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then the Fool would rush away to the valley, and be received by Miss Nelly with a certain reserve of manner that finally disappeared in a flush of color, some increased vivacity, and a pardonable coquetry. And so the days passed ; Miss Nelly grew better in health and more troubled in mind, and Mr. Hawkins became more and more embarrassed, and Five Forks smiled and rubbed its hands, and waited for the approaching denouement. And then it came. But not perhaps in the manner that Five Forks had imagined
It was a lovely afternoon in July that a party of Eastern tourists rode into Five Forks. They had just “ done” the Valley of Big Things, and there being one or two Eastern capitalists among the party, it was deemed advisable that a proper knowledge of the practical mining resources of California should be added to their experience of the merely picturesque in Nature. Thus far everything had been satisfactory; the amount of water which passed over the Fall was large, owing to a backward season ; some snow still remained in the cañons near the highest peaks; they had ridden round one of the biggest trees, and through the prostrate trunk of another. To say that they were delighted is to express feebly the enthusiasm of these ladies and gentlemen, drunk with the champagny hospitality of their entertainers, the utter novelty of scene, and the dry, exhilarating air of the valley. One or two had already expressed themselves ready to live and die there; another had written a glowing account to the Eastern press, depreciating all other scenery in Europe and America; and under these circumstances it was reasonably expected that Five Forks would do its duty, and equally impress the stranger after its own fashion.
Letters to this effect were sent from San Francisco by prominent capitalists there, and under the able superintendence of one of their agents, the visitors were taken in hand; shown “what was to be seen,” carefully restrained from observing what ought not to be visible, and so kept in a blissful and enthusiastic condition. And so the graveyard of Five Forks, in which but two of the occupants had died natural deaths, the dreary, ragged cabins on the hillsides, with their sad-eyed, cynical, broken-spirited occupants, toiling on, day by day, for a miserable pittance and a fare that a self-respecting Eastern mechanic would have scornfully rejected, were not a part of the Eastern visitors' recollection. But the hoisting works and machinery of the Blazing Star Tunnel Company was the Blazing Star Tunnel Company, whose“ gentlemanly Superintendent” had received private information from San Francisco to do the 66
proper thing” for the party. Wherefore the valuable heaps of ore in the company's works were shown, the oblong bars of gold — ready for shipment — were playfully offered to the ladies who could lift and carry them away unaided, and even the tunnel itself, gloomy, fateful, and peculiar, was shown as part of the experience; and, in the noble language of one correspondent, "the wealth of Five Forks and the peculiar inducements that it offered to Eastern capitalists” were established beyond a doubt. And then occurred a little incident which, as an unbiassed spectator, I am free to say offered no inducements to anybody whatever, but which, for its bearing upon the central figure of this veracious chronicle, I cannot pass over.
It had become apparent to one or two more practical and sober-minded in the party that certain portions of the Blazing Star
Tunnel -(owing, perhaps, to the exigencies of a flattering annual dividend) — were economically and imperfectly "shored" and supported, and were consequently unsafe, insecure, and to be avoided. Nevertheless, at a time when champagne corks were popping in dark corners, and enthusiastic voices and happy laughter rang through the halflighted levels and galleries, there came a sudden and mysterious silence. A few lights dashed swiftly by in the direction of a distant part of the gallery, and then there was a sudden sharp issuing of orders, and a dull, ominous rumble. Some of the visitors turned pale
one woman fainted! Something had happened. What? “Nothing" - the speaker is fluent but uneasy – 'one of the gentlemen in trying to dislodge a specimen from the wall had knocked away a support. There had been a “cave' - the gentleman was caught and buried below his shoulders. It was all right get him out in a moment -- only it required great care to keep from extending the cave.' Did n't know his name
it was that little man — the husband of that lively lady with the black eyes. Eh! Hullo there! Stop her! For God's sake! - not that way!
She 'll fall from that shaft ! She'll be killed!"
But the lively lady was already gone. With staring black eyes, imploringly trying to pierce the gloom, with hands and feet that sought to batter and break down the thick darkness, with incoherent cries and supplications, following the moving of ignis fatuus lights ahead, she ran and ran swiftly! Ran over treacherous foundations, ran by yawning gulfs, ran past branching galleries and arches, ran wildly, ran despairingly, ran blindly, and at last ran into the arms of the Fool of Five Forks.
In an instant she caught at his hand. “Oh, save him!” she cried ; "you belong here - you know this dreadful place; bring me to him. Tell me where to go and what to do, I implore you! Quick, he is dying ! Come !"
He raised his eyes to hers, and then, with a sudden cry, dropped the rope and crowbar he was carrying, and reeled against the wall. “ Annie!” he gasped, slowly, “is it
She caught at both his hands, brought her face to his with staring eyes, murmured “Good God, Cyrus!” and sank upon her knees before him.