity this was a great
trial, and was, perhaps, a crucial test of his devotion. When he
gave up his rooms at the Oriental--as not necessary after his
partner's absence--he sent a letter, with his humble address, to
the mysterious lock-box of his partner without fear or false shame.
He would explain it all when they met. But he sometimes treated
unlucky and returning miners to a dinner and a visit to the gallery
of some theatre. Yet while he had an active sympathy with and
understanding of the humblest, Uncle Billy, who for many years had
done his own and his partner's washing, scrubbing, mending, and
cooking, and saw no degradation in it, was somewhat inconsistently
irritated by menial functions in men, and although he gave
extravagantly to waiters, and threw a dollar to the crossing-
sweeper, there was always a certain shy avoidance of them in his
manner. Coming from the theatre one night Uncle Billy was,
however, seriously concerned by one of these crossing-sweepers
turning hastily before them and being knocked down by a passing
carriage. The man rose and limped hurriedly away; but Uncle Billy
was amazed and still more irritated to hear from his companion that
this kind of menial occupation was often profitable, and that at
some of the principal crossings the sweepers were already rich men.
But a few days later brought a more notable event to Uncle Billy.
One afternoon in Montgomery Street he recognized in one of its
smartly dressed frequenters a man who had a few years before been a
member of Cedar Camp. Uncle Billy's childish delight at this
meeting, which seemed to bridge over his old partner's absence,
was, however, only half responded to by the ex-miner, and then
somewhat satirically. In the fullness of his emotion, Uncle Billy
confided to him that he was seeking his old partner, Jim Foster,
and, reticent of his own good fortune, spoke glowingly of his
partner's brilliant expectations, but deplored his inability to
find him. And just now he was away on important business. "I
reckon he's got back," said the man dryly. "I didn't know he had a
lock-box at the post-office, but I can give you his other address.
He lives at the Presidio, at Washerwoman's Bay." He stopped and
looked with a satirical smile at Uncle Billy. But the latter,
familiar with Californian mining-camp nomenclature, saw nothing
strange in it, and merely repeated his companion's words.
"You'll find him there! Good-by! So long! Sorry I'm in a hurry,"
said the ex-miner, and hurried away.
Uncle Billy was too delighted with the prospect of a speedy meeting
with Uncle Jim to resent his former associate's supercilious haste,
or even to wonder why Uncle Jim had not informed him that he had
returned. It was not the first time that he had felt how wide was
the gulf between himself and these others, and the thought drew him
closer to his old partner, as well as his old idea, as it was now
possible to surprise him with the draft. But as he was going to
surprise him in his own boarding-house--probably a handsome one--
Uncle Billy reflected that he would do so in a certain style.
He accordingly went to a livery stable and ordered a landau and
pair, with a negro coachman. Seated in it, in his best and most
ill-fitting clothes, he asked the coachman to take him to the
Presidio, and leaned back in the cushions as they drove through the
streets with such an expression of beaming gratification on his
good-humored face that the passers-by smiled at the equipage and
its extravagant occupant. To them it seemed the not unusual sight
of the successful miner "on a spree." To the unsophisticated Uncle
Billy their smiling seemed only a natural and kindly recognition of
his happiness, and he nodded and smiled back to them with
unsuspecting candor and innocent playfulness. "These yer 'Frisco
fellers ain't ALL slouches, you bet," he added to himself half
aloud, at the back of the grinning coachman.
Their way led through well-built streets to the outskirts, or
rather to that portion of the city which seemed to have been
overwhelmed by shifting sand-dunes, from which half-submerged
fences and even low houses barely marked the line of highway. The
resistless trade-winds which had marked this change blew keenly in
his face and slightly chilled his ardor. At a turn in the road the
sea came in sight, and sloping towards it the great Cemetery of
Lone Mountain, with white shafts and marbles that glittered in the
sunlight like the sails of ships waiting to be launched down that
slope into the Eternal Ocean. Uncle Billy shuddered. What if it
had been his fate to seek Uncle Jim there!
"Dar's yar Presidio!" said the negro coachman a few moments later,
pointing with his whip, "and dar's yar Wash'woman's Bay!"
Uncle Billy stared. A huge quadrangular fort of stone with a flag
flying above its battlements stood at a little distance, pressed
against the rocks, as if beating back the encroaching surges;
between him and the fort but farther inland was a lagoon with a
number of dilapidated, rudely patched cabins or cottages, like
stranded driftwood around its shore. But there was no mansion, no
block of houses, no street, not another habitation or dwelling to
Uncle Billy's first shock of astonishment was succeeded by a
feeling of relief. He had secretly dreaded a meeting with his old
partner in the "haunts of fashion;" whatever was the cause that
made Uncle Jim seek this obscure retirement affected him but
slightly; he even was thrilled with a vague memory of the old
shiftless camp they had both abandoned. A certain instinct--he
knew not why, or less still that it might be one of delicacy--made
him alight before they reached the first house. Bidding the
carriage wait, Uncle Billy entered, and was informed by a blowzy
Irish laundress at a tub that Jim Foster, or "Arkansaw Jim," lived
at the fourth shanty "beyant." He was at home, for "he'd shprained
his fut." Uncle Billy hurried on, stopped before the door of a
shanty scarcely less rude than their old cabin, and half timidly
pushed it open. A growling voice from within, a figure that rose
hurriedly, leaning on a stick, with an attempt to fly, but in the
same moment sank back in a chair with an hysterical laugh--and
Uncle Billy stood in the presence of his old partner! But as Uncle
Billy darted forward, Uncle Jim rose again, and this time with
outstretched hands. Uncle Billy caught them, and in one supreme
pressure seemed to pour out and transfuse his whole simple soul
into his partner's. There they swayed each other backwards and
forwards and sideways by their still clasped hands, until Uncle
Billy, with a glance at Uncle Jim's bandaged ankle, shoved him by
sheer force down into his chair.
Uncle Jim was first to speak. "Caught, b' gosh! I mighter known
you'd be as big a fool as me! Look you, Billy Fall, do you know
what you've done? You've druv me out er the streets whar I was
makin' an honest livin', by day, on three crossin's! Yes," he
laughed forgivingly, "you druv me out er it, by day, jest because I
reckoned that some time I might run into your darned fool face,"--
another laugh and a grasp of the hand,--"and then, b'gosh! not
content with ruinin' my business BY DAY, when I took to it at
night, YOU took to goin' out at nights too, and so put a stopper on
me there! Shall I tell you what else you did? Well, by the holy
poker! I owe this sprained foot to your darned foolishness and my
own, for it was getting away from YOU one night after the theatre
that I got run into and run over!
"Ye see," he went on, unconscious of Uncle Billy's paling face, and
with a naivete, though perhaps not a delicacy, equal to Uncle
Billy's own, "I had to play roots on you with that lock-box
business and these letters, because I did not want you to know what
I was up to, for you mightn't like it, and might think it was
lowerin' to the old firm, don't yer see? I wouldn't hev gone into
it, but I was played out, and I don't mind tellin' you NOW, old
man, that when I wrote you that first chipper letter from the lock-
box I hedn't eat anythin' for two days. But it's all right NOW,"
with a laugh. "Then I got into this business--thinkin' it nothin'--
jest the very last thing--and do you know, old pard, I couldn't
tell anybody but YOU--and, in fact, I kept it jest to tell you--
I've made nine hundred and fifty-six dollars! Yes, sir, NINE
HUNDRED AND FIFTY-SIX DOLLARS! solid money, in Adams and Co.'s
Bank, just out er my trade."
"Wot trade?" asked Uncle Billy.
Uncle Jim pointed to the corner, where stood a large, heavy
crossing-sweeper's broom. "That trade."
"Certingly," said Uncle Billy, with a quick laugh.
"It's an outdoor trade," said Uncle Jim gravely, but with no
suggestion of awkwardness or apology in his manner; "and thar ain't
much difference between sweepin' a crossin' with a broom and raking
over tailing with a rake, ONLY--WOT YE GET with a broom YOU HAVE
HANDED TO YE, and ye don't have to PICK IT UP AND FISH IT OUT ER
the wet rocks and sluice-gushin'; and it's a heap less tiring to
"Certingly, you bet!" said Uncle Billy enthusiastically, yet with a
certain nervous abstraction.
"I'm glad ye say so; for yer see I didn't know at first how you'd
tumble to my doing it, until I'd made my pile. And ef I hadn't
made it, I wouldn't hev set eyes on ye agin, old pard--never!"
"Do you mind my runnin' out a minit," said Uncle Billy, rising.
"You see, I've got a friend waitin' for me outside--and I reckon"--
he stammered--"I'll jest run out and send him off, so I kin talk
comf'ble to ye."
"Ye ain't got anybody you're owin' money to," said Uncle Jim
earnestly, "anybody follerin' you to get paid, eh? For I kin jest
set down right here and write ye off a check on the bank!"
"No," said Uncle Billy. He slipped out of the door, and ran like a
deer to the waiting carriage. Thrusting a twenty-dollar gold-piece
into the coachman's hand, he said hoarsely, "I ain't wantin' that
kerridge just now; ye ken drive around and hev a private jamboree
all by yourself the rest of the afternoon, and then come and wait
for me at the top o' the hill yonder."
Thus quit of his gorgeous equipage, he hurried back to Uncle Jim,
grasping his ten-thousand dollar draft in his pocket. He was
nervous, he was frightened, but he must get rid of the draft and
his story, and have it over. But before he could speak he was
unexpectedly stopped by Uncle Jim.
"Now, look yer, Billy boy!" said Uncle Jim; "I got suthin' to say
to ye--and I might as well clear it off my mind at once, and then
we can start fair agin. Now," he went on, with a half laugh,
"wasn't it enough for ME to go on pretendin' I was rich and doing a
big business, and gettin' up that lock-box dodge so as ye couldn't
find out whar I hung out and what I was doin'--wasn't it enough for
ME to go on with all this play-actin', but YOU, you long-legged or
nary cuss! must get up and go to lyin' and play-actin', too!"
"ME play-actin'? ME lyin'?" gasped Uncle Billy.
Uncle Jim leaned back in his chair and laughed. "Do you think you
could fool ME? Do you think I didn't see through your little game
o' going to that swell Oriental, jest as if ye'd made a big strike--
and all the while ye wasn't sleepin' or eatin' there, but jest
wrastlin' yer hash and having a roll down at the Good Cheer! Do
you think I didn't spy on ye and find that out? Oh, you long-eared
He laughed until the tears came into his eyes, and Uncle Billy
laughed too, albeit until the laugh on his face became quite fixed,
and he was fain to bury his head in his handkerchief.
"And yet," said Uncle Jim, with a deep breath, "gosh! I was
frighted--jest for a minit! I thought, mebbe, you HAD made a big
strike--when I got your first letter--and I made up my mind what
I'd do! And then I remembered you was jest that kind of an open
sluice that couldn't keep anythin' to yourself, and you'd have been
sure to have yelled it out to ME the first thing. So I waited.
And I found you out, you old sinner!" He reached forward and dug
Uncle Billy in the ribs.
"What WOULD you hev done?" said Uncle Billy, after an hysterical
Uncle Jim's face grew grave again. "I'd hev--I'd--hev cl'ared out!
Out er 'Frisco! out er Californy! out er Ameriky! I couldn't have
stud it! Don't think I would hev begrudged ye yer luck! No man
would have been gladder than me." He leaned forward again, and
laid his hand caressingly upon his partner's arm--"Don't think I'd
hev wanted to take a penny of it--but I--thar! I COULDN'T hev stood
up under it! To hev had YOU, you that I left behind, comin' down
here rollin' in wealth and new partners and friends, and arrive
upon me--and this shanty--and"--he threw towards the corner of the
room a terrible gesture, none the less terrible that it was
illogical and inconsequent to all that had gone before--"and--and--
There was a dead silence in the room. With it Uncle Billy seemed
to feel himself again transported to the homely cabin at Cedar Camp
and that fateful night, with his partner's strange, determined face
before him as then. He even fancied that he heard the roaring of
the pines without, and did not know that it was the distant sea.
But after a minute Uncle Jim resumed:--
"Of course you've made a little raise somehow, or you wouldn't be
"Yes," said Uncle Billy eagerly. "Yes! I've got"-- He stopped
and stammered. "I've got--a--few hundreds."
"Oh, oh!" said Uncle Jim cheerfully. He paused, and then added
earnestly, "I say! You ain't got left, over and above your d--d
foolishness at the Oriental, as much as five hundred dollars?"
"I've got," said Uncle Billy, blushing a little over his first
deliberate and affected lie, "I've got at least five hundred and
seventy-two dollars. Yes," he added tentatively, gazing anxiously
at his partner, "I've got at least that."
"Je whillikins!" said Uncle Jim, with a laugh. Then eagerly, "Look
here, pard! Then we're on velvet! I've got NINE hundred; put your
FIVE with that, and I know a little ranch that we can get for
twelve hundred. That's what I've been savin' up for--that's my
little game! No more minin' for ME. It's got a shanty twice as
big as our old cabin, nigh on a hundred acres, and two mustangs.
We can run it with two Chinamen and jest make it howl! Wot yer
say--eh?" He extended his hand.
"I'm in," said Uncle Billy, radiantly grasping Uncle Jim's. But
his smile faded, and his clear simple brow wrinkled in two lines.
Happily Uncle Jim did not notice it. "Now, then, old pard," he
said brightly, "we'll have a gay old time to-night--one of our
jamborees! I've got some whiskey here and a deck o' cards, and
we'll have a little game, you understand, but not for 'keeps' now!
No, siree; we'll play for beans."
A sudden light illuminated Uncle Billy's face again, but he said,
with a grim desperation, "Not to-night! I've got to go into town.
That fren' o' mine expects me to go to the theayter, don't ye see?
But I'll be out to-morrow at sun-up, and we'll fix up this thing o'
"Seems to me you're kinder stuck on this fren'," grunted Uncle Jim.
Uncle Billy's heart bounded at his partner's jealousy. "No--but I
MUST, you know," he returned, with a faint laugh.
"I say--it ain't a HER, is it?" said Uncle Jim.
Uncle Billy achieved a diabolical wink and a creditable blush at
And under cover of this festive gallantry Uncle Billy escaped. He
ran through the gathering darkness, and toiled up the shifting
sands to the top of the hill, where he found the carriage waiting.
"Wot," said Uncle Billy in a low confidential tone to the coachman,
"wot do you 'Frisco fellers allow to be the best, biggest, and
riskiest gamblin'-saloon here? Suthin' high-toned, you know?"
The negro grinned. It was the usual case of the extravagant
spendthrift miner, though perhaps he had expected a different
question and order.
"Dey is de 'Polka,' de 'El Dorado,' and de 'Arcade' saloon, boss,"
he said, flicking his whip meditatively. "Most gents from de mines
prefer de 'Polka,' for dey is dancing wid de gals frown in. But de
real prima facie place for gents who go for buckin' agin de tiger
and straight-out gamblin' is de 'Arcade.'"
"Drive there like thunder!" said Uncle Billy, leaping into the
. . . . . .
True to his word, Uncle Billy was at his partner's shanty early the
next morning. He looked a little tired, but happy, and had brought
a draft with him for five hundred and seventy-five dollars, which
he explained was the total of his capital. Uncle Jim was
overjoyed. They would start for Napa that very day, and conclude
the purchase of the ranch; Uncle Jim's sprained foot was a
sufficient reason for his giving up his present vocation, which he
could also sell at a small profit. His domestic arrangements were
very simple; there was nothing to take with him--there was
everything to leave behind. And that afternoon, at sunset, the two
reunited partners were seated on the deck of the Napa boat as she
swung into the stream.
Uncle Billy was gazing over the railing with a look of abstracted
relief towards the Golden Gate, where the sinking sun seemed to be
drawing towards him in the ocean a golden stream that was forever
pouring from the Bay and the three-hilled city beside it. What
Uncle Billy was thinking of, or what the picture suggested to him,
did not transpire; for Uncle Jim, who, emboldened by his holiday,
was luxuriating in an evening paper, suddenly uttered a long-drawn
whistle, and moved closer to his abstracted partner. "Look yer,"
he said, pointing to a paragraph he had evidently just read, "just
you listen to this, and see if we ain't lucky, you and me, to be
jest wot we air--trustin' to our own hard work--and not thinkin' o'
'strikes' and 'fortins.' Jest unbutton yer ears, Billy, while I
reel off this yer thing I've jest struck in the paper, and see what
d--d fools some men kin make o' themselves. And that theer
reporter wot wrote it--must hev seed it reely!"
Uncle Jim cleared his throat, and holding the paper close to his
eyes read aloud slowly:--
"'A scene of excitement that recalled the palmy days of '49 was
witnessed last night at the Arcade Saloon. A stranger, who might
have belonged to that reckless epoch, and who bore every evidence
of being a successful Pike County miner out on a "spree," appeared
at one of the tables with a negro coachman bearing two heavy bags
of gold. Selecting a faro-bank as his base of operations, he began
to bet heavily and with apparent recklessness, until his play
excited the breathless attention of every one. In a few moments he
had won a sum variously estimated at from eighty to a hundred
thousand dollars. A rumor went round the room that it was a
concerted attempt to "break the bank" rather than the drunken freak
of a Western miner, dazzled by some successful strike. To this
theory the man's careless and indifferent bearing towards his
extraordinary gains lent great credence. The attempt, if such it
was, however, was unsuccessful. After winning ten times in
succession the luck turned, and the unfortunate "bucker" was
cleared out not only of his gains, but of his original investment,
which may be placed roughly at twenty thousand dollars. This
extraordinary play was witnessed by a crowd of excited players, who
were less impressed by even the magnitude of the stakes than the
perfect sang-froid and recklessness of the player, who, it is said,
at the close of the game tossed a twenty-dollar gold-piece to the
banker and smilingly withdrew. The man was not recognized by any
of the habitues of the place.'