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It's jest ruinin' the reputation of this yer camp, — this sloshin' around o capital on non-residents ez don't claim it!” “It's settin' an example o extravagance,” said another, “ez is little better nor a swindle. Thar 's mor’n five men in this camp thet, hearin' thet Hawkins had sent home eight thousand dollars, must jest rise up and send home their hard earnings, too! And then to think thet that eight thousand was only a bluff, after all, and thet it's lyin' there on call in Adams & Co.'s bank ! Well! I say it's one o' them things a vigilance committee oughter look into !”
When there seemed no possibility of this repetition of Hawkins' folly, the anxiety to know what he had really done with his money became intense. At last a self-appointed committee of four citizens dropped artfully, but to outward appearances carelessly, upon him in his seclusion. When some polite formalities had been exchanged, and some easy vituperation of a backward season offered by each of the parties, Tom Wingate approached the subject:
“Sorter dropped heavy on Jack Hamlin the other night, did n't ye? He allows you did n't give him no show for revenge. I said
you was n't no such d-d fool, did n't I, Dick ?” continued the artful Wingate, appealing to a confederate.
“Yes," said Dick promptly. “You said twenty thousand dollars was n't goin' to be thrown around recklessly. You said Cyrus had suthin' better to do with his capital,” superadded Dick, with gratuitous mendacity. “ I disremember now what partiokler investment you said he was goin' to make with it, he continued, appealing with easy indifference to his friend.
Of course Wingate did not reply, but looked at the Fool, who, with a troubled face, was rubbing his legs softly. After a pause he turned deprecatingly toward his visitors. 6 Ye did n
enny ye ever hev a sort of tremblin' in your legs, - a kind o'shakiness from the knee down? Suthin'," he continued, slightly brightening with his topic, “suthin' that begins like chills and yet ain't chills. A kind o' sensation of goneness here, and a kind o' feelin' as if you might die suddent! When Wright's Pills don't somehow reach the spot, and Quinine don't fetch
“No!” said Wingate, with a curt direct
ness and the air of authoritatively responding for his friends. “ No, never had. You was speakin' of this yer investment.”
“And your bowels all the time irregular !” continued Hawkins, blushing under Wingate's eye, and yet clinging despairingly to his theme like a shipwrecked mariner to his plank.
Wingate did not reply, but glanced significantly at the rest. Hawkins evidently saw this recognition of his mental deficiency, and said apologetically, “You was saying suthin' about my investment?”
“Yes,” said Wingate, so rapidly as to almost take Hawkins' breath away, investment you
made in " “Rafferty's Ditch," said the Fool, timidly.
For a moment the visitors could only stare blankly at each other. “ Rafferty's Ditch,” the one notorious failure of Five Forks! Rafferty's Ditch, the impracticable scheme of an utterly unpractical man; Rafferty's Ditch, a ridiculous plan for taking water that could not be got to a place where it was n't wanted! Rafferty's Ditch, that had buried the fortunes of Rafferty and twenty wretched stockholders in its muddy depths!
“ And thet 's it, is it?" said Wingate,
after a gloomy pause.
66 Thet's it! I see it all now, boys. That's how ragged Pat Rafferty went down to San Francisco yesterday in store clothes, and his wife and four children went off in a kerridge to Sacramento. Thet 's why them ten workmen of his, ez hed n't a cent to bless themselves with, was playin' billiards last night and eatin' isters. Thet's whar that money kum frum one hundred dollars to pay for thet long advertisement of the new issue of Ditch stock in the Times yesterday. Thet's why them six strangers were booked at the Magnolia Hotel yesterday. Don't you see - it's thet money and thet Fool!”
The Fool sat silent. The visitors rose without a word.
“You never took any of them Indian Vegetable Pills ?” asked Hawkins timidly of Wingate.
“ No,” roared Wingate, as he opened the door.
“ They tell me that took with the Panacea - they was out o'the Panacea when I went to the drug store last week — they say that took with the Panacea they always effect a certing cure.” But by this time Wingate and his disgusted friends had retreated,
slamming the door on the Fool and his ailments.
Nevertheless, in six months the whole affair was forgotten, the money had been spent — the “Ditch ” had been purchased by a company of Boston capitalists, fired by the glowing description of an Eastern tourist, who had spent one drunken night at Five Forks and I think even the mental condition of Hawkins might have remained undisturbed by criticism, but for a singular incident.
It was during an exciting political campaign, when party feeling ran high, that the irascible Captain McFadden, of Sacramento, visited Five Forks. During a heated discussion in the Prairie Rose Saloon, words passed between the Captain and the Honorable Calhoun Bungstarter, ending in a challenge. The Captain bore the infelix reputation of being a notorious duellist and a dead shot: the Captain was unpopular; the Captain was believed to have been sent by the opposition for a deadly purpose; and the Captain was, moreover, a stranger. I am sorry to say that with Five Forks this latter condition did not carry the quality of sanctity or reverence that usually obtains