صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

“ Dick?”
“ Hush! Is he awake yet?”
“ No; but, Dick” —

“ Dry up, you old fool! Get me some whiskey, quick ! The Old Man flew, and returned with - an empty bottle! Dick would have sworn, but his strength was not equal to the occasion. He staggered, caught at the handle of the door, and motioned to the Old Man.

“Thar’ssuthin' in my pack yer for Johnny. Take it off. I can't.”

The Old Man unstrapped the pack, and laid it before the exhausted man.

“Open it, quick.”

He did so with trembling fingers. It contained only a few poor toys, - cheap and barbaric enough, goodness knows, but bright with paint and tinsel. One of them was broken; another, I fear, was irretrievably ruined by water; and on the third —ah me! there was a cruel spot.

“It don't look like much, that's a fact," said Dick ruefully. ... “But it's the best we could do. ... Take 'em, Old Man, and put 'em in his stocking, and tell him -- tell him, you know — hold me, Old Man ” — The Old Man caught at his sinking figure, “ Tell him," said Dick, with a weak little laugh, -“ tell him Sandy Claus has come.”

And even so, bedraggled, ragged, unshaven and unshorn, with one arm hanging helplessly at his side, Santa Claus came to Simpson's Bar, and fell fainting on the first threshold. The Christmas dawn came slowly after, touching the remoter peaks with the rosy warmth of ineffable love. And it looked so tenderly on Simpson's Bar that the whole mountain, as if caught in a generous action, blushed to the skies.


He lived alone. I do not think this poculiarity arose from any wish to withdraw his foolishness from the rest of the camp, nor was it probable that the combined wisdom of Five Forks ever drove him into exile. My impression is that he lived alone from choice, – a choice he made long before the camp indulged in any criticism of his mental capacity. He was much given to moody reticence, and although to outward appearances a strong man was always complaining of ill health. Indeed, one theory of his isolation was that it afforded him better opportunities for taking medicine, of which he habitually consumed large quantities.

His folly first dawned upon Five Forks through the Post Office windows. He was for a long time the only man who wrote home by every mail, his letters being always directed to the same person, - a woman. Now it so happened that the bulk of the Five Forks' correspondence was usually the other way; there were many letters received, - the majority being in the female hand, but very few answered.

The men received them indifferently, or as a matter of course; a few opened and read them on the spot with a barely repressed smile of self-conceit, or quite as frequently glanced over them with undisguised impatience. Some of the letters began with “My dear husband,” and some were never called for. But the fact that the only regular correspondent of Five Forks never received any reply became at last quite notorious. Consequently, when an envelope was received bearing the stamp of the “ Dead Letter Office," addressed to the Fool under the more conventional title of “ Cyrus Hawkins," there was quite a fever of excitement. I do not know how the secret leaked out, but it was eventually known to the camp that the envelope contained Hawkins' own letters returned. This was the first evidence of his weakness ; any man who repeatedly wrote to a woman who did not reply must be a fool. I think Hawkins suspected that his folly was known to the camp, but he took refuge in

symptoms of chills and fever, which he at once developed, and effected a diversion with three bottles of Indian cholagogue and two boxes of pills. At all events, at the end of a week he resumed a pen, stiffened by ton ics, with all his old epistolatory pertinacity. This time the letters had a new address.

In those days a popular belief obtained in the mines that Luck particularly favored the foolish and unscientific. Consequently, when Hawkins struck a “ pocket” in the hillside near his solitary cabin, there was but little surprise. “He will sink it all in the next hole,” was the prevailing belief, predicated upon the usual manner in which the possessor of " nigger luck” disposed of his fortune. To everybody's astonishment, Hawkins, after taking out about eight thousand dollars, and exhausting the pocket, did not prospect for another. The camp then waited patiently to see what he would do with his money. I think, however, that it was with the greatest difficulty their indignation was kept from taking the form of a personal assault when it became known that he had purchased a draft for eight thousand dollars in favor of “that woman.” More than this, it was finally whispered that the draft was

« السابقةمتابعة »