It was aquiet night in the Shovel. At the barwhich rangedalong oneside of the large chinked-log roomleaned half a dozenmentwoof whom were discussing the relative merits ofspruce-teaand lime-juice as remedies for scurvy. They arguedwith anair of depression and with intervals of morose silence.The othermen scarcely heeded them. In a rowagainst theoppositewallwere the gambling games. The crap-table wasdeserted. One lone man was playing at the faro-table. Theroulette-ballwas not even spinningand the gamekeeper stood bytheroaringred-hot stovetalking with the youngdark-eyedwomancomely of face and figurewho was known from Juneau toFort Yukonas the Virgin. Three men sat in at stud-pokerbuttheyplayed with small chips and without enthusiasmwhile therewere noonlookers. On the floor of the dancing-roomwhichopened outat the rearthree couples were waltzing drearily tothestrains of a violin and a piano.
CircleCity was not desertednor was money tight. The minerswere infrom Moseyed Creek and the other diggings to the westthe summerwashing had been goodand the men's pouches wereheavy withdust and nuggets. The Klondike had not yet beendiscoverednor had the miners of the Yukon learned thepossibilitiesof deep digging and wood-firing. No work was donein thewinterand they made a practice of hibernating in thelargecamps like Circle City during the long Arctic night. Timewas heavyon their handstheir pouches were well filledand theonlysocial diversion to be found was in the saloons. Yet theShovel waspractically desertedand the Virginstanding by thestoveyawned with uncovered mouth and said to Charley Bates:-
"Ifsomething don't happen soonI'm gin' to bed. What's thematterwith the campanyway? Everybody dead?"
Bates didnot even trouble to replybut went on moodily rollingacigarette. Dan MacDonaldpioneer saloonman and gambler on theupperYukonowner and proprietor of the Tivoli and all itsgameswandered forlornly across the great vacant space of floorand joinedthe two at the stove.
"Anybodydead?" the Virgin asked him.
"Lookslike it" was the answer.
"Thenit must be the whole camp" she said with an air offinalityand with another yawn.
MacDonaldgrinned and noddedand opened his mouth to speakwhenthe frontdoor swung wide and a man appeared in the light. Arush offrostturned to vapor by the heat of the roomswirledabout himto his knees and poured on across the floorgrowingthinnerand thinnerand perishing a dozen feet from the stove.Taking thewisp broom from its nail inside the doorthe newcomerbrushedthe snow from his moccasins and high German socks. Hewould haveappeared a large man had not a huge French-Canadianstepped upto him from the bar and gripped his hand.
"HelloDaylight!" was his greeting. "By Garyou good forsoreeyes!"
"HelloLouiswhen did you-all blow in?" returned the newcomer."Comeup and have a drink and tell us all about Bone Creek. Whydog-goneyou-allshake again. Where's that pardner of yours?I'mlooking for him."
Anotherhuge man detached himself from the bar to shake hands.OlafHenderson and French Louispartners together on Bone Creekwere thetwo largest men in the countryand though they were buthalf ahead taller than the newcomerbetween them he was dwarfedcompletely.
"HelloOlafyou're my meatsavvee that" said the one calledDaylight. "To-morrow's my birthdayand I'm going to put you-allon yourbacksavvee? And youtooLouis. I can put you-all onyour backon my birthdaysavvee? Come up and drinkOlafandI'll tellyou-all about it."
Thearrival of the newcomer seemed to send a flood of warmththroughthe place. "It's Burning Daylight" the Virgin criedthe firstto recognize him as he came into the light. CharleyBates'tight features relaxed at the sightand MacDonald wentover andjoined the three at the bar. With the advent of BurningDaylightthe whole place became suddenly brighter and cheerier.Thebarkeepers were active. Voices were raised. Somebodylaughed. And when the fiddlerpeering into the front roomremarkedto the pianist"It's Burning Daylight" the waltz-timeperceptiblyquickenedand the dancerscatching the contagionbegan towhirl about as if they really enjoyed it. It was knownto them ofold time that nothing languished when Burning Daylightwasaround.
He turnedfrom the bar and saw the woman by the stove and theeager lookof welcome she extended him.
"HelloVirginold girl" he called. "HelloCharley. What'sthe matterwith you-all? Why wear faces like that when coffinscost onlythree ounces? Come upyou-alland drink. Come upyouunburied deadand name your poison. Come upeverybody.This is mynightand I'm going to ride it. To-morrow I'mthirtyand then I'll be an old man. It's the last fling ofyouth. Are you-all with me? Surge alongthen. Surge along.
"Holdon thereDavis" he called to the faro-dealerwho hadshoved hischair back from the table. "I'm going you one flutterto seewhether you-all drink with me or we-all drink with you."
Pulling aheavy sack of gold-dust from his coat pockethedropped iton the HIGH CARD.
Thefaro-dealer slipped two cards. The high card won. Hescribbledthe amount on a padand the weigher at the barbalancedfifty dollars' worth of dust in the gold-scales andpoured itinto Burning Daylight's sack. The waltz in the backroom beingfinishedthe three couplesfollowed by the fiddlerand thepianist and heading for the barcaught Daylight's eye.
"Surgealongyou-all" he cried. "Surge along and name it. Thisis mynightand it ain't a night that comes frequent. Surge upyouSiwashes and Salmon-eaters. It's my nightI tell you-all"
"Ablame mangy night" Charley Bates interpolated.
"You'rerightmy son" Burning Daylight went on gaily.
"Amangy nightbut it's MY nightyou see. I'm the mangy oldhe-wolf. Listen to me howl."
And howlhe didlike a lone gray timber wolftill the Virginthrust herpretty fingers in her ears and shivered. A minutelater shewas whirled away in his arms to the dancing-floorwherealong with the other three women and their partnersarollickingVirginia reel was soon in progress. Men and womendanced inmoccasinsand the place was soon a-roarBurningDaylightthe centre of it and the animating sparkwith quip andjest andrough merriment rousing them out of the slough ofdespond inwhich he had found them.
Theatmosphere of the place changed with his coming. He seemedto fill itwith his tremendous vitality. Men who entered fromthe streetfelt it immediatelyand in response to their queriesthebarkeepers nodded at the back roomand said comprehensively"BurningDaylight's on the tear." And the men who enteredremainedand kept the barkeepers busy. The gamblers took heartof lifeand soon the tables were filledthe click of chips andwhir ofthe roulette-ball rising monotonously and imperiouslyabove thehoarse rumble of men's voices and their oaths and heavylaughs.
Few menknew Elam Harnish by any other name than BurningDaylightthe name which had been given him in the early days inthe landbecause of his habit of routing his comrades out oftheirblankets with the complaint that daylight was burning. Ofthepioneers in that far Arctic wildernesswhere all men werepioneershe was reckoned among the oldest. Men like Al Mayo andJackMcQuestion antedated him; but they had entered the land bycrossingthe Rockies from the Hudson Bay country to the east.Hehoweverhad been the pioneer over the Chilcoot and Chilcatpasses. In the spring of 1883twelve years beforea striplingofeighteenhe had crossed over the Chilcoot with five comrades.
In thefall he had crossed back with one. Four had perished bymischancein the bleakuncharted vastness. And for twelve yearsElamHarnish had continued to grope for gold among the shadows oftheCircle.
And no manhad groped so obstinately nor so enduringly. He hadgrown upwith the land. He knew no other land. Civilization wasa dream ofsome previous life. Camps like Forty Mile and CircleCity wereto him metropolises. And not alone had he grown upwith thelandforraw as it washe had helped to make it. Hehad madehistory and geographyand those that followed wrote ofhistraverses and charted the trails his feet had broken.
Heroes areseldom given to hero-worshipbut among those of thatyounglandyoung as he washe was accounted an elder hero. Inpoint oftime he was before them. In point of deed he was beyondthem. In point of endurance it was acknowledged that he couldkill thehardiest of them. Furthermorehe was accounted a nervymanasquare manand a white man.
In alllands where life is a hazard lightly played with andlightlyflung asidemen turnalmost automaticallyto gamblingfordiversion and relaxation. In the Yukon men gambled theirlives forgoldand those that won gold from the ground gambledfor itwith one another. Nor was Elam Harnish an exception. Hewas aman's man primarilyand the instinct in him to play thegame oflife was strong. Environment had determined what formthat gameshould take. He was born on an Iowa farmand hisfather hademigrated to eastern Oregonin which mining countryElam'sboyhood was lived. He had known nothing but hard knocksfor bigstakes. Pluck and endurance counted in the gamebut thegreat godChance dealt the cards. Honest work for sure butmeagrereturns did not count. A man played big. He riskedeverythingfor everythingand anything less than everythingmeant thathe was a loser. So for twelve Yukon yearsElamHarnishhad been a loser. Trueon Moosehide Creek the pastsummer hehad taken out twenty thousand dollarsand what wasleft inthe ground was twenty thousand more. Butas he himselfproclaimedthat was no more than getting his ante back. He hadante'd hislife for a dozen yearsand forty thousand was a smallpot forsuch a stake the price of a drink and a dance at theTivoliofa winter's flutter at Circle Cityand a grubstake forthe yearto come.
The men ofthe Yukon reversed the old maxim till it read: hardcomeeasygo. At the end of the reelElam Harnish called thehouse upto drink again. Drinks were a dollar apiecegold ratedat sixteendollars an ounce; there were thirty in the house thatacceptedhis invitationand between every dance the house wasElam'sguest. This was his nightand nobody was to be allowedto pay foranything.
Not thatElam Harnish was a drinking man. Whiskey meant littleto him. He was too vital and robusttoo untroubled in mind andbodytoincline to the slavery of alcohol. He spent months at atime ontrail and river when he drank nothing stronger thancoffeewhile he had gone a year at a time without even coffee.But he wasgregariousand since the sole social expression ofthe Yukonwas the saloonhe expressed himself that way. When hewas a ladin the mining camps of the Westmen had always donethat. To him it was the proper way for a man to express himselfsocially. He knew no other way.
He was astriking figure of a mandespite his garb being similarto that ofall the men in the Tivoli. Soft-tanned moccasins ofmoose-hidebeaded in Indian designscovered his feet. Histrouserswere ordinary overallshis coat was made from ablanket. Long-gauntleted leather mittenslined with woolhungby hisside. They were connected in the Yukon fashionby aleatherthong passed around the neck and across the shoulders.On hishead was a fur capthe ear-flaps raised and thetying-cordsdangling. His facelean and slightly longwith thesuggestionof hollows under the cheek-bonesseemed almostIndian. The burnt skin and keen dark eyes contributed to thiseffectthough the bronze of the skin and the eyes themselveswereessentially those of a white man. He looked older thanthirtyand yetsmooth-shaven and without wrinkleshe wasalmostboyish. This impression of age was based on no tangibleevidence. It came from the abstracter facts of the manfromwhat hehad endured and survivedwhich was far beyond that ofordinarymen. He had lived life naked and tenselyand somethingof allthis smouldered in his eyesvibrated in his voiceandseemedforever a-whisper on his lips.
The lipsthemselves were thinand prone to close tightly overthe evenwhite teeth. But their harshness was retrieved by theupwardcurl at the corners of his mouth. This curl gave to himsweetnessas the minute puckers at the corners of the eyesgave himlaughter. These necessary graces saved him from anaturethat was essentially savage and that otherwise would havebeen crueland bitter. The nose was leanfull-nostrilledanddelicateand of a size to fit the face; while the high foreheadas if toatone for its narrownesswas splendidly domed andsymmetrical. In line with the Indian effect was his hairverystraightand very blackwith a gloss to it that only healthcouldgive.
"BurningDaylight's burning candlelight" laughed Dan MacDonaldas anoutburst of exclamations and merriment came from thedancers.
"An'he is der boy to do itehLouis?" said Olaf Henderson.
"Yesby Gar! you bet on dat" said French Louis. "Dat boyisall gold"
"Andwhen God Almighty washes Daylight's soul out on the last bigslucin'day" MacDonald interrupted"whyGod Almighty'll haveto shovelgravel along with him into the sluice-boxes."
"Dotiss goot" Olaf Henderson mutteredregarding the gamblerwithprofound admiration.
"Ver'good" affirmed French Louis. "I t'ink we take adrink ondat onetimeeh?"
It was twoin the morning when the dancersbent on gettingsomethingto eatadjourned the dancing for half an hour. And itwas atthis moment that Jack Kearns suggested poker. Jack Kearnswas a bigbluff-featured manwhoalong with Bettleshad madethedisastrous attempt to found a post on the head-reaches of theKoyokukfar inside the Arctic Circle. After thatKearns hadfallenback on his posts at Forty Mile and Sixty Mile and changedthedirection of his ventures by sending out to the States for asmallsawmill and a river steamer. The former was even thenbeingsledded across Chilcoot Pass by Indians and dogsand wouldcome downthe Yukon in the early summer after the ice-run. Laterin thesummerwhen Bering Sea and the mouth of the Yukon clearedof icethe steamerput together at St. Michaelswas to beexpectedup the river loaded to the guards with supplies.
JackKearns suggested poker. French LouisDan MacDonaldandHalCampbell (who had make a strike on Moosehide)all three ofwhom werenot dancing because there were not girls enough to goaroundinclined to the suggestion. They were looking for afifth manwhen Burning Daylight emerged from the rear roomtheVirgin onhis armthe train of dancers in his wake. In responseto thehail of the poker-playershe came over to their table inthecorner.
"Wantyou to sit in" said Campbell. "How's your luck?"
"Isure got it to-night" Burning Daylight answered withenthusiasmand at the same time felt the Virgin press his armwarningly. She wanted him for the dancing. "I sure got my luckwith mebut I'd sooner dance. I ain't hankerin' to take themoney awayfrom you-all."
Nobodyurged. They took his refusal as finaland the Virgin waspressinghis arm to turn him away in pursuit of thesupper-seekerswhen he experienced a change of heart. It wasnot thathe did not want to dancenor that he wanted to hurther; butthat insistent pressure on his arm put his freeman-naturein revolt. The thought in his mind was that he didnot wantany woman running him. Himself a favorite with womenneverthelessthey did not bulk big with him. They were toysplaythingspart of the relaxation from the bigger game of life.He metwomen along with the whiskey and gamblingand fromobservationhe had found that it was far easier to break awayfrom thedrink and the cards than from a woman once the man wasproperlyentangled.
He was aslave to himselfwhich was natural in one with ahealthyegobut he rebelled in ways either murderous or panickyat being aslave to anybody else. Love's sweet servitude was athing ofwhich he had no comprehension. Men he had seen in loveimpressedhim as lunaticsand lunacy was a thing he had neverconsideredworth analyzing. But comradeship with men wasdifferentfrom love with women. There was no servitude incomradeship. It was a business propositiona square dealbetweenmen who did not pursue each otherbut who shared therisks oftrail and river and mountain in the pursuit of life andtreasure. Men and women pursued each otherand one must needsbend theother to his will or hers. Comradeship was different.There wasno slavery about it; and though hea strong man beyondstrength'sseeminggave far more than he receivedhe gave notsomethingdue but in royal largesshis gifts of toil or heroiceffortfalling generously from his hands. To pack for days overthegale-swept passes or across the mosquito-ridden marshesandto packdouble the weight his comrade packeddid not involveunfairnessor compulsion. Each did his best. That was thebusinessessence of it. Some men were stronger thanotherstrue;but solong as each man did his best it was fair exchangethebusinessspirit was observedand the square deal obtained.
But withwomen no. Women gave little and wanted all. Women hadapron-stringsand were prone to tie them about any man who lookedtwice intheir direction. There was the Virginyawning her headoff whenhe came in and mightily pleased that he asked her todance. One dance was all very wellbut because he danced twiceand thricewith her and several times moreshe squeezed his armwhen theyasked him to sit in at poker. It was the obnoxiousapron-stringthe first of the many compulsions she would exertupon himif he gave in. Not that she was not a nice bit of awomanhealthy and strapping and good to look uponalso a veryexcellentdancerbut that she was a woman with all a woman'sdesire torope him with her apron-strings and tie him hand andfoot forthe branding. Better poker. Besideshe liked poker aswell as hedid dancing.
Heresisted the pull on his arm by the mere negative mass of himand said:-
"Isort of feel a hankering to give you-all a flutter."
Again camethe pull on his arm. She was trying to pass theapron-stringaround him. For the fraction of an instant he was asavagedominated by the wave of fear and murder that rose up inhim. For that infinitesimal space of time he was to all purposesafrightened tiger filled with rage and terror at theapprehensionof the trap. Had he been no more than a savagehewould haveleapt wildly from the place or else sprung upon heranddestroyed her. But in that same instant there stirred in himthegenerations of discipline by which man had become aninadequatesocial animal. Tact and sympathy strove with himandhe smiledwith his eyes into the Virgin's eyes as he said:-
"You-allgo and get some grub. I ain't hungry. And we'll dancesome moreby and by. The night's young yet. Go to itoldgirl."
Hereleased his arm and thrust her playfully on the shoulderatthe sametime turning to the poker-players.
"Takeoff the limit and I'll go you-all."
"Limit'sthe roof" said Jack Kearns.
"Takeoff the roof."
Theplayers glanced at one anotherand Kearns announced"Theroof'soff."
ElamHarnish dropped into the waiting chairstarted to pull outhisgold-sackand changed his mind. The Virgin pouted a momentthenfollowed in the wake of the other dancers.
"I'llbring you a sandwichDaylight" she called back over hershoulder.
Henodded. She was smiling her forgiveness. He had escapedtheapron-stringand without hurting her feelings too severely.
"Let'splay markers" he suggested. "Chips do everlastinglyclutter upthe table....If it's agreeable to you-all?"
"I'mwilling" answered Hal Campbell. "Let mine run atfivehundred."
"Minetoo" answered Harnishwhile the others stated the valuesthey puton their own markersFrench Louisthe most modestissuinghis at a hundred dollars each.
In Alaskaat that timethere were no rascals and no tin-horngamblers. Games were conducted honestlyand men trusted oneanother. A man's word was as good as his gold in the blower. Amarker wasa flatoblong composition chip worthperhapsacent. But when a man betted a marker in a game and said it wasworth fivehundred dollarsit was accepted as worth five hundreddollars. Whoever won it knew that the man who issued it wouldredeem itwith five hundred dollars' worth of dust weighed out onthescales. The markers being of different colorsthere was nodifficultyin identifying the owners. Alsoin that early Yukondaynoone dreamed of playing table-stakes. A man was good in agame forall that he possessedno matter where his possessionswere orwhat was their nature.
Harnishcut and got the deal. At this good auguryand whileshufflingthe deckhe called to the barkeepers to set up thedrinks forthe house. As he dealt the first card to DanMacDonaldon his lefthe called out:
"Getdown to the groundyou-allMalemuteshuskiesand Siwashpurps! Get down and dig in! Tighten up them traces! Put yourweightinto the harness and bust the breast-bands! Whoop-la!Yow! We're off and bound for Helen Breakfast! And I tellyou-allclear and plain there's goin' to be stiff grades and fastgoin'to-night before we win to that same lady. And somebody'sgoin' tobump...hard."
Oncestartedit was a quiet gamewith little or noconversationthough all about the players the place was a-roar.ElamHarnish had ignited the spark. More and more miners droppedin to theTivoli and remained. When Burning Daylight went on thetearnoman cared to miss it. The dancing-floor was full.Owing tothe shortage of womenmany of the men tied bandannahandkerchiefsaround their arms in token of femininity and dancedwith othermen. All the games were crowdedand the voices ofthe mentalking at the long bar and grouped about the stove wereaccompaniedby the steady click of chips and the sharp whirrising andfallingof the roulette-ball. All the materials of aproperYukon night were at hand and mixing.
The luckat the table varied monotonouslyno big hands beingout. As a resulthigh play went on with small hands though noplaylasted long. A filled straight belonging to French Louisgave him apot of five thousand against two sets of threes heldbyCampbell and Kearns. One pot of eight hundred dollars was wonby a pairof trays on a showdown. And once Harnish called Kearnsfor twothousand dollars on a cold steal. When Kearns laid downhis handit showed a bobtail flushwhile Harnish's hand provedthat hehad had the nerve to call on a pair of tens.
But atthree in the morning the big combination of hands arrived.
It was themoment of moments that men wait weeks for in a pokergame. The news of it tingled over the Tivoli. The onlookersbecamequiet. The men farther away ceased talking and moved overto thetable. The players deserted the other gamesand thedancing-floorwas forsakenso that all stood at lastfivescoreand morein a compact and silent grouparound the poker-table.The highbetting had begun before the drawand still the highbettingwent onwith the draw not in sight. Kearns had dealtand FrenchLouis had opened the pot with one marker in his caseonehundred dollars. Campbell had merely "seen" itbutElamHarnishcorning nexthad tossed in five hundred dollarswiththe remarkto MacDonald that he was letting him in easy.
MacDonaldglancing again at his handput in a thousand inmarkers. Kearnsdebating a long time over his handfinally"saw." It then cost French Louis nine hundred to remain in thegamewhich he contributed after a similar debate. It costCampbelllikewise nine hundred to remain and draw cardsbut tothesurprise of all he saw the nine hundred and raised anotherthousand.
"You-allare on the grade at last" Harnish remarkedas he sawthefifteen hundred and raised a thousand in turn. "HelenBreakfast'ssure on top this divideand you-all had best lookout forbustin' harness."
"Mefor that same lady" accompanied MacDonald's markers for twothousandand for an additional thousand-dollar raise.
It was atthis stage that the players sat up and knew beyondperadventurethat big hands were out. Though their featuresshowednothingeach man was beginning unconsciously to tense.Each manstrove to appear his natural selfand each natural selfwasdifferent. Hal Campbell affected his customary cautiousness.
FrenchLouis betrayed interest. MacDonald retained hiswhole-souledbenevolencethough it seemed to take on a slightlyexaggeratedtone. Kearns was coolly dispassionate andnoncommittalwhile Elam Harnish appeared as quizzical andjocular asever. Eleven thousand dollars were already in thepotandthe markers were heaped in a confused pile in the centreof thetable.
"Iain't go no more markers" Kearns remarked plaintively. "We'dbest beginI.O.U.'s."
"Gladyou're going to stay" was MacDonald's cordial response.
"Iain't stayed yet. I've got a thousand in already. How'sitstandnow?"
"It'llcost you three thousand for a look inbut nobody willstop youfrom raising."
"Raisehell. You must think I got a pat like yourself." Kearnslooked at his hand. "But I'll tell you what I'll doMac.
I've got ahunchand I'll just see that three thousand."
He wrotethe sum on a slip of papersigned his nameandconsignedit to the centre of the table.
FrenchLouis became the focus of all eyes. He fingered his cardsnervouslyfor a space. Thenwith a "By Gar! Ah got not oneleetlebeet hunch" he regretfully tossed his hand into thediscards.
The nextmoment the hundred and odd pairs of eyes shifted toCampbell.
"Iwon't hump youJack" he saidcontenting himself withcallingthe requisite two thousand.
The eyesshifted to Harnishwho scribbled on a piece of paperand shovedit forward.
"I'lljust let you-all know this ain't no Sunday-school societyofphilanthropy" he said. "I see youJackand I raiseyou athousand. Here's where you-all get action on your patMac."
"Action'swhat I fatten onand I lift another thousand" wasMacDonald'srejoinder. "Still got that hunchJack?"
"Istill got the hunch." Kearns fingered his cards a longtime. "And I'll play itbut you've got to know how I stand.There's mysteamerthe Bellaworth twenty thousand if she'sworth anounce. There's Sixty Mile with five thousand in stockon theshelves. And you know I got a sawmill coming in. It's atLindermannowand the scow is building. Am I good?"
"Digin; you're sure good" was Daylight's answer. "Andwhilewe'reabout itI may mention casual that I got twenty thousandin Mac'ssafethereand there's twenty thousand more in theground onMoosehide. You know the groundCampbell. Is theythat-allin the dirt?"
"Howmuch does it cost now?" Kearns asked.
"Twothousand to see."
"We'llsure hump you if you-all come in" Daylight warned him.
"It'san almighty good hunch" Kearns saidadding his slip fortwothousand to the growing heap. "I can feel her crawlin' upand downmy back."
"Iain't got a hunchbut I got a tolerable likeable hand"Campbellannouncedas he slid in his slip; "but it's not araisinghand."
"Mineis" Daylight paused and wrote. "I see that thousandandraise herthe same old thousand."
TheVirginstanding behind himthen did what a man's bestfriend wasnot privileged to do. Reaching over Daylight'sshouldershe picked up his hand and read itat the same timeshieldingthe faces of the five cards close to his chest. Whatshe sawwere three queens and a pair of eightsbut nobodyguessedwhat she saw. Every player's eyes were on her face asshescanned the cardsbut no sign did she give. Her featuresmight havebeen carved from icefor her expression was preciselythe samebeforeduringand after. Not a muscle quivered; norwas therethe slightest dilation of a nostrilnor the slightestincreaseof light in the eyes. She laid the hand face down againon thetableand slowly the lingering eyes withdrew from herhavinglearned nothing.
MacDonaldsmiled benevolently. "I see youDaylightand I humpthis timefor two thousand. How's that hunchJack?"
"Stilla-crawlingMac. You got me nowbut that hunch is arip-snorterpersuadin' sort of a critterand it's my plain dutyto rideit. I call for three thousand. And I got another hunch:Daylight'sgoing to calltoo."
"Hesure is" Daylight agreedafter Campbell had thrown up hishand. "He knows when he's up against itand he plays accordin'.
I see thattwo thousandand then I'll see the draw."
In a deadsilencesave for the low voices of the three playersthe drawwas made. Thirty-four thousand dollars were already inthe potand the play possibly not half over. To the Virgin'samazementDaylight held up his three queensdiscarding hiseights andcalling for two cards. And this time not even shedared lookat what he had drawn. She knew her limit of control.Nor did helook. The two new cards lay face down on the tablewhere theyhad been dealt to him.
"Cards?"Kearns asked of MacDonald.
"Gotenough" was the reply.
"Youcan draw if you want toyou know" Kearns warned him.
"Nope;this'll do me."
Kearnshimself drew two cardsbut did not look at them.
StillHarnish let his cards lie.
"Inever bet in the teeth of a pat hand" he said slowlylookingat thesaloon-keeper. "You-all start her rollingMac."
MacDonaldcounted his cards carefullyto make doubles sure itwas not afoul handwrote a sum on a paper slipand slid itinto thepotwith the simple utterance:-
Kearnswith every eye upon himlooked at his two-card drawcountedthe other three to dispel any doubt of holding more thanfivecardsand wrote on a betting slip.
"Isee youMac" he said"and I raise her a little thousandjust so asnot to keep Daylight out."
Theconcentrated gaze shifted to Daylight. He likewise examinedhis drawand counted his five cards.
"Isee that six thousandand I raise her five thousand...just totry andkeep you outJack."
"AndI raise you five thousand just to lend a hand at keepingJack out"MacDonald saidin turn.
His voicewas slightly husky and strainedand a nervous twitchin thecorner of his mouth followed speech.
Kearns waspaleand those who looked on noted that his handtrembledas he wrote his slip. But his voice was unchanged.
"Ilift her along for five thousand" he said.
Daylightwas now the centre. The kerosene lamps above flung highlightsfrom the rash of sweat on his forehead. The bronze of hischeeks wasdarkened by the accession of blood. His black eyesglitteredand his nostrils were distended and eager. They werelargenostrilstokening his descent from savage ancestors whohadsurvived by virtue of deep lungs and generous air-passages.Yetunlike MacDonaldhis voice was firm and customaryandunlikeKearnshis hand did not tremble when he wrote.
"Icallfor ten thousand" he said. "Not that I'mafraid ofyou-allMac. It's that hunch of Jack's."
"Ihump his hunch for five thousand just the same" saidMacDonald. "I had the best hand before the drawand I stillguess Igot it."
"Mebbethis is a case where a hunch after the draw is better'nthe hunchbefore" Kearns remarked; "wherefore duty says'LiftherJacklift her' and so I lift her another five thousand."
Daylightleaned back in his chair and gazed up at the kerosenelampswhile he computed aloud.
"Iwas in nine thousand before the drawand I saw and raisedeleventhousand that makes thirty. I'm only good for ten more."
He leanedforward and looked at Kearns. "So I call that tenthousand."
"Youcan raise if you want" Kearns answered. "Your dogsaregood forfive thousand in this game."
"Narydawg. You-all can win my dust and dirtbut nary one of mydawgs. I just call."
MacDonaldconsidered for a long time. No one moved or whispered.
Not amuscle was relaxed on the part of the onlookers. Not theweight ofa body shifted from one leg to the other. It was asacredsilence. Only could be heard the roaring draft of thehugestoveand from withoutmuffled by the log-wallsthehowling ofdogs. It was not every night that high stakes wereplayed onthe Yukonand for that matterthis was the highest inthehistory of the country. The saloon-keeper finally spoke.
"Ifanybody else winsthey'll have to take a mortgage on theTivoli."
The twoother players nodded.
"So Icalltoo." MacDonald added his slip for five thousand.
Not one ofthem claimed the potand not one of them called thesize ofhis hand. Simultaneously and in silence they faced theircards onthe tablewhile a general tiptoeing and craning ofnecks tookplace among the onlookers. Daylight showed fourqueens andan ace; MacDonald four jacks and an ace; and Kearnsfour kingsand a trey. Kearns reached forward with an encirclingmovementof his arm and drew the pot in to himhis arm shakingas he didso.
Daylightpicked the ace from his hand and tossed it overalongsideMacDonald's acesaying:-
"That'swhat cheered me alongMac. I knowed it was only kingsthat couldbeat meand he had them.
"Whatdid you-all have?" he askedall interestturning toCampbell.
"Straightflush of fouropen at both endsa good drawing hand."
"Youbet! You could a' made a straighta straight flushor aflush outof it."
"That'swhat I thought" Campbell said sadly. "It cost me sixthousandbefore I quit."
"Iwisht you-all'd drawn" Daylight laughed. "Then Iwouldn't a'caughtthat fourth queen. Now I've got to take Billy Rawlins'mailcontract and mush for Dyea. What's the size of thekillingJack?"
Kearnsattempted to count the potbut was too excited. Daylightdrew itacross to himwith firm fingers separating and stackingthemarkers and I.O.U.'s and with clear brain adding the sum.
"Onehundred and twenty-seven thousand" he announced. "You-allcan sellout nowJackand head for home."
The winnersmiled and noddedbut seemed incapable of speech.
"I'dshout the drinks" MacDonald said"only the house don'tbelong tome any more."
"Yesit does" Kearns repliedfirst wetting his lips with histongue. "Your note's good for any length of time. But thedrinks areon me."
"Nameyour snake-juiceyou-allthe winner pays!" Daylightcalledout loudlyto all about himat the same time rising from hischairandcatching the Virgin by the arm. "Come on for a reelyou-alldancers. The night's young yetand it's Helen Breakfast and themailcontract for me in the morning. Hereyou-all RawlinsyouIhereby dotake over that same contractand I start for saltwaterat nineA.M.savvee? Come onyou-all! Where's that fiddler?"
It wasDaylight's night. He was the centre and the head of therevelunquenchably joyousa contagion of fun. He multipliedhimselfand in so doing multiplied the excitement. No prank hesuggestedwas too wild for his followersand all followed savethose thatdeveloped into singing imbeciles and fell warbling bythewayside. Yet never did trouble intrude. It was known ontheYukon thatwhen Burning Daylight made a night of itwrath andevil wereforbidden. On his nights men dared not quarrel. Intheyounger days such things had happenedand then men had knownwhat realwrath wasand been man-handled as only BurningDaylightcould man-handle. On his nights men must laugh and behappy orgo home. Daylight was inexhaustible. In between danceshe paidover to Kearns the twenty thousand in dust andtransferredto him his Moosehide claim. Likewise he arranged thetakingover of Billy Rawlins' mail contractand made hispreparationsfor the start. He despatched a messenger to routout Kamahis dog-drivera Tananaw Indianfar-wandered from histribalhome in the service of the invading whites. Kama enteredtheTivolitallleanmuscularand fur-cladthe pick of hisbarbaricrace and barbaric stillunshaken and unabashed by therevellersthat rioted about him while Daylight gave his orders."Um"said Kamatabling his instructions on his fingers. "Getum lettersfrom Rawlins. Load um on sled. Grub for Selkirkyouthink umplenty dog-grub stop Selkirk?"
"Umbring sled this place nine um clock. Bring um snowshoes.No bringum tent. Mebbe bring um fly? um little fly?"
"Nofly" Daylight answered decisively.
"Wetravel lightsavvee? We carry plenty letters outplentylettersback. You are strong man. Plenty coldplenty travelallright."
"Sureall right" Kama mutteredwith resignation.
"Muchcoldno care a damn. Um ready nine um clock."
He turnedon his moccasined heel and walked outimperturbablesphinx-likeneither giving nor receiving greetings nor lookingto rightor left. The Virgin led Daylight away into a corner.
"LookhereDaylight" she saidin a low voice"you're busted."
"I'veeight thousand in Mac's safe" she began.
ButDaylight interrupted. The apron-string loomed near and heshied likean unbroken colt.
"Itdon't matter" he said. "Busted I came into theworldbusted Igo outand I've been busted most of the time since Iarrived. Come on; let's waltz."
"Butlisten" she urged. "My money's doing nothing. I couldlend it toyoua grub-stake" she added hurriedlyat sight ofthe alarmin his face.
"Nobodygrub-stakes me" was the answer. "I stake myselfandwhen Imake a killing it's sure all mine. No thank youoldgirl. Much obliged. I'll get my stake by running the mail outand in."
"Daylight"she murmuredin tender protest.
But with asudden well-assumed ebullition of spirits he drew hertoward thedancing-floorand as they swung around and around ina waltzshe pondered on the iron heart of the man who held her inhis armsand resisted all her wiles.
At six thenext morningscorching with whiskeyyet everhimselfhe stood at the bar putting every man's hand down. Theway of itwas that two men faced each other across a cornertheirright elbows resting on the bartheir right hands grippedtogetherwhile each strove to press the other's hand down. Manafter mancame against himbut no man put his hand downevenOlafHenderson and French Louis failing despite their hugeness.When theycontended it was a tricka trained muscular knackhechallengedthem to another test.
"Lookhereyou-all" he cried. "I'm going to do two things:firstweigh my sack; and secondbet it that after you-all haveliftedclean from the floor all the sacks of flour you-all areableI'llput on two more sacks and lift the whole caboodleclean."
"ByGar! Ah take dat!" French Louis rumbled above the cheers.
"Holdon!" Olaf Henderson cried. "I ban yust as good asyouLouis. I yump half that bet."
Put on thescalesDaylight's sack was found to balance an evenfourhundred dollarsand Louis and Olaf divided the bet betweenthem. Fifty-pound sacks of flour were brought in fromMacDonald'scache. Other men tested their strength first. Theystraddledon two chairsthe flour sacks beneath them on thefloor andheld together by rope-lashings. Many of the men wereableinthis mannerto lift four or five hundred poundswhilesomesucceeded with as high as six hundred. Then the two giantstook ahandtying at seven hundred. French Louis then addedanothersackand swung seven hundred and fifty clear. Olafduplicatedthe performancewhereupon both failed to clear eighthundred. Again and again they strovetheir foreheads beadedwithsweattheir frames crackling with the effort. Both wereable toshift the weight and to bump itbut clear the floor withit theycould not.
"ByGar! Daylightdis tam you mek one beeg meestake" FrenchLouissaidstraightening up and stepping down from the chairs."Onlyone damn iron man can do dat. One hundred pun' moremyfrien'not ten poun' more." The sacks were unlashedbut whentwo sackswere addedKearns interfered. "Only one sack more."
"Two!"some one cried. "Two was the bet."
"Theydidn't lift that last sack" Kearns protested.
"Theyonly lifted seven hundred and fifty."
ButDaylight grandly brushed aside the confusion.
"What'sthe good of you-all botherin' around that way? What'sone moresack? If I can't lift three moreI sure can't lifttwo. Put 'em in."
He stoodupon the chairssquattedand bent his shoulders downtill hishands closed on the rope. He shifted his feet slightlytautenedhis muscles with a tentative pullthen relaxed againquestingfor a perfect adjustment of all the levers of his body.
FrenchLouislooking on scepticallycried out
"Poollak hellDaylight! Pool lak hell!"
Daylight'smuscles tautened a second timeand this time inearnestuntil steadily all the energy of his splendid body wasappliedand quite imperceptiblywithout jerk or strainthebulky ninehundred pounds rose from the door and swung back andforthpendulum likebetween his legs.
OlafHenderson sighed a vast audible sigh. The Virginwho hadtensedunconsciously till her muscles hurt herrelaxed. WhileFrenchLouis murmured reverently:-
"M'sieuDaylightsalut! Ay am one beeg baby. You are one beegman."
Daylightdropped his burdenleaped to the floorand headed forthe bar.
"Weighin!" he criedtossing his sack to the weigherwhotransferredto it four hundred dollars from the sacks of the twolosers.
"Surgeupeverybody!" Daylight went on. "Name yoursnake-juice!The winner pays!"
"Thisis my night! " he was shoutingten minutes later. "I'mthe lonehe-wolfand I've seen thirty winters. This is mybirthdaymy one day in the yearand I can put any man on hisback. Come onyou-all! I'm going to put you-all in the snow.Come onyou chechaquos and sourdoughsand get yourbaptism!"
The routstreamed out of doorsall save the barkeepers and thesingingBacchuses. Some fleeting thought of saving his owndignityentered MacDonald's headfor he approached Daylight withoutstretchedhand.
"What? You first?" Daylight laughedclasping the other's handas if ingreeting.
"Nono" the other hurriedly disclaimed. "Justcongratulationson yourbirthday. Of course you can put me in the snow. Whatchancehave I against a man that lifts nine hundred pounds?"
MacDonaldweighed one hundred and eighty poundsand Daylight hadhimgripped solely by his hand; yetby a sheer abrupt jerkhetook thesaloon-keeper off his feet and flung him face downwardin thesnow. In quick successionseizing the men nearest himhe threwhalf a dozen more. Resistance was useless. They flewhelter-skelterout of his gripslanding in all manner ofattitudesgrotesquely and harmlesslyin the soft snow. It soonbecamedifficultin the dim starlightto distinguish betweenthosethrown and those waiting their turnand he began feelingtheirbacks and shouldersdetermining their status by whether ornot hefound them powdered with snow.
"Baptizedyet?" became his stereotyped questionas he reachedout histerrible hands.
Severalscore lay down in the snow in a long rowwhile manyothersknelt in mock humilityscooping snow upon their heads andclaimingthe rite accomplished. But a group of five stooduprightbackwoodsmen and frontiersmentheyeager to contestany man'sbirthday.
Graduatesof the hardest of man-handling schoolsveterans ofmultitudesof rough-and-tumble battlesmen of blood and sweatandendurancethey nevertheless lacked one thing that Daylightpossessedin high degreenamelyan almost perfect brain andmuscularcoordination. It was simplein its wayand no virtueof his. He had been born with this endowment. His nervescarriedmessages more quickly than theirs; his mental processesculminatingin acts of willwere quicker than theirs; hismusclesthemselvesby some immediacy of chemistryobeyed themessagesof his will quicker than theirs. He was so madehismuscleswere high-power explosives. The levers of his bodysnappedinto play like the jaws of steel traps. And in additionto allthishis was that super-strength that is the dower of butone humanin millionsa strength depending not on size but ondegreeasupreme organic excellence residing in the stuff of themusclesthemselves. Thusso swiftly could he apply a stressthatbefore an opponent could become aware and resistthe aimof thestress had been accomplished. In turnso swiftly did hebecomeaware of a stress applied to himthat he saved himself byresistanceor by delivering a lightning counter-stress.
"Itain't no use you-all standing there" Daylight addressed thewaitinggroup. "You-all might as well get right down and takeyourbaptizing. You-all might down me any other day in the yearbut on mybirthday I want you-all to know I'm the best man. Isthat PatHanrahan's mug looking hungry and willing? Come onPat." Pat Hanrahanex-bare-knuckle-prize fighter androughhouse-expertstepped forth. The two men came against eachother ingripsand almost before he had exerted himself theIrishmanfound himself in the merciless vise of a half-Nelsonthatburied him head and shoulders in the snow. Joe Hinesex-lumber-jackcame down with an impact equal to a fall from atwo-storybuildinghis overthrow accomplished by across-buttockdeliveredhe claimedbefore he was ready. There wasnothing exhausting in all this to Daylight. He didnot heaveand strain through long minutes. No timepracticallywasoccupied. His body exploded abruptly and terrifically in oneinstantand on the next instant was relaxed. ThusDoc Watsonthegray-beardediron bodied man without a pasta fightingterrorhimselfwas overthrown in the fraction of a secondprecedinghis own onslaught. As he was in the act of gatheringhimselffor a springDaylight was upon himand with suchfearfulsuddenness as to crush him backward and down. OlafHendersonreceiving his cue from thisattempted to takeDaylightunawarerushing upon him from one side as he stoopedwithextended hand to help Doc Watson up. Daylight dropped onhis handsand kneesreceiving in his side Olaf's knees. Olaf'smomentumcarried him clear over the obstruction in a longflyingfall. Before he could riseDaylight had whirled him over on hisback andwas rubbing his face and ears with snow and shovinghandfulsdown his neck. "Ay ban yust as good a man as you banDaylight"Olaf splutteredas he pulled himself to his feet;"butbyYupiterI ban navver see a grip like that." French Louis wasthe lastof the fiveand he had seen enough to make himcautious. He circled and baffled for a full minute before comingto grips;and for another full minute they strained and reeledwithouteither winning the advantage. And thenjust as thecontestwas becoming interestingDaylight effected one of hislightningshiftschanging all stresses and leverages and at thesame timedelivering one of his muscular explosions. FrenchLouisresisted till his huge frame crackledand thenslowlywas forcedover and under and downward.
"Thewinner pays!" Daylight cried; as he sprang to his feet andled theway back into the Tivoli. "Surge along you-all! This wayto thesnake-room!"
They linedup against the long barin places two or three deepstampingthe frost from their moccasined feetfor outside thetemperaturewas sixty below. Bettleshimself one of the gamestof theold-timers in deeds and daring ceased from his drunken layof the"Sassafras Root" and titubated over to congratulateDaylight. But in the midst of it he felt impelled to make aspeechand raised his voice oratorically.
"Itell you fellers I'm plum proud to call Daylight my friend.We've hitthe trail together afore nowand he's eighteen caratfrom hismoccasins updamn his mangy old hideanyway. He was ashaverwhen he first hit this country. When you fellers was hisageyouwa'n't dry behind the ears yet. He never was no kid.He wasborn a full-grown man. An' I tell you a man had to be aman inthem days. This wa'n't no effete civilization like it'scome to benow." Bettles paused long enough to put his arm ina properbear-hug around Daylight's neck. "When you an' memushedinto the Yukon in the good ole daysit didn't rainsoup andthey wa'n't no free-lunch joints. Our camp fires waslit wherewe killed our gameand most of the time we lived onsalmon-tracksand rabbit-belliesain't I right?"
But at theroar of laughter that greeted his inversionBettlesreleasedthe bear-hug and turned fiercely on them. "Laughyoumangyshort-hornslaugh! But I tell you plain and simplethebest ofyou ain't knee-high fit to tie Daylight's moccasinstrings.
Ain't IrightCampbell? Ain't I rightMac? Daylight's one ofthe oldguardone of the real sour-doughs. And in them daystheywa'n't arya steamboat or ary a trading-postand we cusses hadtolive offensalmon-bellies and rabbit-tracks."
He gazedtriumphantly aroundand in the applause that followedarosecries for a speech from Daylight. He signified hisconsent. A chair was broughtand he was helped to stand uponit. He was no more sober than the crowd above which he nowtoweredawild crowduncouthly garmentedevery foot moccasinedormuc-luckedwith mittens dangling from necksand with furryear-flapsraised so that they took on the seeming of the wingedhelmets ofthe Norsemen. Daylight's black eyes were flashingand theflush of strong drink flooded darkly under the bronze ofhischeeks. He was greeted with round on round of affectionatecheerswhich brought a suspicious moisture to his eyesalbeitmany ofthe voices were inarticulate and inebriate. And yetmenhave sobehaved since the world beganfeastingfightingandcarousingwhether in the dark cave-mouth or by the fire of thesquatting-placein the palaces of imperial Rome and the rockstrongholdsof robber baronsor in the sky-aspiring hotels ofmoderntimes and in the boozing-kens of sailor-town. Just sowere thesemenempire-builders in the Arctic Lightboastful anddrunkenand clamorouswinning surcease for a few wild momentsfrom thegrim reality of their heroic toil. Modern heroes theyand innowise different from the heroes of old time. "WellfellowsIdon't know what to say to you-all" Daylight beganlamelystriving still to control his whirling brain. "I thinkI'll tellyou-all a story. I had a pardner wunstdown inJuneau. He come from North Carolineyand he used to tell thissame storyto me. It was down in the mountains in his countryand it wasa wedding. There they wasthe family and all thefriends. The parson was just puttin' on the last touchesand hesays'They as the Lord have joined let no man put asunder.'
"'Parson'says the bridegroom'I rises to question yourgrammar inthat there sentence. I want this weddin' done right.'
"Whenthe smoke clears awaythe bride she looks around and seesa deadparsona dead bridegrooma dead brothertwo deadunclesand five dead wedding-guests.
"Soshe heaves a mighty strong sigh and says'Them new-fangledself-cockingrevolvers sure has played hell with my prospects.'
"Andso I say to you-all" Daylight addedas the roar oflaughterdied down"that them four kings of Jack Kearns sure hasplayedhell with my prospects. I'm busted higher'n a kiteandI'mhittin' the trail for Dyea"
"Goin'out?" some one called. A spasm of anger wrought on hisface for aflashing instantbut in the next his good-humor wasbackagain.
"Iknow you-all are only pokin' fun asking such a question" hesaidwitha smile. "Of course I ain't going out."
"Takethe oath againDaylight" the same voice cried.
"Isure will. I first come over Chilcoot in '83. I went outover thePass in a fall blizzardwith a rag of a shirt and a cupof rawflour. I got my grub-stake in Juneau that winterand inthe springI went over the Pass once more. And once more thefaminedrew me out. Next spring I went in againand I sworethen thatI'd never come out till I made my stake. WellI ain'tmade itand here I am. And I ain't going out now. I get themail and Icome right back. I won't stop the night at Dyea.I'll hitup Chilcoot soon as I change the dogs and get the mailand grub. And so I swear once moreby the mill-tails of helland thehead of John the BaptistI'll never hit for the Outsidetill Imake my pile. And I tell you-allhere and nowit's gotto be analmighty big pile."
"Howmuch might you call a pile?" Bettles demanded from beneathhis armsclutched lovingly around Daylight's legs.
"Yeshow much? What do you call a pile?" others cried.
Daylightsteadied himself for a moment and debated. "Four orfivemillions" he said slowlyand held up his hand for silenceas hisstatement was received with derisive yells. "I'll be realconservativeand put the bottom notch at a million. And for notan ounceless'n that will I go out of the country."
Again hisstatement was received with an outburst of derision.Not onlyhad the total gold output of the Yukon up to date beenbelow fivemillionsbut no man had ever made a strike of ahundredthousandmuch less of a million.
"You-alllisten to me. You seen Jack Kearns get a hunchto-night. We had him sure beat before the draw. His ornerythreekings was no good. But he just knew there was another kingcomingthatwas his hunchand he got it. And I tell you-all Igot ahunch. There's a big strike coming on the Yukonand it'sjust aboutdue. I don't mean no ornery MoosehideBirch-Creekkind of astrike. I mean a real rip-snorter hair-raiser. I tellyou-allshe's in the air and hell-bent for election. Nothing canstop herand she'll come up river. There's where you-all trackmymoccasins in the near future if you-all want to findmesomewherein the country around Stewart RiverIndian RiverandKlondike River. When I get back with the mailI'll headthat wayso fast you-all won't see my trail for smoke. She'sa-comingfellowsgold from the grass roots downa hundreddollars tothe panand a stampede in from the Outside fiftythousandstrong. You-all'll think all hell's busted loose whenthatstrike is made."
He raisedhis glass to his lips. "Here's kindnessand hopingyou-allwill be in on it."
He drankand stepped down from the chairfalling into anotherone ofBettles' bear-hugs.
"If Iwas youDaylightI wouldn't mush to-day" Joe Hinescounselledcoming in from consulting the spirit thermometeroutsidethe door. "We're in for a good cold snap. It'ssixty-twobelow nowand still goin' down. Better wait till shebreaks."
Daylightlaughedand the old sour-doughs around him laughed.
"Justlike you short-horns" Bettles cried"afeard of a littlefrost. And blamed little you know Daylightif you think frostkin stop'm."
"Freezehis lungs if he travels in it" was the reply.
"Freezepap and lollypop! Look hereHinesyou only ben in thisherecountry three years. You ain't seasoned yet. I've seenDaylightdo fifty miles up on the Koyokuk on a day when thethermometerbusted at seventy-two."
Hinesshook his head dolefully.
"Them'sthe kind that does freeze their lungs" he lamented. "IfDaylightpulls out before this snap breakshe'll never getthroughan'him travelin' without tent or fly." "It'sa thousand miles to Dyea" Bettles announcedclimbing onthe chairand supporting his swaying body by an arm passed aroundDaylight'sneck. "It's a thousand milesI'm sayin' an' most ofthe trailunbrokebut I bet any chechaquoanything hewantsthatDaylightmakes Dyea in thirty days."
"That'san average of over thirty-three miles a day" Doc Watsonwarned"and I've travelled some myself. A blizzard on Chilcootwould tiehim up for a week."
"Yep"Bettles retorted"an' Daylight'll do the second thousandback againon end in thirty days moreand I got five hundreddollarsthat says soand damn the blizzards."
Toemphasize his remarkshe pulled out a gold-sack the size of abolognasausage and thumped it down on the bar. Doc Watsonthumpedhis own sack alongside.
"Holdon!" Daylight cried. "Bettles's rightand I want inonthis. I bet five hundred that sixty days from now I pull up atthe Tivolidoor with the Dyea mail."
Asceptical roar went upand a dozen men pulled out their sacks.
JackKearns crowded in close and caught Daylight's attention.
"Itake youDaylight" he cried. "Two to one youdon'tnot inseventy-fivedays."
"NocharityJack" was the reply. "The bettin's evenand thetime issixty days."
"Seventy-fivedaysand two to one you don't" Kearns insisted."FiftyMile'll be wide open and the rim-ice rotten."
"Whatyou win from me is yours" Daylight went on. "AndbythunderJackyou can't give it back that way. I won't bet withyou. You're trying to give me money. But I tell you-all onethingJackI got another hunch. I'm goin' to win it back someone ofthese days. You-all just wait till the big strike upriver. Then you and me'll take the roof off and sit in a gamethat'll befull man's size. Is it a go?"
"Ofcourse he'll make it" Kearns whispered in Bettles' ear."Andthere's five hundred Daylight's back in sixty days" headdedaloud.
BillyRawlins closed with the wagerand Bettles hugged Kearnsecstatically.
"ByYupiterI ban take that bet" Olaf Henderson saiddraggingDaylightaway from Bettles and Kearns.
"Winnerpays!" Daylight shoutedclosing the wager.
"AndI'm sure going to winand sixty days is a long time betweendrinkssoI pay now. Name your brandyou hoochinoos! Nameyourbrand!"
Bettlesaglass of whiskey in handclimbed back on his chairandswaying back and forthsang the one song he knew:-
"Oit's Henry Ward Beecher And Sunday-school teachers All sing of the sassafras-root; But you bet all the same If it had its right name It's the juice of the forbidden fruit."
The crowdroared out the chorus:-
"But you bet all the same If it had its right name It's the juice of the forbidden fruit."
Somebodyopened the outer door. A vague gray light filtered in.
"Burningdaylightburning daylight" some one called warningly.
Daylightpaused for nothingheading for the door and pullingdown hisear-flaps. Kama stood outside by the sleda longnarrowaffairsixteen inches wide and seven and a half feet inlengthits slatted bottom raised six inches above the steel-shodrunners. On itlashed with thongs of moose-hidewere the lightcanvasbags that contained the mailand the food and gear fordogs andmen. In front of itin a single linelay curled fivefrost-rimeddogs. They were huskiesmatched in size and colorallunusually large and all gray. From their cruel jaws to theirbushytails they were as like as peas in their likeness totimber-wolves. Wolves they weredomesticatedit was truebutwolves inappearance and in all their characteristics. On topthe sledloadthrust under the lashings and ready for immediateuseweretwo pairs of snowshoes.
Bettlespointed to a robe of Arctic hare skinsthe end of whichshowed inthe mouth of a bag.
"That'shis bed" he said. "Six pounds of rabbit skins. Warmestthing heever slept underbut I'm damned if it could keep mewarmandI can go some myself. Daylight's a hell-fire furnacethat'swhat he is."
"I'dhate to be that Indian" Doc Watson remarked.
"He'llkill'mhe'll kill'm sure" Bettles chanted exultantly."Iknow. I've ben with Daylight on trail. That man ain'tneverben tiredin his life. Don't know what it means. I seen himtravel allday with wet socks at forty five below. There ain'tanotherman living can do that."
While thistalk went onDaylight was saying good-by to thosethatclustered around him. The Virgin wanted to kiss himandfuddledslightly though he was with the whiskeyhe saw his wayoutwithout compromising with the apron-string. He kissed theVirginbut he kissed the other three women with equalpartiality. He pulled on his long mittensroused the dogs totheirfeetand took his Place at the gee pole.
"Mushyou beauties!" he cried.
Theanimals threw their weights against their breastbands on theinstantcrouching low to the snowand digging in their claws.Theywhined eagerlyand before the sled had gone half a dozenlengthsboth Daylight and Kama (in the rear) were running to keepup. And sorunningman and dogs dipped over the bank and downto thefrozen bed of the Yukonand in the gray light were gone.
On theriverwhere was a packed trail and where snowshoes wereunnecessarythe dogs averaged six miles an hour. To keep upwith themthe two men were compelled to run. Daylight and Kamarelievedeach other regularly at the gee-polefor here was thehard workof steering the flying sled and of keeping in advanceof it. The man relieved dropped behind the sledoccasionallyleapingupon it and resting.
It wassevere workbut of the sort that was exhilarating.
They wereflyinggetting over the groundmaking the most of thepackedtrail. Later on they would come to the unbroken trailwherethree miles an hour would constitute good going. Thentherewould be no riding and restingand no running. Then thegee-polewould be the easier taskand a man would come back toit to restafter having completed his spell to the forebreakingtrail withthe snowshoes for the dogs. Such work was far fromexhilaratingalsothey must expect places where for miles at atime theymust toil over chaotic ice-jamswhere they would befortunateif they made two miles an hour. And there would be theinevitablebad jamsshort onesit was truebut so bad that amile anhour would require terrific effort. Kama and Daylightdid nottalk. In the nature of the work they could notnor intheir ownnatures were they given to talking while they worked.At rareintervalswhen necessarythey addressed each other inmonosyllablesKamafor the most partcontenting himself withgrunts. Occasionally a dog whined or snarledbut in the mainthe teamkept silent. Only could be heard the sharpjarringgrate ofthe steel runners over the hard surface and the creak ofthestraining sled.
As ifthrough a wallDaylight had passed from the hum and roarof theTivoli into another worlda world of silence andimmobility. Nothing stirred. The Yukon slept under a coat ofice threefeet thick. No breath of wind blew. Nor did the sapmove inthe hearts of the spruce trees that forested the riverbanks oneither hand. The treesburdened with the lastinfinitesimalpennyweight of snow their branches could holdstood inabsolute petrifaction. The slightest tremor would havedislodgedthe snowand no snow was dislodged. The sled was theone pointof life and motion in the midst of the solemn quietudeand theharsh churn of its runners but emphasized the silencethroughwhich it moved.
It was adead worldand furthermorea gray world. The weatherwas sharpand clear; there was no moisture in the atmospherenofog norhaze; yet the sky was a gray pall. The reason for thiswas thatthough there was no cloud in the sky to dim thebrightnessof daythere was no sun to give brightness. Far tothe souththe sun climbed steadily to meridianbut between itand thefrozen Yukon intervened the bulge of the earth. TheYukon layin a night shadowand the day itself was in reality alongtwilight-light. At a quarter before twelvewhere a widebend ofthe river gave a long vista souththe sun showed itsupper rimabove the sky-line. But it did not riseperpendicularly. Insteadit rose on a slantso that by highnoon ithad barely lifted its lower rim clear of the horizon. Itwas a dimwan sun. There was no heat to its raysand a mancould gazesquarely into the full orb of it without hurt to hiseyes. No sooner had it reached meridian than it began its slantbackbeneath the horizonand at quarter past twelve the earththrew itsshadow again over the land.
The menand dogs raced on. Daylight and Kama were both savagesso far astheir stomachs were concerned. They could eatirregularlyin time and quantitygorging hugely on occasionandonoccasion going long stretches without eating at all. As forthe dogsthey ate but once a dayand then rarely did theyreceivemore than a pound each of dried fish. They wereravenouslyhungry and at the same time splendidly in condition.Like thewolvestheir forebearstheir nutritive processes wererigidlyeconomical and perfect. There was no waste. The lastleastparticle of what they consumed was transformed into energy.
And Kamaand Daylight were like them. Descended themselves fromthegenerations that had enduredtheytooendured. Theirs wasthesimpleelemental economy. A little food equipped them withprodigiousenergy. Nothing was lost. A man of softcivilizationsitting at a deskwould have grown lean andwoe-begoneon the fare that kept Kama and Daylight at thetop-notchof physical efficiency. They knewas the man at thedesk neverknowswhat it is to be normally hungry all the timeso thatthey could eat any time. Their appetites were alwayswith themand on edgeso that they bit voraciously into whateverofferedand with an entire innocence of indigestion.
By threein the afternoon the long twilight faded into night.The starscame outvery near and sharp and brightand by theirlight dogsand men still kept the trail. They wereindefatigable. And this was no record run of a single daybutthe firstday of sixty such days. Though Daylight had passed anightwithout sleepa night of dancing and carouseit seemed tohave leftno effect. For this there were two explanations firsthisremarkable vitality; and nextthe fact that such nights wererare inhis experience. Again enters the man at the deskwhosephysicalefficiency would be more hurt by a cup of coffee atbedtimethan could Daylight's by a whole night long of strongdrink andexcitement.
Daylighttravelled without a watchfeeling the passage of timeandlargely estimating it by subconscious processes. By what heconsideredmust be six o'clockhe began looking for acamping-place. The trailat a bendplunged out across theriver. Not having found a likely spotthey held on for theoppositebank a mile away. But midway they encountered anice-jamwhich took an hour of heavy work to cross. At lastDaylightglimpsed what he was looking fora dead tree close bythe bank. The sled was run in and up. Kama grunted withsatisfactionand the work of making camp was begun.
Thedivision of labor was excellent. Each knew what he must do.With oneax Daylight chopped down the dead pine. Kamawith asnowshoeand the other axcleared away the two feet of snowabove theYukon ice and chopped a supply of ice for cookingpurposes. A piece of dry birch bark started the fireandDaylightwent ahead with the cooking while the Indian unloadedthe sledand fed the dogs their ration of dried fish. The foodsacks heslung high in the trees beyond leaping-reach of thehuskies. Nexthe chopped down a young spruce tree and trimmedoff theboughs. Close to the fire he trampled down the soft snowandcovered the packed space with the boughs. On this flooringhe tossedhis own and Daylight's gear-bagscontaining dry socksandunderwear and their sleeping-robes. Kamahoweverhad tworobes ofrabbit skin to Daylight's one.
Theyworked on steadilywithout speakinglosing no time. Eachdidwhatever was neededwithout thought of leaving to the otherthe leasttask that presented itself to hand. ThusKama sawwhen moreice was needed and went and got itwhile a snowshoepushedover by the lunge of a dogwas stuck on end again byDaylight. While coffee was boilingbacon fryingand flapjackswere beingmixedDaylight found time to put on a big pot ofbeans. Kama came backsat down on the edge of the spruceboughsand in the interval of waitingmended harness.
"It'ink dat Skookum and Booga make um plenty fight maybe" Kamaremarkedas they sat down to eat.
"Keepan eye on them" was Daylight's answer.
And thiswas their sole conversation throughout the meal. Oncewith amuttered imprecationKama leaped awaya stick offirewoodin handand clubbed apart a tangle of fighting dogs.Daylightbetween mouthfulsfed chunks of ice into the tin potwhere itthawed into water. The meal finishedKama replenishedthe firecut more wood for the morningand returned to thesprucebough bed and his harness-mending. Daylight cut upgenerouschunks of bacon and dropped them in the pot of bubblingbeans. The moccasins of both men were wetand this in spite oftheintense cold; so when there was no further need for them toleave theoasis of spruce boughsthey took off their moccasinsand hungthem on short sticks to dry before the fireturningthem aboutfrom time to time. When the beans were finallycookedDaylight ran part of them into a bag of flour-sacking afoot and ahalf long and three inches in diameter. This he thenlaid onthe snow to freeze. The remainder of the beans were leftin the potfor breakfast.
It waspast nine o'clockand they were ready for bed. Thesquabblingand bickering among the dogs had long since died downand theweary animals were curled in the snoweach with his feetand nosebunched together and covered by his wolf's brush of atail. Kama spread his sleeping-furs and lighted his pipe.Daylightrolled a brown-paper cigaretteand the secondconversationof the evening took place.
"Ithink we come near sixty miles" said Daylight.
"UmI t'ink so" said Kama.
Theyrolled into their robesall-standingeach with a woolenMackinawjacket on in place of the parkas they had wornallday. Swiftlyalmost on the instant they closed their eyestheywereasleep. The stars leaped and danced in the frosty airandoverheadthe colored bars of the aurora borealis were shootinglike greatsearchlights.
In thedarkness Daylight awoke and roused Kama. Though theaurorastill flamedanother day had begun. Warmed-overflapjackswarmed-over beansfried baconand coffee composedthebreakfast. The dogs got nothingthough they watched withwistfulmien from a distancesitting up in the snowtheir tailscurledaround their paws. Occasionally they lifted one fore pawor theotherwith a restless movementas if the frost tingledin theirfeet. It was bitter coldat least sixty-five belowzeroandwhen Kama harnessed the dogs with naked hands he wascompelledseveral times to go over to the fire and warm thenumbingfinger-tips. Together the two men loaded and lashed thesled. They warmed their hands for the last timepulled on theirmittensand mushed the dogs over the bank and down to theriver-trail. According to Daylight's estimateit was aroundseveno'clock; but the stars danced just as brilliantlyandfaintluminous streaks of greenish aurora still pulsed overhead.
Two hourslater it became suddenly dark so dark that they keptto thetrail largely by instinct; and Daylight knew that histime-estimatehad been right. It was the darkness before dawnneveranywhere more conspicuous than on the Alaskan winter-trail.
Slowly thegray light came stealing through the gloomimperceptiblyat firstso that it was almost with surprise thattheynoticed the vague loom of the trail underfoot. Nexttheywere ableto see the wheel-dogand then the whole string ofrunningdogs and snow-stretches on either side. Then the nearbankloomed for a moment and was goneloomed a second time andremained. In a few minutes the far banka mile awayunobtrusivelycame into viewand ahead and behindthe wholefrozenriver could be seenwith off to the left a wide-extendingrange ofsharp-cutsnow-covered mountains. And that was all.No sunarose. The gray light remained gray.
Onceduring the daya lynx leaped lightly across the trailunder thevery nose of the lead-dogand vanished in the whitewoods. The dogs' wild impulses roused. They raised thehunting-cryof the packsurged against their collarsandswervedaside in pursuit. Daylightyelling "Whoa!" struggledwith thegee-pole and managed to overturn the sled into the softsnow. The dogs gave upthe sled was rightedand five minuteslater theywere flying along the hard-packed trail again. Thelynx wasthe only sign of life they had seen in two daysand itleapingvelvet-footed and vanishinghad been more like anapparition.
At twelveo'clockwhen the sun peeped over the earth-bulgetheystopped and built a small fire on the ice. Daylightwiththe axchopped chunks off the frozen sausage of beans. Thesethawed andwarmed in the frying-panconstituted their meal.They hadno coffee. He did not believe in the burning ofdaylightfor such a luxury. The dogs stopped wrangling with oneanotherand looked on wistfully. Only at night did they gettheirpound of fish. In the meantime they worked.
The coldsnap continued. Only men of iron kept the trail at suchlowtemperaturesand Kama and Daylight were picked men of theirraces. But Kama knew the other was the better manand thusatthe starthe was himself foredoomed to defeat. Not that heslackenedhis effort or willingness by the slightest consciousdegreebut that he was beaten by the burden he carried in hismind. His attitude toward Daylight was worshipful. Stoicaltaciturnproud of his physical prowesshe found all thesequalitiesincarnated in his white companion. Here was one thatexcelledin the things worth excelling ina man-god ready tohandandKama could not but worship withal he gave no signs ofit. No wonder the race of white men conqueredwas his thoughtwhen itbred men like this man. What chance had the Indianagainstsuch a doggedenduring breed? Even the Indians did nottravel atsuch low temperaturesand theirs was the wisdom ofthousandsof generations; yet here was this Daylightfrom thesoftSouthlandharder than theylaughing at their fearsandswingingalong the trail ten and twelve hours a day. And thisDaylightthought that he could keep up a day's pace ofthirty-threemiles for sixty days! Wait till a fresh fall ofsnow camedownor they struck the unbroken trail or the rottenrim-icethat fringed open water.
In themeantime Kama kept the pacenever grumblingnevershirking. Sixty-five degrees below zero is very cold. Sincewaterfreezes at thirty-two abovesixty-five below meantninety-sevendegrees below freezing-point. Some idea of thesignificanceof this may be gained by conceiving of an equaldifferenceof temperature in the opposite direction. One hundredandtwenty-nine on the thermometer constitutes a very hot dayyet such atemperature is but ninety-seven degrees abovefreezing. Double this differenceand possibly some slightconceptionmay be gained of the cold through which Kama andDaylighttravelled between dark and dark and through the dark.
Kama frozethe skin on his cheek-bonesdespite frequentrubbingsand the flesh turned black and sore. Also he slightlyfroze theedges of his lung-tissuesa dangerous thingand thebasicreason why a man should not unduly exert himself in theopen atsixty-five below. But Kama never complainedandDaylightwas a furnace of heatsleeping as warmly under his sixpounds ofrabbit skins as the other did under twelve pounds.
On thesecond nightfifty more miles to the goodthey camped inthevicinity of the boundary between Alaska and the NorthwestTerritory. The rest of the journeysave the last short stretchto Dyeawould be travelled on Canadian territory. With the hardtrailandin the absence of fresh snowDaylight planned to makethe campof Forty Mile on the fourth night. He told Kama asmuchbuton the third day the temperature began to riseandthey knewsnow was not far off; for on the Yukon it must get warmin orderto snow. Alsoon this daythey encountered ten milesof chaoticice-jamswherea thousand timesthey lifted theloadedsled over the huge cakes by the strength of their arms andlowered itdown again. Here the dogs were well-nigh uselessandboth theyand the men were tried excessively by the roughness ofthe way. An hour's extra running that night caught up only partof thelost time.
In themorning they awoke to find ten inches of snow on theirrobes. The dogs were buried under it and were loath to leavetheircomfortable nests. This new snow meant hard going. Thesledrunners would not slide over it so wellwhile one of themen mustgo in advance of the dogs and pack it down withsnowshoesso that they should not wallow. Quite different was itfrom theordinary snow known to those of the Southland. It washardandfineand dry. It was more like sugar. Kick itandit flewwith a hissing noise like sand. There was no cohesionamong theparticlesand it could not be moulded into snow-balls. It was not composed of flakesbut of crystals tinygeometricalfrost-crystals. In truthit was not snowbutfrost.
Theweather was warmas wellbarely twenty below zeroand thetwo menwith raised ear-flaps and dangling mittenssweated astheytoiled. They failed to make Forty Mile that nightand whentheypassed that camp next day Daylight paused only long enoughto get themail and additional grub. On the afternoon of thefollowingday they camped at the mouth of the Klondike River.Not a soulhad they encountered since Forty Mileand they hadmade theirown trail. As yetthat winterno one had travelledthe riversouth of Forty Mileandfor that matterthe wholewinterthrough they might be the only ones to travel it. In thatday theYukon was a lonely land. Between the Klondike River andSalt Waterat Dyea intervened six hundred miles of snow-coveredwildernessand in all that distance there were but two placeswhereDaylight might look forward to meeting men. Both wereisolatedtrading-postsSixty Mile and Fort Selkirk. In thesummer-timeIndians might be met with at the mouths of theStewartand White riversat the Big and Little Salmonsand onLake LeBarge; but in the winteras he well knewthey would beon thetrail of the moose-herdsfollowing them back into themountains.
Thatnightcamped at the mouth of the KlondikeDaylight did notturn inwhen the evening's work was done. Had a white man beenpresentDaylight would have remarked that he felt his "hunch"working. As it washe tied on his snowshoesleft the dogscurled inthe snow and Kama breathing heavily under his rabbitskinsandclimbed up to the big flat above the high earth-bank.But thespruce trees were too thick for an outlookand hethreadedhis way across the flat and up the first steep slopes ofthemountain at the back. Hereflowing in from the east atrightangleshe could see the Klondikeandbending grandlyfrom thesouththe Yukon. To the leftand downstreamtowardMoosehideMountainthe huge splash of whitefrom which it tookits nameshowing clearly in the starlight. Lieutenant Schwatkahad givenit its namebut heDaylighthad first seen it longbeforethat intrepid explorer had crossed the Chilcoot and rafteddown theYukon.
But themountain received only passing notice. Daylight'sinterestwas centered in the big flat itselfwith deep water allalong itsedge for steamboat landings.
"Asure enough likely town site" he muttered. "Room fora campof fortythousand men. All that's needed is the gold-strike." Hemeditated for a space. "Ten dollars to the pan'll do itandit'd bethe all-firedest stampede Alaska ever seen. And if itdon't comehereit'll come somewhere hereabouts. It's a suregood ideato keep an eye out for town sites all the way up."
He stood awhile longergazing out over the lonely flat andvisioningwith constructive imagination the scene if the stampededid come. In fancyhe placed the sawmillsthe big tradingstoresthe saloonsand dance-hallsand the long streets ofminers'cabins. And along those streets he saw thousands of menpassing upand downwhile before the stores were the heavyfreighting-sledswith long strings of dogs attached. Also hesaw theheavy freighters pulling down the main street and headingup thefrozen Klondike toward the imagined somewhere where thediggingsmust be located.
He laughedand shook the vision from his eyesdescended to thelevelandcrossed the flat to camp. Five minutes after he hadrolled upin his robehe opened his eyes and sat upamazed thathe was notalready asleep. He glanced at the Indian sleepingbesidehimat the embers of the dying fireat the five dogsbeyondwith their wolf's brushes curled over their nosesand atthe foursnowshoes standing upright in the snow.
"It'ssure hell the way that hunch works on me" he murmured.His mindreverted to the poker game. "Four kings!" He grinnedreminiscently. "That WAS a hunch!"
He laydown againpulled the edge of the robe around his neckand overhis ear-flapsclosed his eyesand this time fellasleep.
At SixtyMile they restocked provisionsadded a few pounds ofletters totheir loadand held steadily on. From Forty Milethey hadhad unbroken trailand they could look forward only tounbrokentrail clear to Dyea. Daylight stood it magnificentlybut thekilling pace was beginning to tell on Kama. His pridekept hismouth shutbut the result of the chilling of his lungsin thecold snap could not be concealed. Microscopically smallhad beenthe edges of the lung-tissue touched by the frostbutthey nowbegan to slough offgiving rise to a dryhackingcough. Any unusually severe exertion precipitated spells ofcoughingduring which he was almost like a man in a fit. Thebloodcongested in his eyes till they bulgedwhile the tears randown hischeeks. A whiff of the smoke from frying bacon wouldstart himoff for a half-hour's paroxysmand he kept carefullytowindward when Daylight was cooking.
Theyplodded days upon days and without end over the softunpackedsnow. It was hardmonotonous workwith none of thejoy andblood-stir that went with flying over hard surface. Nowone man tothe fore in the snowshoesand now the otherit was acase ofstubbornunmitigated plod. A yard of powdery snow hadto bepressed downand the wide-webbed shoeunder a man'sweightsank a full dozen inches into the soft surface. Snowshoeworkunder such conditionscalled for the use of muscles otherthan thoseused in ordinary walking. From step to step therisingfoot could not come up and forward on a slant. It had tobe raisedperpendicularly. When the snowshoe was pressed intothe snowits nose was confronted by a vertical wall of snowtwelveinches high. If the footin risingslanted forward theslightestbitthe nose of the shoe penetrated the obstructingwall andtipped downward till the heel of the shoe struck theman's legbehind. Thus upstraight uptwelve incheseach footmust beraised every time and all the timeere the forward swingfrom theknee could begin.
On thispartially packed surface followed the dogsthe man atthegee-poleand the sled. At the besttoiling as only pickedmen couldtoilthey made no more than three miles an hour. Thismeantlonger hours of traveland Daylightfor good measure andfor amargin against accidentshit the trail for twelve hours aday. Since three hours were consumed by making camp at night andcookingbeansby getting breakfast in the morning and breakingcampandby thawing beans at the midday haltnine hours wereleft forsleep and recuperationand neither men nor dogs wastedmanyminutes of those nine hours.
AtSelkirkthe trading post near Pelly RiverDaylight suggestedthat Kamalay overrejoining him on the back trip from Dyea. AstrayedIndian from Lake Le Barge was willing to take his place;but Kamawas obdurate. He grunted with a slight intonation ofresentmentand that was all. The dogshoweverDaylightchangedleaving his own exhausted team to rest up against hisreturnwhile he went on with six fresh dogs.
Theytravelled till ten o'clock the night they reached Selkirkand at sixnext morning they plunged ahead into the next stretchofwilderness of nearly five hundred miles that lay betweenSelkirkand Dyea. A second cold snap came onbut cold or warmit was allthe samean unbroken trail. When the thermometerwent downto fifty belowit was even harder to travelfor atthat lowtemperature the hard frost-crystals were more likesand-grainsin the resistance they offered to the sled runners.The dogshad to pull harder than over the same snow at twenty orthirtybelow zero. Daylight increased the day's travel tothirteenhours. He jealously guarded the margin he had gainedfor heknew there were difficult stretches to come.
It was notyet quite midwinterand the turbulent Fifty MileRivervindicated his judgment. In many places it ran wide openwithprecarious rim-ice fringing it on either side. In numerousplaceswhere the water dashed against the steep-sided bluffsrim-icewas unable to form. They turned and twistednowcrossingthe rivernow coming back againsometimes making halfa dozenattempts before they found a way over a particularly badstretch. It was slow work. The ice-bridges had to be testedand eitherDaylight or Kama went in advancesnowshoes on theirfeetandlong poles carried crosswise in their hands. Thusifthey brokethroughthey could cling to the pole that bridged thehole madeby their bodies. Several such accidents were the shareof each. At fifty below zeroa man wet to the waist cannottravelwithout freezing; so each ducking meant delay. As soon asrescuedthe wet man ran up and down to keep up his circulationwhile hisdry companion built a fire. Thus protecteda changeofgarments could be made and the wet ones dried against the nextmisadventure.
To makematters worsethis dangerous river travel could not bedone inthe darkand their working day was reduced to the sixhours oftwilight. Every moment was preciousand they strovenever tolose one. Thusbefore the first hint of the coming ofgray daycamp was brokensled loadeddogs harnessedand thetwo mencrouched waiting over the fire. Nor did they make themiddayhalt to eat. As it wasthey were running far behindtheirscheduleeach day eating into the margin they had run up.There weredays when they made fifteen milesand days when theymade adozen. And there was one bad stretch where in two daystheycovered nine milesbeing compelled to turn their backsthreetimes on the river and to portage sled and outfit over themountains.
At lastthey cleared the dread Fifty Mile River and came out onLake LeBarge. Here was no open water nor jammed ice. Forthirtymiles or more the snow lay level as a table; withal it laythree feetdeep and was soft as flour. Three miles an hour wasthe bestthey could makebut Daylight celebrated the passing ofthe FiftyMile by traveling late. At eleven in the morning theyemerged atthe foot of the lake. At three in the afternoonasthe Arcticnight closed downhe caught his first sight of thehead ofthe lakeand with the first stars took his bearings. Ateight inthe evening they left the lake behind and entered themouth ofthe Lewes River. Here a halt of half an hour was madewhilechunks of frozen boiled beans were thawed and the dogswere givenan extra ration of fish. Then they pulled on up theriver tillone in the morningwhen they made their regular camp.
They hadhit the trail sixteen hours on end that daythe dogshad comein too tired to fight among themselves or even snarland Kamahad perceptibly limped the last several miles; yetDaylightwas on trail next morning at six o'clock. By eleven hewas at thefoot of White Horseand that night saw him campedbeyond theBox Canonthe last bad river-stretch behind himthestring oflakes before him.
There wasno let up in his pace. Twelve hours a daysix in thetwilightand six in the darkthey toiled on the trail. Threehours wereconsumed in cookingrepairing harnessesand makingandbreaking campand the remaining nine hours dogs and menslept asif dead. The iron strength of Kama broke. Day by daytheterrific toil sapped him. Day by day he consumed more of hisreservesof strength. He became slower of movementtheresiliencywent out of his musclesand his limp becamepermanent. Yet he labored stoically onnever shirkingnevergrunting ahint of complaint. Daylight was thin-faced and tired.
He lookedtired; yet somehowwith that marvelous mechanism of abody thatwas hishe drove onever onremorselessly on. Neverwas hemore a god in Kama's mind than in the last days of thesouth-boundtraverseas the failing Indian watched himever tothe forepressing onward with urgency of endurance such as Kamahad neverseen nor dreamed could thrive in human form.
The timecame when Kama was unable to go in the lead and breaktrailandit was a proof that he was far gone when he permittedDaylightto toil all day at the heavy snowshoe work. Lake bylake theycrossed the string of lakes from Marsh to Lindermanand beganthe ascent of Chilcoot. By all rightsDaylight shouldhavecamped below the last pitch of the pass at the dim end ofday; buthe kept on and over and down to Sheep Campwhile behindhim rageda snow-storm that would have delayed him twenty-fourhours.
This lastexcessive strain broke Kama completely. In the morninghe couldnot travel. At fivewhen calledhe sat up after astrugglegroanedand sank back again. Daylight did the campwork ofbothharnessed the dogsandwhen ready for the startrolled thehelpless Indian in all three sleeping robes and lashedhim on topof the sled. The going was good; they were on thelast lap;and he raced the dogs down through Dyea Canon and alongthehard-packed trail that led to Dyea Post. And running stillKamagroaning on top the loadand Daylight leaping at thegee-poleto avoid going under the runners of the flying sledtheyarrived at Dyea by the sea.
True tohis promiseDaylight did not stop. An hour's time sawthe sledloaded with the ingoing mail and grubfresh dogsharnessedand a fresh Indian engaged. Kama never spoke from thetime ofhis arrival till the moment Daylightready to departstoodbeside him to say good-by. They shook hands.
"Youkill um dat damn Indian" Kama said. "SaweeDaylight? Youkill um."
"He'llsure last as far as Pelly" Daylight grinned.
Kama shookhis head doubtfullyand rolled over on his sideturninghis back in token of farewell.
Daylightwon across Chilcoot that same daydropping down fivehundredfeet in the darkness and the flurrying snow to CraterLakewhere he camped. It was a 'cold' campfar above thetimber-lineand he had not burdened his sled with firewood.That nightthree feet of snow covered themand in the blackmorningwhen they dug themselves outthe Indian tried todesert. He had had enough of traveling with what he considered amadman. But Daylight persuaded him in grim ways to stay by theoutfitand they pulled on across Deep Lake and Long Lake anddroppeddown to the level-going of Lake Linderman. It was thesamekilling pace going in as coming outand the Indian did notstand itas well as Kama. Hetoonever complained. Nor did hetry againto desert. He toiled on and did his bestwhile herenewedhis resolve to steer clear of Daylight in the future.The daysslipped into daysnights and twilight's alternatingcold snapsgave way to snow-fallsand cold snaps came on againand allthe whilethrough the long hoursthe miles piled upbehindthem.
But on theFifty Mile accident befell them. Crossing anice-bridgethe dogs broke through and were swept under thedown-streamice. The traces that connected the team with thewheel-dogpartedand the team was never seen again. Only theonewheel-dog remainedand Daylight harnessed the Indian andhimself tothe sled. But a man cannot take the place of a dog atsuch workand the two men were attempting to do the work of fivedogs. At the end of the first hourDaylight lightened up.Dog-foodextra gearand the spare ax were thrown away. Undertheextraordinary exertion the dog snapped a tendon the followingdayandwas hopelessly disabled. Daylight shot itandabandonedthe sled. On his back he took one hundred and sixtypounds ofmail and gruband on the Indian's put one hundred andtwenty-fivepounds. The stripping of gear was remorseless. TheIndian wasappalled when he saw every pound of worthless mailmatterretainedwhile beanscupspailsplatesand extraclothingwere thrown by the board. One robe each was keptoneaxonetin pailand a scant supply of bacon and flour. Baconcould beeaten raw on a pinchand flourstirred in hot watercould keepmen going. Even the rifle and the score of rounds ofammunitionwere left behind.
And inthis fashion they covered the two hundred miles toSelkirk. Daylight travelled late and earlythe hours formerlyused bycamp-making and dog-tending being now devoted to thetrail. Atnight they crouched over a small firewrapped intheirrobesdrinking flour broth and thawing bacon on the endsof sticks;and in the morning darknesswithout a wordtheyaroseslipped on their packsadjusted head-strapsand hit thetrail. The last miles into SelkirkDaylight drove the Indianbeforehima hollow-cheekedgaunt-eyed wraith of a man who elsewould havelain down and slept or abandoned his burden of mail.
AtSelkirkthe old team of dogsfresh and in conditionwereharnessedand the same day saw Daylight plodding onalternatingplaces atthe gee-poleas a matter of coursewith the Le BargeIndian whohad volunteered on the way out. Daylight was two daysbehind hisscheduleand falling snow and unpacked trail kept himtwo daysbehind all the way to Forty Mile. And here the weatherfavored. It was time for a big cold snapand he gambled on itcuttingdown the weight of grub for dogs and men. The men ofForty Mileshook their heads ominouslyand demanded to know whathe woulddo if the snow still fell.
"Thatcold snap's sure got to come" he laughedand mushed outon thetrail.
A numberof sleds had passed back and forth already that winterbetweenForty Mile and Circle Cityand the trail was wellpacked. And the cold snap came and remainedand Circle City wasonly twohundred miles away. The Le Barge Indian was a youngmanunlearned yet in his own limitationsand filled with pride.
He tookDaylight's pace with joyand even dreamedat firstthat hewould play the white man out. The first hundred miles helooked forsigns of weakeningand marveled that he saw them not.
Throughoutthe second hundred miles he observed signs in himselfandgritted his teeth and kept up. And ever Daylight flew onand onrunning at the gee-pole or resting his spell on top theflyingsled. The last dayclearer and colder than evergaveperfectgoingand they covered seventy miles. It was ten atnight whenthey pulled up the earth-bank and flew along the mainstreet ofCircle City; and the young Indianthough it was hisspell torideleaped off and ran behind the sled. It washonorablebraggadocioand despite the fact that he had found hislimitationsand was pressing desperately against themhe rangamely on.
A crowdfilled the Tivolithe old crowd that had seen Daylightdepart twomonths before; for this was the night of the sixtiethdayandopinion was divided as ever as to whether or not hewouldcompass the achievement. At ten o'clock bets were stillbeingmadethough the odds rosebet by betagainst hissuccess. Down in her heart the Virgin believed he had failedyet shemade a bet of twenty ounces with Charley Batesagainstfortyouncesthat Daylight would arrive before midnight.
She it waswho heard the first yelps of the dogs.
"Listen!"she cried. "It's Daylight!"
There wasa general stampede for the door; but where the doublestorm-doorswere thrown wide openthe crowd fell back. Theyheard theeager whining of dogsthe snap of a dog-whipand thevoice ofDaylight crying encouragement as the weary animalscapped allthey had done by dragging the sled in over the woodenfloor. They came in with a rushand with them rushed in thefrostavisible vapor of smoking whitethrough which theirheads andbacks showedas they strained in the harnesstillthey hadall the seeming of swimming in a river. Behind thematthegee-polecame Daylighthidden to the knees by the swirlingfrostthrough which he appeared to wade.
He was thesame old Daylightwithal lean and tired-lookingandhis blackeyes were sparkling and flashing brighter than ever.His parkaof cotton drill hooded him like a monkand fell instraightlines to his knees. Grimed and scorched by camp-smokeand firethe garment in itself told the story of his trip. Atwo-months'beard covered his face; and the beardin turnwasmattedwith the ice of his breathing through the longseventy-milerun.
His entrywas spectacularmelodramatic; and he knew it. It washis lifeand he was living it at the top of his bent. Among hisfellows hewas a great manan Arctic hero. He was proud of thefactandit was a high moment for himfresh from two thousandmiles oftrailto come surging into that bar-roomdogssledmailIndianparaphernaliaand all. He had performed one moreexploitthat would make the Yukon ring with his nameheBurningDaylightthe king of travelers and dog-mushers.
Heexperienced a thrill of surprise as the roar of welcome wentup and asevery familiar detail of the Tivoli greeted hisvisionthelong bar and the array of bottlesthe gamblinggamesthe bigstovethe weigher at the gold-scalesthe musiciansthemen andwomenthe VirginCeliaand NellieDan MacDonaldBettlesBilly RawlinsOlaf HendersonDoc Watsonall of them.
It wasjust as he had left itand in all seeming it might wellbethe veryday he had left. The sixty days of incessant travelthroughthe white wilderness suddenly telescopedand had noexistencein time. They were a momentan incident. He hadplungedout and into them through the wall of silenceand backthroughthe wall of silence he had plungedapparently the nextinstantand into the roar and turmoil of the Tivoli.
A glancedown at the sled with its canvas mail-bags was necessarytoreassure him of the reality of those sixty days and the twothousandmiles over the ice. As in a dreamhe shook the handsthat werethrust out to him. He felt a vast exaltation. Lifewasmagnificent. He loved it all. A great sense of humannessandcomradeship swept over him. These were all hishis ownkind. It was immensetremendous. He felt melting in the heartof himand he would have liked to shake hands with them all atoncetogather them to his breast in one mighty embrace.
He drew adeep breath and cried: "The winner paysand I'm thewinnerain't I? Surge upyou-all Malemutes and Siwashesandname yourpoison! There's your Dyea mailstraight from SaltWaterandno hornswogglin about it! Cast the lashings adriftyou-alland wade into it!"
A dozenpairs of hands were at the sled-lashingswhen the youngLe BargeIndianbending at the same tasksuddenly and limplystraightenedup. In his eyes was a great surprise. He staredabout himwildlyfor the thing he was undergoing was new to him.
He wasprofoundly struck by an unguessed limitation. He shook aswith apalsyand he gave at the kneesslowly sinking down tofallsuddenly across the sled and to know the smashing blow ofdarknessacross his consciousness.
"Exhaustion"said Daylight. "Take him off and put him to bedsome ofyou-all. He's sure a good Indian."
"Daylight'sright" was Doc Watson's verdicta moment later."Theman's plumb tuckered out."
The mailwas taken charge ofthe dogs driven away to quartersand fedand Bettles struck up the paean of the sassafras root asthey linedup against the long bar to drink and talk and collecttheirdebts.
A fewminutes laterDaylight was whirling around thedance-floorwaltzing with the Virgin. He had replaced his parkawith hisfur cap and blanket-cloth coatkicked off his frozenmoccasinsand was dancing in his stocking feet. After wettinghimself tothe knees late that afternoonhe had run on withoutchanginghis foot-gearand to the knees his long German sockswerematted with ice. In the warmth of the room it began to thawand tobreak apart in clinging chunks. These chunks rattledtogetheras his legs flew aroundand every little while theyfellclattering to the floor and were slipped upon by the otherdancers. But everybody forgave Daylight. Hewho was one of thefew thatmade the Law in that far landwho set the ethical paceand byconduct gave the standard of right and wrongwasneverthelessabove the Law. He was one of those rare and favoredmortalswho can do no wrong. What he did had to be rightwhetherothers were permitted or not to do the same things. Ofcoursesuch mortals are so favored by virtue of the fact thattheyalmost always do the right and do it in finer and higherways thanother men. So Daylightan elder hero in that youngland andat the same time younger than most of themmoved as acreatureapartas a man above menas a man who was greatly manand allman. And small wonder it was that the Virgin yieldedherself tohis armsas they danced dance after danceand wassick atheart at the knowledge that he found nothing in her morethan agood friend and an excellent dancer. Small consolation itwas toknow that he had never loved any woman. She was sick withlove ofhimand he danced with her as he would dance with anywomanashe would dance with a man who was a good dancer andupon whosearm was tied a handkerchief to conventionalize himinto awoman.
One suchman Daylight danced with that night. Among frontiersmenit hasalways been a test of endurance for one man to whirlanotherdown; and when Ben Davisthe faro-dealera gaudybandannaon his armgot Daylight in a Virginia reelthe funbegan. The reel broke up and all fell back to watch. Around andaround thetwo men whirledalways in the one direction. Wordwas passedon into the big bar-roomand bar and gambling tablesweredeserted. Everybody wanted to seeand they packed andjammed thedance-room. The musicians played on and onand onand on thetwo men whirled. Davis was skilled at the trickandon theYukon he had put many a strong man on his back. But aftera fewminutes it was clear that heand not Daylightwas going.
For awhile longer they spun aroundand then Daylight suddenlystoodstillreleased his partnerand stepped backreelinghimselfand fluttering his hands aimlesslyas if to supporthimselfagainst the air. But Davisa giddy smile ofconsternationon his facegave sidewaysturned in an attempt torecoverbalanceand pitched headlong to the floor. Stillreelingand staggering and clutching at the air with his handsDaylightcaught the nearest girl and started on in a waltz.Again hehad done the big thing. Weary from two thousand milesover theice and a run that day of seventy mileshe had whirleda freshman downand that man Ben Davis.
Daylightloved the high placesand though few high places therewere inhis narrow experiencehe had made a point of sitting inthehighest he had ever glimpsed. The great world had neverheard hisnamebut it was known far and wide in the vast silentNorthbywhites and Indians and Eskimosfrom Bering Sea to thePassesfrom the head reaches of remotest rivers to the tundrashore ofPoint Barrow. Desire for mastery was strong in himandit was allone whether wrestling with the elements themselveswith menor with luck in a gambling game. It was all a gamelife andits affairs. And he was a gambler to the core. Riskand chancewere meat and drink. Trueit was not altogetherblindforhe applied wit and skill and strength; but behind itall wasthe everlasting Luckthe thing that at times turned onitsvotaries and crushed the wise while it blessed thefoolsLuckthe thing all men sought and dreamed to conquer.Andso he. Deep in his life-processes Life itself sang the sirensong ofits own majestyever a-whisper and urgentcounselinghim thathe could achieve more than other menwin out where theyfailedride to success where they perished. It was the urge ofLifehealthy and strongunaware of frailty and decaydrunkenwithsublime complacenceego-madenchanted by its own mightyoptimism.
And everin vaguest whisperings and clearest trumpet-calls camethemessage that sometimesomewheresomehowhe would run Luckdownmakehimself the master of Luckand tie it and brand it ashis own. When he played pokerthe whisper was of four aces androyalflushes. When he prospectedit was of gold in thegrass-rootsgold on bed-rockand gold all the way down. Atthesharpest hazards of trail and river and faminethe messagewas thatother men might diebut that he would pull throughtriumphant. It was the oldold lie of Life fooling itselfbelievingitselfimmortal and indestructiblebound to achieveover otherlives and win to its heart's desire.
And soreversing at timesDaylight waltzed off his dizzinessand ledthe way to the bar. But a united protest went up. Histheorythat the winner paid was no longer to be tolerated. Itwascontrary to custom and common senseand while it emphasizedgood-fellowshipneverthelessin the name of good-fellowship itmustcease. The drinks were rightfully on Ben Davisand BenDavis mustbuy them. Furthermoreall drinks and general treatsthatDaylight was guilty of ought to be paid by the houseforDaylightbrought much custom to it whenever he made a night.Bettleswas the spokesmanand his argumenttersely andoffensivelyvernacularwas unanimously applauded.
Daylightgrinnedstepped aside to the roulette-tableand boughta stack ofyellow chips. At the end of ten minutes he weighed inat thescalesand two thousand dollars in gold-dust was pouredinto hisown and an extra sack. Lucka mere flutter of luckbut it washis. Elation was added to elation. He was livingand thenight was his. He turned upon his well-wishing critics.
"Nowthe winner sure does pay" he said.
And theysurrendered. There was no withstanding Daylight when hevaulted onthe back of lifeand rode it bitted and spurred.
At one inthe morning he saw Elijah Davis herding Henry Finn andJoe Hinesthe lumber-jacktoward the door. Daylightinterfered.
"Whereare you-all going?" he demandedattempting to draw themto thebar.
"Bed"Elijah Davis answered.
He was alean tobacco-chewing New Englanderthe one daringspirit inhis family that had heard and answered the call of theWestshouting through the Mount Desert back odd-lots. "Got to"Joe Hinesadded apologetically. "We're mushing out in themornin'."
Daylightstill detained them. "Where to? What's theexcitement?"
"Noexcitement" Elijah explained. "We're just a-goin' toplayyourhunchan' tackle the Upper Country. Don't you want to comealong?"
"Isure do" Daylight affirmed.
But thequestion had been put in funand Elijah ignored theacceptance.
"We'retacklin' the Stewart" he went on. "Al Mayo told meheseen somelikely lookin' bars first time he come down theStewartand we're goin' to sample 'em while the river's froze.YoulistenDaylightan' mark my wordsthe time's comin' whenwinterdiggin's'll be all the go. There'll be men in them daysthat'lllaugh at our summer stratchin' an' ground-wallerin'."
At thattimewinter mining was undreamed of on the Yukon. Fromthe mossand grass the land was frozen to bed-rockand frozengravelhard as granitedefied pick and shovel. In the summerthe menstripped the earth down as fast as the sun thawed it.Then wasthe time they did their mining. During the winter theyfreightedtheir provisionswent moose-huntinggot all ready forthesummer's workand then loafed the bleakdark months throughin the bigcentral camps such as Circle City and Forty Mile.
"Winterdiggin's sure comin'" Daylight agreed. "Wait tillthatbig strikeis made up river. Then you-all'll see a new kind ofmining. What's to prevent wood-burning and sinking shafts anddriftingalong bed-rock? Won't need to timber. That frozen muckandgravel'll stand till hell is froze and its mill-tails isturned toice-cream. Whythey'll be working pay-streaks ahundredfeet deep in them days that's comin'. I'm sure goingalong withyou-allElijah."
Elijahlaughedgathered his two partners upand was making asecondattempt to reach the door
"Holdon" Daylight called. "I sure mean it."
The threemen turned back suddenly upon himin their facessurprisedelightand incredulity.
"G'wanyou're foolin'" said Finnthe other lumberjackaquietsteadyWisconsin man.
"There'smy dawgs and sled" Daylight answered. "That'll maketwoteams andhalve the loadsthough we-all'll have to travel easyfora spellfor them dawgs is sure tired."
The threemen were overjoyedbut still a trifle incredulous.
"Nowlook here" Joe Hines blurted out"none of your foolinDaylight. We mean business. Will you come?"
Daylightextended his hand and shook.
"Thenyou'd best be gettin' to bed" Elijah advised. "We'remushin'out atsixand four hours' sleep is none so long."
"Mebbewe ought to lay over a day and let him rest up" Finnsuggested.
Daylight'spride was touched.
"Noyou don't" he cried. "We all start at six. What time doyou-allwant to be called? Five? All rightI'll rouse you-allout."
"Yououghter have some sleep" Elijah counselled gravely. "Youcan't goon forever."
Daylightwas tiredprofoundly tired. Even his iron bodyacknowledgedweariness. Every muscle was clamoring for bed andrestwasappalled at continuance of exertion and at thought ofthe trailagain. All this physical protest welled up into hisbrain in awave of revolt. But deeper downscornful anddefiantwas Life itselfthe essential fire of itwhisperingthat allDaylight's fellows were looking onthat now was thetime topile deed upon deedto flaunt his strength in the faceofstrength. It was merely Lifewhispering its ancient lies.And inleague with it was whiskeywith all its consummateeffronteryand vain-glory.
"Mebbeyou-all think I ain't weaned yet?" Daylight demanded."WhyI ain't had a drinkor a danceor seen a soul in twomonths. You-all get to bed. I'll call you-all at five."
And forthe rest of the night he danced on in his stocking feetand atfive in the morningrapping thunderously on the door ofhis newpartners' cabinhe could be heard singing the song thathad givenhim his name:
"Burningdaylightyou-all Stewart River hunchers! Burningdaylight! Burning daylight! Burning daylight!"
This timethe trail was easier. It was better packedand theywere notcarrying mail against time. The day's run was shorterandlikewise the hours on trail. On his mail run Daylight hadplayed outthree Indians; but his present partners knew that theymust notbe played out when they arrived at the Stewart barssothey setthe slower pace. And under this milder toilwhere hiscompanionsnevertheless grew wearyDaylight recuperated andrestedup. At Forty Mile they laid over two days for the sake ofthe dogsand at Sixty Mile Daylight's team was left with thetrader. Unlike Daylightafter the terrible run from Selkirk toCircleCitythey had been unable to recuperate on the backtrail. So the four men pulled on from Sixty Mile with a freshteam ofdogs on Daylight's sled.
Thefollowing night they camped in the cluster of islands at themouth ofthe Stewart. Daylight talked town sitesandthoughthe otherslaughed at himhe staked the whole maze of highwoodedislands.
"Justsupposing the big strike does come on the Stewart" heargued. "Mebbe you-all'll be in on itand then again mebbeyou-allwon't. But I sure will. You-all'd better reconsiderand go inwith me on it."
But theywere stubborn.
"You'reas bad as Harper and Joe Ladue" said Joe Hines."They'realways at that game. You know that big flat jest belowtheKlondike and under Moosehide Mountain? Wellthe recorder atForty Milewas tellin' me they staked that not a month agoTheHarper &Ladue Town Site. Ha! Ha! Ha!"
Elijah andFinn joined him in his laughter; but Daylight wasgravely inearnest.
"Thereshe is!" he cried. "The hunch is working! It'sin theairItell you-all! What'd they-all stake the big flat for ifthey-alldidn't get the hunch? Wish I'd staked it."
The regretin his voice was provocative of a second burst oflaughter.
"Laughyou-alllaugh! That's what's the trouble with you-all.You-allthink gold-hunting is the only way to make a stake. Butlet metell you-all that when the big strike sure does comeyou-all'lldo a little surface-scratchin' and muck-rakingbutdangedlittle you-all'll have to show for it. You-all laugh atquicksilverin the riffles and think flour gold was manufacturedby GodAlmighty for the express purpose of fooling suckers andchechaquos. Nothing but coarse gold for you-allthat's yourwaynotgetting half of it out of the ground and losing into thetailingshalf of what you-all do get.
"Butthe men that land big will be them that stake the townsitesorganize the tradin' companiesstart the banks"
Here theexplosion of mirth drowned him out. Banks in Alaska!The ideaof it was excruciating.
"Yepand start the stock exchanges-"
Again theywere convulsed. Joe Hines rolled over on hissleeping-robeholding his sides.
"Andafter them will come the big mining sharks that buy wholecreekswhere you-all have been scratching like a lot of picayunehensandthey-all will go to hydraulicking in summer andsteam-thawingin winter"
Steam-thawing! That was the limit. Daylight was certainlyexceedinghimself in his consummate fun-making.Steam-thawingwhen even wood-burning was an untried experimenta dream inthe air!
"Laughdang youlaugh! Why your eyes ain't open yet. You-allare abunch of little mewing kittens. I tell you-all if thatstrikecomes on KlondikeHarper and Ladue will be millionaires.And if itcomes on Stewartyou-all watch the Elam Harnish townsiteboom. In them dayswhen you-all come around makin' poormouths..." He heaved a sigh of resignation. "WellIsupposeI'll have to give you-all a grub-stake or souporsomethingor other."
Daylighthad vision. His scope had been rigidly limitedyetwhateverhe sawhe saw big. His mind was orderlyhisimaginationpracticaland he never dreamed idly. When hesuperimposeda feverish metropolis on a waste of timberedsnow-coveredflathe predicated first the gold-strike that madethe citypossibleand next he had an eye for steamboat landingssawmilland warehouse locationsand all the needs of afar-northernmining city. But thisin turnwas the meresettingfor something biggernamelythe play of temperament.Opportunitiesswarmed in the streets and buildings and human andeconomicrelations of the city of his dream. It was a largertable forgambling. The limit was the skywith the Southland onone sideand the aurora borealis on the other. The play would bebigbigger than any Yukoner had ever imaginedand heBurningDaylightwould see that he got in on that play.
In themeantime there was naught to show for it but the hunch.But it wascoming. As he would stake his last ounce on a goodpokerhandso he staked his life and effort on the hunch thatthe futureheld in store a big strike on the Upper River. So heand histhree companionswith dogsand sledsand snowshoestoiled upthe frozen breast of the Stewarttoiled on and onthroughthe white wilderness where the unending stillness wasneverbroken by the voices of menthe stroke of an axor thedistantcrack of a rifle. They alone moved through the vast andfrozenquietlittle mites of earth-mencrawling their score ofmiles adaymelting the ice that they might have water to drinkcamping inthe snow at nighttheir wolf-dogs curled infrost-rimedhairy bunchestheir eight snowshoes stuck on end inthe snowbeside the sleds.
No signsof other men did they seethough once they passed arudepoling-boatcached on a platform by the river bank.Whoeverhad cached it had never come back for it; and theywonderedand mushed on. Another time they chanced upon the siteof anIndian villagebut the Indians had disappeared;undoubtedlythey were on the higher reaches of the Stewart inpursuit ofthe moose-herds. Two hundred miles up from the Yukonthey cameupon what Elijah decided were the bars mentioned by AlMayo. A permanent camp was madetheir outfit of food cached ona highplatform to keep it from the dogsand they started workon thebarscutting their way down to gravel through the rim ofice.
It was ahard and simple life. Breakfast overand they were atwork bythe first gray light; and when night descendedthey didtheircooking and camp-choressmoked and yarned for a whilethenrolled up in their sleeping-robesand slept while theauroraborealis flamed overhead and the stars leaped and dancedin thegreat cold. Their fare was monotonous: sour-dough breadbaconbeansand an occasional dish of rice cooked along with ahandful ofprunes. Fresh meat they failed to obtain. There wasanunwonted absence of animal life. At rare intervals theychancedupon the trail of a snowshoe rabbit or an ermine; but inthe mainit seemed that all life had fled the land. It was aconditionnot unknown to themfor in all their experienceatone timeor anotherthey had travelled one year through a regionteemingwith gamewherea year or two or three years laternogame atall would be found.
Gold theyfound on the barsbut not in paying quantities.Elijahwhile on a hunt for moose fifty miles awayhad pannedthesurface gravel of a large creek and found good colors. Theyharnessedtheir dogsand with light outfits sledded to theplace. Hereand possibly for the first time in the history ofthe Yukonwood-burningin sinking a shaftwas tried. It wasDaylight'sinitiative. After clearing away the moss and grassafire ofdry spruce was built. Six hours of burning thawed eightinches ofmuck. Their picks drove full depth into itandwhenthey hadshoveled outanother fire was started. They workedearly andlateexcited over the success of the experiment. Sixfeet offrozen muck brought them to gravellikewise frozen.Hereprogress was slower. But they learned to handle their firesbetterand were soon able to thaw five and six inches at aburning. Flour gold was in this graveland after two feet itgave awayagain to muck. At seventeen feet they struck a thinstreak ofgraveland in it coarse goldtestpans running as highas six andeight dollars. Unfortunatelythis streak of gravelwas notmore than an inch thick. Beneath it was more mucktangledwith the trunks of ancient trees and containing fossilbones offorgotten monsters. But gold they had found coarsegold; andwhat more likely than that the big deposit would befound onbed-rock? Down to bed-rock they would goif it wereforty feetaway. They divided into two shiftsworking day andnightontwo shaftsand the smoke of their burning rosecontinually.
It was atthis time that they ran short of beans and that Elijahwasdespatched to the main camp to bring up more grub. Elijahwas one ofthe hard-bitten old-time travelers himself. The roundtrip was ahundred milesbut he promised to be back on the thirddayoneday going lighttwo days returning heavy. Insteadhearrived onthe night of the second day. They had just gone tobed whenthey heard him coming.
"Whatin hell's the matter now?" Henry Finn demandedas theempty sledcame into the circle of firelight and as he noted thatElijah'slongserious face was longer and even more serious.
Joe Hinesthrew wood on the fireand the three menwrapped intheirrobeshuddled up close to the warmth. Elijah's whiskeredface wasmatted with iceas were his eyebrowsso thatwhat ofhis furgarbhe looked like a New England caricature of FatherChristmas.
"Yourecollect that big spruce that held up the corner of thecache nextto the river?" Elijah began.
Thedisaster was quickly told. The big treewith all theseeming ofhardihoodpromising to stand for centuries to comehadsuffered from a hidden decay. In some way its rooted grip onthe earthhad weakened. The added burden of the cache and thewintersnow had been too much for it; the balance it had so longmaintainedwith the forces of its environment had beenoverthrown;it had toppled and crashed to the groundwreckingthe cacheandin turnoverthrowing the balance with environmentthat thefour men and eleven dogs had been maintaining. Theirsupply ofgrub was gone. The wolverines had got into the wreckedcacheandwhat they had not eaten they had destroyed.
"Theyplumb e't all the bacon and prunes and sugar and dog-food"Elijahreported"and gosh darn my buttonsif they didn't gnawopen thesacks and scatter the flour and beans and rice from DantoBeersheba. I found empty sacks where they'd dragged them aquarter ofa mile away."
Nobodyspoke for a long minute. It was nothing less than acatastrophein the dead of an Arctic winter and in agame-abandonedlandto lose their grub. They were notpanic-strickenbut they were busy looking the situation squarelyin theface and considering. Joe Hines was the first to speak.
"Wecan pan the snow for the beans and rice... though therewa'n'tmore'n eight or ten pounds of rice left."
"Andsomebody will have to take a team and pull for Sixty Mile"Daylightsaid next.
"I'llgo" said Finn.
Theyconsidered a while longer.
"Buthow are we going to feed the other team and three men tillhe getsback?" Hines demanded.
"Onlyone thing to it" was Elijah's contribution. "You'llhaveto takethe other teamJoeand pull up the Stewart till youfind themIndians. Then you come back with a load of meat.You'll gethere long before Henry can make it from Sixty Mileand whileyou're gone there'll only be Daylight and me to feedand we'llfeed good and small."
"Andin the morning we-all'll pull for the cache and pan snow tofind whatgrub we've got." Daylight lay backas he spokeandrolled inhis robe to sleepthen added: "Better turn in for anearlystart. Two of you can take the dogs down. Elijah andme'll skinout on both sides and see if we-all can scare up amoose onthe way down."
No timewas lost. Hines and Finnwith the dogsalready onshortrationswere two days in pulling down. At noon of thethird dayElijah arrivedreporting no moose sign. That nightDaylightcame in with a similar report. As fast as they arrivedthe menhad started careful panning of the snow all around thecache. It was a large taskfor they found stray beans fully ahundredyards from the cache. One more day all the men toiled.The resultwas pitifuland the four showed their caliber in thedivisionof the few pounds of food that had been recovered.Little asit wasthe lion's share was left with Daylight andElijah. The men who pulled on with the dogsone up the Stewartand onedownwould come more quickly to grub. The two whoremainedwould have to last out till the others returned.Furthermorewhile the dogson several ounces each of beans adaywouldtravel slowlyneverthelessthe men who travelledwith themon a pinchwould have the dogs themselves to eat.But themen who remainedwhen the pinch camewould have nodogs. It was for this reason that Daylight and Elijah took themoredesperate chance. They could not do lessnor did they careto doless. The days passedand the winter began mergingimperceptiblyinto the Northland spring that comes like athunderboltof suddenness. It was the spring of 1896 that waspreparing. Each day the sun rose farther east of southremainedlonger inthe skyand set farther to the west. March ended andAprilbeganand Daylight and Elijahlean and hungrywonderedwhat hadbecome of their two comrades. Granting every delayandthrowingin generous margins for good measurethe time was longsincepassed when they should have returned. Without doubt theyhad metwith disaster. The party had considered the possibilityofdisaster for one manand that had been the principal reasonfordespatching the two in different directions. But thatdisastershould have come to both of them was the final blow.
In themeantimehoping against hopeDaylight and Elija eked outa meagreexistence. The thaw had not yet begunso they wereable togather the snow about the ruined cache and melt it inpots andpails and gold pans. Allowed to stand for a whilewhenpouredoffa thin deposit of slime was found on the bottoms ofthevessels. This was the flourthe infinitesimal trace of itscatteredthrough thousands of cubic yards of snow. Alsointhis slimeoccurred at intervals a water-soaked tea-leaf orcoffee-groundand there were in it fragments of earth andlitter. But the farther they worked away from the site of thecachethethinner became the trace of flourthe smaller thedeposit ofslime.
Elijah wasthe older manand he weakened firstso that he cameto lie upmost of the time in his furs. An occasional tree-squirrelkept them alive. The hunting fell upon Daylightand itwas hardwork. With but thirty rounds of ammunitionhe darednot risk amiss; andsince his rifle was a 45-90he wascompelledto shoot the small creatures through the head. Therewere veryfew of themand days went by without seeing one. Whenhe did seeonehe took infinite precautions. He would stalk itforhours. A score of timeswith arms that shook from weaknesshe woulddraw a sight on the animal and refrain from pulling thetrigger. His inhibition was a thing of iron. He was the master.Not tilabsolute certitude was his did he shoot. No matter howsharp thepangs of hunger and desire for that palpitating morselofchattering lifehe refused to take the slightest risk of amiss. Heborn gamblerwas gambling in the bigger way. Hislife wasthe stakehis cards were the cartridgesand he playedas only abig gambler could playwith infinite precautionwithinfiniteconsideration. Each shot meant a squirreland thoughdayselapsed between shotsit never changed his method of play.
Of thesquirrelsnothing was lost. Even the skins were boiledto makebroththe bones pounded into fragments that could bechewed andswallowed. Daylight prospected through the snowandfoundoccasional patches of mossberries. At the bestmossberrieswere composed practically of seeds and waterwith atough rindof skin about them; but the berries he found were ofthepreceding yeardry and shrivelledand the nourishment theycontainedverged on the minus quality. Scarcely better was thebark ofyoung saplingsstewed for an hour and swallowed afterprodigiouschewing.
April drewtoward its closeand spring smote the land. The daysstretchedout their length. Under the heat of the sunthe snowbegan tomeltwhile from down under the snow arose the tricklingof tinystreams. For twenty-four hours the Chinook wind blewand inthat twenty-four hours the snow was diminished fully afoot indepth. In the late afternoons the melting snow frozeagainsothat its surface became ice capable of supporting aman'sweight. Tiny white snow-birds appeared from the southlingered adayand resumed their journey into the north. Oncehigh inthe airlooking for open water and ahead of the seasona wedgedsquadron of wild geese honked northwards. And down bythe riverbank a clump of dwarf willows burst into bud. Theseyoungbudsstewedseemed to posess an encouraging nutrition.Elijahtook heart of hopethough he was cast down again whenDaylightfailed to find another clump of willows.
The sapwas rising in the treesand daily the trickle of unseenstreamletsbecame louder as the frozen land came back to life.But theriver held in its bonds of frost. Winter had been longmonths inriveting themand not in a day were they to be brokennot evenby the thunderbolt of spring. May cameand straylast-year'smosquitoesfull-grown but harmlesscrawled out ofrockcrevices and rotten logs. Crickets began to chirpand moregeese andducks flew overhead. And still the river held. By Maytenththeice of the Stewartwith a great rending and snappingtore loosefrom the banks and rose three feet. But it did not godown-stream. The lower Yukonup to where the Stewart flowedinto itmust first break and move on. Until then the ice of theStewartcould only rise higher and higher on the increasing floodbeneath. When the Yukon would break was problematical. Twothousandmiles away it flowed into Bering Seaand it was the iceconditionsof Bering Sea that would determine when the Yukoncould riditself of the millions of tons of ice that cluttereditsbreast.
On thetwelfth of Maycarrying their sleeping-robesa pailanaxandthe precious riflethe two men started down the river onthe ice. Their plan was to gain to the cached poling-boat theyhad seenso that at the first open water they could launch itand driftwith the stream to Sixty Mile. In their weakconditionwithout foodthe going was slow and difficult.Elijahdeveloped a habit of falling down and being unable torise. Daylight gave of his own strength to lift him to his feetwhereuponthe older man would stagger automatically on until hestumbledand fell again.
On the daythey should have reached the boatElijah collapsedutterly. When Daylight raised himhe fell again. Daylightessayed towalk with himsupporting himbut such was Daylight'sownweakness that they fell together.
DraggingElijah to the banka rude camp was madeand Daylightstartedout in search of squirrels. It was at this time that helikewisedeveloped the falling habit. In the evening he foundhis firstsquirrelbut darkness came on without his getting acertainshot. With primitive patience he waited till next dayand thenwithin the hourthe squirrel was his.
The majorportion he fed to Elijahreserving for himself thetougherparts and the bones. But such is the chemistry of lifethat thissmall creaturethis trifle of meat that movedbybeingeatentransmuted to the meat of the men the same power tomove. No longer did the squirrel run up spruce treesleap frombranch tobranchor cling chattering to giddy perches. Insteadthe sameenergy that had done these things flowed into the wastedmusclesand reeling wills of the menmaking them movenaymovingthem till they tottered the several intervening miles tothe cachedboatunderneath which they fell together and laymotionlessa long time.
Light asthe task would have been for a strong man to lower thesmall boatto the groundit took Daylight hours. And many hoursmoredayby dayhe dragged himself around itlying on his sideto calkthe gaping seams with moss. Yetwhen this was donetheriverstill held. Its ice had risen many feetbut would notstartdown-stream. And one more task waitedthe launching ofthe boatwhen the river ran water to receive it. Vainly Daylightstaggeredand stumbled and fell and crept through the snow thatwas wetwith thawor across it when the night's frost stillcrusted itbeyond the weight of a mansearching for one moresquirrelstriving to achieve one more transmutation of furryleap andscolding chatter into the lifts and tugs of a man's bodythat wouldhoist the boat over the rim of shore-ice and slide itdown intothe stream.
Not tillthe twentieth of May did the river break. Thedown-streammovement began at five in the morningand alreadywere thedays so long that Daylight sat up and watched theice-run. Elijah was too far gone to be interested in thespectacle. Though vaguely conscioushe lay without movementwhile theice tore bygreat cakes of it caroming against thebankuprooting treesand gouging out earth by hundreds of tons.
All aboutthem the land shook and reeled from the shock of thesetremendouscollisions. At the end of an hour the run stopped.Somewherebelow it was blocked by a jam. Then the river began toriselifting the ice on its breast till it was higher than thebank. From behind ever more water bore downand ever moremillionsof tons of ice added their weight to the congestion.Thepressures and stresses became terrific. Huge cakes of iceweresqueezed out till they popped into the air like melon seedssqueezedfrom between the thumb and forefinger of a childwhileall alongthe banks a wall of ice was forced up. When the jambrokethenoise of grinding and smashing redoubled. For anotherhour therun continued. The river fell rapidly. But the wall ofice on topthe bankand extending down into the falling waterremained.
The tailof the ice-run passedand for the first time in sixmonthsDaylight saw open water. He knew that the ice had not yetpassed outfrom the upper reaches of the Stewartthat it lay inpacks andjams in those upper reachesand that it might breakloose andcome down in a second run any time; but the need wastoodesperate for him to linger. Elijah was so far gone that hemight passat any moment. As for himselfhe was not sure thatenoughstrength remained in his wasted muscles to launch theboat. It was all a gamble. If he waited for the second ice-runElijahwould surely dieand most probably himself. If hesucceededin launching the boatif he kept ahead of the secondice-runif he did not get caught by some of the runs from theupperYukon; if luck favored in all these essential particularsas well asin a score of minor onesthey would reach Sixty Mileand besavedif and again the if he had strength enough toland theboat at Sixty Mile and not go by.
He set towork. The wall of ice was five feet above the groundon whichthe boat rested. First prospecting for the bestlaunching-placehe found where a huge cake of ice shelved upwardfrom theriver that ran fifteen feet below to the top of thewall. This was a score of feet awayand at the end of an hourhe hadmanaged to get the boat that far. He was sick with nauseafrom hisexertionsand at times it seemed that blindness smotehimforhe could not seehis eyes vexed with spots and pointsof lightthat were as excruciating as diamond-dusthis heartpoundingup in his throat and suffocating him. Elijah betrayednointerestdid not move nor open his eyes; and Daylight foughtout hisbattle alone. At lastfalling on his knees from theshock ofexertionhe got the boat poised on a secure balance ontop thewall. Crawling on hands and kneeshe placed in the boathisrabbit-skin robethe rifleand the pail. He did not botherwith theax. It meant an additional crawl of twenty feet andbackandif the need for it should arise he well knew he wouldbe pastall need.
Elijahproved a bigger task than he had anticipated. A fewinches ata timeresting in betweenhe dragged him over theground andup a broken rubble of ice to the side of the boat.But intothe boat he could not get him. Elijah's limp body wasfar moredifficult to lift and handle than an equal weight oflikedimensions but rigid. Daylight failed to hoist himfor thebodycollapsed at the middle like a part-empty sack of corn.Gettinginto the boatDaylight tried vainly to drag his comradein afterhim. The best he could do was to get Elijah's head andshoulderson top the gunwale. When he released his holdtoheave fromfarther down the bodyElijah promptly gave at themiddle andcame down on the ice.
IndespairDaylight changed his tactics. He struck the other inthe face.
"GodAlmightyain't you-all a man?" he cried. "There!damnyou-all!there! "
At eachcurse he struck him on the cheeksthe nosethe mouthstrivingby the shock of the hurtto bring back the sinkingsoul andfar-wandering will of the man. The eyes fluttered open.
"Nowlisten!" he shouted hoarsely. "When I get your headto thegunwalehang on! Hear me? Hang on! Bite into it with yourteethbutHANG ON! "
The eyesfluttered downbut Daylight knew the message had beenreceived. Again he got the helpless man's head and shoulders onthegunwale.
"Hangondamn you! Bite in" he shoutedas he shifted his griplowerdown.
One weakhand slipped off the gunwalethe fingers of the otherhandrelaxedbut Elijah obeyedand his teeth held on. When thelift camehis face ground forwardand the splintery wood toreandcrushed the skin from noselipsand chin; andfacedownwardhe slipped on and down to the bottom of the boat tillhis limpmiddle collapsed across the gunwale and his legs hungdownoutside. But they were only his legsand Daylight shovedthem in;after him. Breathing heavilyhe turned Elijah over onhis backand covered him with his robes.
The finaltask remained the launching of the boat. Thisofnecessitywas the severest of allfor he had been compelled toload hiscomrade in aft of the balance. It meant a supremeeffort atlifting. Daylight steeled himself and began. Somethingmust have snappedforthough he was unaware of itthe nexthe knew he was lying doubled on his stomach across thesharpstern of the boat. Evidentlyand for the first time inhis lifehe had fainted. Furthermoreit seemed to him that hewasfinishedthat he had not one more movement left in himandthatstrangest of allhe did not care. Visions came to himclear-cutand realand concepts sharp as steel cutting-edges.Hewhoall his days had looked on naked Lifehad never seen somuch ofLife's nakedness before. For the first time heexperienceda doubt of his own glorious personality. For themomentLife faltered and forgot to lie. After allhe was alittleearth-maggotjust like all the other earth-maggotslikethesquirrel he had eatenlike the other men he had seen failand dielike Joe Hines and Henry Finnwho had already failedand weresurely deadlike Elijah lying there uncaringwith hisskinnedfacein the bottom of the boat. Daylight's position wassuch thatfrom where he lay he could look up river to the bendaroundwhichsooner or laterthe next ice-run would come. Andas helooked he seemed to see back through the past to a timewhenneither white man nor Indian was in the landand ever hesaw thesame Stewart Riverwinter upon winterbreasted withiceandspring upon spring bursting that ice asunder and runningfree. And he saw also into an illimitable futurewhen the lastgenerationsof men were gone from off the face of Alaskawhenhetoowould be goneand he sawever remainingthat riverfreezingand freshetingand running on and on.
Life was aliar and a cheat. It fooled all creatures. It hadfooledhimBurning Daylightone of its chiefest and most joyousexponents. He was nothing a mere bunch of flesh and nerves andsensitivenessthat crawled in the muck for goldthat dreamed andaspiredand gambledand that passed and was gone. Only the deadthingsremainedthe things that were not flesh and nerves andsensitivenessthe sand and muck and gravelthe stretchingflatsthemountainsthe river itselffreezing and breakingyear byyeardown all the years. When all was said and doneitwas ascurvy game. The dice were loaded. Those that died didnot winand all died. Who won? Not even Lifethestool-pigeonthe arch-capper for the game Lifethe everflourishinggraveyardthe everlasting funeral procession.
He driftedback to the immediate present for a moment and notedthat theriver still ran wide openand that a moose-birdperched onthe bow of the boatwas surveying him impudently.Then hedrifted dreamily back to his meditations.
There wasno escaping the end of the game. He was doomed surelyto be outof it all. And what of it? He pondered that questionagain andagain.
Conventionalreligion had passed Daylight by. He had lived asort ofreligion in his square dealing and right playing withother menand he had not indulged in vain metaphysics aboutfuturelife. Death ended all. He had always believed thatandbeenunafraid. And at this momentthe boat fifteen feet abovethe waterand immovablehimself fainting with weakness andwithout aparticle of strength left in himhe still believedthat deathended alland he was still unafraid. His views weretoo simplyand solidly based to be overthrown by the firstsquirmorthe lastof death-fearing life.
He hadseen men and animals dieand into the field of hisvisionbyscorescame such deaths. He saw them over againjust as hehad seen them at the timeand they did not shake him.
What ofit? They were deadand dead long since. They weren'tbotheringabout it. They weren't lying on their bellies across aboat andwaiting to die. Death was easy easier than he had everimagined;andnow that it was nearthe thought of it made himglad.
A newvision came to him. He saw the feverish city of hisDream thegold metropolis of the Northperched above the Yukonon a highearth-bank and far-spreading across the flat. He sawthe riversteamers tied to the bank and lined against it threedeep; hesaw the sawmills working and the long dog-teamswithdoublesleds behindfreighting supplies to the diggings. And hesawfurtherthe gambling-housesbanksstock-exchangesandall thegear and chips and markersthe chances andopportunitiesof a vastly bigger gambling game than any he hadeverseen. It was sure hellhe thoughtwith the huncha-workingand that big strike comingto be out of it all. Lifethrilledand stirred at the thought and once more began utteringhisancient lies.
Daylightrolled over and off the boatleaning against it as hesat on theice. He wanted to be in on that strike. And whyshouldn'the? Somewhere in all those wasted muscles of his wasenoughstrengthif he could gather it all at onceto up-end theboat andlaunch it. Quite irrelevantly the idea suggested itselfof buyinga share in the Klondike town site from Harper and JoeLadue. They would surely sell a third interest cheap. Thenifthe strikecame on the Stewarthe would be well in on it withthe ElamHarnish town site; if on the Klondikehe would not bequite outof it.
In themeantimehe would gather strength. He stretched out onthe icefull lengthface downwardand for half an hour he layandrested. Then he aroseshook the flashing blindness from hiseyesandtook hold of the boat. He knew his conditionaccurately. If the first effort failedthe following effortsweredoomed to fail. He must pull all his rallied strength intothe oneeffortand so thoroughly must he put all of it in thattherewould be none left for other attempts.
He liftedand he lifted with the soul of him as well as with thebodyconsuming himselfbody and spiritin the effort. Theboatrose. He thought he was going to faintbut he continued tolift. He felt the boat giveas it started on its downwardslide. With the last shred of his strength he precipitatedhimselfinto itlanding in a sick heap on Elijah's legs. He wasbeyondattempting to riseand as he lay he heard and felt theboat takethe water. By watching the tree-tops he knew it waswhirling. A smashing shock and flying fragments of ice told himthat ithad struck the bank. A dozen times it whirled andstruckand then it floated easily and free.
Daylightcame toand decided he had been asleep. The sundenotedthat several hours had passed. It was early afternoon.He draggedhimself into the stern and sat up. The boat was inthe middleof the stream. The wooded bankswith theirbase-linesof flashing icewere slipping by. Near him floated ahugeuprooted pine. A freak of the current brought the boatagainstit. Crawling forwardhe fastened the painter to a root.
The treedeeper in the waterwas travelling fasterand thepaintertautened as the boat took the tow. Thenwith a lastgiddy lookaroundwherein he saw the banks tilting and swayingand thesun swinging in pendulum-sweep across the skyDaylightwrappedhimself in his rabbit-skin robelay down in the bottomand fellasleep.
When heawokeit was dark night. He was lying on his backandhe couldsee the stars shining. A subdued murmur of swollenwaterscould be heard. A sharp jerk informed him that the boatswervingslack into the painterhad been straightened out by theswifter-movingpine tree. A piece of stray drift-ice thumpedagainstthe boat and grated along its side. Wellthe followingjam hadn'tcaught him yetwas his thoughtas he closed his eyesand sleptagain.
It wasbright day when next he opened his eyes. The sun showedit to bemidday. A glance around at the far-away banksand heknew thathe was on the mighty Yukon. Sixty Mile could not befar away. He was abominably weak. His movements were slowfumblingand inaccurateaccompanied by panting andhead-swimmingas he dragged himself into a sitting-up positionin thesternhis rifle beside him. He looked a long time atElijahbut could not see whether he breathed or notand he wastooimmeasurably far away to make an investigation.
He fell todreaming and meditating againdreams and thoughtsbeingoften broken by sketches of blanknesswherein he neithersleptnorwas unconsciousnor was aware of anything. It seemedto himmore like cogs slipping in his brain. And in thisintermittentway he reviewed the situation. He was still aliveand mostlikely would be savedbut how came it that he was notlying deadacross the boat on top the ice-rim? Then herecollectedthe great final effort he had made. But why had hemade it? he asked himself. It had not been fear of death. Hehad notbeen afraidthat was sure. Then he remembered the hunchand thebig strike he believed was comingand he knew that thespur hadbeen his desire to sit in for a hand at that big game.And againwhy? What if he made his million? He would diejustthe sameas those that never won more than grub-stakes. Thenagainwhy? But the blank stretches in his thinking process beganto comemore frequentlyand he surrendered to the delightfullassitudethat was creeping over him.
He rousedwith a start. Something had whispered in him that hemustawake. Abruptly he saw Sixty Milenot a hundred feet away.
Thecurrent had brought him to the very door. But the samecurrentwas now sweeping him past and on into the down-riverwilderness. No one was in sight. The place might have beendesertedsave for the smoke he saw rising from the kitchenchimney. He tried to callbut found he had no voice left. Anunearthlyguttural hiss alternately rattled and wheezed in histhroat. He fumbled for the riflegot it to his shoulderandpulled thetrigger. The recoil of the discharge tore through hisframeracking it with a thousand agonies. The rifle had fallenacross hiskneesand an attempt to lift it to his shoulderfailed. He knew he must be quickand felt that he was faintingso hepulled the trigger of the gun where it lay. This time itkicked offand overboard. But just before darkness rushed overhimhesaw the kitchen door openand a woman look out of thebig loghouse that was dancing a monstrous jig among the trees.
Ten dayslaterHarper and Joe Ladue arrived at Sixty MileandDaylightstill a trifle weakbut strong enough to obey thehunch thathad come to himtraded a third interest in hisStewarttown site for a third interest in theirs on the Klondike.
They hadfaith in the Upper Countryand Harper left down-streamwith araft-load of suppliesto start a small post at the mouthof theKlondike.
"Whydon't you tackle Indian RiverDaylight?" Harper advisedatparting. "There's whole slathers of creeks and draws draining inup thereand somewhere gold just crying to be found. That's myhunch. There's a big strike comingand Indian River ain't goingto be amillion miles away."
"Andthe place is swarming with moose" Joe Ladue added. "BobHenderson'sup there somewherebeen there three years nowswearingsomething big is going to happenliving off'n straightmoose andprospecting around like a crazy man."
Daylightdecided to go Indian River a flutteras he expressedit; butElijah could not be persuaded into accompanying him.Elijah'ssoul had been seared by famineand he was obsessed byfear ofrepeating the experience.
"Ijest can't bear to separate from grub" he explained. "Iknowit'sdownright foolishnessbut I jest can't help it. It's all Ican do totear myself away from the table when I know I'm full tobustin'and ain't got storage for another bite. I'm going backto Circleto camp by a cache until I get cured."
Daylightlingered a few days longergathering strength andarranginghis meagre outfit. He planned to go in lightcarryinga pack ofseventy-five pounds and making his five dogs pack aswellIndian fashionloading them with thirty pounds each.Dependingon the report of Laduehe intended to follow BobHenderson'sexample and live practically on straight meat. WhenJackKearns' scowladen with the sawmill from Lake Lindermantied up atSixty MileDaylight bundled his outfit and dogs onboardturned his town-site application over to Elijah to befiledandthe same day was landed at the mouth of Indian River.
Fortymiles up the riverat what had been described to him asQuartzCreekhe came upon signs of Bob Henderson's workandalso atAustralia Creekthirty miles farther on. The weeks cameand wentbut Daylight never encountered the other man. Howeverhe foundmoose plentifuland he and his dogs prospered on themeatdiet. He found "pay" that was no more than "wages"on adozensurface barsand from the generous spread of flour gold inthe muckand gravel of a score of creekshe was more confidentthan everthat coarse gold in quantity was waiting to beunearthed. Often he turned his eyes to the northward ridge ofhillsandpondered if the gold came from them. In the endheascendedDominion Creek to its headcrossed the divideand camedown onthe tributary to the Klondike that was later to be calledHunkerCreek. While on the dividehad he kept the big dome onhis righthe would have come down on the Gold Bottomso namedby BobHendersonwhom he would have found at work on ittakingout thefirst pay-gold ever panned on the Klondike. InsteadDaylightcontinued down Hunker to the Klondikeand on to thesummerfishing camp of the Indians on the Yukon.
Here for aday he camped with Carmacka squaw-manand hisIndianbrother-in-lawSkookum Jimbought a boatandwith hisdogs onboarddrifted down the Yukon to Forty Mile. August wasdrawing toa closethe days were growing shorterand winter wascomingon. Still with unbounded faith in his hunch that a strikewas comingin the Upper Countryhis plan was to get together aparty offour or fiveandif that was impossibleat least apartnerand to pole back up the river before the freeze-up to dowinterprospecting. But the men of Forty Mile were withoutfaith. The diggings to the westward were good enough for them.
Then itwas that Carmackhis brother-in-lawSkookum JimandCultusCharlieanother Indianarrived in a canoe at Forty Milewentstraight to the gold commissionerand recorded three claimsand adiscovery claim on Bonanza Creek. After thatin theSourdoughSaloonthat nightthey exhibited coarse gold to thescepticalcrowd. Men grinned and shook their heads. They hadseen themotions of a gold strike gone through before. This wastoopatently a scheme of Harper's and Joe Ladue'strying toenticeprospecting in the vicinity of their town site and tradingpost. And who was Carmack? A squaw-man. And who ever heard ofasquaw-man striking anything? And what was Bonanza Creek?Merely amoose pastureentering the Klondike just above itsmouthandknown to old-timers as Rabbit Creek. Now if Daylightor BobHenderson had recorded claims and shown coarse goldthey'dknown there was something in it. But Carmackthesquaw-man!And Skookum Jim! And Cultus Charlie! Nono; thatwas askingtoo much.
Daylighttoowas scepticaland this despite his faith in theUpperCountry. Had he notonly a few days beforeseen Carmackloafingwith his Indians and with never a thought of prospecting?
But ateleven that nightsitting on the edge of his bunk andunlacinghis moccasinsa thought came to him. He put on hiscoat andhat and went back to the Sourdough. Carmack was stillthereflashing his coarse gold in the eyes of an unbelievinggeneration. Daylight ranged alongside of him and emptiedCarmack'ssack into a blower. This he studied for a long time.Thenfromhis own sackinto another blowerhe emptied severalounces ofCircle City and Forty Mile gold. Againfor a longtimehestudied and compared. Finallyhe pocketed his owngoldreturned Carmack'sand held up his hand for silence.
"BoysI want to tell you-all something" he said. "She'ssurecometheup-river strike. And I tell you-allclear andforciblethis is it. There ain't never been gold like that in ablower inthis country before. It's new gold. It's got moresilver init. You-all can see it by the color. Carmack's suremade astrike. Who-all's got faith to come along with me?"
There wereno volunteers. Insteadlaughter and jeers went up.
"Mebbeyou got a town site up there" some one suggested.
"Isure have" was the retort"and a third interest in HarperandLadue's. And I can see my corner lots selling out for morethan yourhen-scratching ever turned up on Birch Creek."
"That'sall rightDaylight" one Curly Parson interposedsoothingly. "You've got a reputationand we know you're deadsure onthe square. But you're as likely as any to be mistook ona flimflamgamesuch as these loafers is putting up. I ask youstraight:When did Carmack do this here prospecting? You saidyourselfhe was lying in campfishing salmon along with hisSiwashrelationsand that was only the other day."
"AndDaylight told the truth" Carmack interrupted excitedly."AndI'm telling the truththe gospel truth. I wasn'tprospecting. Hadn't no idea of it. But when Daylight pulls outthe verysame daywho drifts indown riveron a raft-load ofsuppliesbut Bob Henderson. He'd come out to Sixty Mileplanningto go back up Indian River and portage the grub acrossthe dividebetween Quartz Creek and Gold Bottom-"
"Wherein hell's Gold Bottom?" Curly Parsons demanded.
"Overbeyond Bonanza that was Rabbit Creek" the squaw-man wenton. "It's a draw of a big creek that runs into the Klondike.That's theway I went upbut I come back by crossing the dividekeepingalong the crest several milesand dropping down intoBonanza. 'Come along with meCarmackand get staked' says BobHendersonto me. 'I've hit it this timeon Gold Bottom. I'vetook outforty-five ounces already.' And I went alongSkookumJim andCultus Charlietoo. And we all staked on Gold Bottom.I comeback by Bonanza on the chance of finding a moose. AlongdownBonanza we stopped and cooked grub. I went to sleepandwhat doesSkookum Jim do but try his hand at prospecting. He'dbeenwatching Hendersonyou see. He goes right slap up to thefoot of abirch treefirst panfills it with dirtand washesout more'na dollar coarse gold. Then he wakes me upand I goesat it. I got two and a half the first lick. Then I named thecreek'Bonanza' staked Discoveryand we come here andrecorded."
He lookedabout him anxiously for signs of beliefbut foundhimself ina circle of incredulous faces all save Daylightwhohadstudied his countenance while he told his story.
"Howmuch is Harper and Ladue givin' you for manufacturing astampede?"some one asked.
"Theydon't know nothing about it" Carmack answered. "Itellyou it'sthe God Almighty's truth. I washed out three ounces inan hour."
"Andthere's the gold" Daylight said. "I tell you-allboys theyain'tnever been gold like that in the blower before. Look atthe colorof it."
"Atrifle darker" Curly Parson said. "Most likelyCarmack'sbeencarrying a couple of silver dollars along in the same sack.And what'smoreif there's anything in itwhy ain't BobHendersonsmoking along to record?"
"He'sup on Gold Bottom" Carmack explained. "We made thestrikecomingback."
A burst oflaughter was his reward.
"Who-all'llgo pardners with me and pull out in a poling-boatto-morrowfor this here Bonanza?" Daylight asked.
"Thenwho-all'll take a job from mecash wages in advancetopole up athousand pounds of grub?"
CurlyParsons and anotherPat Monahanacceptedandwith hiscustomaryspeedDaylight paid them their wages in advance andarrangedthe purchase of the suppliesthough he emptied his sackin doingso. He was leaving the Sourdoughwhen he suddenlyturnedback to the bar from the door.
"Gotanother hunch?" was the query.
"Isure have" he answered. "Flour's sure going to beworth whata man willpay for it this winter up on the Klondike. Who'lllend mesome money?"
On theinstant a score of the men who had declined to accompanyhim on thewild-goose chase were crowding about him withprofferedgold-sacks.
"Howmuch flour do you want?" asked the Alaska CommercialCompany'sstorekeeper.
Theproffered gold-sacks were not withdrawnthough their ownerswereguilty of an outrageous burst of merriment.
"Whatare you going to do with two tons?" the store-keeperdemanded.
"Son"Daylight made reply"you-all ain't been in this countrylongenough to know all its curves. I'm going to start asauerkrautfactory and combined dandruff remedy."
Heborrowed money right and leftengaging and paying six othermen tobring up the flour in half as many more poling-boats.Again hissack was emptyand he was heavily in debt.
CurlyParsons bowed his head on the bar with a gesture ofdespair.
"Whatgets me" he moaned"is what you're going to do with itall."
"I'lltell you-all in simple ABC and onetwothree." Daylightheld up one finger and began checking off. "Hunchnumberone: a big strike coming in Upper Country. Hunch numbertwo:Carmack's made it. Hunch number three: ain't no hunch atall. It's a cinch. If one and two is rightthen flour just hasto gosky-high. If I'm riding hunches one and twoI just got toride thiscinchwhich is number three. If I'm rightflour'llbalancegold on the scales this winter. I tell you-all boyswhenyou-all got a hunchplay it for all it's worth. What'sluck goodforif you-all ain't to ride it? And when you-allride itride like hell. I've been years in this countryjustwaitingfor the right hunch to come along. And here she is.WellI'mgoing to play herthat's all. Good nightyou-all;goodnight."
Still menwere without faith in the strike. When Daylightwith hisheavy outfit of flourarrived at the mouth of theKlondikehe found the big flat as desolate and tenantless asever. Down close by the riverChief Isaac and his Indians werecampedbeside the frames on which they were drying salmon.Severalold-timers were also in camp there. Having finishedtheirsummer work on Ten Mile Creekthey had come down theYukonbound for Circle City. But at Sixty Mile they had learnedof thestrikeand stopped off to look over the ground. They hadjustreturned to their boat when Daylight landed his flourandtheirreport was pessimistic.
"Damnedmoose-pasture" quoth oneLong Jim Harneypausing toblow intohis tin mug of tea. "Don't you have nothin' to do withitDaylight. It's a blamed rotten sell. They're just goingthroughthe motions of a strike. Harper and Ladue's behind itandCarmack's the stool-pigeon. Whoever heard of mining amoose-pasturehalf a mile between rim-rock and God alone knowshow far tobed-rock!"
Daylightnodded sympatheticallyand considered for a space.
"Didyou-all pan any?" he asked finally.
"Panhell!" was the indignant answer. "Think I was bornyesterday! Only a chechaquo'd fool around that pasture longenough tofill a pan of dirt. You don't catch me at any suchfoolishness. One look was enough for me. We're pulling on inthemorning for Circle City. I ain't never had faith in thisUpperCountry. Head-reaches of the Tanana is good enough for mefrom nowonand mark my wordswhen the big strike comesshe'llcome downriver. Johnnyherestaked a couple of miles belowDiscoverybut he don't know no better." Johnny lookedshamefaced.
"Ijust did it for fun" he explained. "I'd give mychance inthe creekfor a pound of Star plug."
"I'llgo you" Daylight said promptly. "But don't you-allcomesquealingif I take twenty or thirty thousand out of it."
"Gimmethe tobacco" he said.
"WishI'd staked alongside" Long Jim murmured plaintively.
"Itain't too late" Daylight replied.
"Butit's a twenty-mile walk there and back."
"I'llstake it for you to-morrow when I go up" Daylight offered.
"Thenyou do the same as Johnny. Get the fees from Tim Logan.He'stending bar in the Sourdoughand he'll lend it to me. Thenfill inyour own nametransfer to meand turn the papers overto Tim."
"Metoo" chimed in the third old-timer.
And forthree pounds of Star plug chewing tobaccoDaylightboughtoutright three five-hundred-foot claims on Bonanza. Hecouldstill stake another claim in his own namethe others beingmerelytransfers.
"Mustsay you're almighty brash with your chewin' tobacco" LongJimgrinned. "Got a factory somewheres?"
"Nopebut I got a hunch" was the retort"and I tell you-allit'scheaper than dirt to ride her at the rate of three plugs forthreeclaims."
But anhour laterat his own campJoe Ladue strode infreshfromBonanza Creek. At firstnon-committal over Carmack'sstrikethenlaterdubioushe finally offered Daylight ahundreddollars for his share in the town site.
"Sure. There she is."
So sayingLadue pulled out his gold-sack. Daylight hefted itabsent-mindedlyandstill absent-mindedlyuntied the stringsand ransome of the gold-dust out on his palm. It showed darkerthan anydust he had ever seenwith the exception of Carmack's.He ran thegold back tied the mouth of the sackand returned itto Ladue.
"Iguess you-all need it more'n I do" was Daylight's comment.
"Nope;got plenty more" the other assured him.
"Wherethat come from?"
Daylightwas all innocence as he asked the questionand Laduereceivedthe question as stolidly as an Indian. Yet for a swiftinstantthey looked into each other's eyesand in that instantanintangible something seemed to flash out from all the body andspirit ofJoe Ladue. And it seemed to Daylight that he hadcaughtthis flashsensed a secret something in the knowledge andplansbehind the other's eyes.
"You-allknow the creek better'n me" Daylight went on. "Andifmy sharein the town site's worth a hundred to you-all with whatyou-allknowit's worth a hundred to me whether I know it ornot."
"I'llgive you three hundred" Ladue offered desperately.
"Stillthe same reasoning. No matter what I don't knowit'sworth tome whatever you-all are willing to pay for it."
Then itwas that Joe Ladue shamelessly gave over. He ledDaylightaway from the camp and men and told him things inconfidence.
"She'ssure there" he said in conclusion. "I didn't sluiceitor cradleit. I panned itall in that sackyesterdayon therim-rock. I tell youyou can shake it out of the grassroots.And what'son bed-rock down in the bottom of the creek they ain'tno way oftellin'. But she's bigI tell youbig. Keep itquietandlocate all you can. It's in spotsbut I wouldn't benonesurprised if some of them claims yielded as high as fiftythousand. The only trouble is that it's spotted."
* * *
A monthpassed byand Bonanza Creek remained quiet. Asprinklingof men had staked; but most of themafter stakinghad goneon down to Forty Mile and Circle City. The few thatpossessedsufficient faith to remain were busy building logcabinsagainst the coming of winter. Carmack and his Indianrelativeswere occupied in building a sluice box and getting ahead ofwater. The work was slowfor they had to saw theirlumber byhand from the standing forest. But farther downBonanzawere four men who had drifted in from up riverDanMcGilvaryDave McKayDave Edwardsand Harry Waugh. They werea quietpartyneither asking nor giving confidencesand theyherded bythemselves. But Daylightwho had panned the spottedrim ofCarmack's claim and shaken coarse gold from thegrass-rootsand who had panned the rim at a hundred other placesup anddown the length of the creek and found nothingwascurious toknow what lay on bed-rock. He had noted the fourquiet mensinking a shaft close by the streamand he had heardtheirwhip-saw going as they made lumber for the sluice boxes.He did notwait for an invitationbut he was present the firstday theysluiced. And at the end of five hours' shovelling forone manhe saw them take out thirteen ounces and a half of gold.
It wascoarse goldrunning from pinheads to a twelve-dollarnuggetand it had come from off bed-rock. The first fall snowwas flyingthat dayand the Arctic winter was closing down; butDaylighthad no eyes for the bleak-gray sadness of the dyingshort-livedsummer. He saw his vision coming trueand on thebig flatwas upreared anew his golden city of the snows. Goldhad beenfound on bed-rock. That was the big thing. Carmack'sstrike wasassured. Daylight staked a claim in his own nameadjoiningthe three he had purchased with his plug tobacco. Thisgave him ablock of property two thousand feet long and extendingin widthfrom rim-rock to rim-rock.
Returningthat night to his camp at the mouth of Klondikehefound init Kamathe Indian he had left at Dyea. Kama wastravellingby canoebringing in the last mail of the year. Inhispossession was some two hundred dollars in gold-dustwhichDaylightimmediately borrowed. In returnhe arranged to stake aclaim forhimwhich he was to record when he passed throughFortyMile. When Kama departed next morninghe carried a numberof lettersfor Daylightaddressed to all the old-timers downriverinwhich they were urged to come up immediately and stake.
Also Kamacarried letters of similar importgiven him by theother menon Bonanza.
"Itwill sure be the gosh-dangdest stampede that ever was"Daylightchuckledas he tried to vision the excited populationsof FortyMile and Circle City tumbling into poling-boats andracing thehundreds of miles up the Yukon; for he knew that hisword wouldbe unquestioningly accepted.
With thearrival of the first stampedersBonanza Creek woke upandthereupon began a long-distance race between unveracity andtruthwhereinlie no matter how fastmen were continuallyovertakenand passed by truth. When men who doubted Carmack'sreport oftwo and a half to the panthemselves panned two and ahalftheylied and said that they were getting an ounce. Andlong erethe lie was fairly on its waythey were getting not oneounce butfive ounces. This they claimed was ten ounces; butwhen theyfilled a pan of dirt to prove the liethey washed outtwelveounces. And so it went. They continued valiantly to liebut thetruth continued to outrun them.
One day inDecember Daylight filled a pan from bed rock on hisown claimand carried it into his cabin. Here a fire burned andenabledhim to keep water unfrozen in a canvas tank. He squattedover thetank and began to wash. Earth and gravel seemed to fillthe pan. As he imparted to it a circular movementthe lightercoarserparticles washed out over the edge. At times he combedthesurface with his fingersraking out handfuls of gravel. Thecontentsof the pan diminished. As it drew near to the bottomfor thepurpose of fleeting and tentative examinationhe gavethe pan asudden sloshing movementemptying it of water. Andthe wholebottom showed as if covered with butter. Thus theyellowgold flashed up as the muddy water was flirted away. Itwasgoldgold-dustcoarse goldnuggetslarge nuggets. He wasallalone. He set the pan down for a moment and thought longthoughts. Then he finished the washingand weighed the resultin hisscales. At the rate of sixteen dollars to the ouncethepan hadcontained seven hundred and odd dollars. It was beyondanythingthat even he had dreamed. His fondest anticipation'shad goneno farther than twenty or thirty thousand dollars to aclaim; buthere were claims worth half a million each at theleasteven if they were spotted.
He did notgo back to work in the shaft that daynor the nextnor thenext. Insteadcapped and mitteneda light stampedingoutfitincluding his rabbit skin robestrapped on his backhewas outand away on a many-days' tramp over creeks and dividesinspectingthe whole neighboring territory. On each creek he wasentitledto locate one claimbut he was chary in thussurrenderingup his chances. On Hunker Creek only did he stake aclaim. Bonanza Creek he found staked from mouth to sourcewhileeverylittle draw and pup and gulch that drained into it waslike-wisestaked. Little faith was had in these side-streams.They hadbeen staked by the hundreds of men who had failed to getin onBonanza. The most popular of these creeks was Adams. Theone leastfancied was Eldoradowhich flowed into BonanzajustaboveKarmack's Discovery claim. Even Daylight disliked thelooks ofEldorado; butstill riding his hunchhe bought a halfshare inone claim on it for half a sack of flour. A month laterhe paideight hundred dollars for the adjoining claim. Threemonthslaterenlarging this block of propertyhe paid fortythousandfor a third claim; andthough it was concealed in thefuturehewas destinednot long afterto pay one hundred andfiftythousand for a fourth claim on the creek that had been theleastliked of all the creeks.
In themeantimeand from the day he washed seven hundred dollarsfrom asingle pan and squatted over it and thought a longthoughthe never again touched hand to pick and shovel. As hesaid toJoe Ladue the night of that wonderful washing:-
"JoeI ain't never going to work hard again. Here's where Ibegin touse my brains. I'm going to farm gold. Gold will growgold ifyou-all have the savvee and can get hold of some forseed. When I seen them seven hundred dollars in the bottom ofthe panIknew I had the seed at last."
"Whereare you going to plant it?" Joe Ladue had asked.
AndDaylightwith a wave of his handdefinitely indicated thewholelandscape and the creeks that lay beyond the divides.
"Thereshe is" he said"and you-all just watch my smoke.There'smillions here for the man who can see them. And I seenall themmillions this afternoon when them seven hundred dollarspeeped upat me from the bottom of the pan and chirruped'Wellif hereain't Burning Daylight come at last.'"
The heroof the Yukon in the younger days before the CarmackstrikeBurning Daylight now became the hero of the strike. Thestory ofhis hunch and how he rode it was told up and down theland. Certainly he had ridden it far and away beyond theboldestfor no five of the luckiest held the value in claimsthat heheld. Andfurthermorehe was still riding the hunchand withno diminution of daring. The wise ones shook theirheads andprophesied that he would lose every ounce he had won.He wasspeculatingthey contendedas if the whole country wasmade ofgoldand no man could win who played a placer strike inthatfashion.
On theother handhis holdings were reckoned as worth millionsand therewere men so sanguine that they held the man a fool whocopperedany bet Daylight laid. Behind his magnificentfree-handednessand careless disregard for money were hardpracticaljudgmentimagination and visionand the daring of thebiggambler. He foresaw what with his own eyes he had neverseenandhe played to win much or lose all.
 Tocopper: a term in faromeaning to play a card to lose.
"There'stoo much gold here in Bonanza to be just a pocket" heargued. "It's sure come from a mother-lode somewhereand othercreekswill show up. You-all keep your eyes on Indian River.The creeksthat drain that side the Klondike watershed are justas likelyto have gold as the creeks that drain this side."
And hebacked this opinion to the extent of grub-staking half adozenparties of prospectors across the big divide into theIndianRiver region. Other menthemselves failing to stake onluckycreekshe put to work on his Bonanza claims. And he paidthem wellsixteen dollars a day for an eight-hour shiftand heran threeshifts. He had grub to start them onand whenon thelastwaterthe Bella arrived loaded with provisionshe traded awarehousesite to Jack Kearns for a supply of grub that lastedall hismen through the winter of 1896. And that winterwhenfaminepinchedand flour sold for two dollars a poundhe keptthreeshifts of men at work on all four of the Bonanza claims.Othermine-owners paid fifteen dollars a day to their men; but hehad beenthe first to put men to workand from the first he paidthem afull ounce a day. One result was that his were pickedmenandthey more than earned their higher pay.
One of hiswildest plays took place in the early winter after thefreeze-up. Hundreds of stampedersafter staking on other creeksthanBonanzahad gone on disgruntled down river to Forty Mileand CircleCity. Daylight mortgaged one of his Bonanza dumpswith theAlaska Commercial Companyand tucked a letter of creditinto hispouch. Then he harnessed his dogs and went down on theice at apace that only he could travel. One Indian downanotherIndian backand four teams of dogs was his record. Andat FortyMile and Circle City he bought claims by the score.Many ofthese were to prove utterly worthlessbut some few ofthem wereto show up more astoundingly than any on Bonanza. Heboughtright and leftpaying as low as fifty dollars and as highas fivethousand. This highest one he bought in the TivoliSaloon. It was an upper claim on Eldoradoand when he agreed tothe priceJacob Wilkinsan old-timer just returned from a lookat themoose-pasturegot up and left the roomsaying:-
"DaylightI've known you seven yearand you've always seemedsensibletill now. And now you're just letting them rob youright andleft. That's what it is robbery. Five thousand for aclaim onthat damned moose-pasture is bunco. I just can't stayin theroom and see you buncoed that way."
"Itell you-all" Daylight answered"WilkinsCarmack'sstrike'sso bigthat we-all can't see it all. It's a lottery. Everyclaim Ibuy is a ticket. And there's sure going to be somecapitalprizes."
JacobWilkinsstanding in the open doorsniffed incredulously.
"NowsupposingWilkins" Daylight went on"supposing you-allknew itwas going to rain soup. What'd you-all do? Buy spoonsofcourse. WellI'm sure buying spoons. She's going to rainsoup upthere on the Klondikeand them that has forks won't becatchingnone of it."
ButWilkins here slammed the door behind himand Daylight brokeoff tofinish the purchase of the claim.
Back inDawsonthough he remained true to his word and nevertouchedhand to pick and shovelhe worked as hard as ever in hislife. He had a thousand irons in the fireand they kept himbusy. Representation work was expensiveand he was compelled totraveloften over the various creeks in order to decide whichclaimsshould lapse and which should be retained. A quartz minerhimself inhis early youthbefore coming to Alaskahe dreamedof findingthe mother-lode. A placer camp he knew was ephemeralwhile aquartz camp abidedand he kept a score of men in thequest formonths. The mother-lode was never foundandyearsafterwardhe estimated that the search for it had cost him fiftythousanddollars.
But he wasplaying big. Heavy as were his expenseshe won moreheavily. He took laysbought half sharesshared with the menhegrub-stakedand made personal locations. Day and night hisdogs werereadyand he owned the fastest teams; so that when astampedeto a new discovery was onit was Burning Daylight tothe forethrough the longestcoldest nights till he blazed hisstakesnext to Discovery. In one way or another (to say nothingof themany worthless creeks) he came into possession ofpropertieson the good creekssuch as SulphurDominionExcelsisSiwashCristoAlhambraand Doolittle. The thousandshe pouredout flowed back in tens of thousands. Forty Mile mentold thestory of his two tons of flourand made calculations ofwhat ithad returned him that ranged from half a million to amillion. One thing was known beyond all doubtnamelythat thehalf sharein the first Eldorado claimbought by him for a halfsack offlourwas worth five hundred thousand. On the otherhanditwas told that when Fredathe dancerarrived from overthe passesin a Peterborough canoe in the midst of a drive ofmush-iceon the Yukonand when she offered a thousand dollarsfor tensacks and could find no sellershe sent the flour to heras apresent without ever seeing her. In the same way ten sackswere sentto the lone Catholic priest who was starting the firsthospital.
Hisgenerosity was lavish. Others called it insane. At a timewhenriding his hunchhe was getting half a million for half asack offlourit was nothing less than insanity to give twentywholesacks to a dancing-girl and a priest. But it was his way.Money wasonly a marker. It was the game that counted with him.Thepossession of millions made little change in himexcept thathe playedthe game more passionately. Temperate as he had alwaysbeensaveon rare occasionsnow that he had the wherewithal forunlimiteddrinks and had daily access to themhe drank evenless. The most radical change lay in thatexcept when on trailhe nolonger did his own cooking. A broken-down miner lived inhis logcabin with him and now cooked for him. But it was thesame food:baconbeansflourprunesdried fruitsand rice.He stilldressed as formerly: overallsGerman socksmoccasinsflannelshirtfur capand blanket coat. He did not take upwithcigarswhich costthe cheapestfrom half a dollar to adollareach. The same Bull Durham and brown-paper cigarettehand-rolledcontented him. It was true that he kept more dogsand paidenormous prices for them. They were not a luxurybut amatter ofbusiness. He needed speed in his travelling andstampeding. And by the same tokenhe hired a cook. He was toobusy tocook for himselfthat was all. It was poor businessplayingfor millionsto spend time building fires and boilingwater.
Dawsongrew rapidly that winter of 1896. Money poured in onDaylightfrom the sale of town lots. He promptly invested itwhere itwould gather more. In facthe played the dangerousgame ofpyramidingand no more perilous pyramiding than in aplacercamp could be imagined. But he played with his eyes wideopen.
"You-alljust wait till the news of this strike reaches theOutside"he told his old-timer cronies in the Moosehorn Saloon."Thenews won't get out till next spring. Then there's going tobe threerushes. A summer rush of men coming in light; a fallrush ofmen with outfits; and a spring rushthe next year afterthatoffifty thousand. You-all won't be able to see thelandscapefor chechaquos. Wellthere's the summer and fall rushof 1897 tocommence with. What are you-all going to do aboutit?"
"Whatare you going to do about it?" a friend demanded.
"Nothing"he answered. "I've sure already done it. I've got adozengangs strung out up the Yukon getting out logs. You-all'llsee theirrafts coming down after the river breaks. Cabins!They surewill be worth what a man can pay for them next fall.Lumber! Itwill sure go to top- notch. I've got two sawmillsfreightingin over the passes. They'll come down as soon as thelakes openup. And if you-all are thinking of needing lumberI'll makeyou-all contracts right now three hundred dollars athousandundressed."
Cornerlots in desirable locations sold that winter for from tento thirtythousand dollars. Daylight sent word out over thetrails andpasses for the newcomers to bring down log-raftsandas aresultthe summer of 1897 saw his sawmills working day andnightonthree shiftsand still he had logs left over withwhich tobuild cabins. These cabinsland includedsold at fromone toseveral thousand dollars. Two-story log buildingsin thebusinesspart of townbrought him from forty to fifty thousanddollarsapiece. These fresh accretions of capital wereimmediatelyinvested in other ventures. He turned gold over andoveruntil everything that he touched seemed to turn to gold.
But thatfirst wild winter of Carmack's strike taught Daylightmanythings. Despite the prodigality of his naturehe hadpoise. He watched the lavish waste of the mushroom millionairesand failedquite to understand it. According to his nature andoutlookit was all very well to toss an ante away in a night'sfrolic. That was what he had done the night of the poker-game inCircleCity when he lost fifty thousand all that he possessed.But he hadlooked on that fifty thousand as a mere ante. When itcame tomillionsit was different. Such a fortune was a stakeand wasnot to be sown on bar-room floorsliterally sownflungbroadcastout of the moosehide sacks by drunken millionaireswho hadlost all sense of proportion. There was McMannwho ranup asingle bar-room bill of thirty-eight thousand dollars; andJimmie theRoughwho spent one hundred thousand a month for fourmonths inriotous livingand then fell down drunk in the snowone Marchnight and was frozen to death; and Swiftwater Billwhoafterspending three valuable claims in an extravagance ofdebaucheryborrowed three thousand dollars with which to leavethecountryand whoout of this sumbecause the lady-love thathad jiltedhim liked eggscornered the one hundred and ten dozeneggs onthe Dawson marketpaying twenty-four dollars a dozen forthem andpromptly feeding them to the wolf-dogs.
Champagnesold at from forty to fifty dollars a quartandcannedoyster stew at fifteen dollars. Daylight indulged in nosuchluxuries. He did not mind treating a bar-room of men towhiskey atfifty cents a drinkbut there was somewhere in hisownextravagant nature a sense of fitness and arithmetic thatrevoltedagainst paying fifteen dollars for the contents of anoystercan. On the other handhe possibly spent more money inrelievinghard-luck cases than did the wildest of the newmillionaireson insane debauchery. Father Judgeof thehospitalcould have told of far more important donations thanthat firstten sacks of flour. And old-timers who came toDaylightinvariably went away relieved according to their need.But fiftydollars for a quart of fizzy champagne! That wasappalling.
And yet hestillon occasionmade one of his old-timehell-roaringnights. But he did so for different reasons.Firstitwas expected of him because it had been his way in theold days. And secondhe could afford it. But he no longercaredquite so much for that form of diversion. He haddevelopedin a new waythe taste for power. It had become alust withhim. By far the wealthiest miner in Alaskahe wantedto bestill wealthier. It was a big game he was playing inandhe likedit better than any other game. In a waythe part heplayed wascreative. He was doing something. And at no timestrikinganother chord of his naturecould he take the joy in amillion-dollarEldorado dump that was at all equivalent to thejoy hetook in watching his two sawmills working and the big downriverlog-rafts swinging into the bank in the big eddy just aboveMoosehideMountain. Goldeven on the scaleswasafter allanabstraction. It represented things and the power to do. But thesawmillswere the things themselvesconcrete and tangibleandthey werethings that were a means to the doing of more things.They weredreams come truehard and indubitable realizations offairygossamers.
With thesummer rush from the Outside came special correspondentsfor thebig newspapers and magazinesand one and allusingunlimitedspacethey wrote Daylight up; so thatso far as theworld wasconcernedDaylight loomed the largest figure inAlaska. Of courseafter several monthsthe world becameinterestedin the Spanish Warand forgot all about him; but intheKlondike itself Daylight still remained the most prominentfigure. Passing along the streets of Dawsonall heads turned tofollowhimand in the saloons chechaquos watched him awesomelyscarcelytaking their eyes from him as long as he remained intheirrange of vision. Not alone was he the richest man in thecountrybut he was Burning Daylightthe pioneerthe man whoalmost inthe midst of antiquity of that young landhad crossedtheChilcoot and drifted down the Yukon to meet those eldergiantsAlMayo and Jack McQuestion. He was the Burning Daylightof scoresof wild adventuresthe man who carried word to theice-boundwhaling fleet across the tundra wilderness to theArcticSeawho raced the mail from Circle to Salt Water and backagain insixty dayswho saved the whole Tanana tribe fromperishingin the winter of '91in shortthe man who smote thechechaquos'imaginations more violently than any other dozen menrolledinto one.
He had thefatal facility for self-advertisement. Things he didno matterhow adventitious or spontaneousstruck the popularimaginationas remarkable. And the latest thing he had done wasalways onmen's lipswhether it was being first in theheartbreakingstampede to Danish Creekin killing the recordbaldfacegrizzly over on Sulphur Creekor in winning thesingle-paddlecanoe race on the Queen's Birthdayafter beingforced toparticipate at the last moment by the failure of thesourdoughrepresentative to appear. Thusone night in theMoosehornhe locked horns with Jack Kearns in the long-promisedreturngame of poker. The sky and eight o'clock in the morningwere madethe limitsand at the close of the game Daylight'swinningswere two hundred and thirty thousand dollars. To JackKearnsalready a several-times millionairethis loss was notvital. But the whole community was thrilled by the size of thestakesand each one of the dozen correspondents in the fieldsent out asensational article.
Despitehis many sources of revenueDaylight's pyramiding kepthimpinched for cash throughout the first winter. Thepay-gravelthawed on bed-rock and hoisted to the surfaceimmediatelyfroze again. Thus his dumpscontaining severalmillionsof goldwere inaccessible. Not until the returning sunthawed thedumps and melted the water to wash them was he able tohandle thegold they contained. And then he found himself with asurplus ofgolddeposited in the two newly organized banks; andhe waspromptly besieged by men and groups of men to enlist hiscapital intheir enterprises.
But heelected to play his own gameand he entered combinationsonly whenthey were generally defensive or offensive. Thusthough hehad paid the highest wageshe joined the Mine-owners'Associationengineered the fightand effectually curbed thegrowinginsubordination of the wage-earners. Times had changed.The olddays were gone forever. This was a new eraandDaylightthe wealthy mine-ownerwas loyal to his classaffiliations. It was truethe old-timers who worked for himinorder tobe saved from the club of the organized ownersweremadeforemen over the gang of chechaquos; but thiswithDaylightwas a matter of heartnot head. In his heart he couldnot forgetthe old dayswhile with his head he played theeconomicgame according to the latest and most practical methods.
Butoutside of such group-combinations of exploitershe refusedto bindhimself to any man's game. He was playing a great lonehandandhe needed all his money for his own backing. The newlyfoundedstock-exchange interested him keenly. He had neverbeforeseen such an institutionbut he was quick to see itsvirtuesand to utilize it. Most of allit was gamblingand onmany anoccasion not necessary for the advancement of his ownschemesheas he called itwent the stock-exchange a flutterout ofsheer wantonness and fun.
"Itsure beats faro" was his comment one daywhenafterkeepingthe Dawson speculators in a fever for a week by alternatebullingand bearinghe showed his hand and cleaned up what wouldhave beena fortune to any other man.
Other menhaving made their strikehad headed south for theStatestaking a furlough from the grim Arctic battle. Butasked whenhe was going OutsideDaylight always laughed and saidwhen hehad finished playing his hand. He also added that a manwas a foolto quit a game just when a winning hand had been dealthim.
It washeld by the thousands of hero-worshipping chechaquos thatDaylightwas a man absolutely without fear. But Bettles and DanMacDonaldand other sourdoughs shook their heads and laughed astheymentioned women. And they were right. He had always beenafraid ofthem from the timehimself a lad of seventeenwhenQueenAnneof Juneaumade open and ridiculous love to him. Forthatmatterhe never had known women. Born in a mining-campwhere theywere rare and mysterioushaving no sistershismotherdying while he was an infanthe had never been in contactwiththem. Truerunning away from Queen Annehe had laterencounteredthem on the Yukon and cultivated an acquaintance withthem thepioneer ones who crossed the passes on the trail of themen whohad opened up the first diggings. But no lamb had everwalkedwith a wolf in greater fear and trembling than had hewalkedwith them. It was a matter of masculine pride that heshouldwalk with themand he had done so in fair seeming; butwomen hadremained to him a closed bookand he preferred a gameof solo orseven-up any time.
And nowknown as the King of the Klondikecarrying severalotherroyal titlessuch as Eldorado KingBonanza KingtheLumberBaronand the Prince of the Stampedersnot to omit theproudestappellation of allnamelythe Father of theSourdoughshe was more afraid of women than ever. As neverbeforethey held out their arms to himand more women wereflockinginto the country day by day. It mattered not whether hesat atdinner in the gold commissioner's housecalled for thedrinks ina dancehallor submitted to an interview from thewomanrepresentative of the New York Sunone and all of themheld outtheir arms.
There wasone exceptionand that was Fredathe girl thatdancedand to whom he had given the flour. She was the onlywoman inwhose company he felt at easefor she alone neverreachedout her arms. And yet it was from her that he wasdestinedto receive next to his severest fright. It came aboutin thefall of 1897. He was returning from one of his dashesthis timeto inspect Hendersona creek that entered the Yukonjust belowthe Stewart. Winter had come on with a rushand hefought hisway down the Yukon seventy miles in a frailPeterboroughcanoe in the midst of a run of mush-ice. Huggingtherim-ice that had already solidly formedhe shot across theice-spewingmouth of the Klondike just in time to see a lone mandancingexcitedly on the rim and pointing into the water. Nexthe saw thefur-clad body of a womanface undersinking in themidst ofthe driving mush-ice. A lane opening in the swirl ofthecurrentit was a matter of seconds to drive the canoe to thespotreach to the shoulder in the waterand draw the womangingerlyto the canoe's side. It was Freda. And all might yethave beenwell with himhad she notlaterwhen brought back toconsciousnessblazed at him with angry blue eyes and demanded:"Whydid you? Ohwhy did you?"
Thisworried him. In the nights that followedinstead ofsinkingimmediately to sleep as was his wonthe lay awakevisioningher face and that blue blaze of wrathand conning herwords overand over. They rang with sincerity. The reproach wasgenuine. She had meant just what she said. And still hepondered.
The nexttime he encountered her she had turned away from himangrilyand contemptuously. And yet againshe came to him tobeg hispardonand she dropped a hint of a man somewheresometimeshe said not howwho had left her with no desire tolive. Her speech was frankbut incoherentand all he gleanedfrom itwas that the eventwhatever it washad happened yearsbefore. Alsohe gleaned that she had loved the man.
That wasthe thing love. It caused the trouble. It was moreterriblethan frost or famine. Women were all very wellinthemselvesgood to look upon and likable; but along came thisthingcalled loveand they were seared to the bone by itmadesoirrational that one could never guess what they would do next.
ThisFreda-woman was a splendid creaturefull-bodiedbeautifulandnobody's fool; but love had come along and soured her on theworlddriving her to the Klondike and to suicide so compellinglythat shewas made to hate the man that saved her life.
Wellhehad escaped love so farjust as he had escapedsmallpox;yet there it wasas contagious as smallpoxand awhole lotworse in running its course. It made men and women dosuchfearful and unreasonable things. It was like deliriumtremensonly worse. And if heDaylightcaught ithe mighthave it asbadly as any of them. It was lunacystark lunacyandcontagious on top of it all. A half dozen young fellows werecrazy overFreda. They all wanted to marry her. Yet sheinturnwascrazy over that some other fellow on the other side ofthe worldand would have nothing to do with them.
But it wasleft to the Virgin to give him his final fright. Shewas foundone morning dead in her cabin. A shot through the headhad doneitand she had left no messageno explanation. Thencame thetalk. Some witvoicing public opinioncalled it acase oftoo much Daylight. She had killed herself because ofhim. Everybody knew thisand said so. The correspondents wroteit upandonce more Burning DaylightKing of the Klondikewassensationallyfeatured in the Sunday supplements of the UnitedStates. The Virgin had straightened upso the feature-storiesranandcorrectly so. Never had she entered a Dawson Citydance-hall. When she first arrived from Circle Cityshe hadearned herliving by washing clothes. Nextshe had bought asewing-machineand made men's drill parkasfur capsandmoosehidemittens. Then she had gone as a clerk into the FirstYukonBank. All thisand morewas known and toldthough oneand allwere agreed that Daylightwhile the causehad been theinnocentcause of her untimely end.
And theworst of it was that Daylight knew it was true. Alwayswould heremember that last night he had seen her. He hadthoughtnothing of it at the time; butlooking backhe washaunted byevery little thing that had happened. In the light ofthe tragiceventhe could understand everything her quietnessthat calmcertitude as if all vexing questions of living had beensmoothedout and were goneand that certain ethereal sweetnessabout allthat she had said and done that had been almostmaternal. He remembered the way she had looked at himhow shehadlaughed when he narrated Mickey Dolan's mistake in stakingthefraction on Skookum Gulch. Her laughter had been lightlyjoyouswhile at the same time it had lacked its old timerobustness. Not that she had been grave or subdued. On thecontraryshe had been so patently contentso filled with peace.
She hadfooled himfool that he was. He had even thought thatnight thather feeling for him had passedand he had takendelight inthe thoughtand caught visions of the satisfyingfuturefriendship that would be theirs with this perturbing loveout of theway.
And thenwhen he stood at the doorcap in handand said goodnight. It had struck him at the time as a funny and embarrassingthingherbending over his hand and kissing it. He had feltlike afoolbut he shivered now when he looked back on it andfelt againthe touch of her lips on his hand. She was sayinggood-byan eternal good-byand he had never guessed. At thatverymomentand for all the moments of the eveningcoolly anddeliberatelyas he well knew her wayshe had been resolved todie. If he had only known it! Untouched by the contagiousmaladyhimselfnevertheless he would have married her if he hadhad theslightest inkling of what she contemplated. And yet heknewfurthermorethat hers was a certain stiff-kneed pride thatwould nothave permitted her to accept marriage as an act ofphilanthropy. There had really been no saving herafter all.Thelove-disease had fastened upon herand she had been doomedfrom thefirst to perish of it.
Her onepossible chance had been that hetooshould have caughtit. And he had failed to catch it. Most likelyif he haditwould havebeen from Freda or some other woman. There wasDartworthythe college man who had staked the rich fraction onBonanzaabove Discovery. Everybody knew that old Doolittle'sdaughterBerthawas madly in love with him. Yetwhen hecontractedthe diseaseof all womenit had been with the wifeof ColonelWalthstonethe great Guggenhammer mining expert.Resultthree lunacy cases: Dartworthy selling out his mine forone-tenthits value; the poor woman sacrificing herrespectabilityand sheltered nook in society to flee with him inan openboat down the Yukon; and Colonel Walthstonebreathingmurder anddestructiontaking out after them in another openboat. The whole impending tragedy had moved on down the muddyYukonpassing Forty Mile and Circle and losing itself in thewildernessbeyond. But there it waslovedisorganizing men'sandwomen's livesdriving toward destruction and deathturningtopsy-turvyeverything that was sensible and consideratemakingbawds orsuicides out of virtuous womenand scoundrels andmurderersout of men who had always been clean and square.
For thefirst time in his life Daylight lost his nerve. He wasbadly andavowedly frightened. Women were terrible creaturesand thelove-germ was especially plentiful in their neighborhood.
And theywere so recklessso devoid of fear. THEY were notfrightenedby what had happened to the Virgin. They held outtheir armsto him more seductively than ever. Even without hisfortunereckoned as a mere manjust past thirtymagnificentlystrong andequally good-looking and good-naturedhe was a prizefor mostnormal women. But when to his natural excellences wereadded theromance that linked with his name and the enormouswealththat was hispractically every free woman he encounteredmeasuredhim with an appraising and delighted eyeto say nothingof morethan one woman who was not free. Other men might havebeenspoiled by this and led to lose their heads; but the onlyeffect onhim was to increase his fright. As a result he refusedmostinvitations to houses where women might be metandfrequentedbachelor boards and the Moosehorn Saloonwhich had nodance-hallattached.
Sixthousand spent the winter of 1897 in Dawsonwork on thecreekswent on apacewhile beyond the passes it was reportedthat onehundred thousand more were waiting for the spring. Lateone briefafternoonDaylighton the benches between French HillandSkookum Hillcaught a wider vision of things. Beneath himlay therichest part of Eldorado Creekwhile up and down Bonanzahe couldsee for miles. It was a scene of a vast devastation.The hillsto their topshad been shorn of treesand theirnakedsides showed signs of goring and perforating that even themantle ofsnow could not hide. Beneath himin every directionwere thecabins of men. But not many men were visible. Ablanket ofsmoke filled the valleys and turned the gray day tomelancholytwilight. Smoke arose from a thousand holes in thesnowwheredeep down on bed-rockin the frozen muck andgravelmen crept and scratched and dugand ever built morefires tobreak the grip of the frost. Here and therewhere newshaftswere startingthese fires flamed redly. Figures of mencrawledout of the holesor disappeared into themoron raisedplatformsof hand-hewn timberwindlassed the thawed gravel tothesurfacewhere it immediately froze. The wreckage of thespringwashing appeared everywhere piles of sluice-boxessectionsof elevated flumeshuge water-wheelsall the debrisof an armyof gold-mad men.
"It-all'splain gophering" Daylight muttered aloud.
He lookedat the naked hills and realized the enormous wastage ofwood thathad taken place. From this bird's-eye view herealizedthe monstrous confusion of their excited workings. Itwas agigantic inadequacy. Each worked for himselfand theresult waschaos. In this richest of diggings it cost out bytheirfeverishunthinking methods another dollar was lefthopelesslyin the earth. Given another yearand most of theclaimswould be worked outand the sum of the gold taken outwould nomore than equal what was left behind.
Organizationwas what was neededhe decided; and his quickimaginationsketched Eldorado Creekfrom mouth to sourceandfrommountain top to mountain topin the hands of one capablemanagement. Even steam-thawingas yet untriedbut bound tocomehesaw would be a makeshift. What should be done was tohydraulicthe valley sides and benchesand thenon the creekbottomtouse gold-dredges such as he had heard described asoperatingin California.
There wasthe very chance for another big killing. He hadwonderedjust what was precisely the reason for the Guggenhammersand thebig English concerns sending in their high-salariedexperts. That was their scheme. That was why they hadapproachedhim for the sale of worked-out claims and tailings.They werecontent to let the small mine-owners gopher out whattheycouldfor there would be millions in the leavings.
Andgazing down on the smoky inferno of crude effortDaylightoutlinedthe new game he would playa game in which theGuggenhammersand the rest would have to reckon with him. Cutalong withthe delight in the new conception came a weariness.He wastired of the long Arctic yearsand he was curious abouttheOutside the great world of which he had heard other men talkand ofwhich he was as ignorant as a child. There were games outthere toplay. It was a larger tableand there was no reasonwhy hewith his millions should not sit in and take a hand. Soit wasthat afternoon on Skookum Hillthat he resolved to playthis lastbest Klondike hand and pull for the Outside.
It tooktimehowever. He put trusted agents to work on theheels ofgreat expertsand on the creeks where they began to buyhelikewise bought. Wherever they tried to corner a worked-outcreekthey found him standing in the wayowning blocks ofclaims orartfully scattered claims that put all their plans tonaught.
"Iplay you-all wide open to winam I right" he told them oncein aheated conference.
Followedwarstrucescompromisesvictoriesand defeats. By1898sixty thousand men were on the Klondike and all theirfortunesand affairs rocked back and forth and were affected bythebattles Daylight fought. And more and more the taste for thelargergame urged in Daylight's mouth. Here he was alreadylocked ingrapples with the great Guggenhammersand winningfiercelywinning. Possibly the severest struggle was waged onOphirtheveriest of moose-pastureswhose low-grade dirt wasvaluableonly because of its vastness. The ownership of a blockof sevenclaims in the heart of it gave Daylight his grip andthey couldnot come to terms. The Guggenhammer experts concludedthat itwas too big for him to handleand when they gave him anultimatumto that effect he accepted and bought them out.
The planwas his ownbut he sent down to the States forcompetentengineers to carry it out. In the Rinkabillywatershedeighty miles awayhe built his reservoirand foreightymiles the huge wooden conduit carried the water acrosscountry toOphir. Estimated at three millionsthe reservoir andconduitcost nearer four. Nor did he stop with this. Electricpowerplants were installedand his workings were lighted aswell asrun by electricity. Other sourdoughswho had struck itrich inexcess of all their dreamsshook their heads gloomilywarned himthat he would go brokeand declined to invest in soextravaganta venture.
ButDaylight smiledand sold out the remainder of his town-siteholdings. He sold at the right timeat the height of the placerboom. When he prophesied to his old croniesin the MoosehornSaloonthat within five years town lots in Dawson could not begivenawaywhile the cabins would be chopped up for firewoodhewaslaughed at roundlyand assured that the mother-lode would befound erethat time. But he went aheadwhen his need for lumberwasfinishedselling out his sawmills as well. Likewisehebeganto get ridof his scattered holdings on the various creeksandwithoutthanks to any one he finished his conduitbuilt hisdredgesimported his machineryand made the gold of Ophirimmediatelyaccessible. And hewho five years before hadcrossedover thedivide from Indian River and threaded the silentwildernesshis dogs packing Indian fashionhimself livingIndianfashion onstraight moose meatnow heard the hoarse whistlescallinghis hundreds of laborers to workand watched them toilunder thewhite glare of the arc-lamps.
But havingdone the thinghe was ready to depart. And when helet theword go outthe Guggenhammers vied with the Englishconcernsand with a new French company in bidding for Ophir andall itsplant. The Guggenhammers bid highestand the price theypaidnetted Daylight a clean million. It was current rumor thathe wasworth anywhere from twenty to thirty millions. But healone knewjust how he stoodand thatwith his last claim soldand thetable swept clean of his winningshe had ridden hishunch tothe tune of just a trifle over eleven millions.
Hisdeparture was a thing that passed into the history of theYukonalong with his other deeds. All the Yukon was his guestDawson theseat of the festivity. On that one last night noman's dustsave his own was good. Drinks were not to bepurchased. Every saloon ran openwith extra relays of exhaustedbartendersand the drinks were given away. A man who refusedthishospitalityand persisted in payingfound a dozen fightson hishands. The veriest chechaquos rose up to defend the nameofDaylight from such insult. And through it allon moccasinedfeetmoved Daylighthell-roaring Burning Daylightover-spillingwith good nature and camaraderiehowling hishe-wolfhowl and claiming the night as hisbending men's armsdown onthe barsperforming feats of strengthhis bronzed faceflushedwith drinkhis black eyes flashingclad in overalls andblanketcoathis ear-flaps dangling and his gauntleted mittensswingingfrom the cord across the shoulders. But this time itwasneither an ante nor a stake that he threw awaybut a meremarker inthe game that he who held so many markers would notmiss.
As anightit eclipsed anything that Dawson had ever seen. ItwasDaylight's desire to make it memorableand his attempt was asuccess. A goodly portion of Dawson got drunk that night. Thefallweather was onandthough the freeze-up of the Yukon stilldelayedthe thermometer was down to twenty-five below zero andfalling. Whereforeit was necessary to organize gangs oflife-saverswho patrolled the streets to pick up drunken menfrom wherethey fell in the snow and where an hour's sleep wouldbe fatal. Daylightwhose whim it was to make them drunk byhundredsand by thousandswas the one who initiated this lifesaving. He wanted Dawson to have its nightbutin his deeperprocessesnever careless nor wantonhe saw to it that it was anightwithout accident. Andlike his olden nightshis ukasewent forththat there should be no quarrelling nor fightingoffendersto be dealt with by him personally. Nor did he have todeal withany. Hundreds of devoted followers saw to it that theevillydisposed were rolled in the snow and hustled off to bed.In thegreat worldwhere great captains of industry dieallwheelsunder their erstwhile management are stopped for a minute.
But in theKlondikesuch was its hilarious sorrow at thedepartureof its captainthat for twenty-four hours no wheelsrevolved. Even great Ophirwith its thousand men on thepay-rollclosed down. On the day after the night there were nomenpresent or fit to go to work.
Nextmorningat break of dayDawson said good-by. Thethousandsthat lined the bank wore mittens and their ear-flapspulleddown and tied. It was thirty below zerothe rim-ice wasthickeningand the Yukon carried a run of mush-ice. From thedeck ofthe SeattleDaylight waved and called his farewells. Asthe lineswere cast off and the steamer swung out into thecurrentthose near him saw the moisture well up in Daylight'seyes. In a wayit was to him departure from his native landthis grimArctic region which was practically the only land hehad known. He tore off his cap and waved it.
"Good-byyou-all!" he called. "Good-byyou-all!"
In noblaze of glory did Burning Daylight descend upon SanFrancisco. Not only had he been forgottenbut the Klondikealong withhim. The world was interested in other thingsandtheAlaskanadventurelike the Spanish Warwas an old story. Manythings hadhappened since then. Exciting things were happeningevery dayand the sensation-space of newspapers was limited.Theeffect ofbeing ignoredhoweverwas an exhilaration. Big manashe hadbeen in the Arctic gameit merely showed how much biggerwas thisnew gamewhen a man worth eleven millionsand with ahistorysuch as hispassed unnoticed.
He settleddown in St. Francis Hotelwas interviewed by thecub-reporterson the hotel-runand received brief paragraphs ofnotice fortwenty-four hours. He grinned to himselfand beganto lookaround and get acquainted with the new order of beingsandthings. He was very awkward and very self-possessed. Inadditionto the stiffening afforded his backbone by the consciousownershipof eleven millionshe possessed an enormous certitude.
Nothingabashed himnor was he appalled by the display andcultureand power around him. It was another kind of wildernessthat wasall; and it was for him to learn the ways of itthesigns andtrails and water-holes where good hunting layand thebadstretches of field and flood to be avoided. As usualhefought shyof the women. He was still too badly scared to cometo closequarters with the dazzling and resplendent creatures hisownmillions made accessible.
Theylooked and longedbut he so concealed his timidity that hehad allthe seeming of moving boldly among them. Nor was it hiswealthalone that attracted them. He was too much a manand toomuch anunusual type of man. Young yetbarely thirty-sixeminentlyhandsomemagnificently strongalmost bursting with asplendidvirilityhis free trail-stridenever learned onpavementsand his black eyeshinting of great spaces andunweariedwith the close perspective of the city dwellersdrewmany acurious and wayward feminine glance. He sawgrinnedknowinglyto himselfand faced them as so many dangerswith acooldemeanor that was a far greater personal achievement thanhad theybeen faminefrostor flood.
He hadcome down to the States to play the man's gamenot thewoman'sgame; and the men he had not yet learned. They struckhim assoft soft physically; yet he divined them hard in theirdealingsbut hard under an exterior of supple softness. Itstruck himthat there was something cat-like about them. He metthem inthe clubsand wondered how real was the good-fellowshiptheydisplayed and how quickly they would unsheathe their clawsand gougeand rend. "That's the proposition" he repeated tohimself;"what will they-all do when the play is close and downto brasstacks?" He felt unwarrantably suspicious of them."They'resure slick" was his secret judgment; and from bits ofgossipdropped now and again he felt his judgment wellbuttressed. On the other handthey radiated an atmosphere ofmanlinessand the fair play that goes with manliness. They mightgouge andrend in a fight which was no more than natural; but hefeltsomehowthat they would gouge and rend according to rule.This wasthe impression he got of thema generalization temperedbyknowledge that there was bound to be a certain percentage ofscoundrelsamong them.
Severalmonths passed in San Francisco during which time hestudiedthe game and its rulesand prepared himself to take ahand. He even took private instruction in Englishand succeededineliminating his worst faultsthough in moments of excitementhe wasprone to lapse into "you-all" "knowed" "sure"andsimilarsolecisms. He learned to eat and dress and generallycomporthimself after the manner of civilized man; but through itall heremained himselfnot unduly reverential norconsiderativeand never hesitating to stride rough-shod over anysoft-facedconvention if it got in his way and the provocationwere greatenough. Alsoand unlike the average run of weakermen comingfrom back countries and far placeshe failed toreverencethe particular tin gods worshipped variously by thecivilizedtribes of men. He had seen totems beforeand knewthem forwhat they were.
Tiring ofbeing merely an onlookerhe ran up to Nevadawherethe newgold-mining boom was fairly started"just to try aflutter"as he phrased it to himself. The flutter on theTonopahStock Exchange lasted just ten daysduring which timehissmashingwild-bull game played ducks and drakes with themorestereotyped gamblersand at the end of which timehavinggambledFloridel into his fisthe let go for a net profit ofhalf amillion. Whereuponsmacking his lipshe departed forSanFrancisco and the St. Francis Hotel. It tasted goodandhis hungerfor the game became more acute.
And oncemore the papers sensationalized him. BURNING DAYLIGHTwas abig-letter headline again. Interviewers flocked about him.
Old filesof magazines and newspapers were searched throughandtheromantic and historic Elam HarnishAdventurer of the FrostKing ofthe Klondikeand father of the Sourdoughsstrode uponthebreakfast table of a million homes along with the toast andbreakfastfoods. Even before his elected timehe was forciblylaunchedinto the game. Financiers and promotersand all theflotsamand jetsam of the sea of speculation surged upon theshores ofhis eleven millions. In self-defence he wascompelledto open offices. He had made them sit up and takenoticeand nowwilly-nillythey were dealing him hands andclamoringfor him to play. Wellplay he would; he'd show 'em;evendespite the elated prophesies made of how swiftly he wouldbe trimmedprophesies coupled with descriptions of the bucolicgame hewould play and of his wild and woolly appearance.
He dabbledin little things at first "stalling for time" as heexplainedit to Holdsworthya friend he had made at theAlta-PacificClub. Daylight himself was a member of the clubandHoldsworthy had proposed him. And it was well that Daylightplayedclosely at firstfor he was astounded by the multitudesof sharks"ground-sharks" he called them that flocked abouthim.
He sawthrough their schemes readily enoughand even marveledthat suchnumbers of them could find sufficient prey to keep themgoing. Their rascality and general dubiousness was sotransparentthat he could not understand how any one could betaken inby them.
And thenhe found that there were sharks and sharks. Holdsworthytreatedhim more like a brother than a mere fellow-clubmanwatchingover himadvising himand introducing him to themagnatesof the local financial world. Holdsworthy's familylived in adelightful bungalow near Menlo Parkand here Daylightspent anumber of weekendsseeing a fineness and kindness ofhome lifeof which he had never dreamed. Holdsworthy was anenthusiastover flowersand a half lunatic over raising prizepoultry;and these engrossing madnesses were a source ofperpetualjoy to Daylightwho looked on in tolerant good humor.Suchamiable weaknesses tokened the healthfulness of the mananddrewDaylight closer to him. A prosperoussuccessful businessmanwithout great ambitionwas Daylight's estimate of hima mantoo easilysatisfied with the small stakes of the game ever tolaunch outin big play.
On onesuch week-end visitHoldsworthy let him in on a goodthingagood little thinga brickyard at Glen Ellen. Daylightlistenedclosely to the other's description of the situation. Itwas a mostreasonable ventureand Daylight's one objection wasthat itwas so small a matter and so far out of his line; and hewent intoit only as a matter of friendshipHoldsworthyexplainingthat he was himself already in a bitand that whileit was agood thinghe would be compelled to make sacrifices inotherdirections in order to develop it. Daylight advanced thecapitalfifty thousand dollarsandas he laughingly explainedafterward"I was stungall rightbut it wasn't Holdsworthythat didit half as much as those blamed chickens and fruit-treesof his."
It was agood lessonhoweverfor he learned that there were fewfaiths inthe business worldand that even the simplehomelyfaith ofbreaking bread and eating salt counted for little in theface of aworthless brickyard and fifty thousand dollars in cash.
But thesharks and sharks of various orders and degreesheconcludedwere on the surface. Deep downhe divinedwere theintegritiesand the stabilities. These big captains of industryandmasters of financehe decidedwere the men to work with.By thevery nature of their huge deals and enterprises they hadto playfair. No room there for little sharpers' tricks andbuncogames. It was to be expected that little men should saltgold-mineswith a shotgun and work off worthless brick-yards ontheirfriendsbut in high finance such methods were not worthwhile. There the men were engaged in developing the countryorganizingits railroadsopening up its minesmaking accessibleits vastnatural resources. Their play was bound to be big andstable. "They sure can't afford tin-horn tactics" was hissummingup.
So it wasthat he resolved to leave the little mentheHoldsworthysalone; andwhile he met them in good-fellowshiphe chummedwith noneand formed no deep friendships. He did notdislikethe little menthe men of the Alta-Pacificforinstance. He merely did not elect to choose them for partners inthe biggame in which he intended to play. What that big gamewasevenhe did not know. He was waiting to find it. And inthemeantime he played small handsinvesting in severalarid-landsreclamation projects and keeping his eyes open for thebig chancewhen it should come along.
And thenhe met John Dowsettthe great John Dowsett. The wholething wasfortuitous. This cannot be doubtedas Daylighthimselfknewit was by the merest chancewhen in Los Angelesthat heheard the tuna were running strong at Santa Catalinaand wentover to the island instead of returning directly to SanFranciscoas he had planned. There he met John Dowsettrestingoff forseveral days in the middle of a flying western trip.Dowsetthad of course heard of the spectacular Klondike King andhisrumored thirty millionsand he certainly found himselfinterestedby the man in the acquaintance that was formed.Somewherealong in this acquaintanceship the idea must havepoppedinto his brain. But he did not broach itpreferring tomature itcarefully. So he talked in large general waysand didhis bestto be agreeable and win Daylight's friendship.
It was thefirst big magnate Daylight had met face to faceandhe waspleased and charmed. There was such a kindly humannessabout themansuch a genial democraticnessthat Daylight foundit hard torealize that this was THE John Dowsettpresident ofa stringof banksinsurance manipulatorreputed ally of thelieutenantsof Standard Oiland known ally of the Guggenhammers.
Nor didhis looks belie his reputation and his manner.
Physicallyhe guaranteed all that Daylight knew of him. Despitehis sixtyyears and snow-white hairhis hand-shake was firmlyheartyand he showed no signs of decrepitudewalking with aquicksnappy stepmaking all movements definitely anddecisively. His skin was a healthy pinkand his thincleanlips knewthe way to writhe heartily over a joke. He had honestblue eyesof palest blue; they looked out at one keenly andfranklyfrom under shaggy gray brows. His mind showed itselfdisciplinedand orderlyand its workings struck Daylight ashaving allthe certitude of a steel trap. He was a man whoKNEW andwho never decorated his knowledge with foolish frillsofsentiment or emotion. That he was accustomed to command waspatentand every word and gesture tingled with power. Combinedwith thiswas his sympathy and tactand Daylight could noteeasilyenough all the earmarks that distinguished him from alittle manof the Holdsworthy caliber. Daylight knew also hishistorythe prime old American stock from which he haddescendedhis own war recordthe John Dowsett before him whohad beenone of the banking buttresses of the Cause of the UniontheCommodore Dowsett of the War of 1812 the General Dowsett ofRevolutionaryfameand that first far Dowsettowner of landsand slavesin early New England.
"He'ssure the real thing" he told one of his fellow-clubmenafterwardsin the smoking-room of the Alta-Pacific. "I tellyouGallonhe was a genuine surprise to me. I knew the bigones hadto be like thatbut I had to see him to really know it.
He's oneof the fellows that does things. You can see itstickingout all over him. He's one in a thousandthat'sstraighta man to tie to. There's no limit to any game heplaysandyou can stack on it that he plays right up to thehandle. I bet he can lose or win half a dozen million withoutbatting aneye."
Gallonpuffed at his cigarand at the conclusion of thepanegyricregarded the other curiously; but Daylightorderingcocktailsfailed to note this curious stare.
"Goingin with him on some dealI suppose" Gallon remarked.
"Nopenot the slightest idea. Here's kindness. I was justexplainingthat I'd come to understand how these big fellows dobigthings. Whydye knowhe gave me such a feeling that hekneweverythingthat I was plumb ashamed of myself."
"Iguess I could give him cards and spades when it comes todriving adog-teamthough" Daylight observedafter ameditativepause. "And I really believe I could put him on to afewwrinkles in poker and placer miningand maybe in paddling abirchcanoe. And maybe I stand a better chance to learn the gamehe's beenplaying all his life than he would stand of learningthe game Iplayed up North."
It was notlong afterward that Daylight came on to New York. Aletterfrom John Dowsett had been the cause a simple littletypewrittenletter of several lines. But Daylight had thrilledas he readit. He remembered the thrill that was hisa callowyouth offifteenwhenin Tempas Buttethrough lack of a fourthmanTomGalsworthythe gamblerhad said"Get inKid; take ahand." That thrill was his now. The baldtypewrittensentencesseemed gorged with mystery. "Our Mr. Howison willcall uponyou at your hotel. He is to be trusted. We must notbe seentogether. You will understand after we have had ourtalk." Daylight conned the words over and over. That was it.The biggame had arrivedand it looked as if he were beinginvited tosit in and take a hand. Surelyfor no other reasonwould oneman so peremptorily invite another man to make ajourneyacross the continent.
Theymetthanks to "our" Mr. Howisonup the Hudsonin amagnificentcountry home. Daylightaccording to instructionsarrived ina private motor-car which had been furnished him.Whose carit was he did not know any more than did he know theowner ofthe housewith its generousrollingtree-studdedlawns. Dowsett was already thereand another man whom Daylightrecognizedbefore the introduction was begun. It was NathanielLettonand none other. Daylight had seen his face a score oftimes inthe magazines and newspapersand read about hisstandingin the financial world and about his endowed UniversityofDaratona. Helikewisestruck Daylight as a man of powerthough hewas puzzled in that he could find no likeness toDowsett. Except in the matter of cleannessa cleanness thatseemed togo down to the deepest fibers of himNathaniel Lettonwas unlikethe other in every particular. Thin to emaciationheseemed acold flame of a mana man of a mysteriouschemic sortof flamewhounder a glacier-like exteriorconveyedsomehowtheimpression of the ardent heat of a thousand suns. His largegray eyeswere mainly responsible for this feelingand theyblazed outfeverishly from what was almost a death's-headsothin wasthe facethe skin of which was a ghastlydulldeadwhite. Not more than fiftythatched with a sparse growth ofiron-grayhairhe looked several times the age of Dowsett. YetNathanielLetton possessed control Daylight could see thatplainly. He was a thin-faced asceticliving in a state of highattenuatedcalma molten planet under a transcontinental icesheet. And yetabove all most of allDaylight was impressed bytheterrific and almost awful cleanness of the man. There wasno drossin him. He had all the seeming of having been purged byfire. Daylight had the feeling that a healthy man-oath would bea deadlyoffence to his earsa sacrilege and a blasphemy.
They drankthat isNathaniel Letton took mineral water servedby thesmoothly operating machine of a lackey who inhabited theplacewhile Dowsett took Scotch and soda and Daylight acocktail. Nobody seemed to notice the unusualness of a Martiniatmidnightthough Daylight looked sharply for that very thing;for he hadlong since learned that Martinis had their strictlyappointedtimes and places. But he liked Martinisandbeing anaturalmanhe chose deliberately to drink when and how hepleased. Others had noticed this peculiar habit of hisbut notso Dowsettand Letton; and Daylight's secret thought was: "Theysurewouldn't bat an eye if I called for a glass of corrosivesublimate."
LeonGuggenhammer arrived in the midst of the drinkand orderedScotch. Daylight studied him curiously. This was one of thegreatGuggenhammer family; a younger onebut nevertheless one ofthe crowdwith which he had locked grapples in the North. Nordid LeonGuggenhammer fail to mention cognizance of that oldaffair. He complimented Daylight on his prowess-"The echoes ofOphir camedown to usyou know. And I must sayMr.DaylighterMr.Harnishthat you whipped us roundly in that affair."
Echoes! Daylight could not escape the shock of thePhraseechoes had come down to them of the fight intowhich hehad flung all his strength and the strength of hisKlondikemillions. The Guggenhammers sure must go somewhen afight of that dimension was no more than a skirmish ofwhich theydeigned to hear echoes.
"Theysure play an almighty big game down here" was hisconclusionaccompanied by a corresponding elation that it wasjustprecisely that almighty big game in which he was about to beinvited toplay a hand. For the moment he poignantly regrettedthat rumorwas not trueand that his eleven millions were notin realitythirty millions. Wellthat much he would be frankabout; hewould let them know exactly how many stacks of chips hecould buy.
LeonGuggenhammer was young and fat. Not a day more than thirtyhis facesave for the adumbrated puff sacks under the eyeswasas smoothand lineless as a boy's. Hetoogave the impressionofcleanness. He showed in the pink of health; his unblemishedsmooth-shavenskin shouted advertisement of his splendid physicalcondition. In the face of that perfect skinhis very fatnessandmaturerotund paunch could be nothing other than normal. Hewasconstituted to be prone to fatnessthat was all.
The talksoon centred down to businessthough Guggenhammer hadfirst tosay his say about the forthcoming international yachtrace andabout his own palatial steam yachtthe Electrawhoserecentengines were already antiquated. Dowsett broached theplanaided by an occasional remark from the other twowhileDaylightasked questions. Whatever the proposition washe wasgoing intoit with his eyes open. And they filled his eyes withthepractical vision of what they had in mind.
"Theywill never dream you are with us" Guggenhammerinterjectedas the outlining of the matter drew to a closehishandsomeJewish eyes flashing enthusiastically. "They'll thinkyou areraiding on your own in proper buccaneer style."
"Ofcourseyou understandMr. Harnishthe absolute need forkeepingour alliance in the dark" Nathaniel Letton warnedgravely.
Daylightnodded his head. "And you also understand" Lettonwenton"thatthe result can only be productive of good. The thingislegitimate and rightand the only ones who may be hurt arethe stockgamblers themselves. It is not an attempt to smash themarket. As you see yourselfyou are to bull the market. Thehonestinvestor will be the gainer."
"Yesthat's the very thing" Dowsett said. "The commercialneedfor copperis continually increasing. Ward Valley Copperandall thatit stands forpractically one-quarter of the world'ssupplyasI have shown youis a big thinghow bigeven wecanscarcelyestimate. Our arrangements are made. We have plenty ofcapitalourselvesand yet we want more. Alsothere is too muchWardValley out to suit our present plans. Thus we kill bothbirdswith onestone-"
"AndI am the stone" Daylight broke in with a smile.
"Yesjust that. Not only will you bull Ward Valleybut youwill atthe same time gather Ward Valley in. This will be ofinestimableadvantage to uswhile you and all of us will profitby it aswell. And as Mr. Letton has pointed outthe thing islegitimateand square. On the eighteenth the directors meetandinstead of the customary dividenda double dividend will bedeclared."
"Andwhere will the shorts be then?" Leon Guggenhammer criedexcitedly.
"Theshorts will be the speculators" Nathaniel Letton explained"thegamblersthe froth of Wall Streetyou understand. Thegenuineinvestors will not be hurt. Furthermorethey will havelearnedfor the thousandth time to have confidence in WardValley. And with their confidence we can carry through the largedevelopmentswe have outlined to you."
"Therewill be all sorts of rumors on the street" Dowsett warnedDaylight"but do not let them frighten you. These rumors mayevenoriginate with us. You can see how and why clearly. Butrumors areto be no concern of yours. You are on the inside.All youhave to do is buybuybuyand keep on buying to thelaststrokewhen the directors declare the double dividend.WardValley will jump so that it won't be feasible to buy afterthat."
"Whatwe want" Letton took up the strainpausing significantlyto sip hismineral water"what we want is to take large blocksof WardValley off the hands of the public. We could do thiseasilyenough by depressing the market and frightening theholders. And we could do it more cheaply in such fashion. Butwe areabsolute masters of the situationand we are fair enoughto buyWard Valley on a rising market. Not that we arephilanthropistsbut that we need the investors in our bigdevelopmentscheme. Nor do we lose directly by the transaction.Theinstant the action of the directors becomes knownWardValleywill rush heavenward. In additionand outside thelegitimatefield of the transactionwe will pinch the shorts fora verylarge sum. But that is only incidentalyou understandand in awayunavoidable. On the other handwe shall not turnup ournoses at that phase of it. The shorts shall be theveriestgamblersof courseand they will get no more than theydeserve."
"Andone other thingMr. Harnish" Guggenhammer said"if youexceedyour available cashor the amount you care to invest intheventuredon't fail immediately to call on us. Rememberweare behindyou."
"Yeswe are behind you" Dowsett repeated.
NathanielLetton nodded his head in affirmation.
"Nowabout that double dividend on the eighteenth-" John Dowsettdrew aslip of paper from his note-book and adjusted his glasses.
"Letme show you the figures. Hereyou see..."
Andthereupon he entered into a long technical and historicalexplanationof the earnings and dividends of Ward Valley from theday of itsorganization.
The wholeconference lasted not more than an hourduring whichtimeDaylight lived at the topmost of the highest peak of lifethat hehad ever scaled. These men were big players. They werepowers. Trueas he knew himselfthey were not the real innercircle. They did not rank with the Morgans and Harrimans. Andyet theywere in touch with those giants and were themselveslessergiants. He was pleasedtoowith their attitude towardhim. They met him deferentiallybut not patronizingly. It wasthedeference of equalityand Daylight could not escape thesubtleflattery of it; for he was fully aware that in experienceas well aswealth they were far and away beyond him.
"We'llshake up the speculating crowd" Leon Guggenhammerproclaimedjubilantlyas they rose to go. "And you are the manto do itMr. Harnish. They are bound to think you are on yourownandtheir shears are all sharpened for the trimming ofnewcomerslike you."
"Theywill certainly be misled" Letton agreedhis eerie grayeyesblazing out from the voluminous folds of the huge Muellerwith whichhe was swathing his neck to the ears. "Their mindsrun inruts. It is the unexpected that upsets their stereotypedcalculationsanynew combinationany strange factorany freshvariant. And you will be all that to themMr. Harnish. And Irepeatthey are gamblersand they will deserve all that befallsthem. They clog and cumber all legitimate enterprise. You haveno idea ofthe trouble they cause men like ussometimesbytheirgamblingtacticsupsetting the soundest planseven overturningthestablest institutions."
Dowsettand young Guggenhammer went away in one motor-carandLetton byhimself in another. Daylightwith still in theforefrontof his consciousness all that had occurred in theprecedinghourwas deeply impressed by the scene at the momentofdeparture. The three machines stood like weird night monstersat thegravelled foot of the wide stairway under the unlightedporte-cochere. It was a dark nightand the lights of themotor-carscut as sharply through the blackness as knives wouldcutthrough solid substance. The obsequious lackeytheautomaticgenie of the house which belonged to none of the threemenstoodlike a graven statue after having helped them in.Thefur-coated chauffeurs bulked dimly in their seats. One afterthe otherlike spurred steedsthe cars leaped into theblacknesstook the curve of the drivewayand were gone.
Daylight'scar was the lastandpeering outhe caught aglimpse ofthe unlighted house that loomed hugely through thedarknesslike a mountain. Whose was it? he wondered. Howcamethey touse it for their secret conference? Would the lackeytalk? How about the chauffeurs? Were they trusted men like"our"Mr. Howison? Mystery? The affair was alive with it. Andhand inhand with mystery walked Power. He leaned back andinhaledhis cigarette. Big things were afoot. The cards wereshuffledeven the for a mighty dealand he was in on it. Herememberedback to his poker games with Jack Kearnsand laughedaloud. He had played for thousands in those days on the turn ofa card;but now he was playing for millions. And on theeighteenthwhen that dividend was declaredhe chuckled at theconfusionthat would inevitably descend upon the men with thesharpenedshears waiting to trim himhimBurning Daylight.
Back athis hotelthough nearly two in the morninghe foundthereporters waiting to interview him. Next morning there weremore. And thuswith blare of paper trumpetwas he received byNew York. Once morewith beating of toms-toms and wildhullaballoohis picturesque figure strode across the printedsheet. The King of the Klondikethe hero of the Arcticthethirty-million-dollarmillionaire of the Northhad come to NewYork. What had he come for? To trim the New Yorkers as he hadtrimmedthe Tonopah crowd in Nevada? Wall Street had best watchoutforthe wild man of Klondike had just come to town. Orperchancewould Wall Street trim him? Wall Street had trimmedmany wildmen; would this be Burning Daylight's fate? Daylightgrinned tohimselfand gave out ambiguous interviews. It helpedthe gameand he grinned againas he meditated that Wall Streetwould surehave to go some before it trimmed him.
They wereprepared for him to playandwhen heavy buying ofWardValley beganit was quickly decided that he was theoperator. Financial gossip buzzed and hummed. He was after theGuggenhammersonce more. The story of Ophir was told over againandsensationalized until even Daylight scarcely recognized it.Stillitwas all grist to his mill. The stock gamblers wereclearlybefooled. Each day he increased his buyingand so eagerwere thesellers that Ward Valley rose but slowly. "It surebeatspoker" Daylight whispered gleefully to himselfas henoted theperturbation he was causing. The newspapers hazardedcountlessguesses and surmisesand Daylight was constantlydogged bya small battalion of reporters. His own interviewsweregems. Discovering the delight the newspapers took in hisvernacularin his "you-alls" and "sures" and "surge-ups"heevenexaggerated these particularities of speechexploiting thephrases hehad heard other frontiersmen useand inventingoccasionallya new one of his own.
A wildlyexciting time was his during the week preceding Thursdaytheeighteenth. Not only was he gambling as he had never gambledbeforebut he was gambling at the biggest table in the world andfor stakesso large that even the case-hardened habitues of thattable werecompelled to sit up. In spite of the unlimitedsellinghis persistent buying compelled Ward Valley steadily toriseandas Thursday approachedthe situation became acute.Somethinghad to smash. How much Ward Valley was this Klondikegamblergoing to buy? How much could he buy? What was the WardValleycrowd doing all this time? Daylight appreciated theinterviewswith them that appeared interviews delightfullyplacidandnon-committal. Leon Guggenhammer even hazarded the opinionthat thisNorthland Croesus might possibly be making a mistake.But notthat they caredJohn Dowsett explained. Nor did theyobject. While in the dark regarding his intentionsof one thingthey werecertain; namelythat he was bulling Ward Valley. Andthey didnot mind that. No matter what happened to him and hisspectacularoperationsWard Valley was all rightand wouldremainall rightas firm as the Rock of Gibraltar. No; they had noWardValley tosellthank you. This purely fictitious state of themarket wasbound shortly to passand Ward Valley was not to beinduced tochange the even tenor of its way by any insane stockexchangeflurry. "It is purely gambling from beginning to end"wereNathaniel Letton's words; "and we refuse to have anything todo with itor to take notice of it in any way."
Duringthis time Daylight had several secret meetings with hispartnersonewith Leon Guggenhammerone with John Dowsettandtwo withMr. Howison. Beyond congratulationsthey reallyamountedto nothing; foras he was informedeverything wasgoingsatisfactorily.
But onTuesday morning a rumor that was disconcerting came toDaylight'sears. It was also published in the Wall StreetJournaland it was to the effecton apparently straight insideinformationthat on Thursdaywhen the directors of Ward Valleymetinstead of the customary dividend being declaredanassessmentwould be levied. It was the first check Daylight hadreceived. It came to him with a shock that if the thing were sohe was abroken man. And it also came to him that all thiscolossaloperating of his was being done on his own money.DowsettGuggenhammerand Letton were risking nothing. It was apanicshort-livedit was truebut sharp enough while it lastedto makehim remember Holdsworthy and the brick-yardand toimpel himto cancel all buying orders while he rushed to atelephone.
"Nothingin itonly a rumor" came Leon Guggenhammer's throatyvoice inthe receiver. "As you know" said Nathaniel Letton"Iam one ofthe directorsand I should certainly be aware of itwere suchaction contemplated. And John Dowsett: "I warned youagainstjust such rumors. There is not an iota of truth initcertainly not. I tell you on my honor as a gentleman."
Heartilyashamed of himself for his temporary loss of nerveDaylightreturned to his task. The cessation of buying hadturned theStock Exchange into a bedlamand down all the line ofstocks thebears were smashing. Ward Valleyas the apereceivedthe brunt of the shockand was already beginning totumble. Daylight calmly doubled his buying orders. And allthroughTuesday and Wednesdayand Thursday morninghe went onbuyingwhile Ward Valley rose triumphantly higher. Still theysoldandstill he boughtexceeding his power to buy many timesoverwhendelivery was taken into account. What of that? Onthis daythe double dividend would be declaredhe assuredhimself. The pinch of delivery would be on the shorts. Theywould bemaking terms with him.
And thenthe thunderbolt struck. True to the rumorWard Valleylevied theassessment. Daylight threw up his arms. He verifiedthe reportand quit. Not alone Ward Valleybut all securitieswere beinghammered down by the triumphant bears. As for WardValleyDaylight did not even trouble to learn if it had fetchedbottom orwas still tumbling. Not stunnednot even bewilderedwhile WallStreet went madDaylight withdrew from the field tothink itover. After a short conference with his brokersheproceededto his hotelon the way picking up the evening papersandglancing at the head-lines. BURNING DAYLIGHT CLEANED OUTheread;DAYLIGHT GETS HIS; ANOTHER WESTERNER FAILS TO FIND EASYMONEY. As he entered his hotela later edition announced thesuicide ofa young mana lambwho had followed Daylight's play.
What inhell did he want to kill himself for? was Daylight'smutteredcomment.
He passedup to his roomsordered a Martini cocktailtook offhis shoesand sat down to think. After half an hour he rousedhimself totake the drinkand as he felt the liquor passwarminglythrough his bodyhis features relaxed into a slowdeliberateyet genuine grin. He was laughing at himself.
"Buncoedby gosh!" he muttered.
Then thegrin died awayand his face grew bleak and serious.Leavingout his interests in the several Western reclamationprojects(which were still assessing heavily)he was a ruinedman. But harder hit than this was his pride. He had been soeasy. They had gold-bricked himand he had nothing to show forit. The simplest farmer would have had documentswhile he hadnothingbut a gentleman's agreementand a verbal one at that.Gentleman'sagreement. He snorted over it. John Dowsett'svoicejust as hehad heard it in the telephone receiversounded in hisears thewords"On my honor as a gentleman." They weresneak-thievesand swindlersthat was what they wereand theyhad givenhim the double-cross. The newspapers were right. Hehad cometo New York to be trimmedand Messrs. DowsettLettonandGuggenhammer had done it. He was a little fishand they hadplayedwith him ten day sample time in which to swallow himalong withhis eleven millions. Of coursethey had beenunloadingon him all the timeand now they were buying WardValleyback for a song ere the market righted itself. Mostprobablyout of his share of the swagNathaniel Letton woulderect acouple of new buildings for that university of his. LeonGuggenhammerwould buy new engines for that yachtor a wholefleet ofyachts. But what the devil Dowsett would do with hiswhackwasbeyond him most likely start another string of banks.
AndDaylight sat and consumed cocktails and saw back in his lifeto Alaskaand lived over the grim years in which he had battledfor hiseleven millions. For a while murder ate at his heartand wildideas and sketchy plans of killing his betrayers flashedthroughhis mind. That was what that young man should have doneinstead ofkilling himself. He should have gone gunning. Daylightunlocked his grip and took out his automatic pistolabig Colt's.44. He released the safety catch with his thumbandoperatingthe sliding outer barrelran the contents of the clipthroughthe mechanism. The eight cartridges slid out in astream. He refilled the clipthrew a cartridge into thechamberandwith the trigger at full cockthrust up the safetyratchet. He shoved the weapon into the side pocket of his coatorderedanother Martiniand resumed his seat.
He thoughtsteadily for an hourbut he grinned no more. Linesformed inhis faceand in those lines were the travail of theNorththebite of the frostall that he had achieved andsufferedthelongunending weeks of trailthe bleak tundrashore ofPoint Barrowthe smashing ice-jam of the Yukonthebattleswith animals and menthe lean-dragged days of faminethe longmonths of stinging hell among the mosquitoes of theKoyokukthe toil of pick and shovelthe scars and mars ofpack-strapand tump-linethe straight meat diet with the dogsand allthe long procession of twenty full years of toil andsweat andendeavor.
At teno'clock he arose and pored over the city directory. Thenhe put onhis shoestook a caband departed into the night.Twice hechanged cabsand finally fetched up at the night officeof adetective agency. He superintended the thing himselflaiddown moneyin advance in profuse quantitiesselected the six menhe neededand gave them their instructions. Neverfor sosimple ataskhad they been so well paid; forto eachinadditionto office chargeshe gave a five-hundred-dollar billwith thepromise of another if he succeeded. Some time next dayhe wasconvincedif not soonerhis three silent partners wouldcometogether. To each one two of his detectives were to beattached. Time and place was all he wanted to learn.
"Stopat nothingboys" were his final instructions. "Imusthave thisinformation. Whatever you dowhatever happensI'llsure seeyou through."
Returningto his hotelhe changed cabs as beforewent up to hisroomandwith one more cocktail for a nightcapwent to bed andto sleep. In the morning he dressed and shavedorderedbreakfastand the newspapers sent upand waited. But he did notdrink. By nine o'clock his telephone began to ring and thereports tocome in. Nathaniel Letton was taking the train atTarrytown. John Dowsett was coming down by the subway. LeonGuggenhammerhad not stirred out yetthough he was assuredlywithin. And in this fashionwith a map of the city spread outbeforehimDaylight followed the movements of his three men asthey drewtogether. Nathaniel Letton was at his offices in theMutual-SolanderBuilding. Next arrived Guggenhammer. Dowsettwas stillin his own offices. But at eleven came the word thathe alsohad arrivedand several minutes later Daylight was in ahiredmotor-car and speeding for the Mutual-Solander Building.
NathanielLetton was talking when the door opened; he ceasedand withhis two companions gazed with controlled perturbation atBurningDaylight striding into the room. The freeswingingmovementsof the trail-traveler were unconsciously exaggerated inthatstride of his. In truthit seemed to him that he felt thetrailbeneath his feet.
"Howdygentlemenhowdy" he remarkedignoring the unnaturalcalm withwhich they greeted his entrance. He shook hands withthem inturnstriding from one to another and gripping theirhands soheartily that Nathaniel Letton could not forbear towince. Daylight flung himself into a massive chair and sprawledlazilywith an appearance of fatigue. The leather grip he hadbroughtinto the room he dropped carelessly beside him on thefloor
"Goddlemightybut I've sure been going some" he sighed. "Wesuretrimmed them beautiful. It was real slick. And the beautyof theplay never dawned on me till the very end. It was pureand simpleknock down and drag out. And the way they fell for itwasamazin'."
Thegeniality in his lazy Western drawl reassured them. He wasnot soformidableafter all. Despite the act that he hadeffectedan entrance in the face of Letton's instructions to theouterofficehe showed no indication of making a scene orplayingrough.
"Well"Daylight demanded good-humoredly"ain't you-all got agood wordfor your pardner? Or has his sure enough brillianceplumbdazzled you-all?"
Lettonmade a dry sound in his throat. Dowsett sat quietly andwaitedwhile Leon Guggenhammer struggled into articulation.
"Youhave certainly raised Cain" he said.
Daylight'sblack eyes flashed in a pleased way.
"Didn'tIthough!" he proclaimed jubilantly. "And didn't wefool'em! I was totally surprised. I never dreamed they would bethat easy.
"Andnow" he went onnot permitting the pause to grow awkward"we-allmight as well have an accounting. I'm pullin' West thisafternoonon that blamed Twentieth Century." He tugged at hisgripgotit openand dipped into it with both his hands. "Butdon'tforgetboyswhen you-all want me to hornswoggle WallStreetanother flutterall you-all have to do is whisper theword. I'll sure be right there with the goods."
His handsemergedclutching a great mass of stubscheck-booksandbroker's receipts. These he deposited in a heap on the bigtableanddipping againhe fished out the stragglers and addedthem tothe pile. He consulted a slip of paperdrawn from hiscoatpocketand read aloud:-
"Tenmillion twenty-seven thousand and forty-two dollars andsixty-eightcents is my figurin' on my expenses. Of coursethat-all'staken from the winnings before we-all get to figurin'on thewhack-up. Where's your figures? It must a' been a Goddlemighty bigclean-up."
The threemen looked their bepuzzlement at one another. The manwas abigger fool than they had imaginedor else he was playinga gamewhich they could not divine.
NathanielLetton moistened his lips and spoke up.
"Itwill take some hours yetMr. Harnishbefore the fullaccountingcan be made. Mr. Howison is at work upon it now.Weahas yousayit has been a gratifying clean-up. Supposewehave lunchtogether and talk it over. I'll have the clerks workthroughthe noon hourso that you will have ample time to catchyourtrain."
Dowsettand Guggenhammer manifested a relief that was almostobvious. The situation was clearing. It was disconcertingunder thecircumstancesto be pent in the same room with thisheavy-muscledIndian-like man whom they had robbed. Theyrememberedunpleasantly the many stories of his strength andrecklessness. If Letton could only put him off long enough forthem toescape into the policed world outside the office doorall wouldbe well; and Daylight showed all the signs of being putoff.
"I'mreal glad to hear that" he said. "I don't want tomissthattrainand you-all have done me proudgentlemenletting mein on thisdeal. I just do appreciate it without being able toexpress myfeelings. But I am sure almighty curiousand I'dliketerrible to knowMr. Lettonwhat your figures of ourwinningis. Can you-all give me a rough estimate?"
NathanielLetton did not look appealingly at his two friendsbutin thebrief pause they felt that appeal pass out from him.Dowsettof sterner mould than the othersbegan to divine thattheKlondiker was playing. But the other two were still oldertheblandishment of his child-like innocence.
"Itis extremelyerdifficult" Leon Guggenhammer began. "YouseeWardValley has fluctuated soer"
"Thatno estimate can possibly be made in advance" Lettonsupplemented.
"Approximateitapproximate it" Daylight counselled cheerfully.
"Itdon't hurt if you-all are a million or so out one side or theother. The figures'll straighten that up. But I'm that curiousI'm justitching all over. What d'ye say?"
"Whycontinue to play at cross purposes?" Dowsett demandedabruptlyand coldly. "Let us have the explanation here and now.Mr.Harnish is laboring under a false impressionand he shouldbe setstraight. In this deal"
ButDaylight interrupted. He had played too much poker to beunaware orunappreciative of the psychological factorand heheadedDowsett off in order to play the denouncement of thepresentgame in his own way.
"Speakingof deals" he said"reminds me of a poker game I onceseen inRenoNevada. It wa'n't what you-all would call asquaregame. They-all was tin-horns that sat in. But they was atenderfootshort-hornsthey-all are called out there. He standsbehind thedealer and sees that same dealer give hisself fouraces offenthe bottom of the deck. The tenderfoot is sureshocked. He slides around to the player facin' the dealer acrossthe table.
"'Say'he whispers'I seen the dealer deal hisself four aces.'
"'Wellan' what of it?" says the player.
"'I'mtryin' to tell you-all because I thought you-all ought toknow'says the tenderfoot. 'I tell you-all I seen him dealhisselffour aces.'
"'Saymister' says the player'you-all'd better get outahere. You-all don't understand the game. It's his dealain'tit?'"
Thelaughter that greeted his story was hollow and perfunctorybutDaylight appeared not to notice it.
"Yourstory has some meaningI suppose" Dowsett said pointedly.
Daylightlooked at him innocently and did not reply. He turnedjoviallyto Nathaniel Letton.
"Fireaway" he said. "Give us an approximation of ourwinning.As I saidbeforea million out one way or the other won'tmatterit's bound to be such an almighty big winning." Bythis timeLetton was stiffened by the attitude Dowsett had takenand hisanswer was prompt and definite.
"Ifear you are under a misapprehensionMr. Harnish. There arenowinnings to be divided with you. Now don't get excitedI begof you. I have but to press this button..."
Far fromexcitedDaylight had all the seeming of being stunned.He feltabsently in his vest pocket for a matchlighted itanddiscoveredthat he had no cigarette. The three men watched himwith thetense closeness of cats. Now that it had cometheyknew thatthey had a nasty few minutes before them.
"Doyou-all mind saying that over again?" Daylight said. "Seemsto me Iain't got it just exactly right. You-all said...?"
He hungwith painful expectancy on Nathaniel Letton's utterance.
"Isaid you were under a misapprehensionMr. Harnishthat wasall. You have been stock gamblingand you have been hard hit.Butneither Ward Valleynor Inor my associatesfeel that weowe youanything."
Daylightpointed at the heap of receipts and stubs on the table.
"That-allrepresents ten million twenty-seven thousand andforty-twodollars and sixty-eight centshard cash. Ain't itgood foranything here?"
Lettonsmiled and shrugged his shoulders.
Daylightlooked at Dowsett and murmured:
"Iguess that story of mine had some meaningafter all." Helaughed ina sickly fashion. "It was your deal all rightandyou-alldole them righttoo. WellI ain't kicking. I'm likethe playerin that poker game. It was your dealand you-all hada right todo your best. And you d-one it-cleaned me outslicker'na whistle."
He gazedat the heap on the table with an air of stupefaction.
"Andthat-all ain't worth the paper it's written on. Gol dast ityou-allcan sure deal 'em 'round when you get a chance.OhnoIain't a-kicking. It was your dealand you-allcertainlydone meand a man ain't half a man that squeals onanotherman's deal. And now the hand is played outand thecards areon the tableand the deal's overbut..."
His handdipping swiftly into his inside breast pocketappearedwith thebig Colt's automatic.
"As Iwas sayingthe old deal's finished. Now it's MY dealandI'ma-going to see if I can hold them four aces-
"Takeyour hand awayyou whited sepulchre!" he cried sharply.
NathanielLetton's handcreeping toward the push-button on thedeskwasabruptly arrested.
"Changechairs" Daylight commanded. "Take that chair overthereyougangrene-livered skunk. Jump! By God! or I'll makeyou leaktill folks'll think your father was a water hydrant andyourmother a sprinkling-cart. You-all move your chairalongsideGuggenhammer; and you-all Dowsettsit right therewhile Ijust irrelevantly explain the virtues of this hereautomatic. She's loaded for big game and she goes off eighttimes. She's a sure hummer when she gets started.
"Preliminaryremarks being overI now proceed to deal.RememberI ain't making no remarks about your deal. You doneyourdarndestand it was all right. But this is my dealandit's up tome to do my darndest. In the first placeyou-allknow me. I'm Burning Daylightsavvee? Ain't afraid of Goddevildeathnor destruction. Them's my four acesand theysurecopper your bets. Look at that there living skeleton.Lettonyou're sure afraid to die. Your bones is all rattlingtogetheryou're that scared. And look at that fat Jew there.Thislittle weapon's sure put the fear of God in his heart. He'syellow asa sick persimmon. Dowsettyou're a cool one. You-allain'tbatted an eye nor turned a hair. That's because you'regreat onarithmetic. And that makes you-all dead easy in thisdeal ofmine. You're sitting there and adding two and twotogetherand you-all know I sure got you skinned. You know meand that Iain't afraid of nothing. And you-all adds up all yourmoney andknows you ain't a-going to die if you can help it."
"I'llsee you hanged" was Dowsett's retort.
"Notby a damned sight. When the fun startsyou're the first Iplug. I'll hang all rightbut you-all won't live to see it.You-alldie here and now while I'll die subject to the law'sdelaysavvee? Being deadwith grass growing out of yourcarcassesyou won't know when I hangbut I'll sure have thepleasure along time of knowing you-all beat me to it."
"Yousurely wouldn't kill us?" Letton asked in a queerthinvoice.
Daylightshook his head.
"It'ssure too expensive. You-all ain't worth it. I'd soonerhave mychips back. And I guess you-all'd sooner give my chipsback thango to the dead-house."
A longsilence followed.
"WellI've done dealt. It's up to you-all to play. But whileyou'redeliberatingI want to give you-all a warning: if thatdoor opensand any one of you cusses lets on there's anythingunusualright here and then I sure start plugging. They ain't asoul'llget out the room except feet first."
A longsession of three hours followed. The deciding factor wasnot thebig automatic pistolbut the certitude that Daylightwould useit. Not alone were the three men convinced of thisbutDaylight himself was convinced. He was firmly resolved tokill themen if his money was not forthcoming. It was not aneasymatteron the spur of the momentto raise ten millions inpapercurrencyand there were vexatious delays. A dozen timesMr.Howison and the head clerk were summoned into the room. Ontheseoccasions the pistol lay on Daylight's lapcoveredcarelesslyby a newspaperwhile he was usually engaged inrolling orlighting his brown-paper cigarettes. But in the endthe thingwas accomplished. A suit-case was brought up by one ofthe clerksfrom the waiting motor-carand Daylight snapped itshut onthe last package of bills. He paused at the door to makehis finalremarks.
"There'sthree several things I sure want to tell you-all. WhenI getoutside this dooryou-all'll be set free to actand Ijust wantto warn you-all about what to do. In the first placenowarrants for my arrestsavvee? This money's mineand Iain'trobbed youof it. If it gets out how you gave me thedouble-crossand how Idone you back againthe laugh'll be on youand it'llsure be analmighty big laugh. You-all can't afford that laugh.Besideshaving got back my stake that you-all robbed me ofifyouarrest meand try to rob me a second timeI'll go gunning foryou-alland I'll sure get you. No little fraid-cat shrimps likeyou-allcan skin Burning Daylight. If you win you loseandthere'llsure be some several unexpected funerals around thisburg.
Just lookme in the eyeand you-all'll savvee I mean business.Them stubsand receipts on the table is all yourn. Good day."
As thedoor shut behind himNathaniel Letton sprang for thetelephoneand Dowsett intercepted him.
"Whatare you going to do?" Dowsett demanded.
"Thepolice. It's downright robbery. I won't stand it. Itellyou Iwon't stand it."
Dowsettsmiled grimlybut at the same time bore the slenderfinancierback and down into his chair.
"We'lltalk it over" he said; and in Leon Guggenhammer he foundan anxiousally.
Andnothing ever came of it. The thing remained a secret withthe threemen. Nor did Daylight ever give the secret awaythoughthat afternoonleaning back in his stateroom on theTwentiethCenturyhis shoes offand feet on a chairhechuckledlong and heartily. New York remained forever puzzledover theaffair; nor could it hit upon a rational explanation.By allrightsBurning Daylight should have gone brokeyet itwas knownthat he immediately reappeared in San Franciscopossessingan apparently unimpaired capital. This was evidencedby themagnitude of the enterprises he engaged insuch asforinstancePanama Mailby sheer weight of money and fightingpowerwresting the control away from Shiftily and selling out intwo monthsto the Harriman interests at a rumored enormousadvance.
Back inSan FranciscoDaylight quickly added to his reputationIn ways itwas not an enviable reputation. Men were afraid ofhim. He became known as a fightera fienda tiger. His playwas aripping and smashing oneand no one knew where or how hisnext blowwould fall. The element of surprise was large. Hebalked onthe unexpectedandfresh from the wild Northhismind notoperating in stereotyped channelshe was able inunusualdegree to devise new tricks and stratagems. And once hewon theadvantagehe pressed it remorselessly. "As relentlessas a RedIndian" was said of himand it was said truly.
On theother handhe was known as "square." His word was asgood ashis bondand this despite the fact that he acceptednobody'sword. He always shied at propositions based ongentlemen'sagreementsand a man who ventured his honor as agentlemanin dealing with Daylightinevitably was treated to anunpleasanttime. Daylight never gave his own word unless he heldthewhip-hand. It was a case with the other fellow taking it ornothing.
Legitimateinvestment had no place in Daylight's play. It tiedup hismoneyand reduced the element of risk. It was thegamblingside of business that fascinated himand to play in hisslashingmanner required that his money must be ready to hand.It wasnever tied up save for short intervalsfor he wasprincipallyengaged in turning it over and overraiding herethereandeverywherea veritable pirate of the financial main.A five-percent safe investment had no attraction for him; but toriskmillions in sharpharsh skirmishstanding to loseeverythingor to win fifty or a hundred per centwas the savorof life tohim. He played according to the rules of the gamebuthe playedmercilessly. When he got a man or a corporation downandtheysquealedhe gouged no less hard. Appeals for financialmercyfell ondeaf ears. He was a free lanceand had no friendlybusinessassociations. Such alliances as were formedfrom timeto time were purely affairs of expediencyand heregardedhis allies as men who would give him the double-cross orruin himif a profitable chance presented. In spite of thispoint ofviewhe was faithful to his allies. But he wasfaithfuljust as long as they were and no longer. The treasonhad tocome from themand then it was 'Ware Daylight.
Thebusiness men and financiers of the Pacific coast never forgotthe lessonof Charles Klinkner and the California & AltamontTrustCompany. Klinkner was the president. In partnership withDaylightthe pair raided the San Jose Interurban. The powerfulLake Power& Electric Lighting corporation came to the rescueandKlinknerseeing what he thought was the opportunitywentover tothe enemy in the thick of the pitched battle. Daylightlost threemillions before he was done with itand before he wasdone withit he saw the California & Altamont Trust Companyhopelesslywreckedand Charles Klinkner a suicide in a felon'scell. Not only did Daylight lose his grip on San JoseInterurbanbut in the crash of his battle front he lost heavilyall alongthe line. It was conceded by those competent to judgethat hecould have compromised and saved much. Butinsteadhedeliberatelythrew up the battle with San Jose Interurban andLakePowerandapparently defeatedwith Napoleonic suddennessstruck atKlinkner. It was the last unexpected thing Klinknerwould havedreamed ofand Daylight knew it. He knewfurtherthat theCalifornia & Altamont Trust Company has an intrinsicallysoundinstitutionbut that just then it was in a precariousconditiondue to Klinkner's speculations with its money. Heknewalsothat in a few months the Trust Company would be morefirmly onits feet than everthanks to those same speculationsand thatif he were to strike he must strike immediately. "It'sjust thatmuch money in pocket and a whole lot more" he wasreportedto have said in connection with his heavy losses. "It'sjust somuch insurance against the future. Henceforthmen whogo in withme on deals will think twice before they try todouble-crossmeand then some."
The reasonfor his savageness was that he despised the men withwhom heplayed. He had a conviction that not one in a hundred ofthem wasintrinsically square; and as for the square onesheprophesiedthatplaying in a crooked gamethey were sure tolose andin the long run go broke. His New York experience hadopened hiseyes. He tore the veils of illusion from the businessgameandsaw its nakedness. He generalized upon industry andsocietysomewhat as follows:
Societyas organizedwas a vast bunco game. There were manyhereditaryinefficientsmen and women who were not weak enoughto beconfined in feeble-minded homesbut who were not strongenough tobe ought else than hewers of wood and drawers of water.
Then therewere the fools who took the organized bunco gameseriouslyhonoring and respecting it. They were easy game fortheotherswho saw clearly and knew the bunco game for what itwas.
Worklegitimate workwas the source of all wealth. That was tosaywhether it was a sack of potatoesa grand pianoor aseven-passengertouring carit came into being only by theperformanceof work. Where the bunco came in was in thedistributionof these things after labor had created them. Hefailed tosee the horny-handed sons of toil enjoying grand pianosor ridingin automobiles. How this came about was explained bythebunco. By tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands mensat upnights and schemed how they could get between the workersand thethings the workers produced. These schemers were thebusinessmen. When they got between the worker and his productthey tooka whack out of it for themselves The size of the whackwasdetermined by no rule of equity; but by their own strengthandswinishness. It was always a case of "all the traffic canbear." He saw all men in the business game doing this.
One dayin a mellow mood (induced by a string of cocktails anda heartylunch)he started a conversation with Jonestheelevatorboy. Jones was a slendermop-headedman-growntruculentflame of an individual who seemed to go out of his wayto insulthis passengers. It was this that attracted Daylight'sinterestand he was not long in finding out what was the matterwithJones. He was a proletarianaccording to his ownaggressiveclassificationand he had wanted to write for aliving. Failing to win with the magazinesand compelled to findhimself infood and shelterhe had gone to the little valley ofPetachanot a hundred miles from Los Angeles. Heretoiling intheday-timehe planned to write and study at night. But therailroadcharged all the traffic would bear. Petacha was adesertvalleyand produced only three things: cattlefire-woodandcharcoal. For freight to Los Angeles on a carload ofcattle therailroad charged eight dollars. ThisJonesexplainedwas due to the fact that the cattle had legs and couldbe drivento Los Angeles at a cost equivalent to the charge percar load. But firewood had no legsand the railroad chargedjustprecisely twenty-four dollars a carload.
This was afine adjustmentfor by working hammer-and- tongsthrough atwelve-hour dayafter freight had been deducted fromtheselling price of the wood in Los Angelesthe wood-chopperreceivedone dollar and sixty cents. Jones had thought to getahead ofthe game by turning his wood into charcoa. Hisestimatesweresatisfactory. But the railroad also made estimates. Itissued arate of forty-two dollars a car on charcoal. At the endof threemonthsJones went over his figuresand found that hewasstillmaking one dollar and sixty cents a day.
"So Iquit" Jones concluded. "I went hobbling for a yearand Igot backat the railroads. Leaving out the little thingsI cameacross theSierras in the summer and touched a match to thesnow-sheds. They only had a little thirty- thousand-dollar fire.
I guessthat squared up all balances due on Petacha."
"Sonain't you afraid to be turning loose such information?"Daylightgravely demanded.
"Noton your life" quoth Jones. "They can't prove it. Youcould sayI said soand I could say I didn't say soand a hellof a lotthat evidence would amount to with a jury."
Daylightwent into his office and meditated awhile. That was it:
all thetraffic would bear. From top to bottomthat was therule ofthe game; and what kept the game going was the fact thata suckerwas born every minute. If a Jones were born everyminutethe game wouldn't last very long. Lucky for the playersthat theworkers weren't Joneses.
But therewere other and larger phases of the game. Littlebusinessmenshopkeepersand such ilk took what whack theycould outof the product of the worker; butafter allit wasthe largebusiness men who formed the workers through the littlebusinessmen. When all was said and donethe latterlike Jonesin PetachaValleygot no more than wages out of their whack. Intruththey were hired men for the large business men. Stillagainhigher upwere the big fellows. They used vast andcomplicatedparaphernalia for the purposeon a large scale ofgettingbetween hundreds of thousands of workers and theirproducts. These men were not so much mere robbers as gamblers.Andnotcontent with their direct winningsbeing essentiallygamblersthey raided one another. They called this feature ofthe gameHIGH FINANCE. They were all engaged primarily inrobbingthe workerbut every little while they formedcombinationsand robbed one another of the accumulated loot.Thisexplained the fifty-thousand-dollar raid on him byHoldsworthyand the ten-million-dollar raid on him by DowsettLettonand Guggenhammer. And when he raided Panama Mail he haddoneexactly the same thing. Wellhe concludedit was finersportrobbing the robbers than robbing the poor stupid workers.
Thusallunread in philosophyDaylight preempted for himselftheposition and vocation of a twentieth-century superman. Hefoundwith rare and mythical exceptionsthat there was nonoblesseoblige among the business and financial supermen. Asa clevertraveler had announced in an after-dinner speech at theAlta-Pacific"There was honor amongst thievesand this was whatdistinguishedthieves from honest men." That was it. It hitthe nailon the head. These modern supermen were a lot of sordidbandittiwho had the successful effrontery to preach a code ofright andwrong to their victims which they themselves did notpractise. With thema man's word was good just as long as hewascompelled to keep it. THOU SHALT NOT STEAL was onlyapplicableto the honest worker. Theythe supermenwere abovesuchcommandments. They certainly stole and were honored bytheirfellows according to the magnitude of their stealings.
The moreDaylight played the gamethe clearer the situationgrew. Despite the fact that every robber was keen to rob everyotherrobberthe band was well organized. It practicallycontrolledthe political machinery of societyfrom the wardpoliticianup to the Senate of the United States. It passed lawsthat gaveit privilege to rob. It enforced these laws by meansof thepolicethe marshalsthe militia and regular armyandthecourts. And it was a snap. A superman's chiefest dangerwashisfellow-superman. The great stupid mass of the people did notcount. They were constituted of such inferior clay that theveriestchicanery fooled them. The superman manipulated thestringsand when robbery of the workers became too slow ormonotonousthey turned loose and robbed one another.
Daylightwas philosophicalbut not a philosopher. He had neverread thebooks. He was a hard-headedpractical manandfarthestfrom him was any intention of ever reading the books.He hadlived life in the simplewhere books were not necessaryfor anunderstanding of lifeand now life in the complexappearedjust as simple. He saw through its frauds and fictionsand foundit as elemental as on the Yukon. Men were made of thesamestuff. They had the same passions and desires. Financewaspoker on alarger scale. The men who played were the men who hadstakes. The workers were the fellows toiling for grubstakes. Hesaw thegame played out according to the everlasting rulesandhe playeda hand himself. The gigantic futility of humanityorganizedand befuddled by the bandits did not shock him. It wasthenatural order. Practically all human endeavors were futile.He hadseen so much of it. His partners had starved and died ontheStewart. Hundreds of old-timers had failed to locate onBonanzaand Eldoradowhile Swedes and chechaquos had come inon themoose-pasture and blindly staked millions. It was lifeand lifewas a savage proposition at best. Men in civilizationrobbedbecause they were so made. They robbed just as catsscratchedfamine pinchedand frost bit.
So it wasthat Daylight became a successful financier. He didnotgo in forswindling the workers. Not only did he not have theheart foritbut it did not strike him as a sportingproposition. The workers were so easyso stupid. It was morelikeslaughtering fat hand-reared pheasants on the Englishpreserveshe had heard about. The sport to himwas in waylayingthesuccessful robbers and taking their spoils from them. Therewas funand excitement in thatand sometimes they put up thevery devilof a fight. Like Robin Hood of oldDaylight proceededto rob therich; andin a small wayto distribute to the needy.
But he wascharitable after his own fashion. The great mass ofhumanmisery meant nothing to him. That was part of theeverlastingorder. He had no patience with the organizedcharitiesand the professional charity mongers. Noron theotherhandwas what he gave a conscience dole. He owed no manandrestitution was unthinkable. What he gave was a largessafreespontaneous gift; and it was for those about him. He nevercontributedto an earthquake fund in Japan nor to an open-airfund inNew York City. Insteadhe financed Jonesthe elevatorboyfor ayear that he might write a book. When he learned thatthe wifeof his waiter at the St. Francis was suffering fromtuberculosishe sent her to Arizonaand laterwhen her casewasdeclared hopelesshe sent the husbandtooto be with herto theend. Likewisehe bought a string of horse-hair bridlesfrom aconvict in a Western penitentiarywho spread the goodnews untilit seemed to Daylight that half the convicts in thatinstitutionwere making bridles for him. He bought them allpayingfrom twenty to fifty dollars each for them. They werebeautifuland honest thingsand he decorated all the availablewall-spaceof his bedroom with them.
The grimYukon life had failed to make Daylight hard. Itrequiredcivilization to produce this result. In the fiercesavagegame he now playedhis habitual geniality imperceptiblyslippedaway from himas did his lazy Western drawl. As hisspeechbecame sharp and nervousso did his mental processes. Inthe swiftrush of the game he found less and less time to spendon beingmerely good-natured. The change marked his face itself.
The linesgrew sterner. Less often appeared the playful curl ofhis lipsthe smile in the wrinkling corners of his eyes. Theeyesthemselvesblack and flashinglike an Indian'sbetrayedglints ofcruelty and brutal consciousness of power. Histremendousvitality remainedand radiated from all his beingbut it wasvitality under the new aspect of the man-tramplingman-conqueror. His battles with elemental nature had beenin awayimpersonal; his present battles were wholly with the malesof hisspeciesand the hardships of the trailthe riverandthe frostmarred him far less than the bitter keenness of thestrugglewith his fellows.
He stillhad recrudescence of genialitybut they were largelyperiodicaland forcedand they were usually due to the cocktailshe tookprior to meal-time. In the Northhe had drunk deeplyand atirregular intervals; but now his drinking becamesystematicand disciplined. It was an unconscious developmentbut it wasbased upon physical and mental condition. Thecocktailsserved as an inhibition. Without reasoning or thinkingabout itthe strain of the officewhich was essentially due tothe daringand audacity of his venturesrequired check orcessation;and he foundthrough the weeks and monthsthat thecocktailssupplied this very thing. They constituted a stonewall. He never drank during the morningnor in office hours;but theinstant he left the office he proceeded to rear this wallofalcoholic inhibition athwart his consciousness. The officebecameimmediately a closed affair. It ceased to exist. In theafternoonafter lunchit lived again for one or two hourswhenleaving ithe rebuilt the wall of inhibition. Of coursethere wereexceptions to this; andsuch was the rigor of hisdisciplinethat if he had a dinner or a conference before him inwhichina business wayhe encountered enemies or allies andplanned orprosecuted campaignshe abstained from drinking. Buttheinstant the business was settledhis everlasting call wentout for aMartiniand for a double-Martini at thatserved in along glassso as not to excite comment.
IntoDaylight's life came Dede Mason. She came ratherimperceptibly. He had accepted her impersonally along with theofficefurnishingthe office boyMorrisonthe chiefconfidentialand only clerkand all the rest of the accessoriesof asuperman's gambling place of business. Had he been askedanytimeduring the first months she was in his employhe would havebeenunable to tell the color of her eyes. From the fact thatshewas ademiblondethere resided dimly in his subconsciousness aconceptionthat she was a brunette. Likewise he had an idea thatshe wasnot thinwhile there was an absence in his mind of anyidea thatshe was fat. As to how she dressedhe had no ideas atall. He had no trained eye in such mattersnor was heinterested.He took itfor grantedin the lack of any impression to thecontrarythat she was dressed some how. He knew her as "MissMason"and that was allthough he was aware that as astenographershe seemed quick and accurate. Thisimpressionhoweverwas quite vaguefor he had had noexperiencewith other stenographersand naturally believed thatthey wereall quick and accurate.
Onemorningsigning up lettershe came upon an I shall.Glancingquickly over the page for similar constructionshefound anumber of I wills. The I shall was alone. It stood outconspicuously. He pressed the call-bell twiceand a momentlater DedeMason entered. "Did I say thatMiss Mason?" heaskedextending the letter to her and pointing out the criminalphrase. A shade of annoyance crossed her face. She stoodconvicted.
"Mymistake" she said. "I am sorry. But it's not amistakeyou know"she added quickly.
"Howdo you make that out?" challenged Daylight. "It suredon'tsoundrightin my way of thinking."
She hadreached the door by this timeand now turned theoffendingletter inher hand. "It's right just the same."
"Butthat would make all those I wills wrongthen" he argued.
"Itdoes" was her audacious answer. "Shall I changethem?"
"Ishall be over to look that affair up on Monday." Daylightrepeatedthe sentence from the letter aloud. He did it with agraveserious airlistening intently to the sound of his ownvoice. He shook his head. "It don't sound rightMiss Mason.It justdon't sound right. Whynobody writes to me that way.They allsay I willeducated mentoosome of them. Ain't thatso?"
"Yes"she acknowledgedand passed out to her machine to makethecorrection.
It chancedthat day that among the several men with whom he satatluncheon was a young Englishmana mining engineer. Had ithappenedany other time it would have passed unnoticedbutfresh fromthe tilt with his stenographerDaylight was struckimmediatelyby the Englishman's I shall. Several timesin thecourse ofthe mealthe phrase was repeatedand Daylight wascertainthere was no mistake about it.
Afterluncheon he cornered Macintoshone of the members whom heknew tohave been a college manbecause of his footballreputation.
"LookhereBunny" Daylight demanded"which is rightI shallbe over tolook that affair up on Mondayor I will be over tolook thataffair up on Monday?"
Theex-football captain debated painfully for a minute. "Blessedif Iknow" he confessed. "Which way do I say it?
"OhI willof course."
"Thenthe other is rightdepend upon it. I always was rotten ongrammar."
On the wayback to the officeDaylight dropped into a bookstoreand boughta grammar; and for a solid hourhis feet up on thedeskhetoiled through its pages. "Knock off my head withlittleapples if the girl ain't right" he communed aloud at theend of thesession. For the first time it struck him that therewassomething about his stenographer. He had accepted her up tothenas afemale creature and a bit of office furnishing. Butnowhaving demonstrated that she knew more grammar than didbusinessmen and college graduatesshe became an individual.She seemedto stand out in his consciousness as conspicuously asthe Ishall had stood out on the typed pageand he began to takenotice.
He managedto watch her leaving that afternoonand he was awarefor thefirst time that she was well-formedand that her mannerof dresswas satisfying. He knew none of the details of women'sdressandhe saw none of the details of her neat shirt-waist andwell-cuttailor suit. He saw only the effect in a generalsketchyway. She looked right. This was in the absence ofanythingwrong or out of the way.
"She'sa trim little good-looker" was his verdictwhen theouteroffice door closed on her.
The nextmorningdictatinghe concluded that he liked the wayshe didher hairthough for the life of him he could have givennodescription of it. The impression was pleasingthat was all.
She satbetween him and the windowand he noted that her hairwas lightbrownwith hints of golden bronze. A pale sunshiningintouched the golden bronze into smouldering fires thatwere verypleasing to behold. Funnyhe thoughtthat he hadneverobserved this phenomenon before.
In themidst of the letter he came to the construction which hadcaused thetrouble the day before. He remembered his wrestlewith thegrammarand dictated.
"Ishall meet you halfway this proposition"
Miss Masongave a quick look up at him. The action was purelyinvoluntaryandin facthad been half a startle of surprise.The nextinstant her eyes had dropped againand she sat waitingto go onwith the dictation. But in that moment of her glanceDaylighthad noted that her eyes were gray. He was later tolearn thatat times there were golden lights in those same grayeyes; buthe had seen enoughas it wasto surprise himfor hebecamesuddenly aware that he had always taken her for a brunettewith browneyesas a matter of course.
"Youwere rightafter all" he confessedwith a sheepish grinthat satincongruously on his sternIndian-like features.
Again hewas rewarded by an upward glance and an acknowledgingsmileandthis time he verified the fact that her eyes weregray.
"Butit don't sound rightjust the same" he complained. Atthis shelaughed outright.
"Ibeg your pardon" she hastened to make amendsand thenspoiledit byadding"but you are so funny."
Daylightbegan to feel a slight awkwardnessand the sun wouldpersist insetting her hair a-smouldering.
"Ididn't mean to be funny" he said.
"Thatwas why I laughed. But it is rightand perfectly goodgrammar."
"Allright" he sighed"I shall meet you halfway in thispropositiongotthat?" And the dictation went on. He discoveredthat inthe intervalswhen she had nothing to doshe read booksandmagazinesor worked on some sort of feminine fancy work.
Passingher deskoncehe picked up a volume of Kipling's poemsandglanced bepuzzled through the pages. "You like readingMissMason?"he saidlaying the book down.
"Ohyes" was her answer; "very much."
Anothertime it was a book of Wells'The Wheels of Change."What'sit all about?" Daylight asked.
"Ohit's just a novela love-story." She stoppedbut hestillstoodwaitingand she felt it incumbent to go on.
"It'sabout a little Cockney draper's assistantwho takes avacationon his bicycleand falls in with a young girl very muchabovehim. Her mother is a popular writer and all that. And thesituationis very curiousand sadtooand tragic. Would youcare toread it?"
"Doeshe get her?" Daylight demanded.
"No;that's the point of it. He wasn't"
"Andhe doesn't get herand you've read all them pageshundredsof themto find that out?" Daylight muttered in amazement.
Miss Masonwas nettled as well as amused.
"Butyou read the mining and financial news by the hour" sheretorted.
"ButI sure get something out of that. It's businessand it'sdifferent. I get money out of it. What do you get out ofbooks?"
"Pointsof viewnew ideaslife."
"Notworth a cent cash."
"Butlife's worth more than cash" she argued.
"Ohwell" he saidwith easy masculine tolerance"so long asyou enjoyit. That's what countsI suppose; and there's noaccountingfor taste."
Despitehis own superior point of viewhe had an idea that sheknew alotand he experienced a fleeting feeling like that of abarbarianface to face with the evidence of some tremendousculture. To Daylight culture was a worthless thingand yetsomehowhe was vaguely troubled by a sense that there was morein culturethan he imagined.
Againonher deskin passinghe noticed a book with which hewasfamiliar. This time he did not stopfor he had recognizedthecover. It was a magazine correspondent's book on theKlondikeand he knew that he and his photograph figured in itand heknewalsoof a certain sensational chapter concernedwith awoman's suicideand with one "Too much Daylight."
After thathe did not talk with her again about books. Heimaginedwhaterroneous conclusions she had drawn from that particularchapterand it stung him the more in that they were undeserved.Of allunlikely thingsto have the reputation of being alady-killerheBurning Daylightand to have a woman killherselfout of love for him. He felt that he was a mostunfortunateman and wondered by what luck that one book of allthethousands of books should have fallen into his stenographer'shands. For some days afterward he had an uncomfortable sensationofguiltiness whenever he was in Miss Mason's presence; and oncehe waspositive that he caught her looking at him with a curiousintentgazeas if studying what manner of man he was.
He pumpedMorrisonthe clerkwho had first to vent his personalgrievanceagainst Miss Mason before he could tell what little heknew ofher.
"Shecomes from Siskiyou County. She's very nice to work with intheofficeof coursebut she's rather stuck on herselfexclusiveyou know."
"Howdo you make that out?" Daylight queried.
"Wellshe thinks too much of herself to associate with those sheworkswithin the office herefor instance. She won't haveanythingto do with a fellowyou see. I've asked her outrepeatedlyto the theatre and the chutes and such things. Butnothingdoing. Says she likes plenty of sleepand can't stay uplateandhas to go all the way to Berkeleythat's where shelives."
This phaseof the report gave Daylight a distinct satisfaction.She was abit above the ordinaryand no doubt about it. ButMorrison'snext words carried a hurt.
"Butthat's all hot air. She's running with the University boysthat'swhat she's doing. She needs lots of sleep and can't go tothetheatre with mebut she can dance all hours with them. I'veheard itpretty straight that she goes to all their hops and suchthings. Rather stylish and high-toned for a stenographerI'dsay. And she keeps a horsetoo. She rides astride all overthosehills out there. I saw her one Sunday myself. Ohshe's ahigh-flyerand I wonder how she does it. Sixty-five a monthdon't gofar. Then she has a sick brothertoo."
"Livewith her people?" Daylight asked.
"No;hasn't got any. They were well to doI've heard. Theymust havebeenor that brother of hers couldn't have gone to theUniversityof California. Her father had a big cattle-ranchbuthe got tofooling with mines or somethingand went broke beforehe died. Her mother died long before that. Her brother mustcost a lotof money. He was a husky onceplayed footballwasgreat onhunting and being out in the mountains and such things.He got hisaccident breaking horsesand then rheumatism orsomethinggot into him. One leg is shorter than the other andwitheredup some. He has to walk on crutches. I saw her outwith himoncecrossing the ferry. The doctors have beenexperimentingon him for yearsand he's in the French HospitalnowIthink."
All ofwhich side-lights on Miss Mason went to increaseDaylight'sinterest in her. Yetmuch as he desiredhe failedto getacquainted with her. He had thoughts of asking her toluncheonbut his was the innate chivalry of the frontiersmanand thethoughts never came to anything. He knew aself-respectingsquare-dealing man was not supposed to take hisstenographerto luncheon. Such things did happenhe knewforhe heardthe chaffing gossip of the club; but he did not thinkmuch ofsuch men and felt sorry for the girls. He had a strangenotionthat a man had less rights over those he employed thanover mereacquaintances or strangers. Thushad Miss Mason notbeen hisemployeehe was confident that he would have had her toluncheonor the theatre in no time. But he felt that it was animpositionfor an employerbecause he bought the time of anemployeein working hoursto presume in any way upon any of therest ofthat employee's time. To do so was to act like a bully.Thesituation was unfair. It was taking advantage of the factthat theemployee was dependent on one for a livelihood. Theemployeemight permit the imposition through fear of angering theemployerand not through any personal inclination at all.
In his owncase he felt that such an imposition would bepeculiarlyobnoxiousfor had she not read that cursed Klondikecorrespondent'sbook? A pretty idea she must have of hima girlthat wastoo high-toned to have anything to do with agood-lookinggentlemanly fellow like Morrison. Alsoand downunder allhis other reasonsDaylight was timid. The only thinghe hadever been afraid of in his life was womanand he had beenafraid allhis life. Nor was that timidity to be put easily toflight nowthat he felt the first glimmering need and desire forwoman. The specter of the apron-string still haunted himandhelped himto find excuses for getting on no forwarder with DedeMason.
Not beingfavored by chance in getting acquainted with DedeMasonDaylight's interest in her slowly waned. This was butnaturalfor he was plunged deep in hazardous operationsand thefascinationsof the game and the magnitude of it accounted forall theenergy that even his magnificent organism could generate.
Such washis absorption that the pretty stenographer slowly andimperceptiblyfaded from the forefront of his consciousness.Thusthefirst faint spurin the best senseof his need forwomanceased to prod. So far as Dede Mason was concernedhepossessedno more than a complacent feeling of satisfaction inthat hehad a very nice stenographer. Andcompletely to put thequietus onany last lingering hopes he might have had of herhewas in thethick of his spectacular and intensely bitter fightwith theCoastwise Steam Navigation Companyand the HawaiianNicaraguanand Pacific-Mexican Steamship-Company. He stirredup abigger muss than he had anticipatedand even he wasastoundedat the wide ramifications of the struggle and at theunexpectedand incongruous interests that were drawn into it.Everynewspaper in San Francisco turned upon him. It was trueone or twoof them had first intimated that they were open tosubsidizationbut Daylight's judgment was that the situation didnotwarrant such expenditure. Up to this time the press had beenamusinglytolerant and good-naturedly sensational about himbutnow he wasto learn what virulent scrupulousness an antagonizedpress wascapable of. Every episode of his life was resurrectedto serveas foundations for malicious fabrications. Daylight wasfranklyamazed at the new interpretation put upon all he hadaccomplishedand the deeds he had done. From an Alaskan hero hewasmetamorphosed into an Alaskan bullyliardesperadoand allaround"bad Man." Not content with thislies upon liesoutofwholeclothwere manufactured about him. He never repliedthoughonce he went to the extent of disburdening his mind tohalf adozen reporters. "Do your damnedest" he told them."BurningDaylight's bucked bigger things than your dirtylyingsheets. And I don't blame youboys... that isnot much.You can'thelp it. You've got to live. There's a mighty lot ofwomen inthis world that make their living in similar fashion toyoursbecause they're not able to do anything better.Somebody'sgot to do the dirty workand it might as well be you.
You'repaid for itand you ain't got the backbone to rustlecleanerjobs."
Thesocialist press of the city jubilantly exploited thisutterancescattering it broadcast over San Francisco in tens ofthousandsof paper dodgers. And the journalistsstung to thequickretaliated with the only means in their power-printer'sinkabuse. The attack became bitterer than ever. The wholeaffairsank to the deeper deeps of rancor and savageness. Thepoor womanwho had killed herself was dragged out of her graveandparaded on thousands of reams of paper as a martyr and avictim toDaylight's ferocious brutality. Staidstatisticalarticleswere publishedproving that he had made his start byrobbingpoor miners of their claimsand that the capstone to hisfortunehad been put in place by his treacherous violation offaith withthe Guggenhammers in the deal on Ophir. And therewereeditorials written in which he was called an enemy ofsocietypossessed of the manners and culture of a cavemanafomenterof wasteful business troublesthe destroyer of thecity'sprosperity in commerce and tradean anarchist of diremenace;and one editorial gravely recommended that hanging wouldbe alesson to him and his ilkand concluded with the ferventhope thatsome day his big motor-car would smash up and smash himwith it.
He waslike a big bear raiding a bee-hive andregardless of thestingsheobstinately persisted in pawing for the honey. Hegrittedhis teeth and struck back. Beginning with a raid on twosteamshipcompaniesit developed into a pitched battle with acityastateand a continental coastline. Very well; theywantedfightand they would get it. It was what he wantedandhe feltjustified in having come down from the Klondikefor herehe wasgambling at a bigger table than ever the Yukon hadsupplied. Allied with himon a splendid salarywith princelypickingsthrown inwas a lawyerLarry Hegana young Irishmanwith areputation to makeand whose peculiar genius had beenunrecognizeduntil Daylight picked up with him. Hegan had Celticimaginationand daringand to such degree that Daylight's coolerhead wasnecessary as a check on his wilder visions. Hegan's wasaNapoleonic legal mindwithout balanceand it was just thisbalancethat Daylight supplied. Alonethe Irishman was doomedtofailurebut directed by Daylighthe was on the highroad tofortuneand recognition. Alsohe was possessed of no morepersonalor civic conscience than Napoleon.
It wasHegan who guided Daylight through the intricacies ofmodernpoliticslabor organizationand commercial andcorporationlaw. It was Heganprolific of resource andsuggestionwho opened Daylight's eyes to undreamed possibilitiesintwentieth-century warfare; and it was Daylightrejectingacceptingand elaboratingwho planned the campaigns andprosecutedthem. With the Pacific coast from Peugeot Sound toPanamabuzzing and hummingand with San Francisco furiouslyabout hisearsthe two big steamship companies had all theappearanceof winning. It looked as if Burning Daylight wasbeingbeaten slowly to his knees. And then he struckat thesteamshipcompaniesat San Franciscoat the whole Pacificcoast.
It was notmuch of a blow at first. A Christian Endeavorconventionbeing held in San Franciscoa row was started byExpressDrivers' Union No. 927 over the handling of a small heapof baggageat the Ferry Building. A few heads were brokenascore ofarrests madeand the baggage was delivered. No onewould haveguessed that behind this petty wrangle was the fineIrish handof Heganmade potent by the Klondike gold of BurningDaylight. It was an insignificant affair at bestor so itseemed. But the Teamsters' Union took up the quarrelbacked bythe wholeWater Front Federation. Step by stepthe strikebecameinvolved. A refusal of cooks and waiters to serve scabteamstersor teamsters' employers brought out the cooks andwaiters. The butchers and meat-cutters refused to handle meatdestinedfor unfair restaurants. The combined Employers'Associationsput up a solid frontand found facing them the40000organized laborers of San Francisco. The restaurantbakers andthe bakery wagon drivers struckfollowed by themilkersmilk driversand chicken pickers. The building tradesassertedits position in unambiguous termsand all San Franciscowas inturmoil.
But stillit was only San Francisco. Hegan's intrigues weremasterlyand Daylight's campaign steadily developed. Thepowerfulfighting organization known as the Pacific SlopeSeaman'sUnion refused to work vessels the cargoes of which wereto behandled by scab longshoremen and freight-handlers. Theunionpresented its ultimatumand then called a strike. Thishad beenDaylight's objective all the time. Every incomingcoastwisevessel was boarded by the union officials and its crewsentashore. And with the Seamen went the firementheengineersand the sea cooks and waiters. Daily the number ofidlesteamers increased. It was impossible to get scab crewsfor themen of the Seaman's Union were fighters trained in thehardschool of the seaand when they went out it meant blood anddeath toscabs. This phase of the strike spread up and down theentirePacific coastuntil all the ports were filled with idleshipsandsea transportation was at a standstill. The days andweeksdragged outand the strike held. The Coastwise SteamNavigationCompanyand the HawaiianNicaraguanandPacific-MexicanSteamship Company were tied up completely. Theexpensesof combating the strike were tremendousand they wereearningnothingwhile daily the situation went from bad toworseuntil "peace at any price" became the cry. And stillthere wasno peaceuntil Daylight and his allies played outtheirhandraked in the winningsand allowed a goodly portionof acontinent to resume business.
It wasnotedin following yearsthat several leaders of workmenbuiltthemselves houses and blocks of renting flats and tooktrips tothe old countrieswhilemore immediatelyotherleadersand "dark horses" came to political preferment and thecontrol ofthe municipal government and the municipal moneys. InfactSanFrancisco's boss-ridden condition was due in greaterdegree toDaylight's widespreading battle than even San Franciscoeverdreamed. For the part he had playedthe details of whichwerepractically all rumor and guessworkquickly leaked outandinconsequence he became a much-execrated and well-hated man.Nor hadDaylight himself dreamed that his raid on the steamshipcompanieswould have grown to such colossal proportions.
But he hadgot what he was after. He had played an exciting handand wonbeating the steamship companies down into the dust andmercilesslyrobbing the stockholders by perfectly legal methodsbefore helet go. Of coursein addition to the large sums ofmoney hehad paid overhis allies had rewarded themselves bygobblingthe advantages which later enabled them to loot thecity. His alliance with a gang of cutthroats had brought about alot ofcutthroating. But his conscience suffered no twinges. Herememberedwhat he had once heard an old preacher utternamelythat theywho rose by the sword perished by the sword. One tookhischances when he played with cutting throatsand hisDaylight'sthroat was still intact. That was it! And he hadwon. It was all gamble and war between the strong men. Thefools didnot count. They were always getting hurt; and thattheyalways had been getting hurt was the conclusion he drew fromwhatlittle he knew of history. San Francisco had wanted warand he hadgiven it war. It was the game. All the big fellowsdid thesameand they did much worsetoo.
"Don'ttalk to me about morality and civic duty" he replied to apersistentinterviewer. "If you quit your job tomorrow and wentto work onanother paperyou would write just what you were toldto write. It's morality and civic duty now with you; on the newjob itwould be backing up a thieving railroad with... moralityand civicdutyI suppose. Your pricemy sonis just aboutthirty perweek. That's what you sell for. But your paper wouldsell for abit more. Pay its price to-dayand it would shiftitspresent rotten policy to some other rotten policy; but itwouldnever let up on morality and civic duty.
"Andall because a sucker is born every minute. So long as thepeoplestand for itthey'll get it good and plentymy son. Andtheshareholders and business interests might as well shut upsquawkingabout how much they've been hurt. You never hear arysqueal outof them when they've got the other fellow down and aregouginghim. This is the time THEY got gougedand that's allthere isto it. Talk about mollycoddles! Sonthose samefellowswould steal crusts from starving men and pull goldfillingsfrom the mouths of corpsesyepand squawk like SamScratch ifsome blamed corpse hit back. They're all tarred withthe samebrushlittle and big. Look at your Sugar Trustwithall itsmillions stealing water like a common thief from New YorkCityandshort-weighing the government on its phoney scales.Moralityand civic duty! Sonforget it."
Daylight'scoming to civilization had not improved him. Truehe worebetter clotheshad learned slightly better mannersandspokebetter English. As a gambler and a man-trampler he haddevelopedremarkable efficiency. Alsohe had become used to ahigherstandard of livingand he had whetted his wits to razorsharpnessin the fiercecomplicated struggle of fighting males.But he hadhardenedand at the expense of his old-timewhole-souledgeniality. Of the essential refinements ofcivilizationhe knew nothing. He did not know they existed. Hehad becomecynicalbitterand brutal. Power had its effect onhim thatit had on all men. Suspicious of the big exploitersdespisingthe fools of the exploited herdhe had faith only inhimself. This led to an undue and erroneous exaltation of hisegowhilekindly consideration of othersnayeven simplerespectwasdestroyeduntil naught was left for him but toworship atthe shrine of self. Physicallyhe was not the man ofironmuscles who had come down out of the Arctic. He did notexercisesufficientlyate more than was good for himand drankaltogethertoo much. His muscles were getting flabbyand histailorcalled attention to his increasing waistband. In factDaylightwas developing a definite paunch. This physicaldeteriorationwas manifest likewise in his face. The lean Indianvisage wassuffering a city change. The slight hollows in thecheeksunder the high cheek-bones had filled out. The beginningofpuff-sacks under the eyes was faintly visible. The girth ofthe neckhad increasedand the first crease and fold of a doublechin werebecoming plainly discernible. The old effect ofasceticismbred of terrific hardships and toilhad vanished;thefeatures had become broader and heavierbetraying all thestigmataof the life he livedadvertising the man'sself-indulgenceharshnessand brutality.
Even hishuman affiliations were descending. Playing a lonehandcontemptuous of most of the men with whom he playedlacking insympathy or understanding of themand certainlyindependentof themhe found little in common with those to beencounteredsay at the Alta-Pacific. In point of factwhen thebattlewith the steamship companies was at its height and hisraid wasinflicting incalculable damage on all businessinterestshe had been asked to resign from the Alta-Pacific.The ideahad been rather to his likingand he had found newquartersin clubs like the Riversideorganized and practicallymaintainedby the city bosses. He found that he really likedsuch menbetter. They were more primitive and simpleand theydid notput on airs. They were honest buccaneersfrankly in thegame forwhat they could get out of iton the surface more rawandsavagebut at least not glossed over with oily or gracefulhypocrisy. The Alta-Pacific had suggested that his resignationbe kept aprivate matterand then had privily informed thenewspapers. The latter had made great capital out of the forcedresignationbut Daylight had grinned and silently gone his waythoughregistering a black mark against more than one club memberwho wasdestined to feelin the days to comethe crushingweight ofthe Klondiker's financial paw.
Thestorm-centre of a combined newspaper attack lasting formonthsDaylight's character had been torn to shreds. There wasno fact inhis history that had not been distorted into acriminalityor a vice. This public making of him over into aniniquitousmonster had pretty well crushed any lingering hope hehad ofgetting acquainted with Dede Mason. He felt that therewas nochance for her ever to look kindly on a man of hiscaliberandbeyond increasing her salary to seventy-fivedollars amonthhe proceeded gradually to forget about her. Theincreasewas made known to her through Morrisonand later shethankedDaylightand that was the end of it.
Oneweek-endfeeling heavy and depressed and tired of the cityand itswayshe obeyed the impulse of a whim that was later toplay animportant part in his life. The desire to get out of thecity for awhiff of country air and for a change of scene was thecause. Yetto himselfhe made the excuse of going to GlenEllen forthe purpose of inspecting the brickyard with whichHoldsworthyhad goldbricked him.
He spentthe night in the little country hoteland on Sundaymorningastride a saddle-horse rented from the Glen Ellenbutcherrode out of the village. The brickyard was close athand onthe flat beside the Sonoma Creek. The kilns were visibleamong thetreeswhen he glanced to the left and caught sight ofa clusterof wooded knolls half a mile awayperched on therollingslopes of Sonoma Mountain. The mountainitself woodedtoweredbehind. The trees on the knolls seemed to beckon to him.
The dryearly-summer airshot through with sunshinewas wineto him. Unconsciously he drank it in deep breaths. The prospectof thebrickyard was uninviting. He was jaded with all thingsbusinessand the wooded knolls were calling to him. A horse wasbetweenhis legsa good horsehe decided; one that sent himbackto thecayuses he had ridden during his eastern Oregon boyhood.Hehad beensomewhat of a rider in those early daysand the champofbit andcreak of saddle-leather sounded good to him now.
Resolvingto have his fun firstand to look over the brickyardafterwardhe rode on up the hillprospecting for a way acrosscountry toget to the knolls. He left the country road at thefirst gatehe came to and cantered through a hayfield. The grainwaswaist-high on either side the wagon roadand he sniffed thewarm aromaof it with delighted nostrils. Larks flew up beforehimandfrom everywhere came mellow notes. From the appearanceof theroad it was patent that it had been used for hauling clayto the nowidle brickyard. Salving his conscience with the ideathat thiswas part of the inspectionhe rode on to theclay-pitahuge scar in a hillside. But he did not linger longswingingoff again to the left and leaving the road. Not afarm-housewas in sightand the change from the city crowdingwasessentially satisfying. He rode now through open woodsacrosslittle flower-scattered gladestill he came upon aspring. Flat on the groundhe drank deeply of the clear waterandlooking about himfelt with a shock the beauty of theworld. It came to him like a discovery; he had never realized itbeforeheconcludedand alsohe had forgotten much. One couldnot sit inat high finance and keep track of such things. As hedrank inthe airthe sceneand the distant song of larkshefelt likea poker-player rising from a night-long table andcomingforth from the pent atmosphere to taste the freshness ofthe morn.
At thebase of the knolls he encountered a tumble-downstake-and-riderfence. From the look of it he judged it must befortyyears old at leastthe work of some first pioneer who hadtaken upthe land when the days of gold had ended. The woodswere verythick hereyet fairly clear of underbrushso thatwhile theblue sky was screened by the arched brancheshe wasable toride beneath. He now found himself in a nook of severalacreswhere the oak and manzanita and madrono gave way toclustersof stately redwoods. Against the foot of a steep-slopedknoll hecame upon a magnificent group of redwoods that seemed tohavegathered about a tiny gurgling spring.
He haltedhis horsefor beside the spring uprose a wildCalifornialily. It was a wonderful flowergrowing there in thecathedralnave of lofty trees. At least eight feet in heightits stemrose straight and slendergreen and bare for two-thirdsitslengthand then burst into a shower of snow-white waxenbells. There were hundreds of these blossomsall from the onestemdelicately poised and ethereally frail. Daylight had neverseenanything like it. Slowly his gaze wandered from it to allthat wasabout him. He took off his hatwith almost a vaguereligiousfeeling. This was different. No room for contempt andevilhere. This was clean and fresh and beautiful-something hecouldrespect. It was like a church. The atmosphere was one ofholycalm. Here man felt the prompting of nobler things. Muchof thisand more was in Daylight's heart as he looked about him.But it wasnot a concept of his mind. He merely felt it withoutthinkingabout it at all.
On thesteep incline above the spring grew tiny maidenhair fernswhilehigher up were larger ferns and brakes. Greatmoss-coveredtrunks of fallen trees lay here and thereslowlysinkingback and merging into the level of the forest mould.Beyondina slightly clearer spacewild grape and honeysuckleswung ingreen riot from gnarled old oak trees. A gray Douglassquirrelcrept out on a branch and watched him. From somewherecame thedistant knocking of a woodpecker. This sound did notdisturbthe hush and awe of the place. Quiet woodsnoisesbelongedthere and made the solitude complete. The tiny bubblingripple ofthe spring and the gray flash of tree-squirrel were asyardstickswith which to measure the silence and motionlessrepose.
"Mightbe a million miles from anywhere" Daylight whispered tohimself.
But everhis gaze returned to the wonderful lily beside thebubblingspring.
Hetethered the horse and wandered on foot among the knolls.Their topswere crowned with century-old spruce treesand theirsidesclothed with oaks and madronos and native holly. But totheperfect redwoods belonged the small but deep canon thatthreadedits way among the knolls. Here he found no passage outfor hishorseand he returned to the lily beside the spring. Onfoottrippingstumblingleading the animalhe forced his wayup thehillside. And ever the ferns carpeted the way of hisfeeteverthe forest climbed with him and arched overheadandever theclean joy and sweetness stole in upon his senses.
On thecrest he came through an amazing thicket of velvet-trunkedyoungmadronosand emerged on an open hillside that led downintoa tinyvalley. The sunshine was at first dazzling in itsbrightnessand he paused and restedfor he was panting from theexertion. Not of old had he known shortness of breath such asthisandmuscles that so easily tired at a stiff climb. A tinystream randown the tiny valley through a tiny meadow that wascarpetedknee-high with grass and blue and white nemophila. Thehillsidewas covered with Mariposa lilies and wild hyacinthdownthroughwhich his horse dropped slowlywith circumspect feet andreluctantgait.
Crossingthe streamDaylight followed a faint cattle trail overa lowrocky hill and through a wine-wooded forest of manzanitaandemerged upon another tiny valleydown which filtered anotherspring-fedmeadow-bordered streamlet. A jack-rabbit boundedfrom abush under his horse's noseleaped the streamandvanishedup the opposite hillside of scrub-oak. Daylight watcheditadmiringly as he rode on to the head of the meadow. Here hestartledup a many-pronged buckthat seemed to soar across themeadowand to soar over the stake-and-rider fenceandstillsoaringdisappeared in a friendly copse beyond.
Daylight'sdelight was unbounded. It seemed to him that he hadnever beenso happy. His old woods' training was arousedand hewas keenlyinterested in everything in the moss on the trees andbranches;in the bunches of mistletoe hanging in the oaks; in thenest of awood-rat; in the water-cress growing in the shelterededdies ofthe little stream; in the butterflies drifting throughthe riftedsunshine and shadow; in the blue jays that flashed insplashesof gorgeous color across the forest aisles; in the tinybirdslike wrensthat hopped among the bushes and imitatedcertainminor quail-calls; and in the crimson-crested woodpeckerthatceased its knocking and cocked its head on one side tosurveyhim. Crossing the streamhe struck faint vestiges of awood-roadusedevidentlya generation backwhen the meadowhad beencleared of its oaks. He found a hawk's nest on thelightning-shatteredtipmost top of a six-foot redwood. And tocompleteit all his horse stumbled upon several large broods ofhalf-grownquailand the air was filled with the thrum of theirflight. He halted and watched the young ones "petrifying" anddisappearingon the ground before his eyesand listening to theanxiouscalls of the old ones hidden in the thickets.
"Itsure beats country places and bungalows at Menlo Park" hecommunedaloud; "and if ever I get the hankering for countrylifeit'sme for this every time."
The oldwood-road led him to a clearingwhere a dozen acres ofgrapesgrew on wine-red soil. A cow-pathmore trees andthicketsand he dropped down a hillside to the southeastexposure. Herepoised above a big forested canonand lookingout uponSonoma Valleywas a small farm-house. With its barnandouthouses it snuggled into a nook in the hillsidewhichprotectedit from west and north. It was the erosion from thishillsidehe judgedthat had formed the little level stretch ofvegetablegarden. The soil was fat and blackand there waswater inplentyfor he saw several faucets running wide open.
Forgottenwas the brickyard. Nobody was at homebut Daylightdismountedand ranged the vegetable gardeneating strawberriesand greenpeasinspecting the old adobe barn and the rustyplough andharrowand rolling and smoking cigarettes while hewatchedthe antics of several broods of young chickens and themotherhens. A foottrail that led down the wall of the bigcanyoninvited himand he proceeded to follow it. Awater-pipeusually above groundparalleled the trailwhich heconcludedled upstream to the bed of the creek. The wall of thecanon wasseveral hundred feet from top to bottomandmagnificentwere the untouched trees that the place was plungedinperpetual shade. He measured with his eye spruces five andsix feetin diameter and redwoods even larger. One such hepassedatwister that was at least ten or eleven feet through.The trailled straight to a small dam where was the intake forthe pipethat watered the vegetable garden. Herebeside thestreamwere alders and laurel treesand he walked throughfern-brakeshigher than his head. Velvety moss was everywhereout ofwhich grew maiden-hair and gold-back ferns.
Save forthe damit was a virgin wild. No ax had invadedandthe treesdied only of old age and stress of winter storm. Thehugetrunks of those that had fallen lay moss-coveredslowlyresolvingback into the soil from which they sprang. Some hadlain solong that they were quite gonethough their faintoutlineslevel with the mouldcould still be seen. Othersbridgedthe streamand from beneath the bulk of one monster halfa dozenyounger treesoverthrown and crushed by the fallgrowingout along the groundstill lived and prosperedtheirrootsbathed by the streamtheir upshooting branches catchingthesunlight through the gap that had been made in the forestroof.
Back atthe farm-houseDaylight mounted and rode on away fromthe ranchand into the wilder canons and steeper steeps beyond.Nothingcould satisfy his holiday spirit now but the ascent ofSonomaMountain. And here on the crestthree hours afterwardheemergedtired and sweatygarments torn and face and handsscratchedbut with sparkling eyes and an unwonted zestfulness ofexpression. He felt the illicit pleasure of a schoolboy playingtruant. The big gambling table of San Francisco seemed very faraway. But there was more than illicit pleasure in his mood. Itwas asthough he were going through a sort of cleansing bath. Noroom herefor all the sordidnessmeannessand viciousness thatfilled thedirty pool of city existence. Without pondering indetailupon the matter at allhis sensations were ofpurificationand uplift. Had he been asked to state how he felthe wouldmerely have said that he was having a good time; for hewasunaware in his self-consciousness of the potent charm ofnaturethat was percolating through his city-rotted body andbrainpotentin that he came of an abysmal past of wildernessdwellerswhile he was himself coated with but the thinnest rindof crowdedcivilization.
There wereno houses in the summit of Sonoma Mountainandallaloneunder the azure California skyhe reined in on thesouthernedge of the peak. He saw open pasture countryintersectedwith wooded canonsdescending to the south and westfrom hisfeetcrease on crease and roll on rollfrom lowerlevel tolower levelto the floor of Petaluma Valleyflat as abilliard-tablea cardboard affairall patches and squares ofgeometricalregularity where the fat freeholds were farmed.Beyondtothe westrose range on range of mountains cuddlingpurplemists of atmosphere in their valleys; and still beyondover thelast range of allhe saw the silver sheen of thePacific. Swinging his horsehe surveyed the west and northfrom SantaRosa to St. Helenaand on to the eastacross Sonomato thechaparral-covered range that shut off the view of NapaValley. Herepart way up the eastern wall of Sonoma Valleyinrange of aline intersecting the little village of Glen Ellenhemade out ascar upon a hillside. His first thought was that itwas thedump of a mine tunnelbut remembering that he was not ingold-bearingcountryhe dismissed the scar from his mind andcontinuedthe circle of his survey to the southeastwhereacross thewaters of San Pablo Bayhe could seesharp anddistantthe twin peaks of Mount Diablo. To the south was MountTamalpaisandyeshe was rightfifty miles awaywhere thedraughtywinds of the Pacific blew in the Golden Gatethe smokeof SanFrancisco made a low-lying haze against the sky.
"Iain't seen so much country all at once in many a day" hethoughtaloud.
He wasloath to departand it was not for an hour that he wasable totear himself away and take the descent of the mountain.Workingout a new route just for the fun of itlate afternoonwas uponhim when he arrived back at the wooded knolls. Hereonthe top ofone of themhis keen eyes caught a glimpse of a shadeof greensharply differentiated from any he had seen all day.Studyingit for a minutehe concluded that it was composed ofthreecypress treesand he knew that nothing else than the handof mancould have planted them there. Impelled by curiositypurelyboyishhe made up his mind to investigate. So denselywooded wasthe knolland so steepthat he had to dismount andgo up onfootat times even on hands and knees struggling hardto force away through the thicker underbrush. He came outabruptlyupon the cypresses. They were enclosed in a smallsquare ofancient fence; the pickets he could plainly see hadbeen hewnand sharpened by hand. Inside were the mounds of twochildren'sgraves. Two wooden headboardslikewise hand-hewntold thestate Little Davidborn 1855died 1859; and LittleRoyborn1853died 1860.
"Thepoor little kids" Daylight muttered. The graves showedsigns ofrecent care. Withered bouquets of wild flowers were onthemoundsand the lettering on the headboards was freshlypainted. Guided by these clewsDaylight cast about for a trailand foundone leading down the side opposite to his ascent.Circlingthe base of the knollhe picked up with his horse androde on tothe farm-house. Smoke was rising from the chimney andhe wasquickly in conversation with a nervousslender young manwhohelearnedwas only a tenant on the ranch. How large wasit? A matter of one hundred and eighty acresthough it seemedmuchlarger. This was because it was so irregularly shaped.Yesitincluded the clay-pit and all the knollsand itsboundarythat ran along the big canon was over a mile long.
"Yousee" the young man said"it was so rough and broken thatwhen theybegan to farm this country the farmers bought in thegood landto the edge of it. That's why its boundaries are allgouged andjagged."
"Ohyeshe and his wife managed to scratch a living withoutworkingtoo hard. They didn't have to pay much rent. Hillardthe ownerdepended on the income from the clay-pit. Hillard waswell offand had big ranches and vineyards down on the flat ofthevalley. The brickyard paid ten cents a cubic yard for theclay. As for the rest of the ranchthe land was good inpatcheswhere it was clearedlike the vegetable garden and thevineyardbut the rest of it was too much up-and-down.
"You'renot a farmer" Daylight said. The young man laughed andshook hishead. "No; I'm a telegraph operator. But the wifeandI decidedto take a two years' vacationand... here we areBut thetime's about up. I'm going back into the office thisfall afterI get the grapes off."
Yestherewere about eleven acres in the vineyard wine grapes.The pricewas usually good. He grew most of what they ate. Ifhe ownedthe placehe'd clear a patch of land on the side-hillabove thevineyard and plant a small home orchard. The soil wasgood. There was plenty of pasturage all over the ranchandthere wereseveral cleared patchesamounting to about fifteenacres inallwhere he grew as much mountain hay as could befound. It sold for three to five dollars more a ton than therank-stalkedvalley hay.
Daylightlistenedthere came to him a sudden envy of this youngfellowliving right in the midst of all this which Daylight hadtravelledthrough the last few hours.
"Whatin thunder are you going back to the telegraph office for?"hedemanded.
The youngman smiled with a certain wistfulness. "Because wecan't getahead here..." (he hesitated an instant)"andbecausethere are added expenses coming. The rentsmall as itiscounts; and besidesI'm not strong enough to effectuallyfarm theplace. If I owned itor if I were a real husky likeyouI'dask nothing better. Nor would the wife." Again thewistfulsmile hovered on his face. "You seewe're country bornand afterbucking with cities for a few yearswe kind of feel welike thecountry best. We've planned to get aheadthoughandthen someday we'll buy a patch of land and stay with it."
The gravesof the children? Yeshe had relettered them and hoedthe weedsout. It had become the custom. Whoever lived on theranch didthat. For yearsthe story ranthe father and motherhadreturned each summer to the graves. But there had come atime whenthey came no moreand then old Hillard started thecustom. The scar across the valley? An old mine. It had neverpaid. The men had worked on itoff and onfor yearsfor theindicationshad been good. But that was years and years ago. Nopayingmine had ever been struck in the valleythough there hadbeen noend of prospect-holes put down and there had been a sortof rushthere thirty years back.
Afrail-looking young woman came to the door to call the youngman tosupper. Daylight's first thought was that city living hadnot agreedwith her. And then he noted the slight tan andhealthyglow that seemed added to her faceand he decided thatthecountry was the place for her. Declining an invitation tosupperherode on for Glen Ellen sitting slack-kneed in thesaddle andsoftly humming forgotten songs. He dropped down theroughwinding road through covered pasturewith here andtherethickets of manzanita and vistas of open glades. Helistenedgreedily to the quail callingand laughed outrightonceinsheer joyat a tiny chipmunk that fled scolding up abankslipping on the crumbly surface and falling downthendashingacross the road under his horse's nose andstillscoldingscrabbling up a protecting oak.
Daylightcould not persuade himself to keep to the travelledroads thatdayand another cut across country to Glen Ellenbroughthim upon a canon that so blocked his way that he was gladto followa friendly cow-path. This led him to a small framecabin. The doors and windows were openand a cat was nursing alitter ofkittens in the doorwaybut no one seemed at home. Hedescendedthe trail that evidently crossed the canon. Part waydownhemet an old man coming up through the sunset. In hishand hecarried a pail of foamy milk. He wore no hatand in hisfaceframed with snow-white hair and beardwas the ruddy glowandcontent of the passing summer day. Daylight thought that hehad neverseen so contented-looking a being.
"Howold are youdaddy?" he queried.
"Eighty-four"was the reply. "Yessirreeeighty-fourandspryerthan most."
"Youmust a' taken good care of yourself" Daylight suggested.
"Idon't know about that. I ain't loafed none. I walkedacrossthe Plainswith an ox-team and fit Injuns in '51and I was afamily manthen with seven youngsters. I reckon I was as oldthen asyou are nowor pretty nigh on to it."
"Don'tyou find it lonely here?"
The oldman shifted the pail of milk and reflected. "That alldepends"he said oracularly. "I ain't never been lonely exceptwhen theold wife died. Some fellers are lonely in a crowdandI'm one ofthem. That's the only time I'm lonelyis when I goto'Frisco. But I don't go no morethank you 'most to death.This isgood enough for me. I've ben right here in this valleysince'54one of the first settlers after the Spaniards."
Daylightstarted his horsesaying:-
"Wellgood nightdaddy. Stick with it. You got all the youngbloodsskinnedand I guess you've sure buried a mighty sight ofthem."
The oldman chuckledand Daylight rode onsingularly at peacewithhimself and all the world. It seemed that the oldcontentmentof trail and camp he had known on the Yukon had comeback tohim. He could not shake from his eyes the picture of theoldpioneer coming up the trail through the sunset light. He wascertainlygoing some for eighty-four. The thought of followinghisexample entered Daylight's mindbut the big game of SanFranciscovetoed the idea.
"Wellanyway" he decided"when I get old and quit the gameI'llsettle down in a place something like thisand the city cango tohell."
Instead ofreturning to the city on MondayDaylight rented thebutcher'shorse for another day and crossed the bed of the valleyto itseastern hills to look at the mine. It was dryer androckierhere thanwhere he had been the day beforeand the ascendingslopessupported mainly chaparralscrubby and dense andimpossibletopenetrate on horseback. But in the canyons water wasplentifuland also aluxuriant forest growth. The mine was an abandonedaffairbut he enjoyed the half-hour's scramblearound. He had had experience in quartz-mining before he went toAlaskaand he enjoyed the recrudescence of his old wisdom insuchmatters. The story was simple to him: good prospects thatwarrantedthe starting of the tunnel into the sidehill; the threemonths'work and the getting short of money; the lay-off whilethe menwent away and got jobs; then the return and a new stretchof workwith the "pay" ever luring and ever receding into themountainuntilafter years of hopethe men had given up andvanished. Most likely they were dead by nowDaylight thoughtas heturned in the saddle and looked back across the canyon at theancientdump and dark mouth of the tunnel.
As on theprevious dayjust for the joy of ithe followedcattle-trailsat haphazard and worked his way up toward thesummits. Coming out on a wagon road that led upwardhe followedit forseveral milesemerging in a smallmountain-encircledvalleywhere half a dozen poor ranchers farmed the wine-grapeson thesteep slopes. Beyondthe road pitched upward. Densechaparralcovered the exposed hillsides but in the creases of thecanonshuge spruce trees grewand wild oats and flowers.
Half anhour latersheltering under the summits themselveshecame outon a clearing. Here and therein irregular patcheswhere thesteep and the soil favoredwine grapes were growing.Daylightcould see that it had been a stiff struggleand thatwildnature showed fresh signs of winningchaparral that hadinvadedthe clearings; patches and parts of patches of vineyardunprunedgrassgrownand abandoned; and everywhere oldstake-and-riderfences vainly striving to remain intact. Hereat a smallfarm-house surrounded by large outbuildingsthe roadended. Beyondthe chaparral blocked the way.
He cameupon an old woman forking manure in the barnyardandreined inby the fence.
"Hellomother" was his greeting; "ain't you got any men-folkaround todo that for you?"
She leanedon her pitchforkhitched her skirt in at the waistandregarded him cheerfully. He saw that her toil-wornweather-exposedhands were like a man'scallusedlarge-knuckledand gnarledand that her stockingless feet werethrustinto heavy man's brogans.
"Narya man" she answered. "And where be you fromand alltheway uphere? Won't you stop and hitch and have a glass of wine?"
Stridingclumsily but efficientlylike a laboring-manshe ledhim intothe largest buildingwhere Daylight saw a hand-pressand allthe paraphernalia on a small scale for the making ofwine. It was too far and too bad a road to haul the grapes tothe valleywineriesshe explainedand so they were compelled todo itthemselves. "They" he learnedwere she and herdaughterthe lattera widow of forty-odd. It had been easier before thegrandsondied and before he went away to fight savages in thePhilippines. He had died out there in battle.
Daylightdrank a full tumbler of excellent Rieslingtalked a fewminutesand accounted for a second tumbler. Yesthey justmanagednot to starve. Her husband and she had taken up thisgovernmentland in '57 and cleared it and farmed it ever sinceuntil hediedwhen she had carried it on. It actually didn'tpay forthe toilbut what were they to do? There was the winetrustandwine was down. That Riesling? She delivered it totherailroaddown in the valley for twenty-two cents a gallon. Andit was along haul. It took a day for the round trip. Herdaughterwas gone now with a load.
Daylightknew that in the hotelsRieslingnot quite so goodevenwascharged for at from a dollar and a half to two dollarsa quart. And she got twenty-two cents a gallon. That was thegame. She was one of the stupid lowlyshe and her people beforehertheones that did the workdrove their oxen across thePlainscleared and broke the virgin landtoiled all days andall hourspaid their taxesand sent their sons and grandsonsout tofight and die for the flag that gave them such ampleprotectionthat they were able to sell their wine for twenty-twocents. The same wine was served to him at the St. Francis fortwodollars a quartor eight dollars a short gallon. That wasit.
Betweenher and her hand-press on the mountain clearing and himorderinghis wine in the hotel was a difference of seven dollarsandseventy-eight cents. A clique of sleek men in the city gotbetweenher and him to just about that amount. Andbesidesthemthere was a horde of others that took their whack. Theycalled itrailroadinghigh financebankingwholesalingrealestateand such thingsbut the point was that they got itwhile shegot what was lefttwenty-two cents. Ohwellasucker wasborn every minutehe sighed to himselfand nobodywas toblame; it was all a gameand only a few could winbut itwas damnedhard on the suckers.
"Howold are youmother?" he asked.
"Seventy-ninecome next January."
"Workedpretty hardI suppose?"
"SenseI was seven. I was bound out in Michigan state until Iwaswoman-grown. Then I marriedand I reckon the work gotharder andharder."
"Whenare you going to take a rest?"
She lookedat himas though she chose to think his questionfacetiousand did not reply.
"Doyou believe in God?"
She noddedher head.
"Thenyou get it all back" he assured her; but in his heart hewaswondering about Godthat allowed so many suckers to be bornand thatdid not break up the gambling game by which they wererobbedfrom the cradle to the grave.
"Howmuch of that Riesling you got?"
She ranher eyes over the casks and calculated. "Just short ofeighthundred gallons."
Hewondered what he could do with all of itand speculated as towhom hecould give it away.
"Whatwould you do if you got a dollar a gallon for it?" heasked.
"Getme some false teethshingle the houseand buy a new wagon.
The road'smighty hard on wagons."
"Buyme a coffin."
"Wellthey're yoursmothercoffin and all."
She lookedher incredulity.
"No;I mean it. And there's fifty to bind the bargain. Nevermindthereceipt. It's the rich ones that need watchingtheirmemoriesbeing soinfernal shortyou know. Here's my address. You'vegotto deliverit to the railroad. And nowshow me the way out ofhere. I want to get up to the top."
On throughthe chaparral he wentfollowing faint cattle.trails andworking slowly upward till he came out on the divideand gazeddown into Napa Valley and back across to SonomaMountain..."A sweet land" he muttered"an almighty sweetland."
Circlingaround to the right and dropping down along thecattle-trailshe quested for another way back to Sonoma Valley;but thecattle-trails seemed to fade outand the chaparral togrowthicker with a deliberate viciousness and even when he wonthrough inplacesthe canon and small feeders were tooprecipitousfor his horseand turned him back. But there was noirritationabout it. He enjoyed it allfor he was back at hisold gameof bucking nature. Late in the afternoon he brokethroughand followed a well-defined trail down a dry canon.Here hegot a fresh thrill. He had heard the baying of the houndsomeminutes beforeand suddenlyacross the bare face of thehill abovehimhe saw a large buck in flight. And not farbehindcame the deer-hounda magnificent animal. Daylight sattense inhis saddle and watched until they disappearedhisbreathjust a trifle shorteras if hetoowere in the chasehisnostrils distendedand in his bones the old hunting ache andmemoriesof the days before he came to live in cities.
The drycanon gave place to one with a slender ribbon of runningwater. The trail ran into a wood-roadand the wood-road emergedacross asmall flat upon a slightly travelled county road. Therewere nofarms in this immediate sectionand no houses. The soilwasmeagrethe bed-rock either close to the surface orconstitutingthe surface itself. Manzanita and scrub-oakhoweverflourished and walled the road on either side with ajunglegrowth. And out a runway through this growth a mansuddenlyscuttled in a way that reminded Daylight of a rabbit.
He was alittle manin patched overalls; bareheadedwith acottonshirt open at the throat and down the chest. The sun wasruddy-brownin his faceand by it his sandy hair was bleached onthe endsto peroxide blond. He signed to Daylight to haltandheld up aletter. "If you're going to townI'd be obliged ifyou mailthis."
"Isure will." Daylight put it into his coat pocket.
"Doyou live hereaboutsstranger?"
But thelittle man did not answer. He was gazing at Daylight inasurprised and steadfast fashion.
"Iknow you" the little man announced. "You're ElamHarnishBurningDaylightthe papers call you. Am I right?"
"Butwhat under the sun are you doing here in the chaparral?"
Daylightgrinned as he answered"Drumming up trade for a freeruraldelivery route."
"WellI'm glad I wrote that letter this afternoon" the littleman wenton"or else I'd have missed seeing you. I've seen yourphoto inthe papers many a timeand I've a good memory forfaces. I recognized you at once. My name's Ferguson."
"Doyou live hereabouts?" Daylight repeated his query.
"Ohyes. I've got a little shack back here in the bush a hundredyardsanda pretty springand a few fruit trees and berrybushes.Come inand take a look. And that spring is a dandy. You nevertastedwater like it. Come in and try it."
Walkingand leading his horseDaylight followed thequick-steppingeager little man through the green tunnel andemergedabruptly upon the clearingif clearing it might becalledwhere wild nature and man's earth-scratching wereinextricablyblended. It was a tiny nook in the hillsprotectedby thesteep walls of a canon mouth. Here were several largeoaksevidencing a richer soil. The erosion of ages from thehillsidehad slowly formed this deposit of fat earth. Under theoaksalmost buried in themstood a roughunpainted cabinthewideverandah of whichwith chairs and hammocksadvertised anout-ofdoors bedchamber. Daylight's keen eyes took in everything. The clearing was irregularfollowing the patches of thebest soiland every fruit tree and berry bushand even eachvegetableplanthad the water personally conducted to it. Thetinyirrigation channels were every whereand along some of themthe waterwas running.
Fergusonlooked eagerly into his visitor's face for signs ofapprobation.
"Whatdo you think of iteh?"
"Hand-rearedand manicuredevery blessed tree" Daylightlaughedbut the joy and satisfaction that shone in his eyescontentedthe little man.
"Whyd'ye knowI know every one of those trees as if they weresons ofmine. I planted themnursed themfed themand broughtthem up. Come on and peep at the spring."
"It'ssure a hummer" was Daylight's verdictafter dueinspectionand samplingas they turned back for the house.
Theinterior was a surprise. The cooking being done in thesmalllean-to kitchenthe whole cabin formed a large livingroom. A great table in the middle was comfortably littered withbooks andmagazines. All the available wall spacefrom floor toceilingwas occupied by filled bookshelves. It seemed toDaylightthat he had never seen so many books assembled in oneplace. Skins of wildcat'coonand deer lay about on thepine-boardfloor.
"Shotthem myselfand tanned themtoo" Ferguson proudlyasserted.
Thecrowning feature of the room was a huge fireplace of roughstones andboulders.
"Builtit myself" Ferguson proclaimed"andby Godshe drew!Never awisp of smoke anywhere save in the pointed channelandthatduring the big southeasters.
Daylightfound himself charmed and made curious by the littleman. Why was he hiding away here in the chaparralhe and hisbooks? He was nobody's foolanybody could see that. Then why?The wholeaffair had a tinge of adventureand Daylight acceptedaninvitation to supperhalf prepared to find his host araw-fruit-and-nut-eateror some similar sort of health faddest.At tablewhile eating rice and jack-rabbit curry (the lattershot byFerguson)they talked it overand Daylight found thelittle manhad no food "views." He ate whatever he likedandall hewantedavoiding only such combinations that experiencehad taughthim disagreed with his digestion.
NextDaylight surmised that he might be touched with religion;butquestabout as he wouldin a conversation covering the mostdivergenttopicshe could find no hint of queerness orunusualness. So it waswhen between them they had washed andwiped thedishes and put them awayand had settled down to acomfortablesmokethat Daylight put his question.
"LookhereFerguson. Ever since we got togetherI've beencastingabout to find out what's wrong with youto locate ascrewloose somewherebut I'll be danged if I've succeeded.What areyou doing hereanyway? What made you come here? Whatwere youdoing for a living before you came here? Go ahead andelucidateyourself."
Fergusonfrankly showed his pleasure at the questions.
"Firstof all" he began"the doctors wound up by losing allhope forme. Gave me a few months at bestand thatafter acourse insanatoriums and a trip to Europe and another toHawaii. They tried electricityand forced feedingand fasting.
I was agraduate of about everything in the curriculum. Theykept mepoor with their bills while I went from bad to worse.Thetrouble with me was two fold: firstI was a born weakling;and nextI was living unnaturally too much workandresponsibilityand strain. I was managing editor of theTimes-Tribune"
Daylightgasped mentallyfor the Times-Tribune was the biggestand mostinfluential paper in San Franciscoand always had beenso.
"andI wasn't strong enough for the strain. Of course my bodywent backon meand my mindtoofor that matter. It had to bebolsteredup with whiskeywhich wasn't good for it any more thanwas theliving in clubs and hotels good for my stomach and therest ofme. That was what ailed me; I was living all wrong."
Heshrugged his shoulders and drew at his pipe.
"Whenthe doctors gave me upI wound up my affairs and gave thedoctorsup. That was fifteen years ago. I'd been huntingthroughhere when I was a boyon vacations from collegeandwhen I wasall down and out it seemed a yearning came to me to goback tothe country. So I quitquit everythingabsolutelyandcame tolive in the Valley of the Moonthat's the Indian nameyou knowfor Sonoma Valley. I lived in the lean-to the firstyear; thenI built the cabin and sent for my books. I never knewwhathappiness was beforenor health. Look at me now and dareto tell methat I look forty-seven."
"Iwouldn't give a day over forty" Daylight confessed.
"Yetthe day I came here I looked nearer sixtyand that wasfifteenyears ago."
Theytalked alongand Daylight looked at the world from newangles. Here was a manneither bitter nor cynicalwho laughedat thecity-dwellers and called them lunatics; a man who did notcare formoneyand in whom the lust for power had long sincedied. As for the friendship of the city-dwellershis host spokein nouncertain terms.
"Whatdid they doall the chaps I knewthe chaps in the clubswith whomI'd been cheek by jowl for heaven knows how long? Iwas notbeholden to them for anythingand when I slipped outthere wasnot one of them to drop me a line and say'How areyouoldman? Anything I can do for you?' For several weeks itwas:'What's become of Ferguson?" After that I became areminiscenceand a memory. Yet every last one of them knew I hadnothingbut my salary and that I'd always lived a lap ahead ofit."
"Butwhat do you do now?" was Daylight's query. "You mustneedcash tobuy clothes and magazines?"
"Aweek's work or a month's worknow and againploughing in thewinterorpicking grapes in the falland there's always oddjobs withthe farmers through the summer. I don't need muchsoI don'thave to work much. Most of my time I spend foolingaround theplace. I could do hack work for the magazines andnewspapers;but I prefer the ploughing and the grape picking.Just lookat me and you can see why. I'm hard as rocks. And Ilike thework. But I tell you a chap's got to break in to it.It's agreat thing when he's learned to pick grapes a whole longday andcome home at the end of it with that tired happy feelinginstead ofbeing in a state of physical collapse. Thatfireplacethose big stones I was softthena littleanemicalcoholicdegeneratewith the spunk of a rabbit and about oneper centas much staminaand some of those big stones nearlybroke myback and my heart. But I perseveredand used my bodyin the wayNature intended it should be used not bending over adesk andswilling whiskey... andwellhere I ama better manforitandthere's the fireplacefine and dandyeh?
"Andnow tell me about the Klondikeand how you turned SanFranciscoupside down with that last raid of yours. You're abonnyfighteryou knowand you touch my imaginationthough mycoolerreason tells me that you are a lunatic like the rest. Thelust forpower! It's a dreadful affliction. Why didn't you stayin yourKlondike? Or why don't you clear out and live a naturallifeforinstancelike mine? You seeI can ask questionstoo. Now you talk and let me listen for a while."
It was notuntil ten o'clock that Daylight parted from Ferguson.As he rodealong through the starlightthe idea came to him ofbuying theranch on the other side of the valley. There was nothought inhis mind of ever intending to live on it. His gamewasin SanFrancisco. But he liked the ranchand as soon as he gotback tothe office he would open up negotiations with Hillard.Besidesthe ranch included the clay-pitand it would give himthewhip-handover Holdsworthy if he ever tried to cut up any didoes.
The timepassedand Daylight played on at the game. But thegame hadentered upon a new phase. The lust for power in themeregambling and winning was metamorphosing into the lust forpower inorder to revenge. There were many men in San Franciscoagainstwhom he had registered black marksand now and againwith oneof his lightning strokeshe erased such a mark. Heasked noquarter; he gave no quarter. Men feared and hated himand no oneloved himexcept Larry Heganhis lawyerwho wouldhave laiddown his life for him. But he was the only man withwhomDaylight was really intimatethough he was on terms offriendliestcamaraderie with the rough and unprincipled followingof thebosses who ruled the Riverside Club.
On theother handSan Francisco's attitude toward Daylight hadundergonea change. While hewith his slashing buccaneermethodswas a distinct menace to the more orthodox financialgamblershe was nevertheless so grave a menace that they weregladenough to leave him alone. He had already taught them theexcellenceof letting a sleeping dog lie. Many of the menwhoknew thatthey were in danger of his big bear-paw when it reachedout forthe honey vatseven made efforts to placate himto geton thefriendly side of him. The Alta-Pacific approached himconfidentiallywith an offer of reinstatementwhich he promptlydeclined. He was after a number of men in that clubandwheneveropportunity offeredhe reached out for them and mangledthem. Even the newspaperswith one or two blackmailingexceptionsceased abusing him and became respectful. In shorthe waslooked upon as a bald-faced grizzly from the Arctic wildsto whom itwas considered expedient to give the trail. At thetime heraided the steamship companiesthey had yapped at himandworried himthe whole pack of themonly to have him whirlaround andwhip them in the fiercest pitched battle San Franciscohad everknown. Not easily forgotten was the Pacific SlopeSeaman'sstrike and the giving over of the municipal governmentto thelabor bosses and grafters. The destruction of CharlesKlinknerand the California and Altamont Trust Company had been awarning. But it was an isolated case; they had been confident instrengthin numbersuntil he taught them better.
Daylightstill engaged in daring speculationsasfor instanceat theimpending outbreak of the Japanese-Russian Warwheninthe faceof the experience and power of the shipping gamblershereachedout and clutched practically a monopoly of availablesteamer-charters. There was scarcely a battered tramp on theSeven Seasthat was not his on time charter. As usualhispositionwas"You've got to come and see me"; which they didandtouse another of his phrasesthey "paid through the nose"for theprivilege. And all his venturing and fighting had nowbutonemotive. Some dayas he confided to Heganwhen he'd made asufficientstakehe was going back to New York and knock thespotsout ofMessrs. DowsettLettonand Guggenhammer. He'dshow themwhat an all-around general buzz-saw he was and what amistakethey'd made ever to monkey with him. But he never losthis headand he knew that he was not yet strong enough to gointodeath-grapples with those three early enemies. In themeantimethe black marks against them remained for a futureeasementday.
Dede Masonwas still in the office. He had made no moreoverturesdiscussed no more books and no more grammar. He hadno activeinterest in herand she was to him a pleasant memoryof whathad never happeneda joywhichby his essentialnaturehewas barred from ever knowing. Yetwhile his interesthad goneto sleep and his energy was consumed in the endlessbattles hewagedhe knew every trick of the light on her haireveryquick denote mannerism of movementevery line of herfigure asexpounded by her tailor-made gowns. Several timessixmonths orso aparthe had increased her salaryuntil now shewasreceiving ninety dollars a month. Beyond this he dared notgothoughhe had got around it by making the work easier. Thishe hadaccomplished after her return from a vacationbyretainingher substitute as an assistant. Alsohe had changedhis officesuiteso that now the two girls had a room bythemselves.
His eyehad become quite critical wherever Dede Mason wasconcerned. He had long since noted her pride of carriage. Itwasunobtrusiveyet it was there. He decidedfrom the way shecarrieditthat she deemed her body a thing to be proud oftobe caredfor as a beautiful and valued possession. In thisandin the wayshe carried her clotheshe compared her with herassistantwith the stenographers he encountered in otherofficeswith the women he saw on the sidewalks. "She's surewell putup" he communed with himself; "and she sure knows howto dressand carry it off without being stuck on herself andwithoutlaying it on thick."
The morehe saw of herand the more he thought he knew of herthe moreunapproachable did she seem to him. But since he had nointentionof approaching herthis was anything but anunsatisfactoryfact. He was glad he had her in his officeandhopedshe'd stayand that was about all.
Daylightdid not improve with the passing years. The life wasnot goodfor him. He was growing stout and softand there wasunwontedflabbiness in his muscles. The more he drank cocktailsthe morehe was compelled to drink in order to get the desiredresultthe inhibitions that eased him down from the concertpitch ofhis operations. And with this went winetooat mealsand thelong drinks after dinner of Scotch and soda at theRiverside. Thentoohis body suffered from lack of exercise;andfromlack of decent human associationshis moral fibreswereweakening. Never a man to hide anythingsome of hisescapadesbecame publicsuch as speedingand of joy-rides inhis bigred motor-car down to San Jose with companions distinctlysportyincidents that were narrated as good fun and comically inthenewspapers.
Nor wasthere anything to save him. Religion had passed him by."Along time dead" was his epitome of that phase of speculation.He was notinterested in humanity. According to his rough-hewnsociologyit was all a gamble. God was a whimsicalabstractmad thingcalled Luck. As to how one happened to bebornwhethera suckeror a robber was a gamble to begin with; Luck dealt outthe cardsand the little babies picked up the hands allottedthem.Protestwas vain. Those were their cards and they had to playthemwilly-nillyhunchbacked or straight backedcrippled orclean-limbedaddle-pated or clear- headed. There was nofairnessin it. The cards most picked up put them into the sucker class;the cardsof a few enabled them to become robbers. The playingof thecards was life the crowd of playerssociety.
The tablewas the earthand the earthin lumps and chunksfromloaves ofbread to big red motor-carswas the stake. And in theendluckyand unluckythey were all a long time dead.
It washard on the stupid lowlyfor they were coppered to losefrom thestart; but the more he saw of the othersthe apparentwinnersthe less it seemed to him that they had anything to bragabout. Theytoowere a long time deadand their living didnot amountto much. It was a wild animal fight; the strongtrampledthe weakand the stronghe had alreadydiscoveredmenlikeDowsettand Lettonand Guggenhammerwere not necessarilythe best. He remembered his miner comrades of the Arctic. Theywere thestupid lowlythey did the hard work and were robbed ofthe fruitof their toil just as was the old woman making wine inthe Sonomahills; and yet they had finer qualities of truthandloyaltyand square-dealing than did the men who robbed them.Thewinnersseemed to be the crooked onesthe unfaithful onesthewickedones. And even they had no say in the matter. Theyplayedthe cardsthat were given them; and Luckthe monstrousmad-godthingtheowner of the whole shebanglooked on and grinned. Itwas he whostacked the universal card-deck of existence.
There wasno justice in the deal. The little men that camethelittlepulpy babieswere not even asked if they wanted to try aflutter atthe game. They had no choice. Luck jerked them intolifeslammed them up against the jostling tableand told them:"Nowplaydamn youplay!" And they did their bestpoorlittledevils. The play of some led to steam yachts and mansions; ofotherstothe asylum or the pauper's ward. Some played the onesame cardover and overand made wine all their days in thechaparralhopingat the endto pull down a set of false teethand acoffin. Others quit the game earlyhaving drawn cardsthatcalled for violent deathor famine in the Barrensorloathsomeand lingering disease. The hands of some called forkingshipand irresponsible and numerated power; other handscalled forambitionfor wealth in untold sumsfor disgrace andshameorfor women and wine.
As forhimselfhe had drawn a lucky handthough he could notsee allthe cards. Somebody or something might get him yet. Themad godLuckmight be tricking him along to some such end. Anunfortunateset of circumstancesand in a month's time therobbergang might be war-dancing around his financial carcass.This veryday a street-car might run him downor a sign fallfrom abuilding and smash in his skull. Or there was diseaseeverrampantone of Luck's grimmest whims. Who could say?To-morrowor some other daya ptomaine bugor some other of athousandbugsmight jump out upon him and drag him down. Therewas DoctorBascomLee Bascom who had stood beside him a week agoand talkedand argueda picture of magnificent youthandstrengthand health. And in three days he was deadpneumoniarheumatismof the heartand heaven knew what elseat the endscreamingin agony that could be heard a block away. That hadbeenterrible. It was a freshraw stroke in Daylight'sconsciousness. And when would his own turn come? Who could say?
In themeantime there was nothing to do but play the cards hecould seein his handand they were BATTLEREVENGEANDCOCKTAILS. And Luck sat over all and grinned.
OneSundaylate in the afternoonfound Daylight across the bayin thePiedmont hills back of Oakland. As usualhe was in a bigmotor-carthough not his ownthe guest of Swiftwater BillLuck's owndarlingwho had come down to spend the clean-up oftheseventh fortune wrung from the frozen Arctic gravel. Anotoriousspenderhis latest pile was already on the fair roadto followthe previous six. He it wasin the first year ofDawsonwho had cracked an ocean of champagne at fifty dollars aquart;whowith the bottom of his gold-sack in sighthadcorneredthe egg-marketat twenty-four dollars per dozento thetune ofone hundred and ten dozenin order to pique thelady-lovewho had jilted him; and he it waspaying like a princefor speedwho had chartered special trains and broken allrecordsbetween San Francisco and New York. And here he was oncemorethe"luck-pup of hell" as Daylight called himthrowinghis latestfortune away with the same old-time facility.
It was amerry partyand they had made a merry day of itcirclingthe bay from San Francisco around by San Jose and up toOaklandhaving been thrice arrested for speedingthe thirdtimehoweveron the Haywards stretchrunning away with theircaptor. Fearing that a telephone message to arrest them had beenflashedaheadthey had turned into the back-road through thehillsandnowrushing in upon Oakland by a new routewereboisterouslydiscussing what disposition they should make of theconstable.
"We'llcome out at Blair Park in ten minutes" one of the menannounced. "Look hereSwiftwaterthere's a crossroads rightaheadwith lots of gatesbut it'll take us backcountry clearintoBerkeley. Then we can come back into Oakland from the othersidesneak across on the ferryand send the machine back aroundto-nightwith the chauffeur."
ButSwiftwater Bill failed to see why he should not go intoOakland byway of Blair Parkand so decided.
The nextmomentflying around a bendthe back-road they werenot goingto take appeared. Inside the gate leaning out from hersaddle andjust closing itwas a young woman on a chestnutsorrel. With his first glimpseDaylight felt there wassomethingstrangely familiar about her. The next momentstraighteningup in the saddle with a movement he could not failtoidentifyshe put the horse into a gallopriding away withher backtoward them. It was Dede Masonhe remembered whatMorrisonhad told him about her keeping a riding horseand hewas gladshe had not seen him in this riotous company.SwiftwaterBill stood upclinging with one hand to the back ofthe frontseat and waving the other to attract her attention.His lipswere pursed for the piercing whistle for which he wasfamous andwhich Daylight knew of oldwhen Daylightwith a hookof his legand a yank on the shoulderslammed the startled Billdown intohis seat.
"Youm-m-must know the lady" Swiftwater Bill spluttered.
"Isure do" Daylight answered"so shut up."
"WellI congratulate your good tasteDaylight. She's a peachand sherides like onetoo."
Interveningtrees at that moment shut her from viewandSwiftwaterBill plunged into the problem of disposing of theirconstablewhile Daylightleaning back with closed eyeswasstillseeing Dede Mason gallop off down the country road.SwiftwaterBill was right. She certainly could ride. Andsittingastrideher seat was perfect. Good for Dede! That wasan addedpointher having the courage to ride in the onlynaturaland logical manner. Her head as screwed on rightthatwas onething sure.
On Mondaymorningcoming in for dictationhe looked at her withnewinterestthough he gave no sign of it; and the stereotypedbusinesspassed off in the stereotyped way. But the followingSundayfound him on a horse himselfacross the bay and ridingthroughthe Piedmont hills. He made a long day of itbut noglimpsedid he catch of Dede Masonthough he even took theback-roadof many gates and rode on into Berkeley. Herealongthe linesof multitudinous housesup one street and downanotherhe wondered which of them might be occupied by her.Morrisonhad said long ago that she lived in Berkeleyand shehad beenheaded that way in the late afternoon of the previousSundayevidentlyreturning home.
It hadbeen a fruitless dayso far as she was concerned; and yetnotentirely fruitlessfor he had enjoyed the open air and thehorseunder him to such purpose thaton Mondayhis instructionswere outto the dealers to look for the best chestnut sorrel thatmoneycould buy. At odd times during the week he examinednumbers ofchestnut sorrelstried severaland was unsatisfied.It was nottill Saturday that he came upon Bob. Daylight knewhim forwhat he wanted the moment he laid eyes on him. A largehorse fora riding animalhe was none too large for a big manlikeDaylight. In splendid conditionBob's coat in the sunlightwas aflame of firehis arched neck a jeweled conflagration.
"He'sa sure winner" was Daylight's comment; but the dealer wasnot sosanguine. He was selling the horse on commissionand itsowner hadinsisted on Bob's true charactor being given. Thedealergave it.
"Notwhat you'd call a real vicious horsebut a dangerous one.Full ofvinegar and all-round cussednessbut without malice.Just assoon kill you as notbut in a playful sort of wayyouunderstandwithout meaning to at all. PersonallyI wouldn'tthink ofriding him. But he's a stayer. Look at them lungs.And lookat them legs. Not a blemish. He's never been hurt orworked. Nobody ever succeeded in taking it out of him. Mountainhorsetootrail-broke and all thatbeing raised in roughcountry. Sure-footed as a goatso long as he don't get it intohis headto cut up. Don't shy. Ain't really afraidbut makesbelieve. Don't buckbut rears. Got to ride him with amartingale. Has a bad trick of whirling around without causeIt's hisidea of a joke on his rider. It's all just how he feelsOne dayhe'll ride along peaceable and pleasant for twenty miles.
Next daybefore you get startedhe's well-nigh unmanageable.Knowsautomobiles so he can lay down alongside of one and sleepor eat hayout of it. He'll let nineteen go by without battingan eyeand mebbe the twentiethjust because he's feelingfriskyhe'll cutup over like a range cayuse. Generallyspeakingtoo lively for a gentlemanand too unexpected.Presentowner nicknamed him Judas Iscariotand refuses to sellwithoutthe buyer knowing all about him first. Therethat'sabout allI knowexcept look at that mane and tail. Ever seeanythinglike it? Hair as fine as a baby's."
The dealerwas right. Daylight examined the mane and found itfiner thanany horse's hair he had ever seen. Alsoits colorwasunusual in that it was almost auburn. While he ran hisfingersthrough itBob turned his head and playfully nuzzledDaylight'sshoulder
"Saddlehim upand I'll try him" he told the dealer. "Iwonderif he'sused to spurs. No English saddlemind. Give me a goodMexicanand a curb bitnot too severeseeing as he likes torear."
Daylightsuperintended the preparationsadjusting the curb strapand thestirrup lengthand doing the cinching. He shook hishead atthe martingalebut yielded to the dealer's advice andallowed itto go on. And Bobbeyond spirited restlessness and afewplayful attemptsgave no trouble. Nor in the hour's ridethatfollowedsave for some permissible curveting and prancingdid hemisbehave. Daylight was delighted; the purchase wasimmediatelymade; and Bobwith riding gear and personalequipmentwas despatched across the bay forthwith to take up hisquartersin the stables of the Oakland Riding Academy.
The nextday being SundayDaylight was away earlycrossing onthe ferryand taking with him Wolfthe leader of his sled teamthe onedog which he had selected to bring with him when he leftAlaska. Quest as he would through the Piedmont hills and alongthemany-gated back-road to BerkeleyDaylight saw nothing ofDede Masonand her chestnut sorrel. But he had little time fordisappointmentfor his own chestnut sorrel kept him busy. Bobproved ahandful of impishness and contrarietyand he tried outhis rideras much as his rider tried him out. All of Daylight'shorseknowledge and horse sense was called into playwhile Bobin turnworked every trick in his lexicon. Discovering that hismartingalehad more slack in it than usualhe proceeded to giveanexhibition of rearing and hind-leg walking. After tenhopelessminutes of itDaylight slipped off and tightened themartingalewhereupon Bob gave an exhibition of angelic goodness.
He fooledDaylight completely. At the end of half an hour ofgoodnessDaylightlured into confidencewas riding along at awalk androlling a cigarettewith slack knees and relaxed seatthe reinslying on the animal's neck. Bob whirled abruptly andwithlightning swiftnesspivoting on his hind legshis forelegs justlifted clear of the ground. Daylight found himselfwith hisright foot out of the stirrup and his arms around theanimal'sneck; and Bob took advantage of the situation to boltdown theroad. With a hope that he should not encounter DedeMason atthat momentDaylight regained his seat and checked inthe horse.
Arrivedback at the same spotBob whirled again. This timeDaylightkept his seatbutbeyond a futile rein across theneckdidnothing to prevent the evolution. He noted that Bobwhirled tothe rightand resolved to keep him straightened outby a spuron the left. But so abrupt and swift was the whirlthatwarning and accomplishment were practically simultaneous.
"WellBob" he addressed the animalat the same time wiping thesweat fromhis own eyes"I'm free to confess that you're suretheblamedest all-fired quickest creature I ever saw. I guessthe way tofix you is to keep the spur just a-touchingah! youbrute!"
Forthemoment the spur touched himhis left hind leg hadreachedforward in a kick that struck the stirrup a smart blow.Severaltimesout of curiosityDaylight attempted the spurand eachtime Bob's hoof landed the stirrup. Then Daylightfollowingthe horse's example of the unexpectedsuddenly droveboth spursinto him and reached him underneath with the quirt.
"Youain't never had a real licking before" he muttered as Bobthusrudely jerked out of the circle of his own impish mentalprocessesshot ahead.
Half adozen times spurs and quirt bit into himand thenDaylightsettled down to enjoy the mad magnificent gallop. Nolongerpunishedat the end of a half mile Bob eased down into afastcanter. Wolftoiling in the rearwas catching upandeverythingwas going nicely.
"I'llgive you a few pointers on this whirling gamemy boy"Daylightwas saying to himwhen Bob whirled.
He did iton a gallopbreaking the gallop off short by fore legsstifflyplanted. Daylight fetched up against his steed's neckwithclasped armsand at the same instantwith fore feet clearof thegroundBob whirled around. Only an excellent rider couldhaveescaped being unhorsedand as it wasDaylight was nastilynear toit. By the time he recovered his seatBob was in fullcareerbolting the way he had comeand making Wolf side-jump tothebushes.
"Allrightdarn you!" Daylight grunteddriving in spurs andquirtagain and again. "Back-track you want to goandback-trackyou sure will go till you're dead sick of it."
Whenafter a timeBob attempted to ease down the mad pacespurs andquirt went into him again with undiminished vim and puthim torenewed effort. And whenat lastDaylight decidedthat thehorse had had enoughhe turned him around abruptly andput himinto a gentle canter on the forward track. After a timehe reinedhim in to a stop to see if he were breathing painfully.
Standingfor a minuteBob turned his head and nuzzled hisrider'sstirrup in a roguishimpatient wayas much as tointimatethat it was time they were going on.
"WellI'll be plumb gosh darned!" was Daylight's comment. "Noill-willno grudgeno nothing-and after that lambasting! You'resure ahummerBob."
Once againDaylight was lulled into fancied security. For anhour Bobwas all that could be desired of a spirited mountwhenand asusual without warninghe took to whirling and bolting.Daylightput a stop to this with spurs and quirtrunning himseveralpunishing miles in the direction of his bolt. But whenhe turnedhim around and started forwardBob proceeded to feignfright attreescowsbushesWolfhis own shadow in shortateveryridiculously conceivable object. At such timesWolf laydown inthe shade and looked onwhile Daylight wrestled it out.
So the daypassed. Among other thingsBob developed a trick ofmakingbelieve to whirl and not whirling. This was asexasperatingas the real thingfor each time Daylight was fooledintotightening his leg grip and into a general muscular tensingof all hisbody. And thenafter a few make-believe attemptsBobactually did whirl and caught Daylight napping again andlanded himin the old position with clasped arms around the neck.
And to theend of the dayBob continued to be up to one trick oranother;after passing a dozen automobiles on the way intoOaklandsuddenly electing to go mad with fright at a mostordinarylittle runabout. And just before he arrived back at thestable hecapped the day with a combined whirling and rearingthatbroke themartingale and enabled him to gain a perpendicularpositionon his hind legs. At this juncture a rotten stirrupleatherpartedand Daylight was all but unhorsed.
But he hadtaken a liking to the animaland repented not of hisbargain. He realized that Bob was not vicious nor meanthetroublebeing that he was bursting with high spirits and wasendowedwith more than the average horse's intelligence. It wasthespirits and the intelligencecombined with inordinateroguishnessthat made him what he was. What was required tocontrolhim was a strong handwith tempered sternness and yetwith therequisite touch of brutal dominance.
"It'syou or meBob" Daylight told him more than once that day.
And to thestablemanthat night:
"Mybut ain't he a looker! Ever see anything like him? Bestpiece ofhorseflesh I ever straddledand I've seen a few in mytime."
And toBobwho had turned his head and was up to his playfulnuzzling:-
"Good-byyou little bit of all right. See you again next SundayA.M.andjust you bring along your whole basket of tricksyouoldson-of-a-gun."
Throughoutthe week Daylight found himself almost as muchinterestedin Bob as in Dede; andnot being in the thick of anybig dealshe was probably more interested in both of them thanin thebusiness game. Bob's trick of whirling was of especialmoment tohim. How to overcome itthat was the thing. Supposehe didmeet with Dede out in the hills; and supposeby someluckystroke of fatehe should manage to be riding alongside ofher; thenthat whirl of Bob's would be most disconcerting andembarrassing. He was not particularly anxious for her to see himthrownforward on Bob's neck. On the other handsuddenly toleave herand go dashing down the back-trackplying quirt andspurswouldn't doeither.
What waswanted was a method wherewith to prevent that lightningwhirl. He must stop the animal before it got around. The reinswould notdo this. Neither would the spurs. Remained the quirt.
But how toaccomplish it? Absent-minded moments were many thatweekwhensitting in his office chairin fancy he was astridethewonderful chestnut sorrel and trying to prevent ananticipatedwhirl. One such momenttoward the end of the weekoccurredin the middle of a conference with Hegan. Heganelaboratinga new and dazzling legal visionbecame aware thatDaylightwas not listening. His eyes had gone lack-lustreandhetoowas seeing with inner vision.
"Gotit" he cried suddenly. "Hegancongratulate me. It's assimple asrolling off a log. All I've got to do is hit him onthe noseand hit him hard."
Then heexplained to the startled Heganand became a goodlisteneragainthough he could not refrain now and again frommakingaudible chuckles of satisfaction and delight. That wasthescheme. Bob always whirled to the right. Very well. Hewoulddouble the quirt in his hand andthe instant of the whirlthatdoubled quirt would rap Bob on the nose. The horse didn'tliveafter it had once learned the lessonthat would whirl inthe faceof the doubled quirt.
Morekeenly than everduring that week in the office didDaylightrealize that he had no socialnor even human contactswithDede. The situation was such that he could not ask her thesimplequestion whether or not she was going riding next Sunday.It was ahardship of a new sortthis being the employer of aprettygirl. He looked at her oftenwhen the routine work ofthe daywas going onthe question he could not ask her ticklingat thefounts of speech Was she going riding next Sunday? Andashe lookedhe wondered how old she wasand what love passagesshe hadhadmust have hadwith those college whippersnapperswith whomaccording to Morrisonshe herded and danced. Hismind wasvery full of herthose six days between the Sundaysand onething he came to know thoroughly well; he wanted her.And somuch did he want her that his old timidity of theapron-stringwas put to rout. Hewho had run away from womenmost ofhis lifehad now grown so courageous as to pursue. SomeSundaysooner or laterhe would meet her outside the officesomewherein the hillsand thenif they did not get acquaintedit wouldbe because she did not care to get acquainted.
Thus hefound another card in the hand the mad god had dealt him.
Howimportant that card was to become he did not dreamyet hedecidedthat it was a pretty good card. In turnhe doubted.Maybe itwas a trick of Luck to bring calamity and disaster uponhim. Suppose Dede wouldn't have himand suppose he went onloving hermore and moreharder and harder? All his oldgeneralizedterrors of love revived. He remembered thedisastrouslove affairs of men and women he had known in thepast. There was Bertha Doolittleold Doolittle's daughterwhohad beenmadly in love with Dartworthythe rich Bonanza fractionowner; andDartworthyin turnnot loving Bertha at allbutmadlyloving Colonel Walthstone's wife and eloping down the Yukonwith her;and Colonel Walthstone himselfmadly loving his ownwife andlighting out in pursuit of the fleeing couple. And whathad beenthe outcome? Certainly Bertha's love had beenunfortunateand tragicand so had the love of the other three.Down belowMinookColonel Walthstone and Dartworthy had foughtit out. Dartworthy had been killed. A bullet through theColonel'slungs had so weakened him that he died of pneumonia thefollowingspring. And the Colonel's wife had no one left aliveon earthto love.
And thenthere was Fredadrowning herself in the runningmush-icebecause of some man on the other side of the worldandhatinghimDaylightbecause he had happened along and pulledher out ofthe mush-ice and back to life. And the Virgin....The oldmemories frightened him. If this love-germ gripped himgood andhardand if Dede wouldn't have himit might be almostas bad asbeing gouged out of all he had by DowsettLettonandGuggenhammer. Had his nascent desire for Dede been lesshemight wellhave been frightened out of all thought of her. As itwashefound consolation in the thought that some love affairsdid comeout right. And for all he knewmaybe Luck had stackedthe cardsfor him to win. Some men were born luckylived luckyall theirdaysand died lucky. Perhapstoohe was such a mana bornluck-pup who could not lose.
Sundaycameand Bobout in the Piedmont hillsbehaved like anangel. His goodnessat timeswas of the spirited prancingorderbutotherwise he was a lamb. Daylightwith doubled quirtready inhis right handached for a whirljust one whirlwhichBobwithan excellence of conduct that was tantalizingrefusedtoperform. But no Dede did Daylight encounter. He vainlycircledabout among the hill roads and in the afternoon took thesteepgrade over the divide of the second range and dropped intoMaragaValley. Just after passing the foot of the descentheheard thehoof beats of a cantering horse. It was from ahead andcomingtoward him. What if it were Dede? He turned Bob aroundandstarted to return at a walk. If it were Dedehe was born toluckhedecided; for the meeting couldn't have occurred underbettercircumstances. Here they wereboth going in the samedirectionand the canter would bring her up to him just wherethe stiffgrade would compel a walk. There would be nothing elsefor her todo than ride with him to the top of the divide; andoncetherethe equally stiff descent on the other side wouldcompelmore walking.
The cantercame nearerbut he faced straight ahead until heheard thehorse behind check to a walk. Then he glanced over hisshoulder. It was Dede. The recognition was quickandwithheraccompanied by surprise. What more natural thing than thatpartlyturning his horsehe should wait till she caught up withhim; andthatwhen abreast they should continue abreast on upthegrade? He could have sighed with relief. The thing wasaccomplishedand so easily. Greetings had been exchanged; herethey wereside by side and going in the same direction with milesand milesahead of them.
He notedthat her eye was first for the horse and next for him.
"Ohwhat a beauty" she had cried at sight of Bob. From theshininglight in her eyesand the face filled with delighthewouldscarcely have believed that it belonged to a young woman hehad knownin the officethe young woman with the controlledsubduedoffice face
"Ididn't know you rode" was one of her first remarks. "Iimaginedyou were wedded to get-there-quick machines."
"I'vejust taken it up lately" was his answer. "Beginningtoget stout;you knowand had to take it off somehow."
She gave aquick sidewise glance that embraced him from head toheelincluding seat and saddleand said:
"Butyou've ridden before."
Shecertainly had an eye for horses and things connected withhorses washis thoughtas he replied:-
"Notfor many years. But I used to think I was a regularrip-snorterwhen I was a youngster up in Eastern Oregonsneakingaway fromcamp to ride with the cattle and break cayuses andthat sortof thing."
Thusandto his great reliefwere they launched on a topic ofmutualinterest. He told her about Bob's tricksand of thewhirl andhis scheme to overcome it; and she agreed that horseshad to behandled with a certain rational severityno matter howmuch oneloved them. There was her Mabwhich she had for eightyears andwhich she had had break of stall-kicking. The processhad beenpainful for Mabbut it had cured her.
"You'veridden a lot" Daylight said.
"Ireally can't remember the first time I was on a horse" shetold him. "I was born on a ranchyou knowand they couldn'tkeep meaway from the horses. I must have been born with thelove forthem. I had my first ponyall my ownwhen I was six.When I waseight I knew what it was to be all day in the saddlealong withDaddy. By the time I was eleven he was taking me onmy firstdeer hunts. I'd be lost without a horse. I hateindoorsand without Mab here I suppose I'd have been sick anddead longago."
"Youlike the country?" he queriedat the same moment catchinghis firstglimpse of a light in her eyes other than gray. "Asmuch as Idetest the city" she answered. "But a woman can'tearn aliving in the country. So I make the best of italongwith Mab."
Andthereat she told him more of her ranch life in the daysbefore herfather died. And Daylight was hugely pleased withhimself. They were getting acquainted. The conversation had notlagged inthe full half hour they had been together.
"Wecome pretty close from the same part of the country" hesaid. "I was raised in Eastern Oregonand that's none so farfromSiskiyou."
The nextmoment he could have bitten out his tongue for her quickquestionwas:
"Howdid you know I came from Siskiyou? I'm sure I nevermentionedit."
"Idon't know" he floundered temporarily. "I heardsomewherethat youwere from thereabouts."
Wolfsliding up at that momentsleek-footed and like a shadowcaused herhorse to shy and passed the awkwardness offfor theytalkedAlaskan dogs until the conversation drifted back tohorses. And horses it wasall up the grade and down the otherside.
When shetalkedhe listened and followed herand yet all thewhile hewas following his own thoughts and impressions as well.It was anervy thing for her to dothis riding astrideand hedidn'tknowafter allwhether he liked it or not. His ideas ofwomen wereprone to be old-fashioned; they were the ones he hadimbibed inthe early-dayfrontier life of his youthwhen nowoman wasseen on anything but a side-saddle. He had grown up tothe tacitfiction that women on horseback were not bipeds. Itcame tohim with a shockthis sight of her so manlike in hersaddle. But he had to confess that the sight looked good to himjust
Two otherimmediate things about her struck him. Firsttherewere thegolden spots in her eyes. Queer that he had nevernoticedthem before. Perhaps the light in the office had notbeenrightand perhaps they came and went. No; they were glowsof colorasort of diffusedgolden light. Nor was it goldeneitherbut it was nearer that than any color he knew. Itcertainlywas not any shade of yellow. A lover's thoughts areevercoloredand it is to be doubted if any one else in theworldwould have called Dede's eyes golden. But Daylight's moodverged onthe tender and meltingand he preferred to think ofthem asgoldenand therefore they were golden.
And thenshe was so natural. He had been prepared to find her amostdifficult young woman to get acquainted with. Yet here itwasproving so simple. There was nothing highfalutin about hercompanymannersit was by this homely phrase that hedifferentiatedthis Dede on horseback from the Dede with theofficemanners whom he had always known. And yetwhile he wasdelightedwith the smoothness with which everything was goingand withthe fact that they had found plenty to talk abouthewas awareof an irk under it all. After allthis talk was emptyand idle. He was a man of actionand he wanted herDede Masonthe woman;he wanted her to love him and to be loved by him; andhe wantedall this glorious consummation then and there. Used toforcingissues used to gripping men and things and bending themto hiswillhe feltnowthe same compulsive prod of mastery.He wantedto tell her that he loved her and that there wasnothingelse for her to do but marry him. And yet he did notobey theprod. Women were fluttery creaturesand here meremasterywould prove a bungle. He remembered all his huntingguilethelong patience of shooting meat in famine when a hit ora missmeant life or death. Trulythough this girl did not yetmean quitethatnevertheless she meant much to himmorenowthan everas he rode beside herglancing at her as often as hedaredshein her corduroy riding-habitso bravely manlikeyetsoessentially and revealingly womansmilinglaughingtalkingher eyessparklingthe flush of a day of sun and summer breezewarm inher cheeks.
AnotherSunday man and horse and dog roved the Piedmont hills.And againDaylight and Dede rode together. But this time hersurpriseat meeting him was tinctured with suspicion; or ratherhersurprise was of another order. The previous Sunday had beenquiteaccidentalbut his appearing a second time among herfavoritehaunts hinted of more than the fortuitous. Daylight wasmade tofeel that she suspected himand heremembering that hehad seen abig rock quarry near Blair Parkstated offhand thathe wasthinking of buying it. His one-time investment in abrickyardhad put the idea into his head an idea that he decidedwas a goodonefor it enabled him to suggest that she ride alongwith himto inspect the quarry.
So severalhours he spent in her companyin which she was muchthe samegirl as beforenaturalunaffectedlightheartedsmilingand laughinga good fellowtalking horses withunflaggingenthusiasmmaking friends with the crusty-temperedWolfandexpressing the desire to ride Bobwhom she declaredshe wasmore in love with than ever. At this last Daylightdemurred. Bob was full of dangerous tricksand he wouldn'ttrust anyone on him except his worst enemy.
"Youthinkbecause I'm a girlthat I don't know anythingabouthorses" she flashed back. "But I've been thrown offandbucked offenough not to be over-confident. And I'm not a fool.I wouldn'tget on a bucking horse. I've learned better. And I'mnot afraidof any other kind. And you say yourself that Bobdoesn'tbuck."
"Butyou've never seen him cutting up didoes" Daylight
"Butyou must remember I've seen a few othersand I've been onseveral ofthem myself. I brought Mab here to electric carslocomotivesand automobiles. She was a raw range colt when shecame tome. Broken to saddle that was all. BesidesI won'thurt yourhorse."
Againsthis better judgmentDaylight gave inandon anunfrequentedstretch of roadchanged saddles and bridles.
"Rememberhe's greased lightning" he warnedas he helped herto mount.
Shenoddedwhile Bob pricked up his ears to the knowledge thathe had astrange rider on his back. The fun came quicklyenough tooquickly for Dedewho found herself against Bob'sneckas hepivoted around and bolted the other way. Daylight followedon herhorse and watched. He saw her check the animal quickly toastandstilland immediatelywith rein across neck and adecisiveprod ofthe left spurwhirl him back the way he had come andalmost asswiftly.
"Getready to give him the quirt on the nose" Daylight called.
Buttooquickly for herBob whirled againthough this timebya severeeffortshe saved herself from the undignified positionagainsthis neck. His bolt was more determinedbut she pulledhim into aprancing walkand turned him roughly back with herspurredheel. There was nothing feminine in the way she handledhim; hermethod was imperative and masculine. Had this not beensoDaylight would have expected her to say she had had enough.But thatlittle preliminary exhibition had taught him somethingof Dede'squality. And if it had nota glance at her gray eyesjustperceptibly angry with herselfand at her firm-set mouthwould havetold him the same thing. Daylight did not suggestanythingwhile he hung almost gleefully upon her actions inanticipationof what the fractious Bob was going to get. And Bobgot itonhis next whirlor attemptratherfor he was no morethanhalfway around when the quirt met him smack on his tendernose. There and thenin his bewildermentsurpriseand painhis forefeetjust skimming above the roaddropped down.
"Great!"Daylight applauded. "A couple more will fix him. He'stoo smartnot to know when he's beaten."
Again Bobtried. But this time he was barely quarter around whenthedoubled quirt on his nose compelled him to drop his fore feetto theroad. Thenwith neither rein nor spurbut by the merethreat ofthe quirtshe straightened him out.
Dedelooked triumphantly at Daylight.
"Letme give him a run?" she asked.
Daylightnoddedand she shot down the road. He watched her outof sightaround the bendand watched till she came into sightreturning. She certainly could sit her horsewas his thoughtand shewas a sure enough hummer. Godshe was the wife for aman! Made most of them look pretty slim. And to think of herhammeringall week at a typewriter. That was no place for her.She shouldbe a man's wifetaking it easywith silks and satinsanddiamonds (his frontier notion of what befitted a wifebeloved)and dogsand horsesand such things"And we'll seeMr.Burning Daylightwhat you and me can do about it" hemurmuredto himself! and aloud to her:
"You'lldoMiss Mason; you'll do. There's nothing too good inhorsefleshyou don't deservea woman who can ride like that.No; staywith himand we'll jog along to the quarry." Hechuckled. "Sayhe actually gave just the least mite of agroan thatlast time you fetched him. Did you hear it? And didyou seethe way he dropped his feet to the roadjust like he'dstruck astone wall. And he's got savvee enough to know from nowon thatthat same stone wall will be always there ready for himto laminto."
When heparted from her that afternoonat the gate of the roadthat ledto Berkeleyhe drew off to the edge of the interveningclump oftreeswhereunobservedhe watched her out of sight.Thenturning to ride back into Oaklanda thought came to himthat madehim grin ruefully as he muttered: "And now it's up tome to makegood and buy that blamed quarry. Nothing less thanthat cangive me an excuse for snooping around these hills."
But thequarry was doomed to pass out of his plans for a timefor on thefollowing Sunday he rode alone. No Dede on a chestnutsorrelcame across the back-road from Berkeley that daynor theday a weeklater. Daylight was beside himself with impatienceandapprehensionthough in the office he contained himself. Henoted nochange in herand strove to let none show in himself.The sameold monotonous routine went onthough now it wasirritatingand maddening. Daylight found a big quarrel on hishands witha world that wouldn't let a man behave toward hisstenographerafter the way of all men and women. What was thegood ofowning millions anyway? he demanded one day of thedesk-calendaras she passed out after receiving his dictation.
As thethird week drew to a close and another desolate SundayconfrontedhimDaylight resolved to speakoffice or no office.And as washis naturehe went simply and directly to the pointShe hadfinished her work with himand was gathering her notepad andpencils together to departwhen he said:
"Ohone thing moreMiss Masonand I hope you won't mind mybeingfrank and straight out. You've struck me right along as asensible-mindedgirland I don't think you'll take offence atwhat I'mgoing to say. You know how long you've been in theofficeit'syearsnowseveral of themanyway; and you knowI'vealways been straight and aboveboard with you. I've neverwhat youcall presumed. Because you were in my office I'vetried tobe more careful than if if you wasn't in my office youunderstand. But just the sameit don't make me any the lesshuman. I'm a lonely sort of a fellow don't take that as a bidforkindness. What I mean by it is to try and tell you just howmuch thosetwo rides with you have meant. And now I hope youwon't mindmy just asking why you haven't been out riding thelast twoSundays?"
He came toa stop and waitedfeeling very warm and awkwardtheperspirationstarting in tiny beads on his forehead. She did notspeakimmediatelyand he stepped across the room and raised thewindowhigher.
"Ihave been riding" she answered; "in other directions."
"Butwhy...?" He failed somehow to complete the question. "Goahead andbe frank with me" he urged. "Just as frank as I amwith you. Why didn't you ride in the Piedmont hills? I hunted foryoueverywhere.
"Andthat is just why." She smiledand looked him straight inthe eyesfor a momentthen dropped her own. "SurelyyouunderstandMr. Harnish."
He shookhis head glumly.
"Idoand I don't. I ain't used to city ways by a long shot.There'sthings one mustn't dowhich I don't mind as long as Idon't wantto do them."
"Butwhen you do?" she asked quickly.
"ThenI do them." His lips had drawn firmly with this affirmationof willbut the next instant he was amending the statement "ThatisImostly do. But what gets me is the things you mustn't dowhenthey're not wrong and they won't hurt anybodythis ridingforinstance."
She playednervously with a pencil for a timeas if debating herreplywhile he waited patiently.
"Thisriding" she began; "it's not what they call the rightthing.I leave itto you. You know the world. You are Mr. Harnishthemillionaire-"
"Gambler"he broke in harshly
She noddedacceptance of his term and went on.
"AndI'm a stenographer in your office"
"You'rea thousand times better than me" he attempted tointerpolatebut was in turn interrupted.
"Itisn't a question of such things. It's a simple and fairlycommonsituation that must be considered. I work for you. Andit isn'twhat you or I might thinkbut what other persons willthink. And you don't need to be told any more about that. Youknowyourself."
Her coolmatter-of-fact speech belied heror so Daylightthoughtlooking at her perturbed femininenessat the roundedlines ofher figurethe breast that deeply rose and felland atthe colorthat was now excited in her cheeks.
"I'msorry I frightened you out of your favorite stampingground"he said rather aimlessly.
"Youdidn't frighten me" she retortedwith a touch of fire."I'mnot a silly seminary girl. I've taken care of myself for along timenowand I've done it without being frightened. Weweretogether two Sundaysand I'm sure I wasn't frightened ofBoboryou. It isn't that. I have no fears of taking care ofmyselfbut the world insists on taking care of one as well.That's thetrouble. It's what the world would have to say aboutme and myemployer meeting regularly and riding in the hills onSundays. It's funnybut it's so. I could ride with one of theclerkswithout remarkbut with you no."
"Butthe world don't know and don't need to know" he cried.
"Whichmakes it worsein a wayfeeling guilty of nothing andyetsneaking around back-roads with all the feeling of doingsomethingwrong. It would be finer and braver for mepublicly..."
"Togo to lunch with me on a week-day" Daylight saiddiviningthe driftof her uncompleted argument.
"Ididn't have that quite in mindbut it will do. I'd preferdoing thebrazen thing and having everybody know itto doing thefurtivething and being found out. Not that I'm asking to beinvited tolunch" she addedwith a smile; "but I'm sure youunderstandmy position."
"Thenwhy not ride open and aboveboard with me in the hills?" heurged.
She shookher head with what he imagined was just the faintesthint ofregretand he went suddenly and almost maddeninglyhungry forher.
"LookhereMiss MasonI know you don't like this talking overof thingsin the office. Neither do I. It's part of the wholethingIguess; a man ain't supposed to talk anything butbusinesswith his stenographer. Will you ride with me nextSundayand we can talk it over thoroughly then and reach somesort of aconclusion. Out in the hills is the place where youcan talksomething besides business. I guess you've seen enoughof me toknow I'm pretty square. I-I do honor and respect youand... andall thatand I .." He was beginning to flounderandthe handthat rested on the desk blotter was visibly trembling.He stroveto pull himself together. "I just want to harder thananythingever in my life before. I-I-I can't explain myselfbutI dothat's all. Will you?Just next Sunday? To-morrow?"
Nor did hedream that her low acquiescence was dueas much asanythingelseto the beads of sweat on his foreheadhistremblinghandand his all too-evident general distress.
"Ofcoursethere's no way of telling what anybody wants fromwhat theysay." Daylight rubbed Bob's rebellious ear with hisquirt andpondered with dissatisfaction the words he had justuttered. They did not say what he had meant them to say. "WhatI'mdriving at is that you say flatfooted that you won't meet meagainandyou give your reasonsbut how am I to know they areyour realreasons? Mebbe you just don't want to get acquaintedwith meand won't say so for fear of hurting my feelings. Don'tyou see? I'm the last man in the world to shove in where I'm notwanted. And if I thought you didn't care a whoop to see anythingmore ofmewhyI'd clear out so blamed quick you couldn't seeme forsmoke."
Dedesmiled at him in acknowledgment of his wordsbut rode onsilently. And that smilehe thoughtwas the most sweetlywonderfulsmile he had ever seen. There was a difference in ithe assuredhimselffrom any smile she had ever given him before.
It was thesmile of one who knew him just a little bitof onewho wasjust the least mite acquainted with him. Of coursehecheckedhimself up the next momentit was unconscious on herpart. It was sure to come in the intercourse of any two persons.
Anystrangera business mana clerkanybody after a few casualmeetingswould show similar signs of friendliness. It was boundto happenbut in her case it made more impression on him; andbesidesit was such a sweet and wonderful smile. Other women hehad knownhad never smiled like that; he was sure of it.
It hadbeen a happy day. Daylight had met her on the back-roadfromBerkeleyand they had had hours together. It was only nowwith theday drawing to a close and with them approaching thegate ofthe road to Berkeleythat he had broached the importantsubject.
She beganher answer to his last contentionand he listenedgratefully.
"Butsupposejust supposethat the reasons I have given are theonlyones?that there is no question of my not wanting to knowyou?"
"ThenI'd go on urging like Sam Scratch" he said quickly."Becauseyou seeI've always noticed that folks that incline toanythingare much more open to hearing the case stated. But ifyou didhave that other reason up your sleeveif you didn't wantto knowmeififwellif you thought my feelings oughtn't tobe hurtjust because you had a good job with me..." Herehiscalmconsideration of a possibility was swamped by the fear thatit was anactualityand he lost the thread of his reasoning."Wellanywayall you have to do is to say the word and I'llclear out.
And withno hard feelings; it would be just a case of bad luckfor me. So be honestMiss Masonpleaseand tell me if that'sthereasonI almost got a hunch that it is."
Sheglanced up at himher eyes abruptly and slightly moisthalfwith hurthalf with anger.
"Ohbut that isn't fair" she cried. "You give me thechoice oflying toyou and hurting you in order to protect myself bygettingrid of youor of throwing away my protection by tellingyou thetruthfor then youas you said yourselfwould stay andurge."
Her cheekswere flushedher lips tremulousbut she continued tolook himfrankly in the eyes.
Daylightsmiled grimly with satisfaction.
"I'mreal gladMiss Masonreal glad for those words."
"Butthey won't serve you" she went on hastily. "Theycan'tserveyou. I refuse to let them. This is our last rideand...here isthe gate."
Rangingher mare alongsideshe bentslid the catchandfollowedthe opening gate.
"No;pleaseno" she saidas Daylight started to follow.
Humblyacquiescenthe pulled Bob backand the gate swung shutbetweenthem. But there was more to sayand she did not rideon.
"ListenMiss Mason" he saidin a low voice that shook withsincerity;"I want to assure you of one thing. I'm not justtrying tofool around with you. I like youI want youand Iwas nevermore in earnest in my life. There's nothing wrong inmyintentions or anything like that. What I mean is strictlyhonorable-"
But theexpression of her face made him stop. She was angryandshe waslaughing at the same time.
"Thelast thing you should have said" she cried. "It'slikeamatrimonial bureau: intentions strictly honorable; objectmatrimony. But it's no more than I deserved. This is what Isupposeyou call urging like Sam Scratch."
The tanhad bleached out of Daylight's skin since the time hecame tolive under city roofsso that the flush of blood showedreadily asit crept up his neck past the collar and overspreadhis face. Nor in his exceeding discomfort did he dream that shewaslooking upon him at that moment with more kindness than atany timethat day. It was not in her experience to behold biggrown-upmen who blushed like boysand already she repented thesharpnessinto which she had been surprised.
"Nowlook hereMiss Mason" he beganslowly and stumblingly atfirstbutaccelerating into a rapidity of utterance that wasalmostincoherent; "I'm a rough sort of a manI know thatand Iknow Idon't know much of anything. I've never had any trainingin nicethings. I've never made love beforeand I've never beenin lovebefore eitherand I don't know how to go about it anymore thana thundering idiot. What you want to do is get behindmy tomfoolwords and get a feel of the man that's behind them.That's meand I mean all rightif I don't know how to go aboutit."
Dede Masonhad quickbirdlike waysalmost flitting from mood tomood; andshe was all contrition on the instant.
"Forgiveme for laughing" she said across the gate. "Itwasn'treallylaughter. I was surprised off my guardand hurttoo.You seeMr. HarnishI've not been..."
Shepausedin sudden fear of completing the thought into whichherbirdlike precipitancy had betrayed her.
"Whatyou mean is that you've not been used to such sort ofproposing"Daylight said; "a sort of on-the-run'Howdyglad-to-make-your-acquaintancewon't-you-be-mine' proposition."
She noddedand broke into laughterin which he joinedand whichserved topass the awkwardness away. He gathered heart at thisand wenton in greater confidencewith cooler head and tongue.
"Thereyou seeyou prove my case. You've had experience insuchmatters. I don't doubt you've had slathers of proposals.WellIhaven'tand I'm like a fish out of water. Besidesthisain't aproposal. It's a peculiar situationthat's alland I'min acorner. I've got enough plain horse-sense to know a manain'tsupposed to argue marriage with a girl as a reason forgettingacquainted with her. And right there was where I was inthe hole. Number oneI can't get acquainted with you in theoffice. Number twoyou say you won't see me out of the officeto give mea chance. Number threeyour reason is that folkswill talkbecause you work for me. Number fourI just got togetacquainted with youand I just got to get you to see that Imean fairand all right. Number fivethere you are on one sidethe gategetting ready to goand me here on the other side thegatepretty desperate and bound to say something to make youreconsider. Number sixI said it. And now and finallyI justdo wantyou to reconsider."
Andlistening to himpleasuring in the sight of his earnestperturbedface and in the simplehomely phrases that butemphasizedhis earnestness and marked the difference between himand theaverage run of men she had knownshe forgot to listenand lostherself in her own thoughts. The love of a strong manis ever alure to a normal womanand never more strongly didDede feelthe lure than nowlooking across the closed gate atBurningDaylight. Not that she would ever dream of marryinghim shehad a score of reasons against it; but why not at leastsee moreof him? He was certainly not repulsive to her. On thecontraryshe liked himhad always liked him from the day shehad firstseen him and looked upon his lean Indian face and intohisflashing Indian eyes. He was a figure of a man in more waysthan hismere magnificent muscles. BesidesRomance had gildedhimthisdoughtyrough-hewn adventurer of the Norththis manof manydeeds and many millionswho had come down out of theArctic towrestle and fight so masterfully with the men of theSouth.
Savage asa Red Indiangambler and profligatea man withoutmoralswhose vengeance was never glutted and who stamped on thefaces ofall who opposed himohyesshe knew all the hardnames hehad been called. Yet she was not afraid of him. Therewas morethan that in the connotation of his name. BurningDaylightcalled up other things as well. They were there in thenewspapersthe magazinesand the books on the Klondike. Whenall wassaidBurning Daylight had a mighty connotation one totouch anywoman's imaginationas it touched hersthe gatebetweenthemlistening to the wistful and impassioned simplicityof hisspeech. Dede was after all a womanwith a woman'ssex-vanityand it was this vanity that was pleased by the factthat sucha man turned in his need to her.
And therewas more that passed through her mind sensations oftirednessand loneliness; trampling squadrons and shadowy armiesof vaguefeelings and vaguer prompting; and deeper and dimmerwhisperingsand echoingsthe flutterings of forgottengenerationscrystallized into being and fluttering anew andalwaysundreamed and unguessedsubtle and potentthe spiritandessence of life that under a thousand deceits and masksforevermakes for life. It was a strong temptationjust to ridewith thisman in the hills. It would be that only and nothingmoreforshe was firmly convinced that his way of life couldnever beher way. On the other handshe was vexed by none oftheordinary feminine fears and timidities. That she could takecare ofherself under any and all circumstances she neverdoubted. Then why not? It was such a little thingafter all.
She led anordinaryhumdrum life at best. She ate and slept andworkedand that was about all. As if in reviewher anchoriteexistencepassed before her: six days of the week spent in theoffice andin journeying back and forth on the ferry; the hoursstolenbefore bedtime for snatches of song at the pianofordoing herown special launderingfor sewing and mending andcasting upof meagre accounts; the two evenings a week of socialdiversionshe permitted herself; the other stolen hours andSaturdayafternoons spent with her brother at the hospital; andtheseventh daySundayher day of solaceon Mab's backoutamong theblessed hills. But it was lonelythis solitaryriding. Nobody of her acquaintance rode. Several girls at theUniversityhad been persuaded into trying itbut after a Sundayor two onhired livery hacks they had lost interest. There wasMadelinewho bought her own horse and rode enthusiastically forseveralmonthsonly to get married and go away to live inSouthernCalifornia. After years of itone did get tired ofthiseternal riding alone.
He wassuch a boythis big giant of a millionaire who had halfthe richmen of San Francisco afraid of him. Such a boy! Shehad neverimagined this side of his nature.
"Howdo folks get married?" he was saying. "Whynumberonethey meet;number twolike each other's looks; number threegetacquainted;and number fourget married or notaccording to howthey likeeach other after getting acquainted. But how inthunderwe're to have a chance to find out whether we like eachotherenough is beyond my savveeunless we make that chanceourselves. I'd come to see youcall on youonly I know you'rejustrooming or boardingand that won't do."
Suddenlywith a change of moodthe situation appeared to Dederidiculouslyabsurd. She felt a desire to laugh not angrilynothystericallybut just jolly. It was so funny. Herselfthestenographerhethe notorious and powerful gamblingmillionaireand the gate between them across which poured hisargumentof people getting acquainted and married. Alsoit wasanimpossible situation. On the face of itshe could not go onwith it. This program of furtive meetings in the hills wouldhave todiscontinue. There would never be another meeting. Andifdeniedthishe tried to woo her in the officeshe would becompelledto lose a very good positionand that would be an endof theepisode. It was not nice to contemplate; but the world ofmenespecially in the citiesshe had not found particularlynice. She had not worked for her living for years without losinga greatmany of her illusions.
"Wewon't do any sneaking or hiding around about it" Daylightwasexplaining. "We'll ride around as bold if you pleaseandifanybodysees uswhylet them. If they talkwellso long asourconsciences are straight we needn't worry. Say the wordandBob willhave on his back the happiest man alive."
She shookher headpulled in the marewho was impatient to beoff forhomeand glanced significantly at the lengtheningshadows.
"It'sgetting late nowanyway" Daylight hurried on"and we'vesettlednothing after all. Just one more Sundayanyway that'snot askingmuch to settle it in."
"We'vehad all day" she said.
"Butwe started to talk it over too late. We'll tackle itearliernext time. This is a big serious proposition with meIcan tellyou. Say next Sunday?"
"Aremen ever fair?" she asked. "You know thoroughly wellthatby 'nextSunday' you mean many Sundays."
"Thenlet it be many Sundays" he cried recklesslywhile shethoughtthat she had never seen him looking handsomer. "Say theword. Only say the word. Next Sunday at the quarry..."
Shegathered the reins into her hand preliminary to starting.
"Goodnight" she said"and"
"Yes"he whisperedwith just the faintest touch ofimpressiveness.
"Yes"she saidher voice low but distinct.
At thesame moment she put the mare into a canter and went downthe roadwithout a backward glanceintent on an analysis of herownfeelings. With her mind made up to say noand to the lastinstantshe had been so resolved her lips nevertheless had saidyes. Or at least it seemed the lips. She had not intended toconsent. Then why had she? Her first surprise and bewildermentat sowholly unpremeditated an act gave way to consternation assheconsidered its consequences. She knew that Burning Daylightwas not aman to be trifled withthat under his simplicity andboyishnesshe was essentially a dominant male creatureand thatshe hadpledged herself to a future of inevitable stress andstorm. And again she demanded of herself why she had said yes atthe verymoment when it had been farthest from her intention.
Life atthe office went on much the way it had always gone.Neverbyword or lookdid they acknowledge that the situationwas in anywise different from what it had always been. EachSunday sawthe arrangement made for the following Sunday's ride;nor wasthis ever referred to in the office. Daylight wasfastidiouslychivalrous on this point. He did not want to loseher fromthe office. The sight of her at her work was to him anundiminishingjoy. Nor did he abuse this by lingering overdictationor by devising extra work that would detain her longerbefore hiseyes. But over and beyond such sheer selfishness ofconductwas his love of fair play. He scorned to utilize theaccidentaladvantages of the situation. Somewhere within himwas ahigher appeasement of love than mere possession. He wantedto beloved for himselfwith a fair field for both sides.
On theother handhad he been the most artful of schemers hecould nothave pursued a wiser policy. Bird-like in her love ofindividualfreedomthe last woman in the world to be bullied inheraffectionsshe keenly appreciated the niceness of hisattitude. She did this consciouslybut deeper than allconsciousnessand intangible as gossamerwere the effects ofthis. All unrealizablesave for some supreme momentdid theweb ofDaylight's personality creep out and around her. Filamentbyfilamentthese secret and undreamable bonds were beingestablished. They it was that could have given the cue to hersaying yeswhen she had meant to say no. And in some suchfashionin some future crisis of greater momentmight she notinviolation of all dictates of sober judgmentgive anotherunintentionalconsent?
Amongother good things resulting from his growing intimacy withDedewasDaylight's not caring to drink so much as formerly.There wasa lessening in desire for alcohol of which even he atlastbecame aware. In a way she herself was the neededinhibition. The thought of her was like a cocktail. Orat anyrateshesubstituted for a certain percentage of cocktails.From thestrain of his unnatural city existence and of hisintensegambling operationshe had drifted on to the cocktailroute. A wall must forever be built to give him easement fromthe highpitchand Dede became a part of this wall. Herpersonalityher laughterthe intonations of her voicetheimpossiblegolden glow of her eyesthe light on her hairherformherdressher actions on horsebackher merest physicalmannerismsallpictured over and over in his mind and dweltuponserved to take the place of many a cocktail or long Scotchand soda.
In spiteof their high resolvethere was a very measurabledegree ofthe furtive in their meetings. In essencethesemeetingswere stolen. They did not ride out brazenly together inthe faceof the world. On the contrarythey met alwaysunobservedshe riding across the many-gated backroad fromBerkeleyto meet him halfway. Nor did they ride on any saveunfrequentedroadspreferring to cross the second range of hillsand travelamong a church-going farmer folk who would scarcelyhaverecognized even Daylight from his newspaper photographs.
He foundDede a good horsewoman good not merely in riding but inendurance. There were days when they covered sixtyseventyandeveneighty miles; nor did Dede ever claim any day too longnoranother strong recommendation to Daylight did the hardestday everthe slightest chafe of the chestnut sorrel's back. "Asureenough hummer" was Daylight's stereotyped but everenthusiasticverdict to himself.
Theylearned much of each other on these longuninterruptedrides. They had nothing much to talk about but themselvesandwhile shereceived a liberal education concerning Arctic travelandgold-mininghein turntouch by touchpainted an everclearerportrait of her. She amplified the ranch life of hergirlhoodprattling on about horses and dogs and persons andthingsuntil it was as if he saw the whole process of her growthand herbecoming. All this he was able to trace on through theperiod ofher father's failure and deathwhen she had beencompelledto leave the university and go into office work. Thebrothertooshe spoke ofand of her long struggle to have himcured andof her now fading hopes. Daylight decided that it waseasier tocome to an understanding of her than he hadanticipatedthough he was always aware that behind and under allhe knew ofher was the mysterious and baffling woman and sex.Therehewas humble enough to confess to himselfwas achartlessshoreless seaabout which he knew nothing and whichhe mustnevertheless somehow navigate.
Hislifelong fear of woman had originated out ofnon-understandingand had also prevented him from reaching anyunderstanding. Dede on horsebackDede gathering poppies on asummerhillsideDede taking down dictation in her swiftshorthandstrokes all this was comprehensible to him. But hedid notknow the Dede who so quickly changed from mood to moodthe Dedewho refused steadfastly to ride with him and thensuddenlyconsentedthe Dede in whose eyes the golden glowforeverwaxed and waned and whispered hints and messages thatwere notfor his ears. In all such things he saw the glimmeringprofunditiesof sexacknowledged their lureand accepted themasincomprehensible.
There wasanother side of hertooof which he was consciouslyignorant. She knew the bookswas possessed of that mysteriousand awfulthing called "culture." And yetwhat continuallysurprisedhim was that this culture was never obtruded on theirintercourse. She did not talk booksnor artnor similarfolderols. Homely minded as he was himselfhe found her almostequallyhomely minded. She liked the simple and theout-of-doorsthe horses and the hillsthe sunlight and theflowers. He found himself in a partly new florato which shewas theguidepointing out to him all the varieties of the oaksmaking himacquainted with the madrono and the manzanitateachinghim the nameshabitsand habitats of unending seriesof wildflowersshrubsand ferns. Her keen woods eye wasanotherdelight to him. It had been trained in the openandlittleescaped it. One dayas a testthey strove to see whichcoulddiscover the greater number of birds' nests. And hewhohad alwaysprided himself on his own acutely trained observationfoundhimself hard put to keep his score ahead. At the end ofthe day hewas but three nests in the leadone of which shechallengedstoutly and of which even he confessed serious doubt.Hecomplimented her and told her that her success must be due tothe factthat she was a bird herselfwith all a bird's keenvision andquick-flashing ways.
The morehe knew her the more he became convinced of thisbirdlikequality in her. That was why she liked to rideheargued. It was the nearest approach to flying. A field ofpoppiesaglen of fernsa row of poplars on a country lanethetawnybrown of a hillsidethe shaft of sunlight on a distantpeakallsuch were provocative of quick joys which seemed to himlike somany outbursts of song. Her joys were in little thingsand sheseemed always singing. Even in sterner things it was thesame. When she rode Bob and fought with that magnificent bruteformasterythe qualities of an eagle were uppermost in her.
Thesequick little joys of hers were sources of joy to him. Hejoyed inher joyhis eyes as excitedly fixed on her as bearswere fixedon the object of her attention. Also through her hecame to acloser discernment and keener appreciation of nature.She showedhim colors in the landscape that he would never havedreamedwere there. He had known only the primary colors. Allcolors ofred were red. Black was blackand brown was justplainbrown until it became yellowwhen it was no longer brown.Purple hehad always imagined was redsomething like blooduntil shetaught him better. Once they rode out on a high hillbrow wherewind-blown poppies blazed about their horses' kneesand shewas in an ecstasy over the lines of the many distances.Sevenshecountedand hewho had gazed on landscapes all hislifeforthe first time learned what a "distance" was. Afterthatandalwayshe looked upon the face of nature with a moreseeingeyelearning a delight of his own in surveying theserriedranks of the upstanding rangesand in slow contemplationof thepurple summer mists that haunted the languid creases ofthedistant hills.
Butthrough it all ran the golden thread of love. At first hehad beencontent just to ride with Dede and to be on comradelyterms withher; but the desire and the need for her increased.The morehe knew of herthe higher was his appraisal. Had shebeenreserved and haughty with himor been merely a gigglingsimperingcreature of a womanit would have been different.Insteadshe amazed him with her simplicity and wholesomenesswith hergreat store of comradeliness. This latter was theunexpected. He had never looked upon woman in that way. Womanthe toy;womanthe harpy; womanthe necessary wife and motherof therace's offspringall this had been his expectation andunderstandingof woman. But womanthe comrade and playfellowandjoyfellow this was what Dede had surprised him in. And themore shebecame worth whilethe more ardently his love burnedunconsciouslyshading his voice with caressesand with equalunconsciousnessflaring up signal fires in his eyes. Nor was sheblind toit yetlike many women before hershe thought to playwith thepretty fire and escape the consequent conflagration.
"Winterwill soon be coming on" she said regretfullyand withprovocationone day"and then there won't be any more riding."
"ButI must see you in the winter just the same" he criedhastily.
She shookher head.
"Wehave been very happy and all that" she saidlooking at himwithsteady frankness. "I remember your foolish argument forgettingacquaintedtoo; but it won't lead to anything; it can't.I knowmyself too well to be mistaken."
Her facewas seriouseven solicitous with desire not to hurtand hereyes were unwaveringbut in them was the lightgoldenandglowing the abyss of sex into which he was now unafraid togaze.
"I'vebeen pretty good" he declared. "I leave it to you ifIhaven't. It's been pretty hardtooI can tell you. You justthink itover. Not once have I said a word about love to youand meloving you all the time. That's going some for a manthat'sused to having his own way. I'm somewhat of a rusher whenit comesto travelling. I reckon I'd rush God Almighty if itcame to arace over the ice. And yet I didn't rush you. I guessthis factis an indication of how much I do love you. Of courseI want youto marry me. Have I said a word about itthough?Nary achirpnary a flutter. I've been quiet and goodthoughit'salmost made me sick at timesthis keeping quiet. I haven'tasked youto marry me. I'm not asking you now. Ohnot but whatyousatisfy me. I sure know you're the wife for me. But howaboutmyself ? Do you know me well enough know your own mind?"Heshrugged his shoulders. "I don't knowand I ain't goingtotakechances on it now. You've got to know for sure whether youthink youcould get along with me or notand I'm playing a slowconservativegame. I ain't a-going to lose for overlooking myhand."
This waslove-making of a sort beyond Dede's experience. Nor hadshe everheard of anything like it. Furthermoreits lack ofardorcarried with it a shock which she could overcome only byrememberingthe way his hand had trembled in the pastand byrememberingthe passion she had seen that very day and every dayin hiseyesor heard in his voice. Thentooshe recollectedwhat hehad said to her weeks before: "Maybe you don't know whatpatienceis" he had saidand thereat told her of shootingsquirrelswith a big rifle the time he and Elijah Davis hadstarved onthe Stewart River.
"Soyou see" he urged"just for a square deal we've got toseesome moreof each other this winter. Most likely your mind ain'tmade upyet"
"Butit is" she interrupted. "I wouldn't dare permitmyself tocare foryou. Happinessfor mewould not lie that way. I likeyouMr.Harnishand all thatbut it can never be more thanthat."
"It'sbecause you don't like my way of living" he chargedthinkingin his own mind of the sensational joyrides and generalprofligacywith which the newspapers had credited himthinkingthisandwondering whether or notin maiden modestyshe woulddisclaimknowledge of it.
To hissurpriseher answer was flat and uncompromising.
"Iknow I've been brash on some of those rides that got into thepapers"he began his defense"and that I've been travellingwith alively crowd."
"Idon't mean that" she said"though I know about it tooandcan't saythat I like it. But it is your life in generalyourbusiness. There are women in the world who could marry a manlike youand be happybut I couldn't. And the more I cared forsuch amanthe more unhappy I should be. You seemyunhappinessin turnwould tend to make him unhappy. I shouldmake amistakeand he would make an equal mistakethough hiswould notbe so hard on him because he would still have hisbusiness."
"Business!"Daylight gasped. "What's wrong with my business? Iplay fairand square. There's nothing under hand about itwhichcan't besaid of most businesseswhether of the big corporationsor of thecheatinglyinglittle corner-grocerymen. I play thestraightrules of the gameand I don't have to lie or cheat orbreak myword."
Dedehailed with relief the change in the conversation and at thesame timethe opportunity to speak her mind.
"Inancient Greece" she began pedantically"a man was judgedagoodcitizen who built housesplanted trees" She did notcompletethe quotationbut drew the conclusion hurriedly. "Howmanyhouses have you built? How many trees have you planted?"
He shookhis head noncommittallyfor he had not grasped thedrift ofthe argument.
"Well"she went on"two winters ago you cornered coal"
"Justlocally" he grinned reminiscently"just locally. And Itookadvantage of the car shortage and the strike in BritishColumbia."
"Butyou didn't dig any of that coal yourself. Yet you forced itup fourdollars a ton and made a lot of money. That was yourbusiness. You made the poor people pay more for their coal. Youplayedfairas you saidbut you put your hands down into alltheirpockets and took their money away from them. I know. Iburn agrate fire in my sitting-room at Berkeley. And instead ofelevendollars a ton for Rock WellsI paid fifteen dollars thatwinter. You robbed me of four dollars. I could stand it. Butthere werethousands of the very poor who could not stand it.You mightcall it legal gamblingbut to me it was downrightrobbery."
Daylightwas not abashed. This was no revelation to him. Herememberedthe old woman who made wine in the Sonoma hills andthemillions like her who were made to be robbed.
"Nowlook hereMiss Masonyou've got me there slightlyIgrant. But you've seen me in business a long time nowand youknow Idon't make a practice of raiding the poor people. I goafter thebig fellows. They're my meat. They rob the poorandI robthem. That coal deal was an accident. I wasn't after thepoorpeople in thatbut after the big fellowsand I got themtoo. The poor people happened to get in the way and got hurtthat wasall.
"Don'tyou see" he went on"the whole game is a gamble.Everybodygambles in one way or another. The farmer gamblesagainstthe weather and the market on his crops. So does theUnitedStates Steel Corporation. The business of lots of men isstraightrobbery of the poor people. But I've never made that mybusiness. You know that. I've always gone after the robbers."
"Imissed my point" she admitted. "Wait a minute."
And for aspace they rode in silence.
"Isee it more clearly than I can state itbut it's somethinglikethis. There is legitimate workand there's workthatwellthat isn'tlegitimate. The farmer works the soil and producesgrain. He's making something that is good for humanity. Heactuallyin a waycreates somethingthe grain that will fillthemouths ofthe hungry."
"Andthen the railroads and market-riggers and the rest proceedto rob himof that same grain"Daylight broke in Dede smiledandheld upher hand.
"Waita minute. You'll make me lose my point. It doesn't hurtif theyrob him of all of it so that he starves to death. Thepoint isthat the wheat he grew is still in the world. Itexists. Don't you see? The farmer created somethingsay tentons ofwheatand those ten tons exist. The railroads haul thewheat tomarketto the mouths that will eat it. This also islegitimate. It's like some one bringing you a glass of wateror takinga cinder out of your eye. Something has been doneina way beencreatedjust like the wheat."
"Butthe railroads rob like Sam Scratch" Daylight objected.
"Thenthe work they do is partly legitimate and partly not. Nowwe come toyou. You don't create anything. Nothing new existswhenyou're done with your business. Just like the coal. Youdidn't digit. You didn't haul it to market. You didn't deliverit. Don't you see? that's what I meant by planting the treesandbuilding the houses. You haven't planted one tree nor builta singlehouse."
"Inever guessed there was a woman in the world who could talkbusinesslike that" he murmured admiringly. "And you've gotmeon thatpoint. But there's a lot to be said on my side just thesame. Now you listen to me. I'm going to talk under threeheads. Number one: We live a short timethe best of usandwe're along time dead. Life is a big gambling game. Some areborn luckyand some are born unlucky. Everybody sits in at thetableandeverybody tries to rob everybody else. Most of themgetrobbed. They're born suckers.
"Fellowlike me comes along and sizes up the proposition. I'vegottwochoices. I can herd with the suckersor I can herd with therobbers. As a suckerI win nothing. Even the crusts of breadaresnatchedout of my mouth by the robbers. I work hard all mydaysand dieworking. And I ain't never had a flutter. I've hadnothingbut workworkwork. They talk about the dignity oflabor. I tell you there ain't no dignity in that sort of labor.My otherchoice is to herd with the robbersand I herd withthem.I playthat choice wide open to win. I get the automobilesandtheporterhouse steaksand the soft beds.
"Numbertwo: There ain't much difference between playing halfwayrobberlike the railroad hauling that farmer's wheat to marketandplaying all robber and robbing the robbers like I do. Andbesideshalfway robbery is too slow a game for me to sit in.You don'twin quick enough for me."
"Butwhat do you want to win for?" Dede demanded. "Youhavemillionsand millionsalready. You can't ride in more than oneautomobileat a timesleep in more than one bed at a time."
"Numberthree answers that" he said"and here it is: Menandthings areso made that they have different likes. A rabbitlikes avegetarian diet. A lynx likes meat. Ducks swim;chickensare scairt of water. One man collects postage stampsanotherman collects butterflies. This man goes in forpaintingsthat man goes in for yachtsand some other fellow forhuntingbig game. One man thinks horse-racing is Itwith a bigIandanother man finds the biggest satisfaction in actresses.They can'thelp these likes. They have themand what are theygoing todo about it? Now I like gambling. I like to play thegame. I want to play it big and play it quick. I'm just madethat way. And I play it."
"Butwhy can't you do good with all your money?"
"Doinggood with your money! It's like slapping God in the faceas much asto tell him that he don't know how to run his worldand thatyou'll be much obliged if he'll stand out of the way andgive you achance. Thinking about God doesn't keep me sitting upnightssoI've got another way of looking at it. Ain't itfunnytogo around with brass knuckles and a big club breakingfolks'heads and taking their money away from them until I've gota pileand thenrepenting of my waysgoing around andbandagingup the heads the other robbers are breaking? I leaveit toyou. That's what doing good with money amounts to. Everyonce in awhile some robber turns soft-hearted and takes todriving anambulance. That's what Carnegie did. He smashedheads inpitched battles at Homesteadregular wholesalehead-breakerhe washeld up the suckers for a few hundredmillionand now he goes around dribbling it back to them.funny? I leave it to you."
He rolleda cigarette and watched her half curiouslyhalfamusedly. His replies and harsh generalizations of a harshschoolwere disconcertingand she came back to her earlierposition.
"Ican't argue with youand you know that. No matter how righta womanismen have such a way about them wellwhat they saysoundsmost convincingand yet the woman is still certain theyarewrong. But there is one thing the creative joy. Call itgamblingif you willbut just the same it seems to me moresatisfyingto create somethingmake somethingthan just to rolldice outof a dice-box all day long. Whysometimesforexerciseor when I've got to pay fifteen dollars for coalIcurry Maband give her a whole half hour's brushing. And when Isee hercoat clean and shining and satinyI feel a satisfactionin whatI've done. So it must be with the man who builds a houseor plantsa tree. He can look at it. He made it. It's hishandiwork. Even if somebody like you comes along and takes histree awayfrom himstill it is thereand still did he make it.You can'trob him of thatMr. Harnishwith all your millions.It's thecreative joyand it's a higher joy than mere gambling.Haven'tyou ever made things yourself a log cabin up in theYukonora canoeor raftor something? And don't you rememberhowsatisfied you werehow good you feltwhile you were doingit andafter you had it done?"
While shespoke his memory was busy with the associations sherecalled. He saw the deserted flat on the river bank by theKlondikeand he saw the log cabins and warehouses spring upandall thelog structures he had builtand his sawmills workingnight andday on three shifts.
"Whydog-gone itMiss Masonyou're right in a way. I'vebuilthundreds of houses up thereand I remember I was proud andglad tosee them go up. I'm proud nowwhen I remember them.And therewas Ophirthe most God-forsaken moose-pasture of acreek youever laid eyes on. I made that into the big Ophir.WhyI ranthe water in there from the Rinkabillyeighty milesaway. They all said I couldn'tbut I did itand I did it bymyself. The dam and the flume cost me four million. But youshouldhave seen that Ophirpower plantselectric lightsandhundredsof men on the pay-rollworking night and day. I guessI do getan inkling of what you mean by making a thing. I madeOphirandby Godshe was a sure hummer I beg your pardon. Ididn'tmean to cuss. But that Ophir !I sure am proud of hernowjustas the last time I laid eyes on her."
"Andyou won something there that was more than mere money" Dedeencouraged. "Now do you know what I would do if I had lots ofmoney andsimply had to go on playing at business? Take all thesoutherlyand westerly slopes of these bare hills. I'd buy themin andplant eucalyptus on them. I'd do it for the joy of doingit anyway;but suppose I had that gambling twist in me which youtalkaboutwhyI'd do it just the same and make money out ofthetrees. And there's my other point again. Instead ofraisingthe priceof coal without adding an ounce of coal to the marketsupplyI'd be making thousands and thousands of cords offirewoodmakingsomething where nothing was before. Andeverybodywho ever crossed on the ferries would look up at theseforestedhills and be made glad. Who was made glad by youraddingfour dollars a ton to Rock Wells?"
It wasDaylight's turn to be silent for a time while she waitedan answer.
"Wouldyou rather I did things like that?" he asked at last.
"Itwould be better for the worldand better for you" sheanswerednoncommittally.
All weekevery one in the office knew that something new and bigwas afootin Daylight's mind. Beyond some deals of noimportancehe had not been interested in anything for severalmonths. But now he went about in an almost unbroken brown studymadeunexpected and lengthy trips across the bay to Oaklandorsat at hisdesk silent and motionless for hours. He seemedparticularlyhappy with what occupied his mind. At times mencame inand conferred with him and with new faces and differingin typefrom those that usually came to see him.
On SundayDede learned all about it. "I've been thinking a lotof ourtalk" he began"and I've got an idea I'd like to give itaflutter. And I've got a proposition to make your hair standup. It's what you call legitimateand at the same time it's thegosh-dangdestgamble a man ever went into. How about plantingminuteswholesaleand making two minutes grow where one minutegrewbefore? Ohyesand planting a few treestoo say severalmillion ofthem. You remember the quarry I made believe I waslookingat? WellI'm going to buy it. I'm going to buy thesehillstooclear from here around to Berkeley and down the otherway to SanLeandro. I own a lot of them alreadyfor thatmatter. But mum is the word. I'll be buying a long time to comebeforeanything much is guessed about itand I don't want themarket tojump up out of sight. You see that hill over there.It's myhill running clear down its slopes through Piedmont andhalfwayalong those rolling hills into Oakland. And it's nothingto all thethings I'm going to buy."
He pausedtriumphantly. "And all to make two minutes grow whereone grewbefore?" Dede queriedat the same time laughingheartilyat his affectation of mystery.
He staredat her fascinated. She had such a frankboyish way ofthrowingher head back when she laughed. And her teeth were anunendingdelight to him. Not smallyet regular and firmwithout ablemishhe considered then the healthiestwhitestprettiestteeth he had ever seen. And for months he had beencomparingthem with the teeth of every woman he met.
It was notuntil her laughter was over that he was able tocontinue.
"Theferry system between Oakland and San Francisco is the worstone-horseconcern in the United States. You cross on it everydaysixdays in the week. That's saytwenty-five days a monthor threehundred a year. Now long does it take you one way?Fortyminutesif you're lucky. I'm going to put you across intwentyminutes. If that ain't making two minutes grow where onegrewbeforeknock off my head with little apples. I'll save youtwentyminutes each way. That's forty minutes a daytimes threehundredequals twelve thousand minutes a yearjust for youjust forone person. Let's see: that's two hundred whole hours.Suppose Isave two hundred hours a year for thousands of otherfolksthat's farming someain't it?"
Dede couldonly nod breathlessly. She had caught the contagionof hisenthusiasmthough she had no clew as to how this greattime-savingwas to be accomplished.
"Comeon" he said. "Let's ride up that hilland when Iget youout on topwhere you can see somethingI'll talk sense."
A smallfootpath dropped down to the dry bed of the canonwhichtheycrossed before they began the climb. The slope was steepandcovered with matted brush and bushesthrough which thehorsesslipped and lunged. Bobgrowing disgustedturned backsuddenlyand attempted to pass Mab. The mare was thrust sidewiseinto thedenser bushwhere she nearly fell. Recoveringsheflung herweight against Bob. Both riders' legs were caught intheconsequent squeezeandas Bob plunged ahead down hillDedewas nearlyscraped off. Daylight threw his horse on to itshaunchesand at the same time dragged Dede back into the saddle.Showers oftwigs and leaves fell upon themand predicamentfollowedpredicamentuntil they emerged on the hilltop the worsefor wearbut happy and excited. Here no trees obstructed theview. The particular hill on which they wereout-jutted fromtheregular line of the rangeso that the sweep of their visionextendedover three-quarters of the circle. Belowon the flatlandbordering the baylay Oaklandand across the bay was SanFrancisco. Between the two cities they could see the whiteferry-boatson the water. Around to their right was Berkeleyand totheir left the scattered villages between Oakland and SanLeandro. Directly in the foreground was Piedmontwith itsdesultorydwellings and patches of farming landand fromPiedmontthe land rolled down in successive waves upon Oakland.
"Lookat it" said Daylightextending his arm in a sweepinggesture. "A hundred thousand people thereand no reason thereshouldn'tbe half a million. There's the chance to make fivepeoplegrow where one grows now. Here's the scheme in anutshell. Why don't more people live in Oakland? No goodservicewith San FranciscoandbesidesOakland is asleep.It's awhole lot better place to live in than San Francisco.Nowsuppose I buy in all the street railways of OaklandBerkeleyAlamedaSan Leandroand the restbring them underone headwith a competent management? Suppose I cut the time toSanFrancisco one-half by building a big pier out there almost toGoatIsland and establishing a ferry system with modernup-to-dateboats? Whyfolks will want to live over on thisside. Very good. They'll need land on which to build. SofirstI buy upthe land. But the land's cheap now. Why? Becauseit'sin thecountryno electric roadsno quick communicationnobodyguessingthat the electric roads are coming. I'll build theroads.That willmake the land jump up. Then I'll sell the land as fastas thefolks will want to buy because of the improved ferrysystemandtransportation facilities.
"YouseeI give the value to the land by building the roads.Then Isell the land and get that value backand after thatthere'sthe roadsall carrying folks back and forth and earningbigmoney. Can't lose. And there's all sorts of millions init.
I'm goingto get my hands on some of that water front and thetide-lands. Take between where I'm going to build my pier andthe oldpier. It's shallow water. I can fill and dredge and putin asystem of docks that will handle hundreds of ships. SanFrancisco'swater front is congested. No more room for ships.Withhundreds of ships loading and unloading on this side rightinto thefreight cars of three big railroadsfactories willstart upover here instead of crossing to San Francisco. Thatmeansfactory sites. That means me buying in the factory sitesbeforeanybody guesses the cat is going to jumpmuch lesswhichway. Factories mean tens of thousands of workingmen and theirfamilies. That means more houses and more landand that meansmeforI'll be there to sell them the land. And tens ofthousandsof families means tens of thousands of nickels everyday for myelectric cars. The growing population will mean morestoresmore banksmore everything. And that'll mean meforI'll beright there with business property as well as homeproperty. What do you think of it?"
Thereforeshe could answerhe was off againhis mind's eyefilledwith this new city of his dream which he builded on theAlamedahills by the gateway to the Orient.
"Doyou knowI've been looking it upthe Firth Of Clydewhereall thesteel ships are builtisn't half as wide as OaklandCreek downtherewhere all those old hulks lie? Why ain't it aFirth ofClyde? Because the Oakland City Council spends its timedebatingabout prunes and raisins. What is needed is somebody toseethingsandafter thatorganization. That's me. Ididn'tmake Ophirfor nothing. And once things begin to humoutsidecapitalwill pour in. All I do is start it going. 'Gentlemen'I say'here's all the natural advantages for a great metropolis.
GodAlmighty put them advantages hereand he put me here to seethem. Do you want to land your tea and silk from Asia and shipitstraight East? Here's the docks for your steamersand here'stherailroads. Do you want factories from which you can shipdirect byland or water? Here's the siteand here's the modernup-to-datecitywith the latest improvements for yourselves andyourworkmento live in.'"
"Thenthere's the water. I'll come pretty close to owning thewatershed. Why not the waterworks too? There's two watercompaniesin Oakland nowfighting like cats and dogs and bothaboutbroke. What a metropolis needs is a good water system.They can'tgive it. They're stick-in-the-muds. I'll gobble themup anddeliver the right article to the city. There's moneytheretoomoney everywhere. Everything works in witheverythingelse. Each improvement makes the value of everythingelse pumpup. It's people that are behind the value. The biggerthe crowdthat herds in one placethe more valuable is the realestate. And this is the very place for a crowd to herd. Look atit. Just look at it! You could never find a finer site for agreatcity. All it needs is the herdand I'll stampede a coupleof hundredthousand people in here ins two years. And what'smore itwon't be one of these wild cat land booms. It will belegitimate. Twenty years for now there'll be a million people onthis sidethe bay. Another thing is hotels. There isn't adecent onein the town. I'll build a couple of up-to-date onesthat'llmake them sit up and take notice. I won't care if theydon't payfor years. Their effect will more than give me mymoney backout of the other holdings. AndohyesI'm going toplanteucalyptusmillions of themon these hills."
"Buthow are you going to do it?" Dede asked. "You haven'tenoughmoney for all that you've planned."
"I'vethirty millionand if I need more I can borrow on the landand otherthings. Interest on mortgages won't anywhere near eatup theincrease in land valuesand I'll be selling land rightalong."
In theweeks that followedDaylight was a busy man. He spentmost ofhis time in Oaklandrarely coming to the office. Heplanned tomove the office to Oaklandbutas he told Dedethesecretpreliminary campaign of buying had to be put throughfirst. Sunday by Sundaynow from this hilltop and now fromthattheylooked down upon the city and its farming suburbsandhe pointedout to her his latest acquisitions. At first it waspatchesand sections of land here and there; but as the weekspassed itwas the unowned portions that became rareuntil atlast theystood as islands surrounded by Daylight's land.
It meantquick work on a colossal scalefor Oakland and theadjacentcountry was not slow to feel the tremendous buying. ButDaylighthad the ready cashand it had always been his policy tostrikequickly. Before the others could get the warning of theboomhequietly accomplished many things. At the same time thathis agentswere purchasing corner lots and entire blocks in theheart ofthe business section and the waste lands for factorysitesDaywas rushing franchises through the city councilcapturingthe two exhausted water companies and the eight or nineindependentstreet railwaysand getting his grip on the OaklandCreek andthe bay tide-lands for his dock system. The tide-landshad beenin litigation for yearsand he took the bull by thehornsbuying out the private owners and at the same time leasingfrom thecity fathers.
By thetime that Oakland was aroused by this unprecedentedactivityin every direction and was questioning excitedly themeaning ofitDaylight secretly bought the chief Republicannewspaperand the chief Democratic organand moved boldly intohis newoffices. Of necessitythey were on a large scaleoccupyingfour floors of the only modern office building in thetown theonly building that wouldn't have to be torn down lateronasDaylight put it. There was department after departmentascore ofthemand hundreds of clerks and stenographers. As hetold Dede:"I've got more companies than you can shake a stickat. There's the Alameda & Contra Costa Land SyndicatetheConsolidatedStreet Railwaysthe Yerba Buena Ferry CompanytheUnitedWater Companythe Piedmont Realty Companythe FairviewandPortola Hotel Companyand half a dozen more that I've got torefer to anotebook to remember. There's the Piedmont LaundryFarmandRedwood Consolidated Quarries. Starting in with ourquarryIjust kept a-going till I got them all. And there's theship-buildingcompany I ain't got a name for yet. Seeing as Ihad tohave ferry-boatsI decided to build them myself. They'llbe done bythe time the pier is ready for them. Phew! It allsure beatspoker. And I've had the fun of gouging the robbergangs aswell. The water company bunches are squealing yet. Isure gotthem where the hair was short. They were just about allin when Icame along and finished them off."
"Butwhy do you hate them so?" Dede asked.
"Becausethey're such cowardly skunks."
"Butyou play the same game they do."
"Yes;but not in the same way." Daylight regarded herthoughtfully. "When I say cowardly skunksI mean justthatcowardly skunks. They set up for a lot of gamblersandthereain't one in a thousand of them that's got the nerve to beagambler. They're four-flushersif you know what that means.They're alot of little cottontail rabbits making believe they'rebigrip-snorting timber wolves. They set out to everlastinglyeat upsome proposition but at the first sign of trouble theyturn tailand stampede for the brush. Look how it works. Whenthe bigfellows wanted to unload Little Copperthey sent JakeyFallowinto the New York Stock Exchange to yell out: 'I'll buyall or anypart of Little Copper at fifty five' Little Copperbeing atfifty-four. And in thirty minutes them cottontailsfinancierssome folks call them bid up Little Copper to sixty.And anhour after thatstampeding for the brushthey werethrowingLittle Copper overboard at forty-five and even forty.
"They'recatspaws for the big fellows. Almost as fast as theyrob thesuckersthe big fellows come along and hold them up. Orelse thebig fellows use them in order to rob each other. That'sthe waythe Chattanooga Coal and Iron Company was swallowed up bythe trustin the last panic. The trust made that panic. It hadto break acouple of big banking companies and squeeze half adozen bigfellowstooand it did it by stampeding thecottontails. The cottontails did the rest all rightand thetrustgathered in Chattanooga Coal and Iron. Whyany manwithnerve andsavveecan start them cottontails jumping for thebrush. I don't exactly hate them myselfbut I haven't anyregard forchicken-hearted four-flushers."
For monthsDaylight was buried in work. The outlay was terrificand therewas nothing coming in. Beyond a general rise in landvaluesOakland had not acknowledged his irruption on thefinancialscene. The city was waiting for him to show what hewas goingto doand he lost no time about it. The best skilledbrains onthe market were hired by him for the different branchesof thework. Initial mistakes he had no patience withand hewasdetermined to start rightas when he engaged Wilkinsonalmostdoubling his big salaryand brought him out from Chicagoto takecharge of the street railway organization. Night and daythe roadgangs toiled on the streets. And night and day thepile-drivershammered the big piles down into the mud of SanFranciscoBay. The pier was to be three miles longand theBerkeleyhills were denuded of whole groves of mature eucalyptusfor thepiling.
At thesame time that his electric roads were building outthroughthe hillsthe hay-fields were being surveyed and brokenup intocity squareswith here and thereaccording to bestmodernmethodswinding boulevards and strips of park. Broadstreetswell gradedwere madewith sewers and water-pipesreadylaidand macadamized from his own quarries. Cementsidewalkswere also laidso that all the purchaser had to do wasto selecthis lot and architect and start building. The quickservice ofDaylight's new electric roads into Oakland made thisbigdistrict immediately accessibleand long before the ferrysystem wasin operation hundreds of residences were going up.
The profiton this land was enormous. In a dayhis onslaught ofwealth hadturned open farming country into one of the bestresidentialdistricts of the city.
But thismoney that flowed in upon him was immediately pouredback intohis other investments. The need for electric cars wasso greatthat he installed his own shops for building them. Andeven onthe rising land markethe continued to buy choicefactorysites and building properties. On the advice ofWilkinsonpractically every electric road already in operationwasrebuilt. The lightold fashioned rails were torn out andreplacedby the heaviest that were manufactured. Corner lotsonthe sharpturns of narrow streetswere bought and ruthlesslypresentedto the city in order to make wide curves for his tracksand highspeed for his cars. Thentoothere were the main-linefeedersfor his ferry systemtapping every portion of OaklandAlamedaand Berkeleyand running fast expresses to the pierend. The same large-scale methods were employed in the watersystem. Service of the best was neededif his huge landinvestmentwas to succeed. Oakland had to be made into aworth-whilecityand that was what he intended to do. Inadditionto his big hotelshe built amusement parks for thecommonpeopleand art galleries and club-house country inns forthe morefinicky classes. Even before there was any increase inpopulationa marked increase in street-railway traffic tookplace. There was nothing fanciful about his schemes. They weresoundinvestments.
"WhatOakland wants is a first glass theatre" he saidandaftervainly trying to interest local capitalhe started thebuildingof the theatre himself; for he alone had vision for thetwohundred thousand new people that were coming to the town.
But nomatter what pressure was on Daylighthis Sundays hereservedfor his riding in the hills. It was not the winterweatherhoweverthat brought these rides with Dede to an end.OneSaturday afternoon in the office she told him not to expectto meether next dayandwhen he pressed for an explanation:
Daylightwas speechless for the moment. Her act meant one of somanyserious things that he couldn't classify it. It smackedalmost oftreachery. She might have met with financial disaster.
It mightbe her way of letting him know she had seen enough ofhim. Or...
"What'sthe matter?" he managed to ask.
"Icouldn't afford to keep her with hay forty-five dollars aton"Dede answered.
"Wasthat your only reason?" he demandedlooking at hersteadily;for he remembered her once telling him how she hadbroughtthe mare through one winterfive years beforewhen hayhad goneas high as sixty dollars a ton.
"No. My brother's expenses have been higheras welland I wasdriven tothe conclusion that since I could not afford bothI'dbetter letthe mare go and keep the brother."
Daylightfelt inexpressibly saddened. He was suddenly aware of agreatemptiness. What would a Sunday be without Dede? AndSundayswithout end without her? He drummed perplexedly on thedesk withhis fingers.
"Whobought her?" he asked. Dede's eyes flashed in the way longsincefamiliar to him when she was angry.
"Don'tyou dare buy her back for me" she cried. "And don'tdenythat thatwas what you had in mind."
"Iwon't deny it. It was my idea to a tee. But I wouldn'thavedone itwithout asking you firstand seeing how you feel aboutitIwon't even ask you. But you thought a heap of that mareand it'spretty hard on you to lose her. I'm sure sorry. AndI'm sorrytoothat you won't be riding with me tomorrow. I'llbe plumblost. I won't know what to do with myself."
"Neithershall I" Dede confessed mournfully"except that Ishall beable to catch up with my sewing."
"ButI haven't any sewing."
Daylight'stone was whimsically plaintivebut secretly he wasdelightedwith her confession of loneliness. It was almost worththe lossof the mare to get that out of her. At any ratehemeantsomething to her. He was not utterly unliked.
"Iwish you would reconsiderMiss Mason" he said softly. "Notalone forthe mare's sakebut for my sake. Money don't cut anyice inthis. For me to buy that mare wouldn't mean as it does tomost mento send a bouquet of flowers or a box of candy to ayounglady. And I've never sent you flowers or candy." Heobservedthe warning flash of her eyesand hurried on to escaperefusal. "I'll tell you what we'll do. Suppose I buy the mareand ownher myselfand lend her to you when you want to ride.There'snothing wrong in that. Anybody borrows a horse fromanybodyyou know."
Agin hesaw refusaland headed her off.
"Lotsof men take women buggy-riding. There's nothing wrong inthat. And the man always furnishes the horse and buggy. Wellnowwhat's the difference between my taking you buggy-riding andfurnishingthe horse and buggyand taking you horse-back-ridingandfurnishing the horses?"
She shookher headand declined to answerat the same timelooking atthe door as if to intimate that it was time for thisunbusinesslikeconversation to end. He made one more effort.
"Doyou knowMiss MasonI haven't a friend in the world outsideyou? I mean a real friendman or womanthe kind you chum withyou knowand that you're glad to be with and sorry to be awayfrom. Hegan is the nearest man I get toand he's a millionmiles awayfrom me. Outside businesswe don't hitch. He's gota biglibrary of booksand some crazy kind of cultureand hespends allhis off times reading things in French and German andotheroutlandish lingoes when he ain't writing plays and poetry.There'snobody I feel chummy with except youand you know howlittlewe've chummedonce a weekif it didn't rainon Sunday.I've grownkind of to depend on you. You're a sort ofofof"
"Asort of habit" she said with a smile.
"That'sabout it. And that mareand you astride of hercomingalong theroad under the trees or through the sunshinewhywithboth youand the mare missingthere won't be anything worthwaiting through the week for. If you'd just let me buy herback"
"Nono; I tell you no." Dede rose impatientlybut her eyeswere moistwith the memory of her pet. "Please don't mention herto meagain. If you think it was easy to part with heryou aremistaken. But I've seen the last of herand I want to forgether."
Daylightmade no answerand the door closed behind him.
Half anhour later he was conferring with Jonesthe erstwhileelevatorboy and rabid proletarian whom Daylight long before hadgrubstakedto literature for a year. The resulting novel hadbeen afailure. Editors and publishers would not look at itandnowDaylight was using the disgruntled author in a little privatesecretservice system he had been compelled to establish forhimself. Joneswho affected to be surprised at nothing afterhiscrushing experience with railroad freight rates on firweoodandcharcoalbetrayed no surprise now when the task was given tohim tolocate the purchaser of a certain sorrel mare.
"Howhigh shall I pay for her?" he asked.
"Anyprice. You've got to get herthat's the point. Drive asharpbargain so as not to excite suspicionbut her. Then youdeliverher to that address up in Sonoma County. The man's thecaretakeron a little ranch I have there. Tell him he's to takewhackinggood care of her. And after that forget all about it.Don't tellme the name of the man you buy her from. Don't tellmeanything about it except that you've got her and deliveredher.Savvee?"
But theweek had not passedwhen Daylight noted the flash inDede'seyes that boded trouble.
"Something'sgone wrongwhat is it?" he asked boldly.
"Mab"she said. "The man who bought her has sold her already.If Ithought you had anything to do with it"
"Idon't even know who you sold her to" was Daylight's answer."Andwhat's moreI'm not bothering my head about her. She wasyour mareand it's none of my business what you did with her.Youhaven't got herthat's sure and worse luck. And nowwhilewe're ontouchy subjectsI'm going to open another one with you.
And youneedn't get touchy about itfor it's not really yourbusinessat all."
She waitedin the pause that followedeyeing him almostsuspiciously.
"It'sabout that brother of yours. He needs more than you can dofor him. Selling that mare of yours won't send him to Germany.And that'swhat his own doctors say he needsthat crack Germanspecialistwho rips a man's bones and muscles into pulp and thenmolds themall over again. WellI want to send him to Germanyand givethat crack a flutterthat's all."
"Ifit were only possible" she saidhalf breathlesslyandwhollywithout anger. "Only it isn'tand you know it isn't. Ican'taccept money from you"
"Holdonnow" he interrupted. "Wouldn't you accept adrink ofwater fromone of the Twelve Apostles if you was dying of thirst?Or wouldyou be afraid of his evil intentions"she made agesture ofdissent "or of folks might say about it?"
"Butthat's different" she began.
"Nowlook hereMiss Mason. You've got to get some foolishnotionsout of your head. This money notion is one of thefunniestthings I've seen. Suppose you was falling over a cliffwouldn'tit be all right for me to reach out and hold you by thearm? Sure it would. But suppose you ended another sort ofhelpinsteadof the strength of armthe strength of my pocket?That wouldbe all and that's what they all say. But why do theysay it. Because the robber gangs want all the suckers to behonest andrespect money. If the suckers weren't honest anddidn'trespect moneywhere would the robbers be? Don't you see?
Therobbers don't deal in arm-holds; they deal in dollars.Thereforearm-holds are just common and ordinarywhile dollarsaresacredso sacred that you didn't let me lend you a hand witha few.
"Orhere's another way" he continuedspurred on by her muteprotest. "It's all right for me to give the strength of my armwhenyou're falling over a cliff. But if I take that samestrengthof arm and use it at pick-and-shovel work for a day andearn twodollarsyou won't have anything to do with the twodollars. Yet it's the same old strength of arm in a new formthat'sall. Besidesin this proposition it won't be a claim onyou. It ain't even a loan to you. It's an arm-hold I'm givingyourbrotherjust the same sort of arm-hold as if he was fallingover acliff. And a nice one you areto come running out andyell'Stop!' at meand let your brother go on over the cliff.What heneeds to save his legs is that crack in Germanyandthat's thearm-hold I'm offering.
"Wishyou could see my rooms. Walls all decorated with horsehairbridlesscoresof themhundreds of them. They're no use to meand theycost like Sam Scratch. But there's a lot of convictsmakingthemand I go on buying. WhyI've spent more money in asinglenight on whiskey than would get the best specialists andpay allthe expenses of a dozen cases like your brother's. Andrememberyou've got nothing to do with this. If your brotherwants tolook on it as a loanall right. It's up to himandyou've gotto stand out of the way while I pull him back fromthatcliff."
Still Dederefusedand Daylight's argument took a more painfulturn.
"Ican only guess that you're standing in your brother's way onaccount ofsome mistaken idea in your head that this is my ideaofcourting. Wellit ain't. You might as well think I'mcourtingall those convicts I buy bridles from. I haven't askedyou tomarry meand if I do I won't come trying to buy you intoconsenting. And there won't be anything underhand when I comea-asking."
Dede'sface was flushed and angry. "If you knew how ridiculousyouareyou'dstop" she blurted out. "You can make me moreuncomfortablethan any man I ever knew. Every little while yougive me tounderstand that you haven't asked me to marry you yet.
I'm notwaiting to be askedand I warned you from the first thatyou had nochance. And yet you hold it over my head that sometimesomedayyou're going to ask me to marry you. Go aheadandask menowand get your answer and get it over and done with."
He lookedat her in honest and pondering admiration. "I want youso badMiss Masonthat I don't dast to ask you now" he saidwith suchwhimsicality and earnestness as to make her throw herhead backin a frank boyish laugh. "Besidesas I told youI'mgreen atit. I never went a-courting beforeand I don't want tomake anymistakes."
"Butyou're making them all the time" she cried impulsively."Noman ever courted a woman by holding a threatened proposalover herhead like a club."
"Iwon't do it any more" he said humbly. "And anywaywe're offtheargument. My straight talk a minute ago still holds. You'restandingin your brother's way. No matter what notions you'vegot inyour headyou've got to get out of the way and give him achance. Will you let me go and see him and talk it over withhim? I'll make it a hard and fast business proposition. I'llstake himto get wellthat's alland charge him interest."
"Andjust remember one thingMiss Mason: it's HIS legnotyours."
Still sherefrained from giving her answerand Daylight went onstrengtheninghis position.
"AndrememberI go over to see him alone. He's a manand I candeal withhim better without womenfolks around. I'll go overto-morrowafternoon."
Daylighthad been wholly truthful when he told Dede that he hadno realfriends. On speaking terms with thousandson fellowshipanddrinking terms with hundredshe was a lonely man. He failedto findthe one manor group of several menwith whom he couldbe reallyintimate. Cities did not make for comradeship as didtheAlaskan trail. Besidesthe types of men were different.Scornfuland contemptuous of business men on the one handon theother hisrelations with the San Francisco bosses had been moreanalliance of expediency than anything else. He had felt moreof kinshipfor the franker brutality of the bosses and theircaptainsbut they had failed to claim any deep respect. Theywere tooprone to crookedness. Bonds were better than men's wordin thismodern worldand one had to look carefully to the bonds.
In the oldYukon days it had been different. Bonds didn't go. Aman saidhe had so muchand even in a poker game his appeasementwasaccepted.
LarryHeganwho rose ably to the largest demands of Daylight'soperationsand who had few illusions and less hypocrisymighthaveproved a chum had it not been for his temperamental twist.Strangegenius that he wasa Napoleon of the lawwith a powerofvisioning that far exceeded Daylight'she had nothing incommonwith Daylight outside the office. He spent his time withbooksathing Daylight could not abide. Alsohe devotedhimself tothe endless writing of plays which never got beyondmanuscriptformandthough Daylight only sensed the secrettaint ofitwas a confirmed but temperate eater of hasheesh.Heganlived all his life cloistered with books in a world ofagitation. With the out-of-door world he had no understandingnortolerance. In food and drink he was abstemious as a monkwhileexercise was a thing abhorrent. Daylight's friendshipsinlieu ofanything closerwere drinking friendships and roisteringfriendships. And with the passing of the Sunday rides with Dedehe fellback more and more upon these for diversion. Thecocktailwall of inhibition he reared more assiduously than ever.
The bigred motor-car was out more frequently nowwhile a stablehand washired to give Bob exercise. In his early San Franciscodaysthere had been intervals of easement between his dealsbutin thispresent biggest deal of all the strain was unremitting. Not in amonthor twoor threecould his huge land investmentbe carriedto a successful consummation. And so complete andwide-reachingwas it that complications and knotty situationsconstantlyarose. Every day brought its problemsand when hehad solvedthem in his masterful wayhe left the office in hisbig caralmost sighing with relief at anticipation of theapproachingdouble Martini. Rarely was he made tipsy. Hisconstitutionwas too strong for that. Insteadhe was thatdirest ofall drinkersthe steady drinkerdeliberate andcontrolledwho averaged a far higher quantity of alcohol thantheirregular and violent drinker. For six weeks hard-running hehad seennothing of Dede except in the officeand there heresolutelyrefrained from making approaches. But by the seventhSunday hishunger for her overmastered him. It was a stormy day.
A heavysoutheast gale was blowingand squall after squall ofrain andwind swept over the city. He could not take his mindoff ofherand a persistent picture came to him of her sittingby awindow and sewing feminine fripperies of some sort. Whenthe timecame for his first pre-luncheon cocktail to be served tohim in hisroomshe did not take it.
Filledwith a daring determinationhe glanced at his note bookfor Dede'stelephone numberand called for the switch.
At firstit was her landlady's daughter who was raisedbut in aminute heheard the voice he had been hungry to hear.
"Ijust wanted to tell you that I'm coming out to see you" hesaid. "I didn't want to break in on you without warningthatwas all."
"Hassomething happened?" came her voice.
"I'lltell you when I get there" he evaded.
He leftthe red car two blocks away and arrived on foot at theprettythree-storiedshingled Berkeley house. For an instantonlyhewas aware of an inward hesitancybut the next moment herang thebell. He knew that what he was doing was in directviolationof her wishesand that he was setting her a difficulttask toreceive as a Sunday caller the multimillionaire andnotoriousElam Harnish of newspaper fame. On the other handtheone thinghe did not expect of her was what he would have termed"sillyfemale capers."
And inthis he was not disappointed.
She cameherself to the door to receive him and shake hands withhim. He hung his mackintosh and hat on the rack in thecomfortablesquare hall and turned to her for direction.
"Theyare busy in there" she saidindicating the parlor fromwhich camethe boisterous voices of young peopleand through theopen doorof which he could see several college youths. "So youwill haveto come into my rooms."
She ledthe way through the door opening out of the hall to therightandonce insidehe stood awkwardly rooted to the floorgazingabout him and at her and all the time trying not to gaze.In hisperturbation he failed to hear and see her invitation to aseat. So these were her quarters. the intimacy of it and hermaking nofuss about it was startlingbut it was no more than hewould haveexpected of her. It was almost two rooms in onetheone he wasin evidently the sitting-roomand the one he couldsee intothe bedroom. Beyond an oaken dressing-tablewith anorderlylitter of combs and brushes and dainty feminineknickknacksthere was no sign of its being used as a bedroom.The broadcouchwith a cover of old rose and banked high withcushionshe decided must be the bedbut it was farthest fromanyexperience of a civilized bed he had ever had.
Not thathe saw much of detail in that awkward moment ofstanding. His general impression was one of warmth and comfortandbeauty. There were no carpetsand on the hardwood floor hecaught aglimpse of several wolf and coyote skins. What capturedandperceptibly held his eye for a moment was a Crouched Venusthat stoodon a Steinway upright against a background ofmountain-lionskin on the wall.
But it wasDede herself that smote most sharply upon sense andperception. He had always cherished the idea that she was verymuch awomanthe lines of her figureher hairher eyeshervoiceandbirdlike laughing ways had all contributed to this;but herein her own roomsclad in some flowingclinging gowntheemphasis of sex was startling. He had been accustomed to heronly intrim tailor suits and shirtwaistsor in riding costumeof velvetcorduroyand he was not prepared for this newrevelation. She seemed so much softerso much more pliantandtenderand lissome. She was a part of this atmosphere ofquietudeand beauty. She fitted into it just as she had fittedin withthe sober office furnishings.
"Won'tyou sit down?" she repeated.
He feltlike an animal long denied food. His hunger for herwelled upin himand he proceeded to "wolf" the dainty morselbeforehim. Here was no patienceno diplomacy. Thestraightestdirect way was none too quick for him andhad heknown itthe least unsuccessful way he could have chosen.
"Lookhere" he saidin a voice that shook with passion"there'sone thing I won't doand that's propose to you in theoffice. That's why I'm here. Dede MasonI want you. I justwantyou."
While hespoke he advanced upon herhis black eyes burning withbrightfirehis aroused blood swarthy in his cheek.
Soprecipitate was hethat she had barely time to cry out herinvoluntaryalarm and to step backat the same time catching oneof hishands as he attempted to gather her into his arms.
Incontrast to himthe blood had suddenly left her cheeks. Thehand thathad warded his off and that still held itwastrembling. She relaxed her fingersand his arm dropped to hisside. She wanted to say somethingdo somethingto pass on fromtheawkwardness of the situationbut no intelligent thought noractioncame into her mind. She was aware only of a desire tolaugh. This impulse was party hysterical and partly spontaneoushumorthelatter growing from instant to instant. Amazing asthe affairwasthe ridiculous side of it was not veiled to her.She feltlike one who had suffered the terror of the onslaught ofamurderous footpad only to find out that it was an innocentpedestrianasking the time.
Daylightwas the quicker to achieve action. "OhI know I'm asureenough fool" he said. "I-I guess I'll sit down. Don't bescairtMiss Mason. I'm not real dangerous."
"I'mnot afraid" she answeredwith a smileslipping downherselfinto a chairbeside whichon the floorstood asewing-basketfrom whichDaylight notedsome white fluffy thingof laceand muslin overflowed. Again she smiled. "Though Iconfessyou did startle me for the moment."
"It'sfunny" Daylight sighedalmost with regret; "here I amstrongenough to bend you around and tie knots in you. Here Iamusedto having my will with man and beast and anything. Andhere I amsitting in this chairas weak and helpless as a littlelamb. You sure take the starch out of me."
Dedevainly cudgeled her brains in quest of a reply to theseremarks. Insteadher thought dwelt insistently upon thesignificanceof his stepping asidein the middle of a violentproposalin order to make irrelevant remarks. What struck herwas theman's certitude. So little did he doubt that he wouldhave herthat he could afford to pause and generalize upon loveand theeffects of love.
She notedhis hand unconsciously slipping in the familiar wayinto theside coat pocket where she knew he carried his tobaccoand brownpapers.
"Youmay smokeif you want to" she said. He withdrew his handwith ajerkas if something in the pocket had stung him.
"NoI wasn't thinking of smoking. I was thinking of you.What's aman to do when he wants a woman but ask her to marryhim? That's all that I'm doing. I can't do it in style. Iknowthat. But I can use straight Englishand that's goodenough forme. I sure want you mighty badMiss Mason. You'rein my mind'most all the timenow. And what I want to knowiswelldoyou want me? That's all."
"I-Iwish you hadn't asked" she said softly.
"Mebbeit's best you should know a few things before you give meananswer" he went onignoring the fact that the answer hadalreadybeen given. "I never went after a woman before in mylifeallreports to the contrary not withstanding. The stuffyou readabout me in the papers and booksabout me being alady-killeris all wrong. There's not an iota of truth in it. Iguess I'vedone more than my share of card-playing andwhiskey-drinkingbut women I've let alone. There was a womanthatkilled herselfbut I didn't know she wanted me that bad orelse I'dhave married hernot for lovebut to keep her fromkillingherself. She was the best of the boilingbut I nevergave herany encouragement. I'm telling you all this becauseyou'veread about itand I want you to get it straight from me.
"Lady-killer!" he snorted. "WhyMiss MasonI don't mindtellingyou that I've sure been scairt of women all my life.You're thefirst one I've not been afraid of. That's the strangethingabout it. I just plumb worship youand yet I'm not afraidof you. Mebbe it's because you're different from the women Iknow. You've never chased me. Lady-killer! WhyI've beenrunningaway from ladies ever since I can rememberand Iguess allthat saved me was that I was strong in the wind andthat Inever fell down and broke a leg or anything.
"Ididn't ever want to get married until after I met youanduntil along time after I met you. I cottoned to you from thestart; butI never thought it would get as bad as marriage. WhyI can'tget to sleep nightsthinking of you and wanting you."
He came toa stop and waited. She had taken the lace and muslinfrom thebasketpossibly to settle her nerves and witsand wassewingupon it. As she was not looking at himhe devoured herwith hiseyes. He noted the firmefficient handshands thatcouldcontrol a horse like Bobthat could run a typewriteralmost asfast as a man could talkthat could sew on daintygarmentsand thatdoubtlesslycould play on the piano overthere inthe corner. Another ultra-feminine detail henoticedherslippers. They were small and bronze. He had neverimaginedshe had such a small foot. Street shoes and ridingboots wereall that he had ever seen on her feetand they hadgiven noadvertisement of this. The bronze slippers fascinatedhimandto them his eyes repeatedly turned.
A knockcame at the doorwhich she answered. Daylight could nothelphearing the conversation. She was wanted at the telephone.
"Tellhim to call up again in ten minutes" he heard her sayandthemasculine pronoun caused in him a flashing twinge ofjealousy. Wellhe decidedwhoever it wasBurning Daylightwould givehim a run for his money. The marvel to him was that agirl likeDede hadn't been married long since.
She camebacksmiling to himand resumed her sewing. His eyeswanderedfrom the efficient hands to the bronze slippers and backagainandhe swore to himself that there were mighty fewstenographerslike her in existence. That was because she musthave comeof pretty good stockand had a pretty good raising.Nothingelse could explain these rooms of hers and the clothesshe woreand the way she wore them.
"Thoseten minutes are flying" he suggested.
"Ican't marry you" she said.
"Youdon't love me?"
She shookher head.
"Doyou like methe littlest bit?"
This timeshe noddedat the same time allowing the smile ofamusementto play on her lips. But it was amusement withoutcontempt. The humorous side of a situation rarely appealed invain toher.
"Wellthat's something to go on" he announced. "You've gottomake astart to get started. I just liked you at firstand lookwhat it'sgrown into. You recollectyou said you didn't like myway oflife. WellI've changed it a heap. I ain't gamblinglike Iused to. I've gone into what you called the legitimatemaking twominutes grow where one grew beforethree hundredthousandfolks where only a hundred thousand grew before. Andthis timenext year there'll be two million eucalyptus growing onthehills. Say do you like me more than the littlest bit?"
She raisedher eyes from her work and looked at him as sheanswered:
"Ilike you a great dealbut"
He waiteda moment for her to complete the sentencefailingwhichhewent on himself.
"Ihaven't an exaggerated opinion of myselfso I know I ain'tbraggingwhen I say I'll make a pretty good husband. You'd findI was nohand at nagging and fault-finding. I can guess what itmust befor a woman like you to be independent. Wellyou'd beindependentas my wife. No strings on you. You could followyour ownsweet willand nothing would be too good for you. I'dgive youeverything your heart desired"
"Exceptyourself" she interrupted suddenlyalmost sharply.
Daylight'sastonishment was momentary.
"Idon't know about that. I'd be straight and squareand livetrue. I don't hanker after divided affections."
"Idon't mean that" she said. "Instead of givingyourself toyour wifeyou would give yourself to the three hundred thousandpeople ofOaklandto your street railways and ferry-routestothe twomillion trees on the hills to everythingbusinessandandto all that that means."
"I'dsee that I didn't" he declared stoutly. "I'd beyours tocommand."
"Youthink sobut it would turn out differently." She suddenlybecamenervous. "We must stop this talk. It is too muchlikeattemptingto drive a bargain. 'How much will you give?' 'I'llgive somuch.' 'I want more' and all that. I like youbut notenough tomarry youand I'll never like you enough to marryyou."
"Howdo you know that?" he demanded.
"BecauseI like you less and less."
Daylightsat dumfounded. The hurt showed itself plainly in hisface.
"Ohyou don't understand" she cried wildlybeginning to loseself-control"It'snot that way I mean. I do like you; the moreI've knownyou the more I've liked you. And at the same time themore I'veknown you the less would I care to marry you."
Thisenigmatic utterance completed Daylight's perplexity.
"Don'tyou see?" she hurried on. "I could have far easiermarriedthe Elam Harnish fresh from Klondikewhen I first laideyes onhim long agothan marry you sitting before me now."
He shookhis head slowly. "That's one too many for me. Themoreyou knowand like a man the less you want to marry him.Familiaritybreeds contemptI guess that's what you mean."
"Nono" she criedbut before she could continuea knock cameon thedoor.
"Theten minutes is up" Daylight said.
His eyesquick with observation like an Indian'sdarted aboutthe roomwhile she was out. The impression of warmth and comfortand beautypredominatedthough he was unable to analyze it;while thesimplicity delighted himexpensive simplicityhedecidedand most of it leftovers from the time her father wentbroke anddied. He had never before appreciated a plain hardwoodfloor witha couple of wolfskins; it sure beat all the carpets increation. He stared solemnly at a bookcase containing acCoupleof hundredbooks. There was mystery. He could not understandwhatpeople found so much to write about.
Writingthings and reading things were not the same as doingthingsand himself primarily a man of actiondoing things wasalonecomprehensible.
His gazepassed on from the Crouched Venus to a little tea-tablewith allits fragile and exquisite accessoriesand to a shiningcopperkettle and copper chafing-dish. Chafing dishes were notunknown tohimand he wondered if she concocted suppers on thisone forsome of those University young men he had heard whispersabout. One or two water-colors on the wall made him conjecturethat shehad painted them herself. There were photographs ofhorses andof old mastersand the trailing purple of a Burial ofChristheld him for a time. But ever his gaze returned to thatCrouchedVenus on the piano. To his homelyfrontier-trainedminditseemed curious that a nice young woman should have sucha boldifnot sinfulobject on display in her own room. But hereconciledhimself to it by an act of faith. Since it was Dedeit must beeminently all right. Evidently such things went alongwithculture. Larry Hegan had similar casts and photographs inhisbook-cluttered quarters. But thenLarry Hegan wasdifferent. There was that hint of unhealth about him thatDaylightinvariably sensed in his presencewhile Dedeon thecontraryseemed always so robustly wholesomeradiating anatmospherecompounded of the sun and wind and dust of the openroad. And yetif such a cleanhealthy woman as she went in fornakedwomen crouching on her pianoit must be all right. Dedemade itall right. She could come pretty close to makinganythingall right. Besideshe didn't understand cultureanyway.
Shereentered the roomand as she crossed it to her chairheadmiredthe way she walkedwhile the bronze slippers weremaddening.
"I'dlike to ask you several questions" he began immediately"Areyou thinking of marrying somebody?"
Shelaughed merrily and shook her head.
"Doyou like anybody else more than you like me?that man at the'phonejust nowfor instance?"
"Thereisn't anybody else. I don't know anybody I like wellenough tomarry. For that matterI don't think I am a marryingwoman. Office work seems to spoil one for that."
Daylightran his eyes over herfrom her face to the tip of abronzeslipperin a way that made the color mantle in hercheeks. At the same time he shook his head sceptically.
"Itstrikes me that you're the most marryingest woman that evermade a mansit up and take notice. And now another question.You seeI've just got to locate the lay of the land. Is thereanybodyyou like as much as you like me?"
But Dedehad herself well in hand.
"That'sunfair" she said. "And if you stop and consideryouwill findthat you are doing the very thing youdisclaimednamelynagging. I refuse to answer any more of yourquestions. Let us talk about other things. How is Bob?"
Half anhour laterwhirling along through the rain on TelegraphAvenuetoward OaklandDaylight smoked one of his brown-papercigarettesand reviewed what had taken place. It was not at allbadwashis summing upthough there was much about it that wasbaffling. There was that liking him the more she knew him and atthe sametime wanting to marry him less. That was a puzzler.
But thefact that she had refused him carried with it a certainelation. In refusing him she had refused his thirty milliondollars. That was going some for a ninety dollar-a-monthstenographerwho had known better ties. She wasn't after moneythat waspatent. Every woman he had encountered had seemedwilling toswallow him down for the sake of his money. Whyhehaddoubled his fortunemade fifteen millionssince the day shefirst cameto work for himand beholdany willingness to marryhim shemight have possessed had diminished as his money hadincreased.
"Gosh!"he muttered. "If I clean up a hundred million on thisland dealshe won't even be on speaking terms with me."
But hecould not smile the thing away. It remained to bafflehimthatenigmatic statement of hers that she could more easilyhavemarried the Elam Harnish fresh from the Klondike than thepresentElam Harnish. Wellhe concludedthe thing to do wasfor him tobecome more like that old-time Daylight who had comedown outof the North to try his luck at the bigger game. Butthat wasimpossible. He could not set back the flight of time.Wishingwouldn't do itand there was no other way. He might aswell wishhimself a boy again.
Anothersatisfaction he cuddled to himself from their interview.He hadheard of stenographers beforewho refused theiremployersand who invariably quit their positions immediatelyafterward. But Dede had not even hinted at such a thing. Nomatter howbaffling she wasthere was no nonsensical sillinessabouther. She was level headed. Butalsohe had beenlevel-headedand was partly responsible for this. He hadn'ttakenadvantage of her in the office. Truehe had twiceoversteppedthe boundsbut he had not followed it up and made apracticeof it. She knew she could trust him. But in spite ofall thishe was confident that most young women would have beensillyenough to resign a position with a man they had turneddown. And besidesafter he had put it to her in the rightlightshehad not been silly over his sending her brother toGermany.
"Gee!"he concludedas the car drew up before his hotel. "IfI'd onlyknown it as I do nowI'd have popped the question thefirst dayshe came to work. According to her say-sothat wouldhave beenthe proper moment. She likes me more and moreand themore shelikes me the less she'd care to marry me! Now what doyoubthinkof that? She sure must be fooling."
Onceagainon a rainy Sundayweeks afterwardDaylightproposedto Dede. As on the first timehe restrained himselfuntil hishunger for her overwhelmed him and swept him away inhis redautomobile to Berkeley. He left the machine severalblocksaway and proceeded to the house on foot. But Dede wasoutthelandlady's daughter told himand addedon secondthoughtthat she was out walking in the hills. Furthermoretheyoung ladydirected him where Dede's walk was most likely toextend.
Daylightobeyed the girl's instructionsand soon the street hefollowedpassed the last house and itself ceased where began thefirststeep slopes of the open hills. The air was damp with theon-comingof rainfor the storm had not yet burstthough therisingwind proclaimed its imminence. As far as he could seethere wasno sign of Dede on the smoothgrassy hills. To therightdipping down into a hollow and rising againwas a largefull-growneucalyptus grove. Here all was noise and movementthe loftyslender trunked trees swaying back and forth in thewind andclashing their branches together. In the squallsaboveall theminor noises of creaking and groaningarose a deepthrummingnote as of a mighty harp. Knowing Dede as he didDaylightwas confident that he would find her somewhere in thisgrovewhere the storm effects were so pronounced. And find herhe didacross the hollow and on the exposed crest of theopposingslope where the gale smote its fiercest blows.
There wassomething monotonousthough not tiresomeabout thewayDaylight proposed. Guiltless of diplomacy subterfugehe wasas directand gusty as the gale itself. had time neither forgreetingnor apology.
"It'sthe same old thing" he said. "I want you and I'vecomeforyou. You've just got to have meDedefor the more I thinkabout itthe more certain I am that you've got a Sneaking likingfor methat's something more than just Ordinary liking. And youdon't dastsay that it isn't; now dast you?"
He hadshaken hands with her at the moment he began speakingandhe hadcontinued to hold her hand. Nowwhen she did not answershe felt alight but firmly insistent pressure as of his drawingher tohim. Involuntarilyshe half-yielded to himher desirefor themoment stronger than her will. Then suddenly she drewherselfawaythough permitting her hand still to remain in his.
"Yousure ain't afraid of me?" he askedwith quick compunction.
"No." She smiled woefully. "Not of youbut of myself."
"Youhaven't taken my dare" he urged under this encouragement.
"Pleaseplease" she begged. "We can never marryso don'tletus discussit."
"ThenI copper your bet to lose." He was almost gaynowforsuccesswas coming faster than his fondest imagining. She likedhimwithout a doubt; and without a doubt she liked him wellenough tolet him hold her handwell enough to be not repelledby thenearness of him.
She shookher head. "Noit is impossible. You would lose yourbet."
For thefirst time a dark suspicion crossed Daylight's mindaclewthatexplained everything.
"Sayyou ain't been let in for some one of these secretmarriageshave you?"
Theconsternation in his voice and on his face was too much forherandher laugh rang outmerry and spontaneous as a burst ofjoy fromthe throat of a bird.
Daylightknew his answerandvexed with himself decided thataction wasmore efficient than speech. So he stepped between herand thewind and drew her so that she stood close in the shelterof him. An unusually stiff squall blew about them and thrummedoverheadin the tree-tops and both paused to listen. A shower offlyingleaves enveloped themand hard on the heel of the windcamedriving drops of rain. He looked down on her and on herhairwind-blown about her face; and because of her closeness tohim and ofa fresher and more poignant realization of what shemeant tohimhe trembled so that she was aware of it in the handthat heldhers.
Shesuddenly leaned against himbowing her head until it restedlightlyupon his breast. And so they stood while another squallwithflying leaves and scattered drops of rainrattled past.With equalsuddenness she lifted her head and looked at him.
"Doyou know" she said"I prayed last night about you. Iprayedthat you would failthat you would lose everythingeverything."
Daylightstared his amazement at this cryptic utterance. "Thatsure beatsme. I always said I got out of my depth with womenand you'vegot me out of my depth now. Why you want me to loseeverythingseeing as you like me"
"Inever said so."
"Youdidn't dast say you didn't. Soas I was saying: liking mewhy you'dwant me to go broke is clean beyond my simpleunderstanding. It's right in line with that other puzzler ofyoursthemore-you-like-me-the-less-you-want-to-marry-me one.Wellyou've just got to explainthat's all."
His armswent around her and held her closelyand this time shedid notresist. Her head was bowedand he had not see her faceyet he hada premonition that she was crying. He had learned thevirtue ofsilenceand he waited her will in the matter. Thingshad cometo such a pass that she was bound to tell him somethingnow. Of that he was confident.
"I amnot romantic" she beganagain looking at him as he spoke.
"Itmight be better for me if I were. Then I could make a foolof myselfand be unhappy for the rest of my life. But myabominablecommon sense prevents. And that doesn't make me a bithappiereither."
"I'mstill out of my depth and swimming feeble" Daylight saidafterwaiting vainly for her to go on. "You've got to show meand youain't shown me yet. Your common sense and praying thatI'd gobroke is all up in the air to me. Little womanI justlove youmighty hardand I want you to marry me. That'sstraightand simple and right off the bat. Will you marry me?"
She shookher head slowlyand thenas she talkedseemed togrowangrysadly angry; and Daylight knew that this anger wasagainsthim.
"Thenlet me explainand just as straight and simply as you haveasked." She pausedas if casting about for a beginning. "Youare honestand straightforward. Do you want me to be honest andstraightforwardas a woman is not supposed to be?to tell youthingsthat will hurt you?to make confessions that ought toshame me? to behave in what many men would think was anunwomanlymanner?"
The armaround her shoulder pressed encouragementbut he did notspeak.
"Iwould dearly like to marry youbut I am afraid. I am proudand humbleat the same time that a man like you should care forme. But you have too much money. There's where my abominablecommonsense steps in. Even if we did marryyou could never bemy manmylover and my husband. You would be your money's man.I know Iam a foolish womanbut I want my man for myself. Youwould notbe free for me. Your money possesses youtaking yourtimeyourthoughtsyour energyever thingbidding you go hereand gotheredo this and do that. Don't you see? Perhaps it'spuresillinessbut I feel that I can love muchgive muchgiveallandin returnthough I don't want allI want muchand Iwant muchmore than your money would permit you to give me.
"Andyour money destroys you; it makes you less and less nice. Iam notashamed to say that I love youbecause I shall nevermarryyou. And I loved you much when I did not know you at allwhen youfirst came down from Alaska and I first went into theoffice. You were my hero. You were the Burning Daylight of thegold-diggingsthe daring traveler and miner. And you looked it.
I don'tsee how any woman could have looked at you without lovingyouthen. But you don't look it now.
"Pleasepleaseforgive me for hurting you. You wanted straighttalkandI am giving it to you. All these last years you havebeenliving unnaturally. Youa man of the openhave beencoopingyourself up in the cities with all that that means. Youare notthe same man at alland your money is destroying you.You arebecoming something differentsomething not so healthynot socleannot so nice. Your money and your way of life aredoing it. You know it. You haven't the same body now that youhad then. You are putting on fleshand it is not healthy flesh.
You arekind and genial with meI knowbut you are not kind andgenial toall the world as you were then. You have become harshandcruel. And I know. RememberI have studied you six daysaweekmonth after monthyear after year; and I know more aboutthe mostinsignificant parts of you than you know of all of me.Thecruelty is not only in your heart and thoughtsbut it isthere inface. It has put its lines there. I have watched themcome andgrow. Your moneyand the life it compels you to leadhave doneall this. You are being brutalized and degraded. Andthisprocess can only go on and on until you are hopelesslydestroyed"
Heattempted to interruptbut she stopped himherselfbreathlessand her voice trembling.
"Nono; let me finish utterly. I have done nothing but thinkthinkthinkall these monthsever since you came riding withmeandnow that I have begun to speak I am going to speak allthat Ihave in me. I do love youbut I cannot marry you anddestroylove. You are growing into a thing that I must in theenddespise. You can't help it. More than you can possiblylovemedo youlove this business game. This businessand it's allperfectlyuselessso far as you are concernedclaims all ofyou. I sometimes think it would be easier to share you equitablywithanother woman than to share you with this business. I mighthave halfof youat any rate. But this business would claimnot halfof youbut nine-tenths of youor ninety-ninehundredths.
"Rememberthe meaning of marriage to me is not to get a man'smoney tospend. I want the man. You say you want ME. Andsuppose Iconsentedbut gave you only one-hundredth part of me.Supposethere was something else in my life that took the otherninety-ninepartsandfurthermorethat ruined my figurethatputpouches under my eyes and crows-feet in the cornersthatmade meunbeautiful to look upon and that made my spiritunbeautiful. Would you be satisfied with that one-hundredth partof me? Yet that is all you are offering me of yourself. Do youwonderthat I won't marry you?that I can't?"
Daylightwaited to see if she were quite doneand she went onagain.
"Itisn't that I am selfish. After alllove is givingnotreceiving. But I see so clearly that all my giving could not doyou anygood. You are like a sick man. You don't play businesslike othermen. You play it heart and and all of you. No matterwhat youbelieved and intended a wife would be only a briefdiversion. There is that magnificent Bobeating his head off inthestable. You would buy me a beautiful mansion and leave me init to yawnmy head offor cry my eyes out because of myhelplessnessand inability to save you. This disease of businesswould becorroding you and marring you all the time. You play itas youhave played everything elseas in Alaska you played thelife ofthe trail. Nobody could be permitted to travel as fastand as faras youto work as hard or endure as much. You holdbacknothing; you put all you've got into whatever you aredoing."
"Limitis the sky" he grunted grim affirmation.
"Butif you would only play the lover-husband that way"
Her voicefaltered and stoppedand a blush showed in her wetcheeks asher eyes fell before his.
"Andnow I won't say another word" she added. "I've delivered awholesermon."
She restednowfrankly and fairlyin the shelter of his armsand bothwere oblivious to the gale that rushed past them inquickerand stronger blasts. The big downpour of rain had notyet comebut the mist-like squalls were more frequent. Daylightwas openlyperplexedand he was still perplexed when he began tospeak.
"I'mstumped. I'm up a tree. I'm clean flabbergastedMissMasonorDedebecause I love to call you that name. I'm freeto confessthere's a mighty big heap in what you say. As Iunderstandityour conclusion is that you'd marry me if I hadn'ta cent andif I wasn't getting fat. Nono; I'm not joking. Iacknowledgethe cornand that's just my way of boiling thematterdown and summing it up. If I hadn't a centand if I wasliving ahealthy life with all the time in the world to love youand beyour husband instead of being awash to my back teeth inbusinessand all the restwhyyou'd marry me.
"That'sall as clear as printand you're correcter than I everguessedbefore. You've sure opened my eyes a few. But I'mstuck. What can I do? My business has sure ropedthrownandbrandedme. I'm tied hand and footand I can't get up andmeanderover green pastures. I'm like the man that got the bearby thetail. I can't let go; and I want youand I've got to letgo to getyou.
"Idon't know what to dobut something's sure got to happenIcan't loseyou. I just can't. And I'm not going to. Whyyou'rerunning business a close second right now. Business neverkept meawake nights.
"You'veleft me no argument. I know I'm not the same man thatcame fromAlaska. I couldn't hit the trail with the dogs as Idid inthem days. I'm soft in my musclesand my mind's gonehard. I used to respect men. I despise them now. You seeIspent allmy life in the openand I reckon I'm an open-air man.WhyI'vegot the prettiest little ranch you ever laid eyes onup in GlenEllen. That's where I got stuck for that brick-yard.Yourecollect handling the correspondence. I only laid eyes onthe ranchthat one timeand I so fell in love with it that Ibought itthere and then. I just rode around the hillsand washappy as akid out of school. I'd be a better man living in thecountry. The city doesn't make me better. You're plumb rightthere. I know it. But suppose your prayer should be answeredand I'd goclean broke and have to work for day's wages?"
She didnot answerthough all the body of her seemed to urgeconsent.
"SupposeI had nothing left but that little ranchand wassatisfiedto grow a few chickens and scratch a living somehow--would youmarry me thenDede?"
"Whywe'd be together all the time!" she cried.
"ButI'd have to be out ploughing once in a whilehe warned"ordriving totown to get the grub."
"Butthere wouldn't be the officeat any rateand no man toseeandmen to see without end. But it is all foolish andimpossibleand we'll have to be starting back now if we're toescape therain."
Then wasthe momentamong the treeswhere they began thedescent ofthe hillthat Daylight might have drawn her closelyto him andkissed her once. But he was too perplexed with thenewthoughts she had put into his head to take advantage of thesituation. He merely caught her by the arm and helped her overtherougher footing.
"It'sdarn pretty country up there at Glen Ellen" he saidmeditatively. "I wish you could see it."
At theedge of the grove he suggested that it might be better forthem topart there.
"It'syour neighborhoodand folks is liable to talk."
But sheinsisted that he accompany her as far as the house.
"Ican't ask you in" she saidextending her hand at the foot ofthe steps.
The windwas humming wildly in sharply recurrent gustsbut stillthe rainheld off.
"Doyou know" he said"taking it by and largeit's thehappiestday of my life." He took off his hatand the windrippledand twisted his black hair as he went on solemnly"AndI'm suregrateful to Godor whoever or whatever is responsiblefor yourbeing on this earth. For you do like me heaps. It'sbeen myjoy to hear you say so to-day. It's" He left thethoughtarrestedand his face assumed the familiar whimsicalexpressionas he murmured: "DedeDedewe've just got to getmarried. It's the only wayand trust to luck for it's comingout allright".
But thetears were threatening to rise in her eyes againas sheshook herhead and turned and went up the steps.
When theferry system began to runand the time between Oaklandand SanFrancisco was demonstrated to be cut in halfthe tide ofDaylight'sterrific expenditure started to turn. Not that itreally didturnfor he promptly went into further investments.Thousandsof lots in his residence tracts were soldandthousandsof homes were being built. Factory sites also weresellingand business properties in the heart of Oakland. Allthistended to a steady appreciation in value of Daylight's hugeholdings. Butas of oldhe had his hunch and was riding it.Already hehad begun borrowing from the banks. The magnificentprofits hemade on the land he sold were turned into more landinto moredevelopment; and instead of paying off old loanshecontractednew ones. As he had pyramided in Dawson Cityhe nowpyramidedin Oakland; but he did it with the knowledge that itwas astable enterprise rather than a risky placer-mining boom.
In a smallwayother men were following his leadbuying andsellingland and profiting by the improvement work he was doing.But thiswas to be expectedand the small fortunes they weremaking athis expense did not irritate him. There was anexceptionhowever. One Simon Dolliverwith money to go inwithandwith cunning and courage to back it upbade fair tobecome aseveral times millionaire at Daylight's expense.Dollivertoopyramidedplaying quickly and accuratelyandkeepinghis money turning over and over. More than once Daylightfound himin the wayas he himself had got in the way of theGuggenhammerswhen they first set their eyes on Ophir Creek.
Work onDaylight's dock system went on apaceyet was one ofthoseenterprises that consumed money dreadfully and that couldnot beaccomplished as quickly as a ferry system. Theengineeringdifficulties were greatthe dredging and filling acyclopeantask. The mere item of piling was anything but small.A goodaverage pileby the time it was delivered on the groundcost atwenty-dollar gold pieceand these piles were used inunendingthousands. All accessible groves of mature eucalyptuswere usedand as wellgreat rafts of pine piles were towed downthe coastfrom Peugeot Sound.
Notcontent with manufacturing the electricity for his streetrailwaysin the old-fashioned wayin power-housesDaylightorganizedthe Sierra and Salvador Power Company. Thisimmediatelyassumed large proportions. Crossing the San JoaquinValley onthe way from the mountainsand plunging through theContraCosta hillsthere were many townsand even a robustcitythatcould be supplied with poweralso with light; and itbecame astreet- and house-lighting project as well. As soon asthepurchase of power sites in the Sierras was rushed throughthe surveyparties were out and building operations begun.
And so itwent. There were a thousand maws into which he pouredunceasingstreams of money. But it was all so sound andlegitimatethat Daylightborn gambler that he wasand with hisclearwide visioncould not play softly and safely. It was abigopportunityand to him there was only one way to play itand thatwas the big way. Nor did his one confidential adviserLarryHeganaid him to caution. On the contraryit wasDaylightwho was compelled to veto the wilder visions of thatablehasheesh dreamer. Not only did Daylight borrow heavily fromthe banksand trust companiesbut on several of his corporationshe wascompelled to issue stock. He did this grudgingly howeverandretained most of his big enterprises of his own. Among thecompaniesin which he reluctantly allowed the investing public tojoin werethe Golden Gate Dock Companyand Recreation ParksCompanythe United Water Companythe Uncial ShipbuildingCompanyand the Sierra and Salvador Power Company.Neverthelessbetween himself and Heganhe retained thecontrollingshare in each of these enterprises.
His affairwith Dede Mason only seemed to languish. Whiledelayingto grapple with the strange problem it presentedhisdesire forher continued to grow. In his gambling similehisconclusionwas that Luck had dealt him the most remarkable cardin thedeckand that for years he had overlooked it. Love wasthe cardand it beat them all. Love was the king card oftrumpsthe fifth acethe joker in a game of tenderfoot poker.It was thecard of cardsand play it he wouldto the limitwhen theopening came. He could not see that opening yet. Thepresentgame would have to play to some sort of a conclusionfirst.
Yet hecould not shake from his brain and vision the warmrecollectionof those bronze slippersthat clinging gownandall thefeminine softness and pliancy of Dede in her prettyBerkeleyrooms. Once againon a rainy Sundayhe telephonedthat hewas coming. Andas has happened ever since man firstlookedupon woman and called her goodagain he played the blindforce ofmale compulsion against the woman's secret weakness toyield. Not that it was Daylight's way abjectly to beg andentreat. On the contraryhe was masterful in whatever he didbut he hada trick of whimsical wheedling that Dede found harderto resistthan the pleas of a suppliant lover. It was not ahappyscene in its outcomefor Dedein the throes of her owndesiredesperate with weakness and at the same time with herbetterjudgment hating her weakness cried out:
"Youurge me to try a chanceto marry you now and trust to luckfor it tocome out right. And life is a gamble say. Very welllet usgamble. Take a coin and toss it in the air. If it comesheadsI'll marry you. If it doesn'tyou are forever to leaveme aloneand never mention marriage again."
A fire ofmingled love and the passion of gambling came intoDaylight'seyes. Involuntarily his hand started for his pocketfor thecoin. Then it stoppedand the light in his eyes wastroubled.
"Goon" she ordered sharply. "Don't delayor I maychange mymindandyou will lose the chance."
"Littlewoman." His similes were humorousbut there was nohumor intheir meaning. His thought was as solemn as his voice."LittlewomanI'd gamble all the way from Creation to the Day ofJudgment;I'd gamble a golden harp against another man's halo;I'd tossfor pennies on the front steps of the New Jerusalem orset up afaro layout just outside the Pearly Gates; but I'll beeverlastinglydamned if I'll gamble on love. Love's too big tome to takea chance on. Love's got to be a sure thingandbetweenyou and me it is a sure thing. If the odds was a hundredto one onmy winning this flipjust the samenary a flip."
In thespring of the year the Great Panic came on. The firstwarningwas when the banks began calling in their unprotectedloans. Daylight promptly paid the first several of his personalnotes thatwere presented; then he divined that these demands butindicatedthe way the wind was going to blowand that one ofthoseterrific financial storms he had heard about was soon tosweep overthe United States. How terrific this particular stormwas to behe did not anticipate. Neverthelesshe took everyprecautionin his powerand had no anxiety about his weatheringit out.
Money grewtighter. Beginning with the crash of several of thegreatestEastern banking housesthe tightness spreaduntilevery bankin the country was calling in its credits. Daylightwascaughtand caught because of the fact that for the firsttime hehad been playing the legitimate business game. In theold dayssuch a panicwith the accompanying extreme shrinkageof valueswould have been a golden harvest time for him. As itwashewatched the gamblerswho had ridden the wave ofprosperityand made preparation for the slumpgetting out fromunder andsafely scurrying to cover or proceeding to reap adoubleharvest. Nothing remained for him but to stand fast andhold up.
He saw thesituation clearly. When the banks demanded that hepay hisloanshe knew that the banks were in sore need of themoney. But he was in sorer need. And he knew that the banks didnot wanthis collateral which they held. It would do them nogood. In such a tumbling of values was no time to sell. Hiscollateralwas goodall of iteminently sound and worth while;yet it wasworthless at such a momentwhen the one unceasing crywas moneymoneymoney. Finding him obduratethe banksdemandedmore collateraland as the money pinch tightened theyasked fortwo and even three times as much as had been originallyaccepted. Sometimes Daylight yielded to these demandsbut moreoften notand always battling fiercely.
He foughtas with clay behind a crumbling wall. All portions ofthe wallwere menacedand he went around constantlystrengtheningthe weakest parts with clay. This clay was moneyand wasapplieda sop here and a sop thereas fast as it wasneededbut only when it was directly needed. The strength ofhisposition lay in the Yerba Buena Ferry CompanytheConsolidatedStreet Railwaysand the United Water Company.Thoughpeople were no longer buying residence lots and factoryandbusiness sitesthey were compelled to ride on his cars andferry-boatsand to consume his water. When all the financialworld wasclamoring for money and perishing through lack of itthe firstof each month many thousands of dollars poured into hiscoffersfrom the water-ratesand each day ten thousand dollarsin dimeand nickelscame in from his street railways andferries.
Cash waswhat was wantedand had he had the use of all thissteadyriver of cashall would have been well with him. As itwashehad to fight continually for a portion of it.Improvementwork ceasedand only absolutely essential repairsweremade. His fiercest fight was with the operating expensesand thiswas a fight that never ended. There was never anylet-up inhis turning the thumb-screws of extended credit andeconomy. From the big wholesale suppliers down through thesalarylist to office stationery and postage stampshe kept thethumb-screwsturning. When his superintendents and heads ofdepartmentsperformed prodigies of cutting downhe patted themon theback and demanded more. When they threw down their handsindespairhe showed them how more could be accomplished.
"Youare getting eight thousand dollars a year" he toldMatthewson. "It's better pay than you ever got in your lifebefore. Your fortune is in the same sack with mine. You've gotto standfor some of the strain and risk. You've got personalcredit inthis town. Use it. Stand off butcher and baker andall therest. Savvee? You're drawing down something like sixhundredand sixty dollars a month. I want that cash. From nowonstandeverybody off and draw down a hundred. I'll pay youintereston the rest till this blows over."
Two weekslaterwith the pay-roll before themit was:
"Matthewsonwho's this bookkeeperRogers? Your nephew? Ithoughtso. He's pulling down eighty-five a month. Afterthislet himdraw thirty-five. The forty can ride with me atinterest."
"Impossible!" Matthewson cried. "He can't make ends meet onhis salaryas it isand he has a wife and two kids"
Daylightwas upon him with a mighty oath.
"Can't!Impossible! What in hell do you think I'm running? Ahome forfeeble-minded? Feeding and dressing and wiping thelittlenoses of a lot of idiots that can't take care ofthemselves? Not on your life. I'm hustlingand now's the timethateverybody that works for me has got to hustle. I want nofair-weatherbirds holding down my office chairs or anythingelse. This is nasty weatherdamn nasty weatherand they've gotto buckinto it just like me. There are ten thousand men out ofwork inOakland right nowand sixty thousand more in SanFrancisco. Your nephewand everybody else on your pay-rollcando as Isay right now or quit. Savvee? If any of them getstuckyougo around yourself and guarantee their credit with thebutchersand grocers. And you trim down that pay-rollaccordingly. I've been carrying a few thousand folks that'llhave tocarry themselves for a while nowthat's all."
"Yousay this filter's got to be replaced" he told his chief ofthewater-works. "We'll see about it. Let the people ofOaklanddrink mudfor a change. It'll teach them to appreciate goodwater. Stop work at once. Get those men off the pay-roll.Cancel allorders for material. The contractors will sue? Let'em sueand be damned. We'll be busted higher'n a kite or oneasystreet before they can get judgment."
"Takeoff that owl boat. Let the public roar and come home earlyto itswife. And there's that last car that connects with the12:45 boatat Twenty-second and Hastings. Cut it out. I can'trun it fortwo or three passengers. Let them take an earlierboat homeor walk. This is no time for philanthropy. And youmight aswell take off a few more cars in the rush hours. Letthestrap-hangers pay. It's the strap-hangers that'll keep usfromgoingunder."
And toanother chiefwho broke down under the excessive strainofretrenchment:-
"Yousay I can't do that and can't do this. I'll just show you afew of thelatest patterns in the can-and-can't line. You'll becompelledto resign? All rightif you think so I never saw theman yetthat I was hard up for. And when any man thinks I can'tget alongwithout himI just show him the latest pattern in thatline ofgoods and give him his walking-papers."
And so hefought and drove and bullied and even wheedled his wayalong. It was fightfightfightand no let-upfrom the firstthing inthe morning till nightfall. His private office sawthrongsevery day. All men came to see himor were ordered tocome. Now it was an optimistic opinion on the panica funnystoryaserious business talkor a straight take-it-or-leave-itblow fromthe shoulder. And there was nobody to relieve him. Itwas a caseof drivedrivedriveand he alone could do thedriving. And this went on day after daywhile the wholebusinessworld rocked around him and house after house crashed totheground.
"It'sall rightold man" he told Hegan every morning; and itwas thesame cheerful word that he passed out all day longexcept atsuch times when he was in the thick of fighting to havehis willwith persons and things.
Eighto'clock saw him at his desk each morning. By ten o'clockit wasinto the machine and away for a round of the banks. Andusually inthe machine with him was the ten thousand and moredollarsthat had been earned by his ferries and railways the daybefore. This was for the weakest spot in the financial dike.And withone bank president after another similar scenes wereenacted. They were paralyzed with fearand first of all heplayed hisrole of the big vital optimist. Times were improving.
Of coursethey were. The signs were already in the air. Allthatanybody had to do was to sit tight a little longer and holdon. That was all. Money was already more active in the East.Look atthe trading on Wall Street of the last twenty-four hours.
That wasthe straw that showed the wind. Hadn't Ryan said so andso? and wasn't it reported that Morgan was preparing to do thisand that?
As forhimselfweren't the street-railway earnings increasingsteadily? In spite of the panicmore and more people werecoming toOakland right along. Movements were already beginningin realestate. He was dickering even then to sell over athousandof his suburban acres. Of course it was at a sacrificebut itwould ease the strain on all of them and bolster up thefaint-hearted. That was the troublethe faint-hearts. Hadtherebeen nofaint-hearts there would have been no panic. There wasthatEastern syndicatenegotiating with him now to take themajorityof the stock in the Sierra and Salvador Power Companyoff hishands. That showed confidence that better times were athand.
And if itwas not cheery discoursebut prayer and entreaty orshow downand fight on the part of the banksDaylight had tocounter inkind. If they could bullyhe could bully. If thefavor heasked were refusedit became the thing he demanded.And whenit came down to raw and naked fightingwith the lastveil ofsentiment or illusion torn offhe could take theirbreathsaway.
But heknewalsohow and when to give in. When he saw the wallshakingand crumbling irretrievably at a particular placehepatched itup with sops of cash from his three cash-earningcompanies. If the banks wenthe went too. It was a case oftheirhaving to hold out. If they smashed and all the collateralthey heldof his was thrown on the chaotic marketit would bethe end. And so it wasas the time passedthat on occasion hisredmotor-car carriedin addition to the daily cashthe mostgilt-edgedsecurities he possessed; namelythe Ferry CompanyUnitedWater and Consolidated Railways. But he did thisreluctantlyfighting inch by inch.
As he toldthe president of the Merchants San Antonio who madethe pleaof carrying so many others:
"They'resmall fry. Let them smash. I'm the king pin here.You've gotmore money to make out of me than them. Of courseyou'recarrying too muchand you've got to choosethat's all.It's roothog or die for you or them. I'm too strong to smash.You couldonly embarrass me and get yourself tangled up. Yourway out isto let the small fry goand I'll lend you a hand todo it."
And it wasDaylightalsoin this time of financial anarchywhosized upSimon Dolliver's affairs and lent the hand that sentthat rivaldown in utter failure. The Golden Gate National wasthekeystone of Dolliver's strengthand to the president of thatinstitutionDaylight said:
"HereI've been lending you a handand you now in the lastditchwith Dolliver riding on you and me all the time. It don'tgo. You hear meit don't go. Dolliver couldn't cough up elevendollars tosave you. Let him get off and walkand I'll tell youwhat I'lldo. I'll give you the railway nickels for fourdaysthat'sforty thousand cash. And on the sixth of the monthyou cancount on twenty thousand more from the Water Company." Heshrugged his shoulders. "Take it or leave it. Them'smyterms."
"It'sdog eat dogand I ain't overlooking any meat that'sfloatingaround" Daylight proclaimed that afternoon to Hegan;and SimonDolliver went the way of the unfortunate in the GreatPanic whowere caught with plenty of paper and no money.
Daylight'sshifts and devices were amazing. Nothing howeverlarge orsmallpassed his keen sight unobserved. The strain hewas underwas terrific. He no longer ate lunch. The days weretoo shortand his noon hours and his office were as crowded asat anyother time. By the end of the day he was exhaustedandas neverbeforehe sought relief behind his wall of alcoholicinhibition. Straight to his hotel he was drivenand straight tohis roomshe wentwhere immediately was mixed for him the firstof aseries of double Martinis. By dinnerhis brain was wellcloudedand the panic forgotten. By bedtimewith the assistanceof Scotchwhiskeyhe was fullnot violently nor uproariouslyfullnorstupefiedbut merely well under the influence of apleasantand mild anesthetic.
Nextmorning he awoke with parched lips and mouthand withsensationsof heaviness in his head which quickly passed away.By eighto'clock he was at his deskbuckled down to the fightby teno'clock on his personal round of the banksand afterthatwithout a moment's cessationtill nightfallhe washandlingthe knotty tangles of industryfinanceand humannaturethat crowded upon him. And with nightfall it was back tothe hotelthe double Martinis and the Scotch; and this was hisprogramday after day until the days ran into weeks.
ThoughDaylight appeared among his fellows hearty voicedinexhaustiblespilling over with energy and vitalitydeep downhe was avery weary man. And sometime under the liquor drugsnatchesof wisdom came to him far more lucidity than in hissobermomentsasfor instanceone nightwhen he sat on theedge ofthe bed with one shoe in his hand and meditated on Dede'saphorismto the effect that he could not sleep in more than onebed at atime. Still holding the shoehe looked at the array ofhorsehairbridles on the walls. Thencarrying the shoehe gotup andsolemnly counted themjourneying into the two adjoiningrooms tocomplete the tale. Then he came back to the bed andgravelyaddressed his shoe:
"Thelittle woman's right. Only one bed at a time. One hundredand fortyhair bridlesand nothing doing with ary one of them.One bridleat a time! I can't ride one horse at a time. Poorold Bob. I'd better be sending you out to pasture. Thirtymilliondollarsand a hundred million or nothing in sightandwhat haveI got to show for it? There's lots of things moneycan'tbuy. It can't buy the little woman. It can't buycapacity. What's the good of thirty millions when I ain't gotroom formore than a quart of cocktails a day? If I had ahundred-quart-cocktailthirstit'd be different. But onequartonemeasly little quart! Here I ama thirty times overmillionaireslaving harder every day than any dozen men thatwork formeand all I get is two meals that don't taste goodone bedaquart of Martiniand a hundred and forty hair bridlesto look aton the wall."
He staredaround at the array disconsolately. "Mr. ShoeI'msizzled. Good night."
Far worsethan the controlledsteady drinker is the solitarydrinkerand it was this that Daylight was developing into. Herarelydrank sociably any morebut in his own roomby himself.Returningweary from each day's unremitting efforthe druggedhimself tosleepknowing that on the morrow he would rise upwith a dryand burning mouth and repeat the program.
But thecountry did not recover with its wonted elasticity.Money didnot become freerthough the casual reader ofDaylight'snewspapersas well as of all the other owned andsubsidisednewspapers in the countrycould only have concludedthat themoney tightness was over and that the panic was pasthistory. All public utterances were cheery and optimisticbutprivatelymany of the utters were in desperate straits. Thescenesenacted in the privacy of Daylight's officeand of themeetingsof his boards of directorswould have given the lie totheeditorials in his newspapers; asfor instancewhen headdressedthe big stockholders in the Sierra and Salvador PowerCompanythe United Water Companyand the several other stockcompanies:
"You'vegot to dig. You've got a good thingbut you'll have tosacrificein order to hold on. There ain't no use spouting hardtimesexplanations. Don't I know the hard times is on? Ain'tthat whatyou're here for? As I said beforeyou've got to dig.I run themajority stockand it's come to a case of assess.It's thator smash. If ever I start going you won't know whatstruckyouI'll smash that hard. The small fry can let gobutyou bigones can't. This ship won't sink as long as you staywith her. But if you start to leave herdown you'll sure gobefore youcan get to shore. This assessment has got to be metthat'sall."
The bigwholesale supply housesthe caterers for his hotelsandall thecrowd that incessantly demanded to be paidhad their hothalf-hourswith him. He summoned them to his office anddisplayedhis latest patterns of can and can't and will andwon't.
"ByGodyou've got to carry me!" he told them. "If youthinkthis is apleasant little game of parlor whist and that you canquit andgo home whenever you wantyou're plumb wrong. LookhereWatkinsyou remarked five minutes ago that you wouldn'tstand forit. Now let me tell you a few. You're going to standfor it andkeep on standin's for it. You're going to continuesupplyingme and taking my paper until the pinch is over. Howyou'regoing to do it is your troublenot mine. You rememberwhat I didto Klinkner and the Altamont Trust Company? I knowthe insideof your business better than you do yourselfand ifyou try todrop me I'll smash you. Even if I'd be going to smashmyselfI'd find a minute to turn on you and bring you down withme. It's sink or swim for all of usand I reckon you'll find itto yourinterest to keep me on top the puddle."
Perhapshis bitterest fight was with the stockholders of theUnitedWater Companyfor it was practically the whole of thegrossearnings of this company that he voted to lend to himselfand usedto bolster up his wide battle front. Yet he neverpushed hisarbitrary rule too far. Compelling sacrifice from themen whosefortunes were tied up with hisnevertheless when anyone ofthem was driven to the wall and was in dire needDaylightwas thereto help him back into the line. Only a strong mancould havesaved so complicated a situation in such time ofstressand Daylight was that man. He turned and twistedschemedand devisedbludgeoned and bullied the weaker oneskeptthefaint-hearted in the fightand had no mercy on the deserter.
And in theendwhen early summer was oneverything began tomend. Came a day when Daylight did the unprecedented. He leftthe officean hour earlier than usualand for the reason thatfor thefirst time since the panic there was not an item of workwaiting tobe done. He dropped into Hegan's private officebeforeleavingfor a chatand as he stood up to gohe said:
"Heganwe're all hunkadory. We're pulling out of the financialpawnshopin fine shapeand we'll get out without leaving oneunredeemedpledge behind. The worst is overand the end is insight. Just a tight rein for a couple more weeksjust a bit ofa pinch ora flurry or so now and thenand we can let go andspit onour hands."
For oncehe varied his program. Instead of going directly to hishotelhestarted on a round of the bars and cafesdrinking acocktailhere and a cocktail thereand two or three when heencounteredmen he knew. It was after an hour or so of this thathe droppedinto the bar of the Parthenon for one last drinkbeforegoing to dinner. By this time all his being waspleasantlywarmed by the alcoholand he was in the most genialand bestof spirits. At the corner of the bar several young menwere up tothe old trick of resting their elbows and attemptingto forceeach other's hands down. One broad-shouldered younggiantnever removed his elbowbut put down every hand that cameagainsthim. Daylight was interested.
"It'sSlosson" the barkeeper told himin answer to his query."He'sthe heavy-hammer thrower at the U.C. Broke all recordsthis yearand the world's record on top of it. He's a husky allright allright."
Daylightnodded and went over to himplacing his own arm inopposition.
"I'dlike to go you a fluttersonon that proposition" hesaid.
The youngman laughed and locked hands with him; and toDaylight'sastonishment it was his own hand that was forced downon the bar
"Holdon" he muttered. "Just one more flutter. Ireckon Iwasn'tjust ready that time."
Again thehands locked. It happened quickly. The offensiveattack ofDaylight's muscles slipped instantly into defenseandresistingvainlyhis hand was forced over and down. Daylightwasdazed. It had been no trick. The skill was equalorifanythingthe superior skill had been his. Strengthsheerstrengthhad done it. He called for the drinksandstilldazed andponderingheld up his own armand looked at it as atsome newstrange thing. He did not know this arm. It certainlywas notthe arm he had carried around with him all the years.The oldarm? Whyit would have been play to turn down thatyounghusky's. But this armhe continued to look at it withsuchdubiousperplexity as to bring a roar of laughter from the youngmen.
Thislaughter aroused him. He joined in it at firstand thenhis faceslowly grew grave. He leaned toward the hammer-thrower.
"Son"he said"let me whisper a secret. Get out of here andquitdrinking before you begin."
The youngfellow flushed angrilybut Daylight held steadily on.
"Youlisten to your dadand let him say a few. I'm a young manmyselfonly I ain't. Let me tell youseveral years ago for meto turnyour hand down would have been like committing assaultandbattery on a kindergarten."
Slossonlooked his incredulitywhile the others grinned andclusteredaround Daylight encouragingly.
"SonI ain't given to preaching. This is the first time I evercome tothe penitent formand you put me there yourselfhard.I've seena few in my timeand I ain't fastidious so as you cannoticeit. But let me tell you right not that I'm worth thedevilalone knows how many millionsand that I'd sure give itallrighthere on the barto turn down your hand. Which meansI'd givethe whole shooting match just to be back where I wasbefore Iquit sleeping under the stars and come into thehen-coopsof citiesto drink cocktails and lift up my feet and ride.Sonthat's that's the matter with meand that's the way I feelabout it. The game ain't worth the candle. You just take careofyourselfand roll my advice over once in a while. Good night."
He turnedand lurched out of the placethe moral effect of hisutterancelargely spoiled by the fact that he was so patentlyfull whilehe uttered it.
Still in adazeDaylight made to his hotelaccomplished hisdinnerand prepared for bed.
"Thedamned young whippersnapper!" he muttered. "Put myhanddown easyas you please. My hand!"
He held upthe offending member and regarded it with stupidwonder. The hand that had never been beaten! The hand that hadmade theCircle City giants wince! And a kid from collegewithalaugh onhis facehad put it downtwice! Dede was right. Hewas notthe same man. The situation would bear more seriouslookinginto than he had ever given it. But this was not thetime. In the morningafter a good sleephe would give itconsideration.
Daylightawoke with the familiar parched mouth and lips andthroattook a long drink of water from the pitcher beside hisbedandgathered up the train of thought where he had left itthe nightbefore. He reviewed the easement of the financialstrain. Things were mending at last. While the going was stillroughthegreatest dangers were already past. As he had toldHeganatight rein and careful playing were all that was needednow. Flurries and dangers were bound to comebut not so graveas theones they had already weathered. He had been hit hardbut he wascoming through without broken boneswhich was morethan SimonDolliver and many another could say. And not one ofhisbusiness friends had been ruined. He had compelled them tostay inline to save himselfand they had been saved as well.
His mindmoved on to the incident at the corner of the bar of theParthenonwhen the young athlete had turned his hand down. Hewas nolonger stunned by the eventbut he was shocked andgrievedas only a strong man can beat this passing of hisstrength. And the issue was too clear for him to dodgeevenwithhimself. He knew why his hand had gone down. Not becausehe was anold man. He was just in the first flush of his primeandbyrightsit was the hand of the hammer-thrower whichshouldhave gone down. Daylight knew that he had taken libertieswithhimself. He had always looked upon this strength of his aspermanentand herefor yearsit had been steadily oozing fromhim. As he had diagnosed ithe had come in from under the starsto roostin the coops of cities. He had almost forgotten how towalk. He had lifted up his feet and been ridden around inautomobilescabs and carriagesand electric cars. He had notexercisedand he had dry-rotted his muscles with alcohol.
And was itworth it? What did all his money mean after all?Dede wasright. It could buy him no more than one bed at a timeand at thesame time it made him the abjectest of slaves. Ittied himfast. He was tied by it right now. Even if he sodesiredhe could not lie abed this very day. His money calledhim. The office whistle would soon blowand he must answer it.The earlysunshine was streaming through his windowa fine dayfor a ridein the hills on Bobwith Dede beside him on her Mab.Yet allhis millions could not buy him this one day. One ofthoseflurries might come alongand he had to be on the spot tomeet it. Thirty millions! And they were powerless to persuadeDede toride on MabMabwhom he had boughtand who was unusedandgrowing fat on pasture. What were thirty millions when theycould notbuy a man a ride with the girl he loved? Thirtymillions!thatmade him come here and go therethat rode uponhim likeso many millstonesthat destroyed him while they grewthat puttheir foot down and prevented him from winning this girlwho workedfor ninety dollars a month.
Which wasbetter? he asked himself. All this was Dede's ownthought. It was what she had meant when she prayed he would gobroke. He held up his offending right arm. It wasn't the sameold arm. Of course she could not love that arm and that body asshe hadloved the strongclean arm and body of years before. Hedidn'tlike that arm and body himself. A young whippersnapperhad beenable to take liberties with it. It had gone back onhim. He sat up suddenly. Noby Godhe had gone back on it!He hadgone back on himself. He had gone back on Dede. She wasrightathousand times rightand she had sense enough to knowitsenseenough to refuse to marry a money slave with awhiskey-rottedcarcass.
He got outof bed and looked at himself in the long mirror on thewardrobedoor. He wasn't pretty. The old-time lean cheeksweregone. These were heavyseeming to hang down by their ownweight. He looked for the lines of cruelty Dede had spoken ofand hefound themand he found the harshness in the eyes aswelltheeyes that were muddy now after all the cocktails of thenightbeforeand of the months and years before. He looked attheclearly defined pouches that showed under his eyesandthey'veshocked him. He rolled up the sleeve of his pajamas. Nowonder thehammer-thrower had put his hand down. Those weren'tmuscles. A rising tide of fat had submerged them. He strippedoff thepajama coat. Again he was shockedthis time but thebulk ofhis body. It wasn't pretty. The lean stomach had becomea paunch. The ridged muscles of chest and shoulders and abdomenhad brokendown into rolls of flesh.
He satdown on the bedand through his mind drifted pictures ofhisyouthful excellenceof the hardships he had endured overother menof the Indians and dogs he had run off their legs intheheart-breaking days and nights on the Alaskan trailof thefeats ofstrength that had made him king over a husky race offrontiersmen.
And thiswas age. Then there drifted across the field of visionof hismind's eye the old man he had encountered at Glen Ellencorning upthe hillside through the fires of sunsetwhite-headedandwhite-beardedeighty-fourin his hand the pail of foamingmilk andin his face all the warm glow and content of the passingsummerday. That had been age. "Yes sireeeighty-fourandspryerthan most" he could hear the old man say. "And Iain'tloafednone. I walked across the Plains with an ox-team and fitInjuns in'51and I was a family man then with sevenyoungsters."
Next heremembered the old woman of the chaparralpressinggrapes inher mountain clearing; and Fergusonthe little man whohadscuttled into the road like a rabbitthe one-time managingeditor ofa great newspaperwho was content to live in thechaparralalong with his spring of mountain water and hishand-rearedand manicured fruit trees. Ferguson had solved aproblem. A weakling and an alcoholiche had run away from thedoctorsand the chicken-coop of a cityand soaked up health likea thirstysponge. WellDaylight ponderedif a sick man whomthedoctors had given up could develop into a healthy farmlaborerwhat couldn't a merely stout man like himself do undersimilarcircumstances? He caught a vision of his body with allitsyouthful excellence returnedand thought of Dedeand satdownsuddenly on the bedstartled by the greatness of the ideathat hadcome to him.
He did notsit long. His mindworking in its customary waylike asteel trapcanvassed the idea in all its bearings. Itwasbigbigger than anything he had faced before. And he faceditsquarelypicked it up in his two hands and turned it over andaround andlooked at it. The simplicity of it delighted him. Hechuckledover itreached his decisionand began to dress.Midway inthe dressing he stopped in order to use the telephone.
Dede wasthe first he called up.
"Don'tcome to the office this morning" he said. "I'mcomingout to seeyou for a moment." He called up others. He orderedhismotor-car. To Jones he gave instructions for the forwardingof Bob andWolf to Glen Ellen. Hegan he surprised by asking himto look upthe deed of the Glen Ellen ranch and make out a newone inDede Mason's name. "Who?" Hegan demanded. "DedeMason"Daylightreplied imperturbably the 'phone must be indistinct thismorning. "D-e-d-e M-a-s o-n. Got it?"
Half anhour later he was flying out to Berkeley. And for thefirst timethe big red car halted directly before the house.Dedeoffered to receive him in the parlorbut he shook his headand noddedtoward her rooms.
"Inthere" he said. "No other place would suit."
As thedoor closedhis arms went out and around her. Then hestood withhis hands on her shoulders and looking down into herface.
"Dedeif I tell youflat and straightthat I'm going up tolive onthat ranch at Glen Ellenthat I ain't taking a cent withmethatI'm going to scratch for every bite I eatand that Iain'tgoing to play ary a card at the business game againwillyou comealong with me?"
She gave aglad little cryand he nestled her in closely. Butthenextmoment she had thrust herself out from him to the oldpositionat arm's length.
"I-Idon't understand" she said breathlessly.
"Andyou ain't answered my propositionthough I guess no answerisnecessary. We're just going to get married right away andstart. I've sent Bob and Wolf along already. When will you beready?"
Dede couldnot forbear to smile. "Mywhat a hurricane of a manit is. I'm quite blown away. And you haven't explained a wordto me."
"LookhereDedethis is what card-sharps call a show-down. Nomorephilandering and frills and long-distance sparring betweenyou andme. We're just going to talk straight out inmeetingthetruththewhole truthand nothing but the truth. Now youanswersome questions for meand then I'll answer yours."
Hepaused. "WellI've got only one question after all: Doyoulove meenough to marry me?"
"Nobuts" he broke in sharply. "This is a show-down. When Isay marryI mean what I told you at firstthat we'd go up andlive onthe ranch. Do you love me enough for that?"
She lookedat him for a momentthen her lids droppedand all ofher seemedto advertise consent.
"Comeonthenlet's start." The muscles of his legs tensedinvoluntarilyas if he were about to lead her to the door. "Myauto'swaiting outside. There's nothing to delay exceptinggetting onyour hat."
He bentover her. "I reckon it's allowable" he saidas hekissedher.
It was along embraceand she was the first to speak.
"Youhaven't answered my questions. How is this possible? Howcan youleave your business? Has anything happened?"
"Nonothing's happened yetbut it's going toblame quick.I've takenyour preaching to heartand I've come to the penitentform. You are my Lord Godand I'm sure going to serve you. Therest cango to thunder. You were sure right. I've been theslave tomy moneyand since I can't serve two masters I'mlettingthe money slide. I'd sooner have you than all the moneyin theworldthat's all." Again he held her closely in hisarms. "And I've sure got youDede. I've sure got you.
"AndI want to tell you a few more. I've taken my last drink.You'remarrying a whiskey-soakbut your husband won't be that.He's goingto grow into another man so quick you won't know him.A coupleof months from nowup there in Glen Ellenyou'll wakeup somemorning and find you've got a perfect stranger in thehouse withyouand you'll have to get introduced to him all overagain. You'll say'I'm Mrs. Harnishwho are you?" And I'llsay'I'mElam Harnish's younger brother. I've just arrived fromAlaska toattend the funeral.' 'What funeral?' you'll say. AndI'll say'Whythe funeral of that good-for-nothinggamblingwhiskey-drinkingBurning Daylightthe man that died of fattydegenerationof the heart from sitting in night and day at thebusinessgame 'Yes ma'am' I'll say'he's sure a gone 'coonbutI've cometo take his place and make you happy. And nowma'amif you'llallow meI'll just meander down to the pasture andmilk thecow while you're getting breakfast.'"
Again hecaught her hand and made as if to start with her for thedoor. When she resistedhe bent and kissed her again and again.
"I'msure hungry for youlittle woman" he murmured "You makethirtymillions look like thirty cents."
"Dosit down and be sensible" she urgedher cheeks flushedthegoldenlight in her eyes burning more golden than he had everseen itbefore.
ButDaylight was bent on having his wayand when he sat down itwas withher beside him and his arm around her.
"'Yesma'am' I'll say'Burning Daylight was a pretty goodcussbutit's better that he's gone. He quit rolling up in hisrabbit-skinsand sleeping in the snowand went to living in achicken-coop. He lifted up his legs and quit walking andworkingand took to existing on Martini cocktails and Scotchwhiskey. He thought he loved youma'amand he did his bestbut heloved his cocktails moreand he loved his money moreandhimselfmoreand 'most everything else more than he did you.'And thenI'll say'Ma'amyou just run your eyes over me and seehowdifferent I am. I ain't got a cocktail thirstand all themoney Igot is a dollar and forty cents and I've got to buy a newaxthelast one being plumb wore outand I can love you justabouteleven times as much as your first husband did. You seema'amhewent all to fat. And there ain't ary ounce of fat onme.' AndI'll roll up my sleeve and show youand say'Mrs.Harnishafter having experience with being married to that oldfatmoney-bagsdo you-all mind marrying a slim young fellow likeme?' Andyou'll just wipe a tear away for poor old Daylightandkind oflean toward me with a willing expression in your eyeandthen I'llblush maybe somebeing a young fellowand put my armaroundyoulike thatand thenwhythen I'll up and marry mybrother'swidowand go out and do the chores while she's cookinga bite toeat."
"Butyou haven't answered my questions" she reproached himassheemergedrosy and radiantfrom the embrace that hadaccompaniedthe culmination of his narrative.
"Nowjust what do you want to know?" he asked.
"Iwant to know how all this is possible? How you are able toleave yourbusiness at a time like this? What you meant bysayingthat something was going to happen quickly? I" Shehesitatedand blushed. "I answered your questionyou know."
"Let'sgo and get married" he urgedall the whimsicality of hisutteranceduplicated in his eyes. "You know I've got to make wayfor thathusky young brother of mineand I ain't got long tolive." She made an impatient moueand he continued seriously.
"Youseeit's like thisDede. I've been working like fortyhorsesever since this blamed panic set inand all the time someof thoseideas you'd given me were getting ready to sprout.Welltheysprouted this morningthat's all. I started to getupexpecting to go to the office as usual. But I didn't go totheoffice. All that sprouting took place there and then. Thesun wasshining in the windowand I knew it was a fine day inthehills. And I knew I wanted to ride in the hills with youjust aboutthirty million times more than I wanted to go to theoffice. And I knew all the time it was impossible. And why?Because ofthe office. The office wouldn't let me. All my moneyrearedright up on its hind legs and got in the way and wouldn'tlet me. It's a way that blamed money has of getting in the way.You knowthat yourself.
"Andthen I made up my mind that I was to the dividing of theways. One way led to the office. The other way led to Berkeley.
And I tookthe Berkeley road. I'm never going to set foot in theofficeagain. That's all gonefinishedover and done withandI'mletting it slide clean to smash and then some. My mind's seton this. You seeI've got religionand it's sure the old-timereligion;it's love and youand it's older than the oldestreligionin the world. It's ITthat's what it isITwith acapitalI-T."
She lookedat him with a suddenstartled expression.
"Youmean?" she began.
"Imean just that. I'm wiping the slate clean. I'm lettingitall go tosmash. When them thirty million dollars stood up to myface andsaid I couldn't go out with you in the hills to-dayIknew thetime had come for me to put my foot down. And I'mputting itdown. I've got youand my strength to work for youand thatlittle ranch in Sonoma. That's all I wantand that'sall I'mgoing to save outalong with Bob and Wolfa suit caseand ahundred and forty hair bridles. All the rest goesandgoodriddance. It's that much junk."
But Dedewas insistent.
"Thenthisthis tremendous loss is all unnecessary?" she asked.
"Justwhat I haven't been telling you. It IS necessary. If thatmoneythinks it can stand up right to my face and say I can't goridingwith you-"
"Nono; be serious" Dede broke in. "I don't mean thatand youknow it. What I want to know isfrom a standpoint of businessis thisfailure necessary?"
He shookhis head.
"Youbet it isn't necessary. That's the point of it. I'm notletting goof it because I'm licked to a standstill by the panicand havegot to let go. I'm firing it out when I've licked thepanic andam winninghands down. That just shows how little Ithink ofit. It's you that countslittle womanand I make myplayaccordingly."
But shedrew away from his sheltering arms.
"Callme that again" he murmured ecstatically. "It's suresweeterthan the chink of millions."
All thisshe ignored.
"It'smadness. You don't know what you are doing"
"OhyesI do" he assured her. "I'm winning the dearestwishof myheart. Whyyour little finger is worth more"
"Dobe sensible for a moment."
"Iwas never more sensible in my lie. I know what I wantandI'm goingto get it. I want you and the open air. I want to getmy footoff the paving-stones and my ear away from the telephone.
I want alittle ranch-house in one of the prettiest bits ofcountryGod ever madeand I want to do the chores around thatranch-housemilkcowsand chop woodand curry horsesandplough thegroundand all the rest of it; and I want you therein theranch-house with me. I'm plumb tired of everything elseand cleanwore out. And I'm sure the luckiest man aliveforI've gotwhat money can't buy. I've got youand thirty millionscouldn'tbuy younor three thousand millionsnor thirty cents-"
A knock atthe door interrupted himand he was left to staredelightedlyat the Crouched Venus and on around the room atDede'sdainty possessionswhile she answered the telephone.
"Itis Mr. Hegan" she saidon returning. "He is holdingtheline. He says it is important."
Daylightshook his head and smiled.
"Pleasetell Mr. Hegan to hang up. I'm done with the office andI don'twant to hear anything about anything."
A minutelater she was back again.
"Herefuses to hang up. He told me to tell you that Unwin is inthe officenowwaiting to see youand Harrisontoo. Mr. Hegansaid thatGrimshaw and Hodgkins are in trouble. That itlooks asif they are going to break. And he said something aboutprotection."
It wasstartling information. Both Unwin and Harrisonrepresentedbig banking corporationsand Daylight knew that ifthe houseof Grimshaw and Hodgkins went it would precipitate anumber offailures and start a flurry of serious dimensions. ButDaylightsmiledand shook his headand mimicked the stereotypedofficetone of voice as he said:
"MissMasonyou will kindly tell Mr. Hegan that there isnothingdoing and to hang up."
"Butyou can't do this" she pleaded.
"Watchme" he grimly answered.
"Sayit again'' he cried. "Say it againand a dozen GrimshawsandHodgkins can smash!"
He caughther by the hand and drew her to him.
"Youlet Hegan hang on to that line till he's tired. We can't bewasting asecond on him on a day like this. He's only in lovewith booksand thingsbut I've got a real live woman in my armsthat'sloving me all the time she's kicking over the traces."
"ButI know something of the fight you have been making" Dedecontended. "If you stop nowall the work you have doneeverythingwill be destroyed. You have no right to do it. Youcan't doit."
Daylightwas obdurate. He shook his head and smiledtantalizingly.
"Nothingwill be destroyedDedenothing. You don't understandthisbusiness game. It's done on paper. Don't you see? Where'sthe gold Idug out of Klondike? Whyit's in twenty-dollar goldpiecesingold watchesin wedding rings. No matter whathappens tomethe twenty-dollar piecesthe watchesand theweddingrings remain. Suppose I died right now. It wouldn'taffect thegold one iota. It's sure the same with this presentsituation. All I stand for is paper. I've got the paper forthousandsof acres of land. All right. Burn up the paperandburn mealong with it. The land remainsdon't it? The rainfalls onitthe seeds sprout in itthe trees grow out of itthe housesstand on itthe electric cars run over it. It'spaper thatbusiness is run on. I lose my paperor I lose mylifeit'sall the same; it won't alter one grain of sand in allthat landor twist one blade of grass around sideways.
"Nothingis going to be lostnot one pile out of the docksnotonerailroad spikenot one ounce of steam out of the gauge of aferry-boat. The cars will go on runningwhether I hold thepaper orsomebody else holds it. The tide has set towardOakland. People are beginning to pour in. We're sellingbuildinglots again. There is no stopping that tide. No matterwhathappens to me or the paperthem three hundred thousandfolks arecoming in the same. And there'll be cars to carry themaroundand houses to hold themand good water for them to drinkandelectricity to give them lightand all the rest."
By thistime Hegan had arrived in an automobile. The honk of itcame inthrough the open windowand they sawit stop alongsidethe bigred machine. In the car were Unwin and HarrisonwhileJones satwith the chauffeur
"I'llsee Hegan" Daylight told Dede. "There's no need fortherest. They can wait in the machine."
"Ishe drunk?" Hegan whispered to Dede at the door.
She shookher head and showed him in.
"GoodmorningLarry" was Daylight's greeting. "Sit downandrest yourfeet. You sure seem to be in a flutter."
"Iam" the little Irishman snapped back. "Grimshaw andHodgkinsare goingto smash if something isn't done quick. Why didn't youcome tothe office? What are you going to do about it?"
"Nothing"Daylight drawled lazily. "Except let them smashIguess"
"I'vehad no dealings with Grimshaw and Hodgkins. I don't owethemanything. BesidesI'm going to smash myself. Look hereLarryyouknow me. You know when I make up my mind I mean it.WellI'vesure made up my mind. I'm tired of the whole game.I'mletting go of it as fast as I canand a smash is thequickestway to let go."
Heganstared at his chiefthen passed his horror-stricken gazeon toDedewho nodded in sympathy.
"Solet her smashLarry" Daylight went on. "All you'vegot todo is toprotect yourself and all our friends. Now you listen tome while Itell you what to do. Everything is in good shape todo it. Nobody must get hurt. Everybody that stood by me mustcomethrough without damage. All the back wages and salariesmust bepaid pronto. All the money I've switched away from thewatercompanythe street carsand the ferries must be switchedback. And you won't get hurt yourself none. Every company yougot stockin will come through-"
"Youare crazyDaylight!" the little lawyer cried out. "Thisisallbabbling lunacy. What is the matter with you? You haven'tbeeneating a drug or something?"
"Isure have!" Daylight smiled reply. "And I'm nowcoughing itup. I'm sick of living in a city and playing businessI'm goingoff to thesunshineand the countryand the green grass. AndDedehereis going with me. So you've got the chance to be thefirst tocongratulate me."
"Congratulatethethe devil! " Hegan spluttered. "I'm notgoing tostand for this sort of foolishness."
"Ohyesyou are; because if you don't there'll be a biggersmash andsome folks will most likely get hurt. You're worth amillion ormore yourselfnowand if you listen to me you comethroughwith a whole skin. I want to get hurtand get hurt tothelimit. That's what I'm looking forand there's no man orbunch ofmen can get between me and what I'm looking for.SavveeHegan? Savvee?"
"Whathave you done to him?" Hegan snarled at Dede.
"Holdon thereLarry." For the first time Daylight's voicewas sharpwhile all the old lines of cruelty in his face stoodforth. "Miss Mason is going to be my wifeand while I don'tmind yourtalking to her all you wantyou've got to use adifferenttone of voice or you'll be heading for a hospitalwhich willsure be an unexpected sort of smash. And let me tellyou oneother thing. This-all is my doing. She says I'm crazytoo."
Heganshook his head in speechless sadness and continued tostare.
"There'llbe temporary receivershipsof course" Daylightadvised;"but they won't bother none or last long. What you mustdoimmediately is to save everybodythe men that have beenlettingtheir wages ride with meall the creditorsand all theconcernsthat have stood by. There's the wad of land that NewJerseycrowd has been dickering for. They'll take all of acouple ofthousand acres and will close now if you give them halfa chance. That Fairmount section is the cream of itand they'lldig up ashigh as a thousand dollars an acre for a part of it.That'llhelp out some. That five-hundred acre tract beyondyou'll belucky if they pay two hundred an acre."
Dedewhohad been scarcely listeningseemed abruptly to make upher mindand stepped forward where she confronted the two men.Her facewas palebut set with determinationso that Daylightlooking atitwas reminded of the day when she first rode Bob.
"Wait"she said. "I want to say something. Elamif you dothisinsane thingI won't marry you. I refuse to marry you."
Heganinspite of his miserygave her a quickgrateful look.
"I'lltake my chance on that" Daylight began.
"Wait!"she again interrupted. "And if you don't do this thingI willmarry you."
"Letme get this proposition clear." Daylight spoke withexasperatingslowness and deliberation. "As I understand itifI keepright on at the business gameyou'll sure marry me?You'llmarry me if I keep on working my head off and drinkingMartinis?"
After eachquestion he pausedwhile she nodded an affirmation.
"Andyou'll marry me right away?"
Hepondered for a moment.
"Nolittle womanI won't do it. It won't workand you know ityourself. I want youall of you; and to get it I'll have togive youall of myselfand there'll be darn little of myselfleft overto give if I stay with the business game. WhyDedewith youon the ranch with meI'm sure of youand of myself.I'm sureof youanyway. You can talk will or won't all youwantbutyou're sure going to marry me just the same. And nowLarryyou'd better be going. I'll be at the hotel in a littlewhileandsince I'm not going a step into the office againbring allpapers to sign and the rest over to my rooms. And youcan get meon the 'phone there any time. This smash is goingthrough. Savvee? I'm quit and done."
He stoodup as a sign for Hegan to go. The latter was plainlystunned. He also rose to his feetbut stood looking helplesslyaround.
"Sheerdownrightabsolute insanity" he muttered.
Daylightput his hand on the other's shoulder.
"BuckupLarry. You're always talking about the wonders ofhumannatureand here I am giving you another sample of it andyou ain'tappreciating it. I'm a bigger dreamer than you arethat'salland I'm sure dreaming what's coming true. It's thebiggestbest dream I ever hadand I'm going after it to getit"
"Bylosing all you've got" Hegan exploded at him.
"Surebylosing all I've got that I don't want. But I'mhanging onto them hundred and forty hair bridles just the same.Now you'dbetter hustle out to Unwin and Harrison and get on downtown. I'll be at the hoteland you can call me up any time."
He turnedto Dede as soon as Hegan was goneand took her by thehand.
"Andnowlittle womanyou needn't come to the office any more.Consideryourself discharged. And remember I was your employerso you'vegot to come to me for recommendationand if you're notreal goodI won't give you one. In the meantimeyou just restup andthink about what things you want to packbecause we'lljust abouthave to set up housekeeping on your stuffleastwaysthe frontpart of the house."
"ButElamI won'tI won't! If you do this mad thing I neverwill marryyou."
Sheattempted to take her hand awaybut he closed on it with aprotectingfatherly clasp.
"Willyou be straight and honest? All righthere goes. Whichwould yousooner haveme and the moneyor me and the ranch?"
"Nobuts. Me and the money?"
She didnot answer.
"Meand the ranch?"
Still shedid not answerand still he was undisturbed.
"YouseeI know your answerDedeand there's nothing more tosay. Here's where you and I quit and hit the high places forSonoma. You make up your mind what you want to packand I'llhave somemen out here in a couple of days to do it for you. Itwill beabout the last work anybody else ever does for us. Youand I willdo the unpacking and the arranging ourselves."
She made alast attempt.
"Elamwon't you be reasonable? There is time to reconsider. Icantelephone down and catch Mr. Hegan as soon as he reaches theoffice"
"WhyI'm the only reasonable man in the bunch right now" herejoined. "Look at meas calm as you pleaseand as happy as akingwhile they're fluttering around like a lot of cranky henswhoseheads are liable to be cut off."
"I'dcryif I thought it would do any good" she threatened.
"Inwhich case I reckon I'd have to hold you in my arms some moreand sortof soothe you down" he threatened back. "And now I'mgoing togo. It's too bad you got rid of Mab. You could havesent herup to the ranch. But see you've got a mare to ride ofsome sortor other."
As hestood at the top of the stepsleavingshe said:-
"Youneedn't send those men. There will be no packingbecause Iam notgoing to marry you."
"I'mnot a bit scared" he answeredand went down the steps.
Three dayslaterDaylight rode to Berkeley in his red car. Itwas forthe last timefor on the morrow the big machine passedintoanother's possession. It had been a strenuous three daysfor hissmash had been the biggest the panic had precipitated inCalifornia. The papers had been filled with itand a great cryofindignation had gone up from the very men who later found thatDaylighthad fully protected their interests. It was thesefactscoming slowly to lightthat gave rise to the widelyrepeatedcharge that Daylight had gone insane. It was theunanimousconviction among business men that no sane man couldpossiblybehave in such fashion. On the other handneither hisprolongedsteady drinking nor his affair with Dede became publicso theonly conclusion attainable was that the wild financierfromAlaska had gone lunatic. And Daylight had grinned andconfirmedthe suspicion by refusing to see the reporters.
He haltedthe automobile before Dede's doorand met her with hissamerushing tacticsenclosing her in his arms before a wordcould beuttered. Not until afterwardwhen she had recoveredherselffrom him and got him seateddid he begin to speak.
"I'vedone it" he announced. "You've seen the newspapersofcourse. I'm plumb cleaned outand I've just called around tofind outwhat day you feel like starting for Glen Ellen. It'llhave to besoonfor it's real expensive living in Oakland thesedays. My board at the hotel is only paid to the end of the weekand Ican't afford to stay after that. And beginning withto-morrowI've got to use the street carsand they sure eat upthenickels."
He pausedand waitedand looked at her. Indecision and troubleshowed onher face. Then the smile he knew so well began to growon herlips and in her eyesuntil she threw back her head andlaughed inthe old forthright boyish way.
"Whenare those men coming to pack for me?" she asked.
And againshe laughed and simulated a vain attempt to escape hisbearlikearms.
"DearElam" she whispered; "dear Elam." And ofherselfforthe firsttimeshe kissed him.
She ranher hand caressingly through his hair.
"Youreyes are all gold right now" he said. "I can look inthemand telljust how much you love me."
"Theyhave been all gold for youElamfor a long time. Ithinkon ourlittle ranchthey will always be all gold."
"Yourhair has gold in ittooa sort of fiery gold." Heturned herface suddenly and held it between his hands and lookedlong intoher eyes. "And your eyes were full of gold only theother daywhen you said you wouldn't marry me."
She noddedand laughed.
"Youwould have your will" she confessed. "But I couldn'tbe aparty tosuch madness. All that money was yoursnot mine. ButI wasloving you all the timeElamfor the great big boy youarebreaking the thirty-million toy with which you had growntired ofplaying. And when I said noI knew all the time it wasyes. And I am sure that my eyes were golden all the time. I hadonly onefearand that was that you would fail to loseeverything. BecausedearI knew I should marry you anywayandI did sowant just you and the ranch and Bob and Wolf and thosehorse-hairbridles. Shall I tell you a secret? As soon as youleftItelephoned the man to whom I sold Mab."
She hidher face against his breast for an instantand thenlooked athim againgladly radiant.
"YouseeElamin spite of what my lips saidmy mind was madeup then. II simply had to marry you. But I was praying youwouldsucceed in losing everything. And so I tried to find whathad becomeof Mab. But the man had sold her and did not knowwhat hadbecome of her. You seeI wanted to ride with you overthe GlenEllen hillson Mab and you on Bobjust as I had riddenwith youthrough the Piedmont hills."
Thedisclosure of Mab's whereabouts trembled on Daylight's lipsbut heforbore.
"I'llpromise you a mare that you'll like just as much as Mab"he said.
But Dedeshook her headand on that one point refused to becomforted.
"NowI've got an idea" Daylight saidhastening to get theconversationon less perilous ground. "We're running away fromcitiesand you have no kith nor kinso it don't seem exactlyright thatwe should start off by getting married in a city. Sohere's theidea: I'll run up to the ranch and get things in shapearound thehouse and give the caretaker his walking-papers. Youfollow mein a couple of dayscoming on the morning train. I'llhave thepreacher fixed and waiting. And here's another idea.You bringyour riding togs in a suit case. And as soon as theceremony'soveryou can go to the hotel and change. Then outyou comeand you find me waiting with a couple of horsesandwe'll rideover the landscape so as you can see the prettiestparts ofthe ranch the first thing. And she's sure prettythatranch. And now that it's settledI'll be waiting for you at themorningtrain day after to-morrow."
Dedeblushed as she spoke.
"Youare such a hurricane."
"Wellma'am" he drawled"I sure hate to burn daylight. Andyouand I haveburned a heap of daylight. We've beenscandalouslyextravagant. We might have been married years ago."
Two dayslaterDaylight stood waiting outside the little GlenEllenhotel. The ceremony was overand he had left Dede to goinside andchange into her riding-habit while he brought thehorses. He held them nowBob and Maband in the shadow of thewatering-troughWolf lay and looked on. Already two days ofardentCalifornia sun had touched with new fires the ancientbronze inDaylight's face. But warmer still was the glow thatcame intohis cheeks and burned in his eyes as he saw Dede comingout thedoorriding-whip in handclad in the familiar corduroyskirt andleggings of the old Piedmont days. There was warmthand glowin her own face as she answered his gaze and glanced onpast himto the horses. Then she saw Mab. But her gaze leapedback tothe man.
"OhElam!" she breathed.
It wasalmost a prayerbut a prayer that included a thousandmeaningsDaylight strove to feign sheepishnessbut his heart wassingingtoo wild a song for mere playfulness. All things hadbeen inthe naming of his namereproachrefined away bygratitudeand all compounded of joy and love.
Shestepped forward and caressed the mareand again turned andlooked atthe manand breathed:
And allthat was in her voice was in her eyesand in themDaylightglimpsed a profundity deeper and wider than any speechorthoughtthe whole vast inarticulate mystery and wonder of sexand love.
Again hestrove for playfulness of speechbut it was too great amoment foreven love fractiousness to enter in. Neither spoke.Shegathered the reinsandbendingDaylight received her footin hishand. She sprangas he lifted and gained the saddle.The nextmoment he was mounted and beside herandwith Wolfslidingalong ahead in his typical wolf-trotthey went up thehill thatled out of towntwo lovers on two chestnut sorrelsteedsriding out and away to honeymoon through the warm summerday. Daylight felt himself drunken as with wine. He was at thetopmostpinnacle of life. Higher than this no man could climbnor hadever climbed. It was his day of dayshis love-time andhismating-timeand all crowned by this virginal possession of amate whohad said "OhElam" as she had said itand looked athim out ofher soul as she had looked.
Theycleared the crest of the hilland he watched the joy mountin herface as she gazed on the sweetfresh land. He pointedout thegroup of heavily wooded knolls across the rolling stretchesof ripegrain.
"They'reours" he said. "And they're only a sample of theranch. Wait till you see the big canon. There are 'coons downthereandback here on the Sonoma there are mink. And deer!whythatmountain's sure thick with themand I reckon we canscare up amountain-lion if we want to real hard. Andsaythere's alittle meadow=-wellI ain't going to tell you anotherword. You wait and see for yourself."
Theyturned in at the gatewhere the road to the clay-pitcrossedthe fieldsand both sniffed with delight as the warmaroma ofthe ripe hay rose in their nostrils. As on his firstvisitthelarks were uttering their rich notes and fluttering upbefore thehorses until the woods and the flower-scattered gladeswerereachedwhen the larks gave way to blue jays andwoodpeckers.
"We'reon our land now" he saidas they left the hayfieldbehind. "It runs right across country over the roughest parts.Just youwait and see."
As on thefirst dayhe turned aside from the clay-pit and workedthroughthe woods to the leftpassing the first spring andjumpingthe horses over the ruined remnants of thestake-and-riderfence. From here onDede was in an unendingecstasy. By the spring that gurgled among the redwoods grewanothergreat wild lilybearing on its slender stalk theprodigiousoutburst of white waxen bells. This time he did notdismountbut led the way to the deep canon where the stream hadcut apassage among the knolls. He had been at work hereand asteep andslippery horse trail now crossed the creekso theyrode upbeyondthrough the somber redwood twilightandfartheronthrough a tangled wood of oak and madrono. They came to asmallclearing of several acreswhere the grain stood waisthigh.
She bentin her saddleplucked a stalk of the ripe grainandnibbled itbetween her teeth.
"Sweetmountain hay" she cried. "The kind Mab likes."
Andthroughout the ride she continued to utter cries andejaculationsof surprise and delight.
"Andyou never told me all this!" she reproached himas theylookedacross the little clearing and over the descending slopesof woodsto the great curving sweep of Sonoma Valley.
"Come"he said; and they turned and went back through the forestshadecrossed the stream and came to the lily by the spring.
Herealsowhere the way led up the tangle of the steep hillhehad cut arough horse trail. As they forced their way up thezigzagsthey caught glimpses out and down through the sea offoliage. Yet always were their farthest glimpses stopped by theclosingvistas of greenandyet alwaysas they climbeddidthe forestroof arch overheadwith only here and there riftsthatpermitted shattered shafts of sunlight to penetrate. Andall aboutthem were fernsa score of varietiesfrom the tinygold-backsand maidenhair to huge brakes six and eight feet tall.
Belowthemas they mountedthey glimpsed great gnarled trunksandbranches of ancient treesand above them were similar greatgnarledbranches.
Dedestopped her horse and sighed with the beauty of it all.
"Itis as if we are swimmers" she said"rising out of a deeppool ofgreen tranquillity. Up above is the sky and the sunbutthis is apooland we are fathoms deep."
Theystarted their horsesbut a dog-tooth violetshoulderingamongstthe maidenhaircaught her eye and made her rein inagain.
Theycleared the crest and emerged from the pool as if intoanotherworldfor now they were in the thicket of velvet-trunkedyoungmadronos and looking down the opensun-washed hillsideacross thenodding grassesto the drifts of blue and whitenemophilaethat carpeted the tiny meadow on either side the tinystream. Dede clapped her hands.
"It'ssure prettier than office furniture" Daylight remarked.
"Itsure is" she answered.
AndDaylightwho knew his weakness in the use of the particularword sureknew that she had repeated it deliberately and withlove.
Theycrossed the stream and took the cattle track over the lowrocky hilland through the scrub forest of manzanitatill theyemerged onthe next tiny valley with its meadow-borderedstreamlet.
"Ifwe don't run into some quail pretty soonI'll be surprisedsome"Daylight said.
And as thewords left his lips there was a wild series ofexplosivethrumming as the old quail arose from all about Wolfwhile theyoung ones scuttled for safety and disappearedmiraculouslybefore the spectators' very eyes.
He showedher the hawk's nest he had found in thelightning-shatteredtop of the redwoodand she discovered awood-rat'snest which he had not seen before. Next they took theoldwood-road and came out on the dozen acres of clearing wherethewinegrapes grew in the wine-colored volcanic soil. Then theyfollowedthe cow-path through more woods and thickets andscatteredgladesand dropped down the hillside to where thefarm-housepoised on the lip of the big canoncame into viewonly whenthey were right upon it.
Dede stoodon the wide porch that ran the length of the housewhileDaylight tied the horses. To Dede it was very quiet. Itwas thedrywarmbreathless calm of California midday. All theworldseemed dozing. From somewhere pigeons were cooing lazily.With adeep sigh of satisfactionWolfwho had drunk his fill atall thestreams along the waydropped down in the cool shadow oftheporch. She heard the footsteps of Daylight returningandcaught herbreath with a quick intake. He took her hand in hisandas heturned the door-knobfelt her hesitate. Then he puthis armaround her; the door swung openand together they passedin.
Manypersonsthemselves city-bred and city-rearedhave fled tothe soiland succeeded in winning great happiness. In such casesthey havesucceeded only by going through a process of savagedisillusionment. But with Dede and Daylight it was different.They hadboth been born on the soiland they knew its nakedsimplicitiesand rawer ways. They were like two personsafterfarwanderingwho had merely come home again. There was less oftheunexpected in their dealings with naturewhile theirs wasall thedelight of reminiscence. What might appear sordid andsqualid tothe fastidiously rearedwas to them eminentlywholesomeand natural. The commerce of nature was to them nounknownand untried trade. They made fewer mistakes. Theyalreadyknewand it was a joy to remember what they hadforgotten.
Andanother thing they learned was that it was easier for one whohas gorgedat the flesh-pots to content himself with themeagernessof a crustthan for one who has known only the crust.
Not thattheir life was meagre. It was that they found keenerdelightsand deeper satisfactions in little things. Daylightwho hadplayed the game in its biggest and most fantasticaspectsfound that hereon the slopes of Sonoma Mountainitwas stillthe same old game. Man had still work to performforces tocombatobstacles to overcome. When he experimented ina smallway at raising a few pigeons for markethe found no lesszest incalculating in squabs than formerly when he hadcalculatedin millions. Achievement was no less achievementwhile theprocess of it seemed more rational and received thesanctionof his reason.
Thedomestic cat that had gone wild and that preyed on hispigeonshe foundby the comparative standardto be of no lessparamountmenace than a Charles Klinkner in the field of financetrying toraid him for several millions. The hawks and weaselsand 'coonswere so many DowsettsLettonsand Guggenhammers thatstruck athim secretly. The sea of wild vegetation that tossedits surfagainst the boundaries of all his clearings and thatsometimescrept in and flooded in a single week was no mean enemyto contendwith and subdue. His fat-soiled vegetable-garden inthe nookof hills that failed of its best was a problem ofengrossingimportanceand when he had solved it by putting indrain-tilethe joy of the achievement was ever with him. Heneverworked in it and found the soil unpacked and tractablewithoutexperiencing the thrill of accomplishment.
There wasthe matter of the plumbing. He was enabled to purchasethematerials through a lucky sale of a number of his hairbridles. The work he did himselfthough more than once he wasforced tocall in Dede to hold tight with a pipe-wrench. And inthe endwhen the bath-tub and the stationary tubs were installedand inworking orderhe could scarcely tear himself away fromthecontemplation of what his hands had wrought. The firsteveningmissing himDede sought and found himlamp in handstaringwith silent glee at the tubs. He rubbed his hand overtheirsmooth wooden lips and laughed aloudand was as shamefacedas any boywhen she caught him thus secretly exulting in his ownprowess.
It wasthis adventure in wood-working and plumbing that broughtabout thebuilding of the little workshopwhere he slowlygathered acollection of loved tools. And hewho in the olddaysoutof his millionscould purchase immediately whatever hemightdesirelearned the new joy of the possession that followsupon rigideconomy and desire long delayed. He waited threemonthsbefore daring the extravagance of a Yankee screw-driverand hisglee in the marvelous little mechanism was so keen thatDedeconceived forthright a great idea. For six months she savedheregg-moneywhich was hers by right of allotmentand on hisbirthdaypresented him with a turning-lathe of wonderfulsimplicityand multifarious efficiencies. And their mutualdelight inthe toolwhich was hiswas only equalled by theirdelight inMab's first foalwhich was Dede's special privateproperty.
It was notuntil the second summer that Daylight built the hugefireplacethat outrivalled Ferguson's across the valley. For allthesethings took timeand Dede and Daylight were not in ahurry. Theirs was not the mistake of the average city-dwellerwho fleesin ultra-modern innocence to the soil. They did notessay toomuch. Neither did they have a mortgage to clearnordid theydesire wealth. They wanted little in the way of foodand theyhad no rent to pay. So they planned unambiguouslyreservingtheir lives for each other and for the compensations ofcountry-dwellingfrom which the average country-dweller isbarred. From Ferguson's exampletoothey profited much. Herewas a manwho asked for but the plainest fare; who ministered tohis ownsimple needs with his own hands; who worked out as alaboreronly when he needed money to buy books and magazines; andwho saw toit that the major portion of his waking time was forenjoyment. He loved to loaf long afternoons in the shade withhis booksor to be up with the dawn and away over the hills.
Onoccasion he accompanied Dede and Daylight on deer huntsthroughthe wild canons and over the rugged steeps of HoodMountainthough more often Dede and Daylight were out alone.Thisriding was one of their chief joys. Every wrinkle andcrease inthe hills they exploredand they came to know everysecretspring and hidden dell in the whole surrounding wall ofthevalley. They learned all the trails and cow-paths; butnothingdelighted them more than to essay the roughest and mostimpossiblerideswhere they were glad to crouch and crawl alongthenarrowest deer-runsBob and Mab struggling and forcing theirway alongbehind. Back from their rides they brought the seedsand bulbsof wild flowers to plant in favoring nooks on theranch. Along the foot trail which led down the side of the bigcanon tothe intake of the water-pipethey established theirfernery. It was not a formal affairand the ferns were left tothemselves. Dede and Daylight merely introduced new ones fromtime totimechanging them from one wild habitat to another. Itwas thesame with the wild lilacwhich Daylight had sent to himfromMendocino County. It became part of the wildness of theranchandafter being helped for a seasonwas left to its owndevices. they used to gather the seeds of the California poppyandscatter them over their own acresso that the orange-coloredblossomsspangled the fields of mountain hay and prospered inflamingdrifts in the fence corners and along the edges of theclearings.
Dedewhohad a fondness for cattailsestablished a fringe ofthem alongthe meadow streamwhere they were left to fight itout withthe water-cress. And when the latter was threatenedwithextinctionDaylight developed one of the shaded springsinto hiswater-cress garden and declared war upon any invadingcattail. On her wedding day Dede had discovered a long dog-toothviolet bythe zigzag trail above the redwood springand here shecontinuedto plant more and more. The open hillside above thetinymeadow became a colony of Mariposa lilies. This was duemainly toher effortswhile Daylightwho rode with ashort-handledax on his saddle-bowcleared the little manzanitawood onthe rocky hill of all its dead and dying and overcrowdedweaklings.
They didnot labor at these tasks. Nor were they tasks. Merelyinpassingthey pausedfrom time to timeand lent a hand tonature. These flowers and shrubs grew of themselvesand theirpresencewas no violation of the natural environment. The manand thewoman made no effort to introduce a flower or shrub thatdid not ofits own right belong. Nor did they protect them fromtheirenemies. The horses and the colts and the cows and thecalves ranat pasture among them or over themand flower orshrub hadto take its chance. But the beasts were not noticeablydestructivefor they were few in number and the ranch was large.
On theother handDaylight could have taken in fully a dozenhorses topasturewhich would have earned him a dollar and ahalf perhead per month. But this he refused to dobecause ofthedevastation such close pasturing would produce.
Fergusoncame over to celebrate the housewarming that followedtheachievement of the great stone fireplace. Daylight hadriddenacross the valley more than once to confer with him abouttheundertakingand he was the only other present at the sacredfunctionof lighting the first fire. By removing a partitionDaylighthad thrown two rooms into oneand this was the bigliving-roomwhere Dede's treasures were placedher booksandpaintingsand photographsher pianothe Crouched Venusthechafing-dishand all its glittering accessories. Alreadyinadditionto her own wild-animal skinswere those of deer andcoyote andone mountain-lion which Daylight had killed. Thetanning hehad done himselfslowly and laboriouslyin frontierfashion.
He handedthe match to Dedewho struck it and lighted the fire.The crispmanzanita wood crackled as the flames leaped up andassailedthe dry bark of the larger logs. Then she leaned in theshelter ofher husband's armand the three stood and looked inbreathlesssuspense. When Ferguson gave judgmentit was withbeamingface and extended hand.
"Shedraws! By crickeyshe draws" he cried.
He shookDaylight's hand ecstaticallyand Daylight shook hiswith equalfervorandbendingkissed Dede on the lips. Theywere asexultant over the success of their simple handiwork asany greatcaptain at astonishing victory. In Ferguson's eyes wasactually asuspicious moisture while the woman pressed even morecloselyagainst the man whose achievement it was. He caught herupsuddenly in his arms and whirled her away to the pianocryingout: "ComeonDede! The Gloria! The Gloria!"
And whilethe flames in the fireplace that workedthe triumphantstrains ofthe Twelfth Mass rolled forth.
Daylighthad made no assertion of total abstinence though he hadnot takena drink for months after the day he resolved to let hisbusinessgo to smash. Soon he proved himself strong enough todare totake a drink without taking a second. On the other handwith hiscoming to live in the countryhad passed all desire andneed fordrink. He felt no yearning for itand even forgot thatitexisted. Yet he refused to be afraid of itand in townonoccasionwhen invited by the storekeeperwould reply: "Allrightson. If my taking a drink will make you happy here goes.Whiskeyfor mine."
But such adrink began no desire for a second. It made noimpression. He was too profoundly strong to be affected by athimbleful. As he had prophesied to DedeBurning Daylightthecityfinancierhad died a quick death on the ranchand hisyoungerbrotherthe Daylight from Alaskahad taken his place.Thethreatened inundation of fat had subsidedand all hisold-timeIndian leanness and of muscle had returned. Solikewisedid the old slight hollows in his cheeks come back.For himthey indicated the pink of physical condition. He becametheacknowledged strong man of Sonoma Valleythe heaviest lifterandhardest winded among a husky race of farmer folk. And once ayear hecelebrated his birthday in the old-fashioned frontierwaychallenging all the valley to come up the hill to the ranchand be puton its back. And a fair portion of the valleyrespondedbrought the women-folk and children alongandpicnickedfor the day.
At firstwhen in need of ready cashhe had followed Ferguson'sexample ofworking at day's labor; but he was not long ingravitatingto a form of work that was more stimulating and moresatisfyingand that allowed him even more time for Dede and theranch andthe perpetual riding through the hills. Having beenchallengedby the blacksmithin a spirit of banterto attemptthebreaking of a certain incorrigible colthe succeeded sosignallyas to earn quite a reputation as a horse-breaker. Andsoon hewas able to earn whatever money he desired at thistohimagreeable work.
A sugarkingwhose breeding farm and training stables were atCalientethree miles awaysent for him in time of needandbefore theyear was outoffered him the management of thestables. But Daylight smiled and shook his head. Furthermorehe refusedto undertake the breaking of as many animals as wereoffered. "I'm sure not going to die from overwork" he assuredDede; andhe accepted such work only when he had to have money.Laterhefenced off a small run in the pasturewherefrom timeto timehe took in a limited number of incorrigibles.
"We'vegot the ranch and each other" he told his wife"and I'dsoonerride with you to Hood Mountain any day than earn fortydollars. You can't buy sunsetsand loving wivesand coolspringwaterand such folderolswith forty dollars; and fortymilliondollars can't buy back for me one day that I didn't ridewith youto Hood Mountain."
His lifewas eminently wholesome and natural. Early to bedheslept likean infant and was up with the dawn. Always withsomethingto doand with a thousand little things that enticedbut didnot clamorhe was himself never overdone. Neverthelessthere weretimes when both he and Dede were not above confessingtirednessat bedtime after seventy or eighty miles in the saddle.
Sometimeswhen he had accumulated a little moneyand when theseasonfavoredthey would mount their horseswith saddle-bagsbehindand ride away over the wall of the valley and down intothe othervalleys. When night fellthey put up at the firstconvenientfarm or villageand on the morrow they would ride onwithoutdefinite planmerely continuing to ride onday afterdayuntiltheir money gave out and they were compelled toreturn. On such trips they would be gone anywhere from a week toten daysor two weeksand once they managed a three weeks' trip.
They evenplanned ambitiously some day when they weredisgracefullyprosperousto ride all the way up to Daylight'sboyhoodhome in Eastern Oregonstopping on the way at Dede'sgirlhoodhome in Siskiyou. And all the joys of anticipation weretheirs athousand times as they contemplated the detaileddelightsof this grand adventure.
One daystopping to mail a letter at the Glen Ellen post officethey werehailed by the blacksmith.
"SayDaylight" he said"a young fellow named Slosson sends youhisregards. He came through in an autoon the way to SantaRosa. He wanted to know if you didn't live hereaboutsbut thecrowd withhim was in a hurry. So he sent you his regards andsaid totell you he'd taken your advice and was still going onbreakinghis own record."
Daylighthad long since told Dede of the incident.
"Slosson?"he meditated"Slosson? That must be thehammer-thrower. He put my hand down twicethe young scamp." He turnedsuddenly to Dede. "Sayit's only twelve miles toSantaRosaand the horses are fresh."
Shedivined what was in his mindof which his twinkling eyes andsheepishboyish grin gave sufficient advertisementand shesmiled andnodded acquiescence.
"We'llcut across by Bennett Valley" he said. "It's nearerthatway."
There waslittle difficultyonce in Santa Rosaof findingSlosson. He and his party had registered at the Oberlin HotelandDaylight encountered the young hammer-thrower himself in theoffice.
"Lookhereson" Daylight announcedas soon as he hadintroducedDede"I've come to go you another flutter at thathandgame. Here's a likely place."
Slossonsmiled and accepted. The two men faced each othertheelbows oftheir right arms on the counterthe hands clasped.Slosson'shand quickly forced backward and down.
"You'rethe first man that ever succeeded in doing it" he said."Let'stry it again."
"Sure"Daylight answered. "And don't forgetsonthat you'rethe firstman that put mine down. That's why I lit out after youto-day."
Again theyclasped handsand again Slosson's hand went down. Hewas abroad-shoulderedheavy-muscled young giantat least halfa headtaller than Daylightand he frankly expressed his chagrinand askedfor a third trial. This time he steeled himself to theeffortand for a moment the issue was in doubt. With flushedface andset teeth he met the other's strength till his cracklingmusclesfailed him. The air exploded sharply from his tensedlungsashe relaxed in surrenderand the hand dropped limplydown.
"You'retoo many for me" he confessed. "I only hope you'llkeepout of thehammer-throwing game."
Daylightlaughed and shook his head.
"Wemight compromiseand each stay in his own class. You sticktohammer-throwingand I'll go on turning down hands."
ButSlosson refused to accept defeat.
"Say"he called outas Daylight and Dedeastride their horseswerepreparing to depart. "Saydo you mind if I look you upnextyear? I'd like to tackle you again."
"Sureson. You're welcome to a flutter any time. Though I giveyou fairwarning that you'll have to go some. You'll have totrain upfor I'm ploughing and chopping wood and breaking coltsthesedays."
Now andagainon the way homeDede could hear her bigboy-husbandchuckling gleefully. As they halted their horses onthe top ofthe divide out of Bennett Valleyin order to watchthesunsethe ranged alongside and slipped his arm around herwaist.
"Littlewoman" he said"you're sure responsible for it all.And Ileave it to youif all the money in creation is worth asmuch asone arm like that when it's got a sweet little woman likethis to goaround."
For of allhis delights in the new lifeDede was his greatest.As heexplained to her more than oncehe had been afraid of loveall hislife only in the end to come to find it the greatestthing inthe world. Not alone were the two well matedbut incoming tolive on the ranch they had selected the best soil inwhichtheir love would prosper. In spite of her books and musicthere wasin her a wholesome simplicity and love of the open andnaturalwhile Daylightin every fiber of himwas essentiallyanopen-air man.
Of onething in DedeDaylight never got over marveling aboutand thatwas her efficient handsthe hands that he had firstseentakingdown flying shorthand notes and ticking away at thetypewriter;the hands that were firm to hold a magnificent brutelike Bobthat wonderfully flashed over the keys of the pianothat wereunhesitant in household tasksand that were twinmiraclesto caress and to run rippling fingers through his hair.ButDaylight was not unduly uxorious. He lived his man's lifejust asshe lived her woman's life. There was proper division oflabor inthe work they individually performed. But the whole wasentwinedand woven into a fabric of mutual interest andconsideration. He was as deeply interested in her cooking andher musicas she was in his agricultural adventures in thevegetablegarden. And hewho resolutely declined to die ofoverworksaw to it that she should likewise escape so dire arisk.
In thisconnectionusing his man's judgment and putting hisman's footdownhe refused to allow her to be burdened with theentertainingof guests. For guests they hadespecially in thewarmlongsummersand usually they were her friends from thecitywhowere put to camp in tents which they cared forthemselvesand wherelike true campersthey had also to cookforthemselves. Perhaps only in Californiawhere everybodyknows camplifewould such a program have been possible. ButDaylight'ssteadfast contention was that his wife should notbecomecookwaitressand chambermaid because she did not happento possessa household of servants. On the other handchafing-dishsuppers in the big living-room for their campingguestswere a common happeningat which times Daylight allottedthem theirchores and saw that they were performed. For one whostoppedonly for the night it was different. Likewise it wasdifferentwith her brotherback from Germanyand again able tosit ahorse. On his vacations he became the third in the familyand to himwas given the building of the firesthe sweepingandthewashing of the dishes.
Daylightdevoted himself to the lightening of Dede's laborsandit was herbrother who incited him to utilize the splendidwater-powerof the ranch that was running to waste. It requiredDaylight'sbreaking of extra horses to pay for the materialsandthebrother devoted a three weeks' vacation to assistingandtogetherthey installed a Pelting wheel. Besides sawing wood andturninghis lathe and grindstoneDaylight connected the powerwith thechurn; but his great triumph was when he put his armaroundDede's waist and led her out to inspect a washing-machinerun by thePelton wheelwhich really worked and really washedclothes.
Dede andFergusonbetween themafter a patient struggletaughtDaylightpoetryso that in the end he might have been oftenseensitting slack in the saddle and dropping down the mountaintrailsthrough the sun-flecked woodschanting aloud Kipling's"Tomlinson"orwhen sharpening his axsinging into thewhirlinggrindstone Henley's "Song of the Sword." Not that heeverbecame consummately literary in the way his two teacherswere. Beyond "Fra Lippo Lippi" and "Caliban and Setebos"hefoundnothing in Browningwhile George Meredith was ever hisdespair. It was of his own initiativehoweverthat he investedin aviolinand practised so assiduously that in time he andDedebeguiled many a happy hour playing together after night hadfallen.
So allwent well with this well-mated pair. Time never dragged.There werealways new wonderful mornings and still cool twilightsat the endof day; and ever a thousand interests claimed himandhisinterests were shared by her. More thoroughly than he knewhad hecome to a comprehension of the relativity of things. Inthis newgame he played he found in little things all theintensitiesof gratification and desire that he had found in thefrenziedbig things when he was a power and rocked half acontinentwith the fury of the blows he struck. With head andhandatrisk of life and limbto bit and break a wild colt andwin it tothe service of manwas to him no less great anachievement. And this new table on which he played the game wasclean. Neither lyingnor cheatingnor hypocrisy was here. Theother gamehad made for decay and deathwhile this new one madefor cleanstrength and life. And so he was contentwith Dede athis sideto watch the procession of the days and seasons fromthefarm-house perched on the canon-lip; to ride through crispfrostymornings or under burning summer suns; and to shelter inthe bigroom where blazed the logs in the fireplace he had builtwhileoutside the world shuddered and struggled in thestorm-claspof a southeaster.
Once onlyDede asked him if he ever regrettedand his answer wasto crushher in his arms and smother her lips with his. Hisansweraminute latertook speech.
"Littlewomaneven if you did cost thirty millionsyou are surethecheapest necessity of life I ever indulged in." And thenhe added"YesI do have one regretand a monstrous big onetoo. I'd sure like to have the winning of you all over again.I'd liketo go sneaking around the Piedmont hills looking foryou. I'd like to meander into those rooms of yours at Berkeleyfor thefirst time. And there's no use talkingI'm plumbsoakingwith regret that I can't put my arms around you againthat timeyou leaned your head on my breast and cried in the windand rain."
But therecame the dayone yearin early Aprilwhen Dede satin an easychair on the porchsewing on certain small garmentswhileDaylight read aloud to her. It was in the afternoonand abright sunwas shining down on a world of new green. Along theirrigationchannels of the vegetable garden streams of water wereflowingand now and again Daylight broke off from his reading torun outand change the flow of water. Alsohe was teasinglyinterestedin the certain small garments on which Dede workedwhile shewas radiantly happy over themthough at timeswhenhis tenderfun was too insistentshe was rosily confused oraffectionatelyresentful.
From wherethey sat they could look out over the world. Like thecurve of askirting bladethe Valley of the Moon stretchedbeforethemdotted with farm-houses and varied by pasture-landshay-fieldsand vineyards. Beyond rose the wall of the valleyeverycrease and wrinkle of which Dede and Daylight knewand atone placewhere the sun struck squarelythe white dump of theabandonedmine burned like a jewel. In the foregroundin thepaddock bythe barnwas Mabfull of pretty anxieties for theearlyspring foal that staggered about her on tottery legs. Theairshimmered with heatand altogether it was a lazybaskingday. Quail whistled to their young from the thicketed hillsidebehind thehouse. there was a gentle cooing of pigeonsand fromthe greendepths of the big canon arose the sobbing wood note ofa mourningdove. Oncethere was a warning chorus from theforaginghens and a wild rush for coveras a hawkhigh in thebluecastits drifting shadow along the ground.
It wasthisperhapsthat aroused old hunting memories in Wolf.At anyrateDede and Daylight became aware of excitement in thepaddockand saw harmlessly reenacted a grim old tragedy of theYoungerWorld. Curiously eagervelvet-footed and silent as aghostsliding and gliding and crouchingthe dog that was meredomesticatedwolf stalked the enticing bit of young life that Mabhadbrought so recently into the world. And the mareher ownancientinstincts aroused and quiveringcircled ever between thefoal andthis menace of the wild young days when all her ancestryhad knownfear of him and his hunting brethren. Onceshewhirledand tried to kick himbut usually she strove to strikehim withher fore-hoofsor rushed upon him with open mouth andears laidback in an effort to crunch his backbone between herteeth. And the wolf-dogwith ears flattened down and crouchingwouldslide silkily awayonly to circle up to the foal from theother sideand give cause to the mare for new alarm. ThenDaylighturged on by Dede's solicitudeuttered a lowthreateningcry; and Wolfdrooping and sagging in all the bodyof him intoken of his instant return to man's allegianceslunkoff behindthe barn.
It was afew minutes later that Daylightbreaking off from hisreading tochange the streams of irrigationfound that the waterhad ceasedflowing. He shouldered a pick and shoveltook ahammer anda pipe-wrench from the tool-houseand returned toDede onthe porch.
"Ireckon I'll have to go down and dig the pipe out" he toldher. "It's that slide that's threatened all winter. I guessshe's comedown at last."
"Don'tyou read aheadnow" he warnedas he passed around thehouse andtook the trail that led down the wall of the canon.
Halfwaydown the trailhe came upon the slide. It was a smallaffaironly a few tons of earth and crumbling rock; butstartingfrom fifty feet aboveit had struck the water pipe withforcesufficient to break it at a connection. Before proceedingto workhe glanced up the path of the slideand he glanced withthe eye ofthe earth-trained miner. And he saw what made hiseyesstartle and cease for the moment from questing farther.
"Hello"he communed aloud"look who's here."
His glancemoved on up the steep broken surfaceand across itfrom sideto side. Here and therein placessmall twistedmanzanitaswere rooted precariouslybut in the mainsave forweeds andgrassthat portion of the canon was bare. There weresigns of asurface that had shifted often as the rains poured aflow ofrich eroded soil from above over the lip of the canon.
"Atrue fissure veinor I never saw one" he proclaimed softly.
And as theold hunting instincts had aroused that day in thewolf-dogso in him recrudesced all the old hot desire ofgold-hunting. Dropping the hammer and pipe-wrenchbut retainingpick andshovelhe climbed up the slide to where a vague line ofoutputtingbut mostly soil-covered rock could be seen. It wasall butindiscerniblebut his practised eye had sketched thehiddenformation which it signified. Here and therealong thiswall ofthe veinhe attacked the crumbling rock with the pickandshoveled the encumbering soil away. Several times heexaminedthis rock. So soft was some of it that he could breakit in hisfingers. Shifting a dozen feet higher uphe againattackedwith pick and shovel. And this timewhen he rubbed thesoil froma chunk of rock and lookedhe straightened upsuddenlygasping with delight. And thenlike a deer at adrinkingpool in fear of its enemieshe flung a quick glancearound tosee if any eye were gazing upon him. He grinned at hisownfoolishness and returned to his examination of the chunk. Aslant ofsunlight fell on itand it was all aglitter with tinyspecks ofunmistakable free gold.
"Fromthe grass roots down" he muttered in an awestricken voiceas heswung his pick into the yielding surface.
He seemedto undergo a transformation. No quart of cocktails hadever putsuch a flame in his cheeks nor such a fire in his eyes.As heworkedhe was caught up in the old passion that had ruledmost ofhis life. A frenzy seized him that markedly increasedfrommoment to moment. He worked like a madmantill he pantedfrom hisexertions and the sweat dripped from his face to theground. He quested across the face of the slide to the oppositewall ofthe vein and back again. Andmidwayhe dug downthroughthe red volcanic earth that had washed from thedisintegratinghill aboveuntil he uncovered quartzrottenquartzthat broke and crumbled in his hands and showed to bealive withfree gold.
Sometimeshe started small slides of earth that covered up hiswork andcompelled him to dig again. Oncehe was swept fiftyfeet downthe canon-side; but he floundered and scrambled upagainwithout pausing for breath. He hit upon quartz that was sorottenthat it was almost like clayand here the gold was richerthanever. It was a veritable treasure chamber. For a hundredfeet upand down he traced the walls of the vein. He evenclimbedover the canon-lip to look along the brow of the hill forsigns ofthe outcrop. But that could waitand he hurried backto hisfind.
He toiledon in the same mad hasteuntil exhaustion and anintolerableache in his back compelled him to pause. Hestraightenedup with even a richer piece of gold-laden quartz.Stoopingthe sweat from his forehead had fallen to the ground.It now raninto his eyesblinding him. He wiped it from himwith theback of his hand and returned to a scrutiny of the gold.
It wouldrun thirty thousand to the tonfifty thousandanything--he knewthat. And as he gazed upon the yellow lureandpanted forairand wiped the sweat awayhis quick vision leapedand set towork. He saw the spur-track that must run up from thevalley andacross the upland pasturesand he ran the grades andbuilt thebridge that would span the canonuntil it was realbefore hiseyes. Across the canon was the place for the milland therehe erected it; and he erectedalsothe endless chainofbucketssuspended from a cable and operated by gravitythatwouldcarry the ore across the canon to the quartz-crusher.Likewisethe whole mine grew before him and beneath him-tunnelsshaftsand galleriesand hoisting plants. The blasts of theminerswere in his earsand from across the canon he could hearthe roarof the stamps. The hand that held the lump of quartzwastremblingand there was a tirednervous palpitationapparentlyin the pit of his stomach. It came to him abruptlythat whathe wanted was a drinkwhiskeycocktailsanythingadrink. And even thenwith this new hot yearning for the alcoholupon himhe heardfaint and fardrifting down the green abyssof thecanonDede's voicecrying:
He wasastounded at the lapse of time. She had left her sewingon theporch and was feeding the chickens preparatory to gettingsupper. The afternoon was gone. He could not conceive that hehad beenaway that long.
Again camethe call: "Herechickchickchickchickchick!Herechickchickchick!"
It was theway she always calledfirst fiveand then three. Hehad longsince noticed it. And from these thoughts of her aroseotherthoughts that caused a great fear slowly to grow in hisface. For it seemed to him that he had almost lost her. Notonce hadhe thought of her in those frenzied hoursand for thatmuchatleasthad she truly been lost to him.
He droppedthe piece of quartzslid down the slideand startedup thetrailrunning heavily. At the edge of the clearing heeased downand almost crept to a point of vantage whence he couldpeer outhimself unseen. She was feeding the chickenstossingto themhandfuls of grain and laughing at their antics.
The sightof her seemed to relieve the panic fear into which hehad beenflungand he turned and ran back down the trail. Againhe climbedthe slidebut this time he climbed highercarryingthe pickand shovel with him. And again he toiled frenziedlybut thistime with a different purpose. He worked artfullyloosingslide after slide of the red soil and sending itstreamingdown and covering up all he had uncoveredhiding fromthe lightof day the treasure he had discovered. He even wentinto thewoods and scooped armfuls of last year's fallen leaveswhich hescattered over the slide. But this he gave up as a vaintask; andhe sent more slides of soil down upon the scene of hislaboruntil no sign remained of the out-jutting walls of thevein.
Next herepaired the broken pipegathered his tools togetherandstarted up the trail. He walked slowlyfeeling a greatwearinessas of a man who had passed through a frightful crisis.
He put thetools awaytook a great drink of the water that againflowedthrough the pipesand sat down on the bench by the openkitchendoor. Dede was insidepreparing supperand the soundof herfootsteps gave him a vast content.
Hebreathed the balmy mountain air in great gulpslike a diverfresh-risenfrom the sea. Andas he drank in the airhe gazedwith allhis eyes at the clouds and sky and valleyas if he weredrinkingin thattooalong with the air.
Dede didnot know he had come backand at times he turned hishead andstole glances in at herat her efficient handsat thebronze ofher brown hair that smouldered with fire when shecrossedthe path of sunshine that streamed through the windowatthepromise of her figure that shot through him a pang moststrangelysweet and sweetly dear. He heard her approaching thedoorandkept his head turned resolutely toward the valley. Andnexthethrilledas he had always thrilledwhen he felt thecaressinggentleness of her fingers through his hair.
"Ididn't know you were back" she said. "Was itserious?"
"Prettybadthat slide" he answeredstill gazing away andthrillingto her touch. "More serious than I reckoned. ButI'vegot theplan. Do you know what I'm going to do?I'm going toplanteucalyptus all over it. They'll hold it. I'll plant themthick asgrassso that even a hungry rabbit can't squeezebetweenthem; and when they get their roots agoingnothing increationwill ever move that dirt again."
"Whyis it as bad as that?"
He shookhis head.
"Nothingexciting. But I'd sure like to see any blamed old slideget thebest of methat's all. I'm going to seal that slidedown sothat it'll stay there for a million years. And when thelast trumpsoundsand Sonoma Mountain and all the othermountainspass into nothingnessthat old slide will be stilla-standingthereheld up by the roots."
He passedhis arm around her and pulled her down on his knees.
"Saylittle womanyou sure miss a lot by living here on theranchmusicand theatresand such things. Don't you ever haveahankering to drop it all and go back?"
So greatwas his anxiety that he dared not look at herand whenshelaughed and shook her head he was aware of a great relief.Alsohenoted the undiminished youth that rang through that sameold-timeboyish laugh of hers.
"Say"he saidwith sudden fierceness"don't you go foolingaroundthat slide until after I get the trees in and rooted.It'smighty dangerousand I sure can't afford to lose you now."
He drewher lips to his and kissed her hungrily and passionately.
"Whata lover!" she said; and pride in him and in her ownwomanhoodwas in her voice.
"Lookat thatDede." He removed one encircling arm and sweptit in awide gesture over the valley and the mountains beyond."TheValley of the Moona good namea good name. Do you knowwhen Ilook out over it alland think of you and of all itmeansitkind of makes me ache in the throatand I have thingsin myheart I can't find the words to sayand I have a feelingthat I canalmost understand Browning and those other high-flyingpoet-fellows. Look at Hood Mountain therejust where the sun'sstriking. It was down in that crease that we found the spring."
"Andthat was the night you didn't milk the cows till teno'clock"she laughed. "And if you keep me here much longersupperwon't be any earlier than it was that night."
Both arosefrom the benchand Daylight caught up the milk-pailfrom thenail by the door. He paused a moment longer to look outover thevalley.
"It'ssure grand" he said.
"It'ssure grand" she echoedlaughing joyously at him and withhim andherself and all the worldas she passed in through the door.
AndDaylightlike the old man he once had methimself went downthe hillthrough the fires of sunset with a milk pail on his arm.